Summer break, with much at stake.

by My little pedagogue

First published

A high school teacher and a lab technician undergo some alarming changes. A "Five Score, Divided by Four" side fiction.

Carl Lee is new to his job.
In spite of his inexperience, along with coursework deadline induced bouts of sleep deprivation, and a serious caffeine reliance, Carl has made it through his first academic year as a secondary Science teacher, and his Twenty fifth birthday is on the final day of summer term to boot!

Things are looking good, but this summer break will be far from relaxing.

Contains strong language, alcohol abuse, and some mildly descriptive violence.

A side fic to Five score, divided by four. from twisted spectrum. if you haven't read it yet, go do that first! it's much more substantial that this little pet project. Now shoo! there's the link.

Five score, divided by four

Cover art by Dahtamnay

Prologue: School's out

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I stared at my laptop display, reading, and re-reading the same lines over and over. The words made perfect sense, but my brain was barely able to keep me awake, let alone absorb any semblance of meaning behind the text.

‘Learning objectives:'
1) All to be able to define the mechanism of Brownian motion.
2) Most to be able to explain the relationship between Brownian motion and temperature.
3) Some to be able to explain the link between temperature, Brownian motion, and rate of reaction’

‘Learning outcome: Produce a poster (individually, or in pairs) communicating this information to a viewer between the ages of 6 to 10’

‘Poster work’ I sighed internally… not my finest hour, it was a bit of a cop-out to just plan a ‘colouring in’ lesson, but things tended to get like that around the end of the school year. Pupils weren’t going to be motivated to try anything too taxing. Hey, at least I wasn’t just showing a Pixar DVD to keep everyone pacified… it’ll be a cold day in hell before I let my classroom turn into a day care centre.

The sound of a mug being placed next to me snapped me out of my reverie.

“Hey sleepy! Not seen you all day. Did you manage to grab lunch?” I groaned in resentment at the chipper tone from my lab technician, Sharon. Where the hell does she get this kind of energy from? “That’s a no then?” Sharon’s question was phrased as a conclusion.

I reached for the mug and set about inhaling the contents as fast as I can “Thanks for the coffee Sharon”

Sharon’s tone shifted from a chirp to one of either mild disapproval, or concern. Maybe a bit of both, I was never really good at reading other adults’ voices. “You’re going to wreck your guts if you keep drinking that stuff on an empty stomach.”

I pull my face out of the mug long enough to swallow and reply, “Narcolepsy mid class, or coffee-shits afterwards. Pick one.” My face dropped further as I studied the depleted contents of my mug.

“I pick the one where you eat a damn sandwich with your coffee and can function like a normal human being!” Sharon giggled… ah, not disapproval then, just mock-concern. “Your face was priceless then, it’s just coffee!” Sharon turns to leave the lab, “Get out early today, and get some sleep. No excuse to be working late at the end of the summer term, I wanna see our birthday boy bright and rested tonight!”

“Yes Miss Barrett, it’s in my planner!” I manage a smile as she leaves.

Pausing in the doorway, she turns to flash her infectious smile once more. “Damn Skippy you have, we’re gonna paint the town red tonight!” any opportunity to advise Sharon on the virtues of drinking in moderation disappeared with her as she vanished down the hall.

Sharon always gets a smile out of me when she finds me in a slump. I’m not actually grumpy, but being relatively new to the teaching profession, I’d not really got the hang of my work-life balance, and I need to save all my energy and enthusiasm for keeping animated in front of the kids.

At that very point, the lunch-bell catalysed my shift in mood. My posture straightened, and my expression brightened in preparation for the remaining hour of the academic year. “Showtime” I grinned.

My name is Carl Lee, and I’m going to educate the shit out of these kids!

My year 10 class filed in and set up as quietly as could be expected on the last day of term. No complaints… until I presented my learning objectives in the most deadpan way possible, eliciting a few groans of exasperation…

So far so good, I fought to hide my smile. Bear with me kids, I’m going somewhere with this…

The attention span was beginning to deteriorate further as I loaded a particularly dry video to introduce the topic.

Ok, it’s concise and informative, but not what a room full of fifteen year olds are going to be stimulated by on the last afternoon of the summer term. Going well, time to strike.

A minute into the video, I wailed in anguish to snap the class out of wherever their mind was drifting. “Uuuagh!
boring! boring! boring!” the point was emphasised as I jumped and gesticulated in mock-rage. “My jimmies have never been so rustled!” I’ve found it’s worth throwing in a few of those maymay one liners I hear kids using every now and then. There always tends to be a couple of pupils that get a giggle out of that. “How on earth am i supposed to teach this? It's a lobotomy in video form!” my tirade subsides into heavy breathing as I quickly scan the class. I could see expressions ranging from fear, to confusion, to barely contained laughter.

I straightened up from my ‘rage hunch’ and announce our task for the lesson. A wide shit eating grin plastered across my face to reassure some of the more worried looking pupils that it was indeed, a joke. “Ok chums. Today, your task is to make communicating information on Brownian motion fun. We’re looking at designing a poster aimed at much younger kids to communicate our L.O.s to them. Left side of the lab has generic info packs on Brownian motion, separated into basic, intermediate, and advanced levels of complexity” I gestured to a tray on the side bench.

“Back of the lab has A3 paper, rulers, scissors, glue, colours, and plenty of HB pencils. One person per four to collect the art stuff, don’t all go and crowd the place. I wanna see cartoons, people! Think of how you can make your design fun and engaging for children as young as seven or thereabouts!” I take a pause to catch by breath and survey the room. The students look attentive now.

I allow myself to crack a grin realising I just managed to pass off a poster lesson as fun... well if not fun, more appealing than what the class thought I had in store for them “Any questions?”

A single hand was cautiously raised, and I gestured to the attached boy in response. “Yes Kyle?”

“So…. U not really mad bro?” The question was not entirely unexpected, Kyle was grinning ear to ear as he had his hand raised, and he often took pride in announcing that ‘he’s from the internet’ after all.

I don’t bother answering Kyle with anything more than a smile and a roll of my eyes, I think the class are giddy enough without getting into a maymay slinging match “ok, so no genuine questions then? Hop to it!”

The hour slipped away far quicker than I would have liked. There were some really striking designs being produced. The tried and tested ‘emotive cartoon face drawn on a ball’ was used an awful lot to represent particles, but there’s no point reinventing the wheel, especially when the presentation is so neat. I sighted, realising that I really should have set aside more lessons for this… I could have got some truly awesome displays for my lab from this class.

I then stopped to study Kyle’s work. “Well this is certainly original, Kyle… good use of humour!” Kyle had represented the erratic movement of particles with a multitude of grey, wall eyed, cartoon winged ponies, zigzagging and colliding with each other in flight. The style was minimalistic but adorable! And another fuchsia cartoon pony in the bottom left corner of the sheet had a speech bubble covering all the main points in clear and, concise language… ok, officially impressed.

I stalled my sentence as I came to a confusing realisation… “Kyle, this is… it’s… wait… I’ve seen this before…”

Kyle’s face brightens in time with this exclamation “Oh shit no! You watch the show Mr Lee?”

While I don’t have a problem with swearing, whenever it comes from pupils in the middle of class, it feels like an electric shock. “Kyle! Language!”

There was no doubt, Kyle’s flinch shows the verbal slip up was genuine. He wasn’t testing the boundaries of acceptable conversation with staff. “Sorry sir, it’s just… wow… you just got twenty percent cooler!”

Kyle’s smile had returned, but I could only stare in confusion. “Kyle… I really have no idea what you’re talking about.”

After quickly glancing at any nearby pupils, Kyle quietly replies. “Level with me Mr Lee, I promise I won’t spill your spaghetti.”

The utter nonsense coming from Kyle was too much for me, and a bizarre snorting laugh explodes from my body despite my best attempts to contain it. “Kyle! Spaghetti? You’ve lost me I’m afraid.”

As I return Kyle’s poster he nods knowingly “Ok sir, I respect a man who knows how to hide his power level.” This conversation wasn’t going to get any more sensible apparently, time to disengage.

“Kid, whatever you’re taking… it’s not working” I have to shake my head in disbelief, but still can’t remove that grin… as I walked away, my smile fell away into an expression of intense concentration. It came back, that realisation that I’ve seen those ponies before… no, that’s not it… I know more about them than just that. The fuchsia one is a primary teacher, I don’t know how, but it’s not a guess. I know it to be true… How is that? Why is this even bothering me? Why does it feel so important?


“Mr Lee?”

“…Mr Lee?”

“Sir… Sir”

“...Fuck Nuggets!”

I snap to attention as I hear the bell sound… glancing around the room, all eyes are on me. There’s still stationary all over the room, not cool. My timekeeping in lesson is much better than this. “My fault guys.” I apologise, “I’m not going to keep you from your holiday, so I’ll clear up. Have a good one!” the lab empties at a truly breath-taking pace. Surveying the lab, I grab a tray and begin to collect in the posters.

Fifteen minutes later, my lab had been tidied up and the stools were all placed up on the benches. I was in front of the new wall display. The display was still only half done, but still very impressive for an hour’s work. Kyle’s work was still the subject of my focus. It bugged me that it could hold my attention for no readily apparent reason. I’ve seen plenty of well-done display pieces, but this was different… there was significance that was just outside of my reach, blocked off in some seldom used corner of my mind.

“Who the fuck are you?” I muttered to the schoolmare drawing. It was at this point that I realised the absurdity of my attention. I was obsessing over cartoon ponies when it was not only the start of the summer break, but also my twenty fifth birthday!

I grab my bag from under my desk and have a quick check over of essential files, wallet, keys, and phone. All accounted for, time to relax.

Sharon was waiting for me in reception. “Fifteen minutes Carl? What could’ve been so essential?” I roll my eyes at Sharon’s impatience.

“Just leave it Sharon, there are plenty of staff still inside, you don’t have to worry about being locked in.” it felt like I was skipping out on work leaving so soon “don’t you feel it’s a little early to be leaving the site? I don’t see anyone else bolting like us…”

“That’s because they don’t have a metric fuckton of birthday booze to assault” Sharon had circled behind and was pushing me out of the door. “Now get home, and get changed. I’ll see you at eight thirty, outside Fab.”

Eight thirty is an early start, and drinks were not expensive at fab… I’d been down this road with Sharon before, and this would not end well “Um, future me? Hangover incoming. Berry’s organising the birthday again… just thought I’d let you know”

Sharon gives me a dig in the shoulder as she peels away to her car. “Buck up and take it like a man! I’ll see you at eight thirty!”

I reach my own car and sling my bag into the boot before settling into the driver’s seat. Deep breaths… Ok, I can make it through tonight… turning the ignition, I try my best to remember how fun it is hanging out with Sharon. “Focus on the night Carl, not the morning after… it’s gonna be Rad…”

Wait… Rad?

Who the hell says that anymore?..........

Chapter One: Memories

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My journey home was uneventful. A quick glance at the clock confirmed I’m home far earlier than usual. Time to get me a much needed powernap, and then line my stomach in anticipation of the inevitable Sharon-induced booze-onslaught.

Changing out of my suit brought about an immensely satisfying sense of catharsis. I won’t have to wear the damn thing for another couple of months!

I understood the argument for teachers needing to be well dressed. A standardised suit and tie for all not only built up the idea of staff as authority figures, it also made you harder to place into a clique, and therefore it was much more difficult for children to formulate judgements or preconceptions of their teacher. The unknown can be intimidating, and it makes pupils less likely to press their luck if they think they’ve found a soft target.

That didn’t stop me from hating to wear a suit any less. I looked absolutely ridiculous suited and booted. Thick shoulder length hair was not a professional look whichever way you cut it. I could teach just as well in a pair of jeans and an AC/DC shirt.

After hanging up my suit and writing a post-it note on my desk to get it dry-cleaned, I climbed into bed for a couple hours of shuteye. Sleep took me almost immediately, in spite of my caffeine laced body.


It had been becoming more frequent… more vivid… like most dreams, I would forget the events upon waking, but not after the events of today… this time, it was truly terrifying... and this time, I wouldn’t forget…

I scanned the classroom for an exit route. What the buck for? I knew this room inside out, there was no way out, and he knew exactly where we were. All I could do was buy time, sell my life for a head start, however paltry… it was all I could do. “Celestia please let it be enough!” I silently begged, knowing she couldn’t hear me.

The elements of harmony had been defeated months ago. He’d gone for them straight after Celestia. Applebloom and Sweetie Belle had been spared for now, and of course, wherever they went, Scootaloo would follow. It would have been flattering that they’d turned to me for protection if not for the crushing responsibility of their stewardship. That responsibility, combined with the knowledge that I was utterly powerless against him was too much for me to bear. I would buy whatever time I could, and my obligations would end with my life…

The utter selfishness of that thought made me sick to my stomach. Was it okay to die and fail them?

No. That was unacceptable.

Failure was not an option. I would die, but those fillies were going to be safe because of it.

I turned from the abominable silhouette in the doorway to my wards. I hold back my tears and force a smile “Ok everyone, today’s the day you all earn your cutie marks! You’re going to be escape artists!”

Sweetie belle is still transfixed by his agonisingly slow approach. I move to block her line of sight, straining to maintain my mask of calm. “Miss Cheerilee? Don’t we need a straitjacket or a shark tank for that?” oh buck, that’s adorable.

“Nothing so fancy Sweetie, when I say so, I just need you three to run as fast as you can to your clubhouse when I give the word, ok?” the three fillies had been passing the time laying low in my classroom by telling me about their clubhouse, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders. With a little luck, they might be safer on the outskirts of Ponyville… it’s a long shot, but I don’t have much else to work with.

Scootaloo brightens up “I can do fast!” her wings flutter ineffectually.

Any further conversation is cut short by the sound of a gnarled talon digging into my door frame. “Ok. Stay brave for me, close your eyes, and run when I say so…”

All three fillies open their mouths to voice their objections, but are silenced before they can make a sound from a glower of mine that allows no room for negotiation… Fluttershy could learn a thing or two from me.

I turn to the doorway. “…Discord. What could you possibly want with us?” My words dripped venom, but of course, it was all an act. In reality my question was a plea, an appeal to remind him that I was no threat to him, that we were no threat to him, and we both knew it. The act of false bravado was simply to reassure the three fillies cowering in my shadow.

The chimeric horror in the doorway leaned nonchalantly against the frame, regarding his talon after extracting it from the woodwork. “Oh, just a social call to express my gratitude. It was you and those three foals that sprung me from my original prison after all” his eyes were cold and predatory, he knew full well how much that sentence stung. “I owe you an awful lot…”

“Don’t you bucking dare put that on them!” I growled, pawing the ground. I had never wanted to harm another sentient as much as I did right now. My mask was quickly crumbling away in place of genuine rage.

“Language, Missy!” discord delivers the line in a perfect replication of my own voice, and the sheer absurdity and unexpectedness of that development stops me dead for a moment. “I think you need a long time-out to think about how to properly speak in front of impressionable little fillies” his tone is mocking, but there is genuine threat in his delivery too… he’s not going to waste any time with small talk.

This realisation forces me into action. I charge my tormentor to open an exit. Discord arches an eyebrow in amusement… the eyebrow leaves his face entirely as he vanishes moments before my blow can connect. The sudden absence of an anticipated impact sends me face first into the dirt outside the school entrance.

The doorway is clear. “Run! Now!” I scramble to my feet and charge again with identical results… it doesn’t matter, the longer he toys with me, the more time I’ve bought. I regain my footing and repeat the process. Slowing my pace to try a more controlled strike with my hind legs rather than simply barrelling through an incorporeal foe.

My hooves find nothing but empty space again, but it doesn’t matter. I spotted the cutie mark crusaders making good their exit, and disappearing into the undergrowth. Good, they’re stating off the roads.

The next few moments however, were going to squash any optimism I was nurturing.

I felt a vicelike talon close around my right hind leg before I could retract it from my blow. I was wrenched from the ground and swung in a wide arc. This would feel fun if it weren’t for the knowledge of who was holding my leg.

The grip disappeared, and for the shortest moment I was able to enjoy the feeling of weightlessness and the rush of the wind.

And then came the inevitable impact.

I collided with the front of the schoolhouse on my right side with a nauseating crunch. There was definitely lasting damage done. I could feel both debilitating pain and numbness down my right flank… I think I dislocated my hip. I attempted to breathe in, but a burning pain lanced across my chest from the right. Broken ribs then, let’s hope I haven’t punctured a lung… I turned my gaze up to the approaching Draconequus, but my vision was obscured, I had lost all depth perception. My right eyelid had swollen shut… or at least I hope so, please let it just be the eyelid, not the eyeball itself.

“My, what a mess!” Discord loomed over me, seemingly happy to just drink in my impotent attempts to stand for the moment…

Just give him what he wants. The longer you indulge his sadism, the longer Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo have to make it to safety. With that in mind, I made a request that I knew would be denied “Just end it already you freak!” I spat the words out, and convulsed in pain. My sentence collapsing into a reflexive coughing fit, which served only to exacerbate the condition of my ribs. As the coughing subsided, my breathing slowed to a rattling inhalation, frothy blood running from the corner of my mouth. I continued at barely above a whisper. Unsure if I was still delivering an act or a genuine plea now. “Please… just… please… I can’t…”

“Oh, end it? There’s no fun in that” discord leered, as he leaned in to my face, I could feel the heat of his breath now. “Death is final, static, unmoving… death is boring… I want to be able to have my fun with you ponies again… and again… and again.” Discord straightens and turns in the direction of Ponyville. Glancing over his shoulder, he leaves me with one final terrifying statement. “You’ll be able to take comfort in that, right? Those three fillies of yours will be kept quite alive when I find them.”

With that, my vision fades to white.


I was brought back to consciousness by the insistent tone of my alarm. The clock read 19:12.


“Ugh! Do shut up!” I slammed the snooze button, and climbed out of bed. How did I sleep through twelve minutes of that alarm?

My bed sheets were drenched in sweat. I would need to hurry if I’m going to shower, change, and meet Sharon on time… it’s not like I can drive into town with the evening she’s got planned. No, I was going to have to catch a bus.

I grabbed a towel hung on my door as I made my way to the bathroom. Letting the shower run to warm slightly as I strip down. A quick ‘stick your hand in it’ test reveals the water isn’t warm yet, so I make my way over to the scales. 67kg, not bad at all! Kinda feels like cheating when there’s no heavy clothes to add on… Wait… “What the fuck?”

I stepped off the scales and twist to inspect my right butt cheek. Someone’s put a tattoo of three flowers on there! When? How? There’s no discomfort or discharge to indicate a recently inked tattoo… I scratched at it to confirm it wasn’t a transfer. “Nope, that’s my skin.” Where did I put the mirror? I can’t get a proper look at “oh, Fuck’s sake!” the same damn mark was on the side of my left butt cheek too!

I make a note to look for a list of chemicals that can stain skin white or yellow… that might be how someone got it to work... Yeah, staining chemicals and a stencil, so it’ll come off when I shed dead skin. I attempt to reassure myself, but I’m aware that this explanation still doesn’t fit. “There’s been no window of opportunity for anypony to put anything this neat and detailed on my butt of all places… Both sides of my butt no less.”

I really don’t have time for this right now, so I retreat to the shower and wash myself as quickly as I can manage. I usually take my time in the shower, but I’m too eager to get ‘the tattoos’ covered up as soon as possible. I was in, out, and towelling myself dry in record time.

“Ok Brain, this is a pretty weird development… suggestions?”

Do what you always do when you come across something you can’t explain. Formulate a null hypothesis, and stick with that until it’s been disproved.

“… A wizard did it?”

No you pillock! The standard null hypothesis is that you’re tripping balls from lack of sleep!

“Oh, of course! Thanks brain!”

Happy to help, now get some clothes on, you look ridiculous!

The irony of being told by the voice in my head that I’m ‘tripping balls’ is not lost on me, but it’s a welcome distraction from the daisy-butt development.

I picked out a pair of jeans, but they felt a little loose on me… “Note to self, Sharon is right. Eat more.” This is my favourite pair of jeans, they should fit like a glove! Oh well, a belt will fix that. I tug on a shirt with a stylised red and blue portrait of Charles Darwin printed on the front and throw on an unbuttoned flannel shirt over the top.

“Looking good!” I realised at this point, that my chances of getting lucky tonight were effectively zero. There was no way I’d even consider climbing into bed with anyone so long as I had these new booty adornments.

Oh well, let’s see… wallet, keys, phone, all good! Out the door!

Actually, I forgot to grab some food, but I’m out of time… and there was that odd dream… scary as hell, and the pain felt so real…

Tripping balls, Remember?

Oh yeah! Thanks brain!

Chapter Two: It begins

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I hated public transport. Inconsistent running times, poorly maintained upholstery, and my tendency to attract a healthy dose of the crazies had all contributed in my development of a deep seated hatred of buses and trains. As a teenager, I had tolerated it out of necessity. Now that I could drive, it was particularly unpalatable.

In honesty, there wasn’t much wrong with the buses around my town, but a long lived dependence on them earlier in life meant there were plenty of opportunities for minor delays to inexorably chip away at my patience.

Naturally, I arrived at the station to watch my scheduled bus pull out of the bay, and ignore my signal for it to ‘wait just a moment’. The cheek! How dare this bus leave the station at its precisely scheduled time of departure! They’re supposed to be late!

I thumbed open my phone and fired off a brief text to Sharon informing her that I would be late. The response came a minute later.

- Np. Got journey juice and Malcolm 2 keep me amused –

Malcolm was an Art teacher that had graduated from training in the same cohort, in the same university as me. I was insanely jealous of his job, as I had covered a couple of art lessons, and it was great fun. It seems kids tend to be a lot more cooperative when they’re expected to doodle rather than explain the significance of the laws of thermodynamics.

And what the hell was journey juice?

Well, I’ve got twenty minutes to kill before the next bus, and there’s a Greggs across the road. Might as well get something to eat.

I picked out a chicken mayo sandwich and a diet coke, and tore into the sandwich as I crossed back over the road to the station.

This was a mistake.

I strained every mental and physical faculty to override my gag reflex, and hurried across the road to deposit the contents of my mouth into a conveniently placed litter bin. Bystanders be damned, that was absolutely wretched! Taking a moment to gulp a few lungs full of air down, I was finally able to steady myself, and glower down at the traitorous sandwich in my hand.

I don’t think twice. The sandwich followed the half-chewed mouthful into the litter bin.

“Ungth!” was the unintelligible exclamation that escaped me as I tried to simultaneously expel the air in my mouth and scrape the taste off my tongue with my teeth. “Do not want!” I muttered as I opened my coke, and necked the entire can. The fizzy beverage was surely going to make me feel uncomfortably bloated, as I never got the hang of learning to burp. But dammit, anything was better than the taste of that abomination!

After a few minutes to settle my stomach, I returned to my seat and stuffed in my ear buds and hit the play button to pass the time.

Ooh I love this one!

Of course you love it! It’s your damn playlist. Would you fill it with music you weren’t fond of?

No, I mean really love it!

The opening chords of had me tapping… no, stamping my feet in time to AC/DCs highway to hell… I knew this was not acceptable public behaviour, but it just felt with each bar, my inhibitions slipped further away.

“Living easy! living free! Season ticket on a one-way ride!”

Ok, what? I was singing now?

“Asking nothing! Leave me be! Taking everything in my stride!”

This wasn’t a quiet, ‘singing to yourself’ Performance either… why wasn’t I cripplingly embarrassed by this development?

“Don't need reason! Don’t need rhyme! Ain't nothing I would rather do!”

Oh look what I just found! It’s an air guitar!

“Going down! Party time! My friends are gonna be there too!”

Hey! That line was remarkably thematic, all things considered… Ooh! Chorus coming! Gotta jump on the bench!

“I'm on the highway to hell!”
“On the highway to hell!”
“Highway to hell!”
“I'm on the highway to hell!”

I proceeded to deliver the remainder of the song at full blast in the middle of a crowded bus station, complete with bombastic air guitar outro.

Hell yes! Spontaneous bouts of 80s metal inspired song and dance just shot straight to the top of my list of favourite things!

And how about that? The bus is here too!


“So what’s your excuse then?” Sharon prodded me in the chest with an unmarked plastic drinks bottle containing a deep plum-coloured liquid… I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Ribena. .. in fact, I’m pretty sure that was the fabled journey juice…

I could virtually hear the alcohol in that bottle. The deep liquid matched Sharon’s new hair colour perfectly. Wow, she was really making an effort tonight!

“Slept in. Sorry to disappoint, it’s a pretty boring excuse.” I shrugged.

“You certainly don’t look that drowsy on here” Malcolm chipped in, waving his phone in my direction. “Just been posted, I had no idea it was you until you showed up!”

I take Malcolm’s phone and tap the shared Facebook video titled ‘Overjoyed teacher flips his shit at beginning of summer break.’ My eyes widen… ok, I had no idea I was being filmed, but that wasn’t what was alarming me…

My hands slowly travel up to my hair, and pull a strand into my line of sight… pink… it’s pink. “…I have pink Hair…”

Malcolm snorted. “Well done captain obvious! No detail escapes your steely gaze!” he pauses to study my shell-shocked expression. “uh… so… any reason you have pink hair?”

My glazed over stare into the middle distance was unwavering. “I… I don’t know…”

Sharon prodded me with the bottle again… “Drink up kiddo, you look concerned, thoughtful, or even worse, both! Tonight is definitely not the night for musings, or chin stroking!”

I hand the bottle back. “That may be, but it’s definitely too early in the evening for any of your homebrew, Sharon.”

“I’ve got to agree Sharon” Malcolm chimes in supportively “with Carl’s eating habits, that stuff’s gonna put him out of commission before we even get started...”

“Now is not the time for caution!” Sharon announces! “Start of summer break is one of the few times where we have a right, nay, a duty to act like kids again!”

What follows almost transcends description. Suffice to say, Sharon Leaps up onto a roadside flowerbed to tower over us, and begins a soapbox to end all soapbox moments…

“Men of Science! Of Doodles! My brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come, when the longevity of our holiday fails, when we forsake our pink hair, and break all bonds of one-man flash-mobbing! An hour of black coffee, and twilight CPD sessions, when the Age of summer comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day, we get shitfaced!”

I couldn’t keep a straight face. Sharon hammed up the oration of her soapbox moment perfectly, but the icing on the cake was to aggressively hurl the plastic bottle of journey juice square into my chest to punctuate the end of her speech. I managed to gather it up in my arms before it bounced off. It was minutes before I was able to recover from my laughing fit, and straighten up “Holy shit, I can’t argue with a speech like that. You win!” I uncapped the bottle and took a long draught.

The smell indicated that journey juice was in fact, very alcoholic. However, the unexpectedly sweet, fruity taste was what made it a true weapon of mass inebriation. I could have a real skin-full of this concoction, and I wouldn’t get tired of this stuff!

“It is done!” Sharon proudly announced as she leapt from the flowerbed. Seemingly unable to stop channelling Brian Blessed. Most alarming if you would stop to consider the following… Sharon was around about five feet six, and built like a twiglet.

“Umm, Sharon? What’s the percentage of this stuff?” I handed the bottle on to Malcolm

“It’s homebrew…” Sharon shoots an incredulous look my way “what? You expected me to do a titration to find out?”

There was no way to answer Sharon, so I instead turned to my artistic colleague. “Malcolm?...”

“Yeah Carl?...”

“We’re not making it through the night, are we?” I stated in despair.

“Speak for yourself… You two are the birthday kids. I intend to partake in moderation, and wake up tomorrow feeling completely human” Malcolm slaps me on the back as he finished speaking.

“I have a feeling that’s too much to hope for as long as she’s involved” I gesture to Sharon skipping down the pavement ahead of us.

...Why did that sentence sound so damn ominous?

Chapter Three: Painting the town red

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The phrase, ‘The Elephant in the room’ refers to a subject of conversation, that while glaringly obvious, and in urgent need of attention, is wilfully ignored. The issue would either be controversial, or awkward, and therefore discussion of said issue would cause no small amount of discomfort for one or more conversing participants.

Or to put it another way, if there was an elephant in your living room, everyone would notice the damn thing, but would conclude that drawing attention to the fact that there is a fucking elephant in your living room, would be far too upsetting or tactless an action to perform .

I always thought the idea of an elephant being ignored out of politeness was absurd, and the naming of said phrase was mostly hyperbole.

And yet here we were, three close friends blithely exchanging jokes and anecdotes, while dancing around the fact that two of us both turned up with aggressively bright coloured hair when a mere handful of hours ago our hair was not only uncoloured, but I’m pretty sure it was a few inches shorter.

What can I say? We’re British.

Sharon was dealing with the changes in the way she deals with most of her problems when off work: Killing it with booze.

Since she looked positively carefree, I was compelled to partake of her coping mechanism. That, and I felt I needed my inhibitions cutting down to size before I tackle that most pressing of matters. Asking Sharon ‘hey, I noticed your hair seems to have undergone a considerable aesthetic overhaul… did that come with complimentary matching butt decals?’

As crazy as it sounds, I was still concerned that if I asked, it might turn out that Sharon had just dyed her hair, and I misjudged her hair length… if that was the case, I would have just spilled the beans, or spaghetti, as Kyle would say, on my new daisy hips with nothing to show for it.

Seriously… was I really this much of a social cripple? Not 90 minutes ago, I was performing ACAPELLA/DC to a bus station full of strangers, but now I couldn’t share a problem with a close friend who was likely going through an ordeal quite similar, if not identical?

“That elephant can go fuck himself.” I breathe into my pint.

“snrk bwahahaha!” Sharon ejected her cider back into her pint glass via the scenic rout of her nasal passage before collapsing into raucous laughter. It was touch and go if she would stay on her chair as she lurched drunkenly to the right, desperately trying to get a hold of herself.

Malcolm’s response showed a great deal more restraint, but he too was overcome with a chuckle into his facepalm. “Don’t qualify that statement, Carl. It’s funnier if it’s left unsaid.”

“Oh sweet Jesus, you’re killing me!” exclaimed Sharon through her fit of laughter. “You were staring into space for like two minutes, Malc and I were about to start taking bets on what was keeping you so thoughtful looking!”

“I assure you, it was all for science” I fell back on my universal stock excuse. Good old science.

Malcolm stood to announce. “Well, on a slightly related note, I’ll not be participating in the stress-testing of the elastic limits of the human male bladder. Science is just going to have to find another brave soul for that one, if you would excuse me…” Malcolm crossed the room to the sign directing patrons to the gents.

Sharon called after Malcolm. “Science will need more than one soul! A single subject isn’t enough to produce a valid conclusion!”

Sharon’s words didn’t carry far through the bar. The music was loud, and the walls of fab absorbed sound rather well. I loved this bar. It was absolutely packed with nerd memorabilia from throughout the ages, the clientele was alternative and friendly, and the playlist was eclectic, and stayed well away from any of that trash you find in the charts.

Casting my gaze around the bar, I decided this would be a good a time as any to tackle that damn elephant head on. No one was in earshot of Sharon and myself thanks to the loud music, and if I left it any longer, there was a chance that one, or both of us would be unintelligible.

“So Sharon… ummm… nice hair?” smooth going Carl.

Sharon’s eyes focussed on me with an intensity that was unbecoming of her current state before she brushed aside her discomfort “Heh, glad you like it…”

Ok, she’s upset, but doesn’t want me to know she’s upset.

“Sharon… I didn’t dye my hair… neither did you… right?” I insist on eye contact which she breaks after a few seconds. Ok, she’s in the same boat as me, and doesn’t want to talk about it…

“Can’t we just leave it for tonight? It can wait, can’t it?” her pleading gaze is hard to ignore, but too bad. I need answers.

“I’m sorry kiddo, but I’m not sure if it can.” I sighed as Sharon shrinks into her seat “Look… this has happened fast… really fast… I was happy to dismiss it as me just going a little nuts, but it’s happening to you too…”

Sharon breathed deeply, her eyes turned to the floor. She mumbled, barely audible over the din of the bar. “It’s not… it’s not the only change either, is it?”

I nodded to myself, nailed it Sherlock. “Something on your…” No, wait. We’re in this together. “something on our… upper thigh?”

Sharon slowly nodded eyes still on the ground.

“Flowers?” I enquired.

“No, fruit… grapes and a strawberry” Sharon finally raises her chin to make eye contact.

“I’m sorry to press the matter Sharon, I really am. But we both need this. If we keep to ourselves, we’re gonna go nuts. Even if we’re powerless to stop it, we know we both have a shoulder to cry on.” I reached across the table to place a hand on Sharon’s shoulder. “We’ll be ok, as long as we keep communicating”

I retract my hand as Malcolm reappeared in my peripheral view, “Malc! I think we’re about done. Sorry to cut it short, but I can see myself making a right twat of myself if I stay out much longer.” I retrieved my phone from my jeans “wanna go halves on a cab?”

Malcolm waved dismissively. “Nah, I’ve got friends at smokestack. I’ll head over there” his expression turned to one of concern upon regarding Sharon. “Is she ok?”

“Nothing she hasn’t been through before.” I try my most disarming grin… results pending. “I’ll get her home, don’t worry.”

I thumbed open my phone as Malcolm left. “Ok, Sharon. We’ll get you home. It’s gonna be ok.” Seeing her so shaken was disturbing. Sharon was such an unflappably cheerful woman, and it wasn’t made any easier by the knowledge that her bout of sorrow was brought about by my enquiries.

Sharon wiped her face with her sleeve, and strained to gift me with a look of gratitude. The gesture wasn’t lost on me; she knows I felt responsible for breaking the severity of our predicament to her. “You’re the best Cheerilee!”

“I know I am…”


…Who the hell is Cheerilee?

…Oh crap, that dream…

… It was... real?

Chapter Four: Wait... It gets worse?

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Sharon took some convincing, but I had eventually persuaded her to stop over at my house for the night. Until we had some semblance of clarity of what was happening to us, it was best we stayed together to offer support to each other in anticipation of further changes.

That was the reason I gave to Sharon anyway. Her choice to name me Cheerilee, seemingly without realising she’d done so was troubling. That dream was my own, and she had no way of knowing unless she had experienced something similar.

The dream… it was linked to the hair, and the tattoo. My changes weren’t just physical, I realised I was beginning to think differently too. My musical episode at the bus station was so out of character, it could be… no, it was probably linked.

I still had no solid causal proof yet, and that was so frustrating. Scientists require solid evidence to explain our observations. We can’t function on gut feeling and speculation alone.

I locked my front door as soon as Sharon and I were through the threshold. Finally, we could speak. The cab journey had passed in agonising silence, as we couldn’t discuss our situation in earshot of the driver. “Make yourself at home, I’ll change the bed sheets for you.” I motioned Sharon towards the couch, and hit the power on the TV as I passed across the living room.

“Excuse me?” Sharon’s tone was challenging. “You’re not giving up your bed, I hope?” I knew a rhetorical question when I heard one.

I also knew when to answer rhetorical questions as a regular one “actually, yes. That’s what I’m doing. Consider it a birthday present.”

Sharon planted herself on the couch in a huff. “This isn’t over Carl”

I stripped the bed and deposited the old sheets into my linen bin. The task was a welcome distraction, and gave me time to think.

Ok brain, what do you have for me? This isn’t just a hallucination.

The hell should I know? Do you want to fall back on that wizard hypothesis?

Don’t you have anything a little more… science-ish?

Gimme a sec… how about… Somatic cell gene therapy?

Unlikely… someone would have to be decades ahead of current research to pull alterations like this off, and current adenovirus or liposome vectors wouldn’t be able to affect so much of my body at once… changes like this would require stem cells… and probably some invasive implantation procedures.

Well fuck you too! Don’t ask for some science to explain batshit insane phenomena, and then complain that all the dots aren’t nicely connected.

Ok, sorry brain. Take five… I think we need some time to relax.

I finished redressing my bed and headed back into the living room. Sharon had picked a bottle of 2016 Chilean merlot off my rack and was pouring out a couple of glasses. I sighed in defeat. No point in trying to talk her out of it. A quick glance at the clock revealed it was only eleven thirty. “Not even midnight. Sorry if it wasn’t the evening you were hoping for, Berry”

Sharon’s focus shot up from her glass as she narrowed her eyes “what did you call me?”

“What? I said Sharon…” I raised my hands, taken aback by the tone of Sharon’s voice

“No you didn’t! You called me berry!” Sharon shot back accusingly “you called me berry before all this started! You knew about this before now!” she took a long swig from her glass.

“Well you called me Cheerilee as we were leaving fab!” I snapped, angry at the insinuation that I was responsible. “How’d you dig up that little nugget of information?”

“I… I didn’t! And who the hell is Cheerilee?” Sharon placed down her glass and balled her fists.

I didn’t break eye contact, this may a misunderstanding, but I still don’t appreciate being talked to like this “right back at you Sharon! I’ve never called you Berry, and I have no idea who Berry is.” I don’t soften my words. I need to be firm to get this across before our anger escalates. “We can choose to believe the other is responsible, or we can assume that there is something changing in our heads too.”

Sharon opens her mouth to reply, and chooses to instead to sink back into the couch and drain her wine glass. “Shit… what’s happening to us?”

I took up a place on the couch next to Sharon, and snatched up the spare wine glass, taking a sizeable gulp. “So… I can tell you who Cheerilee is, if you tell me about Berry?” I wasn’t planning on breaking this to Sharon tonight, but it looks like the proverbial has already hit the fan.

Sharon didn’t bother to look up at me this time, instead electing to shake her head as if it might dislodge any unwelcome thought currently taking root. “I don’t wanna talk about it right now, I’m guessing you’re angling to know if I’ve had any strange dreams?”

“I won’t ask you to share if they were unpleasant… Cheerilee was in a bad way when I woke up this afternoon…” the memory of the encounter with discord flooded back, and I was overwhelmed with concern…

The concern wasn’t for myself… dammit! The concern wasn’t for Cheerilee, but for those three fillies… no! I was concerned about those three kids! Dammit brain! Get a hold of the language centre and find out what’s going on!

Everything’s my fault today, isn’t it?

“You ok? Carl?” Sharon’s image was swaying in front of me, trying to get my attention… “You zoned out for a sec there…”

I grimace in an effort to dispel the feeling that my sanity was fast leaving me “it’s just the drink… I think talking about it with a skin full is a bad idea… we were about ready to tear strips off each other a moment ago” I lean over to hug Sharon. She startles for a moment before accepting the gesture “Sharon, whatever happens to us, I would never do anything to hurt you, and I trust you completely… whatever’s responsible for… all this… it isn’t either of us” I give Sharon another squeeze to punctuate my appeal for her trust.

“I know Carl, I just got scared, you know, lashed out in fear. I trust you man…” Sharon hugged back.

“Go to bed. I’m taking the couch. No arguments.” It was a cheap ass method to get my way, but I knew Sharon wouldn’t argue after this saccharine moment.

Sharon stood and staggered slowly to the bedroom “try not to dream…” she called back as she shut the door.

She had to say it, didn’t she?


My vision blurred and intermittently left me before painfully returning again. I was able to rely on my sight very little. My other senses fared little better. My tongue and nose were overwhelmed by the taste and smell of blood. My ribs burned as I was jostled onto somepony’s back before a slow and ginger pace was adopted.

I had no idea of where I was being taken, or by whom… but I had to tell them “discord… he’s after the fillies… the clu… the clu…” I lost count of how many times I lost consciousness, only for it to painfully return.

“try not to move Cheerilee, you must be hurting like hell, I’m gonna get you something for the pain” the voice is familiar, but I’m in no shape for my memory to connect the dots…

“The fillies… he’s after them… please… help” I tried to be more specific, but forcing out agonised babblings proved to be a herculean effort in itself.

I couldn’t help anyone like this…

I’d failed them.


I stirred from my couch and stretched… the dream this time was thankfully nonspecific. I didn’t want to be troubled by too many developments all at once. Hell, my nerves were shot to shit enough already.

I paced into the kitchen on the balls of my feet… why am I on tiptoes? I willed my heels onto the floor, but it just feels wrong. Admitting defeat, I allowed my new muscle memory to take over as I inspected the contents of the fridge.

Bacon? No thanks… sliced turkey? Nope… Scotch egg bites? Ugh! What was I thinking?

“Sharon? Do you want anything from the corner shop? I’m gonna go get some food…” I called through to the bedroom.

I heard movement from my room as Sharon grumbled herself out of bed… “Gimme a sec…”

I returned to the front room from the kitchen to see Sharon emerge. We locked gazes and simultaneously froze in place.

I was stunned into silence… regarding Sharon’s dumbstruck expression, I realised she was seeing the same thing. I slowly raised my right hand to my head, dismayed to see Sharon mirroring my actions… my hand hovered over my ear, afraid to close the distance any further and confirm my fears. Sharon’s face told me all I needed to know, and as my ear flicked in irritation at this revelation, it brushed my fingers, causing my hand to flinch away, and my tail to lash in shock.

Wait… what!?!

Sharon’s cries are stifled as her hands clamped over her mouth. Terrified eyes widened and focussed on my hips, or what was situated behind them. I inspected Sharon more closely, and indeed, confirmed she had a plum coloured extension to her spine, swaying behind her in autonomous animation.

I’ve not even been up five minutes, and I already wanted to call this off as a bad job and go back to bed.

But would I even wake up as myself?

… I feel sick…

Chapter Five: A musical Interlude

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I was frozen in place, Sharon mimicking my posture and expression… what on earth are you supposed to say in a situation like this? I was in some freaky, uncharted territory now and at a complete loss for how to proceed from waking up to find you’re sporting a garishly coloured horse tail and a pair of pointed ears, most likely equine as well.

It would be bad enough to have to deal with this alone, but to see Sharon in such distress, meant I was paralysed with fear that my next words, if chosen improperly might send her over the edge of what the human mind can reasonably be expected to deal with.

And there was me thinking that if we stayed together, we might be able to cope with the changes better.

It seems the universe wasn’t done messing with me yet, as I felt an inescapable urge to nod and tap my toes to an unknown beat. It was nothing I could hear, but there was an intuitive quality to my actions that was impossible to fight. Sharon’s movements confirmed she was experiencing the same phenomenon.

Open this in a new tab, and carry on reading.

I’ve had my share of problems, but nothing quite like this.
There’s no hiding from the issue although ignorance is bliss.
I’ve got no explanation for equine lycanthropy.
This has to take priority, oh what has caused these changes taking place in me?

Please stop it with the singing, I can’t hear myself think.
It isn’t even midday and I feel I need a drink!
It’s way too much to take in, this body shouldn’t be!
This has to take priority, I gotta stop these changes overwhelming me!

Carl and Sharon together
I wish this tramp-stamp was unmade, and my new hairdo’s an awful shade,
As long as that thing stays there I’ve got zero chance of getting laid!
This really isn’t funny, I fear loss of sanity,
It’s gotta take priority, I gotta slow the changes taking place in me!

I’ve searched all of my textbooks, but everything’s no-go,
I’ve drawn blanks on ideas from voodoo priests to UFOs,
I’m beginning to despair now, there’s no way else to be.
This has to take priority, I gotta stop these changes taking place in me

I’m gonna have to learn to cork a bottle with no thumbs,
Enforced sobriety on top of this would be no fun,
I’m not an alcoholic, but I’m stressed don’t you see?
It’s got to be

It's got to be



And it’s time we both found out,

It’s time we both found out,

Carl and Sharon together
About these changes that are taking place in me.

“… Ok, screw this. I’m taking forty winks and waking back up when the world’s going to let me break into spontaneous song and dance of something a little less gay…”

Chapter Six: So what now?

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“So any ideas on our next move?” I snapped to attention at the sound of Sharon’s voice.

We had both been shell-shocked into silence, I had no idea how long I’d spent slumped on the couch in introspection following that spontaneous musical number… I’m pretty sure there was an episode of buffy the vampire slayer where this happened… well just the singing… without all the horse-bits.

I forced a smile, “Good question. I suppose we’ll have to look at potential conclusions of events based on recent projections, assess the likelihood of each, and make preparations for the anticipated outcome.”

Sharon stuck her tongue out, looking unimpressed. “That’s just a long winded way of saying you don’t have a fucking clue.”

I shrugged dismissively, she was right of course. “Yeah, that kind of language just makes me feel a little more in control I guess.” I took a deep breath before continuing. “That said, it still stands to reason to look at different ways this could turn out.” I stood and stretched, flicking out my tail reflexively… I still didn’t have control over it.

Sharon spat out a mouthful of my tail “Watch where you’re swishing that thing!” She then sat forward in anticipation of hearing what I’ve come up with so far… well she’s going to have to be disappointed, all I have is flaky guesses.

“Ok, let’s start with something preferable… Outcome one, we manage to reverse the changes.” I frowned before continuing “As it stands, this is extremely unlikely. Since we still have no idea what’s causing the changes, we can’t hope to engineer a solution.” Sharon’s face told me she wasn’t enjoying me sharing my thoughts… too bad, speculative logic isn’t always nice, but it tends to help out when you have shit-all to go on.

“Outcome two, this is some kind of werewolf… werehorse type thing, and it’ll come and go in a pattern… not ideal, but at least we’ll have some time as complete humans…” it was less than ideal… extended spells with this ears and tail ensemble would render me utterly unemployable as a teacher, but that was nothing in comparison as outcome three…

I took a deep breath before delivering the inevitable third possibility. “Number three… the changes are permanent. Since this is by far the worst outcome, I reckon we prepare for this one, and hope that we end up being pleasantly surprised.” I shrugged again, “not much, but I figure we need to do as much as we can now while we can still disguise ourselves… we don’t know how bad this is going to get… I think our priority is food, I don’t think we can process meat anymore, I tried yesterday afternoon, and nearly puked.”

“Disguises… so that leaves the implication that we’re keeping this secret, and not asking anyone else for help?” Sharon cocked her head in anticipation of my response.

I nodded in confirmation “I think it’s sensible to keep a low profile… this may be paranoia, and everyone might be massively helpful if we reached out… but revealing ourselves is at best, embarrassing… and at worst, potentially deadly… I’m pretty sure there’d be some scientists that would leap at the chance of studying a new metamorphosis in humans… now I’d be all for it, but I’m a little worried that someone might advocate vivisection”

“Vivisection? Well aren’t you a ray of fucking sunshine today?” Sharon quipped. There was a smile there, but I know Sharon’s usual smile, and this one was forced. Whatever coping mechanism works I guess. “So we need hats or a wig, the tail goes down baggy pants, and shades…”

“Wait, shades?” I didn’t even wait for the answer, it had prompted me to check Sharon’s eyes, and confirmed the irises were purple… the pupil was also unnaturally large… in fact the whole eye looked bigger… how did I miss that? I sighed into my palm. Damn, I liked my eyes; I used to have a nice stark ice blue colour that faded into a pale golden brown, to almost yellow at the middle of my iris… central heterochromia rocks! “What colour are they?”

“Green, but there’s nothing natural looking about them… You uh… look really cute actually.” I think that was an attempt to cheer me up, but I was having a hard time taking it as a compliment. “So uh… do you have anything for disguises then?” Sharon enquired tentatively.

I paced across the living room to my bedroom “yeah, I should be able to piece something together… wanna come with? You can pick out something that’ll fit?”

My room was always a mess. I never had the time to reorganise and pick through all of the clutter in my room. The taxonomy of dividing useful and junk items was something I always struggled with. That said, this meant I had a load of bizarre clothing accessories bought on a whim. Not low profile, but they’d cover us up.

“Carl… why do you have a technicolor wizard hat?” Sharon was now wearing the aforementioned hat along with a grin that suggested she thought I was going to be embarrassed at this revelation

“Glastonbury. Trust me, I’ve worn weirder shit when I went to see the rocky horror picture show.” I stuck my tongue out before returning to rooting through my desk draw for a couple pairs of shades. Perfect, there was a generic cheap-ass pair, and some mirrored aviators. “Shades here! Pick a pair.” I waved the shades before placing them conspicuously on my desk for Sharon to peruse.

“Dibs on the aviators!” Sharon called as she approached the desk. “So did you have a spell as a goth or metaller as a kid? Sharon had picked out a pair of baggies that would accommodate her tail, but they were a little eye catching thanks to an assortment of chains fixed to them.

“I still listen to the music, I just don’t feel the need to wear the gear anymore.” It’s completely normal for teenagers to wear conspicuous clothing to designate a subculture, adults don’t have the same craving for clarity of identity that kids do. I decided to keep this to myself though, Sharon didn’t need to be subjected to my ramblings on child psychology.

I was distracted from searching through my clothes by a collection of thank you cards accrued over the previous weeks… these were precious to me, even more so now that I might never teach again. I flicked through them and read the contents of each until one caused me to freeze “son of a bitch…”

“Come again Cheerilee?” Sharon had finished tugging on her pants and turned at my exclamation.

I flinched at Sharon addressing me “was that intentional?” I turned my attention back to my card

‘To Mr Lee, Learning is magic, your faithful student, Kyle Archer’

There was that damn pony doodle again… My concentration was broken by Sharon’s voice “Shit man, I’m sorry, it just rolled off the tongue!”

I shook my head. “It’s ok, but I think we might have someone who knows more about the transformation…” I tossed the card to Sharon.

Sharon took a second to read through the card “I don’t follow” she looked up to me with a look of confusion on her face.

I sighed “that pony is the one I’ve been having dreams about. Kyle might be able to tell us who she is… hell, he might even be going through the same changes as we are.” It was a long shot, and it risked Kyle exposing us, but any extra info might help us find a cure…

Sharon flicked her gaze from the card, to me, and then back to the card “you know… the eyes, hair and tail all match up… mister-lee sounds kinda close to cheeri-lee too doesn’t it?”

“Well Sharon doesn’t sound like Berr… your surname’s Barrett isn’t it?” I would comment on the absurdity of this logic, but I think we’ve long passed the realms of the mundane, and it was becoming hard to shake me with allusions to mysticism now.

Sharon nodded before snatching up a hat. “Well, I’ve got some stuff to pick up and bring round here, so I can grab some food while I’m out if you wanna go shake down this Kyle kid for info? I’ll need your car for the supply run if that’s ok?”

I pulled out my phone and booted up my school laptop. “Feel free, I’ll get Kyle’s number off the school records.” I called after Sharon “oh, wait…” Sharon paused as I retrieved the keys from my pocket “good luck Berry” Sharon caught the keys as I tossed them the length of the room to her… opening her mouth to comment on my choice of name, she instead smiled and decided not to bother.

“Take care Cheerilee.” Sharon disappeared out the door with my car keys, after a short rooting through the school records, I retrieved Kyle’s number, and he picked up on the third ring.

“Not sure if sales call… or new number…” suitably cryptic, that was Kyle alright.

“Kyle, its mister… Cheerilee…” Well that was an awkward slip of the tongue. “I need your help, if that promise about not spilling my spaghetti is still good”


Chapter Seven: Don't worry sir, I'm from the internet!

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Kyle took some convincing to meet up. I couldn’t convince him of the severity of my problems over the phone, he needed to see it for himself. I couldn’t invite him to my house either, as that’s the kind of thing a pupil would be well within their rights to call the police about. This meant my only option would be a public meeting place, and once I’m sure he’ll keep quiet, I’ll be able to continue my questioning back home.

I don’t know why, but something told me Kyle could be trusted to help. He seems to be into this pony stuff, so hopefully he’ll be on board with talking me through what he knows.

I spotted Kyle from my storefront table at Starbucks… he walked straight past me… “Kyle, I’m here” I can’t blame him. I was wearing shades, a beanie, and thick heavy trousers in shorts and t-shirt weather. My voice cracked to an effeminate squeak, a fact I was wilfully ignoring, I wasn’t keen to take that line of thought to its logical conclusion… one thing at a time.

Kyle circled round and tentatively took a seat opposite me. He was suspiciously regarding my attire and the hair poking out from underneath my hat. “Ok, Mr Lee what the fuck happened? I only saw you yesterday man! This looks like it’d fit right into a hangover movie.”

I didn’t waste any time with pleasantries, Kyle will have little patience for me dragging him out here if I don’t cut to the chase “The ponies you drew on the poster… where are they from?”

Kyle stalled his sentence “I… well, why you want to know? I thought you were in on the fandom? Also, you dragged me out of my first day of freedom for that?”

It was a lot to ask of him to just open up with nothing to go on… fair enough, I lowered my shades to show my impossibly enlarged green eyes “I’ve undergone some changes… and I want an expert opinion on how fucked I am.”

Kyle’s jaw hung open “Mother of god…”

I replaced my shades. “Take your time, I can’t show everything that’s happened to me, but let’s just say I’ve pieced enough together that I’m going the way of one of your doodles, so I need your help on bringing me up to speed, hopefully help me figure out a way to stop it…”

Kyle regarded me suspiciously. “So how do I know this isn’t a prank? You’re asking me to trust you an awful lot, this could be just trying to bait me into going full sperglord…”

I sighed. Stay patient with him, he has a point, I was just anxious for answers that I’d hope he would trust me straight away… rather naive in hindsight “Well Kyle, first thing, I have no idea what a sperglord is. Second, teachers who prank their kids tend to become unemployed teachers quite soon after the prank. I’m not going to do anything cruel, I promise.”

Kyle stood up from the table. “Ok then, I needs me a computer… hell Mr Lee, why didn’t you just get me to come to your house?”

That got a chuckle out of me… sadly effeminate. I flinched at the sound of my own voice. “Let’s see… teacher invites kid round to his house… alone, no reason given, kid tells parents, parents tell police, police pay teacher a visit, teacher gets taken to police station, teacher is some half-horse abomination, teacher is handed over to laboratory to be aggressively probed… for science… I like my way better”

Kyle motioned me to stand. “Point made, but now my lips are sealed… I’ll help you out, so let’s go to your base… you live forever alone, right?”

I stood and set off to the bus station. “Well not forever, but I’m by myself for the moment. Berry’s out shopping for the next few hours.”

Kyle made an unintelligible sound that could best be described as a squeal of joy “Squeeeeee! There are more of you? And it’s Berry? As in Berry Punch?”

I flinched at the noise “Kyle! Low profile please! I’ll explain when we get home… I think parts of the changes are making me get my wires crossed with names every now and then… oh, and I sometimes sing and dance spontaneously…”

The squee sound that followed from Kyle eclipsed the one that had come before… I consequently elected to not say anything else for the remainder of the journey home.


The journey home was a test of my resolve to not throttle Kyle. He wouldn’t stop asking questions, but since he didn’t seem to be able to keep a lid on his excitement, I elected to keep tight lipped until we were home.

As we passed inside, the barrage started again “sowhatdidyou…” silenced by a wagging finger and a stern glare.

I closed the door “ohmygodthisisawesome…” glare again.

I stared daggers at Kyle as I slowly retrieved my spare key and turned it in the lock slowly to test his resolve… learn to wait your turn kid… it’s an important discussion skill when there’s a class of thirty or so pupils.



“Kyle! Slow down” I sighed as Kyle was silenced “let me give you the events in order… please? You can ask questions after, and hopefully answer some of mine too…” as desperate as I was for answers, it made sense to give my expert all the facts, so he was able to pick out the most relevant information. Ugh, this hat was so itchy.

I tugged off my hat and shook out my… mane? Hair? Mane sounds right actually, as it was getting really long now. I should have given Kyle a warning about this first… hindsight is a wonderful thing…

I stumbled under Kyle’s over enthusiastic hug “Kyle! Teacher! Pupil! Personal space! Professionalism!” He reluctantly released me…

Kyle was staring at me awestruck “Well, /mlp/ got it wrong… irl anthro is definitely not 3DPD, you look so cute! Can I... touch your ears?”

I huffed in exasperation… “Wha? No! And speak English! Just sit down… now… I’m… look, I’m going to say something in a second to warn you of what I’m going to do next… Please don’t make any loud noises in response ok? I’m… I’m going to free up my… my tail”

To his credit, Kyle didn’t make any noise, but that was still the loudest facial expression I’ve ever seen… I went about tugging my tail out of my pants… damn, that was better. It’s really uncomfortable stuffing it down a trouser leg. A couple quick swishes fanned it out, as some of the hair had clumped together after sitting on it during the bus ride. “Much better. Now… Kyle! Eyes up here! So Kyle, I’m going to retell the events of the last two days, and then you’ll be able to ask questions, and hopefully answer some of my own questions. Deal?”

Kyle nodded. I was unsure of how much of that sentence he understood. His eyes were darting all over me. “Ok Mr Lee, Shoot”


Kyle was patient and attentive during my story. Adding in corrections and small nuggets of information when appropriate. It turns out the ponies are from a kids cartoon that has something of a cult following among teenagers and adults… and those tattoos are called cutie marks, and no. Kyle was not going to see them. “So you just started singing and dancing? Right here in the living room? What did you sing?”

I nodded “pretty much. I think there were a few minutes of the both of us standing silent in shock, and then it just happened. And no, I don’t know what it was we sung…” I checked my watch… Sharon should be back soon. “So after the singing, I decided to come find you… is there anything more you can tell me?”

Kyle stood and dramatically announced “To the Internet!” one foot on my coffee table, a hand on his hip, the other hand pointing across the room at my laptop.

I had a feeling I’ll be face palming a lot over the next few hours “A simple ‘can I use your computer?’ would have done just fine, Kyle.” I stood and followed Kyle over to my laptop, punching in the password then standing to let Kyle at it. “So what are you going to show me?”

Kyle’s grin was a little menacing “Why an episode, of course... I’m thinking… Hearts and Hooves Day…” ok, I know that tone, and Kyle is officially screwing with me now.


That was vying for the most uncomfortable twenty minutes of my life. “Kyle?”

“Yes, Mr Lee?” Kyle swivelled in his seat, stroking a mint green cuddly toy unicorn in his lap… where the hell did he get that from? Why would he carry that around in his backpack?

“You’re an asshole…” This wasn’t up to debate. I was making a flat, statement of fact.

“Aww, but I thought you’d like to see your canon shipping! Wouldn’t it be nice to see if we could reunite Mac with his waifu?” Kyle was drinking in my discomfort. What did I ever do to him?

“Never mind… I have two questions… One, I noticed a lot of those ponies had wings or horns… I take it I’ve got the short straw with no magic, and no flight? And two, rather than learning about which character pairs off with which… could you instead put on an episode involving Discord?” Loss of thumbs might have been tolerable with the addition of a little telekinesis, or a pair of awesome wings… what do I get? Sweet fuck all.

Kyle nods in agreement. “Yeah, you kinda dun goofed there… earth pone is shit tier unless you’ve got panka-powers… as for Discord, are you sure you wanna watch those? He kinda wrecked the S5 finale, not very well received by the fandom…”

I grunted at this “Kyle, I’m not wanting to be entertained here, I want to be informed! Now… is there anything else you could show me that might be related to transforming into a pony, or the other way around?” I folded my arms and stared Kyle down to emphasise the fact that I’d played his little ‘make teacher awkward’ game, and now I wanted info.

Kyle’s visage cracked to one of sheer horror at my sentence “if it’s transformations… then there’s… I swore I’d never watch it…”

I didn’t have time for this “Kyle! Spill it! I need the info!”

Kyle nodded solemnly, accepting this fate. “there’s… Equestria Girls.”


“Well, that was awful” Sharon had arrived ten minutes into our little screening, and seemed to be coping with her predicament by hurling as much ridicule and scorn at the screen as she could muster.

She was right though, it was awful, and didn’t really give us anything useful. “Well that sucks. The show has the ponies turned to humans, which would mean we’re reverting to our original forms…” I dismissed that idea immediately “Well that idea’s junk, I have twenty five years of memories as a human, and only a few hazy dreams and visions as a pony.” Which means the information from the show is useless to us, if it doesn’t match up with what we’re going through. “Anyway Sharon, what did you buy? I’m starving!”

I passed into the kitchen to inspect the bags of food, there was also a selection of cardboard boxes that Sharon had picked up from her house. Let’s see, Muesli? Awesome, but I decided to go for a salad. The dried food will keep, but might as well eat the leafies while they’re fresh… “So what’s in the boxes, Sharon?” I called through a mouthful of lettuce.

“I’ll go one better, and show you!” Sharon began placing an assortment of tubs, valves and tubing on the kitchen workbench… it became clear what she had planned quite quickly… what was her degree in again? Organic chemistry?

I don’t have enough hours in the day for the face palming these two have the potential to invoke… “Sharon… are you planning on turning my kitchen into a distillery?”

That question got Kyle’s attention. “Holy crap, Berry Punch is gonna make booze? This is awesome!”

Sharon continued unpacking while justifying the project “I suddenly started having ideas on ways to improve my recent batch, you said that there were mental changes as well, so I think I’m being told by my new subconscious to brew!”

I was ready to start tearing chunks of my mane out “Be that as it may, we can hardly classify this as a top priority right now, and Kyle? I’m not having a minor drinking in my house!”

Sharon quipped dismissively “Oh grow up Carl, you’re only acting responsible because there’s a student in the house and you’re fearing for your professional reputation… let me illuminate something for you… you’re turning into a pinky-purple cartoon pony, and your professionalism was defenestrated the second you started prancing around the room singing about your new body… lighten up a bit and stop worrying about your job, I think that ship has already sailed.”

I opened my mouth to reply, but no words came. With a grunt, I retrieved two bottles of beer from the fridge, and uncapped them. Handing one to Sharon, I pointed at Kyle “No drinking in my house, you hear? There’s a few meat items in the fridge that you’re welcome to, Berry and I can’t eat them.”

Kyle had the biggest grin after that short exchange. “Confound these ponies, they drive me to drink!”

Chapter Eight: Welcoming Chaos

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What is the appropriate response to a revelation that lends undeniable evidence to your entire existence being a lie? To experience a single point in time where the accumulated observations of the past two days finally overcome the painstakingly constructed architecture of your own definition of what is real, or impossible, where twenty five years of work to understand the line between fact, and fiction is shattered in two days. What would you do when faced with this? What should I do when faced with this?

I had defined my faith as Agnostic Atheism, having no belief, but reassuring my religious friends and family that I would happily alter my view on the spiritual when presented with sufficient evidence. I was confident in the knowledge that this evidence would never materialise, I was certain there was no God, nothing supernatural about our existence, and that by accepting this, there was nothing I couldn’t understand if I put my mind to it…

I was wrong… I was so wrong.

I had listed four possible outcomes, but only shared three with Sharon, I was too ashamed to even be considering the fourth…

One: the changes are temporary.

Two: the changes are cyclical, or oscillating.

Three: the changes are permanent.

“Four… We are reincarnations, reliving previous lives in our dreams… and we’re now returning to our original forms…” Saying it aloud, even in the privacy of my own room, was still the most ashamed I’ve ever felt.

I was ashamed that by accepting this as possible, I’d denied my scientific beliefs, I was ashamed that by extension of denying my beliefs, I’d denied twenty five years of my existence as a human, but most of all, I was ashamed that given all the observations I’d made, all the evidence staring me in the face, I didn’t want to believe this was happening to me, I wanted to cling to my safety blanket, reassure myself that none of this was possible, and that everything will be back to normal in the morning…

That wasn’t how I should think. That was how weak-willed idiots should think, but not me. I would make my observations, and call it as I see it. I would never flinch from the truth, however inconvenient, or unpalatable. No matter how much I desperately wanted to believe otherwise, I would always draw my conclusions from evidence…

And yet here I was, alone, curled up into the foetal position, choking back tears, wordlessly begging to who knows what, to make it all go away… I disgusted myself… And that made me want it all to go away so much more…

The distinctive click of my front door signalled Sharon’s return. She had offered to drive Kyle home upon realising how much I was struggling to tolerate his presence. It had been a terrible mistake to involve him in this… he couldn’t tell us anything useful, he was excitable over our predicament to the point where I couldn’t trust him to keep this a secret… it was all such a mess! “Carl? Are you in there?” Sharon’s call came from the other side of the door.

“I… I’m ok.” My voice cracked in futile effort to disguise my sob.

The door handle turned slowly to allow a sliver of light into my room “Carl… I’m coming in… I’ll give you a few seconds first, ok?” Sharon’s words were slow and deliberate, especially when pronouncing my name… a slip of the tongue would have hurt, I silently thanked her for that small kindness as my door remained stationary for a moment, I took the time to roll to face away from the soon to be opened door.

Sharon tentatively entered my room. She moved to turn on the light, but paused. “Carl? What happened? Have you… changed some more?” Not a bad guess, but surely Sharon would know if… oh, I get it…

I moved my hand to between my legs and breathed a sigh of relief to confirm my gender was still unchanged. “It’s not that…” I didn’t know how to continue… I can’t just ramble through a truthful explanation, this kind of introspection isn’t something Sharon needs right now… simplify it… “It’s just… all too much.” Perfect, that could mean anything.

I felt the bed shift as Sharon crossed the room perched on the edge, reassuring me with her closeness, but not risking an invasion of personal space. She’s never seen me like this before. There was a mask of calm, but she had no idea how to proceed… I’m a liability as long as I’m like this... “Carl… I’m sorry what I said about your job, but you can’t let this eat at you… As far as we know, this is way beyond our control, so any time spent on worries or ‘what ifs’ is utterly wasted.” Sharon paused. I could sense her watching me, looking for a shrug of the shoulder, anything to show acknowledgement… I remained still, until my tail rebelled and flicked of its own accord. “So is it one swish for yes, two for no?” real sensitive, Sharon.

I had nothing to say, no kind words to reassure my friend that I would get better, I knew things were going to get worse, and the final acceptance of this left me no emotional crutch. With this acceptance, I had been utterly broken. “How can you just… not care? I want to… I want to just stop worrying, but I can’t just flick a switch to solve this…” as I spoke… I questioned which one of us is the more insane? The one who has seen the impossible, and has been reduced to a gibbering wreck? Or is it the one effortlessly accepting the impossible without breaking her stride?

Sharon laughed nervously, “It’s not easy, but the alternative of just wallowing in despair looks pretty crappy from where I’m sat right now… If caring does that to you… I choose not to care… I hope you can find it in you to join me sometime soon” Sharon had shifted to lie at my back, she pulled me into a hug as she moved… Was it truly that simple for her?

I felt incredibly awkward, my weakness, my inability to cope as Sharon was coping, was a burden for her. It was obvious that Sharon desperately wanted to make it better, but there was no way I could approach the problem as she had done… my brain simply didn’t have the ‘screw this’ trip switch that Sharon was so blessed with. “This is a platonic hug, right? I’d hate to think you were about to do anything reckless out of pity…” smooth, Carl… Real smooth.

That managed to evoke a laugh from Sharon. “You just looked like you needed a hug… but if you ever want to continue this line of thought when you’re not in need of pitying, let me know” Sharon gave me a light nip on the ear before standing and retreating to the doorway. “If you need me, I’ll come running… I promise.” And with that, the door was closed, and darkness returned.


I regained consciousness, and with it, the pain flooded back, both physical and emotional. The burning sting in my chest and side, the rattling, sticky breath that told of crusted blood in my respiratory tract served to remind me of my failure. I’d bought the fillies some time, but how long? Who would be there for them next time? I was no use to anypony now, and whoever saved me had wasted their time.

I took in my surroundings. I was in somepony’s bathroom, there were blood-stained towels strewn around the floor, and an empty bottle of disinfectant… that would explain the sting. I Struggled to stand, but my hooves wouldn’t respond. “H…hello? Is anypony h…here?” it still hurt like crazy to expel air to speak.

I heard frantic scrabbling of hooves on floorboards from downstairs, and in no time, the door was flung open to reveal a familiar face “Berry! The fillies! H…he’s after them!”

Berry rolled her eyes and set down a bottle of wine by my side “tap-dancing at death’s door and you’re still worried about your pupils? It’ll have to wait. It was touch and go if you’d live at all, and you’re not ready to be left alone yet…” berry glanced down to my flank “your hip was dislocated… I was gonna try and pop it back in while you were out cold, but since you’re awake now…” Berry nodded to the bottle. “It might help a little…”

My gasp of exasperation was cut short by another coughing fit… this was fast becoming tiresome. “Dammit, I’m no use to anypony like this! Anytime you spend on fixing me up is wasted! The fillies are…” I was cut short by berry placing a hoof to my mouth.

“Might not want to finish that, Cheerilee…” Berry was staring past me, into the mirror as she silenced my pleas.

I removed Berry’s hoof to enquire after her sudden cryptic statement. “What? Why would I possibly not want to finish?”

Berry picked up the bottle in her mouth, and swung round to face a far corner of the room “Because we’re not alone!” She hurled the bottle to have it shatter against the wall, the deep red contents spattering across the wall and floor. “Wha?! He was there! I saw him in the mirror! He was…” Berry’s protests were cut short as a familiar talon reached from within the surface of the bathroom cabinet mirror to close around Berry’s neck and hoist her off the floor.

“Discord! Stop!” I fought the urge to cough mid-sentence, but my demand carried little weight, as I was currently unable to stand.

“Oh absolutely!” Discord emerged fully from the mirror, but Berry was still struggling in his grasp. Her mouth was wide, tongue lolling out, however no sound escaped her. She couldn’t breathe, and her deep purple eyes showed nothing but pure, animal terror. “In a moment, if you have time to hear my proposal?” The cordial tone was terrifyingly mismatched with Discord’s gleefully sadistic visage.

“She doesn’t have time to hear your proposal! You’re killing her!” I sputtered out with as much urgency as I could muster, once again struggling in vain to make it to stand on all four hooves.

Discord did a mock double take to glance at Berry “Oh, her? How inconsiderate of me!” Discord leaned in to Berry’s ear “Take a deep breath dear, it might be your last…” Discord loosened his grip, and Berry’s ragged and desperate intake of air was cut sickeningly short as the talon closed around her neck once more. “Now where were we? You don’t mind if I clean up while I talk do you? Miss Punch seems to have made an awful mess here…” Discord extended a paw across to the spatter on the wall to have shards of glass, and globules of liquid reform into an un-marred bottle.

“Hurry up! She’s dying!” I pleaded desperately.

“Manners, Miss Cheerilee! Patience is a virtue, after all…” Discord tutted in a mocking imitation of my own voice again “Now… After our little dance in the schoolyard, a thought occurred to me… I could go and look for those fillies, and I don’t think it would take long at all to piece together where they went… but wouldn’t it be so much more… fun? Yes, fun if I was able to tell them all that Miss Cheerilee gave up their hiding place to me… willingly?”

I gasped at the proposition “Buck you! I’ll Never…” the rest of my sentence was drowned out by the sound of Berry’s body shattering the bathroom cabinet mirror, as discord slammed her into the wall. The sheer barbarism of the act stunned me into silence.

Discord continued as if nothing violent whatsoever had transpired “Ok class! It’s time to play word association! A correct answer gets Miss Punch another breath of air, a wrong answer, and we spin the wheel of woe.” Discord glanced towards the wall at his back, and gasped in mock frustration “What? I left the wheel of woe in the office? That’s terrible! I’d spent all afternoon working on it… it had an acid bath and everything! Fine, I’ll just rough her up instead!” Discord produced a pair of spectacles and a set of cue cards from thin air “ok, first word… the location of the Cutie mark Crusaders?”

I used my forehooves to drag myself across the bathroom to Discord’s feet my posture was dripping submission “Discord… Please…” Before I could finish, Berry was hurled against the door with another sickening crunch of timber and bone. Berry was able to mercifully draw breath for a moment, but discord crossed the room with unnatural alacrity to reassert his grip. Berry’s eyes were tearful, in addition to a terror that far surpassed her previous expression, and there was a pleading in those eyes that insisted on making contact with my own… a pleading that I couldn’t give in to.

“Discord and Please were both incorrect… by the letter of the law, I should have smashed her twice… but since I think you need to be diagnosed with several learning disabilities, I’ll let this one slide… just this once.” Discord held berry out to make eye contact once more “Look at her face, and look into those big, pretty eyes… you can’t save those fillies… I will find them, and nothing you can say or do will stop me… but you can save her… all it takes is a simple act of betrayal, a few words, barely a sentence, and it’s done. She’s safe, and you’re safe.”

Discord jerked Berry away from my face, and leaping across the bathroom, he slammed her into the bathtub, Discord was now standing on Berry to free up his talon to uncork the recently repaired wine bottle. Berry’s now freed throat issued forth a series of frenzied pleas that were barely intelligible over discord, his voice rose to a roar “But refuse my offer once more, and she dies here and now! And it will be on your hooves!” Discord began to pour the wine bottle into the bathtub… the bottle remained full, but the bottle kept pouring… he was going to drown her!

I hesitated… I couldn’t look him in the eye to say this… I squeezed my eyes shut as tears flowed freely… “I… I can’t tell you that…” I weakly forced the words from me… and with one final effort, I forced my lungs to produce a cry as loud as I could manage “I’m sorry Berry! I’m so sorry!” I finished, and collapsed into uncontrollable sobbing.

“I know you are.” I heard Berry’s voice, crystal clear no sound of shortness of breath… My eyes snapped open to be met with Discord’s Leering snout. “You never had a choice.” Discord continued. “But I just needed to let the pony who carried your broken carcass across town… I needed her to know how highly you value her life… you two have fun together now, I’ll be seeing you again in… Five score, Divided by Four”


I woke with a start. That was the most vivid of all my dreams so far. My bed was drenched with sweat. Hell, my ribs and flank ached just as Cheerilee’s had done.

I massaged my hip to soothe the ache… I realised something was terribly wrong… it was covered with a soft velvety fur that seemed to cover an awful lot of my leg… I carried on running my hands along my hips to investigate how far the coverage went… my hands stopped between my legs, and then started shaking uncontrollably.

I screamed. “Sharon!” She promised she’d come running if I needed her! She promised!

I heard the slow, deliberate clop of hooves on floorboards from outside my room, the door opened to reveal a silhouetted Sharon standing with a new pair of satyr-like legs. Her ankle joint had travelled much further up her leg… there was no way we could pass as humans now. These legs couldn’t be concealed.

“My name… is Berry Punch…” The tone of her voice was so alien. The hatred in each syllable was palpable “And I remember... everything…”

Chapter Nine: Subtle as swinging a brick in a sock

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This wasn’t fair. I’d awoken from the most terrifying and vivid nightmare of my life, and discovered my genitals were MIA, I’ve never needed a hug more in my life, but the woman in the doorway looks like she’s ready to tear someone’s throat out, furthermore, I think that someone might be me. “Sharon…” My voice startled me into silence once more. I sounded exactly like Cheerilee from the cartoon, the androgynous voice I was sporting earlier was no more. Sharon had begun to advance on me after I spoke, best try again. “Sharon, I…”

My sentence was interrupted by an unexpected right hook from Sharon. Her fist connected with my Jaw and knocked me back against my bed. The shock of the act caused me to collapse to my knees. Sharon’s assault changed from physical to verbal. “Don’t you bucking call me that, and don’t you dare hide behind that human disguise of yours! I’m Berry, You’re Cheerilee, and you left me for dead!”

Sharon slowed her breathing, clenching and unclenching her fists to calm down as she stared down at me, as if debating whether or not to put the boot in... Or hoof, I suppose. Her tone softened, but there was still a cold, measured anger in her voice. “Take responsibility for your sins. I won’t let you forget them.”

My tears were flowing freely now, I had no choice, how can’t she see that? “Would you have had me sell those fillies out instead?” I pleaded, I can’t afford to lose Sharon as a friend, I can’t face this transformation alone!

“Oh? Do you think anything was changed by you keeping your mouth shut? He was going to find them either way. He’s had twenty five years now, you’ll be lucky if you bought them twenty five hours.” The words were spat at me, the realisation of the cutie mark crusader’s peril landed like a kick in the ribs.

“That doesn’t matter! I couldn’t do it! It would have broken me!” I wailed my reply, my breathing was shaky, repeating the statement at barely more than a whisper “…It would have broken me…”

“So you allowed me to be broken instead, and you saved nopony.” Berry concluded. The statement was delivered with such contempt. I was going to get no comfort from her, and she won’t be convinced that I had no choice.

“Berry, I’m so sorry, but if I was given the chance to change my decision, I wouldn’t take it.” No point in sobbing, I have to be honest with her. “The foals always come first. Please try to understand.” I climb to my feet, no, hooves, using the bed to help correct my balance as I get used to my new legs.

Berry nods in satisfaction. As if a switch was flicked, her tone turns business-like. There was still no warmth in her voice. “You’re not forgiven by a long shot, but I’m willing to let it go for now and work together. We have a common enemy after all” She extended her hand as I was struggling for balance.

“You got a plan?” I took Berry’s hand, noticing the changes in our appendages. The fingertips seem to be hardening, and I definitely felt a slight loss of mobility in my digits.

Berry stated matter of factly. “Find Discord, Kick the manure outta him. I’m still working on the details of how we get to that point, but our priority now is to get outta the city. We don’t have long until we’ve lost our hands, and I’d like to be somewhere a little more remote by then.” So she’s noticed we’ll be going full quadruped soon as well then.

I felt it was best to jump on the opportunity to come up with a plan, it seemed to be a welcome distraction for Berry too. “What? Like the Lake District? How’s that gonna help us find Discord?”

Berry nodded and launched into her plan with enthusiasm. “This is why we’ll need supplies. Chargers, battery packs, something like a portable generator so we can keep a laptop running to keep in touch with current events, or research a way to get home to Equestria.”

All sensible I suppose, but I still felt compelled to ask the burning question… “Stupid question Berry, but if we find a way back to Equestria… should we even be going after him? Discord, I mean.”

“Don’t tell me you’re not after some payback. He’s going to be wearing his own arse as a hat once I’m through with him!” Berry was seemingly oblivious to the vast gulf in power separating a malevolent god of chaos, and two ponies with neither wings, nor magic, but it was nice to see her optimistic. With this in mind, I decided to keep the tone upbeat.

I tapped my chin in mock thought. “Well I just woke up without my dick, and I’m feeling a little emotionally fragile, so give me about twenty minutes, and I should be ready to start entertaining unlikely revenge fantasies” I stuck my tongue out to punctuate my joke.

“Oh? You’re all mare now? Welcome back to the sisterhood!” Berry shocked me by pulling me into a hug. It was more than I thought I could hope for, this conversation had started with a haymaker, and harsh words.

“Thanks. Anything change while I was gone?” I Hugged back in relief.

Berry chuckled. “Well, we’re a lot more into shoes than we used to be…” She broke the hug to look me up and down, her gaze stopping at my hooves. “Uh… sucks to be you, I guess?” Her infectious mischievous smile was back, and its warmth was such a comfort.

“Dare I ask, but… What just happened to angry Berry?” I felt compelled to ask. This change in her attitude was too jarring, I needed to know where we stood.

Berry’s expression hardened, “Don’t think for a second that I’m not pissed at you, you’d be deluding yourself, but if I have to work with you, might as well joke with you too.” It was fair enough. More than I could hope for anyway.

I came to a realisation. I had woken upset at my revelations from my dream, and switching my gender. As soon as I thought I was about to lose a friend in Berry though, those things became inconsequential. Berry yelling at me seemed to be the best way for me to forget my other problems, and keep a hold of my only remaining friend. We need each other more than ever. There’s no one else we can rely on.

My mind returns to the more pressing matters at hand. “Hmm… What do we do about shopping for supplies? The ears and tails we could hide, but the hooves are a bit of a giveaway.”

Berry’s grin is a dangerously mischievous one. “Thought you’d never ask. How do you feel about a little harmless burglary?”


“Ok, ready for this?” Berry enquired as she unclipped her seatbelt and tested her flashlight once more.

“Nope, but I’m geared up if that’s what you’re asking.” I turned the package in my hands over once more. No leaks, duct tape seems to do wonders. This seems to be using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, but berry was insistent we make sure we’ll definitely be able to gain entry this way.

Berry pocketed her flashlight, and grabbed a pair of bags from the back seat. “Good enough. So go over our plan once more?” she scanned the street at the storefront. This shop had an extensive camping section. We had agreed it would be best to make sure we had all the necessary survival gear, as we’d already stocked up on a lot of food from earlier.

“Buck up a Burglary, Get arrested, Become pony, be prodded for science.” I had voiced my scepticism of the likelihood of success already, but once more couldn’t hurt.

“Such an optimist. But seriously, the plan. I wanna make sure you know what you’re doing.” Berry deadpanned, a little impatience creeping into her voice. Glancing to her watch, indicating the time is quarter to four in the morning.

“After getting the door open, I Stay by the storefront, keep an eye out for anyone who may be onto us, and ferry the goods over to the boot as you bring ‘em out.” I couldn’t easily forget. There’s no substance to this plan, no contingencies, we’re just breaking and entering.

“Exactly, it’s idiot proof!” Berry nodded eagerly, surveying the empty street once more before exiting the car.

I follow suit and hiss my reply to Berry. “It’s ham-fisted, ill prepared, and it’s going to get us arrested, Berry. We’re taking ideas from a Damn TV series for Bucks sake!” I wave the package in my hand. I know this naysaying wasn’t productive, but nervousness was getting the better of me.

“Correction, we’re taking ideas from an awesome TV series. Besides, we don’t have a day to play around with, and we couldn’t case the interior during normal hours looking like this anyway.” Berry was right, it was now or never, and we had no time to prepare. It still didn’t make me any less concerned.

I sighed in resignation, “Ok, let’s get this done as quickly as possible then” I approach the storefront to inspect the door, before turning to watch the street to cover Berry.

Berry pulled out her flashlight and ran it down the crack in the door to inspect for bolts. “Right, looks like this is the only lock, get set up, I’ll keep my eyes peeled”

I got to work and fixed my pack over the lock. A benefit of having my ID card work for the school doors all year round meant that I was able to walk straight into a deserted school lab and help myself to Magnesium ribbon, Aluminium powder, and Iron oxide. “Ok, it’s set. May want to stand back for this, it’s about to get a little exothermic over here.” I pierced the pack and inserted a magnesium fuse. The ribbon took to the lighter with a brilliant white flame. Time to book it, I retreated down the street to Berry, checking up and down for passers-by as I went.

Berry wasn’t interested in keeping a lookout, instead transfixed with the Thermite mix we had acquired as it melted through the lock. “Woo! That was awesome! So much cooler than using safe quantities at school.” I winced at the exclamation, but I suppose it was less conspicuous than the Thermite. “We displaced the crap outta that Iron!”

“Just get a move on and grab the supplies Berry, we’re on the clock now if we assume there’s a silent alarm.” I gave berry a gentle nudge and take a position just inside the storefront where I can keep hidden if necessary.

I started my stopwatch. I couldn’t find any figures on average police response times to burglaries, but I thought it would be safe to say if we stayed longer than five minutes, we would be pressing our luck. We couldn’t afford to be spotted despite Berry insisting our half transformed state was a boon, as we would be unrecognisable by tomorrow.

Berry returned to the storefront with a portable 720KW Diesel Generator. I checked my watch, it read 2:38. “We need to hurry, Berry, two more minutes and out, ok?”

Berry Snorted “Wishful thinking. They don’t put all the good stuff in the same place, you know?” She turned to hurry off, calling back over her shoulder “Just get that loaded up, ok?”

I Picked up the generator. Strange, it was lighter than I thought it would be, or am I getting stronger? A quick check of the store exterior confirmed the coast was still clear. I made my way over to the car and popped open the boot. Watching the back of the car dip under the weight of the generator as I placed it inside. “Ok, definitely getting stronger. I’d still take wings or a magic horn any day of the week.” As I made my way back inside the storefront, I became aware of the sound of my hooves striking the tarmac, not good, we were making too much noise.

I glanced to my watch once more, 4:08 “Hurry up Berry!” the wait was really beginning to fuel my anxiety.
Berry trotted into view complete with a pair of filled backpacks “One more trip Cheerilee, get these loaded and start up the engine, I won’t be a minute.” Berry handed over the packs and disappeared at speed.

I stalked back outside to the car, wincing each time my hoof struck the pavement. In spite of my unease, I was daring to believe we might just get away with this… there was still no sign of the police. Was there no silent alarm after all? I quietly loaded up the car and made my way into the driver’s seat. Taking another cautious scan of the storefront and the street, there was no movement at all. I shrugged and decided to not press my luck, I settled into the seat and started up the car, willing in futility for the engine to turn over more quietly.

Pulling up to the store, the seconds drip by at an agonising, glacial crawl. Where was Berry? My heart was going a mile a minute, the longer I waited, more and more I felt we would fall at the final hurdle.

Berry finally trotted into view. I hurriedly pulled up by the storefront as Berry bundled her packs and herself into the backseat of my car “Ok, we’re good, but stay calm, don’t drive too fast.”

I pulled out into the street and accelerated away at a decent pace. “Unless you have the Dead Sea scrolls in that bag, I think the amount of time we spent in there was overkill. What took you so long?”

Berry rolled her eyes in the rear view mirror. “We only had one shot, I had to make sure I had everything we needed. Cheer up! We got away with it!”

I gripped the steering wheel in frustration “Berry there is no way this is not going to come back and bite us! There must have been some CCTV we got picked up on”

Berry flashed a mischievous grin “Oh? So they’ll be looking for two girls with hooves and tails? Guess what, we won’t fit that description tomorrow. All that CCTV going to do is confuse the hell out of the authorities!” Berry leaned back into her seat with an overwhelming sigh of satisfaction “We’re off scot free, just drive casual.”


The glow of a computer monitor was the only illumination in the room, casting the figure leaned into the monitor limiting the amount of light that spilled into the main body of the living space. Empty takeaway boxes, drinks cans, and mugs marked the dwelling as belonging to someone who doesn’t get out much, relying on the computer as a link to the outside world. The excited clack of keys barely audible over the high powered cooling systems running the desktops. “Ben! Get in here! I think we have a winner!”

Grumbles of protest precede the approach of a figure into the doorway, the hallway light spills into the room as the door opens. “It’s four thirty in the morning. Why the hell are you up at four thirty… more important still, why am I up at four thirty?”

“Oh grow a pair and check this out.” The figure at the desktop takes a sip of an energy drink, soon to be added to the substantial pile of empty cans. “I told you that someone halfway transformed was likely going to do something stupid, so I’ve been racking my brains on what their likely moves would be. Lo and behold, Cheerilee and Berry punch just robbed a buckload of camping supplies” the monitor showed two unusual, almost alien figures breaking into a store using something that liked like a Thermite charge “someone’s been watching too much breaking bad!” the tone was both excited and amused.

“Cheerilee? Berry Punch?” the new arrival breaks from the doorway to stand by the desktop monitor, squinting at the screen.

Bouncing in the seat in excitement, the other figure continues. “Well, I can’t be certain on the camera footage, since its night vision and black and white, but it certainly looks like them…”

“Ok, Cheerilee I think I remember you showing me, but who the hell is Berry Punch?” The tone of response was part confusion, part indifference through fatigue.

She’s a background character. Seriously dude, learn to pony!” Shutting down the desktop, the figure grabs a bulky laptop carry case. “Grab your gear, we’re going mobile!”

This announcement was met with an exasperated groan “Can’t this wait until a more social hour?”

A chuckle escapes the tech-savvy figure “Heh, let’s think about that for a second…” a bright flash illuminates the room, before receding to a gentle, warm glow at the tip of a conical horn. “Well, in broad daylight, you’d stick out a bit, and I don’t think you could pass for a cosplayer. I thought you’d appreciate the idea of a night-op, Streaky.”

The now illuminated man flinched at the term of address. “It’s Ben dammit! You don’t hear me using your dumb alias!” A pair of powder blue wings twitched behind him in irritation.

The newly revealed horned computer geek huffed in response, “Yeah and I really wish you would use it… anyway, we’ve got some girls to help out. They’ve got no magic, no flight, and would have just alerted the police to their existence if I hadn’t intercepted that silent alarm like a hyper tech-ninja!” he struck a suitably goofy, attempting to be heroic pose, flicking his greyish blue hair out of his face. “Comet Tail and Lightning Streak white-knight duo, away!”

“…You’re a bucking idiot, Lex…”