The bottle of Windex Oncie was using to clean Greed-ler's massive window in his office that over-looked the entire valley suddenly ran out. The innocent man tries shacking it to get even the tiniest bit of cleaner still in the bottle out, but it was revealed to be completely empty.
Oncie sighs silently.
It had been exactly two and a half months since Greed-ler sewed poor Oncie's mouth shut into a horrid looking smile. It honestly hadn't been as bad as the lanky man had thought, (despite having to only breath through his nose, and have all his meals be served through a tube) but...it was the silence that really got to him. Hearing nothing but the sounds of grinding gears from the factory all day...having to hear his thoughts suggest the option of suicide but knowing he's never be brave enough to ever do it...and almost constantly being alone. Sure, Greed-ler would come in from time to time and ward off these things, but...Oncie was now terrified of his older self, so his presence was anything but relief.
So, he took up an alternative way to keep his mind distracted: Cleaning.
Although, it wasn't like the occasional dusting there or mopping here. No. Oncie cleaned the huge office constantly. It was just busy work so the insanity gnawing at the back of his mind didn't have a chance to break through. Although, his excessive cleaning caused supplies to go rather quickly, but, other than the occasional grumble about having to make multiple trips to the store, Greed-ler didn't have any problems with Oncie keeping his office so clean.
Oncie then tosses the empty spray-bottle into a nearby trash can and got another sheet of paper towel from the roll he had sitting on the carpeted floor.
He then wipes off the remaining Windex on the window, and, off in the far distance, he saw the most beautiful spot of unspoiled land. A spot where Truffula trees were still growing proudly, and, by some miracle, the sky stayed a clear blue shade.
In Oncie's mind; it was a paradise.
The innocent man had actually spotted the place days before, and, ever since, had been dreaming of it. To run away there, leave everything he knew behind, and never have to come back to this god-awful factory again....to never have to see Greed-ler again.
But...it was a fading dream.
Every day the still-flourishing area of forest grew further and further away; it succumbing to smog-filled skies and deforestation. Besides...deep down Oncie knew that anywhere he's run to...Greed-ler would track him down one way or another - forcibly taking him back to the factory.
Oncie sighs silently, and, suddenly, he catches his eyes in the mirror. He then looks more closely, and, soon, he sees his full reflection.
Oncie couldn't help but think he looked anorexic.
His arms and legs are now boney, and were probably as strong as tree-twigs. His face, which was once a healthily plump, was now sickly-looking thin; his cheeks sinking in. Dark circles were found under his eyes, and, to top it all off, he could clearly count six ribs on each of his sides.
Skeleton was the first word that came to his mind.
Oncie suddenly finds his hand reaching out to the window, and touches the cool glass. He stared at his reflection...wanting to frown at it, but is forced to see himself smiling happily. Suddenly, voices (which sounds eerily similar to Greed-ler) start taunting him in his head.
Why are you still living, you worthless freak of nature?
Oncie's hand on the glass clenched into a fist, and, without really even thinking about it, hits the mirror slightly as the voice continues to talk.
You little wimp...you're not even brave enough to save yourself through suicide.
Oncie's eyes filled with tears, and he started hitting the glass a bit harder - using both of his now in-fists hands this time.
What do you even have to live for? No one will want you with that hideous smile.
Tears were streaming out. Oncie was now beating the glass with all of his strength - his rage at himself for letting this happen rushing into every hit. But, unbeknownst to the innocent man, his blows to the window cause little cracks to form.
By the way....why so serious?
That was the last straw. Oncie brought back his hands for another hit, and he struck the window exactly where the cracks began to form.
The cracks on the mirrors grow, and, soon, the whole mirror shatters. Oncie quickly ducks down to avoid getting cut, and, after a few moments, slowly looks up. The window had shattered into a million pieces. Oncie stayed in the middle of the glass mess for a moment, but, soon, stood up - glass bits sliding off his back like beads of water after a day of swimming. Oncie sighs silently at the mess he made, and was about to get a broom so he could clean up when...a particularly jagged piece of glass on the floor caught his eye.
It was in a shape similar to that of a diamond, but with a claw-like curve at the top. Suddenly...Oncie got a crazy idea.
He then swopped down, and snatched the jagged piece of glass off the floor like a hawk does with a defenseless rabbit. Oncie then looks a the reflection of his face in the piece of glass, and...he knew what must be done. He then carefully placed the claw-like part of the shard behind the first stitch in his mouth, and closed his eyes tightly before jerking his arm in the direction the stitched went.
Ting! Ting! Ting!
The glass cut through the thread with ease.
There was a slight pain, but it soon subsided. Oncie then slowly opens his eyes to find that the blood-soaked green thread previously sewn into his mouth was now laying on the floor - making him gasp out loud in complete shock.
He couldn't believe it worked!
Oncie glanced down to the shard he used to cut the stitches, (he noted the claw-like corner now had a bit of blood from his lips on it) and...saw his face was normal looking. Once then runs his fingers across his lips to make sure it wasn't just a dream, and a real, genuine smile broke out on his face. Plus, aside from a few small holes around his mouth where the thread was woven into; even Oncie himself would never have guessed he had a sewn-on smile at one time if it didn't happen to him first-hand.
"This...this is a miracle." Oncie says quietly but happily - the weight of a giant burden finally being lifted from his weak and pail shoulders.
It was odd to hear his own voice after so long of not hearing it.
Regardless; Oncie sighs happily. He could actually talk again, breath properly, and even feed himself rightly. In fact...he didn't even need the factory or Greed-ler anymore! Sadly, as soon as Oncie though about his older self, his exact words echoed in his mind.
Oh, and, if you even try to remove the stitches; I'll just have to re-sew them. And, next time, I won't be giving you anesthesia.
The innocent mans heart sank at the realization.
When Greed-ler saw he had taken out the stitches...there's no telling what he'd do. Sew the stitches right back, obviously, but...his older specifically told him he had many torturing methods he was dying to try out. God only knows what kind of sick, twisted things Greed-ler had up his green sleeves....who knows; he might even go as far as killing him!
"Once?" speak of the devil. "I heard this loud crash. You better not be breaking my things in there!"
The innocent mans heart speed up. He felt like he was stuck between a rock and a heard place. Panic quickly envelopes his brain, and...only one command gets through loud and clear.
That was all the motivation Oncie needed. He nimbly made his way through the glass on the floor, and slipped out through the balcony window he just smashed.
Run. Run! RUN!
Oncie chanted these words as he hurried down the winding stairs off to the side of the balcony. And, as soon as his feet hit the ground at the end of the steps, Oncie actually got froze - staring wide eyed at the once magnificent Truffula Forest.
It was anything but that now.
The green grass had turned a sickly brown, and, for miles, all that could be seen were Truffula Tree stumps. Oncie found the sight heart-breaking. How could he have not seen the terrible shape the valley was now in? Sure, he figured it was bad, but...he'd never imagined it was like this...
"Once?" Greed-ler is heard calling out. Panic fills the innocent man, and he quickly breaks into a run. But, out of the corner of his eye, Oncie sees Greed-ler is now on the balcony - having a bewildered expression at first, but soon shouting multiple cuss words at the fleeing man.
Just keep going! Don't look back!
Oncie didn't argue with himself. He kept his eyes on the path ahead; not even stopping to cough as the smog-filled air unpleasantly tickled his throat. The innocent man then continues running until he had cleared two hills of the former valley before deeming it safe enough to stop and look back.
The factory was miles behind him, but...even the current distance felt to close for Oncie's liking.
"I'm never going back there as long as I live." Oncie vows to himself and the barre waste-land around him. He then realizes he has to be near the patch of growing Truffula Trees he saw from Greed-ler's office. So, the innocent man then turned his back to the factory, and began walking toward where, he hoped anyway, the paradise was laying in wait. As he walked; guilt swelled within him as he saw row after row of tree stumps. But, as he continued...he noticed something odd.
None of the forest creatures seemed to be around.
Oncie was confused by this, but he thought that, maybe, all the animals had already gone to bed. He then looks up to the sky to try and judge the time, but the tick layer of smog in the sky made it impossible to see even the sun itself.
"Just another great perk of the factory." Oncie grumbles sarcastically before groaning in annoyance. He then searches the sky for breaks so he could catch a glimpse of the suns position, but, instead, spotted clear-blue skies off in the distance. Confused, Oncie squints in confusion, and, when he looks straight ahead, he sees the tops of the remaining Truffula Trees.
It was the place he'd been envisioning.
"I...I actually made it!" Oncie says; beaming with both pride and joy. He took a few steps toward the still distant patch of forest just ahead when the ground started to rumble slightly. Oncie stops, and, when he looks around, he sees a group of Bar-ba-loot bears running frantically past him.
Pipsqueak, the youngest of the bears and Oncie's little buddy, was among them.
"Pip?" Oncie says in confusion. Suddenly, the rumbling grew more intense, and, when Oncie quickly turns around, he sees what the Bar-ba-loots were running from.
The roving machine was of a powerful design, and obviously made for destruction. It rolled on the ground with two massive wheels, and had three spinning ax blades at it's front - cutting anything that came into it's path. Oncie knew it was to late to get out of the monstrous machines line of fire, and closed his eyes tightly to brace himself for the blow.
"Beanpole, look out!" a familiar voice shouts.
Something suddenly crashed into Oncie's side, and the innocent man finds himself tumbling down a nearby hill. Soon, though, he stops and lands harshly on his stomach. After the sting of rolling down the hill passes; Oncie notices a crushing pain in his right arm. He looks down, and sees....the blade had cut pretty deep into his arm - causing blood to come rushing out.
"You better be glad I saw you in time to push you out of the way, beanpole." the familiar voice griped slightly. The Once-ler then looks over, and, not to far away from him, and familiar orange furred and yellow mustached guardian was getting up.
"Why are you even out here? Come to watch the earth suffer up-close? Or is it one of those "Press Opportunities" your always gushing about" The Lorax says coldly; looking away from the innocent man. Oncie then realized The Lorax was talking about his other, but...the guardian went on a rant before he could speak up. "You know, you really have a lot of nerve even stepping a foot outside that monster you call a factory. I could have let you get chopped up by that machine, your machine, just now....I should have....but I didn't." The Lorax then sighs, and his shoulders sag a bit. "...maybe now....you'll actually listen to me. Please, beanpole, you have to stop-" The Lorax then looks up, and, upon seeing it was indeed Oncie instead of Greed-ler, gets wide eyed.
The two stared at each other for a bit; Lorax totally flabbergasted and Oncie now feeling even more guilty then he had when he passed all those tree stumps.
Finally, the Lorax spoke. "Beanpole...are...are you...you?"
"Lorax," Oncie begins, getting ready to try and explain how this could happen. (hell, he wasn't exactly a hundred-percent on it either) But...before he can...a voice booms from the distance.
"Oooohhhh Onnnnce!" Greed-ler's voice suddenly carries from close-by.
Oncie's eyes widen, and, once again, his Run! instinct took over. The innocent man hurriedly scrambles to his feet, and takes off in the direction he was pointed. He swears he hears The Lorax yell out something to him, but Oncie doesn't register it.
He has only one focus at the moment: Get as far away from Greed-ler as possible.
Of course, as Oncie ran, he subconsciously knew he had no clue where he was going. The valley had no specific landmarks he could look for, plus it was crawling with those...nightmarish machines like the one he encountered earlier. And, to make things just that worse, the sadistic maniac who he had thought he left miles behind was now catching up to him. But Oncie stays focused only on running, and cancels everything else out of his thoughts.
Although, as the innocent man continued running; the world around him starts to fuzz dramatically.
It then occurred to Oncie that he did nothing to stop the gash on his arm the ax blade gave him from bleeding, and it had been freely draining blood - soaking the sleeve of his white shirt in red. At this realization; Oncie instantly feels light-headed. The innocent man shook the feeling off, and forced himself even more to continue forward in fear of Greed-ler catching him. But he was still losing blood at an alarming rate, and slowly starts to become disoriented. He still keeps running, however, but it wasn't long before he tripped over a inconveniently placed tree stump.
Although, instead of falling onto the ground...Oncie fell right into the nearby polluted river.
The dark, sludge like water instantly began to drag him down to the bottom of the river, and the innocent man begins to flail. He then forces himself to calm down a bit, and tries to swim to the side of the river. But, since he only had one good arm, (which was now starting to burn thanks to the polluted water getting into it) it made it hard for him to swim.
But Oncie wasn't gonna die without putting up a fight.
Granted, his head sank below the water-line a few times, he somehow manged to get himself over to the sides of the river. He then latched onto the shore, and, with his good arm, pulls himself out of the schlop-polluted water. His body then sends up the schlop that had unintentionally went inside his body.
The next few minutes were spent chucking up the schlop, and, after it was finally done, the innocent man took in how bad of a shape he was in.
The arm that had the gash felt as it were set ablaze, and the rest of his being was sore. After a few moments of keeping himself steady; Oncie collapses onto the ground. Schlop mixed in with blood still coming from his arm quickly surrounds his limp body. Everything starts to go in and out of focus as Oncie lays on the ground, and...something inside him screams this is the end. The innocent man was almost positive he was going to die, and....he strangely made peace with that fact.
Of course....a certain someone wasn't gonna let that happen.
"Well, well, well." the cold, mocking voice of Greed-ler suddenly says. Oncie's inwardly cringes, and he sees the nicely polished shoes his other wore suddenly in front of him - not daring to look up and not even sure he could. "Looks like my run-away is found. Once, you better be glad this is to out in the open to leave you here, otherwise this is where I'd finish you."
Oncie then feels Greed-ler harshly grab his hair, and start to drag him along the drying grass - a trail of the schlop and blood following as he got dragged.
The innocent man tried his best to simply struggle, but...he couldn't. He was just to weak. Soon, lights, most likely from the factory, are seen, and Greed-ler suddenly starts carrying his younger bridal-style. Oncie begins to black-out, but he hears Greed-ler's one last time before slipping into unconsciousness.
"Help! I need a medical team! My brother is badly injured!"
Lights shine through Oncie's closed eyes.
The innocent man stirs slightly, but then slowly opens his eyes. At first his vision was blurred, but, when it comes back into focus, he sees he's in...someones bedroom - wearing his favorite pair of dark blue pajamas with the yellow bunny print on them.
Of course, it wasn't like ordinary bedrooms.
It was much larger, almost the size of a huge living really, and had expensive-looking wooden furniture decorating it. On the floor was a beautiful Persian rug, and, in the center of the room was a giant bed - which Oncie was currently propped-up in. (most likely because his arm that had the gash was currently in a sling) The sheets on said bed - apart of also being expensive looking like a lot of the other items in the room - were a money-green color, and were made out of soft, slick silk..
Wait...money green silk sheets...oh god...am I-
Before Oncie could finish his thought, the door on the other side of the room suddenly opens. And, just as Oncie feared...Greed-ler stepped through the door.
"Ah, your awake." Greed-ler smirks as he closes the door behind him. "Good. I've been meaning to have a word with you for some time." Greed-ler then strolled over, and sat on the bed next to Oncie. "You're little escaping act knocked you out for a week straight, you know. Doctors tried to give this BS excuse that you had lost to much blood for them to do anything, but, once I flashed a little cash their way, they had you patched up in two days." Greed-ler then laughs before adding: "That's just another thing you'll be paying for later - along with the shattered window of course."
Oncie tries to respond, but...his mouth has a familiar numb feeling.
"I can see by your expression you've realized I re-sewed your mouth." Greed-ler says with a slight amusement. Oncie was confused. He'd been making some sort of face? "Yeah, I spared you pain, but I couldn't risk you yelling and a nearby employee coming to your rescue, now could I? Although...I intend to make it up one little bit at a time. And, as it just so happens...the first bit is in this very room."
Oncie didn't like the way his older said that.
The innocent man give him a confused look, and this causes Greed-ler to smirk - pointing a finger to the ceiling. Oncie slowly looks up to see...his own eyes staring right back at him.
"Like the mirrors on the ceiling?" Greed-ler asked in pure tease. "I never would have guessed something so...simple would make you go so ballistic. Seriously, when I saw you're face as you smashed my window, you looked mad enough to commit murder."
Oncie blinked, and got a bit wide-eyed. Had Greed-ler said...he watched him break the window?
Greed-ler suddenly laughs before continuing. "Surprised, I see. Well, Once, I've been secretly watching you through the security cam in my office for awhile. Not out of perversion, mind you, but because I find your decent into madness better than television itself. I just happened to be watching when you broke the mirror, and decided to go to the office to scare you out of your skin" the amusement Greed-ler had in his tone vanished as as he spoke, and Oncie felt a chill go up his spine. "But then...when I actually showed up....you had cut your stitches out, and were running away like a bat fresh out of hell."
By this point, Oncie had stopped looking at Greed-ler, and was keeping his gaze to the green sheets.
It wasn't anything new for him. Greed-ler would yell at the poor innocent man for some sort of mistake he made, and, eventually, would leave him to be surrounded by silence. But...this time was somehow different. This time, Greed-ler Oncie's chin, and lifted his head up so they're eyes met.
"God damn you, look at me when I'm speaking!" Greed-ler snarled - catching Oncie totally by surprise. "You don't know how much trouble I almost got into because of you, you worthless little brat! People heard you break the window, the whole freaking world probably heard that, and they saw you run away from the factory! They. Saw. You! Do you realize how many questions that raises?! And the press just had a field day when I they saw me carrying you back in such bad condition! They were nearly this close to figuring out everything! You better be those reporters were to pea-brained to catch on! But if they had, oh, the trouble you'd be in right now if they had!" Greed-ler trails off suddenly, and his sneers twists itself into a smile. "Sorry...I lost my smile for a second there....but now it's back!"
Oncie had never been so horrified.
Greed-ler just did a total one-eighty on his emotions, and...Oncie swore he saw...this new evil, twisted glint in his money-green eyes. But...he knew it just had to be his imagination.
"Of course...I won't have a smile if you step out of place again." Greed-ler says a bit coldly - ironically smiling the entire time. "Because, if you do...you'll be the first in my new Thneed project."
Oncie got a hopelessly confused look. What did he mean by a new Thneed project?
"That's right...I haven't told you about it yet." Greed-ler's smirk then widens to a Cheshire-like proportion. "You see Once...I'm not an idiot. I've known about the tree's fate since day one. But, instead of stopping all of this, I simply came up with a plan B! You see....Thneed's don't have to be made of Truffula Tufts. There are plenty alternatives....like Bar-ba-loot fur." Oncie's eyes widen, and...he saw imagines of defenseless little Pipsqueak being skinned and made into a Thneed in his mind. "And once those run out I'll just use Swomme-Swan feather, then onto Humming-Fish Scales, and, finally, we'll be using my personal favorite," Greed-ler then leans in, and whispers two chilling words into Oncie's ear that almost makes his heart stop. "Human skin."
Gruesome, graphic thoughts of innocent people being skinned alive to make his product suddenly went through Oncie's head. His stomach then churned uneasily, and...he was sure if his stomach wasn't empty, he would have thrown up it's contents. Greed-ler then leans back, and....Oncie saw the glint from earlier wasn't just his imagination after all.
It was there, and...somehow...Oncie knew that the man next to him wasn't Greed-ler anymore. His other had gotten consumed by his own greed, and his body was now just the puppet it was controlling.
"Oh, don't worry Once." Greed-ler says - reaching out and twirling a strand hair on Oncie's head around his finger. "I won't let the big bad machine hurt a single hair on your head...as long as your existence remains of use to me."
Greed-ler then plucks the hair on his finger out of Oncie's head, and stands up.
"Well, I must be off. Tomorrow's the day I officially begin work on making an alternative Thneed." Greed-ler then makes his way to the doorway, but then turns back. "Oh, and get plenty of sleep. Tomorrow also begins you paying me back. You'll be waking up at 5:30 sharp form now on, and make my breakfast. The rest of your day will now be sent doing chores around the factory, and you'll only sleep when I allow it. Also, the privilege of staying hidden away in your room all day is now completely diminished - letting everyone see that pretty smile of yours." Greed-ler then gives a victorious smirk, and finally walks out of the room.
Oncie stares at the door for a moment, but then silently breaks down crying.
I've...I've caused this. Oncie thought miserably. All of this suffering...this cruelty....all of it is of my doing. I should have listened to The Lorax when I had the chance... The innocent man suddenly finds himself looking up, and staring into his reflection in the mirrors on the ceiling.
Instead of himself...he saw the begging of the evil to come.