The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate.
+ + +
“Oh, she's adorable...!”
“Hahaha, wow, thanks! You have no idea how awesome it is to hear a real pony say that!”
She showed me a vector image apparently made in some kind of character creator, a peach pegasus with a wavy turquoise mane, and a mark of what looked like a theater light. That's right, we'd been talking about acting out on the deck...Or was that—No, guerrilla theater in Austin, that was it.
...What would an actor pony do about an...acting mark? I doubt they only played other actors. Did they dye it out, or was there some spell that could disguise it for the duration of a play or a run of takes? Did they always wear clothes on stage? Or maybe they just ignored it as suspension of disbelief. If I ever found out, Steph'd be the first to know.
Wait—Unlike Rob, Blue Shift didn't know anything about her story. “So what made you choose that cutie mark?” I asked.
“Oh, well...I guess I can tell you,” she prefaced, “I used to go to college in Aus—In this place called Austin, Texas. University of Texas.”
“Oh, like in 'Slacker!'” Oops.
She would have done a spit take if she'd been drinking anything, but instead buried her face in my back and yelled a muffled “ohmigod!” Her breath felt humid and kind of gross, even through my coat. She pulled her head away and breathed deeply as her peals of laughter subsided.
“I never would have thought a pony would...!”
“...Why not?” It was too late to salvage any pretense of innocence, so I decided to move things in the direction of honesty. “I might be a pony, but I can still think it's the best Richard Linklater movie. 'Dazed & Confused' is good, sure, but 'Slacker' just has... it's purer, I guess you could call it.”
“Hahaha, wow, where did you see all this?”
“Uh, well, I'm something of a 'Lyra,' I guess you could say. That's a big part of what I'm doing here.”
“She's... really like that, huh? So...you're...interested in humans?”
“Well, are there any questions you have? About Earth or anything?”
“Hmm, well, you were telling me about when you were in college...”
Braaaaaa-vooooo [Clap. Clap. Clap.] Way to get her to open up to you under false pretenses, you not-actually-a-pony bastard.
Shut up, I wanna put off telling her my thing as long as possible.
“Oh, yeah...” She straightened up and her voice dropped to a more relaxed register. “So I was in college... Now, my family wa- is pretty strict, and since I was the first one to actually go to college, they weren't going to let me study anything but some kind of engineering. They pushed for 'nuclear' and I went along. But the thing is, I could muddle through OK but I really hated it. It was absolutely the last thing I wanted to spend my life doing, and it matters to me what I do—I'm not just one of those people who can get any job and then settle down to have their 'real' life with their family in the off-hours. I'm not even sure if I want to have a family. It's not like mine gave me a good impression of the whole idea.”
Uh oh. I tried not to inhale too dramatically, but I was nonetheless bracing myself: 'An ordinary pony, asking an ordinary question, has now crossed into... The Drama Zone.' I was terrible at this kind of thing. I'd never been able to maintain interest in the supposed 'traumas' in my own life and felt like I had no right to trivialize other people's serious issues by letting them even pass through my brain, which would pounce on them with as much implacable playfulness as a kitten following a laser pointer.
Well obvs. None of that shit is fun on its own.
Exactly. You're not helping.
“I see,” I provided by way of formal acknowledgment.
"My family is kind of... I feel really weird talking to a pony about this because you have...you know, um, actual goddesses, but for my family, there's only one right way for anyone to do something, and they'll tell you it's the one God decided, so when I, um..." She paused, then sniffed absentmindedly, pulling her upper lip into a momentary sneer. Something about the scent in the room changed, a kind of mixing-in of an abrasive substance, but I didn't have the experience to interpret it. "You have to understand, they put all their hopes and dreams into me, and when I discovered theater and realized that's what I really wanted to do, and how much I hated all the... dead machine stuff—When I met Amir and Demetrius and Kate, and they showed me... They showed me the kind of person I actually want to be, it was like I turned into... some kind of alien in their eyes."
"Hmm." No hoof in mouth so far. Alright. Keep it simple.
"They stopped helping with my tuition, and my scholarship ran out... I picked up a job but it wasn't enough. I had to drop out and so I invested everything in my theater troupe, but after a couple years everyone kinda... They kinda developed their own dreams and drifted apart. We all moved away, one at a time... I moved back to Michigan, and lived with—Do gay ponies... Is there, um, an 'issue' with gay ponies in Equestria?"
"No, ev...everypony's just really cool about... all that." It was the right answer either way; if there really were pony homophobes, she didn't need to hear about 'em right now.
"Ugh, you're so lucky. Anyway, I lived with an old gay friend of mine from high school, as if I couldn't already not talk to my parents after dropping out." Stephanie leaned back and looked at the ceiling. "Or my siblings. They were kind of... 'Oops Babies,' and I was the only one who had anything you could call a college fund at the time. God... I bet I sound so selfish, don't I?"
"I, uh... I couldn't tell ya... It sounds like they were just, uh, using you as a feather in their cap instead of letting you have your own life... I guess?" Ohhhh boy, get ready to backpedal.
"Hmm, I suppose that's one way to look at it." Stephanie exhaled a puff of air, mirroring my own relief, then leaned forward a little and smiled. "But my friend and I were pretty, you know, isolated in rural Michigan, and that's when he and I got into—That's when we started watching that show about you guys, and when we found out how big it was, and started making friends through it online and going to conventions and stuff, I started to think things might get, I dunno, fun again."
"Let's hope so...! We'll, uh, do what we can..."
"Haha, thanks ...But that's about it. Heh. If you wanted to learn about Earth I guess that's the best I can offer. It's kind of a fucked up place... Ohmigod, I'm sorry—I didn't mean to swear."
"No, that's cool, I'm... We ponies are adults the same as you..." I leaned my head slightly back and mimicked Stephanie's earlier gesture towards the ceiling. I wanted to articulate a defense of human moral progress, and ask just what she expected a civilization bootstrapped up from bacteria to look like, but sufficiently casual, incisive words wouldn't come.
Stephanie chuckled at my admission of maturity, then leaned forward again, raising her hands off the floor behind her to sit once more in her lap. "I didn't mean to bring you down or anything. I just figured if anyone would listen it would be a pony."
I smiled. "Of course."
Your turn, dude.
Alright. "Stephanie..." I began. Names. Names meant serious. "I have something I need to tell you, too."
She leaned forward and smiled. No doubt she thought it was the eventual message from Celestia. I continued. "First I want to say thanks for being as nice and helpful as you've been, but I need to tell you something important, and it's not good." I made sure my eyebrows were appropriately drawn, and she leaned forward even farther, her own eyebrows knitting into an expression of steely resolve, though her mouth was suppressing a smile, and her left foot was jiggling to bleed off the excitement of this encounter.
“Okay, don't be disappointed...” I said, looking down at my hooves stretched in front of me on the bed.
“How could I be disappointed!?” she was shifting back and forth excitedly, sitting cross-legged on the floor below me.
“I know how you feel... I would feel the same way...” I smiled sheepishly and tried to affect just a pinch of a stoned Mitch Hedberg ramble, a reliable way up until then to seem guileless, though I wasn't sure if it was coming out as intended with a female voice—I would say maybe I pulled off a passable Sarah Silverman in a sleepier mood. “...But I wasn't really honest with you back there.”
She stopped rocking and leaned in to pay close attention. “I just needed to keep... hmm...” I paused. I didn't know how to spin this. “The other people didn't know about the TV show, or at least didn't associate me with it, and I just didn't want to...um...” I exhaled deliberately “I didn't want to be recognized. It would complicate things.” She nodded and seemed convinced, and technically I wasn't lying, but I felt she deserved better than yet another layer of manipulation, and frankly I just wanted to lay out the whole truth to somepony.
“Okay...” I began. This was going to be a difficult needle to thread. I needed a way to tell her who I really was and that I wanted to get back to normal without her getting the idea of trying to don the “best theoretically possible cosplay” of the character she'd just showed me. If I were in her situation I know I'd be almost irresistibly tempted to try out hooves for a while too, and it occurred to me that my own suppressed but constant excitement at the literally miraculous situation I found myself in might be the real reason I'd been acting so manic.
I wasn't exactly sure why I had to keep her from becoming a pony as well, it just seemed like the kind of thing one does in this sort of situation. It was complicated and probably quite dangerous to be a pony, and I guessed it would be irresponsible to allow someone else to put themselves in harm's way. Also, I didn't know if I'd ultimately be able to change back, and stopping someone else from making such a huge, permanent life decision in such a heightened emotional state was basically the plot of every medical drama ever.
But deep down I knew that on a visceral level I wanted to be the only pony. This was probably the most mind-blowing thing that would ever happen to me, and I did not want to share. But she saw me light that paper, and if she figured out exactly who I was, making the connection would be only too easy and I probably wouldn't be able to stop her if she got a hold of it, wherever it had gone. Appropriately enough, Green Day's “Minority” came up next on the playlist, and the temptation to simply scrap my confession and sing along with abandon was difficult to resist. Nevertheless, I forced myself to continue.
I decided to start off vague. “Okay...I've only been letting this out a bit at a time, but I hope at the end you'll understand why,” I began again. “I both am, and am not, what I appear to be. I am an Equestrian unicorn pony...” I gestured with my eyes to my horn and flank. “But I've never been there, or met Princess Celestia and to be honest I don't know if all that really exists or not.” She suddenly looked puzzled. That was OK, we were in the same boat then.
“But let's assume they're real, because I am,” I knocked on my chest twice to demonstrate my corporeality, then continued in dismissive rapid fire, wanting to get the bizarre ideas out of the way. “So why not the whole shebang? It's just simpler. The only other explanation involves someone else just as powerful pretending to be them, so...Occam's Razor n' all that, right?” She nodded and was more or less following along but her brow was knit in a way that told me she was concerned about where this was going.
“So... I came into being when...No, that's not even true, hang on...”
Fucking out with it, dude.
Alright, first gotta set the context: “Last night, did you meet someone who...Alright, you know what? First I need you to absolutely PROMISE me you won't tell this to anyp—Anyone, aright? Give me your hand.” She did, and I lightly touched it on either side with two smooth blue hooves. It was a strange contrast. She promised to keep quiet. We both smiled a little as we knew the other one was wondering if one of us would invoke a Pinkie Pie promise.
I continued. “OK, last night, did you meet a guy who, uh, rolled a joint with paper cut from a fancy scroll he pulled out of his bag?”
“Yeah. ...He was kind of a weirdo.” I scowled for a instant. “He took the whole thing in one monster hit and then wandered off. Wait...” her pitch dropped, “the, the green flash and everything, that was a 'Letter', wasn't it?” I nodded. “We thought it was...I dunno, fireworks. So, that was...delivered, and you were...sent here in response? Or...?...I don't really understand.”
“No...The... That huge hit, right?” I grimaced with rapidly mounting discomfort. It felt like I was leaping off a diving board into ice cold water. “That was me. I'm that guy,” I croaked out, and fought to keep the embarrassed smile from my face.
“hhhhwwWhat?” she voicelessly exhaled.
Some of my nerve had regenerated now that my secret was out. “That's right...Got... Got turned into a pony...!” I roughly ran a hoof up the side of my face in embarrassment. Somehow, even though it was a perfect summation of my entire morning and the most honest thing I'd said all day, it felt almost intolerably strange to hear it finally come out of my mouth, in the voice that served as its proof. I realized that feeling was the last barrier between myself and the reality of the situation finally crumbling to ash. “So y-you understand, right? Why I didn't just... tell you?” She still seemed stunned. “I mean, one surprise at a time, right?” I tried to say brightly.
She'd left her legs crossed but flopped down on her back, and was staring up and the ceiling. “...Wow,” she flatly intoned. Suddenly she sat up and smiled. “Do you have any more of that paper?”
+ + +
I explained to her everything that had happened so far. I skipped a few details like the dump I took and flexing in the mirror, but I conveyed the gist of the interactions I'd had, and both my own ideas and what I figured the humans downstairs believed. Steph turned off the music and listened passively, nodding along at intervals.
When I'd finished, she waited for a moment then scooted forward again. “So what's it like?”
“Being a pony! Duh!”
“Oh, uh... it's, uh...it's alright I guess... Ow! You didn't have to punch me in the chest!”
She started laughing. “No, I just wanted to, you dick! C'mon, tell me for real.”
“Well what do you say to something like that? OK, ummm... Well, I think 'Mr. Ed' is really offensive now... OK, OK, I'm sorry! Don't hit me again! Hahaha, alright... Well, it's all...horizontal, and actually really, really weird.”
“So... I'm sitting, right? Only I'm not sitting, because half of me is lying down, so I'm like... My head and neck, and I guess my chest, feel like I'm sitting upright, with my head waaay up here on this crazy thing," I rolled my neck around like a wrecking crane. "But then suddenly doink, I'm lying down. On my limp hands pressed into my chest. And I can feel my knees above my stomach and my one toe on my ribcage.”
“I can't stop being hyper-aware of it... And it's just...normal. Like, it doesn't hurt, so you feel like it must really be that you're coiled up to face some challenge or disaster, so your stomach is just...butterflies, just constantly, but whatever it is never comes, and then it hits you again and again—'Holy shit, it's me, because I am an actual pony now and...and I have four legs and I have a tail and...hooves and...I'm covered in hair and... is this going to be my life now?'” I had to fight to keep my voice from breaking towards the end. There was no way Steph didn't notice.
“Like, lookit this...” I turned my head back to watch it and then swished my tail a few times. “That's me. I'm doing that. It feels like someone yanked it out of me, all like 'Here you go! This is what your spine does now!'” I released a puff of air and my ears slowly drooped to the side. “Oh yeah, and the ears...” I looked up and straightened them out. “Just... It's like...what you've relied on your whole life is gone, and there's all this extra stuff you don't know what to do with.”
It dawned on me as I was speaking that I was also realizing what I had been thinking myself on the matter, like an instructor not knowing how much they really know about their own technique until they lay it out for a student.
“What about the horn, if you don't mind me asking?”
“No, that's fine... Uh... I don't know. Yet, I mean. So far it's just an ordinary horn, but I've only been a pony for like an hour and a half.”
“Maybe I can help you think of a way to get it working.”
“That'd be great. I tried to levitate that glass of water earlier, but like I said, nothing happened at all—the horn doesn't even have feeling in it—so I just grabbed it with these.” I used my head to gesture down at my forelegs.
“Was that hard?”
“Yes.” I let that segue into a moment of silence for my thumbs.
“What kind of stuff did you try to move the glass?”
“I dunno... Just concentrating in different ways on different things, I guess. Something tells me I'm going to have to 'notice' my horn first, before I can do anything with it.”
“What do you mean?”
“So earlier, right? When I was in the bathroom? I was trying to move my tail but I couldn't do it, there was just nothing to move, so I stepped on it and pulled a little, and then ta-daaa, there it was. It wasn't something I could just will myself to do because it was something outside the range of sensations I knew about. So I had to force it into my consciousness from outside. But now...” I swished it again a few times for effect. “But I have to squeeze a muscle in what used to be empty space. Same with the ears...” Flop, flop. “Though that was easier because they move on their own. Like yawning or smiling—You can kinda control it but also kinda not.”
“It sounds like... Like you can use all the things you already had...arms, legs, mouth and such...But new things like a tail or pony ears or a horn aren't... plugged in right away.”
“Something like that. That's certainly what it feels like. The connections are there, but I don't know how to access them because I have to come up with entirely new things to try to think and feel, and they're just guesses. It's like trying to come up with the color blue if you've never seen it before, but if someone shows it to you it's like, 'oh, of course.'”
“Riiight... The potential was there, but you don't have the experience to draw on.” Steph nodded slowly.
“Yeah... It kinda seems to be happening with my sense of smell, too. Stuff just smells...'more.' And more than it did when I woke up. Like the olfactory bulb or whatever is getting more...funding.”
“Hmmm... Oh, here, go like this.” She pulled her lips back to expose as much of her teeth as possible in a kind of fake Hollywood smile. I mimicked her and suddenly started back—A block of animal scents in front of me suddenly popped out of the landscape of odors in the room. I immediately realized it was Steph herself but I had no idea how to interpret any of what I was smelling.
“Whoa!” I closed my mouth and she faded back into the scentscape. “You, like, 'popped out.' Smell-wise. Uh, not in a bad way.”
“I wanted to check something, about how close you were to a regular pony.”
“Really close. That lip thing is something a lot of animals... um, sorry...”
“...A lot of animals, including horses, do in order to better pick up the scents of friends and mates and stuff... I forget what it's called, though.” I blinked in surprise, not knowing exactly what to do with this information. “There's some extra gland or something in there that gets exposed, and I wanted to see if that was wired up, too.”
“I guess it is. My poor brain's got a lot on its plate now... Hopefully this isn't all zero-sum and I'm going to forget all of 2006 or something.”
“Haha, yeah, let's hope...!”
“But that might be worth it if I could get this horn working.”
Suddenly Steph's hand shot out and batted my horn. My head went with it and I yelped with shock and not a little pain, then righted myself and glared at her.
“Anything? I figured it was worth a try...” She leaned forward a bit in earnest curiosity.
“No, sorry. My forehead kinda hurts, but warn me next time.”
“OK, I just thought the surprise might make it stand out more.”
“Sure... Anyway, I think it's gonna take something else. It's supposed to be magic, right? The other ones were ordinary muscles, but this is something totally different. We don't even have any good leads on what it would react to. It might not even be real, or it might not work outside of Equestria. If that's even real.”
“I think it's a safe bet that it is at this point.”
“Yeah, probably. But it could still be a... style or something some... alien has adopted to mess with me. I don't want to take too much for granted.”
“Brony aliens, huh?”
“Can't deny that's wide appeal.”
As a natural conversational silence fell over the room I suddenly realized both the names “Equestria” and “Princess Celestia” and been loudly thrown around in front of all the people downstairs, and I hoped with all my might it wouldn't occur to them to google those names and add an entirely new dimension of unanswered questions to this ordeal. Please let them at least have accidentally turned on safe search...
“OK, we'll go and... Well shit, we will probably have to go find it anyway,” I said as Steph snorted with amusement at seeing a swearing unicorn mare, “We'll go get that paper, but first can you do me a huge favor?”
“Sure.” She was still friendly and energetic, but I was a little sad to see the ecstatic excitement fade as she learned there was really just some guy inside this magical mare instead of a real-live citizen of Equestria. But at least I represented a path to more potential wonders, and she was still captivated by the whole situation, despite it losing a layer of mystique.
“Can you go downstairs and check on the other -” I caught myself before I said 'humans' but I didn't know what better to call them and besides, that was the difference between them and me that was the crux of the whole matter. But I didn't want to give the impression that I was somehow drifting away from humanity or creating an 'us and them' dynamic. “...On the people downstairs who might have seen me? You know, just so that they haven't left and gotten a news crew or called the Pentagon or something?”
Both those thoughts froze my blood... I didn't think I'd simply be attacked or otherwise abducted—I was far too valuable alive and once they knew I could communicate, no First World government with so much to lose would risk upsetting the unknown and powerful forces I could claim to represent—Or that were responsible for my impossible transformation, lest the same happen to them—But they were still complete unknowns and could end in any way whatsoever, or not end at all...
And while getting discovered by the media and being famous through no effort on my own part sounded pretty cool, it also sounded like it would involve far too much getting up early and following directions—Interestingly the exact same pro and con that had once stopped me from joining the very same military I was now planning again to avoid.
“Of course. Do we have...a plan, or anything?” Steph asked as she got up and walked to the door. I brightened as she said 'we,' but darkened again as I realized the answer.
“No, I've just...” my voice broke as the stress finally started to show through it, “I've just been taking it one minute at a time since I...woke up like this.” I looked down at the floor.
She made a pitying sigh then knelt back down and stroked my cheek with one hand while scratching behind an ear with the other. I was stunned, but it was lucky she realized what she was doing and pulled away or I would have nuzzled my face into her hand in spite of myself. While the rational part of my mind wanted her to go downstairs and maintain the situation, the rest of me wanted someone to stay and pet the pony till she felt better.
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry I keep doing this!” she said as she pulled back, “I know you're really a guy, it's just—”
I was sad that Necessity kept me from just asking her to stay and continue, but on top of that I didn't want her to think I was somehow being “affected” by my condition on a level more insidious than the merely psychological. Not that I supposed there was even theoretically a way to clearly separate the two...Did I like that scratch behind the ears so much because of the ears, or because of the “me”? Did I want it to continue for the reassurance and distraction (and because I “d'awwww'd” imagining what it must look like from the outside) or because I'd been...deliberately modified so that that was the sort of thing I'd seek out now? It was like the zen monks arguing over whether the flag was moving or the wind was moving (punchline: mind is moving), and I forced it out of my own mind as best I could.
“D-don't worry about it...” I tried to sound nonchalant. “I know what I look like.” As soon as I heard myself I felt compelled to add, “And sound like.”
“Is that...” she began, “How do you feel about that? I mean...” I didn't even know. Talk about your intersectionality—I didn't want to sit around watching 'species' and 'sex' take each other on in the Oppression Olympics.
“Well...” I wasn't sure what to say. “You seem OK,” I quickly joked. “But uh, I dunno... The voice makes me feel...weird, you know? But that's like the only thing I can really even...tell, I guess? Everything is so different that at this point it's like, 'what difference does it make,' kinda. Like, I had a mustache and all that before, but now my face has more hair on it than it ever did. How do you even judge?”
“Really? You don't feel 'wrong', or miss your...stuff?”
“Well... You're not aware of that most of the time, though, right? I mean, I've used my voice like a hundred times already today but I haven't peed or had sex even once, so you tell me what's more integral.”
She thought that was merely another joke, a misunderstanding I seem prone to, though on another level I knew I was just rationalizing the whole thing away.
Duh! That's all you EVER do.
There was some comfort, however, in knowing that being the only one around in this situation meant I could be as flippant about it as I wanted—Who was going to say “too soon” now, right? Half-jokingly this time I did add, “I'm so straight, that is literally how uninterested I am in all dicks.” She laughed, and that inspired a new degree of actual boldness, as well, and I figured I might as well get something rather central out of the way.
“Hey, as long as we're on this topic, can you do me a...a kinda stupid favor?”
“...Sure. I'd be the one to ask, right?”
“Exactly. OK, you don't have to do this if it, uh, makes you uncomfortable or anything—That's always a great start, isn't it?—But I can't see my own...hindquarters. Can you, uh, look back there and, y'know, tell me how 'obvious' everything is?”
“Yeah, that's fine.” She was clearly a little uncomfortable, and hell, I was perhaps a good deal more than 'a little,' but it was equally clear I was asking out of a 'professional' interest, and she understood the need to assume a Mary Roach-like unflappable spirit of investigation and find out exactly what I was showing the world. She hopped up and walked around the side of the bed, then craned her neck around. I scooted forward a little bit away from the wall. “Stand up,” she said.
This was going to be tricky on the bed. I slowly extended my limbs, but the bed was firm and with four legs and a low center of gravity I was much less wobbly than I expected, and felt a boost of confidence, contrasted with the sensation of her gaze, rendered as a formless cold miasma between my legs.
“Well, move your tail out of the way or I can't see!” she said with theatrical impatience.
“Oh, sorry.” I lifted it up off to the side, and like my jaw at the dentist I hoped I could hold it there long enough before it started to ache.
“Oh my god!” she cried out, “We need to get you to a Planned Parenthood RIGHT NOW!”
She cackled gleefully. “I'm just kidding.” I felt relieved on at least two levels. “I actually dunno what to tell you,” she said, “it's an... ordinary pony's.”
“What's a... What does that mean?”
“Really?” She was mildly surprised. “Uhhhh...Hang on a sec.” Maybe that laptop was full of R34...
She walked around the bed, rifled through her bag for a second, then hopped back behind me, and I heard the tacky fake click of a cell phone camera. I winced and collapsed back down onto my stomach with a muffled thud.
“You will delete that later,” I decreed in a firm monotone.
“Obviously,” she groaned with an all but visible eye roll, then walked back around the bed and held out the little screen at my eye level. “Here.”
“Tha—Jesus Christ!” My head jerked, and my tail went slack, before I smooshed it down in lieu of underwear, then held it away again as the touch caused the subject of the photo to suddenly corroborate it. “That's what—Augh! Back there...!?” I squeaked, then bit my lip as I realized how related to it my voice was.
Steph was laughing at my display of shock, though I can't say I blamed her. I looked back at the photo and its sucker punch of a biology lesson.
'Lord, grant me chastity-remedying anatomy...but not yet.'
“Just...dang,” I added by way of a final assessment, my earlier worries about any over-the-top-ness confirmed.
“C'mon, it's not that big a deal.” Steph tried to put me back on track. “It really doesn't stand out all that much, you were just expecting a human-looking, uh, 'ninja foot.'” I begged to differ. “No one else knows you were human, though, so they'd have no reason to expect any different. It'd just be like a...like watching a nature documentary! They'd just be all like 'Huh, so that's what a unicorn's vagina looks like. Still learning every day...'” She rubbed her chin and nodded with mock intellectual satisfaction.
I looked at her with equally deliberate incredulity. “Yeah, why did David Attenborough never get around to that one?”
“You do look a little bit different,” she went on, “but you're still a real pony, and you're gonna have real pony parts.”
“Why couldn't that part have been different?” I groaned, looking up at the ceiling.
“Why would it be?” she countered. I suppose. I'd said when I first woke up that I was fine with being naked, because as long as I was a pony I might as well not half-ass it, and now I was being held to those words by a facefull of my own ass and a half.
“You'll get used to it. Ponies sure have,” she chided, and sat back down on the floor in front of me. “Same with the teats.”
Steph again threw her head back with laughter and clapped her hands. “Of course! Why do you think I had you stand up?” She began to crack up again. “Wait, did you really expect not to have any? I mean, it's not like you've got these. ” She pointed to her own relevantly-sized chest. “Trust me, you'd have noticed already.”
“I, uh... I dunno, I guess I just didn't want to think about it...” I trailed off into a mumble.
“What's so weird about it? Nipples're the one thing you already had!” She was smiling broadly and barely keeping her composure.
“Well yeah, but like, two.” My face began to assume its own embarrassed smile and I glanced away.
“Huh? You still have just two. They're down here.” She pointed just below her waist with the two fingers of one hand.
“Oh. Huh. Still learning every day...” We both laughed. “That's, uh, that's quite the Treasure Trail, then.” I looked down as if I might see them through the entire length of my body. I wasn't entirely sure I could tell—No. I was sure. Now. I'd thought it was the blanket bunching up down there.
...Great. But like Steph had said, I wasn't walking around with any boys-to-the-yard-worthy milkshake. And it wasn't going to get suitably cold for a few more months, either.
“Jeez, what kind of brony are you!?” she teased. “You don't know any pony details! Bet you don't even have any blind bag figures...!”
“I don't know what those are, but whatever! I'm the one who's actually a pony.”
“So jelly..." She paused. "Oh, shit. I'm sorry, you're probably pretty upset about what happened to you. I shouldn't have been so...”
“Nooooooo, it's fine!” I reassured her brightly, “Thanks for being so cool about me asking you to do weird, awkward things.”
“I understand, I'd have to know, too. Plus, I mean, like you said, you're a real-life Pony! Of course I wanted to just, you know, see everything.” Now it was her turn to be embarrassed, as she blushed and gave a little shrug. She leaned in slightly, narrowing her eyes and adding, “I bet you did, too...!”
“Uhh...” I gave a little chuckle. “Sure, why not?”
“...But don't get the wrong idea or anything! From what I said.” She waved her hands in front of her face. “I just meant...”
“I like guys. I do. Human guys.”
I gave her a Look.
“You know what I mean! Aaaarrgh!” She got up and roughly tousled my mane. “Sorry if you're disappointed!”
“If I'm stuck this way I'll probably be hearing that a lot.”
“Awwwwww...!” she hugged my neck, then laughed. “Don't worry, there are lots of people out there who would fuck a pony!”
“Haha, then I hope you can reach back there in the meantime.” She nodded to my rear end.
“I don't think I can, but I haven't really tried.”
She shot me look of exaggerated puzzlement, then shrugged. “You'll figure something out.” She stepped back and paused for a second before adding an amused, “Oh, you're going to have fun!”
“So I hear.” We looked away from each other's faces for a second or two.
“...Actually, in all seriousness,” she stated with sudden concern, “you should probably figure out a system before you go into heat.”
“Into... Are you fucking kidding me?! Do they... do we...do they do that?!”
“Or, I mean, change back! But, uh, judging by what I've seen of...'you' so far? How you... turned out? Yeah, you're gonna... I mean, yeah, probably. I don't know what that'll mean for you, though.”
Great, now there really was a time bomb lurking somewhere in my brain. I foresaw days and days of paranoia, every “oh, she's kinda cute” being the first warning sign of...Actual-Celestia-knows-what. I wondered if there were any parallels with gay panic in some unfortunate LGBT kid who'd internalized the views of a repressive family. A period (lawl) of all-consuming Horny I could deal with—I was in eighth grade once—but I dreaded the blast of cognitive dissonance if there were more specific urges programmed in there that conflicted with a lifetime of still-genuine “dudes: ewww!”
The Sword of Madame-ocles...!
“...How do you know so much about horses, anyway?” I was grateful for the lesson, but as a life-long city boy, also a little bit surprised.
“Um, you are aware that I was a little girl once, right?”
“Ahhhh. So how long was your photography phase afterwards, then?”
“Har har. No, I did debate.”
“No way, me too! I hated it.”
Steph laughed a little for real this time. “Also, one of my older sister's friends had horses, and I used to get to ride them sometimes. I guess a lot of that just stuck with me.” I fought the urge to look at my own back and wonder if I could pull that off. She seemed to pick up on my head twitch. “Not that I'm suggesting anything! My feet would probably be almost dragging on the ground, anyway.”
“Yeah, probably. This is hard enough already without 'brakes.'”
“Hey!” I said suddenly, surprising the both of us. “ I just realized something.”
“Downstairs, right? I talked for the first time as a pony, and I walked for the first time as a pony, right? Even got a cutie mark. Big milestones in growing up.”
“Just got the Sex Talk as a pony.” I'd have leaned back and crossed my arms if I weren't already lying on them, so I made due with just my head and neck.
We both lost it for a good ten seconds.
I keep saving your ass and what do I get?
“Well, uh, shoot,” I changed the subject, “I hate to ask you for another favor—I mean, first you gave me a cigarette on the deck last night, then you promised to keep my secret about actually being human, then you let me see my, uh... see my own vagina and anus—but could you go downstairs like we talked about and be my KGB for a little bit? You know, just keep everyone together 'till we can figure out what to do?”
She shot to her feet and saluted. “Yes, ma'am!” What passed for my my eyebrows tried to fly up off the top of my head. “You yourself pointed out what we were just looking at,” she glibly explained. Touché. I rolled my eyes and shrugged in response.
She hopped over to the door and saluted again. “I go, Comrade Red Shift!” she exclaimed in a broad Russian accent.
“Bury them,” I added with narrowed eyes and a wry nod, imitating her pronunciation. “From Stalliongrad with Love.”
She opened the door a crack and slipped through, then closed it softly but quickly behind her.
“Wait we didn't delete that pictushaaawww hell.”