• Published 23rd May 2015
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The Last Pony on Earth - Starscribe


One day, Earth. The next, everyone is gone and I'm a pony. What the heck is going on?

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Chapter 3: May 25
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Dear Journal,

I didn’t find anyone today. Power died sometime during the night, though the batteries in the truck haven’t yet. There were no streetlights on when I woke in the morning, and while my cell phone still sometimes claims to have service, I haven’t been able to so much as reach anybody’s voicemail today. So ends the connectedness of the information age. At least until everybody comes back. I mean; if the vanishing happened all at once for no reason, I see no reason the return of humanity couldn’t be for a similar cause and with a similar amount of preparation, right?

Maybe it’s just waiting to happen. Maybe this is some kind of test. Obviously not by us, since we never had anything that could make one person vanish, much less all of them. Or maybe… I was kidnapped in my sleep, given some sort of body or mind-altering drug, then placed in a scale recreation of my hometown, with access to some static backup of the internet instead of the real thing.

I wonder which is simpler. Were it not for the being a tiny horse thing, I’d probably suspect the simulation idea (while incredibly unlikely) actually made the most sense. With that addition, pretty much everything is up in the air.

If anybody responded last night, then the speakers didn’t wake me. I’m fairly certain with the volume level that couldn’t have happened. It was strange to wake up in my manager’s office instead of at my apartment. Can’t say I ever thought I’d sleep here.

I wonder, when I look for somewhere else to go, where it would make sense to live. LA is an awful place to build a survivor’s colony, all things considered. Even if millions of (hopefully human) people start flowing in from all over the country, the climate just isn’t conducive to a primitive society. The aqueduct won’t keep running forever, and there just isn’t enough rain down here to keep very much alive besides scraggly brown weeds and some cacti. Oregon or Washington might make better locations.

Of course it’s also possible nobody will ever show up. In that case, there’s no chance of me ever doing anything but survive. I’m sure there’s enough canned and dried food in the city alone to feed one small horse for the rest of its natural life.

I wonder how long tiny horses live. Regular sized ones don’t usually do better than twenty to thirty years. Does that mean I only have another ten?

Granted the more I experience in this strange blue body, the more evidence I see that it isn’t any breed of horse that’s ever lived on Earth. My legs can bend in ways I think gymnasts everywhere would’ve envied. Not only that, but in all my walking, I haven’t once grown tired. When a whole crate of cans fell on my leg today, it didn’t break and I was able to crawl out with minimal effort.

Thank god I didn’t break a leg. I would’ve been well and truly dead if that’d happened. No doctors after everyone vanishes, let alone veterinarians with the skills to treat injuries suffered by microhorses.

Okay, that name can use a little work. I’ll have to call whatever new species I’ve become something! In the absence of any natural individuals to argue with me, I suppose I can call myself whatever I want.

I’m wandering. Maybe I should go back to just talking about my day in linear order like I did before everything fell apart.

The loss of power changes things for me, and I realized today that one of the first things to go is going to be the produce keeping in hundreds of supermarkets all around the city. I know very little about this body, except that eating granola bars apparently isn’t fatal. The produce and meat and fish in the supermarkets will last a few hours more on their own backup generators, and then it will all begin to rot.

Given my involuntary reactions last night to even a subtle aroma, and the flat look of most of my teeth, it feels like I’m probably some kind of herbivore. It seemed the smartest idea to me to try as many of the different vegetables and fruits I could while they still existed. That would give me a good idea about the new preferences of this body, and teach me what to look for or eventually grow.

Like hell I’ll ever be able to grow anything. I’ve killed three window gardens since moving into my current apartment. Whatever.

Power generation for the radio would be important too, but that seemed like a bigger and slightly less urgent project. So I went to the closest grocery store, a Whole Foods I never could’ve afforded to do any actual shopping at before everyone disappeared. The walk was a pleasant punctuation to the quiet of the previous days. It's nice to leave the densest parts of the inner-city (if I'm going to steal groceries, might as well steal the best, right?). I think I've lived in crappy apartments for so long that I've forgotten real plants exist. Passed a park, with honest to god birds flying and chirping and doing their thing. More than just the occasional seagull flying west you occasionally spot or crow watching silently on a telephone pole.

It's funny how this awful experience and even losing what I thought made me human (the being human part) has reminded me of the things I used to experience. With the city ordinances gone and nobody blasting nests out of their houses with hoses, I suppose I'll start to see more and more of these little animals colonizing the parts of the city that have been almost desolate.

I'm seeing and hearing more evidence of LA's resident stray population. You never really hear much about them living there. In two years, I'd never even seen one. Saw more than a few today, though thank god it's been so hot. The few packs I saw left well enough alone from a distance. Guess after just a few days there's probably still plenty to eat that they don't have to get up during the hottest part of afternoon to hunt an alien horse. Maybe they expect me to be able to outpace them, since I'm a horse and all.

Can I gallop? Is that a thing that tiny horses can do? Do I even want to learn if I can? I suppose if the alternative is that or getting gored by teeth as big as my face, I'll choose learning to fight with whatever "nature" gave me.

Something else worth mentioning: I think my senses have changed. My hearing is much better. These stupid ears move for a reason, and they seem to know what they're doing without me getting involved. As much as they knock stray strands of this ridiculous mane into my eyes. I can tell where sound is coming from much better. I avoided a few streets that sounded like they had some active packs, and hurried inside a convenience store when it seemed like another group was actively hunting.

What are the dogs hunting if not for me? Rats? Each other? People's pets? Or are they breaking into buildings and eating all the rotting food and fresh-ish meat all over the city? That stuff's all bound to run out eventually. As I understand it, LA is quite unkind to rats compared to other cities, too spread out with an infrastructure too new to support them in the numbers like New York or Chicago. I fear that my local canines will soon run out of easy meals and start looking for the difficult ones. The four-legged, blueish greenish variety. How do quadrupedal herbivores usually handle predators who hunt in packs and run as fast (or close) as they do? Oh, right. Herds. Guess I don't have one of those.

Long hair sucks. There's a reason I wore it so short in high school. Maybe I'll cut it, spray it, gel it, something. What do people do with hair this long, anyway? What do people do with tails?

Can't say if seeing other living things was an improvement or not, though. Do I prefer the chirps and calls of real-life birds more than the horns and buses and human voices. God, not more than the last one. My own voice sounds awful, nothing like the one I'm used to. My earbuds won't stay in my ears, not with the way they twitch and move constantly and how strangely shaped they are. Maybe I'll have to get clips or something to hold them in. I didn't want to use a portable speaker too loudly for fear I might attract animal attention. Getting the attention of other sapient life is going to be a challenge if I have to simultaneously shelter from the non-sapient variety. Think I'm rambling, in any case. Let's focus!

The doors were locked, like I might’ve expected them to be if the place was being sealed for the night. I didn’t have to do anything to force my way in, because something already had. Several potted trees sat beside the store. None were large enough for trees, though each must’ve had a few hundred pounds of dirt.

One had fallen in, shattering the glass of one of the gigantic doors. Have I mentioned yet how big all the doors look now?

It wasn’t a terribly large tree. I probably could’ve pushed it over, if I still had the height to leverage it from the top. Or, it’s possible, a stiff enough wind could’ve toppled it, though I haven’t felt anything like that in the last week or so. I expect animals will eventually start taking over human spaces, but… none of them are smart enough to know how to use a tree to break into the one building that happens to be full of food, right?

This was one of two things: either a freak accident or evidence of another human survivor. I wandered the store, though I had to hold a flashlight in my mouth to be able to see anything. Either this particular store lacked any sort of automatic backup power systems, or else those generators would only be used to preserve the store, and not to light it.

I saw no sign animals had been into the store yet, no boxes torn or displays ripped open.

I tried much of the produce, smelling everything first and rinsing it as best I could. What I learned was either encouraging or unhelpful: it seems I can eat just about all of it. Leafy green vegetables in particular tasted far better than I remember. I couldn’t try everything, particularly the stuff that takes a long time to prepare or requires dexterity (how the hell am I supposed to slice a pineapple with hooves?).

When I was done with all that, I took a cart and filled it with all the tasty things I could. I left behind apples and carrots and other things I don’t expect to spoil without refrigeration (though I’ll have to get back and salvage them before scavengers do).

When in Rome? I can’t say I imagined an animal as small as I am could eat such a large volume. Then again, I also never really cared much for the sorts of foods I ought to eat. Now they’re all delicious. Please, tell me how that’s fair: why couldn’t I have had the same sense of taste before the end of the world? I would’ve been beach body ready all year round. Whatever the hell that even means.

Fortunately the door was one of those that can be opened mechanically from the inside, or else getting my haul out would’ve been hard. I tied some rope to the handles of the cart (a near-hour ordeal, by the way), then wrapped it around my neck to pull it. Worked okay I guess. Figure if I’m going to make a habit out of moving cargo, and I am going to have to make a habit out of it if I want to survive, I’ll probably need to get a cart figured out that doesn’t half-strangle me while I walk or rattle around like it’s going to fall apart whenever I cross a street. Bruised everything on the bottom layer just getting it a block down the sidewalk.

I kept by the same paths I had taken on the way in, and didn't encounter any large packs, though I could still hear them in the distance. I wonder if the rattling and noise scared them off. That'd be useful to know. Are they all strays? Escaped pets? I have to imagine if I've lived my whole life without seeing very many stray dogs, it has to be because they've trained themselves to avoid signs of human activity. Of course, the further I got from the more residential areas the fewer and fewer signs I saw of them, until I returned to the near desolation of the garage where I work. Guess any dogs that may've lived there have moved on to search for greener pastures. Wouldn't be harder; aside from the cart I brought, there isn't a green thing in sight.

One fear ends today: it does not appear that I’m going to starve. This body seems to handle most of the same things I (should’ve) had when I was human. I will experiment with grains next, though probably not dairy. Even if I could somehow find chickens, I’m not sure it would be worth the work of keeping them just for eggs. What am I going to do, bake cakes?

Horses can eat grass. I didn’t try that. It would be helpful to know if this body is capable, but… not today. Not ever. Not while I have any other option. Whatever did this might’ve taken away my friends, my family, and even my body, but I won’t let them take what scrap of dignity I have left. They won’t make an animal out of me. I might just let myself starve if it really comes to that. Besides, it’s not as if that stuff can be that good for you. Grazing animals have to spend all day eating because everything they eat is so poor nutritionally. Cows have like four stomachs. I don’t think horses have that, but… No.

I got a face full of grass plenty of times in the kid’s soccer league. I’m not gonna intentionally cause it now. Not to mention it's got to be nasty and dirty and covered in bugs. Can you cook grass? What about hay?

You know what? No. Moving on.

Power is my next priority. I started this building’s generator to keep the truck’s transmitter and radio working, as well as to refrigerate my produce haul. Running it on the lowest possible setting, I should only have to switch it on every six hours or so for a short period, to recharge the battery and rechill the fridge. I remember hearing somewhere that they’re insulated enough to keep food from spoiling inside even during a power failure so long as you don’t open them.

Tomorrow I’ll probably start looking for a new headquarters. The garage is central to the resources of downtown and it has the radio, but it’s also not very sustainable. With any luck, I’ll find somewhere within walking distance with a bunch of solar panels or something. Thank god for the green movement.

—A

I thought I'd draw the landscape outside the garage. How'd I do?

Author's Note:

So my original plan for this story was to let the posting schedule be dictated by the in-story actions of the narrator. Whenever they missed a day, or wrote more or less, that was what I would do. But there's also something to be said for having a consistent release schedule, which would mean that when the narrator doesn't write an entry I would just post the next one. The result of this is that the entries will get slightly more out of sync with the current day as time goes on.

What do people think? Which should I do? I'm currently leaning on the "post daily and who cares about keeping things in sync" camp, so that events in story don't slow the posting of the story. Unless the majority come out against this plan, I'll probably go forward with daily posting and allow the chapter titles to get slightly confusing as they reference days that haven't happened yet in the real world.

Let me know, though. I had absolutely no idea this story would get so much attention. Funny how the projects you don't expect to go anywhere are the ones that people seem to care about the most.

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