Of Love and Hunger [By MuffinMantis]

Tyler looked down at the foal, having just arrived from the FluffMart two hours away in town, where he’d bought it. While he was reluctant to get a pet, especially so soon after the accident, he recognized that it was for the best. Like many others in the modern age, he’d lost a lot of what humans needed to thrive, and the fluffy would, hopefully, fill part of that gap. Something to care for, some reason to get out of bed in the morning, and maybe some interaction to have so he wouldn’t be alone all the time.

True, spending more time with friends would be a better solution, but unlike most of the young adults in this bleak little town, Tyler wasn’t spending two months at a time at the oil rigs. Not anymore, not since that imbecile Keith had ignored procedure and gotten Tyler an all-expenses paid trip to bedrest town until he could walk again without the crutches. So half the time he was alone, and the other half of the time he spent with his, admittedly amazing, friends, who never balked at spending their free time with their, hopefully temporarily, disabled co-worker.

But the time spent with his friends didn’t help with the bleak months alone. In this internet age he wasn’t as isolated as he could have been, but he was nevertheless starved for in-person interaction for months at a time. That was why he’d gotten the foal, with the help of his coworkers who could drive. Just so that he wouldn’t be so alone.

The little creature was cute, that much he could admit. Against the advice of the clerk, he’d chosen a foal that was too young to eat solid food; Hell, he was too young to talk, which happened at a freakishly young age in fluffies. That meant he’d have to bottle feed him, but that wasn’t really a problem right now, and by the time he needed to go back to work he’d almost certainly be an adult, plus the early bond would be much stronger than if he’d gotten a more-developed fluffy instead. His friends had had some concerns about how he would leave the fluffy alone for weeks at a time when he returned to working on the rig, and he hadn’t had the heart to tell them that even once he recovered, there was no way he’d be fit to return to the rig in the foreseeable future.

Well, no use dwelling on that, Tyler thought as he slumped down in a chain, glad to be off the crutches for a while at least. The fluffy was currently dozing, having been fed on the way here, twice, but he knew he’d have to feed the little guy again soon. Within a couple of days the foal would be able to move around enough to get to the feeder he’d placed in foal’s temporary pen, so he wouldn’t have to do this for too long.

While he’d heard horror stories about how some people wanted, no, needed to hurt fluffies, he honestly felt nothing like that. In fact, after so long away from any real contact with pets in this frozen hellhole, isolated and empty with the rig crew away, the foal’s presence was calming. He hadn’t realized how much this place had been getting to him.



The foal, now able to walk a little but still only a chirpy foal, lay sleeping on Tyler’s lap as he absently browsed the internet, looking for some other job opportunity he could pursue once we was more recovered. It wasn’t going particularly well; Tyler didn’t have a skillset that was of much use working off a rig, and since that wasn’t an option anymore he was having a hard time finding any worthwhile jobs. With a frustrated sigh, he stood, cradling the foal, and moved to his armchair, settling down again and staring blankly at a wall.

With one hand he gently petted the foal, eliciting soft peeps from the still-sleeping creature, wincing at the twinge from his leg. While we could walk unaided now, it was slow and painful. For now, it was best to just relax, and focus on recovering. He could worry about other things later. Until then, he should just rest.



“Wub…daddeh…”

Tyler was somehow surprised by the foal’s first words, even though he knew it would happen at any time. It was still shocking to him how quickly fluffies developed, unnatural almost. Well, of course it was unnatural, since fluffies weren’t natural creatures. Still, in spite of his surprise, he felt happy. Until now, although the foal had been a good pet, he’d been starving for someone, or something, to talk to. Online and phone chats just weren’t cutting it anymore, and with the rest of the crew away, the small cluster of buildings was abandoned except for him.

He considered talking to the foal, but he knew that for now the speech was almost entirely instinctive and the foal probably wouldn’t process whatever he said. For now, he’d have to wait just a little while longer.



“Daddeh?”

“Hmm?”

“Can babbeh hab namesies?”

Tyler kicked himself, at least mentally. How had he forgotten about that? He’d done his research, he knew how much names meant to fluffies, but when he’d gotten one he’d forgotten to give him a name. In his defense, he’d been rather distracted on finding new work, since the compensation for his injury wasn’t going to last forever. Still, he felt as if he’d been neglecting the foal recently, what with being unable to really play with the little guy.

“Okay. How about…” he paused, he was bad at names. “How about Icy?”

“Tank 'ou, daddeh! Icy wub nyu namesies!”

Even though he knew that the response was more or less pre-programmed, Tyler still found Icy’s happy response cute. He smiled at the fluffy, stress fading slightly. He was glad about his decision to raise the foal.



Tyler was cooking, for the first time in what seemed like forever. Occasionally he winced, as even favoring his good leg standing was painful, and his kitchen, such as it was, wasn’t equipped to allow him to cook sitting down. Still, it was important that he cook today. Today was Icy’s first time eating real food, and Tyler was going to make sure it was memorable. He wasn’t going to go with cheap canned pasta, he was going to make this himself, and leg pain be damned.

“Sketties?” Icy asked excitedly as he brought the, now partially cooled, pasta to the foal. Icy was running around joyfully, elated at the prospect of getting to eat the fabled ambrosia. He failed to slow down as he ran towards the bowl, tripping and rolling past it, but rebounding and burying his face in the food.

Tyler chuckled and watched the foal eat, while he ate his own food. Personally, he despised spaghetti, or anything with tomato sauce for that matter, so for himself he’d just thawed a frozen meal. It wasn’t anything special, but he’d never been the gourmet type, so it suited him just fine.

Icy greedily gobbled down the spaghetti, emptying the bowl with an alacrity Tyler wouldn’t have thought possible for a creature eating solid food for the first time. He winced as Icy let loose a belch that was entirely too loud to have come from a creature of his stature, then flopped over onto his side with a sigh. Tyler might’ve made a little too much.

Suddenly Icy made a strange noise, rising to his hooves. “Daddeh…Icy nu feew su gud…” he managed, before letting loose a stream of vomit onto the floor. “Nuu! Sketties nu gu!” he cried in distress.

Tyler moved to the foal, kneeling as best he could. The foal was sobbing, presumably because of the discomfort from having just vomitted, although Tyler suspected a part of it was the fluffy’s aversion to making a mess, being a “bad” fluffy, even though Tyler had never been particularly harsh in that respect. Scooping up the foal, he set him aside and began the slow task of trying to clean up the mess.

Maybe giving spaghetti to a foal who was barely old enough to eat solid food wasn’t a good idea. He’d have to stick to fluffy chow for now.



“Wai nummies gib Icy tummeh-owwies?” Icy groaned as the chow that’d been meant to replace the unfortunate spaghetti hit the floor. Now Tyler was concerned. He was almost certain that the foal was old enough to eat solid food, so this shouldn’t be happening. Maybe he’d misread the fluffy’s development.

His concern was more important than the mess for right now, so he moved to make some formula for Icy. As the bottle warmed, he looked up the problem, and found that it was typical for foals who were given solid food too soon. Relieved, he cleaned up the mess, and fetched the bottle for Icy.

“Bu’ Icy nu wan miwkies! Wan nummies!”

“I know, but I think you’re still too little for that. Just drink the milkies and you can have nummies later.”

“Otay, daddeh…” Icy said, doubtfully, and began to drink. Soon, the hungry foal had emptied the bottle, and pulled away with a sigh. “Dat am betteh. Miwkies am otay fow-UGH” the poor foal said as he emptied his stomach yet again.

Now Tyler’s concern had grown into full-blown dread, as he frantically searched for what the problem could be. Icy had been drinking formula fine yesterday, so what could be the issue? He scrolled by page after page of results, not finding anything that could explain the issue.

He’d almost given up when something caught his eye, and he read more. While most of the article was technical jargon he had no hope of understanding, there were a few things that he could understand. Inability to eat solid food and a sudden aversion to formula and milk. There was also a name, one he could never hope to pronounce, but at least now he had a clue.

Technically he shouldn’t drive yet, but with nobody else here and a sick fluffy he’d grown very attached to, he was willing to take a little bit of a risk. Scooping up Icy, he stepped out into the freezing air, heading for his car and bracing for a long, painful drive.



Back home at last, Tyler held the sobbing fluffy, holding back tears of his own. Of course, the fluffy hadn’t understood what the vet had said, only understood that he was so, so hungry and couldn’t eat. Tyler, on the other hand, knew the truth.

Something-something syndrome, he couldn’t quite remember. The vet had explained that it was a human condition as well, but in most cases could be managed with either medication or a feeding tube to prevent consumed food and drink from simply being vomited back up. For fluffies, the options were rather more limited.

Tyler stared down at the box of syringes, and the other, separate syringe. For fluffies with this affliction, the only option was nutrient injections, which would allow them to survive. Survive, that was the key word. Not thrive, nor even meet basic standards of well-being, and even then not for long.

*Maybe he’ll handle it better than most," Tyler thought, faking optimism as he lied to himself. He knew Icy’s prospects weren’t good. Hell, they weren’t even just bad. They were awful.

Icy, can you hold very still for me?” he asked, as the fluffy continued to sob.

“O-otay, daddeh. Icy wiww twy.”

Tyler carefully opened one of the nutrient syringes, and, making sure to keep it out of the fluffy’s field of vision, brought it to his back. As gently as he could, he slid the syringe through the fluffy’s delicate skin.

“SCREEEEEEEEE!”

“I’m sorry,” Tyler tried to comfort the foal. “This will help you feel better,” he lied.

Even with the injections he knew that the foal would never feel better, and that it was all downhill from here. As the foal continued to be unable to eat, the hunger would become worse and worse, and although the injections warded off the worst of starvation, the vet had been very clear that Icy would become weaker and weaker, until he could barely move.

“Kinder to end it now,” she’d said.

As Tyler held the wailing and thrashing foal, he slowly and carefully emptied the syringe’s contents. Fortunately, this would only need to happen once every couple of days to keep the foal functioning, because he couldn’t bear the thought of doing this every day. Slowly, Icy’s wails calmed once more to sobs.

“Wai daddeh huwt Icy?”

Tyler didn’t know how to answer, so he just hugged the foal close.



“Icy nee’ nummies! Nu wan huwties! WAN NUMMIES!”

Tyler couldn’t even be angry at the foal’s tantrum. The poor creature felt as if he was starving, and the only thing keeping him going was painful injections, of course he was upset. It’d been almost a week since the vet’s visit, and things had only gotten worse. It was hard to even call this a tantrum, since Icy was too weak to do much besides feebly batter at Tyler’s legs and scream.

There was a choice that had to be made. Either he could let this continue, and condemn the fluffy to a life of stunted growth, weakness, hunger, and pain, or he could use the other syringe, and end it. This…wasn’t a choice he wanted to make, but in the past few days it’d become increasingly clear what he had to do. Still, there was one last thing he had to do, cruel though it was. He wouldn’t make this choice for the fluffy.

“Listen, Icy,” he said, and his grim tone somehow got through to the foal, who momentarily ceased his tantrum. “I’m sorry, but you can’t have nummies. Not ever again.”

“Bu’ Icy nee’ nummies!”

“I know, but you can’t have them. They’ll only make you sick.”

“ICY HAB WOWSEST TUMMEH-OWWIES!” the foal wailed.

“I…I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do. Listen…” Tyler braced himself to ask the question. “You know the injections?”

“Nu wike! Nu wan! Huwties!”

“I don’t know how to explain this…” Tyler murmured, dejected. “There’s a choice you need to make, Icy,” he spoke, louder.

“Wut…?” Icy was cowed by the bleakness in Tyler’s voice.

“Either things can stay this way, with no nummies and with the injections…”

“NU WAN!”

“…or you can go forever-sleepies.”

Icy froze in horror, and Tyler almost screamed in frustration. This wasn’t the sort of choice any fluffy should be faced with, let alone one so young, but he didn’t have any other options. There really was nothing he could do.

“Pwease, daddeh…” Icy pleaded.

“I’m sorry, there’s nothing else I can do.”

“Icy nu wan fowebah-sweepies! Nu wan fowebah-huwties! Pwease!”

Tyler gritted his teeth, a hint of anger, not at the fluffy but at the situation, seeping into his voice. “Those are the only options, Icy.”

“Icy am sowwy! Nu mean tu be bad fwuffy! Pwease jus’ nu gib fowebah-sweepies ow fowebah-huwties!”

“NO! This isn’t your fault! None of this is your fault! You’re the best fluffy I could’ve hoped for!”

“Den wai?”

Icy, you’re sick. Very sick. Your tummeh is broken and there’s no way to fix it. The only reason you haven’t gone forever-sleepies yet is because of the injections.”

“Icy…am dyin’?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“Nu am faiw…”

“I know, but that’s how it is. You deserved to have a choice, I can’t decide this for you.”

“Wiww Icy gu fowebah-sweepies eben wif in-jek-shuns?” the foal stared at Tyler, with more understanding that he expected.

“Yes, but not just yet.”

“Den…” Icy sniffled. “Den Icy wan gu fowebah-sweepies nao. Nu wan mowe huwties…”

Tyler flinched at the words, even though he’d been expecting them. Internally he was howling with anger, frustration, and grief. Icy didn’t deserve any of this! But even so, he knew what he had to do. He opened the other pack, the syringe that contained the other medicine.

But he didn’t use it, not just yet.



The bowl, freshly filled, made a soft thunk as he set it down. Rather than the fluffy’s normal bowl, he’d opted for a much larger bowl, filled to the brim with spaghetti.

“Sketties nu maek Icy hab sickies?”

“No, not this time. Just this once,” Tyler said, as he emptied the syringe into the foal’s bloodstream.

The medicine, such as it was, had a combination of effects. For one, it would temporarily alleviate the fluffy’s symptoms, if only for a few hours. The side effects, however, were lethal, so it also contained a strong dose of sedatives that would allow the fluffy to pass peacefully. For the first time, Icy could eat without vomiting. For the first time, he’d be able to not be hungry.

The fluffy collapsed, the blissful feeling of being full and the sedative causing him to relax.

“Daddeh?”

“Yes?”

“Tank 'ou, Icy nu hab tummeh-owwies.”

“You’re…you’re welcome,” Tyler sniffled.

“Icy…am…tiwed…”

“Just sleep.”

“Icy…nu…wan’…gu…Icy…am…sca…” the fluffy managed, before succumbing to the sedative. After a few minutes, his breathing became ragged, then stopped.

25 Likes

Oh, that was very well done. Bravo!

4 Likes

I don’t know if it’s easier dealing with sick Fluffies because on some level you know they can understand you, or if it’s harder because you can understand the fear they’re going through.

Either way is fucking rough. Solid story, sad but realistically so

6 Likes

So underdeveloped digestive tract

1 Like

Great work.

'Nuff said.

1 Like

Wow, that was… something. Great job

1 Like

So not fair for neither Icy nor Tyler. :sob:

Poor little Icy. :cry:

Half expected the owner to follow them. :frowning:

Some genuinely good sadbox here. This was a nice read.