“C’mon honey, you need to get out,” my mom urged, standing outside the open car door.
I just stared up at the building. Big and red, made of stacked brick, the two story building looked so much more menacing than I had expected. Children streamed into the Wooden double doors of the main exit, but all my eyes saw was a smiling mouth devouring everyone.
“Its not so bad Rachel.” She picked me up, easily carrying my six and a half year old body through the doors. Behind me, dad was carrying my tiny backpack. A short walk and several turns later, we stopped outside my new classroom. Mom set me down, and I hid behind the door frame, peeking my head around the wooden panel nervously in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the interior. It was mostly empty, as only a few of the children had arrived so early. At my mother's urging, I entered the room, taking a seat while my parents went to talk to the only adult in the room, a blonde woman wearing an apron and writing on a weird black slab on the wall.
While they talked,I reluctantly examined my surroundings. The room was colorful, and the walls were covered in meaningless posters and other things to draw my eyes. The floor however, was crowded with tables, each surrounded by several chairs. One corner of the classroom had a small bookshelf, another had a box filled with toys. The front of the classroom had a large desk and that weird board the lady had been scribbling on before.
I didn't notice my parents had finished their talk until Dad tapped on the back of my head.I whirled, then relaxed when I saw who it was.
Dad kneeled down, hugged me, and said, “Time for us to go honey, We’ll pick you up when school is over.”
My eyes widened. They were LEAVING? They hadn't mentioned this part when they told me about school.
“Why?” I asked them, my right hand rapidly switching between the two movements that formed the word in ASL. My eyes were tearing up and my bottom lip trembled.
“Don’t cry Rachel.” Mom leaned down for a hug too. “We aren’t allowed to stay. But I promise it won’t be so bad.” She hung my bag on the back of my chair, pausing as she fell into a fit of coughing. It sounded bad, she must have caught a cold. She recovered, and they said their goodbyes, leaving me to the mercy of the school.
Around me, the classroom slowly filled as other new students arrived. My table near the back of the classroom was one of the last to fill up, but finally, with the clang of a bell that rang out throughout the school, it was time for school to start.
School. WAS. AWESOME. A few hours had passed since my parents had left, but it felt like only a few minutes. I had already learned a lot of cool things.
“And thats what an Aardvark is children.” My teacher, Miss Rinna told us. With an annoying clanging, the schools bell rang once more. “Okay everyone, It's time for lunch, line up and follow me!”
We did as she asked, following her through the cheerily decorated halls. Other kids we passed were obviously older than our group, all heading in the opposite direction. Eventually we reached a set of double doors leading into a large room filled with rectangular tables. Other kindergarten classes were already seated and eating, and a line of kids waiting for food stretched along one wall. Miss Rinna led us to a table, directing us to sit.
I looked at the other students, suddenly anxious again without the work of the classroom to distract me. I was seated on the very end of the table bench, and the person seated next to me seemed to notice my nervousness.
“Hi! I’m Katy Accardo,” she told me, holding her hand out for me to shake. She was shorter than me, with light blonde hair.
Taking her hand with my left, I signed with my right, my fingers deftly forming the shapes. “I'm Rachel. Nice to meet you.”
“What's your hand doing?” she asked, eyeing my appendage like it was a snake about to bite her on the nose. My stomach fell.
“Can you understand me?”I asked. But I already knew the answer.
She didn't reply to my question, instead asking a few of her own. “Why don't you say nothing? Are ya stupid?
I shook my head in dismay. Oh how I wanted to be anywhere but there. This was the first time in my life that being mute had been a problem. Honestly,I wasn't sure how to react.
Jessica didn't like being ignored. When it became apparent that I wasn't going to say anything she turned her nose up with a ‘Hmph’ and did her best to forget my existence, as she thought I was doing to her. Maybe school was a little bit less awesome than I thought. That was ok though,I was sure it would get better...
Two years later
The library was my favorite place in the whole school. It was always quiet, doubly so it seemed from my favorite corner, seated in a comfy chair, nose deep in the latest book to catch my interest. I always spent as much time there as I could, and today was no exception.
It was also, almost always empty; Very few eight year olds had a big interest in reading, preferring to spend their free time outside.
As the pages turned, I couldn't help but wish I could be out there with them. My last attempt at making some friends had...not gone well, and I was not looking forward to trying again. I was afraid really. Surrounded by books, I felt safe. I refocused my attention towards the paperback on my lap, tossing those thoughts from my mind. I read~
“Don’t pinch!” said his eagle. “You need not be frightened like a rabbit, even if you look rather like one. It is a fair morning with little wind. What is finer than flying?”
Bilbo would have liked to say: “A warm bath and late breakfast on the lawn afterwards;” but he thought it better to say nothing at all, and to let go his clutch just a tiny bit.~
“Rachel?” I reluctantly looked up, thoroughly annoyed to be distracted once again. The rather dower looking librarian stared down at me. “Why aren’t you in class?”
I smiled, not fooled by her disapproving look. This was one of the few people that I could never be afraid of. Setting the book down, I pulled a mini-notebook from my pocket, jotting down a quick note, which I handed to her.
Recess, it said.
“Oh...Of course.” she replied turning to leave, then paused before turning around and addressing me again. “Um, How is your mother doing?” She immediately regretted it, seeing the look on my face, downcast as it was.
I wrote another note, longer this time.
Still in the hospital. Dad says the doctor doesn't know when she can come home.
“Well. thats too bad.” she said uncomfortably. She glanced about, eyes finally landing on the book I had been reading. A prime subject changer apparently. “The Hobbit?” she asked. “Isn't that a bit advanced for a second grader?”
It was a gift from my mother.
“Oh. How nice.” She seemed a bit put off by her inability to move our ‘conversation’ from my sick parent.I think at that point she gave up, because she said “Alright dear, enjoy your book, and don't be late for class,” then walked off to reorder the shelves, leaving me alone in my corner.
I tried to start reading again, but my mind had once again drawn its attention to unhappier thoughts, and it proved impossible to distract a second time. Just as well, the bell rang soon after anyway. I set off for class.
The rest of the school day passed quickly without incident. I hurried to the parking lot, my face lowered to avoid catching the eye of any of the other students. I jumped in the back seat, my face lighting up with a smile as I saw a cake box next to me. I couldn't help but wonder what the occasion was. Dad was driving so i couldn't ask him. He stayed quiet as we drove home and walked into the house, despite my signed questions. He sat me down at our kitchen table, cutting a large slice of cake and setting it down in front me.
He sat across from me, and for the first time since I left the school,I got a good look at his face. It was a strange combination of anger and despair, literally making me pause mid bite. My mind immediately examined the events of the last few days. Had I done something wrong? Why was he mad at me? It was much worse than I thought though.
“I, uh, I got some news today. About your mom.”
I relaxed with a sigh, dropping my fork and signing quickly. “Is she coming home?”
Dad’s expression got worse, which I hadn't thought was possible. “No Rachel...Shes not coming home.”
His eyes were shining and wet. “Honey, I don't think you understand. She isn't coming home. Ever.”
And thats when i woke up.
Beep Beep Beep
I cracked my eyelids open, glaring at the alarm clock with contempt. Untangling one arm from my nest of blankets, I slapped the off button. The bed was so warm and comfortable, I nearly fell back asleep, but the thought of starting that dream(the same dream I had been having at least twice a week for years) where I left off gave me more than enough motivation to drag myself out from under the covers. On the list of nightmares I had been subjected to ever since mom died(from lung cancer) 4 years ago, that was one of the more mild ones. But I still had to swipe an arm across my face to dry the tears.
My closet was nearly empty, but I managed to find a pair of black jeans, white t-shirt and a purple sweater, changing quickly to preserve body heat in my chilly room. I made a mental note to do laundry after school.
The sun shone brightly from a crack in the curtains, reflecting blindingly off the six inches of snow that had descended last night. I retrieved my coat and a wool hat, laying them by the front door, and set off to the kitchen for a quick meal before I left for school, idly wishing that I lived somewhere other than there. Six inches was not nearly enough to cancel a day of school in michigan.
The kitchen was empty of both food and people. Dad had either forgotten to do the shopping or more likely, been too busy with work to do it. A note on the refrigerator door suggested the latter. It seemed he had picked up an extra shift at the sports bar he worked nights at. I sighed, resigned to a hungry morning and attempting to quell the wave of disappointment that would inevitably come over me.
Dad worked two jobs, and I rarely ever saw him these days. Logically, i knew he worked so much so we could keep our house, but sometimes I couldn't help but feel he might not like spending time with me. I pushed the thought from my head, never one to dwell on things for long. Instead, I jotted down a quick list of groceries, and grabbed a wad of cash from the jar we kept emergency money in. I would have to do some shopping if I wanted to eat tonight.
It was starting to get late, so I donned the coat and hat, along with an over the shoulder bag I carried my school books in, and set off down the street towards my bus stop.
The alleyway leading to my bus-stop was dim, shadowed as it was by the branches of the trees extending over fences twice my height. Several other kids walked ahead and behind me, but, thankfully, they left me alone today, either too entranced by the year's first snow, or the more likely option, simply not even noticing my existence.
I counted my lucky stars, kept my head down, and ten minutes later arrived at a waiting bus, stepping lightly onto the sputtering yellow deathtrap. As always, I took a seat at the very front, setting my bag on the seat next to me to act as a barrier between me and the other tweens. I pulled the now worn copy of the hobbit from the bag, and hunkered down, determined to ignore everyone and everything until I arrived at school. It worked, I was able to stay sufficiently focused, despite the incessant chattering that only grew louder as the bus filled up behind me.
When the bus pulled to a stop in my middle school parking lot, I was the first off. walking as quickly I could without transitioning to running, I made my way to my locker, depositing the books I wouldn’t need till after lunch. My first class, Math, was just down the hall from my locker.
I almost, ALMOST, made it there without any trouble. I was three feet from the door when she stepped in front of me. Katherine Accardo had grown taller than me in recent years, and even though she had realized her mistake a long time ago, she still held something against me.
“Hey Mutie!” she said, smiling at the her oh so clever nickname. Everytime Katherine saw me she made it her mission to get some sort of rise from me. Instead, I just smiled right back at her, which, I find, is the easiest way to throw people like her off. She looked confused, but didn’t let it stop her for long. “Speechless?”. Well, she certainly wasn't a clever specimen, but she sure was determined. It was time for more advanced tactics. I forced myself to smile even wider, and then just walked past her, into the classroom to sit down. “Hey! I’m talking to you, You can’t just ignore me!” she said, indignified. Ha, I got ignored almost twenty-four seven. I took my seat and waited for class to start.
She stalked past, whispering “This isn’t over,” before sitting down behind me. Thats certainly menacing, I thought to myself, before once again turning my thoughts to more important things.
School was a boring affair, but throughout the day I caught Katherine giving me looks. I began to think maybe I had made a mistake. I didn’t usually get this anxious over stuff like this, but something about it was rattling me. As the minutes of my last class wore down, I stared at the clock, counting down the seconds. Finally, the bell rang(2 minutes after it should have, according to Mrs. Dothams’ classroom clock) and I more or less exploded into action. I swiftly made my way to my locker, crammed my books into my bag, and ran off down the hall, ignoring the protests of a 7th grade teacher, and flew down the three steps outside the main entrance. The school bus called to me, whispering safety and anonymity. Katherine didn't ride the bus either, so there was that.
When I set my foot on the first step, something that happened this morning slammed itself to the forefront of my mind. Frack! I needed to do the shopping. The money in my pocket weighed me down. I seriously considered not eating that night, but skipping the shopping would mean at least another two meals I didn't get to eat if i counted tomorrow's non-existent breakfast. There was nothing to it, I was just going to have to hope I could still leave from the front gates without running into her.
As you can probably guess by now, my luck was not that good. I basically sprinted down the main walkway, and i was but five feet from the gates when she stepped out from behind a bush. In hindsight, I should have just barreled through her and kept going. What I actually did was try and stop to avoid a collision, catch my foot on a crack on the sidewalk, and fall flat on my face. And to make things worse, my bag opened with a KRAACK of abused velcro, spilling my books all over the pavement.
I shoved the books into my bag, not wanting to give her any ammunition. As my hand reached out for the last book, Katherines, landed on it first. My eyes bulged as I saw which one she had grabbed.
“What's this? The hobbit? This can’t possibly be yours.” her eyes shone dangerously. “I’ll just get rid of it for you” she reared back, drawing her arm in for a throw. Realizing what she wanted to do, I lunged at the book. If there was one thing she couldn't take it was that book. She grunted with the impact, but kept aiming, finally letting go with a giggle. I saw it arc as if in slow motion, the book flying, pages flapping in the wind, right over the fence at the schools boundary, landing with a plop in the as of yet unfrozen river that ran outside the grounds.
Had that really just happened? Had one of the worst people I’d ever known just taken away the last thing I had that connected me to my mother? My vision clouded, and I realized i was starting to cry. I turned to look at Katherine, and she was cackling like the wicked witch. The sight of tears in my eyes just seemed to amuse her even more. I’m not good with conflict, never have been, probably never will be. Everything about this situation just screamed WRONG.
My mind couldn’t handle it properly, and I think I blacked out for a few seconds. When I came to, Katherine was holding a hand to her face, and my hand was shaking and stung a little bit. It was immediately obvious what I had done. Katherine was stunned. I could only think of one way out, so I took off across the street, narrowly dodging a honking car as I escaped. I ran and ran, eventually stopping for a break in the nearest place I could find.
It just so happened to be a restaurant, Big Jim’s Fish and chips. It smelled like grease, salt, and ketchup, and the tables were pockmarked and scarred from years of service. I seated myself in a booth, head draped on my arms, slowly crying as the droplets formed a tiny puddle on the table. Dangit, I thought, Should have just gone hungry. I wanted to leave. Dad wouldn't notice me even if I left. On top of that I had no friends. Every day was the same thing, a never ending cycle of lonely silence. Maybe I didn't deser-
“Honey? Are you ok?”
I pulled my head off my arms, catching sight of the women speaking to me. Her hair is crazy, was my first thought, and it was. Three stripes, Dark purple, hot pink, and creamy yellow were dyed into her hair. It was the most natural looking dye job I had ever seen. My mind phased back to her question. I shook my head, the answer was most certainly no.
“Aww, I’m sorry. Do you want to talk about it?
Again, i shook my head no. Couldn't do that even if i wanted to.
“You’ll feel better if you talk to someone.” she wasn't taking the hint. I retrieved a notebook from my bag, jotting down the words, “I can't speak” and handing it to her.
“Oh...OH...I’m so sorry!” she glanced at the notepad, “I'm not in a hurry, why not write it down?”
Her smile was infectious, and I found myself explaining through several pages of lined paper, all the problems I had to deal with. As she read, she asked several questions, each answer she got seemed to depress her. As I finished telling the day’s events with katherine, she clapped loudly and stood up.
“I have just the thing. Wait here for a minute.”
She ran into the back of the diner, and then back out dragging a man with blue striped hair out by the arm.
“Cadance, What's going on?” she pulled him to my table, forcing him into the bench opposite me. When he saw me, a strange look came over his face.
“Oh no, is this like that time with the rabbit you wanted to adopt.”
“Hey, Fluttershy said she would be fine in a few weeks!” Cadance exclaimed a bit too loudly. drawing the attention of several of the other diner-goers for the first time. Cadance shuddered, like the diners vision had an actual physical effect on her. Closing her eyes with a swift clap, there was a minor flash and then everyone stopped looking our way. I even had a hard time trying to keep cadance in my sight. What on earth had she just done?
“Alright, Honey, This is my husband, Shining Armor.” she told me. What a weird name! “We aren't from here, as in this planet, or even this universe! And if you want, we can take you home with us when we go back.”
“Cadance....” Shining trailed off.
“She makes the choice, Shiney, not us.”
“It doesn’t seem right”
“She’s not happy here.”
He took a good look at me, then finally, he mumbled “Fine...”
“What do you think Rachel?”
I just stared. and stared. Slowly my eyes narrowed into a glare. How DARE they? Taunting me with fake alternate universes? I had been upset before, but now i was just mad. I shouldered my bad, preparing to walk off in a huff.
“Wait!” cadance said. “I can prove it.” I stopped. I couldn't tell myself to ignore this chance, however slim it might be. I turned around slowly, coming face to face with Cadance. Smiling, she moved her hands again, and they flash, much brighter this time, and suddenly, she was holding my water weighted copy of the Hobbit. My notebook slammed down on the table.
“What did you just do?” it said.
“Magic” they said in unison. Magic. They had done magic. That was impossible though, magic wasnt real right? But if they were actually from another universe, whose to say people there couldn't use magic? Unbidden images of me standing on a clifftop holding a staff and wearing white robes ran through my head. There was really no option at that point. I grabbed cadances and her husbands hands, shaking both for good measure. They look confused, but i explained the ritual on paper.
“Shiney, can you cast a Notice-It-Not barrier around the table?” Shinings hands glowed too, and a transparent barrier popped into existence around our seats. “Alright, I’m going to open the portal now, when I give the signal, jump through, OK?” I nodded, and she closed her eyes. Her hands began glowing brighter and brighter with a beautiful pink light, and a small right began opening in the table top. I stared down into it, seeing a beautiful landscape covered in multicolored dots. “Now, Go!” I didn't even think about it, I just jumped. As I was falling though, I caught sight of Cadance again, and for a split second, she look like a tiny. pink. Horse. And then I passed out.
Cadance and Shining armor followed me through the rift, but no one noticed the second person sit down at the same table and then dive through the still closing portal.
The Ever free forest is incredibly dangerous, especially at night, but the smart know how to navigate it safely. One such creature floated down the Ever free river in her tiny boat slowly paddling towards her quarry.
In the exact center of the vast forest, an island in the Everfree River cradles a massive house. No one was quite sure when it was built, or who kept it in such great shape, but it was common knowledge (among the few that spent any time in the forest) that the house had been empty for a very long time.
AS the house came into sight, she pulled her saddlebags on and prepared to dock. As usual, she had to fight a strong urge to turn back as she came within hearing range of the bells hanging from every tree on the island. Once again, she overcame the clearly magical force and hopped onto the small dock on the south side of the island. After making sure her boat was securely tied, she hoofed her way down a cobblestone path towards the house, stopping just short of the front door to leave the path and head around to the back.
She kept one eye on the windows as she passed, hoping to catch a glimpse of the strange creatures that worked within. She often visited the island, though it was less often that she would see the inhabitants of the house. Sometimes a hand, seemingly made of shifting symbols, would shine in the moonlight as its master pulled a curtain shut. Once she had seen a face of the same shining runes staring at her from an upper window, expressionless as she walked through the yard.
Unfortunately, she was once again out of luck and the windows remained empty. She quickly trotted around to the backyard and the true reason for her visit, the garden. Many exotic herbs were grown on the island, the river air providing the perfect place for them to thrive. She began picking the herbs, placing each type in a different pouch of her no longer empty saddlebag.
She worked quickly and efficiently, and in no time she had all she required, closing the saddlebag and turning to make her way back to the dock.
“Who are you and what are you doing on the island?” a voice asked from the shadows.
Startled, she turned and beheld the apparent origin of the voice, two piercing eyes hanging in the darkness. Closer inspection revealed a small cat, bathing itself on the back steps. The creature was pure white, wearing a crimson collar with a miniature silver bell hanging from it. As she looked at it, it turned its head quizzically, causing its collared bell to tingle pleasantly.
“Please, do not make me repeat myself zebra, it’s tiresome and I’ve just awoken from a rather long nap.” He yawned, stretching lazily in perfect cat form.
“My name may be the knowledge for which you thirst, but I believe it polite to introduce yourself first.” The zebra replied, lowering her hood to reveal her striped face.
“I have too many names, but if you must call me something, Mogget will do.”
“I travel to this island to gather rare flora, and the name I answer to is simply, Zecora.”
“Fascinating” Mogget said, failing to stifle another yawn. It was very obvious that he did not in fact find it Fascinating. “You live in the forest then? Tell me, have you noticed anything out of the ordinary lately?”
“Many creatures in the forest lurk, but nothing new that I have seen in my work.”
“Thought not, I’m never awoken for something simple.” He sighed, lifting himself off the ground. “And no one to carry the bells either. No matter, I’ll be going then. Fair travels to you…Zecara.” He slowly padded away, stopping at the corner of the house, to peer back at the zebra. “And I’ll be borrowing your Boat!”
Zecora gasped wordlessly in a way that most definitely did not rhyme, before taking off after the small creature. But it was too late; he had already cast off. The rope, apparently cut in some fashion (though how he managed that was beyond her), wafted lazily as it floated in the river. She cried after him but it was to no avail. She could just barely see the small bundle that was a sleeping Mogget as he floated up the river, somehow against the current.
Sighing, she began searching for another way across the river. Idly she noted the experience as number five on her list of strangest things to happen in the Everfree forest.
“No no no. This is not good. What are we going to do?” a vaguely familiar voice cried, pulling me out of a sleepy haze.
“Stop panicking it’ll be fine, I’m sure of it.”
Barely conscious, I pushed my eyes open. For a few seconds I thought I was back in my room, getting blinded by the sun shining as it reflected off the snow. It wasn’t light that was blinding me now, but color instead. Everything was so vibrant and warm, even the darker colors jumped out at me somehow.
My surroundings were strange, to say the least. I seemed to be lying in a bed, a sheer canopy hanging down around me. I could see a stain glass window to my right, decorated with tiny multicolored figures and some other stuff that I couldn’t make sense of.
“I think she’s waking up.” The more masculine of the two voices said.
I swung my sight in the direction of a voice, trying to position my eyes to see him. For some reason, I was having trouble. My limbs felt weird, and my normally short hair fell into my face. Reaching up, I tried to push it out of my face, only to poke myself rather painfully in the forehead with something sharp.
I shook the intruding locks out of my sight and stared at my hand. Or rather, my brand new, never before seen, dark purple hoof. A quick inspection told me that I had a matching one on the other side. My first thought, oddly enough (or perhaps not, considering how very odd the whole situation was to begin with), was ‘I can’t write without any fingers.’ My second thought was of course ‘Oh god I have hooves.’
In the short span of about four seconds I sprang up off the bed, tangled my new hooves in the bedding, and tried to stand on two legs… As I soon found out, this was apparently just not in my skill set anymore.
I landed badly, reaching wildly for something to balance on. My hooves (oh god my hooves) found the nearby nightstand, scrambling for purchase on the smooth wooden surface. It might come as a surprise to some, but you can’t really…grip…things with hooves. As I was making my trip to the rather nice stone floor, a part of my brain that wasn’t freaking out calmly made note of a delicious looking pancake breakfast and large glass of orange juice sitting on a fancy looking silver platter.
I was quickly reintroduced to the food when my impact with the ground caused my back hooves to kick out reflexively, knocking the base of the nightstand out from under it and dropping the whole platter flat on my face as it fell. The orange juice landed in my hair and decided to stay.
“Whoa! Calm down!” A blue glow emanated from the platter on my head, and it lifted up off me, seemingly of its own accord. Shaking my head to remove an ill positioned pancake, I got my first glimpse of the people who had been talking earlier.
There were two of them, male and female it seemed, if the color of their fur was any indication. That’s important too; they had short, though very obvious fur coating their whole bodies. Four legs ending in hooves and a pronounced muzzle on their faces topped with abnormally colored hair that (at least in the case of the pink one) seemed to defy physics to stay perfectly posed. They looked remarkably, like small horses. Thinking back to the Diner back home, I could remember a momentary glimpse of the pink one (Cadance if I remembered correctly). Looking at my hooves, I guess that made me a small horse too.
“Are you ok?” The one on the left, thicker in the chest than the other and obviously male, asked me. “I see you found breakfast.” He said with a snicker.
I nodded, pushing myself to stand on all four legs for the first time. My balance was shaky, but I made it work.
“Sorry about this. We…Well we weren’t expecting this when we decided to bring you back.” Cadance told me.
Her words brought back the memory of the diner. My eyes widened and I pointed an accusing hoof in her, Cadence’s direction. My balance was still off but I managed to hold it for a few seconds, long enough for her to get the point. (Or so I told myself as I hastily dropped it back to the floor)
“Im so sorry!” she looked heartbroken. Later on I found out she could sense other people’s emotions but right then I felt like she should be sorry. I mean, I was a tiny HORSE! That was not part of the deal. She looked close to tears though, so I began to feel bad. I guess Shining armor saw both of us and decided damage control was going to be his job.
“Look, let’s get you cleaned off and then we can explain things.” He told me. I nodded, the motion sending droplets of orange juice sliding down my face.
He led me to a pretty big door in the room. When I saw the size of the door, it became apparent that the entire room was rather large and well decorated. The room he led me into, (a bathroom as it turned) out was smaller but no less elegant. We walked side by side to the giant bathtub (made for 10 tiny horses our size it seemed) and as I watched, he lit his horn with an unearthly blue light and somehow turned several taps without touching them. My mouth hung open but he just laughed and set out a towel by the tub, gesturing for me to get in.
He left me there soaking, treading water slowly and soothingly. It was just me and my thoughts and you can guess what I was thinking about.
I still had, one: no idea where I was, two: only a vague idea what I was, and three: no clue if I could trust the two strange tiny horses that had brought me here.
I stayed there until the water began to cool, at which point I hastily washed my much longer than usual hair out before taking the steps up out of the tub cautiously. Steps are orders of magnitude more difficult with hooves. The drying off proved a challenge too, but eventually I just pushed the towel unfolded with a hoof and rolled around on it till I was dry enough. I was on my way out when I heard an incredibly loud knock on the door of the bedroom, so loud that it was easily audible in the bathroom. Peeking my head through the crack in the door, I just barely got a glimpse of the pink blur that was Cadance running towards the door in time to jump clumsily to the side.
“Oh hi,” she said, looking at me lying on the floor rubbing my aching side. “Can you maybe do me a teensy little favor and stay in here a few more minutes; I promise this wont take long.” She didn’t wait for an answer; she just closed the door in my face.
Rather peeved at this strange and lets admit, rude, behavior, I decided to explore the bathroom. In some form of petty revenge I threw several towels in the water, but that got boring quickly. I smelled several of the exotic shampoos and soaps, before sighting the most important thing I’d seen since I woke up; A mirror. I ran over to it as fast as my still rickety legs could safely handle, and caught my first glimpse of my new body.
My first impression was more or less. That certainly looks like a tiny horse. Some things were off though when I compared myself to the two in the other room.
My hooves were the first thing I noticed, or rather, my lack of large portions of them. I hadn’t noticed before, as freaked out as I was, but my hooves had several alarming looking holes, seemingly just going straight through the appendage. I held one up to my eye and sure enough, I could see straight through them. I even poked a shampoo bottle through one so they were definitely real. They didn’t hurt or anything, but it still seemed rather unhealthy.
Next my eyes scrolled up to my chest, where I saw what appeared to be black armor. I couldn’t pull it off in any way. It seemed to be sprouting right from my skin; a quick spin told me that it extended around the back, parting around a long straight tail and back around to the front. My back had something that I couldn’t identify right away. There were two; blue, transparent and when I poked them, I had some amount of feeling in them, though not anything like the rest of my unarmored body. I tried to move them, and with no small amount of effort, managed to move what I soon discovered were a pair of insect like wings! They seemed too small to fly with though, so I didn’t get my hopes up. It didn’t seem worth the effort to fold them down again, so I moved on.
I looked at my face for a long time, memorizing all the new curves and shapes. On one side of my mouth a stunted fang poked out, making it impossible to fully close my lips. My eyes were decent sized piecing green orbs. They seemed to be the major feature of my face, taking up a full 40% of it.
I was delighted to see I had a horn sprouting from my unruly lock of dark green hair. It was the same deep purple color as the rest of my body, strangely smooth and curved unlike the straight spiral horns that I had seen on Shining and Cadance. A quick somewhat painful tap made me decide it was made of something similar to bone. I tried to do magic for a few minutes but couldn’t manage more than a few sparks. Maybe it was broken?
Finished with my self inspection, I walked out of the bathroom, utterly forgetting that Cadance had asked me to stay in. I swung the door open a bit more violently, but I wanted answers darn it! And that’s how I came to meet Princess Luna.
She was a Beautiful midnight blue horse thing. A shimmering magical mane made of stars, a wickedly sharp horn and slightly unfolded wings that looked much nicer than mine all fought for my attention. I couldn’t do anything but stare at her for a while.
The star mare stared back. “Niece. Is there a changeling in your room?”
Cadance looked back and forth, desperate for a way out. None presented itself, so she quickly thought up a brilliant plan! “Ummm…No?” she stammered.
“We think we should know a changeling when we see one” Luna said, her horn glowing dangerously. Changeling. The word was unfamiliar but it seemed as good a word as any to describe me. It was quite obvious that I was not your average tiny horse.
Her masterful strategy having failed, Cadance knew what she had to do. “GET HER!”
“What?” Shining armor asked, clearly confused.
“I said” Cadance’s own horn started flowing pink as she levitated her husband. “Get. Her!”
“AGH” Both prince and Princess shouted in unison as the stallion collided with the moon princess. Cadance wasted no time in jumping in herself.
I dropped to what seemed like a comfortable seating position with mouth agape as I watched the brawl unfold.
Several Minutes later, Princess Luna sat tied to a chair, shaking with anger. “Untie us this instant!”
Cadance, several fresh bruises reddening her coat, ignored Luna, deep into conversation with Shining Armor, who was himself sporting two brilliantly purple black eyes.
“Get her?” he asked. “What were you thinking?”
“I panicked. Ok?” Cadance moaned. “I don’t operate well under pressure!”
“Well we have to do something about this.” He pointed at the immobilized horse, who was still threatening everyone in the room. Oddly enough her speech seemed to be aging backwards as she ranted. Lots of thou’s and thy’s.
“Fine. I have an idea.” She stomped over to stand face to face with Luna before pacing back and forth in front of the chair. “You’re going to quiet down and listen to what we have to say Aunt Luna.” She whirled dramatically. “Or Else!”
“Or else what?” Luna replied with a smirk, clearly un-phased.
“I’ll give you, The STARE!” She said it so ominously I swear I heard thunder in the distance.
“Umm Cadance. You can’t do the stare.” Shining interrupted.
“Yes I can, Fluttershy taught me!” She locked eyes her eyes with Luna. Cadance’s opened as wide as seemed possible and then opened some more.
Luna was not impressed. This went on for quite some time. Cadance never blinked. Not once.
Finally Luna said “If we agree to listen will you end this idiocy? We are bored out of our mind.”
“The Stare works!” Cadance shouted to the heavens.
“Oh Faust no,” Shining moaned, Face palming (Face hoofing?) “This will never end now.”
Cadance rushed off and came back with several more chairs and began to tell the story of how they met me.
Katherine moaned, the sunlight shooting pain through her slightly opened eyelids. She moved her arms slowly, feeling the texture of the grass beneath her.
‘Ugh, what have I gotten myself into?’ she asked herself.
Her memories up to this point were vague. She remembered following that little snot to the diner, but after that it got blurry.
“Heyyyy is anyone there?” she called out.
“Oh yes my dear. I’m here.” A voice said, except it didn’t really say it. It was more like someone beamed it straight to her brain.
“Who are you??” Shielding her eyes with one arm she tried to stand.
“Pay that no mind child, Just keep going.” That same mysterious voice echoed. Could she hear a bell behind it?
Unable to stand up straight, she resorted to crawling forward as her eyes adjusted. As her location became clear, it only brought more questions to mind. She was on grass, but green walls surrounded her on both sides, or more accurately, she was standing in a green corridor. She could see the sky if she looked up. ‘They’re hedges, it’s a hedge maze.’
“Hurry up now my dear, you don’t want to be late!” There was definitely a bell ringing somewhere.
She continued forward, slowly gaining speed until she was running on all fours. She felt like she should stop and investigate. It seemed like she hadn’t had hooves before, but every time she tried to stop the bell rang again and she kept running. She just couldn’t stop, she was so close.
She turned a corner, and she knew instinctively, she had arrived. The bell went silent. It was darker here; the hedge seemed unkempt and had grown into a natural roof. She could just barely see the outline of something larger than her standing within.
“Don’t be shy. Come on in.”
She did so sluggishly. “Who are you?” She repeated.
“In good time, my dear. For now, I just need you to step a bit closer.”
“I’m not sure I should.”
“DO IT” The bell rang one last final time, forcing her to make the final step. Her hoof fell, clapping loudly against stone. For several seconds nothing happened, and then a glowing circle surrounded her stone bound hoof, trailing off into a glowing red line that spun and separated and reconnected again all around the figure. From the dim light, she caught sight of the bottom of several chains surrounding the figure. As she watched, transfixed by the sight, the chains fell, one by one.
The red lines dimmed and then went out. She couldn’t look away. The shadow was moving now. As she watched, whatever was within opened two Blood red eyes and turned to her. He moved closer to the exit to the room and more of his features became clear. Two massive horns and a smile that split its horrible face were all she could note before he spoke again.
“It is not yet time, Katherine.” He said, the voice no longer in her head but somehow much more menacing. “Sleep Now.” She vaguely heard the sound of a ringing bell once again, before she lost consciousness.