Eyes Without a Face

by theycallmejub

Chapter 15: Discordant Order

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Chapter XV: Discordant Order

Crest is aggressive tonight. Rough. Hungry. His hooves are pulling at my mane and his teeth are pulling at my bottom lip as the two of us swap spit in a bathroom stall in what might be the seediest bar in Discord’s kitchen. Crest is sitting on a cold porcelain lid, and I’m sitting on a warm bulge, and tonight he tastes like whisky and lip gloss, and he smells like cheap perfume. He’s got on this frilly blouse number that’s about two sizes too small along with that infamous pleated skirt he’s so found of. I’m done up in a snug fitting leather jacket that’s so small the sleeves only reach half way down my front legs. Not the most comfortable, but all the Daughters were tight clothes, and Crest says if I want to be a Daughter I’d better start dressing like one.

Crest pulls his face away from mine long enough to suck in a much needed breath. He whispers in my ear. Tells me I’m his little rosy-haired whore. Tells me tonight he’s going to smack me around and take me anyway he likes. I nibble his ear, and I call him a faggot, and I tell him he’s welcome to try so long as he remembers I’m not the one wearing the skirt.

Outside the bathroom a few of Crest’s friends are working the bar, moving the last of the Shard. There isn’t any more coming, so they get away with selling it to the strung-out junkies for double what it’s worth. And Outside the bar a few more of his friends are working the street, puckering their lips and blowing kisses at every carriage that rolls within shouting range.

Lying on the floor beside the toilet is a splintered wooden bat, the broken edge stained red with the memory of a bad time. About six blocks east of this place there’s a well known drug den, and in that drug den, lying face down in a puddle of his own blood, puke and piss, is a lowlife junkie who owes Big Sis fifty bits. Earlier tonight me and Crest had the pleasure of reminding the poor stiff that it’s not a good idea to buck with Big Sis’s money. The bat barely held up under all the punishment I dished out and the junkie didn’t fare much better. Crest pounded his ribcage to pulp with that pipe wrench of his, but the terror didn’t really sink in till the poor stiff looked down and saw what a pretty job I’d done of mangling his hind legs. He didn’t even scream. Just sort of stared and shook.

We didn’t get a cent out of the junkie, but Crest says a message needed to be sent. We crippled a stallion over fifty bits. Fifty lousy bits. Hell of a way to spend a night out on the town.

It’s been three weeks since the Alley went up in smoke. Three weeks I’ve spent proving my loyalty to the Daughters. Nights like this have become routine for me and Crest. We hit the streets, paint the old mule’s face a nice rosy red, then find a bar or club to unwind in. Crest usually downs enough booze to fill a bathtub, doesn’t pay for a drop of it, then drags me off to a bathroom stall and the two of us go at it like a couple of hormone crazy teenagers.

Actually, we’re supposed to be working right now. Supposed to be out with the Daughters moving the last batch of Junebug’s drugs, but we’re not because Crest does whatever he wants. He’s one of Big Sis’s most trusted lieutenants, and apparently he’s a big bucking deal among the Daughters. Nopony in the gang messes with Crest. He does what he wants and right now the only things he wants is me.

We kiss. Grope. Bump and grind. I try not to think of Redheart. Bottom line is this: Crest wants me. It doesn’t matter that I don’t want him, or that I’ve got the best mare in world waiting for me back at old Storm Chaser’s place. Crest wants me. He’s my meal ticket. My invitation to the party. I keep Crest happy, and I stay out of trouble with the Daughters. It’s as simple as that.

Still, fooling around with Crest isn’t a total bust. He does have a certain charm to him, and I love watching him prance around in that pleated skirt and those devil-red lace panties of his. He’s just about to wiggle his tight flank out of them and take me anyway he likes, when somepony works up the nerve to interrupt us.

“Sis,” somepony shouts. The voice is feminine. The accent denser than Crest’s. “We got trouble out ‘round back.”

Crest ignores her. Unzips my jacket with his teeth.

“Come on, sis. Pull your bloody face ‘way from that slut for a spell. We got work needs doing.”

Crest must recognize the mare’s voice because he address her by name. “Clear off, Olive,” he says in a low voice. His lips brush neck, working their way down to my chest. I stop him. Grab hold of his chin and guide his mouth back to up mine.

The mare shouts again. Bangs the door. I lap at Crest’s tongue ring, hoping she gets tired of being ignored and bucks off. Crest tilts his head. Deepens the kiss. I shift my weight on his lap, and scissor my hind legs around his middle.

Silence outside. Guess she took the hint.

Crest is tugging at his panties again when the mare gives another shout.

“Clear off, I said!” he repeats.

The mare bangs the door again. Crest lets out a humph like the spoiled brat he is, sighs, apologizes to me, then sets me down on the toilet and opens the door. The mare who was doing all the banging shoots Crest a look like she’s about to drag him out of the stall and strangle him. She’s a pegasus. Deep green coat. Messy burgundy mane. The rings poking through her bottom lip are three of the biggest I’ve seen any of the Daughters wear.

The mare talks quietly. I don’t think she wants me to overhear, and that’s fine with me because I’m not listening anyway. I’m staring at Crest’s tail, and at his tight flank, his muscular legs, and I’m missing the feel of our chests pressed together. I’m staring at Crest and wondering how I ever let things get this out of control. How I went from chasing criminals across rooftops, to fooling around with them in bathroom stalls. I keep telling myself things need to be this way. That I need to play along with these animals. I keep telling myself that I’m not like them, and that I haven’t been having the time of my life these past few nights. I keep telling myself this is all so I can get closer to finding Scope’s killers, but suddenly—staring at Crest’s tail, peeking at those devil-red panties barely hidden by his skirt—suddenly I’m not sure that’s still true.

During their conversation I overhear the mare say something about Big Sis returning to Manehattan in a few days time. I can’t see Crest’s face, but I know he’s gone white as sheet at the mention of his boss.

“Big Sis” is what the Daughters call the gang leader. I haven’t met her yet, but I’ve been breaking legs for this Big Sis character for the better part of three weeks now. Turns out she was away on business in Trottingham during the big blaze. Turns out the Daughters are just the Manehattan chapter of a much larger gang that got its start in Trottingham called the Trottingham Mandem—or the “Trotts” for short. According to Crest, the Trotts don’t care for the way Big Sis runs her chapter. He said there had been talk among the gang leaders about dissolving the Manehattan chapter. Shutting down the Daughters of Discord. Big Sis didn’t like that. Crest told me that a little while before I showed up, his boss and a few of her top enforcers flew out to Trottingham to “negotiate” with the Mandem. See if the Daughters and the Trotts could reach some kind of agreement.

Crest is worried that when his boss comes back and learns that one of her biggest money-makers burned up along with half the Alley there’ll be hell to pay. Me and Crest have been running around like a couple of headless chickens trying to scrape together as many bits as possible to offer Big Sis as a peace offering. Crest says if I really want to be a Daughter that this is a good way to start.

And if that stack of shit wasn’t high enough, the Daughters have also been busy harassing the Kitchen’s small time dealers, hoping to find out what crew Junebug’s killer belonged to. I’ve got them chasing a fantasy. Looking for something that just plain isn’t there. I’ve got them eating shit out of my hooves, and right now I’ve got Crest in my back pocket. My plan worked. It cost Junebug and Temporal the decency of a dignified burial, and it cost me what little bit of my soul I was still carrying around like so many pieces of broken glass—but it worked. Some innocent families lost their homes in the blaze, and with poverty being what it is in the Alley bouncing back will be tough for them.

Was it worth it? Probably not, but I can’t let myself feel for all those ponies right now. I can’t. I’ve been soft ever since that night I fell out of the sky, abandoned by Luna only to be saved from death by the old mule herself. When the city reached out and caught me, answered my call when even my beloved moon goddess refused, I… I don’t know… I let my guard down. Let Dee get under my skin when I should’ve told her to buck off and take care of herself. Let Junebug get to close, and then turned around and let things get out of control with Temporal too. I’ve been soft. Manehattan is no place for soft ponies. I need to focus. I’m close now. All the pieces are finally starting to fall into place. I’m close. I can feel it.

I’m so deep in thought that it takes me a while to realize Crest and the mare have left the bathroom. I don’t remember Crest saying anything to me before leaving, and I don’t remember wandering out of the stall either. Don’t how much time I lose to my brooding, but when I come back down to earth I’m standing in front of the sink, and water cold enough to drink is pouring from the faucet. I splash my face a few times, keeping my gaze pointed toward the bowl. Facing my reflection takes courage. The mirror is cracked in the center and so is the face of the mare staring back at me.

I hardly recognize her. Her rose colored mane is a shade duller, and her cream coat has lost its sheen. There are scars streaking across her face and down her neck like lines on a map, a map of the city, of Manehattan, each line leading back to a corner, or a rooftop, or down a backstreet or an alleyway. Each one leading back in time, reminding me of all the close calls. They’ve only been getting closer since the fall.

Why’d you do it, Manehattan? You had me right where you wanted me that night. Had me dead to rights. I was a heartbeat away from becoming another ugly blemish on your ugly face, but you just wouldn’t let me go. You couldn’t, could you? You had me long before that night I dropped out of the sky and into your lap like some wounded bird. You’ve had me at knifepoint this hold time, but you can’t bring yourself to carve out my beating heart, can you? You want me all for yourself. I know you. You want to break me the way you broke Sparkle. Taint me. Make me one of your criminals... Is that it? Is that why I’m still alive? Why I’m still...

“You still here in the loo, Rosy?” The sound of Crest’s voice jars me. Pulls me from my brooding. “Come on, come on. Me sisters found a pony who might know something about the mare who bumped off Juney. Figured you’d want a go at the little uni cunt yourself.”

From the sound of it Crest’s found himself another small time dealer to slap around. I wander back to the stall and pick up the bat, laughing to myself. Uni. I love that. It’s is short for unicorn. I guess it’s supposed to be some kind of racial slur, because Crest and the other Daughters are always tossing the word around like a curse. Like something that would make your grandparents blush.

Uni. I hate unicorns. Shame it took me this long to learn the slur. Uni. I love it.

I pick up the bat. Crest leads me out of the bathroom, his pipe wrench swinging from his belt as he prances ahead.

The lights in the bar are low and the air is hazy with cigarette smoke. It’s loud. Every pony is shouting. Two Daughters at the door are shouting for everypony not with the gang to clear out. Most of the bar's patrons are shouting back as the other Daughters herd them through the entrance like cattle. It’s loud. Can’t believe I didn’t hear it before. Everypony is shouting. Place lousy with noise.

“Take it outside!” shouts the barkeep, an old earth pony stallion with a pair of glasses balanced at the edge of his muzzle. He’s waving his hoof like he means to fight, knowing all too well there’s nothing he can do to stop what’s coming next. “Bunch of ungrateful hooligans. After all I’ve done for the Daughters. All I’ve done and you don’t even have the decency to take it outside.”

A mare reaches across the counter and smacks the barkeep in the ear. Same mare that butted in on me and Crest. Pegasus. Green coat. Unruly Mane. Crest called her ‘Olive’, I think. She tells the barkeep to shut up or she’s going to shut him up.

“Take it outside, I said!”

But the Daughters don’t take it outside. They drag it in from off the street and lay into it as it kicks and twists and fights for its life.

“I didn’t see anything!” shouts the unicorn as they lug her across the floor. She’s a mare by the sound of her voice, but I can’t see her through the mob of bodies kicking and stomping her. “I didn’t! Please! Please let me go! I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Her horn glows. A stool enveloped in light floats up on its own and flings itself at the mob, striking one of the Daughters: a pegasus with an ice-blue coat.

“Stupid uni cunt,” grumbles the pegasus, rubbing his backside where the stool landed. Crest laughs out loud as we approach, prompting the others to laugh as well. A few of the Daughters shove the pegasus. Call him a nancy. A poof. They laugh at him. Tease him.

“Stupid, bloody uni cunt,” he grumbles.

The gang laughs, forming a bullies’ circle around the unicorn and Ice-blue. He picks up the stool and goes to work on the unicorn; the sopping thump of wood crashing into flesh is almost enough to drown out the laughing. Almost.

“Damn you, monsters!” the barkeep shouts. “Ungrateful bunch of brats. Take it outside!” He shouts. Olive slaps him. Tells him to shut up before she shuts him up.

Crest laughs.

I stand at his side and watch it happen. I watch the stool rise above the bullies’ circle, then fall. Rise then fall. Rise then fall—coming up redder and a bit less intact every time Ice-Blue lifts it overhead. He lays into her like he won’t ever stop, his eyes gleaming with something I see in my own whenever I look in a mirror.

Crest laughs.

The unicorn cries. “Please I don’t know anything. I don’t…”

The barkeep roars. “Out! I said take it outside!”

The Daughters shout, talking over each other like they always do. “Stupid, bloody uni cunt—”

“You ready to talk, uni—?”

“I say we bleed her out. Bleed her out right slow—”

And then all of them. All together. All at once.

“Outside! Not in my bar. Take it out—”

“I say we mash her up some more—”

“Hear that, uni? Me friend here wants to bleed you dry. Sure you don’t want to talk—?”

“Please, I… Please….”

“Stupid. Bloody. Uni. Cunt—”

“Hey, ease up with the uni cracks already. Some of us have horns, you know—”

“Sure you don’t have something to say to me, uni—?”


“Outside! Outside now!”

Without saying a word, Olive rears up on her hind legs, reaches over the counter, grabs the barkeep by his shirt collar and throws over her shoulder, slamming him down on the floor.

“All I’ve done,” he shouts again, as if hoping the sentence will protect him. Olive stomps his mouth, pushing teeth into the back of his throat. He chokes. Makes a gurgling sound. Olive stomps his nose, shattering his glasses. He cries out. Hurt. Afraid. Olive stomps him again. Again. Her eyes go starry, sizzling in their sockets like a couple of eggs frying in a pan. I have to fight the urge to march over there and feed her my bat.

Can’t get in their way, Rose. You get in their way now, and you blow everything.

Olive keeps stomping. Then a collective gasp soars up from the bullies’ circle, and the fight to control myself gets that much harder.

“You stabbed her,” shouts one of the Daughters. “Are you dizzy? Are you bloody mental?”

“What you go and stab her for?”

“What? I thought we was gonna bleed her?”

“Look at that. You got blood on me new boots.”

“Mental. He’s bloody mental, this one is.”

Crest smiles like a father watching his kids play tag at the park. “Come on then, lovely,” he says to me “Better hurry while there’s still some to go around.”

I spit out the bat so I can tell Crest I’m sitting this one out. I tell him it’s too personal. Too close to home, what with Junebug being my only friend. I warn Crest that I might lose control and kill the unicorn before the gang can get anything useful out of her. Crest buys it. I’m not surprised; he buys everything I’m selling, whenever I’m selling it. And anyway it’s only a partial lie: I really am worried I might lose control and kill somepony.

Criminals. I hate criminals. Them and this whole rotten city. This bucking—worthless—rotten…

Keep a lid on it, Rose. Lose your cool now and it’s over. They’re not going to kill her. Just rough her up a bit. Not going to kill her. Keep a lid on it.

Crest prances off and joins his friends in the bullies’ circle. Olive is still pounding the barkeep into the floorboards. The unicorn is groaning on the floor. The Daughters are arguing, talking over each other like always.

I don’t move a muscle. Olive is pummeling the barkeep, and the Daughters are tormenting some unicorn who doesn’t know anything because there isn’t anything to know, and I don’t move a muscle. I let it happen. I mash my teeth, and I let it happen.

Crest looks down at his prey and whistles. “Get her up on a pool table. Hurry now, don’t want her bleeding out on us.”

From where I’m standing, I watch the Daughters drag the unicorn to the corner of the room and throw her up on a pool table. They lay her down spread-eagle. Hold her legs so she doesn’t squirm. The pony who stabbed her brandishes his knife, ready to slit her throat should Crest give the order.

And Crest—the smug piece of shit—he pulls up a stool beside the pool table. Sits down. Get’s comfortable. I move closer and watch as he taps the unicorn’s cheek, trying to keep her from dozing. After the beating she took it’s a miracle she’s still alive, never mind awake. I move closer. Listen.

“A good mate of mine told me you spend lots of time out on the streets. Told me you sleep on the sidewalk. I’ll bet you see all sorts of things sleeping on the sidewalk, like you do.” Crest leans forward and blows the words in the unicorn’s ear. She shudders. Swallows hard. “Bet you seen lots and lots a deals go down out here. Seen lots of faces coming and going.”

“I told you…” the unicorn says weakly, “I d-didn’t see anything. I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Crest belts her across the face, then curses, shaking his hoof. “Me mate seems to think different. He’s a humble stallion, me mate. Honest stallion. Works for that crook Peachy in a shitty café in a shitty part of town. Gets paid next to nothing to slave away over a hot stove all day long. He’s a bloody a cook, me mate. Makes food. I ask you, is there a more honest, more wholesome way to make a living than feeding the hungry?”

The unicorn doesn’t say anything. Crest belts her again. “I’m chatting with you, uni.”

“Stupid, bloody uni cunt, this one,” says Ice-blue with a smirk. The others chime in.

“She don’t know shite, sis. We’re wasting our time.”

“Aye. Let’s bleed the cunt and be off.”

“I say we mash her up.”

“Stupid, bloody uni.”

“Relax with the uni cracks already,” says the only other unicorn in the room. I’ve seen him before. I recognize his yellow lipstick. His matching eye-shadow. His unusually long horn.

Crest grins. Traces the curve of the unicorn’s cheek and pets her again. “Hear that, uni cunt? Looks like you got yourself a friend.” The others laugh. “Guess you uni types have to stick together, huh?”

“Bet she’s a cop. Every stinkin’ uni in this town’s a stinkin’ cop—”

“Relax with the bloody uni cracks—”

“Come off it all ready, she don’t know nothing—”

“Aye. Bleed the bitch and let’s be off!”

“Let me have her,” says Ice-Blue. He has the greediest, hungriest eyes I’ve ever seen. “Let me have the little uni cu—”

And then there’s a thunderclap followed by a spray of red mist rising smoke. I jump at the sound. The Daughters jump at the sound. Ice-blue coughs blood. Gurgles. Drops to the floor. He twitches like a half-crushed bug, blood gushing from a coin-sized hole under his chin, greedy eyes wide and wondering why they can’t blink anymore.

It takes the other Daughters a few seconds to realize what’s happened.

“Bleedin’ uni this and uni that,” shouts the unicorn with the long horn, red-faced from anger and drunkenness. “I warned you, didn’t I? Bleedin’ uni this and that. I warned you.” His horn is glowing. A gun is floating at his side, enveloped in the same light surrounding his horn.

“Put that bucking gun down, you mental chase,” says Crest. The others look on in horror.

“I warned you, didn’t I?”

The mare lying on the pool table sobs.

I look on indifferently. I could stop this. I could take down the shooter. He’s distracted. Waving his piece around the bullies’ circle, not paying me any attention. I doubt he even knows I’m here. I could stop this. Dart across the room, fling myself over a few fallen chairs, and blindside him. Kick the gun away and smash that erection on his forehead through the nearest wall. It’d be easy, like blowing the head off a dandelion. I could stop this, but I’m more than happy to leave them to it. Hell, I’m ecstatic. I pull up a stool at the bar, and I poor myself a drink from the tap, and with smile on my lips I watch the animals eat each other.

“I warned you!”

“Put the gun down!”

“Warned you didn’t I. Uni this and uni that; well I’ve had me fill of it!”

“Damn it, sis! Put. The gun. Down.”

One of the Daughter’s gets brave and lunges at Long Horn. The gun barks again. The muzzle flashes. Smokes. One of them gets brave. Lunges. Her bravery gets her a bullet through the chest. She falls. Sucks desperately at the haze floating overhead before going limp.

The others jump the unicorn all at once. The gun barks like a rabid dog as they swarm him. A mare takes two in the gut. Screams curses and clutches her stomach as she falls on her ass. Another catches a bullet in his hind leg, but it doesn’t stop him from smashing Long Horn’s face with both front hooves. Long Horn staggers but keeps shooting.

They swarm him. The gun keeps barking until the pony with the knife slides the blade between Long Horn’s ribs. Then he gives the handle a twist, and the unicorn gives a sharp holler, and the light gripping the gun vanishes.

“That’s it. Bleed the damn uni prick. That’ll teach him—”

“The dizzy uni shot me…”

“Mash the bastard’s face—”

“Buckin’ Uni prick—”

“Can’t believe it… He actually shot me…”

Crest snatches the knife from the other pony and goes to town on Long Horn, stabbing him repeatedly in the stomach and chest. Long Horn’s legs flail. His horn flickers. The sounds are slick and gruesome. I sip my drink, grinning, enjoying the show.

When it’s over Crest and the others are panting hard and staring at each other. No pony says anything. The only sounds in the room are the groans coming from the mare with the slugs in her gut, and the soft sobs of the unicorn still sprawled out on the pool table, too beat up to move. I watch Crest. He looks around at the mortified faces of the other Daughters. Judging by his expression, I’d say he doesn’t like what he sees.

It’s quiet for a long while. Then one of them starts giggling nervously.

“What a nancy colt, that one was,” she chuckles, gesturing toward the lifeless unicorn. “Couldn’t even take a few digs.”

Another of the Daughters chuckles. A stallion this time. “We was only havin’ a go at him and he starts shooting up the place. You believe that?”

The giggle spreads around the room like a flu virus before erupting into hysterical laughter.

“Bleedin’ uni this and uni that,” one them jokes, mocking Long Horn’s voice.

“Did you see Crest’s face when that uni pulled his piece out?” one of them laughs. “I thought you was gonna piss yourself, sis. Thought you was gonna cry, you little poof.”

“Of course I almost pissed me self,” Crest laughs, unfazed by the dig. “Did you see the size of that cannon? Where the hell was he hiding it? I’ve seen newborn foals smaller than that piece.”

They laugh. Get back to their hooves and dust themselves off like nothing happened. Like they didn’t just gut one of their own and watch another two get blown away. The Daughters are either hard as nails or bat-shit crazy. Crest especially. There’s a glint in his eye that tells me he wouldn’t mind doing this again tomorrow night. Crest’s cruelty is frightening. Hard to believe he’s the same stallion that held me so gently the night I torched Junebug’s place. He seemed so earnest then—and what really scares me is that he seems just as earnest now.

“One of you grab up sis down there.” Crest gestures toward the mare who’s moaning and clutching her stomach. “Let's be off before she bleeds out like a stuffed pig.”

“What about our dead, sis?” asks one of the Daughters.

“Leave them,” says Crest dismissively. “You die in the gutter; you lie in the gutter. That’s Kitchen law. And one of you take care of that uni cunt lying about on the table.” Crest starts for the door, leaving the others to carry the wounded behind him. “Olive, Rosy, we’re off.” He waves for me and Olive to follow.

“I’ll take care of her,” I say.

Crest eyes me carefully. “And just where were you when I was about to get me tail blasted off?”

“It looked like you had him.” I take a sip of my drink and shoot Crest my best you-get-me-so-wet-you-big-strong-sexy-hunk-of-a-stallion smile. He smiles back, knowing later tonight I’m going to treat him like a king.

Crest tosses a thoughtless glance back at the unicorn on the table. “Be quick about it.” He grins. Blows me a kiss. Winks and waves prettily before prancing out onto the street. The others shuffle out after Crest, still laughing and making jokes about what just happened. All of them except Olive. Olive is still leaning against the counter, staring down at her front hooves. Shaking. Sobbing. She reminds me of myself on that night I made Fedora scream for me.

I trot over to Olive and place a hoof on her shoulder, offering her what passes for a gentle touch these days. She looks at me and for the first time I realize how young she is.

“First time, kid?”

She nods. Looks down at her trembling hooves. “You must think I’m punk. Standin’ off to the side and shakin’ like a bloody leaf.”

“No.” I look down at my own hooves. They’re still. Steady. “It’s when you stop shaking that you run into problems. Beat it kid. You don’t want to see what happens next.”

Olive scurries off with her tail between her legs. Poor kid has no business running and gunning with these animals. Happens to a lot kids born in the Kitchen. You can either join the gang or spend the rest of your life getting harassed by them. Poor kid. Least she didn’t end up on the corner with the working mares tonight.

I wait till the Daughters are good and gone. Trot over to the barkeep. Check his pulse. Either little Olive hits like a foal or she doesn’t have the heart for ending lives yet, because the old stallion is still breathing.

“Lucky break, old timer.”

I step over Ice-blue. Trot by Long Horn and the mare he blasted in the chest. Three dead Daughters of Discord. Three dead criminals. Their passing leaves the world no poorer.

When I lay eyes on the unicorn my stomach tries to bounce up into my throat. She’s dressed in rags. Her eyes are closed but her lungs are still working, her chest still rising and falling. She’s only passed out. Not dead. Only passed out. I can’t say for sure if my eyes go all big and stupid when I see her, but if feels like they do. I had it wrong. She’s no small time dealer. Had it all wrong.

I nudge her awake. Her eyes open centimeters at a time, and for a second it looks like she might recognize me. My face is a forgettable one, but for a split second I’m sure she knows who I am. Then the second ticks away and her senses come rushing back to her. She falls off the table as she scrambles away from me.

“Please…” she mutters, bumping into a fallen chair as she crawls away. “Please, I…”

“Can you stand?” I extend my foreleg. Offer her what passes for a friendly touch these days. She hesitates.

“I—yeah I think so.” She takes my hoof in hers. I help her back to all-fours. She winces. Wobbles. Starts to fall, but I catch her.

“Easy now. I got you. Just lie on my back, okay.” I kneel down for her. She hesitates again.

“Go on. Don’t worry, I got you,” I say patiently. She hesitates. Pushes out a sigh, then she eases onto my back, wrapping her front legs around my neck while resting her chin on my shoulder.

“Why are you helping?” she asks. I take a moment to consider my answer as I stand up straight, testing her weight. She’s light as feather. As a song.

“Because I’m not like them,” I tell her, speaking more to myself than to her. The answer is good enough for the mare. She doesn’t say another word.

I make for the backdoor. I’m not sure what I’m thinking or where I’m going, but I make for the back door with the unicorn in tow. Crest will be wondering why it took me so long to meet up with the gang, but I don’t worry about that now. I make for the backdoor, and I step onto the sidewalk, out into the cool night air, and I don’t worry about anything at all.

It’s a shame the unicorn doesn’t remember me. I remember her. I remember her stripped scarf, and her mint green mane, and the strum of her lyre, and the jingle of coins dropping into her upturned bowler hat.

As I trot, I whistle a few bars of that old song—and the mare resting on my back puckers her lips and joins me.

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Eyes Without a Face

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