• Published 4th Jan 2016
  • 3,215 Views, 144 Comments

The View from Rock Bottom - Fickle Wood

Meet Jack Taylor, a brother, son, and self-defined psychic. Jack is about to begin a long ordeal in humility and perseverance, one he may not very well survive without some friends, which is something that’ll be hard as a mare named Berry Punch.

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Wayward Plans 1.2

The heat inside was a welcomed relief from the cold of November outside, but the bar tonight was strangely quiet, with only one other patron at the bar and the bartender himself.

It was an all wood bar from the floor to ceiling and everything inbetween, while it lacked gaudy sport or locally targeted decorations. Sure, it had flat screen TVs everywhere, all of which were turned off, but the place didn’t do karaoke or anything else that would’ve kept me away. This place was somewhere I shouldn’t be, a place that said I didn’t care completely for my little sister, but I needed this small escape.

I unzipped my coat and stowed away my gloves, then took a seat at the bar on the opposite end of where the other patron sat; if I wanted to talk with someone tonight, I would talk to the bartender. I could have left at any moment, would have if I were a better person, and ignored the feeling that I should have already. The bartender walked over to me, who I knew on a first-name basis, and he knew I only came here for one reason. I never came here for friends or sex, I came here because he charged the least for the alcohol that I swore I wouldn’t ever bring home and the fact that this bar was close to home; I knew my limit and what I thought was safe to drive home with.

“Usual?” Mike said, his Manhattan accent still strong even after all these years I had known him. I suppose for some it might have brought up an emotional response, but I wasn’t even born yet for that terrorist attack. All I was glad for was that there were still enough Americans willing to fight in the war on terror that I didn’t need to worry about a draft, a war that would be won within the next decade or two.

“Yup,” I said, the fact that I drank the whiskey I did had lost its irony years ago.

Mike pulled a bottle of Jack and a shot glass out from under the counter, my bottle actually. Where I chose to sit hadn’t truly been in avoidance of the other patron, and would’ve probably sat right next to him if he had sat on this side. No, I chose this spot because it was where I had spent one night a week for the past couple years, and bought that bottle several weeks back. I had only made this place a weekly thing in the past four years, ever since I figured that Katherine was responsible enough to be left alone at night after school, and most nights; Katherine practically took care of herself after she turned twelve last spring.

“Do you want the TV on?” Mike pointed toward one of the TVs that was overhead.

“We still set on invading South America?” I said, doubtful things had changed since last I saw the news.


“Even though all we want is to wipe out The First?”


“All because they think we want to absorb their countries like we did in Mexico and The Middle East?”

“Pretty much.”

Things never really changed, why would they when you lived in the only true superpower of the world. At times I thought we might be headed toward a dystopia, but I had to admit that I was glad I lived in a country without fear about Katherine’s safety. Sure, we had a total lack of privacy in the country, but I grew up without the concept of privacy, and if you didn’t have anything to hide, then it didn’t really matter. Strangely, my ability never gained any attention from the government, so it went to show they didn’t know everything.

“Hello. Mind if I sit with you?” someone behind me said, and I turned to see who it was.

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I comfortably awoke embracing a pillow and had a blanket wrapped around me. At least my sleeping habits haven’t changed. The feeling of an empty stomach and a parched throat were also there, but they seemed the least of my worries. The world was silent and the room was lit only by the dim moonlight seeping in through a window. The darkness of the room couldn’t hide the muzzle in the middle of my vision though, which dashed the last hope that what I remembered had actually been a dream after all.

What was I dreaming about? The bar? Did I really get blackout drunk? Who was it I turned around to speak to? Regardless of how much I tried, I couldn’t recall anything beyond what I had dreamed. I unraveled myself from the blanket I had cocooned myself in and crept out of bed onto a strawberry red carpet. Care was taken in where I placed my hooves as I noticed even in the dim moonlight that empty bottles of all shapes and sizes littered the floor. Glad this isn’t my house… though I guess it kinda is. I noticed my hooves continued not to make a sound when they made contact with the floor or anything else I touched.

By the bed, I noticed an analog clock on a nightstand with a face that glowed and it read as just past one in the morning. Why did I just pass out like I did? Secondary effect of the teleportation? How long was I out? I was lost in a world I didn’t understand, so I decided to return some normality to my life, even if waking up at one in the morning wasn’t one of them. I hope this place has a shower.

I made my way toward the door, as I ignored the rest of the room until I had taken a shower, and noticed a toggle light switch that glowed with light. “Well, I think being in an alien world with an alien body is enough of an excuse to ignoring basic energy conservation,” I said, and toggled the lights on. I turned the textured door knob with ease due to be weird pads and flexible wrist, and pulled the door inward. The light from the bedroom illuminated the midnight blue hallway’s green carpet outside, which was littered with more bottles.

I carefully made my way toward another glowing light switch in the middle of the hallway. Wonder if anyone else lives here. I toggled the light switch and was met with the sight of more bottles, several of which looked to have had their contents spilled onto the midnight blue hallway’s forest green carpet at some point. Well, at least none of them are broken. Heedless of the possibility that others were asleep, I opened the door that was next door to Berry’s and turned the light switch on to a welcome sight, though it wasn’t a pretty sight.

The room was a bathroom, but it looked like it had seen better days. There was a strong odor of mildew in the room, at least I thought it was strong, but I did have to consider the fact my muzzle nostrils might be more sensitive. Dirty towels and washrags littered the grimy tile floor, which might have been the largest source of the mildew smell. I was hesitant to even step foot on the bathroom’s floor, but the need of a warm shower pushed me forward into the room.

I closed the bathroom door behind me and began to decide what to do. Going clockwise around the room there was a linen cabinet, a pile of dirty clothes and linens under a towel holder, a walk-in shower, a floor toilet in desperate need of cleaning, and a sink. I opened the linen cabinet to find it completely empty, something that I expected due to the pile next to it. Well, I’ll have a couple of hours to kill afterward, guess laundry is something I could do. That and clean up some of those bottles, or even clean this bathroom. I opened the shower door, ignored how dirty the shower was, and turned on the water.

The warm water was a welcomed relief, even if all the hair on my body that became soaked was a strange feeling, and I took the opportunity to quench my thirst. It seemed that Berry Punch at the very least remembered to stock a grape scented shampoo, alongside a strawberry scented body wash, and I decided work on the mane first. The fruit smell reminded me of the soaps I would buy for my little sister.

Katherine… I hope she is alright. If Berry has my body, would she have found her way home? Is Berry a threat to Katherine? Hopefully, if anything happened, Katherine would’ve called Rebecca. How would Berry react to a situation like this though? Other than a drunk, just what kind of mare is this Berry? Well, hopefully, there are pictures around to fill me in, or at the very least a diary somewhere in her room.

I finished lathering my mane and got work on the tail hair, which I knew was a waste of time with how it would be dragged behind me, but there wasn’t a reason to not be thorough. The idea of being thorough set my thought process on what I was going to do today.

So what is my game plan later today? Guess Twilight is my best bet in this world so far. There is that Discord I keep hearing about, but it doesn’t seem that he lives in Ponyville from what Process said about him visiting. Would be nice if Surprise showed up again. since she is the only one that has treated me nicely and entertained the idea of me being an ali… outsider. Pretty sure Surprise is just playing along like it is a game though.

I moved on to the body wash, which caused the mildew smell of the bathroom to almost completely be lost in the grape and strawberry smells. As I worked the body wash into the tattoo on my flank, that seemed to be my actual coat hairs colored somehow, I wondered about it and the ones I had seen so far.

Well, I know livestock owners brand their livestock, but these seem to be unique so far. What do they mean though? Process had a pair of weighing scales, which I know is a symbol of justice. Surprise had yellow balloons, and she said she was a party expert. Twilight had those stars… Because as a princess she is above everyone else and should be admired? So they mark their jobs maybe? What do a bunch of grapes and a strawberry mean though?

The feeling of the warm water was wonderful as I thoroughly rinsed the soap off of my body. I turned off the shower, wrung the water out of my mane, and then wrung the tail. Lack of a towel left me unable to dry my coat, but I shook what I could loose and stepped out of the shower. The sink with its drawers and cabinet base would be my next stop, which I hoped contained a hair dryer as a means to dry myself.

The medicine cabinet’s mirror above the sink was fogged up, which was something I preferred as I could use my ability on myself, which never ended well with the memories it chose. My search through the drawers turned up a cordless hair dryer, though it didn’t seem to be rechargeable or battery powered either from my examination, but it turned on regardless and I didn’t give it any more thought as I dried myself.

I wonder what kind of food Berry has. Pretty sure meat is out of the question, but not like I ate much meat before anyway. Oats seem likely, and I could manage to turn that in oatmeal even with my new body, though I was always more partial to grits. Fruits exist according to my tattoo, which hopefully means that Berry did something with fruit and has some in her house. Hay and flowers? Well, I guess I’ll eat just about anything, whatever keeps me going is all that matters really.

With all my hair thoroughly dried, which the hair dryer did surprisingly efficiently in such a short time, I moved on to dental hygiene. There were two toothbrushes in a cup near the sink. One was purple with strawberry red bristles in desperate need of changing with how worn the bristles were, but the other broke the theme with an orange-red body and dark orange bristles. I grabbed the orange-red one and chose an orange flavored toothpaste over a mixed berry one, then went to work on my flat teeth. The lack of a brushing sound was strange, but I felt it regardless.

So someone else does live here? Berry’s room wasn’t a master bedroom for sure, but this bathroom seems like something you would share with a sibling. Didn’t Twilight say something yesterday? Piña Colada and how I should be thinking about her instead of myself? Place sure doesn’t look fit for a kid though, might be an adult sister that is an alcoholic like Berry though. Eh, guess I’ll be waking up anyone in the house soon.

Finished with brushing my teeth, and a lack of floss or mouthwash to continue with, I left the bathroom to return to Berry’s room. With the lights on and myself wide awake, I took in the room.

Bottles littered the floor with accompanying stains in the carpet, alongside many discarded undergarments. The floor was carpeted in a strawberry red and the ceiling was painted purple like a grape, while both colors continued from their respectful places and met halfway on the walls. The room had typical bedroom things such as a closet, a dresser, a full body mirror, a desk, a nightstand, and of course the bed that I had slept on. The open curtain around the window that had let in moonlight followed the wall’s theme exactly, by being half strawberry red and half purple, and the colors were split at exactly where the wall’s colors split as well.

The aforementioned desk had a regular wooden chair in front of it, which was another thing I found strange, but the bench from yesterday had been the same way and comfortable to lay my back against. The reason as to why I had only briefly sat upright became the reason I made my way toward the dresser at that moment.

I opened the top drawer to find an assortment of undergarments, from plain white ones to some very risque ones, then picked one of the plain white ones and didn't stare at the more sexual ones any longer than I had to. It was while I held those white undergarments that something strange occurred to me about what I had seen yesterday, or more accurately what I hadn’t seen. I suppose it really just hadn’t been something on my mind, what with everything else, but now that I thought about it more I came to a revelation. The backside of every single pony I had glanced at had lacked any features.

Where my new equipment had been clearly visible, everyone else’s had been nowhere to be seen. I wanted to say I had just been polite, that I hadn’t paid attention to that part of their bodies, but the fact was I had looked at and seen the lack of gender specific anatomy without questioning it. My attention returned to the white undergarments, but I no longer held a white pair of undergarments, I held a mauve colored thing that felt like my coat.

“Gah!” I threw the thing away from myself in surprise, but what it did next on the floor surprised me further. The thing began to gradually return to the plain white undergarments I had held before I became lost thinking about the backsides of other creatures. I went over to it and picked it up again, then found it started to change back to my coats color and feel.

Didn’t the white mare Rarity say something about public decency and overwear? Well, that is one mystery solved at least. Seems like the police officer Process would’ve given me something to cover up… that or he hadn’t noticed I wasn’t wearing anything yesterday or the night before when Berry was arrested. My tail has been dragging pretty close to my backside with its limpness as well, so I guess only Rarity would’ve gotten a good look.

I got on the bed, as it was the only place I wouldn’t need clear room to lay down, and put on the aptly named overwear. With being arrested for public nudity out of the way, I removed myself from the bed, then returned to the dresser to see what other things it contained, actual pants high on my list of wants.

The drawer below the undergarments one contained skirts, and since I had no plans to wear anything feminine, closed it without another thought. The next drawer was an odd sight, it contained saddles, bridles, and blinders. What in the world? Why would sapient horses have these things? I closed the odd horse gear drawer and opened the last drawer to a sight that made me close it instantly. Note to self, never open the bottom drawer of Berry’s dresser ever again.

I tried to get my mind off the variety of things I had seen in Berry’s bottom drawer with a visit to Berry’s closet, which contained very little. A toga dress? Not sure I want to know what has happened in that. A khaki explorer's outfit? Oh man, is Berry Punch into roleplaying? A dress? Well, it looks nice with the purple to blue shading, but I’m not wearing a dress, that and it looks expensive. A black hoodie? No, I’m trying to get others to notice me, not get lost in the background. A wool sweater? Cute ghost horse design on it, but it sure didn’t feel cold enough for something like that yesterday. Don’t want a hat, so I’m not pulling down any of those hat boxes on the shelf above. Shoes just seem weird with there only being a pair each, though they look like they are meant for the back hooves only. I closed the closet door and moved on to the desk.

The desk’s surface was filled with notebooks, all of which looked well used and were labeled different things. The notebook that gained my attention right away was labeled experimental. I opened the book to measurements and complex chemical equations that made very little sense to me, but the regular information made it clear as to what it was. The name of the recipe was Five Hour Mana. Did something just take humanity and fantasy it with ponies? It was the notes on the product that gained my attention though and I started to read them.

Tests I held with the potion looked promising today but resulted in a small mishap. The earth ponies and pegasi test subjects experienced the intended effects, but the one unicorn test subject was a problem. I asked Amethyst Star, the local town organizer, to try the potion and upon ingesting the potion she experienced a magical cascade. It was quite a fascinating thing to see really, even after some buildings caught fire and I was turned into a cat before she passed out.

Princess Celestia herself showed up to fix the mess. Rarely see Princess Celestia just fly somewhere on her own wings by herself, though some very winded pegasi guards showed up a little later. Only took a minute for Princess Celestia to put everything back to the way it was and turn me back into a pony, though I did get a stern talk from her about the importance of safety. Princess Celestia also said the E.P.A would be paying me a visit.

Doubtful the E.P.A would want to recruit me. Don’t have much of an interest in potion making beyond this energy drink idea. Not like I can see the future, command timberwolves, or whatever else weird talent they want to make use of or keep under control. Guess I’ll have to ask dad for some money to pay whatever fine they hit me with.

I closed the notebook and mulled over what I had just read. Well, it seems Berry Punch wasn’t always how she is now. I looked around the room at all the bottles that littered the floor. Something just went wrong somewhere. I walked over to the mirror and finally saw the body I had been in since yesterday. My mane was still mulberry colored and the coat was still mauve, but I saw my mulberry eyes for the first time. The eyes were actually slightly darker than my mane, but that didn’t matter, it was what came to my mind about my ability.

I had learned how to prevent my ability from being activated over the past twelve years and decided that it was just something that I would ignore, especially once Katherine came into my life. How it worked or if I could do anything more with it than relive someone’s memory was a complete mystery to me. All I knew was that I needed to use it to prove who I was, no matter what it might mean I would have to relive. I’ve already seen the worst humanity can inflict on each other, doubtful any of these creatures could hold a candle to that.

I moved over to the bed and began to make it, an action that always brought to mind a saying. As you make your bed, so you must lie in it. I removed the saddlebags I had fallen asleep with from the bed sheets and equipped them again. The book Twilight had given me turned up in the tangled mess as well and I placed it on the nightstand next to the clock that read a little past two.

With the bed made and still quite a bit of time to kill, I decided to actually read the children’s book, though I had to read the name out loud again. “ ‘The Colt Who Cried Timberwolf’,” I said, then began to read the story out loud, a habit I had started the day I decided to be there for my little sister no matter what.

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I had finished the children's book and put it away in my saddlebags to return later, which seemed like a good way to earn points with Princess Twilight, and an excuse to bother her again. I learned from the book that timberwolves were wolf-like monsters made from trees and that the only thing lying will get you is a talk from Princess Celestia after she has saved the day. The children book’s happy ending seemed to indicate these ponies were very idealistic, but the fact that I had read those notes in Berry’s notebook with Princess Celestia, and the exact same outcome, seemed that my idea of realistic was askew in this world.

I left Berry’s room and began my exploration of the rest of the house. The first room I chose was the one on the opposite side of the bathroom next door to Berry’s room, one I guessed was another bedroom. The door was slightly ajar, so I pushed it open and turned on the lights inside to a child’s bedroom.

This bedroom had a tropical design to it. The carpet was a beach sand brown, the lower part of the walls had a straw fence along it and the rest of the walls were a sky blue, all tied together with a dome light that looked like the sun. Decorative fake tropical flowers were hung along the straw roof above the window with drawn straw blinds. There were a couple surfboards on the walls and a palm tree with white string lights sat in a corner next to the bed. The bed itself was made and had very colorful tropical flowers on the comforter.

The reason I called it a child’s bedroom was due to all the child things in the room. A hammock that hung from the ceiling held many stuffed animals in it. A toy chest clearly marked with the word toys sat against a wall. There was even a small table with crayons and coloring books on it. The room filled me with sadness to look at once I noticed all the dust that covered everything, whatever child had lived in this room hadn’t been here in awhile.

I left the doorway of the child’s room and went across the hallway. The two doors on this side of the hallway opposite the three rooms I had been in, were spaced enough that one had to be a master bedroom. There was also a set of stairs that led downstairs, but I liked to be thorough and decided to explore this floor first. I went back toward Berry’s room and tried the door opposite it, but the door was locked, though it lacked a keyhole and was probably a push button lock. Huh, maybe someone actually is home.

I walked back toward the only door left on this floor before I would need to go downstairs. Well, time to find out if anyone is home. I grabbed the doorknob and turned it, but the door required some effort to open, the reason became clear once I turned on the light inside and saw the state of the room inside.

The room looked to be a master bedroom, but the dust and cobwebs everywhere were a clear sign that the room hadn’t been in use for years. It didn’t seem to have a theme to it, other than modern from the look of the gray carpet and white walls. The lack of bottles on the floor told me that Berry avoided this room, but the why was what drove me forward into the room.

On a mahogany dresser with a mirror covered by a sheet were a collection of picture frames that I decided to investigate. The pictures were all covered in a layer of dust the completely obscured the pictures, so I pulled at the edge of the sheet over the mirror and cleaned off one of the larger ones.

The photo I had uncovered was a wedding photo of a couple that I was fairly certain were Berry’s parents due to their colors. The stallion wore a black suit over his white coat and both his eyes and straight mane were mulberry colored. The mare wore a white wedding dress over her mauve coat, with her eyes and a thick mane both being aquamarine. The photo hadn’t captured what their tattoos were, but I could sense what it had captured. All it would have taken was for me to focus on either of their eyes, but I felt that the photo wouldn’t contain anything more than irrelevant happy memories.

I uncovered more photos and stopped when I found a family one. The couple I had seen in the wedding photo were much older in this photo with Berry and a filly. They were all smiling straight at the camera in what looked like Christmas sweaters, but the sweaters were a little odd. Berry and her mother wore sweaters with cartoonish horse-like ghosts, while the father and filly wore sweaters with hearts on them. The filly had aquamarine eyes, a two-tone plum mane with a slightly lighter shade of plum alongside it, and a light lavender coat. Hopefully, it is as it seems, but I’ll know soon regardless.

Unlike the chaoticness of never knowing what I would get from people directly, though I did find that I could sway it if I focused, photos always captured the memories of what happened shortly before they were taken. I decided to focus on Berry’s eyes, since the more I knew about her the better, then the world disappeared.

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Glad I don’t need to know any of this. I thought, while the sight of liquid measurements and chemical equations filled my sight. I could taste the pencil in Berry’s mouth as she wrote down whatever she was writing down, and heard someone that was saying something, but it was indistinguishable. The cause of the indiscernible conversation simply due to the fact Berry hadn’t paid attention.

“Uh-huh,” Berry said, when whoever had been talking stopped, then the paper she was writing on was pulled from her sight. “Hey! What giv—” Her anger at the interruption was quickly replaced by fear and I felt her ears pull back.

Berry’s sight finally showed that she was in her room and on her bed. The only things different than when I had been in it were the lack of bottles, and an angry mare in a sweater who held Berry’s notebook. “What was I just saying to you?” the mare said, that I concluded was her mother due to the fact she had the same mauve coat color as Berry and was in both photos that I had paid close attention to.

“Um…” Darn it! Guess time! “You were saying how I need to reconsider my life goals?” I felt Berry make an awkward smile.

“What am I going to do with you, Berry?” Berry’s mother said, dejectedly, with a sigh. “I was telling you that everypony else is waiting on you downstairs for the annual Hearth’s Warming family photo.”

“Hearth’s Warming photo? In case you didn’t notice, it is the middle of October, Mom.” I know she likes to get started early, but this is ridiculous.

“I know, Berry. It’s just that your father and I will be in Manehattan for that social gathering that is happening right after Nightmare Night, and you know how busy we all can get. Do I have to remind you of last year when we postponed the photo? When you ran off without telling us and took a cruise with a pony you didn’t even know?” she said, and sounded very dissatisfied with the last bit.

“Hey, what was I supposed to do when Corona walked into the bar, after breaking up with a coltfriend, en route to an around the world cruise, with non-refundable tickets?” Have to see if Corona is interested in doing something like that again this year.

“Not drop everything you were doing and leave with nothing, but a tip jar of bits! We didn’t even know where you were until you showed up at our door on Hearth’s Warming Eve!” she said, with disbelief.

“Oh, not this again. How about we just save this for later and we go take the photo?” Really should reconsider Corona’s offer to be housemates.

Berry’s mother inhaled a deep breath and exhaled it. “Alright, we can’t just keep your father and sister waiting. Put on the matching crystal ewe sweater you bought last year, I still don’t understand why you had to have ours made with windigos on them.”

Berry removed herself from her bed and headed over to the closet. “They are a symbol of the love we share.” Berry said, happily, as she opened the closet door, then removed the sweater that I had seen in the closet earlier.

“So what are you working on, Berry? Seems like a lot of fruit is in this recipe for just one drink.”

Berry turned around and began to put on the sweater. “It’s a soda I’ve been working on for the past couple months,” she said, then stopped to pull her head through the sweater, which felt incredibly smooth and not itchy at all like regular wool. “All 23 fruit flavors combined with the carbonation really gives it a unique flavor, think the sugar and caffeine levels just need to be tweaked.”

Berry's mother went over to the desk and placed the notebook alongside the others there. “Unique enough to finally start your own business?” she said, skepticism heavy in her tone

“Nah, think I’ll put my soda shop idea on hold again,” Berry said, and walked out the door. On the way out, I finally got a look at the tattoo on her mother. The tattoo was a silhouette of an eagle, with long curved wings, that gave it a somewhat circular appearance.

I heard the sound of hoofsteps behind Berry. “Berry, I know you think that bar you work at is perfect for you, but I feel you are just wasting your talent making mixed drinks for alcoholics. With a business of your own, you could hire some ponies to run it, have more free time, find a nice stallion, settle down and—”

“Mom!” Berry turned around to face her mother. “Seriously?!”

“What? Your father and I were 18 when we got married, and you are 22.” She continued to walk past Berry. “Not like any stallion you meet in that bar is looking for a commitment longer than one night, and I’m pretty sure most of those mares are fillyfoolers looking to prey on you.”

Berry seemed to become filled with some strong emotions. “Would she still love me if she knew? Would dad?”

Guess same-sex relationships are still a big social issue here. Guess it was nice my parents would’ve preferred I was gay instead of wanting to go to art school. Suppose they would’ve preferred anything really, as long as it didn’t take me away from home… I thought, and tried not to dwell on it further.

“Berry? Are you coming?” I heard Berry's mother say behind her.

“Yeah,” she said, and turned around to follow her mother to the stairs. The emotions seemed to dissipate, but they didn’t go away.

“So did you hear about the new stallion in town?” her mother said, and began to walk down the stairs. “His name is Due Process, and I heard he is single.” I noticed she put some emphasis on single and Berry noticed too.

Berry followed her mother down the stairs.“Mom, you didn’t invite him over for dinner or anything did you?” Can’t believe she tried that with Big Mac. His sister I wouldn’t mind, that whole allure of mystery she has with wearing suits all the time…

“No, I didn’t do that,” she said, and reached the bottom of the stairs. “Though I did invite him to our Nightmare Night party.” She turned around and had a smirk on her face.

“Surprised you would try to set me up with a stallion like that, if what I heard he is was right.” Berry reached the bottom of the stairs where her mother stood.

“Berry, I’m not a tribalist or a speciesist. I just think that a mixed marriage can be a difficult thing on the foals the couple has, especially when the marriage is with a gryphon or a dragon. I could even accept you marrying a gryphon or dragon if they really made you happy.” She began to move again, this time into a living room.

Berry followed her mother into the living room, where the foal I had seen in the family photo was on the forest green carpet coloring, and the stallion I had decided was Berry’s father sat in an armchair reading a newspaper. The filly didn’t have a tattoo yet on her flank, and I couldn’t see the father’s tattoo due to the way he sat in the armchair, but both wore matching sweaters with hearts on them. A camera on a tripod was set up in front of a couch, apparently where they were going to take their photo, and had a wire going from it to a button switch that laid on the couch to remotely take the picture.

The drawing filly looked up from her drawing, then a wide smile appeared on her face. “Mommy!” the foal I decided was Piña Colada said, grabbed her drawing with her mouth, then ran over to her mother and Berry.

Their mother removed the drawing from Piña’s mouth, the drawing surprisingly absent of saliva, and seemed to not know what to say about it. “It’s…”

Berry decided to get a good look at the drawing and I could see why her mother took pause. The crayon drawing was one of those family portraits kids would do with their house and the sun in the sky, but the family at the bottom was a little off. Piña and her father leaned up against each with smiles on their faces, but Berry and her mother were off to the side arguing.

“Wow, Piña! You made a really nice picture! Captured Mom and me perfectly!” Berry said, then nudged her mother to get her to say something.

“Oh, yes! I’ll… put this on the fridge after we take the photo. Um… why did you draw Berry and me this way?”

“Because Daddy says that is how you show that you love each other! Like how me and Daddy hug!” The exuberance and innocence of this filly were an astounding thing to behold.

“Noir.” Berry's mother said, toward the father, in a way that seemed to mean they were going to talk about this later.

The stallion slumped down in his chair and hid further behind the newspaper.

“Remember, you are always the one who start those arguments.” Berry said, to her mother, as she passed her and Piña, then headed toward the couch to get ready for the picture.

“Alright everyone, get on the couch.” Berry's mother said.

Berry sat down on the couch near one end, but left enough room for Piña Colada to sit next to her. Noir removed himself from his armchair, and I finally got a good look at his tattoo that was a half full wine glass, then he took his place at the other end of the couch where the remote was. Berry's mother finally sat down and the photo was just about ready to be taken.

“Remember to smile, everypony.” Berry's mother said.

Berry smiled toward the camera and I heard the click of a button right before a flash signaled the end of the memory.

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I put the picture frame back where it had been, which actually made a sound when I placed it on the dresser to my surprise, then tapped the side of the dresser with a forehoof to find it made a sound as well. The fact I would now hear the clip-clopping of my own hooves made me wish I did know how all my interactions in the world had silenced in the first place. Weird. Well, just another thing that doesn’t make sense.

The rest of the room was ignored since I didn’t want to get dirty from cobwebs or dust, and I decided to see what the room next door to the master bedroom and across from Berry’s was. The door opened much easier than the master bedroom’s door and what was inside made me angry after I turned on the lights.

“Seriously?!” I said, toward the clean master bathroom, cleaner than the one I had used at least. A layer of dust and some cobwebs were in here as well, but I was sure that the linen cabinet would be stocked. It had side-by-side sinks, a jacuzzi bathtub, a large walk-in shower, a floor toilet that was clean enough to use, and a linen cabinet twice the size of the other bathroom. The whole bathroom was covered in white marble from the large square tiles, the counter of the side-by-side sinks, the base that surrounded the jacuzzi bathtub, and even the walls. The only place that wasn’t marble was the white ceiling with its simple domed light.

I went through the bathroom so I could unlock the door for later use, though I hoped there would not be a later. The door unlocked with ease and I exited into the hallway. I headed toward the stairs and hit another light switch to illuminate the way down. I was daunted by the idea of walking down the stairs with four legs and my legs seemed to agree with the idea due to how shaky they had become. I looked at the banister and decided I would approach this in an easier way.

Time to try doing this the way I would normally. I moved forward and grabbed the banister with both forehooves, then pulled myself into a standing position. With only two legs to worry about I began to sidestep my way down the stairs, which felt like I was on a ledge and had poor balance, one step at a time. It was slow going and I was sure if anyone saw me they would laugh, but it got the job done without hoping I would just descend while not thinking about. I reached the bottom of the stairs, which I considered an achievement.

In front of the stairs was a door that had a separate top and bottom, which from what I saw yesterday was a normal sight, and had a glass heart shaped window to look out. The living room nearby was dimly lit by the moonlight, but I could still see it was like Berry’s room and the hallway in that numerous bottles were scattered about. Another room was adjacent to the living room, but the light did not seem to reach it. There was a hall between the stairs and living room wall that ended in another dark room, which I thought was most likely the kitchen.

The thought of food replaced all my thoughts on how I walked, which drove me forward to the dark room at the end of the hall. I found the glowing light switch inside and flipped it on to a sight I should’ve expected.

It was a kitchen, of that there was no doubt, but its condition was just as if not worse than the bathroom I had used. Everything was dirty and the smell of it made me feel sick. The sink was piled high with dirty dishes, and I was certain I had seen some cockroaches run into them when I had turned on the light. A breakfast table with four seats had more dirty dishes and some half eaten things rotting away. The checkered black and white floor was littered with food, and I noticed that the bottles were the most numerous here compared to everywhere else combined.

As much as the place made me sick, my stomach was still hungry for something and I made my way forward. I opened the fridge to the smell of something rotten and quickly closed it before it made me see if my empty-feeling stomach actually contained anything. The counter was next, where I opened a breadbox to find a moldy loaf of bread. I know I thought I could eat anything, but so far the only thing remotely edible was probably the cockroaches. Wait, could I even actually eat those being a herbivore? Well, I suppose I could, but overall I’d probably get sick no matter what and probably sicker if my body can’t handle any kind of meat.

I moved on to a cabinet above the counter and opened it to an unwelcome sight. The cabinet was filled with alcohol of all shapes and size. I didn’t even need to read the labels to know what most were, so I decided to save my time and not read what each inane one was called. I closed the alcohol cabinet and moved on to the one next to it, the contents of which made me proceed to open every other cabinet in the hope it wasn’t true.

I couldn’t contain my disbelieve and had to shout my thoughts out loud. “Who the hell needs eight cabinets of alcohol! No wonder all these dishes are dirty! There isn’t a single place to store them!” I said, my anger probably amplified due to how hungry I was.

I looked around and eyed three doors in the room. There was a solid door that was situated under the stairs and most likely led to a basement. Another door I was certain was a backdoor due to the fact a window showed the house ended at that wall. Then there was a pair of shutter doors, that looked to be a pantry and I dreaded what I might find inside. I went over to the pantry and pulled it open to a sight that didn't anger me, though I didn't like it.

The walk-in pantry had little to nothing in it, but I suppose I should’ve been happy something was in it at all. I walked into the pantry and took what was available, a sole can of baked beans that I decided to hold between my neck and muzzle. I moved over to the counter to find a can opener and spoon, but all I found was a spoon. I eyed the pile of dishes as the likely resting place of the can opener, but I had a better idea.

I removed the can from under my muzzle and placed it on the floor, took the spoon with my forehoof’s pad, then stabbed the lid with the same strength I had used yesterday on the wall. My efforts were rewarded with a nice puncture in the lid that I then proceeded to repeat until I was able to remove the lid entirely. The can of baked beans looked delicious, though I was certain most anything would’ve looked good to me with how hungry I was, and then I proceeded to feast upon the contents.

(0) (0)

After I finished with my depressing meal, I explored the adjacent dining room and living room, both of which contained nothing of interest. The clock on the kitchen wall showed it was around three in the morning, but my attention was aimed at the only place I hadn’t explored yet, the solid door that was in the kitchen. The door was locked, so I had pulled the keys from yesterday out of my saddlebags and tried them systematically. It wasn’t until I tried the very last key that the lock finally moved and I was able to open the door to more stairs that led down into darkness.

Stairs… Another glowing light switch was inside the door and I made sure to toggle it on. Dust was heavy on the wooden steps and the cobwebs were prevalent here just much as they were in the master bedroom. With both forehooves on the rail embedded in the wall, I descended into the unknown depths.

My descent went much easier than my previous descent from upstairs, but it might have been due to the fact my mind was elsewhere during it. What do I need to focus on when I use my ability on others? My attempt with Process… Oh! Due Process! Man, I can’t believe I didn’t put that together already after that memory of Berry’s. I reached the bottom of the stairs and looked around at what was probably a fortune.

The room was a wine cellar filled to the brim with wine, and the temperature down here was much cooler than the rest of the house. The room was as big as all the rooms above combined and the floor above seemed to be supported by the pillars with wine racks built into them. I walked by several of the wall racks and noted the years went from 890 to 990, though the bottles stopped at 998. It seemed there were all sorts of brands and types, but I noticed that one label was more prevalent than others. Lovely Vitis Vineyards.

Nothing else in the room caught my attention, though I was surprised this wine cellar wasn't connected to Berry's alcoholism as well. I wondered why Berry wouldn't drink any of this, but I guessed she couldn't bring herself to go anywhere in the house with strong emotional ties. The desolation of the house weighed on my thoughts, and I wasn't sure I wanted to know what happened to Berry's parents. This world just confuses me to no ends. It looks so happy and carefree, it even seems it was at one point, but it is like something left a mark.

I thought about the memorial I had seen in Process’s memory and wondered just what it was for. Should I even ask anyone about it? If was something horrible, and they think I’m being disrespectful, they’ll be even less likely to give me the time of day. Guess I’ll just have to find out through someone’s memory. I heard the sound of a doorbell ring out and the sound of knocking could be faintly heard. Who comes knocking at this hour?

I headed back toward the stairs, though I hardly acknowledged my movement as I got lost in my thoughts. Maybe a neighbor complaining about the fact every light in the house is on? Heh, neighbor. That word doesn’t even need to be ponified. Suppose it might be an alarming thing to see someone’s lights on at an odd hour. Maybe just a concerned neighbor then? Really hope so, I don’t think I can stand being berated again after Rarity, at least not without trying to knock them down a peg with my ability. Regardless… I stopped my line of thought as I realized where I was and what I was about to do.

I had my hoof on the deadbolt twist knob and was about to unlock the door. The problem with this scenario was, I didn’t remember putting my hoof there. I didn’t remember anything between that moment and after the doorbell had rung, other than what my thoughts were focused on. This happened before, didn’t it? At the police station, right? What was the prob— My thoughts were interrupted by the doorbell and more knocks.

I twisted the deadbolt knob, which made a scraping sound before it reached the unlocked position. I inhaled a deep breath and then exhaled it, which cleared my mind and prepared me for a possible beratement from an angry neighbor. With the doorknob in hoof, I opened the door to someone that had no right to look as cheerful as they looked at three in the morning.

“Berry!” said an orange-red coated unicorn mare. I mustn’t have paid close attention to either of the two horned ponies I saw before, as I hadn’t noticed the grooves that were a lighter shade than her coat. Her long mane was dark orange and amber, which partially fell over her right eye, while the longest part of it hung off to her left side. Something about her vivid green eyes unnerved me.

Damn it, I can’t go judging people on how they look. Need to remember their facial features are more exaggerated compared to humans as well. “Hello. How well do you know Berry?” I said, and gave her a polite smile.

Her demeanor instantly changed from happy and smiling to half-lidded with a smirk. “Oh, intimately.” She moved forward and embraced me in a hug with her neck. “You smell nice.”

I jerked myself backward toward the kitchen due to the unwelcome advance and it left me flustered. “I… Um…”

She crouched down on her front legs, but kept her back legs up. “Don’t you want to play, Berry?” She turned slightly and then I was able to see her tattoo, which was a lime wedge that looked kinda like a smile the way it was cut and situated. “You know firsthoof that my special talent is… finishing touches.” She stopped crouching on her front legs and then began to move slowly forward with a sway to her movement.

Fuck! “Stop!” I said, with the force that I thought appropriate to the situation.

“Huh?” She broke her stride and looked at me. “What’s wrong, Berry? You seem a little off tonight.”

“Just stay there. I need to collect my thoughts. Okay?”

“Sure?” I got the feeling that this mare wasn’t used to being denied from her puzzled look.

“Good.” Well, I know who that toothbrush belongs to now. No doubt about it, Berry is a lesbian, guess I would be too if— No, I can’t think like that. I need to do what I decided to do. I need to use my ability. “First things first, my name is Jack Taylor and I’m an outsider called a human. So what is your name?”

“You want to do roleplaying? I—”

“This isn’t a sex thing!” She seemed to flinch at my anger and be hurt by my tone.

“I don’t understand, Berry. Did I do something wrong?” It looked like she was about to cry.

Damn it, I’m being an asshole. “No, and sorry for my tone, but please answer the question. What is your name?”

“Corona… Berry, you know who I am right? Is this some kind of game?”

“No, to both of your questions. I—”

“Did Twilight Sparkle do something to you, Berry? I heard you bothered her twice in two days. Did she touch your mind?” Worry washed over her features and she began to slowly walk forward.

“No! Stay!” She stopped in place, and I backed up a little to increase the distance between us. “I want to do something, and you have to promise not to do anything, but stand where you are when I do it. Alright?”

“What are planning to do?”

“Well, this may sound weird, but I’m going to use an ability I have and see one of your memories.”

A smile showed up on her face and she began to laugh. “Berry, you had me going there for a sec—”

“If you will not listen to me, then I will ask you to leave,” I said, in a leveled, but clearly agitated tone that Corona seemed to flinch at.

“Um… okay, Berry.” She looked me over. “What do you want me to do?”

Finally, she is acting reasonably. “Like I said, just stay right there. Alright?”

“Alright.” A smile returned to her face,

Now what to focus on? Guess wanting something Berry wouldn’t know might work. I focused on her eyes, while I wanted a secret, and the world faded away.

(0) (0)

I felt it, something was wrong with the memory. There was a void before anything that should’ve contained emotion but contained absolutely nothing. The lack of emotion was a startling experience, even the few damaged memories I had experienced in my life contained flashes of emotion. Several things might’ve explained the emotions being muted, but the complete absence was beyond my past experimentations with my ability. This is really unnerving. Hope it doesn’t last long. I thought, while the void of emotion continued.

Corona’s orange-red muzzle came into view and it looked like she was on a ship from the railing and design of the deck, but what was beyond the railing was strange. Instead of an ocean of water, it seemed the ship was situated in a cloud and sailed in the sky. The reason I knew the ship was in the sky, and not just surrounded by an unnaturally thick fog, was due to a snow-capped mountain that the ship was lazily passing by.

As Corona walked, there was a feeling of something warm leaned up against her, which had a matching sound of steps as she walked. Corona turned her head slightly and eyed Berry Punch, who looked to be very tired due to the fact her eyes were closed and was leaned on Corona. Berry wore the same expensive looking purple and blue shaded dress I had seen in Berry’s closet.

You would think a mare that works in a bar could handle alcohol better. Have to remember to watch her consumption, don’t want her to kill herself with the stuff, just need enough to get her willing. At least she is an Earth pony, plenty of room for error, Corona thought.

Corona looked at a door and focused on the handle, which caused it to glow green alongside a strange feeling on her forehead. The door opened and she guided Berry Punch inside to a hallway, turned a corner, then stopped in front of a cabin door. Corona looked at a purse she carried and used her green magic again to pull a room key out of the bag, then opened the door before she placed the key back in the bag. They both went into the room before Corona closed the door behind them, then they went over to the full-size bed.

Well, we can see how receptive she is tonight. Berry staggered onto the bed, while Corona walked over to a mirror.

Corona had a simple white dress with a gold trim on herself, which she began to remove through the use of her telekinesis. Once the dress was removed she floated it over to a closet, opened the closet, then hung it on a hanger. She removed her overwear next, dropped it to the floor, and turned her attention toward Berry.

Berry had fallen asleep in the short time she had been on the bed and was still fully clothed. Lewd images filled Corona’s thoughts, and they were all of her and Berry. Oh, we can’t have that. We need to have each and every night memorable.

Damn it. Did I subconsciously want a memory like this? Corona did leave me flustered with how forward she was… Bah, this memory isn’t going to help me convince Corona at all, I thought.

Corona began to remove Berry’s dress with her telekinesis, but something strange began to happen. It was like when my experiences faded away normally, but instead of darkness encroaching upon my vision, the color was green. What the green meant was a mystery, but I was somewhat glad the memory ended before Corona did what she had in mind.

(0) (0)

My vision returned to me and found Corona had moved right in front of me. I reacted without a thought, my legs bent low and I hit her with both of my forehooves to the chest. My sudden assault sent her flying and out the door to land on the dirt outside, where she landed on her side gasping for the air I had knocked from her. Anger seemed to cloud my thoughts and I couldn’t sway my feelings. I walked forward toward the doorway and the gasping pony I had assaulted.

I stood in the doorway and some simple words came to mind that needed to be said, and I was afraid of what I might do if I didn’t say them. “I told you to stay still,” I said, calmly and coldly compared to the inferno that raged inside me. Corona flinched again at my words from where she landed, as she still tried to regain air and a bruise developed on her chest.

I closed the door and then collapsed to the floor. I knew I should’ve helped her, made sure she was alright, but in my current state, I was certain I might hurt her more. The anger within me was strong, unlike anything I had ever experienced; it was an anger I could only define as wrath. There was this need inside me, a strong urge that I barely suppressed, an urge I had never experienced before and it filled me with fear.

I hadn’t just wanted to hurt Corona, I had wanted to kill her.

Author's Note:

Topaz Moon

So yeah, I know this chapter dragged a little and was pretty slow. This will probably be the only time I ever do something like this again, just seemed appropriate for Jack to explore Berry's home, and with it explored I can use it in future chapters with ease. Not that I plan to have Jack do much there overall, but certain things will end up happening there later that are important to the plot. Yes, there is a plot, Jack isn't going to go in circles without any sense of progress.

Also, "overwear" comes from a FiMfic series I hold dear, which is "My Little Heartbreak" by "Jet Black 1980". It is one of my main inspirations for writing this story. If you are looking for something dark and depressing, then give the first story a read.

Last Grammar Update: 2016-10-02