Down and down she went. Hugging the book and Toto tight to her chest, Dorothy could not help but anticipate a painful landing. Surprisingly, when she finally landed on all fours, it was not painful but smelly. There was a horrid stench in the air and Dorothy felt the jolt in her throat to throw up.
Unfortunately, it was too dark for Dorothy to make an escape but Scarecrow’s matchbox came to the rescue. When she finally had a match lit, everything made sense. Dorothy was in an underground sewer and right above her head was the exit. Not waiting for rats to climb onto her feet, she climbed up the ladder and pushed the round lid open. Light flooded in like a spotlight and it made it easier for Dorothy to help Toto up before exiting herself.
Once away from the stench, Dorothy found herself in a narrow back alley. Looking up at the sky, she saw large chimneys reaching for the clouds. They puffed out black smoke and the sound of machineries suddenly became clear.
Dorothy did not stick around as she began heading towards the street at the end of the alley. But as she got nearer, she hesitated to make an exit. In the wet, dirty streets of this industrial area were people unlike her, or at least in skin colour. Dorothy was not sure which Asian country she was in but she was definitely not going to fit in. The people spoke in a foreign language and they did not look too friendly. She was honestly not sure if it was wise to go around looking for Alice.
As she hesitated, Dorothy spotted a few men in European clothing. It looked like they were doing business and everything seemed to be going smoothly. Maybe if she acted naturally, people wouldn’t notice her. With that thought in mind, Dorothy clutched the book tighter and exited the alley.
Unlike her, Toto trotted happily. He seemed to be enjoying himself while Dorothy awkwardly kept her gaze straight. Occasionally, she took quick glances around her for clues, but all she saw were dirty people who shouted at each other. Dorothy thought of asking for help, but nobody paid any attention to her. That itself was both a blessing and a curse.
After a few minutes of absorbing in the foreign country, Dorothy moved away from the streets and stood outside a factory door. She felt so lost that she had the urge to return to Oz. It was a thought that wrapped around her mind so tightlythat it took Toto’s barking tobring her back to the real world. When she finally acknowledged Toto’s call, Toto ran up to the factory door and started scratching it.
“Stop that!” Dorothy scolded. “You’re drawing attention to us.”
Toto did not listen and he kept going with his scratching. Dorothy had no choice but to pick him up, and when she did, Toto barked at something above the door. Looking up, Dorothy saw a sign written in English and in foreign words. It read, ‘Golden Dragon Cloth Factory’.
“Cloth factory?” Dorothy thought to herself.
Recalling the material she burned to get her here, Dorothy knew it was no ordinary cloth. It was smoother and softer than any other cloth she had felt before and she concluded, “She must be here.”
Toto barked in a that’s-what-I-was-trying-to-tell-you way and Dorothy kissed him in response. She briefly wondered what she would do without Toto before entering the factory.
The factory was rather large and it had different kinds of machines, some were big without the need of manpower, while some were small and people were needed to work it. Dorothy cautiously made her way and kept an eye out for an office. Factories always had offices, or at least that was what her uncle told her.
When Dorothy spotted the stairs leading to the second floor, she ignored the strange stares and hurried towards it. There were whispers among the workers but the machines drowned their voices. When she finally reached the second floor, she found a door with an English word that read, ‘Management’.
“This must be it,” Dorothy said to Toto.
Knocking on the door, Dorothy hoped to find someone that could help her, but instead she found an old lady.
“Wait,” the old lady said as she waved for Dorothy to enter the small, crowded office. There was anoffice door at the far end and it belonged to the boss of the factory.
“I’m looking for someone,” Dorothy said.
“Wait,” the old lady repeated as she showed Dorothy the chair.
“I just need to know if there’s an Alice working here,” Dorothy continued.
“Wait,” the old lady said again.
Dorothy concluded that that was all the old lady knew in English, and she stopped with her attempts to communicate. As she took a seat, Dorothy watched as the old lady said something to a young girl who then hurried out the back door. Hoping that the girl was sent to help her, all Dorothy could do now was wait.
After a few minutes, somebody walked in with the young girl. She had short black hair and she looked around the same age as Dorothy. When she walked up to Dorothy, she had a small smile on her face.
“I’m afraid the circus has left town,” she said, as her eyes fell on Toto and the whip on Dorothy’s corset.
Dorothy quickly got to her feet and said, “No, no. I’m not looking for the circus. I’m looking for someone else.”
“And who is it that you’re looking for?”
“I think she works here. Her name is Alice,” Dorothy answered and Toto gave a soft bark.
“Cute dog,” the girl replied. “But I don’t think the person you’re looking for works here.”
“Oh, do you know of anyone named Alice then?” Dorothy was not going to leave without some information about Alice.
“Maybe. May I know why you’re looking for Alice?”
“Well…” Dorothy trailed off, unsure on how much she should give away. And then deciding to play it safe, she said, “I need her help.”
“How can Alice help you? She’s not very good with animals,” the girl replied, clearly interested and amused at the unexpected factory guest.
“It’s hard to tell you. I mean, only Alice will understand my request.”
“If it’s a dress, you don’t need Alice to do it for you.”
“No, it’s not a dress. I need Alice to help…” Dorothy paused and contemplated again. Would this girl think she’s crazy?
“You need Alice to help?”
“To help defeat the Queen of Hearts,” Dorothy quickly said. She regretted it almost immediately and hoped the girl did not catch her words.
“I see,” the girl merely replied.
“Only Alice will get it,” Dorothy added.
“She get’s it alright. Now, who are you?”
It took Dorothy awhile to decipher the girl’s question, but when she did a light bulb lighted up in her head.
“Wait, are you Alice?” Dorothy asked excitedly. “But I thought you said Alice, er, you don’t work here?”
“I don’t. This is my father’s company. Now, it’s my turn to ask the questions. Who are you?”
“I’m Dorothy and I came from Oz.”