SNAFU: The World According to Schuldig
"I think you're a little behind on your medications."
The lock slams into place with a harsh crack, overly loud against the quiet of the rest of the hall. I prop my shoulder against the wall and wiggle my fingers in farewell to the policeman who led me here, but he has nothing but a stern look to offer me before turning away. His boots echo softly off the walls as he heads back towards the exit and his cushy little office, and I let myself fall forward against the barred doors of my cell. Fingers run over old, rough metal, testing out the curves of the poles and the hole of the lock. A shove against the door shows that the lock is holding and I'm satisfied with that. If it were to open, I would be obligated to make an escape attempt, but now I can rest easy for a night.
A glance over my shoulder takes in the small room. It's squat and ugly but it doesn't have to be pretty as long as it's warmer in here than it is outside. A little toilet sits in the corner and two beds line opposing walls. There's someone already in one of them but he's sleeping on his side with his back to the room. I consider checking to see if he has his wallet on him before deciding the police would have confiscated everything he owns before sticking him in here. Alas.
I push away from the door and mosey on over to my own bed, flopping heavily down on it and wincing at the way the springs dig into my ass. At least they don't squeak, I suppose, and they're softer than a bench. I kick my shoes off to one side carelessly before looking again towards my cellmate, and after a moment's consideration, I snag them and tuck them under my pillow.
It's too early to sleep but it seems there's nothing else to do around here except take a piss or wake the other man up, so I stretch out on my back and stare up at the ceiling. I count the cracks in the paint all the way to the corner, where I spot a spider web, and I feel every muscle in my body tense. Spiders are gross. Anything with more than four legs just deserves to die, no questions asked. Seeing as how spiders have twice the maximum number of allowed legs, they're a crime against everything that exists. And they're ugly, too.
I plant a foot against the wall, holding onto my mattress as I give a little push. The bed doesn't budge. I guess it's bolted into the wall. Another quick glance up at the web shows that the spider's nowhere in sight. The lights are on but no one's home sort of thing, or does that only count for sanity? Who knows? Ughh, I can feel my skin crawling already.
"If you come anywhere near me, I will kill you," I announce to the room, lifting my voice so that the spider can hear. It doesn't matter that the most likely scenario will be me jumping on top of my temporary roommate and demanding that he do something about it. Intimidation is half the battle and I'm pretty sure the spider speaks German. He lives in Germany, after all, same as me. Duh.
"And then you'll be tried for murder," my cellmate speaks up. Apparently he's not sleeping.
"I wasn't talking to you," I send at him, scanning the wall for any sign of Ugly. "But the same goes for you if you get any wise ideas."
"All of my ideas are wise," he points out.
"Including the one that got you thrown in here, of course."
"I knew you'd be here."
"Uh-huh. That's kind of creepy. Shut up, will you? I'm looking for something."
The other bed creaks a little as he rolls over and I allow myself a moment of triumph that he has the noisy bed. Then I scratch that off, because I'm no better off if it turns out he's a restless sleeper. Either way, he's now on his side facing me, and I can feel his eyes on me. I lift my hand out from my side, blocking his face in my peripheral vision. "Do you mind?"
"What are you looking for?"
My other hand points up at the web. "The ugly fuck that made that. He'd better be on your side of the room."
"Oh," the stranger says. "He's dead."
I glance his way, lowering my hand to peer past my fingers at him. He's definitely not German, despite how well he seems to be able to speak the language. U.S. Army, maybe? Immigrant? Wherever he came from, I don't recall inviting him into my country. "How do you know?"
"I ate him already," he answers easily.
Silence stretches between us and then I lift my hand again, blocking out his face. "Ha ha," I send at him through the safety of my hand. "That's disgusting."
"He was bothering us. There was no choice but to kill him. Was he yours?"
I roll over onto my own side, propping my hand under my head to eye the other man. "Are you an idiot?" I ask him. "I just got here. Of course he's not mine."
"I knew he wasn't," he agrees sagely. "I saw that it would be safe to kill him."
"You saw," I echo.
"That's what I do," he says, nodding against his pillow. "I see things."
"No, you don't," he corrects me. "That's not your power. That's mine."
"I think you're a little behind on your medications."
"Probably." He checks his watch, counting up the hours, and offers me a shrug. "It was either stay on schedule or end up here, and I chose the latter. It seemed to be more beneficial at the time. You're not quite what I was expecting, though."
"It's not original to say I'm a disappointment," I inform him. "Try a little harder."
He looks startled by that response. "A disappointment?" he asks. "Not at all. You're stronger than I thought you would be. I'm pleased, if a little curious why my visions didn't tell me the full extent of it. I've never seen such a strong telepath before."
I think that comment merits a long bout of silence as a response, so I just stare at him across the room. He stares back, waiting for some sort of real reaction, but I have nothing to give him. At last he pushes himself into a sitting position and relaxes back against the wall. He plucks up a round fuzzy object from the sheets and toys with it in his hands as he eyes me, and I drop my gaze from his face to stare at it. It looks to be a plushie of some sort, but I'm not really sure what it's supposed to be. Something between a turtle and a peach, I think, if I'm high and feeling creative. I'm neither, so it's just ugly.
I win the silence game; the whacko speaks first. "I couldn't expect you to accept this right away, I guess."
"Accept what?" I ask. "That you're a loon?"
He gives me a tolerant look. "You're a telepath."
I poke a finger against my temple, screwing up my face in concentration to mock him. "That's funny, I can't seem to read your thoughts."
"Of course not," he assures me. "I'm a prescient. I see myriads of possible futures. It could be dangerous for you to oversee these things, so my mind must be shielded. You can't read anything from me because of that."
I have the strangest feeling that he believes what he's saying. It's kind of creepy, really, in that sort of way that electrocuting little animals is creepy. It's disturbing and fascinating at the same time, and you can't help but poke at it more. "I see," I say again.
"No, I see," he corrects me again. "And I saw you would be here tonight, so I made sure I would be here when you arrived." He lifts his hands to his side and his plush toy jingles as it's lifted. "We are both here, just as I saw we would be. Isn't that proof enough?"
"You got yourself thrown in jail just to meet me," I say, checking to make sure I'm following this.
"I came with an offer," he explains. "I'm going to Japan, but my team is not strong enough as it is for what we are to do there. I thought it would be a wise move to take Germany's strongest telepath with me. I wanted to hire your services and power, if you're willing to work under me."
I arch an eyebrow at him. "To do what?"
He smiles and pets his toy, and I decide that I never want to see him smile again. It makes my skin crawl more than the sight of the spider web did and I can't stop myself from fidgeting with my sheet. "To find my parents," he says happily. "Among other things, of course. I want to see who I've inherited this power from and what it means in the scheme of things."
"Shouldn't your godly prescient powers just tell you?" I ask.
"They've told me to go to Japan," he says. "Work is waiting for us there."
"I would like you to know that you're honestly the most fucked up person I've ever met."
"Does that mean you'll consider it?" he asks.
"No way in hell."
"No means no."
"I'd be paying you."
"With imaginary money?" I ask.
He gives me another tolerant look and pets his toy again. It's a rather disturbing picture, really, watching a grown man fondle a turtle-peach. "I'd be paying for the plane tickets," he says. "I would pay for rent in Japan and I would find us work. I will buy the groceries. All you have to do is be my subordinate. You come to Japan with me and my team and do what I tell you to do. That's all."
"As tempting as the offer is-"
"I've already seen that you're going to accept," he interrupts me neatly. "If you would like some time to further consider it, however, you have time. My teammate will be by in an hour or so to retrieve me and he will be happy to take you with us out of here. You have until then. Good night, Schuldig."
"Hey," I say, but he's already stretching out on his side again. "Hey. That's not my name, jackass. Is that supposed to be some sort of a joke? You can't point the finger at me for being in here when you're in here, too. And what are they doing throwing you in a jail cell anyway? You should be in a psychiatric ward or something. Are you listening to me?"
"Schuldig is your codename," he explains. "With the sort of people we'll be involved with, it is necessary to have codenames."
"You can't just go around assigning stupid codenames to people."
"I can do whatever I like," he returns. "I am Oracle."
"Why do you get the cool name?" I demand, but he ignores me. "Hey." Still silence, and I scowl at his back. "Hey!"
He still remains mute, and I decide to give up on him. I offer his back a rude gesture that makes me feel worlds better and roll onto my back to stare up at the ceiling. That's just a mistake, as it puts the spider web in my line of sight again, and I turn back onto my side. That means I'm looking at the madman again, but it's better than staring at the wall or suffocating in a musty pillow, so I decide to stay there. After all, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on him.
The time drags by slowly between us and my thoughts drift back to the apple I'd snitched. I didn't get a chance to take more than a bite from it and I'm feeling the loss of my prize keenly. Those bastards were just going to throw it away after they took it back from me, so they might as well have let me keep it. They couldn't sell a bitten apple and I'd already stolen it, anyway. It was mine. I'm rotting in this cell whether or not I ate it. Unthoughtful bastards. Is unthoughtful a word? Inconsiderate. That's better.
I'm not really sure how much time passes before the lock clacks again, but I realize I've been dozing when the noise jolts me awake. I glance up the length of the bed towards the door to see what the commotion is all about. The policeman shoves the door open and takes a step back to let another man see in. Without the black poles to cover him, our pale visitor makes an interesting sight. Dark red hair is cut ragged around his skull, little spikes going every which way, and a single red eye is focused on the crackhead across from me.
"Sorry for the trouble," he says without looking back at the policeman.
"Just keep a better eye on him," is the answer, and the new arrival sighs.
"Crawford," he calls. "It's time to go."
"Has Schuldig made up his mind?" Crawford wants to know without looking up.
The redhead arches an eyebrow at him- an impressive feat when one of his eyes is covered with an eye patch. "Schuldig," he echoes.
"The telepath I told you I would find for us." Crawford gestures over his shoulder towards me. "I've been waiting here with him. He's what we've been looking for and I'm not leaving here without him. Talk to him, Farfarello."
'Farfarello' looks my way, and I offer him a smirk. "Don't look at me," I tell him. "I'm just passing through."
"Crawford, it's time to go," Farfarello tries again.
"Nagi won't be happy if we go home without him," Crawford tells him matter-of-factly.
Farfarello pinches the bridge of his nose, searching for patience. Surprisingly, though, he turns on the policeman. "What is he in for?" he asks, gesturing towards me.
"He's just another hobo," the policeman answers. "He was caught trying to steal apples from a vendor."
I stab a finger into the air. "I object to that."
The policeman glowers at me. "You admitted to it," he reminds me.
I wag my finger at him. "I was only stealing one. Don't pluralize it without my permission."
"Farfarello," Crawford says, sounding rather stern.
Farfarello closes the cell door and turns away. "Let's talk," he tells the policeman, and the two start back down the hall. I sit up to watch them as they go, peering through the bars as they disappear into the aforementioned cushy office. Crawford sits up as well and rakes his fingers through his hair, smoothing the dark locks out. He offers me a smile and it's not any better this time than it was last. He looks like he's stoned when he smiles.
"That went well," he tells me.
"Can you keep your madness on your side of the cell?" I ask him.
He taps his finger against his temple knowingly. "That's what these shields are for," he says with a nod. "Are you hungry? I heard your stomach growling earlier. We're hungry, too, so we should have Farfarello take us somewhere to eat. My treat. You just have to come along and listen to the details of the job I'm offering you."
"What sort of food?" I ask. "Roasted children?"
"Farfarello makes a habit out of eating children," Crawford tells me. "I don't fancy it, myself."
I eye him. "You shouldn't have such a straight face when you're joking. It's disturbing."
He taps his temple again. "See? Your telepathy is proven. How would you know that he likes children if you didn't read it from his mind? I'm proud of you. Schwarz is going to go far. I can see it. Good times lie ahead."
"Right next to 'jail time' and 'psych ward', to be sure."
He shakes his finger at me. "That sort of pessimistic thinking is not allowed. You should work on that attitude, Schuldig."
"My name is not Schuldig."
Boots echo off the walls as Farfarello returns alone, and he pushes the door open easily from where they left it unlocked just a minute ago. Crawford turns an expectant look on him but Farfarello is looking towards me, and he beckons for me to rise. "Your situation has been taken care of," he says. "It's time for both of you to leave. If you can make it as far as the sidewalk, I'll hold him down and you can make a break for it."
"We're taking him out to dinner," Crawford says, getting up and starting towards his companion.
"He's a complete stranger," Farfarello reminds him.
"He's Schwarz's telepath," Crawford answers. "His name is Schuldig. He's hungry."
"I'm going to strangle you," Farfarello tells him.
"I'd see it coming," is Crawford's easy answer, and he beckons towards me. "Let's go, Schuldig."
He may be insane, but the idea of turning down free food is more so. Maybe it's not the safest thing to do to follow two strangers to a food joint, but I haven't eaten more than that bite of an apple in the past two days and I'm willing to take my chances. After all, the redhead seems to be moderately sane. I tug on my shoes and start towards them. Crawford seems satisfied that I'm going to follow and starts down the hall, jangling his toy in time to his footsteps. Farfarello leans against the wall to watch me as I pass him, his single eye hooded.
"You're going to regret this," he informs me.
"The free food part?" I ask.
"Not running when you had the chance," he explains, reaching out to tug the cell door closed. "It's all downhill from here."
I shrug, continuing down the hall and letting Farfarello fall in line behind me. "I've been sitting at the bottom of a hill for years. There's not much further I can go."
The redhead just sighs at such words. "You'd be surprised."
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