Cider sucked his hoof furiously as he watched Bumbler play with Dawn and Honey. Apple floated lazily next to him, her wings fluttering furiously to keep her aloft as she slowly glided over him. She had told him the plan, and it sounded fool proof. A perfect way to thwart both his evil father and the roses. He just needed to wait for the perfect opportunity. And it finally presented itself when Bumbler took his spot in front of the rose bush, huffing with the effort of chasing his two daughters. “Sowwy babbehs, daddeh nee’ take wittwe nap.”
Honey and Dawn pouted in disappointment, breaking out into a fit of giggles when they looked at each others exaggerated expressions. The two ran off to play with Clementine’s foals, Bumbler watching quietly as they began a game of huggie tag with Tangerine and Michael before laying his head down and closing his eyes. Within minutes he was snoring softly.
Cider sprang to his feet from his crouched position. “Dis am fwuffy’s chance!” Apple whispered in the young foals ear as he charged at his father. The older stallion looked up groggily, the sound of his sons rapidly approaching hooves waking him. “Wha’ am Cidew doin’?”
No sooner had the words escaped his mouth than the young red stallion collided into him at his full speed of around three miles per hour, his small horn jabbing directly into Bumbler’s eye. The unicorn’s scream brought all playing in the garden to a halt as Cider began to wildly flail his free hoof, battering against his father’s head and neck. “DUMMEH STOOPID MEANIE FWUFFIE! CIDEW NU AM PWANTIE NUMMIES!”
Bumbler stumbled back in pain, tripping over the small edge of the rose planter and falling in amongst the thorny stems, his pained flailing only serving to tangle him deeper into the vines. “SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Bumbler shrieked as he released a torrent of effluent as he struggled to escape the planter. Despite the thorns, Cider continued his assault, battering his hoofpads against the screaming black stallion as Apple cackled in his ears.
Cider was suddenly knocked off balance as both Archibald and Button charged him, knocking the colt off balance, a feat made far easier by the off balance nature of the hoofsucking pony. Once on the floor, Cider began flailing and screaming before he was pressed to the ground as Archibald pinned him beneath his stomach, Button restraining his wildly jabbing horn with a well placed hoofpad against the head. This didn’t stop the pony from spraying shit only managing to cover his tail and some of the grass.
It was at this moment that Margaret swung the door open and raced out into the garden, looking around until she saw the four fluffies by the rose bush and walked over. “Hold him down for a while please dearies.” Margaret raced over and began to calm Bumbler. “Calm down dear, stop moving, you are making it worse.” Bumbler stopped, whimpering slightly as Margaret attempted to disentangle him from the roses, before grimacing and pulling her now bleeding hands out of the bush. “Stay very still dear, mommy will be right back ok?”
Margaret raced inside and grabbed the kitchen shears, racing back out side and beginning to cut the roses away from Bumbler. Once enough of the vines had been trimmed, she reached into the bush and gingerly lifted the limp pony from the rose bush and carried him inside quickly.
Laying the whimpering Bumbler on the kitchen counter, Margaret fished around in the cabinet for the tube of insta-heal gel as well as the bottle of rubbing alcohol and a clean dishrag. “Alright dear, this may sting a bit, but its only because I have to do this to make sure you will heal right, ok?”
Bumbler hesitated for a bit, before nodding with a quiet “Otay mummah.” Margaret gave him a kiss on the horn nub before going about detangling any stray vines and thorns from his fluff, giving any open wound she found a wipe down with the alcohol and a dab of the gel. “What happened dear?”
Bumbler sniffled. “Bumbwah nu know. Wus pwayin’ wif Dawn an’ Honey, an den nee’ take nap, an den Cidew poke see pwace wif hown!” Margaret looked in worry at his eye. Luckily, whilst it was obviously red and painful, there was no puncture or scratches. Still, she wet a clean dish cloth with cool water and lay it over the eye, eliciting a sigh of relief from the unicorn. “Dat feew good!”
“Alright dear, wait here on the table, I need to go deal with Cider.” Bumbler quickly attempted to struggle to his feet. “Pwease nu huwt Cidew, Cidew am gud fwuffy!” Margaret sighed, taking the fluffy off of the table and setting him on the ground. “Bumbler, I don’t like having to do this. I hate having to punish ANY of you.” Bumbler’s ear and tail drooped. “Fwuffy kno, buh Cidew am onwy widdew babbeh…”
“He’s not a little baby any more Bumbler and we both know that. And if he doesn’t answer to consequences now, it will be harder down the line. Do you want to stay in here while I deal with him, or do you want to come out and be present during the punishment?” Bumbler limped over to stand next to her by the door. “Fwuffy wan’ be dere.”
After retrieving the baling wire and shears, Margaret made her way outside, Bumbler slowly limping along beside her.
Cider was still flailing desperately, though it appears that at some point Grapenut had joined in to restrain the colt, sitting on the unicorns hind legs to stop his bucking, pinning the tail to prevent any more sprays of fecal matter… “DUMMY MEANIE FLUFFS!” Cider shrieked angrily. “FWUFFY SABE OU’ AWW!”
“Cider.” Margaret didn’t crouch down to meet his eye level, instead choosing to look down at him whilst standing at her full height, which while she wasn’t the tallest of people, for fluffies it was the equivalent of being looked down upon by Atlas. “MUMMAH!” Cider cried in relief. “Mummah Cidew sabed da hewd fwom the wosie munstahs!” The gathered stallions stared at him in confusion as Margaret looked over at the rose bushes, a massive fluffy shaped section cut out of the once pristine bush. “Indeed.” She crouched down, prying the hoof from his mouth and lashing his forearms together. “And you will have to answer for that later. For now…” Margaret tied a piece of the baling wire around his bound front hooves and hauled him onto his back legs, “We need to go to the tree.”
Cider was distracted from his shrieking as he desperately attempted to get his hoofpad back into his mouth, stumbling blindly forwards as he was lead out of the garden. Margaret lashed his hooves to the mount on the pecan tree, the colt whimpering in desperation as he hopped up and down trying to reach his hoofpad, tongue outstretched. Margaret watched him for a moment before turning and looking on the ground for a decently large twig.
Finding one of appropriate length, Margaret gave it a few test swings to get the feel of it before striking Cider across the rump hard. “SCREEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Cider screamed loudly as he voided the remainder of his bowls, Margaret neatly sidestepping the spray. “Cider.” The colt stopped his hopping, turning angrily to look at Margaret. “Owwies! Why mummah do dat?” Margaret stared back stonily. “Why do you think?”
Cider was silent for a moment, as if trying to work it out himself, before he seemingly remembered his hoof was not where it was supposed to be, turning his attention back to getting it into his mouth. Another strike from the switch brought him back with a shriek. Margaret let out a sigh.
“What did you mean when you said you saved the herd?” Cider craned his neck to face her. “Dummeh meanie daddeh was gonna get hewd nummed by wosie pwant munstahs!” Margaret opened her mouth to respond, closing it after a moment as she had no real reply. “Den aftew he feed hewd to da pwantie munstahs, he was gonna get mummah nummed by pwantie munstahs!”
Margaret was silent as she attempted to process this delusion. “Den dummeh meanie daddeh hab aww da pwant nummies, an’ den make new hewd, an’ den, an’ den…” Cider went silent again, beginning to hop once more in an attempt to reach his hoof. Margaret sat quietly and watched him for a moment. “Cider why do you think that Bumbler was going to feed us to the roses?”
The pony seemed to ignore her, continuing his tiny hops up and down. Another strike of the switch brought him back to attention. “Cider, why do you think that Bumbler is going to feed us to the roses?”
“Appwe towd me! Appwe towd fwuffy eberyting!”
“Hey Jim, I have a weird question.”
“Alright, go ahead.” Margaret sighed, trying to figure out the best way to phrase the question. “Have you ever heard of a fluffy with an imaginary friend?”
“Actually no, funnily enough fluffies don’t really have much of an imagination, at least not that kind of imagination. They are really just limited to wishful or fearful delusions at best. Its why they don’t really play with dolls or the like. Don’t know the exact reason for it.” Jim was quiet for a moment, seeming to realize why his grandmother brought the topic up. “What’s going on?”
Margaret pinched the bridge of her nose in an attempt to stifle the on coming headache. “Cider is claiming that a flying pegasus named Apple told him that Bumbler was going to kill me and the entire herd by feeding us to the roses.”
Jim let out a long slow whistle. “Jesus Christ, that’s a new one.” Margaret sighed again. “It gets worse. He claims that this Apple told him that the only way to keep the roses from getting stronger is to suck his hoof, and to push Bumbler into the roses. Don’t know if the little bastards plan was straight up murder or just grievous bodily harm, but it sure did some damage.” Margaret pulled the curtain back a little to look out into the garden. Bumbler was slowly limping over to the watering hole, his two daughters supporting him as he walked.
“So where is Cider now?” Jim asked. Margaret leaned into her high-backed recliner. “Far as I know still tied to the pecan tree, attempting to get his hoof back into his mouth.”
Jim sighed. “Fuck. You may need to ask someone with actual experience in this field.” Margaret laughed. “Who? A fluffy psychologist?” Margaret was silent for a moment. “Those probably exist now don’t they.” Jim laughed. “Fluffy psychology is a required course to become Hasbio certified, and it just so happens that we know a particular vet who has that qualification.”
Dr. Vaughn’s receptionist picked up on the third ring. “Hello, you have reached the office of Dr. Vaughn, FVD, our office closes in less than an hour so we will be unable to accompany any walk-ins at this time, but I can help you schedule an appointment if-” Margaret cut her off. “Hello Alice, I just had a question on fluffy psychology for the good doctor. May I speak to him?”
“Certainly, one moment please.” As the distorted hold music began to play, Margaret walked to the window, pulling back the curtains and looking out at the pecan tree, able to make out Cider, still jumping up and down, but at a much slower pace now. She knew how things were going to end already, but hoped that Dr. Vaughn would have some sort of miracle drug, some sort of experimental treatment that could fix the colt, but this amounted to wishful thinking.
“Hello, this is Dr. Vaughn, my lovely receptionist said you had a question for me?” Margaret cleared her throat. “Hello Doctor, my name is Margaret, not sure if you remember me but I came to see you a couple months ago.”
“I certainly remember you! We don’t have many appointments where an owner comes in with one fluffy and leaves with three, how are those fluffies doing by the way?” Margaret sighed. “They are all doing well, unfortunately the same can’t be said for the colt I am calling about.” Dr. Vaughn’s voice took on a much more serious tone. “I’m so sorry to hear that. Would you be able to give me a brief rundown of his symptoms?”
Margaret told him about Cider, from his mother’s betrayal, to the hoof sucking, the imaginary Apple and the attempted patricide. Through out the whole discussion, Dr. Vaughn was mostly silent with the exception of an occasional “Oh dear” or “That’s not good at all.” When the story was finished, Dr. Vaughn gave a heavy sigh.
“Margaret, the way I see it you have a couple options. You could spend thousands of dollars on a fluffy psychiatry specialist, thousands more on experimental pharmaceuticals, and keep a possibly murderous paranoid schizophrenic fluffy on your hands, you could release him into the wild, which is a felony in this country, or you could put him down.”
The line went silent for a while as the doctor’s words hung in the air. Margaret finally managed to release a sigh. “What about one of those… what are they called, factory resets?” Dr. Vaughn sighed. “Sorry to say that’s really just a Hasbio half truth. It is basically souped up electroshock therapy in an attempt to wipe the neurons. Even in the small cases where it does work, the fluffy has forgotten everything, from how to use a litterbox all the way to how to walk. In one particular case it turned out the test fluffy had lost the knowledge on how to breathe.”
“God dammit. Well thank you for your time Doctor.” As she was about to hang up, the doctor stopped her. “One last thing Margaret. When the time comes, the best spot is right at the base of the skull. Quick and painless.”
Margaret came out and sat on the deck, the setting sun tinging the whole garden a slight orange. “Line up dears, Mommy has some bad news.” The fluffies, somewhat instinctively, sat in a semi circle around her rather than in their assigned places in line. Once Bullet had been finally rolled into place. Margaret took a deep, shaky breath. “Dearies, we all know what happened in the garden today. Cider was very bad and needed to be punished.”
A couple fluffies nodded in agreement. Margaret felt tears beginning to well up in her eyes from some unknown place. “I just got off the talkie box with the nice vet, and he told me some bad news. Cider is very, very sick.” Grapenut, Dawn, and Clementine all raised hooves. “Yes dearies?”
“Wiww bwudda ge’ betta?” Dawn asked worried. Margaret felt a tear roll down her face as she shook her head no. “No, dear. Cider needs to take forever sleepies to get better.” The herd began to sniffle and sob. Bumbler began to cry, thick tears running down his face as he hugged his remaining children.
Margaret took a deep shaky breath before continuing. “I know this is hard. I really wish this didn’t have to happen.” A slow, shaking black hoof was raised into the air. “Yes dear?” Bumbler shuffled his way forwards, coming to a rest in front of Margaret. “Can Bumbwah say gudbai’s to babbeh?” Margaret gave a nod, lifting the stallion and carrying him in his arms out the gate. “Dearies, please go and wait inside your safe rooms.”
“Otay Mummah.” The herd shuffled off as Margaret carried Bumbler over to the pecan tree, the fluffy shivering in his arms as the cool night wind, no longer buffeted by the fence, blew across his patchy fluff.
Cider was still where Margaret left him, desperately trying to reach his hoof, hopping up and down slowly. Margaret placed Bumbler on the ground, the large stallion limping over to sit next to his son. “Babbeh?”
The sound of his father’s voice had no effect on the colt, who continued to bounce up and down, his tongue extended to reach the chapped, bleeding hoofpad tied in front of him. Margaret choked back a sob. “I will leave you to talk to him alone.”
Margaret walked back inside and retrieved the shot gun from it’s place above the fireplace mantle, the weight of the firearm causing the cuts from the rose thorns to bleed once again. Margaret loaded birdshot into the shotgun and walked back outside to the tree.
Bumbler had long rivulets of tears running down his face, his only son ignoring his voice and continuing to bounce up and down. Margaret felt the same trails begin to form on her face as she approached the stallion and laid her hand softly on his head. “It’s time dearie.”
The black unicorn limped over to his son, wrapping his arms as best he could around the colt and cooing softly. “Daddeh wuv ‘ou.” Margaret picked him up with one arm and carried him back to the coops, placing him inside where he was immediately surrounded with hugs.
Margaret made her way slowly back to the tree, the sun set having set but enough light remaining to aim the barrel of the shotgun at the still hopping pony. By the grace of whatever god was out there looking down on the two of them, Cider stopped to catch his breath, Margaret sighting the shotgun in on the base of his skull.
The gunshot echoed throughout the empty fields of grass and wheat three times before the night fell completely silent, save the crickets and the wind.