Wicked - The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch ofthe West

Wicked - The Life and Times of the WickedWitch of the WestWicked - The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the WestBy Gregory MaguirePrologueOn the Yellow Brick RoadA mile above Oz, the Witch balanced on the wind’s forward edge, as if she were a green fleckof the land itself, flung up and sent wheeling away by the turbulent air. ‘White and purple summerthunderheads mounded around her. Below, the Yellow Brick Road looped back on itself, like arelaxed noose. Though winter storms and the crowbars of agitators had torn up the road, still it led,relentlessly, to the Emerald City. The Witch could see the companions trudging along, maneuveringaround the buckled sections, skirting trenches, skipping when the way was clear. They seemedoblivious of their fate. But it was not up to the Witch to enlighten them.She used the broom as a sort of balustrade, stepping down from the sky like one of her flyingmonkeys. She finished up on the topmost bough of a black wiliow tree. Beneath, hidden by thefronds, her prey had paused to take their rest. The Witch tucked her broom under her arm. Crablikeand quiet, she scuttled down a little at a time, until she was a mere twenty feet above them. Windmoved the dangling tendrils of the tree. The Witch stared and listened.There were four of them. She could see a huge Cat of some sort-a Lion, was it?-and a shinywoodman. The Tin Woodman was picking flits out of the Lion’s mane, and the Lion was mutteringand squirming from the aggravation. An animated Scarecrow lolled nearby, blowing dandelion headsinto the wind. The girl was out of sight behind shifting curtains of the willow.“Of course, to hear them tell it, it is the surviving sister who is the crazy one,” said the Lion.“What a Witch. Psychologically warped; possessed by demons. Insane. Not a pretty picture.”“She was castrated at birth,” replied the Tin Woodman calmly. “She was born hermaphroditic,or maybe entirely male.”“Oh you, you see castration everywhere you look,” said the Lion.“I’m only repeating what folks say,” said the Tin Woodman.“Everyone is entitled to an opinion,” said the Lion airily. “She was deprived of a mother’slove, is how I’ve heard it. She was an abused child. She was addicted to medicine for her skincondition.”“She has been unlucky in love,” said the Tin Woodman, “like the rest of us.” The Tin Woodmanpaused and placed his hand on the center of his chest, as if in grief.“She’s a woman who prefers the company of other women,” said the Scarecrow, sitting up.“She’s the spurned lover of a married man.”“She is a married man.”The Witch was so stunned that she nearly lost her grip on the branch. The last thing she evercared for was gossip. Yet she had been out of touch for so long that she was astonished at thevigorous opinions of these random nobodies.“She’s a despot. A dangerous tyrant,” said the Lion with conviction.The Tin Woodman pulled harder than was necessary on a lock of mane. “Everything’sdangerous to you, you craven thing. I hear she’s a champion of home rule for the so-called Winkles.”“Whoever she is, she must surely be grieving the death of her sister,” said the child, in a sombervoice too rich, too sincere for one so young. The Witch’s skin crawled.

“Don’t go feeling sympathetic now. I certainly can’t.” The Tin Woodman sniffed, a bitcynically.“But Dorothy’s right,” said the Scarecrow. “No one is exempt from grief.”The Witch was deeply irked by their patronizing speculations. She moved around the trunk ofthe tree, stretching to catch a glimpse of the child. The wind was picking up, and the Scarecrowshivered. While the Tin Woodman continued fussing over the Lion’s tresses, he leaned against theLion, who held him tenderly. “Storm on the horizon,” said the Scarecrow.Miles off, thunder echoed. “There-is-a-Witch on the horizon,” said the Tin Woodman, ticklingthe Lion. The Lion got spooked and rolled on top of the Scarecrow, whimpering, and the TinWoodman collapsed on top of them both.“Good friends, should we be wary of that storm?” said the girl.The rising winds moved the curtain of greenery at last, and the Witch caught sight of the girl.She was sitting with her feet tucked underneath her and her arms wrapped around her knees. She wasnot a dainty thing but a good-size farm girl, dressed in blue-and-white checks and a pinafore. In herlap, a vile little dog cowered and whined.“The storm makes you skittish. It’s natural after what you’ve been through,” said the TinWoodman. “Relax.”The Witch’s fingers dug into the bark of the tree. She still could not see the girl’s face, just herstrong forearms and the crown of her head where her dark hair was pulled back into pigtails. Wasshe to be taken seriously, or was she merely a blow-away dandelion seed, caught on the wrong sideof the wind? If she could see the girl’s face, the Witch felt she might know.But as the Witch craned outward from the trunk, the girl at the same time twisted her face,turning away. “That storm is coming closer, and in a hurry.” The feeling in her voice rose as thewind rose. She had a throaty vehemence, like someone arguing through the threat of impending tears.“I know storms, I know how they come upon you!”“We’re safer here,” said the Tin Woodman.“Certainly we are not,” answered the girl, “because this tree is the highest point around, and iflightning is to strike, it will strike here.” She clutched her dog. “Didn’t we see a shed farther up theroad? Come, come; Scarecrow, if there’s lightning, you’ll burn the fastest! Come on!”She was up and running in an ungainly way, and her companions followed in a mounting panic.As the first hard drops of rain fell, the Witch caught sight, not of the girl’s face, but of the shoes. Hersister’s shoes. They sparkled even in the darkening afternoon. They sparkled like yellow diamonds,and embers of blood, and thorny stars.If she had seen the shoes first, the Witch would never have been able to listen to the girl or herfriends. But the girl’s legs had been tucked beneath her skirt. Now the Witch was reminded of herneed. The shoes should be hers!-hadn’t she endured enough, hadn’t she earned them? The Witchwould fall on the girl from the sky, and wrestle those shoes off her impertinent feet, if only she could.But the storm from which the companions raced, farther and faster along the Yellow BrickRoad, troubled the Witch more than it did the girlwho had gone through rain and the Scarecrow whom lightning could burn. The Witch could notventure out in such a vicious, insinuating wetness. Instead, she had to tuck herself between someexposed roots of the black willow tree, where no water could endanger her, and wait for the storm topass.She would emerge. She always had before. The punishing political climate of Oz had beat herdown, dried her up, tossed her away-like a seedling she had drifted, apparently too desiccated everto take root. But surely the curse was on the land of Oz, not on her. Though Oz had given her atwisted life, hadn’t it also made her capable?

No matter that the companions had hurried away. The Witch could wait. They would meetagain.

Wicked - The Life and Times of the WickedWitch of the West

Book 1 - MunchkinlandersFrom the crumpled bed the wife said, “I think today’s the day. Look how I’ve gone.”“Today? That would be like you, perverse and inconvenient,” said her husband, teasing her,standing at the doorway and looking outward, over the lake, the fields, the forested slopes beyond.He could just make out the chimneys of Rush Margins, breakfast fires smoking. “The worst possiblemoment for my ministry. Naturally.”The wife yawned. “There’s not a lot of choice involved. From what I hear. Your body gets thisbig and it takes over-if you can’t accommodate it, sweetheart, you just get out of its way. It’s on atrack of its own and nothing stops it now.” She pushed herself up, trying to see over the rise of herbelly. “I feel like a hostage to myself. Or to the baby.”“Exert some self-control.” He came to her side and helped her sit up. “Think of it as a spiritualexercise. Custody of the senses. Bodily as well as ethical continence.”“Self-control?” She laughed, inching toward the edge of the bed. “I have no self left. I’m only ahost for the parasite. Where’s my self anyway? Where’d I leave that tired old thing?”“Think of me.” His tone had changed; he meant this.“Frex”-she headed him off-“when the volcano’s ready there’s no priest in the world can pray itquiet.”“What will my fellow ministers think?”“They’ll get together and say, ‘Brother Frexspar, did you allow your wife to deliver your firstchild when you had a community problem to solve? How inconsiderate of you; it shows a lack ofauthority. You’re fired from the position.” She was ribbing him now, for there was no one to firehim. The nearest bishop was too distant to pay attention to the particulars of a unionist cleric inthe hinterland.“It’s just such terrible timing.”“I do think you bear half the blame for the timing,” she said. “I mean, after all, Frex.”“That’s how the thinking goes, but I wonder.”“You wonder?” She laughed, her head going far back. The line from her ear to the hollowbelow her throat reminded Frex of an elegant silver ladle. Even in morning disarray, with a bellylike a scow, she was majestically good-looking. Her hair had the bright lacquered look of wet fallenoak leaves in sunlight. He blamed her for being born to privilege and admired her efforts toovercome it-and all the while he loved her, too.“You mean you wonder if you’re the father”-she grabbed the bedstead; Frex took hold of herother arm and hauled her half-upright-“or do you question the fatherliness of men in general?” Shestood, mammoth, an ambulatory island. Moving out the door at a slug’s pace, she laughed at such anidea. He could hear her laughing from the outhouse even as he began to dress for the day’s battle.Frex combed his beard and oiled his scalp. He fastened a clasp of bone and rawhide at the napeof his neck, to keep the hair out of his face, because his expressions today had to be readable from adistance: There could be no fuzziness to his meaning. He applied some coal dust to darken hiseyebrows, a smear of red wax on his flat cheeks. He shaded his lips. A handsome priest attractedmore penitents than a homely one.In the kitchen yard Melena floated gently, not with the normal gravity of pregnancy but as ifinflated, a huge balloon trailing its strings through the dirt. She carried a skillet in one hand and afew eggs and the whiskery tips of autumn chives in the other. She sang to herself, but only in shortphrases. Frex wasn’t meant to hear her.His sober gown buttoned tight to the collar, his sandals strapped on over leggings, Frex took

from its hiding place-beneath a chest of drawers-the report sent to him from his fellow minister overin the village of Three Dead Trees. He hid the brown pages within his sash. He had been keepingthem from his wife, afraid that she would want to come along-to see the fun, if it was amusing, or tosuffer the thrill of it if it was terrifying.As Frex breathed deeply, readying his lungs for a day of oratory, Melena dangled a woodenspoon in the skillet and stirred the eggs. The tinkle of cowbells sounded across the lake. She did notlisten; or she listened but to something else, to something inside her. It was sound without melodylike dream music, remembered for its effect but not for its harmonic distresses and recoveries. Sheimagined it was the child inside her, humming for happiness. She knew he would be a singing child.Melena heard Frex inside, beginning to extemporize, warming up, calling forth the rollingphrases of his argument, convincing himself again of his righteousness.How did that proverb go, the one that Nanny singsonged to her, years ago, in the nursery?Born in the morning,Woe without warning;Afternoon childWoeful and wild;Born in the evening,Woe ends in grieving.Night baby borningSame as the morning.But she remembered this as a joke, fondly. Woe is the natural end of life, yet we go on havingbabies.No, said Nanny, an echo in Melena’s mind (and editorializing as usual): No, no, you pretty littlepampered hussy. We don’t go on having babies, that’s quite apparent. We only have babies whenwe’re young enough not to know how grim life turns out. Once we really get the full measure of itwe’re slow learners, we women-we dry up in disgust and sensibly halt production.But men don’t dry up, Melena objected; they can father to the death.Ah, we’re slow learners, Nanny countered. But they can’t learn at all.“Breakfast,” said Melena, spooning eggs onto a wooden plate. Her son would not be as dull asmost men. She would raise him up to defy the onward progress of woe.“It is a time of crisis for our society,” recited Frex. For a man who condemned worldlypleasures he ate with elegance. She loved to watch the arabesque of fingers and two forks. Shesuspected that beneath his righteous asceticism he possessed a hidden longing for the easy life.“Every day is a great crisis for our society.” She was being flip, answering him in the termsmen use. Dear thick thing, he didn’t hear the irony in her voice.“We stand at a crossroads. Idolatry looms. Traditional values in jeopardy. Truth under siegeand virtue abandoned.”He wasn’t talking to her so much as practicing his tirade against the coming spectacle ofviolence and magic. There was a side to Frex that verged on despair; unlike most men, he was ableto channel it to benefit his life’s work. With some difficulty she set herself down on a bench. Wholechoruses were singing wordlessly inside her head! Was this common for every labor and delivery?She would have liked to ask the nosy local women who would come around this afternoon, growlingshyly at her condition. But she didn’t dare. She couldn’t jettison her pretty accent, which they foundaffected-but she could avoid sounding ignorant about these basic matters.Frex noticed her silence. “You’re not angry