The small town aptly named Hay River did not have many ponies living there, it was a junction town with a river. It had one major attraction going for it, the Harmony Cafe a famous music cafe where ponies could let the magic of harmony guide them and they would sing. The stage was open to every pony if they felt brave enough. But now this quite transfer town had another attraction an alien.
Katie had been in Equestria for only one week, she had been given one of the small unoccupied houses near the outskirts of Hay River. Strawberry Dusk a soft pink mare with a red mane and a cutie mark of a strawberry setting like the sun had been the one to find her. She was wandering lost, seemingly incoherent, and staggering as if she drank too much cider.
All the ponies had gathered in the town hall after she was admitted to the clinic to be looked after. The town had a very heated discussion about how to handle it all, to call the princesses in Canterlot, to kick the alien out, or to help her. In the end it was decided that she could stay if she wanted to, she seemed to be hurting no pony and needed rest. The town offered her what they could, gave her an empty house and some provisions. She promptly moved in and had become as Rocky White would say, “That tiny alien hermit at the end of the block.” Ponies would see her from time to time moving about town with a speed that showed her fear. It was a bit of a event for the foals, when they got to see her, they would yell to their friends and try to follow her the parents would corral them quickly.
Strawberry knocked quietly at the door and spoke softly, “Katie? Are you home?” Strawberry Dusk felt an affinity for this very quiet, and very strange creature she had found and guided into town. It didn’t help matters that she was the size of a foal and looked even more vulnerable with no fur, small eyes, skinny legs, and spindly fore hooves. She brought her food every day so far and tired to talk to her, she was never invited into the house. The conversations were difficult, but Strawberry never gave up she felt as if she was beginning to make progress and was building trust.
The door opened slowly a small head peeked out from the door. “Oh, hi Strawberry.” Spoke a girl with head of hair that was long, brown, and curly; she wore a pair of glasses that were scratched and partly broken. Strawberry noticed she had clothes on, that was no surprise, what was shocking to the mare was the state of them, very tattered and dirty.
“Hi Katie, can I come in?” Strawberry asked, she had been building to this moment her heart was beating heavily, “Is she going to shut me out?” the mare asked herself. The question hung in the air, the silence went on for longer than was natural.
Katie’s thoughts spun rapidly, darting to and fro like a pack of swallows. The first thought that ran through her head, “How can I let her in? She is so large she could crush me.” What followed that, “It’s Strawberry, she’s been nothing but kind, she brings you food for god sakes!” “My god the state of the house she can’t see it.” The mare looked really sad and was about to turn away, suddenly Katie panicked at the thought of hurting what she considered her only friend here, “Sure! Sure! Come in, come in,” she said quickly and opened the door while looking around outside.
Strawberry followed the girl into her house, Katie spoke while walking towards the kitchen, “Do you want any tea? Or Coffee? I think I have some round here.”
“Tea please.” Watching the human navigate the kitchen was fascinating, it was clearly much to large for her. She had a table which she used as a stool, and climbed on counters in order to get what she needed. Strawberry was content to watch until she saw her fill the kettle and try to put it on the stove. The kettle was to large and heavy for her, she was struggling to get it onto an element. All the mare could see was nothing but future disaster, perhaps she let the comparisons to a young foal run away with her but she got up slowly trotted into the kitchen to help.
Katie was too focused on getting the tea ready than being aware of anything else, so when the mare’s head was suddenly inches from her hands and moving towards the handle of the kettle she squeaked in panic leaped back and let go of it.
Strawberry moved quickly and caught the kettle with her mouth with a speed and dexterity any human would find shocking, she lifted it, put it on the element, and got the tea started. “Sorry, you looked to be having some trouble and I thought ‘d help. I didn’t mean to startle or scare you.” Strawberry was chastising herself a little for what just happened, “silly filly what are you doing she is not a foal. If she needed help, she’d ask right?” Then again? She looked at the kitchen and thought about the house, the only word that came to her mind was squalor.
Suddenly the mare got an idea, she shut the stove off and turned to Katie, “Alright Katie we are going out.” Katie backed away suddenly her eyes like saucers.
“I can’t” she replied weakly.
“Nonsense you are going to be with me and we are going to the Harmony Cafe,” Strawberry Dusk said it with as much conviction she could muster.
“Why?” Katie asked suddenly looking confused.
“Well for one this place is making you sick,” Katie blushed, “ Second they have good food and drink, and it always does a pony good to listen to others and connect with them in harmony.” She took a breath, “Personally I think it would do you good to get out of this place for a little while, it’s on me, so come on.” Strawberry trotted towards the door hoping the young creature would follow her.
“I don’t think this is a very good idea Strawberry,” Katie said quietly as the two walked towards the cafe. All the ponies on the road were looking in their direction. Katie shifted closer to the soft pink mare so she was practically hiding in her shadow. “I wish they would stop staring at me,” she whispered. Strawberry was beginning to understand her friends nervousness, though she lived here the looks were making her nervous too.
They entered the cafe, it was busy as usual. The air smelled of soap and lavender, a stallion was up on stage singing a soft song, it seemed to be about his mother. The patrons of the establishment were all swaying a bit to the music, it was a sweet song that made Strawberry feel wistful. Nobody seemed to notice them enter and sit down.
Katie had never been anywhere like this, the air was funny like there was so much electricity that you could taste it. All the ponies seemed to be in a semi trance, even her friend Strawberry, it was like a snake charmer was on stage. No staff moved waitress or waiter alike just listened, it seemed to her that the whole place was frozen for the song. All she felt was that weird taste in the air and an unnamed pressure over her whole body. It took a moment to notice that there was no band, the instrumental music seemed to be coming from nowhere and everywhere. Katie shivered a bit, it all seemed so unnatural.
The song ended, Katie thought it to be a simple child like song. Not very compelling at all. The stallion got off stage a few other ponies got up from their tables to talk to him, hug him and it was all very interesting to watch. The cafe suddenly sprung to life and everyone began to talk and move.
“Strawberry, where is the music coming from?” Katie asked her, it was the most pressing question she had.
“Oh that is coming from the ambient magic.” Strawberry answered matter of factly while placing her order from the small unicorn waiter in an apron. “What would you like?” the mare asked. Katie glanced down at the menu she couldn't read it, but the pictures helped and her heart soared when she saw something other than greens. “I will have the fish,” she pointed at the picture of the fish, “Is that ok?” Strawberry nodded her head looking closely at the human. The waiter trotted away.
“Ambient magic? What does that mean?”
This girl was so much like a foal at times, Strawberry smiled to herself and lifted her tea and took a sip. “ So the whole of Equestria is sitting in a big field of magic, and this spot here where this cafe is built has what is called a crumple point. It is stronger here and it is what allows ponies to sing and connect in harmony. The music is a result of all the folded magic in the air.” The human girl was deep in thought.
“Is that why the air tastes and smells like electricity?” she asked, “it is rather unpleasant.”
“You can smell and taste the magic?!” Strawberry was shocked, even the most powerful unicorns had to study to feel the ambient magic in the smallest amount.
“I don’t know maybe,” there was a moment of silence, between them. “Strawberry?” she whispered.
“Yes,” the mare leaned in.
“Thanks for being there for me, this is hard,” her hands encircled the tea cup. “My world is so different from this one, everything is so big here and magic is so unnerving. It is nice to have someone who is so kind. No one here seems to understand the differences between worlds and what I am saying half the time is lost. I feel as if I am speaking a different language.”
The human looked so small and fragile, the mare wanted to give her a hug but Strawberry knew that was not the right thing to do. “You know you could get up on stage and sing.” She added as an afterthought.
“What!” Katie looked as if she was facing an execution.
“If you feel like no one understands, that is what this cafe is for, to be understood and heard by other ponies. The stage is open to all. The magic does it for you, it reaches out and it is all very therapeutic.” They were interrupted by their food arriving.
Another pony got up on the stage, it was a young mare who looked nervous but also excited. Katie tucked into her food as if she hadn’t eaten in months, the fish wasn’t great but to a girl who had been living off salads and greens for several days it was glorious.
The young filly began to sing, to Katie the song was again rather childlike, it seemed to be about friends, school and parents. Music swelled from everywhere as if speakers were embedded in the walls. The audience did not speak, just watched and listened, it was as if they were feeling what the pony on the stage was feeling. Katie felt nothing about the filly or the song, but there was increased pressure on her chest as the smell of static grew in intensity.
After a minute or two the song ended and the filly stopped a shocked look on her face said she was surprised at what just happened. Lots of ponies cheered her and she got off the stage. Her friends were waiting for her off to the side and they all talked excitedly. It reminded Katie of the bars back home and the groups of young girls that would flock together, she was never part of those groups.
“Strawberry, have you ever sang here before?” Katie asked suddenly looking away from the group of fillies and back to her friend.
“Yep, lots of times, usually when I am feeling lost I find the magic and songs clarify my thinking and helps me decide things. It is great to have this place right next door.” Strawberry really hoped this young human would sing. She was not only worried for her health, but she was very curious about the songs of her kind. It was both selfish and selfless she thought to herself.
The two sat quietly through a couple more songs. To Katie it felt like it had become stifling in the cafe, the pressure in the air was trying to push her out of the chair. It was pressing on her chest making her want to scream out loud. No pony in the room seemed to be feeling what she was feeling. The longer they sat there the more she had to fight the impulse to stand up. Strawberry noticed her companion was struggling in her seat, taking panic like breaths and looking terrified. She leaned in “Are you ok? Do you need to leave?” Strawberry asked concerned.
“No!” Katie exclaimed, her eyes flew open she meant to say yes, but something was speaking through her. Suddenly she was propelled out of the chair and was standing up.
“I’m going to sing,” she declared suddenly and began walking towards the stage.
Katie felt as if she was on autopilot, she did not feel in control of her own actions, so this is what it is like to go mad, she thought to herself as she moved towards the stage. Strawberry was trotting beside her, “Are you sure you want to sing? You are not acting like yourself?” Strawberry was very worried about her friend suddenly, maybe the magic affected her differently, maybe bringing her here was a bad idea.
“Yes I’m sure.” The girl responded without even turning to look at the mare and walked up on the stage.
Everypony in the cafe went silent. “The alien is going to sing” one stallion whispered to another. Katie stood at the centre, a light flashed on her and the pressure on her increased, suddenly she could hear a guitar.
Her awareness shifted and no longer was she aware of the music as she began to sing.
Strawberry’s ears flattened she didn’t like the music sounds at the start, it was something odd, foreign, and not from a pony at all. As Katie began to sing she began to glow, suddenly it pushed outward with force, Strawberry was smacked with a magic wave that surged through the whole room. Every pony that was standing collapsed, some in chairs tipped over. Strawberry was laying on the ground and was feeling Katie’s feelings, complex, intense, and very foreign.
Feelings of fear, isolation, trauma, deep intellectual astonishment, she saw visions of violence, massive war, love, cities, planets, space, abstract concepts, mathematics she did not understand, biology concepts that didn’t make sense, and creatures that seemed nonsensical. All flashing like a slide show going to fast to really take in. This was not supposed to happen, songs usually were simple affairs, one emotion, one topic, cathartic and helpful. Katie’s song was throwing the cafe into chaos.
Katie’s throat was on fire making notes and sounds it wasn't meant to make, she felt as if she were having a heart attack. The magic was forcefully pushing her, she couldn't stop, she didn’t want to stop it. She had never felt better, the magic came from somewhere deep, it was blissful like a joyful surge of adrenalin that comes from solving a complex problem.
The song suddenly stopped and the human simply crumpled on stage, one minute she was standing then next it was like her strings were cut.
“Katie!” Strawberry Dusk cried. She ran up to the stage and picked up the little human with her mouth by her clothes. Straining herself she managed to place the body on her back and started for the exit.
“Add it to my tab Rocky,” The mare called to the bartender as she ran out of the cafe and moved quickly to the clinic with the human on her back.