by Derpy Anon
In the dull light of the morning sun, a maroon earth pony walked down the wooden steps to her basement. “Colgate,” she yawned, holding a hoof to her mouth, “you’ve been down here all night. It’s morning now.”
She walked up to the blue unicorn and peered over her shoulder. “What on earth is that thing, anyways?”
Berry Punch watched Colgate, chewing on the handle of a screwdriver, silently sit at a wooden workbench and tinker with an oddly configured cap. The cap, also blue, had a flat circular top and a black visor sticking out of the front, looking like the military cap of a foreign country. Several wires led out the sides, and a pair of sunglasses was crudely taped to the bottom of the visor. A pin in the shape of an hourglass was fastened to the front of the cap.
After Colgate connected some loose wires, she grinned, staring at her newly finished work. “This, my dear Berry,” she said, spitting the screwdriver out, “is the Fabu—erm, the Focused Last Situation Holographic Background Active-Cognitive Kepi.” Colgate tossed her mane with a triumphant flair and nicking Berry in the eye. “Or as I call it, the FLaSHBA-CK.”
Berry Punch sat on the ground and held a hoof over her watering left eye. “Flashback, huh? That’s fantastic, Colgate, but what is it?” She sharply inhaled and looked at the hoof, then added, “Also, what the hay’s a ‘kepi’?”
“Oh,” replied Colgate. “Right.” With a soft, light blue glow of her horn, she lifted the cap off the bench and held it in front of Berry. “This is a kepi. It’s a kind of hat.”
The two mares exchanged blank stares, surrounded by empty crates and old, dusty furniture as Colgate’s new hat floated between them in a waving sea of glowing floaty aura.
Berry rose to her hooves. “What did you say it was named again? The full name. The Fantabulostentatious Lamp Shade... something.”
“The Focused Last Situation Holographic Background Active-Cognitive Kepi,” said Colgate, matter-of-factly and with her head held high.
The two exchanged another brief silence.
Berry’s wide eyes drooped. “You named this thing that ridiculously long name so it spelled ‘flashback’, didn’t you?” deadpanned Berry.
“Um, maybe,” replied Colgate, “but that’s not important. What is important is what this thing does. And it does exactly what it says it does.”
“You mean what you say it does.”
“I know what I said.”
“So, then, what does it do?”
“First thing’s first: Are you hungover?”
Berry raised an eyebrow. “You know I’ve been sober for weeks.”
Colgate brought the hat down on Berry’s head, twisting it to fit her ears. “Don’t blink,” she said, and with flash of her horn, the sunglasses’ lenses on the cap turned into a thin film of navy blue.
Berry shook her head, disorientated, then looked at Colgate. To Berry, everything was a deep blue.
“I guess this makes for a pretty cool pair of shades,” said Berry, “but—”
A phantasmal image of Colgate, still sitting on the bench and tinkering with the hat, slowly appeared in Berry’s view. Behind this image, she saw Colgate’s bright, cheery face.
Colgate smiled wider.
“What—what is this? What’s happening?”
Colgate held a hoof to her mouth, loudly cleared her throat, and said, “You! Are seeing me! Working on...” She tossed her mane back and raised a hoof, striking a victorious pose. “...The FLaSHBA-CK!”
Berry focused on the image. The navy blue Colgate in the film was motile and had just been shocked by a stray spark when she leaned in too close to the unfinished hat. “So it’s a video player?”
Colgate cupped her face a hoof. “No.” She grabbed the screwdriver and held it in Berry’s face. “Tell me, what do you see?”
Berry looked at it. “I see you scratching your back with the screwdriver and giggling like a mindless madmare,” she said.
Colgate grinned uneasily. “Exactly! This lets whoever’s wearing it sees the recent past of whatever they’re looking at. You at look me, you see what I did. You look at the screwdriver, you see where it’s been. Runs on science I don’t fully understand myself and a bucketful of unicorn magic. I used a lot of things I learned back at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns making this hat. Had to ask Twilight Sparkle for some books in her personal collection.” She patted Berry on the head, much to Berry’s displeasure. “Your tax bits at work here, this hat.”
She slung an arm over Berry’s shoulder. Berry raised an eyebrow.
“With this, we can see...” Colgate threw out her free hoof, making an overly dramatic wiping motion. “...The future!”
Berry looked at Colgate with her half-eyed glare. “You mean the past—”
Berry removed the hat. “Well,” said Berry, “it’s amazing. Really. I can imagine a lot of, uh...” She looked about the room, wracking her brain for an appropriate word. “...Imaginative uses for this, but I think most of them aren’t legal.”
She returned Colgate the hat, and Colgate put it on herself. “What gave you the idea for this, anyways?”
“Well, for one, I thought it’d sound totally awesome.”
Colgate looked at the screwdriver, then scrunched her muzzle. “Wow, that’s embarrassing.”
Berry’s eyes shifted between Colgate and the hat. “And?”
“Huh?” Colgate gave Berry a quick glance, then looked back at the screwdriver. “Oh, that was it. It sounded totally awesome, so I made it.”
Berry’s ears dropped against the side of her head. “Tax bits at work indeed,” she muttered. She perked up again. “So now what?”
Colgate laughed deviously. “Now I’m going to take this thing for a ride.”
Berry looked at the hat. It fit over Colgate’s head haphazardly. Wires entwined themselves with her mane, and the white tape used to attach the blue glasses to the blue kepi threw off the harmony of the ensemble, asymmetrically sticking out on the bridge and out of the rims. It wasn’t something a pony would normally see worn in Ponyville. Or anywhere, for that matter.
“You’re going out in public?” asked Berry. “In that? You look absolutely ridiculous.”
Colgate turned around and dismissed her with a hoof. “Ridiculously awesome, maybe. I mean, come on—think of possibilities! I can see the hooves a bit went through at the market! I can see how a cupcake was made, from mixing bowl to oven to counter! Hay, I can even see what somepony did that morning!”
Berry arched an eyebrow. “I think of seeing things that shouldn’t be seen. Everypony has their secrets, and they don’t tell anypony those secrets for good reason.” She rubbed a hoof against her chin. “Or bad reason. Their own reasons. Whatever. Anyways, that thing’s like a double-edged sword, and I can easily see you cutting yourself with it.”
Colgate grinned. “You know, Berry, the problem with your analogy is that a double-edged sword sounds totally awesome.”
Before Berry could respond, Colgate threw open the basement windows with a burst of magic and jumped on the dusty couch under it. “So after I return Twilight Sparkle her books, I’ma hit town and start swinging this ‘double-edged sword’ around without a care for what happens tomorrow, ’cause I’ll be too busy caring about what happened two hours ago!”
She stuck her head out the open window and shouted to the sky: “You hear that, Ponyville? I’m going to swing my—Ah!” Colgate stared into the sun and fell off the couch, holding her hooves to her eyes.
“Colgate!” shouted Berry. “Are you okay?!”
Colgate inhaled sharply, lying on her side. “Do I look okay to you?”
Berry leaned in closer, concerned and worried about what to do next.
Colgate groaned about on the floor for a bit, but then she giggled, quietly and unintelligibly. “I saw the moon going down and the sun coming up, Berry. It was so cool.”
“Ugh.” Berry sighed exasperatedly, then walked away and headed up the stairs. “I’m going shopping,” she called from the top. “See you later.”
Colgate chuckled to herself, then groaned and rolled over onto her side.
Floating a thick stack of books next to her and still wearing the FLaSHBA-CK, Colgate trotted to Twilight Sparkle’s library.
Her trot was as short as it was peaceful. Ponies were starting their days, opening shops and setting up roadside stands. Some carried packages and crates across town, while others turned the signs their windows from “Closed” to “Open.” One stallion pulled two other ponies and their suitcases down the road in a yellow, checkered carriage. Colgate could smell the scent of fresh bread as it wafted out from a nearby bakery.
Colgate knocked on the library door upon her arrival. “Hello?” she called. “Anypony home?”
Spike opened the door with a mug of coffee in his claws. “Oh, mornin’, Colgate,” he said. “Uh... Nice hat.”
Colgate saw the baby dragon both standing in front of her in the doorway and in a kitchen, pouring coffee into a mug. She chuckled. “Hey, Spike, and thanks.” She walked into the library and looked around. “Where’s Twilight? I’m done with all the books I borrowed.”
“Wow,” said Spike, taking a sip from his mug. “That was quick.”
“Yup! I’m a pretty fast reader.” Colgate held a hoof to her chest. “I was Twilight’s classmate back in Canterlot, y’know.”
Colgate was by no means a fast reader, and she had abused her Slow Down Time spell to read them all before the sun came up.
Spike walked into the center of the library’s main room. “Hey, Twilight!” he shouted up the stairs. “Colgate’s here with your books!”
A purple unicorn came down the stairs with a neatly combed mane but a few dark circles around her eyes. Colgate saw that she had been up late last night reading about astronomy and astrophysics at her desk by light of a candle that had burned past its wick. “Hey, Colgate,” said Twilight. “Nice hat.”
“Yeah, I said the same thing,” said Spike.
“Thanks.” Colgate moved the stack of books to Twilight, who took them with a glow of her horn. “There’s some really neat stuff in those books, but they were nearly impossible to wrap my head around. Almost makes me wish I actually paid attention back in school. But, with them, I now have this totally awesome hat!”
Twilight walked up next to Spike. “What is it?” she asked, leaning in for a closer look.
“This is the Fantab—uh, the Focused Last Situation Holographic Background Active-Cognitive Kepi.”
Twilight smiled. “The ‘Flashback’? So is it like a portable video player?”
Colgate forced a smile in return, gritting her teeth. “Nope,” she said with a hint of irritation. “It lets me see the past of something or somepony. Like that table.” She pointed a hoof at the table in the center of the room. “Spike and your owl were playing chess there last night.” She smirked. “The owl totally trounced him.”
Twilight oohed in amazement while Spike nervously scratched a cheek with his claw. “Hey, with that, maybe you can find out who ate all the chocolate I bought yesterday,” said Twilight.
Colgate wasn’t paying attention. She raised her head and walked towards a shelf, continuing, “I can also see who checked a book out recently.”
She turned her gaze on the shelf. “Let’s see... Astounding Aerial Acrobatic Artists, no one’s checked that out recently... Nopony’s checked that one out, either. Hmm.”
She walked around the room, scanning all of its shelves. “Nopony’s checked out this, nopony’s checked out that...”
She turned to Twilight. “Hey, Twilight, when was the last time anypony checked out any of these books?”
“On that shelf?” Twilight rolled her eyes in thought. “Two days ago.”
Colgate looked at the shelf she stood under. It was labeled “Objectively Interesting and Deep, Meaningful Stories That Everypony Should Read.”
“Wow,” she said. “Nopony reads in this town, huh?”
“Well, nopony can bend time like you can, so it takes most ponies a while to read a whole book. Besides, those books are all pretty famous. A lot of ponies have already—”
“Nopony reads in this town,” interrupted Colgate. “Got it. Thanks for the books, Twilight!”
Without another word, Colgate trotted out of the library.
Spike sipped his coffee. “Was she always like that?” he asked.
“Yeah,” said Twilight with a sigh. “She was.”
Colgate examined everything that she passed as she walked down the streets of Ponyville to lunch: ponies, wagons, fruits, clouds, windows, and the occasional leaf blowing across the street.
The cheery cherry merchant had just set up his stand for the day. On his stand were a dozen baskets of freshly picked cherries, straight from the orchard and packaged with care by his fillies. The merchant himself had made a deal with the pear seller on the other side of the street for the location for the stand, and from the look on the pear seller’s face when she walked away, she wasn’t all too happy about it, either. Colgate couldn’t hear the words they exchanged in the past, but she could see everything they did.
She then turned her attention to an earth pony in a suit and tie with a suitcase in his mouth, tearing through the street and bumping into anypony that was in his way. “Excuse me!” he shouted. “Coming through!” He had overslept and his wife had given him more than an earful about it, pulling him out of bed and kicking him out the door.
“Hey, Colgate!” called a voice from behind her. Colgate turned around to see Lyra trotting up to her with Bon Bon following close behind. Lyra tilted her head. “New look?”
Colgate saw the kiss the two shared before they went out the door. She smiled.
“Yup! Y’like it?”
“Well,” cut in Bon Bon, “it’s... blue.”
“Yeah.” Colgate brushed a hoof against her chest. “Spent all night working on it.”
Lyra and Bon Bon looked at each other for an instant.
“It... shows,” said Lyra nervously.
“And you know what else it shows?” Colgate leaned in close to Lyra, causing Lyra to lean back. Bon Bon frowned, unamused. “It shows me what you did this morning.”
Lyra’s pupils narrowed. “That’s kind of creepy, Colgate.”
“Just a little.”
Bon Bon pulled Lyra out from under Colgate’s towering posture. “I don’t believe you. Come on—a hat that looks into the past?”
Lyra leaned over to Bon Bon’s ear. “You know she went to Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns too, right?”
Colgate gave Bon Bon a glance. She still didn’t seem impressed. “You had a blueberry muffin and some oatmeal for breakfast.”
“Lucky guess,” retorted Bon Bon.
Colgate stood up straight with an air of confidence, looking Bon Bon right in the eyes. “You bought a lottery ticket at QuikMart and your numbers were...” She tilted her head. “One, two, three, four, five, and six? Really, Bon Bon?”
Bon Bon stammered, stepping back and raising a hoof. Her cheeks flushed a soft red. “Well, it’s just as likely as any other number! I’m bound to get lucky eventually!”
“She’s picked that number every week for the last few years,” said Lyra. She looked down at her bare hoof. “Well, uh, we should probably get going soon, right, Bon Bon? We don’t want to be late for the, uh, thing. At the place. You know.”
“Huh?” Bon Bon seemed confused. She looked at the clock tower, and it read ten to noon. “What’re you talking about?”
Lyra lifted Bon Bon into the air with her horn. “Well, let’s go! Don’t want to be late, do we?”
“Wait, what?!” Bon Bon flailed her legs about. “Put me down!”
Lyra trotted off, carrying Bon Bon with her. “See you later, Colgate!”
Colgate waved goodbye, but as they left, she saw in blue an image of Lyra walking out of Roseluck’s house while wiping lipstick off her neck.
The restaurant sat on a street corner, two stories high, painted white and topped with golden spires. It dealt mostly in traditional Canterlotian cuisine, having been founded by a Canterlotian couple who moved to Ponyville a few years ago, but over time, it had slowly morphed its menu to cater to more local palates. It was here that Colgate’s boss had requested to meet her, and Colgate couldn’t say no to her boss—nor could she say no to an expensive meal on the company’s dime.
Colgate took a look at the door and saw all the ponies who had gone through it that morning. It began with the owners unlocking the door early in the morning, followed by the chefs, the waitponies, and the customers. Some ponies looked like they’d just stepped out of a Canterlot garden party, others looked like they made reservations three weeks prior to get in, and some looked like they had casually walked in during lunch break on the construction site, hard hats and all.
Nevertheless, she went in. The room was full, ornamented with banners and laces against its walls. The floor was a immaculate tiled checkerboard of light and dark blue, and paintings with swift, fierce brushstrokes lined the walls in regal frames.
Her boss sat at a table in a back corner at a square table. “Colgate!” he called. He had a dark gray coat, a black mane, and a pocket watch for a cutie mark. Colgate saw that he’d been briefing one of her coworkers that morning about improving his wall clock sales pitches.
She made her way to the table and sat down with him. A menu had already been laid out for her. “Good afternoon, Mr. Hour,” said Colgate.
“And a good afternoon to you too, Colgate. Unfortunately, Mr. Tock won’t be joining us today for some reason I don’t remember, so it’s just the two of us. I’ve taken the liberty of ordering for you so we needn’t wait. I hope you don’t mind. By the bye, that’s a rather peculiar hat you’re wearing.”
“Of course not. And thank you.” Colgate plastered on a smile. She saw that he’d ordered the same thing for the two of them, grandiose celery and rose salads with various dressings and assorted cakes. It wasn’t what Colgate would have ordered, but she was willing to settle.
An earth pony in a dress shirt walked up to their table with two covered, wide, shallow bowls on his head. “Two grandiose celery and rose salads,” he said, leaving the bowls on the table. With his hooves, he took both of the covers off.
The salad was indeed grandiose, composing of lettuce leaves arranged in the pattern of a rose and decorated with more rose petals. The celery stalks were cut and bent as to give the form of thorny stems. Dressings Colgate didn’t know the names of interlaced and weaved across the salad, forming jagged yet seemingly natural curves across the the leaves. Tiny cakes formed a perimeter around the bowl. Colgate’s jaw dropped.
Mr. Hour looked at her. “Stunned?” He chuckled as Colgate nodded with her jaw still slack. “Yes, all of this restaurant’s entrées are this amazing.”
Colgate stayed silent. The salad wasn’t what had caught Colgate’s attention. She had seen the waiter who had just walked away neglect to wash his hooves after he came out of the bathroom.
Colgate snapped to attention. “Eh, wha? Oh, sorry, yes. The food. Well, about that, I—”
A customer who just walked in alone had caught her attention, and the FLaSHBA-CK showed her that customer having a violent argument with his wife.
“I...” stammered Colgate.
Colgate down at the salad. The chef had constantly blown her nose while arranging it and the plate she put it on had not been very thoroughly cleaned. The flowers and celery stalks themselves came from a farm that the restaurant owners had strong-armed into giving them a good deal, and the cakes were off the shelf, just covered in icing to make them look better.
Colgate looked aside at the tablecloth. A group of waitponies used it as a dirt sled the night before.
Colgate slammed her hooves on the table. “I need some air.”
With that, Colgate dashed out the door, leaving Mr. Hour to dine alone.
Without looking where she was going as she galloped down a small street, Colgate bumped into the side of a stallion and was knocked to the ground.
“Ah,” said the stallion. He extended a hoof to help her back up. “Y’okay there?”
Colgate rubbed her head, then looked at his hoof as she reached to take it. Her face fell in horror. There was no way she would be touching that hoof—not after what he and his girlfriend did with it that morning. The thought of what he did made Colgate sick to her stomach, and the sight of what he did was infinitely worse. She never thought that a pony could even use a teapot like that.
She quickly retracted her hoof and started to hyperventilate. “Get... get back!” she shouted, turning away her eyes and kicking her legs in the air.
The stallion indignantly pulled back his hoof. “Well, gee, lady, you don’t have to be so rude about it,” he said, and he left with a huff.
She turned around. There was a crowd of ponies around her, silently looking at her. And she looked back at them.
He picked his nose.
He cheated on his tests.
She fed her customers burnt toast for breakfast and hassled them for tips.
Colgate couldn’t take it anymore. Nothing and nopony in Ponyville was safe. She would have screamed until her lungs gave out were it not for Berry happening to pass by on the other side of the street.
Like a shining beacon in a storm of filth, Berry Punch walked out of an alley next to a dumpster with a shopping bag in her mouth. Colgate galloped towards her as fast as she could with what little willpower she had left.
“Oh, thank Celestia you’re here!” shouted Colgate. She dive-tackled her, wrapping her arms around Berry’s legs and pushing her cheek against one.
Berry struggled to keep her balance. “Hey, uh, Colgate,” she said through the shopping bag handle. “How, uh... How was your adventure?” She tried to avoid eye contact.
“It was awful. So very awful. Unfathomably awful.”
“What happened? You look like a total mess.”
Colgate chuckled mirthlessly and hollowly. “Me? I’m a mess? Oh, Berry, the things I’ve seen. So many things.” She grabbed Berry by the head with her hooves and turned it towards herself to look up to Berry’s face, and Berry looked down at hers as tears steadily flowed out from under her deep blue shades. “This world is unclean! Unclean, I tell you! I can never look at anything the same way again.”
“Hold on, Colgate, I—”
“I can never look at my friends the same way again. I can’t eat, knowing where the food, the plates, the tablecloth has been. I—”
In Berry’s eyes, Colgate saw Berry dancing on a bar table and drinking beer with a tube and funnel.
The crowd had dispersed by now, and the two exchanged blank stares on the side of the street as passersby passed them by.
“Sober for weeks, you said?” asked Colgate.
“I did say that, yeah,” replied Berry sheepishly.
“It’s... it’s not even one in the afternoon yet,” said Colgate.
Berry kept silent.
Colgate hung her head. “Forget this.” She let go of Berry’s head. “I give up.”
Colgate lifted the hat off her head with her hooves, jumped up, and threw it down into the dumpster as hard as she could.
“You were right, Berry. Ignorance is bliss,” said Colgate as she slowly turned around, quivering and with a wide-eyed, empty grin on her face. “Ignorance is bliss, ignorance is bliss, ignorance is bliss...”
Berry sighed. “It really is, Colgate.” She looked back at the dumpster. The kepi lay atop a pile of trash bags like an old discarded science project. “It really is.”
The two walked away, never to speak of the hat again.
Twilight Sparkle walked out of her library with a quill, a checklist, and bag of trash, and went around the back to the library’s dumpster.
“Taking out the trash,” said Twilight Sparkle, lifting the trash bag and preparing to mark the chore off her list, “check—”
As she was about to drop the bag into the dumpster, she saw a peculiar blue circular cap, with a black visor and wires sticking out of its sides, crudely taped to a pair of dark blue sunglasses. She set the bag aside and pulled the hat out.
“Isn’t this Colgate’s hat?” she asked. “What’s it doing here?”
She looked around. Nopony was in the vicinity. She smiled.
“Well, I guess she doesn’t want it anymore,” she said. She put on the hat and looked at the dumpster. Through the glasses, she saw a phantasmal image of Spike sneaking up to the dumpster and dropping in an empty box of chocolates.
“Well,” she said, “this certainly is enlightening.” She turned back towards the library entrance. “Hey, Spike!” she called.
She tossed the trash bag into the dumpster, checked off her list, and trotted away with the FLaSHBA-CK, wondering what else she would see.
This was originally written for Ponychan /fic/’s March Write-off, and the version of this without edits can be found in the link. It’s the chapter titled “FLaSHBA-CK”.
Like this story? Then check out Ponychan /fic/’s April Write-off! Don’t like this story? Then check it out anyways, because those stories are better!