• Published 18th Aug 2014
  • 2,892 Views, 16 Comments

Portal - Benman

What if you could go to the world of your dreams? What if it meant you could never come back?

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Chapter 1

I crouch over the toilet, not quite able to vomit out the pressure roiling in my guts. The rest of the ambulance crew is just outside. I can hole up in here until the next call, at least, but I’ll still have to face them when I emerge. Will they sneer at my weakness? Say nothing, avoiding my eyes? At least they have the decency to leave me alone as I retch in this colorless stall. If I had any friends, I wouldn’t want them to see me like this.

My mind won’t stop replaying the feel of blood-slick skin under sterile gloves. It’s my second day on the crew, and I’ve never seen anything that bad in my life.

I’m not throwing up. I guess I’ll keep my lunch, along with the slimy queasiness inside me. That settled, I need to get back out there, or the crew could lose precious seconds waiting for me when the next call comes. I take a square of toilet paper and wipe grime from the rim of the toilet bowl, drop it in, force myself upright, and turn around. I freeze.

Where there should be the chipped tan paint of the stall door, instead I see a sprawling vista of emerald grasses and impossibly blue skies. Rows of perfect apple trees march across the distance to a pristine sapphire brook. Close by, almost close enough to touch, my favorite pony watches me with something like awe.

Part of me wonders if I’ve snapped, retreating into the show more vividly than usual, but no. I know—I know—this is real. The Equestrian landscape before me is lively and vibrant in a way that no cartoon or hallucination could ever match. There’s a sense of… of wholeness, like everything is exactly the way it should be. It’s everything that’s missing from my own world.

Twilight Sparkle sits on her haunches, beaming up at me. She comes no higher than my hips. “This is amazing!” she says. “An actual human!”

I step forward, leaving behind the stench of waste and sticky-sweet deodorizer for fresh pollen in the summer air. The sunlight is warm on my skin.

The human steps carefully through the portal before me. “Wait,” he says. “You know about humans?”

“I’ve read everything about you,” I say. Princess Celestia's books said that humans are friendly creatures, always a joy to meet, but the land they come from… well, I’m glad this one made it out, at least. “The last recorded encounter was fifty or sixty years ago. How much do you know about us?”

“A bunch,” says the human. “I've seen the TV show.”

“TV show?”

“Right, it’s a sort of story-telling… thing. Anyway, you and your friends are supposed to be fictional. Don’t take that the wrong way or anything! Equestria is popular because it’s so much nicer than Earth.” He swallows. “I’m, uh, I’m a big fan of yours.”

“Oh!” My mouth starts running as I talk about anything other than that last thing he said. “Fascinating! We’ve suspected that visions or daydreams of Equestria can cross between worlds, but I don’t know of cases where it’s been turned into fiction. This is clear proof of Owlbright’s Conjecture.”

“Maybe not,” he says. “There’s travel between the worlds, right? What if someone just came here for a while and then went back with a story to tell?”

I shake my head. “Every human who’s come here has chosen to stay.”

“Yeah,” he says, gazing at the landscape as though he’s looking at something extraordinary instead of just Sweet Apple Acres. “I believe it.” He glances back through the portal, to the dingy world he came from. “Christ, I can’t believe I messed that up.”

“Messed what up?” Why does he look so unhappy? He’s here, isn’t he?

“This girl I was helping.” He crouches down, bringing his head closer to mine. “Sharon, I think? I tried, but I just don’t know…”

“It’s okay.” I walk forward and nuzzle his legs. “You did the best you could.”

A frown flashes across his face. “That’s not what counts, though.”

We shouldn’t be dwelling on this. This should be a happy moment. “So!” I say, too brightly. “Let’s get you settled in. There’s a spare room at the library. I’m sure we have a lot to talk about.” I start walking back towards Ponyville. I can just make out Pinkie Pie leading a song and dance number through the streets. If we hurry, we might get there in time to join the finale. Humans don’t break into song, I’ve read, and I can’t wait to show him what it’s like.

I hear him rise and take a couple of steps before he stops. “Um,” he says. “What about this portal? Is it… shrinking?”

“Yeah.” I look back. “Portals don’t last too long. I don’t think one’s ever lasted for more than a day. This one looks like it’ll last for twenty or thirty minutes.”

“Whoa! How will I get back home?”

“I don’t think you can, without the portal. But why would you want to? Didn’t you just say Equestria is nicer than Earth?”

“I can’t leave. They need me back there!”

I frown. This doesn’t add up. “Look. I would never tell someone to leave their friends behind. Not ever. But the reason you’re here… oh, I’m sorry, there’s no good way to say this. You don’t have any friends.”

“What do you mean?” he says softly, and I can tell from his tone that I’ve struck a nerve.

My ears droop; I don’t want to have this conversation. “I’m sorry,” I say again. “If you had friends, you wouldn’t be here. What do you think caused the portal? Did your TV show tell you how I got my cutie mark?”

He nods, slowly. “The sonic rainboom. It happened to all your friends.”

“Exactly! The magic brought us together. That’s what magic does. It finds people who don’t have friends, and it makes things right.” I pause, biting my lip. “I know you don’t have magic where you come from. I think… I think that must be very sad.” I brighten. “But it’s okay now! The magic of friendship is strong enough to reach across worlds. It brought other lonely humans here, and they all found happiness. Like you!”

“Yeah.” He sits, running his hands through the sun-warmed grass with a long sigh. “I wish I could stay.”

“You can.” I don’t understand.

“I have a job to do back there.”

“Don’t go,” I whisper. I put a hoof on his knee. “Don’t you see? None of this is a coincidence. If you were brought here, to us, then we’re destined to be friends. Losing you would be like losing Rarity or Fluttershy, it, it would be worse because you never even, never even got to know us

“People need help,” he says, like it’s the simplest thing in the world. “I’m sorry.”

We need your help! Wouldn’t you rather help someone you can be friends with?”

“I’d rather help the people who need it more.” He brushes a hand across my withers. It’s warm. “This world is doing fine. Horrible things happen back on Earth that would never, ever happen here. Everyone here can find friends, and you all have a special talent you’re good at, and, and there’s the princess to watch over you...” His voice shrinks and trails off. He swallows and starts again. “All that pain back there… if it were your home, could you just walk away, knowing it would still go on?” He looks back at the portal.

“But why are you responsible for it? I mean, is this your special talent?” There are supposed to be people to handle these things—people with the right skills and opportunities. People like me. But he doesn’t seem like a champion.

He shrugs. “Maybe someone else could do it better, but we’re already understaffed. If I don’t do it, then no one will.”

“I just want you to be happy,” I whisper.

“Yeah. But some things are more important.”

I lunge forward, throwing my forelegs around his chest and clinging with all my heart. “Please,” I say into his shoulder. “Please.”

He embraces me, running a hand through my mane. Then, gently, he pulls me off and stands up.

As soon as I’m back through the portal, I wipe my eyes and let out a long, shuddering breath. Part of me wants to run back there before it closes forever. Resisting the temptation isn’t pleasant, but it’s simple. I can do so much more, here.

Twilight was asking why it was my responsibility, but that has nothing to do with it. If I’m here, helping, then things can turn out a little brighter. That’s all.

After another moment to gather myself, I push myself out of the bathroom. Outside is pandemonium. People are running to and fro, piling into the ambulance. The lights are already on. “About time you showed up!” someone shouts. “Come on, move!”

I grab my jacket from the back of a chair. “Right,” I say, shrugging it on. “Let’s get to work.”

Comments ( 16 )

Hmmm... If I had that kind of dire situation back in my world and they were using that argument on me, I would have made a big play for ponies coming to MY world. Ponies are suckers for lines about duty and friendship and how much more good they could do on earth rather than Equestria.

I mean if the friendship is destined then the ponies are being the ones who are messing it up by not following you back.

I'd hate to say this but given the opportunity...I'd stay and never look back :fluttershysad: I can't say that I love earth. It's a cruel and unforgiving world. some people can't handle that, me included.
I guess you could say I'm selfish:twilightblush:

I felt that was necessary. And from Twilight's perspective, it's basically what the protagonist is doing; throwing himself into a lethal environment for the good of others. Really, with that kind of willingness to sacrifice himself, I'm surprised this guy doesn't have any friends.

In all, an excellent look at the ties that bind, and how they might restrain us from pastel pony paradise. Thank you for it. I also liked how the native of each world narrated when the human was in each.

Why? It is not their responsibility, any more than it is your responsibility to go to Africa and treat people with AIDS and Ebola and trying to keep warring tribes apart.

There's no reason why you can't be useful in another world, and indeed, in a better world, you're actually likely to be more useful - over time, the world has become an increasingly better place, and individual people have become increasingly useful and valuable.

There is a saying:

We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.

Earth isn't a terrible, unforgiving place. In fact, quite the opposite.

Hell isn't in the world; it is in you.

And that's a real flaw with the story; if you are utterly friendless, chances are that isn't going to change just because you stepped through a magic portal to ponyland. Whatever factors prevented you from making friends here are just as likely to be present there, because, as they say, the common factor in all your failures is you.

I don't think you're obligated to not step through a portal, as I noted before, no matter how important your job is here, because there is no reason to believe that you might not be just as useful elsewhere as well - and maybe more so.

As Clint Black once said:

Nice. Short and to the point.

The people risking thier lives to fight ebola right now came to mind near the end.


I said duty, friendship, and fulfillment of the destiny that the ponies themselves brought up.

I did NOT say responsibility.

They do not have any responsibility for our problems, but they could feel a duty to fix them in friendship, to accept the destiny manifested by the existence of the portal itself.

Having preread it back before the final polish, I think the shift in perspective does overall help the central section. Regardless, good to see this posted.

Da feels!:fluttercry: they feel so sad but so good.

I feel like the pacing was this story's biggest flaw. If you had dragged it out a bit more, it would have felt more natural. Of course, the portal would close soon, but that doesn't justify it. Another thing, you need to give their relationship a bit more time to settle. I feel like this would have been better as a short multi-chapter fic.

Other than that, pretty good. I liked it.

And then, after a series of implausible events and unlikely coincidences, Protagonist winds up back in Equestria anyway, because that's what happens when you try to fight Destiny. :facehoof:

Your concept isn't bad. However, I don't think it fit well into such a short format.

A good read, and a good sentiment to get across, but it's a little anvilicious there at the end. Also weirdly negative how certain twilight is that he has no friends. Still though, interesting take on HiE.

That was actually a pretty touching story. In fact, I'd go out and say this guy was one of the most heroic characters in a HiE fic I've ever seen: Even though he has no friends and is in a job that constantly exposes him to the bad side of humanity, he still feels an obligation to serve his fellow man. This gets a Like.

that is depressing :fluttercry:

I liked this and felt it justified the human's choices pretty well. I just wish it had been three times the length.

This answer is better than the standard one, but still bad. You cannot leave a reality full of possibilities, you must take advantage of them.
You have a full 20 minutes to collect magical items and books that will lead to a breakthrough in science and save many more lives.

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