This short story was March 2016’s Short Story of the Month! If you enjoy it, and would like to support more, please consider throwing me a buck here.
Today, though, there were more things than usual to do. On the dresser was a pile of garbage, wrappers and bottles. It was strange for 306, especially focused in one spot. But it didn’t really matter. I rolled my cart into the room and started moving the trash into it.
I glanced up at the mirror, and nearly knocked the cart over as I stumbled backwards.
I was in the mirror. But not the me I’d seen this morning. The old me was in the mirror.
I didn’t understand how I knew that. The sight made my head hurt.
I lowered my ears and rubbed my head a little, trying to calm myself.
I heard the door to the bathroom open behind me.
“Hey,” a student said. “Sorry I was hiding.”
“Baa,” I said. He could do whatever he wanted. It was his room.
I looked back up at the mirror. It was back to normal. I ran my hand over my muzzle to make sure.
“I take it you saw it? Did it work?” He approached behind me, and I turned to look at him. “I don’t know if I went about this very well… I didn’t want to order you to look and then I realized as I was hiding I was tricking you and… well, I did it all very badly. I’m sorry.”
This was the most words he had said to me since he moved into the room. I looked to him, unsure what to do.
“Anyway, did that help any? I’ve been worried about you,” he said, sitting down on the bed and looking to me.
“Baa?” I said.
“Right… well, I just, you know… you wear that scarf, you’re easy to pick out from the rest. Even the enchantment to make you all feel interchangeable can’t hide the fact that you’re wearing something every day… um, that is you, right?”
“Of course it is, why would you pass that scarf around…” he said, fidgeting. “Maybe I should figure out a way to track you to be sure…”
This whole situation was confusing. A student shouldn’t be having a conversation with me, at least one that didn’t involve giving me an order. And there were things in my head now, and it hurt to think about them.
“Anyway, I just wanted to help you remember. I started asking about the sheep with the scarf and people didn’t really want to help but I’m pretty sure you’ve been here at least three years… again, if the scarf isn’t being passed around.”
“That’s just a guess…” he said. I was unsure what to do, so I was taking him in. He was very thin, to the point of seeming undernourished. He must be dodging the cafeteria. Perhaps someone should be assigned to bring him food. He had long, light brown hair in a ponytail. His expression was soft and concerned.
“Baa,” I said. I glanced back at the rest of the trash.
“Oh… you want to get back to work…?” He thought about this. “Maybe it didn’t work… did you not see your old self?”
I thought back to the image, and my head throbbed.
“Mm, maybe a yes…? But okay, let’s be more practical. When was the last time you went to class?”
“Baa?” I said, confused. But I could see through the haze. It… had been a long time. But I had been going to classes at some point.
“You should go again, if you can,” he told me, smiling softly. “If you need anything you can ask me, okay?”
The student fidgeted a little more. “I’ll stop bothering you. I know you have to clean, even if you don’t want to, so, I’ll let you finish. But I hope we can keep talking soon, such as it is. I will keep working on things.”
“Baa…” I said, still not completely getting it. But he let me get back to work, and I finished cleaning his room.
Hours later, in the Grazing Area, I ate dinner. I had stopped by my bunk, and opened a trunk that I realized was mine as soon as I saw it. I hadn’t thought about it in a long time. There were notebooks that were mine. I was looking through them. The pain from doing so was just a dull ache at this point, so I pushed through.
The one who was on the top bunk of mine sat down next to me.
“What do you have?” she said.
“My notebook… notes for a class, I think,” I said.
“A class? That’s what the students do…”
“I remember going to them at one point… it was a long time ago,” I said. “I took notes… I circled things as important.”
“That doesn’t seem right,” she said.
“I know,” I said. “I am trying to figure it out.”
“Alright.” She started to eat.
“Did the student in 514 do anything today?” I asked.
“She is keeping her distance since she hit me,” she said.
She turned to look at me. “How would being in class help you with your duties?” She was clearly still trying to understand.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I feel like… I… it’s hard to explain.”
She turned back to her food. “You are talking like one of the new ones who try to get out of their duties. Ones that don’t last long. Disappear in disgrace.”
“It is embarrassing,” I agreed. “I will not let it affect my work. But I feel like it’s important.”
“Well, I wish you luck with it.”
A week later, I still had no answer why I felt that way. My normal quick and relaxing sleep from a job well done and duties completed wasn’t coming anymore. Life was not supposed to be this complicated. I tossed and turned, worrying, trying to figure out what was happening and why I was remembering such strange things. I had found a book in the trunk, a textbook. I was reading it during slow times, while moving between places and duties, hoping it had answers. In 306, there was little to do, so I sat down for a moment to read, and rest.
The door opened, and I scrambled to hide the book back on my cleaning cart. I didn’t make it.
The student smiled at me as he came in. “Oh, good, you are here… I was hoping…” He went over to his desk, setting some books and papers down on it. “I had a real hard test so it took me longer than I thought but we should be able to try it today…” He turned to me putting the book away. “What is that?”
“Baa…” I said, embarrassed.
He moved closer to look. “A transmutation textbook? Ha!” He looked at me with an excited expression. “So it did work! You remembered?”
“Baa…” I said, averting my eyes.
“That’s perfect. This is going to be even better then,” he said, and started mixing something on his desk. “Now, the rules say I’m not allowed to help you, but this isn’t technically helping? Probably. This should just let a name stick to you, and help you remember names. If I’m doing it right. That’s not really a help, right?”
I watched him, unsure what he was getting on about.
“Okay…” He turned back around to me, holding a little bowl of some sort of powder. “You don’t mind if I do this, right?”
“Baa?” I said. I didn’t understand why it would matter. He was a student. He could do what he wanted.
“Okay, just a second…” He coated his finger in powder and started drawing something on my forehead. “I’ll try not to get it in your fleece or on your nice scarf, so just hold still…”
I tried not to fidget as he worked.
“Okay…” He said some words in a language I did not understand. I shivered, suddenly feeling cold for a moment. Then he stepped back from me. “Let’s try it. My name’s Emmanuel. But most people call me Emma. You can too.”
“Well, okay, yes, I know you can’t really speak, but you can think of me like that, if you want. I think. If that worked right.”
My head throbbed as I thought about it. Of course he could have a name. But it never really occurred to me. He was a student, and he was in this room all the time, but I never really considered him as anything but part of a mass of students I walked past every day. But now he was Emma. I rubbed my head.
“You okay…?” Emma asked. “Maybe that’s a lot to understand? I wish I remembered more from my time so I knew what to compensate for… I’m sorry. Oh right, hey, you can sit down until you feel better.”
“Baa…” I said softly, thankful, sitting down on the ground now that I was allowed to and closing my eyes.
“Oh, you could have… well, that’s fine… just rest for a bit…” He left me to rest while he went back to his desk and looked over papers while I sat there.
Finally, I felt in control again, and stood. Emma turned and smiled. “Feeling better?”
“Good. Hey, so, I should name you. I’m sure you have a name, but you can’t tell me it like this. I’m not very good at this kind of thing, though.”
“So I will just be honest and say that I have been thinking of you by the name Fluffy for a while. You keep your fleece in very good condition and the scarf around your neck makes the rest kind of poof out and I… well, you know… I hope that’s not embarrassing, if I call you that.”
It stared at him, unsure how I was supposed to feel about that.
“So, let’s make sure it worked. You’re Fluffy, okay?”
“I order you to point to Fluffy.”
I blinked, and pointed to myself. And then wondered how I knew that.
“Perfect! I’m Emma, you’re Fluffy. Progress.”
“I’ll let you get back to work… I don’t want you to get in trouble. I’ve taken a lot of your time. But hey, Fluffy, please consider attending classes again, okay? If nothing else, it would help you understand your textbook, right?”
I looked to the textbook, and then back to Emma. “Baa…”
He nodded and smiled. “Think about it. And if you need help, let me know.”
“You have that book again,” said the one who was on the top bunk of mine as she sat down to eat.
“I am still trying to understand it, but my duties do not give me a lot of time to read,” I said.
“It does not seem like a good use of time,” she said.
I looked to her. With a dull throb of my head, it occurred to me she must have a name. I had been talking to her for longer than I could clearly remember, every day, but I did not know her name. “What is your name?” I asked.
She looked at me with a confused expression. “I don’t understand.”
“I think everyone normally has a name… that is what I was shown today…”
She shook her head. “You keep having stranger and stranger thoughts.”
“I was told my name was Fluffy.”
She sighed and turned back to her food. “You are speaking gibberish.”
“Maybe…” I said, and turned back to my food to eat.
“I enjoy talking with you but I am getting worried about your brain,” she said, turning back to her food as well. “Where are you getting these ideas?”
“A student keeps talking to me.”
“The student is ordering you to think these things?”
“No, he just… keeps talking to me.”
“What would a student possibly have to say to you that isn’t an order?”
“Emma apologies a lot. And talks about remembering… and classes…”
“The student who is talking to me. That’s what he talks about.”
“What were you saying before?”
“Emma. That’s what he said his name was.”
She closed her eyes for a moment. “You speaking of names makes my head hurt.”
We ate the rest of our food in silence.
I woke up too early, bleating softly, scared. There was a dream, but it was fading from me. I tried to grab a hold of it in my head.
“…on average six months…” I recalled.
But it was gone.
It was early. I normally didn’t get up yet. Many of the new ones were up and collecting things, preparing to leave. I knew they normally did this, for reasons beyond me. But when I saw one of them pull a book like the book I had been reading out of their trunk, I got out of bed.
“Where are you going?” I asked one of them still collecting things.
“To class,” she said.
She looked at me for a moment, and then searched for words. “Something is wrong and I can’t explain it. I don’t know what is wrong. But I am learning things that will help find the solution.”
“Solution to what?”
“It’s hard to wrap my head around, what the problem is,” she said. “But I know I do not want to be here forever. I need to solve the problem to leave. And class will help me.”
“But this is where you belong. Why wouldn’t you be here?”
She looked at me, and rubbed her head. “I know it makes no sense, but it’s important.” She closed her trunk. “I should get going to class.”
“If… if I wanted to go to class, where would I go?” I asked.
“You show your book to the student who is always at the door, and they will order you to the right place,” she said, and then headed out.
I went back to my bunk, but hesitated climbing back in. Emma ordered me to consider going to class. I was already awake. It seemed doable.
I quickly ran a brush over myself, put on my scarf, and took the book I had been reading from my trunk. I headed to the exit.
“Hello,” the student at the exit said. “You aren’t supposed to leave.”
“Baa…” I said, and held up the textbook.
The student smiled. “Oh? You’re going to be late at this point, though. Basic Transmutation is in Classroom 8. Go there.”
I hurried down the hallways until I reached Classroom 8. A student was talking inside, and a bunch of students, and sheep, were sitting, listening. I watched for a moment, then opened the door.
The student in the front stopped, and turned to look at me.
“Baa…” I said, showing the book.
“If you’re going to come to my class, do not be late,” the student said. “But I’m happy to have you. Please have a seat so I can continue.”
I found an open desk and sat down, embarrassed. For the next hour, I listened to the student talk about drawing symbols on a cup to change the contents. He turned a glass of water into hot coffee at one point, drawing on it with a grease pencil. I was ordered to be prepared to do the same in class the next day.
Soon everyone filed out. It was time to eat, usually. I followed the other sheep back to the Grazing Area and got some food. I sat with the book open in front of me, staring at the diagrams the student had referred to. It didn’t seem very difficult, if I had something to draw with. Though there was also words to say and I did not know how I was supposed to do that in front of the student without talking in front of him, which I was not allowed to do. It seemed impossible. I tried to figure it out for the rest of my meal, but couldn’t.
Emma was in 306, writing something, when I got there with my cart.
“Hello, Fluffy,” he said, turning to smile at me. “I asked the Shepherd on duty about you and she said you went to class today… I’m glad.”
“Baa,” I said in confirmation.
“I hope I’m being helpful…” he said, smiling apologetically.
I remembered he had ordered me to ask for help if I needed it. I could not complete the order the student from class had given me at the moment. Was that needed help? I hesitated.
“Is there something wrong?” He looked me over, trying to read me.
“Baa…” I said, and got my textbook. I opened it to the page with the diagram the class had been about, and showed it to him. “Baa.”
“You need to do this?”
“Well, this is really simple… and savior of a lot of late-night paper-writing sessions,” he said, chuckling. “I’m sure you can do it.”
“Baa…” I said, and pointed to the words I was supposed to say.
Emma looked at them, thinking, and then it dawned on him. “Oh! You don’t think you can say these things.”
Emma frowned. “It does seem a problem… what did I do back then…” He sighed. “I can’t remember. And I can’t just help you talk because that would get me in trouble… but there has to be a way for this…”
I watched him, unsure what to do.
He shrugged. “Let’s just try it. Can’t hurt, right?” He grabbed an empty paper cup and went to the bathroom to fill it. He set it on the desk, and then handed me a marker. “Now, obviously, the cup is dirty, so let’s not drink from it, but you can practice. Go on.”
I looked to him, and then to the cup, then to the marker. I glanced at my textbook, took the cap off the marker, and wrote down the symbols.
“That looks right,” Emma said. “Now just do the chant, you know?”
I touched the symbols, and tried to say the words from the textbook. But I was in front of Emma, so as per usual, all that came out was “Baa.”
The cup was suddenly very warm. I jerked my hand away.
“Ha! Look, you did it! Even with the noises you normally make… I hadn’t know if it was a command component forcing you just to baa at me or if the spell was changing the sound waves before it hit anyone’s ears, but I suppose we have our answer now.”
I didn’t really understand. “Baa…”
“And you did it, see? This smells and feels like hot coffee anyway.” He wrapped the cup in some scrap paper, so he wouldn’t burn himself, and held it down so I could see easier. It did seem to be coffee. “Gotta be close, if not there.”
“Baa…” I had done that?
“You’re well on your way,” he said, setting the cup back down. “Did that help…?”
“If you need any more help, tell me, okay?”
Emma smiled, but then his smile was broken as a thought crossed his mind. “Wait… maybe you wanted to do this yourself but you had to ask me because I ordered you to… I told you to ask me for help… that’s…” He sighed. “I’m sorry. I need to remember these things. It’s so easy to forget this stuff. You all are designed to help us forget this stuff, you know?”
“Look, okay, this is an order, a very serious order, okay? You are not required to follow any orders I give if you don’t want to. No, wait, how can I word this… I order you to ignore my orders if you would prefer not to do them?”
“Baa?” I was really confused. Why would I not want to follow an order? It’s what I was for.
Emma sighed again. “We’ll try that… and I’ll think about if I can word it better…”
“But hey, if I can help, I want to, alright? Like, even if you just want to use my dorm room to practice, away from everyone else. Okay?”
He smiled at me. I looked into the expression, trying to read it.
“Anyway, I am going to get back to work,” he said. “I have a lot of homework. But if you want to practice again, I’ll find you another cup, okay?”
Unsure what else to do, I got back to cleaning, and he turned back to his work.
My early mornings suddenly shifted into classes. I learned the names of the students who were lecturing when other students used them. They also called them Professor a lot. These Professors kept showing me how to change things into other things, and I, and everyone else, would demonstrate at the start of each class.
In the afternoons, I would take a break in room 306, and Emma would re-explain whatever I showed him in the textbook. I found, very quickly, that I didn’t need him to. The notebooks that were mine had notes on almost everything I was doing, and they explained it all very clearly. When they didn’t, I found myself adding to them during class. But Emma always seemed excited when I showed him my textbook, so I kept doing it, and he kept explaining things. I would have to rush to get all my duties done after that because he would talk so long, and I would always be exhausted when I got back to my bunk, but it felt worth it, somehow. I was making progress on something, though I did not really understand what. But surely, eventually, I would figure out the mystery and could sleep again.
One afternoon, though, I came to 306 and Emma was not there. He had started making sure to be there over the past few weeks, so this was odd. I sat down on the floor and got my textbook out anyway. I could look ahead during my break.
The door opened, and I stood. Emma slammed it behind him. He was angry. But then he saw me, and swallowed that emotion. “Hi, Fluffy… I’m sorry, I got a bit distracted…”
He sighed, and headed to his bed, sitting down on it. “Do you have a question today?”
He shook his head. “I’m just frustrated. It’s all so…” He looked down at me. “When people do these things, it just seems so… wrong to begin with. You all listen to orders, but you can’t consent, right? Asking you to do my laundry or something is one thing, but asking for that is just… And sure, you won’t remember any of it, but it’s still just… I don’t understand how he can be okay with doing that.”
I wasn’t following at all. I was doing better at that recently, since Emma talked to me so much, but this, I did not get. “Baa?”
“I just… like, what if someone did that to me and I can’t remember it, right?” Emma asked.
He put his head in his hands. “More importantly, what if someone asked that of you? That would be…”
He looked to me. “I don’t really want that to happen to you, Fluffy. I hope it didn’t before I really took notice…”
I just looked to him, unsure what to do.
“I also don’t know how to protect you from that besides monopolizing your time, but I bet that would get you in trouble, and who knows if you’d even want me to.”
He let himself flop back onto the bed, looking at the ceiling. “I worry a lot about you,” he said. “And then I worry that I’m projecting a lot of things onto you and your little noises. And then I worry that I don’t care if I am or not. And then I look to the future and it doesn’t look all the different from what he’s doing to that other sheep.”
“I’m probably a bad person.”
I didn’t really think Emma was a bad person. I tried to figure out how I could get that across to him.
“Maybe that’s the secret anyway. Maybe only bad people can pass the test. Like, you have to be that selfish or something to be able to push through it all and figure it out. And all the good applicants are just stuck.”
I climbed up onto the bed to look down at him. “Baa.”
He blushed. “I’m rambling, aren’t I?”
“I’m sorry… I just… I don’t know…”
We looked at each other for a while.
“You’re… really cute…”
He was looking at me like he wanted something. I tried to figure out what.
“…can I touch you, Fluffy?”
“Just touch. Nothing gross.”
“Just move away if you don’t want to and I’ll take the hint,” he said, reaching out. His hand touched my face. I didn’t move. He made a little noise, and sat up, moving to run his hand through my fleece. It was an odd feeling.
“This is probably really demeaning. I’m sorry… you’re very soft, though…”
He ran his hands over me for a long while. I closed my eyes. It was fairly pleasant, once I got used to it.
Finally, he moved away. “We… should probably both get some work done…”
“Baa…” I opened my eyes and looked at him.
“Thank you for that, though… I’d been thinking about it for… since I first saw you.”
“It’s… don’t worry about it…” he said. “I need to focus on helping you before I do something I’ll really regret.”
He stood up, and went to his desk. His cheeks were red. He didn’t talk to me any more, so I eventually got back to work.
“…if it’s really what you want… at least wear this, so I know you’re safe…”
I woke up, shivering. A student had said that to me, I felt sure. But when? I couldn’t place it.
I got up, went to where I had hung my scarf, and took it, hugging it to me. I did feel safer, somehow.
My head was pounding. It was the weekend, and there was no class to go to. It was much too early to be awake. I needed to catch up on sleep. I laid back down. The words kept running through my head. “…if it’s really what you want…” Did I want something? What would I have possibly wanted? I had everything I could ever imagine needing already.
I couldn’t sleep. My head hurt. I thought back to a week ago, when Emma had ran his hands over me. It was relaxing. Perhaps that would help. And I was supposed to ask him for help.
I got up, put the scarf on, and headed out.
The student at the door, who I had learned was called a Shepherd, was reading a book. They looked up, surprised. “Hi,” they said. “I’m not sure you’re supposed to be awake right now.”
“Baa,” I said.
“If you don’t have an order you are following, go back to bed.”
They sighed. “Someone must have given you a real awful order to get you up in the middle of the night. Well, if you have to, be my guest.” They opened the door.
I looked at them, trying to figure out how they felt about this, but it didn’t stop me from leaving.
I tried the knob when I reached 306. It was locked. Normally I had the keys on my cleaning cart, but I didn’t have that with me today. I stood there, wondering if this meant I should turn back. But he told me to come to ask for help. He had told me he wanted to help.
I knocked on the door.
A bit later, a very tired-looking Emma opened the door. He was just wearing boxers, and his hair was all over the place, instead of tied up like usual. He looked at me, confused for a moment, and then blushed brightly.
“Fluffy… who sent you here?”
“Did someone… I bet it was Clyde, he knew I was talking to you, I bet he…”
“Baa,” I said again.
“R-right, okay… come in…”
I walked in, and he closed the door behind me.
“Look, Fluffy, you don’t…”
I climbed onto the bed like last time, hoping he would understand what I wanted.
“Nonononono…” Emma said, moving to me. “No, Fluffy, you don’t have to do any of that…”
“I order you not to follow whatever orders brought you here…” he said.
I made to stand up. But then it occurred to me I didn’t have to. I was under orders to ignore his orders if I felt like it. And I really did want him to touch me again. I really hoped it would calm my head down.
“You’re… not going…”
“I ordered you to go.”
“Look, okay, you don’t want to be here right now. We’ll work on things together tomorrow, so… you know…”
I just sat there, looking at him.
He ran his hand through his hair, starting to pace. “I just… Fluffy, this is… okay, okay… I just… right, I just need to… we’ll just, you know, we’ll just push things forward, that’s all, I can fix this…”
“Okay, okay, it’s risky but this can work… it’s not technically helping…” he hurried over to his desk and pulled out a book from a stack, flipping through it. “I can work with a technicality… I have before… though this is much more… well, I can do it…”
I watched him, unsure what he was doing. I wasn’t sure what I could do.
“Okay! Okay.” He turned around. The book had three pieces of paper stuck in it. He dropped it on the bed. “Whoops! I seemed to have dropped my book on the bed. But now I have to go lock myself in the bathroom for a long, long time. It sure would be easy for you to read what I was working on, but oh well.”
“Really easy! Okay, bye!” He hurried into the bathroom. I heard the door lock.
I looked down at the book. It was called “A Guide to Modern Cursebreaking.” I remembered some of the students and new sheep carrying it. It was from a class much more advanced than I had been attending.
“Baa?” I called at the door to the bathroom.
“I’m going to be in here a long time, being locked in here, so I will never know if you read the marked sections, and I certainly didn’t help you find them!” Emma called.
I shook my head and opened the book. The first marked page had a diagram that was way, way more complicated than I had been working with. It was labelled. “Breaking Form Curses.” It didn’t seem particularly useful. The second marked page was labelled “Breaking Speech Curses.” It seemed simpler, but I also couldn’t imagine what it would be used for. I looked at the last marked page. “Breaking Memory Curses.” I stared at it. The description included a “how to know if you’re under a Memory Curse” section. It sounded a lot like things I was noticing. My head hurting when I tried to think of things from the past, for instance. Was I cursed?
“Baa?” I asked the door.
“Fluffy, come on, I can’t really say anything, okay? Just, you know, do whatever. Which could be reading it, and doing what it says, or not. I am offering no guidance to you to get you to try it. I didn’t even give you the book.”
I shook my head, and looked down at the diagrams given. It seemed doable. But it would take a while.
“Fluffy, come on.”
I looked back down at the diagram. Well, he had said he wanted to help me practice. Surely I could use his things.
I got into Emma’s desk chair and started working with what he had. He seemed to have all the ingredients for the ink. I mixed them in a little bowl I found. Then I took a paintbrush and tried to replicate the diagram on a blank piece of paper. It took me three tries, and I was nearly out of ink.
I pressed the paper against my forehead, touching the ink. I read the words in the book aloud.
And then I screamed as I fell to the floor.
“We have an… unorthodox entrance exam here, but we feel it’s one of the reasons why we are the top school for Transformation and Transmutation in the country. But I do want to make clear that once you sign this application, you are subjecting yourself to it. It takes most students on average six months to pass the exam, but your room and board will be covered during that time.”
“What does the test entail?”
“If you have the drive, perception, and inherent skill to succeed here, besides obviously involving our school specialties. And I will point out you won’t be able to remember much about it. For test security purposes, you understand.”
“Let me take you down to the flock, let you see the situation, and we’ll go from there.”
“What do you mean, you remember all of it?”
“I don’t have a break in memory that you said I was supposed to have…”
“Well, you did use some… unique methods of passing the test… perhaps this is a side effect… I’ll look into it. Are you… feeling okay?”
“I don’t know…”
“You don’t know…?”
“No, no, I do know… I’m fine, it’s fine.”
“Well… congratulations, then, on passing.”
“Okay, now it’s your turn to share a secret.”
“You’re incredibly hot.”
“That is absolutely not a secret. Come on now.”
“Like, a real secret?”
“Yeah. Something you haven’t told anyone.”
“…you’ll think I’m ridiculous.”
“Yep. That’s the whole point of the game.”
“…I want to be a sheep again.”
“Oh my goodness, what? Like from the test?”
“You want to do all the chores and be ordered around all day again?”
“Well, that can be arranged.”
“Sure. And I have a great idea for your first order.”
“What do you meMmph…!”
“Can I be honest with you?”
“I’m terrified about graduating.”
“No, I mean… once I walk out of here, I’m not… connected to all that any more.”
“…you mean the test. The flock.”
“I… really miss it…”
“Yeah… Can we roleplay that again?”
“Well, of course, but I just… I’m worried that you’re still on this. It’s been two years since the test.”
“It’s… hard to explain… but it was very… peaceful…?”
“Well… maybe… but things are going to be anything but peaceful tonight, little sheep… come here…”
“It’s not you. You’re wonderful. You’re going to do great things. I just can’t go, and I can’t think of another way not to go.”
“I know this has been on your mind since before we started dating, but this is just… why would you go back to that? From what you’ve explained… I mean, I get it for us fucking, it’s a fantasy, but I’ve never understood…”
“I know… I… I’ve been trying for years now to forget it and I doubt I’m going to be able to. Maybe I messed something up back then… broke my head somehow… but I’ve got to go back to it.”
“…I know you well enough to know I can’t change your mind… but if you’re really sure… if that’s really what you want… at least wear this, so I know you’re safe…”
“I… don’t think your scarf will make me safe…”
“You’ll stand out, right? I’ll be able to find you, at least. And maybe people will treat you a bit differently if you’re identifiable…”
“…and it’ll probably look good on you, too, so just… take it.”
“That’s an order. Take it and wear it every day.”
“…alright… I will… thank you.”
When I opened my eyes, I was on Emma’s bed. He was sitting next to me, watching, concerned.
“Are you okay? You just started screaming, and I…”
“Baa…” I said, rubbing my head.
“It looks like you tried to break a Memory Curse but the feedback shouldn’t have been that bad unless the situation was really ridiculous, like… I don’t even know…”
“Baa.” I knew what happened. It was obvious now, with everything crammed back in my head. The basic breaker I was using wasn’t designed to break my own curses. It created a lot of extra feedback because I wasn’t just dismissing it properly.
“I’m sorry that happened…”
“I… hope… I just…”
What could I do at this point?
I had to deal with this situation, and empty my head again. But I couldn’t just walk away, because Emma wouldn’t walk away, would he?
I sat up, and touched my throat, and said a few words, getting rid of the curse on my speech, easy to lift since I’d put it there. I turned to look at Emma. He was looking a little confused.
“Emma, listen,” I said.
Emma slammed his hand over his mouth as I spoke to stop himself from shouting. “Fluffy… wait, no, you can tell me your name now…”
“Fluffy is fine,” I said. “I gave up my other name a long time ago.”
“Listen, thank you for trying to help me.”
“I’ve enjoyed spending time with you and I especially enjoyed you petting me.”
Emma blushed. “That’s… good…”
“It was interesting to have someone care about me again.”
“It’s… not a problem…”
“I am going to start putting the test curses back onto myself now.”
“…what? Why? You’ve almost passed! You just have to figure out how to get your form back, and…”
“I passed the test a long time ago,” I said, getting out of bed. “How long has it been?” I thought about it, then shook my head. “On second thought, I probably don’t want to know.”
“You already passed…?” Emma said, watching me as I went back over to his desk.
“I’m going to use more of your supplies. I’m sorry. Order me to in a bit and I’ll replace everything, I’m sure.”
“But wait, what do you mean you already passed?” Emma said.
“I completed the test.”
“But you’re a sheep right now, you can’t have…”
I started mixing ingredients. “I put them all back on myself.”
Even after all this time, I didn’t know how to explain it.
“It’s all I could think about after I broke them,” I finally said.
Emma watched me prep things, drawing complicated diagrams onto page after page of his paper. He clearly wanted to say something, or stop me, but didn’t know how.
“You’re really good at this,” he finally said.
“I’m honestly surprised I remember it this well after this long,” I said. “But I guess having all your memories crammed back into your head makes things easier to access…”
“Are you sure you have to do everything? I mean, you’re a sheep now, right? You can still be a sheep without losing so much control…”
“I can’t, though. That’s what a sheep is.”
“I don’t know if that’s true…”
“I’ve tried it your way. I don’t fit in. It doesn’t feel right…”
I finished up my diagrams, and started laying the papers out on the floor. I had to cast them all at once or I wouldn’t remember how to cast the last one or two.
“So that’s it, then? You just… go back to what you were doing?” Emma asked as I did final checks. “Cleaning my room every day?”
“I hope so,” I said.
“…what do I do?”
“Whatever you want. Surely you have a goal you’re working towards.”
“I… I mean, yes, sort of.”
“There you go.”
“…what if that goal involves you?”
“I’ll do whatever you tell me to. That’s the idea,” I said, walking carefully onto the laid-out paper.
“What if I enchant you again to let you have a name? What if I teach you again? What if we end up back here?”
“Then I guess I’ll be a bit disappointed next time we talk like this.”
“What if…” Emma was extremely nervous, forcing words out. “What if, instead, I just ordered you to be my sheep, and you just stay with me? If you’re not part of the test, you don’t have to live down there. You could stay with me. You’ll be safe and we… um…”
I touched my scarf. A bit of me ached. “You could try.”
“All anyone can do is try… and when we find something that fits, hold onto it, as best we can.”
“I still want to understand this… and you,” Emma said. “Even if it’s just me being selfish, it’s something I want.”
I nodded, leaning down and touching all the diagrams. “If you figure it out, let me know.” I started chanting.
“Hello,” the student said as I entered 306. He was acting like I was important in some way. I did not follow.
“Hold still for a moment.”
I stopped, looking up at him.
He drew something on my forehead with a powder from a bowl. “This will just take a second.”
He chanted. I felt cold for a moment, and then he backed off.
“I’m sure you don’t remember, but my name is Emma. We know each other. Well, kind of…”
“Your name is Fluffy. And… I know you want to just be one of the flock down there, but I’ve been thinking about it, and you told me I could try, so… I’m going to try. And I want you to be you… a little bit. But I mean, still part of the flock, though… since that’s what you wanted, I think, but… well, you know.”
I stared at Emma, trying to understand.
“So I made a lot of plans… and…” Our eyes met. He blushed. “I… don’t know if you’re following. I guess it all doesn’t matter a lot right now. We’ll get back there. We’re kind of starting over.”
“I have some orders… first order, the only orders of mine you are required to follow I will end with ‘That’s an order.’ And that’s an order.”
“The rest you can just… they’re suggestions. Okay? And I won’t abuse it… I promise.”
“Okay… so…” He got down in front of me, and his hand touched my cheek. “I want to do this, but you can back off if you want. It’s your choice.”
Emma softly ran his hands over me. For a moment, I didn’t know what to do. But it felt so good as he ran fingers through my fleece.
I closed my eyes and relaxed. He kept going for a while. Until suddenly, he wrapped his arms around me, and pulled me against his body. I pressed against him, opening my eyes to look up at him.
“Will you come back here? After dinner?”
Thank you very much for reading my story! If you liked it, please share it with your friends and stuff. That would mean a lot to me. There’s plenty more stories and things coming, so I hope to entertain you again soon!