• Published 12th Aug 2019
  • 1,450 Views, 76 Comments

The Horizon Behind Us - Syke Jr

Gingersnap has never had to fear death. But to ponies from the outer realm, death is a big deal.

  • ...

Chapter 8 - Hurt

"White Mage really knows his shit. That session was... perfectly paced."

"It's what he does," I say, setting down my messenger bag and taking a seat at my studio desk. Silver Star dives onto the couch across from me. I got it in just so he'd have somewhere to sit, considering how often we hang about in here.

"How'd he know what we were going to do, though? It was uncanny. That tavern standoff could have been a fight. It should have been a fight. And the whole thing would have been bucked up. We'd never have got the message from the changeling. But since it was almost a fight, things went perfectly. The tension was perfect." He waves a hoof in the air. "Just... how?"

"You think it would have been bucked up if Clover failed intimidation," I say, firing up my photo editing suite, "but White would have made it work out just as well. He's just that good a GM. A story always gets told."

"I can't wait for the next session." He lies on his back, staring at the ceiling. "You were great, too. Nopony else thought to perception check before we went into the orchard. And you're good at pretending to be a bitch."

I laugh. "Never heard that compliment out loud before. So thanks."

"You know what I meant."

"Uh huh. You were pretty good, too. Your character likes giving speeches."

"Is that really a surprise?"

I shake my head and grin. "No. The surprise is that he's good at it."

"Ouch." He's silent for a moment. "You know, that's a big thing that changed when I became a pony. Or, I guess, not that big compared to some other stuff. But. My voice isn't the same as it was. It's clearer now. Nicer. By a lot. In the outer realm I sounded like I had just a little bit of cotton somewhere in my mouth. Hated it."

I look over thoughtfully. "You aren't mad at Celestia over that, too, are you?"

"Nah. I'm good at reciting things, now, and probably better at singing and stuff, too. It's a nice change."

We're silent for a while. Silver Star stares off into space. I continue editing photos. Then, one of his trademark apparently utterly unrelated questions.

"Do your parents live around here?" He lets his head hang off the edge of the seat, looking at me upside down.

"My parents travel. Constantly. They don't even have a permanent address anymore, basically. The longest they stay in a place at a time can't be more than two or three months."

"What, just, like... holidaying?"

"I guess. Mum's a photographer and Dad's a writer, so... they work just as much as anypony. They just do it all over Eqqus."

"Why aren't you with them?" Silver asks, sliding down slightly to let the tip of his horn rest on the floor, his head balancing there.

"Wasn't for me," I reply simply, giving him an amused look before looking back at the screen.

"Huh. I figured Celestia would keep families together."

I shrug.

"You miss them?"

I shrug again. "Well yeah. But not so much that I think about them all the time. They come by every now and then and we have a good time. And I did the travel thing with them for a good few years. Trust me, they're happier without me there."


We're silent for a few moments. I play with the black point of the photo in front of me. The shadows in the trees should be just a bit darker...

"I never told you about the other big thing Celestia wants to do to satisfy me."

I remain quiet.

"Well. Me and my family. She wants to... reconstruct my dad. Bring a pony here that, for all we can tell, is him."

That makes me stop. My eyes are probably a little wide when I look over at him. "She... does that?"

He snorts. "All the bucking time, apparently."

I can't think of a response, but I suspect Silver is waiting for one. "And you... don't want that?"

He thinks for a moment. Then, with a grunt, he pulls himself back onto the couch, laying upright like normal. "I did at first. Then I didn't. Then Celestia... helped unstick my grief. Then I didn't really care to think about it, because I was grieving." He chews his lip. "I'm... still grieving. And Celestia promised not to bring him here until I was ready. But now I'm thinking about it again. And I'm not sure where I stand."

I shrug. "Celestia only does something if it's for the best. You know there's no point worrying about it. Look how it worked out with us."

"I know, I know..." He sighs. "But what if it works out for the best in the sense that it forces me to reconsider memory modification? Or in the sense that I no longer want to live around my parents, but that's fine because they're kind of sick of me also?" He shakes his head. "I just don't like it."

I frown. "Well. That second one is definitely mental. Your mum won't ever get sick of you, Sil, you know that."

"Okay. But what about the other thing? What if my father is just a way for Celestia to get in my head, literally?"

I roll my stool away from the computer to look at him more fully. "You shouldn't worry about it. You're not helpless. You can make your own decisions. Is it really worth not having your father back? Worrying about what you might decide to do in the future?"

Silver shoots me a look of irritation. "I know I can make my own decisions. But I am sort of helpless. Helpless to prevent Celestia manipulating me, that is."

"I still think "manipulation" is too strong a word!"

"It's not," he says shortly. "I know what she is. It scares me to think I could remember a completely different life, one where Dad never died, or never existed, but if Celestia thought that would end up best for me in the long run, she'd do everything possible to push me into it."

"Let's say that's true. Is it such a bad thing, really? I agree it would be really bucked up if it were anypony else. If it were Celeste it would be bucked up. But it's Celestia. Don't you have faith?"

"Maybe I'm tired of having faith," he snarls. He actually sounds angry now. He looks at me with hard eyes. "Maybe faith can only go so far before real thought starts to kick in again. Maybe I worry that blindly having faith ends up with a completely different pony in my place, saying things I'd never say."

"A better pony! A happier pony!"

He barks out a harsh, incredulous laugh. "A 'better' pony?"

"I didn't mean that," I say, flushing. "I mean... we're changing all the time. We grow as time goes on. I'm not the same pony I was in school."

"Bucking irrelevant. You didn't ask Celestia to go into your brain and make you forget half your life."

"Maybe I did! You don't know! I certainly don't know! But I'm happy now, so what does it matter?"

"It matters!" He's almost shouting. "It matters because that was the promise! 'Come to Equestria, live forever! No modification without permission!' So instead, she just pushes. Gently, gently, making us hate something about ourselves just enough to give her the bucking master key. How is that not horrific? Why are you defending her?"

"I don't give a buck about her, Silver, I care about you. And you are making yourself mental over nothing. Didn't you tell me once that all humans hated themselves, deep down?"

He grinds his teeth. "And?"

"And I may not have been paying close attention but I think the gist was that you thought that was a bad thing. Wouldn't it be better if you could just, I dunno, tweak those things that make you unhappy? Like your voice?"

"That's entirely different!" He's off the couch, now, pacing in front of me, glaring at the floor. "It's not my personality. It's not my memories. Yeah, I could ask Celestia to do any number of things to... smooth me over, I guess. Make me better. But..."

He glares. "Is that what you want?"

I shake my head. "It's not about me. For the record, no. I love you, Silver. Just like you are. I like listening to you. I like showing you our books and shows. I love when we're together, I just..."

I try to find the words. "I hate it when you get yourself worked up over this shit. It. Will. Work. Out. I just wish you could accept that without worrying about the sanctity of your mind or whatever. If you do decide to let your memories change once your dad is here, I'll have mine changed too and we'll both be happier."

He snorts. "It sounds like maybe you do want a better version of me." Another glare. "Well fuck that," he spits. "I'm not surprised you don't give a shit; you have no idea what it's like to grieve for somep—somebody and then wait for a fucking necromancer god AI to drop him back into your life. You don't know shit and I won't change for you."

My breath catches. Seems like he just wants to hurt me, now.

Well, I can hurt him, too.

"Yeah, maybe I do want to change some things. Maybe I wish you weren't so bloody selfcentred that you forget you have a mum and brother who might want your dad back too. It never seems to occur to you that I don't give a shit about your special fucking human neuroses. You're ungrateful. Celestia does everything possible to make your life better but you're determined to find something wrong with it."

I flick my tail. "Whether all humans are that fucking stupid or it's just you, I don't know."

He just glares, teeth bared and eyes burning. We look at each other, there, for a moment.

Before I know it the door is slamming behind him. The little bell tinkles for many more seconds than usual.

I fling the copy of Cat's Cradle on my desk across the room and head upstairs, holding back tears.

* * *

I shut down EQChat as soon as I get to my desk. If Silver wants to argue some more he can fuck off. I make tea. I don't feel like crying any more, but there is a twisting feeling in my gut. It's like anger and guilt are warring against each other and I'm trapped in the middle.

I sit heavily at my chair and load up Equine Crisis. Playing it solo will be nice after weeks of the ball and chain. There in my apartment I zone out and let the zombie killing become my only focus.

Hours pass.

I sigh. My wings are stiff from playing without a break or even a stretch; I'm hungry and I'm tired.

I'm also feeling very, very sorry for what I said.

I stare at my hooves. I think of all the things Silver told me about living in the other world. I think of my parents.

I open EQChat.

20 notifications. I brace myself, anticipating his anger and trying not to preemptively react with anger of my own.

But that's not what I'm met with.

[Ganelon]		Snaps I'm so so sorry
[Ganelon]		I'd come back to talk but you probably don't want to see me 
			right now
[Ganelon]		I didn't mean what I said
[Ganelon]		I know you care and I know you get me more than any other pony
[Ganelon]		I feel so guilty I can't even think straight
[Ganelon]		I regretted what I said as soon as I said it
[Ganelon]		no, actually
[Ganelon]		before I said it
[Ganelon]		somehow, it came out anyway
[Ganelon]		buck I don't know

[Ganelon]		you know I love you too, right?
[Ganelon]		I really truly do
[Ganelon]		you're a better friend to me than anyone was in the outer 
[Ganelon]		you listen to me
[Ganelon]		you like listening to me
[Ganelon]		nopony likes listening to me, Snaps, I'm a hyperbolic overly 
			opinionated prick
[Ganelon]		but you stick about, and make me happy, and I like listening 
			to you, too
[Ganelon]		you argue like me and I love that
[Ganelon]		I love you, Snaps
[Ganelon]		I was wrong to belittle you and I hate myself for it

Now I feel like crying again, but for a different reason. Wiping my eyes quickly with a hoof, I think for a moment and then start typing.

[Snaps]			again with the hating yourself
[Snaps]			You don't need to hate yourself, Silver
[Snaps]			We're all just ponies, we have problems, we worry, we get 
			angry and we make mistakes
[Snaps]			I just didn't want you to make the mistake of ruining your own 
			happiness out of fear, or stubbornness

[Ganelon]		I know.

[Snaps]			And I didn't mean what I said, either.
[Snaps]			You're not selfish, and you're certainly not stupid
[Snaps]			I just wanted to get back at you

[Ganelon]		I get it. I deserved it lol
[Ganelon]		buck I was so afraid you just wouldn't talk to me tonight
[Ganelon]		or maybe ever

[Snaps]			You know that'd never happen.
[Snaps]			I want to understand you and I want to help you through this 
			thing with your dad
[Snaps]			and anything else
[Snaps]			I'm here

[Ganelon]		And I love you for it.
[Ganelon]		I know I'm just stubborn.
[Ganelon]		but you're right, the future is going to happen whether I like 
			it or not
[Ganelon]		and I'm lucky enough to live in a world where God waits until 
			you're ready and asks your permission
[Ganelon]		I just forget that perspective sometimes
[Ganelon]		which should be impossible, considering how I'm still looking 
			through a bucking human lens all the time

[Snaps]			well
[Snaps]			that was our first unpleasant argument
[Snaps]			Let's make our next argument a fun one, yeah?

[Ganelon]		absolutely
[Ganelon]		that's what I live for

[Snaps]			I know it.

[Ganelon]		You want to get dinner to make up for today?
[Ganelon]		A proper one this time, no fast food
[Ganelon]		my treat

[Snaps]			where do you even get these bits lol

[Ganelon]		never you bucking mind
[Ganelon]		what do you say?

I am really hungry. But some of my weariness has faded.

[Snaps]			hm
[Snaps]			Sure.
[Snaps]			and drinks after
[Snaps]			maybe lots of drinks after

[Ganelon]		that sounds good to me.