April 15th 2012
Pinkie Pie was looking into the shopping bag with a big grin as we walked to the car. She and Fluttershy had both spent much of the time in the checkout thanking me for the clothes over and over again. This had led to the young female cashier giggling and asking me if my daughters were always this excited to go clothes shopping. I'm not even old enough to have daughters who are in their late teens, but I supposed that maybe my beard made me look older. I had nodded politely and quickly escorted the girls out of the store before they tried to tell anyone where they really came from.
"You're almost as generous as our friend Rarity is, and she's like, stupendously generous," Pinkie commented. Her face was nearly inside the bag as we reached the car. "I bet if you and Rarity were to team up, nopony would ever have to buy clothes. Not that we have to buy clothes, because we don't usually wear them. But if everypony were here on Earth, and you and Rarity teamed up, then everypony would be just fine. Except for the whole 'not being in Equestria' thing, since I'm sure at least some of them would get homesick. I know I miss being there, but being here is kind of fun too. It's just so confusing! But anyway, thanks for the clothes!"
"You're welcome, but I doubt I'm as generous as Rarity," I said as I helped Fluttershy get buckled in again, then hopped into the driver's seat and shut my door.
"What are you talking about?" Pinkie asked. "You've given us food and that fantastically amazing Coke stuff, bought us clothing, given us shelter and information about your world, you helped Fluttershy learn how to walk like a human, and you were even going to give us first aid until you saw that we were just fine and dandy. All of that without asking for anything in return? You're totally generous, so don't you go and try to pretend otherwise, Dougie!" She poked her finger at me accusingly, and I was left to wonder at how she knew that particular gesture.
I paused for a moment before starting the car's engine. "Yeah, I suppose I've been a little generous. But I'm nowhere near the level Rarity is at," I replied. Pinkie was giving me a curious look, so I quickly added "I guess, anyway. Based on what you've told me about her." It was time to change the subject. I turned on the radio and smiled when I found Metallica's Nothing Else Matters playing. "Well, I suppose from here we can do just about anything. It's still pretty early. We can have a look at a few more shops while we're out here, or maybe stop at a park if there's one nearby. Maybe go have a bite to eat, are either of you hungry yet?" I asked.
The girls perked up a bit at the thought of food. "Yes, please!" they said in unison. It was somewhat cute and creepy at the same time.
"Right then. Okay, let's see what Yass has to offer," I said. I took a left turn and began to drive slowly around town in search of some place decent to eat at.
"I sure could use a daisy sandwich," Fluttershy commented. "Ooh, I wonder if there's any place that serves tulip soup!"
"Um, I don't think there's any place that serves up that kind of stuff," I replied. I had driven around the block and found nothing interesting, so I drove back to where we started. "Well, there's a Subway right here. They sell veggie subs, which are basically long sandwiches, and you can get whatever you want on them. You even get to choose your own bread. Shall we stop here?"
The girls agreed and I pulled the car into an empty parking spot near the entrance, turned off the radio, and parked. I told the girls not to get out of the car yet, and was met with looks of confusion.
"What's up, captain?" Pinkie asked. "We're hungry - check! We have a restaurant - check! They serve food - check! It all adds up, so what's missing?"
Reminding myself that the two needed to know this, I decided that direct honesty was the way to go. "Girls, you need to know something before we go in there to eat. I don't know any easy way to tell you this, and I really hope you don't think less of me or other humans because of it, but most of us eat meat."
Up until that point in my life, I had been unaware that it was actually possible to hear silence. Fluttershy sat motionless in the back seat, staring straight ahead. Pinkie was frozen, her seatbelt halfway off. Her nose was wrinkled and her mouth had twisted in what looked like a human version of what was known as a pony scrunch face. Nobody moved for several long moments.
"We don't eat ponies?" I asked, though I had meant it as a statement. The girls both continued to stare, and I suddenly became aware of how I was sweating despite the cold weather. I tried again. "Uh, look. I know animals in Equestria are sentient for the most part, but here on Earth it's a whole different story. It's not like I would ever eat anything that could tell me not to. It's just the way it is. Fluttershy, I'm sure you have, or had, carnivorous animals in your care. You have to feed them fish, for example. You understand, right?" I looked at Fluttershy who slowly nodded, though her eyes remained unfocused. I looked back to Pinkie.
Pinkie's eyes were narrowing, and I had a feeling that I had just made a terrible mistake. Her brow lowered into a frown. I tried to think of some way to make being omnivorous seem like a great thing.
"Come on!" I pleaded. "There are bears in Equestria, I'm sure they eat meat. Otters, too!"
"You're right," Pinkie replied slowly. Dangerously. "There are bears in Equestria. Otters too. Funny that you mention it."
Pinkie continued. "So, do you have any more information about our world that you couldn't possibly know unless you were from Equestria... or are a spy! Come on, spill it! Who are you really, are you with the P.I.A.?" She was once again pointing an accusing finger at me.
I began to panic. "Wait, no! I'm not a spy, and I'm not with the... P.I.A... Pony Intelligence Agency?"
"Aha!" Pinkie yelled triumphantly. "You do work for them, or at least know of their existence. There's no way you could have figured out what those letters stand for unless you're from Equestria! Now why are you spying on us, does this have anything to do with the cupcake incident?"
"No! Wait... C-cupcake incident? That was real?" I stammered. "Bloody hell!"
"Never mind, there was no cupcake incident. I was just testing you, and you may have passed this test, but I will find out who you really are and what you're up to!" Pinkie glared at me. A quick glance at the back seat showed a cowering Fluttershy who seemed to be trying to hide, though she was still stuck in her seatbelt.
I wasn't sure what to do, so I just said what immediately came to mind. "Nothing you just said makes any sense."
Pinkie's eyes widened in surprise, her mouth agape. She recovered after a moment. "Okay smarty-pants, you passed my second test too, so I guess you get a chance to explain yourself. I'm warning you though, I won't go easy on you like I did with your broken Pinkie Promise, so this had better be good!"
Easy on me? She had chased me through the woods and pounced on me from a tree, sending me tumbling into the lake below. I didn't want to find out what happened when she was hard on someone. I quickly evaluated my options and realized that none of them were ideal, but I had to do something. Hoping I made the right choice, I came to a decision.
"Okay, I'll explain everything. But there are some things I need to show you, first." The girls hesitated, but eventually agreed. I told them what our destination was and we stepped out of car, making our way across the street and back towards the shop we had left less than half an hour before.
The doors to Target opened automatically and the three of us entered the store again. Fluttershy was having difficulty walking again, probably because of her nerves. She allowed me to assist her, but she kept looking my way out of the corner of her eyes as if I were going to attack or something. Pinkie's mood was difficult to figure out. She had been very suspicious and almost angry in the car, but she was now walking along and taking in the sights around her with a smile. I saw what I was looking for just ahead of us. I stopped the girls and ensured that I had their attention.
"Okay you two, once you've seen these I need you to please give me a chance to explain everything before you do anything unreasonable," I said. I didn't continue onward until I had heard agreements from both of them. Once that was settled, we walked onward and arrived at the toy section.
Toys of all sorts were displayed neatly on the shelves. It was a small store in a small town, so the employees probably kept it spotless out of boredom. We passed a display of Transformers toys with at least ten spots filled with Bumblebee toys. There was a WWE display on the next end cap that featured little plastic Jon Cena toys and championship belts. Two more aisles further on I found what I was looking for and stopped.
After a moment of hesitation, I waved a hand in the direction of the toy display. "Well, here we are. You'll probably notice some familiar faces here. Have a look, and I'll answer all of your questions when you're ready."
Pinkie walked towards the display slowly, but Fluttershy had tensed up and would not move, so I remained with her to keep her steady. We watched together as Pinkie reached out and removed one of the toys from its peg. Inside the package was a plastic representation of Rarity, complete with bright artwork depicting the pony on the front. A white and purple printed message exclaimed Pony wears the saddle! The toy came with a pink saddle, purple comb, and a green bird as accessories. Pinkie looked over her shoulder back to us, but her face was unreadable. She then turned back around and took a different toy off of one of the pegs. Inside was the smiling, pink representation of herself.
I looked to Fluttershy who looked confused and distraught. "Hey, it's okay mate. I don't fully understand it myself, but I'll explain as much as I can when you're ready to hear it." She nodded absently, but still seemed deeply shaken.
Pinkie then returned to us with several toys in her hands. The way her brow was furrowed and her eyes locked onto mine caused my heart to skip a beat. I was prepared for the worst when she finally spoke.
"You know, if you humans are going to spy on us, you could at least take a decent photo!" Pinkie glared at me. "Look at my mane in this picture, it's all over the place! Rarity is far too skinny in hers, and don't even get me started on what you people did to poor Fluttershy. No wonder she's crying!"
A quick look towards Fluttershy confirmed that she was indeed crying again. If Hell truly existed, I was certain that making Fluttershy cry twice in one week was enough to all but guarantee a one-way ticket to an eternity of torment and suffering. I thought that maybe I could be forgiven if I somehow got them back to Equestria, but I needed to sort this mess out first.
"Well, I can try to explain. This might go better if we discuss it elsewhere though," I said. I gave Fluttershy a smile, but she seemed to be in shock and could only continue giving absent nods.
"Fine, but we're taking these with us," Pinkie said, indicating the pony toys. She had one each of Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy. "Please?" she added quietly.
I sighed and nodded, and was rewarded with a big hug from Pinkie as she giggled and looked at the toys with the pure excitement that a little girl would have. Her sudden mood swings were making it difficult to predict how she'd react to anything. I should have already been prepared for such randomness, but to see it in person was entirely different from watching it on a cartoon.
"Let's get going. I'm sure you both have a lot you want to talk about," I said.
Pinkie and I helped Fluttershy as we all walked to the checkout counter so that I could pay for the toys.
"Okay," I said as I closed the boot of the car, safely locking the pony toys within. I turned to the girls. "Do you want to hear about how I know all about Equestria before or after we eat?"
"It can wait, let's go get food!" Pinkie squealed.
"Fluttershy, how about you?" I asked.
She nodded again, and I decided that some food might help to bring her out of her mood. We walked across the street and I held the door open for the girls as we entered the Subway restaurant. As we approached the front counter, a young man emerged from the employee area in the back. His name tag read 'Stanley T.'
"Good afternoon, what can I get for you all today?" the young man asked with a smile. He seemed like a pleasant fellow.
"Uh, I'll have a six inch club on honey oat, not toasted. Okay girls, choose your bread first," I said, indicating the bread chart sticker on the counter. "These will both be six inches, too," I mentioned to Stanley.
"Wow, how many kinds of bread can there be?" Pinkie asked with wonder. "White, wheat, honey oat, and what's this one? It-al-ian herbs and cheese?" She was gently hopping up and down like a kid in an ice cream shop.
"They're all pretty good. There are a lot more types of bread than this, too. You'd probably like honey oat because of the sweetness," I explained.
"Alrighty then, a veggie sub on honey oat it is," Pinkie beamed.
Fluttershy wasn't doing so well, so I ordered one for her, too. Stanley the sandwich artist made up our order quickly, and I ordered drinks and cookies with each sub. We got the food to go, and we were soon carrying our order out the door and towards the car. Just before the door closed, Pinkie turned around and waved.
"Bye Stanley!" she exclaimed. She turned back to us with a shrug. "I almost feel like I know that guy from somewhere."
I shrugged it off as coincidence and helped Fluttershy across the road and into the car. Once we were all buckled in, I started the engine and got us back on the road. I had seen a small park nearby as I had searched the town for some place to eat, and within a few minutes we were there. The parking lot was empty, probably because today was colder than usual. We got out of the car and headed towards a picnic table with our food in tow.
Once the girls were seated I quickly handed the subs out to their respective owners, as well as two chocolate chip cookies and a Coke each. We had each taken a few bites before the first question finally came.
"Okay, so you told us all about Earth and how humans usually act, all about different countries, cities and stuff. That was last night, but now we see that you didn't exactly tell us everything. Like eating meat, for example," Pinkie said, eyeing my sub.
"Right. Well, you need to understand that it's really easy to take things for granted. Trying to explain an entire world and everything contained within is kind of difficult, but I did my best," I replied.
"You never told us you knew who we are," Fluttershy said quietly. It was the first she had spoken in at least an hour.
"Well, I didn't know who you were until Pinkie chased after me. But I get what you mean. Look, I really don't understand it all, but here on Earth you're known as a fictional character from a TV show."
Both girls stared blankly at me.
"Right," I said. "You don't know what TV is. Uh, it's a thing that let's you see a play from far away without actually attending the play, more or less," I explained.
"So, like binoculars?" Fluttershy asked.
This was going to be more difficult than I imagined. I decided to get back to the point. "Uh, not quite. Listen, all I really know is that up until yesterday I thought you two were just myths. Make-believe. That's how everyone else in this world would think of you, too. Nobody actually believes that Equestria or any of the ponies living in it are real."
Pinkie took a large drink of Coke. "Well of course we're real! We're right here, aren't we? We can't be not-real because we're here and talking to you, duh! So how do you know so much about Equestria, anyway?" she asked.
"Well, this is where we get back to TV. Here, I kind of have one in my phone," I said, taking out my Samsung Galaxy S II. I opened the YouTube application and typed in 'my little pony fim' into the search bar. Within seconds, I was scrolling through videos with bright, colorful ponies.
"What they hay?" Pinkie asked. "This... this explains everything!" she said, eyes going blank for a moment. "I somehow always knew I was being watched. Ha! I'm not crazy, I knew it!" She jumped up from the table and began hopping around. "I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!"
"But... I know you said you didn't know, but how is that even possible?" Fluttershy asked. "This was back during Winter Wrap Up when I was waking up the critters for spring. How am I watching myself do that right now?"
"I honestly have no clue. Maybe everything's real. I wonder if there's a Thundercats universe," I pondered. "Oh, right. Well, I really don't have any more answers as far as that's concerned. But if Equestria is real, then I guess there has to be a way to get you back there. I'll still try to help as much as I can, but I really don't know what to do other than take care of you until you can figure it all out."
Pinkie stopped hopping around all of a sudden and put her hands on my shoulders. "You can't see everything we do, can you?" she asked.
"It's a kids show, so no. We can't see inside bathrooms, for example," I explained.
"Whew. I won't destroy you for being a pervert, then," she said with a smile. Her casual demeanor was unsettling.
Fluttershy began to sway in her seat, and looked pale. "I... I think I need to lay down," she whispered. She definitely wasn't taking the news as well as Pinkie was.
"Right, let's get back to the camp. You can have a rest while I answer any more questions that Pinkie has," I said. Pinkie and I slowly helped Fluttershy back to the car. After buckling her in and giving her an encouraging squeeze on the hand, I hopped into the driver's seat and we were soon back on the road.
We arrived at the camp site within the hour. Fluttershy looked to be ill, but I was hoping a good amount of rest would make her feel better. We hadn't slept for long the night before, so the combination of mental and physical fatigue was probably doing a number on her. It was a lot to take in, what with suddenly becoming human, waking up in a strange land, then finding out that you were somehow part of their entertainment.
I saw that something was wrong the moment the tent came into view. The gaping hole cut into the side of it was what tipped me off. The fact that half of my possessions were strewn about the camp site didn't make me feel any better about the situation.
"Bloody hell, really?" I growled. I wondered what kind of animal would be large enough to do that much damage. This wasn't dingo territory, and I couldn't imagine a kangaroo breaking into a tent. They were generally too timid for that. Could it be a robbery? I sighed. I had thought I'd left that kind of stuff behind in Detroit.
I parked and stepped out of the car, then helped Fluttershy out. "You two stay back, please," I warned. "Whatever did this was either a large animal or a human, and it may still be here."
The girls nodded and I quietly crept up towards the tent. I listened for several moments and heard nothing. I was about to walk in when I suddenly heard a noise from within, and slowly peeked into the hole. Inside my tent I saw a young boy with short, snow-white hair dressed in a white shirt and shorts. He was on his knees rummaging through my possessions. He found my box of Nutri-Grain and tore the top off of it, then grabbed a handful of cereal and shoved it into his mouth. He immediately spit it out, then hurled the cereal box across the tent.
"Hey!" I exclaimed. "What are you doing in my tent? Are you lost? Where are your parents?"
The boy's head whipped around to look at me. Where I had been expecting blue or possibly grey eyes, I was met with a purely black-eyed stare. He looked up at me with a frown, then slowly did a kind of a half-crawl towards me.
"Are your legs injured?" I asked. I began to worry that maybe he was an abused runaway. "What's your name?"
The boy crawled up to me and slowly stood on shaky legs. He studied me with his strange black eyes for a few seconds, then frowned and kicked me in the shin as hard as he could. I crumpled to the ground in pain and grabbed my sore leg.
"Oh, you little shit!" I screamed. The boy glared at me, then slowly walked out of the tent. "Be careful girls, he's a kicker!" I looked over at them from my spot on the ground. Pinkie looked to be on the verge of laughter, but Fluttershy's eyes were as wide as I'd ever seen them. The boy stopped and stared at her curiously.
"A-Angel?" Fluttershy gasped. The young boy tilted his head, then nodded vigorously. Fluttershy covered her mouth with both hands, and then abruptly fainted.