• Published 7th Sep 2015
  • 767 Views, 24 Comments

Chasing Shadows - DarkZonker



One minute you're driving home, the next you're entire life is flipped upside down. After he's transformed into a zebra, Samuel Hunt tries to find his place in an earth where there are no more humans, only ponies.

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Stargazing

Neither of us said anything in the silence of the bedroom. Jess and I sat there on her mattress for a lot longer than I expected. Jess was still sniffling lightly and at some point she had rested her head on my shoulders. I didn’t mind; I was thinking about a lot of different things. My life so far, where my life was headed. The sound of someone talking to me broke me out of my musings.

“What?” I asked.

“I said thanks, Sam. It really means a lot,” Jess said in a soft voice. She sounded very vulnerable. I chewed on the inside of my cheek. I hadn’t been talked to like that in years.

“Yeah, uh, no problem.”

“How’d you know that this was my room anyways?” Jess asked, her voice thick from crying.

I looked around at the spartan room. “I didn’t. It just seemed the least likely for people to see us in.” Jess nodded in understanding.

“Why are you alone in here, Jess?” It seemed like knowing this was important to understanding Brian.

“I don’t want to talk about it, Sam,” she said, instantly feeling very distant from me. Crap, I hit a nerve.

The gentle tapping of hooves on the stairs saved me from a potentially awkward situation. Emily peeked her head in and her blue eyes lit up in a fiendish way that I knew would only cause me trouble in the future.

“Hey, lovebirds. Dinner’s ready,” she sang. Jess clipped my chin as she went from my shoulder to sitting ramrod straight. I massaged my stinging jaw and cocked an eyebrow at Jess before turning back to Emily.

“Thanks, we’ll be down in a minute,” I said. Emily hummed and left us alone again. I didn’t have an appetite, but I knew that I should eat, for survival’s sake.

I fell down on my side and rolled onto my hooves. I was definitely starting to get better with my new body. With a jerk of my head towards the door, Jess did the same and we walked together to the cafeteria. I held the door open as Jess stopped right before me and took a deep breath.

As I waited, I regarded the cafeteria as being very empty for its size. It had lower ceilings than usual and many long benched tables. Most of them went unused, seeing as how there were only four other ponies taking seats. One was new, however, and was getting food dished out onto an old, battered tray. He was a guy, with black hair and a darker blue body, and with no visible additions like horns or wings. A pair of grease-stained overalls hung loosely on his body, making him appear much fatter than he was.

Jess walked past me and I followed behind her to the food. Bridgette was standing behind the counter with a massive pot beside her, a ladle gripped in the same rosy red aura as her spiraled horn. I gawked at her. How can something like that even exist? I suppose being changed into a different animal shouldn’t happen either but still. How much more crazy has Earth become in the last few months?

“Hey there Sam, Jess. Can I get you some dinner?” she asked amicably, a wide smile on her face, which turned into a laugh upon sight of my stunned expression.

Jess spoke first. “What’s on the menu tonight, Bridge?”

“Steamed corn and peas, some mashed potatoes, and sunflowers,” she listed off.

That stopped me. “You mean sunflower seeds or something, right?” I led on.

“Not just the seeds, the actual flower too.” Bridgette beamed. I think she was took some perverse pleasure in watching my gears turn. In reality though, it was probably so normal to her at this point that it wouldn’t register how weird it was for me.

Without asking me if I even wanted flowers with my food, Bridgette heaped corn, peas, and potatoes all topped with a big ol’ sunflower. The tray glowed in her aura and floated over to me. I watched as she did the same to Jess, who gripped the tray in her mouth and walked over to the table the others were sitting at. Hesitantly, I followed her lead. I didn’t want to seem like too much of an outsider. The plastic tray tasted like dish soap as I tried to balance the food that was very close to falling and splattering all over the ground.

At the table, Jess was sitting next to Abraham and Emily while the new blue guy sat across from the three of them with his back to me. Brian was nowhere to be found, however, and for some reason that worried me. I gingerly set my tray down next to Blue and clambered over the bench seat, awkwardly sitting human-style like everyone else. Blue seemed startled by my sudden appearance from behind him before giving me a once over.

“Wassup?” he said, after digging back into his food.

“Just got here. My name’s Sam.” I followed his lead in using short sentences. He seemed like the kind of guy who only wanted the facts.

“Andre.” His tone was decidedly disinterested so I switched attention to the others across from me. A tray of food set itself down beside me and Bridgette’s glow disappeared as she sat down, sandwiching me between her and Andre.

My curiosity was killing me. “So Bridgette. What’s up with the glowy horn?”

“Hmm? Oh! If me or the other unicorns focus just right we can move stuff. Someone decided to call it magic and it stuck,” she said. “Focusing just right” didn’t satisfy my curiosity, so rather than prying further, I gave a neutral grunt. I had a million other questions but Bridgette didn’t seem like the person, or I guess, pony to ask. I got some strange looks from the ponies around the table, except for Andre and Abraham. It’s not my fault her answer didn’t satisfy me!

“Where did Brian go?” I asked in an attempt to shift attention away from me. I saw Jess tense up noticeably.

“He’s out searching for the other six of our group,” Abraham spoke up. I was surprised, he and Andre seemed like men of very few words. Abraham had a deep voice that was very fatherly, like a priest. I could imagine him intoning a sermon, singing the trancelike chants priests often sung.

“So is he, like, the leader or something?” I asked. Mostly because he seemed like too big of a jerk for everyone to follow him.

“Yes?” Bridgette replied uncertainly. “Our leader when we were first starting out was named Jay, but he disappeared around a month and a half ago. Ever since then, Brian kind of took over.”

“Hmm.” It shed a lot of light on the minds of the group that they let it happen so easily.

I started eating my food, not because I had any appetite, but because I couldn’t think of anything else to talk about. Small talk was not something I was particularly good at. Asking about the weather can only get you so far.

Turns out, that without utensils, eating with just your mouth is a little more difficult than I expected. Having a muzzle and a longer tongue did make eating the mashed potatoes easier but the vegetables just got pushed around. I ate around the sunflower. As much as I liked the seeds, eating the flower itself was too bizarre even at this point. Sometimes you just have to draw a line in the sand.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a whitish hoof creeping across the table towards my sunflower. I glanced up at Emily, who locked her eyes with me as she slowly pulled my tray back towards her. The whole table was silent during the event as everyone, even Andre, watched in curiosity. Emily crunched as delicately as possible into the sunflower, much like a kid eating potato chips in the back of the class. After she finished chewing and swallowed, Emily beamed at us all with black, green, and yellow speckled teeth.

Jess started laughing first. It started out as a low chuckle and quickly grew into a full body laugh that made her clutch at her sides. It was infectious. Soon Bridgette and Abraham were joining in, although Abraham’s laugh seemed more polite. I snuck a peek at Andre, who was shaking his bobbing head. I joined in as well, because over the last day, finding something innocent to laugh at was rare. The normality of it all had finally gotten to me, I think. Children could always make me laugh and Emily was so much like my littlest brother it was painful.

It took a minute for everyone to calm down, but when we did no one said anything, like laughter was the only thing that could fill the void. Everyone else finished their dinner quickly and drifted away to other parts of the shelter. Jess went off to do her own thing too, leaving me alone for the first time all day with my thoughts.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my newfound time, so I decided to do what I usually did when I had a couple hours to kill and headed up to the roof. As I passed the common area, I saw Abraham and Emily reading a book. It looked like one of those young adult novels, like by Judy Blume or something. Andre was asleep in his room, and on his doorway were four other names besides his. I briefly read the names in my head: James, Cathy, Fudail, and Ayah. It was starting to get hard to remember all these new people, maybe it would be easier to remember once I got a face to the name.

I found the fire exit that led to an outside stairwell that went up to the roof. I clanged up the rusty metal stairs until I reached the flat gravel-topped roof. I had been on enough roofs to lose my irrational fear of falling through them at this point though. Being in a smaller, lighter body probably helped too on some subconscious level. On the opposite side of the roof was a fairly expansive garden full of flowers, vegetables and herbs. I saw the headless stalks of multiple sunflowers towering over the garden. There was a small sheet-metal shed nearby. Spots of rust speckled the siding and roof. I could only figure it was there to house gardening equipment.

The shed seemed like a suitable spot, so I went over and leaned against it. I could see dark skyscrapers rise over the squat buildings in front of me as the purple sky and orange light of the almost set sun reflected off their windows. Night would fall shortly, which was my favorite time of day. Soon, the stars would start blinking back into existence and the crescent moon would shine brightly as the centerpiece. It occurred to me that without any lights, the Milky Way would be visible here in the city. I used to have a telescope when I was younger and I would take my brothers out to the country to stargaze. I would show them the planets and sometimes we would watch meteor showers.

A breeze rolled over the rooftops. It had the chill of the beginning of fall but thankfully all this new fur I had kept me insulated even through my thin t-shirt. I guess I could chalk that up on the pro board. As the last of the golden sunlight disappeared, leaving the sky varying shades of blue, I felt my body command me to sleep. It felt like there was a weight on my eyelids and my limbs were full of lead. I had felt like this many times during many study sessions; I knew how to beat sleep. Knowing no one was here to watch me, I performed my anti-sleep rituals composed of various stretches. I didn’t quite know how to stretch this body, but enough experimenting came close enough and I felt the cold spike of clarity and awakeness return to me. I wanted to stargaze, and I’d be damned if I let biological processes get in the way of it.

Distantly, I felt my ears perk up and turn to the sound of hushed giggling. My head followed my ears and I saw a certain batpony’s fuzzy ears peeking over the lip of an adjacent building. I let out a long, drawn out sigh and noticed my ears flick with my annoyance. Can’t I be alone for thirty minutes to think? Also, these ears are weird. I don’t know whether to put them in the pros or cons columns. If Jess wanted, she could come closer but I wasn’t going to initiate anything. If she liked spying, that was fine with me. I wasn’t doing anything interesting anyways.

I started humming “Fly Me to the Moon” as I traced the craters on the moon with my eyes in a half hearted attempt to fill the silence. As my song faded, I sat in silence until it was dark enough to see stars. I saw plenty of constellations due to the lack of light: Cassiopeia and Andromeda, Hercules and Draco, the Big and Little Dipper. I used to know the stories behind most of them, but now I could only recall snippets.

All the stress I didn’t know I had built up became apparent in my shoulders. I rolled my back out and let it all drain from me. I could only imagine how much crazier things could get. This world wasn’t me, I’m a simple guy with simple wants and needs. Being changed switched everything on its head. Nothing made sense anymore, reality seemed more a guideline than concrete now. It’s like the entire world got thrown into a fantasy novel that there was no escape from. Well, there probably was an escape but not one I wanted to use.

I heard the flaps of leathery wings from Jess’ direction but ignored it and continued to trace lines between stars. Sometimes, when I still lived at home, my brothers and I would make our own constellations and legends behind them. I tried to remember the patterns but I couldn’t find the right stars.

A metallic thump echoed from right above me. I tilted my head up at the roof of the shed I was leaning against. What looked back were two golden, glowing eyes which were very reminiscent of the stray cat I tried to take care of when I was very young. Only the top half of Jess’ head was over the edge of the shed’s roof, leaving her muzzle hidden. I could only imagine the mischievous smirk behind that metal. Her pony-tail hung down, nearly tickling my nose as I looked up. She popped her head all the way out.

“Hey! What’cha doin’?” she asked, breaking the silence I was basking in. She seemed much more chipper than she had been in the last couple hours.

“Just stargazing,” I replied as I returned to looking at the heavens. The Milky Way was starting to become more defined across the sky, but right now it was only the brighter stars cutting a swath through the darkness. It kind of looked like the dirt stache my brother tried to grow out, except instead of sparse, thin, black hairs, it was incredibly far away balls of fire.

“Huh,” Jess said as she rolled over to watch the sky. “This is boring,” she whined. The tone she took grated against my ears.

I sighed. “It’s not meant to be non-stop action packed. For me, it’s soothing.”

Jess stayed quiet for a time before gasping and pounding her hoof on the metal roof. “I saw a shooting star!” she squealed.

“Make your wish,” I chuckled.

Jess went stock still. Only being able to see the back of her head, I guessed she must have closed her eyes and started focusing really hard. She stayed like that for long enough that I was starting to worry. As I was just about to say something, her body relaxed and she rolled back over. She shot me inquisitive eyes that roamed all over my body.

I shot her a half smile and patted the ground next to me. One moment, she was on the shed’s roof, the next she was hovering, the last she had plopped down next to me. It was so smooth, my brain had to process it in chunks. I stared dumbly at her until my thoughts caught up to reality. Thankfully, Jess didn’t notice my idiotic look and started intensely scanning the sky for more meteors.

Nothing else happened through the night. Jess saw three other shooting stars over the time we watched and each time her reaction was the same as the first, extreme excitement. I tried to tell her about the constellations and the planets but she just waved me off and continued searching. What’s the point of stargazing if you don’t actually care about the stars?

After a few hours, I decided to let my body do what it wanted and sleep. I told Jess I was turning in for the night, but she waved me off again. I walked back down the fire stairs to the bedroom floor and entered Jess’ room. There were now two beds made instead of just Jess’. I thought it was presumptuous, but appreciated the gesture and climbed under the covers. Thankfully, sleep came swiftly after undoubtedly the craziest day of my entire life.

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Comments ( 4 )

First off: your editor's notes are still in there at the very end... might want to delete that.

So, another good chapter! You get that green thumb now.
I really like how you have begun to write the interactions between group members. And somebody just had to barge in when Jess was leaning against Sam. The poor girl just can't catch a break; I've really begun to feel sorry for her.
The whole setup is making me uneasy, like something really bad is lurking somewhere in the future... meaning that you have done your job right. ;)

Very much looking forward to more, now that you seem to have gotten into the flow.

6453011 Oh God, thanks for the save. I didn't even know fimfic did that when importing:twilightoops:. Also thanks for the words of praise and encouragement, it definitely helps with keeping the chapters coming.

Yeah... something seems off here. The suspicious alarm bells are going off. Have way too little information to be certain of anything, but a flags been raised, so notes shall be taken. And Emily is an adorable little food thief, isn't she?

A pity that this story seems to be dead. It was just getting interesting.

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