Pillow Case

by Taffy

She Likes Cloth: Part II

Pillow Case
by BG (Mr. Blue)
== She Likes Cloth: Chapter II, "Welcome ta 'Erf!" ==

My heart stopped. My lungs were no longer working. My hooves were glued to the floor. Humans everywhere!

A voice drifted into my ear and echoed in the emptiness of my mind as it cowered in the corner, "Welcome to America miss."

I never looked to see who said it but when I finally got my lungs back I mumbled, "Oh, um, thank you." to no one in particular.

I could feel the shock of being tossed into a crowd of strange creatures turn into a rising panic, and did my best to keep it down. No! Calm down Pillow! Nopony's going to eat you. No human. Whatever. Just relax. There's no going back anyway, that portal was way creepy. This place is big! I bet this is the biggest building in the whole city. It's definitely bigger than any building I've ever been in. It wasn't really, but looking at the high ceiling instead of the crowd helped me stay calm.

There are just as many ponies here as there are humans. Oh, 'this way to immigration', and there's the green line. So helpful.

Immigration wasn't so bad. There was actually a pony working in one of the lines. I wondered if he commuted too. It was really boring though. It took me almost an hour just to get my turn. Everything checked out though. I had all the paperwork and stuff done almost a month before.

Strawberry had said to wait at this place afterwards because it's right outside. Which was good because there was no way I’d have been able to see her with all those po-people around. It was a nice, familiar, little restaurant. They opened a few in Equestria. I went to the one in Manehatten a few times when we visited Granny. They had these awesome tofu patty sandwich things. They came in little buns with sauces, cheese, pickles, lettuce, and all that. They also came with a sodapop and either hay fries or those potato fries that are really good.

I got in line to get some food. Strawberry sent me some human money to use when I got here. Why do humans use weird green paper money anyway? It’s not even really paper is it? It’s like cloth or something. I guess it’s not easy to copy the designs. These things are very detailed. Ponies like to joke about the weird human money but I can see how it’s not so bad now, and I guess there are reasons for it. Maybe it’s because human faces don’t fit on coins very well. No, wait, they have some on coins. They couldn’t fit that one human’s hat though. I saw other pictures of that human before. He always had a hat.

That’s weird, I thought all of these places were supposed to be the same, but there’s only one type of soy burger on the menu. All the others are...

Oh. OH! Oh...

I bought a sandwich anyway. I could smell the... other things cooking, but decided to just eat and ignore the smells. Except the smell of fries. Those smelled really good. Not many ponies liked the potato ones. Mom said they were too salty for her.

I picked up a tray in my teeth and found an empty table to sit at. The chairs were all so high up. Humans always make things too tall. They just like to pretend they’re bigger because they stand on their hind legs. Their freakishly long hind legs. I’m pretty sure it’s still cheating. If I stood on my back hooves... I’d still have been shorter than any of the humans around me.

I’m a bad example though, I’m the smallest in my family even. I was the second born with five brothers and they’re all bigger than me! Mom is too, even though she’s also a pegasus.

The chairs were just too hard to sit in. I wished I had picked a booth instead. I could barely fit sitting on my haunches. I munched on some hay fries and tried to unwrap the sandwich with my mind. Why did they need to seal the paper wrapper with a sticker? It’s sort of hard to open with hooves guys! Curse you and your silly hats and polo shirts.

I was too busy staring at my food and pretending I hadn't been caught staring at the human at the counter, that I almost didn't hear somepony yelling my name at an ever increasing pitch, “Pillow! Squeeeeeee!”

I couldn't make her out in the crowd at first, even from the really tall chair. 

“Strawberry?!” I called back. I stumbled off the funny human chair just as she made her way to my table, dodging around the humans and occasional ponies blocking her way.

“Oh wow, it’s really you!” She said, pulling me into a hug.

It was so weird seeing her again. Her nice red mane was cut so strangely and parted so it flowed over her head more. I hadn’t seen her since before she got her cutie mark, which I still couldn’t see because of the purple dress she was wearing.

Do all ponies wear so much clothes or is it just really cold outside? I hoped it wasn’t. I’d heard what earth weather was like. The weather ponies told stories.

“It’s good to see you too Berry!”  I hugged her back with a wing. Being with Strawberry again just made everything so much more surreal. It had been way too long.

She stepped back and looked me over. “Oh wow Pillow. You’re still the same as I remember, just bigger. And I love your cutie mark! I totally laughed when you told me what it was but it suits you so well!”

She wasn’t the only one to laugh at it...

“Yeah well... Yeah.”

I glance at her flank and tried to remember what exactly she had said hers was. It was some sort of glass with a strawberry on a stick, or something.

It seemed like more people were coming through the station. Everywhere I looked there were tall humans striding around with only a few ponies mixed in the crowd. The humans towered over them enough though that there could have been more.

“Are you ok PC?” She glanced around at crowd behind her. “Oh I know what you’re feeling. I know right? Humans everywhere! Almost everypony feels like that their first time on Earth. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.”

 “You’re right,” I said sadly, “at least I’m not some poor little filly without her cutie mark moving here with her parents. Can you imagine?”

“Oh, if you think that sounds bad,” She said giggling, “try imaging my first day of school! At least on the trip over I had my parents around to hide behind. There were a few other ponies in my school but not in my grade. It took me forever to get used to the clothes too.”

 “Clothes? Oh, yeah, you mentioned that in a letter.” She had mentioned it, in her first letter, forever ago. I figured it was a school uniform or something. I remember writing to ask if they were human clothes or pony clothes. That was silly of me.

“I did? Wow, I don’t even remember. Yeah, I had never even had a formal dress before and suddenly I’m always wearing something.”

Really? “Even outside of school?”

“Oh yes, my parents insisted I even wear more at home just to get used to it. And no, it’s not the weather. Honestly all my relatives make that joke when they visit, but they’re always coming in the fall so they think it’s always cold here. It took me forever to explain to my aunt how the seasons change on their own.”

My wings twitched just thinking about that. “I’ll never get how humans stand not controlling the weather, it’s so wild.”

“Usually by rolling up the windows and ignoring it. After a while here you’ll forget what a reliable weather forecast is like. You just put on a raincoat if it’s bad enough.”

“Wait, but I thought you said it wasn't because of the weather?”

“Oh no, I mean, not always. Sometimes it is but that’s not the real reason.”

I think I could guess. Humans seemed to have a thing for clothes. No that’s not it, I read about it before. It’s because they don’t have fur so it has to be really hot out for them to be comfortable without anything on, but they’re so used to wearing clothes they have all sorts of taboos against not wearing them in public. So even when it is hot out they’ll still wear something. I think.

I guess if you hang around humans long enough they’ll get angry or upset at you until you start wearing something.

“It’s just because it’s so hard to be taken seriously on Earth without clothes.” Strawberry said.

 Wait, hold on...

“People here don’t mind ponies not wearing anything, or at least they’ll say they don’t. But trust me, it’s usually only tourists that go around naked. If you dress like you’re used to wearing clothes it’s much easier fitting in.”

“Oh.” I wasn't sure if that was completely true, but I also wasn't sure no human was going to eat me, so I decided to take her word for it. She was at least partly right though. I think I was the only pony to step through that gateway without so much as a hat or a scarf.

No wonder everypony was staring at me then. I must have stood out like wings on a unicorn. Now that I think of it, no one stared at Strawberry like they did me. Somehow she just blended into the crowd of humans.

Oh Celestia! Which bag did I pack my sweater in! Did I even bring it? I feel like I’m walking around without fur!

“PC, you ok?”

No I’m not ok Strawberry!  I’m having a panic, like granny always says.

My voice was a slight and urgent whisper, “I’m not wearing anything Jam! Everypony is staring at me!”

Hey stop laughing!

She knelt down a little to hide her laughing fit. “We-w... heehee, w-hahaha” She took a deep breath before spitting out, “Welcome to earth Pillow.”

 “I don’t get it.” There was some joke there I was missing.

“Oh you will soon enough. Now don’t worry, I told you no one will really mind. And I’d hate to see you cover up that adorable little pillow on your flank.”

There was a weird noise coming from a small purse she had hanging over her back. I hadn't even noticed it there with the dress. It sounded like a swarm of bees trying to sing their way out, and I swear I saw the bag move too!

“Hold on, let me get this” She said. Sitting on her haunches, she reached her hoof into the bag and slid out a weird little black book. Except it wasn’t a book. It was rounded and flat, and made out of rubber and plastic. Humans make everything out of plastic. The front of it had a glass screen with a bunch of glowing words and shapes. She tapped one of the words with her other hoof before holding it to her ear.

“Hello?” She asked.

“Hello.” I replied.

Strawberry flashed me a look like I had done something silly, which I had realized only a split second later that I had. I should have known right away it was some modern human tech, like rich ponies in cities like to buy. The only human tech I got to see growing up was supposedly outdated, like the computer dad bought, and it was all really expensive too. Something to do with the more complicated stuff not working well around Equestria’s high levels of ambient magic. Or rather, that they just worked funny. I've heard all kinds of weird things happen if it’s not made in the right environment, preferably Equestria itself. It could last a year or two, or just a few months, but over time the magic got to it, and if it wasn't used to having magic in it then it could short circuit. Or explode.

Or become infested with magical sprites.

I don’t care what dad says, I’ve heard it can happen.

The problem with the Equestrian made stuff was that they had to start simple and just hadn't caught up yet. Usually they remade older devices from earth to save money. It cost a lot of bits to get anything as good as what they had on earth, but even in a town like ours it popped up from time to time.

Dad’s computer was a lot of fun. Even if it was years behind earth computers. How much could change in thirty years anyway? Most of the trains in Equestria are at least that old and the new  ones are hardly any different.

I wonder if Strawberry has a computer. I thought to myself, She probably does. I bet she has games too. I hope she has Frogger.

“No Michael,” Strawberry said to no one, “I’m picking her up now.”

Michael?  That’s a human name right?

“No, don’t worry, Em is picking us up at the station.”

Hold on, is that a telephone? Where’s the cable then?

“Yeah I know.” She said, then paused. “I know, we’re just going to drop by and then head out to show PC some of the sights.”

I could hear a voice coming from the device but couldn't make out what it was saying.

“No, not downtown, we’re already downtown. You know how ponies are their first time here. I don’t want to overwhelm her with the culture shock.”

Ha! It's a little late for that Strawberry.

“That’s very rude Michael.” Her voice is stern and her she starts frowning. “No... No, It’s a slur! I don’t care if Star uses it all the time, it’s still a slur.” her smile started to come back after a pause. “It’s alright, just don’t use it again please. Uhuh... no. We’ll be out late... Ok, just as long as it’s not at our place, I just cleaned up... You too, have fun with the guys. bye... No it’s fine... I said it’s fine! Goodbye Michael!” Her hoof tapped the glowing screen on her “phone” thing and she pressed something on the side that made the screen go black.

“So what is that?” I asked.

“That was Micha-”

“No not who, what.” I pointed a hoof at the black device she was slipping into her bag.

“You’ve never seen a smartphone before?” She asked.

“No, only regular telephones. You know what it’s like back home”

“I keep forgetting how behind Fetluck is. I thought they’d at least have cell phones by now. Wow. Well dear, it’s sort of like a really small and compact computer that also makes phone calls.”

She gave me a worried look.

“You do know what a computer is right?”

“Of course. Dad bought one ages ago. I used it all the time. I told you that in a letter once” From the look on her face I could tell that answer wasn't impressive enough.

"Did you at least get internet?"

"That's where you plug in the phone line and other ponies can see what's on your computer right?"

That wasn't the right answer. I've only ever seen anypony smile like that to foals who've said something... foalish. I probably shouldn't tell her that I taught myself C++. I bet nopony even uses that anymore. Oh ponyfeathers.

She was still giving me that "You're such a silly little filly" look. Oh come on! I get enough of that at home!

"So that smart-phone...” I said cautiously, “Does it have any games?"

She rolled her eyes and laughed, "Yes. Yes it does. But we'll have time for that later, we've got a train to catch."

"Oh. Okay."

We started walking towards the crowd and I tried not to get nervous from all the humans surrounding us.

Which reminded me, "So is 'My-kell' a human friend of yours?"

"You could say that, yes. He's human and a kind of friend."

Strawberry and her silly recursive speak, she still hasn't changed. "Oh? What kind of friend is that?"

"He's my boyfriend."

"Oh. Wait..."

"My ‘special somepony’, Casey."

“I know what a boy frien-WAIT, WHAT?!"

We made our way to the part of the underground building place, whatever it was, that had the train in it. I’d read about underground human trains before. They’re supposed to be smaller than normal trains and meant for getting around large cities. They sounded much more fun than the street cars in Manehattan.

No, not now, stop getting distracted Pillow, we‘ve got a crisis here. Bfffl (Best filly friend for life) is dating a bipedal carnivore. What the hay!

 “You have a special somepony. And he isn't even a pony." Is that even legal?! “I... How does that even work?”

“It works very well. Really he’s a nice guy, and plenty of pony/human couples work just fine. Most states even let them get married. Even this one.”

“Yeah but... with a human?” That last syllable was a squeak and my voice lowered to a whisper. “I just didn’t know anypony could like humans that way. What is it you even like about them?”

Strawberry sighed.
"Look, PC. I've lived here most of my life now, ok? Here, ponies are the minority. Most of my friends have been human. That's why I loved getting letters from you so much. For a while you were the only pony friend I had. It's not as weird as people make it out to be. We're just two people who are very happy together."

She stopped and stared ahead of her and her voice became softer than mine. "Also their skin is really smooth..."

Ewww! No, you're giving me creepy, bad-gross thoughts Strawberry! Ergh. Great, now I've got the mental image of Strawberry nuzzling a human.

 ...Her hoof running across his long bare legs.

His hand combing her mane, blunt claws scratching her back softly.

He presses his big nose against her snout, beady dark eyes staring gently into her pink ones as his other hand tickles her ears...

EEEEEEEEWWWWWwwwww!!! Nononononononono! Stop! Stop thinking! Think about... cats now. Cute fluffy kittens. They're chasing some string.

...The little tabby has a bow in her hair. Awwww...

Strawberry looked over at me. I must have had a weird and conflicting look on my face because hers turned to a frown. I didn't want to push her on this. She was sort of right I guess, on some things, and I really didn't know anything about humans did I?

 "Sorry Straw-B. I guess... I'm just a  stupid country pony huh." I'm such a doormat.

"You're a silly little filly Casey, but don't beat yourself up. My parents reacted worse to my first human boyfriend. And his flipped out when he told them. This is your first time on earth and dealing with humans, and you haven't said one racist thing yet. You're already light-years ahead almost anybody else."

She offered an encouraging smile and changed the subject. "Ok, so you've only ever seen those old Equestria railways right? Not even the new electric rails?"

"Um, yeah. Also the streetcars in Manehatten."

"Right, well check this out then!"

She lead me off to the right and into a different long hallway, except it wasn't a hallway. It was a street with big metal buildings on either side. Except they weren't buildings! They were trains! Underground! I thought they were supposed to be smaller, but they were way, super, duper tall. Okay, well maybe they weren't that much bigger than the train I took that morning, but they were underground, and dear Celestia, they were just so shiny!

I glanced back at Strawberry. She was eating up my reaction with a big smirk on her face. Yeah, yeah. Make fun of the country pony in the city.

“So...” My voice didn't want to come out. I think part of me was a little in awe. “So, which one’s ours?”

“This one right here.” She said trotting over to the nearest one. “It shoots straight out to Cumberland and then my friend Emily is picking us up from there.

“Also human...?”

“Yes. She is. I've known her since we were roommates in college.”

“You went to college?”

“For two years, yes. Emily’s still attending though. She’s working on her bachelors.”

I guessed that it was just easier if you were already in the city. I wasn't nearly a good enough flyer for a Cloudsdale Academy scholarship like mom.

We boarded the train while we were talking. The automatic doors were a little scary the way they hissed open. What’s to stop them from clamping down on somepony’s tail when they close? The train became crowded fairly quickly too. I guess humans didn't mind crowds as much. They took up all the space vertically so you could fit a lot more of them into a small space. There had been a bunch of them standing in line for tickets far behind us. I wondered briefly what would happen if you pushed one of them over and whether all the others would fall down too. The thought made me giggle like a mad pony, which made Strawberry roll her eyes again.

The seats were very dirty and old looking. I wondered if that was the real reason ponies wore clothes here. Then again, Manehatten’s streets weren't the cleanest either.

“Woah!” I said as we were suddenly jerked forwards in our seats. I was caught off guard by just how fast the train gained speed after that sudden start.

It was Strawberry’s turn to giggle. “Just wait,” She said, “the best part is coming up soon.”

I wasn't sure what to make of that so I just nodded and looked around the train some more. I only saw two other ponies in the packed car, a unicorn mother with a little filly wearing the most adorable little dress I’d ever seen.

"Pillow Case! You're missing it!"

"Missing what?" My attention snapped back to Strawberry.

"The city you silly filly. I let you have the window seat for reason."

Oh wow! I hadn’t even noticed we were above ground already. You could see forever here. Back home was flat too but it was all fields. It was like they were growing buildings here.

"That direction PC,” Strawberry pointed back the way we came from.

"Yeah I know-OMIGOSH! THEY'RE HUGE! HOW ARE THOSE BUILDINGS SO HUGE?!" It's like if you took the tallest building in manehatten and stood it next to these buildings it'd be like standing a little pegasus like me next to a tall human.

"Stop laughing Strawberry! Those are a lot of buildings!"

"Hee hee. Silly little country filly... I'll never get tired of that reaction."