A Recollection of The Kansas Collection, Ch. 7: The Heart

It’s a brisk, November evening on which I find myself waiting anxiously in front of a small, cottage house on a quiet, suburban street. There are five or six of us milling about, speaking in quiet voices so as not to disturb the neighbors or draw unwanted attention. We’ve been called by Jack Pumpkinhead to help rescue Dorothy Gale who, apparently, has been kidnapped. Jack is, like myself, a member of the Patchwork Resistance. The last time I saw him, he and Tik fled to avoid capture and execution by the newly coronated Queen Ozma, and I’ve been worried about their safety ever since that horrible night. The Heart

 

We hear footsteps approaching the front gate where we stand, and I breathe a sigh of relief when I see that it’s Jack himself. He’s visibly on edge and speaks cautiously: “There are things we know, and things we don’t know. We know that Dorothy’s been kidnapped. But, we don’t know by who, or why… and, I don’t know how to send messages, so I just sent a message to everyone. I guess what I’m saying is… I really hope you’re all here for Dorothy…?”

 

We all nod that yes, we are here for Dorothy.

 

Jack goes on to tell us that he and Tik have been monitoring broadcasts 24 hours a day, in the hopes of finding Dorothy.

 

“This morning, Tik saw a spike,” Jack explains. “He traced it… here.” He nods toward a small garage behind the house. “He’s scared. I am, too. But, I miss Dorothy, and I want to see her again. So…” His voice trails off for a moment before he continues, “I’m also excited!” He reconsiders, “More scared. Let’s go inside.”

 

Jack pushes open a wooden gate and leads us through to the side yard of the house. We step carefully in the dark, unsure of what, or who might be waiting for us.

 

Kansas Collection | The Heart

Michael Bates as Jack Pumpkinhead and Nikhil Pai as TikTok

 

As we approach the garage, another figure appears from behind the house and lets out a startled gasp of surprise. It’s Tik.

 

“Jack!” Tik exclaims. “What are all these people doing here?”

 

“You told me to prepare, so I brought backup!”

 

“I said to bring a weapon! Oh… just… COME ON!!! Jack, this is going to be very dangerous and these people don’t have anything to do with this! They’re just gonna screw everything up!”

 

“But, we screwed everything up…” Jack replies.

 

“No, YOU screwed it up!” Tik retorts. “YOU screwed it up! How do we know we can trust them?”

 

Jack looks at us questioningly. We nod.

 

Tik is not convinced. “Oh, my GOD! You’re such a MORON!”

 

“Hey… Dorothy said not to call me that…” replies Jack.

 

“Just… just… SHUT UP!” Tik whisper-shouts. “Ok… We know that the Tin Man is probably here, and that he probably has Dorothy. So, this is going to be very, very dangerous. We should be very quiet… and we should move slowly. Does everybody understand?”

 

We nod and quietly head toward the garage. But, before we reach the door, something catches Jack’s attention and he calls out to alert Tik. As Tik turns to shush Jack, I hear the sound of heavy, hardened metal being dragged against concrete, followed by Tik’s urgent voice calling Dorothy’s name. There is a flash of movement and Tik is gone, taking a member of our group with him. At first, I can’t tell where he’s gone, or who took him, but I can hear his frightened, muffled cries from behind a closed door. Then, I see the tall, sinewy figure of the Tin Man emerge from behind the corner, and I realize we’ve fallen into a trap.

 

Nikhil Pai as TikTok

 

“Pumpkinhead,” says the Tin Man, shouldering his axe. “How did you do it? How did you get Dorothy out of Oz?”

 

Jack appears confused, “I didn’t. I thought you did.”

 

“Oh. Well… let’s not keep her waiting.”

 

The Tin Man leads us into the garage and orders us to line up against the wall.

 

I look across the room and see Dorothy, tied to a chair. Her wrists are bound with heavy rope and there is fear in her eyes. But she appears otherwise unharmed.

 

“YOU CAN’T HAVE HER!!” yells the Tin Man. He turns to face Dorothy and walks slowly toward her. “Look at me, Dorothy. Are you still drugged? Did they hurt you, your kidnappers?”

 

Dorothy seems confused, “I thought you kidnapped me. If it wasn’t you, then who was it? How did you find me?”

 

The Tin Man states that he was sent coordinates. He thought it was the Lion, trying to make a deal.

 

“Where is Tik?” asks Dorothy. “Is he safe?”

 

“He’s FINE!” the Tin Man sneers. “He won’t be interrupting us.” The Tin Man instructs one of our group to check on Tik through a hole in a door on the far side of the garage. As soon as the Tin Man turns his back to us, Jack nudges me and gestures toward Dorothy. I move without hesitation to assist Jack in untying Dorothy’s bonds. But the knots are firm, and we’ve barely begun to untie them before the Tin Man notices what we’re up to and bellows for us to get back against the wall. I don’t argue. My heart feels as though it might jump out of my chest and my hands shake with genuine fear.

 

Colleen Pulawski as Dorothy Gale

 

“Do they still chant your name in the streets?” the Tin Man questions Dorothy. “After all that’s happened, do they still want you to wear the crown?”

 

Dorothy protests, “Nick…”

 

“That isn’t my name anymore!” Then, his tone softens, “This isn’t how it was supposed to be, Dorothy. We were supposed to be alone. But then these people just showed up. This is ALL WRONG!”

 

Dorothy tries to reason with the Tin Man. “I don’t think I was kidnapped. I think this is a trap. The Queen, she wanted you to find me. And now you’re walking right into her trap! Nick… I know that you’re hurt. I know that you’re angry. But whatever is between us… you have to let it go. Our lives don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. So, we have to work together, Nick. Alright?”

 

The Tin Man stares at the ground in silence, his axe at his side. After a moment, he turns to Dorothy.

 

“The ‘Grand Scheme of Things.’ The fight between Kansas and Oz. Lives caught in the middle of the battle for the Emerald Throne. The world is at stake. The worlds are at stake. But what about MY world? I had a wife. We were in love. And she was killed when Munchkin was invaded. She DIED for the sake of Oz! And then YOU came along, Dorothy! And you made me believe in you. I left my wife for you. I fought for YOU. YOU gave me the smallest hint of hope, and I seized the opportunity like a worthless piece of shit. Again, and again, MY WORLD! Just a consequence? Just a footnote in the ‘Grand Scheme of Things?’”

 

The Tin Man turns to look at those of us standing against the wall and directs his next questions to us: “Do you think that your world is more important than mine? Would you sacrifice Oz in order to save your world? Tell me honestly: What are you willing to sacrifice for your life?”

 

I don’t have an answer. How can anyone answer questions like these?

 

The Tin Man continues, “I’ve decided that, for once, MY world is more important to me than any of you. And, in MY world, I just want one, small fragment of justice.” He stands close to a man in our group and asks him, “Do you believe that I loved Dorothy? Do you believe that this whole time I was trying to save her?” The man looks unsure. The Tin Man speaks to Dorothy, “That’s because they don’t understand what you did to me. How you humiliated me!” He punctuates his words with a strike of the axe head on the concrete floor. “Dorothy… I’m going to kill you…”

 

Jack cries out, “No! I won’t let you!” and starts toward the Tin Man.

 

“Jack… Jack, Jack, Ja-ja-ja-ja-Jack…” The Tin Man stutters, cruelly taunting Jack. “Sweet, stupid Pumpkinhead.”

 

“Don’t call me that!” Jack warns.

 

“Get back against the wall!” shouts the Tin Man, advancing toward Jack, who recoils in fear.

 

“Do what he says,” pleads Dorothy. “Don’t provoke him!”

 

“Do what he says?” mocks the Tin Man. “Don’t provoke him? Do what Nick says? Do what the Tin Man says? They’re not going to do what I say. They’re going to do what you say because they don’t understand who you really are!”

 

Dorothy’s eyes well with tears, “I’ve never pretended to be anything I wasn’t…”

 

“No! No, of course not! You just let them believe! Isn’t that what you said, Dorothy? ‘I never lied. I just let them believe.’ You’re so good at words, Dorothy. Changing the meaning ever so slightly… turning us all around until we’re facing the completely wrong direction! Words! Words, words, words, words, WORDS! You like words, don’t you, Jack? Woooooooords? Be careful, Jack. People die over words. Words like ‘oath’… ‘allegiance’… ‘promise’… ‘swear’… ‘love’…”

 

James Cowan as The Tin Man

 

As he speaks the word ‘love,’ the Tin Man’s eyes soften ever so slightly. He faces our group and asks one of us to recall the story of Dorothy’s early days in Oz, of her journey to the Emerald City with her three friends: the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man.

 

“And, why did Dorothy invite us to join her?” he asks. He turns abruptly to Dorothy, “Why did you invite three horribly broken people to join you?”

 

Dorothy hesitates, “I thought the Wizard could help you.”

 

“Help?” exclaims the Tin Man. He repeats his question, “Why did you invite us to join you?”

 

Dorothy searches for the right words, but is interrupted by the Tin Man, “How did you say it, exactly?”

 

Dorothy realizes she’s trapped, and there’s no option but to tell the truth, “Get me to the Wizard safely and I’ll make sure you’re rewarded.”

 

“There it is!” exclaims the Tin Man sarcastically. “Friends on an adventure! No. Not really. We were bodyguards. Fodder. Sheep on the way to the slaughter. See, we were all blinded by our own pathetic situations. We thought this was an offer out of the goodness of Dorothy’s heart. But that was before we realized she didn’t have one!”

 

Jack attempts to defend Dorothy, “But, she still helped defeat the Wicked Witch of the West. And the Wizard!”

 

“No, no, no, no, no… “ begins the Tin Man, “Let’s talk about that. Why did Dorothy help defeat the ‘wicked’ Witch of the West? Because the Wizard promised to take her home. She wanted to leave Oz. She wanted to get home. She didn’t care about any of us and what we wanted. She sacrificed our lives to get what she wanted…”

 

“That’s not fair!” cries Dorothy.

 

“Diggs was smart enough to leave you behind when he floated away in his balloon. And I admit… watching you cry…”, the Tin Man’s voice cracks, “ I knew your pain. But, now… I see that you were crying because you were stuck in Oz with us.”

 

Dorothy struggles to calm the Tin Man, “That’s not true, Nick! Nick…!”

 

The Tin Man is unrelenting, “We are here because of you! Oz is being destroyed from the inside because of you!”

 

The Tin Man’s anger is terrifying, and I feel he may snap at any moment.

 

Jack speaks up, “You’re not being fair! Everyone wants to save themselves. It’s self, uh…” he struggles to find the right word, “Self…”

 

“Preservation?” offers the Tin Man.

 

“Yes!” exclaims Jack.

 

“You don’t understand, do you?”

 

“I understand that you’re obsessed with someone who doesn’t love you.”

 

Jack’s words trigger something in Dorothy and the fear in her eyes intensifies. “Jack, stop it…” she pleads.

 

Colleen Pulawski as Dorothy Gale

 

The Tin Man calmly asks Jack, “You’re with Patchwork, right? Where’s Phil? Did he send you?”

 

Jack explains, “Dorothy’s the leader now.”

 

“Oh, is she?” mocks the Tin Man. “Then, why did you run away?”

 

“Because she knew that Ozma would kill us if we didn’t,” says Jack. “So, she sent Tik and me away to be decoys for Phil…”

 

The Tin Man looks aghast at Jack, “Decoys? DECOYS?”

 

Dorothy is quick to try and explain her actions, but the Tin Man stops her. He steps close to me and instructs me to ask Jack why Dorothy picked him and Tik. I look into Jack’s confused eyes and ask the question.

 

Jack answers, “She chose us to be her guards because she trusted us.”

 

The Tin Man smirks. He gestures for another of our group to ask Dorothy the same question.

 

Dorothy is careful with her words: “Because I could rely on them.”

 

The Tin Man moves inches from Dorothy’s face and speaks slowly. “I know you so much better than this. Ask her again.”

 

The man asks again. Dorothy stammers searching for the right words, the words that will make this all alright. But the only words left are the truth. And the truth is ugly and painful. “Because I knew they would do anything I asked. They were lonely and I knew if I asked, they would do anything for me.”

 

My heart sinks as she speaks.

 

“I still love you, Dorothy.” Jack says quietly.

 

Dorothy attempts to comfort him, “I know. I still love you, too, Jack…”

 

“Just not in that way,” mocks the Tin Man as he persists with his interrogation. “Why did Dorothy run away from Oz? What was the escape plan?”

 

Jack explains how he was supposed to wind Tik’s watch, get Tik and Dorothy, and escape together. But something went wrong. Jack forgot to wind the watch, and when he and Tik reached the meeting point, Dorothy had left.

 

“If Jack had remembered to wind the watch,” asks the Tin Man, “and he and Tik had made it to the meeting place that you agreed on, would you have been there?”

 

Dorothy tenses, and I feel that I already know the awful answer to this question.

 

“NO!” Dorothy admits. “No, I wouldn’t have been there. I didn’t wait. I just ran. I ran as fast as I could to get home! Back to Kansas. Back to Earth, and away from Oz. Away from everything and everyone. I just wanted to be forgotten. And I knew… I knew that something would go wrong with Jack and Tik. I knew the Militia would chase them first. I knew that they would get caught. But it was the only way out! I did what I had to! To survive! To escape! And, Jack… I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry…”

 

Speakeasy Society, immersive theatre, non horror, kansas, wizard of oz, the heart, los angeles, theatre

Michael Bates as Jack Pumpkinhead

 

“Please stop talking,” says Jack. “Were you ever going to come back for us?”

 

Dorothy tries to deflect Jack’s question, “Jack, I know how you must feel right now…”

 

“No. You don’t,” says Jack. “I never had a home. I never had a family, not until you. And, now, I don’t know if I ever did.”

 

The Tin Man looks at Jack, and I wonder if it’s sympathy I see in his eyes. “Jack, even the kindest shepherd leads his sheep to the slaughter. That’s why there’s no point in fighting for anyone. Because, in the end, we all die alone.”

 

“Then, kill me.” Dorothy says flatly. “I’ve made mistakes. People have sacrificed themselves for me. People who loved me. People have died for me. And I… never would have died for them. And that is a part of who I am, Nick. And I acknowledge that. Our choices have inevitable consequences, ones we may never have intended. But those consequences are our responsibility. Our choices have costs and if this is the cost of my choices, Nick, then so be it. But this moment, Nick… this moment is a choice for you. So, make a choice, Nick. If you want to kill me, then kill me. If you want to untie me, then untie me, and we will never speak again, I promise you that. But, please, be done with this once and for all!”

 

The Tin Man stands motionless. The silence is heavy and I can feel my heart pounding in my chest.

 

“Choose, Nick!” Dorothy begs.

 

The Tin Man lurches at Dorothy with his axe held high and she flinches away from him. But his axe does not strike her. Instead, he turns to us and asks who among us thinks he should release Dorothy, and who thinks he should kill her. Unanimously we raise our hands in favor of sparing Dorothy’s life.

 

To my surprise, the Tin Man moves toward Dorothy, and reaches for the ropes which bind her to the chair. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way, Dorothy. We were supposed to be alone. And, then these people just showed up…”

 

Kansas Collection | The Heart

Colleen Pulawski as Dorothy Gale

 

As he leans down to untie her, there is a commotion across the room and Tik emerges through the door that separated him from the rest of us. He holds a large, heart-shaped iron lock.

 

“Let her go!” demands Tik.

 

The Tin Man quickly moves behind Dorothy and wraps his hands around her slim throat. Dorothy yells at Tik to get out, but he ignores her. There is chaos and confusion all around, as the Tin Man, Tik, and Dorothy shout and threaten each other. I feel paralyzed, unable to intervene. Tik charges at the Tin Man, and I hear a short, desperate cry from Dorothy as the Tin Man snaps her neck in one terrible, swift movement.

 

The Tin Man’s hands fall away from Dorothy’s neck, and he stares in disbelief at her lifeless body, still bound to the chair. He reaches out to touch her face and softly speaks her name. But she does not respond. He shakes his head, stumbling backward to brace himself against a workbench, and repeats over and over, “No. No… no… no… NO! This is all YOUR FAULT!” he screams at us.

 

I can barely comprehend what I’ve just witnessed. How can it be possible that Dorothy Gale is… dead?

 

The Tin Man begins to rage, and our group wastes no time in taking the opportunity to escape to an adjacent alley. Tik is crying hysterically and runs off into the night, but Jack stays with us. He’s wide-eyed and in shock, and it breaks my heart to see him this way.

 

He looks at us with tears in his eyes and says in small voice, “Uh… I could sure use a hug right now.”

 

So could I, Jack. So could I.

 

All photos by Model05 Productions

 

You can find more information about The Kansas Collection and upcoming Speakeasy Society shows on their website, on Instagram, or via Facebook. You can also check out our review of The Heart, and read a recollection of Ch. 6: The Witch.

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About The Author

Lisa Peters
Haunting Glowing A - Immersive Theater - Extreme Haunts - Horror Experiences