At work, it felt like somepony hanging out in the background of everything had tuned an unlabeled knob slightly to the left. Surfaces were either blurry or crystal clear and shiny. Derpy heard her own thoughts louder than almost anypony around, but on occasion, a bit of dialogue would burst through, snippets of conversation that seemed intensely related to whatever she was thinking at the moment of interruption. 'Just take it easy and remember to breathe,' a supervisor had said to a trainee, going over the mail routes with him on his first day. Derpy had snapped her head sideways and stared on her way down the hall, before realizing the conversation had nothing to do with her, and pretending just as quickly that she was intensely interested in a piece of fluff stuck in the carpet she was walking on.
'I swear, if somepony takes my lunch one more time, I'm going to scream,' was someone else's interjection. Derpy stopped for a moment and guided herself through a deep breath, checking in the single brown pouch she was carrying for her breather and feeling it secure and bumpy underneath her hoof. That was one of her co-workers, somepony who worked at the front desk, with a bright red mane and lots of jewelry with shells in them. Was she talking about the time Derpy had taken somepony's lunch... Or the time she had dreamed about it, if it had never happened at all? Derpy felt herself getting sweaty, and her chest tightened up a little bit. All this and she hadn't even gotten dressed for work yet. And she was three minutes late.
But when Derpy got to the back room, nopony seemed to notice or care that she was late. Nopony seemed to notice her in general. A strange image of a pony-ghost with her features gliding inbetween the solid, corporeal images of her co-workers, drifting towards her mail-bag and hat hanging on the shelf, throwing them on, and then vanishing out the window, growing thinner and thinner and evaporating like a puff of smoke that had been blown into the wind.
Derpy shook her head. Nopony noticed that either. She squeezed through the small crowd of other pegasi getting ready for their own routes, or just standing around and laughing with each other as they chatted and drank their third cup of morning coffee. Letters would get to where they needed to be.
Derpy wondered about that too. If she hadn't come into work today, or she hadn't the next day, or the day after that, if she stopped coming altogether, how long would it take somepony to come check on her? To notice she was gone? And when they finally noticed, what would happen next?
Thinking like this hurt Derpy's head sometimes. The words she was using to talk to herself would get bigger and deeper and slower and it would feel like the idea she was trying to understand was too large to hold in her head, as though she could either just see the edges over the horizon, or hold a tiny part of the whole and examine it piece by piece, rotating the thing in her hooves like a giant toy puzzle.
But that was strange. How could a word be 'big'? She knew it could have a lot of letters, but... then how could an idea be 'big'? How could you be able to think about one thing, and nod and follow along and understand everything somepony was saying to you, or that you were saying to yourself, and then the very next moment, be unable to move the conversation in any direction, be buried in lead weights or giant boulders or just in any way pinned to the ground, stuck underneath the weight of the wrinkled mush inside your head being unable to contort itself around this new idea.
And there were a lot of big ideas like that. Most of them included the word 'why?'. Some of them were deceptively simple, like "why do we need to eat food?". Others were more complex, involving words for things happening with each other in physical ways that Derpy could barely remember, even when she wrote them down. At present, the idea that seemed ready to swallow her up on every side and engulf her mind to drown in its tempest, was simply the notion of the nation she occupied.
Equestria. A place within a space within a... what then? A nothing?
And Equestria was a big place. It had many smaller places inside it. The same way a town was a place, but had many smaller places inside it too, like markets and pubs and villages and dog-houses and even little ant-hills if you were counting those too. And most of those places had different names, and different ponies and non-ponies, and some of them were much bigger than any place Derpy had lived before.
There were places with hundreds—thousands of ponies. More ponies that Derpy could name if she spent a lifetime reading through the phone-book. Ponies who were big and old and on their way out, and young and small and just learning what life was about, taking their first steps or getting into fights on the playground over Ponemon cards. Most of those ponies—all of them, in fact, had no idea who Derpy was. They had never read about her in the paper, or seen her on the news. Nopony had ever written anything about her, and nothing she did was newsworthy. When she was gone, nopony would recognize her ever again.
And at her job—when she was gone there too—eventually, somepony would replace her, and learn the routes, and her regulars, and after a while it would be like she had never been there in the first place, and the last time her name was ever said would be lost to the wind and time and scattered over everything like a handful of dust on a seaside cliff. She would be swallowed by the waves.
Ten-o'-seven. She had been standing around thinking about nothing for four minutes. And there was mail to deliver.
There was always mail to deliver.