April 11, 2012
Southwest corner of N. 43rd Ave and W. Bell Rd
Another day. I have my cello in hoof, bow tie strapped onto my neck. My compatriots await me. Let’s go.
It’s hot today. The sun is crushing my face into an arid flat land like the street top. I can feel the sweat trickle down my back, kissing the end of my tail. I don’t remember reading in last night’s forecast that the Princess would be in a bad mood this day.
There’s a couple sitting behind the bus stop, shading their scrawny bodies from the scorching light. Smart. It looks as if they hadn’t eaten anything filling in weeks. Their hooves are clutched together as if they have uncovered the last crumb of nourishment in the entire world and they do not mean to share with anypony. Their eyes are squinted hard, menacing. It could be due to the sun that filters through the holes of the bus stop, but I think not. They look mad. Maybe they are mad. Furious even. Perhaps fate has given them the bad end of the stick. A stick outweighed on the opposite side with all the answers to their problems while they desperately reach for the exalted edge of nothingness, promised to them by everypony. Yes, they are mad. And I would not blame their sentiments.
I look down at my hooves and I realize they are mere centimeters from touching dirt, riddled with animal droppings and cigarette buds. Is this what I have to look forward to every morning? Coming within a soft step to touching the lips of somepony with a pair of black lungs? And this concrete block I rest my rump on. I feel like a toddler balancing on a teeter totter that sways from side to side. It’s aggravating my neck pain for some reason. I need to get up from here.
I am now standing in front of the bus stop, and still the sun blinds my pores with streams of perspiration. I can see the steam that arises from the remains of what used to be a product of my own body’s attempts to cool down, hitting the scalding slab below. Another shot of pain down my shoulder. I craned my neck backwards. Mistake. I need to invest in a pair of sunglasses.
The bus is here. About bucking time.
We didn’t even go half a mile and the bus has overheated. The conductor (a new one) has no radiator fluid. We are forced to leave and wait for the next route. Well for Celestia’s sake, I think I’d rather make the trek of five miles to the music studio on hoof than to wait for another stupid bus, just to end up stuck in the middle of the bucking way with my shitty neck cramping up from siting in those damn awful seats for another hour!
I need to calm down. I need to think.
I need to move.
Well, every long journey begins with a step.
Why am I so hesitant?
What waits for me beyond? Will something happen?
They’re just streets, Octavia. Why the hell are you so nervous for?
Take a step.
That’s it. Keep walking. Keep taking steps. It’s not hard.
I thought walking in the heat would at least expose me to some self-generated wind that would ease the searing heat at least a little. Instead, what I bear now are not only pools (yes pools) of sweat in the pockets of my eyelids and on my back, but aching and burning hooves that my brain is practically forcing them to move. Now the sun is really being a bitch, or maybe it’s the raiser. And if that wasn’t enough, the cello on my back is imposing a most unnatural curvature on my spine that would make a chiropractor call a doctor. It may seem to be a mystery as to how I could write under so much pressure. Trust me, it isn’t easy. However, I am utilizing a clever device devised by my third grade teacher in which the pad is sustained and positioned perfectly by a necklace-like system that hangs on the neck. I am writing in the way we were all taught as schoolchildren: with a pen in my mouth. I’m a little out of practice, but at least it’s legible. This sure brings back many memories.
One block down, four more to traverse.
Walking on solid ground sure is more taxing than doing so on a treadmill. Even after months of cardiovascular training in the apartment gym, this is becoming quite the chore. I’ve already had to stop twice to rest my hooves. I really should consider investing in a set of harder horseshoes in addition to the sunglasses. Perhaps one of those “rock solid” ones I keep hearing the weight lifting stallions brag about, as they pile on the wheels of metal onto the bench press bar. I can’t imagine how painful it must feel after a harsh workout with so much weight involved. But then, perhaps I would be much more prepared for this unexpected little journey. I have a feeling this will not be the last.
This is a onetime occurrence, Octavia. For the love of Luna, get yourself together.
Just think of something else. Look around you. There must be something of literary value.
You know, it’s a funny thing. I’ve been walking for about half an hour and there is absolutely nopony around. None. It’s like they were all abducted by pony aliens or something. However, I believe I know the clue behind the mystery of the vanishing ponies. I live on the north side of Canterlot, where for the most part law abiding citizens such as me make our homes. It’s usually when somepony passes three or four blocks down 43rd Ave when things start to get peculiar. Graffiti on the walls, broken windows in broken homes, ninety-nine cent stores, and hole in the wall restaurants start to pop up like weeds in the crevice of a sidewalk. It’s like a completely different world. Ponies are much more, how should I put it nicely?
I don’t know.
Three more. Nearly halfway there.
My word, will you look at this apartment complex? My left side can be no more grateful than now that it is not the right side. The trees are brown in a season when they should be green. There is no grass to speak of, and I’m afraid there hasn’t been for eons. The playground looks more like a war zone, metal rusting from nucleic contact amidst the uneven patterns of the sand. A lone plastic shovel sticking upright in the fray speaks of the lone survivor’s feeble search at entertainment. The pool is littered with leaves, cigarette buds, and lifeless insects of all shapes and sizes. Certain trash cans are filled to the brim with slosh while others tumbled on the ground, half excavated. There is a young colt sitting at the bottom of a crumbling flight of stairs holding onto a device. It makes noises and beeps and brings a neutral lip line across his face. A friend, older, has decided to join the fun and he brings an object of his own to share.
That’s not what I think it is. Is it?
Dear me, what have they taught them?
Ponies pushing shopping carts. It has to be the most hilarious sight all day. Don’t they know those are supposed to be returned after use?
There’s a homeless pony just staring at my neck. Not saying a word, just staring. My word, how eerie. Do I have a wicked spider bite or something? Speaking of my neck, I have to adjust this strap a little.
Where was I? Oh yes, enjoying the sights.
Young mares walking, swishing their hips side to side. Advertisement? They’re stopped by a much older stallion. He’s got a crooked walk himself and unnatural stains mark his entire body. He’s casting an evaluative eye on each of them, eyeing them up and down, scrutinizing what I believe to be their appeal. Recruitment?
Passing them, I noticed the young mares were wearing backpacks. School children?
Truly, what have they done to their children? Is there no value in innocence anymore?
Was that a whistle I heard? In my direction?
I dare not look. Surely it was for somepony else.
There it is again. It’s not directed to me, is it?
Just keep walking, Octavia.
Oh Celestia, don’t turn. Don’t turn. Whatever you do, don’t turn.
It’s getting louder.
“Where you going, baby?”!
Don’t pay attention. Just ignore it.
“Hey, wait up!”
It’s getting louder.
Go faster. Do it. Just do it!
“Hold up, damn!”
No. Oh no. I can hear him gaining on me. Run Octavia! Run!
Well, that was rather embarrassing. It turns out that the ragged-looking stallion was just trying to return my bow tie. I suppose that while I was adjusting the strap attached to my pad, I absentmindedly dislodged the hooks on my bow tie and it ended up on the ground. One of his “bitches” (he used that term, please note) noticed and told him he should return it.
I flinched. He was kind enough to apologize for scaring me and mentioned rather off hoofedly he thought I looked very pretty. He spoke with such an immodest flair of pride; it both disgusted and entertained me.
I wonder how he spends his time. I wonder where he learned how to be polite. Nevertheless, I thanked him for it and wished him the best in his “endeavors.”
I pricked my neck. Stupid bow tie. Or perhaps I’m the stupid one for trying to put this accessory on whilst walking!
Looking back, he’s returned to his flock of fillies and is leading them with hooves over their necks down the street in the opposite direction. My word, they look more like a flock of geese, their flanks rocking to and fro. Is this some kind of learned response or something? A mating call? A survival gesture?
Two more blocks.
My pen is starting to get moist. I can see small streams of spit running down the sides making its strides towards the paper. I better dry it.
What the hell was that!?
My word, did somepony just throw something at me from their car? Oh god. My heart.
Okay, get ahold of yourself, Octavia. Don’t panic. Let’s assess the damage.
Nothing. I don’t feel a thing. It doesn’t hurt. There’s nothing to worry about. Just keep walking. Don’t give those brutes the satisfaction of a reaction.
What the buck.
I can see their car speeding down the street, away from the scene of the crime. Their tires pointed well in the opposite direction of the confrontation, set at vehicular high speeds carrying their demanding masters to flee. Flee like a villain who attacks the enemy when weak and retreats to safety when good is strong.
Their weapon of choice? A newspaper. Yes, a newspaper! Today’s edition wrapped firmly into a weighty tube, then wrapped in what appears to be masking tape, and lunged from the passenger window directed at the unsuspecting mare.
Here’s my theory: Perhaps they got frustrated by the long words on the sports column that they decided to inflict their illiterate wrath on the next pony they spotted.
You know what I’d like to do? Here’s what I like to imagine would happen. Perhaps I should arrive home from my doctor’s appointment and spot the vehicle parked across the street in front of a convenience store. I would crouch, look left then right, and sprint like a ninja across the black tar, silent as night. I would plant myself right next to the vehicle in question, and wait. As soon as I spot the driver of the hell wagon approaching his car as he sways his head back and forth, sipping from a straw, I would jump from my silent hiding place, plant one hoof on his neck and another on his chest, press his nervous system at the right place, then watch him fall flat on his ass in trembling defeat. The look in his eyes would spell fear and bewilderment. Then, I would near my face, flash him a sly grin, then pull the newspaper out of my bag and make red marks all over his face. When all is said and done as so, I would turn around and buck him. Right in the mouth.
Detestable ingrate! I hope he crashes into a school bus and gets charged with the deaths of all the students on board.
I wish this fate upon his family, that they be discovered by a troubled stallion, then have their orifices shredded and maimed by his unbridled rage against an older relative.
It brings me much joy to picture his head thrust hard upon a table. A set of four stallions, dark as black, eyes of red. A sander is pulled from beneath, bearing the coarsest grade available, and is slowly inched closer and closer to the perpetrator’s face until it becomes a bloody pile of sludge and bone. All the meanwhile, a drill is prepared at the highest rotational frequency and put in the hoof of somepony from behind. As the screams continue to pang the silence, the bits are spun creating a high buzzing sound, then it is lowered into position and then thrust right into
Ah, my neck! Oh it hurts! I have to stop writing. I have to stop walking!
Just one more block. We’re almost there, Octavia.
Now I really look like a limp. This is dreadful. The moment I get back home, I am filing a complaint to the ETS with a curt demand that every bus be fully inspected for potential mechanical failures before embarking on a ticking bomb route. Perhaps I could even coerce them into paying for my medical bill for the aggravated neck pain! No, now that would be ridiculous. Besides, it was my incessant practicing from which the aching originated. To fault them for that would be irresponsible and irrational. Besides, at least it’s subsiding a little. I can inch towards the left now.
What on earth?
Oh dear me, it’s one of those sign twirling fellows.
Somepony call the mental hospital, one of their patients got away.
How much are they paid to look like dolts?
This is a most unbecoming profession, much like car wash fillies and the like. All looks and absolutely no substance.
How can anypony even see what they’re attempting to advertise? All I can see is the cardboard arrow twirling aimlessly in the air. Nothing can be read when you’re doing that, don’t you know?
I will admit one thing. The pony certainly has “style.” I mean look at him.
Dark aviator shades.
Earbuds that run down his chest.
Dance moves learned from chickens in the 80s.
I suppose If I could credit him with one thing, it would be that he’s about as eye catching as his managers could possible want him to be. Perhaps that is the point. Now if he could only stop the forsaken arrow from spinning in the air I could actually see what he’s advertising. A store? A restaurant? A club?
“Make Your Own Cigarettes! Pack Of 20 For Only $15!!”
Oh I see, they’re litterers. Right, they’re advertising littering the ground with more buds. Not to mention staining your lungs with sticky, sludgy black tar and making your teeth rot like
He’s coming towards me.
Great. Now what’ll happen to me?
No seriously, stop stallion. Stop!
Here he comes.
Here he is!
Don’t hit me with that thing!
Well, I’m here. Finally. That was quite some workout. My neck feels a lot better though.
Street smart. That’s it.
Their IQ in street knowledge is very, very high. They’re the ponies who know how to run a family on a single pony’s budget, who know how to start a vehicle with the hood propped open and no key, who know which ponies are the honest peddlers and which are the scummy panhandlers.
They’re adapting to the environment they have found themselves in, whether it was imposed or not. Even the idiotic sign twirler, who by the way when he saw me he popped out one of his ear buds, pointed a hoof at me and stated, “I like yo style!”
Style. That’s another way I’d describe the ponies here.
April 11, 2012
Southwest corner of N. 43rd Ave and W Northern Ave
How is it that music possesses the power it does? Who sanctioned sound with its life changing properties? Was it design? A gamble? A coincidence? Perhaps it was marvelous mistake. A folly that the gods do not mind to count as a fortunate fault on their part. And what a fault it was!
I've always wondered why only choice classes within nature have evolved to appreciate the harmonic blend of sound, and it equally puzzles me why others have not. Are we to assume that those creatures whose ears fail to relay the message to the heart are misfortunate to miss such a blessing, or are we the ones to be pitied for falling prey to a predator with an invisible form? Nay, how can something as precious as music be meant for ill, for that would assume it’s evolved state would have been created to rid the world of its subjects, for how can one remain still when music’s blinding influence dances sweetly in the air? How can creation stay silent when one sound and another become harmony? It is not possible to ignore sound. Even the foliage of the land sway to the beat of the wind. Even the smallest critters react to the rumbling bass of the ground as it trembles above and below. If I were to be asked why music exists, I’d say it is to serve two important purposes: The first, and the most primitive, is for creatures to survive for without sound, it is impossible to survive. The second, and the most advanced, is for reflection on the created world around us. It reminds us of beauty. It reminds us of peace. It is silence with a name. It is love with weightlessness. It is music, and I adore it.
And I’d like to add that today, Susie played wonderfully, even if a little timidly. It is understandable, given what had occurred the other day. It was difficult meeting eyes, but she persevered. We persevered. I should note, though begrudgingly, that Frederic continues to bully his way through the pieces, and Strings is only happy to assist. They’re like Dr. Frankenstein and Igor, only their instruments are literal and their likability metaphorical. They’re such a show. But I didn’t relegate my attention to them, or my words. In fact, words weren’t shared apart from greetings. We spoke through our instruments. It is the only tolerable noise that our pompous pianist can produce anyhow. But Susie today was wow. She came in strong when she needed to be strong, and she was gentle when it was called for. She had perfect balance. I only wish I could say the same for my play. Perhaps I was too preoccupied at the start, but as the rehearsal went on, it all blended rather nicely. The piano. The harp. The cello and sousaphone. All came together and made music. Beautiful music.
I tried speaking to Susie afterwards, but it was for naught. She brushed right past me, ignoring my eyes. The boys were next. They said something, cackling as they left, but I did not pay any attention. I just lingered in silence.
The bus is back on normal terms, and when I say normal I mean teeming with smelly children. I used to wonder why their parents would let them ride the city bus as opposed to the school bus. I used to think that perhaps these children’s parents were not informed of the government-mandated service and since they have no car, they’ve had to wake their kin early in the morning, place a couple of bits in their backpacks, and send them off to school on the ETS, leaving their safety to fate. However, after experiencing the bus for a little over a week now, I have seen many little things that suggest this is not of ignorance or even need. These children talk excitedly amongst their travelling buddies about how cool it is they get to ride the bus. They tout their bus passes in the air like they were tickets to a forbidden fantasy land only deemed worthy of the bravest of adventurers. Every new street learned was a mark of trailblazemanship. And the colt or filly to first pull on the cord is deemed the hero of the day. I cannot help but smile to watch children in packs jump off the bus and linger in the group awhile longer before departing ways to their own homes. I can imagine their mothers eagerly awaiting their arrival as the soap suds fly off the sponge, dropped to receive the arriving guests. What tales they must share!
As I was writing, a pony asked me if the seat next to me was taken. I looked up and was surprised to find a familiar face covered partially by a mane of many colors. If I’m not mistaken, this mare is named Rainbow Dash, also from the Gala. Self-proclaimed fastest flier in all of Ponyville. Who could forget the streak of rainbow colors dashing to save the pillar of the Royal Palace from complete destruction, only to have her efforts be fruitless and everything crumble over her. I gladly said it was all hers and she demonstrated her gratitude with a smile. And a grunt. Rainbow looked like she was in pain by the way her eyes shut creating wrinkles on her lids. She slowly descended on the seat, and turned her body to face away from me. At first I felt perhaps she couldn’t bear witness of my countenance, but then right there in front of me was the reason for her shunning position: Her left wing was bandaged, tender I presumed to the touch.
I was going to ask what had happened, but the wounded flier volunteered the information. She was performing an advanced trick in the air close to some trees when she accidentally ran into a particularly trafficked area of the forest. She tried to escape unharmed, and for the most part the expert flier excelled at bobbing and weaving her way through the foliage. However, as the light began to burst through her vision, her left wing got caught on a thick branch, halting the pegasus’s speedy exit. A loud crack rang throughout the forest as the opposing forces collided, and Rainbow Dash hung there, screaming for recognition. She couldn’t move a single muscle she said, she didn’t dare for intensifying the already intense pain. Luckily some earth ponies were walking by and spotted the fastest flier in Ponyville and she was promptly removed from her bind and taken to the hospital immediately. I asked her how long she had to wait until the help arrived. She sighed.
She shuffled in her seat, trying to find a comfortable position, which was proving difficult. I could sense her face scrunching with every inch of movement. I was also given a clearer view of the damage done. I am no physician, but I could see the effects of her elongated suspension were not a mild matter. The feathers surrounding the bandaged area crust, and red bled through the swaddling cloth that kept the blood in its place. Though the wing itself was completely obscured from view, I noticed the placement of the bandage was close to the belly. Dislocation. Will this mare be able to fly again?
After a few moments, Rainbow Dash added that after she was fixed, she made the trip to Canterlot on hoof to be in time for the Wonderbolts Tryouts today.
I couldn’t help but blurt out after hearing this bit of news. She came to Canterlot all the way from Ponyville on her own? On hoof!? She responded that there was no way she was going to miss the Wonderbolts Tryouts, even after a minor setback as this. I could hardly believe a dislodged wing socket to be categorized as minor, but she pressed on. She’s been travelling for a week, stopping at key cities only to rest. With no money, she’s spent many hard nights resting on benches, under trees, or even on the cold, cobblestone floor. She always had to care not to roll on her injured side, which throbbed even during rest. Walking was the greatest chore, as the impact with the ground thrashed into the area like a tsunami wave with every step. At one point while crossing a section of the Samarea desert, the sun dried the cloth around her body, causing it to itch terribly and sting as if being stabbed by a hundred knives. But still, she said, the athlete presses on.
As the lights from the outskirts of Canterlot broke into Rainbow Dash’s cracked eyes, she felt her legs give way to the exhaustion and crumble under her weight. The next thing she knew, she was trapped in a bed, wires and tubes running from her skin to a machine with buttons and switches she couldn’t make out. When the reality of the situation hit her, the resting pegasus spotted a calendar across the room. A beautiful rose announced the month of April. The date was the eleventh. The day of the tryouts. Like a mare on a mission, she pulled off every foreign object off her body and stepped onto the floor. Immediately, she entered a world of dark sparkles and moving blocks. After regaining composure, the disconcerted mare bolt through the emergency exit, ripped off the hospital gown, and continued her trek.
An exhausted Rainbow Dash couldn’t make it past two blocks before almost collapsing near the bus stop, so she decided to ride the rest of the way. That is why she is here. This is why she was not back home, resting as she probably should. I couldn’t help but stare at this incredible mare in shock, but of course she couldn’t see me. By now, she was completely facing the other way, nursing her side, wincing every time the bus bumped and rumbled down the road. I was tempted to ask her why she would put herself through so much physical pain just to show up at a tryout that, given her condition, she would not be able to participate in. As if interpreting my silence, Rainbow accused me of belittling her resolve. I replied, respectfully mind you, that I found it hard to believe that a flightless pegasus would sacrifice well-being to the point of hospitalization for a chance at nothing. She sighed and began. Though I couldn’t see it, I could sense the emotion carrying itself down her cheek in the form of a tear.
Have you ever discovered something that was bigger than life, even bigger than you? It feels like a flood of uncertainty rushing over you, leaving you no room to rest. No room to breathe. No room to live. The only thing that matters is to survive. And the only way to survive is to keep pushing. Push against the uncertainty. Push against the doubt. Push against the others more successful than you. Push against the pain. Push against common sense. There is no way I’m going to miss this, and there is no way I’m going to fail. My life depends on it.
I was inclined to ask what this risky pony was going to do with only one functioning wing, but once again, she shattered the silence with her preemptive words. There were trainers and medical staff at the Wonderbolts Training Facilities, and they wrap up injuries all the time, surely they could help her too. This time I was able to intercede, saying that what she bore was more than just a simple wrap up job. This could put her future ability to compete, let alone fly, in grave jeopardy. Slowly she turned her body to face me. One eye stared into my two, a blazing magenta stabbing me with a narrowed conviction that transcended the spectrum by miles.
I will not lose.
There is competitiveness, and there is obsession. This was none of those two. This, as it poured into my ears, was epiphany.
Or was it delusion?
It can be hard to tell the difference, and many times it all rests on the results.
Or does it. Should it? Is winning all that matters to the competitor, drenched in sweat and tears, or is it a personal hurdle that one seeks to overcome with unwavering conviction? What does it mean to lose? What does it mean to win, for that matter?
I asked the athlete.
She didn’t respond immediately. Then, she looked up and reached over for the cord. Instinctively, I held up my hoof to pull it for her. A hard slap came across my foreleg as I once again stared into the eyes of conviction itself, mingled with pain. She leaned further, the bandage starting to unravel. I caught sight of the wound that limited her intentions of winning it all.
I gasped. The wing socket wasn’t dislodged at all.
It was gone.
She pulled the cord, and the sound broke me from the trance.
The most profiled flier in all of Ponyville struggled to her hooves, hobbled her way to the back exit, and turned to face me one last time before leaving to try out for the Wonderbolts.
I will not lose.
I will not lose.
I am reminded of a memory from my childhood.
I was sitting in class. My cello rested against my shoulder. I was crying.
I heard several hoofsteps outside. Some words being spoken. Some eyes passed over me.
I continued to cry.
Then you came in, father.
I remember you stooping down on all four knees and I remember you running a hoof over my mane. And I remember you whispering in my ear, over and over.
You did your best.
I cried even harder. I said I wanted to stop.
You asked what.
I didn’t respond.
Then, I remember, you put your hoof under my chin and lifted my head so that I could see your face. You smiled. Then you spoke words that confused me.
The greatest force in all the world…is love.
I will not lose was the athlete’s way of saying it.