Did I make it? Did they make it? Was I just a puppet for their wills this whole time? The blankets ruffled as the night continued on. It’s out there now, isn’t it? That land, it’s so close, but... The black night began to turn into a grey sky. All the news, that kid, had he even seen the show? Was he even a kid? A sliver of light entered the room. That speech... the Princess right next to the President. I don’t even know anymore. Anyone is free to go now and it’s got federal backing. The stars began to disappear out of the sky. What if I screwed up somewhere? What if I make a mistake? Said something wrong? I... An annoying beeping filled the air. “I didn’t sleep at all.” The woman slammed on her alarm clock to shut it up.
The woman got out of her bed and looked around. “I get off of work and I’m even more sleep deprived than usual.” The woman wandered aimlessly around the bedroom, trying to figure out what to do next. “I suppose a shower is the best substitution for sleep.”
A half an hour later, she emerged from her shower with a towel draped around her head and another one around her body. Well it helped a little. But a shower won’t change things. She sighed. Might as well see what the news is saying and have some breakfast. She pulled on the first things she found in her dresser, slumped into her kitchen, and pulled out a bowl and a random box of cereal. It could have been anything, just something to get her started.
“Crud!” She looked through her fridge, but couldn’t find the vital item she needed. “Out of milk. Ugh, screw it.” She flung open a drawer that held her silverware and grabbed a spoon. Breakfast in tow, she tramped over to her couch and plopped down in it. She grabbed the remote and clicked the TV on. She ate as she watched the screen.
“... it is still not clear if this religious activity is a unified effort,” a news anchor droned. A corner graphic to his left showed the digits for twenty-four with the silhouette of a pony behind them.
Isn’t that Dash’s shadow?
“In continuing our coverage of the Pony emergence, we now go live to the closest landpoint to the ‘Equestrian bubble’, Tom?”
The screen shifted to a beach on a clear day. The top of something shimmered off in the distance. “Thanks, Mike,” the reporter said as he looked back and forth between the camera and whatever it was that was off in the distance. “I’m at what could be considered the edge of the world. This is as close as news crews could get to the singularity which leads to the parallel dimension called Equestria.
“If you look off in the distance,” the camera zoomed in to show more of the bubble and the ships that lined it, “you’ll see the top of the bubble. Since its emergence, it has been growing at a constant rate. While scientists are still scrambling to grasp the situation the Earth faces, they have managed to produce an estimate on landfall. San Diego is predicted to be enveloped by the bubble in about six months.”
“Can you tell us more about the ships out there?” The anchor in the news studio asked.
“Yes, well, for the past two weeks, they have been acting as a barrier for any curious humans. As Equestria’s monarch discussed in her co-op speech with the president, the magical nature of her realm can have negative effects on humans. She’s forbade any humans from entering her land. However, there is one exception.”
The news reporter stopped speaking for a second and listened to his earpiece. “What? Really? Right now? Bob! Zoom in on it! Now!” The camera tilted up and zoomed in on a small brownish and blue object. As the camera refocused, the object sharpened to reveal wings, a grey-blue tail and mane, and a russet-colored horse-like body. “I’m not sure how well viewers at home can see this, but that is most likely a converted human entering the realm.”
“If you’ll look closely, you’ll see the ‘newfoal,’ a slang that has popped up to describe converted humans, about to enter the barrier and... yes!” The pony disappeared into the edge of the shimmering bubble. “The ‘newfoal has entered Equestria. In only our short time here, we’ve seen at least a dozen other converts like that cross into the barrier. But so far, only converts with wings, called pegasi, have been able to fly into the barrier. As we’ve covered before, in order to enter Equestria, a human must undergo a life-altering transformation so that they may resemble the natives of Equestria, small equine creatures we have simply dubbed ‘ponies.’
Oh god, here it comes.
“The name is inspired by the fact that Equestria’s monarch, Princess Celestia, has been trying for eons to communicate with humanity. The main way humanity has come to recognize her land has been through the popular children’s show My Little Pony. Detailed interviews with Celestia have revealed that the show’s latest iteration, Friendship is Magic, coincided with the return of her sister and co-ruler Princess Luna. How far this metaphysical connection Celestia went with our world is still a mystery.”
You said it. The woman shoveled one final bite of cereal into her mouth. I’ll probably never know how much I was used.
“Oh! Mike! I have shocking news!” The camera panned to show the reporter kneeling by a red stallion with a black mane. His wings were twitching a little. “A newly converted human has agreed to let us speak with him. Can you tell us your name?”
“Sorry,” the pony replied as he rubbed his neck with a hoof. “I don’t really have a name right now. My human name didn’t really fit a pony and it’s a little hard to come up with a new name.”
“So are you about to make the jump to Equestria?” The reporter signaled for the emergency mike to be brought over to the stallion.
The stallion looked off in the distance for a second. “If it was just a jump, this whole beach would be packed. But yes, I am on the way to go over there. I mean, free housing as long as you help settle the new lands? I’m honestly amazed the entire homeless population hasn’t converted already.”
“Can you tell us more about what it’s like to be an entirely different species?”
“Honestly, after the first few days, it’s not too bad. You’re different, but you’re still you. Think of it like trading in an old car for new one... that flies.” The stallion flapped his wings for show. “It’s kinda funny, I was a man who watched this show and I loved it. But to have it just be over the horizon... it’s pretty unreal.”
“Yes, we’ve heard that the show was quite popular with an unintended demographic. Do you think Princess Celestia intended that?”
The stallion paused and tapped a hoof to his muzzle. Then he spoke up again. “Look, I don’t know what the Princess did, but I’ll tell you and the viewers this. When you go pony, you get to see her and Princess Luna. Don’t be scared, they’re not the insanely powerful figures you’ve seen on TV. They are warm and caring and willing to do anything to save everypony... um, everyone. You get my point. Well, it’s been nice talking with you and I hope your broadcast goes well.” The pony took to the skies. “I’m off to Equestria!”
The reporter stood up, looked at the camera, and blinked a few times to regain his composure. “There you have it folks. An interview with a newfoal before he disappeared into Equestria. I’ll be honest here and say the experience, like much of the past few weeks, has been out of this world. Mike, back to you.”
“Thank you Tom.” The anchor wiped off some sweat from his brow. “Another amazing moment in our twenty-four-seven coverage of the Pony emergence. We now go to our panel of analysts to discuss Celestia’s move in destroying all of Earth’s major we–” The TV clicked off.
“It’s too crazy!” The woman yelled as she craned her back back. “Ugh, maybe talking with Craig will help.”
“Hmm,” Celestia mused as she sat next to the woman on the couch. “It seems my actions have caused you discomfort. That was the last thing I wanted. I’m sorry.”
The woman jumped off the couch, banged her elbow on her coffee table and scrambled back against a wall. “C-c-celestia! Y-you can’t really be here!” The woman jabbed a finger at the white alicorn in the room.
“Darn!” Celestia frowned. “I’ve gotten too used to doing regal entrances. I’m really very sorry.” Celestia glowed for a second and then her form shrunk, her mane and tail turned pink and stopped waving, and her wings faded into her coat. “Perhaps it would be better if I looked like a regular pony?”
“No!” The woman screamed. “You... you... oh, I don’t know anymore!” The woman’s hand and her body slumped.
“What is bothering you? You’ve done an amazing thing. You helped all this become possible.” Celestia trotted over to the shivering woman. “You have my deepest thanks.” Celestia bowed her head.
“W-what? But weren’t you just using me to get your message out? It could have been anyone, what makes me so special?”
Celestia placed a hoof on the woman’s shoulder “It couldn’t have been just anypony. I needed somepony who had a spark of magic and friendship in them. Somepony who wanted to entertain and delight other, but most of all, somepony who could instill hope for others.”
“R-really?” she asked. “But wasn’t I still just transmitting your stories, acting as a vessel for your world?”
Celestia sighed. “I suppose you could put it that way. But is it so wrong when you hear a good story to tell it to others? Try to understand, I’ve been trying to have others tell my story for so long. I grew more and more worried as the years passed on. I knew a doomsday clock hung over everything. Then, in the final hour, you emerged and became the most important seed of all. Again, I can’t thank you enough.”
She slowly got up. “So what do you want now?”
“To repay you. For one, it seems you were distressed over what I’ve done recently, I hope I’ve resolved some of that turmoil. Also, you seem to be lacking in milk for your cereal. I’ve remedied that with another drink.”
“What do you mean?”
“Go check your fridge.” Celestia waved a hoof at the kitchen.
“O... okay.” She slowly inched her way over to the fridge. She opened it, but at first, she didn’t see anything different. Then she saw the glow from an unfamiliar glass. It was just a simple drinking glass, but its contents were a mix of white and grey. The drink was shimmering and swirling by itself. “What... what is that?”
“My repayment to you. A potion I’ve reserved only for those of true worth. I would have given it to the other seeds, but it can’t be teleported long distance, especially when magic here is so low.”
“Why is it so special?”
“That is an answer I’ll leave for you to find out. The choice is yours, but just know that if you decide to drink, you are always welcome in Canterlot. A hero to ponies everywhere. But I’d like you to make your choice before I fully honor you. It has been a pleasure talking with you.” Celestia’s form reverted to its true alicorn self as her horn began to glow.
“Thank you, Celestia. I think this really helped.”
“You are most welcome. I look forward to seeing you on the other side Lauren.” In a flash, Celestia was gone, leaving a former animation creator alone in her kitchen.
She stared at the glass and swirled it around a little. “Only enough for me probably.” A man then walked into the kitchen.
“Morning honey, geez, you looked frazzled.” The man walked over and bent down. “What’s that?”
“Our plane ticket.”
“Craig, could you still love me with hooves?” She looked up at Craig with pleading eyes, not really sure what she should do.
“What? I...” He looked back and forth between her and the hooves. “Oh, it’s that stuff. I thought it was purple though.”
“It normally is, but well... I guess it’s the royal batch.”
“You don’t mean that she was...” Craig’s eyes went wide.
“Yeah, in our room and on our couch.”
“Christ!” Craig facepalmed. “I need to start sleeping lighter! What was she like?”
“Motherly almost. I think I seriously missed something on her in the show... oh, I hope the new episodes don’t mess anything up, I mean, with that Royal Wedding stuff and all the othe–” Craig brought a finger to Lauren’s lips.
“It’ll be okay, and to answer your last question, you know I’ll love you no matter what. There’s just one problem.” Craig glanced at the glass. “I think I’ll need to run out and get some for myself.” His eyes then spotted something on the counter. “Or maybe not.”
“What do you...” Lauren turned around and saw a glass of purple glowing liquid on the counter. “Clever girl.”
Craig walked over and grabbed the glass. He looked out the window and breathed deeply. “It’s a nice day out, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” The glass felt both warm and cool in Lauren’s hands.
“Well then,” Craig closed the door to the fridge, “I think we should enjoy it.” He sat down next to Lauren and downed his glass. He was out instantly.
“Oh Craig.” A tear fell down her eye onto his now white form. “I’ll see you on the other side.” The potion didn’t really taste like anything specific. It just tasted good. The last thing Lauren saw was her husband’s face slowly turning into a muzzle.
“...en! …auren! Lauren!” Something was pushing at her side. She slowly opened her eyes and was met with an ash grey unicorn. “Oh thank god, I was getting worried.”
“Craig?” She asked weakly.
“Yeah.” He stepped back and nearly crashed into the fridge. “Heh, still getting used to the hooves. I’ve had a bit of time to practice.”
“You have?” Lauren’s legs felt shaky and there was an annoying buzzing filling the room. “I thought conversion only lasted a half an hour and we both took it around the same time.”
“I think you might be a special case.”
“What do you mean?” Lauren tried to move her right foreleg, but instead flexed her right wing. “Oh wow! I got to be a pegasus! That is pretty nice of the Princess!” Lauren smiled. The buzzing was now accompanied by the knowledge that the sun would be setting in ten hours, forty-eight minutes, and eighteen point three seconds. “Whoa!” Lauren brought a wing to her head. “Guess what they said about pegasi was true. Everything about the weather is bombarding my mind. How’s the electricity stuff treating you, Craig?”
“You tell me, Lauren.”
What do you...”
“Maybe we should just go to the bathroom.” Craig slowly stumbled back through the bedroom and into the bathroom; Lauren followed, with a few slips of her own.
“This is pretty tough at first. Oh well, Luna said it might be in the dream. Can you believe how good her mane actually lo– is that horn?!” Lauren’s mouth dropped as she stared in awe at her reflection. She had a lightly tanned coat and a maroon mane and tail. A quill and an inkwell already adorned her flank. But most importantly was the fact that she had wings and a horn. “Oh lord! Craig, we need to get to Equestria now! What if I blow something up or turn the streets into jello or something?!
“Honey, it’ll be fi–”
“It won’t be fine! We need to go right now!” The world went white for a second and then Lauren and Craig were in a decadently furnished hall.
“That certainly was fast,” Luna mused as she sat on a throne.
“L-luna!” Craig exclaimed as he tried to back away but fell on his own legs.
“Luna!” Lauren yelled. “Please, you have to know a way to fix this! I don’t want to be like you! What if I cause the planet to crash or something!? Arg!” She brought a hoof to her head. “It... it’s too much to bear.”
Luna’s horn glowed and the information storm stopped. “I should have known sister would be a little too distant about this. Do not worry, other than the information you receive, you’ll be perfectly fine.”
“But the horn! The wings!”
“The wings can be used for normal flight and, aside from a few extra skills, your horn is just like any other unicorn’s.”
“What sort of skills?” Lauren looked up as Luna’s horn glowed again and her body glowed.
“For one, alicorns have always possessed a unique skill in shapeshifting.” Luna’s body began to glow as she walked closer. “It’s a skill that likely comes from the days when alicorns were seen as monsters.” He legs started to turn a tan color and her coat expanded and started to become long and flowing. “I suppose it helped when we initially went to your world.” Luna stopped as the last part of the change occurred. The she stood up... on two legs. “Back then it was easier to be seen as a goddess rather than a divine animal.”
Lauren brought a hoof to her mouth and Craig’s jaw dropped. “Y-you’re...” Lauren stuttered.
“Human?” Luna asked as she bent down and petted Lauren with a hand. “When you live as long as I do, what shape you take has little meaning.”
“Oh no!” Lauren’s eyes shrunk back in horror. “How long am I going to live?! Without Craig by my side, I’ll...” Tears started to fall down her cheeks.
Luna continued to pet her. “Do not worry. My longevity, as well as my sister’s, is only due to the combined use of the Elements and our alicorn status. I highly doubt such a thing will happen to you.” Luna backed away. She snapped her hands and instantly reverted to her pony form. She looked down at her hoof. “Hmm, it has definitely been a while since I’ve had hands.” She turned her attention back to Lauren and Craig. “Do you feel better now?”
“I guess, but...” Lauren looked over her body. “Is there anyway you could hide the horn, at least until I’m more used to things?”
“Certainly,” Luna replied. There was a flash and then the horn on Lauren’s head was gone. “Don’t try any magic above simple levitation though, otherwise my spell will be undone.”
“I don’t plan to.”
“There’s just one more thing,” Craig spoke up. “Can you send us home, we kinda have some stuff to move before we come here.”
“Of course.” Luna’s horn glowed again and a blue bubble started to encase Lauren and Craig. “Once more, thank you for everything. I look forward to the day when I see you in Equestria proper. May your journey be a safe one.” Lauren blinked and then she was back in her kitchen.
“Woah,” Craig stumbled into a cabinet. “Teleportation is quite a doozy.” He fell to his haunches to steady himself. “You okay, Lauren?”
“I think so.” Lauren slowly trotted around the room. “I can’t believe this place feels so different now and we’ve only left if for a few minutes.”
“Hmm,” Craig’s eyes scanned the room, “you’re right. It does feel a little lacking. Then again, we were just in a castle.”
“Oh, maybe we should have looked around a little. I mean, how often do you get to look around a castle? I could have seen how off I was designing it.”
“Honey, I’m sure there’ll be time in the future to look at it. But you know what we should do now?”
“What?” Lauren stopped trotting and looked out the window. Craig walked over to stand by her.
“Get some proper breakfast. Couldn’t help but notice the fridge looks rather sparse. Plus, might take a while till we can properly cook with these.” Craig lifted up a hoof. “Maybe we’ll find a place that’s serving hay,” Craig smiled.
“You’re really jumping on the pony bus fast, aren’t you?” Lauren giggled a little, Craig chuckled, and they both ended up laughing.
“Good to see you able to handle jokes again.” Craig trotted over to the doorway. “Now let’s get the princess some good food.”
“Come on Craig, don’t start with that,” Lauren said as Craig was forced to use his mouth to open the door.
“Well, no matter what anypony says, you’ll always be mine.” Craig held the door open with his body.
Lauren trotted over, but gave Craig a quick kiss. “Heh, nothing like metal breath. Let’s get a meal to resolve that.” She smiled and walked out into the new world.
Thaumaphobia (N.)- The fear of magic
-From the 1st Equestrian Edition of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Ugh, this code is so boring. I was sitting at my desk. A computer screen filled with thousands of numbers stared at me. Why did I have to get stuck with the memory code? Couldn’t I have been assigned visuals or start-up? I flexed back in my chair and reached back to grab my drink. I felt it in my hands for a second, but it slipped and fell to the ground.
“Damn it!” I spun my chair around and reached to grab the water bottle. But instead of my hand, I only saw a grey hoof. “N-no.” I looked at my other hand; it was a hoof too. “No.” I rapidly turned around to look at my computer screen. The monitor reflected back a pony. “No!”
“Tacky!” A voice called out. I spun around to see him, the boss, the guy who changed everything... the guy who was supposed to be dead.
“M-m-mr. Jobs!” I yelled as I backed away, but I tripped on my legs. “It... it’s not what it looks like! I’m not a pony! I can still type!”
“Doesn’t matter if you had hands or not.” Steve Jobs kept a smile despite his grim tone. “I can’t have you working here if you could blow everything up.” He reached down and touched my head. Only it wasn’t my forehead he was touching, it was something poking out of it. It was a horn.
“No! I can still work here! Please!” The monitors all turned and glared at me. Their code now only said “pony convert, pony convert” over and over. “Mr. Jobs, this is all I know! All I can do! You have to fix this!”
“Sorry son,” Jobs shrugged, “but you know we just can’t work together.”
“Noooooo!” I screamed as the monitors surrounded me. My head started to burn and it felt like it was going to burst. The screens all sizzled and cracked and then they all blew up in my face.
“...am... dam... Adam!” Someone was shaking me. “Come on! Get up!” I slowly opened my eyes and was met with a concerned face.
“Angela,” I muttered as my eyes slowly re-adjusted to the light in my apartment.
“Adam, are you okay?” Angela gave me a deep hug, her thin nightgown pressed against my chest. “You started screaming, I tried to wake you up, but nothing worked.”
I realized I was breathing rapidly and I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. “Sorry, it was the dream again.” I placed a hand on my chest while I looked at the other one and flexed my fingers. “Thank god it was just a dream.”
“Adam.” Angela bit her lip. A loose strand of her blond hair fell in front of her face. “I’m worried. Those dreams have been becoming more common lately. I think you’re overworking yourself.”
“Everyone is overworking themselves right now.” I sat up from the bed and walked over to the closet. I opened it and saw I had no clean button ups. I bent down and grabbed the cleanest one I could find. My clothes were just in a chaotic pile now, I was too dazed when I got home from work to bother putting them in the hamper. “We have to, our jobs are at stake here.”
“But they have new jobs over there too.” While she talked, I walked over to the bathroom and grabbed my deoderant. I didn’t need to shave today, my stubble would probably be acceptable.
“Good for them Angela!” I yelled as I put on my shirt, it reeked of alcohol. “We’ve been over this though. We can’t go there.” I took up a sarcastic tone. “Everypony gets a mark for their special talent. Ha! What a f*&cking joke! I’ll tell you right now what my talent would be, my hands!”
“But, I mean, everything they say on TV, it’s all happening so fast. Plus, in a few months we’ll be able to actually see Equestria.”
“No we won’t!” Angela’s attempts to comfort me lately had started to disturb me. They’d gone from supporting my hard work to talking about those damn ponies. I knew she was losing hope, we all were. It’d only been a year, but that was an eternity in the technology market. Almost all trans-Pacific communications were gone now. Prices on transporting pieces out of Asia had gone through the roof. “We’ll move with the company when they move.”
Then there was the internet. The fricking internet! The damn bubble! It had done what hackers and terrorists only dreamed of. Three months in, that monstrosity had knocked out all communications. Thank everything holy it had only been temporary. But it had scared me, it’d scared everyone who had a stake in technology. Competition didn’t matter after that. Sony, Microsoft, Intel, every technological giant had gotten together to figure out a way to survive. Except one. Zuckerberg can burn in the deepest recesses of hell for betraying us, for betraying humanity.
I still remember when we’d all gathered for our emergency meeting. It was the first time I ever saw Bill Gates as a compatriot and not a rival. We’d brainstormed all day, dozens of leaders gave speeches. Even some government representatives had stepped up. They’d only said words of false reassurance though, that our jobs would remains secure. Heh, job security, right. My job security had gone flying out the window, along with my phone and my internet.
Then that son of a bitch stepped up to the podium. He was just a kid. He wasn’t even alive when I started tinkering with computers. I still longed for the days when I would just mess with my dad’s old behemoth desktops. He didn’t offer ideas, didn’t give us words of hope. He just smiled and admitted defeat. He told us we should all enjoy the last hurrah of human technology and then go over to Equestria, the sooner we made the jump, the better. My only regret is that I wasn’t the first person to throw something at him. We didn’t see him after that. The last anyone heard of him was a personalized letter on his site with a picture of a pony. He abandoned his fellow innovators and traded in humanity for hooves. Bastard.
“Is it really worth moving though?” Angela asked. “Adam, you’ve been getting more and more stressed every day.” She was now standing in the the door frame of the bathroom. “Adam, you know I’ll love you know matter what. Wouldn’t it just be easier t–”
“Shut up!” I pushed her aside and stormed into the kitchen. “I don’t want to hear you talk about that!” I softened my voice as I grabbed a granola bar and a five hour energy. “Angela, we’re close, I can feel it. We’ll find a way to make technology work and then we can finally go back to normal. Maybe I’ll actually even start to like those things, if we can make a market with them.”
“Just... just take it easy, okay?” Angela just stood there as I walked out the door. If I can just fix things, find a way to get technology to overcome magic, then I can be happy again. Angela can be happy again. It will all be nice and stable.
“All right men!” The boss yelled. I hadn’t even learned his name, he was just some guy who’d held a higher position at another company. It didn’t really matter now, we all had the same goal in mind. We could go back to being rivals when this whole mess was over. “As you know, it’s been a year since the Equestria Crisis began. We’ve been working day and night to figure out a solution to this problem. So far we’ve basically got a zip. A lot of people have dropped out because of that. Some have given up hope. Some of them even gave up their hands.”
He paused and looked down a hallway that ran parallel from the area he was speaking. “I know many of you have a lot of resentment towards our four-legged friends. Well, I’m telling you today that even if we do solve this problem, and we will, ponies are here to stay.”
I wish he was wrong, so so wrong.
“That’s why we’re gonna need a hands on approach from now on.” He beckoned to the hallway. I joined everyone else in shouting.
“Are you crazy?!”
“They’ll ruin everything!”
“Oh god! Keep them away from the computers!”
“Nothing is safe from them!”
“Jesus! You’ve lost it!” I yelled. The boss has gone insane. He’s brought that technological scourge into the office. Worse, they were all unicorns, the ultimate destroyers of modernity. I was having a nightmare. That had to be the only explanation.
“Quit your bitching and shut up!” Office etiquette had long gone out the window, but that was a reason the boss was the boss. Even without a microphone, he could silence all of us in an instance. “Now listen closely! All of you should be ashamed of yourselves! These ponies here could have been your former co-workers. Like you, they were hard working people and, despite the limitations hooves bring, they still want to help. Our sector will be one of the first to work with ponies, so you better do a good damn job!”
The managing team stepped to the side of the boss now. “Each one of you will now be working with a pony partner. They have been given lessons by the big Princess herself in order to prevent any accidents from happening. Your supervisors will be checking on you constantly for the first few weeks of this process. If they hear any of you insulting them or treating them in a way that hinders your work, you are out! No severance, no chance to state your case, you’re gone. We’re running on the clock here people and we don’t have time to bother with who has hooves and who doesn’t! Now come up and meet your partner when I call your name! Anderson!”
A short man with a balding head stepped by me. He seemed more nervous than angry. He walked up front and a pony trotted over to him. It held out a hoof, but Anderson just awkwardly walked back to his station with the mare. It didn’t see me glare at it as it passed by. It would be a while before they called my name. I went back to my station and pulled out my bottle of whiskey. Tch, I’d been reduced to cliches by these damn things. This would just be my first drink of many today.
They finally called out my name about half an hour later. I felt a little buzzed, but I needed my concentration, I still had to type stuff. I walked up to the front and looked down at my “partner.” He was a dark blue unicorn with a light red mane. A pencil and a book graced his flank. “Um...” he slowly held out a hoof, “hello, nice to meet you. I–” I started to walk back to my desk.
“Let’s just get started, okay?” I slumped back to my station and sat in my chair. I looked at the pony and then pulled out the whiskey again.
“Are... are you sure that’s okay to do?” he nervously asked.
“No, I’m not sure if drinking is okay to do. Do you think magic is okay to do in here?” Who give a crap if I get fired now? The higher-ups have clearly lost it if they’re bringing the ponies in. Screw it, the world has gone nuts, maybe Angela and I can just run off somewhere, enjoy the apocalypse in peace.
“S-sorry, but don’t worry, I’ve spent nearly the whole year studying magic. I’m sure we’ll figure out a way to make technology and magic work together.” I should have punched him in the muzzle for the smile he was giving me. I just took another swig instead.
“Screw it, there’s no way I’m gonna last a day with stuff like this.” I turned over to my computer and started running through my start-up procedures. “Just stand there and don’t do anything.”
“Right.” He awkwardly kicked his hooves around. “Can I at least ask your name?”
“Adam, Adam Tacky,” I grunted.
He chuckled a little. “Maybe your special talent would involve ta–” I glared daggers at him.
“Shut up! I know the boss said to work with you, but I’m fine on my own! If you actually still know something about technology you can talk, but don’t you dare bring up what you are.” I spun around and looked at my screen, I didn’t even type anything.
“Sorry, I just wanted to make the atmosphere a little lighter. We were all really nervous about coming back here, what with everything everypony was saying. But we still loved working here and trying to save a piece of humanity. We still want to do that, even now.”
“Tch, if you loved it so much you should have just kept your hands.”
“Mr. Tacky, I really did, but the days we spent here laboring and trying to find a solution... it took its toll on us.” His voice was trembling a little. “But I knew this was the only way. I mean, aren’t we all about thinking outside the box? Being like this really takes you out of the box.”
I turned around again and frowned. “You’re right, it takes you out of the box and turns you into a box-cutter.”
“I know.” He scratched the back of his head with a hoof. “At first, I thought I’d lost everything, that I’d never be accepted like this. But on the other side... “ His eyes glazed over a little. “No matter what, they’re willing to accept you.”
“Keep the sob story for later, we’ve got work to do.” I took a final swig and finished the bottle. “Christ, might as well hear what your name is.”
“It’s Check Mark,” he smiled. “Heh, I was always a bit of a OCD freak, so I thought it was a good name.”
I buried my head in hands. “So you must really regret the hooves if you changed your name.”
“It’s, um, kinda just something that happens. You see and hear everypony else doing and and then one day something just clicks and you run with it.”
I sighed deeply. “I’m gonna need to buy the whole damn liquor store before I’m done with this.”
So this might come as a shock, but I’ve really taken a thing to bars lately. Everyone in the office has. It’s actually nice to forget about all our old rivalries and trade stories from before the Crisis. The drinks are nice, but the lack of ponies is even better. Ponies can’t handle alcohol at all, so we don’t even need signs to keep them out. Bars are a human sanctuary.
“It’s bullshit,” Paul said before he took a giant gulp of his beer. He’d been a manager at Intel’s R&D section. “We’re trying to counter magic, not work with it.”
“Amen to that.” I clanked my glass to his. “I can’t believe we’re even talking about magic like it’s a real thing”
“I actually heard we’ve got some physicists working on it,” Mike replied. Mike had worked with me at Apple. Before, we’d actually hated each other’s guts and we’d competed to see who could write out code or come up with new programs faster. Everyone had only one competitor now and it could devastate us with just a thought. “Bet they’re scrambling just as much as we are.” He finished his glass and asked for another.
“Tch, at least they’ll have job security.” I leaned back in the booth. “Hell, they probably all broke out the champagne when a new universe popped out of nowhere. They thrive off questions and how things work. Who knows? Maybe that monstrosity in Europe caused all this.”
“Now you’re just talking silly Adam,” Paul replied. “Humans didn’t have anything to do with this. It’s all those ponies’ fault. I bet they caused that mess in Nevada just to scare us all into turning into them.”
“Hey, don’t joke about stuff like that!” Mike slammed his fresh glass of bear down. A bit of it spilled on the table. “I had some relatives there. Plus, think about the other ‘lost time’ zones. I still thank god every night that they came out of that hellhole.”
The lost time zones. Scars on the Earth where, apparently, magic had run out. People still don’t know what exactly happened there, but it was the equivalent of heat death. Except heat death wasn’t supposed to happen in all of human existence; it was the ultimate end for the universe, not something that just happened one day. But it had, it struck Nevada, South America, and China. Those Chinese rats hadn’t even bothered to tell the rest of the world. They could have doomed us all. It was fitting that they were still recovering from it.
After the bubble had popped up, the zones had started to recede. The stories Mike told us scared the hell out me. His relatives had just been enjoying a drive, when everything went slow, then it all just stopped. The next thing they knew they were careening at a hundred miles down the Nevada freeway. They survived the crash, but it’d taken days to get help. By that point, the only option left for them was to give them hooves. Horrible, just horrible, lost in time and then turned into an abomination.
So what if they looked cute and innocent on the outside? They were all just slaves to the Princess, part of her army to turn us all into followers. All the ponies who dared to talk to me always gushed about how it’d been hard to make the change, but they were glad they did. Evidently slavery, at least of the mind, still existed in Equestria.
“Sorry Mike,” Paul replied. “It just gets me so mad. I swear if they could pay me, I’d join one of those anti-pony groups. They’re everywhere after all.”
“I don’t know.” I took another gulp of my beer. “Some of those people are pretty scary. If guns were still around they’d probably go shooting up the bureaus. I just wish they’d disappear, but not if it meant hurting anyone.”
“Now that’s a surprise.” Paul scratched his stubble. “I’d have thought you’d be even more eager than me to join one of the anti-pony groups.”
I sighed and slammed my glass down. “Look, I don’t like those ponies, but if they didn’t ruin technology, I’d be fine with them. They could do whatever they want. I’d just enjoy my job and live a happy life with Angela.”
“But that’s not how things work,” Mike spoke up.
“Can it, Mike.” I flagged down a waitress. “Oi, let’s get some shots going here!”
“Now we’re talking!” Paul smiled.
You know what? You know what? Thank god I live close to the bar. Man, that bar is the best bar in the world. I still can’t believe I used to hate Mike. That guy is awesome, just wish I could knock back as many shots as he could. Guy’s liver must be made of iron. I lumbered into the elevator and up to my apartment. Angela was there. She must have seen how wasted I was. She rushed over and draped my arm over her back. She sat me down on the couch and fetched me a bottle of water.
“You are the best girlfriend ever!” I laid back on the couch as I sipped from the bottle. “I... I’m really sorry I always come home like this. It’s just hard and the other guys want to unwind too. I’m sorry.” Man, the couch felt really nice right now.
“It... it’s okay.” Was her voice trembling a little? I couldn’t really tell. “Adam, can you hear me?”
“Yeah, I can hear ya. Your voice sounds as beautiful as always.”
“Adam, I... I went out today. While I was walking, I passed by one of the bureaus.”
“Oh hell! I’m sorry Angela, they probably flung a bunch of propaganda crap at you! Damn ponies! Damn the Princess! Damn them all!” The couch was feeling really nice and my eyes were getting heavy.
“It’s just that, one of the first ponies was there. The brown one with the wings. He was just a kid, but what he said, I–” I didn’t catch the rest of what Angela said, the couch was too comfy and my mind was too tired.
The smell of bacon woke me up, that and a minor hangover. “Ugh.” I pressed a hand against my head. “So this it what it takes to not have nightmares. High price.”
“Oh, Adam.” Angela stopped her cooking and turned around. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Minor hangover, but nothing too ba– oh shit! What time is it?!” I sprang up from the couch in a panic.
“It’s eleven, but d–”
“Jesus! Eleven?! Oh god, they’re gonna fire me for sure!” I ran out the door and off to work.
The running hadn’t helped the hangover. My brain pounding on my skull, begging for it to expand. I rushed over to my station and was met by the worst sight in the world: the boss and Check Mark.
“Tacky! What the hell?”
“I’m sorry boss! I, uh, had a sick girlfriend to take care of!”
“Tacky calm down!” The boss pulled out his stern face. “I know a lot of you weren’t happy with the changes yesterday, and a bunch of you thought it would be smart to get sauced to the gills last night. Maybe if some of you had checked your emails, you’d see I canceled work for every human today. Go home Tacky, Mark can handle things on his own.”
“But he can’t even type!” I jabbed a finger at Mark and then at my computer. “How the hell can anything work at a computer if they can’t type?!”
“Jesus,” the boss rubbed his forehead with a hand, “do you know how many times I’ve heard that this morning? Mark!” The boss craned his neck to look at the pony. “Show him your ‘hands!’” Marked nodded as his horn glowed and then an ethereal aura came to rest on my keyboard.
“Are you mad?! Make him stop!” I rushed over to my station, but the boss clothlined me and held me back. “No! He’ll de–” I heard a clacking noise and then another. It was the sound of a keyboard being typed... fast. That bastard was using my computer to type his own programs in. He was soiling it!
The boss grabbed me by the collar. “Now listen to me, go home, get some rest, and get your head in the right place!” He let go of me and I ran. Tears fell down my face as I ran down the streets. It wasn’t fair! I had had all the stability I needed and now it was gone! Replaced by a damn farm animal! I tripped and scrapped my elbows and my knees. I stayed on the ground for a while while tears hit the street.
“Ow!” Angela dabbed an alcohol soaked cotton ball on my left elbow. “Damn it! This sucks!”
“Don’t worry Adam, it should be fine now.” Angela slapped a bandage on my wound.
“It’s not fine! He’s there! At my damn desk using my damn computer!” I poured myself another shot of whatever it was I was drinking, something that burned my throat when I swallowed it. I slumped my shoulders. “Angela, you’re the only one I can count on now.”
“W-what about your friends?”
“Who cares? They were enemies before this. We’re only united by our hate of those stupid ponies. They’re not real friends.” I took another shot. “I just wish we could run away. Go to a land where all our troubles melt away.” Angela didn’t reply, she just stared at the ground. I looked down at my shot glass and chucked it at the wall. “I hate this! I hate that you have to see me like this! I swear, it’ll change soon.” She kept her eyes to the ground. “I know, I’m a drunk idiot.” I got up and slumped to the bedroom. “I’m sorry.” I slammed the door. Her eyes were still downcast.
I can’t recall much from the rest of the week. Any memories I do have either involved a bottle or a toilet. I’ve only seen little glints of light through my window shades. Who wants to see the sun anymore anyway? That stupid Princess has probably made it her slave too. The planet is doomed... I want to spend these last few years with Angela, just the two of us. The people on TV say humans can’t survive magic for more than eight years anyway. We’ll go exploring, see everything left as the world crumbles. Then, when the time comes, we can die happy.
I got up from the bed and looked around. Empty bottles and cans lined the floor. My hangover was only minor today. I sighed. “Might as well just quit today, they’ve probably fired me anyway. Heh, maybe the airlines are doing an apocalypse sale. They’ve gotta be suffering with all those winged ponies. I’m sure we’ll think of something to do.” I slouched out of the room and into the kitchen.
Angela was making pancakes. “Oh, you’re up. How are you feeling today?”
“Still a little woozy, but I think I’ve made up my mind.”
Angela flipped a pancake and then looked at me. “You have?”
“Yes, I mean, what’s the point of this all anyway? The world is screwed no matter how you look at it. You were right, I shouldn’t be bothering with all this technology stuff. I should just be enjoying life to the fullest.”
Angela smiled. “I... I’m really happy to hear that.”
“We should just go on a trip, like we always promised. Escape this apartment, escape all these things.”
“Oh Adam.” She rushed up and embraced me. “You don’t know how good it is to hear you say that. I’ve been thinking about it all week, we can just go and then be on our way.”
“Yes, it’ll just be the two of us.” I gave her a passionate kiss. “Let’s have some breakfast first.
A few minutes later, we were sitting at the kitchen table, eating the pancakes. They tasted especially good today. They’d probably be the last things I’d eat here. Wish Angela had made some bacon to go with it, but oh well. She knew just the thing to cheer me up. “So before we go I’ll tell my boss I’m quitting. It’ll feel good to add some finality to this whole mess.”
Angela put her utensils down and looked at me with shaking eyes. “Is... is it okay if I get myself ready while you’re doing that?” There was a tremble in her voice.
“Of course it is! I want to get out of here as soon as possible, the sooner you’re ready to go the better!” I got up and walked to the door. I didn’t even care that I was only wearing a stained undershirt and pajama pants. I slipped on some flip flops and opened the door. “I’ll be back soon.”
“Okay, I’ll make sure you know wh–” The door closed before I could hear her finish.
I never noticed it before, but there really are a whole lot of things that now cater to ponies. There’s quite a few more salad buffets then I remember. A lot more street performers also, all of them ponies. Guess that’s not too surprising, almost the entire homeless population had converted overnight. They had nothing to lose from the start, so why not trade in hands for a chance to fly or use magic? Hell, I’d heard that even the most normal looking of ponies could do all sorts of weird things with plants. Whatever, leave ‘em to their crap. I’m getting out of this town and it can burn for all I care.
I walked up to where I worked and onto my level. I went over to my station and saw him there again. Bastard can type and blow up the computer for all I care.
“Oh, you’re back,” Mark stopped typing and looked at me. “Are you feeling better?”
“Much,” I said with a shit-eating grin. “Any clue where the boss is? I need to send in a letter of resignation.” The letter in this case being some vulgar hand gestures and some less than polite words.
“He’s, uh, actually right behind you.” Mark pointed a hoof behind me. I turned and saw a pink stallion with a black mane.
“Ah Tacky, so you actually came back.” The pony had the boss’s voice. “Well congratulations, you’re actually only the second to come back in. Not that it really matters.”
Oh, this is too fricking rich. I laughed like an idiot. “Boss...” I struggled to breath and talk through laughing. “You... you look good.”
“Shadup Tacky, I know what I look like, but, well, seeing all you people just give up a few days ago got me in real bad spirits. Then halfway through the week I just lost it. Ran to the nearest Bureau and drank the stuff. We’re actually not even bothering to adapt this crap anymore, we’re just converting it into physical evidence that it even existed.”
Mark sighed. “ It’s kind of a shame, I was looking forward to selling pony computers too. But I guess making a final thank you package for all our consumers is fine too.”
I shook my head. “You’re all crazy.” I shrugged. “Whatever, seems I’m not needed here anyways, I was gonna be a little more crass, but I think just saying I quit will work too.”
“Had a feeling you’d say that,” the boss replied. “Well, it’s been nice working with ya Tacky. What are ya gonna do now?”
“I’m off on a trip.”
The boss smiled. “I see, makes sense, if I wasn’t wanting to look over everypony else, I’d probably do the same thing. Take care!”
“You too!” I waved and walked out the office for the last time. Heh, the boss must have really lost it to go for the hooves.
“Angela, I’m home!” I smiled and walked through the door. Things were packed up now and luggage lined the floor. “Angela?” I called out to the empty room, but got no reply. “Odd, where could she have gone?” I walked through the apartment looking for her, but had no luck finding her. “The hell?” I walked back into the kitchen and was about to call her on the phone, when I saw as note attached to the fridge. I grabbed it and looked at it.
I know you’ve been suffering a lot lately. That’s why I was so glad you finally decided to go for the hooves today. I’ve actually been wanting to go since last week when I heard that speech, but I couldn’t go without you too. I know you had issues with the ponies before, but I’m so relieved things have finally changed. It’s selfish of me, but I just can’t wait any longer, I’m going to get my hooves now. I’ll be at the Bureau on Commerce Street. Hands or hooves, I’ll always love you.
I let the letter slide from my hands and onto the floor. I looked at my hands which were beginning to shake. “No... it... it’s not true, I didn’t...” I thought back to my words that morning. I’d killed my love. “No, no! NO!” I slammed my hand on the kitchen table and flung the centerpiece against the wall. “NO! I didn’t want this!” I kicked the entire table over. “It’s not right!” I glared at the pictures on the wall and fell on them like a raging beast. They zoomed across the room and shattered against the other wall. I kicked, punched and lashed out against anything in the room. Glass shattered, cheap metal bent, and wood splintered.
“Traitor! How could she do it?!” I kicked the TV over and brought my foot down to destroy the shelf as well. “We were happy! It’s them! It’s all their fault! Those damn monsters! They tricked her! Seduced her and stole her from me!” I remembered I had the solution to all my problems in my closet. “They may have taken her, but I’ll see them all in hell!” I rushed over to the closet and fumbled for the box that held my gun. I found it quickly.
“Ha! Time to perform the ultimate self-defen–” I had opened the box and discovered it was empty. There were no guns left in the world now. “N-no. This my life... I get to choose it.” The room started to spin on me. “A damn cartoon doesn’t.” A horrible laughter filled my ears. The shadows on the walls morphed to become those horrible things. One shadow in particular was bigger than the others. It was her. The devil.
“Hahaha! Oh poor little human, you’ve gone and lost it all haven’t you?” The shadow-Celestia mocked me. “Join us, the hooves are nice and warm.”
“Never!” I unloaded my gun at the beast. I don’t know where’d I’d gotten it, but I had it now and it was time for payback! But the bullets just bounced off the shadow.
“Please, you think anything human could hurt me?” The shadows stretched off the walls and started to advance toward me.
“Stay away!” I chucked the gun at her, but it just evaporated into thin air. “Don’t come any closer!”
All the shadows laughed and then the shadow-Celestia spoke up again. “We’re always coming closer to you. We’ll take your job, your friends, and your love. And when you are broken, we’ll heal you.” The shadows stopped advancing for a second. Shadow-Celestia smirked. “Welcome to the herd.”
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” I screamed and ran. I just kept doing both of those things. There had to be an escape somewhere, anywhere from the demons. I ran to through the streets, fear coursing in my veins and pushing me forward. Until I hit something and tripped.
“Oh my goodness!” Whoever I hit helped me up. “Are you– Adam?” It was Mark.
“Get away from me!” I backed away and hit a pole. Y-you’re all devilspawn! I won’t let you make a slave of me.”
“Just calm down.” He was slowly walking toward me. “I was just coming to wish you good luck in Equestria, you were going there, right?”
I screamed again and ran. The world was after me. I had to escape.
I couldn’t go on. I was sick, I was tired, and I was hungry. What was left of my shirt was ripped and encrusted with filth. A scraggy beard now adorned my face. Puddles in the alleyways reflected back my dull lifeless eyes. The scrape on my leg looked a little green and sickly. It hurt to put pressure on it. But at least the alleyways were relatively empty. For two weeks I been drifting through the belly of the city, living off whatever I could find. Whenever I saw those monsters, I’d hidden anywhere I could find.
I still remember one night that will be seared into my brain. After the first week of wandering alone, I’d come upon a homeless commune. A lot of them were like me, pushed out of their jobs by the abominations. Some had lost family members to the herd. We consoled each other with garbage food and moonshine. While most of the homeless had gone to join the monsters, we’d become homeless because of them. We often talked about taking revenge on them all one day.
Then they had come, marching like the hellspawn that they were. We all scattered at the sound of clopping, but some of us were too slow. In an instant, the stragglers were surrounded and then covered in the potion. There was screaming and then they were silent as the goo deformed them, melted them down and made them part of the herd. I threw up when I saw it. I hadn’t seen a commune since then. It was every man for himself now.
I needed food. My vision was blurry and my head was swimming. If I could just get some food, then I’d be fine. I’d live another day. I swore I wouldn’t die until I had that Princess’s head on a pike. “One day... I swear, I’ll...” I collapsed on the ground. My body wouldn’t listen to me anymore. My eyes started to get heavy. Just as the world started to go black, I heard a voice.
“Oh my gosh! Get him some help!”
“Damn! He looks like he’s on his last legs.”
“Then give him the stuff! It’s the only way.”
I tasted grape and then the world went black.
I was floating in a void. I’m not even sure if you can say I was floating even, I had no sense of me anymore. I was just a presence in the vast abyss. “Damn it, I croaked, didn’t I?”
“In a sense, yes,” a sad female voice called out. “It hurts so much when I see what I’ve done to those like you.”
“It is all right sister,” came another voice. “This is what we had to do, what we must do to save them.”
“Is that you, god?” I asked the darkness. It started to grow light and then I was in a round room... sort of. The ceiling was a dome, it was more like looking at the sky, but it was held up by pure white pillars. I looked down and saw there was a round table in front of me. There were two figures sitting at the other end. A white creature with multi-hued flowing hair and a dark blue creature with hair that seemed to be made of the stars themselves. I hadn’t gone to heaven, I’d gone to hell to meet the devil. “You!”
Celestia looked down at the table. “Yes, me. I know what you are about to say and I deserve all your hate.”
Luna reached out a hoof to her sister. “Sister, if it pains you so, then let me handle the rest for today. You have done enough.”
“No I haven’t. This will be my burden to bear. Just as I bore what I did to you for all those years.”
“Tia, you cannot blame yourself like this. You must move all, we all must.” Luna kept a hoof on Celestia’s shoulder and looked at me. “Can you move on?”
“No! I can’t!” I wanted to strike out against them, but my fear held me back. They were both far beyond anything I could handle. I was powerless. “You’ve taken it all from me!”
“We can give you a new life, free you from the things that have hurt you.”
“You have hurt me! Besides, computers were all I knew, now you’ve killed that too and my girlfriend! Just let me fall into the abyss.”
“No!” Celestia cried out. “Please, don’t say that! I... I can’t lose anypony else! Please!” She had somehow now appeared right next to me and given my essence a hug. Despite all my disgust, she still felt warm. “I have done you wrong, but please, don’t give up.” The room started to shake around me and the pillars began to crack.
No, this wasn’t right. This was the devil, a monster that only wanted to make me her slave, not some sad creature giving me a hug. The display was pathetic on both our parts. I didn’t know what to do anymore. My essence looked up at her with what I assumed were teary eyes. “I just want to start over.”
“I will grant you that. You have a new life, but if you ever feel I have harmed you, seek me. I deserve it for what I’ve done.” Celestia patted my head as one of the pillars broke.
“Sister, do not get carried away, emotions are not good for us to meddle with.” Luna nervously eyed her sister. I felt something tugging at me as another pillar cracked.
Celestia looked at me as I floated away. “Just please, don’t give up.”
The final two pillars simultaneously broke and the world went white on me.
The first thing I realized was that I wasn’t on hard cement. I was on something I hadn’t been on in two weeks, a bed. I squirmed around and just felt how good the bed was. It was soft, and warm... it must have been why I had that crazy dream. Someone must have seen me collapse and taken pity on me. It took a bit of effort to open my eyes. It was like they’d been glued shut or something. Kinda wish I’d kept my eyes closed though. The room was way too bright. I shifted my head to hide under the covers. “Guh! Too bright.”
A felt a pressure on me from over the covers and then a voice spoke up. “Thank god, you’re awake. We were really scared about you. We’ve never done this to someone who was both starving and dying of an infection. I’m just glad we kept emergency supplies at the ready in case of stuff like this.”
“You saved me?” The covers were thick, so I couldn’t see out of them. The voice did sound genuinely concerned though. She must be a part of some emergency team, she didn’t exactly sound like a trained nurse.
“Yup, probably got to you in the nick of time. It was actually my first time having to use the restart procedure. Sorry if waking up was a little rough for you, I’ve heard that disorientation happens a lot when the procedure is performed.”
“That why my eyes nearly exploded?”
“Uh-huh, it’ll take a bit to get used to your senses again, but everypony gets used to them over time... we’ll get you in private for first meal though. That part’s always embarrassing.”
“Hmm, I see, well at least I’m still ali– oh no, did you just say everypony? I quickly threw off the sheets. Despite the near-blinding light of the sun streaming in from the window, I could still see my hooves, grey like they had been in my dreams. I stared at them for a few seconds and then I broke. I wailed for a long time, the mare that had been talking to me brought a hoof to my shoulder. I didn’t care, my life was over, I was doomed to just be a slave. I’d probably be plowing fields or some other task to help expand Equestria. I wasn’t human anymore, just a tool.
“I know this can be really shocking, but everypony at the bureau is here for you,” the mare had a red coat and silver mane.
“Just... just go away.” I flopped a hoof at her. She stared at me for a second, then her horn glowed and the window shades fell. She left after that. I looked around at my surroundings. I was in a doctor’s office, only with a bed instead of that slab patients lied down on. I looked over and saw that the counter was lined with little vials that held a shimmering purple liquid. Potion, the bane of humanity. It had finally managed to strip me of everything. I fell back on the pillow I had been resting on and just stared at the ceiling.
My sense of time was all messed up, I couldn’t tell how long I languished in the bed. But eventually, the mare returned. A tray of food was floating by her head. It was a simple meal, just a salad, a dinner roll, and an apple. A really good looking apple, probably one of the best I’d ever seen. Too bad I just wanted to just cease existing. Dead men don't eat after all. “I have some food for you. It’ll be a little extreme, but getting you used to food is the first step in rehabilitation.”
“I don’t want it.”
“Please? We’re here to make you feel better. Maybe just the ap–”
“No!” I yelled and a the tray went flying back. That stopped me. “W-what was that?”
“It’s magic,” the mare nervously explained. “I’m sorry, this must be all new for you. It was tough for me too but... are you okay?”
I was crying again. They done it, they’d done every last thing to destroy who I was. I wasn’t human anymore and technology couldn’t accept me anymore. “It’s not fair.” I was too weak to even yell anymore.
“What is it?” The mare timidly asked.
“I can’t be a unicorn, it’s the exact opposite of what I am. How can I live being... being...” I broke down into sobs.
I felt something warm envelope me. I opened my eyes and saw that a light red glow had surrounded me. “What are you doing?”
“It’s a really basic magic skill. It’s an empathetic link that helps calm ponies down. Heh, I never thought I’d be able to do something like this, helping ponies with just a thought. It’s kind of funny, before all this, I was just a med school dropout. I was completely out of my luck, but then this all happened. I was so happy that I could actually help, that I wasn’t just a loser.” The mare glance back at her flank which was adorned with a heart and a bandage. “Was it something similar with you?”
I sighed. “I suppose. In all the chaos that’s happened lately, I lost it, everything. My job, my mind... my girlfriend.”
The mare brought a hoof to her mouth. “You lost your fillyfriend?! That’s terrible, I’m so sorry! You must hate us right now, but we had no choice.” She started wildly flailing her hooves. “I mean, we saw you fall, then we saw your knee and how you were and I just panicked! Oh, I knew I should have just stayed here helping out.”
I looked at the mare with sunken eyes. “It’s not your fault. I don’t even know if I’m mad at you anymore.” I brought a hoof to my forehead, it met with the horn. “That Princess, you... I’m just confused.”
“I...” A loud buzzing filled my head. It seemed be affecting the mare too.
“What is that?” I held my hoof closer to my head to get the buzzing to stop.
“Sorry,” the mare said, the buzzing didn’t seem to bother her as much. “It’s part of our emergency signal. Darn, I have to go, it’s probably that mare again.” She rushed out the door and left me alone.
“What is going on?” I slowly crawled out of the bed and fell to the ground. My legs felt like jello. I stumbled to the door. Luckily, it didn’t have a knob, so I just pushed it open. I clinged to the wall as I walked down the hallway. There was the sound of thrashing and yelling from the other end of the hallway. I slowly made my way to where the noise was coming from.
The commotion had been coming from the mess hall. A bunch of ponies and few humans were trying to hold back a crying mare. She was a tan pony with a purple mane. “I’m not going there yet!” she creamed.
“Ma’am please!” A unicorn begged. “You’ve already overstayed your recuperation period. We have other people to convert. We can’t let you stay!”
“I don’t care, just let me sleep here at least! I can’t leave! Not yet!”
The voice. I knew it. Tears filled my eyes. I begged and prayed I was right when I spoke. “Angela?”
The pony stopped and looked at me. “Oh my god.” She pushed off her assailants, rushed over, and tackled me to the ground. “Adam! I... I was sorry worried! What happened?”
I cast my eyes at the ground. “I’m sorry Angela, that day... I didn’t understand what you were saying. When I saw the letter, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I lost it.”
“Oh Adam, is that why you weren’t here?” She bowed her head. “I’m sorry, I should have been patient, this is my fault, we should have done this together.”
“It’s fine, just...” I looked up that the mare. Her eyes still had the same loving aura they’d always had. The pink irises where new though. “Just please stay with me through this. I... I don’t know where to go anymore.”
She bent down and kissed me. “I know where to go, I’ve talked with ponies here. They’ll help us with everything. Finding someplace to live, moving, getting used to everything.”
“What about jobs?” Here it comes, how can I make her happy if I can’t provide for her?
“Adam, the only things we need to do is help other ponies get used to life in Equestria, be good neighbors, and just make friends.”
“But...” I looked down at my hooves. “How can I do anything with no hands?”
“Adam, is that really all this has been about? Worrying that you can’t do things without hands? Do you really think that’s all I’ve been with you for?”
“Um...” My face started to feel hot.
“You’re a silly stallion Mr. Tacky,” she teased. She got off me and helped me up. “But that’s what makes you you.”
“So you’re really fine with me? Even without hands?”
“Did all that drinking make you go deaf? Adam, you’re more than just a guy who works on computers. Remember how we met?”
“A cheap singles dating party that we both thought was lame as hell?”
“Yes,” she replied before poking in the ribs with an elbow. “But you were the one who decided to leave and take me with you. That was one of the best nights ever, we had fun, saw the city, and ate stuff that didn’t come from a 99-cent store.”
“Heh, the food at the part was pretty bad.”
“My point is you were fun without computers. Is it really that different without hands?”
“I... guess not.”
“Good! Now there’s just one problem.”
“Well...” she looked at the mess hall. She’d managed to make quite a, well, mess. “I don’t think I’m that welcome here anymore.”
“That’s right.” The red mare from before stomped over to us. “Even ignoring this mess, we still can’t hold you anymore, we’re overrun as it is. But I am glad you two seemed to have fixed whatever was wrong.”
“So I guess we’ll have to be on our way then,” I said.
“Well, you just went pony, so you’re entitled to recuperative care. I’d highly recommend it. There’s a lot of things that change when you’re a pony.”
I looked over at Angela and back at the mare. “I’ve kept her waiting long enough. C’mon Angela, let’s go home.” I started to trot over to where there was an exit sign, but I almost instantly stumbled and fell.
“Careful, walking takes a little getting used to.” Angela rushed to my side and nuzzled me to help steady my body. “That better?”
“Much...” I caught a whiff of her mane. “Why do you smell like lavender?”
“It’s, uh, sort of a thing for Earth Ponies. We just kinda smell like stuff in nature.”
“Huh, guess I’ve got a lot to learn.” The doors were close now.
“Don’t worry Adam, we’ve got strong hooves, we’ll figure out how to use them.”
“Thank you Angela.” We stepped outside. The sun hurt, but it was still a nice day out. “I think it’s going to be a nice day out.”
“The following program is brought to you by Food Network and the Travel Channel, with contributions from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.”
The TV screen went from the black pre-show sponsor screen to a scene of an immense outdoor kitchen. An ageing man with circular spectacles and a thin crop of hair appeared in the foreground. “Hello everyone and everypony, I’m Alton Brown and I’m here as one of many hosts for today’s special program! Chefs from all around the world and beyond it have come together today to explore the next step in cuisine. We’ve got a lot to cover today so once again, welcome one and all to the Grand Equestrian Cookoff!”
The screen shifted back to reveal the entire setup and the myriad of celebrities that were standing around it. Fireworks, lasers, and magic went off around the stadium as dramatic music played and the screen was intercut with pictures and names of the chefs present. A few of them looked familiar, but it took the name graphics to determine who a few of the chefs were. After all, it’s a little hard to distinguish someone when they’re now somepony.
After the opening credits stopped, the cameras went back to Alton. “All right, for starters we’re going to kick off our main competition. It’s time to see just how well Earth’s chefs can handle Equestrian fair. Let’s meet our teams!” The cameras switched and six chefs rose up on platforms while music familiar to any foodie began to play. “Ladies, gentlemen, fillies, and gentlecolts! I present to you your two competing Iron Chef teams!” The music swelled as the camera kept jumping back and forth between all four chefs; two humans and two ponies. “On the side of Earth we have Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto. On the side of Equestria we have Pinkie Pie and Applejack. This is truly a battle for the ages and the planets. Who will be stand at the top of the food chain? Who will have the top quality food skill? And how exactly do you hold a knife with hooves? We’ll find out the answers today, but for now, we go to the Chairman, who will reveal the secret ingredient of the battle.”
A man in an elaborate costume came up on a platform and was accompanied by an overabundance of fog. “Chefs! You are gathered here today to do battle across dimensions and find out which reality is truly the ultimate purveyor in food!”
“Ooh!” Pinkie bounced up and down, but Applejack managed to keep her from getting too out of control. “This is gonna be the best most tasty battle ever!”
“Hold your horses Pinkie.” Applejack was doing her best to keep her friend on the ground, but they were still both bouncing up a little. “We don’t even know what we’re making yet.”
“Well I found out actually, but I Pinkie promised I wouldn’t tell anypony!”
“But you’ve been with us the entire time. How in tarnation did ya find out what it was?”
“Well you see–”
“Ahem.” The Chairman tapped his foot as he stared down at the ponies.
“Oh, uh,” Pinkie flashed him a nervous smile, “sorry.”
“Anyway,” the Chairman looked forward again. “The time has come to reveal today’s special ingredient!” A large metallic box rose in the center of the kitchen arena. “Today’s special ingredient will be...” The chairman made a flamboyant gesture, as if he was raising the lid on the mystery box. New music accompanied the unveiling. Multiple shots and angles were shown of the mystery ingredient. It looked good and golden. “HAAAAYYYY!”
“Yay!” Pinkie bounced out of her friends grasp and over to the the hay. “This is the best secret ingredient ever! Who would have thought we’d get hay?” She then grabbed a bushel with her mouth.
Applejack corked an eyebrow. “Ah thought ya said ya already knew what the ingredient was.”
“Weph Af dph bff Af sfll waffet if ta be a sufrise!” Pinkie exclaimed as she held onto the bushel with her teeth. She dropped the hay at her station.
“Well,” Applejack tipped her hat back, “We got some work to do.”
The camera switched back to Alton as both teams grabbed bushel after bushel of hay for their dishes. “There you have it folks, the battle of the universes has begun. We’ll be cutting back to check on the teams, but in the in meantime, let’s meet our celebrity judges.” The camera panned over to a table of four ponies, all of them obscured by shadows, although one of them still stood out like a sore thumb. “Now, while we have human chefs on one team, we’ve got an all pony judge panel. This is due to the human inability to digest hay, or rather the inability to gain nutrition from it. Anyway, let’s meet our judges. First up, hailing from New York City, the chef who makes loves to defy the norms, Anthony Bourdain!” The light went up on the first judge, revealing a white pegasus with a few brown splotches along his coat. His mane was brown as well.
“Thanks Alton, good to be here. Gotta ask though, why bother giving us silverware?” Bourdain shifted a fork around. “I mean, isn’t that kind of like giving a paraplegic kid a gameboy?”
“I see the hooves haven’t curved your dark humor.” Alton nervously chuckled. “Well, let’s move onto our next judge. If you haven’t heard her name before, welcome to the world of cooking. Let’s give a big welcome to Martha Stewart!”
The second light went on and revealed a pony with an blue coat and a very light green mane. “Hello Alton. Well, just got hooves a few weeks ago and I’m delighted to be having some quality pony food.”
“Now onto our native Equestrian judges. Hailing from beautiful Ponyville and a master in everything sophisticated, Equestrian bearer of the Element of Generosity, Rarity!” The third light went on and showed a white unicorn with a perfectly styled mane.
“Thank you Mr. Brown. It’s nice to be back here now that there’s so much more magic on this side. Let me just say this though, while the pony team may be my friends, I’m looking forward to each dish equally. I’m just worried they’ll all taste too good to decide which is the best.”
“That’s great to hear, glad you’re enjoying your time back here.” Alton moved onto the final judge. “Last, but far from the least, our very special guest, co-ruler of Equestria, Princess Luna!” The last light went on. The princess of the night’s identity hadn’t really been that hard to discover though, her flowing hair could only belong to one of two ponies, and if it had been Celestia, no amount of shadows or camera angles would have obscured her visage. The natural light Celestia produced ensured that a camera could make her out in any situation.
Luna coughed a little before speaking up, unfortunately in her Royal Canterlot Voice. “Greetings everypony! It is good to be here! I look forward to judging this contest!”
Alton stared at her blankly for a few seconds and rubbed his ears. “Um, Princess, we have microphones. You don’t need to use the, um, what was it called again?”
“The Royal Canterlot Voice!” Luna then looked embarrassed for a second. She stared down at the table for a second and then spoke up again, this time with a normal level voice. “I, um, suppose it is a bit loud. But regardless, I still wish the best of luck to both teams.”
The camera turned back to Alton. “There you have it folks. Our hand and hoof picked judges have all been introduced and it looks like the arena is already getting filled with cooking energy. Let’s see how both teams are doing.”
The human team was busy slicing up hay for a salad and mixing some other hay in a blender with some spices. “It looks like we’ve got the appetizer and the main entree being worked on the human side,” Alton commented. “It’s unclear what the main dish will be, but I’m venturing a guess that it may be a falafel-esque entree, given the spices that are being mixed with the hay. What the human team will do for their dessert dish remains a mystery.”
The cameras now panned over to the pony station. A glob of frosting hit one camera right on the lens as pieces of food went flying everywhere on that side of the arena. “In all my years watching culinary standoffs, I’ve never seen this much energy brought into the kitchen,” Alton continued with his commentary. “While Applejack appears to be rigid and controlled in her cooking, Pinkie Pie is a tornado of creativity.” As Alton spoke, Pinkie seemingly teleported around the area, grabbing whatever ingredient caught her fancy and adding it to a large mixing bowl. Meanwhile, Applejack was more meticulous with her movements, measuring out her ingredients and kneading a piece of pie dough while mixing a concoction of hay, carrots, and spices. “In contrast to the human team, the pony team has appears to have started on their dessert. At least that’s what I’m assuming Pinkie is doing with all the sugar based ingredients she’s grabbed. Applejack appears to be working on a pie of some sort, but not a dessert-based one. It might be an Equestrian equivalent of a chicken pot pie.”
The camera zoomed out to show both teams. “Both teams are showing their tenacity in the battle so far. But they still need to start on an essential piece of their courses. We’ll be back after this commercial break with more coverage and features. Remember, we’re also broadcasting live on Hulu and Youtube. Stay tuned.”
The screen went black for a second before changing to a white background with the silhouette of a pony and human shaking hand and hoof. “The following program is brought to you by the Conversion Bureaus.”
A commercial started to play. It began with a man packing up luggage for a trip. As a he packed, his voice narrated the scene. “It’s never easy moving to a new place. You worry about making new neighbors, finding friends,” the man stopped his packing and looked at two children playing in the backyard, “making sure your kids are safe. It’s a lot to worry about.” The man walked over to his wife and put his arm around her shoulder. “But I want what’s best for my family. That’s why we talked with our local Conversion Bureau and set up a plan for moving to Equestria.”
The scene now shifted to a hi-tech looking office, with doctors walking around carrying vials of purple liquid. A woman faded into the foreground while the office activity continued in the background. A little title in the bottom right corner listed her as Dr. Valnezula of the Havard Medical Department. “I’ve seen many patients over the past three years worry about getting hooves. Ponification is a short and simple process. You’re given a short introduction to pony life at one of our many centers across the world and then given specialized training in Equestria. Professionals in both worlds are here to make sure your transition is as smooth as possible.”
The screen changed back to the man and his family, only he was a pony now as was the rest of his family. “So what are you waiting for? A new life with new friends and experiences is just around the corner.”
The pony laughed and smiled with his family as a disclaimer played in a fast tone. “Ponification services available in all major cities. Closest locations can be looked up at ‘Givemehooves.com.’ Blueberry and cherry flavors available upon request. More information available online at ‘Givemehooves.com.’”
“Man, this is some weird shit.” I knocked back some more of my mountain dew. I looked back at my roommate, who’d also been watching the show. “You think you’re ever gonna go in?”
He shrugged and then replied, “What choice do we have? That bubble has already taken up all of the West Coast. In a few years it’ll be here on the East Coast too. I’m still waiting to get my degree though.”
“You know they still let you in if you have hooves, right?”
“Tch, yeah on top of schoolwork learn how to use an entirely new body. Thank god I didn’t go pre-med or I’d probably never get hooves. Also, if you’re so keen on it, why don’t you go get hooves?”
“I’m waiting until summer vacation. That way I can go home, see my family, and get converted there. Then I can move to one of those new ‘pony-designed’ places for senior year.” I noticed the screen switch back to the kitchen arena. “But for now, let’s just watch this.”
“Welcome back to Great Equestrian Cookoff!” Alton enthusiastically said to the camera. The camera shifted to show both humans and ponies racing around the area to complete their dishes. “Both teams are in the heat of battle trying to outdo each other other in culinary superiority. But while the teams duke it out, we’ll go to next feature. Take it away Andrew!”
The camera moved down and to the left to show a bald orange pony. While there was no hair on his head, he did have a silver tail. A plate with a question mark on it adorned his flank. “Hello everypony, Andrew Zimmern here. It’s nice to be back on Earth and be able to show some of my travels. Let’s take a look.”
The screen began to show a panorama of scenes from a land that looked too pristine to be real. The closest thing to compare it to would be shots of the vast fields of New Zealand, but even those paled in comparison to these pictures. Luscious fields, some of them filled with flowers were the first few dozen of photos. Andrew narrated as the photos continued to change. “This is Equestria, the strange land that arose just a few years ago. I’ve always been an adventurer when it came to food and no better opportunity presented itself for new tastes then a whole new world.”
A photo of Andrew before and after ponificition came up on the screen. “That did however mean I had to trade in my hands for hooves, but the new taste buds were worth it. Before I even set foot in Equestria, I found myself experiencing all sorts of new flavors from even the simplest meals. As a side note, apples in particular appeal to newfoals. But my quest for new flavors didn’t stop there. I wanted to see just what the food was like in my future home.”
Instead of pictures, a video now played. Andrew was on rickety dock that came into contact with the Equestrian Bubble. Up close, it really did look like a soap bubble. “I’m standing here at the barrier between the human and Equestrian world,” Andrew explained. “Now, unfortunately, we’ve had some technical difficulties. See, magic and technology, namely our video cameras, don’t mix well. We’re actually just using a really simplistic camera to film this right now as all the others got fried. We won’t be able to film stuff from here on out, but we can still take pictures. Well,” Andrew trotted forward, “I’m off.” Andrew then disappeared into the portal.
The screen switched back to showing pictures. “They say a picture says a thousand words, so I hope using pictures will help illustrate my travels in Equestria.” Pictures of Andrew exploring a town flooded the screen. “My travels took me to Ponyville, a model Equestrian town. Here, I got to sample a wide variety of dishes that are easily available in most towns across Equestria.”
A picture of Andrew eating a sandwich now appeared. “One of my first meals was something I never thought I’d eat, a daffodil sandwich. On Earth, daffodils are inedible due to a poison in their bulbs and leaves, but in Equestria they’re edible. The taste is similar to an especially sweet onion. Mixed with some greens and put between two slices of bread, it becomes quite the treat. Sandwiches composed of flowers and greens and the shops that sell them are common throughout the land. Think of them like deli sandwiches, but with plants instead of meat.”
The pictures now told the tale of Andrew trotting around Ponyville, sampling the various restaurants that dotted the town. But a familiar pink pony started to invade the photos. “It wasn’t long before we met our unintentional guide. While our crew had been content to just sample the various spots around town, Ms. Pie insisted on giving us a full smogeshboard from her workshop, Sugarcube Corner. We were more than happy to accept the generous offer.”
A building that seemed to be made of sweets dominated the screen. “Sugarcube Corner is one of Ponyville’s landmarks and is lauded for it variety of sweets and baked goods. Ms. Pie has been an employee of the Corner for a long time, but the owners are actually a couple called Mr. and Mrs. Cake. Like Ms. Pie, they were very eager to show off their wares and we happily obliged... maybe we should have been more careful with our words. By the time they were finished with us, we were more than a little full. But it was a unique experience trying things like hay biscuits, wheat-grass muffins, and cloud cake. The last one was especially interesting as nopony at the Corner could actually make it. Rather, it took a pegasus to craft this light dessert. Unfortunately, the baker of the cake was too shy to come on camera and explain how the confection was made, but Ms. Pie assured us that she’d thank ‘Fluttershy’ for us later.”
“Following our stop at the Corner, we were all feeling quite full for the day, but Ms. Pie insisted that we try one last thing. It took some convincing, but she said our destination was a bit of a walk, so we relented and eventually followed her to a nice looking farm. It was here that we met our second friendly local, Ms. Applejack. Ms. Applejack comes from a long line of farmers. Her grandmother was actually one of the original founders of Ponyville, making the Sweet Apple Acres Farm a historical site. But our main reason for coming here was to sample a jam that only the Apple family could make.
Andrew was holding a jar filled with something that rainbow colored. “This is Zap Apple jam. Aside from the Cloud cake, we’d been trying variations of plants you could find on Earth, but this was something pure Equestrian and the taste is quite shocking... literally. Zap Apples require a special harvesting and growing method that has been a key part of Apple family tradition. The closest I can describe the taste is a myriad of fruits. Sometimes you taste banana and sometimes you taste watermelon while eating it. But what overarches all those tastes is the electrical tingle that fills your mouth when you eat it. It’s not called a Zap Apple for nothing.”
“These were just a few of my highlights in Equestria. But expect to see more of my travels in Equestria in the new season of Bizarre Foods.” The screen went back to a the arena, with Andrew the focus of the camera. “I hope you all enjoyed that small taste of Equestria. It really is a fun land filled with all sorts of new flavors. Now lets get back to competition. Alton?”
“Thanks Andrew,” Alton responded. “The teams are now just putting the finishing touches on their dishes. The human team has come up with a hay ice cream for dessert while the pony team has made a hay noodle salad for their appetizer. The human team looks like it may have some stiff competition with dessert though as Pinkie has made a massive hay cake. We’ll be back for judging after the break.”
The commercial started. It showed some men in army uniform fighting what appeared to be Nazi zombies. “Call backup! I repeat, call backup!” a grunt yelled at another soldier.
“Sir!” The soldier yelled between firing rifle shots at the undead hordes. “All the other units are down!”
“Damn! Time to call in the aerial assault then!” The grunt pulled out his radio and whispered something indecipherable to it. The undead horde of zombies inched forward to the army men, but suddenly, most of them were destroyed in a huge fiery explosion.
A pegasus then landed in the middle of the flames, causing them to form a circle around him. “Men, mind if I drop in?”
The screen this shifted to show the Gamestop logo. “Try out the hooves with the pegasus and unicorn soldiers, only when you pre-order Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Five at Gamestop. Power to the players.”
I switched off the screen.
“Hey,” my roommate spoke up, “aren’t you gonna wanna see the ending?”
“Not if it’s bogged down with all this Conversion crap. I get it. World’s ending. It’ kind of hard to not notice the giant bubble eating everything!”
“Well what do you wanna do now?”
“Eh,” I turned and opened up my computer, “I’ll see if there’s any funny vids online.” I typed in a familiar address and noticed something very odd about the site. “That’s weird, it’s Saturday, why’s there a new video up?”
“Maybe he made a special video or something.” My roommate inched his head over to the screen and looked at the description. “Yup, if it’s Pokemon 2000 it’s gotta be a special video.”
I smiled and clicked on the video link. I sat through the same Gamestop commercial I’d just seen on TV and then the screen shifted to show a man in a cheap blazer, a cap and a very loose red tie. He seemed slightly disgruntled. “You know, I really get tired of seeing the same email time after time.” The man had started his act. “Eight years. For eight years, I’ve gotten the same email over and over and over and over ‘till I got PTSD from seeing the same email again. Hell, the end of the world happened and yet...” The man wildly gesticulated his arms. “Somehow you people still want me to review this damn thing.”
He now pointed a finger at the screen and waved it back and forth. “Well, let me make this perfectly clear. I’d rather become a talking cartoon horse before I–” An improvised lightning bolt hit the man and then a pony was sitting in his place. He comedictly looked down, patted his hooves on his chest, slapped himself across the face, and then despondently looked at the camera. “You know, I should really learn to keep my mouth shut.” He sighed deeply. “Well, seeing as even fate seems against me I’m the Nostalgia Critic and this is Pokemon 2000!”
I looked back at my roommate. “You seeing this?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “Was not expecting it though.”
“You think the other people on the site converted too?” I asked.
“Let’s find out.” My roommate shifted his attention back to the computer.
The screen showed a man in the shadows capturing a large phoenix-like bird. “So our story starts with the most evil dastardly no-good villain... capturing a pokemon!” There was a gasping sound effect as Critic brought his hooves to his face in mock terror. Critic lowered his hooves in a motion to silence the fake audience. “I know, I know. Shocking in a world where animals are stuffed into balls and then forced to battle. Now lets move onto our protagonists.”
The screen now showed a young kid with a red hat along with a girl and a boy with long hair. “This is Ash, I’m sure all of you remember him from my last review for not being able to remember him. To complete the ensemble of bland, we’ve got Misty, i.e. the ten-year old jailbait , and the other guy. You may notice he’s not the same guy from the first movie, but don’t worry, they’re both just as boring as the other.”
“Now unlike the first movie where we had to wait to see the heroes almost die in a storm, we get that almost immediately here.” The screen now showed all three protagonists getting caught in a massive storm. Everything went black for a second before a clip of Cast Away played, with Ash’s face superimposed onto Tom Hank’s body. “Okay, that doesn’t happen, but it’d still be a more interesting movie then this.”
“So following miraculously surviving a giant storm, our hero–” The screen went static for a second. “What the hell was that?” Critic peered at the camera. “Hello?”
There was more static and then a mare with a pigtails appeared on the screen. “Don’t do it Critic!”
“Don’t review the My Little Pony movie! It won’t end well!”
“But I’m reviewing a Pokemon movie.”
Nostalgia Chick deadpanned for a moment. “Wait, I thought we were doing crossover of the MLP film.”
“Nope, that’s still CR’s and your department.” Critic crossed his hooves in a bored fashion.
“Crud! But the hooves and the mane! Do you know how long it took to get hooves?!”
“Um, five seconds?” Critic shrugged.
“I had to wait in line like two hours to get this done!” Nostalgia Chick playfully bantered. “How’d you get it done so fast?”
“Ticked off fate,” Critic replied and shrugged again.
“Stupid irony,” Nostalgia Chick muttered before trotting off screen.
Critic then shifted his attention back to the center of the camera. “Moving on. Our totally fleshed out characters find out they have to gather three pieces of a mystic treasure and unite them in order to save the world.” A scene of Ash picking up one of the orbs was dubbed over with a fanfare tune. Critic awkwardly looked at the camera for a second before regaining his composure. He spread his hooves out wide and said, “Nintendo, the purveyors of originality!” The screen went back to Ash and his quest. “But not all is well in Ash’s quest as he is interrupted by–”
The screen went static again and then a unicorn in a brown fedora and an equally brown coat showed up on the screen. “Critic! It’s not worth it!”
Critic corked an eyebrow “Linkara?!”
“Critic it’s not worth it to review the Pokemon movies! Trust me, I know... why are you are pony?”
“Why are you a pony!?” Critic pointed a hoof at Linkara.
“Insano messed around with hypertime again,” Linkara nonchalantly replied.
A green pony with black hair in swirly goggles and a lab coat now appeared on the screen next to Linkara. “I did it for science! Now that I’ve found the perfectly docile universe through my experiments in hypertime, I will rule the world... with SCIENCE!”
Critic kept a blank stare as he mouth dropped at what he was watching. “Alright Insano,” Linkara replied, “you may be a mad scientist bent on world domination, but I am a PONY!” Linkara then fake-kicked Insano off the screen.
Critic just waved off the silliness of the Linkara and Insano’s antics and went back to reviewing the film. “So anyway, I bet you’ll never guess who sho–”
A smaller screen came in from the left and started to shove itself into Critic’s face. A red haired woman in the scream proclaimed, “Prepare for trou–” Critic then shoved the screen out of the way.
“No! Every person on the damn Earth already knows what’s coming. We are not sitting through that stupid mo–”
The same screen now shoved itself in from the left. “Prepare for troubl–”
“No!” The critic yelled as he shoved the screen away again. “Do you know how annoying that motto is? Especially after hearing it said everywhere for years? Mark my words, there is no way that whole chant getting pla–”
The screen conked Critic on the head and then all of Team Rocket’s spiel played out. When it was over, Critic shoved the screen away and played a different clip. When the clip was over, he glared at the screen with a look of pure distaste. “Moving on.”
“So the rest of the movie pretty much turns into a quest for Ash and his gang to get the Trifor– I mean Dragon Ba– I mean whatever the hell magical mcguffin the plot shoehorned in! Meanwhile, the totally evil guy from the beginning of the film is out to capture the three legendary birds to ultimately capture an even more legendary bird named Lugia.” The screen changed to show all the other legendary pokemon from the games. “You know, things stop seeming a lot less legendary when there’s a bazillion of the little buckers running around.”
“Anyway, it’s eventually revealed that Ash is apparently ‘the chosen one.’” Critic’s glasses now reflected Ash’s face while technolgical music played. “You take the blue pill you wake up in your bed. But you take the red pill and you see just how far the victory road goes Mr. Ketchum.” Critic paused for a second and then yelled, “Machines!” Critic grew stern once again as more scenes of Ash dodging attacks played. “But really, are you that surprised that you’ve been watching the messiah of the pokemon world? I mean just look at him!” Critic showed pictures of Ash from various points in the anime. “Dude’s obviously immortal. Why not just elevate him to godhood and be done with it?”
The main villain was now shown capturing all the legendary birds. “So while all that is going on, the main villain continues to capture the birds. You know, like the main characters do on a daily basis. But seeing as the film had to have a bad guy, his attempts to capture the birds are evil because...” Critic raised a hoof dramatically before letting it fall slowly. He then grabbed a handful of papers marked “script ideas” and randomly threw them around. “C’mon, c’mon! There’s got to be a reason why he’s ev– Ah-ha!” The critic pulled out a piece of paper with his teeth and hurriedly started reading it aloud. “So the, uh, bad guy is bad because, um, he’s... causing chaos to the environment! Yes, the “Ted Turner/ Al Gore ploy,’ it always works!” A picture of Captain Planet and An Inconvenient Truth briefly flashed across the screen.
A scene of Lugia rescuing the heroes played.“But low and behold, the super-legendary bird shows up in time to save the group from sheer doom. You know, if the main character wasn’t already a god among men, I might call this bullshit ex machina. But that’d be silly.” Critic playfully waved off his own comment before his expression slowly soured. “Hell, just to confuse the audience more, Team Rocket, the villains from every single episode of this damn show, even show up to help.”
“We’re doing it for villany’s sake though,” James interrupted.
“Shut up!” Critic yelled at the blue haired cartoon man. He then turned back to the camera. “Okay, enough of this shit!” A quick montage of the rest of the film played. “They find all three piece of the treasure, the bad guy is defeated, order is restored to the world, and I want to gouge my eyes out with rusty spoon.”
“Ugh!” Critic’s form slumped. “Ya happy people? I did it. I reviewed one of the most requested films ever. So now will you please shut up?”
“Review Pokemon 4 Ever,” a fake audience voice called out.
“No, review Pokemon 3!” came another voice. Critic started to back away from the camera.
“Review Destiny Deoxys!” The voices started to grow into a loud roar of chaos. Critic shied away more.
“No, review this!” Critic covered his ears to make the complaints shut up.
“This is the worst film ever!” Critic started to have a nervous breakdown.
“This one is even worse!” Critic was biting his hoof in terror.
“I’ll bet I’ve found the worst movie of all ti–”
“Enough!” Critic yelled as the voices stopped. “I’ve put up with this for eight years! Do you know how much shit that is? I couldn’t just fertilize the lawn with all the crap I’ve reviewed. I could fertilize the whole damn planet and still have enough to fertilize Mars!” A picture of a large turd atop Mars briefly flashed across the screen. “Well that’s it people. I need a breather.” Critic moved a hoof along his beard. “If only there were some way to break out of reviewing crappy movies and shows.”
Another pony walked onto the screen. “Hey Critic, you got something in the mail about a job offer. Seems kinda fake though.” The other pony reached into a saddlebag and pulled out a letter.
Critic quickly opened in and read its contents aloud. “Dear Nostalgia Critic, you are invited to the Channel Awesome Comedy Tour that will be running through all of Equestria. You, along with all the other reviewers, will be doing a stand up improv tour across various towns in Equestria. Ponies will be able to see you for the low low price of twenty five bits a ticket. Locations will be announced in the Equestria Daily Newspaper.”
Critic put down the letter and looked at the other pony. “Wow, this sounds too good to be true,” he said in a playfully sarcastic voice.
“I know Critic,” the other pony replied. “It’s almost as if we just came up with an elaborate plan to sell out or something.”
Critic stared at the other pony for a second. “Naw, that’d just be silly.” He looked back at the screen. “Well people and ponies, it’s been a wild ride, we’ve had the good times.” The screen showed multiple shots of Critic beating up his fellow reviewers. “The bad times.” A montage of Critic getting beaten up by reviewers and fans played. “And just weird times.” Clips that appeared to be totally random including a scene of an odd man talking and Critic singing as a sentient piece of crap played. “But overall I just want to thank everypony who’s watched and stuck by Channel Awesome all these years. I’m the Nostalgia Critic. I’ve remembered it so you didn’t have to.” Critic trotted off the screen, but popped his head back in for a second. “And remember to check out the comedy to–” A horseshoe hit Critic in the face. “Okay, I’ll just leave details in the credits. Thanks for watching!” The credits played with a big “Thank You” at the top and promises of a wrap up video in the future.
I turned to my roommate. “Did... did we just watch the final Nostalgia Critic episode?”
“I think so,” he replied.
“Darn, I was hoping he’d stick around until we finished school.” I sighed deeply. “Now what are we gonna watch?”
“Friendship is Magic?” My roommate teased. I lightly punched him in the arm.
“I’ll get enough of that in the ‘Equestrian Culture’ class next semester. It’s required for everyone anyway.” I closed my computer and put it in my bag. I got up and started walking to the door.
“Where are you going?”
“To read a book. I hear the library just got a new shipment of Daring Do books.”
“You really like that series don’t you?”
I opened the door and turned to my roommate. “It does Indiana Jones better than Lucas.” I closed the door and walked off to the library. It was a very weird Saturday.
Thomas awoke in a flash. Outside his window, the sky was beginning to turn rosy with the early signs of dawn. He needed no alarm clock to awaken him, getting up at this time had been built into his body after years of work. It was even harder to sleep at night now. Every day was now a struggle for survival.
As per usual, he quietly got out of his bed and made sure not to disturb his still sleeping wife. She had her own troubles to deal with; he didn’t wish to add sleep deprivation to her trials. When he’d cleared the bed, he tiptoed over to his nightstand and grabbed the good book.
He paused on the same passage he’d been reading for the past six months. The passage blared in his mind throughout the day and while he worked. “And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; Yea, thou shalt search about thee, and shalt take thy rest in safety,” he murmured as he looked at the rising sun. He closed the book and put it down again.
He silently made his way to his bathroom to clean up and then went to the closest and took out his uniform. It was simple and humble, nothing that stood out. Words mattered more than looks. He tied up his shoes to finish his attire and slipped out of the bedroom.
Long tendrils of light stretched from the windows across the floor of his house. As he walked down the hall to the kitchen, he noticed light escaping from Sarah’s room. He frowned. Maybe Linda opened it when she got back last night. She should have closed it. He moved to shut the door, but something caught his eyes in the early morning light.
Small with a white body and pink and green hair, its plastic form reflected the early light off of itself. He trudged forward and picked up the small toy. He turned it around and looked at the Hasbro logo on the bottom of one of the hooves. He clasped the pony figure in his hand and quickly rushed off to the kitchen. He didn’t want to cause more of a disturbance in the room. It’s for her own good. He chucked the toy in the trash.
After that incident, Thomas didn’t feel like lingering in his house much longer. He grabbed a bagel and ate it without either toasting or spreading cream cheese on it. He opted for a glass of milk rather than coffee today.
He quickly finished off the milk and then climbed into his car. He clicked a button to open the garage, but he got no response. He clicked it again, but the garage didn’t move. A tinge of fear ran through him and he turned his key to ignite his car. To his relief, the engine hummed and the car came alive. Batteries probably just need to be replaced.
He got out of the car and went over to the opener that was built into the wall. He had a habit of opening the garage after he got into his car, despite the built-in opener being right next to the door. He clicked the button and the garage was flooded with light. He got back into his car and put it in reverse. He pulled out onto the street and drove off to work.
He fumbled with his keys as he tried to find the one that would unlock the building. His office was like a second home to him, yet finding the key was always a hassle for him. “Ah-ha!” He held up a tiny bronze key and undid the lock.
“Finding the key has always been an issue,” came a weathered voice. “Everyone before you had a similar complaint.”
Thomas turned around and smiled at the old man standing behind him. “Good morning Anton. How are you today?”
Anton stretched out and his back made an audible crack. “Troubles with the spine again. Had a bit of a fit with the nurses at the home. They offered me treatment, but well…” He stroked his thin white beard. “They mean well, but they are easily led astray.”
Thomas rested a hand on Anton’s shoulder. “Then pray for them today. I know you are only a janitor here, but you are always welcome to join in. A strong community is what we need now.”
“Thank you Father.”
“Please Anton, you are a friend. Just call me Thomas.” Thomas held the door open for his elderly cohort and then entered the church as well.
Thomas had just finished reading the day’s passage when he looked up from his podium at the crowd in front of him. His heart raced for a second when he saw his wife near the back. He steeled his resolve. Bare it! You can’t falter up here!
“Times right now are tough,” he began. “Six months ago, many people around the world suffered. Hunger, poverty, and violence were all staples of daily life. Some people thought it was too good to be true when an apparent salvation appeared. Food, prosperity, and peace were promised.” Thomas’s features darkened. “Then the ploy was revealed. Give up the body, the body crafted in the image of our Lord, and you could have it all.”
Thomas slammed a fist on the podium. “Trickery! It is said in Revelations that followers of the Beast would bear his mark. Well, let it be known that his servants don’t just bear his mark, they are the beast!” Angry chants and some people yelling “Save us!” echoed through the church.
“I admit it.” Thomas’s form slumped. “Even I was tricked. I had thought my brothers and sisters who condemned television were too extreme. I thought something as innocuous as a children’s show would never hide such a sinister plot.” He looked back at his wife. “I even enjoyed watching with my daughter. I though, ‘Surely a show in which the forces of good battle a horned monster of chaos had a positive message to it.’” He shook his head back and forth. “I beg the Lord for mercy everyday for being so foolish.”
He walked back and forth along the front of the stage. “Oh, there was a Devil on that show. He clad himself in white and graced himself with angelic wings.” He looked up at the stained glass, which showed Michael with a sword raised high. “He convinced the world he was just a make-believe princess.” He stared back at the congregation with a furrowed brow. “Now we know he is all too real. He keeps his guise and his kind words. People come to him with good intentions, but we all know what path good intentions line.”
He walked back to the podium and closed he large ceremonial book. For a few seconds, the room was deathly silent. Then he spoke again. “Brothers, sisters. Times are tough. Everything man could want is at his fingertips, but we must resist the temptation, for it is evil! Like our Lord, we are in a desert now and the Devil has promised us a kingdom. I urge you all to remember you are humans crafted in the Lord’s image and persevere. The end times are here and eternal bliss is close. Thank you all for attending.”
The crowd dispersed as usual. They came for solace, but then again it was Sunday after all. Most people had more free time then usual for September, what with school being reorganized and job opportunities both cropping up and disappearing in droves. Thomas was thankful that his job would continue no matter what. No, it was more than a job; it was his duty to protect his flock until the proper shepherd came.
There were also a few stragglers as well. They begged him for personal solace, but he only gave them the promise that the Lord would be with them.
“But father!” A woman cried. “My neighbors! I’ve been friends with them for years! How can I deal with them now that they’re monsters?!”
It was screamers like this that bothered him. They were irrational and that was dangerous. Irrationality thoughts led to brash actions: Crusades, witch-hunts, Inquisitions. He reached out to comfort the woman. “My child, it is all right. You are unspoiled. Yes, they have given into corruption. The pit likely awaits them. But, you still have your brothers and sisters here to comfort you. Never forget that.”
“T-thank you father.” The woman shuffled away.
Luckily, the incident had put the other stragglers at rest for the day and they went off to do their own business. Thomas made a beeline for his wife. “Linda, what’s wrong? Is it Sarah?” She just nodded in response. “We’ll take my car.”
Thomas rushed up the stairs. He dragged Linda with him. There were shouts behind them as they made it to their designated floor. He slammed the door open and rushed through the hall, past the beds and to the one place he needed to be at.
A small girl with blond hair like her mother smiled at them. “Daddy, you’re out of breath!”
Thomas stumbled over to a nearby chair and finally caught his breath. Oh thank god! They didn’t do it! “Sorry Sarah, mommy and I were running.”
“I saw.” The girl giggled, but then sucked in air between clinched teeth.
The color drained for both Thomas and Linda’s faces. “What’s wrong?” Thomas asked.
“The doctors put more spikes in my arm.” Sarah didn’t move, but her eyes looked over at the numerous tubes that ran from the medical equipment to her left forearm. “It hurt.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “The last thing I saw was mommy running. I was scared!”
Thomas got up and put his hand on his daughter’s back, careful to avoid disturbing any IVs. “Shhh.” He rubbed her back in little circles. “It’s okay. Mommy just had to go get me so I could be here too.”
Sarah used the hand that didn’t have IVs in it to rub the tears from her eyes. “D-daddy…” She moved to embrace him.
“Stop,” a voice called out. A doctor with short black hair and dark skin walked over. “Remember Sarah, moving is very bad.”
“Yes doctor.” Sarah moved away from the embrace and looked dully at Thomas. The tears were now replaced with disdain. He couldn’t blame her, all the doctors and nurses did was either take blood or stab more machines into her.
“Anyway.” The doctor brought a hand to his chest to steady his breathing. He wasn’t used to chasing patients’ families up six flights of stairs. “Mr. McAlister, can we take a walk?”
Thomas looked at Sarah and then at Linda. Linda gave him and nod and he knew things were okay, for now. “Yes.” He got up and followed the doctor.
Once they were out of hearing range the Doctor spoke up. “We were lucky this morning. We lost her for ten seconds.”
“What about now?” Thomas’s voice shook.
“She is stable, but understand, everything we’re doing now is a stop-gap measure.” The doctor stoically looked at Thomas. “This morning was a fluke.”
“It was not!” Thomas tried to check his voice, but he couldn’t hold his agitation. Damn them! Damn them all!
“Please Mr. McAlister, I know this is more than a parent should bare, especially with such a young child. But this treatment, it’s wasteful now. In a few months, we won’t even have equipment like this anymore.”
“Don't say it.” Thomas knew it was coming.
“I know you have personal viewpoints, but as a doctor you have to understand where I come from on this. Patients with inoperable tumors, Alzheimers, even those with STIs have been alleviated. Is that not something you would call a miracle?”
“No doctor, I call it treachery. I pray you see the light before it’s too late.” He was about to storm off, but he paused. “Thank you for keeping her safe this morning.”
The doctor sighed and rubbed his temples. “Despite what you think of my suggestion, I still have a duty to your daughter as a patient. I will not go through with anything unless I have your or your wife’s permission. We’ll continue treatment as long as we can.”
“Thank you.” Thomas walked away from the Doctor and back to his wife and child.
“Is everything alright?” Linda asked. Her hands were wrapped around one of Sarah’s.
“Yes,” he lied. “They were just giving me a breakdown on what happened this morning.” He focused on Sarah. “Sweetie, are you feeling better?”
“Yeah.” She wiggled around a little and didn’t make eye contact with Thomas.
He leaned closer. “What’s wrong?”
Sarah frowned. “Al left too.”
Thomas looked to his left at a bed that had previously been occupied by a young freckled boy. The poor kid had gotten mauled by a dog during the Crisis. Thomas was glad Al’s left side was facing Sarah. She didn’t need to see the scarred stump the boy’s right side had become. But despite his injuries, Thomas was glad the kid had been next to Sarah. He was quiet when he first came, but eventually he opened up and entertained Sarah in ways her parents couldn’t. Thomas was pleased that, even in a hospital, his daughter had made a friend.
He put his hand over Linda’s and gazed into his daughter’s eyes. “I’m sorry Sarah. Alphonse was a good friend. He is in a better place now though.” I’ll probably hold a token memorial for him.
“Outside does sound better.” Sarah stared over at a window on the far side of the room. “Al sounded pretty happy when he left.” Sarah let out a giggle. “He kept tripping though.”
Thomas’s face blanched. Al had lost both an arm and a leg to the dog. If he ever moved, it was in a wheelchair. There was nothing to trip on. Unless he got new legs. His hand moved away from Linda’s and Sarah’s and he grasped Sarah’s shoulder. “Sarah, listen to me. Alphonse was a good boy, but he’s done something very bad, okay?”
“You need to pay attention. You don’t like the doctors here, right?”
“They may try to give you something purple to drink. Don’t take it. Please! It’ll kill you! Promise me!”
“Daddy, you’re hurting me.” Thomas noticed that he could feel Sarah’s shoulder bone under his palm. He instantly backed away. “Daddy?”
“I’m sorry sweetie. Daddy had a long day.”
Sarah glanced over at the large clock that hung over the exit doors. “But it’s not even noon.”
“Sometimes days aren’t measured in time.” He brought his hand out again and rubbed her hair.
Sarah tilted her head in confusion. “Then what’s the point of clocks?” Linda and Thomas laughed at that. They’d both gotten quite good at false laughter. “What’s funny?” Sarah’s face was tinted red.
Thomas ruffled her hair again. “Nothing sweetie. You’ll find out when you’re older.” Outwardly he smiled, but inwardly he tore himself to shreds. The doctor’s words burned in his mind. A vial of purple glowing liquid flashed across his memory. No! He pushed the wicked thoughts back. This is a trial! I must stay strong! For Sarah’s sake! He slowly brought his hand away from Sarah’s head and looked over at Linda. “You’ve both had hard mornings.” He put on a fake smile and turned back to Sarah. “But you were very brave. Is there anything you want from the toy store?”
“Well.” Sarah brought her eyes to the bed. “They don’t have the good channel here, so I can’t see the show. But do you think you could get me a new pony toy?”
Thomas clenched his hands. “Anything but that.”
Thomas sat at the kitchen table, eating the casserole that had been in the oven for at least three extra hours. It was dry, but at least Linda’s cooking was better than hospital food. He looked at the two empty chairs next to him.
“… and now we move onto our discussion of genetics,” the TV blared. Thomas kept the TV on for company when he had the home shift. The quiet was too deafening otherwise. “With us is Dr. Smith of Stanford Medical, Dr. Wu from the Elsevier journal of psychiatry research, and our three guests that have just been discharged from rehabilitation.” Thomas shuddered when he saw the three ponies: a unicorn, a pegasus, and an Earth Pony.
The news anchor turned to the three ponies first. “Well, you’re why we’re here today. So why don’t you tell us a bit about yourselves.” The anchor held up a microphone to the pony that was closest to him, the pegasus. “Care to start?”
The pegasus scooted around her seat a little. “Well, my name now is Maple, but it used to be Amanda.”
“Why the new name?” the anchor asked.
Maple glanced up down her light brown hooves and up at her red bangs. “Somepony else said I kinda looked like a maple tree now. I don’t really know why, but it just stuck. Plus, all my friends changed their names too.”
“I see. Now, do you know why you became a pegasus?”
“Then, perhaps you could tell us why you chose to convert?”
“Well, my family wasn’t the most prosperous one, so things like vacations were rare and college was a pipe dream. It didn’t help that we had always had health issues.” Maple glanced over her body. “Hard to believe I was once two-fifty. Anyway, that pretty much stuck me at a dead-end job, but I wanted more than that. I wanted to go out and see the world, but who had time for that? There were a lot of days where I didn’t even want to get out of bed. Then an opportunity came along. A way to get out my job and my repetitive life.”
Maple shifted her hooves around. “I still remember the dream. The Princesses were there. As much as a I wanted to bolt out of there, I wanted to stay as well.” She chuckled a little. “Sorry for the bad comparison, but it’s like looking at an eclipse. But they just said a few kind words about me converting. Strange thing was it didn’t seem rehearsed. Before I woke up they said they looked forward to seeing what adventures I go on. The doctors said I woke up with a smile.”
“I see.” The anchor turned to the two doctors. “Your thoughts?”
“We’re still trying to fully grasp the factors of pony genetics,” Dr. Smith started. He looked over at Maple. “Pardon my frankness, but this woman had extra energy stored in her in the form of fatty tissue. That energy could have been used in the creation of additional limbs.”
“Have there not been skinny people that have become pegasi?” The anchor asked.
“No, there have been. However, while this is only speculation right now, additional energy stored in the body may increase the likelihood of a person obtaining wings or a horn through conversion.”
“Interesting.” The anchor turned to the other doctor. “Doctor Wu, your thoughts?”
“Could we perhaps have our horned friend here speak first?” Dr. Wu extended an arm over to the unicorn. “I’d like her to speak before I do.”
The unicorn happily looked at the cameras. “Thank you Dr. Wu.” She giggled a little. “I never thought I’d get to meet somepony who actually works with Elsevier. I actually wanted to intern there. Oh, my name is Moonshine by the way.”
“I see,” Dr. Wu replied. “Can you tell us what led to your choice to convert?”
“Curiosity. This was something unheard of in human history. The complete transformation of the human body and even a bit of the mind, or so I heard. No surgery, no stiches, just some artificial grape and a nice dream. Getting out of all my student debts was a nice bonus too.” The other ponies laughed at this.
Dr. Wu clasped his hands together. “Interesting. What was school life like for you?”
“A fight.” She glanced at both the doctors. “I’m certain it hasn’t changed much from when you were in school. Pre-med is your life. You breath biology, eat chemistry, and sleep with a psychology book under your pillow.”
Dr. Smith chuckled. “It’s the same.”
“Things are different now though.” Moonshine reached up and touched her horn with a hoof. “I can already manage small cuts and scrapes. Once I have proper training, who knows? This horn could become more precise than our best machines.”
Dr. Wu sat back in his chair and crossed his legs. “Like my colleague here, what I say is just speculation, but I believe how a person thinks also factors into their conversion. I know from experience that pre-med work often requires a high level of multi-tasking, something that requires a compartmentalization of daily life. I’ve analyzed and diagnosed other converts and have noticed certain traits and personalities fit with the sub-species they become.”
Dr. Wu passed a hand over to Maple. “Our winged friend here desired adventure and exploration. That’s something wings can give you.” He gestured back to Moonshine. “You however were curious of the effects conversion would have. Combined you're your pre-med psyche, you fulfilled parts of unicorn personality.” He looked back at the anchor. We’re hoping to correlate our research with the Myers Briggs personality grid to give us an algorithm for conversion.”
Dr. Smith raised his hand to make a point. “I’d like to add that we already know conversion isn’t an even three way split between the sub-species. Our final guest is an example of the, so far, common result of conversion.” He looked at the Earth Pony. “No offense.”
“None taken,” the pony replied. “Guess I should start with my name. Name’s Ashton Bradey. Unlike the girls here, I haven’t changed my name yet. I’ve got more important things on my mind.” He glanced at the other ponies. “Moving is probably on your mind as well.”
“Sorry,” the anchor interrupted. “We’re actually covering that on another segment, can you keep it to how you chose conversion?”
“Sure.” Ashton nodded. “Well, I really had nothing to lose converting.” He tapped a hindleg with a forehoof. “I was on a scholarship for football. Fourth game in, my leg might as well have been blown clean off: torn ligament, broken ankle, and an Achilles tendon in shreds. Heh, coach said the someone must have had it out for me.”
Ashton slumped a little. “That was it. I moved back home and went to community college after I recovered. I was never meant for anything other than the game. Without that, well… manager at McDonalds didn’t seem like a far off dream.” Ashton took a deep breath. “Couldn’t even play catch with my old man. Some days, I considered the knives in the kitchen or the gun under my parents’ bed.” Maple brought a wing over and patted Ashton on the back.
He placed a hoof on the wing. “Thank you.” He turned back to face the cameras, not with a frown, but with a smile. “It was a long half of a year. Then things began in the spring. I thought it was some mass hysteria. Then a friend of mine from the community college came over, um, teleported over. My old man nearly shot him out of fright. Luckily, I recognized his voice, just barely though. It’d been the first time his mouth had fully functioned.”
Ashton rubbed his hindleg a little. “When you’re like me, you gravitate to others with similar issues. They know what it’s like to be broken. But when I saw my friend bouncing up and down, I knew giving up hands was worth it. See, this kid had been slow before. He only really seemed to do well at art, and even that was hard for him ‘cause he couldn’t firmly grasp anything. Now he was jumping around and happily talking so fast it was almost hard to understand him. I looked at my parents and they knew, even if they’d been against it, that I’d have done it no matter what.”
Ashton shrugged his shoulders. “I still waited out the Crisis though. An injured kid on the streets was more likely to get stabbed before he even got a taste of grape. Staying safe and being with my family was important at the time. When things died down a little, I got up one morning, shook my old man’s hand for the last time and made my way to the closest hospital. I came home the next day on all fours.” Ashton smiled at the cameras.
“Doctors, your thoughts?” The anchor looked off beyond the cameras. “And your final statements if you wouldn’t mind? We’re a bit short on time.”
“May I?” Dr. Smith asked. Dr. Wu nodded. “Very well. As I said before, the ‘Earth Pony’ sub-species is the most common result of conversion that I’ve seen. Like with Ms. Maple, it’s possible energy and healing had a part in Mr. Bradey’s conversion. A chunk of the energy used in conversion may have gone to healing his leg.”
“When you say ‘energy’ you’re referring to magic, I assume?” The anchor gave Dr. Smith a skeptical look.
Dr. Smith furrowed his brow. “Magic doesn’t exist.” The ponies pulled back a little. “Oh, take no offense. What you call and utilize as magic is merely something the human mind has not yet fully understood.” He focused on Moonshine. “You said you wanted to hone your skills with your horn? That appendage is the equivalent of introducing anesthesia in the Dark Ages. By the time humans fully comprehend the new tools they’ve been given, ‘human’ could be little more than a state of mind.” He fell back into his chair with a pensive look on his face.
The anchor turned to the psychiatrist. “Your final thoughts, Dr. Wu?”
“Mr. Bradey’s conversion, while common, still keeps with my ideas as well. His life revolved around football and therefore, playing it was the ‘normal’ for him. His desire to fix his leg and return to normalcy possibly invoked his change to be an Earth Pony. No wings and no horn, just two pairs of legs.”
“Which I’m perfectly fine with,” Ashton chimed in. “Although football isn’t really my thing anymore. I’ve seen the reports, there are other things I could do now. Help ponies in ways playing a game never could.”
“Ah.” Dr. Wu smiled. “Therein lies possibly the largest change from human to equine. Increased empathetic desires are common traits of converts.” Dr. Wu stood up. “I actually have a simple test to-oof!” He slipped on the ground and crashed with a thud. All three ponies rushed over to help. “Sorry, I did some theater back in high school, it’s hard to forget a prep fall. But thank you for the concern.”
He gathered himself and sat back down. “No hesitation. It’s the same reaction I’ve seen in my studies. Two more seconds and they’d have seen I was perfectly fine. That’s two seconds a human ponders what to do: help, stand by, or maybe even laugh at another’s misfortune. It’s a survival mechanism. Humans, by instinct, place their own survival as a top priority. It’s not selfishness, it’s hardwired into our system.” His eyes passed over the three ponies that still looked at him with slight worry. “A system that ponies don’t have.”
“Incredible,” the anchor said. “Thank you all for your time.” His face was then on the camera again. “After the break we cover more of the African miracle and whether pegasi need bother with it. Stay tuned.”
The TV had been black ever since the ponies had shown up. Thomas sat at the table with a now empty plate. He threw it in the sink, went to his room, clasped his book, and allowed himself a moment of weakness. He fell to his knees. “Please,” he whimpered, “It’s too soon for her. Don’t let them take her away.” He stayed on his knees for a while.
Thomas noticed a figure waiting by the church when he pulled into his spot. He wasn’t late, but he still rushed over. “Anton, you really don’t need to come so early! A man your age needs his… rest.” The man standing in front of him was taller than Anton, even taller than Thomas. Whereas Anton had a crop of white hair, this man was bald. He wore a similar outfit to Thomas.
“I think I can rest later.” The man held out a hand. “Good morning Father. I’m Father Rosélin from the town over.”
Thomas reached out and shook Rosélin’s hand. Thomas winced a little; the grip was quite strong. “Good morning to you as well. But what brings you away from your own house?”
Rosélin let out a hearty laugh. “Oh, don’t worry, I have attendants to handle any wayward souls back home. Besides, it is Monday, surely you don’t get that many visitors either?”
“No, but I still like to be there to comfort them. These are harsh times after all.”
“You are correct about that. In fact, it is why I have come.” Rosélin clasped a hand on Thomas’s shoulder. Like the shake, the pressure Rosélin exerted was slightly painful. “Father, has any of your flock gone astray?”
It took Thomas a second to figure out what Rosélin was getting at. But there was only one way to truly know when someone had gone astray. Ironically, it involved hooves. “I pray not. My congregation is large though. It is hard to keep track of everyone.”
“I see. It is hard to remain pure when the lake of fire burns around us and tempts us to take a dip in it.” He leaned closer so that Thomas could smell his breath. “We must be united in times. Protect each other.”
“Yes.” Thomas could have sworn he felt the pressure on his shoulder increase. “I often tell my congregation the same thing.”
“Good.” Rosélin pulled back. Thomas was glad the grip on his shoulder was gone. “I just came by to make sure all was well here.” Rosélin clasped his hands behind his back and started to walk away. “Even some of our own have been lost to the beast. Driven mad by his temptation and forcefully adding more to the abominable herd.”
“I heard of that too.” Thomas tried to hold down his breakfast. The night came back into his head.
Thomas needed food and water. It wasn’t just for himself, but for Linda and Sarah as well. The hospital was on its emergency generators, and even those only worked sporadically. Magic surges had taken out power to half the city. Patients had been dying left and right, some from their illnesses, but many more from simple dehydration. Thomas didn’t know if the lack of potion was good or bad. Sarah was always asking for water and the pipes were dry. Thomas kept his wife in the hospital while he braved the streets.
There was a fire somewhere. Thomas couldn’t see the blaze, but its scent hung in the air. People ran and stumbled across the streets. He kept to the shadows, lest he end up with a knife sticking out of him. He knew where the warehouse store was. He just had to make a dash for it. Luckily, the darkened streets made it easy to stay hidden.
How had it come to this? Thomas had never expected the end times in his lifetime. He had just tossed aside the 2012 stuff as fear mongering. Certainly, no one had predicted a children’s show would be a herald for the end of the world. Ponies… why ponies? Thomas’s face soured. There’s something wrong with what they ask. Why is there so much suffering if they’re offering peace? Thomas jumped a little as a something big fell to the ground close by. He thoughts went back to the task at hand and he winded through the allies.
The store came into view much earlier than expected. A flaming truck illuminated the store in a dark orange light. Thomas moved quickly away from the beacon. But as he crossed the truck, he heard a crunch under his feet. He looked down and saw broken glass and liquid that glistened in the firelight. In day it was purple, but under the flames at night, potion looked pure black.
Thomas shivered a little and moved on. He prayed the store hadn’t been completely raided. He slowly stepped in and instantly found a blade at his neck. “What do you want?” A grizzly man snarled.
“You with them?” The blade inched a little closer. “They took my truck. I took their poison.”
“I…I just need some water and food for m-my family.”
The man lowered his weapon. “Go. Take more than you need and a cut throat will be the least of your worries.” He fell back onto a cheap lawn chair. There was a rifle propped against it.
Thomas dashed through the aisles. He saw a few other people weave in and out of the store. No one made eye contact or stayed in the same place for long. The store’s atmosphere didn’t help much either. Fires strategically lit up parts of the store. The man probably wasn’t the only guard of this place. However, whoever else ran the store hadn’t gotten around to dealing with the food section yet. The scent of rotting meat and decomposing produce wafted through the air and made Thomas a little nauseous. Combined with the smell of cheap fabrics burning, the fetid stench and the lighting made the store more menacing then anything earthly should have been.
For a while, Thomas fumbled around, knocking over boxes here and there. He picked up a few crackers along the way, it wasn’t much, but food was food. Along one of the sides, he found what he was looking for though. He picked up the large jug of water, it was heavy, but he could bare it.
Then the scream had filled the air. It came from the front of the store. Thomas instinctively looked over in that direction and saw an unnatural light in the darkness, something flames could never make.
“Attention,” a voice yelled with unnatural loudness. It sounded as if it was going through a filter of some sort. “We are here to help. You can have all the food and water you want soon. This should only take thirty minutes.” The voice stopped and was replaced with the sounds of something hard hitting the ground, like a bunch of people walking in clogs or…
“Jesus Christ!” Thomas instantly clasped a hand over his mouth. Then he noticed he could see his hand fully now. The entire store was bathed in a horrible green light. It came from where the normal fires had been before, but it was dark and unnatural. It’s from the pit! Thomas steadied himself against a wall and tried to come back from the panic attack. The crackers had fallen, but he didn’t notice or really care. Escape was what mattered. Door! Where’s the emergency door?!
Thomas was running now. There were more screams now and the constant sound of hooves clopping on cement. The water jug banged against his knee as he searched for an escape route. He saw the emergency exit and bolted for it. To his side, a purple blur zoomed out of the emerald hellfire. It whizzed by Thomas’s head and shattered against the door. The purple goo glistened as it fell to the ground along with bits of glass. Thomas paused for a second, taking in everything. He moved to the door.
“Wait,” a voice called out. It was soft and gentle, a stark contrast to the nightmare the store had descended into. Thomas slowly turned. The fire gave the grey pony a sickly look. Its horn glowed a dull beige as it advanced with another bottle of potion levitating at its side. “Please. I don’t like doing it this way. They scream when you throw it on them. It’s just a small drink. Then you can see Princess Celestia in all her glory.”
No words came out of Thomas’s mouth. No prayers came to his mind. There was no protection in this place, no Lord to save him. He did what most people would do when confronting the abyss. He screamed. He screamed as the vial flew at him and missed again. He screamed as he kicked the door open. He screamed as he ran faster than he ever had in his life. He screamed while the handle of the jug rubbed his hand raw and made it bleed. He screamed all the way back to the hospital.
For many nights, he screamed as he found himself back in Hell. Only this time, the vial smashed right into his face and burned him to his very core. The Devil, with his white wings and horn, placed a gold covered hoof over him and laughed. Linda woke him up most of the time, but sometimes he snapped out of it before that. He didn’t want a bible or prayers when he awoke. He just wanted to feel his fingers caress his wife’s back. He just wanted to know he was still human.
“Father? Father?” Rosélin repeated. “Are you alright?”
Thomas lightly shook his head to clear the dark thoughts away. “Y-yes. Just reflecting a little.” He looked at the rising sun. “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Rosélin walked toward a corner of the church. “A shame there are so many stains.” Before Thomas could question Rosélin’s final musings, the man had disappeared behind the church.
While finding the situation odd, Thomas didn’t pass it up as an impossibility. After all, Rosélin was just another brother looking to check up on him. Wasn’t that what I’ve been preaching? He flung open the door and stepped down the walkway that led to the large cross and podium at the front of the church. The eggs he had for breakfast made him cough a little. Linda comforting Sarah was worth a slight upset stomach though. Maybe I should have asked him to stay. It would have at least made Monday interesting. No one came to church on Monday.
Boredom had somehow become a good thing to Thomas. While Sunday had been horrific, the rest of the week was dull and listless. That was how things had been before the Crisis, before Sarah got sick, even before he met Linda. He read the book, gave his sermons, and consoled those in need. It was what he’d been doing since dropping out of college and he liked it. To see a grieving mother smile, a lonely man find comfort, or a child find peace; those were things that made Thomas himself happy. Even with Hell spilling out of the Pacific, he could still spread the grace of god.
Then Saturday had come.
“Daddy, where’s my toy?” Sarah had her fist balled up in annoyance.
“Oh.” Thomas saw the genuine hurt in Sarah’s eyes and wanted to slap himself. “Sorry sweetie. I had a busy week.” Thomas lied. It had just been that the shift from the chaotic Sunday and the bizarre Monday morning to the mundane week had snapped such a minor thing out of Thomas’s mind.
Evidently, Linda had forgotten too, but Thomas couldn’t blame her. His worry was nothing compared to Linda’s. She’d actually been there the day Sarah first collapsed and had been there the three times doctors had had to perform emergency surgery. For as often as Thomas woke up to nightmares, he also had to comfort Linda and tell her the surgery wasn’t her fault. Often times, they just stayed up all night, locked in each other’s arms.
He reached into his pocket and took out his phone. “I’m gonna call mommy right now. That way she can watch you while I go get your toy, okay?”
Sarah put her right arm over her chest. If it weren’t for the IVs in her left arm, she’d have both her arms crossed. She still pouted though.
Thomas pressed the speed dial and, after a few short rings, Linda picked up. “Oh, Thomas, I just got back. Is everything alright?” Concern laced her voice.
“Just fine.” He replied. “Look, I know it’s asking a bit much, but do you think you could come back and watch Sarah a little longer? I need to pick up her toy.”
“Toy? What to- oh, I completely forgot. I could pick it up if you want.”
Thomas glanced back at Sarah, who was still pouting. “No, I promised her and it’s my responsibility.”
He could hear Linda sigh on the other side of the call. “You shouldn’t talk about yourself like that. I’ll be right there.” There was a click and Linda was gone.
Thomas turned back to Sarah. “Mommy will be here soon. Then I can get you any toy you want.” Sarah kept pouting. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t want any toy. I just want one toy.”
“Sarah, we’ve been through this before. Those are very bad things. Remember what they said in school about how bad smoking was? Those toys are even worse. They’ll make you more sick.”
“They didn’t make me sick before.” Sarah broke eye contact with her father and glared at the bed. “They made Al better.”
“They did not!” Thomas cringed as he saw Sarah inch back in her bed, as if she were trying to get away from his outburst. The look on her face… it brought back memories of that night. Thomas hung his head low and slumped in one of the chairs by the bed. The two waited in silence.
“Is something wrong?” Linda asked when she arrived. It must have been an odd feeling for her to be the positive member of the family.
“No.” Thomas pushed himself out of the chair. “Sarah was just telling me about the toy she wanted.” He gave his daughter a weak smile. “I’ll make sure I get a good one.”
“If they have Pinkie Pie, get her! She’s funny!”
The bolt was coming any second. Thomas was sure his hypocrisy wouldn’t be given a blind eye. It… it’s for Sarah. He wouldn’t smite me for her, right? As the automatic doors to the store opened, he noticed that one of the glass panels had been replaced with cardboard. It was a scar from the Crisis. However, the other thing Thomas noticed was that he wasn’t the one who opened the doors. Someone from the inside had.
A man and a woman came out. They took nothing with them, yet had very content looks on their faces. They didn’t seem to notice Thomas, but he noticed them and raised an eyebrow. No baby toys. No diapers. Nothing. Unless that woman was in her first trimester, she’s not pregnant. Why would a couple come to this store and not even buy anything? Why smile as if they had bought something? Thousands of scenarios played in his head as he tried to figure out the enigma of the couple. They were asking for directions! People are always moving around right now. Makes perfect sense. Thomas smiled a little as he admired his deductive reasoning.
“Welcome to Toys R Us,” a happy attendant chimed. “The wait should be just about five minutes. Good timing!” The attendant kept a cheerful smile on his face.
“Excuse me?” Line? Thomas scanned the store and indeed there was a line that was contained by plastic pillars and chains. It led straight back to a neon pink aisle.
“Oh are you searching for something else?” The attendant’s smile gave way to a neutral expression. “I just assumed that’s what you were here for. It’s practically what anyone comes here for now. Shame no one buys the toys, but end of the world, what can ya do?” The attendant playfully shrugged in the face of the apocalypse.
It suddenly all clicked for Thomas: the couple, the line, and the lack of purchases. These people weren’t shopping for toys; they were shopping for bodies. After all, the toys were prime examples of how you’d look after conversion. The pink aisle was now a showroom floor. Thomas felt queasy. This is sick! It’s wrong! No! Just get it and get out! “I... I actually do want to buy. My daughter wants a toy.”
The attendant smiled again. “Great. Well, again, you had good timing. You’ll still have to wait in line, but it’s just five minutes.” He held out a hand that gestured over to the line.
Thomas quickly moved away from the attendant over to the line. At least with the doctors, there was some semblance that what they were asking was difficult. The attendant, with his cheery smile and wide eyes, frightened Thomas. A drug pusher would have been a welcome alternative.
Thomas stood in line behind a girl who appeared to be a college freshman at best. She was decked out in jeans and a black t-shirt. Her dark brown hair tied in a ponytail reminded Thomas of how Linda looked when they first met. She’s too young! I have to at least save her! He politely tapped her on the shoulder.
She turned her head around and blew a wad of bubblegum in his face. “Hmm?”
“Miss, why are you here?”
“Um, same reason everypony is here?”
Thomas inwardly shuddered. Already even using the pronouns. I need to help! “Does your family realize what you’re doing?”
“I mean, I talked with them a little. Not like liking ponies is anything new.” She fully turned around, revealing the front of her shirt. It took Thomas a second to realize it wasn’t the iconic image of Icarus made famous by Led Zepplin, but rather a twisted parody of it. A pegasus was in place of Icarus. The words “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic 2010” formed two bars around the picture. “Never did buy a toy though.”
“You’re a fan.”
“Yeah, some of my friends got me into the show last summer.” She scratched her face with a finger. “Pretty weird that it’s all real now. What about you? Normally, I’d be a bit more skeptical about a priest in toy store.” She clasped a hand around her chin. “You think you’ll open a church in Equestria? My parents were wondering about that.”
Thomas frowned, but it felt like his mouth was collapsing in on itself. “Child, there will be no church in that place.” Just turn away, don’t go to the pit!
“Oh, guess it’s a bit of a silly question to ask a priest off the street.”
“No, it’s not. Child, please reconsider this. You have too much to live for, don’t throw it all awa-”
“Next!” A voice from within the pink aisle called out.
“Guess it’s my turn!” The girl walked forward. “Nice talking with ya!” Then, she was gone.
Thomas stood there. He wanted to turn a blade on himself. He couldn’t help a child see the light. Yes, he’d noticed certain churchgoers disappear of the past six months, but he’d never actually confronted them individually. One Sunday, they’d be in the pews, the next, they’d be gone and never come back. Thomas tried to fool himself into thinking they’d just moved out of town or something similar, but a dark corner of his mind told him the truth. His words hadn’t reached them and the Devil’s gift was too tempting.
“Next!” The voice broke him out of his brooding. He took a deep breath and walked into the aisle.
There were various girl toys in the aisle: Barbie, Bratz, and other toys. But the ponies clearly stood out. Three toys: a pegaus, a unicorn, and an Earth Pony, were encased in glass and spinning around, like luxury cars. He’d seen the pegasus on TV for a few seconds. It was blue with multi-colored hair. That was the day this madness had started. The nauseous feeling returned to Thomas. The eyes on the toys seemed to glare at him. Where is it? They wanted his soul. Where is it? Hellfire danced in their eyes, the same as that night. “Where is it?!”
Something tapped his leg. “Sir, do you need help finding something?” Its voice was feminine. It was green, an unnatural minty green. Its hair was white with streaks of yellow running through it. A green horn poked out of its head and parted its mane. Its large brown eyes stared at Thomas’s own. “Sir?” the pony asked.
Thomas’s mouth opened and closed, but no words came out. He backed into the wall of toys. A few boxes clattered to the ground. The aisle felt too small, the floor too far away. “Sir? Are you okay?”
His eyes turned to pinpricks as he focused back on the pony. He drew in his breath. “Get back.”
“Sir, if you have a medical issue, we’ve got first aid he-” The lights went out before the pony could finish. “Oh no, not a magic surge. Sir? Sir?” Suddenly, a tiny green light appeared in the darkness. It glowed from the tip of the pony’s horn and illuminated both its face and Thomas’s. “Don’ worry sir, I’m sure this will clear up in a se-” A wave of boxes containing ponies fell on it. Thomas prayed that would stall the demon long enough for him to escape. He knew it still needed its blaze to see. It was blind as long as he was.
However, there was still the light outside the store. It was a beacon that Thomas needed. He wouldn’t stay in the pit again. He rushed for the exit. He rammed into the doors on the way out, pushed them open, and kept running. He burst out the store and into the parking lot. Never! Never again! Forgive me Sarah!
He dashed to his car and fumbled for the keys. He quickly found them and pressed the automatic unlock button. He nearly yanked the handle off the door, but the car remained locked. He pressed the unlock button multiple times, but the door remained locked. “Damn it!” He jammed the key into the lock and twisted. The car still didn’t open. He pulled off the outer jacket of his uniform and wrapped it around his right hand. He had to get away before the demon came back. He raised his hand to break the window, but something stopped him from striking.
The grip on his hand was strong. Thomas spun around with his keys in his left hand as he only weapon. However, it wasn’t a pony he faced, it was Rosélin. “Please Father, it’s just me.”
Thomas’s form slumped and his keys fell to the ground. “I…I…”
“It is perfectly fine. I’ve heard about your sermons, I know you’re a good man.” He looked over at the Toys R Us and snarled. “I assume whatever reason you had for being in that hellhole was a good one.” Rosélin looked down at the suitcase he was holding with his left hand. “You’ve got an angel looking out for you, it seems.”
Why? Why is he here? Why isn’t my key working? What’s going on?! “What’s going on?”
“Father, stay with me.” Rosélin put down the suitcase and clasped Thomas’s shoulders. “They’re attacking us again. It’s a blessing that I ran into you. The streets are going to be chaos soon.” His eyes darted around. “They always prey on us at times like this.” Rosélin took hold of Thomas’s hand. “Come with me. I can help you.”
Information kept assaulting Thomas’s head. Attack. Keys. Rosélin. Pit. Light. Demon. Darkness… darkness. “Jesus!” He pulled against Rosélin’s grip. “The hospital! Sarah!” He squirmed out of Rosélin’s hand and started running.
“Father! Wait! It’s not safe!” Thomas was too far for the older priest to catch up. He made a mad blitz for the hospital.
Thomas nervously walked through the distended pews of the church. To his relief, he’d imagined it looking much worse after a month of chaos. He’d stayed with Linda and Sarah in the hospital for a few days after the power came back on. Then he remembered that for how scared they all were, his congregation was just as scared. He had to go comfort them.
Chalices had been stolen, tapestries disturbed, and smaller crosses taken in the chaos. Those things were small losses though. The church still stood, its windows unbroken, the cross still hung.
“I was beginning to worry,” Anton said with a smile as he stood by the door. He placed his hand on the splintered frame. “A shame we’ll need to get a new lock for the door.”
“Doors can be rebuilt, people can’t.” Thomas walked up and gave Anton a hug. “I am glad you are safe.”
“I… I wish my grandkids were too.”
Thomas pulled away and looked at the old man crying. “Anton, I’m sorry, they were good kids.”
Anton continued to sob.
“It will be okay.” Thomas gave Anton a pat on the back.
A few hours later, the church was cleaned up. Some other loyal churchgoers had come to help too; evidently Thomas had been too focused on repairs to notice Anton occasionally slip in and out of the church. Thomas still appreciated the company and seeing that familiar faces were well.
The sun was beginning to dip when the final bit of repairs were being made. Unfortunately, this involved moving the large half of the pew that had been broken. Try as they might, Thomas, Anton, and the others who remained couldn’t lift it. Thomas wiped the sweat from his brow and looked down at the pew and then back at the others. “You’ve all worked hard enough. A broken pew is no reason to… to…” The pew lifted off the ground on its own. It zoomed out of the church and into the pile where all the other trash had been collected. A faint blue glow disappeared from it as it came to rest on with the rest of the refuse.
There was the sound of something hard quickly hitting the ground that eventually faded away into the ambient noise of the city. Thomas was about to say a prayer when he saw Anton fall to the ground, fresh tears streaming down his face. “Anton!” He grabbed the old man and tried to shake him. “It’s okay! It’s gone now. They won’t hurt you!”
Anton slowly turned to Thomas. “I know. Even as a demon, he still wanted to help.”
Anton brought up a hand to cover his eyes. “My son truly is fool.”
His breath was ragged. Having sand poured down his throat was a welcome alternative to how Thomas felt right now. He lungs ached, his feet burned, his legs felt like lead. His uniform was disheveled and drenched in sweat. The hospital was within sight now. He just needed to go a few more steps. He saw there were lights on in the lobby. Thank god. The electricity stayed on here.
He shuffled his way into the lobby. The receptionist rushed over. “Mr. McAlister! What happened to you?” The receptionist left his side and rushed over to the water fountain and filled a paper cup. “You need water. You’re dehydrated.”
“Thank you,” he rasped. The water stung to swallow. He tasted blood as well as it went down his throat. It could be worse. It would have stung much more if it were… Thomas looked at the electrical water cooler the receptionist had gotten the drink from. Cold. A little color drained from his face.
“Are you alright?”
He started slouching over to the stairs. “Yes, I just need to check on my daughter.”
“Yes… your wife tried to call you, but with the power outage, she…” Thomas didn’t hear the rest, he was flinging up the stairs with newfound adrenaline.
“No!” His cry echoed through the stairwell. Oh god, there wasn’t any power here! What if the generators didn’t work either? What if… He rushed upwards.
He busted onto the all too familiar floor. All the patients stared at him, but it was Linda who ran up to him. “I’m sorry! I tried! But I… I…” She broke down into his shoulder.”
So it had finally happened. He’d told himself this would happen, talked out with Linda, and prayed to the Lord for guidance when it came. Now he just felt empty. The last thing he’d done was promise Sarah he’d buy her a monster. This was the punishment he deserved for soliciting with the Devil. He stroked his hand down his wife’s back. “Oh Linda. I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have left. I should have been with her.” Somehow, out of the void of his emotions, he pulled out a delusional smile. “She’s in a better place.” This elicited more crying.
Then he saw the bed. There was a lump under the covers. Didn’t bother to take her away. He looked down at his Linda. Did she ask them to wait until I got here? He started to get up, but Linda held him down.
“Please… don’t…” she hiccupped.
He reached down and placed her hands on her shoulders. “I have to. I have said it for others.” He took a deep breath and held back the tears. “I will say it for her. We’ll figure things out after that.” Linda’s face scrunched up. She gritted her teeth as it looked like crying brought pain to her. She let go of Thomas and slumped. The sounds of a broken creature emanated from her.
Thomas pushed himself forward. Despite the pain in his legs, he moved forward at a mechanical pace. He could only hear the beat of his own heart as he got closer and closer to the bed. He stood over the bed. Maybe it was for a second; maybe it was for a lifetime. He didn’t know how many times his mouth opened and closed with no words coming out. He looked over at the little table next to the bed. There was a bible there. He reached out and grabbed it. He knew the words by heart, but he right now he needed something solid to say them out of.
“Our father in heaven,” his voice trembled. “Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” He felt the wetness roll down his cheeks. “G-give us this day our daily bread, and f-forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone.” He gulped down the air. Tiny bits of water fell to the ground. “And lead us not into temptation.”
He looked down at where his daughter lied. He had done his duty as a preacher of the Lord’s word. The Bible fell to the ground with a loud thump and Thomas let out all the tears as he sobbed over Sarah’s body. “You’re in a better place. You’re in a better place.” He wanted to believe the mantra so badly. “Someplace where it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
“Daddy?” came a faint voice from under the covers.
“Sarah?” I’m delusional. Linda… Linda must have been here when for the time of death. The doctors gave up. She can’t be… He then noticed the steady fall and rise of the blanket. Something was breathing under it. He reached out and hugged it. “Oh Sarah! I thought you were gone! This… this is a miracle!” He hugged Sarah tighter from under the blanket.
“I’m happy too daddy. When I saw them, I asked them to make you happy. You never really smile when you’re here.”
“It’s okay sweetie. I’m happy now.” He held her close under the blanket. He wasn’t aware that the blanket had fallen off her face. He kept her in his embrace.
“Can we go home now? They said I should be all better.” Something warm and soft rubbed up and down the side of Thomas’s neck. Thomas’s eyes flew open. Something wasn’t right. The feeling on his neck didn’t feel like either hair or skin, but a mixture of both. He kept hugging Sarah, but didn’t look up at her.
“Sarah, who said you were all better?”
“The Princesses.” Thomas seized up.
“Ow, daddy, you’re hugging me too hard.” Something squirmed out of Thomas’s grasp and lightly tapped him in the face. It was pink and a soft layer of fur adorned it except for the rough rounded end.
“N-no.” Thomas’s whole body shook.
“No.” His hands fell away from holding Sarah and griped the covers.
“Daddy?” He didn’t want to look. He wanted to stab his eyes out, poke holes in his eardrums, and blot out the world. No, it wasn’t the world anymore, it was the pit. He hadn’t escaped that night at the store; the Devil had followed him, haunted his dreams, and found what was most precious to him. Then he’d taken it.
The worst part of Hell is not the torture. It’s not the Devil that laughs at you. It’s not the regret you feel for whatever sins you committed. It’s the little angels the Devil sends you to remind you you’re his for eternity. Thomas did what all those who entered Hell did. He abandoned all hope.
“Why are you crying daddy?” A pink Earth Pony with white and purple hair asked. She had Sarah’s voice. “I got better.”
It took her. Thomas’s hands inched for the pillow. It smiled at him. Its large deep blue eyes full of innocence burned his soul.
I can’t! Not when it does that! That’s her face! Her eyes! Her smile! Thomas grabbed the blankets and pulled them up and made sure the pony was snug in Sarah’s bed. He got up and walked over to the door. He pulled it open and was about to turn off the lights when it opened its mouth.
“Daddy, I’m sorry my wish didn’t work.”
He turned off the lights and closed the door without looking back. He trudged over to his room and flopped onto his bed. Normally, he’d take off his clothes before going to bed, but he’d only been wearing shorts and t-shirts since he’d returned home. His uniform was meant for a priest. It had no use in Hell.
He looked over at Linda. Somehow she still managed to change into proper nightwear, but didn’t do much beyond that. She didn’t make food on her own or leave the house. She just changed clothes every day and randomly wandered the house. She retreated to the bedroom whenever she saw it. It was all Thomas could do to make stuff that barely registered as food for the two of them. Empty soup cans, discarded pop-tart boxes, and dozens of ramen packets filled the trashcan.
Then there were the salad bags. It could barely stomach the pop-tarts. Thomas couldn’t leave it to starve; even his darkest thoughts couldn’t allow that demise for it. He wanted something quick and painless. Maybe if he killed it now, Sarah’s soul still had a chance. It was there. He saw it in its eyes. Those weren’t the eyes of a demon. Wasn’t that the reason why he’d taken it out of the hospital? Why he’d brought it home? Fed it? Cared for it? She was there, buried under that horrible form, right?
The questions constantly rattled around in Thomas’s head and kept him up late every night. Linda mechanically fell asleep after staring straight at the ceiling for some time. That left Thomas alone with his thoughts. He looked over at the Bible next to his bed. It wouldn’t work. Eventually, the world went black on him. No dreams. No nightmares. Just darkness.
Morning came and the sun hit Thomas in the face. Hell, it seems, couldn’t grace him with eternal sleep, only extra sleep. His body’s internal alarm clock had given up and now he just slept until something else woke him up, usually the sun. Days blended into each other and generally felt like a blur.
He got up and looked over at Linda. She was in a semi-awake state. She looked stiff as a board and her eyes were once more glued on the ceiling. He left her alone. He could call her a traitor, a monster just as bad as the doctors, or a failure, but he knew she already called herself all things. He was in no position to lambast her.
He slouched through the house and into the kitchen. He poured himself some cheap cereal and milk. Then he remembered that it would be hungry too. He opened the fridge and brought out two eggs. It could eat eggs. He set the eggs on the counter and pulled out a frying pan and placed it on the stove. He cracked the eggs and let them sizzle on the burning metal.
Once they were sunny side up, he slid the eggs onto a plate and set it on the table. At first, he’d put food for it on the ground, tried to trick himself into thinking it was only an animal. But it spoke to him with Sarah’s voice. He couldn’t bring himself to watch it eat like a dog. First, he set up boxes so it could climb up to the chair, but it eventually learned to pull itself up.
Thomas dug into his breakfast. He didn’t want to face it. He’d done his job. He’d given it food. Now for the rest of the day. He’d finish his breakfast and then lie motionless like Linda often did. He’d ponder where and what went wrong. Then, if he were in a good mood, he’d beg something, anything for Sarah to be saved. He should have never wished she’d get better. The Devil loved to twist wishes into horrors.
He was about to shove another spoonful of cereal into his mouth when that horribly sound came from Sarah’s room. The sound of hooves hitting the ground grew louder as it entered the kitchen. He kept his eyes on his cereal, but he still caught glimpses of it in his peripheral vision. He heard it clambering up the chair and then heard the sound of it eating the eggs.
He focused back on his cereal and ate it at a much faster pace than before. He wished the sound of the cereal crunching in his mouth could dull out the noise it was making. He quickly finished the meal and made his way to the sink. He deposited the bowl, but didn’t clean it. He’d wash the bowl later when it wasn’t in the kitchen. He started back to his room.
“Wait,” it called out. “I… I made something.” He heard it hop off the table and land with four simultaneous clops. It trotted over and nuzzled against his leg. He took a deep breath and looked down. A piece of paper was in its mouth. It turned its head up and flashed a smile at Thomas. He slowly reached out and took the paper from its mouth.
It was a very crude drawing. The lines of crayon were rough and uneven. The drawing held three ponies. A pegasus and a unicorn were unfamiliar, but the pink Earth pony in middle, even in a simple drawing, was too familiar to Thomas. All three ponies were smiling. “I thought maybe if I drew us all smiling together, it’d make you feel better,” the pony explained. “Do you like it?”
There it was. That request it kept making for him to feel better. The wish Sarah had traded her soul for. It was twisted by the Devil’s lies, but Thomas still saw the sincerity in it. He bent down and rustled his free hand through it white and purple mane. No, this is what Sarah’s hair felt like. It wasn’t its mane. It was her hair. The moment in the kitchen felt very long, but then it was too short when there was a knock at the door. “Stay here,” he commanded it. It nodded in response.
If it’s those god forsaken doctors, black eyes will be the least of their concern.
The time at the hospital was even more of blur than life currently was. Thomas had shattered. He vividly recalled waking up in a bed with bandaged hands and a raspy voice. His looked at the wrappings on his hands, he’d been slamming them on something.
Then it had come into the room. It was yellow with a leaf green mane. “Oh Mr. McAlister, we were getting wo-” It didn’t finish. Thomas sprung out of the bed and was on it in an instant. His hands tightened around its throat.
“You demons! You took her! You took her!” There were the sounds of shoes and hooves running over to his bed. He picked up the unconscious monster’s form and threw it at a mixture of nurses and other monsters. However, he was so distracted with what was in front of him, he didn’t feel the needle jab him in the arm until it was too late. He still smacked whoever knocked him out though.
Thomas awoke again in the bed. This time there were restraints on his arms and legs. The doctor who had taken care of Sarah was by the bed. His right eye was black and swollen shut. Thomas tried to reach out and wring his neck, but the restraints held him in place. All he could do was raise his head and hope the animosity in his eyes would set the doctor aflame. “You killed her!”
“We saved her,” the doctor calmly stated. “The power was out and her life signs were fading fast. Your wife gave us permission in the nick of time.” Thomas just bared his teeth at the doctor. In response, the doctor sighed. “I know this is jarring to you. It was to us as well when all this started. But now she’s healthy.”
“Go. To. Hell!” Thomas spat in the doctor’s face.
The doctor sighed again and turned to walk away. Then the sound of hooves started. It got closer and Thomas started wiggling his restraints around trying to get them loose. He saw it in the corner of his eye. Its mane had Sarah’s hairstyle. It was getting closer and then it tripped on its own legs and fell to the ground. “Oof! Four legs are hard.”
The doctor walked over and helped it up. “Sarah, you should go back to your own bed. You’re recovering.” The doctor looked down at the red marks on her pink legs. “Walking is still hard for you.”
“But I heard daddy yelling. I… I just wanted to make sure his hands weren’t red anymore.” It sucked in its breath and tried to hold back tears.
“Sarah, your daddy and mommy aren’t very happy right now. You should just go back to your bed.”
It rushed past the doctor and up to Thomas’s bed. Without a care for itself, it nuzzled Thomas’s left hand. “I’m sorry daddy!” It cried. “They said you’d feel better! I…” It broke into sobs.
It was the same sound Sarah had made when she scraped her knee learning to ride a bike. Thomas flexed his hand as much as he could and used it to wipe away its tears. “Sarah,” he murmured. Then the doctor had carried it away, it wailed all the way to its own bed. Thomas felt the wetness of the tears in his hand and cried as well. He cried until sleep came.
When he next awoke, there was small packet near his bed. Its cover had shadows of a human and a pony joining hand and hoof. The doctor was back as well. “That’s one of the hospitals own copies. They haven’t gone into wide circulation yet. She’ll have had all the basics taught to her in two days. After that… it’s up to you. But if you intend to harm her, we will find someone else to provide her a home. Think it over.” He walked away from the bed and left Thomas with the packet.
Thomas stared at the packet for a long time. Then he just looked up at the ceiling. The next day, Linda had gotten out of her own bed and shambled over. They hadn’t put her in restraints. She bent down and they looked into each other’s eyes. Thomas felt as if he was staring into an abyss of white, black, and brown. Linda probably felt the same as well, but she was looking at a chasm of white, black, and blue. “My fault,” she whispered.
“No,” he whispered back. She’d been tricked. That’s how the Devil worked, one moment of weakness and an eternity of damnation. For all the things Thomas wanted to say or call her, he couldn’t bring himself to condemn his wife. He was damned, she was damned, and Sarah was damned.
Two days later, he’d taken it home. If he’d abandoned it, it would have cried. Sarah would have cried. At first, it talked about how excited it was to go home, but when it saw neither Thomas nor Linda was talking, it frowned and went silent. It eventually just went with leaning on Thomas’s side while Linda drove home. By that point, the power was fully back and the hospital had helped Linda retrieve the second car at the house. It was a long ride home.
Thomas slowly opened the door. The natural light, unencumbered by windows, stung a little. “Hello?” He weekly asked. He was looking at a familiar face.
“Oh Thomas! Thank god!” Anton gave Thomas a very deep smile and held out his hand. Thomas slowly reached out his own hand and Anton pulled Thomas in for a quick hug. “Everyone at the church was worried. After the first week, most people moved on. A few of us stayed. Then I couldn’t take it after another week. I had to make sure you were alright.” The old man spoke with a fiery intensity, as if he had lost a child. Anton had experience in losing his children. “You look terrible.”
“I… I’m fine,” Thomas ran a hand through his hair. It was knotted in places and he could feel the grime that had accumulated in it. When was the last time I showered?
Anton gave him a concerned stare. “You’re not fine. Please, can you tell me what’s wrong?”
Thomas looked away from the old man. He couldn’t tell him.Tell the man who had lost his family to the demons that now Thomas was harboring one right in his own house? Never. “I…I…” He kept his eyes on the floor.
“Oh.” There was now a touch of sadness in his voice. “Was it little Sarah? I was worried after I saw you rush out from church a few weeks ago.” He put a hand a Thomas’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
“No Anton, you’ve suffered much worse than I have.” Your son made the choice to join the Devil. Sarah was forced to. “It’s just taking a little to recuperate.”
“I see,” Anton replied. “I really did enjoy the work you did at the church, but you need some time with the missus to reco-” The sound of four hooves hitting the ground resonated throughout the house. Thomas nearly coughed up his heart. “What was that?”
“L-linda must h-have dropped a plate.” It was trotting now. No! Anton can’t know! Nobody can! “S-she’s been a little disturbed by Sarah’s passing. I have to go!”
“Take care, Tho-” Thomas slammed the door closed before Anton could finish. Just in the nick of time, as the pony appeared in the entrance hall. A second later and Anton would have seen. “What are you doing?” Thomas coldly asked it.
“I thought I heard Mr. Finney. I haven’t seen him since I went to the hospital. I wanted to say hello.” It flashed Thomas a smile. “He always told funny jokes.”
Thomas shuddered and imagined what Anton would do if he knew. What Thomas would do if it were a different pony. What he would do if it didn’t have Sarah’s soul. “Mr. Finney wouldn’t be happy to see you now.”
“But… but Mr. Finney was always happy to see me,” it stammered.
“Things are different now.”
It didn’t say anything in response. It just slowly sniffled, let out a whimper, and then ran crying to Sarah’s room. Even behind a closed door, Thomas could hear it crying.
Linda shuffled out into the main area of the house with a combined look of confusion and concern on her face. “Sarah… it was crying.” She looked around. “What day is it?”
“Honey… go back to bed, you’re just having a bad dream.” Thomas would deal with this himself. Linda had suffered enough already.
“Yes, I think some more sleep is good.” Linda disappeared back into the bedroom.
Thomas ran his hands through his hair and over his face. He took a deep breath. He had to calm it down. The crying would break him and Linda otherwise. He took a deep breath, took very slow steps, and entered Sarah’s room.
It was sobbing under the covers. He sat down at the foot of Sarah’s bed and didn’t know what to do from there.
“It’s not fair,” it cried. “They said you’d be happy, but now you and mommy are even worse. You don’t talk and you just frown all day. I hate it!” More sobs emanated from under the cover.
“Please Sarah, don’t cry. Things are just… difficult right now.” Sarah’s voice and her cries, that was definitely his daughter. Not a demon, not a monster, just a poor girl that had been thrown into the pit. A simple blanket hid the horror that was reality. “This isn’t your fault.”
“But I made that wish and now everypony is sad!”
Thomas stretched out a hand and brought it over her body. He rubbed her with the blanket separating them and tried to comfort her. “I’m sorry Sarah, that’s how these things work. We never get what we want out of deals like that.” How dare he! How dare he do this to an innocent child! My child! Thomas clenched the blanket with the hand that wasn’t consoling Sarah. He gritted his teeth. I won’t let it be like this! Sarah can still be saved. I… I just need to keep her from falling into other sins. Yes! Her soul is still pure, right? If I can just preserve that, then it’ll be okay. “It’ll be okay.”
“Daddy?” Sarah shifted the blankets and looked at him with puffy eyes and a runny nose. “Are you sad because I did something bad?”
He raised his hand and brushed her hair. “No Sarah. You’ve just been tricked. Those ‘princesses’ lied to you. They made you do something that made mommy and me very sad. But it’s not your fault.”
“It isn’t?” she sniffled.
“No. I know how to make everything better though.” He got up and went to the little drawer by her bed. He pulled a Bible out of it. “I want you to read this every day and pray to the Lord. He’s mad that the ‘princesses’ tricked you too. But you need to show what they did was wrong, okay?”
“Then you and mommy will be happy again?”
“Yes.” I-I’ve always talked about redemption and renewal, right? Anyone can be saved if they just repent. The wrath he felt against the Devil began to turn into compassion for the Lord. Yes, he’s forgiven traitors before. This… this will work.
Sarah’s mood instantly improved. “Okay!” She nuzzled the book open. “I’ll start reading right now!” She pushed her muzzle against the pages, but instead of turning to page one she flipped through about fifty pages. “Oops, I guess it’s a little harder to turn pages now.”
Thomas reached forward and went back to the first page. “That’s fine Sarah. I know things are very hard for you right now. Just keep reading this and everything will be okay.” Yes, everything will be okay. He got up. “I’m gonna tell mommy things are fine now. You just keep reading. I’ll be back soon to help you turn the pages.” He walked to the door and looked at Sarah reading the good book. You failed to take her you bastard. He went to his bedroom.
Thomas walked over to the bed and looked over Linda. She was staring at the ceiling again. “Linda?”
“Linda? It’s Thomas.”
Still no response.
“Linda, I’m going to save Sarah.”
She blinked and slowly turned her head to look at Thomas. “Oh, Sarah stopped crying.” Her face looked like it was about to cave in on itself. “Is it gone?”
“Yes.” Thomas knelt down and clasped one of her hands with both his own. “It’s gone now. There’s only Sarah left. She’s very scared though. We’re going to help her. She’s been tainted by the Devil, but we’re going to cleanse her.”
Linda began to tear up. “I’m sorry Thomas. If I had just been strong, she’d be with the Lord now an-“
“Shh.” Thomas caressed her hand with his own. “I’ve told you, I don’t blame you. No mother could sit by while her child died. But the Lord is forgiving.” Thomas got up and dusted off his Bible. “I’ve been a fool, wallowing in my own misery. The Devil thought he had won, but we’ll show him!”He used his free hand to pull Linda out of the bed. “We’re not damned yet. Sarah’s shown me that.”
“R-really?” Linda stuttered. She gripped Thomas hard, like he was the only thing keeping her upright.
“Yes.” Thomas led her over to the light switch and turned it on. “We’re not going to live in filth anymore. We’re going to clean up, purge ourselves, and pray. We’re going to be a good Christian family again.”
“Thomas… I haven’t heard you talk like that since we got married.” She let go of him. She wobbled a little, but quickly found her balance. “I’m going to go take a shower, right now.”
“Good.” Thomas smiled, the first real smile he’d had in a while. “After that I want you to tell Sarah she’s doing a good thing. She’s confused right now. We’ll keep her on the right path though.”
“Okay, I won’t take long.” Linda disappeared into the bathroom. The sound of running water soon emanated from the room.
Thomas left the bedroom and went back to Sarah’s room. He was pleased that she was still reading. She was on the third page now. It was crumpled and torn a little from her attempts to turn it though. “Oh, sorry daddy, I hurt the book.”
“It’s fine.” I’ll need to help her a lot now. He walked over and knelt by her bed. He used his hands to even out the creases in the page. He gave her a small smile. “You’re making mommy and me very happy.”
“Yay!” Her smile stretched from ear to ear. “Oh! Hey daddy, can I ask you a question?”
“Yes, Sarah.” Anything to get you back on the right path.
“Well, god made everything, right? So did he make ponies too?”
Thomas’s face became neutral. “Yes, Sarah. He made ponies. But their leader made him very unhappy.”
“Is that why they were just on TV before now?”
“Yes, he didn’t want any of his other creations to interact with them. They did very bad things.”
“But they made me better.” Sarah looked at him. Her eyes, filled with curiosity and a twinge of fear, were like a window into her soul. There was confusion in there as well. Confusion he’d have to correct.
“They did a lot of things to you Sarah. They want to take you away from mommy and me forever. Never trust them.”
“Ever. Now lets continue reading.”
Sarah turned back to the book. She wasn’t smiling anymore. “Okay daddy.”
Things returned to some normalcy at the house after that. Linda began to cook again. It was a relief to both Thomas and Sarah, as they had both gotten tired of Thomas’s culinary skills. Though, there were a lot more vegetarian dishes now. Linda did everything she could to not remind herself what her daughter had become. If meat meant a night by the bathroom comforting Sarah, it was off the table.
As the days passed, there was improvement. They prayed as a family every day and Thomas and Linda begged forgiveness for Sarah while she kept reading the Bible. Eventually, they began to play games with her as well. Scrabble, Connect Four, and Battleship became some of Sarah’s favorite games. Sometimes, while Linda was cooking, Thomas would play a movie for Sarah. He hadn’t watched a movie with her since she’d gone to the hospital. He particularly liked showing her The Little Mermaid.
“She made a very bad mistake asking for legs,” Thomas said. He got up and popped the DVD out of the TV.
“But it was how the prince got to meet her,” Sarah replied.
“And it almost cost them their lives and their kingdoms. Besides, did you see at the end how the prince would have been happy with Ariel just as she was?”
“I guess.” Sarah looked down at her hooves. “Daddy, do you not like me?”
“What?” He rushed over and draped an arm around her. “Sweetie, why would you say that?”
“Is it because I have hooves?”
Thomas felt his chest tighten. He took a deep breath. “Your mother and I were happy that you got better, we just didn’t want it this way. I know we didn’t say a lot to you when we first got back, but seeing you like this was hard on us.” He raised his hand and rubbed her head. “You’re still my precious little girl though. Never forget that your mother and I love you.”
“Dinner’s ready!” Linda called out.
“Yay!” Sarah jumped off the couch and galloped into the kitchen.
Thomas shook his head. If only she’d stayed human. He got up and joined his family for dinner.
Something was poking Thomas. He was still tired though. His internal clock was getting a little better, but he still slept in a bit. Whatever it was continued poking him. It was rough and… “No!” Thomas sat up and grabbed the hoof and pulled the pony up.
“D-daddy!” Sarah was shaking like a leaf.
Thomas grimaced at what he’d done and gently put Sarah back on the floor. “I…I’m sorry Sarah. You surprised me. Please, don’t do that again.”
“Sorry daddy, I was just really excited.”
Sarah rolled a rubber ball around with her hoof. “I wanted to see if we could kick this around outside a little.”
“Sarah…” No! If someone sees, I’ll… She was flashing him the puppy dog eyes. “We’ll play in the backyard. Okay?”
“We’re gonna play ball! We’re gonna play ball!” Sarah repeated as she excitedly jumped around the room.
“Ugh,” Linda moaned. “Too early.”
Thomas got up off the bed and picked up both Sarah and the ball. “Sweetie, mommy still needs a lot of rest.” He dropped her outside the room. “I need to get dressed first and then we’ll play.”
“Oh, sorry mommy,” Sarah called out. Thomas smiled at Sarah and then closed the door. He quickly tossed on some clothes and then opened the door again. Sarah was in the same spot he’d left her with a huge smile across her face.
“Ready to play?”
“Yes!” She happily galloped to the back door. Thomas ran to catch up. By the time he reached the door, she was jumping up at the knob. She could reach it, but it kept slipping from her hooves. “Er, the dumb door won’t open! Daddy, help!”
Hmm, guess childproofing the doors wasn’t necessary after all. “I’ve got it sweetie.” He put his hand on the knob, but didn’t turn it. “But I’ll only open the door if you promise to be a little more quiet when we get outside, okay?”
Sarah moved a hoof across her muzzle as if she was pulling up a zipper. She smiled and energetically nodded her head.
“Good girl.” Thomas pulled the door open and stepped into his backyard. He shuddered a little. The grass was overgrown creeping onto the sidewalk. Leaves from the back yard’s single tree covered the ground. Dust was settled elsewhere. Thomas had taken pride in his skills with the back yard. Geez, the front yard must look even worse.
Sarah darted past him and jumped into the yard. Then she fell down.
“Sarah!” Thomas ran up to her. She slowly got up and put a hoof to her head.
“Ow! Daddy, there’s a lot of plants back here. There’s the grass, the tree, the weeds, and a bazillion other plants I can’t name.”
“Are you okay now?” What just happened?
“Yeah, it just surprised me.” Sarah gave him a smile. “It was like they were all saying hello at the same time.” She giggled and then started rolling in the grass. Dead leaves crackled under her. “Hee! Plants are funny!”
“Maybe we should go back inside.” Plants talking? What is she ta- Earth pony! It’s another trick by the Devil!“Sarah, whatever the plants say, don’t listen to them!”
Sarah stopped rolling around, stood up, and looked at Thomas. “They aren’t saying anything. That’d be silly daddy. I just kinda know where they all are now.” She anxiously looked over at the ball. “Can we play now?”
Thomas wanted to go back inside. Being on the grass was waking up the demon in Sarah. He should have picked her up, tossed her in her room, and made her read more of the Bible. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t break a promise to her. He’d failed her before and now she was curse. Even if it was something as minor as kicking a ball around, he couldn’t bring himself to deny her that small joy. He picked up the ball and tossed it to her. “Catch.”
Sarah lunged to catch the ball, but it slipped out of her hooves. She lightly fell onto the grass and leaves. “No fair daddy! I can’t catch stuff! We should only kick the ball!” Sarah pouted.
“Sorry Sarah, I… I forget sometimes.” I really do wish I could forget sometimes.
Sarah huffed and went to get the ball. She positioned it with her legs to that it was directly facing Thomas. “My turn.”
Thomas assumed a faux catcher’s position. “Show me what you’ve got, sweetie.”
“Here I go!” Sarah playfully kicked the ball with one of her front hooves at Thomas. It actually moved quite fast and he almost missed it.
“Good kick sweetie!”
“Really?” Sarah’s eyes filled with delight.
Thomas shuffled the ball back and forth between his feet. “Alright, you've already got one strike against ya. Do you think you can catch it this time!”
“I’m gonna catch it!” Sarah assumed a stand off position.
“Alright! Here. It. Comes!” Thomas kicked the ball with what he calculated to be the right amount of power for Sarah to catch it, but she’d still have to move to get it.
Sarah saw the direction the ball was going and galloped for it. She held out a hoof and barely managed to stop it with a hoof. She looked down at the ball and then at Thomas, then back at the ball again. She then gave him the biggest smile yet. “I did it! I did it!”
“Great job Sarah!” Was worried I might have kicked it too hard. Thomas squatted down and assumed the catcher’s position again. “Let’s see if you can actually get me to miss one.”
“Okay! I’m gonna make it go really fast this time!” Sarah gave him a determined smile. But instead of kicking it with one of her front hooves, she turned around and bucked the ball. It zoomed straight at Thomas and knocked him right off his feet.
“Oof!” was all he could say when the air got knocked out of his lungs. He then hit the ground. It was fortunate he’d been squatting a little. Otherwise the fall might have hurt much more.
“Daddy!” Sarah galloped over and nudged his face with her nuzzle. “I’m really sorry! I didn’t mean to hit you that hard! Oh, please don’t be mad!”
“Ugh.” Thomas sat up and brushed the leaves out of his hair. His breath was staggered from the blow. “I’m okay.” He rubbed a hand over where the ball had hit him and winced a little. It was still a little tender. “Where on Earth did you learn to do that?”
“It… It just felt like the natural thing to do.”
Trying to use my own child to kill me. His tortures never end! Thomas’s face darkened. “Sarah, don’t ever kick like that again. It’s not natu-” He froze. There was the sound of flapping nearby, like a large bird was stretching its wings. Then Thomas saw it. It was orange with a hot pink mane. How long has it been watching? “Sarah, get inside.”
“Do what I say!”
Sarah nervously nodded and went back inside. That left Thomas alone in the back yard with it. He ignored the pain in his chest and got up, never breaking eye contact with it.
It slowly raised a hoof. It gave him what he perceived as an evil grin. “Um, hi. I live down the street. I know we really didn’t talk much before, but well, things are a bit different now.”
“Oh, I’m sorry!” It raised its hooves in mock apology. “I didn’t mean to intrude. Honest! I just heard you playing and then I saw you too and it was so cu-“
Its ears drooped. “I’m really sorry. Are you hurt? My husband could help yo-” It was interrupted by the rubber ball hitting its face. It’s muzzle turned red from the hit. It now looked at Thomas with eyes full of hurt. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have been snooping.” It quickly zoomed off.
Thomas stood in the backyard, fully alone now. He went back inside when the flapping of wings faded. He breathed deeply and rushed into the house. He locked the door behind him and then went to lock all the other doors.
“Daddy?” Thomas ignored Sarah as he rushed to the front of the house.
“Honey?” Linda called from the kitchen. “Is everything okay?”
He finished making sure the front door was locked and then went into the kitchen. “Linda. Get Sarah to her room.”
Linda dropped the spatula she was using to cook breakfast. Her face looked very pale. “Why? What’s wrong?” Her words were shaky.
“Just get Sarah to her room and make sure the windows are locked and the blinds shut.”
“Y-yes.” Linda moved away from the kitchen. She looked down at Sarah. “Sarah let’s go to your room.”
“Am I in trouble?” Sarah nervously asked.
“I don’t know. Let’s just go to your room, okay?” Linda marched forward and Sarah followed.
Thomas scooted whatever Linda was cooking off the on part of the stove and turned off the heat. He shut the curtains of the window above the stove and did the same to the rest of the curtains in the house. He ran to his bedroom and closed all the shades. Once he was sure the house was locked down he went to go get Linda. He marched into Sarah’s room.
Linda was sitting next to Sarah on her bed. Linda was lightly petting Sarah’s mane. “Thomas, Sarah told me what happened. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” he huffed.
“Then what’s going on?” Linda asked.
“I’ll tell you outside.” He looked at Sarah. She was trembling a little. “Sarah, I’m not mad at you. Mommy and I just need to talk for a sec.” He grabbed Linda and pulled her out of the room. He shut the door and made sure they was a good distance away from it before he spoke again. “They’re down the street.”
“The demons! I was playing with Sarah and one was watching us! What if they’ve been watching us this whole time?” Fear glinted in Thomas’s eyes.
Linda’s eyes reflected back the fear. “Good lord! What do we do? What if they come for us?!”
Thomas realized that he was just scaring her. Shoot! What am I doing? Linda... she can't take this. He placed his hands on her to comfort her. “It’s okay Linda. It’s gone now. I scared it away. We’ll pray that it won’t come back. I’ve locked all the doors and shut all the windows. It won’t be able to watch us either. We’ll be fine.”
“Yes.” Linda bobbed her head up and down. “Yes, we’ll be fine.”
Thomas brought his hands to his side. “Why don’t you finish up breakfast now. We just had a little scare is all. I’ll go make sure Sarah’s okay, alright?”
“That sounds good.” Linda moved past him and back into the kitchen.
Thomas slowly walked back into Sarah’s room. “Sarah?” Immediately after opening the door, Sarah flung herself at his feet.
“Daddy!” She nuzzled him as she hugged his leg. “I promise I won’t do it again!”
Thomas squatted down and brushed her mane. “I’m okay now Sarah. It isn’t your fault, but we’re gonna need to stay inside for a little now.”
Sarah’s ears and mouth drooped. “Oh, okay. I really did like the plants though.”
“W-well, you were in the hospital for a while, so you probably just forgot how they felt.”
Thomas stopped petting her mane and stood up. “I know it was a rough morning, but we’ll have breakfast soon. While we’re waiting, read your book, okay?”
“Got it.” Sarah jumped up on her bed and pulled the Bible over. She’d figured out how to angle her hooves to hold the book and turn the pages. She smiled as she read. Thomas turned around to go. “Oh and thanks for playing ball daddy.”
He turned around, a weak smile on his face. “Just don’t kick too hard next time.” He then closed the door.
Thomas’s mind went back to the pegasus. I've been too ignorant. I’ve had a demon living down the street for god knows how long. I need to stay up to date.
Thomas reached forward to Sarah’s sleeping form and pulled the covers over her. Evidently, the fur didn’t help much in keeping the cold out. In fact, Thomas had noticed that the last time they went to play in the backyard— after doing a preliminary sweep to make sure none of the monsters were out there— Sarah shivered much more than he did, especially when she stepped on a part of the grass that had frosted over. It’d been two weeks since then and the temperature was only getting lower.
Luckily, she hadn’t gotten sick from the cold, but it concerned Thomas and Linda. They both looked through the guide they’d gotten from the hospital and found nothing on sensitivity to cold.
Thomas finished tucking her in and looked at the pillow she was resting on. It’d been at least a month since he’d had the urge to grab it and end this all. He gave Sarah one last look to make sure she wasn’t shivering anymore, got up, and sighed a little. Maybe there’ll be something on the news about this.
He left the room and proceeded into the living room. Linda was already on the couch soaking up the news. “Have they covered anything about the cold?” Thomas asked.
Linda didn’t turn away from the screen. “No, they’re still just covering that...” Linda clenched her teeth, “place.”
“It was bad enough when the streets were in chaos, but now this.” Thomas shook his head as he sat down next to Linda. But we need to know what’s changed.
“... going on for blocks,” said an enthusiastic new reporter. The camera panned back to reveal a huge amount of people in a long thick line that eventually disappeared around a corner. “I’ve been covering premieres and red carpets in this town for years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
The glow of the TV reflected in Thomas and Linda’s eyes as it switched from the busy LA street to a newsroom. “Thank you Michele,” said an older looking anchorman. “Now this is obviously an improvement over the ‘potion riots’ at the beginning of the Equestrian Emergence, but how tight is security down there?”
“Well,” said Michele, “we haven’t gotten all the details in order to ensure protection...” She gestured to the people in body armor walking around the crowd. “But you clearly see the police and national guard keeping the line in check.”
“And what about at the actual Bureau?”
“Same thing with a little higher level of protection.” The camera turned away from Michele and focussed on the building where the line ended. A fence had been erected around it with a national guardsmen standing about a yard away from each other all around the perimeter. There was only one break in the fence where all the people were filing through, but only about a dozen at a time.
The building itself wasn’t anything spectacular, it actually looked a little run down. There were a few places along its walls where the stucco was pealing. The weathered look of the building only helped highlight the new sign though. It was quite simple, just two silhouettes. Thomas gritted his teeth a little at the sight of it: a pony and a human shaking hands.
“Now, we understand that we can’t get into the actual Bureau, but does anyone there know what it’s like inside?” asked the anchorman.
“Yes Chris.” Michele then walked closer to the crowd and held the camera up to a man who appeared to be around a his forties. “Alright sir, cameras are live, mind telling us what the Bureaus are like?”
“Sure,” the man bellowed. “My brother was one of the lucky ones and got in first, went with his whole family. Lucky guy even got to see those harmony ponies or whatever fancy label they got give the opening speech. He was fresh out of the Bureau when he saw me, so I think he might have still been a little loopy from conversion. I was able to pick past most of the glamour he put on the Bureau though. Honestly, the place itself just sounds like a doctor’s office. You go in, you get your meds, you get rehabilitated, and you go home.”
“You said your brother was ‘loopy’ when he got back, what did you mean by that?” asked Michele as she moved the mic closer.
“My brother was and is a good man, but he was also pretty uptight. The last few years hadn’t been good on him and his family. Poor guy worked himself to the bone to keep them healthy. There were couple of nights where he’d stay with me and the missus. Those were very long nights.”
The man raised a hand and scratched his head. “Then he comes to my house, practically tripping over his hooves and says he’s sorry if he’d been a bother and was acting like the streets were paved with gold.” He chuckled a little. “I hadn’t seen my brother that happy since his little girl was born.”
The camera panned away from the man and back to Michele. “A very heartwarming story and an interesting look into the bureaus. Chris, back to you.”
“What is wrong with these people?” Linda beat Thomas to speaking what was on both their minds.
“I don’t know honey,” Thomas replied. Madness, the entire world has gone mad. He reached out to grab the remote, but something caught his eye.
“... prompting police to use tear gas. While the Bureau only has one functioning location in LA, plans to open in other major cities have been met by protesting and riots.” The screen shifted from Chris to still pictures of police confronting protesters and lobbing gas grenades into the their ranks. A sign could clearly made out that read, “Abominations Burn!” More pictures flashed while Chris described the riot, but neither Thomas nor Linda was listening. They were instead focussed on the faces in the crowd.
“What’s going on?” Linda bit her lip a little. “That’s Nicholas from the bakery and Mary from the flower shop.”
“No.” Thomas focussed his eyes and looked into the pictures more. “It’s not just them, Kingston, George, Elizabeth... my god, at least half the church is there!”
Linda reached out and grabbed Thomas’s arm. “What’s happened? I know we said becoming those things was wrong but this...” A picture flashed by of a police bringing down his baton on Alex, he worked at a hotel downtown. Linda gripped Thomas harder. “This isn’t right.”
Thomas was unmoving, his eyes glued to the screen. A small bit of sweat dribbled down the side of his face. If they’re willing to go to arms with fellow men... That thought kept Thomas up for the rest of the night.
Thomas awoke to someone shaking him. “Thomas, Thomas get up!”
He sat up almost instantly and nearly smacked Linda with his head. “What is it? What’s wrong?!”
“Just... just come and look,” she stuttered.
He threw on whatever clothing was at the top of his dresser and ventured out into the hallway with Linda leading the way. She stopped at the front door. “It’s outside,” she muttered.
“What is?” Thomas’s heart beat faster as he inched his hand onto the doorknob. He took a deep breath and let the cold morning air wash over him. He looked outside but saw nothing. “Linda, I don’t understand. What’s...” Then it entered his vision. It was a small cardboard box that looked like a five year old had taped it up. “Linda? What is this?”
Thomas turned to see that Linda had produced a small letter of some some kind. “It was them,” she whispered. Her hands shook as Thomas snatched the letter from her.
Like the tape, the writing was crude at best. Thomas was forced to squint his eyes and re-read the letter a few times. Every time his eyes went over it, his expression darkened more and more. Finally, after the fourth readthrough, he was able to make out the sloppy handwriting or rather hoofwriting:
I think we got off on the wrong foot. My wife admits it was wrong to be snooping around, but I’m also displeased at the rather nasty hit you gave her nose. Perhaps it’s a family issue, but we would like to get to know you better as neighbors so it doesn’t happen again in the future. Also, my wife noticed your daughter’s a Earth Pony. One of my friends was having issues with the cold, so hopefully the gift will help.
Cobalt Glint & Sunset
Thomas stared at the letter for a bit after finishing it. He was aware Linda was also reading it, but wasn’t really paying attention to the outside world. Right now, there was only him, the letter, and the box. Anything could be in it: devil snares, tricks, a one way ticket to Hell. He put the letter on the small table and swapped it with a set of keys he kept there for doors and the mailbox.
As he got closer to the box, something grabbed his arm and tried to hold him back. “Thomas wait!” Linda pleaded. “You have no idea what could be in there.”
“I know,” Thomas stoically replied, not turning to face his wife. “But we can’t leave it outside or they’ll come back, and if we take it inside before we know what it is, we could all die. He got down near the box and held out one of the keys like it was a knife. “I want you to stand back while I open this.” He didn’t look back, but the footsteps grew slightly fainter and told Thomas that Linda had listened.
He turned his attention back to the box. Slowly, painfully slowly, he lowered the key and broke the masking tape with it. He felt it was safer than pulling the tape off. He brought the key up and down in a sawing motion and brought it closer to himself as more and more of the tape split. About halfway through, he had to stop cutting to flex his hands and get the blood circulating to them again. I should have gone back inside and gotten gloves.
It was too late now, he’d already cut too much. If there was a timer or some other insidious device, it might have already been triggered. Getting up to get warmer clothes could have prompted Linda to examine the box. If something in it went off then... Thomas wouldn’t allow it. He’d nearly lost Sarah, he wouldn’t let the same happen to Linda.
He rubbed his hands together to warm them up a bit and then returned to work. More tape fell back and the box began to open of its own accord. Thomas reached out and prevented the top flaps from opening too far though. Despite the cold air that was blowing that morning, a decent amount of sweat had accumulated on Thomas’s brow as the final vestiges of the tape gave way to the key. The only thing that was keeping the box from opening now was Thomas’s hand.
He put the keys on the porch and inched his other hand over to the box as well. He grabbed the two flaps the kept the box’s contents hidden. He paused for a second and offered a prayer. Lord, keep my family safe.
For what felt like an eternity, Thomas raised the folds on the box, fully expecting to be consumed hellfire at any moment. Just as the inside of the box came into view, Thomas closed his eyes and braced himself. Yet, the frigid wind continued to bring goosebumps to his body. He dare to cautiously open his eyes and saw... boots.
Four boots to be exact. They were quite odd looking a well, they looked more like tubes with one end sealed off rather than proper boots. Yet the open ends were lined with wool and the stitching clearly matched that of winter wear. The tension in Thomas’s face gave way to curiosity. He reached out and picked one up. However, the texture was unlike anything he’d ever felt before. Despite looking like leather, the outer material of the boots was soft and almost fluffy in quality.
“What is it?” came a voice from behind Thomas. He turned to see Linda right behind him.
How long has she been here? “I thought I told you to wait inside,” Thomas growled.
“I... I saw you open the box and thought it was safe an— are those boots?”
“Not human ones,” Thomas sighed and passed one of them to her.
She fiddled with the boot a bit and ran her hand along both the inside and outside of it. “There’s definitely wool on the inside, but the outside... I’ve never felt anything like it.”
“I thought the same thing.” Thomas picked up another boot and examined it from various angles. Suddenly, his stomach gave a large rumble. “This has been a tough morning. Lets get this inside and have some breakfast. We... we’ll give these to Sarah when she gets up.”
“These are awesome!” Sarah yelled at the top of her lungs as he tapped her new boots to the ground. She gave Thomas a deep hug. “I love them daddy!”
“You’re sure?” He asked with trepidation, still unsure of the trustworthiness of the gift. “It doesn’t feel odd or anything?”
“Nope!” Sarah smiled. “They’re warm, and comfy, and...” She paused and looked down at the boots and held one of her legs up to her face.
“Well...” She fidgeted in the boots a little. “Usually, clothes feel different than this.” She bit into one of the boots and pulled it off, then she placed a hoof on Thomas’s shirt. “Like your clothes Daddy. They were made somewhere near the ocean, but it was really hot so only a little bit of stuff in your clothes was able to grow. It’s also kind of fuzzy.”
“Fuzzy?” Thomas looked down at the polo shirt he’d switched into after dealing with the box. He pulled the collar around to his face and scanned the tag:
“Yeah!” Sarah chirped. “Your clothes are all fuzzy, but not like soft fuzzy, more like my eyes are covered.” She tapped one of her booted hoofs to the ground. “This stuff is even weirder though.”
“Weird how, sweetie?” Linda asked, curiosity and caution in her voice.
“Um.” Sarah looked down and swirled her unbooted hoof around in circles. “I don’t really know, but I know daddy’s shirt is from the ocean place, but these boots are from... bubbly.”
“Bubbly?” both her parents asked.
“Yeah, like looking at a big giant bubble...” Sarah corked her head. “Mommy, are you cold? You’re shivering.”
“I... I’m fine sweetie,” Linda stuttered. She placed a hand on Thomas’s shoulder. “Why don’t you try getting used to wearing your boots?” She yanked a little on Thomas and he silently got up.
While Sarah was playing with her new boots, Thomas and Linda made their way out of the kitchen and into the hallway. “You noticed it too, right?” Linda asked.
“Yes,” Thomas shakily replied. “That packet mentioned these...” He shuddered a little. “... effects.”
“What do we do?” Linda said with eyes as wide as saucer plates.
“We pray.” Thomas clasped his hands around Linda’s shoulders. “Sarah is still getting used to this, we all are. It will be fine.” He took his hands off Linda and mustered all his strength to crack a small smile. “Are you well enough to cook?”
“Y-yes.” Linda turned and headed back to the kitchen. “Let’s... let’s get some food.”
“While cooler weather only poses the same health risks as it does to humans, the real danger of winter comes from ponies’ new sensitivity,” said a news reporter. “However, each subspecies experiences weather differently. Tonight, we have our experts on new converts and Equestrian delegates to discuss these issues with us.”
The camera panned over to show a red Earth pony with a white and black mane, a tan unicorn with an orange mane, and a brown pegasus with an equally brown mane.
“It’s them,” Linda mumbled.
Thomas brought over a hand to his wife and pulled her a little closer. “I know, but we have to deal with this for Sarah’s sake.”
“First off, could we get some introductions? I know most viewers know you by human names, but have you changed your names by now?”
“Heh, most of us changed our names before the Emergence Event,” said the red pony. He waved a hoof over at the brown one. “‘Star’ here is the only one who hasn’t really changed his name yet.”
“C’mon Pint, we’re on national television! You’ll just confuse everypony,” the brown pegasus replied.
“Boys,” the unicorn sighed. She then looked over at the interviewer. “I guess I’ll start. You can call me Sun Searcher.”
“Pleasure to have you with us Sun,” said the interviewer. “Can you break down weather for us?”
“Actually unicorns are the subspecies with the least sensitivity to the weather. Artificial heating is where we have a problem.”
“How so?” asked the interviewer.
“As you’re aware, newfoal unicorns are essentially miniature EMPs,” Sun explained. “They can’t control their magic and so it leaks into stuff around it. It’s a lot like electricity in that it seeks that fastest conductor but it also sends feedback to its owner. The New Orleans disaster and the Akihabara blackout showed just how important it was to teach newfoal unicorns magic control.”
The interviewer tapped on his chair a little.“So unicorns suffer no ill effects from the weather?”
“No,” Sun replied, “every newfoal, no matter what subspecies gains heightened senses. That’s why the bureau in L.A. was set up in a building with many windows. That way, newfoals are exposed to the sun during conversion, ensuring the worst effects of conversion are minimized.”
“Interesting.” The interviewer now turned to the pegasus. “Your name?”
“Why can’t they just interview the Earth pony and get this over with?” Linda asked.
“Just bear it,” Thomas said. He then focussed his attention back on the screen.
“...canti,” the pegasus finished. “First, thanks for calling me an expert, but I’m far from it. Wish we could get some natives over here, then we’d have real experts.”
The interviewer raised an eyebrow. “Is the weather system in Equestria much different from Earth’s.”
“Kind of,” John explained. “Weather, save for a few locations like the Everfree, is all hoof made there. Sun has seen it more than I have, but Equestria can be said to have a completely accurate calendar that perfectly maps the seasons. But that’s an issue for another time, we’re talking about how ponies deal with weather here.”
“Sorry if we went a little off track,” the interviewer replied.
“It’s fine,” said John. “Anyway, pegasi sensitivity is probably the most constant of the subspecies. We just need a whiff of fresh air and our bodies can pick up everything about the weather: temperature, forecast, and even air currents. I stumbled quite a bit when I went outside for the first time. However, we’ve also got a lot more resilience to weather. At the beginning of the Emergence Event, my friend Sky got hit by a thunderstorm he created. He was up and moving a few days later. Crazy, right?”
“Indeed,” replied the interviewer. “Now then, let’s move onto our final guest.” The camera shifted over to the Earth pony.
“‘ello, name’s Pint,” the pony said with a smile. Thomas and Linda inched their faces a little closer to the TV.
“Great to have you with us,” said the interviewer. “I’m sure many of our viewers are interested in what you have to say, as your subspecies is the most common. Could you break down Earth pony sensitivity for us?”
“Sure,” replied Pint. “I still remember how just touching my clothes nearly popped my head when this all started. I’m not as sensitive as John here, but you put my hooves on something organic and my brain turns into the best search engine in the world. It fades over time, but the first time you touch anything new, it’s gonna hit you hard.”
Pint raised up his hooves and showed off a boot. “These things are great though. They block out most of the sensations of the ground. Plus, they’re Equestrian made so to me they’re softer than anything on this planet. Princess did a great job sending out as many as she could to this side. I’ve heard we’ve had shortages here and there though.”
“Yes,” the interviewer commented. “Some cities have run out of the boots, but major clothes designers are working on making replacements.”
“Are they?” Pint suppressed a chuckle. “Better not use leather or any other animal products for the boots then. Nopony will buy those. See, with Earth ponies, you make us wear something dead and we’ll get as queasy as if we ate a cheeseburger.”
“Well, time is wrapping up,” explained the interviewer. “Any final remarks?”
“John, you wanna take this?” Sun asked.
“You’re just like Pint,” John sighed. He then faced the camera. “Newfoals, just be careful outside and wear the proper clothing... never thought I’d be saying that after all this.”
“Well, thank you all for your time. Adam, back to you.”
Thomas clicked the TV off. His fists shook a little.
“Thomas?” Linda cautiously asked.
“They gave us poison,” he muttered. “They gave us stuff straight from the deepest level of the pit.”
“I... I know, but...”
Thomas sucked in his breath and clasped his hands tighter. “We’ll get proper clothing for her as soon as it comes. I won’t have her get sick again.” He slammed a fist into the couch. “Why? Why does he keep tormenting me?!”
Linda reached forward and patted his back and embraced him. “I’m sorry Thomas, I’m so sorry.”
“Alright Sarah, we’re going to go outside for just a little,” Thomas explained. He’d checked everything: when the high would be, when it was a clear day, and— most importantly— when there wouldn’t be a “weather patrol” out. Like harpies, they hummed through the sky, defying nature and shaping it to their will. It was a mockery to all things good in this world. People heralded them for their trickery. Reduced snow, fewer accidents because of ice, and reduced heating costs all pushed many people to sell their souls. Thomas felt a pang of worry when the other people who disliked the weather patrol were school children for lack of snow days and electric companies for lack of heating profits.
Staying inside for long periods of time was taking its toll. Thomas often woke up in the middle of the night, visions of the flask being thrown at him by Sarah haunting him. Linda was bereft of most of the problems as she did the shopping for the family and was looking to get a job as Thomas’s paychecks would soon run out.
Sarah was also getting fidgety. There hadn’t been any outright tantrums yet, but signs of a meltdown were showing. Sarah had managed to accidentally smash a few plates and cracked one of her bed posts in her sleep. She needed to expend some of her energy.
Thus, today he found himself standing near his back door in winter wear, with Sarah next to him. She was wearing her boots along with a jacket that looked bizarrely misshapen on a pony. Thomas wasn’t taking any risks with her though. “Are you ready?” he asked her.
“Uh-huh!” she happily replied. She looked about ready to kick down the door herself if Thomas didn’t open it in the next ten seconds.
Luckily, he did and felt the cold air of winter wash over them. Still, it was only in the low forties now, so it wasn’t too bad given the time of year. Thomas looked down at the ground and saw that the ice on the cement porch had mostly melted, leaving only thin strips of ice floating in cold puddles. The actual yard was covered in a decent amount of snow, although there were a few spots where the frozen grass poked out. “Alright Sarah, now remember what I said about the cold an—”
A small blur of pink, purple, and white dashed past him and bounded into the snow. “Yay! Snow! I didn’t get to play with it last year!” Sarah nearly sang with joy. She playfully kicked around large chunks of snow around and shuffled through the yard.
“Sarah, what did I say about being careful?”
Sarah stopped playing and tranced circles in the snow with a hoof. “Sorry daddy.”
“It’s fine, just don’t get too excited. You don’t want to get sick again, right?”
“Nuh-uh!” Sarah vigorously shook her head back and forth.
“Good, then let’s play a little.”
“Okay! Can we do a snowball fight?”
“I...” Thomas stopped himself. Better she learn this now. “Yes, that sounds fine. Why don’t you get some ammo ready?”
“I’m gonna make you a snowman!” Sarah pulled a mound of snow closer to her and pressed it between her hooves. However, what she produced couldn’t be called a ball in the loosest definition of the word. It was lumpy in some places while flat in others. It definitely had the compression necessary for a snowball, but it was still connected to the ground. Sarah tried to nudge it from its base, but that only managed to shatter it into large clumps. “This is harder than I remember.”
Thomas squatted down next to her, grabbed a large chunk of Sarah’s snow and formed it into a proper snowball. “Things have gotten ha—” A face full of snow cut him off.
“I got you! I got you!” Sarah exclaimed with glee while Thomas wiped off his face and playfully chucked the snowball at Sarah. It hit her on the side and splattered into flakes. “Ack!”
“I told you to be careful, I have a mean throwing arm,” Thomas joked. That’s right, we never did have a snowball fight with her. His smile died a little. I guess we never will. “Sarah, why don’t we make a snowman?”
“Okay!” She tapped a boot into the snow. “I think I can’t make snowballs anymore anyways.”
For the next half-hour, the two worked on erecting a snowman that took nearly all the snow in the backyard to make. Although it really came down to Thomas shaping the snow and making it look like Sarah was doing most of the work. When they were done, the finished product was more of a snow abstract art piece than a man. Each of the three large pieces that made up its body were so radically different from each other that it was a miracle they all somehow combined and held each other up. The fact that it was already melting didn’t help much either.
“Daddy, I think our snowman is sick,” Sarah commented as she watched one of its twig arms slurp out of its torso.
“I never really was a good snowman maker.” For a second, Thomas recalled creating a giant snow fort as a child and even getting a picture of it in the local paper. “We probably just need more snow.” He gazed at the ground and noted that there was just slush and dead grass there now. “We can always try again next time.”
“Okay.” Sarah looked away from the snowman thing at the yard as well and frowned.
“Is something wrong?” Thomas asked with concern.
“Well, all the plants look sad. I thought snow makes everyone happy.”
Thomas thought of all the times snow had made his short drive to church a trial in patience. He was tempted to say that snow is both good and bad, but then noticed Sarah taking off one of her boots. “Sarah! What in the lord’s name are you doing?!” Oh god, she’ll get sick!
“It’s okay, I just want to make sure the plants are okay.” Before Thomas could stop her, she put a bare hoof to the frozen ground. She instantly began shivering. Her eyes teared up as well.
Thomas rushed over. “Sarah! Get your boot on now!” He reached down to pick her up.
“Wait!” Thomas’s hand stopped inches away from her. “The plants,” she sobbed, “there were so many here before, now there’s only a few and they’re all quiet.” She turned up to Thomas as tears continued streaking down her face. “Daddy! You have to help them! They’re too cold!”
“Sarah! I’m more worried about you! You’re going to get cold too! Now come back ins—”
“No! Not until the plants are ha— huh?!” She looked down and noticed some small sprouts growing around her hoof. “Daddy! Daddy! The plants, they’re noisy again!”
“Sarah, you’re getting overloaded by the cold! We need to... to...” He looked at her hoof and saw a small bud appear on one of the sprouts. “What are you doing?”
“I made the plan—” Thomas silenced her by scooping her up with a single hand and dumping her on the cement porch. He could now fully see the area Sarah had affected. Where once there had only been frozen dirt and dead grass, there was now fresh green blades, stems, and buds. It was a patch of spring in the dead of winter.
Thomas reached down and hesitated a second before touching the vibrant patch. It was warm to the touch, as if the snow around it didn’t even exist. It was such a small thing, yet in its frozen surroundings it was truly a beautiful thing. It’s blasphemy. It’s worse than the weather patrol, they only affect what’s already there. This... “Sarah, we’re going inside.”
“But the rest of the yard...”
“Now!” he commanded. He got up, stormed over to the door, and flung it open. He glared at Sarah and she slowly trotted back in, her eyes glued to the ground. For a second, while Sarah’s back was turned, Thomas looked at the green and let his barriers fall. He shuddered, took a deep breath, and recomposed himself. He prayed new snow would bury the abomination.
As soon as he closed the door, he looked down at her. She still had her eyes glued to the ground. “Go to your room, get your boots and jacket off, and read your book.”
“Yes daddy,” she murmured before disappearing into her room.
“It was terrible Linda,” Thomas explained while Linda stirred some vegetables soup around. “It was wrong. It’s winter, nature is cold at this time of year and she defied that.”
“Thomas...” Linda set the ladle aside for a second. “It was probably just an accident, wrongful curiosity that you corrected.” The trembling in her voice betrayed the comfort her words were meant to carry.
“I pray you’re right.”
“Lets just have some soup and give thanks as a family,” Linda replied. She poured a bowl for Thomas and set it at the table for him. “I’ll get Sarah and then I’ll serve her and myself.”
Linda left the kitchen and wandered down the hall to Sarah’s room. She gave a small knock on the door. “Sweetie, dinner’s ready. I made the soup you like.”
“I’m not hungry,” came a faint voice from beyond the door.
“Sarah, is something wrong?” Linda reached for the doorknob and got ready to enter the room.
“Daddy’s going to be mad.”
Linda took a deep breath. “Sarah... your father just got a little upset, but he’s better now. Things are just hard for him. Please, come have dinner.”
“I can’t,” Sarah hiccupped. “He’s going to hate me again!”
Linda’s heartbeat quickened. “Sarah, whatever is wrong, your father and I will understand.”
“I... I shouldn’t have played outside.”
Oh no! Is she sick again?
“No! No! Go away!” The covers violently shifted.
“Thomas! Thomas get in here!” Linda yelled.
“What? What’s wrong?!” Thomas yelled in a panic. He was in the room instantly.
“It’s Sarah.” Tears began to flow down Linda’s cheeks. “I think she caught something.”
“No.” The panic in Thomas’s eyes went out and was replaced with pure dread. “Is it a fever like last time?”
“I... I don’t know. I haven’t... I haven’t checked yet,” Linda stuttered.
Thomas said nothing. He simply bounded over to Sarah’s bed and grabbed the covers.
“No daddy! Please!” Sarah screamed.
“I’m doing this to help you! I won’t let you get sick again!” he yelled back and yanked at the covers.
“Mommy! Help! He’ll hate me! He’ll hate me!” Sarah’s voice was now rough and mixed with sobs. Her head emerged from the coveres and bit into the them.
“Stop this!” Thomas roared. He yanked again and the covers were in the air, along with Sarah. She dangled on the edge of the sheets for a second and then fell to the ground. Thomas turned white. “Jesus! Sarah! I’m sorry I didn’t mean it!”
“Don’t look,” Sarah whimpered. “Please don’t look.”
Thomas got on his knees. “It’s okay Sweetie.” He reached out a hand and pressed it against her head. It felt perfectly normal temperature wise. “I just wanted to make sure you were...”
Everything froze. Thomas’s blood turned icier than the harshest of winters. It was like being back at the hospital all over again. The devil was merciless. A small familiar symbol was now branded onto Sarah’s side. The sign of the Lord himself: a simple fish outline. The holy mark was now the devil’s calling card.
Thomas screamed and collapsed.