“Whoa, whoa! Settle down kid, settle down! Take a deep breath and tell me what’s wrong…” It took Jerome several minutes to finally tell Seth what had happened, the young man fumbling over his words and occasionally cursing in frustration. It worried Seth to hear him so upset, so flustered over whatever had happened, feeling culpable due to blowing him off the evening prior.
“Shit Seth…I…I stole someone’s fluffy!”
“At the park…near the Highschool…I found her. She was alone, and asking about her owner and I don’t know…I just grabbed her…Jesus Seth, what am I gonna do?” Seth was stunned. He knew that Jerome was finding the hobby, but hadn’t imagined that he’d fall into it this hard. And to steal off with someone else’s fluffy was not only illegal, but also a surefire way to be outed as a juvenile abuser. Depending on how much the owner cared for the damn thing, they could press charges against Jerome, and Seth wouldn’t let that happen. Not if he could help it. “Okay kid, I need you to remain calm and answer a few questions for me…”
“Seth what am I gonna do?!”
“Listen to me Jerome! You are going to be okay, but you have to do exactly what I say! Now, when did you grab her?” There was a brief silence as the boy tried to manage his breathing before responding. “It was around 8:00 I guess, a few hours ago…”
“Good…that’s good kid…” Taking her at night would minimize the chance that he’d been seen taking the fluffy. “Was there anyone else around? Anyone who you saw…or that might have seen you?”
“No…it was quiet, and I don’t remember seeing anyone else…”
Seth was loathe to ask it but he was concerned, and needed to know. “Is…is she still alive?” There was a long pause before Jerome finally set his mind at ease. “Yeah, she’s still around…I haven’t done anything to her yet…”
“What are her colors like? And was she clean or dirty?”
“Why the hell does that matter?”
“Just answer me kid…Good colors? Poor colors? Clean and well taken care of? Dirty, like she’d been outside for a while?”
“Go…good colors…White coat, almost a cream color, with a silvery mane and tail…And kinda dirty. Like some dirt and brambles in her fur…” Seth nodded as the boy described the mare to him, processing what it could mean. “Okay…good colors probably means expensive…unless she has a bad temperament. Dirty means she’s been outside at least a few days. How has she acted around you? Scared?”
“That’s the thing Seth…She…She’s acting weird, like she ain’t afraid or something…”
“Is she being nice to you? Acting like you might be her new owner?”
“No…She seems kinda…I don’t know…spoiled I guess…”
That could be a snag, thought Seth, not wanting to worry his young friend prematurely. “Spoiled how? Be very specific…”
“It’s damn weird Seth…It’s why I called you in the first place. She keeps saying shit like she’s gonna tell on me and that her owner is gonna be mad…I thought fluffies were always scared man!”
“Not always kid…Probably means that she’s lived a sheltered life.” Seth knew that while most fluffies were easily cowed, some that were raised with little to no rules could become exceptionally spoiled. Pampering was dangerous for a fluffy, as it could easily lead to errant behavior and even acting out. Not that it bothered Seth, as he preferred his fluffies with a little personality, although he dragged it out of them using a far different method. “Okay kid, last question. Are you somewhere safe? Can you keep her where you are till tomorrow night?”
“I’m in my grandad’s garage…I…I didn’t think this through. No, he’ll find her if I leave her here…”
“Just stay put. I’m heading out right now. If you have any tape or something similar, I’d appreciate it if you gagged her before we try and move her.”
“…Thank you Seth…I appreciate it, man…”
“It’s gonna be fine…Just try and chill until I get there.” Ending the call, Seth rubbed his face, flustered at the young man’s lack of impulse control. He looks up to me, and I’m no better, thought Seth, recalling his own recent mistakes. Unlike Jerome, Seth hadn’t had someone guide him when he had found fluffies, and while he had a great deal of fun in those first few months, he had made numerous mistakes. Being too rough far too early, which led to a slew of fluffies that died days after he had bought them. Excessive gaslighting, to the point where they broke mentally, making them nearly useless for torture.
And not to mention overestimating their survivability when it came to everyday living. He had opted for a saferoom long ago, when Seth had cared for Starburst and Ash. But he had never imagined just how much a fluffy needed protection from itself. Making the mistake of purchasing normal feeding dishes, Seth had awoken to a crying mare and a pair of drowned foals. He’d studied since then, not to mentioning honing and practicing his hobby to the point of being a near expert. And if that expertise could help Jerome find his way faster than he had, then all the better.
It was a short drive to Jerome’s house, as he lived only a fifteen minute walk from Seth’s apartment. Once nearby, Seth killed his headlights and pulled forward, parking a few houses away from Jerome’s. Stepping out, he made his way to the garage, pet carrier in hand. Walking to the side entrance, Seth pulled out his phone and sent Jerome a quick message, waiting anxiously a few minutes before his young friend unlocked and opened the door.
“Seth, thank you for…”
Holding up his hand, Seth calmly gestured for Jerome to be quiet, making his way inside, heading towards the sound of muffled screams. While probably not loud enough to carry past the garage itself, Seth was impressed at the sheer volume, surprised that a fluffy could be so loud, even whilst gagged. Peering towards the workbench, Seth saw the bloated mare, silently cursing to himself, her hooves feebly trying to grab the electrical tape that held her maw shut. Walking over, Seth placed the carrier beside her, the white and silver unicorn struggling as her eyes widened at the sight of it. Placing his hand firmly on her back, Seth leaned in close, his mouth inches from her ear. “Stop wiggling so much…It’s bad for your babies…”
Reeling back slightly, the unicorn started to tear up, her hooves now gently rubbing her swollen belly. No longer resisting, Seth pushed her headfirst into the carrier, only a few muffled pleas coming from the mare. Closing it, Seth then beckoned Jerome to follow him, making his way back to the car. Placing the carrier in the back, Seth got in, followed by Jerome sitting in the passenger side. Driving off, Seth waited until the house was in the rearview mirror before finally speaking. “I know this goes without saying…but in the future, don’t steal off with a fluffy until you know it doesn’t have an owner.”
“I know kid. And for what it’s worth, it’s on me too for canceling on you yesterday. Didn’t mean to let you down.” There was more Seth wanted to say. That he’d only abandoned the boy because he didn’t want Jerome to know how upset he was about losing his fluffies. That he liked having someone look up to him, and was scared he might lose the young man’s confidence. But Seth didn’t want to unload his feelings onto the kid, not here, not now.
Once they arrived at his apartment, carrier in hand, Seth stopped Jerome at his front door. “So…if you’re coming inside, then there are some ground rules kid. First rule is do not mess with any fluffies inside unless I give you the go ahead. I haven’t had them for long and I’m taking things slower with them. No yelling or screaming at them either, even if I do. If I tell you to leave the room, you leave the room, no questions asked. Think you can handle all that?” Even as Seth listed his requirements to Jerome, he could see how excited the kid was to finally see inside his apartment, to possibly even see how Seth handled his fluffies, the boy nodding emphatically as Seth spoke.
“Sure Seth…whatever you say man…”
He couldn’t be upset with the kid for being excited. For as long as Jerome had known that Seth was an abuser, the boy had been fascinated with seeing where Seth kept his fluffies…or possibly even seeing Seth actually torture one. Opening the door, Seth made his way to the kitchen, placing the carrier on the floor for the time being, the unicorn within pawing at the grated door, trying in vain to speak. Looking to Jerome, Seth slowly opened the kitchen drawer, a series of sudden peeps and chirps coming from within.
“*chirp…*chirp…da’deh! …*chirp…*chirp…kiz’mit hun’gy…*chirp…*chirp…nee’ miwkies…*chirp…*chirp…pwe’!..”
“Holy shit! Seth is that…”
Motioning for Jerome to be silent, Seth pulled out the warming cushion, revealing the blue foal that had survived the dunk a foal game a week ago. Now bigger and his eyes opened, the blue earthie colt’s black mane had begun to form. His cheeks wet with tears, Kismet sat awkwardly on his rump, his tiny nubs wiggling in the air.
“*chirp…*chirp…miwkies! …*chirp…*chirp…miwkies fo’ kiz’mit! …*chirp…*chirp…”
Leaning over, Seth smiled at the hungry foal, reaching in his pocket to pull out an old white die, placing it in front of the peeping colt. Apon seeing the small toy, Kismet small eyes widened, focused on the plastic cube as though it were dangerous, his peeps becoming faster as he curled up and began to shake, a small puddle of urine now soaking into the paper towel atop the cushion. While Seth left Kismet to panic, he took a small bottle with several black notches and spooned a bit of the cheap formula within, running the tap as he waited for the water to warm. Perplexed, Jerome looked to the die, then to the scared colt.
“Why is he so scared of a fucking die?”
Mixing the bottle, Seth spoke, his voice low. “Not so loud, kid…and you’ll see…” Now finished, Seth placed it right next to the cushion, the slight noise of it rapping against the countertop causing Kismet to wince, peeping loudly as he covered his face with his nubs. “Are you a hungry baby Kismet? Do you want some milkies?” Clearly still distressed, the foal chirped sullenly at the mention of food.
“*chirp…*chirp…nu wike bwok’ee! …*chirp…*chirp…bwok’ee meanie! …*chirp…*chirp…”
“Well you know the rules Kismet. If my lucky foal wants to eat, then he has to roll the blocky…” It amazed Jerome that even mentioning the die caused the foal’s fit to escalate, with Kismet peeping wildly as he tried to run away from it, his feeble nubs tripping underneath his weight. Tumbling off the cushion, Kismet shrieked as he hit the counter, peeping from the shock of the fall. Too frightened to flee again, the colt hunkered down against the back of the cushion, desperate to hide from the cruel plastic block.
Seth only waited, keeping his eyes on the anxious foal until Kismet’s hunger slowly outweighed his fear. Cautiously, the colt leaned out, eyeing the filled bottle. Peeping nervously, the colt hid for a few minutes, his nubs rubbing his belly longingly before finally wobbling his way back towards Seth.
“*chirp…*chirp…ba’beh hab miwkies? …*chirp…*chirp…”
Picking the die up, Seth placed it in front of Kismet, the colt wincing away from it but too tired and hungry to flee. "Roll it…or you get nothing Kismet…"Looking defeated as he stared towards the countertop, the colt grasped the die between his nubs, hefting it upward. Holding it awkwardly, Kismet gave one last pleading look up to Seth, hoping that his daddy might change his mind. Taking the bottle in hand, Seth held it over the sink, letting a small bit of the formula within empty into the drain. His eyes widening as he saw the precious milk slowly being wasted, Kismet began to panic, tears falling down his face as he closed his eyes and threw the die, turning away as he heard it clack against the counter.
Peering towards the die, Jerome could see that the colt had rolled a five, the boy eager to know what it meant, and why Kismet feared it so. Seth simply shook his head slowly as he grabbed the colt by his scruff, pushing his face close enough to see the pips. “Tsk, tsk…too bad Kismet…”
“*screeeeeee!!! …*chirp…*chirp…nuuuuuuu!!! …*chirp…*chirp…bwok’ee mean!!! bwok’ee mean!!! …*chirp…*chirp…”
While still far too young to count, the foal had learned over the past week that the more black dots the block was showing, the worse it was going to be for him. “A five? That’s rough Kismet…” Opening his junk drawer, Seth pulled out a small spool, taking a sewing needle out from the thread and holding it close to the peeping fluff.“… You really have to try and do better little guy.”
Enraptured with how terrified Kismet looked, Jerome seemed to be getting the picture now. It was the needle that the foal was truly frightened of, with the die only being the prelude to whatever torture Seth had in mind. As his mentor moved Kismet so that the colt was facing the sink, Seth once again held the bottle over the drain. “You know the rules Kismet…what’s it going to be? Hurties or milkies?” Squeaking and shaking his head, the small foal tried to wrench himself away from Seth’s grasp, his eyes on the small needle between Seth’s fingers. “No answer? Okay then…”
Seth squeezed the bottle, emptying it contents into the sink, careful to only force out formula until the bottle showed that one black notch was now gone, with the bottle still five notches full. As Kismet saw the only nourishment he could ever remember swirl down the drain, his fear of the needle quickly faded in lieu of his fear of starvation.
“I’ll ask again…hurties or milkies…” Placing the bottle down, Seth once again showed Kismet the needle, holding it directly in front of the colt’s face. Glancing at it nervously, the colt shifted between longingly gazing at the nearby bottle, and back to the sharp piece of metal before him.
“*chirp…chirp…nu wike huw’tees…*chirp…*chirp…kiz’mit jus’ wan miwkies…*chirp…*chirp…ma’be miwkies…buh nu huw’tees…*chirp…*chirp…pwe’?”
Sighing aloud, Seth simply took the bottle and let more of the yellowish fluid drain into the sink, despite the foal’s protests as Kismet waddled towards Seth’s arm, trying to reach out with his nubs to stop him.
“nuuuuuuu!!! …*chirp…*chirp…nee’ miwkies!!! …*chirp…*chirp…nu gu way’ miwkies!!! …*chirp…*chirp…”
“I already told you Kismet…It’s not up to me, and it’s not up to the bottle…it’s up to you. You rolled and now you have to choose…” Once the bottle had gone down another notch, Seth placed it on the counter next to Kismet, the foal wrapping his nubs around the bottle as he began to sob, his small tongue licking at the translucent plastic in a vain attempt to somehow feed. “So…hurties or milkies?”
Jerome watched in awe, noting how Seth seemed almost indifferent to the choice he had given Kismet. It had to be an act, as the young man was enjoying the unique form of torture immensely, and could only assume that Seth was simply trying to be imposing for the sake of further intimidating the tiny fluff. And Kismet’s expression as Seth emptied the bottle despite his crying was priceless. Still, no matter how hungry the colt seemingly was, it was clear that he didn’t want whatever Seth planned to do with that needle.
“*chirp…*chirp…nu huw’tees…pwe! *chirp…*chirp…miwkies!!!”
Hammering his point home, Seth lifted the small foal by his forming scruff, holding him inches away from the rubber nipple of the bottle as he emptied it once more, the small stream of formula so tantalizingly close that Kismet screeched aloud. Rocking against Seth’s fingers, the colt struggled to close the small gap and save the wasted milk, reaching out in vain. Now watching as his food circled the drain, the foal’s crying became anguished, sobbing as his nubs rose to his face, unable to fathom why the block had to be so unfair. Eyeing the bottle, drained down to half it’s original contents, Kismet finally relented.
“*huuu…huuu…huuu…*chirp…*chirp…miwkies!!!..*chirp…*chirp…ba’beh choo’ws miwkies!!! *huuu…huuu…huuu…”
Putting the bottle down, Seth took the needle in one hand, lifting Kismet’s miniscule tail with the other. While there was little in the way of fluff on it, once out of the way, Jerome could finally see why the colt had hesitated so much. Along his rear, there were clusters of puncture wounds, some having scarred over into pockmark like indentations, while some were fresh, reddish welts that looked rather painful. Pressing the needle against unmarred flesh, Seth held it firm, the colt screeching as he flailed against his owner’s hand.
“*screeeeeee!!! *chirp…*chirp…nu huw’tees!!! *chirp…*chirp…ba’beh fo’ wuv!”
“You already chose Kismet…” Forcing the needle in slowly, Jerome held his hand over his mouth as he watched the foal panic and tremor under Seth’s hand, the slow nature of the torture clearly too much to bear. Once firmly within Kismet’s haunches, Seth smiled as he quickly pulled it free, prompting fresh agony for the poor foal.
“*screeeeeee! *chirp…*chirp…wai bwok’ee nu wike kiz’mit…*huuu…huuu…huuu…”
His nubs falling to his wounded rear, Kismet had been reduced to a peeping mass, shivering as he wept, a small rivulet of blood trailing from his latest wound. Placing the needle down, Seth lifted the foal, the peeping fluff going limp in his hands as he took the bottle and held the nipple to his maw, allowing him to latch at last. Desperate for nourishment as well as some semblance of succor, Kismet fed, draining away the formula as fast as his tiny frame would allow. Once the bottle had been drained another notch however, Seth pulled the sullen foal away, quickly met with screeching protests as the pained, still hungry foal flailed in a tantrum.
“*screeeeeee!!! miwkies!!! *chirp…*chirp…ba’beh nee’ miwkies!!!”
“You know the rules Kismet…That’s all you get for one hurty…” Placing both the hurt colt and bottle back down, Seth held the needle so that Kismet could see it once again. “Hurties or milkies?”
Jerome had known that seeing what Seth considered fun would be enlightening, but watching as he forced Kismet to choose between feeding and not being tortured, the young man could feel the vast gap in their experience. It amused him that the foal, still famished but the pain of the needle fresh in his mind, refused the needle again, only to be surprised yet again that Seth wasted more of his precious food. Now desperate as he eyed the near empty bottle, Kismet relented, screaming as Seth punctured him again with the needle before allowing the traumatized colt to drain the remains of the formula. Finished, Kismet held his nubs against his bleeding rear, staring up to his owner as he sobbed.
“*huuu…huuu…huuu…*chirp… … …*chirp… … …ba’beh stiww hun’gy…*huuu…huuu…huuu…*chirp… … … *chirp … … …”
“Well next time you should roll better then…” Taking Kismet, Seth replaced the water in his cushion, as well as covering it with a fresh paper towel before placing it in the drawer, the mewling foal’s pleas cut off as he shut it. Taking a moment to clean both the needle and bottle, Seth then put them up, gesturing towards Jerome. “Sorry for the wait…was going to feed the little guy when you called me…” Shaken from his stupor, Jerome suddenly realized that he was being spoken to.
“…Th…that was something else man…Do you do that everytime with him?”
“I do. If he wants formula, I make him roll this die I keep in my pocket…” Seth held the item in question for his young friend to see up close. “…Nothing special about it, came from an old copy of Monopoly I think. When he rolls, he has to choose, either he loses that much milk, or he gets the needle…”
“It’s crazy though. I swear he seemed more afraid of the die than the needle itself.”
“You noticed that huh? With fluffies, their idea of negativity and things that they dislike is really unique…” Putting the die back in his pocket, Seth motioned for Jerome to follow him, placing the carrier in the boy’s hands. “…I told Kismet that he has to roll the die to eat, and that the die is making the decisions, not me…So in his head, the die is the cause of his pain, not so much the needle. And by saying things like do better when he rolls poorly, it instills the idea that he can somehow effect how well he rolls, and that he is also to blame when things go wrong.”
“But…but it’s just a piece of plastic…”
“Not to him. To him, it’s the source of his emotional anguish, and fluffies sometimes personify things that they have an emotional resonance with, good or bad. Take a stuffed bear for example. You and I know it’s not real, but a fluffy might treat it as it would another fluffy, hugging and talking to it as though it were real. It’s the same principal…”
“Did you know that would happen?”
Now at the threshold of the hobby-room, Seth stopped. “Not really. I knew that he would start to associate the die with torture, but fluffies aren’t as uniform as you might think. I’d even go as far to say that each one is almost as unique as we are…Now, I need to move one of my foals before we have the room to ourselves and can figure out how to proceed with her…” Seth pointed towards the carrier, the mare having gone quiet save for the occasional muted sob ever since Kismet had started screaming. "…You wait right here, okay? Nodding, Jerome held the carrier and made his way to the end of the hallway, not wanting to interfere with whatever Seth needed to do.
Walking in and quickly closing the door behind him, Seth glanced over to his workbench, smiling as he saw the red pillowfoal squirming within his cramped bed. “Hey there, Frostbite…”