Eyes Without a Face

by theycallmejub

Chapter 19: Rest in Turmoil

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Chapter XIX: Rest in Turmoil

Manehattan Memorial. Names upon names scrawled on stone, like end credits for a big-budget snuff flick. Names and dates. Dates of birth. Dates of death. The difference between them often as little as thirty years.

Manehattan Memorial is crowded with young ponies.

A romantic springtime breeze has my newly dyed tail slow dancing to music that isn’t there. Auburn. It doesn’t complement my cream coat as well, but I don’t hate it. It suits me fine, especially now that my cutie mark is no longer a rose. I had the marks on my flanks bleached; right now they’re as cream as the rest of me. Hard thing to do, giving up my cutie mark, but I’m a wanted mare and having a cutie mark would make it too easy for the cops to ID me.

The funeral ceremony has already started by the time I arrive. The turnout is bigger than I imagined it would be; mostly older ponies I’ve never met before. Never even heard of, but then Redheart never was one to on about her family or ponies she’s known in the past.

Standing near the very front of the group is an old mare with a white pelt and pink mane that must be the mother of the deceased. She’s dressed all in black. So is everypony else.

There are chairs set up but the mourners have elected to stand in stony silence. It’s quiet. Quiet enough to hear a pony's thoughts from a hundred yards out.

Dee is standing in front of a casket. She’s facing everypony else, her bottom lip quivering like she’s about to cry, her expression one of grief well on its way to anger. She looks drunk. Very drunk. She’s about to say something.

It’s midday in Manehattan Memorial and Redheart is dead and so am I, and Dee is about to speak on behalf of her best friend. Before she begins, I slip furtively behind the small herd of mourners and watch the ceremony from the very back of the group.

“I paid for this whole thing myself, did you know that?” Dee begins. More than a few of her words fumble out horribly slurred, but the mourners don’t say anything. They indulge her, each of them no doubt familiar the pain of loss that inevitably finds every citizen of Manehattan. They indulge her. Chose to understand, rather than judge. “Paid for it out of pocket. The coffin. The hearse. This asshole,” she says through her teeth, pointing at a stallion dressed in robes and wearing a white collar. “You have any idea much assholes like this prick charge? I mean the bitch is dead, right? Cut her a bucking break.” A dark chuckle plays on her lips. The stallion in the white collar wrinkles his nose but holds his peace.

“But no, I just had pay for it. Bought the nicest wooden box I could find.” Dee almost trips as she turns to gesture toward the coffin. “I mean look at that. That’s some fancy bucking craftsmanship. Hoof made. Set me back... You have no idea how much it set me back. And the stupid bitch always used to say I was cheap. Cheap and greedy.” Her upper body flops across the coffin, and her backside wiggles and wags at the mourners. She laughs a cruel laugh as the golden bit sign on her flank catches the midday sunlight and shines like real coin. “Hell, I guess I am. She was always giving and giving and giving—and I never gave anypony a damn thing. I told her those damn vultures”—her voices soars and breaks at the top of its arc as she wheels around spastically, pointing an angry front hoof at no pony in particular, her face flushed with drunkenness—“you damn vultures—I told her you’d pick her bones bucking clean and leave her with nothing! I told her! But she kept right on giving, the idiot. Always trying to fix everypony’s problems. Always trying to fix every damn thing.”

I can’t see any of the mourners’ faces, but judging from their silence I’d say they haven’t lost their patience with Dee yet. Though the way she’s carrying on they might be close.

Dee leans one foreleg against the coffin. Faces downward. Shakes her head. “Well, buck me. Guess this is part where I’m supposed to tell you what a stand-up mare she was. Tell you why you’re supposed to give a shit now that she’s gone," she says. I can almost taste the bitterness in every word. "Well all right then, here it comes: she was my friend.” Tears now. Trickling. Not pouring. Not yet. Trickling—angry, sad, drunk and helpless. “She was my friend, and I loved her, and now she’s dead. She was a better pony than me, but I guess that doesn’t matter because she’s the one in the box, and I’m the one stuck here staring at your sorry faces, telling you about it.”

It’s quiet for a moment. Stone silent again. Dee scratches her head. Stares down at the coffin with a blank face. Like she wants to say more—wants to let out all the pain and the humiliating grief and the rage—but the dull look in her once intense electric blue eyes tells me there’s no more coming. No more words. No more of those strong, searing emotions. Heartbroken and hurting for her, I watch all those heavy feelings drain out her features and pool at her hooves as tears.

“I guess that’s it.” Numbness touches each word as they leave her mouth. “She was my friend and now she’s dead. That’s it.” Dee shakes her head slightly. Her intense electric blue eyes short out and dim. She sucks back a lungful of springtime air, then pushes out a deep, defeated sigh. “Yeah… Yeah, that’s it…”

She pats the coffin lid twice. Turns. Stumbles. Nearly falls. Then she wobbles off in no particular direction. The last water fly. I watch her skirt away and wonder if I’ll ever see her again.

I don’t pay attention to much of the service after Dee leaves. Some other ponies say a few words. A unicorn uses magic to lower Redheart into the ground before covering her with heaps of earth. The stallion in the white collar recites an old prayer to the Royal Sisters. The mourners leave flowers, then trudge off.

Redheart’s mother is the last to leave. Before she goes she spots me at a glance and trots up to me, her gait weathered by too many years of trudging.

She runs her hoof through my mane, comforting me as if I were her own daughter. “Oh, you poor dear. You were her lover, yes?” Her voice and face are solemn. She looks the way Redheart would have, if only the city had let us grow old together.

“How did you know that?” I ask.

“It’s in your eyes. I fell in love with a pair of eyes like yours once.” She lets the whisper of smile play at the corners of her solemn face. “You no doubt reminded my sweet Redheart of her father. Just look at you. You’re beautiful in that lonely sort of way. And these scars on your face… My Redheart always did obsess over scars. Lasting wounds that never heal quite right.” Thoughtfulness finds a home behind her timeless gaze. She pauses, then says, “She couldn’t fix you, could she?”

I answer her question with one of my own. “Why did you leave? Redheart told me that you walked out on your husband. On your family.” Something like anger takes hold of me when I ask. Like anger but quieter. Cooler. Something that wants to understand, not condemn. “Why’d you do it? Why’d you leave Braveheart?”

Pain invades her features. “Because I couldn’t fix him either," she says. "If you were broken enough for my Redheart to love you, then I predict your hardships have only just begun.” She sighs, then straightens the collar of my snug fitting leather jacket. The gesture is deeply motherly. “And still so young. I’ll pray for you, dear.”

Standing off near a parked carriage, a finely dressed unicorn stallion calls for her attention. “Miss Proudheart,” he says in that tempered manner that belongs solely to Manehattan’s upper class, “there are other engagements you must attend to today. It’s nearly dusk, ma’am. We need to get going.”

“Of course, of course,” she calls back, waving for her driver to be patient a moment longer. “I’m afraid I have to go. Take care of yourself as best you can, dear.” Her forehead is warm against mine for a cluster of seconds that doesn’t last long enough—and then her lips are brushing my face, and soon after that her graying tail is bobbing up and down as she trots toward the street where her ride is waiting for her.

I watch her climb into the carriage. Watch it rumble away from the curb, then vanish around the first corner on the main street. Gone.

When I turn back, me and Redheart are finally alone.

Her headstone is simple and finely cut. She would have liked it.

“Auburn… I know, right?” I begin. I’ve been planning for this moment for days, but suddenly, faced with suffocating reality of it, all the words I’d spent hours shaping in my head melt away like the last of the winter frost. “I’m not crazy about it either, but it seemed like a good idea when Tracy suggested it. You don’t know Tracy do you? She’s a friend of mine. I’m staying with her and her mother now; for how long, I don't know. Shame you two never met. I think you’d have gotten along with Tracy. She’s always talking and joking and smiling. She can be a bit exhausting, but I think you’d have liked her.

“The mane’s not the only thing that’s new. I had my cutie mark bleached the same color as my coat. Had to. Cops are looking for me, I’m sure, and so will the whole Royal Guard once Shining Armor sticks his nose into the Pie Sisters case. There are guards all over the city now, so I have to be careful. Celestia’s declared a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy on crime in Manehattan. Shame it took her losing Sparkle to realize not every place in the country is as peaceful as Canterlot.

“…I met your mother,” I say after a long pause. “She’s very beautiful. The two of you look just alike.” Another pause. This one shorter. “I think… I think she wanted to love you but wasn’t strong enough. She was scared. I won’t condone what she did to you and your father, but I’ve been afraid myself. I understand. I hope you didn’t die resenting her.”

I talk and talk, the words spewing out uncontrollably. I say more to Redheart’s headstone than I ever said to the mare buried underneath. Death is funny that way, isn’t it? The pony you care about is no longer around to hear it, and suddenly you realize there are so many things that need saying.

I talk and skirt and dance around the issue for as long as I can—and when I can’t anymore, I go ahead and say needs saying. “I...look I’m sorry for everything I put you through. And I…well… I…” It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say, but it needs saying just the same. “…Goodbye, Redheart.” I force the words out. They rise up in my throat kicking and screaming the whole way, but I force them out.

And then that’s it. That was the only thing left to say, and now that it's said I turn to take my leave. Where I’m going I don’t know yet, but I... Oh hell, I just plain don't—

“I don’t know. I think you look pretty good as a brunette.” The voice comes from behind me, too easy-going and too upbeat for somepony visiting Manehattan Memorial. I've heard it before. Where, I’m not sure. “Black would’ve been a bit cliché. Blond might’ve gotten a few laughs out of my pals here, though.”

I turn in search of the voice. What I find rattles me. It’s Sparkle’s assistant; the sharply dressed baby dragon. He’s leaning against a tree a few yards from Redheart’s grave, dressed just as sharply now as he was when I first saw him. He’s wearing a tailored suit, black with cherry-red pinstripes and a matching cherry-red shirt. His green crest is hidden under a black fedora that looks about a size to big for his head. It’s Sparkle’s hat. The one that fell to the sidewalk on the last night of autumn.

Hovering on either side of him are two pegasus guards. They’re old: about Storm Chaser’s age. Their pelts are white and their armor is gold, though not as lustrous as that of the average guard.

“Not here,” I say, my voice a threatening rumble. I knew this day was coming. Didn’t think it would come so soon. “This is a resting place. We aren’t doing this here.”

“Chill out, would ya.” The dragon digs into his pocket. I take a fighting stance, snorting menacingly. “Easy,” he says, removing a pack of cigarettes from his suit jacket. He taps the bottom of the pack with practiced care and up pops a cigarette. “I didn’t come looking for a fight. Just the opposite actually. I come bearing gifts.”

He stands there under the tree, smirking, waiting for me to relax.

I don’t.

“So, are we gonna make mean faces at each other all day, or are you gonna come over and join me in the shade?” The cigarette in his mouth bobs as he talks. He takes a breath and the end lights seemingly on its own.

Reluctantly, I join him in the shade. Up close he looks bigger than he did a moment ago. The guards look smaller. Older.

“What’s this about?” I say.

“Not one for manners I see,” he says out of the corner of his mouth. He holds out his claw, waiting for me to shake it. When I don’t, he huffs and says, “Oh hey, how’s it going? I’m Spike and these two handsome gents are the Sword Brothers.” He gestures toward the guards, a mock smile spread thin across his face. “Long, Broad, say hello.” The floating pegasi snort. “There. You see how not difficult that is? Now you try.”

Eyeing him carefully, I let him take my hoof in his claw. His grip is surprisingly firm. “You already know who I am,” I say.

“Doesn’t mean I can’t be polite.” The brim of the too-large hat falls in front of his face as he takes a puff from his cigarette. He pushes the brim upward with his thumb, looking like a kid dressed in his father’s clothing. I can’t help but notice how charming his sharp-toothed grin is, though not nearly as charming as he thinks.

I stare him down in silence until my gaze makes him uncomfortable. “How long you planning on pretending you aren’t afraid of me?” I say, wetting my voice with bravado the way I used to while shaking down thugs. Some habits die hard, I suppose.

The guards look to each other, then back to me. They float forward a smidge.

Spike holds up a claw and they float back. “You’re making my friends nervous with the whole Boogiemare routine.”

“You’re a lousy actor, kid. Sparkle was too.”

Spike’s temper flares when I mention Sparkle. His eyes go hot. Visceral. A snarl threatens to curl his lips, and for the first time since he opened his mouth, the little dragon loses his cool. It only lasts a second. One second of fury and blood-red hate. Then he straightens his hat, takes long drag from his cigarette, and just like that his composure returns.

“Sparkle,” he says with a sharp laugh, the word enveloped in a cloud of white smoke as it leaves his lips. “I like it: very ‘Hollyhoof Antihero.’ Bet your internal monologue sounds like a black and white crime drama.”

“Drop the calm, collected act. You’re shaking like a leaf behind that poker face. Quit stalling and tell me what you want.”

Spike finishes his cigarette. Flicks it away and fishes another out of his pocket. “And here I thought you of all ponies would appreciate a little drama.”

I inch forward and that dab of fear he’s been keeping at bay flashes behind his eyes. He tries to back-peddle, forgetting in his brief moment of panic that his back is against a tree trunk. When he realizes his misstep, he goes ahead and enjoys a small laugh at his own expense.

“Fair enough,” he says, smiling again as he turns a shoulder toward me. “You get two for making me flinch, but that’s it.”

My patience gone, I snarl. Lunge forward.

One of the guards moves to protect Spike, swatting my kick aside with his wing like I’m an amateur. Without uncrossing his forelegs, the hovering pegasus swings his helmeted head downward, cracking me on the bridge of my nose.

Rattled, I take a quick half step back. He smirks, forelegs still crossed about his board chest.

Ready for him this time, I spring up on my hind legs just as the second guard pony lands. The first one beats his wings. Starts toward me—

“Come on guys, I was just funnin’ with ya.” And then, as if by some magic, Spike is standing between us before any more blows are thrown. Quick little bastard. I didn't even see him move.

He waits for me and the guards to settle down before taking a more serious tone and saying, “I came to tell you Manehattan PD has officially kicked you loose. Your name’s been scratched off the most wanted list, so you won’t have to worry about hiding from us. Though you should keep the—what is that, auburn?—it looks good on you.”

It takes me a minute to make sense of Spike’s words. “What?” I don’t know if my eyes go all big and stupid when I hear the news, but judging by the surprise in my voice I’m guessing they do. “You can’t… can you really do something like that?”

“Can, and already have.” He takes a drag from his cigarette and leans back against the tree trunk, enjoying the look of shock I must be wearing. “Don’t forget I was the assistant to Celestia’s number one student; I’ve got connections of my own in Canterlot. All it took were a few letters to the right ponies and, poof, there goes your criminal record.” He touches a claw to his chin in thought. “Well, not entirely: Manehattan will remember you as a disturbed mental case who stopped taking her happy pills and decided to live out a couple of her favorite comic book fantasies. At least that’s what it says in your new files. Finding a job will probably be a pain, but other than that you’re off the hook.”


“Well I can’t promise you Twilight’s big bro will leave you alone. My ponies buried your real case file, but Shining tends to be… thorough. He’s not stupid, and you can’t bribe the guy like you can these other so-called officers of the law.” Spike takes another drag and blows it out slow before going on to say, “Soon as he gets wise to your part in his sis’s death—and trust me, he will—it’s gonna be all fire and brimstone. Skip town if you like, but I doubt it’ll do any good. The Guard knows every inch of Equestria forwards and backwards. He’ll find you.”

The dragon’s expression dims. He takes another drag and looks off at nothing in particular. “And when he does, he won’t have you banished or imprisoned. He’ll turn you over to the princess… Celestia trapped her own flesh and blood on the moon for a thousand years—hate to think what she’d do to a perfect stranger who got her fave student killed.”

He looks off at the stretching expanse of headstones, all lined up in neat rows like tallies on giant scoreboard. I look off with him, wondering how many others died random, violent deaths. Wondering if there will be place for me here—if there will even be anything left to bury should Celestia get her hooves on me.

“I don’t understand,” I say. My voice sounds like it’s coming from far away. “Why let me go? I’m as much to blame as anypony else. I didn’t throw her off that rooftop, but I might as well have. I—”

“Don’t give yourself too much credit, Rose,” says Spike, cutting my thought short. “Twilight’s trouble started long before she met you. Long before she met Inkie or Blinkie to... Not long after she met me, though.” He utters the last sentence with a thoughtfulness that surprises me. He looks away from the sea of headstones. Looks back to me. Then past me. “You mind?” He nods in the direction of Redheart’s grave. “I’d like to pay my respects.”

Less than a minute later, I’m once again facing Redheart’s grave. Spike is beside me. He shuts his eyes. Removes his hat. Holds it against his chest. Over his heart. The guard ponies land and do the same with their helmets. I lower my head—and I’d shut my eyes too, if not for Daisy and her noose and Lilly and her scream waiting for me behind my eyelids.

When Spike opens his eyes again and the guards return their helmets to their heads, I ask my question a second time. “Why let me go?”

“It’s my way of forgiving you,” he says as he adjusts his hat. Lights his third cigarette.

“I don’t understand.”

“You wouldn’t,” he says, mildly amused. “A lot of you ponies probably wouldn’t. Hell, I know for a fact that Long and Broad here think I should tear out your throat for what you did to Twilight.” The stoic pegasi let out another snort but don’t say anything. “But I’m not a pony, Rose. I’m a dragon. I’m gonna be around for a long, long while. And a couple dozen centuries is a whole lotta’ time to lug around all that bitterness, know what I mean?”

I stare down at him, puzzled.

“Well just look where it gets us. Look where it got you. Somepony hurt you, so you go looking to hurt somepony else, right? You run into Twilight, who’s already a big ball of angst, and you take it out on her. Then she tries to get back at you and gets herself killed. And now her brother is here in the city looking to do the same thing. Who knows, maybe he gets lucky. Maybe he’s the one who takes you down—but then how long before somepony who loves you goes after him?” He takes a drag. Frustration twists his face.

“It never ends, get it? Just keeps going round and round, getting bigger and bigger and sucking everypony in like a black hole. An eye for an eye and pretty soon we’re all blind.” He cocks his head to face me. “We’ll I’m not adding to it. I know it won’t stop just because I want it to, but I won’t be a part of it. I can’t.”

Hearing him say those words, suddenly I feel horrible for Spike. We’ve all suffered plenty, but looking down at him now—dressed in his suit, smoking his cigarette, wearing Sparkle’s hat, her memory to dark and too big for a child to bear—looking down now, I realize Spike has suffered more than all of us. Or if not more, then in a much different, much more tragic way.

He’s so mature. Too mature for someone his age. My love story cost ponies their hearts and their minds and their lives, but poor Spike had to pay the price of admission with his childhood. He’s the only truly innocent soul caught in this ugly mess. The youngest and the smallest, but the only one wise enough to let go of all the hate. I wish I were as brave.

“You’ve had to grow up fast,” I say. “I’m sorry about that.”

“Yeah, well, don’t be,” he huffs, adjusting his over-sized hat. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? And anyway I got to play real life cops and robbers. I was part of a murder mystery. Even got my ass kicked in an alleyway. What kid doesn’t want that?” He lets some of the charm sneak back into his voice as he speaks.

He’ll be alright, I let myself believe. He’s stronger and braver than all of us. He’ll be alright.

“Speaking of kids at play.” Without warning, Spike throws his head back and blows a jet of green fire into the air. The suddenness of it startles me. He laughs at my reaction as he catches the quill and the roll of parchment he just summoned. “Cooler than just belching the stuff up, huh?” he chuckles, nudging me with a pointy elbow.

Nimble claws unroll the scroll. “Now I’m gonna need to take down your address.”

I cock an eyebrow. “Thought you said I was off the wanted list?”

“It’s not so I can keep tabs on you or nothing. There’s something I need to send your way. Something Twilight wanted you to have.” The cheer in his tone drops noticeably when he mentions Sparkle.

“Why would Sparkle want to give me anything after I…”

“I know,” he interrupts, gently, not giving me chance to choke on the words. He goes mute for a long time before saying, “she sort of believed in you, I guess.” He rolls up the parchment and tucks it under his armpit. Places the quill behind one of the frills on the side of his head. “The first time she ever saw you was when you fought off those cops on that rooftop. Before then she’d been investigating, but it was all rumors and, you know, assumptions and stuff. She’d heard about what you did to Filthy’s thugs. How you were trying to save the doctor. I mean she was a cop; it was her job to know that kinda stuff.”

Spike fishes into his pocket for another smoke and frowns when he finds the box empty. “But that day when you were kicking all kinds of tail up on that rooftop, and Twilight was watching you down on the ground with her bullhorn—I think she fell in love that day. You were so fast and strong. I mean six ponies, six unicorns, and they couldn't touch you! You are all like pow, and bang, and crack—” The baby dragon puts up his dukes, circling, fighting off an imaginary gang of crooked cops. The sight of him playing makes me smile. For a moment Spike lowers his defenses, drops his poker face and lets himself beam the way I child ought to.

“And you were beating up the bad guys!” he exclaims. “The gangsters and the dirty cops, and you were doing it a way nopony had ever done it before.”

“So, what? You two thought I was some kind of hero?” I say grimly. Me, a hero. I almost smile at the absurdity of it. Almost laugh out loud.

“Well I did,” Spike admits. “But for Twilight you were… I don’t know, you were something else. You stood for something to her. You meant something.” He gropes in the empty air for the right word or phrase. His expression tells me he doesn't find it, but what he does find is close enough.

“Think about it, Rose. Is it really any wonder she fell for you? I mean she’d just lost her horn a few years back. She was in a real dark place. She woke up one morning and her cutie mark didn’t mean anything anymore. She’d lost her special talent. Forgotten who she was.” A pause. Short but pronounced. “I mean—for crying out loud, she was a unicorn with no magic!” He shouts at the indignity of it. At the unfairness. “And then there you were, Rose…" His voice lowers noticeably. Calms. "...An earth pony who could fly.”

Spike takes off Sparkle’s hat and holds it to his chest.

I paw absentmindedly at the pendant that was meant for Redheart.

Together we stare out at row after row of headstones. Brooding. Languishing with the

memory of things taken. Things lost.

After I don’t know how long, Spike’s hat finds its way back to the dragon's head. He unrolls the parchment. I give him Tracy’s address. Make him promise to send me whatever Sparkle wanted me to have, then lose it. Enough ponies have suffered, I tell him. I make it clear I don’t want anything happening to Tracy.

“I’ll burn it myself,” he says. Then he blows on the scroll and quill, and both vanish in a wisp of green flame. “I mean I’ll actually burn it.” He winks. Straightens his hat. Then he signals for one of the pegasi to land and climbs onto the guard’s broad back, still as sturdy as stone bridge despite the stallion’s many years. The pegasus beats his wings with ageless grace. He and Spike are hovering a little overhead when I ask:

“All that stuff about forgiving me. About letting go. Did you mean that?”

Spike chuckles from atop his mount. “I hope so,” he says darkly. “Don’t get me wrong, Rose. I hate you. You raped my best friend. I can’t prove that you killed her, so I won’t blame you for that, but you did hurt her. You hurt her, and right now I hate. I hope some day I won't.” Then a mischievous grin appears on his face, and for only the second time during our conversation, Spike looks like a child. “But who knows—maybe someday when I’ve grown into a big scary dragon I’ll come back and gobble you up.”

He winks.

The guard flaps his wings. Takes to the sky.

“One more thing,” I shout as Spike and his mount climb upward. “You paid your respects to Redheart. Did you know her?”

He pauses for thought. “Does that really matter?” he shouts back, waving goodbye.

“No,” I say to myself, as I watch him and the guards shrink, shrink, then disappear into the dusk sky. “No. I suppose it doesn’t.”


The days that follow Redheart’s funeral melt and blur into each other until can’t tell where one ends the next begins. The details of each day’s happenings escape me. I wander through what’s left of my pitiful life in a haze, only vaguely aware of what I do. Where I go. Life happens in snippets. I take in little freeze frames here and there, like a slideshow in real time. Except the freeze frames aren’t frozen. They move. Make noise. Have tastes and smells and textures.

In one frame I am shouting curses at old Storm Chaser, blaming him for Redheart’s death. I am asking him why he didn’t protect her like he promised, and then I am hurling myself at him, furious, attacking him with every trick he ever taught me.

We fight for a long time.

In the next frame I’m lying on Tracy Flash’s welcome mat, bloodied and broken, kicking the front door to her apartment with all the strength I can muster and praying somepony answers before I black out. Tracy lives at least five stories up and there isn’t a single working elevator in her building. The details of how I made the climb are absent from the frame.

The slide clicks and for a fraction of second there’s static, like an old television flipping channels. When the next frame comes into focus Tracy’s mother is shouting. Warning her daughter that I’m trouble, threatening to throw me out of her home.

In the next one Tracy is talking me down from edge of her windowsill. I am leaning over the side, explaining to her that I’m only reaching for her cap. I know she doesn’t like it when her mother hangs it from the clothesline. She is afraid somepony might steal it, and I am only trying to get it down for her.

She says please about a dozen times before grabbing my tail and yanking me back inside. And then I am shouting at her and crying into my hooves.

A little after that I’m stumbling into Tracy’s room in the middle of the night. She’s lying in bed and I’m crawling under the sheets, snuggling up beside her, telling her that she’s beautiful and holding her close and kissing her face.

She pushes me away, muttering something about her mother being right.

And then I’m waking up from a nightmare. Screaming. Crying. Sitting up on the couch in Tracy’s living room and whipping tears and snot from my face like the hurt filly I’ve been for past couple of… What has it been now? Days? Weeks? I don’t know and honestly I couldn’t give a damn. Redheart is dead and so am I, and for what feels like a lifetime I’m content to just cry and sniff and let the world go on turning without me. I let depression take me and do whatever it likes with me. I act out. Make an ass of myself. Cry. Pick fights with Tracy. Why not? What’s the point? What’s the use in acting right anymore? Redheart is dead and so am I.

The days go by in a haze. Eventually Tracy tires of babysitting me. She tells me she understands my loss—understands that I’m in pain—but that doesn’t give me an excuse to take advantage of her and treat her like shit. She tells me I have to find work and start pulling my own weight, or she’s going to put me out on the street.

And the whole time she’s telling me all this, she’s staring at me in that way I hate. That same way Dee stared at me. Like I’m some kind of animal. Something that needs to be put on a leash. In a cage. I listen to Tracy’s lecture and when she’s done running her mouth, I decide to go before I lose control of myself and hurt her.

I take a walk through downtown, going wherever my legs want to take me. The streets look different. Feel different. Manehattan is restless. She’s been feeling depressed too. Ever since I broke her heart, the old mule has really let herself go. There are cops on damn near every corner, something the old Manehattan would’ve never allowed, and I have to duck out of sight whenever I see a patrolling guard pegasus circling overheard. Lucky for me all that gold armor makes them easy to spot in board daylight. I avoid them without too much trouble.

At one point during my aimless stroll, I stumble upon a bustling crowd of protestors gathered in the street. Marching. Holding up sighs and shouting their heads off about ‘curfews’ and ‘resisting marshal law.’ Trotting alongside the mob, I spot a gangly looking pegasus stallion carrying a sign that reads “The End Is Nigh,” and I ask him what this is all about.

“Haven’t you heard?” he pipes nervously. “Celestia’s pupil got herself killed uptown by some gangsters or something. Now the princess has the nerve to send in her Guard and pretend she gives a damn about us. They say it’s to protect us from all the gangs and stuff, but we know better.” His head whips from side to side, and his tone dips to almost a whisper as he says, “It’s fascist is what it is. Like, this is supposed to be free country. We got rights, ya know. I got rights.”

He’s about to say more just as shove past him and duck into the marching mob, hiding as best I can from a pair of guards whose approach I didn’t notice until it was nearly too late.

“On the run, huh?” says the nervous pegasus. “I know that feel. You’d better be careful. She’s watching us now.” His gaze leaves my face and, eyes half-lidded, he squints up at Celestia’s ball of fire. “She’s got her eye on all of us.”

The rally takes me northbound down a main road, heading toward the projects where I used to live. After enduring a good twenty minutes ponies jostling me and shouting in my ears, the mob spits me out in front of newsstand as it rounds a corner. The mare working the stand shakes her head and mumbles, “Damn bunch of trouble makers.” She rolls a thin, dry stalk of hay from one corner of her mouth to the other, chewing lazily. “They should stop whining and get themselves jobs. Hey, stranger,” she says to me, “buy something or move along.”

I buy a paper. Have a seat on a bench beside the stand and skim through a story about the gang war waging uptown in Discord’s Kitchen. It’s a long article. I skim it. Get the gist of it. Pick out a few facts: Dozens murdered. More injured. Thousands lost in property damage. Spike in narcotics use. Spike in gun smuggling. Spike in violent crime rates across the board.

Law enforcement makes little headway. No foreseeable end in sight.

I pick out a few details. Get the gist of it. The story starts on the front page, and I have to flip through about seven pages and half a dozen more stories just like it before I find the end.

There’s a picture on the page where the story continues, a black and white photo of a crime scene. When I see it the hole in my chest where my heart should be widens be inches.

The caption reads, “Three dangerous criminals killed in conflict with Royal Guard. Several more apprehended.” It’s a bird’s-eye view shot, probably taken by a pegasus floating directly overhead, putting the three dangerous criminals on full display. They’re lying on the floor in a row as a stocky, short-tailed unicorn guard uses his magic to tape off the crime scene.

The criminals are Daughters; the odd clothing and face piercings are proof enough of that. Two of them I don’t recognize—but the one lying on the far left the coin-sized holes in her chest and gut—that one I recognize. One of her forelegs is lying limp across her face, covering her eyes and most of her forehead, as if she were trying to shield herself from whatever killed her. I can’t see her eyes, but I don’t need to. I see the three large rings poking through her bottom lip, and that’s enough. That’s all I need to be sure it’s her. I see those three rings, and I know right away that little Olive is dead.

I crumble the paper into a ball and toss it in the first trashcan I see.

“Tell me about it, stranger,” sighs the mare behind the newsstand. She rolls the stalk of hay she’s still working on from one corner of her mouth to other, chewing lazily.

Leaving the newsstand behind me, I trudge on. By now my legs have taken me to the homely little diner where me and Redheart first met.

A surge of nostalgia I’m not ready for rolls through me. Nearly floors me. The bittersweet feeling stays with me for a few heartbeats, then flees—chased away by something that would be dread or grief if this day hadn’t already left me so emotionally drained.

The diner. The place where I first met Redheart all those years ago. It’s boarded up. Abandoned.

Wasn’t I here just two seasons ago? Just a few months? I wonder, stunned.

I waste one minute with a goodbye, not wanting to make a fuss of it. It’s been a long day. A long fall, and a long winter, and I've got a feeling it’ll be a longer spring. I’ve seen enough. Been through enough. I decide not to make a fuss of this one. I make with my silent goodbye, then turn around and start back the way I came.

As soon as I turn around, I spy yet another change. A big one. Maybe the biggest of them all. How I missed it, I have no idea. It’s a big one. It’s huge.

Towering high above the sidewalk is a massive billboard I’ve never seen before. On the billboard there’s an image of a dashing young unicorn stallion dressed in the uniform of an officer of the Royal Guard. His expression is serious but not severe. His eyes hard but not intimidating. Confident but not arrogant. Tempered. Controlled. He has the square-jawed look of a protector. The chiseled features that belong to so many stallions who still believe in justice. He gazes down at me—at all of downtown Manehattan—his brave face promising a brighter, better tomorrow. Even from way down here I can tell it’s a promise he intends to make good on.

Written at the base of the image in bold lettering are the words, “WE BELIEVE IN SHINING ARMOR.”


Cops. Guards. Protests. Warring gangs. Manehattan is sick. All those years of wallowing in sin, of feeding her depravity and shitting where she eats—it’s all finally catching up with the old mule. Manehattan is sick and what she’s got must be contagious, because walking up down her ugly face has me feeling queasy. I practically run back to Tracy’s place, eager to get it off the streets. To get away from the sunlight and springtime air, and the cops and the guards, and the newsstands and the boarded up dinners, and all the rest of it.

The apology I owe Tracy pokes at the base of my skull the whole way back. Only pony in the world left who still gives a damn about me and I treat her like shit. Like she’s the one who killed Redheart. Who murdered Daisy and Lily and sent me screaming down this path of self destruction. It’s not Tracy’s fault. Shouldn’t have taken it out on her. Not her fault. Nopony’s fault but mine.

The apology pokes me while the animal in my gut, the mangy thing with hungry eyes that stared at me from the front page of the Manehattan Post—she’s lurking behind the bars of her cage, sharpening her claws and filing her fangs into razors. She’s fuming. Chomping at the bit. There’s and itch she’s been dying to scratch, and its face is white and its grin is red, and it’s responsible for the murders Daisy, Lily, and now Redheart. The animal is sick of moping and pissing and moaning, and every square inch of her is feeling good and dangerous and ready to get back to knocking heads.

She tells me we’ve got Manehattan on the ropes. Got her reeling. The poor old mule is heartbroken and completely out of it, and the animal insists that if we’re going to make a move, we’d better make it now.

But the mangy thing in my gut doesn’t get it. I don’t have it in me anymore. Redheart is dead and whatever was left of me died with her. I was right there beside her that night, my neck in the same nose. Smiling. Hurting. Hurting so bad it was funny.

No… No, I suppose even that isn’t the real truth. The real truth is I died hiding in a closet, staring into the bulging eyes of my best friend as she was strangled to death. I died a coward’s death that night, and I’ve died a thousand more since. The animal in my gut wants revenge but she’s trapped inside me—trapped inside Rose—and Rose has always been a spineless bully. A coward. There’s nothing she can do now… There was never anything she could do.

I’m still lost in thought when I arrive at Tracy’s apartment, but the sight of a package sitting on the welcome mat guides me back to the world outside of my head.

I look down the package. It's an ornate box. All done up in ribbon and glitter and looking like a present at a filly’s Cuteceanera party. The words “Carousel Boutique,” are written on the box’s lid so eloquently they're nearly illegible. Other than two those words, the package is unmarked. Tracy’s name isn’t on it and neither is her mother’s.

Something Twilight wanted you to have.’ Spike’s words ripple through my mind. I hear them clearly, as if they were being uttered at this very moment. Could this be it, I wonder, almost aloud.

I don’t waste any time. I tear the away the gaudy ribbon. Open the lid. Peer inside.

When I see what’s in the box my heart flutters and skips at the same time. An emotion I can’t make sense of slams into my chest like a battering ram, and an old flame I thought had gone out for good sparks and catches and burns behind my eyes.

The animal in my gut stirs and wakes with a long yawn, happy to see I’ve finally come to my senses.

I peer down into the box and just like that, all the doubt and the depression and the self-loathing I’ve been lugging around evaporates. It rises out of my pores like steam and disappears.

Sparkle remembered. To think, I’d nearly forgotten. Nearly forgotten the forest and the eyes—and the nightmare and the prison cell—and Sparkle’s lips and her falling hat—and the slip of paper that passed between our hooves.

The promise to reach out to an old friend.

The plans for my disguise. My weapon against Manehattan and her criminals.

Sparkle remembered. Even after what I did to her. After I took her any way I liked. She remembered. She loved me even though I hurt her. Loved me in that strange way only ponies like us can understand. She loved me, and she didn’t forget. Sparkle got in touch with Rarity, just like I asked. Contacted the best seamstress I ever knew; the only pony I trusted with the creation of my disguise. Sparkle reached out to her old friend for me. It must have been hard for her, coming face-to-face with her past like that. It must have been hard, but she did it. Did it for me. Remembered me. My beautiful hornless unicorn remembered me.

An earth pony who could fly. I almost say the words aloud. Almost. No. You were wrong, Sparkle. Wrong to put your faith in a loser like me. I’m no hero. You believed in me, and you loved me, and in the end you came through me. Even after I failed you. Failed them all. Couldn't save one. Not one.

But I was wrong too. Wrong about you. I thought you’d thrown in with the city. Thought you’d sold your soul for a chance at revenge, and maybe you did, but some part of the old you—the real you—was still holding on. Your last words: ‘You can’t have me.’ They were for the city’s ears, weren’t they? For the lousy, no-good hours in our lives that try to break us down. Change us into something perverted and deformed. You never really stopped fighting and that’s why Manehattan had to kill you. She couldn’t taint you after all—not completely—and what she can’t taint she has to kill.

I was wrong. You’re the real hero, Twilight Sparkle. You've saved me with this gift of yours. Saved me just like you saved Equestria. You did again. You’re my hero, Twilight Sparkle. My beautiful hornless unicorn. I love you.

I peer down at the box for a bit longer, then close it up quick and hurry inside. Out here in the sunlight is no place for the sort of gift Sparkle has given me. It’s useless under the warmth and the light and all the prying eyes. I hide it in its box. Hide it from the light.

I hurry back inside. And then I wait.

Wait for Celestia to take her ball of fire and scurry home to hide behind her personal Guard, and her mountainside castle, and her ivory towers, and all those high walls she had built to distance herself from ponies like me.

From ponies like me—and from the Equestria all the royals, and all the aristocrats, and all the intellectuals and the smooth talkers are afraid to bring up over dinner. The Equestria they shield their children from. The one they pretend doesn’t exist. My Equestria. My Manehattan. I’ve already broken her heart, and tonight I’ll break the rest of her as well. I’ll smash this city to pieces and offer the rubble to the ponies who deserve it. Ponies like the ones I couldn’t save. Ponies like Sparkle and Junebug and Redheart—the good ones. I’ll give them Manehattan in chunks and scraps and charred bits, and let them reshape this city into something of their own choosing. I meant something to Sparkle, Spike said. Now I'll use her gift to mean something to them all.

But not yet. For now I wait. Wait for Luna to hang her third eye high above the Manehattan skyline and watch me repent for my sins. I wait for the night. Luna’s night. The night she was driven mad for. The night she was willing to destroy for. The night she suffered a thousand years for. The night—precious and horrible and sacred and ominous and black.

I wait for the night. For the chase. Tonight I will be chasing.

Next Chapter: Epilogue: Eyes Without a Face Estimated time remaining: 5 Minutes
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Eyes Without a Face

Mature Rated Fiction

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