Golly4Ever

Zipper's Story

Apr 30th, 2020
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  1. Trip: !!xOdo0N8fEOX
  2.  
  3. ----------
  4. NOTE:
  5. This story has moved to google docs where it is being de-greened and revised with lots of stuff being added as I go along. So please follow the link below for the most up-to-date version of the story!
  6.  
  7. NOW WITH CHAPTERS AND SECTION HEADERS!
  8.  
  9. Commenting is turned on, so have at it:
  10. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XPyUh4lMmYRF_q3K_F5VPLabkKtn7zIAvtlTS54C9rY/edit?usp=sharing
  11. ----------
  12.  
  13. >Hi! My name's Zipper. I belong to the Stitch family. That's what it says on my tag, at least. I can read it! Not many pets my age can read. Hyooman pets are the only kind that can, but usually they aren't allowed to, or they just don't teach them, but not Blanket. He teaches me good. His parents, Hem and Cross, said it's ok because we can help each other learn and he can do better in school and stuff. I'm Blanket's. I mean, I belong to all of them, but he takes care of me the most, now. He gives me food. He takes me to the park. He used to clean me until I learned how to do it myself. Hem and Darning used to do all that until Blanket got big enough to do it. That's because we were both born on the same day, of the same year! He started walking and talking before I did, though. Ponies grow up a lot faster than us hyoomans. He doesn't have a horn either, like his parents, or his older sister Darning do. When Hem and Cross are gone at work or somewhere, Darning is usually the one keeping things together. But when Blanket and I start having too much fun, she makes us go outside while she fixes things.
  14.  
  15. >Not today, though. Today is park day. We're already outside! I hope Button is there. She's my friend. She belongs to another family. Some of the ponies say we look like each other. I think that's neat. I like the park. It's bigger than the yard. I can run up to full speed before reaching the fence! But the fence still isn't far enough away to give me enough room to slow down and stop when I do, though. So I don't run at full speed very much.
  16.  
  17. >Park day is the best day. I get to run around with all the other hyoomans my age. We take turns throwing the ball or frisbee to each other. Blanket will push me on the swing. I wait at the bottom of the slide for him to land on me. Those ponies don't know how lucky we got it!
  18.  
  19. >>35252540
  20. >I'm getting up from the ground, pushing myself off of the fence when I hear Blanket calling me.
  21. >"Hey Zipper! Catch!"
  22. >Oh! It's my turn to catch, now!! I quickly turn to see where he is. He has the frisbee. I like that better than the ball. I like how it flys along. It's bigger too, so it's easier to catch.
  23. >I run and it's going high, so I jump as high as I can, my arms are up. My hands are up. Even my fingers are out as long as I can make them!
  24. >But it misses me. I didn't jump high enough. But I jumped as high as I could. I wish I had wings like some of the other ponies I see. Then I could catch any frisbee from anywhere! I can even fly up and not touch the fence when I run too fast!
  25. >The frisbee lands somewhere behind me. The other foals and kids start moaning and groaning at me for not catching it, even though some of them are telling me how great of a job it was. I think they're just being nice, because I did not do a good job at all.
  26. >I still get to throw it back, though. I just have to go get it. It landed somewhere behind me.
  27. "There it is!"
  28. >It landed on the pavement, by the bench. Oh. Grumpy is here.
  29. >That's not his name. We all just call him that. He just sits on the bench. His Pony just lets him in and he stays all day until he comes back to take him home. He's a lot older than any of us. He doesn't play or talk to us. He just sits on the bench, arms crossed, always grumpy looking.
  30. >That's where the frisbee landed, next to the bench, on the ground, next to him.
  31. >I don't think I want to play anymore. I look back, looking for Blanket. He's there, telling me to hurry up.
  32. >Grumpy sure looks extra mean today. Blanket wants me to get the frisbee, so I have to. My collar is feeling really hot. I use a finger to pull it away a little. That helps lets some air under it.
  33.  
  34. >>35252590
  35. >I slowly and quietly go up to the bench. Maybe he doesn't see me.
  36. >Without moving his head, his eyes move, and look right at me. He sees me. He definitely sees me! I quickly point at the frisbee next to him. My finger is shaking!
  37. "I'm just... I'm just going to..."
  38. >He snorts out a puff of air. His arms are still crossed. They're always crossed. His clothes are different than ours. They're old looking; torn. They're made of a different material that I haven't seen. The sleeves were torn off of his shirt. He should get that fixed, or get a new shirt.
  39. >I slowly get closer. I can hear the other kids and foals yelling at me to hurry up, but I'm moving as fast as I can!
  40. >My arm is out as far as I can make it go. Not close enough! I have to make more steps closer. Oh no! I looked at his eyes again, and they were still looking at me!! I look back down at the frisbee. Still not close enough!!
  41. >Another step, then.
  42. >I almost looked at his eyes again, but I quickly put my other hand up so I could only look at him from the neck down if I did.
  43. "Almost... There!"
  44. >I think he can hear me. My eyes look up again, but good thing I had my other hand up because all I saw were my fingers, and his shoulder without a sleeve on it.
  45. >He has a cutie mark! Grumpy has a cutie mark on his shoulder! I thought only ponies got those, and only on their butts!
  46. >I forgot about the frisbee. My hand even went down. I wasn't going to look at his eyes again, I couldn't. I couldn't take my eyes away from his shoulder!
  47. >A heart. It's red, with a black outline. there's a banner, or maybe a ribbon flowing across the bottom of it. It has words! I've never seen a cutie mark with words before.
  48. "L... Lisa. R.I.P.."
  49. >That must be his name.
  50. >"Go away, kid."
  51. >He spoke to me! I'm standing next to the bench. How did I get so close to him?!?
  52. >Oh my Celestia. Those arms are really big. They must be strong enough to R.I.P. me in half!! Please stay crossed.
  53.  
  54. >>35252640
  55. "...Lisa? Is that your na-"
  56. >Lisa suddenly stands up and turns towards me. I'm definitely going home in more than one piece... I think one of them just fell out of my flank into my pants.
  57. >"I said go away!" He was very loud.
  58. >Oh, believe me, I wanted to go away, as fast as I could. I don't care how hard I hit the fence, but my feet were stuck. My legs wouldn't move! Only my pee came out.
  59. >"Well?!"
  60. "F- F- F... Fris... Bee."
  61. >Faster than I know I could ever run, even if I tried really really hard, he already picked up the frisbee. That's our frisbee; the one we were playing with. He had it. Oh no, his arms are uncrossed!
  62. "L... Lisa, I... I'm..."
  63. >He roared louder than I ever heard anything roar ever. Louder than thunder even. His breath was hot, and it stinked.
  64. >I just closed my mouth. I don't even remember what I was trying to say.
  65. >Lisa then threw the frisbee with a loud grunt, and it disappeared. It just got smaller and smaller in the sky and vanished.
  66. >Some of the kids started crying. The others were all pressed up against the fence, as far as they could be from me and Lisa. That's where I wanted to be. Or maybe home. Yeah, I wanted to be home. It's safe there. I have my box and my blankets there.
  67. >"You're next, kid."
  68. >I'm shaking so much, I was able to unstick my feet from the ground. I could move again! And boy did I move!
  69. >I ran as fast as I could to the farthest corner of the park from the bench and stood behind a tree. He couldn't pick up the tree and throw it, could he? What if he could?
  70. >I don't like the park anymore. Park day is NOT the best day. It's the worst day!
  71. >I can hear Blanket yelling. I can't hear what he's saying, but I know it's his voice.
  72. >Oh no. What if Lisa has him!
  73. >I carefully peek around the tree, just my eyes. Hopefully Lisa won't see me.
  74. >I see Blanket. He's standing, on his own. He wasn't R.I.P.ped in half or thrown. He's yelling at Lisa! His owner's there too. He must have just gotten back.
  75.  
  76. >>35252671
  77. >Lisa's owner clips a chain to his collar, and they soon leave after his pony, a stallion with a thick beard talks to Blanket. I think saw him give Blanket some bits.
  78. >It's only foals and kids in the park now.
  79. >Suddenly, with Lisa on the other side of the fence, the park is the only safe place in the world. I don't want to go home. I want to stay on the other side of the fence from Lisa.
  80. >"Zipper? Zipper, come on!"
  81. >Blanket's calling me. I don't want to move, again. The fence is protecting me, so is the tree.
  82. >"Zipper? It's ok now!"
  83. >He's getting closer. Good. I can just stay in this spot.
  84. >"Zipper, there you are. It's ok. It's ok. That mean hyooman went home now. He's not going to hurt any person anymore today."
  85. >Blanket is hugging me. I feel safe. I hug him back.
  86. >Someone's crying. Oh. It's me.
  87. "Frisbee..."
  88. >It's all I could say. I had one job.
  89. >"Shh, shh... it's ok. Look, his owner paid me for it, we can get a brand new one!"
  90. >He showed me the bits he got.
  91. >I feel better, but I'm still shaking.
  92. "I wanna go home, now."
  93. >"That's ok. Me too."
  94. >He clips my leash onto my collar.
  95. >"Let's go home, and get you cleaned up."
  96. >I nod to him, and he leads me out of the park. I stick close to him, because if Lisa is around, I need to protect him. Yeah.
  97.  
  98. ***
  99.  
  100. >>35252707
  101. "Ok, now hold still, Blanket."
  102. >"Zipper, I think you're heavier than the last time we tried this."
  103. "I think it's because I'm taller than the last time we tried this."
  104. >It was Blanket's idea we tried doing it again. We're both a little bigger and older now. I think it was his idea last time too. He always has the best ideas.
  105. >"Can you reach?"
  106. "Almost! Just a little more..."
  107. >I stand on my tippy toes. the fur on his back feels nice on the bottoms of my feet. I grip the bottom of his mane with some of my toes. That helps, but also because I want to, too.
  108. >Blanket was Standing on a chair from the eating table, and I was standing on Blanket. We were both in front of the refrigerator. I was trying to reach the top for him.
  109. "I can touch it!"
  110. >My fingers were reaching! I could feel the side of the jar!
  111. "Just a little..."
  112. >Oh no! I pushed it back. I can't touch it anymore.
  113. "Blanket, can you get me any higher?"
  114. >"I'll try."
  115. >He put his front hooves on the back of the chair, one at a time, and pushed himself up higher. That helped me get up higher too! I could put my whole hand flat on the top.
  116. >"Does that help?"
  117. "It does! I'm trying to find it again. Hold on!"
  118. >I pat my hand around. I can't see up there, so I have to see with my fingers. There's a lot of dust. It's coming down and getting in my mane. My hair, I mean.
  119. >I look down and see it's getting in Blanket's hair too. I mean his mane.
  120. >I feel the side of the jar again. I can put all of my fingers on it too! I pull it closer. Lots of dust starts coming down. It smells tickly.
  121. "I got it! Hold still. I'm coming down with it."
  122. >I try to blow the dust out of my nose in little bursts. Blanket is doing the same thing too. A slimy booger sticks to the fridge. I laugh. There's dust in it!
  123. >The jar is in my hand. It made it over the edge of the top of the fridge. It's free! So I start bringing it in, because my hand isn't big enough to go all the way around the jar, so it's hard to hold, and the dust on my fingers isn't helping.
  124.  
  125. >>35256536
  126. >The lid that was sitting on the top of the jar slides right off and hits me in the face! It hurt a lot, and I saw Ursa Major.
  127. >It makes a big noise on the floor, and we both hold very still. I look down and Blanket is moving his ears around. I'm holding my breath.
  128. >No hoofsteps.
  129. >A sugar cube lands on top of my head. Oh no!
  130. >Another one lands next to it.
  131. >I look up and another one is coming fast. I try to catch it in my mouth, and the other two fall off.
  132. >It bounces off my cheek and lands on Blanket's head.
  133. >"Zipper, what are you doing? Hurry up!"
  134. "They're falling out!"
  135. >"Just bring it down!"
  136. "Oh! Right!!"
  137. >I pull my arm in, bringing in the jar with it because it's in my hand.
  138. >Blanket shakes his head, snooting air out. It's making it hard for me to stand on him.
  139. "Blanket?"
  140. >Blanket sneezes really hard. It makes his whole body shake, and I fall off.
  141. >I can see the sugar cubes coming out of the jar one by one as I'm going backward. I'm too high up! I'm going to die!!
  142. >I let go of the jar and put my hands back so they can push the floor away when it gets to me. Sugar cubes are going in every direction now.
  143. >This was the worst idea. Blanket's always getting us in trouble!
  144. >I should have touched the floor by now, but I'm not moving. The sugar cubes stopped moving. My head can't even move. Just my eyes. I try to look around.
  145. >I hear a single hoof tapping on the floor. I look in that direction and see it, attached to an older pony. That's not Blanket. Blanket is in front of my feet in the air.
  146. "Uh... Hi, Darning."
  147. >My mouth can still move too. She was using her magic.
  148. >"Just what do you two think you were doing?"
  149. "Uh..."
  150. >"Uh..."
  151. "We were... We were getting the treats, for you."
  152. >"Yeah!"
  153. "Here they are!"
  154. >She didn't want the treats.
  155. >We both had to sit in the corner.
  156. >Different corners too. Because we kept looking at each other and giggling.
  157. >I find sugar cube crumbs in my hair. They're sweet. I wonder if Blanket has any of his own. I try to save a few for him.
  158.  
  159. ***
  160.  
  161. >>35256542
  162. >It's park day again. Already!
  163. >We went to a store first. Blanket went inside. He tied my leash to sign outside and said that it said that I couldn't go in with him. I look at it. There are no words on it. How does he know what it says?
  164. >He finally comes back out, holding a bag.
  165. >"Hey Zipper! Guess what I got!"
  166. "Food? You got food, didn't you? I want food. I like food!"
  167. >I try to lean forward to look in the bag as he grips the handles in his teeth, but it's too far and my leash pulls taut on my collar, making me gag a little bit. I back up to the sign and look at where it's tied.
  168. >It's a simple knot. I can unite it easy, especially since I have fingers. But I know I'm not supposed to, so I don't. I just tug on it with my hand and look at Blanket. If I make my eyes big and sad looking, it sometimes helps. Especially if they have food I want.
  169. >"It's not food."
  170. "Oh."
  171. >I make my eyes normal and frown.
  172. >"Oh, don't be like that. You'll like this too. I promise!"
  173. >While he's untieing my leash, I'm looking in the bag. It's a...
  174. "Frisbee!"
  175. >"hehe, yeah. I knew you'd like it."
  176. >This one is green. Green is good. The other one was red. I liked red, but green is good too. I wanted to throw it, but Blanket said to wait until we get to the park first. Why did we get a new frisbee?
  177.  
  178. >We get to the park. I look around. Some of the other kids are there, but not all of them. Some of them have their ponies with them too.
  179. "Button's here!"
  180. >I want to show her my new frisbee. I wave at her real big. She doesn't wave back. I wait until she's facing this way, and I wave again. She smiles and waves back. I smile too.
  181. >Blanket is taking forever to close the park gate. When he finally does, he takes forever to unclip the leash from my collar. I'm dancing in place I can't wait.
  182. >I hear the click and I zip off running! I'm running so fast, I must be a blur. I put my arms out and when I reach Button, I wrap them around her and we fall on the ground and roll over a few times.
  183.  
  184. >>35264118
  185. "Button!"
  186. >"Zipper!"
  187. "Button! Look what I got! See?"
  188. >We're sitting in the grass. We're all grassy from rolling around, but I don't care. I show her my new green frisbee.
  189. >"Oh, wow! Is that to replace the old red one?"
  190. "Why? What happened to the old red one?"
  191. >I hear the gate opening. Another kid is coming! I look up to see who it is.
  192. >Oh, it's Grumpy. But that's not his name. His name is...
  193. "Li... sa."
  194. >I remember what happened to the old red frisbee. I pull my new green one in close to my chest. I hold it tightly with both hands.
  195. >"What?" asks Button.
  196. "...Him," I say, keeping my eyes on Lisa standing, he's tall. He doesn't have a leash. He has a big heavy chain.
  197. >His stallion is talking to Blanket. They're... Shaking hooves?
  198. >Blanket looks around and sees me. He's calling me and wanting me to come over.
  199. >Button looks, "It looks like your pony wants you."
  200. >But Lisa is there. I shake my head.
  201. >Blanket calls again. I have to go.
  202. "Here. Keep it safe, at all costs."
  203. >I hand the new green frisbee to Button. She takes it, and I head towards Blanket. Maybe if I keep Lisa behind Blanket from me, I'll be safe.
  204. >Oh no, but what if Lisa goes after Blanket to get to me? He won't see it coming!
  205. >It's a risk we all have to take.
  206.  
  207. >>35264122
  208. "Uh. Hi Blanket."
  209. >I hold my arm with one hand behind my back.
  210. >"Zipper! This hyooman has something that he'd like to say to you."
  211. >Blanket turns and makes room for a direct path for Lisa to reach out and grab me. With those arms. Those big arms, too big for sleeves. That's probably what happened to them. He still has his cutie mark, it didn't wash off. It must be real. Or he doesn't wash his arms.
  212. >"Down!" orders the stallion, yanking hard on his chain, pulling him down to his knees.
  213. >Lisa winces.
  214. >I flinch. That looked like it really hurt. I better get down on my knees too.
  215. >"No, Zipper, this is for you," said Blanket, before pulling me back on my feet by my hand. His teeth never hurt, and he usually never slobbers all over me. I'm glad.
  216.  
  217. >>35264124
  218. >Lisa goes from his knees to sitting on his legs, looking me up and down; probably figuring which parts will come off the easiest (Probably my arm. It pulled out once when Blanket and me were playing spin-a-round. The vet pushed it back in though).
  219. >Even down that low, Lisa's still taller than me.
  220. >The stallion makes the chain do a wave. Part of it touches Lisa's back, making him gasp, flinch and grunt. It just barely touched him!
  221. >Lisa looks me right in the eyes. I look right into his.
  222. >I should be scared. But suddenly, I'm not. He's not being scary. He still looks the same, same grumpy frown. I don't ever get this close to him before, though.
  223. >There are lines on his face (old cuts? I have an old cut on my foot that was before I got to wear shoes!). His eyes are colored grayish-blue. Mine are green, so are Button's, and Snap too.
  224. >He has hair on his face. it's really really short. Like those little round cactus plants. Don't ever squeeze those with your fingers.
  225. >Some of the hairs are gray too.
  226. >"Ajax?" says the stallion. He's pulling on the chain.
  227. >I can see his collar. It's bigger than mine; thicker. There's metal, and even a tiny flashing light. His neck has the same lines coming out from under the collar.
  228. >Lisa leans forward, putting his hands on the ground in front of him. He lowers his head down and speaks.
  229. >"Sorry, kid."
  230. >His voice is low and gravely.
  231. >I look over at Blanket. I don't know what's going on.
  232. >Blanket looks at the stallion.
  233. >The stallion makes the chain do another wave.
  234. >Lisa gasps, flinches and grunts again. I flinch too.
  235. >"I'm sorry about your frisbee."
  236. >He's talking about the old red one.
  237. >"Please forgive me." He keeps his head down.
  238. >But it's ok. I have a new green frisbee.
  239. >I carefully step forward and slowly reach out my hand. I should be scared, but I'm not, for some reason.
  240. >His eyes. When I looked, there was something there. It told me... something. I don't know what it meant. But I know it didn't mean to be afraid. I have to learn him.
  241.  
  242. >>35264130
  243. >My hand is right above his head. Ok, I'm just a little bit scared now.
  244. >Still, I put my hand down and ruffle his mane. It's stiffer feeling than mine. Mine is really soft. I like feeling manes.
  245. >I smooth his hair back down and take a step back. I look at Blanket. Blanket looks at and nods to the stallion.
  246. >"Good boy," said the stallion. "Up, Ajax!"
  247. >I am a good boy.
  248. >Lisa stands up. He brushes some of the dirt off of his knees and hands.
  249. >The stallion leads Lisa over to the bench and takes his chain off. Lisa sits down on the bench and crosses his arms.
  250. >"Now Zipper, you go and play for a while. I have to go do some things and will be back later, ok?"
  251. "Aww... Can't I come with you?"
  252. >Blanket shakes his head. "No, I can't tie you to a post everywhere that hyoomans aren't allowed all the time. You'd be too bored. Don't you want to play with your friends and your new frisbee?"
  253. >I do want to play with my friends and my new green frisbee. I nod to him.
  254. >"That's what I thought. Try not to have too much fun without me!" He ruffles my mane.
  255. >I laugh, fixing my hair back. We'll see about that. I'm going to have so much fun. I'm sad that Blanket is going to miss out!
  256. >I jump forward and give him a big hug. He puts a hoof around my back.
  257. >"Ok, go play!"
  258. >You don't have to tell me twice! I zip off running back to Button. I'm so fast.
  259. >When I get to her, I look back but Blanket is already gone. So is the stallion. I wonder who will come back first. I feel a little sad. I miss my pony.
  260.  
  261. >>35264137
  262. >We threw that frisbee all over the park, every corner!
  263. >Some of the other kids joined us too, and even some of their ponies played a little, but not as much.
  264. >Sometimes it would get stuck in a tree, and a pony would use their magic to get it down. She would throw it with her magic only. She would make it spin really really fast, and it would fly super straight and hard.
  265. >I don't like catching it when she throws it. It hurts my hand.
  266. >Another kid would throw it way up in the air, and his pony would catch it and throw it back down to us.
  267. >But the ponies don't play with us for very long. They just liked to sit in the shade and talk to each other.
  268. >Blanket told me not to bother them if they weren't already playing with us, so I leave them alone. I try not to hit them with the frisbee.
  269.  
  270. >We've been playing and running around for a long time! It was time for Button to go.
  271. "Bye! Don't forget to tell Snap how much fun we had!"
  272. >She gave me a hug, so I gave her one back, and she and her pony left.
  273. >Snap is Button's older brother. He used to come out here with Button a lot, but not very much anymore. He was growing a lot and played with us less and less. Even his voice was changing. But he would still have fun with us, sometimes.
  274. >Button said Snap just wasn't interested in playing with us anymore. He must have found other fun things to do.
  275. >The other kids were getting tired too, and spending more time next to their ponies in the shade. So one by one, they were going home too. some of them were two by two, leaving with their friends.
  276. >It's getting pretty empty.
  277. >I look around. Oh. It's just me.
  278. >...And Lisa.
  279.  
  280. >Where is Blanket?
  281.  
  282. >I'm hungry. There's a fountain in the park for us to drink out of. The ponies never use it, not even Blanket. They have their own they use their hooves to turn on. We're not allowed to use that one, even though it's easy to use. I stepped on the bar once, and it turned on for me too. Then a pony chased me away. I was only looking!
  283.  
  284. >>35268533
  285. >Only water comes out of the fountain; both of them.
  286. >Blanket said it was because if something is for ponies only, it's because it's bad for us hyoomans. It could kill us; like poison.
  287.  
  288. >The sky is turning colors. That means it'll be night soon.
  289. >Where is Blanket?
  290. >I look at the bench.
  291. >Lisa is still there.
  292. >Blanket says I can sit on it too. It doesn't belong to him. That one's for all of hyoomans (the other one is poisonous).
  293. >I go up to it. Lisa is on one end of it. He's not looking at me. He's just sitting there, with his arms crossed, looking grumpy.
  294. >I carefully sit on the very edge of the other end with only half of my butt, in case I need to jump up and run.
  295. >He hasn't said anything to me. I try not to look at him. I hold my new green frisbee tight, away from him.
  296. >My butt's getting tingly. I have to use the other half or I won't be able to walk like last time it got too tingly.
  297. >I quickly look at him. He doesn't do anything. So I slowly scoot over until all of my butt is on the bench.
  298. >I am one-half butt closer to Lisa.
  299. >That's half a butt too close. I'm starting to shake.
  300. >I want my Blanket.
  301. >I start to sniffle.
  302. >Lisa lets out a breath of air. The kind when you try to do something but it doesn't work, and you just breath out because that's what you do...
  303.  
  304. >He's moving!
  305. >I carefully watch from the corner of my eye. He's reaching in his pocket.
  306. >It's a pouch. There's a little paper too. What's that for? What's he gonna do?
  307. >He folds the paper like a taco. I like tacos. But I've never had a paper one. He must be hungry too.
  308. >He pulls some brown stuff out of the pouch and puts it in the taco shell. It looks like dirt, like the kind in the bottom of the pot I accidentally broke yesterday. Brown and stringy and flakey. It smells different though.
  309. >Oh. He's making a burrito. A really tiny one, I guess. He tastes it before putting the end in his mouth, just holding it with his lips.
  310. >A match! Maybe he needs to cook it first.
  311.  
  312. >>35268547
  313. >No. He's just burning the end with it.
  314. >That's all he's doing, just burning it down. It's mesmerizing.
  315. >He breaths out smoke like a dragon.
  316. >I haven't seen very many dragons at all, but he sure looks like one!
  317. >"What, kid?"
  318. >I didn't realize until now that I was fully facing him, staring at him.
  319. "W... What's that?" I ask him.
  320. >He burns some more off and then gives me all the smoke that comes out. It makes my eyes super dry and itchy, and my nose is on fire on the inside.
  321. >"Medicine."
  322. >I'm coughing.
  323. "Oh."
  324. >I turn away, in case he wants to give more of his dragon smoke. I'm not sick, I don't need medicine too.
  325. >Maybe that's why he's always so grumpy. He's sick. Poor Lisa. I hope he gets better soon.
  326. >Some of his smoke goes my way. It smells... interesting. What kind of medicine is it? I've never seen it before. I think I've smelled it before though.
  327.  
  328. >I look and it's just a tiny little red ball of fire in his fingers now. He flicks it away and I see the tiny shooting star fly off and land in the dirt somewhere.
  329. >He breaths out one last stream of smoke. I Quickly turn back away.
  330. >"Where's your master, kid?"
  331. >He's talking to me!
  332. >His voice is still low and gravely, but softer. He's not telling me to go away this time.
  333. >I better answer. I don't want to keep him waiting.
  334. "M... My, master?"
  335. >"You're owner? The one who holds your leash."
  336. "Oh. Blanket. He said he would be back."
  337. >"Huh... Yeah. They always say that."
  338. "But they always are. He'll be back. We can't live without each other."
  339. >He shakes his head slowly. I don't understand, did I say something wrong?
  340. >"Sure kid."
  341. >Ok, so he agrees with me.
  342. >"It's only a matter of time."
  343. "For what?" I ask.
  344. >The gate opens up behind us. I quickly turn around
  345. "Blan-"
  346. >No. It's the stallion, with Lisa's heavy chain. I hope I never get big enough to need one of those.
  347. >"Before the last time is the last time," said Lisa.
  348. >The stallion clips the chain onto Lisa, and leads him out of the park, closing the gate behind him.
  349.  
  350. >>35268565
  351. >I watch the gate close.
  352. >I turn back around. Nobody is here.
  353. >No other kids, no other ponies.
  354. >I'm... all alone.
  355. >I'm alone.
  356. >I've never been alone, outside before.
  357. >I've been alone at home all the time. But it's safe at home.
  358. >It's safe in the park, but that's because all my friends are here.
  359. >But nobody is here now. It's just me.
  360. >I'm so sad suddenly.
  361. >The light's starting to go away. It's getting colder, and scary.
  362. >I put my frisbee down on the bench and put the side of my face on it. I make myself into a ball.
  363. >The sniffling is back, and tears are coming out. My collar feels tight and I'm crying.
  364. >What did I do wrong?
  365. >'until the last time is the last time...'
  366. >The last time for what?
  367. >He'll be back. He said he would. Just like last time. Last time.
  368. >My eyebrows are scrunched together hard. My mouth is frowning hard. I'm not telling them to. They just do on their own. So many tears.
  369. >My face is hurting from it all.
  370. "Blanket!!"
  371. >It's just my voice in the park, and the sound of crickets. The fireflies are turning on. There are so many of them. Not like at home, in the back yard.
  372. >Home.
  373. "Blanket..."
  374. >Where are you?
  375. "I'll be extra good, I promise."
  376. >There's an owl. I can hear it somewhere.
  377. >"Who-Who?"
  378. "...Blanket."
  379. >I close my eyes.
  380.  
  381. >>35268579
  382. >My eyes are still closed. But I'm so comfortable. I can keep them closed forever!
  383. >I'm warm. These blankets are so soft, and they smell so good... Just like my pillow.
  384. >Blankets. Pillow.
  385. >My eyes pop open. I'm at home!
  386. >I look in the corner. There's my bed. The big box I saved is there too. It protects me from thunderstorms, and monsters from the closet at night.
  387. >That means...
  388. >I roll over and Blanket's here! I'm in his bed, next to him. He's still asleep.
  389. >I'm in his bed! I'm not supposed to be in his bed! Cross said so.
  390. >I scramble out from under the covers, backing away from Blanket. There's no more bed under me and I hit the floor.
  391. "Ow!"
  392. >Blanket starts waking up. "Zipper? Are you ok?" he says, in his doesn't-want-to-wake-up voice.
  393. >I pop up onto my feet, rubbing my flank where it hit the floor. I'm in my shorts. I like shorts. They're comfy and easy to wear!
  394. "Blanket! We're Home!!"
  395. >I push on him to help him wake up faster.
  396. >He laughs and pushes back, "I know that!"
  397. >Blanket grabs the other pillow and hits me with it before pulling the covers over himself and rolling to face away from me. "It's too early."
  398. >I look at the window. It's getting brighter outside, but the blinds aren't drawing lines on the wall yet.
  399. >I get the tingle.
  400. "I'm gonna go potty!" I announce.
  401. >"Just go!" he says. His voice is all muffled.
  402. >Right. I don't need to tell him when we're home. We have a place for it. Not just a tree or rock or bush.
  403. >I open his door and sneak out into the hall. I keep very low.
  404. >I'm a ninja! I'm so sneaky.
  405. >I can hear Hem in the kitchen. She's making food. I can smell it.
  406. >My stomach makes loud noises. It's gonna give me away!
  407. >I dart into the bathroom and close the door.
  408. >Yellow is the color of the sun. Orangy yellow is the color of Button's pony.
  409. >When I'm done, I have to flush. I don't like flushing. It's loud and fast. If I stand too close it might suck me into it!
  410. >I turn the doorknob so all I have to do is pull the door open.
  411.  
  412. >>35272756
  413. >I stretch out as far as I can reach. The lever is too far away. Another step, then.
  414. >Almost there... The tips of my fingers can make it jiggle.
  415. >I remember the old red frisbee. Reaching out for it. I remember Lisa grabbing it. I remember him roaring.
  416. >The toilet roars. But it never grabs or throws anything.
  417. >One time I made it choke and spit up though. That's when Blanket taught me that the only stuff I should put in there is the stuff that comes out of me. And the wiping paper. But not drawing paper or writing paper.
  418. >One more step. I'm close enough. I'm starting to shake. But I know what I have to do.
  419. >I press the lever down and the toilet starts roaring as the water swirls down and turns clear again.
  420. >I yank the door open and run out into the hall.
  421. >I only make it just past the door though, because I run into Hem. I fall back onto the floor, looking up at her.
  422. >She's looking down at me. I suddenly feel very silly.
  423. >She gives me a strong look. The same kind she gives Blanket when he's being too silly.
  424. "Um, Good morning, Mrs. Stitch."
  425. >I wave to her from the floor.
  426. >She picks me up onto my feet with her magic, clearing her throat.
  427. >"Good morning, Zipper. Aren't you forgetting something?"
  428. >I check my fly. It's closed. The shorts were optional inside the house, but I like pockets. Not Pockets at the playground, he's kinda pushy. But the pockets on my shorts. I can keep stuff in them!
  429. >I don't need a shirt in the house. The weather in the house is always perfect.
  430. >Blanet and Cross, and Darning don't need anything. Hem wears an apron when she cooks. But I'm the only one that sometimes wears clothes in the house. The older hyoomans always wear clothes, but the littlest ones don't unless they don't know how to use the toilet yet.
  431. >Hem clears her throat again, and I remember that I'm standing right outside the bathroom in front of her and she just asked me if I was forgetting something.
  432. "Um,"
  433. >She lifts a brow expectantly.
  434. "I... Don't remember how I got home."
  435.  
  436. >>35272763
  437. >"Hands?" She says.
  438. >I look at my hands. Then it dawns on me. I could almost see the germs all over them. They're going to get on everything I touch. Every pony will get sick and die!
  439. "Oh!"
  440. >I rush back into the bathroom and turn on the sink. The toilet is quiet again. The danger is over.
  441. >scrub scrub scrub.
  442. >I rinse my hands.
  443. >dry dry dry.
  444. >I walk back into the hallway. Hem is in Blanket's room. It's time to wake up.
  445. >That means it's time to eat!
  446. >I can't sit down at my table yet. That's rude! Blanket has to bring me. Then he brings the food, but then I can't eat it yet until everypony else starts eating.
  447. "Come on, Blanket! Aren't you hungry? It's food time!"
  448. >I'm not supposed to say "I'm hungry" either. That's rude too. Hyoomans don't ask for food. So I have to find ways to tell them that they want to feed me.
  449. >Blanket will let me tell him I'm hungry, but only when we're out, or alone.
  450. >But around Hem, and sometimes Darning, I follow the rules. Especially around Cross.
  451.  
  452. >I'm sitting at my table. It's a small table. I sit on a flat, hard pillow. I'm not allowed at the pony's table, especially when there's food on it.
  453. >Blanket brings the food. He makes it for me. I don't eat what Hem makes for everypony else. That's pony food. Poisonous to hyoomans.
  454. >I get cereal for breakfast. And some salad. It looks like what they get, but this must be a special hyooman brand. Some juice. It's all very tasty.
  455. >Execpt for the green leaves. Those are kinda bitter, but Hem and Blanket say they're good for me, so I eat them.
  456. >Sometimes, if I'm done eating early enough, I can go under and crawl in between all the pony legs and pretend I'm in a forest on the hunt. Blanket will drop treasures for me to find sometimes too.
  457. >But they don't always sit like that, so sometimes the forest is easier to navigate.
  458.  
  459. >Everypony is done.
  460. >Hem and Cross go to work. Darning and Blanket leave for school.
  461. >It's quiet.
  462. >I sit at the window for a while and watch the ponies outside going about.
  463.  
  464. >>35272774
  465. >I watch for a long time. There's a lot of different ponies out there! They come in all shapes and sizes.
  466. >Some of them are leading hyoomans around too!
  467. >I pat my hands on the window.
  468. "Hey! Hey! Over here!! Hi! Hello!! Hi there!!"
  469. >Some of the hyoomans, especially the smaller ones will look and try to run up and talk to me, but their ponies just pull them back. They must be on a tight schedule.
  470. >One kid came up to my window, smaller than me, even. He was really sad and crying. We talked to each other a little bit.
  471. >He had a collar like mine, but his still had a leash clipped to it. He said he got lost and couldn't find his pony. I told him not to cry and that his pony was probably out worried about him too.
  472. >He finally did stop crying and after a while, a pony came running up, a unicorn. She picked him up and carried him away. He seemed really happy that she found him. She seemed really happy too.
  473. >That makes me happy.
  474.  
  475. >I get the drawing paper! And a pencil.
  476. >I draw a picture. Drawing is fun. But I'm not very good at it.
  477. >I draw a picture of Blanket and me. I have my new green frisbee.
  478. >There's a tree too!
  479. >I'm gonna give the picture to Blanket when he gets home.
  480. >And I drew a tail on me because I wanted to.
  481. >I don't have a tail, but I think they're neat. Blanket will let me play with his sometimes.
  482. >They're not for pulling.
  483. >I fold the picture and put it in my pocket.
  484.  
  485. >Sometimes when I'm all by myself, I'll make noises.
  486. >All sorts of noises. Real loud ones too. Funny noises, gross noises. It makes me laugh.
  487. >I can't be noisy when the ponies are home, especially Cross.
  488. >Except for when it's just me and Blanket. We'll take turns making noises together.
  489.  
  490. >It's almost time for ponies to start coming home. I don't know who will be home first today, but I better start being quiet.
  491.  
  492. >>35272788
  493. >Treats.
  494. >I look up on top of the refrigerator. The jar is there, right where Darning left it.
  495. >I go up to the fridge and remember standing on top of Blanket, on top of the chair.
  496. >Three came out before I fell. I don't think Darning saw those ones yet. But where did they go?
  497. >I get down on the floor. Hem sweeps the floor every week. But what if...
  498. >I look as low as I can.
  499. >Two of them! Under the fridge!! One for me, one for Blanket.
  500. >My hand can't reach them. It's too thick and almost gets stuck under the fridge. That was a close one.
  501. >I wish my fingers were longer. That would solve a lot of problems I've been having lately.
  502. >The pencil! That's long enough, and skinny enough too!
  503. >I get the pencil. It reaches them, but only with my fingers holding on to the very end of the eraser.
  504. >Oh no! The pencil slips out of my fingers and rolls further under the fridge. It's lost forever.
  505. >I stand up. What now?
  506. >The jar is still on top of the fridge. I can see it from down here.
  507. >We don't have a ladder. I can't use the chair without Blanket to stand on it too.
  508. >I open the fridge. It feels nice in there.
  509. >The shelves! That makes a perfect ladder!
  510.  
  511. >One foot. One hand. The other foot, the other hand...
  512. >This is easy! Why didn't we think of this before?
  513. >I'm halfway up when a couple of apples roll out from the back of the fridge and out.
  514. "What?"
  515. >Silly apples.
  516. >But then the various dishes and containers start sliding forwards too. Why?
  517. >I feel gravity change, then it hits me.
  518. >A pot of spaghetti sauce from the top shelf dumps all over me, the pot on my head like a helmet.
  519. >I try to hang on, but I lose my grip on the shelves and I land on the floor.
  520. >I lift up the helmet to see all the other food rushing down on top of me.
  521. >I put the helmet back down and curl up into a ball.
  522. >BANG!
  523. >I'm covered in everything the ponies were eating and were also planning to eat.
  524. >It's cold.
  525. >The doors to the fridge kept the fridge from coming all the way down on me.
  526.  
  527. >>35272799
  528. >I look for the jar of treats. It's shattered. Sugar cubes are everywhere, mixing in with all of the juices and other foods all over me and the floor.
  529. >I gotta get all this stuff back in the fridge before anypony notices!!
  530. >I scramble my way out from under the fridge. The door slips a little but I make it out of there before it comes down all the way.
  531. >I'm looking as I'm making my way out and I run into a pair of pony legs. Hoof tapping on the floor.
  532.  
  533. >I'm in trouble.
  534.  
  535. >I know those legs. It's Cross. I look up and see that he's mad. He's very mad. He's so mad...
  536. "Uh... H-"
  537. >He picks me up in his magic. I'm in a ball and he holds tightly. It hurts.
  538. >He's taking me to the bathroom, turning me every which way, trying to keep me from dripping on everything on the way.
  539. >We get there, and he drops me on the floor.
  540. >"Stay!"
  541. >He takes my shorts and closes the door.
  542. >My drawing is in there!
  543. >I have to stay. I don't talk to Cross. Only when he wants me to say something.
  544.  
  545. >I look at myself in the mirror. I'm a food monster.
  546. >...And I'm delicious.
  547. >I stay. While I wait, I lick up all the food I can reach. I hope none of it is poisonous.
  548.  
  549. >Somepony else is home. I can hear through the door, it's Blanket.
  550. >"Woah. What happened here?"
  551. >"Zipper happened here, Blanket."
  552. >"Zipper did this? Is he ok?"
  553. >"He's going to wish he wasn't ok!"
  554. >I gulp. That's not good.
  555. >I hear some other noises, I don't know what.
  556. >"Take this, Blanket. You need to go in there and teach him a lesson."
  557. >"Me?"
  558. >"He's your hyooman, you need to take responsibility for him."
  559.  
  560. >>35272810
  561. >Hoofsteps. They're getting closer. I can tell they're Blankets.
  562. >The door opens and Blanket is there. He looks sad. He's holding my leash.
  563. "Are we going out?"
  564. >He shakes his head. I can see tears are almost coming out.
  565. "W- What's that for, then?"
  566. >"Turn around." His voice is shaky.
  567. >I turn around, slowly.
  568. >"P- Put your hands on the bottom of the tub."
  569. >I get on my knees, bending over the edge of the tub to touch the bottom.
  570. "What are we doing?"
  571. >"C- Count..."
  572. >Count?
  573. >He closes the door behind him, clearing his throat. "C- Count to f- Five."
  574. >Five? But why? This is a strange way to count. Why hasn't he clipped the leash on my-
  575.  
  576. *CRACK!*
  577.  
  578. >A bolt of lightning surges its way across my flank. It makes me jump and gasp. Tears are suddenly flooding out of my eyes. So many tears. I wouldn't be surprised if they were actually spraying out.
  579. >I'm in shock. What's happening?
  580. >"Count!"
  581. "One!"
  582.  
  583. *CRACK!*
  584.  
  585. >Another shock. There's lightning in the bathroom. It stings. More tears.
  586. "Two!" I howl out.
  587.  
  588. *CRACK!*
  589.  
  590. >Just as the sting started to fade, another one took its place. I reach back and rub my butt. I can feel a faint line where the lightning bit me.
  591. >"Hands, Zipper!"
  592. >Right. He told me to touch the bottom of the tub. But does he not see the lightning? We gotta get outta here!
  593. >"Count!" He's crying.
  594. "Three."
  595.  
  596. >I'm crying more though. We're both making a lot of noi-
  597.  
  598. *CRACK!*
  599.  
  600. >Ow! I can't even think straight. I bite my cheek. Too hard, I hear it crunch. I taste blood.
  601. "Blanket!!"
  602.  
  603. >"Count!"
  604. "...Four." I have to scream the words to make them come out straight amidst my wailing.
  605.  
  606. >I turn my head to look back. I have to see what's in here with us. Why is it attacking me? Why isn't Blanket helping?
  607.  
  608. >I thought time stood still for a second. Maybe even a whole minute.
  609. >There he was. Blanket, holding my leash, it swinging towards me. Tears coming off his eyes.
  610. >But... Why? What's going on? It was him all along? Why would he do that?
  611.  
  612. >>35272828
  613. >The end of the leash is coming fast. I quickly turn my head back into the tub. I know what's coming.
  614. >I brace myself, but my hands end up slipping in the tears that were flowing down the drain and I go into the tub more.
  615.  
  616. *CRACK!*
  617.  
  618. >The leash bites the back of my legs. I howl even louder than before.
  619.  
  620. "Five! Five! Five! ...Five!" I'm rubbing the back of my legs, I'm rubbing my butt. "Five!!" I'm screaming.
  621. >No more. Please no more.
  622.  
  623. >I hear the leash drop the floor.
  624. >I hear Blanket drop to the floor.
  625. >I climb into the tub, I make myself as small as possible. I'm a blubbering, food covered mess, but it doesn't matter. I will die right here.
  626.  
  627. >Someone else is home. I can hear through the door, through my sobbing, through Blanket's sniffling.
  628. >"Hey dad. Oh wow, I'm glad I wasn't here for this! Let me guess. Zipper?"
  629. >They always blame me first. Except for Blanket, he never blames me first.
  630.  
  631. >I'm calming down. I can breathe again. But my flank is pulsing.
  632. >I hear motion above me, I close my eyes.
  633. >It's the water. Blanket is turning it on.
  634. >I feel the warmth of it flowing all around me.
  635. >I open my eyes and see all the colors mixing and swirling down the drain as they wash off of me.
  636. >Blanket gets a sponge and slowly starts to quietly scrub my back.
  637. >I flinch and brace for more pain, but it never comes. Instead, just comfort.
  638. >I slowly sit up, my head is lowered as the water comes down on me. I watch the waterfall my bangs make while Blanket scrubs.
  639. >It's just like old times. It feels good. I miss it.
  640. >He scrubs my arms, my chest... He takes my collar off and scrubs my neck. It feels so good.
  641. >He doesn't say anything, though. I don't either. Just the sob that manages to escape now and then.
  642.  
  643. >He gives me the sponge to finish the rest while he's cleaning my hair.
  644.  
  645. >When we're all done, I dry off, and get in my bed on his floor.
  646. >I pull my box over me. I'm always safe in my box. It's a big box.
  647. >I hear Blanket come in the room. He lifts the box up, and joins me.
  648.  
  649. >>35272838
  650. >It's dark in the box. Quiet too.
  651. "Blanket?"
  652. >I feel around for him. He's not there.
  653. >I feel my butt. both sides have lines on them. They're tender, warm, but they stopped pulsing.
  654. >I carefully trace the lines from one side to the next.
  655. "What if it's my cutie mark?" I whisper, quietly.
  656. >What would it mean?
  657. >I tilt the box back on its side. It's dark in here. How long was I in the box?
  658. >I find some shorts and carefully put them on. I put a pair of my socks in the back pockets for padding.
  659. >I'm in the hall. I can hear Blanket and Darning talking. They're at the table. Hem and Cross are there.
  660. >I peek in from the hallway. They're eating! Did they forget me?
  661. >But it's later than usual. Why are they just now eating?
  662. >But wait. All the food fell out, didn't it? I look over into the kitchen. The fridge is upright. I wonder if those two sugar cubes are still there under it. And the pencil. There's no jar of treats on top.
  663. >I crawl under the table. Maybe Blanket will have something for me. He usually does.
  664. >I nudge his chair. A hoof comes down, his hoof, I can tell by the color. It ruffles my mane a little bit, but no treasures.
  665. >I turn around in time for another hoof to connect with my left ribs pretty hard. I yelp and bump my head scrambling to get out of there as fast as I can.
  666. >"Cross!" said Hem, accusingly. "Was that really necessary? He's just a hyooman, he's had a rough evening and he's probably hungry."
  667. >"He shouldn't be under the table, or bothering us while we eat."
  668. >I'm in the living room, rolling around and catching my breath.
  669. >Blanket is getting up from the table, "I'll put his food out for him."
  670. >"No, sit down. The hyooman can wait until we are all done, Blanket. We are not servants to them." Cross' rule was law. "He should learn to be on time."
  671. >I should. It's my fault. Sometimes my box is too protective. I consider going back to it.
  672. >I curl up on my cushion beside the couch instead. I don't want to be late for anything else I might be forgetting.
  673.  
  674. >>35282058
  675. >There's no more talking. I can still hear them eating, though.
  676. >Darning is done. She asks to be excused. I hear her clean her plate and put it to dry.
  677. >Hem is next. She doesn't have to be excused.
  678. >It's quiet again.
  679. >Darning went to her room. She usually hangs out in there after dinner until bedtime.
  680. >Hem came over to sit on the couch and pet my mane. She likes me. She's always nice to me, even when she's being strict. Even when I do bad. Sometimes she lies and tells Cross it wasn't me. I like her too.
  681. >I sit up and lean on the couch so she doesn't have to reach.
  682. >I hear Cross sigh. "Responsibility, Blanket. You promised you would be the one to take care of Zipper now that you were old enough. Do you remember? You said everything."
  683. >"Yes, dad."
  684. >"You begged and begged for us to keep him, instead of sending him back to be with Button and the older one."
  685. >"I know."
  686. >I don't remember that. The older one? Does he mean Snap?
  687. >Head scratches send a chill down my spine. I shiver, almost letting out a squeak. I stop myself though, trying to hold back a giggle. What a silly sound I didn't mean to make.
  688. >Hem Giggles.
  689.  
  690. >Cross and Blanket are finally done.
  691. >It's almost bedtime.
  692. >Cross and Hem go to their room, the big one on the other end of the house.
  693. >Blanket comes and gets me and takes me to my table.
  694. "I'm sorry about the food."
  695. >"It's ok. I'm sorry I had to punish you."
  696. "I'm sorry about that too."
  697. >"No, only I need to be sorry for that part."
  698. "Oh." It's hard to know what you should be sorry for, sometimes. It's not just if you feel bad about something, because you can feel bad about something but you shouldn't be sorry for it. I don't know if I'll ever get it right.
  699. >He puts my food out for me. Scraps, today. It smells just like what they were eating.
  700. "Where did the food come from if it all fell out all over me?"
  701. >"Oh, we ordered take-out. Mom did. She and Darning went out to get it while I stayed and helped Dad with the fridge while you were sleeping."
  702. "Oh."
  703.  
  704. >>35282065
  705. >Not all pony food was pony only. It's really hard to keep track of, but Blanket knows, so I just leave it up to him. He hasn't fed me poison yet!
  706. >I shift on my flank. Even with the socks for padding, it kinda hurts still.
  707. >Blanket apologizes again. "Here, while helping dad, I saved this for you."
  708. >He sets something down in front of me on the table.
  709. >It's a dusty sugar cube!
  710. >I can't help but to smile.
  711. "For me? Did you get the other one too?"
  712. >"Yep! I already ate it when Dad wasn't looking."
  713. >I'm glad not all pony food is poisonous to hyoomans. That's one I'll always remember we can share.
  714.  
  715. >I finish eating, saving the treat for last.
  716. >Holding it in the palm of my hand, I lap the whole thing into my mouth with my tongue only.
  717. >I spit out some of the dust, and roll the cube around my mouth.
  718. >I like to keep them there until they fall apart. then I swirl all the crumbs around until all those go away. Then I swallow it all once it's all liquified.
  719.  
  720. >It's bedtime for us now. I'm in my own bed this time. Blanket is in his bed. I'm not using my box tonight.
  721. >It's quiet.
  722. "Blanket?"
  723. >"Yeah, Zipper?"
  724. "Where did you go?"
  725. >"What do you mean?"
  726. "Yesterday. When you were gone all year. Did you forget me?"
  727. >"It wasn't all year, Zipper. I didn't forget about you either."
  728. "What were you doing?"
  729. >"I had to go to Darning's recital. Then we came to the park as soon as it was over. It just lasted longer than we thought it would."
  730. "Did you carry me? Like you used to?"
  731. >"...Yeah. You don't remember?"
  732. "I remember going to sleep, by myself."
  733. >"You woke up when Darning set you on my back. Then she used her magic to help you fall back asleep. She's good at that. It's why her cutie mark is a night-cap on a quilt patch."
  734. "What do you think yours will be?"
  735. >"...I don't know, Zipper."
  736. "Mine will be lines, that feel like a zipper."
  737. >"Hyoomans don't get cutie marks, silly."
  738. "That's good. Because I don't want any more lines."
  739.  
  740. >It was quiet again.
  741. "Hey Blanket?"
  742. "Blanket?"
  743. "...Goodnight."
  744.  
  745. >>35282072
  746. >Blanket is loud again.
  747. >When he's this loud in the mornings, almost nothing can wake him up.
  748. >You could crawl all over him and he won't wake up!
  749. >But I'm not doing that this morning. Instead, I'm going exploring!
  750. >I sneak up to him.
  751. >When his mouth opens again, I use my hands to hold it open.
  752. >His teeth are bigger than mine. Flatter too.
  753. >Ugh. Pony breath.
  754. >His tongue is bigger than mine, and floppy. Holding his mouth open, it hangs out of the side.
  755. >I touch it with a finger. It's squishy, funny feeling. I wonder if he can taste that. I giggle.
  756.  
  757. >There's a knock on the door. It startles me and I let go of Blanket's mouth. I quickly dive under his bed to hide.
  758. >"Ow! What the?"
  759. >"Blanket? It's time to wake up!" Hem is opening the door. "Oh my. Are you ok?"
  760. >"I bit my tongue!"
  761. >I can see Hem's hooves from here. She sits on the edge of the bed. The space under here is getting tight, but I'm not squished.
  762. >"Well I'm sorry that happened, Blanket. Good morning anyway. It's time to get ready for school, and remember what your father said about Zipper."
  763. >What did he say about me?
  764. >"Do I have to?"
  765. >"It'll be for his own good. Now hurry up! Breakfast is ready."
  766. >Have to what?
  767. >I see her leave. The door is open. Blanket hatest it when she leaves his door open.
  768. >I reach out from under the bed and tilt my box over, then I quickly pop up out from under the bed.
  769. "Hi Blanket! You're awake!"
  770. >He looks confused.
  771. >"Hi... Zipper."
  772. "It's breakfast time! I can't wait to taste it. Can you?"
  773. >"Zipper, were you... ...nevermind."
  774. >Blanket stretches really big and yawns. That makes me yawn too. Stretching in the morning is the best, except Blanket always reaches over and tickles my belly when I stretch and ruins it.
  775. >We wash up together, and he takes me to my table.
  776. >Cereal again. I like cereal. Fruits too! Different kinds even! Wow, and juice? why is he giving me so much this time?
  777. >I save the berries in my pocket when nopony is looking. I will eat them later!
  778.  
  779. >>35286244
  780. >Breakfast is over.
  781. >Blanket's got his saddlebags. He's about to go to school again.
  782. >He puts my collar on me, checking to make sure the tag is secure.
  783. "Are we going out? Am I going to school with you?!?"
  784. >I'm so excited.
  785. >"No. You're going to stay outside today."
  786. >I'm so scared.
  787. "Outside? Why?"
  788. >"Dad doesn't want you in the house alone anymore. Not until you earn it, at least."
  789. "Outside? All alone? But what if somepony comes and takes me away?"
  790. >"It's ok. You'll be in the back yard. There's a fence, shade, a water hose. Look, your frisbee too!"
  791. >My new green frisbee. I take it.
  792. "...ok."
  793. >He leads me to the back. I step outside. I'm looking at the back yard.
  794. >"Ok, buddy. I'll see you after school then!"
  795. "...Yeah, ok."
  796. >It's a medium-sized yard. It's no park playground, that's for sure. No other kids or foals to play with, either.
  797. >No, it's not ok!
  798. >I hear the door close behind me. I turn around and push on it. It doesn't budge.
  799. >I try the handle, locked.
  800. >I sit on my feet, looking up at the door. I want to cry.
  801. >I hold my frisbee to my chest.
  802. "It's not fair."
  803.  
  804. >>35286246
  805. >I cry, but only a little.
  806. >Ok, I cry a lot. But it's not fair!
  807. >The shadows change shape and move, but they're sneaky.
  808. >Even when you're looking right at them, they'll change and you won't even know it.
  809. >I stopped crying already, but I don't know what to do next.
  810. >*tingle*
  811. >It's time to pee.
  812. >I stand up and try to go in. The door is locked. I'm locked outside!
  813. >...But I have to pee!
  814. >I'll have to pee out here. I hope I don't get in trouble for not using a tree or a bush. There aren't any in the back yard.
  815. >I go to the corner and pull my shorts down.
  816. >Feels good.
  817. >Dark yellow is the color of Cross' bottled drink at dinner.
  818. >I'm gonna pee over the fence!
  819. >I aim up, but I'm just not strong enough.
  820. >I push really hard and a fart surprises me. It kinda hurt because I was pushing so hard.
  821. >I laugh and I run out of juice. Maybe next time.
  822. >I pull my shorts back up and sit on the chair. I'm allowed all over the patio furniture. Even Cross doesn't care.
  823. >Except for the table. I'm not allowed to get on top of that.
  824. >I look through the window and see the clock on the wall inside. It's noise time again!
  825. >I start making my noises. They sound different outside.
  826. >When I stop, I can still hear them.
  827. >Wait, that's not me. That's another boy somewhere else!
  828. "Hello?!?"
  829. >I listen carefully.
  830. >"Hello??"
  831. "Are you just an echo?"
  832. >"Are -you- just an echo?"
  833. "I asked first!"
  834. >"I don't think I am!"
  835. "Where are you?!"
  836. >"I'm in the back yard!"
  837. "Me too!"
  838. >"Hi!"
  839. "Hello!"
  840. >"Hey, shut up!" That was another voice. It sounded like a stallion. The voice came from a different direction.
  841. "Sorry!"
  842. >"Sorry!"
  843. "I didn't mean to!"
  844. >"I didn't mean to either!"
  845. "And sorry for the noises earlier!"
  846. >"Me too!"
  847. >"Shut up!!"
  848. "Sorry!"
  849. >"Sorry!"
  850. >Now what?
  851.  
  852. >The crossbars on the fence are on the inside. I climb them.
  853. >I go real slow and careful and check to make sure it's not falling over on me.
  854. >If I can't be inside alone, and I couldn't be outside alone either, is there a middle side?
  855.  
  856. >>35290444
  857. >I'm at the top.
  858. >I'm so high up! I can see everything!!
  859. >That house has a pool! Wait until I tell Blanket!
  860. >There's a stallion over there pushing a grass cutter around.
  861. >There's so much to see that I never even knew was there!!
  862. >Everybody has furniture in their backyard. Some just like ours, some different.
  863. >I lift my nose in the air. Someobody is making food out here too! It smells really good.
  864. >How do you make food outside? Do you have to move the kitchen stuff outside?
  865. >Oh, maybe they don't have a kitchen in the house and they have to make it outside.
  866. >I keep looking around. The world just goes on forever! So many back yards.
  867. >There's a boy! Is that the same one?
  868. >I put my hand up and wave.
  869. "Hey! Hey you! Other boy! Hi!"
  870. >"Oh, hi!!"
  871. >It is the same boy from earlier!
  872. "Hi! I can see you!"
  873. >"I can see you too!! Hello!"
  874. "Did they lock you outside too?"
  875. >"Yeah. I'm always outside."
  876. "What did you do?"
  877. >"What do you mean?"
  878. >"Hey, knock it off, will you?!?"
  879. >I look the direction of that stallion and see him. He's looking right at me.
  880. "Oh, sorry again."
  881. >"Yeah, me too!"
  882. >He rolls his eyes and picks up the newspaper he was reading.
  883. >I whisper as loud as I can to the boy.
  884. "What did you do to get in trouble?"
  885. >"What?"
  886. "I said, 'What did you do to get in trouble?'"
  887. >"I can't hear you."
  888. >I put my leg over to sit on the top of the fence so I can use both hands to direct my sound. There's a funny feeling squish.
  889. "My berries!"
  890. >"Kid, if you don't shut the buck up, so help me..."
  891. >He startles me and I lose my balance.
  892. >I'm leaning too far to the side and can't get straight up and down again.
  893. >All I can do is put my hands down to push the ground away when it gets to me.
  894. >My hands stop my body from hitting the ground. They sting.
  895. >This isn't the back yard. This is the wrong side of the fence.
  896. >There are no doors or openings. I start to panic.
  897. >"Kid! Now you've done it!!" I can't see him. I can't see the boy. I can't see my house. Just a long row of fences on both sides.
  898.  
  899. >>35290449
  900. >I try to climb the fence, but there are no crossbars on this side.
  901. >I'm so scared.
  902. >I cry out.
  903. >I'm not supposed to be here. I'm supposed to be in the back yard! What will my family do when they get home and I'm not there?
  904. >They might get another boy. I don't want another boy in my bed, using my box... Sitting at my table. Exploring my pony when he sleeps.
  905. >It makes me cry louder.
  906. >The stallion down the way just screams.
  907. >I get up and run the opposite direction. I don't want him to get me.
  908.  
  909. >I pass the other boy's house, but I don't have time to stop. I need to getaway.
  910. >Besides, what if they just give that boy all my stuff, then?
  911. >I can't be here. I just want to go back to my house.
  912. >I stop and turn around. I can't tell which one is mine.
  913. >Oh no.
  914.  
  915. >I'm lost.
  916.  
  917. >I hold my elbows as I walk along. Fence after fence.
  918. >Finally, there's an opening. It's a street. I can see the sides of houses, and if I look to the sides, I can see the fronts of other houses.
  919. >I've never been in this part of the world before. Which way do I go?
  920. >I go straight. I cross the street. All by myself.
  921. >If I walk along this way, I'll be going in front of the houses, maybe I'll get to mine, and I can sit at the front door and wait for them.
  922. "They all look the same!"
  923. >I'm crying again.
  924. >I hate crying. Even though you feel better when you're all done. But I can't help it.
  925. >Blanket's gonna hate me. Darning's gonna hate me too. Hem will like me less, and Cross will keep hating me.
  926. "It's not fair."
  927.  
  928. >>35290460
  929. >There's that house with the funny mailbox. It looks like a bear holding a box. You lift the lid and put the mail inside, then you raise his arm. He's holding a flag.
  930. >And there's the house With the really short fence in the front. It's still got the broken piece on the end.
  931. >The old cart with the gray cover over it should be next.
  932. >There it is.
  933. >I'll never find my way home!
  934. >I keep walking.
  935. >We turn here. The street goes 4 ways, but we always turn left.
  936. >We're almost at the park now.
  937. >No. It's just me. Alone. Lost.
  938. >This is the bigger street. If I cross here, the park will be just a little bit after that.
  939. >It's a busy street. Ponies pulling carts go really fast in both directions.
  940. >Some slow down a little to look at me as they pass, but they keep going.
  941. >Some of the carts have kids in the back. They wave at me, but I'm too sad to wave back.
  942. >I step into the street. Then I pull my foot back.
  943. >There's too many ponies!
  944. >Some yell at me as they run by.
  945. >I look across the street. It's Lisa! His stallion is with him. There's the big heavy chain. It clinks rhythmically as they walk.
  946. >Lisa turns his head and sees me. He doesn't say anything.
  947. >I hold still, I look back at him.
  948. >His eyes narrow for a second. What is he thinking?
  949. >Blanket isn't here. He might decide today is the day he rips me in half. But he has his chain on.
  950. >He's not scary anymore too.
  951. >Well, he kinda is. He's really big. He could probably rip that stallion in half too, if he wanted to. But then he'd have to wear that chain and collar forever too.
  952. >He turns his head back to watching where he's going. He doesn't say anything.
  953. >I don't say anything. I should have said something. I can't cross the big street by myself. I shouldn't be crossing any streets by myself. I shouldn't even be out here by myself!!
  954. >Where am I?
  955. "Oh!"
  956. >I'm not lost. I'm going to the park!
  957. "No."
  958. >I need to go home.
  959. >Where is home?
  960. >I'm so excited.
  961. "It's that way!"
  962. >I turn around, away from the big busy street. I head home.
  963.  
  964. >>35294050
  965. >There's the intersection, turn right!
  966. >There's the cart with the gray cover.
  967. >There's the short broken white fence.
  968. >The funny mailbox, the arm is up, I wave to it.
  969. >Another intersection. This way is my street. I go that way.
  970. >I'm getting close. I can smell the food that was being cooked outside. And grass clippings.
  971. >Just a little bit further and...
  972. "That's my house!"
  973. >I smile real big. I'm so happy!
  974. >I start running.
  975. >I'm almost there. Just one more house and I can go right across my front yard.
  976. >Cross yells at all the ponies and their hyoomans to keep out of the yard, but I'm allowed in the yard.
  977. >I see it. There's the window I look out of. Now I can look in it instead.
  978. >"Gotcha!"
  979. >I can't move! The air all around me glows and sparkles. It's like when Darning ruins my fun, only it's a different color. I haven't seen this color of magic before.
  980. >I'm carried over to a Unicorn. It's her magic. She has a uniform on. There's a badge on it. Not like a police badge. But it's metal. I'm in trouble.
  981. >"And just what are you doing out here all alone?"
  982. "Mmmff mmmm... mmm!"
  983. >I can't talk her magic has me completely frozen. Except for my eyes. I can always move my eyes. And breathe. I can still breathe. Good. I like breathing.
  984. >"Zipper, huh? You're a cute one! Those eyes are so precious."
  985. >They are. I can't see without'em.
  986. >"The Stitch family?"
  987. >She's reading my tag. She looks around and sees the mailbox in front of my house. It's a normal mailbox, not a fun one. If I could choose, I'd pick a Parasprite mailbox! You put the mail in its mouth and another mailbox pops out.
  988. "Mmm!!"
  989. >"Is that your house?"
  990. "Mmm-Hmm!"
  991. >She puts me down on my feet, keeping a magical hold of my collar.
  992. >"Let's see if somepony is home."
  993. >But there's no pony home! I don't tell her that. Hopefully, there is, and I don't have to be alone anymore.
  994. >We go up to the door. She knocks. We wait.
  995. >"Now how did you get out here all by yourself?"
  996. "I fell out of the backyard!"
  997.  
  998. >>35294062
  999. >"What were you doing to accomplish that?"
  1000. "Well, I was squishing my berries while straddling the fence-"
  1001. >She raises an eyebrow at me. I don't think she wants to hear about my berries.
  1002. "Another pony yelled at me and I got scared and fell on the wrong side."
  1003. >"I don't think you should be climbing the fence, kiddo."
  1004. "Zipper."
  1005. >She knocks again. We wait. Nopony is home.
  1006. >She pulls out a pad and begins writing on it.
  1007. "What are you doing?"
  1008. >"Leaving a note, so they know where to come get you."
  1009. >She finishes writing and tears the note off of the pad. I reach for it.
  1010. "Do you want me to give it to them?"
  1011. >She holds it high up in the air with her magic, I can't reach it anymore.
  1012. >"No, it's going on the door. You're coming with me."
  1013. "Oh. But why?"
  1014. >"I can't very well leave you out here all alone without a leash or tether."
  1015. "Can you put me back in the backyard? I'm getting really good at landing."
  1016. >"No, we don't do that, anymore."
  1017. "Oh."
  1018. >I'm getting sad again.
  1019. >"Don't worry about it. I'm sure they'll come to get you as soon as they see the note."
  1020. "...Ok."
  1021. >She's taking me to her cart. There's a big box on the back. Bigger than my box in Blanket's room.
  1022. >She opens the back and puts me inside. Then goes into a compartment on the side and pulls out a few cookies.
  1023. >"Here you go. Try not to be so sad. You're a nicer one than usual. Be a good boy!"
  1024. >She closes the box with me inside. There's windows on all sides. There are bars on them. It's a rolling jail. It's hot in here too.
  1025. >The cookies are really soft and have raisins in them. My favorite.
  1026. >I eat two, and half of the third. I put the rest in my pocket for later.
  1027. >She starts pulling the cart and we're rolling.
  1028. >I have trouble sitting upright, falling side to side while it's moving, so I just sit and lean against the wall.
  1029. >I'm alone in the box, but at least I'm not alone-alone anymore. I'm going where Blanket will come get me!
  1030. >I want him to come get me now.
  1031. >I don't know what's happening, and not knowing is scary.
  1032.  
  1033. >>35294071
  1034. >A shadow covers everything.
  1035. >I get up and look out of the window, holding onto the bars for support.
  1036. >We pulled up to a building. There's a big door, the kind that goes up and down. It's open. It's dark, but I try to see inside.
  1037. >"Got anotherone. Poor kiddo was lock ouside his house. Hated to bring him in." It's the Unicorn that caught me.
  1038. >"You're telling me! Hate to take him in, we're full enough as it is! Boss is thinking about moving the expiration date up a week or two. Here, fill this out, it's the usual." It's another pony. A stallion.
  1039. >"That's so sad! Why don't they just send them back to where they came from?"
  1040. >"That's the thing, most of them are born here, these days. Then their owners don't want them anymore, they move and leave them behind, or they let them loose in the woods to fend for themselves."
  1041. >Hyoomans? I came from home. Blanket would never leave me behind.
  1042. >I hold my tag tightly. It makes me feel better.
  1043. >"All done, here you go."
  1044. >I look out of the other windows, I can't find them.
  1045. >"Ok, and one more, this is a new one. The more hyoomans, the more paperwork it seems."
  1046. >"Here you go."
  1047. >"Zipper, huh?"
  1048. >"You boys be nice to him, ya hear? He really is just the sweetest little thing."
  1049. >"Yeah-yeah. Hey, stop working so hard. You give us too much to do!"
  1050. >"Ha ha, yeah. I'll see what I can do. He's all yours."
  1051. >I can hear her walking off. There she is. I see her going around the side of the building, going around the corner.
  1052. >More hoof steps. These are heavier.
  1053. >I look out of the window on the door. It's a big stallion, a unicorn. Bigger than Lisa's stallion. He's coming this way!
  1054. >I back up to the very back of the box.
  1055. >The door opens, letting light in. I cover my face with my arms.
  1056. >"Come on out, Zipper. It's ok, we're not the ones that bite, now. You are."
  1057. >I don't bite. Maybe sometimes, but it's for a really good reason.
  1058. >He reaches in, but I'm suddenly scared of him. I shrink down.
  1059. >"Ok, Zipper. That was the easy way." He frowns at me.
  1060.  
  1061. >>35294071
  1062. >"If you insist on doing this the hard way, guess what? It's still easy for me."
  1063. >I'm surrounded by his magic. It's brown. It's strong too.
  1064. >I feel like I'm being squished from every direction at once.
  1065. >He pulls me out of the box.
  1066. >We go in through the big door that goes up and down. It's a big, long room.
  1067. >Now that I'm inside the room, it doesn't seem that dark, once my eyes adjust.
  1068. >There are cages all along one wall. There's a door on the end, it looks strong, with a lock too, and then on the other wall there are more cages, but in the middle of that wall is another door, it's a normal-looking door, no lock, and then more cages.
  1069. >They're full of hyoomans. All ages. I look at them. I'm the youngest one here.
  1070. >...I'm also the cleanest one here, fully dressed, too.
  1071. >They look at me as the unicorn carries me past them. None of them look very happy.
  1072. >What is this place?
  1073. >I try to ask the unicorn, but I can't move any part of my body. ...except for my eyes. I can't even breathe.
  1074. >I can't even breathe!
  1075. >My lungs are starting to burn. I'm running out of air inside me!
  1076. >We finally get to the very end, by the strong door. He's taking his time just strolling along.
  1077. >Doesn't he know I'm going to die!?
  1078. >He pulls out a big key and puts it in the door to the last cage and turns it.
  1079. >The cage opens and he tosses me inside.
  1080. >I land on the hay covered floor and roll until the wall stops me.
  1081. >I can breathe again!
  1082. >I breathe as much air as I can, but by the time I look up, the cage is already closed and the unicorn is walking away.
  1083. >I run up to the cage and grab the bars. The door doesn't budge. I try shaking them anyway. They rattle a little.
  1084. >"I wouldn't do that, if I were you." It was a hyooman in a cage across from me. An older one. He was leaning against the wall.
  1085. "I don't like it in here! I wanna go home!"
  1086. >"Kid, we all want that. But you don't always get what you want."
  1087. >I shake the bars harder.
  1088. >"I'm telling you kid, don't touch the bars."
  1089.  
  1090. >>35294071
  1091. >I hit the bars with my hands.
  1092. >A buzzing can be heard through the cages and suddenly the bars bite me with sparks.
  1093. >I yell out.
  1094. >A few other hyoomans yell out as well, before yelling in my direction to knock it off.
  1095. >I knock it off.
  1096. >The hyooman across from me laughs. "I told ya."
  1097. "I don't like this place."
  1098. >"Hey, just be glad you're on that side of the room. You got time."
  1099. "What about your side of the room?"
  1100. >"Time's up."
  1101. >I sit on my feet in front of the bitey door, looking at the hyooman across from me.
  1102. >He's strong looking. His hair is really long, both on the top of his head and on his face. His chest, arms and legs too. He's really dirty.
  1103. >His clothes look like fur, covering his feet, waste and his shoulders.
  1104. >He has a cutie mark on his chest. It's a hyooman face with no skin on it, or eyeballs. There's a big knife stuck straight down in the top of it, and a snake wrapping around it. This one has a word on the bottom too!
  1105. >I read it.
  1106. "Mom."
  1107. >There are little hearts on both sides of it.
  1108. >He raises a brow at me. "So, they're teaching them to read now?"
  1109. "Them?"
  1110. >"Human kids."
  1111. "You mean hyoomans?"
  1112. >"It's 'human', kid. You're a human. Looks like you were born here in Equestria."
  1113. "Where else would I be born?"
  1114. >He rubs his hairy chin. "You really don't know, do you? Interesting."
  1115. "Know what?"
  1116. >"It makes sense, though. History is written by the victors, after all. Do all of you know how to read?"
  1117. >I look around.
  1118. "It's just me."
  1119. >"You sure are a pretty boy."
  1120. "Thank you." I smile.
  1121. >"Ponies that take that much care of their pet..." He spits to the side, "will surely want it back. There may just be hope yet."
  1122. "Hope?"
  1123. >He reaches into his loincloth and pulls out a piece of paper. it's folded up.
  1124. >"Tell me kid. There's supposed to be a park around here. That's where I was going when they finally caught me. Do you know it?"
  1125.  
  1126. >>35294071
  1127. "The park! Yeah!! I almost went there today. But then I turned around and went home. And that's when they caught me. But I got cookies! Want some?"
  1128. >I reach in my pocket and pull out half of a cookie. It's broken in two pieces, and they're berry mush on it. I toss one half of it to Mom. It goes right through the bars.
  1129. >I got good aim. I practice with the frisbee and the ball.
  1130. >Mom picks it up and smells it before taking a small bite.
  1131. >"...Thanks, kid."
  1132. "Zipper."
  1133. >"Is that your only name?"
  1134. "They used to call me 'Zipper No', or just 'No'"
  1135. >He rolls his eyes, grumbling something about pony names.
  1136. >"I'm not calling you that. You deserve better. We all do."
  1137. >I shrug. I think Zipper is a great name.
  1138. >Holding the piece of berry-rasin-sweat cookie in his mouth, he leans forward and flings the folded paper to me. It hits the bars but lands right outside my cage. I can reach it.
  1139. >"Get that to Ethan. You'll find him in the park."
  1140. "How do I find him?"
  1141. >"You'll know when you see him. He's a big guy, bigger than me. Strong, will probably look like he doesn't belong there."
  1142. >I think for a minute while I put the paper in the paper pocket. not the food pocket.
  1143. >There's another paper in there. I take it out. It's been crumpled from being in my pocket and in the wash. I carefully open it to see what it is.
  1144. >it's a picture of Blanket and me, with my new green frisbee. There's a tree too. And I have a tail, just like Blanket's.
  1145. >I miss him.
  1146. >Tears start coming out of my eyes.
  1147.  
  1148. >>35294071
  1149. >There's a commotion at the end of the room.
  1150. >A couple of earth ponies are pulling a hyooman out of a cage. He's not as old, or dirty as Mom is, but he's putting up a fight.
  1151. >They're dragging him this way, towards the strong door with the lock.
  1152. >He's kicking and yelling out things I'm not supposed to say.
  1153. >I watch as they finally get him through the door and it slams closed.
  1154. >There's more commotion. I can hear they're fighting.
  1155. >A unicorn, the one that put me here, comes running through and goes into the room, slamming the door closed. I hear it lock.
  1156. "What's happening?" I ask Mom.
  1157. >He looks down at the floor, "Time's up."
  1158. >I'm confused. I look back at the door.
  1159. >Things go quiet in the room. I hear some chains rattling.
  1160. >They hyooman is trying to yell with his mouth closed.
  1161. >Unicorns are scary sometimes.
  1162. >Then I hear a loud clinking sound, followed by a "Tshhhhhh". It makes me flinch.
  1163. >Then... It's quiet.
  1164. >I hear the chains rattling softly, a thud and another strong door opening, then closing. Then I hear some water running.
  1165. >Mom shakes his head. "Murders. The whole lot of them."
  1166. "What happened?"
  1167. >"Kid, let's hope you never find out."
  1168. >I feel a different kind of sad. I've never felt this kind before.
  1169. >I scoot to the back wall, pulling the hay close around me.
  1170. >I hug my knees close to my chest and put my head down, holding my drawing tightly.
  1171. "I wanna go home."
  1172.  
  1173. >>35299275
  1174. >The other door opens. Hoofsteps. They're lighter.
  1175. >I don't care. They're not Blanket's.
  1176. >They stop in front of my cage. Maybe they're going into the room with the strong door.
  1177. >My cage is being opened up. I raise my head from my lap, the cradle I made with my arms and knees.
  1178. >It's a Pegasus. She has clean white clothes, and a little white hat with a red plus on it.
  1179. >"Zipper, is it?"
  1180. >I just look up at her, I don't say anything. She looks nice. She's talking to me nicely. But I don't know if she really is nice.
  1181. >She comes in and reaches under my neck, "Easy now, I'm just looking."
  1182. >She touches under my chin softly.
  1183. >I could bite her.
  1184. >But I don't.
  1185. >I could push her hoof away and scoot to the corner, make myself an impossible little ball.
  1186. >But I don't.
  1187. >She seems like a pony I need to be friends with.
  1188. >I let her lift my chin up.
  1189. >"The Stitch family. Yes, I know them." She smiles at me. "Come with me, please. It's your turn."
  1190. >I look at the strong door just outside my cage. This makes me move away to the other corner automatically.
  1191. >She straightens up and looks to see what I'm looking at.
  1192. >"Oh, honey, deer..."
  1193. >Hyooman.
  1194. >"No, we're not going in there." She says to me. Then she says to some pony that's not here I guess, "Why they put the new arrivals on this end is beyond me..."
  1195. >She turns back to me, "We're just going to check you out for the records. I promise it won't hurt a bit. Just come out for me, nice and easy."
  1196. >Nice and easy. I remember the hard way.
  1197. >I put my picture down and slowly get up. Some hay sticks to me, so I brush it off. The little pieces stay stuck, though. I'll have to pick them off later. I need to go with her while it's still easy.
  1198. >She clips a chain to my collar. It's not as big as Lisa's. I can feel the weight on my collar, but it's more like just having maybe 4 leashes on instead of one.
  1199. >"There's a good boy."
  1200. >I nod slowly. I am a good boy.
  1201. >She leads me out of my cage, and out through the regular door in the middle of the wall.
  1202.  
  1203. >>35302193
  1204. >It's a hallway. It's bright in here. The walls are pale blue. The floor is made of big shiny white squares. They almost look wet, but they're dry.
  1205. >There are doors on the sides of the hallway. Some are open. I look in as we pass by.
  1206. >They're small rooms with counters and a table and tall chairs and tall leafy potted plants.
  1207. >There are different machines in the rooms, some on the wall, some on the floor. one was even on the ceiling.
  1208. >We're almost out of hallway, There's another door straight ahead, but we don't go through that one. We go to one on the side instead.
  1209. >It's another room. This one doesn't have any machines, just a light on a bendy pole with a big magnifying glass.
  1210. >She flips a tag around on the outside of the door before closing it.
  1211. >"Can I trust you to behave and cooperate for me?"
  1212. >I think I can trust her to keep being nice. I nod slowly and quietly to her.
  1213. >She smiles at me, "I knew I could. Now hold still."
  1214. >She takes the chain off of my collar, and then nips at the back of my shirt, pulling it up over my head and off of me.
  1215. >She sets it on the counter before stepping a hoof on the back of my shoe, "up."
  1216. >I lift my leg and she gently pulls my shoe off, putting it to the side.
  1217. >She steps on the other one and I know what to do, so she pulls that one off to and puts it with the other one.
  1218. >She then nips at the bottom of the leg of my shorts, pulling down, but they don't come off. I have to unbutton and unzip them for her.
  1219. "I know how to do this." I finally say. I feel like she thinks I'm dumb.
  1220. >"Oh. I wasn't sure. You've been well trained!"
  1221. "I can put them on myself too." I'm not very nice in the way I say it.
  1222. >"Of course, I'm sorry." She puts my shorts with my shirt on the counter.
  1223. >Will she take my collar off too? That's all that's left.
  1224. >No. She puts the chain back on my collar and attaches the other end of it to a metal loop on the end of the table.
  1225.  
  1226. >>35302196
  1227. >She pats the top of the table gently, "Can you get up here all by yourself?"
  1228. >I'm just a little taller than the table. It's got places I can step. Yeah, it's a good climbing table.
  1229. "I can."
  1230. >She steps back, making room for me.
  1231. >I put a foot up and grab the top of the table. I put a second foot up and pull.
  1232. >The table is metal, and it's cold. It makes me pause for a second, but suddenly there's a pony snout in between my legs pushing me up all the way onto the table.
  1233. >"There you go."
  1234. >I turn over and sit up straight with my legs hanging over the edge. This table is really cold! I pull my other berries up and squeeze my legs together, crossing my ankles.
  1235. >The pegasus chuckles lightly before turning towards the door. "Now wait right there. I will be right back, ok? If you behave, I'll have a treat for you."
  1236. >Treats are good, especially from nice ponies.
  1237. >She leaves, closing the door behind her.
  1238. >It's quiet in here. All I can hear is air quietly from a vent, and a ticking noise.
  1239. >I look around. There's a clock on the wall. That's what's ticking. It's evening already. Blanket is usually home by now. I wonder if he saw the note yet.
  1240. >I wonder if he's on his way now.
  1241. >I'm stuck in one spot. If I scoot over, the table is still cold there. It's warmed up under my butt now. I can uncross my ankles and let my feet swing again.
  1242.  
  1243. >I watch the second hand go around on the clock a bunch of times, like 9 times at least.
  1244. >The door opens and it's the pegasus from earlier. She comes in, and smiles at me.
  1245. >I feel like I should smile back, but I don't feel like smiling, so I don't.
  1246. >Following behind her is a unicorn stallion. Not like the big one with the mean magic, he's like the pegasus, only a unicorn, and a stallion.
  1247. >My feet stop swinging.
  1248. >"Ok, Zipper, is it?" He says.
  1249. >He's just looking at a clipboard taking some notes.
  1250. >I don't answer.
  1251. >"Yes, doc." The pegasus answers for me.
  1252.  
  1253. >>35302207
  1254. >"Ok. We're just going to check you out and make sure everything is in the right place. It shouldn't take too long, and we can finally call it a day, ok?" The unicorn never looks up from his clipboard.
  1255. "I can go home?" I finally say.
  1256. >"Well, we'll be going home. It's almost closing time. Let's begin, shall we?" He floats the clipboard to the Pegasus. She takes a pen in her mouth, ready to start writing.
  1257. >The unicorn steps up to me. His magic opens my mouth and he looks inside.
  1258. >I'm not comfortable with this strange pony looking in my mouth. I hope I have human breath.
  1259. >"All are present and straight. It looks like numbers 8 and 9 haven't finished coming in."
  1260. >The pegasus writes stuff down.
  1261. >The unicorn then pulls a flat wooden stick out of a drawer and uses it to press on my tongue. I can taste it.
  1262. >"Everything else appears to be in good working order."
  1263. >Is this payback for what I did to Blanket this morning? Do ponies just know?
  1264. >The unicorn lets my mouth go. I make sure I don't bite my tongue.
  1265. >I grab the flat wooden stick from his magic before he sets it down and put it back in my mouth to suck on. It makes me feel more comfortable for some reason. It's getting soft.
  1266. >I feel his magic squeezing my fingers and hands one at a time. Then my arms.
  1267. >"Tell me if this hurts." He says.
  1268. >I nod to him. I'll give him that, but I don't want to use my voice. I decided he's not going to hear it.
  1269. >Oh, but I already said something.
  1270. >He's not going to hear it, again.
  1271. >His magic squeezes my chest and back and belly.
  1272. >My tummy shakes and a laugh tries to come out, but I force it back down. NO!
  1273. >"Everything seems fine up here."
  1274. >The pegasus writes more notes.
  1275. >His magic then pulls on my-
  1276. "Hey!"
  1277. >I pull it away and cover it with my hand.
  1278. "Blanket says we don't do that to each other!" Because I did once and he said so. Like tails, it's also not for pulling. But sometimes I'll pull mine anyway when nopony is looking.
  1279. >"Yes, well... Everything seems fine there." He sighs.
  1280.  
  1281. >>35302215
  1282. >His magic goes down to squeezing my legs, and then my ankles. I keep my hand covering where it is though.
  1283. >"So far so good..." he says.
  1284. >The pegasus writes it down.
  1285. >His magic reaches my feet. It tickles and I start kicking my feet back and forth really fast.
  1286. "Stop it!" I almost spit out my wooden stick while I hang on to the table with both hands beside me to keep from falling off.
  1287. >He freezes my right foot and pulls my leg out straight.
  1288. >I can feel his magic trace a line down the bottom of the middle of my foot. It tickles, but I can't move it.
  1289. >"What do we have here?"
  1290. "Let me see." I thought I wasn't going to say anything again. I was wrong.
  1291. >He lets go of my foot, and I pull it to where I can see the bottom.
  1292. >There's a line there. It doesn't tickle when I trace it with my finger. It's where the skin grew back together.
  1293. "I stepped on a rock or something, a long time ago. Before I got my first shoes."
  1294. >The pegasus writes more notes.
  1295. "I thought all of my blood was going to come out, and Blanket would have to carry me for the rest of my life."
  1296. >"I see," said the unicorn.
  1297. "But it fixed itself, and left this line."
  1298. >"Very well. We're almost done here," he tells me.
  1299. >"You're doing very good, Zipper. I'm proud of you," the pegasus says to me.
  1300. >I nod to her. I still don't feel like smiling. Besides, I'm just letting them look at me. It's not very hard at all, just sit there.
  1301. >The unicorn picks me up and puts me on my feet on the floor.
  1302. >The floor is cold too, but it doesn't feel as cold as the table did.
  1303. >"Turn around please," he tells me.
  1304. >I do. I can feel his magic tracing my backbone all the way down. It actually feels good, until it keeps on tracing below the top of my butt. That makes my eyebrows scrunch together.
  1305. >I turn around and give him the meanest look I ever practiced.
  1306. >"Trust me, I'm not enjoying this any more than you are." he says.
  1307. >"It's ok, Zipper. This is normal."
  1308. >"Everything is good so far. Is that everything?" He asks her.
  1309.  
  1310. >>35302222
  1311. >The pegasus looks through the clipboard. "We just need a temperature."
  1312. >"Right."
  1313. >The unicorn opens another drawer and pulls out a glass stick with a small round end.
  1314. >I don't want to tell you what happened next. But I gave him a dirty look that lasted until he left. And that was the last sound I was going to give him too. I hope I never have to say anything to him ever again.
  1315.  
  1316. >It's just me and the pegasus again. The unicorn took the clipboard and left. I feel like I have to poop, but also not.
  1317. >"Here, before you get dressed, I thought you might like to scrub off some. You're looking pretty dirty."
  1318. >I look at my arms. I am dirty. Well, I did spend a lot of time on different grounds and floors today.
  1319. >She pulls a small bin off of the counter and sets it on the floor in front of me. There's water in there, some bubbles, and a rag.
  1320. "I'm not going to fit in there."
  1321. >She laughs lightly, "No, Zipper. Just stand and use the rag. Dip it in the water and wring it out. Can you clean yourself?"
  1322. "I can."
  1323. >"Of course you can. You've been a very good boy today. Go ahead and scrub the dirt off, and I will be back with a clean towel and your treat."
  1324. >That's right, I did earn a treat. It better be a good one. I wanted to save those dirty looks for something really good.
  1325. >She leaves and I scrub everywhere that I can reach. Blanket usually does my back for me. But he's not here. I feel sad, and dirty, on my back.
  1326. >The water turns gray.
  1327. >The soap doesn't smell nice like the one at home. It just smells like soap.
  1328. >I look up at the clock. It's dinner time already. Will Blanket come get me after he eats, or will he get me first? Maybe he'll eat while he's on his way.
  1329. >The pegasus comes back with a folded towel balanced on her back, and a small package in her mouth wrapped in a brown paper.
  1330. "What's that?"
  1331. >She sets it down on the table before pulling the towel off of her back and giving it to me. "It's protein."
  1332. >The Unicorn told her I had a deficiency and she wrote it down.
  1333.  
  1334. >>35302228
  1335. >I dry myself off and she takes the towel.
  1336. >She gives me my clothes back and I get them on. They're dirty, but I still feel clean underneath them.
  1337. >I take the package off of the table and look it over in my hands.
  1338. >"That's for eating. Just what's inside. Wait until you're back in your cage and you can eat it there."
  1339. >I slowly nod to her.
  1340.  
  1341. >Blanket isn't coming to get me.
  1342.  
  1343. >She gently wipes the tears from my eyes with her hoof. "Everything will be ok, ok? I know Hem. She and her little Blanket must be worried sick. I will go visit them when we close and tell them you miss them."
  1344. >More tears come out, but she catches those too. I nod to her, holding my protein close.
  1345. >"Now remember. That's for you only. Don't let any other hyoomans see it, and if they ask for some, it's not for them, ok?"
  1346. >I nod to her.
  1347. >"Good boy. You know what? I don't think we're going to need this right now either," she says as she takes the chain off.
  1348. >It's not heavy, but my collar does feel a lot lighter now, lighter than when Blanket takes my regular leash off.
  1349. >"You're going to stay a good boy for me all the way back, right?"
  1350. >I nod to her.
  1351. >"Good. Let's get you back. It's almost lights out and I'm sure you've had a very long day."
  1352. >She leads me out of the room and we walk down the hall, back towards the regular door.
  1353. >It's a slow walk. I wish it could be slower. I want her to stay with me until Blanket comes.
  1354. >We get back to my cage by the strong door. She opens the cage and lets me walk in on my own. I like the easy way better.
  1355. >"Bye, Zipper. I will see you tomorrow, ok?"
  1356. >I nod to her.
  1357. >I watch as she goes back down the row, and through the regular door.
  1358.  
  1359. >I look at my cage floor. It's different. All the hay is fluffy and fresh again and spread out evenly.
  1360. >Oh no! My picture!!
  1361. >I get down on my knees and frantically start tossing hay around looking for it. It's gone.
  1362. >It's just hay in here, a water spout, and a little bowl in the corner built into the floor that smells like poop.
  1363.  
  1364. >>35302237
  1365. >I sit on my feet, sad.
  1366. >"There you are. I thought your owners might have came and got you already."
  1367. >It's the dirty hairy hyooman in the cage across from me.
  1368. "No." I say softly.
  1369. >"Don't worry. You've got plenty of time. Especially since you have your collar and tag."
  1370. >I hold my tag. It makes me feel better.
  1371. >"Even if they don't come for you, pretty boys like you usually get a new family right away. You'll never end up on this side of the room."
  1372. >I look at the package in my hands. How do I open it?
  1373. >He sees it and quickly goes up to the bars, "Is that what I think it is? You lucky dog, you!"
  1374. "It's pro-"
  1375. >"Shh!! Not so loud!" He looks around. "...Can I have a piece?"
  1376. "It's not for you."
  1377. >"Just a little piece. I just want to taste it, one more time. ...one last time."
  1378. >I look at him, then back down to the package, and back to him. A taste isn't too much, right? It's mine after all. I just have to say that a piece is for him and then it will be.
  1379. >He pulls a chain out from around his neck that was hiding under the fur covering his shoulders. It's made of tiny metal balls all strung together. There's little metal tags on it.
  1380. >He reaches them out to me through the bars. "Here. I won't be needing this anymore. You can have it. It's special."
  1381. >I look at it. It does look neat.
  1382. "What's so special about it."
  1383. >"Remember Ethan? When you find him, with this, you can make him do anything you want or need."
  1384. "Anything?"
  1385. >"Anything! But only once. You tell him it's for me, that he owes me one, and you give it to him. But make sure it's really important, whatever it is, because after that, he doesn't owe anything anymore."
  1386. >That -is- special.
  1387. "ok."
  1388. >I find where the string slips off of the package and unwrap the end.
  1389. >It's full of little flat wavey sticks. It smells... good. I've never smelled anything so good before.
  1390. >I pull a strip out and show him.
  1391. "Just one?"
  1392. >"Just a piece of one and I could die a happy man. Well, I can try, anyway."
  1393.  
  1394. >>35302250
  1395. >There's plenty of strips in here. I'll give him a whole one.
  1396. >I toss the strip through my bars and though his. I got good aim.
  1397. >He fumbles around before he catches it.
  1398. >He gives it a good smell. It must be the best thing he's ever smelled too.
  1399. >He tosses me his necklace with the tags on it, and it wraps around my bars, but I catch it and pull it off.
  1400. >I put it around my neck and in my shirt.
  1401. >I look up and he's sitting, leaning against the back wall of his cage, chewing, eyes closed. Are those tears?
  1402.  
  1403. >I look back down at my package of strips. There's a lot.
  1404. >I pull another one out and tear off a piece and put it in my mouth.
  1405.  
  1406. >My whole body almost melts. It's salty. It's sweet. It's crispy and crumbly. I sit, leaning against the wall.
  1407. >Yes, those are tears.
  1408.  
  1409. >I don't want to swallow because it's so good. I just want to chew forever.
  1410. >But I do swallow. It's ok. I have the rest of that strip right here.
  1411. >I open my eyes, everything is blurry until I wipe them with my arm.
  1412. >I count the strips. when I'm done with this one, I can do this 18 more times tonight.
  1413.  
  1414. >And I did. Every last one of them. I counted 100 slow chews each delicious piece, 4 delicious pieces per delicious strip, all night long.
  1415.  
  1416. >I laid down in the hay and cried, but not because I was sad, but because it was so good.
  1417.  
  1418. >The lights turn off. I close my eyes.
  1419.  
  1420. >>35302261
  1421. >It's quiet, comfy.
  1422. >I fall asleep.
  1423.  
  1424. >>35306100
  1425. >There's a loud rattling noise.
  1426. >I open my eyes. The big door on the end, the one that goes up and down was opened. It lets the morning light and fresh cool air in.
  1427. >I stretch like a pony. I like stretching like a pony.
  1428. >Some ponies are coming. They're the ones I saw yesterday. The two earth ponies, and the mean unicorn.
  1429. >And Cross is with them.
  1430. "Cross? Where is Blanket?"
  1431. >He doesn't talk. He just looks at me. He looks mad.
  1432. >My cage door is opened and the ponies stand in the way.
  1433. >The unicorn talks to me instead.
  1434. >"Well, you've had plenty of chances to cooperate, but you refused and you refuse to talk."
  1435. "What? I'm talking now! What do you want to talk about?"
  1436. >Mom calls out from his cage. "It's too late. I've already sent word out, and by the time you find them, they'll already be long gone."
  1437. >I'm picked up in the unicorn's magic. "Oh, it's too late alright, too late for you. Time's up."
  1438. >I'm frozen stiff. I can't move. I can't breathe again.
  1439. >I'm pulled out of the cage.
  1440. >Mom sees me. He looks right at me, "Take care, kid. You carry the hope of many."
  1441. >The strong door is opened.
  1442. >No.
  1443. >I'm being floated into the room.
  1444. >No!
  1445. >the air is thick with copper.
  1446. >The door is closed.
  1447. >Chains, all around. Big ones. Bigger than Lisa's.
  1448. >The room is big. The walls are made of cinder blocks. There's only one light, brighter than the sun, shining right down on me. everypony else is in the shadows, but I know they're there.
  1449. >The earth ponies, the unicorn, Cross.
  1450. >The unicorn stands me up in the middle of the room with his magic. He holds me still.
  1451. >One by one, the chains are put on my collar. They're very heavy, but they hold me up too. They're all around me, stretching out to the walls in each direction from my collar.
  1452. >That's the only thing holding me now. They don't let me move.
  1453. >The light gets brighter, no. It's a machine in the ceiling. It's coming down towards me.
  1454. >Little bendy pipe arms come down and grab each of the chains.
  1455.  
  1456. >>35306546
  1457. >There are so many chains. They're so heavy. But they hold me still.
  1458. >*CLINK! --Tshhhhhh....*
  1459. >The arms quickly grab the chains, pulling them off of the walls, slowly bringing them up into the air, closer to me.
  1460. >The chains rattle as the machine sets them on the ground.
  1461. >The weight pulls me down to the ground hard with a thud. I can't move. so much weight.
  1462. >Another door opens. I struggle but am able to barely move my head to look. It's outside. I can see the park from here.
  1463. >There's Lisa, grumpy as ever. Pockets, being pushy as usual. Snap is pushing back. Go Snap!
  1464. >And Button.
  1465. "Button! Help me!" but I'm barely louder than a whisper.
  1466. >Everypony leaves through the door and it closes.
  1467. >I'm alone, trapped, chained.
  1468. >The water starts running. It's beginning to fill the room.
  1469. >The water level rises, but I'm stuck on the bottom.
  1470. >I hold my breath.
  1471. >It covers me. I can't hold my breath anymore.
  1472. >I breathe in.
  1473. >I can breathe.
  1474. >But I can't move.
  1475. >The water reaches the ceiling. It puts the light out.
  1476. >Blackness, all around me.
  1477. >There are tears, I know there are, but the water hides them.
  1478. >Quiet.
  1479.  
  1480. >>35306554
  1481. >A speck of light. A dot. Tiny. Just one.
  1482. >Another.
  1483. >And another.
  1484. >They're everywhere. Surrounding me. So far away.
  1485. >Stars, in all directions. I'm floating in the middle. No chains, no collar.
  1486. >Two eyes, blue. Wavey stars. No, wavey mane, there are stars in it.
  1487. >It's a unicorn.
  1488. >The shape of a moon. Wings.
  1489. "P- Princess Luna?"
  1490. >"A hyooman? In my domain? What an interesting development."
  1491. >I'm suspended in the middle of... nothingness, surrounded by the night sky.
  1492. >Princess Luna comes close. She's looking at me, walking around me.
  1493. >Princesses are like Cross. You don't bother them if they come near. Don't talk to them unless they want you to say something.
  1494. >I've never seen a princess in real life before. Is this even real life?
  1495. >I try to turn to face the princess, but I don't have any traction. I just float and turn upside down.
  1496. >She continues to walk around me, looking at me from every angle. "Interesting indeed. Tell me, hyooman: Who is your owner?"
  1497. "B- B- Blanket, Princess." Why am I having trouble talking to her? She's just a princess. "Blanket Stich."
  1498. >"Very well." She nods to me before fading away. Gravity comes back and I float back to the ground as the stars fade away one by one.
  1499.  
  1500. >The sound comes back first.
  1501. >I open my eyes. I'm in my cage. I'm in a nest of hay.
  1502. >It's morning. I sit up.
  1503. "Mom?"
  1504. >"It's just me." says another hyooman, in the cage next to me. He wasn't there yesterday. He must be new today.
  1505. >I look to the cage across from mine. It's empty.
  1506. "Did... Did you see where the hyooman in that cage went?" I ask the one next to me.
  1507. >"Yeah. I saw."
  1508. "Where did he go?"
  1509. >"The ponies. They took him in there." He points behind me, but I don't want to look. I don't need to.
  1510. >There's a rock in my stomach, and my collar pinches my throat. Why?
  1511. >That room.
  1512. >I go back to my corner, and make myself into an impossible little ball.
  1513.  
  1514. >>35306561
  1515. >Hoofsteps. A cart rolls. It stops. A sliding sound.
  1516. >Hoofsteps again. A cart rolls. It stops. A sliding sound.
  1517. >It's getting closer.
  1518. >More steps, more rolling, more sliding.
  1519. >Finally, it's outside my cage. Something slides in.
  1520. >I uncurl and look.
  1521. >It's a tray. There's a bowl, and a small paper-wrapped package.
  1522. >I recognize the package. It's protein.
  1523. >I sit up, cross-legged, pulling the tray into my lap as I lean against the wall.
  1524. >The bowl is some kind of soup, I think. There's stuff floating in it.
  1525. >It kinda smells like food. It's warm.
  1526. >I look over and the hyooman in the cage next to me is drinking it.
  1527. >I drink some of mine.
  1528. >I undrink some of mine. It's not very good.
  1529. >I know the protein is good. I open it up.
  1530. >2.
  1531. >That's all?
  1532. "How many did you get?"
  1533. >"2. I've been here before, they usually give out one."
  1534. >I'm sad again.
  1535. >My stomach doesn't care. It wants the protein, it wants the soup.
  1536. >I tear the protein into small pieces and let it float with the other stuff in the bowl.
  1537. >It's better, but not by much. I make myself swallow it.
  1538. >My neighbor doesn't seem to mind it.
  1539. >Cross doesn't like me wasting, so I finish it all. I don't like my burps anymore.
  1540. >My neighbor slides the tray with the empty bowl and protein wrapper out of the little space under the door to the cage.
  1541. >Oh. that's what it's for. I do the same.
  1542. >He's looking at me.
  1543. >I try not to look back.
  1544. >He keeps looking.
  1545. "What?"
  1546. >"I know you."
  1547. >"What?"
  1548. >"You're that retard at the park with the frisbee that always runs into the fence."
  1549. "I don't always run into the fence. ...Just sometimes."
  1550. >"Yeah, you and your sister... I've seen you."
  1551. "I don't have a sister. I've never seen you before."
  1552. >"That's because I don't go in the park. I'm not a little baby."
  1553. "I'm not a little baby either! You take that back!"
  1554. >He sticks his tongue out at me.
  1555. >I feel a small rumble below my stomach. Perfect timing.
  1556. >I get up and pull my shorts down and fill his cage with the biggest protein fart I ever had.
  1557.  
  1558. >>35310817
  1559. >I didn't know it would change what comes out of me. The vet would tell Hem and Blanket and me that later.
  1560. >I got him good. His soup is coming back out.
  1561. >Oh, I think I need to sit on that bowl in the floor now. I try to aim for the hole in the bottom.
  1562. >Brown is the color of smelly mud.
  1563. >Well this feels different.
  1564. >While that's happening, the fart makes its way back into my cage. The bars don't really hold anything back.
  1565. >My eyes water. That's amazing!
  1566. >I cough.
  1567. >I'm so proud of myself. I smile through the tears.
  1568. >Other hyoomans start coughing too. They're complaining and saying more things I'm not allowed to say.
  1569. >The mean unicorn comes in to see what all is going on and why everyone is being so noisy. He turns around and goes back outside. I can hear him coughing too.
  1570. >I use some hay to try to clean myself off with. I think I got it all.
  1571.  
  1572. >The air finally cleared. That or we all got used to it.
  1573. >It's boring in here. Nobody wants to talk to me, now.
  1574. >Something under my shirt jingles.
  1575. >Oh, Mom's tags!
  1576. >I pull them out and look at them. There's two of them.
  1577. >One of them just has holes in it. With the beads going through the bottom, there are three holes on the top in a triangle shape, three in the middle making a slant, and two on the bottom, one on each side of the big hole for the chain.
  1578. >The other tag just has a notch cut into the round end that doesn't have the chain going through it. The notch has little teeth, some triangle, some square, sticking out at different lengths.
  1579. >There's a number too.
  1580. "four hundred and ninety-two m- million" I have to say this one slowly. It's a big number! "Three hundred and fifty-seven thousand. and eight hundred and sixteen."
  1581. >"Shut up kid!" My neighbor's voice went away.
  1582. >I feel the teeth with my finger on one tag.
  1583. >I look at the lights through the holes in the other.
  1584. >I do this for a while.
  1585.  
  1586. >The regular door opens. I put Mom's tags back under my shirt.
  1587. >"Oh my, what happened in here?"
  1588. >It's the pegasus. She's yellow.
  1589.  
  1590. >She comes up to my cage, smiling at me so friendly.
  1591. >I feel like smiling today after earlier, so I smile back.
  1592. >She opens the cage and puts a chain on my collar. It's a smaller chain than yesterday, lighter.
  1593. >"Zipper, Somepony is here to see you!"
  1594.  
  1595. >>35310830
  1596. >It's a trip back down the hall.
  1597. >The air is so much nicer in here. It doesn't smell like... me.
  1598. >I suppress a giggle.
  1599. >We don't go to the same room, though. It's a different one.
  1600. >This one has regular tables and chairs, and a unicorn. She's light purple. Friendly looking.
  1601. >I like her mane.
  1602. "I like your mane."
  1603. >"Thank you! Zipper, is it?" She sounds friendly too.
  1604. >"Zipper, this is Counselor Glimmer. She wants to give you a test."
  1605. >I look around.
  1606. "Where's Blanket?"
  1607. >"Oh, sweetie, he's not here." The yellow pegasus rubs my back with her wing.
  1608. "I thought he was here to get me."
  1609. >"You'll be able to go home soon, hopefully."
  1610. "I don't wanna take a test."
  1611. >"Please?" asks the purple one. "It's real easy. You can't even get any answers wrong."
  1612. "That's a stupid test."
  1613. >"Yes, well, it might seem stupid, but I assure you, it's very important." Glimmer, using her magic, sets a stack of cards in front of me.
  1614. >I push them away. They slide towards her, spreading put.
  1615. >She looks to the yellow one.
  1616. >The yellow one looks at me. "Zipper, honey, please. I know you're upset, but the sooner you cooperate, the sooner she goes away. That's what you want, right?"
  1617. "I want my Blanket!" I cross my arms. I'm making such a mad face right now. I bet they're scared.
  1618. >"I know, I know. I'll tell what. You take this test for me, and when we're all done, I'll take you out for a walk. Just you and me. You can even have a treat."
  1619. "Protein."
  1620. >"You like the protein?"
  1621. >I nod.
  1622. >"ok. We'll get you some and you can eat it while we walk."
  1623. "More than 2."
  1624. >"Yes, I can get more than 2 for you, again. But you have to be nice to Ms. Glimmer here, and take her test."
  1625. "No chain."
  1626. >"Now dear, you know I'm not allowed to do that."
  1627. "A little chain, then."
  1628. >"The lightest one we have."
  1629. >I'll take that stupid test. I'll take it so good they'll think they just wasted their time and should have brought a harder test. I'll show them!
  1630. >I uncross my arms and let my face relax because my face muscles were getting sore.
  1631.  
  1632. >>35314689
  1633. >I sit up straight and reach out to straighten up the cards. I can't reach them all.
  1634. >Glimmer just smiles warmly at me and uses her magic to fix them all back up in a pile and set it in front of me.
  1635. >I pull them close.
  1636. >"Ok, Zipper," says Glimmer, "I need you to look at the cards one at a time. Take your time, look at all of the detail; every part of the picture."
  1637. "Ok..."
  1638. >"Then put it at the bottom of the stack, and look at the next one the same way. All of the detail on every part of it."
  1639. "That's it?"
  1640. >"That's it. Just look at all of the pictures. Easy, right?"
  1641. "That's a stupid test." I roll my eyes because that's what you do when things are stupid.
  1642. >"Yes, well, it's an important one."
  1643. >"Remember Zipper, protein, and a walk. But you have to do your best."
  1644. >I sigh. ...I want protein. And the walk.
  1645. >I look at the first card. It's a picture of a hyooman. A man. He's wearing shoes, and pants, and a shirt. The sleeves go down to his hands. And a hat. He must be hot with all that on. He's missing his collar. I look at the top of his shirt. Nope, it's definitely missing.
  1646. >The next card is a Pony. An earth pony. He has some kind of short rounded fork for a cutie mark. the middle pokey is longer than the other two and goes down to be the handle too. He's smiling. His tail is long and "S" shaped. It looks so soft and tuggable. I want one like that.
  1647. >I look around the room.
  1648. >"Yes, Zipper?" asks Glimmer.
  1649. "N- Nothing."
  1650. >I look at the next card. It's a collar. It's like mine. Leather, thin. It has a loop for a tag on the front and one for the leash on the back. brown. it even has the same buckle. It makes me aware of mine on my neck. I usually just forget about it, most of the time. I still have the chain on mine. I can feel its weight. I don't like the chain. I like the leash, but not when Blanket used it to bite my flank.
  1651. >I put the card down and look around again.
  1652. >"Is everything ok, Zipper?" asks Glimmer.
  1653. "Something's not... something doesn't feel right."
  1654.  
  1655. >>35314698
  1656. >The next card is a leash, a short one. it's stretched out, the end is feathery. Maybe it's used for spankings only.
  1657. >The next card is a chain, It's like Lisa's, only not as big. I can hear them rattling in my head.
  1658. >The next card is food. I can't tell if it's the pony food or hyooman food. they often look the same.
  1659. >I put the card down. "You're doing good, Zipper, just keep going," said Glimmer.
  1660. "We're not the only ones here testing, are we?" I ask her.
  1661. >"What do you mean?" Glimmer is getting nervous.
  1662. >The yellow one seems confused.
  1663. >I glance at the wall next to Glimmer.
  1664. >Glimmer quickly speaks up, "Uh, no! it's just us three in here, you can see that for yourself!"
  1665. "Purple."
  1666. >"What?"
  1667. >"Zipper?"
  1668. "Golden eyes, always sad."
  1669. >"You only have a few more cards to go and then you won't have to see me again. Ok?"
  1670. >I look back down to the cards. There are still several left to go, but I keep going.
  1671. >Another hyooman. A little one like me. She just has a collar. It's decorated. I know it's a girl because she doesn't have a front tail like mine. That's how you tell us apart. What do they pull on, then? I'll have to ask Button.
  1672. >I'm not alone in here. I can tell. But it's just Glimmer and the shelter pony. I check under the table. Nothing.
  1673. >My vision's been a little hazy this whole time.
  1674. >"Zipper?" asks the yellow one.
  1675. "I'm ok. I think."
  1676. >I'm not ok, but I don't know how to say it.
  1677. >Glimmer turns to the yellow one, "Did you pass anypony in the hall on the way in here or see any other pony?"
  1678. >"No, we didn't."
  1679. >"That's interesting."
  1680. >More cards, more pictures of different things, and different ponies and people, dressed differently, with different expressions. I finally flip the last card to the bottom of the stack.
  1681. >Glimmer levitates the cards away from me and puts them away in her saddlebag. "That's it! Wasn't that easy?"
  1682. "Yeah... Sure."
  1683. >"Do you have any questions before I go?"
  1684. "Uh... Um. Just one."
  1685. >"Go ahead?"
  1686. "Who is Astral Bell?"
  1687. >My vision clears up instantly.
  1688.  
  1689. >>35319000
  1690. >"Um. Uh... Well. She's a pony. We call her in on special projects sometimes." Glimmer gathered her stuff together quickly. I made her uncomfortable somehow.
  1691. >"Yes, well if we are done here, I believe I have a hyooman to treat to a walk."
  1692. >I smile.
  1693. >We all get up and go out into the hallway, and through the door at the end.
  1694. >It's a lobby. There are places to sit, and a big counter where ponies do business stuff, I guess. I've never actually been here before, that could be where they eat, and they do business on the padded seats up front by the door. I don't know.
  1695. >There's another pony here. A unicorn. She's young. Not a foal though. She's a darker purple, ...golden eyes. She keeps her ears down. Her hair is a light purple with a white streak and matching tail. I want to pull it.
  1696. >She has a cutie mark of a bell, the same color as her eyes. There are lines coming off of it like it was ringing.
  1697. >We make eye contact. She quickly looks away, back to the counter she's standing at.
  1698. >Glimmer goes to stand next to her while the yellow pegasus hooks my chain to one of the padded seats and tells me to wait there while she goes around to the other side of the counter.
  1699. >Oh. So I had it right the first time. I'm good!
  1700. >They talk quietly, but I can still hear, because I'm not deaf. I pretend not to be listening, but I totally am. Because I'm sneaky.
  1701. >"Well?" asks Glimmer.
  1702. >"It was strange. I've never been able to connect with a hyooman before-- tune in, that is. They're brains are always so random and scattered, it's like a different frequency altogether. But this one..."
  1703. >"He's different, isn't he?"
  1704. >"It's like it was just another pony, only..." She stops to look at me.
  1705. >I pretend I saw her for the first time and smile and wave.
  1706. >She smiles back at me the same way Blanket and Hem did when when I tried to make them lunch with stuff from the back yard and they ate some of it so they wouldn't hurt my feelings.
  1707. >"Only what?" asked Glimmer.
  1708.  
  1709. >>35319015
  1710. >"Only... The more I looked into him... It felt like, the more he looked back."
  1711. >She's still looking at me.
  1712. >I show her a finger trick where I weave my fingers together with one hand facing up and one hand facing down, and I wiggle my middle fingers like they were floating in the middle. I smile big.
  1713. >She looks a little confused before making a pretend polite smile at me and turning back to Glimmer.
  1714. >"He knows your name," said Glimmer. She sounded worried.
  1715. >So that's Astral Bell. Lucky she got that cutie mark and not some kind of plate or wagon wheel.
  1716. >"I know. I tuned out as soon as I heard. I think he might be listening to us. We should get back to Canterlot."
  1717. >"So you have what you need to make your report."
  1718. >"I think so. Luna will be very interested in what he saw in the cards."
  1719. "Princess Luna?"
  1720. >Glimmer looks back at me wide eyed. She face hooves before sighing and pops out of sight, taking Astral with her.
  1721. >"And if you could just sign this--" The yellow pegasus turns around holding a paper to see that they're gone.
  1722. >Glimmer pops back into sight by herself, and quickly signs the paper for the pegasus. "Sorry about that."
  1723. >She disappears in a flash again.
  1724. >"O... K... Well now. Zipper? Are you ready to go out?" She's coming around the counter again. "Today is a really nice day for it too!"
  1725. >She unhooks my chain, taking her end under her wing.
  1726. >She's leading me to the door when I stop and pull back.
  1727. "Protein!"
  1728. >"Oh, of course!"
  1729. >She takes me up to the side of a counter where she goes behind and reaches under, pulling out a wide glass jar. It has a smiling pig on the lid with a stripe cut out of his side. He's holding the stripe out and winking his eye.
  1730. >The lid comes off and she holds the jar out to me.
  1731. >I can smell so much protein in that jar. I try to take it.
  1732. >"No! Not the whole thing, you greedy little hyooman!" I can tell she doesn't mean it. The greedy part. She does mean that I can't take the whole jar with me. "Just take some out!"
  1733.  
  1734. >>35319025
  1735. >I take as many as my hand will hold.
  1736. >...which isn't very much since my hand isn't as big as I want it to be right now.
  1737. >Strips keep falling out of my grasp as I try to take it out of the jar.
  1738. >I finally get my hand out. I lost a lot of strips in the struggle.
  1739. >I count them. Seven. That's a good number, I guess. Six is afraid of it.
  1740. >Why? Because 7 is a bigger number and tougher and sometimes beats on 6 for his treats at lunch time.
  1741. >I put the strips in my food pocket. All except for one. That one I put in my mouth and let it hang out like Lisa's medicine.
  1742. >My mouth is so watery, it soaks the strip and I suck the juices out. It's my favorite flavor. Even better than sugar cubes!
  1743. "Ok, now we're ready."
  1744.  
  1745. >We go right out the front door!
  1746. >It's so bright outside. I haven't seen the sun in forever!!
  1747. >Yep, still where I left it. Still hurts to look at.
  1748. >I run into a mailbox. Stupid sun spots.
  1749. >She pulls on my chain gently, guiding me away. I'm rubbing my eyes.
  1750. >"You're an odd little one. Cute, but odd."
  1751. "I know. It's my eyes. Cross says they're special."
  1752. >"I've never seen a hyooman with green eyes. They match the stripes on your shirt."
  1753. "You've seen me."
  1754. >I bite a little off of the strip in my mouth.
  1755. >I'm so happy. I already forgot about Glimmer and that other pony, what was her name?
  1756. >I mean... I remember them, but... something about a test.
  1757. >All those pictures of regular stuff.
  1758. >Ponies and hyoomen and things that ponies use and hyoomen use.
  1759. >And have.
  1760. >I trip over an uneven crack in the sidewalk.
  1761. >"Are you ok, Zipper? You seem distracted today."
  1762. "I'm ok. I have my protein!"
  1763. >"I'm glad."
  1764. >I pull the piece out of my mouth and offer it to her.
  1765. "Want some?"
  1766. >She smiles down at me, "No, Ponies aren't supposed to eat meat."
  1767. "Meat?"
  1768. >"From animals."
  1769. >I look at the strip in the light. It's brownish red, a little shiny. There's fibers running through it, all in one direction.
  1770. "Animals make these?"
  1771. >"Well... In a way, yes."
  1772. "How?"
  1773. >I run into a pole.
  1774.  
  1775. >>35319034
  1776. >"Zipper, if we are going to walk, you need to watch where you are going!"
  1777. >I rub my forehead. I hear somepony laughing in the distance.
  1778. >I stop looking at the protein and put it back in my mouth.
  1779. "How do animals make the meat?"
  1780. >"It's their muscle tissue, Zipper. Their bodies are the meat."
  1781. >Their bodies are the meat.
  1782. >I finish the strip in my mouth.
  1783. >I pull another one out my pocket. There's dried berry mush on it.
  1784. >I look at it carefully.
  1785. >This is the body of an animal.
  1786. "...What animal is this?"
  1787. >"Was, Zipper. It's only an animal while it's still alive."
  1788. "I'm eating a dead animal?"
  1789. >"...Well, yeah."
  1790. >I run into a stallion and fall on my flank.
  1791. >"Hey watch it, filthy hyooman!"
  1792. >"Oh, so sorry, sir. It's my fault, really."
  1793. >She yanks on the chain, making me scramble to the side out of the way.
  1794. >I pull my collar away from my neck so it can stop hurting.
  1795. >The stallion walks off with a "Hmph!"
  1796. >"Zipper I told you, watch where you are going! Or we're going back."
  1797. "No!"
  1798. >"Then walk properly, please." Cross never tells me please.
  1799. >I stop talking and instead get started on another strip.
  1800. >We turn left.
  1801. >I stop to pee on a tree.
  1802. >Yellow is the color of my pegasus!
  1803. >The pegasus doesn't look at me while I do it, so I pee a little on the cart next to the tree because it's funny.
  1804. >We walk some more, and turn left again.
  1805. >I've never been to... wherever this is. I'm glad I'm not alone.
  1806. >I wish it were Blanket though.
  1807. >We turn left again.
  1808. >Hey, I know that building! Oh, it's the shelter.
  1809. >We come up on the side. A pair of griffins are pulling carts.
  1810. >"Hey look. Fresh meat!"
  1811. >I hold the strip in my mouth up in the air. What's left of it anyway.
  1812. >"Yeah, I hear the little ones are real soft and tender!"
  1813. >He elbows the other one, "Yeah, but look at'em. so scrawny. Nothing but skin'n'bones! Wouldn't be worth the bits, I tells ya."
  1814. >I wave to them as we make our way to the front.
  1815. >Walking in, it takes a moment for my eyes to adjust.
  1816. >I hear a pony talking.
  1817. >I know that voice!
  1818.  
  1819. >>35319051
  1820. >It's the catcher pony. The one who caught me.
  1821. >I wave to her.
  1822. >"Well hi, there! I'm surprised to see you're still here!"
  1823. "Do you have any more cookies?"
  1824. >"No, not today." She presses my nose.
  1825. "Oh." I rub my nose.
  1826. >She talks to my pegasus. "Well, that's it for my shift! I just came in to drop off today's reports."
  1827. >"Do you have anything planned?"
  1828. >"Sure do! Taking the foals to see the Wonderbolts later."
  1829. >"Oh, how nice! Well you ponies enjoy!"
  1830. >The unicorn ruffles my mane, "I'll catch you later!" She smiles at the pegasus and leaves.
  1831. >The door to the hallway opens up and an earth pony comes out. That ponut from earlier is with him. Yeah, I said ponut. I know what that is. I decided he's one, too.
  1832. >He looks at me and smirks as he's led around the front of the counter. "Retard..."
  1833. "Smell my butt!" I think he threw up in his mouth a little. I smirk back.
  1834. >I take the half strip of protein from hanging out of my mouth.
  1835. >He sees it. He wants it.
  1836. >I pull a brand new fresh strip out of my pocket and shove it all in my mouth in front of him and chew on it.
  1837. >His looks mad and shows me his middle finger, mouthing something I think I'm probably not supposed to say. I've seen older hyoomans do that to make each other mad.
  1838. >A teenage stallion gets up from one of the waiting seats and goes to get him. His mane is sticking straight out all spiky. He has metal rings in his ears and the fur on his flank is shaved in an "X" pattern over his cutie mark. The mark is a red heart shaped flower in a small pot.
  1839. >His mother is with him. I think it's his mother. She looks nice, a lot like Hem does, but she's an earth pony, not a unicorn like Hem.
  1840. >The earth pony that works here talks to my pegasus, "Oh good, you're here. There's a family here to see Zipper. I told them you would be back soon and they wanted to wait, so I put them in room number 2 for you."
  1841. >There's so much flavor and chewing going on in my mouth that I go ahead and just put the other half-stick away for later.
  1842.  
  1843. >>35324885
  1844. >I gasp.
  1845. >I almost choke on my meat.
  1846. >Blanket? Oh, I got so much to tell him!
  1847. >We go through the door to the hallway.
  1848. >Room 2.
  1849. >The pegasus takes me in.
  1850. >I'm so happy.
  1851.  
  1852. >It's a group of earth ponies. They're all blue.
  1853. >I'm not so happy anymore.
  1854. >A stallion, a mare, and two foals, smaller than Blanket.
  1855. >They see me and immediately run up and jump on me.
  1856. >I'm forced to swallow the protein in my mouth. I wasn't even finished chewing it. There was still so much flavor left. I'm gonna miss that strip.
  1857. >I'm on the ground, covered in ponies.
  1858. >"Aww, he's so cute!"
  1859. >"This one! I want this one for sure!"
  1860. >The parents are sitting nicely. The mother speaks up, "Now kids, we don't know for sure we want this one. Let's see what the pegasus has to say about him first."
  1861. >I'm being pounced on and my belly is being rubbed and my mane is getting all messed up and my nose is getting sore.
  1862. >It's nice when Blanket does it, and Darning used to do it to me with Blanket. But I don't like these ponies.
  1863. >And it's not because they're earth ponies! My best friend is an earth pony!
  1864. >I try to push them off, but they hang on pretty good for not having fingers.
  1865. >"Ok, let the human have some air. come sit over here, NOW!"
  1866. >They finally let go and scurry on over to the table and sit next to their mother, pushing each other away to try and sit the closest.
  1867. >I scramble to hide behind the pegasus.
  1868. "Where's Blanket?"
  1869. >"Oh, honey, I don't know."
  1870. >"He talks too!" says one of the foals excitedly. I think he might pee on the floor. But then I remember ponies don't really do that, but I do sometimes. I mean, I used to. I don't anymore. Not anymore. Never.
  1871. >"Yes, Hyoomans his age can talk with a fairly large vocabulary, enough to talk to like any other grown foal," the pegasus says.
  1872. >She makes me sit at the table. I pick a spot as far away from the foals as I can. She sits next to me.
  1873. >The stallion says, "It looks and sounds like this one might already be taken." He points his hoof, at my tag.
  1874.  
  1875. >>35324905
  1876. >"Yes, he has a family he belongs to, but in the event that they are unwilling or unable to come and claim him, we like to have new families lined up to take our guests as soon as possible. If they stay too long, well... We really hate it when time runs out for the little guys." She rubs her wing on my back, "Especially ones this little and cute."
  1877. >Unwilling? New families? ...time runs out.
  1878. >I suddenly find myself trying to listen very closely.
  1879. >"Do you have to feed hyoomans every day?" asks the stallion.
  1880. >"We're new to hyooman ownership." says the mare.
  1881. "YES!"
  1882. >The pegasus turns to me, "Please. Let me answer the questions."
  1883. >I cross my arms and huff.
  1884. >"Yes, we find that at least two times, three if somepony will be with them all day is sufficient."
  1885. "And we need lots of protein."
  1886. >"Zipper? Please. Not another word."
  1887. >I huff again.
  1888. >"And is he housebroken?" asks the mare.
  1889. >"Hyoomans will tend to prefer to do that as far from where they do any of their other daily activities such as eating or playing. They can learn to use a toilet, sandbox, or ask to go outside when they need to, but you'll want to make sure to keep the yard clean of any hyooman piles or mounds to stay within local ordinances."
  1890. >"Do you know how to use a toilet?" the stallion asks me.
  1891. >I don't answer, and just look away.
  1892. >"Zipper..."
  1893. >Talk, don't talk. Make up your mind!
  1894. "I'll poop wherever you want me too." (and sometimes where you don't want me to) I answer.
  1895. >The mare smiles.
  1896. "I'll pee wherever you want me to, too, as long as it's not farther away than this far." I stretch out my arms as wide as they'll go.
  1897. >Her smile gets smaller.
  1898. >The foals laugh.
  1899. >"Me too!" says the little colt.
  1900. >The mare boops the back of his head.
  1901. >he snickers.
  1902. >I look up at the pegasus. She rolls her eyes at me, pulling my chain just a little bit shorter.
  1903. >I look away and huff again, crossing my arms. I'm so grumpy.
  1904. >"I see his eyes are a very deep green. Is that a common trait for hyoomans?" asks the stallion.
  1905.  
  1906. >>35324922
  1907. >"Not at all! Zipper here is the first I've seen. We think it's a very rare trait. He may be the only one of his kind."
  1908. "Button and Snap have eyes like mine."
  1909. >"You shush now," the pegasus says down to me.
  1910. >I roll my eyes back at her. She gives my chain a small, but sharp tug. I almost don't care, but I do still, so I just slink down a little bit and look away again.
  1911. >The pegasus looks back up to the parents, "The stitch family were breeders for a short while, so Zipper may have a some brothers and sisters out there."
  1912. >...
  1913. "..."
  1914.  
  1915. >The rest of the meeting was a blur.
  1916. >I can't for the life of me tell you what else they talked about.
  1917. >The next thing I knew, everypony was getting up. and the foals were all over me again.
  1918. >They left.
  1919. >"Zipper? Zipper??" The pegasus shakes me, "Zipper!"
  1920. "What?"
  1921. >I finally snap out of my daze. What was I thinking about? It must have not have been important. I get the sinking feeling that it was though.
  1922. >The clock says it's late. That meeting lasted a long time. I wish I was there for all of it.
  1923. >Well, they didn't take me with them. I hope I never see them again.
  1924. >"Zipper, I think it's time for you to get some rest. Let's get you back to the cage. I'll check up on you around feeding time, and if you're a good boy, maybe I'll have another treat for you."
  1925. >I am a good boy.
  1926. >"But you have to behave better than you did for that nice earth pony family."
  1927. >...When I want to be.
  1928.  
  1929. >She leads me back down the hall, towards the back.
  1930. >I walk slower and make her have to pull on the chain. But not too much slower, I don't want her pulling too hard.
  1931. >There's an art to being just bad enough.
  1932. >I still want my treats, after all.
  1933. >The air back here doesn't smell like my butt anymore.
  1934. >We get to my cage. But it's not my cage. There's another hyooman in it. A girl (they're softer looking than boys). She's sleeping.
  1935.  
  1936. >>35324932
  1937. >I get put into the cage next to mine. It's 'her' cage now, I guess.
  1938. >My new cage is freshly made with new hay, I think they put a little more in it this time. That makes the floor softer, more comfortable.
  1939. >I go in and sit on my feet. Definitely more comfortable.
  1940. >I pull on my chain at my collar.
  1941. >"Now Zipper, I know you're upset, but you need to stop acting like this. I'm trying really hard to be nice to you, much nicer to you than any other hyooman here because I know Hem and her Blanket would appreciate it."
  1942. "My Blanket."
  1943. >"...Please, Zipper. I want things to be easy, but you are making it the hard way."
  1944. >The hard way.
  1945. >I let go of my chain and look down at my knees, digging my fingers through the soft hay.
  1946. "I'm... Sorry."
  1947. >"That's a good boy."
  1948. >But I'm not a very good boy.
  1949. >She pats my head and unclips my chain. "Try taking a nap for now."
  1950. >I lay down, bunching up some hay under my head with my arm under it. I don't even wait for the cage door to close before I close my eyes.
  1951. "Blanket," I whisper to myself. "I want to be a good boy again."
  1952. >A tear comes out.
  1953. "I want to be your good boy again."
  1954.  
  1955. >>35324941
  1956. >"Zipper."
  1957. >I'm in a grassy field. There are small white flowers with yellow centers. There's a forest nearby too. The trees look friendly.
  1958. >"Zipper, down here!"
  1959. >It's a pig, like the one on the protein jar.
  1960. "You can talk?"
  1961. >"Hi, Zipper!"
  1962. "Are you a pet too?"
  1963. >"Zipper, are you hungry? The clock's ticking!"
  1964. "But hyoomans are the only pets that can talk. Aren't they?"
  1965. >"Time's up!"
  1966. >The pig winks at me and then flops over, revealing a handle on its side.
  1967. >I pull on it. It's a door. It opens with a clink, the supporting rods making a hissing sound as it opens all the way and holds.
  1968. >Protein strips. The pig is a dead animal. Meat.
  1969. >I go to reach for some, but stop. No. I'm not hungry. I don't need them right now. I close the door.
  1970. >The pig gets up and shakes his body. "Maybe next time, Zipper!" and runs off.
  1971. "Maybe next time."
  1972. >That's a normal thing.
  1973. >I start walking. I need to get home before it gets dark.
  1974. >I'm walking for a long time. I'm following the tree line. Blanket's house isn't in the forest, I know that much for sure.
  1975. >A bunny hops out. It stops and looks at me.
  1976. "Bunnies can't talk. Can you?"
  1977. >The bunny shakes its head at me, its ears flopping around.
  1978. "Do you have a handle too?"
  1979. >It stands up on its hind legs and shows me. It's a cute little handle on its belly.
  1980. "Oh."
  1981. >The bunny salutes me and runs back into the forest.
  1982. >I start walking again.
  1983. >"Zipper, help me!"
  1984. >It's Button!
  1985. >I run up to her.
  1986. "Button, what's wrong?!"
  1987. >She's crying. Her arms are crossed over her belly. "My door. It's loose."
  1988. "Your door?"
  1989. >She lifts her dress up. Her handle is pink. I can see the lines of the door going up the sides. It rattles a little bit. "It won't stay closed!"
  1990. >I push on the handle. The lines disappear, but come back as soon as I pull my hand away.
  1991. "Oh no!"
  1992. >"I know! I don't want to be meat yet."
  1993. "I don't want you to either."
  1994. >"What are we going to do?"
  1995. >I think for a minute.
  1996. "I got it!"
  1997. >I pull off my shirt and tie it around her middle. The door holds close.
  1998.  
  1999. >>35324961
  2000. >"That's it, you did it!" She's so happy.
  2001. >I'm so happy.
  2002. >She hugs me tight. It feels good. Better than usual.
  2003. >She pulls away, but the knot in my shirt around her catches on my handle, and yanks my door wide open with a clink and a hiss.
  2004. >I fall flat. I can't move. I just keep falling.
  2005. >No field, no forest. No button. Just black.
  2006. >And strips. My strips. They float and spread out. I can't grab them and put them back. I can't move at all.
  2007. >Someone's patting my head.
  2008. >"Hey." It's a soft voice.
  2009. >I don't know that voice.
  2010. >"Hey you!" It's a little louder.
  2011. >More patting.
  2012.  
  2013. >I swat at the patting hand and open my eyes.
  2014. >Soft hay. Comfortable. I look over to where the voice is coming from.
  2015. >It's the girl in the other cage. "Are you gonna eat that?"
  2016. >She points.
  2017. >I rub my eyes and look.
  2018. >A tray. There's a bowl and a small paper wrapped packaged.
  2019. "Already?"
  2020. >"It's been there. There's no more steam."
  2021. >I pull the tray into my lap as I sit cross-legged, scooting back to lean against the wall.
  2022. >The bowl is some kind of really thick soup. There's stuff floating in it. I can tell they're different kinds of veggies. Carrots, broccoli, mushrooms. I like mushrooms. They're the bigger kind too; the kind you have to cut into smaller mushrooms.
  2023. >The soupy part is white and creamy. It smells... Good!
  2024. >I drink some of it. I can feel its warmth going all the way down, hitting some sort of spot at the bottom. Hem needs to know how to make this.
  2025. >"...So you are gonna eat that." She points to the paper-wrapped package on the tray. "Can I have th-"
  2026. "NO!"
  2027. >I pull it off the tray and shove it in my lap under it. It's mine!
  2028. >I check my handle.
  2029. >I don't have one. Right. Hyoomans aren't meat. Are they?
  2030. >This soup is so good. I don't care if this girl is staring at me. I eat it all.
  2031. >I even lick the bowl clean. Then I wipe the soup off of my nose with a finger and lick that too.
  2032. >I put the bowl back on the tray and slide it back out of the cage. She sees and does it with hers too.
  2033.  
  2034. >>35324973
  2035. >"What's gonna happen to us?" she asks me.
  2036. "I don't know."
  2037. >"Oh."
  2038. "Does your family know you're here?"
  2039. >"I don't... really have one."
  2040. >I look at her.
  2041. "You don't?"
  2042. >She doesn't have a tag on her collar. Her collar looks like the ones hanging on the wall by the door to the hallway. It's a little big for her. She looks like she's Button's age.
  2043. >I'm just noticing how dirty she really is.
  2044. >"I used to. But one time they didn't come home."
  2045. "Nopony?"
  2046. >"No! Not for a long time. Then some ponies came in a big cart and took all the stuff from the house."
  2047. "They didn't take you though?"
  2048. >She shook her head. "No. But they took the food out of the fridge and gave me some of it, and threw away the rest. Then they left and let the door open for me.
  2049. "That's so sad!"
  2050. >She nods. Her tears come out like mine do a lot lately.
  2051. "Then what?"
  2052. >"I stayed. I even took the food out of the trash. Even trashes from other houses. It didn't taste good, and some of it made me sick."
  2053. >Pony food. Poison.
  2054. >"But then a pony in a business suit came and looked at the house all over, writing on a clipboard and taking pictures. I tried to stay hidden, but she looked everywhere and found me, and took me here."
  2055. >I feel sad for her. She didn't even get cookies from the catcher.
  2056. "Don't be sad. Maybe they just forgot where you were. I'm waiting on my family too."
  2057. >I pull out the half-strip from my pocket, wipe off some of the dried berry mush and hand it to her.
  2058. "Here. You can have this."
  2059. >She takes it and smiles at me. "Thanks."
  2060. >I sit and wait for the yellow pegasus.
  2061. >I wait a long time.
  2062. >I hope I didn't miss her.
  2063. >The light outside goes away.
  2064. >The big door at the end goes down with a rattle.
  2065. >The different hyoomans go to sleep, one at a time. Even the girl next to me is sleeping again.
  2066. >It's quiet.
  2067. >The lights turn off.
  2068. >I did miss her.
  2069. >I gather all the hay around me and under me and lay on it, facing the wall.
  2070. >I go to sleep too. No tears this time, just sniffles.
  2071.  
  2072. >>35324992
  2073. "...And then I farted the biggest fart ever and everyone got sick!"
  2074. >Luna chuckled lightly. "I'm sure it was a gas."
  2075. >She let me sit on her back while I brushed her mane. I would fall through the cloud she laid on if I didn't.
  2076. >We were in her night sky. She listened as she flipped through pages of dreams while I talked.
  2077. >I stop to look around. There are stars in every direction. even down. The cloud is the only thing there is to stand or sit on. Except I can't, since I'm not a pegasus or a princess.
  2078. >But she's really comfy.
  2079. "How did I get here?"
  2080. >"You are dreaming. I have called you here to get a better understanding of you, and hopefully of your kind."
  2081. "My kind?"
  2082. >"Hyoomans. I have observed over the years that without the distraction of war, you hyoomans are far more complex and capable a species than we have previously encountered."
  2083. "Why me?"
  2084. >"You are the first to have managed to visit me here in the dream realm; uninvited, I might add. We have tried many times in the past to explore a hyooman's inner psyche to no avail. You, it would seem, are different."
  2085. "I'm just a kid."
  2086. >"Yes, an interesting one, though, to say the least."
  2087. "The yellow pegasus that gives me protein says I'm an odd one. And cute. It's my eyes."
  2088. >I try to gently brush the stars out of her mane, but they just sway and flow.
  2089. "How come we've never met before?"
  2090. >"It would appear that something within you is changing; manifesting, as it were. Tell me, hyooman-"
  2091. "Zipper"
  2092. >"Yes, well... Has anything new occurred in your life as of late?"
  2093. >I thought for a minute, watching Luna's mane wave on its own.
  2094. "Well, I miss my Blanket. This is the first time I haven't seen him in more than a day. I'm waiting for him to come get me."
  2095. >"Do you, ...Love Blanket?"
  2096. >Do I?
  2097. >Yes. Of course, I do.
  2098. "Yeah. Even more than protein. and the protein they give me at this new place is really good. Blanket never gave me any, though."
  2099. >"There are plant-based protein foods that they give you, I'm sure."
  2100.  
  2101. >>35350521
  2102. "The yellow pegasus that gives me protein says it comes from dead animals."
  2103. >"You've never had animal protein before?"
  2104. "Nope?"
  2105. >She hums to herself, saying quietly, "Interesting."
  2106. >I shrug and go back to brushing.
  2107. >"Tell me, Zipper, have you noticed any other changes since you started eating animal protein?"
  2108. >I lift my shirt and look at my tummy. No handle, just my belly button. That's where it goes, though. I put my shirt down.
  2109. "Well, my poop is different."
  2110. >She rolls her eyes, "I'm certain sister doesn't have to hear about these things as part of her royal duties. Heh... Duties."
  2111. "Heh."
  2112. >I watch as she flips through the pages.
  2113. "How come there are no hyoomans in that book?"
  2114. >It would seem that hyoomans don't dream.
  2115. "We do."
  2116. >"Yes, it looks that you are very different."
  2117. "I'm special!" my tail starts swishing over her flank as I sit on her back. It does that when I get excited.
  2118. >She chuckles to herself.
  2119. >"Zipper?" She's sounding more serious now.
  2120. "Yes, Luna?"
  2121. >"Are you happy?"
  2122. >Am I happy?
  2123. "I'm sad that I'm not at home. The hay is itchier than my bed. I get protein, but the rest of the food isn't very good. Except for that white creamy soup I had tonight, that was good."
  2124. >"How do you feel about ponies?"
  2125. "Like Blanket and Darning, Hem and Cross?"
  2126. >"Them too."
  2127. "Well, they take care of me. Cross is mean sometimes- a lot of times. But he can be nice too. But he's not fun, not like Blanket is. Hem is really nice. She's very soft to me. She can be strict like Cross is sometimes, but she's never mean like he is. Darning doesn't really play with me anymore."
  2128. >"Yes. But what about other ponies?"
  2129. "I don't know. The ones at the park are fun when they play with us too, I guess."
  2130. >"Do you think that you would hurt anypony on purpose?"
  2131. >Why?
  2132.  
  2133. >>35350527
  2134. >I open my eyes. Hay. The wall I'm facing.
  2135. >There's a cart rolling. it stops. That sliding sound.
  2136. >It's in the air. Breakfast.
  2137. >It's getting closer.
  2138. >It skips me.
  2139. >I hear the girl in the cage next to me get up and scramble to get hers.
  2140. >I wonder what it is. No. I don't wonder. I don't care. I don't even move.
  2141. >The cart rolls back and out of the room.
  2142. >Hoofsteps. Light ones. I haven't heard these ones here. Somepony new, I guess. There's another set too. I recognize those ones.
  2143. >They stop right outside my cage.
  2144. >My cage door opens. I don't move.
  2145. >I stay curled up, facing the wall, holding my tag.
  2146. >A gentle hoof smooths my mane down.
  2147. >I just close my eyes. I can wipe my own tears. Fingertips are smaller and softer than hooves anyway.
  2148. >But I don't. What does it matter?
  2149. >"Go ahead." It's the yellow pegasus. Her voice is soft.
  2150. >My collar gets pulled on. Something's being clipped to it. Not a chain, it's lighter.
  2151. >A gentle tugging.
  2152. >The yellow pegasus speaks again, "Come on Zipper. Isn't this what you've waited for?"
  2153. >Protein isn't enough.
  2154. >More gentle tugging.
  2155. >They're not going to go away.
  2156. >I slowly roll over and turn to look at them.
  2157. "B- Blanket?"
  2158. >It's him. He's been crying too.
  2159. >Why does he get to cry? I was the one without him all this time. Without my bed. Without my box to keep me safe from the room with the strong door.
  2160. >I should boop his nose with my fist.
  2161. >I feel a smile coming. No, it's a frown. No. My cheeks start to feel sore. So do my eyes. One blink is all it will take. Something in my chest burns like I'm breathing old, used air.
  2162. >"Zipper, I'm, I've mis-"
  2163. >I'm already attached to him, my arms around his neck so tight. My face is buried in his mane and I'm shaking.
  2164. >I hug and I rehug and lean into him. I can't get close enough.
  2165. >I climb onto his back and lay on him, hugging his neck, keeping my face buried.
  2166. >The smell of him. It's just pony smell, but it's his. My pony smell. It smells like... home.
  2167. >"Easy there, Zipper! I've missed you too!"
  2168.  
  2169. >>35350531
  2170. >So many things I've wanted to tell him that he missed. None of that matters now.
  2171. >All that matters is my Blanket.
  2172. >He tries to shake me off, but I hold tight. I'm not going anywhere.
  2173. >"Now Zipper, you're almost too big for him to be carrying you," says the pegasus.
  2174. >"No, it's ok. I will carry him home." The best words I ever heard him say ever.
  2175. >I just sob into his mane.
  2176. >We're moving.
  2177. >"By, Zipper!" said the girl.
  2178. >I never saw her again.
  2179.  
  2180. >I'm carried down the hall. I don't look.
  2181. >I'm in the front lobby now. I hear Hem is there too.
  2182. >There are papers being shuffled around.
  2183. >The yellow pegasus speaks. "It seems there has been quite a bit of interest in your little Zipper here."
  2184. >"Oh?" Hem. Soft as usual.
  2185. >"Yes. We've had one family come in to look at him as a potential, as is routine. There were a couple more scheduled for today, but I'll be happy to cancel them."
  2186. >"I wanted to come sooner, but there was school, and ...stuff." Blanket's voice sounded deeper through his body with my ear pressed. It vibrated his neck and back lightly when he spoke. I could listen to and feel that all day.
  2187. >"Not only families, but well, I can't say much more about it, but let's say he's gained some royal interest as well."
  2188. >"He didn't get in trouble, did he?" asked Hem.
  2189. >"Oh, no. They seemed more curious if anything. But the real curious part is what happened next."
  2190. >More papers rustling...
  2191. >"This is the list of expenses that need to be paid for release to the family. It's just the usual stuff: catching and care fees, maintenance, medical, the usual."
  2192. >There was a pause. Blanket sounded suddenly worried. "Mom... I can't... That's too much."
  2193. >I can feel his muscles tense under me.
  2194. >"Oh Blanket, I was afraid of this." Hem is using that voice when we or Darning are sad.
  2195. >"Not to worry!" said the pegasus. "These were actually covered by way of royal check. It seems that whatever they're interested in, they wanted to make sure Zipper here gets home."
  2196. >Blanket instantly relaxed.
  2197.  
  2198. >>35350538
  2199. >"You mean?"
  2200. >"That's right! It's all been paid. Well, actually... There is one expense that we would like to see covered."
  2201. >a page is turned over.
  2202. >"Protein?" asks Hem.
  2203. >"Yeah, this little guy here loves the stuff. Do you not give him any at home?"
  2204. >"No, we don't," answered Hem. "We make sure to feed him, of course. And we pick vegetables that are high in protein."
  2205. >"I see. Well our medical checkup showed that he had a deficiency. Not starved, mind you, but hyoomans thrive best with an amount of animal protein, meat, in their diets, so we've supplied him more than the usual amount to try and help catch his body up. I should have known by the way he craved the stuff. You would think it's his new favorite flavor."
  2206. >I nod lightly, keeping my face buried in Blanket's side. The only thing I want to see next is home.
  2207. >"So your total comes out to this much right here."
  2208. >Blanket tenses up a little, but not as much as last time.
  2209. >"I don't think I have enough." He sounds sad.
  2210. >"Well let's see what you do have." Says the pegasus.
  2211. >I hear bits being dumped onto the counter and counted up.
  2212. >"Hmm." I could tell the pegasus was thinking.
  2213. >"I told you. ...So now what? Does that mean I can't take him home yet?"
  2214. >I hold onto Blanket tighter.
  2215. >"Well, you're in luck! Today we just happen to be running our green-eyed special, and I'll tell you what, I'll knock the tax off for you too... Your new total comes down to this."
  2216. >I feel Blanket relax again. He sounds so happy, "Really?! Thanks, miss!"
  2217. >"Anything for this little ball of ...odd cuteness."
  2218. >There was more talk of hyooman diet and care. Hem got a free book or something about it; I didn't see with my face in Blanket's side.
  2219. >Then they walked home, with me on his back. It seemed to take forever, but that was just fine with me.
  2220.  
  2221. >A familiar sound of the front door opening. The familiar smells of the stitch household. Even the temperature of the air was just right.
  2222. >"We're Home!"
  2223. >we ARE home.
  2224.  
  2225. >>35350546
  2226. >I finally lift my head up, but am suddenly frozen in magic.
  2227. >Cross' magic.
  2228. >Cross is the first thing I see. He's very stern today.
  2229. >His magic is always too tight.
  2230. >He lifts me up off of Blanket, floats me over to the side and drops me onto the floor.
  2231. >I scramble to crouch and hide behind Blanket.
  2232. >"Son, we do NOT give rides to hyoomans."
  2233. >"But dad, I... he..."
  2234. >"You are a pony, Blanket. He is just a hyooman. You must remember that."
  2235. >Blanket hung his head low. "Yes, dad."
  2236. >Cross sighs. He uses his magic, lightly, to pick me up and put me back on my feet next to Blanket. "Welcome home, Zipper."
  2237. >He walks away back to the other room.
  2238. >Hem closes the front door. "I think you two boys need to go get cleaned up."
  2239. >"Yes, mom."
  2240. >We go back to Blanket's room.
  2241. >My bed is there. So is my box.
  2242. >In the very corner is a much smaller box Blanket gave to me. I can hold it in my hands. It's made of wood and it opens on the top and latches closed. It's for me to keep my special stuff in.
  2243. >I put my protein strips in it, and Mom's tags, and Ethan's note. I do it under cover of my big box, so nopony will see.
  2244. >Then I put the smaller box back in the corner and cover it with my pillow.
  2245. >"Ok, Zipper. Come out. The bath is ready."
  2246. >I come out of the box, and out of my clothes. Blanket takes my collar off. The cool air feels good on my neck, and on my flank and my everything else.
  2247.  
  2248. >We both fit in the tub, though space is getting tighter. We keep accidentally kicking each other
  2249. >He nearly jumped out of the water when my foot landed on his two balls.
  2250. >"Bend your knees!"
  2251. "But they won't be under the water then!"
  2252. >"Just do it, now!"
  2253. >We scrubbed ourselves. We scrubbed each other. The water turned gray.
  2254. >Before the last time is the last time.
  2255. >We never shared a tub like that again.
  2256.  
  2257. >Dinner that night was quiet. I sat at my little table, on my hard pillow. The food was good. No protein though. ...No animal protein. Hem said they will see if they can get some at the market for me.
  2258.  
  2259. >>35350550
  2260. >That's ok. I have my stash, in my stash box, in my stash corner, under my big box. I'll eat one tonight, when I go to bed.
  2261. >We're done eating. Blanket and Darning are doing the dishes and stuff. I'm on my cushion by the couch, Hem is giving me scritches and rubs from the couch while she reads. I lean into them.
  2262. >When the kitchen is done, Darning goes back to her room to sing to her mane brush for the mirror because she likes to.
  2263. >Blanket sits next to me on the floor to give me scritches and rubs too. I don't know which way to lean.
  2264. >I tell them about falling out of the back yard and getting caught. I tell them about Mom and the strong door, but not about the tags or the note.
  2265. >I tell them about the doctor pulling on me and taking my temperature. That makes Blanket laugh. It wasn't funny. I'll pull on him and take his temperature, see how he likes it.
  2266. >I tell them about Glimmer and her stupid test.
  2267. >I tell them about going out for a walk, and peeing on a cart. That makes Blanket laugh again. I'm glad, because that was funny, and I like to make him laugh. It makes me feel good inside. I don't tell them about running into things, though.
  2268. >I tell them about the blue pony group, and about the girl in the cage next to me. Hem says she might know that faimly, and that it was very sad what happened to them. I thought it was very sad what happened to that girl.
  2269. >I don't tell them about sitting on Luna's back and brushing her mane, though.
  2270.  
  2271. >It's bedtime. Hem tucks Blanket in. She puts my box down over me because I like it.
  2272. >I hear the door close.
  2273. >"Psst."
  2274. >It's Blanket.
  2275. >"Psst... Zipper!"
  2276. "Psst... What?"
  2277. >"Up here, Zipper!" He pats the side of his bed.
  2278. >I lift my box up and face him.
  2279. "Really?! Do you mean it?"
  2280. >He smiles at me and pats the bed again. I'm laying next to him before the box even falls back down to the ground.
  2281. >"Shh! It'll be our secret for tonight, ok?" He whispers to me.
  2282. "Ok." I whisper back. I'm hugging him.
  2283. >"Who's a good boy?"
  2284. "I am a good boy."
  2285.  
  2286. >>35350556
  2287. >So comfy.
  2288. >Blanket's bed is soft. Blankets blankets are soft too.
  2289. >Blanet is warm. I'm snuggled up to him, to his back. My arm is on his side. It goes up and down with his breathing.
  2290. >I like the way his fur feels on my skin. I hold his tail in between my legs.
  2291. >I lay still and keep my eyes closed. I fall asleep a little bit more.
  2292.  
  2293. >I'm floating. It's nice. Like swimming underwater, but I can still breathe.
  2294. >Protein!
  2295. >I float up to one and reach out with my mouth, holding it in my lips so I could nibble lightly on the end.
  2296. >This one is furry, warm.
  2297. >"Zipper?"
  2298. >It's Blanket. He's close, but I don't see him.
  2299. >The strip pulls away, but I hold on, pulling more into my mouth with my teeth.
  2300. >"Ow! Zipper..."
  2301. >A hoof pushes on my face and I lose grip on the strip.
  2302. >I open my eyes.
  2303. "Oh, hi Blanket." I yawn real big.
  2304. >Blanket's rubbing his ear.
  2305. "Good morning."
  2306. >"Good morning!" He pushes me off of his bed. He's laughing.
  2307. >I take his covers with me as I fall. He almost comes with them.
  2308. "These are mine now!"
  2309. >I seek refuge under my box, pulling them in.
  2310. >It's starting to get hot and stuffy with all these covers.
  2311. >I hear the door open.
  2312. >"Blanket? Good morning." It's Hem. "Oh, where did all of your covers go?"
  2313. >"...They're around."
  2314. >"I see. Well, you need to hurry up and eat some breakfast, and feed Zipper too. Your father wants you to take him for a walk while he sets up the yard."
  2315. >"Is it for the new collar?"
  2316. >New collar? But I like my old one. It's the only one I've ever worn. It has my neck smell. It took all my life to get it just right!
  2317. "New collar?"
  2318. >Oh no, I gave myself away. They'll know exactly where I am.
  2319. >Wait. They already know where I am. I tilt my box onto its side. The sudden gust of air rushing in is refreshing.
  2320. "New collar?"
  2321. >"Oh, there are your covers. Be sure to fix your bed before you do anything else, Blanket.
  2322. >"Yes, mom."
  2323. >"Zipper? You be good for Blanket today, ok?"
  2324. >You don't have to tell me, I'm always good. ...Except for when I'm not.
  2325. >I nod.
  2326.  
  2327. To Be Continued...
  2328. Last addition: 20200527
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