• Published 10th Jun 2013
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When The Mare Comes Around - nanashi_jones



I woke up in a shallow grave off Highway 5. When I dug myself out, I was Applejack. And trouble followed with me.

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What Do I Care

I knocked on the little red door and waited.

Applejack came out shortly, minus her hat, and plus a pair of impressive, and familiar-looking, black headphones around her neck.

“Hey there, neighbor,” I said.

“Hey there,” she replied.

“Did you do this?”

I jerked my thumb over my shoulder, and Applejack stepped outside to look.

Just beyond the treeline that ringed her cottage was my house. Two stories, white with black shutters and brown-black shingled roof and a garage. It was where I’d lived most of my life. Except it wasn’t really my house, because a) my house didn’t exist in my head and b) the front door didn’t immediately go to my room.

I mean, that made sense. I spent more time in my room than anywhere else. What was extra strength weird was that opening my bedroom door didn’t take me back out the front, it went to the kitchen and living room (second places I most likely was), then outside.

For all that this was the most lucid I had ever dreamed, it was still super weird.

Applejack saw the house and blinked, her expression somewhere between surprised and a little stunned.

“Nope. That weren’t me,” she said, looking up at me.

“Great,” I said, rubbing at my eyes under my glasses.

“That’s probably the magic bringing us together. Or, we’re actually gettin’ along now,” she said, smiling.

I glanced at her and sighed, returning the smile. I had to admit, there may have been something to that.

The kids at the playground couldn’t swing another distraction, but they were all too happy to part with the fruits and veggies their nannies had packed for them. I had explain to Applejack why human kids were so eager to part with the fruit their mom had packed. The exception to this was Carrie, who gave her Hostess Cupcake up with a big grin. I had decided not to explain what Hostess cakes were to the pony and just assure her they were food.

We’d returned to our... Well, I guess “journey” fits, and we talked. Not about anything huge, just chatting. I couldn’t read a book or sleep while Applejack “drove,” so talking was about all I could do.

We mostly talked music. Thanks to Applejack being in my head, she could “listen” to anything I remembered and, hey, I could do the same. Looks like I didn’t need my Android after all.

Unsurprisingly, she enjoyed Johnny Cash as much as I did. Surprisingly, I liked the pony music she shared. Though Applejack’s tastes skewed country, she had other things she enjoyed. I really dug the Sapphire Shores stuff. It was like Lady Gaga and Beyonce had a pony love child out of music- real cool and complicated stuff with a powerful voice.

Interestingly, Applejack really, really liked Janelle Monáe- commenting, She sings prettier’n a Canterlot chorus. Proof everyone loves Janelle Monáe, even country music-preferring ponies.

We made good time the rest of the way. About an hour or two after sundown, when I was yawning more than talking, Applejack took over to build a lean-to tent from a fallen tree. Weird as it was feeling my body move without my input, I didn’t care. It was like the ultimate lazy-ass’s dream: when you’re tired or don’t know how to do something, someone else entirely can do it for you. With your own body!

I admit, I was starting to see more positives to this whole, maybe-I’m-dead, maybe-I’m-a-pony-permanently thing.

I still wasn’t sold on it though. As I drifted off to sleep, I stared at my hooves, wondering what had become of my body.

Fortunately, dream-me wasn’t so shackled by reality and I could have my body and clothes and do stuff like put my hands on my hips. Which I did as I looked at dream-Applejack.

“Well, as much as we get along, I wish I could get just a little private time,” I said.

Applejack shrugged. “I’m pretty set with some of this here music you recommended. I don’t mind a good fence for a good neighbor.”

I cocked my head at her. “Now you’re quoting Robert Frost? Bit of a change up, isn’t it?”

The cowpony shrugged again.

“It’s yer head too, Rae. Mixin’s gonna happen I reckon. Kinda like you’re looking fitter’n I last saw ya.”

I followed the gesture of her hoof and she was right. Dream me was... Kinda buff. My legs looked more defined and I hadn’t even realized I’d been wearing the shorts I was in. I hated shorts. Mostly because I hated how my legs looked. I hid them at every opportunity.

Now though? They looked good. They looked real good.

“Huh,” I said, flexing my arm and seeing definition pop up. “Wish it was this easy to get in shape outside my head.”

Applejack did this little maneuver where she crossed both her front and back legs like someone leaning and made a cocksure grin.

“Hang out with me long enough and we’ll have you fit as a fiddle in no time.”

I shrugged. “I won’t argue.”

We stood in awkward silence across from one another. I coughed.

“Anythin’ else?” Applejack asked, eyebrow raised. “Thought you wanted private time.”

“I do, I just...” I sighed.

Applejack had relaxed a bit after Carrie and Ellie and Connor, but I could still tell something was in the back of her mind. It kept biting at my mind as a result, and I don’t like it when things bug me. Especially things that are completely in my head.

“You’ve been... Kinda pissed? Since we ran,” I said. “What’s that about?”

Applejack sighed, took off the headphones, and hung them on the door. She trotted over to a log that was next to a firepit and she plopped down. She motioned to the log across from hers and I sat.

“First off, I want you to know I got nothin’ against runnin’ right now. Too many questions and that fella had me good and spooked too. Us puttin’ some distance may not have been the best idea, but it’s a call I can get behind.”

“Okay...”

“But. I really, really don’t like how you left Max in the lurch.” She nodded, as if that was that.

“That’s it?” I said.

Her expression pinched and her jaw moved a little forward. “I reckon that’s enough, don’t you?”

“Max is a responsible guy, he can handle some dopey not-cop.”

“That’s not the point,” Applejack said, eyes narrowing.

“Then what is?” I growled back.

“He’s yer friend. He came and got you when you were at rock bottom and you just up and left without an explanation or anythin’! He’s probably losin’ his mind worryin’ about you.”

“Yeah, well, you don’t know Max as well as you think you do,” I said, folding my arms.

“Actually, I do. I’m in yer head, remember? All that stuff you were thinkin’ around Max? I know it and he’s a slap of a better friend than you are.”

“What?!” I snapped.

“You heard me. That boy stayed when he could’ve run off because of you. Because of all his friends. He’s a nice guy and then you go an’ eat his food, take his hospitality and don’t even try to explain what you did!”

“When the fuck did I have time for that?” I yelled.

“You coulda called him before you smashed yer phone!”

“I was kinda stressed!”

“No you weren’t! I was there in your head and I heard it- I heard it behind everything you were thinkin’!”

“Oh? So you know me so well now? Enlighten me oh wise pony friendship master,” I snarled, sarcasm dripping from every word.

“‘I don’t wanna deal with this.’”

“Well, tough, you gotta-”

“Not me ya brick slappin’ yahoo! That’s what ya been thinkin’ this whole time- ‘I don’t wanna deal with this.’”

I had to blink at that.

“So?” I said, hands spread in confusion. “Who would want to deal with any of this? Not me, that’s for damn sure.”

Applejack rubbed at her face and I could hear her teeth grinding.

“Don’t matter if you don’t wanna deal with somethin’, because right now, that somethin’ is dealin’ with you!” she snapped.

I rose off the log, waving my hands. “I don’t have to deal with this. This is my head, I don’t have to take this.”

“There you go again. Just buryin’ yer head in the dirt like that’ll make it all go away,” Applejack called at me.

“It’s worked so far!” I yelled over my shoulder, stalking away from the annoying pony. “But that’s not good enough for you, so what the hell do you know?”

“I know this ain’t gonna fly forever, Rae. Some point or another, you gotta step up!”

“Watch me sit this one out,” I grumbled, stepping into the treeline and heading for my house. There, at least a little while, I didn’t have to listen to any crap ponies.
~
Day 9

I woke a little before sunrise.

Thanks, Applejack’s body, I thought. I don’t like sleeping in at all.

No response from the inner pony, so I figured she’d shut herself in her cottage to sulk, which was fine by me. If she couldn’t see what a favor I was doing for her by just going to New York- then she could stick her own head in the dirt for all I cared.

As I rose up under the lean-to, I realized that I felt a little wobbly on my legs.

“What the...” I muttered and felt that old feeling. That old, I-should-be-on-two-legs, feeling and I promptly tumbled in a heap after taking two steps.

“Aw, c’mon!” I yelled. “Now who’s sticking their head in the dirt?”

Still quiet.

“Fine. Be that way. I’ll figure this out on my own. Like I always do!”

Grumbling and spitting grass, I got up, which was easy. I had four legs after all.

“Alright,” I muttered. “How’d this go?”

First leg rise, ignore brain saying WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!, next leg rise, first leg fall, stumble, dammit, dammit. Get up. Repeat.

Thirty, agonizing minutes later, I could walk on my own. It was a lot like not thinking about your own feet too much. If I just let my body’s natural balance do its thing, then I was good. It only got tricky when I kept feeling like I needed to rise up.

“So, I got walking down now. Didn’t need you. What do you say to that?”

Silence.

“Whatever,” I muttered.

My stomach growled and I rolled my eyes. Yeesh. If there were ever a creature that was more ruled by its stomach than my dad, it was this pony. I mean, I barely touched breakfast on any given day and I was fine.

I had some carrot sticks left over from the kids, but I knew that wouldn’t cover the bottomless pit here. I was going to have to get real food.

I looked at the grass.

“Ooooh no-ho-ho. There are lines and there are lines,” I said.

Putting my keen nose to the air, I inhaled but got nothing in the way of food. I got other things, but no food. Sighing, I went off the “civilization” ping I got and hoped for the best.

I doubted I’d find some more kids, so I needed to actually put in an appearance. This just made me wary as all hell, but I was hungry, which trumped my paranoia. Hopefully, I’d be able to find some place out-of-the-way and keep the trip short and to the point.

Luck was on my side. After a few miles, I found a gas station with a connected general store. It was a no-name franchise place with wooden, cabin-like walls on the outside to give it that “rustic” look some people liked. Right then, I didn’t give a crap that I thought it looked like crap. I gave a crap that it looked deserted and remote. Only one car there and one guy inside, working the register. Coast was clear.

Okay, pony at a gas station would stick out, but since I’m paying in cash, I could be any old orange pony with a cowboy hat. Right.

God, I hated how desperate I was getting.

Trotting across the road, which was only a mostly embarrassing experience, I took a breath and went into the General Store.

The door dinged as I entered and I took in the guy at the counter. Tall, lanky with two studs in his eyebrow and wearing a black t-shirt with a fading metal band logo on it. This was totally a remote gas station. Anyone dressed like that was either the boss’s kid or management didn’t care about a collared shirt with a nametag.

He glanced over at me and raised an eyebrow, curiosity and a bit of confusion on his face.

“Howdy,” I said. I mentally cringed. “Howdy” when you’re from Syracuse was funny. “Howdy” when you sounded like you were from Tennessee- different story.

“Hey,” he said, his confusion deepening.

“You watch the news lately?” I asked.

“Yeah...”

“You know about people waking up like this?”

“Yeah...”

“I’m your first?”

“Yeah....”

“Congrats. I’m grocery shopping.”

With that, I left him to stare, or do whatever, and went down the aisles.

I got a basket, which I carried in my mouth. The basket quickly picked up fiber and granola bars, a pack of Twizzlers and a decent sized canteen. Just as I was about to reach for the beef jerky, I felt my hoof freeze.

I wouldn’t recommend it.

I put down the basket. “Oh, now you speak. Not a jerky fan, pony girl?”

Just sayin’. You’re a pony now. Meat ain’t gonna be the same and I don’t want ya wastin’ yer cash.

“Bite me,” I said and dragged down the package.

In the end, I got a bunch of “trail food” and a few other basic, camping supplies. Applejack had spoken up once more for a thick blanket with camo print, but otherwise, she was quiet.

As I approached the counter, the register guy had his phone up and was tracking my progress with it. I set my basket on the floor and raised an eyebrow dangerously.

“What you’re doing?” I said.

“Nobody’s gonna believe this,” he said with a laugh. He raised the phone. “I mean, if it’s cool.”

“It ain’t,” I said, my drawl getting thicker as my temper boiled. First, bossy ponies, now paparazzi. Freaking fabulous, my life.

“Aw c’mon...” he whined.

“Look, I’m havin’ a crap day,” I said in a clipped voice. “You keep runnin’ that thing and it’s gonna get worse for everyone. Capiche?”

He sighed, rolled his eyes and put it away.

“And delete it,” I said.

“Aw-”

“DUDE, YOU DON’T WANNA BE ON MY LAST FUCKING NERVE HERE!”

He leaned away from me, his eyes wide. “Okay, okay,” he said. He pulled his phone out, punched some buttons and held it up for me. “It’s deleted. Cool?”

“Good enough,” I huffed.

I went to grab the basket and realized I was going to have a hell of a time lifting that.

Here.

My workman’s coordination faded as Applejack did whatever she did that made me more dexterous. Raising up on my hind legs, I dropped the basket in front of the guy and he got to scanning.

“Need a- Need a bag?” he said. I could see I had made him nervous. Great. All I needed.

“Got my own,” I said, shaking my back.

As he scanned items, I took them down from the counter and popped them in my mouse with the flower bag. As much as I tried to ignore it, tension thrummed out. I sighed.

“Sorry I yelled,” I said.

He glanced at me and relaxed a few notches. He shrugged. “It’s cool. I wasn’t considering your privacy. Or whatever.”

He finished ringing me up. “Sixty dollars, fifteen cents.”

I pulled out cash and waited for change.

“Goin’ on a trip?” he asked, counting it out.

“Something like that,” I responded neutrally.

My ear flicked to the sound of a car rolling up. Turning to face it, my whole body froze up.

“Shit,” I said.

Shuffling about in the car, getting out to get gas, was the Private Investigator, not-Detective-Sue-Waters.