Part Five and a Half (Controversial)
[Author’s Note: There’s a bit of backstory that you might have missed in part 5.5 if you don’t read controversial stories. It features a lot of human violence and abuse though, but it lays out some of the backstory explicitly where the main story only makes allusions.]
“We have a problem, James.”
“When don’t we have a problem? Look, I’m too busy to fix whatever it is, you’ll have to do it.”
“She doesn’t remember.”
“I said she doesn’t remember.”
“How can she not remember?”
“I don’t know. She was a kid back then, maybe she was too young to remember it. Maybe it was the head trauma. Maybe I’m the strange one for still remembering it.”
“Mik, she’s the lynchpin in our plan. Without her our chances aren’t good. You NEED to make her remember.”
“I wish every GODDAMN night that I could forget this, and you want me to make her remember? James, you’re a prick, do you know that?”
“Maybe. But I’m the only one who can make this work. So set aside your personal feelings and do what you have to.”
“I’ll find a way. We can do this without her.”
“I’ve told you a thousand times why that won’t work. Her case is the one everyone remembers. Well, everyone but the person who we need to remember it the most, anyway.”
“I know. I…I just wanted to hear it again. Maybe this time I could come up with a counter argument.”
“I’ve got to go, there’s a lot more involved in this plan than you’re considering, and I can’t let the rest of it fall through while I sit here bickering with you. Get. It. Done.”
Mikhael stopped his frantic pacing, collapsing into a chair with a sigh. Well, that was the easy call done, the hard one would have to wait until he was at the clinic. Abruptly standing, he started preparing for the day’s work.
Sam sat on the floor of the saferoom, watching the foals tottering about. They were still too young to open their eyes, but they half-walked, half-crawled in random directions until Hope pulled them close to her again. Knight dozed nearby, exhausted from watching the foals through the night.
Although the foals were in no danger in the saferoom, it was no mystery why the pair were so overprotective of the foals, after all they’d been through. Eventually, Sam was going to have to intervene if things didn’t change, as overprotective parents can stunt a foal’s development, but for now she was content to sit and watch. Hope and Knight had been through enough without her trying to force their recovery before they were ready.
Still, the foals were certainly adorable. It’d been a long time since she’d kept chirpy foals, and the energetic foals warmed her heart with their presence. Occasionally, she’d pick one up and move it back to Hope’s waiting embrace. Hopefully, she could get them more used to being around humans with the gentle contact.
A ringing from the other room drew her attention. She would have brought the phone into the saferoom, but she didn’t want the distraction when spending time with her fluffies. She sighed, annoyed at the disruption of her quality time with the foals, and got up to see who was calling.
The caller was Mikhael, which was a bit unusual since he wasn’t normally the type to call. He’s answer calls, sure, but for some reason he seemed to dislike being the one who initiated contact. Well, everyone has their eccentricities, and Sam wasn’t the type to judge. For a moment, she considered rejecting the call, remembering the previous day’s conversation. Muttering to herself, she answered.
“Hey Sammy!” Mikhael’s voice contained none of the somber tones of the previous day’s call. “I wanted to apologize about yesterday. I was overbearing and crossed lines I shouldn’t have.”
“It’s fine. I understand what you were trying to do, even if you suck at it.”
“Yeah, tact isn’t exactly my strong suit. With a face like mine, you get used to the only people who’ll hang around you having thick skin. Anyway, about your new fluffies, I was thinking you could bring them to the clinic, and I’ll check them out. From what you say, they’re pretty skittish, and…well, a lot of vets don’t exactly react the best way to a fluffy’s way of expressing fear, if you catch my drift.”
“The first time you want to hang out in two months and it’s to get covered in fluffy shit…you’re weird, Mik.”
“Wow, yeah, that really did come across badly. I just don’t want them to get slapped around and lose a lot of progress with their rehabilitation and all. I’ll let them hang around some of the nurse mares too, they could use some positive interactions with fluffies that aren’t the type to judge on color.”
“Why do I feel like there’s an ulterior motive here?”
“There’s a favor I want to ask of you. There’s a chirpy foal who came in yesterday and I would like you to consider taking him in. I think your fluffies would appreciate having a son, and he needs special care. Normally I would foster him myself, but the problems he has don’t allow that, unfortunately.”
“What kind of problems?”
“Well, he was abused. His eyes were forced open early, so I suspect he was forced to watch his family die, and he took that about as well as you would expect. He goes catatonic if he hears a man’s voice.”
“Christ, Mik, that’s… I guess I can see what I can do, but I’m not qualified to handle that kind of thing.”
“Better than euthanasia. I hope. Anyway, show up whenever, with most of the really hurt fluffies going to the specialized shelter, I don’t usually have that much going on at the clinic anymore.”
Sam paused. For some reason Mik sounded strangely out of breath. Then she realized. “Mik, are you making phone calls while working out again? You know weights and electronics don’t mix. Isn’t this your third phone this year?”
Mikhael laughed. “Yeah, yeah. I’m too old of a dog to learn knew tricks at this point. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
Mikhael set down the phone, his hands shaking again. He stood there a moment, counting the tiles on the floor and focusing on settling his rapid breathing.
“I swear, this will be the death of me,” he muttered.
“You okay, man?” Danny, one of the vets working at the clinic, seemed concerned.
“Don’t worry about it, man. I just get out of breath sometimes. Some kind of issue with my left lung, nothing to worry about.”
“If you’re sure…” Danny seemed uncertain.
Mikhael’s breath slowly returned to normal as the images began to fade. He didn’t know why, but even after all these years talking to Sam still drove the flashbacks into overdrive. Of all his triggers, it was the only one that never got better.
Getting the fluffies to the clinic was an absolute nightmare. Fluffies were scared of enclosed spaces at the best of times, due to their programmed aversion to sorry boxes, and the difference between a carrier and a sorry box was nebulous at best. Still, after much cajoling Sam had convinced them that they weren’t in trouble, and that she was taking them to make sure the foals were healthy. Like most fluffies, they were easily convinced by using their foal’s health as a reason.
Sam had made sure the pair had completely voided their bowels before carrying them to the car. The carrier was bad enough, but the fluffies’ terror at approaching the car was overwhelming. Not many feral fluffies hadn’t lost a least one friend or loved one to the “scawy metaw munstahs,” and being put inside one was their own private Hell. The fluffies didn’t have anything in them to make scardie poopies with, but they could still fill the car with noxious gas, so Sam had to drive with the windows down.
Half an hour had never seemed so long.
She was greeted at the door to the clinic by one of the volunteer workers. As a non-profit, the clinic relied on volunteers to keep the doors open, but the local hugbox community had been more than helpful. Upon being told about her appointment with Mik, the volunteer lead her to one of the clinic’s back rooms, passing a couple with a fluffy carrier and horrified expressions on the way.
She walked into the examination room to see Mik holding a pair of red-hot shears. For a moment, she felt sick, but she didn’t know why. But the moment quickly passed as Mik dropped the shears into a bucket of water, releasing a gout of steam.
“What was THAT?” Sam asked incredulously. Mik wasn’t the type who’d pillow a fluffy, even a smarty, unless absolutely necessary, and in recent months the practice was falling out of favor anyway in favor of less permanent solutions.
“Cauterizing shears. Used to pillow fluffies, usually.”
“I know what they are. I want to know why you had them. I thought you never pillowed fluffies.”
“A couple came in wanting their fluffy pillowed after reading that horseshit website about how pillowed fluffies are happier. I told them I’d only do it if one of them let me cut their fingers off first so they could share the experience.”
That explained the couple in the hallway. Mik could get a little…heated when it came to pillowing fluffies. The shears weren’t even necessary, in all likelihood, to scare the couple; Mik was 6’2" and was so broad across the shoulders he had to turn to go through doors, and his scars were striking to say the least. Sam never heard where the scars came from, but asking felt horribly off.
“Follow me, I want you to try to spend some time with that foal I was talking about while I examine Knight and Hope. I want you to be sure you want to foster him now, and it’s best if they get used to being around other people without you there.”
Mik lead Sam into a small nursery, and pointed out a red foal clinging to one of the nurse mares, staring blankly. She picked him up gently, and quickly noticed that he was missing one of his back legs and had large patches of fluff missing from his back.
“You weren’t lying, he’s pretty badly hurt. Any idea what could have happened?”
“Well, someone found him in a biowaste bin when they noticed the chirping. The leg was wrapped in wire and was too far gone to save, so we had to amputate. As for the fluff, I suspect drain cleaner; abusers seem to love the stuff.”
“How long has he been like this?”
" Catatonic, you mean? He usually snaps out of it in about fifteen to twenty minutes, but it’s unrealistic to keep him away from all the male employees, so he ends up like this a lot. I’ll show you a room where you can spend some time around him alone, maybe you can get him to trust you a bit before you take him. Take a bottle with you, he’ll need it, since he hasn’t been eating. The nurse mares don’t know what to do, and I think it’s taking a toll on them too.
“The examination should take about half an hour or so, but I’d like Knight and Hope to spend at least a few minutes around some other fluffies. Isolation isn’t going to help them.”
In the empty storage room, Sam held the poor foal as he stared blankly into space. She gently stroked his fluff, but it drew no reaction, and he showed no interest in the bottle. Unsure what to do, she sat on the floor and held the foal to her chest, hoping the warmth would be soothing to the creature’s tortured mind.
Suddenly, the foal burst into a stream of desperate cheeps and chirps, flailing his nubs his his eyes rolling wildly. Soon, however, he calmed, either from exhaustion or from Sam’s care. After he calmed, Sam offered the bottle, and the foal drank greedily, his belly beginning to take on the roundness associated with a healthy foal. Poor thing, he was probably too frightened to even drink.
As the foal drank, Sam sang a mummah song, knowing it would calm the foal further and perhaps allow him to sleep. Normally, she would have felt embarassed to sing in fluffspeak, particularly in a public place, but the foal’s wellbeing was more important. He was going to need a lot of help to get back on his feet.
In the examination room Mikhael let the fluffies out of their carriers, allowing them to huddle together in the corner. He usually gave the fluffies he examined a few minutes to become more comfortable in the room before doing anything, but in this case there was another reason he was putting off starting the examination. His hands shook and he drew ragged breaths as he struggled to banish the images from his mind.
“Am mistuh otay?” a voice asked, and Mikhael was startled to realize that it was Knight. Normally, a fluffy had a hard time judging humans’ emotional states, especially when it came to strangers. Additionally, frightened fluffies were not known for their empathy. So, he really is as special as Sammy as saying.
“I’m fine. I just…have a bit of a condition. Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay.”
“Nu wook gud. Am sickies?”
“No…well, yes. But it’s not something that can hurt you.”
Knight pulled away from the huddle, murmuring assurances to Hope and the foals, and waddled over to Mikhael’s leg, embracing it.
“Huggies make bettew. Knight gib huggies an’ make owies gu away.”
Mikhael smiled through gritted teeth. He appreciated the gesture, even if it did nothing to help the turmoil in his mind. Once, he would have lashed out, seeing the fluffies as the source of his pain. He’d grown since then, though.
“Thank you, Knight. Can you and your family be brave while I make sure none of you have sickies? I promise it won’t hurt.”
“And please don’t tell your mummah about my sickies. I don’t want her to worry.”
Later that day, Sam sat pondering her options. According to Mik, her fluffies had handled the examination well, but hadn’t taken well to being around the other fluffies in the pen afterwards. Perhaps the story Hope had told her hadn’t been complete, and more had happened with the herd they’d run across than she’d initially been told. It was clear, however, that the pair wouldn’t adjust well to being around lots of other fluffies at the same time. Maybe smaller steps would be needed.
In the saferoom, Hope hugged the injured foal. She hadn’t let go since they first met, although she included the other foals in the hug when they weren’t off 'splorin the saferoom. The little guy needed the love, as his sleep was clearly plagued with nightmares. Her heart hurt for him, seeing the suffering that no foal should ever have been through, his chirps desperate and frightened.
Mikhael sat lost in thought. Sammy had clearly reacted to the shears, saw something in the glowing metal. There was something there, memories buried but not gone. There was a chance, ways that they could be uncovered. But deep in his heart he hoped for failure.
Sammy, I’m sorry, but this is something I need to do. I just hope to God it’s worth it.
So Mik talk to someone bout sam’s “problem” as well…and Mik here have some past issue with fluffies aside from that weird dream he had this is getting really mysterious
Where is the 5.5?
It’s tagged as controversial, so if you don’t have that group enabled it won’t show up.
Me ver knew how to do that but thx