“Toto, what have you found there?”
The dog barked and sniffed at something just beyond the foliage. Dorothy looked at the thick bushes - sunlight glinted on metal behind the leaves. She parted the branches, and gasped. A man made entirely of metal stood before her, frozen in position. Dorothy thought the metal might be tin.
“Oh my gosh, hello? Can you hear me?” She resisted the urge to rap her knuckles on his chest.
The man’s eyes swivelled towards Dorothy. He winked once, and rolled his eyes downwards. Dorothy spotted an oil can a few feet away near the path, not far from a discarded axe. She seized the can and pumped oil between the plates that made up the man's head.
“Oh praise the stars, I sure did need that.” The man worked his jaw, gurning as he eased life back into his face.
“What happened to you?” asked Dorothy.
Dorothy poked the nozzle of the oil can into his shoulders. She worked the plunger several times, and the man wrenched his arms downwards, the joints squealing in protest. Dorothy squirted more oil. The man swung his arms back and forth, the screeching of metal on metal growing quiet as the oil worked its magic.
“I got caught in the rain. Seems water and tin don’t mix. No, no, not at all. But that's magnificent. I don't suppose you'd be able to do my legs as well? My hips are awfully stiff.” The man flexed his fingers and stared down at his legs.
Dorothy squirted more oil into his hip joints. The man tried to raise his left leg, but too much rust clogged the mechanism. Dorothy shook the can, but it sounded hollow.
“It’s so sad. You must have been stuck like that for a long time.” Dorothy peered into the oil can. Only a few drops remained – certainly not enough to get his legs working properly.
“I don’t know if it’s sad or not. I don’t have a heart, so I can’t feel.”
“You don’t have a heart? Oh that’s terrible!” Dorothy’s hand flew to her chest. She had a vague notion that the heart didn’t really control emotions, but it was a nice idea. Not to have a heart seemed awfully barbaric.
"It’s alright. I’m sure I shall find another. In fact...I think yours will do!"
The Tin Man swung a metal fist towards her chest, his fingers grasping at empty air. Dorothy squealed and leapt backwards, almost tripping over Toto. The Tin Man’s eyes glowed and his mouth curved in a demonic grin. He leered at her, taking another swing.
"But I helped you!" Dorothy backed away from the wild metal man.
"More fool you, girlie."
The Tin Man lunged towards her. Dorothy scooped her little black dog into her arms, and broke into a run. She crossed the grass in several strides and her red sequinned shoes beat out a panicked rhythm on the yellow brick road.
"You'll get tired, girlie. Don't make this hard on yourself," called the Tin Man. He clanked and rattled along the road behind her.
Dorothy ran as fast as she could, careening headlong down the road. Clutching the shivering Toto to her chest, she fought back tears. First the Scarecrow and his terrorising ways, until the ravens tore him apart, and now a metallic man was out for her heart. What kind of place was this?
A piercing screech accompanied the slowing thuds behind her. Dorothy risked a glance over her shoulder. The Tin Man fought against the rust in his knees, forcing himself forwards in uneven strides. Dorothy paused to watch him haul his right leg in front of his left just as his hips seized solid. He roared, a howl full of anger and frustration, and toppled over. The Tin Man crashed into the Yellow Brick Road face-first.
“After you tried to rip out my heart?” Dorothy scowled at the Tin Man.
Hugging Toto tight, she set off at a brisk pace. The Tin Man’s apologies and pleas fell on deaf ears, and she was too far away by the time the pleas turned into savage threats. She made her way along the Road, throwing nervous glances in every direction.
In the distance, a lion roared.