SNAFU: The World According to Schuldig
"Mommy, he's touching me, make him stop."
For the record, planes are dastardly, terrifying things that should be ripped apart and turned into beer cans. Whoever invented them should be hanged. Then castrated, then hanged again. I guess there's no fun in hanging someone twice, though, so we'll just have to half-heartedly hang him the first time so that he lives through it.
I spend half of the flight nauseous in the bathroom and the other half slouched miserably in my seat. It doesn't take me much longer than take-off to realize I was much safer on the streets than in this thing, but the damn windows don't open so it's not like I can make a getaway. I don't even have the window seat. Crawford stuck Farfarello there and himself in the next spot, leaving me the aisle for my frequent escapes to the suffocatingly small bathroom.
"Direct flight" means sixteen hours of this insanity, and by the fifth, I'm contemplating chewing my wrists open over the waterless john. I stare down at the dark hole, feeling the veins in my wrist twist in uneasy anticipation. I'm positive I've already lost twelve pounds already, puking out that wonderful dinner and then any other random internal organs that I may or may not need in the future. Some of them I won't miss. My stomach, for example, would part here with no love lost between us. I'd never have to be hungry again. And no food means no crapping, right? That'd be kind of cool.
Where does this toilet lead, anyway? I have the distinct mental image of a stomach and intestines just whipping about through the air as they plummet from cloud-height. I imagine them splatting against hapless kids to make myself feel better, but the sight of them exploding just makes my guts twist. Apparently I still have my stomach, or something else is subbing in for it, because I tilt forward to heave again. Fingernails scrabble at walls that are built so close around me that I'm sure they're trying to eat me and I wait until I'm as far back from the toilet as I can get before flushing it. It would really, really suck to get sucked in. Suck to get sucked. Ha ha. Oh god.
"Get me off this plaaaaaane…"
I gargle water from the sink but it doesn't taste much better, and then there's a rapping at the door to remind me that this is a public use bathroom. I decide to leave the wrist-chewing for my next trip here, mostly because I want a drink to clear this nasty taste from my mouth, and push the accordion-style door open.
Crawford's standing on the other side, and that's incentive enough to grab at the door and jerk it closed again. I don't care if he has to go. He can pee himself, stupid all-seeing eye. He's a bit faster on the draw, however, and gets his foot in before the door can close completely. The door bounces off his shoe but I try slamming it a few more times just for the sake of it. Crawford frowns at me, confused by my hostility, and Nagi jingles as Crawford clutches him close to his chest. At last I give up on the door and glower at him.
"I hate you very much right now."
"It was to be expected," Crawford assures me, on top of things as usual.
"Get out of my way."
"Take Nagi back with you." Crawford holds him out in offering.
"What, don't want him to watch you piss? You should have just left him with Farfarello. I don't want him."
Crawford gives me a patient look. "Farfarello would hurt him."
"I can't imagine why."
"You can't," Crawford agrees. "Take him."
Crawford considers this, drawing Nagi back to lightly tap the plushie against his chin. Nagi smiles at me as smiling plushies are prone to do, and I eye him as he jingles with each impact against Crawford's skin. "We will have to work on your sense of teamwork," Crawford decides. "It seems rusty." I feign shock at that and he just tsks and shakes his head. "You deserve a second chance," he decides, holding Nagi out once more. "Here."
I reach out and snatch the turtle-peach from his hands. "Fine," I say, ignoring the offense on his face at the rough treatment of his precious thingamajig. I'm already turning away, twisting on my ankle to aim the toy at the soul-sucking toilet. I hear Crawford's sharp "No!" as I draw my hand back to throw it and then his hand is clamping down around my wrist. I'm wrenched around so hard I slam into the sink and I hear the water cut on with its stupid automatic sensor. I lose feeling in that hip with the pain of impact and snarl something unintelligible in Crawford's direction, but I don't think he hears me.
He just stares down at me where both hands are holding mine and the plush to his chest, and I can feel his racing heartbeat against my knuckles where they're crushed against him. It's a wonder I can feel anything, considering how tightly his fingers are clenched around my hand. There's a sickly edge to the paleness in his face and his eyes are wild at the near-miss.
I recover first and try to tug my hand free, but Crawford refuses to let go while my fingers are still curled around his toy. For a psycho, his grip is surprisingly strong, and I just succeed in hurting both my wrist and my elbow with the jerk. "Let go."
"No," Crawford says softly, calming down again. It's a slow process- I see his expression clear long before his heart has returned to a normal speed. "No. You let go."
"You told me to take him."
"I changed my mind."
"You should have seen this coming," I tell him.
"I did," he tells me. "I was hoping I was wrong."
"Oh, shut up and let go."
"You let go."
"What comes next? 'Mommy, he's touching me, make him stop'? Real mature of you," I tell him. "Let the fuck go. You're squeezing all feeling out of my hand."
"Sirs?" a woman's voice speaks up, and we both look to see two flight attendants staring at us. Apparently we're a bit loud; all heads in the closest five rows are turned to watch the spectacle as well. I guess we're an interesting sight: two grown men, half-in and half-out of a tiny bathroom, practically pressed against each other because there's nowhere else to move as we argue over an ugly toy. I curl my lip at them, a hard feat to do when there are so many to scorn. Luckily, I've had years of practice. I turn back on Crawford, but he's already smiling at the attendants.
"Yes?" he asks.
"Please sit down," she says, glancing down at where we're connected. "You're creating a scene and some of our passengers are trying to sleep."
"Of course," Crawford answers, and he looks back at me. I just stare back, offering him a thin smirk. I don't care what the attendants say. They're in on this whole airplane conspiracy, so I don't like them. Perky bastards. Can you call a girl a bastard? I don't know. Either way, I don't like them. I'm not going anywhere until this is settled, and this will be settled when he lets go and I retreat back to our seats to rip Nagi's fuzzy body in two or three pieces.
"Let go," I tell him.
He ducks forward, closing the few inches of space between our faces to plant a kiss to my mouth. I jerk back away from him so fast that I hit my head on the wall. I clamp both hands to the back of my head, swearing loudly and viciously at anyone and everything within hearing distance, and Crawford calmly steps back and shuts the bathroom door to muffle the sounds from the rest of the passengers. I can hear his voice calmly apologizing to the attendants and other passengers when I have to pause for a breath and I give the door a dirty look.
Finally I shove the door back open. Crawford neatly steps to one side, but the look on his face is chiding. I offer him a rude gesture in response and storm down the aisle towards our seats. Scattered murmurs follow me as I go and I tune them all out, plunking down heavily in my seat.
"Problem?" Farfarello asks without looking up from his crossword puzzles.
"Just wondering if suicide or homicide is the better option."
Farfarello lifts one shoulder in a shrug and turns the page. "There are still eleven hours left."
"I hate both of you," I decide.
In the end I survive to Tokyo only because another passenger offers me some sleeping pills. A couple years on the street will teach you never to take medicine from strangers, most especially the pills you get for free, but I figure that there's not much the woman can do to me on a plane. So I take them from her and let Crawford offer her a thanks on my behalf, and I swallow them dry to spend the next nine hours unconscious.
It's afternoon in Japan when we land, bright as hell and twice as crowded. I'm the first of the three of us to get off the plane, shoving my way carelessly down the aisle until I'm far away from both the plane and those two idiots, but I don't make it much further than the terminal. The airport is a twisting, turning maze of human bodies, business suits, and squiggly lines, and the signs seem to either be in Japanese or English, neither of which I can speak. Standing there in the midst of an impatient crowd, I feel for a moment that I'm back on the streets: lost, ignored, and with no place to go.
I turn in a slow circle, watching the people that sweep by me and staring at the signs that scream unintelligible things back at me. Arrows on airport signs point out directions to important places, but it means nothing to me. All I can do is stare at the English and try and find words that look like German.
What am I doing here?
Suddenly I'm not so sure it was a good idea to walk away from my so-called teammates. A flicker of red in my peripheral vision has me spinning, looking for Farfarello, but it's just some girl's scarf. Almost everyone around me is Asian- well, Japanese, I guess. Voices chatter by me in languages I can't understand and I'm being crushed by it. White faces walk by but they're speaking French, something I recognize the sound of but never learned. Some black men in business suits are off to one side but they're not speaking German, either.
I plant my hands against my ears, staring through the crowd as I try and block out the noise around me, but it's not doing me any good. The signs taunt me and for a moment I'm back in that cell in Munich, staring up at an empty spider web. My chest feels tight from holding my breath but I can't seem to make myself let go, can't draw in another one. Lost lost lost and hey mom, why won't you look at me, why can't you bear to look-
A hand presses up against my back and I jerk around to see Crawford has materialized out of the crowd. Nagi smiles out at me where he's tucked into the pocket of Crawford's jacket and the so-called precog reaches up and carefully takes hold of my wrists to pull my hands down from my ears.
"It'll be loud for a while," he tells me. "You'll adjust to it."
"Shut up." I can't erase the taste of salt from my tongue.
"You're going the wrong way," Crawford says, and points up at a sign. Red flickers again to my side and this time it is Farfarello, weaving through the crowd towards us. I drag my eyes away from him and follow Crawford's arm up, tracing the path of his finger to one of the many sets of arrows. "See? You're going further into the airport. We want to get out."
"I can't read any of this chicken scratch," I tell him.
"It isn't chicken scratch, it's Japanese."
"You say potato, I say potato."
"It's not pronounced potato," Crawford points out.
"I liked it better when you weren't here."
He glides right by that and starts off. "Our ride is waiting."
Farfarello and I have no choice but to follow him through the crowd. It takes us a while to finally get to the outer edge of the airport and we take some stairs down into an underground train station. I just stare at the nonsensical maps on the wall while Crawford and Farfarello battle the ticket machine. An announcer is talking overhead but it means nothing to me, and I follow the other two through the wicket after they hand me a ticket. Another set of stairs brings us to a platform just as a train's doors are sliding open, and I end up latching onto Farfarello's shirt as the train practically pukes people out on top of us. I'm reminded of my internal organs sailing through the air to sandbag kids and it makes this a little better.
It's better until we board the train and I'm crushed up against the far doors by people. Crawford and Farfarello sort of corner me between the poles of the neighboring row of seats and the doors, and Farfarello's hand is planted against the wall by my head to keep himself in place while people pack in behind him and Crawford like happy sardines. It makes me wonder where the whole sardines association came from. I guess they really come in cans like that? I've never eaten them. They're probably dead just from suicide over the crowding, because I can already feel my ribs being crushed.
Farfarello doesn't seem to be enjoying this, either, judging by the tense set to his shoulders, but Crawford's main focus is on keeping Nagi safely in his pocket. I don't think he even knows we're on a train anymore, and I envy that sort of oblivion.
It's just a few seconds more until the doors close and the train pulls away, and the crowd fluxes better and worse with each stop. At last the doors open on my side and Crawford steps past me out into another train station. I can feel my bones resetting themselves as I hurry off the train after him, and even when I lose him behind a patch of people, I follow his jingling to keep up. Farfarello shadows me effortlessly through the crowd and at last we're out into open air.
It's not really much better than the subway, but it's got a view. I stare up at the giant buildings that tower over around us in a sort of confused awe, watching the way the sky and sun are mirrored in the endless rows of dark glass. Crosswalks tweet at us from one corner and talk on another, and music blares from a street band a block down. The streets are crawling with cars but the sidewalks are busier. Flashing billboards advertise lotions and other unrecognizable bottles and the walls of the building closest to us are plastered with posters.
Someone shoves me from behind to remind me that I've stopped right in front of a subway exit; I hear angry nonsense thrown my way and I wriggle my way through the crowd towards Crawford and Farfarello. They're relatively easy to find, Crawford with his height and Farfarello with that frayed mess of red hair. Farfarello looks about as unhappy with the city as I am fascinated, and Crawford is double checking directions with his plush.
"It's huge," I tell Farfarello.
"Yes," he says, sounding rather morose. "It is."
"Our ride is here," Crawford says suddenly, stepping away from the building. A car has pulled up to the curb and Crawford leads us towards it. He climbs into the passenger seat, leaving me and Farfarello to take the back. The inside smells of strange things but it's clean, and our driver is wearing white gloves on the hands that rest on the steering wheel. The driver rattles something at Crawford and Crawford, to my surprise, rattles right back. I pull my gaze away from the window to study the back of his seat. I start to wonder if he's just saying nonsense, but he and the driver keep up the conversation for a few minutes more. At last the driver smiles, bows his head, and pulls the car away from the curb.
"Buckles," Crawford reminds us.
I look over at Farfarello, who's eyeing Crawford with a distant look on his face. I don't really like that calculating expression, but it fades away when he notices I'm looking at him. He shrugs, so I shrug, and we buckle up and decide to ask questions later. For now we sit in silence, trusting the driver to get us wherever he's taking us. Crawford seems to know what's going on, and as terrifying as it is that that maniac is the only one with the inside scoop, I'll keep my mouth shut for a little bit longer.
The patience pays off. The train station we got off at was more towards the edge of the city and the car helps take us further out. Skyscrapers give way to smaller buildings with the occasional massive structure, and then we're dropped off on the curb in front of a smallish house. Crawford pays the driver and it heads off again, leaving us in Somewhere, Japan. Crawford turns away from the street, pulling Nagi from his pocket to hold it out towards the house.
"It looks just like it did on the internet," he announces. "You were right. It was a good choice."
I don't think he's talking to me, but it's about time for me to say something, anyway. "Where the hell are we?"
"This is where we're going to be staying," Crawford says, tucking Nagi under his chin and studying the fence that surrounds the house. "They rent out rooms to foreigners here and it's not as cramped or expensive as apartments further in. It'll do nicely."
"You speak Japanese," Farfarello says, and it almost sounds like an accusation.
Crawford offers him a smile. For a moment it looks nothing like the creepy manic expression he turns on me. For a moment it's something much colder, something tight and almost angry. He can't hold onto the look for long, however; it vanishes off his face as he starts laughing. "Let's go inside," he says, starting towards the walkway leading up to the front door. "Moriyama knows we're coming today."
Farfarello takes a quick step towards him, reaching out to grab hold of his arm. "You speak Japanese," Farfarello says again, flatter now.
"When in Rome, speak Roman," Crawford returns.
"Ancient Romans didn't speak Roman. They spoke Latin," Farfarello tells him.
"You say potato," Crawford says brightly, and he looks back at me for my nonexistent approval.
"Kurafoudosaaaaaan," comes a gleeful cry of jiggly nonsense, and we're all distracted as a girl comes pelting down the sidewalk. Farfarello lets go of Crawford just in time for the taller man to be pounced upon, and Crawford holds Nagi above his head out of reach. She lets go of Crawford after a moment and starts shaking a finger at his face, half-pouting and half-scolding as she rattles something off. Crawford answers back and she sighs heavily, raking her fingers through her hair and looking over at us.
We're introduced- I think. She bows to us and says something to Crawford again. Crawford hands over Nagi and the girl practically crushes the toy against her. Then she's waving farewell and taking off down the sidewalk, backpack flapping against her back as she and the plush run off.
Farfarello and I look from her disappearing form to Crawford, but he shrugs and heads inside without another word.
The "potato" exchange doesn't really work in written form. In case people don't understand, here...
When said out loud, their conversation sounds like this:
"You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to."
"It's not pronounced po-tah-to."
"You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to." is another phrase that means the same thing. It's just a play on dialects and whatnot, and basically translates to "Whatever, no matter what you and I say and how we say it, we both mean the same thing."
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