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Heroes Never Die 2

By Guest
Created: 2023-03-12 22:50:03
Expiry: Never

  1. Hours went by as Ari lay on her back in the backseat of the car, listening to her phone play endlessly. Eventually, night fell and still, people kept talking and talking. She wasn’t always listening. She wasn’t sure if she fell asleep at any point. But it was late now. She’d be sleeping in the car.
  2. Statements were made, and declarations spoken. The one thing she was truly curious about was a big bucket of ice-cold water. Every politician denounced ETS as purely evil and vowed to never allow its use in any form ever again. The aliens seemed completely deferential to the human government. Meaning… Ari was likely stuck like this forever.
  3. After that, there was only one thing that separated Ari from the dead, only one thing that can breathe a spark of life into her however briefly.
  4. It was when that purple one talked… the hero that saved them, another pony from the same world that the criminal who created the virus in the first place. Every now and then Purple would just say something that pissed Ari off so much.
  5. “Becoming a pony won’t solve your problems.”
  6. “You don’t know that! You don’t know anything about me!”
  7. “No one asked for this.”
  8. “I did!”
  9. “Magic won’t help you be a better person.”
  10. “Then give me yours!”
  11. “Ponies aren’t better than humans. I mean, this way you still have your hands, right?”
  12. And then Purple laughed…
  13. “You fucking–!”
  14. That last one was what finally spurred Ari to sit up, and finally get off her back. She heard that line so many goddam times she wanted to puke!
  15. And Purple was some kind of princess or something? She probably just got everything in life handed to her. And here she was, talking like she understood people she didn’t even know existed. She was so incurious and sheltered that she couldn’t even [i]imagine[/i] that not every human had working hands?! That privileged, pretentious fucking–!
  16. Ari rubbed her face and took a deep breath.
  17. She was probably taking her anger out on the wrong person. Purple was just doing its… job… or whatever. Who knew?
  18. Getting angry wouldn’t change anything.
  19. Her phone vibrated and Ari blinked a few times to clear her vision. It was morning already? [i]Had[/i] she slept?
  20. She got a text from work letting her know that work would open again tomorrow.
  21. The adventure was over. Get back to work!
  22. Ari spent a few minutes working up the strength to start the car. She caught herself in the rearview mirror.
  23. Ari looked at the green where it had managed to overtake her blonde hair. It didn’t look like that was going away. So she was about 1% pony.
  24. A streak on her left and a streak to the right perfectly framed her face between the two strips of green, too. It looked really nice, in her opinion!
  25. So the trip hadn’t been an absolute failure. Maybe Ari could just try to focus on that.
  26. “So I didn’t get to fly or anything, but green hair is the next best…” Ari couldn’t keep her fake smile on long enough to finish the sentence.
  27. She let out a sigh and started the car.
  28. It wasn’t like there was anything she could do about it now.
  29.  
  30.  
  31. [hr]
  32.  
  33. Ari got back home after hours of driving, thankful she hadn’t collapsed and crashed at some point.
  34. The town had deteriorated pretty quickly in the few days she’d been away. The shops along the little strip mall by her house all had their windows broken. The streets were littered with trash, the curb in front of her house being a particularly bad section.
  35. And there seemed to be a bunch of military guys stalking around.
  36. What were they even doing? Maybe they just got here.
  37. There were clear signs that rioting and looting were going on, even if not right now. Even with some military presence, Ari would have to be extra careful when going outside from now on.
  38. She stopped just in front of her house, looking down at a collection of bottles and plastic trash that had gotten caught up in the dirt just in front. The place was filthy. Her town had never been this bad before.
  39. She should probably clean this up. She had tools that would help her clean it up without her hands…
  40. But she was way too tired to do anything about it right now.
  41.  
  42. [hr]
  43.  
  44. The number of ponies in the Bronx and to the east was pretty much 0. The estimated number on the ETS tracker estimated 5 in Nassau and Suffolk counties combined. So Ari wouldn’t be seeing any ponies in real life. Not for some time, anyway.
  45. She could still watch them through the internet, though. Most of the areas out west were kind of blacked out with little to no internet or power. But there were still tons of people posting pictures of ponies on the internet.
  46. Whatever time Ari didn’t spend sleeping on that first day, she spent watching such videos, fascinated by their cutie marks and magic. It seemed like getting your cutie mark gave you something of a mini-superpower. Or sometimes an actual superpower.
  47. Ponies learning to use their magic. Ponies flying. Ponies working together to build new communities. Ponies levitating things with their minds. Ponies making coffee and sugar cane grow rapidly as far up as Washing State. Ponies suddenly extreme experts in their given skill, with near-psychic perception leading them
  48. But one thing they couldn’t do was type.
  49. It was annoying all the ‘oh noooo! How will I ever live without haaaaaands?’ comments. The go-to answer seemed to be the Orbi keyboard, one made for disabled people. That was like the holy grail to the ponies now.
  50. <The orbitouch is all sold out!
  51. <You can get one on eBay… for $10,000. LOL.
  52. <Guess we’re just using speech-to-text for now.
  53. All the ponies were posting stuff like that. It was frustrating. She typed without hands all the time. She got frustrated and made her own post.
  54. Ari never actually made a Twitter account before, but finally set one up just so she could reply to these ignorant fools.
  55. She often had Velcro straps around her hands that could be easily tightened or loosened with her mouth. This allowed her to grip things to some extent. And one thing she always had nearby was her cups filled with pencils.
  56. She strapped one to each of her hands and began typing.
  57. A>Don’t get an Orbi, those suck. You type way too slowly with them. Just strap two unsharpened pencils to yourself and type with the eraser side. If you use this keyboard layout, you can type fast once you get used to it. I can break 60 WPM easily.
  58. She sent the keyboard layout she used, with the most common letters clustered to the left and right side and the least common in the middle.
  59. The standard keyboard layout was actually designed specifically to slow people with ten fingers down to the maximum extent. It was the slowest possible configuration assuming you had ten digits. Compared to one designed to be as fast as possible for someone with effectively two fingers… well she really could compete with a normal person.
  60. And sent! Ari nodded to herself, satisfied for what felt like the first time in her life. Better than nothing.
  61. But there were so many more like that.
  62. <How do I use scissors without hands?
  63. <How do I use a door knob?
  64. <I can’t open bottles like this.
  65. Ari rolled her eyes. Freaking amateurs. She would have been a way better pony than them.
  66. Still, she spent the few hours she had awake answering these questions too. And eventually… fell asleep.
  67.  
  68. [hr]
  69.  
  70. And then it was back to work. Again.
  71. Ari kept her hood down low enough to block her peripheral vision. A mess of tents and makeshift shelters came pouring out of a closed shopping center’s parking lot and off into the woods and nearby street.
  72. Ironically, there was a huge, unused building right next to all these people, but they were living in the parking lot just outside it.
  73. There never used to be this many homeless people in Ari’s town. But it was quickly becoming the homeless capital of the world. A massive wave of foreclosures crippled the American economy and caused a global economic meltdown. And now…
  74. She heard yesterday that the homeless population had tripled and was continuing to rise. But as one influencer pointed out, that vastly understated the problem. Out west, the homeless population had plummeted as the ponies all sort of huddled together on whatever property they could find, no longer counting towards that number.
  75. So the triple number was an average weighed down by the massive drop to the west. It was getting insane out here. The contrast between the east and west half of the nation was beyond extreme.
  76. It looked like that number would only be going up as the cost of everything rose but never wages. Food prices doubled. Gas was seven dollars a gallon… Ari’s lease was up next month. The rent was going to go up by a whole, whole lot. The only question was how much? 20%? Thirty? Sixty?
  77. As long as they didn’t hike it by fifty percent, Ari could still make ends meet. She had a little bit of money saved up.
  78. She should probably buy a tent and some heavy coats now, just in case. Better to be prepared.
  79. But Ari couldn’t look at them. Not now.
  80. There wasn’t anything she could do about it, anyway.
  81.  
  82. [hr]
  83.  
  84. Any fear she had that she might be made into a pariah for being partially transformed was dispelled, at least. Her partially green hair did draw attention, but it was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone at work seemed to love it, thinking it was so cool. One of the other girls even said she was jealous, that catching ETS at the last second like that was probably the best-case scenario.
  85. She did have to shrug and pretend she had no idea who she could have possibly caught it from. But they didn’t grill her or anything.
  86. Ari found herself smiling for the first time in… had it really only been a day or so?
  87. Maybe she’d just been too alone for the past week, having hardly spoken with anyone. She could have been overreacting a little…
  88. And she felt almost okay for about four hours. Until HR called her over.
  89. She wished her initial fear, that they’d somehow found out she’d infected herself, was the truth. Instead–
  90. “You can’t dye your hair green like that. It’s too unprofessional.”
  91. “I didn’t dye it,” said Ari. “This is from ETS. That part of my hair is just naturally green now.”
  92. “Yes, well that only makes it worse. People around here are still on edge about this. They don’t want to see your hair like that.”
  93. Were they allowed to do that?!
  94. Whatever spark of indignation Ari might have had was soon snuffed out by the weight of depression that hung around her.
  95. She couldn’t risk challenging this… not now! Not when money was so tight and the world so risky. It wasn’t like she could have afforded a lawyer before. But now? When she wasn’t sure if she could pay rent [i]with[/i] a job? When there were so many people flooding the area, competing for work, driving down wages?
  96. Ari hung her head and bit her lip, crippled from defeat.
  97. The HR person saw her and their expression did soften a little.
  98. “Look, I’m sorry. But the boss saw your hair and he said this himself. You can cover it up however you want, but you can’t wear it like it is, okay?” They watched her for a moment longer, wanting to help. “You know, they’re saying the partially transformed can get the rehumanization spell cast on them, too. If you do that, you won’t have to worry about maintaining it anymore.”
  99. At that moment, Ari would rather die than do that. That green hair felt like the only thing special about Ari anymore.
  100. “I guess there’s nothing I can do about it…”
  101.  
  102. [hr]
  103.  
  104. After work, Ari went to the grocery store to see what her options even were.
  105. All the shelves were just about empty. Normally in this situation, you’d think ‘well I’ll just eat oatmeal and ramen until things get better’. Only everyone had the same idea and all the cheap foods were long gone. It didn’t even look like they were cheap anymore.
  106. The price of everything had easily doubled, some things even more. Ironically, her only options were things like strawberries and fancy steaks… things she absolutely should not be buying right now. Though it was that or starve… she was tempted to just drink salad dressing for the next few days.
  107. At least she liked strawberries.
  108. Hopefully, things would get better in the next few days. They said it would, but who knew?
  109. No medicine or cleaning supplies either.
  110. But hair dye? They had that. Only marked up about fifty percent.
  111. Ari stared at the blonde hair dye for a long time before giving in and knocking it into her cart.
  112. What she wouldn’t give for a box of plain oatmeal right now.
  113. But there was nothing she could do about it.
  114.  
  115. [hr]
  116.  
  117. Ari took deep breaths, staring into the mirror, looking at the green stripes in her hair.
  118. Using scissors was a bit of a production, but she could do it. She had a pair made specifically for disabled people, with a big loop on one side and a large handle on the other. Putting the loop over her right hand and tightening the Velcro strap, she could able to cut just by pressing down on the lever with her left.
  119. It’d be cheaper to just cut those stripes out. She could style it to make it not look weird.
  120. She held the blade against the base of the larger green stripe. Her hand trembled more than it usually did. She stood there, paralyzed until her strength gave out. Her right hand and the attached scissors clunked down into the sink.
  121. She couldn’t do it!
  122. That was… that was like the only thing she got! That green hair was… was…
  123. Ari shook her head. She felt some tears forming but ignored them and took out the dye.
  124. Dying was more expensive, difficult, and time-consuming… but it was her only option. If she lost her job, there was no guarantee she could get another one right now. It was this… or…
  125. She found this slightly easier on a psychological level, though it took her way longer than a normal person would need and she sobbed all the way through.
  126. Ari stared at herself in the mirror once again, her hair more or less back the way it was.
  127. She felt… violated. She couldn’t look in the mirror any longer… and went back to her room to collapse for the third time in three days.
  128. This one hurt so much more than the other two. She sat at the head of her bed, curled up into a tight ball, hugging a pillow with a pile of blankets hiding her. She rocked back and forth, trying to steady her breath between sobs. It was so hard not to cry over something so… stupid.
  129. The world was going down the drain. Ari could very well be homeless and starving before long and somehow being forced to dye her hair was what hurt? So many people had it a million times worse than her…
  130. “I wish I understood how my stupid brain worked.”
  131. Ari buried her face in the pillow to wipe away some of her messy tears.
  132. There was just… nothing she could do about it. Just go to work. Try to survive. And going to work might not be enough soon but… there was nothing she could do about that.
  133. Might as well just… not think about it. Find some kind of distraction.
  134. Ari got her laptop and turned it on. Looking at what the ponies were up to would probably hurt her even more but it was too strong a temptation to resist.
  135. She logged in to Twitter and paused to stare at a very strange number…
  136. “10,000 comments?!”

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