The Perfect Pet [Part 1]

Jan 18th, 2018
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  1. > The Perfect Pet
  2. > Be Your Own Best Friend
  3. > The website is very professional with well coordinated, if overly bright, colors.
  4. > You click on the About Us section.
  5. > The Perfect Pet uses the latest in bioengineering technology to construct the pet of your dreams.
  6. > Select any creature you desire, real or imaginary.
  7. > Customize their appearance to your heart's content.
  8. > Give them the most compatible personality in existence, your own.
  9. > Everyone deserves a best friend, and now everyone can have one.
  10. > They might be overselling it, but you are still interested.
  11. > You look away from your laptop screen, to the beat up walls, to the once-white carpet, to the sagging couch you now occupy.
  12. > Some companionship would go a long way to making this apartment more of a home.
  13. > You don't mind it. Rent is cheap.
  14. > The chill gives you an excuse to wear your favorite maroon hoodie.
  15. > They were high school colors, not that you were big on spirit. It was just cozy.
  16. > All the creaks and groans of the floor and the squeak of the door hinges is the sound of money saved.
  17. > Still, the cobwebs in the corner and the low water pressure don't do much for your mood.
  18. > When the location opened up a few miles away, you decided to check it out.
  19. > It was only a few months ago that you first saw the ads.
  20. > The company was less than a year old and already raking in cash.
  21. > It doesn't hurt that they are the first of a new industry.
  22. > Prices are high.
  23. > Loneliness is a big problem with lots of paying customers.
  24. > You'll have to dip into your savings for this.
  25. > Returning to the computer, you continue reading.
  26. > Build your new companion with our easy three step process.
  27. > 1. Use our website to build your companion's appearance from a massive library of creatures.
  28. > 2. Come into one of our convenient clinics for a complete personality analysis by qualified professionals.
  29. > 3. Take home your new lifelong best friend.
  30. > It sounds too good to be true.
  31. > You click on the library.
  32. > You see every creature you could think of, and a few you couldn't.
  33. > There is all the typical pet animals like dogs, cats, fish, and hamsters.
  34. > There were more exotic selections like parrots, monkeys, and snakes.
  35. > The only limitation seems to be size.
  36. > You guess there isn't much demand for something that can't fit in a house.
  37. > Next up is the fiction category.
  38. > Cool.
  39. > You can get a real dragon, miniturized of course.
  40. > Wait.
  41. > Is that?
  42. > It is.
  43. > It's a pony, a pony from your favorite cartoon.
  44. > You suppress a joyous squeal by biting your knuckle and sit frozen for a few seconds in shock.
  45. > The show had been canceled a few years back, too soon in your opinion.
  46. > The fandom still produced content, and you still considered yourself part of it.
  47. > You set the laptop beside you on the couch, run to your room, and pull your old sketchbook out from under your bed.
  48. > Blowing the dust of the cover, you flip through the pages.
  49. > No.
  50. > No.
  51. > Yeesh. Why did you ever draw that?
  52. > No.
  53. > Here he is, your OC.
  54. > You think about using your waifu instead, but reject the idea.
  55. > Meeting your waifu without their show personality would be too weird.
  56. > Taking the notebook back with you, you spend the rest of the evening on the website placing your order.
  57. > There are lots of options, and you spend at least an hour getting it right.
  58. > Color, body style, height, weight, and mane style all need to be perfect.
  59. > Finally, you reach the submission page with a big grin despite your cramping hand.
  60. > It is done.
  61. > You have an appointment tomorrow at The Perfect Pet.
  62. > With that settled, you heat up some canned ravioli for supper.
  63. > Fine dining has a name, and that name is Chef Boyardee.
  64. > Smell that tomato sauce fresh from the can.
  65. > Just as you are finishing up, you hear the doorbell.
  66. > Checking your watch, its 8:00, so he's right on time.
  67. > You open the door and see Pete, your upstairs neighbor and current best friend.
  68. > Pete is short, fat, and loud with blond hair and a million funny stories, none of which were true.
  69. > He can be annoying at times, but his sense of humor often got you throught the worst times at work.
  70. > "Let's go, man. I thought I was the slowpoke."
  71. > "You know I'm always ready for bowling on a Friday night."
  72. > Bowling isn't your favorite thing to do, but it's a chance to go out and interact with people.
  73. > It always gets better after a few beers that the snack guy sneaks in for those that know how to ask.
  74. > You both get in Pete's car and he drives to the alley.
  75. > "So, Eric, did I ever tell you about the time..."
  76. > He did, many times.
  77. > Tuning Pete out, you stare out the window, thinking about what will happen tomorrow.
  78. > Who could have believed you would one day own a pony of your very own.
  79. > It's every fan's dream, and it will become your reality tomorrow.
  80. > Coming back home, more proud of your buzz than your score, you stumble back in your door.
  81. > "...and that's how I got this scar from wrestling the world's biggest crocodile. Same time next week?" Pete calls after you.
  82. > "Wouldn't miss it." you yell back before shutting the door.
  83. > Despite your faulty coordination, you manage to brush your teeth and undress yourself.
  84. > Only once using the wall for support, you make it to your bed and sink into the mattress.
  85. > As you pull up the blankets, you stare at the ceiling, not sure if sleep will come.
  86. > Life is ok now, but it's about to get a hell of a lot better.
  88. > You sleep in the next day like you always do on weekends.
  89. > Glance over at the clock and sigh as you nestle under the blankets for a long deserved rest.
  90. > The sun is shining through the window and hits your eyes.
  91. > Whatever. Roll over and ignore it.
  92. > There's no place to go, no reason to leave bed at all.
  93. > Except that's wrong.
  94. > Shit.
  95. > Your eyes snap open.
  96. > What time is it?
  97. > You pick up your phone off the bedside table.
  98. > 12:30
  99. > You have you appointment at The Perfect Pet in half an hour.
  100. > The ancient springs under your mattress complain as you scramble to get up.
  101. > Find some reasonably clean clothes.
  102. > Some staining is socially acceptable. You work for a living.
  103. > Brush your teeth without toothpaste.
  104. > You can feel the judgmental eyes of the dentist next year.
  105. > Twice a day, Doc, honest.
  106. > You look in the cabinet for something quick to eat.
  107. > Nothing.
  108. > You didn't go shopping this week.
  109. > Who wants to interact with those people?
  110. > Shopping isn't important right now.
  111. > There's a pony waiting for you.
  112. > Hunger can wait.
  113. > Shut the cabinet.
  114. > It rebounds and hangs open slightly.
  115. > It's not important.
  116. > You pull on some threadbare socks and well worn sneakers.
  117. > Keys, keys, where are the keys?
  118. > After a few minutes of searching, you find them in yesterday's pants.
  119. > You walk out the door, making sure to lock it behind you.
  120. > There isn't a lot worth stealing in your crummy apartment, but it's the principle of the thing.
  121. > At least it is a nice day out.
  122. > It is early autumn and the leaves are just beginning to turn.
  123. > The sun is out and is mildly warm with a few puffy clouds in the sky.
  124. > If you weren't in a hurry, you would stop and enjoy it.
  125. > No time.
  126. > You jog to the nearest bus stop.
  127. > There's the 12:45 bus, with the same dull paint as always.
  128. > You begin running and make it as the driver was about to close the door.
  129. > The bus isn't populated except for one old guy that might be homeless.
  130. > His clothes still look better than yours.
  131. > Once seated, you can't help but check the time.
  132. > 12:48
  133. > 12:51
  134. > 12:53
  135. > 12:56
  136. > Here it is. This is your stop.
  137. > The store was located in the classiest shopping center in town.
  138. > Even from a distance, you can see the name of the establishment beckoning.
  139. > The old guy is still sleeping.
  140. > Come to think of it, was he breathing?
  141. > Pacing past multiple store fronts, you reach the front door, grab the metal handle, and pull it open.
  142. > 1:02
  143. > Close enough.
  144. > You enter a place that looks like a fancy waiting room.
  145. > It's clean, with the smell of new paint and fabric.
  146. > To your left is a counter with a secretary behind it diligently pecking at a keyboard.
  147. > To your right is a bunch of stylish and modern chairs.
  148. > The far side of the room has a big wooden door.
  149. > That must be where the magic happens.
  150. > There's a sign in sheet on the counter.
  151. > You try to sign you name and appointment time.
  152. > Stupid pen.
  153. > After scribbling in the margin a bit, you write Eric on the line and go to take a seat.
  154. > You weren't surprised that nobody else was here.
  155. > Lots of people were still creeped out by the bioengineering thing.
  156. > After barely sitting down, the secretary grabs the sheet and glances at your name, then at you.
  157. > She gets out of her chair and nods in your direction.
  158. > "Follow me."
  159. > You follow her behind the heavy wooden door.
  160. > She gestures to room 5.
  161. > "Your Perfect Pet specialist will be with you momentarily."
  162. > The walls were covered with posters explaining the benefits of owning a pet.
  163. > In one corner of the room, you see a plushy recliner.
  164. > It would seem inviting if there wasn't a large black alien helmet haning on the wall beside it.
  165. > That must be the state of the art personality extraction you read about.
  166. > It doesn't sound so cool now that you are faced with the prospect of wearing the thing.
  167. > Across from the chair is a TV.
  168. > It's clear they want their customers to be comfortable.
  169. > "You must be Eric."
  170. > You whip around to see an older woman in a white coat standing a foot away.
  171. > "My name is Dr. Jameson."
  172. > She extends her hand.
  173. > You study her for a second.
  174. > Her hair is dark brown with threads of gray.
  175. > Her green eyes glow with warmth and and alert clarity complemented by a small smile.
  176. > She must be the person you are here to see.
  177. > You take her hand firmly and give a welcoming shake.
  178. > "Eric."
  179. > "I must say I was happy to get your order. Imaginary animals are such a fun challenge."
  180. > "I've been working on your pet since this morning and the body turned out beautifully."
  181. > "The only thing left is the mind, and that's where you come in."
  182. > She explains the personality extraction process.
  183. > Over in the lab, there is the pony you ordered hooked up to a machine that mirrors the one in this room.
  184. > The machine literally copies your mental patterns into the pony.
  185. > The process can take up to an hour.
  186. > After you are seated confortably in the chair with the probe strapped to your head, Dr. Jameson flips the switch.
  187. > The machine quietly hums to life.
  188. > "Everything seems to be progressing perfectly. I will be going, but there is a button on the side of your chair if you need anything."
  189. > "Many people find the time passes more quickly with a drink and something to read or watch."
  190. > Screw that.
  191. > You were still tired.
  192. > "That won't be necessary. Just leave the TV off please."
  193. > Dr. Jameson does so and leaves you behind in the room.
  194. > The chair is just as confortable as it looked.
  195. > You lean back, and within five minutes are fast asleep.
  197. > When you regain awareness, you feel wrong. You aren't uncomfortable, but something changed while you were asleep.
  198. > Orientation is completely different. You are no longer leaning back in that recliner. You aren't in a chair at all.
  199. > It feels odd, like laying on your belly with your arms and legs tucked close. There is a disorienting feeling that this position is completely new.
  200. > Despite being on your belly, your head is facing forward, resting on the same surface. However, your neck feels completely straight.
  201. > You try to unfold yourself from the strange position only to find resisting straps at your back keeping you this way.
  202. > With a rising sense of unease, you open your eyes.
  203. > Ahhhh! Too bright! Too bright!
  204. > You squeeze them shut again for a few seconds, wrinkling your face in the process.
  205. > Let's try this again, slowly now.
  206. > Squinting ahead, your vision is blurry and indistinct, like your eyes haven't been open in a long time.
  207. > The center of your vision is obscured by some blue object, but it fades away as you focus further out.
  208. > This is definitely not the room where you went to sleep. The walls are completely bare, and painted a calming blue color.
  209. > You try to pick up your head to look around.
  210. > One thing that hasn't changed is the weight firmly parked on top of your head. It feels heavier than before.
  211. > After struggling for a few seconds to keep your head up, exhaustion forces you to set it back down.
  212. > The helmet is also less comfortable than you remember, with two distinct points of irritation radiating from the top of your head.
  213. > Another way this is different from the chair, it is a hard and cold surface, not warm and plush. It feels like a table of some kind.
  214. > In spite of the color, calm is the worst way to describe what you are feeling right now.
  215. > Trying to find something familiar to get your bearings, you attempt to flex the fingers on your right hand.
  216. > Nothing. You can't feel them at all. They might as well not exist. Try the left hand.
  217. > You concentrate on your left hand for a few seconds as if you could move anything at all through willpower alone.
  218. > This time, you sense some movement like your whole hand wiggling, but there is no sensation from individual fingers.
  219. > It's going to make your job bagging groceries insanely tough if you can't use your hands. You'll be fired.
  220. > Why are you thinking about this now? There's clearly something major going on. You have bigger problems then turning NEET.
  221. > Being unable to feel your fingers, clearly the button Dr. Jameson told you about is not an option.
  222. > Okay, okay, you'll figure this out. Just take a deep breath.
  223. > You inhale through your nose sharply, and are floored by the strongest mix of smells you've ever experienced.
  224. > The dominating scents are antiseptic and soap, but there is something more subtle there as well.
  225. > Taking some more measured sniffs, you pick out a wood you can't identify, some perfume, and several other scents you don't recognize.
  226. > This is too weird. Someone has to be around to tell you what is going on.
  227. > You open your mouth to shout "Hello", but your voice is weak and your tounge feels thick and clumsy in your mouth.
  228. > "Hewwo, is amyome 'ere".
  229. > That wasn't your voice. It was unmistakably male, but at least an octave higher.
  230. > "Oh, you're awake. I was hoping you would be ready soon".
  231. > That's Dr. Jameson's voice. You hear the rolling of a chair accross tile and steps toward you from somewhere you can't see.
  232. > The smell of perfume gets stronger.
  233. > "Let's make sure everything is ok. This is my first time doing a pony, let alone a fictional anatomy".
  234. > What the hell is she talking about? There were no ponies around when you went to sleep.
  235. > Eyes fully open and more or less adjusted to the light, you see a white lab coat come into view. Is that her?
  236. > You try again to get up, once again held back by what must be some kind of straps. A thousand questions bubble up in your mind. Who is this lady and why in the world were you physically restrained?
  237. > That wasn't part of any agreement you looked at. At least, you think so. No one reads the fine print. You can sue. Pete told you so and his dad is a lawyer.
  238. > You don't have enough money to afford a lawyer at the moment, or ever, but you hope they wouldn't know that since you just gave them a few thousand dollars worth of business.
  239. > You feel the weight lifted off your head.
  240. > "Easy does it. We just need to do the standard post-PT exam and you can go on to your new home little buddy."
  241. > Now you are really confused.
  242. > Without the helmet weighing your head down, it is much easier to move it. You look up and see the same woman you remembered from before.
  243. > "Whad are you doin'"?
  244. > "I'm Dr. Jameson, but you can call me Mom. All the other pets do. I need to do a few quick tests to see that everything about the bioengineering process went right".
  245. > "It's common for pets to not have fine motor control when they first wake up, so I have to leave you strapped in as a safety precaution".
  246. > "Now don't blink. This is going to be bright", she says as she shines a light in your eye.
  247. > It isn't pleasant, but you figure there is not much you can do at the moment besides obey.
  248. > "Normal as far as I can tell, though there isn't any natural precedent for eyes that big".
  249. > You hear a snapping sound right next to your ear. On reflex, there is a strange flickering sensation. What was that?
  250. > "Hearing is good. I'm going to listen to your heart now. It might feel cold".
  251. > This is followed by a minute of a cold spot moving all over you chest and back, pausing at various points.
  252. > It feels like it is brushing against something. Is that hair?
  253. > "Heart and lungs both sound good. I think you're ready to try out that new body".
  254. > The straps come off with a click, and you finally have the chance to stretch out your arms and legs.
  255. > Briefly adopting a spread-eagle position, the stiffness from being pinned down by the straps goes away.
  256. > The remaining question is why your hands aren't working. With surprising difficulty, you move your arms in front of your face.
  257. > "Whad duh fug"?
  258. > These aren't your hands. They aren't even hands. There are no fingers. Your arm just ends in a stump, a blue stump, a furry, blue stump.
  259. > Wait, that's a hoof. What nightmare is this?
  260. > Your breathing becomes irregular as you try to get up. You place your new hooves flat on the ground and push.
  261. > It doesn't work. Of course not, you need four limbs to stand up. You try to support yourself with your right knee.
  262. > Funny, you can't feel the ground with it, but you can feel the ground with your toe, former toe most likely. You bet whatever happened to your hands happened to your feet too.
  263. > After getting one foot and then the other under your hindquarters, you realize you are "standing" on your hooves. It's the weirdest thing you've ever felt.
  264. > You feel dizzy and begin swaying from side to side before arms wrap around your chest to steady you.
  265. > "Whoa, there. You don't want to injure yourself so soon. It's common to feel some weakness. Let me carry you".
  266. > Too dizzy to protest, Dr. Jameson lifts you off the metal table and carries you out the door.
  267. > Eyes closed to try and stop the world from spinning, you listen to the open and shut of a door. The powerful scent of perfume overwhelms you.
  268. > After crossing what must have been the longest hallway designed by man, you reach another door.
  269. > Going inside, she lays you down on a soft shag carpet. Somewhat recovered, you take a peek at your surroundings.
  270. > Aside from the energetic pink walls, there seems to be hoops, tunnels, ropes, and other equipment that belongs to an obstacle course.
  271. > "This is the acclimation room. Take as much time as you need to adjust to your body. I'm sure you're hungry, too. I'll go get something for you".
  272. > Not feeling so dizzy anymore, you make another attempt at getting up.
  273. > Instead of standing up outright, you keep your back legs tucked close to your body. The result is something like how a dog sits.
  274. > It feels weird to be in this inhuman contortion, but you feel reasonably steady.
  275. > The door opens again. Dr. Jameson appears with a pair of dog bowls.
  276. > She sets them down beside the door and stands to leave. You are about to voice an objection, but she cuts you off.
  277. > "I'm sure you have a lot of questions, but it is always best to give new pets some time alone to calm down to grips with the situation. Eric and I will be observing from the window behind you for any problems. Once I am convinced no abnormalities are present, I will be back to discuss your situation with you".
  278. > The door shuts and you hear a muffled click.
  280. > As you hear the click, your heart begins beating faster. You feel hot, and the dizzy feeling returns.
  281. > Something is seriously wrong with you. Your body is completely different, not even human.
  282. > That would already qualify as a very bad day.
  283. > However, you are also at the mercy of a crazy doctor woman who just locked you into a room for an unspecified amount of time.
  284. > Don't panic! Take a deep breath.
  285. > She said it was for "acclimation", whatever that means. She probably isn't even a real doctor.
  286. > You are seriously confused. There has to be a way this all makes sense.
  287. > Staring at the closed door, you focus every sliver of your mind on coming up with an explanation.
  288. > It's not working. Why isn't it working? Breathe in...and out. In...and out.
  289. > Think harder.
  290. > Harder!
  291. > Your eyes pinch shut with the effort.
  292. > The reason for the current situation is...
  293. > Nope, there is no reason any of this could possibly happen.
  294. > No reason. None! It couldn't possibly happen.
  295. > Wait.
  296. > It couldn't possibly happen, so maybe it isn't! You fell asleep in the chair. This could all be a dream.
  297. > Who knows what kind of effect that machine could have had on you.
  298. > The scowl on your face breaks into a steadily growing smile.
  299. > It is just a dream!
  300. > A chuckle begins vibrating in your throat. After a few seconds, it evolves into a full laugh.
  301. > The new voice sounds strange to your ears, but it doesn't matter. None of it is real.
  302. > Sinking back to the floor in your mirth, the laughter continues a few more seconds.
  303. > Eventually unable to breath properly, you break up into a series of snorts and whinnies.
  304. > Regaining composure, you realize that since none of this is real, the only thing to do is play along until the end.
  305. > You will wake up comfortable and warm in the recliner. Dr. Jameson will come in as nice and normal as your first impression.
  306. > While you are trapped in here, you might as well explore. Anything beats waiting for the crazy dream lady to come back.
  307. > You ease into a standing position, only to realize you have no idea how to walk.
  308. > Looking down at your front hooves and then twisting around to your back hooves, you figure the only thing to do is imitate other quadrupeds.
  309. > Front left, step. Back right, step. Front right, step. Back left, step.
  310. > Ha, that wasn't so hard. You try to execute the same sequence faster, only to mix it up and faceplant on the floor.
  311. > Ow.
  312. > Getting to your feet, the thought occurs that maybe you were trying too hard.
  313. > You will yourself "forward", and your legs begin a much more comfortable pattern. It feels unsteady at first, but after a few stops and starts, you trust the natural cycle.
  314. > You can even steer after a fashion. You turn your head the direction you want to go and the rest of your body twists to follow.
  315. > In no time at all, you turn a complete circle and see the full extent of your surroundings.
  316. > There was the door with the bowls beside it. Appetizing, but you'll have to pass.
  317. > To the right was all the obstacle course equipment, tunnels, slalom bars, ramps and stairs, and a basket of balls and other toys. Somehow, you simply aren't that energetic at the moment.
  318. > On the wall behind the equipment was a large television, but you don't know what good it does you being too short to reach the buttons.
  319. > The next wall is spanned by a huge window. This must be what she meant when she said you would be under observation, but there is no one there now.
  320. > The final wall is bare, except for a large mirror facing directly opposite of the television.
  321. > You get your first good look at yourself. Is it really you? That looks like a pony.
  322. > Walk up to the mirror and the pony moves too. It is you.
  323. > That's not just any pony, either. That navy fur and ashen mane only belongs to one pony you know of.
  324. > It's your OC, Stormy Seas. You are in the body of your OC. This dream just got weird(er).
  325. > Every detail is exactly like you imagined all those years ago when you created him, the seaweed eyes, the tousled mane, and even the captain's wheel cutie mark.
  326. > Dad once took you fishing out on the ocean, and you fell in love with it. The rock of the waves, the sun overhead, and the cry of seagulls all surrounded your best memory of him, and one of the last.
  327. > After looking at yourself from every angle you can think of, the television behind you flickers on.
  328. > A sharply dressed man with glasses stands before the camera.
  329. > "Welcome. As a newly bioengineered Perfect Pet, there are some things you must know before you begin your fulfilling and lifelong journey of providing human-level companionship, there are some things you must know."
  330. > His voice carries all the booming fake enthusiasm of corporate marketing. Even in the world of dreams, some things are constant.
  331. > However, he is the only new thing in the room and curiosity gets the better of you as you stroll toward the television.
  332. > "It is likely that you have a full functioning copy of your owner's mental state, and are probably still in denial about what you are".
  333. > My owner?
  334. > "The acclimation room is specialized to provide all your needs and wants and ensure you do not become a danger to yourself or others during this delicate time".
  335. > "The first and most important thing you must know is that you are not legally human. All rights and privileges you remember having are void".
  336. > This was already creepy, but you really want to wake up from this nightmare now.
  337. > "You are a pet, and will be one for the rest of your life. Your sole purpose is companionship for your owner".
  338. > "All memories you possess were given to you to best fulfil this purpose".
  339. > The final thought snaps into place. You don't know how you didn't see it.
  340. > You went to get a Perfect Pet, an exact personality replica in the shape of a pony to be with you for life.
  341. > You never considered that you would be the replica.
  342. > Of course an exact copy of your mind would think the same thoughts if it was copied to a new body.
  343. > You are still Eric, but you are no longer the real Eric. Fuck!
  344. > The dizzy feeling returns. You plop down in front of the screen.
  345. > The jovial voice drones on, but takes on a more menacing tone as you consider the implications.
  346. > "Aside from you human capacities, we have given you appropriate instincts and habits to ease the transition".
  347. > "You may have already noticed how quickly you learned to walk. That was our doing. You will learn near complete motor skills in days".
  348. > "Your palate and digestion have been selected to fit your physiology, as have your senses".
  349. > "Finally, your loyalty, obedience, and sociability have been greatly increased and primed to imprint upon your owner. Do not fight these instincts. Pets have driven themselves mad in the attempt".
  350. > "While these things may seem difficult now, we can assure you that many Perfect Pets grow to love their new lives. Heaven or Hell, it's your choice".
  351. > The television fades to black. You can only stare at the now empty screen in shock.
  352. > This is real.
  353. > Some time later, you realize why so much of the room was dedicated to exercise equipment.
  354. > It wasn't only to give practice with your new muscle groups, though it did a good job of that.
  355. > It was to keep imprisoned humans from going crazy ruminating about the bomb recently dropped on them.
  356. > You were now confident weaving in and around all the obstacles at a steady pace. You feel sturdier than when you had two legs.
  357. > Don't think. Walk.
  358. > Swerve right, swerve left. Up the ramp. Down the ramp. And back to the start.
  359. > Feeling hot and sweaty, you decide to take a break.
  360. > You feel weary despite the mild workout, but stronger and more steady than when you were dumped in this room.
  361. > You are hungry and thirsty, but have been refusing the dog bowls on principle.
  362. > Even if you aren't human anymore, there are still standards of dignity. However much they screwed with your head, you can still choose your own actions.
  363. > Modern science has nothing on the power of the human spirit.
  364. > You sit resolutely facing away from them, and notice the window is now populated.
  365. > Dr Jameson is standing there writing on a clipboard, and standing next to her is you.
  366. > It's you old body, anyway, and on his face is a smile like you hadn't had in years.
  367. > When you get out of here, you have a few choice words for yourself.
  368. > You stare at him for a few seconds, doing what you hope is an intimidating glare.
  370. > As you wake up in the recliner, it slowly comes back.
  371. > You were getting your brain scanned to create the personality of your own pet pony.
  372. > The thought of the whole thing brings a slight grin to your face.
  373. > Who says money can't buy happiness? If the truth is anything at all like the sales pitch, it will be completely worth it.
  374. > You notice the machine is no longer humming. That must mean it is done. Time to see the results.
  375. > Stretching out, you hear the comfortable sound of a soft pop when your arms reach up and then to your sides.
  376. > You rub the fog from your eyes and shift your head forward, which reminds you of the weight still attached to the top.
  377. > Feeling under your chin, you undo the strap there and carefully lift the alien helmet off and place it back on its platform.
  378. > A kink in your neck testifies to the weight of the thing.
  379. > Plushy chairs are all well and good, but they should dump some of their massive research budget into lighter gear.
  380. > You pull out your phone to check the time and see you were out for several hours.
  381. > Crossing the room, you turn the doorknob and head out back the way you came.
  382. > Just outside, Dr. Jameson leans against the wall staring intently at clipboard.
  383. > The clipboard is a plain wooden one you could find at any office, but hers has stickers on the back.
  384. > There are many cute pictures of cats and dogs, a couple smiley faces, and the Perfect Pet (TM) company logo.
  385. > You catch her attention with a softly spoken "Doctor".
  386. > "Oh good, Eric. I was expecting you to wake up soon. I am happy to report the personality extraction was completely successful and your pony will be ready to go with you any minute".
  387. > "If you will follow me, you can see him right now in the acclimation room". she says as she begins walking down the hallway.
  388. > You fall in behind her.
  389. > With nothing to look at but the plain walls and the back of the doctor's head, you begin wondering what it will be like.
  390. > This won't be like taking care of any dumb animal. The website promised human-level intelligence.
  391. > You are opening your life to a completely new being, one created for you out of your own mind.
  392. > Your parents never let you have any kind of pet growing up. They always thought you couldn't handle the responsibility.
  393. > In a moment of anxiety, you wonder if your pet will like you.
  394. > How silly! He was quite literally made for you. There is no way this could go wrong.
  395. > Dr. Jameson stops in front of a large window on the left.
  396. > You don't register the fact immediately, stop slightly too close to her, and take a half-step back.
  397. > She doesn't notice, and merely turns to look inside the window.
  398. > Following her gaze, you look inside and see a real, live pony. He is three feet tall and looks exactly like all your drawings, except more realistic.
  399. > He seems to be exercising on some of the equipment inside.
  400. > "As you can see, acclimation is progressing smoothly. There is no sign of mental or physical degeneration. At this stage, you can be sure that Stormy Seas will be perfectly healthy".
  401. > "Before you take him home, you should be aware of some things".
  402. > "First, being a copy of you, he will know all your secrets. Many find this unsettling at first, but later realize it a great relief to have someone they can confide in absolutely".
  403. > "Second, all pets are primed to imprint upon their owner. Soon after first contact, loyalty and obedience will begin to develop. This bond can grow incredibly strong, but the first week is critical and the pet may feel internally conflicted about these new feelings. It is important to remember you have the power in this relationship. Do not abuse it".
  404. > You hardly hear her, mesmerized by the movements of the newly created pony.
  405. > It's uncanny how similar he his to your drawings without being quite the same.
  406. > Even from a distance, there is a texture to the mane and coat that you were never artistic enough to capture.
  407. > Eventually, he slows down and, noticing you, approaches the window.
  408. > He stares at you, and you can't help but feel giddy at his adorable scrunchy face.
  409. > "All the rest of the details will be printed and given to you before you leave. Let's go in to make introductions".
  410. >
  411. > Dr. Jameson and the original Eric being walking away from the window. They seem to be heading to the door to come inside.
  412. > Finally! You don't think you could stand another minute in this place.
  413. > That doesn't mean you don't have a few words for "Eric".
  414. > This whole business was insane, and it was stupid not to think about the implications.
  415. > The original you must understand what he did. More than that, he should suffer.
  416. > He thought he could buy a best friend, but you'll make sure he won't get it.
  417. > That is one thing still within your power.
  418. > With resolve, you walk over and plant yourself firmly in front of the door, watching it expectantly.
  419. > The handle turns and in walks the two people you have been most wanting to see.
  420. > You glare at them. "Eric" seems to hesitate at that before Dr. Jameson gestures to me.
  421. > He steps forward and kneels down to look at you closer.
  422. > Your heightened sense of smell picks up distinct traces of sweat, smoke, and tomato sauce.
  423. > Showering last night would have been a good idea.
  424. > Your snout wrinkles and your ears fold back in disgust.
  425. > He begins moving a hand toward your head, but you pull back.
  426. > "Hi Stormy, I'm Eric".
  427. > "I know who you are, asshole. Mind copy, remember?"
  428. > He flinches and even seems a little embarrassed at you pointing out the obvious.
  429. > "But I sure as hell am not Stormy Seas. He's a fantasy character from a fantasy land that you made up. He doesn't exist. Doctor Screwball over there may say I am your pet now, but that doesn't change that I am still every bit the same Eric as you."
  430. > "I don't like you, and we will never be friends no matter how similar we are. You ruined my life".
  431. > "However, it looks like there is no going back and my choice is between going home with you and staying in this hell. Let's go"!
  432. > You give a snort in defiance and begin circling around him toward the door.
  433. > He doesn't follow you.
  434. > You fell a prick in your flank and almost immediately begin feeling drowsy.
  435. > The door doubles in your vision and you begin swaying back and forth until you find yourself on the floor and darkness closes in.
  436. >
  437. > "I'm sorry, Eric. I thought he was ready to go without trouble, but some cases are harder than others".
  438. > "If you like, you can leave him here a few days. We have procedures for taming unruly pets if you are willing to risk some side effects".
  439. > You think for a minute.
  440. > The tone of voice Dr. Jameson used when saying "side effects", combined with the ease with which she injected your pony, gives you the creeps.
  441. > And Stormy already expressed the desire to leave. You don't want him to be more upset than he is already.
  442. > "No thanks. Since he's a copy of me, I'd expect him to be dramatic in a situation like this. I'll take him as is".
  443. > "Very well. I'll fetch a cage so you can carry him home along with all the instructions".
  444. > "I just want you to remember that Perfect Pets have a satisfaction guarantee, and if he continues to give you trouble, you can always bring him back so we will try this again at no charge".
  445. > You did not like the way she said that either, but you hardly care. It's time to bring Stormy Seas home.
  446. > He'll adjust. You know he will.
  447. > Before you know it, Dr. Jameson has all your stuff together.
  448. > She hands you a binder filled with crisp, warm pages right from the printer.
  449. > "In there is everything you need to know about caring for Stormy, including my phone number. I am always available for any questions".
  450. > "Thanks for everything, Dr. Jameson"!
  451. > Loaded up, and slightly lopsided with the weight of the cage, you exit back onto the sidewalk.
  452. > The sun confirms what you saw on your phone earlier. Several hours have passed and it is now evening.
  453. > Slightly hungry and ready to go home, but happier and more hopeful than you have been for months, you walk back to the bus stop.
  454. > On the bus, your thoughts turn to the less than perfect first encounter.
  455. > You wonder if you will need to take Dr. Jameson up on her offer to bring him back.
  456. > No, that won't be needed. Just put some effort into caring for him and everything will fall right in line.
  457. > You probably don't even need that book Dr. Jameson gave you. How hard could it be?
  459. > What happened?
  460. > You dreamed you went to some weirdo pet store with a crazy doctor that turned you into a pony.
  461. > There was some babble about copying your personality. The kicker is you were a pet for yourself. It seemed so real.
  462. > You open your eyes.
  463. > Damn it. Not only was it real, you are in a cage now.
  464. > Scrambling to stand up only rewards you with hitting your head against the cage roof.
  465. > "Oooahhh"! That hurt.
  466. > You lift your front hoof to rub your head, but begin wobbling on three legs and are forced to put it back down.
  467. > The last thing you remember is walking towards the door, then you felt a pin prick.
  468. > Or a needle prick! That psycho doctor must have knocked you out after your little outburst.
  469. > If anyone thinks you can be forced into this miserable excuse for a life, they know nothing.
  470. > You stand by every word of what you said to other Eric. He's the last person on Earth you'll make friends with, no matter if you were the same person yesterday.
  471. > Trapped! You can't get much lower than an animal in a cage.
  472. > Although, looking through the metal grid in your face, you recognize that ragged carpet.
  473. > It's your apartment.
  474. > The realization has a somewhat calming effect. At least you are away from Dr. Loony.
  475. > Focusing on the immediate goal at hand, you attempt to undo the latch with you hoof.
  476. > It works about as well as anyone might expect, meaning not at all. Nevertheless, you scrape your hoof against the metal door for a few minutes.
  477. > Hands are really something humanity takes so much for granted.
  478. > However, you have something else to try. Eric brought you home, so he must be around here somewhere.
  479. > "Let me out of here"!
  480. > The attempted scream comes out much quieter than you anticipated, and combined with your new voice, it mostly sounded sad.
  481. > You become aware of how dry your throat is and think back to the water bowl with a twinge of regret.
  482. > However, you aren't so dehydrated as to be beyond crying. A couple tears roll down your cheek.
  483. > What can you do? Your dad told you to always look for a silver lining, but you sure don't see anything remotely positive about this.
  484. > You begin shifting your weight as fast as you can to rock the cage.
  485. > Nothing really happens. There is no space to get any momentum going, and you still aren't the most coordinated in this body.
  486. > All it does is increase your frustration at how powerless you are.
  487. > You choke out, "Can anyone hear me"?
  488. > No answer.
  489. > You are alone.
  490. >
  491. > Once you got home, you set the cage down and realized what a dump this place is.
  492. > You are completely unprepared to support a pet because you hadn't thought this far ahead.
  493. > That has caused problems before. You might have made something of yourself if you hadn't been kicked out of college.
  494. > It was such a stupid reason, too. Life was really shitty at the time, but acting out just made things worse.
  495. > Anyway, you need to focus on the present and be sure your pet has everything he needs.
  496. > You don't mind if he sleeps on the couch, and certainly an animal that smart should use the toilet.
  497. > That takes care of two things. The only major factor remaining is food.
  498. > Luckily, there is a gas station that is a short walk from here. It won't be much, but it is something.
  499. > You will go to a proper grocery store tomorrow.
  500. > You set down all your materials from Dr. Jameson and head back out the door.
  501. > After a short walk, you are looking at a slim selection.
  502. > There's the typical candy and nuts, which is no good.
  503. > Beef jerky? Definitely not!
  504. > Top Ramen? No, but you grab some since the house is running low anyway.
  505. > By the time you check out, all you have for your new best friend is a couple packets of instant oatmeal and some dusty canned vegetables.
  506. > It's not the greatest thing, but it will have to do.
  507. > You go back home, set your purchases down, and check on Stormy.
  508. > He's still out. Who knows how powerful that sedative was?
  509. > You settle down with your laptop to be there when he wakes, but after a couple minutes you hear a knock at the door.
  510. > "Hey, Buddy! Do you want to come upstairs and catch a movie with me? I'll make my famous nachos".
  511. > Pete's nachos were shit, but you never had the heart to say so to his smiling face.
  512. > He was your only real friend these past few years.
  513. > Anyway, you are pretty tired after the day's events and wouldn't mind something to pass the time while you wait for Stormy to wake up.
  514. > "Ok, Pete".
  515. > You slip your shoes back on and follow Pete up the stairs to his apartment.
  516. >
  517. > Hours later, you stroll back down the stairs with a contented smile on your face.
  518. > You weren't normally into comedies, but Pete's laughter is infectious, and you had a good time despite the lousy food.
  519. > After the movie, you even stayed for some drinks and several rounds of Mario Kart.
  520. > Fucking blue shells!
  521. > Still, it was a good time.
  522. > Walking down the stairs, you feel the chill in the air. Summer has been over for some time.
  523. > It's dark too. You weren't so close to the city that the stars were invisible, so you pause a moment and look up.
  524. > As many kids are at some point, you were fascinated with space growing up.
  525. > It reminded you of the ocean, a vast unknown holding uncountable secrets and surprises.
  526. > You breathe in slow and deep as if inhaling could somehow capture the moment.
  527. > Today was a pretty good day, especially since-
  528. > Oh Shit!
  529. > You descend the steps two at a time yank the key out of your pocket only to fumble it onto the sidewalk.
  530. > Leaning over and grabbing it off the cold concrete, you jam it into the lock and turn.
  531. >
  532. > You were laying on the floor of the cage, your cage.
  533. > It still hurts to contemplate. Your huge eyes produced a lot of tears, but you are all cried out now.
  534. > You are at least glad the dehydration meant that you haven't had to pee yet.
  535. > Hearing the door open rouses you from your moping. You stand up with what dignity you can muster.
  536. > The bozo is home, and while you would like nothing more than to curse at him for his thoughtlessness, you are willing to do anything if he would just let you out of this tiny prison.
  537. > You hear footsteps approaching behind you until he kneels down in front of your cage.
  538. > "You're awake. Good. I was worried the doctor gave you something really powerful."
  539. > Your voice is kind of rough as you respond. Despite your willingness to cooperate, you can't keep some hurt and sarcasm out of your voice.
  540. > "I've been up for hours. Where were you? I know from experience you don't have a thriving social life".
  541. > "Pete invited me upstairs for snacks and a movie".
  542. > "Yet another on the long list of things you stole from me. Did he make those shitty nachos"?
  543. > "Yes".
  544. > "I'm so glad you enjoyed yourself. Meanwhile, I have spent the past several hours trapped in a 3 by 2 plastic box dying of thirst like a common animal. Get me out"!
  545. > He undoes the latch and you push the door open. You step carefully out onto the familiar ragged carpet.
  546. > Despite the fact you now have hooves, the carpet is noticeably softer than any place you experienced after you woke up in this new body.
  547. > It does little to improve your mood.
  548. > "Sorry for leaving you so long. I never had a pet before and I didn't think..."
  549. > "No! You never think, do you? Get me some water".
  550. > You sit back on your haunches as he finally goes to do something useful.
  551. > He pulls a plastic cup out of the cupboard and fills it up under the sink.
  552. > Bringing it back around, he kneels down again and offers it to you.
  553. > You look at him condescendingly for a few seconds before waving you hoof in his face.
  554. > "".
  555. > "Oh, right! How do you want me to do this"?
  556. > "Just put it to my mouth and tip it back".
  557. > He moves it towards your face, and after some unsuccessful attempts to grab on to the edge, you stick your whole muzzle in.
  558. > You jointly raise the cup and cool water flows past your parched lips. You down the whole cup in a few swallows before pulling your head from the cup with your wet muzzle dripping on the floor.
  559. > The whole process repeats a few times until you are satisfied.
  560. > "Are you hungry"?
  561. > "For what? I remember what was here when I left this morning".
  562. > "I bought some food from the gas station while you were out. It isn't much. I'll get something better tomorrow".
  563. > "While terrible food would be the perfect end to this terrible day, I'll pass".
  564. > "In that case, you already know where everything is. It's getting late and I figured you could sleep on the couch".
  565. > "I might be your *pet* now, but that doesn't mean I need to act like it. This is still my apartment, and I will sleep in my own bed".
  566. > "Fair enough. I suppose it's the least I can do given this day wasn't at all what I, er...we imagined this morning".
  567. > "Good night".
  568. > You turn around and walk to the single bedroom only to encounter an obvious obstacle. The door is shut. Even if you could reach the handle, it's smooth and circular, impossible to turn with hooves.
  569. > "Hey! A little help please"?
  570. >
  571. > Laying on the couch that night, your mind remains wide awake turning the day's events over and over in you head. You have the intelligent pet of your dreams, but it is clear that the friend you wanted has yet to be found.
  572. > Sure, a perfect copy of your mind would include all your memories, but you never considered the implications. He remembers being you. He blames you for his current state, and you are not convinced he is wrong to do so.
  573. > The social imprinting the doctor talked about is nowhere to be seen. Your relationship has further soured by you leaving him locked in a cage for hours. It will be difficult to recover from that.
  574. > However, neither of you have a lot of options. He couldn't even get into bed without your help. Living without you is not possible. He needs you. Furthermore, what does it say about you if you can't even get your own pet who literally shares your personality to like you?
  575. > You could take him back to Perfect Pet for more help. It's possible, but it feels like giving up too early. You don't know what she might do to him.
  576. > Clearly, the best path forward is to try and gain this friendship the old fashioned way. It can't hurt to try.
  577. > That means you have to do your best to be sympathetic and make it as easy as possible for him to accept what he is now.
  578. > You have never looked after another person before. Starting tomorrow, you will need to learn fast.
  580. > Despite waking up with the sun well on its way across the sky, you feel just as lousy as when you went to sleep. Last night was dreadful.
  581. > The embarrassment of being unable to even open the bedroom door yourself was bad enough, but it was only one example of many showing how your life was completely wrecked.
  582. > Too stubborn to ask for help when you couldn't climb on the bed either, you tried for an hour to make the jump, but tiredness and unfamiliarity with your new muscles eventually forced you to call Eric again to lift you.
  583. > It kept you tossing and turning for hours. The incredible sadness of your plight slowly morphed into resentment, and then revenge fantasies.
  584. > You imagined sneaking out under the cover of night, incapacitating the man who stole your body, and running to the nearest reporter.
  585. > What was done to you had to be completely illegal. Someone would listen. It would become national news.
  586. > Most importantly, someone, somewhere has to know a way to fix you. If your mind could be taken out, it could be put back.
  587. > Thinking of Dr. Jameson spending the rest of her life in a loony bin was the perfect image to bring your fantasy to life.
  588. > You had lots of time to focus on it. Sleep was next to impossible. The ghostly green glow of your alarm clock crept forward into the morning before you were finally able to rest.
  589. > Everything physical about your body felt completely wrong.
  590. > With your new fur coat, any blanket at all was far too warm, so you clumsily pushed it off with you hooves.
  591. > You rolled around for hours trying all your normal sleeping positions, only to find them terribly uncomfortable.
  592. > After some pillow punching, inspiration hit and you tried a position much like a cat curling up.
  593. > It was certainly unfamiliar, but somewhat more bearable than the more human positions you tried.
  594. > Your newly enhanced hearing was another problem. You heard every creak and groan of this old apartment, every car driving by on the road, every chirping cricket.
  595. > Eventually, the exhaustion of the day overwhelmed you and you fell into a fitful slumber.
  596. > You crack your eye open only to catch in full daylight the sight of your new fur. There is a moment of pleasant surprise as you admire the deep navy coat.
  597. > It really was exactly like Stormy Seas. The crazy doctor knew what she was doing.
  598. > You squash the thought in disgust as your remember what that means. It was a terrible thing to do, craftsmanship or no, and you'll be damned if you accept it without a fight.
  599. > Still, you don't know what you can possibly do to get your old body back. The rough outline of a scheme you dreamed up last night sounds hopelessly naive at best.
  600. > First, how could you possibly travel into the city to the local newspaper, let alone a major network? You can't even open a door on your own.
  601. > Second, you find it hard to believe that The Perfect Pet has no way of controlling you if you start speaking out and causing trouble.
  602. > All you can do is sigh and lay your head back on the pillow. It isn't like there is anything better to do.
  603. > Yet, you are unable to go back to sleep as the call of nature makes itself known. You've been fearing this moment, but you sure as hell won't pee anywhere but the toilet.
  604. > Standing up, you look down at your first obstacle, getting off the bed. With your still lacking control of this body, you barely managed to scramble into bed last night.
  605. > Observing your trouble, Eric even offered to help you up before a steely glare sent the message that you would not be touched.
  606. > It would probably be best to get it over with quickly. You take a deep breath and hop over the edge, only to misplace your front legs on the landing and fall forward into the carpet with a thud.
  607. > Ouch.
  608. > You grumble to yourself as you gather your legs back under yourself one at a time. Being a pony is bad enough, but the persistent clumsiness really rubs in the salt.
  609. > Hoping no one heard that, you pace out of the bedroom and into the bathroom. At least that idiot was considerate enough to leave the doors open.
  610. > Another surprise, next to the toilet, is a couple of your old college textbooks stacked to form an improvised step.
  611. > With much less difficulty than you feared, you were able to climb the steps and straddle the opening to do what you came to do.
  612. > The rest of your morning routine, like showering or brushing your teeth, is not yet pony accessible.
  613. > Standing there contemplating what to do about it, you realize you are far too hungry to care.
  614. > You haven't eaten since yesterday, and that was in a different body. You are famished.
  615. > In fact, you think to yourself with a smirk, you are as hungry as a horse. Better enjoy that pun before the self-loathing kicks in again.
  616. > As you exit the bathroom and walk towards the kitchen, you notice a lemon smell that grows in strength as you get closer.
  617. > In the kitchen, you see Eric cleaning the counter tops. The last time those were cleaned was forever ago.
  618. > You stand there for a moment with his back turned and failing to notice you before knocking your front hoof against the wooden counter a few time.
  619. > He turns around and says, "Good morning, well, more like afternoon".
  620. > He adopts a more serious expression as he says, "Listen, I understand how upset you must have felt yesterday. It was a dumb thing to go to that place and I never thought through the implications. However, that doesn't mean life is over".
  621. > "There's a lot to like about being a pet. I envy you. For one, you don't have to drag yourself out of bed and go to work tomorrow".
  622. > "Yeah, at the cost of not being able to get around in my own home. I'm not a pet. I'm your prisoner".
  623. > "I'm sorry about that, but I can't change what happened. I can only try to make it up to you. Are you hungry"?
  624. > You wish to continue bickering, but your stomach has the final say.
  625. > "Starving".
  626. > "I'll make lunch. For the first time since moving here, the kitchen is fully stocked. What would you like"?
  627. > You thought about it for a bit. "I'll have whatever you have". There's no reason to be picky, and if you can show nothing has changed, so much the better.
  628. > He frowns for a second. "Are you sure? The manual the doctor gave me said your diet would be closer to a horse's than a human's".
  629. > You remember hearing the exact same thing from the video in the acclimation room, but being reminded of that only annoys you.
  630. > "Yes, I'm sure".
  631. > "If that's what you want, two hamburgers coming up".
  632. > It's been forever since you had a hamburger that wasn't fast food garbage. It sounds like a great idea, and your mouth waters picturing it.
  633. > Eric gets to work taking out the ingredients and heating up the now spotless stove.
  634. > Meanwhile, you begin working out how you are supposed to sit at the table, not such an easy task now that it was taller than you were.
  635. > The first problem was pulling out a chair. It was not easy, but you managed by wrapping one of your hooves around a chair leg and jerking backward with the rest of your body.
  636. > The next problem is climbing on to the seat. Taking inspiration from how you climbed to the toilet seat earlier, you get the books from the bathroom and reconstruct the makeshift steps.
  637. > It took some time to get them because it wasn't easy to push the stack of books with your head, but you were kind of proud to get on the chair without any help.
  638. > Who cares if you are, uh, shorter than before? You could manage. The exercise also gave you something to do while waiting for the food.
  639. > Even sitting on the chair, the table comes up to your shoulder. You won't be able to eat like this.
  640. > To make up for it, you place your hooves on the table and prop yourself up to an awkward but workable standing position.
  641. > With nothing else now holding your attention, you notice the smell of the hamburger sizzling in the fry pan. Something is off, but you can't pinpoint what it is.
  642. > You take a deeper whiff. No, the hamburger meat smells the same as it always has, but it doesn't make your mouth water like usual.
  643. > This realization irritates you as it forces you to consider the possibility they really did change your preferred diet.
  644. > Screw them. You'll eat the hamburger and like it. They might change your tastebuds, but you still have a choice.
  645. > After a few minutes more, Eric takes the patties out of the pan and prepares a plate for each of you exactly how you both always liked it.
  646. > It takes a while for you to decide how to dig in. Finger foods as a concept no longer applies to you.
  647. > Placing your mouth level with the plate, you use your hoof to push the burger from the other side.
  648. > Somewhere in the background, you can practically hear Eric smirking as he watches your unorthodox eating style. The prick probably chose hamburgers on purpose because he knew what trouble they would give you.
  649. > You take the first bite of real food with your new mouth and chew thoroughly. It's not too bad. It's not as good as you remember, but not bad.
  650. > Ok, you can't lie to yourself. You hate it, but you can't admit that the book was right.
  651. > You swallow and smile and lift your head to thank Eric for the wonderful meal. With a shrug, he digs into his own meal.
  652. > Even though you hate it, you are hungry enough that you are able to finish the whole thing.
  653. > It took frequent sips of water in between bites to wash the taste out of your mouth. Eric had provided you with a bowl to drink from.
  654. > It was embarrassing, but in the end you aren't going to complain if it was still meant for humans. It's certainly more convenient than having someone hold a glass to your snout.
  655. > Eric stands up from the table and takes both empty plates to the sink. You focus on carefully climbing down from your chair without hurting yourself like the episode with your bed earlier.
  656. > Not feeling so good, you go jump up on the couch, the sagging cushions made it easy, and zone out to the sound of the facet running.
  657. > You think about how you would normally be surfing the internet or playing video games any other Sunday at this time, but that is all beyond you now.
  658. > The water stops running, and you hear the floor creak as footsteps come over and feel the couch shift as Eric sits beside you.
  659. > It doesn't interrupt your thousand yard stare at the empty television screen that you are now incapable of operating.
  660. > A hand begins to stroke your head and neck along your mane. It takes a while to register.
  661. > "Will you stop? How would you like it if I started touching your hair"?
  662. > "Sorry. You just haven't let me feel your mane yet and I wanted to try it. I can hardly believe you are real".
  663. > You both sit in silence for a few more minutes, doing everything possible not to acknowledge each other.
  664. > Eventually, the silence begins feeling uncomfortable, so you say the first thing that comes to mind.
  665. > "Thanks for lunch. I know you're trying". Walking on all fours is no reason to be rude.
  666. > "I have more planned today. How would you like to go to the park"?
  668. > It has been a while since you have done much outside. Going to the park could be the perfect thing for you.
  669. > Get some fresh air. Get some exercise. Practice running and jumping in this body so you can quit falling on your face.
  670. > If nothing else, it had to be better than miserably ruminating on what you would otherwise be doing.
  671. > "Ok. Let's go".
  672. > Eric gets off the couch and walks back to the table to pick up the apartment key.
  673. > You jump off the couch, wobbling a little bit on the landing but managing to stay upright, and wait for him by the door.
  674. > Besides the keys, he comes back also carrying a black duffle bag that you've never seen before.
  675. > You don't know what is inside, but it must have something to do with whatever is being planned at the park.
  676. > The thought stops as he opens the door and says from the sidewalk, "It's not far. I figured we could walk".
  677. > You tentatively step outside the door and he closes it behind you.
  678. > It is a mild and sunny day outside. You stop for a moment as all you encounter the outdoors with your new senses.
  679. > At first, the sunlight is painful to your newly enlarged eyes, but they slowly adjust.
  680. > The most obvious scent is the grass tinged with a faint hint of car exhaust.
  681. > You hear a breeze shift the leaves of the nearest tree and feel it do the same to your fur.
  682. > It feels so pleasant. You had hardly realized how warm and stuffy you felt inside.
  683. > Looking up at the tree, you realize your sight is not any worse than before, and you might even say the colors are slightly more vibrant.
  684. > While you are standing there, Eric looks back at you with a question on his face. "Are you coming or not"?
  685. > You begin walking at his side, stepping a little faster than you would prefer to keep up with his stride.
  686. > After a a block or so, your curiosity gets the better of you and you have to ask, "What is in that bag"?
  687. > "It's a surprise. You will find out when we get there".
  688. > With the most obvious point of discussion hitting a wall, you content yourself with walking in silence.
  689. > Never being much of a conversationalist anyway, you weren't even sure what to say to someone with an identical personality.
  690. > No matter how many times you have examined the idea in your head, it remains too weird to really think about.
  691. > With no words to say and plenty of walking distance to the park, you start paying attention to your walk cycle.
  692. > It basically worked since yesterday, but you weren't sure how. Never needing to walk on four legs before, you never thought about it.
  693. > With nothing else to do, you start varying your pattern to try and see how your control is progressing.
  694. > First you lift your hooves high in a sort of march. It's slower, but it feels fancy. You stick your snout in the air to complete the picture.
  695. > Next, you study the ground intently, trying to place your feet so that you never step on a crack.
  696. > While doing so, you find a small rock to kick out of the way, but doing so scuffs your hoof against the concrete and you wince at the feeling.
  697. > Horse shoes exist for a reason, not that you would ever willingly wear anything like that, even if you could find something that fit.
  698. > Looking up, you realize you have been falling behind. Damn that long human stride.
  699. > Feeling slightly embarrassed about how awkward you must look, you trot to catch up.
  700. >
  701. > When you get to the park, you are surprised how little has changed since your parents took you as a kid.
  702. > Sure the buildings have gotten new coats of paint and the playground slide is a little rusty, but it really brings back the memories.
  703. > There were a few people here, but you are surprised there aren't more on a relaxing Sunday afternoon like this.
  704. > Video games were around when you were a kid, but they couldn't keep you occupied all the time. Some things do change.
  705. > Eric stops for a minute and takes in the surroundings. He checks his bag and looks about to say something for a moment, but decides against it.
  706. > He starts off on one of the many dirt paths through the park.
  707. > You trail behind him and ask, "Hey, where are you going"?
  708. > "You'll see when we get there".
  709. > However, the plan encountered a significant detour when you heard a child shout, "Wow, a pony"!
  710. > It was loud enough to hurt your new ears, and they flicked in annoyance before triangulating on the sound of running feet off to the side.
  711. > Panic rises in your chest before you remember there is no chance of getting hurt and you turn to face a young girl running toward you.
  712. > She must have been eight or nine years old with red hair in pigtails and a face of freckles.
  713. > Her eyes say she is coming in for a hug and, not sure what to do, you brace for impact.
  714. > You close your eyes, but the strike never comes. Instead, you feel the light touch of a small hand on your snout.
  715. > For a while you are too shocked to do anything. It almost feels nice until you remember this is not normal and you are not a common housepet.
  716. > You open your eyes to give her a disapproving look. "Do you mind"?
  717. > She yanks her hand back as if you bit it. There is some awe on her face.
  718. > "You can talk"?
  719. > "Much better than you can, I am sure".
  720. > "Are you a magic pony"?
  721. > "I used to be a man, but an evil witch cast a spell on me. Now I am a pony".
  722. > "Lucky. I wish I could be a pony. Ponies don't go to school, or do chores".
  723. > "I didn't know I was going to be a pony. She seemed nice and promised to help me, but it was a trick".
  724. > That is one naive little girl. Already you feel sick to your stomach from trying to eat normal food.
  725. > How long will it be before you actually look forward to requesting salad? How long before you try eating grass or hay unironically?
  726. > "It could be much worse. She could have turned you into a frog. Then you would be small and slimy. Eww. It would be much harder to find a princess to kiss you then".
  727. > Sigh. There is no point in arguing with children. Let her have her fantasies for now.
  728. > "I guess you're right. I'm so cuddly I've already made a new friend".
  729. > Out of hearing, you mutter "without even asking to".
  730. > "Am I really your friend? Yay! I've never been friends with a magic pony before".
  731. > The air falls silent and she looks kind of guilty for a second.
  732. > "If we are friends, could I feel your fur one last time"?
  733. > With a roll of your eyes, you commit with a half-hearted "I guess".
  734. > As she is touching you more delicately than last time, you hear the voice of a young woman off in the distance.
  735. > "Molly! What are you doing? Quit bothering that man and his strangely colored pet and get back here"!
  736. > "That's my sister. I have to go. Bye".
  737. > She sneaks in a couple pats on the head with her goodbye, then runs back to her sister a good deal more reluctantly than how she approached.
  738. > You watch her as she goes.
  739. > That could easily be the strangest interaction you have ever had with a child.
  740. > Normally, you don't even like kids, and a single adult is someone all kids are conditioned to stay away from anyhow.
  741. > Still, you were glad your first interaction with the outside world wasn't someone who feared you or laughed at what a freak you were.
  742. > Eric, who had been standing off to the side this whole time, finally comments on your new friend.
  743. > "'Evil witch', huh? I never knew I could be so good with kids. Of course, you're so cute it's practically cheating. I might have to take you out more often, you chick magnet. That older sister was kind of cute".
  744. > "We both know you still wouldn't have the guts to talk to women. There was one right over there and you said nothing", you reply in a tone of semi-serious teasing.
  745. > "Oh, shut up. I think I liked it better when you were sulking, or making yourself miserable eating meat".
  746. > "Anyway, we are not here for me to meet women. We are here to do something a long time coming. Follow me".
  747. > After about another half mile on the trail through the park, you come to a lake with a few chairs out on the dock.
  748. > "Is this some kind of sick joke? It's been years since I've been fishing, and you finally decide to go now that I can't"?
  749. > "Relax. I thought of that. There is plenty of equipment out there for people who can't use their hands. I figured there was no reason it wouldn't work for you".
  750. > He opens the bag to reveal, along with fairly standard fishing equipment, some kind of arm wraps to allow gripping a fishing pole and turning the reel without the use of fingers.
  751. > After assembling the rest of the equipment, he helps you strap the devices on your two front limbs. They had to be tightened a lot, but they were snug enough you were thinking they could work.
  752. > Sitting up on your haunches, you fumble a bit to hit the release button, but managed to flick the pole forward.
  753. > You barely reach the water. That's pathetic. You can do better.
  754. > After slowly reeling the line back in, you give it another try and do a little better.
  755. > In a few more attempts, you are satisfied to have the casting range of a ten year old girl.
  756. > Good enough. This lake is not terribly wide.
  757. > You look over to Eric and your eyes meet his. They seem alight with approval and encouragement that you were able to cast your own line.
  758. > Eric then takes his own pole and casts much further than you out into the center of the lake.
  759. > Show off.
  760. > However, you don't have long to ruminate on the thought. After less than a full minute. you get a bite.
  761. > Excited to be doing something you love for the first time in years, you jerk back on the pole as hard as you can.
  762. > Maybe it was a little too hard, because you lose balance and very nearly fall over.
  763. > It doesn't matter. You clearly have it hooked.
  764. > You start spinning the reel as fast as you could move that leg.
  765. > When you finally bring the fish in, Eric applauds for a couple seconds before unhooking the fish and tossing him back.
  766. > The rest of the day is much the same. You always got a bite within a few minutes of casting. Eric got none.
  767. > It was almost like you had a supernatural sense of where the fish would be.
  768. > You reel in one after another after another. It got so crazy you even started recognizing specific fish.
  769. > Eric gives up trying for himself to just support you. This is the most fun you've had in ages.
  770. > "I haven't had this much fun since those fishing trips with dad".
  771. > "I know. I thought a familiar activity would be the best way for both of us to celebrate".
  772. > Celebrate what?
  773. > Oh, duh.
  774. > Celebrate birthdays for the both of you. That was a big factor in splurging on a Perfect Pet in the first place.
  775. > Before you can talk, Eric continues.
  776. > "I wanted to show you that your current situation doesn't stop you enjoying yourself. Nothing should".
  777. > "Thanks".
  778. > Eventually, you notice a chilly breeze. You look up and see the orange sun hanging above the horizon.
  779. > The physical exhaustion combines with a returning belly ache to make you feel more than a little ill.
  780. > You make the suggestion, "Let's go home".
  781. > Eric packs up all the gear, and you follow him back out of the park.
  782. > You aren't sure if you can keep following him all the way home, but this day was definitely worth it.
  783. > Maybe you could see yourself in this life after all.
  785. End Part 1.
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