• Published 11th Jan 2016
  • 4,320 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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Hazy Hooves

Hazy is a slim young woman in her late teens. She stands about twice the height of the ponies around her, wearing the gold trimmed white suit of the Canterlot Exchange stewards. With a brilliant smile and a breezy confidence to her step she could be a student from anywhere on Earth. The only sign that she is not all that she seems is her hair, which is an inhuman lilac-grey. Standing in front of the mirrored surface of portal B-1 she, with quiet encouragement and more than a little hands on education, guides a number of shaky hooved ponies away from the portal. The stream of ponies passing through, however, soon abates and she makes her way over to the wooden bench where I am sitting.

“So, that’s my job,” she said, sitting next to me. The benches are low and sized for ponies and she ends up with her legs folded up close to her chin. “Not the most glamorous role, but it pays the bills.”

“It’s fascinating,” I admit. “I’m amazed that teaching people to be ponies is a full time job.”

Hazy lets out a little bark of laughter. “Not so much teaching them, more getting them walking so they don’t block the portal . Of course, I end up carrying a few. The portal will only stay open for a few minutes and if we don’t get everypony through in time then it's the stewards who get in trouble.”

“This happens a lot?”

“About one in ten.” She shrugs, fiddling with the buttons on her jacket. “Of course, they tend to come in clumps. Early morning most ponies are commuters or seasoned travellers and they barely miss a stride coming through. Later in the day, though, you get the vacationers who think walking on all fours is just simplified crawling and those are the ones you have to watch.” Hazy rolls her eyes. “There was one time when a whole coach party, fifty or so schmucks, came through all at once and not one of them had a clue what to do with their legs. Thankfully, we had a few strong earth ponies waiting in line to go the other way, because we had to drag a dozen of the idiots out of the way of the gate like foals.”

A groan escapes her. “Oh yeah, and then there are foals. Little kids I love, they just bounce onto all fours and are away within moments. Babies... well, babies can’t figure out why they don’t have fingers any more and just start screaming and never stop. Why anyone would take their yearling to Equestria I have no idea, but I need an aspirin every time some moron decides it's a good idea.” Hazy shakes her head, smiling to herself. “Ah well, at least they’re the exception to the rule, and I have to remind myself of the perks.”

“Is being human one of those?” I ask, anticipating my answer.

“Yep!” A smug grin plasters itself on Hazy’s face as she wiggles her fingers in front of my nose. “And free trips to Earth, and a load of other little benefits, especially if you’re willing to go the extra mile and wear one of these.” She lifts a hefty pewter and brass amulet from underneath her jacket and shows it to me. Even at a distance it fizzes and sparks as my magic slides off the edges of the spell.

Hazy picks up on my confused expression. “Humanising spell,” she explains. “Well, anti-ponyizing spell really. Equestria is always trying to make non-magical things magical, so you need a big magical spell to keep a mundane creature like a human, human.” She frowns, chewing on her lip. “Hmm, that didn’t sound right, my briefing explained it a lot better. Anyway, this thing will keep me human for another day or two, more if I stick close to a portal.”

“Do you have to wear that often?”

“Well, have is a strong word.” Hazy shrugs. “I’ve been volunteering to be the designated human a lot lately. Company policy is for every steward to have at least some idea of how to walk as a human and a pony so the amulet gets passed around a lot, but whenever there’s call for hands on work I put up a hoof to volunteer.” She seems to catch my surprised look. “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not trying to escape being a pony. Truth is, I’m practicing for next year.”

I cock my head. “Next year?”

“University,” she replies, grin growing even wider. “I got the news about a week ago. I’m going to be the first cross-dimensional student to attend university in London.”

“Oh, congratulations!” I say with false surprise, drumming my hooves on the bench. “What will you be studying?”

“Early twenty first century history, basically anything post Berlin Wall, which I guess you’ve never heard of.” She rolls her eyes. “Now, before you start, I’ve heard all the questions. What’s wrong with Equestrian universities? Why not something more useful? Won’t it be too strange? The answers are, they’re full of boring regressive morons, more happens in two years of human history than two thousand years of Equestrian, and strange is good!”

“I sense some burned bridges,” I say with a smirk.

Hazy lets out a bitter laugh. “Damn right. Not that I regret burning any of them. Equestria is just so... backward compared to Earth. You want to learn in Equestria? It’s either magic if you’re a unicorn or weather work if you’re a pegasus. There’s no philosophy, there’s no history, there’s no theoretical maths or engineering.”

I chew the tip of my pen. “Though we have all of those things,” I point out.

“As vocations,” Hazy exclaims. “As idle hobbies for the rich and bored. Humans are always learning, they thrive on it, their civilisation is built on it and ponies... ponies just sit here.” She points at the gate. “Look at that thing, the magic involved is on a scale never imagined, but the original mirror portal was over fifteen hundred years old. In fifteen hundred years, humans went from stone forts to metropolises. In fifteen hundred years ponies have gone from stone forts to larger stone forts and I never thought that was a problem until I realised just how badly we measure up. We could be so much better than we are and nopony cares!”

Hazy pauses, shakes her head and lets out a deep sigh. “Heh, and look at me. Already a rabble rousing student and I haven’t even been to my first lecture yet.” Splaying out her fingers she stares at them for a long moment. “I just wish I didn’t have to go. I love Equestria. I love being a pony. But I love learning too, and I can’t do that here.”

“Don’t worry,” I say, putting a hoof on her leg. “Things will change.”

“Will they?” she shoots back. “Equestria seems caught on a wheel sometimes. All that happens is the same ancient evils keep rising up and the same heroes keep knocking them back down. There’s no growth, no learning, just this stagnant little kingdom that gets a little less utopic every day.” She stands, suddenly her hands balling into fists. “I don’t want it to keep happening. I’m going to university to prove that there is more out there for us, and that everypony should be willing to learn everything they can from humanity. Then things will change then... things will have to change then.”

She shakes her head. “I need to get to the next portal,” she says, her eyes fixed in the middle distance. “Thanks for letting me talk.”

“Safe travels,” I reply as she strides away. I don’t think she hears me.