Chapter 4: Building
It was nearly a week after Geoff found me that I felt the stability of a routine begin to overtake me. I was never as obsessed with organization as Twilight was (after all, a house among animals could only be so organized), but the feeling of familiarity was something I relished. It was a sense of normality that my time with Geoff had given me, and I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed his company.
Unfortunately for me, Geoff had a job he had to attend to in town, as his work as a shepherd would only make him so much money. So I often had to find things to keep me busy while he was forced to go away.
He taught me how everything in his home worked and assured me that no humans would randomly be coming by his home, other than to drive by on their way through the countryside. I was still a little nervous to be left alone, but I often placated my worry by confining myself to the home. Should someone knock on the door, I knew I could just ignore it, and sooner or later they would go away. No such thing had happened yet, but it was a mildly comforting thought for me to know that I could probably handle the situation, should it pop up.
Other than that worry though, the days became rather habitual in nature. I would rise when Geoff did, have breakfast with him, and then spend my time cleaning the house as well as I could while he was gone. When he would come home, I would offer a listening ear to him as he told me about his day, and then we would share an evening meal before watching the television (or “telly”, as he called it). Truthfully, I wasn’t quite as concerned with the strange device as I was by Geoff’s presence. It was nice to be able to talk to someone after so long, and having Geoff by my side made the hole in my heart from Angel’s passing hurt a little less.
Also, it was quite nice to be able to speak to someone as old as Geoff was. As an Element-bearer, I knew the princesses personally (not as close as Twilight, but close enough), but they didn’t often talk of their personal life, or their past. Geoff held no secrets between us, however, and this behavior just further comforted me. He was powerful and ancient, but he was also kind and open to me.
That was besides the fact that he had some great stories to tell.
Maybe it was Geoff’s innate warm personality, or maybe it was simply the fact that I didn’t have anyone else; what I did know was that I had become closer to him faster than I had any of my friends in Equestria, which honestly scared me a little. I wasn’t afraid of the closeness in itself, more so the fact that I trusted him so readily. Yet again, maybe it was just the fact that I didn’t have anyone else I could trust...or maybe not. It was a question that I couldn’t answer, so I instead just pushed it to the back of my mind and chose to keep aware of any other strange changes to my personality. After all, trauma didn’t account for how I’d connected with the human.
Even with my anxiety about my bond with Geoff, I couldn’t stop the feelings I felt whenever he was around. Simply seeing him could bring a smile to my face, and his voice calmed me even if I had awakened from a horrible nightmare (which was more common than I care to admit). Just his presence alone put me at ease, and during the common occurrence that I would doze while resting on or against him, my worries and fears ceased to exist for those few blissful moments of serenity.
Thankfully for me, I wasn’t Twilight; I didn’t have to understand things to enjoy them, and had learned very early in life to appreciate things for what they were. Knowing that an aurora was caused by the collision of charged particles from the sun hitting the atoms in high altitudes at the planet’s magnetic poles didn’t make it any more beautiful, nor did knowing how the pony nose interpreted smells make a field of flowers smell more lovely. Instead of wanting to completely understand everything, I just wished to bask in the beauty around me when I was given the opportunity. Angel’s death had brought an entirely new perspective to my life: to enjoy things while they existed.
So instead of trying to understand why I felt so safe with Geoff or why I liked spending so much time with him, I decided to just take the situation for what it was. My questions about my own behaviors were less important than making sure I made the most of my time with my new friend, however long or short that may be.
The weekend morning started off like most other mornings for me recently: I pulled myself out of bed and washed before making my way downstairs to feed Moon Lily and Rex.
I smiled at the memory of Geoff trying to convince me that I didn’t need to help. Clearly he expected me to just back down and let him do everything around his house. That just wasn’t who I was, however. With all the help he had offered to me (quite literally saving my life, for example), I was adamant about doing my own part around the small home. While I wasn’t as straightforward as Rainbow Dash, I was very independent. It obviously needed not be said that I aimed to earn my keep.
As I scooped dry kibble into the dog’s bowls before adding water (for some reason, they liked it mixed), I hummed a tune I had heard Geoff humming as he went about his morning routines before work, and the song had become lodged in my head. It was a pleasant tune, and even Geoff had commented that it sounded much nicer in my voice than his. It was flattering for some reason, knowing that Geoff enjoyed my voice.
I let the thought fade away as I turned the handle and opened the back door before nearly being bowled over by two hungry dogs. I giggled and watched as they skidded along the linoleum floor in a hurry to get their food, and sat quietly as I watched them eat.
It was a common morning in England (at least from what I understood from Geoff), which meant it was overcast with a light morning drizzle. Even back home I enjoyed weather like this. It was just so...calm, I believe would be the best way to describe it.
My morning revelry was cut short as I heard Geoff descending the stairs. I must have been so caught up with myself that I didn’t even notice he had already entered the washroom before I came to the kitchen, but I didn’t mind. The smile he greeted me with as he entered the room immediately brightened the day for me.
“Good morning, Fluttershy. You alright?” he greeted jovially.
I nodded with a smile of my own. “Wonderful. Thank you for asking.”
He flashed me another grin before making his way to the refrigerator, pulling out a few things for breakfast. “So this morning, I’m thinking something a little light. Some blueberries and strawberries with some whipped cream sounds nice, yeah?”
I nodded gratefully. “That sounds wonderful, Geoff. Thank you.”
His smile never left his face as he pulled the items out of his refrigerator and set them upon the cutting board, beginning to prepare the fruit. “You know, I was thinking that perhaps we could go into town together. I think you would like Kingsbridge.”
I raised my eyebrow as I looked to him in surprise. “Um, Geoff? I’m a pony from Equestria. I think I would stick out a little bit. N-not that I wouldn’t love to go, I just don’t think it would be a very good idea.”
He chuckled, which only caused more confusion on my part. “Your differences can easily be fixed. Temporarily of course.” He then turned to me with two bowls full of fruit and a dollop of whipped cream. “That is assuming you really would like to go and weren’t just agreeing to keep from hurting my feelings.”
Apparently in our time together, he had gotten a much better understanding of my personality. Still, I had also become a bit less of a...well, a doormat. It was a mean term for what I had been, but it was also the truth. In the past, before I was sent to Earth, I preferred to keep quiet when I didn’t like something, instead of possibly hurting somepony’s feelings. Now though, I had learned that it was actually better to voice my concerns, that way a pony ‒ or human, in this case ‒ could better understand what I did and did not like, and in turn we could be better friends to each other.
So, I shook my head with a smile in honesty. “No, I truly do. I just don’t see how you could-”
He set both bowls onto the table before wiggling his fingers, causing a very strange thing to happen to the air around his hand. The light in the air seemed to scatter, much like how it would look on the bed of a clear lake, the waves rippling through it. Along with this was a shimmering of different colors, making it look very much like…
A rainbow, of course. Geoff (or Order, as he truly was) created the Elements of Harmony, which used rainbow-like magic. It made sense that his natural magic would look like a rainbow of colors. In every way but the abstract, Geoff was a human, which was possibly why his casual use of magic right then surprised me so much.
He only smiled at my shock, lowering his hand and saying, “Immortal being of immense magic, remember? My specialty is bringing order through change, strange as that may seem. Order is flexible, and what is considered orderly for you is malleable. Order for you on this world would be the form of a human. Order for yourself, however, would be your true form. So, changing your form to that of a human is child’s play, so to speak. As I said though, only if you wish it to be. I would never do anything to you that you do not agree with.”
To be honest, I was a bit reluctant to have my entire body changed to something else, even though he was clear with me that it was only temporary. However, I also knew that Geoff would never do anything to hurt me. Not intentionally, anyway. I don’t know how I know that...I just do.
I nodded hesitantly. “I-I’m sure, Geoff. I’ll be okay.”
He gave me another smile, along with a gentle nod. “Very well. We’ll put the dogs out and I’ll get you some clothes. We can’t very well have you exposing yourself to everyone, now can we?” My confusion must have been clear, because he added, “A human’s primary sex characteristics can always be seen when we are unclothed, and it’s considered indecent to expose yourself in public. It would be equivalent to you lifting your tail in full view of everyone as you walked through town.”
I felt heat rise to my cheeks as I came to understand what he meant. “O-oh my. No, I definitely don’t want to do that.”
He chuckled before pointing to my bowl. “Go ahead and eat. We’ll worry about it after you’re done.”
I continued my meal in silence, thinking over what was offered to me. I wondered just how different the body of a human would feel compared to the body of a pony, and tried to imagine how difficult it would be just to learn to walk. I was not averse to the idea ‒ far from it, in fact ‒ but I just didn’t see how Geoff expected to be able to change my form and teach me to walk in only a few hours. Clearly he knew something I did not, but I would place my trust in him. He had only my best interests and safety in mind after all, so I knew that I had no reason to fear or doubt him.
An hour later found me sitting expectantly in Geoff’s bedroom as I waited for him to arrive. We had cleaned up after breakfast and I washed myself first, seeing as how it took me longer than Geoff to do so. As I waited for him to meet me, I looked over myself with a frown. Though I was leaps and bounds healthier than I was when Geoff found me, I was aware of quite a few thin patches in my coat, and I was quite a bit skinnier than I had been before coming to Earth. I only hoped that such things wouldn’t translate to a human body, though truthfully I didn’t know what was considered beautiful by human standards. I’d never considered myself vain, but even I wanted to be sure I wasn’t innately ugly or anything. Such a fear was part of the reason I spent so much time alone in the past, not to mention my innate distrust of most ponies.
Luckily for me, I wasn’t allowed much time to self-depreciate.
Geoff reentered his bedroom with a few bits of clothing draped over his arm, and a damp towel set atop his head. He laid the articles of clothing down onto the bed beside me before rubbing the towel through his hair and tossing it aside into the hamper in the corner of the room. Steam was still rising from his head from the shower, and he threw a warm grin my way.
“Alright, so here’s what’s going to happen: I’m going to cast the transformation spell on you first; it’s painless and only takes a second or so. After that, I’m going to get you dressed and then try and teach you how to walk as quickly as possible.” he explained. “Hopefully it’ll only take an hour or so, and then we can head in to Kingsbridge. Now,” he began, lifting up the clothing and digging a towel out from under it, “wrap this around your barrel. It’ll cover your female assets when you change.” He then produced a modest pair of what looked like mare’s teasing underwear, with little yellow ducks on it. “And put these on too. That way I won’t be ogling your naked body when you change.” I shot him a look that told of how I hadn’t expected such a thing from him, but he just shrugged. “Testosterone is a hell of a hormone, my dear. Males think about sex constantly, more so if there is something arousing in their vicinity. A nude female would be one of those things.”
I wrapped the towel around me as he asked, but paused when I came to the underwear. “You know that ponies in Equestria only wear these when they’re trying to arouse their mate, right?”
He nodded. “I do, but here, everyone wears underwear. It’s a cultural norm here, so there’s nothing indecent about it.”
I fought down a blush as I wiggled into the pair of underclothes, and let out a bit of an undignified squeak as they pressed up against...well, everything. Having never worn anything so snug, I was unused to the sensations involved. It was rather eye opening, in both the metaphorical and literal sense.
“Th-they’re a bit...tight.” I forced out, attempting to hide my blush behind my mane.
Geoff chuckled and nodded. “They would be at the moment, and I imagine they’re hugging you in a rather uncomfortable way. Well, keep in mind these are made for humans, not ponies, so they’re designed differently. Once you change, you’ll feel much better.” He then held up his right hand, which began to shimmer with the soft, rainbow magic. “Now, are you ready? As I said, it won’t hurt, and it will be over before you know it, but I still need to know if you really want this.”
I thought for a moment before nodding. “I do. It goes a little against who I am as a pony, but I don’t like to hide like this. I want to be able to walk around the countryside with you, or visit the town.” I lowered my head a little more and nearly whispered, “Pegasi don’t like to be cooped up.”
He nodded with a smile. “I remember. They are a warlike race, after all. It would be akin to caging a dragon, actually.” Geoff then moved a little closer and said, “Alright, here we go.”
His hand set upon my head as I closed my eyes, and I felt a momentary tingle of magic. The world seemed to fall out from under me, and I felt him holding my left hoof the whole time. Just as soon as it began, however, it was over.
“Wow,” Geoff breathed softly, “I was not expecting this.”
I winced and bit my bottom lip, finding my body tingling with strange sensations. “Is it bad?”
He cleared his throat loudly before answering, “N-no, not at all. You’re...well…” He seemed to fumble with his words for a moment before stating, “Perhaps you should just open your eyes and see for yourself.”
I took a steadying breath before doing as he asked, and immediately noticed a few things different.
First of all, I was looking at him eye-to-eye, and the room seemed so much smaller now. Along with this was a strange sense of balance, even though both of my front hooves were off-
Wait, something is different.
I looked down slightly and caught sight of a second pair of hands holding tightly onto the one Geoff had offered to me, and the sensations began to become clearer and more focused. I felt Geoff’s hand much more now, and felt the carpet beneath my hooves, and the admittedly cool air on my skin.
With a wave of his hand, a large standing mirror levitated over to Geoff, and he turned it so that it was facing me.
In the mirror stood another human, clothed in a towel and nothing else. Skin of amber replaced yellow fur, and silky black hair replaced locks of pink. The only thing that completely identified the figure were eyes of aquamarine, and a very surprised facial expression.
“I-is that…?” I asked haltingly, still in awe.
Geoff nodded as he stood aside, still allowing me to hold his hand as he allowed my view to come unobstructed. “Yep, it is. And I must say, I never knew you were so...strong.”
So it was true, the figure was me. What was more, my physical emaciation had not carried over to a new body, and what showed was the picture of fitness. Not an athlete by any means, but solidly built for a female, and tall.
“Why am I so tall?” I asked in curiosity. “And...well, muscular?”
“The spell I used translates your true self over to the new form; not what you are so much as who you are.” he explained with a smile as he entered the reflection. “Your height and musculature is likely because of your pegasus heritage, and your skin and hair color is attributed to your love of the sun and all that lives and breathes in its light. The spell is somewhat intelligent like that.” Geoff then released my hands and pulled the sagging towel a little tighter against me before pointing to the mirror. “That, my dear, is who you are on the inside.”
This was a change for me. As a pony in Equestria, I worked hard to feed and care for my animal friends. By no means was I as strong or fast as Rainbow Dash, but my work was very taxing for somepony unaccustomed to it. Still, even by my friends, I was always referred to as “dainty” or even “soft” on occasion. I didn’t mind it though, as it described me perfectly. I was only strong when I had to be, and I had no desire to flaunt power when it wasn’t needed.
But this was very different. Apparently, Geoff’s spell had chosen to bring such inner strength to the surface. By what I knew of humans and their body types, I was still very feminine in every aspect, but looked like I could “cause some damage”, as Rainbow Dash would say.
Mirroring Geoff’s first reaction, I simply voiced, “Wow.”
As I tried to step closer to the reflection, I found my balance immediately lost, and the ground rushing up at me...only to stop mere inches from my face.
Geoff chuckled as I was firmly hoisted to a standing position again. “Walking will take a little practice, but I’ll try and keep things as simple as possible.” I nodded, believing it would be best to get the most basic of things out of the way first. He smiled and said, “First of all, you’re only going to use your hind legs ‒ or just your legs, now ‒ to walk, not all four limbs. It’s a very different way of locomotion, but scientists have referred to it as ‘a series of controlled falls’, if that makes it any easier to understand. Basically,” he explained, holding my hand as he demonstrated, “you begin falling forward to walk,” he then brought his rear foot forward and stomped it in an exaggerated fashion, “but your leg catches you. You just do that over and over, and you’ll be treading in no time.”
I gulped nervously and nodded, trying to take in everything he said before squeezing his hand a little tighter and taking a tentative step forward. I caught myself and kept from falling with this awkward way of walking, but smiled as I found myself not having nearly as much trouble balancing as I originally thought I would. I mentally replayed what I could remember from watching Geoff walk, and copied him the best that I could.
I ended up looking rather foolish, legs splayed wide as if I were...well, I’m unsure, actually.
“Stop, stop, stop.” he ordered, shaking his head with a slight chuckle. “I already know what you’re doing wrong; you’re trying to walk like a man. Do mares walk the same as stallions do?”
I looked to Geoff embarrassingly and shook my head. “N-no, because mares have more...oh…”
“Curves.” he finished with a smirk. “Now, walk that same way, the way that mares do, but with only two legs instead of four.”
I tried to hide a blush by focusing straight ahead and willing it away, consciously trying to ignore the fact that I just spoke about feminine curves to a stallion...man.
Following my first step was a corresponding shift of my hips, and I found my balance much easier to keep. Still holding Geoff’s hand, I continued with another stride, and then another, and another. Each step was slightly more confident than the last, each movement stronger and easier to coordinate.
Finally, after a few dozen steps, Geoff said, “Well, you seem to be picking this up much faster than I thought, so here’s what we’ll do:” he led me over to the footboard of the bed, and placed my hands upon it before stepping away, “I want you to release the footboard, and walk to me. I’ll catch you if you fall, but I want you to try.”
Such a simple gesture, but it gave me such a sense of safety and security. Something so simple as “I’ll catch you if you fall” was powerful to me. It was likely I was looking too deeply into the meaning of the words, but they were powerful to me. Somepony without a home, family, or reachable friends is likely to place important on silly things, after all.
Yes, I just called myself silly.
With my confidence braced as much as my new limbs, I nodded with a steadying breath. “Okay. I-I’ll try.”
Geoff nodded and patiently waited for me as I gathered what little courage I had, preparing to try and walk on limbs I’d never had before. The fear of falling began to overtake me, but it was at that moment that a soothing voice spoke to me.
“Don’t worry, I’ll catch you.” he spoke comfortingly.
I looked to Geoff and smiled before emulating the way I had seen him walk ‒ toes pointing straight ahead, feet parallel to the shoulders, and knees slightly bent. I took my first step, focusing on the new appendage that took the place of my hoof. It was made to bend and flex as a human walked, so I fluidly incorporated that into my gait as I set it down and brought my rear leg forward for another step. With my arm fully extended and no longer able to hold onto the bedpost, I released my handhold and balanced entirely upon my legs.
I wobbled a bit, but kept steady as I took another step, and looked up to see Geoff grinning at me.
“Looking good, but try and straighten your back. Humans are meant to stand fully erect.” he explained.
I nodded before doing as he asked, waiting for the strain to be put on my thighs and shoulders as I did so. Surprisingly, the discomfort never came; it was in fact more comfortable to walk standing fully erect. With my back straightened and shoulders relaxed, I felt my balance stabilize, and the fourth step came even easier than the others. I was forced to clutch the towel tight as it began to loosen, but I kept walking until I saw Geoff’s shoes standing in front of my own feet.
When I looked up, he was grinning widely at me. “Well done, it seems you’ve got the basics down. From there, it’ll just take practice for you to become more confident in your strides. Soon, you’ll be able to walk without looking at the ground, and from there, maybe you’ll even be able to run.”
“One step at a time, Geoff.” I mumbled, still a little uncertain.
He nodded. “Yes ma’am.” Geoff then motioned his finger and said, “Alright, turn around. I’m going to help you finish dressing as soon as possible, so as to cut down on embarrassment for you. Unless you want to try it by yourself.”
I looked at the clothing that sat on the bed for a moment; there was a pair of pants, a sweater, socks, and some other piece of clothing I couldn’t identify. My cheeks began to heat up a bit, but I turned back to Geoff and shook my head. “No. Perhaps this first time it would be best if you helped me.”
His smile softened and he nodded again. “I’ll be as gentle and quick as possible.” He reached for the unknown piece of clothing and explained, “This is a brassiere, or ‘bra’ for short. It offers support to a woman’s mammaries, making for a much more comfortable day. Go ahead and drop the towel and put your arms through the two loops.”
I jumped a bit as the fabric pressed against my back and the loops came around the side, and gulped before dropping the towel and doing as he asked. It felt odd having something so snug against me, but this wouldn’t have been the first time I’d worn something like it. Rarity enjoys using me as her personal model, from time to time.
“Luckily you’re around the same size I used to be, so this should fit fine.” Geoff commented.
I raised my eyebrows in confusion. “I thought only females wear this.”
He chuckled from behind me. “You didn’t honestly think I always choose the male form, do you? It’s easier to blend in if I change it up as time passes, so that it gives the illusion of a person’s death and a new person’s birth.” He then winked at me. “A story for another time, dear.” Geoff brought his hands up my side and grasped my own hands in his, guiding them to the front of my chest. “Now, there should be one set of small hooks and three sets of loops for them to go into on the front. Use your hands to fasten it to whichever loop set is most comfortable. Next time, you should be able to do this completely on your own, so there won’t be any embarrassment accrued.” Geoff then chuckled nervously. “Speaking of, I’m sorry about all this. I know it can’t be all that comfortable, but I assure you that my intentions are pure.”
I swallowed thickly and nodded, fumbling with the fastening hooks on the front. “I know you wouldn’t do that to me, Geoff. I trust you.” I didn’t have to see him to know he was smiling, and thankfully, it only took a few seconds to get the brassiere to fasten properly. It fit rather snugly, but I could admit it seemed to take some tension off of my shoulders and back. Not much, but enough to matter.
“Alright, next is luckily easier.” Geoff explained as she crossed in front of me and handed the sweater to me. “You should be able to do this yourself.”
I nodded and took the offered article of clothing, quickly and easily putting it on and settling it around my shoulders. It was a fuzzy fabric that felt like wool, and it felt very warm. I smiled as I looked down at the turquoise sweater, and nodded in thanks to Geoff.
“Now for the last part.” Geoff said with a sigh, motioning for me to sit down on the bed. I did so and he followed me, bringing the socks and pair of black denim pants with him. “This is also probably your first time wearing trousers, but I think you can figure it out. While you do that, I’ll go and get your shoes.” I nodded and began putting the socks on as he left the room.
I will admit that it was still a surreal experience with such a new body, wearing clothing I’d never worn before, but it was also interesting. It was yet another thing I never thought I would be doing or experiencing, but there it was.
Figuring out the zipper and buttons on the pants took a minute, but after getting it right, I slowly stood and looked into the mirror again. What greeted me was a vast change from the woman who initially greeted me, and I couldn’t help but mumble out, “Pretty.”
“Indeed you are.” Geoff commented from the doorway, startling me. He chuckled and walked into the room as I blushed, and he sat down on the bed behind me. “Now, let’s get these shoes on and we can practice walking a bit more before we leave.”
I nodded and allowed him to help me don the shoes, which had more laces than I’d ever seen before on a mere shoe. Then again, a human’s feet were quite a bit different than a pony’s hooves, so I suppose it made sense.
After taking a moment to finish tying the shoes, Geoff stepped back and offered his hand for me to stand. “Well, this has been rather successful.” He then frowned a bit as he examined the pants. “Trousers are a bit baggy, but I suppose it is better a little loose than too tight.” Geoff brought his eyes back to mine before smiling. “Now, to get you a better feel for this new body, you’re going to help me clean the house before we leave. Please handle the dusting and sweeping, and I’ll do the rest.”
Living with so many animals for so long, I was no stranger to having to tidy up a home. Luckily, all of the animals at Geoff’s home were restricted either to outside, or the kitchen when it was raining (the dogs, not the sheep). I’ll admit that I was a little intimidated with having to learn to use a broom with arms instead of wings, but I would manage.
I offered Geoff a soft nod with a smile. “Okay. Let’s get started.”
Once I got used to coordinating my legs and arms in the new ways provided, cleaning was a breeze. Truthfully it wasn’t much different for me, except that I used my new hands to do everything I usually used my front hooves and wings to do. Hands were indeed...well, handy, so I didn’t begrudge the loss of my wings that much. As Rainbow Dash had commented on a few occasions, I was likely one of the only pegasi in Equestria that used my hooves more than my wings for getting around. Besides, fingers were stronger than feathers, and could grasp, manipulate, and carry more than my wings would have been able to with the same tasks.
After finishing with the dusting and sweeping (and getting more comfortable with my new body), I stood waiting for Geoff in the entryway of the home, hoping he wouldn’t be much longer. It wasn’t that I was particularly impatient ‒ quite the opposite, actually ‒ but I didn’t feel right sitting around doing nothing when Geoff could use my help with tasks.
A few moments after thinking this, Geoff descended the stairs to the second floor, dressed in a buttoned coat and pants (or trousers, as he liked to call them), along with a fluffy hat that covered his ears. Considering how chilly it was outside, I worried that I should have dressed a little more than I currently was, but my concern was headed-off by Geoff handing me a coat similar to his and a pair of earmuffs.
“Here,” he said, smiling as he handed me the items, “it’s a bit colder than I anticipated, so it would do you well to wear these. You’ve just started becoming well again, and I would prefer to not have you poorly when we come back.”
Through the context provided, I could figure what the word “poorly” meant, so I just nodded with a grateful smile. “Thank you, Geoff. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.”
He returned a smile, and nodded. “Of course, dear. It wouldn’t do well to let the one in my care become ill, now would it?” He helped me put the woolen coat on before gently setting the earmuffs on my head. “There, you should be fine. Let’s be off before noon, so that we can be sure to get to town before things get too mad. I assume you would feel more comfortable around less people, yes?”
It was at that moment, something very interesting happened: instead of answering with an immediate (though soft) affirmative, I actually had to think about my answer. Normally when I thought of large groups of ponies, or more recently people, I would actually lock up in anxiety of just the thought of said situation; needless to say, the actual situation itself was something I avoided at all costs, unless my friends were there. I found it odd then that I didn’t feel the normal fears I was so accustomed to. Part of it was because I had been forced to face many fears when I had faced this world on my own before Geoff found me, but a much larger portion of my bravery came from the knowledge that I knew Geoff would be there with me. Geoff had become my bastion of courage and safety, quite literally saving my life. It was at that moment that I realized just how much that act meant to me, possibly more than I could currently imagine.
I looked to Geoff and smiled with a shake of my head. “I’ll be okay so long as you’re there with me.”
His expression softened to a warm grin, and he nodded. “I will, do not fear.”
I gave him another smile as I said, “Then I’ll be okay.”
He softly clapped his hands in front of him and loosed a toothy grin. “So, let’s be off. We’ll be taking my car, so you’ll get to experience that for the first time as well.”
I wasn’t actually worried about the car itself, but I was curious. “How do these ‘cars’ work, exactly?”
As he escorted me out of the house and locked the door behind us, he explained, “The easiest way I can explain it is that it’s a pony-less carriage, using a motor instead of ponies to make it move.” He then chuckled and added, “Curiously enough, the measure of power the engine puts out is referred to as ‘horsepower’.” I giggled at his quip, and followed him to the strange contraption as he continued his lecture. “In simplest terms, it works much like a steam engine does, except it uses small, controlled explosions instead of steam-power.” The mention of explosions worried me a little, but he flashed me a comforting smile to calm me, which it did. “We aren’t going to blow up, dear. Humans have had many years to perfect their craft, and I can say with confidence that even in the unlikely event that we would crash, it would still be extremely unlikely the vehicle would explode. In the past it was different, but cars nowadays are made to protect the driver and passengers. Cars can be replaced, after all; people can not.” I nodded, letting out a breath I hadn’t known I was holding, and relaxed a bit. “Now,” he began, opening the left door of the vehicle, “please take a seat.”
I was becoming more confident with my steps, and was able to easily seat myself in the chair provided, and Geoff closed the door when I settled myself. I took a moment to inspect the interior as Geoff made his way to the other side, noticing that it seemed rather comfortable compared to a carriage. The seat, for example, cushioned my weight better than the bench seats in a royal carriage would, and the cold air outside was blocked better by the door. All in all, I thought that craftsponies could learn a thing or two from humans in this respect, as well as others.
The door on the other side of the vehicle opened, causing a momentary gust of chill to invade before it was closed, leaving Geoff sitting next to me. I heard the jingling of keys for a moment before Geoff inserted one key within what looked like some sort of steering wheel, and a strange sound accompanied a shudder throughout the car. After a moment, a soft growl that reminded me of a manticore rumbled through the small space, which then dulled to a deep humming. Curiously enough, none of this frightened me, as Geoff’s behavior and lack of surprise on his face told me that such things were normal, if not completely expected.
He looked to me and smiled. “What you are hearing is the sound of those controlled explosions. Not so intimidating, is it?”
I shook my head, listening to the humming that told me the vehicle was working. “No. It reminds me of a manticore’s purr, actually.”
He chuckled and nodded. “It does sound a bit like an animal, doesn’t it?” He then reached to his right and pulled a strange belt-like contraption from the wall beside him, and slung it across him before I heard a small click from between us. “Buckle your seatbelt, Fluttershy.”
I nodded, looking for the same contraption he had just used on my side. I found the belt easily enough and pulled it away from the wall, marveling at the strange new thing before looking to Geoff to be sure I was doing it correctly. As I pulled it to my side, I looked to where I might fasten it, and found a small black and orange device sticking out from the space between my seat and the armrest between Geoff and I. Figuring it to be rather self-explanatory, I pressed the shiny metal bit at the end into the fastener and heard a click as it locked, securing the belt around me snugly.
“What is it for?” I asked curiously as I sat back against the seat and looked to my companion.
Geoff rubbed his hands to stave off some of the cold that had encroached upon us, and said, “In the event of a crash, it’ll help protect you from the impact. It will lock during a collision, preventing you from slamming your head into the windscreen or dashboard.” He reached over and tapped a part of the “dashboard” in front of me that seemed different from the rest, as if it were made to open. “Out of here would burst an airbag, which would cushion your head and face to prevent damage to your brain or cranium.” Geoff then reached over and turned a knob on a panel on the dashboard between us and said, “In a few moments, the car will warm. This will blow warm air out, heated from the running of the engine.” Another knob was turned, causing me to jump as the sound of rushing air accompanied a chilly wind that began blowing from vents in front of me, which I instinctively reached over to cover with my hands. Geoff chuckled and said, “Just give it a moment.”
I pulled my hands back to my lap and waited as he asked, and was grateful when I felt the wind begin to warm a bit. Geoff turned another knob which stopped air from coming out of the vents in front of me, but I still felt it slowly warming the car as we waited. After a few more moments, my feet and face began to feel warmer, and I smiled in thanks to him.
“Alright,” he said, moving his feet around and reaching between us to manipulate a strange lever, “let’s be off.”
The vehicle lurched forward, and I jumped a bit with a gasp of surprise as we started to move, looking out of the windows around us to see we were indeed moving away from Geoff’s home. I felt my jaw drop open in wonder as I contemplated the ability for such a strange creation to do as it was doing, but couldn’t for the life of me force my mouth closed. I vaguely heard Geoff chuckling at my reaction, but also couldn’t care that I likely looked very silly. Instead, I allowed myself to marvel at both the speed and comfort with which we were traveling, all without the need for a pony to pull us.
“It’s not all good, you know.” Geoff said off to the side, which finally caught my attention. When I looked to him, he motioned his head in a nonspecific fashion and said, “Cars, I mean. Exhaust from the controlled explosions are vented out of the car and into the air, and it is a pain to keep it from corrupting the environment. I’m sure you’ve noticed the strange taste on your tongue when you breathe the air here.”
I nodded slowly. “Y-yes. I was unsure of what it was, but is tasted odd.”
He nodded. “That would be car exhaust, along with many other things. It’s been building up in this world’s atmosphere for years now, and though it hasn’t made this world uninhabitable, it will get to that point if humans don’t find a way to eliminate their use of fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal.”
I knew the things that Geoff spoke about. They were energy sources in Equestria too, but more often than not, we chose to use some form of magic or focusing gems instead of oil or coal. From what I understood, they were shown to produce large quantities of pollutants that could corrupt the air, soil, and wildlife all around the planet.
“Don’t humans care that they’re killing themselves?” I asked without thinking, quite honestly a little shocked that such dangerous things were being used commonplace like this.
Geoff shrugged. “Humans have a tendency to be reactive instead of proactive, meaning they often work to find new ways to fix broken things instead of preventing those things from breaking in the first place.”
I nodded absently, a little saddened by just how much this world was suffering because of the use of such dirty sources of energy. Still, as much as it seemed selfish of me to think, that was the human’s issue to figure out, not mine. Instead, I could go to Twilight after getting home and explain just why using such things were so bad, and what it could lead to. First-hand experience taught far more than books did, after all.
“So,” Geoff began, breaking the momentary silence, “was there anything you wished to speak about while we’re driving? We won’t arrive in Kingsbridge until half-ten.”
I thought for a moment before turning my eyes back to Geoff and asking, “What is it like being a male?” Perhaps any other time, I would be a little embarrassed to ask such a thing, but from what I understood, Geoff understood the situation from both sides. That was besides the fact that I liked hearing his stories, no matter what they be about.
Geoff shrugged with a slight pursing of his lips. “Well, it’s quite a bit different from the life of a female, I can tell you that. Besides the issue with the male hormones (I blushed at this), being a man gets you treated differently from people around the world. First of all, most people are more accommodating of a female’s shortcomings on things, as well as emotional outbursts. As sexist as it is, it’s simply seen as something females are: emotional.” He became a bit pensive for a moment before adding, “I suppose that genetically that’s true, but it’s overall rather offensive to judge an entire gender based on it.” He sighed before continuing. “It is quite the different life, I can tell you that. You’re looked at differently, treated differently, and expected to accomplish different things in life. Not necessarily bad or unfair, but just so different. Honestly, I’m not sure why, but that’s the way humans have developed as a species worldwide.”
I nodded to myself, taking in his words with a smile. “Do you miss it? Being a female, I mean.” I hadn’t meant the question to sound so random, but I had learned by now that I didn’t need to apologize for my curiousness.
Geoff chuckled and shrugged. “Sometimes. It’s generally much easier to manipulate others as a woman, to be sure. On the other hand, you’re also generally looked at as less than a male, simply because most men are born to be genetically stronger and logical that most females. Notice I said ‘most’ though, as there are exceptions to every rule.” He glanced over to me for a moment before smiling. “If only some of men in power of this world could know what you and your friends have done for your world, without the help of males.”
I raised my eyebrow in confusion. “What do you mean?”
He smiled, not taking his eyes from the road in front of us. “Chasing away a dragon; defeating Nightmare Moon? None of the men in power could have done that. You’re stronger than many of the people on this world could ever hope to be, whether you believe it or not.”
I didn’t believe it of course, but I had also learned in my time with Geoff to know that he spoke what he believed to be the truth, regardless of what I thought. So instead of denying such a thing, I just dipped my head to him and muttered my thanks.
Geoff then shrugged. “Then again, something about who I am won’t allow me to have children as a female. I suppose that’s the one unequivocally great thing that being a male has done for me: it allowed me to be a father.” His ever-present smile seemed to fade away as he said, “It’s a curse what I am in some aspects, though. I have to stay under the radar, and so I can’t tell anyone from this world who and what I really am...not even my family. For example, that picture of my past family that you saw still has descendants around, but I cannot contact them. Other than keeping tabs on them from afar and helping them stealthily from time to time, I cannot be in contact with them. It’s a sad existence in that sense, but I wouldn’t trade it either.” The smile was once again brought to Geoff’s face as he said, “Being a parent ‒ watching a child you helped make grow and live ‒ is one of the greatest things I have ever experienced. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and I await the day when I meet another I hold close to my heart so I can experience it again.”
The warmth in his words suffused me with a feeling of inner warmth and contentment, and I found myself smiling widely at his voice. He always had this pleasant emotion that seemed to flow forth from his voice whenever he spoke of something he truly loved, and it was those things in particular I enjoyed hearing about. Finding another such thing when speaking to him was like finding a hidden treasure, which was why I liked speaking to him so much. That warmth and comfort staved off my homesickness, and made the memory of losing Angel hurt a little less.
“Have you ever had foals?” he asked suddenly.
I felt heat rise to my cheeks as I shook my head, stammering, “N-no. I haven’t found a-anypony I liked enough yet.” Something about that statement didn’t seem quite right, but I chose to ignore the feeling.
Geoff was silent for a few moments before speaking again. “I’ve seen how you are with the dogs, and by what you’ve told me about your animals in Equestria, I think you’d make a wonderful mother.”
I hid part of my face behind my bangs as the heat in my cheeks increased, and I smiled bashfully. “Th-thank you, Geoff. I appreciate that.”
He smiled back, and nodded without a word, conveying his sincerity without anything spoken. I let the space lapse into companionable silence as we continued making our way through the countryside, toward my next little adventure on Earth.