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User:FelixSagittarius/At the Ranch Pt 2/9

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At the Ranch
Preceded by: At the Ranch Pt 1/9
Succeeded by: At the Ranch Pt 3/9
Separator r left.png  At the Ranch Pt 2/9 "On the Road/Stoney's Tale" Separator r right.png
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Tales from the Blind Pig story universe

By Felix Sagittarius


7/11/07


Jerry and Wideload were waiting for me, and I trotted over to them. "Mi..., heh, sorry. Wideload, you've been on the left side so far, do you want to change sides?" Jerry asked.


Wideload nodded, and walked up the ramp into the right side partition of the trailer. "Well, now you know where to go," Jerry said, and motioned me aboard. I walked carefully up the ramp and inside. Jerry raised and secured the ramp, then came around to the front to address us both.


"The trip should take about six hours, depending on traffic and weather, which looks to be generally good. There's a bale of hay for each of you, and water from the nipple drinkers in front of you. You'll notice there's a large knob on each side window, so you can open and close then as you wish. Regular horse trailers don't have them, but you aren't regular horses," Jerry said. "I want to get some dinner around Junction City, so I'll put in a pail of oats for each of you then, and more hay if needed. I also have a contact on a local farm, close to the road, who'll let you relieve yourselves there first, if you can hold on that long. I'd appreciate it if you could, since I have to clean up at the end of the trip! You'll have to amuse yourselves, I can't help you there. So, if you're both ready, we'll get going."


We both nodded. He climbed into the truck, started the engine, waved at the watching people, and carefully drove down the lane and onto the road. I whinnied at my friends, and watched with my head out the window until they were out of sight. I heaved a deep sigh, and turned to my new friend.


"Well, what do we do now?" I said "With these eyes, I guess 'Red Car, Blue Car' is out!"


He snickered and said, "Yeah, and so is watching for the first horsey!" We both laughed at that.


"Why don't we swap stories?" he said. "You tell me about your life and Change, and I'll do the same. After all, we've got six hours to kill!"


"Sure, if you don't mind being bored. I can do that." I said. "Want me to go first?"


"I'd say flip a coin, but that's a little difficult now, and neither of us has one!" Wideload laughed. "Go ahead!"


"All right, then. Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, a human baby boy was born..." I started.


Hours later, having taken time to consume most of the bale of hay, drink, point out landmarks, and answer questions, I finished my Tale. "Wow!" said Wideload, "you could really talk with that box?"


"Sure could," I replied. "The words were a bit mixed as to emotion sometimes, and the translation lagged what I sent, which made it sound stilted, but I could talk in my own voice again!"


"Wow!" Wideload said again, then sighed. "I wish...but I don't know Morse code, and I never made any recordings of me talking. Never needed to! Too late now..."


"I know, it was a mix of things that brought the Talking Box to life," I said "Being a passionate Ham, doing a public service for a blind friend, having a smart friend, and the skills of a talented engineer all came together to pass the next best thing to a miracle! Hey, we're slowing down!"


"Yeah, and there's a turnoff. Maby it's that farm Jerry mentioned," Wideload said. "I hope so, I'm about to burst!"


"So am I!" I laughed. "Ah, we're turning into that farm yard!"


The truck pulled up near the barn, and Jerry got out. We nickered at him, and he waved, then went into the barn. A minute later, he reappeared with a large anthro equine walking beside him. Together, they let down the tailgate and helped us back out, then Jerry said, "Gentlemen, this is Stoney, the farm owner. He'll show you where to go, if you get my meaning!"


Stoney nodded and gestured to us to follow him, which we did with alacrity. A short while later, deeply relieved, we followed him back to the trailer.


Jerry was waiting, and said, "Thank you for your restraint! I'll give you an option. I'm going into Junction City for lunch. You can come with me and wait in the trailer while I eat, which will save trip time, or Stoney has offered to put you in a pasture until I return. Make your decision by walking to him or me." We both promptly walked over to Stoney. "Well," Jerry laughed, "do you know, every passenger I've had with a mind has taken Stoney's offer? I'll be back in an hour or so, see you then!" With that, he closed the back of the trailer, then climbed into the cab and drove away.


We looked at Stoney, who nickered, then motioned for us to follow him. We walked over to a large pasture, then waited while Stoney opened the gate. We walked into what seemed utter luxury after the confines of the trailer. I gave a whinny of joy and trotted off, stretching my muscles and warming up before breaking into a gallop. Wideload accompanied me, somewhat more slowly due to his bulk. We ran and gamboled for a bit, playing with each other, then we were joined by another horse. Curious as to who this was, we walked over and exchanged breath with the newcomer. It took a moment, then the penny dropped..


"You're Stoney, aren't you?" I said.


"Yep," said the deep grey horse. "I found I could go from this form to the anthro horse after I recovered from the SCABS attack. I wish I could tell you how, but I don't know. I just do it."


"Oh, thank God!" Wideload cried, "There's a way out of this!"


"Maby," replied Stoney. "I do this to show all you who pass through here there's still hope. Watch."


He closed his eyes, then gave a gentle sigh. He suddenly began to shrink, becoming somewhat blurred, then appeared sharply again, in the anthro horse form. He rose to his rear hooves and snickered at the looks of stunned amazement on our faces, then reversed the transformation, becoming the horse again.


"All I know, is one day I really wanted to be able to use my hands again, and pictured myself that way. I shuddered all over, and there I was, an anthro horse. Still can't talk, but I've get a writing program on a tablet computer that does the talking as I write, so I get by. Can't become human again, no matter how I try, though."


"Well, we've got a pasture full of good grass, and, what, the best part of an hour?" I said. "While we graze, why don't you tell us your story?"


Wideload was already ripping away at the sweet grass, and I joined him as Stoney began.


"Well, not all that much to say," Stoney said. "My people moved here in the 1830's, and we've farmed the land ever since. I was born in the house over there, and grew up here. Did a hitch in the Army in 'Nam, then came back here and went to K State over in Manhattan to learn modern farming tech. Took over from my Dad when he had a major heart attack and couldn't work anymore. Ran the place with my brothers until they got better jobs in the City and moved away, then with the wife and kids, until the Beagle Two crashed. The Martian Flu got my youngest kid, but otherwise we rode it out without problems - had a lot of food set by for emergencies, and we're too far from the big cities for the mobs to get to us. One brother and his family came back for a while - the Flu got the other, but his wife came here with the kids. When things got back to normal they left and went back to their homes, and we kept going."


"But then, I got hit with this Change," Stoney continued. "I was going to the shed where we kept the combine, to do some work on it and get it ready for harvest. Both of my boys were with me, and I started to feel strange. I staggered, and Bobby asked if there was something wrong. I said no, and kept going, but the world was reeling around me, and then I fell down. Bobby sent Mark to get Ma, and stayed with me. My feet cramped, then my hands, then the Change got going full blast. Bobby got my cloths off when it became apparent they were hurting me, then Ma and Mark got to me in time to watch the last part of it. Scared the Hell out of 'em. We'd seen some of the things that the Flu had done to other people on TV, but this was the first time it hit anyone we knew, and we all had no idea what to do. When it got done, I just lay there for a bit, looking just as I do now."


"I didn't have anybody around when I Changed, but I was asleep when it started," I said. "Didn't have any problems except getting downstairs and outside."


"I had a lot more trouble, but that was later. I was alone, too. Waiting for my girlfriend to come over, then it happened. When she saw me, she called 911," Wideload laughed. "Oh, man, the Landlord was madder than Hell at the damage. When the ambulance and police saw me, they brought in a crane to get me down and did a LOT more damage. I thought the Landlord was going to have a stroke!"


We all laughed at that, then Stoney continued, "There wasn't much else to do. I got up on all fours and we all looked at each other. I tried to talk, but couldn't, you all know how it was. Ma went back in the house and called the Preacher and her friends, then as an afterthought, 911. Things were chaotic as Hell for a while. I found I could scrape letters, and made it known that Bobby, the oldest, was to run the farm. He was in his twenties, and knew how. With Mark's and Ma's help, they got the crop in and sold. The Church people and our friends helped as they could, then my neighbor made an offer for the farm. We held a family conference, which was weird. The kids wanted to go on with their lives away from the farm, and Ma wanted a divorce, so she could get on with hers. I agreed to almost everything, except I kept enough of the farm to support me, and enough money to pay for someone to help me. God, when we got done, I went off to the furthest part of the pasture and stayed by myself for a couple of days, sorrowing and wishing I could cry."


"That's about it. Then one day, I was trying to move something, the helper was off somewhere, and I REALLY wanted hands again. I suddenly felt dizzy, then things twisted around, and I was the anthro horse. Freaked out the help guy when I walked out of the barn! And that's about it. Oh, I met Jerry one day in Junction City. I saw the trailer outside a burger joint, only it was a big one with four people like us aboard, and they were hurting. I talked with them for a few minutes, then Jerry came out. I used my tablet to tell him I had a place they could stretch and relax for a bit, and convinced him that his charges were really suffering in there. He followed me and let them loose, then I led them over to the pasture. While they grazed, Jerry and I talked. He's been bringing people here ever since, while he has lunch. A good thing, right?"


"Sure is!" we chorused. Stoney raised his head and listened, then said, "There's his truck. Come on, we'll meet him in the yard."


Wideload and I were both reluctant to leave the pasture, but we both knew we had to go. At the fence, Stoney went back to Anthro and opened the gate, then closed it after we were through. Jerry clattered into the yard, shut down and climbed out.


"Well, people, ready to go on to Dodge City?" he asked.


We both nodded. He and Stoney lowered the ramp, then replaced the hay bales and refilled the water tank. Jerry motioned, and we boarded, swapping sides. He and Stoney raised and secured the ramp, and Jerry climbed back in the cab. He started the engine, and Wideload and I both thanked Stoney for his courtesy.


"God bless you and keep you!" Wideload whinnied as we headed down the road. I prayed to Epona for a blessing for a man so kind to people like us, and I felt Her approval.


We banged down the dirt road, then onto a paved stretch. Shortly after, we came to the highway turnoff and slid down it, heading south into the future.


To be continued...

Preceded by:
At the Ranch Pt 1/9
At the Ranch Succeeded by:
At the Ranch Pt 3/9