by Balthasar999

Lies On The Couch


Lies on the Couch

I was born on this rock
and I been travelling through space
since the moment I first realized
What all you fast talking cats would do if you could
you know I'm ready for the final suprise
-The Steve Miller Band, "Space Cowboy"

+ + +

Shannon grabbed the fleeing Douglass by his sleeve. “What? You don't wanna see this?! This is like... I don't even know!”

“Exactly!” Douglass growled, “This is too much. Something's gonna...happen,” he shrugged and rolled his eyes. “Her...friends or...whatever are gonna show up, and it's all just gonna get...” he snorted quietly. “Oh my god, just... This is too big. This...This kinda thing just isn't gonna end well for us.” He threw up his hands again and made for the door.

I respected the guy's... I was about to say horse sense, though the faded Wolverine shirt suggested “genre savviness” might be more appropriate. Nevertheless, I panicked at the idea of letting a “witness” go free.

“It's like finding a suitcase full of money!” I interjected, suddenly flashing back to a family anecdote about Prohibition times. Everyone stared at me in abject shock. I was a little taken aback myself—That voice would take a lot of getting used to, though hopefully I could get back to normal before I started feeling like I already was.

Now painfully self-conscious, I struggled to push the words out through clenched teeth and a strong feeling of uncanny dissociation, like talking about yourself in the third person as if you really were someone else. “It'sssss jusssst trrrrouble, y'knO?” I chirped at the end in a way that made me wince. “Bbbbbbuuut...” I continued with tremendous effort, “Ddddon't gggo annnnywhere or ttttell anyone I'm here, OK? Sorry to make you keep a secret!” Somewhere along the way a little of the resistance dampened, to the point where speaking no longer felt like fighting with an uncooperative tube of toothpaste, but there was still an eerie, uncomfortable disconnect between what I was telling my mouth to say and what I heard coming back to my now-unclenching ears. If I kept a diary, I imagined this is what it would feel like to hear some unknown woman impersonating me and reading from it to an audience of hostile critics. I heard my tail swish nervously across the far arm rest.

Douglass seemed to relax a little knowing that someone was on the same wavelength, even if it was the very source of his paranoia. “How did you get here?” he over-enunciated, probably mistaking my earlier sluggishness in the thin, chilling air of the higher octaves for unfamiliarity with English. I glanced off to the side. Think fast.

“Magic!” I said at him brightly, with a manic smile that made my cheeks and (ugh) muzzle hurt. I turned to the side to face the other people in the room and chimed “Mmmmagic...!” one more time, with a voice hopefully breathy and full of wonder, trying half-intentionally (and instantly regrettably) to channel Adventure Time's Magic Man and reflexively making 'jazz hands' with appendages that just last night were the genuine article. Fortunately I was still lying on the couch, or I likely would have faceplanted the first time I unthinkingly made a two-handed gesture. I made a mental note to be careful when I eventually tried to walk.

Everyone stared at me, unsure of what to say. I don't think any of us actually believed there was such a thing as magic, but given the circumstances I figured we were all on some level reevaluating that idea.

I'd been so in-the-moment it hadn't even occurred to me to try to explain my situation rationally. 'Aliens scanned your brain and are taunting/experimenting on you!' was the first and most obvious explanation, followed by the fundamentally identical 'Equestria is a real place somewhere and has interacted with you somehow!' with 'Some kinda quantum multiverse... observer... fungibility... effect... y'know?!' wheezing along far behind. At no point had it occurred to me I might be dreaming or hallucinating or otherwise destined to become a chapter in an Oliver Sacks book (“The Man who Mistook Himself for a Pony”)—Everything was happening too fast—And even if it ultimately were some kind of dream or illusion, playing along would still be the smoothest way to see myself through it.

Suddenly I remembered the strange and vivid dream I'd had that night, which definitely lent credence to the idea that I was dealing with unknown, otherworldly forces that were responsible for my predicament, though whether what I saw was real or my own hallucination or some kind of intentionally deceptive vision implanted in my mind I still had no way to tell.

“So...magic? Like, capital-M Magic? Spells and...and...wizards and all that?” Douglass asked, with a fraught mix of trepidation, curiosity, and skepticism.

“Wha?” I hadn't realized just how lost I'd gotten in my own cogitations. “Oh. Well, uh, you know, like Arthur C. Clarke said, 'any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,' so, really you can call it whatever you want! 'Magic,' uh, 'femtotechnology,' uh, uh, 'Planck-scale spacetime folding...' I mean, whatever dude!” I blinked at the combination of my incongruous word choices and the high, chirping voice of the invisible girl who apparently lived in my throat. Something was wrong with the way my tongue moved, too, like when the axis controls in a video game get reset and everything slides out from under you. I swallowed as my own longer tongue nearly triggered my gag reflex, like a permanent finger down my throat, and I was becoming more and more aware of a disconcertingly wide span of flat gums between my front teeth and molars that I just knew I wasn't going to be able to leave alone. I could already feel saliva beginning to pool in it from my speech, and I worked my lips as best I could to clear it. Would I have to learn a whole new way to talk with this mouth?

Douglass squinted and leaned back slightly. “How do you know about Arthur C. Clar-”

“MAGIC!” I instinctively interrupted with an embarrassing squeal, while rolling onto my back and kicking my forelimbs in the air before completely losing my shit and cracking up, more than happy to open my mouth and reset the sensation of just how much mouth there was inside to open. I was also on an absolutely monstrous adrenaline high, but the foreign-sounding giggle quickly gave way to a more familiar laconic, derisive cackle I recognized from my original bass voice. Natural as it was, it always made me feel a little guilty, like I was trying to show off a degree of callousness and disdain, and I couldn't decide whether or not it sounded nastier shifted a few octaves up.

I regained my composure after several seconds, but no one else had laughed. They were probably still too weirded out by my very existence, and as annoying as that was, I could hardly blame them. They were beings I thoroughly understood, but to them I was an inscrutable, unpredictable, and possibly extremely powerful invader. Suddenly it dawned on me what a precarious position I'd put myself in—I was still human on the inside (I thought), something I was trying to hide so that when (not if, dammit!) I returned to normal, I could put this entire...event...behind me and not be hounded by people who wanted to know about that time I turned into a pony and how I did it and if I could do it again and if I could show them how to do it. But I could be in a great deal of trouble if it got out that I was a fraud.

I mean, in an important sense I wasn't a fraud—I really was a talking unicorn—but I was treading on some very thin ice by allowing them to believe I represented some other realm that might not actually exist and that I had no business pretending I knew anything about. My only advantage was that as far as I knew, no one had any way to check my story, and any inconsistencies I could cover up with mystical nonsense and implied threats of magical punishment, made plausible by my already fantastical nature. If I said the omnipotent Princess Celestia would come curb stomp anyone who gave one of her subjects trouble, what reason would they have to think I was bluffing? I recalled Marty McFly's “My name is Darth Vader, I am an extraterrestrial from the planet Vulcan!” antics and smiled. If it really came down to it, I supposed I could also threaten to melt a brain or two. I thanked whatever powers were behind this that I ended up in this situation as a unicorn and not a pegasus (as wonderful as flying would be) or—I shuddered to think of the bullet I dodged while simultaneously chiding myself for my habitual snobbery—as an earth pony. But then how could I help it? I was a unicorn.

In fact, I reflected, the biggest volatile factor was encountering someone else who was clued into FiM, especially if I ended up with a cutie mark, which would make it impossible to maintain that I was an entirely unrelated sort of magical unicorn, and place clear limits on what I could claim about myself. Of course, I could assert that's it's just a TV show and got a bunch of things wrong about the real Equestria, where I am totally from by the way—West Fillydelphia Born & Raised—but that was assuming I was the only pony around, which I had no way of knowing. But having seen several Mane 6 cosplay groups while out clubbing the previous Halloween, I knew if I set foot outside it would be a sure bet I'd soon be recognized for what I really was.

Oh, and what if being a unicorn meant I had some kind of weakness I didn't even know about? What if there was some kind of EMP or infrasound that -

“A...Are you alright?” Shannon asked nervously. I realized I'd been glowering into empty space for over a minute.

“Oh yeah!” I replied, then jumped, as I hadn't at all intended for that to come out as another adorable squeal, or for my ears to lock onto her like automated defense turrets. I cleared my throat and spoke from as much of a contralto range as I could manage. “Just...unicorn stuff.” Gravelly and uncooperative on vocals as it often was, I liked my old deep voice and missed the way my rib cage used to rumble when I spoke from down low, but I still retained my original cadences which gave this pony voice a brassy, mezzo-soprano vibe that wasn't without its own appeal. I couldn't place it in terms of anyone familiar, but in the moment I detected hints of some kind of Amy Poehler character, or one of those proto-feminist career women from a '30s comedy. Nevertheless, I felt increasingly self-conscious and could feel the unease radiating from everyone in the room.

“Soooo...” I began awkwardly, with no idea of where I was taking it, “How're you guys?”

Huh. We're going with that, are we?

Clearly it had backfired, as they all looked at each other nervously, afraid of saying the wrong thing and making the alien on the couch flip out because they'd unknowingly violated some arbitrary taboo or failed some kind of test. I felt a kind of petty satisfaction at being perceived to have that much power, but that was drowned out by the guilty realization that I was essentially holding them all hostage, the only difference being that the guns trained on them were only limited by their own imagination and fear. It couldn't have been past eleven in the morning but it suddenly felt like the middle of the night. At least it meant they weren't making the big scene I originally dreaded, and as an extra bonus, somewhere along the way my headache had disappeared.

I decided to try a two-pronged approach. I wanted to show a little vulnerability to put them at ease, but at the same time see if I could perform some kind of magical demonstration to prove that I was not just all talk. After a few seconds of rifling through ideas, I settled on asking for a glass of water, and, if I could, levitating it to my mouth. I reached up with a forelimb, trying to ignore its wonky joints, and pressed on my horn to thoroughly assure myself of its reality. I couldn't directly feel it, not through a... hoof, but it was indeed firmly fixed to my skull, stably spread out in such a way that I hardly felt any shear stress in my forehead as I pushed on it, though my neck protested. Everyone stared at me, as I expected, but at this point my every twitch was going to be scrutinized, and this was pretty innocent as far as mysterious alien behaviors are concerned. I made a face as if I were meditating for a few seconds, then gave my horn a couple pats as I nodded and smiled around the room. As soon as I'd talked, it didn't seem to have occurred to anyone (why would it?) that this horn might not be the real thing, and so I wanted to give the impression that All Systems Were Go.

I waited a few beats, then cleared my throat again and spoke up. “Umm, could I ask one of you for a glass of water?” I said with mock hesitation, tweaking my voice on the last few words.

“Of course!” Shannon got up and dashed to the kitchen before I'd even fully gauged how everyone reacted. Somehow along the way she'd naturally fallen into the position of her side's lead negotiator in the Human-Unicorn Hostage Standoff. I glanced around the room at Douglass and the still-silent Ben, but both of them refused to make eye contact.

Shannon came back in with the water, but hesitated as she approached, unsure of how she was supposed to give it to me. “Just put it by me on the coffee table, thanks,” I said casually. It was far enough away that I'd likely have to sit up and lean over to reach it, something I didn't want to manipulate this body into doing just yet, and I figured that'd be some extra incentive to practice levitation. I doubted any of them would be able to tell what I was trying to do, so if I couldn't manage it I would simply seem inscrutable rather than incompetent.

I had no idea how to approach this, as on a very fundamental level I still didn't believe in actual Magic magic in the first place, thinking that how I got this way, and any tricks I might be able to pull off, must still have perfectly rational explanations in terms of physical causes, even if they were utterly beyond our current understanding and we could only speculate about what they were. Of course, as per the quote I'd deployed against Douglass earlier, what was the difference at that point? 'The horn translates mental commands into a field that can effect objects in the external world in complex, information-rich ways' was the same whether you labeled it as the invoked actions of spirits or of, say, quantum AIs hidden in higher dimensions or surrounding dark matter. It was just a point of ontological hygiene. Indistinguishable really meant indistinguishable.

But still, I mean, if I were going to get any magic working at a level that would help me out of this situation, I needed to know just that "working" actually entailed, didn't I? It couldn't be anything as simple as suspending the laws of physics—What's going on at that boundary to make them stop? And if whatever's directing action in their absence has effects consistent enough to be useful, isn't that exactly what a law of physics is? Certain things happened and other things didn't happen because of that guidance given to each and every part of creation...

Beyond that, even the very idea of exceptions themselves, all the visions of breaking free from those laws were in fact their very handiwork, as they machinated inside our skulls...

...That universal Order was precisely why my suddenly being...this way was unprecedented, and thus a problem, in the first place. It was because everyone implicitly knows atoms like to do certain things and not others that I was fearing for my future and not clip-clopping off with these people to go get some hash browns and oily coffee—I'd broken a taboo bequeathed to us anonymously by the invisibly small.

Never mind how they did it for now (let alone why...)—'magic' is as good a name as any—how did they know where to coax every little particle in order to make this specific body, while also figuring out which ones in my brain were especially dear to me and letting them be? I could sense that I was still a perfectly authentic physical object, flush with information and with an answer for every material question about me—I had every level of answers common to a real object, and they all had to be in agreement, or there would have been no magic but only a magic trick—I would have been stage magic, an illusion, as much a real pony as a conjurer's assistant really was sawed in half. Surely on some level, even a pre-conscious one, a trillion trillion things had to be deliberately decided to make this body appear fully-formed the way it had, and not some other way: Assuming I still had DNA or an equivalent, surely the appropriate genome couldn't just fluctuate into existence like an on-demand Boltzmann Brain, picked without searching from inside the Borgesian space of all possible genomes... And that was only a single component: Were there, say, isotope ratios in my bones that would tell you what this body had grown up eating...? Did a whole fake history need to be made up, just for the proverbial 'holes in my socks' it would leave behind? What had I just encountered that could do these things?

And if I were trying to do these sorts of things myself, with just a bony projection growing out of my skull, where would I even begin? I could only scratch the surface.

But that was always true, wasn't it? We only see our own self-created surface of things...'blue,' 'hooves,' 'horn'... They look so simple to us, in our imaginations, but it's the parts below that we can't just imagine that make that surface what it is... Humans can't do magic precisely because they can't make that dependency go the other way around. At least not directly... Atoms are hopeless at figuring out anything that big on their own (unless you give them a good 13.8 billion years), but if they're working together just right, so there's a "you" to reach allll the way down and figure it out for them...

And oh, fuck me, I hadn't even started yet... OK... All stations give me go/no go for magic.

Horn? Go.

Glass of water? Go.

Unintentional Twilight Sparkle impression? Go.
Flight, we are GO for magic.

*ksshkBEEP* Rrrrrrrrrroger that, Houston, switching over to mmmmagic—Wwwwe'll have that horn telemetry for ya in juuust a minute, over. *ksshkBEEP*

I tried the most obvious tactic, simply “strenuously imagining” the glass floating over to me, but no luck, and in retrospect if it worked that way it would be very easy to accidentally kill myself one day in the enormously unlikely event a daydream ever got out of hand.

I decided I first needed to get a handle on what the “substance” of magic actually felt like, and from there I could figure out how to project it into the world. As far as I could tell I didn't have any sensation in my horn, it was just an inert rod of... well, I wasn't sure. I doubted it could really be ordinary keratin or bone, at least inside, and must really be some blood-chillingly complex engine of roiling subatomic metastability, quietly ticking away on my forehead. Though for all I knew, you could get bone to do that if you were clever enough.

I was not, however, and though I couldn't make a unicorn horn, I felt certain I could figure out how to use one. Assuming it wasn't just cosmetic... So far I hadn't noticed anything at all 'magical' about myself. I could talk, but I'd been doing that almost my entire life without so much as a bunny in a top hat. They could use magic on the show, and it was clear that ponifyingly powerful forces were lurking nearby, but that didn't mean they'd rubbed off on me.

I stared at the glass again, and tried to pour my attention into my horn, but there was no sensation of any kind. I closed my eyes and tried to extend some kind of sense into the space around me, but nothing appeared outside my own imagination.

Screw it. I'll figure it out later.

I was actually pretty thirsty, now that I though about it, and I was going to wrap up this water the earth pony way. The glass on the corner of the coffee table would have been easily within reach if I had my original arms, but I'd have to invent a new way to grab it and keep it steady enough to drink out of. I shifted myself slightly up the arm rest to support sitting up a little, and reached out tentatively with what, from their weighty ends and foreign geometry, I could only think of as my forelegs now. I grasped it between them, fitting it into a subtle hollow in my “shins” (were those the things called “fetlocks?”) that from the feeling of it used to be the soft sides of my palms that faced my very-much-missed thumbs. I was still coasting on the residual adrenaline and shock from when I woke up, but I had a premonition of rising anger when I thought of how trivially easy this used to be.

There was something arrestingly strange about my shoulders, as well, and I couldn't sense how they were put together. They were narrow, like an ordinary horse's, but unlike the ball and socket joints I'd had all my life, it felt almost as if there were two joints in each shoulder, very close together or nested hierarchically, one to keep my forelegs on an even straight track for locomotion, and one to allow them to move laterally and act a bit more like arms, a setup I'd never seen in anything I'd ever learned about biology. As I'd moved them around earlier, I noticed a few seemingly arbitrary zones in my range of motion that offered a bit of resistance, as if I were stretching before a workout. Maybe it was indeed some novel kind of joint or complex of joints unknown to animals on Earth, or no joint at all but just a complex of muscle, and, as I mused a bit more about it in the back of my mind, pulling those shoulders back to maneuver the glass, I half-consciously wondered if it didn't have something to do with the way pegasus wings would be attached if I'd had a pair—Something universal in Equestrian embryology that lays a foundation for their development. Nothing on Earth had both bones and six limbs, so it wasn't necessarily surprising that the “chassis” for them would be equally otherworldly. I'd have to poke around when I got the chance.

I shakily lifted the smooth-sided glass to within what I guessed was the movement range of my neck, and could feel the extra pressure I needed to apply to the drink to compensate for how much less traction I got with short, soft pony hair instead of rubbery human skin. I was able to lean my head up much farther than I thought, easily reaching a vertical position, and slowly raised the glass to my lips, carefully watching the end of the transparent blue haze at the bottom of my vision to confirm where they actually were and not accidentally pour it down my nose. The rim clinked against my top teeth, and I repositioned it to create a better fit, then lifted my head and front legs up to pour the water into my mouth. It was a surreal experience to feel it travel much farther down before I reflexively swallowed it, but in a combination of thirst and worry over dropping it, I drained the whole thing in one go. A little bit dribbled out the sides of my mouth, following the same track as the water on the inside, until it fully soaked into my coat on the underside of my chin. It felt cold and unpleasant, but less so than on bare skin.

Playing the tape in reverse now, I had much less trouble placing the lighter glass back on the table, then settled back down into my original position on the couch.

I made a conspicuous “ahhhh” of satisfaction, and glanced at my three companions. Shannon and Douglass were sitting on a round ottoman and the carpet respectively, leaning forward and watching me with calm curiosity. Ben had been inert in an easy chair against the back wall since I'd spoken, only occasionally glancing at me. He seemed relatively unperturbed, however, and I hoped he hadn't been hiding in plain sight to take a picture of me and tweet it to half the planet, but from his low-energy movements it seemed he thought this situation was simply out of his purview and he was going to let someone else deal with it—A more sedentary version of Douglass' earlier attempt to escape.
If he wanted no part of me now, he probably wasn't going to go telling anyone in the future, so I decided to oblige and let him be.

My number one priority, of course, was getting back to normal, but in the immediate situation, with such meticulous eyes on me, that goal faded into the background to be eclipsed by simpler, more immediate concerns, such as “now what?”

I couldn't get up and leave, but even more obviously I couldn't just stay here. In all honesty I had no idea what to do next, but I'd been awake no longer than ten or fifteen minutes, and the reality of my becoming a pony had yet to fully sink in—I didn't know what I was going to do, but with reciprocal certainty, I knew I'd think of something when I had a chance to figure it out. At the same time, however, I didn't know how long I could forestall a reaction to the true magnitude of what had happened.

One thing at a time. Right now I was on this couch, and people were watching me. People who could either help me or lead to my ruin, whether they intended to or not, and my first task at—oh god—hoof needed to be making sure things went in the former direction.

Names! That's what we needed. Always a reliable first step to building a relationship. I was relatively sure I remembered their names from the previous night, but that didn't matter because it wasn't “me” doing the remembering. Time for an introduction.

“I wanna get out of you guys' hair as soon as possible...” I said with a bit more genuine timidity than I'd intended to inject, “but I might be stuck here for a little while...” Ben gritted his teeth slightly and Shannon bit her lower lip. “So I should probably learn your names...” I was trying to sound trustworthy and harmless, but my real uncertainty of how to deal with the situation and the accompanying unwillingness to make eye contact made it all come out as a kind of shy whimper. Hopefully it was at least disarming.

“I'm Shannon, and this is Ben and Douglass.”

Douglass nodded, and Ben briefly met my eyes then stiffly raised his hand at the wrist. Shannon, after a moment of no doubt weighing the decision to probe me for personal information, followed with “…What's yours?”

Ohhhhh, shit. I can't believe I'd charged ahead with only half the plan. I couldn't give my real name (what kind of mare is named “Rob,” anyway?) but I hadn't given any thought whatsoever to a good pony name.

And I wanted a good name. It mattered to me to get it right the first time, especially if I was going to be dealing with these people for a while. In junior high I'd tried to get people to start calling me “Rob” instead of “Robert,” but, unwilling to give up control and wanting to teach me a lesson for thinking I could sound cooler, everyone started calling me “Viper” instead. And in college I got saddled (ha!) with the nickname “Seattle” due to being the only member of our circle of friends from out of state, a name that stuck to this day, at least some of the time. Names mattered.

And I was totally blanking on a pony one. I suddenly recalled popular fantasy stories I'd heard about, involving word magic and things like secret “True Names,” and decided to once again bluff my way out.

“I can't tell you...!” I said cryptically. Quickly realizing I needed to maintain open trust I added, “not yet, anyway...” Everyone looked away from me, uncomfortable with the notion of some kind of initiation or oath they might be coerced into taking later on. Dammit, I just needed a name!

Skye. Nice, but that's more for a pegasus.
Mr. Ponington. C'mon, at least try.
Valued Glue Factory Temp. No, I don't wanna play right now.
Gregor Samsa. What did I just say!?
Bluebelle. Too girly and probably taken by a background pony.
Gas Flame. Not girly enough; sounds like a fart.
Spacewarp. Awkward; sounds like a Transformer.
Jetstream. Again, that's a pegasus name.
Cobalt. Getting there. Too short/generic, a little harsh/radioactive.
Blue Blazes. WAY too twee, also no idioms.
450nm. A wavelength of light, har har.
NATO the Pony. Just because of the color of the flag? C'mon. Maybe if I had stars on me.
What's in a name? A 'you' by any other name would be as royally boned. Stay on task.
Blue State. How parochial and eventually dated. Something more... universal.
Blue Shift. There it is!

“Oh what the hell,” I smiled, “it's Blue Shift.”

Douglass smiled for the first time since this ordeal began. “Cool,” he said. He might have been the only one who knew what it meant.

Just then I heard a sound like a room full of TVs powering on, and clearly it was a real noise because I wasn't the only one who began looking around for the source. A bright light evenly filled the space around us, and I heard something like a cross between a static discharge and a high whistling pop, and felt a chill race up my spine. With that, the light and sound vanished so abruptly my brain continued filling them in for a moment. I noticed everyone was looking at me, only not at my face this time. I turned my head around to follow their gaze and noticed a white two-armed barred spiral galaxy stamped right on my flank. It looked to be steaming a little.

“Well, now you know!” I said cheerfully, not having any idea what I meant by that, but wanting to give the impression that I expected this to happen.

“What is that?” Shannon seemed genuinely curious but a little worried about it somehow contaminating her if she got too close.

“Tramp stamp,” I said while nonchalantly examining a hoof (shiny, but lookit the little lines...), though failing to fully hide how both relieved and excited I was to see something actually magical about myself, and to have it be seen. “I'm just kidding. It's complicated. You can say my name all you want, though—I'm not going to disappear after three times or anything!” I smirked and looked around. Frankly, I had no idea how to best explain the mark, and I wasn't even sure what it meant, myself. And I hoped I hadn't just jinxed myself by telling them invoking my name wouldn't do anything... Who knows what crazy factors existed they hadn't gotten around to telling us about in the show?

“It's kinda like my insignia,” I finally explained, and that seemed to satisfy them. I looked at it for a moment, and thought it was pretty classy as far as butt tattoos go. The borders were sharp, and I swear that when I tried shifting my hip the proportion of a strand of hair that was white or blue changed almost imperceptibly to keep the outline unbroken as the hairs slid over each other. Neat.

I'd never had even a small tattoo—

Yeah man, you don't like anything THAT much.

—so having a nearly foot-wide white spiral permanently adorning each hip was a strange experience. Not that it was necessarily unwelcome, though, since I thought it was a tasteful design, all ponies were supposed to have one, and because I knew some powerful and presumably benevolent mentality had...evaluated me and come up with that symbol. Much more reassuring than picking it from a binder in the window of a standoffish storefront with a name like “Fatal Ninja Ink,” between the failing bead shop and a Chipotle. And also because I still didn't fully think of it as “my” ass, but just a loaner, while my original ass and accompanying body were in storage somewhere.

But whoever they were, they must have been watching me, and apparently my choosing a name now put me on the official "pony register" somewhere. And if I were being watched, at least I had an "in" with whatever had done this.

Being so suddenly forced to confront my appearance, my overwhelming desire now was to see myself in the mirror and to get a sense of what other people could tell from my face. I considered asking for one, saying I needed to groom myself (something else I'd have to improvise), but the amount of time I'd spend making faces and prodding around would quickly give lie to that little scheme.

Frankly, a lot of it simply came out of knowing that there was a real-life magic pony here and that was cool and I wanna see the pony. The bathroom mirror would be ideal, but I was paranoid about my curiosity somehow making it clear that I wasn't who and what I seemed. What's another reason I might...

“I gotta poop.”