Below is a Recollection–this is not a review, but rather a full spoiler walkthrough of the author’s experience in The Axe, Chapter Two of The Speakeasy Society’s The Kansas Collection. It is also only one path out of many that could have been experienced, so there is some repeatability in returning! We do have word that this event may happen again, so if you are concerned about spoilers, please don’t read this. Instead, read the review. This chapter cements the idea that this isn’t the 1939 Wizard of Oz–you won’t be seeing the Dorothy, Tinman, Lion, and Scarecrow of your childhood.
I stand on a typical street corner on a typical night. Small, worn-down discount clothing stores are barred up for the night, car horns are heard in the distance, and red brake lights illuminate up the dim street. Yet, these people have no idea what is going on in the middle of their busy city. A resistance is recruiting, trying to find new blood to help take down the new King of Oz. We, those who are part of his majesty’s armed militia, received word from him after several months of silence. He charged us with a mission: infiltrate the Patchwork resistance recruitment, learn what we can, and report back to our commanding officers. Most importantly; stay undetected. This is an undercover operation; the enemy can’t know we are on to them.
Our mission in mind, my friend and I walk up to a nice woman sitting at a desk. She checks us in and hands us a number. “It starts with the elevator. Go up to level two—oh, and welcome to the Resistance.” We thank her and enter the elevator. The light begins to flicker as the elevator lurches upward. The doors open, and the air is filled with smooth jazz. We step into a large open space filled with quilt lined walls—a trademark of the Patchwork Resistance. Lights wrap the surroundings in a warm glow, and I notice sewing machines and various other objects placed carefully along tables lining the back wall.
A familiar gentleman in a train conductor outfit with a perfectly curled mustache eagerly approaches us. He points out the bar, tells us our numbers will be called shortly, and suggests we explore our surroundings. My friend and I search the room, uncovering secrets from long ago. Various notes are found from across time—all urging Dorothea Gale to return to the Emerald City and not fear harm—but these letters span a 40 year time period. We find other secrets of interest: a poem with explicit instructions and an ominous jar filled with keys labeled “Failed Recruits.”
Suddenly, a door bursts open and a small woman dressed in a 1940’s military style outfit, her red hair up in a red bandana, emerges. She barks out our numbers and we line up in a row. Making notes on her clipboard, she asks if we are all here for the Patchwork Resistance. We nod in agreement, and she leads us through the door she entered through. “Keep making choices!” the man in the conductor outfit yells after us, his voice fading as we are ushered into the unknown.
The warmth from the lobby leaves as the door slams behind us. We are now in an unfinished warehouse. Unpainted boards block my path; worn fabric hangs from the ceiling; and the façade begins to crumble. This doesn’t feel like the Patchwork Resistance—it’s different. I look at my friend and she nods in agreement. The woman tells us to line up in a small corridor. Our backs against the wall, she stares us down. Though I have a fair amount of height on her, I’m certain she would be able to best me in a fight.
“As you may have guessed, this is not the resistance.” I glance at my friend, unsure of the severity in our situation. “My name is Jinjur. and you can call me General.”
She explains she’s part of another faction, an elite operative known as REVOLT. Fierce, merciless, and not recruiting. She wants information on Dorothy Gale, but I refuse to answer. Unsure of where my allegiance lies, I contemplate my options. Last time I was in OZ, I was told that I do not know of Dorothy Gale. But, do I really tell this General how much I know? I decide to rephrase my answer, “I know some believe her to be the head of the resistance, but nothing definitive.” She thinks on this answer, and moves on to the next person, recording their answers onto her Clipboard. Once she has finished with our group; she’s ready to share her side of the story, her knowledge of The Patchwork Girl.
“Some believe that Dorothy is the one who caused the fall, but in truth it was the Scarecrow King. When Dorothy left OZ, the defender of the people disappeared. Overnight, the Scarecrow King banished all magic: the bad and the good, even Glinda’s magic. Now, it’s difficult to find trustworthy people you can rely on. Can I trust you?”
I respond that I must earn her trust, much like she must earn mine. She then looks at my friends: “but can you trust them?” I give her my response, and she records it. Without much of a thought, she continues the same line of questioning with the remainder of the group.
Pleased with the data she has collected, she leads us down a long hallway washed in a deep blue light. Lining us up again against a wall facing forward, Jinjur explains that Revolt was formed shortly after the fall of The Wizard. Her tone shifts: “Who are you loyal to?” She demands an answer; her new found aggressive voice makes me hesitant.
“You don’t have to tell us who has earned your loyalty; but if you don’t, I’ll just write down that you were noncompliant and I’ll have to share that information with Glinda… so think very carefully about what you are about to say.”
I pause, but before I can gather my thoughts, Jinjur demands me to speak. “Ozma, I swore my loyalty to Ozma.” The words fall out of me without thinking of the consequences. She looks at me and rolls her eyes, “Oh, you’re one of those.” Moving down the line, she expertly extracts information from most of our group. One member admits that they are part of the Patchwork Resistance. The General scolds them, “Weren’t you suppose to keep that a secret? Well, I’m just going to let Glinda know that you are spilling all of your secrets.”
When the interrogation is over, Jinjur leads us through a door at the end of the hall and see a large white tent in the middle of an empty room. Jinjur ushers us inside. The room is small, with two stools to the left and a metal cart lined with interrogation tools to the right. In the center, a man sits on a bench: his hands chained together, clothes tattered, face dirty, and eyes swollen as tears stream down his face. A brunette woman stands behind him, gripping the back of his head with one hand and holding an enormous axe with the other. She’s dressed in dust-covered military clothes: khaki pants, black combat boots, and an olive-green army jacket. She pulls his head back, whispers something inaudible to him, and then releases her grip. She smiles as Jinjur moves across the tent, and informs the brunette woman of our previous interactions.
The woman commands us to be silent, and then orders us to sit. I take one of the stools sitting opposite the broken man. She introduces herself as Glinda, witch of the North–formerly the good witch. She explains that she once attempted to follow the rules, be a good person, and even gave up her magic; but where did that get her? Fucking nowhere. Glinda lifts the axe, resting it against her shoulder. She now knows that the right thing demands for blood to be shed. To prove this point, she shoves the man to the floor. He cowers in fear—but Glinda doesn’t strike him. Instead, she picks him up, pushing him back onto the bench. She’s not the pink, frilly good witch we all remember. Glinda explains that Jinjur intercepted the list of recruitment names before it had been sent back to the headquarters, and our names were on that list. Her axe continues to swing, back and forth, cutting through the tension in the room.
While she talks, a woman slips into the tent quietly. She is dressed in an all-black suit, her beautifully dark skin stands out against the blinding white of the tent. She stands next to the metal tray of tools.
Glinda continues to talk. The Scarecrow King must burn, OZ is dying because of him. But to do so, they must find Dorothy. After all, she overthrew him once before, she can do it again. Glinda stops and looks at all of us, axe in hand, “Does anyone know where Dorothy is?” Silence. We don’t know where she is. Dorothy is a complete mystery to us, and certainly her whereabouts are as well. She asks again, “Does anyone know where Dorothy is?” Silence. “No! No one ever does. How about an easier question? Who oversees the patchwork resistance: Phil or Joe?” I know this answer—but should I tell her? Another choice, but what’s the benefit of telling?
Glinda keeps talking: the resistance once asked her to lead it, but she refused. One assassination is not going to fix things; the whole thing must be taken down. One bullet is going to solve anything; Bullets are just beginnings.
Glinda walks over to Jinjur and starts talking to her quietly in the corner. The man on the bench whispers to the girl sitting next to him, “My mother was a quilter.” She responds, “Now we thread the needle.” I am unsure what it means, but the man lights up. “You’re the same as me—do you have information on Dorothy? Please, can you tell me? I need to know” But she doesn’t have time to respond; Glinda has noticed the whispers.
“Tinman! Have anything you want to share with us?”
The Tinman bends forward in fear, shaking his head. We all stare at him: this broken, scared man. This, also, isn’t the Tinman we all remembered. Glinda continues to ask about Dorothy, the girl who gave her those silver slippers. Glinda too thought she was special. She bends down to the Tinman, “I wasn’t the only one who thought I was special, was I?” The woman in the black suit laughs. Glinda stands up and points to the girl sitting next to me. She tells the woman in black to leave and take this girl with her—she’s useless.
Glinda turns back to us. She instructs us to ask the Tinman a series of questions. What’s your real name? (Nick Chopper); What happened to Nick Chopper? (he was naïve and in love); What happened to the girl Nick Chopper loved? (He lost her). He then recounts the rest of his story: The Witch of the East took his love; and without her, he didn’t know how to live. He went into the forest to end his life. Nick died that night and the Tinman was born. And when Dorothy killed the Witch of the East, he pledged himself to her.
Glinda is visibly angry; her voice growing louder. She moves closer to the Tinman and continues her questioning: Why did you follow Dorothy? (to keep her safe); Why did you follow Dorothy? (to get her home);
“Why did you follow Dorothy!?”
“Because I love her!”
Tear stream down the Tinman’s face, and he sobs unabashed. The person next to him puts an arm on the Tinman to consul him, but it does nothing. Glinda, unsympathetic, tells me to ask him, “Does she love you?” I look at her defiantly. I don’t want to hear the answer. But she insists. I look at the Tinman and ask him softly. He looks up, his eyes red from his tears and answers, “She doesn’t.” His sobs grow louder. I try to hold back my own tears—this is not the emotion I was expecting tonight.
“Does anyone have a camera?”
I tell her I do, and Glinda tells me to take it out. She wants me to record this moment, to remember his face, and to show the world that Revolt is coming. Defeatedly, I comply. I no longer have the energy to fight. I take my picture–and Glinda decides to try one last time: “Where is Dorothy?” I tell her I honestly don’t know. She lifts the axe, putting it right up to my throat and asks if this will change my answer.
But the sound of metal interrupts us.
The Tinman throws his chains to the floor. He was never a captive; he was never bound. The Tinman and Glinda were working together—all to get information from us regarding Dorothy. But their ruse did not work. They scream at each other–it was all a waste of time! They blame each other for the failure, until Glinda yells for us to get out of her tent.
We exit, my head spinning from the emotions felt within. The woman in black is standing out front with the girl she took earlier. She pulls us aside, eager to impart some advice to us.
“You can’t play all sides. So play your own. Following blindly will lead you down paths you don’t want to, so don’t. The world is gray, friendships turn into betrayals, and others will use you. It doesn’t matter that they called me cowardly, all that matters is they called me lion.”
Now get out.
This was the conclusion of Chapter Two of The Kansas Collection: a multi-part venture into the land of Oz. For Chapter One, read our recollection here. And follow The Speakeasy Society’s website or Facebook for more information.