I poked at the shape, and it twitched. I was startled at first, but my curiosity took control. The logical part of me told me to just step away, and run back to the feeding hall. But the curious part of me was stronger at that exact moment. I poked at the shape again, and this time, the small ball uncurled. It was a hatchling. A fresh hatchling, no less. It was still soft, two days old, from the what I saw. Its chitin hadn't formed at all. Its eyes were still tightly shut. It seemed like it was barely breathing.
I could hear my instructor behind me, chuckling. I paid no heed to it, just as she had told me to do. I was startled when the small form of the hatchling whined. I took that as a good sign. The form began to shift, an uneven attempt to stand, it seemed. It barely managed to rise up a few inches before collapsing back on itself. At that point, I let instinct take over.
I nudged the hatchling with my snout. It seemed to search the air for my scent, before trying to rise up again. It actually made it to its hooves before collapsing this time. I gave it one last nudge, before it rose up again. It climbed to its hooves, and took three steps towards me. It fell again.
"Good... Good." the instructor said, stepping into my peripheral vision. "I knew you wouldn't fail."
My eyes shot open, and I gasped for breath. I cursed under my breath. This damned collar was supposed to suppress things like this... It wasn't doing its job. My eyes eventually adjusted to the darkness around me - it seemed all the lights had been turned off. Even the ones in my cell.
The floor beneath me was hard and cold. It took me a moment to come to the realization that I had fallen asleep in the shower. It must've been in the early morning hours, but that's just a wild guess. I didn't feel right, as if a layer of dust had gathered over me while I slumbered.
I stumbled to my hooves, and shakily turned towards the wall. My only worry was the strange sensation that had overcome my body, more accurately, getting rid of it. I stared at both of the shower knobs for a moment, before turning the one on the left. The shower head sputtered for a moment, before a stream of lukewarm water rushed out. The temperature didn't bother me at all; the bathing pools in the Nest were far colder.
I shuddered as the temperature of the water rose. After a few moments in the water, my senses dulled again. Wearily, I hissed and shook my head. Now, it decides to work now... I slowly set myself down on the floor, and tried, fruitlessly, to calm my nerves.
I'm not sure exactly how long I spent in there, simply sitting on the floor, paying attention only to the stream of water that washed over me. But eventually, I worked myself out of the lethargic state, and back to my hooves. I turned the knob back its normal position, and shook myself off.
As I stepped out from behind the plastic curtain, the cold air outside hit me like a stone wall. I froze in place for a moment, my body halting from the sudden change. It took me what seemed like an eternity to force myself to move again. I slowly crept towards the bed in the corner.
Wrapping myself in my blanket, I curled up and found myself drifting off to an uneasy sleep.
I was suddenly thrust back into consciousness when I heard the clatter of hooves down the stairs. Not just one set of hooves, but multiple. I threw the blankets off, scrambled to my hooves, and pressed my back against the wall.
I found myself staring at eight unfamiliar faces. Two winged mares, a horned mare, and two mares who bore no wings or horns. Three young fillies accompanied them - one of each species, so it seemed. The mares crowded around Miss Sparkle, asking her multiple questions all at once. The three fillies, instead, found themselves sitting right in front of the glass wall. I slowly made my way over, and sat down across from them. They looked at me with a mix of wonder and confusion.
"Hey mister," The earth filly began, looking me dead in the eyes, "What're you doin' in there?"
I smiled warmly at the filly, "If only I knew the answer to that question. Perhaps you could ask your elders. They might be able to answer it for both of us."
The unicorn filly prodded at her companions. "We're not supposed to talk to it!"
I flinched. "Why must you use that word? I'm a male and prefer to be addressed as such."
The pegasus filly stared at me, ignoring her companion's banter, and raised a hoof to the glass. A moment later, I raised my hoof slowly, and placed it against the glass as well.
"Get away from there!"
A tanned earth mare stormed over, emanating an aggressive scent. I stepped back from the glass, and put my back against the wall again. The mare scowled at the fillies.
"Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, y'all know better than to talk to this thing!" And she turned her glower to me. "And you stay away from them, you hear me?" Angrily, the mare shooed the fillies up the stairs, and followed them out.
The room fell silent for a moment. All of the remaining five mares, and Spike, traded shocked glances. Eventually, their gazes settled on me.
"Could somepony go talk to Applejack?" Miss Sparkle asked, nodding towards the stairs.
The cyan colored pegasus gave a nod, and bolted up the stairs.
"Thank you Rainbow Dash!" Miss Sparkle called after her. She glanced at the remaining occupants of the room - a pink-maned pegasus, a fully pink earth pony, and a unicorn with a pristine white coat, who looked as though she had smelled something sour.
For a moment, I contemplated sniffing myself to ensure I didn't smell like a manure-field, but the thought passed through my mind as quickly as it came. Instead, I adopted a defensive posture, keeping my body low to the ground and my fangs bared. I kept my eyes tracked on the ponies outside.
When she noticed me, Miss Sparkle glanced at the glass with a scowl. She turned to Spike, and said "Subject appears to be antagonistic. We'll have to keep a closer eye on him and visitors from now on." She spoke in a hushed tone, undoubtedly hoping I wouldn't hear her.
I felt a low rumble in the back of my throat, and it took me a moment to realize I was instinctively vocalizing - a mixture between a hiss and a growl. It seemed to shock all occupants of the room - myself included. I lowered my head, gave a low hiss, and snapped at my own leg, cursing under my breath. Of course, I never drew blood, but it was enough for me to come back to my senses.
"Damn it, I have more self control than that..."
Twilight hurriedly shooed her guest off, starting with the unicorn, then to the pegasus, and the earth pony, "Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie, I think it would be best if you all went for now..."
I blinked for a moment, and listed their names out in my head, believing I would benefit from remembering them. Miss Sparkle and Spike, being the room's only occupants, save for myself, of course. Spike took a seat on a stool, next to a table, while Miss Sparkle stood before the glass wall, eyeing me with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion. It almost brought a smile to my face, but if I smiled, she'd be even more suspicious.
"What?" I asked, returning to a more passive posture. "Do you not trust me? You've got me bound and sealed away in this glass tomb."
Miss Sparkle opened her mouth to reply, and a trace look of shock came over her, but she didn't speak, instead, she turned back to the table and jotted something down on a scroll of paper. I was half-tempted to creep up to the wall and try to read what she wrote, but of course, I preferred to simply keep to myself. If I behave, they're less likely to perceive me as a threat - or so I kept telling myself.
I returned to my place behind the curtain, curled up in the shower, waiting for something to happen. I believe I dozed off in that time, because I have only the faintest memory of the sound of a quill on paper, and the voices of Miss Sparkle and Spike the dragon, trading words. However, I was quickly thrust back into reality when I heard a hoof rapping on the wooden door up the stairs.
For a moment, I thought I had finally lost my mind. The thought was dismissed when I noticed Miss Sparkle and Spike prop their heads up and look towards the door. Miss Sparkle gave a small smile, and trotted towards the stairs.
"Oh, I'm glad she finally made it," Miss Sparkle said aloud, seemingly directed to herself, "I've been wondering when she would manage to come out."
Miss Sparkle trotted up the stairs, and came back down a moment later, accompanied by two guards and an earth mare. The two guards moved towards the door to my cell. Instinctively, I pressed myself against the wall, brought myself into a defensive posture, and hissed as they entered. It didn't deter them one bit.
Of course, I put up no fight whatsoever. Doing so would've been very troublesome for my personal health. Even then, they were still unnecessarily rough. They stopped me in the middle of the room, and the newer mare stepped in front of me.
"Please, hold still." the mare said, looking at me inquisitively.