• Published 15th Mar 2024
  • 629 Views, 22 Comments

Izzy Vs. Personal Space - Estee

The Second Age Of Unity is still coming up with historical firsts. For example, Izzy represents the only time when most of a city took out a restraining order.

  • ...

Restrained Disorder

"The usual," Izzy softly said as she trotted up to the smoothie stand. "Please." And paused. "Sunny, what's my usual?" She couldn't seem to remember.

The activist didn't answer. Instead, she took a long look at Izzy's face. That was sort of nice. Ponies had been not-looking at Izzy for most of the day, so getting Sunny's direct attention was a refreshing change of pace.

Then the earth pony moved her gaze across the length of Izzy's back. Moved out to the sides, briefly darted past an exceptionally-limp tail, and returned to magenta eyes.

A few of the ponies who were waiting in line for smoothies muttered and, due to Regulations, did so from a fair distance back.

"I was watching you come up," Sunny quietly noted.

Izzy decided that probably didn't represent her usual order, presuming she had one. 'Coming up' was more suitable to how her stomach felt right now.

"It was pretty easy to do," the earth pony added. "Given the vacuum around you. Izzy, why do you have the strings going out to the back and sides?"

"I took down the front one before I reached the counter," Izzy wearily said. "Your counter. I still have to deliver the other one."

"Izzy --"

"-- most ponies with the badges are wearing them on the sternum," the unicorn said. "So I can't see when somepony in front of me in the line has one. And I'm pretty good at seeing to my sides, because unicorns are still ponies." She wasn't sure the entire Bay remembered that. "But there's limits. And seeing directly behind me would probably make me something else entirely." She tried to think about that. "If we ever find a city full of ponies who can do that..."

Sunny was staring at her. Izzy tried to focus, and found imagination running out.

"They'll probably have really weird traffic laws," the crafter decided. "Do I have a usual? I'm not sure."

The activist took a slow breath.

"You look like you're in pain."

"Headache," Izzy understated. "I had to move some furniture. One piece, but it really should have counted for a plural." There had been a lot of drawers, and they'd all ganged up on her.

"Your hornlight's flickering," added a note of serious concern. "Getting dim around the edges. And that's just with string."

"Maybe I strained something." Izzy sighed. "That's sort of what it feels like. Overworking a muscle, only it's in my head --"

"-- could you just pick something out already?" was projected across the distance by stallion aggravation. "I can't even get close enough to see the specials!"

"I'll take a special if I don't have a usual," Izzy's weary mind decided. "Or a less special. Maybe an ordinary. No restraining on the side, please."

Sunny took another breath.

"Drop the strings, Izzy."

"I can't see who's got badges. I'm trying to follow the law." She paused. "And I really need to show them what the zone is because when I'm on the boardwalk, somepony could get close enough that I'd have to go over the railing --"

"-- that's not how restraining orders work," Sunny immediately said. "The other party breaks it if they're trying to deliberately use the thing for a push."

With faint notes of relief, "...really?"

Sunny nodded.

"How do you know?"

Dryly, "Wanna compare arrest records again?"


Sunny's eyes narrowed. A fountain of sparks erupted from forehead and flanks. The trailer shook.

"-- shutting up," the stallion decided, followed by committing.

"Izzy, you're in pain," Sunny softly said as a rewarming gaze refocused. "I don't have anything suitable in the first-aid kit, but you need to hit the pharmacy."

"It's hard to go in doors when I don't know who's on the other side. What they're wearing. And maybe the pharmacist is on the list." She sighed. "Because I had her as a customer. Client? A new rotating rack for pill bottles. And I was wondering if my customers signed up because I pushed too hard to get their business. I try so hard to make a good first impression, Sunny, I really do..."

"Hi, new friend!"

What could have possibly been more welcoming than that?

"...because most of history beat me to making a bad one. But maybe I get too close, I press in, and then ponies feel like it's all just pressure..."

The smoothie stand was on the boardwalk. It blocked some of the wind, at least until the gusts changed direction again. But there was salt in the air, salt everywhere, earth ponies moved around her and some of them were grumbling about how much space she was taking up with the strings, she had yet to get a complaint from flying pegasi but she really couldn't look up all the time and the sun was too bright when there was always shade in the forest...

Getting closer to Sunny might have helped. Breathing in that scent. But the trailer was in the way, and climbing in would have kept too many customers from approaching.

"Go home," Sunny softly instructed.

Well, that would solve everything. Nopony had a restraining order against her in Bridlewood. That she knew of.

...oh. She means the Brighthouse.

"I'm too far behind on my work. I still have to drop things off. Pick more up. And there's so many ponies out today --"

"-- because the weather is so nice --"

Was it? "-- that it's giving me trouble with moving. There has to be enough space to get by wherever there's a badge, and sometimes that space is mostly rocks." She paused, and then the headache added "Are we still sure earth ponies don't grow rocks?"

Concern was starting to take on tinges of low panic. "Izzy --"

"-- I'm trying to do better," the crafter said. "You know that. But I have to show everypony. That's how the order gets lifted. Never make the same mistake twice." Except that she couldn't really get close enough to make most of them once.

The wind changed direction. Whipped in, blew Izzy's mane in front of her eyes. She waited for vision to clear.

It could be said that it was so important to be close, after all that time apart. But that was on a species level. For Izzy... she could have trouble working out what others were feeling. Proximity sometimes helped with that. Hoping to spot those elusive microexpressions. Anchoring. And if she wasn't close, then she might miss something. That happened a lot anyway.

Maybe other ponies had trouble with the little signals too.

Or maybe everypony around her could see just how upset she was.

Maybe most of them didn't care.

"I parked the scooter over there." A string tilted in that direction, and her entire skull twinged. "The scooter can go anywhere. Except where it can't because I'm riding it. And there's probably parking laws, but the traffic department is just Hitch and he may not get to ticket anything before I move it. Sunny, can I please just get a smoothie?"

One more breath. "Pick up and drop off," the activist instructed. "And once that's caught up, go to bed."

Izzy nodded. Sunny busied herself behind the counter, delivered a cup. The unicorn carefully took it up in hornlight, and they both watched the container bob. Nearly drop out.

Izzy forced herself to trot away, and to do so in a way which kept her twenty-five hoofwidths away from everypony else. Everypony except Sunny, who just -- watched. Gazing after her with worry and open concern.

It was nice to have somepony who cared. It was just that when you compared that to an entire city --

-- one-seventh: it just felt like the whole Bay --

-- maybe there just hadn't been enough time for more signatures --

-- 'somepony' didn't seem like enough.

Behind her, well past the end of the back-trailing string, she could hear the waves crashing against the base of the cliff. Pushing. Slowly wearing everything away.

Driving the scooter didn't help, especially when the 'driving' part was just barely working. City regulations kept her at low speeds in most areas, and she needed that because it gave her time for reacting to badges --

-- she was trying to speak more softly, more slowly, and at a greater distance, but she felt like she was missing so much and when a badge unexpectedly trotted out of a shop, most of what she tried to miss was the nearest lamppost --

-- but she wasn't sure the scooter could reach greater velocity anyway. It was now squeaking and grinding, at the same time. Any bump in the road was conveyed directly to her spine. She was allowed to (slowly) drive on the boardwalk and would need to for the final delivery, but she was going to feel every gap between planks. And there were so many ponies out and about, enjoying a day in the sun and salt because they hadn't grown up in a place which allowed them to do so in shade.

Of course, if they'd grown up in Bridlewood, they wouldn't have much of a hoof press on 'enjoy'. But that didn't seem very important right now.

Ponies kept staring at her. Maybe some of them were looking at the strings. There would always be a few who reacted to the sight of any unicorn with a minimum of stares, and she hadn't gotten used to that.

Or maybe they were just looking at the first one to win her very own restraining order.

She was trying not to hit anyone with the strings. The mobile stay-away zone traveled with her, and demonstrated the limits of safety for those who might consider future signups.

So many ponies. And she couldn't always spot a badge, especially as the density of the crowd increased. She picked up and dropped off, she didn't make eye contact with customers or clients in case that offended, she certainly didn't try to sniff any of them, and it was just so much easier to assume that everypony had a badge and stay away accordingly. That way, she couldn't possibly offend anypony else, other than through being a unicorn.

No anchors. Not even the scooter, although it was currently just about that mobile.

The badges...

Her head hurt...

Pick up. Drop off. She finally reached the point where the scooter was just barely moving, there was one last delivery to make, and the thing she most wanted to pick up and drop off was her own head. There might be some problems with getting a replacement, but she was vaguely hopeful for the new model to have a few less things wrong with it.

She hadn't tried to get into the pharmacy. It was just easier to assume the world had badges. Bridlewood would have used a few if they could: the main differences were that the rendition of her horn would have had all of the details, and it might have taken up to three weeks before the printer could work up the motivation to load some ink.

Just one piece left, and then she could go back to the Brighthouse. Rest. But Izzy was sure that she was doing better with the public. She had to be making a better impression, in that she rarely got close enough to anypony for making one at all.

The scooter just barely chugged up the boardwalk, and the low speed allowed each small jolt to be placed into vertebrae with the precision of a fine hammer. There was hardly any space to move and the wind pushed against her from the sea, the salt filled her snout and her mane kept going everywhere, she was trying so hard not to hit anypony with the zone-defining strings and maybe she needed to be twenty-five hoofwidths from the ground too, but it was down to one last delivery. The most important one.

It was nearly impossible to steer the scooter now. The front wheel was sticking. And there were earth ponies everywhere, some unicorns and a few pegasi but mostly earth ponies, she couldn't see where the badges might be and that meant they were everywhere, she was trying to make spacial relations work and find enough space to slip through the entrance to the Oddtrot --

-- and then the scooter stopped.

Izzy cut the engine. Locked the parking brake, and stared ahead.

The width, length, and possibly breadth of the Oddtrot was teeming with ponies. Most of Maretime Bay seemed to have folded itself up and dumped population into the shopping sector, simply because it was such a nice windy, salty, and too-bright day. They trotted and chatted and moved around each other, because there was enough space to do that. What there wasn't room for was a scooter. Or twenty-five hoofwidths of string in any direction but one: directly behind her, and that was going to close itself off because there were more shoppers on the way.

Some of the ponies had badges. Perhaps it was a seventh, and maybe it wasn't. What really counted was that when you considered all the ones who were wearing them and sort of mentally overlapped their restraining order zones with each other, you got an invisible, quasi-mobile, and fully effective wall. One she couldn't pass. And the delivery site was on the other side of it.

There was a little *!ting!* from underneath. A small piece of metal had just hit the boardwalk, bounced up, and impacted the underside of the scooter. Trying to return to whence it came.

No way to get past. Going around would risk getting lost, and there was no guarantee of finding an approach path anyway. She couldn't go anywhere except --

-- back.

All the way back.

Izzy made a small sound.

She wasn't sure what kind of noise had just barely emerged from her throat. A tiny whimper, or the remnants of a mostly-suppressed sob: those were the leading candidates. What mattered was that it somehow penetrated the babble of the crowd, because pain had its own sort of anti-magic. And ponies heard, turned to look at her...

Two of the badge-wearers spotted Izzy, and presumably figured out the problem. It was the best explanation for their mutual snicker.

She'd seen that. Heard it and, for a rare once, fully understood. Maybe it was a macroexpression.

Slowly, Izzy got off the scooter. (Her back hurt. Her head was pounding.) Dropped down to all four hooves, within the last portion of rapidly-closing safe space, as so many ponies watched and stared and a few made a show out of touching their badges.

It was always easier for her to demonstrate than to explain. But she couldn't get close enough to do anything, to scent, anchor, to figure things out and it was as if the crowd had united against her, especially when the crueler expressions were all she could seem to acknowledge.

(It wasn't all of them. Some looked awkward, others were asking ponies to move, and some just seemed helpless. But for all that it mattered in that moment, it was the world entire.)

Maybe words were a demonstration of sorts. They could show the world how your soul felt. Especially when it was aching.

"I don't understand."

It was, at most, half a gasp. And yet the herd fell silent.

"I want to," Izzy softly told the world, while simultaneously feeling as if she was speaking to nopony at all. It had to be that way, because nothing in her believed that any of them would listen. "I came here because I wanted to."

No response. A few hooves shuffled.

"Because we didn't understand," the unicorn continued. "None of us did. Nopony understood each other, and... there wasn't any place to start. But I found an invitation, I decided that somepony had to start, and... that was me. Because nopony can ever understand unless somepony lets them come in. Come close. Come home. And I try to pretend this is home, when the air is wrong, the sun is too bright, there's salt everywhere and the only thing that's the same is having just about nopony like me. And I know I get too close, I'm sorry, but none of us can learn unless we're close again and..."

Her head felt too heavy. Of course it did. The weight she had to bear was constant. Overlong mane and...

"Maybe the badges need to be more generic," she said.

Hornlight winked out along the strings, and the safety zone collapsed onto the boardwalk. What was very nearly the last traces of glow formed around her head, twisted into a circle, and then sent a diagonal slash across something not quite bone.

Somepony gasped.

"Because that's what it is for a few of you, isn't it?" Izzy asked, as her existence was briefly illuminated by the radiance of NO. "I haven't met all of you. I haven't done anything wrong with so many, except just -- be. And maybe that's how you'll always feel. I'm sorry for that. Sorry that you'll never get a chance to learn anything new. But this is half of what you wanted, isn't it? That I have to stay away. Sunny said a restraining order can't be used to push. But it's halfway there. To pushing me out. Maybe it's precedent, is that the word? Halfway along. First you push me, then you push all of us, and then... it starts all over again."

She almost had a glimpse of a rough green mane, rapidly being shaken out. Off to the left, in the shadow of a doorway, yellow ears cupped forward.

"I don't understand," Izzy whispered. "It's so hard to stay somewhere when you have to learn everything about it. About everypony in it, and nopony can see how hard that is. The place I do know used to be about hurting, and the pain almost seems better because it's familiar. Does anypony understand that? I know I'm -- intense. That's the word, right? I had to work so hard to be happy because nopony else was. And now I have to work hard at everything else, I know I get it wrong, I try not to make the same mistakes twice, and I'm sorry. I'm trying. Why won't everypony just let me...?"

They didn't want her near them.

How was that any better than home?

It wasn't.

Izzy stopped talking.

The glowing NO winked out. She forced herself to face the scooter. The final dredges of magical and emotional strength surrounded the new countertop, just barely got it off the roof and scooted it above the boardwalk nails towards its destination.

Ponies got out of the way. Izzy dazedly wondered if hornlight counted as a personal approach. Maybe the light was legally an extension of her. She'd find out when the next civil suit arrived.

The countertop was deposited against the edge of an occupied doorway. (She didn't see that part.) The last of her magic fizzled out, and she got back on the scooter, tried to start it --

-- nothing. The wheels sagged, the suspension didn't, and the engine decided to join in the lack of results. It was probably solidarity.

She relocked the parking brake, then slowly staggered up the boardwalk, doing her best to keep her distance from the world as silent, head-lowered ponies failed to watch. Somepony would tow the scooter, or push it into the sea. The actual results didn't matter: whether it was bad parking or ocean littering, Hitch would still be presenting her with the ticket later.

Izzy forced herself towards the Brighthouse, and the radiance of a false rainbow. And she didn't cry. Being sad in public was Bridlewood, and thus just about mandatory. So she moved in a way which let everypony see how she was absolutely not crying.

She couldn't anchor.

She could always... drift. Back to the forest.

The familiar comfort of a fine and pleasant misery.

At least it was something she understood.

She didn't remember having gotten into bed. Skipping dinner also escaped her memory, which made perfect sense because Izzy wouldn't reasonably expect to remember something she technically hadn't done. She was fairly certain that skipping would have required a degree of intent to eat in the first place.

Most of the headache was gone when she woke up. Everything else lingered, and immediately had to be put on hold because of what had woken her up. Or rather, who.

Izzy squinted. The view didn't change, and she still didn't feel it was particularly handsome.

"Isn't there some sort of rule about coming into a sleeping mare's quarters without permission?" inquired the lingering remnants of migraine. "Or a law? Because if there is, then there's enough mares in here that it should be enforced at five hundred percent of the usual. Maybe you need a restraining order --"

"Izzy --"

"-- Hitch, I just want to sleep. And maybe then I can pack --"

"-- the order's been rescinded," the sheriff softly told her.

...maybe she was dreaming. She'd gone to sleep, and her mind had tried to provide the comfort of the impossible.

"Is McSnipps with you? Tell him to pinch me --"

"-- it's over, Izzy," Hitch quietly stated. "Gone. I came up to tell you."

Every part of her reached for words, and found just about nothing at all.

"...why? I... don't think it was enough time to really show improvement..."

The bell over the slow-opening door rang, and a yellow snout wrinkled.

"Oh," Posey said, and slipped several dried petals back into their built-in drawer. "You."

Izzy made herself go all the way inside. (She'd taken the trot. The ticketless scooter was still being repaired.) It smelled nice inside the shop, if rather foreign --

-- less so than usual. There was an undercurrent in the air. Something inside one of the compartments, almost drowned out by proximity to unfamiliar elements.

"Posey --" she began, and was allowed to get no further than that.

"I need to clear something up," the earth pony mare stated. "A few things. Like how I don't appreciate it when ponies touch unfinished pieces. I'd think a crafter would get that. Or how irritating it is when somepony questions my work. Something which, and I'd think anypony should understand this, rises from my mark. You questioned what my mark was trying. And based on how your head just went down, I'm guessing that's just as big an offense in Bridlewood."

"...yes," wanted to hide in a corner.

"Is that a mistake you're going to make twice?"


"A few things," Posey said. "That was two of them." Irritably, "A few should be at least three, by law. Or else it's a couple. Get over here."

Izzy rather carefully got. Her tail was kept well away from the finished pieces and with the wind temporarily blocked, she didn't have to worry about her mane.

There was a mare behind the counter, and another one in front.

"Listening?" Posey snidely asked.

Izzy nodded.

"I hate your stupid anklet."

Some part of her had been expecting hatred. Having it directed at jewelry came as something of a surprise.

"What did my anklet do --"

"It's unbalanced." Which produced a snort. "Like you. It's been annoying me since the first time I saw you. Well, a lot of things have been, but -- there's one anklet and two forelegs. It needs to be paired off. For the good for the Bay. Or at least my nerves. Hang on..."

Well-hidden compartments opened, and an adhesive, green-stained, sore-looking forehoof extracted an object.

"There," Posey said with dark satisfaction. "Put that on. I know it's twigs and leaves and moss, but the colors will balance with the other one. And since I made that, it'll hold up."

Izzy didn't move. Posey's eyes narrowed.

"At least show me how it fits," the florist said. "I can't make adjustments without that. I had to guess, as big as you are. And you should wear it when you're in here, so I'll know you're trying --"

The unicorn took a breath, and anchored.


"Oh, good. She remembered a name. Progress."

"That's oak moss."

"Scent's not bad," the earth pony begrudgingly admitted. "I may try to work it into a few things --"

"-- we're all still trying to work out the rules," the unicorn said. "For cultures, and I was thinking about getting an apology bouquet, but I'd be buying it from you so I could give it to you and I wasn't sure that made a lot of sense. But also for magic. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think earth ponies grow plants from nothing. You at least need a little piece to start with, right?"


"How did you get the oak moss, Posey? Where?"

No answer, and no smile. The latter could be seen as an improvement.

Hitch said there were a couple of ways to have the order rescinded. The first was if the judge felt there had been improvement.

The other was plaintiff request.

They both stood still and silent within the shop, which was a very personal space indeed.

"Try it on," the florist finally said. "In front of me. And once it fits, take it and get out."

Izzy looked over the newer arrangements on her way out. And when she spotted how some of the top arches had a strategic third twig laced into the work, she decided to say nothing at all.

She was at the railing, reared up with her forelegs braced on metal in such a way as to leave both anklets safe. Looking out over the sea, as ponies passed close behind her. And the wind pushed against her, but -- not hard enough.

Every day, she had to wake up and remember where she was. That there were still so many things to figure out, and Izzy didn't feel like she was very good at that. But she tried not to make the same mistake twice, and -- she remembered to be happy.

Happiness could be exhausting. But it helped if you actually felt that way, at least some of the time. 'Some', when expressed as a percentage, was slowly moving up.

There were still times when she wanted to go back, and she didn't understand those either. But she was learning. Maybe she'd figure that out eventually, and then she could truly anchor herself within the new.

Familiar agonies remained pain. New aches only felt worse for a little while.

Something in her wanted the dubious comfort of familiar roads. Grooves and ruts worn into the past, which never went anywhere at all.

The present was better.

Comments ( 8 )

Just like Izzy, I am very much NOT crying. Definitely. For sure.

Vetiver is my favorite, but oak moss is also superior.

I had to go back. But I remember it took me 3 months to try going into the water...

(I also have a tattoo of the loveliest and saddest landscape in all the world on my forearm. I'm hopeless.)

Posey is a grump, but she's not a villain. She clearly wanted to get back at Izzy, but not hurt her.

The bracelet, as an apology without ever saying "sorry", fits her perfectly. (And fits Izzy's leg, too. Posey may not have taken measurements, but she's a professional crafter.)

Painful, but a good pain in its own way. There’s nothing quite like a stark reminder that you’re not just getting back at an annoying concept. You’re hurting a person.

Of course, some folks can look past that (or even enjoy it,) but Posey isn’t one of them. This was harsh, but enjoyably so, and a welcome emotional counterpoint to Tell Your Tale. Thank you for it.

I have read all of your Gen5 works, Estee, and hope to read more of the Gen4 works in the future. Your worldbuilding is superb, but your ability to get into the heads of characters and showcase how they view the world is unmatched by almost anything else I’ve read. I love, in particular, how your Gen5 works interlink. “Resting Serial Killer Face” first came up in Lawgistics, as a hilarious description from Hitch’s inner monologue. And now we see Izzy’s perspective on her interactions with Maretime Bay, and see that comedic moment from Lawgistics played far more seriously and far more heart-wrenchingly. Each of your Gen5 pieces alone are excellent character portraits, but together they show the dynamics of this group of friends by revealing how each of them sees each other. It’s excellent.

Ever since I saw Izzy I was getting Nuerodivergent vibes from her. You calture that mindset well. Microexpressions, that was a really good one. When you have difficulty understanding emotions carefully watching for facial patterns to atteibute them to specific emotions is a really important and useful tool in our kit. If I don’t understand why or how an emotions works, I can at least recognize when it is present and respond with previously acceptable replies.

Acting happy may have been a way to try and inject joy into Bridlewood, but it is also a good coping mechanism for neurodivergent’s for fitting in. I wish it wasnmt necessary, but unfortunately most people these days expext your emotions to be plainly visible. My neutral expression thats most natural doesn’t really express what I actually am feeling, so I keep having to ‘mask’ myself by putting on a face that matches what I’m feeling even if I don’t enjoy it.

Part of me wondered if Izzy’s ‘serial killer smile’ was partly a facial tick. Its common for Tourrets to have facial tic’s, for me it’s a rictus grin where I bare my teeth, pull the corners of my lups into a big smile, and lift and tense the muscles in my neck/jaw. I’ve learned to do it once I’m unobserved since I recognize it looks unsettling, but its still a thing I have to manage. Since tics are so similar to compulsions and rituals I wonder if much of the old Bridlewood rituals are born out of that sort of behavior. The intense depression may be a symptom of other much more wise spread conditions, and I don’t know if any of the three tribes even have words like ‘autism’ or ‘tourrets’ for diagnosises.

I love this story but seeing ponies just don’t/cannot get over their prejudices no matter how much time passes in universe, it almost makes me think that ponykind may be a bit of a lost cause. That inherant hatred and selfishness is just so baked in, if even Twilight and her friends failed to establish long term harmony, is there any hope for the rest? Granted we don’t know how it all ties together yet but still.

Another fantastic story that I really enjoyed estee

Oh. Right. Pinkie Pie but with a horn. Gotcha.

I so badly wanted to reach in and give Izzy a hug, yeah she can be a bit overwhelming but she's not a disease or danger like some of the others treat her. As an Autistic person I get some of her struggles (albeit not as strongly).

As far as I'm concerned regarding extreme introversion and general grumpiness if Posy could work her will, she'd be the only pony on the planet. She may not be a villain, but it's a wonder she allows customers at all.

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