This short story was written for Dan Antion’s (No Facilities) Thursday Doors Writing Challenge. It was inspired by a painted door I saw at a local artists’ village. A little warning, this story is a bit darker than the other ones I’ve shared.
Under the Rainbow
Dorothy shifted uncomfortably in her hard plastic chair. The air in the room was stale, smelling of early morning coffee breath. She looked down at her watch and was irritated to find that she still had 15 minutes left of this slow death.
Edmond, the insufferable little English prig was droning on and on about his brother and sisters, a closet (or, as he called it, a “wardrobe”), and some people who were turned into stone. We all have problems, Dorothy thought, why should I care about yours? She was about to fake a heart attack just to get out of there when Edmond said something about a lion and a witch. What the heck? Had he been there too?
When the group leader ended the session with his usual feel good, namaste BS, Dorothy made a beeline for the door. As soon as she stepped outside, she lit her fourth cigarette of the day and inhaled the fumes as if they gave her life. Scanning her surroundings, she felt as flat, dusty, and depressed as the landscape. “I flipping hate Kansas” she mumbled under her breath.
“What’s that?” Damn, it was that new girl. Pretty, blonde, and another English accent. “What did you think of the session?” Miss Priss asked smiling.
“I’ve been coming for three years and still haven’t gotten anything out of it,” Dorothy answered, hoping to cut the conversation short.
“Alice, my name is Alice,” Miss Priss said, extending her hand. “I feel like I’ve been chasing down rabbit holes my whole life and would really like to stop. I hope these meetings can fix me.”
“All of us are here for the same thing but I’m starting to wonder why we would want to leave those other worlds and exist permanently in this one,” Dorothy replied. “They might have contained dark magic and evil forces, but at least they were interesting.”
“You’re right,” Alice replied. “It wasn’t all Red Queens and madness. I had some opportunities for personal growth too.”
“Well, good luck,” Dorothy offered as she stubbed out her cigarette on the side of the building. “I hope you find what you need. I think this will be the last Rentering Reality support group I’ll attend.” Dorothy walked away without a backward glance.
As she headed home, she thought about her sad, miserable life and how everyone she loved was now gone. First, Auntie Em wasted away from cancer, then Uncle Henry drowned in bottles of cheap gin. Toto One—her only witness to her adventure—was dead. Even Toto Two had the good sense to run away and never come back. Why bother sticking around this god-forsaken place? she asked herself. Why exist in a black and white world when you can live in color?
Approaching her house, Dorothy fully grasped the property’s decay for the first time. The garden, once Auntie Em’s pride and joy, was covered in weeds. The barn and livestock pens—where the terrifying pigs had been kept—were almost as flattened as the Kansas topography. Her house was headed in that direction too; missing roof shingles, rotted siding, and dangerously uneven front steps. The sudden wash of guilt Dorothy felt nearly brought her to her knees.
Once inside, Dorothy knew exactly what she needed to do. Before she could change her mind, she headed for the cellar. As she descended the steps into darkness, she could see a faint red glow in the corner.
The ruby slippers were waiting for her, just as they had been for many years. Dorothy carefully put them on, not surprised at all that they fit perfectly, despite her shoe size changing over time. Looking down at her feet, Dorothy started to click her heels together: one… two… three…
“There’s no place like Oz, there’s no place like Oz, there’s no place like Oz.”
Don’t forget to check out the other submissions for the Thursday Doors Writing Challenge and – who knows? – maybe you’ll be inspired to add one of your own.