Chapter 3 - Journey’s companions.
As Lila and Spunky continued walking, she noticed the outsides of Miracle City seemed to be a mostly rural area, since she saw several small farms and extensive crops fields, mostly corn and wheat. Lila smiled at the familiar images, as she used to live in a similar place before moving to Hillwood. As the journey continued, Lila saw some farmers waving and smiling at her, many of them also thanking her for getting rid of Sartana. The redhead smiled back and made no efforts of correcting them; as Maria have told her, the ‘witch killer’ reputation, even if something Lila personally disliked a lot, was a good protection for her, since, even if the people seemed to be mostly friendly and harmless, she was still a lonely girl in a strange land with no other companion than a little dog, and this reputation would give her some respect and protection against potentially hostile people.
“Mmm... so this is why Helga is ever so insisting on keeping up her bully facade. Nobody wants to hurt you if they think you can hurt them back.” Lila said to Spunky, who just barked in reply while sniffing the grass and random plants he found alongside the brick road.
Lila stopped walking after a couple of hours, sitting on a fence around a corn field. The girl looked around and found nothing but lots of corn, and a scarecrow in the middle of the field; this scarecrow was too similar to a little boy, with a very big head and bright blue eyes. Lila giggled a bit; whoever made this scarecrow didn’t do a good job at making it scary at all. In fact, it was a lot closer to a real life size toy than to a scarecrow.
“Oh, well, at least he’s not going to scare us while we eat, right, Spunky?” Lila smiled down at the dog, who gave her his usual goofy smile. Lila opened her basket and realized that Maria had used some of her magic on it, and not just to make it appear; the basket was much bigger on the inside, and had much more food and water than Lila expected while still being relatively light.
“Mmm... well, Mrs Maria said it would be a long journey, so we might need food and water for a few days.” Lila chuckled while choosing something for her and Spunky to eat. “Tacos... tamales... tortillas... stuff that doesn’t start with a T... My, it seems one of Maria’s books is a Mexican food’s one.”
“What’s a book?”
“Oh, you know, like a notebook, but...” Lila stopped talking and gulped. “Wait... you didn’t talk, right, Spunky?”
Spunky barked back at her.
“Okaaaay... there’s anyone around here?” Lila looked around. “If you are trying to scare me, it’s not nice to do that.”
“Oh, I scared you? Sorry; I know I’m supposed to be scary, but you’re not a crow.”
Lila finally realized that the one talking to her was the scarecrow, who was now looking at her and even giving her a little apologetic smile.
“Y-you... talked...” Lila paled a bit. She then remembered that Maria told her about how, in this land, some usually inanimate objects were capable of talking. “This land’s scarecrows can talk?”
“Well... I can talk. I don’t know about the other scarecrows. I might be the only one... but then again, I have no way to know that, or anything else. You see, I’m brainless.”
“That’s not a nice thing to say about yourself. Nobody is totally brainless...”
“I mean it literally, and don’t ask me how I know the word.” The scarecrow sighed. “I’m nothing but old clothes and straw with a boy-like shape. I have absolutely no brains inside this big head of mine.”
“If you have no brains, how can you talk?”
“Told you, no idea myself... but then again, some people talk a lot without having too much of a brain.” The scarecrow shrugged a bit.
“Again, not a very nice thing to say... but guess I can’t judge you since nobody is here to educate you.” Lila sighed as she got past the fence, with Spunky close behind, and approached the scarecrow. “Does it hurt to be, you know... hanging from that pole all day long?”
“Not really. I’m nothing but clothes and straw, so I can’t feel any pain, but it gets boring after a while. I learned to talk from hearing all the farmers that walk around here at several points of the day; guess that’s also why I know the meaning of some words... But you’re the first person I talk with.”
“Why so? You don’t like the farmers?” Lila asked while Spunky sniffed around, and then dashed towards the corn’s plants, barking and yapping loudly. A few moments later, several crows emerged from the field, flying away in a panic.
“Even that little dog can scare the crows better than me.” The scarecrow sighed. “And this is why I don’t talk to the farmers; I don’t want them to realize I am alive and that I’m not doing my job; a non-living scarecrow that can’t scare crows, well, you can’t blame him for failing, but a living one, that knows he should be scary and that to scare is his job...”
“Oh, I’m ever so sorry. It must be very frustrating to be forced to do a job you don’t like or aren’t that good at it.” Lila felt quite bad for the scarecrow, and now wanted to help him in some way. “Mmm... well... if you don’t do a good job here, maybe you should leave this field. You can’t get down the pole?”
“No.... but...” The scarecrow paused. “You know, I hadn’t really thought about that. It’s a good idea... of course, without a brain, I couldn’t think about it. Uh... you think you can...”
“Sure, no problem.” Lila smiled and then helped the scarecrow get down the pole. Now that he was on the ground, Lila saw he was a bit shorter than herself, but the head was notably larger; if he have had a brain, Lila knew he’d look like a big-brained genius.
“Ah. Thanks. It feels good to finally be able to... whoa!!!” The scarecrow almost fell down but Lila grabbed him. “Thanks again... this is the first time I get to walk... I’ve seen how people do it, but it’s not the same as doing it yourself.”
“As with everything else.” Lila helped him walk out of the corn field, and then she and Spunky started eating, while the scarecrow used the fence for support while learning how to properly use his legs.
“You want some?” Lila offered him a ‘torta’, a Mexican sandwich made with a special bread.
“Oh, no, thanks. I don’t eat or drink; I have no stomach in here.” The scarecrow pointed at his belly. “And it’s a good thing, because my mouth is just painted over the clothing or sack the farmers used to make my head; if I needed to eat, I’d need to make a hole for my mouth, and that would ruin my head’s shape.”
Lila nodded, realizing all the problems the scarecrow had due to his special condition, while taking a sip of water.
“It must be hard to be human... or animal... you need to eat... and drink... and I heard you also need to sleep, right?” The scarecrow commented while sighing again. “Then again... having a brain must be worth all those needs.”
“Yes, it does; and most of the time, we enjoy doing these things.” Lila replied. “So... what can you tell me about your life?”
“Not that much. Just that I got made a few days ago; luckily, the farmers made my head, ears, eyes and all, before doing my body, so I’d been seeing and hearing everything that happens around me even before I was properly finished. Anyway, I got placed on that pole you found me so I could scare the crows away, and it worked at first, but...”
- FLASHBACK -
The scene shows a smirking scarecrow on top of the pole, looking at the crows keeping their distance from him. He’s notably proud for doing a good job.
At that moment, a dark-haired, pale girl in black clothing approached the field, and, grinning, took some of the corn, pretty much stealing all the crop she could carry.
“This will be delicious with some butter.” The girl smirked and then looked at the crows. “Don’t be silly; that dummy isn’t alive. He can’t stop you.”
The crows realized that the girl was taking all the corn she wanted without problems, and a moment later the whole flock started feasting. The scarecrow, still silent, didn’t move at all, but his expression changed to pure sadness, as the crows realized he was completely harmless and he couldn’t do his job.
The girl looked at the scarecrow and chuckled a bit; she didn’t notice he was alive, or that his expression had changed to a sorrowful one, but she still felt like teasing him.
“Poor straw-filled fool. Too bad you’re a brainless dummy; if you had a brain, you’d be able to think about a way to stop the crows, or at least you’d be trying to resist. Oh, well, not my fault. See you... hanging around.” The girl chuckled a bit and left, with the crows still eating and making the scarecrow to start doing something he never did before; thinking.
- END FLASHBACK -
“That girl was ever so rude.” Lila frowned.
“Maybe, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t right. If I have had a brain, I’d have used my smarts to come up with a plan... or at least I’d have insulted or yelled at the crows to scare them away.” The scarecrow looked down. “Since then, the one thing I’ve wanted the most is to have a brain; to be capable of thinking... to be like a real boy. I don’t mind not being able of eating, drinking or all the other things humans do, but I’d love to have a brain.”
“I see why. My teacher back at home, Mister Simmons, always tells us about the importance of studying and learning, and how a proper education can be our best way to have a bright future, or at least, to have much more options.” Lila agreed with her new friend. “Mmm... you know, I’m going to Emerald City right now, to meet the Wizard of Nick.”
“What’s a wizard? Or an emerald? Or... Nick?” The scarecrow gave her a puzzled look. Lila then gave him a quick summary of how she had arrived to this land, plus properly introducing herself, and how she was counting on the wizard’s help to get back home.
“So, the wizards and witches do things that are impossible for anyone else...” The scarecrow rubbed his chin. “You think he can give me a brain?”
“That sounds more like Doctor Frankenstein’s work, but...” Lila thought out loud. “If he can return me home, he might have the powers to give you a brain.”
“Oh, that’s excellent!! Then, can I go with you?” The scarecrow jumped in happiness, now much more used to his legs and how they worked.
“Of course. Besides, even if Spunky is a very nice travel companion, I wouldn’t mind having another friend coming with me.” Lila smiled at him.
“Okay then, let’s go to see the wizard!” The scarecrow beamed and soon the trio started walking through the yellow brick road. After a while, Lila realized something.
“I’m very rude. I hadn’t asked your name.” Lila said to her new companion.
“Well... I don’t have a name. At least, I don’t remember if I have one. Even if I have one, well, without a brain, I can’t know it.” The scarecrow admitted.
“Oh. Okay... I think you need a name. It’s not nice to call you just ‘Scarecrow’ all the time, even if you’re this land’s only talking, living scarecrow. It would be like you calling me ‘Girl’ or ‘Human’ all the time.” Lila then got slightly thoughtful. “Mmm... okay, tell me which of these names you like better; George, Jack, Steve, Aaron, Forrest, James...”
“James... Mmm...” The scarecrow pondered about the last one. “I... think I like how it sounds...”
“For a more ‘familiar’ way to use that name, we can call you ‘Jimmy’. That’s how you call a kid named James, or a very close friend named James.”
“Jimmy... Jimmy. I like it. Short. Easy to remember. Kinda funny... Yeah, it works.” The scarecrow chuckled a bit. “Whoa, I got a friend, a name, and a goal in life, all the same day. Thanks, Lila.”
“You’re welcome.” The redhead giggled at her friend’s enthusiasm as they continued walking.
After a while of walking, Lila, Jimmy and Spunky stopped seeing farms at all, and they followed the road through a very thick, dark forest; the trees were so big and with so much foliage they blocked most of the sunlight. It didn’t work that it was getting late and the sun was setting down. Luckily, it seemed Jimmy could see quite well in the dark, apparently a benefit of whatever paint used by the farmers to paint his eyes, so he could guide Lila through the forest without getting out of the road.
“I see something in the distance... out of the road. Looks like a house or cabin or whatever.” Jimmy told her. “Wanna make a stop there?”
“Yes, I’d like that. Even if you see quite well in the dark, I’m still delaying you, and it must be hard for you guide me when before today you hadn’t walked even once.” Lila said, very thankful for finding this house; with some luck, whoever lived here would allow them to take a break and spend the night in a safe place.
Lila, Jimmy and Spunky walked out of the road, and the redhead knocked the cabin’s door... that opened by its own. Obviously, whoever lived here didn’t close it.
When the group entered, Lila found an old lantern and set it on; Jimmy backed off a bit, since, being made of nothing but old clothes and straw, his non-feeling-pain body would be quite vulnerable to fire. Lila illuminated the cabin, and got a bit surprised when finding lots of metal, wires and cables, plus assorted tools. Also, there was a thick dust layer on top of everything, meaning nobody had lived here for a long time.
“What place is this?” Jimmy asked, very curious. “Do all human houses look like this on the inside?”
“No... I think that whoever lived here was a blacksmith, or someone who worked with metals.” Lila deduced while holding some bolts. “Mrs Maria said technology wasn’t too advanced in this land but that some people got to learn from my world because of stuff that appears randomly.. The persons that lived here probably got some high-tech stuff or an engineering book, and they tried using what they learned from it.”
“Okay... how come I don’t have a brain and yet I managed to more-or-less understand what you’re talking about?” Jimmy asked a shrugging Lila.
“Well, we had been talking all day long since I found you, and it seems you’re a good listener and paid attention to all the things I’ve told you about my world and what Mrs Maria told me... Guess you’re good at remembering things; and yes, I know, you have no brain, but you’re also a talking scarecrow.”
“Good point.” Jimmy shrugged while he and Lila continued looking around the house. Spunky then found an old bed and jumped on it, getting himself comfortable despite being as dirty as everything else; Lila, with some help from Jimmy, cleaned it up, and after she and Spunky ate some dinner, they fell asleep on the bed; Jimmy, who, as he claimed, never felt sleepy, spent the rest of the night looking around the house, quite curious about all the notes, tools and metal parts, keeping himself occupied while waiting for the sunrise... mostly by learning how to read the notes and get what they meant. Luckily, he found a book called ‘Reading for Dummies’ and after a few hours he got the basics since, after all, he was pretty much a straw dummy.
The next morning, after Lila and Spunky had breakfast, and Jimmy put all the stuff he handled through the night back on its place (“It wouldn’t be polite if the owner returns home and see an even bigger mess”, as Lila said), the group got back to the yellow brick road. After walking for a while, they spotted something a few yards away from the main road; behind some bushes and partially covered by vines, there was a metallic statue, the size and shape of a human female.
“Oh, look. Wonder who made this statue.” Lila commented at Jimmy as they walked out of the road to get a closer look. “It looks ever so realistic.”
“Yeah... but wonder why it’s here, where nobody can normally see it. At least I was in the middle of a cornfield where farmers and crows could see me.” Jimmy added as they walked around the statue to get all the details. “And the pose... is kinda weird. At least, I guess it’s weird.”
Lila realized Jimmy was right; this metallic woman was in a running pose, with one of her hands extended as if trying to grab something. Lila looked at the direction the hand was directed, and saw an oil can next to a tree; like the statue, this oil can was partially covered in dust and vines. Lila looked back at the statue, and, on a better look, realized that the limbs seemed to be jointed/articulated, like some sort of huge action figure.
Spunky started sniffing the statue’s legs, obviously thinking about ‘marking his territory’, when the dog jumped back, apparently surprised by something.
“What happened, Spunky?” Lila asked the dog, and when moving her head closer to the statue’s head, the redhead could hear something similar to a moan. “What was that?”
“This... statue... is moaning?” Jimmy got a bit closer too, and touched the statue’s back; then, he touched the neck, and, realizing it was jointed too, moved it slightly. After doing it a few times, the statue, surprisingly, started moving its eyes. And then, with evident effort, the mouth moved too, creaking a bit when doing it.
“Whoa. This statue is alive... and look who’s saying it.” Jimmy said, a bit surprised but soon realizing he wasn’t exactly conventional as well.
“Yes... this is a metal girl.” Lila gasped and looked back at the oil can. “And she wants oil!!”
The redhead grabbed the oil can, and then poured a bit of oil on the statue’s metallic jaws.
“Ah... much... better... Thanks. “ The metal girl finally could start talking clearly. “Please... you have to oil the rest of my joints... so I can move again.”
Lila and Jimmy started doing as the girl said, plus removing the vines and random leaves covering the girl’s body. Lila applied the oil while Jimmy helped the metal girl move her limbs after they got oiled, so the lubrication was more effective. Soon, the metal girl was moving with ease; despite her moves being heavier-looking than a normal human’s, this didn’t seem to affect her.
“Oh, thanks a lot! I had been stuck for almost a whole year... More precisely, 246 days.” The girl grinned in happiness and relief.
“You counted them?” Lila asked.
“I couldn’t move. You can’t do a lot of things to keep yourself occupied in that situation.” The girl then got both Jimmy and Lila in a very tight hug. “And thanks again for helping me!! Oh, and my name is Jenny. Glad to meet you.”
“Name... is... Lila... ever so... glad... to meet you...”
“And I’m Jimmy... and Lila is human and she needs to breath!!”
“Oh, sorry.” A very sheepish Jenny released the pair. “It had been so long since I had been around people that I forgot to watch my own strength.”
“It’s fine... no problem.” Lila replied while rubbing her arms. “But... what happened to you?”
“Oh, I was just out, doing my work, as usual... I’m a woodsman, or woods girl, by the way...” Jenny then surprised Jimmy and Lila when one of her hands morphed into an axe. “Anyway, I usually kept my body well lubricated, and had an extra can of oil before leaving home every morning... but 246 days ago, I forgot to do it, and, lucky me, that day it rained. I was working over there...” Jenny pointed at the remains of a fallen tree, “and by the time I realized I had dropped my emergency oil can somewhere, and found it, it was too late for me; the rain rusted me so quickly I got stuck like a statue, and since almost nobody uses this road, and I couldn’t call for help, I’ve been here since then.”
“That’s ever so awful. Your family must be worried about you.” Lila’s words made Jenny got a sad expression.
“I have no family. You see, my mother was an inventor; she was one of the first persons trying to develop technology here in Nick. It took her several years and prototypes, but she finally got successful enough to create an artificial person... Yours truly.” Jenny smiled a bit before getting back to sadness. “Sadly, she didn’t finish with all my parts... You see, I have no heart.”
“Well, don’t feel bad, I mean, I have no brain, or heart... I’m nothing but straw on the inside.” Jimmy tried cheering her up.
“Maybe, but you’re a scarecrow, and you move and live through magic. I’m a person, or a wannabe person, and I can’t be a full human if I don’t have a heart, and feelings. The expressions and mood changes? Those are things I learned from spending time with my mom, so I can mimic the emotions, and maybe I have enough circuits to ‘feel’ to a certain extent, but I don’t have feelings of my own. And with my mom... no longer around us... nobody in this land can finish her work and give me a heart, or whatever works as a heart for someone like me.”
Lila, who had lost her own mother a very long time ago, immediately sympathized with the metal girl. She then got an idea and got a happy face.
“Jimmy and I are going to Emerald City to visit the Wizard of Nick; we’re gonna ask him to, please, use his magic to help us with some special problems; I want to get back home, at another, very far away land, and Jimmy wants to get a brain.” Lila commented to Jenny, while Jimmy nodded in agreement plus understanding what Lila wanted to do. “Maybe he can give you a heart too.”
“You think he can?” Jenny rubbed her chin. “Mmm... my mom barely talked about the wizard... then again, we lived very far away from Emerald City, and she wanted to do things through science instead of magical powers. But I think you’re right; without my mom, the only way I might be able to get a heart is if by using magic. Okay, let’s get back to my place, that I hope it’s still standing, to get some stuff I need, and I’ll be more than glad to go with you guys. And thanks for inviting me.”
“Oh, you’re ever so welcome. The more, the merrier.” Lila smiled.
“Yes, and besides, Lila and I don’t know the forest as well as you, so your experience will be more than welcome.” Jimmy added; he obviously was happy for having Jenny in the group and giving her a chance to fulfill her wish but he also saw the practical aspects. “Oh, and Lila and I spent the night at a cabin not far from here. I’m guessing that’s your house. It was a bit dirty but yeah, still standing.”
Jenny, relieved by these news, grabbed the oil can, and the group walked back to the house. Jenny walked to the center of the cabin and then, surprising Jimmy and Lila, she lifted a large trap door they hadn’t found the previous night... and they wouldn’t have been able to open it if they had found it, as it was obviously extremely heavy.
“How strong are you?” Lila asked Jenny as the metallic girl walked down a small stairway under the trap door.
“My mom wanted to make me as strong as a million and seventy men, but science, in this land, isn’t advanced enough to make me that powerful... luckily, she still made me much stronger than the average human, plus my metallic parts give me a few extra advantages. However, I still need some stuff, like oil and these.” Jenny emerged holding several oil cans and some little packages that Lila recognized as batteries. “One of this can power me up for several months. I just need to put them on the sun so they get charged up.”
“Your mother’s brain was quite smart.” Jimmy complimented the girl. “Too bad she’s no longer around... besides knowing her, I’d have asked her to make me a brain, or something that works like a brain, like she did with you.”
Jenny just nodded at him and, despite her claims of being heartless, Lila realized she really looked sad when her mother was mentioned. Lila then brightened the mood by offering Jenny to carry her oil cans and batteries in her magical basket, as it would be much easier to carry them. Jenny thanked Lila and offered to carry the basket herself for the rest of the journey. Jenny gave herself another quick lubrication before leaving the house, and a few minutes later they were back on the road.
The group walked uneventfully for the rest of the morning, and they took a break a little after noon. Even if Jimmy and Jenny didn’t get tired, Lila and Spunky needed to eat, drink water and rest, plus the sun was heating Jenny’s body a bit too much, and she needed to spend some time under the trees’ shadow to cool down, as she didn’t want to burn Lila, Spunky or (especially) Jimmy if she suddenly became too hot to touch.
“So... you always have to give or sacrifice in order to get something?” Jimmy asked suddenly, surprising both girls.
“What do you mean?” Lila asked him.
“Well, you and Spunky have both heart and brain, and that’s very good, but you both have to drink, rest and eat in order to live... and Jenny is too strong and has a brain of sorts, but her body needs special care too.” Jimmy explained. “I just... uh...”
“Wonder.” Jenny finished the phrase for him.
“Yeah, thanks. I just wonder, if I get a brain, I’ll need to give up some of my advantages? Maybe I’ll need to start sleeping, so my brain can rest... or maybe my brain will need food, and then I’ll need to eat... Don’t take me wrong, I really want to have a brain, but it’s a very big step for me and I have to... consider... everything.” Jimmy said, a bit too puzzled as how much he seemed to think despite having no brain.
“Well, I think you will be very smart when you get a brain; you are already trying to have thoughts and ideas, so guess you only need a brain to put them to work.” Jenny told him. “As for me, I can’t wait to have a heart, and know how it feels to... feel.”
“And I think you can ask the wizard to give you the brain and the heart without messing up with your bodies so you can still have your advantages.” Lila commented to them both. “I like being human, but I admit I feel a bit... ever-so vulnerable next to you both. Jimmy’s body feels no pain, and yours, Jenny, is very strong and hard to damage. Spunky and I are the weak ones in this group.”
“Oh, don’t feel bad. You know we can protect you.” Jimmy said while pointing at Jenny and himself. He then paused and pointed just at Jenny. “Okay, mostly Jenny can protect you, but I can help too.”
“Gee, thanks.” Jenny rolled her eyes. “Still, it’s a good point. This part of the forest has many wild animals, like lions, tigers and bears.”
“Oh, my...” Lila gulped a bit. “Lions, tigers, and bears... l-l-lion...”
“You already said ‘Lions’, Lila.” Jimmy corrected her while Jenny noticed the redhead had suddenly paled and looking at something behind them. Jenny turned back and a moment later she was tackled by a furry, fast feline figure. Jimmy jumped back and, when trying to help her, he got hit by the animal’s paw; being a scarecrow, Jimmy’s light body felt no pain but the impact threw him several feet away.
Lila yelped in fear while Jenny stood up but then got knocked down again by the lion... who immediately started shaking his paw; obviously, it wasn’t a nice experience to hit a metallic girl. Lila now could give him a good look; this lion was walking on his back legs, and his mane was a bright red tone, plus his face seemed to be semi-humanoid, even having several freckles. Also, his eyes seemed to be a bit too small, and the animal wasn’t much bigger than an average teenager. However, he still was attacking with all the strength and speed of a wild animal, and Lila feared he’d now attack her.
Spunky started barking at the lion, who looked down at him, and then roared at full volume, scaring the little dog. Lila, feeling herself very protective when seeing this, took a deep breath, and thought ‘What would Helga do?’, the answer was obvious.
“You, big furry bully, stay away from him!!” Lila snapped at the lion and, surprising herself, slapped him. Lila was very surprised when realizing she was capable of doing something like this, and even more shocked when the lion backed off and then jumped up a nearby tree. Jenny and Jimmy looked up at the lion and back at Lila, very surprised themselves.
“Either you are a very hard slapper, or this lion’s face is very sensitive.” Jenny finally got her voice back.
“You didn’t need to slap me that hard!!”
“Okay, it was the second one.” Jimmy said as he got back on his feet, and he and the rest of the group realized this lion could talk; his voice was a bit too nasal, similar to a boy with a congested nose.
“Oh... I... I am ever so sorry...” Lila started apologizing to the lion. “B-but you started it!! You tried to hurt us, and you almost ate Spunky!!”
“I only wanted to scare you guys away!! And... you speak like a little girl...” The lion was now giving them a curious look, squinting his eyes.
“I’m a little girl!!”
The lion then took a pair of purple framed glasses out of nowhere and put them on.
“Excuse me for a moment; I don’t like wearing my glasses when I go all ‘furryous’; they make me look like a geek.”
“That, I can agree with him.” Jenny whispered at Jimmy while Lila was trying to figure out where did this lion take the glasses out from, and also how did he get them on first place.
The lion, now wearing his glasses, looked at the group and groaned before facepalming.
“Great. I did it again.” The lion now looked very apologetic. “Sorry... I... I thought you guys were hunters, or soldiers, or whatever... that pup looked like a huge hunting dog... and I thought you...” The lion then looked at Jenny, “you looked like a huge guy wearing a battle armor; that’s why I tackled you, because I thought you’d be too big and tough to scare you away just by roaring.”
“I might not be that big but I’m tough.” Jenny frowned. “Wanna get down to see how tough I can be?”
“I... I think I’m gonna stay here for some time... the rest of my life sounds good enough.” The lion gulped before closing his eyes and hugging the tree’s log.
“Well, you can’t just attack or scare people away just because you feel like doing it!!” Jenny was now visibly upset. “And get down here because, I might have no heart but I still can feel ridiculous by doing this; I feel as if I were talking to the tree!!”
“Uh... you can leave your message and I’m telling the tree later in case he can’t reply now.” The lion, still with closed eyes, gulped and tightened his hold. “B-besides... I... I can’t climb down!!!”
“I know the feeling.” Jimmy groaned. “Maybe this isn’t the smartest decision, but... we can help you down if you want.”
“You are getting me down? Are you a scarecrow or a firefighter?”
“Mmm... sarcasm... aggression...” Lila was now having a very familiar feeling.
“Oh, come on, get down!! What are you, a lion or a scaredy cat?” Jenny snapped.
Jenny, now tired of this argument, extended her arms long enough to grab the lion’s tail; she then started pulling him, but the lion’s grip was pretty strong and resisted quite well.. in fact, resisted a lot more than the tree, and after a few minutes, the lion was down, falling on top of Jenny and still holding a good chunk of the log between his hands/paws.
“Heh... sorry...” The lion chuckled nervously at the robotic girl.
“Get. Off.” Jenny frowned, making the lion to jump down. The feline gulped and, very nervously, grabbed his own tail and started twisting it slightly, similar to how an embarrassed/scared kid would do with his shirt.
“You don’t seem to be a bad guy. In fact... it actually seems you’re afraid.” Lila said to him. “But... lions are supposed to be brave, isn’t it?”
“Yeah... but... I’m the exception; as if being near-sighted wasn’t enough.” The lion groaned a bit. “I’ve always been a coward; ever since I was a cub. I have dozens, if not hundreds of phobias; sometimes I get so scared I think I’m gonna have a heart attack.”
“Great; ‘think’ and ‘heart’ in the same sentence.” Jimmy rolled his eyes at Jenny.
“I’m serious; I fear a lot of things; I have Acrophobia, Claustrophobia, Arachnophobia... I even have... have... “ The lion was now struggling to say the next word. “Hi... Hip...”
“Hippophobia? You’re afraid of hippos?” Lila asked him.
“No.. well, yes, I’m afraid of hippos, but ‘Hippophobia’ is ‘fear of horses’ and I have it too. But what I wanted to say is that I have...” The lion took a deep breath. “Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia!!”
The lion almost fainted after saying that word.
“Whoa. What’s that?” Jenny asked.
“Fear of long words.”
Even Spunky was now giving the lion a silent stare.
“Yeah, I know, I’m pathetic.” The lion groaned again. “I’m also afraid of the dark... not the best thing when you’re a feline, I mean, I’m supposed to like the night!!!”
“I’d suggest you to get a psychiatrist but I doubt you have any of those medics here.” Lila said, feeling very sorry for the lion.
“And besides, I fear any kind of medic.” The lion added.
“But if you have so many fears, then why you attacked us?” Jimmy asked.
“Because... Uh... well...” The lion looked down but Lila got the reason instantly.
“Because you have a reputation; you’re a lion, so you are supposed to be tough and brave. You attack others so others don’t realize you’re afraid of them.”
The lion gave Lila a surprised look, showing she was totally right.
“How did you...”
“Oh, a friend back at home is very tough and rough, but she’s also a very good person... but she’s so afraid of people rejecting or hurting her that she acts tougher than she should so nobody gets close enough to find out.” Lila explained him; once again, Lila was suddenly very grateful for knowing Helga.
“Yeah... that’s pretty much my case. Usually, I just roar and the other animals run away from me, thinking I’m a tough, brave predator... but when a larger animal, like a tiger, bear or whatever appears, I try to hide so they don’t see me and try challenging me, because then I’d need to run away. That’s also why I attacked you guys; I was trying to be tough and scary so people would say ‘Hey, I got attacked by a powerful lion’ instead of ‘A little girl slapped a lion and he ran away like a wimp’.”
“I know how you feel... one of the few things I know, actually.” Jimmy sighed. “I am a scarecrow, and the reason the farmers made me was precisely to be scary, at least to crows; and trust me, I did a terrible job. At least you’re very strong and you can give the impression of being tough and brave.”
“Maybe, but it’s not the same as actually being brave.” The lion added. “I’d love to be like the other lions; to be... brave, and tough, and... to have a ‘lionheart’.”
“I’d like having any heart.” Jenny, now as sympathetic towards the lion as the rest of the group, tried comforting him. “Don’t feel so bad; you have it better than us, I mean, you have brains, heart, and you live here at the forest, your home. Jimmy, the scarecrow here, wants a brain; our friend Lila is lost, very far away from her home; and I want a heart, to have real feelings.”
“Oh. Too bad those things aren’t for sale, uh?” The lion half-joked, feeling a bit more comfortable now.
“No, but we’re going to Emerald City to see if the Wizard of Nick can grant us those wishes.” Lila told him. “Maybe you can come with us too; that way, it’s possible that the wizard can give you Courage.”
“A wi-wizard? As in... magic powers, scary presence, big dark castle kind of wizard?” The lion paled. “I... I don’t know... I... appreciate the invitation, but... uh... t-that sounds a bit too much for me. Even if this person wasn’t a wizard, you are talking about going to a city, full of people, and buildings, and... You know I also have Anthropophobia; fear of people?”
“Well, I’m people, and Jimmy is a straw person, and Jenny a metal one, and you don’t fear us... or do you?” Lila asked him.
“Uh... you’re kinda nice... but you are a small group; I kinda can handle that... but I also have Enochlophobia; fear of crowds.” The lion sighed. “I can’t do this.”
“Mmm... but... you’re probably afraid of being a coward, right?” Jimmy asked, making the lion to get a thinking expression.
“Phobophobia... you know... yeah, I have that fear too.” The lion said after a few moments. “And I also have Monophobia... that’s fear of being alone. And if I can’t control my fears...”
“Then you’ll be afraid, and alone, for the rest of your life.” Lila cringed when saying this out loud. “Okay, I’m not the one with lots of phobias, and even I got afraid when saying that.”
“So... I have to... find a way to cure myself...” The lion gulped. “Maybe you guys are right, and I have to go see the wizard... even if that scares me... so he can give me courage.”
“So, in other words, you need to face your fears to get courage, but you’re gonna need courage to face your fears?” Jenny arched an eyebrow (or whatever she had as an eyebrow) at this irony.
“Why do you think I hadn’t been able to solve this issue so far?” The lion sighed. “Well... if you don’t mind having a tagalong lion, I’ll gladly (even if scaredely) accept your invitation.”
“Okay then, welcome to the group.” Lila smiled at him, easing the lion’s fears a bit. “You already heard our names, but you haven’t introduced yourself.”
“Oh, my name is Charles, but, since I was a cub, everyone calls me ‘Chuckie’. You know... ‘Chuckie Chicken’.” The lion rolled his eyes . “Just call me ‘Chuckie’ without the ‘Chicken’ and I’ll be fine. Chuck is okay too.”
“Alright, Chuckie, then, let’s go to see the wizard.” Lila said, and soon the whole group, now with a new feline member, got back to walking through the yellow brick road.
Once Chuckie felt a bit more confident, he and the others started talking so they could get to know each other, making the journey much more comfortable, to the point they barely realized when the night fell and the group had to camp until the next morning, this time with Lila’s magical basket providing enough food not just for her and Spunky but for Chuckie as well, and when they went to sleep, both Jimmy and Jenny spent the rest of the night watching over their sleeping companions, the scarecrow using this chance to talk with Jenny and continue educating himself; even if he was brainless, he could still do something to keep himself occupied, and, after almost a whole year as a rusty statue, Jenny was more than glad to spend the whole night talking.
(As you already realized, Lila’s companions in this journey are Jimmy Neutron, from ‘Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius’, Jennifer ‘Jenny’ Wakeman aka XJ9, from ‘My Life as a Teenage Robot’, and Chuckie Finster, from ‘Rugrats’ and ‘All Grown Up’, playing the roles of The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodsman, and The Cowardly Lion, respectively. Also, as a side note, the Tin Woodsman’s origin, in the original book, is definitely not family-friendly, so we changed it a bit to spare our readers of all the gruesome details, and in fact it has influence from The Muppets’ filmic version of this story. Finally, the girl that steals the corn in Jimmy’s flashback is Zoe Aves, aka Black Cuervo, from ‘El Tigre, The Adventures of Manny Rivera’; in Spanish, ‘Cuervo’ stands for both ‘Crow’ and ‘Raven’, and she takes the role of the Chief Crow from the flock that mocks the Scarecrow in the original book.)