The foundation of the castle sits just beneath the surface of the lowest cloud. Windows of varying shapes and sizes peek out from all along the spires. Wanda’s small green legs sprout out of the lowermost windows and she wiggles her toes enthusiastically with the wind. If she had had a mother, she would tell her that it feels like dipping them into marshmallow fluff — much less airy than one would expect. She giggles to herself and sits like this for hours until her caretaker enters the room (one of the unused storage areas in the basement) and chastises her for her carelessness. “Wanda June, get your feet inside this instant.”
The caretaker is an old B376TT9 model and has been with Wanda since she was born. His joints creak as he kneels to pick her up. “Oh, Tin-Man,” she laments, “why don’t you ever let me have any fun?”
The robot tilts his head to the left like a dog that has just been caught nose deep in his master’s dinner. “Wanda June, you know I don’t know what that means.” Tin-Man locks the door behind them after they’ve left. She is slumped over his shoulder, and her stomach is tied up in knots.
“I can walk myself you know.” She stares at the robot’s rusty back and sticks her tongue out. He continues his ascent up the spire’s steps none the wiser.
“Wanda June, you are not permitted to walk unless you are wearing your protective suit, which you know as well as I,” Tin-Man says, setting her down on a chair in the study. Books line the walls, and a weathered VHS copy of The Wizard of Oz plays on a tube television in the corner. It’s one of the few movies Wanda June’s mother left behind in her castle in the clouds, and is how she coined her caretaker’s nickname. It's much easier to remember than B376TT9.
She pouts as he prods her into her orange kevlar jumpsuit, and protests as he hefts the large fishbowl helmet onto her head. The absolute worst part, though, is when Tin-Man pulls the heavy gravity-inducing boots onto her feet. She hates the way they feel; they make her sweat. She feels anchored to the floor now, as he is, when otherwise she’d be floating through the halls as a ghost might. She lumbers off farther up into the castle, where the windows are reinforced by bars she can’t fit her booted feet through. She looks out into the deep grey sky and wonders at the purpose of it all. Why she’s here, alone, with nothing but an imprisoning space suit and a worrywart of a Tin-Man, who won’t let her realize her full potential.
She wonders what it will be like when he stops working. He goads her with the possibility of it every day that he finds her somewhere misplaced, naked, and enjoying the true freedom of the clouds. “Wanda June, someday I won’t be here to catch you before you fall,” he threatens. “And you won’t like what you find below any more than you like this suit I make you wear.”
But she isn’t so sure that he’s right. Even if the earth is dangerous, isn’t that where her mother went? Isn’t that where the other people are? Isn’t that where Oz was? Maybe someday she’ll find out, she hopes. Maybe someday she’ll be able to read one of the books on the walls of the castle study and what’s inside will teach her how to deactivate Tin-Man and rid herself of her protective suit for good.
Until then, she waits. She stews.