A My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fan fic
Recovery Is Nothing Short Of Arduous
“Is something wrong, miss? Did I offend you in some way? I'm sincerely sorry if I did.”
The pony had a fairly cordial attitude, but he had inadvertently brought reality itself back onto me like a jet plane with retracted landing gears. With my blissful ignorance destroyed, I had dropped my head and eyelids, a lump in my throat eager to turn the smallest attempt to talk into shameful sobs. I didn't want to speak with the voice I had now, let alone hear it weep. Being ignorant of myself again seemed like such a good idea, but my silence was a robust chain that kept me from exposing the nature of my anxiety.
“Are you injured?” the still astonishing equine worried. Supposing he meant physical injuries, I feebly shook my steeply inclined head. “Are you okay?” He continued, softly, after a brief pause: “You're shivering.”
Of course I was shivering, and I definitely wasn't okay. I was a victim of some unknown event which had transmogrified me and . . . and taken me to a parallel plane of existence, too! What else could explain the presence of the pegasus? He was real. The scent of his damp coat inflowing to my nostrils was definitely real. The extremely frightening threat of a short and dismal life as a lab animal was most likely no longer real. That was a relief, though woefully inadequate to undo the stress of being an animal of the opposite sex. My want to flee from this body was fierce, and the despair of not knowing of a true solution was immeasurable. I wouldn't ever want to live as a female, and to be seen as one was an injustice against my very being. The inability to remove this guise kept me perpetually distraught. I wouldn't be half as upset if I had become a stallion.
I had trouble breathing . . .
“I can give you something for it, though.”
Daring to uncover my eyes and glance at the source of the gently spoken suggestion, I saw the pegasus grab a narrow plastic tube from his medical kit and orient the equipment to be lengthwise in his mouth. He then lowered his head to place the opposite end of the tube close to my lips. I registered the unnervingly salient yet gracefully shaped snout of mine, from where my sights quickly traveled up the translucent tube back to the pegasus. A concerned frown was replaced with an encouraging smile as he gingerly prodded the device at my lips. A faint odor of disinfectant infiltrated my mouth when I instinctively curled my lips inwards to lick them. Uncaring of the consequences, I draped my lips around my end of the tube. The disinfectant stung in my mouth, but subsided quickly. From his end of the tube came a tiny snap, and something small rolled onto my tongue.
The pegasus drew the tube from me with care and placed it on the floor. “It's diazepam, a muscle relaxant,” he explained. I glanced at the contraption. There was a small box with a switch on the end that had been in his mouth; apparently, it was a container and integrated release mechanism for the drug. “It also helps to combat anxiety and stress,” he continued to detail the effects of the medicine. Letting that information orbit in my head for a few seconds first, I swallowed the near tasteless pill without vigor. I was in a dire need of some form of peace, and if I had to ingest a drug to attain it, so be it.
The pegasus appraised the sensibly silent man. “Sir, can you please dispose of this in my stead?” he requested affably, giving the tube a light prod with his forehoof. “It's recyclable,” he added, as if it was an afterthought. Marcus picked up the simple medical device as prompted, the pegasus thanking him before the red-tee-wearing man left the room. He wore a very dark blue jacket earlier, I recalled.
“Hey, what about the two pegasi outside?” Marcus came back to the door, the contraption still in his hand. “Shouldn't they be with you?”
“Oh, no,” the pony replied politely. “Medical Brace and Ampoule must always stand alert. If things start to look grim, I'll hit the alarm,” he gestured at the medkit where a bright red button was located conveniently on the inner side of the flipped-over lid, “to inform them they have a patient to deliver. Regrettably, the stretcher's too bulky to be taken indoors, but I'm pretty sure the young lady isn't in life-threatening danger.” The paramedic glanced at me with a tender smile.
I had tried to ponder this harmony between ponies and humans, but the young cogitation was demolished by the things atop my head flopping down when their unwilling owner had been referred to as a female. The guy left, but I was temporarily so out of it that I failed to discern what he said. If I had just passed out completely . . .
“Listen dear, I'll start by checking you for fractures and any signs of internal injuries. It shouldn't take more than a minute.” He had a smile on him that insinuated all would go well, but it dissipated momentarily when he took stock of my miserable expression. “Don't worry,” he said in caring tone. “I've never injured a patient.”
Until he had addressed me with feminine pronouns, that is . . . Although in his defense, he was factually correct, and I wasn't collected enough yet to negate the obvious evidence. A dejected sigh passed through my nostrils, and my head rested itself on the floor in defeat. My best option was to wait for the medicine to take effect and dull my anxiety. In the meantime, it was up to me to keep myself together. I had to constantly tell myself not to bend my fingers . . .
“Tell me to stop if you feel any pain.” Predicting what was coming, I wished to turn ethereal to preserve my physical immunity and frail tranquility. Unsurprisingly, a light prod on my arm proved those wishes false. Fighting a desire to scream in panic, I remained tense and immobile as the pony inspected me for injuries. He was very thorough, which didn't mitigate my unease. “Relax,” he reassured, probably noticing that my breaths had become shallow and irregular. “Everything looks fine.” I did my best to retain control as he methodically pressed his hooves on my arms. And shoulders. Neck. Ribs. Back. Hips—Wait NO!
Everything in the room became a smudge of predominantly white colors in my vision as my limbs instinctively shot into uncoordinated action. Next thing I knew, I had crammed myself into a corner. Hyperventilating and heart beating against my ribcage, I had secured a shocked stare on the startled stallion. All the marvel I had for the unearthly pony became virtually nonexistent. Thankfully, I hadn't lost myself to a panic attack, though it had come very close. The light pressure he had exerted on me seemed to linger on my skin, addling my thoughts. However, the vortex of disorganized cogitations quickly coalesced to inform me of what had triggered my hasty move: I was naked! Unclothed! Exposed! So was he, and I was practically defenseless! Most alarmingly, he had set his hooves too close to where . . . things I never would've imagined possessing were! Ugh. My stomach knotted now that I had consciously taken note of the . . . parts, and he . . . he could've done something appallingly intrusive to them! No wait wait wait wait! That was an irrational and unwarranted conclusion. He wouldn't dare do that to me! Would he? We were naked, and momentarily alone, and he was a stallion, and sadly I wasn't, and there could be a possibility he'd bring out his primitive desires in full while I was utterly distraught and helpless! Of course that was a ridiculous and unfounded fear! The guy would've come to my rescue regardless of the pony's actions. I had to dismiss this nonsensical assessment of the winged paramedic doing something indecent to me. Ponies would never do something so detestable. They were kind beings and incapable of evil. I had to calm down, and dismiss the ludicrous supposition that insinuated otherwise! Dismiss, dismiss, dismiss . . .
“I apologize, miss.” The pegasus got up onto his hooves, a sorry look on his muzzle. “My intention wasn't to upset you.” Meanwhile, the 'dismiss' in my head lost the three first letters but remained in its loop, playing a different, unsettling song.
He brought a hoof to his chin, appraising me with a thoughtful expression. “Judging by your brisk skitter, motor control of your legs is ostensibly normal,” he mused pedantically with a scantly perceivable voice. “Although . . .” With caution on his face, he began to trepidly close the gap separating us, and the broken record in my head came to a sudden halt. “Since I believe you're not injured, can you tell me what troubles you?” Glancing at the open door behind the pony, who I hoped wasn't just putting on the airs of concern, I planned to bolt on a second's notice. “I'm not a psychologist, but I can listen to you nonetheless.” I knew it wasn't from him I had to escape but from my senseless suspicions. Alas, when the frowning stallion got the clue and sat down about a meter's distance from me, my less rational side began to instinctively push myself away. “Please, do not be afraid," he articulated softly with a somber glimmer in his golden eyes. "I only wish to help you.” I would have moved farther away if not for the unyielding wall tiles. They felt cold through . . . all the . . . this . . . wet . . . my . . . coat! I think . . . I was nearing the end of my rope . . . The pony . . . a predator . . . Stupid misconception! Away with you! I had to concentrate! Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate! A modicum of sensibility! I had to hold it tightly!
“Listen closely, and try to relax,” the intrusively-close stallion said in an unmalicious voice, “I promise not to upset you.” Promise or not, I . . . I suddenly became aware of having . . . of not having hands. I couldn't feel the floor underneath my . . . the . . . hooves. A subdued sensation of the solidity beneath them transmitted through the horribly enlarged nails on my two remaining digits! Soft dermal tissue and perceptive nerves replaced by relatively insensitive mass of keratin! Dexterous digits numbering in five per appendage subtracted by four to one maladroit and disfigured mockery with an almost exclusive role of supporting my body! A mutated fingertip enveloped in its own oversized nail! NO! Stop! I had to stop the never ending over-analyzation before it ruined me! I had to calm myself, I could . . . just . . . If I could just . . . almost there, almost. Okay, at least a little. I had pushed back the tears and frightened scream that would've been the declaration of a panic attack. Now if I could erase it from my entire self, too . . .
“Am I doing something wrong? I can't help you if I'm left in the dark,” the pony said, looking quite comfortless himself. The answer he waited for didn't come. “It goes against my judgment, but . . . if you wish, then just . . . tell me to go away.” Sadly, any thought I instigated refused to depart from my brain. Hence, I was in no capacity to clearly instruct him to back off. Desperate to reduce the excruciatingly troubling flood of nerve signals rushing in from my upper appendages, I tried to lift them off the floor, but I had to abort the attempt when I realized the two abhorrent digits truly were pertinent in supporting myself. Undeterred by the failure, I rested on my legs . . . my hind legs while leaning against the wall, folding my arms in front of me. It was awkward, but at least I was able to ignore my arms and their extremities. Both the pony and I were starting to relax. For a few seconds. Then, another unnerving sensation struck me, and my grimace almost returned. Wanting to distance myself from the perv- . . . perplexed pegasus, I had wedged my back and head into the corner. What was on my head was . . . They . . . they were now in contact with the wall. An invasion of new nerve signals cascaded from the undesired features into my strained brain, but I was powerless to retract my head from its position. Sights transfixed on the very close stallion, I was aware that I was instinctively but senselessly straining to put even more distance between us. Plus, I was fighting an onslaught of nerve signals running down from the two large things attached to my head. Suddenly, I found myself sitting on my behind, my hind legs unable to continue supporting me. Something was now underneath me, irritating . . . What was that I felt where my—? Oh, gross! I shuddered, cringed, tried to usher away the horrible feelings and mental imagery. I didn't want to know about those! I didn't want to think on what I was! Ears, hooves, naked. Female! If I could just have a minute free from all those, I could relax! A minute as myself to calm my swirling mental chaos. I wouldn't even mind a potent anesthetic. I just wanted an escape! Alas, it was a useless want. I had to rely on my tremendously frayed self and the slowly working medicine to rebuild my shattered tolerance and dispel my anxiety for good.
Wishing for some breathing space or maybe even a moment alone, I tried to surmount the dislike I had for this body's voice and speak to the pitying but puzzled pegasus. It didn't go too well; I produced nothing more than tremulous, incomprehensible peeps which only further confused the frowning stallion. Now I knew exactly what was in store for me: the stress I contained was itching for a way out, and any attempt to talk again would open the ocular floodgates. Thus, the stallion, who was apparently contemplating on how to properly mollify me, remained too close to comfort. The male with a mustache and light beard returned, his expression reflecting some form of sadness as he saw me; I liked to think he empathized with my severe plight.
“What's going on? Is she okay? She looks like she's been scared to death,” he wondered with concern as he came to stand by the pony. Just his height seemed to debase me further; he looked to be slightly above two meters tall. He received an uncertain but contrite glance from the pony, whereas I suffered the sound of "she" echoing in my head like an insult and enhancing the fierce desire I had to reject this body. The looping pronoun was shortly overshadowed by the . . . the wedged things on me. I had almost managed to forget them! I was finally able to remove my head from the wall by a slight margin, but the continuing existence of the two sound-catchers didn't cease to pester me. It was as though every heartbeat sent a potent sensory pulse through them and into my overstressed brain. The discomfort of the prominent features breached my already weakened cerebral defense lines like a hot knife through butter and started to exacerbate my terror. My tenuous tranquility—if I could even associate such a word to it—finally began to erode, each passing second increasing my stress on a logarithmic scale.
I wasn't sure if the pegasus and human were conversing to each other or me; I wasn't paying much attention to them anymore. My focus was firmly set on trying to combat all the unnerving things related to my inescapable physiological condition, mostly on ignoring the two intolerable troublemakers on my head. They were incessantly agitating me. In fact, it seemed like any attempt to forget them only made things worse! I was in a vicious and inescapable cycle! They reacted to my every emotion, and I wanted them to stop! Stop being down-folded! Stop turning! Stop existing! I had to erase their insufferable presence! I wanted them to go away! I couldn't take them anymore! I had to get them off me but they were still there. I was trying to get rid of them, but I couldn't grab them my fingers weren't working I wanted them back it only made things worse I couldn't get the horrible ears off me I wanted them off me to get them off me GET THEM OFF ME!!
“Stop!” A sobering yell struck my eardrums along with something quickly swiping my limb from my right ear. “What're you doing to yourself!?” a sand-yellow shape shouted in extreme concern, his hard extremities now on my shoulders. My vestiges of self-restraint failed almost instantly, and panic began to build up in me at an alarming rate as I stared at the pegasus in a silent plea for help. I had to chance it . . . I had to tell him why I . . . who I . . . But . . . whimpered . . . Almost sobbing . . . Grief and fright enveloping my frantically beating heart. I cringed, pushing the pony away . . . Felt my limbs, I saw my limbs . . . I wished to unsee them, unfeel them! I couldn't . . . The collapsed pony . . . His expression was impossible to discern . . . Everything was blurring. Everything in my body felt wrong. Everything was wrong, wrong, WRONG!! I couldn't . . . anymore . . . I had to . . .
Panic didn't come . . . like I had dreaded . . . Like I had expected. That blood curdling scream . . . sounded wrong . . . It broke me like I was frail glass . . . Small pile . . . Cried profusely . . . Tried to conceal the torrents . . . Sodded my arms in return . . . My hairy arms . . . The only fingers . . . felt wrong . . . Entire body felt wrong . . . The tears weren't helping . . . So dearly wished they did . . . I was inconsolable . . . Ignoring myself was impossible . . . I failed to mute the uncontrollable weeping . . . and it sounded so wrong . . . Not my voice . . . I didn't want to hear it . . . I didn't want to know what I was now . . . They saw me be like this . . . Saw me as this . . . The unfathomable misery . . . The humiliation and shame . . . The abject horror . . . The emotional ache in my heart . . . I wished for nothing more in the world than to escape from this prison . . . A button to press, a keyword to speak, a move to perform . . . Anything! As long as I could do it now! Please . . . Anything . . .
I was scared . . . So scared . . . Please . . . help . . .
“Hey . . . Don't cry . . .” A soft, caring whisper, by . . . I couldn't coax myself to open my eyes . . . but . . . I knew whose voice it was . . .
Something slipped underneath me . . . raised me with care . . . as if I could be shattered again . . . Lamely I tried to resist . . . but I was limp . . . I was frail . . . Broken . . . Still crying . . .
Then, a warmth radiated into me. Body heat. A fragrance of deodorant and an underlying but unexpected natural scent. His arms and hands wrapped over my neck and back. Mine were . . . I circled them around him on a compulsion. I supposed he was crouching, or kneeling . . . My legs were steadying me on the floor. Strange as it was, all of this didn't upset me. I felt a calmness, and though I didn't want to embrace him or be embraced by him . . . this felt so nice. Soothing. Safe. Nothing I had ever felt before compared to this. It was a sincere effort to console me, and the inflowing serenity that closed my tear ducts began to dilute the sorrow and agony coursing within me. Still, my breaths were irregular and weak, and I randomly hiccuped with a tiny squeak.
“It's okay, it's okay,” he hushed, gently stroking the wet hair on my neck. That aspect . . . the mane and underlying coat . . . they bothered me . . . But not so much now that I was inside his aura of compassion. For the first time since the realization of my situation, I was actually relieved. Not through sheer amazement, as was the case when I saw the pegasus arrive. I was simply . . . starting to feel fine. Like an injured child comforted by a loving father. Odd comparison, but it seemed quite appropriate. I smiled lightly on the inside. I had only a few and distant memories of my dad consoling me like this. Funny. A stranger was comforting me more in a few minutes than my own parents and friends had in the past year. My friends were all about having fun, and while I wasn't estranged from my parents, I never brought up any of my life's serious issues with them, either. Didn't have many for that matter, but I was the type who toughed out my personal issues. By myself. Alone.
I had finally achieved the freedom I sought when I moved into a house of my own last winter. Then, I turned into a loner. A perfectly content loner. I was more or less apathetic when it came to maintaining social connections. Seeking relationships was never of much importance to me. I was about as romantic as a pile of discarded toilet rolls, and I considered the shallow-minded pursuit of a fling detestable. I was satisfied with my existence as a solitary, self-sufficient, and free person. It was a fundamentally carefree existence. And now . . . I wanted this immensely soothing and pleasant embrace to never end, because . . . I felt very safe here, protected from the horror of my body.
I didn't want to be alone.
Startled by a lock of hair falling across my face, I opened my eyes lethargically. Just beyond the shoulder supporting my head was the sand-yellow pegasus, the open door and room beyond it serving as his backdrop. Through vision blurred by moisture on my corneas and partially obscured by hair, I deciphered his expression of a sincerely relieved and warm smile. I would've returned the gesture, but I was in no shape to do so. I momentarily thought of withdrawing from the compassionate embrace to profess that I was perfectly fine now, but that would have been an absurd lie conceived by my pride. Had I heeded that unwise advice, it would've lead to disaster on account that I hadn't reconciled with this highly unfamiliar version of myself. So, as reluctant as I was to consider it, I had no smarter choice but to fit into this strange skin. My eyes fell shut, and I began to take deep breaths, partially hindered by clogged nostrils. Much welcomed tranquility circled into me regardless. I had to take this unique moment to deal with undeniable facts, though. Cautiously, I parted hairs off my face with the backside of my extremity—the pastern, I recalled—before replacing my appendage around Marcus' and drawing more resolve from his immediate presence.
For the time being, I was a pony. A . . . a filly . . . or a young mare . . . and sadly, I wasn't bestowed with the power to change that. However, I had a new plan for my future: I'd return home, where I'd search for clues, find a lead . . . Discover the answers to why and how this had happened to me, and those in turn would provide the solution that I desperately needed. Hopefully . . . Hope for the best, prepare for the . . . the . . . No, please, not that . . . Please . . .
Tears welled again behind my eyelids, and my mournful sigh ended with a tiny whimper and a sniffle. A gentle caress mollified me, giving me the strength to cease my sobbing before it had the chance to begin anew. Nonetheless, I had an incalculably bitter pill to swallow: the likelihood of my form being permanent was possible, and I had to prepare for that. From the bottom of my heart, I hoped it wasn't.
“I hope you're feeling better,” the pony finally broke the silence. “Can you now tell us the cause of your anxiety?” he queried quietly, as if fearful he'd break me with his voice alone. I glimpsed at him, and his eyes shone with profound concern in contrast with his smile. Still too miserable to say a word—not even able to confirm his assumption with a nod—I tried to communicate with my eyes alone. But I knew that wouldn't really work. “You were devastated, and I'm still worried for you. I've dealt with severe physical injuries . . . but I don't have the training for psychological trauma.” He let out a long sigh before whispering glumly to the floor, “But now I wish I did . . .”
I considered this body a very severe physical ailment. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do for me. That was another harsh truth; presently, this really was my body. It was my fuzzy drying coat, my four legs with hooves at their ends . . . My flexible ears, my . . . visible snout . . . my . . . my . . . That . . . The . . . fallopian tubes! Ugh . . . Close enough. It was one thing when I believed the body was unreal, but now that I knew it wasn't . . . Maybe I shouldn't have thought about what was different. Or missing . . . As if to disprove my assessment, my hind legs shifted a little in a vain attempt to find what I had . . . once had.
I heaved air, feeling light-headed and sick to my stomach.
“Excuse me, but if I may,” the pegasus said unsurely, looking at me with sympathy, “can I continue the examination?” As soon as the pegasus had presented his request, he inclined his head and brought a hoof to his chin. “On second thought . . .” He planted his hoof down and appraised me with a careful smile. “I believe it's unneeded. You're not injured.” His smile wilted, as if he didn't believe his own words. “Though . . . you do look terrible.” Staring weakly at him, I fought a strong gag reflex instigated by the vacancy between my legs. The hand caressed my neck again, sending placating waves into my recovering conscious.
I still felt a bit queasy. If I ever had a desire to explore my reproductive parts, then that thought had perished entirely; now that the feature was sickeningly genuine, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it! Perhaps having hooves was a blessing in that regard, since they were unfit to—I exhaled somberly but furtively—to manipulate things in the same manner fingers could. Not that I'd have to worry too much about that for long. Hope for the best, prepare— no, that was unfathomable. Too painful to consider, even if it . . . could be probable.
“I think it's for the best we take it easy on her now. Whatever she's gone through hasn't been easy,” Marcus offered. “Do you agree?” With some initial uncertainty, he slid his hand along my neck, cuing me to give a yes or no. The pony had an understanding glint in his eyes as he gave a sincere affirmation, but I was unable to muster the willpower to talk. I sniffled slightly, then hummed a weak and purposefully low imitation of a "yes". My recuperation was more important than the retelling of my tale, especially if the truth of my real form would be revealed. Small steps first. Right now, I was too shaken to explain the cause of my grief without breaking into tears. Again. Rebuilding a tolerance for my present body was paramount. After that was complete . . . truth time.
More solace soon flowed into me when the short-haired male caressed my back without prompt. Even my back felt somewhat different, and not only because it was covered in hair. Something to do with the spine, possibly how it was connected to my pelvis? I didn't know exactly. Obviously, a bipedal posture was difficult if not impossible to maintain, another saddening truth of my body I had to accept. It wasn't as disturbing as so many other altered parts, some of which were luckily concealed from sight . . .
I think I was starting to look pale.
“Say, doc,” Marcus began, worry in his tone, “does she look unwell? You think she's sick, or ate something poisonous? Is there anything you can do to help her?” I was taken aback by what Marcus said. The paramedic pegasus wouldn't stomach pump me, would he? I hoped not. Sparked by the revolting idea of stomach contents being removed, I realized I had not eaten since this morning. An unpredicted grumble indicated my stomach had noticed as well.
Marcus took immediate note of the sound. “So, you're hungry, huh?” he queried, a detectable hint of mirth in his tone. He gave me a friendly pat on my shoulders that nonetheless seemed a bit too strong for my liking. “Maybe that's why doc pony here said you looked sick; you're starving!” He let out a small laugh. “I could offer you a quick meal. Bet that would cheer you right up! I mean, uh, if you're in the condition to stomach food, that is.” At his suggestion and ignoring the caveat, the hole within me replayed its message. The human chuckled to its complaint, and I mentally agreed that a meal had a chance of improving my mood and hastening my recuperation.
“Now hold on! Are you sure it's a good idea to give her food?” the pegasus objected, taking Marcus' warning seriously. “Since we don't know whether she's suffering some kind of illness or not, I can't risk her developing complications from food.”
"If she's really sick, then she won't eat anyways,” Marcus returned calmly.
The pony trotted out of my view, talking in a strict manner, “That's a good point, but I have to keep a close watch on her. I'll hold you directly responsible if any food proves to be detrimental.” My back bristled at hearing the doc pony's sudden shift in character.
“So you're saying that if she pukes on the floor, I'm the one who pays her medical bill?” Marcus quipped. By the long silence that came, the pony wasn't amused in the slightest, and despite the exchange occurring behind my back, I was sure I could feel the cross look the pony was giving Marcus.
“Among other things, yes,” the pony rebutted in a very clear and level voice. “However, since you've so thoroughly evaluated the risks . . .” A deliberately lengthy pause followed his mocking tone, and only my imagination could read the unseen facial expressions that reflected the thoughts behind them. “. . . Can I trust you to understand your responsibility?”
“You can,” Marcus laconically agreed to the terms presented. I hoped the petty bickering would now be water over the dam. Why was it so difficult to give me food?
“Very well,” the doc pony replied, seemingly content with the arrangement. “Provided she gives her assent, of course,” he added.
Luckily for me, my stomach groaned an affirmative; I wasn't eager to hear my female voice speak. Though I was calm on the surface, on the inside, I felt like a precariously balanced bucket of tears, ready to topple the moment I had to give a summary of my day. Besides, they'd never believe I was a guy if I was weeping and sobbing like a . . . Like I had done just minutes ago.
“Well,” Marcus chuckled, “I take that as a yes.”
Although an honest apology might have defused the situation more nicely, I was relieved that the small altercation hadn't left him embittered. When I realized he had to let go of me, however, I lost some of my serenity. I began to steel myself for the inevitable, but it felt like I was preparing to stop a bus by raising a hand at it. Or a hoof, whatever.
Regardless of my unspoken doubts, he carefully set me upright on the floor, and a powerful chill immediately slinked through my bones. It was the cold of being removed from his warm grace and left standing on my own legs. My four legs . . . I felt no anger, only an abstract mental and emotional pain. The fear of this form being eternal awoke, and I shot a glance around the room from the height of about eighty centimeters: the height I'd observe the world from for as long as I was a pony. For every moment that I had my eyes open, I'd see a white snout at the bottom of my vision, and it would emit my every spoken thought in that high-pitched voice! Hate and sadness collided, creating unadulterated misery. Limply, I hung my head and closed my eyes. Soon after, my head was gingerly lifted, and another appendage wiped off the few tears I hadn't noticed shedding. I didn't object to his touch. Forlornly, I looked at the kind face, and suddenly, I noted its small likeness to a certain renowned human.
“Don't be sad. Everything'll be fine,” he spoke, smiling reassuringly. “I won't be gone long, and you have a friend here who can keep you company in the meantime.” He stroked my cheek gently. I started to doubt if telling the truth would offer any help. They'd know what and who I was, but what then? Sympathy and apologetic shrugs? Opinionated dismissals and skeptical frowns? Or were these two the perfect guides to my restoration? I couldn't know, and I didn't. How had ponies come to this world anyway? Was I just a statistic? Another unfortunate person brought against their will into this world? Had the medi-pony been human once and settled to a new life out of pure necessity? I just didn't know! I didn't know anything!
I felt so lost. Forsaken . . .
“Indeed, everything is fine.” The pony sat down beside me with a peaceful smile, and Marcus stood up as I glanced over at my "friend". I watched Marcus as he paced out of the room, stopping briefly at the threshold to cast a quick smile our way. I wanted him to turn back, raising a forelimb in a stillborn attempt to follow him when he left my view. Unbelievably, I longed to return to his therapeutic embrace; however, I had to cope with this unrequested form on my own. Resuming the empathic embrace with Marcus would only be refusing to face reality. The longer I waited, the harder the blow would be. I had to get this done with and adapt to this existence to the best of my abilities. Hopefully, I wouldn't have to carry the burden of this body for more than a few hours.
The thought of forever being a female pony caused my breaths to dry my mouth, a trace aroma of shampoo accompanying them, but I was . . . mostly okay. Somewhat okay. As okay as a guy afraid of being stuck as this for the rest of his life could be. I couldn't even wrap my mind around such an existence. I had to think of the present, which was . . . me, standing on all fours. A strange sensation. There wasn't a precise way to tell what was underneath my hooves. I could feel something, but it was subdued, like standing on very hard rubber implanted on the tips of my fingers and toes. Difficult to understand, much like the pressure in my joints, shoulders, back, and hips . . . I wasn't supposed to stand this way. Like a quadruped. It was degrading. I wasn't an animal. I wouldn't want to be an animal! Not forever . . . But the pain in my heart was too easy to provoke. I didn't want to cry again . . . I was scared . . .
“Do you wish to talk, miss?” the pegasus queried from my left, the feminine pronoun striking me like a sadness-tipped arrow. My head pitched down like a withering flower, and those darn expressive ears followed suit. Taking a deep breath to produce a silent sigh first, I glanced at the tangerine-maned pony and gave him a deliberately low, melancholic hum as a reply. He kept smiling, like he was trying his hardest to assure all was truly fine. If only . . .
“So, how are you feeling? Better, I hope." I gave an another hum. How could I be okay with talking when even that tiny sound was too high for my liking? “I suppose that was a yes,” he said, unsure, and another sigh of mine brought the bathtub into my vision. “Was it?” he added, but I felt too bleak to speak. Would've lead to pathetic whimpers anyway . . .
Shifting in place for a spell, I tried to expedite my reconciliation to my body with no significant success. I couldn't get over the feeling that I was balancing on the nails of a pair of toes and fingers at the end of very strange appendages. What I thought were my elbows were actually my wrists, I think. Where were my elbows, then? The small motion I dared told me they were close to my ribs. My entire arm was now a leg, and what used to be my only pair of legs had been changed, too. My knees were practically on the same level as my belly. Neck felt longer, ears acted on their own, there was an ever-present snout in my vision, and I believed that even my vision was different. Somehow. I had been so blind, so imperceptive of so many things when I had thought this was a dream. Now, I was oversensitive to anything and everything! Not only of this body but smells and sounds, too. Were the colors more vivid as well? This was simply too weird to digest. For almost an entire day, I had been more or less okay being a fundamentally unreal quadruped. But now? I was an animal, and a female no less! Those few words were inadequate to describe the abject nightmare condensed into an adorable shape that had imprisoned me behind its cute countenance. Curse all those tales where the transformed person adapts to their new physique in minutes! I did adapt, yes, but only because I thought this wasn't real; I thought I had a method to return to my original form at any moment. Now, I didn't have a simple exit strategy, and I knew my body had been morphed to that of a female pony. I was afraid. I was so horribly afraid! Scared out of my mind! THIS WASN'T FUN ANYMORE!!
I was grateful the medicine helped prevent another panic attack. Blinking back my tears, I glanced again at the pony. Emotionally, I was somewhere between gloom and anxiety; in contrast, he had a small smile that looked wary yet optimistic. Unable to reciprocate, I fixed my eyes back to the floor and the thin sheeting of dirty water there. For a moment, I wondered where the puddle had come from, but then I realized my sodden coat was its source. Not that the observation was of much help. I only wanted to keep my mind away from contemplating my present existence.
A future that was anything but a quick return home, and then inspecting it for a dimensional hole or something, was . . . horrifying.
Marcus was taking his sweet time, and the room wasn't decorated with anything to pique my interest. So, once again, I turned my head to the most interesting sight available: the pegasus. Our expressions were still polar opposites. We were opposites but of the same species. I was an opposite of myself. Even in my dispirited mood was my mind willing to appraise our differences.
He had a sleek and glistening coat; mine was begrimed . . . but slightly velvety. Fuzzier. Softer-looking. Even our legs and hooves seemed to be different: his were rugged and larger, whereas mine were . . . those of a female. Dainty. Whatever! The difference was subtle but unmistakable. Or perhaps I saw things that weren't true. I had never observed such dimorphism in the cartoon itself; I thought stallions and mares had near-identical bodies. Maybe I was wrong all along? What did I even know? This was real. The cartoon wasn't.
Suffice to say, my entire form was delicate, and sadly, that wasn't at all surprising. It was just another kind of humiliation. A shameful disgrace. My slightly smaller body meant I was a female. No ambiguity whatsoever. Silently, I begged for something supernatural to strike my agnostic self and restore my manhood. At least make me a stallion, because then I'd have something to relate to. Maybe have my voice restored, which would tremendously help my confidence. This morning, I had been ignorant of the reality of my sex, and looking back, I couldn't at all understand how. Now, I didn't even have to look at myself to know that I was a female pony . . . If I could just have a minute's pardon from this unjust entrapment . . .
Darn tears! They were so eager to emerge, but a slow sigh and a blink were enough to send them retreating—this time. The soft breath was a small hint to myself why I was firmly aversive of talking; I knew the voice matched my looks. I had known that since I first heard it, and I had struggled so hard to tolerate it. Now, I wasn't even sure I wanted to tolerate it. I didn't want to sound like a . . . like a . . . I had now learned to loathe that word. I never wanted to hear it ever again, let alone speak it. I wished to unlearn it, forget its very existence! Maybe I could just remain mute and pretend to be ignorant . . . What a stupid idea! I had to talk . . . But not before my fortitude was concrete, not before I was ready to tolerate my tone again.
Currently, I was as sturdy as chewy toffee.
The sand-yellow paramedic still carried an inoffensive, gentle smile. I would've thought he'd try to strike up a new conversation by now, but apparently he had decided to remain silent. Perhaps he was detecting the scent of fragility emitting from my still-damp body? Quite decent of him, really. Or . . . Wait? Maybe he had an entirely different motive behind his smile? What was he actually thinking about? What if . . .?
An awful suspicion struck me, and a flash of an intense desire to flee hit me. Unintentionally inhaling sharply, I leaned a tad to the side and compulsively bent one foreleg up. Simultaneously, my joyless gaze on the stallion traded for an apprehensive one; I had just conjured a likely explanation for the doc pony's untroubled look!
“Something bothering you?” He raised an eyebrow while my leg trepidly contacted the floor, then he glanced around in confusion as if to look for the source of the perturbance. How blind he was; he was the source! I knew how guys thought! I would know; I was one! Or used to be . . . No! Still was! I knew what I did so easily and clandestinely when I knew I'd get away with it, especially when I wore sunglasses. A little fun, no harm done! I hadn't thought I'd ever be on the receiving end of such stares! Well, now that I thought of it, maybe some females were checking out my average body in that special way. Or maybe not; I had a better face than body. That was beside the point, though! The point was that the stallion was naturally predisposed to appreciate females, and hence he might've regarded my unrequested body immodestly! Most likely, he had already eyed every detail down to my . . . Wait . . . I wasn't actually . . . an owner of a desirable posterior, was I? Did I even want to know? No! I definitely and without any doubt didn't want to know! Hastily, I concluded it was best for me to remain ignorant by classifying the precise shape of my hindquarters forbidden from visual and tactile investigation. Oh great . . .
Thanks to my overzealous mind, I swear I now felt the very air dab my unclothed rear in an unsettling and thorough manner. Then, visions of female buttocks—female human buttocks—began to spill uncontrollably into my mental canvas. It would've been quite pleasant, if it were not for the fact that every picture following the other had more and more noticeable properties of an ice-white filly with a pink-brown tail. I screwed my eyes shut and tried to think of something to will away the obscene and nightmarish slideshow, but it came to an abrupt a halt when something solid touched my shoulder.
“Are you in pain? I can offer— Whoa!” The pony was startled, but not nearly as much as I was when I realized it was his hoof that was on me. Not a second later, I was catching my breath, standing astride a dozen centimeters from my previous spot; the brief fit of nerves had thrown my body into disarray, and I had almost flailed myself into an embarrassing pile on the floor. If it weren't for the relaxant circulating in my system, I probably would've ran out the door, screaming at the top of my lungs.
"Well, uh, you seem to be quite . . . easily startled,” the fallen pony said between his panting, ending his intermittent deduction by clearing his throat, then rubbed his flank with a grunt. Meanwhile, I steadied myself, too, albeit more in posture than mind, and I noted that my right hoof felt a bit sore. Connecting the dots, I reluctantly offered the pony a contrite look; I hadn't meant to hit him. “Brings to mind a filly I knew when I was younger,” he said with a small chuckle, apparently amused by the short anecdote, or else he was trying to ease the tension. Being compared to a female pony didn't improve my mood at all. I looked away from him as he stood up, anticipating and then blinking away a small teardrop. “Oh . . . That was tactless of me,” he said apologetically. I pawed the floor nervously for a moment, hoping to arbitrarily rediscover my lost tolerance of being a female pony. I had to, lest I remain a perpetual bundle of nerves instead of just a slowly recovering one. Actually, I had to accept being the recipient of "she," and "her," and "miss" . . . and more, I feared. Was he still looking? If the situation was reversed and I was the stallion, would I . . . Maybe. Darn!
Regardless if his mind was brimming with dirty thoughts or not, I had to preserve my dignity by not showing my fundamentally naked rear to him. With cautious steps, I reoriented myself to be perpendicular to him. I felt cold . . . The chills of fear and sorrow. I questioned why had I not already run away. Why had I not escaped to a solitary place where I could vent all of my pain? I guess . . . because I knew crying wouldn't help me. I could cry for hours, and it wouldn't help me.
“I'm sorry, but I feel helpless when I don't know what's troubling you.” I heard the pony's benign voice and light clopping of hooves, causing me to flinch when the sounds tugged my ears to his direction. “However, if I could just try to cons—” Instinctively, I turned my head at him and raised a limb to ward off his advance. He regarded it and me with large eyes of surprise, then knitted his brows in dejected inquiry. My intense stare softened to a frown, and I shook my head lethargically. Backpedaling a slight, he sighed lengthily. “All right,” he murmured and gazed down, giving a small click of his tongue in a sign of pity. I . . . actually felt sorry for him; he only wanted to help me, but . . . I didn't request it. I had to endure this on my own. Prove to myself that I wasn't weak. I couldn't surrender to the desire of being comforted.
Gradually, I rested my leg, then backtracked with utmost care. Again, I felt that unwelcome fear and grief flashing in me. Then, the suspicion on the pony came back with a shocking realization on my present self: my quadrupedal posture meant I was constantly thrusting out my rear for all to see! It was a horribly embarrassing and disgraceful revelation; I was immodest by default! How did female ponies deal with this? Did they accept it because it was unavoidable, or was pony society absent of the superficial desire of that aspect of a mare's physique? It seemed likely, and I hoped it was true. Otherwise, stallions would be utterly destitute of morals. Or they had impressive self-control. This pony's wings were relaxed, so . . . But those appendages meant nothing! Just a hypothesis created by avid fans of the cartoon! There was only one way to know for sure, but I didn't have a clear visual—not that I wanted to see another guy's device! Gross!
“I know I'm repeating myself, but . . . can you please tell me what troubles you? Can you tell me anything at all?” the one suspected of uncivilized misconduct queried, his brows visibly scrunched. I had nothing to say. “Is there anything you want to say . . . to do . . . or want me to do? I'm here to help you, and . . .” His voice sank to a faint whisper as he gazed over at his medkit, crestfallen. “This is pointless.”
It was just too easy to think of the worst when I was stressed . . . I should have been ashamed of myself. And I think I was. Had I not learned anything from the cartoon? Ninth episode of the first season: Bridle Gossip. Its message was to not judge a book by its cover. To not jump to conclusions, and definitely not without undeniable evidence. The idea that the stallion was covetously checking out my essentially naked body was unfair. Innocent until proven guilty. I wasn't sure I wanted to find the incriminating evidence. Ignorance was bliss? At any rate, I desired to cover myself in something; however, a quick survey of the bathroom revealed no towels to reinstate my modesty with. Great. Naked and stuck as a female pony in the presen—
“Hello again!” A breeze of relief cooled my frayed nerves as Marcus announced his return. I eagerly set my eyes on the white bowl he carried in his hand. “I brought pears. Did you two talk?” Pears? Yum!
“Sadly, no,” the pegasus replied, and while I still had my nose . . . snout aimed at the high-held ceramic ware, I glanced obliquely at him as he spoke, “She hasn't said a single word yet. She's been laconic and . . . jumpy,” he said the last word after a moment's hesitation. I think there was a trace of sadness when he said it, but I couldn't be sure. “I'm . . . quite puzzled.” He looked miserable, and a pang of guilt bounded within me. I knew I had been anything but talkative, and had I actually dared to hear my voice, I could've explained myself. Plus, the immense man-stuck-as-filly boulder might have come off my shoulders. However, I had a definite goal of going home, and the sooner I could start the investigation of what got me into this frightening mess, the better. A chat would more than likely only be a hindrance. Even if I were to tell my identity . . .
“Well, that's a pity,” Marcus said as he came to a crouch, and I took immediate notice of the divided fruits in the bowl. Two pears in eight pieces. Stomach groan of extraordinary want! “But I'm sure she'll be just right after this little meal.” Yes. Consume the meal, then ask to be taken home. Once there, I'd be fine! Of course, I'd have to resolve the severe disagreement I had with my voice before that. Although . . . did I want to tell them of my predicament or not? What would be the advantages? The disadvantages? Perhaps it was best to relegate that dilemma to a time after these pears fill the growling hole within myself.
Paying heed to my voiceless instinct, I stretched my head over the low-held ware and began to lift a limb to grab one of the fruit slices. “Hold on a sec!” Marcus exclaimed, and I stopped cold to regard him with bemused surprise. The dish was then lowered down to the floor before . . . my legs?
“Bon appetit!” I heard him say with sincere delight. My raised limb sunk back to the floor, and I frowned. Sure, I was hungry, but . . . I'd have to eat directly from the bowl? Like an . . . an animal?
“Don't worry; they're perfectly good pears,” he assured, apparently oblivious to why I was staring dolefully at the food. “Bought them yesterday. I had to tell myself not to eat one while I was preparing them.” He chuckled warmly, which brought my sights up at him. I saw his smile fall. “I don't know what's worrying you, but try to look past it and be positive, okay?” he said, his smile coming back with lesser strength. I felt a slight better due to his wise words, and it was true that the food was attractive. Cursorily, I noted that he had changed his shirt to a pale blue one. Oh, right . . . I was drenched when we . . . In hindsight, the embrace we had shared was plain awkward. I again focused on the food, but I felt slightly worried for myself. I really couldn't admonish myself for hugging a guy. Could I?
“Hey, are you going to eat?” He gave me a light and brief touch on my chin with his finger to bring my head up. Unlike the sparse yet execrable stubble I got as a reward after a few days of not shaving, this was . . . different. Foreign? Yes. Annoying? No. How odd . . . Was I preferring soft hair instead of a beard?
“Yes, the moment of truth, I suppose,” the pegasus stated, drawing our eyes onto him. He hemmed forth a smile, then gestured at the food. “Your meal, miss?”
‘Miss . . . ' I thought pitifully as I turned my attention back to the bowl. No escape from those titles as long as the two were convinced I was female, but that issue had to be dealt with later. Right now, I had something more vital to attend to. My stomach audibly instructed me to go at the pears without a second thought, but my civilized side reminded me I wasn't a primitive creature who'd dive his mouth at the pristine fruits. As Marcus had said, they were pretty good pears, and I'd be fairly off my rocker to disagree. The pears were reflecting fluorescence off their peeled surfaces like pearls, a very alluring aroma of sweetness was wafting into my nostrils, and my mouth was filling with excess water in conjunction with my mind's lust for the products of nature . . . Oh my. The pears really looked marvelous! How had I gone this long without feeling hungry? My lips were practically as dry as a desert in contrast with the ocean behind them, and to have the divine flavor of pear grace both was something to yearn for.
So . . . what was holding me back?
“So . . . what's holding you back?” Marcus' query drew me out of my trance. He bore a bemused smile, tilting his head. “They look fine to me.” He motioned a hand at the tantalizing food. How I so wished to have my pair of hands back . . .
Nothing I could about that now, though.
Aligning my eyes from the guy to the pegasus and back, the brief sadness in me was quickly overshadowed by reemerging self-consciousness. Now, I felt like I was a stage performer under the attentive eyes of a studious audience. Lifting my hoof to the slanted rim of the bowl, I pawed the ceramic in a dither, the faint noise augmented by an unexpected silence. If I just had fingers, then surmounting my considerable trepidation would be a lesser challenge. I wouldn't even be in this situation if some mysterious force had not robbed me of my body. Well, regardless . . . This still was my body . . . and it was hungry; however, satisfying it while subjected to this oppressive scrutiny was inconceivable.
“Maybe she's ill and can't eat?” the pegasus surmised, and unequivocally, I disagreed on the "can't eat" part, though I didn't voice that. “While you were gone, she had an anxiety attack, which could've affected her and—” In a sign of admission to my hunger, I started to bow myself closer to the fruits and simultaneously tuned out the ensuing chatter. Maybe . . . I could do this and prove the pegasus wrong? But I was so nervous! I couldn't eat like an uncouth beast! Why did this have to be so difficult? Hunger versus pride; it was a heated battle, and my strained frown turned to a small grimace. If I could just feast on the fresh and lustrous fruits, then maybe I'd be empowered to properly reconcile with my body. Maybe even feel genuinely happy again?
A trail started to escape from the corner of my mouth. I was so very close to snatching up a pale yellow treat, but then my grimace converted to a flinch, and I raised my head from the ware. Swallowing the overgrown globule that was in my mouth before inaudibly sighing my tense expression off, I glanced at both males in defeat. They wore confused expressions, and suddenly the air became heavy, and my skin heated up from the inside. I really didn't enjoy being the center of attention. Not before, and especially not as this and under these circumstances. If they had read my mind, they would've absented from the room, head over heels.
“Is something wrong with the food?” Marcus queried, then looked at the pears with scrunched brows. “I swear they're okay.” Tentatively, he pinched a smaller slice and raised it to be a dozen centimeters from his visage. Swiveling his head to appraise us both, he asked for our approval: “May I?” To which I could offer only a tiny frown and nod. The produce then disappeared into the guy's mouth. “Tastes fine to me,” he said, shrugging. The pony regarded him askance but ultimately relaxed, albeit his lips retained the minor downward angle.
The pony began to inspect the seven remaining slices. I took stock of him as he sniffed the contents, worried that he'd snack on a pear as well and accidentally ruin the rest of them with drool. When I hastily placed a limb on the rim of the bowl in an unsuccessful attempt to take the ware for myself, the pegasus was startled a bodylength back. A jab of sorrow inside my chest was all I needed to know what I missed. I didn't even know what finger the hoof corresponded to, and tears of longing and anguish again threatened to invade my eyes. Tensely fluttering my eyes to drive off the liquid grief first, I grimaced in determination and descended prone, doing my best to ignore the cerebral agony of hindlegs tucking parallel to my body and my two strange digits wrapping around the base of the bowl. The pegasus retreated a little more and was now watching me, head tilted and brows telling of confusion, concern, and contriteness. I stared at him morosely, feeling as though I had rescued my meal from being ruined by his unwelcome spittle. The strong aroma of pear was toying with my sinuses and beseeching me to satisfy my base needs, but I held my head level and narrowed my gaze on the sand-yellow pegasus. I had found a reason to be dissatisfied, and that feeling kept most of the horror of my entrapment under the lid.
The pony's expression transitioned from minor shock to kindness. “Sorry, miss. I wasn't about to take a bite for myself, only trying to confirm the fruits were safe.”
“You know that by . . . smelling them?” Marcus said incredulously. The pony promptly swiveled him a neutral look.
“Of course,” the stallion replied, shining a small smile of smugness, and the salesman's skepticism slowly shifted to stunned awe.
“Wow,” he finally said, plainly, then wrinkled his brows as he began to rub his small beard in thought.
Being called 'miss' saddened more than angered me, in spite of my sullen mood. Although, how long could I endure such name-calling before I snapped? The debacle that followed the last time blind fury took hold of me wasn't pretty. Perhaps it was luck that I wasn't feeling enraged. Troubling as it was, never telling the pony and Marcus of my real identity and instead hiding behind this curtain of a filly started to look like a smart idea. I'd have to tolerate feminine pronouns and perhaps some chivalry, but feminine pronouns were just words, not insults, and words weren't supposed to hurt. Sticks and stones and whatnot.
Weren't supposed to hurt . . .
“Listen, I can tell something serious is bothering you. I won't twist your arm, but . . . I'd like to know why you're so miserable.” It was Marcus; I recognized his voice. Pensively, I transfixed my vision on the tantalizing fruits, my ungainly digits still enfolded around the bowl. Idly, I bent the joint of what constituted my only remaining digit on my right limb. Feeling one digit where there should have been five, a cold shudder bristled the hairs on my back, and my lungs contracted in mental and emotional pain. Technically, the extremity was a finger, just . . . a poor mockery of one. Pretty far from it, actually. I could still grab something the same way the ponies in the cartoon did, though I hoped I wouldn't have to adjust to that. Really, I would just go home, and all would turn out okay.
From the corner of my eye, I saw a hand coming closer at me. It halted when I scowled at it and its owner. He, however, looked slightly hurt, as though he didn't understand why I was displeased at him so suddenly. With a soundless sigh, dejection replaced my tense look, and his hand dared to retry its approach. This time, I didn't object, and the light and brief touch that came on my cheek had a placating effect. The bowl, still in my embrace, was nudged a smidgen closer to me. “I thought you'd be all over this by now.” True, I wanted to devour the tempting meal, but . . . preferably in private so that only one pair of eyes would judge my conduct. Looking at the open door, I flaccidly raised my right forelimb to point at it. They didn't seem to get the meaning, so I sighed and jabbed the appendage indicatively a few times.
“Do you need, uh . . . help to get up?” Marcus asked unsurely and carefully grabbed my hoof. A squirm snaked down my back as I only felt his index finger and thumb stimulate my nerves; they were the only fingers touching my hide, and I had to stifle a moan of frustration and queasiness. Timorously, I pulled my limb from his loose grip and aimed my eyes at the bowl. Once the limb was resting on the floor, I swallowed, then drew my lips in to bite them as I pondered. Communicating solely with body language and audible breaths had run its course, and that meant there was only one viable option left. I had to speak with the voice of my body. To sound like a . . . the filly I resembled. I closed my eyes and wished for deafness for the next five seconds.
“I want to be alone for a while,” I said. Well, my mouth did; my vocal cords refused to do their part. An insignificant fragment of amusement threatened, but failed, to crease my lips soon after. Seems like I got that five-second wish, in a way. I had found the perfect excuse to speak, but not the strength to enunciate my thoughts. My frown worsened when sorrow pinched at my heart again. Why were my emotions so potent and easy to provoke? Okay, confession: I was always a bit of a soft touch, but this level of sensitivity was ridiculous. With much haste, I supposed that the recent and still ongoing experience was a sufficient explanation for my frailty. Additionally, my recuperation was in its infancy and vulnerable. No matter, once back in my home, things would look good for me again. I was certain of that. I had to be.
I wanted privacy, but my gestures had been unsuccessful, and my unfavorable voice hadn't played ball when I had needed to talk. What would I have to do for some solitude? Physically force the duo out from here? I didn't even want to move, let alone walk. Not as this, on four legs. If it even was classified a walk! Trot, amble, canter, whatever! I didn't care! I didn't want to be this! Didn't want to . . . to be a . . . a filly . . . Accursed emotions! The horror was . . . I didn't want to release tears again!
Then, I did . . . I closed my eyes to hide my emotion.
“What's wrong now?” the empathetic figure asked softly. For once, I tried to speak my mind, but in a repeat of before, all I mustered were a few pitiful hums and whimpers. My ears further emphasized my sadness and discomfort. I tried to wipe the tears off, but my . . . my legs refused to listen to me and remained by the bowl.
“I'd be careful if I were you,” the pony cautioned softly, and dauntless to my liquid sorrow, I looked at him. So did the guy. “She's frail.” My vision then focused on a hand that was reaching out for me. It had a wedding ring on its fourth digit.
“She trusts me,” the hand's owner replied peaceably.
“I know,” the sitting pony replied in a similar manner, glancing at the floor. The man's hand then moved a little closer, and, disinclined to accept more physical touches, I leaned my head back. However, his expression was sincere, and I was unwilling to disprove his earlier assessment and possibly break our trust, so I closed my eyes and moved my head closer to him.
A light touch wiped the beads off my cheeks with care, and my eyelids twitched slightly when his digits ran over my nasal bone. I managed to quell my tears with his help, but was I fit to talk? A part of me wanted to stay silent for good, but another refused to back down at the dismaying prospect of . . . of speaking with the voice of a . . . voice so . . . shamefully feminine. No. Defeatism wasn't right . . . It was just a voice. Different intonation, nothing more, and it can't hurt me. Not physically . . .
I sniffled, then pressed on.
“Can I . . .”
It was the frailest and faintest whisper I ever heard, and I couldn't believe it had come from me. Nonetheless, it was a step in the right direction. Marcus hummed in tender curiosity, and I sensed him lean closer to me. Obliged to meet his expectation, I found the crumbs of courage to reattempt presenting my yearning. “Can I be . . .” I said with a voice more like a breath than a whisper, “be alone . . . Just . . . just for a minute?” ‘So, that's how a melancholy-stricken Fluttershy sounds to herself?’ I remarked humorlessly, now that I had unintentionally emulated the bashful pony's tone.
A very relieved smile crossed his face. “Sure thing, I can give you that." Relieved as well, a tiny smile paid a visit to my countenance, and my ears righted themselves. I had won a small but tough battle, and I could now eat the pears in relative peace. Two stones with one bird! I meant— No, never mind. Maybe I'd even have the gumption to speak sooner? Reveal the cause of my most extreme distress to date? Would they believe me, though? After I had been such a wreck that in no way could I have conveyed any masculinity . . . ? Great! Now that my loathing for my voice was finally budging, my male ego wanted to preserve face and join the opposition against exposing my identity. What a terrible revelation; better to be perceived as a saddened female, than a male who had bawled his eyes out because of a transmogrification to a filly. Or a mare. Not that terminology made much difference to me when I felt the empty area between my legs.
“Don't lose your smile now,” Marcus encouraged when my good mood began to fade from my expression. Just for his sake, I compelled myself to smile lightly. He swiveled his head to look at the pony. “Hey, uh, Mister . . . pony . . . um . . .” In bemusement, I looked at the pony just in time to see him flash a mild frown in response to Marcus' fumbling.
“Forgot my name, sir? It's Aidin,” the sand-yellow pegasus reminded plainly.
“Yeah, umm, sorry, Aidin,” Marcus said, eyes aversive and a hand reaching for his neck. “Like I tried to say,” he drawled, throwing his hand down before he displayed a carefully amicable expression for Aidin. “She wants a moment for herself,” he gestured at me. As if there were any other "shes" to be confused with. Was I really about to maintain this guise then? I was torn on the subject.
“No offense meant, but did she specify a reason?” Aidin demanded with a trace of dissatisfaction. “I don't want to leave her unsupervised.”
“Unsupervised?” Marcus echoed, brows creasing along with a side of his lips.
“She's my patient,” Aidin rebutted curtly, closing his eyes briefly, giving himself a haughty look. Meanwhile, my uncomfortably reactive ears were yet again downturned; the slick-maned pony seemed disinclined to grant me the privacy I had requested.
Feeling a glimmer of bravery in me, I carefully took a try at defusing the situation. “Um, don't worry, uh . . . Aidin, I'm . . .” I nodded when my composure faltered. “Quite fine,” I asserted the blatant lie so softly that even precision microphones could not have detected it. Needless to say, I was completely ignored. And quite dispirited. I had bravely leaped off a tall cliff down into a frightening river, but accepting the reality of my unmodified voice was intimidating me to act like a . . . a meek filly. An unwillingness to behave even remotely as a female had the exact opposite effect on me.
“Well, no, she didn't give a reason, but . . . ” Marcus huffed in frustration and stood up, splaying his arms at the pony. “Come on! A few minutes and we'll be back.” Aidin regarded Marcus with a distrusting frown, and a brief but tense silence ensued. “Look, I know you're worried for her too, but if she starts choking and coughing—which I'm pretty sure we both can agree on that she won't—you'll be here in a flash.” Smiling again, he joined his palms in front of his chest and aimed his fingertips at the pony, slanting his head down by a small angle as he spoke: “Besides, it's only for a few minutes. Think about it.”
The pegasus held onto his look for a spell, but ultimately he assented: “It wasn't you who asked, and I respect a patient's wishes . . . So it's fair that I comply.” His tone had betrayed his reluctance, but nevertheless, he approached the door along with Marcus. There, the winged paramedic stopped and looked over at me with a small frown. “All right, miss, we . . . uh . . . ” His lips twisted in uncertainty, but quickly, a flash of revelation crossed his visage, and he glanced at the human, then back at me. “Why, where have my manners been?” he said as he wheeled to face me. “Pardon me, I've completely forgotten to introduce myself. The name's Aidin.” He briefly placed his hoof to his chest. “Pleased to meet you, miss,” he said, bowing his head courteously, whereas I regarded his sudden gallantry with surprise and disbelief. “May I humbly ask to learn your name in return?”
Well, now I was definitely in a tight spot.
“You asked if you could ask her a question?” Marcus said with a sly smile and crossed his arms, drawing the immediate attention of Aidin.
The pony furrowed his brows as he turned to face Marcus, a scowl prickling the edge of his lips. “Yes, I did.”
Any traces of humor vanished from Marcus' face. “Uh . . . sorry.”
The pony sighed in a mix of disappointment and forgiveness, a silence lingering in the room for a few more seconds before he aimed a benign but expectant look in my direction. “So, miss?”
Right, miss . . . This was it, then. I had balled the thought back and forth in me for long enough—now was an opportune moment to decide with finality. None of this fear of a free trip to a mental house or a surrender to silence in dread of the humiliation of being a guy with a filly's body. The honest truth had to be revealed. I was nervous of the consequences being less than favorable, but I'd cross that bridge when I came to it. Besides, if I convinced them of my manhood, my discomfort of being looked on as a real female would be gone. Maybe I would even receive help? Yes, I had to be optimistic.
A few breaths to steel myself. Remaining prone, a fairly impassive mask plastered onto my face. Rescinding any trace of timorousness was of the utmost importance if I wished to introduce myself in my unnervingly female voice . . . I closed my eyes and braced myself.
“My name's Rosy Stri—” I cut off myself with a cough, and my eyes shot open in extreme surprise and shock at what had (almost) come out of my mouth.
“Are . . . Are you okay?” the pegasus said in alarm.
I was aghast, blinking my eyes in total confusion. I tried—and failed—to compute what just had happened. Feeling the pressure of two gazes upon me, I hastily disregarded inspecting the strange lapse further and parsed myself together. “O-oh, um . . . Y-y-yes, I'm . . . I'm fine, very fine,” I stammered nervously. “O-only got something i-in my throat, t-that's all.” I then faked a few coughs, but the reassuring smile that followed had a hard time feeling honest.
“I . . . see,” I got as a reply from the uncertain but concerned stallion, his human counterpart regarding me with an identical expression.
“Y-yeah, there's n-no need to worry.” My confidence had dropped significantly, and the best I managed now was a trepid whisper. “Um, w-what I, uh, really meant to say is that my name's actually Rosy-” I muted myself completely and averted my head. Simultaneously, my facial muscles slackened, and I was sure I felt my pupils shrink, ears falling not a second later to accentuate the excruciating unease. I was perplexed, horrified, dismayed; those words failed to describe my condition. How, why . . . ? That name . . . It . . . So . . . What the . . . ? All I had tried to do was speak my own name! How was it possible for me to fail at something so simple, and twice in a row? What was wrong with me?
“Are you shy, or . . . is it something worse?” Aidin's voice pulled a fraction of me out from my consternation, and in my peripheral vision, I saw him taking a few wary steps towards me.
Marcus put his hand on Aidin's shoulder, and he in turn looked up at him with a small hum. The kind-faced guy shook his head, frowning. “She’s probably just confused and in shock after whatever she has endured. Give her the moment she wanted, okay? You can check up on her soon,” he cajoled softly.
“Ah, why not?” the pegasus relented with a sigh. Looking at me defeatedly at first, he soon replaced his expression with a strained-looking smile. “Well, see you in a few minutes, when you're truly fine . . . I hope.” His smile became a slight more sincere: “Rosy's the name, was it?” Hearing that name sent a very surreal signal through my brain.
Not accounting the single instance of a tiny “uh” crawling up from my throat in reply, I was completely speechless and stunned, unable and unwilling to show them my face.
His smile weakened noticeably before he turned around. Both individuals walked out the door, closing it softly save for the tiniest gap through which the distancing voice of Aidin slipped in, “She seems to be upset or shy, at worst traumatized by something, but definitely not ill. I do admit that my concern for her health was a tad . . . ”
My stomach rumbled in spite of the mental chaos reigning in my head, and I thoughtlessly obeyed my needs to chomp up one slice of fruit directly from the bowl. The taste was strong and pleasant, but I scarcely took note of it. Even the animalistic manner in which I ate was an insignificant disruption in the surging jet engine that was my frayed brain. Hoping to bring some much needed clarity to the situation and attenuate my turmoil, I took the three most critical aspects of my predicament and explained them with as few words as possible.
My body I could explain: I had been transformed.
The pegasus stallion I could explain: I was in an alternate universe where Equestrian ponies were common.
My name I could . . . My name!? It wasn't mine! But . . . it was?
My sights had frozen on the six remaining slices in the bowl; they enthralled me no more. Two names danced in erratic patterns inside my mind's eye like leaves in a gale. Or rather, like one leaf being pummeled into submission by the downdraft of a twin-engined helicopter. Fortunately, to dispel my worst fears, I was able to discern that leaf to be what I considered to be my male name, but my name . . . that other name was more powerful. More important. More . . . authentic? Like it really was . . . mine . . . ?
Then, an awful premonition made itself known. What if I hadn’t been dragged to another universe and transformed at all? What if . . . What if I . . . ?
“I am Rosy Stripes?”
My whisper of extreme disbelief sent horrible chills down my back . . . and that signal into my brain again. It was a vibe of . . . of . . . validity. Had I not learned of my . .. that name only a few hours ago?
Why was it now so . . . so seemingly familiar? As if it preceded this day. As if it had always . . . Wouldn't . . . Wouldn't that imply . . . I was . . . had been . . . been a . . . pony since . . . Female . . . No! That was a horrid falsity that couldn’t be possibly true! I didn’t even feel right in this body! Didn’t feel right at all . . .
Intense brightness . . . of the fluorescent . . . lamps above . . . Jet engine . . . flame out . . .