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The Despair Before Christmas

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   He watched from his tower, as he always did, looking down on the townspeople as they went about their annual celebration of Halloween. The witches cackled, the ghosts moaned, the monsters emerged from the shadows and everything was just how it was last year. He watched Kirigiri and Togami monitor the proceedings, not participating unless they had to – due to Togami’s second face being broken and Kirigiri’s general apathy to it all.

   He resolved to sneak into the town square when the traditional song was over, and hopefully feel more of a part of the celebration than he had the year before; back when he only had the left hemisphere of his brain. Well, now the right hemisphere was growing in nicely, thanks to Ondo’s serum, didn’t need a wheelchair anymore and felt more confident in his interpersonal interactions.

   Although, that wasn’t just due to having an almost completed brain, but two friends; Chihiro and Mondo. They talked to him when no one else did – except Ondo, of course – but they talked of grass under their feet and fresh air, when Ondo only focussed him on his studies.

   He was just a ‘who’, as Ondo explained, so no one had to know he was there; except for Togami and Kirigiri, as they were the town’s government in a way, and they periodically came to watch Ondo poke around in his brain and torso. He was an experiment, an improvement, perfection in the making; and it was a boring life, shut in a tower.

   It wasn’t as if he didn’t love Ondo. He really did! He gave him life, and a name, and books to read, meals to cook, and clothes to mend. However, he had to resort to drastic measures to even think about stepping foot outside. Speaking of which…

   He hopped off the windowsill – his brief appearance as the ‘shadow in the tower’, as Ondo put it, over – and eased open the door, checking to see if Ondo was still around before he tip-toed down the stairs and out the door of his “brother’s” laboratory. He was probably still sleeping soundly from the deadly night shade he’d slipped in his tea, just before the celebration began.

   He stuck to the shadows, making sure no one saw him as he watched the star of the show – Mondo, the King of Halloween.

   Mondo performed just as he had the year before. Not that it wasn’t well executed, but it was something he’d done before; brought in on a straw horse, wearing a jack-o-lantern on his head and a ragged suit stuffed with straw, then set alight to the gasps and awe of the crowd. The king jumped into the slimy, algae-ified fountain, extinguishing the flames before he rose unharmed from the water, clad in a pristine black suit and his visible bones shining in the moonlight.

   Mondo, due to being nothing but a skeleton, was very thin. However, on one boring evening a few months ago, Mondo had allowed him to examine his bones, and he’d concluded that when those bones had been covered in flesh, he’d been a muscular, heavy-set man. It was interesting to see the muscle markers indenting Mondo’s bones, to see what flesh could have made him look like.

   He’d been thinking of Mondo for quite some time, and knew his feelings for him were strong; however, the right hemisphere was the more emotional side of the brain, which he’d been without for all of his existence. He didn’t know how to process the newly broadening emotions, or how to categorise them beyond ‘happy’ and ‘sad’; unfortunately, his studies didn’t include deciphering emotions.

   Cheers erupted from the crowd as Mondo took a bow, ending the ceremony. He smiled like he had the year before, also, and he didn’t know why but… Mondo’s smile seemed off then, too. Not that he was very informed of that sort of thing.

   “Great Halloween everyone,” Togami sighed, not an ounce of feeling in the words. He must have meant them, however, as Kirigiri rolled her single eye and scribbled something in her notebook; and she avoided rolling her eye in case it fell out, reserving only for when Togami was blatantly hiding his real feelings on matters. That was what Ondo told him.

   “I think that was our most horrifyin’ yet!” Mondo enthused, attempting to make up for the mayor’s lack of visible enthusiasm, “Thank ya, everyone!”

   “No, thanks to you, Mondo,” Togami drawled, “Without your brilliant leadership.”

   “Not at all, mayor!” He laughed. Mondo had such a nice laugh, and it always made his chest feel warm. He wanted to hear that laugh always, every day.

   That was when all of Mondo’s admirers stepped forward to offer their praise and adoration, encroaching on the king’s personal space as they closed in on him. It made him feel… bad. He didn’t know why, couldn’t articulate it, and he couldn’t even ask Ondo.

   He let out a small yelp as he was suddenly yanked backwards and around the corner, a familiar hand clamping over his mouth.

   “The deadly night shade you slipped me wore off, Taka,” Ondo growled, shoving him away and watching as he stumbled to the ground, his coordination still a little lacking, “You are supposed to be studying!”

   He was. He was meant to study every day, for as long as Ondo wanted him to.

   “Please, Ondo,” He begged, “I really wanted to watch the celebration closer, just a little break! I’ll study hard tomorrow and –”

   “No tomorrows, Taka,” Ondo snapped, “You’re meant to be perfect. How do you expect to be perfect if you won’t study and work for it? You’re coming with me!”

   Ondo grabbed his arm, forcing him to his feet and attempting to drag him away. He didn’t want to go back yet, however…

   “No I’m not!” He snapped, popping the stitching on his arm and running away, the limb still in Ondo’s grasp.

   “Come back here!” The scientist snapped, but Taka was too busy running towards the cemetery; where he always went when he was upset.