The End. That's what the Ozians were calling it. Their great Clock of the Time Dragon, Controller of Fate, had stopped ticking. No one was quite sure how or why, they just knew that they had all woken up one day to find the Clock totally still and silent. The cogs weren't whirring, the Dragon atop the Clock wasn't growling. There was nothing but silence. Though the reaction to this dark discovery had been anything but. Complete and utter chaos swept across every corner of Oz as citizens of every kind panicked, fearing some sort of apocalypse. Fear for the now-unknown future filled all of their hearts. Or at least, almost all of their hearts. There was one brave Ozian who wished to know if the Clock could be fixed, and if so, how the procedure would occur. This Ozian was Lady Glinda the Good.
Glinda, herself, had never believed very much in the concept of fate or prophecy, thinking it all far too complicated, silly and un-provable to be anything other than superstition, but even she was a little bit terrified by the idea of The End. There was just something so eerie about such finality and if there was any way to undo any sort of impending apocalypse, she was willing to go searching for the key. For that reason, she made a grand announcement to all of Oz that she would head inside the Clock itself and try to see what was wrong. Ozians were forever grateful for her brave offer and sacrifice and they gave her a sendoff party larger than the one the Wizard of Oz received when he landed in Oz decades upon decades ago. This was because getting inside the Clock was no small feat. Only one of intense and powerful magic would be able break the barrier to get inside and, even then, no one had any clue what waited beyond the veil. But Glinda managed to do it. Against all odds, her magic proved powerful enough and she managed to transport herself right into the heart of the Clock of the Time Dragon, right into the prophetic halls of time...
Inside the Clock, Glinda crawled around a vast array of cogs, gears, springs, screws, bars and other odds and ends when she finally wound up running into the very last person she ever thought she'd see, let alone inside the Clock of the Time Dragon.
"Elphie?!" and sure enough, it was. The green-skinned, so-called "Wicked Witch of the West" Elphaba Thropp, was also inside the Clock.
"Glinda!" she seemed just as surprised by Glinda's presence as Glinda was of hers. The two balanced carefully over rods, cogs and wires until they were reunited, embracing tightly as she exchanged greetings and remarks of disbelief.
"What are you doing here?" Glinda asked joyfully as she reunited with the girl she had not seen in years.
"Trying to fix the Clock. My Grimmerie was able to transport me here," Elphaba replied. "And you?"
"Same as you," Glinda replied. "I used magic too. There was a huge parade and party about it!" and Glinda couldn't help but indulge in a bit of showing off, explaining to Elphaba how glorious her sendoff could be. But all the grandeur was lost upon Elphaba, who was far more interested in hearing about just how panicked everyone really was.
"Yeah," Glinda admitted ruefully. "All the Ozians are really scared. Every single one of them is freaked out to some degree, but I don't blame them. I know that I said that I didn't believe in the Clock, or any of its wild prophecies, but you can't deny that talk about The End is pretty creepy. And honestly, sometimes, you can't help but believe this blasted old thing," Glinda slapped a nearby cog disdainfully while Elphaba nodded in solemn agreement. She had even less faith in the Clock than Glinda did, but like Glinda, she still wanted to make sure the Clock's death was not some prelude into an Oz-wide apocalypse. None of them needed that right now.
"You know I absolutely loathe the concept of an uncontrollable fate, but I suppose that getting stupid prophecies beats getting the end of Oz," Elphaba said. "Let me help you try and fix whatever is wrong in here," she said and, after offering profound thanks, Glinda accepted Elphaba's offer. Together, hand in hand, the two young witches of Oz trudged deeper and deeper inside the mysterious Halls of Time.
The duo finally reached a point in which all the cogs and gears were gone and, instead, it looked as though they were facing a little stage, like they were about to be watching a puppet show.
"Inside a clock?" Glinda asked doubtfully.
"A magic clock," Elphaba reminded. "Even if the prophies are a bunch of hooey, the Clock itself is built upon a very strange and powerful magic. You could fit an entire universe in here."
"True," Glinda agreed, but the thought of that made her shudder a little. That was when the curtains on the tiny stage opened and, sure enough, the two girls were forced to watch a play. But it wasn't just any play, it was the entire history of Oz, starting all the way from its genesis. The funny thing was, though, even though the play carried them through the very creation of Oz, it was done in such a way that it was still impossible to discern who had done it and why. Was it Lurline? The Unnamed God? Magic? Science? A giant explosion? Or a bit of each?
"I suppose we weren't ever meant to know," Elphaba muttered, sounding miffed at being teased so much by the story.
"No wonder nobody agrees on what really happened," Glinda chuckled weakly as the curtains on the first stage closed again. They got up and continued to walk down the halls of time, the walls themselves turning into one giant movie screen. As they walked on down the hall, they continued to see time progress through the history of Oz. That was where they saw the rest of the creation story, no less muddled than the first part, much to Elphaba's growing annoyance. But then it finally reached to the arrival of the Wizard and both of them watched their very lives unfold right before them like a movie.
"How odd!" Glinda murmured as she watched puppets, pictures, holograms, outlines, shadow-puppets and an array of other visual creatures portray her life story. She watched as a baby puppet of herself melded into a young woman. On the opposite wall, Elphaba's puppet was going through a similar change. Then, in a very weird optical illusion, as Elphaba and Glinda rounded a corner, the puppet versions of themselves managed to unite on the same wall. It was their arrival to Shiz.
"Ah! I remember that!" Glinda laughed warmly as she watched her puppet being rolled in on luggage. But her smile turned uncomfortable as the puppets turned into shadows, a whole ring of them surrounding the shadow that used to be Elphaba's puppet. The shadow that used to be the puppet on the luggage rose higher over the others, pointing an accusatory finger at the little shadow stuck in the heart of it all.
"Ah. I remember that," Glinda sounded more embarrassed and ashamed than before.
But then the show moved on and, in the reflection of cogs and gears, they saw themselves growing up and growing closer together before they were, once again, torn apart. Their stories were told, once again, on opposing walls and there was no overlap at all. Glinda saw her own silhouette walking across the wall, wearing the big poofy dress and carrying the tall silver wand. On the opposite wall, Elphaba's shadow began to stoop over and a point began to rise up out of her head. It was the hat. She was carrying a broom. It was a very bittersweet thing to watch. Then it melded back into the form of a moving picture and Elphaba and Glinda watched themselves as they disappeared into a swath of cogs, wires, rods and other little mechanical scraps. That was where they were now: inside the heart of the Clock of the Time Dragon.
"We're at the present now. Will the Clock show us the future?" Elphaba wondered. Right as she said that, then, the place where their moving-picture-selves had gone, the gears all rolled away like a curtain being pulled back. Elphaba and Glinda held each other's hands a little bit tighter before walking in. Here it was. This was it. The very end of the line... And...
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing at all. Just a solid, blank, white wall. It was a dead end. The only way out was backwards. They couldn't move in any other direction and there was nothing else there. Just a solid, blank, white wall. It felt even quieter in here than anywhere else in the Clock. It was even quieter than a graveyard. Just an endless, empty white wall. It was a dead end. There was no other way one could go except backward.
"Does that mean that's it? That there's no hope? No future?" Glinda asked, voice sounding small as the realization of what this dire prediction really could mean for her and the entire Ozian country.
"I don't know," Elphaba said, but even she, as stoic as she was, sounded unsure.
"So that's it then? It's just over?" Glinda sounded like she was going to cry. Elphaba opened her mouth to try and console the poor girl, but then she cried out as she relied something was happening again.
"Oh wait! Look!" she shouted, pointing at a small spot in the endless white wall. It had started to chip away and rot into blackness, decaying. The girls watched in mute, disgusted fascination as, all around them, the Clock seemed to deteriorate and decompose. It was rotting from the inside out and they were getting to see it happen in real time. Things rusted and fall apart, they broke and cracked, they collapsed and peeled away. Everything went dull and dark. The entire Clock was literally withering away.
But even though the world was literally collapsing all around them into nothing but darkness, neither Elphaba nor Glinda were fearing for their lives. They were afraid, but not because they were worried that witnessing the death of the clock would kill them. They somehow knew it wouldn't. What they were scared of was the implication of getting to watch this mini apocalypse, eating the clock from the inside out. But then at last, it was all gone, fallen away into sheer darkness. Elphaba and Glinda felt like they were standing upright, but they might as well have been floating through the void, or the abyss, for all they knew. The only color in that entire universe was whatever they had on. Everything else was Nothing. It wasn't even blackness, it was Nothing. That was all that was left.
In the distance, then, a bell tolled. 13 long, loud, low knells and it was over, silent again. Oxymoronic as it was, that 13th toll was infinitely finite. The moment it ceased to echo through the void, the nothingness became perfect and complete. It was over. All over. Finally over. Nothing else was left. Nothing more.
"It's the death of fate," Glinda whimpered, trying to sound poetic in order to mask how terrified she was. The moment she said this, Elphaba felt as though a bolt of lightning had surged through her entire being. It left her feeling charged, electric and alive.
"It's the death of fate," she echoed. "That's it! It's the death of fate... And the birth of choice!"
Now it was Glinda's turn to look like she had been hit by a bolt of pure energy. Her eyes brightened and her mouth opened in a gasp of awe. That same enlightened, transcendent look upon Elphaba's face was now upon her own. She had never felt so awake or alive ever before, even in her best days. That was it, then. The death of fate. The birth of choice. Because if fate was dead, choice was all that remained. The Clock, that guiding entity, was dead. That meant everything that happened from here on out all fell upon the shoulders of Oz. There was no more Clock to tell it what would or wouldn't happen. There was only Oz, and every choice it would ever make. It was their turn, now, to write the story. It was like a bird sending a baby away from the nest in order for that baby to grow and learn how to use its own wings.
"Now it's our turn to try defying gravity," Elphaba and Glinda realized as the world slowly came back into view. They were outside of the Clock now, hidden away safely behind its mechanical corpse. They were back in Oz, but not the one that they had left behind.
"This isn't the end at all, is it, Elphie?" Glinda asked, feeling far wiser than she had ever felt before.
"Not even close," Elphaba replied, voice sounding so rich and full that mere words alone could not describe it. But she was right. It wasn't the End. Not even close. It was only just the Beginning.