Kitty turned to Lowie and flung her hands in the air, stomping her foot. “Do you even know what Tick-Tock is?”

“A clock?” Lowie asked in that annoying way only a four-and-a-half-year-old baby sister could.

“The sign is broken.” And it was. Kitty stepped closer to inspect it. The arrow was barely hanging on the post. It drooped on the bent nail as if someone had tried to pull it off. “It could be dangerous.”

Lowie wrinkled her little button nose, which annoyed Kitty further. Lowie did that because she knew it was cute. But there weren’t any adults around to be cute for. “Flying Monkeys, then.”

“Flying Monkeys?” Kitty screeched. “Don’t you know anything? The Wicked Witch has flying monkeys!”

Lowie giggled.

“Wait.” Kitty calmed herself and turned slowly on her sister. “How did you know about the flying monkeys? You can’t read?”

Lowie giggled again, bouncing on her toes.

Surely, her sister didn’t get a magical ability to read. That would be so unfair! Kittie had fought hard to learn to read. Okay. So, she really hadn’t. She was in the first grade, but she was reading at a third grade reading level. She was good at it.

But Lowie was just learning letter sounds. She couldn’t even sound words out yet.

Kitty spun, searching the cardboard cut-out vegetation. “Come out, whoever you are! Stop scaring my sister!”

Not that Lowie looked scared at all, but it had sounded good. Really good. And brave. It had sounded really brave, too.

No one came out.

Kitty turned on her sister again. “Tell me how you knew about the monkeys and the Tick-Tock!”

“I read it to her,” a man’s voice said with an accent.

Kitty couldn’t tell where the man came from, but he could have been on Harry Potter or the BBC. Either one. “Who was that?”

“It’s me, of course!” the voice said again.

But Kitty couldn’t see anything. Post with signs. Cardboard cut-out trees and bushes. Lowie, of course, standing there with a big freakish smile on her small face.

Okay. Not freakish. Annoying. A big, annoying smile on her small face.

Kitty spun, looking first one place, then the other. “Where are you?”

“I’m the sign, you mis-guided, child,” the man said, obviously frustrated.

“The sign?” Kitty scratched her head and stared up at it. No mouth. No face. Made of wood, so no vocal cords. “I think you forgot something, like a body.”

The sign post shivered a little. “Did you want to figure out why you were brought here or not?”

“Not!” Kitty spun away and looked at her environment. She couldn’t see the way back. Where was the place under the bed? Where were the wads of bubblegum? Where was the carpet? Wicked Step-Mother’s scratchy cat?

Wait. Was she missing the obvious here? Kitty was out of the WSM’s house. No more of her rules. No more of her “actions of consequences” punishments. No more eating dinners she didn’t like. No more doing dishes. No more scrubbing toilets.

Red Road Forest, huh? Well, that one certainly sounded safest.

“I wouldn’t if I were you,” the sign warned, shifting and bending along the pole.

“Do what?” Kitty demanded.

“Go down the Red Road Forest.”

“And why not?” It was certainly less scary than a wicked witch, or her flying monkeys, and she didn’t even want to hear about the Tick-Tock. She didn’t. Nope. Not at all.

“The road is painted with the blood of those that travel it.”

Kitty had already started down that road, which looked a lot like the other three roads. She stopped, one foot in the air. Setting her foot down, she turned on the sign. “What?”

Was there no where safe in this wretched place?

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