The Wicked Will Rise Page 73

Ozma didn’t say anything. But she looked into the sky, where slowly and then quickly, a whirling, black vortex appeared. As it grew in size, I saw what it was: a tornado. A cyclone. Except that it was upside down and inside out, and we were on the other side of the funnel, as if looking down on it from above.

The Wizard was staring at it almost lovingly. “Right on time,” he said. “It’s always so nice when things go as planned. Now, Amy, as someone who hails from the Other Place, from the very spot where the fountain draws from, and who has learned to channel its Old Magics with such ease, I’ll let you do the honors. It’s time for Dorothy to die.”

I held my knife over my head, and felt power pouring into it from out of the funnel in the sky.

I felt the Wizard’s spell in the back of my mind urging me on. I felt the darkness calling to me, too. Rise, the voices seemed to be saying.

Dorothy stood there in front of me, her face frozen into a silly, shy smile, and I almost thought I could see the person she had been: the girl who had come to Oz, stopped the witches, and saved the kingdom. Not because she wanted power, but because of her innocence. Because she was good.

I knew what would happen if I killed her. I would be accepting the mantle I’d been promised. Finally, I would be Wicked. Really Wicked. And there would be no going back.

Rise, the voice hissed again.

It was time. I drew my knife back to do it. To kill her.

But just as I was about to bring it down, I heard Nox’s voice. “Don’t do it!” he screamed. “It’s a trick! He’s fooling you!”

I spun around to see him pushing out from the hedges.

“Do it!” the Wizard hissed. “Do it now.”

Then Ozma began to scream, her gossamer wings flapping wildly, and Pete burst out of her chest.

It wasn’t like the other times he had transformed. Ozma was still there, still wailing and clutching herself in agony. But Pete was here now, too. He tumbled across the cobblestones, jumped up, and grabbed the Wizard’s throat.

The maelstrom above us swirled. The Wizard cried out—like that, his spell was broken. I blinked and dropped my knife. It clattered to the cobblestone ground. I wasn’t feeling so calm and contented anymore. I was feeling pretty terrified.

Dorothy emerged from her trance.

“Traitor,” she said. She flung a hand out, and, like she was pulling a marionnette string, Pete flew away from the Wizard. She wanted the Wizard to herself, and now, as she approached him, his face went white. “I should have done this long ago,” she said. “Now, let’s hear you scream.”

She clapped her hands together, and the Wizard did scream. His body began to ripple and twitch as Dorothy’s spell moved through it, and then it was like something was eating him from the inside. “No!” he yelled. “Help me! Amy, help!”

But there was nothing I could do. The spell was quick. In an explosion of blood, guts, and glitter, the Wizard was no more.

The sky opened up. And Kansas rained down on us.


Have you ever looked at the American state of Kansas on a map?

The answer, at least for me, was, of course, yes. Obviously. In fourth grade, we’d spent at least a month of social studies on what Mrs. Hooper called our “Kansas Unit.” During which, we’d had to memorize the Kansas state flower (the wild sunflower), the state bird (the western meadowlark), the state song (“Home on the Range”—that one was easy), and stupid trivia like where the name Kansas was derived from. (Either Native Americans or French people, or both; I forget).

In addition to memorizing all that trivia, each one of us had to give an oral report on a famous Kansan in history.

Until now, I had completely forgotten it, but in this moment the memory came back to me fully formed.

I had wanted to do my famous Kansan report on Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I’d had my heart set on it, in fact. But Madison Pendleton had gotten to school early and had called dibs on it before anyone else could even get a chance.

Then, when I’d asked Mrs. Hooper if I could do Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island instead, Mrs. Hooper had told me it wasn’t allowed, because Mary Ann Summers isn’t a real person.

Dorothy Gale from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz isn’t a real person either, I’d said.

But Mrs. Hooper loved Madison Pendleton. She loved her so much that she would sometimes let her sit next to her at lunch so that they could brush each other’s hair.

Mrs. Hooper hated me. “Dorothy isn’t real, but she’s important. She’s one of our most famous Kansans,” she said. “Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island is not important. In fact, Amy, I always thought Mary Ann was from Oklahoma. Are you sure you’re not thinking of the Howells?”

I knew it wasn’t worth arguing, so I asked if I could do Amelia Earhart. If you thought about it, she seemed, at the time at least, to be a little bit like Dorothy, except real. But Mrs. Hooper gave that one to Candy Sinclair, her second favorite fourth grader after Madison Pendleton, and finally assigned me Bob Dole just to be mean.

Kansas had never been particularly kind to me.

And now I was back there. I was back home— if you could still call it that—and I had been brought there the way I’d left it: through a tornado.

The only thing is, it didn’t feel much like Kansas anymore.

And I wasn’t alone.

The two of us stood there, together: me and Dorothy, right where we had both started. In Kansas. In the Dusty Acres trailer park, to be exact. Not that there was much left of it: I guess when the tornado had taken me to Oz, it had made quick work of this place. Now it was just an empty expanse of gray dust, with a sign: Dusty Acres, it read. If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now.

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