The first was Tobi. Well, maybe it was Tobias, as at the time the small child's body was called Tobi, and his carefree innocence was beaten out of him, and Tobi fell asleep and Tobias took his place. Where Tobias aged, Tobi remained young. Maybe they were both the original, just shattered into pieces.
Where Tobi was soft and fragile like a flower bud, Tobias was the thorns. He was angry. The composure was just a lid on it.
Gretel came out while Tobias was in the closet, punished for something or other. His memory had many blank spots. This time, there were termites and they crawled on his skin and he gave up calling for help and I can’t be here, there aren’t bugs on my skin, I’ll wake up anytime now—
The body relaxed as Gretel slipped in, confused. There were termites.
She loved insects. She cooed at them and was sad to see the closet fumigated.
Tobias washed his skin violently to get the termites off of him. Every time in the closet, or every time he was about to be punished by Father, Gretel would come in and bear it. She hated having a boy’s body, because The Man (Tobias’ father, her brain supplied) was nicer to the girls, and can’t he see I’m a girl.
Gretel loved the closet. It was safe. No one had hands on her in the closet. Sometimes bugs would come out to play.
She loved bugs so much. Sometimes she’d sneak when Tobias was outside and play with the insects. Tobias stabbed bunnies and squirrels sometimes but look at how the caterpillar moves; I love it so much!
Sometimes she’d imagine the Man’s hands and body weren’t a Man at all, but insects, and she didn’t mind the beatings and harsh words and… the ‘cleansing’ as much. Maybe he was laying eggs and she’d be the mother of thousands of spiders! The thought excited her.
No spiderlings came.
It was a strangely nice day. Tobi was out (the original? No one knew which Tobias was the first one) and things were fine until the demon eater came.
They didn’t know It existed. The Angel. It was menacing, with six arms and eight wings and a mask and a halo of white fire and a flowing robe and long fiery hair. But It was too late, Edburt had already gotten his hands on Tobias and there was blood and for once, Gretel didn’t come out when punishment came.
The Angel took control for weeks, daring Edburt to come forward. Edburt didn’t. It was an Angel, after all, and part of Tobias’ fractured mind or not It was still Holy in essence. It was a constant battle afterwards, with Tobias (and his body) in a constant fight of custody between Holy and Unholy forces. Until the stress and the internal arguments (between Tobias and Gretel, and Tobias and The Angel, because Gretel and Tobi had no idea The Angel existed) caused another split.
Mario. Short for Marionette. Mario said he had no feelings, and that he was practically a husk of a person. Well, a doll. Mario, like The Angel, wasn’t human. But he wasn’t Holy, or Unholy, or much of anything at all.
Gretel never waited for baby spiders to crawl out of her. As far as she was aware, the Man had stopped.
As far as Mario was aware, it had just begun.
They weren’t stupid, Tobias was reading and he saw the name of his problem. Their problem. Still, they kept it on the down low.
Tobi slept on.
It was Mario who was in control when Mattias said it.
“You’re not Tobias. Or Tobi.”
“…How did you know?” he asked, hollow. There was no point to secrets. He had no desires, he had nothing to lose. He was a rag doll whose only purpose was to be used and discarded. Mistreated. Unfree, now and forever.
“You’re different. Are there more?”
“Will you tell me about them?”
The Angel took over and the body stood straight and the eyes were menacing. “Back off, Young Boy.”
Mattias never asked again, but he’d already noticed. Tobias and Gretel had panicked so hard and The Angel had to look after them, and Tobi was asleep, and Mario was stuck in front and center for a month and a half.
Well, Edburt invaded without The Angel to bare Its teeth at him. Mario couldn’t bring himself to care. And he didn’t mind when Edburt claimed him and Tobias as his, his, his.
Well, then Gretel fazed in and froze at the sight of Edburt and The Angel threatened the demon eater.
In the closet, Gretel shut down. It wasn’t fun anymore. There were no insects, only the sludge from the Bad Man The Angel Says To Avoid, and cross-shaped injuries that burned and ached.
Apparently they tried to kill themselves by bashing in their heads. They fought within themselves again, and everyone said I didn’t do it!
Tobi woke up tiredly with bruises around his neck.
“What… happened?” he rasped out, scared. “Where’s Mattias and Mama?”
I don’t know, baby. I don’t want us to feel this pain anymore.
“Who— Who are you?” Tobi trembled. He thought it was only him and Tobias all this time, having slept through it all.
I am Nothing, my dear. I just know I need to end this. Now, go to sleep.
Tobi cried instead until he wore himself out and Nothingness took his place.
The Angel was angry. Suicide is a sin!
When will your Lord save us, Angel? Why can’t I spare these poor innocents from further harm?
Mattias held Nothingness until she stopped trying to choke herself, and rubbed her back, and she spilled everything.
“I don’t know why they have to suffer.”
“Who?” Mattias yawned, tired, but tried to focus on the Not-Tobias.
“The kids. The Angel. Me.”
“I don’t know. What’s your name?”
“I don’t have one,” she responded. “I don’t need one. I just need to free us from our suffering.” Mattias hummed while his eyes drooped. “Oh, young one, do you need sleep?”
“It’s… a condition.”
“Okay, but at least lay down, love.”
Somehow, the next time Nothingness faced the opportunity to “liberate” her family, Mattias crossed her mind. So she settled for offering the body reprieve through pain.
Edburt promised Nothingness freedom, so she let him, and he hurt them all so much, and she was trying to down drain cleaner when she blacked out.
Matt put down the bottle, washed his face, and fell asleep.
Nothingness loved Matt. She wanted to free them all more than ever, but he would lull her while he tried to stay awake (just like the young one she wanted safe more than anything) and told her death would be so much more painful.
She didn’t try to embrace Death again.
Tobias was going to school now. He panicked, agoraphobic, and Gretel took his place. She followed the orange-haired boy around without knowing his name, and someone shoved him, and she cried out no, stop, you’re hurting him and she was shoved and Nothingness screamed.
Nothingness calmed down Gretel as the girl tried to function.
“Are you okay?” Gretel and the boy asked in unison.
“Yes, I’m okay.”
“That’s good. I’m… Tobias,” she said. He looked at her weird.
Oh. Oh no.
“I, um, sorry, my memory is a little weak… what’s your name?”
“Oh, nice to meet you then!” He looked confused and awkward, and she returned the look because I don’t know who was out before and I don’t know how to act.
Gretel liked school. She told Tobias that she wasn’t scared, because they were just like bugs. Well, except for Rudy. He was human, but not a bad one like the Man, but like… well, just a nice one.
Tobias took her advice said he’d try to see them all as little rodents the next day. He gutted a cat while he spoke, and Gretel had to look away and retreat.
The Angel and Nothingness were arguing amongst themselves, body painfully still, when a boy (Rudy, Angel, his name's Rudy, Nothingness supplied) cried and pulled up his sleeves. Nothingness felt with him and moved forwards gently while The Angel stormed.
It’s a sin!
So help him, Angel!
“Hey,” Nothingness said, gentle. Rudy was startled and dropped the phone that he had called his mother with. “Come on, put the blade down. I know you’re in pain, but…” She gingerly wrapped her arms around his tense shoulders. “It only helps for a little. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up. Do you want me to stay with you?”
Yes, Nothingness tried to force herself to say. But Mattias knew and he was gentle and nice, and Rudy seemed like him in that he was also nice and gentle, so she shook her head.
The Angel yelled at her. She paid it no mind.
“Here, I think I have some first aid stuff in my bag.” Rudy looked at her weird. She paid it no mind and wrapped the wounds like Mattias or Matt would and patted his arm and helped him up. They walked over to where Rudy lived, and Rudy hugged them and Nothingness melted into his arms, and then Gretel did. “Take care, okay Rudy?”
Shit, shit, shit.
Tobias woke up in the closet. He mumbled to himself. How long had it been?
Some boy confronted him.
“You’re more than one person, aren’t you?”
After the play and Edburt’s unfortunate entrance, Tobias went dormant, drowning in endless shame.
He came back to the stressed redhead. Rudy. Who was dressed like a homosexual. And himself, who was in a suit. And Rudy was yelling.
“You confuse me, Tobias! What do you want from me! Sex, money? What is it? It’s like you want to be friends, and then you’re not, and you pretend you don’t know me or that you don’t remember entire days we’ve spent together, and it’s like you’re completely different people! I can’t take it anymore! No wonder your dad doesn’t love you.”
And Tobi was wailing, and Tobias slapped Rudy.
As the anger swelled more and more, he spoke with a mouth that wasn’t him. Yet it was.
“I am several people, dumbass! I didn’t want to be enemies since you were so nice to us, but I knew good things never happen to us. If we can’t be friends? We’ll be enemies, and you are not going to make it out to here until I punish you!”
Mattias pinned them down, and Rudy ran, and Gretel phased in and cried and cried and cried.
“…Rudy…” she sobbed. Mattias looked at her cautiously.
“Nothingness?” he asked (having learned her name throughout the years), and she shook her head.
“G-Gretel. I don’t know why Tobias did that. Why did Tobias do that?” Mattias’ eyes drooped as he alleviated his hold on Gretel and hugged her tight.
“I don’t know, Miss Gretel.”
“Mister? I want to die.”
“Hey, don’t… don’t say that. I’d miss you so much if you did.”
She just cried harder at that. Mattias dozed off for a little, and then Nothingness took over and carried him home when he woke up groggy and disoriented.
Nothingness had to keep Gretel from killing the body that night.