“Pwease! Wet fwuffy into nestie! Nu wan cowdie-huwties an’ fowebah-sweepies!”
“Nu! Dummeh poopie fwuffy nu smeww pwetty! Nu wan nestie tu nu smeww pwetty! Poopie fwuffy gu 'way!”
“Fwuffy am sowwy! Nu wan smeww yicky! Pwease, wiww twy smeww pwetty! Nu wan die!”
This earned the desperate fluffy a painful pummeling from the herd that was the closest thing to a family he’d ever known. Dejected, he lay there until he could feel his legs again, then stood and trudged away, wincing at the mocking words the herd threw at him as he left. He had to find some place warm, and had to find it quickly, before night fell and the sudden chill in the air from the cold front grew deadly. He had to find some place safe to sleep, to rest.
But he had no energy, a short life of being fed only waste or pitiful scraps left its mark on him, and his frail body could barely move even without the cold seeping insidiously into his limbs, taking away strength and replacing sensation with aching pain. Soon, his walk turned into a limp, then into a crawl. Finally, he began dragging himself along, slowly and painfully through the freezing dirt.
Wai hewd nu wub fwuffy? Onwy wan wub! Onwy wan wibe! was his last thought before he fell into unconsciousness.
Beginning Phase 0
Warmth. Somehow, although he knew it’d only been a few weeks since he’d last been warm, it seemed like forever ago. He tried to open his eyes, but the exhaustion was too great, so he lay there, enjoying the respite from the cold. Maybe he was dying, maybe this was skettiland. But no, he wouldn’t be so hungry if he was dead. Curiosity almost overwhelmed his fatigue for a moment, but soon he fell asleep once again.
His eyes snapped open, and he tried to roll to the side. His life in the herd had taught him that the only reason another fluffy would talk to him would be to make sure he was awake before they kicked him. However, he only managed to teeter his body slightly. He flinched and braced for the inevitable.
“Am fwuffy otay?”
His vision finally focused, and he realized the fluffy wasn’t part of the herd. He was relieved, but a secret part of him that’d hoped the herd would relent, would come and save him, died. He tried to talk, but only managed a pained croak. He hadn’t realized how thirsty he was.
“Fwuffy nee’ wawa?”
He twitched his head, hoping the strange mare would be able to interpret it as a nod. She returned a nod, and walked off, leaving him even more confused than ever. What was going on? What was a poopie fluffy like him, born to be kicked around and worse, doing here in the warmth of a nest?
Confusion, and indeed thought in general, ceased when the mare gently set down a dirty paper bowl of water, spilling most of the liquid in the process. He greedily slurped the water until the bowl was empty, expecting each moment to have it taken away and replaced with violence. Only then did he finally manage to speak.
“Whewe am fwuffy?”
“Fwuffy nu nyo. Waek up in nestie, see fwuffy hab sickies.”
So she was just as confused as him. Well, he’d take some kind of mystery over freezing to death any day. He began to feel a little better as the worst of the dehydration began to fade, and struggled to his hooves, blinking rapidly to clear the spots that formed in his vision as he did so. Right now, there was something much more important than finding out where he was.
“Fwuffy gu fin’ nummies.”
He stepped outside the nest, expecting coldness, but was greeted with bright sun and steady warmth. Had he been asleep for the entire cold-times? No, that couldn’t be it. The smells around him were strange, and he didn’t recognize where he was. Had he really died?
He put aside the thought as unproductive and began to wander around between the trees, making sure to remember the way back. Soon, he realized he was in a park, and his shaking began to be less from weakness and more from fear. Humans didn’t like when feral fluffies stayed in parks, and would happily kill or maim fluffies they caught. He crouched low to the ground, trying to escape the park without being noticed.
“Hey!” came a voice, a human voice. He yelped in terror and tried to bolt, but only ended up falling forward, slamming his chin into the ground and biting his tongue painfully.
“Woah there. Are you okay?”
Each new experience in this strange place confused him further. He knew that humans would sometimes care about fluffies or help them when they were hurt or sick, but that only applied to pretty fluffies. Ugly poopie fluffies like him only got kicks or beatings. He looked around, wondering if the human was talking to another fluffy.
“You’re so thin!” the lady said, sounding upset. He began to panic. What was he supposed to do about that? It wasn’t as if he wanted to be starving! It wasn’t fair! He was going to die because of something he couldn’t even control!
“Come here,” the lady said, scooping him up before he could run. He winced as he saw the filth rubbing off his body onto her clothing. There was no reason why she would do this, would get his dirt all over her, unless she wanted to take him somewhere and do…whatever it was humans did to fluffies they captured. All he knew was that sometimes the fluffies would be found dead…if they were lucky.
He knew better than to struggle, though. Either she would take him and kill him in a horrific way, or he’d struggle and she’d break his legs then do it anyway. Better to keep his legs intact as long as possible. It wouldn’t matter, but it let him hold onto a tiny hope that he could escape.
So he simply hung limply under one of her arms, trembling, as she carried him away. He kept his eyes clenched tightly closed, pretending that if he couldn’t see whatever awful implement she chose to use on him it wouldn’t be really real. He didn’t dare hope for a merciful fate. Mercy was for pretty fluffies, fluffies with worth, fluffies that were something other than a filthy piece of living trash.
“Here,” the lady said, setting him down on his hooves. He toppled over immediately, mostly from weakness and partly to show the lady that he wouldn’t try to run away. He opened his eyes when he noticed a smell. Sketties?
Of course, he understood what that meant. Sometimes there would be sketties set out for feral fluffies, and those that ate it died, sometimes quickly and sometimes in prolonged agony. It seemed a strange way to kill a fluffy she’d already captured, though. Still, it was a choice between possibly quick death by poison and definitely slow death by torture, so he gulped down the sketties, bracing himself.
Nothing happened. Mustering the courage to look around, he realized he was alone in a fenced-off yard. Where had the nice(?) lady gone? Maybe she’d gone to fetch something to hurt him with. Maybe the sketties were to make him lower his guard, make him feel betrayed when she tormented him. It seemed like an elaborate ploy, and somewhat pointless, but humans were mysterious.
Oh well, it wasn’t like there was anything he could do anyway. With a full belly for the first time in God knows how long, he felt so sleepy again. Might as well die rested. He closed his eyes, and in an instant he was asleep.
He woke up in the park again. Maybe the lady had only been a dream, something he’d dreamed up to escape the gnawing pangs of hunger. But…he could still taste the sketties, just barely, and he didn’t feel hungry. He rolled to his hooves, feeling something brushing against him as he did. He glanced around, realizing there was a little paper bowl of sketties on the ground beside him.
He considered eating it, but he didn’t feel hungry, and besides, he did owe something to the mare that’d given him water. He picked up the bowl, conviction wavering as the smell wafted into his nostrils, but carried it back through the park until he reached the nest.
He prepared mentally before entering the nest. If the mare was in the nest, there was a fair chance that an animal had found her. He’d learned that lesson long ago, when he’d been a little ‘splorin’ babbeh and had wandered away from his mummah and siblings, only to return to a bloodbath. After that the herd had found him, and his life had fallen apart.
The mare was still there, sleeping on the far side of the nest from the entrance, where the leaves and moss were piled up thickest. She twitched in her sleep, murmuring “Sketties?” under her breath, but continued to doze. She seemed as tired as he was, so he let her sleep, curling up into a ball as far as he could manage and beginning to doze once more as his body attempted to undo months of starvation and sleep deprivation.
The mare was murmuring a song to her tummeh-babbehs when he returned to the nest again, carrying most of a still-fresh apple. Over time, his spotty coat had become shiny and whole, his beleaguered muscles had grown strong, and his fearful mind had grown calmer. Here in paradise, there was no need to be hungry, weak, or afraid.
It had taken him a long time to adjust to living in this strange place. It was a city, like the one he’d lived in before, but at the same time completely different. He had yet to encounter any dogs, cats, or other dangerous animals. The humans were also strange, seeming to either ignore him entirely or offer him help if he asked. This place was wonderful, and there was not a moment when he wasn’t thankful that he’d ended up here.
Setting down the apple, he curled up with his special-friend in the nest and just lay there, thinking of how lucky he was.
Beginning Phase 1
Something was wrong, but no matter how much he thought about it he couldn’t place what it was. It wasn’t something he could put into words, and most of the time he wasn’t even sure if it was really happening. Somehow, the colors, although just as bright as before, seemed less vibrant. The warmth of the nest seemed just a little bit colder. The wonderful fresh food was just a little bit less satisfying.
He was still so, so happy, of course. Each day was a blessing, each moment a gift in paradise. He loved his special-friend and unborn babbehs with the same burning passion that he’d hated his old herd. Everything was perfect.
So why did the feeling of wrongness never go away?
Beginning Phase 2
“Daddeh gon’ catchu!”
He chased the foals around the nest, careful to never quite catch them, but always close. Each joyful peep or giggle was like a wave of warmth through him. He was so happy he could almost cry. This was what he’d been missing his whole life. A family and love.
Eventually the babbehs grew tired, and he gathered them up, hugging them to himself. Joy danced in his heart, but…it didn’t quite feel like joy. It felt like a memory of joy: illusory, somehow unreal, painfully fleeting no matter how he struggled to hold onto it. He shouldn’t feel that way, he hated himself for feeling that way, but the feeling remained.
Tears began to bead in his eyes as the fleeting feeling of joy fled, leaving him hollow once again.
Beginning Phase 3
“Wook babbehs! Daddeh am awake!”
His eyes opened, and in that instant he wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep. But he stayed awake while his special-friend let the babbehs tell him about their day, about how they’d played outside, about how much fun it’d been. He stayed awake while his special-friend told them how much he loved them, then told them to go outside and find nummies. He stayed awake as she hugged him, sobbing gently, asking again and again why he never responded.
But he could do nothing.
Beginning Phase 4
“Speciaw-fwiend,” his special-friend said, tears in her eyes. “Fwuffy am sowwy, bu’ nu can fin’ nummies fow speciaw-fwiend. Twy gib time fow speciaw-fwiend tu feew bettew, bu’ babbehs am big fwuffies nao, nu am ‘nuff nummies. Nee’ speciaw-fwiend to fin’ nummies fow sewf.”
He blinked, slowly, the effort of keeping his eyes open, of not slipping back into sleep’s embrace, almost too much to bear. The warmth of her embrace was there, but it only reached the skin, leaving his heart cold, empty. He struggled to speak, to tell her to just leave him, that she didn’t need him anymore, but he couldn’t find the willpower.
“Fwuffy am sowwy. Nyo am bad speciaw-fwiend. Nyo heawt-huwties am fwuffy’s fauwt.”
He suddenly surged to his feet, a wordless scream of rage, directed at himself, filling the nest with echoes. He stoked the fire that suddenly burned in his heart, held onto the rage and the pain with desperation, feeling alive, feeling something other than the emptiness for the first time in so long. Reaching down, he grabbed a twig, snapping it and leaving a sharp point. He braced himself for a moment, preparing to drive it into his own leg, to wake himself from the stupor he’d been so long unable to escape.
Then the rage flickered out like a candle in a gale, and he fell to the floor, eyes staring blankly. The last remnant of the anger that’d built over so long with the herd, that’d burned suppressed for so long in paradise, was gone.
It left behind nothing but emptiness.
Beginning Phase 5
He had no idea how long had passed. Thoughts seemed to elude him, slipping away if he tried too hard to hold onto them. He knew, at least on a logical level, that days were passing by the way his family would come into the nest to sleep, but he couldn’t grasp time. The same few thoughts looped over and over through his mind, forgotten the instant they were finished, then returning again.
He heard one of his babbehs, now nearly an adult, complaining again, asking why they had to give up food for him. Why they had to clean up after him, when he’d never done anything for them. Why his special-friend kept him here when it caused her nothing but pain.
He agreed. Now, he looked back on the days of misery with the herd with a strange fondness. Good memories flickered out as soon as he tried to recall them, empty and meaningless with no emotion attached to them. But pain and suffering? That was different, that he could hold onto. And for all the agony reliving those horrible days brought him, he was as glad for it as he could be.
He’d rather feel anything other than the emptiness.
Process complete. Returning to baseline. Beginning final phase.
He awoke in the middle of the night with a shriek of abject horror, terror boiling in his veins, heart racing, eyes unfocused and wild. His legs, atrophied from his time lying unmoving, buckled under him as he tried to stand. His family woke with wails of terror and confusion.
“Speciaw-fwiend?” his special-friend asked, confused and frightened. But he saw something else in her eyes. “Am speciaw-fwiend otay? Pwease, nu gu sweepies! Pwease tawk, speciaw-fwiend!”
His babbehs just grumbled, one spitting on him, turning away to try to go back to sleep. They made angry, half-strangled noises as their mummah dragged them over to hug their daddeh. But their begrudging hugs, long-devoid of love, felt more wonderful to him than anything in the world. Finally, after so many eternities, the warmth was more than skin deep.
He clung to his family as best he could with his frail limbs, sobbing uncontrollably. Through the night he wept, until day came once again, but he still wouldn’t let go. Even at their insistence that they needed to find food, he held tight. “Nu gu! Nu gu! NUUUUU GUUUUU!” he wailed over and over, although whether to them or to the sensation flooding his heart he couldn’t tell. He clung to both, expecting each moment for the emptiness to return and take it all away from him once again.
Recovery was slow, strength slow to return to his body. Slower, though, as the return to love in his babbehs, the pain he’d unwillingly caused them filling them with hostility towards him. He knew the way he acted didn’t help, but somehow he felt that he needed to be the father they’d been denied growing up. Through all their insistence that they were grown now, he still couldn’t treat them as anything but his babbehs.
There were new babbehs on the way, something he looked forward to with both anticipation and apprehension. When his now-grown babbehs went to go make families of their own, how would he and his special-friend care for the new foals? What if he didn’t recover in time, and they didn’t have enough nummies for the cold-times? Such worries plagued him, but they were nothing compared to the secret terror he dared not speak of, or even think of for too long.
It would be nice to say that he had a new view of life, that he treated every moment as the precious gift they are. Perhaps that he showed more love and affection, never took anything for granted. Sadly, that would be a lie. Every sensation, every moment of joy was poisoned by the terror that the emptiness might return. Underlying every happy thought he could still hear the echoes of loss.
Experiment complete. Awaiting review.
“Pwease! Wet fwuffy into nestie! Nu wan cowdie-huwties an’ fowebah-sweepies!”
dog… That was fucking sick to read… Great job man
Man, that existential dread.
Holy crap. That was really something else.
Good shit, bro!
This was a mind fuck cause I missed lunch and was fighting to stay wake and kept nodding off periodically.
I enjoyed this, although I was a little confused on some parts. I believe that was the impression I was supposed to get, however. Some parts were intentionally vague, I think.
Good story, I enjoy your writing style