It was a horse with its nose really close to the camera

“Oh Jesus!” he yelped, scrambling away. “What the hell is that thing?!”

Marigold was suddenly there – had she been there the whole time? “What’s going on?” she crowed. “Is it here?!”

But he was already halfway across the room, trying to find a new place to hide. The great beast, too, was flailing in the commotion – he could see it in his peripheral vision, rearing up on its hind legs.

“Oh my God,” she eventually said exasperatedly when she realized what was going on. “For the love of– CALM DOWN!”

Everyone stopped moving. The room grew silent.

She took this opportunity to move into the middle of the room, between the two of them. “Alicks, or, whatever your name was…”

“Acorn,” he offered.

“Whatever. Acorn, this is Upset Tummy. They’re my friend.”

The thing did not answer. It merely stared at him with its big horrid wet eyes, tail swishing behind it.

“What?!” His mind was still reeling from the size and shape of this creature. It was inconceivable to him that anything could be this large and still be alive. “It's terrible!”

She stared at him as if he had grown a second head. “They are a horse. Seriously, were you raised in a barn? Haha, don’t answer that. I was raised in a barn and I know more than you.” Then she turned to the… horse. “Upset Tummy, this is… ‘Acorn’. Do you guys hatch with these stupid names, or do your parents really hate you?”

“My parents hated me,” he meowed.

Upset Tummy, if that was even their real name, still did not say anything, and continued to look at him as if he were a beautiful shooting star or maybe an extremely squashable bug. He had no idea what this thing thought of him, and it was freaking him out.

At least Marigold was there to help. She put one wing up: “Acorn, go back to your hiding place. Upset Tummy, we have a wolf problem.”

They reared up again, and this time they made a noise that Acorn found to be most disagreeable, like some sort of terrible scream. It was enough to make him cry, and he scrambled back to his corner.

“Calm down,” she clucked again. “I’m handling it. It won’t be a problem if Acorn here just stays the hell out of our business.”

Upset Tummy was staring at him again, he could tell, not just by the footsteps up to his side but by the intensity of which they stared. Then they blew a gust of hot and humid air out of their nostrils and onto his head - and then they walked away.

“Great, you made them even more upset,” she clucked.

“How can you be friends with that thing?” he mewled, to which she didn't answer.

But deep inside, he was struck by a new, yet not unfamiliar feeling. Was it rejection? He just knew he felt terrible now, like he should have acted nicer, even though the horrible thing deeply disturbed him.