• Published 6th May 2019
  • 3,077 Views, 268 Comments

Walk Where There Is No Path - theOwtcast

When everything you’ve ever known goes against everything you believe in, can leaving help you live with yourself?

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Ground Zero

I looked the station over from my vantage point on the roof. Though there weren’t many ponies around, I didn’t see much cover I could use to change my disguise, either. And what would I turn into, anyway? A pony would work, sure, but boarding the train required a ticket, which I could theoretically create as part of my hoof, but there was a problem: I had no idea what a train ticket looked like. And even if I did know, what would I do with it once I got on the train? I couldn't just keep my hoof looking like that; it would likely draw attention, and so would trying to transform away the alleged ticket. I didn't even know whether or not I’d be expected to present the ticket again at a later time during the ride! No loose tickets were lying around, either, but something told me I couldn’t use them even if I found one. The ponies probably had a way of telling if a particular ticket had been used before; otherwise, why bother buying a ticket at all? Why not just use the one bought for a previous occasion?

Maybe I could remain a bird and just fly in and get out at whatever other station I fancied? Surely a bird wouldn’t be expected to buy a ticket! It was worth a try.

Approaching the train was easy enough: there were other birds on the platform, and nopony seemed to notice any of them, including me by extension. I went to slip past the conductor, but just as I entered the train car, he turned and went after me, lighting his horn.

Oh no! Did he see through my disguise? What should I do?

“Come now, little birdie”, he said with a smile, taking me in his magic. “You wouldn’t like it very much in there. Better stay at home”, he added, putting me down gently on the platform before returning to his duty.

Well, so much for that.

Looking around again in search for another option, I noticed a large pile of bags and suitcases not far from the rearmost train car. A pony was just leaving her suitcase at the pile, and after that, I watched her approach the conductor, present her ticket, have a corner of it clipped off, and enter the train.

Good thing I hadn’t tried to pull a trick with a fake ticket, I thought. Blood running from a clipped piece of paper would have definitely alerted the conductor of something strange happening, even if he didn’t realize he was dealing with a changeling in disguise!

Recognizing an opportunity, I moved toward the pile of luggage. More ponies had gathered up now, so whatever I was going to do, I had to do it carefully. Fortunately, it still seemed nopony was paying any attention to the birds.

I found a spot where I could squeeze between two suitcases into the middle of the pile. Satisfied to find there was just enough space, I transformed into a small case, hoping the rest of the pile was large enough to hide the flame-like burst of my magic.

A few minutes passed by, and I could detect no signs that my transformation had been noticed. Unless everypony had managed to remain calm and silent and to send for help without giving themselves away, I was safe. But something Flam had said to Flim while they’d been arguing what to do with me whispered in the back of my mind, something about Celestia and what she’d told ponies in regard to the changelings. I couldn’t remember what it was, or whether it was actually said or merely implied. What if she’d been instructing ponies how to proceed if they notice a changeling conceal himself? What if she’d ordered them to hold back from showing they’d noticed, lest they alarm the changeling before he or she can be captured? What if a trap was being set up right now? I had taken a terrible risk! Couldn’t I have opted to leave town some other way?

If I still had teeth in this form, their chattering would give me away right now!

Eventually I felt the entire pile of luggage, myself included, get lifted into the air and deposited on a slightly different surface. I hoped I could take that as a good sign, that I hadn’t been noticed, and that the luggage had simply been moved onto the train as per routine. Either way, there was no going back now!

Soon I felt the vibrations and rattling that suggested the train was on the move, which helped me relax a bit. I wondered where we were going. I wanted to drop my disguise and take a look around, but with no way to know whether or not somepony would see me, I decided to suppress my curiosity.

It turned out to be a good decision. The train had stopped a few times, and each time a bag would get taken out of the cargo space and another put in. With the changes in the train’s movement clearly discernible by the way it shook and rattled, it wasn’t especially hard to keep track of when it was arriving to a station and getting ready to move on again, so it should have been possible to know when to put on a disguise and when to drop it so I could enjoy the ride, but maybe in all the excitement of a new experience I would have missed my cue to become a piece of luggage again. I didn’t need that much excitement! Despite all, the train ride was a refreshing and welcome change.

Eventually I felt the entire heap of luggage lifted into the air again and placed onto what seemed to be another platform. We must have reached the final station!

Still being in the middle of the pile made it easy for me to transform into a bird again without anypony noticing - assuming they really hadn’t noticed. I squeezed out of the pile and flew to the nearest abandoned alley. There, I gave myself a new disguise, just in case somepony had been keeping track. A bird had entered the alley, but a pegasus walked out.

The town was large and bustling with activity. I assumed there were too many ponies here to know each other by name, very much like how no changeling, maybe not even Chrysalis, knew every other changeling back in the hive. Once I blended into the crowd, an unfamiliar face shouldn’t raise any eyebrows here!

I decided to take a moment to enjoy the sights of this new place. I strolled through the streets, admiring the stone buildings and the flawlessly-maintained parks. Most of all, I was delighted by all the happy faces of the ponies who lived there, and by the sweet love I sensed from them. It didn’t look like they’d been alerted about any threats recently! Maybe I was just overly paranoid, and once I had the chance to calm down and get to mingling with them, maybe some of them would become my friend and agree to share some of that love!

But despite all the happiness and light all around, an uneasy feeling was starting to grow in me.

And I was beginning to think this place seemed somehow familiar.

Once I turned around another corner and got to an observatory with an astonishing view of a palace that was the town’s central feature, fear overwhelmed me when I realized my uneasiness hadn’t been unfounded, because I’d been right about the place looking oddly familiar.

I was in Canterlot!