• Published 14th Jan 2013
  • 26,297 Views, 1,588 Comments

The Monster Below - Greenback



An earth pony seeks to transform himself into an Alicorn, but how far is he willing to go to get what he wants?

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The Summer Festival

I had endured many setbacks in seeking to make my own dream come true, but that didn't make the latest any easier to bear. Books hadn't worked. Neither had magic, arcane secrets, and now, science.

It seemed like the Universe was determined to crush my dreams.

I was in a foul mood the following day. When the company mail was delivered, I gave it only the briefest look, but I wasn't so down-in-the-dumps that I didn't notice a letter addressed to me. Opening it, I was surprised to find that I had been invited to the first day of the upcoming Summer Festival, with my ticket to be paid by Medicomp. Because of the enormous success of the limb replacement program, the company had decided to celebrate with an all-expenses paid trip to the festival for all its employees and up to three guests each.

The invitation was enough of a shock to snap me out of my funk. Perhaps the Universe, having dashed my hopes yet again, had decided to give me a consolation prize, and I figured that the best thing I could was to enjoy it and take my mind off my dream for a while. But who to share it with? Beakbreaker was an obvious choice; I liked the idea of spending the day with her away from the leg and everything medical related. My parents were another logical choice for my other guests. I hadn't seen them since moving out to Manehattan, and what better way to be reacquainted then by going to one of the biggest festivals of the year?

Letters were sent and received. Times were confirmed, and on the warm, clear morning of the festival's start, I was waiting at the train station as a train pulled in. Doors were shoved open by passengers eager to disembark. I tried to spot my parents in the ensuing rush, but they spotted me first, rushing forward, ecstatic at seeing me again and doing any loving parent would do at reuniting with their child: they attempted to crush every bone in my body from hugging me so hard.

“Oh, my little boy has gotten so big!” Mom cooed.

I struggled for air. “Mom! I haven't gotten that big!”

“Yes you have! You must have grown several inches since we last saw you!” She let me go, and I gulped down as much as I could. “Oh, I bet you have so much to tell us! And your apartment! I can't wait to see that!”

“We can talk about all that later,” Dad said. “We have a festival to get to, remember?”

“Oh, right!” Making sure her saddlebags were secure, Mom turned to me. “Well, lead the way!”

Our greeting was interrupted by a distant explosion. But it was nothing to worry about, only fireworks going off to signal that the Festival was officially underway.

“Better hurry,” Dad said. “Don't want to stuck behind all those crowds!”

I led my parents through Manehattan, taking every shortcut I knew in an effort to get there as soon as possible. But alas, there were already thousands of excited ponies lined up at the festival's gates when we arrived. Thankfully, the festival organizers had planned for such crowds, and the numerous ticket-takers ensured we got through with a minimum of fuss.

My parents marveled at the festival before them, and I couldn't blame them. Of all the festivals ponies have throughout the year, the summer one is the biggest after the Winter festival, and no expense is spared. Rides of all kinds are set up, countless food booths are erected, and farmers come to sell the freshest farm food imaginable, and that's before the dance competitions, cider-drinking contests, pegasi races, and so much more.

I spotted many ponies from Medicomp as we headed through the crowds towards the rendezvous point with Beakbreaker, and the sight of executives and board members riding roller coasters and yelling, “Wheeeeeeee!” is something you only see once in a lifetime. I was especially surprised to see Beakbreaker out in the open at our arranged meetup point, an ice cream cone in hoof. Considering her fame, I would have expected her to be swarmed by all the nearby ponies, but she had changed her attire and let her hair fall down. A close inspection would reveal who she really was, but the disguise was enough to fool the casual observer.

Taking a lick, she spotted me and trotted over. “Silverspeak! Glad you made it!” She looked to my parents. "Ah, and are these your parents?"

"Indeed we are!" Mom came forward and eagerly shook Beakbreaker's hoof. "So delighted to meet you, Ms. Beakbreaker! We've heard so much about you! Saddle Lanka just can't stop talking about those legs you've made."

“Saddle Lanka?”

“My hometown,” I said.

Beakbreaker blushed. “Well fame is nice and all, but I'm happy to just get a day as a normal zebra.” She finished off her ice cream. “Speaking of which, we'd better get going if we want to catch the rides without waiting two hours in line. How about we start with the Sonic Rainboom? I've heard it's one of the most popular rides.”

“Of course it is!" Dad said. "Who wouldn't like going that fast? Come on, I'll take the lead."

Dad did so, and we all trotted off after him.

***

I had worried that I wouldn't be able to relax and enjoy myself at the festival, but with so much to see and do, it was easy to forget about my woes when I was spun about on the Sonic Rainboom, or many of the other rides, whooping and hollering with Beakbreaker and especially my parents, who had more of a stomach for the fast rides than myself. Before I had been born, my parents were daredevils of a sort, getting incredible thrills from roller coasters, bungee jumping, and skydiving, among other things. And while they had slowed down after I was born, they had recently taken to getting back into their old hobbies, and were outpacing Beakbreaker and myself, going from ride to ride with abandon

Lunch came and went, and after filling our bellies with the finest peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we could find, we headed back out. Beakbreaker and I wanted to look at the booths, while mom and Dad wanted more rides. We all agreed to take two hours to go at our own pace, and then meet up. Thus, as my parents went off to find the next ride that would get their blood pumping, Beakbreaker and I wandered around the booths. Looking back, I should have worked to keep everyone together so we could enjoy the rest of the day as a family. In hindsight, that was probably the last true day of happiness I ever had. Oh, there were others, and moments where my joy would go higher than I thought possible, but that was the last day where I felt so carefree. I was blessed with a job I enjoyed, a family that loved me, and everything was as perfect as I could hope for... But destiny has a way of showing up when you least expect it, and in the most innocent of guises. And thus it came into my life once more, nudging it in such a way that there was no turning back.

***

As the afternoon went on, and the sun inched closer to the horizon, Beakbreaker stopped to get an ice drink at a booth. Not being thirsty, I hung back. I watched several colts dashing down the path while wearing Wonderbolts costumes, and glanced back the way they came, my eyes falling across a huge corral decorated with Wonderbolt banners, lighting bolts, and streamers. There were dozens of ponies inside and lining up to do so, all wanting to talk to members of the Wonderbolts who had come to the festival. I knew who they were (who doesn't?), but had never been interested in the group. Yet, curiosity overtook me, and I walked to the corral. It was like being in a trance: I didn't even know what I was looking for or what I would find inside.

“...and wham! We flew past that dragon and lured it away from Ponyville! Aw, it was amazing! You should have seen it!”

I turned and saw one of the Wonderbolts sitting before a bunch of colts and fillies, eagerly retelling an old war story. He was just past middle-age, his coat pale blue, and his dark blue hair permanently stuck backwards from flying through the wind. Yet, despite being past his physical prime, he had the boundless enthusiasm of a far younger pony.

“We must have shown that dragon a thing or two, because there hasn't been any dragon incursions since then. And why? Because they're afraid to mess with the Wonderbolts, that's why!”

The young ones cheered, and subsequently rushed to get autographs as their parents and nannies then pulled them away, leaving the Wonderbolt a moment to take a nearby pie and eat a big mouthful.

“How long ago was that?” I asked, walking up.

“Hmm? Twenty years. Dragon incursion near Yakyakistan. You really should have seen it!" Gulping down another mouthful of pie, he wiped his hoof clean before extending it. “Name's Soarin.”

I shook. “Silverspeak.”

“So, what brings you over here Silverspeak? Come to marvel at the show? Talk with your favorite flier? Get an autograph? 'Cause we're happy to do all three!”

“Curiosity, mainly.”

“Ah. So, you know much about the Wonderbolts?”

“Not much,” I admitted. “Only that you're the greatest fliers in all of Equestria.”

Soarin beamed. “Heck yes we are! Just wait until you see the show tonight! Everyone's going to be there!... oh, well, almost all of us. Captain Rainbow Dash won't be, I'm afraid. She's over in Canterlot for some royal business. You'll have to wait until next year to see one of her sonic rainbooms; they really are something else!"

A timer buzzed next to Soarin. “Huh, looks like somepony else will have to wait until next year, too.”

“What do you mean?”

“I take guests up into the air to fly around with them, but if they don't make it a half hour after the reservation time, it's dropped.” He took a pencil and scratched a name off a list. “Hey, you got anything going on in the next hour? My next flight isn't scheduled for another hour and a half. Plenty of time to take someone up... want to give it a try?”

It felt like my heart stopped. “You... you're serious?”

Soarin grinned. “Oh yeah.”

“I'd love to, but it'd be..." I flexed my bare shoulders. "Difficult."

“Not a problem. We have Earth ponies come through here every now and then, and we've got ways to give them temporary wings.” He made a quick scribble on his list. “So... you interested?”

It's possible for an earth pony to magically gain the power of flight for a short time. There are even business dedicated to making that happen, but I had never gone to them. I wanted wings that were permanent, not temporary ones that would leave the bitter aftertaste of seeing a dream come true for only a few minutes. But this was the chance to go flying with a Wonderbolt, a rare opportunity by any standard.

"Well," I said. "Oh, why not?"

Soarin grinned. “Then let's get you set up!” He indicated for a nearby unicorn to come over. “Now stay still. This should only take a second.”

I froze every muscle I had, not daring to even breathe as the unicorn concentrated and cast his spell. I felt a warmth rush over my back. It wasn't uncomfortable, but I jumped a little, as I had never felt anything like it before.

“There we go,” Soarin said. “All done! Take a look!”

Trying to slow my pounding heart, I turned and almost fainted. Perched on my back were two large butterfly wings.

For several moments I couldn't think, much less speak. I had wings! I moved my shoulders, and the wings moved in tandem, so much lighter than I would have expected, yet they felt far stronger than their delicate appearance.

Soarin chuckled at my astonishment. “Never had wings before?"

I shook my head, unable to look away from those wings.

"Ready to try them out?”

"Oh yes.," I said.

Stretching his own wings, Soarin jumped into the air, hovering a foot above the ground. "Okay, then! Now, flap your wings slowly and steadily. Don't go too fast or you'll shoot off into the sky."

Simple instructions, but my heart was pounding a mile a minute as I focused on moving my wings, unsure if it was a mental thing, or if I had to move my muscles. As it turned out, it was both. The wings beat as I concentrated, willing myself to rise, hoping I wouldn't take off as Soarin had warned.

My hooves rose off the grass as I rose a foot off the ground, and then two, and finally, three. I couldn't help myself: I all but cried out in delight. I was flying!

“Nice!” Soarin said. “All right, let's try going a bit higher." A few flaps of his wings, and Soarin headed fifteen feet off the ground.

Focusing, I beat my wings a little harder, and rose up to meet him.

“You're pretty good at this!" Soarin indicated the far side of the field. “Now let's fly over there in a straight line. And don't worry; I'll catch you if you stumble."

Breathing deep, I set off, going slowly as I did what Soarin instructed. It was surprisingly easy, and we were soon flying off at leisurely pace, as if out for a carefree Sunday flight. We reached the other side without any problems, and Soarin then flew a little higher, stopping a few yards above me.

"Come on up!"

I did so, perhaps with a little too much confidence, as I went fast and overtook Soarin. I panicked for a moment, flailing, unsure of how to slow down. But Soarin was next to me in an instant, and grabbed hold.

“Careful there,” he joked. “You gotta learn to hover before you can soar!”

Embarrassed, I nodded, and was much more careful as we did several more laps around the field. When Soarin was satisfied I had had gotten the hang of it, he flew beside me. "So, how's it feel?"

"Wonderful!" I said.

“Great! Now we can try the main course: flying around the festival!"

My confidence was shaken for a moment. I had mastered a field that was only a few yards in diameter, and Soarin wanted me to do a few miles? But he was more experienced, and I figured he knew what he was talking about. Gulping, I beat my wings and slowly started off.

"Remember, this isn't a race," Soarin said. "Just relax and enjoy it!”

Even now, that flight is so clear to me. Soarin and I flew high above the outer perimeter of the park, going over the crowds and rides below. I relished it, ecstatic at feeling the breeze blowing through my mane and tail. All my fears of falling were gone as we went around the park again and again, no longer bound by gravity. I could have gone anywhere I wanted, even to the very top of the clouds to see all of Equestria spread before me. For thirty blissful minutes, I was like the birds in the sky.

I was free.

But, alas, all good things must come to an end. I felt my shoulders getting heavier, and flying was becoming more difficult.

Soarin quickly pulled up besides me. “Your wings feeling heavy?”

I nodded.

“That's because the magic's wearing off. Time to head in!”

I didn't want to do so. I wanted to keep flying, but I also didn't want to plunge to the ground like a rock as my wings faded out. Thus, reluctantly, I followed Soarin back to the corral, and my wings faded away a minute later, leaving my shoulders bare once more.

“That was fun!” Soarin said. “I hope you liked it!”

“I... I never imagined I would ever get to fly,” I stuttered. “Thank you. You have no idea how much this means to me.”

Soarin smiled. “You're welcome, Silverspeak. This is the best part about being a Wonderbolt: being able to share the joy of flying with everyone else.” He offered his hoof. “Why don't you come back next year? I'll be happy to fly with you again!”

I shook. “I'd love that.”

“Oh, don't forget this!” He went over to a nearby photographer, took a photo, handed to me. “A little memento! Though I doubt you'll forget this anytime soon.”

The photo showed Soarin and me flying through the sky. Chance, or perhaps something greater, had made the photographer capture my face in a moment of pure bliss, grinning ear to ear.

Soarin was right. I wasn't going to forget the flight anytime soon.

***

With my photo in hoof, I reunited with Beakbreaker, quickly explaining why I had been gone for so long. I had feared that she would be upset, but she assured me it was no big deal. She had seen me flying with Soarin overhead, and said that if given the chance, she would have done the same thing.

Relieved, I went with her to the park's entrance, where my parents were waiting. As I expected, they were shocked that I was able to fly with one of the Wonderbolts, Dad telling me that the waiting list was always filled in moments after being open for reservations. Jokingly asking if they could borrow some of my luck, my parents and I left to get some dinner. Beakbreaker, unfortunately, had to return to Medicomp to begin the next round of tests. Though disappointed at not being able to have dinner with the most famous doctor in Equestria, my parents understood, and said they were looking forward to when we could all do dinner together.

I took my parents to my apartment, where Dad put his cooking skills to work and made dinner. There was the usual socializing, the sharing of stories around the fireplace, talking about how life was for all of us, and how things continued on as they always had back in Saddle Lanka. And when the weariness and fatigue of a day well-spent caught up with us, we all retired to bed.

But I didn't sleep.

That night was almost like a repeat of night before I broke into the library. But instead of agonizing over a moral choice, my mind was instead swimming with possibilities. Magic was beyond my reach, but as today had shown me, flight wasn't.

Beakbreaker had said she couldn't make Unicorn horns... but she hadn't said that wings were impossible.

Perhaps instead of a magical horn, I could get wings.

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