First Pony View

by Suomibrony

Have A Break

First Pony View
A My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Fan Fic
By Suomibrony

Chapter 11
Have A Break

Okay, okay, okay . . . okay! Some rationality still in my very nervous self? Good! I knew how to walk, and I was successfully doing it even as my human condition stupidly refused to cooperate! Whatever scrap of equine condition I had, I was using it to its fullest.

Remarkably, I had started walking almost the very moment Embee had, and I wanted to stay diagonally behind her. That way, I'd have fair warning to reform my strained expression into a blithe smile were she to spy a look at me, but not too far behind, lest I see her totally never before seen and now entirely forgotten behind, which would indubitably remind me of my own behind! Well, it really wasn't mine. It actually belonged to a female pony, but that was part of the problem: it belonged to a female! I didn't trust that a less sophisticated side wouldn't awake should I see the potentially alluring and hence forbidden shape surrounding my or Embee's tail. Spurred by that line of thought, the dirtier depths of my imagination spat up a highly unwelcome vision of a mare in boyshorts. As fiercely as I tried not to, I felt wronged for not having even that little modesty. The intimate experience with female nudity was unsettling me further, and I didn't know why it was worse than male nudity, but any extrapolation was prohibited by my cognitive cacophony.

I was afraid, too. Afraid of what might happen if my true identity was revealed. Being regarded as a full-fledged female pony was safer than whatever event that'd ensue if I wasn't. Nonetheless, this choice was disturbing, humiliating, and adversarial to my maltreated, restrained, and violated male humanity. I needed to comprehend this untoward and nearly instinctive intolerance so that I could vanquish it. I was like . . . a Škoda 120 misplaced amongst front-engine, front-wheel-drive cars! I definitely didn't belong in this convention, and I didn't want to be here. I yearned to return to my own gathering of rear-wheel-drive cars, but I couldn't do that because I was stuck inside this!

I was suffering from a contradiction of self-image and body. Transgenderism plus transpecism? I hadn't expected to come to that conclusion, but now, it seemed very appropriate. I wouldn't condemn a transgendered individual for disliking their body, because . . . they had my sincerest sympathies now that I had been forsaken into a relatable predicament. I couldn't eliminate my intolerance as I had planned. I could only hope I'd cope with it soon.

Embee and I had already traveled for about . . . too far and too long. I knew it was finite, but . . . Were distances greater as a pony, or was time standing still, or . . . some third thing that made this stroll feel so perennial?! Silly misgivings! We'd be at our destination shortly. Just had to tolerate the strange bones shifting beneath my skin, the pressure applied to my four cycling hooves and the joints above them, my short stature, and . . . several other things I had once been perfectly fine with.

I cringed when my tail involuntarily twitched, brushing my behind and drawing my thoughts towards the area between my hind legs . . . and the emptiness there. Much to my dismay, my tail swung a few more times before I got it under control. Forcing my head and ears straight, I walked . . . Did stallions and mares walk differently? They should be indifferent . . . Were they? I really hoped I wasn't inadvertently swinging my rear like I've seen some human females do; too disgraceful! Too degrading! No, wait, that was inane—all ponies walk in a neutral manner. End of debate! Breathing okay, walking okay, Embee was oblivious, and I was totally not troubled by my nudity; everything was perfectly okay. Almost perfectly okay. I had to maintain my . . . adequate calmness . . . as soon as I acquired it.

Oh horseapples!

As if fate had read my mind with malicious motives, a red- and black-maned stallion emerged from a room no more than five meters ahead and just before a turn to the left. I was scarcely able to put on a nonchalant face before we passed the dark blue unicorn, and I desperately tried to (somehow) walk in an extremely neutral manner. With my breathing on hold, I earnestly hoped his burgundy eyes weren't ogling me. I didn't dare to look over my back. Getting a confirmatory glimpse of him being a lecherous scoundrel and/or my assumably curvaceous tail section could have disastrous effects on my panicky psyche! He seemed to be drowsy, so . . . maybe he didn't gaze at me? His attention was probably on Embee instead, who, thankfully, was between me and him. She didn't have spots of mud on her, and her long and blonde mane had to be pleasing to the eye, unlike whatever unsightly mess I had on my head and neck. Suffice to say, she must be more attractive in every department. Even in the rear. She'd better be!
No, I didn't want to know!

As we rounded the corner, I let out my breath through clenched teeth. I noticed droplets of perspiration itching my skin, but I couldn't scratch with these hooves! They were dedicated to supporting and ambulating me . . . If I could will myself deaf to the rhythmical clicking, then my stress would reduce decently. On the bright side, I was still walking steadily! How many anxious squeaks had I already suppressed? A few . . . dozen? Darn the insubordinate part of my subconscious that rejected my form and how it locomoted! Couldn't it just quit already?

HR, FL, HL, FR; that was the pattern! I could never pull off that choreography as a human! I didn't need to . . . but now, I had integrated it into my pith so well that it had become nearly automatic, and . . . this disquieting and dehumanizing method was the only way. Every quadrupedal step I took stabbed my core. Why was I subjecting myself to this torment? Why wasn't I stopping? I should stop . . . Just stop and pour out all of my accumulated anguish until I had no tears left . . .

No! I wasn't weak, and I couldn't submit to the tyranny of my pathetic frailties! I could . . . divert my attention to something completely unrelated, like . . . doors! We passed one door. It was white. It had a small inset in its lower part. Then, we passed a second door. It also was white and had an inset. Third door—white . . . Inset . . . Oh! Embee and I stopped at this one. A respite from walking . . . Dispelling my stress with a single furtive sigh, I realized how dangerously close I'd come to falling apart. Counting doors was a good idea, and in hindsight, I should've tried it earlier; it would've saved me from the composure-whittling anxiety. I realized that standing was a lot easier to my frayed mind than walking. I also noted that my neck and back formed a rough ninety-degree angle, my spine descended into a concave between my pelvis and shoulders. Wait, withers, not shoulders. Anyhow, it was as if my skeletal system formed an S-shape of sorts, starting from my head and ending at my hind hooves, yet this brought me no physical discomfort.

“Well, here we are, literally at the other end of the hospital,” Embee announced leisurely, as if she hadn't even seen how enfeebled I was. Probably hadn't, because the fabricated expression she saw was moderately eager, if a bit tired.

‘And figuratively at the other end of the world!’ I desired to add with factitious glee, but I was simply too drained to offer my sarcasm.

“This is the break room.” Embee placed her hoof into the inset of the door, and the telltale click near the door handle ordered me to be firm just a little longer. She gently pushed the door open, and we entered the room, me with lead hooves and a great want to ignore the unease coalescing in my abdomen. Walking on all fours without preparation had done a number on me . . .

I barely registered that the lights were on before we had made our entrance.

“As you can see, this room's suited, though not exclusively, for ponies.” The aquamarine pegasus standing by my side gestured with a nod to our diagonal right; in the center of the room was an appreciably low, wood-framed glass table surrounded by wide and soft-looking cushions, the ensemble resting on top of a carpet patterned with multicolored bands. A section of the right wall had been neatly removed, but from this position, I saw little of what was beyond except for the edge of a window and a radiator beneath it. The wall directly ahead of us consisted of a row of windows, permitting a view of the top floors of an inner-city apartment beneath an orange-tinted sky. Rainwater streaked down panes of glass slightly above my eye level, and I was glad they were; their elevation reduced the risk of seeing my reflection.

“I know this sounds like it was ripped from a trite speech, but . . .” Embee looked askance with a droll smirk as she deliberately cleared her throat. “The equidaetrics department wishes to politely offer a positive, lasting impression to every discharged patient by serving them a complimentary meal.” Equidaetrics department? I should've been more surprised at that; however, the unpleasant taste of stomach acids visited the back of my tongue, greatly reducing my astonishment. Embee had no part in my transient queasiness . . . other than forcing me to walk before I had prepared myself for it.

Regardless, I forgave her blunder and was poised to eat.

“Well, ah, that's very nice.” I would've said more, such as applaud the hospital's generosity, wonder why the amiable practice had been established, and question what was the point of Embee's promise of carrots if I was about to receive food anyway, but my obstinately male side dissuaded me from playing ball with my feminine voice—this time.

“If you meant the service, and not that poorly written stuff our janitor roped me into reciting after I lost a game of poker,” Embee said with half-hearted humor in her tone, “then yes, it's very nice.” After a half-second pause, she hummed contemplatively. “You know hon, it's more than very nice because you'll receive more than a simple meal.” She looked toward the rain-streaked row of windows at the far wall. “The weather's perfect for your new raincoat, you see?” I was reminded of Peachy's thinly veiled dissatisfaction at relinquishing the raincoat, and I promised myself I'd return the attire back to her as soon as I knew how to send myself back to my life. Anyhow, Embee's unconcerned mood was a good sign; she hadn't been tipped off that my guts had yet to untwine completely from the aftermath of the sudden stroll. Despite that, I had no trouble maintaining a smile.

“Yeah, how about that,” I started tentatively, defiant to my desire for silence over hearing my feminine intonation. “I'll be testing my reward for a sneeze in no time at all, and that reward is precisely what I wanted before I even knew I wanted it,” I jested, my mirth impeded by my unbefitting voice and a momentary awareness of my nakedness.

Embee chuckled, bending her neck to show me the right half of her friendly expression. “Then consider this to be your very own little celebratory banquet.”

“Mmm-hm,” I hummed with a lean smirk. ‘Little banquet? That's oxymoronic,’ I remarked with the voice I couldn't currently produce. Spontaneously, I recalled that my parents claimed my voice was charmingly mellow, and as much as my male ego loathed to admit, this set of vocal cords easily translated the quality into a femininely gentle intonation.

“By the way,” Embee mulled, her hoof locating to her chin as she slowly pivoted her head to cast a look around the room. “It's actually been almost a year since the extensive renovation, which I understood was a big undertaking, and there's been talk of a small celebration.”

‘Renovation and celebration; that rhymed,’ I noted cursorily. “A small celebration with party hats, streamers, cake, and so on,” I added in a subtly humorous monotone.

Embee faced me, planting her hoof down. “Ah, no,” she sighed, a little disappointed. “Just a few guys and gals gathering in a restaurant, calling it a celebration. Some might go to a club to party afterwards, I think.” She again brought her hoof to her chin, apparently contemplating something deeply.

Looking at Embee, I realized I was a few centimeters shorter than her, and I felt a pang of melancholic inferiority, questioning the maturity of this body. Being slightly smaller than the roughly meter-tall pegasus—a little over half of my human height—wasn't good for my self-esteem.

Thankfully, I felt my spirits recover as I watched Embee's hoof contact the pale-brown linoleum floor, creating a soft clap. Her head inclined upwards: “I heard this hospital was quite a chore to be in, what with having been built to cater only to humans, and the rampant mold growth that was everywhere.” With a light exhale, she waved her hoof dismissively before looking at me tranquilly. “Anyway, I can't attend the proposed celebration because . . .” She gazed away absently, humming softly as her eyes slid halfway shut and gained a dreamy shimmer. “Me and my special somepony must attend a celebration dedicated to us.” Combined with the warm smile and melody in her tone, I presumed she meant a wedding ceremony. Hoping I wouldn't encourage her to talk treacly about her future spouse and matrimony, I struggled for a moment to parse a proper reply.

“Well, I'm very glad that fortune has brought you two together, and I wish you the best in your shared future,” I congratulated her, but immediately reviewed my words and assumed I had spoken wrongly. I felt my ears slant down as my mouth warped into an awkward smile. My eyes unwilling to stay affixed to her, I began to rectify hurriedly: “Uh, with your special somepony, I mean, not with fortune, but, well, why not with that as well? Like, uhm, fortune, you, and, er, your special somepony being together.” Warmth bursted in me now that I thought I had implied something naughty. Compulsively, I lifted my right forehoof off the floor, leaning a little from her. “Sorry for that, Embee,” I apologized, unable to wipe the embarrassed look off my face. Hers was marked by a small smile of bafflement. “That got, ah, um, a little out of . . .” I glanced in disbelief at my elevated appendage, gently resting it back and correcting my stance. “Hoof, heh.” Why had I lifted it up?

Embee stared incomprehensively, before breaking into unsure laughter. “No need to feel embarrassed and apologize, hon. I appreciate the compliment and . . .” My eyes were drawn from her relaxed visage to her left foreleg, crossed over her right as if to point at me. “Humor, was it?” she finished with an inquiry.

She hadn't heard anything risqué in what I had said? That was good. I wasn't fond of raunchy jokes, and telling one by accident would be a humiliating misfortune. “Yeah, humor . . .” I felt compelled to paw the floor with my forehoof. “I was trying, uhm, it was kind of funny, but in an unintentional way, uh, you see if fortune was an entity and, um—”

“What are you talking about, hon?” Embee interjected laughingly. Seeing puzzled amusement on her, I realized how discombobulated I was, explaining a dirty joke she perhaps hadn't and didn't need to understand.

“Gee, that . . . uh, I don't even know,” I replied, stifling a titter down to an uneasy smile, and taking reluctant control of my auricular muscles to upright my drooped ears. They were fundamental to how I communicated, and I had to be more aware of their position, though manual operation felt stranger than letting them govern themselves. “Anyway, as if it wasn't quite clear already, I want to say that you're a very lucky mare!” I spoke flatteringly, doing my best to regain my composure and repress another protest by my masculinity when expectation and reality didn't meet in my current voice. Why couldn't I fully inure myself to this voice already?

“I know, hon, and thank you!” I saw the dreamy look return before she aimed her face towards the windows again. “Oh, when me and Aidin finally lock our wings and stroll together down the aisle, that, I bet my tail, will be the greatest and happiest moment of our lives! I can imagine the preparations and congratulations and celebrations, and, oh my! I can hardly wait for it!” she squealed enthusiastically. My ears had fallen to half-mast at the implication of receiving a bucketful of her romantic syrup, though I honestly wished Embee all the fortune in the world, and reacting to her gushing with a sickened groan would be extremely rude and dishonorable. Best I simply tune out whatever she said from now and wait for her to continue strolling forward.

Nevertheless, Embee's eager anticipation of her marriage reminded me of my own lack of romantic skills. My "gotta connect" brain component had never developed beyond a basic attraction for the opposite sex. I presumed those factors contributed to my want of an independent and free life. Quite daringly, I thought I could do without friends as well. Or, no, on second thought, I couldn't be that solitary. I needed some kind of companionship. Friends, not a life partner. I just didn't have the innate requirements for the latter. Society in general would look at me strangely for that, but what could I do? I was what I was.

As for a certain quartet whose enjoyability had plummeted ever since they found happiness from a bottle rather than from within themselves . . . ‘Without booze, there ain't no fun.’ I can't believe Benny said that. Or was it David? No, it was Benny. Had he forgotten his dad passing away from alcohol-related liver cirrhosis five years past? Probably hadn't, because I had reminded him two weeks ago. Quite bluntly, too. Whether Benny had been ironic about the exclusivity of alcohol and joy, I didn't ask because . . . I didn't feel the need. I probably should have. What happened to my friends? What happened to me? Had I misjudged them? Was I unreasonably opinionated? Was it all just a big misunderstanding? Why was I so unsure? For over a week, they had tried to contact me with calls and text messages before they apparently gave up. I . . . almost responded to one call. Maybe I should get back in contact . . . No, two friends were better than those four—or none—and I'd meet new ones in flight school. Actually, said two friends were my cousins who had recently moved away—one for work, the other for family.

Once this unprecedented ordeal was over, maybe I should visit the working one, Emma, to detail this ordeal as a wacky dream or something. My parents were clueless, barely grasping the concept of the Internet, so telling them how I had stumbled upon colorful cartoon ponies and that . . . I dreamt I was one? That conversation would be all kinds of awkward. Emma, however, owned a bunch of first-generation MLP figurines. Hence, she probably wouldn't treat my coming out of the stable with derision.

Anyhow, I hadn't seen Emma in a good while, separated as we were by almost two hundred kilometers. It would be great seeing her though, since she was exceptionally nice. Crossing the distance would be a small adventure in itself as I was fond of driving. Maybe I should do that , after twirling some things in my fingers and strolling around on two legs in my home out of pure joy. Then, I'd wrap my hands around the shallow-grooved, two-spoked black steering wheel . . . Yank the hand brake, shift the gear to neutral, twist the key to activate the electrics and set the four pistons rotating, turn the knob by the left side of the gauges to alight the trapezoid-shaped headlights, fasten the seatbelt, cross my right arm over my chest to lock the door, check the mirror positions, test the brakes and accelerator; all set to go! An internalized routine reminiscent of a pre-flight checklist. Quite peculiarly, if I was attentive while the engine was idling and the radio was off, I could hear tiny hissing sounds repeating harmoniously. Was that the fuel being injected into the cylinders, or was it the rotation of the crankshaft? Or the camshaft? I had no idea. I should investigate that complex machi—


My heart missed a beat, and for a split-second, I was unable to comprehend what had happened. My wits slipped back to their place soon enough, and I realized I had yelped due to a full-body jolt that had almost tipped me off balance. While I was busy catching my breath after receiving a sensation equivalent to a static discharge, an aquamarine hoof began oscillating up and down before my eyes. Then, my integrated magic projector relayed that two instances of external stimuli had been applied to its terminus, delivering a pair of light kinetic forces that converted at the base into tenuous neural signals, which then radiated into my cranium and prompted me to produce the shamefully feminine vocalization.

“Hello?” the owner of the hoof asked with a careful laugh, stepping in from my left. My forehead was stinging, but that was more out of the strangeness of having a horn there rather than physical pain. Embee leaned closer, peering mirthfully, whereas I gazed back dumbly. “Medical Brace to Rosy Stripes, Medical Brace to Rosy Stripes,” she spoke our names with a jocular flourish. “Can you heeaaar meee?”

Preceded by a small grunt, I furrowed my brows in disbelieving puzzlement. “Uh, yeah yeah, I-I can,” I replied, annoyance in my tone. “But, uh, you, ah, you didn't have to, uhm . . .” I stammered in one breath, minor hurt beneath my tone. Averting my head by a dozen degrees, my eyes remained affixed to hers as I continued hesitantly in a quieter voice, “Touch my horn.” Just vocally relating that thing to myself felt like an affront. Compulsively, I lifted a hoof toward my agitated forehead. ‘And what use would this action serve, huh?’ I asked myself irately when the extremity reached ribcage level. My hoof sank obediently back to its supporting role, and I set a mildly discontent look on Embee with a long sigh, compelling her to lean back with a rueful frown. Darn horn. Until the nerve connections up there calmed down, I'd feel like a piece of rebar was stuck in my head. Wait, had I reacted to my name . . . her name? Rosy Stripes. Right, I had her body and inexplicably adopted her name as well, but now was not the time to get absorbed in my thoughts.

“I'm sorry I did that, hon, but I waved a hoof in front of your eyes for ten seconds without getting so much as a twitch out of you.” I seriously doubted she had waved her hoof for literally ten seconds. Regardless, her sorry tone didn't cloak the amused look on her face.

Closing my eyes, I exhaled a nerve-relaxing sigh. She was so close to me that I could smell her. Rainwater and . . . horse. “No, it's fine, Embee. I'm not mad at you,” I said peaceably, abandoning my want of vengeance through sarcasm. I was only upset at being blatantly reminded of the disparity between a human and unicorn head. No need to lash out at her for that.

“Alright, hon. I was a little afraid I hurt your feelings,” she intoned with assumably sincere apology. “I wonder, though, what thought captivated you this time?”

“Um, a something,” I responded, blinking my eyes like an innocent and clueless child. At least that gesture wasn't feminized. ‘If my sense of masculinity was any more unreasonably unyielding, it would object to breathing with my mare's lungs,’ I quipped, frankly becoming tired of how that aspect of my identity cared not for the credibility of my important guise. An unrelated complaint came from my mare's stomach, and with a neutral look, I tried to will Embee's ears unreceptive to the specific frequencies. Her wary smile told of my limited success.

“Was that 'something' food?” she cooed with a chuckle.

‘Nope. I was merely so discouraged by the chance of hearing you talk about your love life—which in retrospect could've given me a lot of info on this universe—that I stupidly and inopportunely distanced myself to wander from thought to thought in a thoughtless desire to ignore pretty much all things related to my persistently unfamiliar and tangibly feminine equine configuration,’ I was tempted to ramble dryly, but that would've opened a can of smelly, abhorrent, nauseatingly squiggling worms. Also, I was short on appropriate and safe witticisms at the moment.

“Nah. I only tried to make sense of something at the wrong moment,” I said plainly, wrinkling my lips to a small smile soon after. “I'm sorry about that. It was a little stupid of me.” Something was nagging in my head ever since I thought about my car. Probably related to intricacies of engine sounds, but that was neither here nor there. “But I'm okay, and you're right. I could really use some food right about now,” I finished, trying not to sound like I was telling her to hurry up. I then realized we (and especially I) had stood idly for a few minutes, which was probably my fault, but I didn't feel bad about it.

Embee looked fairly embarrassed. “Yeah, we both got a bit distracted in our own ways, it seems. Weddings and whatnot, hahahah,” she laughed awkwardly, then nodded her head in the direction of the table. “Uh, why don't you take a seat, hon? I'll bring you the promised meal in a few.”

A surge of anticipation sent a pulse to right my already upright ears, causing a nugatory and scarcely bothersome twitch instead. “All right, then! I'll get comfy,” I said happily. ‘Ugh, dumb female voice and its apparent propensity for perkiness,’ I thought unhappily behind my smile as I aimed my eyes (and snout) towards the simplistically stylish table.

With my recent experience through the hospital as an educative warning, I prepared myself mentally with a fairly calm exhale before rousing my legs into action. Coming to a halt by the lime green cushion after a few short and thankfully easy steps, I began to take an interest in the upside-down comic book on the wood-framed glass table. “Excuse me, hon,” Embee started, my left ear rotating automatically to improve detection of the inquiring mare's voice, “but I didn't quite catch what you said.” I lifted my head up in minor disbelief, one ear falling horizontal. If she hadn't heard what I had said . . . well, so much for her pony ears being acute. “Did you say you wanted to get some coffee?”

“Huh?” I twisted my neck to cast an uncomprehending look on her. An exchange of differing expressions commenced before I realized the pegasus had misheard me. Straightening my ear, I puffed a small amount of air through my nostrils, candor creasing my lips. “Sorry, no. I meant that I'll get on a cushion and relax.” Placing my forehoof on the cushion, I tested its pliability in conjunction with a visual inspection; my hoof sank by approximately ten centimeters. This cushion looked and felt more like a pillow. I could've used it as a place to sleep had I a blanket to wrap myself in. Gladdened by the pleasing impression, I turned my attention back to Embee, who still looked a bit confused. “I'll get com-fee, you know?” I explained, tilting my head down by a few centimeters on the fourth syllable.

“Oh! Comfy. Coffee.” Embee giggled in minor embarrassment. “My bad.”

“Heh,” I breathed in gentle mirth. “Don't worry. It's okay.” I then realized that was true: I wasn't unbearably anxious, Embee had no clue of my true identity, and while maintaining this feminine disguise chafed my masculinity, I had to admit that being on this side of the fence wasn't as unsettling as I had feared it to be. I didn't even have to coat my conduct with anything resembling femininity! With an astonishingly good feeling brimming within me, I again set my sights on the comic book, cursorily noting that Embee had closed the door at some point. A sudden reminder was sent from my tongue to my brain. “Uhm, but . . . I can get cof-fee, right?” I asked her.

“Of course, if you want to,” Embee replied amiably, then glanced aside. “It . . . should only take a couple of minutes to brew.” She seemed uncertain about something, but her quick recovery convinced me not to ask why. Anyhow, carrots and coffee? What a strange combination, but the culinary delight and nourishment gained from both could encapsulate my distancing anxiety in hardened titanium. I assumed this body wasn't allergic or otherwise intolerant to the food and drink. I'd come off looking incredibly stupid and irresponsible if I enjoyed my basic meal only to suffer from indigestion minutes later.
Dropping my eyes with a thoughtful frown, I stalled for a few seconds before deciding to go for the gamble. “Alright.” I nodded gingerly. “Wouldn't hurt to have a cup of coffee, I suppose,” I returned gratefully, hopeful that the coffee wasn't pernicious to my health.

“Sure thing, hon. Why don't you make yourself comfy while I get you some coffee?” the amused pegasus suggested with a giggle.

Unwilling to hear my emasculated laugh, I merely smiled back at her before I carefully got onto the cushion. As my comparatively light weight dented the pliable furniture , I questioned my balance; every surface I had stood on today was sturdy, but the cushion's softness was daunting with these digits . . . The nails of my four toes . . . and the odd sensations in them and my joints . . . I began to feel nauseous again. Bitter enzymes were threatening to advance up to my mouth unless I stopped focusing on my limbs. I hastily wondered if Embee would object to my begrimed body staining the cushion. I then presumed that if she did, she would've said something about it by now.

“Hey, are you feeling okay, hon?” Embee queried, a touch of concern in her voice. Again, my soundcatchers directed towards her before my eyes did . Considering how frequently and easily my ears moved, I should get used to the discomfort they imposed on me. Eventually. “I couldn't help but notice that you seem to be a little unsteady on your legs,” she continued. Her observation brought my ears down.
“Uh, sure, I'm okay.” I manufactured a smile with a confidence level of 57%. “Just getting a little tired, that's all,” I improvised, my ears recomposing themselves.

“If you feel like dozing off for a while, then just drop down,” Embee suggested, prompting me to glance down at my forelegs. They were pivoted slightly off-center, as if anticipating the cushion morphing into ice. I didn't have to look to know the same was true for my second pair of legs. “You don't have to nap upright, like in a cheapo motel, when you got a nice cushion under yourself, right, hon?” she said with an inoffensive laugh. Paranoia told me not to ask what she meant, lest I endanger my cover, so I presumed whatever motel she was thinking of was comparable to a stable with unclean box stalls.

“Yeah . . . Good point,” I said, averting my head so I could conceal my light disgust with an artificial yawn, which to my surprise turned authentic almost from the get-go. I began to doubt I'd get home before the want of sleep overwhelmed me. Oh wait, the caffeine could help! “Anyhow, do you have milk and sugar for the coffee?” I queried, hesitant to lower myself yet, since I was unsure I'd retain my balance through the procedure. “I'd be very disappointed if I had to drink it black.” The memory of the one time I had tried that undrinkable swill made my lips curl. Better than the beer Peter challenged me to try, though that had been enough to convince me—“That stuff's just plain nasty,” I thought out loud, taking the chance to briefly study how I sounded. In contrast to the small tremors my original voice produced in my throat, this type flowed with smoothness; the vibrations in my throat were almost indistinguishable. Emitting the light, and admittedly nice, tones from such an intimate point of origin still didn't feel right.

“Don't worry about it, hon,” Embee assured in her slightly lower dulcet voice. “I'm pretty sure we got both here. If not, I can fetch some from the other departments.”

I smiled; no unsavory black coffee for me! “Okay, sounds like all's good, then!” I acknowledged delightfully. She trotted to the adjoining room, and I glanced aside just in time to avoid sighting her glutes. If I were to see hers, I'd know what mine looked like. Possessing them was bad enough; I didn't want that image burned into my mind, too! My impulsive imagination took that caveat as an order to picture my present form wearing a brightly colored one-piece swimsuit. I disregarded concern for my balance, pressing a hoof to my forehead, barely suppressing a groan from becoming audible. I was disgusted a second time when nudity scored (a fraction) less on the desirability scale than the atrocious attire.

Holding the hard sole to my forehead quickly began to feel very weird; I had a lasting and perfectly understandable impression that a finger was supposed to be at the end of my limb. Which finger, that I truly didn't want to know. Also, considering the things I had trampled on since I was thrust into this body, countless contaminations were probably now spreading to my visage. Reflexively, I scrubbed my forehead with my pastern, as if that'd eliminate whatever malaise I believed I had inadvertently infected my face with. Giving my grimy hoof a narrow glower of contempt, I equated the entire appendage to be indubitably feminine regardless of any evidence to affirm the claim besides its association with my body. After a second of incredulous gazing at nothing, I realized I was so annoyed that I wasn't even thinking straight.

With a tense puff, I resentfully dropped the hoof, my gaze affixing to my dirt-stained pair of forelegs as if they were depraved criminals responsible for the loss of my fingers, bipedal stance, and sex. I guess that summed up what I disliked most about being a pony, and my irritation subsided as I realized the cause of my bad mood. With a significantly calmer mind, I let out a soft breath and made one reconciliatory step with my right forehoof before I uprighted my head.

With a half-conscious command sent to the very end of my back, my tail swung once, reminding me of its none-too-pleasing presence. It also reminded me that I possibly had an attractive posterior. I guess my rationality finally imposed itself, because I began to honestly question why I hadn't courageously challenged my ludicrously aversive mindset. Curtailing the depraved feeling had never been difficult, so why would that be different now? However, I had to caution myself by noting that this wasn't my body, and that my male libido could disregard intellect, logic, and restraint—even basic common sense—to perceive the uncomfortably proximate and conjecturably feminine features with . . . ugh . . . deplorably arousing consequences. I had no clue whatsoever what that'd feel like now that I had female parts, and I wasn't at all eager to find out. Although . . . I could strive to be objective and disprove my ridiculous preconception about pony posteriors by keeping in mind that I wasn't some lascivious clopper who found cartoon ponies sexually enticing. This was no cartoon. Neither was this a female human's body, (and were I in possession of one, I wouldn't indignify myself by exploiting it) but a mare's body.

I pictured a common horse, and I saw nothing alluring about it, not even when I pictured its flanks from the aft. How was a cartoon pony any different? In fact, had I ever felt even the tiniest hint of desire for an equine, real or drawn? No, I hadn't. Just the concept alone made me shiver as if I had been massaged with ice. That alone was a signifi—“You don't mind that the coffee's decaf, do you?” My mental cogwork was halted by Embee's voice bouncing from the room over.

“Decaf? What?” I mumbled. Right! No sleep-postponing caffeine . . . “No, it's all fine by me,” I replied, hiding my disappointment with a pococurante tone. “Coffee's coffee.” I tried to shrug, but instead slouched awkwardly. I was perplexed for a few seconds before I gave a frustrated huff. Looking down, I briefly cycled my forelegs like slow pistons, sullenly accepting my physical limitations as I did so. Proceeding to analyze if my flanks shared a discernible likeness with a human female's counterpart and therefore conduct an experiment on whether visual scrutiny would or wouldn't evoke an extremely undesirable reaction in my most disagreeable area . . . No, this wasn't the time or place, especially if the most dreaded and revolting result manifested. So instead, I cast a sweeping but idle look around.

A few potted plants and paintings decorated the space, and a nondescript radio on a basic stand was tucked into a corner next to the second room's entryway. Other than those and the furniture, there wasn't much else. Despite the sparse furnishings, the atmosphere was cozy for a small repurposed hospital room, and I took to absorbing its pleasantness. Embee was busy in the other room, which I presumed to be a kitchen. Judging by the steady and soft sounds of what I surmised to be a knife tapping a cutting board, she was quite deft with hooves. Or teeth. Both, perhaps. Rolling my tongue over my herbivore's teeth, I tried to imagine using them to wield a screwdriver, a hammer, or any other tool or gadget with skill matching that of a human hand. The comparison was pointless. Five fingers were better, obviously.

After a few seconds of listening to the promising sounds of my meal being prepared, I let out a small sigh. The discomfort for my form and its femininity was being slowly suppressed by my recovering resilience—a beneficial development! I'd get through this impermanent predicament if I could refrain from fighting my physical composition. Actually, while I was waiting for my carrots and coffee, I should take a moment to prioritize. Sure, my ultimate mission was to return home and investigate . . . my brand new laptop computer? Something was in there? Unfortunately, the hope-inspiring inkling was too vague to provide details on what my computer contained. I had a fair idea on how I came to learn of this serendipitous tidbit, and it was related to how I knew my . . . her name. Exploring those puzzles had to wait until a later time; attuning to this body was of greater importance.
Now that I was aware that the most coveted solution existed back at home, I had a greater incentive than pure necessity. Still, once bitten, twice shy; thinking ‘It's really fascinating to be a pony,’ didn't seem to work, and I was certain I'd encounter a few bumps before my humanity would withdraw to a recess of my mind, as it had done quite smoothly this morning. However, there was another concern I was struggling with, and to solve that, I had to take a straightforward approach. My subconscious opposed me, but I prevailed quickly, presenting the very daring supposition to myself: being a female couldn't be so terrible.

My body temperature ascended as I became disconcerted by what must've been a combination of defamation, mockery, and betrayal. Maybe I was a little bit too daring, but it was a good move, and I couldn't allow myself to retreat.

Moderately flustered—and aware how uncomfortably insulating a fuzzy coat can be—I began to ponder on the short-term benefits of being the opposite sex. Amatory themes were strictly forbidden. Just the idea of arousal—inadvertent or not—repulsed me. Long-term benefits were banned as well, due to their location being deep inside the panic territory, and I predicted that the diazepam's anxiety-inhibiting effects had expired by now.

Alas, I soon discovered I was shamefully short on ideas. Arbitrarily, I wondered how this situation would go if reversed—a female as a male. I guess I was annoyed or bitter at my standstill, because I sarcastically deduced that a female would downplay the change by enunciating a few unconcerned words with their suavely titillating masculine voice, behaving with unabashed indifference from then on. Then, it dawned on me: my voice! I presumed that if I thought about it with positivity, I might come to good terms with my intonation instead of tolerating it with wavering consistency.

As an experiment, I hummed quietly. Quick analysis: Gentle. Soft. Feminine . . . Trying to sound less feminine would certainly confuse Embee, and regardless of how vainly my masculine side tried to spin it, my present voice was a female's. I recalled imitating Fluttershy a few times over the course of the day and, admittedly, even before I had this voice . . . but only when I was alone and for my own amusement. Anyhow, unless its modulation occurred naturally, I shouldn't do it again. The capability of mimicking the tones of the animal-adoring pegasus was a . . . fair attribute, though I knew no immediate purpose for it.

Perhaps I was only beating around the bush, and solving my vocalization quandary wasn't any more complex than understanding that talking was unavoidable. Indeed, the intonation couldn't be such a big deal, like my preposterously inflexible masculinity insisted. It was just a different vocal pitch! Could I make it any simpler?
I guess not.

I'd be home soon, where I'd return this body to its rightful owner and translocate back to my own. I was certain that'd happen. My intuition was telling me that the how-to was in my computer—well, hers. Anyhow, in the meantime, I shouldn't and didn't need to abide my masculine image. It hadn't done me any favors recently, and I was pretty sure that wouldn't change if I granted it full control. I should attempt to set aside the femininity-fearing trait and replace it with a flexible version once I was in my real body, if not earlier. To consider this temporary flip of my sex as a serious reduction in my worth was a very sordid attitude to hold. I had to regard this as something exciting, like a live-action role-playing game, an undercover mission, or a trial at method acting.

However, I shouldn't overact or strain my femininity. Applejack was a good example of a comfortable and safe medium to aim for. She was undeniably female, but she didn't (often) profess distinct femininity, which was a skill I was uninitiated to. Still, I supposed that I had the privilege and liberty to express normally concealed wants with relative impunity. Furthermore, being on this side of the gender line might be a very educative experience, especially if nopony knew I really wasn't a mare.

So . . . I had to, I could, and . . . I wanted to . . . breathe normally and douse the fire of nervousness, and . . . while based on nothing more than pure speculation and lacking any concrete proof, I surmised that every male (and female) fantasized of this, so I had to count myself lucky that I had this incomparable chance to allow . . . myself to be . . . something else, just for a while. A something . . . opposite of a guy, and that was a . . . female!

What a surprisingly tough cogitation that was, but I was very relieved for achieving a significant breakthrough. From simply trying to accept my voice, to being more permissive about being a female. I had truly surprised myself. I could even enjoy these few exceptional hours before I was back in my real home. Hopefully I would. At the least, I should obey my decision. Once—or if—push comes to shove, then I shouldn't revert into the worthless femininity-rejecting shell like a cowardly wimp.

It was only now that I realized I had completely forgotten to sit down—I was actually shaking a little from nervousness and minor victorious excitement. I wasn't even facing the table! Once again, I had courageously overcome an ingrained disposition that had been cultivated by constant conditioning from society, culture, and . . . so forth; I had no time to delve deeper on that kind of extensive and profound topic. Embee certainly wasn't in a hurry, but I was sure she'd bring my meal in a few moments.
I better not dawdle.

Wanting to sit in the exact center of the cushion, I rotated into position with due care not to misstep and collapse onto the soft underlay. I suspected that time was limited, yet I had to sacrifice a few seconds testing the articulation of my hind legs by alternately lifting them a couple of times. As strange as it was, I felt disconnected from my latter half, as if I still couldn't fully comprehend I was really in the form of a quadruped. Nonetheless, I was confident that I could sit down without spectacularly messing it up, and so, I leaned backwards to drop myself onto my hindquarters.
Bad move.

I sank into the cushion, its fabric instantly snuggling without mercy to inform me what was not between my legs. Granted, something was there, and that sent a vertiginous feeling into an orbit inside my head. In spite of that disturbance, my brain decoded the stream of nerve signals into a perturbingly precise word: mammillae. My tongue lolled out from my mouth with a silent, prolonged retch that threatened to eject my pharynx.

Breathing laboriously, I sat like a sculpture of a pony on the verge of fainting. An elemental thought pinballed in me, disbelieving how I could be so severely afflicted by so little. Literally. Just thin fabric barely pressing the . . . insignificant protuberances. I was astonished—and very much revolted—that they were down there instead of on my thorax. While I had very recently warmed up to femininity, my misplaced human intuition was slow to embrace my rethought stance. Regarding the two features with any kind of enthusiasm was improbable, but I did come up with two mitigating factors: First, I had to be somewhat thankful I didn't have a pair of inconvenient blobs of fat on my ribcage, like most human females do; second, my queasiness evidenced that my desire to pervertly explore this body was minimal, if not totally nonexistent.

Hoping to both normalize my outlook before Embee's return and put my mind on anything else than contemplating my onerous adjusting to the pair of dairy-do's where the dangly-do was supposed to be, I stretched a sluggish foreleg to the comic book that I had ignored for too long. Despite my debilitated and delicate condition, I was able to apply pressure on the book and drag it closer to myself.

Now that it was the sole focus of my eyes, I began to identify details: a black, star-dotted sky above a yellow lunar landscape, three characters in orange suits . . . Two humans and a white dog in space suits? Astonishment and joy alleviating my nausea, I eagerly rotated the illustrious comic book around. Alas, disappointment came to me with a dejected sigh. “Blistering barnacles,” I complained quietly, gazing wistfully at On a marché sur la Lune.

My dad loved this and other comic series, and I had read all of them several times when I was young. Images and summaries of countless books I had read years ago began to bustle in my mind, flooding me with nostalgia. I glanced at my begrimed leg resting on the lamentably unreadable comic, then directed my vision upwards to examine the two colors of my messy mane. If it were blonde, I'd be like a unicorn cousin of a certain poor lonesome cowboy's loyal and smart companion, Jolly—

“Oh! That belongs to Aidin's cousin,” a voice informed kindly, drawing my sights to its speaker with a tiny, ear-stiffing, eyelid-retracting start; Embee was standing in the doorway, unaware of my minor surprise. “Ah, Ampoule, I mean,” she clarified with a hint of abashment. “He's actually Aidin's first cousin twice removed.”

In my receding state of nausea and disappointment—and a touch puzzled by the reveal—I accepted the genealogy with, “That's nice to know.” Paranoia then woke up to assume she had covertly observed me while I was sickened by an anatomical feature, but I didn't let that suspicion affect my tone or outlook. “Um, how long have you been standing there?” I asked unassumingly enough.

“A few seconds,” she replied. As far as I could tell, she was disarmingly sincere. She would've rushed to my aid if I had looked ill, I supposed.

“Okay. I was just curious.” My eyes drifted back to the comic book. “Anyway, this would be a great read, but I don't understand squat about this language,” I said dissatisfiedly.

“I share your loss,” Embee concurred with a hint of chagrin while I stared fixedly at the comic book. A summary of the story flashed through my mind. Poor Wolfe. “Ampoule's adoring that language because of the lady he dates, who also likes those comics. I forgot her name, but she's from . . . hmh, I forgot the country, too,” she said, her voice giving me the impression she was embarrassed, prompting me to look at her to affirm if that was genuine; her tone had been a touch tense. “Started with the letter B, I think.” The reflective expression on her face was genuine enough.

With a contemplative hum, I brought my hoof wall to my chin, perfunctorily noting the fuzziness there while I stared over my snout; I had no means to block that strangely dainty feature from my vision. ‘Right. Gotta try to express some femininity and possibly ponyesque gestures, but only to the extent I'm okay with. Have to act natural, if I can. I'm already beyond my league just by inhabiting this body, though I'm determined to tackle this highly unusual challenge. My leap off the cliff's nothing compared to this. Still, if I conduct myself wisely, then the remainder of my time as a mare might prove both exquisitely entertaining and extremely educational. I do have to wonder, is it masculine to be feminine? Oh, never mind; I'm getting distracted.’

My outward appearance implied I was trying to crack Embee's riddle. It wasn't a hard one. “Belgium?” I offered, overturning my hoof as I cast my sights at the aquamarine pegasus. I recalled that Embee had spoken to Ampoule in another language. I was pretty sure doing that when it was principally unnecessary had been the reason for her disgruntlement. Her being mad at Ampoule for dating a foreigner was . . . Nah, that was simply inconceivable.

With a hum and an oblique look toward the rain-streaked windows, her eyes narrowed briefly. My hoof sunk neatly back to the cushion. “Probably that,” she supposed neutrally, refocusing on me. So, if I was right, then Ampoule's 'lady' was a Belgian pony . . . or a human! Interspecies romance? That'd be . . . fascinating, to say the least. I was afraid to ask if it involved togetherness, but I presumed that if both parties asserted their mutual and voluntary consent, then there wouldn't be a problem. “It's nice that you knew that.” She showed me an appreciative smile. “I can't remember the names of the countless nations of this world. I only need to know the names of the neighboring towns and municipalities,” Embee said with disinterest or . . . something; I was too distracted to diligently decode her tone and expression.

‘This world? Embee isn't native to Earth? Wow! If I correctly interpreted that little detail, then that's so incredible . . . But now's not the time!’ I thought, pulling myself safe from a blizzard of astonishment.

“Anyway,” Embee continued amiably, “I came to tell you that the coffee's brewing.” Her smile withered. “Finally.” She seemed a touch frustrated. Be that as it may, true to her words, I sensed the soothing aroma of coffee in the air. Embarrassingly enough, a particular emptiness within me made its existence known. My ears slumped, and my hoof found its way to my abdomen—as if that could appease my stomach. “Golly, hon, you must be starving,” Embee said, smiling sympathetically. I decided against voicing a retort pertaining to negation, brown waste, and a fictional detective. Unaccustomed to my hard hoof on my hairy hide, I glanced down to visually confirm what I felt. On the account of my snout, I didn't see all of my barrel—and thankfully, none of what had fiercely perturbed me not too long ago.
I was still tangibly aware of them . . .

Recovering with a quick jocular snerk, my ears perked autonomously as I retracted my hoof. “Starving? Hah! You got it all wrong. What you heard was nothing more than a harmless and meaningless side effect caused by minor food deprivation,” I joked jauntily. A tiny part of me disagreed with my chirpy intonation, but I dismissed it, reaffirming that my voice was nice, and I had the right to like nice things.

“Uh, minor . . . food deprivation?” Embee's incredulous expression turned to that of amusement with a snort. “You kidder,” she commented, smirking.

Despite my doubts of her sincerity, I smiled, pleased. “Eh, yeah, I got my moments,” I said, waving a hoof casually. ‘And I'm amazed I actually made it this far with so little sustenance.’ On that note, I recalled the softness of my abdomen when my hoof had been on it, but I didn't divert my focus to research why, save a hasty supposition that females had soft skin.

A short chuckle escaped Embee's throat. “In all honesty, hon, I'm sorry that you had to wait this long,” she apologized through her smile. “Things designed for humans usually don't work too well with hooves and teeth,” she explained, a scowl growing on her. Twisting her head around, she glared at something out of my sight. “Opening a coffee jar sealed with a cap so . . . so—” her complaint ended with frustrated huff and a forehoof stomp. “It's like chewing a brick open,” she groused, whipping her head back. I couldn't help but frown at her plight.

“I can imagine,” I sympathized, picturing Embee fighting furiously to wrench and gnaw open the cap of a decaf coffee jar.

Embee sighed, her line of sight overshooting my eyes by a hair. “I guess you can,” she said joylessly. Though she looked defeated, she didn't seem jealous of me. She could fly, so she couldn't possibly envy my magic. Still, what her eyes hinted at wasn't hard to piece together.

“Yeah, I . . . could've helped,” I said unsurely, a useless command to rub my hands fizzling out before it got past my ulna. Oh, sure I could've helped; I was a unicorn who could use magic just as smoothly as I got off a stretcher. In all seriousness, I'd have to try my magic sooner or later, see if my mind-rending panic hadn't erased the routines. I wasn't even sure how I had learned the skill in the first place. I got agitated and then it simply . . . happened.

Embee drew a breath. “I apologize, hon. I didn't mean anything by what I just said. I could've asked for your help instead of needlessly getting worked up,” she said contritely.

“It's fine, and I'm okay. You did well, I'm sure,” I consoled. I wasn't sure what else to say. If she had asked for help and I'd summoned only sweatdrops, then she would've become suspicious, and then . . . can of worms. Suddenly, I realized time was wasting, but I didn't want to bring that up in a rude fashion. “So, um . . . you said I had to wait for something?” I asked innocently.

“Oh!” Her eyes widened, and she threw a brief glance over her back before fixing her sights back to me. “Sorry, hon!” she laughed awkwardly. “I'll be right back.” As the embarrassed mare headed back to the presumed kitchen, I quickly averted my gaze. My face immediately scrunched in vexation.

‘Great going!’ I began to berate myself, ‘I could've tested the integrity of my 'female pony behind equals female human behind' absurdity, but I had to heed the stupid fear of possibly "feeling" something natural! If glimpsing a horse's duff can make that happen, then seeing a human's equivalent should've afflicted me with chronic cerebral oxygen deprivation through terminal priapism!’ As soon as I had that thought, curiosity chipped in: what would the "feel" be like as a female? It was hard to admit, but were I a sexologist, this would be an extremely fortunate opportunity to research an innate body mechanism. Thankfully, I had no justifiable reason to be that curious.
Besides, I wouldn't deign to mistreat a body that wasn't mine.

Speaking of which, where had the original occupant gone to? Was she now in my body, or was she here, dormant beneath my self? I couldn't know, but what I did know was that since I had her body, I had her brain as well. That was the basic explanation for my pony colloquialisms, memories, and name. I would've loved to analyze the intertwined state of my mind and her brain, but once again, this was the wrong time and place.
Embee was returning.

She was strolling with caution for the wares on the tray held in her teeth. The sight made me wonder about the strain exerted on her jaw, teeth, and neck, accounting for the weight and placement of the two bowls. Judging by her expression, she spared it no thought. Expertly, she placed the brown tray on the table. “As promised: fresh and rinsed Maestro F1's! I hope you enjoy them!” she said happily. What were Maestro F1's? That sounded like the name of a race car.

I appraised the two wares: each contained a fair pile of cut-up carrots and nothing else. Maestro F1's were carrots! How about that? Amazingly, I discerned their sweet fragrance, evoking a vague memory of visiting my grandparents over a decade ago. The carroty aroma also made my mouth water and replaced my declining irritation with an eager smile. I ensured the aforementioned water didn't escape my mouth before I spoke. “Thank you, Embee! These carrots look delicious!” I said with joy and gratitude. I left unsaid that she could've fought with the coffee jar after delivering me the simple meal. I would've said it very politely, though.

“You're welcome, hon,” she replied, sitting on a Tyrian purple cushion to my diagonal left. Smiling pleasantly, she reached over to wrap her forelegs around one bowl and take it for herself. So, she was going to eat with me? Perhaps it was to establish a sense of comforting safety and equality with her patients.

With one hoof supporting me, I gingerly leaned forward, stretching out a forehoof to procure my own serving. A mental flinch behind my smile told how incomplete my readjustment to being a hooved creature was. Unfortunately, as much as I desired to gorge myself on my food, a very persuasive side of my mind strictly forbade me from eating like an uncouth animal. To compound my dilemma, I was still uncertain if conjuring my magic was possible. I had been brought back to square one on such a simple concept as walking, so there was no telling how far back my telekinesis had been set. At best, it'd work like a charm. At worst, the carrots would . . . explode? I truly had no clue, but I chose not to risk it.

I affixed my eyes on my begrimed foreleg wrapped around the bowl. Obviously, hooves were quite unsuitable to deliver the carrots to my mouth. I had only one option, but still . . . Maybe I could stall for time while I waited for hunger to repress my reservations. I had thought about my appearance a while ago . . . “Hey, um, Embee? Can I ask you a question?” I said, resting my impractical limb back on the cushion. How could she look so pleasingly cute and bewilderingly elegant while eating directly from the dish? Could I match her decorum? I hoped so. It was better than believing I'd be a slobbering beast.

She lifted her head, sparing a few seconds to mince and swallow the food in her mouth. “Sure you can, hon,” she replied, tugging her lips into a gentle smile. “What's on your mind?” Now it was my turn to speak. In my gentle voice. Mental hum of cautious admiration.

“You don't seem to mind that I'm so dirty I could be a unicorn earth pony,” I jested, the light mirth in my tone diminishing toward the end. I probably looked embarrassed or diffident, but I felt dishonest to myself; I couldn't vocally affirm that I was a pony without substantial opposition. Surely, I'd soon surmount that roleplay-hampering obstacle.

The true pony gave a friendly laugh, although my slumped ears muffled it by a small margin. “Don't feel bad, hon. You don't mind that my mane and coat are a matted mess, do you?” she rebutted with a self-ironic smile, running a hoof through the fringe of her long mane. I remembered that she had flown through rainy weather not too long ago. She didn't look too shabby, really.

“No,” I replied innocuously, momentarily aware of my mane, draped over my neck and withers. Felt like even it was telling me to act accordingly. I had short hair when I was a guy . . .

Embee chuckled lightly, her gaze softening a bit more. “Believe me, hon.” She smirked kindly. “I've seen perfectly healthy ponies who looked a lot worse than both of us combined.” Her gentle demeanor conveyed no ill intent, and I started to feel confident that this hospital visit would be smooth sailing; I just needed to dauntlessly maintain my temporary image. “Did you want to take a shower first?” She tilted her head, an inquisitive glint in her eyes.

With a drawn out hum, I righted my ears. “It's funny that you ask, because I didn't even think of taking a shower until now,” I responded to her, briefly wondering how the hay I would shower. Or more precisely, dry myself after a shower; a towel couldn't absorb all the water from a soggy coat, could it? “But, no. The shower can wait.” Inclining my head down, my friendly eyes zeroed in on hers. “I'd prefer to eat first, especially now that my meal's right in front of me,” I assured, blindly placing my hoof to the bowl's rim with a soft plink. The feeling—actually, the lack of it—was jarring, but I didn't let that show. I had to act pony, and I should consider this to be fun, darn it!

“Alright, hon.” Embee nodded. “I didn't say you'd have to take a shower now,” she clarified, a trace of humor on her lips.

“I know that,” I responded, almost laughing a little. A particular emptiness within me issued a silent complaint. “First the food, then the shower, right?”

“Mmh, yeah,” she agreed pleasantly. I watched as she dipped her head back to her meal when, to my surprise, she hesitated. She raised her head to direct her amethyst eyes at me again, brows furrowing in worry, and I felt compelled to mimic her expression. Something was up, causing my instincts to declare DEFCON 4. “In all seriousness though, Peachy didn't bring it up, so . . .” For a second, she reached for her chin and dropped her eyes, as if unsure about speaking her mind. “I've been considering asking it myself.” She breathed out a long and quiet sigh. “What happened to you?”

A chill slinked through me. “What do you mean?” I feigned ignorance, though I was equally as worried because I knew exactly what she meant: the evidence was all over my body.

“You said that you got yourself 'muddied up', but . . . how?” I immediately dropped my eyes and ears. I hadn't even considered a contingency plan for this. I had been too distracted and optimistic to think of the inevitable.

“Uh . . . yeah. I did get muddied up,” I affirmed quietly. “But, um, it's . . .” The excuse failed to form into a cohesive thought, let alone spoken words. Again, a want to rub my hands went nowhere. How I was slumped meant my forelegs were explicitly fulfilling their natural purpose. My decreasing mood and confidence lead to my hooves feeling unfamiliar. I didn't want to be here. Not in this room, not in this building, not in this body. I didn't want to be here . . .

“When I met you,” Embee started carefully, “you seemed terribly upset, dismal even. I wanted to help, so I tried to comfort you.” What she had done had felt so unfathomably nice that, even now, it put a very brief smile on my face. “Aidin told me that . . .” She paused her soft recounting, and with a cautious glance, I saw her staring at the table; her expression was gravely pensive. “You were found in the middle of a rural road, and you panicked in that home. To be honest, while I haven't shown it much, I've been concerned all this time, and I'd like to hear what happened to you,” she whispered, her tone oozing with concern and compassion, even traces of apology for telling me what I already knew. Flashes of pertinent memories flitted in my mind, glimpsing at how my most base instincts had luckily brought me to the gravel road, where I had . . . succumbed to despair after my supplications failed to bring me help. The traumatic event was actually so powerful that it subdued my fear of exposure. All the same, I felt terrible.

“Um, I, yeah . . .” I mumbled, but my disquieted mind failed to construct a sentence worth speaking. Hoping to ensure my hoof (and by extension, my body) would feel normal, thereby averting a total collapse of my rationality, I pawed the extremity back and forth on a short stretch of the table's wooden frame, absently observing the ceiling and the rectangular lamp translucently reflecting off the glass. I think it was working, and I stopped after a few seconds, but . . . my thoughts were zipping about without direction. Trying to run away from here was the worst option. A better one was to maintain my guise and composure. I had to do that . . . I wasn't so much afraid as I was disheartened . . . Perhaps I was so frightened that I felt saddened? My growing apprehension emanated from the same anxiety of my entrapment. The anxiety I thought I had become fully resilient to had changed to sorrow. Panicking . . . was behind me. Of course, I still longed deeply for my familiar anatomy, but . . . I had accepted that I was powerless to shed my form by relinquishing control.

“Do you want to talk about it, hon?” Embee appealed tenderly. No, I didn't; talking about it would invoke suspicion. But if I remained completely silent, she might think I was the victim of . . . the most horrifying and heinous kind of assault. That was an impression I definitely didn't want to give her! And I wasn't any good at telling lies. Did that mean I didn't have any alternative but to reveal the truth? My roleplay would end, and . . . what then? The worst would ensue? I'd get the help I wished for? Maybe . . . this had to end?

“It's, uhm, I'm . . .” I drew my dry lips inwards to moisturize them with my tongue. No. I couldn't let on who I really was. The unforeseeable risks of the future compelled me to silence. The desire to keep my true self secret was almost instinctive. I wanted . . . I needed to feel safe. Telling the truth wasn't safe, but hiding behind the identity of this mare . . . at any cost? That was . . . kind of crazy, but much safer! I wasn't thinking rationally, and I couldn't think rationally! I was in a heartrending dither, and I needed time to calm down and think what to do . . .

The silence lasted for several seconds. “It's what, hon?” she asked cautiously, as if anything above a whisper would make me fall apart like a house of cards. Maybe I was a house of cards . . .

I drew in a slow breath, my mouth minutely ajar before I composed myself. “I-is it okay I . . . O-once we've eaten . . . Once we're drinking our coffee?” I spoke intermittently, trying not to sound like my proposal was a plea. How could I get out of this apprehensive mess? How easy it was to . . . feel an ache, and . . . let my eyes water? ‘No, I can't!’ I closed my eyes as I turned my head away, my glum expression gaining the furrowed brows of indignation. ‘Just because I'm in a mare's body and pretending to be her doesn't grant me this kind of liberty!’ I chided myself. I couldn't be honest with Embee when I didn't know what it'd lead to. I knew too little of this world and how ponies had come. I could be just one of many who've been displaced the same way I had, but I didn't know that. I didn't even know what to say. I was afraid. I was afraid of the unknown. Too afraid! No tears, no tears, not that. Had to calm down . . .

“That's perfectly okay, hon,” Embee reassured. “I suppose it's been a tough day for you, and I really don't want to make it any tougher.” Her assent to my wish—and her empathetic but subtly apologetic voice—had a placating effect. “Try to gather your strength first, and then we'll talk if you feel like you can.”

“Yes, I . . .” I paused to clear the obstruction from my throat. “Thank you, Embee,” I said almost inaudibly. I was surprised that it took so little to push me to the brink of tears. How could that be possible? I hadn't even tried to be sad. I didn't want to believe that females were intrinsically more emotional than males. That had to be a pervasively circulated and accepted misconception, but . . . I was in her body. What effects did estrogen have on me? No, I really couldn't and didn't want to think about that now. Instead, I should be relieved and appreciative of the few minutes I had bought to consider my options: forge a believable story, or come clean regardless of my worst predictions.

When I slowly opened my eyes, I confirmed that they were fairly dry. I faced the carrots. They were so vivid . . . and my snout was kind of the same. It was always there, telling me exactly what I was. For a brief moment, I felt something odd, but I couldn't make sense of it. Maybe it was just a small bump my abating emotions struck, or a memory from my brain that failed to manifest, or maybe it simply was the weirdness of having a snout. “Will you be okay?” Embee asked, activating my Pryer reflex to turn my left ear toward her. Wait, Pryer reflex? No, never mind!

I nodded languidly, seeing her frown in my peripheral vision. “Yeah,” I breathed before I drew in another to produce a long, deep sigh. Best I try to find something positive from this. I suppose eating like a pony would . . . perhaps be fun? A different experience, at the least. Besides, I was hungry, and the path of least resistance was downwards. “Just need a moment, you know?” I continued, my voice a touch listless from my emotional perturbation. I looked at her, and sympathy was written on her face as she mouthed an 'okay'. Her gaze lingered on me, as if she believed it was the only thread holding me together. Nonetheless, she returned her attention to her food, although she looked like it was the last thing she wanted to do in the world.

‘I should eat, too,’ I suggested to myself. As unabashedly as possible, I lowered my obscured mouth to the orange treats. I was still jittery from my abrupt emotional spike. I had to behave like a pony. ‘Okay, here goes . . .’
I was now . . . eating from the perspective of a pony.

Considering what I used to be, this was, without question, a bizarre manner to eat, but I was thankful that my restlessness was offset by the juicy, crunchy, and very flavorous food. I could only presume that my pony tongue made normal carrots into mood-recovering, delicious ambrosia.

What was that tiny plink I heard? Did something hit the bowl? Something . . . that was on me? Oh, right! I had forgotten I was carrying my keys with me! I was surprised yet glad I still had them. That was . . . the nagging thought? Home key and . . . car key! I had a . . . Rosy had a car? If so, that was very fascinating; however, a pony owning a car was irrelevant to the present situation. I had to think . . . Wait, I had taken my keys, left my home, and . . . Idea!

Motivated by desperation, my plan was forming quickly. Very quickly! It couldn't fail. . . but, if it did, I'd be in a nearly unsolvable pinch.The only solution would then be reckless honesty and hoping for the best. Well, I was already hoping for the best, but . . . I really needed some nutrition, and these were unbelievably fantastic carrots. Yum yum yum! No, that didn't do it; I was trying to enjoy this moment and my meal to the best of my abilities.

Still, gotta refine my plan. Refine, refine, refine . . . I could make this work . . . Strange. I saw a short memory of peering at my car's engine. Why had I done that? Wait . . . this had been just a few days ago, and I had been . . .

No, I had more pressing matters to contend with than studying her memory fragment.