[The following entry is clearly written by “hand”, sprawling from one page to the next]
July 4, 2015
I think I’m safe in here. God, I hope so. I don’t hear engines anymore. I think they’ve all gone. I’m not going to chance the laptop, just in case. Talking would be too loud, and anyway Joseph would hear what I was saying. No thanks. Time to start practice writing for real. If I can draw, I can write.
Oliver the regular pony (like me! :) ) was right. There were aircraft passing overhead here in Sacramento. Only they didn’t just pass overhead, they landed.
It was in the late afternoon, and I was with Oliver in the hospital garden (Joseph didn’t want my help and the power situation was taken care of), when we heard them, roaring down from the northeast. It sounded like a flock of helicopters (do helicopters come in flocks?), roaring towards us. I ran out from the cool garden and got my first good look at the two of them.
Two aircraft, flying in fairly tight formation. I’d never seen their like before, not when I had been studying every different plane and helicopter and other craft used by the USAF. Black, elegant birds, with the strange angles of radar deflection. Their main means of locomotion appeared to be massive props integrated into the stubby wings, which could rotate independently of the craft. I know that, because I watched from the shelter of the trees as they circled the airport perhaps a mile from where I stood, shifting smoothly into a hover and beginning to descend.
One of them was quite large, not quite Galaxy proportions but nearly as massive. The other was much smaller, about the size of a bus.
Can’t say I felt good about this, so the first thing I did was call Joseph. Thank god I did; he’d been too absorbed with his work to notice anything. Told him to shut everything down and hide somewhere. Who knew what was going to happen, but I didn’t like the idea of whoever was flying in those mysterious airplanes finding us. He was to take the ditch bags (where I kept this journal) and hide in the basement of the most boring building he could find, far away from the satellite office. Told him to move his ass faster than he’d ever moved before.
Maybe it was the anger and fear in my voice, but he didn’t argue for once. I’d already brought Oliver a new radio, and he seemed just as eager to hide. I told Huan to stay with him, and the dog actually listened. Like, seriously, I just shouted and he did it.
Ditched everything I was carrying except the gun and my radio, then galloped off for the airport faster than I’ve ever run before. Good thing I’ve been wearing my shoes full-time now. Galloping is really loud on hard surfaces, but the “pony sneakers” kept it from being any louder than a running human. Probably made better time than I could’ve when I was human. Finally starting to get good enough that the body is an advantage instead of a detriment.
Made it to a hilly street overlooking the airport through all the trees (this city has a lot of trees), and I could see the big one touching down. Each one had three letters painted in bright white on the black, “HPI”. At least, I think that’s what they were.
The airships landed, taking up much of the runway and taxiway left vacant when humanity vanished. Ramps on the rear of both airships opened. From the larger came several vehicles, though only one rolled out of the tiny one.
All were black and totally enclosed, like more graceful versions of the APCs fighting in the Middle East. I didn’t recognize any of them, though they had the same “HPI” logo painted in bold white letters.
One parked by the airships (at least, that’s how it looked from my distance), while two more turned away and started driving rapidly towards the road access (and me). A flatbed cargo vehicle without a visible driver (automated) followed between the armored cars, a huge container on its back.
I wouldn’t have long to find somewhere to hide. I picked a nearby building (the tallest I could find) and started climbing as fast as I could. Kept listening, but the armored cars barely made any noise at all. Did they even have engines?
Whatever, I kept glancing at the windows, so I didn’t miss them as they went by. Either they hadn’t seen me from a distance, or they didn’t care. Didn’t even slow down as they went by with their nearly-silent cars, speeding away towards the heart of the city and my friends.
Was it stupid of us to hide? You might say: You’ve been doing everything you could to get noticed for a month, and now something big finally seems to be headed your way. Instead of running to that rescue you’ve been waiting for, you run away. Why?
I’m not sure I can explain it. I just… got this feeling. The closer I was, the worse it got. The whole back of my mane stood up and my insides got cold. I felt afraid, terror in my chest worse than when Sky cast the foam for my boots and my legs were immobilized for almost an hour straight.The closer those trucks got, the worse it felt. Nearly ran away from the window while they were passing by. Nearly pissed myself.
There was nothing natural about that feeling. It was gone as soon as the trucks were a mile or so down the road, and I could think again. The planes just sat there, pretty much. Nobody or nothing emerged, not to refuel from what had to be ample supplies at the airport. Not to get more food, nothing. Come to think of it, there were no windows visible on any of them. Call it a hallucination, but as it got dark, I thought I saw little sparks glowing along the surface of each plane, like each one had a bolt of lightning locked up inside that was leaking through the cracks.
I didn’t feel tired this time. Kept climbing, all the way to the roof. Dared the satellite phone then, because I didn’t know what was going to happen and I didn’t want anything to happen to us without telling Sky. Told her about the ships, told her the direction they were flying and that I wanted her to start loading up the animals into the truck as soon as possible. If the caravan continued south, I wanted her to take everything back to the farm.
For once, I didn’t feel the least bit tired. Used my hoof to break into a vending machine for the snacks. I knew the motorcade was coming back by the grinding, empty feeling in my chest, and I forced myself to watch at the window. Motorcade loaded back into the airships, one by one. Ramps closed, and rotors roared to life. They took off almost as one, rising up into the sky.
Just as I feared, they flew south, almost exactly along the highway that leads to Los Angeles. I was super panicked, but I tried to make myself sound normal when I called Sky. She was already prepared, truck already loaded with our herd, just waiting for the signal to leave. She would drive them with Moriah’s help. Said she’d be fine and not to worry.
But I am worried about her! Sky’s my friend! First friend I made after this whole disaster started. Nothing, nothing that makes me feel as empty and frightened as those trucks did could be good. Nothing at all. We have to stay away. We can’t let them find us.
When the planes were gone, I kept calling Joseph until he answered, told me where to find him. I said I’d head over as soon as I investigated where the ships had landed. I forced myself back down to the ground floor. A bobcat along the way thought I’d make a great supper. After the stress of the day so far, poor thing didn’t even get the time of day. You know how hard ponies can buck? Hard enough to break bone, that’s how. That cat’s lucky I didn’t use the gun.
Made my way back safely, obviously. Joseph and I huddled into a basement to sleep, in case those planes come back. Wouldn’t want to be parked in an RV with prominent lights right there in the center of town. I asked him about the caravan, and he said it’d driven right past him on its way towards the outskirts of town, traveling very fast. He had felt similar discomfort, but he had been able to put words to it with his magic-horn-thing that I couldn’t with just my gut.
I don’t know how much of this I buy, but I’ll pass it along anyway because it’s the closest thing I have to an explanation right now. According to Joseph, there’s “magic” in everything. He can sense it, like a rattlesnake senses heat. It’s most concentrated in ponies, less so in animals, and only passes through everything else like a gradual breeze, hardly slowing down. The vehicles had been absolutely devoid of magic, like black holes drawing in all the magic that neared them and swallowing it. He looked downright revolted as he described this for me, though he was unable to explain why.
Magic. I wonder if I would’ve felt better if he used another word all this time. Like “energy” or “radiance” or “uncertainty” or something. Just because I’ve never been able to explain why his horn works the way it does doesn’t mean it’s really magical, does it?
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Maybe this is a biotechnology. I couldn’t say these bodies aren’t really alive, not after seeing so much of Moriah’s insides. That blood was real.
I regret making it so easy to find us. I’ve been giving directions right to our base for all this time, thinking we would be leading ponies in our same predicament to us. We could join together in solidarity, spit in the face of a cruel fate.
Now I fear that maybe I made a serious mistake. Maybe it was better to live quietly. Die alone, but die peacefully.
Or maybe this is instinct talking. Maybe there’s nothing at all dangerous about those ships. They had English letters, I can only take that to mean they all had once human crews (unless they were drones I guess). None of it looked familiar, but none of it looked like stuff existing technology couldn’t do.
Could it have been a PMC? Or… the remains of one, salvaged by ponies? If so, WHY HAVEN’T THEY ANSWERED US?! Skill and determination like that is exactly what the dregs of humanity need.
Not sure what we’re going to do tomorrow. It’s the wee morning now, and I think the adrenaline is finally wearing off. I’ll turn off this lantern and go back to get some sleep. For once I’m glad to have another body close by. Maybe that’s an instinct too. Whatever. I’m too worn out to care right now.