• Published 8th Jan 2014
  • 494 Views, 8 Comments

Flow My Tears, the Fashionista Said - ponichaeism

Successful fashionista Rarity is the talk of Manehattan, but when a spell goes wrong she finds herself lost in an alternate version of the city, a police state where nopony remembers her.

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PART THREE: "I'm not about to fold"

The rows of analytical machines clicked and clattered. Music to Director Sparkle's ears. Constant, concrete, predictable. Numbers in, numbers out. Results defined by input, every time. So unlike ponies. She felt a migraine coming. Just the thought of ponies clamoring for their slice of the pie, shouting 'every pony for herself', made her physically sick. She unscrewed the cap on her pill bottle, downed some, then tucked it back into her saddlebag. She loosened her police uniform, while pledging the Manehattanites would learn harmony if she had to arrest every single one.

I was so generous and compassionate once, she thought ruefully. That's what this city does to you.

Her senior detective, Lucky Clover, said, “Results are printing now." An analytical engine belched paper, which he ripped off and read. “Nothing. Her name doesn't show up in any database. The address she gave us is in the name of some fashion photographer, Photo Finish. Rarefaction Fashions isn't listed in any directory. No hoofprints on record. Barring mechanical error, she doesn't exist.”

“So how did she get here?”

“She might've slipped through the IPID census--”

“There's no way she's living off the grid. I got a look at her through the interrogation room's two-way mirror. She definitely had a pony-pedi not that long ago.”

“Maybe the crime syndicates are setting up underground fashion parlors.”

“Be serious. She got onto this island somehow.”

“It's impossible. Every way into and out of this city is patrolled, searched, and secured.”

Thinking out loud, Sparkle said, “Yet here she is, without even a forged identity card. Why do that? Even the crime rings make an attempt to forge documents. Yet this mare pretends not to know what an IPID is.” She rubbed her chin. “I think something else is going on here. Something we're not seeing.”

“You think she's playing dumb to trick us?”

“I don't know. But I'm going to release her.”

Clover neighed. “Whoa, tell me you're not buying that 'amnesia' baloney?”

“Of course not.”

“Then why release her?”

Sparkle gave him a withering look. “So we can follow her.”

A grin dawned on his face. “Riiight. I'll get the release forms printed up.”

He cantered down the row of analytical engines, but Director Sparkle lingered, enjoying the orderly sound of calculating data. She envied the machines. They only had to record the movements of the fickle and unpredictable Manehattanites, through reports phoned in from around the city. It was her impossible task to actually figure the ponies out.

Inside the lightless detention cell, time was meaningless. Just like Rarity.

She'd run out of tears and didn't bother to keep her coat off the grimy floor. It was so hard to stand in the darkness, smelling years of accumulated fear and anguish, with nothing to do but sleep and wail and waste away the unmeasurable hours.

That is, until the door opened. She winced against the blinding light as a pony stepped in. Gradually her eyes adjusted, until she saw....

“Twilight?! Are you here to get me out?”

But Twilight, in a tasteful blue uniform and matching peaked cap, held her at foreleg's length. “Whoa, there.”

“Do you know me?” Rarity's heart wrenched in anticipation.

“Should I?”

“I suppose not.” Rarity hung her head. That was it, then. In the dark, her last hope was that when she met a familiar face, recognition would set her free. Somepony would throw her a lifeline and let her pull herself out of the void and find out where she was. Rescue her from the darkness. “Wait a minute,” she called in sudden triumph, “who was the Element of Generosity when you battled Nightmare Moon, hmm?”

“You mean Cheerilee?”

Her hopes collapsing, Rarity felt like crying.

“Cheer up,” Twilight said coldly. “We went through the story you gave us again. This time, we widened our search and found a match.” She pulled a dossier from her saddlebag. “Sweetie Belle, IPID #798121. We have an address.”

Sweetie Belle lives here? she thought. Of course, mother and father always talked about moving to Manehattan. But they never did, because....because they thought Ponyville was a better place to raise me.

“Can I....talk to her?”

“Sure.” Twilight smiled. “We'll issue you a temporary IPID passport, so you can pass checkpoints. But of course, this is only while we get this sorted out. You'll still be expected to present yourself when we need you.”

Rarity was nervous, but she trusted Twilight's smile.

The police showers lacked her hair care essentials, but as she walked through cold, bright sunlight, Rarity was just glad to be clean. Even if her mane was as dull and lifeless as this town. No photographers raced over to snap photos, freeze her in time, make her forever young. Create an icon out of her. Nopony even looked at her. They walked with eyes forward, necks stiff. No smiles, nods, waves. This strange Manehattan was a loveless town, and this was the affluent part. She'd never been so lonely. Ignored. Ordinary, even.

But I never thought of myself as above other ponies! But she realized she relished others looking to her for guidance. Wanting to emulate her. It drove her, and now it was gone. She had no voice or agency and wouldn't be remembered. By anypony.

Yet Surrey Polomare would. Fruit of the mind is as distinct as a signature, and Surrey's fruit, hanging from the cityfolk, was rotten. Severe and drab. Safe and boring. No emotional texture. Just a big, bland nothing. Were the clothes drab because the ponies were unhappy, or were the ponies unhappy because the clothes were drab? Idle foolishness, she knew, but she couldn't help it. Designing clothes was her destiny.

This can't be where she lives.

Rarity edged down the filthy hallway, past broken furniture and peeling wallpaper. She knocked on apartment #912 and waited until the deadbolt thumped. It was an eternity before the door opened, but as soon as it did, Rarity wished it hadn't. Her mouth gaped open. The young mare on the other side was disheveled and unkempt, her baggy eyes sullen and full of fury.

“What do you want?”

“I, uh, I'm a cousin,” Rarity lied. “From your mother's side of the family. I'm researching the family genealogy.”

“She's gone. So's my dad.”

“Yes, I know,” Rarity said sadly. “May I come in anyway?”

Sweetie Belle shrugged and stepped aside. Rarity crossed the threshold into a landfill-like living room filled with cardboard boxes and newspapers, worn out clothes, food wrappers, empty cider bottles. A phonograph turned silently in the corner, stuck in an end groove, spitting out infinite crackling static.

“You live by yourself?” Rarity asked, horrified. This apartment wasn't like her sister at all. Where was the optimism? The cheer?

Defensively, Sweetie Belle snapped, “Where else would I live?”

“Don't you have any family?”

Her sister pulled cider bottles out of a cabinet. “I was an only child, and I was never close to my extended family."

Oh, my poor sister. Nopony helped her after our parents passed away. Because she didn't have me.

“What's your name, anyway?” Sweetie Belle asked, pulling a bottlecap off.


“Pretty name.”

“Sweetie Belle isn't so bad, either.”

Her sister dropped onto the worn, fraying couch. She gestured to the room. “It's such a lie. What's so sweet about all this?”

“Don't you have a job?”

“Ha! They're all taken, and none of them pay well enough for me to move out. This isn't a very generous place.”

Rarity almost offered to look after her sister before remembering she had no home. No friends. No money. A looming police inquisition. She had no way to make a mark on this world. For the first time, the horrifying thought that she'd never existed really, truly set in. Seeing her innocent, trusting sister warped into a miserable cynic who downed bottles of cider at ten in the afternoon made Rarity want to scream. This distorted world wore on her heavily, like a funeral shroud.

“I'm sorry, I don't feel well.” Swooning, Rarity staggered to the door. “I have to go.”

“Later,” Sweetie Belle called, her voice devoid of emotion.

Rarity ran out before her sister saw her break into tears.

“Has she moved?” Director Sparkle asked, parting her office's blinds to stare at the skyline. Manehattan, the city she swore to protect; the city she had to put her hoofprints on in order to stamp out its crime.

Clover poured over the phoned-in reports. “The follow teams say she's still sitting in the park, and I don't like it.”

She rolled her eyes as she turned away from the window. “That's a change. You're usually so trusting.”

“I'm serious. That park overlooks the harbor. She could be studying the ships coming in off the river. A prelude to an attack.”

“An attack? By who?”

“Who knows? Point is, she's been staring at the harbor for hours now. Studying it. We need to bring her in and take off the kiddie mittens. Enhanced interrogation.”

Director Sparkle sighed. “You know I hate doing that.”

“Extreme times.”

Director Sparkle thought long and hard before she nodded in assent, thinking, I used to be so kind....

Batterneigh Park was a beautiful slice of countryside overlooking the waterfront. As Rarity sat on the bench, she refused to look back and admit the city existed. It was only a terrible illusion, a mirage, like that magic spell from her dream. Except it wasn't a dream. She thought long and hard about what could have done this, and her thoughts kept coming back to the spell being real. Kings and queens used it on their way to the afterlife, obviously so they could see the impact their rule had. So did that mean dying a natural death was the only way out of this alternate world for her?

She shuddered and suppressed the thought.

Instead, she thought about life. Specifically, hers. She never considered herself anything more than a fashionista, but this world proved her small acts of generosity transformed everything. Like ripples turning into waves akin to the ones lapping the shoreline below. Her absence created this world, and she was stuck with it. Like those ruins in Saddle Arabia, meant to last for thousands of years, torn down by the ravages of time and turned to sand.

But some things exist beyond time. Her other life taught her that.

Archetypes, like the Elements of Harmony. The harder she stared at the horizon, the more she fancied she saw the abstract form of generosity shining beyond it. And that insight revitalized her. I'm still the Element of Generosity. So she didn't have a company, hordes of assistants, an adoring public. She didn't start with any of those either. She built them up, dress by dress, couture by couture, act of generosity by act of generosity. She could forge a new identity and put this city back the way it used to be. With a new spring in her gait, Rarity put the sunset behind her and walked out of the park.

But when she set hoof on concrete, two stallions in plain clothes brusquely cantered up to her. One said, “Manehattan Crime Control. Come with us, please.”

“C-certainly. Is there a problem?”

They silently motioned for her to walk with them. But as soon as Rarity fell into step, they hustled her away and tried to slap chains on her legs.

“You're under arrest for conspiracy to commit sabotage."

“What?” she shouted, bucking against them. “I did no such thing! I demand to speak to Twilight!”

“Director Sparkle ordered this. Stop resisting!”

A revelation struck Rarity: she'd trusted Twilight's smile too quickly. This wasn't her Twilight. This one was colder and meaner. The mirage of Manehattan turned everypony cold, and now they would throw her in jail for something she didn't do. But she had her purpose back. She had a destiny again, and she refused to be jailed, because it's call was as strong as that long-ago day she got her cutie mark.

She cast her eyes out for something to defend herself with. A pegasus policepony swooped down to help the plainclothes officers, past a flagpole mounted on a building holding an Equestrian flag. Idea! Rarity thought. She ignited her horn and sent a burst of magic at the flag. It ripped free and wrapped itself around the pegasus with a fancy bow. The plainclothes officers watched her drop like a stone into a fruit cart. Rarity bucked wildly, wriggled out of the unfastened hoofcuffs, and broke free of their grasp. They stared her down, but she stood her ground, overcome with triumph.

“Sorry, boys, but this is getting a little unseemly!”

She cast her unseaming spell and ripped the thread out of their clothes, which unraveled and tripped them up. She lowered her head and streamlined her body, racing headlong into the dusk, towards an unknown future.

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