“Part 2, Imposition”
“Wook bebbehs! Daddeh am wight! Scawy munstah housie doow nu am cwosed!”
He was only partially correct. The modified doggy-door hidden behind the woodpile was slightly ajar, though the swinging door portion on the interior was still chained shut from the inside. The foals saddled in the scruff of their misguided father gazed into the terrible crevice and voiced their concerns.
“Daddeh nu wike pwan! Nu wan gu in munstah housie!”
“Sissie am wight, am onwy wittow babbehs, nu can fin’ foodies in hooman housie!”
(cheep! cheep! cheep!)
Their father left them unheeded as he stopped before the doorway.
“Sowwy babbehs, daddeh am tu big fow get past doow, babbehs gu in nao and get foodies fow famiwy. Nao gu!”
The team of adolescent and younger kin were level with the tiny landing before the door, set into the wall about a foot off the ground. They did not want to enter, but it was either fall onto the concrete below, or amble towards the grinning portal. Their father’s impatient jumping further incentivized them.
Those of them that could do so turned tearfully to their father and challenged their uncertain fate.
“Babbehs take gud cawe of wittow cheepy babbehs an’ fin miwkies in housie, Mummah am stiww nu hewe su nee’ fin’ foodies! It nu am su bad babbehs! Wook in housie howe!”
No sooner had the three able foals looked into the edifice than their loving father shoved them into it from behind, eliciting a chorus of squeals, screams, and frenzied chirping. The fall was brutal, (you know, for a fluffy it was like a one-foot drop) and it was only seconds after the little fluffies hit the tiled floor that their chittering siblings bounced off their fuzzy landing pads.
Somewhere above a muffled voice reaffirmed their mission, and predicament.
“Huwwy babbehs! Chiwpy babbehs nee’ miwkies!”
Be biggest babbeh
Don’t even have a name yet
Get thrown into scary housie with your brother and sissy
And your newest family members
But you aren’t a daddeh, you are barely even a tawkie babbeh!
Your brother and sister look to you for guidance
Your little brother stares down the hallway, beady of tears gathering in his tiny eyes
Your little sister whimpers a plea as she tries to hide her face in the scruff of your neck
“Biggaw brover am onyw wittow fiwwy… Nu can du dis…”
Your little brother begins to sob
Your three chirpy-siblings follow suit, and their worried chattering from the fall rises in volume
You begin to hear noises
The ground rumbles just a bit as giant footsteps start to come closer
Your little heart begins to race as you look around for an escape
You see a scary hallway with even scarier noises coming from it
In the hallway is an open room with what looks like a small fluffpile in it
It’s so far away, and you would have to go towards the scary noises!
You look up to see the glow of day pouring in from the door you were pushed through
Safety is outside! Mummah and Daddeh were outside!
It’s too high up! There is no way you could climb up that high!
You look behind you and see big human-hoofsie covers of all kinds
You could hide behind them! There was room for sure!
You quickly scamper back towards the hoofsie covers and wriggle between them
Your little sister never leaves your side, you practically drag her between bits of cover
You bump into something soft
It’s a hoofsie-cover, but it’s soft like fluff and dosen’t have walls on the back!
You scramble onto it and drag your sister up with you
Before you take shelter in the warm fuzzy hidey-hole, you freeze for a moment
Your little brother isn’t here
The chirpy-babbehs aren’t here
It’s just you and your sister
And you’re out of time
“No dad, I swear I can hear fluffies downstairs.” Growled a groggy and agitated Twilight from within a ball of blankets, “In the back, like, near the garage.”
“What?” He responded incredulously, “That’s where you put them. Where the fuck else would they be?”
“No, I mean I can hear one and I don’t remember its voice. It’s new.”
“Maybe the foals are starting to talk. You want me to carry you over there sweetiebug?”
She scowled again, for entirely different reasons this time.
“Nooooooowuh dad, just keep going. I need to check up on my experiment.”
He smiled as the blankets unfurled and landed her cleanly on her hooves.
“That’s my little scientist. You take as much time as you need, and don’t forget to take notes!”
She blushed indignantly as he ruffled her already messy bedhead and kissed her on the nose.
“Love you bunches see you soon!”
It took a few moments more for Twilight to collect herself as Matthew finished descending the carpeted stairs and disappeared towards the kitchen. She closed her eyes to think as her ears twitched at the noise. “Who was that?” was the question at the forefront of her mind. She began to descend. “It wasn’t Leaf or Rock, she knew their distressed cries quite well. In addition, and the whining was too high pitch to be from Mossy, Muddy, or Briar. So who was it that was agitating the corners of her mind? She turned the corner to find out.
It was a foal, sitting on its back haunches, forehooves holding one another as it tried to stifle its cries. The realization of what was approaching him eventually cut off any fragmented words that tiny invader might have been trying to utter. Were they pleas for help? Food? Friends? Wuv? All she could hear now was the inconsequential jabbering of some filthy gremlin.
“Who the fuck are you?” She asked, at this point her voice betraying more curious than anger, “Why aren’t you in the laundry room?”
“(hic) Bab-ab-ab- (hic) babbeh-heeh, (hic) babbeh nu wan- (hic) nu wan- (hic) nu wan- (hic) Babbeh am w-w-w-wost!”
“You little…” She struggled against the profanity that came so naturally to her, “Fuzzy runt… your room is like ten feet away, get back to it and stop crying. I’ll go easy on you this time because y-”
She turned to the laundry room and it’s motley fluffpile, striking out a wing to indicate direction as she spoke. But something was wrong… She squinted to clarify what she thought she saw as her sentence trailed off.
“You just learned to talk and move and…”
The red foal from the initial stolen brood still remained. This one was new.
She turned back to the foal.
“Where did you come from?”
“N-n-n-nu wan c-come (hic) i-i-i-inna housie… f-fwuffy s-sowwy…”
The foal prostrated itself before her, stuttering away in murmured noises barely resembling speech.
“Nu… Munstah… Housie… Bubber… Sissy…”
“What was that? Sissy? Did it just…”
Twilight extended her right wing and slammed the still ajar pet door shut.
“What was that?” She snapped, “What did you just call me?”
The foal practically plowed its head into the faux-stone tiles as she raised her wing, but it was the sudden noise of the door that impelled its incontinence. Absolutely disgusting.
Wait a minute…
These were foals! Foals in her house! Foals unsupervised in her house! She vaguely noted the squirming chirpies vainly trying wriggle away from this hostile environment and grew even more incensed.
“There were even more of them?”
She jammed the quivering foal under her damning pollex, and lifted it pinched awkwardly between its neck and one of its forelegs. Its tiny limbs flailed and its frantic eyes bulged as it tried to scream “Bad upsies!” only to be halted by a closed windpipe. Twilight ambled with purpose over to the door of the laundry room.
What the hell was she keeping Mossy around for if not for this? She was only one room away, within eyesight of this travesty, and had the gall to be asleep when it happened! How long had they been here? What did they want? Now she’d never know!
“Perhaps.” She fumed, “It’s time to get some answers.”
Years of sleeping alone in the cold dark of the forest had dulled Mossy to the chill of night. The bitter wind that was currently driving fluffies to hide in shivering clumps just beyond the walls so near would have been just another day of her painful life, but fortune’s strange machinations had seen fit to cut her a break.
Mossy had been charged with the caretaking of all foals within the house, a job that she took very seriously, though she may have dozed off at some point in the morning. It wasn’t her fault, she might have rationalized, she just couldn’t help herself! The space heater that had kicked on in the early hours of the day had given her a warmth she had never felt in her life. For what seemed like the first time in forever, she felt like she could lessen her guard.
She had made the mistake however, of lowering it entirely.
Twilight reeled back her wing and slammed it forward, releasing the foal with the intent of hitting Mossy square on the nose. Not having hands, however dexterous she might think she is with her wings, leads her often to some degree of inaccuracy. The foal was wildly off target, shot-putting far wide to Mossy’s right, and directly into a wall.
The foal began to scream as soon as it was released and could draw breath again. The foal ceased screaming when it impacted the wall, obviously, where it slid down into the litterbox and began to chirp in distress. These occurrences were easily enough to wake the inhabitants of the area. Peeping, squealing, and startled, the fluffpile broke apart.
“MOSSY! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” Twilight began delicately, “Sleeping while FOALS ROAM THE HALLS?! And to think that I trusted you inside my house.”
“MOSSY NU KNU’!” She stammered as she reeled backwards, the haze of peaceful sleep still fleeing from her eyes, “NU KNU WHA’ HAPPEN!”
“THAT’S THE PROBLEM! You don’t even know, what you don’t know! Why am I angry at you Mossy?” She gave no chance for an answer. “You have ONE JOB! WATCH THE FOALS!”
Mossy stabilized herself long enough to look around the bedding. She timidly responded, all whilst keeping her supplicative stance, “Bud Pwincess Twiwight, Mossy stiww haf aww babbehs! Wook! Pwease wook! Haf Wock an’ Weaf, an aww cowowed babbehs! Wha’ Pwincess mean dat Mossy nu watch fow aww babbehs? Mossy haf’ aww babbehs!” She shivered as she hoped to the great daddeh in the sky that she was right.
A quick glance confirmed that yes, all foals present last night were still here, but that wasn’t what Twilight was upset about. Mossy flinched as she raised a hoof to indicate the mangled foal in the litterbox.
Mossy didn’t hesitate.
“Dat nu am babbeh fwom Pwincess oaw Mossy! Wook!” She produced the red foal she had been given to watch over, hoping that this would placate her superior.
Twilight looked down at the mewling red hairball like it were a sudden spring of juice leaking from an overstuffed garbage bag.
Muddy slowly slinked up beside Mossy while she spoke, perhaps hoping to combine his pathetic image with that of his special friend and the terrified, blind foals littering the bedding. Twilight was uninterested in their plight however, and found her attention drawn back to the red invader. Apparently, she was not the only one, as Leaf and Rock had begun to pull the injured intruder free of the crusted sand.
“Nee’ hewp babbeh.” Leaf noted between noises of exertion.
“Wan’ stop hewties.” Rock likewise stated.
Twilight began to feel that something was wrong. Not that something was amiss, but that she might have taken things too far. Was this feeling… Guilt? What would dad say? Dad once told her that “Guilt is cancerous towards progress.” She didn’t know what cancerous meant, but the way dad said it couldn’t be good.
He told her that if he had given into guilt, she would not exist.
She tried to bury the strange emotions as Muddy addressed her.
“Pwincess? Pwease nu haf’ maddies at Mossy. Mossy am gud fwuffy.”
She shook her head.
“Uh… You can… Um…” Twilight again scanned the immediate area, unsure of what she was looking for. She addressed Muddy first.
“You can bring the new red foal to my dad. He’ll know what to do. Mossy can get the other foals from the hall. There are three more chirpy ones. Take care of them.”
Mossy slowly raised from the bedding as Muddy took the injured foal and scampered off towards the sounds of the kitchen.
“P-Pwincess?” Mossy stammered, “Mossy nu haf’ nu moaw miwkies foaw moaw babbehs…”
“Nu haf’ maddies pwease! Mossy am sowwy!”
“No, Mossy…” Twilight said, softly swaying in place, “I don’t understand, can you not make more?”
Her reply was as timid as she was piteous. “Nu fink Mossy can…”
Twilight turned to the foals left to languish in the hall. They were tiny, gaunt, and helpless. Were they… Were they alive yet? She remembered what Matthew told her.
“It’s up to you to decide whether fluffies are alive or not.”
“I mean…” She thought, “I could just flush them.”
She made her way towards the kitchen, where she could faintly make out a conversation between Matthew and Muddy over the clatter of dishes entering the dishwasher.
“Don’t worry your little head a bit Muddy, I took good care of Rock, and I’ll take good care of this little guy too. You go on back to Mossy and tell her that she doesn’t need to worry about this baby anymore, and that the nice mister will take it from here. I’ll make sure all of his hurties go away.”
“Fank yu nice mistah! Muddy awways knu’ nice mistah am nice mistah!”
Twilight watched as Matthew reached down towards Muddy in that same fluid movement she had come to associate with his gentle embrace, and witnessed him pluck the twitching foal from the ground before him. Muddy turned to leave and though he flinched upon seeing her, he didn’t slow in his egress like he usually did.
She waited for him to disappear from sight before beginning her inquiry.
“Dad? When do you consider fluffies to be alive? When does it start?”
Matthew paused his work for a moment and considered the question in more depth than he would have cared to. He looked outside to the fluffies in the yard. Brief strokes of bright colors bounded through the thicker patches of unkept lawn, foals playing hid-and-seek perhaps? Two of the repurposed toughies entered the scene patrolling the perimeter. Did they even know why they were doing that? Others toiled away, stacking up a useless tower of stones for their petty tyrant, while their foals rolled in the grass caught in fits of giggling and playful imagination.
Twilight’s hypothesis was that fluffies “all acted the same” and “behaved like talking dolls” when they were in a safe environment with nothing required of them. I mean, it made sense. Fluffies were programmed to more or less do nothing but play and “wuv”. Hasbio had never set aside the funding, resources, or facilities to run “Mouse Utopia” level experiments on the little bastards, so even standard feral behaviors were widely speculative at Hasbio. According to their encoded bio-sociological instincts they should just give up and die upon being abandoned. But they don’t.
This was… interesting.
He leaned further towards the window.
It felt as if he were walking among them.
Walking among the pens of this new culture, and not the familiar kennels of his work and mind.
Their ramshackle nests that they had been divided into were gaudy reminders of their unceasing work. Most of the living spaces were marked by a small cairn of smooth stones, tiny towers built by tiny minds, in reverence of something they did not understand. Some distant fluffy broke into a fit of impotent rage as it failed to stack more than three flat stones.
These ones did seem oddly alive, not like the ones in the lab at all. They were… Divergent. Motivated. A little bit scared. It had begun to sink into Matthew over the past week how different feral behavior was from the usual programmed niceties he had become accustomed to from the lab-stock. This little society that they had… participated in… was leagues above any social structure he had observed in captivity, and it was certainly not one that had been written into them.
“Was she running a legitimate social experiment here?” he thought, “I think I might actually be learning something…”.
His consciousness floated further into the yard, drifting from one disconnected satellite nest to another. They seem so eager to leave them and work the day away performing the functions of their collective, most likely because it was the best chance they would get for social interaction. Twilight had banned peasant-fluffies from forming fluffpiles with any fluffy that wasn’t a dependant, perhaps as some sort of punishment for their inability to pay attention when she was assigning roles. Somehow this new society both intensified the need for interaction between the fluffies and increased their cohesiveness. It seemed odd that these changes were brought about by their compartmentalization.
But what were they doing? Many of them were working on the makeshift windbreaks that were their “homes”, or trundling into the forest to return with either berries or stones. Pebbles. Useless stones that they had been convinced to gather and stack to appease their overlord. So much wasted effort, and yet they did it with such a familiar air. They reminded him of the research assistants at Hasbio; Cogs in an uncaring world just trying to live their best lives.
Did they know that they were being worked so pointlessly? Surely knowing that you were being worked like a dog for someone else’s benefit a uniquely human experience… Wasn’t it?
Somewhere nearby, he thought could hear the pained trilling of a foal.
He brushed the notion that he might have just heard something aside as he continued his disconnected observation of the padded indigents that had taken residence in his overgrown acres. He noted a sky blue fluffy with a glazed over expression chewing on a particularly thick patch of grass. The fluffy rotated around the patch of vegetation in sync with the patrolling toughies, ensuring that they never saw it slacking off and eating during worktime.
“This is just like what the interns do, moving around from break room to break room ahead of the staff during pen rotations. Always looks like they’re there, but they rarely ever get called on not working.”
Capable of creative laziness. Somewhat admirable.
There it is again, that chittering noise. What is it? Where is the damned thing?
Matthew’s mind heaved as he jolted back to his body.
“Huh? Wait. What? Oh! Right.”
Twilight looked up at him with a twinge of concern.
“You spaced out again. I don’t like it when you disappear like that.”
Matthew looked around the kitchen and scratched at the pins-and-needles sensation running up his neck. He felt movement in his right hand. He remembered the injured weanling he had just received.
“How long was I out?”
She cocked he head to the side and began to speak, sounding equal parts irritated and concerned.
“Long enough for me to head on back to the laundry room and have to smack Mossy around for losing one of the red chirpies. I coulda sworn there were three, but she only had two. I came back in here ‘cause I heard that foal crying.”
She gestured towards the fluffy whining for the nice mister to save it.
“You were staring out that window for maybe two, three, four minutes. You find me an answer?”
Matthew considered what he had seen, and how similar these fluffies seemed to the bulk of humanity. He considered the ones within the walls of his home, and those of his workplace. He considered that this might not be a question with a set-in-stone answer, and that depending on how you defined life that the answer might vary wildly. Still Twilight deserved an answer, even if it were an incomplete one.
“Shit Twily, define alive. Sometimes this world seems more…” He swung the crying foal around carelessly as he gesticulated to buy time, “Solid? Real? Concrete? And other times…”
He sighed heavily.
“What I’m trying to say is some days you wake up and feel alive, and sometimes you don’t. There is a difference between biological life, and being alive. Fluffies have beating hearts but most of them are hollow. There isn’t a set time when a life becomes alive, just like there isn’t a set time when a house becomes a home.”
“The fluffies at work never shut up about ‘babbehs’ or their ‘wuv’ for one another, but there’s no light behind their eyes. When I woke up this morning with you curled up in my arms? That’s being alive. That line of light that connects us, heart to heart. We’ve grown together.”
His eyes shifted to the squealing fuzzball gripped twitching in his fist.
“Fluffies are manufactured for each other, like accessories. Nine times outta ten they get along perfectly with other fluffies in a proper setting, and if they don’t you can just buy a replacement. So judge them on their merits I guess. Just like you would judge a human.”
Twilight struggled to grasp all of what had been said, but seemed to understand the general feel of it. She bowed her head down and talked herself through it.
“So that weird family that just ‘plays’ and ‘talks’ the same way every day wouldn’t be alive… but Mossy and Muddy probably would be? I mean, they adopt rejected babies from the herd and don’t play favorites with them. They’ve been through a lot together. And from what you said… hmmm…”
She looked up from the floor.
“What about the babies? They haven’t gotten the chance to do anything yet. Like… like…” she paused to compose herself. “You know…”
She looked in the direction of her sister’s room, face creased with doubt.
“That’s different Twi.”
There was a moment of silence as she timidly approached Matthew for a reassuring hug, only to be rebuffed by a sudden squawking that surprised the both of them.
They both flinched at the word.
“Pwease bubber an’ sissie! Sabe babbeh am onwy wittow babbeh! Scawy munstuh fwuffy gon’ num babbeh!”
Twilight sneered at the foal, making sure that it saw her spread her wings as it looked into her narrowing eyes. “What about this one dad? Is it alive?”
“Ahah…” he said with agitated exasperation, “No. This one isn’t alive.”
“Babbeh am awive! Babbeh jus’ scawed! Nee’ huggies!”
“No, no…” Matthew said as he pulled it up to the sink and dropped it screaming into the basin. “You aren’t alive.”
He turned on the tap and the foal struggled to stand on its tiny, broken legs. Matthew reached for a switch on the wall. The water began to push the foal towards the drain.
“Babbeh am awive! Wawa am bad fow fwuffies! Pwease nice mistaw sabe babbeh!”
The garbage disposal roared to life, drowning out any pointless pleading the foal might have had left in it. Twilight involuntarily took a step backwards. Matthew watched intently as the transient irritant was whisked into the black rubber jaws of the disposal, and down into the whirling blades below.
“Dead, in fact.”
Matthew calmly washed his hands whatever filth the foal might have had on it as the cacophony of meat tearing and bones being pulverized quickly returned to an ominous, vibrating hum. He flipped the switch again, silencing the mechanical tirade.
Matthew suddenly fell to his knees and pulled Twilight into a quick, tight hug. This elicited a surprised “EEP!”, and a sort-of-hug, mostly reflex.
“Now, my little sunshine, you still haven’t eaten. I heated up your Thai food, go turn on the TV and find something stupid to watch, I’m thinking either violent cartoons or a video documentary. I’ll be right over with your food, so make that hard choice quick!”
Twilight’s concerns of fluffy mortality fizzled away like cotton candy in heavy rain. Dad really had a way of making things so much simpler. She berated herself for getting so bent out of shape for such a silly thing, life.
She smiled, glad that she had someone who could soothe her worries and guide her through the maze that was morality. Why did she think that he’d view the life of a fluffy any different than the life of an animal, or even human for that matter?
Humans and fluffies: Equally worthless, until proven otherwise.
Life itself: Pointless, until given meaning.
Love: Existing between, but never within.