Below is a Recollection–this is not a review, but rather a full spoiler walkthrough of the author’s experience in The Key, Chapter One of The Speakeasy Society’s The Kansas Collection. It is also only one path out of many that could have been experienced, so there is some repeatability in returning! In this experience we seek employment during the Kansas dust bowl and learn of the Scarecrow King. We do have word that this event may happen again, so if you are concerned about spoilers, please don’t read this. Instead, read the review.
On a dark and stormy night, the clouds part, revealing a hidden world full of wonder, a world full of possibility. I arrive at my destination—a small neighborhood in Los Angeles—to the comforting sound of 1920s era jazz, pulling me down a dark driveway, where I am met by a warm glowing fire and good company.
When my number is called, I am lead through a large wooden gate towards a large yellow, red, and green stripped circus tent. A mustachioed man in a brown suit and a green sash rushes to greet me.
“Are you tired of living paycheck to paycheck?!”
He describes a golden opportunity. And I return his excitement with a mirrored eagerness. I accept his promises for a better future, and the man frantically leads me toward the tent, but stops suddenly. He turns around, revealing an old worn stack of playing cards. He explains that he a question and my answer will affect what happens to me within the tent.
“You receive a phone call in the middle of the night only to find out that a long lost relative had passed and left you a large inheritance, what is the first thing you do?” I pause and come to the most logical conclusion I can muster, “I open my eyes!” The man laughs and pokes a light jab at my answer. But he hands me one of his cards, revealing the five of clubs.
He ushers me behind the curtain of the tent to reveal a small cluttered office, a desk covered in documents, and a large clock on the wall. Sitting at the desk is a young man wearing a leather flight cap littered with magnified monocles, a green sash, and a clean white shirt; he introduces himself as Private Jo Files while furiously at work behind a typewriter.
“Name?” He says in a sullen yet assertive tone as I hand him my playing card and respond with my name.
“Specialty?” I stumble on my thought and then reply, “Handshakes!” as I hold out my hand to grasp his firmly. I attempt to present him with a creative handshake, but he stops me abruptly.
“That was terrible!”
He continues to type, muttering to himself, “Specialty: good at lying. That’s good, we need liars.”
Jo continues working as I complete my form. He seems disinterested, but offers small talk as a chore. He tells me about his favorite holiday (Flag Day), Gun Trees that he planted (using bullets of course.), and the bad hand I was dealt and how the Armed Militia can change things around for me (if I make the cut).
Jo then stops working. With a more serious look on his face, he looks me dead in the eye and begins the story of the Scarecrow King, a just and firm king who lives by the motto “Only the wicked must punished, and if you’re punished you must wicked.” This King brought prosperity and order to the E.C. But there are those out there who wish to undo this. They call themselves The Patchwork Resistance, and are searching for a woman known as The Lost Princess. She is rumored to cause chaos everywhere she travels. As he turns back to his typewriter, a loud voice booms from behind the curtain to my left, “Next recruit!”
Jo Files pulls back the curtain and I enter. I am met by Special Officer Phil Daring of The Scarecrow’s Armed Militia. He wears a sharp dark green suit with an emerald tie pin, a green sash, and a key fastened to his lapel. He greets me with kind eyes, refuses to shake my hand, and offers me a seat. I sit down and he begins to speak, only to abruptly stop himself and take a deep breath to collect his thoughts.
“The Scarecrow King needs your help finding The Lost Princess… The Patchwork Girl… Dorothy Gale. She’s in your world—and our worlds are connected, like stops on a train.”
He leans over me. He has a series of questions he must ask to see if I am fit for joining the Scarecrow King’s militia. But before I can even ponder what these questions can be—he starts asking and I respond in turn. Like gunfire, we trade questions and answers until he stops and smiles. “I think you’ll do nicely.”
Phil leans down, grasps my hand in the same manner as an old friend, and begins to reason with me. Looking right into my eyes, he tells me of the good the Scarecrow King has done for their world. He pardoned the ones who believed in Dorothy, who believed that she fell from the sky. There were those that wanted them cast out of society—thrown to the desert of death. But no, he is a benevolent leader; he gave them a second chance. Further, the trains run on time, the economy is prosperous, and there’s order. Now that I had his words, I saw what benefits a brain can provide.
I had made it. I had passed the test. He makes me stand and to repeat after him. I pledge my allegiance to the crow. And then I recite the oath:
“No place else but here,
No when else but now,
No one else but I.”
He turns to a drawer and takes out a small brass key, handing it to me he warns me to keep it hidden and close as it is a symbol of my pledge to the Scarecrow King’s Armed Militia and that it will be important on my journey in the future. With a congratulations and a hand shake, Phil sends me out of the tent back into my world with an ominous warning about avoiding any suspicious characters milling about and especially to stay away from a man in a top hat.
Leaving the tent I saunter back to the roaring fire. I speak to my friend, who instead of meeting Phil Daring, met his twin sister, Phoebe Daring (pictured below). However, as we discuss the promises we made the two siblings, I noticesomething I hadn’t observed when I had first arrived: a burly bearded man in a top hat drinking alone from a flask in a dark corner.
I approach the man with caution; the smell of despair and whiskey is strong on his breath. “I was specifically told not to speak to you.” I whisper to him as to not alert any would-be spies lying in wait.
“HA!” He yells, rocking back while taking a swig from his flask, “Whoever gained anything in life by doing what they were told?”
He asks me if I was given anything by the recruitment officer. I present my key to him his eyes light up, he holds out his hand and asks me to give it to him. I hesitantly hand him the key, and he reprimands me for handing over something that I was told to keep safe. He then hands it back to me and tells me to be more careful in who I give it to next time. Not everyone is as trustworthy as he is.
“Do you even know who I am? Well I was once known as a great and powerful wizard throughout the land before the reign of the Scarecrow King: The Great and Powerful OZ.” He looks off into the distance. “Do you know what I miss most about being a wizard? The flying!” The Wizard is overcome with a forlorn look in his eyes as he grabs the tattered, emerald green rag around his neck. “This is all I have left of my beautiful hot air balloon.”
He warns me of players who had not come forward yet and that if I plan on continuing down the path that I have chosen I must know one very important thing: time in this world is not as I once believed it to be. One day in my world could be one year in theirs. An impending war between both of our worlds is on the horizon in which there can be no coexistence between both and we are heading towards the end of everything we once knew.
“The only thing that matters is that you want to exist.”
The Wizard pulls me aside and quietly recited part of the oath that Phil Daring had made me repeat earlier, “No place else, but here. No when else, but now. No one else, but I.” He then hands me a small piece of paper with a latitude and longitude printed at the top, explains that I have done well, and may not like the answers I find if I go looking for what he is trying to show me. The Wizard sends me on my way with a hearty pat on the back and the warning to exercise more caution in the future. I wander back out onto the street willing to assist in any way that I can.
Heading back to my car, I input the coordinates into my GPS and I am directed to a main street seven miles away. I arrive, uncovering a piece of paper with a picture of two keys and a QR code. The code reveals a website with a secret message left by The Scarecrow King for Phil and Phoebe Daring.
A 35mm film reel recording of a thin and tired looking man in an overcoat berates Phil and Phoebe for their idiocy. He explains that he needed to find The Patchwork Girl because of her importance to his plan, “If she really is the lost princess then she can get here, she can cross the desert.” The Scarecrow King lowers his head as if defeated, “I am trying so hard; you know I am. I have done so many good things. But I ascended a broken throne and I am blamed! None of this is fair. This isn’t what I wanted.” I could sense the longing for the past through his eyes when he suddenly snaps back into his rage filled tirade slamming his fists on the table, “Find her you fucking nitwits! Find her now!” He sits back down and collects himself. “Keep the wizard at arms-length; he isn’t to be trusted or ignored. He doesn’t have a side.” The Scarecrow King looks deeper into the camera and just before the reel cut off he uttered one final,
Upon exiting “Kansas” I was left with a feeling of urgency to find The Patchwork Girl but it wasn’t to turn her in to The Scarecrow’s Armed Militia, but rather to find out why she is being hunted. Why did The Scarecrow King need her for his plan? The Wizard seemed to know more than he was letting onto and I feel as though he was withholding information as to protect us both from the truth, but what is the truth? Who are the other factions involved in the impending war? All questions to be answered as I journey deeper into The Speakeasy Society’s Kansas Collection searching for my “brighter tomorrow.”
This was the conclusion of Chapter One of The Kansas Collection: a multi-part venture into the land of Oz. If this interested you, follow The Speakeasy Society’s website or Facebook for more information.