The Curse of Gary (Part 109)

Victor looked and saw, through the psychedelic glow hovering around the lamp, a short figure wearing a robe and a wide-brimmed, pointed hat. “I suppose you found the key then,” said the figure, in a carefree, feminine voice.

Taking two steps to the side, Victor removed himself from the bright haze, and got a better look at the woman addressing him. It was the Wicked Witch of the West, from The Wizard of Oz. He stepped back, staring. After a short, hesitant silence, he answered, “The uh… the key?”

“Yes. The key to the door. Upstairs,” said the witch, again with a sweet voice nothing like the one she used in the nineteen forty movie. Victor moved around the lamp, toward the witch: she was standing in profile, not looking at him, but watching something else. She laughed.

“Uh, no,” said Victor, hesitantly. As he moved past the lamp, he saw the dark green colour of the witch’s hooked nose and chin as she leaned casually on her broomstick. “I had to break the door down,” he said.

“Yes, I know,” said the witch, without looking at Victor. “I was being sarcastic. We could hardly hear ourselves think with all that banging going on up there.” She turned to Victor with a cheeky smile, and then turned back to whatever sight was holding her captive. She laughed again.

Victor looked in the direction the witch was facing, and saw a round opening, about five feet high, in the nearby wall. It seemed to be some kind of portal—on the other side was a white, wintry landscape, where six munchkins from The Wizard of Oz were shoveling snow onto a thin conveyer belt. Victor noticed for the first time that the conveyer belt ran through the portal, into the hall, made a tight loop around the lava lamp, and then returned in a circuit back to the munchkins. Around the lamp, the conveyer belt angled inward so the piles of snow slipped off into a trough, keeping a constant moat of icy sludge around the massive light. The witch snorted as she laughed once more. “Oh, he cracks me up,” she chuckled.

Victor went and stood beside her and looked from her vantage point; on the other side of the portal, the Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man was kicking up snow near the munchkins, dancing the funny jig he danced in the movie when Dorothy oiled his joints. The witch tapped Victor’s shoulder and then pointed to the Tin Man. “Watch this bit,” she whispered, her eyes sparkling with anticipation. The Tin Man made a funny wobble, as if he were about to fall, but then suddenly regained his balance and continued dancing. “Gets me every time,” said the witch, smiling.

“You know,” she continued, a thoughtful wrinkle creasing her ugly brow, “you are the first person to come down here. No one else ever did.”

“What do you mean?” asked Victor, stepping over to the lava lamp and inspecting the conveyer belt, and the melting snow gathering in the trough.

The witch kept her eyes on the dancing tin man. “Well,” she explained, “of all the people who have entered this house since the curse took effect, you are the first to enter this room.”

“Oh yeah? Well, I kind of figured, since this room wasn’t on the map.”

“The map?”

“Yeah, the map in—well, never mind. No one else has been down here, huh?”

“Not a single person,” assured the witch. “When you think about it, it is rather sad that a room could go so long without receiving a visitor.” Victor watched the trough’s frigid water churn with each new snow pile sliding into it. He spotted a small wooden bucket on the floor nearby. “Hmm,” continued the witch, “I suppose it is cursed though. But still.” Victor glanced back at the witch; her eyes were glued to the portal. He reached down and picked up the bucket, then dipped it in the trough. He turned back again; the witch was now smiling, and giggling to herself as she watched the Tin Man. “I’ll never get tired of that dance,” she said.



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