Apples. I remember there were so many apples. The topless train cart was full of them, and I lay on the crest of the pile.
My body was covered in scratches and my chest hurt every time I inhaled. I felt angry and sad at the same time. I must’ve been in a fight, yet I couldn’t remember it. In fact, I couldn’t remember anything at all.
As the train came to a stop, I climbed out of the cart and jumped onto the platform.
The sign on the train station said ‘Canterlot’. That took care of the question where I was, but I still had a far more pressing question looming in my mind—Who am I?
I looked at my flank to see my cutie mark on my black coat. It was a white, blank sheet of paper. I had no idea what that was supposed to represent.
A lady in a puffy dress walked in my direction. I thought that she could tell me more since she looked like she owned the place.
“Excuse me, ma'am! Do you perhaps know who I am and what this cutie mark stands for?” I pointed a hoof to my flank.
“You’re an odd case.” She glanced at my flank then back to my face. “Just by looking at you, I can tell that you’re no stallion I should know.” She passed me with her head held high.
Odd Case. It does have a ring to it, I thought.
I spend the rest of the day strolling around Canterlot. When I looked ponies in their eyes they would glance at me for an instant then look back into the air. They all had a purpose—a place they were going to. Only I was strolling aimlessly, trying to escape the void in my mind.
The stars in the darkening sky were lighting up one by one. The streets were emptying and the shutters on the windows were closing. By that time, I knew the Canterlot layout in and out. As nopony had recognized me after the whole day of strolling the streets, I was pretty sure that the city was not a part of my past.
I also yearned for a rest. My injuries were hurting, and my muscles were aching from being on my hooves all day long. I had no place to call my own and no bits to pay for any kind of accommodation. The only homeless shelter in Canterlot seemed like the obvious choice to seek refuge in from my aimless tramping.
That’s where I met her. Caring Do. A brown pegasus mare with a grayish mane and tail.
She welcomed me with open hooves, sat me down and offered me oatmeal.
Caring Do wanted to hear my story, but I had no story to tell. When I explained to her that my mind was just a blank slate, she got even more intrigued.
I too was curious about her. How did a nice pony such as herself end up in a city full of stuck up ponies that only cared for themselves?
She told me that she envied my loss of memories. Her backstory sounded adventurous, but she didn’t want to go into details about it. She expressed that she would rather forget some of the things she had seen.
At the same time, she was proud of her achievements. Despite all the odds being stacked against her, she had always managed to retain her confidence and come out on top. Yet, she had been losing ground. She believed that if she had persisted with her obsession, it would eventually spell the end of her. Settling down had been her hardest, yet most rewarding, mission she had ever accomplished.
Having seen things that should not be witnessed by anypony, she had come to the conclusion that some things were better left unexplored. Love, however, wasn’t one of them, she said. As she had witnessed it in her new-found life, she had learned to appreciate it more and more. “When you give love, you will get love in return,” she chanted.
I didn’t want to be a burden to anypony, especially somepony as nice as her, so I planned to leave early in the morning to look for clues about my past along the train tracks that led to Canterlot. I knew, I couldn’t have just appeared on the train, I had to have come from somewhere. I was determined to find my lost past.
She told me that it’s not the next thing around the corner that I should be chasing after. It’s here and now that matters the most.
After settling me in a cozy bed in the quiet corner, she let me be alone with my thoughts. My eyes wouldn’t shut close as I contemplated her words, but it wasn’t just what she’d said that kept me awake. There was something more to it. Pursuing my past all by myself didn’t feel as straightforward as it did before. I was, probably, already falling for her on that first day. I fell asleep with a smile on my face.
A soft nudge woke me up in the morning. Caring Do was looking down at me with a smile on her face. “Gear up!” she exclaimed. “We have a busy day ahead of us.”
I didn’t know what she meant, but I followed her, regardless.
She took the time from her busy schedule, taking me to various doctors, therapists and magicians to examine me. They couldn’t find any head trauma that they could fix. None of them offered any solid explanation as to what had happened. It was all mostly just guesswork.
Caring Do’s personal hypothesis was that I had been an adventurer. The scratches that I bore might be a testimony to that. She said that I may have had stumbled on an ancient artifact, but hadn’t been fully prepared for the protective spells, guarding it. Triggering such a spell could have had played havoc with my mind. I wasn’t sure if she was serious because it sounded like something out of a fiction book. At that time, however, any explanation I could get my hooves on felt more attractive than facing the unknown.
One of the magicians even hinted that a memory theft spell would produce symptoms such as my own. At the same time, she was doubtful that could be the case. Such harmful spells had been forbidden for more than a millennium. The only known remnants of the dark arts were locked away in the Royal Archives, and only the princesses were allowed to access it.
It was unlikely that the benevolent rulers would assaulted a nopony like me. Everypony held them in high regard. It was silly to even consider something like that. The other possibilities that somepony stole the spell from the Archives, found a thousand-year-old copy of it or learned it from scratch were remote as well. That’s what the professional was speculating and I tended to agree with her.
We even visited a psychiatrist. He tried hypnosis and various other treatments. Nothing worked. I had to face the possibility that my loss of memories was permanent.
I was devastated, but Caring Do was there for me. I found solace in her embrace. Missing a piece of myself was hard to deal with. And yet, I was finding a new piece that I didn’t even know I was missing. She made me belong, despite my deficiency. I wanted that feeling to persist.
When I told her of my desires to stay, she smiled and caressed my mane. She said that I was a better pony than she used to be for letting an adventure pass me by. I didn’t know what she meant, but I assumed she was okay with me staying for a while longer.
As days went on, I got more and more involved in her daily activities. She never admitted this, but she was putting on more work than she could handle by herself.
At first, I helped her out of gratitude for her coming to my aid when I was adrift. However, it wasn’t long before I realized that the chores felt natural to me. I couldn’t see myself not providing for those in need. How could have I just turn a blind eye to distress? At that point, I understood Caring Do’s drive to help others. Her calling was also my own.
We made an awesome team, offering help to anypony who needed it and couldn’t afford it. The more we gave of ourselves, the closer we drew to each other.
Weeks passed and one thing led to another. Before we knew it, we were living like a married couple. On one playful day, I jested that we should make it official. She agreed and it wasn’t a joke anymore. It was for real!
I felt like the whole world exploded into rainbows. Nothing could remove the constant smile off my face. I was fulfilled, and all the hardships just faded away. Nothing else mattered anymore; not even my lost memories. I wouldn’t trade this life I created with my Caring Do for anything my past may have held for me. I’m sure it couldn’t even compare.
Last night, she told me that it was I who finally managed to permanently ground her. “When you give love, you will get love in return,” she whispered as she gazed into my eyes. I knew exactly what she meant.
“And that, stranger, is why I have so much love in my eyes as you put it when you stopped me on my way to the ceremony. Today is my wedding day. I’m about to marry my one and only true love,” I say to the stranger, wrapped in rags, who halted me a couple moments ago.
“I still don’t remember anything from before I came to Canterlot, but it doesn’t even matter. I couldn’t be happier than I am right now. Why would I waste my time worrying about the forgotten struggles? Today is the best day of my life and that’s what matters the most.
“Perhaps I can make your day joyful as well. Just tell me what you seek. Even though I don’t have much time on my hooves, I’ll be glad to direct you to any place or anypony who you wish to see in Canterlot. You did come here with a purpose, right?” I ask him.
The stranger speaks from under his hood without looking up at me. “There is, indeed, a very distinct reason for me being here. I don’t know what is it about you, but you seem to be a conduit for real love. Such a precious commodity. You never seem to disappoint.”
“I can confirm the real love part, but I believe it can happen to anypony, you just have to open your heart to it.”
“I would very much like to experience the love you talk of.”
“First thing’s first, though. If you are lost, like I used to be, you will be welcomed in the OC Do shelter that my bride and I are running.”
“Now that I found you and your moving tale, I don’t feel lost at all.”
“You know what? You can even come to my wedding. I feel like sharing my love all around. If you want to witness it, this is your chance.”
“I appreciate the invitation. Be assured, I’ll be there. Before that, however, I need to show you something.”
“I really must be on my way stranger—”
“This will only take a moment of your time, pony. Just step with me in this alley here.” He walks into the shadow of the narrow slit between two houses.
I feel chills running down my spine, but there is no reason to not help the confused stranger. There is still some time before the ceremony, and it wouldn’t be right if I just walk away. I may be many things, but dismissive is not one of them, I think as I follow him into the shadowy alleyway.
Stranger turns back to me. “The reasons why escape me, but I can tell you for a fact, that you’re a very lovable pony. A characteristic I can make use of. It saves me loads of time, every single time.”
“I’m not sure I understand. What was it that you wanted me to see?”
“This.” Stranger steps on his hind legs and drops his cloak.
I gasp. His black body is riddled with holes. They aren’t injuries. He doesn’t even seem to be bothered by them. Pointy teeth. Insect-like wings. Broken horn. What is he?
“Are you alright?” I ask, slowly stepping backward.
“I’m surprised nopony told you of us changelings.” His horn lights up. A green field wraps around my neck and launches me at the wall.
“Ngh!” My vision blurs from the impact.
“You’ve been most kind to me, love buck.” The changeling approaches.
The field pushes up from below my head. My back rubs on the rough surface of the wall. Both hind legs uselessly dangle in the air. I try to knock the field with my forehooves, but it buckles under my blow and I hit my neck through it, instead. The magic grasp tightens, choking me.
“I’ll take advantage of your kindness. Just like I have before.” He stands on his hind legs and caresses my red mane.
I try to scream, but my gag reflex won’t let me.
“You’re just a test run. A preview of things to come. In the future, all of you undeveloped ponies will have your minds blanked out.” Grinning, he walks left and right before me.
“That’s what you get for stepping off the evolution train. While you were getting spoiled by Celestia for a thousand years, devolving; we changelings bettered ourselves by artificial selection. We only hold on to a few old ways that lead to our progress.” He stops, and half closes his eyelids as he focuses his gaze on me. “Like the memory theft spell I’m about to use on you.”
I try to shake left and right, but the field holds me in place.
“Don’t worry about your memories. I’ll put them to good use. And your wife—my wife is going to witness it first hoof. Tonight is going to be a busy night,” he spoke quizzaciously. “I’ll have loads of fun with my spouse. The word ‘kinky’ doesn’t even begin to cover the things I shall do to her. And all along, she’ll be thinking it’s you who’s hurting her.”
“If she ever sees you again, there will be hate, not love in her eyes. I’ll corrupt and invert all the emotions she feels toward you.”
I strike my forehoof against the wall as hard as I can. Pain rushes through my foreleg.
“Don’t hurt yourself too much. Cripples aren’t that lovable.”
My vision narrows.
“Nighty night, love provider. Until we meet again.”
I open my eyes. Grass. It’s all around me.
Swallowing my saliva feels like daggers in my throat, but it is nothing compared to the pain I feel in my chest. My breathing is sporadic, and my body feels broken. I stand up and thump my hoof against the ground to release my undefined frustrations.
“Ugh!” I raise my leg up again. It hurts. It seems I’ve lost a fight, but that’s not all. I feel like I lost a lot more. Yet I can’t remember any of it.
I look at my flank. My cutie mark is a blank sheet of paper. Blank Slate—it has a ring to it.
I limp toward the nearby town and read the sign beside the road, “Ponyville”.