abuse alicorn anthrax author:branf1akes biological_warfare burrow dark questionable sadbox sickies tunnel_living

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OPERATION VEGETARIAN

TEST #73 OF AGENT N

TO DETERMINE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF AGENT N IN INHALENT FORM

[DATE REDACTED]

FOR AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY

*****

The doors to the cargo containers were opened, showering the huddled fluffies inside with rays of warm light, and the smell of fresh, clean air. Several cried as the sudden bright light hurt their eyes, but they quickly got over it as the teeming mass rushed out of the container, eager to be free of the cold metal "sowwy box" they had been stuck in for hours, ready to get some fresh air after some fluffies had messed themselves or puked during the imprisonment. They filtered out in a disorganized rut, though with mercifully little pushing or shoving.

Before them was a modest sized island, slightly hilly, with lush, expansive grassland. A few dandelions dotted the landscape, providing a small dot of yellow in a sea of green. At the edges of the plains were thin lines of blue, denoting the presence of the shoreline. The fluffies cheered, sang songs, hugged each other, danced in sheer glee at the boon they'd been delivered with. The celebrations would be roughly equivalent to what Spanish conquistadores would've acted like had they found one of the seven cities of Cibola. The little island out here in the Atlantic was a virtual fluffy paradise.

The last fluffy pony shoved himself out of the metal box. Disoriented, the maroon alicorn with a cool blue mane surveyed his surroundings. Feeling too sick from the bumpy ride to cheer on with his compatriots (and doubting they were any less scared of him then they were during the ride), he looked behind him. The metal door of the container slid shut, the ramp that the fluffies didn't even notice they had clambered off of to set foot on the island was drawn back, and the boat that had delievered them to the island began sputtering off in the distance. A couple of humans onboard saw the staring alicorn, and gave him a wave goodbye, bearing grins wider than they had any reason to be. The fluffy raised a hoof and waved back, though with little enthusiasm. There was something off about this entire situation that he couldn't quite pinpoint.

For now, he pushed the feeling out of his mind. He had bigger problems to worry about. Glancing at the still ecstatic herd of fluffies in front of him, he attempted to silently slink away to a quieter corner of the island.

"M-Munstah!" a fluffy in the crowd shouted out. The alicorn stopped dead in his tracks and sighed. So much for stealth. He wanted very badly to bolt off and disapear into the hills, but knew that if he did so, they'd be able to find him, outnumbering him many times over.

He slowly turned to face the herd. Some were quivering, a select few in this group shielding their eyes with their hooves as if the mere sight of an alicorn was too much to bear. A few whispered amongst themselves with aggravated expressions painting their faces. But most just stared, eyes wide, mouth agape. The alicorn took a deep breath, electing to break the silence himself.

"Nu. Nu am mustah! Am fwuffy, wike 'ou!" He braced himself.

"Bu...bu 'ou hab wingies an' hown!" a fluffy in the crowd called out.

"Su?" he shot back.

"Su dat nu wight!"

"Wai?"

That question having caught the heckler by surprise, they averted their gaze shamefully and muttered something under their breath. At that moment one of the trumbling fluffies, a pastel blue colt, fumbled to the ground and started wailing as if it was having a tantrum.

"Huu huu huu! Munstah gon' gib fwuffies foweva sweepies! Huu huu huu!" The display being shamefully pathetic and age-innappropriate even for a fluffy, the herd shuffled away from the hysterical wreck that was flailing on the ground.

"Wai munstah nu gib fwuffies foweva sweepies when in sowwy bawx?" a herd member piped up. As the herd thought this question over, slowly coming to grips with the fact that yes, it was pretty strange that a supposed monster hadn't attacked them for the many hours they were in confinement, a petite, dull pink filly with a light greenish-yellow mane broke ranks to approach the alicorn.

"Mistah mustah am nice munstah?" she asked. The alicorn offered no reply, not wanting to admit to being a monster, while simultaneously wanting to tell the fluffies gathered here that yes, he was indeed no threat.

"Wha' 'ou name?" she asked, looking straight into her eyes. She did not seem afraid, but instead, curious. The alicorn swallowed.

"Cap'n Twips." The filly nodded.

"Hewwo Cap'n Twips. Am Betsy. Nice tu me'chu." she said, smiling at him. Captain Trips started to relax, the hairs on his back no longer standing up.

"Nice to me'chu tu, Betsy." he replied, starting to smile along with her. Slowly, some of the fluffies in the herd waddled over, the atmosphere of panic turning into one of wonder and bemusement. Gathering in a circle with Trips in the middle, they looked him over, some venturing as far to touch and poke him as if they just found the coolest new toy. Trips was a little embarressed at all the newfound attention, but refrained from saying anything, not wanting to jeapardize the newfound relationship he'd forged with the other fluffies.

Not every member of the herd joined in, though. Quite a few hung back, too fearful, or in some cases, too envious of the alicorn's newfound status to accept him.

"Wai dose fwuffies makin fwiends wif munstah?" one of the dissenters asked to the little group.

"Nu cawe, dose fwuffies am aww dummies an da munstah gon num dem. Dummeh fwuffies gon take foweva sweepies, bu' smawty fwuffies nu gon get nummed. Munstah twy to huwt Cawmondy, den Cawmondy gib munstah foweva sweepies." said the gray and orange mare. The small group of dissenters murmured in agreement or voiced their intention to stay with Carmondy and her group for protection from the supposed threat. Getting quickly sick of the throng, she led the group to an opposite corner of the island to graze and pout in peace.

"Wan pway wif fwuffies?" Betsy asked Trips as the sense of wonder coursing through the herd had subsided some.

"Yus! Twips wan pway wif nyu fwiends!" And so, for the next few hours, that was what they did. Rolling over hills, tackling each other, and giggling, they waded through the luscious island and grazed when tired. In due time, the sun began to set, the group formed a makeshift fluffpile to ward off the chills, and they began to go to sleep.

Trips pried his eyes open, roused from his sleep by a strange whirring sound coming from high up above. It was dark, but not blindingly dark. Close to morning. He stared up, straining sleepy eyelids to make out what was causing the noise. There was a slow moving dark dot edging its way through the sky, moving past stars, hardly visible. Then something came off of it. Then another something. Then another. The smaller somethings were getting closer as the dot whisked away from the island, closer still, now really close, until-

*THUMP!* *THUMP!* *THUMP!*

-they crashed right into the island itself. All the fluffies were shook out of their rest now, more than a few panicking and shouting into the confusion, or defecating themselves. Betsy nudged Trips to get his attention, his gaze locked on the sky in case another dot came by to deliver a payload.

"Wha happen Twips?"

"...nu kno..." he told her, peeling his eyes from the sky at last. "Tingies came fwom da sky, an den dey hit da gwound..."

A brown mist suddenly came upon the fluffies at that point. But just as quickly as it had arrived, it disapeared, settling itself over the entire island. While everyone thought it was strange, the quickness of the event caused them to shrug it off, and go back to wondering where the large thumping noises had come from.

Indeed, even if they had known, it wouldn't have mattered.

Word of the objects that fell from the sky spread across the herd like a plague. They were locked into a frozen state of fear, tugged along by two seperate desires: to stay, hide, and huddle close to each other for protection, or to go out and face the objects at their source. A decision was reached, where a select few would go out to investigate while the rest remained. The group that had volunteered as scouts asked Trips to join them.

"Wha? Wai?" he asked them in turn.

"'Cause 'ou saw da sky tingies...an, if dey am bad munstahs, den, meybe 'ou can scawe dem away?" replied the dull cotton-candied colored fluffy. If Trips had been a person, he would've been tempted to put his face into his palms. He knew that while an alicorn like him could scare other fluffies, anyone or anything that wanted to do them harm would not be intimidated by him.

Still, the offer was made in good faith. And it was true that he was the only one who had seen where the objects had landed. So, he agreed to accompany them.

A few grassy slopes later, they came upon one of the objects. As far as they could tell, it was just a lump of metal that had lodged itself in the ground. They stood there for a solid minute in a circle, just looking at it, not sure what to make of it. Trips thought about touching it, to see if it would do something, and was even outstretching his hoof to do so, when a commotion sounded out from over another hill.

"Ha! Dewe da munstah!" a voice sounded out. Out popped Carmondy, flanked by two stockier fluffies from over the top of the hill. "Munstah twy to huwt fwuffies when hab sweepy-time, bu' it nu wowk! Cawmondy heaw munstah make noisies in da dawk!"

"Dat nu twue!" shouted a member of Trip's party. "Twips see da munstahs fwom da sky hit da gwound! It wight hewe!" Carmondy glared at the speaker with an expression that could melt ice. Shooing the other fluffies away from the object from the sky, she eyed it with an air of disinterest and contempt.

"Dis am jus' sky poopies." she declared, and punctuated her point by kicking the object, and follow it up by shitting all over it. The object did not react in any way to this abuse, which allowed everyone present to realize that it was not immediately dangerous. Now finished demonstrating her bravado, Carmondy gave a good look at her opponents, and asses their strength. She wanted to put an end to the upstart monster here and now, but she was outnumbered three to one, and while the toughies could be counted on to pummel Trips into the dirt, they would surely be reluctant to hurt the fluffies that were on his side, especially without provocation. An overconfidant smarty would've taken their chances and gambled recklessly after this kind of assesment - assuming they even bothered to think about the situation for five minutes - but Carmondy wasn't so blithely idiotic. So, she settled for what amounted to a measured response in her mind.

"Hmf. Munstah fwuffy nu huwt Cawmondy dis time, bu' Cawmondy nu wan munstah to come neaw Cawmondy's hewd. If munstah come tu cwose, Cawmondy gon gib munstah da wowstest huwties an foweva sweepies eba! Nao gu 'way, an wet Cawomondy an hewd hab good sweepy-time." With that ultimatum delivered, Carmondy and her two toughies stormed back off towards their home, pompous and gleeful that they had intimidated the supposed monster, leaving their opponents in the whole standoff very confused and slightly irritated.

Trips' party arrived back to the rest of their herd not long after. Reporting back that the objects from the sky weren't dangerous and telling the details of the confrontation with Carmondy's group, the fluffies whispered back and forth on what to do about her, and decided that it was a question better suited after resuming their sleep.

When they woke up that morning, they tried to make contact with Carmondy's group, but she would not hold an audience with any member of the herd Trips was a part of, telling them that "Cawmondy nu wan tawk tu dummeh fwuffies dat wuv munstahs wike dewe widdwe babbehs." With that, she shooed the would-be diplomats away, and the rest of the herd agreed to leave her and her followers alone on their little corner of the island. For two days, this worked. The fluffies made burrows to live in (partly to protect against any future falling objects), some settled on special friends to mate with, Trips stayed far away from Carmondy's group while the rest of the fluffies treated him well, the late night incident with steel objects falling from the sky was not repeated, and life moved on.

Two days was all it took for the first among them to start showing symptoms.

One of the first was an about average earthie, with blue fluff and a pink mane. He was playing with his special friend that day, when he started to develop a cough. Manageable at first, but as he and his mate pressed on with playtime, it began to worsen until he had to stop and take deep breaths.

"Speciaw fwiend, awe 'ou otay?" his female companion asked him. He waved her off.

"Am fine. Jus hab widdwe sickies *cough cough*." She was not reassured.

"Speciaw fwiend, 'ou nee' to wie down! Nu wan sickies to be wowstest sickies." He took in a breath to reply, but was only rewarded with another cough. Begrudgingly, he admitted to himself that she was probably right.

"Otay speciaw fwiend. Wiww gu back homsies an wie down. Bu nu wowwy pwease." She pulled him into an embrace at this.

"Wuv 'ou speciaw fwiend! Wiww be homsies soon, jus' gon get nummies fow 'ou, su nu get tumeh owies when sickies!" And with that, they parted. The earthie found it harder and harder to control his coughing and wheezing as he was walking home. On his way back, he noticed that he wasn't the only fluffy in the herd that seemed to have came down with a cough. He hoped his special friend didn't catch whatever illness was going around. He entered the little burrow he and his mate called a home, and lied down, planning to get some rest.

Some time later, his mate, carrying a handful of bright yellow dandelions in her mouth, happily trodded into the burrow, eager to help speed her special friend's recovery along. Upon seeing him she dropped the dandelions in shock. In the course of just an hour his condition had worsened considerably. He was trembling terribly from chills, mumbling something that wasn't quite language to himself in between coughs and gasps for air. When she rushed over to him to give him a hug, she found that his forehead was practically roasting with heat.

"Speciaw fwiend! Speciaw fwiend! Nu hab wowstest sickies, pwease nu! Wook, Wucy bwing pwetty nummies fow 'ou! Hewe, num dem su 'ou get betta! Pwease speciaw fwiend!" Lucy practically begged her companion, hastily scooping up the dandelions in her hooves and nearly throwing them in front of her mate's face while on the verge of tears. But he was unresponsive to her pleas.

"Mummah, make da kitty-munstahs gu 'way...*cough cough*" he whezed out, in a fever addled delirium from which the rest of reality was getting blocked out. "Huu...nu wike da cowdies..." He was trying to breathe through his mouth to get more air, causing saliva to trickle from the corners of his lips and down into his sweaty fluff.

"Huu huu, pwease get betta speciaw fwiend..." Lucy said, draped over him, the first of many tears falling from her eyes.

Scenes like this were being repeated across the entire island. In just under three hours over a third of all the fluffies on the island were hacking, coughing, and wheezing as they found that they were having a hard time breathing. Some managed to make it back to the crude tunnels they called a home, while others momentarily stopped whatever they were doing previously to take a break and found that it was too much effort to get back up and move again. A fair few collapsed as they were heading home, their legs wobbling so much from the chills and lack of air that a small stumble caused them to faceplant. One managed to scale a short hill that would've been no problem mere hours ago, and ended up falling down the rest of the way, battering himself and getting turned upside-down in the process. Lacking in any ability to talk above a whisper as his lungs failed him, nobody noticed him slowly die, his head raging in pain as his brain demanded oxygen, his limbs and body going limp and feeling on pins and needles as they could function no longer. This would be the first death amongst the herd.

Little by little the still healthy fluffies began to realize a pandemic was breaking out in their midst. They congregated, fearful and desperate for a plan of action. What the group meeting produced was little more than a confused mass that kept trying to talk over itself.

"Nu can find bwuddah! Pwease hewp Stwawbewwy!"

"Nee' put sicky fwuffies 'way fwom hewd, dat way nu mowe fwuffies get sickies!"

"Sicky fwuffies nee' huggies an wuv ow dey nu gon get betta!"

"Nu wan wowstest sickies, nu wiww touch sicky fwuffies!"

"Shush shush SHUSH!" Betsy called out. "Nu cawe wha' fwuffies do, bu' Betsy gon find da sicky fwuffies dat nu come home yet an' bwing dem back. Den Betsy gon hewp dem get betta. Anyfwuffy gon' hewp Betsy?" The herd was in stunned silence as her pleas for help fell upon them. She inwardly worried that the herd would turn her back on her, refuse to aid the effort, and go back to pointlessly bickering over what to do and how to do it. But then, a voice spoke up.

"Sticky wiww hewp!" More voices inevitably followed the first.

"Juwie wan hewp too!"

"Tommy wan hewp!"

"Oswawd too!"

With a chorus of affirmations pouring in, Betsy was about to start off, but Trips stopped her before she could.

"Betsy...pwese nu do dis. Twips nu wan 'ou to catch sickies too!" he whispered. But Betsy shook her head.

"Nu cawe if catch sickies. Betsy wan hewp sicky fwuffies, 'cause dat am da wight ting to do. Twips nu cawe 'bout oddah fwuffies?" she asked him. Those words hit hard. These fluffies had accepted him for who he was, and he had seriously considered selfishly isolating himself from their suffering. He had to have resolve.

"Twips cawe. Twips wiww come wif Betsy, hewp sicky fwuffies." She cheered, and gave him a tight hug.

"Betsy knew 'ou wewe gud fwuffy!" After that, they rallied, and began to fan out, looking for sick fluffies that hadn't made it home yet.

On the other side of the island, Carmondy's small group was beggining to feel the disease take root as well.

"Uhuu huu huu...*cough cough*...nu feew gud..." moaned the same colt who had had a panic attack some days ago. He was deep in the throes of the illness now, his nostrils leaking mucus, his entire body quivering from chills.

"Cawmondy! Cawmondy!" bleated one of her toughies, "Wha gon do 'bout sicky fwuffies? Hewd hab wots ob sicky fwuffies!" ("A lot" in this context meaning exactly the number most fluffies can't count up from, that being the number four). Carmondy mulled the problem over. The monster was the cause of the plague, that much she knew. Any strategy she developed must center around offing him, cut the head off the snake, in a sense. But how to stymie its spread? What did humans do with their dead again?

The Eureka moment hit her like a brick. "Cawmondy's hewd gon dig a howe fow sicky fwuffies, den buwy dem. Wike hoomins do!" This ingenious plan in hand, Carmondy gathered up her two toughies, and they started to dig. Puffing along at the breakneck speed of eventually, they completed their first shallow grave after twenty minutes and sustaining minor cuts and bruises to their soft hooves. They grabbed the sickly blue colt, pulling him into the grave with their mouths.

"Uhuu huu...pwease take fwuffy out ob howe...*cough cough COUGH*" he moaned, wheezing out of his mouth. Carmondy and the rest started packing dirt over him, to which he could offer little resistance, only making one halfhearted attempt to crawl out before getting forcefully shoved back in.

"*cough cough cough*...gwound nu am fow bweathies fwiends..." he croaked out as they dumped dirt over his face. Soon, the effort of sloppily burying the infected colt was finished, and they began to dig another grave, Carmondy urging them not to grieve until they were finished.

As they neared completion of the second grave it became more and more apparent that it was a wasted effort. Not only were they tired from digging the first grave, consequently causing them to take even longer this time, one of the gravediggers was coughing up a storm as they worked, putting them on edge. Once they were finished, the coughing digger collapsed into the grave, too weak to move out of it.

"Huu...Twiwby hab wowstest *cough cough* s-sickies too nao..."

"Pwease make standies Twiwby! Nu can hab wowstest sickies, 'ou am jus' tiwed!" the other toughie tearfully pleaded.

Carmondy sighed. There had to be an easier way to do this. Staring idly past the hills and plains, she noticed a multi-colored commotion in the distance. What was the other herd doing?

"Stay hewe an buwy Twiwby. Cawmondy gon come wight back."

"Bu-"

"Wight nao! Ow aww fwuffies gon get sickies!"

"Huu..." the toughie whined as Carmondy trotted off into the distance. "Am sowwy Twiwby..." he told his fallen comrade as he began the burial process.

Edging herself behind a small hill, Carmondy carefully observed the fluffies of the other herd. There he was. The alicorn. The monster. He, that pink bitch, and two other fluffies were huddled up around a sick fluffy, and were dragging him away. Was the monster copying her burial plan? Carmondy trailed them, and the unsuspecting alicorn and his friends led her straight to the burrows they called a home.

Carmondy had a second Eureka moment. She made a mad dash back to her own herd, eager to put the plan into action.

In the burrows the scene was a slow moving morgue. Nightfall had descended outside at this point, and a whopping 90% of the fluffies were now showing symptoms. The gasps of the dying echoed through the dingy dirt walls and crammed their way into the ears and minds of all who could hear, in constant competition with each and every cry of pain, wheeze for air, and impotent sob of anguish.

Lucy, the mate of one of the first fluffies that had shown symptoms of the infection, could now only take in shallow breaths and moan "speciaw fwiend..." to what was now a mere corpse. This was not an uncommon sight in the burows. Many fluffies had succumbed to the infection while sitting beside their dead or dying loved ones, a waterfall of tears flowing from their eyes.

Trips, Betsy, and the few remaining healthy and sane fluffies left in the herd had brought the last infected fluffy they could find back to the burrows some time ago. Their only strategy now was little better than Lucy's had been; they provided the dying fluffies with sustenance and hugs, trying to make their last moments as comfortable as possible.

Trips saw Betsy stumble out of one of the tunnels' side rooms. She was disheveled, and had pink, pained eyes that were still moist from recent tears. She didn't need to tell him she badly needed a hug, so that's exactly what he gave her. Sniffling into his embrace, she said "Huu, sicky fwiends nu gettin' betta Twips, Betsy nu kno how to sabe dem, huu huu..."

"It otay Betsy, nu 'ou fawt." he told her.

"Betsy kno." She coughed a couple of times. Trips tightened his grip on her, sunk his head into her furry neck, and shed a few silent tears.

He did not have much time to reflect on this little moment. The walls of the burrows shook and trembled, and the sparse light offered by the night sky was now dimmed to an intolerable darkness. Outside, Carmondy and the last remaining fluffies in her group who could still stand and breathe were collapsing the tunnel entranceways. A cavalcade of cries and shrieks toiled through the tunnels, the sounds of fear ruling the underground.

"Hewp! Hewp! Fwuffy nu can see!"

"NU! AM SCAWED OB DA DAWK!"

"EEEP! WAN MUMMAH, WAN MUMMAH!"

"Nu weave fwuffy..."

"*cough cough gasp*...nu can bweathe..."

"NAWT DA SOWWY BAWKS *cough* 'GAIN! FWUFFY AM GUD FWUFFY!"

Many fluffies didn't even bother saying anything comprehensible, settling for wails of distress or louder than average moaning depending on how far along they were in the infection.

"Huu huu, am scawed Twips!" Betsy said.

"Nu wowwy Betsy, Twips gon find da way out..." The statement was more to reassure himself rather than Betsy. In truth, Trips was terrified beyond all imagination. His heart thumped like a brick pounding into him over and over, and he wobbled as he walked. Guiding Betsy with one leg slumped on his back as if she was a parapellegic, Trips fumbled through the darkened caverns. He squeaked in surprise the first few times he hit a wall. Several times he bumped into a dead or dying fluffy, the infected breathing their last breaths right into his face. At one point he stepped in something squishy and wet, and he recoiled sharply.

"Wha wong Twips? *cough*"

"Noting..." he replied.

Seemingly impossible beforehand, Trips' pulse quickened further. He was finding it hard to breathe (made worse by the smells of feces, puke, and decay) and was perpetually terrified that something would leap out from the darkness and attack them, however unfounded such a fear was. If he had been all alone in here, he'd have surely lost his mind. Pressing on, a great commotion steadily headed straight their way.

"WET FWUFFY OUT! WET FWUFFY OUT! NU CAN SEE! HUU HUU HUU!"

A panicked fluffy cam barreling through the confines, and ran right into the pair.

"OWIES! HUU HUU!" The fluffy tried to push past them, succeeding only in getting himself stuck. "Huuuu! Pwease wet fwuffy thwough fwiends!"

Trips roughly shoved the fluffy to the ground, shouting "Get off, dummeh! 'ou goin' da wong way out!"

"Nu twue! Da outsidsies howe nu dewe anymowe!" the overturned fluffy protested.

"Dat nu make sense...*cough cough*" Betsy replied.

"Come an see!" the fluffy told them. Trudging through the darkened caverns and with Trips encouraging the leading fluffy to slow down in the darkness, he nearly lost the scared bastard several times. Soon, all three bumped into a non-descript wall.

"Whewe am exit?" Betsy asked.

"Fwuffy towd 'ou, it nu hewe nu mowe!" At this point the fluffy took this opportunity to skirt past them and try to find an alternate method of escape. "Sowwy fwiends, bu' nee' tu find da way out!"

"Wait! Nu gu 'way!" Trips called out. But it was no use. The jackass had ran off into the confines once more. Trips paced back and forth, wracking his brain for a solution. There was no way to tell if this wall was or wasn't the place where the entrance used to be. Betsy's condition was worsening by the minute. What began as a small cough was now hacking that would put a chain smoker to shame. She could hardly stand anymore and had resorted to lying down meekly on the ground. He couldn't just up and leave her and go looking for another exit like that one fluffy had done. In desperation he started to call for help.

"Hewp! Someone hewp Twips! Fwiend hab wowstest sickies an nu kno wha' tu do! Hewp! HEWP!" It was futile. His voice simply intermingled with all the others who could still call out for help. This was his burden to bear, and it scared the living shit out of him more than anything. The all consuming and constricting darkness, the possibility of a real monster lurking in the shadows, getting sick himself, getting ostracized and isolated for his whole life - ever fear paled in comparison to this. To not knowing what to do when his friend, the best friend he ever knew, was dying right next to him. This was the pain every fluffy who had an infected friend or loved one had felt as they had died here, one after another.

He collapsed then, wailing and hitting himself in self-pity, bruises forming on the side of his face where he smacked himself, muttering to himself how he was a "dummeh usewess fwuffy". Betsy painfully craned her head up to talk.

"Twips...*cough cough cough*...Twips, 'ou nu am dummeh fwuffy..." she told him. Slowly he picked himself up, and waddled over to her in shame.

"Am sowwy Betsy. Twips nu cou' sabe 'ou. Pwease nu hate Twips." He cradled her in his front legs, and weakly she returned the gesture, her own legs trembling with the chills.

"It...otay...Twips..." She heaved and coughed for the better part of a minute after this. "Betsy...wuv...'ou..."

He sobbed and sniffled, burying her head into her fluff. "Twips wuv 'ou too, Betsy."

For a good while, he stayed there. Days could've gone by, and he wouldn't have known or cared. The babble and fright of the other infectees had largely subdued. The burrows had become a massive tomb, dozens upon dozens of corpses interned in its walls. Trips was prepared to join them, to sit here and let the infection, or starvation, dehydration, whatever, to claim him. But some small part of himself still resisted the open arms of the reaper, like burning embers in a long forgotten fire. And like the tiny, silent embers, they could still catch something else alight, and catch they did, and soon the small part of resistance blossomed into a second wind, a resolve to do something, no matter the cost or how pointless the effort. He realized then, that if this really was the site of a former entrance like the panicked fluffy suggested, then he could dig his way out.

"Wait hewe Betsy, Twips gon twy tu make a howe tu outsidsies." He left her unmoving body, and started to dig, dig, dig. He was tired, he was beginning to find it hard to breathe, and goodness it was getting colder and colder, but he pressed ahead, and even when he started coughing he did not falter in his effort. Soon the moonlight shone through a small part of the wall, and he began to dig faster, clawing away at the dirt like a mad cat, until he did it. He grabbed Betsy with both hiss front hooves, and undertaking tremendous effort, he pulled her up out of the burrows, into fresh air and crisp night sky. A light breeze swoosed the grass back and forth. The stars and the moon were brightly lit and gave the island a nice bluish coloration. You could not ask for a prettier night.

"Twips did it! Twips did it Betsy!" He looked down at her. She still wasn't moving. A thin trickle of spit dripped from the corner of her mouth.

"Nu time fow sweepies *cough* Betsy, Twips sabed...'ou..." he trailed off. The knowledge flattened him like a slow-moving steamroller. He had no more tears to shed, for he had shed all that he could back in the burrows. And he had to be honest with himself, he was wrong to have even considered that there would've been a different outcome. The sickness had killed everything it sunk its blood dried talons in. It would not spare Betsy because he brought her fresh air, or gave her a heartfelt love confession. He knew this. He had seen it happen to everyone in the burrows, and in the end, it happened to him too. He felt numb. He patted his friend's fur one last time, and wandered off, no direction, no purpose.

Carmondy coughed a raggedy, throat scratching cough. She dared not move, for she was too fatigued. But she was content. The sickness had spread to her too, somehow - maybe she got it from dragging that colt to his grave, maybe she picked it up from breathing the same air as her toughie companion (the same one that was not too far away now, in the same predicament as her). It didn't matter. She felt righteous, secure in her knowledge that she had taken the infection out at its source. The monster was no more, buried along with the dozens of other fluffies that had been brought into those tunnels, probably so he could eat them, she thought to herself. But now it was over. She had won.

Even as her vision was blurry around the edges, she could still make out the maroon and blue figure steadily moving towards her.

"Nu...Nuhuuhuu...*cough cough*" Her worst fears were confirmed as the shape lumbered closer into view. A horn, wings on its back, there was no denying it. The monster was still here.

"M-M-Munstah..." she spat out at him. "Munstah..."

Trips glanced at her. Amidst all the death and devastation, he hadn't had much time to think of the ash grey mare with a carrot top mane and leading a herd of her own. Now, here she was, helpless and alone. Just like him.

"Wha' ou' wan?" he asked her.

"'O-o-ou-" she paused, coughing and breathing meager breaths. "'Ou do dis...'ou make sickies..."

Trips snorted. "Dat nu twue. Twips hab sickies tu." As if to emphasize this point, he had a minor coughing fit of his own.

"Wha'? Bu...bu 'ou am munstah!" Trips rolled his eyes.

"Nu. Twips say nu am munstah aweady. Bu' 'ou nu wisten." He started to trudge off. This wasn't worth his time, that was for damn sure.

"Whewe...*cough cough*...whewe munstah goin'?"

"Nu wan tawk tu dummeh wike 'ou!" he called out over his shoulder.

"Nu...nu weave Cawmondy..." she whispered. Now she truly was all alone. Had she made an error? Was it true what he said? She started into a coughing fit again. She agonized over this question up until her death, little else to do but count down the seconds until the illness took her body to the weeds.

Trips' legs started to give out from under him shortly afterwards. The sickness had robbed him of any energy he had left. There was nothing more he could do, nowhere to go, and no-one to help. His mind drifted for an uncountable number of minutes. Just as he was ready to close his eyes and let the sickness take him completely, he heard noises. Talking.

"Man, I wish I told Major Flagg, we should've tested it on sheep or cows, not fucking fluffies."

"Oh yeah? Are you sure you would've still been working on the project then? You know how Randall gets. His way or the highway."

The sounds of footsteps came closer to Trips. These were humans. The voices were muffled, but there was no mistaking it. Let them come. He cared no longer.

"I know. Still, it would've been easier to swipe samples from a sheep or goat or something. We've gotta dig most of these fuckers out just to do that, thanks to that stupid bitch back there."

"Hold it, I think this one's still alive." He picked Trips up by the scruff of his neck. The man was wearing uncomfortable rubber gloves, and was covered head to toe in a rubber suit, complete with a gasmask over his face.

"Hey there little fella. What's your name?"

Trips swallowed hard. He mustered as much of his remaining strength as he could to meet the person's answer.

"C-Cap'n Twips."

"Captain Trips," the man repeated. "Hot damn Carlson, I think we just found out what we're going to call our new anthrax strain. Captain Trips. Flagg's going to love it."

Trips was apathetic to the rest of the mens' conversation, ignoring their idle chit-chat entirely. Al he wanted was to go to sleep. Yes, sleep, and dream happy dreams with his good friend Betsy by his side and with the weight of the world off his back. Yes, sleep...

Comments

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BranF1akes: Good lord this one took a long time to write.

Fun fact, Operation Vegetarian was a real thing. You can read more details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Vegetarian

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guodzilla: @BranF1akes: I thought your story seemed familiar! I also detect something akin to "Lord of the Flies."
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BranF1akes: @guodzilla: I have actually never read Lord of the Flies, lol.
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Anonymous1: No banjo playing old ladies or Nebraska even mentioned, smdh

jk, kind got the Stand vibes when first seeing "Captain Trips" before seeing the source.

Good read through and through
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BranF1akes: @Anonymous: Glad ya liked it!
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Anonymous2: Fan-fucking-tastic work! Great job.

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Gmonty: Great work! Keep it up.
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Nocturn: Excellent work