Surprisingly, he lived to wake up. His eyes fluttered open as his brain registered a pounding headache and the unignorable feel of something crushing him. He rallied his exhausted frame to push the creature off of him, wincing as pain shot across his chest. He groaned and lay still, concentrating on breathing for several moments. Noting the dryness of his throat, he pushed himself onto his side and reached for his pack where it had fallen, fumbling weakly for the canteen. After some time, he had it in his grasp and opened; he enjoyed half of it, then sat up and set the canteen aside.
Not…cool. Definitely not cool. I must have been out overnight, maybe two nights.
He manoeuvred his left hand around to peel the fabric of his clothes away from the claw wounds on his right side. He poured the rest of his water over the wounds and allowed it to wash away the dirt, fur, and dried blood. It stung anew and began to bleed, but Willy took that as a good sign.
Get up, he told himself. Get up and get moving. You smell of blood. You're going to attract all kinds of nasty critters that will want to eat you.
It didn't work. In spite of his mental efforts, his body did not move. He rolled his chin onto his collarbone and allowed himself a few tears of exasperation. Maybe… maybe if I just rest for a little while…
He drifted in and out of consciousness, with no awareness of the time that passed aside from the demands of his stomach. He managed to open his pack at one point and force down some of the food supplies he had left; the pain in his stomach ceded to the pain in his shoulder and head.
His mind registered something between pain and hopelessness. He was lying against something soft. He snuggled closer to it and buried his left hand in whatever it was, mumbling unintelligibly. Warm. Warm and soft. M…ma… mama? He whimpered pitifully and curled up against it. Am I dead? If death is warm and soft, boy did I have the wrong ideas about it! His eyebrows knit together. If I'm dead, why does my shoulder hurt? And why am I so thirsty?
Willy forced open his eyes to gaze directly into the face of the fluffiest pink sheep he had ever seen. He was resting against its side—it lie next to him and allowed itself to be used as a pillow, completely disregarding the blood. It returned his gaze and gently nuzzled his forehead.
"You're not my mother," he slurred, amused and vaguely disappointed.
It bleated softly at him in response.
Other pink sheep were collecting nearby; the carcass of the cat-like creature was gone, probably removed by scavenger birds. A herd of friendly-looking sheep was a definite improvement on the former company.
With a solemn frown and an experimental sniff, the sheep he was hugging licked his forehead.
With an even more solemn frown and an indignant sniff, Willy Wonka licked the sheep back. What he tasted shocked him. He licked it again. Cotton candy. Only better. Willy began to giggle to himself. I found it. This is what I was looking for.
The sheep bleated quietly and set its head down on its forelegs, dozing quietly. Willy took its example and slept more soundly than he had for many years.
When he awoke, the pounding in his head had subsided. The herd of sheep were all grazing nearby or still slumbering peacefully. He sat up and ran his hand over the fur of his makeshift pillow. The sheep looked over at him curiously and snorted.
Willy smiled a little gently removed the shed wool that stuck to his hand, rolling it up into a ball and munching on it gratefully. His sheep stood up and moved over to him, attempting to eat his hair in return. Willy laughed a little and swatted at it playfully. "Hey--! No, quit that!" As the sheep moved a ways off to nibble on some stunted shrubs, the man took his first aide kit from his pack and set about carefully bandaging his shoulder. That done, he scooped up a little of the snow that was nearby with his canteen, then held it against himself to melt it. He didn't get as much water from this action as he wanted, but it was certainly as much as he needed.
Beside them, the herd began moving away. Willy's sheep head-butted his good side and snorted at him.
Willy tried to push himself onto his feet, but a wave of dizziness overtook him; he sank back down, his left hand pressed against the wound on his chest. The sheep continued pushing him insistently. "I can't," he told it, trying nonetheless to stand.
The sheep, seeming to accept this, moved around in front of him and leaned sideways.
He crinkled his eyebrows, confused, and set his hand on the sheep's side. "What? No, don't sit on me!"
It bleated at him loudly, sounding annoyed. It sank onto its belly and sat there staring at him impatiently.
Experimentally, Willy flung one arm over the sheep's back. It stood up, taking him with it, most of the way up to his feet. The sheep stepped sideways, pushing the man against the wall. He supported himself on the stones, and straightened the rest of the way. With one hand on the back of the sheep's shoulders, he found himself able to maintain his footing and walk a little ways. The sheep seemed content to travel in this unsteady manner, halting when its adopted human needed to stop, and starting when he was again able to travel. In this way, the entire herd made it to the lower half of the mountain.
Willy spotted a familiar orange llama grazing near the foot of the mountain, and tugged on the sheep's fur, encouraging it to descend the rest of the way to the grasslands. The other sheep, as sheep will do, followed the leader.
As soon as he stepped off the mountain path, the orange llama meandered over to him and stared at him expectantly. Willy noticed that the llama still carried a pack of supplies and, stuck to the pack, a square of paper. With some difficulty, he retrieved the square of paper and unfolded it.
I left the day after you told me to leave. This llama has two days' supplies. I will make it to the shepherds' village and restock on my way home. Hopefully you are well if you read this.
"Well, that's just spectacular!" he said to no one. One handed-ly, he opened the pack and retrieved a bit of the trail rations and a spare canteen of water. "Mmm, almost as good as chocolate." He munched the stale trail bread and shared some with his sheep. The water he kept for himself, as none of his fluffy friends seemed interested. "Oh, that's right!" he exclaimed. "You're made of sugar wool, you'd just melt, wouldn't you?"
The sheep bleated at him with a tone that he could have sworn was "Of course, stupid."
He grinned and stood up, feeling better now that he was on his way home. "Who wants to come and live in a factory?" he asked, not really caring if the sheep responded. His adopted sheep stood obediently next to his llama, waiting. He took some rope from the llama's pack and tied three of the sheep in the manner of a leash, then climbed atop his llama and took the reigns. The other sheep, as sheep will do, followed the leader.
An orange llama, a half-dead chocolatier, and a small herd of very fluffy pink sheep travelled down the barely-paved road towards the airport. The guide caught up with them halfway down the street, expressing all kinds of happiness and a great deal of wonder regarding his attaining of the sheep and his return from the mountain.
"I have never seen sheep such as these, how did you find them? And how is it that they will all follow you, even those not tied? How did you survive the mountains?"
Willy slid off the llama and wobbled for a moment, still unsteady on his feet. "Could you send a message to John Davisson, care of Western Airlines?"
"Tell him that Willy Wonka needs a ride home, and that he'll need an airplane capable of carrying livestock in the form of eight sheep."
"Anything you need, sir," the guide agreed enthusiastically. "Anything else, sir?"
Willy leaned against the llama and noted his own smell. "I'll need a doctor and a bath," he decided. "I smell awful."
The guide grinned widely. "That you do, sir! Right away, sir! Follow me."
The guide took him to what appeared to be a temporary home made of wood and hides—indeed, it was the guide's own summer dwelling. The children that came running out of the tent-home followed the guide's orders to herd the sheep and the llama into the pen with the other livestock, then remained outside. One of them ran off in the direction of town to retrieve a doctor and send Wonka's message.
The guide's wife appeared from nowhere, guiding Willy to sit on a pile of fuzzy grey sheepskins and be still. He did her one better and collapsed, grateful (for once) to be back in the realm of civilization. He would have been happier at home in his factory, but for the options open to him, he was more than happy to be lying on a pile of smelly animal skins in the middle of Mongolia.
The 'doctor' awoke him, sat him up, and removed the old bandages. With a wince of disgust and a few words in Mongolian, he applied some unfamiliar sort of salve to the wound.
"The healer says the wound is infected," the guide translated. "He applied a medicine to it, and he wants to sew it up."
Willy winced at the idea of someone putting a needle and thread through his flesh. "Ugh, no."
"Mr. Wonka, this has to be done; if the wound continues to bleed—"
"It's already been bleeding for almost a week already," he informed the guide matter-of-factly. "And if a needle has to be put through my flesh, I'll do it myself, thank you."
"But Mr. Wonka—"
"Nuh-uh. Shut up. Give me that needle." He held out his hand to the healer and lifted his chin expectantly.
Uncertain, the healer dropped the needle and stitch onto the outstretched hand and watched in shock as Willy Wonka sewed up all three gashes in his chest.
Satisfied with the stitch work, Willy nodded to the healer.
The healer reluctantly wrapped bandages around the wounds.
"Thanks doc," Willy told him.
The guide and the healer exchanged words, then a few coins; the healer left with several backward glances.
"Did you send your boy to town with my telephone message?" Willy asked the guide cheerfully.
"Yes sir," the guide replied.
"That's two out of three," he rejoiced. "That's pretty good. How about that bath?"
The guide spoke to his wife for a moment, then the woman dashed out of the hut to fill a metal tub in the yard behind. "Mr. Wonka, I am amazed that you survived those mountains, especially alone. Your name will be contained in stories in this village for a very long time."
Willy smirked. "Wonderful!"
"Sir, I will prepare something better than trail rations. They will be done by the time you are finished with your bath."
His smile widened, but he made no reply.
The guide exited the tent-house and started a cooking fire. Willy laid back against the skins and dozed quietly. After awhile, the guide's wife shook him awake gently.
Willy cried out in fright and moved away quickly, throwing his hands between himself and his perceived assailant. The woman backed away, just as startled, crying apologies in a language he didn't understand.
It took a moment to calm himself and the woman down, but she eventually led him to the back of the yard, where a small fire burned next to a metal tub filled with water. She gave him a woven wool towel-blanket-thing and a handful of chunks of soap, then bowed and left him to his privacy.
Twenty minutes and a good bit of effort later, Willy managed to scrub himself clean without getting water on his bandages. He spread the wool towel-blanket on the ground and sat next to the small fire to dry off, using the opportunity to wash out his clothes as well. As soon as he was dry and garbed, he wrapped the wool towel-blanket around his shoulders and returned to the tent. The guide presented him with a wooden plate covered in rice and topped with what he assumed was roasted sheep of some sort. He finished it eagerly and thanked his hosts profusely. They let him sleep in the corner on a pile of skins until the plane arrived; when it had, they cheerfully saw him (and his small heard of insanely fluffy pink sheep) to the tiny airport.
It was altogether more attention than he was used to. He thanked them and even shook hands with them, then escaped to the aircraft and collapsed on the first passenger seat he sighted.
"Glad to see you okay," Mr. Davisson greeted him, sounding genuinely relieved. "Looks like you maybe should have taken the time in the hotel, eh?"
Willy grinned at him tolerantly. "I wouldn't have done that for the world. I mean, how often is it that you find a heard of pink sheep?"
Davisson laughed. "Not very often at all, sir. Let's get you home."
"Sweeter words, I've never heard," he confirmed, drifting off to sleep with a huge yawn. Mph. Lumpy. Not soft.
He awoke as the plane set down at the factory. Oompa-Loompas swarmed over the runway, gathering the herd of pink sheep and moving them to a controlled area off to the side as Willy disembarked and waved goodbye to the pilot. He dragged himself across the pavement to the factory building, the Oompa-Loompa foreman walking along next to him at an easy pace.
"Have a pen built for those sheep. Feed them sugar grass and sweet bread, but don't expose them to water. As soon as the pens are built, sheer the sheep and save the wool. Bring one sheep's worth to my quarters, and stack the rest in the invention room. I'm going to my quarters to clean up and think."
The Oompa-Loompa expressed an affirmative and dashed off to put the orders into effect.
"Hey, wait," Willy requested. "I met a family in Mongolia who were just awesome to me. See if you can't get in touch with…"
Two days later, another plane landed in a remote corner of Mongolia—making it the busiest year of air-traffic the tiny airstrip had ever seen. Delivery men appeared at the summer dwelling of Willy Wonka's guide, and delivered a letter.
Dear Kind Souls;
Herein included is a wire transfer order for two hundred thousand tugriks, payable by the company stand at the airport. These boxes constitute a standard shipment of Wonka Bars, at least enough to last you and your family two years. Thank you so much for your help. Please don't require your children to floss.
The guide read the letter a second time, then wrinkled his eyebrows in mild confusion and gratefulness.
On the other side of the world, Willy Wonka was spinning sheep wool into cotton candy. Every bit of fluff was collected and spun— except for the set that he secretly had woven into the softest, warmest, fluffiest, and most embarrassingly pink blanket in the world. When the nightmares or voices tried again to assault his mind, Willy would wrap himself in the fluffy sheep's wool and his sleep would be sound and unbothered.
But, to himself, he swore on his factory that he'd never reveal to anyone that he had a security blanket.