The absence of heat. Darkness inside a cave. Water falling white, soft, crackling blue, loud. It is darkness that I see, the absence of heat that I feel. The ground around me is soft white, splattered. The limbs beneath me are blue, transparent. Words come to me as I reach for them, thought-speak, imprints of what they represent. Meanings. Explanations. Identities.
There is no word for me.
I am Cold.
More words, echoing, outside of me. Mouth-speak. There is still darkness—the absence of light—but I can see the creatures anyway. There are three of them: Yellow, Brown, White. Colorful hair streams from their heads—manes. They stand on four spindly legs that end in rounded blocks—hooves.
I have a mane. I have hooves. Both blue. Both cold.
I am Pony.
“I-Is it over? Are they g-gone?”
Yellow is mouth-speaking. All six of his limbs shiver, four beneath him, two others on his back, oddly shaped, covered in feathers—wings. He is cold, but that is not his word. His body glows in the darkness, shimmers Blue with memory. More words—names, places, thought-speak not from his mouth—reflect from his mind into mine.
He came here with Smart Cookie, with Clover, with Commander Hurricane—Princess Platinum—Chancellor Puddinghead. They were hiding from the cold, fighting something. He didn’t like it. He helped to stop it.
He is Pansy.
I am They.
“I… I think so.” Smart Cookie’s mouth-voice is quiet—whisper. There were others like me before, larger, colder. I don’t remember them. Smart Cookie does. Together with her friends, she chased them away. When she thinks of them, her aura glows Green with thin shadows ofPink.
“Well, good riddance. It’s a miracle we stopped them when we did. I don’t think we could’ve lasted much longer out here.”
When I look at Clover, my mind empties. Her coat is white, her mane is striped green, but all I see of her—inside, outside, all around her body—is Red: flashing, roiling, burning bright like fire. It is not fire, though. Fire is crackling wood, blankets under the stars, naming constellations as he smiles down at you complimenting how well you’ve studied. Fire is heat. Red is not. Red is cold, like me. Red makes me feel awake, alive, ravenous. I want more Red. I want all the Red that Clover can give me.
I am Hungry.
I know the ponies are somewhere nearby, but all I can see is darkness marred by light, Clover’s burning-cold aura reaching out to me. I move towards it, sink deeper into it. Her mind thought-speaks to mine, pouring it full of more words, more expressions ponies make out of them. She is a rope pulling me closer, her memory says, a fishhook reeling me in. I need to find her, but my body feels weak, insubstantial. I sift through Clover’s essence, spread her thoughts out in front of me, search for the motions needed for movement--walking.
I feel the ground soften beneath my hooves, a flash of Pink ripple through me. I am overlarge hooves stumbling across wood, sinking into carpet, tottering into giant forelegs that laugh, hug, wonder how I ever got this heavy. Mouth-speak echoes, silent to my ears, loud in hers:put one hoof in front of the other. I lift one foreleg up, put it down in front of me. The ground shudders, cracks, does not give. I am moving. I am strong.
The three friends—Clover, Pansy, Smart Cookie— are gathering up the other three ponies in the cave with them: Princess Platinum, Commander Hurricane, Chancellor Puddinghead. Their auras are boring, useless to me. They twitch when their sides are nudged, mouth-mumble nonsense as they’re pulled up off the ground. Even though they have hooves, the other ponies put them on their backs to carry. They must not know how to walk very well either.
The ponies leave the cave together, all at once. I try to follow—one-hoof-in-front-of-the-other—but I’m too slow. I see colors, but not shapes. I bump into the walls, trip over boulders, watch Clover’s aura grow fainter in the distance. Soon I can’t hear mouth-voices anymore, just air rushing past me—colorless—wind. I feel tightness in my belly, empty space in my chest. I cover my eyes—where’s the baby peekaboo!—see my own aura glow through the darkness.
I am burning. I am Orange.
I open my mouth, try to speak, hear something slide out that is not words. It is mouth-wind, choking, icicles stabbing at my throat. Why do ponies do this? I glow brighter, stumble. Every aura but Clover’s has disappeared. As I stand up again, she fades as well. Only absence-of-light remains. I can’t see anything.
I am Alone.
Without the minds of the other ponies, I’m lost. No words fill the spaces that sight carves into my mind. No auras but mine shine through the blackness. All that remains is the residue of Clover’s memories, the colored stains left in the places of our joining. I know how to walk, but she knows how to watch where you’re going, pumpkin. She doesn’t see auras at all. She blocks them out.
I look up, lay her mind over mine, create a filter through which my aura cannot pass. A blinding white gleam—sunlight—streams down on me, digs into my eyes, pounds inside my head. It hurts. I push past it, look straight ahead as shapes bloom inside what is no longer an empty void. The sun retreats, dulls, shines yellow after a while. The space around it—sky—is indigo, the ground beneath it white—cold water—snow.
Clover remembers this place, but all she left me are patches of what she saw. There was a storm. Pansy, Smart Cookie, all the others were with her. The sky was lumpy-gray, covered—cumulonimbus—clouds. Wind whistled through the trees, carried clumps of snow that blew her around, dug into her coat. It was very cold. I wish I could’ve been there to see it.
No, I was there to see it. There were dozens of me. I was galloping through the clouds, pawing at the snowflakes, howling against the wind. The ponies ran from me. I pursued them into the cave. They attacked me, drove me away with magic. A flaming heart, burning, melting me into nothing. If Clover remembers, then why can’t I?
Melting. The snow is melting in the sun, trickling down trunks, crystallizing again when it nears my hooves. Clover melted the others that were not me, but I’m still here. Where is here? Where do I go? What am I that is cold but doesn’t shiver, that melts but doesn’t die?
I ask Clover’s mind for the answer, find only dregs left, blurry, soaked with slush. I know enough to see without her help now, but nothing else of her lingers anymore. I blink a few times, make my aura return. I am still Orange, but fading, soft around the edges. I have to find her again. I need to find out what I am.
The sky is empty when I look up. Before I can remember, the others were up there, on top of clouds as they chased after the ponies. They were Not-Me, but I am like them. Put-one-hoof-in-front-of-the-other. I reach out with my hoof, put it in the sky above me. A gray clump—not a blanket—barely bigger than I am—swirls out from the sole, sucks me inside it, lifts me up from the snow. It is freezing inside the cloud. When I pull myself further in, my head sticks out of the front. I am not walking anymore. I am high above the ground. I am like the others.
I am flying.
Trees dot the land below me, green icicles pointing the wrong way. I can see the depression in the snow where the cloud picked me up, the tufts of powder where many hooves packed it down. The trail leads out through the trees, towards an ocean with green waves that crash over each other, caught in winds I’m too far away to hear.
I know where Clover went. I know where to go now. I can’t see my aura, but I can feel it.
I am Yellow.