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YLC: Chapter 2

By Kalila
Created: 6th September 2022 04:15:02 AM
4th October 2022 10:37:57 PM

  1. Downing the last few sips of lukewarm coffee has to be the least enjoyable part of my routine. Not only did the cold consistency make me want to gag, but it also signaled the end of my morning at home. One last once-over in the bathroom mirror reveals an exhausted man in his mid-30s with bags beneath his eyes that begged for just another hour’s rest. Looks good to me. I pour some of the leftover brew in a tumbler, grab my backpack, swipe my keys from the countertop, and make for the apartment’s door as I head out to start my day.
  2.  
  3. It was nice out this morning. Every cliche of a peaceful, summer commute was alive and well today. It’s a shame I’m not the type to appreciate it. Not that I have an issue with morning, we just don’t get along very well. Nothing that a gallon of caffeine and some loud music won’t fix.
  4.  
  5. After hopping in my car and carelessly tossing my belongings onto the passenger seat, I take the time to work through a few notes in my binder in preparation for another day of pony-checking. What’s nice about my role as an agent is that I don’t have to clock-in at the office each morning. My day ‘technically’ started whenever I wanted. Just as long as I finished my route and made it back to the clinic to file my paperwork before closing. In my binder is a list of addresses I’m scheduled to visit, along with information on each household and the ponies they care for. Most of whom are familiar faces, thankfully. Once you’ve built a repertoire with ponies and their families, they tend to prefer that you’re the one who continues checking in. It beats having a stranger stop by every few weeks.
  6.  
  7. I prefer it too, personally. Regurgitating small talk with complete strangers is a fucking chore and I’m glad it’s not a huge part of the job. Especially with the ponies. Trying to communicate with someone who can’t verbally respond is a bit of an art, one that takes a lot of time to master; and I’ll be real with you, I am far from an expert on the matter. Just because I’m good at my job doesn’t mean I’m good at talking to horses.
  8.  
  9. Speaking of, when I first started this gig, I kind of expected ex-humans to be- I don’t know… easier to work with? Not that they aren’t, per se, but their intelligence doesn’t come across in the way I initially expected it would. I sort of imagined they’d be like sapient animal sidekicks out of a Disney movie, but I was quite surprised to find out that was not the case.
  10.  
  11. You see, ponies are not the most understanding creatures; and by that I mean, they often don’t really know any better. As where a human being might have the mental tools to learn why a situation they’re in is bad or abusive, ponies are far too “innocent” in the mind to consider what’s being done to them is wrong. Their brain chemistry is rewired quite a bit in the transformation process. They still retain their memories and important aspects of their personality, but they become a lot more emotionally driven. They’re kinda like children in the way they react, the things they want, and the way they communicate. A well-built, stoic, manly-man can very well become a shivering, clingy, little mare that refuses to leave her human’s side. I say this because that’s the story of the first pony I’m checking in on today. I'm not technically supposed to share that information, but it helps make sense of the personality changes a human-turned-pony might experience.
  12.  
  13. Simply put, ponies are not equipped to look after themselves. There’s a reason they need human caretakers and there’s a reason jobs like mine exist.
  14.  
  15. It’s about a 25 minute commute to the first check-up of the day (the aforementioned mare) and as I pull into the driveway, I spot a large pair of eyes staring nervously through the house’s front window. She was one of my favorites, if only because she was so goddamn adorable. I’ve known a lot of ponies to bombard familiar visitors with attention but this mare was a timid thing. She didn’t trust many people but she trusted me, and for whatever reason, that made visiting her slightly more fulfilling.
  16.  
  17. I grab my backpack and ascend the front porch, offering the door a few gentle knocks.
  18.  
  19. “Good morning Mr. Anon!” a voice greets as the door swings promptly open. “Wasn’t sure if you were coming today or tomorrow, apologies for the mess.”
  20.  
  21. “No worries at all Mr. Jackson, just a super quick check-up for today is all,” I reassured. “Where’s the little bundle? I saw her in the window a minute ago.”
  22.  
  23. Mr. Jackson turns to shout into the house, “Aspen! Come here, sweetheart!”
  24.  
  25. Following his exclamation, a small ruffling is heard from the coat rack near the front door and before long, a small, white mare reveals herself. Her long orange-red mane hides a portion of her face in a fitting display of her shy nature. Aspen was absolutely the name for such a pony, as every time I saw her I couldn’t help but think of an aspen’s leaves changing color in the fall.
  26.  
  27. “There you are,” her owner coos.
  28.  
  29. “Hi there, sweetie,” I say, kneeling down to be closer to her eye-level. Even then I’m still a fair bit taller, but I know it helps come across as less intimidating. “How’ve you been?”
  30.  
  31. She does a small shake of her mane and responds with a quiet whicker.
  32.  
  33. “Oh yeah? Is that so?” I tease.
  34.  
  35. I take a moment to reach into my backpack and pull out a small scale, laying it out on the floor.
  36.  
  37. “Can I take your weight, sweetheart?”
  38.  
  39. She looks at me, looks at the scale, then back at me.
  40.  
  41. With a few tentative steps, she clumsily stands herself upon the scale while I keep a close eye on the numbers given by the prompter. They still seem low, similar to my last visit. I tell her she’s good to hop off and she hastily clambers behind her owner’s legs, as per usual.
  42.  
  43. “She hasn’t gained much weight since my last visit, have you been feeding her the diet the clinic recommended?” I ask.
  44.  
  45. “I have, but she just doesn’t eat as much as she should,” Mr. Jackson explains.
  46.  
  47. I turn my attention to the mare peeking at me from her human leg safe-haven.
  48.  
  49. “Is this true?”
  50.  
  51. She nods with a nervous smile, probably scared she’s done wrong by not eating like we hoped she would. It’s to be expected, though. A handful of ponies on my list have trouble maintaining a proper weight and it’s usually related to some form of anxiety. Ponies seem to be very prone to anxiety issues, for whatever reason.
  52.  
  53. “Odds are it’s probably still her anxiety,” I explain, turning my attention back to the mare’s caretaker. “I’ll have the clinic reach out and discuss anti-anxiety options with you since the higher calorie diet hasn’t seemed to do much.”
  54.  
  55. “Yeah, she definitely still struggles with it, even with all the exercises we’ve been doing,” Mr. Jackson murmurs while scratching the back of his neck. “I can assure you though, there is no shortage of food. She’s spoiled rotten when she wants to be,” he finishes with a smirk.
  56.  
  57. “I don’t doubt it Mr. Jackson,” I smile back.
  58.  
  59. I take a few more minutes to ask a couple extra mandatory questions before concluding with a handshake and making my way back to my car.
  60.  
  61. The day that follows is hardly worth noting. Each checkup along my route is by the book. Happy ponies, happy families.
  62.  
  63. The last item on my daily to-do list is finishing up my paperwork back at the clinic. So, following my final checkup, I set out to do just that.
  64.  
  65. It’s a brief 10 minute drive until I’m pulling into the clinic's parking lot, protesters out on the adjacent sidewalk shouting angry nothings, which was commonplace. Not everyone has met the program with such optimism, sadly. Some see it as rebranded slavery, others see it as an act against god, and some just like holding signs and yelling at people. Fortunately for us, their movement is one that seems to be losing quite a bit of steam these days. Their crowd just isn’t what it once was, which feels appropriate. No one is forced to partake in the program, so whose right is it to berate those that do? Hell, I’ve even known a few of the most vocal protestors to find themselves with hooves weeks after condemning us to an agonizing afterlife. A projection of their own internal grief, maybe? These are weird times, but I ain’t complaining.
  66.  
  67. I stroll through the clinic’s lobby and pass security, offering an awkward beta-cuck wave to the guards as I do. Yeah, I’m not a very social guy. I’m not gonna apologize for it.
  68.  
  69. On my way to my cubicle, a voice calls for my attention.
  70.  
  71. “Afternoon, Anon,” my boss asserts, leaning out of his office with the satisfied smirk he always wears.
  72.  
  73. “What’s good, bossman?”
  74.  
  75. “Not much, just another day holding down the fort,” he answers, taking a sip from the mug in his hands.
  76.  
  77. “Anything interesting?” I ask, if only to appear invested.
  78.  
  79. “Actually…” he hangs on his response in a tone I don’t often hear. “There’s been a bit of drama today.”
  80.  
  81. “Oh?”
  82.  
  83. He takes another sip from his drink and beckons me to his office. I oblige, walking in and sitting down on the other side of his desk.
  84.  
  85. My boss is a nice enough guy. He’s fair, but curt. Very business oriented and not afraid to tighten his grip when needed. I respect him, but he’s not the kind of person I’d be interacting with in any other environment. He’s really big on his family values and very invested in the program. He has a couple ponies of his own, if I’m not mistaken.
  86.  
  87. “So… drama, huh?” I continue.
  88.  
  89. “Yep. Has to do with one of the new ponies.”
  90.  
  91. “They didn’t die did they?” I chuckle.
  92.  
  93. He swirls the drink in his hand for a moment while he thinks of a response. His expression acknowledged my obvious sarcasm, but still harbored something pretty serious. Oh god. They didn’t actually die, did they?
  94.  
  95. “No, thankfully,” he confirms. “Her expected owner, on the other hand– We found out this morning he passed away in an accident a couple days ago.”
  96.  
  97. “Oh shit. That’s… well that isn’t great,” I reply, not really knowing how to navigate a topic this heavy being prompted so abruptly. Not for a lack of empathy, it was just unexpected.
  98.  
  99. A situation I had no ties to, but one I can imagine getting real complicated real fast. Not just for those grieving the loss of a loved one, but the pony who’d already been spoken for and preparing for her new home. We’ve had people drop-out of their arrangements to adopt, but I’ve never experienced someone dying before.
  100.  
  101. “You remember Astrid?” he asks.
  102.  
  103. Oh, Astrid. She was a sweet little thing. Pretty quiet and already a bit of an outcast. Not that she’d been ostracized, but in training she preferred to sit in the corner by herself, from what I understand. I don’t interact with the ponies here at the clinic very much. That’s a different department entirely. So most of what I know is just what people are chatting about around the office.
  104.  
  105. However, I do know that most of the new ponies’ rehoming dates were just a few days away. Odds are she was part of that batch. Already a lonely type, and now this? Poor girl.
  106.  
  107. “Apparently the folks in adoption had a meltdown the other day because her owner was supposed to come in and sign some legal documents,” he proceeds. “Naturally, he never showed up and now we have nowhere to send her.”
  108.  
  109. “That’s rough,” I murmur, still not really sure what to make of this conversation. Adoption was a different department, thus, a different person’s job. I can see why my boss, or anyone, would want to tell me this, it’s an interesting story; but this is watercooler talk, not something worth a sit-down. Odd that he’d draw this much attention to it.
  110.  
  111. “Yup, especially considering we’re at capacity and she’s got to go somewhere,” he adds.
  112.  
  113. He doesn’t follow-up with or continue his prior statement. Instead, he stares wordlessly at his desk before redirecting his attention back up to me.
  114.  
  115. The room is quickly overcome with an unsettling silence. I awkwardly drum my hands on my knees in an attempt to rid some of the discomfort, but it doesn’t work. He stares as if waiting for an answer to a question he never asked. I look around the room, observing the trinkets and photos on his desk. Photos of his family, his ponies, and even some of his times with beloved coworkers. It’s not long before I quickly run out of things to glance at, all while the ticking of his clock becomes unbearably loud. Reverberating through my head while I slowly melt under his gaze.
  116.  
  117. Rather than humor it any longer, I give his desk a conclusive ‘pat’ as I move my chair to stand.
  118.  
  119. “Sooo, I’m just gonna get started on my paperwork for the-”
  120.  
  121. “Anon, I hate to ask, but you’re the only guy I can think of that might have some extra space at home,” he interrupts.
  122.  
  123. “Excuse me?” I cough.
  124.  
  125. “We need a foster for her and no one else is stepping up.”
  126.  
  127. Wait, wait, wait. He wants me to take her? What??
  128.  
  129. There was no way in hell I was even remotely equipped to have another living being under my roof. Taking care of myself was already a challenge, but a pony? Ponies are expensive, they’re clingy, they’re… well they’re not something I ever expected to be responsible for outside of work.
  130.  
  131. “Look, sir, I would, but-”
  132.  
  133. “You’d receive a stipend for her care and a bonus. Not to mention you’d be doing me a huge solid and, if everything goes well, I can see this ending is a sizable bump in pay.”
  134.  
  135. The latter portion catches me. A bump in pay, you say? Not that I’m the greedy type, but there are quite a few milestones in the American dream I still have yet to fulfill. Houses aren’t getting any cheaper. Nothing is, for that matter.
  136.  
  137. I slowly slink back down into my chair and gesture for him to elaborate.
  138.  
  139. “We’d have to relist her which means it could take a couple months to find another owner, but I promise, you will be comped.”
  140.  
  141. “How big is ‘a bump in pay’?” I inquire, entirely disregarding his last response.
  142.  
  143. “I could easily see twenty five to thirty percent being on the table.”
  144.  
  145. I nearly choke.
  146.  
  147. “THIRTY PERCENT?”
  148.  
  149. “IF, and only if, it goes well,” he reiterates.
  150.  
  151. I tap my fingers together and ponder for a minute. There’s a logical voice in my head begging for me to sleep on it, but a 30% raise would improve sooo many aspects of my life. If I seem eager to do what no one else has, I could use it to leverage that raise. Stepping up where no one else would. Hmm…
  152.  
  153. “Nothing is coming out of my pocket to take care of her?”
  154.  
  155. “All the essentials are covered,” he assures.
  156.  
  157. I don’t know if it was the prospect of a raise or fear of disappointing my superiors, but my adrenaline was pumping and I wasn’t about to refuse. He was right, I had space. I lived alone in a decent apartment with a decent standard of living. Why he came to me, though, I have no idea. How does a problem like this travel from adoptions to us without anyone else volunteering to pick up the slack in between? I suppose I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth… so to speak.
  158.  
  159. Sure I’d have to look after a pony for a while, but how hard could that be? Especially if I’m not the one fronting the bill. I literally check on ponies everyday! Ponies are my job. It’ll be like having a little roommate, and before I know it, she’ll be gone and I’ll be sitting pretty. Right?
  160.  
  161. I offer a small nod.
  162.  
  163. “Alright… Alright I’ll do it.”

YLC: Chapter 2

by Kalila

Your Local Clinic: Chapter 1

by Kalila