Arthur's Nose: hi this was really rushed since i've been at play practice 24/7

It was at times like this, in such turmoil, that one's best course of action would be to step outside the door into the cold and avoid the whole mess about to ensue. To take a bath, pull oneself into silk pajamas, and bid the world farewell in a shedding of identity for the land of dreams. Good night.

But surrounded in the ring of malevolent smiles of her classmates, the exit is barred and her bed seems like the last place she was going to.

He stood in the back, away from all the chaos, watching her, having submitted to such a childish game only on the condition that his card was chosen.

And it would be chosen.

Having the whole thing be an act of sheer hornswoggling would make no difference to her, anyway. Eying her now, she looked very lost and timid. He tried to feel sympathy or guilt for causing the whole set-up, but remorse was not his strong point. He was never sorry. He just got what he wanted and that was that, and everyone should move on and smile to themselves that it was all over.

Oreko curled at her side with knees haunched up to her chest, Sabitsuki sat on the plump couch of someone's basement - Gabe was the popular one, she had just tagged along at his request to this stranger's domain - her eyes hovering over a bowl filled with folded cards, stealing occasional glances to the open closet door and even, when she dared, the hallowed stairs to the floor above the ground, her only escape from this ill-gained descent into the lusty depths of Hades. It would take one, two, three large strides past the gaping crowd and she'd be at its reaches, in the arms of the stairway, panting like a mad dog in a dash for freedom. But they had seen the slaven look of her eyes and it was obvious now that such was her intention, and they'd get the bigger kids to bar their arms together and trap her in a cruel ode to London Bridge before she could ever taste sweet victory.

And getting up meant she would have to push Oreko out of the way, and she'd fall on the floor and undoubtedly cry, and if there were anyone she'd regret abandoning it would be Oreko, because, for all she's worth, Oreko was the only one just as scared as she was.

Sister hadn't wanted him to go. He always went to these parties, just to watch the small, fragile girl he was in love with.

Though "love" wasn't the right word. The feeling was more covetous then infatuated. He wanted to protect her from everything, no matter what it took. Like he protected Sister. She never stopped him, becuase he kept a sharp hammer around whenever she protested. "Smile," he'd tell her. "It's almost over."


She'd fallen asleep soon enough, he'd watched her and sung softly all the while, her favorite songs from when they were kids.

"Smile," he had told her unconscious body. He'd kissed her then, and enjoyed it more than he'd expected, which made him laugh. "You're safe now."


Her thoughts were jarred and split in two when a cold hand grabbed around her wrist and practically threw Sabitsuki's whole body into the bowl. "Come on, pick already!" said her captor, an indigent boy in a straw hat looking younger than her age and all too eager for this to be happening. As she fell to her knees in a graceless whump, Sabitsuki's arm rifled its way by force through the white sea of cards, some of the jutting edges clipping at her skin as it did so. Oreko was pushed back in the sudden movement, and gasped in surprise.

She was desperate for it to end, so she grabbed hold of the first paper that refused to slip away, drawing it up like King Arthur's sword for all to see and panting a little. Too much excitement for someone like her. She could get through if she just thought of home: her bed, her computer. Shinsoku Neko. Things that did not push her off of couches and stick her arms into plastic bowls.

"Well? Open it, already!" cried a girl's voice. "This is taking way too long!"

She did as she was told and carefully opened the folded card as though cutting a lethal bomb wire. A scrawl of black ink burned the white of the page, thickly scribing not a name, but a symbol:


From behind a row of leering teenagers opposite her, a boy with hair as dark as his pen looked up, seeming to hear someone call him, though the room was silent. He locked eyes with Sabitsuki and smiled.

Oh God, how he smiled. Like a big, bloody watermelon slice. There were cross-shaped scars carved over his eyes and cheekbones that folded in on themselves when he did so. Yes, the face was not unlike a candle-lit pumpkin.

She remembered this boy. She passed his house every day home from school, a dilapidated old building colored like it had fallen into a jester's paint bucket with the drapes always drawn, on a high hill with a long set of stairs cascading out of its mouth and into the slums below. Occasionally she had seen a girl peaking from them, those thick, canvas shades, perhaps a sibling waiting for her brother to come home. But aside from opening the door in the morning and closing it at night, the two of them never, ever went outside.


He had held her in his arms, gently, and carried her to the door. "You'll never leave again," he had whispered.

"Yes, God, yes", she had said, "I'll never leave again."


The boy lingered around these types of parties, she remembered, though never seemed to speak at them. Just watched with a kind of distant voyeur. He stepped forward now, and it was the others' turn to watch. Sabitsuki just sat there, on her knees, staring at him with a frozen expression - of what, horror? confusion? ...delight? - until he proffered a hand to help her up and into the belly of the beast. Really now, she assured herself with desperate fury, her heart palpitating and shaking violently all the while, closets aren't places for this kind of activity! They're for storing things like, like vaccums! A-nd spare sheets! And feather dusters! She said none of this out loud, of course, but merely chanted to herself in a salvation ritual as even her own thoughts began to tremble, feather duster, feather duster, feather duster, as she stood up and very nearly collapsed into his arms. Closer to the boy's face, she could see he looked a bit less sinister, like a crying child hidden underneath a mask. She caught glimpse of a glimmer in those cut eyes before the party-goers heaved them from behind and sent them tumbling into the dark closet, slamming shut the door with a high-pitched giggle and locking it. feather duster feather duster feather duster

Sabitsuki was locked in a closet meant for feather dusters, and with a pumpkin, no less.

His carving-knife smile had diminshed, then, to a mere simper, and sitting cross-legged while patiently waiting for her to arrange herself, he stared at her with a stranger's kindness. Almost sympathetically.


"You're so pale." The sound of his voice had been smooth, sickeningly sweet like a dark chocolate. "Come home. You'll get sick."


"It could have been worse," he said suddenly, shattering the silence. It occured to her that her classmates were probably pressed to the door, relishing in any sound uttered in the intimacy of this sudden pairing. "You could have gotten Uboa."

She laughed a bit, though she didn't mean to. "It's not a problem with you," she corrected, gesturing though he couldn't see her well in the dark, she knew, "it's a problem with this."

He continued to smile in the dark, the little light that seeped through illuminating his face in a way that sent chills down her spine. "Oh," he said in near whisper.

Another awkward silence.

"I'm sorry."

Sabitsuki tried to cheer up and smile like he did, but she was still scared. Boys would be

boys, and no matter how gentle they seemed, given a girl and a closet, they might pounce at any moment.

"Maybe if I kissed you you'd stop grinning that stupid grin of yours," she said shakily, with a stuttering laugh.

"No." His voice was louder now, he had gotten closer, silent on the closet's carpeting. "I promised my sister I'd never stop smiling. No, I couldn't stop even for that."

Her eyes adjusting to the dark, his smile was close to hers now, just a breath away, one stupid breath. "I see your sister sometimes, peaking out of the curtains. You live by the school. But you're..."

"Alone? Yes, always alone. Abandoned. Not that it matters -" a return of the wider smile - "I can take care of everything. I protect her." What followed were minutes of silence, until at last the door to the surface opened.

She never did kiss him; he never asked her to. Sabitsuki emerged from the depths calmer, more learned. And when the other kids pried, she told them that everything went alright after all. For the rest of the night, she was in a daze; he was so nice to her it was surprising. And though she worried for their tiny family, he had promised her that everything was going to be ok.

She rejected him. She would leave herself unprotected. Pushing his peers aside, he dug through his backpack for the gleaming, stained hammer that always accompanied him.


"Please." The tiny voice of his sister had been reduced to a sliver: a shriveling squeak that barely escaped from her throat. She had tried to run, and fallen in the grass, bruising her knees and expanding the constellations of blood pools that dotted her sour skin. He hadn't run after, merely strode with all the grace so easy to reserve at times like this. She always fell, she was always sobbing. He didn't know why. He was protecting her from whatever was outside of them.


The boy wasn't disappointed, probably. She knew he couldn't be; he'd seemed nicer than that. He had apologized, hadn't he? Just a teenage boy swindled out of a make-out session with an ordinary girl. He'd take care of himself. Hours passed in drunken jubilee, kids being kids. At about three in the morning, Gabe and Oreko had already taken off, and Sabitsuki was one of the last to go. She teetered outside in some kind of sugar high, suddenly seeming slightly more popular after the whole incident - she was one of them now - and said farewells.

It was too dark to see, but she had a relative idea of her way home. The occasional streetlamp lit a guided way, and her own house was within sights when she felt a cold hand on her shoulder.

"Smile," he said, "you're safe now."