Dusk Pt. 1 [By MuffinMantis]

Sunset (Prequel)

Dusk had been one of the lucky ones. When the great dying had happened, he’d been outside with his mummah on a walk. Hard to consider himself lucky, hard to stop seeing her writhing and drowning in her own blood over and over in his dreams, but he had been lucky. Hearing the cries of the fluffies locked in houses, the increasingly desperate pleas for salvation before starvation took them, that’d made him realized he’d been so, so lucky.

He’d been smart, leaving the town he’d been in as soon as possible. Before the chaos settling in fully. Before the animals had realized they were on their own. Nothing in the town now but ghosts, skeletons, and memories. Memories of better days that he resented now, resented for how much more bitter if made his current life.

Sometimes, he wish he’d stayed. Wished he’d just died with the rest. Maybe he’d be with mummah now, if he’d only died. Maybe he wouldn’t see her pleading face whenever he closed his eyes. Maybe he’d be at peace now.

He was startled from his musing by a sharp kick, and grunted in pain. A tuffy was glaring at him, and he realized he’d stopped digging for the potatoes under the tilled soil. That wasn’t good, and he dropped, cowering to try to minimize the brutal beating he was sure to get.

“Smawty! Dummeh poopie fwuffy nu am wowkin’!”

Oh no. He’d called the smarty. That sadistic bitch wouldn’t leave him with just a beating. His left eye, blind now for a long time, twinged at the thought, and he shivered. He couldn’t lose the other one! He couldn’t be plunged into darkness forever. Couldn’t be alone with that pleading face!

“Pwease, nu caww smawty. Dusk wiww wowk hawdew! Nu wiww gu sweepies, wiww jus’ wowk if nu caww smawty!” he begged.

“Dummeh poopie fwuffy tink am bettah den tuffy? Tink deswebe namesies wen tuffy nu hab?”

Dusk would have defecated in terror if he hadn’t been starving. He’d messed up, he’d messed up so bad! He hadn’t thought and had used his name! This wouldn’t just be losing an eye, it would be worse, so much worse. The memory of what had happened to Willow came unbidden.

He didn’t regret what he’d done to her, even if it’d cost him his eye. Not after hearing the cries, seeing her pressed into the dirt, more and more pieces going missing. Not after trying to ignore her sobbing for all those nights. No, what he’d done was the right thing. But he knew no-one would give him that much mercy.

“Pwease. Wiww du anyfing. Jus’ nu maek nummie-fwuff!”

“Wut dummeh poopie fwuff duin’?”

Dusk gave up. No way out. He was dead. It was only a matter of time. He knew he wouldn’t last long, none of them did. Tears suffused the fluff around his remaining eye. Dusk wiww see 'ou soon, mummah.

“Dummeh tink am bettew den hewd. Tink habs namesies! Nu wowk!”

“Taek dummeh tu nest.”

Dusk stayed limp. No use fighting. He waited for the huge tuffy’s teeth to clamp around his leg, waited to be dragged through the dirt. But nothing happened. Wut am happenin’? He opened his eye.

Something horrible was standing there. A munstah! Dangling from its horrible, insect-like mandibles was the smarty, and the tuffy lay pinned to the ground through the head by one of its pointed legs. Blood dripped as the munstah gnawed on the smarty. Dusk tried to make a dash for it, but something grabbed him by his tail.

“Pwease, munstah! Nu huwt! Dusk am gud fwuffy! Nu am nummies!”

The munstah only looked at him with its horrible, all-to-fluffylike eyes. It seemed to sigh, and spat out the remains of the smarty. "Ian! it called out. “Got a patch that isn’t dug up yet. Got the smarty and tuffy too.”

“Finally!” called back another voice. “I was beginning to worry we wouldn’t be able to find any.” As the voice came closer Dusk realized it was a human. But that couldn’t be! All the humans had gone forever-sleepies!

“I hope this is worth the time, Ian.”

“It will be. If we can teach some fluffies to farm we can avoid having to waste time hunting to restock. And you can’t tell me you wouldn’t be happy to not have to be killing fluffies, even if they are smarties.”

“I’m still doubtful about teaching fluffies to farm, Ian. It seems a bit advanced for us…them.”

“I think you don’t give them enough credit. They’ve never farmed because ferals don’t have anyone to teach them and domestics never needed it. Once they understand the benefits they’ll learn.”

“I think that’ll only work if we aggressively purge smarties, which defeats the whole purpose. Those fucker’s’ll dig up the whole garden for the seeds if they get hungry.”

Sunset, if I have to keep eating only greasy fluffy meat for much longer I’m going to snap, okay? I know you don’t have the urge to vary your diet, but I do.”

“Fair enough. What’ll we do with this one?”

“Hmm…” the human leaned down and addressed the frozen Dusk. “Hello, little guy. Looks like you’ve had a rough time.”

Dusk gave up staying quiet and hoping they’d forget about him. “Pwease, nice mistuh! Dusk nu wan die! Nu am nummies! Wiww be gud fwuffy! Wiww wowk! Pwease nu huwties ow fowebah-sweepies!”

“Well, I guess we can take him with us. He seems pretty bright, and I’d feel bad leaving him alone after killing his herd.”

“Herd, my ass. I checked their nest. Believe me, they’re either glad to be dead or were doing…things. I may be a cannibal but at least I kill them first.”

“Right. Well, what do you think? Want to come with us?”

“Nice mistuh be nyu daddeh fow Dusk?”

“Sure, why not?”

“Yay! Wub daddeh! Tank 'ou!”

“Fine, but if he shits on me on the way back I’ll skin him.”

Dusk trembled and silently thanked his lucky stars he’d been starving. The threat had sounded entirely genuine, and being held by the munstah filled him with terror. He wasn’t sure if things were looking better for him or much, much worse.

Sunset set down her cargo and curled up with a luxuriant sigh. Her rugged chitin-like exterior made practically any surface comfortable to sleep on, a far cry from her days as a fluffy. The smooth concrete of the floor was clean, and that was all she really cared about.

They’d traveled to this compound first, since it had the equipment they needed for getting everything started. It wouldn’t be wise to rush, and the other labs would remain hermetically sealed until they needed them. Best to set up a base of operations somewhere with a decent food supply first, somewhere far from the dead zones.

The base had only two beds, and Sunset hadn’t bothered taking one. Whoever had designed the base had been told it was for two people, clearly, not one human and one mutant fluffy. She didn’t really like sleeping in the bed, since it shared a room with Ian’s and she hated hearing him cry at night. She knew she was being cold, but the changes that had been made to her had left her emotionally dampened.

What a waste of time. They had more important things to do than try for a more expansive diet. Ian would be fine, his body was almost as well-adapted for survival as hers. True, eating only fluffies wasn’t the most enjoyable thing, but surely their work was more important. Oh well, she had to make concessions here and there. They were a team, after all.

Dusk had stayed put where she’d set him down. Surprising, since she’d expected him to run as soon his legs touched the ground. Interesting, maybe he wasn’t as useless as she’d expected. It’d take a while for Ian to get back, since even laden with half her body weight in gathered foods she still covered ground shockingly fast. Might as well learn more about their guest.

“So, your name was Dusk?”

“Dusk am Dusk,” he confirmed.

“What were you doing in that smarty’s herd? It didn’t seem like you were fitting in very well.”

“Smawty taek speciaw-fwiend, sae woud num if Dusk nu wowk. Nu gib nummies, su Dusk nu stwong 'nuff tu wun. Den num speciaw-fwiend anyway.”

Well, that was a minefield she hadn’t intended to walk into. So much for small talk. Time for some more informative questions. “Did they num her all at once or…keep her like the other ones?”

“Num weggies, den wingies, den heawin-pwaces, den seein’-pwaces. Den Dusk gib fowebah-sweepies. Smawty nu wike, taek Dusk’s seein’-pwace. Sae wan nummie-fwuffies tu be fwesh.”

Yikes. Okay, enough of that conversation. Maybe she could build some common ground, make the little fluffy less terrified of her. “I used to be a fluffy too, you know.”

“Munstah am fwuffy?”

“Not really. Not since before the…what did fluffies call it again…big dyin’?”

“Wut happen tu munstah den?”

“Call me Sunset. Munstah was my mother.” Sunset would have smirked if her current face allowed it.

“Dusk nu undastan’.”

“Don’t worry about it. Anyway, my mother turned me into this, so I’d be able to…look, it’s a bit complicated for a fluffy to understand. Basically I was made like this so I could bring humans back.”

“Bwing hoomins baek? Can mun-Sunset bwing baek Dusk’s mummah?”

“Not like that, more like making new humans.”

“Oh,” he sounded disappointed.

“So you lost your mummah too?” Sunset asked the question despite knowing the answer.

Dusk nodded affirmative, crying from his remaining eye. Sunset felt sympathetic. She still missed her mother, even after everything. Talking with Dusk reminded her of talking with her mother, just that she was on the other side of the conversation this time.

“Don’t worry, little guy. We’ll take good care of you.”

“Am Sunset nyu mummah fow Dusk?”

She twitched her tail, bemused. She’d kept that behavior from before her transformation, which had caused a couple of problems before she curtailed it. True, it was the only way she could really show emotion now, with her new face, but having a sharp-barbed tail lashing around uncontrolled was dangerous.

She considered answering, but just then Ian came in, breathing heavily. “You know, it wouldn’t hurt to slow down a bit. Aren’t we supposed to keep an eye on one another?”

“Then stop being slow. Not my fault you’re so out of shape.”

Ian grunted, not gracing the jab with a response. He looked around, and saw Dusk standing among the bags of food. “Oh, you’re still here. I half expected you to run or for Sunset to eat you.”

Dusk squeaked at the last part, and tried to hide behind the bags. “Thanks, Ian. After I’d just managed to get him to settle down. I’m not going to eat you, Dusk

Dusk peaked around the bags cautiously. “Munstah mummah nu num?”

Ian burst into laughter. “Well, how about it, munstah mummah? You going to num Dusk?”

“Fuck off.” Sunset said without venom. Truth be told, it was nice to see Ian laugh again after so long.

Dusk writhed, biting down hard on the rubber bar in his mouth, breathing ragged. It hurt so much!

“Sorry, Dusk, but if that eye goes untreated much longer it’ll be bad. Just hold on a little longer.”

Nu wan buwnie-wawa in seein’-pwace! Nu wan owwies!

He clamped down until his jaw ached, holding back shrieks of pain as scraps of his ruined eye were pulled out, and antiseptic was applied to the wound. He struggled not to writhe, struggled to be a good fluffy. Daddeh wouldn’t hurt him for no reason! He was good!

“There, all done.”

Dusk spat out the rubber bar that’d been keeping him from biting his own tongue, and rolled around wailing as the pain slowly subsided. He was surprised when daddeh picked him up and began gently stroking his fluff.

Tension fled from his body. It’d been so long since he’d felt a kind touch. Not since Willow had died. He’d forgotten how wonderful it was, after weeks of getting nothing but kicks and the occasional bite.

“Tank 'ou, daddeh. Dusk am wuckiest fwuffy in da wowd.”

Part Two