Anyone You Want Me To Be

by naturalbornderpy

Chapter 1: Anyone You Want Me To Be

I have a job. A weirder job than most, I would say.

I start most of my mornings rising out of bed before everyone else in Ponyville. I leave the mild comfort of the mat on the floor in my one-room home and remain as my real self for the shortest amount of time as I can. If I could sleep and retain the appearance of someone else, I would. In the mornings, I always take the appearance of one my clients from the night before. They’re the easiest to remember.

Before I leave my home which also acts as my business location, I retrieve a pocket mirror and correct any mistakes that I find. Not that it matters much. I’m rarely outside of the house for more than thirty minutes before I decide on someone new. I like to challenge myself: a larger stallion with freckles and a beard; a mare with an elaborate dress and matching hat. I stand by the mouth of an alley until I pick one, always someone new. Then I follow them and notice all their little ticks, their mannerisms. If I can, I listen to their voices as they wave and shout good morning to everyone and go about their day.

Voices are hard. This morning I plan to practice that skill.

There’s a coffee shop three blocks from my home. A brown coated stallion trots there every morning at around the same time and orders his “usual”. For six mornings now, I have been following him and studying him. I listen to the way he speaks and the way he sounds out each word—the way he snaps the end of his “k” every time he says “Thank you!” to the barista behind the counter on his way out.

I never trail him appearing as the same pony twice. If he were to turn around and ask me a question, I would not be able to respond. As I said, mimicking the voices of particular ponies requires patience and careful study. My real self would be able to speak, though. But I don’t want to see him right now.

I leave my home five minutes earlier than normal and trot the three blocks to the coffee shop. I take the form of the stallion I’ve been following for the last six days and hope my memory serves me right. I push through the front doors and barely slow my pace before setting both forelegs on the counter. The stallion I’m posing as always does the same.

The mare barista smiles. “Well, you’re a bit early, Morning Rush.”

I return the expression. Morning Rush always does. I wait for the mare to start my order, but she only stares at me expectantly. I swallow dryly and try to focus on my voice—on Morning Rush’s voice. “Usual… please…” I manage to croak, sounding somewhat like Morning Rush but with a strep throat.

The mare nods and turns to fill my order. During this time, I hurriedly glance to the door, hopeful to not see my copy suddenly come trotting inside. Ponyville’s streets remain bare.

“Here you go!” the barista exclaims, sliding my drink towards me.

I set the bits my clients afford me on the counter and roughly clear my throat.

“Thank you!” I say, snapping the “k” as I should. My voice is as close to Morning Rush’s as I could hope.

“Say, before you leave…” The barista extends across the counter to me and my heart sinks. “Did you ever give any thought to spending some time together Friday?”

I feel my face flush—Morning Rush’s face flush. “The… usual…” I mutter, turning to leave.

She raises a brow at me. “You’re giving it ‘the usual’ amount of thought? If you didn’t want to spend time with me, you could just say—”

In a panic I try to hide my face behind my drink. “Thank you!” I say again, in that oddly cheery way of Morning Rush’s. While I exit the shop, I fill my mouth with the drink I’ve bought. It’s sweet and hot and my only hope is that it puts a halt to any further questions. Behind me, I hear the barista ask if I might be coming down with a cold, but before she can say anymore I’m already gone.

In an alleyway across the road, I laugh soundlessly. Forty seconds later, the real Morning Rush comes storming into the coffee shop and I see confusion on more than a few faces. I know I won’t be able to do that again, but that’s all right. It was more of a test than anything.

I manage to swallow a third of the stallion’s “usual” before my stomach rejects it and I vomit in the alleyway. Real food doesn’t agree with my kind. Still, it tasted sweet while it lasted.


I only work when the town goes dark. It’s not for my benefit, mind you, but for the benefit of those ponies that come to see me. My clients. The rules I’ve set in place are simple and since word has spread of my existence and my particular talents from the mouths of trusted clients to others, I rarely need to remind them on what to do.

My home is below a small accounting firm and it isn’t even technically a “building” at all—more a storage unit that the business above could use if they wished. I pay a small amount for rent and they let my live there without question. Three of the employees above me are already clients—clients I see so often they’ve become “regulars” to me with new emotions to vent each couple of days. It seems none of them like their boss all that much.

When the sun dips over the horizon, I light a single candle and sit at a desk in the very center of my one-room home. I leave the door open. Clients know to close the door once they’ve entered; a signal that I am with someone and to wait until I am done with them.

My first client of the night is someone new and already she looks nervous. New clients usually do. She stands in the doorway, glancing outside and then back in, deliberating. She looks at me and asks, “Is this the place? I mean… do you… change and—”

I nod from my desk and say not a word. At the moment, I’ve taken the appearance of a stallion I followed around the marketplace that afternoon. I try to appear kind—pull my mouth into something resembling a smile. I know a full smile might come across as odd, sitting alone and in the dark.

She takes a tentative step inside and I pull out the rules from underneath my desk and place them so she can read. If she knows my business exists at all, she should be somewhat familiar with the rules already. She closes the door behind her and takes the only other seat in the room. She scans the list and glances upwards uneasily.

The piece of parchment states:

1. Close door after you enter.

2. Present photo(s): face shot and full body shot; color is required.

3. Select emotion from list.

4. Bits must be paid before session starts.

Session, I think mildly amused. One of my first clients used that word once when he left and I felt compelled to add it to my list. He wasn’t wrong, I guess.

Below the few rules is a mess of several dozen emotional responses. “ANGER”, “SADNESS”, “JOY”, “MISUNDERSTANDING”, “CONFUSION”, “FEAR”. I’ve always thought about adding “ITCHY” to the list, curious if someone would pick it on a whim.

After scanning the list, the mare sets three pictures on the table. All three are of the same mare—a slightly older mare than her, but clearly related. Older sister, perhaps? One picture looks professional, as if torn straight out of some magazine. She’s wearing some gown I would have no hope of recreating.

My client laughs nervously. So many of them do their first time with me. “I mean… you don’t have to do the clothes. I mean… it’s only in that one photo of hers and it’s not like she wears that all the time or anything… and, I mean, these were the only photos I could get so—” She stops herself, pops a hoof to her mouth. “I’m talking a lot, aren’t I?”

I shrug. I’ve seen a lot worse.

She shakes her head. “You don’t do voices, either, right?”

I gently tap the seventh rule on the parchment: No voices.

She nods. “But you can speak, right? I mean… the real you can, right?”

Hesitantly, I agree, busying myself with the trio of photos on the table. I study the shape of the mare’s head and her jaw line; the way her mane flows down her shoulders; the way she only half-smiles as if thinking of something bad. I try to imagine the mare in the picture is right next to me and try and trap that figure in my mind. The first few thousand times, it was hard, but by this point in my life, it’s become akin to breathing to me.

Could I hear your real voice?” she chirps. “I mean… you don’t have to, but—”

I shut my eyes for a moment. I could become anyone in the world to them and yet they still want to see the complete stranger underneath it all. Why? Just why? If I won’t show him to myself, what makes you think I’ll show him to you?

My one-room home flashes for a moment in a brilliant green glow and my client hitches in a breath. I’ve changed into the mare in the photos.

“Serenity?” she asks, and already I can tell I’ve done my job right.

I look down at the parchment again and she does the same. She points at the word “REGRET” and more pieces of the puzzle fall into place. A jealous sister? A wronged sister, perhaps? I soften the lines on my new face and lower myself in my chair, so that my client’s looking down at me. For some ponies the illusion can take several minutes to take hold, sometimes only seconds. It all depends on how badly the client wants to believe—how badly they need to believe that what they’re seeing is real.

It doesn’t take my first client of the night long before she asks her first question.

“Why didn’t you ever come back for me? I’ve been waiting… and I see you in all the magazines and you said… you said you’d come back and take me with you. Without me, you wouldn’t have anything. Don’t you get that? I helped you so much—”

My client wipes away a tear and our session begins.


The bits my clients pay for my services afford me my small home and the few necessities I need. I’ve never set a price on what I do, but I’ve never done it for free, either. They give what they can and I do the same in return. What’s important is that they feel something when they come to me; something real that I can sense and taste and draw out of them without them even knowing about it—something nourishing to me.

The most potent of all emotions to a changeling is love, but that is not everything that can fill our bellies. Love can taste as sweet as honey and hate as bitter as bark, but both still fill the void inside of me. Jealousy rarely tastes good, but it’s not an emotion I would ever turn away. Raw jealousy tastes sour—sometimes it comes lighter than normal and sometimes it reeks so bad it makes you want to gag. It all depends on how the client chooses to use that emotion. Jealousy that spurs a pony on to better themselves can taste as light and tart as a fresh squeezed lemon. Jealousy that makes a pony only want to destroy what other's have created for themselves can taste as vile as a rotten egg dipped in vinegar.

Either or, I’ll eat it all the same and always ask for seconds.

“Why are you so mean to me?” asks another of my clients—a filly in a tiara. “Haven’t I done enough by your ridiculous standards?”

Wordlessly, I play her mother and at the moment I am directed to be “SAD”. Two days prior, I played the same mother to the same daughter and was instructed to be “ANGRY”. For twenty minutes I was berated by the little mare, until she broke down into sobs. I become curious which version of the parent I play is actually closer to the truth.

“How’s Tartarus these days? Chilly? I hope they spit in your gruel on a daily basis, goat boy.”

Only a single client of mine comes almost every night to me, pockets full of hundreds of photos of ponies and other creatures alike. This client is no pony himself—more like a snake that acts like a clown. At the moment I am a creature in a cloak, my hands locked in manacles. My client is the one who provides these props—sometimes even a backdrop to help reinforce the mood: the images of boulders and lava and dirt and grit. With such power, why does he come to me? Could he not create these illusions on his own? But one look into his eyes tells me this particular client is not the type that’s meant to be understood. Or never fully.

Tonight the draconequus selects “RAGE” and I give him as much of it as I can. I sneer at him and snap at the chains around my wrists; I grab the thin set of bars separating us, reaching out as far as I can as if attempting to strangle him. I have betrayed him, I tell myself. I have broken his trust, never to receive it again.

Tonight he wants me to loath him—to understand that he is free and I am not; that I was the one that made the mistake and will pay for it. Then why does he pick “REMORSE” on some nights? Does he truly wish to make the same mistake twice? Did he honestly consider this creature I portray as a true friend? Or is it only to remind himself never to fall for his betrayer’s lies again?

“I’m sorry I don’t visit as much as I should… the whole town has been… well, busy, as always.”

It has never been my objective to cause more harm than good in what I do. If a lowly worker can feel better about themselves, yelling at a copy of their employer in order to sleep soundly at night, is that so wrong? If a lovelorn stallion can practice his declaration of love on a crush that has so far outright ignored him, is that hurting him somehow?

I offer no conclusions or answers during my sessions. I spread no secrets and whisper no tales to ruin the denizens of this town. If an answer is found within my tiny home where I conduct my business, it is only because the client has created the answer for themselves. All I have done is give them the space with which to say what needs to be said—to feel what needs to be felt. With no voice, there is very little advice I could give regardless. I create a scene as real as can be, and it’s up to my clients to take it as far as they wish.

“I’ve… I’ve brought you a present. I… still have it. It was almost your birthday when you… left.”

Tonight will be my last session with her, I have decided. It is clear I am doing more harm than good by continuing to meet with her.

The mayor of this town points at “JOY” on the bit of parchment and I contemplate ending the session now. She comes too often and tells me too much—the lines between what’s real and what’s fantasy are breaking down for her. Her expectant smile is the only thing that makes me continue this night so I unwrap the tiny gift she’s given me and inhale with surprise. I hug it close to my chest and hope she’ll understand later on why I won’t see her again.

At the moment I am her son, four or five years old at most. It is clear that I am dead and have been dead for some time. Over the course of many sessions, I put the pieces together and realize I have drowned at a friend’s lake, unsupervised and alone. A part of her blames herself. She could’ve been there. She could’ve been watching me—saving me. Why does she work so much? she wonders. Why didn’t she make time for me yet again?

But it’s become clear she will not find closure here. Not once has she said goodbye to her son—asked forgiveness for what she failed to prevent from happening. No. She believes her son is back amongst the living, but I know I can never be such a thing for her. I am only a copy of what she wants. I am only a means to an end; a facilitator of emotions for others. And that’s all I want to be right now.

The happiness and love I taste off her as I play with her son’s never-opened birthday gift is some of the sweetest nourishment I have ever had and it is a pity to let it go. But I must.

I have ruined enough lives already.


Besides existing as a source of income and food for me, I have become dependant on my business for far more than that. Since its very inception, it has been a means of escape. I haven’t liked being myself for some time now, so what better option than to be anyone else I can be?

In the course of a single night, I can be loved, hated, despised, looked down upon, spit at, shouted at, begged to and so much more. I can be anything to anyone at anytime they want and so that’s what I become, again and again and again for as long as my clients need me. Everyone has a story to tell and I am more than willing to become a character in that story and play my part correctly. All that I require in return is to feast off the emotions it creates.

The door to my home has been standing open for forty minutes now and not a soul has strolled by. I think of closing up shop and calling it a night. It is late and I have more than enough new stories to help lull me to sleep. But who is it I wish to go to sleep as tonight? The parent that ran away only to come back a decade later, searching for forgiveness? The younger brother that spilled the largest secret in his sibling’s life? The husband curious if his marriage could ever survive the reveal of his affair?

Before I can stand, one last pony strolls through my door. They are not a regular, and yet somehow familiar. Have I seen them around Ponyville before? It was more likely than not.

They sit in front of me without closing the door, so I present them with my list. They read the first rule and stand and close the door before returning. They read the rest of the rules in complete silence; I’ve come to notice first timers tend to read the rules out loud because they’re nervous. If they aren’t doing that, then they’re muttering to themselves about how insane all this is or reading the list several times over so as not to forget.

This last client of mine is as silent as a ghost.

A moment later, they set the list back down and spend a moment staring over me, up and down and over again. My form is of a husband that drinks too much, properly berated an hour ago by his worried wife. Did this client know this stallion I now wear as a mask?

The client gives the smallest of smirks and pulls out a trio of crumpled pages from their bag, looking as if torn straight out of a history book. All three pages have a hoof-drawn illustration of a changeling on them. One even has arrows pointing to certain body parts connected to labels. I almost want to laugh. More than half aren’t even close.

I look up from them to the client and shrug. When they say nothing in return, I shove the three chewed pages back to them. Still, the client’s eyes never leave my own.

I sigh.

I should’ve known it was only a matter of time until my business become too big. Until a client spoke too loud or to someone they shouldn’t have and I was effectively run out of town. I’d lasted a while, though, all things considered. If I ran to flee right now, how far could I make it? Could I try this again in another town, if word hadn’t spread too far?

With a hoof, my client knocks on one of the changeling illustrations and then on the emotions list. “FEAR”, they select.

I grin begrudgingly and prepare to dash out the door. What my client does next makes me stop. Again they knock on the changeling illustration. Again they pick an emotion.


My client bursts into green flames and now a changeling sits before me. I quiver out a breath and the thoughts of lunging for the door become even more urgent in my mind.

“Why did you run?” he asks, his voice as quiet as a whisper and as rough as sandpaper.

I can only shake my head at him. I was willing to accept the notion of ponies learning of me—fearing me, even—but not being routed out by my own kind. No. Not that. Never that. I thought I’d been careful when I left.

“Talk to me.”

I shake my head again.

“No one knows I’m here. I’ve come here alone and if you don’t want to come back with me, I won’t force you.” He pauses to look away for a moment. “But having said that, I won’t leave until you say something.”

I think. I think sluggishly and poorly and in the end no good ideas come to mind. I reach behind my chair and retrieve a length of parchment and a quill. I start writing, “Sorry, I am mute—” but already the changeling has ripped my writing tools away from me and flung them against the wall.

“Talk to me!” he yells. “You owe me that much!”

He grabs both of my forelegs and presses them against the table. Just by his touch, I can sense him trying to remove the image I’ve placed over myself. The skin underneath his is already turning black.

Not able to meet his eyes, a wash of green flames envelopes me and I become my real self once again. Already I hate the way this skin feels.

“Why? Why couldn’t you all just leave me alone?” I croak, my throat already pained from lack of use.

He lets go of me and stares. “Because we’re looking for you, and because of what you’ve been doing here. It isn’t right.”

What isn’t right?” I spit at him, tearing up my throat as I do. “That I didn’t stay behind to be punished for what I caused? I’m not going back! I’m—” I run a leg under my eyes to find them leaking. “Tell them I’m dead. They’d probably be happy to hear it.”

He looks at the desk and shakes his head. “We have forgiven you. Everyone has.”

“Chrysalis never forgives! Don’t think I’m stupid!”

“She does if she knows what happened was a mistake—an honest one.”

“Still a mistake that gets changelings killed!” I tell him, leaning out to him.

He pauses, glancing to the side. “So you think staying here and doing whatever this is, is somehow better than coming back? Living off whatever bits of scrap emotion you can get?”

“I do fine enough.”

“But are you doing the right thing, though?” He rests his head on a hoof. “I’ve listened to the ponies that have talked about what you do—picking up a whole new voice just to find you. And what I’ve heard is that you make ponies’ fantasies come true and little else. How is that helping anyone?”

I can’t keep the sharp edge out of my voice. “I’m giving ponies what they want—whatever they want. It helps! It… they work through whatever emotions they want others to have and they figure things out for themselves! I’m helping! Really, I am!”

“If they really wanted to do the things they do with you, they would’ve done so already in real life. You give them exactly what they want—exactly what they want to see with no fear of receiving something they might not like. You even have the emotions picked out beforehand and everything.” He sighs. “You’re not helping these ponies. All you’re doing is living through them. You’re using them vicariously. You focus on their problems and lives and then suddenly your problems don’t seem all that bad in comparison. Why settle for your own pain when you could have the joys and the horrors and the love of hundreds, right?”

I slam my hoof onto the table. “I am helping them! Ask any of them!”

“You’re only helping them escape reality, same as what you’re using them for in turn.”

“But… but…” I can feel fresh tears on my cheeks again. “But… can you blame me? What options do I have left? I don’t have a home or a life anymore! It all went away that day… that day when I let you all down!”

He shakes his head. “But you’re wrong. Nothing will happen if you come back. Things… things will go right back to normal. The only one who put these ideas of punishment into your head was you and you alone.” He grins slightly. “And if you think anyone plans on giving you a hard time about what happened, just remember we all look completely identical. The odds of anyone knowing it’s even you again are pretty small, actually.”

I surprise myself with a laugh. It hurts my throat even worse, but I do. Then my laughter dries. “But Chrysalis…”

“You apologize and all is forgiven. Never brought up again, I promise.”

I shake my head again. “I don’t… I don’t even know if I could face her after what I let… after what happened.”

“Maybe you only need to practice—same as what you’ve been offering ponies all this time.”


He vanishes in a swirl of green, only to return several feet taller and in the form of Queen Chrysalis. He stands and looks down at me curiously. My hooves are already shaking.

He slides the rules back to me and points at “TRUST”, then picks out “FORGIVENESS” and “LOVE” before tapping on his chest. With Chrysalis’ lips he smiles at me warmly and I leave my chair to fall to the ground.

I’m sorry…” I whimper, and suddenly it is Chrysalis before me and no one else; my Queen holding my head against her chest and letting me cry. “I didn’t mean to… I just… I made a mistake and…” She shushes me and I become quiet, pushing my head against her as I continue to sob.

He does not bring me with him when he leaves. I tell him I need to think things over. The next morning, I wake up and the urge to be anyone but myself is not as bad as it was the day before. When night falls, I don’t leave my door open for anyone to enter. Instead, I sit and pretend I’m no one but myself and ponder my own life and no one else’s. It’s not a perfect life to be sure, but it somehow seems a little bit less dark than it had been before.

I’m myself again, and for the first time in a long time, I’m okay with that.

Author's Notes:

So that was a weird one, eh? Sort of goes hand-in-hand with "A Hollow Victory" is its themes. Anyways...

I had this idea of a changeling owning a business in Ponyville for some time and went back and forth between a one-shot or something longer. Since I write too many long stories already, you got the one-shot.

If you're mad the changeling's reasons for leaving are left horribly vague, then that was sadly the point. The story was more about defense mechanisms and using fantasy to escape what troubles you. A lot of people already live vicariously, whether through adventure books or TV shows or movies. We forget who we are for a moment and focus on other people's lives; sometimes lives better and sometimes worse than our own. It's a nice way to escape reality for a while. The only problem comes when people get too stuck in these fantasy worlds and neglects to remember the real world until it comes and bites them in the ass. Or something like that.

Says the guy who writes fanfiction to forget about the job he doesn't like... :unsuresweetie:

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