• Published 25th Apr 2021
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The Earth and Sky - Syke Jr

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Chapter 5

~Evening Rose~

“You’re not going down to the surface?” I pop another grape into my mouth, gazing idly at the many human-watching screens with Dark Frost and Lucky Penny. A light green unicorn with a copper mane, and the daughter of Steady and Amber. The two of them had been Dad’s best friends, before… before Celestia changed everything.

“No.” Penny leans on our table, crossing her forelegs. “I don’t even remember being a human. Not really. When I try to imagine it, it just… slips away.” She looks contemplatively at one of her hooves. “I remember the years we spent running. Hiding. But it’s like a dream. It’s like my life only really began after we came here.” She looks back at the screens. “I don’t want to go back. I was just a kid. I’m here for the party, and for Dad, same as Mom.”

“And your brother?”

“He’s going with Dad.” She shrugs. “Maybe it’s a stallion thing.”

I nod. Then I hug her. She grunts in surprise, but hugs me back warmly. “I’m sorry, Penny,” I say. “I forget sometimes… things weren’t easy for you.”

“They’re easy now,” she says lightly. She turns and smiles at me. “Dad wanted me to see it, at least from space. Said it was a ‘unique opportunity’. I didn’t have the heart to remind him I went to space in my own shard.”

“Oh, come on," Frosty interjects. "This is Earth. Actual real outer-realm Earth. Isn’t that… different?”

Penny shrugs. “Seen one planet from space, seen them all.”

Huh. I guess I can’t really argue. I gaze back through the window. “Your dad is the only one going down there?”

“Yeah. I don’t understand it. But he’d be hurt if we weren’t here. I’m having a good time, though.”

“Well… good.” The band is playing inoffensive music, violins and bass guitar. More ponies are watching the screens, now, and reacting to the presumably emotional scenes of hardship and eventual emigration. I’m not paying too much attention.

"That one's timer just went from six hours to ten minutes," Frosty says suddenly.

"Huh. Did you see what happened?"

"No. They're crying, though."

I follow her gaze. The mare... the woman, she's watching a fire dance as tears stream down her face. I think I see something in the flames, but it's impossible to make out. There's blood on the ground.

“It’s funny,” Lucky Penny says suddenly. “All these humans run from Celestia for decades just to emigrate in the end anyway. What’s the point?”

I shake my head. “You would know better than me.”

That’s when Dad appears. “You ready, Evie?”

“Ready.” I hop up after giving Penny a final nuzzle. I grin broadly. “Are you ready?”

“I guess.” He takes a breath, then turns to Penny. “You should go keep your mom company. The rest of us are going to the surface.”

She nods, and gets up too.

"Have fun," Frosty says enviously. "I'll listen to these boring ponies' speeches and stuff while you're gone, I guess..."

I nod to her apologetically, then grin up at Earth, floating there in the black. It’s time!

***

I open my eyes. I’m standing between my parents, on an expanse of concrete, with a huge river to one side and tall buildings to the other. I look around, and see a suspension bridge in the middle distance, but most of my notice is taken by the state of the place. There’s garbage all around, what look like barricades, abandoned shelters made of scrap wood and metal. Cars all around, abandoned, plants growing inside as well as out from cracks in the pavement.

“Welcome to Detroit,” Dad says. “Believe it or not, not all that different.”

Mum snorts. “Don’t exaggerate.”

“Well. For the riverfront, yeah, it’s pretty bad, I guess.”

I shiver. “I thought we were going to see it how it used to be.”

“We can,” Dad says. “But this is… this is how Celestia left the world.”

“We don’t need to see how she left it,” Mum says gently, putting a hoof on his shoulder. “We talked about this.”

“Well I changed my mind,” Dad says, a little roughly. “If I don’t look I’ll never know.”

Mum stares at him silently for a moment. “...Alright.”

Dad sets off along the waterfront, gazing upward at the looming buildings. “I’m shocked they’re still standing.”

“Can we go to the top?” I gaze around. “Can’t see much from here.”

“Sure.” He concentrates and we suddenly appear at the top of the tallest of the buildings around us. “We’re on top of the GM building. Once upon a time, they more or less controlled the country’s car industry, all from right here in Detroit…”

I gaze at the cityscape around us. “It’s… not very big.”

“No.” Silver shakes his head. “Not compared to Equestrian cities. Not even to big cities on Earth.” He sighs. “It’s… hard to explain Detroit. It was a monument to the failure of human economics. And human racial relations.”

Mum stares down at the destruction below. “Is everywhere going to be as ruined as this?” I follow her gaze and see rubble filling the streets, evidence of fire and explosions, abandoned cars littered absolutely everywhere.

“Probably not.” Dad snorts. “I’m sure some places will be… wherever the military passed through. But I can’t think of many places that would riot harder than here.”

“I want to see how it used to be.” It’s Mum’s turn to concentrate, and suddenly, the destruction disappears, and day turns to night. My ears are assaulted with new sounds: horns blaring, music drifting up from somewhere, indistinct shouting.

There’s light everywhere. It looks like a real city, now: I can see colourfully-lit buildings in the distance, search lights pointing up into the sky, cars slowly meandering through the crowded streets. I look into the distance and see points of light stretching as far as I can see, streetlights and traffic lights, miles into the night.

Mum kisses Dad on the cheek, then takes wing, flying up to take a photo of him and me standing there on the roof, before turning and disappearing into the night to find more shots. She’ll be back in a minute.

Dad turns to face the river. I follow suit. Okay, now that is pretty. The riverfront below is illuminated by amber lights, and fountains built into the ground shoot water into the air. Looking beyond, I see the city on the other side of the river stretching just as far into the distance. The bridge leading there is a pretty sight, too, lights adorning its grand curves, the words Ambassador Bridge emblazoned in red neon at the top.

Dad sits down, staring. I sit beside him and rest my head on his shoulder. “That’s Canada, on the other side,” he says, in a faraway voice.

“Huh. That makes sense.” In Equestria, Detrot is near the Caneighdian border. “Is there a huge lake, too?” I can’t really think what Lake Noble would be called here.

“Five of them,” Dad says. “The Great Lakes, we called them.”

“I wonder why Celestia only put one in our shard.”

He shrugs.

“You said before that no human ever knew what the buck they were doing, in the grand scheme of things.” I look around. “I don’t think that was such a bad thing.”

“Of course it was,” he says. “I don’t know how Celestia happened. I don’t know how we lasted so long.” He seems to be struggling to speak. “It.. it… it’s ridiculous.” Suddenly, he explodes. “How am I sitting here? With you? As a pony? Over two hundred and fifty years old? Me! The one who was born in Detroit of all places, with a life expectancy of a tenth my age today! Now I’m immortal! And sitting here with my also-immortal daughter! While my soulmate, who is a flying ginger pony, takes photos of this shitty city that hasn’t existed for centuries!” He takes a breath, shaking. “I- I- I can’t—”

Whatever he’s about to say is cut off when I hug him, fiercely. I feel him shaking as he embraces me, and I feel tears fall onto my back.

“I feel like it’s a dream and I’m about to wake up,” he says in a strained tone. “Even though I know it’s not true. Coming here… it was a mistake…”

“No,” I say softly. “No, it wasn’t.”

“Why can’t I just forget it?” He sobs silently. “Why can’t I be like that other Silver? Just let this shitty world go and be happy in paradise…”

“Equestria isn’t paradise.” I hug him harder. “Ponies who live in paradise are boring. They don’t learn. They don’t fail. Even that other Silver Star understood that. We live in somewhere better than paradise. But it wouldn’t exist,” here I shake him lightly, “without Earth. Humans created Celestia. If Earth were a better world, they wouldn’t have. At least not while you were alive.” I fall silent for a moment. “You can’t let go because you’re proud to be from Earth. And you should let yourself be proud. I’m proud. My dad came from the world that made ours possible.”

I pull back and smile at him as he blinks his tears away and swallows. “I used to be proud to be from this city,” he says, almost smiling. “Because it’s such a… broken place. Doesn’t make sense, but I guess it’s the same thing…”

“Yeah.” I pull him in with a foreleg and press us together as we gaze again out over the river side by side. “After today, you’ll never have to wonder again. Celestia is pulling down the info wall. Anything we want to know about what happened on Earth… we can find out.”

“Yeah.” He looks around at the sound of wingbeats. Mum is back. She can tell he’s been crying, and wordlessly alights on the other side of him, wrapping him in a wing and mirroring me in resting a head on his shoulder.

“You alright?” She asks it softly, stroking him gently with the wing as she puts her camera away.

“I’m fine, love,” he says, clearing his throat, his voice regaining some strength. “Eve knew what to say.”

“She’s your daughter.” Mum looks past him to give me a smile, and I smile back.

“Mmm.” Dad nuzzles her, then turns to kiss my forehead. “I’m done here.”

“Me too.” Mum gives him a kiss of her own, then stands. “Are we going to see your old house, now?”

“No.” Dad stands suddenly, pulling me up with him. “I don’t care any more. You don’t want to see it. I don’t want to see it. It’s ancient bucking history, and I have better things to show you.”

I grin. I can see he’s grinning, now, too. “So where now?”

He sighs. It’s not a sad sigh. It’s the sigh of a pony who’s finally shrugging off a heavy weight of his own making. Full of life. Full of optimism.

“Everywhere.”

***

~Gingersnap~

I don’t know how long we explore Earth. Days, for sure. Places Silver had been, places he’s wanted to go but never had… we walk among the humans as ghosts, watching them go about their day, unaware of the future that awaits their race.

I only remember some of the names of the places, but I take photos of everything. The Grand Canyon. Niagara Falls. Victoria Falls. Iguazu Falls. A lot of waterfalls, honestly. Some of them easily rival what we’d seen in our journeys in Equestria. He takes us to London, Manhattan, Las Vegas. Vietnam, Thailand, Greece… all places that were familiar, but at the same time utterly alien. So much of our shard had been modelled after Earth, but actually walking through these cities, among these staggeringly tall, two-legged creatures… I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would.

Evening Rose asks endless questions. Why do they use cars even in the middle of cities? Why is everypony in such a hurry? Why are they so reckless on motor scooters when death is so irreversible? Did they really have no weather control at all? Did all the animals emigrate to Equestria too?

The last one sobers Silver up a bit. “I asked her, before you arrived in the airship,” he sighs. “I knew the answer, but I asked anyway. All the animals who couldn’t survive without humans were euthanised. Humanely, she assured me. They never knew what happened. All the wild animals were sterilised. Most have died out. Only the longest-lived ones are still around, and they’ll be euthanised too when it’s… time for the world to end.”

“...Oh.” Eve sighs. “It doesn’t seem fair.”

“It isn’t,” he says shortly. “But she let our pets emigrate, at least. Some of them. When we insisted.”

The mood is more melancholy after that. We spend more time, meandering around less impressive places, places Silver had been curious about. Nuclear war bunkers, secret military bases. Somewhere called “Pripyat”, where I think at first that we were seeing it as Celestia had left it before Silver explained it had been a human-caused disaster decades before she even existed. It’s all much more… human. Nothing like those places exist in Equestria.

“I… think that’s all I can think to show you,” Silver finally says, as we look down from the top of humanity’s highest building, in a city called Dubai. “It… it’s strange to say it, but… I think that’s it.”

Eve grins and nuzzles him. “This was fun.”

He smiles sadly. “It was, wasn’t it…”

I stroke him with a wing. My Silver Star. So… confused, all the time. Unsure of what he wants or what he remembers. He doesn’t trust himself. I have to trust him enough for both of us. “We should go back to the space station,” I say. “There’s no sense meandering around any more if you can’t think of anything. This was a good trip. I’m… proud of you, Silver.”

Silver nods. “I love you, Snaps.” He kisses me on the lips, there at the top of the sky. “And you, my Evening Rose.” He nuzzles her head, making her giggle. “But I have a couple more things I have to see. You go on ahead and I’ll be there before you know it.”

I don’t see the point in asking what he’s doing. He’ll just be cryptic about it. So I stand up with our daughter, and we both concentrate.

Silver Star fades away and we find ourselves before Celestia, in the antechamber from whence we left for the surface of Earth.

She smiles at us. “I hope you had a satisfying time.”