(looks up, staring at the audience)
Lawmen keep trying to run me off. But they can’t, I tell you, they can’t. This is Uncle Henry’s farm and they can’t take it from him. He won’t let them treat me like this.
(gestures at the house behind here)
Built everything back up after the tornado. Sure was a big mess to clean up, all the blood and everything. I’m Dorothy, by the way, Dorothy Gale. And this is Toto.
Miss Gulch called the lawmen, said I’m not supposed to be here anymore. Used to be she just said Toto didn’t belong, but that was just because he bit her. Now I don’t belong either, she says. She’s probably just angry because I dropped a house on her sister.
(stands up and looks around, as though straining to hear a sound)
Tornados sure seem to come up often around here. I don’t know anymore. Do I want a storm or don’t I? Every time there’s another storm, I think of my darling Tinman. But I can’t go back, not ever.
(sits back down)
I miss them all, the Lion and the Tinman and the Scarecrow and those darling little monkeys. When I was in OZ, everything was so bright and colorful. The little fluffy clouds, the yellow brick road, the Emerald City. OZ is so colorful, even the things have colors in their names. But everything here is worn to sepia. It doesn’t have to be, though. I can change it, make it better, make it greener. I could be like the wizard. Miss Gulch…the Wicked Witch…She better leave me and Toto alone. I won’t let her have him, I won’t. You dear little munchkins, you were there when the house landed on her, weren’t you? You saw that I didn’t mean to kill the Wicked Witch of the East. Miss Gulch has no right to be angry, houses fall on people all the time. Especially when they’re wicked. But you understand, I know you do. I remember the song.
(singing and skipping around)
Ding dong the witch is dead, which old witch, the wicked witch, ding dong the wicked witch is dead
See, I remember. I told you I remembered. I remember everything about OZ, but they don’t believe me. Anyway, I was saying about the farm. They won’t let me stay here, not since I dropped a house on Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. Don’t understand why. It isn’t Miss Gulch’s land to say I can’t stay, it belongs to Uncle Henry, and he’ll always let me stay because he loves me. He and Auntie Em are still here, in the basement. Right where I left them. It happens all the time, accidents, especially to wicked people. Shouldn’t be wicked, or a house might fall on you too.
(stares at the audience in silence)
I didn’t mean to, I didn’t mean to drop the house on them. It was an accident, the storm did it. The storm was supposed to bring them to OZ too. They were supposed to understand, like me. But there was an accident. It was so hard, cleaning up all the blood after. They can’t make me leave the farm. I won’t leave. I won’t leave Aunie Em and Uncle Henry. I can’t leave. I promised I’d never leave home ever, ever again. There’s no place like home…There’s no place like home…There’s no place like home…
There’s a place out in the hills where there’s a tree bent to form an arch, just by a pond. That was where I met her. She was sitting by the water quietly playing an old acoustic guitar. I had been out for a hike, my pack still on. I was looking at my GPS when I heard the sound. It had started to go on the fritz about five minutes prior and I’d been worried I’d get lost out here without it. When I heard the music, I slipped the device back into a pocket and held my hand up in greeting.
She turned, startlement clear on her face.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wasn’t expecting to see anyone else out here.”
She stood slowly, setting the guitar on the rock, and stepped towards me. It wasn’t until then that I processed that her ears came to long points and that her eyes were a pure gold.
“Hello, mortal boy.”
I gulped, not sure if maybe I wasn’t more dehydrated than I thought. I could be hallucinating. She reached out to touch my cheek, a smile on her face.
“You seem scared, pretty mortal boy.”
I took a breath, trying to get my racing heart back under control.
“I’m…I’m not a-”
She looked me up and down in a way that was half curious and half flirtatious.
“Not in body, but you are in your mind, are you not?”
I took a step back. How had she known that? I hadn’t told anyone yet. That’s why I was out here alone, trying to figure out how to tell them.
“Stay with me, pretty mortal boy, and I will sing for you and you can be happy with me.”
It was tempting, oh so tempting.
“What about my…family? My friends?”
She shrugged, clearly not caring.
“No doubt they will believe that the girl-you-are-now died in the woods alone. So sad. And you would stay here as my prince.”
I shook my head fiercely.
“I can’t do that to them.”
She laughed coldly.
“Did you not come here to kill the girl you are?”
I clenched my fists.
“Not like that.”
“They will hurt still.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I know mortals, pretty mortal boy. I remember the fires.”
I shoved her back.
“You don’t know anything.” And then I spoke again. “I won’t stay here. I know what I need to do now and I’m doing it.”
I turned on my heel and strode off, half expecting her to stop me. Instead, I heard her speak softly, a smile in her voice.
“Wise choice. Though, I imagine you would have been delicious.”
The moon rode high in a midnight sky
Spreading light on the country below
The forest floor was covered in white
As the cold winter breeze touched one and all
Throughout the countryside were animals
And they all sat up late to wait out the night
Up in the trees and in burrows below
In their winter coats of glistening white
Midwinter’s eve is a time for them all
The time when the gift of gab is given animals
Just for a moment on Midwinter’s night
For one short moment as the moon crests the sky
As the moon’s jolly face all pale and white
Shines down on the forest folk, one and all
One small boy is watching the animals
One small boy creeping about on cold, dark night
He heard the stories about what lies under a Midwinter sky
And the speech of all the animals above and below
He came forth to listen and to hear them all
For few have heard the speech of the animals
And he sat shivering, hiding in the night
And the moon climbed high, over the crest of the sky
The beasts above and the beasts below
Came out of their burrows and nests, all coated in white
They formed a large circle made only of animals
And raised their muzzles to the night
And their voices rose up to the Midwinter sky
The boy leaned against the tree that he sat below
And he watched the silhouettes on the ground so white
As each spoke aloud their prayers, hopes, and dreams for all
On Midwinter’s Eve for an hour of the night
As the moon crests the roof of the sky
And casts its haunting shadows on the world below
And the world is bathed in a coating of white
A single boy watched and wondered at it all
And listened to the secret hopes and fears of the animals
As the night brightened from the light below
The sky was no longer filled with the voices of all
Of the animals as their gift faded into the snow bright white
Tears streamed down his face but he refused to cry out. That would only entertain his tormentors and he couldn’t give them the satisfaction. At the last, the trees looming huge before him, Landus dropped to his knees and glared accusingly up at the people he had always called friends and family. He tried to find a face that showed anything but hate and loathing but saw nothing. Where was Tommen? Had he escaped? Was his safe? Then a booted foot shoved Landus down into the dirt and he looked up into the accusing eyes of his Tommen. That answered a question then. Now Landus knew who had turned him in.
“As is the ancient law, defilers of our ways will be cast unto the forest. Landus, no more are you a son of the Briarary. Henceforth, you are a child of the forest. Speak the name of the one who shared your crimes and he will be sent with you.”
Landus met Tommen’s eyes and saw only hate there. Tommen turned away, taking Alina’s hand in his. Landus hung his head and let them rip the amulet from his neck. It didn’t matter now. Rough hands grabbed him and shoved him towards the treeline. He stumbled, hands still bound. Soon, he was beyond the flicker of their torches and he knew now that he was truly alone. He curled up at the base of one of the great oak trees and let his tears fall.
The crunch of leaves was what woke him. Landus tried to pull himself to his feet quickly, forgetting the bonds that held his wrists fast. He stumbled as he tried to support himself and fell hard, arms jammed underneath him.
“Are you alright?”
The deep voice was nearby and concerned. It seemed to come from directly above him and Landus rolled to stare up at the man standing there. He was tall, this stranger, muscular and fit. He wore only light trousers of a mottled green and his chest was bare. It was the rack of antlers that sprouted from his curly hair that caught Landus and held him.
“Your wrists… You’re bound.” The stranger knelt before Landus and reached to touch the rope. “That would be bad for you, if my brother and his wolves were to find you.” Then the stranger smiled. “I am called Merrin. Who are you, little human?”
“L-Landus. My name is Landus.”
Merrin pulled an obsidian knife from his waistband and cut the ropes. Then he frowned.
“You have bruises. You have been hurt.”
Landus chafed his wrists as the ropes fell away and he looked up at Merrin’s open face.
“I’m… I was from the Briarary. They cast me out.”
Merrin smiled then and bent down to kiss Landus on the forehead.
“Then you are welcome in the forest, Landus. You are safe here.”
Landus let Merrin pull him to his feet. It was confusing and Landus felt a blush creep to his cheeks.
Merrin brushed his fingers across Landus’ cheek.
“I know the customs in the Briarary, young Landus. Never fear that we will do the same. The forest is free for all who dwell here.”
Landus took a half-step back, fear in his eyes.
“Then you know what…what I am.”
“Landus, never think that you are wrong. It is they who do not understand.” Merrin took Landus by the hand, tugging slightly. “Come, and I will take you to my home and to the other children of the forest. You will understand then.”
“Martin, never let anyone tell you that there are no demons in London.” The man lifted his son onto his lap, holding him close. “Anyone who says there isn’t is either blind or a fool.”
“Do you mean the Ripper, Papa? I heard other lads at school talking about him.”
That drew a chuckle from the man.
“Ah, that bit of business. Of course. No, my buck, I don’t mean him.” Then he considered his son carefully. “Would you like to hear the story of the man they call Jack the Ripper?”
Bouncing excitedly, the boy nodded.
“You’ll have to promise you won’t tell. Swear it.”
“On my honor, Papa. I won’t tell a soul.”
“Good lad.” The man chuckled and then nodded. “So, first thing’s first, Martin my boy. Old Leather Apron never said his name was Jack.”
“But, Papa, they said he sent a letter to Scotland Yard.”
His father chuckled quietly.
“No, no. The newspapers were the ones who had it, and they faked up the whole thing.” He took a breath. “And the real story is, I promise, wildly different from what they tell in schoolyards, my buck.”
The year was 1888 and Daniel Voss was new to London. He’d rented a small flat on the edge of Whitechapel and set up shop there. Largely, he worked as an apothecary. It was all a front, though, for his real career. Daniel Voss was a demon hunter. More importantly, he’d come here tracking his prey. Five demons had escaped the gates of Hell and he had been tasked with finding and eradicating them, no matter the cost.
Every year, December meant the same thing for Alexa Myers: collecting donations for the shelter where she worked. It also meant the arrival of Mrs. Westover and her armfuls of scarfs, hats, mittens, blankets, and teddy bears. It was as though the woman sat down on December 26th and knit straight through until December 15th when she would come and drop them all off. So, now Alexa sat behind her desk in the donation center going through every item she’d already collected to catalog them while she waited for Mrs. Westover and her knit goods to arrive. Stretching, she stood to go check in the back to make sure her numbers were right. Had they really gotten 5 bicycles this year? She knew the bell would alert her if Mrs. Westover arrived.
Half an hour later, with dozens of counts checked and Alexa preparing to pack up for the night, she found herself wondering if everything was alright. The bell had never rung. Then she stepped back out into the lobby where her desk sat and was stunned. Every surface available was covered in bags of knitting. Relief brightened her features and she picked up one of the small bears, touching the little heart pattern stitched into one foot, just like every year. Picking up her phone, she called one of the volunteers.
“I need a hand down at the donation center. I don’t know how Mrs. Westover does this every year, but she did.”
The next day found Alexa working her way through the pile to get it all sorted and ready to go out to the shelter families. That was when the doorbell rang and a woman stepped inside, looking around curiously. She pulled a knit hat off and tucked it into a pocket before holding out a small bag of scarves.
“My mother made these and told me to make sure I dropped them off here. She made me promise before…” She paused then. “I know she said she usually dropped them off on the 15th, but I couldn’t make it and…”
Alexa looked at the woman and then down at the mittens in her own hands.
“I’m sorry, can I help you?”
The woman scrubbed at her face.
“I’m Marianne Westover. My mother used to knit for your shelter and I promised her I would bring the last of what she brought and…I have a donation for you too. I mean, I don’t know how to knit, but…”
Alexa wasn’t quite sure what she was hearing.
“I…I thought… We got a donation yesterday and I thought…”
Again, she held up the white mittens with the hearts stitched into the backs of the hands. Marianne looked at them, surprised.
“My mother passed away, just after Christmas last year. These scarves, they’re the last of what she made.”
Do you know where you would be if you were standing on the same spot you are now, but in the fall of 1725? You would be in a little place called Charlestown End. Charlestown End had no meeting house, no burial ground, and just a small school-house. In fact, there were only between 250 and 300 people living in what could barely be termed a village. The residents were dependent on the settlement of Charlestown for their civic needs. And, to the minds of the time, more importantly because they were labouring “under great Difficulties by their Remoteness from the place of public worship”. This view is understandable since the church in Charlestown would have been a three-hour walk away. Some of the citizens had even started to attend church at the Wakefield meeting house, despite it being outside their community.
It may come as a surprise to our modern way of thinking that the first town meeting would take place on Christmas Eve. Our civic forefathers were predominantly members of a religious sect known as Puritans. This meant they frowned upon many of the religious celebrations that characterized the church of the day, including Christmas. Many New England towns even went so far as to make the traditional decor of the season illegal. In particular, evergreen decorations were deemed to be pagan and thus banned.
Just earlier that month on December 17, 1725, the General Court of Massachusetts Bay had passed an Act which declared the northern portion of Charlestown to be a separate and distinct town known as Stoneham. At this first town meeting, they discussed the most important issues of the day, those pursuant to fulfilling their portion of the Act. While there was already a small school-house built in 1718, they had to make provisions for a meeting house, an orthodox minister, school teacher, and burial ground.
Why call it Stoneham? Contrary to what digging through your garden would tell you, it isn’t because of all the stones in the ground. Stoneham, Massachusetts is actually named after a small town in England located about 5 miles north of Southampton that was well known for the quality of its stone.
During that first meeting, the new residents of Stoneham voted that the meeting house would “stand between the black oak tree and the red oak tree, upon the hill near the east end of the school-house”. Wondering where that is today? The original center of town was near the intersection of Pleasant and Summer Streets. Who made all of these important decisions? That would be the 65 free, tax-paying adult males who were the only ones with the right to vote. Green, Gould, Williams, and Cowdrey were all among the names listed on the very first tax roll and these same names echo to us through the years on our streets. Next time you find yourself driving through the town, read the names on the street signs and see if you can find them all.