Oncie listened to the nearby wall-clock's rhythmic ticking and tocking as he put Greed-ler's usual morning omelet on a plate – seconds, precious time he'd never be able to reclaim again, passing him by.
It had been four months since Oncie tried to escape, and...it had been nothing but hell for him. Greed-ler had been making his poor younger self wake up at 5:30, just like he had threatened, and made him do hours of labor – not letting his poor other sleep until very late in the evening.
Although, despite how tired he usually was...the innocent man hardly slept.
Every night he'd watch silently from his slightly open bedroom door (said room was about the size of a closet) as his bothers Bret and Chet wheeled terrified looking animals locked in cages down the hall – unknowingly to the poor creatures demise. Then, later, when darkness fell, the pained screams of the animals begging for mercy echoed down the hall. Oncie tries to block out the screams, covering both of his ears and tear-stained eyes with the thin pillow Greed-ler provided him, but....they always broke through loud and clear. He'd then listen as the shrieks grew louder, and louder, and louder, until...everything just went quiet all at once.
Stabbing, heart-wrenching guilt would always hit Oncie at that moment...knowing that the animals demise was all his doing...
The innocent man shook the terrible memories from his thoughts, and carefully places the plate with Greed-ler's omelet onto a nearby tray. Along with said omelet were a pile of syrup-soaked pancakes, (the one thing Greed-ler actually enjoyed from his past) a small bowl of assorted fruits, a tall glass of orange juice, some silver-ware, and, finally, a stack of about ten napkins.
Just the sight of the food alone was enough to cause Oncie's stomach to growl harshly from hunger, but...he couldn't eat without Greed-ler allowing it. Literally.
Oncie ignored the obvious growl that had came from his stomach, and picked up the tray with Greed-ler's breakfast before exiting the room. He then travels down multiple halls, (thankfully they were out of the way of usual work-flow, so no one saw him) and eventually came to the familiar oak doors of Greed-ler's office. They were closed, as they normally were, and Oncie, of course, had to use both hands to keep the things from falling off the tray.
Oncie silently sighs.
Greed-ler couldn't make anything easy on him, could he?
Luckily the innocent man had experience with this, and he was soon turning the door-nob with the very tips of his fingers while keeping the tray perfectly balanced. He then pushes the door open with the side of his arm, and somehow, even with stumbling slightly on entry, gets into Greed-ler's office without spilling a single thing on the tray. The door slowly swung back closed, and an eerie melody that Greed-ler is humming contently sends a shiver of fear up Oncie's spine.
Greed-ler was sitting at his desk, and was busy sewing together what looked to be...to be...
The innocent man paled.
Greed-ler...Greed-ler hadn't been serious when he said he'd attempt to make a Thneed out of human skin...was he? Oncie started to shake terribly, but forced himself to cross-over to the desk the green suited devil was seated at – something his other had said previously echoing in his thoughts.
Seriously, when I saw you're face as you smashed my window, you looked mad enough to commit murder.
The innocent man never thought that statement would be true...but...he was proven wrong.
“There you are.” Greed-ler says surprisingly happy; putting the thing he was working on aside so Oncie could place the tray in front of him. “I was wondering how much longer it would be until you brought me my breakfast. I'm starving.” Greed-ler took a short pause as he suddenly looked Oncie over, and laughs. “Once, your shacking like a leaf! God, I've really made your life into a living hell, haven't I?”
There was nothing but satisfaction in Greed-ler's voice.
Oncie's hands balled into fists at his side, but Greed-ler either didn't notice or just ignored him because he started to eat some of the fruit in the small bowl. Oncie then happened to glance over at Greed-ler's little “project” at the corner of the desk, and he couldn't help but wonder...who it used to be.
Greed-ler apparently noticed this, and got a smirk before suddenly speaking up.
“Lauren.” Greed-ler says after he swallow the current piece of fruit in his mouth. Oncie gave his other a confused look, and, another piece of fruit later, Greed-ler explains. “Her name was Lauren. She was one of those annoying people who claimed they were my number one fan. I mean, the girl would do anything to get my attention...and that's exactly what I used to my advantage.”
Oncie eyes widened. An uneasy feeling in his stomach told him he knew where the story was heading.
“It was almost funny how easy it was to lure her here.” Greed-ler comments; his smirk widening at the memory. “It was even easier to over-power her...she was just a short little thing, after all. Bled like pig at slaughter though. It took the janitors on staff an hour and thirty-minutes, and at triple the pay just to get the mess cleaned up and keep their mouths shut.”
The innocent man was stunned.
Greed-ler had just...just admitted he killed an innocent girl who admired and most-likely loved him. Worshiped him from the way he was talking about her. Greed-ler sees Oncie reaction, and, after breaking off a piece of pancake with the fork, he decided to take it a step further – just to make his younger self more riled up than he already was.
“She never even saw it coming.” Greed-ler states; taking a short pause as he quickly takes another bite of the pancakes. “All I had to do was distract her with a bit of making out, and, with a simple twist of the neck, she was dead. You really would've liked her Once...she was dumb, innocent, and easy to take advantage of. Just like you.”
Oncie suddenly snapped, and everything seemed to go in slow-motion.
The innocent man quickly grabbed the sharp knife off the tray with surprisingly lightning-fast reflexes, and, before he knew what happened, Greed-ler had stumbled out of his chair and a few steps across the room – holding his right cheek in pain. It took Oncie a moment to realize it, but...he had just swiped Greed-ler with the knife. The green suited man slowly took his hand away form his cheek, revealing a long cut that went across his bottom lip, and stared at Oncie, who was staring back, in shock.
To say they were surprised would be the understatement of the century.
Oncie was the first one to snap out of apparent trance, and, as he saw Greed-ler slowly coming out of it as well, – his face twisting in rage – so Oncie decides to take action. The innocent man suddenly tackled Greed-ler with all the force he had, and, as he feels the green suited man trying to squirm out from under him, Oncie stops him by holding the knife he still clutched in his slightly trembling hands to Greed-ler's throat as a wordless way of saying he wasn't afraid to kill him.
The two stayed like this for a good five minutes, but, oddly, Greed-ler slowly smirks.
“Go on...slit my throat and kill me, Oncie.” Greed-ler dared with an evil purr. “I dare you. Go on...murder me like I did to that girl, and I grantee you'll love the pure rush of killing someone.” Oncie tries to press the knife farther to Greed-ler's throat in an attempt to silence him, but...he...he couldn't.
Oncie could only think about how terrified Lauren must have felt, and...how he didn't want to do anything like that to anyone – even including someone as evil as Greed-ler himself.
“I knew it.” Greed-ler taunts victoriously. “Your nothing but a frightened child, Once. I knew you'd never actually kill anyone...but me? Now that, that's a different story.” Oncie fells an all-to familiar shiver of fear go up his spine at Greed-ler's words, and, before he could do anything, his other suddenly threw him off (could he have done that all along?) - sending the knife flying out of his hand and pinning him to the floor this time before Oncie could make a recovery. Greed-ler then smirks before snidely commenting; “Should have killed me when you had the chance, Once.”
Tears suddenly formed at the corners of Oncie's eyes, and...he just wished Greed-ler would end this cycle of misery he called a life, and kill him.
“Now don't start crying like a little bitch.” Greed-ler says a bit tauntingly – smiling wickedly to reveal his pointed teeth. “I'm not going to kill you...you're to much like me now to do that. But I can make the ones you care for suffer.” Oncie was honestly confused by what Greed-ler had told him, but his other grabs his hair harshly and drags him back to the desk before the innocent man could react. Greed-ler forcibly put Oncie in the huge spinning chair, and bound him to it with a Thneed from his desk. (he always had a Thneed nearby, really) The green suited man gave his other a “I told you so” sort of smirk, and then left the room without saying another word.
Oncie, meanwhile, tries to struggle out of the restraints, but end up failing.
After a few minutes, the innocent man sighs in defeat. As he sits in the quiet of Greed-ler's office; is mind wonders what exactly his other had meant by what all he had said. About...making the ones he cared for suffer; he just didn't know who it could possible be.
His mother, brothers, Aunt, and Uncle all worked for Greed-ler; so they were most likely safe. His father had died some time ago, and the Lorax, hopefully, could use his “Magic Powers” to escape any trap of Greed-ler he go caught in. So....Oncie was totally stumped on who Greed-ler was using agaisnt him. Plus...something Greed-ler had said to him kept replaying in his mind.
I'm not gonna kill you...you're to muck like me now to do that.
Oncie continued to wonder what the words meant. Sure, the innocent man suspected Greed-ler had somehow came here from the future, but...did that mean-
Suddenly, Greed-ler came back into the office – carrying something at his side.
Upon further inspection, the Oncie sees Greed-ler was carrying...a cage. Inside was a small, skinny little thing for a – most likely a Bar-ba-loot bear. It's hair was a dirty brown, and, when it weakly looked up, it was revealed to have huge, sorrow-filled brown eyes. It only took seconds for the realization of the bears identity to hit, and, when it did, Oncie's heart sank.
“Surprise, Once.” Greed-ler smirks. “The little guy was caught a few weeks ago, and I was keeping him here just in case I needed to keep you in line. But, because of the little knife incident...it seems I'll no longer be needing him around.”
Oncie struggles harder against the Thneed, but...it was to strong of a restraint.
Greed-ler smirks at his youngers reaction, and sets the cage on the floor. He then gets down on his knee, and opens the cage door - a slight cre-e-eak being heard.
“Hey there little guy.” Greed-ler coos in a soothing tone, and extending a gloved hand. “Come here...I'm not gonna hurt ya.” Oncie knew Greed-ler was lying through his pointed teeth, but....Pipsqueak was just to young and trusting to even consider anyone trying to deceive him.
The small bear slowly rose to his feet, and, after a few seconds of looking at Greed-ler, slowly starts to walk toward Greed-ler's outstretched hand.
Oncie tries to warn Pip in any way he could to not go near the green-suited devil, but it revealed to be very difficult since he was bound to a chair, and his mouth was sewn shut.
Out of the corner of his eye; Oncie sees Greed-ler swipe something off the floor – never taking his eyes off Pipsqueak surprisingly - and quickly tucks into his glove before Oncie could see what it was. He then picks up Pipsqueak as the bear stepped fully out of the cage, and placed him in his lap.
“Aw, your just a cuddly little thing, aren't ya?” Greed-ler says; getting the evil glint in his eyes that his young had come to fear. Pipsqueak, meanwhile, looked terrified but dared not move from the spot he was put into. “There, there Pip....you don't have any reason to be scared of me....I'm your friend, remember?” Greed-ler then begins to soothing scratch Pipsqueak behind the ears, (like Oncie used to do when the little guy became frantic or couldn't be calmed with words) and this seems to relax him. But, Oncie then sees Greed-ler slowly take out the thing under his glove, and, after straining his eyes to get a clear view of it, his heart almost stopped when he identified the object.
But...as soon as this was realized...nothing could be done. Greed-ler brought the sharp kitchen knife fully into his hand, and drove it right into Pipsqueaks back.
Oncie let out a muffled scream.
Pipsqueaks already big eyes grew wider, and the small animal staggered backward – going off Greed-ler's lap slightly. Pip then stumbles forward, surely to land on his face, but Greed-ler surprisingly catches him just in time. Of course...it wasn't out of good-will. And, just by the way his other had his arms positioned...Oncie almost wasn't shocked at what came next.
A quick, twisting motion of the head, and Pipsqueak's body goes limp. Oncie lets out another muffled cry, and he suddenly feels hot and heavy tears run down his face – lowering his head for his heart couldn't take looking at Pipsqueaks dead form..
“Well, that's that.” Greed-ler says standing up, and brushing off his pants as if nothing had happened. Oncie then hears him stroll over, and walk behind the chair. Gloved hands suddenly snake themselves to his chin, and life Oncie's head up so he was looking at Pipsqueak who lay just across the room in a forming pool of blood due to the knife wound. “No. You look at him. Take the image, and store it in your memory. Let that filthy animals death serve as a reminder to you that I can and will attack the innocent if it's someone close to you whenever and however I want..” The Thneed that had been binding him to the chair is suddenly undone, and Greed-ler softly commands; “Now clean up your mess.” before walking out of the room.
Oncie sat these for a moment...taking in all that had just happened....
The innocent man quickly springs up from his chair, and over to Pipsqueak's body – tears still flowing down his cheek like a river. With shacking hands, he takes the knife out of the fuzzy creatures back, and drives it into Greed-ler's carpet (he was probably gonna get yelled for that later, but he could honestly care less at the moment) before gently picking up Pip's body; cradling it like a newborn infant.
Why...why did Greed-ler have to kill him? Why couldn't he have just killed me! I'm the one who pissed him off! Not him! Not Pip! Oncie wonders; crying even harder as he held Pip's body closer to his chest.
Oncie stays in that position for the longest time; just wallowing in his own self-loathing. But, when he feels blood from Pip's back leak onto his fingers, the innocent man decides he need to at least clean the blood off his dead Bar-ba-loot friend....since he hadn't able to save him....
Oncie gently sets Pipsqueak back on the carpet, and goes over to Greed-lers desk – remembering he had stored rags in one of the more unused drawers at one point and time. He starts to open them at random, and, upon seeing what was in the third one...gets a bit wide eyed.
The drawer was...full of bullet shells and a silver revolver gun.
The innocent man silently gasped, and, as he continued to stare at the gun...he sees...his way out of this whole mess. Thick silence fills the room, and, as Oncie stares at his reflection in the guns sleek silver frame...he once again hears the sounds coming from the nearby wall clock.
Seconds seemed even more precious to Oncie than ever before.
The next decision he made would be what determined what his future would be like. But, a quick look back at Pip's body, and...Oncie knew what had to be done. So, the innocent man grabbed the gun, and starts to slowly load the gun.
“Once!” Greed-ler's voice suddenly booms from the hall. “I know what you're doing! Stop cuddling that damned dead bear, and get cleaning already!” Oncie begins shacking terribly, and he forced himself to move faster. He finally finishes loading the gun, and points it at he door just as Greed-ler bursts in. The green suited man looked momentarily taken back, but soon gets a taunting smirk. “Are we really gonna go through all this again? Face it Once; you could never kill me.”
Oncie clutched the gun a little tighter. He knew Greed-ler was right....but....he wasn't the one he was planning to shoot. Oncie then twirled the gun so he felt the cool metal of the bud of the gun against his temples. Greed-ler gets slightly wide-eyed, and sneers.
“You wouldn't dare.” Greed-ler hisses warningly. Oncie just glared back at him to show he was dead serious. “Once, if you pull hat trigger, I promise you I'll drag your spirit down to hell with me, and make you suffer for the rest of eternity as we both burn slowly!” Oncie was honestly a little shaken by his others words, but...it wasn't enough to stop him.
The innocent man knew nothing could be worse than this hell he was in now.
A simple pull of the trigger, and Oncie's body suddenly drops to the floor.
The innocent man lives just long enough to see Greed-ler's eyes roll into the back of his head, and his body suddenly falls forward – actually disappearing into nothing before he hit the ground. Oncie feels a feeling of relief and happiness rush over him, and then....darkness consumes his whole world.
Time began reversing itself.
The factory and everything in it (including Pipsqueak's body, the workers, the Thneeds, and even the stitches on Oncie's mouth) deteriorated until it eventually was his old cottage.
The official date was when history wrote Thneeds would become a success.
But....because of Oncie's actions...it didn't happen.
Instead, Oncie's body stayed on the floor for several hours until Norma (a girl from town Oncie had taken a liking to and wanted to get serious with before he had to stay held up with Greed-ler in the factory) came over out of worry, and saw the bloody sight first-hand.
Three days later a funeral in his remembrance.
All the people from the nearby town of Greenville came, – mostly due to them thinking his suicide was all their faults for treating him so badly – but no one was upset as Norma. He poor curly haired women was in tears, and almost yelled at every single person who attended Once-ler funeral.
After all, they weren't really sorry; they just felt guilty.
Eventually, the funeral ended, and, after all the people left, all the animals gathered around Oncie's grave – which was where his old cottage (that had been taken down a few days prior by the people of Greenville) used to stand proudly.
Even the Lorax attended; having a crying Pipsqueak by his side.
The guardian tried to explain the concept of death the little one, about how you don't come back when you die, but...he knew the little guy was hoping Once-ler would magically be back in his cottage one day; singing, dancing, and giving the forest creatures marshmallows as he usually did.
As the creatures cried over the loss of they're favorite human...The Lorax couldn't help but think he could have done something to save the lanky man.
Of course...none of them would ever know the truth about why he shot himself.
About the monster Once-ler would have become...the lives he would have take.....the pure devastation he would have caused. No....they'd remember none of that. They'd only remember him as the man who constantly got bullied by people who didn't understand him, and couldn't hang on.
Although...if Oncie were still alive....he'd tell you he'd rather it be this way.