A woman in Equestria, a small town, a mare-friend. They go to the famous Cafe Harmony where magic compels you to share your song.
A young woman finds herself in an Equestrian town named Hay River. She gets help from a mare-friend learning how to live in this new world. They go to the Cafe Harmony, Katie sings and everything changes.
The small town aptly named Hay River did not have many ponies living there, it was a junction town with a river. It had one major attraction going for it, the Harmony Cafe a famous music cafe where ponies could let the magic of harmony guide them and they would sing. The stage was open to every pony if they felt brave enough. But now this quite transfer town had another attraction an alien.
Katie had been in Equestria for only one week, she had been given one of the small unoccupied houses near the outskirts of Hay River. Strawberry Dusk a soft pink mare with a red mane and a cutie mark of a strawberry setting like the sun had been the one to find her. She was wandering lost, seemingly incoherent, and staggering as if she drank too much cider.
All the ponies had gathered in the town hall after she was admitted to the clinic to be looked after. The town had a very heated discussion about how to handle it all, to call the princesses in Canterlot, to kick the alien out, or to help her. In the end it was decided that she could stay if she wanted to, she seemed to be hurting no pony and needed rest. The town offered her what they could, gave her an empty house and some provisions. She promptly moved in and had become as Rocky White would say, “That tiny alien hermit at the end of the block.” Ponies would see her from time to time moving about town with a speed that showed her fear. It was a bit of a event for the foals, when they got to see her, they would yell to their friends and try to follow her the parents would corral them quickly.
Strawberry knocked quietly at the door and spoke softly, “Katie? Are you home?” Strawberry Dusk felt an affinity for this very quiet, and very strange creature she had found and guided into town. It didn’t help matters that she was the size of a foal and looked even more vulnerable with no fur, small eyes, skinny legs, and spindly fore hooves. She brought her food every day so far and tired to talk to her, she was never invited into the house. The conversations were difficult, but Strawberry never gave up she felt as if she was beginning to make progress and was building trust.
The door opened slowly a small head peeked out from the door. “Oh, hi Strawberry.” Spoke a girl with head of hair that was long, brown, and curly; she wore a pair of glasses that were scratched and partly broken. Strawberry noticed she had clothes on, that was no surprise, what was shocking to the mare was the state of them, very tattered and dirty.
“Hi Katie, can I come in?” Strawberry asked, she had been building to this moment her heart was beating heavily, “Is she going to shut me out?” the mare asked herself. The question hung in the air, the silence went on for longer than was natural.
Katie’s thoughts spun rapidly, darting to and fro like a pack of swallows. The first thought that ran through her head, “How can I let her in? She is so large she could crush me.” What followed that, “It’s Strawberry, she’s been nothing but kind, she brings you food for god sakes!” “My god the state of the house she can’t see it.” The mare looked really sad and was about to turn away, suddenly Katie panicked at the thought of hurting what she considered her only friend here, “Sure! Sure! Come in, come in,” she said quickly and opened the door while looking around outside.
Strawberry followed the girl into her house, Katie spoke while walking towards the kitchen, “Do you want any tea? Or Coffee? I think I have some round here.”
“Tea please.” Watching the human navigate the kitchen was fascinating, it was clearly much to large for her. She had a table which she used as a stool, and climbed on counters in order to get what she needed. Strawberry was content to watch until she saw her fill the kettle and try to put it on the stove. The kettle was to large and heavy for her, she was struggling to get it onto an element. All the mare could see was nothing but future disaster, perhaps she let the comparisons to a young foal run away with her but she got up slowly trotted into the kitchen to help.
Katie was too focused on getting the tea ready than being aware of anything else, so when the mare’s head was suddenly inches from her hands and moving towards the handle of the kettle she squeaked in panic leaped back and let go of it.
Strawberry moved quickly and caught the kettle with her mouth with a speed and dexterity any human would find shocking, she lifted it, put it on the element, and got the tea started. “Sorry, you looked to be having some trouble and I thought ‘d help. I didn’t mean to startle or scare you.” Strawberry was chastising herself a little for what just happened, “silly filly what are you doing she is not a foal. If she needed help, she’d ask right?” Then again? She looked at the kitchen and thought about the house, the only word that came to her mind was squalor.
Suddenly the mare got an idea, she shut the stove off and turned to Katie, “Alright Katie we are going out.” Katie backed away suddenly her eyes like saucers.
“I can’t” she replied weakly.
“Nonsense you are going to be with me and we are going to the Harmony Cafe,” Strawberry Dusk said it with as much conviction she could muster.
“Why?” Katie asked suddenly looking confused.
“Well for one this place is making you sick,” Katie blushed, “ Second they have good food and drink, and it always does a pony good to listen to others and connect with them in harmony.” She took a breath, “Personally I think it would do you good to get out of this place for a little while, it’s on me, so come on.” Strawberry trotted towards the door hoping the young creature would follow her.
“I don’t think this is a very good idea Strawberry,” Katie said quietly as the two walked towards the cafe. All the ponies on the road were looking in their direction. Katie shifted closer to the soft pink mare so she was practically hiding in her shadow. “I wish they would stop staring at me,” she whispered. Strawberry was beginning to understand her friends nervousness, though she lived here the looks were making her nervous too.
They entered the cafe, it was busy as usual. The air smelled of soap and lavender, a stallion was up on stage singing a soft song, it seemed to be about his mother. The patrons of the establishment were all swaying a bit to the music, it was a sweet song that made Strawberry feel wistful. Nobody seemed to notice them enter and sit down.
Katie had never been anywhere like this, the air was funny like there was so much electricity that you could taste it. All the ponies seemed to be in a semi trance, even her friend Strawberry, it was like a snake charmer was on stage. No staff moved waitress or waiter alike just listened, it seemed to her that the whole place was frozen for the song. All she felt was that weird taste in the air and an unnamed pressure over her whole body. It took a moment to notice that there was no band, the instrumental music seemed to be coming from nowhere and everywhere. Katie shivered a bit, it all seemed so unnatural.
The song ended, Katie thought it to be a simple child like song. Not very compelling at all. The stallion got off stage a few other ponies got up from their tables to talk to him, hug him and it was all very interesting to watch. The cafe suddenly sprung to life and everyone began to talk and move.
“Strawberry, where is the music coming from?” Katie asked her, it was the most pressing question she had.
“Oh that is coming from the ambient magic.” Strawberry answered matter of factly while placing her order from the small unicorn waiter in an apron. “What would you like?” the mare asked. Katie glanced down at the menu she couldn't read it, but the pictures helped and her heart soared when she saw something other than greens. “I will have the fish,” she pointed at the picture of the fish, “Is that ok?” Strawberry nodded her head looking closely at the human. The waiter trotted away.
“Ambient magic? What does that mean?”
This girl was so much like a foal at times, Strawberry smiled to herself and lifted her tea and took a sip. “ So the whole of Equestria is sitting in a big field of magic, and this spot here where this cafe is built has what is called a crumple point. It is stronger here and it is what allows ponies to sing and connect in harmony. The music is a result of all the folded magic in the air.” The human girl was deep in thought.
“Is that why the air tastes and smells like electricity?” she asked, “it is rather unpleasant.”
“You can smell and taste the magic?!” Strawberry was shocked, even the most powerful unicorns had to study to feel the ambient magic in the smallest amount.
“I don’t know maybe,” there was a moment of silence, between them. “Strawberry?” she whispered.
“Yes,” the mare leaned in.
“Thanks for being there for me, this is hard,” her hands encircled the tea cup. “My world is so different from this one, everything is so big here and magic is so unnerving. It is nice to have someone who is so kind. No one here seems to understand the differences between worlds and what I am saying half the time is lost. I feel as if I am speaking a different language.”
The human looked so small and fragile, the mare wanted to give her a hug but Strawberry knew that was not the right thing to do. “You know you could get up on stage and sing.” She added as an afterthought.
“What!” Katie looked as if she was facing an execution.
“If you feel like no one understands, that is what this cafe is for, to be understood and heard by other ponies. The stage is open to all. The magic does it for you, it reaches out and it is all very therapeutic.” They were interrupted by their food arriving.
Another pony got up on the stage, it was a young mare who looked nervous but also excited. Katie tucked into her food as if she hadn’t eaten in months, the fish wasn’t great but to a girl who had been living off salads and greens for several days it was glorious.
The young filly began to sing, to Katie the song was again rather childlike, it seemed to be about friends, school and parents. Music swelled from everywhere as if speakers were embedded in the walls. The audience did not speak, just watched and listened, it was as if they were feeling what the pony on the stage was feeling. Katie felt nothing about the filly or the song, but there was increased pressure on her chest as the smell of static grew in intensity.
After a minute or two the song ended and the filly stopped a shocked look on her face said she was surprised at what just happened. Lots of ponies cheered her and she got off the stage. Her friends were waiting for her off to the side and they all talked excitedly. It reminded Katie of the bars back home and the groups of young girls that would flock together, she was never part of those groups.
“Strawberry, have you ever sang here before?” Katie asked suddenly looking away from the group of fillies and back to her friend.
“Yep, lots of times, usually when I am feeling lost I find the magic and songs clarify my thinking and helps me decide things. It is great to have this place right next door.” Strawberry really hoped this young human would sing. She was not only worried for her health, but she was very curious about the songs of her kind. It was both selfish and selfless she thought to herself.
The two sat quietly through a couple more songs. To Katie it felt like it had become stifling in the cafe, the pressure in the air was trying to push her out of the chair. It was pressing on her chest making her want to scream out loud. No pony in the room seemed to be feeling what she was feeling. The longer they sat there the more she had to fight the impulse to stand up. Strawberry noticed her companion was struggling in her seat, taking panic like breaths and looking terrified. She leaned in “Are you ok? Do you need to leave?” Strawberry asked concerned.
“No!” Katie exclaimed, her eyes flew open she meant to say yes, but something was speaking through her. Suddenly she was propelled out of the chair and was standing up.
“I’m going to sing,” she declared suddenly and began walking towards the stage.
Katie felt as if she was on autopilot, she did not feel in control of her own actions, so this is what it is like to go mad, she thought to herself as she moved towards the stage. Strawberry was trotting beside her, “Are you sure you want to sing? You are not acting like yourself?”Strawberry was very worried about her friend suddenly, maybe the magic affected her differently, maybe bringing her here was a bad idea.
“Yes I’m sure.” The girl responded without even turning to look at the mare and walked up on the stage.
Everypony in the cafe went silent. “The alien is going to sing” one stallion whispered to another. Katie stood at the centre, a light flashed on her and the pressure on her increased, suddenly she could hear a guitar.
Her awareness shifted and no longer was she aware of the music as she began to sing.
Strawberry’s ears flattened she didn’t like the music sounds at the start, it was something odd, foreign, and not from a pony at all. As Katie began to sing she began to glow, suddenly it pushed outward with force, Strawberry was smacked with a magic wave that surged through the whole room. Every pony that was standing collapsed, some in chairs tipped over. Strawberry was laying on the ground and was feeling Katie’s feelings, complex, intense, and very foreign.
Feelings of fear, isolation, trauma, deep intellectual astonishment, she saw visions of violence, massive war, love, cities, planets, space, abstract concepts, mathematics she did not understand, biology concepts that didn’t make sense, and creatures that seemed nonsensical. All flashing like a slide show going to fast to really take in. This was not supposed to happen, songs usually were simple affairs, one emotion, one topic, cathartic and helpful. Katie’s song was throwing the cafe into chaos.
Katie’s throat was on fire making notes and sounds it wasn't meant to make, she felt as if she were having a heart attack. The magic was forcefully pushing her, she couldn't stop, she didn’t want to stop it. She had never felt better, the magic came from somewhere deep, it was blissful like a joyful surge of adrenalin that comes from solving a complex problem.
The song suddenly stopped and the human simply crumpled on stage, one minute she was standing then next it was like her strings were cut.
“Katie!” Strawberry Dusk cried. She ran up to the stage and picked up the little human with her mouth by her clothes. Straining herself she managed to place the body on her back and started for the exit.
“Add it to my tab Rocky,” The mare called to the bartender as she ran out of the cafe and moved quickly to the clinic with the human on her back.
Strawberry Dusk trotted back and forth in the waiting room in extreme agitation. “Oh Celestia, it’s my fault, it’s all my fault. I hope she is ok, I really hope she is ok,” Thiswas the constant circle of thoughts that repeated in her mind.The mare felt awful, she was just trying to be kind and helpful, all it did was get this little creature hurt. Harmony is supposed to heal, it isn’t supposed to hurt! she stomped a hoof in frustration.
The time seemed to drag on with no word, Strawberry would periodically hear the unmistakable popping sound that indicated powerful unicorns were teleporting in and out of the clinic. Suddenly Doctor Kindly Heart appeared in the waiting area, he was a unicorn of average height, sporting a white coat, stethoscope, and a dark blue mane. He had a face which telegraphed his kindness. The ponies of Hay River adored him, and many young mares crushed on him frequently. Strawberry Dusk and Kindly Heart had a history together, both worked in the field of helping other ponies. Professionally they interacted often, personally they went on a couple of dates, but they did not take off and in the end they settled for a quite friendship. He cleared his throat to get Strawberry’s attention.
Strawberry looked up and hurried to the Doctor, “Is Katie ok? No pony has told me anything at all.”
“Relax Strawberry,” the Doctor replied in a soothing tone, “She will be ok, right now she is still unconscious.” Strawberry let out a huge sigh of relief. “But,” added the medical stallion, “there are some things we do need to talk about.” He motioned for the light pink mare to follow.
“I could hear lots of teleporting Kindly, was it serious?” Strawberry asked as they walked into his consulting room.
Doctor Kindly went to his desk and sat down letting out an exhausted sigh and removing his stethoscope. “I had to call Canterlot High Medical for advice and guidance. The princesses do know about our guest and they do need to be informed of any changes. Normally such paperwork and oversight is burdensome, but in this situation I have been glad to have it.” Kindly Heart reached for a file folder on his desk and placed it in front of him.
“What happened?” Strawberry asked with impatience.
“To get to the point of it, we don’t really know. But I do want to show you something.” Kindly lifted a slide out of the folder with magic and hovered it to a device mounted to the wall. “This,” he said as he turned on the device, “is a magical scan of Katie when she first arrived here. As you can see she tends to lack any innate magic, I don’t know a whole lot about her kind but she did say it was normal for humans.” Kindly lifted another slide from the folder and placed it next to the first one, “This scan was taken after she collapsed in the cafe.”
Strawberry got up and walked around the desk to get a closer look at the scan. She was seeing an unmistakable glow which stretched from Katie’s spindly hooves up to the narrow flank where it seemed to concentrate. The Mare tilted her head in thought and spoke softly, “Kindly this looks almost like the magic signature of a foal who has yet to get her cutie mark. But that can’t be, only ponies get cutie marks right?” She turned and looked to the white stallion.
“It would appear that might not be the case.” Kindly replied in a half chuckle.
“Wait! are you telling me Katie is going to get a cutie mark! How is that even possible?” Strawberry exclaimed.
“As I said Strawberry we don’t really know, her kind are still a bit of a mystery and what is happening here is unique. I can’t say for sure but the scan does tend to suggest that our little alien guest is going to get a cutie mark.” Kindly Heart grabbed the scans with his magic and put two new ones up that showed Katie’s brain. “As you can see the magic is starting to reach for the brain in a similar way it does with young foals, except I am not sure what it is going to do when it gets there. Her brain is pretty different than ours when it comes to magic.”
“Can you stop it?” Strawberry asked quietly
“No, stopping cutie mark development is not something I would recommend doing. It tends to twist magic development and it could cause significant problems in the fillies future. Bigger problems than if we leave it alone, I know that much, or a least that was what the pile of experts flooding my clinic told me.” Kindly Heart replied with a saddened sigh.
“Ok so what did the princesses have to say about all this?” Strawberry asked beginning to grow suspicious at the level of information she was getting.
Kindly Heart full body laughed this time, “Exactly what you would expect, basically if she is going to grow up, give her a family and let her. There is no point in trying to stop harmony. We don't know for sure, but Katie will most likely manifest all the behaviours you would expect from a foal at this stage. Impulses to try new things, excitability, mood swings, and intensive emotional attachment to parental figures. She is going to need a lot of support”. The doctor added with emphasis.
“Whoa, whoa, say what you mean Kindly. Don’t hint at it.” The mare trotted back around to the front of the desk. “Why are you telling me all this?” she added with irritation and suspicion.
“Well Strawberry, you know this little human better than anyone and have lots of experience helping ponies. She trusts you and she is going to need a big sister to help her. Strawberry I’m asking, can you take this girl in and be her guardian?” Kindly Heart looked very uneasy, it was not something he wanted to ask; but the princesses had told him to find this creature support and Strawberry was the only pony he thought of. Here was a mare who had experience helping other ponies with harmony problems and she already had a connection, If she said no he really had no back up plan.
“I.. I.. don’t know if that’s a good idea.” Strawberry took a couple of hesitant steps back from the desk. ”You do know she is not a foal Kindly, she has told me that humans her age are considered adults. I don't think she would accept being given a guardian, and I am as sure as apples not going to force it.” She added with emphasis.
“Well it doesn’t have to happen this moment..”
Both ponies looked at the wall were there could be heard shouting and muffled noises. Kindly Heart took off from the desk and galloped toward the noise with Strawberry hot on his heels.
Katie awoke with a massive headache, her whole world seemed fuzzy and not in focus. She could vaguely remember the vestigial parts of a song, impressions of a cozy cafe. The air, remembering the air and the pressure caused her to shiver, she could almost smell it and taste it again. Why was that so present? Her eyes opened to see a large light blue unicorn nurse she had never met near her bed with horn glowing.
The girls heart leapt into her throat, the impressions of being controlled, of being a puppet, of having her consciousness thrust into spectator again filled her with unimaginable fear. Leaping out of bed away from the unicorn, and her magic, she hit a side table knocking over a vase with a small lily flower, it shattered loudly.
“GET AWAY!” she hollered at the unicorn while backing towards the wall.
“Are you ok? Did you hurt yourself?” The blue mare asked concerned as her horn ceased to glow the mare took a step closer to see if the little alien girl cut herself.
“Don’t come any closer!” In panic Katie grabbed a reflex hammer and brandished it like a club, “Just stay there please?” it was a request, a demand, and plea all in one tone. The nurse pony stood stock still knowing the situation to be very unstable. The girl was breathing heavily and looking all over the room for a way out. The smell had faded and she was beginning to clam down a bit.
The door bust open, Strawberry Dusk and Doctor Kindly Heart rushed into the room.
Strawberry took in the scene in front of her, the human against a wall looking like a caged animal naked and wielding a tiny hammer, the nurse looking startled, the broken vase, and the tipped table. Katie looked away from the unicorn nurse towards her, and for the smallest of moments Strawberry saw a predator underneath the girl. But it disappeared quickly and her look softened to one of both confusion and recognition.
“Strawberry?” She dropped the hammer, “What happened? Why am I at the clinic? I couldn’t stop myself, I wasn’t in control, why wasn’t I in control? I saw stuff,” the tiny human slunk down the wall holding her head shivering a little.
Strawberry’s heart soared at seeing her little friend unhurt. “Oh thank Celestia you are ok! I was so worried.” The mare ignored every pony else in the room walked up to the human and stretched her head towards her looking to nuzzle. The girl unthinking reached out wrapped her arms around Strawberry’s neck. Clinging to the mare Katie spoke into her fur. “I just want to go to my house.”
“I think we can make that happen.” Strawberry responded while lifting her head and looking back “Kindly, Nurse….”
“Star Chart,” The Blue mare added.
“Star Chart, can you give me and Katie a moment alone?”
“Yep not a problem,” Kindly Heart replied, the nurse seemed resistant but the stallion guided her out of the room with the authority of it being his clinic. Strawberry had learned over time by observation that clothes were extremely important to the little human in front of her, both physically in terms of warmth but also emotionally in terms of safety. “Lets find you your clothes first yes?” The mare turned and shook her head sadly at the clinic bed, there she saw the remnants of the girls only clothing torn up with no regard. She walked towards a cupboard in the room, doctor Kindly always kept something here, ‘just in case’ he’d say, she was never sure what case that would be till this moment, but today she loved that stallions preparedness.
The jacket fit very oddly on the little human but it did give her some warmth and right away Strawberry could see the girls stress drop a bit.
Katie stood up and steadied herself. She was feeling very sheepish and somewhat embarrassed for having clung to the mare so childishly, she inched a bit away from her, but not to far. This world was scary, the ponies in it so big as to be scary, but to Katie, Strawberry was different, it’s hard to be scared of someone so kind, or someone that you are beginning to know and trust.
Strawberry walked towards the door and stood near it as she watched the human struggle deciding what to do. “You ready to go?” The mare eventually asked holding out a hoof. Katie nodded her head and walked towards her. Strawberry opened the door with her mouth and using her hoof she ushered the small girl out of the room protectively when she passed.
"Katie just wait there a moment and I’ll walk you home, I just need to have a word with doctor Kindly before we leave.” Strawberry stepped away from the girl who stood mute holding a oversized pony coat around her shoulders.
“You’re taking her to her home, I don’t know if that is a good idea.” Doctor Kindly said in a critical tone of voice. “I would like to keep her here for at least a couple of days.” He added looking around the mare and giving the human girl a tiny wave. Katie just nodded her head and turned to look at a magazine which lay on a side table.
“Who’s the harmony pony here Doctor Kindly?” Strawberry asked with a bit of aggression, his tone irked her, especially in the light of the conversation they were just pulled away from.
“Now Strawberry don’t get all bent out of shape, I defer to your expertise and talent just try to get her back here at least once a week is all I ask. And if anything changes or seems out of place, and I mean anything bring her here.” Kindly rested a hoof on the mares back, a conciliatory gesture.
“I’ll do what I can,” Strawberry Dusk began walking back towards the exit and turned suddenly, “Oh, and about what we were talking about earlier, I’ll think about it but no promises ok?”
“That’s all I can ask for, goodnight Strawberry, goodnight Katie,” his voice changed to a higher pitch when talking to the girl, “you take care of yourself, and Miss Dusk too, I here that mare can get into all sorts of trouble.” He winked at the girl, Strawberry rolled her eyes. Katie didn’t respond, just turned when Strawberry passed her and followed the mare out the door.
The sun was beginning to set, the air was still and somewhat chilly, all the town’s ponies were tucked away for the evening leaving the roads and paths relatively empty. Strawberry saw the girl shiver under the ill fitting coat, she made a conscious effort to walk closer to her in the hopes of providing the human some heat.
“Strawberry?” Katie asked once they were clear of the clinic.
“What’s a harmony pony? You said you’re a harmony pony, what does that mean?”
What a tough question, how do I possibly answer? Strawberry thought to herself. She let out a big breath of air and looked up at the sky, Luna’s stars were beginning to shine. “How about we make a deal, I’ll try to tell you what a Harmony pony is, and you try to tell me a little about what happened at the cafe.”
Katie silently cursed at herself, why did I say anything, the last thing she wanted to do was talk about what happened. “I don’t know if I remember that much.” The girl lied.
“That’s ok, you can just tell me what you remember, it does’t have to be much. Does that work for you?” Strawberry turned her head and looked down at the human. Katie was staring at the ground carefully stepping around things like her hooves were made of some delicate material. A thought struck the mare suddenly, the girls weird hooves did look soft and delicate, if she did step on something it probably would hurt.
“I guess so.” she mumbled.
“Katie?” The girl looked up, “Why don’t you climb on my back and we will talk. It’s getting cold and your hooves don’t look up to the task of walking the whole way.”
Katie stopped in her tracks, “I can’t do that.”
“Why not?” Strawberry asked a bit confused, stopping as well.
“It just wouldn’t be right.” The girl stated simply.
“I carried you from the cafe to the clinic on my back, look it will be easier for both of us. You are not heavy, your hooves won’t get hurt, and you’ll be warmer. But most importantly I won’t be worrying about you if you are on my back while we walk.” Before the girl could argue the mare quickly moved her head and body in a motion that swept the human up onto her back. “There that’s much better.” Strawberry said cheerily. In the back of her mind she was vaguely aware of her own maternal instincts and there influence on what she just did. At the moment the pink mare decided not to think to deeply or worry about it.
Katie was still processing what happened, her arms hugged the mare’s neck they barely locked together at the front of her barrel. Strawberry was very warm and defying expectation she smelled very softy of vanilla not strawberries.“That wasn’t fair Strawberry.” Katie said in a voice that carried both amusement and annoyance.
“I know, yell at me tomorrow after a good nights sleep ok?” Strawberry replied happy to hear a change in the girls attitude. “So let me tell you about Harmony ponies.” Strawberry began to walk again, “ponies like myself were not always called Harmony ponies, that is only a very recent label. Way back before the Element Bearers or the Tree of Harmony, don’t worry about those I’ll tell you later,” Strawberry interjected before the girl could interrupt. “Anyway before all that ponies didn’t really understand the magic of harmony, Pegasus, Unicorn, and Earth ponies were not so nice to each other. Some towns like Hay River were hotbeds of conflict containing all three tribes, in that mess periodically a special pony would come along. This pony could be from either tribe and their talent would be mediation, they would be able to bring about consensus with their special talent an ability to intuit and understand other ponies. Hay River is not the only town to have one, a lot of towns have party ponies, work ponies, baking ponies, and harmony ponies. They are rare but not that rare.”
“Um-humm,” Katie mumbled from the mares back, the cadence of Strawberry’s walk, her fur and body heat was making the girl a bit sleepy.
“Of course ponies like myself don’t deal with big harmonies like the Element Bearers, or the Princess of Friendship. I deal mostly with tiny little harmonies, ponies come to me for advice, guidance, or to help them feel better emotionally. Personally I have always felt the little harmonies are the most important, can't have the big stuff without the little things right?” Strawberry asked to see if the girl understood. She was far more complex than most ponies realized. The mare would know, she experienced it first hoof at the cafe.
“So you’re like a shrink?”
“Shrink? No I don’t get smaller.” Strawberry replied with confusion.
Katie giggled, Strawberry felt the little body shake on her back, it was the first time she heard the human laugh her voice was high and light. “What’s so funny?” Strawberry asked in amusement.
“Nothing, Nothing. A shrink is a slang term from my world for a person who deals with psychological problems in people. They are also called therapists, councillors, psychologists.” Katie replied quickly.
Strawberry laughed, “well that’s silly, why do they call them shrinks that makes no sense,” she replied with amusement. “But I supposes yes that is kind of what I do, but harmony is more global. I don't so much deal with ponies problems as act to bring greater harmony around me,” the mare added.
Strawberry, unbeknownst to the girl on her back had taken a longer route though town, one that specifically passed by the mare’s house. This was because she wanted to give Katie the option to sleep there instead of alone. “See that house there on the right?” Strawberry asked as the building came into view.
“Yes,” Katie replied.
“That’s my house, you are welcome to stay here tonight if you want, or if you’d rather go to your house I will carry you there.” Strawberry did not like the idea of leaving this small shivering human alone, in a dark house, at the outskirts of town. But if the girl insisted she was really not going to force the matter.
“Thanks for offering Strawberry, but I can’t impose on you just let me off here and I’ll walk the rest of the way.” Katie answered.
Strawberry’s ears flattened unconsciously, but decided to let things run their course, she’d take the girl to her house. “Oh trying to get out of our deal now are we?” She added to keep the girl talking.
“What! No, I just don’t want to be a bother. Your house is here, I can find my way home,” Katie said this while trying to slide off the mare’s back, but ceasing to do so when she noticed the height and speed at which they were moving. Strawberry intentionally kept her pace up so the girl could not really get off.
“Not a bother,” the mare replied simply, “Your turn, tell me a little about what happened,” there was a marked silence.
“Katie? you still with me?” Strawberry asked playfully.
“You don’t want to talk about it?” The mare questioned gently.
“I’d really rather not,” Katie answered. More silence followed, after a few minutes the girl spoke wistfully, “even your night sky and stars are different. You’d think it’d be the big things that would be missed most, family, friends, books, movies and music. Instead I find small things like constellations, brand names on products, god I even find myself thinking about and missing the smell of car exhaust.”
Strawberry looked up the sun had set, the night sky was clear and the stars were shinning brightly. She understood the sentiment but not the full meaning of the girls words, her heart went out to her.
“I owe you an apology,” the pink mare suddenly declared. “I should not have taken you to that cafe. I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. I was being silly, I tried to solve the problem as if you were a pony, and you’re not, and because of that you got hurt. I haven’t had to really stretch my skills much lately and I misstepped, I’m sorry and I hope you can forgive me,” Strawberry felt the arms of the tiny human hug her neck tighter, the girls body shifted up a bit and a quite voice whispered in her ear.
“You have nothing be sorry for, but if you must apologize, I forgive you completely and utterly. You are my friend, my only friend in this place and your heart was in the right place I know that.” Katie shifted back down on the mare’s back.
“I think you have more friends here than you realize Katie,” They finally arrived at the small house on the outskirts of Hay River, it looks even worse at night thought Strawberry. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay at my place?” The mare asked again, “it wouldn’t be a problem.” she added.
“Thanks for offering Strawberry, but I am going to pass, I need to be alone for a bit.” The girl climbed off the mare’s back she stood in front of the mare looking up holding the oversized pony coat around her shoulders. “Thank you so much Strawberry, the dinner was good, and I appreciated you walking me home” she give a weak smile slowly stepped up to the mare and hugged a foreleg which Strawberry gently returned.
“Can I come visit you tomorrow morning, how about we do breakfast?” Strawberry asked.
“Sure” the girl replied walking to the door of her house. “See you,” she waved and closed the door.
The house was silent and Katie walked carefully into the living room and lit a candle. She found the pile of blankets and pillows she had turned into a makeshift bed and moved it all to the corner of the room facing the door. She sat down with her back against both walls, arms encircling bent knees and she watched the door. The girl fell asleep wondering, why when we most need to be with others do we push them away.
It was quiet, sunshine spilled into the sitting room from an open window. The rays lit up the dark blue rug just below it, a slight breeze stirred the whole room. Strawberry Dusk sat quietly on the couch reading, the human girl was fast asleep beside her covered with a throw blanket.
The mare put the book down slightly and looked at the sleeping lump, a smile crossed her features as she reflected on what had happed that morning. Trying to get the girl to come to her place for breakfast. Her refusal to admit the exhaustion the mare could plainly see. The hesitation at walking though the town in nothing but an old stallion’s coat. The girls fear and recalcitrant behaviour was predictable and to Strawberry expected of a pony her age. She was not sure if this was generally true of all humans. Katie insisted she was an adult, and in her world lived as one. Though lately Strawberry wondered about that.
In the end the girl had come. The two of them shared a nice breakfast of pancakes. Katie had asked for coffee upon seeing the machine but Strawberry had refused gently, and instead gave the girl apple juice. Somewhere in their conversation the little human said that though she could speak Ponish she could not read it. They sat together in this room and Strawberry did a bit of teaching. The lesson did not last long the poor thing collapsed on the couch and fell asleep.
The mare looked up from watching the girl to see a familiar purple earth pony with a short teal mane leaning in from the window smirking.
“Shhhh” Strawberry lifted her hoof in a silencing motion. Rising from the couch carefully, she quietly stepped outside to talk.
“Hey Rocky. How are you doing?” Strawberry asked.
“Better than yesterday afternoon when you dropped that little emotional storm into the middle of my cafe. That little bit sure packs a wallop eh? Every pony left after her song,” Rocky answered, upon seeing Strawberry’s stricken look he softened his tone. “It’s alright though Straws I wanted the night off, I needed to run some errands anyway. How about you? You look tired.” He added after the two nuzzled each other.
“I’ve had a difficult week.”
“I’d imagine so.”
“I want to help her,” Strawberry looked back at the house. “My cutie mark screams at me to do so I can’t ignore my calling, but it’s hard. At the clinic Doctor Kindly pretty much asked me to adopt her, he said she’d need support.”
“Psst Doctors orders eh?” Rocky scoffed.
“He seems to think Katie’s going to get a cutie mark.”
“But see this human insists she is no foal. I’m not sure what to do, I took her home last night. That dark run down shack is no place for her, but she insisted. Looks as if she didn’t sleep a wink, we had breakfast and than the girl collapsed on my couch. She is even beginning to smell foal-ish”
“I don’t know Straws, maybe you’re just imagining the smell,” Rocky replied.
“Maybe. Hey Rocky, are you busy at the moment?”
“Nah, cafe doesn’t open till midday.”
“Can you watch Katie for an hour? I need to run and do a couple of chores I really don't want to wake her. I’m pretty sure she’ll sleep though it all, but I’d feel better if a pony I know was here to reassure her just in case she wakes up while I’m gone.”
“Yah, I’ll keep an eye on the little bit.” Rocky replied. “Maybe I’ll help myself to a cupcake or two from the pantry,” he smiled impishly.
“Ok, I’ll just go get my saddle bags, give me a minute.” Strawberry disappeared into the house and returned with two bags emblazoned with her cutie mark slung over her back. "I’ll be back as quick as I can, if she wakes let her know I’ve gone out to get her some clothing.” The mare said while trotting in the direction of the market.
Rocky White shook his head in bemusement. That mare was special, he just hoped one day she’d see him as more than a friend. The stallion walked quietly into the house, sat down in a chair and watched the alien sleep, by Luna’s mane she was tiny.
Katie woke up and upon seeing the strange stallion she froze and began feigning sleep.
Is it a unicorn? I hope to hell it isn't a unicorn, I don't have the energy to deal with magic. Opening my eyes the tiniest amount, slivers really, I noticed a massive purple earth pony sitting quietly looking bored. Where was Strawberry? I'm naked under this blanket, I might be able to cope with that if it was just me and her, but just me and this strange pony, what do I do?
"Oh, you're awake," His voice was playful and jocular. I shut my eyes tighter hoping he would not notice, it was silly really but it was in some ways instinctual. "No use pretending little bit, I know you're not sleeping," he added softly. Little bit? It confused me to no end why so many ponies talked to me like a child. Fighting it just tended to create confusion and hostility, these days I wanted fewer conflicts, this lead me to ignore this behaviour. It was a bit like an older fellow calling you 'darling,' or 'love,' it was both a good feeling and a bad one, both kind and presumptuous, both sweet and condescending, right now I had no energy for those thoughts, my priority was survival, it was understanding, and it was learning to live in this strange world.
"Where's Strawberry?" I grabbed the blanket tighter around me looking up towards the stallion. Feeling less safe and suddenly extremely vulnerable.
"No need to be scared, Straws told me to watch you while she went to find you some clothes. Not sure why you need clothes, you planning on going somewhere fancy princess?" He asked, eyes twinkling.
"I always wear clothes," I deadpanned.
"It's a human thing," I answered with a flat tone.
He laughed a large body shaking laugh. "I like you!" He declared suddenly, "the name's Rocky White. I'm good friends with Strawberry and I run Cafe Harmony."
"Nice to meet you," I replied though it really wasn't all that nice. Waking up to find a stranger watching you while you are huddled under a blanket with no clothes on. I was very mad at Strawberry at the moment, leaving and not telling; asking a stranger to 'watch' me as if I needed watching. It felt like I was on this slope, every step I took which brought me closer to the ponies of this world took me further away from an autonomy I had always taken for granted. The stallion got up from the chair, his enormous body seemed to occupy the whole room, he walked over and sat down beside me. I shrunk away from him into the corner of the couch moving the throw blanket so as to cover as much of my body as possible. I felt a twinge in my hip and scratched it mindlessly.
"You know I have heard a lot of songs working at that cafe, fillies, mares, stallions both young and old," a hoof came down from the back of the couch and he poked me through the blanket. I squeaked and shifted away, he smiled. "Your song, was very interesting, I saw and felt stuff I only ever hear from certain ponies once every few years."
"What did you see?!" I exclaimed feeling even more exposed.
"Oh nothing really personal, if that's what your worried about," Rocky answered cryptically waving his hoof as if he could dismiss the topic. "So whatcha wanna do?"
"Do? I was just going to sit here and wait for Strawberry to come back." I replied, what else could I possibly do? I was naked under this throw, I couldn't read, and I had no possessions really.
"Well that sounds dull," he huffed to himself. "What did you do for fun before you came to Equestria, Miss Dull Filly?"
"I'm not a filly," I replied, "I didn't have much time for fun," my tone was somewhat cold, I swallowed a bitter feeling. This world with its colours, it denizens happy and all seemingly working in places that were ideal for them; at times this world filled me with envy and anger, my old life by comparison was drudgery of the highest order. My mind flashed back suddenly, the mental and physical exhaustion, my years studying at university, my family clamouring for emotional and monetary support as I tried to claw myself into a better life. The books, so many text books read to arm myself with the tools to help those who asked, the fear and the need to know, god so many people depending on me, I shuddered violently remembering the weight of the responsibility.
"You ok in there?" Rocky asked concerned.
"I'm fine" I replied.
"I have an idea," the stallion got up suddenly and trotted out of the room, "Stay where you are missy I'll be right back!" he called out from the other room.
"Where would I go Rocky?" I called back, I couldn't keep the attitude out of my voice.
Rocky was a practical stallion in most affairs, he had the ability to read other ponies well, but tended not to show it. Having worked at the cafe for as long as he had he was a wiser stallion than most gave him credit for. Rocky was great with foals, or so said the Mares in town. He was much sought after, but remained single; this was because he had eyes only for Strawberry Dusk, most of the town knew it except for Strawberry. He had been here often, talked to Strawberry often, therefore he knew a lot about her house. The stallion reached into a drawer and pulled out exactly what he was looking for and trotted back into the sitting room with all the drawing supplies held gently in his mouth.
The purple pony entered the room, the girl was still there sitting stiffly in the corner of the couch. He couldn't speak though the supplies in his mouth so he simply walked towards the girl, dropped the crayons and paper right in front of her. He trotted around the room and found the book he was reading the last time he was here with Strawberry. He smiled, the bookmark was still there, picking the book up with his mouth he went back to the chair sat down and began reading.
After about three pages the stallion looked up, Katie was still on the couch sitting stiffly, she was staring at him with an intensity he found unnerving. "Look little bit, why don't you put crayon to paper, staring at me all afternoon isn't going to do you any favours, Celestia knows I'm no looker," he chuckled at his own self deprecating humour and looked back at his book. He waited another two pages before he glanced upward. Katie had the pad propped up in her lap and was focusing on drawing. Rocky smirked to himself and dove back into the book.
Strawberry left Rocky White at her place with little to no concern, she trusted that stallion completely. So much so her mind went right to the problem on hoof, finding that little human some clothes.
Her first plan was to see if Doctor Kindly still had the old garments Katie had been discovered in. This sadly was thwarted as the Doctor, who swore by an infinite cleanliness had thrown them out thinking they were unimportant. Strawberry knew the girl needed proper tailored clothing, and she would address that in due time. For the moment it was getting something passable for the filly’s well being.
The mare left the clinic disappointed but not discouraged. She had another idea, though admittedly not her best. Stopping in front of the shop she looked at the sign. Sunshine’s Foals Clothing, and Toys. As she entered the building a small bell tinkled softly. “I’ll be with you in just a minute,” a soft high pitched voice called out from the back of the shop. A yellow Pegasus mare appeared from among the shelves. “Oh! Hi Strawberry!” The mare trotted over and gave the pink pony a quick hug.
“Hi Sunshine,” Strawberry replied smiling. Strawberry liked Sunshine Dancer very much, the mare always seemed cheerful; not a fake cheerful, but a genuine one that lit up any room.
“Looking for something for your new little filly?” Sunshine asked.
Strawberry Dusk tilted her head in confusion. She didn’t have a new filly, if she gave birth she’d know. A few seconds passed and then it dawned on the mare. “Are you talking about Katie?”
“Yes, the whole town is talking about it. I’m so happy for you, that little creature is going to be so happy having you as a mom.” Sunshine noticed Strawberry looking very annoyed and embarrassed. “You ok, did I say something wrong?”
“Sorry Sunshine but Katie is not my foal. I don’t know who started that rumour, she is her own pony.”
Sunshine’s face fell and her ears dropped. “Oh I thought.... since I saw you carrying her... I’m sorry Strawberry,” the soft yellow mare stuttered and apologized.
Strawberry was more angry at the town in abstract than Sunshine herself. She walked up to the mare and nuzzled her. “Don’t be upset Sunshine, you didn’t know, and I guess I can see why the town would talk about it. If you don’t mind me asking what exactly did you hear?”
“Well Sunflower Swirl said you adopted Katie,” the Pegasus seemed to roll the girls name slightly. “And that the little filly needed a mom and couldn’t take care of herself very well. Everyone seemed so happy for you I just assumed it was true.” The two began walking towards the back of the store near the register.
“It’s a bit more complicated than that,” Strawberry replied stopping in front of the desk.
“These things always are,” Sunshine Dancer giggled a little, it was a natural response to break the tension. “So if that’s not why you’re here what can I help you with?”
“Well actually your first guess was not that far off. I need to find some serviceable clothes for Katie,” Strawberry coughed into her hoof feeling a bit silly after all that fuss.
Sunshine Dancer tilted her head and smiled slightly, “Complicated?”
“Complicated,” the pink mare replied with an unspoken understanding.
The yellow Pegasus nodded her head and motioned for Strawberry to follow her. “So where is the little human going?”
“Nowhere, humans always wear clothes. It is really important to them. Her only pair got destroyed, and now the filly is afraid to go outside. I need to find something she can use until I can commission something for her.”
“Really all the time, that’s an interesting quirk humm.... do you have her size?”
“Well no, her physique is quite a bit different than ours, she is really tiny, foal sized really,” Strawberry held out a hoof indicating the height of the girl.
Strawberry began looking at the clothing, anything that would be close to fitting was meant for very young foals, infants really. They had adorable designs, handles sewn into the back so mothers could easily carry them around. Sunshine was pulling out all manner of clothing to show Strawberry. The pink mare didn’t really know the little human’s state of mind. She held up an adorable one piece pj, it had strawberries patterned on it and a handle on the back and the fabric covered the hooves, it would be good for her delicate hooves, would she wear it?
The human got so upset at the oddest things. Strawberry usually knew what to do. She was a pony who always knew how to help, but at this moment she was paralyzed with indecision. She looked to Sunshine Dancer as if she had an answer.
“What do you think?” She held up the garment.
“Very cute,” Sunshine responded.
“I don’t know if she’ll wear it, it is very foalish.”
Sunshine watched the pink earth pony struggle with indecision. “Well you could buy it and if the girl won’t wear it she can learn to be without clothing. It’s really not that big of a deal is it?”
“Well it kind of is for her, but I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try, I guess I will take these ones,” Strawberry grabbed three outfits of various sizes. She deftly picked them up with her mouth and trotted toward the register. Sunshine took flight behind her and followed slowly, the yellow mare landed behind the register with grace. Sunshine ran though the items. “That’ll be 23 bits,” she said with warmth in her soft voice.
Strawberry handed over the bits and placed the clothing into one of her saddle bags. After she stored the items she thanked Sunshine for her help.
“Good luck Strawberry, I hope the little filly likes them,” Sunshine waved goodbye to Strawberry as she left the shop.
Strawberry Dusk sighed audibly, with that task done there was only one thing left to do. She needed to pick up the ingredients to make a nice dinner for herself, and possibly her human guest if she could be convinced to stay. It was about this point where ponies started to come to her. Pretty much every pony who had been in the Cafe Harmony when Katie sang showed up at one point or another to talk about what they saw. Some ponies felt and saw horrible things, others confusing images, some even saw what was clearly a disjointed fragment of Katie’s memory. Some ponies were from out of town and had heard she was the mare to talk to, other were familiar town folk that needed reassurance after what they saw. Strawberry’s fatigue began to show after the fifth pony, the stallion was talking about machines with wheels and barrels that spat fire. After buying what she needed the pink pony went straight towards home.
“Hello?” Strawberry called out as she walked into the house. She was looking for a break maybe a quite dinner and evening by the hearth.
“Katie? Rocky? I’m home,” the mare declared taking her saddle bags off in the kitchen. Rocky appeared in the doorway smiling. Strawberry’s fatigue lightened a bit seeing the stallion.
“Hey Straws, how did your errands go?” Rocky asked. “You look upset, what’s happened?” he added noticing the mare’s drooping mane and tail. The signals were subtle but visible to the stallion.
“I’ll tell you in a minute, I need a glass of cider and to sit down. Where is Katie? Did she sleep though.” Strawberry began putting groceries away while talking.
“Nope, she woke up pretty much right away. Hasn’t moved from that couch, skittish little thing she is, won’t say what she likes, won’t talk about much. Fairly good artist though.”
“I gave her some drawing supplies out of your desk to help her pass the time. It took some convincing, but I did manage to get the little bit focused on that instead of staring at me with suspicion.”
“I didn’t know she could draw.” Strawberry replied. “When do you have to be at the cafe Rocky?”
“Pretty soon, but I do have some time if you need to talk.”
Strawberry poured herself a glass of cider, she offered some to Rocky but the stallion turned down the offer. “Rocky can you carry this into the other room for me?” Strawberry gestured at her saddle bags which had been emptied of all but the foals clothing. “My hoof is busy holding a much needed cider,” She added with a smirk.
“Sure, anything for my majesty.” Rocky lower his head in a comic bow and went to grab the bags. With both object carried together they trotted towards the sitting room giggling like foals.
Strawberry and Rocky entered the room together, Katie looked up from the drawing in front of her. “What’s so funny?” She asked, smiling a little at the happiness around her. The girl might not have admitted it but drawing had lifted her spirits. Having something to focus on other than the situation at hand did her good. Around the couch were several sheets of paper each one containing a drawing in crayon. The works of art were not masterpieces but showed clear potential. One was of Rocky in a chair reading, the other was of the room itself, the third was of a flower which was sitting by the window, the fourth and final drawing was in the lap of the girl half finished.
Rocky dropped the saddle bags sitting his massive self back down in the chair, “Oh nothing, just silliness.” He replied, again waving his hoof as if this dismissed the topic.
Strawberry sat down on the couch right beside Katie being careful not to crush her drawings. “Your silliness,” she replied smiling and taking a drink of the cider in her hoof.
Katie watched quietly aware her question went unanswered. Rocky and Strawberry started talking about town ponies, and laughed about common history. The girl was suddenly filled with a sense of unreality as she sat there and neither pony seemed to care she was listening and watching. Soon she grew a bit tired of anecdotes she did not understand and went back to working on her drawing.
The conversation got serious, Katie could tell from the change in tone, her attention snapped away from what she was doing and focused entirely on Strawberry. The pink mare started talking about all the ponies that saw and felt things in the cafe, how they came to her looking for help. Telling Rocky about her frustration and exhaustion dealing with the ungrounded suspicion and fear, her annoyance at being accosted trying to get home. The implications of these words, what Rocky had said to her earlier, and Strawberry's curiosity about her experience at the cafe hit her like a punch to the gut.
“What everyone there! Everyone saw my life!” Katie exclaimed in realization interrupting Strawberry mid sentence. It was too much, being naked all day, meeting Rocky, the colours all around, and suddenly hearing everyone in that room could know things about her set the tiny human into a state. Feeling terrified and so exposed she actually dove under the throw blanket to hide. She could not stop shaking, the idea of so many ponies seeing her life and history, it made her want to disappear.
Strawberry and Rocky both looked at the small lump under the throw. Strawberry let out a large breath, she put down her cider and gently rested a hoof on the girl drawing circles as if she could provide some comfort.
"I should go." Rocky declared sensing it would be best to leave the two alone. He got out of the chair walked towards the couch and nuzzled Strawberry. “You take care of yourself Straws, remember you can't help everypony. Is it ok if I take this?" He asked, gesturing to the picture of himself that Katie drew. "Going to put it up over the bar. Not everyday you get to see yourself though the eyes of a non pony,” Strawberry gave a positive nod.
Rocky White tried to say goodbye to the little human on the couch but she refused to speak or move under the blanket. The stallion shook his head in understanding, picked up the picture, gave Strawberry a wink, and left the house heading for the cafe. Strawberry continued to sit and stroke the girl through the soft blanket thinking. Looking down at the bottom of the couch she saw a half finished crayon drawing of what was clearly a mountain range landscape. Though it was recognizable as a landscape it was not one Strawberry was familiar with, it was most likely from the girls home, wherever that was. The mare didn't realize until this very moment how much taking the human to the Cafe Harmony had hurt her. The human girl did not understand anything about harmony, magic, or the freedom in these things. Katie saw it as threatening, dangerous, and the exact opposite of healing. This realization made Strawberry feel more guilty for her error in judgement, she knew Katie had forgiven her, but that was before she understood the full implication of it all. All she could do was hope the girl would truly forgive her and learn to trust her again.
It was getting close to evening, Katie had refused to move out of her self induced isolation and had become essentially part of the furniture. Strawberry did not bother the girl, didn't force conversation on her, instead she did what she did most days, work on her correspondence with ponies all over Equestria. She was not a famous pony, but she was well known in certain circles related to her talent. Most of her bits came by way of her correspondence and letter exchanges, these had increased ten fold since the arrival of the little human, but it was still within her capacity to deal with. This arrangement allowed her to work in Hay River free of charge enjoying the process. Strawberry Dusk had found a harmony that worked for her, that is until Katie's arrival had forced the mare to drastically adjust. But Strawberry was a resilient pony, capable of much, this, though trying to the mare was not beyond her ability to cope.
The kitchen was filled with the sounds of meal prep, a pot of water on an element heating, pasta nearby, measured and ready. Strawberry busily moved to and fro prepping chopping and measuring using her mouth, she was making two meals one for herself with hay and one for the human without. The plan of action was simple, Katie has to eat sometime, make dinner, place it out on the table and coax her out to eat and talk. Strawberry had brought this human food everyday she had been here, it was something simple, something the girl could see as relatively safe. Or at lease that is what the pink earth pony hoped for.
Sounds of domestic chores around the house came muffled through the blanket Katie hid under. For a quite a long time the girl had imagined those noises as belonging to her home, closing her eyes she would think that beyond the large blanket that smelled of vanilla would be a familiar house, a familiar home. Katie never lifted the blanket forcing her imagination to construct the escape for as long as she could. As time went on the escape became less and less satisfying, little noises like clopping of hooves, or certain smells would intrude on her consciousness. Her muscles began to ache and her stomach grumbled in protest. She began to smell food wafting into the room from the kitchen.
Strawberry had just finished setting the table and dishing out food, she turned to get Katie when in the door frame stood the small creature. Lots of brown hair and a tiny head poking out of a vast comforter covering her whole body and trailing a meter or so behind her.
"You're up," Strawberry said with calm, as if the girl had just woken up from a nap. "You're just in time for dinner." she added with a gesture. Katie began to shuffle into the kitchen she looked very drowsy and even though she had spent the day on the couch there was signs of exhaustion. Strawberry cringed as the girl walked in with the blanket, that blanket was her mothers and the mare did not want it ruined. She was not sure how to say it politely so she just said it, "Um Katie could you leave the blanket in the living room, my mother made it and I don't want it ruined by getting food on it." The girl froze on the spot and looked down at the blanket and back up to the mare as if she didn't really know what to do. Strawberry watched as the girl seemed to sink in on herself.
"Umm.. I'm sorry... I'll put it back," she sniffled "and I'll go...." Katie added turning to leave the kitchen.
"Go?" Strawberry asked in bewilderment. She trotted with haste to get in front of the human. "Where are you going?"
The girl didn't reply she just kept walking, stopping at the couch she pulled the blanket off and folded it neatly. "Katie," Strawberry prodded again, "where are you going? it's cold and dark out, you have no clothes and you haven't eaten all day. I just made us dinner."
Again the tiny human didn't reply, she just stood there shivering and began moving towards the door. Strawberry was suddenly filled with a cocktail of panic, anger, annoyance, and concern. The filly was acting like a spoiled foal, and this frustration and annoyance built in Strawberry and it lead her to do something she had not done in a long time, she raised her voice.
To Strawberry's and Katie's astonishment the girl stopped suddenly.
"YOU COME BACK HERE, YOU PARK YOUR FLANK ON THAT COUCH AND TALK TO ME!"
To the mare's surprise the girl did exactly that, she turned on the spot walked back towards her and sat on the couch looking almost as shocked at her own behaviour. Strawberry came up to the couch and laid down, her hind legs were tucked up and forelegs out in front of her, she was intentionally getting down to the girls height.
Katie was vaguely aware of the pressures in the air, a bit like the cafe, it was thicker in one direction then the other. She choose to stop and turn around but it felt easier to do that then to walk away. Kind of like swimming with the current opposed to against it. Strawberry's anger and yelling had scared the girl more than she'd personally admit. The mare lay in front of her taking up her whole field of vision, Katie realized Strawberry had positioned her body so she could not go anywhere. They both sat there facing each other. Katie looked into the enormous eyes, so bright green, and so gentle.
"What's going on?” Strawberry asked quietly.
“Nothing,” the human replied quickly looking away.
“Now sweet tart I know that’s not true.” The mare gently moved closer with her muzzle. The girl tried to shy away from it. Slowly Strawberry nudged the girl using her muzzle so her head was facing forward again. Strawberry had made a decision the moment she raised her voice. It was to deal with this girl at this moment as if she were a foal. It was an intuitive judgement based on her experience, her understanding of other ponies, and her knowledge about the cutie mark magic running through the girl.“Did my asking you to put the blanket away upset you?”
“I.....yes.....no....” Katie stammered. Trying to find her feelings though a storm inside. Tears were falling and she didn’t really know why. She was crying without sobbing. “I just don’t want to be a bother to anyone. I’m not a kid, I’m an adult I shouldn’t be burdening anyone, especially someone as kind as you Strawberry,” she added as little sobs began. Everything seemed to blur, as the small sobs turned into outright crying.
Katie was scared, back in earth she never cried, feelings were things you deal with alone, on the inside. This world was changing her, she felt totally out of control. This made her feel more guilt about depending on Strawberry. She could not stop, it was the cafe all over again.
The pink mare got up from the floor trotted quickly to her saddle bags pulled out a random outfit. This level of raw feeling distressed even Strawberry who was having a crisis of her own, will getting her dressed help? Strawberry knew that the the way the outfits were built she’d have to dress the little human. She just wasn’t sure if that would help. In the end she continued down the path of treating the little human like a foal.
Katie was trying to bring her consciousness out of the back seat it had been thrust into. A voice broke through the chaos.
“Stand up sweet tart.” It was Strawberry’s kind delicate voice. Katie stood up, her body was responding not her mind. “Good filly, now give me your hind leg.... the other please,” each instruction was followed meekly. For Katie each leg felt like it had been lowered into warm water as the soft warm garment encased it.
"You're doing great love, good job, now your foreleg..... the other goes right in there, and we're almost done." The mare's voice was high and sweet as she dressed the human using her mouth to guide the garment onto her. Once all the girls limbs were in each hole Strawberry used her mouth to close up the back. The seal required her to bite it with strength, it was designed to lock at a certain pressure. This was so the foals wouldn't wiggle out of them when being carried by the handle sewn in the back. Once that was done Katie simply sat on the ground whimpering indecipherable things.
The air pressure around her lifting, Katie felt the jags of crying slowly drifting away. Her awareness was coming back to a place were she could exert some control. Strawberry's voice was like a light in the darkness, her stream of talking kept the girl aware. Suddenly her body jerked upward, she had grabbed the handle on the clothing and lifted the girl up off the ground. Strawberry carried the little human out of the living room and into the kitchen where the dinner still rested on the table somewhat cool. She gently set the human down at the table, trotting around to the other side she sat down took a breath, "Alright, lets eat before it gets really cold."
Silence echoed over the dinner table. Strawberry watched with a smile as Katie struggled to hold the utensil in her pyjama covered hooves. She could hold the object but the girl was constantly readjusting trying to get a better grip. It made dinner a slow affair.
The mare wondered, not for the first time, what was going though that little mind. As it turns out blushing was common in her species and for the same reason as ponies. Katie was very red she would not look up at Strawberry at all, the girl looked so embarrassed it made the pink pony’s heart ache. Strawberry finished eating and decided to break the silence.
“A bit for your thoughts?”
The girl put her utensil down still staring at the table. “You dressed me,” it was a whisper spoken into the dinner plate.
“I’m not a child, or a foal.”
“I know.” Strawberry answered delicately.
“I don’t know what came over me, I couldn’t stop crying.” The girls head shook in disapproval, still focused on the table deep in thought.
“I could tell.”
Strawberry having spent significant time with the girl began to notice a pattern. Katie apologized for everything, she apologized for feeling, for showing interest in things, for talking with enthusiasm. “It's ok, nothing to be sorry for, you were upset.”
“Strawberry the whole town knows my memories. I can’t stay here,” Katie looked up at the mare, there was clear anguish on her face. “But I have nowhere else to go.”
“Woah, woah, slow that galloping mind down.” Strawberry answered, she was starting to understand the girl’s sudden attempt to leave. “First of all, only the ponies in the cafe saw things, and secondly it was impressions not whole memories. Here let me show you something.” Strawberry left the kitchen and came back with Katie’s landscape drawing in her mouth, she put it down so the drawing was visible to the girl. “Is this a memory?” Strawberry asked, tilting her head.
“Really to me it’s a picture. A nice picture, but not a memory. To you it has relevance, meaning, and history because you lived it. The ponies in the cafe they don’t have your memories, they don’t know everything about you. What they have are pictures, feeling pictures, and visual pictures, no relevance or connection cause they haven't lived it you understand?”
“You said they were suspicious and upset at me though.”
“I said they were upset and suspicious of what they experienced, not of you. Big difference sweet tart.”
“Oh.” Katie seemed to think a while, “Ponies are a pretty trusting lot aren’t they?” She added, her head was resting on heart decorated pyjamas looking right at Strawberry, staring at her as if she could answer for all her kind.
“You think so?” Strawberry asked dodging the question wanting to hear the girl’s thoughts.
Katie smiled a predatory smile and laughed. Strawberry saw this look from time to time, it flittered in and out. The mare wondered if all humans had that look built into them. “I know so, if roles were reversed and I was an alien on my own world...” Katie replied, shaking her head sadly.
“You know I don’t think running all over Equestria is a good idea. In fact I would like it if you’d stay here a while. I’m worried about what I just saw in the living room," Strawberry said abruptly changing topics, the mare figured that this was the right time to ask.
Katie turned red, she was still very embarrassed, “I don’t know.. you’ve already helped me so much I don’t want to impose.”
“I’m asking you to stay here. ” The mare replied with a bit of irritation,“ if it was an imposition I wouldn’t be asking.”
“Ummm.... as long as it’s ok with you, I kind of want to stay, that house out at the end of town is scary at night.” Katie replied, thinking of that cold dark house and all the nights she spent alone there.
Strawberry silently cheered inside, she began cleaning up dinner starting with Katie’s plate.
“Let me help,” the little human said trying to get off the chair.
“No it’s fine.” Strawberry responded she had images of the girl dropping plates in her pyjama’d hooves. “Why don’t you tell me about your drawing, make that picture a memory for me, do you like mountains?”
My grandmother had a house, an old one which sat right in the middle of the mountains. She lived alone for as long as I can remember and several times a year my family would visit her there.
She had oil paintings of mountains all over her walls, she painted them, it’s how she passed the time. Sitting in her painting room she would grid a picture of the mountains, copy it to the canvas, frame it, than hang it. I always thought it a bit funny she lived in the middle of a mountain range, but she’d choose to copy pictures from calendars.
Behind the house was a railroad track. A really old one no longer in service, you’d walk out the back yard and there it was. We would walk the track for three minutes or so and be in forest. Not like the forest here Strawberry, I’m talking old growth forest. A kind of forest that if you went two hundred paces in any direction you could get lost.
I remember walking with my father and looking off the path, it would drop off and light would just disappear. I’d think of all the things that would jump out to get you. We’d follow the path and it’d open to a river fast and muddy green. An old railway bridge spanned it. We’d cross it every time, I hated and loved crossing that bridge. Around me mountains towering in all directions, below me a river. The wood slates were far apart, so far it felt like I could slide right through, there was no railing or anything. I remember looking down seeing the rushing green water and rocks. Carefully I would step on the separated wood. He wasn’t afraid, so I couldn’t be either.
I remember my brother and I going into that forest for a whole day. We’d built little houses out of moss found on the trees. That forest got less scary as I grew, I learned my grandfather’s ashes were scattered at that bridge, my grandmother’s too when she eventually passed, my aunt is scattered around a tree next to it, I was there when they did that. I guess you could say mountains are in my family, or my family are in the mountains. I suppose I’ll never see that forest, or those mountains again.
Katie got off the chair after everything was cleaned and put away. She tried to stand to her full height only to find herself sprawled out on the floor. The pyjamas being built for pony bodies pushed her forward in the back. The fabric had stretch, the girl could walk but it took a lot of energy. Being unprepared for this fact meant the poor human was laying on the floor looking up at the roof.
“You ok?” Strawberry asked with concern.
“Yeah I’m fine, these are just temporary right?" she pulled at the garment," I mean it’s better than being naked but I feel like a toddler.” Katie added, not moving off the floor.
“You know, a toddler. A little human who is just learning to walk. They toddle along.”
"What they make smaller humans! I didn't think you could get any tinier," Strawberry joked.
"Ha, ha, very funny," Katie replied dryly.
Strawberry chuckled. “Do you want help?” The mare asked standing by the human looking down at her from what seemed to be miles away.
“No I’m good” Katie rolled into a position in which the clothing felt most comfortable. On her hands and knees she slowly began to stand. She took three steps and started to tip forward, she put her arms up preparing for the fall, suddenly her forward momentum ceased.
“Gotcha!” came Strawberry’s muffled voice though the handle on the back. Katie’s being at an angle her feet had no grip and suddenly slipped out from under.
“Ahhh!” The girl exclaimed, almost having her dinner make a second appearance, as the fabric went taught.
“Relax I gotcha,” came Strawberry’s muffled voice. “Quite shifting around please or I’m going to drop you.”
Katie hung limply by the handle in Strawberry’s mouth, her back legs tucked up to balance the weight.
“Strawberry can you put me down please?” Katie asked, half heartedly.
“Welcome aboard the pink pony express line, it goes straight to you room sorry no stops.” The mare mumbled and trotted with the girl swaying by the handle in front of her.
Katie smiled to herself it was a really novel experience. Everything looked so different as Strawberry moved though the house. She was really enjoying the ride but was to embarrassed to admit it.
In what seemed like a blink they were standing in a guest room. It was a tiny room with an enormous bed close to the ground. The house the town had lent to Katie had no bed, so just seeing it made her dream of curling up under covers.
“You ready?” Strawberry asked.
“Ready for what?” Katie replied.
Suddenly the swaying motion increased. The mare swaying her head back and forth as if she was going to toss the little human.
Katie’s stomach lurched. “Strawberry don’t you dare,” her voice was high and tight with fear.
“One.......Two” each time it corresponded with the highest point of the swing, “Three!” The mare let go and tossed the little human up aiming for the mattress.
Katie screamed in genuine fear, her whole world was tumbling, suddenly she saw the mattress and tried to adjust her body for the fall.
The mattress took her fall easily, landing in the centre. Katie caught her breath, heart hammering in her chest she laughed loudly, in between chuckles she couldn’t help exclaiming. “That was fun! Can we do it again?”
Strawberry smiled enjoying the little human's delight, shaking her head she replied, “Nope, sorry sweet tart the pink pony express is only once a night.”
It was the middle of the night, everything was silent and pitch black. The only noise came from a small figure standing at the threshold of Strawberry’s bedroom. It shifted back and forth sending off waves of indecision. The movement and noise eventually woke the sleeping mare. Strawberry rolled, raised her head and noticed the little figure standing there. A bolt of fear ran through the pony, her thinking mind caught up, she remembered Katie was in the house with her.
“Katie? Is that you? What’s wrong?”
The little human was not having a good night, about two hours ago she discovered a pressing need to use the washroom. This was not a problem in itself except Katie discovered she could not remove the pyjamas. No matter how much strength she brought to bare on the garment it would not release.
The prospect of getting Strawberry to help her seemed unthinkable. She didn’t want to wake the kind pony for something so embarrassing as needing help going to the bathroom. But as time passed she couldn’t sleep and the need grew to the point pride began to give way, it lead her to standing at the threshold of Strawberry’s room.
“I’m really sorry to wake you Strawberry, but need to use the bathroom and I can’t get out of these pyjamas.”
“Oh of course! I’m so sorry I should have asked if you needed to go before bed. I didn’t think about the pressure lock on the back. Come here and I’ll release it for you.”
“Ummm....” Katie didn’t move, “can you please come to me I don’t want to fall in these.” The girl instinctually knew falling would be the worst of all outcomes. She fought this possibility all night, this request seemed safer.
“Oh, I guess I’ll take you there.” Strawberry got up, her massive body rising from the bed moving towards the human.
To Katie all ponies seemed to loom over her. Their size always made the girl afraid, things like being trampled, kicked, or bitten were never to far from her mind. It was dark so Strawberry was like a giant shadow growing in front of her, getting larger with each step.
“Oh you don’t have to take me I’m a grown woman. Just show me how to get out of this.”
Strawberry lowered her head as if to butt the girl.
“Strawberry! I... ”Katie exclaimed just as the mare gently grabbed the handle on the back and lifted her with care.
Thank you for your input. In regards to your question. It’s hard to tell but I do think the harmony nexus at the cafe is trying to ‘bring her in’ so to speak. I find it interesting that it spread to everypony in the cafe the way it did. And they came to you, makes me think of the theories of harmony networks. I have enclosed some book titles and references about this topic. Only as a suggestion, not an assignment, Celestial knows I can't assign you homework you’re not a filly anymore.
It is perfectly natural for you to be expressing doubts, but I don’t think you give yourself enough credit. I can’t think of a more skilled harmony pony than you, the town is lucky to have you in such a turbulent time. I’m not just saying this as your teacher but also as your friend.
Do what comes natural, as always trust your talent, and don’t be a stranger. If you are in Canterlot bring the filly I’d love to meet her.
Forever yours, River Flows.
It had been five days since Katie had agreed to stay, and to the mare’s concern the human had not left the house. They developed a pattern, the girl would wake, Strawberry would make breakfast for both of them, when finished eating she would help the girl out of the infant foal pyjamas. Katie would stay naked in the house all day until Strawberry came home, then she would help the girl back into the garments to eat dinner. After eating both would move to the living room where Strawberry would then give the girl a reading lesson till she started yawning and carry her to bed. Strawberry still did not tell the girl about the cutie magic growing in her, some instinct told her to not to share just yet. Though unspoken she was always on the lookout for manifestations of it.
Originally Strawberry had wanted to get the girl a foal sitter. But Katie’s visceral response had made the pony relent. So the human was left alone during the day. Strawberry worried constantly about leaving her there, especially given the girl’s unpredictable behaviour. In the end she could not put her life on hold and had to go about her day to day business trusting the girl would look after herself.
“So that’s my problem Rocky,” Strawberry said, taking a drink of cider.
Rocky stood behind the counter, idly cleaning a glass and looking around the cafe. The cafe was quiet, it has been since that little bit sang, he thought looking back to the pink mare sitting in front of him. “So let me get this straight she feels safe with you, but she has gotten more afraid of going out and won’t leave the house?” Rocky responded.
“Yes, every time I try to get her to come out with me she reacts so fearfully I can’t bring myself to force the matter.”
“Hmmmmm.... how about this if the little bit won’t go out to meet other foals, why don’t you bring them to her. Throw a dinner party or something with lots of guests and they can bring their colts and fillies.”
“That’s a brilliant idea Rocky! You’re a genius!” Strawberry exclaimed.
Rocky smirked slightly, “oh you know I try. It’s just my master plan to eat your wonderful hay casserole.”
“Who says you’re invited?” Strawberry gave the stallion a pointed look.
“Straws I’m hurt,” Rocky took in a breath as if he was deeply wounded. The effect was ruined by his massive smile. “So let me know when so I can book the time off.”
Strawberry sang a song before she left the cafe. It was slightly different than the songs she normally sang, it was quicker and much less classical.
The mare walked home thinking to herself, she was changing as all ponies are. River Flows her past teacher would say it folly to think ponies can exist without changing. The key would be to harness that change to a new harmony that works for you.
My songs are changing, that human is changing me, wether or not they’d acknowledge it she is changing the whole town. Even the ponies in the cafe who heard her carried that all over Equestria. The alien feelings, the alien pictures, all of it being enfolded into the world. It’s a give and take though, mused Strawberry. Equestria is taking her in, the question becomes how much will she take Equestria in herself.
Katie watched as Strawberry left for the day. Once the pink pony closed the door she took large breath walked to the couch and wrapped herself in the throw blanket. She was beginning to feel a bit better about being naked, not around ponies mind you, but by herself in Strawberry’s house it was kind of ok.
The last week felt like a weird surreal dream. Strawberry was unfailingly understanding and supportive. The mare seemed to understand her, well as much as a pony could. She helped when Katie needed help, and gave her space when she needed space. Always there, ready for anything when she was home.
Katie started to miss the mare terribly when she went out for the day. She did not want to go out though, the magic, thoughts of losing control, ponies she didn’t know, all these thing developed a fear in the girl, it made her feel a bit trapped and alone. This feeling always lifted when the pink pony came home calling out to the girl from the door. But that was always a long way away from this point.
Katie had made slow progress with reading, but it was too hard to be fun. She could only focus on it for a half an hour. She’d then draw for a bit till that grew tiresome. Finally landing where she did for the last few days. Boredom and listlessness.
This listlessness began to eat at her, it felt as if her brain was turning to mush. She wanted to do everything but ended up doing nothing. Wondering around the house thinking of trying things but dismissing them just as she entertained the idea. Over time one idea seemed to take priority, an idea of trying to do something for Strawberry. This coalesced into a plan in which the girl was going to surprise the mare with dinner.
All the obstacles that stood in the way, the size of the kitchen, her inability to read, the difference between pony and human tastes seemed less and less significant. Her rational mind told her no, but she was being pulled to try by a combination of circumstance, something inside her, and a magnetic feel in the air. Today was the day she acted, once she had done some reading work, and at bit of drawing she went into the kitchen to put her plan into action.
The walk home was pleasant, the sun was shining brightly, wispy clouds hung in a bright blue sky the odd pegasus pony could be seen lazily gliding by. Strawberry was in an excellent mood she had just come from Ebony Breeze's house, the last of her stops, she had planned the dinner to be in four days. She hoped this would give her enough time to get the requisite materials, but also enough time for the little human take in and accept what was going to happen. Overall Strawberry was very pleased with herself, plan in place, the prospect of a nice dinner with friends and their families and a beautiful day, what more could a mare ask for?
The pony entered her house with a big relieving sigh, taking off her saddle bags placing them near the door she called out, "Katie I'm home! How was your afternoon?" affection flooded the mare she was beginning to enjoy coming home to the mischievous little filly, and at that moment she wanted nothing more than to give her a hug.
It took a few moments for Strawberry to become aware of the smell in the air, it smelt like something was on fire. She sniffed the air suspiciously, walking towards the source with a quickened pace,"Katie!" she called out again, no answer. Reaching the kitchen door it became obvious where the smoke and smell were wafting from. Opening the door she was met with absolute calamity. A large pot of half cooked pasta lay spilled on the floor, the oven was turned off, but smoke seemed to lazily curl from a pan, looking in it she could see hay. It almost seemed as if someone had tried to fry it, but expectedly it had burnt. Strawberry began to take in the entirety of what lay in front of her and a creeping worry began to climb up her withers. Was this Katie? What if she scalded herself? What if she is hurt? or ran off like she was going to do a few days ago? She dumped the pan in the sink ran some water, checked elements and the stove, opened a window.
"Katie!" she yelled to be heard through the whole house, fear creeping in, "Where are you?! if you’re in the house I need to talk to you!"
Still no answer. Strawberry trotted out of the kitchen towards the living room. Peeking in she called out to the girl again. Quickly the mare began a systematic search looking under everything and anywhere the little human could hide.
She had looked all over the house except her office. The room was where Strawberry worked on her correspondence. It was a room with a large desk and many books littered about. Strawberry opened the door slowly, quietly walking into the space. She could her muttering and whispering coming from under her desk.
“I’m in control...... I’m not a child.... I know....why did I do it?.”
“Why am I here? I’m real.... this is real....... I knew but couldn’t stop .... inappropriate, inconsiderate.... I’m useless....”
“Not a child, I remember.......I remember too much for it to be unreal..... I’m in control....”
“Katie?” Strawberry spoke softly into the room. Everything suddenly went silent, “Are you ok? You can come out, I’m not mad.” The human did not move from the space under the desk. She didn’t speak either.
It was a writers desk for earth ponies. It backed against the far wall, the front sloped downward towards the floor, this was needed so she could write with her mouth comfortably. It was a natural lean-to for the human to climb under.
Even with the support beams out of the way Strawberry was still much to large to fit under the desk where Katie sat. She considered just simply moving the desk but dismissed the idea, it seemed to aggressive. She hadn’t understood fully what the girl was saying, but there was an intensely fragile tone in the human’s words, she could hear that clear as day.
Strawberry cleared a space on one side of the desk, laying down she poked her head through the supports, it was all that could fit and it was very uncomfortable for the mare. She saw Katie sitting with a pad of paper in front of her crayons scattered about. She had the remains of the attempted dinner on her. Her hair was knotted and tangled, and frankly she smelled poorly. Up to this point Strawberry put a lot of trust in the girl to take care of her self. That needed to be readjusted, another hard conversation the pink pony sighed inwardly. Looking up slightly the mare noticed the underside of the desk was papered with drawings, ones she hadn’t seen before. They were obviously drawings of her home, this Strawberry knew intuitively.
“Hi sweet tart, you ok?” Strawberry asked.
The girl shook her head negatively.
“No” Strawberry replied.
The girl shook her head again.
“I see, well I need you to come out from there. Will you come out for me love?” Strawberry voice was soft and kind.
Katie had expected yelling, anger, anything but the kind almost heart breaking sweetness of Strawberry’s words. She spontaneously reached out and gently stroked the mare on the muzzle examining it intensely. Katie had never felt something so soft, there was a strong pink colour at the base of the fur lightening as the hair got longer. Their eyes locked as the little human’s hands continued to explore Strawberry’s face. She cupped the side of the muzzle near the eyes and moved up towards the ear. Once there she began to run her fingers through the impossibly red mane grabbing an individual strand in her fingers, breaking eye contact she looked at it taking notice of its size and coarseness.
"So red, so very real." Katie whispered to herself.
Strawberry was frozen, she ached all over but didn't move something was happening here. She did not really understand exactly what or why but it seemed important to let the human explore her up close.
“You like my mane?” She asked.
Katie did not reply, she simply kept looking. After several seconds Strawberry could no longer hold her position on the floor anymore. “Well how about you come out of there and I’ll help you get cleaned up and dressed.” The mare pulled away from the desk standing up to her full height. To Strawberry’s relief the girl crawled out from the desk and meekly stood beside her. Ushering Katie forward with a hoof and lowering her head she gave the little human a nudge forward. She continued to prod the girl all the way to the bathroom.
Katie began to pull herself together during the walk. She was still shocked at what happened in the kitchen. She couldn’t cook back home, what made her think that she could do it here? She wanted to talk to Strawberry about the forces in the air that pushed her to do things, but at the same time she avoided it. Talking about it made it more real. She felt terrible about the kitchen, she just wanted to repay the mare with a kind gesture, and instead had created problems for her. With this world being as big as it was it made her feel small. Strawberry always treated her well, though sometimes like a child and other times like an adult. With the world around her so big and ponies referring to and seeing her as a foal most times she was in the midst of an identity crisis. Was she a child? or was she an adult? Do those distinctions matter? Could she be a child here if she wanted? Was that something she wanted? How would Strawberry react?
The girl fought with herself, all her life she was an adult, a parent, she had to be. Facing the dark cold world with a stalwart seriousness she swore off 'being a child' long ago. Any slip she made growing up, even the tiniest crack of emotional immaturity was met with mockery and derision, such things were the luxury of others. This situation created a difficult conflict for the little human, the world told her to be childlike and that was ok, but her mind fought it with a lifetime of emotional memories.
The two entered the washroom, Strawberry cleared her throat to ready herself for a tough conversation. “Katie would you look at me please? I want to ask you something personal” The girl turned around and looked up at her with a bit of fear in her eyes.
“Alright so I need to ask, when was the last time you had a shower?”
Katie flinched, “I used the hay river once when I got here. And the sink a couple of times.” Katie replied looking down at the tiled floor.”
“Why haven’t you used the shower in the house?”
Katie seemed to struggle with answering, “if I tell you, you promise not to laugh?”
“Oh love I would never laugh at you. You can tell me.”
“It’s too big, I’m worried about being trapped in it and drowning,” the girl went a brilliant shade of crimson.
Strawberry mulled over what the girl said. It was by no means an unreasonable fear. The water volume and height of the sides of the basin would make it difficult for her. Strawberry made up her mind just then, the girl was sending off signs of being more foal then mare.
“Okie Doike, time for a shower. Get your flank in the tub, I’ll help you.”
Katie shook her head “No.”
A small smirk grew on the mares face, “sorry sweet tart that wasn’t a request, and this isn’t a debatable topic. In the tub.”
Katie took two steps and then stopped, “ can’t Strawberry, I can’t, it’s to embarrassing.”
“What’s embarrassing about getting help if you need it?”
The girl pulled a face, one Strawberry had yet to see. It looked to be a mixture of thoughtful and having eaten something bitter. “It’s not the same.”
“Not going to hear it, just trust me you’ll be ok. Now last time, in.... the.... tub.....” Strawberry emphasized each word slowly walking toward the girl.
Katie’s mind was in such turmoil she felt as if others could hear it. In the seconds before Strawberry advanced on her she decided to trust the pony. Rationally speaking she had been naked in front of the mare lots of times, she helped her in and out of stuff all the time. This wasn’t to much, right? A shower would feel amazing.
The lip of the tub it was just below the height of Strawberry's barrel and bit taller than Katie standing at full height. Katie reached up and grabbed the edge, she began to haul herself up but finding little purchase she struggled, suddenly a force pushed into her backside lifting her up. She squeaked in surprise, turned and saw Strawberry giving her a boost with her muzzle. Once over the edge the girl slid down to the bottom. Sitting alone at the bottom of the tub naked she shivered, it was cold and all around her were walls of porcelain that curved at the bottom, there was no way she could get out on her own, and she couldn't see Strawberry anywhere.
"Strawberry?" Katie called out, her nervous voice bounced off the hard surfaces.
"I'm still here sweet tart, you're ok, I haven't gone anywhere I'm just grabbing some things," the mare replied reassuringly.
After a few silent moments Katie saw the massive mare step over the edge into the tub as if it meant nothing to her, "Scoot back a bit love," Strawberry said, while positioning herself to mess with the faucet and knobs, which were like everything else, out of the girls reach. Looking up all Katie could see was the neck, head, and barrel of the pink mare, shadows covered all the white surfaces.
The water came down in a torrent, hot and wonderful drenching the human to the bone in an instant. There was so much water she had trouble breathing, Katie began to panic fearing being drowned suddenly.
"Strawberry! too much water!" Katie cried out.
"It's ok love, I've got you," Strawberry replied, looking down at the girl. She carefully positioned her body to block most of the flow so the little human was getting the deflected water off her body not the full force of the shower head. "There we go, much better " Strawberry said, quite pleased with herself, she loved showering.
Katie began to relax a bit, Strawberry's body blocked most of the torrent and her breathing calmed down. Closing her eyes she lifted her head and let the deflected water cascade over her naked form.
Strawberry began the process of cleaning herself. She kept a close eye on the girl who still stood stiffly underneath her. She reflected on how fragile and tiny Katie seemed, limbs like little sticks, no fur, it made the mare think of a fledgling bird.
Strawberry finished her task the girl had soap and shampoo on her in places. The pony shut the shower off plugged the bottom and began to run a bath for the girl.
Katie looked up, “Aren’t we done?” she asked over the roar of water.
“I am, you’re not,” Strawberry stated simply. The water filled until it reached just under the girl’s bust, and Strawberry shut off the tap.
Katie still held herself stiff like a board, Strawberry watched as she stood in the water looking around. The mare sat herself down with a splash that soaked the human again. Katie turned, there was unreadable look on her face.
Strawberry smiled tilted her head. Suddenly Katie reacted bashfully tensing up more and turning away from the mare.
At that moment Strawberry wasn’t sure why she did it, she leaned in behind the girl and whispered, “relax.” Her tongue shot out and she gave the girl a lick right between her shoulders. It was something done with very young foals to calm them down. Strawberry leaned back suddenly afraid she’d done something inappropriate. Katie shivered and turned around very fast.
Katie looked up at the pink pony, she seemed to be blushing. “Sorry, that was instinct, I shouldn’t have done that.” Strawberry said looking everywhere else but the human in front of her.
“It’s ok,” Katie replied quickly.
The little human’s reaction was more surprise than anything else. What Strawberry did had an almost soporific effect on her. She instantly wanted her to do it again. Instead of speaking more the girl dove under the water and swam to the end of the tub. The human had so much built up energy, due to being indoors for so long.
Strawberry laughed and cracked a huge smile, “Well look at you, you’re like a little fish.”
Katie smiled back at her, “Humans can be good swimmers,” she answered. Diving under again she swam to the mare popping out of the water with a splash. She did this for about five minutes swimming back and forth well Strawberry watched. Expending as much nervous energy as possible.
“Ok that’s enough play, come here,” Strawberry said gently after the girl popped up again from under the water.
The mare let the girl do most of her own bathing. Once all that was finished Katie look much happier and a lot cleaner. Strawberry pulled the plug on the tub, “hold on to my hoof please,” The mare stated. Katie hugged the mare’s foreleg while the water emptied. The current was strong but not so much so that it caused problems.
Strawberry lowered her head and Katie climbed into her neck shifting onto her back, holding on to her damp mane. The mare stood up and stepped out of the tub with the girl on her back.
Katie sat on Strawberry's bed dressed in pyjamas waiting quietly, in front of her rested a foal’s book she was working on reading, but her heart wasn't in it. All her thoughts were directed towards what just happened and the conversation to come. Strawberry made it clear she was going to clean the kitchen, write a few letters and then be back to talk about what happened. There was a consistent kindness in Strawberry that Katie was beginning to trust, so though she feared the conversation it was not the dread that comes with worrying about being harangued or berated.
Organizing her thoughts Katie began to slowly see, today was a start to a vast rearrangement of thinking. Up to this point the whole experience of being in Equestria, massive ponies, and living with Strawberry seemed too absurd to be true. In some ways in the back of her mind she assumed it was temporary, it was merely a way station back to her old life. Today sitting under the desk the reality came crashing down on her, she was an alien on a world all alone, the only of her kind, small, tiny and seemingly useless, feeling both controlled and at the same time out of control.
Strawberry's kindness and care soothed some of the crushing trauma. The most pressing question the girl began to ask herself was how to explain to this kind pink pony why she destroyed the kitchen without sounding crazy.
Meanwhile Strawberry sat at her desk trying to finish a pile of correspondence but in truth she was thinking more about cutie magic. What she witnessed was not just the mischievousness of a pre cutie filly. What she saw was something much more raw. A deep seeded something the mare could not put her hoof on. She shifted a new parchment over and wrote one line in elegant script.
I’m in control?
What was Katie referring too? Is she ready to hear about cutie mark development? Or is that too much too quickly? Strawberry tapped her pen on the desk in thought.
In the end she only replied to half the ponies in her pile. The mare got off the desk and stretched, pushing her front hooves forward, lowering her head and arching her back. She went to the kitchen, now clean and organized, grabbing a drink she slowly made her way to the bedroom where Katie sat patiently waiting.
Strawberry entered her bedroom, Katie looked up from where she sat on the bed.
“How’s the reading going?”
“it’s ok I guess.” She replied, closing the book.
Strawberry nodded her head and sat down next to the girl. “So you want the practical stuff first? Or the serious stuff first?”
“Practical please,” Katie still had no idea how she was going to express herself.
“Ok first off you are not to touch the stove when I’m not home, if you are hungry there are snacks you can eat in the cupboards.” Katie nodded her head meekly. “Secondly you are not to go into my office without permission, you didn’t know but I keep confidential stuff in there. It is off limits till I say otherwise understood?” Strawberry watched the girl closely, she nodded again looking at the blanket on the bed. Thirdly we need to get you proper clothes, though you look adorable." Katie looked up and smiled a little. "They are not meant for the long term, but in order to get you new clothes it requires a trip to Vanhoover. So here is the deal when you feel strong enough to cope with a train ride, and a major city of ponies you tell me. We will go together and get you out of the foal pyjamas. That timeline is yours.”
Strawberry took a sip of her drink to rest her voice and give Katie time to process.
“The final matter is a bit more positive, I am having a dinner party for friends and their families in four days. I very much want you to take part, even if that means you sit next to me the whole night quite as a tiny breezie. That timeline is mine and I want to tell you so you have time to think about it. So any questions love?”
“No I understand," Katie replied quietly, “I don’t mean to be a burden or difficult. I just couldn’t stop myself, I'm really sorry about what happened," there was a silence between them. "Strawberry?"
"Are ponies controlled by magic in the air?” Katie decided to go at her experience from an angle.
“Controlled? I don’t understand, what do you mean?”
“It’s just that......” Katie struggled to speak, like the words were stuck in her throat. Then suddenly out it came, her experience at the cafe, crying, needing to make something in the kitchen. Her feeling the pressures in the air forcing her to do things. The feeling like she had no control of her actions in this world at times.
Strawberry listened silently letting the girl talk herself out. At first the mare was somewhat confused but slowly Strawberry began to understand. Katie was physically feeling what most ponies could only describe in abstract, she was feeling the magic of harmony in the air. Most colts and fillies learned instinctually how to live in harmony, Katie on the other hand was a late joiner, not to mention an alien. It was as if every pony lived underwater and the pressures became normal so they would not feel it, to this little filly tossed into the sea pressures were everywhere. The girl finished pouring her heart out the mare reached out a hoof and drew the girl closer to her. “Listen closely love, you're not a burden, I do things like this because I care, not because I expect you to pay me back exactly in kind. Now lift your ears I’m going to teach you something.”
"Some ponies without really realizing it act or speak as if all of Equestria forced them to do it," there were not that many Strawberry was only referring to several case studies within journals of extreme disharmony. "What they feel is kind of like they are not in control of their actions. They speak as if route simply because they feel they must even thought they might not want to. To these ponies it is like Equestria is controlling them by forcing them to do something contrary to how they feel."
"But the truth is harmony cannot force, it cannot control, if it did so it would not be harmonious. These ponies are not in control because they haven't or won't take the time to understand how they feel. If they examined that then this pressure would change, harmony is a force that works with you for good or bad. So you say that the pressure in the air forced you into the kitchen to try and make me a dinner, and that you could not stop yourself, yes?" Strawberry asked.
"Yes," Katie replied in an uncertain tone.
"Did you really truly want to stop? How did you feel?"
"I... yes... well I wanted to do something nice for you."
"Ummm hummm." Strawberry nodded indicating she wanted Katie to elaborate.
"It was just that you were doing so many nice things, and I was just sitting in the house feeling like... I don't know useless. I was worried about being burdensome, or that you'd resent me or something cause I couldn't do things. I just figured I'd try to show you I can be useful."
"Resent you?" Strawberry asked somewhat shocked at the girl expressing such a thought.
"Yeah... I guess."
"Ok and this is where you say the 'air' pushed you?"
"Seems to me that you were not so much being forced as reinforced."
"But Strawberry I know I can't cook, and yet I felt compelled to try. Even when things started to go wrong I kept going until I had to stop cause of the smoke."
Strawberry immediately knew this statement had more to do with cutie mark magic than harmony in the air so she kind of chose at the moment to glide over it. "Well here is what we are going to do, when you feel this pressure in the air, you tell me, you tell me what you want ok? If it is out in the open we can talk about it and we can work on channeling that harmony towards things that make you feel in control. Will you do that for me?”
“I guess, I’m really sorry Strawberry I feel so guilty and embarrassed. I should know better,” Katie answered.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself sweet tart you’re still young,”
“Am I though?”
Strawberry laughed a bit, noticing the girl stricken face she spoke quickly, “I’m not laughing at you love. Look think of it like this if it's causing you trouble. In the eyes of Equestria and in your experience with harmony you are young. Missteps can and will be forgiven, I certainly don’t expect you to be a pillar of Equestria in a week. I merely expect you to grow here as best you can.”
"I'm already a grown up Strawberry."
"Come now Katie think about it, when has any pony ever really completely stopped growing?" Strawberry replied, giving her a gentle squeeze.
That little filly is actually talking about feeling harmony! Can you believe it? At first I was thinking she was being metaphorical, but the more I talk to her about it the more I’m certain. Katie can physically feel harmony magic in Equestria.
It is causing her distress at the moment though, she says it is pushing her like waves in a pool. I’m not completely sure how to deal with it all, I don’t know what harmony magic feels like. I need contact info Flowy. Any pony that has experience with things close to this. If I could lean on your connections a bit, oh wonderful teacher of mine.
Always with you, Strawberry Dusk
After eating breakfast Strawberry began to get herself ready to go out for the afternoon. Katie watched all this quietly sitting off to the side.
“Something on your mind love?” Strawberry asked.
The girl seemed to struggle with sharing her thoughts. “Do you have to go out?”
Since the incident in the kitchen two nights ago Katie was always underhoof. Even asking to sit in her office with her while she worked. Strawberry allowed it because she was in the room with her, she didn’t mind the girls attention too much, the only thing that got on her nerves was the worry of accidentally running into her. Katie did have a habit of sneaking up and appearing suddenly.
“You know, you could always come out with me. The town ponies are really rather nice. You don’t have to stay cooped up in the house all day.”
Katie expressed hesitation which Strawberry saw as an opportunity, the girl up to this point had been adamant in her refusals. “If it makes it easier I could carry you on my back while I do my daily rounds.”
To Katie the prospect of another afternoon alone in the house with little to do felt horrible. But to go out with Strawberry and endure the stares and attentions of the town ponies seemed equally distasteful. “If I come do I have to talk with them?” Katie was worried the pressures in the air would make her say things or do things she be embarrassed about.
Strawberry laughed a little. “No love you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. I’ll do the talking if need be.” Strawberry watched the girl knowing how big of a step she was contemplating taking. She silently cheered the little human onward in her mind.
“Ok, can I come with you?”
“Absolutely sweet tart, do you want to change into the pyjamas that don’t cover your hooves?”
Katie looked down at the strawberry patterned fabric that covered her hands. “Yeah I think that would be a good idea.”
The clothing had little butterflies printed all over it. This outfit was less comfortable, it put more pressure on places that made movement for Katie difficult. The upside was it allowed the girl to get a better grip on Strawberry because they didn’t cover her hands.
The mare lowered her head Katie looked for a way to climb on without tugging on her mane. Strawberry noticed the girl’s nervousness. “Just climb on love, don’t worry I’m made of tough stuff.”
Katie climbed up the pink mare wrapping her legs around the neck she settled her head between Strawberry’s ears resting on top of her mane. Taking a large inhale after climbing, the smell of vanilla was very strong, but not overpowering. To Katie it had become a relaxing scent, this prompted the girl to close her eyes a moment and take it in. Her reflection was broken suddenly.
“Comfortable up there?” Strawberry asked, getting the last of her things stowed away in the saddle bags.
“Good hold on tight love, I don’t want you taking a tumble. I rather have a pull on my mane than a hurt little human. Understand?”
“Good filly, off we go into the great beyond,” Strawberry chuckled at her own humour opened the door with her mouth. The two trotted out into a bright morning.
Katie knew from the few times that Strawberry did carry her, it required quite a bit of skill to stay on. A lot of her focus had to be completely on the mare, was she going to move her head? turn? laugh? all these behaviours became things to anticipate. As for Strawberry she just seemed to take for granted that Katie would stay on no matter what she did.
As the two began to walk towards the market Katie took everything in with different eyes. Atop Strawberry she was able to more fully comprehend the situation around her. Everything was so bright, quaint, and enormous. Things like benches and bushes which lined the path were large. Looking into the sky it seemed like a hyper real painting, impossibly blue, with clouds shaped into unexpected forms.
Suddenly the girl spotted a blue pegasus pony flying by pushing a big fluffy cloud. Katie closed her eyes suddenly her heart hammering in her chest, it’s too much she thought to herself burying into Strawberry’s mane. The girl snuggled down shutting the world out for a minute or two.
Strawberry felt the movement in her mane, the little heart beating rapidly against her back.
“Mmmm hummm,” came a quite mumble.
Strawberry took the statement at face value, continuing to trot towards the market. She was rather enjoying the morning, feeling both proud of her little human, and boastful of herself. Having Katie join her was going to make the day quite enjoyable. With the worry of leaving her home alone lifted Strawberry felt like she could fly like a pegasus.
After a few minutes of quite companionship Katie lifted her head from the mane and spoke softly. “Strawberry what exactly do you do when you go out in the afternoons?”
“Oh I walk the town, talk to ponies, help them sometimes if they need a hoof. As a harmony pony it is good to be available, but most of what I do is talk. I usually have to visit doctor Kindly to hear updates on things. Which reminds me he will probably want to examine you when we get there today. A checkup from what happened in the cafe.”
Katie made a low growling groaning type noise Strawberry had not heard before. “I’d rather not.” She replied.
Strawberry did not acknowledge what Katie said, the girl was going to get looked over. Health was not a thing the mare would compromise about.
The two entered what looked to be a Main Street of sorts. Many different coloured ponies were trotting about, several were setting up stalls to sell merchandise. Katie took it in for all of a few seconds before choosing the safety of the bright red mane.
Strawberry spent a lot of time talking, Katie would rise up periodically look around and then snuggle back into darkness, as if she were grabbing gulps of air. Many ponies tried to interact with the girl, but Strawberry true to her word did all the talking, usually waving away the attention from the girl by saying she was shy or tired. In between conversations or locations the girl would ask questions of the mare.
Some were childish questions about what signs said, what plants were called, others baffled the mare though, she'd use words that didn't have meaning to Strawberry at all. She tried to answer the simple questions, as for the more confusing ones she told Katie she did not understand. The sheer volume of baffling questions really hit Strawberry hard, the pony was beginning to understand Katie's frustration at the cafe, when she said no on understood her and thought she was speaking a different language. The reality was that yes this little human was in some ways still speaking a different language.
Strawberry’s stomach let out a large and audible growl. “I think it’s lunch time,” The mare said aloud not really looking for Katie as she could still be felt resting on her head. Strawberry had a favourite restaurant to eat at, it was a quite Daisy sandwich place with a patio that backed onto the path. Strawberry enjoyed pony watching while she ate.
Placing an order for herself and a small dish for Katie that she would be able to digest. Strawberry went out to get a table, once she found one she reached around and grabbed Katie by the handle on her back and placed her gently on the table. The chairs were to big so eating on the table would have to do.
“So how are you doing? Not that bad huh?” Strawberry asked looking at the girl who seemed lost looking over the edge of the table. “Away from the edge please,” She added her hoof shot out and pushed Katie away.
The girl slid on the table surface toward the centre. Giving Strawberry a slight frown she stayed put. “It’s ok I guess.” Katie replied, the girl did not like how open and on display she was. The pyjamas fit oddly they were patterned for infants and she could not stand up in them. It was easier on Strawberry’s back, she could pretend no one could see her. Here sitting on a lunch table in a restaurant that illusion did not exist. Ponies walking by smiled patronizing smiles and waved at her. She couldn’t help smiling and waving back as the pressure in the air pushed her suddenly. Immediately a flush of red crept up into her cheeks and neck.
“Strawberry why do ponies see me as a foal?” Katie asked suddenly it was a question which she’d been afraid to ask. But the smiles from the passing ponies forced it out of her.
Strawberry tapped the bottom of her muzzle with a hoof, “ Let me see, well your size obviously, another could be your eyes.”
“Yep very young foals have smaller eyes, kind of like yours.”
“The major one though I think is your scent.”
“You my little love smell very very much like a new foal. It tends to bring out certain behaviour in ponies. It could be because you’re still so new to Equestria.”
“Will it go away?” Katie had thoughts of patronizing smiles and being talked down to forever in her mind.
“Well can’t do much about your size and eyes, but I’m sure the scent will lessen over time.” The mare didn’t say it aloud but to her the new foal scent had done nothing but increase.
The food having arrived, both Katie and Strawberry stopped talking and began eating. Near the end of the meal loud high pitch shouting could heard coming from the end of the street.
“HEY GIRLS! IT’S STRAWBERRY! HEY STRAWBERRY!” Three young fillies were charging up the street. One was an orange coloured unicorn with a long wild blonde mane. The other two were pegasus ponies and looked almost identical, light blue coats and soft pink manes, one had a short cut, the other longer and braided. None of them had cutie marks yet.
The three fillies were quite familiar to Katie, they were the ones that chased her often when she tried to go out in the past.
“Look Katie is with her, HI KATIE!” The long haired blue Pegasus called out while leaving the ground and flying a few feet in the air.
Reaching the lunch table they circled Strawberry excitedly. “Hello girls.” She ruffled the orange unicorn fillies hair. “What are you three up to today? Not getting into too much mischief I hope?” The fillies seemed to ignore the mare and focused in on the tiny human. The orange unicorn reared up and put her front hooves on the table.
“Awwww she looks cute.” The unicorn said, Katie shifted away only to discover the two Pegasus fillies were hovering behind her. She shifted again towards the middle of the table.
“Is Katie your foal now Strawberry?” asked the Pegasus with the shorter mane. Her voice was soft and gentle.
Katie spoke up immediately with a bit of irritation, “I’m not a foal.”
All three looked at her suddenly, they had never heard the girl speak before. Katie’s voice tended to surprise ponies, it was much deeper and louder than they expected. To hear such a voice arise from such a foal like thing was a bit shocking.
“Now girls, give her some space she’s looking really crowded.” Strawberry spoke up with a quiet authority. “Let’s do proper introductions.” The mare added looking right at Katie. The little human took the opportunity to slide over to Strawberry. Grabbing Katie gently she lifted her up and put her on the ground.
All three fillies filed up in front of the girl, Strawberry stood behind the girl like a pink wall.
“Katie,” Strawberry spoke with a humorous officiating tone, “I’d like you to meet, Chinook Wind,” she pointed to the short maned blue Pegasus. Chinook put a hoof out in Katie’s direction, Katie looked at the hoof and back to Strawberry with a confused expression. “Just touch the hoof love.” Strawberry replied answering her confusion. Katie reached out tentatively and touched the hoof with two fingers. Chinook smiled gently and dropped her hoof.
Strawberry pointed at the long maned blue Pegasus. “This is Cloud Arch,” the hoof tap was repeated, “And finally,” Strawberry shifted toward the orange unicorn, “Fading Stars.”
“Everypony just calls me Fad,” the little orange filly piped up putting out a hoof.
Katie was shaking as her hand reached out to touch the hoof, eyes glued to her unlit horn. These ponies were closer to her size than Strawberry therefore not too intimidating. But magic was the penultimate fear, the force that controlled things, that could can change the laws of nature all located in that small horn. This fear did not go unnoticed by Strawberry.
Cloud Arch spoke up, “Can you play Katie?”
“Pardon?” Katie replied confused.
“We haven’t seen you in like forever, we want to play ponies versus aliens,” Fad answered shifting her long blonde mane out of her enormous blue eyes.
Katie grew even more confused and looked up to Strawberry for help, the mare shrugged being just as much in the dark as the human.
Chinook Wind being a very astute filly spoke up and cleared the confusion, “we like chasing you, we thought you were playing to.”
“Playing?” Katie had flash backs of her fear and manic attempts to avoid them. While trying to understand where she was. It suddenly struck the girl that the whole thing seemed silly and stupid. She laughed loudly to herself as certain memories solidified into different forms.
A harmony wave hit her suddenly Katie began to view the pressures in the air as such. She looked up at Strawberry, the idea of running around with these fillies again seemed fun. “Strawberry I want to.” The girl stated, it was a rudimentary attempt to explain the waves pressure. Oddly enough simply expressing the want lightened the weight significantly.
“Sorry love, we have a schedule to keep and you’re hardly dressed for galloping around,” Strawberry replied, sounding genuinely disappointed.
“Awwww,” all three fillies called out in unison.
“I’ll tell you what girls? Katie is staying with me at the moment, if you want to play with her later that is where she’ll be ok? It was great seeing you three, but we have an appointment with doctor Kindly to keep.” Strawberry without warning grabbed Katie and lifted, the girl let out a noise as it caught her by surprise. Stretching her neck Strawberry placed the human on her back, Katie shifted up to the head between her ears where it was most comfortable.
Just as quickly as they arrived the three departed. “BYE STRAWBERRY! BYE KATIE!” Came the call further down the street. Strawberry waved a hoof, Katie shyly waved atop the pink pony.
“They seem really nice,” Katie said quietly.
“They are wonderful little fillies, you should get to know them.” Strawberry replied, she began trotting towards the clinic.
“I didn’t know they were playing with me.”
“Understandable, they didn’t tell you.”
“I feel stupid.”
“Nothing to beat yourself up over love.”
The visit with Doctor Kindly was not ideal, Katie had lots of trouble with his use of magic. She shied away, refused, and grew obstinate. Both ponies began to notice the unspoken reason, Doctor Kindly began to intentionally do things without magic. After this the check up improved for all participants.
While Katie waited Doctor Kindly talked to Strawberry in another room. The cutie magic was still there, having become unmistakable as such. There was discussion about possible outcomes, the pro’s and con’s of telling the girl soon. According to the stallion she had couple of years before it became something to worry about. Katie’s physical health was fine, her mental well being on the other hoof was tenuous.
They talked possible solutions from school enrolment, to exposure therapy to deal with the girls terror of magic. Overall it was a productive meeting that ended amicably.
Katie sat in a waiting chair, lollipop in her mouth as she examined the pony magazines, trying to practice her reading. A few words stood out but a lot was still incomprehensible. Her stress was still very high, she hated magic and doctors. Having them combined gave the girl a headache. At this point in time she wanted nothing more than to go back to the house curl up and shut this incomprehensible world out for a few days. She fully intended to ask Strawberry to drop her off at the house if she was going to continue to wonder around the town.
Strawberry and Doctor Kindly Heart both came out from the back of the clinic, seeing Katie sitting in the chair kicking her little spindly hooves back and forth made the mare smile. The girl looked up from the chair popped the lolipop out of her mouth.
"Everything all good?" she asked in a tired somewhat bored tone.
"Yes love everything is ok." Strawberry replied. Walking up to she lowered her head to allow the girl to climb from the chair onto her neck.
Doctor Kindly leaned in towards the girl who was making herself comfortable in-between Strawberry's ears. "I'm proud of you for putting up with my poking and prodding. I know this stuff is scary and difficult and I am glad you let me make sure you are ok."
Katie was at a complete loss, the words were so unexpected and compassionate she nodded her head and mumbled, thanks, then buried her face into the soft tangle of Strawberry's mane. She planned to stay there until they got to the house. Strawberry knowing full well how spent the little human was decided to take a half day, she skipped to the last task on her agenda grocery shopping. It was quick and painless, Katie didn't move at all the whole time. She tired to ask the girl what she wanted to eat, and the only answer she could get was a halfhearted, "Whatever you want." Strawberry put the last of the items into her saddle bags and trotted towards home feeling pleasantly tired, today was a success, she was going to make her little friend something rewarding.
Katie watched from the edge of the kitchen. Strawberry was moving back and forth with speed and dexterity, she was prepping everything and getting ready for all the ponies to come.
“Are you sure you don’t need any help?” Katie asked, she was feeling useless and aimless. The girl had been carrying a lump in her gut all morning and afternoon, deciding doing something would help, she had been pestering the mare relentlessly.
Strawberry let out an exasperated sigh, her voice climbed to a sterner tone. “For the last time love I am fine, go practice your reading, or drawing. I’ve got things under control.”
Katie had no desire to do either, hearing Strawberry’s tone she exited the kitchen. Walking into the living room she climbed the couch and lied down looking up at the ceiling. Being naked in the house had not gotten any easier. But it was an inevitable outcome, movement started to become more important. She began to feel guilty asking the kind and caring mare for help. After the trip out she took the pyjamas off, and had not put them back on.
Of course they would go back on for the party though, the girl was not prepared to bare all to a crowd of strange ponies. She closed her eyes, focusing on her body she could feel the movements of magic around her. Little pushes, little pulls, here and there. It seemed chaotic and nervous like her mood. Strawberry said it was not a force acting on her, but Katie had a hard time seeing it any other way.
There was a clattering and banging coming from the kitchen. Thoughts traveled broken and quick in her mind, What am I doing? Who I am is not who I am here? Strange thought. Should I leave? Go where? Everyone and everything is so big! Fucking magic!
Suddenly a voice came right near her ear, a whisper unexpected, and not Strawberry.“You look so serious little bit.”
Katie leaped from her relaxed pose with a shout, “What the hell!” She instinctively pulled away from the voice into the corner of the couch. Knees tucked up to hide her nakedness. In front of her stood Rocky White, head lowered his large eyes were twinkling and a massive smile lit up his face.
“Frick Rocky! Don’t scare me like that!” Frowning Katie pulled the throw blanket over her body.
The stallion’s ears dropped suddenly, he looked sheepish. Rocky was not expecting the reaction he got. Katie seemed so jumpy, he felt guilty about scaring her so. Most foals wouldn’t react as if something was going to leap out of the dark and get them. Katie apparently does. He filed the information away, do not sneak up on her. “I’m sorry, I was just going to surprise you is all, you ok?”
“I’m fine,” her tone was short and clipped. Silence passed between them. As Katie started calming down she began to feel for the stallion and broke the awkward quiet. “So you were invited to the party?” She asked as a form or reconciliation for her attitude.
Rocky lifted his massive body onto the couch beside her. The whole thing sagged under his weight. “I’m always invited, I practically live here.” He smiled wistfully and looked toward the kitchen.
“Really? I haven’t seen you all that much and I’ve been here for a little while.” Katie winced at how confrontational she sounded, there was a growing irritation inside her which she couldn’t explain.
Rocky didn’t seem to acknowledge her attitude and laughed it off. “Strawberry asked me to give you and her some space.” He admitted giving an almost human like shrug.
The girls stomach dropped, she was getting in the way. Her mood shifted again and the magics around began giving shoves. It made her fidgety as each bit hit harder.
“You ok little bit?” Rocky asked, with concern written on his face.
“I’m fine! I just... I just need some space. I need to get dressed, can you go see Strawberry or something.” Her voice was attitude, irritation, and pleading mixed together. Katie just wanted him to leave, his presence was causing so much confusion and mixed feeling. Harmony magic was practically bullying her around. She carried a deep fear it would make her do something strange in front of this strange pony she really didn’t know. With Strawberry it was kind of ok, she understood, with Rocky it was a terrifying prospect.
“Ok, Ok, I know when I’m in the way,” Rocky got off the couch his tone and body movements showed his feelings were a little hurt. He started walking toward the kitchen not looking back. Katie was suddenly hit with a force that shoved her, she leaped off the couch and ran to Rocky. “Rocky wait!” She cried suddenly. Rocky stopped and turned, Katie ran right up to him and hugged a foreleg tightly. The words tumbled out of her, “I.... It is good to see you, I just... I’m sorry....please don’t be mad at me.”
“Mad at you? I’m not mad, little fillies need their space like all ponies do.” Rocky’s eyes narrowed in scrutiny. “Did lots of ponies get mad at you little bit?” The question seemed to suck the air out of the room. Rocky felt the tiny body stiffen against his forleg. Katie had her face buried into the short fur, and he could feel her warm breath against him. “Katie?” Rocky spoke softly, using her actual name not a nickname trying to engage the girl. And suddenly she shot off like a rocket towards the bedroom.
Bursting into the room, flushed and embarrassed Katie put all her weight into closing the enormous door. Putting as many barriers between her and this ‘party.’ She climbed into the bed and made a decision, she was not going to participate.
Rocky White entered the kitchen shaking his head deep in thought. “Wow Straws look at you go, you’d think you were throwing a party or something!”
Strawberry turned away from the stove, “Rocky! You’re early!” She exclaimed, trotting over she gave the kind stallion a hug. “Why are you so early? I have nothing ready?”
Rocky and Strawberry stood at the closed door, Strawberry lightly knocked. “Katie the party is about to start are you ready.”
“No I’m not going.” Came a muffled reply from within the room.
“Now sweet tart that is not what we agreed to.”
“CUT THE SHIT STRAWBERRY I’M NOT A CHILD!” Katie yelled angrily. Strawberry stepped back from the door eyes watering, ears dropped.
“Katie what’s wrong?” Strawberry voice shook this was a version of the human she hadn’t seen before.
“EVERYTHING! JUST GO AWAY!” An object shattered against the inside of the door. Making both stallion and mare jump on the spot. Strawberry winced not knowing what object of hers the girl broke.
Rocky’s face grew darker and he stepped closer to the door, he had a package on his back nicely wrapped with a bow. “That’s enough, I’m coming in.” He announced with calm determination.
“DON’T YOU DARE!” The girl hollered. Rocky began to push on the door he felt extra weight. Katie had piled all manner of objects in front of it. Being an earth pony this was not a problem, Rocky slowly pushed harder until it swung open just enough, he stepped inside the room alone.
“GET OUT!” Rocky turned towards the voice, just in time to see an alarm clock sailing in his direction. Ducking quickly the package on his back fell, the clock struck the wall. Rocky sprung quickly from the duck moving straight for the bed the girl stood on.
Katie always knew ponies moved fast and were very nimble when they needed to be. But given her state and blurred vision she was unprepared for Rocky’s advancement on her. The blanket under her moved and her balance gave out. Before she could understand what was happening she was ensconced in comforter. The massive stallion holding it tight.
“LET ME GO!” Katie practically snarled. Struggling against the confinement.
“Is everything ok?” Came Strawberry voice outside, more timid than Katie had ever heard before. Rocky turned towards the door, “Everything is fine Staws you go look after the party for now. This little bit and I are going to have a conversation.”
“Are you sure?”
“GET OFF ME!” Katie yelled.
Strawberry could be heard moving away from the door. Rocky turned back to the small human struggling wrapped in flower patterned comforter. He leaned in, Katie noticed he smelled of pine trees. Rocky meanwhile noticed the girl smelt of lavender with strong hints of Strawberry’s scent.
“Why should I? You going to throw stuff and act like a brat?”
“F@&k YOU ROCKY, I’M NOT YOUR FOAL!”
“Ain’t that the truth, my foals would know better than to break things that don’t belong to them. Or to throw them at others.”
Katie looked away, “You wouldn’t understand living in this world of kindness, colours, sweets, and magic.” The girl’s tone was bitter and dismissive.
“Oh you think you are an expert on Equestria now!” His tone was sarcastic and dripping with fake surprise. “What have you seen? A run down shack? A clinic? The guest bedroom of a gentle mare who wants what’s best for you? Yes I can see now how you’d understand everything about this world.”
Katie was silent having given up struggling she just lied there passively.
“Try me, you say I wouldn’t understand, well put it to the test.” Rocky said simply.
Katie looked up at Rocky intensely. The two scrutinized each others features for several moments, Rocky let himself up so the girls confinement was not so tight.
"Why me?" Katie said simply. She seemed to speaking to nobody and her whole demeanour reflected a deep malaise. "Why out of all the worlds, all this multiplicity of universes and realities do I get this." Both of them turned suddenly hearing talking as Strawberry began greeting a pony who just arrived. Rocky let go of the comforter completely and changed his position so he was resting beside the girl. "You don't know my world Rocky, and maybe I don't know yours. But what I have seen here, it is paradise. That is reality you know, some creatures get paradise, and others well they get dark forests and attacks from the shadows. There is no fairness in it Rocky, no rhyme or reason, like a toss of the dice. A grand lottery that disperses trial and tribulation. There are people more deserving of this kindness than I, and yet here I am. In a world of colour and care, you, Strawberry, this whole bloody town bending every which way to show me friendship and love." No longer being held down she sat up on the bed, looking at her lap she continued. "I don't deserve any of it, I am a nobody. A girl who just was picked up. I'm useless, I'm meaningless, I'm nothing special. Every kind act just reminds me.... "
"Reminds you of what?" Rocky gently coaxed.
"It reminds me of every unkind one. It makes me want to break things and scream. Like every kind act makes me sad, angry and guilty all at the same time. And they keep coming, I can't get away from them. This world makes me feel totally out of control. I am terrified of not being in control Rocky, I have been in control my whole life. I'm in a sea, and those who I reach for are so kind I don't want to hold onto them you know?"
"That sounds scary." The stallion replied simply. He had never heard the girl speak so much before and was afraid of derailing this rare moment.
“It’s terrifying, my world is so unlike this one. Every pony treats me like I am a child. I’m not, but I kind of am here. It confuses me. Can I ask you a question Rocky?”
“Absolutely little bit, ask away.”
“What did you see or feel at the cafe when I sang?”
“Oh that,” Rocky chuckled to himself. “You. I saw you.”
Katie’s expressions moved from annoyed to puzzled. “What does that even mean?”
Rocky took a breath and repositioned himself on the bed. A few more ponies could be heard coming into the house. Distinct foal like voices echoed, they were loud and excitable. Leaning in conspiratorially he spoke softly,“I’ll tell you a secret, but it’s just between you and me. I have listened to so many ponies and creatures sing I no long see images or feel snippets. To me it is like looking at a piece of artwork. I see the pony inside under all the memories and feelings.” He leaned away from the girl, his muzzle wore a quirky smile.
“Hmmmm.” The girl replied. Katie looked towards the mostly closed door, her eyes traveled to the gashed wall, then the broken alarm clock on the floor. “Rocky I’m really sorry I threw something at you. I don’t know what I was thinking. I just do not want to do this party, it’s too much, and I feel like I have no say or control here.”
Rocky lifted a hoof to the bottom of his muzzle in a thinking gesture. “You know I brought you a gift. Of course now I’m not sure I want to give it to you. It might help a little, do you want me to go get it? It’s the wrapped package on the floor over there.”
Rocky got off the bed and moved towards the nicely wrapped package which had fallen in the scuffle. “So I was thinking about you. Strawberry talks about you a lot and I got this idea in my head. It might be silly, you might hate it, but then again it might be just what you need.” The stallion lifted the package it was about as tall as the girls waist. Bringing it over he placed it down in front of her on the bed.
“It so big Rocky, why would you get me something so big.” Katie began removing the wrapping paper carefully. Inside was a box, within the box was a purple plush pony doll kind of the same colour as Rocky himself. It wore soft golden armor and a soft helmet. It’s stitched face wore a kind yet stern expression. Katie lifted the doll out of the box climbing off the bed she placed it standing up on the floor. Its full height came only to her elbow. She turned the tag attached to the ear, it said Solid Spear. She looked up at Rocky’s massive form with a confused expression.
“You see, I thought that with ponies being so big and all it’d be nice to have one near your size. He’s like a royal guard, they make renditions of real ones. Why don’t you give him an order?” He replied answering her confusion.
“What do you mean an order?” Katie replied in bewilderment.
Rocky smiled down at the girl speaking clearly he gave the doll a command. “Spear go guard the door.” The doll began to glow greenish and suddenly began moving all on its own. Katie squealed in fright and leap back up on the bed. She watched the doll ‘walk’ towards the door, stop, turn and cease glowing.
“The doll has just enough magic weaved into it to obey simple moving commands. Why don’t you try.” Rocky explained while moving closer to the startled human.
“I’m not sure I want to Rocky.”
“Nothing to be scared of little bit, just try.”
“Spear,” Katie called in a hesitant voice, “Come here.” The doll emitted the green glow and began its awkward trot towards her. “Spear stop,” she commanded when it was half way to her. It stopped suddenly. “ Spear sit.” The pony plush was nimble enough it sat on it’s haunches. She climbed down off the bed and scrutinized the plush pony closely. “Spear give me a hug.” The doll reared up on its hind legs and wrapped itself around the girl and squeezed. Katie couldn’t help but chuckle and smile. She was being hugged by a plush, usually it’s the other way around. “Spear sit down please.” The doll let go and sat back down. Turning looking up at Rocky she spoke with wonder. “How does it do that?”
“Yeah I get that, but how? I don’t understand what you mean when you say magic.”
“I’m not nearly educated enough to tell you princess. Do you feel any better? I think we need to be getting down to Strawberry, she’s probably worried. You can take old Solid Spear with ya!” Rocky gave the girl a gentle nudge with a hoof.
Before she could finish an obvious denial Rocky spoke.“Look I’ll be with you, so will Strawberry just take Spear with you and think of him as you royal guard. If that isn’t enough do it for Strawberry, she cares about you so much. Do it for her yeah?”
“I guess I can. I like you Rocky, I’m really sorry.” Katie walked up to the pony and gave one of his legs a hug. No magic forced her, she did it all on her own.
“Ok little bit, let’s get going. Don’t forget Spear.”
The girl turned, “Spear, follow beside me please.” It began to glow and slowly followed the stallion and girl out of the room.
Given all the events that transpired, Katie’s mind was occupied. So the girl was utterly stricken to realize, she stood with Rocky naked in the middle of the living room. Everyone turned to them as they entered. To her credit Katie didn’t run or hide. Instead she merely stood as tall as she could, and decided to power through it.
There were three adult ponies and Strawberry, the three new ponies were all unfamiliar to the girl. Katie searched for Strawberry’s eyes in the group. There eyes met and she tried to convey her apologies. But given how different human facial reading was, it was most likely lost on the mare.
Strawberry was laying comfortably on the floor, her legs stretched out in front of her, and her back legs were tucked in. Katie left Rocky’s side and went right up to Strawberry, the plush doll obediently following. Without asking Katie sat down between her legs and under her muzzle. The mare looked down at her, she quietly adjusted so the little human could get more comfortable. Katie grabbed the doll and used it as a makeshift shield to hide her nakedness, she tucked herself against the warm fur, she could hear and feel her heart beat. Looking up at Strawberry, she was about to give an apology when the mare leaned down and whispered quietly, "We'll talk later love. For now I'm glad you are feeling better."
Rocky watched the exchange with every other pony in the room, after everything settled he sat himself down. Conversation picked up as if nothing at all had happened. Katie had a hard time focusing in on the banal and perfectly ordinary pleasentries, she was much to preoccupied by being naked and exposed. No pony seemed to mind in the least, the girl wondered if it was mere politeness, or if they really truly had no hang ups regarding her lack of clothing.
Watching so many ponies talk and socialize was difficult though. Over time Katie began to feel a sense of isolation and alienation, it always grew the more she became involved with them. It took hold of her slowly, their subtle tones, word choice, lack of artifice; their colours, smells, and even forms of contact all sat at odds with her expectations. What she wouldn't give for another human, to for example be embarrassed for her, another human to read emotionally. It made her head swim with incongruity and loneliness.
The conversation turned towards her unexpectedly. Since there had been no introductions, Katie didn’t know the name of the unicorn who addressed her.
“I love your little guard doll, what’s his name?”
“Virgil,” Katie replied without thinking. Rocky’s eyes narrowed but he didn’t speak. She wasn’t entirely sure why she lied, maybe it was the all the openness in the room. Or maybe she was subconsciously testing the ponies around her. How would they respond to a deception. Katie’s face smiled up at the unicorn, playing up the sappy tones of a child, “His name is Virgil,” she repeated again.
“Oh.. well that is certainly an interesting name,” the mare spoke carefully. “My little filly collects all the Canterlot guards. Never heard of that one.”
“He’s special,” Katie continued. Hugging the soft fabric closer. She felt Strawberry’s confusion in the stiffening of her body. In the moment playing a child felt like the right thing to do. It’s purpose was get the attention off her, and it worked.
“Well of course he is sweetheart,” the mare smiled kindly. The conversation raced on to other topics.
Loud shouting noises started, and four foals burst into the room. Three of them Katie recognized as the fillies she met a few days ago. The fourth was a colt, a unicorn, and unfamiliar. He had a brownish green coat, no mark on his flank and he wore a sour look on his face.
Before Katie had time to understand what was happing, she was rushed outside. They all went out through the back door in the kitchen. A large clearing stood in front of a line of trees. Strawberry’s house backed onto the forest which surrounded the small town.
Katie felt the sun kiss her naked form, warm and golden. She looked towards the sun, using her hand as a visor taking it in. Something felt off about it, it took a moment before she realized she wasn’t squinting. Her hand didn’t seem to be needed. Slowly she moved it, fighting every impulse she slowly looked. In all the time here she had not thought about it, or noticed. She was looking into the sun directly with no consequences.
“That should be impossible,” she spoke softly, continuing to look with awe.
All four foals were watching. “What she looking at?” Fad whispered to Chinook Wind.
“I don’t know the sky? Maybe it’s a human thing,” Chinook replied. Before Chinook could say anything the brown unicorn colt spoke up.
“What are you looking at it’s just the sun,” his voice was dismissive and carried irritation.
“Just the sun,” Katie whispered to herself transfixed by the orb. She lowered her gaze. “I shouldn’t be able to look at it like that, right, right?” Asking aloud of the four foals around her. Obvious confusion and panic in her expression.
“Why in Equestria wouldn’t we be able to look at it? What are you slow?” The unicorn colt snapped.
Cloud Arch stepped between the girl and the unicorn, her wings flaring slightly. “What’s your problem Glow?”
“My problem is I didn’t sign up to be a foal sitter,” he took a step closer to Cloud.
“So why are you here?”
“My Mom made me come, said I had to be nice to this human. I don’t see why? She is slow, small and sick looking. I betcha I could even pick her up with my magic.” His horn began to glow.
“Don’t you dare.” Fad stepped up beside Cloud. A sickly smile crossed Glow’s face and he flicked his head suddenly. A loud shriek came from behind the two as Katie was lifted suddenly, and violently into the air. The girl had been to preoccupied to notice the brewing fight. She was trying to explain to Chinook Wind why looking directly at the sun was so unnatural.
It all happened in a blink, Cloud and Fad rushed Glow. Chinook, who had been sitting next to Katie took flight immediately. The magic released and Katie felt herself begin to fall. It was a quick act, but it had tossed her easily twenty feet into the air. Closing her eyes she tensed for the fall. Two hooves slipped under her arm pits. Her decent slowed. Opening her eyes the first thing she saw was Glow storming away towards the house. Chinook spoke, “Don’t worry I got ya.” The filly lowered her to the ground gently.
Touching the ground Katie curled into herself, tucking her head between her knees. Due to all the adrenaline still running through her system she found herself rocking back and forth. Chinook landed beside her extended a wing and wrapped it around her.
Fad and Cloud trotted up with worried expressions. Chinook spoke with anger. “That was mean, even for Glow that was mean. What is that colts problem.”
“One of his Moms was at the Cafe when Katie was there. Apparently she saw some stuff. Hasn’t been the same, Glow blames Katie for it,” Fading Stars answered simply.
“That’s stupid,” Cloud added.
“Well Glows has never had the sharpest horn,” Fad added.
Katie stood up gently moving the wing. Her tolerance had reached its limit. She did not want to stay with the fillies, nor did she want to go into the house. Standing tall she looked straight at Chinook Wind and thanked her. Looking towards the clearing of trees she spoke. “I’d like to be alone, I’m going for a walk. Spear follow me.” Katie didn’t wait, just started walking with the doll following.
“Should we follow her?” Cloud asked.
“She said she wanted to be alone,” Chinook responded.
“I know but I don’t think Strawberry would be happy if we let her wander off,” Cloud countered.
“I think we should tell Strawberry,” Fad added.
“Well you two do that, I’m going to follow her.” Cloud took off into the air. She wrangled a cloud and used it for cover as she began following the girl from the air.
Strawberry had lied to her, she said the ponies in the town were not suspicious of her. She said they didn’t blame her, but here clearly was evidence to the contrary. Deep in thought Katie walked towards the trees, grass tickling her legs with every step. Solid Spear following mutely behind her.
Maybe Strawberry didn’t know? Maybe most of the town hated her? Reaching the forest she took in a breath. The scent of pine and decaying wood greeted her senses. It was familiar, and she really needed something familiar. Finding a large stick on the path she picked it up. Examining it closely she deemed it passable for a walking stick, or spear. Following a small path it lead towards the sound of rushing water. Eventually the trees opened up to a river, specifically, Hay River.
By human standards the river was small, more of a stream really. You could cross it, but you would have to swim at the deepest point. It was clear and no matter how deep it was, it’s transparency remained untouched. Katie sat down placing the stick beside her on the bank and watched the life teeming underneath.
Solid Spear arrived, and sat down beside her, magic ceasing to radiate from him. Katie turned from the water and looked at the doll. His stern visage staring out at nothing in particular.
Every pony in this world had power, wether it be strength, flight, or magic. What did she have? Bullied by a foal, bullied by the very forces that glued this world together. Equestria didn’t want her here, well it didn’t want her as she is. She never agreed to be changed, or controlled. Even now the girl could feel it, that irritating pressure all over. The weight associated with the ‘magic of harmony’ pressing down on her.
How do you fight a world? What if she didn’t agree to the terms? Katie picked up a stone and threw it into the river angrily. The fish scattered and all looked at her with annoyance. She shuddered at their looks, mumbled an apology, and turned away from the water. Katie had lived a life of stress, and over time she had developed many ways to cope with it. Her default method was to close her eyes, lay down and listen. She'd listen to her own heart, to the wind, anything really, straining for the smallest imperceptible noise drew her mind away from problems. Closing her eyes she lied down on the impossibly soft ground, listening to the sounds of the river and forest.
But over time she had added another item to this pattern of hers, and that was focusing on the little pushes and pulls of the magic on her body. Strawberry was somewhat correct, the magic changed with her moods; panic it pushed down into her like a weighted blanket, fear and anxiety it bumped her around and made her fidget. Now it was almost caressing her. She could feel increases in places like there was more of it in one direction than another.
Suddenly the magic stabbed her in the side forcing her to roll over in shock. Just as she rolled a mess of twigs and branches landed snarling in the place she just moved from. The beast was terrifying looking, it was about half her height, yellow eyes glowered under the shrubbery it called a body. She rocketed upward into a crouch. Her limbs froze and she crouched there staring at the creature frozen in fear.
It began to circle, she watched it with wide calculating eyes not moving. Looking at the stick near the bank and the water. Was it all bush, did it have flesh to wound? Could she outrun it? Katie made a split second decision. She yelled loudly.”SPEAR JUMP!” The little doll jumped on the spot. The creature glanced at the movement. Katie took the split second to run toward the river, and the discarded stick.
The creature was alarmingly fast, as soon as she moved, she judged she wouldn’t make it to the safety of the water in time.
Reaching the stick she grabbed it, but before she could dive into the water it caught up to her and pounced. She fell downward turning her body and the stick towards it. She watched the creature fall towards her in slow motion. An agonizing pressure pushed though her body. Her head felt as if it would split, her very self was being pushed in, than ripped outward. The pressure in the air had collapsed inward without mercy or kindness. She screamed from the pain.
Cloud Arch cursed the tree tops, it made it so hard to follow the little thing. She had taken a wrong turn and lost Katie, she had to double back to try and find her. These forests were not always the safest places to be alone. Shrub coyotes though not a problem for ponies, could easily see her as a snack. Suddenly an ear piercing scream broke the stillness. Cloud Arch banked sharply towards the noise ditching the cloud she was using as cover.
A river bank came into view. A creature was snarling, leaping, and throwing itself against a small and very weak magic bubble. Parts of the creature would push though but never the whole thing. Katie was inside screaming.
Cloud dropped out of the jet stream she was riding, and dove with urgency.
She descended on the creature, stopping just above. Flapping her wings hovering she kicked at it with her back hooves. With each kick she’d yell at it. “GO! GET! GET LOST!” One savage kick connected and the beast backed away. As if noticing the Pegasus for the first time. It froze.
Cloud landed and flared her wings to their full, making her self as big as possible. She took a step and yelled again, “GET!” The shrub coyote flinched and ran back into the trees away from the two.
Cloud Arch was a filly who saw herself as a protector. She stood up to bullies, colt and mare alike. Her favourite element bearer was Rainbow Dash. Unlike her twin sister Chinook Wind she tended to eschew touchy feely stuff. So once the threat was scared away, the poor filly had no clue what to do.
Katie lay unconscious near the river, she was scratched all over but breathing. Cloud trotted up to her and nudged her with a hoof gently, “You ok?” naturally there was no answer. She mumbled to herself trying to figure out what to do next. She couldn’t leave the girl here, nor could she fly her unconscious body above the trees. Lowering herself she slid her front hooves between the girl’s arms and lifted. Cloud hesitated upon discovering deep painful scratch’s on her back. It was clear to the filly Katie had fallen on the rocks near the river bank. Shaking off her upset, Cloud decided to fly the girl slowly down the path she came. “Spear, follow me please.” Cloud began the long process of little flying hops though the forest.
"But is she going to be ok?" Strawberry asked in panic. Doctor Kindly Heart was looking at the new scans he had taken. Could Arch managed to get the girl to safety, dragging her seemingly lifeless body into the middle of the party. Strawberry rushed Katie to the clinic, while Rocky went out to find Kindly.
"I think so? Look Strawberry, if little Cloud Arch is correct and Katie was trying to cast magic, and it did what I think it did, this might be serious," he replied gravely.
"What do you think happened?"
"Well Katie does not have a magic system per sae, nothing to conduct or channel it, no horn you see. When she tried to cast a spell her body didn't know what to do, and the magic didn't know what to do, it seems to me that it might of used her nervous system in lieu of a magic system. So in order to cast that magic bubble, all her nerves were firing." The doctor examined the scans his head turned to Strawberry. "We just need to hope there is no serious nerve damage."
Rocky sat quietly in the medical room beside the bed Katie was laying on. The massive bed made the fragile being seem even smaller and more vulnerable. Placing his hoof on the bed he adjusted Solid Spear so he was laying beside the girl. The stallion spoke softly to no pony, "You sure know how to crash a party little bit. I hope you are ok."
There was no permanent damage eventually Katie was discharged to Strawberry's care. Rocky refused to leave the mare's side the whole time. He took up residence in the spare room Katie had slept in, while Katie, still unconscious, was placed in Strawberry's room. The mare secretly hoped putting the girl in her room would ease her suffering somehow. Katie swam in a dream state, not really aware, dreaming on occasion. Strawberry crawled into bed curled around the girl much like a mother would with a new foal, and gently rested her head across her body falling asleep.
I stood alone in the middle of my elementary school playground. Wood equipment towered and twisted around. The dusty, chalky gravel crunched underfoot. Everything was quiet, the sky was cloudless though a small breeze lifted and swirled under my childhood dress. How did I get here? I began to take small steps towards a climbing apparatus.
After a few steps I heard a small noise behind me, glancing over my shoulder there was the monster again. Shrubs sprouting out and around solid coloured malevolent eyes. It drooled in anticipation. I turned around and started walking backwards arms up in a placating manner. This had to be a dream, I thought vaguely. The beast rushed me and the terrifying maw came clamping down on my right arm. My own internal screaming started me awake.
I awoke unsure of where I was and panicked. Everything was dark, a large but not to heavy weight pressed down on me. I pushed at it heart hammering, my breath coming out heavy and laboured. The weight shifted a little and Strawberry’s kind voice filled my ears. “Relax love, you're safe.” Her words did not reach me. This world has monsters, honest to goodness monsters! My movements became urgent. Suddenly the weight shifted, and I was being handled gently. Turned and held firmly in place. The confinement had an oddly relaxing effect on me. A removal of agency, to my shock was something I really needed at this time. It created a sense of safety, from the world, from myself, all that was expected of me was to stop fighting, and accept the comfort, which I did. The fur was warm and soft, but strong and weighted, everything smelt of her. Things settled, my mind started to pull itself back together. I felt the cool calming sensation of Strawberry’s tongue between my shoulder blades and in-between each sensation she whispered comfort. It felt heavenly on the cuts and scrapes. Relaxing my muscles I fell back into sleep.
Sunshine danced into the kitchen bouncing off surfaces where Strawberry was cooking. Rocky White was sitting at the table, coffee steaming in front of him, he looked tired. He watched the pink coloured mare with a small enigmatic smile. “So what do you think Straws?”
Strawberry put down a spatula she was holding in her mouth. “I think Katie might take it wrong. That little filly is a proud one. Approach this the wrong way and we’ll be in trouble.”
“How can it be bad, I mean we just tell her you and I will be her Equestrian parents.”
“Did you think perhaps she doesn’t want parents?”
“What little filly wouldn’t want wonderful parents like you and I?” Rocky smiled impishly. He liked the idea of looking after a little filly.
Rocky and Strawberry had talked a long time while Katie slept. Doctor Kindly was adamant, the girl should not be put in a situation where magic was needed. Her overall heath demanded it, further attempts would damage her, things were not utterly bleak though, Kindly did find that the girl was adapting. The scans showed clear development, so though magic now was out of the question he could not say for certain it always would be. This lead the two to discuss how best to help the girl. Rocky insisted he take part, that Strawberry couldn’t do this kind of work alone. Rocky was moving in. This was a long time coming, even without the human accelerating the process. Both wanted it, and both saw this as an opportunity to grow closer.
“You know that filly hasn’t had much guidance from what I can tell,” Strawberry replied simply watching the pancakes.
“Of course I know that, I see it too,” Rocky replied a little more sharply than he’d have liked, he was not a morning pony. Just as he finished speaking Katie appeared. She was half dressed at the threshold to the kitchen holding the pony doll tightly. Slowly she made her way to the table putting down the doll she looked at the kitchen chair as if lost.
“Here let me help.” Strawberry trotted over, sealed the garment and lifted the girl into the chair.
"Thank you," Katie whispered quietly.
"How are you feeling?" Rocky asked gently.
"Shaky, I don't remember much," Katie replied, looking at the coffee mug with large devouring eyes. "Can I have some of that?" she added hopefully. Strawberry would never give her coffee and right now it was all she wanted.
"Sure," the stallion slid the mug across the table to the girl.
"Rocky? I don't know if that is a good idea," Strawberry chided.
"Relax Straws it's only a drink, won't hurt her," Rocky replied in good nature.
Katie carefully grabbed the mug with the her fabric covered hands. The mug was much bigger than she was accustomed to, having no grip the awkwardness was apparent. Strawberry suddenly realizing breakfast still needed attention, stopped hovering over the girl and moved back to the pancakes. Katie took a sip. For coffee it was odd, not like the coffee at home, it had none of the bitterness or richness she wanted, instead it tasted somewhat grassy. Her taste buds did not enjoy the experience and her face showed it. Putting the mug down she pushed it away.
"Don't like it?" Rocky reached back over for the mug.
"No, it doesn't taste like coffee at all," Katie replied sadly.
"It grows on you," Rocky remarked as Strawberry brought over breakfast plates balanced on her back. Placing three plates down she took a seat. The three began to eat. Katie was the first to speak. "What happened?" she asked simply.
Strawberry took a moment to finish the food in her mouth and explained in short simple words everything that had happened. From Cloud Arch following and saving her, to Katie's magic casting. She even included doctor Kindly Heart's advice, including the potential damage to her nervous system if she tried to cast magic without the proper magic system developed.
Katie took it all in and didn't reply right away as if weighing her words, after a prolonged silence she spoke, "I didn't mean to cast that spell, I have no idea how I did it. How am I to not do it again? I am the only human being on an alien world, everything is threatening and different."
"Me and Straws think we have a solution for that," Rocky spoke up.
Neither Rocky or Strawberry wanted to be the pony that brought the idea up. So instead of saying anything the two kind of looked at each other. Katie watched and waited until she couldn’t take the atmosphere anymore.
“Well? What is the solution?” the girl coaxed.
Strawberry a pony to never shy away from a tough conversation was the first pony to speak. “Well you see Rocky and I have an idea which might sound crazy. But hear it out and don’t dismiss it out of hoof. So Rocky is moving into the house with us.”
“He is?” Katie added a bit surprised at the suddenness of the move. She wasn’t privy to their history so to her it seemed surprising.
“Yes, and we are going to be kind of a herd, and we think it would be good if you’d agree to be part of it. Given how strange this world is to you, how ‘threatening’ you feel it to be, Rocky and I figured you’d need adults, you know ponies to guide you and help make you feel safer here. We’d be more than willing to be those ponies for you, if you’d let us.”
"Wait." There was a pause as Katie stopped eating and looked at both ponies. "Herd? Is that like a family? Are you asking me to be your foal?"
"Look at it not as us asking you to be a foal, look at it as us asking to be your Equestrian parents," Rocky added from the end of the table.
"But I'm an adult, I... couldn't... it's not fair to you two," Katie replied.
Strawberry sighed inwardly, we are back here again and this is going to be a hard conversation, she thought to herself. The mare had been dancing around this topic with the girl for weeks, just in different words. Strawberry knew there was some serious hang up here, the girl had real trouble accepting care from others. Up to this point she had been gentle, but given everything that had happened Strawberry was more inclined at this moment to a direct confrontation. "Katie, why do you think being a foal is so bad?"
"It's not bad in itself ok? Look," she grabbed the bridge of her nose in a very human gesture of frustration. "I just can't, it's just something I can't do, I'm not allowed."
"Not allowed, what do you mean, who is forbidding you?" Rocky questioned genuinely confused.
Katie was beginning to feel a bit cornered and unable to escape the conversation. The magic was pressing down on her in a threatening way, like it was going to force her to do something she'd regret. When she spoke it was very heavy with emotion and honest. "I just, some....ponies," she struggled getting the right moniker, "are adults ok, and some are foals. That is just how it is. Being a pony and acting like a foal is burdening others, and I can't burden others in that way, I know what that feels like, to be burdened like that."
"Now little bit that isn't fair. Strawberry and I get to decide what is burdensome or not, you are making that decision for us, we are asking you to let us care for you. You don't get to decide what or how Strawberry or I feel about it," Rocky replied, "Sounds like you had quite a lot on your plate back home, could that perhaps be clouding your judgement?"
"Can we not talk about my life back home?" Katie asked suddenly looking to take a modicum of control over the conversation.
Strawberry ever present to the undercurrents of the conversation verbally stepped between the two. "Ok we don't have to talk about your past if you don't want to. But Katie, this is something Rocky and myself want to do, we want to help you. Can you at least think about it? I mean we are not going to force anything on you, we can negotiate, this isn't as either or as you seem to think it is."
"I don't know," Katie hesitated.
"Do you trust us little bit?" Rocky asked.
"Yes." There was a pause. "You have both been so kind to me. How could I not trust you?" Katie replied smiling a little.
"Well, we are asking you to take that trust just a little bit further, you think you can do that?" Rocky picked up his coffee and took a drink.
"If I agree what does this mean?" Katie asked.
"Well we don't have to decide that right now," Strawberry added taking her plate off the table and putting it into the sink. "Luckily this is something we can all work out together, cause you know that is what herds do."