Entertainingly Evil

Red Shoes of Oz by David Steffen

Despite her misgivings, Dorothy carefully slipped the sparkling red shoes from the shriveled corpse.
     “Go on,” the Good Witch encouraged in a voice like chiming bells.  “Your old shoes will never last the journey in their condition.”
     Still Dorothy hesitated.
     “I was once a young lady myself, you know,” the Good Witch said.  “And I was in circumstances much like your own.”  She pulled up the hem of her pink dress, showing the tip of a sparkling red shoe.  “And look at me now,” she said with a giggle.
     Dorothy slipped on the shoes.  She jumped to her feet and skipped a little circle with a laugh.  Without really meaning to, she started skipping to the west down the yellow brick road at a racer’s pace, a barking Toto following at her heels.  “Goodbye!” she called back over her shoulder.
     “Goodbye, sister!” the Good Witch called after her.
     Dorothy skipped along at an extraordinary speed, so fast that Toto soon could not keep pace.  She tried to slow down.  She tried to turn.  Her feet just had a mind of their own.  “Don’t bite anyone, Toto!  I’ll come back for you when I can!”  She worried a bit, but the rush of her exertion kept her mood light.
     On and on she skipped and skipped.
     She passed a Scarecrow in fields of corn who shouted greeting to her.  She passed an odd statue of a Woodsman who groaned.  Her legs were growing very tired, and her lungs burned.  She would like to rest, but she just couldn’t seem to make it happen.
     As she ran through a dark wood, she forgot the pain in her legs and her lungs, in favor of the pain in her bladder which was full near to bursting.  But still she could not.  A great roar sounded from the trees, and a huge beast leaped out and knocked her off her feet.  In her shock, her bladder let loose and soaked her dress with warm liquid.
     A Lion pinned her on her back, and breathed carrion breath in her face.  She was not afraid, only relieved to be off her feet and with an empty bladder, though she could still feel her legs moving.
     “Thank you,” she said.
     “I—” the Lion began, looking confused, but just at that moment, Dorothy’s feet found purchase on the Lion’s belly and launched him across the path and against a tree.
     “I’m so sorry!” she shouted as her feet carried her westward again.
     On and on she skipped, for days and days and days.  Blisters formed and burst, and her blisters formed blisters of their own.  She skipped and skipped and she cried and cried and cried until she could make no more tears, and then she was hungry and more than a little bit bored.  She didn’t allow her bladder to bother her for long–her dress was already soiled so there was little point in worrying about a little more.  She grabbed berries and fruits when they came within reach, and filled her hands with water to drink when it rained.  Most of all, she had a lot of time to think, to lament her situation.  At first she wished to be home with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em.  With time her wishes turned simpler: a soft chair, a slice of bread, a single moment of rest.
     Finally, ahead she saw a city of sparkling green, and her heart raced with anticipation of what must be the end of her journey.  But her feet skirted around the city and on to the west, out of the lush country and into a wasteland.
     Wolves and crows and winged monkeys watched her as she passed.  She wished that they would eat her and end this torture, but they only watched impassively.  Her eyes slipped shut from time to time from sheer exhaustion but the impact of her steps jarred her awake.
     After days more of this, with no rain or berries to sustain her, she passed out from exhaustion and hunger.  She was vaguely aware of pain, but it was a distant thing.
     “Hello, little sister,” a scratchy and dry voice said, waking Dorothy from her stupor.
     It was only then when Dorothy realized that she had stopped skipping.  She was lying on a stone floor.  Her feet screamed with pain, and she ached all over, and her stomach growled.  But most of all she felt sweet relief at just being allowed to lie down.
     A withered old hag stood over her.  “I would never have suspected someone to be so brazen to steal the shoes from my sister’s dead body.”
     “Can I have some food?” Dorothy asked, with cracked lips.  “And water?”
     The hag snapped her fingers, and a bowl of water and a loaf of bread appeared before Dorothy, who raised herself up on elbows to see to eating it.
     “The Good Witch gave me the shoes,” Dorothy said, between bites.  “She said I’d need them for the journey.  I’m sorry I took them.  I thought it would be okay.”
     “You misunderstand me, little sister.  I’m not angry about the shoes.  You have saved me a great deal of trouble.”
     “What do you want from me?” Dorothy said, her fear starting to creep back again.
     “You need do nothing.  You are wearing one of three pairs of very special shoes.  For now I control your feet, but soon I will exert more influence.  They say there are four witches, but really I am the only one.  The land is so vast that I need proxies to keep the Plutocrat penned into his glittering cage.  You can sleep here for the night, and then you can begin your journey back to Munchkinland.”
     Dorothy felt fresh tears run down her cheeks.  They weren’t tears of sorrow at the future ahead of her, nor tears of pain, but tears of relief.  A night of sleep, proper sleep.  She had never heard sweeter words.  She was fast asleep in moments.

David Steffen writes fiction and code.  He is the co-founder of the Submission Grinder, and the editor of Diabolical Plots which will begin publishing fiction for the first time on March 1st.  His fiction has been published in many great venues including Escape Pod, Daily Science Fiction, and AE.

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