• Published 22nd Mar 2015
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Masks - _Vidz_



A young colt, tormented by the dreadful stares of the ponies around him, desperately searches for a place where he can feel safe. Just when he feels he's found it, it seems this place has a much darker plan for him.

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Chapter 5

Chapter 5

The nearby park is cluttered with what must be every pony in town. All of them walking about, talking and laughing with each other. Ponies gently glide their bows along the strings of their violins. One stallion, front and center, softly plays off of his piano. As all of them fill the air with their music, it quickly becomes a delight to my ears. White chairs and tables under sheets of the same bright white color are set up all around an area of the park, and they all hold an assortment of silver trays stacked with snacks. The only thing keeping this place from being completely calming, is the fact that each and every pony is wearing those unsettling white masks molded with false smiles. Nearly every mare’s mask has rosy, powdered cheeks. The mayor leads Suave’s family and I under a white archway into the park, where he raises both his hooves and voice to get everypony’s attention.

“Greetings everyony!” The music silences, and everypony turns to see the mayor. “I’m glad to see you all here! I understand the hour is late, but this is quite a special occasion! Our visitor has now arrived, so please, give a nice, warm welcome to: Avral!” He then steps aside, allowing everyone to get a good view of me. Not expecting all of their dark eyes to be gazing at me all at once, I lower my head with my hood still hiding me. I cringe in fear, until the sounds of stomping hooves and joyful cheers beckon me to lift my head. It feels unreal, I don’t understand how all this excitement can be pointed towards me. Their cheers are something almost as unsettling as their porcelain faces, but also just as comforting. “Now everyone, please continue to play and endure in the merriment! Soon, I will return to speak and give a proper introduction to our new visitor! For now, I’d like him to get comfortable, and hopefully know he’s welcome among friends.”

The mayor trots off into the crowd, eventually meeting up with a mare in a striking, yellow dress who I can only assume is perhaps a family member as they engage in a heartfelt hug. The music begins anew, however this time it is much more powerful. Mares and stallions, hoof to hoof, gather in the center of the park where they engage in an energetic dance. Stepping and twirling with grace, followed by the cheery giggles from the fillies, it makes me wonder what I thought was so daunting about these ponies from the beginning. “Come darling, let us dance,” says Suave’s Father to his wife.

“I would be delighted to,” she says.

“What about you kids? Will you join everypony else?” I can already feel my muscles tense up at the very idea of his suggestion.

“Maybe later, for now I think we’ll just take a seat,” says Suave.

“Very well, although I do hope you two don’t plan on just sitting around for long. There’s much more fun to be had.” Suave’s Father takes his wife’s hoof, and they both join the rhythmic crowd of dancing ponies.

“Come on Avral, let’s find a place to sit.” I follow Suave to one of the sheeted tables, where I take a seat and await for her to take hers right across from me. Instead, she pulls the chair over to my side, and then decides to sit down once she’s got the chair positioned comfortably near me. “So, what do you think?”

“It’s um . . . it’s nice.”

“Why do you seem so . . . down? I thought you would be more excited.”

“I would, but. . .” I tug at my hood to keep it nice and snug over my head. “I just don’t think I can.” Suave suddenly becomes silent, as if pondering on what to say next. I shouldn’t have come here, all of this just feels unnecessary. Much to my surprise, these ponies have shown me more kindness than I have ever received. I know I should feel a bit ashamed to say, but even more than my own parents have shown. They simply expect me to accept the way I am, when to me that feels like an impossibility. I just feel the need to go back home, plant myself in my bed, and await the next dreadful morning. Just to let the endless monotony of the days proceed. There isn’t any point in me staying here any longer. Breaking from my thoughts, I feel something touch my hoof, and it’s Suave, trying to lower it down from my hood. I let go of the tension that kept my hoof around the brim of my hood, and shift my eyes to her, no longer feeling comfortable to look at her face to face.

“Avral, why are you so scared?” She asks.

“You know why.”

“No, I don’t. To me, you really have no reason to be scared.”

“What makes you say that?”

“I’ll tell you, but first you have to turn and look at me.”

“N-No, you’ve already seen me. I don’t want—”

“Avral, please?” Falling victim to her soft plea, I turn to face her, but not without my hood shrouding my face in shadows. She reaches for my hood, and I immediately lean back as far as I need to in my chair to avoid her. “Avral, please, just one more time. After that, you don’t have to take your hood off anymore.” Giving in, I move back to my original position in my chair. She grips the brim of my hood, and carefully lifts it up and off of my head. I stare into the dark eyes of her mask, impatiently waiting for what she has been wanting to tell me. “See? Isn’t that better?” I refuse to answer, instead I turn away to hide as much of my face as I can. “Avral, I don’t understand what you’re afraid of.”

“How do you not understand? My face is just. . .” Frustrated, I sigh to maybe relieve some of the anxiety building up inside me. “I don’t understand ‘you’.” I continue. “Y-You don’t point or-or laugh, or act disgusted. . .”

“Why would I act that way?”

“Everypony else does. So, why should I expect anything less?”

“Avral, when I look at you, I don’t think about how your face looks; because all I see is ‘you’ . . . someone I can actually call ‘my friend’.”

“I can’t be your ‘only’ friend.”

“Everypony in this town pretends to be friends. They talk, laugh, play; but to me, it all feels fake. It’s like a disguise. It feels like we all have to be friends since we all look the same, but that can’t be how friendship works. Real friends should be able to see you, to be allowed to show themselves, and not be afraid. If we didn’t have to wear these masks with these fake smiles, maybe then we can make ‘real’ friends, and see some ‘real’ smiles. Right now, I feel like you’re my only real friend, because you’re not hiding behind a lie. If those ponies you talk about would only give you a chance, maybe then they can see what I see . . . and I think I know how to fix it.”

“Really? How?” I ask, almost ready to dismiss her answer as something that may never work. She puts her hoof under my chin, and raises my head up to the same level as hers.

“Lift your head up, and show everypony you don’t care about what they think of your face. I’m sure that if you would just show everypony who you are instead of hiding under that hood, they would finally see what I see: somepony who’s kind and sweet.” I find myself unable to resist the sudden build-up of water behind my eyes as it carefully begins to trickle down from the base of my eyelids. Something I just couldn’t fight back, was the smile that seems to have found its way across my face. I can’t remember another time where I smiled quite like this. “Show them that. Show them your ‘real’ smile.”

“Suave, honey!” Suave’s Mother calls from the crowd. “Are you and Avral going to join us?”

Suave gets up from her seat. “Want to dance?” She asks.

“I-I don’t know how to dance.” I stutter.

“It’s okay, I’ll teach you! Come on!” She grabs my hoof, and walks me over to the crowd of dancing ponies. We stop at an open space deep in the crowd, and I shiver from the sheer terror of being surrounded by so many ponies. “Now, give me your hooves. . .” She puts her hooves against mine, keeping them raised up to about our chests. “And do as I do.” I watch her hind legs, trying ever so desperately to follow her flow. Every step she takes appears as though it’s flowing with the very tones of the music being played. I raise my head up to her, coming to the revelation that I seem to have somehow captured her rhythmic steps. I am able to keep each step in memory and simply continue to move with the music. “You got it! Keep going!” Soon, the both of us are moving and twirling about just as everypony else. This smile on my face seems to have grown from the utter joy I have found myself in. Looking into Suave’s dark eyes upon her fake, white face, I feel something I never have before. It isn’t fear, it isn’t sadness; it’s something great, something that alights my body with a wave of energy. I can feel my mane flowing with the air as we dance, reminding me that my hood is still down. For the first time, I no longer feel compelled to reach for it and pull it over my head. For the first time, I feel happy.

The pianist’s hooves dance over the piano, picking up in speed, as well as the violinists. Ponies around us halt their dances to watch, backing up to make more space for us until they’ve formed a ring around us. Suave’s dancing picks up with the music, and I seem to follow just as well. “Get ready, I’m going to do a spin. Just keep your right hoof on mine until I spin, and get ready to catch me when I lean back. You know what I mean right?” She asks.

“Yeah, yeah I do.”

“Okay, here goes. . .” I raise my right hoof, and she twirls around before leaving my hoof. She takes a few steps away from me, and immediately begins twirling her way back towards me. Anxiously, I wait for her to stop, and once she does, she folds her hooves on her chest before allowing herself to fall backwards. I catch her with my entire foreleg, and the both of us hold our pose. The music comes to a finish, and I take a look at every pony who has stopped dancing to watch us, and they all stomp their hooves to the ground whilst cheering with joy. Suave jumps up, clearly giddy, she hops around excitedly. “That was great! You were great!” She cheers.

“That was wonderful! You two were just simply wonderful!” Suave’s Mother congratulates as she and her husband emerge from the crowd.

“Indeed, you two make quite the duo!” Suave’s Father adds.

“I must say, it would seem you two have captivated just about everypony!” The mayor adds, making his way to us through the crowd. “Why, even I was quite enchanted by the lovely dance you two had put together. I never would have guessed our visitor was so talented! And you Suave, that was a wonderful finish, beautiful as always.”

“Thank you Mister Mayor,” says Suave.

“Well, I’m sure by now everypony is eager to hear from you Avral. Please, follow me.” With one last cheerful glance to Suave, I turn and follow the mayor all the way up to the little podium set up at the end of the space where everypony had been dancing. With his hooves resting on the little surface of the podium, everypony gathers around to listen. “My dearest friends, we are all here today to celebrate the coming of our visitor. And it is with great pleasure, that I introduce to you all, Mister Avral!” He points his hoof at me, and I wave to the cheering crowd. “Now Avral, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself? Just where do you come from?”

“Ponyville,” I say.

“Ponyville? Well, I’ve never heard of such a place. However, the only way you could have gotten here from the outside, is to have crossed the thicket of woods that surrounds our town. Is that correct?”

“Well . . . yes.” As soon as I answer, a gasp overtakes the crowd.

“You are quite lucky to have found our little town Avral. Thank the heavens you made it through without falling victim to the dangers that lurk within those woods. You truly are a brave, young colt. I think I speak for all of us when I say we are overjoyed to have you with us today, and we dread the moment we let you return to that dark place. Not only because it is dangerous, but because we will dearly miss your presence. Which is why I would like to ask you something that I’m sure everyone would like an answer to. Would you, Avral, care to say here with us? To make this place your new home?” The question strikes me as completely unexpected and jarring. I’m not quite sure how to answer, as all I can offer is a confused stutter.

“I-I . . . I don’t. . .”

“I understand this is a bit difficult to take in all at once; but you must understand that, from the very short time you’ve spent with us, you have become beloved among us. And the last thing we would want is for you to risk your very life to return to those woods. Besides, I’m certain you must have left your hometown for a reason, yes?”

“What do you mean?”

“Nopony would make the journey through the woods without a clear motive. Perhaps something was . . . driving you to escape?” I had almost completely forgotten about the moments that led me to seek out somewhere to hide in the first place, but from the mayor’s words, every memory is returning to me, and the smile I held so dearly upon my face fades away. I cannot deny it. He’s right, I did leave to escape. I wanted to find a place I could call my ‘safe haven’. I never was truly happy back home, and I never was happy back at the many homes before that. “I am sorry Avral, I didn’t mean to upset you; but I understand, we all understand. That is why we would love for you to stay with us, we want to be there for you. Together, as one big family, we’ve been able to overcome our struggles. We can do the same for you. . . Avral, I have something for you.” The mayor reaches in a little compartment in the podium, and pulls out a small, porcelain mask. “I have for you, your new face. Wear this, and you will be considered a part of our family.” I take the mask from his hoof, staring into the vacant eyes. “What say you? Will you join us?”

“I . . . I don’t know.”

“Please, we insist.” With the mask in my hooves, I look at just how perfect the face is. Smooth, clean, and flawless. It’s everything I wished my face could be. I realize now that I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for, my safe haven. This place seems just too good to be true, but once I adorn this new face, this place will become my home. I turn to the crowd, who all appear to be watching eagerly for me to put on the mask. All but one, Suave, who has her head down. Even though her mask blocks my view of her face, I can imagine the emotion on her face at this moment, and that would be of pure discontent. Seeing her reminds me of everything she’s told me. Everything about herself, and about me. This place is everything I wanted, but now, I’m not sure if it truly is anymore. I feel that with what Suave has taught me, I could return home and just try again. For my parents, and for myself, I feel I could begin anew. I no longer feel the need to escape, and no longer do I feel afraid.

“No,” I say.

“Pardon? Could you say that just once more?”

“I . . . I said no, I’m sorry Mister Mayor, b-but I really should be heading back home.”

“Well now let’s just hold on for a minute here. I don’t think you’ve had the opportunity to truly think this through.”

“No, really I don’t—”

“You must not be understanding.” His tone becoming more impatient. “I said, I don’t think you’ve had enough time to think this through, so why don’t I help you?”

“W-What? No I-I—”

“I’ll just have Suave’s Father bring you back to his home, and you two can talk more about this. Maybe he can help you understand.”

“What? N-No I—!” I feel something grasp my shoulder.

“Come, Avral, let’s go.” Suave’s Father tries to take me down from the podium, but I do my best to resist. Violently, he grabs onto my hoof, and forcibly drags me away. “Let me go! Help!” I scream, but nopony in the crowd appears to be phased. They turn their heads to watch me get dragged away, but none of them decide to take any course of action.

“Avral! Father!” Suave shouts.

“Do not worry sweetheart! Avral and I are just going to talk, there is nothing for you to be concerned about!” Suave’s Father meets up with his wife still gripping tightly onto my hoof. “Honey, keep Suave here, we don’t need her interfering.”

“Of course, goodbye Avral, I hope you two can work things out,” says Suave’s Mother as she walks towards Suave.

“Oh do not worry, I’m almost certain we will.” Suave’s Father aggressively leads me away from the crowd, and no amount of tugging and shouting can get him to let me go. I see Suave trotting in my direction, hopeful that maybe she can do something to stop him; but way before she can reach us, her Mother grabs and holds her back.

“Help! Somepony!” I continue to pointlessly shout until I am dragged all the way back into the neighborhood. Suave’s Father opens the front door to his home and tosses me inside. I fall to the floor, and he slams the door behind him. I frantically get back up to my hooves and try to trot passed him, but he stands tall and stiff like a wall to keep me from leaving. He grabs me again, and leans in closer to whisper to me.

“Please, be calm Avral. I’m going to help you, and I know a special place for you to think.”

“No! Let me go!” I continue to fight and kick at his legs, but he doesn’t seem to care. He carries me up the stairs with his foreleg around my waist, and brings me to one certain room. He reaches into his pocket with the sound of jingling metal. He pulls out a ring of keys, and unlocks the door, pushing it open with a loud creaking noise. He throws me into the room, and as my body tumbles over the wood floor, clouds of dust are kicked up, forcing me to cough incessantly. My body is so exhausted from my attempts to free myself from his grip, that I can’t get up in time to even try to escape. I look up to see Suave’s Father standing in the middle of the doorway, which is the where the only source of light is coming from. Suave’s Father slams the door, covering the entire room in blackness; and as I listen to the dreadful clicking of the lock, get up to hurry over to the door and pound as hard as I can. “Let me out! Please!” I beg.

“I’m sorry Avral, I can’t. I will only open the door, once you’ve learned.” Overcome by fear, I listen to his steps as he returns down stairs. From what he said, I realize just exactly where he’s locked me in. This is what Suave was talking about before. This is the room.

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