Where Southern Birds Fly

by Quicksear

First published

Thrown to the dogs in a world not her own, can one pony find the help she needs to recover, and maybe, just maybe, get back home?

The combined imagination of all of us has painted a beautiful picture of meeting another Kind, ready to welcome them in peace and happiness.
Only, that not how it goes. It rarely is.

In the basement of a backwards criminal hideout in the backwaters of Pennsylvania, two men find something that could save or end their careers. Neither could comprehend the chain of events that they set in motion, while the creature in their care struggles to find herself amidst an alien world.

Here is the story of how we first met one of them, and where the story really started, long before anyone broke out the welcome banners and champagne.

1. Collection

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My name is Ditzy Doo, and I am not one of you. I'm a different being altogether, in ways neither of our kinds fully understand. Maybe, if things had been different, we would know more by now, but...personally, I don't think we should. Not after what happened to me, to the friends I made in your world. Maybe one day, when you understand peace at heart, but not now. I bear the scars as testament to the evil you are capable of, but the fact that I am here at all proves the good in your hearts.

It is not a pretty story, none the better for me never really seeing any of it, but it is a good one. because despite what I went through, I learned more about myself than I ever could have before, even though it took losing everything I ever was. The very first thing I remember, and where it all starts, is with a question...



...I don’t know why. I don’t know where, either.

I don’t know why I’m here in the dark. I don’t know why they lock me up or hit me when they want to. I don’t know what they want me to do, or why they let those other mean animals attack me.

I tried to talk to them, say hello. Ask directions back to...well, I don’t know where to anymore.

I don’t really know much, now.

I remember little bits sometimes, when I’m allowed to sleep and the pain isn't too much. It seems like I’d be able to get a lot of sleep here in the dark. But this rope around my hooves is really uncomfortable. I think I’m bleeding.

So yes, memories are pleasant compared. I remember flying. Flying must be fun. I remember the cool breeze through my mane, in my fur. Is that why I have wings? To soar so high in the clouds? I don’t know, because they are tied up too. I remember flying to...fetch something, something important, and then not knowing where that something was, not knowing where I was. A bright light around me. Then I saw a roof, and went down to see if whoever was there could help me.

They didn't.

I tried to talk to them, say hello...

After that, my next memory is of ropes, a circle of shouting, leering faces, heaving dirty limbs, and one of those Creatures. The ones with the teeth and the claws. It wanted to fight. No, that’s not right; fighting was all it knew. I tried to calm it down, but it didn't really want to listen, or couldn’t understand. It bit me. A lot.

So they – whatever they are – threw me down here, with ropes around my fetlocks and neck, and a few strips of cloth wrapped around the bite marks to stop me from dying.

I want to go home. I don’t know where Home is, or what it’s like, but I’m sure it has light, at least. I like the sunshine. I think. I haven’t seen it in a while. And every time they take me out it’s just to fight another one of those Creatures with the teeth, in the darkness. A deeper darkness, a sad darkness. I can’t help but think that the shadows outside the ring of light the Tall Ones thrust me into have eyes, watching me, watching the fights, and they cry. I don’t often look out, though. I’m too busy trying to run.

The Fights. So many fights they've thrown me into. Sometimes, in the evening when the shadows are only crawling out, they’ll throw me into their circle of high crates with two chains wrapped around my middle, pinning my wings so that all I can do is look at the scared and confused young pups they throw in first. ‘Young blood to wet the ground’, they say, along with mine. Mostly mine. It doesn't take long for the incomprehensible screaming to whip the young ones into fury. Or terror, I’m not sure.

Other times, though, they haul me up in the dead of night and pit me against an old scarred, beaten, bleeding killer. A creature beyond pity, fear or empathy. A creature who listened to the screams of the Tall Ones, goaded into higher fury at their innumerable voices Those nights I barely crawl out alive.

One night, though, I found myself under the ring of dirt-stained faces, standing in the crimson dust and fur, staring down at his red eyes. That creature, white as snow, except for his bloodied maw: he’d already won a fight, and I was his little victory present. I was just chew toy for the good boy, the winner. Not a voice was heard when he was the the one lying in the dirt, dying.

And now I can’t remember anything straight.

My throat hurts. I think I was bitten, it doesn't feel like a bruise. My wings feel bruised. That’s how I know they’re there, under the ropes. I don’t have much else to go on. I can’t hear anything other than myself, and I can’t make much noise anymore. I used to, I remember that. I used to sing, strange as that sounds All I can feel other than pain is dirt under me, a hard wall to lean on, and the feeling of ragged mane falling into my eyes. I don’t even stop that anymore. I just let my eye twitch and wait for it to resolve itself. Not very smart, maybe, but I can’t feel that eye anyway.

Smart...I think I used to be smart. Maybe not clever, but I’m sure I used to be smart. I don’t know what the difference is, but that’s what I remember. This is why I say ‘used to be’. Maybe a friend told me that? I’m sure I used to have those, too, some other creature like me, someone to call mine, someone I could trust, someone to laugh with and be happy for. I’d like a friend.

Actually, no. I wouldn't. Because then they’d be here with me. What I really want is to either be out of this hole, up through the doorway they always throw me through, with my hooves loose one last time. I know those creatures with the teeth and the claws and the scared eyes aren't bad. I know those Tall Ones who make us fight are. Because I used to be smart. And next time one of those Tall Ones opens the door to throw something down here for me eat and call me bad names, I’ll find a way out, even if they just beat me again.

Because I used to have a Name.

Because dying would be better than lying here in the darkness, in the cold and the wet, only left alone long enough for the bleeding to stop before being thrown into the next fight.

Oh, look, the door’s opening. Oh Maker, it’s bright...

Oh, why won’t they let me just die?


“Tory! What the hell are you doing over there, we’ve got dogs to count...Tory? Tory!”

Tory jerked back from the low cellar door and looked about the busy yard. He had to lean out further from his secluded corner of the ramshackle building to spot the severe-looking tallier scowling in Tory’s direction.

At least Tory had the decency to look contrite. “Sorry, Doc, but – ow!

That exclamation certainly got the older man’s attention. As to why; both men’s full attention was taken up with the dull sound of a piece of wood contacting Tory’s skull.

They both stared at the chunk of chipboard as it sat settling on the ground. Then they looked at each other across the distance between them. The older man’s frown deepened, “Tory, is there someone down there the police missed?”

Tory glanced back down the cellar stairs. What he saw, though, defied his powers of description. “...Uh, boss, you might want to come and look at this yourself...”

The professor sighed deeply and pressed his white coat smooth. Tory’s curiosity was often enough to drive him to distraction. They were standing at ground zero for the biggest ever Collection in Pennsylvania State history and the kid was checking basements for puppies. He looked up into the messy, junk-filled yard, part of a secluded small-holding south of Pittsburgh, and tracked the scurrying motions of volunteers and police personnel busy scratching at their own clipboards, brushing the scarlet dust away, cataloging and rating amidst the rows of rusty, chained up cages and kennels filled with madly barking, veteran fighting pitbulls.

Well, the dogs aren't going anywhere, not in their states... As much as the professor hated to admit it, Tory usually found interesting things. Like a hiding Ringleader, perhaps? The crime boss in charge of this disgusting mess was still at large. He waved over a policewoman and pointed towards Tory at the edge of the house where the gambling ring had been based, now empty after the earlier police raid, “Officer, my colleague may have found a person over here. May we...?”

She lowered her clipboard and turned towards the white-coated man, nodding curtly. “Doctor Charles Alison?”

“Yes Ma’am, just, not a doctor...” He replied dully.

“Where’s your parole officer?”

“Probably counting dogs, ma’am, like everybody else. Now please, may we..?”

She seemed far from satisfied, but she drew her revolver with a nod and followed Charles over to the hatchway where Tory could still be seen. The boy was leaning down into the depths, muttering and visibly flinching every now and again.

“Hey, don’t worry – ow – look, just let me – ow – calm the hell – ow, stop throwing apple cores, will ya?!”

“Step aside, sir,” The officer growled, pulling Tory out of the way and stepping into the hatchway, only to get an apple core straight to the nose. Charles, standing to the side, clapped mockingly as he waited for the police officer to drag out another animal abuser.

Only, she didn’t react as he expected. No shouting of a person’s rights down the hole, no warning shots either. He’d been looking forward to that. Instead, she froze for a second, before bringing up her flashlight and flicking it on against the dark. Another pause.

“Doctor, I think this fits your bill a hell of a lot better than mine...”

“Ma’am, I’m not a - what?” Alison and Tory exchanged looks. Charles was confused; he was just here to fill out his community service by counting dogs, rescuing ducks or putting band aids on kittens, whatever the Humane Society office ordered. Yes, community service. Police enforced. As in, 'save animals or prison'. Of course, he picked the former, considering his line of work as a veterinary researcher . It would be a shame to waste all those years of study completely, after all. Only, neither ducks nor kittens threw apple cores, and dogs aren’t that smart. But a police officer doesn’t defer to a zoologist for a human target.

Suddenly, Charles had to look down that hole.

The officer slowly stepped aside, whispering, “I think it’s out of ammunition, now, Doctor.”

“Right,” Charles mumbled, peeking over the edge of the frame, down into the darkness.

The cellar was huge and dank. Dirt floor and cinderblock walls, with cages, chains and what seemed disturbingly like bones scattered about. But Charles barely glanced at all that in the flat grey darkness, because right there, at the foot of the stairs leading into the shadows, in the lone shaft of light, was the strangest creature he had ever seen.

The only thing he could see for sure was that it was in a terrible condition. He couldn’t even tell what it was. All around its body was wrapped a black plastic tarp, tied down with a heavy coarse rope. Same treatment for its legs. He could see bloodied rags across its neck, head and hindquarters, obscuring nearly the entirety of its body. It squinted up at him with one eye, the other sealed with rimy blood, and rolled over, its bound forelegs flicking up at him.

The chipboard hit Charles clean between the eyes.

He reeled from the impact, thrown off balance by the surprisingly dense chunk of wood. The police officer caught him as he fell, quickly checking his face for injury. Other than a small bruise and a tight scowl, he was unharmed. Still, Charles could clearly hear Tory laughing.

He leaned back, too excited to feel the embarrassment, already calling orders to the intern; “Tory, get a truck over here, and let’s get this creature back to the clinic, it needs immediate care! We need to clean it up as soon as possible.”

Tory peeped down at it. It hadn’t moved. “But what is it?” He breathed.

Charles shook his head, equally enthused. “I have no idea, Tory, but we’re going to find out-“

“Not so fast!” The Officer called, pulling the researcher up short, “You’ve got to log out with your parole officer, Alison.”

“Oh, not Doctor anymore?” he growled, shaking himself free, glaring back at her, “I’m sorry, but this is more important. Log me out yourself.” And with that, he whirled to the yard, calling a driver right up to the hatch. As Charles watched Tory and some other interns crawl down the hole to carefully lift out the stricken creature therein, he knew that this affair, at least, would be worth the trouble.

That officer can go shove it. This could be the biggest discovery of 1980, and I’m not gonna miss it…

2. Wayward

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“Quickly now, but be careful! We don’t know what kind of injuries it may have!”

I hear one of them shouting as I try to catch my breath, spent. I thought I had more cores left...They’re coming down now, I see their strange forms darting towards me, marring the light. I’m too tired to watch them all, so I watch the one who shouted. Maybe he doesn’t want to hurt me after all...

And then I feel their hands on my body.

Stop, stop, let me go! I don’t want to fight anymore! All the Tall Ones ever want me to do is fight! I’m not a fighter, not at heart, but they’ve made me fight before, and I’ll fight them now. I can hear the creatures with the teeth outside, barking, almost like they did just before they got behind me, tried to tear me apart bite by scratch. I won’t let them do that to me anymore! If I have to fight, I’ll fight the monsters who force it to begin with.

But the barks, they don’t sound angry, they sound confused, too. If they wanted to fight, they’d wait in the dark and growl their threats, but now? And these Tall Ones, there’s many of them. All picking me up at once? Usually one or two come down to just drag me to the bloodbath.

I don’t want to fight anymore. I’m too tired…

But I have enough left to fight them!

I don’t know what they think, maybe they thought I was dead before. It had been a long time since the last fight. That fight with the White Devil. Red Eyes. The last fight I’d been thrown into before the darkness claimed me, and my memories. All my memories save that terrible fight.

Red Eyes had teeth. Very big ones. He bit me a lot. I couldn’t keep him in front of me, he was too fast. And when he was behind me, he tore me up. He was a silvery blur, moving around like a dust devil, wearing me into the ground. Oh, if I’d had my wings! But they were bound. I couldn’t breath. I was crying. I remember talking, begging, pleading. And then he had my throat.

Then, as I tasted blood, I felt anger.

It burned white hot, enough to haze the only memory I know for sure. The next thing I know, I had pulled him off. The one with the Red Eyes. He was surprised. I was shimmering, and they all were afraid. He seemed so slow right then, and my wounds so small. And almost lazily, I turned, and with all my strength, I kicked him.

I felt every rib in his side crack like a twig.

I didn’t want to hurt him like that, I’d just wanted him to stop, to teach him a lesson. But I nearly killed him. As he lay there, lying in the settling dust, I lay next to him. The fight was out of his eyes, and so it was out of mine. The Tall Ones were silent. Nothing moved as I tried to say something, anything, to make it better. But my mouth was full of blood.

The last thing I saw was a plank hurtling straight for me, and the snarling bearded face behind it.

That same face, the one that every night had come and teased me with half eaten apples, tossing them down after hours of grovelling. Those apples, the most food they ever fed me at once. Still, I saved the cores.

This one, the one with the dark hair and strange smile that first came down here, I hit him a good one, didn’t I? The wood and the apple cores. Now he’s holding my head up. He doesn’t look like the others who used to drag me out of here. He’s not coloured by the earth on his skin; he’s clean, all bare skin and beady eyes. He looks weird. They’re trying to hold me up, keeping me level. I squirm a little, unsure as they raise me. Towards the light. Oh no, they’re taking me out, to fight? To flee!

I kick the Tall One right behind me in the face, he’s down. Sorry about that. Another just catches me, holds me tighter. I’m trying to squirm away from the one holding my head, but he’s strong. I know if my wings were out, I could beat them off me, but they’re not. So I’ll squirm.

It’s never been this dark out in the sunlight before. It still hurts my eyes with glare, but all looks like shadows and shapes. Oh my, there’s a lot of Tall Ones looking at me. So many...I can’t run from this. I doubt I can even stand.

They’re saying things, some are muttering, some look angry at the sight of me. Don’t be angry, just let me go. I try to look somewhere else, but my one eye doesn’t move at all. Even my good eye isn’t working right. The one holding my head puts me down on something, and with a squeak I feel myself being pushed into a small space. Another hole they’re shoving me into. One of the Tall ones is coming at me with a needle. No! I don’t like needles! What are you doing?

As she comes to jab me with whatever it is, I see a hand stop her.

“Wait. We don’t know what effects drugs will have on an animal like this, even without the injuries. I’ll ride in the back with it, keep it calmed.”

Who..? A Tall One follows the hand, all dressed in glaring white. He looks older than the one with the needle. Cleaner than the ones who made me fight. He climbs up into the small space the others put me in and casts about grumpily. He looks victorious, like he’s won something. The doors behind us swing shut. And I get a better look at his face as he leans down. There’s grey in his hair and lines in his brow. But now he’s looking at me, all over me, and he looks sad.

“Just what are you, little one?”

I wish I knew. I wish I could remember. I try to say something, but my throat hurts too much. I just cough, and I taste copper. No more talking. No more hellos. The last time I tried I lost everything. No pain, not the bites, the breaks or the horrible, burning thirst and hunger, could ever compare to the agony of not knowing who I am. A pain he’ll never know.

I don’t think he can answer my questions any better than the others anyway. He looks lost there, hovering to and fro, until he makes his decision. He gets up next me and puts a blanket over my head. Oh no, I’ve had enough Darkness! Get it off me! I want to see!

You aren’t going to hurt me like the others did!


Charles didn’t even know where to start.

Tory and the other interns lifted the creature up out of the cellar as gently as possible, but it wasn’t making it easy for them. The professor watched as it somehow managed to thrust both of its bound hind legs into the face of Eddy the orderly, flooring the man. He couldn’t help but question the strength it had mustered in its shocking state, to knock over a man as large as that so easily.

He still flinched when the man hit the floor.

Tory was holding the creature’s head, locking his arms around its neck as it wriggled with all its flagging strength. But by the time they reached the top of the steps, there was nothing left. Tory looked to his superior. “What now, Doc?”

Charles waved a hand at the truck and stood out of their way, still observing the animal they had stumbled across. Fifteen years Charles had studied various animal forms and still he couldn’t fathom what manner of animal this was. No curiosity is as strong as that of a stumped researcher.


Surprised, Charles looked across the yard after the authoritative call. There, striding about with purpose, seeking, was Sergeant Ned Caraway. His parole officer. Charles ducked and scurried nearer the truck, a decade-old Chevrolet C/K, out of the officer’s line of sight. Tory had pulled a loading tray out of the modified truck’s bed, and was gently resting the creature upon it. One of the duty vets came around with a medical kit around her shoulder, holding up a syringe and tapping the glass. The creature started bucking wildly again.

Charles reached out and grabbed her wrist, locking eyes with her, “Wait. We don’t know what effects drugs will have on an animal like this, even without the injuries. I’ll ride in the back with it, keep it calmed.”

She gave the older man an irritated look, but lowered the syringe and stepped back. With a whispered ‘thank-you’, Charles got up into the truck’s bleached interior and sat beside the creature. Looking over the vet’s shoulder, Charles locked eyes with Ned, just feet away. The Officer’s scowl was matched by his charge’s grin as the doors shut. A moment later, and vehicle lurched to life for the long drive back through the countryside, back to the Humane Society Office, and away from the police.

Returning his attention to the creature just below, Charles tried to once again figure out how to go about caring for it. Its body was still hidden under the black plastic binding its entire body, but one look at the wire twisted amongst the rope and he knew he’d have to leave it until they reached the veterinary clinic. Its legs Charles could untie, but after the kick this creature gave Eddy only minutes ago, he decided against it. His attention was drawn to the least obscured part of the intriguing creature: its head and neck. Long and lean, its neck supported a head of truly bizarre proportions. Even under all the bandages, it was clearly far too large. Swelling surely accounted for some of it, but still, it was very nearly ridiculous compared to the rest of its body, no bigger than that of a child.

Charles shook his head in wonder. “Just what are you, little one?”

Running along the top of its head and down its neck was a ragged shock of bleached-looking hair made thin and sparse by ill-treatment. Its thin coat of fur was similarly affected ,no more colour in it than soaked newspaper. And on one shoulder, just under the plastic, Charles saw the unmistakable beginnings of mange.

All in all, there was very little the man could do. The rags that passed as bandages were stuck fast with built up grime and blood, and the smartest thing to do seemed to be just to calm the creature down. With little to go on, he fumbled for a few seconds before grabbing a blanket and lowering it over the creature’s head. Darkness always calmed critters.

Not this one. To his surprise, it started kicking manically, one stroke grazing his shin. Charles swore at the overly powerful strike, grasping his leg and scrambling away. He heard a pained hissing, and a torrent of coughs.

The driver’s hatchway opened, “You okay back there?”

“Yeah,” he lied. Charles slammed the hatch back shut and darted in to yank the blanket back. Instantly, the creature stopped struggling, its one open eye fixed on him unsteadily, the white clearly showing. Its breathing came fast and ragged, and he could see a droplet of ruby blood in the corner of its mouth, rolling down to the obscured side of its face.

It struck him that it might be beyond him to save it.

Charles reached out to lift its head, to clean off the blood. It shied back as much as it could, but it wasn’t far in the enclosed loading bed. He frowned.

“Come on, little one, I just want to help.”

The creature stopped moving, from exhaustion more than his voice he guessed. He decided against moving its head, and simply laid a hand against its cheek, feeling its shaky breath. Above his hand, an ear slowly came up and swivelled towards him. Its edge was ragged, bitten to red shreds and mangled. Charles looked at the forelegs again, noticing dozens of punctures and scratches. The back legs were even worse. They’d made this creature fight the pitbulls. Why...who would even do that? The thought of such cruelty was beyond his imagining. But sometimes, people do anything for a gimmick.

Charles remembered the tip-off call the Humane Society Office had received; something about the dog-fighting ring, something about them making the dogs fight goats and horses other animals. Well, this wasn’t a goat, that was for sure. Charles held no sympathy for those dog fighters now that he could see the results of their efforts.

And he’d seen enough. He kept his hand on its warm cheek, feeling it’s breathing slow to a bare tremor, and reached for his phone. He flicked through all of the four numbers saved on it and called the clinic. “Hello? Yes, this is Charles – yes the crazy doctor – listen, please, can you prep the operating theatre, we have an emergency case here. Yes...yes, I’m with it...no, it’s not a dog...Listen, just get two sets of kit ready, I’ll wait for Tory to come and help, leave it to me.”

When Charles looked down again, the creature’s eye had closed, and its breathing was regular, if shallow. It looked so vulnerable, so weak. He felt his heart weaken at the sight, but his resolve harden. Charles was no newcomer to this sort of cruelty; He’d worked at many places aside from Pennsylvania University before he...well, he had experience. More than anything, he could not stand to see such needless pain. He sighed and rubbed it’s cheek slightly, then slid himself behind it. The least he could do was try to warm it up.

The truck bucked. The jolt pulled Charles back to the world, as the creature now fully in his arms awoke. It did not like what it felt. In an instant, it was bucking and scrabbling against him, but he held on tightly, stubbornly bearing the force. He cooed through gritted teeth: “Hey now, calm down, it’s alright, nothing’s gonna hurt you.”

The creature collapsed in his arms as the truck pulled over. Charles wriggled around, surprised that the creature had calmed so suddenly. Until he saw its eye. Rolled up and almost closed, its faint golden iris surrounded by scarlet veins, unmoving: the creature had passed out. Charles felt a lump in his throat, but at least its breathing was steady, after a fashion.

Charles tried to remain positive by grouching at somebody else. He thumped on the cab partition and shouted for the driver. The opaque piece of plastic slid aside, and the admonishments dried on his tongue. The driver looked back at the professor with wide eyes as Charles stared at the almost shattered windscreen, traces of something on fire flickering still in the cracks.

“Sir,” The scared driver started stuttering, “I d-don’t know what happened, it just came out of-“

Charles didn’t hear the rest. He scrambled to the back of the vehicle and cast the door open, careful to avoid the creature in his care. There was little he could do for it now, either way.

Instead, he jumped out into the shade of the trees leaning over the country lane and looked at the side of the old Chevrolet, and at the ashen splash etched into the metal of the cab, where a flaming bottle had struck. Pieces of glass clung to the residue of mixed fuels, and behind him, Charles heard a twig crack. Without a word, Charles climbed back into the truck.

“Drive.” Charles muttered.

The driver did not argue. The vehicle ground back off down the old road, leaving Charles absently stroking his charge’s ragged neck as he thought;

What have we gotten ourselves into?

3. Relief

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It took eight interns to carry the creature to the operating room.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society Office shared a building with a large veterinary clinic a few streets north of a Ohio River which serviced most of the outlying areas on this side of Pittsburgh. Hundreds of square feet were dedicated to the care of farm animals and livestock, with an entire unit with specialized equipment for horses, which would prove more than a little ironic.

Charles watched thoughtfully as the clinic’s younger volunteers awkwardly held up the creature they had found. He stood in the door to the lobby, his his white coat melding into the bleached walls. There was a gurney shoved up against one wall, a soft pallet with wheels and little else. They had brought it up for Charles’ charge, but he hadn’t accounted for its size; a canine gurney could never hold a creature of such...strange proportions.

Charles watched even as he thought. This was going to be a difficult situation, no matter how he cut it. Police involvement would only make it harder, and after the incident on the way here, Charles wasn’t entirely sure the gang who’d started all of this could be disregarded either. He decided though, to leave that set of problems for the future. Right now he was needed in the present.

The interns stared at whatever part of the unconscious creature they had been tasked to carry. One or two looked curious, a few looked shocked and the remainder looked a little sick. Charles couldn’t be surprised at that; after having had a closer look at its injuries, he had felt distinctly queasy himself.

He shadowed the strange huddle as they passed the rear of the front desk and shuffled quietly into the back rooms where the cages began. The entire rear room was lined grey partitioning walls fronted by steel gates. Every cage was floored with polished concrete, holding a food and water bowl and soft padded bed. They were the best cages money could buy.

And they were very much occupied.

There was silence for a time. The long ward, filled with upwards of a hundred dogs, cats, and other animals was silent but for the heavy sounds of breathing and the muttering of the interns. Charles took one look at the intent eyes of an Alsatian in the cage nearest him, the way it was crouched low, ears up, muzzle pointing unerringly at the pathetic child-sized bundle that hung so-far unmoving between the wall of human bodies. Charles turned to the vet behind him and quietly opened her medical kit.

She frowned at the older man rooting through her equipment, “Allison, what do you think you are-“

The silence shattered.

The Alsatian snapped, and in seconds every dog in the building roared in a flash of thunder. In the howling excitement, an intern let go of a limb in surprise. A golden eye opened, and took in a wall of barking madness, flashing teeth. The creature panicked.

It was violent, if short lived. The creature kicked out with its loose forelimb, untied by a well-meaning intern, and squirmed out of the grip of the rest of the people, and it fell to the floor with a thump. It let out a soft nicker.

The interns started yammering along with the animals, shouting at each other under the roaring and yapping of the dogs, the hisses of the cats. Charles grimaced as he pulled a syringe from the medical kit around the stunned vet’s shoulders and plunged it into the neck of the squirming creature on the floor. He kept the pressure on as he pressed on the plunger, keeping his arm and free hand pressing down on the slowly calming body, his eyes locking with the single orb tracking him. Even as the body beneath him came to complete calm, that eye never left him.

The dogs stopped. The interns stared at the haggard professor on the floor. Charles swallowed and handed the syringe back to the silent vet behind him. He whispered hoarsely, “…To the operating room, quickly please.”

It was a large room, a large flat table and various rolling trays layered with tools that looked more at home in a workshop than a medical centre. Charles immediately headed to a sink, shooting orders about as he washed his hands, “TJ, fetch some receiver bowls, and get the heavy-duty stitching kit from the equine ward.”

“Right away Doctor.”

“Jaime, make sure there’s a set of gloves for Tory when he gets here, I want that kid in here the minute he arrives.”

“On it Doc.”

“And Thomas, I need you to-“

“Charles Allison!”

Charles flinched at the gravelly voice echoing down the building. The dogs started barking again.

He sighed. These things never were as simple as he would hope. Pulling on the latex gloves in his kit, Charles turned and faced the double-door just as it was pushed open.

“Good morning, Officer Caraway.” Charles greeted coolly.

In the door stood a bear of a man. From his heavy boots to his dense beard, the scowl he wore as he smelled the heavy odour of disinfectant and the sharp look in his eyes as he found his quarry. “Allison.”

Charles failed to reply. In the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of movement. So did Officer Ned Caraway. The policeman smoothed his blue uniform over his girth, squeezed in as it was, and took a step nearer the creature wrapped in black under the nervous hands of the interns. Charles would have been amused to so the unbidden curiosity in the officer’s eyes, but his attention was elsewhere.

Jaime swallowed loudly, “Doc, it's w-waking up…”

“And what,” Caraway grunted, “Is it, Doctor, to have had you so wilfully use up your third strike?”

This was it, wasn’t it? The point where Charles gave up his little game, pointed out the possibly groundbreaking creature he had so far denied even himself. He could say any number of simple words, and the sheer excitement of it would blot out his transgression. In fact, if he played it, he could easily get out of his punishment entirely.

Instead; “Oh, nothing,” He cooed, “Just a beat-up Great Dane. Very messy, guts everywhere. Hence the bodybag, you see, holding in all those wriggly organs. Not fighting dogs, Danes.”

Just like that, he handed it all away. Why? Because Professor Charles Alison was that kind of man. It was how he’d gotten into his situation to begin with. A word and a whim for what he thought was right was barely a decision to him at all. And so he passed up his free ticket out of this big animal hospice, back to his real life in the academic circles of the world.

The imagery Charles had brought to Ned’s mind reflected off the Officer’s face in a tight-lipped, pin-eyed look over pale cheeks. He huffed as he pawed at the doorframe; “R-right. That’s strike three, Charles, and you damn-well knew it. You go anywhere but this building or your apartment, you’re in jail.”

Charles looked past the officer, entirely bored with the man, at the rapidly approaching intern in the dim light amongst the cages. He nodded brusquely then, leaning a hand on the black plastic. He felt the tremble beneath it. “I’m sure you’ll handle that then, Ned. Now if you don’t mind letting my intern in…?”

Charles didn’t even watch the man leave. Looking at the creature shaking before him, he decided staying in this one place wouldn’t be all that bad.

Meanwhile Tory stormed in. “Holy Jack, Doc!” He gushed as he found some gloves, “Did your truck get molotov’d?!”



…What happened?

They were carrying me again. the One in white coat, he left me with the Others, but now he’s back. He’s standing here, looking scared. Looking at me. I remember…I remember he left, and Others carried me. I don’t remember why or where, I fell asleep again. I barely woke up once in their arms, to a soft voice, softer than I thought they could speak;

“…I hope the dogs in here stay quiet…”

“Shut up TJ…”

Dogs? I’ve heard that before. I’ve heard the Tall Ones shouting at their Ones with the Teeth and the Claws when they forced us at each other’s throats. Or more, them at mine. Why would they be…


Hundreds of them, everywhere, barking, shouting, screaming at me! I needed to escape the thunder: Let me go! I can fly away-

Then He was there. All I felt was a prick and then his warm touch. All I saw were his sad eyes, and then darkness.

And He’s here now. Above me, whispering soft things into the room, though whether to me or to the shadowy Tall Ones hanging on his every word, I do not know. I like his voice. Its also soft, but it’s a voice you’d listen to, because he can afford to be quiet while knowing, the same way others are loud because they’re clueless. Like that big man who just left.

They’re pulling apart the Black thing I’m tied into. The younger Ones hold my hooves down gently, but I can’t move anyway; my legs won’t listen. My back hurts. Oh it hurts! He is there, pulling at something. I can’t see him, so I stare at the pretty One in front of me. She’s holding a small box and a light in her shaking hands. Her eyes are scared, but she stays firm. The light seems so much brighter than everything else, but it’s still dim. Why is everything getting dimmer?

I watch her face as it changes shape. It contorts from a mild discomfort to sheer disgust. Her mouth moves, and I hear her.

“Oh my god…”

A hoof-long piece of metal is dropped to the table. Its red and shiny, a scarlet sickle against the white sheet I’m laid on. Just then, I feel my wing again. I feel it in every way I wish I didn’t. All the younger Ones stare at the metal, at me, some pale, some looking angry, some sick. I hear Him behind me, soft but strong. I want to be that strong.

“You can leave, if you want to. This will not be happy.”

It won’t be? I don’t want to make you sad. I don’t want to make you angry. When your kind are angry, I get thrown to the dogs. Dogs I know, I KNOW you have. I can hear them. I can hear them breathing, lapping, barking, talking to each other. Asking each other what is happening. They can smell something, something they don’t like. I can too. I can taste it. Copper.

The Tall Ones leave. All of them save two. Him, and the younger One, the One who first found me. He doesn’t seem angry either, even though I hit him with apple cores. He, also, just looks sad. His hands. I can feel them through the Black thing around me, probing at my body, feeling the way the rope has bitten through into my skin. I used cry about that. I used to cry about my wings being ruined, about my eye. I can’t cry now. I can’t feel.

Or…I couldn’t.

My wing. I know it’s free from what had hurt it. It felt bruised. Now it feels…wet. My side feels wet. My vision gets darker.

Their hands move faster, their voices raised, in anger or fear I can’t tell, it’s all jumbled. I don’t feel scared anymore. He’s here, he knows what to do. Maybe I can just sleep again. I feel so sleepy. I feel them scrabbling at me, shouting at each other, panicky as they untie me from my trap. The young One carelessly unties my hooves. Hah! Now I could kick you, right in the belly, and you’d…never…never…

The Black is gone.

They took it off. They took it off, and I can feel the air on my coat, the softest breath from their bodies in feathers I forgot I had. Feathers. I have those! I used to be so proud of my feathers, long and sleek as an albatross, strong like those of a hawk! How the wind used to tickle and tease at them, daring me to go further, faster, higher, the mere touch of the breeze enough to make life brighter. I remember now, the rush of being aloft, of being alive. This poorest substitute is but a taste of that which I used to revel in, but a taste of Flying. Just a sip of Freedom.

I don’t notice it, or hear their violent cursing as I do, but I stretch my one wing skywards, move it back and forth, feeling the AIR. It feels wonderful. And so there, amid the tools and the white sheets against my cheek and the blood seeping from my body, I smile. I smile and I close my eye with one wing aloft, but I don’t feel sleepy.

I feel alive.

4. Awake

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Charles slammed the whiskey back and squinted at her.

Five hours. He and Tory had spent five hours examining the creature, five hours of gasping none-stop in sheer disbelief. Once, not too long ago but very, very far away, Charles had worked at one of the top researching universities in the country, part of a specialized team on the forefront of new finds across the field of zoology, making many diverse discoveries. Hippopotamus sweat as a natural antiseptic? They’d started that. He had personally seen to the re-identification of five species, and had helped with the classification of four entirely new ones.

Well all that had just gone out the window.

Tory was just about squealing in excitement. While Charles had been shocked, frozen, and now probably more than a little drunk, Tory had been taking copious notes and babbling all the while. Every now and again he would shoot a question at ‘the Doc’ to make sure he had it straight, but most often it was all Charles could do to nod his shaky agreement from the depths of his own thoughts. Tory had so far begun compiling his list of proofs: The creature was firstly undoubtedly a vertebrate, though her skeletal structure was still to be studied. She was also clearly mammalian, as her body temperature and reproductive organs attested. Tory had made certain that was clear. Then he had begun with other physical characteristics. Over the hours the creature had slipped in and out of consciousness, and Tory alternated between staring into her giant golden eye when it opened (He decided that it must be capable of immense colour and depth perception, and excellent night vision) and poking at her mouth and when she was out. He pointed out he blunted flat teeth as a sign that she was a herbivore, and that her ‘hooves’ supported the notion.

Charles’ mind had stopped responding at that point. Everything he knew…Her body temperature was fluctuating wildly, more than enough to kill any creature he could name. Her proportions were insanely illogical, her external organs only barely recognizable. Her ‘hooves’ were unlike anything he had ever seen, a soft keratin surface barely an inch high that encircled three quarters of the end of each limb, the same colour as the dull fur that covered the rest of her body. He teeth were definitely herbivorous, he had no doubt, but her jaw was far too delicate for such purposes, her body too small to support the organs necessary for digesting most plant material, and certainly not grass. And those were only the things he was currently able to process. Neither of them had yet to broach the obviously impossible facet of the situation. She had goddamned wings.

Charles poured himself another whiskey.

To the average person, the creature they had found was extraordinary, but to Charles’ experienced eye, everything about her was incredibly and profoundly wrong. But he was sure so far that she was real. He had inspected her closely before, had touched her. She was there, alive, and was no hoax. Her…wings were real too. Almost laughably small and clearly useless, but they were functional. She was impossible, but the sight of the ash-grey body lying on the table was quickly chipping away at his cynicism.

He gulped the whiskey, and dropped the empty tumbler, gasping, “Tory, recap for me, please.”

“Right, Doc, uhh…” The intern scrabbled back through his notes scattered on the table til he found the right page, “Okay, so far I’ve fit her into Chordata Mammalia Theria... Eutheria at a pinch, though beyond that I’m not sure. Maybe she fits into Perissodactyla…perhaps…family Equidae?”

Charles let out a harsh laugh. “Tory, are you trying to suggest that this…this thing is a bloody horse?”

“Well, Doc, be reasonable,” Tory lowered the paged as poked his chewed-up pencil at the creature, and more specifically its feathered appendages, “She can’t be a horse; she has wings. Horses don’t usually have those, you know.”

Charles stood up aggressively, “Then what Tory? This creature shouldn’t fit any of these classifications! It shouldn’t exist at all. Its genome must be the most convoluted mess of traits on the planet. None of it makes sense, and then you go and call it a winged horse…” His eyes widened, and he turned to face the smug-looking Tory, standing with a few pages in his grip, “Tory, are you trying to suggest that this is a Pegasus?”

Tory’s smirk never lowered, “I dunno Doc, that’s all Greek to me.”

Charles distinctly failed to respond.

“Okay, maybe it’s too soon for that,” Tory rushed over to the creature’s side. She had passed out again, and her body temperature had plummeted to thirty two degrees Celsius, but they had already realized there was nothing they could do to bring it up without causing it to rocket to the other extreme. Her injuries were treated, Charles having almost mechanically stitched and treated every injury Tory could not treat with a salve or bandage, and her body had been gently sluiced with water, partly to cool her down and to clean her fur. Her damaged eye they had been unable to look at, and they could do little for the gashes in her throat: Charles had stitched what he could and had inserted two drains to handle fluids, but otherwise they’d had to leave them open. Truly, the fact that she was alive at all was miraculous.

Tory pulled up and old x-ray scan and placed it next to the sleeping body, “Look here Doc: this is a scan of a foal. Look how the joints line up on both the front and hind legs, and the longer dock in the tails. Even the rib and spinal structures are quite similar. The only major differences are her shoulder blades – and of course her wings – and her cranium. Her head’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, but this is the best thing I have to go on right now.”

Charles glared at his intern, wondering whether to question his sanity or admit being mad himself and actually go along with this hypothesis.

The internal struggle was a short one. He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Okay Tory, I admit, you were very thorough, and that’s better than my idea.”

“That being?”

“Russians.” Charles barked. He shook off his funk and stood tall. Whether this made more sense because of the science or the whiskey, he wasn’t quite sure, but he had work to do. “Right, get a sampling kit and see about an X-ray gantry. I’ll get to the bottom of this, be it biological tampering, mutation or the breaking of reality. I didn’t give up my freedom to be stymied after one afternoon.”


It’s hard to stay awake.

I want to, I really do, but my body wants to sleep. First I’m cold, so cold all I want to do is escape it, then I’m hot, like being dipped in lava. I’m not a dragon. But either way, eventually it just stops hurting, and I feel…warm, almost fuzzy, like curling up in a big wide blanket and watching the snow fall just inches from the window, beautiful but not at all cold.

…I don’t know where that all came from. Snow? It falls from the sky like rain, but in tiny little crystals, I know that. I know what the heat of a fire feels like, and I’ve seen shards of glass. I remember the caress of a blanket without remembering whose it was, or when they gave it to me. I just remember staring out at a world much bigger than myself in wonder while my young wings tried to beat the air, and an older voice chuckled warmly behind me. I’d felt so much like dashing out and playing in the falling snow. Now I just didn’t even want to wake up from the memory while I had it.

But I did wake up sometimes. It was an instinct, driving me to make sure, once more, that I was safe. Every time I did, though, I felt…violated. I could feel Them poking at me, moving me around. They weren’t just cleaning my wounds anymore, they were inspecting me. Studying me. I couldn’t stop them though. It was all I could do to stiffen at their uncomfortable touch, either hot or deathly cold. When I did, I found myself staring up into a pair of sparkling brown eyes. I would blink, and He would giggle and scribble at a piece of paper beside me. I would look away, and he would gasp in excitement. He shone a light at my eye once, but quickly stopped and just stared, entranced. Until I blinked again, and he started scribbling.

I made a game of it for a while.

I had slipped back into sleep after that, and I only heard a few words every few minutes. It felt like a peaceful doze, just listening to the world. Every now and again, they would prod at me again, but I didn’t want to respond. They weren’t hurting me. I could feel my wounds, and they felt better. My side didn’t burn anymore, my legs were wrapped up snugly in bandages, and a poultice was carefully placed on my head where I had been hit before. They had even bathed me in cool water. I felt clean and fresh and calm. Nothing would rouse me.

“Tory, are you trying to suggest that this is a Pegasus?”


I heard his voice, hissed, uncertain. The younger One said something right after that, but I wasn’t listening. Pegasus. That word meant something, something huge, monumental. I felt that if I could grasp it, I’d understand what I had lost. Or, at least some part of it.

I felt awake. Euphoria from being freed and being treated had made my mind fuzzy. The comfort I had been hoping for had been found, and so I had slept. Now, I need to find something else.

I need to find myself.

I start to feel my body again. I reach with my mind for my right front leg. I can’t look at it, I’m too tired, but I can feel what’s there. It’s bruised and beaten, but wrapped in bandages, usable. My left front leg is a little better, but stiff. My left rear feels badly bruised near the upper reaches of my thigh, and higher yet I feel the soft press of more cloth. My entire rear has been wrapped against the savaging I had received while trying to turn and run. It’s my right rear leg that worries me, though. It feels like something inside isn’t working properly, because I can’t feel my skin.

My wings are both ragged, but okay. The feathers will grow back correctly. They’re tough. My neck hurts so much, but I can breathe properly again, and I can’t taste copper. My whole body is listening to me, and it wants me to tell it what to do. Waiting to learn what it is. And I can tell it who it belongs to again.

That at least, I can tell it that. Because I am a Pegasus.

I open my eyes.

The world looks a little brighter than it did before. The room is a slightly whiter shade of white, the sheet around me no longer bloodied. There are papers in front of me, on them lots of sketches of all sorts of things, some of feathers, another of a large eye, and one that looks strikingly like my hoof print. Some tools lie there as well; a few strange tubes, syringes and a bent sickle-shaped needle and blue thread,. I hate needles!

Suddenly I feel a prick against my back.

I stiffen, properly this time. The more I tense, the more it pinches. I don’t like that.

They’re talking, but I’m not listening. They can’t poke at me anymore, I don’t like that! I’d thank them for helping me if I could, and I’d tell them to leave me alone. I want to rest now, spread my wings in the sunlight and lay in the grass. So I roll over and spread my one wing. There’s a shout, and my suddenly my back is burning.

“Damnit, she broke the needle!”


I roll away from the pain, and find myself in empty space. I see ground rushing towards me, and then I stop.

My hooves have found the ground.

I look at the hooves below me, planted foursquare as they support my weight, and my heart soars. My wings are half spread. I can feel everything. My right hind leg twinges, but I’m standing strong. I look up with my good eye, and see the Young One, the one who’s been studying me all this time. He’s holding a cracked syringe as he stares back at me. I feel a twinge in my back.

You hurt Me.

I rush him. It’s my only chance! I flare my wings and try to jump up a little, but my leg stumbles, and I fall into him. I manage to knock him over, and I find myself standing on his chest, unsure of what to do. I don’t know how I got here, I just did it. Then I spot his hand reaching for my neck. No you don’t! I stamp on his stomach and he gasps out all his breath, lurching forward, launching me up. I jump as well, and push him back into the floor.

I’m in the air, and it feels wonderful.

A moment later I crash down on the table again, sliding along with all the papers and tools and needles. I scrabble for purchase, but my hooves find nothing on the flat table. And I’m sliding straight towards Him. The Older One. He looks shocked, haggard. I need to stop! But I can’t, the papers, the sheet, and pieces... I can’t stop moving!

I slide right off the end of the table, flailing all my limbs for control, but I crash straight into Him anyway. Ha doesn’t stop me. He feels weaker than the other One, and soon I’m standing on top of him as well.

He stares listlessly up at me.

“Y-You shouldn’t be able to…”

Yeah, you thought I was weak. I know. I was hurt, and you fixed me. But you’re just going to hold me again. There’s dogs here, you’re the same as the Others, even if you seem better on the outside. You stuck me with needles! I’d tell you what you need to know if your kind had left my voice unhurt, but you took even that. And even more, my memories! So I do the next best thing: I raise one hoof and slam it into the ground next to his head, lowering my eye to his. If he questions how much strength I have in me, maybe he’ll see it in there.

He doesn’t move. I look up, sure he got my message, and see the door. Freedom might be just the other side. I have to try, at least. All I can see is the door as I launch myself at it. I’m not strong enough to knock something like it down, but I’m quick enough to open it as I scrabble over to it, if awkward. My legs are making it hard to move correctly. My neck burns, my wings strain. I don’t care! I can look after myself once I’m out. I grip the doorknob and jerk it aside, shoving at the door in my haste and tumbling through to the ground.

Silent. Rows of cages, kennels line the walls. In every one a surprised face, a muzzle pointing in my direction ,and beady, stupid eyes. against the grey walls. Recognition clicks in my mind, and terror rises. I flinch back. Then the barking starts.

They're everywhere! Hundreds of them! My legs lose their strength at the volume of their combined roaring, a solid assault on my body and mind. I’m prepared to fight for my freedom, but they’ll rip me to pieces in a breath! My eye is blurry as I shrink back, a whimper searing up my throat. Leave me alone! Please!

They don’t, they can’t. They’re raging at me. The tall Ones have an army here to kill me! My legs are shaking, my chest burning, tears wasting as they fall to the ground under me. I can’t see anything straight, my eye is trembling. Only one overwhelming urge drives me. Fly! RUN!

The hall has only two ways to go, into the maw of the thunder, or away. The door behind me goes nowhere, and so I turn down the hall, away from everything. The second their shouts are at my back, I am thrown forward, running, stumbling in the bright white light. It isn’t sunlight, it isn’t safe! Only the sky is safe for me, let me outside!

This door is bigger. I only see it when I run headfirst into the cold grey metal. Open! Open, please! I’m not thinking, I just hit it with my hooves, crying at it. Eventually something gives. The edge of my hoof catches on something, and a sharp pain lances up my leg into my chest. I scream.

The door opens, though, and I fall to the dirt just outside, clutching my fore hoof to my chest. Oh it hurts…But I’m outside! The sun, low in the sky, a glorious orange that burns my eyes, but I can’t stop staring at it. Through the pain, I smile. They can’t hurt me here…

My eyes clear then, and the full picture grates against my mind. Buildings. Hundreds of them, so tall they could block the sun if they wanted. I’m looking across a yard of bare ground, but beyond that, grey stone rises up a dozen lengths into the sky. Between the buildings rest stone paths, and on the paths roar armored Monsters that growl at everything they race past. To my left is a tree, to my right is a Monster.

I gasp and scramble back from it, but it doesn’t move. It’s resting alongside the wall, its eyes dull, its voice silent. On its top and one side I can see its shell is burnt black and cracked. Is it hurt too? Is it sleeping like I was? If it is, I need to get away before it wakes up!

I look around. They’re…they’re everywhere. All around me I hear them, behind corners, in windows, asking each other what noise they just heard.. Inside, I hear His voice raised among the dogs. What if he releases them? I don't think He would, He took me away from them to begin with, but if I made him angry... I have to go. There are other boxes and cages and crates in the yard. They reach all the way across to the street, and on the other side of that is a thin sliver of shadow between two gigantic buildings of stone and glass. It doesn’t take a second of my thought to decide where to go.

As the clamour of voices rises behind me, I scurry towards the shadows, away from the dogs and towards the safety of solitude.

5. Sanctuary

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The phone rang.

The dull tone pushed itself out into the heavy air, swirled around in the cigar smoke by the sluggish fan. He waited for it to trail off before hitting redial with a dirty finger; he never answered the phone himself. Cops traced you that way.

He heard the rough but hushed voice on the other end, “Hey Boss? Looks like Trailbait made a run fer it, jus’ like ya said.”

Trailbait. That’s what all the boys started calling her after they started warming up the dogs on her before fights. But he’d always known she was more than just a chew toy. He’d seen her land in the field just outside the Safe House all those months ago. He’d been the one who knocked her out with a board while his missus kept her distracted with lemonade.

“Good work, Tom. D’ya see where she went?”

“Nah Boss, saw ‘em volunteers go out lookin’, talkin’ ‘bout how she broke the back door down or somethin’.”

“Well what good does you callin’ me do? Ya know the cops are onto us! Get the boys lookin’ too, we need that damn animal back before them vets figure out just how smart she is!”

That animal, that...thing had seen more than enough to make her dangerous. He knew, he’d talked to her. And she’d talked back. He’d never heard of such a creature on God’s green earth, but if she was to go public, she’d no doubt ruin the family business. She was both incredibly smart and hopelessly naive, he knew. If she got her loose tongue back, she’d wag it in all the wrong ears. And imagine: a talking miniature horse-thing with wings. Everybody would listen.

He reached down and patted the panting head beside him. He flinched at the reminder of what that creature really could do. He looked down at the white head and ruby eyes looking stupidly up at him. Dumb, but strong. Red Eyes had been a real good fighting dog, til that creature had kicked his side in like it was nothing. Only kick he had ever seen her aim. Red here was lucky to be alive.

He let the pain of the memory colour his voice as he hissed, “You make sure she’s caught and wired up by morning, or you better get scarce, ya hear?”

The voice on the other end was shaking slightly, wary of calling down his anger. Thats how it should be. “I-I’ll get ‘em searchin’ now Boss, we’ll have her by sundown!”

He slammed the phone down and sighed. Business had been great. Better than ever, in fact. The moonshiners down south had been bringing in bottles for distribution, the mexican connection had been shipping up the finest drugs his money could buy. They’d been making a killing off sales, but he had wanted more. The dog fights were just so tempting.

Well, the police had bust that operation and raided the Safe House, and now his entire business was in trouble. Eight of his boys arrested, all of his dogs possessed except for Red Eyes here, and he was useless after that kick anyway. His boys knew to keep quiet at least, but that animal was a real loose end, and one he could burn off at least.

“Come ta daddy, boy,” He said to Red Eyes, and the dog huffed painfully as it climbed up into his lap. He ran his hands over the crushed ribs barely healed in the dog’s side, and grimaced. Yes, he could make sure she wouldn’t talk ever again, and he’d laugh while he watched her die.


Everything’s so strange.

Night is falling fast. I can’t help but be nervous at that, because I’ll have to find somewhere to sleep. I can already feel a cold bite in the air, and night will only make it colder. I’m not well enough to sleep outdoors yet, but I don’t know anywhere safe.

I’m so disorientated here. There are just buildings everywhere. Small colourful ones with lots of writing on them next to and in between huge hulking blocks of red brick. At first I tried sneaking away from those big buildings, towards the soft sounds of a river south of me, but there were more and more Tall Ones walking around, and I had to hide in bushes along the river bank as they passed me more and more often. Most of them were just hurrying from where they were to where they were going. But sometimes, in between the groups of walking Tall Ones were solitary wanderers, not walking to anywhere specific. Some of them are looking at the scenery, and some of them were clearly looking for something else.

Looking for me?

I turned around then and snuck in the opposite direction. There are less Tall Ones amidst the big red buildings than down by the river. Maybe they also find this place scary? Or maybe they don’t live here; all these buildings are just quiet, sitting here, empty. If the Tall ones live down by the river, maybe I can sleep here for the night?

No, there are still Seekers here. I’m standing against the wall of one of the big buildings. Beside me is a white-painted happy looking shop, but it’s windows are all dark. I see ahead of me in the twilight, a single man with a rough unkempt beard, strolling along and whistling a tune to himself.

A tune I recognize.

The faint notes reach into my memories and pull up a memory I’d rather forget, and suddenly I recognize that bearded face. That last fight. The one with Red Eyes. In that fight, like many before, the hungry faces above and around had watched eagerly as I was mauled to tears. One in particular had stared in glee, all the while whistling a happy tune as I bled into the beaten earth.

I am torn. One part of me screams at me to turn and run as far as I can, to get away, another roars for me to beat that man as senselessly as he had me hurt. So I stand there, nearly sinking into the brick as he slowly turns down the alley, a wry smile on his bleary face.

“Come on out, Trailbait. I know yer out here somewhere…”

I don’t move. A third part of me is speaking, drowning out the others. A quiet voice of reason: I could run, but they’d find me eventually. I could beat him into the ground right here, but he’d hurt me back. I’m not strong enough yet. He’s still walking down the alley towards me. In moments, it will be too late.

“C’mon, Trailbait…”

I realize he will see me now, no matter what I do. I waited too long! I look around rapidly, trying to find an exit, but there’s none. My eye is still not quite right, looking around quickly makes me dizzy. But then I spot something: a window on the paint shop, up on the second floor. It’s open.

I set my hooves to the ground. I hiss softly.

He turns, looking down. He’s right in front of me, not three lengths away. He grins when he spots me, cowering behind a pile of refuse.

“Gotcha, Trailbait.”

You’ll regret every single time you called me that, you Monster.

He jumps forward, but he doesn’t expect me to move too. I don’t jump forward, I jump back. I’m still slow, aggravatingly so, but he’s even slower. I spin and jump in the opposite direction, straight into the wall. I plant all four hooves in the brick before pushing off, still spinning. In half a second I’m at his head height, staring eye to eye at his shocked expression.

You thought I was weak too, didn’t you?

Then my hooves connect with his face. He doesn’t even have time to fall before I’m jumping off his shoulders onto the low roof of the paint shop, well out of his reach. I look back, ready to run from him when he gets up, but he doesn’t. I realize he’s out cold.

I didn’t kick him that hard, did I?

What if I badly hurt him? Well, I can’t say I’m sorry if I did, but that still wasn’t what I meant to do. I should leave. maybe I can hide in the paint shop til morning. No, the Tall Ones who work here could return any time, and then I’d be caught. I can’t stay outside in alleys, what if more of these Seekers come looking for me? If one is looking, then the rest must be as well! I don’t have anywhere to go. I’m stuck, I’ll get caught again! By those first Tall Ones, too, and they’ll make me fight again! Oh, why did I think I should run away?

“Hey, what’s going on down there?”


I know him. Tory, the one from this morning. The one who picked me up in the basement, who washed me and treated me and studied me and stabbed me with NEEDLES. But of all the Tall Ones I’’ve found, he and the Older One, Charles, the one in the white coat, they’re the only ones who’ve helped me at all. Maybe he can help me again.

He’s right under me now, kneeling next to the man I kicked now. I shuffle back onto the ceiling. I don’t want him to see me. I don’t know what to do...Do I talk to him? He’s probably angry at me for kicking him earlier, maybe I shouldn’t …

So I just sit there on the roof, and watch.

Tory turns the other man over, starts looking him up and down. He sees the man’s face, and gasps. Even from where I am, I can see the ugly blue circular bruises forming on his face. I shuffle my hooves awkwardly. Tory hisses something under his breath, then sighs. He stands and looks around. He recognized my hoof marks? He knows I’m here! I sink lower as he opens his mouth to speak.

“Well, this guy will be fine, he passed out from drink as much as being kicked in the face. I guess I will just go home now.”

He spoke slowly, clearly, like he was hoping I would hear him. I gather my courage and look up over the edge. I see Tory’s back as he walks away. He’s leaving? Just leaving me here with those empty words!

Or an open invitation?

As he turns the corner, I jump down from the roof to follow. As I pass the man I knocked out, he groans slightly. No you don’t! A light kick to the head shuts him up. I scurry on after Tory.

He walks up the streets and buildings, taking odd twists and turns, at homes in the strange environment. I wish I could fly! But my wings hurt too much, I’m grounded. So I follow him, dodging awkwardly from bush to bush to streetlamp to postbox, hoping he doesn’t see me. From the way he keeps throwing secretive looks over his shoulder, though, I think he already has.
I need his help. I need someone’s help. I thought I could look after myself if I got far enough away, but I haven’t even had a chance to inspect myself yet. I’m hurt, I can feel stitches pulling, and the weird thing in my neck is leaking the harder I breathe. If anyone will help me, it will be this One. Only, this time its on my terms.

He finally stops in the light of a house on the corner of two streets. I hide in a shrub nearby. It's long dark by now. Behind me, I can hear some people shouting, but I can’t hear what. Tory stops at the door with a key in the lock, and turns to look at the road and verges, seeking. I hunker down lower. After only a few seconds, he sighs and turns back to his door.

What if this is a trap? It might be. He could be waiting for me to come out, to catch me! But...I don’t think so. And at any rate, if I want him to see me, it should be outside, where I can at least run.

I suck in a breath. I step out of the shrub.

He doesn’t see me still. I’m standing here, in the light of a streetlamp, wings slightly unfurled instinctually. I grimace as I try to figure out just what to do. In the end, I give a soft nicker. It still hurts my throat.

But it gets his attention.


Charles still had an hour of duty before he was allowed to leave.

He swore for the umpteenth time and punched the desk. Nothing of the day made any sense. He half believed that if he punched the desk hard enough he would wake up from this plainly very strange dream.

There was no way, no way at all, that he was staring at a desk full of sketches and annotations for a Pegasus. There was no way that the creature that six hours ago had been lain on the operating table, bleeding out and hellishly hot, had upped and beaten both him and Tory, and escaped. There was no way, no way at all, that he had looked into that golden eye and seen determination.

That was the whiskey talking.

There had been a moment of silence once the creature had made its escape. Even after they heard it scream and break somehow open the back door, he and Tory had stared at each other, shellshocked. Then they’d rushed to act. Tory had barely spared a word beofre grabbing his bag and running out in search of her, and Charles, unable to leave the building (It’s hard to study a creature from jail) had marshalled the rest of the interns to form a search team. He only called interns who had seen her already. He didn’t want just everyone seeing her; if they managed to capture her and bring her in, then maybe there would be less fallout. Charles told himself he wanted more time to study her in private, to get the best results. But the fact was, somewhere in his old heart, was a little piece of him that really wanted her safe for her sake alone. If nothing else, he hoped she found a good place to sleep.

His eyes roamed the notes under him, detailing Tory’s assumptions as to genealogy. None of them made sense, it was all wishful thinking. But Pegasus he had called her, and so she was until proven otherwise.

Charles was thinking about a damn Pegasus.

He had sent the interns out not ten minutes after she had run, and so far they had all returned empty handed. Tory had already gone home, not bothering to come back. Charles accepted that. Knowing Tory the boy had simply gone home, loaded up his car and was now driving around the city looking for her. Probably trying to imitate Pegasus mating calls or something the like. Still, if anyone could find her, Tory would do his best to make sure it was him.

The notes were still scattered about the room. Charles had done his best to organize them, but it was a losing battle: Tory’s note-taking made little to no sense. But it was something to occupy him while he waited.

He didn’t know what do. He’d thought to leave and search for the creature himself, but he knew that wasn’t worth it. He should stay put and wait for whatever would happen to happen.

No sense in doing anything hasty.

He shouldn't be impulsive…

He should stay calm…

“Doc?” TJ stuck her head around the door, “Tory called and he says…”

Charles bolted up and shoved as many notes as he could into his briefcase in all of twenty seconds. He dashed past the young intern towards the door, pages in his wake. He returned moments later, a questioning look on his face, “Where did he say he was at again, TJ?”

The girl stuttered slightly in confusion, “He said he was at home, but sir, you can’t leave the-”

But Charles was already gone.

6. Sentience

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It’s so bright.

Compared to the darkness of the street, the doorway is glaring. All I can see is brightness only barely held back by the silhouette in the door.

“Hey there.”

I can barely make out Tory’s expression as he looks down at me, but his voice is soft and careful. He thinks I’ll bolt if he does anything loud. He would be right if I had anywhere else to go. He mutters a few more soothing words, gesturing to me. I don’t know what he means, I can’t see. I turn my head slightly to better catch his movements with my good eye. He steps aside, waving a hand into the building.

“C’mon, it’s warmer inside than out, girl.”

Warmer? Yes, it would be. I take a step forward. I have no real choice now, I’ve thrown my dice. There are butterflies in my stomach. Tory, he’s one of the nicer Ones, but he’s still one of Them, and They aren’t very nice at all.

I stop there, halfway between the glaring white and the darkness of night, remembering why I ran in the first place. He had needles. He worked with dogs. But he had helped me too. He doesn’t look like he wants to hurt me again. If I tell him not to, he won’t. I won’t let him.

He slowly walks back into the building, leaving the doorway empty to pour all its light over me. It hurts. But it’s also friendly, inviting. The light will be safer than the dark. Monsters never hide in the light.

I’ve never seen this place before, but I recognize parts of it. Tall Ones like their lights, their windows and their metal. Tory isn’t all that different to the Ones who held me captive before, only cleaner and better organized. And not trying to kill me yet. There are differences, though: Tory’s home, the first room anyway, has a smooth wooden floor, not all cracked like the other one. To one side, through another doorway, I see grey tiles and a few counters, but Tory quickly closes that door with a quiet muttering. He slowly points into the opposite door and coos a few encouraging sounds. He watches in utter fascination as I slowly, uncertainly comply. I keep my good eye on him at all times; I’ve learned my lesson about letting a Tall One get behind me, even for a second.

This room is completely different. It’s darker, but not in a bad way; it’s more comforting. Tory swings around through the room, gathering things and quickly starting a fire in the fireplace. It crackles hungrily, but he adds no wood. Is it magic? Magic would be nice.

The floor beneath my hooves is covered in a large soft rug right up to the fire, and around in a circle are three soft-looking chairs that seemed like they were built for two Tall Ones to sit together. They are large, brown and a little imposing. Tory turns on the rest of the lights in the room, but it’s nowhere near as bright as the entrance. The walls are painted dark and the ceiling is wooden. The soft yellow light is very soothing. I need to make sure I stay awake.

Tory gestures for me to sit up in one of the seats, but that’s too far away from the fire, and the carpet looks more comfortable. He frowns as I curl up on the floor, but I don’t care, I like it here. He shrugs and places a blanket next to me before stepping back and watching me intently once again, as if studying my reactions. It’s starting to make me a little uncomfortable. Either way, I’m next to the fire, I don’t need a blanket. I don’t know what to do though, and neither does he by the look of it. We would have sat like that all evening I think, but right then I start to cough.

It’s a dry hacking cough, and it feels like my throat is being scratched by thorns all along inside and outside alike. I touch my uninjured hoof to my neck once the fit subsides, and it comes away a little bloodied. I may have pulled a stitch…

Tory jumps into action. I crane my neck to watch him as he dashes away. I expected him to...do something different. Instead he runs through the door he previously closed, taking care to close it right behind him. I hear a soft squeaking noise, and Tory replying. I don’t know what that is. Instead I stare at the fire, wondering, as a feeling of immense tiredness sinks into my bones. The fire feels safe.

Sitting down with some friends around a warm fire, listening to them laughing, and joining in. Whispering nothings and gossip back and forth over steaming cups of cocoa and muffins and fruit while talking about Hearth’s Warming Eve as a soft song is played outside to filter over your contentment. That is what a fire is really for.

The images, not quite memories but not solely imagination either, roll in and out of my mind like a tide, one I wouldn’t mind being lost in. I'm not sure...but the images are familiar, comforting. If nothing else, they are proof that I have a past, something better than this, something I can strive to get back to. I barely notice when Tory returns not five minutes later, carrying a bowl and a glass. The glass, filled with water, he places on a small table beside one of the chairs. The bowl he places in front of me. I look into it slowly, and see my own reflection.

I’m shocked. I don’t look anything like I’m supposed to look! I’m gaunt and scraped, and my coat is dull, my mane ragged and bleached. My ears...I knew they were hurt, but...their edges are ragged and chewed. I touch my hoof to my cheekbone and trace its visible length, a testament to my starvation.

No wonder these Tall Ones look down on me; I look like a wild animal.

Tory coughs and taps the bowl, breaking my eye contact with the waif I’ve become. The ripples through the water in the bowl shatter my concentration, and I jerk back sharply to look at Tory. He is smiling encouragingly, still tapping the bowl gently, waiting for me to catch on.

He...wants me to drink from a...bowl?

Well, sure I could drink from the bowl, but why would I? He brought a glass! I’m capable enough to drink from a glass at least, not from a bowl like a rabbit! I point a hoof at the glass, and then again when Tory just looks at me. Eventually his eyes slowly follow the direction I am pointing in. After an age, his eyes finally lock onto the glass of water. He blinks for a few seconds, then his head whips around to me again, shocked. I forge on, pointing at the glass, then myself, the glass, then myself.

When he sees what I mean, he...well, it was very loud.

He jumps to his feet and to the glass, his excitement scaring me into shuffling back. I make angry noises in the back of my throat, but it’s far too soft for him to hear. He leaps back to me and plops the glass on the carpet in front of me before kneeling and staring at me intently again.

He is really beginning to scare me now, the way he keeps glaring at me, waiting for me to do something. What if I do that something wrong? Either way, I reach out slowly and grasp the glass in my fetlock and raise it to my lips. The glass is slippery, but I manage. He gasps as if this is a really big deal, and jumps away and out the door even before I’ve put the glass back on the floor.

But I barely even took a sip…

I don’t have a moment to process his conduct before he returns. He only pauses to make sure the door is closed before tripping over the carpet and falling onto one of the chairs, but he never stops smiling. In his hands is a strange board and a black bag. In a hurry, he slides off the chair and drops the board in front of me, spilling the contents of the bag all over the floor.

The board is weird. It’s quite thick and has six differently shaped and coloured holes through it. The surface has large friendly-looking letters printed all over, but they keep shifting in and out of focus, so I can’t read them. The black bag’s contents were six coloured shapes of wood, the same shapes as in the board. Is this some sort of game? If it is, then it seems to be only half of it. maybe he plans on teaching it to me?

Tory leans forward and picks up the triangular green piece of wood. He shows it to me clearly, then slides it into the green triangular hole. He smiles and then gestures to me.

Wait...Is this thing...what I...No, he can’t really think…

How dumb does he think I am?!

He looks disappointed. I’m still trying to understand how he could think so little of me as he turns away with a sad look. I sigh and roll my eyes...eye. This is ridiculous. If I could talk, then you’d see, you’d see how smart I can be, I could show you! But instead you bring me a foal’s toy. Fine.

I cough gently, to get his attention. Tory turns back to me, expression unchanged. Until he sees the board that is. If he freaked out before, this time he goes absolutely ballistic. He shouts at the ceiling in a high voice, then careens out of the room, this time forgetting to close the door opposite in his apparent excitement. I’m left lying on the carpet by the fire, the discarded blanket and glass of water at my hooves beside the completed puzzle, huffing in annoyance.

That is until I hear the squeaking again.

Now that I’m alone, and the door is open, I hear it much more clearly. A soft, breathy sound from some small creature just around the doorframe. I hear soft snuffling noises as well, followed by another mournful squeak. What in the wide world of-

Then I see it.

It pokes its nose out just as I lean around in curiosity. A small black nose first, then a head. Two liquid eyes and two excited fuzzy ears, then a small bundle of a body wrapped in unruly black fur, and lastly a small violently wagging black tail.

A dog.

I’m cornered. It occupies the doorway, and there’s no other exit! If I need to escape, I could charge it, kick it across the hall, it's small enough, but...It’s so young. I could never forgive myself if I hurt it.

It starts waddling across the room in slow, unsteady steps. I bristle, flaring my wings at it, but it doesn’t flinch away. If anything, I just made my presence all the more known. It’s eyes light up and it’s speed slowly increases, it’s little yipping noises growing louder, adrenaline in my system making the squeaks ring like the peals of a bell.

I place my forelegs defensively in front of me, blocking the little creature from nearing my body. It doesn’t seem to mind. Barely a length away from me, it sets its little legs, readying itself, before it leaps at me with a yap.

I nicker in surprise, try to rear up, but my hooves slip out from under me. I land on my belly, my forelegs bent awkwardly before me, and the little dog, not much bigger than my two hooves, lying excitedly atop them. It snuggles down into my fur and almost smiles up at me, and my mind is completely blank.

A louder sound comes from around the corner, a calling voice. The little one in my hooves responds happily, and a much, MUCH bigger nose rounds the corner as well. A sharp nose, dark eyes and glossy brown fur. The older dog looks at me in surprise.

I am suddenly, painfully aware that this is Mother, and she has just caught me holding her Puppy.

Her tail is slowly wagging, a light in her eyes. She starts padding towards me. There is no escape. I feel the strength leave my limbs.



Tory could not believe what he was seeing. The creature, the Pegasus they had rescued, was lying on his carpet, by his fire, looking at him with one big golden eye and pointing with one hoof, quite emphatically, at his glass of water. It was surreal. Everything about her was incredible, astounding, insane. Ten hours ago she had been barely alive, tied up in the dark. He hadn’t held much hope for her, right up until the point where she knocked him over and kicked him in the gut. She then went on to break open a steel door and knock the lights out of an alley urchin before following Tory home.

Now she was asking for a bloody drink.

Tory got the feeling she was insulted by bowl he had placed in front of her. Something about her expression was so familiar...he hadn’t even meant for her to drink at first; he still clutched the cloth he had planned to bathe her inflamed and seeping neck with. Now though, as Tory’s mind tried to process exactly what this meant, she moved that one hoof she held up back and forth, pointing at the glass, and then at her mouth. There was no mistaking that.

Tory squeaked. He did not mean to, nor have any control over it. In his excitement and rush to grab the glass, he spilled about half of it without noticing, and dropped it the carpet in front of the Pegasus. He noticed her flinching away from him, and he tried to calm himself down, but this was too much. This was ground-breaking.

He watched in utter fascination as she tentatively reached out with one hoof and illogically wrapped the limb around the drink. How, Tory could not comprehend; those joints should not work in that way at all. He merely stared, frozen, as she lifted it to her mouth and drank.

Then he flipped out.

The possibilities of this were beyond description, so he didn’t try. He merely ran out of his living room, across the narrow hall and into the kitchen. He shut the door behind him and nearly tripped over the golden-brown border collie sitting curiously in the middle of the room.

“Ugh,” He muttered, "Sorry Jess, I’ll feed you now. New species comes first, girl.” He barely heard her excited little bark as he scrambled through one of the kitchen cupboards. He’d put it here somewhere…for some reason…Then he finally found it: the shape board! It was hiding behind the cereal.

Grabbing the bag of blocks, he rushed back through the kitchen, jumping over Max as the little black puppy tried to bite at his shoe laces. “Later, Max!” Tory growled as he dashed at super speed through the kitchen and into the entrance hall. In his massive rush through his house, he missed the urgent knocking at the front door, only pausing to make sure the kitchen and living room doors were closed, some instinct within his scattered mind still keeping that self-control. A self-control that stopped dead at the door. He didn’t even manage to turn around without tripping into one of his couches. He barely noticed, rolling over onto the carpet and dropping the shape board at the creature’s hooves. This was the deciding moment.

With trembling breath, Tory slid all the pieces onto the carpet. The pegasus looked uncomprehendingly at the board, but Tory kept his patience. He knew in the back of his mind how unlikely any intelligence was; he could hear Doc Alison’s voice muttering in the background, about how this creature had probably been taught all sorts of clever-looking tricks by her previous owners, how she was merely parroting his own actions, but Tory also knew the look of determination he’d seen in that big golden eye.

He’d seen sentience. And proof was just a test away.

The pegasus was just staring at him now, waiting. Tory realized a demonstration might be needed. With a shaky hand, he reached out and picked up the green triangular block. He showed it to her clearly, like he’d seen vets do on those primate intelligence documentaries. Then he slowly slid it into the corresponding hole in the board before waving his hand to the pegasus, hoping desperately that she would prove him right. He kept on watching as the seconds ticked by in silence, other than their combined breathing and an very muffled and completely unheeded knocking at the door.

When seconds turned to a full minute, Tory’s hope faded. She was just staring at him with surprised eyes, as if questioning. Or maybe that was just him being optimistic. She was still fascinating, even if she proved no more intelligent than the dogs she’d fought. A sigh escaped Tory’s lips as he turned away to go get some-

He heard a cough. Not a choking cough, but unmistakably the attention-getting kind. No. Way. He turned slowly, unsure what to expect.

The pegasus was tapping her good hoof against the shape board, calling his attention to the fact that it was perfectly complete.

Tory’s reaction was even less gracious than earlier. He’d hoped for this, or at least something near this, but it was still too much to take in. Everything they had drummed into him at the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary wing was being blown out of the water in a matter of hours. This pegasus, an ancient legend come to life, was easily as smart as any human child, and Tory would bet money on her being smarter still. She was a mystery, and puzzle, and even with everything he was trying to learn, even more questions bounced into his skull. He wasn’t entirely sure how or when, but the next thing he knew he was sitting at his kitchen table, a glass of milk in his hands. He wished it was something stronger.

“Heh,” He chuckled to himself, “I guess I can understand why the Doc drinks so much…” Curious about earlier, Tory tried to copy the way the pegasus had lifted her glass of water, but his wrist couldn’t bend enough to get purchase. With a groan, Tory slammed his head into his hands on the table, breathing heavily.

“I wish the Doc was here already…”

So lost was he in his thoughts, he didn’t hear the impatient knocking at the front door.

What he did hear, though, was a faint barking followed by a pained nicker coming from the living room. He froze, listening, thinking. Did he close the kitchen door on the way in? Or had he just left the door open between his collie and her puppy, and a creature violently scared of dogs?

Tory felt a little panicky flutter in his chest as he whispered, “Jessie, you here? Max?”

He waited for a cold nose to rest against his leg, a sign that he was in the clear. None came. Tory swore and jumped up, spilling his milk. He awkwardly dashed to the door, but stopped short of the corner. Around that door was the entrance hall, and across from that was the living room. Through that was a possible natural disaster. He was already imagining a giant hole blasted clean through his ceiling as he finally stepped through under the lintel.

In the living room, bathed in the flickering light of the fire and the low lights, was a sight enough to give Tory a heart attack. The pegasus lay as she had before, looking up at him beseechingly while Max burrowed contentedly into her forelegs and Jessie settled herself comfortably alongside, snuggling into the warm feathers of the pegasus’ wings.

Tory didn’t know what to do. At any moment, this situation could go off like a timebomb.

Minutes passed. The pegasus looked back and forth sharply, trying to figure out how to react. Tory couldn’t bring himself to move. Suddenly, the pegasus froze. The way she lay with her hooves before her, the hoof she had been keeping hidden was exposed, the sharp bruise and cut along to back of the ankle clearly visible. Jessie was sniffing it now, inspecting it. Tory’s breath caught in his throat. This was it.

Jessie sniffed once or twice more, then tried to lick it. The pegasus jumped, disturbing Max, who yelped. She quickly froze, unwilling to just drop the young vulnerable puppy on the floor. Jessie did not try to lick the injury again, instead laying her head beside the hurt leg and whining, staring soulfully at the scared pegasus.

The pegasus dithered. Uncertainty played clearly in her eye, her ears stuck halfway between fully back and attentive. Her tense muscles strummed and her tail flicked back and forth agitatedly beside Jessie’s lazily swinging own.

Eventually, her tail stopped twitching and her muscles slowly relaxed a little. Her ears swung forward, and her expression softened. Looking at the puppy in her embrace, she calmed. Slowly, tentatively, she reached a wing over Jessie’s back, flinching slightly as she finally closed the hug, but relaxing immeasurably once she had.

A small uncertain smile spread upon her features, and Tory’s heart nearly melted at the sight.


Meanwhile, Charles Alison pulled his ear from the door, banging tiredly upon it once more as he shouted, “Tory?! What the hell is going on in there? I’ve been knocking for twenty minutes!”

7. Confusion

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They didn’t hurt me.

This building, this trap, housed two dogs. I was in their home, unwelcomed, untended. They had found me, an invader, and yet they did not hurt me.

When I saw the little one, the puppy, I was terrified. Flight had been the only thought in my mind, and yet I hadn’t been able to move: to make a dash for the door was to hurt the young one, and no part of me was willing to do that. Not even at my lowest would I ever hurt a child.

Then, somehow, he had ended up on my legs, a weightless presence and yet pinning me firmer than chains. His mother saw us then, me hugging her child. I was frozen in terror.

But she didn't hurt me either. In fact, she came to me, comforted and commiserated with me, showed me kindness. She would never hurt me either. She said so.

She didn’t talk like the Tall Ones or I can, she isn’t like us that way. Dogs aren't as smart as we are I don’t think, or at least, they’re smart in a different way. But I could see it in her eyes, big and peaceful, her voice, soft and plaintive, not begging, but sympathetic. Even as I held her child, she trusted me, not even asking so much of me as to trust her back.

For some reason, that made it even easier to do just that.

Tory watched me, and later Charles, the older doctor, as well. They were talking about me, I could hear. Tory in a voice made small with amazement, the older men incredulous. I found it easier to follow what they were saying now than I had earlier. A strange pressure in my head was receding, like a veil being lifted from my senses, or water draining from the world. I was seeing, hearing and feeling in a clarity I’d forgotten I was capable of.

“I’m tellin’ you Doc, she’s smart. She finished that logic test in less than two seconds. Earlier she was having trouble coordinating her limbs alone but now, I...I think her head trauma is receding. She’s improving.”

“Intelligent, yes, but to what degree? The logic test is impressive. I wonder what other tricks she has learnt?”

I bristled at the way they spoke about me, looked at me. ‘I’ve learnt this cool trick where you end up on the floor while I kick you in the face. Want me to show you? Keep talking about me like I’m not here and I just might.’ I growled a little and tried to move, but Jessie was under my wing, her son Max on my back. He was more comfortable there. So I stayed put and glared at them til they stopped talking about me.

“Heh, sorry. Should we get out of your hair for the evening?” Tory had said it jokingly. He nearly choked on his own tongue when I nodded.

Charles watched me, inspected me. His expression, frozen, confused, curious.

“I see we are out of our depth. I...apologize for that. Is there anything else you can tell us?”

He hadn’t expected me to do anything, he wouldn’t let himself believe that. I did, though. My neck. I touched my good hoof to both the little tubes in my throat, hoping he would understand. I shuffled slightly. The bandages were itching, too. The Doctor noticed.

“You have gone through a lot this evening. Maybe we should check you one last time. May I?”

I nodded. I let him. Tory did something, ran out the room. Charles meanwhile cooed for the dogs. Jessie whined a little, but stood regardless. Max followed his mother. I was at once relieved and lonely. Charles sat next to me. His hands were shaking. From the other room, I heard a bang and a clatter, and then Tory returned with a bowl and some rags.

“Sorry Doc. I’ve been a bit ditzy today. This is...crazy.”

I didn’t hear anything else.

Charles and Tory were talking, sometimes to me, but I was gone. I was under the bright sun, feeling the breeze, the grass, more real than the concrete and steel I recalled. I was looking up a hillside, growling playfully, chasing a butterfly with more colours than I’d ever imagined. I heard chirping in the grass, a songbird singing in the tree ahead, and the soft voice of the young mare sitting there, waving to me happily.

“Over here!”

I waved back, grinning, the butterfly forgotten. Her vibrant orange mane and green eyes filled me with contentedness as I trotted up to her side. I sat down and ruffled my wings, looking up into the bright sky. I took a deep breath of the clean, perfect air as the pony beside me smiled and said;

“Hello, Ditzy.”

The two humans were staring at me blankly with the remains of my bandages in their hands as I tried again, with a little more success.


They didn’t stay long after that.


“Doc, please Doc, tell me you heard that. You heard that, right?” Tory clattered through the kitchen, fumbling bowls needlessly over the countertop just to keep busy as he waited for Charles to say something, anything to make sense of the situation.

Charles just frowned and looked at the biology guide under his nose

Tory stared hopefully at the older man for a few more seconds, then back down at the bowls, trying to get them to fit together with fumbling fingers. No matter what he did, they wouldn’t stack; he’d forgotten to take out the old gauze and bandaging they’d just taken off of the alien in the living room.

“Ditzy…” Charles muttered, paging through the book.

“Oh c’mon, Doc!” Tory shouted, loud enough to scare Jessie out from under the table. Max squeaked in fear. A bump and a rattle was heard in the next room. Tory looked up with all with the alertness of adrenaline before turning slowly back to Charles, eyes still wide as saucers. “Please, just tell me what’s going on. Just tell me what to do here.”

“She shouldn’t have been able to vocalize yet,” Charles muttered, showing no indication of hearing Tory at all, “her neck, throat and vocal chords should be a wreck. How on earth did she heal so quickly?”

“Er, Doc? Are you missing something?” Tory raised an eyebrow, forgetting his own panic for a moment, “For instance, the obvious intelligence, ALIEN intelligence we just witnessed?!”

“Yes, yes,” Charles muttered, placing the book open on the counter. His lips twisted up in a mild smirk as he said patronizingly, “Come on Tory, are you really that surprised?” He reached into the mess of bowls and wet bandages and pulled out a ruffled grey feather that had come loose from the pegasus' wing, “By this point I’m half expecting her to take off, pull a loop de loop and start yodeling, even though everything I know tells me anything of the sort is completely impossible. Either way, she can obviously understand us, and maybe even speak herself, if she wasn’t just parroting you. Either way, that discovery will have to wait for the morning.”

Tory sighed and watched Charles idly spinning the feather between his fingers, then snorted in frustration and slammed his hand down on the counter with a thud. Both he and Charles jumped as a loud bang and the shattering of glass echoed out in time with Tory’s strike. He blinked and looked at his hand flat on the table. “Did I do that?” Then Jessie started barking, and they heard a pained scream.

Charles blinked dully for a moment, but Tory was on his feet and out the door before the final tinkling shards hit the floor. Charles heard the intern storm into the living room, then silence. He cautiously decided to investigate as well. He dropped the feather into the book and slammed it shut before following into the living room.


Tory was inspecting the battered half of a brick he’d picked up off the floor from amongst the shattered remains of his front window, but Charles quickly searched for the grey and golden head of their guest; he found the flicking grey ears poking up just behind the couch, followed by one golden-rimmed eye.

“Nothing to fear,” Charles cooed, “They’re gone now.”

The creature remained hidden, just some ears, an eye and a wisp of mane, but she gave a barely perceptible nod. Tory swore softly under his breath and spun away as he pieced together the obvious, “Dammit…Sir, that proves it; those gangsters from the dog-fighting ring are after our little Pegasus too. I saw her beat the crap out of a guy in the street earlier; I think he was trying to catch her, from what I heard.”


Charles’ mouth was frozen open, but that light, soft voice was certainly not his. Both men stared sharply at the alien behind the couch. She ducked down abashedly.

Charles ventured in a voice smooth as silk, “Is that your name, little one?”


Tory blinked and looked at Charles. Charles blinked and looked at the brick, then joined Tory at the window with a thin smile. “Tory, do you know anywhere we could go for a few days? We need to keep, uh, Ditzy here safe, and lay low for a little while, so that we can observe her in a controlled environment.”

The pegasus made a small mewling noise of affront, and Tory chuckled dryly while he inspected the broken window, “If she survived fighting in a pitbull ring for a few weeks, beat the two of us up while sedated, and went on to overpower a henchman in the street, I think she can look after herself if she needs to. But yeah, if…if she keeps on going how she’s going, then I wanna watch too. I mean, her rate of healing, her physiology, her intelligence, everything! She’s…just remarkable.”

While Tory babbled and started picking up shards of glass from the floor, Charles looked beyond, into the portion of the front walk lit up by the porch light, at the other half of the brick beside a little pool of blood, and he suddenly realized that the pained scream they’d heard earlier had definitely not come from the pegasus.

Charles’ smile tightened as he turned and made for the kitchen, “Remarkable indeed. Come, let’s hole up in the bedrooms for the night, we can plan further in the morning where we’re going to run to.”

“But Doc,” Tory paused and looked for a bin before shrugging and tossing the broken glass out the broken window before continuing, “What about your parole?”

Charles winked back at the younger vet, “Who do you think I’m running from? I’m already in breach, The Man will have to take me in for processing and other bureaucracy I, quite frankly, just don’t have time for. Come along all, time for some sleep, I think.”

A sudden ‘meep’ sound interrupted, and both men turned with raised eyebrows to see the pegasus still peeking out from behind the couch. Charles could see it in that one giant golden eye; she was too nervous to follow, but too scared to stay in the room alone. Ironic, since she’d just beaned an intruder with half a brick with only one eye open.

“Would you like to come with us?” Charles asked, “You’ll be safer.”

The pegasus didn’t move.

“You can help look after Max?” Tory suggested, “Th-the puppy?”

Charles grinned as the pegasus took a slow step forward. He clapped and stepped back into the hall, saying, “Wonderful, now the bedrooms are right down the hall, right Tory?”

“Uh, yeah, yours is the second door on the right, and Jessie and Max can stay with…Ditzy in the office downstairs, that okay, Doc?” Tory offered. The pegasus nodded with a faint but unmistakable smile, but Tory noticed the absence of the voice he was actually expecting, “Doc?”

It was a hoarse voice, shocked and tired and confused, that answered, “Tory. Remember when you asked me to make sense of the situation? Return the favour, if you please.”

“What?” Tory walked through to Charles’ side, the pegasus following just behind, “What are you talking about Char- Whoa…”

Charles and Tory stood in the kitchen doorway, looking between an empty space on the countertop and a book floating about two meters above the ground, a single grey feather stuck between its pages.

8. Spark

View Online

The book floated apathetically across the room, hovering comfortably at exactly seven foot three inches (they’d measured) before it bumped against Tory’s palm.

“Hey Doc, maybe if you tie a string around it, you could float that bottle of scotch over here without me having to get up.”

With a gentle nudge, Tory sent the book cruising silently across the room once again, to where Charles was sprawled unceremoniously across one of the couches, glaring accusingly at the book through the bottom of his tumbler. He didn’t respond as the book thumped gently into the wall above his head and just...floated there.

Sleep had not come easily to the two men. To Charles, in fact, not at all. A few sheaves of useless notes and attempts to study the book slipped to the floor as he grasped the bottle of scotch and tossed it underhand to Tory, who knocked off the cap and downed a mouthful straight. Charles cleared his throat loudly and gave his most professional opinion on the matter before them;


Tory chuckled as he coughed against the burn of the whiskey. He dropped the bottle on the coffee table and lay back down on the couch, “How the Russians are involved in this, Doc, I’d love to know. Floating feathers. Guess she can fly after all.”

Charles grumbled and bumped the book back across the room to Tory, studying it as it bobbed along through the air as if it was in water. Only, it wasn’t. It was a book with a long grey feather in it, completely weightless. No matter how many times he studied its motion, measured its height or friction, he could not logically accept it as fact.

In a reversal from the previous evening,Tory seemed to be surprisingly okay with it.

He grabbed the book out of the air and pulled it down to his level, inspecting it as they both had for most of the night yet again. “Seriously, why does it float books?” he asked, opening the volume and dropping it onto the pile of test books he’d piled beside him while he held onto the feather, “I mean, here I am, holding it, decidedly not floating. It doesn’t float on its own, either,” he put it on the coffee table to demonstrate, “See, nothing, just a big, grey feather. Wait, what if I put something on top of it?” He grabbed the bottle of scotch and dropped it on the feather, watching it intently. Charles would have admonished Tory for damaging a specimen, but since earlier that night he’d gone into an existential rage and tossed the damn thing in the fire, they knew it was pretty damn near indestructible already. So instead, he joined Tory in watching the scotch hungrily, though for a different reason.

For a few seconds, nothing happened. Slowly at first, then faster and more violently, the bottle began to tremor and vibrate, rattling across the coffee table with a loud clatter before Tory grab for it. Eventually, it shook itself clean off of the feather, and stopped. No doubt as to what had caused that, then. Tory gingerly picked up the bottle and inspected it, then started unscrewing the cap. An almighty fizz foamed up and all over Tory, who cried out in surprise, scrambling back over the couch to stand against the far wall, heaving for breath. He stared wide-eyed at the bottle then at Charles, who was having trouble keeping a straight face. “It- It carbonated my scotch!”

“Yes,” Charles stated through his slightly unhinged chuckles, “I did not see that coming at all.”

In the silence that followed, the living room door creaked slowly open. Charles and Tory both turned to stare a little accusingly at the hunched grey figure standing self-consciously in the doorway.

“You!” Tory cried, pointing, “Why did you put bubbles in my whiskey?!”

“B-bubbles…?” The pegasus squeaked softly, shuffling back behind the doorframe. She stumbled slightly over her right forehoof, hitting the door with a pained hiss, sliding to her haunches. Both Tory and Charles jumped to their feet instantly, but this only caused the poor creature to recoil all the more.

“I-I’m s-sorry-!” She choked out, skitting back into the opposite wall, wings trembling with fear. Her one open eye spun crazily as she huddled against the kitchen door.

“Well, her speech has improved slightly overnight.” Charles muttered softly, stepping down to crouch a good distance away. Tory glared at him for a moment, before turning back and lowering himself to the pegasus’ eye level as well. When he spoke, his voice was low and calm;

“Hello again, little one. We’re sorry for startling you like that, we were just surprised. Would you mind if I asked you some questions?”

She looked fearfully between Charles and Tory for a while, then, at Charles’ small nod, she swallowed and dipped her head.

“Do you remember what happened last night very well?”

She gave a small nod, wings settling back tightly against her sides. Her legs still tremored from the effort of holding her up, and Charles could see the strain written into her body despite the bandages still clinging to her; that leg was troubling her, badly by the look of it. Her wings looked in far better condition somehow, as if they’d been groomed, and her eye shone in the low light of morning.

“Do you remember who I am?”

For a second she didn’t answer, struggling with her right forehoof. She raised it and pointed it shakily first at the younger man, “T-Tory,” and then tremulously to Charles himself, “Charles.” She pronounced it strangely, stretching out the syllables as if two different words, but Charles was too busy noting the limb held up perfectly for his inspection. The break in her ankle had never set correctly.

“Okay, good,” Tory continued, not seeing what Charles had, “Could you tell me who you are, then?”

The hoof thumped back to the floor as her eye dilated and swung lazily away, her ears pivoting back as she crouched low, muttering, “...B-Bubbles…”

“Uh…” Tory looked back to Charles at a loss. Charles raised an eyebrow and slid quietly forward, laying a hand against the grey fur. Instead of recoiling, the pegasus seemed to relax, slipping to the floor. Charles nodded solemnly.

“She’s having a psychological episode. Amnesia resulting from extreme trauma often leads to this. I’m not an expert; this could be epilepsy, a flashback...I’m not-”

He didn’t get to continue. One golden eye shot open, her back stiffened and she pushed herself up to all four legs. At first, Charles had pulled back, cautious, but in truth she barely seemed to notice him now.

Tory tried again, “Please, could you tell me you name?”

Instead of replying she turned away, curling up on herself til her nose touched the bandages across her haunches, she sniffed peculiarly for a moment. Then in a flash of teeth and sudden movement, she tore at them, scattering cotton across the floor in furious desperation.

“Hey, Hey!” Tory shouted, but to no end; she kept at it. Even when the violent movement caused her weakened right leg to give way, she kept bent around, making small grunts of exertion.

Charles gave up taking a back seat and jumped in. A hand against her next and the other against her flank, her pushed both to the floor, pinning her. “Stop! I won’t have you hurt yourself all over again!” He shouted. As suddenly as she began, she stopped thrashing, looking up at Charles with a bitter glare. That too dissolved quickly. In seconds, she was sobbing brokenly, eyes screwed shut.

“If you want the bandages removed, I will do so, but your wounds still need to be bound. Please, reconsider.”


“Okay,” Charles nodded, “just stay still, please.” With that, he unclipped the hooks holding the poultices on and slowly unwound the ripped fabric. His eyes grew wider wide every inch of skin revealed. The Pegasus squirmed, whining, trying to look as well. Tory wasn’t much better. Soon enough, Charles stood back, showing the fur of her hind legs to the air for the first time since yesterday morning. In a word word, it was shocking.

She was healed.

The shiny-silver traces of her various scars still criss-crossed her skin beneath her rich grey coat of almost downy fur, but they could not marr the seven perfect spheres rising across her flank.

One look, and the pegasus flopped back to the floor, breathing a heavy sigh of relief, “Bubbles…”

Tory’s face hardened at the sight, though. He bristled, snarling, “They branded her?”

“I don’t think so; it looks more like a tattoo or birthmark, if uncanny.” Charles said curiously, staring somewhat confusedly at the strange mark.

“Nnn-No!” Both men jumped as the pegasus squirmed yet again to her hooves in a low crouch, cradling her injured foreleg, “You asked...who. Who I am. T-There.”

“Uhh…” Charles and Tory shared a look, but Charles just shook his head, instead changing the subject; “Would you like anything to eat? Or drink? I’m afraid we don’t have much, and we have to leave soon. We only want to look after you.”

“Um...Mmm...Mmm...Mu…” She couldn’t quite seem to find the right word, stumbling over herself as she tried to speak.

“Whoa, stop, breathe,” Charles cooed, “Now, try again. Slowly.”

“Mmm…” She tried, then took a deep breath before saying in a quiet, broken voice, “M-Mushrooms?”

With a benign smile, Charles nodded to Tory, who made a quick dash for the kitchen, returning with half a carton of uncooked chopped mushrooms. He placed it apologetically on the floor, shrugging. “I’m sorry, but that’s all I have…”

His words were lost, however, amidst the sounds of mushroom holocaust. It was all Charles and Tory could do to stand back and watch in amused awe as the little grey pegasus lost herself in rooting around the carton, making happy little cooing noises as she had her first solid meal in as long as any of them could remember.



Actual, honest food, cold and dry as it was. It wasn’t what I’d asked for, or it was, but I’d asked for the wrong thing...I couldn’t quite make sense of it. What I’d wanted and what I’d said hadn’t lined up even as I spoke, but once the Mushrooms were in front of me, it hadn’t mattered at all. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough.

All the while, Charles and Tory had been busy around me, preparing, carrying things to the door and sharing quiet looks. After I’d finished, Tory let Max and Jessie out, and they’d come to my side. I thanked Jessie with a nuzzle, only to find Charles smiling benignly down at us from the doorway. He didn’t say a word.

When I had time to sit and think, with Jessie curled against my side again in the hallway, I tried to puzzle out my captors. No, not captors anymore. Saviours? That didn’t feel right either. Tory was a simple mind; curious, excitable and kind. I knew he would help me just because he thought it was the right thing to do. Charles though...He was quiet always, never open, like Tory. Sometimes he was cold and distant, but sometimes, when no one was looking, he would stop and show me something else, like now in the doorway; he was kind too, only the world had taken it out of him.

I was just trying to distract myself, though. Even now, sitting here as we had been for the last hour, every time Jessie shifted, her tail brushes against that sensitive splash of colour against my coat, just above my hind leg..


What do they mean? I...can’t remember. And that really, really scares me. I don’t know why, or how, but I know, somehow, deep inside me, that those symbols are more than I know.

If the present is all I have, then I’ll make the best of it. I need to check myself before I move: I still can’t open my hurt eye, but I can feel it moving. It feels...wrong. There’s a dull pain in my hip and neck, but neither are anything compared to my right fetlock. It burns like fire as I lift it.

“May I, little one?”

I don’t respond. Charles comes closer anyway. He reaches out, touches my right forehoof softly. I growl and pull it back, but he takes hold of it. I see the look of consternation in his eyes, and I understand; he wants to help, but it will hurt me, and he doesn’t want to do that anymore.

How do I know this? I’m confused. I’m only just starting to make sense of what I can see, and feel, and smell, but I’ve forgotten myself in the present; the past still looms behind me, black and empty, and the future is not much better. So with nothing to cling to, I trust him.

It’s over quickly. He pulls the hoof slowly, gently, then twists sharply. I hear a violent click and the pain stabs up my leg. I would scream, but my breath is pushed from my chest in a rush as Charles grabs me, pulling me to his chest. In a blind panic, I scrabble at him, but he doesn’t let go. After a few seconds, the pain flows away, and suddenly I feel only the immense relief of my hoof being back in joint.

“Come on, Doc, we need to get going.”

“Right. Of course.”

Charles picks me up easily, holding me in his arms like a child as he walks towards the front door. I’m grateful to him; I couldn’t bring myself to feel anything but sleepy, after the food and now my hoof. I felt right again. I felt calm, even as he opened the door into the shaded drive and quickly placed me inside a cocoon of red metal and glass.

“You sure this car can get us to Rhode Island?”

“Psh, easy Doc, this is a seventy-nine Mirada, only a year old! We’ll get there in no time.”

Tory jumps into one of the seats in front of me, and Charles in the other. I start as the vehicle rumbles to life, but Charles already has a hand against my side to calm me. We move forward, out onto the cold streets, and hurtle down the grey paths between the buildings, flashes of green lighting the gaps between them more and more the further we go. Eventually the buildings fall away, and I see the green hills awaken before me as I ask quietly, “Where are we going?”

“Somewhere safe.”

The sun is still rising, lighting the verdance of the gardens and fields all along the road. The speed does not scare me; in fact, I feel my wings start to push away from my sides, trying to grasp the wind I could not feel. High up above the treetops, I see birds winging their way in wheeling patterns , like water, ever moving, ever travelling.

And just like that, it clicks.

“Ditzy Doo.”

Charles turns back from the road and looks at me, one brow raised in question.

“My name,” I explain, “I never answered you properly earlier. Sorry about that. My name is Ditzy Doo. I...think I remember.”