Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 135: Friendship from Hell

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Friendship from Hell

“Alright Anthony, I’ve gotten him settled in. Don’t worry, we’ll take care of him for you.” the nurse at Ponyville General Hospital was being gentle. It’d taken some seriously intense requests -not begging, mind you- to get this pulled through.

As I exit to the waiting room, I see that Twilight is waiting for me. Almost immediately, she comes over to speak to me. “Anthony! I was, uhm, asked to talk to you about the new... person. If you could, please? I’m sending this to Celestia.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Uhm, well, some of these questions are straight from the Princesses, of course. Uhm, I guess first off, why didn’t you fight at all?”

“Because I didn’t want to.”

“Princess Celestia said that the human was attacking everyone nearby. Did you think you couldn’t stop it?”

“I’m sure that his reason for attacking the guards was a good one. Also, he seemed to be the one being attacked.”

“So, wait... You are saying he’s innocent? But Celestia said she saw him fighting the guards...”

“She saw him fight back.”

“But, you know as well as I do that under most circumstances, the last violent human to come through nearly killed everyone.”

“I’m not going to fight him. Ever.”

“Uhm... can I ask why?”

“Because I know him. From before I came here. He’s from Earth. And my friend.”

“But, why wouldn’t he attack someone? It’s clear that he’s at least partially corrupted, and-”

“Twilight, if Celestia told you that Rainbow Dash was evil and that you had to kill her, would you do it?”

“What?! No! Why would you a-”

“Because Celestia, and now you, are questioning why I wouldn’t bring harm to my best friend.”

“O- oh... Then... who is he?” Twilight asks, tentatively. I have a feeling this wasn’t even close to being on Celestia’s approved list of questions... And that I have no idea what to tell her. Would he want a cover name, too? Or his real name?

“For now, until he decides to tell you his real name, we’ll call him... Clark.”

“Not tell- why wouldn’t he want us to know his name? If he’s your friend, then maybe he... he could be our friend too?” Twilight’s got one ear up and one down.

I guess it would be a bit hard for her to understand that even I didn’t give my real name to anyone. Honesty is such a huge deal to them.

“Because sometimes, not everyone wants to be known to everyone, and sometimes, having some secrets that they are sure are safe, helps them feel like they have control, even if they are powerless...”

“Oh... but... why would anypo- anyone feel like that? Couldn’t they rely on their friends?”

“Because friendship doesn’t fix everything in the world. Sometimes, in a corrupt world, having friends doesn’t help at all. Some villains only understand power, and therefore the only way to make them submit is by using power. Beyond that, sometimes, the only way to stop Evil is not with Good. You must confront it with another kind of Evil. And that's why I win. Not because I have friends who believe in me or whatever, but because I know that violence can be the answer. And in a world like that, everyone needs some kind of control.”

Twilight’s ears have folded back against her head, and she’s slowly backing away from me. All the thing’s I’ve done, and this speech is what makes her afraid? Jeez.

“I’m not going to give out his name unless he wants me to, because at this point, he has his choice of what secrets he wants to keep, and until he chooses which secret to keep, I’m not making him give something up without him knowing. Because he’s my friend, and friends don’t tell other people friends’ secrets. That’s betrayal.”

“And the best way to lose a friend forev~er!”

I jump and yelp as Pinkie pushes her way out from behind a poster on the wall. There wasn’t even a bulge, how the f- how did sh- no, don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don't’ think about it...

“Hi Pinkie.” I sigh. “Here to meet the new guy too?”

“There’s a new guy!? I knew that’s what my Pinkie Sense was telling me! Where is he? What’s his name? Why’re you in a hospital? Are you sick?”

“I’m in the hospital because I’m waiting for said new guy to be considered ‘okay’ as he probably isn’t feeling too well. He’s unconscious for one thing. He’s in the ER.”

Pinkie’s demeanor goes from flouncy to flat almost instantly. Just like that, she’s perfectly serious, her eyes getting bigger with worry, the whites of her eyes barely visible behind her huge irises, being slightly obscured by her puffy mane of hair. “Is there something I can do to help?”

“Well, I’m not sure. For one, he’ll have to be told where he is and what’s going on. Unless you want the first thing he sees to be a talking pony, in which case it’s likely for his reaction to be similar to mine when I arrived.”

“Got it, no surprise party yet. I’ll have it prepped and standing by when you think it’s needed.” She gives me a goofy-looking salute, and seems to perk up. “Oooh, I get to meet someone new! And not just new, but new-new! I hope he gets better soon!” Pinkie begins trotting out of the hospital with more restraint than normal.

“You and me both. I mean, I figured he was dead.” Twilight winces, but it seems Pinkie’s good cheer can’t be stopped, and she resumes bouncing along once she’s outside.

“So... uhm... anything else you want to share about him?” Twilight asks timidly.

“No idea about the corrupted arm thing, but I assure you he is not evil at all. I’m sure there’s an explanation for his semi-demonic limb, but I doubt he got it for evil purposes, if it was even intentional at all. He’s not like the demon who went around Ponyville smashing ponies to bits for laughs.” Twilight winces, likely from a bad memory. “But, he is likely to fight to protect himself if, say, a bunch of guards rush him with spears.”

“I- I suppose... what are you going to do, then, in the meantime?”

“Wait for him to recover. This guy is proof that I may actually have a slim chance of seeing my parents again, and I’m going to hold onto that. Not much else on my mind, really. From what Anne said, everyone was dead, a demon, or a refugee in the muck. Now... there’s proof that she might be wrong.”

Twilight nods, and shifts on her hooves. “I, uhm, guess I don’t have anything else to ask. Will you be alright on your own if I leave, then?”

“Sure, I guess. I figured you’d stay though. He will have to meet a pony, and I figure the first one he meets might as well be you. There are worse examples out there, and I’d rather he meet the smart one first. But I guess if you want to leave, I can just bring him by the library.”

“... Do you want me to stay? As a friend?”

“Eh, it would be preferable, but if you have something you should be doing right now, you probably should worry about that more.”

“No, I can hang out with you. It sounds like you need a friend.”

I pick her up and place her on my lap where I begin petting her, much to her supposed discomfort, but when she stops complaining she clearly enjoys it. What’s her deal with being petted anyway?

I just continue idly stroking her as I think about my friend. Man, it’s literally been years. And what is up with his arm? I shake my head. It doesn’t matter. He’s here, and that means the world to me, no matter what may have happened.

Three days. He’s completely out for three days, and the nurses and doctors say that, unless they’re completely wrong due to humanity’s alien biology, that he’s also dealt with some fairly extreme malnutrition, and several shattered, but fixed, bones. Something about the corrupted arm is also interfering with their healing magic. Other forms of magic seem to work fine, but not healing magic.

One afternoon, I’m sitting in his room in the constant-care ward, or whatever it’s called, and I chance a look at his corrupted arm. I startle a bit when I see a large, yellowey eye staring at me from the back of the hand, a four-pointed star-shape for a pupil. A quartet of lids close on the strangely symmetrical eye, but it’s definitely looking at me. The lids open again.

I stare at it. Can he see with it? Can he see me with it? Or does it have a mind of his own? Why does he have a corrupted arm? I’m worried about him. It’s been so long, I don’t want to be told that he’s incurable and I have to be the one to put him down... I couldn’t. Come on man, pull through this. You can hit your head on a cement block and bounce back, you can make it...

Over the next two days, I come in regularly, and always find the eye on the hand staring at me, tracking my movements. It only closes to blink or when the nurse comes in to check on Clark.

Maybe it does have a mind of it’s own... I mean, I guess if I had proof of it opening, people would believe me. Freaky shit happens when you turn. Even partially. Still, I have hope that he’s alright. He just needs to sleep. He’s always been a long sleeper. He did use his powers the second he arrived, too. He might not be used to it. All I know is, he’s not gonna die. Even if the grim reaper himself walks into the room, I’m gonna beat the shit out of him and tear his nipples off.

Near the end of the sixth day, I was having a staring contest with the eye. I’m sure I would’ve won, too, if Clark hadn’t groaned and startled me. When I looked over, he was wiping sleep from his eye. For a moment, I had a glimpse of him waking up after a sleepover, sometime in the late afternoon, before he moved. I don’t think any powers were part of it, but he flipped out of the hospital cot and rolled under the bed. Almost immediately, I’m on my feet and in an instinctive combat stance.

“Dude, you okay?”

“Who- where am- who are you?” the voice sounds gravelly, which makes some degree of sense, given that he just slept for six days and didn’t get any... wait, he didn’t get an IV for any of the six days. Jeez, he must be cotton mouthed to an insane degree. Hell, he should be dead. These ponies... what the hell?

I find a sink and one of those paper cups and, filling it up, take it to him, sticking it on the floor next to the bed he’s hiding under. He must be freaking out, and I can’t blame him.

“What’s in that?”

“Deadly neurotoxin. Drinking it will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official testing record, followed by death.” I say in my best robot voice.

“Wh- what? Who... you sound... who are you?”

“Ten guesses, now get out from under that bed before I slap you with a drunken haddock.” I grin at the old threat we shared since Junior high... good times.

“Drunken... No, it can’t be. You... you died or something. Never heard from you again. Did... did I die? Did they test me to death?” I can barely make out the shape of his head, pointed in my direction, under the bed.

“Nah man. Welcome to Equestria. Where the sun always shines except when it rains, the birds always sing when they’re around, and the populace are a bunch of talking horses.”

“Great, they fed me more hallucinogens, and now I’m imagining my dead friend is talking about horses and sunshine.”

“Yep, now get out from under there. If you’re hallucinating, there can’t be anything you have to hide from.”

“Fuck that. Which ones are out there? The hook-covered one? Or the chick with things coming out of places not meant to do that?”

“The guy who talks about video games for days on end, and in a bit, you’re going to meet the chick who thinks lightning can’t hurt you.”

“... You know what, I might as well. At least this place looks nice.” Slowly, more like a giant insect than a person, Clark crawls out from under the bed, eyes darting rapidly around the room.

“Yeah. Come on, you gotta meet the girls. Well, maybe only one at a time. Come on, I’ll show you to the library. Fair warning though, this one doesn’t have Wi-Fi.”

“The f- when’s the last time anywhere had Wi-Fi?” Clark mutters, standing up with a notable hunch. It’s not a medical-grade hunch, but rather one linked to how he moves. Every step he takes is so close to silent I can’t help but hear my own footsteps over his. Every hallway we get to results in him looking furtively in every direction before fluidly moving to the next ‘safe’ spot.

“Dude, what’s with you? You act like you’re playing Metal Gear with motion controls.”

His head snaps to face me, and for a moment I feel like it’s not him looking at me. His eyes aren’t as glossy as I’ve come to expect, like a glass ball that’s been in a sandstorm. Still smooth, but no longer bright. I realize I’ve tensed up, and he slowly turns back towards the hall we’re going down. “I don’t get it.”

“Dude, you know Metal Gear. You know, Solid Snake? Stealth genre. The worst voice acting since Resident Evil?”

“... right, video games. Been a while.”

“Jeez man, what happened? Wait, is Anne right? Did Earth end up a total shithole wasteland?”

“No. If there’s nobody left, they lose.”

“Who? The demons?”

He looks at me with genuine fear in his eyes. “If you die, then the pain ends. They feed on pain. Do the math.”

“Yeah, sounds like demons alright. Anyway, you’re in a much better place now. Come on, let’s get to the library.”

We step out of the hospital into a typical Ponyville day. Sun shining bright and high in the sky, little critters running about, and tiny wisps of clouds against a bright blue sky.

Clark hisses and I sympathize. “Yeah, I know, takes a while to get used to everyday being like this. One thing’s for sure, they don’t have vampire problems around here.”

“Not that. Too open. Too bright.” He looks like he’s panicking, looking around for... something.

“Chill man, wherever you were before, you’re not there anymore. Nothing’s looking for us.”

“Don’t know that. Not for sure.” I need to think of something to break him out of this...

“Come on, I’m taking you to Twilight. Maybe she can help deprogram you.” I continue towards the library and Clark follows, but in his weird, shifty way. What happened to him?

We reach the giant tree and I’m about to warn him about low entryways, but it seems this is normal for him, as he reflexively ducks whenever he moves anyway.

The moment he’s in, he’s slinking to a bookshelf. For several minutes, he just... stares.

“I’m... I’m gonna get Twi. If you wanna read, I doubt she’d mind.” I take one last furtive glance at my now very twitchy friend. What made him like this? I shake my head. I’m gonna fix you buddy, your nightmare is over, you just need to wake up now. Next Chapter: Chapter 136 Estimated time remaining: 14 Hours, 8 Minutes

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