• Published 11th Jul 2012
  • 17,202 Views, 1,008 Comments

Off the Beaten Path - PingSquirrel

A tale of someone comfortable with his life becoming somepony not well liked at all.

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The room was as welcoming as any hospital room I have ever been in. In other words, it was not inviting at all. Hospitals never are a place where one wants to go, but are sent there by necessity brought about by misfortune. It was funny how close it was to a hospital back home though, with the white walls, bad floral print window dressings and the sterile smell made the uncomfortableness of the room complete. If I were to touch them, I am sure I would of found the bed lumpy and the chairs overly hard. At least the soft light of an exceptionally bright moon shining through the window lent some level of comfort and warmth to an otherwise unwelcoming place. I gave Luna a glance, and quickly deducted that she likely had a part in how the full moon hung perfectly in the window. The only noise other than ourselves, was the sound of two pony's breathing, and the rhythmic beeping of a monitor from the corner. We did our best not to disturb the peaceful quiet of the room, though I could find no way to soften the clop of hooves on a tile floor. The subtle clacking roused one of the occupants enough to lift her head from where she had collapsed in exhaustion at the foot of the bed.

“Is that you Luna?” came the willowy and quite drowsy voice of a yellow mare with a pink mane as she tried to blink out the sleep from her eyes. I was once again struck by how casually ponies referred to a goddess and their ruler. When there is a chance, I will have to ask about it.

“T'is I, Fluttershy,” she replied in a near whisper, and Luna was quick to approach the bed to look at the patient “Hath Twilight roused at all in my absence?”

The mood was rarely good in a hospital and that question did nothing to lighten it. Instead, Fluttershy stood up, but kept her head hanging down as if ashamed to meet Luna's eyes with her own. “I really tried my best, but the doctors really did not want me doing too much. I am better with animals anyways, and I don't want to hurt Twilight. I just wish I knew what I could do to wake her up,” she said, obviously trying her best not to cry with deep breathes taken almost as punctuation. As almost an afterthought, she glances in my direction. “Um. Hi.”

I honestly did not know what to say beyond a simple greetings too. To introduce myself as the one that hurt a dear friend to a pony that looked as fragile as this one seemed overtly cruel. So, I tipped my hat and quipped, “Hello.” I guess introducing yourself with a bumper makes a friendly hand or hoof-shake rather unlikely. At least the princess seemed to know what needed to be said, and I was happy to let her take that lead.

“This is Kerry. He was piloting that red thing when the accident happened, but he hath assured me it was nought but a terrible accident,” she explained in her stately way, but that did not stop the angry glare from Fluttershy. While Pinkamena's stare was threatening, this was something different entirely. A buzz filled my ears as it felt like I was being forced to look into a spotlight by some unknown force holding my head and prying my eyes wide. My will snapped like a twig and I was only under the terrible gaze for seconds! Thankfully, It only lasted a moment longer when Luna saved me yet again. A dark wing acted as a wall between myself and the mare and broke the gaze. “Fluttershy!”

It never hurt physically, but I was left with the feeling that something rolled over my will in an instant. That is a injury of a sort I never had before and it is hard to describe while doing it proper justice. You might think I would be getting better at relaying the strange and new with all the practice I was getting in the this long, busy day, but words escape me. At best, I can say it is tiring and it left me in a dazed stupor until it wore off, and it did so just in time to hear the door close behind me. It was just the goddess and I in the room with the patient now.

“Sorry about that, Kerry. Fluttershy hath a power called 'The Stare'. It is potent and can compel one to act differently than they might normally. Seems she wished to test how honest you were being,” she explained.

“Looks like I am on everyone's list, eh?” I replied as I tried to compose myself from that mental assault. It was tougher to shake off than I would like.

“It would seem,” she agreed. “Here is where we start correcting that. This is Lady Twilight Sparkle. Protege of Princess Celestia, Bearer of the Element of Magic, and Twice Savior of Equestria. Oh yes, and the curator of the Ponyville Library. I must admit, thou could not hoof pick a pony less deserving of what happened to her if thee tried.” She chuckled sadly at her own dark humour. Fitting for a night goddess to have that particular quirk. I could not share in the bitter mirth though. If my mood had improved any in the course of the day, the list of titles had drove it down like a series of hammer blows on a nail. Not only did I hit somepony, I had hit a veritable national treasure and put her in the hospital.

Even with that cheerful note echoing within my mind, I stepped up slowly, and to look at my victim. A lavender unicorn laid atop of the bed, wrapped in bandages. The right side of her face was heavily padded from her mane to her jaw, including her eye, and a split ran the length of her horn. Her neck and her right foreleg were similarly braced to prevent her from moving it, and it quickly became apparent to me that I must of struck her on that side. A blanket hid the rest of her, but I had no inclination to see more of my work. Instead, I looked to how she was wired to the monitors and hooked to an IV bag that steadily dripped a clear fluid into her. I suspected it was an anaesthetic, so she might sleep through the worst of this.

“She had her horn nearly sheered from her and the doctors were unsure how well her bones will knit. As I said, even I hath limits,” she says trying to look strong. Once again, the goddess looked very much like a mortal with how she fought the temptation to sob. I am not sure which was worse to look at, the patient or the Princess. “We can provide a body with power, but cannot push it to repair too far. The consequences of such are often worse than the injury occurred.”

Finally, I mustered the will to speak. That is a hard act when looking at what is the worst thing I have ever done to another living being. “The others were able to get out of the way. Why did she have to get hit? Didn't she see it coming? All the rest did! I did all I could to help her but it was not good enough for a hero?” As I spoke, I found myself suddenly angry at the maimed mare, and with the growing temper, my voice rose to match. This was not her fault, but everything has gone wrong for me today on a level so astronomically bad, it defies definition. I lost my whole world and my body! I had nothing left. If she just could of taken three steps to the left, it would of been better. Not perfect, but better at least! I was tired of self-pity for something I had no hand in doing and she was there, ready to take the blame silently.

A wing laid over me and pulled me away from Twilight and into an embrace that just radiated calm, and with that patient voice, she spoke, “Thou speak rashly and out of frustration. She is no more at fault than thou. Try to calm thyself. Thou should never give into anger and bitterness.” Once more, I did not know how to react to such a thing, but the dark limb around my body stymied any effort to feel anger. It was simply nice there, to be pressed against something I would swear could not exist no less than a day ago. The effect that evaporated away my burst of rage was not magic but simple compassion from one being to another in a difficult time. She did release me, but made sure I was looking at her for when she finally continued. “Now, when it happened, she was weaving a complex spell, using some my own magical strength to solidify it. I doubt she knew thou appeared at all, let alone had time to act.”

“Magic? Could she of brought me here?” I asked hopefully. The implied question was if she was my ticket home too.

“Alas, all I can say is that t'is possible,” she replied as her attention turned to Twilight once more. I looked at her too, but this time, I kept my anger in check. “If she wakes, it will be no less than three months before her horn knits to be suitable for spellcraft once more. What the spell was to be was a surprise for my sister, and so, I do not know what it was, or intended to do.”

It did not take any time at all to catch the relevant part in that statement. In the best case scenario, I was looking to be trapped here as a pony for three months with no way to get a word back home. The silence that filled the room was only broken up by that steady beeping from that machine in the corner while I bounced to the other side of the thought. If this mare was permanently crippled or worse, never actually woke, I would be here until I died.

No words seemed appropriate now, but I stepped forth to the unconscious mare, and pulled free my peace offering from the saddle bag. They were absurdly insignificant in comparison to what happened. “Sorry I crippled you. Have a couple of books,” I thought bitterly to myself, but I still carefully lifted one of her hooves and slid both of them into place.

“For whatever it is worth, if you can hear this, I am sorry. My name is Kerry von Kassel, and I was the one that hit you. I did not mean it, or even knew I did it. I am sorry.” Once again, it seemed woefully inadequate and was not the panacea for my emotions as I hoped. It just made me feel weak, greedy and guilty all at once. I was not about to get angry at her again, but I needed to get out of this place. There was nothing more I could do in this room, and just being here was growing a loathing in myself for my impotence. I gave the injured mare one more long look over, taking note of every injury she had and it became clear that I would have a lot of work ahead of me to make some sort of recompense for today.

I turned to face the other in the room. “Princess Luna. Can we go back to the station? I would like to gather my things and get back to my truck. It is all I have of home.”

She simply nodded, and the door glowed in a blue aura before it opened. I was ushered out to leave the broken mare in the company of a thankfully incessantly beeping machine and what was the most brilliant moon I had ever seen glowing in the window in an unmoving vigil.