Ethan and Rainbow Dash trotted out to the open field the next day to begin Ethan's pegasus training. Ethan, still getting used to walking, let alone using his wings at all, was still apprehensive.
"Oh, jeez." Ethan said out loud. He looked at his wings, twitching at the thought of flying, then looking up at the clear sky above them. He could feel the pit in his stomach growing more and more upset with him, the more he thought about flying.
"So, you ready for your first lesson on flying?" Rainbow said, seeing the fear in Ethan's eyes.
"Uh, y-yeah. S-sure." Talking about it didn't seem to help the situation at all, much to Ethan's dismay. Fluttershy not being there for moral support didn't help either, since she had to run off and care for her baby animals.
"Okay, to start things off, open your wings. You kinda need them open in order to fly, you see." Rainbow said, pretending to be her least favorite flight school instructor in the process.
Ethan stared at his wings as they instinctively opened, showing their full feathered glory. He looked at Rainbow with a toothy smile, now a little more confident he won't crash.
"Good. Now, this next part is hard to explain." Rainbow thought for a second. "Just start running as fast as you can, flap those wings of yours, and jump. Honestly, that's as simple as I can put it."
Seeing Ethan's fearful look returning, Rainbow decided to tease the new pegasus. "Hey, you ain't nervous, are ya?"
"N-no! Not at all! It'll be like r-riding a b-bike!" Ethan stammered back, pulling off the most fake-sounding laugh Rainbow had ever heard.
Rainbow Dash put her hooves on the sides of her head, massaging her temples, "This is going to be a long day..."
If Twilight read another word from one of her books, she was pretty sure she would explode. Spending all of last night reading up on humans seemed to have put her mind up in a bunch, and her bed seemed to beckon to her like a muffin to Derpy.
Twilight closed The Egghead's Guide to Primates and piled it up with the other books to her right. Seeing the desk this empty was a rare sight, so she decided to cease the opportunity by putting her head down on it in frustration, drawing an audible groan as she did so.
Spike walked in, very much awake, having returned from his morning stroll to Rarity's boutique.
"Is something wrong, Twilight?" Spike asked, more curious than concerned.
"Ugh. I can't read anymore." Twilight replied from the desk bluntly.
Spike gasped, "What?! This is inconceivable! Sound the alarm! Call a hospital!" He shouted, before falling into a heap of laughter. Twilight got up from her seat and magiked Spike up to a standing position again and waited for him to finish.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. But listen, Spike. This reading is integral to the safety of the pony race. I need to put as much effort as I can to helping Equestria."
"I still don't see the problem here. Humans don't seem that bad to me. Those two guys seem nice."
"They are, Spike. But the people we're up against aren't."
"And who are they?"
"I...I'm not sure. I know that it isn't just all humans. It doesn't seem right."
"But, that's what it seemed like you were saying to everyone last night. You were pretty excited about it, too."
"That was just to get people riled up. I was tired, I didn't know what I was saying."
Spike could see Twilight was looking for excuses. "Are you sure?"
Twilight surrendered, and gave a heavy sigh. "I don't know, Spike. That job at the camp really got me thinking. With the amount of people willing to just out and abandon their former lives like that, you can't help but feel bad for them, you know?"
"I...think I know what you're saying."
"I mean...humans aren't all bad. Some just need to be pointed in the right direction, is all. Whatever that direction is, I'm not sure. But I think I need some time to think about this on my own."
A loud, heavy object slammed into the frame of the library. The crash shook the door open, revealing a disoriented Ethan laying near the doorstep. He wobbled to get up.
"Did I do it?" Ethan shouted, clearly very dizzy.
"Almost! Just work on the steering!" Rainbow Dash shouted back, holding back laughter.
"Got it!" He replied, and flew off.
Spike walked over to the door to shut it, but was interrupted by a distressed Rarity who galloped up to the doorway faster than either of them have seen the unicorn gallop in their lives. She looked frazzled and annoyed, but at the same time very worried.
"I've lost Barry!" She shrieked, before collapsing onto the library floor.
"What?!" Twilight said in disbelief. "What happened?"
Ethan, hearing the distressed Rarity from outside, galloped inside to listen in.
Rarity regained her composure, "Well, we were practicing magic near my boutique, and I had mentioned how simply horrifying the Everfree Forest can be. I told him not to go there, because it was filled with horrid, disgusting creatures, and it's far too dangerous for a beginner unicorn such as himself. And then...and then..."
"Then what?" Twilight said, desperate for an answer.
"Then he ran into the forest!" Rarity said, having difficulty comprehending the situation at hand. "He said something about 'fighting all of the cool monsters in there', and just...stormed off! He was rather rude about it, too!"
Ethan chimed in. "'Cool monsters'? That definitely sounds like something Barry would enjoy. He loves putting his life at risk like that." He then turned to Twilight. "What's so dangerous about this forest?"
"Everything. The creatures in there are unimaginably violent and dangerous, and the forest itself is so dark and big, it's incredibly easy to get lost in."
Before anyone could say anything else, the group set off into the Everfree Forest. They didn't want to waste any time, because another minute wasted could be another mile deep Barry could be in the forest.
The forest, compared to the other sights and sounds of Equestria he had seen, was very different. The plant life was overgrown and unkempt, and seemed to want to block off the easiest ways out of the forest. There also was a perpetual fog around the area, and no matter how bright and sunny it was outside the forest, it was dark and spooky inside.
Twilight, Rarity, and Spike were on foot, trudging through the thorny bushes and tall grass, while Rainbow Dash and Ethan stayed in the air. Ethan was just barely keeping up, but he seemed to be getting the hang of flying.
Ethan, for one, was elated. While hovering carefully above the ground, flapping his wings slowly like Rainbow showed him, he pictured the potential things he could be doing with these wings. He can soar through the clouds, and travel anywhere faster than most anything else. Ethan loved this feeling of freedom flowing through him, but he was still iffy about the lack of thumbs. Just something else to get used to, he thought.
"GUYS! CHECK THIS OUT!"
The group immediately heard the enthusiastic shouting of a certain unicorn coming a short distance ahead of them, and they ran towards the noise.
Barry was standing near a tall, endlessly steep cliff, and using his magic to fire sparks into the air.
"Look at what I can do! Now when those weirdo animals come after me, I can zap them with this magic stuff! Isn't this awesome?"
"Barry, what are you doing?! Let's get out of here before you get yourself killed!" Twilight said, sounding like an overprotective mother.
"But isn't this cool?" Barry said, totally oblivious. Every sentence he said sounded like famous last words to Ethan, and the thought of Barry falling to his death made him cringe.
Soon, his visions came to a reality. Barry fired a particularly large bolt of magic onto a nearby tree, causing two massive branches to fall from it. The bigger of the two hit Rainbow Dash, pinning her to the ground. The other hit Barry, whacking him off the cliff.
Ethan's mind was racing. He just learned to fly an hour ago. Does he have the kind of skill needed to save his friend from dying? Can he still save him in time? What if he doesn't save him? What will happen then? Ethan looked to his new friends quickly, but they were watching Barry falling down the seemingly bottomless ravine, and didn't notice Rainbow Dash at all. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. Barry falling, Rainbow Dash struggling to get out from under the branch pinning her down, and Ethan just standing there, watching his friend fall to his doom, all because he wasn't there for him in the first place...
What happened next was a blur. He felt like he wasn't in control of his body anymore, and the only thing that kept him going was his gut. Ethan hopped off the edge of the cliff and spread his wings. Soaring like a professional would, Ethan put his hooves at his sides, like a bullet, and shot down to Barry. At the speed he was going, he was sure he couldn't have possibly been able to grab his friend in time, but somehow he did, catching him just before he hit the ground below. As he carefully flew back up, friend in tow, he realized that they both had been screaming the entire time. Ethan was just as afraid for his friend's life as Barry himself was. The ponies cheered as the hyperventilating pegasus carried his friend to safety in the grass.
"I...I d-did it!" Ethan finally said, taking short, staggered breaths. He set Barry onto the ground.
Barry slowly opened his eyes and looked up at his savior.
"You alright, buddy?" Ethan said nonchalantly.
"...I can be such an idiot sometimes." Barry joked.
Twilight and Rarity worked together to magik the branch off of Rainbow Dash, who looked particularly relieved to finally be able to move. She then looked at Ethan with the biggest smile he's seen her give him all day.
"You know, I thought you were pathetic when you were learning to fly this morning."
"I thought so. I'm still pathetic, I just got lucky." Ethan said humbly.
"No! Don't say that! Listen, you have the potential to be a great flier, you just need some practice."
"I'm sure. Thanks for teaching me, Rainbow."
Twilight trotted up to the two pegasi with a smile, "Alright, everypony. We need to get back soon. It's getting late, and I don't want to get attacked by the Everfree Forest's nighttime creatures."
As Twilight and the gang trotted back, Ethan couldn't help but realize how much more peaceful it was in Equestria. Living 17 years in the hustle and bustle of a suburban ghetto he called home, he wasn't used to the hushed silence that fell upon Ponyville when night time started setting in. The environment around them was much cleaner, and it felt like one of the few places Ethan had known of that he wasn't afraid to drink the tap water. In town, the ponies were talking calmly about the events of the day, making idle chit-chat with their friends, and there wasn't a frown in sight. While some may see it as inhuman, Ethan saw it as perfect.
Barry could see Ethan drifting off into space, as he always did. "Earth to Ethan! Do you read?" He said, putting his hooves up to his mouth to put a walkie-talkie effect on his voice.
Ethan didn't reply. He was too busy staring at the moon.
Princess Luna sat at her balcony, concentrating on raising the moon with her magic. As the moon casually listed it's way into the sky to begin the night, Princess Celestia watched as her younger sister performed her duties as she had done many nights before.
"Another job well done, Luna."
"Thanks, sister. I'm glad you like it." Luna said, proud of her work.
"I love your nights. No matter how many times I had raised the moon, I could never have done it quite like you did."
"I think the same way with your days. Whenever I see you raise the sun in the mornings, I could never imagine me doing your job the way you do it. Your days are perfect."
Celestia smiled. Suddenly, breaking the silence between them, the door to the balcony opened with a start to a castle guard.
"Princess Celestia, there is a visitor from the United States. She says that talking to you now is urgent."
"The United States? How did they get into Equestria?" Celestia said, remembering the magical border separating the humans from the ponies.
"She didn't. She wishes to communicate through magic." The guard replied.
The princess paused, only to think about what to say, "Very well. I will talk to her. Thank you." And sent the guard away.
Luna looked up at Celestia with a nervous look on her face. "You are going to talk to the humans?"
"I have to. I think I know what she wants now."
Using the magic emanating from her magnificent horn, Celestia formed a glowing blue ball in the center of the balcony, glowing with a magical aura. After a few seconds, an image appeared on the other side, acting much like a television being turned on. The figure on the other end of the line was an imposing female human. Her features were hard to make out, and it was as if the lights were turned down on purpose for the sake of her identity being revealed.
"I thought I told you not to call from this number anymore." Celestia greeted the figure, half-joking.
"Yeah, well, I just couldn't resist." The figure replied, in a strikingly un-feminine voice. It sounded very dry, cold, and strict, but also very sinister.
"What do you want?" Celestia said immediately.
"Listen, Princess. This ponification stuff isn't going to last forever. I know you Equestrians started that whole campaign, but not everyone wants to be a pony."
"Okay." Celestia said, taken a little aback by the simplicity of the solution, "I never said they had to be a pony. Let them stay where they are."
"I think you misunderstand, Princess. We still want in. We just don't want to be ponies. I mean, four legs? No fingers? Who wants that?"
Celestia could tell that the figure had better reasons than that. "You've already done enough damage to the Equestrians, why must you be so persistent?"
"Because, the human world is dying. We can't go on the way we are now. And the only way we can is to move into your place for a while."
"What makes you think we'll greet you so easily like that? Your mixed messages a couple years ago made me believe that all humans are evil, and now most of Equestria believes that for a fact." Celestia lowered her guard, remembering her stupidity, "I know better now, and that's why I opened the ponification camps. So that the supporters of ponykind can finally be with their brethren in Equestria."
"Ah, but your ponies still think we're bad. That is quite a conundrum. That would mean they wouldn't like us invading your territory unannounced like this."
A silence fell between the two. Celestia thought about what the figure had just said. Would she invade? How would she do it? Can we fight back?
The figure reached for something off-camera, "We'll discuss this later." And the transmission ended with static, the blue aura faded away. Celestia gave a heavy sigh and turned to the silent Luna, still stunned from what she saw.
"...now what, sister?" Luna said nervously.
"I don't know, Luna."
While Celestia looked like she just wanted to end the conversation there, Luna still had more questions. "Why is she so hurtful to us? Why does she have to be this way?"
Celestia turned away from her glassy-eyed sister, looking for the right words to say. Turning towards the door, she left the room solemnly, leaving Luna to tend to the moon. Celestia had a lot to think about.
The rain fell hard the next day. Pegasi ponies had scheduled the storm, and the citizens of Ponyville were more than ready for the torrent. Twilight sat at her desk, as she always did, skimming through a book about human nature. Spike noticed this, and walked up to her.
"More about the humans? Are you ever not reading about them?" Spike said, starting to get annoyed at his friend's constant research.
"Oh, Spike, calm down. What's so bad about it? I'm just...curious is all."
The dragon looked at the pile of books next to Twilight's desk, then gave her a bewildered look, "There can't be that many books about one species. At least, not any species I've seen."
"Exactly, Spike. You should have came with me to the camp, you would have learned alot. Human history is very interesting, indeed."
Spike leaned over to look at the book that Twilight was looking at, The Second World War - A Guide. He noticed a grainy, black-and-white picture of a rather greasy, mean-looking human holding his arm straight out, as if he was giving some form of salute.
"One thing I have noticed," Twilight continued, "was that humans seemed to have much more battles and conflicts in their time than the Equestrians have had."
"Well, it just shows how mean they can be." Spike pointed out.
"Yes, but also...how mean they don't need to be." Twilight added, drifting into her thoughts halfway through saying it.
Ethan was sitting on his guest bed, staring out at the rainy day through his second floor window. The rain reminded him of home, and of how he likes taking walks on rainy days. Today, however, it would be a trot, and that's what kept him inside.
Despite his heroic efforts the other day, and his successful flying lessons, he couldn't shake off the fact that he wasn't a human anymore. He loved his new friends, and he was glad Barry was along for the ride, but he missed his human friends. His classmates. His family. He wondered where they were, and if they had even been ponified yet. All of these thoughts were rushing in his head at once, and taking the cue, he decided to take a nap. Slumping over on his bed with a muffled thud, and resting his head on the soft pillow, Ethan fell asleep instantly.
Ethan shot up from his bed, now hovering above it with his wings, and looked around to see where the loud belch had come from.
Barry, apparently having arrived during Ethan's slumber, was laughing his flank off, "Good out, Spike!" He shouted, congratulating the dragon, who was now holding a scroll in his previously empty hands.
"Twilight! It's a letter from Princess Celestia!" Spike said excitedly as the unicorn rose from her desk to where Spike had been standing. Ethan flew down to join them, touching down next to Barry.
Spike cleared his throat, and read from the scroll.
My faithful student Twilight,
It would seem that Equestria is on the brink of an attack from the humans. I plan to come to your library in Ponyville to we can discuss this further, because I'm sure you and your friends must have many questions about the task at hand. No need to reply, I will be there before you know it.
Immediately after finishing the letter, Twilight got into her authoritative mode. She stood up straighter, and she seemed much more serious.
"Barry, I need you to get everypony else and come back here in 20 minutes. Ethan, stay here, and help Spike and I clean up. This may be a last-minute, informal visit, but that doesn't mean we can greet the Princess in a dirty library."
Barry stormed out the door, quick as a flash. He may be reckless, Ethan thought, but he's reliable given the circumstances, I guess. Ethan soon began picking up the heavy books, and flying them into appropriate shelves. The bookshelves seemed to have been labeled pretty obviously, so organizing them was easier than it had looked for him.
"Twilight?" Ethan asked from across the room.
"Yeah, Ethan? Is something wrong?" Twilight could hear the nervousness in his voice.
"No, no. I was just wondering something..." Ethan searched for the proper words to say, without trying to sound offending. "From the sound of things, you're the Princess's prized pupil, right?"
"Well, I wouldn't say that..." Twilight blushed, "But she counts on me to help her research the magic of friendship."
"Right, right. What I'm trying to say is..." Ethan now noticed that Twilight is paying full attention to him, "Is the Princess nice?"
Twilight laughed a little, "Oh, yeah. Of course she is. You don't need to worry at all about that. She'll greet you with open hooves."
"Okay, good. Sorry if that sounded stupid." Ethan said, picking up The Human Anthology and putting it in it's place.
"No, you're entitled to ask that. You haven't met the Princess yet. You've only been in Equestria a couple days."
Ethan was a little surprised, to say the least. It had seemed like weeks since he was called down to the ponification room, and given that purple fluid that afternoon. It was amazing how much he had learned, and how much he had done in the past few days. He had probably done more as a pony in a few days than he had done in a few weeks as a human. Somehow, Ethan felt achieved because of that.
As soon as Twilight had put Broadway Musicals of the 1940s in its place under 'Human Culture', the door knocked.
Twilight looked at Ethan curiously, and Ethan returned the look. Twilight said, "Barry...wouldn't knock, would he?"
"No. I wonder who it is?" Ethan paced himself and trotted to the door. The only other noise besides his hoofsteps was the rain rapping against the windows, and that only made the suspense worse for him.
On the other end of the doorway was a rain-soaked white mare. Her mane was cotton-candy pink, much like Pinkie Pie's, but this mare's coat was a very pale white, much like a ghost's.
"C-can I come in?" The mare said, in the most innocent, adorable voice Ethan had ever heard. Twilight shoved Ethan out of the way, staring at the mare with a bewildered look on her face.
"Sure! Of course you can! Come in, have a seat!" Twilight said happily, but almost fake-sounding.
The mare trotted in slowly. "Th-thank you, miss..." And she sat down quietly at the table in the corner. Ethan was still confused as ever, but soon paid no attention, because the door burst open again seconds later.
"WE'RE BACK!" Barry shouted over the pouring rain, startling everypony already present, especially the new mare. The excitable unicorn trotted in confidently, with Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Applejack following, all soaked from the rain. Rarity was in a fashionable purple raincoat, and she seemed pleased that she didn't get as wet as the other ponies. Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash flew in through the upstairs window.
The moment that the ponies gathered in the main room of the library, they all began bowing in the general direction of Ethan. Ethan looked behind him, and noticed that the mare from earlier had disappeared, and had been replaced by a magnificently large pony with a multi-colored wavy mane. Her coat was the same color, but her head was adorned with a massive unicorn horn, and two intimidating pegasus wings were on her side. Noticing the crown, Ethan assumed that this was Princess Celestia, and awkwardly bowed with the others.
Twilight approached the Princess, who was nearly twice her height, and spoke. "Princess Celestia, this is Ethan and Barry," she said as she gestured to the two timid ponies looking at her wide-eyed, "They're the humans I wanted to help us."
"Well, it's very nice to finally meet you two. Welcome to Equestria." Celestia said, greeting Ethan and Barry in a very motherly, amicable way. Now a little less nervous, Barry stammered for a greeting. "H-hi, your majesty."
"Please, just call me Princess, or Celestia. A friend of Twilight Sparkle's is a friend of mine."
Twilight giggled at Barry, then turned back to Celestia. "They've already met my friends, and we've agreed to go on with our plan."
"And that is...?" Applejack chimed in.
"That's why the Princess is here. We need to discuss what to do."
"Well, hang on, Twilight. There is something I need to mention before we go any further." Celestia said, a little less imposing and authoritative than expected.
"What's that, Princess?" Twilight asked.
"Listen. We can't just go on living thinking all humans are bad."
"Why not? I don't see the problem with that at all!" Rainbow arrogantly put in, only to be elbowed in the side by Applejack.
"I understand your sentiments, Rainbow Dash, but it simply isn't true. Humans are normally very kind people, and these two here are the prime examples of it."
Everypony looked over at Ethan and Barry, who were blushing at all of the positive attention.
"I supported the construction of the Conversion Bureaus, or 'ponification camps', as they are sometimes called, because I wanted humans to see the world through our eyes, and to help them get out of their dying world. It's clear that the human society simply cannot go on the way it is now, and that's why we encourage the integration."
"So, who has a problem with it?" Rainbow asked, a little more concerned after hearing the other side of the story.
"That's who we're up against. They call themselves the Human Liberation Front, and believe solely in the survival of the human race. They formed when we started the ponification campaign, as a way to prevent the humans from moving to Equestria."
Twilight suddenly turned to Ethan. "Ethan, did you know anything about this? Surely the humans had been talking about it before you left."
Ethan remembered reading about this in the paper he had clipped out mentioning the camps. "...the Human Liberation Front refuses to give up hope in the human race, even though the American human population as dropped 30% since the opening of the ponification camps two years ago..."
"I read about it a little in the weeks before I went to the camp. They threatened to bomb the Conversion Bureau in Wisconsin once, but I'm sure it was just an empty threat. I know you ponies probably don't get the news we do, but it was a serious crisis for the pony supporters in the area."
"Oh, yeah! I remember that!" Barry said, apparently proud he recalled the event, "That was a serious fiasco. I was vacationing near there during spring break, and the townspeople were going mad with protests on the streets."
"Er, Princess," Applejack said, changing the subject, "So when ya said last year that all the humans were bein' bad, was that just a load of hooey?"
"Well, yes, Applejack." Celestia replied, "The boss of the HLF had told me that, and I quote, 'the ponies have the entire human race to deal with'." She used hoof-quotes to emphasize the comment, "I mistook this as humans being 100% anti-pony, and announced this to you ponyfolk. I had learned since then that , and I apologize for any confusion."
"Oh, it's fine, Princess." Fluttershy added, "We know how nice humans are. There are a lot of wonderful new ponies moving in, and they are so kind to us..."
"I'm going to have to agree with Fluttershy on this one." Rarity said, "I have a few new helpers working for me at the boutique now, and I simply could not go on without them."
Rainbow Dash surrendered her former views, "It's just...it's hard to imagine such nice ponies can come from where humans come from."
"Well, Rainbow, I don't think you should be one to talk. Walk a mile in a human's shoes, and you'll see why some are so cynical and mean all the time." Ethan said, being oddly protective. Even Rainbow was surprised from Ethan's sudden defensive manner.
"I guess you're right, Ethan." Rainbow said.
"So, what do we do to stop this, Human-uh, whatever thingy?" Pinkie Pie asked Princess Celestia.
"I was just getting to that. Ponies are very pacifist, as you all know, so we will not be fighting back. We will begin with defending our territory. I want to strengthen the magical barrier around Equestria that has kept it from humans for so long. The magic has been worn from decades of being there, and it's time we update the system. I want you ponies to look for the book that holds the spells we need to strengthen the shield."
"I guess it's not in the library..." Twilight joked.
"No, it's not. You will need to go to The Ruins of the Ancient Pony Sisters, and search there. The spells should be in a book of forbidden magic hidden deep in the ruins themselves. I will give you a couple of days to prepare, but only a couple of days. The HLF's attack could happen at any time."
"Got it." Twilight replied bluntly. And with that, the Princess teleported away in a flash of blinding magic.
Pinkie Pie shook with excitement, before beginning to jump around the room, "YAY! ADVENTURE!"
"Listen up, everypony! Only pack what you absolutely need. This will be a much harder trek than we are used to, and we need to pack lightly to survive. Spend these next couple of days resting up, you'll need plenty of energy."
The other ponies began to leave, including Barry. Twilight then tapped Barry on his back.
"Barry? Where have you been staying the past couple of days?"
"Oh, I've been staying at Fluttershy's. Why?"
"I will need you to come over tomorrow. I need to teach you some advanced magic, and fast. Lessons begin as soon as you get up tomorrow."
"Alright, alright." Barry said, pretending to sound nonchalant about the ordeal, but was actually very ecstatic.
Ethan had flown up to his bed, which was still as messy as he left it. The sky was pitch black now, but the rain pattered on the window incessantly. Liking the white noise while he slept, Ethan waited for everypony to leave, then drifted softly into a deep slumber.
The clock was ticking. After getting up at 6am and trudging to his bus stop on the cold Monday morning, Ethan just didn't want to put up with school anymore. United States History wasn't his strong suit, but he still passed it somehow, even if it was the first class of the day. Barely staying awake, he stared at the teacher in a daze. The textbook on his desk was open to a random page, and the paper he was given was filled with random doodles, but from a distance, Ethan looked like he was doing something, and that's all that mattered.
"Ethan, can you tell me what the name of that slave was?"
Ethan shot up from his head-leaning-on-hand position. He hadn't heard what the teacher was talking about, and the teacher knew that.
"Uh...uh..." Ethan thumbed through his textbook frantically. Suddenly, he felt a light tap on his back.
"Hey, it's Dred Scott, dumbass." The voice behind him whispered.
"D-Dred Scott?" Ethan said out loud to the teacher.
"Right." The teacher replied, defeated. "Now, in 1857..."
As the teacher continued his lecture, Ethan decided to turn around and thank the classmate that helped him through that sticky situation. Behind him, was what made him realize he was dreaming.
"Ethan," Twilight Sparkle asked the human staring at her, "Do you have a pencil I can borrow?"
"AH!" Ethan awoke with a start. He was startled not at the fact Twilight was his classmate, but that he was still human in his dream. It was weird being a human again. Ethan felt like he had already gotten used to the new equine body he was given. Looking outside and noticing the morning sun shining through his window, Ethan trotted downstairs.
The second Ethan climbed down the ladder from his room, a book came careening towards him. Ducking out of fear, the book crashed into a nearby chair, which fell. The book had come from Barry, who was practicing magic with Twilight in the main room.
"Good morning, sleepyhead! What kept you in there so late?" Twilight said, indicating the clock, which read 11:49am.
"Oh, nothing. Just had a weird dream, is all." Ethan replied, with the images from the dream flashing through his head when he looked at the familiar purple unicorn.
"Alright. You can tell me about it later. I'm busy teaching your friend here some magic that can help us through the Everfree Forest."
"...so you're flinging books?" Ethan asked, still a little thrown off from the book earlier.
"Well, these are just for practice. With the right training, Barry could use any nearby object as a weapon. It won't be enough to inflict too much pain, but just enough to hold off any creatures we run into there."
Hearing Twilight's voice made Ethan think about what she had said in the dream. She said 'dumbass'. To Ethan's recollection, he hadn't heard a single pony swear once in his life. Sure, he's heard his human friends spout out more curse words than a drunk sailor, but ponies never seemed to stoop that low. Ethan was never one to talk like that often, but recently he hasn't even felt the urge. The word 'ass' sounds foreign to him; like he had never heard the word before in his life.
"Oh! Ethan, I need you to do something for me." Twilight said, turning away from her student, and snapping Ethan back into reality.
"Sure, okay. What do you want me to do?"
"I need you to go to Rarity's boutique and check in on the order I placed for raincoats. I heard the weather in the Everfree Forest gets pretty feisty this time of year, and we can never be too prepared for a storm."
"Yeah, okay. Err, where is the boutique?" Ethan asked. He hadn't realized until now he didn't really walk around town too much in his stay in Ponyville.
"It's just outside the marketplace, next to the cafe. You can't miss it."
"Yeah, it's the fru-fruiest building in town!" Barry chimed in.
"Hush, you. Here's 20 bits, in case she wants to be paid up front." Then Twilight shoved a hoof-ful of gold coins into a little bag, and Ethan placed it under his wing.
"Alrighty. I'll get going, then." Ethan announced, and headed for the door.
The streets of Ponyville were as packed as ever. Even though he was used to going to New York City with his family on occasion, Ethan still couldn't help but look around at the hustle and bustle of the afternoon rush. Ponies were mingling with their friends, shopping at the grocery stands, and playing on the streets, each and every one of them with a warm and welcoming smile on their face. Ethan had to smile himself, despite him just getting out of bed not a half hour ago, and all of this concentrated happiness seemed to have been passed on to him.
Passing by the cafe, Ethan heard a small gasp from a table nearby. Turning around with a start, he noticed Fluttershy sitting at the outdoor restaurant alone, eating a plate of hay fries. Upon Ethan glancing at her, Fluttershy squeaked louder, and attempted to hide her face for a second. Surrendering to the attention, she finally calmed down.
"Oh, um...hi, Ethan." She mumbled, just audible for Ethan to hear it.
"Hi there, Fluttershy. What's going on?"
"Nothing, I guess...how has your day been?"
"Pretty good so far." Ethan said, surprising himself with his optimism, "I'm just getting Twilight's order of raincoats from Rarity's place."
"Oh, that sounds like fun...well, I'm sure you're busy, so I won't bother you any longer..." She seemed to be a little sad that Ethan didn't have much time to talk to him.
"Okay then. I'll talk to you later, Fluttershy!" Ethan said as he trotted away. Perking up at the sound of Ethan saying her name, Fluttershy waved 'goodbye' back, and went back to her eating.
After looking back to where he was walking, Ethan concentrated on the task at hand. Barry was certainly right when he said that the Carousel Boutique was 'fru-fru'. The lavish pink and lavender colored building towered over the other assorted shops that dotted the village streets, and, 20 bits still in tow, Ethan walked hesitantly up the pathway to the door.
Suddenly, a sharp pain. Nothing that he had felt yet as a pony. The back of his head was throbbing like it had just been kicked, and Ethan fell like a scared goat. With only enough energy to feel where he had been hit, Ethan looked around for what had hit him.
Ponyville was in panic mode, with the ponies that were just having fun and enjoying themselves screaming in terror and hiding in the nearest buildings. Everything went black, and the last thing Ethan heard before passing out was a shrill scream from nearby...
He was on a swing. Swinging higher and higher, kicking his legs in the air, and soon he jumped off. Instead of hitting the ground, though, he sprouted wings, and soon he was a pegasus. Flying high into the clouds, he felt total bliss...
"Ethan? Ethan, are you okay?"
Ethan woke up. Opening his eyes, Fluttershy was looking back at him, her concerned face almost completely obscuring his view of where he was. Ethan was laying in a very comfortable bed, and the sound of chirping birds and other assorted animal noises was heard outside the window nearby.
"Oh, thank goodness! You're okay. Um, do you want anything?"
"Some water would be nice, I guess." Ethan said. He tried to move his head, but the back of his head stung as he moved it, and he cringed in pain.
"No no, don't move. I'll get it for you. Just wait here and get some rest..." Fluttershy said, motherly. Then she trotted quietly downstairs, leaving Ethan alone with his thoughts for a few moments.
It had happened again. Ethan had another dream where he was human. Why was this happening to him? Is his subconscious regretting becoming a pony? Is his human nature somehow still making it's way out, and trying to communicate to him through his dreams? Or was he just slipped some bad muffins? Before Ethan could dwell on these questions any longer, Twilight rushed into the room, looking very concerned.
"Ohmygosh! Ethan, is everything okay? Fluttershy told me what happened, and--"
"It's fine. Really. I just got hit in the head pretty hard. By what, I don't know, but I'm alive, and I think that's all that matters."
Twilight calmed down, "Well, I appreciate the optimism, Ethan, but somepony told me you were attacked by a creature in the Everfree Forest!"
"What? I wasn't even in there! Ouch!" Ethan had rose from the bed too quickly, and his head injury acted up again. He laid back down, resting his head on the soft pillow.
"It must have been a creature from the forest, then. Nothing outside of that place ever comes close to causing that kind of damage to somepony. But what could a creature that dangerous be doing outside of the forest like this? In broad daylight, even!"
"Well, we'll investigate that later. I have a question, actually." Seeing Twilight turn to him in interest, Ethan continued, "It's...kinda related to this, but at the same time, it's not."
Twilight seemed a little confused, but still interested, "Okay...what is it?"
"Well, every night since I got here, I've been having these weird dreams. In the dreams, I'm a human again. But ponies somehow get into the dream. I-it's hard to describe..." Ethan gave up explaining, and assumed Twilight gave up trying to understand him.
Twilight, however, knew what he was talking about. At first, she looked worried and curious, but soon switched to reassuring and calm. "Just don't worry about it for right now. Your body is probably just getting used to being a pony, and having trouble adapting."
"I...guess that makes sense." Ethan said, as Fluttershy came in with a cup of tea for Twilight, and water for Ethan.
"I'm sorry...was I interrupting anything?"
"No, Fluttershy." Twilight said to the pegasus, "Now let's give Ethan some time alone to rest his head. He should be fine for tomorrow."
But Ethan couldn't sleep. He had too many things to think about right now.
"Good morning, everyone. Today is Saturday, May 14. The lunch today is macaroni and cheese for humans, and the ponies will have the daffodil special. Would a Mr. James Fredrikson please report to the ponifiation room to be ponified? This has been Rainbow Dash, have a great day."
Rainbow Dash took her hoof off the button to turn on the intercom microphone. The various clamoring noises of the humans in the dorms downstairs started immediately, and the noise didn't help with the pegasus's early morning headache. She massaged her temples and turned around on the swivel chair she was sitting on. Rarity was there, looking at Rainbow oddly.
"What? What did I do?" Rainbow asked impatiently.
"You could have been a little more...I don't know, enthusiastic with the announcement readings, couldn't you?"
"Well, Pinkie Pie normally does them, but she's out working at Sugarcube Corner! What do you expect, an award-winning performance from me? Jeez..."
"Okay, I'm sorry I asked." Rarity replied, feeling insulted.
"...I'm sorry." Rainbow said, as politely as she could, "I just really didn't want to come in today. I mean, we're about to go on an epic journey! Why would we still have to work one more day?"
"Listen, Miss Hooves said that the interns filling in for us will be coming in tomorrow. Can't you just sit through this one shift without going off in a huff for once?"
"Miss Hooves can't even see in one direction at once! Why trust her?"
"Because she is our boss, Rainbow Dash." Rarity said bluntly. "Now, if you will excuse me, I have a human to ponify." And she strutted out of the office.
Rainbow Dash drew a heavy sigh, then slurped from the grape Slushee on her desk. If there was one job she hated the most, it was working in the main office. Sitting at a desk and answering calls all day is a nightmare for her, and training the pegasi can't possibly be awesome without her there. Cloudkicker can only teach the humans so much about flying, and Rainbow believed that under her wing, those humans will soon become the best fliers in all of Equestria...second to her, of course.
Having been stuck in her grumpy thoughts, Rainbow had not heard Applejack walking in, carrying her saddlebags to begin her day.
"Howdy there, sugarcube." Applejack greeted Rainbow. "Is somethin' the matter?"
"Oh, nothing, AJ. I'm just tired, is all."
"The desk work gettin' too boring for ya?"
"...a little." Rainbow reluctantly replied.
Applejack laughed a little, then put her bags down on her chair. Taking a thermos of apple juice out of the front pocket, she took one quick sip, then put it down on the desk with her mouth.
"So, what do you secretaries do for fun around here?
"Play with this doohickey mostly." Applejack replied, pointing at the computer on her desk. Rainbow looked at her own, confused. After some thought about how a pony could possibly operate such a contraption, she turned back to Applejack, having thought this question out for some time.
"So, what do you think of Ethan, AJ?" Rainbow asked awkwardly.
"I suppose he's an alright pony. Why do ya ask?"
"Well...I've been thinking."
"Yeah. About what Princess Celestia said about humans not all being evil. I mean, Ethan and Barry seem kinda cool...are all humans like that?"
"...I don't think so." Applejack replied, a little afraid to get into this kind of conversation. She knew about Rainbow's tendencies to jump to conclusions about humans, and was well aware of what she might be getting into by answering.
"Then how am I supposed to know that Ethan and Barry won't turn on us, or something? Am I just supposed to assume they're nice guys?"
"No, not at all. It's okay to have suspicions about somepony you know. Just keep being nice to 'em, and you'll find out soon enough if they can be trusted."
"...do you trust them?"
"Well, Twilight brought 'em here, and she thinks they're fine, so I think they are actually good ponies. Yeah, I trust 'em. I actually heard that Twilight has known Barry for a while now."
Rainbow was very unsure of herself right now. In the past couple of days, her opinion about humans has been turned upside down. She doesn't know who to believe anymore.
"I-it's just so...weird to see such nice ponies come from such a mean creature like a human."
"That's the thing, sugarcube. Not all of 'em are as mean as you think they are. We just got a bad first impression, is all. I'm sure there's a whole bushel of great humans out there who'd just love to meet ponies like you."
"Do you think so...?"
"I know so."
"...thanks, Applejack. You've really helped me think about this."
Applejack turned in her chair and began hitting the buttons on the keyboard. Rainbow inspected her own computer, looking back and forth between her hooves and the small keys on the keyboard.
"So, can you tell me how to work this thing?"
"Sure can.” She replied, trotting over to Rainbow’s desk and hitting the big green button on the modem, “Ya see, it's all in the hoof."
"Well, I've figured out that much already. I see all of these humans working these things with their fingers, and I don't see how us ponies can do it without magic."
"That's why mostly unicorns run these things, but I've been workin' on a way to get these to run for us non-magic folk, too. You shouldn't use it too much, though. I hear humans put bad stuff on it sometimes."
"I've heard about that, too. I hope this thing can keep that kind of stuff from showing up." Rainbow said as the computer booted up. "Oh, and AJ?"
"What's a Facebook?"
Chapter 10: Wing It
There was a warmth on Ethan's right hind leg that he didn't feel when he went to sleep that night. Sitting up on the bed, Ethan saw a small bunny laying on the sheets, sleeping soundly. He couldn't help but let out an audible "Aww" at the sight of this, and thankfully, that didn't wake the bunny.
Ethan was still in Fluttershy's cottage, having decided to stay the night there. He originally suggested sleeping on the couch downstairs, but Fluttershy insisted Ethan take her bed, because he needs the comfort for his head. Her bed was indeed, very comfortable, and the fluffy layers of warm comforters draped on the full-size mattress didn't seem to bother Ethan too much, despite the summer-like weather outside.
Just as soon as Ethan had fully awoken, Fluttershy entered with a steaming cup of tea.
"Oh, goodness! I didn't know you would be awake so early..."
"Yeah, neither did I."
Fluttershy glanced at Ethan, then noticed the bunny on his leg. "Looks like Angel found a friend while you were sleeping."
"I guess so."
The yellow pegasus put the cup of tea down next to the bed. "How are you feeling?"
"A little better. My head doesn't hurt to much anymore. This bed is very comfy." Ethan said, bouncing a little.
"Oh, that's good."
"When are we leaving? Aren't we supposed to go on that adventure today?"
"Um, yes. I think so. We have to go to the library at seven, I think."
Ethan looked at the wooden clock on the bedroom wall, which read 6:32. That explained why the sun hadn't come up yet. Angel awoke with a start once Ethan moved his leg. The bunny quietly groaned, then ran downstairs. After a short pause, Fluttershy spoke up.
"Well, um, we should get going then, shouldn't we?"
"Sounds good. Let's go."
Walking in the early morning, Ethan noticed how quiet the town could get, compared to how loud it was when he was walking through the market the other day. The morning chill, coupled with the calm breeze that blew through the trees in the Everfree Forest next to Fluttershy's house, set the mood for things to come. Ethan thought of it as the calm before the storm, even though he had no idea what the storm would be, if any. Looking for Barry was one thing; they were lucky they didn't run into any creatures back there. This is different. They will be in the deepest part of the forest, where they will be sure to run into...Ethan had no idea, but he was sure it'd be dangerous.
Noticing how crushingly awkward Fluttershy looked walking next to him, Ethan attempted to start a conversation, "So, what do you think of the humans?"
"I think that th-the ones that are trying to, um, attack Equestria are very mean, and they sh-shouldn't be like that to us." Fluttershy responded, getting visibly more uncomfortable as she pictured this, "But you and Barry are very nice...I'm glad to have met you two."
"Well, thanks. I appreciate that." Ethan replied warmly, and Fluttershy blushed noticeably. Ethan didn't notice it, because he had turned away, realizing that they had already arrived at Twilight's library.
Remembering last time Fluttershy knocked on the door, Ethan decided to do so, firmly and loudly. Answering the door was Pinkie Pie, looking four times as awake as either of them combined.
"Hiya, you two! Glad to see you can make it!" Pinkie greeted the ponies, flashing a massive grin.
"Oh, good morning, Pinkie Pie..." Fluttershy responded kindly.
"Hi, Pinkie." Ethan said. He hadn't really gotten very well acquainted with the pink mare, and only remembers her a little, from when they were going to the ponification room. The voice was very recognizable, though.
"How’re ya doing, Ethan? It's great to see you all...ponied up! Hahahaa!" Pinkie said, laughing at her own joke as the two walked in, much more awake than when they were walking over there. Twilight was the only other pony inside, who was sitting at her reading desk as usual.
"Good morning, Ethan! Is your head okay?"
"Yes, much better, thanks."
"Great. We're leaving soon, but settle in while we wait for the others to arrive." And with that, Twilight returned to her reading, and the two ponies sat at the table in the corner.
Almost immediately after they had sat down, Applejack arrived, with a small yellow filly following eagerly behind her. AJ looked noticeably more awake than the others, but definitely not as awake as Pinkie Pie.
"G'morning, y'all. Hope ya don't mind, Twi, but Apple Bloom here said she wanted to come with us." Applejack said, gesturing toward the filly.
"Please, Twilight? Can I go? I wanna see if I can find my special talent in the forest!" Apple Bloom begged to the purple pony, giving the most irresistibly adorable puppy-dog eyes.
"Of course, Apple Bloom. Just don't get into too much trouble. The forest is very dangerous."
"I know. Don't worry none, Twilight. I'll be fine." Apple Bloom said confidently, sounding like she was trying to sound more mature than she was.
"Where's Rainbow Dash? Wasn't she with you at the Bureau yesterday?"
"Yeah, she said she might be a bit late, but I still figured she'd come by earlier than me. That's a might odd..." Applejack said, trailing off as she wondered where Dash might be.
"Okay. I just hope she doesn't take too long. We need to leave soon." Twilight replied as she closed the book on her desk and put it in the pile. "I need to wake up Spike and Barry, so I might be a bit."
Rarity arrived a few minutes later, donning an azure sun hat and matching saddle bags.
"Sorry I'm late, but I couldn't find the tiara that went with this bag. That's when I found this darling hat, and I thought 'I simply must wear this!'. So I did." Rarity explained quickly, almost sounding like Pinkie Pie with how excited she was.
"Fascinatin'." Applejack said dully, growing impatient waiting. "When's Dash gettin' here? I wanna get this over with."
As if on cue, Rainbow Dash flew in as fast as she could through the open upstairs window. After catching her breath, she touched down on the floor next to Applejack.
"Ms. Hooves kept me until late last night, so I overslept...I swear, she's out to get me sometimes!"
"She isn't out to get me!" Pinkie chirped, as she pranced up to Dash happily, "Well, maybe because I get her muffins every week, but I don't think that'd have anything to do with what I do at work! OH! One time, she called me down to her office, and she said 'Muffins!', and then I said 'Okay!', and then we..."
Losing track of the story, Ethan gave up trying to listen to Pinkie. Then, he turned his attention to Twilight, who was coming down from upstairs with a half-asleep Spike on her back, and a equally as half-asleep Barry coming down behind her. Spike mumbled something, and flopped down on the floor. Barry, for once, didn't say anything. He was probably too tired to care about anything right now.
"Good, good, everypony's here. Now we can go."
"Really? That's awfully blunt of you." Rarity asked, as surprised as the rest of the group at Twilight's sudden change of pace. "No lecture about what not to do in the forest? No silly presentation on the dreadful creatures we might encounter?"
"Nope. I think we've all frequented the forest enough to know where to go by now."
"Aw yeah! That's what I like to hear! Let's go!" Rainbow barked enthusiastically, and started for the door.
Walking down the same pathway as earlier bored Ethan, since they had to go past Fluttershy's house to get to the forest. Suddenly, Apple Bloom caught up with Ethan, now trotting side-by-side with him.
"So you used to be one a'those hoo-mans?" Apple Bloom asked nervously, as if she was talking to an alien.
"’Humans.’" Ethan corrected the filly, laughing, "And yeah, I was a human about a week ago."
"Wow! What's it like? Is it any different than bein' a pony?" The little pony queried, really interested in learning about his home species.
"Oh, definitely. It's way different." Ethan said, then thought about how to go about describing a human to a pony. It was much harder than he thought. "Well, you walk on two legs, first of all. And you have these weird thingies on the ends of your front hooves called 'fingers'. They help you grab stuff easier, but they look weird."
"I'd like to see a human close up. They must be a might big in person..." Apple Bloom said.
"Compared to ponies, yeah. I'm probably about half the height I was when I was a human."
"They must be pretty darn big then." She said, clearly intimidated.
Applejack trotted up next to her little sister. "I'm sorry, is my sis botherin' ya, Ethan?"
"No, no, not at all. I'm enjoying myself." Ethan replied.
"We're here, everypony!" Twilight called out from the front of the nine-pony cavalcade.
This entrance was different from the entrance they had used to look for Barry. Gone are the wide, spacious pathways of the main forest entryway, and the group was greeted by a slightly more tangled path to the temple. Instead of dirt and sand, the ponies were trotting on the forest floor, riddled with tangled grass and tree roots poking up at any chance they get, tripping up the non-fliers quite a few times. Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Ethan flew above the pack, but not too high, so they don't leave anypony behind. Rainbow had insisted on attempting to look above the trees to find the temple from above, but was only greeted with a dark cloud of smog, which blanketed the forest in a neverending night.
"It's a concentrated magical force field." Twilight explained to the others, "It's also the reason the plants and animals behave so strangely here."
"Well, it's not so strange to Ethan and I." Barry pointed out, "Plants always grow, and animals most of the time live on their own. The only animals we keep as pets are dogs and cats. Oh, and birds...and hamsters..."
As Barry continued rattling off the names of the aisles of the local pet shop, the group pressed on through the forest. Yet again, no dangerous creatures seemed to cross their path, and if any were seen, they ignored the group, and went about their business quietly. Ethan had never thought he'd see a manticore in person, let alone one that just sheepishly walked across the path, not noticing the tasty ponies trotting out in the open.
After crossing a wide, but shallow river, the ponies came across an old temple. Automatically assuming this was what they were looking for, Ethan inspected the ancient structure as he entered it with the others. The interior seemed just like the rest of the forest, mostly because the plantlife has made a home out of some of the less-traveled rooms, riddling former bedrooms with overgrown vines and trees. The main room upstairs consisted of six glowing gems of different shapes, each color-coded and sitting on a large, out-of-reach pedestal. Barry, Twilight and her friends seemed to recognize the gems, but Ethan and Apple Bloom were clueless.
"Here we are, everypony." Twilight announced after gazing at the gems, and capturing the group's attention. "We need to inspect every room we can, but be careful. This temple wasn't built yesterday. Remember, we're looking for an old spell book."
"Just think of an older version of any book Twilight would read." Spike explained, semi-jokingly. "Full of pictures and cool shapes and stuff."
"...right. We'll meet back here in an hour."
"BREAK!!" Pinkie belted out, like a football player before the big game, and with that, the ponies split up. Applejack, Apple Bloom, and Rainbow Dash went down the east hallway; Fluttershy, Twilight, and Rarity went down the west wing, and Ethan, Barry, Pinkie Pie, and Spike went downstairs.
"Thanks for letting me come with you guys. I was getting kind of tired of sticking to Twilight all day." Spike said to the three as they walked down the long stairway a second time.
"No probs, Spike." Ethan replied calmly, "You need to hang out with us more often. Us guys gotta stick together."
"Yeah!" Pinkie shouted from the back of the pack, cuing strange looks all around, then a huge laugh from them all that echoed through the cavernous hallway. Eventually, the gang went into the biggest, easiest-to-navigate room, and began to turn it upside down. Oddly enough, it was the pantry.
"Why would they need a pantry in a temple?" Spike asked the others.
"I thought you knew, Spike!" Barry replied from the other side of the room, laughing as he looked in a closet.
"Maybe the pony-monks get hungry, and go down here to bake their pineapple upside-down cake!" Pinkie chirped, licking her lips at the thought of the treat.
Then they heard a thud. It shook the temple, sending a few things in other rooms falling, and a table had almost collapsed underneath Spike, who was looking in a bread box.
"D-did you guys hear that bump?" Spike stammered.
"How that bump made me jump!" Pinkie replied, apparently not phased at all by the sudden noise.
"Let's go check it out." Ethan said, with a sudden confidence that even surprised himself. The gang began to run down the hall.
"HEY!" Spike called out to Ethan before he left the room, "A little help?"
"Oh. Sure, buddy." Ethan said, allowing Spike to hop on his back. The extra weight was a little hard to get used to, but he eventually caught up with Pinkie and Barry outside.
Scarily, nobody else was outside but the four of them. It was as if they were the only ones that heard the noise, but none of them could deny that it was a real thud. Moving objects and crumbling temple does not a fake noise make.
"What made that noise? It was coming from out here..." Spike questioned, but soon got his answer. A pitch-black unicorn with fire-truck red eyes came out from the shadows of the edge of the forest, and shot a spark of magic at the dragon, sending him to the ground a few feet away.
"Ethan and Pinkie Pie, go tend to Spike! I'll fend this thing off." Barry shouted, trying his best to sound like an action hero. Using his newly-taught magic, Barry shot off three medium-sized fireballs, which the black pony dodged seamlessly. The shadow-pony fired back with a purple lightning spell. It looked painless, but Barry dodged it anyway, not letting his guard down yet.
Ethan got to Spike first, with Pinkie following close behind. The dragon sat up on his feet, massaging a burn mark on the side of his head.
"Omigosh! Are you okay, Spikey?" Pinkie said, in a concerned manner, but still retaining her Pinkie-ness.
"Yeah, yeah. I just feel like I was kicked really hard in the head--OUCH!" Spike yelped in pain as he tried to stand, and sat back down on the ground.
"Just stay here and rest your head..." Ethan said, spacing out a little watching his best friend fight the dark pony.
Suddenly, as he was about to slip back into reality, Ethan felt something on his head. It hurt, but only a little. It felt like a human hand was grabbing onto his forehead, and giving him the Vulcan "mind-meld" from Star Trek. He couldn't move, but he could see the source of the "grabbing" was the dark pony, who had cast a purple lightning spell directed at him. Everything went in slow motion, and eventually, Ethan passed out. He didn't feel himself hit the cold forest floor, though. He felt soft, wet grass, and a cool summer breeze...
Chapter 11 - Where the Heart Isn't
"WEE! This swing is fun!"
"Pinkie, cut it out! I'm trying to wake up Ethan!"
"But it can fit two! Spike, come swing with me!"
"Not now, Pinkie...ouch..."
Ethan opened his eyes. Barry was looking right at him, and flashed a smile as soon as he woke up.
"Good morning, sunshine."
"Wh..where ar' wee?" Ethan mumbled, still very dazed from the spell.
"Oh, I think you know..."
Slowly getting up on all fours, Ethan looked around. They were in a fenced-off grassy area, with a massive tree covering the immediate area with it's branches. Turning around, Ethan saw a two-story, sky-blue house, and a concrete patio with the swing that Pinkie Pie was on. Widening his eyes at the immediate sight, Ethan looked at Barry in disbelief.
They were in Ethan's backyard.
"WHAT?! H-how?! When? Why?" Ethan babbled in distress, clinging for an answer somewhere.
"Woah, woah...eeeasy there, cowboy." Barry said, soothing the savage, confused beast. “Spike and I have it all figured out.”
The dragon stood up and walked to the panicked pony, clearing his throat. "That black pony Barry was fighting cast a 'Memory Transportation Spell', which brought us to the first location you thought of when he cast it. Um, Ethan, what were you thinking at the time?"
"Well, I was watching Barry battle the shadow-unicorn, and I thought about how far we've gone. And I remembered when we used to play in my backyard all the time as kids. I guess that explains why we're here now."
"Aww, that's adorable!" Pinkie said, getting off the swing and bouncing over to the group.
"So, what do we do now?" Barry asked, turning to his friend.
"We should look around. Find a way back to Equestria. But, let's go inside first. We all need some rest."
"Good idea. If the rest of the gang in the forest didn't find the book, then they would be looking for us." Barry replied.
"And I'm sure Twi and Rarity can fend off the shadow-pony, if they run into it." Spike added. "They're much more experienced in magic than Barry. Er, no offense."
"None taken. Let's go inside."
After a quick tour of the house, Ethan sent the others to bed. Pinkie slept on the couch in the basement, Barry and Spike slept on the couches in the living room, and Ethan slept in his old bed. Barry fell asleep the second he touched the couch, but thankfully, Spike was there to help open doors for the finger-impaired. Ethan fell into his bed, and fell right to sleep.
He was all alone in a snowy field. The night was cloudy, but it wasn't too cold. Suddenly, a yellow pony with a blue snout popped up from under the snow and looked at him. Ethan tried to interact, but the pony simply popped back down the hole, like a gopher. Soon, the pony was popping up all over the place, making Ethan laugh so hard he fell to the ground. Before getting up again, the pony finally came out from its holes and trotted up to the human looking at it. Next thing Ethan knew he was face-to-face with this strange pony, both not blinking. The pony opened its mouth to speak.
"You're a strange one, aren't you?"
"WAKE UUUP! WAKE UP, EVERYBODY!"
Pinkie's shrieking sent the others flying out of their beds and onto the floor. After some grogginess, despite only having been asleep for a couple of hours, the group finally got back outside and sat in the front yard. The weather was as cloudy and humid as it had been earlier, but it was getting noticeably darker.
"That's, uh, quite the dream, Ethan." Barry said to him, as he finished recounting the vision to the others.
"I should tell Twilight about it. She always likes these kinds of dreams." Spike suggested.
"Maybe the yellow pony just wanted to build a snowpony with you! I know I'd build a snowpony if I had that much snow!" Pinkie said.
"Er, while that does sound like fun, I think we need to find something to do right now." Ethan said, "We need to find a way to get back to Ponyville, and fast."
"But how can we get to Equestria?" Spike asked. "It's thousands of miles away, and the barrier is soon to be under attack by those Liberation Front cronies!"
"...The Bureau!" Barry shouted out of nowhere, "We can go to the Conversion Bureau and get them to transport us there! They do it to the new ponies all the time!"
"Well, yeah, but how do we get there without my car?" Ethan added, indicating his hooves, "I can't possibly drive it with these things, and I think Spike here would need a booster seat to get to the drivers seat, let alone drive the dang thing."
"Yeah, I don't think I can operate one of those things. Way to big and metal. Pretty...scary lookin'." Spike said, looking at the beat-up car in the driveway.
Ethan turned to Barry, and Barry turned to Ethan. "Who do we know that can drive?"
After a short pause, they both came up with the answer at the same time.
"Jimmy?" Spike asked.
"Yeah. It's a long shot, since he's not a big fan of us ponies, and I quote, 'trotting around like they own the place'."
"He doesn't understand our motives, but he can drive." Ethan said, thinking while he talked, "I'm sure he'll understand if we talk to him a little."
Barry gave Ethan a look, and Ethan corrected himself. "Okay, if we talk to him a lot. He's pretty stubborn."
"Let's go to his house already! I'm getting excited!" Pinkie barked.
Jimmy's house was a little bigger than Ethan's, but it only had one floor, and a garage. The muffled sound of guitar shredding came from an open window, which Pinkie heard and began miming holding a guitar and playing it. Ethan nervously walked up the path to the doorway, with the others following, just as nervous.
"Remember, everyone. Play it cool." Barry whispered from behind Ethan, "Don't make it seem like we're going to the land of sunshine and rainbows to save magical talking horses."
"...but we are. In fact, we're doing exactly what you just said.” Spike said blankly.
“Yeah, but I don’t want him to know that. He’s a little...apprehensive about our kind.”
“Hey! What do you mean, ‘our kind’?” Pinkie jokingly added, before being viciously shushed by the other three.
Spike hopped onto Ethan’s back and rang the doorbell. The second the ‘DING-DONG’ rang through the house, the shredding ceased, and footsteps drew closer and closer to the door.
If Ethan were human, Jimmy would be a little shorter than him. He sported a pair of glasses, and a few pimples on his face. His hair was in a jew-fro similar to Barry’s, but shorter and black. He was a little pudgy around the midsection, but could still get away with being ‘svelte’. He wore basketball shorts, and a baggy band shirt with an incomprehensible metal band’s name on it, and a gruesome picture of a monkey cutting its head open with a scalpel.
Jimmy looked down at the ponies (and dragon), all a little intimidated, with Ethan and Barry the only ones fake-smiling. He let out a heavy sigh.
“You have got to be kidding me.”
DIDJA MISS ME?
STAY TUNED FOR PART 5 - COMING SOONER