Peering out from behind the garbage bin, the fluffy mare watched quietly as the busboy carried out the bags of refuse, piling them up as he always did this time of day. Distracted by the mundane chore, the man didn’t notice the scarlet colored earthie cautiously sniffling towards the half eaten meals and stale bread that tumbled free as he tossed them into the dumpster, one by one until the pile was whittled down to nothing.
Once he had walked back into the restaurant, closing the door behind him, the red mare crept out of her hiding spot and approached the pile of discarded leftovers. Leaning down, she began to push away the garbage and refuse, revealing the sparse, partially eaten food below. A weak smile framing her face, she was about to take a bite from what was left of a hamburger when her face began to spasm, the fluff abruptly backing away from the food by sheer reflex. Breathing heavily, she tried her best to push the terrible memories of The Bad Place from her mind.
It was hard not to think of The Bad Place, nightmares of that dark and terrible site haunting the mare’s dreams each night. It hadn’t been so long ago that she and the rest of her kind had been there, trapped within narrow cages under the dull, flickering lights as they were tormented and tortured. It was hard to tell how many days she’d been there, waiting in the poorly lit lab, the sounds of other fluffies quietly sobbing and the occasional distant scream marking that it was, what the humans there called testing day. Memories of when she’d been a foal, her eyes barely opened and forced to watch from her cage as the people in white coats did abhorrent, unspeakable things to the weaned and older fluffies still sent shivers down her spine.
It had started with her own mother, the first warm and nurturing being the mare had ever known. From the soft caress of her fluff when she would cuddle against her for warmth, to the sound of her gentle humming when it was time to nurse with her brothers and sisters, the mare could still remember it all as though it were yesterday. But not long after she had opened her eyes, the humans came for some of her foals, and her mother made the same mistake that countless mares had, trying to hide them under her fluff when they came. Desperate when the scientists tried to force her over to retrieve them, she had made the brave but futile gesture of biting one of the staff, sealing her fate.
They took her away, and for the first time, the filly felt scared and unsure of what to do, chirping and peeping as she clung to the foalpile, her siblings every bit as confused and panicked as she was. It seemed like an eternity but eventually, the humans returned with the same carrier they had forced her mother into, the filly overjoyed for her return. But what was put back within the cage was no longer her mother. Her eyes and hooves were gone, a series of tubes that were connected to a loud box now ran through her mouth and a hole within her throat. Placed on her side, her once gentle breathing now ragged, she seemed almost unaware of her surroundings beside the occasional jerk or spasm. Frightened for a long time, empty bellies eventually outweighed the horror of their mother’s appearance and the foals would waddle towards her to feed, crying slightly even as their hunger was slaked.
Weeks had passed, and once the filly and her brethren had their teeth coming in, they came for her mother one last time before separating her and the rest of the litter. There was a word that had been new to the filly back then when the humans took what was left of her mother, a word that meant little at the time but would later cause terror and heartache in the fluffies that heard it: incinerator. If you misbehaved or were no longer useful, then it meant they would take you away to some horrible fate. It wasn’t clear what that fate truly was, but there was always an awful smell in the air afterwards, one that caused the newborn foals to peep and chirp at a rapid pace.
Once the filly had her own cage, the nightmare truly began. Woken each day, she and the other freshly weaned foals would be subjected to a slew of cruel tests and experiments. One of the earliest was simple: foals would be placed together within a small enclosure with a litterbox and were told that good fluffies made good poopies, and that only poopies in the litterbox were considered good. It was almost laughable how straightforward a concept it was to the mare now, but back then many a foal would simply defecate wherever the urge struck them, the cages quickly becoming filthy with their leavings and in turn causing even the un-guilty foals to become caked with waste. Those who were too filth ridden were taken away, the staff usually uttering that dreaded word as they did so, not only hammering the lesson of litterbox usage home, but leaving the foals with an outright neurotic need to be clean, likening being clean to being safe.
Then there was behavior with other fluffies. Once litter trained, the filly would spend a few hours a day with others roughly her own age in a moderately sized pen. There, a large screen would play fun and colorful images of children coloring, stacking blocks, rolling rubber balls, and playing in varied, countless ways. Afterwards the screen would fade to black and a few staff members would come by and drop a small pile of toys that were similar to the ones from the video within the pen. While it seemed like harmless fun, with many of the fluffies simply overjoyed to have toys for the first time in their lives, it had far darker implications. Those who took to the toys quickly and mimicked the children in the video were left alone, but the few who weren’t fast enough to claim a toy, or the more lethargic, less active fluffies, were taken away.
Once a few more weeks went by, with several playtimes culling the slower, more dimwitted fluffies, then came speech training. While the filly and the others her age could say a few words already, like hello or friend, it was harder for the adolescents to say anything else, usually breaking down into a fit of tears and chirps when pressed. There were a slew of ways the scientists tried to force the fluffies to learn new words, but one stuck with the mare. One day, she had awoken to find that her food dish was empty, and despite all her attempts to get the attention of the staff members, she was ignored. While her time at The Bad Place had been terrible, that was the first time that she had ever known hunger, the sensation quickly turning from discomfort to outright agony.
After the pangs within her stomach became almost unbearable, she was taken to a room with several other fluffies, each looking as starved and miserable as her. On a long metal table were several bowls filled with fresh kibble. Salivating at the sight, she had struggled feebly, wanting the ever growing pain within her stomach to end. One at a time, she saw as the fluffies were placed near the bowls, with a pair of scientists nearby. Ravenous and desperate for food, the fluffy would try to get to the bowl, only for one scientist to stop them, telling them that they were to refer to the food as nummies from now on.
The first few didn’t last long, ignoring what the humans said with a much needed meal within sight. Stopped as they were struck with cattle prods, the scientists would give them a moment to recover, demanding that they say the word nummies. Wracked with pain and desperate, it was as though they couldn’t understand what was being asked of them, those unfortunate fluffies quickly being reduced to quivering, spasming masses that were taken from the room.
Those that had seen the first few trembled as the scientists repeated their instructions, their eyes darting anxiously between the food dish and the silver rods within the human’s hand. Some simply tried to run towards the kibble, while others tried in vain to run away, finding only the edge of the metal table. They were likewise punished with several violent strikes from the electrified baton as they were told again and again to call the food nummies. The fluffies that weren’t left brain damaged or unconscious after the first few blows began to try, stuttering over each attempt as their guttural noises were further punished. Some managed a few rough sounds, others the first syllable, but in the end, they too were punished, with nearly all of the fluffies failing to say the word, even to save their life.
Trembling within the alley, the mare wiped the tears from her eyes as she quietly muttered a single word before leaning over and eating from the pile of leftovers.
Here’s my entry for the July theme, Back to Basics. I will admit, it was quite a challenge to not only ignore my own HC, but to adhere to some limiting criteria, but I think that’s the point and a great deal of the appeal with this theme. Once I found my concept, I had a blast doing this. And if you’re reading this, why not enter yourself? We would love to see your take on early fluffies.