Bedbound (And Beyond)

by Cackling Moron

First published

Freshly-arrived human in a state of some disrepair is tended to by local deity.

A human, having suffered due to the mysterious means of his transmission from one world to another, is stuck in bed recovering from his injures. While a little alarmed to find that the one looking after him is not human herself, he can't do much about it.

It helps that - as he finds - she's also rather good company.

We're bedbound - we aim for the sun

View Online

Never in my life had I felt quite so fucked up.

I didn’t even have the common decency to remember what had happened, either. Neither a distant nor dim memory of a night out gone too heavy. No recollection of anything dangerous I might have been doing. I had nothing.

Groping back through my memories I came up with even more nothing. I was vaguely aware of who I was, but only in a general sense. I knew I existed, but beyond that not a whimper. Even a name was elusive.

I probably should have been more worried about that, but it was difficult to care about such comparatively small details when everything you did or were hurt.

Breathing was uncomfortable, air rasping every way into the body it could find. Swallowing hurt, my throat being parched. Wiggling my toes made me convinced that each and every one of them was recently shattered and only now healing or, at best, all individually stubbed. Likewise, flexing my fingers produced much the same painful effect, only in my hands. So I stopped doing it.

Looking around was particularly painful, as whatever bed I had been put into - while comfortable, I’ll admit - was directly facing a window and through this window was shining the sun. Being put into a bed at all was nice, yes, but gazing directly into the screaming face of the sun itself was not quite as nice. There was not even a net curtain to shield me. It was blinding.

Pleasantly warm, but blinding.

Couldn’t even raise a hand to shield my eyes as my arms didn’t seem to want to go through the effort and instead hung limp and weak by my sides. When I really, really tried to move my arms they flopped away from me and hurt. So at least that was consistent.

The light continued to be blinding. My eyelids could only do so much, and the piercing sunshine was making the pounding that filled my head - which seemed to have already been exacerbated by all the thinking I’d tried to do - worse.

I had to turn my head away instead, and keep my eyes closed. My neck protested in very strong terms, but needs must.

Propped up, I sat like this for a while. The room was very quiet.

Who had propped me up? I did not know. It seemed extremely unlikely given my barely-holding-together state that I’d done it myself. Presumably whoever had put me in the nice comfy bed had been kind enough to do it for me. I would thank them, I thought. I had the feeling it was the polite thing to do.

“Oh! You’re awake!”

A voice. A very definitely female voice, though not one I recognised. Or maybe I did and I just couldn’t remember. Could have gone either way.

A nice voice, certainly.

I cracked an eye to see if I might spot who it was but the blinding light made this impossible. I got the merest, briefest hint of someone moving by the foot of the bed and heard footfalls muffled by thick carpet, but that was it. None of this told me anything.

Not that I could have done much about it even if it had.

“That’s me. Awake,” I said. I sounded hoarse and three words was enough to set me coughing, coughing enough to send delightful stabs of pain tinkling up and down my ribs. I screwed my eyes shut and clutched at the sheets - such soft sheets! Almost a shame to clutch them so - and was so distracted coughing I barely even noticed the straw being proffered to my lips.

It could have been anything, but, really, at a time like that I felt like taking my chances. And so I drank. Cool, refreshing water. I must have drained whatever it was as I was quickly sucking down nothing but air and the straw withdrew.

My chest throbbed and my sides ached and my fingers were a veritable cheeseboard of pain following my rash decision to clench them, but the water had still been a godsend. I sighed happily and settled back. The little things were always appreciated.

“Better?” I heard the voice of my unknown guest ask.

Feeling it best not to try and speak for a little while given what had just happened I nodded and hummed instead.

“Good,” she said.

I don’t know a lot about voices, I’m not an expert. But even in my sorry state I knew that I rather liked this one. It was pleasant and oddly soothing. I kind of hoped she would keep talking so I might keep listening, but she seemed content to be quiet after this.

Again I tried to take a peek and again was stymied by the sun. Hissing, I turned my head away once more. My eyes were watering now, after-images refusing to fade away.

“I’m sorry, is it too bright?” She asked. I nodded.

“Just a tad,” I about managed to croak. No coughs came this time, much to my relief.

My guest giggled. Somehow, the sound entered my ears and seemed to bypass my brain entirely, much preferring to instead travel up and down the length of my spine. I tingled. Tingling was much, much better than aching and throbbing.

Generally speaking…

There was the sound of fabric shifting as curtains were drawn and I could see the light level dropping, hopefully to somewhere more comfortable. I had another little peek, and this time wasn’t immediately forced to close my eyes again.

The after-images did make picking out the details hard though. A great, white blob was sat right in the middle of my vision, leaving me able to sort of half-peek at what was around it, and even then not in enough detail to get a proper impression.

What I could see looked opulent, expensive. How I knew this was unclear, but I did. Rich carpet, fancy sideboards, shiny looking artistic bollocks to sit on the top of the sideboards. All very luxurious. The bed, were I able to get a proper look, would probably be fancy too. Just a guess.

“Better?” She asked. I could see her moving, sort of, but with the mere edges of what I was left to work with I couldn’t make out much more than the fact she was there, and I knew that anyway. I nodded and hummed again, swallowing. My throat hurt less.

“I couldn’t-” I started to say, but I only got that far before the coughing came again. Not as bad this time, but enough to stop me in my tracks. At least I got more water out of it, which was something, especially since what I’d been meaning to ask was for more water anyway.

I slurped it down and decided that from here on out I’d stick to single words, at most.

My mysterious, lovely-sounding caretaker - possibly captor? Remained to be seen - came padding around the side of the bed. I’d given up trying to see what she looked like. My eyes were blurrier now after the coughing and, really, the experience of hearing her speak while I just lay back with my eyes closed was nice enough to justify itself.

“I’m going to ask you some yes or no questions, okay? Nothing serious, don’t worry, I just want to try and learn a little bit more about you. Just nod if it’s yes, okay?” She asked.

I nodded.

I had the hang of this already.

“You have the hang of this already,” she said. I could practically hear the smile on that one.

Nailed it.

“Okay: Do you know where you are?”

Pretty easy question. I didn’t have the foggiest idea where I was. I shook my head.

“Do you know how you got here?”

Easy again! If I didn’t know where I was how was I meant to know how I’d got there? Another shake.

“Alright. Do you know who I am?”

I must just have been really good at yes or not questions because these were all so easy. She could have been anyone. More head shaking. I was bursting with confidence.

“Do you know who you are?”


Now that was harder. I had to think about that one.

I had to be someone, surely? And isn’t knowing who you are a pretty basic thing? Doesn’t everyone know who they are? So why didn’t I? I knew I was a man, that much was certain. And a man has a name, doesn’t he? So what was mine?

Nothing. I had nothing.

I shook my head, but this time I didn’t feel so happy with myself about it.

“That’s okay. You were in such a state when I found that you that you’re lucky to be alive at all. I’m sure it’ll come back once you’re feeling better.”

I wasn’t sure about this but I trusted her implicitly. If she said so, I’d believe it.

“Can you open your eyes for me?” She asked.

My initial answer would have been ‘no’, but she’d asked me so damn nicely I just that I didn’t really have a choice. I peeked and saw blurry nothingness. There was a blobby outline there that might have been her, but could have been something else. I could also see something sort of rippling. Curtain, maybe? Couldn’t feel a breeze. Weird.

And why would it be so close? Real weird.

“Little bit more, I know you can do it,” she said.

And hell, if she said so what was there to stop me?

I opened my eyes properly and blinked. Still watery and still blurry, but clearing up the more I blinked. Without the sunlight and with that afterimage all-but gone I could see properly! Could see the luxurious room! The alarmingly big bed!

The thing sat next to me, smiling at me.


White face. Fur Fuzzy. Lightly fuzzy. Big, big eyes. Big billowy sparkly rainbow hair. Colours unclear. Long face. Muzzle? Four legs. Four legs?

There was a problem here. What was it?

Oh yes, that was it.

“You are not human,” I said, flatly. Rationally speaking I could see this was the case, and it seemed obvious. Irrationally, a bit in my brain started screaming at me, but didn’t tell me why it was doing it. The effect was enough to keep me frozen though.

The screaming in my head just gave me the general impression that things that were not human should not be talking. Least of all horses. Which is what this was. I knew that now. It came back to me.

“You are a horse,” I said, equally flatly. I then clapped eyes onto the long, long horn jutting from this particular horse’s head and another fact floated into my awareness. “A unicorn.”

Then I saw wings.

“You’re a peg - pega - fuck, pegasus?”

That took me a bit of effort to actually bring forth.

Throughout all of this it - she? - just kept smiling pleasantly at me, apparently content to let me blunder through whatever I could remember. I was out though.

Horse, unicorn and pegasus were all I got from looking at her. What any of them really meant to me wasn’t as obvious. They sat there in my brain and there were a few details about them that presented themselves proudly to me, but I didn’t know what to do with any of it.

Horses shouldn’t talk. That was a fact. I knew that. But she must have done. Unless someone was hiding behind her. That seemed like a lot of work for someone to go through. Unlikely? Possible though.

She was still smiling. It a nice smile - I knew this, too - but somehow that just made the screaming in my head worse the more I looked at it, so I looked away. Something about how horses should not be able to smile. I looked at my lap instead, as it seemed a safe enough place to keep my eyes.

“I feel uncomfortable and I do not know why,” I said apologetically. There was a flicker and a ruffling as she shifted in position, but I couldn’t see her do it.

“Is it my fault?” She asked, plainly concerned.

It was odd. If I kept her out of view and made it so that all I heard was her voice, the screaming lessened. I felt legitimately soothed if I kept things that way. This seemed unfair on her somehow. Not her fault she was a horse. Or three types of horse-like thing all at once.

“No, no it’s probably mine. Somehow,” I said, looking at my hands. They looked bruised. I appeared to be missing a fingernail. Ouch.

“Are you a human?” She asked.

“Sorry what?”

“You said I wasn’t one. Were you expecting one? Is that what you are?”

A good question. A quick mental check. Yes, yes, pretty sure a human was what I was. I was looking down at my hands, after all. If I were a horse - and, hey, if a talking horse is sat next to me maybe being a horse is normal - I wouldn’t have hands. Conclusion: human. Probably.

“Uh, yes. I’m fairly certain.”

At this point, all the talking I’d been doing caught up with me and my throat dried once more. I could feel the coughing building up somewhere South of my chest and fought to hold it back, but to no avail.

I coughed with such force I managed to shift the covers off of myself, and when I sensed - felt more than saw - my bedside-buddy moving in to do something about this I panicked. Some hellish combination of the irrational, screaming terror in my head, the coughing and my earnest desire to do things for myself all conspired to somehow see me launching out of the bed and landing on the floor.

This hurt. This hurt so much I lost about a second or two, and by the time everything stopped being white I was in the air and I could hear something twinkling.

“You have to be careful,” she said, striking a good balance between concerned and scolding as I was lowered back into bed and the covers replaced. How that had happened I did not know, as my eyes had watered up again and I could see nothing.

I turned to her. For some reason it was easier looking at her when she was an indistinct shape. Made it easier to forget that she was, you know, not a human. Which was bad. I was pretty sure that was bad. Pretty sure I should have known the reasons why.

“I’m not in a good way, am I?” I asked, holding very still.

“No,” she said. “You were very close to death when we found you, and for a while we weren’t even sure you’d wake up at all. We’re very glad that you did, though.”

The royal ‘we’? Or were there more horses lurking nearby? Biding their time?

I considered what she’d said to me. About having been near death.

“Shouldn’t I be in a…”

I felt around for the word. I knew I knew it. I could feel it in my head. It was so close. I could see everything about it, knew exactly what it was I was going for. Gritting my teeth I made a final mental leap and then it popped up, unbidden.

It was like coming up for air. Bliss.

“Hospital! That’s the one. Hospital. Shouldn't I be in a hospital? Assuming you, uh, have them? Being all…?”

Did horses have hospitals? Something told me no, but that same something also told me that they shouldn't be talking, either, so maybe these ones worked by different rules to whatever that something was familiar with.

Best to assume nothing, for now.

She giggled again and again my spine responded more than my brain did. In fact, this giggle seemed to reach other parts of my body, and those tingled too. This seemed like a good thing, but not the sort of thing I should tell her was happening. I had an idea she might take it the wrong way.

If nothing else, the giggling made me feel much about about being at death’s door. If she could giggle about it then surely it couldn’t be all that bad.


“You’re in no condition to be moved right now, I’m afraid. I had doctors come to you. You are stable though, so don’t worry. Just delicate. It was felt best that you remain here.”

I’m not a doctor, so if a doctor had considered the situation acceptable then far be it from me to go poking holes. I had a nice bed, I was sound.

“Well I’m not complaining,” I said, luxuriating under the covers. Then I froze. “This isn’t your bed, is it?”

Yet more giggling. I was rapidly coming to be very fond of that noise.

“No, it isn’t. I can have you moved there if you feel up to it?”

No idea what to make of that.

“Here is good. I just, uh, just wouldn’t like to think of you giving up your bed for me, is all.”

“Very sweet of you.”

“S’just polite…”

My vision was clearing up by that point, so I found myself looking again into that face. Smiling face. I twigged at last that the rippling I’d seen was, in fact, her sparkly rainbow hair. Though on a horse isn’t that called something else?

Whatever it was called the thing was voluminous. And so sparkly! I found myself staring. So much so she clearly noticed, turning her head a little so I got a better look. This made me blush, and so I turned away, even if my neck protested from having to move.

That horrible, incoherent, wordless, squirming terror that was gnawing at my skull and dribbling down to my guts was clearing up the more my thoughts started getting back into line. I was starting to understand a little more why having a big, smiling, talking horse with rainbow hair standing next to my bed was cause for concern.

“Uh,” I said, unsure of how to broach the subject. “I am, ah, confused. And concerned.”

“Is it anything I can help you with?” She asked.

“Uh, no. Well, maybe. You see, horses shouldn’ you are. And this - this is a source of some confusion. To me. I don’t know if I’m in the wrong place or if I’ve been...wrong thoughts. I am confused.”

The look on her face was far too polite and thoughtful given the nonsense I’d just spouted.

“Well I can help you a little bit with that. I am not a horse. I am an alicorn,” she said.

This did not help me in the least.


“What does talk, that you know of?”

This I thought about. The answer was immediate and obvious in my mind so I had to double-check to make sure I wasn’t missing something.

“...just humans.”

In broad terms. I felt it best not to get into questions of sign language and mimicry among anything non-human because, really, who had the time?

She seemed slightly taken aback by this revelation.

“In your world, it is only the humans who can talk? Nothing else at all? What species do you share your world with?”

“Lots, I wouldn’t know where to sta- wait, back up. My world?”

There is a tendency to assume that, in a weird situation, it’s everything else that is at fault and out of place. It’s that irritating little habit to always put yourself at the centre of everything. Up until this point, I’d assumed that I was fine, and that my horse - alicorn, rather, whatever that meant - friend, the bed, the fancy-pants room and everything else was what was being weird.

Everything else needed to explain itself to me. I was fine, you see? I had the right to be here.

But on her saying that, I felt a shiver of doubt. I didn’t like it one bit.

She seemed to notice this, as her smile softened and she looked, again, concerned. This time vering on deeply concerned.

“What is the name of your world?”

“Earth. I guess?”

To my immediate alarm the bed slid forward across the floor and tilted upwards. As this took me towards the window I felt I had good reason to be alarmed.

“It’s alright,” she said, trotting alongside as the bed moved. “I’ve got you.”

This was reassuring, but not wholly reassuring enough for me to feel totally comfortable about being in a bed that was lifting off the floor for no obvious reason. That, and the odd glowy field suddenly surrounding me was a bit worrying, too.

But then I looked out the window. At which point I stopped worrying. Stopped thinking much of anything, in fact.

“This is Equestria,” I heard a voice say, though it sounded like it was coming from a long way off.

I then fainted.

We're bedbound - collecting the stars

View Online

When I was cogent again, I was alone.

I was still in the fancy room though. Took me a couple seconds to properly run through what that meant and when I’d got it I felt pretty unhappy.

Not that I was going to pretend to have a clue what any of it meant. But I didn’t really need to know the details. I just needed to know that something very strange had apparently happened to me with no obvious explanation as to why. What was I meant to do about it?


Though at that moment I couldn't do anything at all anyway, being bed-bound and feeble, so the point was pretty moot. I tried to get out of bed, mainly just to see if I could, but I got nowhere and very nearly ended up falling out onto the floor again, so I packed it in.

I ended up just waiting, glaring into space. Would have twiddle my thumbs but they were too stiff to twiddle.

At least the sun wasn’t in my eyes anymore.

The bed had been moved back to where it had been before all the floating and tipping and while there was a handy-dandy jug of water on the table to the side I couldn’t reach far enough or steadily enough to do anything about it so, when I wasn’t glaring into space, I was glaring at the water, willing it to jump up into my mouth.

The water stubbornly refused to do this, and I continued to be thirsty.

After what felt like hours I heard the door open and flinched. There came the sound of hard clattering on tile, quickly then muffled by whatever carpet was laid down. Then my big, rainbow-haired friend was back again.

“You fainted,” she said.

“You noticed that?” I asked. Then I felt mean. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. How do you feel?”

“Better. I couldn’t - could you pass me the jug, please?”

I held a hand out - which pleased me greatly, as my arms seemed to be starting to respond to me now - but rather than passing me the jug proper the horse-lady just poured out a glass and handed me that instead.

This she did without touching anything. That long, long horn of hers glowed a bit and then some of those strange glowy fields appeared about the jug and the cup as they moved around but that was that.

I was not going to ask about that. I was going to ignore it and pretend it never happened. If she wanted to have a way of doing things without having to smash things to bits with her hooves that was her lookout. I wasn’t getting involved.

I had my water, I was happy.

“Thank you,” I said, sipping.

“You’re welcome,” she said.

And then we were both quiet. Once my glass was empty I held it in both hands, rotating it slowly, considering, staring into the bottom of it.

Before too long I was forced to ask the question that had been burning away inside my mind:

“Did you - is this place really called Equestria?”


Damn. Thought I’d imagined that part.

“And you’re a hor- Alicor- fuck it, you’re a horse, damnit. A magic flying pointy horse but still a horse. And the place is called Equestria?”


“Is that the name of the whole place, or just the fancy city I saw outside?”

“The whole place. The city is called Canterlot.”

I stopped rotating the glass and looked up. Her eyes were huge.

“...I’m sorry could you run that by me again?” I asked.

Looking at her, I got the distinct impression she was doing her best not to laugh at me.


“Like Camelot? But with horses?”

“I’ve never heard of Camelot but if that helps you then yes.”

Chewed that one over for a second, then:

“Can I faint again? Please?”

She actually did laugh at that one, albeit lightly, hoof held up to her face all dainty-like. She had gold stuff on her hoof, I saw, to compliment the rest of the swag she was dripping in. Certainly the most fabulous rainbow horse I’d ever seen in my life.

Not that I’d ever seen many, obviously, but still.

“I could have you sedated but I think it might hinder your recovery. The sooner you’re up and feeling better the sooner we might find out more of how you came to be here.”

This did sound like an inviting prospect, and the way she said it made it sound actively tantalising. Though that might just have been her voice. Really was starting to like her voice quite a bit.

Which reminded me of something.

“You know, I don’t think I caught your name at any point during all this,” I said.


Given I’d been braced for another horse-based pun this was actually quite refreshing.

“Oh,” I said.

“Oh?” She asked, eyebrow raised.

“Not bad oh. Sorry. That’s quite nice, actually.”

Another giggle on her part. If I was growing to like her voice I was growing to love those.

“Thank you. My parents thought so too.”

“Well that’s always helpful.”

Further quiet. I strained to try and put the glass back on the table but had so much trouble that Celestia took pity and did it for me with more of he glowing magical stuff.

“Thanks,” I said.

That got me thinking though, this casual telekinesis. She’d lifted the bed before, too, I was fairly certain. So not only a talking horse but a talking horse that had magical control of mind over matter.

This made more nervous than I was comfortable admitting, even to myself.

“So magic, huh?” I asked.


“Not something we have back home. That just normal around here?”

On reflection this was a bit of a silly question to be asking a talking horse, but too late. She took it with good grace, smiling politely at what was likely a very embarrassing thing for her to have heard.

“Quite normal. And when you say it’s not something you have, do you mean at all?” She asked.

“Yep, not a whisper. Much to the disappointment of many, I’m sure. No, we’re a materialist bunch where I’m from. Well, mainly. You’ll find people who’ll argue at length about the particulars but mainly things are pretty straightforward. Earth goes around the sun and all that.”

Celestia cocked an eyebrow.

“Is that so?”

The way she said this stopped me before I could say anything else. Couldn’t quite put my finger on why, though.

“I feel like I’m missing something here,” I siad.

“Oh no, nothing. I’m just interested.”

“You’re a magic hor- alicorn - and you’re the one interested in me?”

I’d caught myself that time and she seemed to appreciate it, which made me feel pretty good, though she did tilt her head at me a little once I’d finished speaking.

“You’re an alien,” she said. “Forgive me for being interested in a visitor from a world entirely unlike my own.”

I hadn’t thought about it from that way.

“Well when you put it like that…”

Radiating low-key triumph, Celestia sat herself down by my bedside and then, to my surprise, laid her head on the bed itself. It was about the right level to let her do this and still keep eye-contact with me and converse comfortably, though why she’d do it I had no idea.

Her face touched my leg through the covers.

And I flinched.

I hadn’t meant to. It had been unconscious. But it had been obvious enough that she’d noticed and paused, looking up at me.

“I don’t have to get so close, if you’d prefer?”

“No, no it’s fine. Sorry. Don’t know what that was. Just, ah, happened. Sorry.”

What unconscious nonsense was this? Here was Celestia - and I did actually rather like that name - being wonderfully pleasant company and then there was me, flinching when she got a little close!

So what if she wasn’t human? That was no reason to recoil. Think brain, think, don’t let these reflexes make you look bad!

To my horror she started pulling away, smile gone.

“No no! Really! It’s fine! Ignore me! Just a, uh, you know, injury thing. Yeah, you touched a sore sport. It’s fine. Stay there. Really.”

She was wavering, uncertain, eyeing me.

“Please?” I added.

That seemed to clinch it, and she settled back. This time I did not flinch. This was good.

As a rule I’m not a huge fan of proximity. If people want to be near me I’d rather they did it for as little time as possible. If they could do it without touching me that was better. But I did not want to insult the hospitality I had been - and was still being - shown. If this was how Celestia operated then I could tolerate it. The least I could do for her.

And, really, it wasn’t that bad.

“What else can you tell me?” She asked.

“About what? Earth?”

She nodded as best she could with her head where it was.

“Uh...I’m not sure where to start,” I said, suddenly acutely aware of what an odd situation I found myself in, trying to pick a topic to do with my home planet to a quadrupedal, magical, winged, talking thing that looked like a horse but was maybe not really a horse.

And which was also looking after me, a human, after I apparently arrived out of nowhere heavily injured. Couldn't forget that part.

Running through what my situation actually was I thought I must be in some kind of shock to be so easily able to roll with it all.

Celestia, for her part, looked unconcerned and made some sweeping gesture with one of her wings. The way she was able to move them was alarming. Not very much like any kind of wing I was familiar with. She could probably pick a lock with the damn thing if she wanted.

“Tell me something mundane.”

“Mundane, huh?”

I scratched my head and cast around for something that fitted the bill. The consistency of what I had in my head was patchy at best, but my options were still pretty overwhelming. Most of my life had been mundane, or at least so much of it that even severe memory loss left me with lots to choose from.

So for the sake of simplicity I told her about the last full day of mine that I could clearly remember, which just-so happened to have been a Monday. Not sure if that added anything, but it felt like it did.

There was absolutely nothing interesting about the day in question. I wasn’t even sure how long ago it was, it was just the last day I could remember in detail. A perfectly, painfully ordinary Monday. Drizzling, grey. The commute to work. Someone drove through a puddle and got me - that was unusual and dickish, but hardly fantastic. Just a little spice to the story.

She’d been quite indignant on my behalf, which I’d appreciated.

And so it went from there. Even with my touch-and-go recollection I knew that this was a painfully dull day. All through it though Celestia listened with rapt attention, seemingly becoming more engrossed with every trivial detail I brought up. She leant in closer, scooching around on the floor and laying her head properly alongside my leg, eyes peering up. Her horn was now worryingly close, but felt it rude to comment on this.

Never have I ever had anyone listen to me so earnestly or for long so. I wasn’t sure what to do. Normally a few sentences into me talking about my day I can see eyes start to glaze over. Celestia looked like she was having the time of her life, which was quite motivating at least.

And, where she’d ended up, I was also having to fight the serious urge to scratch her behind the ears. I had no idea where the thought had come from, but I’d just noticed that they flickered every so often while she listened and then there it was, this urge. Probably not a good thing to do, I imagined.

In the end I just focussed on the point of her horn to keep from looking at them. This seemed to work.

Eventually I just ran out of things to say.

“-and then I, uh, went to bed. And that was about it. Sorry if I was rambling there. Not very interesting, I know.”

Now that I was out of full flow I felt a little sheepish about having spoken for so long and about so little to something so evidently more interesting than myself. Celestia didn’t appear to mind though

“I wanted to hear about a normal day and that was what you told me about. Thank you.”

Never had I heard those two words delivered with such sincere warmth. I even got a shiver up my spine and it seemed to settle right between my shoulder blades. Shifting was uncomfortable, but I had no choice.

“Uh, think nothing of it,” I said, at which point my stomach felt the need to interject and growled more loudly than I had ever heard it do in my life. To my knowledge, at least.

“Oh my,” Celestia said, taken aback. “Hungry?”

“Apparently?” I said. It was the first I’d heard about it, but now that my insides had decided that it was so it really was so. The stabbing, gnawing kind of hunger - out of nowhere! Accursed body, why you got to do me like this?

Celestia was smiling. This was radiant.

“I can help you with that. Now, I don’t want to make assumptions but when you were examined it was suggested that your species might eat meat?”

Presumably there were signs for that sort of thing? Incisors, I guess?

“Among other things,” I said, in lieu of being able to think of anything else to say.

“Ah, so you do eat other things? That is good. I’ve had some meat ordered in, you see, though it has yet to arrive. What little stock was on hoof had spoilt, unfortunately. Mostly kept around for visitors and we have not had any in a while. Not a lot of call for it normally.”

“You don’t eat meat?” I asked.

“I’m a horse, am I not?” She asked me, giving a very fancy wings-spread kind of a bow. I had a feeling this was for mocking effect, and judging by the look on her face I was right, too.

“Hey! In my defence you’re doing a good few non-horse-like things. I don’t know how things work here…” I grumbled. Though in retrospect, I probably could have made an educated guess. “I’m an invalid, stop bullying me,” I added in further grumblings.

For this I got a pat on the head from one of her wings and another giggle. So maybe things weren’t all that bad.

“Yes you are, poor thing. Delirious, too,” she said.

I’d have folded my arms grumpily at this point, had I been able to.


“I’ll have some soup fixed for you, if you’d like?”

My stomach growled again, somehow managing to sound approving. Who knew it had such agency?

“I think that sounds about my level right now. Thank you. You don’t need to do all this for me, you know,” I said.

She fixed me with those big eyes and said:

“But I want to.”

Again, the sincerity was palpable. I could have reached out grabbed great handfuls of it, had I been able to raise my arms more than a few inches off the bed without them shaking.

“...however you get your kicks, Celestia,” I said.

Beaming, big swishy tail flicking, she turned and trotted happily out of the room, closing the door behind her.

I’m not the kind of man who would willingly allow himself to be taken care of. I am the kind of man who will frustrate everyone around me by pressing forward even as a wheezing, sneezing, aching mess, shrugging off all attempts by anyone to offer me support, succor or sympathy.

So why, exactly, was I so happy about the idea of being brought soup in bed by a horse?

I put it down to being excessively injured. Not being able to move was a very good excuse, in my book. How was I to do anything in such a state? And the throbbing in my head - which had been present but lulled throughout my whole conversation with Celestia - was making itself known again, further keeping me in place.

So really, exactly, it wasn’t my fault. I couldn’t help it. I had no choice.

I had to let myself be taken care of.

But it was by Celestia. So it wasn’t all bad. Because she was pretty damn nice. For a magical talking horse. For something that spoke and laughed like a woman while also having a horn that was a good - what? - two? Three foot long? And wings? And was a horse?

I frowned as my mind wandered back onto that. It was these two bits of me grinding painfully against one another. On the one side I had my rational self which rather liked having my injuries seen to, being placed in a comfortable bed and also having someone to talk to who sounded nice when they talked back.

On the other side was some baseline, visceral part of me that was warning me of imminent danger. Why? Because of strangeness! The unusual! Things that were as they should not be! The part of me that kept looking around for other exits and asking whether Celestia had locked the door behind her on the way out.

Not that I could have managed to get there anyway, in my state.

That gave me another pause for thought. How fucked up was I, again?

My arms were a write-off, this I knew. Resting on top of the covers I could just about stretch them out, but any attempt to raise them higher than the level of my legs, say, was a struggle. I tried, I really did, but they just wouldn’t do it. So that was something.

Legs though, legs were promising. They hurt, but they at least seemed to do what I told them. I could work with that. Lift one, hold it, then lift the other and hold that too. Agony, sure, but I was doing it. Positive!

I could work with that. If the legs worked I could make it to the door, give it a nudge. Just to check, obviously. Wasn’t going anywhere. Just proving that paranoid, fearful part of me that everything was above-board. That was all.

And getting up and about was good, right?

With all that decided I girded my loins, gritted my teeth and in one fell swoop swung my legs out of bed and promptly stacked it, falling flat on my face - which crunched - and getting tangled in the sheets.

My nose was probably broken, that I could figure out. The pain was a clue, as the blood now soaking the expensive looking rug on which my bed was sat.

“Ow,” I said, trying to push myself up. I failed. I tried to roll over. Failed that, too. Tried to wriggle forward a little and got basically nowhere. I was stuck, face-down, on the floor, in pain, making a mess.

I would have sworn, but that felt like it would have taken too much energy and concentration at that moment. Besides, my head hurt too much, so I just rested my head on the floor and went limp instead.

“Well this sucks,” I said into the rug, which I felt sure must have agreed with me.

When you’re helpless on the floor, I discovered, time passes very slowly. It’s a lot like any occasion where you have nothing to do but sit and think only you’re not sitting you’re lying on the floor with every inch of your body aching and your face hurting. So it’s worse, on the whole.

Worse, before too long I could feel the rising need to pee. If the rug hadn’t liked me before then it sure wouldn’t like me very soon.

“I wonder if Celestia will still be friendly if she comes back to find me lying in a puddle of my own piss?” I pondered aloud. That sort of thing could really change your opinion of someone, I’d found. Personally speaking. Could never really look at them the same way again.

Though a lot of it is contextual, I supposed.

Bed down, descending down to zero

View Online

In all likelihood people have probably been in worse situations than being trapped on the floor, rendered helpless by injury with a mounting need to use the facilities, waiting for their magical horse friend to come back with soup and hoping they did it before bladder failure.

But I was not one of those people. I was the guy on the floor. So I had to worry about that.

“I only have myself to blame,” I said, but this did not help me.

Trying to rise again I failed - again - and sighed.

In lieu of anything else to do - and also as a way of distracting myself - I decided to try and remember some more. This seemed a sensible idea for someone in my circumstances. What is a man but the sum of his experiences, after all, and if I could not remember any of those then who was I really? Etcetera, etcetera.

That, and when Celestia got back and got angry at me for having been a tit and fallen out of bed I could distract her with more anecdotes. There were no downsides.

And so, staring at the fancy rug, I thought deeply.

But got nowhere.

This was frustrating in a way I had not expected. Bits and pieces that should in theory have been easily there were just not. And it wasn’t even like I was experiencing voids where memories should have been, not that nagging feeling that something was just beyond my reach. It was more like there had never been anything there to start with. Which was plainly wrong.

I had a name, damnit. Somewhere.

Even when I thought back to the perfectly mundane Monday I’d told Celestia about all I found were holes and missing pieces that I’d previously glossed over without even noticing that I’d done it. Where had I commuted to, and where from? No idea. What was my job, exactly? Not a clue. What year had the Monday in question even been in? Not the foggiest.

This lack of detail and my brain’s apparent indifference to started to make me angry, which inexplicably made me try to think harder. How does one think harder? I did not know, but I tried anyway, and it just made what had been a mild throbbing in the back of my head into a much more pronounced pounding right in the front.

On the plus side I was very distracted. So much so I didn’t even hear Celestia come back in.

“Soup!” She called out, followed by a pause. “Where did you go?”

“You got a real nice rug here, you know,” I said.

Another pause, and the sound of something being set down followed by the noise of hooves - a noise which was rapidly becoming quite normal to me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw more gold expensive looking stuff. Gold horseshoes? Excessive.

“ Are you okay? What are you doing down there?” She asked, practically gasping it out. More of that glowing magical nonsense enfolded me and I found myself gently hoiked up off the floor and thence dangling in mid-air.

“Just having a look around,” I said. Technically not a complete lie.

“Are you okay?” She repeated, looking me over, as though she might be able to see if I wasn’t. Maybe she could?

“I’m fine. No worse than I was, at least.”

Which is to say I felt like shit, but that was normal for me.

“Your nose!” She gasped.

Oh yeah, I’d broken that. It still hurt, but in a dull way now, and I think it might have stopped bleeding. Maybe?

“It’s nothing, really,” I said.

“It’s broken!” She countered. She wasn’t wrong.

This was the point where I expected the telling off for having been so dumb. That didn’t happen. Instead, I was tucked into bed again, propped up and even nuzzled - to my shock.

There came again that magical glow, centered entirely around my nose this time. I heard a crunch but felt nothing, and out of nowhere Celestia somehow had a wodge of something pressed against my face to catch fresh blood. Nice of her. This she held in place for a little while, the magic still tinkling here and there.

You can fix things with magic? Fancy that! I must be pretty messed up to still feel as bad as I did!

“There you go,” Celestia said, stepping back and smiling.

All of this was lovely, obviously, but it had done nothing to diminish my desperate need to use the facilities

Things were reaching a head. Decisions had to be made. I did not want to have to tell a magical horse that I needed a slash. But I didn’t want to pee on her hooves, either.

Out of the two of those, the former seemed a little childish. So I bit the bullet.

“Celestia,” I said.

“Yes?” She said, sweetly. Far too sweetly for what was to follow.

t“You couldn’t...point me in the direction of a bathroom, could you?”

Celestia blinked.

“Oh,” she said, getting it. “Oh, oh I see.”

Boy was my face red.

As a man - no, scratch that, as a grown-ass adult - one of the things you might often find yourself taking for granted is the freedom and independence that comes from knowing that, anytime you might feel the need, you can just go to the toilet on your own. Having this taken away and being confronted with the fact that someone was going to have to help you piss was unpleasant.

Somehow, her being a magical horse made it worse. She didn’t even have hands!

Oh God, please let my arms recover before I had to do anything more than pee...

“There is an attached bathroom. Here, let me just get you up.”

I was untucked and lifted up again, carried across the room and through a smaller door - one I hadn’t given a whole lot of thought to, being as how it had been constantly out of my sight until just then, in a back corner.

Through this door was, indeed, a bathroom. And quite a sizable one at that, and also fancy. It had tiles and everything. I was with some ceremony placed onto the toilet

It was then that I got a proper appreciation of what clothing I’d been put in while I’d been out of it. Some weird, flappy, two-piece tabard-slash/tablecloth thing. It had a hole in the middle through my head went and tied at the sides. It did not look like something they used a lot, but rather something that had been put together in a hurry just for me. Unsurprising, once I thought about it. Why would a horse need one?

Maybe it really was a tablecloth?

Not that any of that mattered. It got pulled out of the way in time and Celestia was already turning by the time I’d been settled, for which I was profoundly grateful.

“I’ll give you some privacy,” she said, exiting.

As I sat, I realised how weird it was that the toilet should look so much like what I expected a toilet should look like. Maybe a little closer to the floor than I might have been used to, but other than that basically identical. It even had a normal handle. Weird. Probably best not to think about it too much.

What happened next was uneventful and routine, though I was profoundly grateful again, albeit for different reasons.

“All done?” Came Celestia’s voice through the door. I gritted my teeth. She meant well, but it was still grating. I’m a man, damnit! Grr! Tough! Don’t need people checking up on when I’ve drained the snake and so on and so forth.

We all have our crosses to bear.

“All done,” I said, defeated. “I’ll just-”

“No! Don’t get up. Wait, I’m coming in.”

And so she did, though she kept her eyes down. I was lifted up once more and the toilet was flushed for me. The less said about any of this the better.

“Didn’t want you falling over again,” she said while I hung in the air like an idiot.

“No rugs in here. Probably wise,” I said.

Now was about the time I should wash my hands, surely? Force of habit.

Before I could ask about that though Celestia looked up at me

“While we’re in here…” She said with some delicacy, casting her eyes over my shoulder. I craned my neck - something I regretted immediately and would not be trying again anytime soon - and saw a giant depression in the floor. I also saw pipes and taps. It was a bath. A very, very big bath, yes, but a bath all the same.

Took me a second or two to put it all together in my head, at which point I said:

“No. I flatly refuse.”

Pulling me close and leaning in, Celestia made a very big show of sniffing me. There was no dignity in this, but far more than in what she was suggesting.

“You smell ripe,” she said, pulling back.

She wasn’t wrong, but I was hardly going to concede that.

My stomach - again, demonstrating uncanny timing - growled again, loudly.

“That soup’ll be getting cold,” I pointed out.

She gave me the single sternest look I’d ever got in my life. Or at least as far as I was aware. Certainly, I could hardly imagine ever getting stared down quite as hard I as found myself being after that. It was like being staked out in the desert. I couldn’t even look her in the face before too long.

“Fine,” she said, breaking the horrible tension and giving me the room to look at her again. “But after you are having a bath.”

“On my own?” I ventured.

Some of the sternness returned.



Worth a shot.

Also, as an aside: how was it fair that I couldn’t remember my name but I could remember idioms? Staked out in the desert? I knew what a desert was! Argh! Memory loss! It’s just so arbitrary!

Not that any of that mattered. I got my hands washed for me - humiliating - and was hovered back out of the bathroom and back into bed - also humiliating, though nowhere near as bad as being spoon-fed soup.

“I want to make it clear that the instant I can raise my arms I’ll be doing this for myself in future,” I said between slurps.


Being watched while eating was disconcerting, though unavoidable if the one watching you was also the one feeding you. To try and break up the growing awkwardness of the arrangement - though, judging by the smile on her face I was the only one feeling it - I decided to talk between spoonfuls.

“So, what do you do when not looking after mysterious aliens? Magic hor- uh, Alicorns do have jobs, presumably?”

Another giggle. Man I loved that sound.

“Yes, we do have jobs here,” she said.

“And yours is…?”

She hesitated. Only for a split second, but it was definitely there. I decided not to call attention to it. Rude. Especially given as I had the creeping impression I was already an imposition. Best leave it.

“I work at the palace,” she said, all sign of her hesitation having vanished. Had I blinked I would have missed it and besides, I was caught off-guard by what she’d said.

“Palace?” I asked, then looking around and asking in rather more hushed tones: “This is a palace?”

“Yes,” she whispered, leaning in mock-conspiratorially, lifting a wing to shield us from imagined eavesdroppers. I appreciated this for the hamminess it represented.

Well, that would explain the fanciness I was surrounded by. Would also go some way to explaining the shiny things Celestia herself was wearing. Presumably palace employees were required to also look fancy.

“I’m - uh - you’re not going to get in trouble for having me here, are you?” I asked.

“Don’t worry, it’s fine,” she said, and from most that wouldn’t have been enough but from her it was almost completely enough, leaving only a stubborn sliver of worry. Optimal results in anyone’s book.

More soup followed. I had been so hungry that I hadn’t actually been paying particular to what kind of soup it was, but it turned out to just be some vegetable soup. Exciting stuff.

“Thank you. Again,” I said, once it was done with. I could still have probably eaten anything else anyone could have put in front of me, but my gut was no longer stabbing me, so it was a plus. Celestia’s smile was radiant.

“Better?” She asked.


“Good. You know what happens now, don’t you?”

Foolishly, I had hoped the thrill-ride of feeding me soup might have made her forget about the bath. The look on her face told me it hadn’t.

“Ugh. Again.”

I was getting used to being picked up with magic by now, which was a bit weird once I thought about it. Not much I could do though. I remained held there even as Celestia started the taps running, filling the big ol’ bath alarmingly quickly and also filling the little bathroom with steam.

With the taps turned off things were very quiet, barring the occasional drip.

“Can the tablecloth stay on?” I asked.

That got a proper laugh! Not even a giggle!

“No it can’t, sorry. Don’t worry, I’ll keep my eyes up.”

“Somehow you saying that makes it so much worse. Let’s get this over with.”

I was resigned to my fate. The fate of being seen naked by the nice magical horse lady with the pleasant voice who was for some reason making it her mission to look after me.

Someone could probably make some argument about nakedness reflecting vulnerability and a reluctance to be seen without clothes perhaps being an outward sign of some inward lack of self-esteem or...something.

Mostly I just didn’t like not wearing clothes around people. Call me idiosyncratic.

But these were extenuating circumstances. The table-cloth was duly lifted over my head and folded itself away beside the bathtub while I was lowered onto the lip, legs dipping in.

“Too hot?” She asked.

It was, actually, but I sure wasn’t telling her that.

“Perfect,” I said. I’d look like a lobster soon but hell, in for a penny.

I heard clanking and clinking and saw Celestia’s various shiny accessories joining the tablecloth. Confused for a moment I thought and reached the chilling conclusion that she was planning on actually coming into the bath with me - presumably to help clean me off.

She had magic! She could have just stood next to the bath! Are you a lunatic, woman?

“Just roll me forward into the water and leave me, I’ll manage. I can float,” I said, hurriedly but trying not to sound too rushed or panicked with it.

“You’ll drown,” she said, the tiara thing she’d had on finally settling on top of all the other bits and pieces.

“Only probably.”

“Oh you.”

And so I was lowered into that near-scalding water and Celestia followed in behind me.

One day I’d probably look back on all this and laugh. At least I hoped so. More immediately I was just glad she was behind me and I was facing away. My more embarrassing parts - though submerged at that moment - were on the front.

I decided to close my eyes and just float through whatever was going to happen, let it all pass in a haze of far too hot water and steam. Last thing I saw was a sponge being levitated. Never thought that’d be something I’d see before closing my eyes.

“Alright…” I heard Celestia say, accompanied by what I assumed were the sounds of a sponge being soaked. I stayed still, lacking much other option, and just sat there as a sponge was magically moved about my person. The experience was unique, to say the least.

“There,” Celestia said, making me jump as she was apparently far closer than I’d thought she was. “Better already.”

This gave me goosebumps. Not because of what she’d said, but because she’d said mere inches from my ear. Why this was necessary I had no idea, but my shivering was unavoidable.

“Gyah,” I said. She giggled, which just made it worse. She did not back up.

I coughed and did my best to keep the shivering to a minimum. Perhaps such closeness was part of her sponge-bathing style? I did not know. Frankly, I didn’t really want to think about it too much.

So I asked:

“Do you do this for every mysterious injured creature that rocks up here?”

“No, just you. You’re special,” she said, lightly, joking, further water rolling down me as the sponging continued.

“FIrst person to tell me that,” I joked right back.

The sponge stopped moving. I felt her pulling back, away from me.

“Hey, you alright?” I asked, trying and failing to turn, my neck far too stiff for anything like that. I was left sitting staring forward, stewing in further silence from behind.

“That can’t be true,” she said, eventually. It probably hadn’t been that long at all, but it had sure felt like a long time to me.

“What can’t be?” I asked.

“That no-pony’s said you’re special.”

Honestly, this hadn’t been the direction I’d seen this going in. I swallowed.

“Well, someone might have said it once, but not for a while.”

“Oh you poor baby!” She cried and - sponge discarded - I found myself being hugged. Wings were involved, and her delicacy was such that she managed to avoid all of my sore spots. Magical. It was very soft and very wet and not at all what I had expected to find myself in.

So to speak.

In all honesty I could have just been wrong about the special thing. There remained gaps in my memory you could have driven a lorry through. The possibility existed that someone had told me I was special every day of my life and I’d just somehow completely forgotten it.

Something told me this was unlikely, however. Just a feeling.

And none of which altered the fact that she was hugging me whilst I was nude.

“Uh, Celestia, as nice as this is I am naked.”

I honestly heard her sniffle.

“How can no-pony have ever told you that you’re special?”

This, I felt, was likely a cultural thing. It had to be. Presumably you could have found a human being who might have had a similarly distraught reaction but you would have had to have searched pretty hard to find them. Most of them time - quite rightly - the proper, correct response to this would have been a ‘And?’.

Or so I felt at least, in my bones somewhere.

Though, that said, I also felt that her unalloyed sympathy and big, warm hug were also spectacularly pleasant. I’m man enough to admit this. Though also man enough to know that naked hugs are best curtailed before everyone involved gets embarrassed.

Also - as the formerly-screaming and now just taciturn parts of my brain were keen to point out - I was being hugged by a talking horse. The delivery of this was enough to let me know that those parts of my brain felt this was inherently negative.

So I felt it was time to wrap things up.

“I’m a big boy, I can survive not being told I’m special,” I said. “And I do remain naked, Celestia.”

Somehow it did the trick that time and she disengaged, coughing quietly.

“Sorry,” she said, grabbing up the sponge from where it had floated and resuming without another word.

On numerous levels this was one of the odder experiences of my life. As far as I was aware.

From then on the conversation was sparse and limited mainly to her asking me - softly - if this or that was okay to do and warning me if water was about to go in my eyes, things like that. She even got the blood off my face. I was damn-near ready to fall asleep right there it was so relaxing.

Though I thought I could hear something from outside, too. That same clip-clopping that Celestia made when not on the fancy rug. And a voice? Hard to make out, though it did seem to be getting closer.

“-you in here? Hello? Princess Celes-”

There was a flash and a bang and all at once Celestia wasn’t behind me anymore. This wouldn’t have been so bad had her sudden - and I mean really sudden, bordering on the instantaneous - absence hadn’t created a sizable void in the water.

It had though, and this void filled in, and the act of it filling in pulled me backwards. Me being pulled backwards unbalanced me, and me being unbalanced saw me underwater.

Remarkable how quickly things like aching limbs and stiff necks become lesser issues when drowning presents itself.

Fortunately for me the big bath sloped, and while Celestia had been sort of suspending me towards the deeper end I was able to inelegantly flop and thrash my way up to the shallows, bashing just about every part of me as was possible to bash along the way but ending up with my head above water.

I then slumped against the edge, exhausted and in considerable pain. From what I could see I might also have been bleeding again, though more from scrapes than anything else.

“So relaxing, baths,” I gasped for no-one’s benefit but my own.

Celestia could teleport. I added this to the list of things I knew about her. It wasn’t a long list.

Why did she even need wings?

“Sorry about that, I had to - oh! Oh no! What happened? Oh this is my fault!”

That was all the warning I had when Celestia came back.

A whirlwind flurry of magical nonsense followed where I was turn this and that way and my various scuffs were examined and - apparently - healed. This did wonders for my headache, which is to say made it much worse. By the time I was set down on the lip of the rapidly-draining bath and wrapped in a towel I was wincing and doing my very best not to lose my lunch.

“I heard ‘princess’,” I said, seeking distraction, anything. “Was someone looking for a princess?”

“They were lost,” Celestia said quickly. So quickly I hadn’t even had time to close my mouth after speaking.

“Huh. Probably looking for one or something, right? Is there a princess around here somewhere?”

She had said the place was a palace, I just hadn’t thought about it that much. Royals may well have been in residence.

Royal horses! What a thought.

“Oh, there’s one around. One or two.”

Two! Didn’t expect that.

“She - uh, they - they nice?” I asked. Given that they were technically Celestia’s bosses - I assumed - their temperament was of some interest to me. Celestia thought about this, head tilting one way then the other.

“They have their moments,” she said. Then asking: “Are you alright?”

“Hmm, me?”

“Yes. I’m so, so sorry I left like that I just - something came up.”

I imagined that Celestia was probably still on the clock, so this was fine by me. Not like I’d died or anything. If I had, then I might have been a bit cross. As things stood, eh, these things happen. We all teleport away suddenly and without warning, leaving our injured charges to thrash around in the water on their own.


“It’s fine. And - hey - I’m clean now, at least.”

This got her smiling again, which relieved me greatly. I smiled too. Then I yawned. Being an invalid was tiring work.

“That you are. And now I think we should get you dry and put you back to bed. Unless there’s anything else you’d like to do in here?” She asked.

Nothing good could have come from remaining in the bathroom in my condition.

“Dear God no,” I said.

And I got another giggle out of her. Marvellous. I should keep a tally.

The luminous moon will take us high over ground

View Online

I was in California, obviously, the bus having taken the tunnel only moments before. The weather was sunny here, the terrain rocky.

The bus pulled into a layby and the side of it opened as it had been designed to - flipping-up gullwing style. The seats of the bus were, obviously, arranged as they might be in a stadium and faced sideway. This way myself and the others on the bus - strangers - were able to get a better view.

An ex-girlfriend of mine was also present, though I didn’t have any strong feelings about this.

Walking to the edge of the cliff - for I was off the bus now and the bus was next to a cliff, but I knew that already - I looked down at the ocean. And what a fine ocean it was, so far below.

Turning back to cross the road and return to the bus I found my path blocked by a winged, horned horse with a big billowy head of hair. Or a mane. Yes. Horses had manes. Remembered that now.

“Hello Celestia. You got small and differently coloured. Good for you,” I said. Celestia was meant to be white and maybe a little shorter than me (horn excluded), but if she wanted to shrink and be a deep midnight blue that was her prerogative.

“We - I - am not Celestia,” said Celestia. Or not-Celestia. Certainly, she didn’t sound the same.

“Oh, terribly sorry. You looked very much alike is all,” I said. Then in a moment of freezing panic clarified: “Not because you’re both horses or anything just I saw a lot of resemblance. It’s the hair. I mean mane.”

Nice save.

This horse which somehow had stars in her mane turned her towards me.

“I am Luna, Celestia’s sister,” she said.

“Ah, family resemblance then. I wasn’t that wrong! Hello. I’m, uh, actually I’m not sure about that, still. But welcome to Earth all the same! We’re in California!”

I knew this for a fact. So much so I waved my arms around.

Luna fixed me with a look that chilled me despite the sunshine. I think I preferred her sister, given the choice.

“We are not on Earth, wherever that may be. You are dreaming.”

“Huh. That so?”

I looked around. The bus was gone, but that was normal. Everything looked pretty normal to me. Still California. Still sunny. Still Earth, plainly. That I did not believe her must have been obvious as she asked:

“How did you get here?”

Easy question, easy answer.

“Took a bus. Through the tunnel.”



I hadn’t actually thought of that. And now that I did, I realised there was no why. None of it made sense. I had no idea where the tunnel had come from, or even where it had come out. The tunnel was just how I’d got here. And here was California, which I somehow knew without actually ever being told or it even being hinted at.

My head hurt.

“Ow, fuck,” I said. “Okay maybe you have a point. Is this what lucid dreaming is? Why would anyone do this, it sucks.”

Luna walked past me and looked out across the sea, which - when I did the same - looked smaller now. I could see where it ended and it was far nearer than the horizon. My dream had a bloody sky box. That was just cheap.

“Typically, it becomes more enjoyable once you exercise some control over the dream. It is, after all, constructed from you,” she said, not looking at me.

I considered this. I’d accepted that this was a dream pretty quickly, I realised, but then again once she’d mentioned it I’d just sort of known that it was. Dreams were jacked, man.

“So I can just make stuff?” I asked.

“If you have sufficient control and will, yes.”

How does one exercise willpower to exert influence on the dream world around them, anyway? Is there a muscle you flex? Is that muscle your brain?

I thought about the best donut that could possibly exist. I thought about it super-hard.

A donut appeared in my hand. This was delightful.

“Sweet, okay now I see the appeal,” I said, eating the dream-donut and enjoying all of the immediate benefits one got from eating an actual donut.

I heard the clearing of a throat. Luna was staring at me. The remains of the donut promptly puffed to nothingness.

“Ah, sorry. Miles away. Did I dream you up as well? Or is that rude to ask?”

“You did not. I am real. I have entered your dream because I wanted to ask you some questions.”

“That sounds serious. Do you do this a lot?”

Again, I was being very accepting but somehow I just knew she wasn’t stringing me along. If I stopped to think about this the pain in my head came back, so I quickly found that it was best to just roll with it.

“No. When I enter a dream it is typically to counter a nightmare or assist in introspection, often at the same time. This is...a personal matter. Of a sort.”

“Oh. Okay then.”

What did assisting in introspection mean, exactly? I’d ask later, if the opportunity arose.

Luna circled around away from the edge of the cliff to face me. Did I feel nervous with my back to a cliff, even in a dream? No. Heights were never a big thing for me. That, and the drop had shortened considerably from when I’d last looked over it, and it was now about two foot. Figure that one out.

“My sister has been distracted these last days, performing her duties with a perfunctory attitude that is most unlike her. She has also been quite secretive about how she spends her time alone. Some of her subjects are starting to talk.”

I didn’t know what to say to this, so said nothing. Apparently this was the right decision.

“What do you know of my sister?” Luna asked.

“Celestia? Uh, not a whole lot.”

This was true.

“What is she to you?” Luna pressed, now starting to circle me as I stood feeling tense.

“Friendly? She’s very nice. Looking after me. The awake-me, I mean. I’m in a bad way and can’t be moved.”

“Did she tell you that?”

“Well, yeah. I haven’t seen anyone else but her. The doctor checked me out while I was still unconscious. Or in a mini-coma or whatever happened to me.”

Details hadn’t been especially forthcoming about what state I’d been in on arrival or what had happened between then and me waking up in that bed, but what would I have done with them anyway? I assumed they were bad, and I was still alive, so who cared? Not me, that’s who.

Luna considered this quietly, pausing before turning about tail and circling me the other way. I fidgeted, because at least in my dream my body didn’t ache so much that I couldn’t fidget.

“What are you?”

Ah, these questions again.

“Human,” I said.

“You are not from Equestria?”

Ugh, that name. Still not over that. Even in my dreams.


“You are from ‘Earth’?” She asked, speaking the word as though she found it as offensive as I found Equestria.


“How did you get here?”

“No idea. Memory loss.”

“Your name?”

“Can’t remember that either.”

Celestia’s questioning hadn’t felt quite so much like being mugged. That, and she hadn’t been inside my head to do it. This seemed a more polite way of doing things to me, but that’s me. Perhaps this sort of thing was normal here?

My lack of useful information seemed to be starting to frustrate Luna, given that she stomped a hoof and frowned even more than she had been to start with.

“Sorry,” I said, uselessly. This was ignored.

“You say she has been looking after you?”

“Yeah. Was there when I woke up. Brought me soup, that sort of thing.”

Best leave out the bath, I thought. Not as if telling her about it would add much anyway. It’d just raise more questions, and not any ones I wanted to answer. Or even think about.

Not that Luna was paying attention to me at that moment. Rather, she seemed to be talking to herself and unhappily at that. I only notice when she was about halfway though.

“-and for this she neglects her subjects? Such trifling diversions cannot-”

I felt obliged to interrupt. Partly because I wanted to, mostly because what I’d heard her say jogged something in my head.

“Wait, you said ‘subjects’. You said that before, too,” I said. She had, I just hadn’t noticed or really thought much about it. Either way. Luna looked a little irritated to have been pulled back into a conversation, but not so irritated she ignored me.

“Yes,” she said.

“Why would she have subjects?”

Luna’s look was one of pity, and not the pleasant kind. The condescending kind.

“What is it you think my sister is? Or does?” She asked.

“She told me she works at the palace. Or a palace. There may be more than one but she just works in one, I don’t know.”

Luna looked more irritated, though not so much this time, I felt.

“Did she now…” She said, glaring and then just trailing off into silence. I cleared my throat.

“Uh, yeah. Yeah she did,” I said.

“She didn’t happen to say what she did at the palace, I take it?”

“Just said she worked there.”

Luna muttered something too quietly for me to hear and shook her head, something which in no-way affected the rippling of her mane. This was odd to watch.

“She and I are to have words. I shall leave you to finish your dream.”

“Oh, okay, cool. Hey, before you go I had a question,” I said.

But Luna wasn’t there anymore. There had been no obvious state of her leaving or being about to leave. It was actually kind of hard thinking of her having been there in the first place.

“Huh. Dreams, eh? That was weird,” I said.

“Yeah,” said my friend, who was there.

I shook my head and looked back out to see again. The sea was cold now, the cliff gone and the weather grey, because we were in Hastings. It was Christmas. There were donuts. Maybe that’s where I’d got mine from? Unclear.

“Wonder what this one meant…”

Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken

View Online

And then it was dark and I was in a bed and I was confused.

Hadn’t I just been in California? And hadn’t it been sunny?

Then my brain caught up with me, and things clicked.

No, not California. Not Earth at all, in fact. Equestria, wherever that was. I’d just been dreaming was all, and I’d been dreaming because I’d been tucked up nice and snug by a magical flying horse-lady. After a bath.

It was all coming back to me now, and already the dream was getting fuzzier. Had my ex been there? And a bus? And another magical horse? Hard to remember, all a bit of a swirl.

Probably not important. Dreams are weird.

Although, given that reality for me at the moment involved magic and horses and magic horses dreams had a lot to compete against. Unless all of this was some larger, crazier dream. Or maybe I was in a coma?

Hell, it beat being in a giant version of the Forth rail bridge, I guess…

I took a look around the room. In the dark it’s fanciness was less obvious, but the bed was no-less comfy, so that was a plus. I wondered what time it was. Were the days even the same length here? This was the sort of thing that occurred to me in the dark as I sat and realised just how oppressively quiet it was.

I wondered where Celestia was. Asleep, I imagined.

That got me thinking more, as the night is the best time for thinking far too much about things you can’t do a whole lot about. Especially if you’re bedridden and can’t move anyway.

Celestia. Magic horse. Very nice lady.

The first and third parts there I had no issue with. Celestia was actually a pretty nice name and she was a very nice lady. The horse part thought was continuing to be something of a mental sticking point, as irritating as I was finding it.

Be rational, I told myself. Think! Yes it’s very odd to be talking to something - in regular life - should not be able to talk. But these are not regular circumstances! This much should be obvious. Either you really are somewhere packed full to bursting with horse puns where magic is real or else you’re dead. If the former, then be polite to the locals and don’t react with irritating, instinctual fear and wariness. If the latter, who cares? You’re dead!

I looked down at myself in the dark. I didn’t appear to be dead. That I was looking at all seemed to be proof enough. But who knows? I’d never been dead before. I had no experience.

For now, it was probably the more sensible thing to assume that I was actually alive until this was proved otherwise, which meant somehow getting over this lingering revulsion and panic - for want of better word - that writhed around my body anytime I clapped eyes on Celestia. And in particular when she talked.

This was the crux of the problem, I felt. Being human, I had been brought up on a solid bedrock assumption that other humans were the only thing I would ever see talking or thinking like me. Maybe we can teach a gorilla how to use giant remote control or sign language and maybe a dolphin will recognise its own reflection, I’m hardly going to sit down and talk about my Monday with either of them.

Maybe I was overthinking this.

Celestia was basically a person. She just wasn’t shaped like one. And that wasn’t her fault! And I liked hearing her talk! Apart from the writhing it was a lovely experience! Her voice had some aspect to it which made me comfier than the bed ever could on its own! Apart from the writhing bits every other part of me knew this!

Be rational, me, I told myself. I’m not missing a horse, I’m missing a nice person who has been nice to me from the very moment I became aware she existed. Before then, in fact. So get over it, writhing bits, I told myself.

In the dark. Inside my head. This is why I dislike being on my own too long. I think?

All of this thinking had taken up what felt like absolutely no time at all. It remained just as dark and as quiet as it had when I’d first woken up, and I was at something of a loose end.

“Bums,” I said out loud.

Hopefully, wherever she was, Celestia was having a more restful night than me.

Nice lady. Nice voice. Nice smile, for a horse.

At some point I must have drifted off again, as the next thing I knew the room was light and Celestia was there with breakfast. I hadn’t even heard her come in.

“I’m awake, I’m awake,” I said, blinking and stretching. That bath must have done me the power of good because stretching somehow didn’t leave me feeling worse than it had when I’d started. This, clearly, was progress.

What was also progress was breakfast, which appeared to be toast. I had no issue with this. You could not go far wrong with toast.

“Good morning,” she said, sitting by the beside. “Did you sleep well?”

Bits and pieces of the dream came back to me. Best not to mention that, I thought. A pretty good way of annoying people is to think that your dreams are as interesting to them as they are to you. In my gut I knew this was never the case.

“It was okay?” I ventured, and she seemed to accept it, nodding.

“I brought toast.”

“I saw!”

“Like some?”


Riveting stuff, this early-morning conversation. There was a minor fumble where I insisted that I would be able to hold the plate and feed myself. The first part was easy enough, the second not so much, and after watching me fruitlessly attempting to raise toast to my mouth for maybe a minute Celestia wordless took it from me and fed me herself.

“This is still humiliating, I hope you realise,” I said, toast hovering menacingly near to my face.

“Why do you think I like doing it so much?” She said, and it was a great bit of light relief and I greatly appreciated it, but there was an edge I couldn’t help but catch.

I’m hardly an expert, but there was something strained about her today. Her usual friendliness and warmth was present - practically radiating off of her - but there was that edge even someone as dense as me could feel.

“Uh, you okay Celestia?” I asked. It was only polite to see if she was, after all, given what she had done and was doing for me.

Her smile intensified, apparently intending to drown out whatever hint I’d latched onto with sheer brute force. It was a touch alarming.

“Just an unsettled start to my morning, that’s all,” she said.

Any immediate response I might have made to this was rendered impossibly by the sudden intrusion to more toast, so I dealt with that first.

Getting fed by someone else is not something I enjoyed. This was possibly one of the things I’d forgotten but if so I was rapidly remembering it. Just made me feel like a sinking pudding.

Swallowing, I said:

“Oh, okay. Happens to the best of us, huh?”

“It does.”

Toast crunched. I was getting crumbs everywhere. It was horrendous.

To fill the silence with some other than the sound of me eating I asked:

“Hey, crazy question but do you have a sister?”t

She froze, the next piece of toast she had been raising pausing just above the plate.


I tried a shrug and it made my shoulders hurt.

“It’s probably going to sound dumb but - ah, forget it, it’s dumb.”

Celestia put the toast back, which seemed a very serious move given the situation. Her smile had gone, too, which was more serious as far as I was concerned.

“What?” She asked, and against my better judgement I shrugged again. It hurt more the second time.

“I just dreamt about another magic horse, is all. Guess it’s to be expected that that sort of thing would show up in my subconscious. But there was one in my dream. Kinda looked like you, I think. Said they were your sister. Forget the name…”

Details remained fuzzy. I had the impression that it had happened, and that was about it.

Celestia had moved the plate by now and turned more fully towards me, leaning in awfully close. Her look was quite intense, and I found myself pinned in place by it.

“What did she do?”

Was it my imagination or was the room getting warmer? Probably just the sunlight coming in.

“Uh, I can’t really remember, honestly. Just talked, I think.”

“Talked to you?”

I swallowed.

“Yeah? Think so.”

The door then opened and Celestia jumped what looked to be a literal foot in the air, spinning around and standing so suddenly I had to move back to avoid her tail slapping me across the face.

I had no idea what being hit with a magical floaty multicoloured tail would be like, but on balance it seemed best to avoid it. My body lodged a formal complaint about the sudden movement. This took the form of pain. Unsurprising.

And in through the door with what appeared to be magnificent dramatic timing came in the smaller, bluer version of Celestia. Turns out she was actually real. This surprised me. Celestia sounded surprised, too.

“S-sister!” She said, and though I couldn’t see her face I imagined she looked as shocked as her voice suggested. Luna just looked sort of unimpressed with the whole scene before her.

“Sister,” she said, inclining her head slightly as she clip-clopped into the room, shutting the door behind her. “I am glad to see you have found something to fill your empty hours. Being princess evidently takes up less time than it once did.”

I could practically feel the passive aggression coming off that one. It was like a heat-haze.

Wait, princess? Did she say princess?

I looked at Celestia. Like, properly this time. Lots of shiny bits and pieces? Regal air and bearing? Palace? Working at the palace?

Oh man, we were going to have to talk about this, weren’t we?

Would explain the tiara-thing though, now that I thought about it. Man I’m slow.

“That’s uncalled for, Luna,” Celestia said, with the kind of delivery that suggested she had been caught out and knew it. “I’ve hardly abdicated. I’ve just been taking a little time to care for an injured guest.”

“A ‘little time’ for a monarch has rather a different meaning. A little time for a day is noticed. A little time for several is talked about.”

I had no idea what was going on, but it sounded very important and I got the impression that Celestia was being chastised. And from the rather quiet way she was standing there and taking it I also got the impression that she knew the game was up. Whatever the game had been to start with.

“Why you have taken the care of the human on yourself is beyond me. They have doctors for this sort of thing nowadays, I hear,” Luna continued, glancing at me properly for possibly the first time. I tried to wave, failed, and she looked back to Celestia.

“He was dying when I found him, Luna! And would have died if I had wasted the time to go and fetch help. I had no choice! Should I have just left him? What would you have done?”

Luna’s expression softened, but not by much. I just sat and let the situation wash over me. All of this was way over my head and far out of my control. I was a leaf on the wind. Agreeably, a leaf on the wind that was also a significant factor in what was being discussed, but still. Just a leaf, that was me.

“Of course I would not have expected you to let him die. While I can appreciate your compassion, you cannot shirk your duties to look after the human. Your royal responsibilities do not go away.”

Harsh words, but true, and delivered with obvious kindness. The kind of thing spoken by someone who is concerned. Celestia could say nothing.

I have to say, the novelty of being an alien and getting referred to as ‘the human’ was actually pretty significant. Sure, being talked about like you’re not even there is always galling, but still! I’m The Human! That’s kind of neat. Back home I would have just been a human. No fun at all.

Luna stepped in close and the sisters had a nuzzle. Very touchy-feely these ponies. Must be a cultural thing.

“If you simply wish another, more exotic pet we would not begrudge you it, but not one that demands so much of your time. It’s the abandoned chicks all over again.”

I had a feeling I was being insulted here, somehow. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it. What could it have been, what could it have been…

Celestia too seemed to read into this sentence as the nuzzle finished somewhat abruptly and she hissed:

“Luna. He can hear you.”

“I am pretty exotic,” I said. I doubt it helped much.

“Oh, sorry,” she said in my general direction, and it was hard to tell if she was sincere or not. I wasn’t especially concerned either way and it hardly mattered as Celestia interposed herself between me and Luna before anything further could be said.

“I will resolve the situation,” she said, some alarming steel suddenly in her voice and as Luna opened her mouth to reply she added: “To your satisfaction, sister.”

Luna shut her mouth, apparently getting the message.

“My thanks. I have only your best interests at heart,” she said.

“I know, Luna, I know, and I yours - shouldn’t you be getting to bed?”

Luna glowered but left without comment.

Things were very, very quiet after that. Celestia came back and sat down where she’d been sitting before. The toast was probably stone-cold by now. Neither of us could look at the other. She had the proper understanding of what had just done down, I knew that something had and that made me feel awkward.

It was less than ideal.

But still, best to bite the bullet. Something had to be done.

“So…” I said. I wasn’t sure where to start with anything that had just happened. I had a lot of options. Eventually I decided to go with what seemed to be the biggest bombshell to have landed in that conversation. It seemed a solid place to start:

“A princess?”

“Yes,” Celestia said.

“Is Luna also a princess?”


“Right, cool. Dual princesses. Glad we got that out the way.”

I probably could have cared about this revelation more, but I didn’t. Wasn’t as though I was from here anyway, so it had nothing to do with me. As far as I knew this place could have princesses boiling out of every orifice. I wasn’t in a position to do anything about it anyway. All that mattered to me was that Celestia was nice, which she was, so it was gravy.

“Uh, why was she mad at you? I feel I was only really following half of that, sorry,” I asked.

Celestia rubbed the back of her head with a hoof, a very odd gesture to see a magical horse do. Don’t even ask me how her joints were supposed to work.

“I may have not been giving work my full attention for the last few days…”

“And your work is…?”

I was looking for clarification, just so I knew the full extent of what I was dealing with here.

“Running the kingdom,” Celestia said, as though this was a normal thing to say to someone.

“Ah,” I said. Not a lot else I could say.

“Luna notices these things, though she gives a very good show of not noticing. So good I thought she hadn’t. Then we spoke earlier as she was heading for bed, and she asked if there was any reason I had been ‘lax’ in my royal duties of late. She gave me an opportunity to come clean. I...didn’t. Looks like she knew the reason anyway,” Celestia said, shrugging with enough ease to make me jealous.

Ah, I thought.

One of those types of conversations. The type where one side is holding all the cards and the other isn’t even aware a game is being played. I was never a fan of those. Not that I could remember any. Just had a general impression that I’d always been the one on the losing side before I’d even known it.

“How did she even know?”

“I imagine that whatever you told her in your dream confirmed whatever suspicions she already had. My sister knows me quite well...”

I blinked.

“You mean she really was in my dream? Like actually there?”


That was difficult to wrap my head around. I knew in a general, fuzzy sense that she’d been there, but I thought that just been some artistic license on my brain’s part. Just dreams being weird, as dreams often are, or else something completely different that I remembered as Luna only once I saw her. Learning that she had literally been in my head was something else. This place was jacked.

But still. That did rather make what had just happened my fault.

“Sorry for telling on you,” I said.

“You weren’t to know,” she said, and the conversation fizzled.

Despite this, I pressed on.

“What was that about baby birds?” I asked.

Celestia bit her lip sheepishly, pawing at the rug with her hoof. This was adorable. So adorable I nearly stopped caring about the answer even as she was thinking of how she should deliver it.

“Don’t take what Luna said the wrong way, she was just heated. The birds were a long time ago and they were a one-off anyway. You’re much more than a pet.”

Nothing about this sentence was reassuring.

“Uh, thanks?”

Always nice to be told one is more than just a pet by someone solely responsible for your care and who could throw you out a window with their magic brain. Celestia jolted and then blushed lightly, turning aside.

“...I probably could have phrased that better,” she said.

“It’s fine, I get what you meant,” I said. I did. It was still pretty funny that she’d said it like that, though.

As an afterthought I also chucked out:

“Thanks for saving my life, by the way. I didn’t know it had been you personally.”

Given that apparently she’d done it all on her own on the spot. Her continuing to look after me personally for however many days after was just the icing on that particular cake. She blushed - she actually blushed. Properly this time, not just a little bit.

“You don’t need to thank me,” she said.

“Well I kind of do. I’d be dead otherwise. You said so, right?”

Celesta couldn’t deny this, it seemed, so instead she deflected:

“Anyone would have done the same thing.”

“Maybe, but I doubt it. And not everyone is a princess, either. You went out of your way.”

All of which did beg the rather important question:

“If you’re a princess shouldn’t you be doing important things than looking after me? That whole ‘running the country’ thing you mentioned?”

“This is important,” she said sternly.

“Pull the other one. You’ve probably got heaps of horse-related problems on your plate. I’m just some dickhead. You said there was a doctor what looked me over, why don’t you palm me off onto them? Get me off your hands.”


Was she taking the piss, or just off her game? Could have sworn she’d previously demonstrated some level of understanding of the concept of hands. Maybe I just hadn’t used the word. So hard to keep track of these things.

“These things,” I said, lifting mine with a Herculean effort and actually getting them just above my lap before having to drop them. It got the point across.

“Oh. Have I made you feel unwelcome?” She asked, pouting.

I was momentarily flabbergasted by this brick-wall I’d apparently walked myself into. What conversational Judo was this?

“What? No! You’ve been great! Not at all unwelcome, I just - I don’t want to be distracting you if you’ve got stuff you should be doing,” I said.

“Anything important I’ve had to do I’ve done. You’re not a distraction.”

“Would you tell me if I was though?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said a split-second later.

“You didn’t even think about that!” I spluttered.

“I didn’t have to,” she said, smiling sweetly.


I wasn’t Luna, so clearly I had no business arguing with Celestia. It was like getting tangled in parachute silk. It was hopeless. That, and her damn voice and her damn smile kept making me lose the thread anyway. I just felt so bloody comfortable and looked after. Infuriating! But lovely.

This time Celestia was the one to break silence, clearing her throat before saying:

“About the doctor…”


“I may have...used words in an obfuscating fashion,” she said, shifting.

That could go lots of different ways. My brain fizzled as it tried to calculate the options.

“Uh, okay?”

“You were looked over by someone who is a doctor but you cannot be handed over to them because you are technically already in their care.”

That took me longer than it should have, mostly because it was one of those cases where the answer is so flagrantly obvious that you think it can’t be that, because it’s too obvious, only for it to turn out to just be that obvious.


Tapping her hooves together she nodded, not looking me in the eye.

I turned this over in my head a few times.

“You’re a doctor?” I asked, for clarification more than anything else. She didn’t look like a doctor, but then again she didn’t look like anything other than a fantastical magical horse with pretty hair. And doctors could look like anything anyway.

“I have had the time over the years to become many things, if I felt like turning my hoof to it,” she said.


I was missing something here again, I was sure of it. But it probably wasn’t important. Best to ignore those bits and focus on what I could actually understand.

“Wait,” I said. “Didn’t you say the doctor said I couldn’t be moved because I was too delic- oh, oh okay, I see. You’re the doctor and you said I couldn’t be moved.”

Then I thought about this.

“Wait, no, I don’t see. Why? Why would you want me here and not somewhere where I wasn’t your problem? In fact, why were you the one looking after me in the first place? I mean, I can see your reasoning about not rushing off if it would mean I’d die - thanks again, by the way - but after that why didn’t you bring anyone else in? I’m so confused...”

This whole thing was starting to tie me in knots.

Let me get this straight.

I arrive here somehow. That much is obvious given that I was, well, here. I arrive in such a poor state that I’m apparently so close to death that if Celestia hadn’t intervened on the spot I would have died. Fine. I can believe that. Horses can know first aid, that’s cool.

Following this Celestia - a princess with shit to do, I’d imagine - gets me inside a palace into a room that’s clearly out of the way enough that she won’t be bothered when she’s in it, where she proceeds to singlehandedly care for me over the course of the next few days. In between continuing to princess when she can spare the time.

That seemed about the long and the short of it to me. In my head. Without asking.

“Why though?” I capped off my internal monologue with, given that for the duration Celestia hadn’t said a word.

Celestia kneaded the rug and mumbled something but I couldn’t make it out

“Pardon?” I pressed.

“I wanted to look after someone…” she said at barely a step above a mumble.

That hung in the air for longer than seemed possible.

“For real?” I asked.

I mean sure, that’s a thing people like to do. But come on! A princess! And going to all this trouble? Then I saw how borderline-distraught Celestia appeared to be and most of my thinking came to a grinding halt.

“When I found you you were close to death. However you got here must have been very hard on you. I tried everything I could think of but it was still close. For the first few hours I wasn’t sure you were going to make it. But you did! And you just looked so hurt and I knew the moment I saw you that you weren’t from this world - how alone you’d be when you woke up! I couldn’t have just left you at the hospital. They’re busy enough as it is, and how confusing that would have been for you! Surrounded by so much you couldn’t have recognised? Better I be there to ease you in gently, see that you were treated delicately.”

I felt Celestia was doing a disservice to my ability to just roll with weird crap, but I hadn’t known I had that ability and her heart was in the right place so maybe I was in the wrong. Certainly, I could feel the conviction of what she was saying coming at me in waves. Then again I liked her voice and she’d nursed me back from the brink of death. So maybe I’m biased.

“And then the more I visited you and looked after you the more I remembered how much I enjoyed caring on such a close, personal level. Being able to see who I was helping. I love my little ponies, I do, and I live to serve them and know I help them every day. But this was different, refreshing. Something I’d missed. Selfish, I know,” she said dolefully, wings drooping.

This was going way over my head again. I believed her, I just didn’t really get it. I didn’t really need to. So I just listened to her speak, kind of wishing I could give her a hug because of just how miserable she looked.

“I wasn’t going to do it for any longer than I had to. Once you were able to get up and about I’d have brought in others and would have stepped back. It would have been fine. I was just...enjoying it…caring for someone like that...”

Another shrug. Then:

“That, and you’re quite nice company, you know.”

“Now I know you’re lying to me,” I said.

A wing came up and patted me on the head.

“Shush, you. Don’t do yourself down.

I glowered at her while she patted, weathering the patronising - but pleasant - gesture.

“You don’t need to apologise or explain yourself to me, you know Celestia,” I said once the wing withdrew.


“No, no really, it’s fine. I’m not in any condition to pick fights and I don’t want to anyway. Maybe I’m just a softy or maybe my injuries have mellowed me out but really it’s fine. I liked you looking after me. Well, as much as I could. I want to make it clear I don’t like being looked after, okay? That clear?”

“Very clear,” she said, smile returning by inches.

“And sure, you taking time of your busy day to fuss over me probably wasn’t the best thing to do but it’s happened now and we had a whale of a time. You saw me naked, I broke my nose, it was good times all round.”

She giggled. I celebrated internally.

“But, uh, what does happen now? If you don’t mind me asking?” I asked. She sat up straighter.

“Now? Now I shall return my full attention to my royal duties and you shall pass into the care of others. The palace does have medical staff.”

That was a funny way of saying I was going to the horse hospital.

“The pal- I’m not being moved?”

“Of course not. Your doctor said you couldn’t be, remember?”

“You! Oh you. You...are something else, Celestia.”

Fairly certain this was probably an abuse of power. Her smirk looked like one, that was for sure.

“I see no reason for there to be undue disruption for the patient, given his unusual condition. This guest room wasn’t being used anyway. And besides, this way I can ensure that you - given that you are a guest here - are being treated appropriately without the fuss that would be involved with me visiting the hospital. A royal visit can cause all kinds of trouble in a busy place like that, you know. I think this works out best for everyone.”

She actually sounded like she had a point. Royalty did tend to have a wake that followed around with them causing ruckus. Could have just been my bias again. And the bed really was very comfortable, would have been a shame to have to leave it.

I then found myself being nuzzled again. Nice, but still going to take some getting used to.

“Until I work out how to get you home, no matter what happens, I will make sure you’re looked after, my little human.”

And for a good second I loved every bit of this sentence. Then I remembered that I am a grown-ass man, and I can look after my damn self. And I am no-one’s little human!

Though, for the sake of argument, if I had to be, I’d easily choose to be Celestia’s first, before anyone else. Easily. Like, in a heartbeat.

But that’s besides the point!

“You know Celestia, one day soon I’m going to be able to pee all on my own. Then what will you do?”

She lent in so close I felt her Goddamn horn resting on my forehead and her eyes became impossible not to look at.

“I’m sure I’ll think of something,” she said, smiling.

In the solar glance, in the desert sand

View Online

Not long after Celestia went off to do whatever it was she was actually supposed to be doing instead of hanging around with me, I learnt that ponies were small.

I mean, I’m not that much of an idiot. Even when it had just been Celestia looking after me - before I’d found out about her actual job - I’d assumed the palace wasn’t empty. Other horses would be out there, somewhere, doing other equally unlikely things about the place. I just hadn’t seen any of them yet. But they had to be around.

And I’d been right, they were. But I’d been picturing them as looking like Celestia. I figured that was what they all looked like. Kinda slender, elegant, possessed of poise. They were not.

They were bloody adorable. And so little!

Three of them came into the room just as I was starting to doze off again and they were just so damn cute I couldn’t help but stare for a good solid five seconds. Since they were also staring at me the whole time this meant we were all just staring like goons in utter silence. But there’s a first time for everything.

So adorable!

Tiny squishy brightly-coloured ponies with big, expressive eyes and squidgy-looking hooves and swishy tails! What I assumed to be the doctor one was even wearing a teeny little white coat with a teeny little stethoscope around their neck!

A lesser man would have squealed. I managed to contain myself, for the most part.

“God I just want to squeeze your cheeks and eat your face.”

“I’m sorry?” Said the doctor-one while the other two - nurses? They had hats - looked mildly appalled. They may have taken me literally.

The room was deathly silent. Did I say that out loud? Whoops.

“Uh, hello, I’m not from round here. Sorry.”

First impressions were off to a rollicking good start.

One of the nurses had been holding a clipboard in her mouth and this she passed to the doctor, who used magic to hold it instead. Seemed more hygenic that way, personally speaking. The doctor also produced a pencil from one of his many medical pockets and then approached the beds, nurses lurking behind. Why did he need them, exactly?

“Could you raise your arm for me, please?” The doctor asked.

Not wasting any time, was he?

“Am I aiming for a specific height here or…?”

“Just as high as you can, but don’t strain yourself.”

I must have been improving by leaps and bounds because I was almost able to raise my arms level with my shoulders and almost able to hold them there, too! Agreeably not for very long and it hurt like buggery, sure, but I could do it. That was the point.

“Did that hurt?” The doctor asked, making notes.

“...little bit,” I said, doing my best not to wince. The doctor was not fooled for a moment and gave me a deeply disapproving look as further notes were taken.

Yeah well at least I have arms. And hands! Let’s see you try and tie shoelaces, doctor.

Oh, he’d probably just use magic. Scratch that. Damn magical horses.

With a certain level of finality he finished jotting whatever it was he’d been jotting and then looked up at me again.

“Can you turn your head for me? As far as you can, left and right.”

It went on like this for a while, limb by limb. The eventual conclusion was that I could move better than I could before and that I was in a fairly considerable level of discomfort as a result of having found this out.

The doctor gave me something for the pain and so I swore him eternal gratitude. He seemed a bit taken aback by this. I had no regrets. The numbness was blissful. Why hadn’t Celestia drugged me? It was like she didn’t care!

That what he’d given me had also arrived in the form of an honest-to-God potion was just icing on the cake. The novelty alone was worth it!

Afterwards, my aches and pains felt as though they were happening in the next room over. I was even able to push myself up in the bed to a better sitting position all on my own, though I had an inkling I’d regret it once whatever the potion was wore off and despite the glare of the doctor.

“Hey,” I asked. “Is it possible for me to, uh, you know, leave this room? Now that I’m not being kept a secret and all. I don’t want to go through the streets of - what was this place called again? The city?”

The doctor looked momentarily confused.


Oh yeah. Pun.

“Yeesh, how did I forget that? But yeah, I don’t need to go that far. Just in the garden or something. This place must have gardens. Some fresh air would be nice, you know? You guys got a wagon you can sling me in?”

From the look on his face the doctor seemed to find my wagon suggestion professionally insulting. I wasn’t winning this guy over anytime soon, I could tell. One of the nurses looked to be trying to hide her giggling behind a hoof and even if she was just laughing at me that was a start, but the doctor might as well have been made of stone for all the progress I was making.

Some people will just never like you.

“We could probably find a wheelchair,” the doctor said.

I was honestly surprised by that.

“You guys have wheelchairs? That’d fit me?”

“Yes and yes. Well, we have some more to your scale, though not in the palace. We’d have to fetch one,” he said, making to motion to one of the nurses but I leapt into action before he could go further.

“Ah, that’s too much trouble, don’t worry about it, it’s fine.”

“The Princess made it clear that you were to be cared for and accommodated and it’s no trouble, really.”

‘Accommodated’ was a broad and ominous word for Celestia to have used.

“She said that? Nice of her. But, uh, no seriously it’s fine.”

“If the Princess wants you accomodated then it’s not a problem. Nurse, if you could find - yes, thank you,” the doctor said, waving off one of the nurses who didn’t even seem to need to be told what it was she was being sent for.

I sat and considered sulking for having my wishes ridden over roughshod. But sulking never solved anything, so I didn’t. Instead I retaliated by refusing to engage the doctor in small talk. It was only just before the nurse returned that I realised that this was probably just what the doctor would have wanted from the start. Oh well.

They really did turn out to have a wheelchair, though why or who it was actually for was less clear. That said, from looking at the thing I could tell I’d fit in it, so what did it matter?

Getting into it was awkward. The doctor appeared to lack the raw magical force that Celestia apparently possessed as it required both him and one of the nurses working in tandem to maneuver me into the thing. There was no dignity in this, especially given that I was still only wearing that weirdo table-cloth thing. At this point I was beyond caring if anyone saw my junk. And besides, they were medical horses. They’d probably seen worse. Probably.

The horns seemed important for the magic. The nurse without a horn - or wings, I noticed, so would that just make her a pony pony? - didn’t contribute much to the process of me getting stuck into the chair. Were some unicorns just better at magic? Or did they practise? I felt I might ask Celestia about it later, should I see her.

I did hope I’d see her. Hoped she was having a nice day.

Once they’d got me properly sat in the wheelchair they slung a blanket on me, which made me feel like an old man but hell.

“Nurse, if you could please take the patient to the gardens,” the doctor said. All very formal, this. And I was ‘the patient’ now. Like I wasn’t even there! I didn’t mind.

The nurse without the horn was the one pushing me and I did wonder how she was actually doing it. Being as how she was directly behind me I couldn’t really see, but I seethed with curiosity. How does a teeny pony push a wheelchair? What a mystery.

Along the way to the garden we passed a good few more of the smaller, squishier ponies. Most were in sort of crypto-uniforms that kind of mirrored the sort you might expect to see on the kind of people who you’d expect to see working in a palace. But the uniforms tended to end about midway down their bodies.

It looked weird. Everyone here was either naked or half naked. But they were horses so maybe that was normal? Looked weird to me.

They looked at me like I was weird, too. So I suppose it balanced out.

Kind of made me a little uncomfortable, actually, the way they kept staring. The first few fine, but every single one we passed? I’m not that interesting looking, come on.

Thankfully they thinned out by the time we got to the gardens. Given as how the room I’d been put up in seemed to be a fair whack above ground level - judging by that look out the window I’d got - I had no idea how we’d managed to go down without me noticing. Probably magic. Probably me just not paying attention. Maybe somewhere between the two.

Probably not important...

The gardens were odd, though it was difficult to pinpoint exactly why I thought so. Everything just seemed too colourful and too clean. Probably just a result of being fancy-pants royal gardens. Likely had teams of tiny horses with trowels and secateurs on standby at all hours ready to pounce and correct even the tiniest of flaws. Probably. That would explain it.

Very pretty though. And peaceful. Air was wonderfully fresh and it wasn’t especially hot or especially cold. Comfortable would be the word.

The nurse rolled me to a halt in front of an ornamental pond. This I appreciated. Water was always restful to look at, and this water was very expertly done. There were lily pads and a big willow and everything. Fancy palace gardens and no mistake!

“Thanks,” I said to the nurse as she stood just behind me to my left. Kind of difficult to relax with her hovering there but I guess she would have to stay until I wanted to go. Poor lady, beholden to my wishes.

“You don’t have to stay here,” I ventured. “I could probably get back on my own.”

“No you couldn’t,” said the nurse, flatly.

Holy crap, alright lady. You stand there silently all you want. You do you.

As I sat and stared out at the pond a butterfly of all things came flapping down and landed on my arm. It looked enormous, worryingly so, but seemed friendly enough. As friendly as an insect can be.

Whatever the doctor had given me meant that I couldn’t feel the tiny pitter-patter of butterfly feet on my skin so I just watched as it turned this and that way, wings splayed.

“Having a nice day?” I asked.

The butterfly flapped away again. I wished it well.

“So what’s it like - hey, where’d you go?”

I’d been trying to ask a question but the nurse was, I noticed, gone. Twisting around to see where she might have disappeared to I saw that the gardens were entirely empty, though I couldn’t shake the impression that someone was-

“There you are!”

I jolted in the chair. The volume and suddenness of this voice had caught me completely off-guard. Every single hair on my body stood on end.

Celestia, smiling ear-to-ear, seemed entirely unaware of the near heart-attack she’d given me. Which was odd, given that she’d obviously surprised me on purpose, her face barely inches from mine.

How does a floaty magical horse that size even move so quietly!

“I’ve been looking for you,” she said.

“Found me now. I was so close to escaping, too. Curses,” I said, still recovering from the shock. Celestia giggled and sat down beside me, facing the pond

“I’m sure you will have many more opportunities to slip away from us. You did strike me as the cunning escape artist type.”

“I’m glad I give off that vibe. It’s what I was going for.”

Out of the corner of my eye I could see her looking me over and I got the distinct impression she was checking that I was still in one piece. I felt self-conscious about that, but couldn’t exactly go anywhere. I took a moment to peer around the garden again - at least to the best of my limited ability - but there was still no sign of the nurse.

“Where’d the nurse go?” I asked.

“I let her know I’d take it from here,” Celestia said breezily.

“Completely silently? Behind my back? Without me noticing?”

“Wouldn’t have wanted to disturb you. You looked like you were having a good time with that butterfly,” she said, this time with far more of a smirk than a smile. The sort of smirk someone can’t help but have when they know they got you good. And she had got me good.

I just grumbled at this and the conversation petered out into a minute or two of pleasant, companionable silence.

“They’re taking good care of you?” She then asked, more seriously.

Their bedside manner could do with some improvement, but I wasn’t going to complain. I’d only just met them.

“Natch. I’m in the most capable of hands. Er, hooves. Appendages. Thank you.”

“You don’t need to keep thanking me.”

“So you say. I will though. You can’t stop me.”

Thanking people too much was in my blood, damnit. That and apologising too much. I could feel the need to do both at all times just calling out from deep within. Like an itch!

“Powerless against you, am I?” She asked, eyebrow raised. I rolled with it and gave my answer straight:

“Completely. Frankly, it’s unfair. This relationship is terribly lopsided in my favour.”

‘Relationship’ in the platonic sense that we were two people in a position where we interacted, obviously. Her grin told me she got that. Some people could read too much into these things.

“So what’s on your mind today? Weighty matters of state?” I asked.

Celestia shook her head, giggling softly much to be my immediate delight.

I did enjoy the way her hair - mane, must remember correct terminology, when in horse Rome and all that - moved according to nothing that was happening around it. Very pretty stuff. Luna had kind of the same thing going. Was it a princess thing? Maybe I’d ask later. Alongside all the other things I meant to ask about.

I realised I was staring a bit when I watched her tap a hoof to her chin, thinking for a moment.

“Tell me about other humans,” she said.


She nodded, smiling at me earnestly.

“Yes, please. I’m curious. Are they all like you? What of the mares? What’s it like where you live? I’d enjoy anything you’d be able to tell me.”

No-one did sincerity like Celestia. It was disarming. The smile helped.

“Humanity, huh? I’m sure I can come up with something. Let me think…”

And I thought.

And I came up completely empty-handed.

I was aware of humans. I knew what they were like quite definitely, just as I knew I was one of them, too. But only in a general sense. There were no specifics. Any time I tried to reach for something more concrete everything seemed to just slide away from me, inches away but far enough to elude me.

What other people even looked like was beyond me. I could not conjure up a single solitary face other than my own. Whatever bits and pieces of home I was able to isolate in my head - the town I lived in, the building in which I worked - only ever came to me entirely empty. Devoid of human beings.

It was as if, in my mind’s eye, everywhere I tried to look people had only just left, moments before.

Infuriatingly I was able to remember a Twilight Zone episode where something similar had happened to someone else, but while I remembered the episode itself and the constant fleeting almost-caught-them glimpses of humans in what appeared to be an abandoned town, the person to whom it happened was entirely beyond me.

In my head, they simply weren’t there.

How was that fair? How was that meant to work?

I started to feel a little distressed.

“I, uh, I - well - “ I said, acutely aware that Celestia was staring me, expecting an answer, waiting for one. It was rude to keep her waiting too long.

This should have been easy, surely? This wasn’t normal, surely? I didn’t know, I couldn’t remember, but it didn’t feel right and the more I tried the more obvious it became I wasn’t going to succeed.

What was even the name of the town I lived in? I could see it, but was what I could remember where I actually lived? Did it exist at all? Was I imagining it? Why was it empty? What did my house look like? I didn’t know. No details, no details at all.

And no people. Not a single one. Just an impression of what they were like, as though I’d been given a brief overview of human history and attitudes the night before, fallen asleep and then woke up to find that I’d only barely been listening.

I felt a hoof on my hand heard Celestia say something, but what she said exactly was lost on me. I was somewhere else, and it wasn’t a very nice place.

“Nothing, I’ve got nothing. Nothing at all. That can’t be right, can it?” I asked, looking to Celestia for support and finding her only looking concerned and confused.

“What do you mean nothing?”

Panic born of helplessness was bubbling into my gut, tickling up my spine.

“I mean nothing! I can’t think of anything! No-one! I’ve got places! I’ve got places and a general sense of...I don’t know! I can’t think of anyone! I can’t even - oh God.”

There I came to a halt as I’d realised something. My utter inability to picture another human being extended even to my parents. They existed - I was pretty sure of that, being as I was around to consider it - but they themselves were completely absent. Even their names were beyond me. A void.

“Oh God. I can’t even - they’re not there. No-one’s there! That’s not right, is it? Is that normal? Why can I - fucking Twilight Zone but not mum? Not dad? No names? How is - how did - what -”

I was babbling by then, thoughts coming apart as soon as they popped into my head, dozens and dozens of things all trampling over one another in an effort to be the one thing I focused on. The wheelchair was rattling. Breath wasn’t coming. My hands hurt from gripping the armrests. I heard a pounding noise that seemed to be sounding from inside my skull.

Then all at once I was encircled. Whiteness wrapped around and cut off the outside world. I was warm. Things were soft. Things were quiet.

“Shh,” I heard from somewhere very close by. “Shh, shh, it’s okay, it’s okay.”

“I-” I said, faltering.

“Shh, just breathe, deep breaths, it’s okay, I’m here, you’re okay.”

The world was soft and warm and quiet now. And smaller too. All the things I’d been worrying about were far away. I wasn’t even sure what they’d been, and I was so happy to be able to breathe that I barely cared anyway.

“That’s it, there you go,” I heard.

That was Celestia’s voice. Wait, what?

Where I actually was and what was actually happening starting clicking into place as my brain - with what I was sure was intense sheepishness and embarrassment - got its act together.

The reason for the overwhelming warm whiteness was, I saw, on account of Celestia having lent in and put her wings around me again. Once more they did not bend the way wings should bend, and this was still so baffling to me that even the merest trace of whatever I had been losing my mind over was banished at once.

They were still soft and warm though, which was lovely.

What was also warm was the trunk of her body, at that moment pressed flush against my face, and her chin, which was resting on the top of my head.

Was fairly certain I could also feel her hoof on my back.

“Well this is snug,” I said, muffled.

A pause, and then Celestia withdrew. Instantly I was chilly, but I wasn’t going to tell anyone that. Looking a little pinker than she usually did Celestia sat back and settled herself again only to briefly extend a single wing again to straighten out my hair. Unnecessary, but appreciated all the same.

I was utterly unable to look her in the eye after all of this and so kept my attention on my lap and the fidgeting fingers that lay there. I was getting better at the fidgeting. My fingers were less stiff now and bent more easily. Pretty soon I’d be able to pick nervously at loose threads in the blanket. So there was that to look forward to.

“Uh, terribly sorry about that. No idea what came over me, sorry,” I said, barely a step above a mumble. Now that I had recovered I was practically radiating my low-key shame on having made a scene.

“You were having a panic attack,” Celestia said, which got my attention and got me looking up at her.

“I was? That’s what those are like? Wow, people aren’t kidding about those. Uh, yeah. Sorry.”

I’d heard of them but - and I was pretty certain about this - I’d never had one. Until now, apparently. Rather hoped it was the last one.

“You don’t need to apologise,” she said, her smile of the warm and comforting kind. I had to turn my face away again.

“I feel like I do.”

“Well you don’t. Are you feeling better?”

“Yes. Much, thank you. Hope that doesn’t happen again,” I said, on reflection adding further: “Hey, how come I didn’t have that happen the last time I answered one of your questions?”

I’d managed to give a pretty good go of outlining my Monday to her. How come I hadn’t freaked out then? Was it because I hadn’t really been paying attention to what it was I’d been telling her? Was this like the centipede problem or something?

“I don’t know. Try not to worry about it. Try to relax,” Celestia said.

Was there anything less relaxing than being told to relax? Normally, no, but this was Celestia asking me in soft and soothing tones and so I immediately thought that relaxing sounded like a great idea.

I stared at the pond some more. I was soothed.

“Sorry I couldn’t give you anything interesting,” I said.

“If you keep apologising I will gag you.”

That escalated quickly.

“Steady on,” I said, expecting at least a titter or a lesser giggle, but I got nothing. I glanced at her.

Celestia looked troubled.

“What’s up?”

“Just thinking,” she said, continuing to look low-key troubled.

“That can end badly. Trust me, I just found out.”


And then nothing. I wanted to lean over and poke her in the side but she was far enough away that this seemed beyond my abilities. For now.

“Am I really going to have to prise this out of you question by question?” I asked instead.

“Hmm, sorry, no. It’s just...your memory loss is...unusual,” she said.

Even being reminded of the void inside my head gave me a little stab of panic. I rammed it down and thought of clouds. Clouds are cool. Sometimes they look like mackerel. Whatever mackerel is. Some kind of fish, I think.

“Unusual is bad,” I said.

“It can be. We shall see. No matter what happens I’ll look after you. I hope you know that.”

This felt like it was being laid on a little thick but, again, with Celestia there wasn’t even the hint of anything less than total, heartfelt honesty. It came at me in waves and I nodded, swallowing. No words came to me.

Then I remembered that she was a princess.

“Wait, hang on, shouldn’t you be running a country? Why are you out here with me?”

Wasn’t the whole point of the doctors being that she didn’t have to waste her time on me? Was I missing something here?

My outburst had her smiling again, at least.

“It’s lunch time. It’s why I was looking for you. Thought you might be hungry.”

I was hungry. She knew me so well! The toast did seem a long time ago now, and I hadn’t even finished it properly. On being mentioned my stomach seemed to wake up and make itself known, grumbling to itself.

“Lunch already? Man, I’m losing track of the hours. Uh yeah sure, lunch sounds good. If it’s not a problem,” I said.

“Of course it’s not a problem.”

Her horn glowed and the wheelchair did an abrupt about-face. So abrupt I may have yelped, gripping the armrests again as it started trundling along beside her, back towards the palace proper.

“Magic…” I muttered. She just smirked some more.

Then, when we were inside, we found ourselves looking at a long, straight, deserted stretch of fancy palace corridor. Floor looked perfectly level, too. I’m talking completely flat, not a bump or seam in sight. An idea immediately popped into my head.

“Hey Celestia,” I said.


“You see this real long, straight, completely empty corridor we’re in? Devoid of any obstacles? Completely flat?”


I gave the wheelchair a pat.

“How fast do you reckon you can get me going in this thing?”

We’ve got a lust for freedom

View Online

Pretty damn fast, as it turns out.

The first couple goes up and down the corridor were tame to the point of boring, but I got to Celestia in the end. I think it was me calling her a wimp that finally got the results I’d been after, though the look she’d flashed before launching me off still gave me chills even once I’d come rolling to a gentle halt by bumping into the far wall.

We may have gone a bit too far though.

“End to end. One push. Bet you can’t do it,” I said.

Up until then she’d done it by either trotting behind and physically pushing or else trotting behind and magicing me along. The results of both had been a brisk pace and this had been good, but I wanted something a little more thrilling. Something with some oomph! Something where I could see her cut loose!

That, and I was just enjoying pushing her buttons.

“Calls me a wimp. After everything I’ve done for him. I brought him toast! Ungrateful human…” Celestia grumbled as she hunkered down behind me, lining me up, making adjustments. I just grinned and braced myself.

“Don’t sweat it. How you’ve done so far makes me pretty confident you’ll get it on maybe your second try,” I said. She whapped me over the head with a wing.

“Shush, you,” she said. “And stay still.”

I stayed still and grinned wider.

The wheelchair rolled backwards and forwards experimentally a few times. I could see in the corner of my eye Celestia reflected in one of the mirrors that lined the corridor - for the corridor was lined with many mirrors, portraits, landscapes, tapestries and all sorts of other random crap - and I saw she had her tongue just poking out the corner of her mouth in concentration.

This was so adorable to see that I was entirely unprepared for when she launched me. One second I was stationary, the next I really, really wasn’t.

I’ll readily admit that what happened after that was my fault.

Celestia’s aim was fine. Hell, it was perfect. And she managed to eyeball the right amount of push she needed perfectly too. Well, maybe a touch faster than she really needed but that’s forgivable. She did nothing wrong. If it hadn’t been for me she could have got the chair all the way to the end with no problems.

Unfortunately I was there, and I was a rogue element. I leaned. Hadn’t really meant to, but I did. That threw off the whole thing. The wheelchair listed, twisted, turned, tipped and flipped and out I went, smacking into the floor and sliding into the wall. The chair also somehow landed on me briefly before bouncing off somewhere.

Don’t ask me how that even works.

“Oh! Oh are you alright?” I heard.

Ahead of me lay two choices.

On the one hand tell her that I was alright - because I apparently was. On the other, pretend to not be alright just to be play a prank on Celestia for no reason. Quite an unpleasant prank at that.

Decisions decisions.

Well. I was a visitor in a strange alien land. And when was I going to get this kind of chance again?

The doctor’s potion was still holding strong, so while I could tell in some dim and distant way that having slammed into the floor had hurt I wasn’t enjoying the full experience. In my book this was a win. I still stayed limp. I had the edge!

Hooves clattered over at speed.

“Are you okay? Oh I’m so sorry!”

I kept quiet. Maybe a little mean? Probably.

Magic seized me and hoisted me up, turning me around. I just dangled, limp as anything.

“Oh no oh no…”

I couldn’t contain myself anymore. I was never any good at this sort of thing. I cracked and I started laughing. Celestia looked immensely relieved at first, and then immensely annoyed.

“The look on your face!” I said.

“That wasn’t funny!” She said.

Touche. Depended on where you were at the time. From my side it was pretty good!

“I thought it was pretty funny...” I mumbled and she just glared and popped me back into the wheelchair which she’d righted and dragged over. Once she’d done that she moved around to stand in front of me, looming.

“That,” she said, leaning in so that her rather angry looking face was mere inches from mine. “Was very immature.”

There was more mumbling on my part and I couldn’t really look her in the eye.

Our little journey resumed after this, much more slowly and in total, stony silence. She was back to using magic to keep the chair moving, and was walking beside me, glancing down every so often, probably to remind me how immature I’d been.

The tension between the two of us was tangible, the results inevitable.

I was the one who got the giggles first, and though Celestia held on as best she could, there was only so much she could do. She got the giggles too. And that just made mine worse.

To my credit though she was the one who burst out laughing first, which I think means I won. Especially since she snorted and laughed too. It was amazing. I was completely vindicated. Totally worth it.

“I flew pretty good, I thought!” I said.

“You did! Not for long, but it was so majestic!”

“I always thought I was majestic!”

“Breathtaking! Sublime!”

Further wisecracks became impossible due to laughter. We even had to stop moving. Celestia flopped down and held a hoof to her face to try in vain to keep from snorting again, her other foreleg hooking around my shoulders as I collapsed against her.

I, too, may also have snorted.

By the time we were recovered I had to admit I did feel a tiny bit guilty about the whole thing. Only a tiny bit.

“Sorry,” I said, sitting up straight as Celestia stood again, unsteadily. “Chances like that don’t come along every day. I am sorry though.”

Tittering and wiping her eyes with her wings she just shook her head.

“You’re a bad influence on me,” she said.

“Oh, definitely. All part of my plan.”

“You…” She said, smiling. That smile though. That smile! Enough to make a man feel warm inside.

We got moving again.

“Anyway, stop distracting me. We’ll never have lunch at this rate.”

“You may have a point. Onwards, Celestia!” I said, raising my arm as high as I could and pointing. The drama of the moment was less than I might have hoped. I coughed and put my hands back into my lap.

“That might have been a bit much.”

Celestia nodded.

“I won’t tell anyone,” she said.

“Thanks. My reputation would be in tatters.”

“Can’t have that…”

The room we eventually arrived in was another big, fancy room much like the one Celestia had hid me in, only this one had a big, fancy table. This I was wheeled up against. It wasn’t really a comfortable fit, but it worked.

“Is there anything in particular you want for lunch?” She asked, stood behind me.

“Nah, I’m not fussed. Surprise me.”

“So trusting,” she said before nuzzling the side of my face and moving off away from the table.

These horses were a touchy-feely bunch and no mistake.

There was some kind of dangling cord which Celestia gave a tug on and some moments later a small door opened and another of those tiny little ponies poked their head in. Celestia and this tiny pony had a quiet conversation I could not hear the details of and which was over in moments, the tiny pony disappearing back through the door.

“It shouldn’t be too long,” Celestia said, returning and taking a seat next to me. Horses in chairs. What a world.

“So you just pull that thing and ponies appear? That’s pretty cool,” I said. Celestia actually looked a bit bashful from having been asked this.

“It’s for staff. This is a royal dining room,” she said.

‘A’ royal dining room! Not ‘the’ royal dining room! How big was this place? And if there were only two princesses why did this room have such a whacking great table? Were there more princesses? How many?!

“Ah. Luxurious. Guess princesses don’t really have the time to run down to the kitchen personally,” I said. Bold of me to assume there was only one kitchen, too.

I got the distinct impression from her uncomfortable shifting that this wasn’t a subject Celestia really wanted to focus on.

“Is there anything else I can do for you? I mean generally, not right now. Or right now, if you need something,” she said and I could hear the gears of the conversation grinding painfully and it took me a second or so to readjust to this new direction.

“Uh, no. You’ve really done more than enough for me already. You’re still doing too much! I’ll never be able to make it up to you at this rate.”

“The idea is to indebt you to me for life,” she said and I could tell she was already feeling infinitely more relaxed now that the topic had moved away from royalty. Mental note: try to avoid that in future. Happy, snarking Celestia was infinitely superior to agitated Celestia.

Better - far better! - that she was smiling and telling jokes. I liked that.

Well, assuming she even was joking here. Her delivery was flat enough it was hard to tell. It kind of made me enjoy it more. It spoke to me!

“Cunning,” I said. She just grinned.

The food arrived then, that side door opening again and a small bevy of ponies entering at speed. They worked as a terrifyingly efficient unit, laying places for Celestia and me and setting food down with so little wasted time or energy it was like watching some kind of clockwork mechanism. I kept my hands clear and just watched in awe. The whole thing took seconds.

“Wow,” I said. “Those guys are good.”

I then looked down at the food. Perfectly pleasant looking vegetable stew. Smelt great.

“This isn’t that surprising,” I said.

She levitated her spoon, took up some stew and blew on it with extreme and deliberate delicacy, her eyes closed.

“Thought it best to play it safe,” she said.

I stared at the stew. It appeared perfectly innocuous.

“Hmm. Unless you’ve had something hidden in here. Is that the surprise?”

“Well I’d hardly tell you, would I?”

“True, true.”

Only one way to find out. My own spoon - along with half a dozen other more confusing items of cutlery - sat before me. So close! I could totally do it. Raising a numb and sort-of-but-not-quite aching arm I reached out. Celestia’s eyes were open again, and she was now watching me closely.

Picking up the spoon was not as easy as I might have wanted it to be. My fingers seemed to be operating on a second or half-second delay and they closed before I’d meant them to at first, and then the second time - when I actually did manage to get hold of the damn thing - I made a mistake and dropped it.

In the otherwise-silent fancy royal dining room, the noise of a dropping spoon was deafening.

“Do you need me to-” Celestia offered but I, gritting teeth and glowering at the spoon, cut across her.

“No. no, I can do it. Watch, see?”

Reaching out and trembling only a little I took up the spoon from where I’d dropped it. This time I concentrated. This time I did not drop it. This time I managed to it into the stew, out of the stew and then most amazingly of all into my mouth.

The stew was really good, actually.

“There? See? Did it. Totally did it,” I said. I think I was sweating.

Why did horses need cutlery, exactly?

“I’m very impressed. Are you sure I can’t help though?” She asked, hovering in close and watching me intently. My spoon paused mid-way back to the bowl. The trembling in my arm was starting to graduate towards shaking. Still couldn’t really feel any of it.

“You’re very keen to help me.”

“I like looking after you,” she said, pouting. The pout was obvious enough that she meant for me to notice. Her bottom lip was even wobbling. My eyes narrowed.

“I get the distinct impression you’re trying to manipulate me somehow.”

The pout intensified, and eyes become exceedingly puppy-like. I was powerless to resist.

“Ugh, fine. But let it be known that this is kind of weird,” I said, putting the spoon back into the stew and taking my hands away. Celestia hopped in place but then recovered her poise and cleared her throat. My spoon hovered up into the air, stew-laden.


Once again found myself being fed. Yes it was weird. Yes it was also weird how much Celestia obviously enjoyed doing. Yes it was probably the most weird that I was starting to enjoy it a little, though in my defence most of that enjoyment comes from Celestia’s enjoyment. So really if you think about it she’s the weird one. I’m just a victim.

“I wouldn’t let anyone else do this, you know,” I said after a spoonful. Celestia hummed happily and gave me another nuzzle. Touchy feely wasn’t so bad.

“I know, I feel very special.”

“You are very special.”

Okay, I could kind of see how that sort of statement, taken out of context, might look a little strange. But I hadn’t meant it in any way that was bad. I had only meant it in a good way. And not in any good way that might seem weird. Only the good good way.

Celestia clearly needed a moment to work this out for herself as she paused, went maybe just a touch pink, and turned away.

“Thank you,” she said, quietly, while I sat and kept my damn mouth shut.

A knock at the door had just both yelping in surprise. It opened a fraction and the doctor appeared, peering around.

“Princess?” He asked. Then he saw the two of us, flinched, and gave a bow. “Princess, I heard you were in a royal dining room, I just wasn’t told which one.”

“Come in, come in,” Celestia said, waving the doctor in with a wing, not dropping the spoon.

“Ah, yes, forgive the intrusion it was just that I had heard you had, ah, relieved one of the nurses of duty only that was, ah, some time ago now and I was wondering whether you would like to have the patient taken off your, ah, hooves? Now?”

Kind of seemed weird to me that the doctor was so keen to make more work for himself, but then again there were probably wheels within wheels here. Motivations behind motivations I wasn’t even aware of. Was I some kind of hot potato? Probably not. I’d never be that important.

“It’s quite alright. I will send for you after lunch,” Celestia said, taking a tone and a poise that I only ever really saw when we weren’t alone. It was kind of unusual to see. The doctor bowed some more.

“As you wish, princess,” he said, but just before he was about to leave he paused, eyes flicking to me.

The doctor was looking at me oddly, head cocked. He then pointed a hoof at my face.

“Did he have a black eye earlier?” He asked.

“Yes,” Celestia and I said in perfect, instant unison.

Same wavelength on that one.

So stand up and be counted

View Online

Did hope that I hadn’t got Celestia into trouble.

The rest of lunchtime was still fun, obviously, but subdued. Both of us were aware that outside forces were now watching and waiting, which kind of made it difficult to enjoy things the way we had been before. I missed the empty corridor. Getting sent flying and eating shit on the floor hadn’t been great, sure, but being entirely on our own had been wonderful.

As a princess I’d imagine it wasn’t the sort of thing Celestia got to enjoy all that often. Poor Celestia.

Once the stew was all gone I was wheeled out and passed into the care of the doctor who had - somewhat disconcertingly - been waiting outside the door the whole time.

Given her previous behaviour I did kind of expect another nuzzle from Celestia. I didn’t want one or anything, obviously, I just kind of expected one. I did not get one though, as instead she resumed her very regal poise and posture, standing tall above both me in the chair and the doctor behind me.

“I leave him in your capable hooves,” she said.

“Princess,” the doctor said, and I figured he followed it up with a bow.

“I’d bow but, you know, chair,” I said.

Celestia turned away quick but I saw her smiling, I saw!

I got a last look at her cool swishy tail and big picture of a sun on her...whatever the rear part of a horse is called...before the wheelchair was abruptly swivelled in place and we started rolling back, presumably towards the bed.

“What happened?” The doctor asked after a few good corners put plenty of distance between us and Celestia.


“I know you didn’t have a black eye when I saw you last. What did you do?”

Damn, and I thought we’d got away with it.

“...s’just a wheelchair accident.”

He sighed.

“Well try to keep the accidents to a minimum around the princess. She has enough to deal with as it is.”

Ouch. Alright mate, Jesus.

“Bet she does,” I said, just to fill the air. He did not reply.

The scale of the palace really was something else, and the more of it I saw the more I became convinced that it was physically impossible. I mean seriously, at no point did we seem to see stairs, but I swear blind that we went up at some point. And how could it be so big?

Probably magic. I imagine it was magic.

The doctor got me back to the room before too long, the nurses appearing as though from thin air, he and the unicorn one wrangling me back into bed with the kind of tired, practised ease one might expect from medical professionals. Magical medical professionals.

“I can tuck myself, I can tuck myself, hold on,” I said before they could do anything with the duvet. I struggled up and reached for it, straining, grabbing and managing to flop back before my back gave out. A little more wriggling had me properly covered, and I’d done it all on my own!

Whatever I’d been given before for the pain was starting to wear off now, too, because I felt that one. The pain which had up until then been keeping a respectful distance was now outside the door, so to speak. Probably just as well I was in bed, really.

If either the doctor or the nurses were impressed by my independence they didn’t say anything about it. If anything they looked a bit disapproving. Probably because I was hindering my recovery. Whoops. Well, too late now.

The doctor cleared his throat, getting my attention.

“Now I know you might find this difficult but you are going to have to stay still for a while. Bedrest is likely only going to be good for you right now. And from the looks of things you’ve had an active enough day as it is,” he said.

Felt like making a joke about me wanting to go running or dancing but I felt this wasn’t the right crowd. Humour is all about timing, you see, and sometimes that timing is not ‘not now, not here, not these guys’.

“Bedrest, got it. Uh, this might come across as a dumb question - and it probably is, so brace yourself - but can’t I just get magicked better?” I asked. This thought had been nagging at me and it seemed like a good enough time to ask.

He gave me a look like he was trying to work out if I was serious or not. I was, and he worked that out.

“Um, okay. Well, first, no, magic doesn’t really work like that and second we’re not wholly sure how magic works on you anyway, so we’d rather not take any risks we didn’t have to,” the doctor said.

Not for the first time I got the feeling he didn’t like me much. Not what you want in your doctor, really. Still, at least I’d got an answer. Guess I wouldn’t want to shove handfuls of magic up the arse of something that had just fallen in from parts unknown. Who knew what might happen?

“Fair do’s,” I said.

I’m not a wizard or a doctor or a wizard horse doctor. I felt comfortable deferring to his expertise.

What followed was a few more fairly minor tests. Lift my arm again, turn my head, look at light etcetera. The results were noted down, and that was that. The doctor and nurses departed, though not before telling me that I should need them they would be on call and around somewhere.

I didn’t think I would, but thanked them anyway, and off they went.

Dinner arrived eventually and I was left to my own devices to eat it. This went about as well as could be expected, but I kept mess to a minimum.

I wondered how Celestia was doing.

And after dinner there wasn’t anything. I was left in the room on my own.

Boredom came on swift wings. I hummed a tune and then gave myself a mild headache trying to remember what the tune was or if I’d just made it up. I stopped humming.

And in this quiet time, all of those unfriendly thoughts that had been so distant earlier came tip-toeing back into my head.

I thought about who I was. Sure, I had various bizzare opinions and notions now, but when - if - my actual, proper memories came back, would any of that stay the same? I didn’t know. Was I like this normally, or was this just a passing phase? I didn’t know. And that made me nervous.

And while I was clearly getting better, was that going to keep going? Would I recover fully? Or would it hit some kind of obstacle no-one had forseen and stop there? Would I relapse somehow? What had even happened? I didn’t know. Did anyone?

Normally, when things were lighter and louder, things like this didn’t bother me. I could roll with uncertainty, I could shrug off not knowing. But on my own in the quiet everything felt so much worse. Unavoidable. Every possible point of failure was glaringly obvious, and each one looked like it was going to go wrong on me.

Like being stuck in bloody quicksand, it was. Sucking me down the more I tried to get out.

And how the fuck did I know about quicksand and not my fucking name?!

I wanted to ignore it, I really did. But I couldn’t. It was all I had right then. The only thing that my brain seemed to want to focus on. I couldn’t shake it.

None of this stuff worried me when Celestia was around. Hell, none of it even occurred to me when she was around. Though really I was so heavily biased in Celestia’s favour at this point that I’d probably say the sun shone brighter when I was with her, so clearly I wasn’t being objective.

Thinking about Celestia though immediately boosted my spirits.

She’s really lovely. In a way that I can’t quite put my finger on. Just everything about her, really. Her smile, her laugh, that I can seemingly get her to do both of those things quite a lot. The sound of her voice. That she, you know, saved my life and her continued joy in keeping me in fine health after that point. Her overwhelming, sincerity in all things.

She was just so bloody lovely!

That she’s not human is kind of incidental at this point. Whatever weirdo reaction I was having before had dwindled away to basically nothing, which is great. Now I could enjoy being around Celestia without that irritating, nagging feeling in the back of my skull.

It’s actually kind of cool, now I think about it. We’re like, interspecies buddies. Ignoring differences, sharing dumb jokes, engaging in shinanigens, hugging.

That’s neat. I like that. We’re so cool.

And once I was up and walking it’d be even better! We could go for a proper walk around the gardens! Or hell, maybe even around Camelot, if she’d let me. That’d be cool. She could show me the sights!

Wait, not Camelot, Canterlot. Horses. Ugh.

But still, yes. Walking would be a big improvement. It’d open doors. The sooner that happened, the better.

Looking around the room again I didn’t see anything else demanding my attention and no-one was there to tell me otherwise, so why not give it a shot? If nothing else it’d pass the time and that had to be good, right? Keep my mind occupied, too.

Shuffling up in bed so I was closer to sitting I paused, took a breath, and then twisted in place to swing my legs out from under the covers.

This was not a comfortable or especially easy thing to do, but it was possible and I did do it. Balancing there, legs dangling and feet resting on the floor I took a minute to catch my breath.

The bed looked to have been made more with someone of Celestia’s size in mind than one of the littler ponies, as it was a reasonable enough height off the ground. Certainly, my legs were actually dangling, or at least I didn’t have my knees up around my ears. This would, in theory, make this a little easier for me. I’d have gravity on my side.

Then the next step.

“I can fucking do this, fucking watch me. Not going to stack it like last time, watch this,” I growled, shifting weight onto one leg, then the other, and then slipping off the bed and standing up.


But I did it.

“I’m the best at recovering!”

Enthusiastic though I was, I knew pacing myself was important. No sense doing laps of the room of cartwheels or whatever. Start small. Set a simple goal and hit that.

The window. I could get to the window. That’d be easy. I could do that.

Until I got to the end of the bed I was leaning on it, and that wasn’t so bad. After that though I was on my own, and progress slowed considerably.

My legs were working, which was nice, but under sufferance, which was less nice. Both of them felt as though they had only just stopped being completely asleep, both heavy and barely a hair above completely inert. They were an effort to move, basically, and even more of an effort to keep solid enough to take my weight.

But I did it, damnit. One step at a time I did it.

Once the window was in spitting distance I lunged, my trembling legs choosing that moment to give out. I crashed ribs-first into the windowsill and scrabbled to hold on, managing to not immediately fall over backwards. Instead I slipped, winded, to my knees with my arms resting on the windowsill.

This was probably the best result I could have hoped for, really.

“Nailed it,” I wheezed, eyes watering.

I could walk! Agreeably not very quickly and not even across a room, but still! I could walk!

Resting by the window and figuring it’d probably be a good idea to wait a minute or two before making the arduous trip back to the bed, I looked out to see what I could see.

It was much the same view that Celestia had shown me, the one that had made faint. It didn’t make me faint now, which I appreciated. Gave me a chance to really take it in.

The sun looked to be on its way to setting by now so all was clear. The city itself - Canterlot, ugh - looked a little odd to me, I’ll admit. What bits and pieces of Earth I could dredge up served as a reasonable enough comparison, and while back home things were pleasant enough they often tended towards the grey, the dirty and the dilapidated. At least as far as I could remember.

Here there was none of that. Everything was so bloody whimsical looking and so clean you could probably eat off every surface. Though, to be fair, I was looking out of quite a high window. And this was a royal city. So who knows? Maybe this place was unique.

Certainly, the place looked nice. I did hope Celestia showed me around some time.

Noises outside the door pulled me out of that and dropped me right back in the present where, with certain icy dread, I remembered that the doctor had been quite clear on the ‘bedrest’ thing. And there I was, not in bed, not resting.

Oops. Silly me.

Girding my loins I lurched to my feet and tottered back to the bed as I fast as I could, falling forward onto it and missing faceplanting on the floor by inches. Doing what was possibly the best worm I’d even done in my life I writhed back into position under the covers with my head on the pillow. All of this hurt, of course, but at this point pain was getting a little dull.

Change the record, body. I get it already. Everything hurts, yeah, cool, great.

Face turned away, eyes closed, I heard the door open. Was I being checked up on? Seemed likely. I kept still and pretended to be sleeping, which seemed the right thing to be doing, and a few moments later the door closed again.

“Fooled them,” I said to myself, before promptly falling asleep through sheer physical exhaustion.

We are indestructible

View Online

My friend wanted my help. She wanted to become a trifle.

Being a good friend - or so I liked to think - of course I helped. Eagerly, in fact. Why wouldn’t I? It was what she wanted after all.

It was only once it was done and dusted that I realised the gravity of the situation, that I felt the full weight of what I’d done.

My friend! Gone! No more conversations! You could talk at trifle, you couldn’t talk with trifle!

What had I done!

Sadness overwhelmed me as I stared at the many, many dishes of trifle my beautiful friend had become. They knew I was there, somehow, and I knew they knew, somehow, but that wasn’t enough. It was gone, all gone!

“This is new,” I heard someone say and, turning my head and wiping tears from my eyes, I saw Luna.

“Oh hey Luna,” I said. Then I paused. “Wait. Why are you here?”

“You’re dreaming again.”

“I am?” I asked, goggling at her and then looking down at the trifle I was holding in my hand. Without eyes it looked back at me, so familiar yet now so different.

Maybe she had a point.

“Okay, I am, let’s go with that,” I said.

If I had a better grasp of who I actually was as a person I might have felt more affronted by the repeated invasion of my privacy. As it stood, I still thought an ability to just go wandering into dreams was kind of cool. And it wasn’t like I had anything to hide anyway.

“Trifle?” I asked, proffering the tub I was holding. Luna looked at it gingerly.

“Um, no, no thank you. I’m here because I wished to apologise.”

“For what?”

“You and I may have got off on the wrong hoof, and I believe it was my fault. I have treated you shortly and with discourtesy.”

“Uh,” I said, not really sure what other input I could make.

Hadn’t I only spoken to Luna once? And that hadn’t even been in real life? The only time I’d seen her in reality she had mostly just been talking to Celestia, I’d just been in the same room.

Maybe that’s what she was talking about? Some people apparently find that kind of thing rude. For whatever reason.

“You are not to blame for the circumstances you have found yourself in, and I am not disappointed in or angry with my sister for what she chose to do. Not really, anyway. I may not have done the same exactly, but I can understand her motivations. It was more that my sister was keeping secrets from me at all, than what those secrets were. You are here through no fault of your own, and taking out my displeasure on you was unkind. For this I apologise.”

Wordy. I chewed that over.

“Oh, right, well, it’s fine, really. You don’t need to apologise. I’m a big boy,” I said, at length. Kind of an anti-climax after what she’d clearly practised a bit but I couldn’t think of anything else to say. An apology just wasn’t something I’d expected.

Where even was I? Like, location-wise. The dream hadn’t clarified, so beyond the trifle - which stood in heaps of little pots, all of them somehow watching me - my immediate vicinity didn’t actually have any detail at all. Things just weren’t there, and my eyes didn’t want to look at anything that wasn’t there. It was disturbing, so I mainly just kept looking between the trifle and Luna.

“No, I have acted poorly and it is only right I apologise. Of course, you are more than welcome not to accept my apology…?”

The more thought was unbearable to me.

“No no, I accept, don’t worry about that. I just don’t see the need to. But if you do then fine, I accept. It’s all cool, all fine. We’re golden. Right?”

“Right,” she said, though she somehow managed to make the word sound unfamiliar. I imagine she was doing it for my benefit. Which was nice? I guess?

The two of us then stood in the formless, trifle-filled void of my dreamscape in total silence for a minute. Kind of awkward.

Luna cleared her throat before too long, the first of us to break.

“Celestia tells me you are having issues recollecting your past and your world.”

Kind of a long-winded way of putting it, but sure, yes. Also, was this small talk?

I was exchanging small talk with a horse who had stepped into my dream. I guess my life could have been worse, really.

“I’m a little fuzzier on some of the details than I’d like,” I said, and would have been happy to leave it there but a detail from Luna’s sentence caught up with me: “She told you that?” I asked. Luna nodded.

“She has spoken of you more than I would have expected her to. And I must admit, my sister has been happier these last few days than I have seen her in some time now.”

“That’s probably just a coincidence,” I said, utterly refusing even to consider any other possibility.

“I think you do yourself a disservice. She has become somewhat fond of you, this much is obvious.”

This was straining credibility.

“Come on, I’ve only been conscious for, what, two or three days now?”

I hadn’t been keeping exact track but this sounded about right, and it was certainly more than enough time for someone to dislike me, but nowhere near enough for anything like fondness. That sort of thing, with me, could take years. If I was lucky. Surely!

“Why are you arguing over whether my sister likes you or not? Would you rather she didn’t?” Luna asked.

“Ah, uh, well you see, ah - “ I floundered.

Good point.

“She’s very nice,” I said, to cap off the floundering, shifting in place and staring at the tub of trifle I was still holding. I remained acutely aware that the trifle was staring back at me. Dreams are weird.

Now it was my turn to clear my throat.

“Anyway,” I said before that particular topic of conversation could be pressed further. “How does it work having two princesses anyway? Are there many others hiding around the place I just haven’t seen yet?”

“You appear to be changing the subject,” Luna said, her eyes narrowed.

“No I’m not. Well, I am, but we were done with the last one, right? This is just the conversation flowing naturally onto the next topic. It’s fine.”

“Is talking about my sister something you’d rather avoid?”

“What? No. Yes! I mean, well, what else is there to say? She’s nice. I don’t really - look, listen, uh-”

I was getting played in my own dream. How humiliating.

Only then though did I notice that Luna was grinning at me so I stopped putting my foot in it and frowned.

“You’re just trying to get a rise out of me, aren’t you?” I asked, wagging the trifle in her direction. She stood up straighter and tried - and failed - to stop grinning quite so much.

“Whatever might give you that impression?”

“Har har. Look, right? One, she kept me from being dead, that makes me pretty well-disposed to her to start with. Two, she’s the only one here who, well, she’s my only friend here, really. That’s it. Happy now? I like to think that she’s my friend.”

I’d counted these points off on my fingers and only once I’d finished speaking did I realise that I was now making a rude gesture at Luna so I quickly dropped my hand back down again. Thankfully, this little faux pas was lost. Cultural divides and all that. Lack of fingers. Probably just as well.

“I hadn’t asked, but thank you for clarifying,” she said, with tactical-level coolness and reserve, all deployed with crushing expertise.

I would have had trouble keeping up with this conversation even had I been conscious. And I wasn’t! This was patently unfair. Magical horses invading my dreams to get under my skin with their snide insinuations and knowing grins. What do they know? I don’t know.

“Urgh, you’re worse than she is,” I said, finally tossing the pot of trifle back over my shoulder. From the sound of things it didn’t land anywhere. I looked around at the void. “When did I even fall asleep? I didn’t notice that.”

“No-one does,” Luna said, only she wasn’t there anymore.

I had the distinct impression of something very big rushing towards me.

“Oh for fucks’s sak-”

Every link is allied to our mighty cause

View Online

I woke with a start, which was an exciting way of getting things going.

For a good second or two I flailed in blank, terrified confusion, my heart thumping. It then became clear that nothing was wrong, nothing was about to go wrong and I was perfectly fine. My heart was slow in taking this on board and returned to normal only gradually.

“Dreams, fuckin’...fah…” I grumbled. Already most of it was bleeding away to nothing, the finer details lost. Presumably Luna - with her fancy-pants dream walking powers - retained everything that went on. Lucky her.

It’d probably all come back to bite me at some point, knowing my luck. But that’s life, really, isn’t it?

Had the dream been important? I tried to think, but all I could bring to mind was trifle, and I failed to see how that might be helpful to me. Beyond that, apart from Luna having been there at all, I had nothing. It was all lost to me.

Oh well. I’d tried. That was what counted.

Again, I had no idea what time it was, but from the looks of it it was just before dawn. Given that I had nothing to do with my time even if I knew what it was this hardly mattered, but the prospect of seeing the sun rise filled with me an unusually high level of anticipation. I wanted to see it.

And - hey - I could walk again, more or less, so why not get up to go see it? Window wasn’t that far away, after all.

This journey across the room was quicker and easier than the last I’d taken. Still wasn’t exactly fun, with my legs acting as though being made to walk was somehow beneath them, but it was better than falling flat on my face. I was even able to remain standing by the window, which was infinitely better than hanging off the sill.

Slowly, ever-so-slowly, the sun started creeping above the horizon. I had a fantastic view from this room. I’d lucked out.

Might have been my imagination but the sun here seemed prettier somehow than the one I vaguely remembered from back home. In as much as a big ball of nuclear fire can be pretty. If you’re into that sort of thing. Which I might have been.

I wondered what Celestia was doing.

Once the sun had risen more fully the protests of my legs were starting to move towards twitches, aches and actual pain so I hobbled back into bed and managed to fall into a light doze by the time the doors to the room opened for breakfast.

I hoped for Celestia, but it wasn’t. But that was fine. She had shit to do.

Breakfast was delivered by more of the frighteningly efficient staff who swept in, set me up and swept out before I was even fully aware of what was happening. They didn’t so much as look at me twice the whole time, and left so quickly I couldn’t even say thank you.

I was kind of scared of those guys.

Turned out it was something with oats. I had no strong feelings about oats and wasn’t that hungry anyway. I ate most of it then sat around feeling a bit useless.

I wondered what Celestia was doing.

Running the place, in all likelihood. And good on her. She was a princess! She had things to do. She was busy. I knew that. Didn’t mean I enjoyed it, but still. I knew that.

Breakfast was cleared away with as much ruthless efficiency as it had been delivered and this time I was able to say thank you. It was ignored.

I sat and stared into space. Every so often my mind would drift onto topics like ‘I wonder what I left behind at home’ and ‘I wonder if Celestia actually likes me or is just humouring me’ and a pit of nameless dread would open up my stomach and I would very quickly find something to distract myself.

I sat and stared at the paintings on the walls. The paintings were full of ponies doing things that meant nothing to me. Nice to look at, though.

At some point a nurse - I really should get their names, if I get a chance - appeared to checked if I hadn’t got worse which she did with brusque professionalism before leaving again.

I dozed again and when I snapped awake lunch was there. Vegetables, roasted, with a side of what looked to be hay. I did not eat the hay.

I wondered what Celestia was doing.

After lunch the doctor appeared, nurses in tow, so I sat up in bed. This at least would give me something to do!

“We’re going to be testing your physical recovery a little bit more today. You’ve made remarkably quick progress so we just want to see how it’s coming along. Can you try standing up for me?” The doctor said.

Oh doctor, if only you knew!

Still, I put on a good show, the sort of show you’d expect from someone who hadn’t managed to get up and about the room earlier that very day. I think they all bought it, too. Certainly the doctor looked surprised that I was able to stand up at all.

“How does that feel? Do you feel steady?” He asked.

“Little stiff,” I said. “If you want me to dance you might have to give me a minute.”

He didn’t.

Instead, he had me do slow laps of the room with a nurse next to me incase I needed something to collapse onto. The thought of falling onto a pony did not make me feel especially happy, so I made special efforts to remain upright.

Every so often I had to stretch something or bend this or that way. It was not fun and it took what felt like an awfully long time. On the plus side, the doctor looked the most satisfied I’d ever seen him. Not happy, but satisfied. I took that as a win.

Once the physio - or whatever that had been - was done the doctor and the nurses ensured I was returned to bed and then they departed and I was left to my own devices again. And I really mean to my own devices. I had nothing.

They could have given me a magazine or something. A book. Crossword, maybe. Fucking anything. But no, nothing.

I sat and I twiddled my thumbs for a bit, because I could do that now. This wasn’t a great way of passing the time and I got bored pretty quickly.

Aching and drained as I was I eventually left the bed again and stumbled back to the window. This was the first time the view wasn’t too early or too late for me to see things going on. Actual ponies! Actually going about actual business!

Agreeably a really long way away from me so kind of small and hard to make out, but still! Signs of life! Adorable, multi-coloured life!

Which was cute. But not interesting enough to pass the time before dinner.

A book would work wonders. Hell, a magazine would be enough. Would be interesting to see what passes as light reading for a horse. A quick check of the attached, luxurious bathroom turned up nothing left there. It had been a forlorn hope to start with, but I was working with what I had.

I took a moment to stare at the giant bath. I remembered being in it. With Celestia. Comparatively it hadn’t been that long ago. Would probably need washing again, though. Probably needed it now! Could do it on my own now, most likely. Or the nurses would do it. Neither thought thrilled me.

I wondered what Celestia was doing.

I was looking for something to read. I remembered this and damnit I was going to do it. They couldn’t just expect me to sit in stony, unstimulated silence in between bouts of stretching and eating. I had rights! And those rights might have extended to wherever I’d ended up. I assumed they did.

And so I struck out and I left the room.

The corridors, I found, were deserted. Given the sheer size of the place I imagined what staff there were had to be fairly thinly spread. This could only be good for me, as I was pretty confident that I wasn’t supposed to be doing what I was doing. But if I found something to read - and I’d settle for anything at this point - and got back before anyone noticed, who’d be hurt, really?

No-one, that’s who.

So off I shuffled, cautiously, pausing at and peeking around corners, surreptitiously listening through doors before trying their handles. Most, to my disgust, did not open.

“Shit’s locked…” I growled to myself, pressing onwards.

It wasn’t long before I was hopelessly lost, but I wasn’t going to admit this and I sure wasn’t going to stop, at least not until I’d found something. My legs may have ground at the knees and my head might have swum from the exertion but I wasn’t going to give up.

Wasn’t like I had anything else I could have been doing.

A couple of the doors I tried did open, but not into anything useful or interesting. I found what looked like another of those royal dining rooms I’d heard about, at least two other bathrooms and a room full of stuff that looked very expensive but also very fragile. Nothing to read.

Here and there I had to hide in a room when I heard clip-clopping coming my way or voices approaching and once or twice I had to press myself flat against a wall and hope no-one looked my way. Amazingly, no-one did. Security wasn’t great, it seemed.

Did this place even have guards? Whenever I had to hide against a wall I closed my eyes, so maybe it was guards I was avoiding. Not very good at their jobs if so. I wasn’t exactly easy to miss.

It was while I was taking a moment in what I thought was a quiet corner when I got caught.

In my haste and my confidence I had made a cardinal error. I had failed to notice that I’d strayed from the parts of the palace with nice, loud, bare floors and into a section with carpet. Hoof-muffling carpet. No sooner had I finished taking a breather did I turn around and find myself face-to-face with two identical, unamused looking ponies.

Turns out the palace did have guards and they had armour and wings and very serious expressions and everything. I flinched back and very nearly fell over, having to grab the architecture to stay upright.

“Whoa, you guys are surprisingly intimidating for, uh, ponies. Am I under arrest?” I asked.

“We are here to escort you back to your room, sir,” one of them said.

Ugh. I hated being called sir. This at least I could remember. Made my skin crawl.

Not that I’d tell the dudes in armour this.

“You are?” I asked.

“Yes. We have been looking for you. Come along, sir.”

Legs stiff I wobbled after them. Or one of them, rather. It was the work of a second for the pair of them to split so that one was walking closely behind me. What was I going to do? Run away?

Guess they were just doing their jobs…

An interminable and silent march later I was let back into the room. One guard stayed behind, outside the door, the other accompanied me inside.

Inside was Celestia, and I swear she was glowing. Could have just been my imagination. Was more likely just a trick of the light from the way it was shining in through the window. The explanation hardly mattered. What mattered to me was that she was there and that she was Goddamn eye-catching.

I was so distracted by Celestia that I didn’t notice the accompanying guard leaving or even the doctor. But then I did notice the doctor was there, and I twigged why guards had been looking for me.

The doctor did not look happy.

“I’m cured?” I ventured.

I don’t think that was the right choice of words, in retrospect.

“It’s a miracle,” he said flatly before turning to Celestia. “Princess, might I humbly request the posting of guards outside the door to head off any further attempts at exploration. Or, alternatively, since you seem to be the only one he listens to-”

I got a pointed look to accompany that.

“-could you be so good as to ask our guest not to leave his room without an escort from now on? It would be in his best interests not to unaccompanied, at least until he has fully recovered.”

Celestia smiled. The regal, wise kind of smile. I could tell the difference now.

“Thank you, doctor, I shall be sure to make that clear to him,” she said. The doctor bowed.

“Princess,” he said with obvious respect before sparing me a glance that lacked even the merest hint of respect. Damn, son.

After that he left, meaning it was just me and Celestia in the room now.

“That’s everyone gone, so how you - hey, what are you doing?”

In the time it had taken for me to look from the closing door and back to Celestia she’d dropped her front down low to the ground and spread her wings. I got maybe half a second to see the smirk on her face and the rather alarming wiggle she gave with her tail before she pounced.

There was a whirl, whiteness, the sound of me yelping and of Celestia laughing and then I somehow found myself on my back, wrapped again in wings and with Celestia’s nose touching mine.

“Hello to you, too,” I said, a little dazed. She giggled and gave me a nuzzle before pulling away to put maybe a foot or two between our faces.

“I’m allowed to miss you, aren’t I?” She asked, pouting a little. This cut right through my daze and, indeed, anything else I might have had going on right then.

“Well, yeah, but it’s only been, like, a day. If that,” I mumbled.

The pout left her face to be replaced with another, smaller smile and she lent in again for another nuzzle while I just lay there.

“Did you miss me too?” She asked, mouth by my ear.

Oh did I shiver. Fucking hell did I shiver.


Couldn’t exactly lie, could I?

I thought then to the dream - though, given that actual, real words get exchanged between me and someone else is it really still a dream? The rules are odd - with Luna and what she’d said. For some reason it now seemed clearer to me than it had just after I’d woken up. I could recall big bits of the conversation.

Specifically what Luna had said about fondness.

Even for a man as relentlessly dense as I was this situation was getting out of hand. Celestia was a magical horse princess with a magical horse country to look after, and I was some random, nameless tosspot from parts unknown. That wasn’t sustainable, surely.

That said, she was very warm and very soft and I didn’t really want her to let go of me, and I didn’t really want to let go of her.


When had my arms done that? When had they gone around her middle like that?

And why hadn’t she said anything about it?!

“Um,” I said, releasing my hold on her and just sort of keeping my arms either side of her, for want of anywhere else to put them. “Uh, s-sorry about that. Must have been a reflex.”

Her wings slid out from around me and gently nudged my arms back to where they’d been before. I let that happen, and then her wings enfolded around me again.

“I don’t mind,” she said.

She was very warm. I might have noticed this before. But she was, she really was.

“So when you haven’t been wandering around unsupervised what have you been up to?” She asked me, mock-scolding. That snapped me back to the moment and helped me keep my mind from wandering places that would only have confused me.

Gave me a chance to be flippant.

“Oh you know, nothing much. I gave some thought to wards plotting your downfall but, really, it just wouldn’t be fair. So then I just sat around on my own for a bit,” I said.

Celestia giggled, and on top of that she wiggled also. Just a little, but enough I noticed. I was pretty sure the tickling I could feel on my legs was her tail. That was odd. Sure didn’t feel like hair. Kind of tingled.

“Very kind of you to spare me. When you’re tried for treason I’ll make sure they take that into account.”

“Can I be done for treason if I’m not even from round here? I mean, I’m not technically a subject of yours, am I?”

I wasn’t totally clear on how treason worked, but in my head it did imply a certain level of betrayal and therefore suggested a certain level of pre-existing involvement. So to speak.

“I’m sure they could find a loophole,” Celestia said, lightly.

“Well there’s that to look forward to, then.”

She was looking into my eyes. Or was I looking into hers?

I licked my lips and, without really thinking first, said:

“I was starting to think you’d forgotten about me.”

“Now how could I do that?”

Why had I said that? Why had I sounded so much like I meant it and was worried about it? How could Celestia smile so warmly and sound so reassuring so easily? How was it I was still looking right into her eyes?

This was getting out of hand. I had no idea what was happening.

Her breath was tickling my face. This kind of proximity surely went beyond what was required for looking after someone hurt, right? Or maybe this was normal here? Probably not, given how the doctor definitely never got quite this up-close-and-personal with me, for which I was profoundly grateful. So maybe this sort of thing was just normal for Celestia?

I had no idea.

“Find what you were looking for?” Celestia asked, blinking for what seemed like the first time since she’d landed on top of me and finally breaking the tension. Or a lot of the tension. I blinked too.

“What?” I squeaked, and for this I got another giggle as she shifted her weight. She really did have me pinned good. Even if I hadn’t been knocked about I doubted I’d have been able to get her off. So to speak. I mean I wouldn’t have been able to shift her. I knew what I meant.

What the hell was happening? Was my brain melting?

“When you went out wandering - find what you were looking for?”

“Oh, uh, heh, that. Not really. Exploring was quite fun though. So was sneaking,” I said.

“Exploring, hmm? See anything fun?” She asked. I could still feel her tail flicking around. Little distracting, but not too bad.

And so I regaled her of my little trip, doing my best to remember the details.

Celestia was, as she had been before, possibly the greatest person - horse? - to talk to as could well be conceived. Not even once, not even for a moment did I feel that I was boring her. She listened so intently I was convinced that I was the most interesting person she could have found, that there was nowhere else she might have preferred to be and no-one else she would have wanted to listen to more.

This was very pleasant, obviously, if a little difficult to wholeheartedly believe.

Of course, not being a cad I did try and not dominate the conversation, asking her how her day had been, but she was so nimbly evasive I barely noticed being turned right back into talking about myself again.

The most mention she made of her day was just to say that it had been busy.

“-and then I got back here. So, uh, yeah. That was my day.”

I never was good at ending on a high note. Not that Celestia appeared to mind.

“Sounds like you had fun,” she said.

I had no idea how anyone could have listened to what I’d just said and conclude my day had been fun but sure, whatever you say, Celestia. You are quite literally the one in charge.

“Tried to. Did my best! Things get dull without you around,” I said and for my troubles got another nuzzle.

“Well I knew that already…”

And I shivered again because - again - she’d spoken softly directly into my ear. Damnit woman, what even is this?

“I should - we should probably get off the floor. If you don’t mind? We can stay here if you prefer just, you know, floors. Uncomfortable,” I said, in a vain attempt to exert some control over my circumstances.

Celestia blinked again and looked, seeming only now to notice that this whole time I’d been lying flat on the floor with her pressing down. She grinned sheepishly and stood up, slipping out of my arms. I felt colder.

“Sorry,” she said, hoisting me up magically and popping me back into bed. She enjoyed that sort of thing so I let her get on with it. Even let her tuck me in. I’m a big boy, honest.

“Thanks,” I said, once snuggled.

“It’s okay,” she said, then glancing out the window a moment before coming back to me. “I am still a little busy and there are still one or two things I need to do but if I can get it done in time to come back when you get dinner, would you like that?”

“Yes,” I replied instantly. I may have blushed.

“I’ll do my best, then,” she said.

“Well don’t put yourself out for my sake. I’m sure I can survive another evening without you. Just! And, you know, the stuff you’ve got to do is probably important. So take your time with it.”

Her pout was back.

“This is important,” she said.

“You did mention that but, yeah, there’s a scale, Celestia…”

She likely would have pressed the issue had she had the time to do so. Instead, she just gave me a few more seconds to really feel the weight of her pout before sighing.

“Fine,” she said. “But if there’s anything I can do for you in the meantime you tell me.”


“Anything,” she said, smiling, and never had the word sounded quite so inviting or quite so accommodating.

“Uh, well, ah, I couldn’t have a book or something could I? Gets a little dull on my own.”

And of course I had singularly failed to get anything to read on my grand adventure outside of the room. But I just let that bit be implied, no need to outright say it.

She tapped a hoof to her chin.

“I think we can stretch to that. Anything in particular?”

“Surprise me,” I said. Then, on impulse: “Your favourite. If you have one. One of them. You probably have lots. Actually never mind. Forget I said anything. I’m fine.”

Great work.

Celestia, thankfully, drew no attention to my rambling nonsense and acted as though she’d only heard the important bits. She’s so nice.

“A favourite. I can do that.”

She then came in close for another, final nuzzle and I felt one of her ears flick against me. For one dizzying moment I was gripped with a sudden desire to just reach up and scratch behind one of those ears. I couldn’t say why. It just came to me.

I rammed that thought down right quick. The idea curdled my blood. So creepy! So weird! Would I have done that to a person? I imagined not! And Celestia was basically just a horse-shaped person, so I wouldn’t do it to her either!

Agreeably she was, you know, rubbing her face all over me - and not for the first time - and that wasn’t exactly person behaviour either, but still! My point stood! She’s a princess and a magic horse and this is clearly just how she rolls. I do not scratch ears! That’s how I roll! Hands to yourself!

“You seem tense,” she said once she pulled back again.

“Nope. Totally fine. You go do your business. I’ll be here!”

She peered at me. I gave a thumbs up. She probably didn’t get what that meant.

“...okay. I’ll try to be back later,” she said, moving to the door.

“Look forward to it!”

I waved and off she went and once the door closed behind her I flopped, limp.

Okay man, this is getting kind of wild.

Being cool with a talking horse is one thing, I can support that rationally. Celestia is a nice, cogent, obviously sapient individual and so treating her as such and not as an animal is fine. I get that. She is also a lovely person to be around so being happy when she is is also fine. I get that, too.

But all this touchy-feely stuff must have been getting to me. Giving me conniptions.

It was probably just shock, residual shock. That had to be it. The full impact of what had happened to me coming through in spits and spurts. I was in a whole other world, after all, my memory half-fried, my body in poor (though improving) condition and my best friend a magical princess horse. Oh yeah, and also magic was a thing. It existed now.

Had to just be the shock, that was all. And Celestia was just my only real fixed point in all of those. So it was only natural I should cling to her, literally and figuratively. That was all.

I was spared the opportunity to tie myself into further mental knots by the eventual arrival of dinner, which turned out today to be some vegetable curry-ish thing. It even had what appeared to be potatoes in it! Someone in the kitchen was getting adventurous. I wolfed the thing down.

“Thanks, guys. Compliments to the chef!” I said to the retreating staff who remained as lightning-fast and silent as ever. And no sooner had the door closed on them than it opened again, and in came Luna.

I quickly looked around the room.

“Did I fall asleep again?” I asked.

Not a joke. I was honestly worried.

Luna - who had a messenger bag of all things draped over her - approached the bed.

“I felt it would be polite of me to attempt to speak with you while you were awake,” she said.

Ah, so I was awake. That was good to know.

“Makes a change, certainly.”


Usually at this point Celestia would probably have sat down beside the bed or something. Luna continued standing, and I could tell she wasn’t sure how best to approach things. Maybe outside of dreams she found conversations difficult. Maybe I was the problem. Who could say?

I wanted to make her relaxed though, if only for her sake, so I asked:

“So how you doing?”

That’ll do the trick.

“We are - I am well, thank you for asking,” she said.

The conversation stalled. Desperately I lunged for something else to say:

“Hey, I had a question. Do you remember what we talk about in the dreams?”


“Because I don’t. Well, I remember bits, but not always. I think I remember bits from what we said in the last one, but not all the bits. So you remember the whole thing?”

“I do,” she nodded.

“That kind of seems unfair.”

“It was not my intention for it to be unfair. It is somewhat unusual that you do not remember them, if I am being honest. Perhaps a result of your condition?” She suggested.


My condition. Whatever that actually was. Even now no-one had fully explained it to me. I was just mad fucked up and missing chunks of my mind, as it were. You’d think they’d have sat me down and walked me through that but instead they all seemed happy just to keep me in the dark and ticking over.

Even Celestia! Though to be fair to her I hadn’t actually ever asked.

Probably should have been grumpier about that but, really, what would extra information have given me? Then I’d know the why of how I was so janked, and so I could sit in bed unable to remember my parent’s faces but be a smidgen better informed.

Someone else would probably have come to a different conclusion. Oh well.

“I heard you made an escape attempt today,” Luna said, getting my attention.

“Is that what they’re calling it?” I asked.

“It is what Celestia called it when we spoke.”

“Oh you know her. Exaggeration. I think she’s got it in for me, you know.”

“She found it rather amusing, actually. She also mentioned that you would like a book? Hers will probably come later once she’s picked it but I thought you might appreciate one now, from my own collection.”

At this the flap on the bag got magicked open and out floated a book. Nay, a tome. A whacking great slab of leather and metal bindings. Thing looked like it could stop a harpoon. Luna started hovering it towards my lap and I was actually a little worried about what would happen once she dropped it there.

“That’s super-nice of you Luna but maybe you could put it on the side table there?”

“Hmm? Oh, of course,” she said, doing so and sparing my thighs. The bag then closed and she turned her attention back to me.

“Now, the book is very old so if you could be-”

Luna paused, mouth hanging open mid-sentence. It then snapped shut and she leant in, looking at me closely, close enough it was hard to keep her in focus.

“Uh, yes?” I asked, not really having enough room to back up away from her. Celestia I didn’t mind getting so close. The doctor and the nurses I didn’t have a choice about. This was new, and I wasn’t totally keen on it.

“You smell…” she said, sniffing once or twice. “Very strongly…” another few sniffs, the other side of me as I flinched and before she leant back again, expression unreadable. “Like my sister.”

Eep? Eep.

Always watch your back

View Online

Luna wasn’t so much angry as she was disappointed. I could tell. It came off her in waves.

“What have you and my sister been doing?” She asked and could do nothing but shrug and not look her in the face while I fiddled with the bedclothes. I couldn’t immediately think of what it might be that Luna was upset about so my brain decided that it had to be everything.

“Nothing. Friend stuff. You know, normal stuff,” I said.

That’ll do the trick.

Luna did not appear convinced.

“And how is it her scent is on you in such abundance?”

What a way to put it! What could you even say to that?

“Uh, well she has been looking after me, I guess that’s how?” I ventured, risking a glance up. Luna looked much as she had before. Which is to say, unhappy.

“She must have been taking particular care in looking after you,” she said.

Felt I was missing something there.


Maybe not the right answer. Luna’s expression told me this may not have been the right answer. I shrank further beneath the safety of the covers.

“I’m sorry, did I do something wrong?”

Luna sighed, shaking her head. Her mane sparkled. Pretty, yeah, but I had no time to appreciate that. Things were far too tense.

“No, no you did not do anything wrong. My sister may have been letting her excitement get the better of her judgement, that is all.”

Heaping all the responsibility onto Celestia was nice and all in that it let me off the hook, but it did kind of suggest I had no agency. Like I hadn’t really been involved in any of this. And I had been, if you think about it.

And I did have agency, damnit! A little bit. Okay, maybe not much at all right now but still, I wasn’t just here to sit and look pretty and get talked about.

“If you say so,” I said. “Would have thought at least some of this was my fault.”

“Are a head of state who found a dying creature from another world and secretly nursed it back to health before proceeding to look after it on your own and would you also have most-likely continued looking after said creature on your own had you not been discovered, restricting the creature’s contact with others so as to be able to spend more time with them yourself to the exclusion of anyone else? And would you, on discovering that the creature could talk and understand you and somehow seemed to share your bizarre sense of humour, proceed to become exceptionally, almost intimately friendly with them over the course of scarcely less than three days?”


“Then your share of the blame is minimal”.

Is that how that works? I think I’d kind of lost the thread of what Luna had been saying somewhere in the middle of all that. I messed around with the bed covers some more and succeeded only in pulling them off my feet.

“I’m getting the impression that this isn’t something you’re just going to shrug off?” I asked, entertaining the merest sliver of hope. A sliver dashed to pieces immediately before Luna even needed to speak.

“No, it is not,” she said, flatly.


“What’ll happen, then?”

She opened her mouth to speak, stopped, closed it, thought, and then said:

“I shall consider what the best course of action is to be.”

Because that wasn’t ominous or anything.

“But before that I have duties to attend to. Do you have enough to keep yourself occupied?” She asked, looking me over, getting momentarily alarmed and distracted by the sight of my feet. Guess she’d never really noticed them before. Feet aren’t the best.

“Well, you left the book and there’s probably going to be dinner at some point and Celestia said she, uh said she might...come...see me later...?”

Given the topic of conversation I could probably have picked a better way of ending that sentence. Instead it just sort of died in my mouth as I spoke the words and saw again how Luna’s expression soured. Go me.

“Thanks for the book, by the way. Did I say thank you already? I don’t think I did. So thank you,” I said. Good save.

For possibly the first time since she’d first appeared Luna smiled. It wasn’t especially uplifting though. More of the rather wan, sad sort of smile. The opposite of the kind I would have wanted.

“The book is very old, as I say. Do take care of it.”

“I will I will. Uh, Luna?”


“I didn’t get Celestia in trouble or anything, did I?” I asked. She pondered, then:

“No. It is merely something better dealt with sooner.”

And then she was gone, walking off without a backward glance.

I’d really like a meeting or conversation with Luna to go well for me one of these days. Maybe I’d try asking her about the weather next time. Even I couldn’t possibly fuck that up.

Too late now though. No use crying over spilt milk. Best to just buckle down and await the inevitable consequences of my blundering actions. Sigh.

I tried lifting Luna’s book off of the side table but I had neither the leverage nor the strength in my arms to manage it. Emasculating. At least no-one had been around to see me fail or read about me fail. That would be have been the worst.

This left me in exactly the same position I’d been in earlier and it was a trial not to grind my teeth in frustration. I thought about spaceships because lasers are cool. I tried to remember something concrete about my life back on Earth but only managed to give myself another headache. I then felt grumpy about how the act of trying to remember shouldn’t give me a headache.

I was grumpy for a while.

Dinner arrived, I thanked the fleeting ponies as ineffectually as I had the last time and I ate. Later, the plates were removed. I hadn’t been especially hungry.

I sat and stared into space. Outside, it got dark. Celestia did not reappear.

Eventually I was forced into using the bathroom, which at least broke the monotony. While I was in the I briefly considered trying to have a bath on my own, but then I imagined that that was the sort of thing that would put the doctor into a froth, so thought better of it and got back into bed instead.

At some point I must have nodded off while watching the door.

No dreams, which was probably just as well, but I again managed to wake up just as the sun was starting to make itself known. This might have had something to do with the fact that no-one ever closed the bloody curtains in my room, now that I come to think of it, but a bit too late.

Seeing no reason not to I heaved out of bed to go and watch the sun again. Strolling casually was getting a lot easier now, though I seemed to be favouring my left leg more than I might have expected. Probably slept on my right funny or something. Or something else. Bodies are weird.

Still, getting across the room was now not even a big deal, and this was a good thing. I’d be tap dancing around the place in no-time. Presumably. Until then pretty happy to just stand, listing to the side and watching the sun come up.

“You’re an early riser,” said a voice in my ear.

I leapt and yelped and whirled and found Celestia less than a foot from me,

“Jesus Christ! Celestia! How! Why! You - oh - you did it again - agh…”

Clutching at my chest and leaning on the windowsill for support I tried to glare at her but she was just grinning so fiercely that I couldn’t even be mad at her.

“You can move real quiet when you want to, you know that?” I said, pulse slowly steadying.

“I do, yes,” she said with intense pride, standing up straight. This made her maybe about my height, though the horn took her maybe an inch or two over. But that’s cheating. I’m taller. This is important.

“Smug horse. I’ll put a bell on you.”

“Where?” She asked, earnestly, taking me off-guard. I hadn’t actually thought of answer. I’d just been throwing things out there. I thought furiously for a second or two.

“...around your neck?”

Celestia cocked her head as she considered this.

“I suppose that’d work.”

Glad that was settled.

I then turned back to face the window and Celestia came in to stand beside me, the two of just watching the sun. Another lovely day from the looks of things. In my head it made perfect sense that magical flying horse land would have nice weather. It just wouldn’t have made as much sense otherwise. Had it been overcast, it would have just been odd looking.

Home had been overcast a lot. This, at least, I could remember. A very grey place.

“I’ve seen maybe two sunrises here properly so far and both have been gorgeous,” I said, and somehow this was enough to prompt more nuzzling, Celestia Goddamn burrowing into the crook of my neck as one wing went around me.

“Thank you,” she said.

Was she taking credit for the quality of the sunrises? That seemed a little much. What was she, some kind of god princess? She did have a sun kind of painted or whatever onto her hip but still, come on. That’s going a bit far.

Not like I was going to call her out or anything, of course.

The nuzzling continued, her wing exerting enough consistent though gentle pressure to slowly-but-surely press me against her side. I was helpless to resist any of this, of course, but it did start me thinking.

“H-hey, Celestia, I got a question.”

“Hmm?” She hummed and I felt as much as heard the hum and I could smell her and she was so warm and I really needed to focus and actually ask the question.

“All this touchy-feely stuff - I’m not objecting to it, don’t get me wrong - but, uh, it is normal, right? This is a cultural thing? Would happen to anyone?”

She paused the nuzzling, if only for a second, and then resumed.

“Yes,” she said.

“Oh. Oh okay, that’s good.”

Colour me reassured.

Another pause from Celestia.


“Just, ah, something Luna said is all. Well, more implied than said. Probably nothing.”

That got her attention. While her wing stayed where it was - keeping me where I was - her face pulled back enough so she could look properly into mine.

“What?” She asked.

“Probably nothing, like I say. Forget I said anything. Can’t trust a word that comes out of my mouth,” I blurted.

Celestia didn’t so much as move a muscle but something about her changed and all at once I felt very small, very exposed and entirely unable to move. She also may have got a touch warmer, almost to the point of being uncomfortably warm. That was probably just my imagination, though.

“What?” She said again, and though her tone hadn’t changed much it had at least changed enough to leave me nowhere to go.

“Well, uh, it’s just that she, ah, well, she said she could me?”

Seemed as good a place to start as any.

There wasn’t exactly a lot for me to retell and I did my best. Likely I mangled a bit of it because Celestia looked increasingly grave the more she heard. Just after midway through her wing withdrew, leaving me bereft. I finished and again had the feeling I’d just dropped someone in it.

“I didn’t get Luna into trouble, did I?” I asked. I noticed then that I was clinging to the windowsill again, watching Celestia nervously. She looked agitated, certainly more so than I’d seen her before.

“No…” she said distantly before shaking her head and focusing on me properly. “No you didn’t. Don’t worry. She’s probably just overreacting. You know how protective little sisters can be.”


I did not. Or maybe I did? Fucking memory loss.

Where we were supposed to go from here I had no idea so instead I just stood in silence like a sinking pudding, shuffling my weight from foot to foot and clinging desperately to the windowsill for physical and emotional support.

“So…” I said. “You got, uh, another busy day lined up?”

Celestia brightened up, and her radiant smile was almost enough to convince me that everything was totally peachy.

“Not too busy. If I can get it done quickly I should be able to come back and then we can do anything you’d like.”

“Anything?” I asked.


There were far, far too many things that came to my mind for me to be easily able to pick one. So I panicked and grabbed at random.

“Uh, you guys have ice cream? Like, as a thing?”

She giggled, I leant more heavily on the windowsill.

“We do,” she said.

“We could get ice cream?” I suggested, testing the waters, ready to backpedal at a moment’s notice.

“That certainly falls under ‘anything’. I think I’d like that,” she said. I was relieved.

Personally, I wanted to see a horse eating an ice cream. Either a little tub or a cone, I didn’t mind. It’d be great. That and, you know, ice cream. There were no drawbacks to my plan.

“That’s good then. It’s a d- uh, it’s a thing we can do. That I look forward to. Doing. Yes.”

You jackass. Try thinking before speaking in future. And don’t even give me any of that about her smile. I know she’s smiling! I know it’s overwhelming! You think I don’t know that? That’s no excuse! You very nearly cocked things right good there!

Thankfully, Celestia had noticed neither my very near-miss or my subsequent internal argument. She was just there, smiling, lovely, magic hair flapping away.

“I’m looking forward to it as well. I’ll do my best to make sure we have time to enjoy ourselves,” she said.

Celestia then stepped forwards and I got another hug. A proper one. She plopped herself down right in front of me and wrapped her arms - forelegs, I guess? - around me and everything, along with the wings. So warm.

“I’ll see you later,” she said, again insisting on putting her mouth right by my ear and speaking far too softly. The shivering happened and she giggled. She was doing that on purpose!

“You…” I said, trying to sound firm and unyielding but with the residual twitches still coming I couldn’t really manage it. She broke the hug and backed off, grinning.

“Hmm? Me?”

“Yeah yeah, play coy. I see right through you, you know,” I said, flapping a hand at her, the other on my hip. I probably looked worse than I pictured I did. Wearing the tablecloth would really take the wind out of anything I felt like doing as far as dignity went.

“Oh I’m sure you do,” Celestia said, grinning wider still as she opened up the door, spared me a final look and trotted on back out.

And I stood there, smiling like a dopey tit, right up until the door closed.

With Celestia gone, gone too was the wonderfully soothing effect of her smile and her general presence and the weight of it all came back down on me. I had the distinct and unavoidable impression that things were all due to go downhill shortly, and that it was probably in some way my fault.

“Good job. No idea what you did but you’ve apparently made a hash of it. Cracking stuff,” I said, slumping over forward and letting my arms dangle limply.

Today was rubbish. I went and had an angry bath. Take that, world.

Later, breakfast. Then nothing.

I really, really had to see about getting out of the palace. Hell, getting out of the room would be good. Maybe go back to the gardens? Could ask if I was allowed to do that. Anything would have been welcome at this point. Solitary confinement wasn’t proving the quiet, peaceful experience I had initially considered it might have been. Turns out it sucked. Who knew?

Oh was I looking forward to ice cream. If it happened. I hoped it was a good long walk away. I hoped there were winding streets. Maybe Celestia and me would get lost! That’d be fun.

I mean, she could fly and teleport so it wouldn’t be properly lost, but still. I was sure she could play along for my benefit. It’d be a little adventure!

The thought at least buoyed me, for a little while. Maybe today wasn’t completely rubbish.

Later still the doctor reappeared and I think it was a pretty good sign of how dire things had got that I was actually happy to see him. Certainly, he was surprised at the enthusiasm with which he was greeted.

There followed another exciting round of walking in circles around the room, bending, stretching and general dressage. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun, and by the end of it it was starting to become pretty obvious that something was actually wrong with my right leg. I was heavily favouring the left and had developed a fairly significant limp. The doctor said it was something he’d need to keep an eye on.


At least lunch was good. Hearty fare. I even licked the plate.

And then, again, nothing.

I went to take closer looks at the artwork. Up close they still meant nothing to me, but at least I was able to appreciate the detail. Pretty metal stuff, in some cases. Or at least as metal as anything involving brightly-coloured magic horses could be. Some of them had monsters.

Did monsters exist too? Why not? In for a penny, right?

I was trying to remember the exact difference between a gryphon and a hippogriff - I remembered both, go figure, I should really stop being surprised by what I can remember 0 when I got to experience a stereophonic, two-tone crack and flash which startled me so much I actually did fall over, leg giving out in shock and seeing me tumbling to the carpet, blinking the afterimages out of my eyes.

I saw what the problem was.

Standing there, either side of the room and either side of me, were Luna and Celestia. Neither looked particularly happy to be there.

There was something wrong with these two, I swear to God. If they weren’t waltzing into my dreamscapes or sneaking up behind me they were teleporting into the room and not using a perfectly good door.

“Oh you two are here wow I didn’t hear you come in...” I grumbled as I got back to my feet, something easier said than done these days.

They swapped inscrutable expressions and advanced, which was surprisingly menacing all things considered. Celestia ended up more-or-less alongside or behind me, with Luna therefore sort of facing us both. I just stood as straight as I could and tried not to move or breath too loudly.

“We need to talk,” Celestia said.

I know it’s cliche to point this out but come on, has anyone ever said that before anything good? Why even say it? Why not just slit my throat now?

“All three of us?” I asked.

“Yes,” Luna said.

Eep. Again.

“To be blunt, it concerns the nature of your relationship,” she said, looking between Celestia and me.

“We’re just friends!” We both said in perfect time and in exactly the same tone of righteous indignation.

Kind of undermined what we said, if I’m being honest, impressive as it was. Like we’d practised it.

Luna gave me another sniff, this one more for theatrical purposes.

“Very good friends, it seems,” she said.

Dramatical horse.

As an aside, how come Luna had smelt Celestia on me but not me on Celestia? That didn’t seem fair.

“What’s wrong with friends?” Celestia huffed.

“Nothing is wrong with friends, sister, I am merely concerned over the breakneck speed with which this friendship appears to have progressed.”

“Isn’t ‘fast friends’ an expression?” I offered. I got glared at by both of them. I decided to be quiet for a bit.

“Has Twilight Sparkle returned to Ponyville?” Luna asked, moving her attention back to her sister.

“Not yet, she told me she’s due to leave on the train later - why?” Celestia asked back. Then she gasped and grabbed me with her wings, yanking me over and pulling me close. I yelped. “No! He’s too delicate to be moved!”

I really don’t think that excuse was fooling anyone anymore, especially as I was literally standing there with the both of them. That, and Celestia had just manhandled me like a sack of flour

None of which was even getting into whatever the hell they were actually talking about. What was happening, exactly?

Also, sidebar: was Luna making these names up?

“Moved?” I asked, muffled, my face pressed into Celestia’s side. She’d kind of bent me over when she’d pulled me in and my arms were sticking out. I probably looked a tit. More so than usual.

“I think Luna wants to send you away to Ponyville,” Celestia said accusingly.

That didn’t sound great.

“Uh, how ‘away’ is away?”

Luna sighed.

“You are not being exiled - he is not being exiled,” she said, first to me and then to Celestia. “This is wouldn’t be permanent. You would know where he is and it would only be until he has more fully recovered. At the current rate that will be a few weeks, if that. Looking at him it could be days and he will be walking back on his own.”

Hyperbole, I assumed. Unless this place was close enough, then I guess it’d be worth a shot? Just because? I did like walking, even with a limp.

“Then why send him at all?” Celestia asked.

“To give the both of you some space. Space to perhaps better focus on duties that may have been attended to without due consideration and space to gain a better understanding of who you actually are.”

Again, to Celestia first and then to me.

I tried to gently extricate myself from Celestia’s grasp but she was crazy strong and I wasn’t going anywhere, so I gave up, face smooshed against her. At least she was soft.

“I have no idea what’s going on,” I said.

“Which rather proves my point,” Luna said, her eyes flicking down to me.


“Space would be good for both of you. Space and some time to perhaps better consider the nature of your relationship. You,” she said, pointing to Celestia. “Are lavishing considerable time and apparently a significant level of affection on a new arrival who can’t even remember his own name and who’s barely been awake a week and who is more-or-less utterly dependant on you. I do not want to bring up the birds again, sister, but-”

“This is completely different!”

Luna didn’t say ‘It’s not and you know it’s not’ but then again she didn’t have to. Great ability to speak with her face, Luna. It’s amazing she needed to ever say anything at all.

“The birds couldn’t talk to me,” Celestia said, unable to hold Luna’s eye. “I’ve missed having someone to talk to.”

“You had a rather lengthy and pleasant conversation with Twilight Sparkle last night, as I recall.”

Celestia gave Luna a dark look

“That’s not the same. That’s not the same and you know it isn’t.”

Luna powered on through the dark look, barely slowing.

“All the more reason to ensure rash action does not spoil or undermine something of value,” she said.

“What-” I started, but I didn’t finish.

“And you,” my turn to get pointed at. “Have developed a possibly unhealthy level of emotional dependence on a single individual, the only one you feel comfortable around in a world you do not come from, a world you know absolutely nothing about, and she has the kind of responsibilities that could quite unexpectedly take her away from you without a moment’s notice, leaving you bereft.”

Well she wasn’t wrong. But still! I was a big boy, damnit! I didn’t need emotional support! Could just internalise my anguish forever with no negative consequences whatsoever. Like a normal person! What could be healthier?

I still had only the flimsiest idea of what this was even about or where it was going. I’d put my mind somewhere else, somewhere it couldn’t do any harm. I let it all just wash over me.

“...haven’t developed an unhealthy of level of emotional dependence…” I mumbled, acutely aware of Celestia clinging onto me like I was a teddy bear.

“Last night you informed me that you thought my sister might visit you again. Did she?”


“And what did you do for the rest of the night?”

“...waited for her…”

This is why no-one likes having serious conversations. They’re not fun. And sometimes they’re competitions and you always seem to be the one losing.

“That and you’re both a bad influence on each other to extent I fear for his physical wellbeing. He has a black eye, need I remind you, and do not attempt an excuse - I already know it was on account of the two of you egging one another on. I can see it.”

She had us there.

“When you went into my dreams did you read my mind or something?” I asked, cautiously.

“No, it was just not especially hard to work out,” she said.

“...I could have fallen down some stairs?” I ventured.

“Which would be better how?”

Had me there, too. She was pretty good.

“Further, while providing a peaceful and restive environment for recuperation and also providing greater opportunity to develop a wider social network, Twilight Sparkle is also a foremost magical authority - she may well be able to provide insight on how he came to be here and how best he might be returned home,” Luna said.

Oh yes. Home. That place I came from in a way no-one seems to have looked into and which I can’t remember a detail single of. Definitely a place I was keen to get back to. Yep. Ready, raring and eager, that was me. Definitely. Not low-key terrified of being thrown from the one place I was starting to get a vague level of familiarity with back into the place I’d come from and knew next to nothing about and couldn’t recall a single friendly person in.

Yep. Couldn’t wait. Sooner the better. Rip me up by the roots and toss me back. I love it.

Also can we just go back and really appreciate Luna’s sentence? I’d really have to sit down and have it read out again to fully take in all the words she’d thought were the right ones to use. She sounded like someone being paid by the hour. Holy crap.

That did appear to be end of Luna’s spiel as well, as she said nothing further. The ball was clearly in my and Celestia’s court, which meant I had to think about what to do and come up with an answer.

Or, better, defer to Celestia.

“What do you think?” I asked her.

She was a princess after all, right? Used to making big decisions. And this was hardly big! I was just an idiot. And - as had apparently been made clear - a mostly-helpless idiot. No shame in living down to that, eh?

She let me go at last and I stood while she thought to herself, chewing her lip.

“Luna may be right. We may be rushing into this,” she said, at length.

A depressingly sensible answer. I thought about her response. Something about it stuck out to me, but it took a moment to figure out what. Then I got it, so I asked:

“Rushing into what? What is this?”

The shocked look on Celestia’s face suggested she had not considered this question before now. In fairness, neither had I. I still wasn’t.

“...perhaps some time to think would be...sensible…”

I wished I was wearing something more substantial than the tablecloth. I wished I was back in the bed under enough duvets it was impossible to tell I was even there. I felt cold. I didn’t even really know why.

“You’re probably right,” I said. She usually was.

Wait, how could I know that? I’ve known the lady less than a week! Her being right could be an unusual thing! And here was I assuming not? Assuming she had consistent and impeccable judgement?

Oh God, Luna really was right. I knew that I’d trust Celestia and I barely knew her.


“I’ll - I will go and talk to Twilight,” Celestia said, leaving the room, despondent.

That left me and Luna.

“I imagine you must think ill of me for this,” Luna said, not looking at me. Always a good start that.

Honestly, I didn’t mind people not looking at me when they spoke to me. Some people get mad about that. It never ruffled me much. I just shrugged.

“You actually have a point.”

She started. Apparently she had expected some pushback.


“Well, I’m not going to piss on your leg, Luna, I’ve got a soft spot for Celestia a mile wide. And she’s really warm. But, uh, wait, forget that part - I’ve got a huge soft spot for Celestia, I can recognise this. I think about her way too much and when she’s not around I’m mainly just waiting for her to show up. And I’ve known her for barely any time at all. And until I met her I’d never met anyone who wasn’t of my species. And she also kind of saved my life so I was well-disposed towards her to start with. And I really like her a lot. Maybe, uh, too much, So yeah. Maybe this is hasty.”

I paused.

“She’s very pleasant, though.”

And she smelt nice. And her eyes were nice to look at. And her laugh sounded lovely. Her voice did too, actually. And she laughed at my jokes! And it was quite nice when her wings went around me and-

Okay, I might have been developing something of an unhealthy infatuation. Again, Luna might have had a point.

Celestia was just so nice though! She’d looked after me! Kept me from dying!

“What was the name of that thing? Florence Nightingale effect? Probably not using it right…” I said to Luna, who just blinked at me.

“A bird?”

I don’t know why I expected this to work.


I knew what I meant. I think?

Wait, was the Florence Nightingale effect the one where the person caring is the one who gets infatuated, or the other way around? I might have had this whole thing back-asswards.

You know what? Forget it.

“So how is this going to work, exactly? Me being palmed off?” I asked.

“You are not being ‘palmed off’, as you call it. You are being passed into the capable care of another until you are recovered. Twilight Sparkle was Celestia’s student and now she is a princess in her own right. A very intelligent young mare. She lives in a...moderately peaceful countryside town. It’ll be good for your recovery. And you will be able to contact Celestia if you wish, you’re not being denied that.”

“Sounds idyllic. Is she, uh, nice? Twilight? Or is it Sparkle? Oh God, if I use the wrong one she really won’t like me.”

Pony naming convention was a mystery to me.

“Technically I suppose she should be addressed as princess, though she prefers Twilight to the best of my knowledge. She is nice. You seem concerned?”

“I haven’t had the best luck in, ah, winning over the locals. Celestia’s the only one around here who likes me. Everyone else just puts up with me,” I said.

“The staff have spoken quite favourably of you, actually,” Luna said, which made me double-take.

“What? They have?”

“Yes. They say that you said thank you to them, and they also passed on your regards to the chef, who was very pleased.”

Well that’s a surprise.

“, okay, didn’t expect that. They barely looked at me!”

“That would be because they are concentrating on doing their jobs,” said Luna.

“Oh. Well when you put it like that I guess that makes sense. Still, they’re about the only ones, then. Them and Celestia.”

“I also like you.”

I narrowed my eyes and bent a little to bring my head level with hers.

“Do you? Do you really, Luna?”

She rankled, frowning.

“Yes! Would it be easier for you to believe if I were to drape myself over you?”

“Uh, ah, no,” I said, straightening right back up again.

“Well then.”

Her tail flicked. It’s odd seeing something that’s always swishing flick. It’s like an extra big flick. I adjusted my tablecloth.

“Can we at least agree that the doctor doesn’t like me?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Luna said.

“He doesn’t. But that’s fine. Just so you know,” I said.

Was he being consulted about this? I got the notion that he wasn’t. I’d probably get blamed, somehow, and he’d like me less. Well whatever, son, I’m being shipped out somewhere so meh.

Luna looked me over and I had the distinct impression I was being scrutinised.

“You are a remarkably relaxed individual,” she said.


“I am not wholly sure I meant it as a compliment. I expected you to have reacted rather more forcefully to the prospect of being moved elsewhere and away from Celestia. Some protest would not have come as a surprise.”

“Oh. Okay? Just seems like I don’t have much to gain from getting in a tizz over anything. I mean, sure, I’m not thrilled but I am coming back, right? What am I going to do right now? Yell? Not sure how that’d help me,” I said, shrugging.

“Such passivity could be exploited.”

“Is it being exploited?”


“Well then,” I said, doing my best to mimic her own intonation, which got at least a tiny smile out of her.

Again, even if it was being exploited what the hell was I meant to do about it? Punch a horse? In my state? Some of them had horns. Some of them had armour! I didn’t much fancy my chances.

Besides, shouting always gave me a headache. I was certain of this.

A few silent minutes after this Celestia came back. She was accompanied by a little purple pony who appeared to be an state of acute excitement. This spiked when she saw me. That’s unusual. I would have assumed I’d have the opposite effect on most people.

Celestia approached and the purple one dashed ahead, reaching me first.

“Hi! I’m Twilight Sparkle!” Said the purple pony.

Alicorn, actually. I remembered that. Wings and horn, different kind.

“Hello Twilight Sparkle. I might have a name but no-one knows what it is. You’re one of the little ones,” I said.

She came up to round about my waist, maybe a little higher, staring up at me with scarily gigantic eyes while I stared down at her with my perfectly normal sized ones. I seemed to have taken her off-guard with my opener as her look of delighted exuberance went over to one of confusion instead.

“Um, yes?”

“Sorry, my bad. Just Luna said ‘princess’ so I kind of figured you’d be, like, yeigh high,” I said, raising a hand to about Luna’s level. Twilight watched this - distracted by my hand for a moment - and blushed lightly.

“Oh, no. I’m not that tall.”

“I noticed. But that’s fine. Forget I said anything, I’ve sidetracked this whole thing. Let’s start over. Hi. I’m a guy, some human, hello.”

I bent slightly and held my hand out towards her and she regarded it again. Slowly, cautiously, she stuck out a hoof. The ensuing shake was awkward for all concerned.

“So Twilight, I hear that you’ll, ah, be putting up with me for a bit? Assuming you said yes?”

This seemed to put the spring back in her step and smiled again. It was fucking adorable. I think my heart stopped.

“Yes! Celestia explained everything! I think you’ll really like it in Ponyville.”

“I’m sure I will,” I said. What else could I say? I looked to Celestia maybe hoping she might somehow silently communicate something of value to me, but she was just smiling, a little strained. I learnt nothing.

Guess this was happening.

At least I’d be getting outside?

There followed some discussion about travel arrangements. I reverted back to just letting it all wash over me. I had no input to give and none was asked. Twilight pitched in with the other two every so often, usually helpfully. The rest of the time she gawked at me and did her best to hide the fact she was doing so. Her best was not very good in this regard.

The train was leaving sooner than I might have thought. That they even had trains was still a bit of a shock, but then why not? They had flying horses and vast palaces - why not trains, too? Go nuts why don’t you.

This left very little time for me to do anything. Not that I had much to do. Didn’t exactly need to pack. A carriage was organised - they had those too, apparently - and why they said this was because it was a fair distance to the station and they needed to make good time I had the nagging idea that it was to keep me out of sight on the way there.

“Can’t you teleport me? Or is that only a one-person kind of gig?” I asked.

“It is possible,” Celestia said warily, eyeing the other two. “But if I were to teleport you there would be a minor element of risk.”

“How minor?”

“About one in eighty million,” Twilight said, unprompted, blushing again when Luna and Celestia gave her a look. “More or less…” she said, quietly, shuffling her hooves.

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” I said.

“That’s normally. With you though, I’d rather not take the risk. If you don’t mind,” Celestia said.

It had been worth a shot.

“Fair do’s,” I said.

And so a carriage it was. At least for me and Twilight. I don’t know why Twilight was the one who rode with me but I was kind of glad because the carriage wasn’t exactly roomy and if we’d all tried to pack in things would have got uncomfortably intimate uncomfortably fast.

Instead I just had to stoop while Twilight talked at me a lot. Chatty little thing, she was. I only caught about half of it. She seemed to be extolling the virtues of this Ponyville place and all her various friends who lived in it. When she finally stopped to catch her breath I felt the need to butt in, if only to keep her from passing out.

“Sounds like a lovely place, I must say. Uh, Twilight, what did Celestia tell you about this thing, anyway? This situation?”

She took a few more gulps of air before answering. I gave her the space to do so.

“She said that you arrived suddenly in the palace gardens without anyone noticing and that you were very close to death. No-one knows how you got here, not even you, you’ve lost most of your memory and you need someone quiet and out of Canterlot so you can get better. Um, I think that was about it.”

Kind of summed up the more important details, I guess.

“Why?” She asked.

“Just curious. I mean, you accepted me being sent to you pretty quick.”

“Oh well you know, it’s a favour for Celestia so it’s not a problem. That and, well - and don’t take this the wrong way - it’s an opportunity to talk to somepony from a whole other world!”

Her eyes lit up at this.

“You do remember that part where I’ve lost most of my memory, yeah?” I asked.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Again, because that’s not ominous or anything.

The station was twee, and the reaction of the handful of ponies there did kind of make me glad we’d taken a more covert way there. I was getting stared at something fierce. It didn’t bother me at first, but they just kept doing it. The only thing that finally got them to stop was the sudden, crack-bang arrival of Luna and Celestia.

“You guys are late,” I said.

“I was getting something,” Celestia said.

“You forgot the book,” Luna said, floating over the messenger bag I’d seen her with before, the book inside it. I took the bag and nearly fell over forwards, managing with some considerable effort to sling the bag over my shoulder.

“Thanks Luna,” I wheezed. “I’ll take super-good care of it, don’t you worry.”

“And this is from me,” Celestia then said, stepping forward.

Thankfully, her book was a much more reasonable size and - wonderfully - in paperback. I had about enough time to see the cover showed an ocean before Celestia yanked me in with her wings for a hug.

“One of my favourites,” she said.

“I’ll go in with impossibly high expectations,” I said. She giggled, and I was thankful, though it wasn’t the happiest one I’d heard.

The hug seemed to go on for a long time. Finally Luna coughed quietly and Celestia stepped back.

Those bloody ponies were still staring. Didn’t they have homes to go to?

“Well, we should probably board,” Twilight said, sidling up, having kept her distance up to this point. I looked around.

“Where train?” I said, clutching Celestia’s book and trying not to let Luna’s heave me off balance. Twilight blinked at me and pointed. I jumped.

The most painfully lurid train that could possibly exist was right next to me. How I hadn’t seen it right away was a mystery. The only explanation was that it was so visually offensive my brain had tried to block it out. At least once I was on it I wouldn’t have to look at it.

“Whoa, wow, huh. Look at that,” I said.

Twilight opened up a door and climbed onboard. I dawdled.

“I’ll - I will be coming back, right?” I asked, looking between Luna and Celestia.

“Yes,” Luna said.

“It won’t be long at all. You’ll have fun. You’ll make other friends. It’ll be good for you,” Celestia said.

“Yeah. Course I will. I’m notoriously friendly,” I said. I swallowed. “But I can come back, right? Once I’m better?”

“Yes,” Luna said again, somewhat more emphatically.

“You’ll be fine. I’ll miss you, and you’ll miss me, but that’s a good thing, isn’t it?” Celestia asked, a hoof to my shoulder. I supposed it was. Sure didn’t feel like it, though.

“Yeah…” I said.

A pony with a hat and half a uniform blew a whistle. No trousers at work? Saucy.

Time to go.

I considered giving Celestia another hug, decided against it and then before I could make a further arse of myself promptly boarded the train. Keeping my head low to keep from cracking it on the ceiling of the carriage I shuffled up to sit opposite Twilight. Looking out the window I saw Luna and Celestia still standing there and looking back at me.

The train vibrated, chuffed, and then started chugging away. I waved. The princesses waved back. We kept this up until we couldn’t see one another any more and then I sank into the seat.

“Are you okay?” Twilight asked, adorably concerned.

“I’m fine,” I said.

I wasn’t, actually. I was actually hella fucking miserable.

Sure! Rationally speaking I could see the argument clearly! Now that I wasn’t wrapped in a lovely, soft embrace and being given shivers by giggles I could pretty clearly see how all of that was maybe happening just a touch too fast! Distance could only be a good thing. Was hardly like I was disappearing, right? I’d be going back. Just a little time to get our heads on straight. Could only be good!

None of that made me particularly happy about it, though. You can understand every step of a perfectly laid, impeccably logical plan but that doesn’t mean it’s a plan you like. I knew it was for the best, ultimately, but it would still have been far more fun to just be able to stay in bed and hang around with Celestia. It would have been easier!

Oh well, life. These things happen.

And I sure wasn’t going to tell anyone I was miserable, obviously, so all of that got shoved into a little cupboard in the back of my head. I could deal with it later.

Shrugging off the strap on Luna’s monstrously heavy bag I settled it more comfortably on the empty seat beside me and then I opened up the book Celestia had given me.

And it was all gibberish. Not a single line of it was intelligible to me, cover to cover.

I closed the book again and laid it on my lap, letting my head fall back and closing my eyes.

“Whelp,” I sighed.

On this enchanting day

View Online

Ponyville was pretty nice.

The ride into it had been nice, too. A very scenic journey. Lots of mountains and forests and rolling green hills and the like. Without a book to read having a view to stare at went a long way to making the time pass.

Twilight also talked to me, which was also quite nice. She was a very chirpy little purple horse, packed to the brim with questions about what the landscape and geography was like where I was from and which I did my best to answer until the effort of dredging up details gave me too much of a headache.

“Are you okay?” She asked as I clutched at my skull.

“Yeah just sudden fierce stabbing pain, ouch, give me a minute,” I said, squeezing my eyes shut.

“Oh yeah, sorry, Celestia’s notes did mention that...sorry…” she said. I cracked an eye open at her.

“Celestia made notes on me?” I asked. Twilight apologetically waved a hoof, as though this wasn’t even that big of a deal.

“Not extensively, but enough to bring anyone up to speed who might need to be,” she said.

Where did she find the time! And where did Twilight find the time to read them?

“Comprehensive stuff?” I asked as I rubbed my temples, wondering whether I could find any more of that stuff the doctor had given me for the pain that one time. One time! So neglected, hah.

Twilight nodded at my question.

“Surprisingly so! She must have had you under close observation,” she said.

I honestly couldn’t say anything to something so innocently euphemistic so I just nodded myself and kept quiet, hoping my head would feel better by the time we arrived. Luckily for me it did. Mostly.

But yeah, Ponyville struck me from the outset as a rather pleasant place.

Although really, I had no frame of reference. I hadn’t properly seen - urgh - Canterlot and my memories of home were sketchy at best. But still. Nice place. Rustic. Market stalls. Thatched roofs.

Of course everything also appeared to have been built to the scale of the inhabitants. I had a feeling I had a lot of ducking through doors to look forward to. Worse things had happened.

Twilight apparently lived in a castle. She pointed it out to me when we arrived. It did not really look like a castle. It looked, well, it looked a bit of a mess. A crystal tree thing mess. But a pleasant enough mess. She was practically skipping with glee as she led me from the station and I followed, lugging Luna’s fucking book and clutching Celestia’s more portable one to my side.

On the way there I got stared at some more. I’d considered myself the sort of man who didn’t care about that, who could brush off such attention. What do I care for the opinions of the masses? I am who I am and proud of it! Etcetera etcetera.

No. Turns out being stared at by everyone sucks. It is deeply, deeply unpleasant. That the one’s doing the staring were cute little ponies coming in all manner of fun colours did not improve it at all.

I kept my eyes down, which meant I missed the sights. I imagined that they would still be there whenever the time came for me to see them, but for now I just kind of wanted to ignore being the focus of everyone we passed by.

Celestia had never fucking stared at me like that. And she’d found me!

Should probably not think like that. The whole point of getting sent out there - aside from rest and relaxation, obviously - was to try and meet other people. Ponies. Whatever. So as to not be solely dependant and all that.

Luna had never fucking stared at me. There you go. That wasn’t so hard.

Twilight didn’t stare, now I came to think of it. When she did look though she looked at me with a kind of naked intensity that made the hair stand up on my arms. She didn’t even stare when I walked smack into the back of her, given that she’d stopped suddenly and I hadn’t been paying attention.

“Whoa, sorry about that,” I said, Luna’s book throwing my balance off. Twilight seemed blissfully unconcerned and opened up a vast pair of doors that I had entirely failed to notice. Turns out we’d arrived.

“I think you’re going to be the first pony - uh - first guest I’ll have had in the guest wing!” She said, continuing onwards with me tagging along behind, paying better attention now. Without eyes on me I felt better about actually looking around.

Must have been my imagination but this place sure looked bigger on the inside than I’d have expected from the outside.

“The first? Really?” I asked. She paused briefly and tapped a hoof to her chin.

“I think so? It’s kind of hard to keep track sometimes. So much happens around here!”

“Thought the place looked pretty sleepy, personally. I think Luna described it as ‘moderately peaceful’.”

Come to think of it that’s kind of an odd choice of words, isn’t it?

“It’s a really nice place,” Twilight said somewhat forcefully. “Probably a bit different to Canterlot though, so that’ll be a change for you.”

I didn’t really have the energy to say that I hadn’t actually seen any of Canterlot, so I just smiled and nodded and let her continue to led me deeper into the bowels of neon crystal hell.

I was shown to a guest room. So I had moved from one room in one palace to another room in another palace. At least I’d made progress in a geographic sense. This room was a lot less easy on the eyes but the bed proved comfortable enough and the view was pleasant.

Twilight said she had to just go and sort something out and would be back, giving me a little time to settle in. This I appreciated. I had a sit down, I walked around in a circle, I used the hilariously-missized facilities - all was well.

During all of this one thing stuck out to me.

I couldn’t really wiggle my toes, I noticed, at least not on my right foot. Left was alright, but right I could barely get a twitch. That was odd. Fingers were all fine though, but fine wasn’t ever anything to be concerned about, and odd often was.

When he’d been putting me through my paces the doctor had never been concerned about digits, always focusing more on my limbs in general and my balance and my stamina and the like. Couldn’t really hold it against him, I suppose. He didn’t even have digits.

“I’m sure it’ll work itself out,” I said, shrugging and shuffling over to where I’d set down the two books, one atop the other. Celestia’s book was the one on top, obviously, and was the one I idly picked up first. To pick up Luna’s I’d probably need to stretch first.

Sadly, Celestia’s book was just as useless to me as it had been on the train and I wasn’t sure why I’d expected it to change.

Briefly I remembered those various anecdotes of people who inexplicably lose the ability to read but that didn’t seem to be the problem here. My brain wasn’t failing to interpret something it should have known, I was just looking at a language I didn’t know how to read.

Which didn’t improve my situation, really. I could speak, it seemed, but not read. Great. Fantastic.

But still. The air was clear and the sun was warm and I was alive so, you know, could have been worse. Should probably count my blessings. Could have woken up in a place where I didn’t even speak the language. Should cling onto every available unlikely benefit that came my way.

On a whim, I brought Celestia’s book up to my face and gave it a covert sniff.

I kind of hoped it’d smell of her even a little, but it didn’t. It just smelt of old book. Not a bad smell, but not what I’d been after.

There were other options though.

Looking around even though I knew for a fact I was alone in the room I lifted up the tablecloth I’d been wearing and smelt that. This did work and this did smell of Celestia. Quite a lot, in fact. I felt better.

I wanted a hug. I wanted a hug from someone very specific. Specifically, the only person I could remember having ever hugged me. Celestia. I wanted her. And if she was hugging me then I would be safe and I would be warm and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything at right that moment because I would be being hugged by Celestia.

This was kind of the problem. In fact it was completely the problem, the whole reason I’d been sent here, remember? We’ve been over this.

Then I had a moment of clarity: what was I doing, exactly? What the fuck was I doing?

Sniffing a tablecloth because it vaguely smelt of a magical horse that I missed, even though I had last seen the magical horse in question a handful of hours ago, if that. Also, she was a horse. And I missed her.

What the fuck was I doing? What was I doing here? Not here in Ponyville - fucking Ponyville? - but here at all? This horse-infested world? How had I got here? Where even was it? Had I gone through space? Time? Dimensions? Why had I got here? Why me? Why fucking horses? What was I supposed to do? What was this for?

Why the fuck was I still wearing a fucking tablecloth?

“Fuck!” I snarled to myself, ripping the thing off my head in a moment of blind, bewildered fury and throwing it across the room. Immediately I regretted this, partly for my petty little outburst of nothing much at all, partly because I kind of wanted to keep smelling it. I’m not a strong man.

“Just keep it cool, not going to solve anything swearing in empty rooms,” I said, limping my way over to pick the tablecloth up again.

I was about midway over when the door to the room opened and Twilight came in, talking as she did so.

“You’re really going to like it here, I think! We’ll have to introduce you around, of course. Everyone’s very friendly! Pinkie’ll probably-”

The shock of her suddenly showing up took me off guard and this manifested quite noticeably in my leg giving out. Again. I fell over. Again.

“Need a leg brace or something at this rate…or a fuckin’ walkin’ stick...” I said, then realised that I was stark naked having thrown the tablecloth away and that Twilight was in the room. In a panic I lunged, grabbed the tablecloth and draped it over those parts of myself that needed modesty most.

Twilight’s wide-eyed expression did not improve my mood.

“Uh, guess I should knock next time, huh?” She said, blushing up a storm and keeping her eyes down. Bit late, Twilight!

“Depends on how you want to live your life, Twilight,” I said from the floor, adopting the most casual pose I could manage.

Then I saw that Twilight was not, in fact, alone and was accompanied by a small, fairly rotund lizard-person-thing. The lizard-person-thing looked alarmed. Given what I’d just done - and, you know, the nudity thing - this wasn’t that much of a surprise.

“How’s it going?” I asked the lizard-person-thing, who responded by hiding a little more behind Twilight than they already had been, at least until she noticed and then herded them back out into the open with one of her wings.

“Spike, don’t be rude, this is who I was telling you about,” she said.

“Hey I’d be horrified too. Hello Spike, I’m some guy,” I said.

“Hello,” Spike said quietly. He was also adorable. Everything around here was adorable. I must have stuck out like a sore thumb.

For a moment or two of silence I continued lying their casually (dare I say seductively?) and they just looked at me utterly at a loss for what they should do next. I blinked first, as it were.

“Would you guys maybe mind just turning around for a second so I can get not-naked?”

“Hmm? Oh, oh! Oh yeah sure, come on Spike,” Twilight said, ushering Spike around and turning to face away.

I struggled to my feet with only minor difficult and then struggled right back into the thing I’d just so petulantly ripped off myself. Still a little red in the face about that. What on earth had come over me? Should really try and keep a lid on that in future. Whatever it was. Just keep a lid on everything to be safe.

“Alright, I’m decent,” I said, once I was decent. Surprisingly enough. They turned back again though cautiously, as though expecting further lewdness. There was none, and they were visibly relieved.

“Sorry again, really should have knocked, I’ll remember next time,” Twilight said. I waved her off.

“Nah it’s fine, I was just having a moment. Don’t worry about it.”

“Still, I should do better to respect your privacy.”

Damn, she was insistent on being the most apologetic. We could really throw down over this.

“Look at what I’m wearing. Privacy stopped being an issue when I arrived. But anyway, thank you,” I said, giving a little bow. This at least seemed to bamboozle her enough to give me the space to have the last word. “You were saying? Something was pink?”

Oh that could be taken the wrong way.

Thankfully, Twilight didn’t, instead she brightened up again.

“Yes! Like I was saying, we should really introduce you around! I think everyone’ll be really excited to meet you. But don’t feel you have to do it right now - it’s getting a little late and it was a long ride here. You can rest or we could have some dinner or I could just show you around the palace. Whatever works for you.”

Lovely girl, Twilight. I felt well looked after.

And this was good, because the thought of going out again right at that moment - when I’d get to enjoy another round of being what the hell is that thing - did not really appeal. Maybe after I’d had a nice sleep then I could just roll on through it. But not right at that moment. I did not feel up to it.

“Could we - could I just stay in for now?” I asked, already feeling a little weedy for having needed to ask, but that was life. Twilight didn’t look at all put out. If anything, she somehow looked even brighter-eyed and bushy-tailed than she had before.

“Sure!” She said. “I can show you around the place or…?”

“The tour sounds good. Assuming I’m going to be here a little bit. Oh, and assuming I’m allowed out of my room?” I asked. Twilight looked mildly appalled.

“What? Of course you’re allowed out!”

Well that was a step up, at least.

“Then lead on, MacDuff,” I said, not really understanding what that was or where it had come from. Twilight seemed about as confused as I was but went along with it and turned to Spike, who was clearly the least comfortable in the situation out of all of us. Again, I could hardly blame him.

“Spike, this shouldn’t take too long, how about you start getting dinner ready?”

“What? Again?” Spike asked, affronted, getting himself a stern glare from Twilight who also glanced back to me, chuckling nervously. Clearly she wanted to appear the unquestioned mistress of her domain. These things happened to the best of us.

“We have a guest, Spike. I’ll make it up to you,” she hissed, nowhere near quiet enough for me not to have heard.

“Well if you say so…” Spike grumbled, stomping off. Or at least as much stomping as teeny-tiny reptile could manage. An adorable level of stomping. Tiny little clawed feet! So cute. Once he was gone Twilight straightened up, beaming at me.

“Off we go!” She said, leading on.

I followed. Such was my lot in life, it seemed.

Whatever they say they know we’ll stay

View Online

“And this is the tertiary library.”

Holy shit I swear it was even bigger than the secondary library.

“Are these all, uh, forbidden tomes of arcane lore?” I asked, just to make some conversation, not expecting an actual answer to my stupid, flippant question.

“The tertiary library is mainly fiction,” Twilight said, taking what I’d said one-hundred percent seriously.

On closer inspection I could see that, as opposed to the first two, most of what was on the shelves in the tertiary library were a lot less weighty and most were even paperback. Serves me right for not looking properly first, I guess.

“Extensive,” I said. Twilight gave me the kind of wide, warm smile where her eyes even closed.

Seriously, getting dangerously close to devouring some of these guys out of how cute they are, it’s a concern. Though the real danger was my rising urge to just give Twilight a good stroke and maybe a scratch behind the ears. God I was tempted.

But no. That’d be weird.

“Thank you!” She said. “Of course it goes without saying that you can borrow any of these while you’re staying here - help yourself!”

Oh, would that I could, Twilight. Would that I could.

You know, a normal person in my situation would probably have been ‘Hey Twilight, I can’t read your exotic horse language - would you mind giving me a few pointers?’ and Twilight - being nice - would have been more than happy to help.

I however was a few slivers shy of normal, I’d say. And besides, Twilight was already going out of her way here looking after me and putting me up. Who was I to lay even more work on top of her? She probably had her own shit going anyway.

“Very kind of you,” I said instead, ignoring all of that. I’d deal with it later.

The tour continued. The place seemed less the endless, infinite labyrinth of opulent and classical luxury that Celestia’s palace had been, but the whole everything-is-made-of-crystal schtick added a certain level of novelty. Crystal bathrooms! Crystal reception rooms! Crystal galleries! Etcetera.

My legs were starting to hurt by the end of it and I was glad to reach a crystal dining room, where apparently I was to sit and wait while Twilight went to check on Spike.

I considered Spike while I sat. Tiny lizard in a land of unicorns and such? I made a judgement call: dragon. Why, in a world as twee as this, should a dragon not also be adorable? It would make about as much sense as anything else.

Though of course I’d quietly, subtly ask Twilight to confirm later. Guessing to Spike’s face would be beyond the pale. What rudeness!

Sat on a crystal chair by a crystal table I waited. While I waited, I continued to consider things. I considered the various ponies who had stared at me so on the way in. Now, now that I’d had time to settle in a bit, I felt less put-down by that.

I mean, what would I have thought had I seen a bizarre creature being escorted by a princess? Twilight was one, after all, so was presumably locally-known. What a weird thing to see! I could excuse them this, and as ever I was a big boy, could rise above such things. Tomorrow would be better. I’d stride through whatever.

And if it sucked I would stride back and hide here, because Twilight at least was nice.

But no. Tomorrow would be better.

Further consideration was forestalled by the return of Spike and Twilight, who brought with them food. I sat like a pudding as the table was laid and everything set out. I did not ask what it was. It smelt nice enough, and beggars can’t be chooses.

Though I hear if wishes were horses beggars would be kings. The relevance of this was unclear. Thanks, brain, really helping a guy out.

Once everything was settled the other two sat and eating started. We were the three of us clustered down at one end of the table, which was vast, and it was a bit silly. But that’s palaces for you. Extravagant.

“Thanks again for this, Twilight,” I said, then: “You too, Spike. For the food, I mean. Twilight in a more general sense.”

“S’alright,” Spike said, chewing.

“It’s really not a problem. All of this must be very confusing for you,” Twilight said. She used magic with her cutlery.

That ponies had cutlery at all was still amazing to me, but I suppose this made a smidgen more sense. But only a smidgen. I watched her going at it for a second or so before shaking my head, realising I’d been lost in thought.

“Uh, a little I guess.”

Confusion tended to roll off my back, or at least I had noticed it had a tendency to do so.

“So what’s the deal with you, anyway?” Spike asked around a mouthful of food, earning himself a sharp look from Twilight. “What?”

“Guest. Rude,” she hissed. Spike rolled his eyes and closed his mouth, apparently taking a only one meaning from what Twilight had said.

“Nah it’s fine, I’d be curious too. What you want to know?” I asked. He gestured vaguely with a fork.

“Well what are you? Twilight said that Celestia said that you’re a human and that you’re not from here, but that doesn’t say a lot. If anything that raises more questions!”

Twilight continued glaring daggers at Spike.

“Twilight, hey,” I said, getting her attention. “Seriously, relax. Not a problem.”

She appeared to take it in board, and I looked back to Spike.

“I don’t know what to tell you, son, you’re looking at me. This is a human and it isn’t supposed to be here. Well, one kind of human, at least. There are others.”

I knew this, but the details were beyond me. Again, this is astonishingly aggravating. My brain was firmly established as one of those guys who you ask about something, doesn’t know the answer and then when you’ve explained it says ‘Yeah I knew that’. It was all there somewhere, just nowhere that was of any use to me.

I gritted my teeth.

“Yeah, I don’t know what else I can tell you.”

“So no ponies where you come from?” Spike asked, testing the waters.

“Nope. Well, yes, but not like this. They can’t talk. And aren’t quite so brightly-coloured. No dragons either,” I said, taking a bold stab in the dark, as this was different to outright asking him. Judging from his face I think I might have nailed it. Go me. “The impression I get is that it’s quite like here, only miserable. And no magic. I could be wrong though, given the state of my head.”

This I finished off by tapping a finger to my temple. In case anyone forgot where my head was, I guess?

“I’m sure it’s a very interesting place,” Twilight said, diplomatically.

“Oh, probably. I’m probably well clear of the mark.”

Honestly, I did my best not to think about it. It hurt when I did, so why would I? The blanket feeling of home was a place where things just rolled along, the weather was grey and everything was normal. Equestria? Horsetopia here? Not so much, at least by my half-remembered standards.

But then again I was the alien, so really my normal was not the normal everyone else was using.

Conversation continued burbling along from there, and I like to think I gave a reasonable account of myself. I mentioned airplanes, which I could picture, though with no-one inside them; the Forth Rail Bridge, given that I’d remembered it before and a few other bits and bobs of humanity, or at least what I could manage. I felt it best to avoid mentioning what smidgens of history popped into my head, as all of it was fairly depressing and lacking in context. I hoped I was just remembering it wrong.

Spike seemed satisfied, Twilight seemed practically incandescent with interest and pressed me on just about everything I could think of. I did my best to oblige.

If I came at questions sideways I seemed to do alright at remembering, it was only when my brain realised what it was I was trying to do that I ran into problems. So the longer I came at things sideways the more chance my brain had to rumble me and give me another of those wonderful headaches.

Whatever had happened to me? Nothing good, plainly.

Before too long it became pretty clear I’d pushed too head as my head was throbbing something fierce.

“Ah, just gimme a minute, Twilight, I just - ow - ow ow ow -”

“Oh I’m sorry, that’s my fault again isn’t it?” Twilight asked, ears folding backwards. Hadn’t seen them do that before on anyone I’d met. Again, cute. But I had no time to appreciate it as i was too busy clutching at my skull.

“No it’s cool really - ow, fuck - just should really know my own limits.”

I cradled my head and cursed softly for a minute or so, reaching and groping blindly for the glass of water that had been set out for me. I did not find it, at least until Twilight nudged it towards me.

“Thanks,” I said.

“You know, neurologically speaking your symptoms are quite idiosyncratic. Celestia noticed it, too. Her notes mentioned that she’d meant to contact a specialist about it but I don’t know if she had the chance before she decided you should come here. I can ask her, if you like?”

Celestia decided? Heh. Half-truths.

And I know with me being a human mystery box I could have been anything, but me being a neurologist or anything even remotely to do with the brain seemed pretty unlikely. All Greek to me. Or whatever the hell Celestia’s book was written in.

Wait, was it written in Greek? No, no, that’d just be silly.

“Sounds like a plan,” I said.

‘A specialist’ always sounds kind of alarming, even though plumbers can be specialists. I imagine the notes were referring to some kind of brain specialist, to use the technical term. I hoped they wouldn’t tell me that it would have to come out.

But again with these notes? That was the second time they’d got a mention and this time my curiosity could not be swallowed quite so easily.

“Also, Twilight, can I, uh, can I have a look at these notes sometime?”

“Sure, I don’t see why not. They are about you, after all,” she said, still smiling.

God, ponies were a cheerful bunch. I swear I was putting years of my life just hanging around them.

Dessert was offered once the main course was dealt with, and dessert turned out to be - in this instance - cupcakes of prodigious size, apparently left earlier by a friend of Twilight’s for reasons she had not disclosed at the time, other than to say someone might want one later.


I demurred, because the cupcakes were the size of my head and I feared for what would happen if I ate one. Twilight and Spike had no such reservations and insisted I was missing out. Twilight spared mine, for her friend had delivered exactly three, in a further surprising move, and Spike looked to be making moves on mine once he’d finished his.

Once that was done I offered to help with cleaning up but was denied, to my frustration. I wasn’t completely useless, damnit! Just mostly. And how was I supposed to show them how mostly useless I was if they never let me help? Damn polite cheerful ponies.

Twilight then dug the notes up for me and I took them to bed, the plan being to peruse them, snooze, and then wake up fresh to be shown around town and to her friends, who she was cagey about other than ‘You’ll love them!’. I trusted her, obviously, and was keen to see the notes. Nothing like light reading before sleep, after all. Or so ran my theory. I ran up against some problems.

The notes were, of course, utterly unreadable for me. I’m not sure why I’d expected otherwise.

All that left me with was the size of them to really gauge the depth of detail Celestia had gone into. And the notes were not a slim volume.

She really had had me under close observation. Close personal observation too, at least at first, with some of the doctor’s own notes incorporated later. Or so I assumed. Why else would the writing have changed? That at least I could notice.

Just a guess, of course. Guesses were all I had.

There were even drawings! Labelled drawings. The labels were meaningless, obviously, but the drawings themselves were pretty damn impressive. Kind of creepy to see myself so well-rendered, yeah, but, uh…

I paused, frowned, weighed the notes in my hands.

Looking from the outside, someone could find that sort of thing a little sinister.

Looking at it from the inside, as it were? Also a little sinister. But not hugely. I was willing to forgive a lot. Maybe that was a character flaw but eh, there I was, forgiving shit left right and centre.

Of course, again, who had made the notes probably played a bit of a part in my willingness to be relaxed about the whole thing. But even if Celestia hadn’t been involved I couldn’t see my opinion changing that much. I was alive, wasn’t I? Alive and being looked after. I felt I had pretty good cause to give these magical horses the benefit of the doubt.

Briefly, I thought back to Luna saying that I was a relaxed individual, and I wondered whether this had always been the case. Had I - prior to my arrival and inexplicable brain-frying - been an especially anxious individual? An angry one?

This line of thought did not fill me with enthusiasm, which was why I kept it brief, ramming it down and slapping the notes to bring myself back to the moment.

“Thanks, notes,” I said. “You’ve told me a lot I just wasn’t able to understand any of it.”

The heathens’ all around us

View Online

I woke up at some time. Who knew when? I sure didn’t.

There was a dim recollection I had about the withholding of the track of time taking on a form of psychological torment. Not that I thought it was being done deliberately, of course, but still. I just assumed that I’d been up and around for four or so days, but that was just a guess. And before that unconscious and being looked after by Celestia long?

Maybe I was losing my mind.

Then, given I spent my time now in the company of technicolour magical horse princesses I might have already lost it. Either way there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it.

Best to just soldier on. No use lying in a tiny bed with my legs hanging out worrying about things beyond my ability to change.

Some time in the night I must have stripped down whilst asleep because I woke up nude. Little shocking, but hey, worse things had happened.

Rolling out of the bed - and missing the prodigious size of the one I’d been in before - I went and picked up my clothes, such as they were. Frowning, I gave the cloth a quick examine. I was going to need a new tablecloth soon, I reckoned. This one was starting to get a little, uh, rank.

Not that I was fussy. I’d take a curtain. I’m an easy man to please.

The odds of actual clothes seemed pretty long, obviously. Had I even seen anyone wearing trousers? At all? I didn’t think so. Maybe I just hadn’t been paying attention. But a fresh sheet couldn’t be beyond their means, I was sure.

All things in time.

When Twilight arrived to knock politely on the door I was decent again.

“You can come in, you won’t be horrified. Well, much,” I said.

Despite this she entered cautiously, keeping her eyes on the floor at first and then looking a little bashful over it when she finally looked up at me.

“Sorry,” she said, blushing.

“Given what happened last time I should probably be apologising to you. Forever. So let’s just start afresh, shall we?”

“Sounds good to me. Sleep well?”

I glanced back at the tiny bed. Comfortable, at least. And I was a big boy. I could curl up with the best of them.

“Very restful,” I said. This was true. I felt energised. And no dreams either which, given that whenever I had them they tended to be surreal and also include an uncomfortable conversation with Luna, was a definite plus.

“Good!” She said. “Was there anything special you wanted to do today?”

“Me? No. I am recuperating and I am also in your capable hands. Hooves, fuck. Sorry. Terminology. But yes, I defer to you. You know the area, is there anything special you think I should be doing?”

Twilight considered this, tapping a hoof to her chin.

“We could have breakfast out, if you like? You can meet a friend,” she said.

A fine offer.

You know, all things considered my life wasn’t going terribly, actually.

“Uh, sure, if that’s not going out of your way?”

Twilight beamed, again doing so with such force she closed her eyes. A full-face, top-to-bottom sort of a smile. Goddamn ponies. So Goddamn cute. One day I was going to do something I’d regret, I was sure of it. Like say ‘Aww’ to their faces.

“It’s not a problem! Kind of a treat for me, really. Well, another one, after last night,” she said. Referring to the cupcakes, I presumed. She could probably get away with two treats. I’d let her. Even if the things were enormous. Maybe breakfast would be something more modest.

“Then by all means, let’s treat ourselves. Well, you treat me. I can’t really treat anyone. Mostly just a millstone being passed around from neck to neck.”

“Now, don’t say things like that. You’re nice to have around and you’re our guest and that’s all you need to worry about. Celestia said I had to make sure you weren’t too down on yourself.”

“She did?” I asked. Twilight nodded.

The firm hand - er, hoof, fuck, again - of Celestia even now being felt. Kind of. Nice of her to have been thinking of my wellbeing, even if the thought of not being horribly self-deprecating made my skin crawl. She was just so nice to me.

I wondered what Celestia was doing for breakfast…

Shaking my head to clear away that useless bit of daydreaming I asked:

“What time is it? Just to ask?”

I don’t know what Twilight checked but it seemed to give her the answer.

“Little before nine. Why?”

“Just curious. Sounds a good time for breakfast for me.”

Gives me an idea, at least. And so off we went.

At the very least I’d been right about one thing: sleeping on it had made me feel infinitely better about going out amongst the ponies. Most of those that were up and awake did still stare, yes, but a few also didn’t and a handful seemed content to glance before getting on without whatever they were doing.

I waved. One pony - who was tiny, so I figured may have been a pony-child - waved back, at least until their parent stopped them. Well, I tried.

“So what constitutes a treat breakfast around here?” I asked Twilight, waving again to another pony who’d just leant out of a window. They lent back in again and shut it. Wasn’t going to stop me trying so joke’s on you, pony!

“Sugarcube Corner. My friend Pinkie works there. Seems as good a place to start introducing you as any, although, given there were three cupcakes yesterday I have a feeling she somehow knew you were here already…”

“‘Sugarcube Corner’?” I repeated.

“Uh huh,” said Twilight.

Sounded twee, but appropriate. She then pointed it out to me, as it was up ahead.

The place looked like a frosted gingerbread nightmare, which for a bakery I supposed counted as theming? Someone had also seen fit to plonk what appeared to be a cupcake-shaped extension on top. Who was I to judge?

“Subtle,” I said, limping ahead of Twilight in time to get the door for her. Habit. She seemed thankful enough. I just prefer to bring up the rear.

Wait, no, ew.

The inside was slightly more subdued, for which I was thankful. The smell of baking was enough to instantly make me want to forgive just about anything about the place. Some tables had been set up in the larger, emptier, customerier part of the insides and some of these tables were occupied. There was a small queue of bleary-eyed ponies lined up in front of a counter, and behind the counter an exceptionally pink pony who made me feel exhausted just from glancing.

She appeared to be hopping?

Twilight and I joined the queue, something which just felt natural and right to me. Those in it either didn’t mind us doing this or did, saw me and were mildly alarmed for a moment before seeing I wasn’t going to do anything, at which point they just became mildly worried instead. Those already sat at tables became noticeably more quiet, but that was their problem.

And there in the queue we stood, shuffling forward with pleasing rapidity until we’d reached the front, whereupon the pink one gasped.

“Twilight! I didn’t see you come in!”

How? How had she not? I standing next to her! Me! A three-times-her-size obelisk of oddity and unusualness. Then again, good she was concentrating on her job.

Twilight looked set to reply but then the pink one locked eyes onto me. I froze.

Something was about to happen. I could feel it.

With alarming acrobatic ability she hopped up and landed on the counter, which struck me as unsanitary. From this lofty perch she looked me up from bottom to top, one eye closed, the other beady. I stood and let this happen, as seemed polite.

“You!” She said, pointing. “You’re new!”

Well she wasn’t wrong, I guess.

Before I’d had a chance to properly appreciate this she’d transferred from the counter and onto me, winding first down around my left leg then up my right, over my hip past my belly, over my shoulder and then back down again.

This took seconds, by the way, and at no-point did she stop talking. If anything, she started talking faster.

I think there might have been words in it? If there were I couldn’t pick them out. Had I been able to sit down and concentrate I might have been able to parse it, but as she was climbing me like a Goddamn tree I didn’t really have the opportunity.

“You’re all over me!” I said, and she really was!

“There’s just so much of you!” She said, slithering across my front in defiance of reason itself, coming in under my arm and then seeming to disappear completely. I could no longer feel her weight on me. I turned, and saw nothing. The expressions of those watching - which, to my surprise, wasn’t everyone - told me nothing.

I’d lost track of her.

Then, slowly, a beaming pink face lowered into my vision from above. Upside-down.

“You have excellent balance,” I said, nose-to-nose with her.

By contrast I did not, and my gammy leg chose this moment to demonstrate this. Having stood as still as possible to provide the best climbing frame I could was clearly more intensive than I would have thought, because what had started out as a twinge became in moments an obvious prelude to giving way.

I was going to fall over. A-fucking-gain.

Unwilling to properly timber it in such a crowded place and definitely unwilling to squash poor Pinkie I instead executed a very elegant - I think - twist on the spot on my remaining good leg, slammed myself back into the nearest wall and then slid to the floor.

This resulted in maybe making the building shake a little, Pinkie dropping from my head and into my arms and alarming everyone present, but kept anyone from being flattened or any tables from being upset.

A win, in my book.

Pinkie looked stunned, which was probably the least-active I’d seen her in the small time I’d known her. Apparently I’d succeeded in taking her off-guard. Though this didn’t last, and barely a second later she blinked and those vast blue eyes stopped staring into space and swivelled my way.

“Oh my gosh,” she breathed, far quieter than I would have expected possible, making it my turn to be stunned. “Are you okay?”

“You’re quite squidgy, anyone ever told you that? Wait, no, cuddly. That’s the word. Cuddly,” I said. Should probably have thought of that one before actually saying it, in retrospect, but Pinkie didn’t seem to mind, wiggling around and giggling.

Ponies giggling, man. Fucks me up. I’d let ‘em get away with anything. I gave Pinke a pat on the head and her giggling got even less constrained, devolving into snorting as she twisted to try and get more comfortable in my grasp.

One would have thought she’d want out, but what do I know?

Twilight appeared, making me jump. In all the excitement I’d quite forgotten she was there.

“Are you alright? That keeps happening,” she said, concerned, eyeing me

“Yeah, my bad. Leg’s kind of janky. It’ll sort itself out,” I said, shifting my arms to better support Pinkie’s weight. From the looks of things she appeared to have gone to sleep, though she might just have closed her eyes.

I couldn’t look too long. I might have died.

“What was with the twist?” Twilight asked, describing a little circle in midair with her hoof. Something about this gesture tickled me greatly.

“Well I didn’t want to fall flat, did I? Would have taken out half the shop,” I said, nodding towards the table and customers.

Twilight looked over the extent of me, seeming to remember that I was tall and gangly.

“Do you need a hand up?” She asked.

“I can manage, it’s just your friend has kind of latched onto me here,” I said, this time nodding downwards. Ah, the nod. So useful.

Twilight rolled her eyes.

“Pinkie, let him get up.”

“But he’s warm!” She wailed, attempting to burrow deeper into me.

This got odd pretty fast. I’d probably been called worse things than warm in my life. Probably just as well I couldn’t remember any of them.

“Aren’t you supposed to be working?” Twilight asked, squinting in disapproval.

With obvious, grumbling reluctance Pinkie dismounted and I hauled myself back up, bracing against the wall for support and then letting my left leg take the weight.

“Uh, sorry about that, you lot,” I said, seeing that one or two of the customers were still eyeing me. There came back from the cafe in general a kind of mumbled ‘it’s alright’, which was something, I supposed.

“Do you need to sit down?” Twilight asked, moving halfway towards the closest table. I shook my head.

“Nah, I’ll be fine. These things happen. Just-”

I tried to take a step, tentatively. I could tell at once that it was not going to be happening, not right then. Maybe soon, but not right then.

“Uh, actually maybe sitting for a minute wouldn’t be a terrible idea,” I said.

What followed was a patently undignified hop over to the table, after which further dignity was bled away as I struggled to lower myself into a chair that was far too small anyway.

Really, at this point, why should I even care?

“I’ll get something for us. Do you like coffee?” She asked.

“I do but, uh, tea is probably more my speed. If you guys have any. In fact don’t worry. Water’s fine. Maybe some crusts if they have any.”

Twilight ignored this. I wondered if she got that from Celestia, or if she’d always been like that. Hadn’t she been a student?

“What kind of tea?”

“Do you guys have any English breakfa- you know, I don’t even know why I bothered asking that. Just your most regular tea, please. That’ll sort me out.”

Well at least I remembered about tea, I guess.

“Alright, just sit. I’ll be back.”

More waiting followed as I sat and felt just a touch sorry for myself. More than that though I felt annoyed at myself. Irritating leg. Get better quicker so I can stop falling over and causing problems.

I also, briefly, considered what might have happened if I’d just fallen over flat. I doubted the results would have been pretty. Upset tables, for one, upset customers for another. And what’s worse, a possibly squashed Pinkie!

Looking at the pink one again I dreaded the very idea. What sort of world would it be where she was flattened? No world I wanted a hand in making, that was for sure. She was adorable!

They were all so fucking adorable!

And Pinkie had been very cuddly. Ponies really were quite touchy-feely, weren’t they? And while Celestia had had this lovely, big, reassuring, warm presence to her Pinke had been all tiny and bundle-sized with a kind of pleasant heft that filled the arms. I started to wonder what Twilight might be like to cuddle before realising with an ice-cold spike of dread that my mind was wandering into places it really shouldn’t.

Respect, man, respect! They’re cute but they’re people! If they want to crawl all over you and fall into your arms or do weird pouncing things where they end up pinning you to the floor then that’s fine, that’s their lookout, but don’t you go all misty-eyed thinking about it.

Wait, that’s a really weird double-standard you got going for yourself there, you know?

Twilight came back before I could descend further down that particular hole, and for this I was grateful.

She did look soft…

No! Drink your tea! What the hell is wrong with you!

“Ah, thank you,” I said, taking the tea once Twilight had set it all down and having a sip. This burnt my tongue, but I hid this well.

“So that’s Pinkie,” Twilight said, settling herself in on the chair opposite. “I probably should have warned you better.”

“Why?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“A lot of ponies can sometimes find her a little...overwhelming.”

“Eh, I’ll admit I perhaps wasn’t expecting, well, any of it really, but worse things have happened. She seems friendly enough.”

I waved at Pinkie. She waved back! Success! My trying paid off!

“Did she actually introduce herself to me at any point during all that?” I asked, thinking back.

“It might have been just before she sat on your head. You might have missed it.”

“I think I must have.”

Waiting for my tea to cool I turned my attention to the actual breakfasts. Baked goods of some kind! Appeared to be danish pastries or whatever those things are. Big whirls with icing and such. I probably got the name wrong.

These were also huge. I wasn’t even sure where I was supposed to start. Though I’d need a mattock just to get things going.

“About your leg…” Twilight said.

Ugh. Serious business.

“It’s fine, really. It’s getting better. I could go right now, if we needed to.”

Just lucky that we didn’t because this was a lie and I doubted I’d be getting up for a hot minute.

Twilight held her hooves up defensively.

“I believe you, just, ah, would you maybe like something to help you get around if it gets ‘janky’ again? Just to be on the safe side?”

Her interest in my welfare was, as with Celestia’s, obviously and overwhelming sincere. So much so I couldn’t even deny her. I just felt compelled to let them care about me. It was distinctly unnatural to me.

“Anything but another wheelchair. How’d you think I got this?” I said, pointing to my eye. Hopefully this would raise more questions than it answered.

“Uh…” Twilight said, unsure where to go from there. I decided to help her out.

“It’s fine, really. A stick or something would help, I guess, but really it’s fine. This’ll clear up soon enough I’m sure. Probably sat on it funny on the ride here or slept on it funny or something.”

Even I wasn’t convinced by this.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Twilight said, getting started on her own breakfast. I watched her, hoping I might see some techniques for mine, but I learnt little. Eventually I just resorted to tearing out fistful of the thing and even then could only manage about half. On the plus side it was bloody delicious - kudos to the baker, says I.

“Are you not going to finish that?” Twilight asked as I slumped back, defeated. Stuffed beyond the immediate capacity for rational response I waved a hand and shook my head.

There was a pink blur and the remains of my breakfast vanished from their plate. I blinked. Behind the counter Pinkie now appeared to be chewing something of such size her whole head distended. This was alarming, and took me a few seconds to piece together.

“Aren’t you worried about my freakish, alien germs?” I asked loudly over the hubbub, causing those sitting nearest to scoot away.

Another pink blur and then there was my breakfast again, this time glazed with something that was not icing.

“Well I’m not finishing it now,” I said to Twilight, who looked disgusted.

“Psst,” Pinkie hissed, appearing from behind me out of thin fucking air and making me jump nearly out of my seat. “Do you really have freakish alien germs?”

“Maybe? Probably?”

I mean, I should, right?

“Will I become super-big like you?” Pinkie asked, surreptitiously, eyes whizzing from side to side as though enemies were everywhere. I looked to Twilight for help. She could give me none.

“Could happen?” I proffered.

Pinkie’s eyes whizzed some more.

“We’ll discuss this later,” she said, sidling away from me in one direction before appearing in an entirely different direction as though she’d come from the other side completely.

My brain fizzed.

“Is, uh, is that the sort of thing people aren’t usually prepared for?” I asked Twilight.

“Your tea’s getting cold,” she said, in lieu of giving me a proper answer.

Probably best left alone.

A chain unbreakable

View Online

“What’s next on our exciting day out, then?” I asked.

Breakfast was done.

Just before it had finished Twilight had popped out to get something to keep me from falling over, despite my insistence that it was totally fine. She returned not long after looking decidedly sheepish and apologising profusely for its lacklustre quality, promising me up and down that she’d find something more suitable and that it was just the best she could come up with in time.

“Ah posh, Twilight, it’s better than nothing,” I said, fighting back the urge to pat her on the head and taking the stick. “Thanks a heap.”

Technically speaking it was better than nothing, in that it was something, and I was reasonably certainty that it was better to exist than not to exist.

It appeared to be two broomsticks, denuded of the broom part and then tied together with string. I did not have confidence in the structural integrity of this walking aid. If I did end up needing its support, stacking it again seemed likely.

Still, the thought was nice.

I did my best to keep my weight off of it as we continued on our way. This Ponyville place really picked up after breakfast. A lot more ponies to gawp and stare at me and refuse to wave back. Was it annoying? Yes. Did I care? Yes. Did I care enough to do anything about it? No.

Twilight, too, was eyeing me, but at least she had the courtesy to do it surreptitiously.

Not so much I didn’t notice, obviously, but still. The thought was nice. Again.

“Something on your mind?” I asked. Twilight flinched, then blushed. She did that a lot.

“Just wondering - if your leg was that bad why didn’t you say anything?”

Not this again. Why even mention it!

“Oh it’s fine!” I said, giving the leg in question a slap and wobbling. “Probably just slept on it funny, like I said. And they did only just start working again, remember. This one is probably just lagging a little behind, that’s all. It’s fine.”

I believed it, but I had a suspicion that Twilight did not.

“Things don’t go away just because you ignore them, you know,” she said, her eyebrows a flat line.

“They might though,” I countered.

She did not deign to respond to this, which kind of said it all, really.

“Rarity’s not far from here, seeing her next could work,” Twilight said, pointing off down the street. She could have been pointing at anything for all I knew. “She might faint, but it should be fine.”

“She do that a lot?” I asked.

Twilight rubbed the back of her head.

“More often than you’d expect.”

How often did someone have to faint to gain a reputation for it? The mind reels.

“Well there’s that to look forward to, then.”

“And afterwards I’m taking you to Ponyville General and having you checked out,” Twilight muttered. I heard her say this, but I knew it was expected of me not to have done. And I was nothing if not a slave to convention. So I said:

“Sorry what was that?”

And she said:


Ah. Comedy. Classic.

By then we appeared to be heading towards one building in particular. Again, it was gaudy, but what was I to expect? Ponyville seemed to be made up of rustic houses with thatched roofs, sprinkled liberally throughout with variously architecturally unlikely and eye-catching buildings. No bad thing, I supposed.

This one looked like a roundabout. Stranger things have happened.

“Your friend into funfairs?”


“S’roundabout,” I said, nodding to the roundabout-shaped building. Twilight continued to look blank. I searched for synonyms. “Or it kind of looks like a, uh, what’s the word - carousel?”

That got a result. Twilight’s face lit up.

“Carousel Boutique, yes! No funfairs though. Rarity is a fashion designer. ‘Fashionista’ I believe is the term she’ll probably use when you ask her yourself.”

Was I going to get introduced to each and every one of Twilight’s friends in turn? Did they all have their own small-businesses? Wait, did Pinkie own that place? No, no I think Twilight mentioned not. But still, how many more could she have?!

“Ponies wear clothes?” I asked dumbly, speaking without thinking.

“Mostly for special occasions,” Twilight said.

Dumb question. Dumb me.

I’d seen ponies wearing clothes before. The doctor and nurses. The staff who’d brought breakfast had had clothes too, though they’d always been moving too quickly for me to really see much detail.

Since leaving the palace though pretty much all the ponies had been in the buff. It just seemed to be how they rolled. Either that or Ponyville was packed to the gunwales with perverts. Seemed unlikely.

I mean, hell, other than her jewelry and stuff even Celestia was basically nude. And she was a princess! That had to count for something.

Wait, hold up. Did that mean that that time Celestia had insisted on bathing me and also ended up hugging me we had both been completely naked? She’d even taken the jewels off for that one! She had been completely naked! How had you not noticed at the time, man?

Oh yeah, because I’d been scalding half to death and too concerned over my own nudity. Those are reasonable excuses. That and the novelty of the situation. Hindsight is twenty-twenty and all that.

Still, kind of casts that particular memory in a new light. Oh dear. Friends who hug naked.

I wasn’t sure how I was meant to feel about that.

But - but! - it was probably different for ponies. They were naked all the time, after all, except for when they had to wear hilarious outfits appropriate to their profession. It was probably normal for them. So it probably wasn’t that big of a deal. Just a cross-cultural thing. Probably.

She’d been doing me a kindness, that was all. That’s all she’d ever done for me, really.

I wondered what Celestia was doing.

“You okay there? Kind of spacing out a little,” Twilight said, leaning up to try and wave a hoof in front of my face. I blinked, shook my head.

“Hmm? Sorry, miles away.”

Twilight giggled, dropping back to all-fours.

“I noticed. I’ll get the door,” she said, moving to do so before I could stop her and open the door for her. I grumbled. Can’t win all the time.

Still! Magical horse, roundabout-shaped clothing shop. Neat! I followed behind Twilight, humming a tune that just seemed to come to me out of nowhere. Magical roundabout, hmm. That did seem familiar. And why was I thinking about a Scottish dog?

Oh brain. What are you like?

A bell tinkled on our entry. I looked. Pony-shaped mannequins stood here and there and it was immediately obvious that none of this was day-to-day wear. All dresses too, I saw, in various states of swaggery. All very luxuriant, nothing done by half. Subtlety was dead anyway, I’d heard.

“Just a minute~!” Came a sing-song voice from a back room. I stuck close to Twilight, waiting.

“So Pinkie climbed me like a tree and Rarity here could well collapse on seeing me - do all your friends react to new things like this?”

“Well Pinkie is Pinkie and Rarity can be a little overdramatic, but the others should be totally fine. Well, Fluttershy might hide, but she’ll get over it once she sees how nice you are.”


A white unicorn entered. Her mane was arranged with obvious and meticulous care and was also a colour. Purple? Blue? Looked blue to me, but my eyes were hardly to be trusted. She had glasses on, too, which was cute as shit.

Rarity, I assumed.

She looked to Twilight and beamed, then she looked to me and recoiled visibly. If I could have hid behind Twilight I would have, but it just wasn’t happening. I waved. Why break the habit?

“Uh, Twilight…” Rarity hissed, edging around the room, keeping facing me. “You seem to have a, uh, thing, following you.”

She pointed, but subtle-like. As though Twilight might have not noticed me shadowing her and as though if I noticed her pointing I might take offence. I did not. It was just funny. And at least she hadn’t fainted on the spot.

“Rarity, this is, uh, well, he can’t remember his name but he’s a human and he’s a guest of Princess Celestia. He’s here in town for a little while to recover and I was just showing him around,” Twilight said, doing sterling work being my hype man.

The ‘guest of Princess Celestia’ part was the bit that really seemed to cement me in Rarity’s good books, and she visibly relaxed after hearing it. Guess it was a pretty good character reference.

“I’ve never heard of a human before,” she said, delicately coming a little close, blinking up at me. She had alarmingly long eyelashes. Like, scary long. Looked like they took work.

I also had a feeling that I’d be hearing a lot of ‘never heard of them before’.

“Not a huge surprise. I’m not from round here,” I said. “But yes, hello. I have a name but I don’t know what it is. Hello, good day.”

Greetings are hard. At least Rarity took my bumbling with apparent good grace.

“Charmed, I’m sure,” she said, smiling and extending a hoof in my direction. I stared at it.

“This’ll probably colour your perception of me but I’m at a loss here. Uh, am I supposed to...shake your hoof or…?”

I looked to Twilight, my lifeline and fixed point. She looked lost.

“I think formally speaking a stallion is supposed to bend and kiss a mare’s hoof?” She suggested. I blanched.

“That’s a bit much, I only just met the poor girl,” I said. No-one deserved that from me! Who was I to inflict that on someone?

I mean hell, sure, ponies were touchy-feely and I was fairly certain some folks back home had some greetings like this but no, not for me. A handshake is as good as a hug, that’s what mother always said. Presumably.

Not even Celestia had tried to kiss me, and she’d had the greatest amount of opportunity out of anyone.

Wait, no, don’t think of that. Don’t even think of thinking of that! A) Friend B) Horse! C) No! None of that! Focus!

I made a fist and bumped it against Rarity’s hoof. Seemed to do the job. She looked a little taken aback, sure, but it worked. Kind of.

“Quite,” she said, rubbing the hoof against her leg. “You say he’s a guest of the princess?”

There followed some rather boilerplate exposition. Not from here (as mentioned), injured on arrival, rest and recuperation in the country etcetera etcetera. Twilight did most of the verbal heavy lifting for this, and I was grateful as it meant I just got to stand there and look pretty.

Did keep noticing one or two little things in the story Twilight had got that stuck out to me. Well, mainly the fact that it neatly avoided all mention of Celestia taking personal care of me. The way Twilight told it, Celestia found me, kept me alive and then immediately passed me into the care of others.

I knew that this was not true. What was I meant to do with this information that Twilight had been given a carefully edited version of events? Was something sinister at work? Oh no!

I was too tired to have an opinion. I’m surrounded by talking ponies that come up to my hip. I was behind caring.

Besides, there’s probably a perfectly good reason. I just don’t know what it is.

Story of my life.

Rarity cleared her throat and snapped me back to the moment.

“Forgive me for asking this but I simply cannot hold myself back any longer: what is that you’re wearing?” She asked, jabbing an accusatory hoof in my direction. I looked down. I don’t know why I needed to.

“This? I’ve been kind of assuming it’s a modified tablecloth but really I could be wrong.”

As I said this I ran the material between my fingers. This told me nothing.

“Do - do humans often wear tablecloths?”

“As a rule no, we generally just wear actual clothes. From what I understand I didn’t have any when I got here and since - taking a wild guess here - there weren’t any human clothes lying around I got this.”

I thought about this.

“Why did I get this? Why aren’t I just naked? You guys are mostly naked.”

“Celestia examined you and determined that your species wore clothes, or were at least likely to, and so that some measure of modesty and protection from the elements while in the palace would be wise. This was a stopgap. Didn’t you read that part?”

Ah, the notes.

Still! That’s a hell of an assumption to make just from looking at an unconscious, dying person. The right assumption yeah but come on! What are the odds of that? What clued her in? My amusingly exposed genitals? My hairless body? What could have given it away!

“Must have missed that part. She’s a smart lady!”

And nice. And warm. And soft. And agh, no, shush.

“The Princess knew you wore clothes and gave you that?” Rarity asked, obviously appalled.

“Hey, given she knocked it out herself in five minutes or so with whatever she had to hand I think she did alright,” I said.

Of course, I had no idea of the timeframe Celestia had been working under when she’d made the thing but I’d just felt an urge to defend her for reasons I did not particularly want to look into too deeply.

“Of course of course, and I don’t mean to besmirch our beloved ruler’s abilities but I would certainly venture that, given five minutes, I might be able to produce something a little less...barebones,” Rarity said.

“ that an offer?” I asked.

She brightened, standing up straighter, hair somehow falling more into perfect place.

“It is, yes.”

She was keen! But still, wouldn’t do to continue taking advantage of people here. I’d already got breakfast for free, and that was on top of everything else! I doubted very much I’d come to this Equestria place to just sponge around.

“Oh you don’t need to do that, this is fine. Covers the necessaries. Most of the time.”

I should have been more concerned about who’d seen what at this point but eh, they should keep their eyes up top.

Rarity though seemed to have taken my tablecloth as a professional and personal slight.

“I insist,” she said, sternly. “I couldn’t abide the thought of you still being out there in...that...when I know I could do so much better. It’d be barely any effort at all, I assure you! The work of a moment! Well, maybe the first half of the afternoon. And then if the results are to your liking I could maybe whip up a few more, more involved items?” She asked, lashes fluttering. I had to pick apart what she’d said.

“Wait, you’re offering to give me something for free and then on top of that saying that you could - as a reward for me letting you give me that free stuff - give me more, better free stuff?”

“I wouldn’t have put it so crudely but if that helps you then yes.”

Holy crap.

“Uh, that’s a bit much. I’d feel bad.”

“I do believe that I already insisted, darling,” Rarity said in tones of the most cast-iron politeness. The unyielding kind.

“Am I going to be able to get her to back down on this?” I hissed to Twilight, who looked pretty tickled by the whole scene. She shook her head.

“Nope,” she said.

Thanks, Twilight. You’re a pal.

“Alright fine,” I groused, only to whip a finger up. “But you can stop at anytime. In fact I insist that you stop at anytime. And don’t go out of your way. I don’t need much.”

“I shall have to see where the muse takes me, this is rather new!” Rarity said, practically squealing with what looked to be - for all intents and purposes - delight, tapping her hooves together. I was not sure what she was so excited about, given that she just seemed to be taking on more work. And weird, new work at that!

“I’ll take your word for it. You need my inside leg or anything like that?” I asked.

“Oh no, not for this. I sized you up the moment I saw you. For the more involved elements of your wardrobe I may need some measurements but for this, no. Just come back in an hour or two and I should have something for you.”

“An hour or two?!”

I don’t know why I was so amazed. Clothes could take five minutes to make for all I knew. An hour or two didn’t seem a lot of time to make something, to me. To me making something took longer. Maybe I was just untalented. Seemed likely.

I felt a bump and looked down, seeing that Twilight had hip-checked me. Odd, but how else was a tiny pony meant to get my attention?

“Come on. I can take you to Ponyville General. That should eat up the time,” she said.

Oh goody, I’d almost forgotten about that part.

“And do turn the sign around on your way out, Twilight, if you’d be so kind,” Rarity said as she headed again to the rear of the shop.

“She’s closing the shop because of me?!” I wailed, horrified, getting ready to turn and march after her and stop her only for Twilight to stop me first, puffing out of one stop and puffing back into existence in my way. I jumped.

Wished I could teleport...

“She said she wanted to do it, so let her,” she said.

“But - business! Other customers!”

I gesticulated as I said this, hoping to get my point across better. This failed.

“It’s her choice, and it’s something she wants to do for you.”

I would have pressed the issue but it wouldn’t have done anyway. Twilight wouldn’t budge and I got the feeling Rarity wouldn’t have either, had I gone back in. Defeated! That was me.

“Fine. Nice lady. You’re all such nice ladies!” I said, and this time I did pat Twilight on the head. I didn’t even think about it first which, again, is always a mistake. I kind of expected and immediate rebuke and flinched back as though I’d burnt my hand but none came. Instead all I got was another blush from her and a somewhat dopey little smile as we walked away.

The sign was turned, the door closed, and we headed off again in another direction. I was incredibly lost at this point. Ponyville had looked small from a distance but I could have sworn it got bigger and more complicated the deeper into it you got. Maybe I was just paranoid.

Again, maybe I was losing my mind.

I glanced back at the boutique. Still garish.

“That was kind of a whistle stop visit,” I said, reflecting on how little time we’d actually spent there before my clothing had been shocking enough to cut the whole thing short.

“We wouldn’t really want to hang around and distract her, she gets very involved when she’s working.”

“Admirable,” I said, frowning to myself as a sense of unease bubbled away beneath my skin.

“What’s wrong? Is your leg hurting?”

Not the leg thing again. We were already going to the damn hospital!

“No my leg is not hurting, thank you Twilight,” I said through gritted teeth. I glanced at her. She looked a smidgen hurt and I instantly felt awful. “Sorry. No, it’s not that. It’s just that people keep giving me things It’s making me feel a little uncomfortable,” I said.

“Why?” She asked.

“Because they’re so...nice…”

A lame reason but the truth. I had a gut feeling that I should be sliding through life disturbing as few people as possible. Here, I was doing the opposite, and no-one seemed upset about it! If anything, the ones I was being introduced to were happy to meet me! Madness! It didn’t make sense at all.

And what did I deserve being given things?

Celestia would probably not like me thinking like that. And neither would Twilight, come to that. So stop it. Objectively speaking let’s be real here:

Free breakfast? Free whatever Rarity was going to make? Ponyville was alright.

Sure, most of the locals would run a mile if I took a sudden move in their direction but hell!

Early days.

Power together

View Online

The hospital, to my astonishment, largely fitted into what I thought a hospital should look like, albeit not a pony hospital. I’d expected something as rustic and backwards, but no, something approaching actual sophistication! Not sure how that worked but whatever, I was glad of it.

Upon arrival a remarkably bored-looking nurse showed me and Twilight to a side room where we sat and waited. This wasn’t exactly my idea of a rollicking good time but Twilight had seemed pretty insistent on it and, well, anything for a quiet life, right? Wasn’t like I had anything else to do.

And on the plus side it trapped Twilight where I could bombard her with questions. I felt like asking them, she seemed to enjoy answering them: we both win!

“How many princesses are there, exactly? Or have I met them all now? Or are there dozens more who are going to pop up at any moment? I feel underdressed if so.”

Twilight giggled. God I loved that sound. From any of them, I’d noticed. I mean sure yeah, Celestia’s kind of gave me a shiver but all of them just sounded so bloody happy whenever they did it! Just seemed to touch some sort of endorphin-pumpin’ spot right in my head.

Weird? Probably, but hell. Take what you can get.

“Well you won’t be underdressed for long thanks to Rarity. Not that you have anything to worry about anyway: there aren’t dozens of princesses, no. I think you’ve met most of them now. Bar one.”

“That’s still a fair whack of princesses. Any queens?”

A flicker passed over Twilight’s face. Barely noticeable.

“Not anymore, no,” she said, with forced lightness, and before I could follow up on that oddly tantalising hint she abruptly changed the subject:

“Have you finished the book that Celestia leant you yet? What did you think? It’s The Old Mare and the Sea! It’s one of my favourites, too.”

Really? Well, if that’s what they want the book to be called then go right ahead. Hope the author didn’t make exactly the same choices here as I remember them taking back home.

“Uh, no, not finished yet,” I said, which was true. Now it was my turn to want to try and hurry the subject along. “What about the other one? The fucking giant one? I ain’t even cracked the spine on that one yet.”

Luna’s mysterious book. What did a dream-barging-into horse princess consider a good thing to read? Was all of her personal collection quite so unwieldy? I did wonder.
Twilight cocked her head.

“Hmm? Oh, Luna’s book? No, sorry, I haven’t looked at it. Looks old. Could be anything.”

The mystery continued. Were I the sort of person to get hung up on not knowing things I might have started feeling agitated about that. But I wasn’t. So I didn’t. I’m sure I’d find out in time and be thoroughly underwhelmed.

The doctor came in at this point and forestalled anything further. What followed was what I assumed passed for a basic physical. As far as I could remember I’d never had one, or at least not for a very long time, and the experience was a novel one.

Every so often the doctor would ask this or that question about what I’d been through and Twilight - being the one with comprehensive understanding of Celestia’s notes - answered in my stead while I sat there like a lemon. Not fun, but novel. I got my knees tapped with a tiny mallet and everything.

The results of this tapping seemed to mildly trouble the doctor, who didn’t look happy.

“Could you hold your , uh, whatever those are out in front of you for me? Your claws?” The doctor asked, taking a punt.

“Hands,” I said. It wasn’t a complicated concept.

“Could you hold your hands out in front of you for me,” she repeated. I did so. She examined them and then let me drop them again.

“You have a tremor in your right, ah, hand - have you had that long?”

“I do?”

I lifted my right hand. It was indeed shaking. Just a little bit, but enough that even I could notice it. Weird.

“Fancy that,” I said, letting it flop into my lap again. The doctor frowned. Twilight frowned, too.

“I really need to contact Celestia about that specialist…” Twilight said more to herself than to me or the doctor.

Oh yes, the specialist. Who knew being stranded in magical horse land would be so tedious? A parade of introductions peppered with the occasional examination of my physical wellbeing? At least I was getting some new tablecloth. That was something, at least.

The doctor put me through a couple more paces before excusing herself to go and do something presumably important, stating she’d return shortly. Paperwork, maybe. Or, since she was a doctor, perhaps squeezing in a brief round of golf. Or a quick fag break.

Did ponies smoke? How would they even start to roll their own, what with their hooves? Come to think of it how had the doctor even been holding the little mallet she’d tapped me on the knees with? I’d been so spaced out I hadn’t been paying attention and I’d missed it.

Could she use a lighter with those hooves, too?

What a bizzare tangent.

While waiting I cast my eye over Twilight again, and a thought that had been nagging came back at me.

Twilight was very nice. This I had kind of worked out already. Cute as anything and caring as all out - maybe a little bit too caring, given that I was sat in a hospital, but hell, is that a bad thing?

And I felt a tiny bit bad kind of skirting around the whole ‘Yo I can’t read’ issue. I wasn’t lying to her, technically, really, just avoiding the subject. And that felt like lying to me. And it wasn’t a little thing, right? Could have been something big! Magic was weird after all, right? Could have been the signifier of something significant. Could have been the key to unlocking the cast-iron vault that was my lost memories!

Or something. Unlikely. But still, couldn’t hurt to maybe bring it up.


“Uh, Twilight, I’m going to admit something to you and it’s going to make me feel bad admitting it but I probably have to,” I said.


She was treading carefully. I mean, with an opener like what I’d just given it paid to be prepared for anything.

“You know how I mentioned I hadn’t finished the book Celestia leant me yet?”

She nodded. Also, unrelated, but how quickly she think I read anyway? How quickly did she read? Jesus!

“That’d be because I, uh, can’t read it,” I said.

“You can’t read?” Twilight asked, taking obvious effort to keep the horror out of her voice. Plainly such a state of being would be worse than death, or so was the impression I got.

“No, I can read, I just can’t read whatever it is you guys write in. I think. I could probably write, too. You got a pen?”

She did not, but the nurse outside did have a pencil, as we discovered. Twilight hopped up to go ask to borrow one and some paper and returned shortly.

“Thanks,” I said, taking both and quickly writing out ‘Twilight’, just because. The shake of my hand was difficult to ignore now. Had it been there the whole time and I just hadn’t noticed, or was it new? This is what I got for not paying attention.

Either way I got it done.

I turned the paper around so she could get a look and she peered at it.

“See?” I said.

She peered some more, harder.

“I can’t read that,” she said.

“That’s your name I wrote out there. In English, at least. Could you please do it in, uh, whatever it is you guys got?”

“Mareain,” she said matter-of-factly.

I blinked.

“Your language is called...Mareain?”

“Yes, why?”

Something about this annoyed me greatly, but I couldn’t put my finger on what. Just made me angry for reasons I couldn’t fully describe. Best to just gloss over it.

“Nothing. Write it out, if you’d be so kind.”

She did so. I could not read it.

“Huh. An impasse. I can’t read yours and you can’t read mine.”

Twilight looked like how I felt.

“It’s kind of odd that you can speak it so fluently but not read or write it,” she said, holding mine up and squinting at it, turning it this and that way but getting nowhere.

“To be honest I’m kind of glad I can speak it.”

Can you even begin to imagine the clusterbumble of trying to navigate this place with a language barrier? I think illiteracy was probably dodging a bullet, all things considered.

“Me too. Still, this is strange…” Twilight said, rubbing her chin in obvious deep thought.

Strange was putting it lightly, but I hardly thought this was the strangest part of the whole thing. My position was that my being here at all was the strangest of all, everything else just followed from there.

“Just kind of bums me out that I can’t read the book, you know?”

Or any book, really. Reading was great, this was known, but that I’d been lent these two books - even the huge one - and couldn’t actually enjoy them and honestly report back my enjoyment just kind of made me a little miserable. Like I was ungrateful!

Irrational, obviously, but that was pretty consistent with how I was.

A thought occurred to me.

“Hey Twilight, couldn’t you just shove magic into my head and fix that? Magic’s cool like that, right?”

She wrinkled her muzzle with professional distaste.

“Theoretically it could be possible, but I’d have to read up on it first. I couldn’t just do it now. And I’m a little reluctant to interfere too much with your head until the spec-”

“The specialist, yes, yes. You’re probably right. You are the expert, after all.”

“I could always teach you!”

“Uh...Twilight, how old are you?”

She told me. A year or two South of me.

I did not want someone younger than me teaching me how to read. Especially not a tiny adorable magical horse. And a princess to boot! How humiliating. What use was pride if it wasn’t keeping you in a disadvantageous situation by denying you a perfectly reasonable route out?

“I’ll think about it,” I said, being saved from having to clarify by the return of the doctor.

“You’re clear to go. I’m a little concerned about your right-hand side but given what you’ve been through - and the dearth of information about it - I can’t really recommend anything else other than rest and continued observation. If that tremor gets worse you come back here, yes? Right away. Other than that just take it easy and maybe have a follow up in a week or two.”

Thrilling stuff. I nodded, Twilight and the doctor exchanged some words over the best way to look after your lumbering dimensional interloper and then we were out again, me stumping along with my cobbled-together stick. Apparently the doctor had looked for something more suitable but had come up empty.

Well that was an enlightening waste of time. At least now I could go get some clothes, right?

“Onwards, Twilight!” I said, striding off only stopping when I noticed Twilight hadn’t budged an inch.

“The roundabout house?” I asked, waving my stick off down the street. I was pretty confident Rarity was in that general direction. Twilight wordlessly pointed the opposite way. I sighed. Useless.

“You’ll get used to it,” Twilight reassured me, leading the way.

“Guess I shouldn’t expect to be an expert from one day out,” I said. She smiled.


Lovely girl.

“So who’s the one princess I haven’t seen yet?”

“Cadence! She’s my sister-in-law. You probably won’t meet her, at least not for a while.”

I learnt then about the Crystal Empire. That it was called an empire despite not seeming to be one - and also being previously ruled by a queen that Twilight didn’t want to be pressed on and now a princess who was related to the other princesses and married to another of the princesses brother? Kind of convoluted, right? - kind of got under my skin.

Sounded kind of neat though. Blizzards, magical shields, crystals. Certainly, Twilight’s enthusiasm about the place was infectious.

“I’m sure you can visit sometime, if you want!” Twilight said. Then she seemed to think better of it and hurriedly continued: “Uh, you know, assuming you want to. And are still here. Because you want to go home, right? And we can help with that!”

“It’s okay Twilight, all things in time. I can’t even remember the place right now. They probably think I’m dead anyway. Assuming anyone’s noticed.”

Twilight blanched, or at least went as pale as she could, and then hopped up on her hindlegs, putting her hooves against me and fixing me with a fierce glare. I hadn’t expected that.

“Don’t say that! I’m sure you’re missed. We’ll get you healthy and we’ll get you home,” she said, emphatically. “Okay?”

“Whatever you say, Twilight,” I said. She glared harder. I practically wilted.

“Okay?” She pressed, hooves digging into me.

“I’m not sure what you want from me,” I mumbled.

Twilight then hugged me, legs wrapping around my waist.

“Don’t be so down on yourself, I told you!”

“I’ll see what I can do,” I said, not sure what to do with my free hand and gingerly letting it settle onto the back of Twilight’s neck. She was very soft.

“Pinkie was right, you are warm,” she said, muffled against me.

Little awkward. Twilight broke the hug and cleared her throat.

“Shall we keep going?” She suggested.

Seemed like a good idea. The rest of the walk passed in somewhat uncomfortable silence. Every so often Twilight would wander a little too close and bump into my side, ricocheting off while volleying apologies. This was actually pretty fucking cute. Flustered little thing! Whatever was her deal?

The bell to the boutique jangled again and we entered just in time to see Rarity coming out to meet us. Must have seen us coming.

“Now, do bear in mind that I was pressed for time while creating this so don’t judge it too harshly,” Rarity said, but I was too distracted by what she was magically carrying to really pay too much attention.

The thing was an eyesore, yes, but a glorious, gem-studded eyesore the likes of which went so far into the bowels of tastelessness it somehow punched clear through the bottom and ended up coming back around again. At least in my opinion!

A wonderful, gaudy nightmare that I’d be glad to wear! Purple had always been my colour! Probably.

And so comfortable looking, too!

I stood in awe and held out my hands and it passed over to me. Thing had surprising heft to it, but so soft! And I could tell that it would be considerable more modest, too. No more flashing people by accident for me. Only on purpose from now on.

“Oh my God,” I breathed. “It’s a robe. A fabulous robe! I’m going to look like a fabulous wizard! This is the best day of my life, Rarity.”

I was not even kidding. Why hold back?

Rarity blushed and waved a hoof at me.

“Oh it’s nothing, really! Just something I threw together!”

“If this is what counts as ‘just throwing together’ then I’d love to see you on a good day, Rarity. I’d be astonished!”

Hyperbole, yes, but I’d just been given free robes! Lurid robes! Something about this just filled me with a sense of genuine excitement. I could stop looking grubby and out of place and kind of obscene and start looking that tiny bit more like I fitted in - by sticking out horribly!

Maybe I was losing my mind. Again. Some more.

Mostly though I just wanted to put the thing on.

“Uh, could you guys just, ah, turn? Just for a second?”

Rarity looked confused by this but Twilight did not and coaxed her into turning before asking any questions. Me appealing for privacy at this point was kind of dumb given that everyone had probably seen everything by now, but it was a habit. I felt the need.

Once they’d turned I divested myself of the tablecloth and popped the robe on over my head. Though maybe ‘robe’ was doing it a disservice. I just couldn’t think of a better word for something so loose-fitting and comfy. Nice baggy sleeves and even a cord to tie around my waist! Rarity was on the ball.

“Yeah, definitely either a fabulous wizard or fabulous eleventh century monk,” I said, looking down at myself. The two of them turned back, Rarity with obvious rapture and Twilight with a face that was an unreadable mask.

“What do you think, Twilight?” I said, doing my best flex, hand in front of my face and actually, legitimately sparkling.

Twilight’s face remained unreadable, though her eyes did widen a little.

“Uh, you’re certainly eye-catching.”

I gave a twirl.

“Damn straight I am. And now for all the right reasons!”

Hidden deep

View Online

“Sorry about Rarity. I kind of expected her to make something a little, uh, subtle. Triumph of hope over experience, heh. Probably should have specified,” Twilight said, keeping her head down, very much aware now of the attention we were drawing. I was too, but my new duds were proof against the stares.

Before, they’d been looking because they were scared at the new things (probably), now they were looking in appalled fascination. A step up!

That and I was genuinely feeling great. Chalk this up as a personal foible but I thought the outfit went so far past overblown that I couldn’t help but love it. Clearly it spoke to something deep inside me.

Significant? Probably not. But it’s the little things that make life worth living, when it’s all said and done.

Or so I think, anyway. And what do I know?

“Do I look concerned, Twilight? This is great!” I said. She looked up at me, squinting either in disbelief or just as the loudness of my appearance.


“Yeah! Look at this! I’m amazing! And ridiculous. Uh, don’t tell Rarity I said that. I really do like it though. And she made it for me!”

This was important. As leery as I was about people doing things for me and giving me things - and that was pretty leery - at the end of the day this was something that someone had made. Where before there had been nothing there was now this! That impressed me on a fundamental level. Snaps for Rarity.

“As long as you’re sure,” she said.

“Adamant. Like I said, I look like a wizard who has gone far beyond caring. Me of, uh, well just one colour but a very, very sparkly version of that colour. Which kind of reminds me, actually, I had another question for you, clever-clogs that you are.”

This brightened her up at once, and might also have put just a touch of pink in her cheeks.”

“Shoot,” she said.

“Magic. What’s the deal with that?” I asked.

This had been circling my brain more or less constantly since I’d woken up in magic horse land, mostly because it seemed that magic had a pretty significant hand in my having ended up here at all, so anything I could learn about it could only be good. That and it should be interesting, right?

And totally not because I entertained a dim and distant hope of becoming an actual, legit, bonafide wizard at some point in the future. That’d be crazy. First things first, just get the knowledge in.

One step at a time, son.

If Twilight had looked happy at the prospect of being asked something, finding out what it was I was curious about seemed to have plug her into some sort of infinite source of sheer rapture. The look on her face was so bright I swear I need to shield my eyes - smiling ear-to-ear she was!

“Ooh, that’s a very good question! To answer it I’ll need to cover some background material first…”

Not long after she said this, I had cause to regret asking.

It was like someone had turned a hose on me. A hose of words and context that I was clearly expected to understand but which I did not. Names! Dates! Places! An unending stream blasting at me with ever-increasing speed the more Twilight got into her subject.

She just looked like she was having so much fun that I didn’t have the heart to beg her to stop. Instead I just took to nodding, agreeing and letting it all roll over me.

I wondered what Celestia was doing. And as I wondered I spotted something which caught my eye. A dot in the sky. Not cloud, this I was fairly certain of. Not a plane, obviously. A pegasus, then? I had seen one or two in the air before now. Just not quite so high or so far away.

Maybe it was something else?

“Not meaning to interrupt you there Twilight, but what’s that?” I asked, pointing.

“-ig hat sages- hmm? What’s what?” Twilight stumbled mid-flow, seeming to break out of whatever academic trance she’d settled into, blinking and looking around as though she’d forgotten where she was. I pointed harder.

“That, that thing. Rapidly approaching. Very rapidly approaching.”

What had been a dot was quickly becoming not a dot, but something larger. Definitely a pegasus now, I could see, but I’d asked now and I couldn’t exactly un-ask.

“What- oh, that’s just Rainbow Dash,” she said, shielding her eyes with a hoof.

“Another friend of yours?” I asked. Twilight nodded.

What were the odds? I guess Ponyville was a pretty small place, Twilight was a princess and I did stick out like a sore thumb. So maybe it was to be expected?

Still, this Rainbow lady was not very far away now, and I must admit to feeling a little nervous at just how fast she was obviously going. Not sure what the air brakes are like on a pegasus but there have to be limits, surely.

“Does she often come at you with such terrifying velocity? Should we duck?” I asked.

“It’ll be fine. She’s probably just...showing off. Probably.”

Twilight didn’t sound entirely convinced by this, and I noticed her edging in front of me.

Rainbow Dash came to a halt mere feet from us, doing so so quickly she produced an actual screeching sound from nothing but contact with the air itself. Don’t even ask me about that. Also don’t ask me how she then managed to just stay bobbing in midair supported only by occasional lazy flaps of her tiny, adorable little wings.

Physics be damned! Cartoon horses have their own rules!

Flying is pretty cool, though. Wish I could fly.

“Hey Twilight. What’s this thing?” She said, waving a hoof in my direction. I didn’t mind. At least she got straight to the point.

“He’s a guest, I’m just showing him around,” Twilight said.

Rainbow looked me up and down a bit more.

“It looks like Rarity attacked him,” she said.

“I know, right? Look at me. I look amazing,” I said, giving another turn. This one turned out to be a mistake as my balance gave out and it looked for a good second like I was about to fall over again, stick or not. Twilight caught me though with magic and righted me again. Good save!

“Thanks,” I said, giving her another pat. I couldn’t really help myself. She went more pink.

Rainbow looked distinctly unimpressed.

“Right,” she said. “So what is he?”

‘Abrasive’ would be the word I’d use were I asked to sum up Rainbow right now. But what of it? Here I was, some thing wandering along with her friend, what was she supposed to do? Jump on top of my head and then fall into my arms? Who would do that?

“He’s a human! From a whole other world. But he can’t remember it right now and he nearly died getting here, so he’s a little delicate right now,” Twilight said, seeming to feel some measure of proud for me because of this. I hadn’t done much to deserve this, but whatever made her happy.

Also: me? Delicate? How dare she. I’m as robust as anything, me. Just don’t ask me to stand on one leg. Or remember anything about my life in any real detail. Other than that I’m fine.

Rainbow gave me another look, this one slightly less scathing.

“Another world, huh? How’s that working out for you?”

“Pretty good, so far. Apart from nearly dying on arrival and the memory loss. Hello. I have a name but I can’t remember what it is,” I said. Was getting pretty sick of that at this point. Kind of a mouthful.

“You don’t have a name?” She asked, frowning.

I frowned too. What I’d said was pretty unambiguous.

“I do have a name. I just can’t remember what it is.”

To me this was an important distinction. She did not appear to agree.

“How is that better than not having one? What are we meant to call you?”

I shrugged.

“Doesn’t matter to me. Call me anything. No skin off my back.”

Her frown deepened. She seemed to be taking my lackadaisical attitude as a personal slight.

“That’s crazy, doesn’t that bother you?”

I shrugged again, starting to perhaps feel just the tiniest bit put-upon.

“Not really. Does it bother you?”


I wasn’t entirely sure it was meant to work that way around, but what did I know? Not my business telling people what bothered them.

“What do you want me to do? Just pick something?” I asked.

She nodded, vehemently, rainbow hair flapping.

“It’d be better than nothing!”

Man, she wasn’t letting this go, was she?

Just pick one at random. Don’t think about it or you’ll get a headache. Just reach in and snatch one, just to make her happy. Anything for a quiet life, remember?

Oh, wait, I’ve got it. Got just the thing.

“John Doe. How’s that work for you?” I said, being the hilarious motherfucker that I was.

Her muzzle wrinkled. I wasn’t sure she got the joke. How could she?

“Like the deer?” She asked, head tilting.


“What? No, just the first bit. John, alright? That work for you? Name enough?”

“Yeah, that’s good, John,” she said, putting particular and peculiar emphasis onto the name.

Guess I was a John now. Whee. I looked down at Twilight.

“That work for you?” I asked her.

“It’s very you,” she said.

Whatever that meant.

Small talk then happened. Rainbow flapped alongside us as we continued wandering on our way to wherever, Twilight filling her in on some of the other details of me and my arrival. I was a conversation piece, don’t you know.

Rainbow did not seem overly impressed with my status as some kind of royal guest. She was far more interested in hearing about back home, and I did my best to oblige her, ignoring the warning look and reminders about my health that came from Twilight.

It was fine, actually. I told her about planes. This didn’t seem to trouble my brain, probably because I wasn’t thinking about people. Why was it only other human beings that gave me trouble? I rattled off the full extent of my (limited) aeronautical knowledge - mentioning how I used to hear Concorde when I was younger, this being quite a distinct memory - and Rainbow was in awe. Then she noticed she was in awe, coughed, and played it cool.

Cute, very cute. They were all so fucking cute. I needed a lie down in a dark room.

“What’s the fastest one though? The fastest plane?” She asked, eyes wide, almost nose-to-nose with me.

“Uh, well, there was a rocket in the sixties. I think? X-something. Got up to mach six? Like, four and a half thousand miles an hour or thereabouts? I think? That fast enough for you?”

How did I even know that?

Rainbow’s eyes honest-to-god twinkled.

“Wow…” she breathed.

I didn’t know a lot about speed but it was a pretty big number, so I guess I could see where she was coming from.

My head throbbed. Not painfully, but noticeably. A little pressure on the temples. A gentle warning from my ever-so-helpful brain that it was probably best to wind it down for now.

Twilight must have noticed as she gave my robe a tug and mouthed ‘Are you okay?’ at me. I nodded, smiled, reached to pat her again and thought better of it - best not to make a habit. She might get annoyed.

I really wanted to, though!

“Well, I should probably get hi- get John home, now. We missed lunch,” Twilight said. The big crystal tree castle thing was visible now, not that far off.

“Huh?” Rainbow said. Then she looked around. “Oh, oh right. Yeah, yeah! That’s alright. Go feed that guy! I got stuff to do anyway. Awesome stuff. You know.”

I did not, but I took her word for it.

Twilight got a wave and I got a weird hoof-stroke-fist bump thing and then Rainbow was off like a shot.

“Girl’s got pace,” I said, watching her become a dot again. Twilight hummed in agreement and we continued on our way, on the home stretch now.

“She was very bothered about the name thing, wasn’t she? What was up with that?” I asked. Twilight did not answer and when I looked to her I could see she was quite deliberately holding her tongue.

Her silence spoke volumes.

“Was it bothering you?” I asked. She bit her lip.

“Maybe a little. It was kind of awkward introducing you when I couldn’t call you anything. Kind of awkward not being able to call you anything, actually.”

Urgh, ponies.

“Why didn’t you say anything!”

“I thought it was a touchy subject for you!” She retorted.

Urgh, ponies. Again.

“Well it wasn’t. Settled now anyway. You feel a compelling need to call me anything just call me that. John Doe. Just John, actually.”

Still didn’t sit quite right for me but it was a bit late now. I’d made my bed.

“Is that a normal name for humans?” She asked.

Good question. I thought about it.

A lot of names were still swirling around inside my head. Jack Chirac. Sandi Toksvig. Gustavus Adolphus. Harun al-Rashid. Ruth Davidson. There were a lot to choose from. Kind of overwhelming, actually, especially given that most of the context for them was just an inch or two beyond my fingertips.

The names I got, who they were or why I knew them I didn’t.

But better than nothing, right?

“Humans got a lot of names,” I said, to cut to the quick. “This one’s just a joke. Kind of.”

“How so?”

“Oh, John Doe was a name rolled out for whenever they couldn’t identify someone. Get it? Ya get it?” I said, leaning over her.

“I get it,” she said, flatly, staring up. Worth it.

Figured it’d be just as well leaving out the part where it was often used for corpses. A little morbid. Probably count as doing myself down, too, and I could do without another telling off.

Wouldn’t mind another hug, though...

“How come Rarity and, uh, Pinkie didn’t bring it up? The name thing?”

“Rarity was probably too polite. Pinkie, uh, well, could be anything, really.”

“Fair do’s,” I said. Wasn’t a whole lot else I could say to that.

Still. What a day, eh? Got clothes. Got a name.

That’s, like, halfway towards being a whole human being, right? That’s got to be pretty good? And I was getting lunch, too! That’s at least three quarters!

I’ll be a real boy in no-time.

The Sun

View Online

It wasn’t weird what I was doing.

He’d just smelt so different, the human. So unlike anything I’d ever smelt before, which - given my age - was saying something. How unexpected to find something new! Not to mention friendly.

He was gone now though, and I was already finding myself pining somewhat for that smell of his. And his company. But his scent reminded me of that.

Which was why I’d taken one of the pillows from his bed. And had my face buried in it.

Nothing weird. Just trying to pinpoint exactly what it was about the smell that was so compelling. That was perfectly ordinary. Anypony would have done the same, in my position.

And I wasn’t doing it in secret. I was just doing it in private. There was a difference.

It was just so dull again now...

The more time you see pass the faster it all seems to roll by. I’ve always thought it’s rather like running downhill, with the hill itself growing steeper year on year. Before too long you’re careening down fast enough that you can barely pause to notice what you’re passing, and you certainly can’t stop.

Which means that when something does come along that you want to savour and enjoy every minute of you can feel it slipping out of your hooves almost from the very instant it’s arrived.

It’s not pleasant.

New things were rare. New, nice things that seemed to get your jokes and had unusual, oddly engaging smiles and tiny, funny little eyes were rarer still. As close as to unique as you got, actually.

And sometimes maybe the desperate need to hold onto these new, lovely things can lead to occasional instances of perhaps acting with undue haste. Rushing into things, you could say. Not properly thinking through the possible consequences of one’s actions, as it were.

Not that that applied or was relevant here. It was just one of those things. Nothing to do with what was happening right now at all. Don’t even know why I thought of it in the first place.

I wondered what he was doing. Twilight would be taking good care of him, this I knew, but still. I wondered what he was doing. Hope he liked the book. Choosing it had been harder than expected. So many options, didn’t want to give the wrong impression. Wasn’t sure why I’d been so worried, but just one of those things.

He’d be fine. And then he’d come back. If he wanted to, obviously. And then we could talk again. Or we could do something else! Could show him around Canterlot, that’d be fun. We could get donuts! Ooh, that’d be good. Wonder if he has donuts where he comes from…

Oh, yes. Should also probably work on getting him back home, too. That’s important.

Even if him going home would be even lonelier than him being in Ponyville.

The smell of him was already getting faint, too. Maybe I’d spent a little too long with the pillow. It had barely been a day or two! But still. Maybe not sleep with it next time.

So just one more for now, just to really try and cement his scent in my head…

The door banged open and I scrambled to stuff the pillow down beneath the table. I half-succeeded before Luna was in the room proper. She didn’t look especially happy, though with my sister it was always a little tricky to tell. Infuriating poker face.

“I remain unconvinced that nobles are required, sister. Their attitudes suggests we are here to cater to their whims. There was one who was quite insistent that we mandate the construction of ‘toy forges’, as though I were aware of what such things were. Are you sure we cannot be rid…”

She trailed off and sniffed, squinting at me and then dropping her eyes down to where I’d entirely failed to hide the pillow under the table in time.

“Is that one of the human’s pillows?” She asked.

I very slowly inched the pillow further down and not-altogether out of sight.

“No,” I lied brazenly. How good was her nose? How did she do that? She’s clear across the room! Was she cheating?

Luna frowned and yanked, the pillow slipping up out of my grip as she pulled it away. I fumbled to try and grab it back, but my heart wasn’t really in it. I’d been found out, after all.

It covered the distance between us and she held it up, turning it one way then another, looking at it closely. Then she looked back to me.

“This is highly questionable.”

“It’s not what it looks like,” I said, continuing to lie. Always important to look confident, especially when lying. You’d be amazed the number of times others will back down in the face of obvious lies if they’re delivered confidently.

Probably not this time, though.

“So it is not the case that you were surreptitiously smelling this article of the human’s bedclothes, clearly aware that it was an unusual activity you were engaged in given the alacrity with which you hid the offending article on my arrival? So fast, in fact, that you failed to adequately hide it, leading to me spotting it, leading to this?”

Oh well. I tried.

“You’re no fun,” I said, sulking and yanking the pillow out of her grasp and back to me where I actually, physically held onto it properly, not as loosely as last time. Luna frowned ever-so-slightly and circled around the table, stepping close. She didn’t sit.

“You have an infatuation with him,” she said.

I gasped, indignant.

“I do not have an infatuation with him, I miss him! He’s different and I like him. What’s wrong with that? And I can talk to him without having to look down!”

As an afterthought I added:

“And he gets my jokes…”

“I had thought having some distance would have improved matters. I have succeeded only in making the situation worse…” Luna said, hoof pressed to her face. I glared.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Think of something else! Let him out of your mind awhile, let him enjoy his time in Ponyville while you enjoy your time not having to play nursemaid. He does not need you hovering over him and you do not need to do so either. There is life beyond two days of hijinks and canoodling.”

“...hardly any canoodling…” I muttered. “I mean, no canoodling at all. I was just looking after him, that was all.”

There had been a profound lack of canoodling. Now that Luna brought it up the absence of canoodling suddenly seemed like a rank injustice.

“...there was that bit in the bath, I suppose, but I really was just trying to get him clean. Him being in bed all that time, you see. But looking back on it…”

I lost the thread when I noticed the look Luna was giving me.

“It would be well to remember that he is a thinking being and he likely wishes to return home. You will not be able to keep him forever,” she said.

What kind of insinuation was that!

“I wasn’t going to ‘keep him’, thank you! I just wanted to look after him. I still want to look after him. I enjoyed it! I just wanted to make sure that he was okay first before he went home. If he wants to go home.”

“Why would he not?

“I - he just might not. That’s up to him. He may, he may not. We shall see, won’t we?”

“Would you prefer he choose to stay?” Luna asked. Probing. I wasn’t rising to that. I drew myself up a little, adopting just a sliver of regal poise. I had poise to spare, but even a sliver was potent. Usually.

“I would prefer he choose whatever made him happiest,” I said.

This was true. And if a tiny little itty bitty insignificant part of me was hoping that what made him happiest would be staying here and keeping me company then I couldn’t help that. Maybe he would choose that! That would be his choice.

“Still,” I said, seizing control of the conversation. “Let’s not forget what’s important here: I am not infatuated. I am a grown mare, not a filly. He and I are friends at most and that is that. I found him, I nursed him back to health, we get on well. That is all. Not even a hint of anything more. I don’t know where you get such ridiculous ideas from, sister.”

“You are cuddling his pillow,” Luna said, pointing.

I refused to give her the satisfaction of looking down and so instead I calmly put it on the table in front of me and pushed it away. A second after that I lent over and pushed it a little further. Just to be sure. Then I sat back.

“That doesn’t mean anything,” I said. Another lie. I was racking up quite the tally. Luna snorted quietly and looked away.

I had failed to properly seize control of the conversation and now it was dead. The silence was worse than her telling me off. Reaching out across the table I pulled the pillow back again and started fiddling with it between my hooves.

I was thinking.

“I heard him first,” I said.


“When I found him, I heard him first. It was after a long day, I wanted some space and so I went to the gardens and I heard this strange sound. Thought I was imagining it at first it was so faint, but it got louder the deeper into the gardens I went until I found him.”

It wasn’t a particularly nice memory. The human was so hale and hearty now by comparison that it was easy to forget what he’d been like when first I’d found him. It stuck with me though. Whenever I’d been listening to him speak it had just been there in the back of my mind. The noises I’d heard him making when I’d found him.

“He wasn’t talking as such, but he was speaking. There were words, they just didn’t make any sense. Half-words, talking to no-one. Looking at no-one. He didn’t see me, I know that. And he was so pale. I could tell he was intelligent, not an animal, and I could tell he was dying. So, so close to death. If I hadn’t intervened right then - if I’d gone to get help - he would have died. I know that. So what choice did I have?”

Luna didn’t say anything. She seemed to be waiting for me to finish. I appreciated this, licking my lips and taking a breath before continuing. It was hard summing up how I felt about it, if I’m being honest, hard to know if I was properly conveying what it had felt like at all.

“And even after I’d helped it wasn’t clear he’d pull through. He was so weak. Drifting in and out, babbling. I did the best I could with him then, staying with him in case he took a turn for the worse, soothing him those times he thrashed. I don’t even know why he did that. I’m surprised he could.”

I released the pillow, pushed it away again. Shouldn’t have taken it back, really, though even now I did want to keep hold of it. Just to have something to do with my hooves.

“Looking back, of course I can see points where I should have taken a step back. It’s easy now with him better to say this or that stop is when I should have let others take over. It wasn’t as easy then. I was worried. He seemed to change by hour. And then he woke up! And he spoke to me! And saw me.”

The first look he’d given me hadn’t been especially flattering, but what could I have expected? He’d given me nicer looks since. Much nicer, in fact. Some so nice I was still thinking about them.

“And...maybe I made a selfish choice. Maybe it was stupid, thinking I could keep on keeping it secret. Aren’t I allowed a bad decision every now and then? A selfish one? Just a little one?

No, not really. That’s not what being a princess is about. I knew that even as I was saying it. Luna knew it, too, and knew I knew it. So she didn’t need to say it. I just let my head hang. The answer was obvious.

No. No I was not allowed.

But I’d done it anyway.

“Could I have handled this better, do you think?” I asked.

“Possibly,” Luna said, almost at once. I groaned and let myself flop forward, face resting on wood.

“Urgh that just means yes…”


View Online

Time passed.

Time passed and I kept track of how much, to better grasp things and keep on top of my situation. Three days was how much time passed. Three days!

Twilight finished shopping me round to her friends, which didn’t take long as there were only two left. A cowboy pony and a pony that hid behind her door when we went to visit her little cottage.

I was a big fan of the hat the cowboy one had. Applejack, I think her name was. Worked on a farm that produced - funnily enough! - apples and apple-based products in abundance. I was also a fan of how straightforward she was. Applejack seemed entirely unfazed about me, taking that I was being accompanied by Twilight as sign enough that I was on the level.

We talked about apples. It got old fast, but I humoured her. At least until Twilight rescued me.

Then it was all the way way across town and out the other side and towards a big forest. I thought maybe we were going to be going into it, but we didn’t, diverting instead and ending up at the quaintest fucking cottage I could conceive of. There was even a little bridge over a babbling brook!

Fluttershy - the shy one who hid behind her door once we’d crossed the little bridge and gone and knocked - lived out here, I was told, for the quiet and also for the proximity to animals, whom she tended to.

Fair enough, I said.

And then she did the whole ‘eep’ and door hiding thing.

Okay, now, ponies are cute. I know this. Twilight is cute. Applejack and her hat are cute. Pinkie’s very cute and also kind of squishy. The ones in town are also cute! Celestia is, well, some other kind of cute I don’t want to focus on too much because it kind of confuses me.

This one though? Fluttershy? One feels she has been somehow connected to some elemental plane of cuteness and it was now flowing through raw and dangerous.

She was like Ignus if Ignus was just cute all the time and not on fire.

Wait, who? Nevermind.

The point is she was painfully fucking cute. That’s the takeaway here. She kept hiding behind her hair and averting her eyes and her fucking voice! Ye Gods!

If there was only one pony whose face I had to eat it would be her. So to speak.

Lovely lady, too. Not the most outgoing to be sure, but clearly loved what she did and was wonderfully pleasant to talk to. Even if I had to lean in to hear her half the time. She shared Rainbow’s interest in back home, though her particular questions tended more towards the fauna. Unsurprising. I did my best and she seemed plenty happy with it, though it seemed like this place had most of what we had.

That was introductions, then.

And during the evenings it was mostly just me and Twilight hanging around, shooting the shit. This was pleasant. She had a sofa and I lounged on it while she tentatively nibbled at the edges of my memory, seeing what she was able to get out of me before it all got too much.

She did pretty well, actually. When things were casual and I wasn’t trying too hard I could remember a fair amount. All of it disconnected, of course. I was like a broken trivia machine. Eiffel tower? Sure. The Supercollider? Don’t know much about it but I told her what little I did know. Getting to the moon that one time? She seemed especially impressed by that one, for whatever reasons. Masada? That kind of confused her. Confused me, too.

As ever though, all of these were entirely devoid of humans. Names I could about manage, but if I tried to pin down who the name belonged to or why I knew them I never got very far. Quickly I learnt not to bother. Just stick to stuff and things and it was all alright. Mostly, for a while.

In the midst of all this frivolity I was also introduced to the town proper, which was kind of overdue, really. That was the sort of thing that should have happened at the beginning, surely? Not the question Twilight’s judgement or anything, but once the common folk - hah - learnt about my particular circumstances they seemed a lot more relaxed about me being there.

I mean, they still stared sometimes, but more curiously now. Again, improvement! A step up!

And if I’m being completely honest with myself - which feels weird - this is probably what made the biggest difference, to me. It’s plenty easy to say that you don’t care what other people make of you, but in practise it’s kind of draining to have all the cute cartoon horses watching you like you’re about to start some shit anytime you set a foot outside.

Now when I waved, some of them waved back! Hell, some of them even smiled while they waved!

I used my newfound ability to walk around outside without feeling immensely uncomfortable to, well, walk around outside. On my own, to boot. I got a far better idea of the layout of the place and sure, I got lost a couple of times but that was part of the fun!

Twilight’s makeshift walking stick had been swapped out. The cowboy pony provided some obsolete piece of agricultural equipment that was much sturdier and about the right height to be actually useful to me, for which I was thankful.

I’d have been happier had I not needed it and for long stretches I was fairly convinced I didn’t, but then once or twice my leg would give a twinge or a twitch or would just apparently go to sleep and then having a stick that could take my weight was suddenly very useful.

Didn’t tell Twilight about those times, obviously. It wasn’t any worse than usual and if she knew she’d probably drag me back to that hospital to get prodded and tapped with a mallet again. And who needs that? It’ll all work out, I’m sure.

She told me the specialist had been informed and would be down at their earliest convenience. Ooh, spooky. Would likely turn out to be a massive anticlimax at worst or an informative episode at best. It was difficult to care as I stumped along in the sunshine, waving at ponies, being a man of leisure.

My wanderings on one of those days brought me around to Rarity’s place again, which was pretty lucky actually. I’d been meaning to gushingly lavish praise on her for the robes, seeing as it seemed a polite thing to do, so I popped in for just that.

She lapped up the praise, doing a very good job of appearing to want me to stop while also coaxing me in keeping going. I knew this game, but it was so fun watching her luxuriate in it all that I didn’t feel so bad about laying it on thick.

We then got onto the topic of actual, proper clothes. She was still firm on wanting to make some for me. I’d softened on the idea but was still a little finicky on being given so much free stuff.

Rarity countered that having only one outfit was unhygienic, and that putting one or two things together for me would hardly put a dent in her business. She regarded it as an experiment and a chance to stretch creatively.

She was very convincing. The fluttering eyelashes might have edged it out for her. Hard to say no to that. So cute. So fashionable! So generous.

This was when she took my inside leg. And outside leg, and indeed dozens of other measurements all of which seemed frightfully important. I just stood still and let it happen, as this often served me well in life.

To my immense relief she somehow already knew what trousers were. Indeed, seemed slightly insulted that I’d assumed she didn’t. Underwear seemed to be new to her though, which let me on more than I cared to know about ponies but fuckit, they’re tiny naturists what does it matter? She grasped the concept pretty quick and seemed smitten with the novelty.

So there was that to look forward to.

Fourth day was a little unusual.

Twilight wasn’t around when I got up. Without her present, Spike seemed to have decided to make the most of it was and still asleep, so I couldn’t ask him.

Figuring she probably had shit of her own to be doing - being a princess and all, right? - I decided that it wasn’t that big of a deal and, me being a big dick cool guy, I could keep myself occupied. I’d been doing it last few days after all, right?

But none of the others were around either. Pinkie and Rarity were the easy ones. Pinkie weren’t in the bakery place, and Rarity’s was all shut up and closed. First time I’d seen that happen.

They all have a day off or something?

The cowboy one and the shy one - Appledash? No, Applejack, that’s the one. And Fluttershy? Makes sense - weren’t around either, which I only learnt after schlepping all the way out to a farm and a cottage on the edge of a forest, respectively. Nice walks, yeah, but I did feel a little like an idiot for wasting my time.

Rainbow Dash I didn’t even bother about. Where was I meant to start looking? The sky? Couldn’t spot her anyway, anytime I glanced up. Clears skies all around.

What on earth could they be doing, I wondered? Group outing? They were friends. You’d think Twilight might have given me a heads up about that, though. Quite unlike her.

Should I have been worried?

Probably not.

I went back to the castle and hung around looking in rooms. This killed an hour or two, but once I lost interest I wound up in the room that me and Twilight hung around in of an evening. No idea what it was meant to be but it had a sofa and books I couldn’t read and it was better than just going to bed.

She’d left a quill lying around and I took to doodling. I couldn’t draw, but when had that ever stopped anyone?

“Heh, penis,” I said, drawing a penis. It was invigorating.

Sunlight was streaming in through one of the windows and before too long passed over me. In the warmth, I found myself thinking about Celestia again. I wondered what she was doing. I hoped she was alright.

I was still thinking about this as I dozed off.

Some time later - who knew how long? The sun had all-but gone so it must have been a while - the door banged open and I jolted upright.

Standing in the doorway was Twilight, and she looked completely wiped out. Mane a mess, eyelids drooping, swaying in place. She stared at me for a good ten seconds before actually noticing I was there.

“Hey, you alright? You look exhausted,” I said, sitting up straighter, rolling my neck. The sofa was very comfy, yes, but I had settled into the least comfy position on it to sleep, apparently.

“N’monster...friendship...long day…” Twilight said, wobbling over to me, just about managing to put one hoof in front of the other without getting tangled.

“Monster?” I asked.

“Big monster...done now…”

I was going to ask more about that, seeing as how it sounded kind of important, but Twilight wobbled forward faster and then collapsed onto me, staring snoring almost before she fell into my lap.

Took me a second to register this.

“Uh, Twilight?” I said, giving her a nudge. No response.

“Twilight?” I asked, a little louder, nudging a little louder. Frowning she groaned and proceeded to clamber further onto my lap, curling up and continuing to snore, limp wings flopping either side of her.

Whelp. Again.

I mean yeah, this was pretty great. She was warm and soft and so cute I was probably going to die on the spot, but putting all that aside it had to be a little weird, yeah? Maybe this was normal for ponies?

That said, knowing Twilight as I did - which after a handful of days I’d say was ‘reasonably well’ - I hazarded a guess that once she woke up and found herself sprawled across me she would probably be mortified. She was kind of like that, or at least this was the impression I had got of her.

Who blushed so often? It could only mean one thing! She was adorkable, that’s what, and easily-embarrassed to boot.

Picking her up would have been easy, yes, what with her being little and all but then what was I supposed to do? Take her to her room? I had no idea where that was. My room? How would that be any better than right now? If anything it would be worse!

Well, I guess I could just put her in my bed and then leave her to it. That wouldn’t be too bad, right? Or was that bad? Would that be read the wrong way? Was there a right way to read it? I had no frame of reference. I had no idea what was happening! I was paralysed by doubt and pinned by pony!

“...worse things have happened…” I said to myself, finding that I’d started idly fiddling with one of her ears and stopping myself with a curse. Twilight whined softly and kicked a little before settling down again. Guess she was dreaming.

What if I dropped her on the way to my room, hmm? Sounded like an excuse but it was an actual concern. I was hardly the steadiest on my feet these days. What if I got halfway there and then ate shit? It hardly bore thinking about!

Probably best to stay put. Safest.

Besides, she looked comfortable. And I was comfortable.

Wait. Couldn’t I just put her on the sofa next to me?

No, no. She looks far too comfortable. Don’t want to disturb her. That’d be mean. She’s had a big day! Just let her rest, yes. Not like I had anywhere to be, right?

“You’re a funny lot, you ponies,” I said quietly, running a hand over head and brushing some of the hair out of her face. She squirmed and smiled in her sleep, burbling something. I smiled too.

Probably too touchy-feely. I think they were rubbing off on me.

“You’re going to have to tell about that monster later though, you can’t just drop that on me like it’s nothing.”


View Online


Who the fuck is John?

“John, wake up.”

Yeah John, wake up so I don’t have to be collateral damage to whatever it is you’re doing. And who’s shaking me?

“Come on John, you can’t stay on the sofa all day. It’s breakfast now.”

John was on the sofa too? When he’d come in?

Oh yeah. No, I get it now.

Groggy, I opened my eyes. Things were blurry but I could immediately see Twilight stood over me, hind legs either side of my ribs as she shook me by the shoulders. Guess the wings helped with balance on that one.

My brain caught up. Yes. I’d been here on the sofa. Twilight had come in, fallen on me, fallen asleep. I must have nodded off again too. And now here we were, me blinking up at her, her lopsidedly smiling down at me.

Weird, I’d kind of expected her to be more high-strung about the whole thing, but she looked pretty chill. Well that’s nice. I like chill.

“Just resting my eyes,” I yawned, stretching. The stretch was enough to upset Twilight’s footing - hoofing? - and she had to leap back into the air flapping.

“Sure you were. Like I was ‘resting my eyes’ next to you. Come on.”

Next to? Guess she rolled off in the night. Probably for the best.

I blinked some more and the room came into better focus, as did Twilight. Something caught my eye.

Some ink had transferred from my fingers and onto her ear. Must have been from when I was messing around with that quill and when I, uh, messed around with her ear.

I decided not to point it out. She’d find out sooner or later.

“What were you drawing before I came in?” She asked, snapping me back to the moment. Again, this took me a second to figure out, then I just grinned.

“Anatomical diagrams. And a robot, I think.”

She looked back at the paper, turning her head to the side and frowning.

“I see,” she said, plainly not seeing. Drawing had never been my strong suit. This I was fairly confident about. That, and she probably didn’t know what a robot was. Why would she? Twilight then looked back to me, smiling again. “Breakfast?”

This was a capital idea. I approved.

Breakfast today was a lighter affair. Turns out there was a slightly smaller dining room that even had an attached kitchen and so me, Twilight and Spike ended up in there and looking after our own meals. Who’d designed this place?

I ate oats. I am a fan of oats. Maybe the ponies really were rubbing off on me!

Probably not though. Oats are just great.

“So what are you doing today, Spike?” Twilight asked, picking away at her food. Spike sighed, as though the weight of the world was on his shoulders.

“Yesterday I organised my graphic novels according to alphabetical order - of the author, obviously - but thinking about it that’s not the best, too much scope for confusion. So I’m going to go through them by genre instead. And sub-genre. Should take all day,” he said.

I could not tell if he was bullshitting or not but Twilight seemed to accept it readily enough, turning to me.

“And what about you, John?” She asked.


Think, think. Don’t just say you’re sitting around with your thumb up your arse.

Oh! There is something!

“Rarity,” I said. “I’m going to pop in and see her. See how she’s getting on with the stuff she wanted to make for me. Enjoy this view while you can because later on today you may well be seeing a man with trousers.”

And underpants. But they didn’t need to know that part.

“Ooh,” said Twilight, playing along. For this I was grateful. Spike just looked at me like I was a crazy person.

“The clothes thing is weird. Sometimes, sure, but every day? That’s weird,” he said.

“I’m a weird guy,” I said, shrugging.

No-one leapt in to dispute this. Thanks for having my back, guys. Twilight even smirked at me!

“Well, I’m done,” Spike said, wiping his mouth on the back of his arm and leaping down from the table, carrying his crockery. “Better get started, got a lot to do.”

On his way out of the room he paused, peering up at Twilight before gesturing to his head then to hers with an itty bitty claw.

“Twilight, you got ink on your ear,” he said, carrying on on his way without a backwards glance. Twilight’s ears flickered and she tried - and failed - to look up at them.

“I do? How?” She asked, utterly baffled, turning this way and that and achieving no greater success.

As engaging as this was to watch, it was my cue to leave.

“I better be going too,” I said, sidling out of my seat and hurrying to take away my bowl rinsing it out in the sink of that dinky little attached kitchen and then beating a hasty retreat.

Twilight was a smart girl - trying to look at her own ears withstanding. I wasn’t going to stick around for her to figure it out.

Did have a quick shower before I left. Seemed like a good idea to me.

Pony showers were, uh, not made with my proportions in mind, but needs must. You’d have thought the guest wing would have had greater accommodations for unusual sizes, given that ponies apparently shared the planet with a host of other mythical junk, but no.

Needs must, as I say. Crouch down and scrub, motherfucker, and don’t break a hip when your leg gives out!

Thankfully I didn’t fall over in the shower and got clean and dried without incident, heading out into another day of glorious Equestrian sunshine to go and see a lady about some pants. And other things.

Rarity was in fine form - glasses on, hard at work. Very happy to see me, too. Did some weird stepping-up-on-her-legs-to-peck-me-on-the-cheeks greeting she’d demonstrated an immense keenness for. I tolerated this, because why not? Still weird though.

“You’ve arrived just in time, darling!” She said.

Well, I always knew I had to be good at something. Though really, anyone can be good at timing. It’s not hard if you don’t count the times you fail.

“Only because when I popped over yesterday the place was closed up. Try enough and it’ll look like you succeed! Even I can do it!”

See, that kind of thing would probably have earned me a rebuke from Twilight or Celestia, but good old Rarity didn’t even notice. Something quite relaxing in that, I found.

“Oh yes, sorry about yesterday. Something came up, as it so often does!” She said, flouncing, hair flicking.

“Anything interesting? Twilight said something about a monster?”

“Frightful business, I shan’t bore you with it - not when there are far more important things!” She said, trotting off and out of sight to grab what she’d been working on, leaving me unsatisfied.

Guess I was never learning about that monster, huh? Ah well.

The fruits of Rarity’s labours were, by my estimation, glorious. This might just have been because I’d spent the last week and a bit variously naked or draped in form-smothering cloth, but a vaguely human-shaped set of trousers, pants and a shirt was wonderful.

Sure they didn’t fit exactly but for someone working for an entirely new species in bare days - in between actual work! - they were amazing! And roomy!

“I was wrong before, Rarity, this is the best day of my life,” I said, turning in front of the mirror to get the full experience. That the new clothes were actually quite subdued and minimal on the gems also helped, because you can’t be fabulous every day.

“You’re just saying that,” Rarity said. She was fishing. She knew it, I knew it, but this was the game.

“Okay, I am,” I said, waiting just long enough for the words to register before delivering the coup de grace: “It’ll only be the best once people see me in this.”

“Oh you!” She said, flapping a hoof at me.

“No, you!” I said, flapping a hand at her.

Where did this side of me come from?

My lack of shoes remained an issue. How it hadn’t really stuck out to me so far was anyone’s guess, but finally having proper trousers and a proper shirt of the button-up variety kind of made the sight of my nude feet peeking out all the more obvious. Well, all things in time. Maybe Twilight knows a cobbler?

At least no-one in Equestria has been laying gravel down. And I hadn’t seen anyone dropping Lego around. Yet.

I left Rarity’s feeling and looking fine, carrying the robe under my arm and no longer walking but now strutting. Maybe a little much, but how often does one get such a good excuse to indulge in a strut? I milked it!

Returning to the castle I dumped the robe in my guest room and then went off in search of Twilight, to show off how good I looked. This took longer than I might have thought and it eventually turned out she was in her own room, which I now knew the location of. A knock on the door and a short wait and I was in.

She was in there, sat on the bed, who could say why?

I entered like the towering colossus I am, setting the cane-stick thing by the door. I’d initially forgotten it at Rarity’s when I’d left there and had had to double back to get it. It was worse than having an umbrella.

“Check me out. Check out this fly motherfucker,” I said, spreading my arms. Yeah I was chuffed. Back in clothes, son!

Twilight looked appropriately impressed.

“Very nice,” she said.

“I know, right? Rarity really came through for me. Such a nice lady! You’re all such nice ladies!”

This was true.

Something about Twilight looked a little off. She had a bit of a stare going on, just gazing into space.

“You look a little shaken up,” I said. It took a second to sink in and when it did she shook her head, blinking furiously and blushingly lightly.

“I looked at the book Luna lent you,” she said.

Ooh, tantalising.


“Yes. The cover says it’s the first volume of the translated tales of Biskuti ya Bahari, a very famous and very old example of classic Equestrian literature. Very, very old. Carved on tablets old.”

That was pretty old.

“Sounds fancy,” I said.

“It would be. But, uh, that’s just what the cover says. It’s not the first volume.”


“It’s the sixth volume. Someone switched the covers, it looks like.”

I’ve heard of worse things happening. Certainly didn’t explain the thousand-yard stare she had going.

“Does that sort of thing usually shake you up?”

“The sixth volume is a nine-thousand page epic erotic poem dedicated to a fortnight-length session of lovemaking between two gods.”

I blinked.

“Wow. That’s, uh,” I searched for a word to sum that up. I came up empty. “Wow,” I said again. That would have to be a hell of a lot of tablets. Suddenly the book didn’t seem so bad to be lugging around.

Twilight apparently couldn’t think of any good words either, as she went quiet. I filled the void:

“Do you - do you think she meant to give me that?”

Seemed a pretty important question to me. Twilight gave an emphatic shake of her head.

“I sincerely doubt it. I think Luna must have thought she was giving you the first volume, which is a wonderful piece of literature, if a touch antiquated. How the sixth ended up inside is anyone’s guess.”

A pause. I had some ideas, but it wasn’t what I was concentrating on right that moment.

“Nine thousand pages?” I repeated, aghast and a little awed.

Surely they’d run out of words! The world only had so many synonyms and adjectives!

“They had less to do in those days,” Twilight said, by way of explanation. I didn’t buy it.

“Except fuck,” I said and grinned as I watched her ears flick. She’d got the ink off, I noticed. Phew. Dodged some kind of bullet there, probably.

“Well, uh, maybe?” She said, shifting on the bed.

“You think they’d get sore after the first week...” I said, stroking my chin.

“Okay! Alright! Well that happened.”

Twilight was blushing so much I could probably feel the heat coming off her face if I’d held my hands up. This made it all worthwhile. I went a little further:

“Is it, you know, a tasteful epic erotic poem?”

“It’s very detailed,” Twilight said, in the voice of someone who’s seen some shit.

“Do you want a hug?” I asked, spreading my arms again, expecting a ‘no’ or just a look. Instead I got a nod and she spread her forelegs. Well, can’t back down now.

I had to sort of kneel by the side of her bed to get on the right level, and this wasn’t much fun with my leg deciding that now was the time to start acting up. But I got through it. Getting down is easy anyway, and getting up was a problem for not-right-now.

This was more of a proper hug of the kind I was used to. Not the weird waist-height ones the ponies sometimes threw my way. Or the falling asleep on me kind, which was more like dozy cuddling. This was closer to the proper, better hugs of people of similar height. Like me and Celestia. You know? Good hugs.

And Twilight was so little! I didn’t want to seem like I was enjoying the whole thing too much because she might take that as being a bit weird, there was just something so lovely on a base level about it all. Soft and warm and little and lovely. That was her alright.

“Feel better?” I asked, to maintain at least a facade of this all being in good fun. She said nothing but nodded, face pressing into me. Guess that answers that?

And as this went on I wondered about the book. Well, not really ‘wondered’ so much as grinned to myself as I thought about it.

Whoever could have swapped the book out? Who’d have the access? What sort of white-furred, be-winged lunatic would go to the effort of doing such a thing? What celestial fiend could possibly think it was as funny as I did? What wheelchair-flinging, sneaking-up-on-you-just-to-see-you-jump maniac would even consider it?

Who indeed.

The hug broke more-or-less mutually and I fell back onto my haunches, considering how best to get around to standing up again. Twilight still had some lingering blush going on, clearly from the discussion about the saucy book.

“Say Twilight, you know Celestia, right?” I said, gritting my teeth as I squeezed my calf.


“What can you, uh, tell me about her?”

This didn’t seem to have been what she expected but this was Twilight, after all, and if it was about telling someone something she was down for it.

“Well, what do you want to know?”

“Oh I don’t know, anything really. Just want to know a little more about her is all.”

Please don’t ask why please don’t ask why.

Luckily for me, Twilight seemed so enthused by the prospect of answering a question that she entirely skipped over the ‘why’ of why she’d been asked in the first place. This was good, as I didn’t even really have an answer. Just a kind of urge to know more.

Would I like to know more? Yes, yes I would.

Twilight rubbed her chin with her hoof a moment or two before throwing both hooves up in the air.

“I don’t really know where to start!”

“The beginning?” I ventured with cavalier flippancy.

This she did not notice, settling in instead into her information-delivery mode.

What I got was more of a history and politics lesson than the keen personal insights I’d kind of been hoping for, but anything was welcome. Always good to learn more, after all. I listened intently, managing to stand up before too long and just pacing the room to keep from getting too stiff.

Was it weird, being in Twilight’s room?

Nah, we’re buddies. She’d say something otherwise.

“...and there’s raising the sun, of course,” Twilight said. This stood out to amidst the various other tidbits I’d been absorbing because, well, it was about moving the fucking sun.

“She moves the sun?” I asked and Twilight stumbled, her flow disrupted.

“Well, it’s a little more complicated than that - interdependent relationship, magical symbiosis and all sorts of things I’ve never even gone into! - but in simple terms yes,” she said.

I stepped over to the window and looked out. The world appeared not to be ending and indeed the sun was there, making its way across the sky. Just like all the other days I’d been here. Celestia did that? How? Magic? It was always magic!

“So this planet doesn’t go around the sun on its own?”

Twilight looked baffled.


Sure, why not? Don’t get hung on the details or you’ll never get anywhere in life. Magical horses, a princess who moves the sun, another who can climb inside your dreams - just roll with it. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and all that.

And besides, I can always ask Celestia about it when I see her.

“Right. Cool. Whatever. Continue,” I said.

She did so. A smattering of land reform. What a day court was. Galas. I seemed to be getting a more general barrage of information now, set against broader outlines of her reign. Reigning for a thousand years, a thousand years of peace and prosperity, a thousand-

Wait. Wait wait wait.

“Hey whoa, hang on, back up - did you say a thousand years?” I asked.


“A thousand years. A whole thousand? More or less?”


“And she’s been in charge the whole time? Moving the sun? Running the place?”


“She - Celestia is over a thousand years old?”


Back in the old days, when you were really pushing your beige-cased desktop to do something really complicated, you’d be able to hear that hard drive click and clacking up a storm. Pretty sure my brain was sounding like that right at that moment. If Twilight had pressed one of those ears up to the side of my head that’s what she would have heard.

Thousand years old? Celestia was over a thousand years old? That can’t be right. That’s got to be a joke. She doesn’t look a day over, uh…

I can’t actually tell how old ponies are by looking. Fuck, how old is Twilight just from looking? I know she told me, but looking? She could be anywhere from ‘not born yet’ to ‘dead’ I wouldn’t have a fucking clue. So what does that make Celestia?

Over a thousand years old, apparently?

No, no it’s fine. That’s cool. It’s magical horse land. That sort of thing is probably normal. There’s probably ancient horses coming out of every orifice. So it’s fine. I was saved and nurtured by a thousand year old magical horse and she’s lovely and we’ve become quite good friends quite quickly and-

No, sorry, I can’t bear that out. A thousand years! I’m barely a mayfly! A blink! Oh God she’s on a whole other level. This isn’t finding out someone is in their sixties when you thought they were late forties - this is completely fucking different!

What was she even doing with me? Why did she bother?! I must have been so boring! She must have just been putting up with me! Oh God! The things she must have seen! What have I seen? I can’t even remember what I’ve seen!

Oh God!

And she can move the sun!

Forget that she can move the sun! That’s fine! Moving the sun is something! That’s just something she does! She can also lift you with her brain so why not? She could be your age and move the sun, it’d be fine!

But it’s not that! This is a yawning personal divide! This is huge, yes? No? I don’t know!

How can she be a thousand years old? She’s so sharp! So funny! She didn’t act like it! Was this a joke? What has she done? She must have done so much! How much more than what I’ve done has she done? I don’t even know what I’ve done! And now I’m going in circles! What am I? What could possibly have kept her around me? Was she just humouring me?

Oh God!

“Uh, are you okay? You’re breathing a little unevenly there,” Twilight said, looking at me in alarm.

“Fine, fine, totally fine. Just need a sit down, that’s all. Just need-”

I found something to sit on just in time for my legs to give up the ghost and I collapsed heavily. Twilight’s bed creaked. Not made for the likes of me, I think, at least not so suddenly.

Come on man, calm down. It’s not that big of a deal.

Okay, well, it is. It’s kind of a huge deal. Someone hanging around with someone else who’s half their age is kind of unusual. Someone hanging around with someone who’s, oh, a fortieth of their age? If not more? That’s a cut above. The gulf in experience is unbridgeable, surely? Right?

And why do you care so much anyway? Age is just a number, right? Well, yeah, but after a certain point it also becomes kind of a huge gap demonstrating that someone has a base level of experience that is entirely different to yours. The past is another country, they say, so wouldn’t this make her from another planet? On top of the other dimension she’s already from?!

Or something. I don’t fucking know. What am I even saying? I’m getting a little lightheaded.

A thousand years! I’d be dead how many times over?

But no, no, it doesn’t matter. Why would it matter? Celestia’s lovely. She’s so lovely! She was real nice to me. And she smells nice. And she’s warm. And soft. Why would it matter?

It matters, jackass, because even though you know you’re meant to be thinking about her less you’re not and you’re just a twinkle in a gnat’s eye to her now, apparently, which puts her in a different league and you out of consideration. According to yourself.

Consideration for what?

Anything! Anything at all! Would you want to hang around with someone half your age? No! What common ground would you have? You wouldn’t meet halfway on sweet FA! It’d be like talking to someone in a different language!

Me and Celestia seemed to get on pretty well, as I recall. We had fun, I thought.

Because she was probably putting you on! Don’t you get it! She was probably being nice! Because she’s nice, yeah? And you were nearly dead. Weird creature not from round here, nearly dead, play nice with it, keep it happy.

But she didn’t have to do that. She has people for that. She didn’t have to do that at all...

“Are you really sure you’re okay?” Twilight said, close enough to make me flinch. She’d scooched across the bed until she was right by my side and was now looking exceedingly worried, a hoof on my leg.

Felt kind of squidgy. Celestia wore horseshoes. Kind of weird I only now noticed.

I took a deep breath. Thankfully, Twilight’s interruption seemed to have taken the wind out of my aggravating internal discussion. I could still feel it there though, ready to come surging back. The skin on my skull prickled.

I didn’t want to keep thinking like that. If I thought anymore my brain was going to eat itself. And besides, the longer that had all been going on the less sense I’d been making, even to myself. Most of what had just happened in my head was bollocks and was absolutely useless. All I’d done was make myself tense and miserable.

Just roll with it. You’ve rolled with everything else, why not this?

It’s a problem for future-John anyway. Fuck that guy.

“I’m fine,” I said, patting Twilight on the hoof. “Just having one of my moments. All better now. Thousand years, eh? Next you’ll probably tell me Luna’s two thousand years old or something.”

Make jokes! Jokes make it all okay!

“No, she’s younger. Not by much, but still. She also got banished to the moon for a thousand years so it kind of throws it off a bit,” she said.

I’m out of jokes. I don’t think I can top that. The moon? To the moon? Do I want to know more about that?

Well, yes. Just not right now. Now I need air.

“...can we go for a walk?”

The answer was yes. We went to a lake a little outside of town. Was very picturesque and tranquil, even so comparatively early in the day. Twilight asked me what was wrong and I insisted that I was fine and it was nothing.

Rainbow then appeared and buzzed us, which was less tranquil, but a pleasant enough distraction from whatever turmoil was happening inside my skull.


View Online

Having slept on it, I felt a bit dumb for freaking out the way I did.

I think it might have just been I wasn’t braced for it. A thousand years, you know? Things are a thousand years old. Buildings, countries, bloody familial feuds over valueless strips of land - not people though. Didn’t fit into my expectations, threw me for a loop. That was all.

We’d got on, hadn’t we? Me and Celestia? Quite well, as far as I was concerned. And she hadn’t been pretending, right? Hadn’t looked like it to me. We’d really got on!

I really hoped we had. Hoped it hadn’t just been in my head.

If it was?

Not sure I could joke that one off. Didn’t really want to think about it.

In fact, don’t think about it. Stop thinking at all, because all that’s going to happen is that you’re going to think yourself into ever-decreasing circles. Can’t do anything about it on your own. Wait until you see Celestia again and then talk to her about it. That’s the much better idea, yes? Just focus on what’s happening right now, right in front of you.

Man, things were much more fun when I was just stuck in bed being looked after. Remember when my biggest worry was getting put onto a toilet by a horse? Remember that?

You really never appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone.

A knock at the door got my attention back to the moment.

“I’m decent!” I yelled. Mostly true. Being covered in a sheet was plenty decent and besides, it was just Twilight. Poking her head around the door to check if I really was - who did she take me for! - she then entered.

“It’d probably be easier for you if you got me a clock or something, you know,” I said as she approached. She raised an eyebrow, then got it.

“Oh, it’s no bother. Besides, there’s something I need to tell you this morning.”

“That so?”

“The specialist arrived two days ago. He said he needed time to set up but he should be ready today so we should, ah, probably go do that at some point…”

Now that’s short notice.

“So that’s happening today? Like, now?” I asked. She bit her lip and shuffled her hooves.

“I kind of didn’t want it hanging over your head.”

Ah, the eternal struggle. To know something awful is coming and live fretting about it, or to have awful thrust upon you without warning? Which is best? One can only hope that when you flip the coin it somehow explodes and kills you.

“Nah, I get that, it’s cool. Should probably get dressed,” I said.

“I thought you said you were decent?”

“There are levels of decent, Twilight. Avert your eyes.”

She did so, I dressed, we ate briefly and thence we were on our way. Always good to have something to do. Makes you appreciate the times you’re not doing something.

“So when we say ‘specialist’ what are we talking about, exactly?” I asked as we walked.

“He is - as far as I’m aware - an expert in the effect of magic on neurological systems. Or so he told the staff here and they told me.”

“Oh yeah, brain specialist. I remember now.”

Sure to be an enlightening experience.

We entered the hospital, passing through the areas I’d seen before, through some doors and up some stairs and into parts unknown. Eventually we wound up in some office or other and, after standing there for a moment while Twilight exchanged words with a nurse, the specialist entered.

I’d seen a variety of ponies by now, but this one stuck out to me. Couldn’t put my finger on why. Were I feeling arty-farty, I might say that he had an unwholesome aspect about him. Maybe it was his pointier-than-usual muzzle, maybe the expression of rapturous delight. Who could say!

“Hello! I’m Doctor Knacker, yes-yes?”

Oh, that boded well.

“Hi Doctor Knacker,” I said.

I held out my hand - force of unconscious habit - but this was ignored and Doctor Knacker instead came in close for a peer at me, held turned to the side.

“So you’re the human, yes-yes? Very interesting, very new! I’ve read up on you, yes-yes. Read the notes Miss Sparkle was kind enough to provide. Very interesting! Very interesting case. I am keen to take a look inside that head of yours!”

This guy didn’t waste any time.

“Uh, how inside are we talking here?” I asked.

“Only magically! Only magically. Nothing invasive, don’t you worry human. You’ll be kept complete and whole. We’ll just take a peek-peek! Take a look what’s going on in there. Figure it out, yes-yes?”

This doctor was starting to damage my calm, though I could not quite pin down why. Was it the weird repetitions? The sheer excitement? Both? The thought of it being this guy as a specialist?

“Sounds great fun. How are we taking this peek?”

“With my Magic-Assisted Resonance Enhancer!”

Magic-Assisted...oh come on! He’s got to be taking the piss! That name doesn’t even make sense! I think? What’s it enhancing? Resonance?

“Sounds great,” I said, hoping my biting sarcasm might put a dent in whatever it was that Doctor had going. It did not, and remained stalwart and weird, nodding happily as though what I’d said had been heartfelt and full-throated support.

“Is! We’ll have a peek-peek inside your lovely human head, see what’s happened in there, yes-yes? See if we can fix it!”

Fixing it, hmm.

This was something I’d been idly tossing around inside my head as a concept the last couple of days, but the sudden appearance of the (rather disarming) specialist had brought it to the fore, and now it was hard to think of anything else.

Fixing it would be good, surely? Then why was I so bloody nervous?

“I’ll go and ready the machine!” Doctor Knacker said, all-but galloping out of the room. Twilight watching him go with a quizzical kind of air and I reached out to lightly tap her on the shoulder. The quizzical look transferred to me.

“You’re not going anywhere, are you?” I asked, and there must have been an edge to my voice I hadn’t meant to be there as her expression softened considerably and she reached up put a hoof against my leg. Odd gesture, but I was reassured all the same.

“No,” she said.

I gave her hair a ruffle. That sort of thing was coming far too easily for me, now.

“Good, good. I’m tense,” I said, eyeing the door, expecting Doctor Knacker back at any moment. He did not return then, though, and Twilight asked:


“I have misgivings about this. And not just because of Doctor Knacker’s bedside manner. I’m going to do it, just got a bit of me that ain’t so sure about it. Bit of me that kind of doesn’t want to.”

“Don’t you want you memories back?”

I swallowed, rubbed my face.

“Uh, yes and no.”

Looking down, I found Twilight blinking up at me in blank confusion. God she was cute. God they were all so bloody cute.

“I don’t get it.”

“It’s just something I’ve been thinking about. Hard to explain. Especially if you’re an idiot, like me,” I said. She glared. Bad choice of words.

“Try me,” she said.

“I’m me now, yeah? But I’m a type of me that isn’t, uh, me. And if I get all the stuff back that had been gone then that’ll be another me - the real me, I guess, the old me - but that might mean the me I am now will, uh, stop existing. That me will die. This me, the one talking right now.”

I hoped all that made sense, wondering whether I worry too much about things.

I licked my lips.

“It kind - it kind of makes me feel a little skeevy, Twilight. Little skittish.”

She’d softened on me now, but I could kind of tell she hadn’t entirely grasped my issue. Couldn’t really blame her for that. I hadn’t been the clearest.

“You’ll be fine,” she said, sincerely.

“Oh I’m sure I’ll be fine - I’m sure Doctor Knacker is a fine magical brain specialist - it’s just what I I’ll end up being fine as. You know?”

“You’ll still be you either way.”

But who was me?! What a quagmire.

“Well, yeah, what if the person I was was a massive dickhead? What if that comes back? What if I suddenly remember lots of little things that make me a horrible person and they all come clicking into my personality?”

“That doesn’t seem very likely,” she said.

She wasn’t wrong and I agreed with her, but the little sliver of doubt that was still there reminded me that ‘unlikely’ was not the same as ‘impossible’. It could happen. It probably wouldn’t, yeah, but it could.

I kind of liked who I was right now. Sure, couldn’t remember some of the finer details about who that was, but still. I was kind of mellow. It was nice. Had I always been like that? I didn’t know.

Tying myself in philosophical pretzels wasn’t exactly how I’d wanted to spend my day, but this was how things had shaken out

Doctor Knacker returned.

“It is ready! Come-come,” he said, beckoning.

Time to face the music, I supposed.

Twilight gamely went ahead of me, looking back over her shoulder just to make sure I wasn’t fleeing or staying rooted to the spot. I wasn’t, and was pretty close behind her as she went through the door.

And there, occupying part of a mostly-empty room, was Doctor Knacker’s (presumably patented?) Magic-Assisted Resonance Enhancer.

It was just an MRI. A dinky, magical MRI but still just a fucking MRI.

Sure, fine, whatever. There’s probably a pony version of Las Vegas or some shit kicking around - why not this? Why not have a seance? Why not go mad?

How they’d ever managed to get the thing in here? In pieces, presumably. No wonder the guy had needed time to set up, he’d probably had to put the thing back together again! Sorting through the Alan keys alone should have taken a week! He deserved a medal!

Maybe I was overthinking it.

I had to get out of my proper clothes and inelegantly wrap myself in a collection of gowns which weren’t the right shape. I covered the essentials and then clambered onto the thing, which had plainly been modified to accommodate someone of my length and weight. It still shifted under me, though. Little alarming.

“This isn’t going to awaken any latent psychic ability I have, is it? I don’t want to turn into a huge blob monster,” I said once I was lying down, doing my best to keep still and flat.

“Just try to keep still,” Twilight said. Then: “Does that happen to humans?”

“No. I was just pulling your leg.”

Glancing at her I could tell she still wasn’t entirely convinced. My work was done. Oh Twilight! You’re so much fun!

“Oh. Good. Keep still,” she said.

“Yes-yes! Dangerous otherwise. Moving parts and strange energies!” Doctor Knacker said. He was - perhaps alarmingly - wearing a pair of goggles with mirrored lenses and standing behind a safety screen as he fiddled with controls and monitored paper-fucking-printouts.

Bloody theatrics.

I closed my eyes and held still, feeling myself being fed into the tube of the machine some moments later.

Tight spaces aren’t the best, especially not spaces that are tight for someone half your size to start with. It’s just best not to think about it, and if you don’t move you don’t bump against the sides and realise how little space you have to move around in.

And don’t imagine things like having to tortuously wriggle inch-by-inch down a couple miles of pipe to an atmosphere converter. That’ll just make you panic.

Think of nice things. Just keep your eyes closed. It’ll all be over soon.

I was surrounding by a whirring, clunking humming. It was not soothing. At one point the clunking got particularly intense and I felt a greater movement of air in front of my face. This was enough to get me to crack an eye and see what was happening.

The machine had opened up and it looked now like I was lying down in the middle of some sort of orrery. Bits and pieces of arcane machinery orbited me. A good number of them didn’t even seem to be attached to anything. Naturally.

How any of this was meant to be happening safely inside a room inside a hospital was anyone’s guess. Did ponies have health and safety?

I closed my eyes again. No need to get involved. Just be inert. Be matter.

On the plus side Doctor Knacker had mentioned moving parts, so this was at least a sign that he wasn’t completely full of it.

I lay back and thought of England. This got me nowhere and just got me confused, as it all came to me out of order and entirely devoid of human beings. Not sure why I expected it to be different. For a change of pace, I lay back and thought of Equestria, what little of it I’d seen.

Pleasant enough place. Lots of greenery. Reliable train service.

Nice ruler. Very friendly. Maybe a little on the older side but you wouldn’t know it to look at her. Or talk to her. Or hang around with her.

Very warm…

The whole process of being run through the Magic-Assisted Resonance Enhancer took a length of time I was unable to measure. Felt like a heck of a lot of time because when you’re lying on your back with your eyes closed surrounded by whizzing magical debris being scanned any length of time feels like along time.

It did end, though. Eventually.

I was told to go next door and wait and that results should arrive shortly.

Big boy that I was, I did as I was told.

Twilight seemed to have adopted the role of assistant - or, perhaps, minder - to Doctor Knacker and so lingered with him to keep an eye on what he was up to. This left me sitting on a tiny chair in the adjoining room, patting my knees and waiting.

I pulled my shirt onto my lap and considered changing back but decided against it. Maybe they’d need me to do so something else. You never know.

Twilight came in first some minutes later, with no Doctor Knacker in sight.

The look on her face didn’t fill me with confidence and I felt a knot twist in my gut despite myself.

“There’s good news and bad news,” she said.

So quick! Or were they always so quick? Or were the results so plainly obvious they didn’t need to spend time looking over them? I didn’t know. I just did know that what she’d said was a bad sign.

“Oh, that’s never a good start,” I said. Twilight managed half a grin, but her heart plainly wasn’t in it.

“You want the good news first?”

It was the done thing, after all. I shrugged and nodded.

“Sure, why not?”

“Your leg and your hand - your whole right side, really - isn’t a symptom of anything, it’s just, uh, damage from magic. Whatever brought you here, I mean, that magic. Kind of a burnout, I suppose you could say, a shock to the system. But the damage is done. They won’t get any worse.”

“Will they get better?” I asked.

Twilight bit her lip, something I was readily able to identify now as a sign of nervousness.

“’s a possibility?” She ventured.

“This is the good news, right?”

Before she could clarify Doctor Knacker entered, practically busting the door off its hinges in his glee to be back in the cool room with the cool people. He’d at least lost the safety goggles.

“You’re here for the bad news, I take it?” I asked.

“Hmm? What? No-no! Never any bad news, no. Only interesting findings! Only new things. We have peek-peeked! Very interesting, very interesting!”

This guy.

“Do tell.”

“Your transition to this world has done wonderful, unexpected things to your brain! It - that is to say, your strange, foreign human brain - has reacted to the magic involved in ways never seen! Clearly you come from a very mundane place, yes-yes? A place without much magic to be found?”

I nodded. I couldn’t remember much, sure, but that at least I knew. Doctor Knacker smiled the smile of a man who knew he was right before asking the question but loved hearing it anyway.

“Your brain has fractured, you see? Along magical lines? Most unusual! Most perturbatory. But so fascinating!”

There was a bit to unpack here.

“So I’m definitely not from here? This, uh, dimension or whatever? I wasn’t just shot into space?” I asked.

Dumb question, yeah. I mean, what had I seen? The sun was getting moved around with magic? There was magic at all? Physics didn’t change just because I’d moved in space. At least I didn’t think they would. Dimension-hopping seemed about as likely as anything at this point. I mean sure, why not?

Doctor Knacker at least seemed pretty certain about it.

“Space? Not at all! All signs point to no, my machinery tells me so.”

He was rhyming now? I hoped that was a one-off.

“Good to know. And you said fractured?”

“Yes-yes! The only word I can think of that does it justice! Fractures and partitions! Where your brain was not split up by magical force it seems to have tried to shield itself! Discrete sections. Amazing! Unique! And it changes, yes-yes? Even as we were peeking some cracks disappeared, new ones opened! Remarkable! Unprecedented!”

I frowned.

“That sounds a lot like brain damage to me.”

“Yes-yes, but it’s magical brain damage!”

He was beaming so widely as he said this I felt the guy was in severe danger of just having his head split in half. It didn’t though.

“That - that’s not better. That’s still bad sounding,” I said.

His beam faltered in the face of my utter lack of excitement. He waved a hoof and frowned at me as though I was the wettest of wet blankets and a man with a thousand pooped parties under my belt.

“It is hardly as bad as the word ‘damage’ would suggest! Your cognitive functions are entirely unharmed, it’s just your memories! And even then in an unusual, idiosyncratic way. This or that might be beyond your reach today, but tomorrow? Back again! I’ve never seen anything like it! So new!”

He said this like it was a good thing, obviously.

“Consider me reassured,” I said, then turning to Twilight. “It can be fixed though, right? Magic and all that? There’s probably a spell for this?”

Before she could answer Doctor Knacker leapt in front of her and interrupted. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this guy.

“Any attempt at manipulation, healing included, could have drastic and unforeseen consequences! Your brain is very delicate, yes-yes? Fragile. Unpredictable! Even peeking we had to be softly-softly. Trying to recover? Could destroy! Could kill you! Would be interesting to try, yes-yes, but so risky, could ruin whole thing so easily!”

Well then.

That’s my head fucked.

“Never getting those memories back, then?”

“No, not never! Which is to say, maybe! With changes your brain undergoes all the time, could happen naturally tomorrow! Unlikely, but possible! But with assistance, getting them back? No, not now-now. But later maybe! Just not for the foreseeable future, yes-yes? And not without considerable, possibly fatal risk! Maybe later? Maybe once we have better, longer look, hmm? But not now, no. Fatal risk!”

He sounded far too excited about fatal risk for my liking.

I played around with the bottom of my shirt. Rarity’s stitching was immaculate.

“But why can’t I remember other people?” I asked. It was such a very specific mental block that it just seemed unfairly arbitrary. I saw Doctor Knacker shrug out of the corner of my eye.

“Oh, could be so many-many reasons. Magic, you know? It is so touchy! So arbitrary! It has rules, but does it tell us what they are today? No-no! We have to find out for ourselves! I would have to peek a lot longer to know even for half-sure.”

The prospect didn’t thrill me.

The room was very, very quiet. Doctor Knacker seemed to have run out of steam and Twilight wasn’t catching my eye. I cleared my throat.

“So, uh, what happens now?” I asked.

This question apparently hadn’t occurred to Doctor Knacker, who rolled it around his mouth like he was tasting something exotic.

“Now?” He repeated. “Hmm, now, now-now…”

“Do I need to do anything?” I asked him, quickly, to keep him from wandering off anywhere I might not want to hear about.

“You? No-no, you don’t need to do anything. We’ve peeked, yes-yes? We have discovered. Established what seems to be the issue and reached a very abrupt conclusion! No other conclusion to reach, so obvious, all right there! There is nothing else to do. Could peek more, if you like? Learn more?”

Clearly he wanted me to say yes. He was practically skipping.

“Didn’t you say that was risky?”

“Yes-yes! But what is life without risk, hmm?”

A very easy thing to say when it’s not you taking the risk, but whatever.


“Ah, you need rest, yes-yes? Always draining, being deep in the MARE. You sit, you rest. I have notes to compile! So many notes! So new! Ah! Oh!”

He galloped off. I mean literally galloped.

That left me and Twilight. Again, the room was quiet.

“So I guess, uh, technically the old me died, huh? Getting here? And this is just who I am now?”

I said it and I thought it but it didn’t seem especially real. Like reading words from a page, not actually anything there. But it was there and it was real. I dwelt on this, but it didn’t change.

“And I guess without useful memories I’m not going to be much use in helping you guys get me home? Because I can’t do that on my own. Predictably,” I said, this having just occurred to me.

Weirdly, going home was just not something I’d thought about that much, probably because thinking about home too much hurt my head. There had been the impression that it was important I should go home and that it was something I should be concerned about but, again, it didn’t feel especially real.

Home was, right now, just a jumbled collection of facts. Bits and pieces about, oh, super-fast rocket-powered planes and ancient Roman sieges of Jewish fortresses. Not exactly cosy. My home had no people in it because I couldn’t think of people, just things. It was an empty space where things had happened and where I had once been, apparently.

The thought of going back did not motivate me. I had no idea what I was meant to be going back to. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

“If coming here did all this to you I don’t want to know what going back could do…” Twilight said.

I hadn’t thought of that. Rampant speculation, yes, but she had a point didn’t she? There could be a way of doing it safely, but maybe this was what just happened when humans got sucked into magical horses places? Maybe this was normal.

Maybe my brain wouldn’t survive the trip back.

All speculation. No answers. No nothing. All I had was that I was me, now. This guy, sitting here. And here was Equestria, which was apparently where I would be staying for the foreseeable future and possibly until I died.

So there was that to look forward to.

“Are we sure that guy was a doctor?” I asked, just to try and lighten the mood.

Twilight nodded.

“I checked.”

“Wow. Can I never see him again? Is that an option?”

She managed a fraction of a laugh, though it kind of sounded like a fraction of a sob. I couldn’t really count that as a win. She was continuing to not look me in the eye, either.

Poor girl was taking this harder than I was!

“I-I’ll get you some water,” she said. I hadn’t asked for any and I was going to point this out to her but she was gone before I was able to. She didn’t gallop, but she did move pretty damn fast.

So that was me alone, then.

And, once alone, I did what most people do when they’re alone and had a good worry.

If someone had sat me down and asked me what it was that upset me about the prospect of never seeing home again I would not have been able to tell them. It just sat in my bones as something I should be upset about.

I had this general, looming, background sense that I didn’t belong here, I belonged back there. Even if I had no solid idea of what there even was anymore.

It was kind of a similar feeling to what had used to happen in my head when I’d looked at Celestia the first couple times, actually. This sensation that things weren’t fitting together right, that things were wrong, that I had stumbled somewhere I shouldn’t have.

That was gone now, though, more or less. Where I was was where I was, and what I looked at was what was there. Just how things were. You can get used to a lot of things, it seems.

Maybe that’d happen with this new feeling, too? In time? Just get used to it?

I hoped so.

On top of all that being, of course, that my brain was magically broken. That was kind of a new one for me. Not even coming at my memories sideways gave me anything I could use to handle that. No precedent for that one.

Should probably feel worse about it, but it was difficult.

I was still here, wasn’t I? Thinking? Whoever I was now. Some guy. John, I suppose.

I felt a little flat inside. There should probably be something, something big. Some intimidating emotional hillock for me to trudge over. An obstacle for me to wrestle with and eventually conquer. But no, nothing. Just flat.

Kind of makes me worried that it’s going to come bursting up underneath me without warning. That happens to people, doesn’t it?

Doesn’t sound fun.

Sigh. Oh well. Life is making the best of what’s done to you, yes? Wherever you go, there you are and all that and you, John, are now here. So suck it up. Having an existential crisis over your being forever stuck in a land not your own with your thoughts in tatters is not going to butter any parsnips. Just carry on. One thing at a time.

You’re not dead yet, shithead.


View Online

So. That was that.

Twilight took a while coming back and when she did it was pretty obvious - even to me! Emotionally barren lump of gristle that I am - that she had been crying.

“You alright there, Twilight?” I’d asked.

“F-fine!” She’d sniffled.

She’d forgotten to bring any water, too. Kind of a shame but worse things have happened.

There wasn’t anything else we had to do and so there wasn’t any compelling reason to continue hanging around the hospital. So we didn’t. I changed and we left, Twilight moping and subdued the whole way back.

Kind of felt like I was letting the side down also not being morose about recent events, but I couldn’t help it. The weight of it still didn’t strike me as especially real, and it was difficult to concentrate and really get stuck in when many of the ponies I’d taken to waving to were now waving at me first, forcing me by iron chains of politeness to wave back.

Made it a bit hard to focus. So I didn’t bother.

We made our shellshocked way back to the castle in dour silence. When we arrived the doors closed behind us with a kind of sepulchral finality that just seemed to be over egging it, if anyone felt like asking me. Which they didn’t.

Spike just strolling in kind of took the wind out of the moment though, for which I was grateful.

“Hey guys. Where’d you go?” He asked.

“Hospital,” Twilight said, thickly. This raised more questions and I could tell Spike was going to ask them, so I headed him off at the pass.

“Went to see a man about a dog. And another man about a machine to look inside my head to check what was up,” I said.

“Oh yeah. How’d that go?” He asked. Guess he’d known about that happening ahead of time, then. Figures.

“Could have gone better,” I said, filling in the void when Twilight didn’t immediately answer.

She then dashed off and already I could hear the sniffles starting up again. Spike and I watched her go.

“What’s up with Twilight?” He asked. I shrugged.

“Tough day, I guess.”

Kind of odd when someone is sadder about something that concerns you than you are, but we’re all different, I suppose. All precious and unique flowerchildren. Not really my place telling people how they should be feeling about stuff, is it? Especially given that I barely seemed to feel anything at all.

“Should we go after her or something?” Spike asked, scratching his head.

“Probably not. Probably best she have some space. Oh, hey, how’d your by-genre organising go?”

Seamless! Lord of the subject change! Perfect and flawless like an AI!

Surprisingly, it actually worked.

“Not great. The system was a bit too clunky. I got to sit down and come up with something more elegant,” he said seriously, frowning.

“That going to take all day, you reckon?”

“Probably. Maybe two.”

I was very close to suggesting to Spike that maybe he needed a hobby before remembering that this was his hobby, and that I was in no position to judge. Whatever works for you, son.

“I’ll leave you to that, then. I need a lie down.”

“Sure, sure…” Spike said, running his talons down his chin, deep in thought as he padded off. Evidently I’d sparked something in him. Well, good for Spike. I wished him the very best in his endeavours.

Turning, I headed in the opposite direction and wandered. Wandering was good. Gave your body something to do while the mind could idle. Lying down could happen later, right now: wandering. And wandering with a specific purpose.

A cup of tea would really hit the spot, and I was fairly confident that making one was within my capabilities. Just had to find one of those many kitchens. So that was why I was wandering.

Eventually, I was rewarded. I discovered the more modest dining room and kitchen combo we’d eaten breakfast in the other day. This I could work with.

No teabags, just loose tea, and all in boxes with gibberish on them. Probably should have seen that coming. Still, no matter - I could nose out proper tea without a huge effort and there was a strainer in a drawer so it hardly mattered. No power in the verse can stop me.

Much to my delight there was a kettle, as I’d been fearing some magical water-boiling apparatus or what have you. though it was one of those pop-it-on-the-hob type ones. Very old-school. When it whistled I clapped.

Pouring out and stirring I took a steamy faceful. So to speak.

Fuck knew where the milk was. Some magic fridge somewhere? Some larder on a cool marble slab? I didn’t know and I didn’t have the energy to find out. Black tea it was. Like a barbarian.

Once all that had been done and I’d given my level best of tidying up after myself I set the cup down to cool and sat on a pony-sized chair and then started worrying again.

Kind of a big deal, this stuff.

Stuck forever! My past more-or-less shrouded in mystery! My very identity composed of whatever scraps survived the trip here! My leg forever gammy! Hand forever trembling!

Not great, on the face of things. The rattle of the teaspoon against the side of the cup as I’d been stirring had been particularly sobering.

So why was I finding it so very hard to care?

I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying. Or screaming. Or something between those. Shock works like that, doesn’t it? Numb at first and then a hit later? It could be that. But I didn’t really feel numb, I thought, it was just that where there should have been some sort of turmoil there wasn’t anything. Just perplexity.

And the feeling that I should have been feeling something else. Some kind of odd feedback-loop going on there.

Maybe I really was just storing up some kind of horrendous delayed reaction, but it didn’t feel like it. My connection to home and whoever I’d been back there was so loose that having it cut barely stung at all. Was that normal? I didn’t know.

And this place wasn’t so bad.

Sure, this or that thing stuck out to me as odd, but on the whole it made sense. Down was down, water was wet, I inexplicably spoke the language - life was pretty good. A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar one, right?

I tried the tea but it was still a little hot for my tastes.

Just have to keep going, keep making the best of things. Would just sit around moping otherwise and be miserable, and it’s better to be alive and laughing at the inexplicable than alive and moping at things that don’t make sense, surely?

So what if none of it made sense and I probably wasn’t meant to be here? The struggle towards the heights is enough to fill my heart, isn’t it? Each atom and flake of the stone on its way up its own story?

I can at least imagine myself happy.

This was getting too deep.

I could - and was obviously trying to - ruminate on the hand I’d been dealt until I was blue in the face, but it wouldn’t help me. I knew this, but it couldn’t stop my mental train from carrying on along its merry way. It’s like telling someone to relax.

What I needed was to not be on my own.

Taking the tea and Applejack’s handy-dandy farm-tool walking stick thing which was my near-constant companion I got up and went to bother Twilight. I knew where she slept now! There was no escape!

Doing my best Black Rod impression on Twilight’s door I stood back and waited for a response.

“I just need a m-minute, Spike!” Came a muffled voice.

“It ain’t Spike.”

Spike was balls-deep in organisation, but she didn’t need to know the details.

A pause, then the door opened, and there was Twilight looking up at me. More crying from her. How did she have enough moisture in her tiny little body?


You know, I really had meant the John Doe thing as a joke and - at the time - just something to get Rainbow off my back. Was definitely stuck with it now. Maybe eventually it’d stop feeling so weird to hear.

“Yes, it’s me. Hi,” I said.

“What are you doing here? I thought you’d be…” She said, before realising she hadn’t thought that far ahead.

“I felt like some company. Thought you might appreciate some too. I can bugger off if you’d prefer?”

Her eyes widened at the risk of appearing insensitive and she quickly stood aside, throwing the door open wider.

“No, no, come in.”

I did and made a beeline for Twilight’s bed again, given that it was about the only thing in the room that looked good for sitting on. Other than the chair at the desk. Or the other chair in the corner. Those were probably there for decoration anyway. It’s bed-sitting for me!

There were a lot of tissues strewn about across the duvet. They bounced as I sat, the bed creaking again. I should probably be a little mindful of my weight. This world wasn’t built with me in mind.

“Someone dying?” I asked, waving a hand to indicate the emotional debris as she trotted on over and hopped up beside me.

“You don’t have to make jokes about this,” she said, wiping a foreleg across her face.

I kind of did. It’s how the wiring worked. I held up a finger so as to better proclaim:

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone. Well, not really because I’m here with you right now and you’ve been crying but, uh, well you get it.”

That didn’t work the way I’d meant it to.

“It’s not even about me! It’s about you! You should be sad and I should be there for you!” She said.

She had a point. But this was the way things were. Ponies, I had a feeling, were a soft bunch.

“There there,” I said, petting her as she broke out into another minor bout of the sniffles.

“It’s just so s-sad!”

She flopped forward into my lap and I stopped petting as it kind of felt a little weird to keep doing it with her there. Instead I gave her a single pat. For support.

“Guess it’s pretty sad,”I conceded.

Wriggling, she rolled over onto her back, hooves in the air, head still on my lip and bottom lip trembling.

Why didn’t she just shoot me? It’d be quicker.

“I couldn’t even imagine never seeing home again,” she said.

I swallowed, thought, and gave her a nervous grin.

“Yeah, but, that’s because you can remember home. The closest I’ve come to a proper memory of home was telling Celestia about a Monday, and even that was pretty light on detail. As far as I know I could have just imagined the whole thing, pulled it out from somewhere else in my head. How would I know?”

“You must miss it though. Even with just that you must miss it.”

I thought some more. Couldn’t really deny it. Something was there when I poked at it. Just couldn’t work out what or what I should do with it.

“Well, yeah. I just can’t really tell you why.”

“And I - we - we can’t even help you! We might hurt you more.”

She was telling me things I already knew, but that was fine. Sometimes you just need to vent, and that’s fine. I’m a big lad, I can be a good sounding board.

“Things could always be worse,” I said, more as a way of showing I Was listening than to actually put forth an opinion.

“Doesn’t mean they’re not bad. Doesn’t mean you can’t be unhappy about it.”

In my book being unhappy would have got me nowhere. In my book it was fine for other people to get hung over things because, hey, their things were probably more serious. As long as I was keeping going I had little reason to complain. In my book. But whose book was that, exactly? Book of John!

Urgh, easily the weakest.

A hoof coming to rest on my chest snapped me out of that peculiarly theological tangent and got me to look down. There I found Twilight looking up, big, slightly-red-from-crying eyes meeting mine.

“You know you can take all the time you need, right?” She said.

I gave the hoof a pat and then her hair a ruffle.

“I know and that’s very kind of you, but if I sit around on my tod for much longer I may well crawl so far up my own arse on some philosophical tangent they’ll never be able to coax me back out again. Have to wiggle me out with a pencil or something, and even then it’d be dicey.”

“Graphic,” Twilight said, sticking out her tongue and wrinkling her muzzle.

“But true. And so here I am, with you, my rock of sanity.”

That got her blushing, which instantly made everything considerably better.

I tried the tea. The tea was now cold. Oh well.

“How about some lunch?”

A capital idea, it was mutually agreed. I continued sitting on the bed while Twilight popped into an ensuite to freshen herself up and then we were off.

“You know you’re remarkably calm about this whole thing. Are you sure you’re okay?” She asked as we walked, peering up at me uncertainly.

“You’re not the first person to call me that. Maybe I’m just a calm person. I mean, it doesn’t matter if we turn to dust, Twilight. Turn and turn and turn we must.”

This foxed her. Foxed me, too.

“That some sort of...human...proverb?” She asked, brows knotting.

“I’m not sure,” I said, thinking about what the hell I’d just said and getting so, so close to remembering what it was. But not close enough. “I don’t know.”

We’d taken a shortcut - of sorts - through one of the castle’s many, many redundant function halls and while it looked about as empty and about as useless as any of the others had looked to me something gave me pause.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

“There’s a certain tension in the air, or is that my imagination?”

We both stopped and listened. All was quiet and still but yet there did seem to be something. Some hint, some suggestion, something just out of reach...

“Surprise!” Pinkie yelled, appearing from the aether in a blaze of confetti as streamers and banners unfurled from places too impossible for them to have fitted into.

“Fuck!” I yelled, falling over backwards.


View Online

I expected a big smack and some pain, but that didn’t happen. I had been stopped from making contact perhaps an inch or two from the ground. Then I was ringhted and put back on my feet. It wasn’t hugely difficult to work out what had happened.

Safe hands, Twilight. Well, hooves. Or horn? Whatever body part was involved in magic.

“Thanks, Twilight. Forget the stick, I should just carry you around,” I said, giving her another pat. God that came so easily to me now. She blushed - again! Oh, worth it - and passed me said stick, which I had dropped on toppling over. “Thanks, again.” I said.

With that excitement out of the way I dusted myself down and straightened myself out and had another look around. Streamers still present, balloons also here, music coming from...somewhere?

“If I didn’t know any better I’d say you were throwing a party,” I said to Pinkie.

Pinkie gasped, her eyes widening.

“You’re good,” she breathed.

Twilight interposed herself between me and Pinkie, looking none too happy.

“Pinkie! This isn’t the best time for a party! We - John got some bad news today”

“I know! It’s just awful, the worst. To be so far from home and to not even know what your home is like beyond a few scatterings of historical trivia and increasingly obscure references! That’s no way to live. But you have to live on, John! For yourself!”

She did an impressive hop from a standing start and leapt onto me, forcing me to bring up my non-stick holding arm to support her as she enveloped my upper body in a hug. The whole thing was sloppy, but well-meant, and again I was being crawled over.

Ponies, man. They never invent personal space here? Then again, I’m the guy who can’t stop himself from patting Twilight all the time so I can hardly talk. Swear I didn’t even get cuddled this much by my mother. As far as I know.

That gave me a stab. Don’t think about that, please.

Fortunately, what she’d said provided a good excuse to think of something else.

“Wait, how did you know about any of that?” I asked, cradling her.

“Spies, informants, intuition and informed guesswork,” she said breezily as she wriggled around against me, as though that was anything close to a satisfactory answer.

“Guess you’re a lady with a lot of, uh, hooves in a lot of pies.”

That just sounded gross. To be fair fingers weren’t much better. Who puts their finger in pies anyway? Someone has to eat that.

“Still, now really isn’t the time, Pinkie. You could have warned me!” Twilight said, glaring. She seemed a little angrier about all this than I might have expected her to be, but then I suppose people react differently to unexpected surprises. That and, you know, it wasn’t my house.

“Yeah, but you hang around with him all the time so you represented an operational hazard - you could have spilled the beans! That would have ruined the surprise! What’s a surprise party without surprise?”

“Just a party?” I suggested, being duly rewarded with a pink hoof thrust towards my face which nearly knocked me off balance again. I’m not sure what this gesture was meant to signifying, but the intent struck me as positive.

“Yes! And that’s good, but it’s not good enough!” Pinkie declared.

Her logic was undeniable.

As was often the case - is my curse - I could see both sides here, or at least what I assumed the two sides were. On the one hand there was Twilight and her palpable concern for my welfare, with me (in theory, if not in practise) distraught and in need of quiet time for reflection.

And of course the shock of having a party organising in her big fancy castle right under nose. That was kind of taking the mick.

But also, I knew that Pinkie meant well, and that cut a lot of mustard with me. I’m a softy, after all. That, and there was an effort of level involved here. How had she even managed to hide any of this stuff? I was hardly going to put my dick on Pinkie’s shoulder and throw that back in her face.

Besides, distraction was kind of what I was after right now, and what could be better, right?

Certainly, as much as I appreciated Twilight’s treating me as though I was made of glass and ready to shatter into pieces at any moment, I would rather put that off and just drown in noise for a bit. Shattering could happen at leisure, later.

If it had to happen at all…

“Worse things have happened, Twilight…” I said to her, and not for the first time. I hoped to affect an expression of ‘pity me and indulge me and your friend’, though whether this would work or not was unclear. Twilight’s reluctance was anything but unclear.

“You don’t have to humour her,” she said, eyes trailing from Pinkie to me. Pinkie stuck her tongue out and then whined softly as I set her back on the floor.

“Nah, I’m genuinely down for this. Besides, look at all these balloons: can’t have been easy to tie those off with hooves. Would be a shame to just pop them all.”

Pinkie gasped, horrified. I pressed on:

“One by one.”

Further gasping, now somewhat strangulated.

“While the rest of them watch.”

Pinkie fainted, or appeared to faint, flopping limply across my feet. This was better than I might have hoped for. Did remind me I needed shoes at some point, though. Hell, I’d settled for slippers. Twilight didn’t seem impressed by Pinkie’s reaction.

“If you’re sure,” she said.

“Totally. I mean, you’re probably the more aggrieved party here, this being your home and all”.

“Oh I’m fine, I’m used to this sort of thing. I just thought you’d need some time, is all.”

“Maybe. Maybe later. Right now it’d feel good to just be in the moment. Thanks for thinking of me, though. You don’t ever seem not to!”

More blushing, practically incandescent. Oh Twilight, you adorable thing, you.

“S’no big deal just wanna make sure you’re okay…” she mumbled, kicking her hooves. I gave her another ruffle because I couldn’t stop myself. It just came so easily! Must have been something about her.

I assumed there would be more party to come, and it wasn’t just streamers and balloons and the three of us. That would have been a bit underwhelming. And kind of weird.

“It’s not just going to be us, is it?” I asked Pinkie’s body, lifting her and jiggling her with a foot. This got an immediate reaction and she flipped right-way up ramrod stiff like someone had run a current through her.

“Final touches!” She announced, zipping off like a pink bullet out of the room, returning moments later somehow dragging a veritable constellation of equipment and supplies with her.

The table - which had been entirely empty on my and Twilight’s entry to the room - was laid by the simple expedient of Pinkie putting a rolled-up cloth onto it and rolling it out. This resulted in a table practically groaning under the weight of a prodigious party spread. I’m talking enough to feed as many people as were coming in at least twice over. Some of it was still steaming hot. Some of it was soup.

“Yeah, that makes sense,” I said.

By now the place was filling up with partygoers, too. I spotted Rarity and Applejack and also a couple of - shall we say - ‘background’ ponies who I vaguely recognised. The ones who waved at me. They all seemed to know what was going on and why they were there. Clearly they weren’t operational hazards.

Amidst all of them Pinkie wove, dealing with the final touches. This took her on a weaving circuit of the room, ending with her back by us again, panting quietly and looked very pleased with herself. And rightly so! One-pony-party-provider! Most would have dropped dead!

“Solid work, Pinkie,” I said.

“Thanks!” She said, mopping her brow with a handkerchief she’d somehow acquired and which disappeared just as quickly.

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing. Pinkie turned round to check then turned back again to me, smiling up a storm.

“A banner!”

“No, I figured that out, it’s just that even without me being able to read the thing I can tell that’s a lot of words for not a lot of banner. Just wondering what it says.”

“It was meant to be a ‘Welcome to Ponyville’ party but now it’s a belated ‘Welcome to Ponyville and also sorry that your mind was shattered by unknowable energies during your transition to our world and now you’re stuck here for good (possibly)’ party. It got kinda squashed,” Pinkie said, waving her hooves in the air for emphasis.

She wasn’t kidding.

It was pretty fucking funny, I thought.

“Isn’t that a little insensitive?” Twilight asked, frowning. I was too busy laughing. Something about the combination of how blunt it was and how Pinkie apparently hadn’t considered getting a larger banner to try and fit it all on just tickled me.

“Ah that’s pretty good. Yeah, I like that. So this is a party for ponies, huh?”

“Yep!” Pinkie said, nodding, then she seemed to consider the full ramifications: “Are human parties not like this? Is this the worst? Oh no!”

“No, no, settle down there. This is pretty well-translated. I mean, everyone’s shorter than me and everything’s kind of garish but to be fair that could happen at a human party, too. This is tops. Thanks again.”

That put the smile back on her face and the hop back in, well, her whole body really.

“Good! I have to set up the cannons!” She said, bouncing off.


“Party cannons,” Twilight said, as though that was in any way a reasonable explanation.

Visions of QF seventeen pounders danced through my mind, Pinkie in a Brodie helmet wrangling shells. Unlikely, but amusing.

“I’m going to go mingle. Watch me mingle, Twilight. Are you watching?” I asked, wandering off and making a very big show of looking back to check she was watching. Twilight rolled her eyes but couldn’t quite keep the smile off her face.

“I’m watching, I’m watching,” she called after me.

Good times.

I engaged in small talk! It wasn’t actually that bad. Most of those who I hadn’t already spoken to were a trifle nervous at first, but I put that down to the, you know, twice-their-size height difference. Once we got the ball rolling on such stalwart subjects as the weather or the quality of the party food things flowed much more easily. Nice lot, really. Very friendly.

Took particular effort to track down and thank Rarity and Applejack for the clothes and stick respectively. They both insisted it was fine and I should thinking nothing of it but I insisted harder that I was sincerely grateful and would make it up to them somehow once I’d worked out how I even could. They doubled-down on hearing this, and both swore blind that I didn’t have to.

I reached an impasse with both of them. There were no winners, only polite agree-to-disagreers. Irresistible forces and immovable objects and all that. I would have the last word, I’d see to that. All things in time!

He who is grateful and modest last is grateful and modest hardest! You’ll see! You’ll all see!


There were games, of the sort one might more readily expect at a child’s birthday party but hell, no expiry date on fun, right? I’ll pin a tail on anything for a laugh, me, though bending down to do it wasn’t the greatest. For the most part I left the ponies to the games and just wandered around fielding questions and waving.

Still, fun party all round. Certainly better than pondering life, the world and my place in it.

Though what would really, really help put a lid on that - I felt - would be a drink. A proper one.

Ponies must have alcohol, surely? What sort of benighted civilization didn’t? It had to be around somewhere, this being a party. I just had to find it!

There was a bowl on the table that looked to be filled with what I unfoundedly assumed was punch. I’d never had punch before, but I was aware that sometimes it had booze in it, and sometimes when it didn’t people put it in anyway, secretly. It seemed my best shot and, if nothing else, would give me something to do.

And that was what I was going to do, only instead I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and someone said very quietly and very close to my ear:

“Having a good time?”

A shiver ran up my spine so much I nearly snapped in half like a card table. Maybe hyperbole. Certainly though I yelped and jumped and found Celestia standing there grinning fit to burst.

“You!” I said, still shivering. “You, oh you! How do you - why do you keep - “

My brain then caught up. Celestia! Here!

She’s not the only one who can surprise people, though! While she was still grinning I lunged and I hugged and it was her turn to yelp in shock! Take that! I have the upper hand!

Though not for long, as it only took like a second for her to get over the shock and hug me back, rearing up and hooking her forelegs over my shoulders and around my neck. This put her weight onto me, which made my leg wobble, which made me very nearly collapse and take her down with me until she managed to just about keep me upright.

This gave me the giggles, which gave her the giggles, which just made it worse. I clung to her for dear life and giggled like a lunatic as she giggled like another, different lunatic, her wings around my back.

The giggling tailed off though, and then everything was warm and cosy. I wasn’t sure for how long. Seemed like a while. Eventually it slackened and she pulled back so we could actually look each other face-to-face. From very close up, to be sure, but at least there was eye-contact now.

“Do you often crash parties, then?” I asked.

She pouted in intense mock-indignation, a hoof to her bosom. If there was where a horse had their bosom. Which I doubted?

“Crash indeed! I was invited!”

“They’ll let anyone in these days,” I said.

“I know, right?” She whispered. Very conspiratorial. “I wouldn’t think of attending the kind of party I could be invited to. Well, normally, but then I heard you’d be here so…”

And we were grinning again.

“Maybe you need to raise your standards,” I said.

She went in for a nuzzle.


Someone coughed, pointedly enough and close-by enough for it to be obviously aimed our way. The hug relaxed and Celestia’s wings dropped enough to actually let me see the world again. There nearby stood Luna.

“Oh hey Luna, you here too?” I said. Super-casual.

“I am, yes.”

Celestia dismounted from me - ahem - and stepped back, wings folding against her sides. The party continued as pleasantly as it had been doing but I could tell a good number of those present were half-watching us. I mean, they were monarchs, right? Guess it’s kind of a big deal for them to show up at a party.

“This is - the party was a surprise to start with, but this is surprises on surprises,” I said.

“I invited them!” Pinkie said, proudly, appearing at my elbow. I barely reacted this time. “Celestia found you, after all, and it would have been rude not to invite Luna too! That, and I had an inkling that now was a good time for them to appear.”

Appear where? Here? They didn’t stop existing when out of my sight, did they?

“You’re very perceptive, Pinkie. Scarily, so. Like you have access to a higher truth,” I said.

Why was the word Malkavian coming at me? Didn’t really fit. Pinkie wasn’t mad, she just had foibles! Though every so often one did get the impression when talking to her that she somehow had access to the script by which reality itself was being run. Probably just paranoia on my part.

She bounced off. Celestia, Luna and myself did our collective best to gloss over what had just happened.

“We both felt it might be wise to see for ourselves how your recovery was progressing. The invite presented an excellent opportunity to do this. And to say hello. Hello,” Luna said.

This seemed a reasonable enough excuse. I could buy this.

“Well you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of me from now on until, uh, well a while. I might be sticking around, unfortunately.”

Their reactions kind of gave the game away on that one. Even Luna’s poker face flickered.

“Ah. You guys hear about that, then?”

“Doctor Knacker passed on his results as soon as he had them available,” Luna said. Celestia just nodded.

Boy moves quick!

“It’s not the greatest,” I said. This about summed up my feelings on the matter, at least right then.

“We’re so sorry,” Celestia said with the same kind of full-tilt warmth and sincerity she could seemingly muster up out of nowhere. She too looked like she was about to tear up, but she obviously had better control than Twilight because she didn’t.

Kind of wanted to hug her again, but no. I held off.

“Ah, it’s not your fault, don’t apologise. Not my fault either. Probably. No-one’s fault. Just one of those things. Shit happens,” I said, shrugging, and I could tell immediately that neither of them believed me or thought I was okay.

There was going to be a lot of that. I could just feel it.

The princesses had a little wordless exchange of significant glances.

“Would it be possible to talk privately?” Luna asked.

A lot like Twilight’s ‘good news and bad news’ these were words that rarely preceded anything you wanted to hear. But such was life.

“Uh, sure. I got a room? That’d probably work. S’this way,” I said, pointing. I think I was pointing in the right direction. I kind of had the layout of the place down.

You’d have thought that someone of my size slipping away from the party with royalty in tow would have attracted more comment, but nobody raised an eyebrow. Who would question it, after all? Twilight was coming, too, though I had no idea how she’d known to follow.

I led the way, feeling very self-conscious about them all bringing up the rear.

It was like having someone watch you eat.

That is

View Online

The guest room felt a touch more cramped with so much company in it, and - sat on the bed with them facing me down - I had to admit to feeling a touch more nervous than I might have expected to. So many touches.

Three magical horse princesses, one random dickhead. Who would win?

Well, them obviously. Even if they didn’t have magic they had pointy bits and there were three of them. I had a stick but that only counted for so much. Good thing we weren’t throwing down.

“Is this when I’m told something to my disadvantage?” I asked, clinging to the stick for emotional support. Might as well get it all packed into one day, eh? All the bad news?

Why else would we need this private talk setup?

The three of them shuffled. Twilight just looked lost, which wasn’t a huge surprise, while Celestia and Luna looked to be silently arguing with one another about who should start the ball rolling.

Luna lost.

“No. We simply feel it is important to discuss what has been learned today and that it is best to do so as soon as possible. The party atmosphere might have made this difficult,” she said.

“Best rip that plaster off, eh? Makes sense.”

Oh God, they were all looking at me. God, I hated being the centre of attention. Specifically, I hated to think that people were fussing over me, taking time out of their days purely for my benefit. Surely they had better, more important things to be doing? I did my best not to squirm.

Why did their eyes have to be so big?!

Luna continued:

“We had been operating under the assumption that your presence here was temporary, as was whatever damage you had suffered as a result of your arrival. Now that this has been found not to be the case arrangements shall have to be made for your perma-”

“For your long-term staying here,” Celestia said, cutting across Luna and giving her A Look.

What words were chosen were important. Not that ‘long-term’ and ‘permanent’ gave me a particularly comfortable gap to snuggle into. Neither was the friendliest of terms.

“Yes. Long-term. Quite,” Luna said, doing very well to mask her irritation at being interrupted.

“You can stay with me as long as you like!” Twilight blurted. This time the blush reached her ears. “I mean he can stay here as long as he needs to. We have the room for him. Lots of rooms. He doesn’t even have to stay in this one.”

Well, she wasn’t wrong. Mine was the only room in the - frankly, excessive - guest wing presently occupied. Still felt like a sponge though. I wasn’t even doing anything. I was just taking up space.

“I’m not that fussy. Just roll me into a cosy ditch and I’ll be golden. Can’t just coast along abusing the hospitality of your guys like this,” I said.

Equestria probably had a higher quality of ditch than the kind I could picture from back home. Some of those ditches I’d pissed in, I was fairly sure. That at least they wouldn’t share with those ditches I’d find here.

Not yet, at anyrate.

“Nonsense. You arrived through no fault of your own - as you say - and from then on were a guest of the crown, and a guest of the crown you remain,” Luna said.

You know, for a lady who seemed keen on getting me out the palace you seemed very keen on me sticking around now! I can’t get a read on you, Luna, but whatever. Whatever works for you.

“Uh, the phrase ‘at her majesty’s pleasure’ isn’t going to show up here, is it?” I asked, and it came out more nervous-sounding than I’d meant it to. That was weird.

Not sure what I was getting worried about here but the whole setup of me sat there facing down a trio magical horse princesses was clearly starting to get under my skin more than I could put into words. My guts felt as though they had somewhere else to be.

Looking at Celestia made me feel a little better though. She was putting a brave face on things. Buoyed me.

“None of us know what that means,” she said, not unfairly.

“It’s - it’s a joke. Don’t worry about it.”

Of course it was a joke. Why would anything I say not be a joke?

There was an idea though.

Pearls are these things that form around little specks of dirt, right? The jokes are like a pearl. Little speck is the worry or the fact or the whatever it is you don’t want, and the jokes forms around it. So that’s fine. But the speck is still there, right? You following this?

This speck is telling you something, and you know what that is.

Long-term arrangements. Permanent arrangements.

They hadn’t needed to spell the original plan out to me. I was a big boy, I was a smart boy, I could figure it out. Get me fixed up as best as possible, work out what was up with my head and then sort that out, find out where I’d come from, find out how I’d got here, get me back. Simple, right? I could follow that.

Clearly that hadn’t worked out. A couple steps there had just fizzled so the whole thing was scuppered. Result? Me stuck here. So that was the issue now, I was stuck here.

And, being nice ladies and also ladies in charge, they couldn’t just chuck me out. No ditch for me, however much I might joke about it. I needed to be put somewhere, and then once I was put in that somewhere I would need looking after.

What’s that word I’m tip-toeing around here? Oh yes, that’s it. Burden. That’s the word. Burden. Millstone. Load. Deadweight. You getting all this?

Oh this isn’t good at all.

There was another word. Well, two words. What was it Luna had said the first time I’d seen her properly? What had she called me? An exotic pet, wasn’t it? That must have stuck with me more than I’d given it credit for.

What a disqueting thought. Why are you remembering that now?

I think you’ve graduated above being a pet by now, just, but being a curiosity they just keep around because he’s got nowhere else to go and nothing to do but take up room is not a prospect that thrills me.

In fact, the more I think about it the more it really makes my skin crawl.

Fuck never seeing home again. That place is an empty shell anyway. Just a bunch of dumb crap I can half-remember with no-one to go back to. Would I even want to go back if going back wasn’t likely to kill me? Probably not. What would be the point? So I could have chairs that were the right size and a whole planet of people who had no idea who I was? Including me?

Well, excluding anyone who might know me. But what was to say I’d find them? Long odds. And if I did what then? Still just strangers to me. What turmoil to inflict! For them to see this face that meant so much when to me they’d mean nothing?

Oh God, what a horrible thought, to be responsible for inflicting that. Better to stay here, not put them through that. If they existed. Which they might. Oh God, was that selfish?

I was here anyway. Here had people! Here had people who knew me! And I was just useless to them! Just matter! Gristle! This thing there that they had to worry about and deal with! Thing thing they had to waste their time on when they could probably be doing other, better things!

What a terrible thing to inflict! Oh God!

Ah shit I was having another moment.

“Steady on,” I said to myself, banging a palm against the top of my stick.

“Sorry?” Celestia asked, and I jolted when I remembered that I was still sat there with the three of them staring me down.

How long had all of that even taken? Had they just stood and watched me stew?

No, no more thinking. It’s not doing you any good.

“Just having a moment. I have those,” I said, trying to smile and maybe getting halfway.

“He does,” Twilight and Celestia said, so close together the effect was kind of jarring. Certainly, both of them looked surprised about it.

Kind of awkward.

I tried to stand at that point, if only to feel less like I was being told off and to get me on an a more equal level with those present.

Well, except Twilight. Sorry Twilight.

And it would have worked too had my fucking leg not chosen that precise moment to be a little shaky and fail me on, leading to me flopping back onto the bed. That kind summed it all up, really. Useless fucker.

“Can we - can we just - is this going somewhere? I’m not - can you - can one of you just tell me what I’m doing? Please? Sorry.”

What was happening? Could someone just tell me? And could they maybe tell me what I thought about it, too? That’d be great, thanks.

“We can’t tell you what to do, and we shouldn’t, really. That’s up to you,” Celestia said.

That didn’t help me! That didn’t tell me anything!

I’m like a loose lawnmower blade!

“But you’re - you’re keeping me, yeah?”

Oh, that slipped out. That’s not good. That’s got some subtext on it.

“We’re not going to keep you. You can do whatever you want to, but we’ll always be there to help you, if you need it. If you want it,” Celestia said. Warmly. So, so warmly. Had anyone else had said I would have laughed.

Her, though?

This was a bit much for me. Too real! Too nice. Why for me?

I was freaking out more at the prospect of being offered unlimited room and board - by people more than willing to provide it; eager to, in fact! - than I had at the whole ‘stuck here forever’ thing. I’m a weird guy. Maybe I’m cracking up.

Change the subject. Do something. Fucking do something!

Looking around my eyes fell on the book. Luna’s book.

Perfect! Yes!

“I liked your book, Luna,” I said, pointing.

This was so out of left field it immediately got all of their attentions. Especially Twilight, who looked with the other two only then to look back at me in utter perplexity.

“But you-” she started, but I wasn’t going to let her spoil this for me.

“My favourite part that I got to was probably, uh, page, ah, five hundred and eighty?”

This was me picking one at random and hoping it was saucy while also stopping Twilight from rumbling me.

“Is that so? I must admit to finding myself unable to remember that part exactly, it has been some time. Do you mind?” She said, taking a step towards it.

“It’s your book, Luna, go nuts.”

This was working already. I already felt better. We were talking about something dumb, Luna was headed towards a jarring realisation, the look on Celestia’s face told me she knew what was about to happen and serious matters were off the table. This was much better.

Just breathe, son. You appear to be on thinner psychological ice than you’re willing to admit.

“Page five hundred and eighty, you said?” Luna asked, having picked the book up and now flicking through it, horn glowing.

“Yeah, totally.”

Oh the tension. Celestia knew. Twilight knew. I knew. Luna was about to find out.

It felt like it took her a long time. We were all watching her read.

And we were rewarded.

Luna’s eyes widened in alarm, growing wider the further down the page they went. Then one of them twitched and she turned sharply to Celestia, who was looking at the ceiling and whistling. Flawless. Anyone would be fooled, honest.

“Sister…” Luna said, the book closing and replacing itself where I’d left it.

Celestia continued playing dumb, scanning the ceiling, checking her hoof and only then noticing Luna glaring at her.

“Hmm? Oh, yes? Something on your mind?” She asked, sweetly.

“This is - was - a very old and valuable first edition, if I find you have damaged it beyond repair I will -”

She stopped, and her eyes got big again as a thought occurred.

“You will have done this to more of my books?”

“...maybe…” Celestia said, chewing on her lip.

“All of them?”

“I wouldn’t say all. Just the ones I thought you’d notice…”


Holy shit what was that. Did the world just shake? Why am I on the floor?

“I know, I was there,” Celestia said, entirely unruffled by whatever force of nature had just come out of Luna’s mouth and picking me up without even looking at me to pop me back onto the bed.


For a slender lady Luna had some pipes on her, Jesus Christ. I’d have probably fallen off the bed again if Celestia hadn’t been holding me in place.


And with that Luna stormed out, dignified like, nose raised and not sparing a backwards glance, door slamming behind her.

She then stuck her head back through the door.

“I take it you are capable of concluding our business here?” She asked.

“I should manage.” Celestia said, levelly.

“Good. Goodbye, human,” Luna said, turning to me. I waved, because waving is my thing. What good are hands if not for waving at horses?

“Bye Luna. Big fan of your terrifying voice.”

I got Luna to blush! A hint, but it was there.

“I may have forgotten myself, but I stand by my vow: vengeance shall be swift.”

“And I shall rue the day, yes,” Celestia said.

I had the feeling that this wasn’t the first day that Luna had insisted Celestia would rue.

Twilight tugged on my trouser leg.

“You look a little rough,” she said.

Thanks, Twilight.

“Oh that’s normal, I always look like this. Surprised you hadn’t noticed,” I said.

“No, I mean you look, you know, tired.”

“Probably just low blood sugar or something. That’s a thing, right?” I said.

Nevermind the horse princess yelling with enough force for me to feel it more than hear it.

“I can get you something?” Twilight chirped, helpful little so-and-so that she is. I didn’t ruffle her hair that time because I think I was reaching my limit, but by God did I want to.

“Nah, nah, I can get it, it’s fine,” I said, making to try and get up again only to stop with Twilight put a hoof on my knee. This gave me pause, and I watched her eyes flick to Celestia a moment before coming back to me.

“I think Celestia wants to talk to you,” she said.

Damn. Still with that thing, huh?

“Oh yes, you’re right. So I’ll stay here, shall I?”

“Yes, stay here. I’ll be back,” she said, backing off towards the door.

Was she just bowing out on me? Was this her building her own escape hatch? Forget helpful little so-and-so - devious little so-and-so! She didn’t like this just as much as I didn’t, but she knew she could slip away!

“Yeah, you’ll be back,” I said, giving her my best dirty look as he beat a retreat.

Turns out I couldn’t really muster that dirty of a look to throw after her. She was, after all, adorable. Difficult to be that mad.

And then it was just me and Celestia. I cleared my throat.

“I liked the trick with the book, if I’m being honest. I’d rather been hoping I might seen the reaction, so this was a stroke of luck. You didn’t, uh, ruin priceless books, did you?”

Celestia shook her head.

“She’ll be able to fix them, she’s just unhappy I caught her out and it took her this long to notice.”

“Well, who wouldn’t be?”

With only one of them in the room - and with that one of them being Celestia - I was feeling a thousand times more relaxed. If they’d wanted to tell me something in an official capacity this was probably what they should have done in the beginning. A little less like I was about to told I was due for execution.

The bed shifted as Celestia sat down, scooching up until she was right against me. I stayed put. There was something about her warmth that was quite distinctive. Could have just been my imagination, of course.

“Very good job changing the subject, too. Entirely derailed what we’d come to your room for,” Celestia said.

“Ah, noticed that did you?”

“It was subtle but I picked up on it, yes.”

I sighed.

“Yeah, sorry. The tone was just making me skittish. Was probably imagining things. I don’t know.”

She laid her head on my shoulder, which led to a horn waggling in front of my face. It kind of undercut the gesture a little, but I still liked it. How she had never even come close to taking my eye out was anyone’s guess. She had experience, I supposed.

“It’s not serious, it’s nothing bad. We just don’t want to pressure. We wanted you to know no matter what you do or how long you stay here we’ll be here to help you, but you don’t have to feel as though you’re obliged. You’re our guest, but this is your home, for now. The world, I mean. Anywhere you want to be in it.”

I got what she meant.

Also Jesus Christ that was it? I thought something awful had happened!

Wait, did they think the whole broken-brain-and-also-stuck-here thing was the awful thing that had happened? That would make sense. But still! That was it? Having to talk in private? With all three of them? I wasn’t expecting to leave the room again, at least not rolled up in a carpet!

“That was it? You could have told me that out there! Why pull me all the way here! All three of you? I was wishing Rarity had made me brown trousers!”

“Well, you are a guest of the crown so it seemed appropriate to have the ones wearing those crowns present, don’t you think?”

I could follow the logic of that. I guess. Of that part.

“Yeah well, in private was still a bit much…” I muttered. She giggled. My shoulders untensed a little.

“You weren’t intimidated, were you?” She asked.

“Me? No! Never. Just nervous. And intimidated.”

Another giggle and one of her wings unfurled, wrapping around me. I’d missed that feeling. Nice to not be cradling something little and cute. I mean, that’s great and all don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s nice to be the one getting enveloped in warmth.

“You’re wearing clothes,” she said, which caught me off-guard. I looked down. I was. Don’t know why I’d needed to look.

“Yeah, uh, they made some for me. Well, one pony did. Real nice girl, uh, Rarity? Said they were a gift.”

“I could have had clothes made for you, if you’d wanted,” Celestia said. Did she sound hurt?

“Oh hey it’s fine really, I didn’t mind. You had other things to worry about then. I was an invalid! Don’t worry about it. Weren’t going to do me much good in bed, were they?”

She didn’t seem convinced. I decided to try something else:

“I have a name now, too. Did you hear about that?”

“I did.”

“Right, right, course you did.”

“I think it’s good that you have a name.”

Generally, having a name is a pretty good thing. Or so I’m told.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said, nodding, licking my lips.

I was starting to get nervous again, though for different reasons this time, and ones that confused me in new and exciting ways. The butterflies were intriguing, too. Why did they fill my gut so?

“I mis- uh, T-Twilight’s a nice girl,” I said, jackknifing away from telling her that I’d missed her - which was true, but not likely something she’d be interested in hearing - to just a general fact. Something safer.

“I’m glad you think so. I’m very fond of Twilight. Like a daughter to me, in some ways, though I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell her that. I think she’s rather fond of you, too.”


“Yes. She writes me daily, has been telling me about what you’ve been getting up to. How I found out about your name,” she said.

That made sense.

Raising her head from my shoulder she gave me a nuzzle. I’d missed those, too. Even if the last one hadn’t been that long ago in the grand scheme of things. Minutes? Maybe a little under an hour. Still. Felt like a while to me.

“Are you okay? I mean really? And be serious, I want to know. You can tell me. You can tell me anything.”

I knew that. And not in a rational ‘this is information I have been informed of and have taken on board’ sort of a way, but in a deep-down-in-the-bones sort of a way. As with her sincerity, that I knew she would willingly and happily listen to anything I might want to say was just something I could feel coming off her in waves.

“Me? Yeah, fine, totally. Just a little, uh, agitated. No real reason. Just a feeling,” I said.

“That’s understandable.”

“I suppose. You know, a lot of people would probably jump at the chance of a fresh start in a new place with zero baggage. Assuming I had problems - which seems likely, who doesn’t? - I’m about as far away from them here as I could ever hope to be. This is probably the best thing that ever happened to me! Probably.”

“You don’t have to keep making jokes, John.”

Oh, she used the name. Put a shiver up me, that did. Who knew you could say John in such an affecting way? Kind of hoped she’d say it again...

“I kind of do. If I don’t I’ll just be miserable. I mean, obviously, it’s a challenge to make light of the darkness but, um, it’s better than crying about it.”

“You’re allowed to be upset about what’s happened to you.”

Ugh. They weren’t letting this go, were they?

“I don’t think any amount of explaining is ever going to make any of you guys believe me, but honestly I’m doing okay. Not totally okay, obviously. I’ve got little blips here and there and sometimes it feels a little like there’s something bubbling up inside and I’m worried that it’s the shock finally coming, but so far it just never is. It passes. Won’t take long before it’s all passed. And then I’ll just”

Until you die. Don’t forget that part.

But so what? Everyone’s got to go sometime and someplace, and this seemed as good a place as any for me, given I was a slightly-scuffed but otherwise blank slate. Sure, it still kind of made my flesh twist to think about it like that, but that’d pass. Eventually it’d be like nothing bad had ever happened at all.

That did remind me, though.

“To execute another of my deft subject changes, I heard that you’re over a thousand years old.”

Blunt, yeah, but I’m an idiot I don’t know what people expected.

I felt Celestia tense and her smile - that smile! - flickered and I hated, hated, hated seeing that and knowing I’d done it, but this had to happen. She nodded.

“A fair bit over, yes.”

“How’s, uh, how’s that working out for you?”

“It’s just how I am, John, I don’t really know what to tell you,” she said.

Oh, she used the name again. Less of a shiver this time but still there.

“That’s fine. It was just a bit of a surprise for me to learn is all. You don’t get a lot of that at home, you see? Never hung around with anyone with quite so much, ah, life experience. And - forgive me if I’m wrong about this - it kind of implies you probably have another thousand in you at least. And I, uh, don’t.”

Just a guess on my part, but if someone was going to last a thousand years magically moving the sun and look absolutely unravaged by the passage of time it seemed a fair assumption that they’d just keep going indefinitely. Maybe I was wrong.

From the look on her face, I didn’t think I was.

“Does that bother you?” She asked.

“Bother isn’t really the right word. It just makes me feel a bit inadequate.”

Her smile was gone now, and so were my butterflies. I assume they’d cleared out of my gut because now it was just twisting.

“Inadequate?” Celestia asked me, somehow managing to roll a single word into the kind of offensive implement it’d take most other people an entire sentence to achieve.

“Uh, well, kind of? Guess what I’m trying to get at here is, uh, that I can’t really understand why someone with your breadth of, ah, experience would want to keep hanging around with someone like, who’s experienced nothing. Less than nothing, actually - I can’t even remember any of it!”

I was coming apart at the seams here. I should never have opened my mouth. Oh God this is all going to go wrong and it’s all going to be my fault! I’ll be on my own and it’ll be my fault!

I mean sure I’ll deserve it but that won’t make it suck less!

“You not being able to remember things hasn’t detracted much from you being nice to be with,” she said.

I swallowed, stared at the top of the stick I was holding. Holding with only one hand, though, I noticed. The other was on the end of the arm that had - at some point - snaked around Celestia’s middle.

When had I done that, exactly?

“I - I do like the hanging out. With you. Apart from the injuries and the magical brain damage being here has been pretty great, overall, but the time with you was, uh, well, the best. You know…”

What were you doing? Where were you going with this?”

Why was she smiling at me?

Man her hair was pretty to look at close up. What even was it?

“I’m not bothered about you being - and this is going to sound bad but hell - old. You can’t do anything about that. I’m bothered at the prospect of me just being...uninteresting to someone who’s seen and done as much as you, and I don’t want you hanging around with me if it’s stopping you from doing something that doesn’t - that isn’t boring.”

“You’re not boring,” she said.

“Well, yet.”

Celestia sighed. She seemed to be thinking. I let her do so. I’d spoken quite enough as it was!

A couple seconds laters he said:

“Time passes so quickly when none of it really means anything, and it isn’t often that something - or someone - comes along that can actually make me live in the moment. Sometimes I almost forget what it’s like, to be right now and not just waiting for the next big problem that I need to solve.”

I wouldn’t really know about that. But still, time to make a joke! Or something like a joke.

“I’m hardly a big problem, heh, or something worth being in the moment for. I’m just some guy.”

She was looking at me. Really, really looking at me. And I couldn’t look away.

Being the undivided centre of someone’s attention was fine when it was just shits and giggles. When it was stuff like this? Excruciating. But there wasn’t any getting away from it. And not just because her wing was keeping me pressed against her.

“You’re not just ‘some guy’. You’re a lot more than that. You may not believe it, but you are. At least to me.”

I couldn’t honestly believe that. We got on, yeah. We had fun, yeah. But that couldn’t be that hard to find, surely? Surely there had to be others who could do what I was doing? Better? Surely?

“Yeah, but, I’m not going to be here before too long, am I? And you still will be.”

My feelings on this issue were complex and difficult to put into words. It was like trying to find a key in a clogged toilet by touch alone. It was in there somewhere, but things were going to get very messy trying to find it and even then there were not guarantees!

Celestia was smiling again. Not a lot, but a little. And that was enough.

“Maybe, eventually. Not for a while though. And it would be nice to be there with you, I think. To spend that time with you. I would enjoy that. Would you enjoy that?”

I swallowed. Nodded. Couldn’t really spoke because my throat was all thick.

“I don’t want to be alone forever, and I don’t want forever to be the same. Just one long, unbroken line. And I don’t want the bits that let me stop and pay attention only ever be bad things. I’d like them to be nice, once in a while. To be fun. To mean something to me. Just me. And whoever it is who seems to get along with me.”

“Y-you - Luna though? Tw-Twilight? Like a daughter, you said?”

I was faltering, no idea why. Why was I arguing? What was I arguing about?

And why couldn’t I stop looking her in the eye?!

“That’s not really the same thing. You know it’s not.”

I did, I did!

By now she’s leaning in. I’ve leant in, too. She and me and have been close like this a couple of times, but not exactly like this. This is different, and without really consciously thinking about how it’s different I know how. This is leading somewhere very specific.

And I know exactly what it is.

No. I am not kissing a horse. I refuse.

Pros and cons, right?

Pros: Celestia. That’s a pretty big one.

I like her. I really fucking like her.

Forget the bit where she saved my life. That’s gravy but I wasn’t conscious for that so it hardly counts. What counts is the laughing. The wanting her to be there so she’s not not there. That rooms feel warmer to me when she’s in them, that the world doesn’t seem quite as confusing or as stacked against me.

It’s dumb, it makes no sense. But it happens. It’s all in my head but it’s there. It’s there.

Something is wrong with me. Maybe. I don’t know. But it’s there. I really like her.

The easier way of summing it up - without getting too deep into it - would be that she makes me happy. Which for me is something.

I’m a weird guy. I’m a big enough boy to admit that. Maybe I wasn’t before, but getting here has made me one and now I’ve got to deal with it. And I’m lots of things a lot of the time but honestly, properly, unworriedly happy is not one that I am that often. Usually I’m thinking of all the ways I’m about to fuck it up.

Celestia kind of makes that, well, quieter. It doesn’t go away - it never goes away! - but it seems like less of a deal when she’s there. When she’s there I just want to see her smile, and that seems to be something I can make her do without even trying. And that’s good.

Maybe I’m losing my mind.

Cons: Horse. That’s also kind of a big one. Isn’t it? I mean, we’re not really compatible, right? Right? There has to be a rule against that somewhere, surely. Right? She can talk and think and is a, you know, sapient being and all that but we’re not even the same shape, which has to mean something. Right?

Or was that just back home? They and dragons and shit here, right? I was just one weird creature now among however many others. But were the rules still the same? Or not?

I’m so confused. So conflicted!

Celestia did not appear to be having the same doubts as I was, as while I was there weighing things up she’d just kept on leaning in, closed her eyes and pressed her lips to mine.

Oh God a horse is kissing me.


View Online

There’s really no reason to be nervous.

We’re just talking. Two friends talking.

Side by side, talking. In a room alone together. On the bed he sleeps in. Pressed against one another. Looking into one another’s eyes, talking.

I don’t think I can remember the last time I was ever so close to a friend.

John tells me he’s fine with what’s happened to him, and I can tell he believes it, but I worry anyway. I worry about him a lot. I’d trust Twilight with my life and I knew she’d take care of him when he was sent to her - and knew she had been, she told me after all - but I still worried.

That doesn’t often happen.

And John makes another joke at his own expense. Don’t like those that much. I’d rather he not make them, personally. I pull him against me a little tighter with my wing. Not sure if he notices or not. It’s a little hard to tell with him sometimes.

This is going somewhere. I’m not sure where. I have an idea of where I want it to go, but it’s vague. More of an impression, a desire of where I’d like it to be rather than anything definite.

I care about John. In a particular way. In a way I’m finding difficult to describe.

I’d like him to know that.

He’s clearly more relaxed when it’s just the two of us, and that’s good sign, isn’t it?

And he liked the prank with the book! I’d forgotten I’d even done that! That’s also a good sign!

His arm is around me. That’s surely a very good sign.

Earlier, back at the party, when I’d surprised him - again; he was very easy to sneak up on - and he’d turned around, the look on his face when he saw me. His face had just lit up. Like he’d seen the most amazing thing in the world. And that was me! I’d done that! Just by being me! Just by being there!

That had to be a good sign. No reason to be nervous. We were both on the same page. Both of us were thinking the same things, surely, just too nervous to broach the subject. Skirting around it. For our own reasons, clearly, and clearly good ones, but we were both coming from the same place.

I assumed. Baselessly.

It’d be better to be honest with myself.

There are good reasons to be nervous.

Something like this doesn’t come along often. Not for me. It’s unusual. The possibility of a mistake is very real, and a mistake could ruin the whole thing, and then it’d be gone. Forever.

And I’d know about forever.

Days just go rushing past. Months. Years - centuries even! Things happen over and over and over and over, so many times they hardly matter. Just like breathing. Background noise, an unconscious reflex.

Then you get a moment like this and the seconds are important! Where opportunities are unique and can be missed!

I’m out of practise. Monsters? Commonplace. Nobles? All the same. Foreign kingdoms? There’s never a huge variance in what a sovereign nation wants, really, and if there is you can see it coming. Politics move quickly but never so quickly you can’t steer things correctly, if you’re paying attention.

A specific someone? Just one individual? One friend right beside you who you care about and like and find interesting and don’t want to hurt? Someone who you know is vulnerable but doesn’t want to admit it and who you just want to protect and show how important they are to you?

Why is that so much harder?

Because I’m out of practise. Because it is hasn’t happened in so long. And because John’s different. He’s unique. It’s not his fault, but he is. His circumstances are unique. Nothing like it has ever happened, might never happen again. And he is himself unique. The only thing like him.

That shouldn’t matter. It does, but it shouldn’t. It makes him more interesting by default. That shouldn’t matter, but I think about it. It makes me guilty to admit that it’s part of why I like him. Not the only reason, but part of the reason. It’s part of what makes him him, and I like him.

That’s not so bad, is it?

This is happening fast. I know it’s happening fast. These things always do, yes, but maybe not quite this fast! But I don’t want to waste it. I don’t want to wait and let something slip away! Not something like this. Not something like what I know this could be.

Though, what it could be I’m not sure either. But it could be something. That at least is clear.

Possibility is not a good thing to build anything on. Not fair on John, very selfish of me, I know. But you have to take a risk sometimes, don’t you? When one comes along so rarely?

And I may be out of practise but so much of this is promising, even for so little time spent together. Getting the jokes is one thing. It’s that he just seems to like me. He was friendly, treated me nicely, warmly, not with deference. I may have liked that a bit too much, held off on telling him things I should have told him.

Not strictly dishonesty, withholding important information. It just feels a lot like dishonesty.

Though that would depend on who you talk to.

Even now he knows who and what I am he still doesn’t look at me any differently. He looks at me like he did at the beginning.

Not right at the beginning when he was scared of me, obviously. After that. Once he started smiling at me.

That look.

The one he’s giving me right now, with his face so close to mine.

It could all go wrong. So, so wrong.

John has nothing, John has no-one.

Well, that’s not true. But what John has he has because of me. Everyone he’s met he’s met through me, one way or another. I was the first thing he encountered here, even if he didnt notice. That puts me in a very particular position. A position over him, whether he knows it or not.

He might have misplaced feelings, might think he owes me something.

He might think he has to accept. To go along with what happens to him. I don’t want that. I don’t want him to feel he’s obliged. I don’t want to hurt him. I really, really don’t want to hurt him. He’s already lost everything, I don’t want him to think he might lose everything again because of how he reacts to something I do.

I wonder if he’s as worried as I am. He doesn’t look worried.

Time is passing, the window is closing. If I was a normal pony I might have a better idea of just how big the window was, but I didn’t. It was just one of those things that would normally have rushed by so fast I wouldn’t even have noticed.

If the window closes will it open again? I don’t know! What if it doesn’t? What if this - this moment right now, right here, these seconds - is the window? What if everything else after this is different? I’ll have missed the moment! He’ll never know! I’ll never have the right moment!

I have to do something.

If I choose not to decide, I will still have made a choice.

He treats you like a normal pony, what would a normal pony do right now? What would be the normal thing to do?

Forget the detail. Forget worrying about the consequences. Worrying will keep you from acting, and keeping from acting will let it slip away forever. Focus on the moment. Focus on the now. How long has it been since you’ve had a good reason to do that? How long has it been since it’s made you feel so nervous? Since it’s made you feel like this?

So what would a normal pony do? With someone they care about? With someone they know cares about them but hasn’t said it? What would be the risky thing to do?

A kiss?

No, no too much. It’s too soon, much too soon for that. What would John think? No, no.

Something smaller, but similar.

Just a peck. A little peck. Nothing major, just a little one. Friendly, even. Just on the cheek. He won’t mind that, will he? Just a friendly little peck. Show him I care. Because I do care and I want him to know I care.

If he doesn’t like it? Apologise. That’ll be fine. Apologise and then you’ll know. Apologise and you can know you tried and you can move on.

But you can’t do nothing! Every second counts!

You’ve already lent in so close! He hasn’t pulled away! He has to know! He can see you! He’s looking at you!

Just a peck! Just on the cheek!

Now! Now!


View Online

Celestia’s lip are warm and soft a little fuzzy and they stay pressed to mine for what feels like a really, really long time.

Eventually she opens her eyes.

Again, time just seems to stretch. The breath from her nostrils is warm on my face. I can’t quite work out what she smells like. Seconds crawl.

Then the kiss breaks and she reels back. She doesn’t look too happy.

“That was, uh, hello to you too, Celestia,” I said.

Her face is going red and she can’t look me in the eye anymore.

“John! I’m sorry! I didn’t - I didn’t mean to-”

What? Really? Going with that one? You do that and tell me you didn’t mean to?

Even I’m not that dense, Celestia. Give me a smidgen of credit at least.

“Hey, it’s fine, there’s only so many ways I can read that, it’s fi-” I say. Or start to say, at least.

I didn’t get to finish.

“I was aiming for your cheek! You moved!” She said, cutting across me, sounding strained.

Was that true? Did it matter?!

Well, yes. Intent counted for a lot. I knew this. Coolly and soberly and rationally I knew this.

Irrationally I kind of felt like running around in a circle, but that wouldn’t be helpful, so cold and rational it was. Clamp down on that right now. Being reserved is important!

“Ah, well, you know, accidents happen,” I said.

As ridiculous as it was, giving her the benefit of the doubt was very, very easy. That probably said more about me than anything else to be honest, though.

Celestia fumbled for my hand, seeming to forget it was still holding my stick and so knocking it out of my grip as she took my hand in both of her hooves, pulling it towards her as he forced herself to look in my face again. Not in the eye, though. Just the face.

“John, really, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. I just - it was meant to be a peck. Friendly! Because we’re friends! I wanted to show that I care! About you!”

“I know you care, Celestia.”

This much was obvious. I could practically feel it coming off of her in waves, however that worked. I just knew it. A little something in the way she spoke to me, looked at me. It was nice - very nice, in fact. Part of the reason why I just kind of maybe want to be around her so much.

Quite what that had to do with a kiss is anyone’s guess.

And how did I feel about that again, exactly?

Her wing unwraps from around me and folds back against her. She’s gone back to not even looking at me and she’s let go of my hand. She even seems to be rocking a little, sliding out from my arm.

“Oh no, oh no I’ve ruined it. I’ve ruined it!”

Well it was nice not to be the one freaking out for a change. Although I say ‘nice’, this wasn’t really that nice at all. In fact it was verging on the horrible.

Today was rubbish - my brain was magically fractured, my memories are locked away and trying to get at them could kill me, getting home seems remote to impossible, the sun-moving celestial deity magical horse princess lady who saved my life kissed me in the wrong place by accident and now looks to be on the verge of tears.

Oh! Celestia! I get it now.

No, focus!

“Hey, hold on there nothing’s ruined, you just - well - well you missed, like you said. It’s okay, really,” I said.

I had no real idea what was happening or what the problem actually was - beyond random kisses, which I’ll admit was very weird but certainly not the worst thing to have ever happened to anyone - but assuring her that all was well seemed like a good first step to me.

Celestia apparently did not think so. Or just didn’t hear me.

“No, no! I went too fast! I should have waited!”

What in God’s name was she blathering about?

Hadn’t we been having a good time? What had I done wrong?

“Hey, come on,” I say, going for ‘soothing’ and moving to hug her. Hugs are good, right? Ponies like that sort of thing, this at least I’ve learnt.

She reacts like I’m coming at her with a sodding knife.

“No! No John it’s not fair.”

What kind of open-ended statement is that?!


There came and went a blinding flash and I was left alone in my room, blinking away the afterimages and lurching from the sudden absence of who I’d been leaning against for the last however many minutes.

Teleportation. I’d forgotten about that.

“Well, shit.”

You know, kudos to me for being responsible in one way or another for driving off three magical horse princesses. That’s a feather in your cap, motherfucker. There was you thinking being led off for a private chat was going to end badly and now here you were, the last man standing. Well, sitting. Winner by default.

I had no idea what had just happened.

Well, I did, it was pretty obvious I’d been there when what had happened had happened and I’d been there for the buildup, too. There were just lots of little things that confused me. I mean, I’d seen her leaning in, and part of me had known what that usually meant, but this was different! It wasn’t meant to have happened! We were just having a cuddle and a chat! Ponies like cuddles! And I like chatting with Celestia!

Makes me happy.

But why’d she done that? The kiss, I mean. Cheek or not that was still a cut above, right? Wanted me to know she cared? I already knew that! Was I missing something? Obviously I am, but what!

Well I guess there could be one obvious thing that that’d be fucking crazy. So it can’t be that. Probably some Equestrian thing, right? They are a touchy feely lot.

But then why freak out? Oh I’m so confused. And then she vanished! She didn’t even go through the door! That has to be a bad sign! RIght?

Come on! Help a guy out!

Also, please stop thinking about the kiss. Stop trying to remember whether it was enjoyable or not. It was just a weird mistake and it won’t be happening again, so it doesn’t matter. I don’t care how good she smelled from that close. Shut up. Stop it.

Was my old life less confusing than this? Probably. Lucky bastard.

Leaning down I picked up the stick from where I’d dropped it.

The door to my room was ajar, I saw. Celestia sure hadn’t gone out that way. Was this relevant? Probably not, but it was something for to focus on that wasn’t what had just happened, so I got up to investigate.

There wasn’t anyone outside. What was outside was a cupcake. Just sitting there on the floor. Like it had been abandoned.

Well, obviously. Cupcakes don’t tend to go around on their own, so plainly someone abandoned it there.

What an odd thing to do.Unless cupcakes did just wander freely here. Maybe that was a thing? Pinkie would know about that.

No! Focus! Think about what just happened! It was important. You were involved, couldn’t just ignore it and hope it figured itself out. Needed to have an opinion on it, at least. So think about it.

Looking around, the room felt smaller. Oppressive, even. It somehow felt more cramped now with all three of them having left me than it did when they were all there talking to me. Perhaps it was their absence I was feeling pressing in on me.

And where the hell was Twilight anyway? She’d know what to do! And she said she’d get a snack, too!

No sign of her though. And I didn’t much feel like going off and looking.

I needed air. I needed to be somewhere else.

From the sound of things the party was still going on. I avoided it, slunk my way out of the castle, only getting lost once in the attempt which by all accounts was pretty damn impressive. And then I was outside and then I was off.

Not looking back and only barely looking where I was going I headed in what I knew to be the way to the lake me and Twilight had gone to. Ah! Back when my own life had been simple! John’s life, that is. The only life I have access to for proper reference material.

If anyone noticed me hobbling off they didn’t make a deal out of it, and once I was out of Ponyville proper I felt it safe to look up again. I was alone, and this was good.

There was a couple of trees by the lake and I sat beneath one of them, grunting as I levered myself down, leg stiff. Once down I shuffled so my back was to the trunk, laid the stick by my side, laced my fingers in my lap and stared straight ahead.

Think. Like a regular person! Focus on how recent events have made you feel.

Felt a little like I was being pulled in a couple different directions at once.

Heh, pulled apart by horses. Appropriate.

I laughed aloud. Perhaps a touch more manically than I might have intended, but it just slipped out that way.

A man who can laugh, if only at himself, is never really miserable.

Important to remember that at times like now. Because I felt pretty fucking miserable, but I could laugh at myself, so I obviously couldn’t be miserable. I had to be something else. So it was fine. I was fine. I was totally fine.

Ah, fuck it. I am miserable. Celestia’s miserable, too. I could see that. Fuck knows what had been going in her head but clearly it hadn’t worked out the way she’d hoped, so she was miserable and me not really grasping why was a big factor in my own misery. Luna was off somewhere miserably sorting through her books and fixing them up.

Twilight was probably miserable too, wherever she’d ended up and for some no-doubt mystifying reason. Just a guess but it seemed a pretty fucking solid one to me. The whole world seemed pretty miserable right at that moment so why not?

The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing, they just screech in pain.

Still, you’ve got to laugh, haven’t you?

Ha. Ha ha. Ha.

I think I wanted to cry. Everything was too complicated and I had no experience to call upon that I might use to be able to break up the rushing torrent of things to think about. A little bit much.

Nothing was coming though. I sat there and stared into space and thought about what an overwhelming, crushing day I’d had but nothing came. Empty inside again. Always feeling like I’d arrived seconds after what I was looking for had just gone.

I don’t know what people want from me, really. I’m stuck here, now. A void that just-so happens to be walking around and talking to people. What do they expect me to do? Should I learn the accordion? Become the village sandwich maker?

If I could fucking remember some fucking detail about my life - my actual life! My old life! The one I’d been fucking living! The one that would have shaped an actual individual! - then maybe I could have come up with something! Could have had some precedent! A little experience to work off of!

But no! Nothing! Fucking nothing!

Just a heap of highly questionable, anomalous feelings about a horse goddess which are probably enormously unhealthy but are also at the same time supremely tempting to indulge in and a life stretching ahead of me wherein which I can do whatever I like without the weight of the past to hold me back.

Option paralysis is real and it is killing me.

Especially because I don’t know if I enjoy doing anything. What do I feel like right now? Right this second?

I feel like shit, first, but I knew that. I meant what do I feel like doing. What would I enjoy?

What do I enjoy?

I don’t know! I don’t fucking know!

Oh God no, another moment. I can feel it coming on.

I hate this. I really fucking hate this. Rationally, I’m golden. I can line up everything, I can take the sum-total of what’s happened to me and where I am and what’s available and I can line it all up and objectively evaluate it and come to a reasoned, logical conclusion.

And that conclusion is something like “I’ve got nothing.”

And I hate it because I can do this but I still feel like screaming and I don’t know why. I can’t work out why. I can’t fucking line that up and evaluate it. It’s just there in my head, this thing. I don’t understand it but I can feel it wanting to steer me, pull me off-course.

Which would matter more if I had a course, obviously, but I still dislike being tossed hither and thither by passions which are beyond my control.

Well, all passions are beyond our control by definition, really, but-

No! Stop fucking meandering! Think! Fucking think! Think about what happened, think about how it affects you and those around you, think about what you can do about it! Think about what you want to do about it!

In fact, that’s a good sidebar to this whole thing: What do you want to do?! At all?!

I stood up. I wasn’t sure why. I seemed to be breathing rather hard. That’d be the looming threat of another Moment. I looked down and saw how much the shake in my hand was getting to be and I felt a little bile rise in my throat and I fell back against the tree.

Settle down, settle down, sit down.

I sat down again. I close my eyes. I took some nice, deep, slow breaths.

You’re on your own, son. They’ll help you - everyone here will help you, you know that, they’re nice, they’re all so nice - but you’re on your own. You are on your own, you, emphasis on you.

No-one’s getting inside your head but you. No-one’s sorting that place out but you. Help is good but if the help is all you’ve got then it’s not help, it’s someone else deciding for you, someone else behind the wheel and picking out the decorations, and then what are you?

Well, then you’d be what you are now. Which is nothing. A void, remember? With bits and pieces of shit just tossed in for flavour. Whatever was left to you from what happened in your head on the way here. This cardboard cutout from parts unknown.

God that’s irritating.

If I was a depressed listless bastard but had come by it honestly then at least I’d feel less annoyed about it. I’d have had a life that would have brought me to that point. I’d have reasons I could think about. As it stands I’m listless because I’ve got nothing, not even good reasons.

Although I suppose good reasons are subjective. As with all things...

I’m a windsock! That’s what I fucking am! Empty and flapping in the breeze!

Need grounding. A little solidity. Gnothi seauton.

That’s got to be the problem here. Well, one of them. I have a lot of problems, here! But that’s the basis. Before you go off solving things - and especially solving whatever it is that’s making Celestia miserable - you need to know what you are and what you’re about, eh? Makes sense, eh?

God what a prick I sound. But pricks often have points.

Hah! Oh! I’m laughing again! Look at me go!

But fuck me who cares about me. Me right now, at least. I wasn’t anything. I was a gap where a person should be, and that gap needed filling in first. Once that had happened? Hey, world’s my oyster. But not before! Fill in first!

And I could do that. I was going to fucking do that.

John has to be someone, damnit, and I’m going to work out what he is!

Then you can kiss Celestia back next time!

Wait, no, no. Well maybe. No! Just - you’re doing it wrong!

Fuck it, I’m going for a swim.


View Online

On the plus side I remembered how to swim, apparently. Wondered if I could still ride a bike?

I left the shirt and trousers folded by the tree alongside my stick before wading in. Just a spur of the moment decision. The water was there, wasn’t it?

All things considered, not really the time to be doing it. There were likely a dozen more constructive things I could have been doing, but I didn’t know what they were and I was hardly going to find someone to ask. So why not just pass some time with a pleasant paddle?

And I also had a dim and distant impression that stripping down to one’s underwear and jumping into an open body of water was something drunks and pissant teenagers did when they shouldn’t, and that it might end poorly.

It wasn’t actually that bad. The water was surprisingly warm, amazingly clear and also reassuringly shallow. I could touch the bottom with my toes if I stood - more of a glorified pond than a lake, then. And I didn’t have to worry about falling over! My leg might have the wonderful habit of giving out at dramatic moments but in the water it was pretty easy to just wave it around and go in generally the direction I wanted to. And if it did fail me, I floated!

Very relaxing, all told. I flipped onto my back for a while and just drifted, eyes closed, ears underwater. Made everything seem so blissfully far away. Sometimes I opened my eyes to look up at the sky. Big blue sky. Things don’t seem that bad when the sky is like that. Right?

Mostly though I kept my eyes closed, mostly because the sun was bright. At least until I felt myself being dragged, then I opened them. Nothing touching me though, just something pulling me slowly but surely towards the edge.

Couldn’t see anything. Probably just a current. Lakes have currents, don’t they?

Worse things had happened. I let myself wash up on the shore.

A pony I did not recognise was looking down at me, head shadowed by the sun.

“Are you okay? I thought you were dead.”

“Me? No, not dead. Just floating. Hello. I’m John - having a nice day…?” I said, sticking a hand out towards her. She looked at it confusedly for a moment or two before half-heartedly sort of batting it at with her hoof. I guess it was better than nothing.

“Lyra,” she said.

“You seem remarkably unfazed at finding something like me floating in a lake,” I said, lacing my fingers beneath my head.

“I’ve seen you around town.”

“Ah, that’d make sense. Guess I’m pretty hard to miss.”

“You are. Eye-catching, you might say.”

I guess that’s one way of putting it.


I continued to lie there and she continued to peer at me. What were you meant to say to someone who you thought had been a floating corpses? And what was I meant to say to someone who thought I’d been dead? This was a singular scenario and no mistake. But let no opportunity go to waste, eh?

“We don’t know each other, do we Lyra?”

She looked at me like I was an idiot, but then I would, too.


“Cool. Can we talk then, stranger to stranger?”

Oftentimes, it’s easier to discuss weighty matters with a complete stranger, and ponies are remarkably easy to talk to in the first place. It’s the eyes, I think. Though having no real concept of self helps too - who cares what I do? Not me!

“If you want?” She asked, plainly unsure.

So polite! Well, she had her chance to back out. I rolled onto my front.

“Right! Celestia then. You know Celestia? Princess? Cool hair?”

“Not personally.”

“Well, she’s lovely. Super lovely. Everyone I’ve bumped into since I got here has been lovely, really, but Celestia just seems like a cut above to me. Not sure why. Well, she did save my life and personally nurse for a bit, so there’s that. But she’s just so nice! Good sense of humour, kind of reassuring presence. Nice voice…”

Lyra had gone from looking cautious and unsure to just looking singularly unimpressed, though it was kind of difficult to tell what with the lighting and all. The sky was bright and I was squinting.

“Was this all you needed to tell me?” She asked, head cocking, hair flopping.

“No, no, just the preamble, sorry. So I have a, uh, friend who has another friend. My two friends. They’re very fond of one another but maybe not entirely communicating the full extent of it?” I ventured, testing the water and also indulging in some high-class subterfuge. The results of this were difficult to make out.

“Uh huh,” Lyra said. Or rather, half-grunted.

This told me little, so I just kept going.

“And recently, my two friends, they were just hanging out together - as they do sometimes - and maybe they got a little closer than usual and things seemed a little cosier than they sometimes did and, uh, one friend was leaning in and so was the other and one friend was really wondering what might happen and the other friend - the first friend, just so you know - kind of, uh, well, kissed the friend? The other other friend. You following this?”

“You kissed Celestia?!”

“No! Other way around! With my friends! Other way around!”

“Celestia kissed you?!” Lyra asked, face in mine and eyes boring into my soul.

“What? I didn’t say that either! It was my friends! I was talking about my friends!”

“Oh come on!” She growled, stomping a hoof.

Drat, rumbled. What had I been thinking? When had that ‘I know a guy’ line ever worked? I really was losing my mind!

“Okay fine, yes, she did. I mean, it wasn’t the most awful thing in the world it was just unexpected, right? Do you think I should read into it? Or is this a normal pony thing? Oh, I should mention that she teleported away after doing it. And freaked out a bit beforehand. Which was kind of unlike her, actually. Or is that normal you reckon?”

I kind of hoped this was me just missing some inexplicable bit of Equestrian etiquette and that it would all just sort itself out. And I was still grappling with where I stood on getting kissed by a horse. There were sporadic pockets of resistance scattered throughout my head, continuing to hold out in spite of advances made by the seemingly-victorious ‘This is a specific horse I rather like’ forces.

So to speak.

Lyra seemed to be trying to work out if I was pulling her leg just by looking at me. This didn’t get her very far.

“Are you sure she kissed you?” She asked.

My turn to look at her like she wasn’t all there.

“Pretty sure. What’s it called when one person puts their lips against the lips of someone else?”

“A kiss.”

“Well then. I mean she was apparently aiming for my cheek but still. Does that matter?”

“Could matter.”

Well that nailed it down. I flopped face-forward onto the ground.

“Oh Lyra, Lyra, Lyra - I’m in a pickle I am. Whatever am I to do? I am adrift! Was literally adrift beforehand, before I washed up here.”

“I pulled you over.”

“You did?”


That puzzled me for a moment before I saw the horn. Horn meant magic, this I had learned.

“Ah yes, thinking I’d drowned, I remember. Still, adrift I remain. Terribly worried about Celestia, my friend. The first one I made here! I hope she’s alright…”

“Kind of would have thought you’d have bigger problems,” Lyra said, rubbing her head with a hoof. I blinked, a little confused.

“Hmm? Oh. Oh!”

That got me laughing. I did! Pretty damn big! Pretty damn fundamental!

I’d nearly died! Could again!

Cut off from memories! Remember that part? Kind of a big deal!

Cut off from home! Set loose in a world entirely not your own!

And there was I analysing a horse kiss. My priorities were truly back-asswards! Ha! Ha ha! Oh, I felt much better.

Lyra’s look at me was now the sort you tended to use on someone who you thought was perhaps not acting as rationally as they should. This was fair. I wiped my eye.

“Ah, no use getting worked up over the things I can’t do anything about, is there? This stuff with Celestia though I can do something about. And, you know, it’s a little important to me. She is, I mean. I don’t know. It’s a tricky problem to wrangle, isn’t it? What would you do?”

“Me? No idea, sorry. I kind of mainly came over because I thought you might be dead.”

“And I spring this on you. I can see how that might be a bit much.”

“Just a little. At the very least you made a pretty dull day a bit more interesting.”

“Oh, that I’m quite proud of. Makes me feel useful. One wonders how I can follow it up.”

“Well you’re not going to do much out here.”

She had a point.

“You’re not wrong. Swimming has been a nice little break but can’t swim away from my problems! And there was a party I kind of ducked out of. Little rude. Should probably be heading back.”

I stood up.

Lyra’s eyes widened a little - possibly on account of just how much I loomed over her - dropped, and widened further. I looked down as well. Turns out that Rarity’s magnificently-crafted pair of underpants left very little to the imagination when they got wet.

“Shit,” I said, covering myself and in a fit of pique falling backwards into the lake again out of sheer desire for modesty. Poor Lyra was in the splash zone for that one.

Wouldn’t really be me if I hadn’t fucked something up.

Flipping over forward and crawling back onto the bank I found Lyra standing there looking wet.

“I’m very sorry about that, really didn’t think that through,” I said sheepishly, pushing back my own sodden hair.

“It’s okay,” she said, shaking herself off and wringing out her mane(with hooves somehow?). “Just not what I expected to see today.”

“I don’t think anyone would ever expect to see that. Or deserve to! I’ll pay for counselling. And I’d offer you a towel if a had one.”

“You went swimming without a towel?” She asked, pausing in her shaking off to give me a disbelieving look.

“You’ve only known me a short time, Lyra, but are you surprised to learn that I went swimming without a towel?” I asked.

I watched some water drip from her chin.

“...not really, no,” she said.

“I did not think you would be.”

My future contained much sogginess, this I felt I could comfortably predict.

Lyra cleared her throat.

“Since you’re not dead do you mind if I leave you to it? This is kind of out of my way,” she said. I waved a hand, magnanimously.

“By all means, Lyra. Sorry to have kept you! Nice chatting.”

She made to say something but paused and started over afresh.

“It’s been an experience, John.”

“One which I am sure has made an indelible impression on you, possibly not for the best of reasons.”

Ooh, I’d come over all eloquent! And I’d got a smile to boot. How about that.

I waited until Lyra was gone before attempting to leave the lake again, at which point the sun had at least halfway dried me. Mostly. On one side. It was better than nothing.

Oh, felt miles better I did.

It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? Nothing had improved and everything was still awful, I just felt better about it all. It didn’t seem quite so overwhelming now! Now I knew deep in my bones that I’d be able to manage to at least partially succeed. It wouldn’t be so bad! I could do it!

Weird how that works.

But who am I to question providence? Damp I may be, but buoyed I am!

Back to the party!

Deep inside

View Online

Indeed, I was soggy, but only a bit. The sunshine had done a reasonable enough job of drying off most of me, so mostly it was just a bit of dampness in the cracks, and I could live with that. Things could have been much worse.

Double indeed! Things could have been much worse all over! Sure they didn’t look that great, but they weren’t as awful as they could be! So they had to be at least somewhat good!

And so it was.

It was rather as though someone had reached inside my head and flipped a switch I’d been unaware of - where before I could almost feel the rising tide of panic and woe, now all that was gone! I was instead filled to the brim with hope and optimism.

I could swear it was coming out of my pores! What an about face!

Why can’t I feel like this all the time? Why didn’t I feel like this before? It’s so easy!

Damp and semi-giggly I limped back to the castle. I had a plan!

I would slip seamlessly back into the party, assuming it was still going on. If anyone asked where I’d been I could come up with a snappy excuse - princess business! Not a lie and sure to be bought. If they asked why I was damp? Well, I’d cross that bridge when I’d come to it.

First! I would eat something. I was a little peckish now, which was why this was step one. I’d left that mystery cupcake where I’d found it because what kind of strange person would pick a cupcake they just found on the floor? Well, me, depending on the day. But I hadn’t. So I was hungry.

Second! Find Twilight. I had no idea where she’d disappeared to and that kind of worried me a little. She’d said she’d come back, after all. And I’d disappeared, too! So maybe she was also worried! Good to get it sorted soon.

Third! Ask Twilight if she could teach me to read and write!

Bollocks to pride, some things just needed doing. It looked like I was going to be kicking around Equestria for some while yet, and I couldn’t make a proper go of it if I was illiterate.

And once I knew how to read, I could read Celestia’s book! And tell her what I thought of it! This could only be a good thing. And then I could follow that up with other books! Good things on good things!

And even further, I might even be able to teach Twilight how to write in English! Why not? I had a feeling she’d be down for something like that, so hell!

But maybe later, all things in time. Best to hold my horses!


To my surprise the party hadn’t died down in the slightest. If anything, it seemed a little more crowded than it had been when I’d snuck away! Or been stolen away, rather - I hadn’t seen it when I’d snuck away.

Back home, amongst humanity, that would have been a good thing because it would have let me slip in. Here though, I stuck out, and just blending in with the crowd wasn’t really an option.

Fortunately, no-one present seemed to want to make an issue of me having vanished to my room in the presence of the princesses only to return from outside without them.

I’d got away with it!

Or so I thought, until I felt a familiar weight on my head again. I froze.

With glacial slowness and immense menace a pink wodge of hair appeared before my face, followed by two big, accusatory blue eyes.

“And you, mister! Where’d you think you’ve been?”

I panicked. In the face of Pinkie’s unexpected intensity - and sheer eyeball-actually-pressing-against-me-ew-gross proximity - I went blank. Even the possibility of an excuse disappeared completely from out of my head.

“The lake?” I ventured.

“The lake!” She said, as though this was what she’d expected all along, tapping a hoof to her chin and somehow continuing to maintain her balance perched atop my head. “Why the lake?”

“Because the lake is nice?”

Perhaps I wasn’t quite on top form as I thought I’d been. Then again, I did have a pony sitting on me. That would take off anyone’s edge.

“Because the lake is nice…” Pinkie repeated, sitting up so that her hindlegs were now hanging either side of my face. This struck me as kind of an obscene position to take but, hey, I don’t sit on heads so what do I know? I just stood and took it, wondering where she might be going with any of this and kind of hoping someone might swoop in and save me.

No-one did. Obviously.

“Nice for what?” She snapped, leaning down again and making me flinch from the suddenness. At least I didn’t fall over!

“Alone time and swimming?” I said, phrasing it as a question in the vain hope that she might deny it and actually tell me what she wanted to hear.

A pink hoof poked me in the nose.

“You went swimming?”


“Without me?” Pinkie asked, somehow her voice managing to rise even higher.


She gasped, appalled.

“How could you!”


Not how I saw that going.

“Next time I’ll tell you first?” I asked, cautiously, the verbal equivalent of crossing a frozen pond.

Pinkie stared at me, eyes narrowed. The noise of the party seemed distant. I swallowed.

Then her smile came back.

“Yay! Good,” she said, flipping off my hand and executing a perfect landing. I think she might have squeaked, too, and confetti might have been involved from somewhere. Could have been my imagination.

Well, that was easy. I’d kind of expected more of a chewing out.

Maybe she was just lulling me into a false sense of security?

Just in case I gave her a scratch behind the ears. I wasn’t sure why, exactly, but something inside me told me that it’d defuse the situation. To my shock it seemed to work, and that time I definitely heard Pinkie make a squeaking sound.

“Oh, also, I had a question for you: can cupcakes move on their own here? Just out of curiosity,” I asked as she quite aggressively shoved her head against my hand. The question caught her attention though and she pulled back, contemplating.

“Not that I know of. Though that would make sense. It’s not behaviour I’ve ever observed...why?”

“Just curious, like I said.”

To be fair, I preferred to live in a world where cupcakes remained immobile. Huge and daunting looking, fine, but moving? That’d be a bit much for me. A bit rich for my blood!

“Anyway, I’m going to go find Twilight,” I said, giving Pinkie a farewell pat - one I hoped would satisfy her and keep from pressing with anything further. Again, it seemed to do the job.

“And enjoy the party?” She asked, pouting a little as my hand pulled away.

“And enjoy the party, yes. Thanks again, by the way. You did a fine job.”

That got her beaming, worth it for that alone! But also true. I couldn’t organise a pissup in a brewery so I was very impressed by anyone who arrive in a place on time, let alone put together something like this.

I then went looking for Twilight. I had to engage in various small outbreaks of small talk along my way, but this wasn’t so bad. Mostly involved laughing in the right places and I could do that, each smatter of platitudes taking more further across the room.

I eventually found her, sat apart from everyone and moping. This was a sorry sight indeed. Was almost enough to deflate my unusually buoyant mood. Almost, but not quite. Mostly it just filled with a desire to cheer her up.

“There you are!” I said, making her jump. For a good second or two she looked happy to see me. Then her face fell, and she went back to just looking at the floor.

“Oh, hey. Hi John,” she said.

This wasn’t going according to plan at all. I put on my best, most serious ‘let’s sort this out’ frown and sat down on the chair beside her. The chair wasn’t especially happy about this, but such was a chair’s lot in life.

“You okay?” I asked. She did not look up.

“I’m fine. Where’d you go?”

“Swimming,” I said, which did get her to glance up, albeit only for a moment.


I was getting the vaguest impression of deja vu.

“Yeah. The lake? Turns out it’s not that deep. Pretty wet though.”

I’d hoped for a giggle out of that one. I’d have taken even a titter! But I got nothing. She just kept on looking downwards, running her hooves around one another. This really wasn’t going according to plan.

My unusually ebullient mood was listing, in severe danger of capsizing completely. I couldn’t go back to feeling miserable! I wouldn’t! Press onwards!

“And what about you, eh?” I said, giving her a nudge. “Last I saw of you was you going off with promises of food. Last I saw of you! Get lost?”

“Oh, that, sorry. Took longer than I thought and when I got back you - when I got back you were gone,” she said, swallowing and shifting in her seat.

I could believe that.

“Waylaid by party shenanigans? Happens to the best of us. Hey, while I was in the midst of a brisk doggy-paddle I had a chance to think about what you offered before - about teaching me to read.”

Her ears twitched and her head tilted up ever-so-slightly. Was it my imagination or did her eyes look a little red? Probably the lighting. I was never any good with colours, anyway.


“Yes! I was being an idiot before, saying I’d think about it with no intention of actually doing so. But I did! And I can see now it’d be a really good idea. Can’t think of anyone better to do learn from than you, either, smarty-pants.”

That put a little colour in her cheeks and the very beginnings of a smile on her lips. Much better!

“And,” I said, giving her another little nudge. “I might be able to teach you to write in English. If you’d be down for that. Getting a bit ahead of myself and not much good, I know, but I just thought you might be interested. Maybe?”

Oh I hoped she said yes. I imagined I’d be the worst teacher in the world, but the thought of having something I could actually do or give was a delicious one. Something I could give back! Useless, obviously, but then that would be very me, wouldn’t it?

Twilight’s wings ruffled and she scootched an inch or so over her chair towards me, looking up properly now though with occasional looks away.

“You’d do that?”

“Sure, why not? I’m more interested in you teaching me! I think it’d fun. You know, kind of horribly emasculating having to start over against from scratch but hey, got to start somewhere, right?”

And then once I learn how to read and write I can become a terrifying sorcerous overlord, build a big black pyramid and eventually destroy the planet. Maybe. Or just see what Equestrian literature is actually like. One of those two.

I predicted a lot of horse puns. Just as an outside guess.

“I just...thought you’d be going back to Canterlot, now that you were better.”

I frowned, again, but not a constructed one this time. One of honest confusion. I was better now? Mostly, I supposed, but still. Did Twilight know something I didn’t?

“Uh, maybe? Eventually. Possibly? Not yet. I’m not going anywhere, am I? In a bigger sense, I mean. And Ponyville’s nice. Unless you want me gone? Need the room back?” I asked. Twilight blanched a little.

“No, no! Not like that! I thought - I thought you’d want to be nearer Celestia, that’s all,” Twilight said, eyes dropping, hooves doing that odd round-and-round fidgeting thing.

That put a little dent in my mood, remembering that whole episode of however-many-minutes ago. How long had it been? Oh dear, I’d lost track of time again.

“Ah, I think she might need some space. Especially given the last I saw of her was her, uh, teleporting away for some reason. She seemed to have stuff going on. I’m sure she’ll, ah - I’m sure she’ll tell me when she has some free time. Busy lady! And she knows where I am.”

“She teleported away?”

“Yeah. Probably normal. You not seen her then, I take it?” I asked. Twilight shook her head. “Ah, well, there you go. Probably gone back then. Something probably came up. That happens, I’m sure. Busy lady, like I say. Just one of those things.”

Good mood in serious danger! Genuine risk of extending internal wrangling ‘What did I do?’ and ‘How could I have handled it better?’ and ‘What does any of it mean?’ and ‘Dear God I do hope that wasn’t the last time I saw her’. I’m not going to be miserable again, I’m not! Not today, at least! Today was shit to start with - I’m ending on a high note, damnit!

You can’t come out the gate a big-dick cool guy! Not everything resolves immediately! Peaks and troughs! Setup now, payoff later! It might feel bad, but it won’t always feel bad! Just going to take a little time! You will see Celestia again! You will find out what on earth all of that was about and you’ll explain and she’ll explain and it’ll all be fine! You will learn how to read and Twilight’ll teach you and it’ll be a grand old time!

Everything is going to be a-o-fucking-kay! It’s going to be brilliant!

So I put on my winningest smile, finally gave into temptation and gave Twilight a scratch behind the ears - with immediate and overwhelmingly positive results. Maybe I did know how ponies were meant to work!

“Come on,” I said, standing, my hand coming with me and nearly making Twilight tip over as she tried to lean into scratching fingers that were no longer there. “This party is still going on and I, for one, am grabbing some food. Given that someone dawdled when they said they’d kindly fetch some for me.”

I grinned. Twilight pouted.

But she followed me anyway.

Everlasting freedom

View Online

Time passed. Again.

My good mood persisted, lasting until the end of the party and beyond, despite the odds. Celestia did not appear again and sent no word but - hey! - she’s a busy lady, and I’m just a guy. I was sure she’d get back to me, should she so desire. And until then I had other things to do! My life did not orbit around her!

I was just fond of her. That was different.

But I had plenty on my plate to keep me distracted! On top of Twilight teaching me to read.

I did my level best to find things to do, you see? Loafing around was good and all, but if it’s all you do it starts to lose its lustre. Doing nothing is only truly worthwhile if it’s a precious commodity, if it’s something you have to look forward to. This I have learnt.

That, and I was getting tired of being a sponge.

And since I was filled with this tremendous, manic energy I felt it would be a good idea to make the most of it. Until it ran out. Which I had a horrible feeling it would, but was doing a fair job of convincing myself it wouldn’t. I was invincible!

Not the steadiest on my feet, but invincible!

Going with who I was familiar with seemed the best course of action, and who I was familiar with was Twilight’s friends. Twilight’s friends who all - coincidentally! - had their own little individual businesses and diverse interests! It was perfect. I just sidled up to them when the opportunity arose and offered them help - when they least expected it!

This was a surprise to them, each and every time. What must they think of me?

Rarity was first. I’d seen the look on her face when I’d returned to the party damp! I wanted to assure her I appreciated her good works and that I would repay her in a way her boundless generosity would not be able to argue with: assistance!

Of course I was rubbish and of very little use, but she didn’t seem to mind. Mostly she just seemed to enjoy having someone to talk at while she did all the work, and whatever was good for her. I could be a good listener! I didn’t understand half of what she was telling me or know any of the people (ponies, I suppose) she was talking about, but who cared? She just sounded so invested in it all! Delightful!

I did manage to worm my way in though, ask how I might be helpful, what she might impart onto me to make me useful, what skills she could teach me! I certainly wasn’t going to start churning out Looks or whatever it was he did for a living, but I could do a part of it, I was sure. She seemed to agree.

I was so-so and sewing. Part of this was on account of it being early days - I’d just picked up a needle - but part of this was also the, you know, tremor. Given how variable it could be this made my output unpredictable. I wasn’t going to be matching Rarity on fine-stitching anytime soon but that wasn’t the point, the point was that I could do it. Which was pretty great!

Rarity kept me well away from the products she was planning to sell. Understandable. When I wasn’t listening to her, making tea for us or sometimes even fetching things a little out of her reach I just practised sewing away on scrap cloth. Oddly meditative, I found, and thoroughly engrossing.

Learning, motherfucker!

And that was just the start!

Pinkie had put together that party so it only seemed right to throw my assistance and gratitude at her next. I got to be a baker! That was actually alright. I can beat eggs with the best of them! And I did a lot of it.

The Cakes - who I learnt Pinkie rented from and worked for, or something - were nice though a little perplexed by me just showing up. Perfectly happy to have me pitching in, which I liked. They even got me a stool when my leg started acting up! It was a tiny stool, but it worked.

For her part, Pinkie was just ecstatic to have me around. This was adorable. Though prising her off of me got a little tiring after a while, despite my repeated insistences that we were both there to work. Her boundless energy astounded me.

How anyone can hop so much is beyond me.

Next! Rack ‘em up! John can bake now! If someone put a gun to his head. But it’s early days!

Helping out with Fluttershy was tranquil. She seemed surprised to see me, as though I might have forgotten her somehow, but no such luck I was afraid. Animals are cute and I wanted in - whatever she needed!

Mixing feed, mostly. And conflict mediation? I tended to just watch her doing that part. It was remarkably! There was kind of strange, unyielding determination lurking beneath the, well, shyness. You could tell it was there. Amazing stuff!

Not a lot of small-talk, though. After Pinkie the comparative silence was refreshing.

At one point I basically just stood there while birds landed on me. Unusual, as I thought big, gangly, unnerving looking things were meant to scare birds, but what did I know? Fluttershy seemed to think it was pretty funny and hell, so did I.

This wasn’t all happening over one jam-packed day, obviously. Rather, sporadically, here and there, over a week or two. Or more? I did lose track despite my best efforts, but I was just having such a swell time. I dipped in with them here and there as my mood and their schedules allowed.

Sometimes they did all disappear, like they’d all done that one time, though I still had no clear idea why. I’m sure they’d tell me if it was important.

I’ll admit to a little curiosity given how exhausted Twilight almost always was afterwards, but I didn’t wish to pry. Why spoil a fine thing? This life of riley!

As much as farmwork can be seen as a life of riley. Applejack seemed a little reluctant about letting me volunteer - having watched me limp my way up to her dinky little farmhouse - but I was adamant about doing something to show I wasn’t deadweight from another world.

I was hardly a workhorse - hah! - but I was at least handy - double hah! - and turned out to be a dab hand - ah, no more of that - at fixing things. Fiddly things specifically. I had no idea what ponies did the rest of the time but I was more than happy to pitch in and handle the delicate stuff, especially if I could sit down while I was doing it.

You guys go off and kick trees or whatever it is you do! I’ll stay here and sharpen things and tighten things and glue things! And whatever else they felt the need to shove my way. I even sewed a couple sacks! See how it all links up? Using those skills!

And I did pretty good! And they gave me pie!

They also offered cider, but it was not what I hoped it would be. Still, thirst-quenching.

In fact, the only one of Twilight’s friends I could even try to help was Rainbow. And that was because she could fly. I could not fly, and since being able to - on top of being able to shape clouds and control the fucking weather, apparently, because that was apparently a thing now - was kind of a prerequisite I was kind of locked out.

In the end I was able to make myself useful to her by just sitting and watching her do shit in the sky, which was pretty nice. She’d do some loops or weird twists or wingtip-turns or whatever and I’d applauded and she’d land and then while she was getting her breath back we’d just shoot the shit.

Rainbow was deeply disturbed to learn the weather back home just did its own thing. She seemed to think me coming here was a turn of luck, though she was also quick to apologise after saying so. I assured her it was fine.

But of course, the main and most consistent thing was learning to read. Fiddling about with stitches or measuring out seeds or wrangling a whisk was one thing, learning involved a little too much of the head to come easily to me. Guess I was pretty dense! But I persisted, and Twilight was patient, bless her.

The books she started me out on had pictures. I could have felt bad about this, but I chose not to. I chose to embrace it! Hell yeah I was being taught to read with kid’s book - why wouldn’t I be? Kids got to learn to read, too! And the pictures were pretty good!

Plainly, this sort of thing just wasn’t my strong suit. But I was getting there. Tortuously slowly, but I was getting there. Progress - no matter how minute or painful - was worthy. Better to be moving forward than standing still and all that, and I did have a John Doe to try and construct, and him being able to read was kind of important.

But I did have limits.

“I think my eyes are trying to escape,” I said of an evening, blinking. I had been staring at the same page for a while now, but I’d only just realised this. Leaning back I rubbed my eyes and stretched, hearing Twilight come trotting over.

“Maybe you should have a break,” she said.

I yawned and waved a hand.

“Haven’t been at it that long,” I said.

“It’s been a few hours, at least.”

I paused midway through my eye-rubbing.


“Last I checked.”

Wow, time flies. I sighed and leaned back. The chair complained. Deal with it, chair.

“You’d think I’d have this down, given that. I think this is something about spaghetti? Definitely something about food and eating good. That I can at least be pretty confident about.”

It was, after all, a children’s book. Did make me want spaghetti though.

I felt a hoof on my leg and found Twilight giving me the most reassuring of smiles. Kind of made me feel a little fuzzy, I must admit.

“You’re doing really well, John, I don’t think you give yourself enough credit.”

I gave her a ruffle and a scratch behind the ears. My earlier reluctance about those - with Twilight, specifically - had vanished completely at this point. It was just a friendly little thing, after all, and seemed pretty normal for ponies. Touchy-feely, as I’ve always thought. That, and they always plainly went down a treat.

Weird, to scratch a friend behind the ears? With a human? Sure. A pony? Apparently not. Horses for courses, eh?

Hah! That joke’ll never get old.

“You’re far too kind to me, you know that, Twilight?”

With much reluctance she stopped being putty in my hand from all the scratching and reached up to take hold of my wrist. How hooves managed to hold anything was a mystery that continued to elude me and which I didn’t want to look too much into.

Certainly, being held by hooves felt super-weird. I did my best not to think about it.

“No, I’m not. You’ve done very well, given everything that happened to you. And it’s not just me saying that, either. All the girls think so, especially with you helping them out. They all really like having you around.”

This seemed like a gross exaggeration to me, but I let her have it. Just to be kind. Twilight liked this sort of thing, and she had a way of saying that almost made me believe her!

“But on top of all of that you’re learning a completely alien language from children’s books. That can’t be easy.”

Such abiding faith in me. Brought a tear to the eye!

“Hey, hey, come here a minute,” I said. She did so and got properly within arms reach, which was when I struck, lunging and hugging her. She squeaked, though not quite way Pinkie did. Still gratifying, though.


“Ah come on, come here you,” I said, righting her and settling her onto my lap where she looked grumpy but made no moves to escape.

I wouldn’t manhandle just anyone! Wouldn’t do this with Rarity or Fluttershy or Rainbow or any stranger. They’d probably take my head off! Especially Rainbow. But Twilight was my buddy, and she lounged around me and on me without provocation every other evening or so, so what of it? We’re friends and ponies are - as I never tire of reminding myself - touchy-feely.

Would probably do it to Celestia, if I could. She being such a fine friend, too. But she’s, ah, a little bigger. So it probably wouldn’t work.

Best not to worry about it.

“You should at least warn me before you pick me up,” Twilight grumbled, relaxing just a little.

“Then you wouldn’t squeak and it wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun,” I said, giving her a poke on the nose and making her sneeze.

Oh! She was cute! Oh they were all cute, all in their own ways. It was insidious! It had wormed its way into me. Where before I’d found all of these walking, talking, thinking non-humans a little unsettling, now it was fine. More than fine! They were just so fucking cute!

Definitely a bit of an about-face, but that was a good thing. Given that it seemed pretty likely I’d be spending some considerable time here - read: forever - not seeing the locals as uncanny and disturbing had to be a plus. That they were actually adorable could only be a double-plus!

Twilight especially though. My teaching-buddy. I had a bit of a soft spot for her, I thought. Not quite the same exceedingly confusing one I might have possibly could have sort of had for Celestia, but a definite soft spot. Maybe I just had a weakness for princesses, hah!

Well, except Luna. She kind of scared me a little. So maybe not a thing for princesses, then.

I gave Twilight a proper cuddle, then, and after she gave another squeak she cuddled back, giggling a little.

“What was that for?” She asked once it had broken and I’d sat back.

“Ah, just, you know. You. This hasn’t been easy, this learning lark - to my chagrin - but it has been fun, after a fashion. Mostly because it’s us hanging out and all, but also because it’s a voyage of discovery. You’re a damn fine teacher, Twilight, and you put up with me. And you put me up, heh. Thanks a heap.”

It meant a lot, in ways I couldn’t quite articulate or even really understand. I’m hardly a man in touch with, well, anything. Feelings just sort of gather in me like water in the bottom of a boat. What do they mean? Who knows! Sometimes things are good, sometimes they’re bad, and right now they felt pretty damn good to me, and I was sure I could lay the blame for that at Twilight’s feet.

Hooves, rather. Ugh, I’ll never get used to that.

“It’s no problem,” she said, blushing up a storm.

“I knew you’d say that. No matter of me saying it is will change your mind either, I bet. But there it is. That’s how I see it. You guys all helped me out a whole lot - from Celestia on downwards - but you’ve had me hanging around the most, now. So thank you.”

I wasn’t sure where I was going with this. My eyes were fuzzy from staring at pages and my head was fluffy from trying to remember which squiggle meant what and my guts were all twisty from just how fucking adorable Twilight looked plopped in my lap all pink in the face. Clearly I wasn’t thinking, uh, clearly.

And mention of Celestia and soft spots did rather bring back the whole thing at the party. Recently what had happened had barely crossed my mind, and neither had she, me being content to let her do whatever it was she needed to do as a fancy-pants magical princess with a place to run. Now that she;d bubbled up though there wasn’t any forcing her back down again, as it were.

I licked my lips.

“Uh, Twilight, can I ask you something?”

“You can ask me anything,” she said, smiling, head cocked and ears flicking. That was distracting, but I did my best to focus, giving her hair a little ruffle. Very hard to keep from doing that. I’d stop trying to fight it at this point, at least with Twilight.

And Pinkie...

“Heh, I know. But, uh, well, this is kind of a doozy.”

That made her look a little less sure that I could ask her anything, but it was too late for her now.

“I’m still a weirdo foreigner here I know and I’m still picking up how you guys do things so I’m a bit worried about missteps here and there, you know?” I asked, trying and failing to keep up good eye contact.


Her blush was gone now, and she had the look of someone who’d inadvertently got into something they rather hadn’t. But, as I said, too late now. For both of us.

“So, uh, ahem, well, Twilight what - what is - how do - how do you guys - iskissingabigdeal?”

Twilight blinked at me.


Good job, John. Nailed it.

“Just - and this is purely hypothetical, mind - is kissing a big deal? Like, with friends, say? You guys are all a lot, uh, easier with physical contact than I was used to but I just, uh, that kind of seemed a step above for me. Hypothetically!”

Twilight was now not wholly comfortable with being in my lap while this was being discussed, and I was regretting bringing it up entirely. Best to just power through.

“For the sake of example - again, all hypothetical, just curious, I’m an interloper - if two friends were, say, just hanging out together in private and talking and one started leaning in and the other didn’t lean back and the first friend went in for a peck on the cheek and missed and the two of them just ended up kissing what - ah - what would that mean? If anything? Hypothetically?”

I hoped for rather better results from Twilight than I’d got from Lyra. Lyra who I had seen around town once or twice since then and who had waved politely enough before going back to chatting to whoever it was she hung around with all the time.

This time, I felt I’d woven a sufficiently impenetrable web of lies to hide what I was truly asking. Though that may well have been wishful thinking on my part.

In fact, it definitely was.

Twilight’s ears had slumped along with her shoulders and she wasn’t looking me in the face anymore.

“Why are you asking me?”

“Well, because you know these things. And it’s just out of curiosity. I’m not planning on testing it out either way. You’re in no danger of me kissing you, I assure you Twilight,” I said, hoping to perhaps inject a little levity into the situation. Instead she flinched. Whoops.

“I know you kissed her,” she mumbled, somehow managing to sag even more.

“...what?” I asked. My turn to ask that.

She sniffled and sat up straighter, looking at me. Her eyes seemed a bit on the damp and glistening side, to me.

“At the party. After I left I came back and I saw you kissing her. It’s okay. Why would you ask me about it, though?”


“What? No no no, hold up. She kissed me first up, alright? We’re just talking and then she got in real close and then she kissed me! Well, she was aiming for my cheek though, that’s the thing. That’s what confused me. Peck on the cheek is friendly, right? Because we’re friends, me and her.”

Well, I hoped we still were.

Twilight didn’t look like she believed me.


“Yes! Why on earth would she and me be kissing? We’re friends! And she’s a princess! She moves the sun and I’m just some guy. No no, no kissing. She was just giving me a friendly peck and she missed. And then she, uh, kind of freaked out and vanished into literal thin air. But that’s beside the point. I’m just asking that, if she hadn’t missed, would that have been a perfectly normal thing for her to have done?”

Twilight gave me a very long, very level look.

“No,” she said, eventually.

“No? Not normal?” I asked. She shook her head.

Well shit, that’s no good. That just raised more questions!

Although at least Twilight’s reaction made sense. Pretty obvious, really. What with Celestia and Twilight being so close of course Twilight seeing something like that would be awkward.

Now that I thought about it, there had been something a little bit off about her since that party! Like, her moping at the side. And even after that! Just little things! Smile strained sometimes, but never for long. Mention of Celestia sending a flicker across her face.

I’d thought I’d just been imagining things. Apparently not. She thought I’d been snogging Celestia! Her vaunted and highly-regarded teacher! Of my own volition! That I’d instigated it!

Oh dear, this isn’t good at all. Glad I sorted that out with her, though. Glad I’d set that record straight at least.

“Well that’s just confusing. I guess I’ll have to have a word with her next time I see her, eh? And if not a normal, friendly thing to be doing I suppose we should probably try and keep it on the down low. Right?” I asked, managing a light chuckle.

“Oh, no, most of town already knows,” Twilight said.

I was going to say something - keep the light pitter-patter of genial conversation going and hopefully smooth out what wrinkles this might have caused between me and Twilight - when her words properly sunk into my brain. My brain was a little slow these days. And these words carried some weight.

Hold up. Back up. Wait.

Most of town already knows?

“Whaaaat do you mean most of town knows already?” I asked.

This was the bit where Twilight smiled and told me she was joking. I was sure of it. It had to be one of those moments. She’d got me good, I’d have to give her that! Once she told me she was joking. Which she was obviously just about to do. Very next words out of her mouth. I was sure of it.

“Well, you told Lyra, and she told Bon-Bon, and-”

Damnit Lyra! You betrayed me!

Oh who am I kidding this was my fault. You let it slip that the princess had smooched you, some bizzare alien, it was bound to get away from you. Even if it was a joke it’d get passed on! You idiot! You fucking idiot! Why didn’t you think that through?!

“Shit. Shit shit. Uh, that’s not good, is it?” I asked, a rising note of panic just sneaking in on the tail end.

“I don’t know?” Twilight offered.

There was a cold spot right in the pit of my gut and it was growing. Whatever good mood had sustained me for the last week or two had disappeared entirely. Nothing like getting caught out - by your own fuckup, no less - to pull the rug out from under you.


Oh I’d fucked up.

Rise above

View Online

Well this wasn’t great.

In my head, my faux pas was now obvious, glaringly obvious. Whatever budding mania had gripped me at the time had clearly convinced me that telling complete strangers the kissing habits of their monarchs vis a vis bizarre alien visitors would have no ramifications whatsoever.

Now, in the cold light of, well, reality, I could see that this was possibly a little over-optimistic.

“Shit,” I said again. I did so like that word. “I’ve made a mess, haven’t I?”

“It’s not that bad,” said Twilight. She seemed very sure. I wasn’t so much.

“Really? I’ve made her look awful! Right? Can’t be good for someone in her position to be doing stuff like that. And now everyone knows - the whole town, as you say. That can’t be good. You think someone would have mentioned it to me before now, though…”

That would have made sense, right? Or is that not how gossip works? Not an area I had a lot of experience in, either from whatever fragments I could pull together in my head or from my time around Ponyville. Just not something that came naturally.

Maybe you were meant to keep the gossipees out of the loop? You still think I would have noticed something, surely?

Then again, Rarity had been smirking at me a lot more than usual lately on my vists round, as had Rainbow whenever I’d bumped into her. I just thought I’d had something on my face! Or I’d done something dumb without noticing! That’s normally why people smirk at me. But no! Not this time! This time it was because my own words and actions had come round to bite me!

Somehow that just didn’t seem fair.

“Shit shit shit no no no,” I muttered, terrible visions starting to gather in the lowlands of my skull, building up speed to rush in and crush what little buoyancy I had remaining. The cold pit in my stomach writhed. It could tell which way the wind was blowing.

“John. John!” Twilight raised her voice on the second one, grabbing me by the collar. “Calm down.”

Staring into those big, reassuring eyes I could almost feel whatever had been building ebb away again. Twilight often had that effect. Second only to Celestia, in fact. For whatever reason.

“What? Oh. Right. Uh, sorry,” I said, blinking slowly and thoroughly unable to look away.

Ah. Another moment. Or the very start of one, thankfully nipped in the bud by Twilight. My bad. She was getting good at those.

She released my collar and sat back on my lap, settling herself a little more comfortably and giving me a lopsided look.

“I just worry, is all,” I said, shrugging helplessly as I did so.

“About what?”

“You know, me mentioning things I probably should have kept on the down low. I - I wouldn’t like her to hear about that. That I’d spilled the beans, you know?”

“Ponyville isn’t the whole world. Celestia is back in Canterlot. That’s a way away. Local gossip isn’t the sort of thing that would get back to her. It’s fine,” Twilight said, putting a hoof onto my hand. Again, very good at reassuring was Twilight.

Still, it wasn’t perfect. Doubt still gnawed, as did worry. These things can be hard to tamp down.

“B-but she’ll find out, won’t she? Word does travel one way or another, that’s how this sort of thing goes. With a princess! She’ll find out, won’t she? That I said something?”

“She’s probably already heard a dozen rumours twice as bad. You being here hasn’t been officially announced or anything like that but it hasn’t been kept secret. Ponies talk, John. Don’t worry about it,” she said, smiling. A very good smile.

“But what if she finds out I said something…” I repeated, wringing my hands, pulling out from Twilight’s hoof to do so.

That was the part that really got me, the ‘me’ part.

Twilight’s line about rumours made sense to me and I could believe it - people be gossiping, after all - but this particular bit of gossip was true and worse, it had come from me. That was the kicker. That was what twisted my guts up.

It felt like betraying trust. I didn’t want Celestia thinking I was a grass! That I’d gone kissing and telling! It had been an accident! Well, not so much an accident as a complete lack of foresight on my part. Like, an embarrassing lack of foresight. Kind of boneheaded, really. Clunky and clumsy. Like I hadn’t cared. But I did care!

Perhaps a lot.

I just didn’t want her thinking ill of me. That was all. Didn’t want her thinking I was the sort of person who made a habit of blabbing like that. At the very least I was just an idiot, and she had to know that already. I could be comfortable with her thinking that of me.

“She won’t, it won’t get that far. Relax. It’s okay,” Twilight said.

Ah, redoubtable bastion of strength, Twilight. You’re so good at this!

I actually felt better, scratching the back of my head and grinning at Twilight sheepishly.

“I should probably try and get in contact with her though, right? No, no, bad idea. She’ll be busy, that’ll be why she hasn’t said anything to me yet. Right? Or maybe she’s waiting on me? I just think it’d be good to let her know I didn’t mean to say anything. I don’t want her thinking she can’t trust me! Oh, I probably should. Shouldn’t I?”

I was babbling. I knew I was, but a little nub of panic was still sitting pretty in my gut. My gut was teeming with all manner of lumps and twists and knubs, it seemed, and none of them especially pleasant.

Twilight lent away from me, clearly finding the intensity of my out-loud worrying a little disconcerting.

“You really care what she thinks, don’t you?” She asked.

A pivotal question and one that seemed to touch a nerve. I deflated. The panic melted rather like a knob of butter leaving only a liquid residue of, uh, discomfort. Emotions are difficult.

“She, uh, she’s important. To me. You’re all important to me, really, you guys - especially you, Twilight, you’re lovely,” I said, giving her a scratch behind the ears, more for my benefit than for hers. “But Celestia was the first friendly face I saw here. First face at all, actually. First voice I heard. First voice I can remember hearing! And she’s just been so nice to me the whole time. Kept me from dying, for one, kind of hard to let that one go. Sent me here to meet you lot. She - she just looks out for me. I rather like her, and I like to think she kind of likes me too. A little, at least.”

“She kissed you, John,” Twilight said, looking me dead in the eye.

“Yeah, by accident. She said she was aiming for my cheek!” I protested. Perhaps with more force than was required. Like a man clinging to wreckage to keep from drowning in a sea of things he’d prefer not to openly acknowledge.

“That’s still kissing you.”


The wreckage slipped from my fingers, as it were. I was adrift. Or drowning. One of those.

“...I guess? I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on in her head. That could mean anything, right? Right?”

Twilight’s look could have nailed down loose floorboards.

“Do I really have to spell this out for you?” She asked.

“It’d really help me out if you did, Twilight, thanks,” I said, nodding earnestly, expecting deliverance and clarity.

She stared at me for a moment in what appeared to be disbelief before putting a hoof to her face.

“Just - I think you should talk to her, John,” she said. Unfair how a name could be so weaponised, though comforting - in a peculiar way - how used I was getting to hearing that name. Almost like it belonged to me.

“That sounds hard though…” I mumbled.

Not my proudest moment, but then I was never a role model for anybody.

The time was rapidly approaching when you, John, were going to have to actually confront how and in what way Celestia was actually important to you, you know. Because even you are only capable fooling yourself for so long, and while the magical walls in your head have done a sterling job of keeping you away from the blindingly obvious they are not indestructible.

Not the actual magical walls in your head, obviously. The figurative ones you’ve managed to construct yourself. The ones that’ll probably give you an aneurysm if you keep them up for much longer.

I don’t care how uncomfortable it’s going to make you, you’re actually going to have to think about this.

And talk to Celestia. Preferably after thinking it through properly.

And then if it turns out the whole thing was a one-sided fantasy existing entirely inside your head as a result of what you’ve been through - which, you know, could be the case? - then at least you’ll know. And you can move on. Just keep sewing or something, secure in the knowledge.

And if it turns out the whole thing is actually what it kind of really clearly looks like it is?

Uh, well, one step at a time, eh son?

Better bite the fucking bullet.

“How often do trains run up to Canterlot anyway?” I asked, looking up again.

“Uh, pretty regularly, why?”

“I have to go talk to her, like you said. And she does live there, as I recall.”

“What, now? You’re going now?” Twilight asked, concerned, glancing out towards the window.

It was dark outside. This I remembered, now.

“Uh, maybe in the morning. But first thing! No time to waste. Longer I wait the more time I have to bottle it, and that would be bad. Right?”

“Yes,” she said. Always good to have confirmation. I nodded, emphatically.

“Yes, yes I knew that. So first thing. Time to sort this out. Whatever this is. If it’s anything at all. Which it could be. Maybe.”

I stopped there, feeling another babble starting to rise.

After a moment of consideration I asked:

“It doesn’t bother you, does it? This whole...kissing and aftermath thing?”

Twilight went just the slightest touch pink. So adorable! So bashful about such things. She’d probably immolate were anyone to kiss her, poor thing.

“W-what? Why would it bother me?” She asked.

“Your mentor and all? Must be kind of awkward. Or maybe it isn’t? I’m hardly an expert.”

Is seeing someone you look up to and have learned from your whole life in a moment of personal softness something that most people feel odd about? I have no frame of reference. I literally have no frame of reference whatsoever. Just some lingering impression that it might be.

Story of my life. What little of it I can remember!

“Oh - heh - yeah. Yeah that’s it. Very weird, seeing her like that. Walking in on the two of you very, uh, surprising…” Twilight said, fidgeting, grinning. I gave her another ruffle and she seemed to appreciate it.

“I bet. Still, you managed to keep it quiet so you did better than me. Ah, it’ll all come out in the wash, I’m sure. It’ll all work out one way or another. Thanks for keeping me on an even keel just now, Twilight. If it weren’t you I’d probably be going out of my mind!”

“I just - I just want what’s best for you, John. You’re in a strange place. You deserve to be happy,” she said. Those eyes, so huge, so sincere! Again, second only to Celestia in her ability to drive some kind of stake of pure warmth right through my heart.

“Twilight, you’re far too bloody nice. If I could bottle you I would,” I said, pulling her in for another hug. God she was brilliant. God these guys were all great for putting up with me. I’d sort this out one way or another and do my best to make their good faith seem even a little bit worthwhile.

I might even start to believe I’m actually worth it!


Moon take

View Online

I am having tea with the Headmistress.

She and I are discussing a frightfully important mission. I am to descend into the catacombs beneath the school and locate the chef, who has gone missing. There’s something a little sinister about the Headmistress and her gaggle of attendant ladies. Maybe it’s the inexplicably Edwardian clothing? Who can say. But still, employment is employment.

“Most dreams have at least some passing relevance to the life of the dreamer. Yours, however, are something quite distinct. I am unsure what to make of them, honestly.”

Now there was a horse in the room. A dark horse, no less.

“Luna? You were invited, too? Are you going to be help me?” I asked, turning in my seat to find her standing where she had really not been standing before.

“Help?” She asked, stepping in closer.

“I’m having tea with the Headmistresses. We’re discussing the disappearance of her chef,” I said, though this surely should have been obvious.

“Are you now?”

“Well, what else would I be doing here?”

Then I remembered something. I’d just been talking to the Headmistress! A human! There had to be another human here! A dream human, agreeably, but another one all the same.

“Luna, Luna! Quick, look, humans! Other ones!” I said, excitedly. What an opportunity. Luna turned towards me and blinked, looking past and around me.


“Right here! In these chairs in this room! These chairs right here, opposite me! Surprised you didn’t notice them already! I mean-”

The chairs were all empty. They had been empty from the start. This I knew, this I’d known all along, but only now did it click what it actually meant.

“Urgh, again. Fucking hell. And I knew what they were wearing, too? How does that even make sense? At least I have tea,” I said, raising my cup for a sip.

I paused.

“This is soil,” I said.

Sighing, I put the cup and saucer down, straightened out the suit I was inexplicably wearing and ran a hand over my face as I sank deeper into the chair.

“Well that’s not great. Ah well.”

Then another thought struck me. Trying to think straight in a dream wasn’t easy, or maybe it was and I was just rubbish at it. Either way.

“Hey, wait a minute. How come you’re here at all? How come I’m here? Aren’t I supposed to be on a train?”

I was, actually. I remembered this distinctly.

I had gone to sleep the night before, woken up, had a very brief breakfast before hurrying to the station to catch the first train to Canterlot it was possible to catch. Twilight had been there to see me off, lovely girl that she was, and I’d paid for a ticket with what few Bits - Bits! Honestly… - I’d amassed over my time in Ponyville.

Rarity had insisted on paying me on at least two occasions. She was a very difficult lady to say no to. So was Applejack, actually, but she was slightly easier to slip away from so had yet to remunerate me.

I’m kind of an odd guy, now I come to think about it...

From what dim memories I had of home, train fares were far more reasonable here in Equestria. Another tick in the column of me coming here being a not-terrible thing, I suppose.

The point being, why was I dreaming at all?

“You are on a train, I believe. You fell asleep on the train. This is not uncommon,” Luna said. By now she’d walked around so I wasn’t having to crane my neck to talk to her, and she’d sat in the chair that the Headmistress would have been sitting in had she ever been there to start with.

Ah. Falling asleep on trains. Well that made sense. But did raise something further:

“But it’s the middle of the day. You can do daydreams, too?”

“I can. It is uncommon, but I can.”

I wasn’t sure why this was such a surprise to me. I’d just sort of expected her to be asleep. Maybe she was? I had no idea how dreamwalking fanciness was meant to work.

“Well how about that. I find it a lot easier talking to you in dreams than I do in person - is that weird?” I asked.

“In dreams you are more relaxed. Or, rather, you are less tense. You are almost always relaxed, John, perhaps sometimes more than is good. As I have said.”

“And you’re not the only one, either. But that’s neither here there. How’s you? Good? To what do I owe the pleasure of you clip-clopping into my head again? During the day, no less!”

I should have been angrier about that, really. My head might have been a jumbled, semi-occluded mess but it was still my head and the only place in the whole world that was well and truly only mine.

Except for when magical horses felt like coming in.

But I don’t know. Dreams didn’t seem to phase me much, with a guest. It felt more like they were a receiving room, somewhere that wasn’t part of the greater structure. These were visits and not invasions. Or so it seemed to me. But I was asleep, so could I be trusted?

“You are returning to Canterlot, I believe? You are liable to arrive while I am still asleep. I felt it wise to speak to you beforehand.”

Kind of creepy, but roll with it.

“Uh, why?”

“Because I know why it is you are coming back.”

“You do? How on earth could you? I barely do!”

“There is the possibility that I am more perceptive than you,” she said, adding under her breath: “There is the possibility that a brick wall is more perceptive than you.”

That second part was a little hard to make out, though.

“What was that?”

“Dream incantation. I am somewhat out of practise with daydreams, as I say.”

“Oh, oh right. Of course. Incantations.”

Sure, I’ll believe it.

“So, uh, why am I coming back, then? And why is it something you felt the need to talk to me about?”

“As it will concern my sister - this is not an especially wild guess on my part - and may impact her wellbeing. Her behaviour has been erratic since your arrival though rather more consistent since you stopped residing in the palace. If I had to describe it I might say that she was pining for you,” she said.

“Oh. That’s not very good,” I said, feeling the tiniest of stabs. I think being in a dream muted it, for which I was grateful. Things were always looser and fluffier in dreams.

“No, it is not. But it is what it is, and at this point there is very little I can do about it and less I can do to change her mind on the matter. She is a grown mare and she can do what she likes and I trust her to act responsibly, more or less. You I am less familiar with, and given that your actions and decisions will directly affect her I felt it best to - as I said - speak to you first,” she said.

Should probably tread carefully here. Would be helpful if I was awake, but I was hardly the sharpest when conscious so it hardly mattered. Just had to do my best.

“Right. To...warn me? Or gauge my intentions? Or what?” I asked.

“Gauging your intentions would be the closest, thought there may be also be a warning. You are somewhat difficult to predict, though I do have an idea of what is going to happen.”

“Which is?”

“I would imagine that you and her are going to engage in further shenanigans and canoodling, given your previous behaviour together and being as how you seem to be about as infatuated with her as she is with you, for whatever reason.”

Hey, whoa now.

“Infatuation is a real strong word there, Luna. Not the one I’d use,” I said, giving her my best ‘hey now’ frown. It didn’t seem to faze her much. Not that it was easy to tell with Luna. Probably could have shit on the floor and she wouldn’t so much as blink.

“What word would you use?”

“Feelings. I have, uh, feelings for her, you could say. Ones that are, ah, complicated?”

The word ‘feelings’ was loaded and unwieldy but it was the first one that come to mind for me. Still, it was a word that begged qualification. Like having a ‘relationship’ with someone.

You can have a relationship with the man down the road who you despise - your relationship is that you hate one another. That’s a relationship, and your feelings for him would be one of resentment.

But start bandying the words around and people always start assuming.

“I was aware of this,” Luna said.

“I think I was, too. Just was, uh, ignoring them, for the most part. Guess that’s bad, huh?”

“It may well be.”

An awkward silence in a dream feels a lot worse than one in real life, though it’s difficult to pin down why. I checked my teacup. Still full of soil.

“Feels a little odd talking to you about this,” I said, looking up to Luna. How she was managing to sit in the chair was a mystery. Anytime I tried to properly look at it my eyes seemed to slide off.

“You are under no obligation to do so,” she said.

“Well, you did come here specifically because of this, didn’t you? I thought it was kind of the point?”

“Yes, but you are still under no obligation to do so, I cannot compel you. We could talk about something else, if you prefer?”

Was she fucking with me? Why did Luna have to be so bloody confusing?

Well I was calling her bluff:

“...I’m learning to sew?”

“So I heard. I heard that you were making yourself comparatively useful around Ponyville. This is good. It is good that you are keeping yourself busy.”

Were I the confrontational sort I might have been of a to mind to take ‘comparatively useful’ as an insult. But I am a seething mass of self-loathing and low self-esteem in the shape of a man, so I took it in the low-key positive sense I assume it was intended to be in.

“I thought so too. Thanks,” I said.

Another pause.

“I do not wish to come across as unduly harsh on you, John, I just do not understand fully how my sister is feeling, especially as regards you. But I am not her, so it hardly matters. Certainly, I can at least say that this is different than the birds.”

“That’s something. Glad to hear that,” I said.

“I should point out, of course, that if you hurt her in any way you will regret it.”

That she gave no further, lurid detail as to the hows and whys of this regret just made it that much worse. It set my imagination to work immediately. Surely, pissing off a magical horse princess who could waltz into your dreams at will could only end badly.

“That’s terrifying,” I said.

“Thank you.”

I had not meant it as a compliment. Time for a shift change.

“Hey, I’ll be dead before you guys even know it and then you can put this whole episode behind you,” I said, trying to look self-effacing. This came easy to me, because I always look self-effacing.

That actually got a reaction from her, to my surprise. A muted, tiny one, but from Luna that definitely counted.

“Please do not speak like that, John. I do not wish you dead, nor do I wish to be reminded of how many I have known are no longer here.”

“Ah, shit. Sorry.”

“It is alright. Though, as some advice, I would recommend not mentioning your mortality to Celestia either,” she said.

“Probably a good idea. Thanks, again. Uh, anything else you want to press me on?”

I was unsure if what had happened constituted a grilling or not. It hadn’t felt like one.

“No, I feel I have the measure of you from this.”


“And I am content. Or as content as I may be. I am confident the situation will resolve itself without catastrophe,” she said.


“That’s my favourite way for situations to resolve themselves.”

A smile! She smiled! Only barely but it was there! That was the second one? Maybe? I lose track.

“I am sure I shall see you awake soon enough, John.”

“I’m kind of hard to miss.”

“That you are.”

And then she wasn’t there anymore. It wasn’t like she left, that would have implied a certain level of movement. She just wasn’t there. And I knew that. Dreams, man, fry your brain. And my brain’s had quite enough of that.

I stared at the soil in my teacup and willed it to be actual tea, but nothing happened. Guess I didn’t quite have the knack yet.

Then, quite unexpectedly, every single surface splintered into countless pieces and I plunged straight down like a stone, waking up abruptly spread across two seats in a train carriage with a pony in a guard uniform shaking me gently.

“Is this your stop, sir?” He asked. He had the most magnificent moustache and for a moment I was dazed by it. Then I parsed what he’d said.

Ugh, being called sir. More to the point:

“How do you know that?”

Was he a wizard?

“You put a note up before falling asleep,” the guard said, pointing to my lap where I’d indeed propped a little note that I’d made earlier and had Twilight write out for this exact reason and brought along in my bag of things (a repurposed sack with a crude strap I’d managed to sew on, but don’t tell anyone that).

“Oh yeah, I did do that. Thanks,” I said, taking my stick and heaving myself upright. Or as upright as was possible in the teeny-tiny pony carriage.

Onwards and upwards.


View Online

Nice place, Canterlot. Kind of daunting and difficult to navigate, but nice. Interesting architecture, confusing street layouts, locals who hadn’t seen me before so were right back at the staring stage. But that was fine. I liked to think that didn’t bother me anymore.

I wandered around without a clue where I was going for a bit. Seemed like a microcosm of my whole life up to this point. In theory it should have been easy. The palace was obvious. But getting there less so. After twenty minutes I caved and asked a guard, figuring they’d know.

They did, and directed me accordingly. Off I limped.

It struck me then that I’d never actually seen Celestia ‘at work’, so to speak. Would she even be there? She might be busy. She might be off visiting the commonwealth or whatever, I had no idea. Still, too late to be worrying about those sorts of things now.

Further guards supplied further directions and kept me from getting into places I shouldn’t do in the sprawling palace. I’d already done enough of that already, and now didn’t seem the time for pushing my luck.

Before too long I got a better impression of the right way to be going, as there were more regular ponies around. They seemed surprised to see me, but such was life. They also seemed to be waiting to get into somewhere, and in their waiting had formed something I recognised immediately. A queue!

There was a queue. Life had order. This was very reassuring. I understood queues. I joined it.

I felt comfortable in the queue. Couldn’t have told you why. Just felt like it was something I could innately handle. I clutched my bag and lent on my stick and shuffled forward when and where I needed to.

Hopefully it was the right queue, but worse things have happened than being in the wrong one.

I learnt - in the way just absorbs things while waiting - that Celestia was apparently running some kind of court. Locals would arrive with grievances or issues and she would mediate or rule on it. Very down-to-earth, I felt. Also felt like I didn’t really belong in the queue in which case. I wasn’t local.

But whatever, I had an issue, and I was here now.

The queue led me to a spot where I could see into the room before too long. Pretty impressive stuff. I mean, the whole palace had always been impressive, but this room had clearly been built from the ground up with impressiveness in mind. Splendour and grandeur and all that.

The throne was something else. A gaudy golden monstrosity that didn’t so much project regal power and authority as tie you down and pour it all over your face. But it was who was sitting on that caught my attention.

She saw me, too. Not a surprise. I am kind of hard to miss. Her eye just flicked over to me and widened minutely in surprise before flicking back to the pony she was dealing with, her composure rock-solid. Very professional, as well she should.

And so further waiting, further shuffling, getting a little closer each time with a mounting feeling of nervousness building up in the pit of my stomach.

And then my turn, and a well-dressed usher-type pony was there directing me forward, and then I was standing there in front of her.

Celestia seemed bigger, somehow, though that might have just been the throne. It was, after all, a very impressive throne.

Do I bow? Am I meant to bow? Would they know what a bow looks like from a human? Probably. Just do it.

So I did, at least as best I could with my leg. It was passable.

“Uh, yes, hi. H-how are you?” I asked, wobbling a little and thankful - as ever - for my stick.

“I am well, John, yourself?”

Little formal. That could have gone better. Guess a hug would have been a bit much. I can handle that.

“Oh, you know, you know. Just making a go of it. Nice chair, by the way,” I said, nodding towards the throne, groping for levity as I always do.

“Thank you,” she said, sitting ramrod straight.

There was no cracking this facade. I got that, now. Presumably here, now, she had an image to maintain. I was appealing to the Celestia I liked a whole lot - and who did exist, obviously - but who was figuratively hanging up on a hook until the work day was done.

My bad.

“Oh! I have something for you!” I said, reaching into my bag and rummaging. I made to approach the throne but the sudden movement got a reaction out the guards and I very abruptly stopped approaching the throne.

A gesture from Celestia had them at ease, and another had me approaching again, albeit a bit more carefully.

“I made this for you. Well, I made it then thought you might like it. So here you are,” I said, handing over the little thing I’d made, as said. She lifted it up with one hoof and peered at it. It dangled.

“What is it?” She asked.

Ouch. Still, brave face.

“It’s a bear!” I declared. She continued to dangle it in front of her.

“It is?”

Looking at it now, I could see her doubt was well-founded.

When I’d been putting the thing together I’d been riven with confidence. The plans that Rarity had so kindly knocked up for me were very plainly for a bear and I’d done my level best to follow them, and I’d been reasonably sure the results were as close as I might have managed.

Now, though?

“ could be?”

Dying on my arse in front of everyone was not my idea of a good time, and this did not appear to be getting anywhere I wanted it to be. I’d say it wasn’t going according to plan but that would have required there to have been a plan to start with, and there hadn’t been.

Something of a consistent failure of mine.

“Thank you,” Celestia said, tucking the bear behind her on the throne. Was she smiling? It was hard to tell. She had her game face on. So very regal.

And then I’d run out of words, and she didn’t appear to be in a rush to say anymore, either. I swallowed.


“I’ll, uh, I’ll be going, then,” I said, turning to shuffling off in ignominy.

“John, wait.”

Suddenly stopping and starting didn’t come as easily to me nowadays as I imagine it once did but I managed it, wheeling about to face Celestia again.

“You’ve come all this way, you must be tired. Your room is still ready, if you’d like to stay the evening, return to Ponyville tomorrow?”

Was it my imagination or was everyone in the room watching me?

They’d probably been doing that the whole time, to be honest, but I hadn’t quite felt it until just then. Difficult to ignore, but not impossible.

“Uh, if you’re sure?”

“You remain a guest of the crown, John, you are more than welcome to stay anytime you like.”

‘Guest of the crown’ was such a mouthful. I had kind of forgotten about that, though. I’d just thought it was a joke. Apparently not. I stood up as straight as I could, as a guest of the crown might.

“Very kind of you. Okay then, I’ll stick around. Rest the leg.”

I wasn’t sure I was doing this right but I could have sworn I saw her brighten a little. Made my heart skip a beat, it did.

“I’m glad,” she said, then leaning down to one of the many guards that just seemed to pop up out of nowhere anytime I blinked. “Please show John to his room.”

The guard saluted, and I was subsequently escorted.

In the time I’d been away what flimsy grasp on the layout of the palace I’d had had disappeared completely, so by the time I arrived there was very little chance of me getting back to the throne room or, indeed, an exit. At least not intentionally on my part.

Not that I had any plans on leaving yet, obviously.

The room was much as I remembered it, which is to say exactly the same. No bad thing. Bed was still comfy, view still overwhelming, paintings on the wall still entirely incomprehensible to me. I propped the stick in a corner and sat down for a bit.

Wondered what dinner might be as I ran through possible follow-up plans in my head.

My initial attempt hadn’t been great, this I could see. Far too public and also with no clear goal in mind. I had to do better. Assuming she appeared here later we could talk alone, that would basically take care of itself. If not, then I’d have to engineer some kind of alone time.

Not sure how I’d manage that. My plans fell apart. Shit.

I had another bath. For old time’s sake and to pass time. Not old time passing, just regular time. Not like I had a lot of other things I could do right then.

I tried reading the book she’d lent me, which I’d brought along. Managed a few pages, might have understood them, might have misread them. Put the book back.

Dinner happened. The staff remained as lightning-fast as ever.

Evening came.

I sat around on the off-chance that Celestia might appear, but she didn’t. Then as I got sleepier I took to tossing and turning and clinging to consciousness on the off-chance Celestia might appear, but she didn’t, and I fell asleep. I knew I fell asleep because the next thing I knew it was dark and I was confused.

I’d fallen asleep and something had woken me up.

Why I’d woken up wasn’t immediately obvious. Rolling over and squinting I looked. And then I saw. The door was open a crack. Celestia was standing there, peering in. It was obviously her, she was kind of hard to mistake for anyone else. She noticed me noticing her, too.

“Do you mind if I come in?” She asked, softly, though still loud enough for me to able to hear her.

This was new, and I was still a little groggy so all I managed was a nod. She entered and closed the door behind her, moving across the room with alarming silence and coming to a halt stood beside the bed. I had forgotten how cool her hair was. So glimmery.

Sitting up in bed and stifling a yawn I screwed up my eyes and did my best to focus. Celestia just kept on standing there, mostly in shadow, hard to see.

“Normally you just sneak up on me, this time you ask? I’m suspicious,” I said.

“I could come in again through the window, if you’d prefer? When you least expect it? Wait until you’re asleep? Get you to fall out of bed?”

“Nah, you’re here now. And falling out of bed isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I can tell you first-hand.”

She laughed, but mainly for my benefit. I could tell.

“Missed you, you know,” I said quietly.

Celestia hesitated, bit her lip, then hugged me, hopping up to reach me in the bed. It was just hooves and no wings but it was still exactly what I’d needed, her pulling me in close. I hugged her back, too. Didn’t really want to let go. I’d missed this.

Couldn’t last forever though, and it did break, her stepping back and then sitting beside the bed and not looking me in the face. I only knew that because the few times I glanced up from the bed she was looking away. Neither of us really knew how to follow that up.

I had a feeling we were both doing the same thing. Waiting for the other one to move first. We could have been like this for a while until someone broke the deadlock. I’d messed up, so I figured I should be the one:

“Sorry,” we said together, having both hesitated and waited for exact periods of time. “Sorry,” we both said together again, in our rush to be the one to apologise first.

“I’ll go first,” we both said and it was now just getting silly and I was going to rush in but a wing came out and pressed against my lips. Not enough to muffle, but enough to make me shut up. “I’ll go first,” Celestia said, eyes on mine. I just nodded, dumbly. Whatever you say, princess.

“I’m not sorry about kissing you. I’m sorry I missed where I was aiming and sorry I panicked and left without really explaining, but not sorry about that part. I - I probably should have done something sooner. It’s something I’d been thinking about and something I’ve thought about a lot since. I’ve been worrying that maybe I was putting something onto you that I wanted to be there and that I was rushing you and when you just looked so surprised I, well, I panicked. And I’ve been worrying since, since you didn’t say anything afterwards. I thought maybe I’d misread the whole thing. It’s been a bit of a while for me, I’m sure you can appreciate. I am a little out of practise. But you’re here! And I didn’t expect that, at all. And I’m - I’m glad.”

She finished smiling, which made me feel a lot better.

“Your turn,” she said, removing her wing.

I swallowed. Big boy trousers time.

“I’m sorry that I’ve, uh, well been dense, probably. It must have been frustrating for you. Because I don’t think you’ve been putting anything onto me. I think it’s been there, I’ve just been, ah, well dense like I say. A bit mixed up. A bit resistant to the blindingly obvious. And I thought you were the one not saying anything to me! I think maybe we should have had this conversation a lot sooner. And it’s probably my fault that it’s taken this long. Must be have been frustrating, yeah. Sorry,” I said.

“More confusing than frustrating.”

“Well, that’s bad too. Guess I’m a little too wound up inside my head. Oh, also, I might have also kind of maybe...told...someone that you kissed me. And it might have spread throughout all of Ponyville. I’m real sorry about that part. I wasn’t thinking. Sorry, really sorry.”

I braced myself for shock and horror, but Celestia just cocked her head at me.

“Why should that matter?”

“Because you’re a well-known public figure and I’m a weirdo alien?”

She waved a hoof at me.

“Pffbt, weirdo alien. Don’t worry about it. I’m over a thousand years old, John. I think I can survive my subjects whispering behind my back.”

I’d really blown that whole thing out of proportion, apparently. Boy is my face red!

Probably mark that one up as further evidence I should relax more, worry less and actually focus more on doing things. Do try to remember that next time. There will no-doubt be next times.

“Who’s more at fault here, you think? For our two weeks of sitting part worrying what the other was thinking?”

Tacitly ignoring the massive, whacking-great chunk of time that was clearly my fault. Just gloss over that.

“Does someone have to be?” She asked.

“Normally people like slapping blame on one party over the other.”

That might have just been something I carried with me from home, but it rung true somehow.

“We could say it’s both our faults and move on with our lives?” She suggested. I made a big show of stroking my chin in deep contemplation and she made a big show of waiting with bated breath. It was hard not to laugh, but we both managed it.

“That might work. I hear compromise is very in,” I said.

“Fashion is so fickle, though.”

“Ah, but sometimes it’s worth seeing what the fuss is about.”

“True, true…” she said, resting halfway onto the bed beside me, still sitting on the floor. Like way back at the start, almost. When she’d asked me about home and I’d managed to dredge up a Monday for her. I remembered that.

Her head lay within easy reach. Those ears were just there, open for scratching. It seemed to work well for everyone else, so why not her? So why was I so bloody nervous just thinking about it?

Just do it! This whole thing has been at least eighty percent you not doing things you clearly should have done!

So I did.

At first she tensed and I clenched in panic, but it must just have been surprised on her part as she almost immediately relaxed. I could see her eyes fluttering even in the dark.

“Oh that is good…” she practically purred.

She was very soft - particularly in a spot just right at the base of the ears, I liked that spot - and very warm and I felt an enormous sense of wellbeing come from what I was doing. More so than what I usually got. This seemed different somehow. I kept on going.

It was very difficult to worry or, indeed, think of much of anything while just watching the look on her face while I scratched her behind the ears. The room could have been on fire and I’d probably have been fine with it. Just her smile. I’d rarely seen her so content.

What an idiot I was. To have missed this, avoided this. What had I been worried about? She wasn’t human, true. But so what? I couldn’t even remember what a human looked like, and it didn’t seem like I’d be meeting any anytime soon. She was just so lovely. And she looked after me. And she liked me! For whatever reason.

And she had cool magic hair and gave me butterflies. What an intolerable idiot I was.

Time to make up for it.

With great effort I stopped scratching her ears. One of her eyes halfways opened and peeped at me questionionly.

“You can, uh, come up on the bed. Properly. There’s a lot of room. If you want. Might be more comfortable. You know. If you want,” I said, swallowing.

Celestia hesitated, smiled again then climbed on up. The bed creaked, I shifted over, she lay against me first then - after a decision - over me, on top of the covers, hindlegs propped beneath her, her body running up beside my legs until the point where she was resting across my lap.

Is that comfortable for a horse? I suppose it must have been.

Was that her heartbeat I could feel, or mine? Fast, either way.

“Comfy?” I asked.

“Much better, thank you. This is a good bed.”

“I did say.”

We were again, I realised, very close. I wasn’t worried about ti this time though, and this time I wasn’t kidding myself into thinking it was a normal, friendly thing. It was normal, but it might have been just a smidge above friendly. And that was fine.

She had real pretty eyes. The light in the room was enough for this. Enough for a lot, actually.

You know, it’s okay to admit to yourself that you find Celestia pleasant to look at. There’s no-one here who’s going to call you out on it. And like you just said, ain’t no humans around and ain’t no humans for you to think about, either. Except you, and you don’t look so great.

Celestia, however, looks great. And looking at her feels pretty great, too. And this close is even better. I could just keep doing it forever.

First face I saw, and what a face at that!

And voice. And hair. And, well, just about everything, actually.

I swallowed again. Couldn’t stop now.

“So, uh, us…” I said.

“If you’re sure-” She started to say, but I needed momentum so I plunged onwards.

“I am, I’m very, uh - I have no idea. But it kind of keeps coming back to this and I kind of keep just...thinking about you so maybe that means something? Who am I kidding, it does something. I don’t know what, but, uh…”

Press on!

“It could end terribly and be awful but maybe it, uh, won’t be? Maybe it’ll actually be alright. And even if it is terrible, finding out might be worthwhile? Or at least pleasant for a bit. Right? Certainly, I - uh - I’d enjoy finding out either way, w-with you.”

Words are hard.

“Life’s too short,” she said, sounding like she might start to get a little choked up.

Wait, was that a joke at the expense of the fact I was going to die?
Celestia you magnificent bastard! Luna was totally wrong about you! You’re on my level!

I hugged her again. I couldn’t help it. God she was brilliant. A rock. My rock. What made most sense here for me. I didn’t even give a shit anymore. Embrace it and stop pretending it’s any other way. Sure it might all end horribly, I’m aware of that, but I don’t want it to and that has to count for something, right?

Just for kicks, I ran a hand through her hair, too. Felt like the fingertip equivalent of putting your tongue on a nine volt battery. Not unpleasnt, just weird. I decided then I wouldn’t make a habit of it.

Eventually we had to stop hugging, though I’m not sure either of us had a good reason for it. Probably because we still had some talking to do. Once that was done, hugs for days.

“I am sorry for talking about the kiss, by the way. Dumb of me,” I said. First thing off the top of my head. Was still bugging me. Weird how she could be so cool with it.

She rolled her eyes.

“Are you still worrying about that?”

“Just didn’t want you thinking I’d been boasting about my, uh, exceptional kissing prowess, you know? I’m not like that. I’m lots of other bad things, but not that bad thing. Just so you know.”

“You…” she said, in tones of mild despair but with a grin as she lent in for a nuzzle.

Celestia was the only one who nuzzled me. Possibly because she was the only one who could reach. Made it special, somehow. I grinned too. Her breath on my neck. That smell - that smell! I wasn’t even sure what it was! Other than her. But that was enough for me. Drown me in it!

She pulled back, and the moonlight in the room fell in such a way that I got a very good look at her face. The best so far. She looked thoughtful. And kind of, you know, beautiful. But I’d already been over that. Just getting harder and harder not to notice.

“Although,” she said. “Speaking of your prowess, as I remember it you didn’t actually kiss me back…”

Oh. Okay.

Be cool, man. She’s already in your lap, this is already going great. Don’t fuck it up!

“Ah, well, we could always - ah - could always...fix...that?”


Celestia giggled - that sound! - and fluttered her lashes, which gave me palpitations.

“Oh yes we could, but I’m afraid you’d just run off and tell everyone again,” she said.

“Argh, woman. Why you got to do me like that?”

Another giggle, but then she was leaning in, and so was I this time.

It was a lot better the second time round, the kiss. A lot, lot better. What with both of us meaning it and all, and with neither of us missing. Lasted longer, too. Long enough that by the time we had to come up for air I was inches from gasping.

Both of us were flushed, like fucking schoolkids. She giggled, I giggled and we couldn’t really help but keep kissing. Little pecks whenever one of us missed and deeper, longer, proper ones whenever we both got the right spot. Between the giggles, obviously.

She ended up sleeping there. Got under the covers and everything. That was new, but roll with it, roll with it. Maybe it’ll work out alright. Maybe this’ll be the best thing that ever happened. Won’t know unless you try, eh?

And getting caught out of bed isn’t really an issue for someone who can teleport, if you think about it.

So there I was. Back in bed. Horse princess in my arms for what may well have been the first of many times. Hopefully I’d get used to the positioning eventually. It was very snug, but not quite comfortable yet. All things in time. We can get this to work, I’m sure.

If I’d just stayed in bed and worked it from there I could have saved a lot of time, really.

But then, where would be the fun in that?