It wasn’t an exclamation so much as it was making sure that my mouth still worked. It, along with every other fibre of my being was in a dull agony. Numb enough to feel disoriented, yet still livid enough to feel the aching bones and muscles realign themselves as I continued to twitch. My eyelids alone took several seconds to open as they felt like they were being tied down to the rest of my face. For several seconds, I was introduced to a view of the night sky. A night sky that was mostly obscured by trees.
I blinked, but to no avail the scene remained. A clear night sky, a crescent moon and what must have been dozens of trees. I repeated the process at least five times over, all of which resulted in the same view. The moon could clearly be seen overhead, a pale light washing over my incapacitated form. It was odd, usually it was too foggy to actually see the stars so clearly.
“This isn’t right…”
Obviously a lot of things weren’t right, I was supposed to be at a Halloween party with my cousin in Pittsburgh and I was lying drunkenly in the middle of some backwater woodland. The fact I was passed out drunkenly was another issue. The last thing I had remembered was entering the party itself, let alone having a drink or seven. I could have possibly bought the getting drunk excuse, but that left the question of where Peter was and more pressingly, where I was. After I had realized that I was still lying uncomfortably on my back, surrounded by dead leaves and branches, I attempted to get up.
“Come on, I’m not that out of shape…”
Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t lift either of my hands in my drunken stupor. I wasn’t an athlete by any means, but I could at least carry a ninety or so pounds. Why were they so heavy all of a sudden? In a very slow and painful process, I turned my cloaked head to take a look at my left hand. There it was, the same gauntlet that I had bought from the costume store back home. It wasn’t tied, pinned or generally kept down by anything. It was just sitting there, covered in old leaves, shining in the pale moonlight.
“Wait a second…”
Shining, not radiantly like a star, but still reflecting some of the light from the sky. Light reflecting off of a metal surface wasn’t something unusual, only that last I checked I bought plastic gauntlets from that costume store. I tried clenching my fist, and sure enough the distinctive sound of metal scraping against metal was heard. Ignoring the ache in my bones and screaming agony from my muscles, I slowly propped myself into a sitting position. Both my gauntlets had turned into metal, I had guessed iron. Looking forward from my hands, I could see that my boots were in the same situation, slightly sparkling in the light. Glancing around, I could see my supposed mage’s staff lying several feet away from me to my right, the iron crown helmet hybrid I wore sitting a foot or so from my head’s indentation in the ground. The crown could wait, I could barely think without getting dizzy. If I was going to do anything, I’d need the oversized staff to lean on.
I stumbled forward, crawling like a baby, falling just before the staff. Instead of wood and plastic, if looked like it would have been used by an actual warlock. It was smooth with an elegant feel to it. Four talon-like prongs sprung forth from the end, clutching onto a perfectly cut violet crystal. For a brief moment, my thoughts wandered to how much the gem would be worth if I managed to remove it from the staff.
“Not the time, get the helmet…”
Walking, or crawling at that exact moment, was substantially easier with the staff, especially since I could reach a lot further with it in grasp. My mind was also a lot clearer than it was upon first awakening. My body still felt like it was eviscerated then glued back together by Satan in Hell, but I could move reasonably well. I couldn’t remember what had brought me into the predicament in the first place, but I could at least maneuver without stumbling like the town drunk. I got a hold of the helmet placed it atop my head. Why I thought putting a heavy metal thing on my head while assumedly drunk while being handicapped was a good idea, I had no clue. Perhaps I just didn’t want to carry it, maybe my subconscious reasoned it was the only place that I couldn’t lose in my state.
As I placed it atop my head, my thoughts began to get much clearer.
With my simple objectives completed and the effects of whatever made me pass out pass on, my senses were beginning to reboot. The forest felt, well like any forest should have, but what caught my attention was the sound of laughter in the distance. Laughter, that meant people. People on Halloween meant partying. Partying meant that there was at least a town nearby. I had maybe fifty dollars, I could probably get some change then bus back to the hotel. I definitely wasn’t in downtown Pittsburgh, but I was probably in the surrounding suburbs, right? With a new objective in mind, I began quickly limping in the direction of the sounds.
“This forest looks more like something you’d find in Brazil than the northern United States.”
That was true, but it’s not like I could’ve taken a flight to Brazil while drunk. I couldn’t just jump continents in a couple hours while under the influence. Hangover or not, it simply wasn’t possible to end up in Brazil. Though I always did want to learn Portuguese…
“Enough about Brazil, what about your costume? Even if you did get us out here, how could you have bought expertly crafted metal armor with a several thousand dollar gem on the side? And since you didn’t, who did?”
My mind played that last message on a loop for a while. I couldn’t answer that question. The whole situation was downright confusing. How did I end up in whatever woods I was in, where did I get real armor and how did it get put on me without noticing? To prevent the eventual aneurism I tried pushing said questions to the back of my mind. I could have also been going on an extreme high, while unlikely given my clairvoyance, which could have explained why everything looked so… bright.
The more I thought about it, the more it seemed likely that I had something slipped in the drink I didn’t remember having. I recalled getting to the party around ten o’clock, with night falling about four hours earlier. From what I was seeing, it looked like it was early evening. The stars were all out, not one of them being hidden by remaining sunlight, but it remained fairly bright out. It was like playing a video game, then turning on the brightness settings to maximum to help navigating a really dark level. It helped you see, but it seemed unnatural all the while.
The air was also off as well. If you’ve visited northern Canada or Europe, you’ve probably seen the stretches of wilderness that seemed to go to the ends of the world. The air in those forests was crisp and fresh with quite the scent of flowers. I took a trip to Mexico with my school, and those forests were more thick and ancient. What I saw and smelled didn’t match up. I wouldn’t have paid attention to something as trivial as the smell of a forest was it not for two things. One, why did a forest that looked right out of the amazon smell like some woods in the Yukon? Secondly, how far away from a Pittsburgh did I have to be to lose the smell of smog and gasoline?
On the way there, a thought entered my mind. I instinctively reached for the one pocket in my costume in hopes of finding my phone. Maybe a satellite could find out where I was. Fortunately for the cruel being that put me into that insane situation, my cell phone was nowhere to be found. On the bright side though I still had fifty dollars, so busing back to the hotel was still a viable option. I considered going back, when I had realised that between the trees, large rocks and vines, I couldn’t actually tell which direction I had properly come from. If I were to go back at all, I’d probably miss the miniscule clearing that I had been dumped in. My mind debated the issue for several moments until I heard the clear sound of children laughing. It was much closer than before, so I must have been close to the town. Trudging onward, I continued on my miniature “quest” to finding where I was.
After about five minutes of trying to piece together my location while speed-limping and stumbling, I began to see lights coming from what must have been the treeline. As I approached, I could make out the silhouettes of lanterns and the shadows of small-town houses.
“Finally!” I exclaimed to the empty air, and possibly God. The town didn’t look that big, but I could make roads and a train station out in the distance. I could find out what brought me into that predicament after I found a police station or payphone.
My body froze just as I was about to leave the treeline when I noticed something standing, or flying rather, with its back turned in front of me. There, about twenty feet ahead, was a pegasus. A three foot, blue pegasus. A three foot, blue pegasus with rainbow hair. A three foot, blue pegasus with rainbow hair and a tattoo. A three foot, blue pegasus with rainbow hair, a tattoo and a vampire costume.
“Huh,” it, or from the voice she, said, “I could’ve sworn somepony said something…”
A three foot, blue pegasus pony with rainbow hair, a tattoo, a vampire costume that also spoke English. My head twitched spastically, the rest of my body following suit in the next few seconds. Despite remaining upright, I was fairly certain I was experiencing a seizure. I had never had a seizure before that point, but that was the only thing I could think of as every scientific principle I knew was simultaneously thrown out the window into a flaming garbage compactor.
“Ah well, better get back to pranking,” she sighed, disappearing in a flash of dust and wind.
There she left me, standing in a confusing twist of horror and curiosity. Daring myself to continue looking around, I began to inspect the town. Sure enough, there were more of the damned things on the outskirts. Regular, if by sapient and of every colour under the sun you mean regular, ponies, pegasai and several unicorns trotted around in Halloween costumes. The town gave little to reassure my dwindling sanity, looking if it came from an insultingly inaccurate renaissance fair. Picking everything I saw apart with my eyes, I tried to muster up some form of sanity or reasonable explanation for what was going on. I could’ve stood there for ten minutes, maybe three hours, I wouldn’t have known the difference. Everything was getting set fire to in my brain. With logical reasoning failing and my prayers getting sent to voicemail, I was left alone to stand in my waking madness.
“Woah, look at that statue!” My eyes shifted downwards to look at three of the younger ones coming to investigate my presence. Honestly, it was a miracle that more hadn’t seen me, but I could feel my skin crawl when I got a look at their faces. There were no deformities, aside from what were quite possibly the biggest sets of eyes that I had ever seen in my life. They were so unnatural, any creature would have been blinded within weeks of birth with eyes as large as those.
Forcing myself to stare away from their eyes, I took in their appearances. The first was a unicorn in a witch’s outfit, which seemed oddly appropriate given their affinity to magic. The second was a pegasus in a pirate costume, somehow holding a rubber sword in its mouth. The third was a regular, ironically going as a cowboy. I could also see little bags of candy strapped onto their backs with a saddle, which seemed really out of place. What would sapient horses need with a saddle? Immediately regretting that train of thought, I brought my focus back on the three aliens standing in front of me. It wasn’t until they were practically on top of me did I notice how small they were. They were two feet, maybe even less. If I saw a giant statue of some kind of warlock that was three or four times taller than I was, I wouldn’t hang around it.
“It’s so tall!” The unicorn observed, straining to see my face from her position. I secretly sang hallelujah in my mind, the level of light and the dark hood I was wearing made it too dark to actually see my face from her position. I wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to do in that kind of situation. Would I try to talk? Would I run away? Would they think I’m a threat while in my apparently real costume?
“Yeah, but what is it?” asked the regular, with of all things a southern accent. The three girls, or whatever you call a young female pony, began circling me. The pegasus prodded my staff with her hoof while the unicorn examined the fabric in my cloak. I was able to keep a stable enough grip on the staff to stop the pegasus from accidentally knocking it out of my hand, but it would only last for so long until one of them noticed my arm shaking in panic.
“I think it’s a minotaur,” the pegasus commented, taking a look at my boots as well. The unicorn only shook her head in response continued to examine my outfit. The regular, somehow, positioned her hoof under her chin in thought. I honestly didn’t know how I was supposed to react to everything. One second I was in a kind of freaky situation, the next I was launched into Crazyland with an artillery gun. What would I even say? Every alien encounter I had ever seen on television ended with either the aliens or all of humanity getting blown up! Besides, it would count as first contact! How could I possibly represent all of humanity by drunkenly stumbling onto another species Halloween festival?
“I know!” cried the unicorn in an eardrum shattering, squeaky voice, “Rarity helped set up all the decorations, she’d know what it is!” Yes, just go and find “Rarity” and leave me alone. It’d take only a couple seconds of their backs turned for me to make a speed limp for it and hide out in the woods. No one would believe a bunch of kids about a giant monster in the woods on Halloween, so I’d just have to lay low before finding out what how to best approach them.
“Sweetie Belle, there you are!” called out an aristocratic voice. I shifted my eyes, not wanting to move my head and alert them that I wasn’t a statue, to see a taller unicorn walking towards the three. Her dress was a mix of gothic and Victorian era clothing, so she was probably going for the “evil queen” look. For a non-existent unicorn, I did have to admit that she pulled it off rather nicely. She was either an older sister, or a seriously young mother based on the voice. “What are you three doing over here, the Everfree is dangerous you know!”
Everfree, that must have been the name of the forest. The elder unicorn approached at took a good look at me before turning to the three younger ones. She looked back at my face, then opened her mouth slightly. There was a sense of confusion, but thankfully it seemed to be more about why the three were there than about me.
“What is that thing?” She pondered aloud, making the other three look at each other inquisitively.
“It’s a decoration, but we were hoping you could tell us what it was Rarity,” replied the regular. Okay, so she was the one that they were looking for to identify me. It’d only be a matter of time before she began to investigate me and come to the revelation that I wasn’t part of the Halloween decorations for the year.
“It doesn’t matter,” Rarity said as she nudged the younger unicorn, Sweetie Belle, “Princess Luna has just arrived and she wants to start bobbing for apples. She also wanted to see you Scootaloo.” My heart rate finally returned to normal as I realised they were about to leave. I just had to find a way to regroup my thoughts and try to find if there was a way these “ponies” could bring me back to my home without getting myself killed or lost in the world of insane mythical beings.
The pegasus, presumed Scootaloo, fluttered her wings in excitement before motioning for the still unnamed regular to depart. I breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of the four of them making their way back into Nottherenaissanceville and leaving me behind.
“Wait a second…” I heard Rarity say as she turned around and trotted towards me. My arteries practically exploded when I realized that she had heard me breathing. I immediately tried to stop breathing, my lungs tearing each other apart from the sudden lack of oxygen. Rarity still couldn’t see my face, so if I could hold out just a little bit longer, she’d give up and blame the sound on the wind. The tips of my lips twinged into a small smile at my reassurance, until her horn began lighting up and revealing me.
“Oh crap…” I muttered. Her eyes opened quickly when she realised I had spoken. Rarity flung her hooves to her forehead, inhaling sharply as if she was about to faint. Capitalizing on her over dramatic gasp, I swung my staff downwards to give her a good blow upside the head. I didn’t want to hurt her, but either the hit or her startled jump caused her to fall over. My ears probably would’ve heard what the three little ones were screaming for, if I wasn’t hauling my ass back through the woods as fast as my legs could carry me.
My dad once told me that adrenaline was the best painkiller, so that in an emergence I’d never have to worry if I could do it, but rather if I should do it. I never really asked him what “it” referred to, as I was only ten at the time, but I believed that “running away from a magical alien being as fast as humanly possible” could’ve fit under appropriate responses to that specific emergence scenario.
Though upon reflection, it was only the second worst first contact scenario I had ever been in.