Forever Home

It’s time to check in on little Oscar again. He’s had such a rough time of late. I should also note that my plans suggest only two more updates after Forever Home. We’re nearing the end of the Unnamed Sad Oscar AU that swept us all up in the feels.

( x )


Oscar squirmed uncomfortably, but he didn’t dare struggle as much as he wanted to. Trapped in a hand, he wouldn’t have anywhere to go if he were to escape. More than that, his training still rang loudly in his memory despite how long it had been.

Weeks, maybe months, had gone by. Oscar had been “adopted,” so the humans liked to call it. He knew what that really meant.

He was theirs. Their own living doll, a pet to hold and play with whenever they wished.

The man who’d paid for him insisted that he was a family pet, but Charlotte always insisted otherwise. The woman of the house, home more often than not, Oscar saw her more than any other human in his life. The afternoons all ran together, and one day was no different from the next. This one was looking to be the same.

“Oh, my darling little Ollie,” Charlotte cooed as she lifted him up towards her face. He still didn’t have the courage to correct her.

Her other hand appeared, with one finger extended. Oscar pursed his lips and held in a squeak as she petted his messy hair. Each stroke strained his neck and tilted his head back. His eyes were wide, and she smiled at him. She thought it was cute to pet him that way. He wasn’t allowed to tell her that it hurt.

“Mummy has a gift for you, are you excited?” Charlotte prompted.

Oscar winced. Unlike Noriko, the last human to treat him like her favorite doll, Charlotte really did expect an answer from him. He’d learned quickly that she became more dismissive of him if he didn’t answer, and when Charlotte became dismissive, she became careless. He’d bruised himself against his doll table when she discarded him in his cage the first time he found out.

He waited until his head was tilted back under her rough influence and he could meet her gaze. “Y-yes,” he squeaked out. “I’m-I’m excited.”

It didn’t sound convincing to him. Oscar could only hear the dread in his voice, the dread that built up in him like a shield against the terror of every day since he’d been captured.

Charlotte only heard what she wanted to hear. She squealed with delight, and Oscar’s world lurched as she held him close to her chest in a hug. The necklace she wore nearly tangled around him.

Another lurch as she held him in front of her again. Oscar didn’t have a chance to find his bearings before her thumb shifted against his chest and pushed him upwards in her grasp. He squeaked and shut his eyes tight, but somehow she didn’t drop him. His entire upper body was free to the open air now. It felt like he could topple over at any second.

He didn’t. Instead, Charlotte’s hand returned and pinched at the hem of his doll shirt. It was a thick, clumsily-made thing, pale blue and a stark contrast to the drab colors he’d always made himself. It wouldn’t blend in anywhere.

With a deft upward tug, it came off. It forced Oscar’s arms straight up as Charlotte took it away from him before he was ready. He nearly caught his chin on the collar, but he’d become used to this sort of thing long ago. The less he resisted it, the less likely he was to twist something or get hurt.

He didn’t see where the old shirt was tossed once it was removed. With a shudder, Oscar eyed Charlotte’s other hand as it disappeared into one of her pockets. His chest was bare to the air, but his shivering wasn’t from the cold.

“Ohhh, poor Ollie,” she cooed. Her hand emerged, but it closed in a fist around whatever she had in store for him. Instead, she poked at Oscar’s stomach with one manicured nail, and he cringed back. “You still need to try to eat more, sweetie. I’ll be sure to bring you some treats after dinner.”

There was a pause, and Oscar shuddered again. He ate better in captivity than he ever had in his whole life on his own, but it didn’t feel like a victory. His constant fear ensured it.

“Um. Th-thanks. Thank you,” he stammered out.

He had remembered himself just in time. Charlotte smiled wide. “You’re welcome, Oliver. Now, arms up?”

She held up the item she’d retrieved from her pocket at last. The new shirt was darker than the last one, but still not enough for Oscar to hide anywhere. The cloth looked softer, at least, but there was a strange diamond pattern on the front. Charlotte’s proud smile was a backdrop to the ugly thing, and she shook the shirt in what she probably thought was an enticing fashion.

Oscar sighed. He couldn’t smile. He’d never smiled for her, no matter how much she tried to coax it out of him. Instead, he put his arms up and forward like she’d asked. It was the best he could do.

This time, at least, it was enough. Charlotte adjusted her grip on the shirt (so small in her hand, but oversized for Oscar) and brought it close. Oscar put his arms into the bottom and ducked his head as she pulled it over him. He scrambled quickly to find the sleeves, and his hands slipped through the fabric just in time for the collar to settle over his head. His hair became even wilder when his head popped free.

He didn’t have any resistance in him even if he wanted to squirm away while Charlotte fussed at the hem and the sleeves of his new shirt. She made sure it settled over his waist and wasn’t too short (it wasn’t) and even checked to see if the sleeves were too long for him (they were).

Eventually, she was satisfied, and she bounced on her feet. Oscar braced himself the best he could against her hand, and then his body bowed over as she moved him once again. This time, he was close to her face.

“You look adorable, Ollie,” she cooed. Oscar could see his reflection in her eyes. His brow was pinched with worry and his knuckles were white as he braced his hands.

Adorable. All the humans who ever called him that only brought out the “compliment” when he was terrified of them.

He winced as he moved yet again, this time closer to Charlotte’s lips. Oscar turned his head to the side and went rigid as she kissed him, an unwanted and inevitable show of her so-called love for him. His reward for being cute in her eyes. It was no different from Noriko, except perhaps how careful Noriko used to be.

When he lowered next, Oscar finally saw the opening into his cage approaching. He sighed with relief, even as the hand around him dove into the dollhouse-prison and deposited him on a miniature couch. At least in there he was away from human hands, though with the glass front on the dollhouse and its many rooms, he was never truly away from human eyes.

Charlotte gave him one last indulgent smile as she latched the door closed, and Oscar sighed. Her footsteps rattled through the floor as she retreated, and he felt every one but didn’t care.

Lying his head back in defeat on the doll’s couch, Oscar stared up at the ceiling of his forever home and wondered how long “forever” was supposed to be.

Nightmares

It’s been a while since we’ve seen anything new from Oz. This is a small update, but even a little step is one step closer to the end. That’s a good thing, right?

(x)


“Wake up, little one,” Noriko coos. Her voice is soft and gentle even as she nudges Oscar’s side. He opens his eyes and sits up to stare out at her. The glass front wall of his doll room is gone. Only her big smile remains to wall him in.

“Good morning, sweet baby,” she greets him. She can barely contain her squeak of delight as Oscar rubs sleepily at his eyes.

When he stands, he’s right in front of her, looking up. She always has food for him in the morning, and it’s usually fresh fruit. He likes the food, even if he doesn’t like being her doll.

He has to remind himself. He doesn’t like being her doll.

“Are you hungry?” she asks. He nods. It makes her smile again.

A hand looms in his vision and Oscar shudders, but has nowhere to run and hide. She pats his messy hair down with one fingertip in a gentle, caring motion. It’s not the worst. Oscar knows to let her, and the motion will be over with sooner.

Her fingertip trails back and Oscar’s heart skips a beat. As it approaches his shoulders, he opens his mouth to ask her not to touch his back. She can’t or he’ll-

A wave of pain twinged down Oscar’s back as he woke with a start. A muffled squeak escaped his throat and he slowly came out of the weird dream. His surroundings were darker, not as colorful. He lay on his front, because lying on his back was still agonizing.

After nearly two weeks, his burns hadn’t healed yet. The human that gave them to him came once a day to check on him and sometimes applied new bandages. Other than that, Oscar was kept alone in his own small cage.

Something about already being conditioned. They didn’t want him to talk to others of his own kind, lest they influence him. Oscar never was sure what that could mean. They’d still all be trapped.

He heaved a sigh and winced. Even the simple movement of his torso from breathing agitated his sensitive skin. He couldn’t tell if he was getting used to the pain or if it was lessening by the day.

Whatever the answer, Oscar had woken thirsty. He glanced across his cage where a plastic dish of water waited. Several inches separated him from it.

He shifted, clenching his jaw as he did. With the same care he’d grown used to, he scooted himself off the folded cloth that was his bed. Cold metal touched his bare front, but he didn’t mind. Crawling like this was the best way to keep from moving too much and hurting his back. It was almost soothing to feel something other than the sharp sensation over his back.

Oscar didn’t pay much mind to the world beyond his cage. Only the front was uncovered, and it didn’t offer a very interesting view, only a nightmare room with dingy lighting and more cages on shelves.

It was kind of like his old doll room in a way, except not as comfortable.

No cage is comfortable, he reminded himself. Not even Noriko could dress up a cage enough to be anything but a trap.

Oscar reached the water and propped himself up next to it the best he could so he could scoop some out. It soothed his throat, despite being the same temperature as the room. That, at least, was nothing new.

There were footsteps somewhere in the hall. A human approached. Oscar closed his eyes and sighed. They might leave him be. They might. If not, he was ready. His nightmares never got better, but he at least knew what to expect.

Changing Hands (2/5)

Welcome back to the sad Oscar AU. The unfortunate adventure continues for the little guy, as another upset in his new normal changes things again.

(x)


Oscar’s first car ride had been terrifying, trapped in the plastic ice bucket. Then, he hadn’t had any idea where he was going or what might happen to him. The sounds of a car all around him had been foreign and strange reminders of his predicament.

This time, he knew what was next. Noriko and Thomas didn’t exactly talk to him, but when they talked over him he picked up more than enough information. He was for sale. Mina was the human who would buy him. For all of Noriko’s cooing and hugging him, fawning over how cute he was and pinching his face in her fingers, she was eager to make as much money as she could with him.

All that time, he’d tried to ignore it. He was being prepared, like some kind of fancy toy, to be presented to Mina so they could hope for the biggest payout.

For the first few minutes of the car ride, Oscar stared up at the top of his cramped prison. The holes cut there only let in sparse light, and a rare glimpse of Noriko’s face or her straight black hair. The box rocked from side to side every once in a while as she fidgeted with him in hand.

Oscar looked away as the trip wore on. His eyes stung, an all too familiar sensation these days. Tears brimmed and then raced down his cheeks in time with his breathing. He brushed them away on a sleeve, but then more tears burst forth and he sobbed. He couldn’t stop the despairing emotions from crashing over him.

Noriko never noticed his cries. She talked to Thomas, but Oscar drowned out her words. Their voices were like broken glass jabbing at him.

By the time the car came to a stop, Oscar had curled himself into a tiny, shuddering ball. The tears tapered off as he looked up, his eyes sore and scratchy. He always cried more when he thought he couldn’t possibly have tears left. They always came.

Now, he needed to listen. “Do you want to go in with me?” Thomas asked.

To Oscar’s surprise, Noriko’s voice was tight with emotion when she responded. “Ohh, I shouldn’t,” she said, and Oscar’s box lifted up, presumably to be handed off. “I miss him already, Tom.”

“Aww, Nori,” Thomas chided gently, a smile coloring his tone. “Are you sure you’re okay selling this one? It seemed to take a real shine to you. I’m sure Mina would understand.”

“Nooo,” she replied, drawing out the word. “I know I do this every time, but I’m just a foster mommy, really,” she assured him. “He needs to go to someone else who will love him just as much.”

Oscar shuddered and shrank into himself. His chest ached from sobs he couldn’t let out anymore. He didn’t want to go to some other human. He was nothing more than a doll to them. A scared little pet who was too weak to escape.

“Okay,” Thomas replied, still amused. A car door opened. “Be right back.”

Just like that, Noriko was out of Oscar’s life, and he was out of hers. He couldn’t even see the moment, trapped as he was in the box, but the finality in their voices couldn’t be denied.

Now, as Thomas carried him to his next destination, Oscar couldn’t decide if he wished he could stay with the nightmare he knew. Wherever he went next might be better than Noriko’s coddling and treating him like a toy.

He heard the sound of Thomas knocking on a door and shuddered.

It might be worse, too.

Changing Hands (1/5)

Welcome back to the sad Oscar AU. The unfortunate adventure continues for the little guy, as another upset in his new normal changes things again.

(x)


It never helped to count the days since he was captured. Oscar’s waking hours blended together in a huge nightmare that even sleep couldn’t erase. His bruises from his first capture faded and healed. His ankle, twisted and sore after he tried only once to escape, improved with care until it too showed no sign of the hurt. Oscar had memories as effective as any scar to remind him of the painful failure.

Noriko and Thomas kept him physically healthy. He received food every day, multiple times a day, and wasn’t left alone until he ate his fill. They didn’t like his habit of stashing food for later. Noriko would scold him even as she took away whatever he managed to hide.

She’d made a lot of clothes for him. She had fun seeing him in new outfits and could never resist a new one. Oscar was well familiar with her squeal of delight. It always came right before she swept him up in a hand to kiss the top of his head or hold him close in a hug.

Oscar really was her favorite. Sometimes, his eyes brimmed with tears when he thought about her. How he was getting used to her.

Used to belonging to her.

And then the day came when that changed.

“Wake up, little baby!” Noriko’s cheerful greeting preceded her entrance to the room. Oscar opened his eyes and sat up blearily as the lights switched on.

She had something in her hand. Oscar scooted off of his bed cushion to stand just as Noriko reached his dollhouse cage. Her free hand reached out and the glass front swung wide before he could see what she carried with her. Instead, he was gathered up in a gentle fist.

Noriko lifted him out of the cage and Oscar kept his eyes lowered. He squirmed only a little, aiming for more comfort for his arms. The pressure in the slender fingers around him rose and fell in reaction to it. As he rose, a breeze tousled his messy hair (Noriko never could tame it, no matter how often she scrubbed at it with fruity smelling shampoos).

Held before her face, Oscar had a clear view of her fond smile. A sort of sadness touched her eyes and he waited for the reason. Asking never had any effect. She’d say what she wanted to as if he hadn’t said anything at all.

“Oh, my sweet little one, you really are my favorite,” she cooed. Oscar cringed inwardly. He was only her favorite because he was smaller than most and easier to control

He cringed outwardly when her hand moved forward and allowed her to kiss the top of his head as she’d done many times before. Oscar, locked in her fist, could only wince until the brief gesture was over. His stomach flipped as he suddenly descended.

She lowered him towards what he could now see was a small box, made of cardboard and lined at the bottom with a cushion much like the one he slept on. Oscar could do nothing but watch it come closer until he was released a few inches over the cushion for a soft landing. He pushed himself up to his hands and knees and shook his head, dazed by the quick transition.

He collapsed as Noriko picked up the box again. When he looked up, she was sporting an endeared grin. “Oh, little sweetie. You be good for your new mommy, okay?”

Oscar’s eyes widened in confusion and he flinched. The lid of the box, cut with holes for air, was placed on top of his latest prison. His squeak of alarm died in his throat as she began walking again, carrying him away. He had to huddle in one corner to try to avoid being jostled around.

Outside the box, he could hear Noriko and Thomas getting ready. His prison swayed and jolted as they carried him around or set him aside to pick up something else, but he couldn’t see what was going on.

One name came up, and it drowned out everything else, even the car doors slamming and the engine of Thomas’ car purring to life. They were going to meet her.

Mina.

No More Wishes

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Sorry, folks. Laughter may sound like a nice prompt, but the only thing that came to me was more sad Oscar. If I have to think of this stuff, so do you ;P


There was laughter in the other room.

Oscar looked up from where he sat curled up on his bed, startled by the sudden burst of noise. Noriko was watching TV out there, enjoying her favorite show. Oscar never knew what made her laugh so much, but so long as it kept her attention away from him for a while, he liked it. Whenever Noriko paid him attention, she wanted to hold him in her hands constantly, poking at him or petting his messy hair.

He hated it. He hated it so much, but he knew better than to think things would ever be any different. Oscar was just her newest favorite doll.

His prison proved it. When Noriko was bored with him, she put him away in a wooden box with a glass front, all designed to look like a room in a house. A dollhouse with him on display at all times.

In one corner there was a round cushion, meant to be his bed. There was a doll couch facing the front glass wall, and to the side opposite the bed was a table and a chair. The walls themselves were decorated with cheap patterned paper. Oscar wished he could find an escape through that tattered wallpaper like he could in a real room.

Instead, he could only lounge around in the miniature room, staring sullenly through the glass front wall. The room beyond was the very same one where he’d tried to make his escape under the floorboards those weeks ago. He knew better now. Every entrance he might fight to the walls could be a trap, and it wasn’t worth getting hurt again.

His ankle had only just healed, and the memory of the pain it caused him made him curl up tighter on his cushion.

Noriko laughed again in the other room.

Oscar had no idea how many people like him had spent time in that workroom. Noriko made a hobby of them, measuring them for clothes that she made herself. She played with them by corralling them between her hands, watching them try to get past. Oscar knew because it was her favorite game with him.

Even now, he wore a new outfit made for him by her delicate sewing work. It was more cumbersome than the clothes he always made for himself, but those had been too ratty, she said. Too plain. Oscar had watched his hard work get thrown out in the trash after she made him change.

It was a good fit, but the fabric was thicker than he was used to. Oscar found it stiff and unwieldy, hard to move around. It worked well for the humans keeping him captive.

He shifted where he sat, turning away from that depressing glass wall. Even though he knew Noriko would be back at least one more time before going to bed herself, he lay down on his cushion. Teary eyes traced the simple pattern on the wallpaper until it blurred and he had to blink.

Oscar wasn’t hungry anymore. He wasn’t cold or desperate for supplies anymore. He had someone around that seemed to care, in her own terrifying way, when he was injured or scared. These were all things that he thought he wanted.

If this was how his prayers were answered, he didn’t want to wish for anything ever again.

Floorboards (2/2)

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( For the first parts of this AU, follow these links to It Just Takes One and A New Doll )


“He got in the floor,” Noriko explained, her disappointed voice muffled by the ceiling of wood over Oscar’s head. Some boards creaked under the humans’ weight.

“Lemme guess,” her boyfriend said, amusement in his tone. “Left him up on the table? You know they’re good climbers, Nori.”

There was a sound of a playful slap on a shoulder. “Just get him out, please?”

Oscar limped faster. The floor overhead creaked and groaned as the huge human man crossed the room. If he were to glance behind, he was sure he’d see the light from the knot in the wood winking out under a massive shadow.

Oscar was over halfway across the room from there. They’d never find him once he got into the walls on the other side. He was so close.

Or so he thought.

Up ahead was a sight that made the blood rush out of Oscar’s face. Cold fear washed over him.

Wedged in between the support boards was another block of wood, perpendicular to the rest. It blocked passage further in the room, and Oscar could tell from looking at it that it’d be too heavy to push even if he didn’t have an injured ankle.

There was a smiley face scratched into it with faded ink.

A trap. The floor was a trap.

Oscar stood frozen, favoring one leg. The humans moved around above him. They were ready for him to attempt an escape. Noriko never once worried about losing track of him. Humans were more powerful and that inked smiley face bore into him while heavy footsteps approached overhead. Tears stung in his eyes.

A wrenching sound tore through the air and light burst down on him. Oscar looked up in shock and tried to throw himself backwards, out of the light, as Noriko’s boyfriend pulled a floorboard right out of its base.

Oscar’s ankle protested, and he fell. Seconds later, a hand snatched in at him, and he was pinned. The dust dug into his cheek from the pressure on his back.

Then, the powerful fingers dragged him backwards. Oscar swept through the dust until fingertips the size of his head pinched the back of his shirt. With no further warning, they yanked him upwards.

Oscar tried to curl into himself as much as he could as he soared up out of the floor in a precarious grip. The room whirled around him and the floor waited below as the man held him up.

It didn’t take long for Noriko to snatch him in a fist and wrench him away. As her hand closed around him, Oscar finally yelped in pain.

“Oh, no, baby,” Noriko cooed, whisking Oscar up towards her face. She opened her fist to cradle Oscar in both hands, and all he could see through the jostling pain was her eyes and the straight black curtain of her hair.

“Did Thomas hurt you, little sweetie?” she prompted. Oscar shuddered and tried to curl into a ball on her palm. A single finger nudged at him and forced him to uncurl again. “Tell me where you’re hurt.” There was no room for defiance in her tone.

Oscar sniffled and realized there were tears spilling from his eyes and tracking through the dust on his face. He shook all over, fear thrumming in every nerve. He really was just a little pet doll to these people. They knew he’d go for an escape and had a trap for him in there. It was all so overwhelming and he sobbed quietly.

Noriko expected an answer, so he lifted a shaky hand to brush at his eyes. His tears were grainy with dust, and his cheek stung from dragging along the ground. He met her dramatically concerned gaze and then pointed to his sprained ankle without a word.

She gasped and held him even closer so she could observe the swelling. If he wanted, Oscar could reach up and touch her face from so close. Instead, he lay down in her hands and covered his face while more sobs shook his little shoulders.

“Ohhhh my gosh,” Noriko whispered, her voice almost breaking. “Thomas, you hurt him!”

Thomas grunted noncommittally. The floorboard clattered back into place. “He coulda got that any time after he scampered off. Lease now he won’t run off so easy.”

“Oh, you’re so awful,” Noriko scolded. Oscar hiccupped. Her voice was so loud and close.

A fingertip nudged at his side and rolled him over again. Noriko took advantage of Oscar’s surprised flail to unfold his fearful curl and pin him to her palm with a thumb. She walked out of the room, looking him over with pity. Oscar held back a whimper of pain and defeat while more quiet tears came.

“Oh, sweet pea,” Noriko said quietly. “Don’t worry. Mama’s gonna get you all cleaned up and then we can put some ice on it. Gotta help you heal up right for when it’s time to meet Mina.”

Oscar shivered as Noriko reached the sink in her cluttered kitchen. That name had come up again. Mina. Oscar didn’t know who she was. Just another human.

The water turned on with a metallic squeal of the faucet, and crashed into the chrome basin of the sink. Oscar pushed other thoughts away. His focus fixed on the water as Noriko, still cradling him in one hand, moved him inexorably towards the relentless stream.

He held his breath and closed his eyes tight.

It was all he could do.

Floorboards (1/2)

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We return to the sad AU for Oscar for this prompt. Cradle almost stumped me, but then this came to mind.

( For the first parts of this AU, follow these links to It Just Takes One and A New Doll )


Oscar stumbled, but he barely hit the floor before he scrambled back up and kept running. Everything in him focused forward, across the long expanse of hardwood flooring. He ignored the rumbling in the floor and the gaping space overhead, unfamiliar surroundings all looming in his periphery. He didn’t know this house, but he didn’t need to in order to recognize an avenue of escape.

It was the only chance he had.

They’d taken his bag. Tossed it out with the trash, no matter how much he wished they wouldn’t. It was only shabby cloth to them. Worthless.

To Noriko and her obedient boyfriend, Oscar was the one of value. A high priced little doll that needed to be fixed up and made perfect. They didn’t care how much he wept.

The first chance at escape came when Noriko left him out on her work table to go and fix herself a snack. She was so assured that he was trapped up there that she’d set him down on the middle of the surface without even a word to him after holding him up to her eyes, turning him this way and that.

From what Oscar understood, he and other smaller folk like him were a hobby to the dark-haired woman. She cooed over him and told him how precious he was, but she never treated him like a person. He had to escape.

Climbing down a table leg without the aid of his safety pin and string was difficult and risky, but Oscar hadn’t had a choice. Desperation had kept him safe for the haphazard slide all the way down to the floor, and he’d hit the ground running. He had to get himself out of sight before she came back.

He was a few feet away from a rolling stand raised off the ground a few inches by squeaky wheels when her footsteps returned to the room. “Oh, shit!” Noriko’s girly voice boomed overhead. Oscar flinched and it spurred him onward. Something clattered and more tremors stomped through the floor.

Oscar dove under the stand just in time for one of Noriko’s socked feet to land nearby. He pushed himself back to his feet and scurried to the back of the rolling cabinet near the wall, only turning to look at her when he reached the baseboard.

A curtain of black hair came into view before finally part of her face blocked everything else beyond the heavy stand. One eye bore into him and Oscar shuddered. Noriko had a way of smiling, appearing as cheerful as ever, while ice stabbed out of her expression. This was one of those times.

“Awww, who’s a little stinker?” she cooed. “You’re getting yourself all dusty, little baby. Why don’t you come out and we can rinse you off? I won’t even put you in time out if you come out right now.”

Oscar winced. ‘Time out,’ as she called it in that saccharine voice of hers, was an old pill bottle with holes cut in the lid. Oscar had yet to earn any time locked up in the cramped container, but it had been made clear to him what could earn him a stay.

An escape attempt meant at least half a day trapped in that bottle. Oscar would have no hope of getting out if he was stuck in there.

Still, he didn’t move to come out. This was his only chance to get away.

While Noriko kept her eye on him, Oscar glanced around for a new escape route. He knew she could move the cabinet if she wanted to get to him. He needed a better place to hide, somewhere out of reach. If she got a hand on him, it was over.

Just when he thought he wouldn’t find a way out of this mess, he spotted it. A hole in the old floorboard from a knot in the wood. It was barely more than an inch wide, but Oscar could tell that it bore all the way through.

The floorboards. If he could escape to the internals of the house, Noriko would never catch sight of him again.

“Don’t!” her voice ordered even as he dashed for the hole in the floor. Oscar shuddered but ignored her warning.

He almost tripped over his own feet to reach it. Right as he crouched by the opening to peer in, Noriko’s face disappeared from the gap at the front of Oscar’s current shelter. He had no time. He scooted forwards and slipped into the knog feet first. The wood floor groaned as the cabinet shifted ominously on its wheels.

Oscar was a skinny little guy. He didn’t need to make effort to fit, while the huge furniture overhead moved. He dropped out of sight before the human woman could get the stand out of the way with a loud rumbling of its wheels on the wooden boards.

Noriko swore loudly overhead, and Oscar fell a distance almost twice his own height. The dark under the floor welcomed him like an old friend. Relief welled up in him until he hit the ground.

Pain flared through his ankle, weak after years of fighting to get enough food. Oscar landed in a heap and stifled a squeal of pain. The wooden ceiling several inches above him rumbled with Noriko’s resentful stomps.

Oscar reached a shaky hand to brush over his ankle and foot. It stung when he touched it, and there was already swelling around the most painful spots, but his cloth wraps kept it steady through the pain.

Just a sprain. He groaned and pushed himself up to his feet while in the distance Noriko called for her boyfriend.

He wasn’t out yet. He couldn’t stop running until he was far from those two.

The first hobbled steps nearly knocked him over again. Oscar grimaced and stayed upright through sheer determination.

Under the floorboards was a thick layer of dust, rained down from above over the years. Thick support beams ran in rows, creating walls on either side of Oscar. He glanced behind and found more supports. The nearest wall was barred from him.

He’d have to trek across the long passageway under the room where Noriko did her work. She and her boyfriend would be right overhead the whole way, unseen giants looking for him. Angry at him.

Fear and a pounding heart drove him on, despite the slow progress on his hurt ankle. Pain pulsed up his leg with every step, preventing a full run no matter how much he tried to hurry himself along. No gaps showed in the support boards on either side, and Oscar needed to find one soon.

The earthquakes were coming back.