Jennifer sighed as she turned the ignition off, sitting in her car and hesitant to leave it, the young woman still not mentally prepared for her workday to begin. Her eyes drifting to the clock on the dashboard, she watched as the minutes passed, dreading as it slowly approached 7 A.M., knowing that she could put it off no longer. Stepping out of her car, Jennifer made her way to the modest office building, already emotionally drained as she unlocked the door and turned the knob. Only slightly open, she could already hear the chorus of screams and pleading from within the back room where the fluffies were kept.
“*huuu…huuu…huuu…Hewwo? Nices’ wady?”
“HEWP!!! SUM’WAN HEWP FWUFFY P’WEASE!!!”
“Fwuffy sowwy…nebah maek ba’ poopies ‘gain…jus’ wan weggies back…”
“*SCREEEEEEE!!! TU DAWK!!! FWUFFY SCAWED OF DAH DAWK!!!”
It was the same each day at the Fluffy Rehabilitation Center, with the unfortunate biotoys calling out for succor the moment Jennifer arrived. Before she could tend to them, she made her way to the drop box that was connected to the center’s front door, already able to hear the muffled cries within. One of many changes that had come as of late, a small sliding panel was made so people could anonymously drop off abused or homeless fluffies to be cared for by the center, similar to a large mailslot. Sighing to herself, Jennifer leaned over and latched the top of the box, careful not to let it fall as she hefted it to a nearby table for a base inspection. Peering through the small grating, she could see that there were several new arrivals, most of which were sporting minor injuries or worse. Based on the awful stench that the carrier was barely containing, the majority were most likely ferals, the putrid scent of unwashed waste being a dead give away. Most of the fluffies within were thankfully considered non-critical and could be processed after she’d done her morning rounds but two would require immediate attention.
Laying out a paper cover and readying her first aid kit, Jennifer unsnapped the top of the carrier, the cacophony of noise picking up as the fluffies within saw her. With a mixture of sobbing, begging, and horrified shrieks, it was nigh impossible to make anything of it yet, save for the fact that the delicate creatures were frightened and confused. Putting on a pair of rubber gloves, she then reached in and quickly pulled out an orange earthie and a white unicorn, both of which were horribly injured.
“NUUUUUUU!!! *SCREEEEEEE!!! NU HUWTIES FWUFFY!!! NU HUWTIES FWUFFY NU MOWE!!!”
There were burns over the orange stallions entire chest, his fluff singed off and the raw tissue underneath exposed to the elements, trailing from his neck all the way to where his genitals had once been, the remaining area now a dead lump of coagulated flesh. Tremoring in Jennifer’s hand, it was clear that the stallion expected nothing less than more torture, going limp as she placed him on the table.
The unicorn was far quieter, not that she had any say in the matter. Her eyes wide and tear filled, she stared silently towards Jennifer as she tried in vain to scream, her entire lower jaw missing, the mare only making a grotesque gurgling sound as her tongue freely flapped to and fro. How she had survived so long was a mystery, her fluff drenched in blood from the mortal wound. Squeezing her hoof, Jennifer had a macabre feeling of relief as she felt the unicorn’s slow and dwindling pulse, placing her away and out of the less fortunate stallion’s sight. “At least it’ll be over soon…”
It’s all Mayor Underhill’s fault, thought Jennifer as she held the frightened earthie down, readying her tools for the gristly task at hand. Months ago, the Mayor had passed several ordinances that were intended to curb fluffy abuse and stem the number of ferals around town. The original idea had been a simple one: to create a fluffy hospital that not only treated abused fluffies, but also sought to rehabilitate them. With their wounds tended to, it was thought that they would be sent to local Fluffmarts for resale, thus lowering the feral population. But not long after the center was built, concessions were made to please Underhill’s more vocal would be voters. Well intentioned lovers of the biotoys were adamant that the shelter adhere to the city’s strict anti-euthanasia policy. While abusing and even outright killing a fluffy was perfectly legal, albeit frowned apon by most, the moment one of the biotoys found their way into a shelter or the like, it was illegal for them to be purposefully put down. By trying to please the masses, Mayor Underhill had inadvertently tied Jennifer down with red tape, creating a slew of contrary and even outright idiotic policies and laws that only further condemned the poor creatures they were intended to help.
Gazing down at the burned stallion as she injected him with a potent sedative, it was hard for Jennifer not to grimace. Most of the blackened, crackling remains of his chest would have to be removed, cleaned, and covered. And he would need surgery to remove what remained of his genitalia before she could fit him with a catheter but that would have to come later, as Jennifer wasn’t trained to do so. His eye lulling in the back of his head as his pained groans began to die down, the stallion was quickly out from the shot, giving Jennifer time to scrub down the burned areas, removing the singed remains and sterilizing the area. Even under heavy sedation, the stallion groaned as she worked, the pain too severe for even unconsciousness to evade. Once the burns had been cleaned and cleared of the blackened tissue, it was time to cover them. Normal bandages would be a terrible choice for burns as severe as the stallion had, with Jennifer instead opting for a few sheets of cling wrap that she slowly worked around the raw and angry wounds.
Once it was securely around the stallion’s chest, Jennifer gave a slight sigh, noticing that the nearby unicorn had finally stopped moving, the poor creature giving in to it’s wounds. What would have once deeply saddened her now barely phased Jennifer, who could only think that it was better off in the long run as she reached under the table, pulling out a clipboard and long, red plastic tray. Taking a pen, she quickly scribbled a few notes on the small tag that dangled from the tray before gently scooping up the stallion and placing him on it. With little fanfare, Jennifer tore a few sheets of wax paper and rolled the unicorn cadaver several times before carrying the remains to the garbage chute, letting it tumble down the dark channel that led to the bio-dumpster outside. Once finished with the macabre task, it was time to put the stallion with the other fluffies and finish her morning rounds, not to mention the paperwork she’d need to file due to the deceased unicorn.
Carrying the stallion by the plastic tray, Jennifer made her way into the backroom, her footsteps causing another eruption of noise from the fluffies within. Lining each wall were rows of cages stacked apon cages, with nearly all filled to capacity.
“WET FWUFFY O’WT!!! WET FWUFFY O’WT!!!”
“*SCREEEEEEE!!! HU DEWW?! AM TU DAWK!!! *huuu…huuu…huuu…FWUFFY NU WIKE THE DAWK!!!”
“*Sniffle…Gud bwite time nices’ wady…Am nummies time soon?”
It had been a standard saferoom when Jennifer first started working at the center, with several beds for the fluffies to sleep in together. But in a mere six days after Mayor Underhill’s ordinances were announced, the center was filled far beyond capacity and could no longer afford the open space. Now each broken or traumatized fluffy was confined to it’s own cage, with little exception save for foal siblings, which were kept together. Originally they were also allowed to stay with their mother if they were found with one but that policy had quickly changed when one well intentioned mare had eaten one of her progeny in the night, unaware that she would be receiving a steady supply of food to help her feed her babies.
Walking past the rows of fluffies, trying her best to drown out the pandemonium of screeching and weeping, Jennifer carried the stallion to an empty cage near other fluffies who also had a red tray within, marking them as emergency care. Once other members of staff were to arrive, they could easily see which of the biotoys required their immediate attention, with the colors drifting from red to yellow, and finally green. With the stallion managed for the time being, it was time for Jennifer’s rounds. Going to a large dispenser, she took a nearby pitcher and filled it to the brim, slowly making her way from the red tray fluffies all the way to the green, careful not to feed any that would be receiving any surgery or the like that afternoon.
“TU DAWK!!! WAI AM SU DAWK!!! HEWP FWUFFY!!! *SCREEEEEEE!!!”
By the time she reached the yellows, she could already hear the frenzied cries of the red pegasus, the frantic fluff bumping around his cage as he screamed with each impact. Being naturally frightened of the dark, the center kept the secondary lights on, even after hours as a way to help keep the poor biotoys at least somewhat calm. But the pegasus had shown up with severe damage to both of his eyes, the only option being complete Enucleation. With the damaged tissue completely removed, the unfortunate pegasus was now in a state of perpetual darkness, unable to calm or relax as he shrieked for succor, his mind too dull witted to comprehend that for him, the light would never come again.
Pouring only a half serving of kibble in his bowl, Jennifer went to a nearby table, fetching a treat and mild sedative which she hid within it, her hand lingering near the capsules as she struggled with the same thought she had each day. It’d be easy to claim that the dosage had been too high by mistake, to trigger an overdose and put the poor creature out of it’s misery. Unable to cope with the loss of his sight, the pegasus required daily tranquillizers, else he overtax his heart and suffer a heart attack or stroke. Shaking her head slightly, she instead took the laced tidbit and dropped it within the bowl before reaching in and grasping the unsighted pegasus by his scruff, forcefully leading him to his bowl even as he shook wildly against her and dragged his hooves against the plastic bottom of his cage.
“NUUUUUUU!!! HU AM DEWW?! NU HUWTIES FWUFFY!!! P’WEASE!!!”
He struggled until Jennifer pushed his head slightly towards the bowl, the smell of food reminding the pegasus that he hadn’t eaten in a fair while. His meal quickly consumed, the fluff began to wobble slightly until he toppled over, still conscious but only vaguely aware of where he was. And this was to be how he spends the rest of his days, thought Jennifer. Either drugged out of his mind or scared out of his wits. Swallowing her feelings, the young woman steeled herself, knowing that she couldn’t afford to get emotionally invested. Jennifer had already seen the aftermath of countless fluffies that had been tormented and tortured. It was a tragic truth that some might recover with time, but many more, like the blinded pegasus, were simply lost causes.
Leaving the addled fluff to his waking limbo, Jennifer continued with the routine examinations and feeding, with the number of screaming and terrified biotoys slowly dwindling as she approached the cages that housed the green tray fluffies. These were the fortunate few that had suffered little physically or psychologically by comparison, the rare hopefuls that barely numbered in the double digits. She fed a few foals that had recently been weaned, and a venerable mare that had outlived it’s owner, the later of which had lost another tooth. She was approaching her eighth birthday and the degradation was already starting, a few teeth here, a few clumps of of fluff there. It was a sad fact that the closer to eight a fluffy was, the faster their body started to breakdown. Blissfully unaware of her own biology turning on her, the older mare quietly smiled as Jennifer made sure her kibble was watered down enough to chew. With that squared away, there was only one fluffy left to check on, one that gave the fluffcare worker mixed feelings. Opening the last cage, she was met with a yellow earthie, who walked slowly up to it’s entrance before sitting squat and waving her hoof towards Jennifer.
“Hewwo ‘gain nices’ wady…Can Buttahmiwk hab nummies nao, p’wease?”
Meek and polite, the yellow mare never failed to tug at Jennifer’s heartstrings. Unlike most of those at the center, Buttermilk’s demeanor was still fluff-like, with a strong emphasis on sweetness and being polite. The usual policy was to try and avoid talking to those that came to the center, as it was far too easy for the biotoys to grow attached to their caregivers, and visa versa. But shortly after her arrival, Jennifer found herself unable to ignore the yellow mare, her sweet nature a balm among the legion of broken and shrieking fluffs. She couldn’t help herself, smiling as she leaned over to filled Buttermilk’s bowl. “Here you go Buttermilk. Enjoy.” Smiling meekishly, the yellow mare began to slowly consume her breakfast as Jennifer turned to walk away, hopeful that today would be the exception and the fluff might finally have forgotten.
“Tank yu fow nummies nices’ wady…Nices’ wady?..Hao wong tiww mummah comes back fow Buttahmiwk?”
Her heart sank. Despite how much working at the center had hardened her, the question never failed to sting. It had been the first thing that Buttermilk had ever said when she was dropped off weeks ago, left on the center’s doorstep in a cardboard box, the poor thing scared out of her wits and oblivious to the fact that she was abandoned. It had been Jennifer herself that had found her that morning, the crying fluff asking her over and over where her owner was and how long it would be until she came back for her. Despite being told multiple times that her mother wasn’t coming for her, the mare asked again and again each day, either too naive or hopeful to accept the truth. “Buttermilk…I’ve already told you. You’re owner isn’t coming back for you…” Her eyes tearing up slightly, the mare only sighed before going back to her meal, with what little vigor she had now gone, calling out sheepishly to Jennifer as she was nearly out the door.
Intended this as a one shot but it sort of mutated while I was writing it and I felt it was getting overly long so I’ll be breaking it into parts.