Once Frost’s birth had been dealt with and Dylan had been posted in the clinic to take care of her foals, Emrys saw the vet off to her truck then headed inside. He made his way to his small home office and pulled a book from a shelf, sitting down at his desk and flipping it open. The book was his personal log of fluffy births and deaths on the farm. Prior to today, he’d entered in Frost’s arrival and tracked her condition. Now, he put pencil to paper and recorded the new arrivals.
- Earthy, Female, Light Gray
- Pegasus, Male, Neon Orange
- Earthy, Female, Puke Green
- Earthy, Male, Primary Yellow
- Earthy, Male, Black
Once he’d put down their types, sexes, and coat colors, Emrys leaned back in his seat and stared at the page. Now that he had them, he had to figure out what to do with them. It was a shame Dylan was mixed up in all of this and a complete hugboxer, otherwise he could have just incinerated the lot and been done with them or turned them over to the university lab for medical experimentation. That would have crushed his friend, though, and Emrys didn’t want to see Dylan crushed. He figured at least one of the foals might make a decent pet for Dylan once he’d learned how to handle them properly. Having been through the process himself, he felt confident he could help Dylan pass the ownership proficiency test with the knowledge gained from hand-rearing his own fluffy. That was the fate of one foal, perhaps, decided. That left four more. Emrys suspected he could sell off the ones with better coloration privately. He bounced possibilities around in his head for a while before coming back to the black foal.
Black was a pretty rare color and it just so happened that Emrys knew someone in need of a foal with a black coat. After a moment of deliberation, he picked up his phone, dialed a number and waited for an answer.
“Professor Hall’s office. How may I help you?”
“Hello, this is Emrys Haden from Screaming Beaver Farm.”
There was a pause, as there almost always was when he called and gave the name of the farm to a receptionist unfamiliar with him and his business.
“Yes, that’s right. Can you let the professor know I called and tell him he can reach me at my usual number?”
“Of course. He has that?”
“He should, yes. Let him know I’m calling in regards to his research project.”
“Okay. I’ll pass the message on to him. Thank you.”
“Great, thanks! Have a good day.”
“You too. Goodbye.”
Emrys hung up and pushed his phone into his pocket. With that dealt with, he could determine what to do with the rest of Frost’s offspring. The yellow, neon orange, and light gray foals had decent enough coloration. He’d offer them to Dylan to keep and whichever one or ones he didn’t want, he could Screaming… probably sell off or, failing that, euthanize. The green foal caught his eye. She had good, seasonal colors for Halloween but for any other time of year, they were hot garbage. There was little chance of selling her. He was tempted to keep her for himself, even if she was from questionable parentage. If she had a decent temperament, she’d make a nice addition to the Halloween cast.
When Fall rolled around and the picking season came, Emrys held an annual Halloween event at the farm for locals and visitors from out of town. It was a big to-do. Halloween was Emrys’ favorite holiday and he put every effort into making each event he held even bigger and better than the one that came before. One of the biggest draws was the hayride that loaded people onto a flatbed platform hooked to a tractor that ferried them along a track where, in the back fields, Emrys had built his Halloween experience. There were dozens of custom sets, mostly populated by a mix of the farm’s fluffies and human volunteers, all acting out horror scenarios. People particularly loved watching Zombie - a mottled black, gray, green and brown mess of a fluffy - stumble around a faux graveyard, uttering high pitched moans and groaned demands for head-sketties. Second in popularity to that exhibit was the Frankenstein set, where a human in the titular role of the doctor was assisted by his fluffy assistant, Igor, as they resurrected another of the farm’s fluffies: Creature.
The puke green filly had the potential to grow up to make a good addition to that event and perhaps a partner for Zombie. Emrys smiled to himself at the mental image it conjured and considered it a distinct possibility. He was in the process of jotting down a few other ideas when a call came in. Fishing his phone from his pocket, he checked the caller ID briefly, then picked up.
“Hey Emrys. I got your message.”
“Sweet. Listen, I know you’ve been needing a black foal and one just fell into my lap. Born today. The mother is derped and can’t really care for it. Let me send you a few pictures, hang on.” Emrys navigated to his photos and forwarded a few of Frost’s brood.
“Just a second. Let me have a look, here. Okay… Wow. Yeah, this is perfect. If you don’t have any other plans for it, I’ll take it.”
“No plans, yet. Figured I’d call you, first thing.”
“I really appreciate it. We’ll have to do some prep work, but I think we match it to Carbon.”
“Probably. What do you want me to do with it?”
“It’s a chirpy, right? And you’re hand-rearing partially with a derped mother? Leave it with her to nurse for now. I’m going to send you a few audio files. Put them on a loop nearby so the foal can hear it while it’s awake. The transfer should happen as soon as the eyes open. Tell it that its mother was derped by its brothers and sisters. They were bad babies who gave their mother the worst hurties in her thinkie place. Also tell it they’re dead so it thinks its a wastest babbeh.”
Emrys could hear the sound of a mechanical keyboard clacking in the background as the professor continued. “I’m writing all this up in an e-mail. I’ll send it over with additional instructions and a little script for you to use with it.”
“All right, sounds good. There are other foals, though. Did you want me to move them off to an incubator so he’s by his lonesome?”
“Absolutely. Thanks, Emrys. This helps immensely with my project and next semester’s class. Oh, are you doing your Halloween thing this year?”
“Sure am. Did you want to buy tickets?”
“Hell, yes. I missed last year’s while I was at a conference. If you can set aside four for myself, the wife, and the kids, that’d be amazing. I might have a few interested students, too.”
Emrys couldn’t help but feel a swell of pride knowing how in demand his little event was. “Thanks. That just made my day, not gonna lie. I’ll set aside four for you and the family. I’ll also set aside, huh, maybe ten? Yeah. Ten tickets.”
“Yeah. You figure out which of your students to give them to. Maybe cook up one of your weird fluffy psychological tests to use on them as a way to compete for 'em.”
“Ha! Okay, I’ll wire you for the fourteen tickets and I’ll shoot you this e-mail with the care and handling instructions for that black foal.”
“Sounds good. Thanks, Tim.”
“Thank you. Talk to you later.”
The call ended and Emrys felt a little lighter for it. All he had to do was wait for that e-mail to see what his next steps would be.
The foals needed to nurse roughly once every four hours or so and, after every feeding, be stimulated to defecate. When they weren’t eating or shitting, they slept or spent a limited amount of time crawling around blindly and chirping. Emrys explained to Dylan that they’d need to keep up the manual feeding and stimulation for at least five days before they could defecate on their own. Dylan watched them wriggle around while they were awake in those occasional periods, his heart melting a little like butter as he kept up the vigil. They were adorable. They already had their lower layers of fluff and were distinguished by their colors: light gray, neon orange, puke green, yellow, and black. Four earthies and a pegasus in all.
While he camped out in the vet clinic, Emrys dealt with the day-to-day business of running the farm. As far as he was concerned, Dylan’s job for the time being was looking after Frost’s foals. It wasn’t a bad assignment, that was for sure. He really didn’t have much to do while the foals slept or squirmed, so he watched videos on his phone or went over some of what he’d learned about the farm in his head. When they started to peep for food, he delivered them to Frost’s teats and when the feeding ones had enough, he swapped them out for the other pair. It wasn’t particularly complicated but Emrys made sure that Dylan had him on speed dial if anything even the slightest bit out of the ordinary occurred.
Dylan’s mental review went over Emrys’ operation. The farm herd was kept largely for the high-grade fertilizer they produced. Emrys used that fertilizer to feed the farm’s orchard and gardens. That wasn’t the only use he had for his working fluffies, though. They had other ways of pulling their weight. When fruit started to drop from the trees, close to Fall, it was collected and deposited by a series of fruit collectors that funneled the dropped fruit into buckets the fluffies had access to. They would pick up the fruit that dropped and deposit it into little carts that they could draw back to the main barn for drop off and processing. They could also pick berries and carry other produce. And, as he’d also found out, Emrys let them eat their fill while they worked. It wasn’t much in the grander scheme of operations but to the herd it was a special treat; a reward for their gathering efforts.
The fluffies in the barn were all of a particular type Emrys referred to as working fluffs. Dylan hadn’t asked what the difference between them and domestic fluffies was, yet. They were also allowed to have special friends and screw when the mood struck. Emrys had them all on a specialized feed blend that made for optimal fertilizer but also prevented unwanted pregnancies. He didn’t think it was right to deny them their ‘speciaw huggies’ but he also didn’t want to put up with the whining about ‘wump huwties’ or knocked up mares, so he’d incorporated a little fluffy birth control into their feed.
As far as mares were concerned, Emrys’ were bred on a rotating schedule. It gave them something to look forward to and acted as a reward. Emrys found it also made for a more cohesive dynamic among the small herd. The other mares were all pleased as punch to help the current soon-mummah and look after her foals when they were born, dreaming of the day when it would be their turn. There wasn’t much of an issue of poopie babbehs or alicorn phobia. Most of the farm’s fluffies were what most breeders and aficionados would consider bad, dull colors.
When he’d asked about the color scheme and why he’d want to keep dull colored fluffies, Emrys was more than happy to explain about his Halloween event and how he used the fluffies as actors in his horror sets. It explained why a lot of the barn fluffies had what might be seen as terrible coloration, especially where Zombie and Igor were concerned (their coats were a mottled mess.) Emrys had chosen to buy or breed fluffies that fit in not only on the farm but also with his holiday plans.
The fluffies seemed to like it, though. Enough that it had made a lasting impression. During his first few days getting to know the barn herd, Zombie and Igor had managed to prank Dylan pretty good, with Igor acting the part of the panicked fluffy who found a dead friend and Zombie playing dead only to ‘reanimate’ once Dylan had been wound up enough. By the time the joke had been discovered, the whole herd was in stitches and Dylan was a wreck. Emrys hadn’t warned him about any of that type of behavior. Since then, Dylan had started to get to know them and their personalities. The pair were usually pretty quiet and reserved most of the time. They were also joined at the hip as best friends and shared a wicked sense of humor.
Apart from the Halloween cast hijinks, there were a few other barn fluffies that Dylan had grown to know. Speed was one of them. Speed was a dark red pegasus with a yellow mane and tail. She was the fastest fluffy Dylan had ever seen. Emrys had fitted her with a collar that had both a GPS unit and two-way radio on it that she could activate by moving her head a certain way. Dylan didn’t see much of her, partly because she had a hard time standing still and partly because it was her job to patrol the length and breadth of Emrys’ property and call in anything out of the ordinary.
Another pair of the barn fluffies were Hazel and Gossamer. It was their turn in the breeding rotation and their first time as potential parents. Hazel was a Verona green mare with a black mane. Hardly the prettiest of colors, but with a sweet personality. Gossamer was her special friend, a bright orange stallion with a yellow mane.
There were many other fluffies, but Dylan would ruminate on them later. He was pulled from his thoughts by the hungry peeping of Frost’s foals.