It’s high time for another update from sad Oscar! Things are getting more and more dire the longer he waits for a rescue.
When Oscar could walk again without too much pain to his back, the human that tended to his bandages didn’t visit as often. He had others to attend to, so he said. Oscar couldn’t help but wonder how many others like him waited in cages, nursing their own burns. How many had come before him and left already?
The smooth-talking human that sent him to be branded on his first day in the new city would come by instead. He wandered the room, peering into cages and talking to the prisoners within.
When the man came to Oscar’s cage one day, Oscar lingered in the farthest corner he could. He couldn’t press his back against the metal without sending a jolt of pain over his healing burn, but he did his best to keep the distance between them.
The human had a glint in his eye that Oscar didn’t like. “Ah. So skittish. It’s time you got over that, little one. Most customers don’t want something too frightened, not from us.”
The man’s impatient face blocked everything else out. Oscar stared silently out at him and tried not to let his tears escape.
He didn’t know how not to be frightened in such a terrifying place.
The human rolled his eyes. “You’re one of Noriko’s dolls, I’d have thought you’d be more socialized.”
The mention of the first human to keep him trapped, to treat him like an object, sent a shudder down Oscar’s spine. He closed his eyes and ducked his head. The man was right. He should be used to humans staring in at him by now, and a part of him was. The rest wouldn’t let go of that fear.
The human scoffed. Oscar wasn’t looking, so he didn’t notice the man moving until he heard the metallic clang of his cage front opening. He looked up in time for that hand to dive in after him.
He tried to push himself back, only to flinch forward when the action hurt his burn. The front of his shirt provided the human a handhold on him, just like the first time he’d ever met him. He dragged Oscar out of his cage in that pinch grip, no matter how his tiny shoes pushed against the floor.
Oscar found himself dangling over the floor in front of the man’s dispassionate eyes. “Christ,” the salesman muttered. “Here I thought you’d be more ready to go.” Oscar squeezed his eyes shut and tried to curl himself into a ball. Every movement stretched and strained his back, and the skin might as well be on fire again. His cheeks glistened with tears.
The human wasn’t moved, but he did let Oscar drop with a pained yelp to his other palm. “Alright, conditioning for you, then,” he spat, though it felt more like he was talking to the air than to Oscar. His fingers curled closed over his palm until the much smaller man was immobile in his fist.
“No one bothers to tell me these things,” the human complained to himself. “Could’ve been working on this one this whole time and had him ready for turnover. Louts.”
Oscar squirmed in the human’s grasp, but not for escape. The thick skin folded around him, ensuring he’d never be able to get out. Instead, he tried to find an angle that didn’t strain his back. The curve of the human’s palm pinched at him and he had tears in his eyes from the pain.
Footsteps jarred him, but Oscar didn’t care about where he would go. He’d been taken to other rooms before, never knowing the direction. They always made sure he wouldn’t be able to find his way around, if he ever found himself free of a cage.
Another metal door opened, and Oscar paused in sheer surprise. The human spoke to someone inside another cage. “Alright, you get some conditioning for today, too. Come here, titch.”
Oscar’s heart pattered. He was going to see someone else his size. It would be the first time in months.
Even though they were both captives of humans that wanted to sell them away, it was something.
Oscar waited with a confusing mix of emotions twisting up in his chest. One part of him was relieved, another part eager. Another part was sad to think of finally seeing someone else sharing his fate. The last part of him, a tiny voice in the back of his head, was afraid of what he’d see.
He knew they had arrived when the hand around him swung forward and abruptly opened. Oscar slid down the tilted palm and landed on a table. An overhead light filled the cramped room with its yellowish hue, but Oscar didn’t pay any attention to the walls or other furniture. He pushed himself up on his hands and knees in time to see the other captive dumped on the table only a few inches away.
The human didn’t sit right away. As he turned towards a cabinet in one corner, the other small person picked himself up and looked over at Oscar, mirroring his surprise to see him.
The guy was younger than Oscar, but he couldn’t be sure by much. He was tall. Easily almost four inches even, if not more. He rushed over to help Oscar to his feet.
He must have been burned, too. Underneath the bedraggled hem of his hooded jacket, Oscar saw the pristine white of bandages like his own. This person didn’t have doll clothes like Oscar did yet.
“Hey, buddy,” the kid greeted in a soft voice. “You okay?” He got a stunned nod from Oscar and smiled with relief. “That’s good. Man, it’s been forever since they’ve let me see anyone else…”
Oscar, his head tilted back, remembered to answer. “Y-yeah. Me too.”
The stranger’s eyebrows went up. He noticed, just as Oscar had, that they both shared an accent, very unlike the humans they’d met so far. “Damn. Sounds like you came a long way just like me,” the stranger whispered. “What’s your name?”
Oscar couldn’t help but think back to the last time someone had asked for his name. Mina, the human that sent him on a plane so far away from home, and she hadn’t even written down the right name. “I’m Oscar,” he replied, whispering just like his fellow prisoner.
The stranger nodded. “Nice to meet you, Oscar. I’m–”