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Learning to Fly, Part Five: Under Pressure

By LyraHStrings
Created: 19th September 2022 05:07:21 PM
1st December 2022 11:56:52 PM

  1. Learning to Fly Part Five - "Under Pressure"
  2.  
  3. >Be the horse.
  4. >You know the one.
  5. >It's you.
  6. >And next to you is Katie, resting an assuring hand on your withers.
  7. >You find yourself unable to look up from the floor, at the students crowding the hallway, every single one's eyes glued on you.
  8. >Their poor attempts at disguising their hushed whispers reach your ears, despite their best efforts.
  9. >"Oh my god."
  10. >"I like her mane"
  11. >"He looks like two beach balls had a kid..."
  12. >"Look at those wings...!"
  13. >"Bro... smash or pass?" followed by an offended "Dude! No." and a smack.
  14. >At least nobody seemed to despise you, or find you appalling.
  15. >Turns out turning into something completely alien is okay as long as it's cute. You expected their reaction to be more akin to the townsfolk in Frankenstein.
  16. >Looks like people enjoy a spectacle no matter the form.
  17. >Katie takes a step and you follow in turn.
  18. >You make your way through the crowd, they part for you, still speaking in hushed whispers.
  19. >You have to cross the entire school to get to the band room.
  20. >It was a long walk.
  21. >After a short time people realized they'd have to get going to their own classes, and traffic resumed.
  22. >There was usually a consistent gap in front, people clearing the way to break off to the side to gawk at you.
  23. >People kept their distance. Probably didn't want to catch the horse cooties that turned you into this.
  24. >You come to the exterior door. Someone holds it for you, you don't recognize them.
  25. >As you pass you raise your hand to show your appreciation and-
  26. >You tumble down to the ground, losing your balance and slamming your muzzle into the concrete.
  27. >The students around you gasp quietly.
  28. >Not a single one comes to your aid, but they part to form a circle around the scene, gawking.
  29. >Someone laughs.
  30. >Katie quickly and wordlessly picks you back up, helping you to your feet-- hooves.
  31. >She locks eyes with you and gives you a reassuring nod.
  32. >She lets you go ahead, bringing up the rear. She scans the crowd for the person that laughed, but you don't think she finds them.
  33. >You get to the arts building and the same person is there to hold the door. That's nice of them, you're starting to feel like you should recognize them.
  34. >Looking closer at them you think you recognize them as that 10th year who saw you trip and fall in the hallway yesterday. What a coincidence.
  35. >What was his name? You recall the conversation you overheard in this very location.
  36. >John? Jim? Josh? No, that's not it. You'll go with Jim. You should really thank Jim. You don't think you have any classes with him, so this is your only chance.
  37. >As you pass him again you give him a weak smile.
  38. "Thank you, Jim."
  39. >He seems surprised (a look you've now seen on him twice) and you're already down the hallway before he can say anything. He was stuck holding the door.
  40.  
  41. >People were still parting around you, and you make it to the band room in one piece, aside from your disheveled mane.
  42. >Your band director is there, and he holds open the heavy band room door for you both.
  43. >"Who's your friend, Anon?"
  44. >Seems like he got the memo.
  45. "This is, uh, Katie Phillips. She's coming with me to my classes- it's already been cleared with the principal- just to... um...-"
  46. >Katie juts in, saving you.
  47. >"I'm just here to help him if he needs anything. You won't even know I'm here."
  48. >"Well, alright. I'm glad you're doing this for him. I know he's had to have some struggles."
  49. "Yeah, she's been a... a big help."
  50. >You think back to breakfast. You couldn't even eat right. And your panic attack in your car yesterday and how she had to drive you home. And last night...
  51. >"Well, Anon, I can't ask you to play, today, if you're not up to it."
  52. "I can do it."
  53. >You'll be damned if you'll be giving up playing music. You had dedicated a few years of your life to this, you weren't going to stop now.
  54. >Besides, upright bass was probably the only instrument you could even theoretically play.
  55. >Mr. D nods, turning to take his place at his podium.
  56. >You and Katie approach the upright bass as the other members of the band start filing in.
  57. >Katie whispers.
  58. >"Anon, I'm pretty sure you could fit inside that thing if there was a hole big enough for you. How are you going to do this?"
  59. "Get me a chair and help me up."
  60. >She obliges, putting you in the chair and picking up the bass and setting it in front of you. You get up on your hind hooves and grab the bass like you normally would.
  61. >You have to hug it with your whole body but you manage to get comfortable- well, not really, but it'll do.
  62. "I think this can work."
  63. >"That's great! Okay, play something."
  64. >You pluck an open string with your right hoof, using the tip to pick the string. It produced an uncharacteristically harsh sound for the acoustic bass, very bright, almost like an electric.
  65. >With some difficulty, your left hoof travels up and down the neck, pressing the fingerboard.
  66. >Your notes were... less than perfect, but they were coming out.
  67. "I'm going to have to learn how to play again, but- Katie, I'm doing it!"
  68. >Katie gives you a quick hug, almost throwing you off balance.
  69. >Standing up here on this chair hugging a bass was not the most stable position.
  70. >While you were experimenting with the bass, Mr. D had been addressing the class.
  71. >"...try his best to still play with us. He showed up today and he's ready to work. With that in mind, today is going to be a little different than normal. I think this would be a great opportunity to make you all a little more comfortable with soloing over a Bb blues. Circle up."
  72. >The horn players shuffle over to you and the rhythm section in a loose circle.
  73.  
  74. >"Alright, let's start with a simple 12 bar blues in Bb. I know you all know your scales, so we'll go around the circle, everyone taking a round, just to see what we're working with... Anon, would you mind counting us off? Start slow, no need to strain yourself. When you're ready."
  75. >The drummer raises his sticks and the pianist lowers her hands, waiting on you.
  76. >With great difficulty, you start to walk a simple bassline and the rest of the rhythm section jumps in.
  77. >You were really getting the hang of this!
  78. >The piano player backs you up when you fumble notes, keeping the groove you set up.
  79. >The drummer doesn't push your tempo too much, keeping a nice simple shuffle.
  80. >You find it hard to look at them, you didn't even know their names despite being a month into the semester. You hope they can feel your appreciation. You'll have to meet them after this jam is over.
  81. >None of the usual criticism of your playing is there in the room, you don't feel everyone's eyes roll when you make a mistake like you feel they normally do.
  82. >You feel like you should be thankful but all you can remember is how you always felt in this class, feeling their inflated egos bearing down on you.
  83. >You had hoped it wouldn't take you being a subject of pity for them to stop seeing you that way: Someone who always makes mistakes, who's lesser than them.
  84. >Before you know it, it's your round for a quick solo.
  85. >Everyone drops out and it's just you-
  86. >You were never that good at this before becoming a horse.
  87. >Predictably, it doesn't go well.
  88. >You struggle to even hold down the walking groove you had established, suddenly feeling everyone's eyes on you and fumbling every note.
  89. >You lost it. The jam dies at your hand- hoof.
  90. >You sit there in silence, ashamed.
  91. >You look up and nobody really seems that annoyed. Mr. D chimes in.
  92. >"That's alright man, take your time. You did great."
  93. >It helps a little.
  94. >It's getting near the end of class and he asks you guys to pack up. With Katie's help you lean the bass back in the corner.
  95. >You approach the drummer first. He's trying to pack up and move the kit into the corner out of the way.
  96. "Hey, uh, anything we can help you with?"
  97. >"No, I'm okay."
  98. "Right... hey, thanks for keeping me going man. You really helped keep that jam together."
  99. >"Of course. Hey- you didn't do to bad yourself for having, uh, no... hands..."
  100. >He looks to the side awkwardly, setting down the drum he was carrying.
  101. >"Sorry."
  102. "It's okay. Honestly, hands are overrated."
  103. >You laugh, and he nervously does the same.
  104. >"Yeah, I guess so... hey, I feel like I've been rude, we've never really met. I'm Pace."
  105. "Anon."
  106. >You stick out a hoof after seeing him quickly withdraw his hand he had stuck out for a handshake.
  107. >He takes it with another awkward laugh.
  108. "Hey, I gotta go thank the pianist too. I'll see you later, yeah? What lunch are you scheduled for?"
  109. >"Uh, B, but usually I leave campus and go get some chicken or something. See you later, man."
  110.  
  111. >You nod and head over to the pianist, who had just finished pushing the piano against the wall.
  112. >"Hey! Anon, right? I'm Julia! Great playing today. I know you're doing the best you can right now, it's better than I could do on that thing! Ha ha!"
  113. >She takes your offered hoof. You're a little taken aback by her enthusiasm but at least she's nice.
  114. "I wanted to thank you for backing me up today. I botched a lot of those notes."
  115. >"Oh, of course! Don't worry about it. Do you mind if I ask you about... you know?"
  116. >She gestures at you. Naturally she'd want to know.
  117. >You think that it wouldn't be so bad to open up a little to this new person.
  118. "Sure-"
  119. >She immediately starts asking you a few too many questions to answer at once, getting close to you and seizing your wing in her hands, turning it over and feeling your feathers and bone structure.
  120. >"How did you become like this? Can you fly? You can totally fly! How'd you figure that out? Are your tastes any different? How long did it take it for the transformation to complete? What's it like having a tail? What does it feel like to walk on all fours? How about-"
  121. "Julia!"
  122. >You interrupt her, ruffling your wings out of her grasp and taking a step back. She stops and looks at you wide-eyed.
  123. >"Yeah?"
  124. "Maybe not now, actually. I'm just- it's too early in the morning for this."
  125. >"Oh..."
  126. >She looks down at the ground.
  127. >You walk away with Katie in tow, heading for the exit as the bell rings.
  128. >You hate to leave her standing like that but she was just a little too much.
  129. >"What was that about?" Katie speaks on your way to the next class down the hall.
  130. "Julia? Oh, she was just a little enthusiastic. She's fine."
  131. >Katie looks away.
  132. >"Right. I just don't want anyone making you uncomfortable."
  133. >You walk into Spanish with Katie, who was normally there anyways.
  134. >You're the first ones in the classroom aside from el maestro, Señor Horst. He greets you with a smile.
  135. >"B-buenos días, Anon. Cómo está?"
  136. "Cómo una caballita, Señor."
  137. >You share a laugh.
  138. >"Great conjugation, Anon. I think your pronunciation has gotten better. Bienvenudos Katie. Let me know if you need help with anything. I mean anything, Anon. I'm here for you, if you need a place to get away today, my room is always open."
  139. >You nod and make your way up onto your usual seat.
  140. >It was one of those desks where the seat was attached to the desk surface, and there was a metal bar across one side.
  141. >You initially put your forehooves up on the seat, climbing up, but you don't really have room to turn around and your butt gets stuck in the space between the desk and the chair.
  142. >You try to back out but you appear to be stuck and all you manage are a few wiggles.
  143.  
  144. >"Do you want some help?" She places her hands on your sides, underneath your wings.
  145. "...yes please."
  146. >She tugs gently, freeing you from your ceramic prison.
  147. >"Let's try that again, yeah?"
  148. >She puts you back, facing front this time with all 4 hooves on the seat, your chest resting comfortably on the front of the desk.
  149. >The cold metal bar presses into your side, but it does help to keep you upright. You might need her help to get out again, but this wasn't so bad.
  150. >She sets your notes in front of you along with a pencil.
  151. >You look at the pencil, then at her.
  152. >She looks back at you.
  153. >"...oh, yeah."
  154. >She takes the pencil but leaves your notes and takes out a sheet of paper from the binder to take her own notes. She was in this class afterall.
  155. >"I'll just make copies of my notes for you later. Sound good?"
  156. >You nod, and you sit there.
  157. >Students start filing in, notably avoiding looking at you. Carlos, though, comes in and immediately has something to say.
  158. >"Woah. You are looking FINE, Anon. For a caballa I guess."
  159. >The room laughs, the earlier tension gone.
  160. >He sits down in his usual spot at your desk collective, leaning in on his elbows to get a good look at you as you brush some of your long mane out of your eyes and flick an ear.
  161. >"Guess you weren't just being your crazy self yesterday. Hey, at least some things don't change."
  162. "What's that, Carlos?"
  163. >"You still stink! Ah, I'm just kidding you. You do smell like you were raised in a barn, though!"
  164. >He laughs again, and you can't help but roll your eyes and smile.
  165. >"Oh, I crack myself up. I promise, no more jokes."
  166. >Despite your best efforts he's really making the whole thing a little more lighthearted. At least the room doesn't have such a stuffy silence anymore. People are talking and carrying on like nothing's that different.
  167. >It's all still awkward but you find yourself talking to a few of your classmates, and they find themselves talking to you. You never really talked to them much before this, but now you're finding it just a little easier to talk to people.
  168. >"So you can fly?"
  169. "Yeah, kinda. Did you see that divot in the practice field by the parking lot? That was me, yesterday."
  170. >"Ouch! That looked like it'd hurt. How'd you figure it out?"
  171. "Well, I tried to get a running start like I was an airplane and eventually I rose into the air..."
  172. >A few people had gathered in a circle around the desk and were listening intently. You get a spark in your eye.
  173. "...and as my hooves left the ground, I felt a terror grip my chest that was soon replaced by a... liberating feeling of freedom I've never felt before. I got so excited I forgot to flap! Soon enough I was descending as quickly as I climbed, and I overcorrected and-"
  174. >You drive your hoof across the desk, illiciting a groan from the students.
  175.  
  176. "Yeah. Wasn't pretty. Actually, I still have a cut, right here-"
  177. >You lift a wing and show your flank to them, revealing dirt covered fur and a little cut.
  178. >You had forgotten about that... maybe Carlos was right and you did stink. You were definitely taking a shower when you got home.
  179. >Someone pipes up. It was Carlos.
  180. >"Did you die?"
  181. >You bring your wing back in.
  182. "Sadly, yes! But I survived!"
  183. >They all gasp, even Katie. You raise your hooves up and gesture with them.
  184. "I picked myself up and tried again, not stopping until I could manage a hover- oh, it wasn't stable by any means, but I had barely just learned how to walk and I was already learning to fly!"
  185. >Your wings flare out for emphasis.
  186. >"Wow. That sounds amazing! I've always wanted to fly."
  187. "Yeah, me too..."
  188. >You pause. You had never really given it much thought before, but having this freedom is something you've always wanted. Maybe you didn't want it to happen like this, but-
  189. >"OK clase, sientate. We're all glad to have Anon with us, I'm sure he'll be glad to tell you about his exploits later. Flip to page 33..."
  190. >With Katie taking notes and you helping each other on assignments, the workflow you develop seems to do well enough.
  191. >You were afraid you would feel like you were taking advantage of her but it wasn't like that at all.
  192. >Just doing it because that's what friends should do for each other.
  193. >Delicately, you rest your hoof on Katie's arm.
  194. >She smiles and keeps writing.
  195. "Yeah, so I think with the context clues on this one we can use a less literal translation..."
  196. >Before long, class was over and leaving the room wasn't the funeral dirge it had been today. You felt so much more confident in the hallway, and people seemed to be getting used to you already.
  197. >You could still hear snippets of conversation concerning you, but you weren't bothered.
  198. >Even taking your eyes off the floor is possible!
  199.  
  200. >On to math it was.
  201. >For some reason, upon entering the room, you got a sinking feeling.
  202. >You have a thought that you might have forgotten something important today.
  203. >Why are the desks like that? There's paper taped up all over the walls of the math posters-
  204. >Oh.
  205. "Quiz day."
  206. >"Alright, come in, sit down. Anon, you are welcome to stay here, but please try not to cause any disruptions. If it becomes an issue I'll have to ask you to leave."
  207. >You nod and sit down right next to Katie.
  208. >"Anon, Katie, please choose different seats, that's too close."
  209. >"But Ms. Landry, I'm his aid, and-"
  210. >"I don't care, I won't have any cheating in this class. Anon can answer his own test questions."
  211. >Your classmates start whispering to each other, visibly concerned at what she said.
  212. "It's fine, Katie, scoot over. Get some scratch paper and my pencil out of my bag please."
  213. >You could do this. Writing shouldn't be too hard.
  214. >She begrudgingly moves seats after placing a pencil and a sheet of paper on your desk.
  215. >With one last look that you couldn't quite read, the teacher speaks up.
  216. >"Begin."

Learning to Fly, Part Five: Under Pressure

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