RichAnon

Ponality

Sep 12th, 2017
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  1. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2.  
  3. This story is based off of the following prompt, written by an anonymous user in the PTFG threads:
  4.  
  5. ">IT'S THE FUTURE!!!1!!
  6. >You and your friends are heading over to the VRcade to play
  7. >You're the last to get into your pod, and you're hyped for some testosterone-fueled action with your bros
  8. >The lid closes, the machine whirs to life, and you're transported to the corpse-strewn battlefields of-
  9. >...a bedroom?
  10. >The door bursts open, and about half a dozen pastel-colored foals rush in towards you
  11. >"Mommy!"
  12. >"G'morning, Mom!"
  13. >"Mooom!"
  14. >As they jump up on the bed to snuggle into you, you notice that you're also a horse
  15. >A heavily pregnant horse
  16. "W-what?"
  17. >Your voice is soft and feminine
  18. >A masculine chuckle catches your attention
  19. >A large stallion is watching from the doorway with a lopsided smirk
  20. >He swaggers towards you, and your heart skips a beat
  21. >You don't feel threatened by the him, but for some reason you feel really intimidated
  22. >He gently brushes his hoof along your muzzle, and you whimper
  23. >"I don't get it. How can you keep gettin' more and more beautiful every day?"
  24. >Before you can say anything, he presses his lips against yours
  25. >Sparks course down your spine as he kisses you, paralysing you
  26. >When you don't kiss back, he pulls away almost as confused as you
  27. >"...You ain't Nick, are you?"
  28. >You shake your head
  29. >He smiles
  30. >"Must'a been a mixup on the outside. Well, if you like what you saw here, there's always room in the herd~"
  31. >Suddenly you're back in the pod, and a voice from the outside calls out to you
  32. >"Sorry, I loaded the wrong program! Here you go!"
  33. >You're thrust into the game alongside your friends, but you're still thrown for a loop
  34. >You're too distracted thinking about what happened to be much help to them
  35. >You apologize for your sub-par playing as you all split up and head home
  36. >No matter how hard you try, you can't get it out of your head
  37. >While tossing and turning in bed, you give in to your curiosity and call the VRcade operator to schedule a private session
  38. >You'll just pop in, figure out what that shit was all about, and pop back out."
  39.  
  40. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  41.  
  42.  
  43.  
  44. Ponality
  45.  
  46.  
  47. >An electronic “ding” echoed throughout the empty, early morning VRcade as you stepped through its entrance
  48. >What’s generally a lively place was oddly reminiscent of a ghost town at this hour.
  49. >You’d never been here this early before, and you were kind of hoping your curiosity would be tamed enough to render this the first and last time.
  50. >Ever since that little ‘mishap’ at the VRcade a couple days ago, your emotions and thoughts haven’t been able to readjust.
  51. >Too many questions were left unanswered, so today you hoped to mend that by having scheduled a private morning session to see what that game you accidentally… experienced, was all about.
  52. >As you tentatively made your way toward the front counter of the eerily still VRcade, you hear a door click open from somewhere beyond, followed by the screeching of lazy tennis shoes shimmying on tile
  53. >You wait in an awkward silence for a few seconds before the current guy on staff emerges from a hallway and takes his respective spot behind the counter.
  54. >There was an enigmatic expression on his face as he wore bloodshot eyes and smelt oddly similar to… skunk?
  55. >Judging by his appearance, there’s no question to what you were smelling… and you’re not surprised either.
  56. >”What’s up, man. You got a private session this morning or something?”
  57. “Yup.”
  58. >”Sick. What name’s it under?” he asks, pulling out a little tablet from the desk.
  59. “Uh, Anon. A-N-O-N.”
  60. >He takes a few moments to browse through the handheld, occasionally stopping to listlessly sip the energy at his side.
  61. >The dude was definitely blazed.
  62. >A sharp contrast in mood when compared to the anxious fidgeting of your fingers.
  63. >There was no logical reason for you to be as worked up as you were, but the emotions you felt during your very brief experience the other day have torn you apart since.
  64. >The prospect of facing it head-on was a little intimidating, as lame as it sounds.
  65. >Your questions might finally be offered some closure… or maybe they won’t?
  66. >What if last time was a fluke, and your experience today is nothing like it?
  67. >Maybe if you try to replicate last time’s scenario as best you can...
  68. >”Got it” the man’s voice reels your attention back to him. “I’ve got you scheduled for an hour on ‘Ponality’, is that correct?”
  69. >You respond with a curt nod.
  70. “That’s… the one with the colorful horses, right?”
  71. >”Yeah, man. It’s pretty fun.”
  72. >So he’s played it too? Well that alleviates at least one of your worries.
  73. >He motions for you to follow, and soon you’re led back to one of the pods located in a more secluded area of the building.
  74. >He runs you through the rules, as is routine, before helping you into the pod and closing it up.
  75. >”Remember, you’ll hear an alarm when you only have 5 minutes left. Got it?”
  76. “Mhm.”
  77. “Righteous. Have fun, man. See you in an hour.”
  78. >Following his conclusion, the pod is powered on and the world around you goes dark.
  79. >It stays dark for a few minutes while the game prepares to boot, and the silence elicits small bout of claustrophobic worries.
  80. >Thankfully, before you had the chance to work yourself into an unnecessary fit, a title screen consumes your vision.
  81. >”Welcome to Ponality! The world where pony reality, is your reality!” chirps an excited, pre-recorded, female voice.
  82. >Wow, that is… really vibrant.
  83. >You squint your eyes a little as they adjust to the bright colors.
  84. >”Since you’re new here, let’s run you through the basics! First, we’ll select a name for you to use in the pony world.”
  85. >Following the computer’s instruction, a little keyboard screen pops up for you to enter your name of choice.
  86. >What’s a good horse-y type name?
  87. >You have a few cousins that live out in the country, they have horses.
  88. >Hmm… you were going to be a girl horse again, right? You know, to mimic your last experience?
  89. >You remember one of your cousin’s mares being named “Holly”.
  90. >Sure, you’ll go with that.
  91. >You type in the name and click ‘continue’.
  92. >”Awesome! Now let’s customize your character! There are three races to choose from, and each has their own special perks and abilities. Be sure to read through each description to see which one best suits you!”
  93. >Scanning over your options, you see ‘Unicorn’, ‘Pegasus’, and ‘Earth’.
  94. >The pegasi can fly, and have lighter, thinner bones for flight, which, in turn, makes them more prone to injury.
  95. >Flying sounds cool, but you’d rather not bother with a body prone to breaking.
  96. >You’re not entirely sure how it affects you in game, but maybe you can change it down the line when you have more experience.
  97. >The unicorns can perform magic, like levitation and teleportation, but they require a lot more in terms of food and resources to power their high-maintenance bodies.
  98. >Eh, you don’t really want to be hunting down food all the time. You do that enough as a college student.
  99. >The Earth race is a happy medium from what you can tell.
  100. >They’re about as small as pegasi, but weigh a little more as their bodies are conditioned for the ground.Their only real downfall is their inability to fly or perform magic.
  101. >All around they seem like the best starting option, so you decide to go that route.
  102. >”Great! Now let’s customize your look!”
  103. >A big ole’ menu of options appears, and you basically have the freedom to change every little detail down to the size of your nostrils
  104. >First things first.
  105. >You hover over the gender tab and select “mare”.
  106. >Your model then switches to a smaller, more petite looking pony.
  107. >The muzzle is softened and less angular than the stallion’s, the rear is rounded into smooth curves, muscles are less visible, and more notably, her height is easily half a foot shorter.
  108. >Running through more customization options, you come across the color menu where you’re able to change the color scheme of your pony.
  109. >That’s pretty neat.
  110. >You decide to give her a grey coat with a sky blue mane and tail, it’s an easy palette that’s not too flashy or too dull.
  111. >You then compliment her features with dark blue eyes, emphasizing her modest color scheme.
  112. >When you get to the sizing options, you keep her on the smaller side of things, making her appear thinner and more frail than the default model.
  113. >After that there were a lot of ‘nitpicky’ options like “tail length” and “muzzle thickness”. You brush through these options pretty quickly considering you were already content with her appearance before finding them.
  114. >After about 15 minutes of customization, you’re satisfied with what you see, and so click ‘continue’.
  115. >The computer’s voice chimes back in.
  116. >”Love it! Looks like you’re ready to start playing! Give us a few minutes while we find you a server.”
  117. >With that, you’re brought to a small loading screen.
  118. >There are little tips that fade in and out of the screen while you wait, the current one talking about how to earn a ‘cutie mark’.
  119. >You think it’s like a tattoo, but on the butt?
  120. >You’ll have to look into it.
  121. >It takes longer than you expected, but eventually the program finds you a server and subsequently loads you in.
  122. >”Please remain still while we calibrate your body and link it to your pony” orders the voice.
  123. >You do as instructed and remain still.
  124. >The game takes a minute to scan you before you hear a happy “ding!”.
  125. >”Great! All looks good! Now next time you load in, you won’t have to worry about calibration. Remember: Never login to someone else’s pony profile. Linking with a pony that isn’t yours can be dangerous. Feel free to visit our website for more info. Now, hold still while we initialize the link.”
  126. >The pod begins humming loudly as the fans crank up their speed to account for the increased processing power the unit needs to perform a nervous system link.
  127. >You feel a sudden cold chill run down your spine as the game begins said link to your pony.
  128. >Your vision blurs and your nerves tingle as they start to register the feeling of fur against your skin.
  129. >You hold back a pained groan as the program readjusts your senses to fit that of the pony you’re about to control.
  130. >The link is very uncomfortable, painful even.
  131. >It’s not uncommon for VR games to feel slightly uncomfortable while they upload senses to your body, but this isn’t like any VR game you’ve played before.
  132. >It feels like you’re being shoved into the deep end of a swimming pool. The pressure around you builds and your ears begin to ring.
  133. >Everything is muffled, and you almost feel like you’re suffocating.
  134. >You aren’t sure if that’s the game or anxiety, but either way, it’s extremely off-putting.
  135. >Fortunately, it lasts all but a minute before the pressure is almost instantly released and you’re thrust into your pony body.
  136. >Without a moment to process the transition from human to horse, you fall from your initial standing position at spawn right onto your muzzle.
  137. >There’s a sharp pain that travels through the nerves of your head, and you can’t hold back the pitiful squeak that comes from your mouth.
  138. “Fuck me!” you bark.
  139. >...Then you freeze.
  140. >Your voice!
  141. >It’s… it’s.
  142. >Your intrigue with your new vocals is promptly halted as another gaming tip consumes the corner of your vision.
  143. >’Don’t forget to keep your balance! Four legs can be a difficult to adjustment. Take things slow and never try to walk like a human!’
  144. >Your raise one of your forelegs to rub a hoof at your still throbbing muzzle.
  145. >Gee, thanks for the tip, game.
  146. >At least the pain adds to the immersion. Focus on the positives, right?
  147. >Your ears swivel in the direction of a small chuckle in the distance.
  148. >You do your best to scramble back to all fours, a blush etched across your face as you realize someone just watched all of that.
  149. “Y-you didn’t see anything!” you yell.
  150. >Amidst your struggle to regain your balance, another gaming tip appears. This one reads, ‘To stand, use your forelegs and raise to a sitting position, then lift your hind legs to bring you back to all fours!’
  151. >You roll your eyes and follow the instructions. It might’ve been annoying to need coaching when all you were trying to do was answer a few simple questions you had about this game, but without the tips, those efforts might as well be moot.
  152. >”I’m sorry, but that was too cute to pretend it didn’t happen” you hear a voice draw close, accompanied by the growing volume of clopping hooves.
  153. >With more effort than you’d like to admit, you manage to stand yourself back up on all fours, giving you a clear view of the world around you. And...
  154. >...
  155. >Wow.
  156. >Everything was… vibrant.
  157. >Vibrant and alive.
  158. >The grass and foliage were in the height of bloom.
  159. >The landscape around you was brimming with life.
  160. >Brilliantly colored butterflies fluttered in every direction.
  161. >Birds chirped while the sound of a running creek occupied the empty spaces in-between.
  162. >The heat of a summer sun beat down on your fur, the warmth comfortably nestling itself within each strand of hair.
  163. >Every building from the town in the distance was adorned with some aspect of the natural world around it, offering this blissful feeling of co-existence with nature.
  164. >It was serene...
  165. >And it felt so real!
  166. >Why haven’t other VR developers achieved this sort of immersion?
  167. >This feels like the visual equivalent of ASMR.
  168. >Just glancing at the world around you is enough to send relaxed tingles through your nerves.
  169. >It was breathtaking…
  170. >This… This definitely answers another one of your questions.
  171. >Speaking of.
  172. >You glance down to look at the body of your pony.
  173. >Of all the VR games you’ve played before, never have you taken the role of a species that wasn’t human.
  174. >So naturally, it was odd, looking at yourself and seeing the limbs of a creature that was far from anything human.
  175. >For curiosity’s sake, and to ensure you wouldn’t lose your balance again, you rest yourself back on your haunches to get a better view.
  176. >Once comfortably seated, you raise a foreleg to level with your eyes and admire the new appendage.
  177. >You move it back, forth, up, and down.
  178. >Turn it around in small circles.
  179. >For a brief moment you’re even ballsy enough to lift both forelegs and collide either hoof together, eliciting a satisfying “clop!”.
  180. >This is so trippy…
  181. >Your gaze trails downward, and you begin studying your lower half.
  182. >It was the full package, alright. Minus an actual, uh, package.
  183. >Not that you were surprised, you DID choose mare, it just felt off.
  184. >Like, a small, adorable, female, horse creature shouldn’t be piloted by some weird college guy.
  185. >You attempted to briefly glance at the area, but didn’t have the heart to look for very long Partially because you weren’t sure what emotions it would conjure, and mostly because it would have been embarrassing.
  186. >Out in the middle of a spawn area, you weren’t sure who was watching…
  187. >Either way, the emptiness you felt was enough to assure you that there really was nothing there.
  188. >Maybe you’ll explore yourself in a little more depth later.
  189. >If there is a later.
  190. >You raise yourself to all fours once again, and as you do your peripheral vision soon takes priority as you note the dozens of ponies littered in every direction.
  191. >Huh.
  192. >How many people play this game again?
  193. >”I take it you’re new?”
  194. “Ah!”
  195. >The strange voice from earlier grasps your attention, and you whirl around to catch sight of the advancing stranger.
  196. “Er, uh. Yeah I ju-”
  197. >Words catch in your throat, however, as you find yourself nose-to-nose with the opposing stallion.
  198. >A cold chill runs down your spine, this one far different than the one you felt earlier.
  199. >H-How long has he been standing here?
  200. >With an embarrassed chuckle and bashful grin, you take a couple, unsteady steps away from him to create some distance.
  201. “I just wanted to see what this game was, uh… was about,” you explain.
  202. >He smiles.
  203. >”That’s where the addiction starts. I’m Cedar.”
  204. >Normally you’d expect to shake hands, but that wasn’t really an option. Not only because you didn’t have hands, but also because you definitely weren’t comfortable with testing your balance again. So instead, you awkwardly bat a hoof on the ground.
  205. “Ano-, uh.. Wait. Pony name or real name?”
  206. >”Generally, we stick to pony, but either works.”
  207. “Ah. Anon, then.”
  208. >You figured since you were just here answer questions, there was no need to envelop yourself in all the weird RP aspects.
  209. >”Nice to meet you, Anon.”
  210. “Likewise,” you respond halfheartedly. “So uh, what’s this game all about then?”
  211. >The stallion wordlessly wears his same grin before suddenly turning and trotting in the direction of a path, gesturing for you to follow.
  212. >Normally your ‘stranger danger’ alarms would be ringing, but this was just a video game, right?
  213. >That, and you weren’t a five year old.
  214. >”Let me show you around and I’ll explain.”
  215. >Eh, fuck it.
  216. >With an affirmative nod, you clumsily attempt to follow suit.
  217. >You do your best to keep up at his pace, but walking was quite strenuous on four legs, or at least for you it was.
  218. >Not only did the game leave the responsibility of learning how to walk as an equine solely up to you, but there were also realism aspects to the environment that made it even more difficult.
  219. >Like small pebbles along the path that would clump together beneath each step of your hoof, causing you to slip ever so slightly.
  220. >Or the frequent change in the path’s incline, constantly forcing you to readjust your balance.
  221. >It was like wearing high heels, except with four legs and a lot more audible.
  222. >You don’t make it very far from your starting point before Cedar starts speaking again.
  223. >”It’s mostly used as a means of roleplay,” he explains. “Though there are lots of quests and adventures to go on if you’re that type of gamer.”
  224. >You pass under a large archway that seems to mark the limits of a town not too far in the distance.
  225. >Aside from your minor slips and tumbles, he doesn’t really seem to notice your pathetic coordination. That, or he’s nice enough to not point it out.
  226. >You like to think as a gamer, you’re pretty decent at picking up a new game and getting used to it rather quickly.
  227. >But this game… the game’s definitely giving you a run for your money.
  228. >Who knew walking on four legs would be such a cluster fuck.
  229. >”I personally use it to make friends,” he continues. “Since I live in a more rural area for work, it’s a fun way to meet all sorts of ponies” he stops for a second then turns to face you, causing you to stop mid-step.
  230. >You do your best to pretend you’re not having the worst time and slap on a fake smile, your upper half clumsily fighting to keep itself from falling to the ground.
  231. >Thankfully, he seems to buy it.
  232. >”I suppose the best guidance I could offer would depend on why you’re playing in the first place?”
  233. >Oh gosh, how do you answer that?
  234. >Do you tell him the truth or the half-truth?
  235. >’Well I accidently loaded into someone else’s profile once and they were a super preggo mare with like nine foals and a stallion husband, so I figured I needed to try it myself.’
  236. >....
  237. >Definitely the half-truth.
  238. “I logged into a friend’s game once and wanted to see for myself.”
  239. >The stallion tilts his head.
  240. >”You logged into someone else’s profile?”
  241. “A friend’s, yeah.”
  242. >His grin slowly molds to a small frown, his expression seemingly turning to one of concern.
  243. >But he for some reason remains silent.
  244. “Is… that a bad thing?”
  245. >”Well it can be. You’re not supposed to log into another pony’s profile. Linking with someone else’s pony can have… adverse effects.”
  246. “W-well it wasn’t on purpose. The pod operator loaded the wrong game.”
  247. >He raises a brow and stares for a moment.
  248. >”I suppose as long as you’re feeling okay then there’s nothing to worry about, just be careful with it in the future,” his tone colored with suspicion. “And tell that pod operator to get his shit together. People like him give VR gaming a bad name.”
  249. >You think back to the operator in question, the scent cannabis still fresh in your memory.
  250. >Now that you think about it, it was his fault you were so curious about this game in the first place, and now you’ve gone and spent more money than you should have for a morning session to help remedy the emotions you’ve felt since.
  251. “...Noted.”
  252.  
  253. ------------------------
  254.  
  255. >You both continue to trot along the path, Cedar offering you brief explanations about aspects of the game as you do your best to totter closely behind.
  256. >Apparently this game goes a lot more in depth than you’d ever imagined.
  257. >If being able to literally be a pregnant mare with foals was of any indication, this game had functionality that stretched far beyond other virtual reality games currently on the market.
  258. >Which is odd considering you’ve only just recently heard about this game.
  259. >You’d figure that something with this much capability would be all over gaming forums and boards, but for some odd reason it’s very underground.
  260. >Sure, you did some googling prior to playing, hoping to get a better idea of what you were getting yourself into, but even results there were somewhat sparse. You could find basic information about the game, obviously, but googling something like “being a pregnant horse in ‘Ponality’” turned up with absolutely zero information.
  261. >Thankfully, you seemed to have someone within arm’s reach that could answer any question you had.
  262. >Speaking of…
  263. “Hey Cedar?” you inquire, your vocals emitting a melodious female tone that still catches you slightly off guard.
  264. >”What’s up?” he stops and turns toward you.
  265. “What’s uh.. what’s a cutie mark?”
  266. >Before verbalizing an answer, he rotates to his side and raises a hindleg to present you with a very intimate view of his flank.
  267. >You weren’t sure whether or not to be weirded out at first, but once your eyes spotted the ‘mark’ in question, your unease was quickly replaced by intrigue.
  268. >Huh, you were right. Butt tattoo.
  269. >”This is a cutie mark,” he affirms. “It’s basically like a permanent tattoo that appears once you’ve discovered a unique talent. I’m apparently gifted with helping other ponies, and my name is that of a tree’s, so my mark wound up being this heart made of leaves.”
  270. >You examine the mark for a few seconds, using the time to process his explanation.
  271. >The mark seems suspiciously personalized for the recipient...
  272. “Are all cutie marks different?”
  273. >”Well depending on your relation to some ponies, they can be similar, but yes, all cutie marks are different in one way or another.”
  274. >Holy wow…
  275. >Does this mean they have someone just constantly designing these things for the players behind the scenes? Or does the game generate them itself?
  276. >Either way, that’s some next-level shit.
  277. “Does everyone have a cutie mark?”
  278. >He shrugs, “Not everypony has one, but most do. If you play long enough, you’re destined to earn one at some point.”
  279. >Following his statement, he raises his brow questioningly.
  280. >”That is, if you plan on returning in the future?”
  281. >Well, you’ve only really answered a fraction of the questions you initially had. Not to mention all the emotions that still haven’t been given any sort of closure.
  282. >This was supposed to be a one-time thing, so you hoped there wouldn’t have to be the possibility of a “future”.
  283. >Or at least you wanted to make yourself stop hoping for any further relation with this game by giving yourself the “closure” you sought.
  284. >So naturally, to avoid spending anymore money catering to aimless emotions, the best way to dismiss your curiosities and feelings was to finish this here and now.
  285. “I uh, well. I never really planned on returning. I just came here to answer a few questions of mine since I couldn’t find them on google. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to g- AH!”
  286. >As if cued by your response, the sharp ringing of an alarm rattles your eardrums and causes you to nearly lose your stance.
  287. >If you had better coordination, you’d probably have jumped a good foot or two in fright.
  288. >Stifling the latter portion of your shriek, you slowly exhale a the pent up air in your lungs and realign your train of thought.
  289. “Holy christ…”
  290. >”You okay?”
  291. “Yeah, sorry. It’s just an alarm on my end telling me my session’s almost over.”
  292. >”How long do you have left?”
  293. “Like, five minutes.”
  294. >Cedar taps his chin in thought.
  295. >”Hmm... Well before you go, would you mind if I added you to my friend’s list? Should you decide you actually do want to hop on again, I’d like to get to know you better.”
  296. >Friend’s list, eh?
  297. >You suppose that this trip didn’t really accomplish much. If you really wanted answers, you’ll have to come back, and it might be nice to have someone around that knows the ropes.
  298. “I still have a lot of questions that need answering…” you state meekly.
  299. >He chuckles, ”I’ll take that as a yes.”
  300. >The two of you spend the next couple minutes wrapping things up with haste to beat the clock, all the while you’re still in disbelief that it’s actually been an entire hour.
  301. >There’s no way time, consciously, goes by that fast… is there?
  302. >Ten bucks says the VRcade is trying to jip you.
  303. >You don’t have any way of knowing for sure, considering you were pre-occupied the entire session.
  304. >Perhaps next time you could use the stopwatch on your phone to time the session and know for sure?
  305. >... Next time…
  306. >Once you’ve got all your final tasks squared away, Cedar bids you a kind farewell, waving his hoof in this adorable ‘bye-bye’ fashion.
  307. >You attempt to return the gesture, but your lack of coordination translates to a couple of clumsy fumbles and an awkward smile. So you play it off with a verbal farewell instead.
  308. “L-Later.”
  309. >He just laughs and rolls his eyes.
  310. >Promptly following your half-hearted send-off, your brain is overtaken by a disorienting haze as a bright light pierces your pupils.
  311. >Your muscles spasm a little as they register their return to human functionality.
  312. >There’s a subtle ringing in your ears as the disconnect from the virtual world causes them to desperately adapt to the sudden change in volume.
  313. >”Hey there, my dude,” the voice of the pod operator welcomes you back to the real world. “You have a good time?”
  314. >You rub your eyes with tightly clenched fists to rid your vision of its blur. Your body felt weak and in dire need of sugar.
  315. >This was usual protocol when exiting a VR pod, and would generally dissipate within a matter of seconds.
  316. >Thankfully, this pattern held true.
  317. >After regaining some sense of reality, you look upward and share an awkward stare with the operator standing above.
  318. “Uhhh, yeah. I guess.”
  319. >”You look pretty out of it. You must’a been into whatever you were doing.”
  320. >Without any prepared response, you silently step out of the pod and gather your things.
  321. >You weren’t sure what to make of what you were feeling right now. It was like the emotions you felt the first time you ‘played’, but renewed with an even stronger presence.
  322. >It felt almost as though you’d lost something, and losing it left a sort of depressing emptiness in your heart.
  323. >What the fuck is that game even.
  324. >”So, you wanna schedule another sesh’ or..?”
  325. >You turn to look back at the pod operator, carefully considering your response.
  326. >There was no real obligation for you to return, Anon.
  327. >You could easily just quit while you’re ahead. Let the emotions and curiosity fade with time. There’s no need to continuously pursue them in hopes of an instant resolution.
  328. >You’re well aware of the holes you dig yourself when you give into your youthful impatience, you don’t have to make that same mistake.
  329. >B-but… what if the questions never do go away? What if they linger forever?
  330. >Time heals all wounds, but you can’t stand the prospect of letting this remain a mystery in favor of letting everything return to normal.
  331. >What you felt was real, and the questions you have aren’t something to be forgotten.
  332. >There was no shame in pursuing knowledge over ignorance.
  333. >So what’ll it be..?
  334. >...
  335. >...
  336. “Yes, actually.”
  337. >He nods a knowing nod and pulls out a tablet from his hoodie’s pocket.
  338. >”When would you like to come back in?”
  339. >You ponder for a second.
  340. “Do you have any spots open tomorrow?”
  341. >”Of course. I can get you in at the same time if you’d like?”
  342. “...Yeah. Yeah, let’s do that.”
  343. >You whip out your phone to set an alarm again for tomorrow’s session, when you notice the time.
  344. >Thirty minutes until work.
  345. “Alright, I gotta get going. I’ll see you tomorrow…” you glance down at his nametag, “Devin.”
  346. >He gives you a little one-finger salute.
  347. >”See you then, my dude.”
  348. >Stepping out of the VRcade, you note the sun’s new position in the sky.
  349. >On a normal day, you’d find yourself in the middle of your morning commute at this hour. But thankfully, since you already found yourself downtown, it was only a short walk to the mall where you manned a little smoothie stand in the corner of its food court.
  350. >It was a simple job. You found it kinda entertaining when you were able to start blending shit in the super dank, industrial blenders, but it was still work. You didn’t dread it, but you weren’t too thrilled about being there either.
  351. >As you pass through the southern, employee entrance to the mall, you take a little detour along the way to stop by a cut-and-dry clothing store where your best friend, and one of three housemates, works.
  352. >His name was Donothan, but everyone close referred to him as “Dot”.
  353. >Approaching the store, you see the front entrance half sealed-off by its security gate. The mall didn’t open for another thirty minutes, so it didn’t ring any figurative or literal alarms when you nonchalantly slipped under the gate into the unopened store.
  354. >”Hey Anon!” the manager of the store calls out as you made your way through.
  355. >You were a familiar face around this hours, as you would often drop by to help out for the hell of it and shoot the shit with Dot before your shift started.
  356. >All the morning workers were always surprisingly chill in this place too, so it made for a nice environment.
  357. “Hiya Cara. Is Dot around?”
  358. >”Yup, he’s in the back sorting stock. Would you mind taking this back to him?”
  359. >She holds out a box and you happily relieve her of its weight by taking it into your own arms.
  360. “You got it.”
  361. >You make your way to the back of the store where you find Dot sorting through product.
  362. >Gently resting the box on a shelf behind him, you don’t have the chance to speak up before he’s already greeted you.
  363. >”Hey Anon.”
  364. “How do you always know when it’s me?”
  365. >He turns around in his swivel chair to face you.
  366. >”Magic,” he snorts. “So where were you this morning? I made waffles for the guys, but you weren’t home.”
  367. “Oh, right. I left the house early to uh… have a quick breakfast with.. My mom.”
  368. >You silently gulp, crossing figurative fingers in your mind as you hope he doesn’t notice your suspicious unease.
  369. >Thankfully, he seems to buy your blatant fabrication and returns his focus to work.
  370. >”I hope you told her I say hi.”
  371. “Duh. She loves you.”
  372. >He smiles, “I know. I’m awesome.”
  373. >You fiddle with your fingers for a moment as a small bout of wordlessness consumes the air.
  374. “S-so, uhh. Do you have any other plans for tomorrow morning also, orrr…?”
  375. >”Not... currently? Why, is something up?”
  376. “Er, no. Just might not be at the house tomorrow morning either.”
  377. >He seems unfazed by your proclamation.
  378. >”Oh, yeah no worries then. You won’t be missing anything.”
  379. >Good…
  380. >You wanted to raise as little suspicion as you could about your secret trips to the VRcade, lest you explain to your friends that you’ve been acting as a little girl horse in a game about pastel ponies.
  381. “Okay, cool. Well I gotta head off to start my shift. I’ll see you afterward, yeah?”
  382. >”Mmmhm.”
  383. “Sick. Later, Dot.”
  384. >”Later, Anon.”
  385. >The workday that follows is about as monotonous as any other. Entitled groups of tweens with nothing better to do clogging up the line for overpriced, blended fruit.
  386. >You do your best to keep your thoughts away from Ponality, but every attempt is fruitless.
  387. >It’s all you can think about, and as much as you try to convince yourself that it’s because of your “curiosity”, there’s a part of you that knows you’re just itching to explore that world even further
  388. >No one there knew who you were, and the capabilities of the game allowed to you completely rewrite yourself.
  389. >You had the chance to be a totally different person without the fear of being scrutinized or judged.
  390. >Not to mention all the friends you could potentially make in the process.
  391. >This prospect wouldn’t have excited you this much in the past, and there’s an alarm going off in your head telling you that these feelings aren’t normal, but you just don’t care at this point.
  392. >Maybe the closure you needed was that you WANT to play this game, and you WANT to do the things there you could never get away with in real life.
  393. >You shake your head in an effort to rid your mind of its thoughts.
  394. >Get a hold of yourself, Anon. This game cannot take precedence over your life.
  395. >Do whatever you need to do to get it out of your system, and shut it down.
  396. >Of all the things you have to worry about, this game should be at the absolute bottom or your list.
  397. >Or near the top, since you have to make the effort to get it out of your life, right?
  398. >Agh!
  399. >Your internal conflict causes the hours pass so painfully slow you swear you’d rather be watching paint dry.
  400. >It feels like an eternity has come and gone before the clock strikes five, and you’re finally relieved of your duties.
  401. >You wrap things up with haste, handing your shift off to a co-worker before darting away to the clothing store where Dot would be getting off soon.
  402. >To your relief, he was already waiting outside of the entrance by the time you rounded the corner.
  403. “Oh thank god,” you sigh.
  404. >He looks at you with concern.
  405. >”You alright? You look pale.”
  406. “I’m fine, just distract me. I had uh... A rough day.”
  407. >”You got it, friendo.”
  408. >The both of you exchange in conversation as you make your way to the parking garage. Sharing details about each other’s day and laughing away the negative experiences. It’s a nice little refresher after a day of being stuck in your head.
  409. >It doesn’t last long, though.
  410. >Once you’ve arrived at your cars, the both of you are forced to part ways for the short drive back home.
  411. >Normally you’d carpool, but the varying circumstance is self explanatory.
  412. >The evening at home is a quiet one. Your other roommates work night shifts, so when you and Dot are off, the others are just starting.
  413. >You weren’t very close with the other roommates, so it wasn’t really a big deal.
  414. >It still left the house eerily quiet, and you alone with your thoughts.
  415. >You’d bother Dot to distract you some more, but you’d rather not be a nuisance.
  416. >You just wish there was someway to get this damn game off of your mind, if only for a minute.
  417. >After it’s made obvious that, no matter what you do, you can’t stop yourself from fretting, you elect to just lie down and wait to fall asleep.
  418. >You were going to be up early tomorrow morning again anyway, might as well sleep a little earlier to make up for it.
  419. >It doesn’t come as easily as you’d hoped, but after a good hour of tossing and turning, your conscious self slowly begins to fade, and before sleep takes you in its entirety, there’s one last question that floats through your mind.
  420. >Why ponies?
  421.  
  422. ------------------------
  423.  
  424. >*DING DONG*
  425. >The VRcade’s entry chime upholds its former glory, echoing throughout the space to alert those within of a new visitor.
  426. >”Welcome back, Anon,” Devin greets as you step through the door.
  427. >You return a lazy wave.
  428. “Hey Devin.”
  429. >”Ponality again, right?”
  430. >You nod.
  431. >”You got it, boss. Follow me.”
  432. >The routine of entering your pod is the same as always and, after the many times you’ve been to the VRcade, a quick task.
  433. >It’s only a matter of seconds from walking through the entrance that you’re in a pod and Ponality is already loading up.
  434. >Your anticipation might be a little more amplified if you weren’t utterly shot for energy.
  435. >Last night wasn’t the best sleep you’ve ever had, but thankfully, it wasn’t the worst.
  436. >Without much time to waste, Ponality’s vibrance consumes your vision and the link to your pony begins once again.
  437. >”Welcome back!” the female voice exclaims. “Please hold still while we complete the link.”
  438. >Your nerves are subjected to the same alien feelings from before, but this time it wasn’t unexpected, so the link goes off without a hitch.
  439. >All your senses are transferred in the blink of an eye to the body of your pony, and much like yesterday, you fight to keep yourself standing on all four legs the moment you enter.
  440. >How are you ever going to get used to that?
  441. >Once you’ve got a handle on your balance, you shake away the odd feelings that lingered from the link, and take a gander at your surroundings.
  442. >Huh, looks like you spawned in the exact spot you left yesterday.
  443. >Convenient, you suppose.
  444. >You navigate yourself to a “Friend’s” tab and smile when you see a pony named ‘Cedar’ is indeed, online.
  445. >The real question is, how do you find hi-
  446. >”Hey, Anon.”
  447. >Well that was easy.
  448. >Closing the friend menu, you redirect your gaze to the stallion in question.
  449. “Hiya Cedar!” you chirp with a lot more excitement than you anticipated.
  450. >He doesn’t spare you of the embarrassment, as his face treats itself to a knowing grin.
  451. >”Excited to be back, yeah?”
  452. >You feel your cheeks flush as you realize the stark contrast in your behavior from yesterday to now, and the expression on Cedar’s face confirms it definitely hadn’t gone unnoticed.
  453. “I, er… Yeah I guess so,” you awkwardly scrape a hoof on the ground. “I’ve uh, just been antsy to--”
  454. >”To answer your all your questions, I know.”
  455. >You’re a bit taken aback by his interruption, but his misdirection offers you a chance to return the condescending grin.
  456. “No, actually. I’ve been antsy to get back on so I could start meeting ponies and exploring.”
  457. >He raises a brow.
  458. >”You seemed pretty determined to keep a hefty distance from this game last we spoke. I take it there was a change of heart?”
  459. “Yesterday was… a long day.”
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