Eyes Without a Face

by theycallmejub

Chapter 6: Shapeless, Formless

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Chapter VI: Shapeless, Formless

The cops allow me a few minutes to panic before they knock again. Sadistic bucks. They know they have me. They let me stew in it. Let me simmer. Give the harsh reality a few minutes to really work its way in before they pry the door clean off its hinges and have their fun. Sadistic bucks, every last one of them. Just the thought makes my blood boil.

Something that must be anger rubs itself against the inside of my cheeks and the friction turns them red hot. White hot. But the sensation leaves as quickly as it comes. I can’t hold onto the anger. There are a million and one thoughts and feelings pinging around in my head right now, and the image of the cops standing outside my door grinning like fiends is only one of them, and it has plenty of competition. The anger leaves and right away grief takes its place.

Scope is dead. He was beautiful and now he's dead. This city is a jealous old mule. When she sees something beautiful she taints it, and what she can’t taint she kills outright. Stephen Scope probably wasn’t innocent but he deserved better than this. Better than lying face down on the carpet in my shitty apartment with his throat cut; his soft, sad eyes staring listlessly at the floor. I kneel down at his side and close them.

The grief passes. Paranoia takes its place. Scope is dead; I’m in my bedroom; Cops are at my door. A set up. I don’t know how, but Tiger Voice set me up. He knows where I live. But how? How’s he know where I live? Damn it, I have been too careless. Too loud and too loose.

The police knock again. One of them shouts. Tells me to come out. Put my hooves where he can see them.

Buck! What else does he know? Where I live…where Redheart lives!? I quiet the thought. Take a breath. He can’t know about Redheart and after what I did to him last night, he’s likely dead. But if not Tiger Voice and his gang, then who? The nightmare? The faceless grin? No. That wasn’t real, I tell myself. That was nothing, just a

—Another shout reaches me from outside. Another knock. When I fail to answer a fiery red aura swallows my front door and the thick wood shrieks as it splinters. The aura crumples it into a ball as if it were a sheet of paper. Magic. Unicorn magic. If there’s one thing I hate almost as much as this city and its criminals, it’s unicorns and their bucking magic.

The aura flares and the door crumples. The sound of it pushes out the paranoia and plunges me right back into panic. Dread. Suddenly there’s no more time for thinking. No time. No need. I’m out my bedroom window before the first shots go off. Not bullets. Concentrations of raw concussive force, fired in bolts from the horns of Manehattan’s finest. It’s their calling card. A spell designed to subdue without killing. Not bullets, but a bullet would hurt a hell of a lot less.

My hook digs into the wall of the adjacent building. I swing. My back hooves come down on the edge of a windowsill. Balancing is difficult. I’m tired. Head still swimming from the beating I took last night. Movements are sluggish. Sloppy. I throw myself straight up and grab hold of the sill directly above me. Then I pull myself up just as a magic bolt tears through the window below, sending shards of glass raining down onto the sidewalk. They sparkle in the morning light. The glass in Manehattan always does.

I throw myself again. Pull myself up. More bolts impact the wall, knocking chunks of brick loose. Scattering debris. I throw myself again. Pull. The strain on my limbs is almost unbearable, like something’s trying to wrench my legs out of their sockets. Trying, and very close to succeeding. Again. Throw. Pull. Throw. Pull. The length of cord in my mouth feels heavier than usual. It tastes of iron from the blood on my lips. Again. I throw. Pull. Again.

By the fourth window one of the cops hurls a shout into my ears that somehow overtakes the sound of magic bolts impacting against the city’s ugly face. Breaks my concentration. Nearly peels me from the side of the wall.

“This is Commissioner Sparkle of the MPD.” No, not a shout. Somepony speaking into a bullhorn. “This is your last warning. We have you surrounded. Surrender now and I give you my word you will not be harmed.” I chance a downward glance and see that Sparkle isn’t lying. There must be at least a dozen squad carriages waiting for me down on the street. Squad carriages and a sea of blue uniforms. And horns. Almost every single one of them is a unicorn. I hate unicorns.

Another magic bolt impacts the wall a few inches from me. They're playing with me. If the pony who let off that shot wanted to hit me, he could have. Hell if he wanted to, he could scrape me off the side of the wall like a piece of gum stuck to his boot, or light me on fire, or who knows what else—but they want me to run. It’s no fun otherwise. They want me panting as they lay into me with their batons. Panting and gasping and struggling. It’s no fun otherwise, and no one in the city knows how to show a girl good time like Manehattan’s finest. I oblige them. Wouldn’t want to disappoint.

Three more windowsills and two bolts later, I finally make it to the roof. I sprint for edge. The cord in my mouth tastes raw as I twirl the hook overhead. I let it fly. Then I fly. My hooves come down on the next rooftop. I sprint. Build speed. Find my stride. Leap. Land. Leap again. Faster. Faster.

The bolts have stopped, but I can still hear the sirens following along on the ground. I head further downtown, along 22nd street. If I can make it to the projects where Redheart lives, I can lose them. Duck into the right alley and lose them. The buildings lean on each other. The going is easy.

I leap. Land on the steps of a fire escape. Climb. When I reach the top I see a flash about a foot in front of me. Then there are more flashes, like lights from a paparazzo’s camera. When the camera stops snapping the rooftop is full of ponies dressed in riot gear. Small round shields secured to their right forelegs. Batons at the ready. Horns glowing.

Unicorns. I really hate unicorns.

They back me to the roof’s edge. Six of them. Four mares. Two stallions. They back me to the edge, and their horns are still sparking, and my hooves start trembling—and then one of them does something very stupid. The mare out in front, the one with the red aura who ripped my door of its hinges, she steps forward. The glow radiating from her horn fades. She must be the lieutenant because the others do as she does and their horns go dull as well. Then she smiles at me. She has her baton in her mouth, but I can see the slight upturn in her cheeks as she and the others close in. Sadistic bucks. Cocky, stupid, miserable, sadistic bucks. They want it the hard way. It’s not fun otherwise, I suppose. Bunch of crooked cops looking to have some crooked fun. They rake the ground threateningly with their front hooves as they close in. The mare with the red aura snorts. One of the stallions gives an aggressive neigh. Shakes his mane. Stupid, sadistic bucks. They want to do this the hard way. My way. I oblige them.

I was born an earth pony and there’s a reason we earth ponies excel at tasks requiring physical prowess. Today I teach six of Manehattan’s finest exactly what that reason is.

I don’t hold anything back. I let myself enjoy it.

Red Aura lets out a cry as I spin around on my front legs and shove my boots into her facemask. The facemask absorbs some of the blow but not nearly enough. She cries. Staggers backwards. The baton drops out of her mouth and I catch it in mine. From there it’s easy. Like blowing the heads off dandelions.

Red Aura staggers backwards. I hit her again and she is falling.

Before she reaches the concrete, the first mare charges. Takes a swing at me. I duck. When I come back up my baton strikes her under the chin. That’s all it takes.

Red Aura’s back meets the concrete with a dull thud. The impact makes her gasp. Knocks the wind out of her.

Another of the mares makes her move. She springs up on her hind legs. Kicks at me. Leaves her soft underbelly exposed. It takes two hits. Stomach. Groin. She sputters and falls.

Red Aura spits blood into her cracked facemask. Her head rolls. A clumsy foreleg kicks off her helmet.

A stallion comes at me from behind. I duck. His baton grazes the top of my mane. I sweep his forelegs. He falls forward. I jump. When his muzzle makes contact with the rooftop, my front hooves come down on the back of his head with a satisfying crunch.

Red Aura rolls off her back and onto her stomach. She stands up slowly. Her legs wobble as she forces them to stay underneath her.

The other stallion bucks at me from the side. I dodge. He’s still balanced on his forelegs when my baton buckles his knee. He screams. Falls, but quickly springs back to his hind legs. It takes three more hits. Temple. Neck. Collar bone. He goes down and stays there.

Red Aura finds her footing. Stumbles once. Catches herself. Finds it again.

The last mare rushes at me head on. She bounces up on her hind legs. Jabs with her fore. I step into the kick. It lands on my cheek but I take it. Roll with it. Then I drive my shoulder into her underbelly and wrap my forelegs around her waist. Lift. Slam.

I drop all of them. Lay them down like children at naptime. It feels amazing. I feel amazing. I was born an earth pony but today I am an alicorn, and my own power gives me pause.

When Red Aura finally recovers her senses it’s just me and her. Her fellow officers are sprawled out on the rooftop. Lying at her hooves unconscious or in too much pain to move. I think at least one of them is dead. Red Aura takes it all in. Then she looks at me.

She looks into the eyes of an alicorn. A wingless, hornless alicorn. I don’t know exactly what it is she sees, but it turns her face pale. Makes her cringe. Stutter and stammer. I inch forward. She inches back. Her bottom lip quivers like a little filly who wants to cry but is trying hard to look tough in front of her friends. I inch a closer and my advance makes her legs shake so hard, she falls flat on her haunches. Then she scoots away from me, her tail dragging across the rooftop as she tries to flee.

She’s afraid of me. Feels different. Feels good. Another living thing is cowering in my presence, and it is the best feeling I’ve ever experienced. Fedora was afraid of me that night in the bathroom stall, but this is different. More carnal. More immediate. Intoxicating. Intoxicating, but not enough. Not nearly. I want more. I want her to scream. Squeal. Shriek. I want her to tremble. I want to watch her vomit. Listen to her beg for mercy as she soils herself. As she sits in a puddle of her own piss, and shit, and puke, and pretty ruby red blood. Redheart was right. I am broken. Broken, but I don’t give a damn.

For the very first time I look at Manehattan through her own eyes, and I understand why she does the things she does. The horrible, horrible things. I know what rapists know when they corner a defenseless child. What murderers know when they push a blade into something living—something moving—and drive it deeper and deeper until the movement stops. For the very first time I really see this city, and there is a smile on my lips and a laugh in my throat.

Red Aura is paralyzed with fear. She could spark up that horn of hers and turn me inside out, if only she wasn’t so damn afraid. Afraid of me. Feels different being on the other end. Feels good. I spit the baton out of my mouth and all poor Red Aura can do is mumble “no, no,” as I lay it across her neck and drive down as hard as I can.

The baton lies easily across her neck, as if it were made special for her. It is jet black and the contrast it creates against the vibrant blue of her uniform is striking. The life is draining from her eyes. Her body flails uselessly against mine, and I press harder, drive the baton deeper into the crook of her neck, and the life is draining from her eyes and—and…

And the life is draining from her eyes…and if I do not stop soon she will die. Then Lily will die next.

I leap away from Red Aura. She coughs and writhes on the floor.

Life draining from eyes.

My heart races and so does my mind, as if the two are in competition. I forget how to breathe.

Life draining.

My head aches and my hooves are trembling. My stomach does a cartwheel. Then dances a little jig.

Draining from eyes. Life is…calm down Rose. Calm down. It takes a while for me to remember how to breathe. The world is spinning and I try to slow it down. Try to focus on one thing at a time. I start with the sounds.

Police sirens. Red Aura panting and sobbing quietly. Shouting from down below. A crowed has formed: bunch of looky-loos come to enjoy the show. I listen close. Look around. There’s something else. Something I’m not seeing or hearing, but I can feel it. Something shifting the air. Rushing. Something slight and swift.


I make a dash for the edge of the roof but I’m too slow. Before my hooves kick off the edge, something moving too fast and too gracefully slams into my side, sending me reeling. Falling. The sky rushes by but the ground doesn’t get any closer. Then I look down and see that the sidewalk is retreating.

“Nothing funny, earth pony, or I put you down nice and gentle like,” says the pegasus pony as she carries me into the air. Her voice is rough and masculine, and she’s dressed in the same riot gear as Red Aura and the other unicorns. “We understand each other?”

I look down at the city and despite everything that’s happened in past forty-eight hours—my run in with Tiger Voice, the appearance of my nightmare, Scope’s death, Red Aura and her unicorns—despite the fact that I am dangling half a mile above the ground, completely at the mercy one of Manehattan's finest—despite all the craziness, a sudden calm comes over me.

I’ve never flown this high before. This must be what the kids up in the weather factory see when they make it storm and thunder. This must be what Tracy sees. Through the eyes of a pegasus Manehattan doesn’t seem so ugly. I look down at her and she looks up at me, and I remember what I learned on the rooftop only a few minutes ago. I remember that first moment I really saw her and somehow this moment seems like an extension of that one. It doesn't last long but Manehattan and I lock eyes, and for the first time we really take a hard, honest look at each other. When I get back to ground, when I feel her ugly face against the bottom of my hooves, I know in my heart we will be enemies again; but for at least a fleeting moment we are able acknowledge each other. We are reflections of one another, this city and I, and for the entirety of exactly one moment we set our differences aside and reach some kind of understanding. It is the closest, I fear, we will ever come to love.

“Hey, I’m talking to you, earth pony,” the pegasus says. I nod. She takes me back down to the street, and there are dozens of them. Clad in riot gear. Brandishing their batons. Waiting for me. The pegasus laughs out loud and the others cheer as she drops me into the pool of blue suits and multicolored horns.

Manehattan welcomes me back with open hooves. Her embrace is suffocating. The ground is hard. The batons cold. Cold in that way only something inanimate can be.

Her embrace is suffocating, and I curl into a ball on the hard sidewalk, and the blows from the batons rain down like long black hailstones. The world falls away. Spins itself into a torrent of blunt trauma and violence and blackness.

The rest is a blur.

The beating. The arrest. The ride to the station. Booking. All a blur. I lie in the back seat of a carriage. I stand in a room and wait for somepony behind a counter to take my hoof prints. Somepony else asks me questions about myself. I get my picture taken. All a blur. Even as they are happening, the events come to me in bits and pieces. Fragments. Like memories from my childhood. Many of which my old teacher, Dr. Hooves, claims I have suppressed.

As part of the training of my mind, Hooves told me that I must overcome my fears, and to do so, I must face those I experienced in childhood. Those fears that have so profoundly shaped my psyche today. He had little success.

As the world turns without me, I find myself recalling Hooves’ lessons. He’s right about me suppressing memories. And not just those from my childhood. Even my most vivid memories are missing details. Even the memory of Daisy and Lily’s murder. Some of the details pop. The sand colored noose. Daisy’s velveteen purple coat. Her eyes. Lily’s scream. Some details pop while others are strangely absent. In the memory I know that I am hiding, and I know that Daisy can see me and her killer can’t, but I don’t know where I am. I might be under a bed or in a closet. My hiding place is small. Confined. That’s all I remember.

I never see Lily die. I know from the police reports that she was strangled after receiving several stab wounds to her abdomen, but I never see her die.

I think about the missing details and eventually my mind drifts back to my nightmare. I separate the image of the faceless grin from all the other images and—

—and suddenly I become aware of a metallic jangling sound, followed shortly by a thud. Then a voice. It's not until I hear the voice chuckle something about me enjoying my stay that the pair of shackles restricting my legs become real. Then something heavy and made of metal slides into place with a loud, taunting clang.

I’m exhausted. The floor is so cold it feels damp and the shackles are too tight, but I’m so tired and beat up that I fall asleep anyway. I drift off with thoughts of the fear that Hooves tried to help me overcome. The fear that I carry with me always. I was afraid. Daisy and Lily died because I was afraid, and I can’t be afraid anymore.

Before sleep takes me completely, I pray to Luna. Not silently this time. This time I whisper to her in a hushed voice. I ask her to take away the fear. Help me fight it. Fight the fear and the city and her criminals.

I pray and for the first time Luna answers. She sends me a weapon against my enemies. It comes in the form of a nightmare. My first nightmare. It’s a memory I’d buried long ago, but Luna helps to unearth it.

I close my eyes.

I close my eyes and am just a child again. A little filly. A stupid little filly lost in the Everfree Forest after wandering in on a dare. At my back I hear the jeers of my fellow classmates. They tease me. Call me coward. I am no coward. I go. Go where none of the other fillies or colts will go.

It’s dark. As dark as it ever gets. I wander deep into the forest. Deeper than I should, my confidence growing with every forward step. There is nothing to be afraid of, I tell myself. I imagine the dumbfounded faces of the bullies who teased me as I emerge from the forest unharmed, and the thought makes me smile. Makes me feel invincible.

I imagine, and I wander deeper, and I feel invincible—and then I see them. A pair of eyes in the darkness. Narrow slits of white light peeking out of a void, trapping me with their flawless gaze. A gaze untouched by love or hate or desire. Patient. Unblinking. Pure. Perfect. Horribly, beautifully, fearfully, wonderfully perfect. One with the lonely abyss. Concealed. Disguised. The eyes have no body. No nose. No ears. No mouth. No need for such things. Nothing. Nothing but eyes and blackness. Eyes without a face; belonging perhaps to some formless animal or monster or god.

The forest falls away. Then the world. Then time. For the briefest of eternities I am alone with the narrow slits of light, and I experience a fear I do not understand. For the very first time I feel my hooves begin to tremble. The eyes swallow me. Consume me. The fear does the same.

When I wake from my nightmare, I wake peacefully. My mind clear. I know how I will beat them. This city and her criminals. I will turn my oldest enemy into my greatest ally. I will frighten them. I will become something perfect. Perfect and pure like those eyes that watched me from the shadows. I will become formless. Shapeless. One with the lonely abyss. From darkness I will watch them, and when their eyes fall upon mine they will be afraid.

I need something to write with.

I bang the cell bars. Shout. One of the guards shouts back. Tells me to shut the hay up. I bang louder. As loud as I can. The guard gets up and walks over to my cell. He starts to shout something else as he makes his way, but then he sees me and a look of recognition flashes across his face. Recognition and something else. Concern? Yes, genuine concern for other living things.

“Hey, now! Lookie what I found,” he says, his face a mask of amusement. “I thought I told you to watch yourself, asshole.” I recognize the amused look. The voice. They belong to the bouncer who stands outside the entrance of The Ringer. Looks like he found himself a new job after all.

I ask him for a pen and some paper. He’s friendly with me. Leaves. Returns with a spiral bound notepad and a pencil.

“I heard about what you did to that SWAT unit up on the rooftop,” he says as he passes the writing supplies through the bars. “I was wrong about you, asshole. You’re a hell of a fighter. You get banged up plenty, but you’re a hell of a fighter,” he says, laughing as he walks off.

I get to work. Draw my disguise. It must be simple. Formless. Shapeless. It must be the color of the night and it must conceal me. To this day I don’t know what sort of creature it was that watched me in the forest. It could have been a manticore. A lone timberwolf. I never saw enough of it. The night concealed it well and so too must my disguise.

I draw it out.

A cape to hide the wings I do not have.

A wide brimmed hat to cover the horn that is not on my head.

When I melt into the shadows as if by some magic, they will think me a unicorn, and when I fly they will think me a pegasus, and when I buck they will think me an earth pony—but never will they know for certain.

Finally, I must have a mask. A featureless mask. Something to cover my muzzle, my ears. But not my eyes. The eyes must be narrow slits of white light. They must be unblinking. Haunting.

When my disguise is finished, I tear the slip of paper from the rest of the pad and hold it up in my shackled hooves. I admire it. Smile. It’s perfect.

“Thank you Luna,” I hear myself say aloud. Then I fold the slip of paper and hide it in one of my boots.

A few hours tick by—at least that’s what it feels like. Hours alone in my cell. No company but the walls and my thoughts. I wait for one of the guards to offer me my phone call. You do get a phone call when you get arrested, don't you? But then this is a Manehattan jail, and I probably won't be given even that small comfort.

I'm just about to bang on the bars and demand my phone call when the guard wanders back over to my cell and unlocks it. The amusement has flushed out of his face. There’s only concern in his expression now. He opens my cell and tells me the commissioner would like to have a word with me.

Next Chapter: Prison Without Bars Estimated time remaining: 5 Hours, 49 Minutes
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Eyes Without a Face

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