Chapter Ten: Everything Is Amazing
Teacup nibbled at her haycakes with maple syrup. It was not Provender Farm styled biscuits for breakfast, but Teacup had come to enjoy this alternate morning meal during her month and a half in Hoofington. There had been a little eatery on her way to work back then, and she always felt famished when she awakened. This morning, however, butterflies already filled her stomach, for she was filled with a mixture of excitement and apprehension that made eating difficult.
She noticed that Petal also seemed to have a small appetite, and the worried look on her face supplied the reason for that. Doubtless Petal was filled with her current fears over their plan, but she would be sorted out soon enough. Provided, of course, that the answer to their request was positive.
This thought spiraled Teacup's mind into the alternative, that they would be turned down. Then, her only hope would lay in convincing Petal to erase her memories of Earth anyway, and she worried that this would be an arduous, even impossible task. Petal had become so stubborn of late.
Teacup thought back to her life on the farm. She thought of Cornflower and Durum. It would be harvest in just under a month, and the Provenders had no help. Probably they would have to hire somepony to bring in the harvest, and that would mean fewer bits for the next year. Teacup had to get all of this memory stuff over and done with, so that she could head back home as quickly as possible. That way she could be there for them. Then, everything would be as it had always been.
Except that this time, she wouldn't become moody and sad because of an errant remembrance. She wouldn't have any 'moments' where she gave Missus Provender cause to fuss. She would finally be a happy, well-adjusted pony, just like any natural-born Equestrian.
Provided the answer was a yes. It had to be yes. It just had to be.
Her stomach gave up. She could not eat anything. She was just too worried.
Teacup and Petal had several hours to kill before noon, when they had been told that they could return to the library, and find out whether or not Celestia approved of their wish. Not knowing what else to do, they wandered the town. They spent some time in one store, looking at comfortable sofas and a long case full of writing quills, not really interested in either, just trying to keep busy. They found little amusement in a joke and party supplies shop. Even a store entirely devoted to fans failed to interest them, though Petal did show curiosity about what was used to power them.
The weight of what answer they would receive hung over them.
Petal had been unusually quiet throughout the morning, her statements simple and always about anything save the subject at hoof. Teacup had expected her to go on at some length about all of her issues, but she had said nothing on the subject. Teacup was both grateful, and unnerved by this. At last, she could take it no longer.
"Petal, aren't you going to say something?"
"I've been talking a lot! Remember all the questions I had for Mr. Breezy? I thought I'd been pretty talkative." They were now at the outskirts of town, where endless apple orchards grew, and had turned around to head towards the library. It would be midday very soon.
"No, I mean about the whole reason we are here! About what Twilight will say!"
"I really don't have anything to say about that, Teacup. I just don't. At this point, what happens, happens. It's out of my hooves." Petal's head drooped a bit as she ambled along beside Teacup.
"What, no more doubts, no more worries?" asked Teacup.
"I have plenty of both, I just have nothing more to say." Petal looked up at her friend "What do you want me to say? Would anything I might say make any difference?"
Teacup frowned a little bit "No, I suppose not. Sorry, Petal."
"We'll find out what is what soon enough. All I will say is this: I want you to be happy, Teacup. That's all I have ever wanted since we began this trip. I just want you to be happy." Petal's eyes had a way of looking both caring and sad at the same time.
"I know. I do know that, Petal." Teacup gave Petal a little nuzzle as they walked "You've only ever tried to be a good friend."
The two mares walked on in silence. The sun rose higher as they made the center of town, and the noon bell rang just as they reached the grounds of the library. Petal nosed the door open, and held it for Teacup, a friendly gesture. Teacup entered. Inside the library was cool and shade and shelves and the scent of wood, and also the ancient dust of countless books.
"You're very prompt. I commend you, my little ponies." The voice was melodious and regal. It was a voice that Petal recognized instantly, from countless newsfeeds and press conferences. Teacup had never heard the voice before, but something in it made her legs weak. This not the voice of an ordinary pony, rather it carried some strange, soft power that not so much spoke, as commanded.
The voice had come from an extraordinarily tall creature, of exceptional beauty. She was an alicorn, possessed of all the traits of all three pony races, hooves, horn and wings. Her regal body was purest white, her crown gold, as were the elaborate claddings over her hooves. But what struck Teacup the most was the alicorn's mane and tail. Flowing like banners in an eternal wind, made not of hair but of the very stuff of magic, her mane and tail shimmered cerulean, heliotrope and ocean hues. The flowing curtain of light that was her mane, appeared like portals to an endless sky, and Teacup's eyes seemed to float off into them, into infinity as she stared.
Beyond thought, Teacup's equine body bowed low, and in her bones, beyond any doubt, she knew who the impossibly beautiful creature must be: she was Celestia herself, Princess of Equestria, living Goddess of the sun.
"Thank you, but I get quite enough of that really." Teacup dared to peek up from the floor, where she found herself, legs outstretched in supplication. "It's OK, get up!" The goddesses' voice was gentle, even jovial.
Teacup shivered. The statues, the things Petal had said. Fear hit her like a wall.
"No, really, get up. It's difficult to carry on a conversation like that." Celestia sounded almost as if she were teasing. Teacup heard what must be Twilight Sparkle giggle: "Come on, Teacup, the Princess won't bite."
"Well, I might." Celestia said with a sly smile "If I get too hungry. Tell me about yourself, Teacup. Join us for lunch."
Teacup raised her head and saw that a table had been set up, with various foods and comfortable hoofstools to sit on. She had been so awed upon entering that the rest of the room had not registered to her vision. Twilight and Spike were seated on the other side of the table, and Teacup only now realized that Celestia had been sitting at the head of the table, a cup floating in front of her.
Teacup saw Petal, already standing, waiting for her. Petal motioned with her head towards the table.
Celestia proved a congenial monarch, friendly, almost mischievous at times, and somehow vaguely sad, too. But she was not the tyrant that Teacup had expected, and while she was not in any sense an ordinary pony - Teacup was not entirely sure Celestia was even made of flesh - nevertheless she was disarmingly pleasant to be around.
Teacup, over the meal, told her story, abbreviated greatly, and finished explaining, with some quaver in her voice, what it was she sought. Her memories of Earth were painful, and she just wanted to be purely Equestrian, to have her experience of Earth as extinguished as the Earth itself was.
The Princess listened attentively, waiting for Teacup to finish.
"When I first reached out my hoof to your world, I already understood the suffering there. My offer was always simple; join us and live in peace. If you are not at peace, then that offer has not been fulfilled. Twilight Sparkle!" Celestia turned to her student "I feel confident that you can handle this, so I ask you to help this pony. Please see that she is taken care of. Now I must go, for I have matters to attend to."
"Yes, Princess." Twilight bowed her head briefly, and Teacup felt compelled to do the same. So, apparently, did Petal.
"One thing, though." The solar goddess turned her head back as she was leaving "Do nothing until tomorrow. Be advised, Teacup, that once done, this cannot be reversed. Take some time to think about it."
With that, the ruler of all Equestria, left the library.
Sitting on her padded hoofstool, Teacup was flabbergasted. If she had known it would be that easy, she would have gone straight to Canterlot from the very beginning.
Teacup found Petal outside, laying on the grass that surrounded the edges of the land the great library tree stood upon. Petal was lying on her back, legs up, looking at the light that filtered through the leaves above. She was almost grinning, and occasionally she waved a front leg at the high, vast treetop, as if she could ruffle the leaves there, or touch the clouds beyond with a hoof.
Teacup ambled over, folded her legs, and lay down a few feet from her friend. "Whatcha doin?"
"Marveling" came the answer.
"Marveling? At what?" Teacup rolled onto her side and twisted her head in the grass, trying to see whatever it was that Petal was seeing.
"Look, Teacup, at the leaves. The light sparkling through them. You can stare right at the sun and it won't hurt your eyes. It won't blind you. See the breeze, moving the branches? That's deliberate. Pegasai choose days for light breezes, and move the clouds to make that happen. It's all so amazing. It's just... a miracle."
Teacup rolled all the way over onto her own back, her legs up. She watched the leaves and the sparkling brightness, dared to stare directly at the sun, and was happy to realize that unlike Earth's sun, her eyes would never be destroyed by such brilliance. Teacup felt the faint breeze, and sniffed the air, so full of the perfume of flowers, and the sweet scent of the grass.
"It is amazing. It's like a dream. Like an impossible dream." Teacup turned her head enough to see Petal with one of her eyes "All the time on the farm I felt that. I'd feed the chickens, and just be amazed.. 'I'm feeding chickens!' Perfect, beautiful, storybook chickens. And they were glad to see me, too."
"Concentrate on that feeling, Teacup. Commit it to your very soul, if you can. Feel that wonder as strongly as you can. Please, do that for me, will you Teacup?" Petal sounded strangely sad.
"I do, Petal, almost every day. Can't really help it, everything in Equestria is so amazing."
Petal rolled over onto her stomach, and stared intently at Teacup. After a long moment she finally spoke. "It won't be. Not after tomorrow. Nothing in Equestria will be amazing anymore. Not one thing."
Petal got up, and walked off.
Teacup watched her go, until following her further would require rolling over again. It wasn't worth it; the grass was so soft and cool. She looked back up instead, at the light still shining through the library tree's canopy. The slight movement of the leaves in the breeze made the sky sparkle, and Teacup felt drowsy and content. Her worries were over. She had won. Tomorrow, she would be free. No more pain, no more nightmares of slums and violence. No more lifelong wounds torturing her heart.
What had Petal meant by her strange words? Nothing would be amazing anymore? That was ridiculous. Equestria was amazement itself. There wasn't anything in Equestria that wasn't amazing. Even the hay was amazing. The very soil was amazing; it smelled clean and rich and good, without a trace of oil or heavy metals or anything bad. Teacup was constantly astonished that every pony didn't just go around staring at everything all the time!
She sure had, when she first arrived.
When she had first looked, really looked, at Missus Provender's kitchen when she was waking after her Conversion, Teacup recalled being astonished by the wood on the floor. She was lying flat on one of those cheap Bureau blankets, but her head was right on the floor, and the floor was all wood. Wood! Only the very wealthiest had access to wood, since the forests had died. The ultimate luxury, and she was laying on an unimaginable fortune of the stuff. The whole kitchen was wood, as was the entire house. It smelled so good. She remembered how good it smelled to her.
Everything in Equestria was made of wonders. That was just how the place was. That was why she had never even thought of leaving the farm in all of those ten years. The farm was so beautiful! Of course, now that she had lived in Hoofington, she had some idea of how much excitement and fun existed out in the world. Hoofington had been the most fun she had ever had in her life, there with Petal, enjoying the big city. Compared to that, the farm was....
Teacup blinked. Somehow, she felt disturbed, now. She couldn't figure out why, but somehow she felt sad... no, not exactly sad, but... uncomfortable. That was new. This line of thinking wasn't making her happy.
Teacup rolled onto her belly and struggled to her feet. Enough of that. Petal must have messed with her mind, somehow. Maybe a treat, something sweet would help. Teacup set off for the local bakery. Lunch had been fine, but that was a while ago, now. Maybe a cupcake or something would cheer her up. After all, she had won!
The pathways that ran through Ponyville rambled between the thatched houses and more elaborate shops, sometimes crossing waterways with little stone bridges. Everywhere were comfortable benches to sit upon or stretch out on. Little gardens of flowers forced the paths to flow around them like rivers, and wide, grassy spaces made the entire town a lovely green park.
Teacup sat on a bench by one of the wide grassy spaces. Fillies and colts ran and laughed, chasing a colorful ball around the turf.
Teacup slumped over on the bench, her front hooves lightly touching the soil, her head down. She intently studied the pathway, noting the subtle shades of the dirt, and the tiny, lightly hued chips of rock that were embedded within it. Some of the gravel in the path were small fragments of gemstones, she noted. Little bits of ruby, emerald, and sapphire lightly lay scattered like sand. Teacup idly dug at them with the tip of her hoof, watching the miniscule fragments sparkle. Gemstones in the dirt! Equestria could never, ever cease astonishing her.
"Hello! Are you alright?" The voice was kindly, more curious than overly concerned.
Teacup raised herself up to find a chestnut mare with a bright yellow mane. The mare wore glasses. Beside her was a tiny filly with wide eyes, perhaps not that much more than a year old - which for Equestrians meant that she could already run and talk, but had no schooling. The filly hid behind her mother's back leg, covering herself in her mother's tail. She peeked out at Teacup occasionally, before vanishing back into bright yellow security.
"Oh! Hello! I was just looking at the little gems in the dirt. Did you know there are rubies in the dirt?"
"Rubies, emeralds, none of them are big enough to use for anything though." The chestnut mare was not impressed "If you want to decorate stuff, you need to go out where the big rocks grow, in the Dragon Mountains. You'll never find anything interesting here."
"Oh...um... my name is Teacup. I'm from South Withers. Howdy do?"
"Banana." The mare waved a hoof idly at herself. "Banana Acres. I run the banana plantation, over on the other side of Canterlot. This is my daughter, Plantain. Say hello, sweetie!"
The shy little filly peeked out through curls of her mother's tail "Hello." Almost instantly her head drew back, closing the curls like a curtain on a stage.
"A banana plantation? In Equestria?" Teacup was astonished.
"Well.... of course. Everypony loves bananas. You can't have banana muffins without them. Or banana splits, or banana pudding, or... just bananas. Ponies are bananas for bananas!" Ms. Acres was taken aback by Teacup's reaction of surprise.
"But... the climate..." Teacup foundered in the field of conversation.
"We have a deal with the pegasai. Constant sunshine, and we skip spring, winter and fall entirely. It's less work for them, and more bananas for everyone. It's kind of dull, though, summer forever. Still, that's why we have hooves, right? I want little Plantain to see other seasons as she grows up. This will be her first Fall. I just love the Running Of The Leaves." Ms. Acres turned slightly to nuzzle her foal, but Plantain had other ideas, and retreated, following the sweep of Banana's tail. The chestnut mare laughed at this. "She's a little shy around other ponies. She prefers her bunnies and those... spiders."
"Spiders?" This was new. Teacup was aghast.
"Giant banana spiders. They live all over the plantation. They used to like to jump out of the trees and scare everypony. They thought it was funny. We had to make an agreement with them, so once a month we hold a banana picnic for the spiders and that solved the problem. But oh, Celestia, is it boring. Have you ever been to a social event with spiders? It's 'click-click-click', and you can't understand a thing they say. Plus, let's face it, they are pretty creepy. And the clicking - it's like listening to a room of bored ponies tapping their hooves while they wait. At least they're polite."
Teacup moved from being aghast to the more sensible position of wide-mouthed horror "Aren't... aren't they poisonous?" she squeeked.
"Huh? Nothing in Equestria is poisonous. Everyone knows that." Banana Acres looked at Teacup as if she were a bit... slow. "Anyway it's the bunnies that are the real problem."
"B-Bunnies?" By this time Teacup's mind had simply chosen to give up, and she found herself floating along, down the long river of incredulity.
"Plantain has gotten them organized them into some kind of a marching band. Up and down, back and forth, hundreds of them, all in formation. That's her big plan in life. She thinks she's going to start the first rabbit symphony or something. It's not like any of them can play an instrument, they're just bunnies. She'll never amount to anything marching bunnies around." Ms. Acres seemed frustrated. "Run along honey!" she scooted her daughter out to the green field. "Mommy will wait right here on the bench. Go play for awhile. Go on!"
Ms. Acres continued "I want her to go to the big city someday. Not get stuck on the plantation like me. I can't tell you how dull my life is. Bananas. Oh, look, more bananas. I'm actually sick of bananas now - can you believe that? Anyway, I really want her to get serious about studying, so she can have an exciting life. But no, all she wants is to play with dancing bunnies. Did I mention she has them dancing, too? They're not very good, actually. Bunnies just aren't built to do a decent cabriole, and it's all feet over ears the moment they try a tours chaînés déboulés. Pathetic, really."
"I... I have to go." Teacup struggled to her hooves. "It was very nice to meet you. Um... bye." Teacup tried not to gallop, but she could not help herself.
"Curious mare. Oh well. PLANTAIN!" Ms. Acres yelled out to her foal, who was hiding behind a bush. "MINGLE! I didn't bring you all the way to Ponyville so you could hide out!"
The moon was high in the night sky. Teacup wandered down the center of Ponyville, towards the bridge that led to the town pavilion. She had been wandering all day long, stopping only to rest, or to have a snack. She hadn't felt like eating a full dinner.
She had made a point of avoiding Petal. Right now, that unicorn just seemed to fill her with uncertainty. She felt angry at Petal, though she wasn't entirely sure why. Everything had seemed so simple, months ago, when they had first started out. And Hoofington. Oh, Hoofington had been so wonderful. Then everything just seemed to go wrong, somehow.
Petal's words, those damn words, kept echoing in Teacup's mind. "Nothing in Equestria will be amazing anymore. Not one thing." It was a stupid thing to say. Just today, Teacup had sat with a pony that grew bananas in a patch of perpetual summer, and whose year-old foal marched dancing rabbits around. They had a peace agreement with giant spiders. The hell? Equestria could not be more amazing if it tried to be.
She'd met a living goddess this very same day! Can't forget that, she thought. A living goddess, banana spiders, dancing bunnies, all on the same day. That was just one day. And on top of all of that, the day was perfect, absolutely perfect weather, sweet green grass and flowers everywhere.
Try having a day like that in Wilmington! Hell, try having a day like that anywhere at all on the long dead Earth! You could probably get the spiders, but they wouldn't be agreeable, and the grass, sky and bunnies were right out. Plus, of course, bananas had been extinct for decades before Teacup had been born.
Equestria was the most amazing of amazing places. There was no comparison.
No comparison at all.