Lost In The Herd: Three. Letters From Home.
By Jennifer Diane Reitz



Chapter Three: Hay While The Sun Shines


Heya, old pal Stephen!

I can't believe you actually went to a Human Liberation Front meeting. That seems very scary to me, to tell you the truth. I guess I can understand, from what you wrote, how they could feel the way they do. I've already come to the conclusion that the emergence of Equestria was probably deliberate. But I no longer feel it is a true invasion. Like I said, I see it more as a salvage operation.

Yes, I agree with you that the works of humanity are being erased by this thing. But really, is that such a big deal compared with what Equestria offers us all? Let me see if I can sway you with something I got to experience the other day.

I was out trotting around - I figured that I would try to see a little more of the village I have been stationed in. Fetlock isn't very large, but I've seen very little of it, just the school for newfoals, the impromptu barracks they set up for us in two barns here, and of course my excursion to Greater Fetlock. I wanted to see how the locals live, what the land was like.

There are a lot of fields, as you can imagine, grains, mostly. A few rather comfy homes and quite a lot of barns. It's pretty much like something out of an old twoD from before the nanoage. Probably earth looked like this, once.

I was looking at a swarm of butterflies - they still live out in the open here, and wow, I have to tell you that butterflies are pretty amazing. They are really beautiful. They are everywhere here. Sometimes it's like trotting through clouds of colors.

I remember reading once about how, back in the 1700's, sailing ships would encounter masses of butterflies as they approached shore, vast clouds of the creatures that extended for tens of kilometers. I could never imagine that could actually be true, it certainly wasn't even by the early nineteenth century, and of course it would be impossible now, but since I have come to Equestria, I can believe those accounts. There once was beauty to the earth, Stephen. I am confident of that now.

But, butterflies aren't the cloud I want to tell you about.

Remember how I said that physics was different here? I got a close up look at just how different, thanks to a new friend, a pegasus pony, Skysinger. Sky likes to sing, hence his name, and while I was gawking at the butterflies, I heard him up above me. He has a pretty good voice, actually.

Sky was placing clouds. 

Yeah, you heard that right. Weather has to be manufactured, here - Nature doesn't run itself in Equestria, like back on earth, we have to make it run. The Pegasai, as I mentioned in my last letter, are in charge of weather, and if our crops are to grow, we need rain. The cool thing is, the rain can be ordered as needed, like ordering something off of Hyperbay or Megazon.

So there I was, and Sky was up above me placing clouds. The first thing I noticed is that the heavens above seem a lot closer than on earth. I don't think Equestria is as much a planet as it is a place, whatever that means. You'd probably know more about that stuff than me. But the clouds were pretty close, and so was Skysinger, and well, I basically introduced myself.

Long story short, I don't think I dislike pegasai anymore. Sky's a good pony. What was really cool, though was that he brought a cloud down for me.

Now, on earth, clouds just look like a thing, a defined thing, because they are so far away, and so huge.  You drive into one, or fly into one, and that illusion is dispelled really quickly - a cloud is no different than fog on the ground, and there is no edge or boundary to it. It just gradually gets thicker the closer you get, until you are in fog, right? Not so with Equestrian clouds.

These are clouds like I imagined when I was just a child. They are really thick and opaque, and they have a very clear boundary. They look like objects, pony-scale objects. The cloud Sky brought me was just a baby, maybe the size of a motorcycle. It just hung there, in front of me, just above the path. I trotted all around it. I touched it with a hoof, and there was no resistance, my hoof just went in. It came back sopping wet, though. It's like the clouds in Equestria are super dense, but still made out of water vapor. I even stuck my head in. I came out dripping, but it was awesome. Sky thought I looked pretty silly after that, but I laughed too, my mane did get good and soaked.

Now here's the wild part; all this time, Sky was standing on the cloud. Like it was a rock or something. The cloud was solid for Sky. It is the darndest thing to see. Pegasai can just clop all over clouds, like they were solid things, and they can push them and move them with their hooves, too. I don't know how this can be, except, you guessed it, magic.

And that is something I think you should consider when you are weighing what the HLF has to say, Stephen. We are talking real, honest to Celestia magic here. This is a magical realm. Magic makes this place welcoming to life, not hostile to it.

When I think about all the things humans have done, it's all been about surviving a hostile universe. Weather can kill you, plants can kill you, animals can kill you, hunger, heat, cold, disease, exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun - everything can hurt or kill you on earth. So humans had to make cleverer and cleverer ways to avoid the natural world altogether, so they could live longer, with less misery.

Now humans live shut up in giant cities, in huge hives of steel and plascreet, and the price of that artificial environment has been the destruction of all the other life on the earth. The place is stripmined and poisoned and so messed up that if you haven't had cancer three times by the age of thirty, doctors get concerned. I'm not saying humans are evil, all they've ever done is just try to not suffer. The real fault is the universe itself - it's a hard place to live.

But Equestria's universe, if that is what it is, is a nice place to live. It's like it was created, deliberately, unlike the earth and the universe you live in. This isn't a land of random forces and evolution - Equestria is like the old fairy stories about gods making the world. This is a kind place, where life is meant to be here, not an accident of chemistry in an uncaring cosmos.

Humans have been very clever, but only because they have had to be, just to deal with the horror. All human fantasies are about a world where things aren't so harsh. That place exists, Stephen right behind that Barrier you see on the newsfeeds. The only price is a little change of species, from ape to pony.

All I can say is, I don't regret my conversion one bit, not for a moment. I played with butterflies in sunlight that cannot burn my hide. I stuck my head in a magic cloud. Nothing in the works of Man can top that. I'd trade all the works of humankind for more of that in an instant. Just think about it. Yes, Shakespear is probably too dark for Ponykind. But what are a few stage plays to the wonder of real, actual magic, every day, with no sickness (of any concern, anyway) and no poverty?

Well, almost no poverty. I saw my first homeless pony this week. Sort of homeless. Let me explain.

See, you can't starve in Equestria - we eat grass, and the stuff grows everywhere. I mean everywhere, tasty flowers too. It's like living inside a perpetual banquet, all the time. So, you are probably asking, why do we bother to grow crops? Why grow hay, and alfalfa, and celery and carrots and suchlike? Hey, there's eating, and then there's dining. It's one thing to not go hungry, and another entirely to sup on the tenderest shoots and the most savory hothouse flowers. Not to mention pies, cakes, stews and soups. You can survive on grass, but it takes home cookin' (or a good restaurant) to make feed-time happy time.

There was this pony - I didn't catch her name. She was blue in every sense of the word, skulking about at the edge of the trees, not far from our newfoal barracks. According to one of the locals, she had been haunting the area for a while. Nopony knew where she had come from, because she didn't seem to want to talk about it, but it was clear she was just wandering, homeless.

She was dressed funny, too, like some shabby wizard or some stage magician. She had a big hat, and a cape, which were looking pretty ragged. I tried to say hello, but she just galloped off. She looked pretty sad.

So, maybe there is poverty, or some kind of rejection or shunning that can happen here in Equestria - I don't know the story here - but unlike back on earth, I can be sure of one thing: whoever she was, I know she is not going to die starving and sick, lost down some alley, covered in soot, cesium, and nanodust. The locals plainly said that if she was willing to talk, they'd  help her out. And they would. There is more than enough to go around, all the time. So, it isn't like earth, where, if you are poor, or out of work, you cease being a pony anymore.

If she comes back, I intend to chase her down and see if I can get her to open up. Maybe all she needs is somepony willing to try a little harder.

OK, I'll stop trying to proselytize you with the Glory Of Celestia, and tell you about my date. You remember the unicorn, Perspicuity, the telescope maker from my last letter, right?

Well, I took her to the best restaurant I could afford. We newfoals are provided a small allowance during our education, until we are able to find the work that best suits us. I haven't had much to spend mine on, so I've been saving it up. Money here is called 'bits', and it is all tiny coins made out of gold. I think it is gold, anyway.

We keep our bits in little bags which can be hung off of our manes. Mane hair is pretty thick and sturdy, and the bags have a little comb-hook thing that snags in there real solidly. Getting bits in and out of the bag takes some practice, but that bonus dexterity stuff really helps with that.

Most things only cost a bit or two. I don't know what gold is worth here, relative to the earth credit, but it does seem that gold and precious jewels are pretty common. Those telescopes that Perspicuity makes? Many were covered in jemstones, and some had decorative elements made of what must be gold. Economics here is kind of confusing.

For example, I can buy a crate of apples for three to five bits. A whole crate, and they are some darn good apples. But a full night out on the town, like I had with Perspicuity, only ran me about fifteen bits. Maybe eight bits for dinner, another four for the show we saw, and the rest just kind of went. I think we had ice cream later. I don't remember all the details after the show, she was kind of taking up all my attention by then.

You mentioned Shakespeare, and threevee shows and all the art humans make, well, ponies have artists too. The show I took Perspicuity to was pretty good. It was a musical, and I don't usually like musicals, but hey, I thought, fillies do, so, you know the idea. I actually found myself having a pretty good time. Imagine that!

The story was about this stallion that was given a quest outside of the boundaries of Equestria, to bring back a rare plant that could save a little filly that had ventured into the Everfree Forest. She'd been attacked by some monsterous thing I've never heard the likes of before - apparently outside of Equestria it is monster city or something. Me, I'm staying out of monster forests, thank you. But in this knightly stallion goes, with a blade on his helmet and armor on his back. It was pretty cool looking, I have to say.

So he fights all these strange monsters right out of the Lord Of The Rings or Narnia or whatever, and I have to say they did the effects pretty well. They used puppetry and lighting effects, and it wasn't bad. Long story short, he gets the plant, saves the filly, and hooks up with her mom. I'm not saying it was the best thing ever written, but it had really catchy music -I'm still humming the stallion's theme- and some great choreography. If there were any small towns left on earth, I think they would have been proud to have done a show half as good.

Perspicuity seemed to appreciate it. Quite a lot, actually.

I guess I'm dating a unicorn, is what I am saying. Who knew? First I didn't like unicorns, now I seriously like one of them. Then I didn't like pegasai, but now it seems I have a friend who is one. This place does stuff to a pony, stuff that seems to melt away being angry.

Heck, even the colt, Rocket, isn't so annoying anymore. Seems he was such a mess because his parents abandoned him so they could live in an exclusive, elite-class condo. Didn't allow kids, so they just up and left. He came home to an empty apartment with only a note and a creditstick with enough to get by for a few weeks. How can humans do that to each other?

Poor colt. I guess I've kind of ended up feeling sorry for him. It'll probably be a bad idea, he's already starting to get clingy. Oh well, I always was a sucker for a sad story. At least I don't want to hoof him across the barn anymore.

Listen, I'm sorry about Addy. You can do better than her. Finding her with that guy, well, it would have made me mad too. I don't blame you one bit. She just wasn't the relationship type, I guess. That's all I'll say, other than you deserve better, my friend. I'm sorry I can't be there for you. Hey, you could always come here. I know a nice unicorn that has a sister. Just saying.



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