• Published 26th Jul 2015
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The Things Tavi Says - shortskirtsandexplosions

Let me tell you a few things about my roommate, Octavia. After all, she saved my life.

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Cathartic Things

Author's Note:

One does not trot across this city.

One wades.

Only three blocks from the train depot, and the protective shield of tourism and financial obligation ends. The streets beyond are filled with refuse, broken glass, and mounds of garbage. At first, it seems like a problem—until one realizes that only a tenth of the residences and establishments are actually open. There's next to nopony to lay claim to these rusted, dilapidated carriages—abandoned over a decade ago when economic ennui struck this city like a tidal wave. All that's left is a population of destitute vagrants, wandering the alleys like ghosts among gravestones.

I trot at an even pace, cutting through the blocks as I head closer to my destination. I must look like a welcoming target: a unicorn magically dragging two large pieces of polished luggage. However, I also look healthy and rich, something that none of these onlooking freeloaders can relate to. If they attack me, they dig for themselves a hole ten times deeper than the ones they're already wasting away in. And they know it. There's nothing more crazy or manic than hope, and it draws them back into the shadows, anchored to whatever desperate dreams still give worth to the wasted streets of this sprawl. Sure, there might be a psychopath or two among them—ponies who understand that the lack of structure here makes for a lack of consequences. It's a dangerous risk to my well-being for sure, but it doesn't matter.

Nothing matters anymore.

Two more blocks, and I pass through an invisible barrier. Things around me start looking clean again. I expected this. The closer one is to the river, the more this city pretends to be something it once was, but isn't anymore. It's only now that a brief stab of fear digs through me—that there may be nothing left of what was once here seven years ago.

I turn a corner, rounding an intersection of partially crumbled asphalt, and I can breathe again.

There it stands. Seven stories tall with chips of red paint flaking off. Once upon a time, this building that looms above me was called the Fort Whinny Hotel. It existed in an island of luxury, sandwiched between warehouses, railroads, and the remnants of an old military base from Equestrian pioneer days. Now—as I can see—it's changed names at least three times, judging from the faded shadows of different signs scarring its northwest face. The current name is Riverside Inn, and the only thing more generic than that is the uninspiring rectangular slab of fiberglass signage announcing itself to the setting sun. I almost wonder if it's all an illusion—and if the establishment is really open.

I trot across the street to find out.

The words "no" and "vacancy" loom above the entrance. Both neon lights have run out of juice. When I pull on the handle of the glass door, the bottom of its frame scrapes a circular groove even deeper into the weathered pavement. The tile floor of the lobby is uneven, and the air conditioning barely works. The ponies who run this place have attempted to make up for it with several strategically-placed fans blowing hot air across the bottom floor. There's a dead, dried-up fountain in the center of the foyer. A moldy platform looms where a gorgeous statue had once been erected. A radio somewhere crackles with the sounds of a local station playing the same three outdated songs on constant loop.

There's a young mare at the front desk—scarcely beyond her high school years. Judging from the lackadaiscal way she picks through a magazine, I doubt she has the energy to make it past graduation. When I slide her a sheet of paper with my written requests, she looks at me funny. And then she gives me an even stranger look when I ask for a very specific room on a very specific floor. It occurs to me that it's been ages since anyone has made a sincere request of this hotel. Looking around, I don't see any maids or bellhops—not that it matters.

There is some fumbling around the order of paperwork. Part of me wonders if the girl even knows how to properly lease me a room. Nevertheless, ten minutes in, she hoofs me a key to the room requested. I don't bother to wait for room service. Trotting across the lobby, I find myself unsurprised at every elevator being out of order. I take the stairs instead. It's deliciously painful exercise.

At last, I reach the fifth floor. I walk down three intersecting hallways. The floors are dusty—the door handles even dustier. When I arrive at my destination, the number on the door has slid sideways. I stab my key into the rusted lock. To my relief, it actually turns, and I push the door open, dragging my luggage behind me.

The room is a great deal cleaner than I suspected—probably because nopony has bothered to bed themselves in anything above the second story for years. For a moment, I struggle to remember the night that I rested here last. I search the curtains and counters and bedspreads for a scent that will bring back those bittersweet moments of melancholy. But all I smell is the undying scent of tobacco smoke.

I drop my luggage onto the bed. There's not so much as a bounce; the springs scarcely work. I wander into the bathroom, fumbling for the light-switch. When it turns on, it flickers. I look across the cramped interior. For some reason, the sight of the bathroom stall chills me. It's still perfectly-sized for a mare who once hugged herself, sobbing into the brink of unconsciousness, overwhelmed by strange magenta seas that would not recede.

I take a deep breath. I have run out of length... excuses. There is only one direction to go now.

I shuffle across the room. I approach the curtains—the dim light of a dying day. Blowing the dust off, I spread them apart. The sliding glass doors of the balcony are slightly fogged from neglect, but all I have to do is tilt my head to the left, following the northern crook of the Detrot River. And there I see it—an arch. Tall, iron, rusted but undying. A bridge into the next part of the continent. An artifact from yesterday.

It is a strangely satisfying sight, a silent reward for the distance I've traveled into desolation.

I hug myself, breathing in a sweet, bitterly short catharsis.

And then... I stay put. For this is now the closest thing I'll ever have to home.

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