Equestria is an emerging pocket sub-cosmos located off the western coast of the Americas, its magical energies fatal to humans, human nature fatal to both Equestria and the earth as a whole, and the only solution being the total ponification, by any means, of the entire human species.
H E R L A S T P O S S E S S I O N
Melanie Zucker fiddled with the aurelex locket that hung around her neck. She ran her fingers slowly over the round curve of the antique, across the lens, down the slope to the side, across the inset adjustment buttons. It was expensive, of course, but that is not why she valued it so.
Holding the locket gently, lens up, Melanie tried to find the right button. It was difficult, the switch was tiny, and deeply inset to prevent accidental activation. Early holojewelry was finicky, even clumsy, normally she would complain about that, but right now, the need to press a mechanical contact seemed strangely charming, almost nostalgic.
This must be the right dimple, she thought. She dug her fingernail into the tiny port, finding the tip of a tiny bump. Instantly the lens glowed, and above the locket floated a crude etherial scene, rippling and shifting.
The blocky people in the scene, each less than an inch high, hung above the lens, waving and smiling. Melanie recognized them instantly. There was uncle Ethan and his husband, Jayden. Mom was there, leaning on Jayden - she had always loved Jayden, Melanie remembered her scolding uncle Ethan whenever she felt he was taking the poor man for granted.
Apart from the tight-knit group, a single man stood, almost outside the viewspace. He was Melanie’s father. Raynald Zucker, second manager of the Southern Zone Basic Necessities Nanofabrication Plant of New Atlanta.
It was more than a title, it was his entire identity.
Melanie had barely seen the man in all of her twenty-four years, she remembered him showing up for the occasional holiday; she recalled the time he had come to her Sweet Sixteen party. He had looked her over, nodded approval, and left while she was fetching him something to drink.
The holographic image flickered and faded. She rotated the locket - these old devices required a precise angle to see the image. Once again her uncle, his husband and her mother shifted into view. But her father was a blur, barely there now. It was so like him.
The maglev train was rumbling now. Melanie dropped the locket and clutched the arms of her chair. Riding on the cushion of a magnetic field was supposed to be utterly smooth. Stories of terrible maglev accidents filled her mind, her pulse raced. The rumbling faded away.
It must have been a section of poorly maintained rail; the magnetic fields disrupted but slightly, just enough to feel, not enough to lose suspension.
Melanie forced herself to relax. If there had been a problem, a real problem, she would already be dead.
The locket was still glowing. Melanie took it into her hands again, fumbling for the switch. Eventually she resorted to holding the locket at eye level, until she could see where to dig with her fingernail. The floating people vanished as the light inside the lens died.
Melanie carefully, almost reverently, lifted the chain that held the hololocket up and over her head. She held the treasure in her palms, feeling the smooth weight of it. Then she rose from her seat and stood in the aisle of the train.
“Excuse me!” just about a dozen eyes turned to meet hers; one child peered sideways over a seat ahead, a woman nearby removed the datafeed from her skull port. “Excuse me, everyone!”
She had the attention of most of the riders in the car, it was enough. “Sorry to bother you, but I have a locket here to give away. It’s very old, and rather expensive. It’s a hololocket, made of real aurelex. It’s mine, and I don’t need it anymore. I want someone to have it who might... value it. Any takers?”
The faces in the train car seemed perplexed. The child peering over the seat stood up yelling “Me! Me! I want it!”. The child suddenly vanished, pulled down by a scolding mother “Don’t trust anyone! You don’t know what she’s after!”
“Honestly, I just want to give it away.” Melanie tried to look as earnest as she could manage. She wasn’t entirely sure what that was supposed to look like, so she just made her eyes a little wider and smiled. “I won’t need it where I’m going.”
“I’ll take it. Give it here if you don’t want it.” A gruff man snatched the locket from her hand. He was wearing a factory jumpsuit, and had greasy, unkempt hair. “It’s mine now. Understand?” His expression made it very clear that this transaction was very, very final.
“You’re welcome?” Melanie sat down again. For a moment she felt sad. That man couldn’t possibly care about her locket; he was delta grade and would almost certainly sell it for injections of Noeticin or maybe even Panrhapsodol. Her locket was the stuff that dreams were made of.
Somehow, that made her laugh. She couldn’t take the locket with her. With the loss of the locket, she had lost the last physical evidence that they had ever existed. Now, her family, her childhood, Ethan and Jayden and her mother only existed in her heart, nothing else of them remained to her.
Now she had two possessions left.
The maglev to St. Louis plowed on through the near vacuum of the underground tunnel. Outside, Melanie could barely make out a gray blur, where light from her car splashed on the tunnel wall. It was impossible to see clearly, at almost five hundred kilometers per hour, any detail would be lost before it could register to her brain.
Melanie dug into the pocket of her simple, one-piece romper suit. It didn’t belong to her, neither did her shoes. She had borrowed them from her best friend, Maddie, but she had forgotten to return them. It didn’t matter, Maddie was gone, and she had no need of such things anymore. Melanie wanted to believe that Maddie would have smiled that the last clothing Mel would ever wear was something of hers.
There it was! A plastic and metal squareness filled her hand. It wasn’t a stick of gum, though it was shaped like one. Multicolored light rippled through the long rectangle as she turned it over in her hand. Along the active surface letters and a logo animated: World Corporation Security Credit. It was her personal fortune.
Her father was an ambitious man, and she had enjoyed almost every privilege she had desired in her life, except access to him. Melanie had long ago decided that wealth must represent love to her father - certainly attention and physical closeness did not.
Thinking that helped, a little, but it did not fix anything. In the end, the quantum protected digits within the little stick captured nothing of her father. But they were her entire means of survival in the world. In that stick was all her power, all the food she might eat, all the places she might stay, all the clothing she might wear, all the things she might do. In that stick was the essence of her life on earth, past, present and future.
Melanie looked around the train compartment. The car was only half full, and her experience with the locket was less than satisfying. Not yet, she thought. Not here.
Empty electric cars, abandoned trucks, and cobbled-together jitneys stretched as far as Melanie could see. She stepped around a motorbike left between two vans. The yellow-gray smog of St. Louis glowed from the streetlights below. Melanie wasn’t sure what time it was.
She stopped and looked at her wrist. She made the little change inside herself that she had practiced, and glowing numbers shone through her skin. It was not a very fancy epidermal augment, but she hadn’t wanted anything more. She had gotten hers implanted at the same time as Maddie. They had done it together.
It had been a happy day, Maddie was laughing, telling stupid jokes, they had stopped at the little Thai cafe and enjoyed bubble drinks. It had taken a month, and some money, to get access to the mall. It was a birthday gift from her father, she had found it in a short hypernet message.
Enjoy this. Birthday. Raynald.
The mall had purified air. She and Maddie had stopped in astonishment at the entrance hall display: there was a living, real tree there. It was the first time either of them had seen a tree outside of an old media. Melanie had almost taken a leaf, but Maddie stopped her; there was no question they were being watched. Everyone was always watched.
Melanie wanted something to remember the day with, so they had settled on matching chronometer implants. Mel had suggested they get the kind with a holographic display; they could watch shows on their forearms. Maddie had eschewed that as too gaudy and distracting. She wanted something simple.
Maddie was just that way. It was one of the things Melanie loved about her; she valued things that had somehow become unimportant to most people. When most friends got together and ignored each other while tuning into their cranial implants, Maddie tuned into Melanie, and they just... talked. Together. In the same space.
Holoscreens embedded in their forearms would be little different than a cranial jack. They would just end up watching different things, sitting alone while together. Maddie selected a simple numerical display, as old-fashioned as it was possible to get. The man at the counter was shocked. Only really old people get those.
Melanie and Maddie had laughed all the way out the mall. They had giggled, showing off their appallingly simplistic implants to everyone that passed. The looks they got! These lesser elite that frequented the mall were shocked that young girls would get such déclassé augmentations!
Maddie had turned such a simple choice into a way to tease others and have fun. Maddie was like that. Mel missed her friend so very much.
Melanie’s arm glowed at her. 06:31:22 A. It should be open now. It opened at six in the morning.
The endless field of cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles stretched on. Melanie kept walking. Some had been driven right over the broken ruins of buildings, parked in the rubble, doors open. Others seemed to have been carefully placed, as though the owners intended to return, somehow.
Melanie squeezed between a large transport rig and what had once been an apartment building. There, ahead, she could finally see it.
Melanie’s pace quickened, she tried not to run. Her destination in sight, she had stopped continually scanning the environment, she was nearly there. Nearly there.
She hadn’t seen the man approach. He must have been hiding behind one of the abandoned cars. Suddenly he was there, in front of her, ragged and filthy. He had a cut across his forehead, and another on his leg. One of his pants legs was missing, ripped at the knee. His dark hair hung limp and long. He grinned at her, teeth missing. The tumor on his cheek wobbled.
“Alright, alright, alright.” his voice was soft, but very fast. His eyes indicated that something chemical was affecting him. “Gimme, gimme, gimme, come on, you have some, I know you have some, they all have some, hand it, hand it, hand it.”
“I don’t know what you want! All I have is this!” Melanie held out her credit stick. The letters on it flipped and spun.
“Do it! Do It!” The man rolled his eyes and waggled his gun.
Melanie held the credit stick to her left eye. A bright beam rippled across her vision. She carefully spoke the access code. She commanded the stick to shift to open access. The credit stick spoke, warning her and asking for confirmation, which she gave.
Melanie handed the stick to the man.
“That’s it! That’s it! They always have one! Thank you, thank you! Good day, young miss, good day!” The ragged man smiled jagged glee at Melanie, and retreated into the ocean of cars.
It was gone. All of her wealth, all of her power. A quite considerable sum. And now it was gone, vanished forever. No more money. No more ability to live in the world. All gone.
She had one possession left.
The woman at the desk of the Conversion bureau was named Stacy, and she entered Melanie’s name into her hyperterminal. “Kind of last minute, I have to say. We close at noon today.” All the Bureaus would close today, everywhere. The time of the Conversion Bureaus was ending. It was the sixth year since the emergence of Equestria from the pacific.
Most of the world was uninhabitable, soaked in thaumatic radiation, baked by the mysterious energies that came from beyond the shining Barrier. Equestria was 1900 miles in diameter now, almost as large as Earth’s moon. Much of the North American continent had been replaced by the expanding realm, devoured by a hungry, alien cosmos of pastel equinoids, and endless green landscapes.
There wasn’t much time left. The only people who remained on the earth were the foolish, the stupid, the rebellious, or those in denial.
Beneath the earth, in underground arks, the last of the Human Liberation Front prayed and sang and imagined that they could triumph over the power of an invading universe.
Above, in the all-but empty cities, people travelled from safe zone to safe zone by train or lifting body, some in denial, some on their way to a Bureau, some insistent that they would rather die a human, than live as a pony.
Melanie knew of plans to try to forcibly gather as many of the hold-outs as possible, but she doubted that anything would be done. It was the end, Purification was coming soon, the final act to bring the terrestrial house down.
Stacy the receptionist shrugged. “There really isn’t any orientation anymore - there isn’t even any breakfast. The staff has all been Converted. It’s just me and Dr. Belden now. Come on back, we’ll get you changed.”
Melanie took one last look outside the windows, a last look with the eyes of her birth. Broken buildings, smog, an endless field of abandoned vehicles. Somewhere out there was a ragged man with a fortune he could never hope to spend. A gruff man with a locket he would never appreciate. A woman and her child, lost in denial.
She wouldn’t miss it, this world. It had never belonged to her, and she had never belonged to it.
Dr. Beldin was a nice old man, and gave Melanie a warm handshake and a warmer smile. He didn’t ask why she had waited so long, or what had made her finally decide, and this immediately endeared him to her. He was just there to help, and he had no judgement within him, only welcoming.
Melanie was asked to remove her clothing, and to lay down on the metal table. It was cold under her bare skin. No vitals were taken, no questions were asked; the days of Bureau protocol were long over. The only test given her was for allergenotype; an anesthetic was used to prevent suffering during Conversion.
Melanie was offered a small white cup. Inside was three ounces of a viscous, purple nanotechnomagical fluid. It swirled with a metallic sparkle, swimming with countless microscopic machines, powered by Equestrian magics.
This was it. This was the moment she had waited so long for. She had come as close as she dared to the end of the world. That is why she waited. She had wanted to see what the end of the world looked like.
It was not spectacular. It was not even that dramatic. It was neither a bang, nor a whimper. It just was. The end of the world was just another day, and neither brought out any grace in Mankind, nor any terror.
Purification would happen in one week. A wave of unearthly energy from Equestria would wash over the planet, dissolving the works of man, digesting the world itself. Supposedly Equestria would then expand in an instant, blotting out the globe, then shrink to an infinite point, gone from space and time forever, leaving only emptiness where the entire Earth had once been.
Melanie brought the cup to her face. She could smell a sickly grape-like sweetness from it. “How do we get to Equestria before the Purification?”
Dr. Belden looked serious. “Just after noon, there will be an automated lifting body on the roof. Whoever is here at that time will be evacuated to the edge of the Barrier. Then, we all just walk across.” Dr. Belden smiled. “We’ll all be walking on hooves then. Even the flight crew.”
Melanie lifted the cup to her mouth, and swallowed the contents in one gulp. It definitely tasted like bad, imitation grape.
Melanie’s head fell back onto the table, already becoming waxy and beginning to swell. The cup dropped from her melting, blending fingers. Her limbs began to change, bones stretching, others shrinking, the flesh of her body rippling and rolling like a stormy ocean.
Melanie had no more possessions to give away.
One: The Big Respawn,
Two: Euphrosyne Unchained,
Three: Letters From Home,
Four: Teacup, Down On The Farm
The Conversion Bureau Novels:
27 Ounces: A story of eight and one half ponies
The Taste Of Grass
The Conversion Bureau: Code Majeste
The Conversion Bureau: The 800 Year Promise
The Conversion Bureau: Going Pony
The PER: Michelson and Morely
The Reasonably Adamant Down With Celestia Newfoal Society!
The Short Stories:
Her Last Possession
The Conversion Bureau: PER Equitum
The Conversion Bureau: Brand New Universe
Tales Of Los Pegasus
The Non-Conversion Bureau Fanfics:
The Ice Cream Pony Summer
Around The Bend