• Published 14th Jan 2013
  • 26,295 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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Surgery

Five minutes ago, I ran to the machine’s control panel and prayed that the designers had made it as idiot-proof as possible. To my relief, it was, for all the buttons and controls were labeled. A press of one button caused massive crystals inside the machine to power up. A display came to life and showed an absurd array of programs to choose from.

There was a bang outside the amphitheater. Coin Counter and dozens of guards were working to get past the locked gates. At the rate they were hitting them with magic, it wouldn't take long.

Running to the amphitheater's control panel, I hit several buttons and activated the lockdown procedure, designed to be used when a patient was carrying an unknown disease, toxin, or parasite. Heavy doors slammed down across the exits, observation windows, and air vents. Five inches of steel and airtight plexiglass separated me from the idiots trying to deny me what was rightfully mine.

Tossing off my saddlebags, I went to the control panel and searched through the surgical procedures until I finally found what I was looking for: wing and horn transplants. The first was to be expected, but the latter was a surprise. Medicomp had apparently expected to eventually get horns and had created a program for when that happened.

I was going to be the first test subject.

I was sweating as I entered in the commands to do the wings first, and then the horn. I shook as I entered in the code for local anesthesia (general was out of the question; I had to get out immediately after the procedures were done), and selected the option for maximum-strength steroids and symbiotic fluid. And as I placed the wings and horn inside the machine’s designated chambers, I could feel my heart slamming against my ribs.

This was it. All those years of effort were finally about to come to fruition. All I had to endure was five minutes of surgery.

Just five short minutes.

The guards were still attacking the doors as I pressed the start button and got onto the table, settling into the designated grooves. Cuffs came out of the table and closed around my limbs, securing me in place. I gulped and closed my eyes as a needle came down and injected the anesthesia. Then the table flipped, the back panel opening to give the mechanical arms access to my shoulders.

A miniature buzz saw whirred to life. I closed my eyes, focusing on my breathing as I felt pressure upon my upper back, and the feeling of skin being sliced open and peeled backwards. Wet and heavy wing muscles came down on each shoulder blade, followed by ice-cold goop. That was Beakbreaker’s symbiotic fluid, designed to let lab-grown muscles attach themselves to natural tissue. With the muscles in place, rapid-fire needles attached everything to my bones, going with speed and precision that only magic could provide. At last, my skin was moved back into place and sewn shut.

There was so much joy at feeling the wings draped across my back. I wanted so flap them so badly, but I didn't. They had to settle and secure themselves, lest they rip themselves away once again.

The first set of doors was blown open and Coin Counter ran inside, only to find his path blocked by the second set of doors. I could barely hear him shout, but whether it was to me or to the guards, I didn't know.

I didn't care.

As the last stitches were secured, the table rotated itself so that I was on my back. I breathed deeply, giddy with excitement. I was halfway there.

That's when I first noticed the pain.

Confused, I wondered how the anesthesia could wear off so fast. Twisting my head, I looked to the various windows that allowed me to see the various chemicals and liquids inside the machine. One large bottle caught my eye; I recognized it from other surgeries I witnessed, for it was the bottle that contained anesthesia. And in what may have been the most horrifying moment of my life, I realized that - in my mad dash to activate the machine - I had failed to check how much anesthesia was inside.

I had used the last of it to attach the wings.

A headset unfolded and pressed itself against my skull, thick screws tightening themselves into position to keep my head from moving. Above me, the medical arms adjusted themselves, getting the correct instruments and equipment attached. Additional cuffs slid out, locking themselves around me so that I was immobilized.

At that point I was still in shock, which quickly gave way to the realization that I was about to undergo surgery without any anesthesia. I tried to find the emergency shut-off switch, but it was mounted near the control panel, meant for whoever was controlling the machine.

There was no way for me to stop it.

The program kicked in, and the needles began their descent.

I breathed deeply, trying to convince myself that I was brave. I had to focus on the end result, not the process. Just keep thinking about that horn. Keep visualizing it on my head. Keep thinking of that, and I would get through.

Just a few minutes of agonizing pain, and my dream would finally come true.

The needles continued down.

I closed my eyes and visualized myself leaping from the table with a horn and seeing all of Equestria clapping for me in awe of my achievement. Even the princesses were there, congratulating me for doing such a good job. Princess Celestia, in particular, put a hoof under my chin, smiling as she told me how proud she is.

A mechanical whine forced me back to reality.

I opened my eyes to see the needles just above my head.

I'm not afraid, I told myself, sweating more than I ever had in my life. I'm not afraid!

But even as I encouraged myself, something occurred to me: It's been said that when you're about to die, your life flashes before you. Good and bad alike are shown, and nothing is hidden. Like so many other ponies, I dismissed it as wishful thinking, nothing more than a literary device for books and movies. But as the needles descended towards my forehead, I had a sudden moment of clarity: There had been previous operations to transfer horns from one unicorn to another, but out of hundreds of attempts, less than a handful had succeeded. The majority ended with traumatic blood loss, nerve damage, and irreversible damage to the brain. Half of those surgeries had ended with the patient's death, which is why they were so rare. And now I was about to undergo a procedure twice as complicated and twice as risky, and would involve giving a horn to an Earth pony, something that had never been done before.

My odds of getting through the surgery alive or undamaged were practically non-existent.

Any bravado I had built vanished as I realized that I probably wasn’t going to survive.

The cuffs around my limbs held me in place as the mechanical arm descended, the needles glinting in the glare of lights above the table. I tried to be brave, to be defiant in the face of pain, to deny panic and not let it take control. But before panic came fear, and that fear momentarily took hold. I instinctively bucked, but the cuffs were too strong to break. I couldn't even move my head, for the braces screwed into it kept me completely immobile. It had to, lest the machine make a mistake and destroy my brain.

I couldn't run away. I couldn't call for help, for there was nothing anyone could do. I couldn't do anything but watch as the needles got closer, closer, ever closer.

And then they hit.

The thick needles went through skin. The white-hot pain made me shriek as warm blood trickled down my face, forcing me to blink to keep it out of my eyes. It helped distract me from the horrible sensation of sharp metal piercing muscle, bone, and then the soft, squishy tissue beneath. I bit down, squeezing my eyes shut as the plungers came down with a soft hiss and pumped a chemical cocktail into my brain. There was no pain, but I felt the thick goop sloshing under my skull, moving, spreading, and growing.

Then the needles were yanked free. Blood flowed, mixing with sweat. The pain was awful, but the fear was worse, because I knew what was coming next.

The needles retracted, and the mechanical arm moved away. In its place a new arm came down. At the tip was a huge drill specially designed to cut through bone. The blades glistened as the drill came to life, giving the high pitched squeal of a dentist's drill, but far louder.

There was no anesthesia, no drugs to numb the pain that was coming.

I sweated. I shook. I tried to hold back the fear... and I failed.

Oh Celestia, please, not that! I thought, any ideas of glory, or fulfilling my dream long gone. I don’t want this! Make it stop! MAKE IT STOP!

Blind panic took over. Rational thought and logic was replaced with animal instincts, and my body thrashed, adrenaline giving my limbs and muscles increased strength. The screws on the cuffs creaked as every muscle in my body thrust to their limits, then went past them as I fought to get away, but it wasn't enough. The cuffs were too strong, and the braces were screwed in too tightly.

I squeezed my eyes shut, not wanting to watch, like a child hoping the monsters couldn't get you if you hid under the covers of your warm bed. But all the darkness in the world couldn't protect me as the drill finally hit and began to cut, the blade in no hurry to finish its job.

I couldn't hold it back any longer. I screamed. I screamed as skin was sliced away, revealing muscle and flesh below, and then the white of my skull. I screamed as blood gushed from my skull and coated my face before pouring onto the table.

There were no thoughts, no pleas, no desire to escape.

There was only pain.

I heard Coin Counter screaming at the guards to get in inside, even as he tried firing spell after spell at the door, but it was for naught. Even magic couldn't get through the barriers.

Nothing could save me from the drill that finally finished cutting, pausing only for a pair of pincers to yank out a chunk of my skull and drop it to the table, where it bounced off and hit the floor before the drill continued downwards.

That was the breaking point. My body and soul, couldn't take anymore. I was losing too much blood, and the pain overwhelmed me. My brain shut down, no longer wanting to bear witness to the nightmare.

Things went dark. Sounds faded away. The pain dimmed. But I could still feel the blood, the weakness, and the sensation of fading away into nothingness.

The realization hit me: This was it. And through the fear, and before oblivion, a single thought broke through.

How did it come to this?

***

That was a moment ago. And now I've learned that the stories were true; you do see your life flashing before you as you die. All of it, both good and bad. And I just finished.

There's nothing left. Nothing but oblivion before me, and a single sliver connecting me to life, but I don't know how long it will hold... and I don't want it to.

It's so clear to me now: I thought I could do it. I thought I could get a horn. I've sacrificed so much to get it, but what have I gotten in return? Nothing but pain and suffering, a cycle that repeats over and over no matter what I do. And if I live, what awaits me? Even if I survive the surgery, I’ll have to face the legal consequences of trying to get the horn and wings, which will lead to ruin, bankruptcy, and prison time. I'll come out a broken pony with nothing left, abandoned by all, and with my beloved wings and horn taken from me. I'll live the rest of my life knowing that I achieved my dream, only to see it taken from me.

My entire purpose , my only reason for living, will have been for nothing.

Death sounds better.

Death is closing in. I can feel the darkness taking me, embracing me like a warm blanket that will keep me safe. There'll be no more pain, no more struggling, no more misery or suffering. Only endless, dreamless rest. And in light of the alternative, I want nothing more than to surrender to it and fall away forever.

I feel myself drifting away from life. Part of me wants to go, part of me wants to stay... but why? Everyone will keep telling me that my dreams were never to be. They'll berate me, put me down, call me evil. And if I die, they will see what they did to me.

I'm fading away.

I don't try to stop myself.

Let them suffer. Let them all weep as they realize the magnitude of their folly and stupidity. It was because of them that my dreams were never to be.

Dreams...

Wait... Wait, this isn't... This isn't right.

It can't end like this. It can't.

It's not fair.

How many other ponies follow their dreams, only to give up and quit? I didn't. Even when I experienced failure, I didn't give up. Is this to be my reward for all my efforts? Oblivion?

No... it’s not fair. It's not fair! It can't end like this, not after everything I've sacrificed! It can't!

I'm not going to die here! I'm not going to let it end like this, not here, and not now!

I blink. I'm back in the auditorium. I'm soaked with blood, and my nerves are frayed, but I'm alive. I can still feel the pain, and it’s terrible beyond anything I've ever endured, but I don’t care, even as the drill continues to cut into me.

“Come on!” I yell at the machine. “Come on!

The drill finally cuts through and retracts, leaving a hole for blood to pour out. Above, a mechanical arm descends, the horn held within its grasp. That beautiful horn is pressed through the hole and onto my goop-covered brain. Sensors scan the gap between the horn and my skull, and determine that there's a gap that must be filled. A liquid is poured on, and a small nozzle fires a concentrated blast of heat to harden it. It feels like my head is on fire, and I roar in defiance.

“Do it!” I scream.

The goo hardens, and more gets spread on top to create a smooth, seamless bond between horn and skull; that too, is hardened. I feel the steroid-infused symbiotic goop bonding the horn to my brain, building new tissue and nerves, bringing forth the searing pain of birth.

DO IT!

One final jolt of pain slams through my skull, and I scream.

Something hot shoots from my head and hits the fire sensors. With a bang, the sprinklers go off and water pours down, drenching me and everything in the room.

Everything goes silent.

The drill retracts, as do the needles and the arms. Motors whir, and the table tilts upwards, displaying me to the ponies behind the door. Through the blood in my eyes, I see them freeze. Even Coin Counter has stopped, barely able to believe what he's seeing.

The screws upon my head loosen, and the headset retracts. The cuffs around my body release themselves. I slide off the table and collapse to the floor. The pooled blood drains off and slides down my back as I lie upon the tiles.

I'm tired. Oh, sweet Celestia, I'm so tired. I don't want to get up. I want to sleep.

There's feeling from my back. I can feel my wings. They’re stretched out on the floor besides me, water sliding off the wings. And my head… there’s an unfamiliar heaviness there.

I open my eyes. Everything's fuzzy and hard to see. I struggle to rise, fighting to gain every inch until I stand upon my front legs, water washing the last of the blood away like rain in early spring.

I stagger to the closest mirror. I have to see them, have to see for myself that it worked. Wiping the water from my eyes, I see myself in the mirror. I look as exhausted as I feel. I shouldn't even be standing after what’s happened. But in the reflection I see that a pair of wings lies upon my back...

...and a horn lying upon my head.

I stare at my reflection.

I giggle.

I start to laugh.

I did it... I actually did it.

All the years of struggling, all the pain, fear, and misery are instantly forgotten as I finally see my dream come true.

I'm an alicorn.

I laugh, and all fatigue vanishes as I leap back. It worked! It worked, it worked, it worked! Oh Celestia, I want to do is dance and sing and jump and shout for joy, and show the world what I've become. And I will! A whole world waits for me outside; the only question is, how do I get out of here? The place is still sealed shut... But an alicorn wouldn’t be barricaded inside a room. Would Princess Celestia let herself be trapped by mere doors? Never!

I have no idea how to shoot magic, but from what I remember during my research trips to the library, unicorns have to concentrate on what they want and focus their willpower to achieve it. I imagine a blast of energy coming from my horn. It's so much harder than I imagined, and I have to focus all my thoughts towards making a magical blast, seeing it grow stronger in my mind’s eye. When I think it’s strong enough, I let go, and a blast of vibrant green energy shoots out and hits the wall, leaving a dent.

I jump, clapping my hooves in delight. It's not much, but it's the result of magic. My magic!

I send out another blast, and the dent begins to crack. Then I hold the magic for almost a minute before letting go, releasing a massive blast that blows away the entire wall. I run to the resulting hole and look out to the city below. Even with the rainfall, a large crowd has gathered below; apparently, word of what was really happening must have spread, for there are a few photographers flying about, and they dart towards the hole. And even in the glow of the building's lights, I can see them recognize me, unable to believe what they're seeing.

I stand on my hind legs, spread my wings, and give the biggest smile of my life as I pose for them. It takes them a moment to realize they've been given the photo opportunity of a lifetime, and snap photo after photo. But as gratifying as it is to pose for them, I have far too many things to do besides hang around here.

Ducking back inside, I grab my saddlebags and strap them on. Looking back to the guards and Coin Counter, I grin and wave. I don't have any animosity towards any of them. How could I after what's happened?

I flex my wings. They feel strong enough to support my weight. With a sprint, I leap through the hole, catch the wind, and fly. There's a jolt of pain, but hey, I can handle that.

I soar above Manehattan, whooping and screaming, letting the world hear my joy, letting it feel my bliss.

My dream, at long last, has finally come true.

Author's Note:

The picture in this chapter was done by the talented Stasushka! Check out her DA page here! (http://stasushka.deviantart.com/)

Also, for your amusement, I present some typos I discovered before sending the chapter off to be proofread. Don't know how "school" snuck in there so much, but I think it makes for some pretty amusing mental images (and the last one adds an interesting element of self-sabotage to the whole story):

*The table rotated, placed me on my back, lasers shining down to ensure that that I was in the correct position. A headset came out of the table and pressed itself against my school, thick screws tightening themselves into position so that I couldn't move my head at all.

*With no pain receptors, my brain couldn't feel the pain, but I felt the thick goop sloshing under my school, moving, spreading, and growing.

*And then that too, was pierced, the drill cutting through to my brain beneath. I screamed as blood gushed from my school and coated my face before pouring onto the table.

*I work towards fulfilling my dream, only to have it snatched away at the last moment. It's happened again and again, no matter what I do to try and stop me.

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