The foal opened his eyes to find himself lost in a vast expanse of cream, stretching as far as the eye could see. Beneath his soft, undeveloped hooves stretched a neverending, featureless plane of a hard, glossy material, perfectly flat and uniform. On the horizon loomed stark, sheer cliffs of the same material, towering impossibly high above him.
Then, the rumbling started.
At first it was subtle, a shudder that reverberated through the ground, barely perceptible. Then came an awful shriek, a metallic rasp that rose like the cliffs around him into a high-pitched whine. The foal splayed his legs, trying to keep his footing as the ground beneath his feet began to shake. His head darted left and right, searching for the source of the noise, and then he saw it in the distance, something that caused his breath to catch in his chest, and his heart to skip a beat.
From the sky above descended a glistening, translucent spear, breaking apart into countless glimmering shards as it plunged down through the atmosphere towards the earth. It slammed into the cream expanse with enough force to drop the foal to his knees, shattering into a glistening, roaring wave that surged towards him. A deep terror seized the foal as he realized what it was, what was coming for him, and he uttered a phrase all fluffies knew before they could even make talkies, whispering it like a terrified prayer to an uncaring god.
“…wawa am bad fo’ fwuffies…”
The wave devoured the glossy ground as it swept towards him, seeming to the tiny foal almost like the maw of some great predator, yawing wide in preparation to swallow him whole. He tried to turn, to run, but his soft hooves could find no purchase on the slippery surface beneath his feet, and in his terror, he instead found himself stumbling and sliding out of control. He opened his mouth to scream for help, but no sound made it past his throat. As the shadow of the all-consuming wave fell upon him, the foal felt sheer, pure fear grip him and squeeze, and then…
A strange, serene peace came over the foal, the peace of knowing one’s own time had come, and there was nothing that could be done to wind the clock back. He gazed up at the towering wall of water, poised to crash down upon him, and he accepted his fate. He closed his eyes, thinking back to the happy times, the islands of light in the dark, and all-too-brief ocean of his life. Cooing in his mother’s hooves as she sang oh-so sweetly to him of milk and the future. Romping in his enclosure with the other brown foals, his brothers, laughing and chasing one another without a care in the world. The friendly faces of what could have been his new mothers and fathers, gazing down at him happily. He wished those times could have lasted forever, he wished there were more of them to come, but he knew his fate was at hand.
As the torrent of water fell upon him like a volley of crystalline arrows, he smiled. He felt a familiar, comforting warmth: A warmth that started in his no-no place and slowly oozed down the insides of his hind legs. And then, the flood engulfed him.
Arthur couldn’t help but chuckle as the foal coughed and spluttered, splashing desperately about in a puddle of water that barely came up to his hooves. He’d deliberately let only the smallest trickle from the tap, knowing how terrified the tiny creatures were of it, but in the moments before the slowly spreading puddle had reached it, it had almost looked like the brown foal’s entire life had flashed before his eyes—at least, right up until he’d soiled himself.
“DADDEH!” glub “HEWP! SAB BABB-!” glub the foal pleaded, his eyes clamped tightly shut as he thrashed and flailed around wildly, succeeding only in splashing more water over his own head.
glub “NEE’ WUN 'WA-” glub “-ONWY WIDDLE BA-” glub
“Oh, for fluff’s sake, calm down.” Arthur groaned, catching himself from swearing at the last moment. As part of their child-friendly programming, fluffies were extremely sensitive to ‘bad wordies’, as they called them, and the last thing he needed was a slip of the tongue setting off the six other already-terrified foals still in the pen behind him, awaiting their turns. “Look, it’s not even up to your ankles, see?”
Reaching into the tub, he wrapped his fingers around the thrashing foal, closing his hand to force the struggling fluffy to still itself. Its flailing stopped, but its tiny body quivered with fear in his grasp, still blubbering and whimpering quietly.
Arthur was kicking himself for not just throwing them all in at once. He’d thought it best to take it one at a time, in an ill-fated attempt to keep each of them calm, but with the amount of screaming and sobbing the first ‘volunteer’ was letting out, he expected the rest would be terrified long before their hooves ever touched the ceramic.
sob “Daddeh, wet… wet fwuffy ou’ of baff nao?” sniff
“We haven’t even started yet.” Arthur sighed with exasperation, letting the heaving, sniffling foal in his hand calm down. “You’ve barely even touched the water.”
“Wawa am bad fo-”
“Yes, I know water is bad for fluffies. But I’m here, I’m not going to let it hurt you, okay little guy?”
The fluffy peered up at Arthur from beneath his fingers, its quivering eyes wide and pleading.
“I promise.” Arthur consoled, pulling his hand away and starting to scratch the foal behind its ears in a futile attempt to calm it down. “Look, this is going to be uncomfortable and a little scary, but your daddy knows what he’s doing. You’re safe, the water isn’t going to hurt you, I’ll make sure of it. Now be a brave little fluffy and let me bath you, unless you don’t want a name.”
sob “Fwuffy wan namesie.”
“Well, only clean fluffies get names.” Arthur chided, grabbing a nearby bottle of shampoo. He’d hoped to calm the colt before this next part: he’d opted for a strong shampoo guaranteed to scrub every speck of grime from the fluffies filthy coats, rather than the more gentle products usually reserved for foals. It wouldn’t hurt them, but it certainly wouldn’t be a comfortable experience for them, especially if it got in their eyes. “Now hold still. This is going to sting, but only for a little bit.”
The fluffy nodded his assent, but before the first drop of shampoo had even soaked into his back he was kicking and thrashing again, eliciting another exasperated groan from Arthur. Deciding it was better to rip the bandaid off quickly instead of prolonging the fluffy’s—and his own—suffering, he forcefully held the wailing, blubbering foal down with one hand and went to work lathering it up with the other.
“NUU, BUWNY BUBBWE-”
“Nnngh… hold still, damn it!”
gasp “DADDEH, NU SAY BAD WOWDIES!”
“Oh for- quiet, it’s your turn next.”
“SCREEEE, S’AMPOO HUWT SEE-PWACES!”
“I TOLD you to HOLD STILL!”
At last, after a grueling ten minutes of kicking, screaming, and pleading, Arthur deposited a shivering, sobbing, but spotless foal into one of the towels he’d piled beside him and breathed a sigh of relief. One down, six to go.
Drying the foal was mercifully much less of a challenge than bathing him had been. Swaddled in the soft, absorbent towel, the foal’s terror all but melted away as his new owner gently rubbed him dry, and only thirty seconds in he was cooing and chirping happily, which thankfully seemed to set the other nervous foals at ease. What really turned things around, though was when he returned the foal to the playpen with his brothers and sisters.
The moment Arthur gently set the now-placated foal down on the padded floor of the pen, the other fluffies let out a collective gasp. The brown colt’s previously matted, coarse fluff was now light, shiny, and puffed up, almost like the wool of a sheep. Now free of the dirt and grime that had concealed them, his blonde, curly tufts of what would eventually grow into a mane were visible.
“Bwudda wook so pwetty!” one of the brown fillies exclaimed as the group clustered around him.
“Smeww so pwetty too!” gasped the other, taking a few steps towards him.
“Hey, no hugging.” Arthur cautioned, placing his hand in front of the litter to block them. “He’s all nice and clean now, if you hug him you’ll get him dirty again. You can hug and play all you want once you’ve had your baths.”
“Baff make fwuffy wook an’ smeww a’ pwetty ad bwudda, daddeh?” inquired one of the brown colts, to which Arthur nodded.
Immediately a chorus of “Fwuffy wan baff!” and “Upsies daddeh, fwuffy wan’ go nex’!” assaulted Arthur’s ears, the eager foals trying—and failing—to scramble over one another in an effort to climb the low divider that separated the playpen from the tub.
“In a moment. First, our brave little pioneer needs his reward.” Arthur smiled.
For a few moments, the brown colt’s face alternated rapidly between excited and confused, until somewhere in his little brain, he remembered what Arthur had promised him.
“Fwuffy get namesie?”
“That’s right.” Arthur said, leaning over the pen and making a show of examining him closely, though in truth he’d already chosen a name, one inspired by the same nervous, rapid movements he was displaying right now. “Let’s see, you look like a… ‘Twitch’.”
The tiny foal let out a noise halfway between a gasp and a squeal of delight, sitting up on his hind legs, then collapsing to all fours again, before repeating the motion over and over, looking almost as though he was jumping for joy, though his hind hooves never left the ground.
“Twit’ wub nyu namesie, hab so many heawt happies! Fank’ouh so many daddeh!”
Arthur suppressed a smirk at that. It had been a brainwave, happening on a name that was not only appropriate, but just so happened to cause the fluffy to refer to himself as ‘Twit’. He doubted he’d come up with anything half as clever as that for the rest of them, no matter how hard he tried.
From there on, bathtime was less of a struggle, though a struggle nonetheless. Second up was the blue foal, who despite clearly being just as terrified of the water as his brown brother, let out nary a peep or chirp, and managed to remain silent the entire time. Arthur decided to christen him ‘Navy’, in honor of his (relative) fearlessness of the water and his blue coat. Third went one of the brown fillies, ‘Xena’, so named for her ill-fated attempt to give the water ‘sorry-hoofies’, which backfired spectacularly when she succeeded in splashing it all over herself. She turned out to have fittingly jet-black, shiny tufts of hair on her head, neck, and hindquarters. Fourth was the grey-maned second brown colt, ‘Motor’, who upon being lowered towards the water, attempted to escape it by outrunning it—while still being held aloft by Arthur, his little legs churning through the air like pistons. Fifth, with a sideswept green mane, was ‘Chatterbox’, who in stark contrast to Navy, talked incessantly through her entire bath. Sixth, the final brown foal, who turned out to be more of a dark green with a brown mane once the dirt was washed from his coat, earned himself the name ‘Skid’, both for the impressive slide all the way from one end of the tub to the other he managed after slipping free of Arthur’s grip in his panic, and the disgusting brown trail he left on the ceramic in his wake. And the final foal, and only non-earthie amongst the bunch, the violet pegasus with a purple mane, approached her bathtime with almost the same terror as Twitch had, and won the name ‘Wallflower’, for her tendency to shyly linger a short distance from the others.
At long last, and after having scrubbed both the bathtub and his own hands raw with steel wool, Arthur closed the saferoom door behind himself, muffling the excited shrieks, chirps, and babbling of the frolicking foals. Pulling his watch from his pocket, he glanced at the time while fixing it back on his wrist. It was only midday, and in an hour, would be time for the litter’s first meal in their new home. First, though, it was time for him to eat.
As he strode into the kitchen and opened the fridge, a faint peeping reminded him of his impulse purchase, the ‘Lucky Foal’ can still lying on the counter.
“What the heck, may as well get you out of there now, so you can eat with the others.” he muttered to himself, carefully taking up the can. Though he didn’t expect much, as his finger depressed the release clamp, he felt the anxious wings of intrigue begin fluttering in his chest, almost in time with the surprised squeals from within the can as the catheters retracted from the startled inhabitant. Taking a deep breath to calm his nerves, he pulled free the upper milk compartment and nipple, and gently inclined the can so the contents slowly slid from it into the palm of his hand.
When he saw the fluffy in his palm, blinking and chirping in natural light for the first time in its life, he drew in a sharp breath of surprise.
“Well well. Lucky foal indeed.” he muttered, raising an eyebrow. “It really is my lucky day.”