• Published 11th Jan 2016
  • 4,305 Views, 228 Comments

Interviews At The Canterlot Exchange - billymorph

The Canterlot Exchange, ten thousand humans and ponies pass through its doors every day, on their way to destinations all across Earth and throughout Equestria. These are just a few of their stories.

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Thomas Lance

Thomas Lance sits in the human style on the second floor of the Canterlot Exchange. It’s a quiet start to a very busy day; a dozen ponies or so mill around, setting up tables and chairs for the food court and opening their little shops to the world. Snow is falling beyond the glass wall that makes up the front of the terminal and Thomas watches in silence, sipping from his Starbucks coffee cup. I can’t pronounce the dozen-syllable name, but he ordered it without missing a beat, so I presume it is his usual.

“Not sure why you want to talk to me,” he says, tearing his eyes from the snow. “I haven’t got the most interesting story for you.”

“All stories are interesting,” I tell him, smiling. “Some, I’ll admit, are more interesting than others. Still, I’d love to hear yours. I’m writing a book, you see.”

“Fine.” Thomas shrugs. He’s a dark coated earth pony, for now, wearing a wrinkled shirt with his collar popped. “So, Sandy, what do you want to know?”

I tap my pen against my notepad. “How about from the beginning, what made you first want to come to Equestria?”

Thomas grimaces, taking a swig of coffee. “Well, I’m sorry for your readers. The truth is I never wanted to come to Equestria. Don’t get me wrong, I watched the shows as much as anyone else did. Discovering another world, another species, magic itself? Well, it was the biggest event since the moon landings—you’d have to live under a rock, with your fingers in your ears, singing Ave Maria to miss that. Still... I guess I didn’t care.”

He pauses, staring out through the windows at Canterlot. The city is dotted with electric lights, but is grim and grey in the predawn light, a far cry from the glittering city of marble on all the postcards. A weak, wintery sun struggles to rise over the mountaintop, but it seems even Celestia is struggling to wake up on time.

“I work in the city,” he continues, turning back to me. “Buying and selling companies; or at least making it so people can buy and sell companies, I’m not quite that rich.” A chuckle escapes him. “It’s a great job, you’ll never hear me say a word against it. Sure, the hours are long and God is it a pressure cooker, but I love every minute of it. Of course, then there’s the travel.”

A laugh escapes Thomas and he shakes his head. “I traveled London to New York once, twice a week sometimes. Twelve hours from door to door, assuming everything goes to plan, and trust me things never go to plan on an international flight. When I heard they were allowing people to transfer between the London and New York portals I decided to give it a shot. Half an hour in an alien land beats twelve hours in a Boeing.”

“There’s plenty of people who still take the plane,” I point out. “Was it really all to save time?”

“Maybe not.” Thomas looks down at his hooves, drumming them on the tabletop in a practiced patter. “Maybe there is a little spacecadet in all of us. Still, at the time it was more a question of whether I could bear an hour or so walking on all fours. I could have put my hands on one of those amulets that prevents you from becoming a pony, but I never liked them. Equestria abhors humans and you can feel it, even when you’ve got a slug of magic keeping nature at bay. I could cope with hooves. It was just part of the commute.”

Thomas’ suitcase chirps and he sighs. “Sorry.” Ducking into the bag he pulls a tablet computer out between his lips and unlocks the device with practiced ease. “Looks like the office wants me.” He shakes his head and slips the tablet back into his bag. “So where were we?”

“You don’t need to go?” I inquire.

“No,” he says, a dark shadow passing across his face. “No. I don’t think I do. They know I don’t work weekends.”

“Huh.” I tap my pen against my lips. “From your story I pictured you as being an always online type.”

“True... perhaps I was.” Thomas frowns at his coffee. “I didn’t take weekends off back then. I looked down on the people who did, in fact. Hell, I decided that spending a few hours a week as a pony was a good way to save time. It was a strange way of thinking, though, I suppose everyone feels that way looking back.”

“What changed?”

“The portal failed. It was three years ago or so, some big evil thing tried to destroy Equestria.” He shrugged, with the blithe indifference of a true Equestrian native. “It didn’t get far before being blasted, but it did disrupt the leylines for a week. I got stranded in Canterlot and... well, I didn’t have anything to do. I didn’t take it well. I ranted and screamed at the stewards for a day or so, but there was no fixing things. After calming down, I found myself alone in Canterlot with no responsibilities and no job to worry about. Free.”

He stares wistfully off into the distance for a moment, lost in a memory, a faint smile on his lips. “I’d never stepped outside of the Exchange before. I was in a strange body, in a land I barely understood, for an indeterminate amount of time. It was the best week of my life.” Thomas shook his head. “I didn’t take holidays back then. The office discouraged them, and I spent my weekends travelling. Canterlot was my first break from work in years, and, once I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I loved every minute of it. For the first time in my life I had the chance to step back and actually think about what was important in my life and what I was throwing away in the meantime.”

Thomas pauses a moment, parsing the sentence back, and chuckles. “Wow, that really makes me sound old.”

“See what I mean about all stories being interesting?” I say, sharing a smile with the stallion. “So, Equestria has won your heart?”

“Well, I got this thing now, so it must have left some impression.” He pointed at the Arabian oil lamp on his flank. “Still, I prefer to think of myself as a weekend pony. I still work in two cities, but I keep an apartment in Canterlot for the weekends and I make it there more weekends than not. I like it in Equestria; there’s a sense of timelessness to it all. You can step away from the internet and the job and the people, and that’s so hard to do back on Earth.”

“So, is this you waiting for a portal, or just waiting out the snow?” I enquire.

Thomas’ tablet buzzes again. As he checks it his face lights up. “Neither it seems, my ride is here. It was great talking to you Sandy, best of luck with the book.”

He drains his coffee in one gulp and leaps to his hooves. He doesn’t gallop away, but moves at a sprightly trot, his automatic case whirring as it trundles after him. I make my way over to the edge of the balcony and look down on the concourse in time to watch Thomas trade a nuzzle with a unicorn mare. The pair make their way out of the building pressed flank to flank.