“Hey Debra, we had another herd get brought in.” Debra looked up from her game of solitaire annoyed. “And?” Jim sighed. “You asked us to let you know when a herd with a smarty is brought in.” Oh right. She had asked that. Debra closed her game. She was pretty sure she was stuck anyways. “Lead me to them Jimbo.”
Jim led her down the hallways, the smell of fresh paint still hanging in the air. The shelter had just gone through a remodel recently, to make it more fluffy friendly. While dogs and cats really didn’t give a shit about aesthetics, if fluffies weren’t kept in a friendly environment, they could quickly spiral into depression, especially when they were in cages. Apparently just painting some hearts and a smiling sun wildly improves things according the consultant the shelter owner had brought in.
Jim and Debra rounded the corner to the processing area, the sounds of huuhuuing and sobbing audible from the open door. Walking inside they were greeted by a fairly large herd, around fifteen fluffies of various size, breed, and color. “So Jimbo, which ones the smarty?” He lead her to a garishly pink and orange unicorn, who upon seeing the shelter workers puffed out his cheek and stomped his foot weakly on the cage floor. He scowled at the two humans. “Meanie hoomins, wet hewd go ow get wowstest sowwy hoofsies and poopies!” He turned, tail raised. Debra picked up a piece of thick acrylic, sliding it in front of the cage door as the unicorn sprayed shit. “You process all these other fluffies Jimmy boy, I’ll take care of charmer here.”
Removing the acrylic and opening the cage, Debra pulled the smarty out by its scruff. “Wet smawty down!” the little stallion screamed, struggling to free himself from her iron grip. “Come on little man, we need to get you checked out at the clinic.” As they walked down the hall, the smarty’s struggling only grew. “Wet Gummi go! Gummi am hewd smarteh, nee’ Pwotect hewd fwom meanie munstah hoomins!” Debra snorted derisively. “Yeah I’m sure.”
Entering the clinic, Debra slipped a collar around the neck of the smarty, hooking him onto the exam tables leash. As soon as her grip relaxed, Gummi attempted to bolt, jumping towards the edge of the table, getting jerked back by the leash at the last moment and landing feet up on the cold steel table, screaming and struggling to right himself. Debra began filling out a “Death by Natural Cause” form.
The smarty, unable to right himself, began to softly sob. “Gummi am dummeh smarteh.” Debra looked over at the smarty, noticing with mild revulsion he had soiled himself, urine soaking his belly fluff and running down him in rivulets. Debra had to be honest, this sure didn’t appear to be the murderous raping killer she was warned about. More of a petulant child. But looks could be deceiving.
Retrieving an empty syringe, Debra filled it with air. Walking over to the now sobbing smarty, she felt its neck for an artery. “Wan mummah.” Debra froze. “Human or fluffy mummah?” Gummi sobbed again. “Wan hoomin mummah.” Debra felt his ear, feeling the telltale lump that indicated a chip. “Fuck, that was close. Let me give your mommy a call.”
Retrieving the chip scanner, she scanned his ear, dialing in the phone number that came up. After a few rings, a young woman answered the phone. “Hello, this is Savannah, whats up?” Debra cleared her throat. “Hello ma’am, my name is Debra, I work at the city animal shelter. We found a chipped fluffy which belongs to you.” the line went silent. “You found Gummi?” A moment of silence. “Shit. I cant take him back.” Debra heard the giggling of a fluffy on the other line. “Mummah who am on dah tawkiebox?”
“I can guess what happened. Don’t worry, there’s no shame in moving on. I’ll make arrangements.” The young woman on the other end sighed with relief. “Thank you.” Debra hung up. There went Gummi’s one out.
Walking back into the clinic, Debra smiled at the still sullen fluffy. “Good news! Your mummah is coming to pick you up!” the fluffy, finally managing to right himself, squealed with joy before suddenly appearing worried. “Wut abowt hewd? Gummi no can weave hewd awone. Smarteh nee’ pwotect hewd.” Debra smiled. “Don’t worry, your mummah said she can take in the whole herd!” Gummi squealed in joy again, doing a little happy dance.
“Now, before your mommy can take you home I need to give you a shot.” Gummi looked at her blankly. “Ummm… Helpful owwies.” He definitely understood that. “Pwease nu giv Gummi owwies!” Debra looked at him with faked concern. “If I don’t give you this helpful owwie, your mummah won’t be allowed to take you home!” That got him. “Den pwease twy to gif smawwest owwies onwy pwease?” Debra picked up the air filled syringe. “It’ll be fine. Just think of your mommy.”
Debra felt his neck, finding the carotid artery after some searching through the filthy pink fluff. “You’ll feel a bit of a pinch dear.” She swiftly injected the embolism. “Alright, just think of your mommy, she’ll be here soon. Gummi smiled as he slowly began to drift off. “Fwuffy am tiwed. Gonna sweep untiw mummah come.” He lost consciousness with a smile on his face. Minutes later he was dead.
Debra wondered if she did the right thing. It was a smarty, but she had heard smarties were far more like a gremlin from hell than Gummi had been. He had seemed legitimately worried about the well being of his herd. But the risk of him being anything like the rumors was far too great. And, what was the life of a fluffy worth anyways? Five dollars, ten on a good day? Carrying him over to the dumpster, she ran right into Jim.
“Hey Debra, what’s up? Wait, is he-” Debra cut him off. “Hes dead Jim. Died of natural causes while I was checking him out.” Jim looked at her with both anger and suspicion. “Debra did you kil-” Debra tossed the body into the dumpster. “WE CAN’T DEAL WITH SMARTIES JIM!” Her raised voice startled Jim. “Not now.” She slammed the dumpster lid closed. “Not ever.”
Harry sat with the rest of the employees. The shelter management had called a mandatory emergency meeting. Every shelter employee was in attendance. He somewhat of an idea what was about to happen. With the severe overcrowding of fluffies it was probably going to be about offloading a couple dozen of them to the neighboring cities shelters. Why this would involve an emergency meeting of all the employees was a mystery.
A tall man in business casual strode up to the front of the room. “Hello! Some of you may already know me, but for those who don’t my name is Johnson, I’m the main owner of the shelter. I come today bearing bad news.” He cleared his throat nervously. “Due to immense overcrowding of the shelter, the city and I have been forced to make a difficult decision. Starting the first of next month, we will switch over to a kill shelter.”
The room erupted.
“THATS NOT WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR!”
“I REFUSE TO BE A PART OF IT!”
Johnson gave them a few minutes to shout and let out their aggression before calming down the crowd. “I know. This is a difficult decision for me to make as well. But due to the ever increasing rate at which stray fluffies are brought in, and the ever decreasing rate at which they are adopted, we have been forced to change.” A younger girl in the back choked back tears. “But can’t we just send them to a neighboring shelter?” The shelter director shook his head solemnly. “Even if we did, they are also kill shelters, and they already are suffering from the same issues as we are.”
Harry had been speechless for the last couple minutes. Things were happening so fast. Gathering himself, he raised his hand. “Yes young man? Do you have a question?” Harry stood up. “What about the dogs and cats?” Johnson smiled. “They are not subject to the new rules. In time we plan to phase out acceptance of them, directing them to West avenue’s shelter.”
A relatively new hire, Lisa, stood up to speak. “How will euthanasia proceed?” Johnson immediately looked uncomfortable. “Due to budget constraints, we will not be able to procure the large amounts of pentobarbital necessary to keep up with the euthanasia schedule, so instead the city has, uh, given us a limitless supply of…” Johnson could no longer meet the gaze of anyone in the room, instead choosing to look down at the handful of papers. “Natural gas.”
The horrifying realization of his words didn’t take long to dawn on the crowd. “NO!” screamed a voice from the back of the room. Eric, one of the senior employees, had stood up, fury in his eyes. “I’ll have no fucking part of this slaughterhouse.” Johnson had flinched when he stood, but held up his hands to placate him. “No, I won’t force anyone to participate. I understand this is antithetical to our original goal. Anyone who wishes to quit will get the regular severance pay and a good reference.” His secretary stepped forwards. “Anyone who wishes to quit, come see me after the meeting. No two week period is necessary.”
Harry was the first in the queue after the meeting ended.
Lisa forced a sad smile as she gave the giggling green and yellow unicorn named Dandy a bellyrub. She had been one of the people who stayed behind, for the good of the fluffies in the shelter. She had worked in hospice care, how much different could this really be?
So different. In hospice care, people are ready to die. They’ve said their goodbyes, made their peace, ready to journey into the great unknown. But fluffies, fluffies have no concept of death besides a sleep you don’t wake up from, but even that terrifies them. To that end, fluffies are forbidden from being told what happens when the little wheel on their cage reaches red.
“Miss Wisa, stahp! STAHP!” the fluffy spoke through a fit of giggles. Lisa looked back from her daydream to see Dandy had soiled himself. “Oh crap, im sorry little guy!” He took a couple minutes to stop panting before giggling at her. “Miss Wisa gib the bestest tickews!” Looking down, he saw the puddle of urine around him. “Fwuffy sowwy make bad peepees miss Wisa.” Lisa smiled at him. “Don’t worry little man, I’ll clean it up.” She retrieved a roll of paper towels, patting the fluffy dry before cleaning up the puddle.
To her surprise, Dandy grabbed a sheet of paper towel, clumsily attempting to clean up the mess along side her. “You don’t have to do that, I can take care of it.” The fluffy looked up at her, smiling proudly. “Fwuffy’s daddeh say ‘Aways cwean up youw own messes, be dey poopies ow toysies!” Lisa smiled at him. “Your daddy sounds like a special man.”
They quietly mopped up the puddle for a few minutes. Finished, they put the towels in the trash, and Lisa brought Dandy back to his cage. “Fwuffy nu wike nu sowwy bocks.” Lisa gave him a cheerful ruffle of his head. “Don’t worry little guy, I’ll see you tomorrow!” As she closed the door, she turned the wheel on his info card back a day. Surely there will be no harm in giving him an extra day, right?