GREEN   408   0
   7484   42.19 KB   523

All My Scars

By pentapony
Created: 12th July 2022 09:58:50 AM
12th July 2022 10:25:52 AM

  1. 1
  2. >Glimpses. That's all you can discern.
  3. >Flashes of blurry lights. Sensations of tightness around each arm.
  4. >Voices talking... though you can hardly seem to fixate on the words being said.
  5. >"Hey... his eyes are moving. Are his eyes supposed to be moving?"
  6. >"Shoot, he's coming to. You didn't give him enough!"
  7. >"I don't see a medical patch on your jacket. I gave him exactly the right amount."
  8. >"Well, dose him a little more."
  9. >"Are you crazy? A 'little more' could leave him comatose. You know that, right?"
  10. >"Guys, I don't think we should worry. He seems pretty out of it."
  11. >You can hear the words but your mind is too blocked up to process them.
  12. >All you have to go off of is tone, and honestly...
  13. >These seem like the least scary voices you've ever heard.
  14. >Normally you'd be afraid, but right now all you feel is... sleepy.
  15. >So sleepy.
  16. >So...
  17. >Sl...
  18. >Slowly...
  19. >You awaken slowly.
  20. >The flashes are gone, but everything's still hazy. Your head's killing.
  21. >Where are you? You're not in bed anymore. You're sitting.
  22. >Your... hands are bound? Behind your back? That can't be right.
  23. >You strain your eyes as you adjust to the light.
  24. >You're in a room. A blue room. There's something dark in front of you...
  25. >Just a wall. No, wait— a board. A chalkboard.
  26. >Words written on it. Come on...
  27. >You squint.
  28. >Scrawled on there, in flowery penmanship:
  29. >Welcome to Orientation =)
  30. >Oh no.
  31. >What fresh hell have you found yourself in?
  32. >Immediately, you twist your wrists against the bindings, looking around the room for a means of escape.
  33. >Nothing but a bunch of chairs, all facing forward in eerily classroom fashion.
  34. "Let me out!" you yell, your voice dry and raspy.
  35. >You thrash against the seat, trying desperately to find a weak point from which you can break free.
  36. >After several seconds of struggling, the door bursts open, and in charge the three most preposterous creatures you've ever seen.
  37. >They're like horses. But smaller. Not normal colors. Pastel. Pink, violet, and green.
  38. >They're wearing matching outfits. Olive green, kind of like military jackets.
  39. >Their skin is all glittery. And their faces! They look almost... human?
  40. >Those giant eyes, leering at you.
  41. >All thoughts of escape vanish from your mind, occupied now only by the abominable nightmares you see before you.
  42. >Having ceased your struggling, they approach you, their faces so expressive it's as if they can read your thoughts.
  43. >The pink one reaches her stubby limb out at you and opens her mouth.
  44. >"Easy now—"
  45. "Ah!" you yelp, recoiling in fear.
  46. >They can speak. Dear God, they can speak.
  47. >"Easy!" she repeats. "We're not going to hurt you."
  48. >That is a distinctly human voice coming out of that horse's mouth.
  49. >It's not possible. It's not possible. It's not possible.
  50. "I'm dreaming," you murmur, trembling a storm. "I'm dreaming, and I'm done dreaming now, I'm gonna wake up."
  51. >"You're not dreaming," the violet one says.
  52. >Oh good. They all talk. Do you talk, too, little green one? Oh God, it's smiling at me. Why is it smiling so big?
  53. >You scrape your wits together just enough to let out a single cohesive thought.
  54. "Please just let me go."
  55. >"We will," the pink one says. "Just give us a chance to explain first, and then we'll untie you. Okay?"
  56. >You nod slowly. Listen, and go home. You can do that.
  57. >"Good."
  58. >The violet one looks back at the board and sighs. "The message probably freaked him out. Why'd you have to draw that creepy smile? He must think we're here to torture or enslave him."
  59. >"How could a smile freak him out?" the green one frowns. "It's a nice message to wake up to. I put it there so he knows we're friendly. I bet he would've been even MORE upset if he didn't see it."
  60. >"Girls," the pink one groans, "it probably has less to do with the board and more with the fact that he's waking up tied up in a strange room. They're all like this at first. Just watch"
  61. >She turns back to you. "I'm sorry. Let me introduce ourselves. My name's Rose Gold, I go by Rosie. This here's Amethyst—"
  62. >The violet one raises a hoof.
  63. >"And that's Holly Heart."
  64. >The green one beams hello.
  65. >"You're in a place called Equestria. Specifically, the Crystal Empire. It's filled with lots of ponies like us. Other creatures, too."
  66. >"Like humans!" Holly chirps.
  67. >"Yeah, I was getting to that. We brought you here from Earth for something called the Equestrian Matchmaker Initiative. It's simple, when you get down to it. Your soul mate lives here. So Holly, Ames, and I, we make up Mare Retrieval Squad 6—
  68. >Holly interrupts with a chant, "Steal Team Six!"
  69. >"Holly..." Amethyst chides.
  70. >"What? Robby came up with it. It's like a thing on Earth. Oh, you should ask him where it's from!"
  71. >The group turns to you expectantly, but you're too at a loss to understand what the hell is going on.
  72. >"Moving on," Rosie continues, "our job is to bring fellas like you to Equestria and introduce you to your soul mate. So you can both be happy. Win-win."
  73. >The pained look on your face clearly conveys your total inability to comprehend the madness unfolding before you.
  74. >"Oh, for cripe's sake." Amethyst scoffs and pushes Rosie aside. "Do you want to meet the love of your life or not?"
  75. >Confused, you turn back and forth between the three of them.
  76. "So, just to be clear, you kidnapped me from Earth to Eq...uestria..." you say, sounding out the name, "...to meet my soul mate, who is... a talking pony...?"
  77. >You're inferring that last part, and your stomach drops when the three of them nod affirmatively.
  78. "Okay, please just let me go."
  79. >You wince at their collective sigh.
  80. >"The ropes are for your safety and ours," Rosie explains. "This is an understandably difficult situation you find yourself in, and sometimes people react poorly."
  81. "Difficult, yeah. You just drugged me in my sleep, then dragged me to a fairytale land, and I'm the one reacting poorly."
  82. >Amethyst shakes her head. "Look, we'll let you out as soon as we know you won't try anything crazy."
  83. >You take a deep breath and look Rosie in the eyes.
  84. "I just want to get out of this chair."
  85. >Rosie nods at Holly, who circles around behind you and cuts you loose.
  86. >You bring your hands forward, rise up from your seat, and immediately barrel through the group.
  87. >You make it about three steps to the door when you stop in your tracks.
  88. >Not willingly, of course. In shock, you look down to see your entire body encased in a shimmering pink aura.
  89. >It feels no different from the surrounding air, yet somehow it's locking up your every muscle, leaving only your eyes free to dart around frantically.
  90. >Your lips loosen just enough for you to speak.
  91. "What's happening to me?"
  92. >"Magic," Rosie says, stepping back into view. Her body shimmers much like yours, but with none of the debilitating effects.
  93. >"I know you don't have anything like it in your world, so let me try to explain. Crystal ponies can do special things with their magic. Me, I'm a mover. I do all the heavy lifting on the squad."
  94. >"Ames, she's a healer. She's here to make sure you don't hurt yourself— or us— during orientation. And Holly, she does..."
  95. >"We call it mood magic," Amethyst says. "And we really don't want to use it on you."
  96. >Holly smiles earnestly at you. "It's a last resort, but it works wonders."
  97. >"So I'm going to let you go now," Rosie instructs you, "and you're not going to try anything funny, because remember, we're here to help you."
  98. >The aura around you dissipates as quick as it came. You drop onto your knees, unable to steady yourself in time.
  99. >Terrified of what they might do to you, you don't dare defy them again.
  100. >"Let's have a look at your file," Rosie says. "The faster we get you going, the sooner we can put you at ease."
  101. >Amethyst hands her a folder, and she looks it over.
  102. >"Name, Anon." She pauses. "Wait, wasn't that the name...?" Trailing off, she glances back at Amethyst, with whom she shares an uncertain look.
  103. >"Never mind."
  104. >Still on your knees, you stare down at the floor morosely.
  105. "So who's my supposed match?"
  106. >You look up.
  107. "It's not one of you, is it?"
  108. >Holly laughs. "Of course not! I got my Robby, and Rosie's happily married, and Ames, well not yet, but her turn's coming real soon. That's why you joined up, right?"
  109. >Amethyst clears her throat.
  110. >"Your match is in Ponyville," Rosie says, ignoring the chatter. "This early in the morning, there's no point in wasting a day. We better head out soon."
  111. >Amethyst is stunned. "Wh— Today?"
  112. >Rosie looks to her tensely. "Well, the sedative was supposed to last a few more hours, but it didn't."
  113. >"I told you—"
  114. >"Regardless of what happened, it won't do him any good twiddling his human thumbs all day. He'll just worry himself sick."
  115. >"I have to say goodbye to Robby," Holly insists. "He's expecting me tonight."
  116. >"And I have to get us prepped and file for leave. Ames, you take him down to the train and wait for us."
  117. >"Alone?"
  118. >She hesitates, then turns to you. "Look at me," she instructs you.
  119. >You meet her gaze. She stares into your eyes for a moment, long enough as if to see a part of you even you didn't know was there, then breaks off suddenly.
  120. >"Take him."
  121. >"But—"
  122. >"He'll listen, Ames. I know it."
  123. >Amethyst helps you to your feet as you all exit into the hall. Rosie and Holly head off in the opposite direction, leaving you alone with the healer.
  124. >"Come on," she tells you, trotting off.
  125. >Part of you feels compelled to escape, knowing she's helpless to stop you. She's just a medic. You can take her, easy.
  126. >But when Rosie looked at you, it was as though she knew her trust alone would be enough.
  127. >And as much as you want to escape this ordeal, for some reason, it's a lot less tempting when it means betraying that trust.
  128. >Ugh, is this Stockholm Syndrome? Why do you care what she thinks? Why do you value your own freedom less than her feelings?
  129. >Could she be right? Is this real, or some elaborate ruse?
  130. >"Anon?"
  131. >You snap back to reality, noticing Amethyst waiting for you at the end of the hall.
  132. >Steeling yourself, you swallow your resentment for now, and head off after her.
  133. >She leads you through the building, which almost resembles an ordinary office back home, then out into the streets.
  134. >At that point, it's like stepping from one dream into another. The cobblestone streets, the shimmering houses... ponies like Ames and Holly and Rosie, but with all different colors and hairstyles.
  135. >And humans, too.
  136. >They didn't lie about that.
  137. >You spot a couple men at the far end of the street, chatting as if they were on a corner in Boston rather than a wild fantasy land.
  138. >Amethyst tugs at your pant leg, leading you down the street.
  139. >Towering over the rooftops, a massive structure looms over the entire city. It reminds you of the Eiffel Tower, but bigger, and made of cobalt-colored stone.
  140. >After a few blocks, you come upon the train station. Amethyst takes you up the steps and motions for you to sit on the bench.
  141. >You obey silently, and she takes her place beside you.
  142. >A few minutes pass without any words being spoken, just staring out vacantly at the tower ahead.
  143. >"I know it's not easy," she speaks up suddenly.
  144. >You look over to her.
  145. >"Trust me, I know what it's like. I've done this dozens of times. I don't mean to be rude, it's just— What you're feeling right now is a very common reaction. I know it doesn't feel real. It's not going to feel real for a long time. But eventually..."
  146. >She pats your knee. "You'll get used to it, and it'll start to feel like home. It always does. I promise."
  147. >You gaze back out at the city.
  148. "Who's my soul mate supposed to be?" you ask blankly.
  149. >"Can't say. We don't debrief beforehand anymore. We used to, but they decided it's better to let couples introduce themselves naturally. Don't worry, though, you'll meet her soon enough."
  150. >The whole world in front of you feels like a set onstage. You don't feel like yourself. You feel like you're acting in a play, but nobody's watching.
  151. "How do you know?"
  152. >"Know what?"
  153. "That we're soul mates?"
  154. >"How else?" she smiles. "Magic."
  155. >Magic uniting soul mates.
  156. >It's storybook nonsense. It sounds too neatly-wrapped to be true. History tells you that 'magic' is anything that idiots can't explain naturally.
  157. >Except that thing Rosie did to you is pretty unexplainable... which would make you the idiot here. Nice.
  158. >But it can't be true. Abducting people from Earth? You've heard nutjobs tell tales of little grey men with probes, but they never mention any cute little ponies.
  159. >If this was real, you figure you would've heard something by now.
  160. >Either it's all bogus (which seems probable), or it's a relatively new thing.
  161. "How many people have you taken?"
  162. >Amethyst tenses up. "Huh?"
  163. "Exactly how many guys like me have you brought here?"
  164. >"Uh, well," she clears her throat and says lowly, "none."
  165. "None?"
  166. >"Yeah."
  167. "You said you've done this dozens of times."
  168. >The accusation makes her uneasy. "Yeah, that was kind of an exaggeration."
  169. "From none?" you ask, exasperated.
  170. >She sighs. "Okay, the truth is you're my first contract on the squad. Holly's, too. I'm not supposed to talk about this stuff with you, but M.R.S. 6 is the initiative's newest team."
  171. "And Rosie?"
  172. >"It's her first post as captain. She used to run with Squad 4."
  173. >You slump back against the bench.
  174. "Jesus. You have no clue what you're doing."
  175. >"That's not true," she replies defensively. "When I said I've seen tons of guys like you before, I wasn't lying. I was in Processing before I got this job. If I wasn't here, you'd probably be there with Rosie right now, standing in front of my booth while I cleared your papers."
  176. "So why are you here?"
  177. >She doesn't answer.
  178. "Is what that other girl said true? That you joined to find your soul mate?"
  179. >"It doesn't work like that," she snips back. "There's a waitlist. I'm on it. Simple."
  180. >You sit up.
  181. "And getting this job moves you up on that list?"
  182. >"Maybe," she grumbles.
  183. >Touchy subject.
  184. >The two of you sit in uncomfortable silence for a minute or two before you feel compelled to change the subject.
  185. "So, Rosie, what's her deal?"
  186. >"Don't mind her. She'll be tougher on us than you. It's her first time in charge so she's got something to prove, I guess. But she means well."
  187. "And the other one?"
  188. >"Holly? No clue. I haven't got her pegged yet. Probably never will."
  189. >She seems a little... eccentric.
  190. "Should I be worried?"
  191. >Amethyst chuckles. "No."
  192. >That's reassuring.
  193. >The other two show up after a bit, now with bags slung over their jackets.
  194. >Holly runs up to you excitedly. "He's still here!"
  195. >"I told you he wouldn't try anything," Rosie replies. She looks you in the eye as she says it. Discomforted by it, you avoid her gaze.
  196. >The truth is you would've run, if only you knew where to run to. If this isn't Earth... how do you even go about escaping an alien planet? How did you even get here? Spaceship? How much time has passed back on Earth?
  197. >You're still not convinced this isn't a oddly realistic nightmare. Short of waking up from this fever dream, you can't conceive of any escape.
  198. >So as long as they're not outwardly hostile, you'll go along with them. For now.
  199. >These creatures, unsettling as they are, don't seem like the type to keep you against your will.
  200. >I mean, they threatened to, but the more perspective you get, the more it feels like bark over bite.
  201. >If they weren't real, they'd look almost cute. Harmless.
  202. >But certainly never the sort of thing you'd be attracted to.
  203. >Love is blind, sure, but you doubt whoever coined the phrase had interspecies relationships in mind when they said it.
  204. >Holly hands Amethyst a saddle bag, while Rosie walks over to the station booth.
  205. >You watch from a distance as she fishes some papers out of her bag and presents them.
  206. >You can't make out what she's saying over the hissing of the locomotive.
  207. >"Diplomatic passage."
  208. >Startled, you turn back to Amethyst, who's taken notice of your intent watching.
  209. >"You don't have an identity here, so we're setting you up with one," she explains.
  210. >"Used to be you didn't need papers to cross into Equestria proper," Holly adds. "Now with Princess Cadance running th—"
  211. "Sorry," you interrupt, addressing Amethyst. "New identity? Like witness protection?"
  212. >"No, you doof. Just papers proving who you are. You didn't bring anything like that. Not that we'd even accept them."
  213. >Instinctively, you reach for your wallet in your back pocket, before realizing that not only is it not there, but you're still in your pajamas.
  214. "I need my clothes. I can't travel like this."
  215. >"No can do," Holly says. "No Earth items allowed in Equestria. We woulda packed you a suitcase but it's against the rules."
  216. >"You're lucky we let you keep the clothes you have on," Amethyst teases.
  217. >Exasperation washes over your face.
  218. "What am I supposed to do?"
  219. >"Relax," she says, "you'll get new digs in Ponyville. Tailor-made and everything."
  220. >Ponyville?
  221. >Before you can find out more, Rosie returns, handing each girl a ticket.
  222. >"You don't need one," she tells you, anticipating the question. "I know it's crass, but for this trip, you're technically classified as cargo."
  223. >Holly snorts and giggles.
  224. >"It's temporary," she presses on, maintaining professionalism. "Once we get you set up you'll have citizenship and everything."
  225. >It'd be demeaning if the whole situation weren't so unbelievable. Being ferried like cattle, nothing to your name but the clothes on your back...
  226. >They really think they're helping you?
  227. >You want to grab them by the ears and yell in their faces, tell them how egregious this is, that they can't hold you prisoner like this, that you belong at home where things make sense.
  228. >But every internal scream is somehow suppressed. You're paralyzed by the insanity of these circumstances.
  229. >As if being herded by terriers, you allow yourself to be led aboard the train and into your seat. You don't feel in control of your own movements anymore.
  230. >You're a passive observer having an out-of-body experience. Maybe it's panic. Or existential dread. Something like that.
  231. >You don't even notice when the train jolts forward and starts crawling down the tracks. Headed to some unknown destination.
  232. >Ponyville.
  233. >You stare out the window the entire time, unable to pull your eyes away. Frozen tundra gives way to mountains, which give way to plains.
  234. >Landscapes unlike anything you've ever seen. As the minutes turn to hours, it becomes increasingly apparent that this isn't Earth.
  235. >Ever so slowly, it's setting in that you may never see Earth again.
  236. >That feeling digs its claws in you, inch by inch, until you're almost suffocating.
  237. "Is there a bathroom here?" you croak.
  238. >Rosie points you to the back of the car, and you instantly fly out of your seat, clamoring to get there.
  239. >The moment that door swings shut behind you, you double over and start dry heaving.
  240. >This clenching in the pit of your stomach feels like an unstoppable urge to puke, but nothing comes out.
  241. >Instead, you start hyperventilating, which just worsens the problem. Gripping the corner of the vanity, you shut your eyes and try to steady yourself.
  242. >It isn't long before you a hear a knock at the door.
  243. >Holly's voice comes through. "You okay?"
  244. "Yes!"
  245. >You clamber to your feet, worried they might try to freeze you again.
  246. "I just need a minute."
  247. >Staring in the mirror, you murmur the words again under your breath, as if trying to convince yourself.
  248. "I just need a minute..."
  249. >After a bit, you calm your nerves enough to return to the group and slump back into your seat.
  250. >"Feeling okay?" Rosie asks.
  251. >"Panic attack," Amethyst says. Suddenly, she looks up from her book. "Holly's got a soothing spell if—"
  252. "No!" you shout worriedly.
  253. >The group watches you with tense looks on their faces.
  254. "Sorry. Just— No more magic. I'm feeling better."
  255. >"Whatever you say," she says, returning to her book.
  256. >For the rest of the train ride, you try to contain yourself as much as possible, shrinking into yourself rather than exploding and drawing their concern.
  257. >At some point, a cart comes to deliver you all some lunch, but you refuse. Despite their insistence that they have so-called "human food," you find it difficult to maintain an appetite under the circumstances.
  258. >You can deal with everything as it comes, you reassure yourself. Just don't give them any reason to mess with you and they won't.
  259. >Rosie's paralysis spell was scary enough. You don't need them poking around in your head. Who knows what they can do?
  260. >Your mind wanders to Holly humming in the row behind you. "Steal team six!" she periodically chants to herself, trying to sound gruff in her high-pitched voice.
  261. >"Will you drop that?" Rosie demands, turning back to face her.
  262. >"The name or the humming?"
  263. >"Both. It makes us look unprofessional." She sits straight and says, "We're Mare Retrieval Squad 6, no cutesy nicknames."
  264. >You ponder a moment before finding the courage to speak aloud.
  265. "Doesn't that name imply you retrieve mares?"
  266. >Amethyst looks over at you from across the aisle and smiles.
  267. >"I suppose," Rosie answers.
  268. >"You know," Amethyst says, "personally, I was never a fan of the term myself. But somehow it stuck."
  269. >"I like it," Holly pipes up. "We're called the M.R.S. 'cause we're gonna help you make some lucky gal a missus!"
  270. >You almost laugh at the childlike folly of her comment. You guess it works.
  271. >If nothing, it lightens your spirit just a smidge for the remainder of the journey.
  272. >It's a long while before the train finally stops.
  273. >"This is us," Rosie says. The three get up, retrieve their bags, and shuffle down the aisle towards the door.
  274. >You pause a moment before following after them and stepping out onto the platform.
  275. >The town you're in is considerably smaller than where you began. You don't think you've ever seen straw homes in person before, but they seem to be a staple here.
  276. >And the cobblestone roads... it's as if this place is centuries behind human civilization.
  277. >How they were able to travel to Earth and abduct you is beyond your imagination.
  278. >"We'll get your clothes and such sorted in a bit," Rosie tells you as you set off, "but I'm sure you're eager to meet your match, and she's certainly eager to meet you."
  279. >You're only half paying attention, instead opting to take in the scene around you while you walk.
  280. >If it was morning when you left, it's early evening now. Ponies are milling about, taking care of errands in town.
  281. >They all seem to be watching you, though. You're getting paranoid from the stares.
  282. >But as you make your way down the streets, you realize it's not you they're ogling at. It's the other three.
  283. >None of these ponies have shimmering coats like they did back where you started. Instead, some of them have horns, and— Jesus, wings, too.
  284. >Flying ponies?
  285. >Fine, why the hell not? They got magic, why not the power of flight? What other fucked-up ramifications does this world have?
  286. >Amethyst nudges Rosie and whispers something into her ear. Rosie shows her the file from earlier, to which she replies, "Oh."
  287. >It gives you a bad feeling.
  288. >You eventually cross through to the other edge of town. Just as you're about ask how long this trip is, you notice something emerging into view.
  289. >It's an odd structure. Like a big plum-colored egg sitting atop a metal base.
  290. >Only as you get closer do you realize what it is.
  291. >An airship.
  292. >Rosie nods. "That's got to be it."
  293. >"Wow. Is she a pilot?" Holly asks. "She's not a pirate, is she?"
  294. >They can't mean...
  295. >You stay behind them as you walk up to the ship. The envelope is like a giant tarp draped over a truss skeleton. The whole thing is sunk two inches into the soft ground. But most notably...
  296. >It's not tethered to anything, like you'd expect. It's just plopped down in the outskirts of town.
  297. >Rosie knocks upon the metal hatch built into the side of the ship's cabin.
  298. >Several seconds pass without an answer.
  299. >So she knocks again.
  300. >That's when the hatch creaks and swings open.
  301. >There stands a pony far different from any one you've seen. About chest-high, she towers over the others in comparison. She has a wine-colored coat under a tight black outfit, a scar over her right eye, and...
  302. >A broken horn.
  303. >"What?" she asks curtly.
  304. >Rosie stands tense. Not intimidated, more... confused than anything else. "We're from the EMI. This is your match."
  305. >The mare looks you in the eye for only a brief second, and promptly shuts the door.
  306. >"Did she not understand?" Holly asks.
  307. >Amethyst knocks at the door again. "Ma'am?"
  308. >Rosie pores over the file carefully. "It's definitely her."
  309. >"Not interested!" her voice rings out from behind the door.
  310. >Amethyst takes the file from Rosie as they try to grasp the situation.
  311. >Seizing the opportunity, you interject.
  312. "That's my match, right? And she's not interested either. So I can go home now."
  313. >Without even looking up, Rosie shakes her head. "Could it be a filing error?"
  314. >"What, like there's another grounded blimp in town?" Amethyst asks.
  315. >"No, this is definitely her case."
  316. >Holly grows concerned. "So we nabbed the wrong guy?"
  317. >"No! I mean— he's the man we want, the names are right, but maybe they misaligned case numbers?"
  318. "Guys?"
  319. >Their tone is starting to worry you, but they don't seem to notice your presence.
  320. >"What's protocol on this?" Holly asks. "Take him back to HQ?"
  321. >"Check in with the local administrator."
  322. >"EMI doesn't have a Ponyville office," Amethyst says. "The nearest one's in Canterlot."
  323. >Rosie flips through the pages. "No, I remember Ponyville's admin is Princess Twilight."
  324. >Holly frowns. "No way."
  325. >"She took it on herself. You know how she is."
  326. "Hey!"
  327. >Your outburst finally seems to rouse their attention.
  328. "What the hell's going on?"
  329. >"I know it's a little troubling," Rosie tells you, "but it's just a slight hiccup. We'll get you sorted out."
  330. "I don't want this sorted out. I want to go back."
  331. >Amethyst scoffs and pushes past you. "Twilight'll fix this."
  332. >Holly follows after her. "It's like he doesn't even want to be happy."
  333. >Agitated, you turn to Rosie, who just shakes her head. "Let's go."
  334. >No. That's not fair. They're treating you like the villain when they're the evil ones here.
  335. >You're their victim. How much longer are you going to let them string you along?
  336. >As they head out, you don't move, feet firmly planted where you stand.
  337. >They soon stop and turn back, waiting for you to join them.
  338. "I'm not going along with this any longer."
  339. >Rosie comes up to you. "Anon, you don't want to do this."
  340. "You're damn right I don't. I've had enough of this freakshow. Either you send me back, or you're going to have to drag me around for the rest of my life. So unless you're keen on sp—"
  341. >You stop mid-sentence as a funny sensation washes over you.
  342. >Looking down, you see another shimmering aura encapsulating your whole body.
  343. >You look back to Rosie to tell her off, only to see she shares the same concerned look.
  344. >That's when your attention turns to Holly, who steps forward with a similar green glow.
  345. >"You're not afraid of us," she says calmly, eyes shut, deep in thought. "You're afraid of yourself."
  346. >A terrifying feeling washes over you. It's as if you're no longer alone in your body.
  347. >But as scary as that is, it starts to feel nice. Like a warmth.
  348. >Your heartbeat slows. You start to welcome it.
  349. >"You're afraid that you won't... no, can't... be h—"
  350. >She lets out a loud "hngh!" as Amethyst yanks her back, sending them both tumbling onto the ground, which ceases her hold over you. The aura quickly fades.
  351. >"Holly Heart!" Rosie barks, approaching her. "You know you're not allowed to cast spells upon the ward without direct authorization from your squad leader!"
  352. >"I'm sorry," she mumbles.
  353. >Amethyst gets up and dusts herself off. "Easy. I think we're all a little tense from the arguing."
  354. >She helps Holly up and comes over to you. "Look, I'll level with you. This sort of thing's never happened before. The guy being hesitant, we've dealt with that. He gets to know his mare, and he opens up. But both parties being opposed?"
  355. >"There's got to be a mix-up," Rosie says. "In all my years, I've never seen it."
  356. >Holly frowns. "Soul mates are supposed to love each other."
  357. >"It doesn't make sense. But we'll go see the Princess, and we'll straighten this out. Okay?"
  358. >You stare back at them uncertainly.
  359. "Okay."
  360. >Maybe it's the spell Holly used on you, or maybe you're genuinely tired of resisting, but you just want to see this end, even if it means going along with whatever they have planned. You've got no more fight left in you.
  361. >And so you head off with them back into town.
  362. >Staying a few paces behind them, you trudge in silence.
  363. >It's becoming increasingly evident that your being here is a mistake. They just don't want to admit it.
  364. >They'll go through whatever bureaucratic rigmarole they have to, but they'll figure it out at some point.
  365. >Then they'll send you home, and you can spend the rest of your life peaceably going back and forth on whether or not this whole ordeal was a dream.
  366. >You can return to your normal life.
  367. >Yeah.
  368. >...
  369. >The life where you have nothing much to live for. You've never been so eager to get back to it.
  370. >It's weird, isn't it?
  371. >Any other circumstance, getting plucked from your drab, lonely life and being handed your soul mate would've been a fantasy scenario.
  372. >But when it really happens... you want no part of it.
  373. >Well, no. That's not true.
  374. >Because it's not really happening. For starters, this far from a fantasy. These creatures give you the creeps.
  375. >And the soul mate part was never real to begin with. Whoever that pony was, there's a painfully obvious mutual disdain between you two.
  376. >You stopped believing in the whole soul mate thing a long time ago.
  377. >Dreams are just that. Dreams.
  378. >They don't come true anymore than nightmares do.
  379. >Except...
  380. >This nightmare's come to life, hasn't it?
  381. >Fuck.
  382. >Who's to say what's real or not anymore?
  383. >Fine, whatever, maybe your life sucks, but it's familiar, and the comfort of familiarity is all you want right now. Not whatever this is.
  384. >You watch the different ponies as you cross through town and feel deeply unnerved.
  385. >They're shopping, socializing, as if they're... people.
  386. >Don't they know they're animals?
  387. >Amethyst glances back at you over her shoulder, and suddenly you feel a pang of guilt.
  388. >She's not an animal. Talking to her this morning felt more comfortable than most other conversations you've had with people.
  389. >Which is a low bar to set, quite frankly. You're pretty sure you botched that conversation towards the end, and dissociated through most of her words.
  390. >But you remember her being a comforting presence. Like she understood you, even though she can't, because how could she?
  391. >You were never understood on Earth — not in an edgy "no one gets me" way, more like an "I've never been close enough to anyone for them to fundamentally know me" way — so how could she understand you?
  392. >You stare at the back of her head as you march, trying to glimpse even an inch into her thoughts.
  393. >But you don't get anything from it, not because she's unreadable, but simply because /this is not your world/.
  394. >These creatures are alien. You don't belong here. You could spend a lifetime here, and that still wouldn't change.
  395. >So it's best to just get yourself home.
  396. >Right?
  397. >You're not given much time to dwell on the answer. The group's taken you to a home built into a giant tree, like something out of Lord of the Rings.
  398. >Rosie knocks on the door. When it opens, you can just barely catch a glimpse of an even smaller creature standing beyond the threshold.
  399. >"Can I help you?" it asks.
  400. >"We're from the Initiative," Rosie says. "We'd just like to consult with the Princess on a small issue—"
  401. >Before she can finish, it scampers back into the room, giving you a better look of its tiny lizard frame.
  402. >"Twilight!"
  403. >A purple pony approaches the door, prompting each member of the group to offer a polite bow.
  404. >"Princess," Rosie speaks, "we're here in Ponyville on a case and ran into a small issue. Since you're Ponyville's administrator..."
  405. >The pony looks past the group and makes eye contact with you. "Tempest..." she says under her breath.
  406. >"Right," Rosie replies with a hint of surprise.
  407. >Twilight shakes herself out of it and recomposes herself. "Of course! Please come in."
  408. >You follow her inside, into a large open room. It looks even bigger than from outside.
  409. >"I'm glad you came," she says, turning back to face you. "I tried to flag a special notice in her file, but files aren't created until they reach the top of the list—"
  410. >She checks herself and smiles warmly. "I'm getting ahead of myself. Tea, anyone?"
  411. >Rosie shakes her head.
  412. >"I'll have some," Holly chimes.
  413. >Twilight motions to her assistant, and you watch the purple lizard head off into the kitchen. "You're here for Tempest Shadow. I take it you went to her first?"
  414. >"She wasn't too happy to see us," Amethyst says.
  415. >Rosie pulls the file from her bag and offers it up. "We were just hoping you could verify the case details."
  416. >Twilight's horn glows, and the folder flies out of Rosie's hoof, opening up for her to pore through. "There's nothing wrong on your end, I'm sure, it's just that this case is... unique."
  417. >Rosie furrows her brow.
  418. >Twilight glances up. "How do I explain? Tempest didn't register herself for the waitlist. I did. On her behalf."
  419. >Holly's befuddled. "But... how?"
  420. >"It's all totally above-board, I promise! See, Tempest, isn't an ordinary pony. There's a whole history I won't go into, but the gist of it is she's been gone a while and trying to integrate back into society. Making friends has been less than easy though, and I thought maybe she'd fare better if she had a match."
  421. >"So you signed her up yourself?" Rosie asks.
  422. >Amethyst tilts her head back at you. "And this guy...?"
  423. >"You've got the right man, if the Crystal Heart divined him. I went through the proper channels, petitioning Princess Cadance to have Tempest moved up the list, and she agreed with my hypothesis that having someone she's predisposed to open up to would develop her social skills. There's no one more compatible than her soul mate, right?"
  424. >The lizard returns with a cup of tea for Holly, who gleefully takes it. "There's just the teensy issue that she doesn't want to meet him. Like, at all."
  425. >"I'll talk to her," Twilight promises. "In the meantime, I'll take—" She glances down at the file, "—Anon off your hooves. It's only fair I assume responsibility for the case."
  426. >"Are you sure, Princess?" Rosie queries.
  427. >She beams with confidence. "Of course! It might take a while, and I'm sure you're anxious to return home."
  428. >Suddenly, you get a sinking feeling in your chest. Getting handed off to this stranger doesn't sit well to you.
  429. >Rosie turns back to look at you, sharing a tense expression.
  430. >You've only been here a day, but you've at least formed some small attachment to them, some semblance of safety in that familiarity.
  431. >You want to protest, to insist they stay, but what kind of message would that send? That would be tacit acceptance of your staying here, which you have to remind yourself is the exact thing you're opposing.
  432. >You don't want to stay here. You want to go home. But if you have to be here...
  433. >Well, it might as well be with them, shouldn't it?
  434. >Torn internally, you can't bring yourself to say anything to her. Nor her to you.
  435. >"I guess that's okay," she tells Twilight, her eyes lingering on you.
  436. >"Have you shown him to the inn?"
  437. >The group shakes their heads.
  438. >"Then I suppose that's the next step. I can bring him over now. You're welcome to stay here until your train leaves; Spike will take care of anything you need."
  439. >Twilight steps over to the door, but you don't follow.
  440. >You just stare back at the group, hesitating.
  441. >Rosie smiles. "Go on, Anon. The Princess will look out for you."
  442. >But you waver, still too uncertain to move your feet.
  443. >After a moment, Amethyst, sensing your misgivings, says "We'll check up on you soon."
  444. >Rosie glances at her tentatively, as if wanting to reprimand her, but dismisses it.
  445. >You don't what to make of the assurance, but the earnestness in Ames' eyes...
  446. >It's not like you think you're walking into a trap or anything, you just didn't expect this. You have no idea why you're struggling with it as much as you are.
  447. >But you place enough stock in her to know that she's not abandoning you here.
  448. >This morning, it seemed they were just as eager to get this over with as you were.
  449. >So what changed?
  450. "I'll see you."
  451. >With that, you follow Twilight out the door. The sun has set by now, and the streets are lit up intermittently by lamplight.
  452. >"I know you must be tired," Twilight says, "so I'll just get you to your room and leave the rest for tomorrow."
  453. "The rest?"
  454. >"Your clothes, and — well, you know that whole business with Tempest."
  455. >She brings you to a tiny inn named the Horseshoe Hotel. The bell that rings as you enter prompts a pony to emerge from the back room.
  456. >Twilight sets your file upon the front desk. "Good evening, Florence."
  457. >The older mare looks you up and down. "New arrival?"
  458. >"Indeed he is. Ready to take in all that Ponyville has to offer."
  459. >Couldn't be further from the truth.
  460. >Florence opens her ledger and runs her hoof down the page. "Should I put him with Julius?"
  461. >"That's fine. I don't think there's anyone else, is there?" Twilight replies.
  462. >"Just Sid, and he's set to leave in a few days. He and Juney just got hitched, you know."
  463. >Twilight grins. "Awww, really? I've got to congratulate them."
  464. >"I'll grab you a key."
  465. >As Florence disappears into the back room, Twilight's suddenly reminded of your presence.
  466. >"Sorry," she says, "I didn't mean to keep you out of the loop. You'll be rooming with Julius. Terrific guy."
  467. >What? Living with a stranger? At a hotel?
  468. "A roommate?"
  469. >"I know it seems unorthodox, but rest assured it's the optimal way to get you integrated into Equestrian society."
  470. >She launches excitedly into her explanation. "See, at first we had new arrivals live with their matches, but we found that often placed strains on new relationships. Then we put up arrivals at the inn solo, but that made it too easy to withdraw and enabled antisocial tendencies."
  471. >Florence returns, handing Twilight a key. "Room 207," she smiles.
  472. >Twilight thanks her and motions for you to follow.
  473. >"Finally, after running several hundred trials across Equestria, I personally developed the ideal solution: liaisons."
  474. >She prattles on as you ascend the stairs, "Arrivals bunk with a designated liaison who's been here just a bit longer; that way, they're familiar enough to show you around but still new enough to discover things with you. I don't mean to brag, but ninety-three percent of liaisonships develop into close friendships that last for years after the acclimation period ends."
  475. >You step off the landing into the second floor hallway. It's noticeably cramped. Your head comes within half a foot of the ceiling.
  476. >"After a few weeks, the cycle continues. Julius will move on, and you'll be liaison to the next arrival in Ponyville. Of course, you're always free to stay here as long as you need, funded entirely by the initiative, until you and your match feel ready to move in together."
  477. "I won't be here that long," you murmur.
  478. >"That's the spirit!"
  479. >Suddenly realizing what you meant, Twilight stops and turns to face you, a sober look on her face. "I understand your caution, but please — all I'm asking is that you give this a fair shot."
  480. >The sincerity in her expression compels you to answer.
  481. "Okay."
  482. >Twilight smiles faintly and approaches Room 207. She knocks upon the door, and it's only a moment before a man answers.
  483. >"Hi Julius," Twilight greets him, "this is Anon."
  484. >He stands a couple inches taller than you. Clean shaven, with a dark crop of hair. He's got the grin of a car salesman.
  485. >"Say no more," he responds excitedly, extending his hand. "I know what this is."
  486. >You give him an uneasy shake.
  487. >"I take it you're okay acting as his liaison?" Twilight asks.
  488. >"Of course."
  489. >"Sign here, please," she instructs him, handing over your file. "How's Lotus, by the way?"
  490. >"Doing great." He signs his name and returns it. "You should come by the spa sometime."
  491. >"If only. I'm up to my ears in work all week."
  492. >"You want to come in?"
  493. >"No, no, I've got to get home and draft a royal congratulation to Sid and Junebug. Besides, Anon's had a hectic day and I'm sure he's eager to get some rest."
  494. >"Oh, I bet," he answers, stepping aside to let you in.
  495. >You duck your head beneath the doorframe and look around while they talk. There's a living room and kitchenette, with two bedrooms placed on either side of the suite.
  496. >It's kind of roomy, actually, barring the fact that it's built for creatures half your size.
  497. >"Is Sid in, actually?" Twilight asks. "I want to say it personally."
  498. >"No, his suite's mostly just for storage at this point. He's staying at June's apartment. They're moving into a place big enough for both of them this weekend."
  499. >You wander into the nearest bedroom. It's unfurnished, save for the tempting queen size in the middle of the room.
  500. >How long has been since you slept? Feels like ages.
  501. >Leaving them to chat, you sit upon the bed and stare out the window against the far wall. The flicker of lamplight casts shadows against the storefront across the street.
  502. >After a couple minutes, you hear a voice behind you. "She's a character, isn't she?"
  503. >You look back at the doorway to see Julius standing there. He enters the room, and, noting the confusion on your face, says "Twilight. She's got like six jobs, you know."
  504. >You don't respond.
  505. >"So, million-dollar question. What race did you get?"
  506. "Huh?"
  507. >"Your match. Is she a unicorn, pegasus, or earth pony?"
  508. >Your mind flashes back to the mare in the zeppelin. That distinctive horn.
  509. >What the hell happened to her?
  510. "Unicorn," you mumble.
  511. >"My man," he says, placing a hand on your shoulder. "I mean, nothing against flying or strength, but magic really is something else. Back home, I remember race being a big part of dating. But here, it's like... nothing."
  512. >He smiles and gives you a little shake before letting go. "You're lucky to be here."
  513. >It certainly doesn't feel like it.
  514. >"I got an earth pony, myself. We can double date sometime. Though you probably want a few just you and her first, I bet. Less pressure that way."
  515. "I don't think so."
  516. >His smile fades. "What do you mean?"
  517. >Suddenly, you get up.
  518. "I think I'm gonna go to bed."
  519. >"Oh, right," he says, put off by your attitude. "I'll let you get some rest, then."
  520. >As he leaves, shutting the door behind him, you climb under the covers and flick the bedside lamp off.
  521. >This isn't going to be the relationship he thinks it is. Soon Twilight will get it through her head that Tempest isn't interested, and neither are you. The mistake will get fixed, and you'll get to go home.
  522. >It'll be over soon. There's nothing to worry about.
  523. >Every nightmare ends eventually.

All My Scars

by pentapony

Bury Me in White

by pentapony

[Pentapony's Story List]

by pentapony

Love and War

by pentapony

Megalomania

by pentapony