The town square was empty when Glinda arrived in her pink bubble. This did not alarm her. The Munchkins, after all, were shy, timid even, beset as they were by evil witches and falling houses that disrupted not only the harmony of their peaceful realm, but the careful layout of the multicolored paths that radiated outwards, leading eventually to the Emerald City itself.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” Glinda trilled. This time there was no young lady who had fallen out of Kansas. Glinda was there only to check up on her devoted little friends and make sure that they wanted for nothing. Taking care of the small and meek, was, after all, her mission in life.
Strangely, though, there was no immediate response. A crowd of adoring followers did not appear. No little chicks awoke and rubbed their eyes. The members of the Lollipop Guild were not holding a meeting outside the sweet shop. The Lullaby League had apparently taken the day off.
“Hello?” Glinda called. “Where is everybody? It is I, Glinda, your friend and protector.” What could it be that had reduced the population to this extent? Had another Wicked Witch emerged to trouble the placid citizens of Oz’s most bucolic, most restful, and most scenic province?
Glinda grew ever so slightly irritated. She was used to crowds gathering whenever she floated into view. She was as used to the adoration as she was to her cotton candy wardrobe and glittery headpiece. She thought about stamping her delicate, silver-slipper-shod foot, but dismissed the idea as ungraceful and unbecoming.
Instead, she wafted her way over to the Mayor’s house. She called out in her dulcet tones, but received no response. Then she saw the note tacked to the front door of the mayoral residence: “Gone to Emerald City,” it said.
What could this mean? Circling the town plaza, Glinda found similar notes on every shop, every house, every meeting place she saw. Apparently, the entire population of Munchkinland had pulled up stakes and left for Emerald City.
“No!” Glinda thought wildly. “They’ll be no match for the dangers that await along the Yellow Brick Road.” Even the Red Brick Road was fraught with so many perils that it was seldom used in daylight and never after dark. She thought about bubbling over the Road and its hazardous environs to see if she could find a contingent of little people huddled together for warmth, singing a chirping song in defiance of the perils, and trying to content their pudgy stomachs with windfall apples.
Before she had time to conjure up her bubble transport, however, Glinda noticed a figure stirring at the back of one of the town’s official buildings. By the shadow of his curled hat, she recognized the Town Coroner. He was dignified, as always, but Glinda could sense an undercurrent of excitement is his small, beady eyes.
“Where is everyone?” she exclaimed.
“That should be evident. They are gone to Emerald City,” the dignified Munchkin said.
“But how? When? Why?”
“Why is the easiest question to answer. Emerald City is the capital city. It has the most excitement, the most fascination, and the most glitz, not to mention the most opportunity.”
“Over the last several days, as soon as people could put their affairs in order.”
“You make it sound as though Munchkins were . . .” Glinda gulped, “dying!”
“Far from it,” replied the Coroner. “They have only just begun to live.”
“What do you mean?” cried Glinda, clutching her glittering skirts around her. “Did they all just start out walking and expect to arrive at Emerald City unscathed? You know the hazards that line the Yellow Brick Road!”
“Of course,” replied the official. “That’s why nobody started out walking.”
“Then how…?” Glinda was truly at a loss.
“They simply . . . beamed there,” said the Coroner. “It took no time at all. Just a warbling sound and a sparkle, and they were gone.”
“Gone? But how do you know they arrived there? What if they went to the realm of a new witch, or into the Dark Forest?”
“Several of them came back to retrieve things they’d forgotten,” the Coroner replied. He adjusted his impressive hat. “I was one of them. I just had to put my papers in order, and now I’m off to the City!”
“You still haven’t told me how,” Glinda persisted. “How do you get transported directly to Emerald City without the long, dangerous journey by foot?”
“Transported is the exact word,” the Coroner replied. “We transport.”
“But what does that mean?” Glinda sounded almost desperate. “They couldn’t have used sparkling pink bubbles. Only Good Witches can do that! Only one person has ever fallen from a star!”
“But that’s just what these people say – they came from a star. Or rather, stars,” explained the dignified little Munchkin. “You may not believe this, but travelers came from the stars and said they wanted to share something called ‘technology’ with us. Of course, we are always a people willing to share, so we asked them what we could do for them and what they could do for us.”
Glinda was stunned, her eyes glazed over. “And these people from the stars – they showed you how to go to Emerald City in the blink of an eye?”
“They did,” the Coroner nodded. “And all they asked in return was that they could ‘examine our culture’ and ‘understand its secrets.’”
“You know, horses that change color, crystal balls that show what’s happening in another world, how to melt witches.”
Glinda stiffened at that. “How does it work?” she asked haughtily. “Is it necessary to wear special shoes and click one’s heels together? Does one need to recite something?”
The Munchkin laughed. “No, all you need to do is stand in a certain spot and pull a lever. Then the sound comes and the sparkle, and all of a sudden you’re in Emerald City, in the courtyard in front of the Wizard’s Palace.”
“No bubble! That can’t be all there is to it! It sounds like some strange, unfamiliar, and probably dangerous magic!” Glinda protested.
“Magic is as magic does,” replied the Coroner, as he pulled a lever Glinda had not noticed and shimmered out of sight.