The King of Carrot Flowers

by ShadowBoxingKing

The King of Carrot Flowers

Have you ever seen a carrot flower? I once overheard a young farmer describing what they look like: white fluffy things, pitiful in stature and wholly unimpressive to the Earth pony who wishes to cultivate food. The carrot whose root runs deep is valued greatly, while its flowery brethren are discarded and culled for the compost heap.

The origin of the carrot flower is one of adversity. When seeds are sown too early, whether by inexperienced hooves or indifferent Mother Nature, the resulting saplings face the brunt of winter, chilled to their tiny roots by frost and almost always wilting away to nothing. But in the rare circumstance of survival, these early bloomers are uniquely marked for life, with flowers.

I am not entirely unlike these wretched flowers, if only because I lack awareness of my own origin. The concept of history evades me, with neither sight nor articulation to ascribe it meaning, rendering my innermost thoughts as invisible as the passing wind. If individuals are defined by social interaction, I am nonexistent to all but one.

She enters the forest every night since our first encounter, each time with as much trepidation as the last. She feels no fear, no anxiety or distress—the behavior is simply a part of her nature. The traits that make her an outcast among her own are what fascinate me the most.

It seems I am not alone in this fascination. The others speak of her frequently, though it is clear they see her as an anomaly, a broken toy to be fixed. They urge her to function in ways that make her uncomfortable, as if she were an animal on display at the zoo. She tells me they give her these passive orders with such nonchalance, unaware of how inferior it makes her feel. If I could speak, I would tell her that in this aspect we are kindred spirits.

For as long as I can remember, ponies have been searching for me. They enter my home, shouting the nicknames they have assigned me, begging to be terrified for cheap thrills. Sometimes I answer their call, and the sight of my elongated form and sinister black tendrils sends them away screaming.

But not so for the little Pegasus. I appear to be capable of torment beyond a pony's worst nightmares, and still she returns to me after every sunset without fail. I suspect that I am not especially interesting with so little to say, but perhaps she enjoys the company of one who will listen unconditionally to what she has to say.

Our fateful introduction occurred on the evening I had almost succeeded in ending my meaningless life. Unlike the other creatures who inhabit this place, I obtain nourishment using a strange form of photosynthesis, drawing energy from an organism's body to fuel my own. Long before I had learned to control the life-sucking ability in my tendrils, I accidentally mangled and destroyed a few innocent creatures, some of them sentient. These unforgivable past sins are the reason I live with a soiled reputation, and to this very day there are those who seek vengeance in spilling my blood.

I had been in the forest for weeks, where I tied myself down with several unholy appendages after slicing off the rest. The constant hum of cicadas' mating was finally beginning to fade, and I welcomed the silence as I occasionally felt my body twitch against stiff blades of dead grass. It took so long to get this far, when my limbs insisted upon drawing nutrients from the ground beneath me, but those trace scraps of decay would not last forever. I had hoped for satisfaction that never came, feeling only disgrace as I lost consciousness.

The sound of music filled my brain. It was a female's voice singing to me, and the sudden realization that my suicide had been interrupted made me furious. My tendrils flared out wildly, shocking me as they did so. They had grown back. Even more surprising was the fact that this disembodied voice now giggled at my display.

“Are you awake, sleepyhead?” I craned my neck in her direction, wondering why she didn't scream and flee. A faceless monster had just threatened this creature, and in response she laughed and gave it a pet name. I considered the possibility that I had encountered one of those “crazies” who other ponies make jokes about.

“I'll take that as a yes.” I used my hooves to feel around. There were dry, rotten fruits and vegetables piled all over the ground, indicating that she had brought me food and I helplessly leeched from it every bit of juice that I could. I was insulted by her flagrant belief that my pitiful life was worth living.

“You were so hungry,” she continued, oblivious to my hateful thoughts. “I've never seen a pony eat that much! Well . . . it wasn't really eating, and you're, um . . . are you a pony?” I flinched as I felt her muzzle come close to my face—or where my face would be, if I had one. The warm breath tickled me and I shook my head. The dreaded Slender Pony, terror of the night who allegedly kidnaps and murders foals, was engaging a silly little Pegasus in idle chit-chat.

“It's okay if you're not a pony. Some of my best friends aren't ponies,” she said in an excited whisper, as if it were a huge secret that I would actually be capable of sharing with others. Incredible. I had never been good at guessing, but I felt that my previous assumption was correct. She must have been insane, I told myself, to treat me with the same hospitality one provides an ordinary traveler.

I listened as she chattered about her work, animal husbandry, feeling a sense of camaraderie in the fact that we both enjoyed the company of woodland creatures. I think she would have found it amusing if I told her how squirrels and birds often rest on my back when I stay still long enough. Alas, being speechless has its disadvantages.

She remained with me that entire evening and night, leaving only to fetch a blanket when I refused to go home with her. I rarely feel comfortable venturing out of the forest, and I was surprised that she wanted to stay here. There are wild creatures, large and terrifying, but nothing I cannot tame adeptly. It seems she has a similar influence over beasts. Ironically, her notorious icy stare is only incapable of provoking me. Chance brought us together, but it was her kindness that forged our bond permanently.

Introverts love to talk if you allow them, but their desire to listen is steadfast. The Pegasus asked what seemed like a hundred questions a day, and after some time I found myself eager to answer, and equally distraught by my innate disability. She quickly implemented a system that comes naturally to the rest of the world—body language, she called it. Her efforts were valiant, albeit fruitless since the “words” were all based on feelings that eluded me. I was silent as ever, save for one multipurpose expression.

Wiggling my ears, she insisted, was a positive affirmation meaning 'yes,' 'okay,' or even 'happy.' I still use this one on a daily basis, though I am often unsure what it truly means to be happy. One night we traveled to a clearing in the forest, untouched by grass and covered instead with sandy loam. She grasped my hoof gently with her own, bringing it to the soil and tracing a series of lines in the dirt.

“Fluttershy,” she said. She moved my hoof to her chest. “Fluttershy.” We repeated this elaborate motion for hours, until the sun rose once more and warmed our shivering skin. I ignored hunger and sleepiness, taking in each movement until it had been etched into my memory perfectly. Upon her next visit, I sat by the patch of dirt lazily absorbing a tree's nutrients, proud of what I had accomplished. She gasped as she saw my penmanship below: Fluttershy, Fluttershy, Fluttershy.

For months we continued the tradition, starting with letters, syllables and short words that held little significance elsewhere. My vocabulary grew fast and she squealed with delight at the daily activities I began to depict. I was amazed with how this pony could be so enraptured by my dull adventures.

She sidled up to me one night while describing the loveliness of a full moon, beaming down upon the humble earth and providing us with extra light to engage in our “discussion.” My hooves smeared away whatever previous, pointless thing I had written, and hurriedly scribbled out a new message.

She was quiet as she read my question.

“What is happiness?”

“But . . . 'happy' was the first word you learned, remember?”

I tilted my head towards the ground, wanting her to fulfill my wish by giving the elaborate explanation I craved. Everything else had a set definition so far. Trees were trees, cats were cats, and ponies were ponies, but 'happy' . . . it just existed.

“You know what happiness is,” she assured me. I was unconvinced, and I lowered my ears to say 'no,' as if she had asked a question instead. She seemed to be struggling for words, and I worried that perhaps I had upset my little teacher by finally stumping her. She reached for my hoof and maneuvered it slowly. I expected cold dirt, but instead felt the warmth of her coat and a thumping sensation beneath it.

“Happiness,” she said, pressing my hoof firmly against her beating heart. “I'm afraid I can't tell you what it means, my friend. It's something you have to experience yourself.”

After hearing that, I surpassed the potential of my learning curve with flying colors. We sped through whatever book she brought along, progressing from fairy tales and children's literature to philosophical classics written by the ancient ponies. I had never fancied myself an intellectual, but I was determined to solve the mystery of happiness, only to be met with challenges far more overwhelming. Yesterday I gave up on The Canterlot Tails.

I hope she is not discouraged by my failure to find meaning in words. If she returns tonight with the book, I will listen again as she reads it to me, but I cannot make any promises as to whether or not I will understand it. If she returns with Green Eggs and Hay, I am not certain I will fare much better. To apologize for my embarrassing stoicism, I have brought her a gift.

Rustling through the breeze in a bundle at my hooves, there are flowers, wild carrot flowers gathered from the deepest part of the forest where few are wont to explore. Their soft, unassuming nature reminds me of her as I wait for our usual meeting.

I cannot tell if these fluffy clumps are considered beautiful, but I pray that she will appreciate them regardless. I have yet to solve the riddle of emotion, and I may never do so, but my dear friend's unwavering devotion to such a foolish beast is deserving of reciprocation, even if it is only in the form of tiny flowers.

My ears lift at the sound of delicate hoof beats. Perhaps this is what happiness feels like.