A BARNSTORMER IN OZ by Philip José Farmer Read online
To L. Frank Baum, to Fred M. Meyer, to the International Wizard of Oz flub, to Lester and Judy-Lynn del Rey, to Judy Garland, to all the Scarecrows, Tin Woodmans, Cowardly Lions, and Dorothys this side of the Yellow Brick Road, and to John Steinbeck, who said that, more than anything else, he would rather be "the ambassador to Oz."
A limited first edition of this book was published by Phantasia Press. A BARNSTORMER IN OZ
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley trade paperback edition / September 1982 Berkley edition / October 1983
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1982 by Philip Jose Farmer.
Cover illustration by Don Ivan Punchatz.
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That was the second unexpected and disconcerting phenomenon. The first had been a few seconds before when a green cloud had ballooned from emptiness about two hundred feet in front of him. He was flying at one thousand feet altitude in his Jenny, a Curtiss JN-4H biplane, when the emeraldish haze had spurted from an almost cloudless sky like a genie from a bottle. It had grown in two eyeblinks to a thick mist about eighty feet wide and thirty deep. It was a transparent light-green at the edges and the front and an opaque dark-green elsewhere.
He had been so astonished that his trained reflexes had deserted him. His left hand did not move the huge wooden control stick, and his feet did not move the wooden rudder bars. The Jenny shot into the outer limits of the cloud. It was then that the state of Kansas winked at him, disappeared, reappeared, then was gone.
Fort Leavenworth, the Missouri River, and the fields and trees vanished.
This was no cloud formed of tiny drops of moisture. He felt no wetness on his face.
The sun was in the same position as when he had plunged into the cloud. The sky, however, which had been partly cloudy on this April Fool's Day, Easter Sunday, and first day of Passover of A.D. 1923, was now pure blue.
He glanced at his wristwatch. Eleven A.M. He knew what time it was, but he did not know where he was.
Below was a tawny desert with big outcroppings of dark rock. Ahead, two miles away, was the edge of a green land that extended to right and left as far as he could see. The desert ended abruptly at the borders of the land as if it were an ocean breaking against an island. The land sloped up gradually for a mile, then it became high cliffs supporting a plateau.
He glimpsed twinkling towers, houses, and fields beyond the trees on the edge of the plateau.
He twisted his neck to look behind him. The cloud was dwindling, and then it was gone as if it had been sucked into an invisible vacuum cleaner.
Hank had been heading north by northwest towards Muscotah, Kansas, to deliver the personal effects of John "Rube" Schultz, his late flying partner in Doobie's Flying Circus. Hank had dreaded telling the widow how Rube had died in the accident, why the funeral would have to be a closed-casket ceremony, and his probably inadequate attempts to console Mrs. Schultz. It seemed now that he would not be landing on a meadow near the widow's home. Not within the time he had planned anyhow.
The compass needle on the instrument panel had swung crazily. Now it had steadied. He was still going north by northwest.
Hank Stover said, "Sacre bleu!" Then, "Holy smoke!"
His heart beat as fast and as hard as a woodpecker's bill against oak. His palms were wet. He felt slightly disoriented and number than he had been when drinking brandy while on leave in Paris. He was as frightened as when that black-and-scarlet banded Pfalz had been on the tail of his Spad.
He stiffened. To his right, what looked like lightning—it was hard to be sure in this bright sunlight—had spurted between two tall and sharp spires of dark rock. And then what seemed to be a flaming ball had rolled from the tip of one spire and exploded.
“I drank a lot last night,” he muttered. “I've got a drophammer of a hangover. But I'm a long way from delirium tremens.”
A ball of something shimmering and transparent rolled up from a ravine, shot ahead of the plane, got to a few feet from the vegetation-lined border, and disappeared in a bright expanding gout.
Small figures, birds, surely, rose in clouds from the trees near the desert.
He was over the greening land and approaching the cliffs. The plateau would be five hundred feet below him, but he pulled back on the joystick to climb. There would probably be an updraft from the cliff-face, but he was not taking any chances. Even though the JN-4H had an engine almost twice as powerful as the JN-4D, she was not as responsive to the controls as an Army pursuit. Besides, he wanted to get a wider view of the country. Which was what and where?
Even then, the truth was like a finger on the pulse of his mind. It felt a slight throb, but he could not believe that he was not deceived.
During his twenty-two years, Hank had had many surprises and shocks. The worst had been when his proposal of marriage had been rejected and when a Pfalz flown by one of the Kaiser's knights of the air had gotten on the tail of Hank's Spad and when he had slipped while transferring from the wing of a Jenny to the back seat of an automobile during a show outside Nashville, Tennessee. There was also the shock when his mother had removed the make-up from her forehead and taken her eight-year-old child into a dark room and showed him the very faint glimmer of a round mark on her forehead. That, however, had been delightful.
This was the worst because it was so unexpected and because it could not happen.
Yet, contradictorily, he now was not as shocked and surprised as he should have been. He thought he knew where he was though he just could not believe it. And if he was where he unbelievingly believed he was, where, as far as he knew, only two persons from Earth had preceded him... no, it could not be.
Two miles to his right was a thin cataract falling down the face of the cliff. It would have been much larger if it had not been for a dam north of which was a lake. On both sides of it were trees, meadows, and farms. Many irrigation ditches limbed it. Most of the trees looked like those in Illinois, oaks, sycamores, walnuts, Osage oranges, pines, and others. But there were also palm trees here and there.
The farmhouses were rectangular and had high-pitched roofs. His mother had told him about these and commented on the difference of their structure from that of the country to the northwest.
Though the houses and barns were painted with many colors, red seemed most popular.
All had thick lightning rods.
The fences, made of split logs or stone, seemed to be property markers. They were not high enough to keep the sheep, goats, and cows from jumping over them.
Below was a road running more or less parallel to the edge of the cliff. It was of red brick and the only paved road for as far as he could see.
He turned the Jenny to the left and flew above the road. A farmer driving a loaded wagon stood up, opened his mouth, and pointed at the plane though there was no one else around. Yes, there was. The two cows pulling it were looking up.
As he passed the wagon, Hank saw that there were no reins attached to the harness.
Ahead, almost on the edge of the plateau, was a castle and west of it a village. It was of s