“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.
The sound of Thomas knocking at the door died off, leaving him standing in the cooling afternoon air. The distant bustle of people at the out-of-the way hotel the meeting with Mina was set up for reached Oscar in his small box, all the sounds of life in the human world as they went about their day, never knowing the pain he endured.
Cars drove by on the distant road, birds shrieked offense at the restaurant goers that didn’t share their food. A placid setting for Oscar’s life as it continued spiraling out of his control.
Metal scraped on the inside of the door and a latch clicked open, and the tall door swung wide, a warm grin to greet Thomas at the ready.
“Thomas, dear,” Mina said as she beckoned him into the room. “Punctual as always.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Oscar never did adjust to the darkness inside the ice bucket. No light leaked in past the lid, giving him nothing. Even inside the walls, some light made it in. He was adapted to make use of it like no human ever could, but now even he was blinded.
He was curled into a tight ball, covering his ears to block the sounds from outside. An engine rumbled and a radio blared. Oscar’s own heart pounded. No matter what, he couldn’t protect himself from that noise out there. It was unfamiliar from so close.
Everything was a reminder that he’d been taken away from his home.