Chapter Seven: Ayes
fell in cascading sheets, pounding the gasping pony like a million
angry wet hooves.
stood hock deep in the oozing mud that the road had become, her
eyelids fluttering from the slamming rain. Her milk-white coat was
covered in bleeding scratches, crimson drooling down to swirl in the
bright as a thousand suns split the sky, the boom almost
instantaneous with the flash, the sound so loud that it made the mud
ripple from the impact.
earth pony was a pathetic sight, her saddlebags already filled with
water, her body shivering in the deluge. But as awful as she
appeared, it was nothing compared to the condition of her soul; she
had left her very first real friend, in all the world, to die in the
slavering jaws of a monster from hell.
hadn't meant to do that. She had firmly meant to stand with Petal, to
die with her if necessary. But when Petal had commanded her to run,
the fear in her body had taken over, and nothing her horrified brain
could do would stop her legs from running away. Now, that same body,
so different from the human body she had once worn, stood shaking in
the mud, frozen in abject terror.
thought burned in her consciousness. MOVE, LEG! With every element of
her being she willed her front, right leg to lift. MOVE. Slowly, her
hoof began to escape the sucking mud. WALK. Her right hoof went down
again, pushing her forward. GO. The left rear leg creaked into
motion, muscles fighting terrified rigidity. Leg after leg, hoof by
hoof, Teacup willed her rebellious flesh to obey her commands.
forced herself from the liquified road, pushing with her front legs
to free her hocks and gaskins from the mud. Her hind legs had briefly
failed her, and she had resorted to dragging her own hindquarters
from the mudpit. Her sodden tail trailed behind her like a dead snake.
she forced her body to march back towards the forest. Step after
step, her hooves finally meeting rain submerged grass. Splashing
through this, she made the edge of the Everfree, where her legs froze
again from an overwhelming burst of fear.
slammed the side of her head against a tree. Her ears rang from the
impact, pain arcing down her long neck. Her legs suddenly forgot to
remain locked, the pain overriding everything else. Forward, FORWARD
she stomped, faster and faster, pushing through the tearing nettles
and the grasping underbrush.
inside the forest now, the rain gone, clear dark blue evening above.
The sound of thunder was still loud behind her, beyond the border of
the Everfree, but it became muffled as she plowed her way back to the clearing.
clearing was a curious sight. A leaping unicorn, cast in stone,
rested on the forest floor, balanced on extended, bent legs, where it
had crashed. It was a statue in mid-leap, still upright, horn lowered
in defiant attack.
close, circling as if admiring the statue, the abomination laughed
with a cruel, hissing voice.
it spoke, in perfect Equestrian: "You will soon return to
flesh, pony. But when you do, my teeth will already be around you,
waiting. Think of that now. Your last experience will be my teeth
tearing your head from you. In that moment, you will know that you
had a chance, but that you failed. Think of that, while you wait."
The voice hissed and spat as it said the words, and its single great
eye roved over the stone pony with unholy glee.
stood in the cover of a large bush, the twisted branches digging into
her flanks. It's intelligent, she thought. It can talk, it can think.
Her eyes tried to focus on her friend. She's alive. She's alive
somehow. She will turn back to flesh any moment.
the fullness dawned on her: this creature is magic. It can turn
things to stone.
resignation began to descend like a black curtain dropping down
across her thoughts. She was a farm pony, a mere earth pony. What
could she do if a unicorn could do nothing?
her, some pride remained. She was a Provender Pony. She was a
gosh-darn Provender Farms Pony, and Missus Provender herself chose
her. Missus Provender loved her, she was sure of it. No damnable
critter was going to stop a Provender pony. Teacup didn't know how,
but by Celestia herself, she was gonna save her friend and kick that
sorry creature's horror movie ass.
than being a Provender Pony, she was the real monster here! Oh
yes. 'Teacup?' No, she was Tikvah Feinstein, a REAL
monster from a planet of TRUE evil. Scary eyes and big teeth were nothing
to a former member of a species that could genocide entire civilizations
from the globe. She came from a people that had burned an entire
world, a species that delighted in torturing children and
exterminating entire phylums of animal life! She trotted out
into the clearing.
ME TOO!" Teacup shouted.
monstrous, floating sphere swiveled to stare, in surprise, at the
me raw, as I am. I want to die with my friend. Let me stand beside
her, and you may bite both our heads off at the same time! I cannot
live without her!"
hovering abomination glared at her in shock. Then it began cackling
like the sound of a thousand hooves scraping chalkboards, spinning
slowly in delight. "Come, ridiculous pony. I will grant your request!"
The horrific cackling laughter filled the clearing as Teacup trotted
sidled up close to her friend, and stretched her head far out, so
that it was even with that of Petal.
creature cackled even more as it studied this display. Finally it
bobbed over to face the two ponies, one flesh, one stone, all of its
eyes focused on them. After a moment it opened its incredibly wide,
jagged, dagger-toothed jaw, and slowly began to engulf the heads of
the two Equestrians.
whipped her head out and fell on her side. Kicking the ground with
her hooves she spun her body directly under the massive round shape,
then pulled her legs in tight.
monstrous creature pulled back from its meal. As it moved, Teacup
shifted and kicked to stay underneath it. The horror spun, looking
for the white pony. Teacup kept her limbs close.
The loathsome orb was becoming angry. It floated away from the
statue that was Petal Confetti, searching with all of its deadly eyes
for any sign of the fleshy white mare. Teacup kicked and spun and
twisted to stay always beneath the floating creature.
the abomination stopped. It was indeed intelligent, and had worked
out where the mare had gone. The great, scaled sphere began to
rotate, the mouth and central eye spinning down to face the ground.
It prepared to bite the mare underneath it, its jaws wide and
dripping, its massive central eye bulging in hellish delight.
scaled sphere slowly turned, Teacup scooted and squirmed away from
the monstrosity, finally bringing herself to her hooves again, and
stood staring at the horror's underbelly once more, as it chomped
uselessly at the soil. This angered it beyond any hope of reason.
Curse that wretched pony!
flipped with sudden fury, its long eye-stalks snapping like whips as
it righted itself. Seeing nothing, it spun in place, and Teacup saw
scales whirl in front of her until the edge of a vast eye started to
come into view.
moment, Teacup reared up high on her hind legs, and as the great, wet
eye slid into full view, she tore and ripped at it with her front
hooves. Gouts of viscous, translucent ichor splattered over her coat
and flooded from the sundered, shredded eye.
horrific creature whirled back and around, shrieking in agony, fear,
and shock. It crashed into the trees with a sickly, wet smash, then
spun into the brambles screaming ever louder. The abominations ten
eyes writhed like snakes on their stalks, and from them weird beams
of force randomly discharged. The trunk of a tree, struck by a
searching beam dissolved into a cloud of sawdust, the remainder of
the great oak crashing down upon its own stump.
to the stone shape of Petal, slamming into the concrete-like statue,
which fell upon its side. Teacup lay flat beside it, and peeked over
a stone flank.
floating monster, insane with rage and suffering had already left the
clearing. Teacup was not sure if it was fleeing, or if somehow it had
been truly blinded with the loss of its central eye. She heard
crashes and impacts for some time, as the monstrosity careened
further and further away, the sounds gradually diminishing, swallowed
by the forest.
time, Teacup lay beside the cold, stone thing that had been her
friend. Suddenly, the stone that made up the statue began to crackle,
and patches of color returned. Teacup saw the familiar aquamarine
coat appear, and soft pink return to what had only moments before
been a gray carving in the shape of a mane.
moments, the newly living body of Petal Confetti took its first
ragged breath, and as the Equestrian's revitalized eyes focused, they
saw the scratched, bleeding face of Teacup, sobbing and laughing and shaking.
Petal croaked out, through dry lips.
that moment Teacup was all over her, pressing herself close to her
friend, wetting her with tears, crying into her mane. "I'm...
all... alright." Petal tried to hold Teacup still with her legs,
wrapping her front hooves over the sobbing pony's back "it's OK,
it's OK, I'm alright! I'm alright!" They were that way for some
time, until Teacup's sobs turned to choking and sniffles, and Petal
had found herself crying too, partly with relief, and partly in
sympathy with her friend.
two had gained some measure of balance, they worked quickly to
collect their things which had spilled out into the clearing. Some
could not be found, such as the little red book and Teacup's entire
supply of candy, but they had their saddlebags, and they still had
what bits they owned, and some of the hay-cakes they had bought in
Withers for the journey.
decided as one that it was not worth staying any longer, and chose to
suffer some loss so as to leave the forest as quickly as they could,
preferring to take their chances with the storm.
had made it to the border of the forest, they splashed out into the
coat-soaking tail end of the deluge, which they could see was just
being dismantled by distant, flying pegasai.
Petal flopped to the sodden grass, then huddled close together for
warmth. They shivered, wet and sore, and waited for the clouds to be
removed, only to find the night sky behind them, the moon already
risen. They were cold and shaking and miserable, and huddling
together was not enough.
the two ponies clambered to their hooves again, and leaned to support
each other as they staggered down the grass beside the hopelessly
muddy road. Teacup was wet and scratched and traumatized, and Petal
was still stiff, sore, and in some state of shock. But they were
alive, and they had survived mostly intact, and they had each other.
decided that they should eat all of the hay-cakes now, before moving
on. The saddlebags had become filled with rainwater, and the
traveling food resembled oatmeal more than cake at this point, it
could only get worse. The two ponies gobbled what was left, and tried
to wash the sticky remains out of the inside of the bags by trawling
them through a particularly deep puddle of clear water. Putting their
small stash of bits back into the bags, they returned to the painful
business of making it to the next town, which would be Hoofington.
friends trudged through the night; neither could hope to sleep being
so wet and uncomfortable, and walking made them feel a little warmer
just from the use of their muscles.
morning finally came, the ponies were mostly dry, though their
saddlebags were still damp. There was no patch of ground that was not
soaked for them to lie down on to rest. Tiredness gradually overcame
them though, and the warm rays of Celestia's sun made them so drowsy
they began to stumble.
Petal said "I need sleep. I just gotta have some sleep. Let's
lock legs and just take a nap, OK?"
Petal locked their leg bones in place, leaning against each other for
comfort as much as support, and fell into the sleep unique to a
standing pony. Standing sleep is not as restful as sleep lying down,
for there are no dreams, no REM sleep, but it nevertheless helps, and
when they both woke up, it was just past noon. The sun had dried them
well as they rested, and even their saddlebags were mostly dry now.
really hungry." Petal's stomach rumbled and gurgled as they
limped on. Their legs were very sore now, and the many cuts and
scrapes that covered Teacup clearly bothered her.
the party, remember the baked dandelions in cream?" Teacup
began to drool a little, then realized it and quickly closed her mouth.
liked the carrot salad. What did they have in that, plums? or was it
think it was plums. Oh... I miss biscuits. I miss biscuits so much
right now!" Teacup's belly sounded like a monster from the Everfree.
were really good biscuits."
best. I had them every day on the farm. Every day."
Teacup's eyes watered up, and she had a hard time holding back tears.
not bother to say anything about Teacup's drooping ears, there was
nothing she could think of to say. They briefly considered trying to
nibble at the short grass that they walked upon, but as they were
unsure just where the border of Equestria truly ended relative to the
edge of the Everfree forest, and had no clear idea of just where the
guarantee of safe grazing might lie, they decided not to take any
It was not
until late afternoon that the two ponies finally saw the tall brick
buildings of Hoofington. Tiled roofs replaced thatched cottages, and
wide streets paved in cobblestones lay in place of the familiar dirt
roads of South Withers and Clydesdale.
here wore clothing, sharp-looking frock coats on the stallions, and
bustled dresses with tatted collars on the wealthier mares. Some wore
hats, and Petal noticed not a few top hats among the mix. The
citizens of Hoofington were not farmers.
order of business in Hoofington was food. They went straightaway to
the first diner they saw, and pooled their bits. They had seventy-two
of the small, golden coins between them, and while their ragged,
filthy state drew stares of disdain, they cared little. They were starving.
groat patties on oat and wheat buns were only five bits each, and
neither could resist an oatshake, strawberry for Petal and apple and
sweet carrot for Teacup. Hay fries were a must, and between them they
were seventeen bits poorer, but marvelously full in their bellies.
They rested a moment after their feast, savoring the feeling of
sitting down with a full stomach in a warm place.
stop after 'The Groat Garden' was a visit to the local clinic to have
Teacup's scrapes and scratches healed. The on-call medical unicorn
performed magical healing, which cost ten bits. This left them with
fourty-five bits. "Hoofington is a pretty expensive place"
Teacup complained "back in Withers, we may not have had a
unicorn, but the local doctor would have patched me up for free."
would my doctor friend in Clydesdale." Petal searched for some
place they could stay "She's a pegasus, but she never needed
magic to clean a cut or put on a bandage. Ten bits! I'm beginning to
think I should have stayed at unicorn school now."
school?" Teacup hadn't heard of this.
the newfoals. After Conversion, they separate the pegasai and the
unicorns, right? so..."
You didn't know that?" Petal was taken slightly aback. Every
newfoal knew this.
Conversion was kind of... rushed. I was one of the very last to be
converted. There weren't any more Bureaus at the end, they just
rounded us up, herded us into transports and sprayed us down on the
way." Teacup seemed very matter-of-fact about this.
down? You drink a liquid, it tastes like grape, sort of, and..."
Petal stopped in the street "What do you mean sprayed you down?"
was coming. It was only hours away. Everypony was recalled to the
safety of Equestria, and that included any last minute newfoals like
me. There wasn't time to foal-sit the hold outs, so they just sprayed
us during transport. The spray did taste like grape, though, as I
remember. Not very good grape." Teacup made a face and stuck out
did you wait so long to Convert?" Petal was astonished by all of this.
my job was such that I just never heard about Equestria and
Conversion and everything until the last day. If I'd known, I would
have run to one of the Conversion Bureaus, if I could have."
Teacup's ears splayed out sideways briefly, the pony equivalent of a shrug.
was in the news for FIVE YEARS, Teacup!" Petal had passed
astonishment and had reached mildly enraged incredulity "Five
years! The barrier kept growing, they tried to bomb Equestria, they
almost nuked it, the Conversion Bureaus were approved, the HLF was
doing terrorist stuff... five years! I... just don't know what
did you live?" Teacup asked.
Michigan. Petosky Michigan, by the lake. I Converted in Lancing.
Why?" Petal seemed flustered.
lived in Wilmington, Jersey. It was one big hive city. What wasn't
megacomplex was favela. We still had industry. Hyper crowded,
security transport, living pods, Total Security Work Zones. I never
even went outside for those five years. I lived in a box smaller than
an outhouse. That's life in a megacomplex." Teacup did her
Michigan, there was no industry left. The whole zone was pretty much
empty, everypony had moved away. It was all ruins and mostly empty
buildings, abandoned factories and such. We didn't have slums, there
just weren't that many ponies...um. Humans." Petal felt
strange remembering those days.
because all the humans that left places like Michigan crowded around
the last remaining industry! We followed the remaining jobs, and the
only hope of getting one was around the megacomplexes. 'Go where the
food is', right? Or, where the jobs are. How did you survive in
Michigan if it was so empty?" Teacup watched a carriage go by,
pulled by earth ponies. In the carriage were unicorns in fancy dress.
Worldcorp minimum income. Just like everypony. Didn't you have
that?" Petal followed Teacup's gaze, and watched the unicorn
couple exit the carriage.
course - I didn't know they'd even bother with a no-industry zone. We
had food rations, like you, but I wanted more. I wanted a chance to,
I guess, better myself. It didn't actually work out that way
though." Teacup's ears dropped for a moment.
Teacup, I didn't realize that our experiences had been so
different." Petal had an idea "Come on! I know what we can
do!" Petal trotted towards the earth pony carriage team,
stopping briefly to make sure Petal followed.
carriage team was Boxer Socks and Wilberhoof, two stallions with
quite a nose for the city. They were glad to tell the two mares where
they might find an inexpensive place to stay for the night, and gave
them clear directions. Petal and Teacup thanked the kindly pair, and
set out for the corner of Stifle and Croup, where a room could be had
for only five bits a night. It was not the fanciest or wealthiest
part of Hoofington, but this was Equestria, not earth, they
reminded themselves, so it was not as if they would be in any danger.
There were no 'bad' parts of any town in Equestria, not in the sense
of the risk of horrific violence, anyway.
Coronet was a large, somewhat run-down place, which had, in the past,
been quite the hotel. Now, it had fallen on hard times, and had
become the home of many working ponies in the big city. At five bits
a day, most city wages for even the most menial of jobs could easily
afford a room at the Coronet, and Petal found that they were both
fortunate that there was any rooms available at all. Most tenants had
been in their rooms for years, as they worked toward various goals.
Teacup enjoyed the building's communal showers, reveling in hot
water, soap, and feeling clean again. They brushed each others coats
and manes, and retired to their room. It mattered not that they had
to share a single bed, the simple joy of comfortable sleep was a
luxurious treasure to them at this point.
found her mind racing when she tried to drift off to sleep, despite
how tired she felt. What they had been through flashed over and over
in her thoughts. Then she felt Teacup press up against her back, and
the warmth and softness comforted her, and almost to her amazement,
she soon found herself deeply asleep.
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