Schutz awakes to the sounds of rain, the smell of terror, and a disturbing lack of tears. He yawns, only to find all of his limbs locked in place. This is not new to him. Sometimes, he feels like stone when he wakes up. The times when the feeling is robbed from his body, and dark phantoms whisper darker things into his ear. Sleeping is tiring. However, today, beneath complete darkness, he feels safe. Warmth cocoons him like midday sun, but it is a living warmth, undulating above, slow, hot, and heavy. Sterile breath creeps up his neck and around his ears. He remembers why - who.
“Schutz?” a dark phantom whispers into his ear with a voice like glass passing through bone.
“Good morning Elly,” he replies.
“Good morning, Schutz!” The lump of warmth above him shifts vividly with every word.
Part of him did not expect a response, and that this was a cruel extension of a nightmare to be cut off. “Eheheha ha ha - ha?” Is that me? It is. He is happy he does not have to see the dumb smile he feels on his face. He is also surprised to find he is happy.
“Did I kill it?” Her killing intent is clear in the way she forces him further into the ground.
Somewhat winded, he coughs. “Yes - yes. I - am. . uh. .” Just before his next words depart, they are recalled. There must be a mistake, a mismatch somewhere in his broken head. No matter - despite his greatest, most thorough interrogation, it is reluctantly spat back out. “Not.. tired?”
Elly huffs like a predator over flesh. He cannot see her smile, but he can sense it like a rabbit might sense a wolf. Though the rows of needle-like spines crammed into her mouth celebrate a less literal death. She has slain his sleepiness. She will feast on his gratitude.
He suppresses the instincts that tell him he is about to die and become food, and with a retained stupid smile he speaks: “Thank you Elly. You did good. Very good.”
“I am good, and I feel good. Do you feel good, Schutz?” The excitement is clear through the pain in his ears.
Condensation builds on his cheek, and runs slowly down his face. Besides the palpable fear, she is utterly scentless. The moisture down his face is not saliva, but pure water. It tastes the same, tasteless, and he knows that because he just tasted it. Somehow, it downs better than normal water. He figures he must be dehydrated.
This is apparently the correct answer, as the large girl atop him exhales sharply from all her withheld anticipation. “Yuuka said friends think alike, and then Yuuka was right!” She pauses, and again he feels that victorious, predatory, murderous and merciless smile beaming down on him: “Then you want to bathe in my body fluids, Schutz?”
“Uh. . oh. ?” The awakening brain should not be subject to such questions. His smile remains frozen, wanting to exist despite the unexpected turn. “Huh?”
“This vessel is made of interpretations of flesh, and blood, and spit, and sweat, and urine, and all else. I can crack it open, if Schutz wants.”
“Uh.” “Elly?” he emptily questions.
She spits on his face. “That. And more than that.”
He blinks. The water-saliva runs quickly to the earth. It serves a purpose in restarting his struggling mind. “Bathing in body fluids,” he repeats to himself airily. “That is what you want - Elly?”
“Yes! How did Schutz know? Is it because we’re friends, like Yuuka said?”
“I . . . knew. Right. Yeah. No - I mean, you said it.”
Warm silence passes.
Air is passed rhythmically out his mouth, not quite laughter - but close. “Heha.. ha. Yeah. It does not matter. I will do whatever you want Elly.”
“Schutz will make a boat, and take us to the lake, and then spill body fluids on me?”
“Yes,” he answers without hesitation. “But - I do not need — no, want — you to do the same. Thinking alike - that does not mean we are the same.”
“Elly - Elly. It is not bad. It is good.” He remembers he cannot actually nod, and succeeds in lightly headbutting his scarecrow’s nose. “It makes you special. Yeah. Very special.”
“You are Elly. - The one.”
“And that is good, you believe?”
“It is, and I do.”
“Then I will believe it,” she nods firmly against his nose; it’s more like a nuzzle, but that is purely circumstantial on her part. “Schutz is very special,” Elly declares her logical conclusion.
“I - uh.”
More warm silence passes. Rain crashes down around them, or that is what Schutz’ ears tell him. It is as calming as it is nonsensical.
“It is raining.”
“It is?” She twists all of a sudden to check. “It is.”
H er dress, hair and body smothers him, blocking out the light. He can only take her word for it; that and the implied downpour that echoes muffled in his prison. “. . .Oh. Right then, right then.” Elly is warm, the ground is soft, and the scent and sound of rain is nice.
“I have a question,” he starts.
“Why can I not feel the rain?”
Elly grinds in thought, then twists around to find out. “Yuuka is stopping the water from hitting us.”
Sister. Maybe if he lies down here, he can just fall back to sleep.
“A pleasant afternoon my brother! Act as if I am not here!” Sister cheerily calls out from somewhere.
He tries and fails in the span of a second. No, no, he absolutely cannot.
“Schutz,” says Elly, unaffected.
“E - Elly?”
“I wanted to say Schutz.”
Elly imparts some calm in him, like a fairy trying to douse a forest fire by piddling on it. He appreciates her oblivious effort - but ‘Sister’ invokes so much inside him that even beginning to consider considering is painful. Not all of that pain is from thinking. There is a different, sharp tug at the back of his mind. A message.
/ ~<O>~ \
>[MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM: CITRINE | T:6:01]
>[HELP ME NAME MY NEW CAT.]
>[I CAN ONLY THINK OF GOOD NAMES.]
>[BUT THIS CAT NEEDS TO EARN A GOOD NAME.]
>[SHE IS DISOBEDIENT!]
>[YOU NAME HER FIRST.]
And then, an unquantifiable moment later in violet time, another.
>[MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM: CITRINE | T:6:01]
>[WHY DO ANIMALS HATE ME?]
>[GIRLS ARE PREPARING. PLEASE WAIT WARMLY.]
\ ~<o>~ /
Real time crawls along as he tries to find a reaction to what he just read. Cat names? Rain.. water.. . wet.. . dirt..? Thunder roars. Schutz jumps with all the worry he hoped to suppress. Fortunately, all he manages is a particularly lively twitch underneath his blanket.
‘Crikik?’ Elly takes it well. Though, she quickly jabs his thigh back in retribution.
He tries to rationalize. It is as useful to him as trying to breath water without gills, or fly without wings. Nonetheless, a forgery of sensibility is attempted. There is Sister. I should talk to her. Knowing that second guessing would only topple him, he forces words from his mouth: “Elly. Can you get up?”
Elly makes a perhaps-not-oblivious point of not moving.
“I can’t think of a reason why. Will you, Schutz?”
He very much does not want to leave the safety of Elly’s bosom, but - “Yeah.”
“#?” she prods.
“I need to speak to Sister.”
Warm silence passes.
“That - that was my reason, Elly.”
She makes a slight, pretty noise. Laughter? Is she laughing at me? Giggling, morelike.
“#? That’s not a reason for me to move, Schutz. Can you not hear her pretending to speak from beneath me?”
“I. . can. But-”
She immediately interjects: “Then can you not speak to her from beneath as well?”
“Uh.” He dribbles something out before he is forced to think too hard: “Please. I would like you to get up. Elly.”
‘Crik.’ Left with no choice she does get up, leaving the loam-imprinted man behind.
It is like a coffin has been opened. Freezing cold air wafts in, and quickly seizes his breath. The dazed wannabe-dead’s eyes stare blankly into a pitch black sky. The sky is interrupted by a vibrant red circle, connected by stick to a gloved hand, connected to a sculpted arm, and finally ending in Sister. Thinking about what she looks like wastes time that could be spent wishing he was somewhere else. “. . Thank you.”
Sister outstretches her hand to help him up. Elly mimics. He takes Elly’s hand, or where it ought to be, who helps him up. Once up, he refuses to release the hand, as does she to him. He has to force himself to move, but it is as if the ground before him were caltrops.
He faces Sister, amasses all of his willpower, re-numbs all of his higher thoughts, and says: “Hello.”
Sister looks mystified back at him. She then checks her hand. “Hm-Ah - Hello, Schutz.”
Sister stands there a while, still, smiling slightly. Usually this is when he would hug her, but that would be akin to running into fire. So he waves. This is Sister, why am I like this? Good for Schutz that he never expects answers to questions he asks.
“So you made a friend!” she picks up.
“Yes.” The answer is drawn from automated speech. It sounds normal, eerily so. There may as well have been a bug in his throat doing the talking. His mind is undoubtedly not the source. It preoccupies itself with thinking in circles, and making more complex pretzels when the circle is too scary.
“Wonderful! Humans love making friends.”
he automated response system tries to find something fitting he would say. “They. . do?”
“Certainly. It was in a book I read.”
He stares down intently at his feet. The reason is not clear to him.
“Elly’s a very special girl.”
“She’s always had trouble making friends. — Mm, she never tried, but I assume she would.”
The Elly in question does not even register Sisters’ words.
“But if she could make friends anywhere, it’s here.”
“. . . Here,” he echoes.
“With you, Schutz!”
She keeps talking, but only the vestiges of sentiments permeate the thick, protective barriers underneath his skull.
Poke. A bop to the forehead proves enough to rattle the man. He blinks. “Apologies,” he mumbles as he is forced to focus on Sister rather than his muddy feet. The latter manages to be more pleasant. Again, he cannot discern why. This is Sister. His eyes quickly wander upwards to the rain. Droplets swerve to avoid the strange trio. They learn fear specifically to be afraid of her. Knowing Sister, this is no hyperbole on his part.
Sister gasps, then hastily hangs her parasol overhead, giving the illusion it suits a practical purpose. Only, the rainshadow is far, far larger than the umbrella.
“Ha. Haha.” A real laugh leaks out of somewhere in him. Auto-response temporarily thwarted, he responds with an easily spoken, but still difficult to believe, phrase: “Yeah. Elly is my best friend.” Then, something large and disgusting forces itself from his throat, “Wh- why are you here?” He feels like he just vomited a log.
“I woke up,” she says, and yawns.
He notices her hair now, so long it nearly touches the ground. Normally, it would be cut weekly. With me. “Ah.” How long have I avoided paying tribute? The thought terminates, replaced by a newfound need to talk, “Your hair,” he blurts. “It is long. We should cut it.”
“Oh!” She feels behind her head to find a wavy curtain of hair grown with the lustre and wildness of a meadow. “We shall.” Armed with good reason, she slides up to Schutz, turns round, and asks, “Hold~” Of course, she refers to the act of constraining her hair to an easily sliceable bundle. There is but one issue.
He lets go of her hand. He did not account for the fact she would not.
“Please let go of my hand.”
“I need to cut Sisters’ hair.”
Elly is quiet. It is no act of rebellion, she simply has nothing to add to an argument she won and he lost.
“Mm?” She guides by hum, an absurd sort of maestro.
“. . . Apologies. I-”
“It’s only hair, Schutz. You dislike my long hair so much?”
“No, but I - I -”
She bops him with a stunning backwards poke maneuver. “At ease.” ~ “I made Elly’s body, so you fondling it so fondly is as good as my hair.”
“Really?” he asks her hair.
He sighs with relief; it is a long, well-appreciated sigh on his part. God accepts his unintentional sacrifice.
“Oh~” Sister twirls about to meet him with a lovely hum in her throat and two suns caged in her eyes. The pressure she emits invites all bodies under the sky to bow down. Schutz is used to it, and Elly is too busy not noticing. The rain, however, pauses mid air, too scared to make a noise. ‘Sister is excited,’ the boy astutely recognizes.
‘CR###IK#IKIK?!’ Sister grabs Elly by the other arm, eliciting a sound one might expect from a dying star, and presents the scarecrow’s body like a chunk of meat. “Schutz, Schutz! Have you tried procreating with it?” Several petrified raindrops explode from awe and terror at hearing the great word of god.
Long ago, the man made peace with the fact he would never understand most of what his Sister does and says. That does not mean he has given up trying. “Pro - creating?”
“Filth piles onto filth to make more filth,” Elly answers.
“All true~” The raindrops shiver. “Living creatures love to procreate, but humans are kind enough to do it with anything!” She shakes the piece of meat called Elly. “Even - this!” She pokes Elly’s self-proclaimed ‘immoderate’ breast, and trails down to the hip. “It even looks kinda~somewhat~almost alike a human female!”
“I ask, have you tried to procreate with Elly yet?” The energy she emits, both literal and social, is a gravity in upon itself.
“I - uh. .”
“Don’t give up! If you try hard enough it will work. Humans are fantastic at getting the world to play pretend. For some even clay and semen is good enough with significant effort.” She vigorously shakes Elly, who has taken to ignoring the excited, sun-like lady. “You could be the first human to make flesh with this - thing!”
Schutz nods along, understanding nothing. He makes the mistake of trying to speak. “I could . . . what?”
“Keep putting that -” She points to Schutz’ naked crotch. “- In that -” She points to Elly’s significantly less naked crotch. “To make something.”
“Why?” Elly joins in.
“It’s a human thing.”
“Disgusting,” comments Elly.
“Mmm ~ there are many fluids involved,” adds Sister.
The way Elly shivers ever-so-slightly is felt like an earthquake in his body. The sensation of lice underneath skin slowly travels from arm to down his back.
It is at this moment Schutz realizes he is in peril. No words are spoken by his scarecrow, nor do any need to be. His fate is sealed, no consent required or asked for.
“Wonderful~!” Sister hums. Caged suns in her eyes threaten to burst. Raindrops explode, and flowers bloom beneath.
“It . . .” Schutz starts, considers, then ends. “Is.” Sister is smiling, Elly is smiling maybe too much. That ought to be enough for him, so he makes it enough by force of will. The man sighs, another hard battle fought and won.
“Why not start now?” Sister asks.
“Start - what?” he grinds out through tragically broken peace.
On instinct he turns to Elly for help, but it is equivalent to shoving one’s head in a shark’s mouth. “The dirt has good ideas, Schutz,” she damns him. “I am not filth, but I can pretend to be for Schutz.”
‘Dirt.’ “Ha - ha. Yeah.” He nods meaninglessly. “Yes. What about - you - uh. . Do it first, and I follow.”
Questions - even the most simple ones are too much for him. The rain is like a cage keeping him in place. An awkward mix of befuddlement and forced calm blights his face with something so far from calm he might as well quit. His inability to permanently give up has consistently proven to be his downfall.
“My brother wants a demonstration?”
“I - maybe - yes. Yes.”
“Hmm. If you put a human and a thing in a space long enough they will inevitably breed ~ I have faith in my brother’s ability.” She nods to her own conclusion. “Worry not ~ with love anything is possible.”
“We are currently in a space, Schutz,” Elly decides important to point out.
“I - yes. Yes.”
Elly makes a sound that could be interpreted as pleasure. “Are you procreating yet?”
He turns to Sister for answers. “He tried to earlier, I saw.” But she ends up giving him more questions.
“Yep,” he mirrors to Elly with auto-speak. “But not. Right. Now.”
‘Crik - krik krik~’ Someone who did not know Elly might mistake this as the sound the gates of hell would make as new souls arrive. Schutz accurately labels it cute.
Sister sits down. Schutz follows automatically, and Elly by extension. The scarecrow tries out a few positions before accepting the man’s vacant shoulder as appropriate rest. She meets no resistance apart from his awkwardness. The expectations of the sun bear down upon him. What should I do? His right hand wanders up, stops to question its own actions, then follows through in its journey to the scarecrow’s head. Her flax-gold hair is plush, and his hand sinks in like it were water.
He strokes her scalp, around her rounded-point ears specifically. This is fine. More than that if I think less about it.
Except, only Elly has been taught the path of vengeance. She assaults his head only seconds later with her own hand. To do this she must twist around, and pin him in place with their already intercrossed other hands. Unlike earlier, the monstrous puppet is in full spotlight. Her clicking is whining and incessant. The snake passively coils around him, never quite touching.
“Wonderful foreplay,” Sister commentates.
He pauses, so Elly pauses, leaving them stuck in a strange shape. Sisters’ anticipation causes more raindrops to explode.
“Schutz?” the serpent grinds.
“This will make it hard to talk to Sister,” he speaks an excuse that is true enough to work.
“Schutz says many pointless things,” she notes.
“I - I apologize, but -” He is disrupted by the disturbing bend of Elly’s smile.
“Pointless statements, and pointless apologies, and arguments that are not. I like hearing Schutz speak. It feels like filth being poured inside my head.” She looks down into the ground. “I hear it swish around in my head when its quiet, so it’s never quiet anymore.”
“Right,” he tells himself, then her, “Right. As long as you are happy. Yeah.”
“Good!” she cheerfully responds with voice like teeth plucked from an iron skull. “Schutz.”
“Spit more when you speak.”
“U h. I will, I will try?”
The two are still tangled. He sees Sister behind, watching with rapt attention. Every now and then, a new flower sprouts somewhere to watch them from another angle. He imagines them saying: ‘Keep going keep going keep going keep going.’ But that might just be him. Why would I want that? No answer comes, but he makes a good show of being still and silent for a minute.
“Sis-ter,” he says.
“Hm?” “Is it difficult to procreate with Elly? Imagine it isn’t Elly, it will help.”
“No.” “No! I - I just wanted to keep talking. Please.”
“Go on. You can procreate as we talk. The human crotch is not the hole that speaks.”
This configuration is ‘procreation,’ truly? This is easier than I thought.
“Sewing - I made the dress. Elly’s.. Dress,” he picks up.
Sister gestures out. “The one on the ground, in the rain?” The rain freezes where the dress is, caught at the scene of the crime.
“Yeah.” It sinks in. “. . yeah.”
“I like it!” adds Elly.
“She likes it?”
“I like it,” she affirms.
“She. . likes it. Yeah.”
“Mhm~” Sister hums. She moves to pick up the dress, but as hands meet fabric, her arms decide to fall off - or, that is how it appears. Sisters’ arms lie twitching on the ground in an imitation of life. The stumps where they once lived begin to weep mud. “Ouch,” she says neutrally, then hums, clears her throat, and retries with more enthusiasm, “Owee!”
Schutz sits like an idiot. Sister stands in a way that would look like an armless idiot if she were physically capable of not looking immaculate. But Elly appears to be happy.
“Elly,” says Schutz. His voice would suggest anything but panic. Auto-speech serves him sell this day.
“Schutz?” she returns.
“Sisters’ arms fell off?” His observations of reality are rarely true. He hopes this particular one falls within the commonly false.
“They did? I believe I tore them off.”
“Ah.” He lurches forward a bit, trying to stand, but then realizing he is attached to Elly in a compromised sitting position. “#?”
In the meantime, Sister tries out different noises to indicate pain. Some are more believable than others. All are commendable attempts. “Brother - brother, which one sounds best?” she asks him.
“‘Uh?’ Hm~ That is the sound of a guttural pain. This is traumatic - a fatal wound for a lady such as I.” She studies his aghast face, and relents. “Alright, alright. Perhaps I can make this work…” She cradles her absence-of-an-arm in her absence-of-an-arm. “GUH!?”
“Ease~ It was merely a performance, brother.” Her satisfied smile mingles with concern. “I’m pleased it was believable, but worry not.”
Her words do little to rationalize the sight before him. “Your arms!”
“Mm. Schutz - I don’t have arms,” she corrects him while waving her stumps.
“Yes?! Because Elly - because Elly-?” Several thought processes smash into a wall at once, stunning and scattering them beyond hope for reassembly. Such collisions are inevitable given the nonsensical, melted, thrice-twisted-circle layout of his mind.
“-Wanted to help me practice pain?” Sister helpful continues.
He blinks. “Huh.” ‘Huh’, ‘uh’, and ‘ah’ work over-overtime to fill in where sense of the world ought to be. Alas, they cannot replace every single lost thought, there is not enough dumb sounds in existence.
“Pain - it’s the feeling that tells the body its in danger. But I could never ~quite~ figure it out.” Amid her well-meaning explanation, Sister realizes something important. You can tell by the brilliant way her eyes light up, and how the ground seems to quiver in fear for her next move. The earth capitulates completely, and a newborn, fleshy, distended arm rises from the dust and clay to wield a parasol. Impractical parasol aloft, Sister continues: “Elly saw me studying, and decided to help,” she finishes with a radiant smile.
“Really?” he barks out. For all he wants it to be true, he has to ask.
“Naturally.” Sister answers with all the confidence of her being behind it.
“E - Elly, you meant to help Sister?”
Elly looks at him oddly. “Why would I do that? I’m procreating with Schutz,” she answers.
Sister giggles. “Isn’t she funny?”
Taking Schutz’ dopish silence as enlightenment, the armless sun continues on chipper. “Oh, Elly~ Do my head next. I need the practise. Oh - no, no, humans cannot naturally scream without heads.” She raises one leg up to reveal the other beneath her pajama skirt. Her bare feet are untarnished by the mud they are made from. “Mhm ~ Legs. Do my legs. Humans love having legs,” she orders. In lieu of lost arms, the flowers that now-sprout around her do the pointing.
Unfortunately, if Elly was listening, she was not thinking, and if she were thinking, she certainly did not care for anything Sister said.
The scarecrow does a good job of acting like a scarecrow.
Sister nods as if hearing something profound. “Oh ~ I see! Unpredictability is key. If I know my legs will be severed, I cannot react naturally. Another time, Elly.” Sister bends to meet Schutz. She regrenerates an arm for what appears to be the sole purpose of giving him a thumbs up. “She’s very thoughtful for an entity so thoughtless,” she tells him.
This is fine. This is fine. Schutz takes to stroking Elly’s supple ears for comfort. She responds in kind. He is inclined to pinch her cheek, so she does the same.
“Try lower,” Sister suggests.
He touches her chin.
A green colossus wanders into the rainshadow with its invisible intestines dragging behind, collapses onto its buttocks, and eventually greets into the dead silence that follows: “I’m Meiling, a youkai gatekeeper and-” It vomits blood into its lap, or it would if it had any left to spare. “- emissary of lady Remilia Scarlet.”
“Here to watch them spawn?” asks Sister.
“It’s a wonderful event.”
Sister nods. “Not as cute as whatever crawls out from its womb afterwards.”
‘What is a womb?’ the man silently asks himself, hand on Elly’s shoulders, head far in the dark clouds above. Elly is enjoying herself enough as is. Her smile is disgustingly wide, and bright enough to beacon at night. Her serpent, a monstrous appendage of darkness, vibrates as a cat’s pur. Though, it sounds more like the rumbling of a volcano about to rupture. The pitter patter of rain is no match for her.
“Names are important. What do you want to call the child?” Meiling asks.
“Christians. . .” The youkai falls to ponder. “The ones with the sticks, silver, and scented oils. Kid will taste bad with a name like that.”
Sister nods. “What’s a good tasting name, youkai?”
“Sakuya..” “Sky..” “Herb..” “Tea..” Meiling thoughtfuly lists on. “Rainbow..”
“Rainbow Antichrist?” Sister suggests.
Sister and Meiling. Schutz thinks. He tries to stop thinking by hugging Elly, but, of course, that does not work. Sister wants Meiling dead? Elly rumble-purs. It hurts his teeth.
“It’s starting~!” Sister shakes Meiling’s shoulders in excitement, likely dislocating the youkai’s arm in the process. Raindrops explode elsewhere.
Meiling falls to the side in a puddle of its own blood. It coughs. Thunder roars. Cursed clouds vomit from its belly unceasing. Its mouth hangs open agape, letting more clouds trickle to the sky. “(. . .)” it mumbles incoherently to an audience of itself and him. No one else here could possibly bother listening.
My friend? I should - what should I do? Sister wants - what?
“Schutz,” a serpent whispers like an embolism passing through a rusted metal vein.
“E - l ly?”
“Schutz forgot where I was again,” she says, attached to him like a burrowing tick.
“I - did?”
“Yes, he thought I was where the other filth is, but I am here, and he remembered I was here when I said Schutz.”
“Ah.” “Ha. Ha.. I said, I said its name is Meiling. Do you not … ?” Remember?
“It looks like anything else, and anything else looks unremarkably disgusting. I’m more good and special to look at, Schutz would think,” she tells him.
“Yes. Yes, but -”