Summary: What if the Once-ler suffered a similar psychosis as Fuminori? A crossover between The Lorax and Saya no Uta; a one-shot psychological/slasher horror fic.
Characters: Once-ler and Family, The Lorax
Warning(s): Abuse (explicitly emotional and financial), gory imagery, violence, cannibalism
Disclaimer: Goes without saying, but I take no credit for the original works of which this has been derived: The Lorax by Theo Seuss Geisel et al; Saya no Uta by Urobuchi Gen et al.
Griselda was detained that afternoon, so it was Once-ler’s job to oversee his brother’s truffula quota that day. He loomed behind to the blithe and careless swinging of the axe; it was an older tree with a particularly dense bounty. THWACK.
“Which one is this?”
THWACK. Brett grunted, “I dunno.”
Once-ler found himself wanting to cover his face, “It can’t be that hard to count!”
THWACK. “Whatever; it’s the tufts that matter don’t it?”
Once-ler thought that his brother was paying at least enough attention to know where his own boss stood. He wasn’t. So when he approached, trying to reiterate his hollow promise to The Lorax, to remind himself more than anything of it—CRACK.
Just like that, he saw stars and total blackness.
“Which way does a tree fall?”
The furry meatloaf’s words echoed in Once-ler's head, as if to chide him for the little “industrial accident”. In retrospect, he was sure he heard the bumbling sibling curse too, as if actually worried; before the thneeds he knew Brett wouldn’t be nearly as concerned.
All his family could do was take the fallen member into the RV, attend to his wound and wait. There could only be rudimentary care.
Even if one of them was responsible for the injury, Once-ler’s brothers simply expressed boredom as production was halted. His aunt was somewhere between bored and frustrated. His uncle was always the sycophantic parrot to his mother and yet was probably the most consistently worried. While he was in the deeper state of unconsciousness, Once-ler’s mother was antsy and typically callous, “Oh, Once-y. If you meant anything to me, you would wake up right this instant.”
He was unresponsive for nearly two days, though it felt like moments. Once-ler didn’t appreciate The Lorax’s own botched attempt at dissuading him either, twice was more than enough. But when he did wake up, he couldn’t see and he shook with fear quite unlike that episode. Occasionally his family would visit him during that short period of blindness, but he was left alone for much of his recovery.
When his vision returned after a few more days, he was appalled by what he saw. It took him hours to realize it was really his quarters, not someplace completely nightmarishly alien. The interior of his room looked like a butcher went mad and decorated the interior of his quarters with gore. Once-ler noticed there was a disconnect, what looked visceral and bloody was betrayed by his other senses. His bed felt like a bed but looked as if he was lying under matted guts. It made his skin crawl and he had to throw off his covers.
The sight of his mattress provided no relief, either. The same gory theme followed his eyes everywhere except his own body. He looked out the window, the sky was black and the trees looked like sickly fleshy facsimiles of the familiar truffula. He remembered wanting to do anything to remove their eyesore. He was almost grateful that he had no visitors from the wood, his imagination clinging to friendlier sights.
He should have appreciated the familiar smell of butterfly milk and sounds of humming fish more, because the other senses eventually matched what his eyes had been telling him. The sounds that the fauna used to make become abominable and the trees cast a fetid odor with the breeze. Food and drink similarly affected, earning revulsion.
That wasn’t going to last, as it was nearly a week after coming to when someone visited him. “Something” was more apt in Once-ler’s eyes. It greeted him with unintelligible noises, belches and growls, carrying something in its writhing tentacles. It sounded enthusiastic. Once-ler panicked as this was the first time he had seen such a monster, he shot up and clumsily armed himself with a knife.
The creature seemed to squeal with fear, dropping the object it was carrying and flailed those appendages. He felt green and thoughtlessly lashed out, “GET OUT.”
The creature pleaded, while Once-ler tried to process what just happened, squinting at what was dropped. He squinted at it, cocking his head as the creature stood frozen. He realized it was a thneed, oddly enough his invention wasn’t quite as marred in appearance as everything else was. He looked up at the monster, clutching their wounded tentacle and it dawned on him. “Mom?”
Just because Once-ler realized as much, it wasn’t enough for him approach the slimy, filthy creature in front of him. Instead he stepped back and dropped the knife, “I-I’m sorry…”
He didn’t really know how much he meant that. She whimpered, her voice barely intelligible to him, “Once-y, you really scared Momma just now. But I’ll forgive you and pretend this didn’t happen, if you just pick up business by the bootstraps.”
He looked down at the wriggling carpet, “O-okay. Just… warn me next time y-anyone wants to come inside.”
Favoring her wound, she gurgled, “So be it.”
Once-ler’s mother slithered out and he felt he had to take a moment to breathe.
Life never truly returned to normal, with realization that his senses’ distortion never relented. He held himself up in his quarters as often as he could, distancing his family as much as possible as he oversaw their production values. The tufts, when removed from the fallen gross obstructions to the sky, regained their beauty since before the accident.
The guilt he felt for waging such destruction on the forest life was withering, however. This was especially apparent when he had the misfortune to see the fauna again after such a long time of distance. It looked terrifyingly feral with far too many teeth. It hissed almost threateningly at him as it backed away warily. Once-ler thoughtlessly brandished a nearby mallet and loomed over the monster. It only hissed once more before he pounded it into vibrantly colored slurry, screaming.
Part of him knew that there was no real threat. Part of him knew that what he had just committed was unconscionable, but the paints that poured from it made the ground pretty again. He so wanted to see, taste, and smell pleasant things again.
As he was biggering, the forest looked far more palatable to him. The noxious byproducts of the factory only made things easier to look at. Business was booming- it bought him the joy of a mostly vacant palatial headquarters. He had to commission and watch over its construction, to make sure it appeared “normal”. If he could see the contractor’s disgust, he probably wouldn’t be fazed one bit. It was beautiful, he was happy that money could buy these things.
If he knew how garish the monument of madness was, painted the colors of slaughter, he might have been embarrassed. Paying the PR people kept others from thinking him anything more than eccentric. And when he was ever called out on the “environmental” repercussions, he had lawyers lined up to handle it. It all satisfyingly succeeded in keeping interactions with most people low, with as few in-person business exchanges as possible.
Yet it was his family that continued to bother him with demands for raises and superfluous benefits- often disregarding his request for privacy or sound criticism. It eventually became unbearable, their pressure. It was becoming empty and out of reach, the goal of earning their pride. Seeing them as complete monsters only made this more glaringly obvious. The way their slimy tentacles clutched at those hefty bonds, cash bills and contracts disgusted him.
As the trees were dwindling, it was clear they wanted to cut and run. At that point, he almost didn’t care, until The Lorax visited him again, in the twilight hours. The spirit was by far the most terrifying manifestations of his warped senses. More so than even the hapless bar-ba-loot he surely crushed early on in all the madness. It cringed as if it wanted to say more as it spoke to him solemnly, “You don’t look too hot, Beanpole.”
He was right; Once-ler’s appearance was declining even if he wore that gaudy green façade. The glasses barely hid the dark bags under his eyes, he looked like he lost weight, and his skin showed he hasn’t seen the sun for some time (a fact not helped by the smog outside). Once-ler, however only responded with agitation, “So? What are you going to do about it?”
“What happened to you? Crushing the promises you made… the blood on your hands? Is that going to be enough?”
Once-ler stood up and started on a tirade, using his presence to banish the demon from his sight, “Oh-hoh, I don’t think you understand! I’m doing this world a favor. It’s all on the level too- the people love what I do!”
As the Lorax stood outside the headquarters’ exit, they looked into the barren landscape, “What will you do when the last truffula tree falls?”
“Enjoy the peace and quiet, that’s what.” Once-ler was disgusted as he shoved the demon out and slammed the door.
Speaking of peace, Once-ler contemplated on at last removing more noise from his life. He should’ve thanked the demon for the inspiration, a plot forming in his mind. He never wore a wider grin as he took his hatchet up to his brothers’ quarters. If his business was going to end soon, why not?
He crept inside, their loud “snoring” muting his footfalls. He didn’t recognize which one he decided to bring down the blade upon, he didn’t care. It immediately screamed as more beautiful paint gushed forth. It smelled so sweet, like revenge should be, as he kept going. The monster soon stopped moving just as he turned to see the remaining sibling. It flailed defenseless as Once-ler laughed.
The paint sprayed all over his green suit, all over his face. The smell growing doubly intense as he crouched down in front of one of the bodies, curiously reaching into its wound and covering his hand in the vibrant juices. And then did he taste it, its flavor made him think of pancake syrup- the way it used to taste. The part of his mind that remained critical was shut down as he drooled and stared into the alien flesh at his foot. He couldn’t resist taking up a glistening lump into his hands and biting into it hungrily.
He could absolutely die for this delectable banquet before him; some portions were soft, sweet and sticky- reminiscent of his former favorite snack. Once-ler figured he’d save the remains as celebration when his checklist was completed. His next stop was a few rooms away, where his beloved aunt and uncle Ubb stayed. He wasted no time, merrily carrying with him the tool of murder.
Unlike his brothers’ room, theirs was locked. He had to laugh again, as the master of the property; he didn’t have to worry about that. His aunt was always so intimidating and large, even after the accident. Thankfully she was a deep sleeper, as even with the sound-proofed walls, the bloodcurdling screams his brothers made had to have leaked through.
Mere moments of Once-ler’s darting gaze, he saw the tinier relative was awakened and had been nervously bristling at his nephew. Ubb plainly saw the blood all over him and he was speechless. Once-ler hid the axe behind him in a fake gesture of friendliness, approaching him with his free hand shushing the fidgety creature. His own smile had too many teeth as he stared his next victim down, almost flattering him, “You look delicious.”
Before the uncle could open his maw, he was quickly dispatched. Its death rattle had finally stirred awake his aunt, she grumbled before gasping at the sight in front of her, “Are you mad!?”
“I don’t want to think so, sir!” he shouted hysterically as he drew the blade up into a high arc.
He swiftly cleaved her head in two before she could get another word out.
Once-ler left the bodies behind, drooling about the weeks’ worth of food he was collecting. The catharsis was building up to his very last enemy, whom he assigned the most grandiose and disgusting apartment in the property. As per her request, he let her design it at threat of disownment. After all the hurt she inflicted and her pressuring, he wondered why he hadn’t at least argued- it was HIS money.
It made him seethe under the mania that had completely overtaken him, she would pay. He wasn’t even tired when he barged into her room. She was wide awake, more than likely heard the screams, and was standing feet away from the entrance to her quarters. She visibly quavered, “O-Oncey, dear, could you please p-put that down? Can we talk about this?”
She appeared not so proud when her life is being threatened. Revolting slime poured forth from her foul skin and she instinctively favored the past injury that had long since healed. It was a mistake and he was scared. This time was different. He took a swing, but she managed to evade. Perhaps the others were so easy because they were just roused from sleep; she had the boon of time. She plead again, “Y-you would hurt your own Momma?”
Once-ler quickly had her cornered and she collapsed in submission. He cackled at her, “Seeing you has never been so… gratifying.”
He prodded her with the blunt side of the blade and she decided to spit her last bit of venom at him, “You never were and never will be my favorite son! In fact, now, you’re not even that… y-you’re a monster!”
“Momma, I’m hurt. Really. But, you aren’t so pretty yourself.” He smirked and he prepared to strike once more.
Once-ler was enjoying his meals for some while, completely ignorant of the rumors of his missing family coming to the surface. And he was at peace when the authorities finally came and realized just how broken and repulsive the CEO was. There was a public outcry against him for the gruesome serial murder that was written all over him, the best image management in the world couldn’t save him from the title “cannibal”.
The evidence so damning, his lawyers could not hope to deny his involvement; they were only able bargain the insanity plea. His assets dissolved. Everything crumbled at last. After the long process, he was restrained in a jacket and placed in one of the Thneedville sanatorium’s padded cells.
He missed the taste of marshmallows terribly.