“…and that should…do it.” Douglas tossed the last trashbag against the side of his house, breathing a sigh of relief. The whole process took him at least a day, but it was finally done. The barn was properly cleaned out, sanitized, and made ready for some more outdoor ferals. Honestly, the worst of it was using the chemicals; he had to really scald the stains outta there, cause he knew fluffies could damn near smell where others have died. Sort of like ants, in a twisted way. It’s how they knew to avoid some areas, but…fluffies. Where one herd was smart enough to avoid somewhere others died, seven more would just make the same mistake and go about the same way. Irony at its best.
All the same, with the job done, Douglas breathed a sigh of relief and trudged back into the house. His work gloves and work boots were pulled off and set by the door, and he moved to the saferoom, taking a gander inside. The once-emancipated mare was doing a lot better. Her fluff, now not stained with the fetid miasma of the others, was now a bright and healthy cotton pink color, with her mane a snowy white. Her progeny were a mix of colors, but were still in the chirpie stage of things. Eyes weren’t opened and were still blindly hugging close to their mother for support. Even the alicorn, the one foal he was preserving. That one wasn’t even gonna be sold, despite its rarity. He needed it as a teaching tool for future foals; to teach them alicorns weren’t monsters. Not to mention, if he could wring another alicorn from it, he could make some serious bank by selling someone a perfectly trained one.
If they didn’t mind the trauma. How else would the damn things learn to behave?
Still, he moved past the saferoom and to his office, hearing the distant sound of Ruddy and Mary in the living room, still watching rain sounds. Douglas still didn’t have the heart to tell him it was just rain sounds. Mostly because it was funny hearing him try and explain the plot. The big man settled into his office chair, powered up his PC, and set himself to work with the usual spreadsheets and planning. The chems would dry up properly by noon, so the barn was pretty much ready for another set of fluffies. He considered just heading down to the city to find some, but instead unlocked his phone and dialed up the animal clinic.
“Third Street Animal Hospital, this is Alice speaking.”
“Hi there, this is Douglas Jeinkins. Is Doc Mitchel in?”
“Oh, he is. Want me to patch you through?”
“That’d be great.”
“Kay! One moment.” Douglas heard the usual jingle every damn hospital used when someone was on hold. Did they all just unanimously pick the same one? “Doctor Mitchel speaking.”
“Hey doc, it’s me. You got anything for me down there? As part of our deal?”
“Ah! Well, your timing couldn’t be better. We just got a herd in last night. They’ve all been examined and only four had to be euthanized for safety, but the rest were given a clean bill and, as you know, most of the shelters in the city are still sadly at occupancy.”
“Yeesh, if they’re bad now, then spring’s gonna be awful.” Douglas knew how fluffies work with the seasons. Spring was when a bunch showed up from overeager parents and herds. Summer was when they made a problem for everyone or died to heatstroke, fall was when they tried to find somewhere to hole up for the coming cold, and winter was where most either hunkered down somewhere or all died in droves. “What’s the story on these? Any reason four had to be put down?”
“Ah, same old story. Some exterminators got a call about a potential herd and went to investigate. Apparently, a herd got into a closed down bakery and made themselves right at home there, estimated to have been there since August, from the looks of things.”
“Another reason old buildings can’t be left around too much. They’ll swarm ‘em, and then the city’s got a real problem on their hands when a herd gets entrenched and clever. Either way, how’s the herd? Any troubles I should worry about?”
“Doesn’t look like it. We called the exterminators after they dropped the herd off and learned it DID have a smarty. Did being the key word; we didn’t bat an eye when we were told they stomped it to death. In summary, there’s about six mares, five stallions, and each mare’s got a handful of chirpies with them, on the cusp of becoming foals. Honestly, they got lucky, based on what I overheard from the exterminators during the unloading. Had winter rolled around, they might’ve all either frozen to death in the old bakery or starved.”
“Unless the mares started cannibalizing each other’s broods to keep theirs alive. It’s…well bad to see. But I’ve read stories about it happening in stressful situations.”
“Quite unfortunate. Either way, the driver will be on the way with the money. As always, keep things under wraps, please. If word got out, those activist groups could try filing a lawsuit against our clinic.”
“It’d go nowhere, honestly.” Douglas leaned back in his seat. “I have a mill license with me; got one around the time I started my business just in case I ran into issues like this. As far as legality goes, you’re just transferring them to a specialized mill just past city limits, which avoids the legal troubles of transferring over city lines. The only real thing they can do is try and evaluate me to make sure I’m treating them ethically. Which I am.” For the most part, of course. But he didn’t want Doc knowing what he did to problematic fluffies. Not yet at least. “Either way, I’ll see ‘em soon. Thanks again, Doc.”
“No, thank YOU, Douglas. Honestly, the city’s been making it harder and harder to cater to and work with fluffies that, half the time, I consider just barring the damn things from the clinic.”
“Another risk there, Doc. City might just force you to accept them to begin with. Cite that it’s an emergency. But hey, it’s why we can get away with stuff like this. They won’t bother checking. Still, I’ll see y’all soon for Gabby’s check-up next week. Take care.” He hung up and breathed a sigh. Welp, back to it already. More fluffies to get settled with the barn, more chirpies to collect and indoctrinate. In a twisted sense, he missed such a simple life, so it was a respite to get back to it. Without making shit personal.
Of course, he could still take some pleasure in dolling out punishment. Just the right amount, at least.
The driver unloaded the last of the mares, brushing himself off and stepping away. Douglas inspected the herd from his driveway, eyeing each of them and making little notes in his journal about colors and types. Most of them were earthies, disappointingly, but he did sight a few unicorns among them, and even a pegasus or two. Interesting diversity among ferals, that was for certain.
“Augh, well, there’s all’ve ‘em.” Douglas tucked away the journal and accepted the fat wad of cash from the driver. “Mitchel’s glad you’re giving us a hand with this, and keeping quite ‘bout things too.”
“It’s what I do. Drive back safe. I’ll get to work with these ones.” He nodded to the man, then strode over to the herd. Already, they were trying to make nests and graze in his lawn, with a mare even pulling up some grass with her mouth and making a pile, depositing her chirpies onto it haphazardly. She looked up at him, then visibly flinched. It caused the others to get alerted as well, and she defensively huddled over her nest.
“Pwease, nu gib babbehs owwies!” She shouted, trying her absolute best to protect the foals.
“Easy, I ain’t gonna hurt them. The nice mister brought you all here because it wasn’t safe.” Fluffies were, still, extremely easy to trick. Even a child could deceive one…well domesticated ones for that field. He gestured with a hand to the barn, with the gate already wide open for them. “So, we picked out a better home for you all. One nice and warm for the winter.”
An assortment of murmurs came from the herd, all along the lines of perplexity and wonderment at the sight of a new home. “However,” He spoke firmly, gathering their attention. “there’s some rules you all need to follow. For starters, what I say goes. If I tell you to do something, no talking back. Second, you’ll get kibble in there. Nothing fancy.”
A yellow mare flinched at that. “B-Buh…mummah nee’ sketties tu make bestest miwkies fo babbehs!”
“Sorry. It’s either kibble or nothing. Is there a problem?” He asked, making sure to lower his voice so even a mind as slow as hers could hear the venom in it. She silently teared up, but shook her head. She got the message, and without him having to resort to violence. Good. “Third, there will be no special huggies inside the barn. Not without my permission. Doing so means any babies that’ll come instantly die.” A wave of panic swept through the small crowd, as they tried desperately to wrap their little brains around such a concept. He put his past experiences to good work with that one; why just beat an offending mare to death when he could traumatize them out of the very idea? Saved him a lot of work. “Lastly, and this one’s important, no babbehs inside the barn. They’ll—”
“NU!” A mare cut him off, the first one to panic at the sight of him. “Babbehs stay wiff mummah!”
“Can’t. It gets cold in the barn at night. And they’ll all freeze to death. You want your babies to die a slow, cold death? Or do you want them to live?” He was goading her now. Honestly, he had the urge to just twist her ear right off for speaking out against them, but psychological torment worked so much better. Why hurt them himself when their own minds were doing that? “They’ll be warm, safe, and looked after inside the house. Don’t you want your babies to be happy?”
She was, predictably, already tearing up. “Buh…can mummah stay wiff babbehs in nice housie?”
“Nope. Not enough room.” He lied right to her face. “So, make your choice. They either go in the barn and freeze to death or go somewhere nice and warm.” The waterworks continued. The other mares were doing the same, and the stallions remained quiet. Seemed they didn’t know what to do. That or they were too scared of speaking out.
“Speshuw fwend stay in housie, wit babbehs!” One of the stallions finally shouted. “Nyu daddeh make roomie!”
“And who says I have to?” He asked.
The stallion…puffed his cheeks. “Toughie say su! Nao du—” He snatched the stallion up in a heartbeat, holding him by the scruff. “SCREEEEE!!! BAD UPPIES!”
“That’ll be the least of your worries.” He didn’t wanna make an example, considering he was in his pajama pants and house shoes, but if one stallion thought he was tough, they all would. And that’s how they went behind his back with shit. So, he turned to the terrified herd, making sure they were paying attention. “So, this fluffy here? He broke the rules. So, sadly, he’s gotta be punished. Now,” He reached a hand up to lock it around the struggling stallion’s neck. “I didn’t wanna get mean with this today, but let’s call this a valid learning experience.” His grip tightened, and the struggling stallion released a jet of rancid, liquid shit onto the ground. The flailing stallion’s eyes locked with his, begging and pleading for mercy he wasn’t allowed to have. Douglas simply shrugged.
“You brought this on yourself.”
He yanked, and the stallion’s head came right off, spinal cord still attached and slinging blood! It dripped and oozed that and so much more, causing the herd to scream and shriek in absolute terror as Douglas casually dropped the body, holding the stallion’s head and spine in a single, bloodied hand. “Now, he had to learn the hard way. I can be nice, and I can be mean. If you wanna keep it to nice, start heading for the barn. And leave the chirpies outside. I’ll be by to collect them.” The visceral was left to tumble from his hand, hitting the ground with a lurid, wet squish noise. “And, before I forget, if anyone tries to smuggle some foals into the barn, against my say so, you’ll get worse than he did. Let that sink in.” The herd waddled and ran with the fear of God put in their little hearts, with some shitting from fear as they rushed towards it.
Douglas just shook his head and started moving for the house. He needed to collect the basket, grab the foals, and get started on the program again. He wanted to try out some new learning tactics too. Sure, it meant not every foal would make it, but the ones that did would emerge without a fear of alicorns. To many, that’s worth a fortune in itself.
“So, everyone liking their new home?” Douglas walked along the barn’s aisle, peering into the nesting areas where fluffies made themselves at home. Some helped themselves to the kibble, gorging themselves on the food despite earlier protests, and others sat around messing with the toys cleaned and left behind by the others. A few mares silently ‘huuhuu’d to themselves, bemoaning their lost foals. They’d get over it. Besides, he didn’t wanna see a repeat of the last two weeks. Not when his head was screwed on straight this time.
He reached the final haybed, where a mare sat. Unlike the others, she wasn’t crying or sad, but looked…shifty. Like she was hiding something. She hurried to tuck something underneath the hay before he properly arrived, then smiled up at him in a way that made it abundantly clear she was hiding something. “Whatcha got there?” He sarcastically asked.
“Um…fwuffy nu kno…” She spoke. Douglas squinted. He could already hear the peeping and chirping beneath the hay. She snuck her chirpies in and was trying to hide them and doing a shitty job at the hiding part. She knowingly broke a rule, and needed to be made an example of. And as much as he wanted to give her the same treatment the stallion outside did…another idea came to mind.
“Alright then. Lemme go get the kibble for refills.” With that, he turned and strode off, leaving the barn and heading for the house. Once inside, Douglas made a beeline for the garage, pausing only to check in with Mary in the safe room. The latest batch of foals still had their eyes closes and were still actively nursing from the milkbag. One that, honestly, looked close to being done. Guess it was time to replace that one too. Still, after his brief check, he kept moving for the garage and gently opened the door.
“Gabby?” The massive lizard lazily awoke and skittered over to him. Her tongue stabbed at the air, head lifting so he could gently rub her elongated neck. “You want some foals to snack on? They’re nice and chirpy.” He carefully scooped up the massive lizard and let her rest against him as he walked out of the garage, en route to the barn once again.
Inside again, he gently set Gabby down, then closed the doors to the barn. Just in case.
“S-Scawy wizawd munstah!” A mare screamed. It got the others terrified and frightened, huddling into their nests, trying their best to make themselves look smaller than they were. To hope Gabby didn’t notice them. The lizard had no interest in the mares, though. She slowly prowled along the aisle, tongue flicking out to sniff at the air, as she made an approach for the final mare’s nest. Something she noticed swiftly, with the frightful waterworks already starting.
“D-D-Daddeh!!! Why yu bwin’ munstah—?”
“She’s here to sniff out any foals. Another reason I said to leave them outside. So she wouldn’t find them. Unless,” he narrowed his eyes. “you have some here. Got anything to confess?”
She shifted her gaze about. Frequently. “U-U-Um…fwuffy nu hab babbehs…”
“Really. Then you won’t mind if she checks the nest.” In a flash he snatched her by the scruff, resulting in the same panicked screaming from the crude method of lifting. “Without you in there, of course.” Gabby poked her head around the hay, tongue stabbing at the spot the foals were hiding. Without their mother, they were already peeping and chirping up a storm, and Gabby effortlessly picked up on that. A claw flicked the hay, knocking some away to reveal the foals hidden. Four in total, with pretty mild colors. Nothing that stood out about them, of course. Enough to intervene at least.
Gabby stabbed her head down, snapping up one of the foals. It chirped up a storm, flailing its limbs uselessly as Gabby swung the little fluffy into the ground, over and over again. Her usual method of subduing a foal for eating. “B-BABBEH! NUUUU!!!” The mare wailed, watching in horror as the foal went limp in Gabby’s maw. She swallowed it down soon after, then went for another. That foal had the displeasure of getting grabbed by the waist, and he could honestly hear when the little fluffy’s spine snapped when she went for her usual slamming. “WET MUMMAH GU! MUMMAH NEE—” He did just that. The mare didn’t even get time to screech as she plummeted, hitting the wood floor and snapping one of her back legs. She screamed and wailed in pain, but tried to rush Gabby regardless. To save her brood.
A foot to the back prevented that, leaving her trapped and pinned against the ground. “I want everyone to see what happens when you go behind my back. What they lose in doing so. Like I said, I can be nice,” Gabby moved to the third foal, enclosing her mouth around its head and messily crunching it into gooey splatter. “or I can be mean. You had to see mean twice today, didn’t you?” The final chirpie tried helplessly wiggling away from the mare. Trying to blindly feel its way around and crawl to its mother. Its bastion of safety. Hope filled her eyes for a moment, and she feebly stuck a leg out, trying to at least touch her last remaining foal, on the cusp of escape.
Gabby’s maw enclosed around it. Inches from her face. Right before her eyes she got to watch the final foal get devoured alive, with only a bloodstain left where it used to be. A bloodstain the mare’s eyes were glued to, as the tears openly flowed. “Huuhuu…am mummah nu mowe…huu…”
“See what happens when you don’t listen?” He asked. Not like he’d get an answer. With the way she looked, he was certain she’d hit the ‘wan die’ loop pretty soon. No matter. A harsh lesson was instilled to the others. Not only about disobeying the rules, but also about bringing foals into the barn to begin with. Fluffy brains were remarkably bad at retaining information unless it came through trauma. And now, with said trauma applied, they now all knew Gabby could smell out any foals they had in the barn. In one fell swoop, he also killed off their urges to have “special huggies” while he wasn’t looking. Because Gabby would find the foals. And they would die all the same.
“I’ll bring the ‘munstah’ by every week.” He warned them all. “Make sure no one tries doing the same thing she did. So, remember that. Those foals could’ve gone to loving homes with good human parents. Instead, she didn’t think about them, and let them suffer for breaking the rules. Let’s hope the rest of you are smarter than that.” With that, he gingerly scooped Gabby up, rubbed her head lovingly, and trekked off. The mare with the broken leg was dead anyhow, through the loop or through infection from her shattered leg. He was tempted to just leave her to go from either, but no. He made a mental note to deal with her later on, lest she get the other mares depressed as well. A lesson learned a while back was the loop could ‘spread’ to other fluffies. Not like a virus, but more of a mindset.
And how was such a lesson learned? Through the mill, of course, where he also learned that fluffy skin was remarkably easy to remove with a goddamned pocketknife…he had some sickos for coworkers back in the day.
[So, here’s another quicker chapter. I hope it’s enticing, as I’m still trying to get back in the swing of writing here. Same as always, leave some suggestions for what you folks think the next chapter should be. I’m always keen on listening to feedback and I hope the Sub-Zero style kill was nice enough to read. It’s one of the many ways I wanted to see a fluffy dealt with, after all.]