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a starry night for radio waves

By Castafae
Created: 2023-05-06 08:18:52
Expiry: Never
oc

  1. >Orange street lights illuminate the empty diner parking lot.
  2. >Somewhere in the distance you can hear the whine of cicadas.
  3. >It would have been a nice night for a jog if you didn’t have to work.
  4. >You turn around and make your way to the back of the building.
  5. >As you gingerly throw some garbage into the dumpster, you let out a sigh.
  6. >With that done, you are just about ready to close up.
  7. >But… you have one last thing to do.
  8. >You walk over to the steps of the back entrance and sit down, placing a paper bag beside you.
  9. >You sit in silence, not even sure if this will work.
  10. >But just as you are about to get up, you see her.
  11. >That same cream colored mare.
  12. >The first time you saw her, she was sitting in the parking lot, staring up at the streetlamps.
  13. >She looked shaken up and more than a little lost, but when you approached her, she ran before you could get a word out.
  14. >She’s been skulking around at night ever since.
  15. >Despite at first thinking she might wind up being an annoyance, you ended up growing used to her presence.
  16. >For the most part, she left the diner alone when it came to food, opting instead to scavenge around in the woods.
  17. >You’ve seen her try just about everything out in those woods, from crabapples to pinecones… to more crabapples.
  18. >You think she preferred the crabapples.
  19. >Seeing that she's here right now, maybe she got sick of them?
  20. >Or maybe she ran out.
  21. >She hasn’t seen you yet, which was a little funny seeing that she was obviously drawn by the sound of you throwing the garbage away.
  22. >She slowly makes her way to the dumpster and you watch her take a sniff, only to see her face scrunch up and her shake her head.
  23. >Despite her clear reluctance, she takes a few more steps forward.
  24. >You probably should say something before she makes herself sick.
  25. “Hey.”
  26. >She shrinks down and quickly turns to face you, eyes widened.
  27. >You can already tell she’s going to bolt if you aren’t quick.
  28. “Hold on, just wait a second! I just wanted to offer you something to eat.”
  29. >Her ears perk up a bit, so you guess that got her attention.
  30. >She follows your hand as you place it on the paper bag.
  31. “You’re hungry, right?”
  32. >Her eyes dart around the area before locking onto yours again.
  33. >You open the bag and pull out an apple.
  34. >You extend it out towards her and nod.
  35. “Here.”
  36. >You bring the apple to the floor and roll it in her direction.
  37. >Her eyes follow the apple as it slowly makes its way to her.
  38. >As it finally settled at her forehooves, she brought her head down to get a closer look.
  39. >Seemingly pleased, she picks it up with her mouth and sits down.
  40. >You watch as she wipes off the apple and turns it around in her hooves, staring at it with an indecipherable expression.
  41. >You’re not entirely sure what she's doing, but after a while, she takes a slow bite.
  42. >Something seems to click in her mind, as her face lights up and her next bite is much quicker.
  43. >You guess the apple was a good choice.
  44.  
  45. >As she eats, you notice how unkempt she is.
  46. >It was harder to tell before, but now that you get a closer look at her, it’s a lot more obvious.
  47. >She looks like she’s been sleeping in a bush and with all the woodland around the diner, it wasn’t farfetched.
  48. >The twig stuck in her tail certainly completes the look.
  49. >She probably knows these woods better than you, that’s for sure.
  50. >A survivalist through and through, this one.
  51. >You wonder where she goes during the day, seeing that you’ve never seen her out before midnight.
  52. >It was… honestly baffling to behold.
  53. >A markless earth pony just milling about without any supervision.
  54. >Considering her sheepish behavior, she might be a runaway.
  55. >If that’s the case… why?
  56. >Ponies aren’t exactly prone to going off on their own without reason, after all.
  57. >You’ve thought about telling someone about her, but you wanted to figure out her deal first.
  58. >There’s something weird going on with the back of her neck, but you can’t get a good look at it because her mane is covering it up.
  59. >She finishes up the apple, leaving only the stem, which is now hanging from her mouth like a cigar.
  60. >She looks like she’s debating whether she should eat it or not.
  61. “I got more if you want, I know that’s probably not enough.”
  62. >You rummage around your bag and pull out a pair of sandwiches.
  63. >It was a hodgepodge of vegetables that you hoped would appeal to a pony.
  64. >When you look up at her again, she is eyeing you inquisitively.
  65. >Seeing that the stem is nowhere to be found, you guess she found her answer.
  66. >You hold one out to her and for once, she approaches.
  67. >She takes it from you and backs away slightly, seemingly unsure what to do now.
  68. >You gesture to your left.
  69. “You can sit by me if you want.”
  70. >She’s thinking about it, and after a moment, she nods.
  71. >She quickly makes her way up the steps and passes by you, planting herself by the back door.
  72. >There was still a wide berth between the two of you, but this was certainly progress.
  73. >It doesn’t take her long to begin eating again.
  74. >From her face, you guess she’s enjoying herself.
  75. >You look down at the remaining sandwich and wonder to yourself if you should give it a try, seeing that she likes it.
  76. >But… you think you’ll let her have it.
  77. >She looks like she needs it.
  78. >You wrap the sandwich back up and set it in the bag, which you close soon after.
  79. >You sneeze suddenly, which makes your skittish companion freeze up.
  80. >You give her a reassuring smile.
  81. “Don’t worry, it’s just me.”
  82.  
  83. >She settles down and finishes her sandwich, now simply sitting with her back against the wall, her forehooves close to her chest.
  84. “As the guy who throws out the garbage, I can safely say that there isn’t anything worthwhile in there.”
  85. >She fidgets with her hooves as you get up and stretch.
  86. “I know it’s not much, but there’s a few more things in the bag, it’s all yours. Just make sure whatever is left makes it into the trash, alright?”
  87. >You pull back your sleeve and check your watch.
  88. >It’s way past closing, so you should probably lock up and leave.
  89. >With a sigh, you turn to her and wave.
  90. “Have a nice night and uh, try not to get in trouble.”
  91. >You start walking, but are stopped almost immediately.
  92. >You turn to see the mare with a chunk of your shirt firmly in her mouth.
  93. “What’s all this then?”
  94. >She lets go and you face her again.
  95. >She frantically tries to convey something to you through gestures, but she gets frustrated and ends up staring at the ground, dejected.
  96. >Now that you thing about it, she hasn’t said anything since you’ve met her…
  97. “Is there… something wrong with your voice?”
  98. >She quickly picks up her head and nods in succession.
  99. >She points to the back of her neck and makes a grabbing motion. Once finished, she points to you.
  100. “You want my help?”
  101. >Another nod.
  102. “I… don’t know how to fix a pony. I mean, I *did* work at a shop once bu-”
  103. >She grabs your hand with her forehooves and pulls it a bit.
  104. >Her eyes are staring at you with certainty.
  105. “Alright, I guess… I’ll take a look.”
  106. >Well, this will be interesting…
  107.  
  108. >She makes herself comfortable on the steps as you kneel down next to her.
  109. “You’re… still sure about this?”
  110. >She pouts.
  111. “Look, an hour or so ago, you probably would have bit me if I got this close, and now I'm within hugging distance.”
  112. >She tilts her head.
  113. “What? Ponies are huggable!”
  114. >Her eyes narrow.
  115. >Wait, is she… confused?
  116. “Nevermind, uh, let’s just get this over with.”
  117. >She blinks a few times and then nods, resting her head on the concrete step.
  118. >You look down at the back of her mane and place your hand on it, which elicits a flinch.
  119. >It was surprisingly soft for something so clearly dirty.
  120. “If you want me to stop, just wiggle out of my grasp or something.”
  121. >She nods slowly.
  122. >You brush her mane aside and are… stumped.
  123. >What even is that?
  124. >You certainly haven’t seen this before.
  125. >There was a white patch on the back of her neck which stood out starkly compared to her usual cream coat.
  126. >It was smooth and was riddled with small holes.
  127. >It almost reminds you of a cheap speaker.
  128. >Do you just… pull it off?
  129. >You feel around the edges of the patch until you feel a pair of indentations.
  130. >You get a good grip and with a quiet *pop* the ‘panel’ comes off.
  131. >As you turn the panel around in your hands, you notice that the holes are covered by some sort of mesh.
  132. >It would make sense for it to be for waterproofing purposes, how would she clean herself otherwise?
  133. >Very carefully you suppose.
  134. >Inside is… weirdly simple.
  135. >There’s a compartment for fuses, but besides that, everything else seems like you can take it at face value.
  136. >There’s even an on switch.
  137. >...And that switch is off.
  138. >A plastic tab is sticking out of a slit next to the switch.
  139. >Is that really…?
  140. >You pull the tab out and look at it.
  141. >Yeah… that’s the sort of thing you see stuck in toys sometimes.
  142. >You stuff the tab into your pocket and look once more at the switch.
  143. >It can’t be that easy, right?
  144. >Everything is fairly straightforward so… maybe it is?
  145. >You press it and gingerly put the panel back on.
  146.  
  147. >Once firmly in place, you sit up and turn to check on your uh… patient?
  148. >Yeah, let’s just go with that.
  149. >Her eyes are shut tight and she almost looks like she’s bracing for something.
  150. “Relax, it’s done… I think.”
  151. >She opens her eyes in an almost surprised manner.
  152. >She sits up and rubs the back of her neck, looking around.
  153. “How about you give it a shot? Talking, I mean.”
  154. >She turns to you and mouths something, though she stops shortly after, her ears drooping.
  155. >”At least he tried…”
  156. “Heh, well whaddya know?”
  157. >She looks up and tilts her head.
  158. >”What is he tal-”
  159. >She pauses, her eyes widening.
  160. >”...Apple.”
  161. >You give her a nod.
  162. “Yeah mare, apple.”
  163. >A mixture of happiness and confusion crosses her face.
  164. >Her voice was coming from the… speaker.
  165. >The thing on her neck is a speaker.
  166. >Now it feels kind of obvious…
  167. >”This feels weird but… it works. It- It really works!”
  168. >With her excitement boiling over, she jumps up onto her hooves.
  169. >You watch her bound around happily, rambling off random things she saw the day prior.
  170. >”T-there was a bird- no! *two* birds! And- And they were making a really pretty nest and there was a *rabbit*!”
  171. >She keeps going for a little longer until she takes a deep breath.
  172. >”Phew! Okay, okay I’m good now.”
  173. >She turns to you and beams.
  174. >“Thanks… um…”
  175. >She looks down at your shirt for a moment and resumes her grin.
  176. >”Thanks, chief!”
  177. >Chief?
  178. >You look down at badge on your shirt.
  179. >Chief Custodian
  180. >Huh, did you really forget your ID? At least it was her and not your boss who noticed…
  181. “You’re welcome! I’m glad you’re feeling a little more chipper.”
  182. >”Uh-huh! …Oh and thank you for the food, too.”
  183. “I think that was kinda implied from the other thanks.”
  184. >You get up and stretch once more before leisurely making your way to the front of the diner, a scruffy little mare on your heels.
  185.  
  186. >Despite being glad she’s happy, you still can’t shake the feeling that even with how cautious she was, she was still a little too trusting.
  187. >Once you make it to the door, you turn to her.
  188. “You know, I’m surprised you’re being this chummy.”
  189. >”Chummy?”
  190. “Like friendly.”
  191. >”Oh! Well um… you’re nice.”
  192. “And how do you know I wasn’t pretending?”
  193. >She looks bewildered.
  194. >”Why would you do that?”
  195. “Well.. some people are like that. You don’t want to be around those kinds of people.”
  196. >Her ears droop slightly and she looks at the ground.
  197. >”I… I know what you mean, but…”
  198. >She raises her head. “You’re not like that.”
  199. >You fold your arms.
  200. “How can you be so sure?”
  201. >“I… Uhm…”
  202. >She paws at the ground with her hoof for a moment before suddenly perking up.
  203. >”Miss Possum and her kids! You gave them lotsa veggies! And uhm… You like animals! …L-like uhm… p-possums!”
  204. >Despite being the only example she can muster, she’s not wrong.
  205. >All you wanted to do was give her a helping hand, but…
  206. >You just don’t want her to trust every stranger she sees.
  207. >”And- And… You didn’t… It didn’t… Hurt…”
  208. >Hurt?
  209. >You focus on her again and realize how much she’s trembling.
  210. >Her breathing is funny and she looks like she might fall over at any moment.
  211. >You can tell she's trying to say something, but she keeps mumbling.
  212. >Her pained expression says it all.
  213. “Hey now, it’s alright…”
  214. >You kneel down in front of her and gently set your hand on her head.
  215. >You brush your hand through her mane slowly and she lifts her head up, staring at you through misty eyes.
  216. >You smile warmly.
  217. “Remember that thing about hugging distance?”
  218. >You wrap your arms around her and guide her into a hug.
  219. >She’s tense and shaky, but the more you hold her, the more she melts.
  220. >Soon enough, she’s limp.
  221. “Deep breaths, okay? You’re right here, right now, under all those pretty stars…”
  222. >After the longest time, you feel her slowly hug you back.
  223. >It takes quite a while, but she does eventually let go, which you follow suit.
  224. >Her face is tearstained, but she has more or less calmed down.
  225. “Feel a little better?”
  226. >”Mmhm…”
  227. “I… I won’t pretend to know what you went through, and you don’t have to tell me.”
  228. >You give her a pat on the head.
  229. “But if you need to chat, I’ll lend an ear, it doesn’t even need to be anything important.”
  230. >She rubs her eyes a moment and sniffles. “R-really?”
  231. “Really.”
  232. >”...Thank you.”
  233. “Do you… have anyone you really trust that you can go home to? I know you’ve been here awhile now but maybe I can…”
  234. >You trail off as she shakes her head.
  235. >You let out another sigh and scratch your head.
  236. “Figures.”
  237. >You get up and look over to the door of the diner.
  238. “Let me finish things up and I’ll be back.”
  239. >”Okay! Uhm I’ll- I’ll be here, chief.”
  240. >Heh, there it is again.
  241.  
  242. >You let yourself inside the diner and take one last look around.
  243. >You left the garbage for last, so everything else is in tiptop shape.
  244. >But…
  245. >Aha!
  246. >You pick up a stray napkin and throw it in a bin.
  247. >A second glance is always a good thing, you’d say.
  248. >With one last sweep through the place, you lock up and meet your companion outside once more.
  249. >You weren't gone long, but in that span of time, she somehow brought the bag from the back and was sitting quietly, staring up at the streetlights.
  250. >Although, now that you don’t scare her off with your presence, you realize she’s looking up at the stars instead of the lights.
  251. >You stand next to her and look up.
  252. “They’re nice, huh?”
  253. >She nods and turns to you.
  254. >”You’re… going home?”
  255. “Well, as close as I can get.”
  256. >She lowers her eyes.
  257. >”Can…”
  258. >She fidgets in place for a moment.
  259. >”Can I come with you?”
  260. “In all honesty…”
  261. >You gesture towards your beat up old car.
  262. “That is home, at least for now.”
  263. >You strife a yawn.
  264. “Pretty soon I'll try to get an apartment in the city or… something. But until then, I'll just make due with that clunker.”
  265. >”Do you like it?”
  266. “I mean… It’s better than sleeping outside.”
  267. >”It is?”
  268. >She seems genuinely curious.
  269. “I mean, it’s nice to go camping sometimes, but I wouldn’t want to do that all the time.”
  270. >”I’m… camping?”
  271. >You turn to her.
  272. “You know what? You can sleep in the backseat if you want. I got blankets and I can at least guarantee that you won’t get rained on.”
  273. >”Really? I- I’d uhm… like that.”
  274. “Alright then… Keep up!”
  275. >The walk to the car was short and with a huff, you sit down in the driver seat.
  276. >You look back at her and see her fiddling with her seat belt.
  277. “So… how familiar are you with cars?”
  278. >Sufficiently buckled, she wiggles a little in place.
  279. >”A bit, where are we going?”
  280. “Not far, just over to a rest stop a little up the way. Do you think you’ll be okay?”
  281. >”Don’t worry, I’ll be fine, chief!”
  282. “That uh, isn’t my name.”
  283. >She blinks.
  284. >“It- It isn’t?”
  285. “Nope, it’s just a title, a bit of a tongue and cheek title, but a title nevertheless. You can call me Anon.”
  286. >”Well maybe… maybe I think you deserve a title, Anon!”
  287. >You chuckle.
  288. “If you say so, I won’t stop you, that’s for sure.”
  289. >You look back at her and smile.
  290. “How about some tunes?”
  291. >”Tunes?”
  292. “Music, I got some CDs.”
  293. >”...Sure!”
  294. >She doesn’t sound like she knows what you’re talking about, but she’s certainly enthusiastic.

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