We all have heroes.
Some are obvious, shining in the forefronts of our minds like lighthouses in a storm. They’re the doers, the saviors, the glowing examples of equinity that we all look up to every day. The princesses. The EMTs. The fire department. Take your pick. They’re all the same.
Then you have the personal heroes. The smaller ones, the ones who can lift you up with just a smile and a wave. They’re unique from pony to pony. Some don’t even have one, others just don’t know it yet. They’re lovers, brothers, parents, friends. The ones you can lean on when it gets rough. The ones who would follow you to hell and carry you back. The ones you can count on, day after day, to support you in anything you do.
And then there’s me.
I’m not sure where I fall. I’m not a good pony. I’ve done things I regret, and most of my life is a reflection of that. I’m selfish, in a way. Thinking that if I save just a few more, try just a little harder, then maybe the ever-present guilt gnawing at my gut will recede just a little. It’s a stupid hope, but I cling to it anyway, because it’s the only thing I have. Because heroes can’t have heroes.
The Manehatten night is chilly and dark, and I repress a shiver as I make my way down the alleyway, hooves clicking down the cobblestones like a pair of castanets. I reach the alley’s end and turn off into another, following a route that’s been burned into my mind from the hundreds of times I’ve walked it. At this point, I’m fairly sure that I could do it blindfolded if I had too. Never a bad skill to have.
There’s a grunt and a shuffle of hooves, and all of a sudden I’m thrown against the rough stone wall by shadowy figure. I shove it back, suppressing a yell of surprised pain, and then suddenly go rigid as I feel the steel pressed against my throat.
“Sh sh,” a gravelly voice whispers softly. “No talkin’. Just relax, and I won’t kill you.” It’s a stallion. My age, maybe a little older. Armed, roaming around in the darkness, looking for unsuspecting mares. It doesn’t take a genius to know what he wants.
“Now, why dontcha just lean ‘gainst that wall over there, and we can get started?” he asks with a horrible chuckle. His breath smells like cheep booze and cigarettes, and I nearly gag. I can barely make out his face now, a wide, brutish muzzle with two eyes set deep into the skull like lodestones.
“C’mon, beautiful,” he says, pressing the switchblade harder against my neck. The tip of the blade pierces the skin, and I feel a tiny trickle of blood worm its way out and begin to drip down my shoulder. “I wouldn’t want to have to damage the merchandise.” Another chuckle. This one turns into a hacking smoker’s cough halfway through, and he takes the tiniest of steps back as he wheezes.
I drop low against the alley wall, curling into a ball and lashing out with my hind legs. They hit him directly in the chest, and he stumbles back, tripping over a pile of garbage and landing in a heap. I waste no time in leaping on top of him, grabbing the knife from him in my mouth as I do so. He’s still coughing, a combination of his tar-filled lungs and getting the wind knocked out of him, and it’s nearly a minute before he’s recovered enough to choke out a “Oh shit. Oh, shit. Please don’t kill me. Please! I… I was just messin’ I never wanted to… shit shit shit…” He begins to sob, dirty tears streaming down his cheeks, and I smile, knife still in my mouth. I worm it around with my toungue so it’s in a position where I can still talk and look down at him.
“You want me to drop the knife?” The sound of my own voice seems louder than a gunshot in the stillness of the evening. Even talking is a risk, a stupid one, but I’m a stupid pony.
He nods, sniffling and licking the mucus off his face. Pathetic. He’s a blight, a boil on Equestria’s skin. A good pony would knock him out, turn him in, and let him spend the rest of his worthless life rotting in a dirty cell.
I’m not a good pony.
“All right,” I say, easing up on him slightly. He gives a grateful gasp. “I’ll drop the knife.” And with that, I rotate it back around in my mouth, take aim, and spit it straight between his hind legs.
The stallion drops back against the garbage bags, screaming in pain as he thrashes like a fish out of water. I watch, impassively, as he manages to grab the blade and pull it out, eliciting another scream as a small fountain of blood erupts from where it used to be. He looks at me, eyes clouded with tears and pain, and sobs, “Who… who the fuck are you?”
I get to my hooves and turn to leave. “Nopony important.” He gives a pitiful whimper, but I don’t look back, walking the rest of the way down the alley and turning another corner. Here, in a black box at the end of a dark corridor filled with trash, rust, and graffiti, it sits: the reason for my existence. The only way I can look myself in the mirror in the morning and not wish nopony was there. My call. My purpose. My other life.
I smile and pop the box’s latches open.
The costume’s purple silk is cool and comforting to the touch as I slip it on. First the skintight catsuit, then the veil, then the mask, condensing the world into a darker, bluer version of itself. Then on goes the cape, fastened with a deft trick of the teeth that I taught myself years ago. Then the hoofwraps, tight around each limb to make my steps light and my impacts hard. Then, finally, the wide-brimmed hat. My trademark, and usually the only thing the ponies who see me remember. ‘The mare with the hat’, they say. ‘She swooped out of the darkness and saved me, then she was gone’.
The mare in the hat. The angel of the night. The suited crusader. Mysterious. A hero. A menace. A silent protector.
A dark and gritty tale. The pulplike, grim narration drew me in. The mysterious pony who is now Mare Do Well is intriguing; I’d like to know more about her. Great job!