• Published 19th Nov 2018
  • 14,883 Views, 1,500 Comments

Bedbound (And Beyond) - Cackling Moron



Freshly-arrived human in a state of some disrepair is tended to by local deity.

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In the solar glance, in the desert sand

Author's Note:

I'm sure this all makes perfect sense?

Not long after Celestia went off to do whatever it was she was actually supposed to be doing instead of hanging around with me, I learnt that ponies were small.

I mean, I’m not that much of an idiot. Even when it had just been Celestia looking after me - before I’d found out about her actual job - I’d assumed the palace wasn’t empty. Other horses would be out there, somewhere, doing other equally unlikely things about the place. I just hadn’t seen any of them yet. But they had to be around.

And I’d been right, they were. But I’d been picturing them as looking like Celestia. I figured that was what they all looked like. Kinda slender, elegant, possessed of poise. They were not.

They were bloody adorable. And so little!

Three of them came into the room just as I was starting to doze off again and they were just so damn cute I couldn’t help but stare for a good solid five seconds. Since they were also staring at me the whole time this meant we were all just staring like goons in utter silence. But there’s a first time for everything.

So adorable!

Tiny squishy brightly-coloured ponies with big, expressive eyes and squidgy-looking hooves and swishy tails! What I assumed to be the doctor one was even wearing a teeny little white coat with a teeny little stethoscope around their neck!

A lesser man would have squealed. I managed to contain myself, for the most part.

“God I just want to squeeze your cheeks and eat your face.”

“I’m sorry?” Said the doctor-one while the other two - nurses? They had hats - looked mildly appalled. They may have taken me literally.

The room was deathly silent. Did I say that out loud? Whoops.

“Uh, hello, I’m not from round here. Sorry.”

First impressions were off to a rollicking good start.

One of the nurses had been holding a clipboard in her mouth and this she passed to the doctor, who used magic to hold it instead. Seemed more hygenic that way, personally speaking. The doctor also produced a pencil from one of his many medical pockets and then approached the beds, nurses lurking behind. Why did he need them, exactly?

“Could you raise your arm for me, please?” The doctor asked.

Not wasting any time, was he?

“Am I aiming for a specific height here or…?”

“Just as high as you can, but don’t strain yourself.”

I must have been improving by leaps and bounds because I was almost able to raise my arms level with my shoulders and almost able to hold them there, too! Agreeably not for very long and it hurt like buggery, sure, but I could do it. That was the point.

“Did that hurt?” The doctor asked, making notes.

“...little bit,” I said, doing my best not to wince. The doctor was not fooled for a moment and gave me a deeply disapproving look as further notes were taken.

Yeah well at least I have arms. And hands! Let’s see you try and tie shoelaces, doctor.

Oh, he’d probably just use magic. Scratch that. Damn magical horses.

With a certain level of finality he finished jotting whatever it was he’d been jotting and then looked up at me again.

“Can you turn your head for me? As far as you can, left and right.”

It went on like this for a while, limb by limb. The eventual conclusion was that I could move better than I could before and that I was in a fairly considerable level of discomfort as a result of having found this out.

The doctor gave me something for the pain and so I swore him eternal gratitude. He seemed a bit taken aback by this. I had no regrets. The numbness was blissful. Why hadn’t Celestia drugged me? It was like she didn’t care!

That what he’d given me had also arrived in the form of an honest-to-God potion was just icing on the cake. The novelty alone was worth it!

Afterwards, my aches and pains felt as though they were happening in the next room over. I was even able to push myself up in the bed to a better sitting position all on my own, though I had an inkling I’d regret it once whatever the potion was wore off and despite the glare of the doctor.

“Hey,” I asked. “Is it possible for me to, uh, you know, leave this room? Now that I’m not being kept a secret and all. I don’t want to go through the streets of - what was this place called again? The city?”

The doctor looked momentarily confused.

“Canterlot?”

Oh yeah. Pun.

“Yeesh, how did I forget that? But yeah, I don’t need to go that far. Just in the garden or something. This place must have gardens. Some fresh air would be nice, you know? You guys got a wagon you can sling me in?”

From the look on his face the doctor seemed to find my wagon suggestion professionally insulting. I wasn’t winning this guy over anytime soon, I could tell. One of the nurses looked to be trying to hide her giggling behind a hoof and even if she was just laughing at me that was a start, but the doctor might as well have been made of stone for all the progress I was making.

Some people will just never like you.

“We could probably find a wheelchair,” the doctor said.

I was honestly surprised by that.

“You guys have wheelchairs? That’d fit me?”

“Yes and yes. Well, we have some more to your scale, though not in the palace. We’d have to fetch one,” he said, making to motion to one of the nurses but I leapt into action before he could go further.

“Ah, that’s too much trouble, don’t worry about it, it’s fine.”

“The Princess made it clear that you were to be cared for and accommodated and it’s no trouble, really.”

‘Accommodated’ was a broad and ominous word for Celestia to have used.

“She said that? Nice of her. But, uh, no seriously it’s fine.”

“If the Princess wants you accomodated then it’s not a problem. Nurse, if you could find - yes, thank you,” the doctor said, waving off one of the nurses who didn’t even seem to need to be told what it was she was being sent for.

I sat and considered sulking for having my wishes ridden over roughshod. But sulking never solved anything, so I didn’t. Instead I retaliated by refusing to engage the doctor in small talk. It was only just before the nurse returned that I realised that this was probably just what the doctor would have wanted from the start. Oh well.

They really did turn out to have a wheelchair, though why or who it was actually for was less clear. That said, from looking at the thing I could tell I’d fit in it, so what did it matter?

Getting into it was awkward. The doctor appeared to lack the raw magical force that Celestia apparently possessed as it required both him and one of the nurses working in tandem to maneuver me into the thing. There was no dignity in this, especially given that I was still only wearing that weirdo table-cloth thing. At this point I was beyond caring if anyone saw my junk. And besides, they were medical horses. They’d probably seen worse. Probably.

The horns seemed important for the magic. The nurse without a horn - or wings, I noticed, so would that just make her a pony pony? - didn’t contribute much to the process of me getting stuck into the chair. Were some unicorns just better at magic? Or did they practise? I felt I might ask Celestia about it later, should I see her.

I did hope I’d see her. Hoped she was having a nice day.

Once they’d got me properly sat in the wheelchair they slung a blanket on me, which made me feel like an old man but hell.

“Nurse, if you could please take the patient to the gardens,” the doctor said. All very formal, this. And I was ‘the patient’ now. Like I wasn’t even there! I didn’t mind.

The nurse without the horn was the one pushing me and I did wonder how she was actually doing it. Being as how she was directly behind me I couldn’t really see, but I seethed with curiosity. How does a teeny pony push a wheelchair? What a mystery.

Along the way to the garden we passed a good few more of the smaller, squishier ponies. Most were in sort of crypto-uniforms that kind of mirrored the sort you might expect to see on the kind of people who you’d expect to see working in a palace. But the uniforms tended to end about midway down their bodies.

It looked weird. Everyone here was either naked or half naked. But they were horses so maybe that was normal? Looked weird to me.

They looked at me like I was weird, too. So I suppose it balanced out.

Kind of made me a little uncomfortable, actually, the way they kept staring. The first few fine, but every single one we passed? I’m not that interesting looking, come on.

Thankfully they thinned out by the time we got to the gardens. Given as how the room I’d been put up in seemed to be a fair whack above ground level - judging by that look out the window I’d got - I had no idea how we’d managed to go down without me noticing. Probably magic. Probably me just not paying attention. Maybe somewhere between the two.

Probably not important...

The gardens were odd, though it was difficult to pinpoint exactly why I thought so. Everything just seemed too colourful and too clean. Probably just a result of being fancy-pants royal gardens. Likely had teams of tiny horses with trowels and secateurs on standby at all hours ready to pounce and correct even the tiniest of flaws. Probably. That would explain it.

Very pretty though. And peaceful. Air was wonderfully fresh and it wasn’t especially hot or especially cold. Comfortable would be the word.

The nurse rolled me to a halt in front of an ornamental pond. This I appreciated. Water was always restful to look at, and this water was very expertly done. There were lily pads and a big willow and everything. Fancy palace gardens and no mistake!

“Thanks,” I said to the nurse as she stood just behind me to my left. Kind of difficult to relax with her hovering there but I guess she would have to stay until I wanted to go. Poor lady, beholden to my wishes.

“You don’t have to stay here,” I ventured. “I could probably get back on my own.”

“No you couldn’t,” said the nurse, flatly.

Holy crap, alright lady. You stand there silently all you want. You do you.

As I sat and stared out at the pond a butterfly of all things came flapping down and landed on my arm. It looked enormous, worryingly so, but seemed friendly enough. As friendly as an insect can be.

Whatever the doctor had given me meant that I couldn’t feel the tiny pitter-patter of butterfly feet on my skin so I just watched as it turned this and that way, wings splayed.

“Having a nice day?” I asked.

The butterfly flapped away again. I wished it well.

“So what’s it like - hey, where’d you go?”

I’d been trying to ask a question but the nurse was, I noticed, gone. Twisting around to see where she might have disappeared to I saw that the gardens were entirely empty, though I couldn’t shake the impression that someone was-

“There you are!”

I jolted in the chair. The volume and suddenness of this voice had caught me completely off-guard. Every single hair on my body stood on end.

Celestia, smiling ear-to-ear, seemed entirely unaware of the near heart-attack she’d given me. Which was odd, given that she’d obviously surprised me on purpose, her face barely inches from mine.

How does a floaty magical horse that size even move so quietly!

“I’ve been looking for you,” she said.

“Found me now. I was so close to escaping, too. Curses,” I said, still recovering from the shock. Celestia giggled and sat down beside me, facing the pond

“I’m sure you will have many more opportunities to slip away from us. You did strike me as the cunning escape artist type.”

“I’m glad I give off that vibe. It’s what I was going for.”

Out of the corner of my eye I could see her looking me over and I got the distinct impression she was checking that I was still in one piece. I felt self-conscious about that, but couldn’t exactly go anywhere. I took a moment to peer around the garden again - at least to the best of my limited ability - but there was still no sign of the nurse.

“Where’d the nurse go?” I asked.

“I let her know I’d take it from here,” Celestia said breezily.

“Completely silently? Behind my back? Without me noticing?”

“Wouldn’t have wanted to disturb you. You looked like you were having a good time with that butterfly,” she said, this time with far more of a smirk than a smile. The sort of smirk someone can’t help but have when they know they got you good. And she had got me good.

I just grumbled at this and the conversation petered out into a minute or two of pleasant, companionable silence.

“They’re taking good care of you?” She then asked, more seriously.

Their bedside manner could do with some improvement, but I wasn’t going to complain. I’d only just met them.

“Natch. I’m in the most capable of hands. Er, hooves. Appendages. Thank you.”

“You don’t need to keep thanking me.”

“So you say. I will though. You can’t stop me.”

Thanking people too much was in my blood, damnit. That and apologising too much. I could feel the need to do both at all times just calling out from deep within. Like an itch!

“Powerless against you, am I?” She asked, eyebrow raised. I rolled with it and gave my answer straight:

“Completely. Frankly, it’s unfair. This relationship is terribly lopsided in my favour.”

‘Relationship’ in the platonic sense that we were two people in a position where we interacted, obviously. Her grin told me she got that. Some people could read too much into these things.

“So what’s on your mind today? Weighty matters of state?” I asked.

Celestia shook her head, giggling softly much to be my immediate delight.

I did enjoy the way her hair - mane, must remember correct terminology, when in horse Rome and all that - moved according to nothing that was happening around it. Very pretty stuff. Luna had kind of the same thing going. Was it a princess thing? Maybe I’d ask later. Alongside all the other things I meant to ask about.

I realised I was staring a bit when I watched her tap a hoof to her chin, thinking for a moment.

“Tell me about other humans,” she said.

“Others?”

She nodded, smiling at me earnestly.

“Yes, please. I’m curious. Are they all like you? What of the mares? What’s it like where you live? I’d enjoy anything you’d be able to tell me.”

No-one did sincerity like Celestia. It was disarming. The smile helped.

“Humanity, huh? I’m sure I can come up with something. Let me think…”

And I thought.

And I came up completely empty-handed.

I was aware of humans. I knew what they were like quite definitely, just as I knew I was one of them, too. But only in a general sense. There were no specifics. Any time I tried to reach for something more concrete everything seemed to just slide away from me, inches away but far enough to elude me.

What other people even looked like was beyond me. I could not conjure up a single solitary face other than my own. Whatever bits and pieces of home I was able to isolate in my head - the town I lived in, the building in which I worked - only ever came to me entirely empty. Devoid of human beings.

It was as if, in my mind’s eye, everywhere I tried to look people had only just left, moments before.

Infuriatingly I was able to remember a Twilight Zone episode where something similar had happened to someone else, but while I remembered the episode itself and the constant fleeting almost-caught-them glimpses of humans in what appeared to be an abandoned town, the person to whom it happened was entirely beyond me.

In my head, they simply weren’t there.

How was that fair? How was that meant to work?

I started to feel a little distressed.

“I, uh, I - well - “ I said, acutely aware that Celestia was staring me, expecting an answer, waiting for one. It was rude to keep her waiting too long.

This should have been easy, surely? This wasn’t normal, surely? I didn’t know, I couldn’t remember, but it didn’t feel right and the more I tried the more obvious it became I wasn’t going to succeed.

What was even the name of the town I lived in? I could see it, but was what I could remember where I actually lived? Did it exist at all? Was I imagining it? Why was it empty? What did my house look like? I didn’t know. No details, no details at all.

And no people. Not a single one. Just an impression of what they were like, as though I’d been given a brief overview of human history and attitudes the night before, fallen asleep and then woke up to find that I’d only barely been listening.

I felt a hoof on my hand heard Celestia say something, but what she said exactly was lost on me. I was somewhere else, and it wasn’t a very nice place.

“Nothing, I’ve got nothing. Nothing at all. That can’t be right, can it?” I asked, looking to Celestia for support and finding her only looking concerned and confused.

“What do you mean nothing?”

Panic born of helplessness was bubbling into my gut, tickling up my spine.

“I mean nothing! I can’t think of anything! No-one! I’ve got places! I’ve got places and a general sense of...I don’t know! I can’t think of anyone! I can’t even - oh God.”

There I came to a halt as I’d realised something. My utter inability to picture another human being extended even to my parents. They existed - I was pretty sure of that, being as I was around to consider it - but they themselves were completely absent. Even their names were beyond me. A void.

“Oh God. I can’t even - they’re not there. No-one’s there! That’s not right, is it? Is that normal? Why can I - fucking Twilight Zone but not mum? Not dad? No names? How is - how did - what -”

I was babbling by then, thoughts coming apart as soon as they popped into my head, dozens and dozens of things all trampling over one another in an effort to be the one thing I focused on. The wheelchair was rattling. Breath wasn’t coming. My hands hurt from gripping the armrests. I heard a pounding noise that seemed to be sounding from inside my skull.

Then all at once I was encircled. Whiteness wrapped around and cut off the outside world. I was warm. Things were soft. Things were quiet.

“Shh,” I heard from somewhere very close by. “Shh, shh, it’s okay, it’s okay.”

“I-” I said, faltering.

“Shh, just breathe, deep breaths, it’s okay, I’m here, you’re okay.”

The world was soft and warm and quiet now. And smaller too. All the things I’d been worrying about were far away. I wasn’t even sure what they’d been, and I was so happy to be able to breathe that I barely cared anyway.

“That’s it, there you go,” I heard.

That was Celestia’s voice. Wait, what?

Where I actually was and what was actually happening starting clicking into place as my brain - with what I was sure was intense sheepishness and embarrassment - got its act together.

The reason for the overwhelming warm whiteness was, I saw, on account of Celestia having lent in and put her wings around me again. Once more they did not bend the way wings should bend, and this was still so baffling to me that even the merest trace of whatever I had been losing my mind over was banished at once.

They were still soft and warm though, which was lovely.

What was also warm was the trunk of her body, at that moment pressed flush against my face, and her chin, which was resting on the top of my head.

Was fairly certain I could also feel her hoof on my back.

“Well this is snug,” I said, muffled.

A pause, and then Celestia withdrew. Instantly I was chilly, but I wasn’t going to tell anyone that. Looking a little pinker than she usually did Celestia sat back and settled herself again only to briefly extend a single wing again to straighten out my hair. Unnecessary, but appreciated all the same.

I was utterly unable to look her in the eye after all of this and so kept my attention on my lap and the fidgeting fingers that lay there. I was getting better at the fidgeting. My fingers were less stiff now and bent more easily. Pretty soon I’d be able to pick nervously at loose threads in the blanket. So there was that to look forward to.

“Uh, terribly sorry about that. No idea what came over me, sorry,” I said, barely a step above a mumble. Now that I had recovered I was practically radiating my low-key shame on having made a scene.

“You were having a panic attack,” Celestia said, which got my attention and got me looking up at her.

“I was? That’s what those are like? Wow, people aren’t kidding about those. Uh, yeah. Sorry.”

I’d heard of them but - and I was pretty certain about this - I’d never had one. Until now, apparently. Rather hoped it was the last one.

“You don’t need to apologise,” she said, her smile of the warm and comforting kind. I had to turn my face away again.

“I feel like I do.”

“Well you don’t. Are you feeling better?”

“Yes. Much, thank you. Hope that doesn’t happen again,” I said, on reflection adding further: “Hey, how come I didn’t have that happen the last time I answered one of your questions?”

I’d managed to give a pretty good go of outlining my Monday to her. How come I hadn’t freaked out then? Was it because I hadn’t really been paying attention to what it was I’d been telling her? Was this like the centipede problem or something?

“I don’t know. Try not to worry about it. Try to relax,” Celestia said.

Was there anything less relaxing than being told to relax? Normally, no, but this was Celestia asking me in soft and soothing tones and so I immediately thought that relaxing sounded like a great idea.

I stared at the pond some more. I was soothed.

“Sorry I couldn’t give you anything interesting,” I said.

“If you keep apologising I will gag you.”

That escalated quickly.

“Steady on,” I said, expecting at least a titter or a lesser giggle, but I got nothing. I glanced at her.

Celestia looked troubled.

“What’s up?”

“Just thinking,” she said, continuing to look low-key troubled.

“That can end badly. Trust me, I just found out.”

“Hmm.”

And then nothing. I wanted to lean over and poke her in the side but she was far enough away that this seemed beyond my abilities. For now.

“Am I really going to have to prise this out of you question by question?” I asked instead.

“Hmm, sorry, no. It’s just...your memory loss is...unusual,” she said.

Even being reminded of the void inside my head gave me a little stab of panic. I rammed it down and thought of clouds. Clouds are cool. Sometimes they look like mackerel. Whatever mackerel is. Some kind of fish, I think.

“Unusual is bad,” I said.

“It can be. We shall see. No matter what happens I’ll look after you. I hope you know that.”

This felt like it was being laid on a little thick but, again, with Celestia there wasn’t even the hint of anything less than total, heartfelt honesty. It came at me in waves and I nodded, swallowing. No words came to me.

Then I remembered that she was a princess.

“Wait, hang on, shouldn’t you be running a country? Why are you out here with me?”

Wasn’t the whole point of the doctors being that she didn’t have to waste her time on me? Was I missing something here?

My outburst had her smiling again, at least.

“It’s lunch time. It’s why I was looking for you. Thought you might be hungry.”

I was hungry. She knew me so well! The toast did seem a long time ago now, and I hadn’t even finished it properly. On being mentioned my stomach seemed to wake up and make itself known, grumbling to itself.

“Lunch already? Man, I’m losing track of the hours. Uh yeah sure, lunch sounds good. If it’s not a problem,” I said.

“Of course it’s not a problem.”

Her horn glowed and the wheelchair did an abrupt about-face. So abrupt I may have yelped, gripping the armrests again as it started trundling along beside her, back towards the palace proper.

“Magic…” I muttered. She just smirked some more.

Then, when we were inside, we found ourselves looking at a long, straight, deserted stretch of fancy palace corridor. Floor looked perfectly level, too. I’m talking completely flat, not a bump or seam in sight. An idea immediately popped into my head.

“Hey Celestia,” I said.

“Hmm?”

“You see this real long, straight, completely empty corridor we’re in? Devoid of any obstacles? Completely flat?”

“Hmm?”

I gave the wheelchair a pat.

“How fast do you reckon you can get me going in this thing?”