TEXT   457   0
   17158   88.09 KB   510

The Pon-E journal (wip)

By Gnisha
Created: 16th July 2021 09:31:33 PM
11th June 2021 08:35:20 PM

  1. (A note to the reader: This story is a sequel to a previous one, found here: https://ponepaste.org/1494. You might want to read that one first. Or don't. Who am I to tell you what to do? In any case, I hope you enjoy this little project.)
  2.  
  3. There's another bump in the road that almost makes me fall off the backseat.
  4. "Still everything alright back there? We're almost there, so please try not to ruin my seats on the home stretch."
  5. Usually, I wouldn't let such a remark slide without a witticism of my own, but currently I am really not in any position to mouth off, so I just give Jim a nod that I hope he sees in the rearview mirror.
  6. Good old Jim. We had stayed in contact after our coverage of the Pon-E festival about a year and a half ago and quickly become good personal friends.
  7. Nothing like bonding over drug abuse and shared embarassment.
  8. With my family all but having disowned me over my drug use in my youth, there really weren't any alternatives to call once my path of Pon-E use I had started on the day we met finally led me to its final destination.
  9.  
  10. Overdose. Permanent Ponydom. Hope you enjoy your stay, because this is a one-way trip.
  11.  
  12. I guess Jim had known. I mean, I clearly remember how fucking happy this stuff made me at the festival. To me, after that first hit there had never been a question wether I would continue taking Pon-E, and I suspect to Jim there hadn't been either.
  13. Still, it hadn't been something we would talk about. It was just something one of us accepted about the other. Besides, when we were both on the same side of the country and had time to grab a beer or two, we had better things to talk about than what drugs we were taking this month.
  14. All in all, he had taken the news pretty well. Once I had managed to dial his number on my old, number-pad-equipped phone, he had been over in a few hours, threw together whatever stuff I pointed out to him as essential, got me in his car and headed off.
  15.  
  16. The car finally comes to a stop. Jim gets out, and I sit up to get a first look at my friend's house.
  17. I have never been at Jim's before, and our home lifes had been among the things we didn't talk about all that much. Still, there are certain expectations you have of a semi-famous writer's house, even if you know him personally.
  18. Now that I see it for the first time, there is an odd sense of disappointment.
  19. I couldn't say what I had expected, but it certainly hadn't been what I am staring at now.
  20. To be fair, the 80's looking monstrosity of a house makes sense for someone who still seems to be stuck in a decade for most of which he hadn't even been born.
  21. Still, the pink and blue stucco on the outside walls, and those palm trees in the yard...
  22. "Hey George, are you coming in, or do you just want to look at it from outside?"
  23. Jim is standing by the door, the bag with the few belongings I had wanted to take along by his side.
  24. I almost let something slide about how I hope that there aren't any neon lights in there, but catch myself.
  25. No need to anger my host before even setting hoof into his domicile.
  26. Thankfully, the interior of the villa vaporville is not as garish as the outside led me to believe. The feared neon lights are absent, as is the wallpaper depicting palms in a pink sunset I half expected to find on the creme-coloured walls. Instead, from what I can tell from my low position, they are covered in a wide variety of mementos from Jim's travels.
  27. He leads the way and I trot along as we make our way into the living room, were an eyesore of a couch, bright orange and all fake leather, stands in front of a decent sized flatscreen. On the glass table between the two stands an ashtray, and the smell of some unknown plant's smoke assaults my nostrils. Jim drops my bag beside couch and turns around.
  28. "Welcome to my humble abode, I guess. My casa e su casa, and all that."
  29. He sits down on the couch and looks at me, then shakes his head. So it's now that the real awkwardness sets in. Alright. I had expected that to start earlier, but now is fine too, I guess.
  30. Who am I kidding? It's not fine. Neither for Jim, nor for me.
  31. I sit down besides my bag, keeping my eyes on my friend. If there's one thing I know about Jim, it's that he tends to get emotional when he's high, and if there's a second thing about Jim I know, it's that he's high most of the time. Wouldn't want him to flip ou-
  32. "Did you do it on purpose, man?"
  33. He gestures towards me. Of course I know what he means. If only I knew the answer.
  34. "I can't say, Jim. It just sort of happened."
  35. I try to keep a calm, yet confident tone, but I know the moment the words leave my mouth that that won't work out. My voice cracks, and there is a faint squeak stealthily sneaking into it.
  36. "Fuck!"
  37. Jim gets up so quickly that I am genuinely startled and paces back towards a door on his entrance hallway.
  38. "Hey Jim, where are you going?"
  39. There's that squeak again, and I silently curse myself as I try to keep up with him.
  40. "Into my office. I've got an article to finish. You get settled in, we can talk later."
  41. I can tell that he tries hard to keep his voice flat, but I am still insulted when he doesn't even look back once before closing the door behind him. "Get settled in", what a joke. All my bag contains is my purse, a change of sheets, and some assorted items of similar usefulness or rather, lack thereof for a pony.
  42. I curl up in front of the couch. Jim might be an asshole right now, but there's no need to further anger him by getting some hair on his prized fake leather. Stupid asshole. Still, he had brought up a point I am uncomfortable with.
  43. Had I done it on purpose?
  44. Of course I had known of the several unofficial "rules" for using Pon-E. Safe to say, I had broken the one not to take it alone almost everytime I had taken it. Still, that couldn't have been the driving factor, otherwise I probably would have overdosed far earlier. I hate to admit it to myself, but part of me had been relieved when I realized what I had done. No more going back, no more covering stupid wars waged by assholes over inane bullshit in shitholes on the other side of the planet...
  45. It seemed nice, for the lack of a better word, to let go of all the worries. Only now, in the home of my best and only friend, do I realize that I fucked up. Had some part of me really thought an overdose would be the end of all my problems? How could I not have realized that this transformation brought a whole new host of problems with it.
  46. The question of how to relieve myself currently the foremost of those. However nice my soulsearching session was, there are things you just need to do, human or not. Of course, the door in the hallway that I suspect to hide the bathroom is closed. I try my best to press it open with my forehooves and, when that fails, even my forehead, but to no avail. Well, shit. It's not like I know what to do once I get in there, anyways. Somehow I doubt that I could just jump up on the toilet and sit down without sliding right back off. So what to do?
  47. For a moment I consider to simply do my business in one of Jim's tasteless potted palms (are these things even real or just plastic?) to spite him, but decide against it. I am still a guest here, and even if he had treated me somewhat shitty, I have to admit that I kind of dragged him into a complicated situation here.
  48. So instead of antagonizing Jim, I knock on the door of his office. Hotel California is blaring on the other side. That guy really tries to be as cliche as possible. I can't help but roll my eyes as I knock again, harder this time. Finally, there comes a crashing noise from the other side, followed by a curse and then steps nearing the door.
  49. "Are you alright? I heard that noise just now." I ask him when he opens. Jim looks even more horrible than usual, his hair is a mess and his eyes are reddened. Was he crying in there? Or just smoking a ton of weed? The smell wafting out of the dark room supports the second theory. "I knocked over an ashtray. What do you want?" Real hospitable there, shitbird.
  50. Out loud I say: "I need to relieve myself." That only earns me a confused stare. "You need what?" Now he has gone and done it. The last of my patience is worn out.
  51. "Goddamnit Jim, did you smoke yourself retarded in there? I need to take a shit, is that clear enough for you?"
  52. That gets his attention. "I knew I'd forgotten something," he mumbles more to himself than to me as almost jumps towards the front door. "Jim? Jim, talk to me. Where are you going?"
  53. I try to step into his path to stop him from running off. For a moment, I think that I am going to get kicked, but Jim manages to stop his momentum just in time.
  54. "I wanted to pick up something for you on the way here. I'll be right back, you just sit tight."
  55. "That's all fine and dandy, but I kind of need to go now. Just let me out in the yard and..."
  56. "No fucking way, he cuts me off. " You are not going to shit in my garden like some kind of dog or something. It won't take long, I promise." And with that, he's through the door. I hear the door being locked from the outside and sigh. Fucking typical manic Jim. Most people wouldn't think that he's even capable of driving in this state, but I know him better than most people. Still, I really hope that he doesn't take too long.
  57.  
  58. As I turn away from the front door, my eyes fall onto the doorway to Jim's "Office", and with nothing better to do, I stick my head through the doorway. It's dark in there, alright. The only sources of light are a lava lamp on a small table next to a worn-out couch, the monitor of a computer and ... is that an aquarium? I fully slip into the room. Sure enough, there is an aquarium on the sill of a closed window behind the couch. My hooves almost sink into the old furniture as I climb up onto the couch. What kind of fish might Jim be owning?
  59. As it turns out, none at all. The aquarium has been converted into an elaborate bong. Jim really is all about that lifestyle, eh? Travelling from assignment to assignment, only coming home for writing and doing drugs, no one here for company, not even fish for pets. Just why is this making me so depressed? Isn't my life the same? Or was, rather, until yesterday. Fuck, I can't stand looking at the aquabong any longer. Instead, I lean over and try to make out what's going on on the computer's monitor.
  60. There's a writing program open, and I can make out the headline of the article Jim has been working on: "A week with the ketamine smugglers of Sri Lanka". Seems like he was actually writing more of the same old drivel that somehow always sold like hot cakes. And here I had been thinking that he was just making excuses to retreat from me into his room. Not that I could blame him. As far as places to retreat to go, it is pretty comfortable in here. And as far as I can tell, there's far less of that tasteless 80's chic in here as well. Even the couch is far more comfortable than that horrible fucking monstrosity in the living room. I curl up on it, eyes still fixed on the door to the hallway. Hopefully Jim'll come back soon.
  61. Finally, there's the scratching of a key looking for its hole. I jump from the couch and feel an odd sensation under my hoof. "What the shit?" I have stepped right into the ash of the knocked-over ashtray Jim left behind. Great. I wipe my hoof as clean as I can get it on Jim's carpet.
  62. When I finally step out into the hallway, Jim is already there, looking awfully proud of himself.
  63. "May I present," he says as he steps aside to reveal his haul, "my humble purchase?"
  64. I feel flat out insulted.
  65. "What the fuck, dude? You got me a fucking litterbox?"
  66. "Well, yeah. What do you think?"
  67. "What I think? I think you are fucking with me. First you tell me that I am not some kind of dog, and then you bring in this shit. I mean, what am I supposed to take away from this, Jim? That I am not a dog, but a cat to you? Is that an important distinction to you? If I didn't know any better, I would think that you just want to trample over the last of my dignity , but you are probably still too high to even think about such a thing."
  68. "Trample the last of your dignity? That's rich, real rich. Did you even waste a single thought on who'll have to clean up after you? I can promise you, I don't want to shovel your shit, but I also don't have one of these new-age Asian squatting shitters, so here we are. Take it or leave it, little miss horseface."
  69. For a moment, there is silence as we both come down from our shouting match. "What did you just call me?" "You heard me." We are both grinning now. The sheer absurdity of the situation has gotten the better of us. "I am pretty sure you just called me..." "Take your shit already, you pest." I give Jim my best puppy dog eyes. "I can't if there's someone watching."
  70. Jim throws up his arms in mock annoyance as he turns to walk off towards the living room. "I guess that's another thing that has changed," he shouts over his shoulder. I'd like to give him the finger, but for the lack of required appendages I have to settle for putting on a smug look as I squat down.
  71. Once I am done with my business, I go to join Jim in the living room.
  72. "Your couch is fucking ugly," I tell him in lieu of a greeting. "You can say that again," comes the reply from up on the monstrosity. "But it's also fucking comfortable, so I can live with that." From the way Jim is lieing on the couch, feet up on the small table and head almost sunken between two pillows, this seems true enough. He is busy typing on his phone, but puts it down when I lie my head down on the couch as well. The fake leather feels odd against my furred chin.
  73. Jim's hand finds my head and starts scratching my scalp. I haven't felt this sensation in over a year, and I eagerly lean into his hand. The little jolts of pleasure his fingers send down my spine are downright divine. "You know, I wanted to apologize. You are going through a lot, and the way I treated you earlier today wasn't right." I want to answer, but his fingers migrate behind my ears and reduce my reply to a content groan. "I mean, you are my friend and of course I'll help you however I can, it just came too sudden, you know? And the stress at work right now isn't helping either..."
  74. His monologue trails off, not that he'd need to say more to earn my forgiveness. If I can get some of these scritching sessions on the semi-regular, all is forgotten.
  75. Still, all good things end sooner or later, and so I am forced to awaken from my trance-like state when Jim realizes that he doesn't know what I can eat, which is a bit awkward, because I don't know either.
  76. "What do you mean, you don't know either? You can't tell me that this is the first time you've taken your horsepills in a year. Did you never eat when you were on the stuff before?"
  77. I shake my head. "Naw, not really. I always stuffed myself before taking the pills and rode my twelve hours out. Didn't want to bother with the whole figuring-out-what's-poisonous-to-me-stuff, you know?" Jim pulls his head out of the kitchen cabinet he is rifling through to give me a look that speaks of annoyance. "Yeah, great idea to delay that until it really is a matter of life or death, man. Real smart of you." With that, he returns to his deep dive into the world of canned goods and microwave meals. "Hey, don't insult my intelligence. Besides, I am pretty sure I can eat whatever horses eat just fine." "Oh, you want to live on apples and carrots while I live the good life? Why didn't you say so? We can arrange that, no problem." "Well, fuck you too. Besides, I am pretty certain that I read somewhere that horses can eat meat." Jim lets out a curse as his head hits the edge of the cupboard. "Ah, fuck it." He withdraws himself from the depths of his cupboard and starts throwing the stuff he pulled out back in. "I can tell you right now that you won't get any of this," he says, holding up a microwave cheeseburger. "Last thing I need is you getting sick. No, we'll do this differently." He slams the cupboard shut, ignoring the sounds of clattering items within, and heads for the front door.
  78. "Come on, G, let's get out of here. I guess we'll have to go shopping after all."
  79.  
  80. The sun is setting as we walk down the driveway back to Jim's car. Jim opens the front-seat passenger's door for me and I hop in. "Or did you want to lie down in the back again?" he asks as he takes his own place. "I think I've gotten enough rest for a while." I reply.
  81. "If you say so. Hold still for a moment there..." Jim leans over to grab the seatbelt on my side and does his best to strap me in. It's painfully obvious that my body isn't exactly made for this kind of stuff anymore, but somehow we manage to find a halfway comfortable position. As we drive through town towards Jim's grocery store of choice, I stare blankly at the buildings passing by the windows. Their lights combine with the setting sun and the clouds of dust kicked up by our car to form a pretty compelling picture, in a look-at-this-nicely-shaded-urban-decay-way. I find myself missing my camera, but it's not like it would do me any good anyway. Yeah, getting used to it all will take some time. And just how will people react? Of course I am not the first one to maneouver myself into this situation, but you don't really hear all that much how others fare. It's not like they (or rather, we, I guess) are a particularily visible minority.
  82. "You alright?" I hear Jim ask. Outside, the landscape has stopped moving. "Just thinking about something." "Well, I hate to interrupt, but we are here." Indeed, as I turn around I can make out the illuminated storefront of a supermarket on the other side of the driver's window. "Do you feel up for this? I mean, you can wait here if you want to." Now this is downright uncharacteristic of Jim. His awkward worry is almost touching.
  83. "What, and risk you forgetting half the things we need again? No way I am taking that risk." Jim stops halfway out of the car. "What are you getting at here?" He does his best to look surprised, but the hint of a grin on his face tells me that he is just playing along to get me to relax. Still, it's appreciated.
  84. "Oh, I wouldn't know. Have you ever forgotten anything? I think there might have been something, but, you know, I forgot." I squeeze myself past him. My hooves make four little clopping noises as I land on the asphalt of the parking area, and then some more as I swivel around to face my friend. "So? Are we going in or not?"
  85. Of course we are. As we walk over to the store, I make it a point to stick close to Jim. You just never really appreciate just how intimidating cars can be until you are smaller than them. At least the parking area is pretty empty. Walking into a store filled to the brim with people on my first day as a full-time pony wouldn't exactly be something I'd like to do.
  86. A few people talking in front of the store stop their conversation as we walk past, and I almost feel their stares on my back as we enter the building. So far, so good. I can handle a few stares. It's not like I am not used to them. At least this time, no one had called me a "dirty hippie", a slur that seemed to have survived its decade just like the 80's had at Jim's place.
  87. The fruit and vegetable section of the store is the first we find ourselves in, and Jim wastes no time raffling through the display. "As I said, George," He holds up an apple in one hand, a carrot in the other, "pick your poison."
  88. "Oh, haha, I get it," I say, as deadpan as possible, "the joke wasn't funny before, but you still run it into the ground. Clever, Jim. You know, sometimes I wonder what your readers see in you."
  89. "Jeez, no need to get this personal." The fruits are carelessly tossed over his shoulders and come to rest somewhere in the display. "But honestly, these are probably the safest bet for you at the moment. I mean, sure there are other things, oats and so on, but I don't really see you enjoying this dry stuff."
  90. "So what you are telling me is that you didn't even bother checking what I can eat? You know, on the internet for example?"
  91. "And when should I have done this? While driving, perhaps?"
  92. "Since when do you care about traffic safety? When you went to get the litterbox, you were still as fucking high..." I force myself to lower my voice. We've been getting carried away, and loudly and publicly accusing my friend, whom I for better or worse will have to rely on, of breaking the law wouldn't be a good idea. "Listen, dude. Could you please check on your phone? I don't want us to waste money on stuff I might end up not being able to digest, and if it turned out that I could still eat a little comfort food, that would be great, because honestly, I could use some of that at the moment. I am kind of begging you here."
  93. "Alright, alright. You win." Jim still looks annoyed, but he pulls out his phone and starts pressing around on the display. Just another thing that I will have to do without. "Ah, fuck. No reception." Jim presses around a bit more before he looks up from the display. "Wait here for a moment. I'll try outside."
  94. I nod and watch him leave, but internally I am debating wether I should follow him. Staying here alone isn't something I am entirely comfortable with, but on the other hand, I need to get used to being in public. If I can't even handle staying alone in an almost empty supermarket, what am I to do when I have to accompany Jim somewhere a little more populated? I don't want to stay alone and bored at his house whenever he has to go somewhere. No, better to start training now.
  95. Jim will be right back anyway. Briefly, I consider lieing down and curling up, but the dirt on the floor makes me reconsider. It's actually kind of disgusting to basically be barefoot wherever you go. I make a mental note to clean my hooves once we get back to Jim's, and instead remain standing. It might look a little awkward to passers-by, but I really don't want to get my coat dirty. Is that some newfound vanity? I didn't care all that much about personal hygiene when I was still walking around on two legs.
  96. "Helloooo!" The shrill noise makes me flatten my ears and look around for its source. Seems like my luck has run out. Kids. A little girl, around eight or nine years old, is coming straight for me. Where the fuck are her parents? Not in sight, that's for sure. The girl thankfully comes to a stop before tackling me. She slowly reaches out a hand as she gives me a questioning look. "Fair warning, kid. I bite." My warning only serves to light up her face even more. "Ohmygod, you can talk? That's so cool. Can I pet you?"
  97. "As a matter of fact, you can not." Even though being petted would be really nice, I am not going to set a precedent here. Last thing I need is her friends to arrive and bury me in some kind of fucked-up cuddle pile. Besides, I am not sure that getting petted by kids in public won't get me on some kind of sex offender list.
  98. "What are you? Are you a dog? You look kind of like a small horse." The kid is still staring at me with an expression that speaks of a deep fascination.
  99. "I am a photographer." I try to make my reply sound as grandiose as possible, but the girl just laughs. "You are funny. Are you here often? I've never seen you here before."
  100. "No wonder, I am here for the first time. Why don't you tell me about yourself for a change? Where your parents are, for example?" The girl shrugs.
  101. "Mom and Dad are back at the car. They told me to go ahead." During our talk, her hand as risen back towards me again. She's good at this, I only notice when she ruffles my mane. "Hey!" I snap at her. "Did noone ever tell you about consent?"
  102. "I knew you wouldn't bite," she laughs, and despite wanting to be angry I feel a smile spread over my muzzle as well.
  103. "Emmy? Are you here?" A woman in her thirties rounds the corner.
  104. "Mom! Look what I've found!" shouts the girl. Being referred to as a "what" hurts. Odd, but true.
  105. Now the woman turns and gets to take it all in. Her precious daughter standing next to some blue and white animal that doesn't quite look like anything she knows.
  106. "What's that?," she asks, carefully coming closer to grab her daughter. "I've never seen such an animal before."
  107. "She said that she's a photographer," Emmy helpfully offers, and the look her mother gives me tells me that even if just for a second, she considers the possibility that I can, in fact speak. But I really don't want to drag this encounter with a concerned parent out any longer. Besides, she is nervous already and seems just as clueless as her daughter. There's no way to tell how she would react. So I just sit down on my haunches and cock my head in the best impression of a curious dog I can muster, and with a slightly nervous laugh she grabs her daughter by the hand and all but drags her off.
  108. That doesn't stop Emmy from looking back and waving me goodbye.
  109. I am still sitting there and contemplating this encounter when Jim returns.
  110. "I'm back," he announces superfluously. "Great," I reply, still in thought, "let's get going." Mentally, I am still busy processing my encounter with the girl. It had been nice, far better than I thought an encounter with a small child might go. But just why had the whole thing left me with this feeling of sadness? Probably because it served as a reminder of just how much I've lost in a bit over a day.
  111. "Sooo," Jim casually remarks as he walks besides me, "You'll be glad to hear that meat isn't off the table entirely." I look up at him, and the look of hope that must be visible on my face makes him grin even wider.
  112. "Really?" "Really." I could hug him. Just the kind of good news to get me away from that odd pit of depression Emmy and her mother almost sent me tumbling into.
  113.  
  114. We end up making making some kind of vegetable pasta with some meatballs to placate my craving for meat. That is, Jim cooks and I offer moral support by relaxing on the kitchen floor and watching his every move. It's not like I've got anything else to do.
  115. "Do you really have to lie right there, G? Can't you get out from under my feet?"
  116. It's true that at times Jim has come dangerously close to stepping on my tail, but I still shake my head no.
  117. Jim groans in exasperation.
  118. "You are just like that cat my mother used to have. Always getting in the way, starved for attention. Why don't you go watch TV until I am done here?"
  119. I shrug.
  120. "We both know that there's nothing on worthy of being watched anyway. Besides, I've got to make sure that you really put some meat in there. Last thing I need is you fucking me over with some soy shit."
  121. "Could you at least supervise me from somewhere else?"
  122. Jim takes a wide step over me to grab something from the kitchen table and I find myself agreeing with his assessment that my current position is somewhat impractical.
  123. Wouldn't want to be hit by some spilled boiling water, after all.
  124. But where to go? It's admittedly petty, but I am not going to give Jim the satisfaction of leaving him alone. Then, I get an idea.
  125. While Jim is busy chopping up some vegetable over the kitchen sink, his back turned, I make my move. As silently as possible, cringing internally at every little clopping sound my hooves make on the ground, I climb up onto one of the chairs next to the table. It takes some circling around to get into a comfortable position, but finally I manage to sit down.
  126. Spread out on the table in front of me are the ingredients Jim is working with.
  127. I lean in for a closer examination. The pesto especially smells delicious, and I just can't resist going in closer for a big whiff. Yeah, if that stuff tastes half as good as it smells, then...
  128. A hand snatches the open can away from my nostrils.
  129. "I can do perfectly fine without your fur in my food, thank you very much," Jim says as he places the can on the kitchen aisle.
  130. Aww.
  131. "Oh, I see. Being hygenic all of sudden. Wouldn't want to get dirt from a dirty animal in your food."
  132. Jim doesn't take the bait.
  133. "The self-pity routine? I don't buy it. Besides, I've seen what goes up your nose and believe me, I wouldn't want that near my food in any case."
  134. "Please. As if you were any better."
  135. "I am pretty sure I am. Why don't you tell that Phillipines story again? I didn't even know you could get high off of that stuff before you told me."
  136. Nice try changing the topic, Jim.
  137. "You can't tell me that you never heard about magic mushrooms before last year. Not with your choices in housing and interior decoration."
  138. "But that weren't quite your average shrooms, were they? Besides, if you dislike my house that much, you are welcome to sleep outside."
  139. "What, in the shadow of that fucking ugly facade? I don't think so, bro."
  140. By this point we are both smirking.
  141. "I hope you can at least tolerate my kitchen for a while longer," Jim tells me as he turns and fills to plates with pasta. "Dinner's ready."
  142. Dinner turns out to be a new challenge in and of itself. Just how am I going to eat this stuff without making an absolute mess out of myself and the surrounding area of the kitchen?
  143. Jim jokingly suggests feeding me with a spoon, an idea I can't shoot down fast enough.
  144. "I might have no hands," I tell him, "but I am not a fucking baby. I'll manage."
  145. Managing, it turns out, consists of lowering one's muzzle towards the plate and eating out of it like a dog might out of a bowl. It's certainly humiliating, but not as much as getting fed would have been.
  146. Each time I take a bite, I try to curl my lips back as much as I can to avoid getting pesto on the coat around my mouth, but this proves more than just a little uncomfortable, and finally I give it up entirely.
  147. I am already eating like an animal, a few sauce stains on my coat won't make this any more embarassing.
  148. To my surprise, Jim has no witty comments. Neither does he complain about the spillover on his table. On the contrary, he seems to make it a point to ignore the spectacle in front of him the best he can.
  149. Must've read on my face just how I feel about this situation.
  150. At least the food is good and filling. To my relief, the meatballs seem to have no immediate adverse effects on my digestive tract.
  151. Despite my best efforts, my corner of the table looks like a swamp once I am done eating.
  152. Still, no snarky comment from Jim. It's almost scary just how nonchalantly he maneouvers me to the bathroom and lets in a bath for me to get cleaned up while he goes to clean up "our mess".
  153. Emphasis on "our".
  154. Does he seriously think that I can't handle the reality of my situation? I fucked up, alright, and the state of his kitchen is a direct consequence of that, however miniscule compared to the impact on my life.
  155. It's almost as if I am discovering a whole new side of my friend, and I am not sure wether I like it. The old, manic and more often then not insulting Jim had seemed, well, more genuine.
  156. Still, as I melt in to the warm water of the bathtub, my worries seem almost insignificant.
  157. The warm water feels heavenly, and I sigh as I realize that I'll not only get rid of the remains of Jim's pasta sauce, but also whatever dirt still clings to my coat from our earlier shopping trip.
  158. If there's a better feeling, I don't know what it might be. I look on as the water takes on a slightly gray colouration. Just why does that make me feel somewhat icky? I didn't have these kind of reactions when I took a swim in the Ganges for that report a few years back.
  159. Then again, I was high out of my mind back then. Somehow, the drugs had always been a constant in my life.
  160. And where did they make me end up? In a state of complete dependance on my only friend, whom I wouldn't even have met if not for my job.
  161. I don't feel like bathing anymore.
  162. Very carefully, making sure not to slip, I climb over the edge of the tub. The soft feeling of the mat in front of the bathtub under my hooves gives a welcome feeling of safety. At least I won't slip and break my neck today.
  163. With my teeth, I grab a towel Jim had designate as mine when he showed me his bathroom, and with a swing of my neck I manage to get it over my back.
  164. So far, so good.
  165. Now for the difficult part.
  166. With some jerky motions, I try to drag the towel across my bag to dry myself off. As expected, I have to swing it back up on my back several times before I end up with a halfway satisfactory result. Just why did I have to become a "Mud Pony", as my fellow degenerate drug users called them online? Supposedly the pseudo-unicorns had limited powers of levitation. Oh, what I wouldn't give for those right now. Still, magic is not an option, and making the most of what you are given has always been one of my core philosophies.
  167. At least, that's what I tell myself as I try to swing the towel in a new angle to dry off my mane.
  168. It takes far too long for my taste, but finally I reach a state that I might not describe as "dry", but rather as "I did my best, really Jim, don't mind me dripping all over your living room".
  169. Not too shabby for a first timer, if I say so myself.
  170. A nudge of my muzzle opens the door Jim left unlocked for me, and I trot back towards the living and cooking area.
  171. Seems like Jim has been just as busy as me.
  172. The kitchen is cleaned up nicely. Didn't even think that Jim would give enough of a shit to keep it clean, to be honest, but perhaps he's just putting up a show because he knows that I've got my eye on him.
  173. I find my friend splayed out on the couch once more. There's a boring talkshow blaring on TV, POTUS telling the host something about how Russia is sure to have hacked some kind of Israeli referendum. Aren't there any other topics anymore? They've been going on about this for weeks, and nothing has come to light.
  174. "Hey George. All cleaned up?"
  175. He's not even watching this boring neocon shit on TV, instead tapping around on his phone once more.
  176. "I hope so. Don't want to find any discount-dirt from this afternoon on me tomorrow." I flop down besides the couch and let out a sigh. "Mind telling me just what you are doing on your phone all day? The Jim I know doesn't check his messages more than once a week."
  177. "Yeah, but this is different." A hand holding a mobile phone is thrust directly into my line of sight, and my eyes barely have the time to adjust to the test on the brightly lit screen before it is withdrawn once again.
  178. "See, I've been messaging Mr. Duke all day with that idea I've had, and he seems to be warming up to it. If things work out with him, things might work out for us as well, if you know what I mean, G. No hard work, no travel to exotic shitholes, just you and me sitting here and watching the money flow in."
  179. I feel my ears perk up at that and I turn to face Jim.
  180. "Sounds too good to be true. What's the catch?"
  181. "There's no catch. You and your fucking paranoia. We'd just have to write a column for Beetle magazine. You know, about living with a Pon-E overdose or living with the victim of one. Nothing you and me can't manage, right?"
  182. I have to admit that the idea sounds good enough in theory. Sure, airing my dirty laundry publicly isn't exactly my idea of a good time, but as long as it finances my continued squatting at Jim's, I am all ears.
  183. "So we are just going to write down all the stuff we do all day? I can't imagine Duke opening his checkbook for some slice of life bullshit for too long."
  184. "Yeah, well, when it comes down to it, we can just make stuff up, can't we?"
  185. I want to disagree, but Jim's hand returns and finds that magical spot behind my ears. All my protest dies down before it can even leave my mouth once his fingers start doing their work.
  186. And to think that not too long ago I fancied myself immune against bribes of any form...
  187. "I think I already have an idea for a title of our new project," Jim tells me as I mewl into his hand, all higher brain functions seemingly eliminated by his kneading fingers, "What do you think of The Pon-E Journal?"
  188. To be honest, I think the title sucks. It falls perfectly in line with the titles of Jim's previous drug-focused articles and will certainly lead the idea of an anonymous column ad absurdum.
  189. But at the moment, I wouldn't be able to voice dissent even if I wanted to. Besides, he would possibly stop stroking me if he had to think about a new title, and we can't have that.
  190. "Sounds good," I mumble as I let my head flop down on the couch besides Jim and rub my self against his legs. God, it feels just so good to know that he's there for me.
  191. Jim chuckles as I dig my muzzle into his knee.
  192. "Shit, that drug really made a needy little thing out of you, didn't it?" I want to protest, but speaking is kind of hard with the weight of his legs weighing down my snout.
  193. Besides, is he even wrong? I never was one to place much value on shows of affection. Instead, I always had that kind of cynical attitude that presumed that most people who showed each other their feelings openly were just putting up a show in the name of social posturing.
  194. But now noone is watching and I still want nothing more than for this cuddling session to last forever.
  195. Jim's hands now grab my ears and start kneading them thoroughly. I can feel my blood rushing through them. Unconsciously, I stretch my neck even further until my head almost rests on Jim's stomach.
  196. "You know," he says, "Mr Duke is even willing to keep you on the payroll for a while longer if we deliver some quality content."
  197. If there's something that could rip me out of my universe of bliss back to the present, it's the mention of the old bastard Duke.
  198. "Hold up just a second. You told him that I am , well, ME?"
  199. I free myself from Jim's grip and stare at him.
  200. "Are you retarded, Jim? There was a reason you were the only one at work I even cared to call about my situation. I am not keen on participating in fucking documentaries about myself and the fucking drug until the end of time. Besides, if my family were to find out..."
  201. I am almost hyperventilating. Stupid horse hormones. But still, I am certain that my family is still shadowing me, however disowned they might tell themselves I am. The thought of the final humiliation of them finding out about my fate is just too much for me. Better I'd succumbed to a heroin overdose on a public toilet.
  202. "Shit, G, calm down, calm down." Jim sits up on the couch as his searching hands once again find my head. "I am certain that we can manage some kind of pseudonym deal with the mag. Besides, I don't want to drag you into something you are that uncomfortable with. Tell you what, I'll call old man Duke first thing tomorrow and figure something out, alright? No need to be upset."
  203. Still sniffling, I bury my face in his belly. Jim's shirt smells like spilled beer and old weed, but at the moment it's the most comforting smell I can imagine.
  204. "You promise?"
  205. "Of course I do. Things'll work out, trust me. Besides, I still owe you for last year, don't I?"
  206. Despite my unstable emotional state, I have to stifle I laugh.
  207. "I guess you do. Seriously, I've never seen a reaction like that to an earring. You were like a fucking man possessed."
  208. "Ah, screw the earring. The real snake in my garden that evening was Bono, and you damn well know it."
  209. "Yeah," I reply, "but as you said that evening: Fuck Bono."
  210. "And fuck U2" we finish the sentence together.
  211.  
  212. For a while we stay like that, I with my head buried in Jim's torso as he lies on the couch and kneads my head. It's nice to be comfortable like this, but it also makes the mind wander. Isn't it funny, I find myself thinking, that Jim is just so accepting? Last year, the sight of ponies had been enough to almost send him into a nervous breakdown, but today he had been exceedingly normal, if one overlooked the initial hostility upon our arrival. It's not really a train of thought I want to follow right now, comfortable as I am, but my thoughts seem to loop in on themselves, arriving at the same question time and again. I fidget around a little but it is no use. Seems like I won't find a comfortable position as long as this is weighing on my mind.
  213. After a while, there's something else weighing on there as well, and in a much more literal sense at that. Jim's hands have stopped their kneading and lie heavy on my head. Still, I manage to withdraw from under them. "Jim?" I whisper, "Jim, are you asleep already?" There's no answer. Did that fucker really fall asleep on me? I trot alongside the couch until I reach the end where Jim's head rests. Yeah, he's out of it. His neck is contorted in a way that brings to mind the victim of a car crash, and from his open mouth come soft snoring sounds. How anyone can sleep in a position that seems so uncomfortable is beyond me. Guess that question will have to wait.
  214.  
  215. I am awoken by the rays of sunlight coming through the blinds of the living room windows. Did I really fall asleep besides the couch? I dimly remember climbing off Jim after he fell asleep. I had wanted to lay down in his "office". Guess I never made it that far. As I blink away the sleep, I hear Jim talking somewhere in the house. Do we have visitors? And if there are any, should I stay hidden or just act perfectly normal?
  216. I am torn between diving behind the couch to stay out of sight or going off in search of Jim, when the decision is taken from me. A door, probably the one to the office, closes, and Jim's voice gets closer as he walks towards the living room.
  217. No way whoever he is talking to won't hear me scrambling around if I try to hide now.
  218. Stupid cloppy hooves.
  219. I sit upright and try my best to look presentable, even as my ears swivel around to pick up more of the conversation.
  220. From what I can tell, it's pretty onesided: I only ever hear Jim talk. He really must be going off at whoever's with him,
  221.  
  222. The question of the "Why" is solved as soon as Jim rounds the corner, mobile phone pressed to his ear. I would punch myself for my stupidity, but clocking yourself with a hoof seems like a painful prospect. Instead, I simply start calming down.
  223. "No, no, that shouldn't be a problem at all," I hear Jim say. He glances over to me and gives a thumb's up with his free hand as he squeezes the phone between his ear and shoulder and reaches for a cup of coffee. "Yeah, I would guess that we have quite a lot of material already." A short pause. "Damn right. The slice of life stuff and some of the nonsensical soul-searching some people seem to love so much. Exactly. I hear you, just like the Portugal story. Right. We'll give you something by monday. Alright, see you later."
  224. He hangs up and throws the phone over onto the couch.
  225. "Finally up, I see," he mumbles inbetween sips from his coffee. "Slept well?"
  226. "Well enough," I shrug, only to add "So what was this all about?" with a nod towards the phone.
  227. "I told you I would work things out with Duke, didn't I?" The smug, self assured grin on Jim's face is an exact match of the one he wears on the "about the author" photographs in his books. "To make it short, we've been talking all morning. Even got kinda loud at times. Really, that you could sleep that long with all the talking... anyways, he really didn't like to lose the marketing pull by dropping our names, but he came around once I told him that he could take it our way or look for a new writer. Said that the NYT would be glad to have me."
  228. Now that is the most unbelievable lie Jim must have ever told.
  229. "Don't tell me he fell for that. The fucking New York Times? The very same paper that ran that story about how publications like ours were damaging the integrity of American journalism by offering freakshow sensationalism?"
  230. "The same. I am not convinced he bought it, but at least it made pause and reconsider."
  231. I am incredulous. "Honestly Jim, that he didn't hang up then and there and laugh all the way to HR to fire you should worry us. What if our boss is losing it? His age, all the drugs over the years, can't be good. Soon he might run for sherriff again."
  232. "I don't think old Duke is that far gone just yet," Jim muses as he rolls a cigarette. "He made it quite clear that there are certain conditions. First of all, he wants our first installment of the column by monday for evaluation. Then he'll decide if he's going to run with our terms or not."
  233. "Monday?" Duke drives a hard bargain. It's Saturday already. Jim nods. "Yep. We better get started right after breakfast."
  234.  
  235. Breakfast is a short and rather messy affair. Trying to eat syrup-dripping pancakes without hands turns out to be a challenge I am not yet up to. The sticky stuff ends up everywhere: All over the table, on the floor and in my fur. "Keep that up and I might just set up a bowl on the floor for you," Jim grumbles as he cleans up the mess. I can tell that he's joking, mostly, but the simple fact that I don't even feel that upset at the idea should probably raise some red flags.
  236. Perhaps if I help Jim I can distract myself from these thoughts. Under the table there's still some syrup that must have dropped from my snout. I don't really have anything to wipe it off the tiles and using my hooves would just end with my tracking the stuff all over. Seems like I didn't really think this through. Well, syrup's syrup.
  237. Without even wasting another thought, I lick the spot off the floor. There's a bit of dust in there, but overall it's still delicious.
  238. I emerge from under the table to Jim staring at me. "You just ate from the floor." It's no question, but not an accusation either. It's more of a stunned acknowledgement.
  239. "There was some syrup down there. So I thought I'd spare you the effort of busting your back to go under there."
  240. Jim slowly nods. I catch him giving me weird looks as he continues cleaning the dishes.
  241. Have I done anything wrong?
  242. On further examination, it might seem weird that I had been eating from the floor.
  243. Sure, if I still were a human I'd never considered it. The floor was gross, there were dust and dirt there.
  244. But now, it had felt perfectly natural.
  245. Just like being pet and getting my ears kneaded had.
  246. I guess these changes should worry me, yet I can't even work up a proper annoyance. If it felt right, then why not give in? For better or worse, I had chosen this role when I overdosed and now it's time to play it.
  247.  
  248. We go to work as soon as Jim is done cleaning up the kitchen. It doesn't take long, however, for us to realize that my hooves would make writing my part a little difficult.
  249. "Can't you write with your mouth?"
  250. "I don't think that I will be able to do things I never did before just because it would be convenient, Jim."
  251. To make my point clear, I pick up a pen in my mouth and try writing "see?" on the stack of writing paper that Jim had set down in front of me. The result looks less like letters and more as if a line of ants got scattered by an earthquake.
  252. I let the pen drop from my mouth and look up at Jim.
  253. "And I didn't even make it look shitty on purpose."
  254. Jim scratches his stubble as he looks over my attempt at mouthwriting.
  255. "Fuck," he grumbles, "and I thought I had atrocious handwriting. Remind me to never end up in your situation."
  256. He thinks for a while.
  257. "Maybe we can build some kind of glove for your forehooves and stick pens on those? Do you think you could make that work?"
  258. "Or you could just install some speech-to-text app on your phone and we can skip the whole finnicky manual part," I suggest. "Of course, if you want to spend hours tinkering, don't let me stop you."
  259. "You must be the snarkiest pony around."
  260. "But it's endearing, isn't it?"
  261. Jim doesn't answer, but I take the slight grin on his face as he grabs his phone as a yes.
  262. A few minutes later, I am alone. Jim has gone over to write his part out in his office and left me with his phone under the condition that I don't chew it up (as if) and call him if I need him to work the touchscreen.
  263. So now I need help to work phones. Definitely not one of the changes I'd even thought about today. Will probably be a laugh riot for our readers.
  264. Thinking of readers, time to get started.
  265. But how to start?
  266. I can't say that telling the story of my life, even just of the past few days, to a soulless appliance is an idea I am comfortable with. A good long while I am just pacing around the phone and absentmidedly listening to the clopping of my hooves on the floor as I mull over the last few days. Perhaps I should just start at the festival a year ago, tell my readers how it all started?
  267. No, bad idea. I'd have to change a lot of things to preserve my anonymity and at the moment I don't quite trust myself to have the presence of mind not to let something slip.
  268. Thinking of presence of mind: I'll still have to tell Jim about my concerns regarding his sudden complete acceptance of me. He seemed a bit shaken when I ate the syrup earlier, but the Jim from last year probably would have gotten a mental breakdown at the sight. And perhaps I need to get a bit more introspective. I am acutely aware of the fact that I have rolled with the punches a bit too easily. Even now, I can't get myself to really worry about it. So what If I ate off the floor?
  269. No! I shake my head as if that would help to get it clear. Just this attitude is the problem. I need to question myself. Keep an eye on any mental developments. If you know that you should be unsettled, but aren't, isn't that disturbing in and of itself?
  270. Maybe writing about it could prove therapeutic. But I can't really start my contribution to our column with a description of an odd absence of existential dread, can I?
  271. God knows what that would do to the sales figures.
  272.  
  273. I end up "writing" a description of how I woke up in the morning and realized that I had overdosed and how I had tried to figure out who to call. I think I have reached a good point to end this first installment by the time I come to the point where I tried to figure out how to open the door for Jim.
  274. Key word Jim: Is he still busy writing? I feel a distinct grumble of hunger in the pit of my stomach. It must be time for lunch soon.
  275. I make my way over to Jim's mancave. Really, calling it an office is more than flattering and no amount of comfortable furniture can change that. I can hear him hacking around on his keyboard through the door. Must be in one of his enthusiastic moods.
  276. "Hey Jim." I give the door a light kick with my hoof. Need to teach him not to close the doors behind him anymore. What could he possibly use the privacy for anyways? It's not like he has to hide his drug habit from me.
  277. But he might be doing something else. Jim opens the door only slightly, but it's hard to hide the fact that you are not wearing pants and sweating heavily from someone who is only slightly taller than your knees.
  278. "Hey, G. Done already?"
  279. He tries to be nonchalant. He even pulls a cigarette from somewhere and sticks it between his lips. The perfect picture of relaxation.
  280. Does he really think I'd fall for this?
  281. "Yeah, I think I have enough for a first issue. How's it going on your end? Poorly, I'd guess, if you already shat yourself. That afraid of Duke?"
  282. I try to nudge my way past his legs into the room and am immediately hit by a wall of hot air.
  283. "Holy shit, it's like a sauna in here. What happened to your air conditioning?"
  284. "It's not the AC." explains Jim. "It's that fucking thing."
  285. He points over to the modified aquarium. Even from my low position I can recognize that not everything is alright with the contraption. Steam wafts out of it in big clouds, and the remaining water is boiling. Lights in the base of the glass case are blinking frantically as Jim squeezes himself behind the cupboard the infernal machine is seated on and starts pulling out cables and tubes.
  286. "I wanted to reward myself for a job well done," he manages in between gasps for air in the steam cloud, "and this fucking piece of shit just starts heating up and doesn't even think about stopping anymore. But now I've had enough. This piece of SHIT..." He emphasizes his point by tearing off a hose of some kind, "is going straight to the trash. I've had it up to here..." another component is ripped off and thrown through the room.
  287. I circle around the room to get out of the target zone. The spilled ash is still there, I note.
  288. "So why did you lock yourself in here with a goddamn steam engine? Could have at least opened the door and let some heat out, couldn't you?"
  289. "I could," Jim groans, torso disappeared somewhere behind the furniture, "but then you'd have laughed at me."
  290. "As opposed to now, with you being the perfect picture of integrity and all that."
  291. No reply beyond another grunt and a thrown cable. Seems like Jim needs some for time to sort out his nightmarish bong.
  292. "Hey, listen, Jim, I'll leave you to your bullshit here, but you better not let me starve, alright?"
  293. With that I step back into the hallway.
  294. Now to kill some time. Walking back to the living room, I ponder what to do with myself. I guess I could spend some time reading, but something tells me that Jim wouldn't appreciate me turning over pages with my mouth. Besides, most of his books are sitting on shelves that are a good bit too high for me to reach. All in all, there aren't all that many options left. With a jump, I propel myself up onto the couch. After a bit of digging behind the cushions I find what I am looking for: the TV remote. At least there's one thing I can do without getting slobber all over Jim's stuff. With one hoof set on the end of the remote to kee it in place, I carefully use the rim of the other to press the power button. As the television flickers on, I can't help but wonder if this is how it's going to be now. Will I just be waiting around for Jim whenever he isn't around, unable to really do anything on my own? Can't say that I like the idea too much.
  295. The television programme does its part to further worsen my mood. It seems that no matter what channel I watch, it's the same everywhere: The President did thing, here's why thing's good/bad, inane reality shows parading around the dumbest mankind has to offer.
  296. I almost sink into the ground with second hand embarassment as I watch a young man try to explain why he doesn't believe that birds actually exist. The show's host pretends that this opinion is perfectly reasonable and nods along with his guest's ramblings.
  297. "But you see what I mean, right, Mike? If the government wanted to spy on the populace, why not disguise the surveillance drones as some vaguely cute and non-threatening animal and pretend that they've been around forever. But let me tell you, I have done my research, and I can assure you that there's no depiction of these so called "Birds"(my jaw goes slack as he actually throws up air qoutes) in any piece of media from before the seventies that hasn't been thouroughly manipulated."
  298. At least when some day the aliens come to rightfully exterminate mankind for its stupidity, they won't associate me with these people anymore. For just a moment, I dare hope that now that the unhinged rant is over, there will be a cut to another segment of the show or perhaps another, saner guest.
  299. "That's a fascinating theory, John. I'll definitely look into it. But I think you wanted to tell us something about the crystal trees and the ice wall as well..."
  300. I could howl with frustration as the birdman goes off again. This must be the stuff they make the inmates in Gitmo watch.
  301. "Watching something interesting?"
  302. My ears have swivelled towards the source of the voice even before I finish turning my head. Jim is standing in the doorway to the living room. Sat down on the ground beside him is a box that, judging by the protruding tubes and large glass shards, contains the remains of his aquarium.
  303. "Oh absolutely." With a jump, I am off the couch and make my way over to him. "Nothing's as interesting as seeing what kind of bullshit passes for entertainment journalism these days. Makes our magazine look downright Pulitzer-worthy."
  304. A peak into the box confirms my suspicions. It is filled with the smashed parts of the experimental bong and I am pretty sure that I make out bits of the fallen ashtray as well.
  305. "Done cleaning up your mess?"
  306. He points towards the couch. "Done making a new one?" Admittedly I did, even if the few thrown around cushions from my search for the remote pale in comparison to the disaster in Jim's room. Still, I feel bad. I am only a guest after all. My head droops a little, and my ears almost unconsciously flatten against my head.
  307. "I might have gone a little overboard. I'll take care of it," I mumble. I can barely look Jim in the eyes before I turn around and start my trot back towards the television area. A few seconds pass before I hear Jim behind me: "Don't tell me you honestly feel bad about this."
  308. "No," I reply, still on my way, "Of course not." Steps behind me, than a hand on my head. I stop in the middle of a step and consequently almost fall over as Jim starts scratching my scalp.
  309. "Your body language tells a different story."
  310. "It's that bad, huh?" I'd turn to look at him, but I am too busy pressing my head into his hand.
  311. "Absolutely. You were slinking along like a battered dog."
  312. "Geez, sounds like I really need to control myself better."
  313. But that'll have to wait at least a little while longer. Right now, I am busy laying down and presenting my belly for rubbing. My disappointment when Jim instead of getting the hint withdraws his hand and stands up is unmeasurable. A low whine escapes my throat as he returns to the package in the doorway.
  314. "I'll get this heap of trash to the scrapyard. Think you'll get by on your own for a while a longer?"
  315. With a twirl of my torso I am on my hooves again. "Can't you take me along? I've got nothing to do here anyways. And if I stay here with those guys on TV you'll come back to not only an animal, but a dumb animal."
  316. Looking over to the TV (the guest is still there and busy explaining to the host how the earth is not only hollow, but also bowl shaped) Jim comes to the conclusion that no, he doesn't want that at all. He picks up the the box with one hand and slaps the side of his leg with the other. "Fine, come along then."
  317. There's nothing I'd like to do more and so we leave the droning imbeciles on TV behind.
  318.  
  319. "Do me a favor," Jim says. I perk up at that. Our drive to the junkyard has been oddly silent so far. Jim had seemed as if he was thinking intently about something, and I had kept myself entertained by watching the people walking along on the dusty sidewalk. I had just spotted an old lady at a bus stop eating a joghurt with her bare hands when Jim spoke up and was more than happy allowing myself to get distracted from the disgusting display outside the window.
  320. "That depends, deoesn't it?," I playfully answer, "it's not like there's a whole lot of things I can do for you like this, is there?"
  321. "Don't," he interrupts my little spiel, "refer to yourself as an animal anymore. You are better than that, and it freaks me out."
  322. Well, there's a surprise. For a second or so, I sit in surprised silence.
  323. "Jim," I finally manage to say, "have you taken a look at me recently? I AM an animal. There's no way around it."
  324. "No, you're not!" he retorts. He sounds loud and angry, and the whole thing probably came out more forcefully than he intended. "It's not just about what you look like. You're still yourself, aren't you? You aren't just some instinct driven beast, you have agency. We are even talking right now, aren't we? If most people talk to animals, they don't answer, do they?"
  325. "I guess not," I allow. Jim nods, more to himself than for my benefit. "But I am not exactly human anymore either, am I? I might not be an 'instinct driven beast', but I'd be lying if I said that they don't play any role at all for me. Do you think good old George would've licked your floor clean? Or present his belly for petting? And I KNOW that those changes should freak me out, that I should be afraid of what might continue to change within me, but I just...can't. I can't work up more than a mild unease. Ain't that fucked up?"
  326. To my surprise, I feel tears in the corners of my eyes by the time I finish my rant. Jim looks at me with a mix of surprise and...horror? on his face. He pulls into a parking area and brings the car to a stop.
  327. "Why didn't you tell me about this earlier?" he asks. I shrug and try to blink the tears from my eyes. "It just didn't seem that important, I think. I guess I never questioned that my new body would bring new impulses. I know that it sounds fucked up, but it actually felt good, you know?"
  328. Now Jim is tearing up as well. "I guess I should have known. I mean, the way you reacted to being petted should have given me reason enough to worry. No 'keep your hands to yourself' or anything like that... Fuck, I didn't really question myself either when I treated you like a pet."
  329. "It's kind of nice," I whisper. "Very nice, even."
  330. Suddenly I find myself hugged tightly by Jim. "We'll work things out. But please, don't call yourself an animal anymore, alright? That's selling yourself short."
  331. I can't help it, I get the sniffles. "I'm not so sure."
  332. "But I am," he says, conviction creeping back into his voice, "to me, you are much more than any animal could ever be."
  333.  
  334. It takes a while, but we manage to compose ourselves and arrive at the junkyard. On the outskirts of town, a high, barbed wire topped fence encloses an enormous area covered in masses of rusted, twisted metal and piles of scrap. From my new, lowered point of view they might as well be mountains. Rotating cameras scan the area in front of the fence. Signs warn of guard dogs. All in all, it seems as if someone has succeeded in transplanting a part of the inner-German border into the Nevada desert.
  335. "So you are sure that you don't want to come inside?" Jim asks as he heaves the trash out of the trunk.
  336. "Nah, I'll be alright. Last thing I want to do is step into some rusted piece of metal." For added emphasis, I show him the underside of my hoof. "These frogs are sensitive, you know."
  337. He gives me an unreadable look, then nods. "OK. I won't be long."
  338. I watch him make his way over towards the gate. He hits a button next to it, and after a few seconds it slides open. A man steps out of a hut on the other side, and the two of them start talking as they round a corner and vanish from sight.
  339. We hadn't really talked all that much during the rest of the drive, both of us absorbed into our own thoughts, but I decide that it had been good to come clean as I start walking along the fence. Even if Jim hadn't really convinced me. 'To me you are much more than any animal could ever be'. What had he meant by this? That I was still his best friend? Or even something more? It's hard to imagine from a man that had skirted along the edges of a mental breakdown when he first saw a pony a little over a year ago. And if he really meant 'that', how would I feel about it? I wouldn't hate it, I realize.
  340. Loud barking brings me back to reality. A big Doberman on the other side of the fence is running towards me. The dog stops just short of the fence, where it starts pacing up and down, staring at me. A deep grumbling presses past the thing's bared fangs. It's a mean looking monster, big and well muscled, with a network of white scars criss-crossing its black furred nose. Now I am really glad that I didn't accompany Jim through the gate.
  341. The Dog continues barking and grumbling at me. I try walking on, but it just darts along the inner side of the fence to keep up with me. It is downright impossible to hear your own thoughts over the ruckus the damn mutt is making.
  342. "Sit." I command. For a second, an expression of wonder appears on the ugly face as the black dog cocks its head and stares at me. Then, probably deciding that it has found a great source of entertainment, it continues barking at me, louder than before. It is so excited that it all but seems to jump up and down in place. I didn't even know dogs could do that.
  343. "Come on," I tell the dog, "leave me alone, I am trying to think here. Fuck off already." Of course, this only riles the dog up further. It has never seen what should be prey talking like one of the two-leggers, and it doesn't know what to make of it. It's probably the most interesting thing it has ever seen through the fence.
  344. Fine. Let's try a language the Doberman will understand. I bare my teeth and growl back at the dog. I sound surprisingly threatening, if I say so myself.
  345. Too bad the dog is not intimidated at all. I get the slight feeling that I might have made a mistake as the creature stops in its tracks. I thought the barking was threatening before, but it was downright playful when compared to the noises the dog makes now. I carefully take a few steps backwards as the barking and growling reaches a crescendo and then, to my horror, the Doberman lunges at me.
  346. It throws itself into the fence, and there is a cracking noise as an electrical discharge flows through the dog's jaw. With a yelp it takes off and disappears, tail behind its legs, between the piles of garbage.
  347. For a moment longer I remain frozen in place. But then the tension leaves my body and I break out into laughing as I start walking back to the car. That stupid fucking dog. Just jumped into the electric fence. And not for the first time, judging by the scars on its nose. How fucking stupid do you have to be to not learn anything after the first one, maybeee two times?
  348. Maybe Jim is right after all. If that's the highwatermark of animal intelligence, then I'd really do a disservice to myself by counting myself amongst them.
  349. But just what am I then? Am I still me? Or something, someone new? Does George plus Pon-E equal G?
  350. I am still pondering this question as I fall asleep next to the couch that evening, Jim's hand idly stroking the scruff of my neck.
  351.  
  352. If I were saying that my stay at Jim's slowly turned into routine, I'd be lying.
  353. It turned into routine pretty damn fast.
  354. We'd wake up somewhere between 0900 am and noon and have breakfast. Afterwards, all bets were off. Sometimes we'd spend the whole day working on the column, sometimes we'd hang around and chill. In the beginning Jim had been a little paranoid about the effects of weed on horses and their derivatives, but there was hardly anything he could do to prevent me from passive smoking. It hadn't been long until I managed to talk him into lighting me a blunt. One puke stain on the living room carpet later, that idea was dead and buried. This body is definitely a lightweight. So ever since that little incident, breathing in the clouds of smoke wafting from Jim's nostrils and mouth is all I can hope for.
  355. Not that I mind. It makes things rather more intimate and I surprise myself with just how ... o.k. I am with that. Jim doesn't mind either, or if he does, he manages to hide it well.
  356. Not that we'd just hang around and get fat, of course. I've succesfully managed to nag Jim into going on a running regimen with me. Every second evening, when the heat becomes tolerable, we make our miles. It's not something we enjoy doing per se, but hey, Jim is an almost middleaged journalist with a drug habit and I am a species that I am reasonably sure would have evolved for running had it not come out of a lab somewhere. A little exercise can only do us good.
  357. Of course, it's not all fun and games. All play and no work makes Jim a dull boy, and so he has to check in at the office or run some errands in town from time to time.
  358. Sometimes I even tag along.
  359. Not to the office, mind you. Meeting all the people who used to know me as the scruffy photographer? Nah, fuck that. I am not to be ogled. Jim is the only one I ever met working for this place who has something resembling a shred of decency. I can tell, no matter how hard he tries to bury it under his cynicism or numb it with drugs. Funny, somehow I had known ever since that first call, back before the festival. If you read the article back then, you'd have thought that all we'd talked about were the drugs we were going to bring and how we planned to get fucked up out in the desert.
  360. You'd be wrong. Not off by much, not at all, but still wrong. But his talk about his apprehensiveness, about how he just "can't get these freaks who get off on their hooves, man" had betrayed-
  361. Yeah, what? An underlying humanity? A crack in the hard-boiled shell?
  362. Fuck if I know. All I can tell you is that the (by now probably legendary in fan circles) anecdote of Jim going off at the sight of a pierced pony hadn't come out of nowhere. I guess you could say that Jim inadvertently revealed himself to be a true humanist, who was so taken aback by the idea of people willing giving up their humanity that it drove him to a more extreme state of shock than any of his various reports from warzones across the world had.
  363. Which is why I knew I could count on him when our new friendship even withstood me, completely blissed out on Pon-E all but coming on to him.
  364. The other fucks from Beetle magazine? Vultures. There's no event too tragic, no conflict too bloody for them to exploit for their soulless brand of Gonzo. They'd kick off a new Srebrenica in their need to stay on top.
  365. So what does it say about us that we are still working for that rag?
  366.  
  367. When Jim heads over to those fucks, I stay home. Turn on the talking heads on TV and engage in some much needed soul searching.
  368. I think I have slowly begun to figure out out just what drove me to overdose.
  369. I used to tell myself that it was an accident. That I didn't quite know what had happened that night.
  370. But now I am pretty sure that I a have been lying to myself.
  371. Scratch that, I am absolutely positive.
  372. If it comes down to it, I am almost sure that the whole thing has been a kind of low effort alternative to suicide.
  373. You see, way back in the day, good old George had wanted to become a reporter. A real hero of the feather, the kind of guy whose articles expose corrupt officials and bring down dictators. A man whose home is covered in Pulitzers.
  374. My more than enthusiastic discoverey of marijuana and alcohol in my teens had thoroughly wrecked any academic prospects that might have allowed me to make the dream a reality, alongside my relationship to my family.
  375. Not that there had been much of a chance to begin with. The kind of journalism I wanted to do is dead, if it ever existed in the first place, supplanted by klickbait opinion pieces about inane bullshit that shouldn't have any bearing on the real world.
  376. So perhaps it was no big loss then that the only publication that would take me when I finally managed to drag myself halfway out of that swamp had been Beetle Magazine, and maybe it wasn't so bad that I only got a photographer's post. This was GONZOSHIT, baby, the kind of journalism where there were still adventures to be had, where you could be subversive, a real outlaw of the written word.
  377. Except it wasn't. It was Liveleak in printed form, an unceasing barrage of nastiness for its own sake, devoid of higher meaning or opinion. If it sold, you wrote about it. As the one who supplied the pictures, I had a front row seat for all kinds of human nastiness.
  378. If you are trapped in a dark parody of the job of your dreams, without other prospects anywhere and feel nothing but disgust whenever you look into the mirror for your complicity in making the world a darker place, is it such a bad idea to get rid of yourself?
  379. Get rid of your self?
  380. The festival had left me with the impression of what could be. What I could be. And then, that night some months ago-
  381.  
  382. Mr Duke had called earlier that evening. He'd wanted me to go back to Cambodia. The Neo-Khmer, he had told me, wheezing with excitement, were making a comeback. Some real good headway in the countryside, too. They were about to really come into their own, politically and aesthetically. He told me to imagine the new killing fields, more pagodas stuffed with skulls, a new Vietnamese intervention, and my camera there to cover it all. I had nodded along with his ranting and raving even though I didn't care and he couldn't see me anyways. I had examined the bags under my reflection's eyes in the window, and then I had hung up.
  383. This time, I told myself, I wouldn't be complicit.
  384.  
  385. So am I to blame? I hated what I had become, so I got rid of it. Is that so bad? Sue me. If you cut out what you don't like, then that's not mutilation, it's self-improvement. So G had gotten rid of the eorge.
  386.  
  387. On the screen in front of me, the politician insults the reality TV star. The tape with the laugh track must be damaged, because the audience resembles nothing as much as a bunch of screaming monkeys.
  388.  
  389. Fuck it, I don't need that kind of background noise right now. Luckily, a flick of the hoof is enough to turn the babbling machine off.
  390. But what to do now?
  391. Being honest with yourself does not automatically make you feel better, no matter what popular belief says.
  392. God, I wish I could get drunk right now. Too bad that whoever designed the little bodies you could flee your old identity in had to give them hooves. That complicates things.
  393. I eye the small table in front of the couch. There are some opened beer bottles on there that Jim hasn't gotten around to cleaning up yet.
  394. They are also empty.
  395. At least for the most part. It looks like there might be a little left over in one of them.
  396. It's also the one Jim had used as an impromptu ashtray.
  397. I hope he comes back soon.
  398. Not just so that he can distract me from what's going on in my head, mind you.
  399. Some people online claim that Pon-E can lead to dependancy on others. That you can imprint on people in a way that's not too dissimilar to an actual young animal. So perhaps it's just the drug talking in my head. Honestly? I don't think so. When you've spent a good chunk of your life on your own, in a situation that, no matter what you tell yourself, you are deeply unhappy with, it's probably normal to pine after the one person that has shown you friendship.
  400. But is whatever exists between us still friendship?
  401. I live with Jim now, and probably will for the foreseeable future. He houses and feeds me without demanding anything in return. He helps me clean up and handles all the matters of day to day life. Some might say that I am his pet, or perhaps a parasite feeding off of him.
  402. But no pet gets the say I do. When Jim goes to the store, he asks me what I need. When he comes home, he asks me what I want to do. We work on our column together. Hell, it was ME who talked him into our new sports regimen. Now that I think about it, that kind of disqualifies me from the parasite label more than anything. I give back. At least I'd like to think so. Hell, at least I am trying.
  403. No, I am no parasite. Not a pet either, at least in the traditional sense. Over the last few months, our relationship has become far more intimate than it ever was before this whole mess. I don't even remember the last day I fell asleep without Jim's hand in my mane or my snout buried into the side of his body.
  404. Can you imagine two scruffy thirty-something dead-enders doing the same?
  405. On second thought, don't answer that one. Point being, this isn't what we had before.
  406. So am I his girlfriend?
  407. That might just be the weirdest thought I've had today.
  408. Funnily enough, I don't hate the idea. It's stupid, of course. There's nothing physical between us.
  409. Besides the cuddling and petting in the evening...
  410. But nothing more.
  411. And there won't be, either. We are different species now. It would be just too weird.
  412. I can count myself lucky that Jim warmed up to my new body the way he did. I realize that anew whenever I think back to the mare with the pierced ear from almost two years ago. To demand anything more would be not only unrealistic, but also stupid.
  413. You've got a good thing going here, girl. Don't ruin it.
  414. So no, not his girlfriend.
  415. There's just a little pang of disappointment as I settle on "roommate".
  416. I mean hey, I help to pay the bills with my half of the column, right?
  417.  
  418. There are steps in front of the door at last.
  419. I dart from the couch and into the hallway even as I hear the key scrape along the lock in search of its opening.
  420. Of course I am aware of just how much I act like the pet I deny being, but fuck you for bringing it up. "Traditional sense", remember? So what if I go to welcome Jim home at the door? Don't tell me you stay where you are when someone you live with comes home.
  421. The door swings open just as I come to a stop in front of it, forcing me into a few frantic steps back to avoid getting hit in the head by it.
  422. "Geez, haven't you heard about personal space?" comes from Jim in lieu of a greeting, but his tone and the grin on his face betray him.
  423. "Come on, you love it," I retort and make sure to rub against his legs in the most impeding way as he turns to close the door.
  424. "Yeah, maybe I do." This time he can't keep a small laugh from bursting out alongside the words.
  425. "Of course you do."
  426. And he does. I can tell by the swing in his step as he walks towards the living room, and by the eagerness with which he leans down to scratch my scalp. I keep shadowing him, leaning into a probing hand here and nuzzling a leg there. That nervous voice inside my head asks how we got to this point, but the question that ends up leaving my mouth is a far more mundane "Everything alright at the office?"
  427. "Oh, you know it is." Jim flops down onto the couch. I sit down beside him and lay my head into his lap so he has something to knead while he continues talking. Just as expected, he grabs my ears and starts massaging them as he continues.
  428. "I could barely keep Kerry out of my hair. The girl really wants to see you, you know."
  429. I scoff at that and blow an errand strand of mane out of my face.
  430. "Alright, you don't have to say anything. I mean, I know that you never really liked her, but these days it really seems like she is a real horse girl. Know what I mean? The type that asked her parents for a pony every christmas?"
  431. "I'd disappoint her. Don't have a dick anymore, remember?"
  432. "Aw, come on. Don't be like that." A pressing finger finds the sweet spot behind my ear and whatever I was going to snark back at Jim vanishes in a blissout.
  433. "Anyways," he continues, seemingly unperturbed by the way one of my hindlegs has started to kick at the floor, "I didn't really spend all that much time talking to her. Duke took up most of my morning."
  434. Of course. When the big man called you in, he'd not be satisfied unless he could force whatever bullshit he'd decided to spew at you down your throat in excessive detail.
  435. "Whaddit'e want?" I manage to mumble. It's not like I am not interested (even though I could care less what that self-important asshole Duke wants this time), it's just that by now, Jim has really learned how to press my buttons. Those buttons being all the soft, sensitive spots and nerve clusters on my head that his fingers are expertly massaging. It's hard to stay coherent when your brain is feeling as if it's turning to mush, okay?
  436. Now it's Jim's turn to scoff. "He wants me to write another book. Seems as if the magazine isn't really hacking it right now, so he wants to use a new release by 'the famous Jim Woodsman' for publicity for Beetle."
  437. "Didya tell him to fuck off?"
  438. "Well, yeah, but not like this. I told him that I don't have any subject lined up right now and that I am plenty busy right now as it is, what with our living situation and all."
  439. "And?"
  440. "And he didn't like that. Not one bit. You know how he can be when he gets upset. Started shouting, talking about calling in favors I supposedly owe him-"
  441. "Dude, fuck that!" I can't help myself, nothing gets my blood pumping like that asshole Duke, even if I don't have to suffer him in person. In a second, my pulse is through the roof and my head withdrawn from Jim's hands.
  442. "What did he say, eh? That he'd fire you? Nevermind that without us his little magazine would have gone under half a dozen times already! And what did he ever do FOR us? Grudgingly pay us? I almost got my ass blown off on the Philipines for that asshole, and his first question when I told him was whether the camera made it. I am so goddamn sick of his bullshit, I-"
  443. "Hey, I reminded him of all that as well. I didn't put it quite that colorful, but I think he got the point. At least for now. I am still employed, alright? In a way, you are too."
  444. "Yeah well, perhaps we shouldn't be." My blood is still up, despite everything Jim is telling me. At last, he gives it up.
  445. "It's not like I don't know where you are coming from. Hell, I hate the gig as much as you do. But for the moment it's all we have. You know that just as much as I do."
  446. "... Sure."
  447. The hand comes back. This time, it finds a spot under my chin and lifts my head until I look into Jim's eyes.
  448. "Am I right to assume that you aren't in the mood to do any writing today?"
  449. I give a nod.
  450. "Good, because I ain't either. How would you like to drive down to the lake? After all the bullshit today I could really use an opportunity to cool down."
  451. Yeah, how would I like it? As a rule, I don't really like going out in public all that much. Never did, really. And all the kids I've got all over me as soon as I step a hoof into the outside world these days don't really help at all. Still, everything is better than sitting here, listening to the AC and fuming over Duke.
  452. "Right. Why not? Time to see if new me can swim."
  453.  
  454. In the car, right as we are leaving the city limits, Jim tells me that Duke sent Carlton, one of our second rate photographers to Cambodia.
  455. That would've been my gig, I don't say. Chances are, Duke told Jim already. And if he didn't, it's not a hard thing to figure out.
  456. I don't know how to feel as we speed out into the desert.
  457.  
  458. The local lake.
  459. Like everything around here, it's somewhat scuffed.
  460. It's not even a real lake, for example.
  461. What the locals know as their number one spot to laze away a hot weekend afternoon used to be a part of a mining operation of some kind.
  462. So yeah, it's a quarry pond.
  463. But going to a lake sounds far more enticing than swimming around in a big pit filled with scrap metal and who knows what kind of leftover chemicals, right?
  464. To be honest, I don't really care about the distinction all that much.
  465. Neither do you, I am willing to bet. But Jim seems intent on telling me every little detail about this place's history during our drive, and I am sure as hell not going to be the only one suffering here.
  466. "So where's the water?"
  467. I crane my neck out of the front-seat passenger's window as Jim pulls into a dusty parking area by the side of the road. There's sand as far as the eye can see. Three or four other cars are parked seemingly at random in the area. One stands sideways over three handicapped parking spaces. That much dedication to being an asshole is almost admirably.
  468. The only sign that there's more to this place than meets the eye is the fence in front of our parking space that seems to enclose an otherwise unremarkable area.
  469. "We' re almost there, G. Just gotta walk the last stretch."
  470. Jim pulls the key from the ignition and exits the car. Walking across the hot sand? Easy for him to say, the man is wearing shoes.
  471. With a sigh, I jump through the open window and trot after Jim. That water better be good.
  472. A path leads us from the parking area and through a door in the fence. The old man sitting in the shade of a rusty sheet metal hut on the other side is best described as crusty. His skin resembles leather and the color of his sweat-drenched overall has all but faded.
  473. "Two adults," Jim tells the man, and the confused grin on the oldtimer's face reveals the brownish stumps of teeth that have seen more than their fair share of dip.
  474. "No offense, sir," he drawls, "But ya needn't pay for yer pet. Just make sure she doesn't go and shit all over the beach, right?"
  475. Jim gives me a quick look over the shoulder and I shake my head "no". There's no sense in starting an argument here. Not when just keeping calm actually saves us money.
  476. Besides, and admittedly far more importantly, I just don't have it in me after my outburst earlier.
  477. So instead of blowing up on the guy, Jim simply assures him that I am properly housebroken and hands him a 10 dollar bill.
  478. "Keep the change," he tells him as he turns to leave.
  479. "Yessir. Thank ye kindly." Seems like the old man hasn't heard the barely contained frustration in Jim's voice.
  480. But I sure did. So once we are out of earshot, I nip at the hem of Jim's pants to gain his attention.
  481. "You know, you don't have to be offended on my behalf," I tell him. "How should the old guy have known about me? Sitting out in the sun all day probably doesn't leave you with a whole lot of time to catch up with the fanciest new designer drugs and their side effects."
  482. "Oh yeah, I am sure a salt of the earth type of guy like the good ol' boy back there has much more important things to do." Then, after a short pause: "Am I really that easy to read?"
  483. "Oh, absolutely. You're like an open book to me. One in big print and many pretty pictures."
  484. At first Jim frowns, but then his posture finally relaxes a little and his face follows suit.
  485. "That bad, huh? But you're right. That what you wanted to hear?" He reaches down and playfully ruffles my mane. "Guess I was a little tough on the guy. Wasn't even about him, really. What he said reminded me of Duke, is all."
  486. This probably shouldn't surprise me, but somehow it still does. At least a little. Not that Duke has ever been a likable guy or a wellspring of niceties, but if the walking leather couch assuming I'd shit on the beach reminds Jim of the boss, then that's a sure sign that their little gettogether this morning must have been even more rough than usual.
  487. The temptation to ask for more details about their "discussion" is rising within me, but it seems I am out of luck for the moment: Jim withdraws his hand and straightens up again.
  488. "Well, anyways," he says, his eyes staring into the distance over the top of a dune by our side, "let's leave all this baggage by the door. We came here to get our minds of Duke, didn't we? So lets book oldie back there under 'small setbacks' and get back on track."
  489. "Right," I agree. There'll be more talks between the two. That means more opportunities to get to the juicy details of Duke's opinion on our current work arrangement. Who knows, maybe a small account of this very visit to the beach might be enough to turn our contribution to Beetle into a smash hit.
  490. Yeah, no.
  491. Let's just stick with what this was meant to be: Just a fun afternoon. An opportunity to get out of the house.
  492. Even IF an afternoon out of the house in the desert can be awfully hot...
  493.  
  494. Finally we crest the ridge of what must be the dozenth dune on this path and there it is: a green pool glittering under the burning sun, right now the most appealing body of stale water I have ever laid eyes upon. For a moment, I stop in my tracks to take a good look at it all.
  495. A good third of the lake lies in the shadow of a rock overhang that must be a leftover from the site's days as a quarry, and it is in the small strip of sand beneath this overhang that most of the other visitors have take refuge from the sun. I count a good half dozen people lying on towels or swimming in the flooded pit. A few especially intrepid guests are sunbathing in the afternoon sun, but even as I look on one of them picks up her towel and heads back into the shadow.
  496. Jim says something as he suddenly breaks into a run, and before I have even fully registered that it was "race you to the bottom" I break into a sprint through the cloud of sand kicked up by his feet.
  497. The dune as it turns out, is steeper than it looked from the top. Combine that with fine, powdery sand, and you've got a recipe for well, perhaps not disaster, but certainly mishaps.
  498. It doesn't take long for Jim to stumble, but he is too fast to stop himself. His run turns into a fall and then an out of control roll down the slope. I do my best to avoid crashing into my friend as he loses control over his movements, but my attempt to dodge the avalanche Jim has become only results in me losing my own footing as well. Going flying, I press my eyes shut to protect them from the sand and don't open them until I've stopped rolling.
  499. "How about that," Jim groans through a mouthful of sand next to me, "I am the one carrying all our stuff and I am still the faster one."
  500. I am in a mood and a half to explain basic physics to him, but good would it do? He is already elbow-deep in the bag to check if the cans of beer he packed have survived our tumble.
  501. "Are you alright?" someone shouts. Lifting my muzzle out of the sand, I make out a woman that has stepped out of the shadows to check on us. Going by her beet-red skin, it seems likely that she's the one I saw sunbathing from up on the dune.
  502. "You fine?" Jim asks me. His sunglasses hang crookedly and he is spitting sand with every word, but seems otherwise none the worse for wear. I try to answer in the affirmative, but only succeed in drawing a nice amount of sand into my nose and making myself sneeze. I settle for a nod while I rub at my nose with my hooves.
  503. "We're fine," Jim calls back and underlines his point with a thumbs-up. For a moment, the woman hesitates, but then she decides that that's good enough for her and returns to her shadowy spot.
  504. "Here, let me help you." From within our bag, Jim has produced a tissue and is holding it front of my face. "Way you're wiping right now, you are getting more in than out."
  505. A few blows later I am breathing much more freely again.
  506. "Better?"
  507. "Much better."
  508. "Good to hear it." Another look over to the lake makes sure that noone is watching us too closely as Jim drops the now thoroughly soaked tissue and uses his foot to bury it in the sand. He takes off the mangled remains of his sunglasses and looks them over as if considering to toss them in the hole as well, before he finally settles on shoving them into his shirt pocket.
  509. "Let's go then. I can't wait to get out of this sun for a while."
  510. And here I thought I was the only one.

37.2 Trillion Anonfillies

by Gnisha

Post-Aponalypse (WIP)

by Gnisha

Pizzaportal (Prose rewrite, WIP)

by Gnisha

Pizzaportal

by Gnisha

The Pon-E journal (wip)

by Gnisha