My dam—that’s my mother—died when she was having me. I’ve heard some ponies say things like, “That’s not your fault,” which I always thought was silly. Of course it’s not my fault. For something to be my fault, I had to have a choice that, if I made it, would have stopped it from happening. But I never chose to be born.
Medicine is better now than it was then. Today, at least in Ponyville or Cloudsdale, there would be a doctor standing there ready to staunch any bleeding by magic, or just by holding a wound closed with his teeth if need be. But we lived on the road between the two towns, where almost nopony else was.
My sire—my father—would have had a hard time taking care of me on his own. He was an able worker, but never planned to have to raise a foal on his own. But he was never cross with me, and I loved him—still love him to this day—very much. And I had my Celestia-father.
I don’t think that Equestrian naming works the same way that it does here on Earth. You keep the same last name as your parents, but we don’t. Well, some families, like the Cakes or the Pies. But those are cool names that they’d want to keep. What usually happens is that when two ponies have a foal, if they have some good friend who agrees to be a mentor to the little one, they give them their last name. That pony is called the Celestia-parent. Sometimes the parents are new in town, or don’t have anyone, and then the pony only has one name. So, for example, when Magnum and his wife had Rarity, they didn’t have anyone to be her Celestia-parent, so she’s just Rarity, but then they found a nice friend named Winter Belle who stood next to them at Sweetie’s naming ceremony.
I don’t know how my father met Doctor Hooves. He never told me. It seemed ridiculous to me that he could have ever not known my father. Certainly long enough to give me my last name. Doctor Hooves wasn’t the kind of pony who ever changed from “not knowing” to “knowing.” He always knew, and you always knew him. Whenever he would come to our house, it was always the same. He would bring me cookies and usually some exotic toy, and then he and my father would go down in our basement, which he called “the hole.”
That was his private area. He had his books and a very plush chair, and it was dark and cozy. He never complained if I went down there. He would usually put his book down and say, “Come on, Derpy, come sit with daddy.” And I would just sit in the chair and bounce on his knee, or he’d hug me. But when Doctor Hooves was there, he’d still let me stay, but I had to play on the ground while they talked.
I could never follow the conversations they had. Looking back now, I think that my father and the Doctor must have had some fancy adventures when they were young, and maybe the Doctor still did. One time, when I was very young, I got annoyed that they wouldn’t tell me about their pasts, but I didn’t confront them. I simply trotted right up in the middle of their conversation and said, “Daddy, I want to sit with you!”
I remember that day because while Doctor Hooves didn’t seem too happy, my father took me on his knee anyway. I tried to pay attention, but I couldn’t understand much, and eventually I fell asleep.
When I woke up, I felt I was alone, so I called out, “Daddy!” He came running in. “Daddy, I fell asleep in the hole! Why didn’t you take me to bed?”
“Derpy,” he said, “You are in bed.”
“No, I’m not. My room has a window but the hole is dark like this.”
I heard fear creep into his voice. “Derpy, it’s not dark. Are you playing a game?”
“What game, Daddy? Turn on the light, please. I don’t like the dark.”
“Derpy, tell me the truth now. Are you really saying that you can’t see anything?”
“No, Daddy. Not a thing.”
I heard him stand up and call out, panicked, “Doctor!”
Doctor Hooves was having breakfast, but he came running. My father had given the kind of scream that makes ponies leave their breakfasts behind. The Doctor wasn’t really equipped to make a full diagnosis, and I got the feeling that he wasn’t actually that kind of doctor anyway. Nopony wanted to say the word “blind,” but eventually that’s what they said I was.
I could hear that my father had his hooves over his face, because his voice was muffled. “Why? First Dancy”—that was my mother—“and now this? What did I do wrong?” I didn’t know whether his question was to Doctor Hooves or to nopony in particular.
I felt him come over and embrace me. “Listen, Derpy. I know you just woke up, but I need you to stay in bed for a while longer. You can’t see, and you might hurt yourself if you walk around and fall or bump into something. I’m going to come by in a few minutes and then I’ll walk with you and keep you safe, but right now I need to talk to Doctor Hooves alone. Promise me you’ll wait?”
“OK, Daddy. I promise.”
They went off and I was alone. I felt odd. I wasn’t scared or depressed. It was more like the feeling that I had let my father down somehow. As I said, I always thought it was silly when somepony would suggest, even by negation, that I was responsible for my mother’s death. But now I felt responsible.
When he came back in, he was finishing a line of conversation. Maybe he didn’t intend me to hear. I know they say that ponies who can’t see can usually hear better. But what he said made me worry.
“Are you sure I can’t go with her?”
“He will be more likely to help if you’re not there. He’s the type. Plead with him, thank him, and he’ll turn you away. But spurn him and he might help.”
Now he came and addressed me again. “Derpy. Come on, you can get up now. You just have to follow my voice.”
I got up and walked to him. My room was mostly empty, so I didn’t trip on anything. I stood next to him and he put a wing over my back.
“Derpy, we don’t know what happened to you, why you went blind. We don’t know if we can fix it. But Doctor Hooves says that there’s a pony out there, a unicorn, who’s been known to pull off some miracles in the past. He wants you to go with him and see this pony. It might be the only chance for you to ever see again.”
I recalled what I had heard. “And you can’t come with me, Daddy?”
“I can’t. And I don’t know if I can write you either, but you’ll write me. If it works.”
My father packed my things and I left on Doctor Hooves’s cart, which was surprisingly roomy. I was still more worried about Daddy than myself, but going off alone with my Celestia-father was an exciting adventure. I just wished that I could see.
“Doctor?” I said.
“The pony you’re taking me to, what’s his name?”
“His name is Prat.”
I laughed. “That’s a funny name!”
“It probably is, and he’s not the type of pony who enjoys laughing, so it’s best if you don’t call him that. ‘Sir’ is probably the safest thing to use. But don’t speak at all unless he speaks to you.”
I couldn’t tell how far we were going or in what direction. The only thing I got the impression of is that we were ascending. A pegasus pony has to have an instinct for altitude, but I was still young. I had barely learned to fly yet, and it occurred to me that if the cure failed and I stayed blind, I might never get any more practice.
Eventually the cart stopped. “Now, remember. Don’t say anything. He doesn’t like me, and he’ll probably be gruff with me, but he owes me enough favors that I should be able to convince him to look at you.
I heard a knock on a door. The door opened, and then a voice said, “You!”
The voice made me jump a little. It was not a happy voice. It was a voice that would go better with an angry rant than, for example, telling a pony good night. It was metallic, it creaked, and it grated on your soul. I remember it because I couldn’t see who it belonged to.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve, coming around here after the way you left me last time.”
“I left you alive, which I didn’t have to do.”
“You also didn’t have to leave with yourself alive,” Prat said, “so I think we should call that even.”
“I’m not sure that’s entirely equitable, but we’ll put that aside.”
“Good. What’s with the blind pegasus?”
“She’s why I came. She’s the filly of a friend of mine, and I’m hoping you can cure her. She just woke up yesterday morning and couldn’t see.”
“But, Prat,” Doctor Hooves said.
“Probably psychological. Her father beat her regularly?”
“No!” I screamed, forgetting the injunction laid on me not to speak.
“Hmm. . . awfully defensive,” the horrid voice said. “You love your father?”
“Very much so,” I said.
There was a long silence. “All right, Doctor, you leave her with me and I’ll work on her.”
“I should stay to take care of her,” Doctor Hooves said. “You don’t want the burden of having to feed and wash her.”
“I said you leave her with me and I’ll work on her. Or take her away. But the key factor is you leaving.”
What happened next I can’t fully describe. I’m a pegasus and Doctor Hooves is an Earth pony. Neither one of us have any magic, and certainly no telepathy. Maybe it was just in the movement of his body and his voice that I picked up. But I knew he was thinking a message to me: be careful.
What he said was, “All right. I hope you can help. Derpy, you be good and do what you’re told.”
He trotted off, and I was left alone with the unicorn.
“Well?” he said. “Get in the house!”
“I’m sorry, sir. Where is the house?”
“Right in front of you, of course.”
I didn’t know if he was being deliberately mean or if he had managed to forget that I couldn’t see. I trotted forward gingerly. By sheer luck I managed to make it through the door, but I tripped over something as soon as I got in. I think it was an umbrella stand.
“Clumsy oaf!” he said. “Pick it up!”
I did my best to find the stand and set it upright with my mouth. I was wondering what my father and Doctor Hooves had gotten me into. The unicorn was completely unpredictable, and I was afraid that he would take it into his head to beat me for no reason or forget to feed me or anything.
For a long time I heard him fussing about and tinkering. I don’t know how unicorn magic works, especially when one combines it with herbalism like Zecora practices. All I know is that for a few hours I stood there, bored, afraid, and depressed, until out of nowhere he returned and said, “Drink!”
I stuck my neck out and felt a cup being shoved between my lips. I grabbed a hold of it and tipped it back. A nasty taste came into my mouth, sort of like grass that has gone bad. He ripped the cup away and left again.
For maybe twenty minutes I was alone again with my thoughts and fears. Then the darkness started to dissipate. It was like there was a black cloth over my eyes, and somepony was pulling a loosed thread until the whole thing unwove. I could see.
“Sir! Mr. Prat! You did it! It worked!”
He came trotting in, and for the first time I saw him. He was gorgeous.
From his voice I had anticipated him being wizened and twisted. Instead he had a charming look about him from his smooth mustache to his slicked-back mane. His eyes were like dreamy pools of black water that a pony could drown in.
But then he spoke, and that voice brought me back to reality. “Worked? You say that worked? Stupid filly, look at yourself in the mirror!”
I turned around a few times until I saw a mirror on the wall. I looked at myself, and of course you know what I saw. My eyes were permanently crossed. Of course, I knew my sight was different, but I was just happy to not be completely blind.
He stuck his hoof on the back of my neck and pushed my head forward. “Look! You can’t see like normal ponies, which means that I’m going to keep working on you. But since you’re at least functional now, make yourself useful and clean this place.”
That was the first order he gave me. I was so happy to be able to get around that I happily helped out. I wasn’t a good housekeeper, but I was eager and grateful and did my best. For the rest of the day he locked himself in a room, so I just kept scrubbing the same things over and over. He didn’t feed me or tell me where I could sleep, but you know that I can sleep anywhere, so when the sun went down I curled up in a corner.
The next thing I knew he was shaking me awake. “Get up, you lazy filly!” he said. “The sun has begun rising. You should have breakfast on the table by now!” I hadn’t realized that I was expected to do that. I went into the kitchen. I was even worse as a cook than I was as a cleaner, but I could make cereal. I called out, “It’s ready!” and tried to smile. I thought that if I could be pleasant, I might make him a little less grumpy.
He came in and ate quickly. All he said was, “There should have been coffee with this. Get it right next time.”
He got up and went back into the living room. As I started to clear off the dishes, I heard him say, “Well? Are you going to keep me waiting? Get in here!”
I went to see what he wanted. He gave me a series of eye tests, having me cover one eye and try to identify things, then cover the other and do the same. He grunted and scowled during all the tests.
“You’re a hard case,” he said when it was all done. He made it sound as if it were my fault. “Let’s try this. I’m sure it won’t work.” He cast a spell with his horn and I felt my eyes affected by the magic. When he finished, I looked at the mirror again. All that happened was that my eyes were crossed the other way.
“Hmph,” he said. He went to a drawer and pulled out a card. He drew two spots on it a few inches apart.
“Close your right eye,” he told me, and he held the card up to my left eye. “I’m going to pull this away. Keep looking forward. Tell me if you can see both spots on the card at all times.”
He did, and a few moments later, I said, “The far spot is gone!”
He gave another grunt. “Come here and look at the light,” he said. He picked up a lamp and removed the shade. The brightness in the dark room stunned me a little. Then he covered it up. “Can you still see light?”
“Yes, it’s fading now.”
“After-images. Blind spots. You’ve got a lot more that has to be fixed.”
I wanted desperately to ask if I could be returned to my father, but I was afraid of what he might say or do. I decided to try a smaller approach. “May I write my father and tell him of my progress?”
“Do it quickly! We’re leaving tomorrow for the South. The air down there is better for your eyes.”
He left again and I found pen and paper. I wasn’t good at writing, and I’m sure I had a lot of spelling mistakes, but I managed to convey that I had partial sight back. I told him that we had to go away but that I hoped to see him soon.
I asked Mr. Prat to mail the letter, and he grabbed it with his teeth. The next morning we were packed.
I don’t want to describe what happened over the next year. Every day he had me do all the chores while he worked on potential cures to restore my perfect eyesight. To this day I don’t know if he actually knew that he was giving me bogus advice and just wanted a servant filly, or if he was a mad genius who really thought he could fix every imperfection of the equine eye.
He controlled me through perfect balance of carrot and stick. Sometimes literally, since we ate a lot of carrots. His face helped him a lot as well. It was as if he had grown specifically to charm, to disarm, and then to harm. He made me do things. . . well, as I said, I don’t want to describe it.
I wrote many letters to my father, but I never got one in return. I so wished I could hear from him, but I never did. One time I got up the nerve to ask Mr. Prat if I couldn’t go home just to make sure he was all right. He flew into a rage, and then the stick became literal as well.
The end of the story is one of those pieces of good fortune that favors foolish fillies like me. He made me do his marketing as part of my chores, and I was out one day at this task, when who should I come across but Doctor Hooves. He ran up to me.
“Derpy!” he said. “We’ve been searching everywhere for you! Your father and I!”
“But I’ve written him to let him know where I was.”
“He hasn’t received a letter from you since you left.”
“What? But I’ve sent so many!”
The Doctor got a thoughtful look on his face. “Did you yourself send them?”
“Well, no. Mr. Prat did.”
“Mmhm. More likely he destroyed them.”
“Oh, no! He’s so helpful! He keeps working on my eyes,” I said, which shows just how much in his power I was, defending the unicorn after finding out that he’d been deceiving me.
“Working on your eyes? You’re not blind anymore, anypony can see that.”
“But there’s still so much wrong with my sight! I’m cross-eyed, and I see bubbles in front of me that aren’t really there.”
He put his hooves on my shoulders and looked right at me. “Derpy, listen to me. Everypony has those. They’re called floaters.”
Understand this: for the year that I was a prisoner, my door was never locked, my window was never barred. I was a prisoner in my own mind, and Prat kept me there the best way he could. He made me feel that I was abnormal.
All his eye tests and experiments added up to that one statement. I wasn’t normal, and the only way to become that way was to stay with Prat and do what he said. When Doctor Hooves told me that everypony had a problem that I did, I saw through his veil of lies. I made a choice that I would never again feel fear of not being normal. I would be weird all my life, and nopony could stop me. Whenever I felt that way, I would always remember that everypony saw bubbles in front of their eyes.
My flank burst into light and sealed that choice as my destiny.
My emotions overflowed. Tears for the lost year and for my father. Joy for the path I’d chosen. Gratitude to the Doctor for being the one to help me. And anger at that unicorn. Right in the middle of the market, I hugged Doctor Hooves and cried. Everypony was staring, but I didn’t care.
I told him all about what had happened, and he got angry. He said that he was going to confront Prat. I started to go with him.
“No, Derpy. A pony like that might still be able to control you, even if you realize what he’s done. You may have mental scars that will last your whole life, and you shouldn’t see him for a long time.”
“Then I’ll start home! I want to go see Daddy.” I took off and hovered next to Doctor Hooves.
“Can you really fly all the way back home? You’re only a young pegasus, you know. You had better wait here, and I’ll take you back with me.”
“Doctor, I’m not going to wait a second to start back. My father misses me. Can I make it? Flying is what free pegasus ponies do. And that’s what I am now.”
Well, of course I couldn’t make it all on my own, but I tried, and that was important. After a few hours flying north, my wings got tired and I took a rest. Doctor Hooves came by with his cart and we went home.
I can’t describe what my father felt when I knocked on our door. The year without me had damaged his health. He was frail and weak, and I had to catch him as he fainted.
“I must be dead,” he said. “I finally died and I can see my Derpy again now. Derpy, I’m sorry you died. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you.”
“Daddy, no. We’re not dead. I’m back, Daddy. I’m back and I’m going to stay with you now.”
I held his head in my hooves as he sobbed.
“Anyway, that’s my cutie mark story,” said Derpy to Karyn. “And now you know everything. I suppose there could be a lesson there about not having to pay back a debt forever just because somepony does something good for you, or maybe about following your own path, but it might just be a sad story. So long, Karyn. Again, I’m sorry for what happened with Mike. I’ll be going now.”
Karyn looked at Derpy with tears in her eyes. She found a tissue and blew her nose. She took a deep breath.
“I’ll see you next Sunday, OK?”
Derpy nodded and smiled, then she vanished.
And I'll see you next Wednesday! Here's what you'll read then:
Derpy trotted to the window and opened it. “Sometimes it goes that way, doesn’t it? You plan something, then it keeps getting pushed back, canceled, and rescheduled, and then you get ornery and you want to force it to happen.”
“I find that when you do, it’s never as fun as you anticipate,” said Karyn.
“Maybe not, but we’ll do our best today.
“Look at the grass!” she said. “You guys must really eat well.”
“Oh, that’s right, I forgot. I just looked at the lawns and got awfully hungry.”
“You probably don’t want to eat that grass,” said Karyn. “They put a lot of chemicals and weird stuff on it."
Derpy, think of a good excuse I can use!”
“Don’t panic, Karyn. I think I can buy us some time.” The front door opened.
“No, don’t try anything! Just get away!”
See you next week!