The annual Pon-E festival is (not) a hive of degeneracy

Jan 25th, 2019
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  1. Ever since Pon-E first appeared, there have been certain stereotypes of its users floating around, and I'll readily admit that the title of this article, minus one small alteration, was the first thing I wrote once I had gotten my assignment.
  2. I met my photographer for the first time at the greyhound station. Beetle Magazine wanted us to get the "full picture" of the second yearly celebration of this so-called "wonder drug", and that was what we were going to do.
  3. Of course I had called him in advance to make sure that we were on the same page, and to my surprise we hit it off well enough.
  4. "I am George, good to meet you face to face," he re-introduced himself, offering me a handshake with a wide grin, his long greasy hair flapping in the hot wind and his beard specked with crumbs of his breakfast, the sling of his camera around his neck and its accessoires stowed in a bag slung over his shoulders. His ragged clothes and giant aviator sunglasses completed the look, this guy was all hippie.
  5. "Jim Woodsman," I replied as I shook his hand, "Good to know that the guys in charge have finally realized what kind of people I get along with."
  6. George's grin revealed tobacco stained teeth, and the smell of booze wafting out of his mouth told me that he had already started to get warmed up for the occasion.
  7. Hell, the bosses wanted the full experience, and we were going to deliver. The last week had been spent calling and visiting every dealer I knew, and if George had told me the truth when I had called him to confirm his readyness, he had done the same. We were stocked up on booze, weed, coke, acid, you name it, and we probably not only had it, but could supply your whole damn neighbourhood.
  8. We spent the time waiting for the bus getting to know each other a bit better. As it turned out, my new best friend had previously covered the ongoing jungle fighting on the Philipines and, just like me, he was experienced in the field of recreational narcotics.
  9. "You wouldn't believe it, man," he slurred into my ear as he passed the bottle of whiskey we were using to get into the right mood, "but what those little soldier chinks take all day, oh wow..."
  10. I emptied the rest of the bottle with a swig and nodded, sending spilled alcohol flying from my chin.
  11. Of course I knew. Being embedded with an infantry company on poppy-burning duty in Afghanistan teaches you a thing or two about how soldiers treat what they consider loot, and what they might do to keep the boredom between engagements at bay, and by all accounts the unit I had been at had been a fine part of the well-oiled and disciplined war machine of the military-industrial complex.
  12. The arrival of the bus brought our little conversation to a halt as a cloud of kicked up dust settled all over us.
  13. With a wide swing of my arm I sent the bottle flying across the street, were it hit a parked car and we entered the bus laughing like school boys, or perhaps junkies who got their fix.
  14. Inside, the air was even hotter. As we forced our way through the too-tight rows of seats and past collegekids who had already started the party in the bus, we started sweating in earnest.
  15. The kids were for the most part already high out of their minds. It was like a rave, but condensed on far too small an area. The wafting smells of tobacco and marijuana, sweat and urine and others, some familiar like old friends and others unknown even to veteran drug fiends such as ourselves assaulted our noses as George took a few first snapshots of the vehicles partying occupants.
  16. If the bus smelled like a shitty electric disco shortly before closing time, the passengers completed the impression. Wearing garish clothing in neon colours and adorned with glowsticks in the middle of the day, fucked up already and with hours of travel to look forward to, the kids seemed determined to make the most out of their trip. Music hammered through the passenger compartment and people stood, sat, danced and lay everywhere.
  17. On our way to the back of the bus, we passed a couple fucking right there, on the chewing gum encrusted floor, a sight George couldn't shoot enough pictures of once I pointed it out to him.
  18. Our seats weren't occupied, and as we slumped down onto them we quickly figured out why: what had seemed like simply a tasteless color pattern to my already addled mind had in fact been puke, doubtlessly expelled by one of the other passengers.
  19. I wished that I hadn't thrown away the bottle, so that I could crack the closest wannabe raver over the head with it and demand the one responsible to come forward, but George must have seen the murderous intent in my eyes, and before I could do something that might get us thrown off the bus (even if I highly doubt that such a thing was even possible), he grabbed me by the wrist and offered me a line of coke off a small travelling mirror.
  20. "Let it be, dude. We'll be in here for hours and come out stinking either way. No need to make it worse by agitating the natives. Let's just be glad we found our seats at all, alright?"
  22. The effect of his calming words was somewhat diminished by the need of shouting them into my ears for them to be audible over the general assault on the senses and good taste all around us, but they, alongside a nose of some damn decent coke, did what they were meant to, and for a moment I laid back in my seat while George took a line himself.
  23. By now, other passengers had taken notice of us, likely due to us not being dressed like a bunch of pride parade rejects.
  24. A skinny boy who couldn't have been much older than his late teens came stumbling over, eyes fixed on the cokemirror George was currently stowing.
  25. "Are you guys selling?" came the shouted question and because George was still busying himself with his backpack I took it upon myself to answer.
  26. "I have no idea what you are talking about," I flatly told him.
  27. "Oh come on, dude," he whined undeterred, "I saw you guys just now. Hell, your buddy still has the stuff in his beard."
  28. A sinkhole in the road almost threw him off balance and as I caught him I decided to start my research right here, right now.
  29. "Alright, how about this: You can have a line, but only after a short interview. Deal?"
  30. For just a moment, the boy looked at me as if I wasn't right in the head, but then there came a certain glint to his previously dull eyes, and his slurring voice gained new enthusiasm.
  31. "Oh shit, you are Jim Woodsman, right? Dude, I loved The Coke Report. Seriously, how did you even survive your research for that book?"
  32. I had him by the balls. There was nothing a self-professed fan like him wouldn't do for his Idol, and after a little more inane banter our interview could begin.
  33. Being the gentleman journalist that I am, I gave him my seat for our talk, ostensibly to allow George to get some good shots of him, but of course there was more to it. After all, the more of the puke stuck to him, the cleaner my seat for the coming hours would be. Of course he sat down without hesitation as soon as I turned on my recorder. True fans do things like that, and it is that kind of blind obsession that makes me think about buying a guard dog.
  35. Q: So why don't you tell us a bit about yourself? What's your name, where are you from?
  36. A: My name is Dave, and I am from Boston.
  37. Q: Boston, alright. Now, that's quite the distance, isn't it? I didn't think a lot of people would come this far for just a twenty-four hour festival.
  38. A: But it's the only festival of its kind, dude .I mean, come on. The best drug the world has to offer, legal one night only, in one location, once a year? Every thing else is just a bonus.
  39. Q: That's quite the interesting perspective, Dave. Tell me, are you travelling alone?
  40. A: Of course not. I am going with my fraternity. See all those guys with the glowsticks around? Alpha Gamma Theta for life!
  42. At this point, my interviewee started to slur more and more, so I decided to cut our talk short. No need to get my seat even dirtier. Dave stumbled off towards a group of his friends with a small bag of coke I handed him from the breastpocket of my hawaiian shirt, at times turning and waving like an old friend who goes on vacation.
  43. Once he had safely reached his friends and they loudly started talking amongst each other, I turned to George, eager to continue our own talk from the bus station, only to find that at some point during my talk with Dave he had managed to nod off despite the noise all around us.
  44. Perhaps he had the right idea. There was no appeal in interviewing more of the partying kids, and the main event was still to come. Still, to be able to relax in an environment such as this I needed a little help. Luckily, my friend Mister Acid volunteered, and soon I spent a good part of the trip having a friendly chat with a thumbleweed bush rolling alongside our bus as went down yellowbrickroad with two hundred miles an hour and the other passengers melted into an amorphous, heaving blob the color of expired cherry cool-aid.
  46. We arrived at our destination in the late afternoon, an old landfill in the desert that had formerly been used to dump old cars and, rumor had it, irradiated trash from nuke tests back in the fifties.
  47. Now, the area was fenced in with a colorful palisade, and as the doors of the bus opened, puking out a wave of party animals, empty bottles and air that smelled as if it had been bottled in a run-down jamaican brothel, I saw that there were security guards standing next to the gates of the festival area itself. We had been told that this was a de-facto lawless area, an experiment in anarchy, even the last vestige of the American dream. No one had mentioned guards or enforcers of any kind of law and order.
  48. George in tow, his camera at the ready, I made my way across the parking area over to one of the hired thugs who seemed like he might have been important, if only because he stood in the meagre shadow the palisade offered while his fellow pigs were busy reining in the newcomers. On the way, I turned on my recorder.
  50. Q: Hey, hey hey and good day sir. I am Jim Woodsman, writing for Beetle Magazine, and I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for our readers.
  51. A: I guess a little distraction won't hurt. (He lifts his dark blue basecap and scratches his sweaty scalp, then offers me the wet hand) Hank Kowalski is the name, security's my game.
  52. Q: (I pretend to laugh at his little rhyme as I shake his hand, and he squints a little as he can now make out some dried puke on the side of my pants my arm had previously obscured. George takes a photo) Good to meet you, Hank. Now, I came here under the assumption that this was some kind of anarchistic event. I didn't really expect a lot of security. Why don't you tell us a bit about what you and your guys are doing here?
  53. A: Well, Jim, you actually aren't all that much mistaken. After governor Roper's amnesty day policy was legitimized by the federal government and paved the way for this event last year, there has been a kind of anything goes atmosphere. But that only really extends to drug and alcohol use. With an event as big as this one, there are bound to be criminals trying to take advantage of the situation. We are here to prevent that.
  54. Q: So I take it that you were here last year as well. (He nods) Are you expecting a lot of work tonight?
  55. A: I am going to be honest with you here, Jim. It's not the people on the inside that worry me. Last year, despite what you might think, the crowd was pretty peaceful, and we expect it to be much the same this year. In case of emergencies, we have paramedics on standby and can even get your stomach pumped right here. No, what worries me are the protestors. You know the type, the religious crowd?
  56. Q: (I nod. I do have my experiences with the kind of people he is talking about)
  57. A: Anyways, last year they really threw a tantrum out here. Even brought in a preacher who tried to hold a sermon through a megaphone. Can you beleve that? We had to hose 'em down to get them to leave. Called what happened to Bono divine retribution.
  58. Q: (I remember the Bono affair. The singer of U2, reduced to a small horse by an overdose during a backstage party. The yellow press had been full of it for months, and it had been this event which brought the festival to Beetle's attention in the first place.) I think it's hardly divine retribution if it helps sell your music.
  59. A: That's what I think as well. Tell you what, if I didn't have to be standing here all night, I would check out their comeback concert.
  60. Q: U2 are having a concert tonight? That's news to me.
  61. A: Damn straight. Right here, later tonight. It's supposed to be a surprise, but you hear a lot of things as security. Rumor is they are starting at midnight, so if you get a place by the stage earlier you should be able to get some good shots for your report or whatever it is you write.
  63. I said my goodbyes to Hank, who had been surprisingly amicable for what was essentially a watered down cop, and we returned to the main gate. "You know, George said to me, "I must be really fucked up, because that sounded a hell of a lot like 'U2 comeback concert'"
  65. Once we had passed the palisade, we found ourselves in an enourmous expanse, covered in stalls and carts and caravans, selling everything you would expect from a festival. Merchandise of different bands as far as the eye could see, food and drink were on offer everywhere. The main difference to other festivals I had visited before was the even more brazenly open selling of drugs, most notably the insidious formula that lent the event its name. Still, as we made our way past all that and towards the stage erected at the center of the area, most of the people we saw were just that, people. There was the odd pony here and there, of course, and George took some more photos of the small equines, but they were still a small minority. I was puzzled. I had expected the area to be virtually crawling with the things, and after George was done taking a photo of a violet Pegasus that sold band t-shirts at a stall, I swallowed my discomfort and turned on my recorder once more.
  67. Q: Excuse me, miss. Jim Woodsman is my name, my friend here and I work for Beetle Magazine. You seem like you might know a thing or two about how things work around here, so I was wondering if I might ask you a few questions
  68. A: (She looks me up and down, as if gauging the believeability of me being a reporter. Then, she smiles) Sure, there isnt' a lot of business going on yet, and publicity never hurt anyone, right? You can call me Grace, what do you want to know?
  69. Q: I couldn't help but notice that there aren't a lot of, well, ponies around for an event that markets itself entirely based around the availability of Pon-e. Is there any deeper reason for that?
  70. A: Oh, I think most folks will just take their dose when there's more going on later. You know, to make the most out of their twelve hours.
  71. Q: Yet you are already on the stuff. I assume for marketing purposes?
  72. A: (Her polite smile turns a bit uncomfortable and as she absentmindedly drags a hoof through her mane I make out the glint of a piercing near the base of her ear. The sight is so surreal to me that her answer barely registers) Actually, I don't have a choice. This is kind of a touchy subject for me, but I actually OD'ed about a year and a half ago.
  74. I nodded, but I wasn't really there, still staring at the stud in her ear as I hastily thanked her for her time and turned to leave. As we walked away, George's voice penetrated the haze in my mind.
  75. "'You are already on the stuff'? What kind of question is that, Jim? Are you feeling alright?"
  76. I kept trudging along, unable to stop my robotic walking. With a lot of effort, I turned my head towards my photographer, who was doing his best to keep pace despite the weight of his equipment. He had his sunglasses pushed up onto his forehead, and the concern visible in his surprisingly young eyes made me all but fly towards him, and grabbing him by the arms I managed to stammer out something like: "That horse had an earring, George. That fucking talking horse had a fucking earring." There was an irrational sense of fear that piercing caused me and I had to sit down, back leaned against a booth, desperate vision fixed on my photographer.
  77. "Was it even real, George? Tell me you saw it too."
  78. The talking thumbleweed from the bus was back, assuring me that it, at least, had seen the pony and its piercing as well, but I didn't want its input right now.
  79. George sat down opposite from me. The look he gave me was still one of worry. Behind him others walked by, but to me they seemed like moray eels that walked on land, bathed in sunlight that changed colors like a lavalamp.
  80. "Hey, It's all good, man," George's raspy voice assured me, "I've seen her too. It's not in your head, she's really back there." I was still sniffing, but his reassurance helped me calm down somewhat.
  81. "It's just the piercing, you know?" I sniffed, "That used to be a human, and now it's just some kind of weird, fucked up animal. What kind of stuff does that to someone?"
  82. "I don't know Jim. But all in all, she seemed pretty happy. Pretty cute too."
  83. For a while we just sat there while I calmed down and the sun dried my tears. When I signalled that I was ready to go, George pulle me to my feet.
  84. "Better?" I nodded. "Must've been all the stuff we've been taking acting up. I didn't even have breakfast before we started."
  86. We decided that we would be better off once we had gotten something to eat and established some foundations for the night ahead of us, so we went to check out what the festival had to offer on the culinary side of things. In one corner we found what might be generously called a food court, an assortment of all kinds of stalls and snack carts. There was no lack of food to choose from: Pizza and burgers, gyros and kebabs, corndogs and fried butter and more were all offered. We had landed in a veritable fat man's paradise.
  87. We settled for some greasy cheeseburgers and I took some xanax while I ate. The distinct taste of old grease and brown salad covered in the melted sheet of whatever plastic passes for cheese on fast food these days didn't do much for my rumbling stomach, but at least my anxiety continued to fade.
  88. By now, the sun had started to set and the area filled with people. It seemed like every subculture was there, punks partying alongside metalheads, ravers like the fraternity from the bus, and scattered between them, almost lost in the crowd, the occasional old hippie or seemingly perfectly average everyman. It seemed as if they had the time of their lives, but I felt oddly removed from the whole affair.
  89. As my eyes wandered over the crowd, I took it all in: Collegekids drinking and laughing at their friend puking his guts out, a dealer's booth turning the profit of a lifetime, a couple undoing their pants while sliding into a toilet tall, a leg twitching as fur grows in...
  90. I quickly looked away.
  91. What had happened to me? I used to be a party animal, hell, I still thought of myself as one. I had been to festivals and concerts all over the world, had gotten drunk and high over and over again, so why was I so bothered by the stuff I saw here?
  92. I tried to figure it out as I stood there, eating my burger, but I didn't come to any real conclusion. The old festivals had meant something. People had been fucked up and wanted to hear the music, sure, but there had always been an undercurrent of wanting to see the world change for the better. At least that's how I had perceived it.
  93. When I looked around now, I saw nothing of that. Perhaps I just didn't click all that much with this generation, but to me everything screamed hedonism for hedonism's sake. Was I out of touch? Or was I just so bothered by people giving up their humanity, however temporary, for the sake of fun, that some part of my mind refused to find anything worthwhile in an event celebrating just that?
  94. I didn't like where my thoughts were going, so after I finished my burger, I borrowed another joint from George.
  95. "So what now," he asked me as we walked back towards the main square, "Do you want to do some more interviews?"
  96. "Fuck the interviews." There was a sharpness in my voice I hadn't intended, but I was still agitated without really knowing why.
  97. "Fuck the interviews," I repeated, calmer this time. "The ones I've been doing today have all been shit anyways. I'll just make something up once we get back."
  98. I couldn't tell what George was thinking behind his sunglasses, but he nodded.
  99. "I feel you, man. Besides, they want us to report on the feel of it all more than anything else, right? I know how you usually do your articles. I don't really think we need more interviews for that." Of course he knew. My modus operandi had brought me a certain amount of recognition, and it was save to say our boss had known exactly what he had been doing doing when he chose the two of us for this report.
  100. "So let's get fucked up some more."
  102. I will spare you, dear reader, the details just how we went about this, because, truth be told, I don't remember most of it myself. I dimly recall wading through the flood of people, who had once more turned into a gallert-like mass, George still in tow and snapping pictures wildly, high out of my mind. For all intents and purposes, I had fun.
  103. At least as long as I didn't see any ponies. When one crossed our path, however, I found myself fearfully looking for that piercing I had seen on Grace.
  104. A small stallion passing by must've seen my manic stare, because he stopped in his tracks to talk to me.
  105. "Sir, are you alright? You don't look so good." Still transfixed on the weird talking animal, whose features seemed to flow apart and reform every time my eyes tried to focus on it, I slowly settled onto my knees.
  106. Passersby bumped into me and I could hear George screaming at them to keep their fucking distance, but all that didn't matter at the moment.
  108. "Do you mind if I pet you for a moment," I managed to stammer out and without waiting for a reply I plunged my hands into the pony's mane and started stroking, trying to free the creature's ears from obstruction. As far as I could tell, there was a look of discomfort on the ever shifting features, but I didn't care. All that mattered was...No piercing.
  109. Just as abruptly as the urge had come over me, it vanished, and I stood up in a quick motion that mus've looked pretty robotic to onlookers. I could feel the pony's eyes staring into my back as I, followed by George who was still cursing at someone behind us, stumbled onwards, towards the black pyramid, no, altar to entropy and heat death of the universe, that was the stage. There, I broke down again, and once more George was by my side to help me back to my feet.
  111. I allowed myself to be led into a corner of the concert area at the side of the stage. By now, the area to its front was swarming with visitors. I could see them dance as we sat down in our small spot of comfort.
  112. "I don't think doing this high was such a good idea after all, Jim," George finally said, and I found myself weakly nodding. "It all just seems so meaningless, you know? I mean, it doesn't seem like there is any higher purpose, no motivation behind it all, no movement. Just people wanting to be animals while listening to garbage music. And when something goes wrong, all that's left is a horse with a piercing. Don't you think that's fucked up?
  113. I am sure the manic tone was back in my voice by now, because I wanted George to agree, needed him to.
  114. But he took his time, my eyes following his as he took in the crowd, which by now seemed to consist of equal parts humans and horses, dancing to the sound of some unknown band playing on the stage.
  115. "Do you know what I think your problem is?" he finally asked.
  116. "Tell me." There was a feeling of defeat and I slumped a bit further forward, but I genuinely wanted to know what my companion thought about me.
  118. "I think you idealise the past. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but have you thought about how those concerts back then must have seemed to your parents' generation? Somehow I doubt that they would agree with the claim of those being part of any social movement. And I don't think that we could fault them for that. I would bet that a lot of people were just there for the drugs and to forget daily life for a while back then, too."
  119. It was a lot to take in, and really absorbing what he had told me would take far longer, but on some level, it felt right. As if George had understood me on a level not even I understood myself on. Was it really this simple? More words started flowing from my mouth.
  120. "You know, I never trusted that Pon-e shit. When Mr Duke told me that he wanted to send me here I thought to myself, hey, perhaps I'll finally try it. But I won't. Not after that bad trip earlier. Hell, I am not even sure it's over yet. But I know for a fact that everyone expects me to take that shit. The people at work, my fans, even that fucking Dave kid on the bus..."
  121. There were tears flowing again, and George nodded, seemingly lost in thought as we watched the crowd and listened to a bad cover of Hell's Bells.
  122. For all intents and purposes, this wass a drug party. The utter legality of narcotics for twenty-four hours wass what drew these people here. Yet the crowd wass surprisingly civil, almost mellow. Sure there were some people who are obviously stoned or black-out drunk, but as I kept watching I made out the paramedics Hank had been talking about moving through the crowd and collecting those who were too intoxicated to go on. It may have seemed as if anything went here, but if you took a deeper look, it was all very orderly and I couldn't shake the feeling that if anyone were to step out of line, the others would actually call security.
  123. It suddenly struck me that I hadn't seen anyone fuck a pony yet, something that I expected to see the moment I stepped through the gate. Huh, interesting. All in all, the whole anarchistic facade seemed to be just that, a projection behind which people just wanted to have fun and forget everyday life for a while, and at this point I didn't know whether this should make me happy or frustrate me.
  124. A nudge from George shook me from my stupor. "Hey, do you think you can stay here for a while? I'll go grab us something to drink."
  125. To my own surprise, I found myself replying "nothing too hard for me," and off he went, stepping into the crowd and all but vanishing.
  126. There was a cheer as some asshole on a loudspeaker said something about U2, but from where I was sitting I couldn't see what was going on on the stage itself, and I was not really in the mood anyway.
  127. "Fuck Bono and Fuck U2," I muttered.
  128. The crowd didn't seem to share my sentiment however, cheering with hands and hooves in the air. "How do these ponies not get trampled in there," I tought to myself as George reappeared by my side, seemingly out of nowhere.
  129. "U2 is playing," he told me as he handed me a bottle of water, "managed to get some pretty nice pics of them. Do you want to try to get an interview later?"
  130. "I am not really feeling for it right now. Besides, every interview I did today was an utter mess."
  131. "Hey now, I think you did a pretty good job with the rent-a-cop."
  132. "Just because you were even more fucked up than me."
  133. This earned me a chuckle, and for the first time since we came to this corner George seemed to relax again.
  134. "Alright, Jim, I'll give you that. Besides," he pulled something from his pocket, "I have an even better idea."
  135. Between his fingers, he held a little, almost medicinal looking pill.
  136. "George," I asked him, trying really hard, yet somewhat failing to keep my cool, "Is that what I think it is?" The words crept from my mouth, my eyes unable to look at anything other than the pill.
  137. "Damn right. Grade A Pon-E."
  138. I scrambled to my feet. "I thought I told you that I won't take that shit."
  139. George looked the pill over once more, as if seeing it for the first time, before turning back towards me. "Maybe you won't. But I've been curious about it for a while now. And there's no time like the present to try it. What do you say to the opportunity to interview someone undergoing the transformation? Let's call it confrontation therapy."
  140. For a moment, I was stunned by the suggestion. This wasn't what I had in mind at all when I stepped into the bus this morning. But it would almost certainly be what my readers wanted. No one who read an article about the Pon-e festival would be satisfied by the author describing his existential crisis after a bad trip. They would want the meat of the story: The sex, drugs and perhaps even rock'n'roll I had found in other places in my own youth.
  141. Alright, you greedy bastards, you win. This one's for you and my dying career.
  142. "Give me your camera."
  143. "What?"
  144. "I said give me your camera. If we are really doing this I want to get some decent pictures too."
  145. So George handed me his camera. I was still busy hanging it around my neck when he swallowed the pill. I didn't really know then how long the transformation would take, so I made it a point to turn on my recorder as quickly as possible.
  147. Q: So I am still here at the second annual Pon-e festival. With me is my photographer George, who has just taken Pon-e for the first time. George, how do you feel?
  148. A: So far I don't really feel all that different. (He starts walking up and down our corner a few times.) No, nothing ye- (George suddenly stands still, as if all his bones locked into place)
  149. Q: George? Are you alright?
  150. A: (There are unintelligible noises as George tries to talk, but his jaw seems to have locked into place as well)
  152. I dropped my recorder as George fell over and managed to catch him just before he hit the ground. As slowly as possible I lowered his back und head to the ground. By now the only movement he seemed to be able to perform was a slight twitching, his eyes wide and unfocused.
  153. Did he get a bad batch? Hell, did someone fuck with him and gave him something else entirely? That's what it had to be. I started calling out to the crowd in front of the stage to get the paramedics, but my voice was hoarse and no one seemed to hear me.
  154. "Fuck! Alright George, I'll be right back. I am going to get help, you hear me? You are going to be alright..."
  156. I trailed off as I saw the changes start to manifest.
  157. George's clothes, which had been too big already, now seemed positively gigantic. While I still looked on, his fingers started to fuse together, the nails joining to form the what would clearly become a hoof. My stomach heaved at the freaky sight, but I managed to catch myself.
  158. George had been nothing but a good companion all day, helping me through my drug-induced anxiety frenzy, and now it was time to return the favor. All thoughts of taking pictures were forgotten as I started undressing my photographer. What good would it do if he accidentaly strangled himself in his shirt somehow?
  159. The skin beneath his shirt was already starting to grow light blue fur, and an odd sense of calm set in as I realized that the drug had probably been clean after all.
  160. After the shirt was off, I helped him out of his shoes, only to find more developing hooves in place of feet.
  161. I was mesmerized by the sight of his legs rearranging themselves into a form more suitable for quadrupedal stance. Seeing all this play out in front of me was at the same time fascinating and deeply disturbing.
  162. The next thing that drew my attention was George's head. His nose and mouth region changed, pushing out and fusing into a muzzle, while his hair grew longer and turned from its old dirty brown first to blond and finally a clean white.
  163. By now, George had shrunk down even further, and as his chest turned into a horse-like barrel, I decided to take of his pants as well, rather than risk having them constrain some vital changes.
  164. As soon as I pulled his pants off, I was greeted by a long tail in the same white tone as his hair. It seemed like it had grown in a while ago and had been scrunched up a lot. It took a lot of willpower to touch the strange appendage, but I tried to make this as comfortable for George as possible, and so I layed out his tail flat behind him. What I found under the tail however made "him" not seem so fitting any more.
  165. I couldn't believe what I saw. The scruffy Hippie that had accompanied me all day had vanished, gradually replace by a small, sea-blue mare. I didn't take my eyes off the new pony as I stuffed the discarded clothes into my backpack. If I hadn't witnessed the changes myself, I never would have guessed that this could be George.
  166. My anxiety flared back up. I had to know that this was still George in there. I slowly knelt down beside the pony, which seemed to be half conscious by now, but still seemed unaware of me, legs kicking into the air and eyes closed with a small smile in a display of blissfull happiness.
  167. "George? Do you hear me, man?" In front of my face, a bright green eye slowly opened and focused on me. "Oh, hey Jim. Could've bet you had run by the time my hooves came in." George's raspy voice was gone as well, replaced by a still somewhat deep, but admittedly very pleasant female voice. The lazy smile on the pony's muzzle grew to an outright grin.
  168. "Oh shit, is that my voice? Jim, tell me that is my voice!"
  169. It took a lot of effort, but I managed to stay calm. No need to spook the thing, but I needed to know, and to know, I needed a question only George would know the answer to.
  170. "Yes, you sound very cute," I managed to squeeze out from between my gritted teeth, "But George, can you tell me again about that stuff you did on the Philipines?"
  171. The George-pony shook his? her? its? mane out of its face (I'll admit it, at that moment "it"), as it gave me a look of annoyance.
  172. "Are you fucking with me, Jim? I am on the real good shit here, and you want to hear about the goddamn mushrooms we smoked in the jungle? How about you shut up and at least take a few photos if you aren't even going to pet me."
  173. So this was still George after all. A sense of relief washed over me and I couldn't help but laugh at the foul mouthed pony lying in the sand in front of me.
  174. Yes, I took the pictures, and yes, I ended up petting George, something she seemed to enjoy immensely. There were little sounds of contentment coming from my companion as George leaned into my ear scratching and her hindlegs started kicking again.
  175. "Hey, would you mind keeping it down a bit? Don't make it weirder than it has to be." I half joked.
  176. "Oh, shut uuup," came the all but moaned reply, "You have no idea how good this feels." "And you have no idea how hard it will be to decide what pronoun to use for you in this state once I get to actually writing my article."
  177. "Bite me," she whispered as she snuggled up closer to me, "you were more fun when you were on your bad trip."
  178. For a good while, I sat there at the edge of the concert area, my photograper turned pony curled up next to me, as I idly stroked her mane. The situation was weird, sure, but not unpleasant. George was still George in character, only different, and the knowledge that in a few hours allwould be back to normal was my mental safety net.
  179. Still, all good things must come to an end,and after a period during which the both of us were almost completely zoned out, the one with hooves lost in the joy of being treated like a loyal pet and the one with hands lost in thought, watching the masses in front of the stage move like the waves at the ocean, I found myself growing dead tired.
  180. "George? Don't tell me you are asleep already." In response, she only pressed herself even harder against my legs. "Shuddupain'tsleepin'" came an almost unintelligible murmur from beneath the mane.
  181. "George, I am heading over to the campground to get some rest. Do you want to come, or do you want to continue blowing your eardrums out here?"
  182. There came a groan from George as she clumsily stood up on her new hooves.
  183. "I am coming with you. No way I let you go anywhere on your own after the freakshow you pulled earlier. Mr Duke would have my head mounted in his office if anything happened to his star reporter."
  184. "How quaint. The talking horse calls something a freakshow."
  186. Despite some beginner's mistakes, George was quick to adapt to her new stance, but I still made it a point to walk slow enough not to lose her in the crowd. By now, there were a whole lot more ponies around, some dressed in what seemed to be the shirts they wore when they took their pill, others completely naked and some even walking on leashes. It was the last group that honestly freaked still freaked me out.
  187. George however didn't seem to share my misgivings, as I caught her staring after a stallion lead around by a buff-looking guy in short shorts.
  188. "See anything you like?" I asked as nonchalantly as possible. I just meant to tease her her for the sake of it, so I didn't expect George to react the way she did at all. instead of going off at me, she threw one last look after the strange duo before turning back to me, and I could've sworn that she was biting her lip.
  189. "Actually, yeah. Do you think you could do something like that for me?"
  190. "What did I tell you about making this weirder than it has to be? You are my photographer and my friend. You are NOT my pet."
  191. "Oh, come on. We just cuddled for hours. How much weirder could it get?"
  192. "I honestly don't know, but you seem hellbent on on finding out. No leashes, that's my last word."
  193. For a while, George was quiet, but once we found a somewhat secluded spot in the camping area and I started pulling my tent out of my backpack and thought that this slightly disturbing episode was over, she started up again.
  194. "What about a collar? I can pay you back, you know?"
  195. "Nice try, but you seem dead set on making an animal out of yourself, and animals don't have money. So that's a no."
  196. It turned out that trying to set up a camp in the dark and on your own isn't all that easy, and in the end we found ourselves lying underneath the tent walls, using them as impromptu blankets.
  197. Once more stroking George's mane, I looked up at the star filled sky and for the first time that day really felt at peace. "You know, I won't hold anything against you. I'll just pretend those were all the drugs in your system talking, or some kind of really potent first-time-high."
  198. "Yeah right. And I'll delete all the pictures of your breakdown" Out of the darkness, a hoof appeared in front of my face. "Deal?"
  199. I gave it a bump.
  200. "Deal."
  201. "Man," Is the last thing I recall saying that night, "that stuff must be really good."
  202. As I slowly faded to sleep, I heard George let out a tired laugh.
  203. "You have no idea."
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