It was a Tuesday night and my girlfriend Lena and I were watching TBS. Boys and Girls had just ended. We talked about going out to a movie theatre, but decided to stay in. The Wizard of Oz had just started.
I made some popcorn as the opening credits rolled through. The overture was nice but I could hear it just the same from the kitchen.
Around the time the thank you to the young at heart came on, I was on the couch once more. I snuggled up under the covers with Lena. She was in her pajamas but I was still able to smell her perfume from earlier.
We laughed as Hickory said he’d get a statue someday, and Auntie Em told him to not start posing for it now. It was a wonderful scene and I had always admired how the farmhands were represented as the Lion, Tinman and Scarecrow later in the world of Oz.
Lena yawned and put her head in my lap. Dorothy was singing Over the Rainbow before too long. I cried a little, as I saw Lena did too. It was a telling display of youthful innocence and the yearning for acceptance we never quite overcome.
The night seemed almost perfect, though as we lay together. I was sure I’d fall asleep holding Lena before the end.
As my eyes began closing, with Dorothy’s house in the tornado and her landing on the Wicked Witch of the East, I noticed something peculiar. The Munchkins were not crowded around Dorothy but another munchkin. Yet, the dialogue went on the same as ever, with munchkins singing only not singing.
I considered waking Lena up, but before I made a move, the scene was back to normal. Dorothy was walking cautiously down the Yellow Brick Road toward the Wizard. She met the scarecrow much the same, without incident.
Only after giving the Tin Woodsmen his oil did things go awry once more. As the three companions locked arms and went into the distance, I saw what could have been a crane underneath a distant tree. I had heard rumors that it was in fact, a munchkin that had hanged himself, but was much more confident in the theory birds had been let loose in the background during filming.
I never got past the scene with the Lion, however. The movie stopped, with the picture whipping back and forth as if the film ran out. It seemed ludicrous to think TBS still used film broadcasting motion pictures in the digital age. But, what else could it be?
A black and white feature had begun showing. A midget, or little person as I think they’re called now, was attempting to kiss another little person. She fended him off, and moved her lips angrily. There was no sound.
I pressed the info button. It still said Wizard of Oz.
With a gentle shake, growing rougher, I woke up Lena. She looked at the screen half awake as a female little person continued berating her suitor. Another two minutes of such silent action went on, before the man left tearful and dismayed.
The munchkin walked onto a set. It looked similar to the Wizard of Oz. There were cranes and various other birds around him but he shooed them off and climbed up a prop beside a nearby tree. The frames of the film shook as he tied a rope around his neck. They were on the verge of cutting out completely. He dropped.
Lena and I watched the rope strangle the little person for two minutes before she became irate with me. She asked what I had changed to, and why I woke her up to see such barbarity. I pressed info but she still didn’t believe my story.
As she hit me with a pillow and grabbed the remote I continued to explain. It did no good, however. She changed the channel. For a few seconds it appeared as if she’d be watching Lifetime to punish me, but Valerie Bertineli’s face soon flickered back as the movie did before.
The munchkin was still hanging. Lena thought it an elaborate prank I was pulling and moved to the other end of the couch. I blamed the television for my misfortune and pressed the power button on the remote. It didn’t work.
I pulled some extra AAs from a drawer nearby. It seemed to do the trick and the television went off. I breathed a sigh of relief that some of my misfortune had begun to end.
A beer seemed inviting. I got up and walked around the couch into the kitchen. There were a couple left but merely the cheap brand. It didn’t matter. A beer was a beer, especially tonight.
Lena suddenly screamed from the living room. I slammed the fridge door shut and ran out to her. She was pale and very frightened looking but I could not see why.
I went around the couch and held her hand sitting down. She said she had seen the munchkin that had been hanging on the television. I interjected that I had too but Lena quickly cut me off. She said she had seen him behind her, hanging from the coat rack. Only, the coat rack had been a tree.
The absurdity of it hit me and I rolled my eyes. I figured she was attempting to get me back for what she saw as a prank of some sort.
Sarcastically I got up and checked the surroundings. I checked inside the register: no ghost there. I checked behind the television: no ghost there. She caught on quickly to my ruse and threw another pillow at me.
Another hour passed with us having made up. She was asleep on my lap once more and my mind had begun drifting off. I had convinced myself the show before had been a TBS prank in accordance with their old slogan: very funny.
Lena suddenly shook me, however. She had apparently not been asleep and asked me if I had felt a draft behind us. I told her to go back to sleep but eventually, turned my head to see if I saw anything. There was indeed something. A chill ran down my spine and I looked around the room for the source of the sensation.
Nothing appeared the matter around us. Half-jokingly however I looked toward the ceiling fan. There was something there…hanging.
At first I thought it a bird as I had from the film but on lengthier gazing there no mistaking it as human. Lena looked up with me and gasped. She quickly hid her head on top of my chest.
Whatever was on the ceiling fan appeared to be lowering itself toward us. The little person’s asphyxiated contortions soon became visible.
Lena and I huddled together on the opposing side of the couch as the purpled corpse descended to sit down. It was dead. It was certainly dead we told ourselves. Nothing so rotted could be alive.
The munchkins had not even been on set the day they filmed the sequence. There was no way one could hang them self.
We waited, however, afraid to move. The little person stayed still much as he had on screen. No sign of life appeared to possess him. An untold amount of time passed. Lena and I slowly attempted to move off the couch toward the door.
The little person opened his eyes as we did so. There were no pupils, merely white and rolled back inside his head.
With an outstretched arm he pointed to a book we had. I reluctantly went past him to get it, averting my gaze. It was a phone directory and I could not see the intention behind me getting it for him.
I sat in front of Lena to protect her and laid the book in front of the dead little person. Pages flipped without his touch. He pointed toward an address and I understood he meant for us to go there for him. I shook my head yes as a reply and a brief smile took the grotesque outline of his face. He looked like a sort of demonic marionette.
Lena asked what was going on and I told her I had to drive to the address pointed out. She begged me not to go, and not to leave her alone.
After a great deal of arguing we departed together. It was a short drive, ten or twelve miles to an old studio. It was certainly abandoned and in need of repair I thought as I climbed and old gate and helped Lena over.
The munchkin appeared before us again, transparent and decayed as ever. He beckoned us to follow. Lena gave me a look as if to say do we have to but I knew it was the only way to end the ordeal.
We travelled around the studio building in a few minute’s walk. There was no grass and few weeds. The munchkin stopped upon a seemingly uneventful location.
He simply nodded downward and disappeared. I had felt an unexplainable urge to bring a shovel with me to the car, and now with me to the studio and I now understood why. I began digging while Lena watched to see if the police were coming. It was apparent we were trespassing.
I got through dirt, into clay that stuck to my shovel. It was a hard dig. There was nothing soft about the soil.
Only after about four feet did I start to hit something besides rock, clay and dirt. It was a white something that glowed in the moonlight. I kept digging until more white was visible; then shapes; then a form.
Seeing a tiny skeleton, I slowly recalled a comment I had read online a few weeks prior: MGM would have never allowed such a clip to be accidentally included in a family film of The Wizard of Oz's caliber as any death on the set would have required a police investigation and report.
How much of a hurry was MGM in, I wondered? Setting my shovel down, I went to hold Lena. It had been a very long night.