Love and Tolerance

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic © Hasbro & Lauren Faust


-***::: Chapter 1 :::***-



What is sleep? According to the beloved dictionary, sleep is to take the rest afforded by a suspension of voluntary bodily functions and the natural suspension, complete or partial, of consciousness; cease being awake. It is a function that is required for all, or more specifically animals with a large enough brain, in order to perform in their daily lives. Humans need it, raccoons need it, birds need it; hell, many believe that even sharks need it. Something about they rest "half" their brain at a time since their oxygen intake requires them to be in constant motion. It is quasi-essential for all of us.

So what about dreams?

Again, the dictionary defines dreams simply as a recurrence of images that run across the brain whilst asleep. Some take a different theory. That dreams are a gateway to other worlds and universes, seeing into the stars in ways currently incomprehensible to us humans. Some believe that dreams can be precursors to things that will happen; like a form of fortune telling or predicting the future – makes for great sci-fi. In conjunction with those possibilities, some writers think that maybe when we write, we are actually subconsciously connecting with a real universe; on a sort of "tour" that we feel with our words as they are recorded. Because this connection is completely incapable of being "felt", it is chalked up to the mystical powers of imagination (insert Spongebob rainbow here).

Anyways, I know I didn't completely believe in that sort of stuff. At least... until I awoke one morning, not feeling quite myself.

_-***::: o :::***-_


...and damn cold.

That was the first inklings of feeling that permeated my flesh as I stared up, exhausted, at the unadorned staccato ceiling of my studio apartment. The dampness under the sheets told me I had been sweating in bed again. Happens every so often when warmer nights hit. Yet, at the same time it felt different somehow, like it stuck to me; I was reminded of a brief stay in Florida, their extremely hot and sticky humidity. Tucson was hot, yes, but the humidity only existed closer to Mount Lemon. Not down here where my humble apartment complex sat in the middle of the city, a short distance from the air force base where I worked.

For the moment, I ignored the pasty feeling in my mouth and the not unfamiliar coldness. Something else didn't seem right, and I couldn't put my finger on it. The ceiling above me was in stark focus, every obtrusive spat of stucco on the roof that was my neighbor's floor sprang out in detail, like a vertigo that seemed utterly alien to me for so very long.

My sore neck protesting, I twisted my head towards the area designated as the kitchen. Sure, I could have looked at the alarm clock right next to the bed/couch (it was one of those hybrid couches that could fold down into a bed if needed), only a scant foot away, but my suspicions needed a farther away target: the digital clock on the opposite side of the domicile.

6:42 A.M.

I mouthed the time, not even having to squint at the clarity of the small numbers. Six in the morning. How. The. Hell. I groaned, wanting to smother myself in the wet, salty pillow. No matter how gross it was.

I've never gotten up this early; especially not on my day off. And especially, especially on a planned leave day. I had taken several days off from my job at work for a game launch that was important to me.

Closing my eyes, I promised only five more minutes. A lie I had told myself many times in my life as a twenty-one year old guy. Five minutes always turned into ten, then twenty, then evolved into hours. Truth be told, I hadn't gone to bed at anything close to a godly hour; it was close to three in the morning when I decided to finally hit the hay. Meaning I would be running on little over three hours of sleep if I decided to get up and stay up the rest of the day.

Unlikely to happen.

I waited.

And waited...

And waited some more.

Despite the burning under my eyelids and the rising concern at the discovery that my eyesight had changed, (which hadn't quite clicked because of the groggy fog in my brain) sleep would not come to plunge me into oblivion. Damn it.

I groaned loudly. The tone seemed strange to me, I always had a gruff, deep voice like my dad had. As such, I was often mis-identified as him if my voice wasn't connected to my appearance. Like on the answering machine, or shouting around a corner. I blinked a few times, again staring at the ceiling. Annoyed that I would have to get up.

Pivoting on my hips, I sat up... and paused.

Everything felt... wrong. My arms felt weird, as though I had slept with a long thin sweater on. My legs felt twisted, but there was no pain that was associated with the word. Mentally, I felt my back itch in a very odd way. It had that tingling, pin-pricking sensation that happens when a leg or arm falls asleep. But even the odd sensation was, well, odd. It felt on my back, but at the same time, detached and foreign like a leech. Also, I have never had an experience where an entire side of the main body fell asleep.

Suddenly a horn blared just outside the window, as an unseen car flew by the apartment.

I felt my ear turn to the sound as it passed. Well, I cocked an eyebrow (at least that seemed normal), that's... different. I could always move my ears a little bit, but this was almost like ten fold more; like a full twist.

I stared across the room at my entertainment system. Nothing special, forty-two inch HDTV with an xbox 360, several open DVD and game cases littering the open glass shelves. A marble stone coffee table that was almost too large for the studio. I had insisted on it, given that I already had some matching end tables. The prominent decoration being my trusty laptop, with a hookah in the center. No, I didn't smoke, but it still made a nice center piece. My eyes darted from the various objects in the apartment.

Everything was bigger.

My height was a five foot, eleven inches. Unless I'm mistaken, that was slightly above average and a moderate muscular build thanks to my job in the grocery store I currently worked at. Normally when I sit up from the couch bed hybrid, the top of the coffee table came up to my knees when I was half squatting because the bed was a little low. But now it felt like the bed had risen, somehow, an extra foot and now I was sitting perfectly straight. I winced at this realization.

Did I shrink or something?

No, that's just crazy talk, I told myself. Shaking the disturbing thought from my head.

Still, I thought maybe I should look at myself in the mirror, might solve a few questions and put my mind at ease.

My mind had the motion in process, having done this a billion times before, muscle memory should have kicked in at an instance to balance the shifting weight as I attempted to stand. Suddenly the world tilted, and the carpet (and coffee table) shot up to greet my head. The stone showed no mercy as a sharp pain racked the side of my head, then the thump followed from landing on the much softer (but not that soft) carpet. I lay there, reeling from the completely unexpected fall, baffled.

I had had moments where I got up too quick, feelings of vertigo and nausea assaulting. But I knew what that was like, and had the reflexes to compensate. Or so I thought. No vertigo, no nausea, no nothing. Just... boom, table. I tasted copper in my mouth, cursing as I bit my tongue from the fall, and a cooling sticky sensation along my right temple.

"Ouch," I said to no one in particular, groaning as I tried to stand once more.

Blinking, I used my forearms to push myself to my knees, and felt a small sense of pride as I lifted off the carpeted floor. Then immediately grimaced at the tiny blood stain. Great.

Using the damnable table and the bed as leverage, I lifted myself up until I was back on my feet. Cautiously, arms spread wide ready to catch on something, I made my way to one of the two segregated rooms in my studio, eager to make sure the gash in my head wasn't as bad as it felt. My head throbbed like hell. It took a lot longer than I would have liked, but eventually I was in the bathroom.

Immediately I looked up at the gash and sighed in relief. It wasn't nearly as bad as... it... felt...


I was confronted by what appeared to be a small orange creature with large eyes and perky, pointed ears. Flowing brown hair that had two tones of the color in it – eerily familiar. Wide steel blue eyes stared at me from an alternate universe. Slowly, the creature's maw opened in what appeared to be shock. Its arms, also coated in short orange fuzz, braced against the reflected counter top just below it. I looked down, there was a long frizzy tail that matched the patch on the creature's impossibly large head.

The creature reminded me of an equine – just much more pastel and completely... weird. I had seen them before, but just where I had spotted them eluded me. The answer drifted out of sight in the back of my mind as I tried to reach for it. As before, the bathroom seemed much larger like the main room before. If memory served, and this creature was the size I suspected, I should be towering over it by at least two feet; but instead we were eye level. Staring.


Bathrooms have mirrors.

Mirrors reflect whatever stands... in... front of... them.

An unmanly squeek escaped my mouth as the avalanching thoughts slapped me in the face. The mirror mocking my every move and my appearance. Not some random as hell creature!

The breath of surprised air that escaped my mouth startled me. I jerked my arms up to my mouth and the mirror mimicked. Instead of fingers I felt hard stubs, and winced as I slammed my lips harder than I meant to. At that moment the strange illusion vanished from view as a new, falling vertigo overtook me, and the world disappeared in a thud of blackness.

_-***::: o :::***-_

"Ouch," I said, rubbing the latest bump on my head, the throbbing pain making it difficult to think.

Okay, something is wrong. I know that much. I just need to figure out what. Taking a deep breath, I sat up slowly on the cold bathroom tile that had slowly warmed to the touch of my flesh. I examined the... things... that had replaced my legs and feet. Recognizing the latter as hooves; the joint structure's name eluded me at the moment. Forcing myself to continue, I held up my arms.

They too, ended in hard stubby hooves. Oddly enough, they were indistinguishably blended to my body as a whole, covered by the short orange hair of a coat of fur.

So maybe that explains the sweat, I thought, recalling one night I had made the mistake of sleeping under the comforter with a full compliment of clothing on, including shoes and a leather jacket. I was too drunk, and too tired, to care though; paid for it in the morning of course.

One of the two articles of clothing I had worn the night before now were mysteriously missing. My chest was still bound in the plain white t-shirt, now three sizes too large. An irrational sense of embarrassment washed over me, feeling the blushing burn on my cheeks, as I realized my green boxers were gone. My gaze shifted to the only window in the studio, and my heart rate declined in gratitude that I had the forethought to close it before sleeping. Of course, I somehow think seeing a pony (that was the word!) would be weirder than seeing a half naked white guy.

I felt something swish along my leg.

I watched as the scruffy tail with two different shades of brown curled around my midsection, attempting to hide my underwearless shame. The softness seemed somehow calming, and I thought maybe it was a subconscious thing. Most likely it was, recalling the feeling of my ear twisting to the car horn from earlier.

After a few more moments of dumb-foundedness on the floor, I decided to try standing again. Strange as it sounds, it was far more difficult balancing on four legs than on two. Falling didn't reoccur, but the fear of it got my adrenaline going. Banging your head hurts. After a moment I reared up and postured in front of the mirror again, steeling myself.

The creature... I... stared back at me. All the same as before.

The first thing I noticed as I leaned a bit closer was that the expression of confusion was far more... pronounced. This almost cartoon-ish face seemed to be far more expressive than an ordinary human face. I shuddered at the thought of not being human. Clearly I was not human right now, yet my mind seemed unchanged.

My train of thought was interrupted by the aggravated itching underneath my shirt. The same scratching torture that assaulted me in bed. The mirror obliviously reflected the magnified look of annoyance on my face. Damn it! This shirt needs to go!

Getting it off, where to start?

Normally I'd grab the waist and just pull upwards until the article of clothing would pass over my head, but without fingers how the hell would this work? I tested the movement articulation of my new head and neck – surprisingly flexible. I think I could easily twist back and grasp the shirt with my mouth, and maybe pull it off.

I was about to commence, having the rim of the white cloth between my teeth – and paused. I was still leaning against the bathroom counter. Knowing my luck, I would somehow get stuck and panic, bonking myself on the head once again.

"Not this time," I exclaimed to myself, almost wincing at the squeaky voice that had replaced my deep throat. One problem at a time; this itch needs to go! I walked, (trotted?) clumsily, back into the main room, trying to put as much distance as my home would allow from objects that could potentially hurt.

I grasped the white cloth in my mouth (yuck) again, and gently pulled forward. First snag, feeling pressure at my shoulder. I groaned, it's never that easy. After a moment of considering, I lowered my front half to the ground, feeling the tension release, and the shirt glided forward. New problem, the shirt was now stuck on my head.

Arrugh! I really missed my fingers right about now.

This dilemma took a bit longer to figure out. But after several minutes and colorful curses later, I finally dislodged the damnable shirt. It was immediately forgotten as the itch utterly disappeared. That wasn't all that happened however as I felt a massive twitch, and movement on my back for just a moment before it settled down peacefully.

I blinked several times, before craning my neck to observe my back (shenanigans I say at the thought).

Feathers. A wing with feathers adorned the length of my left side. A quick shake of my head confirmed a matching appendage on the opposite. My jaw dropped to the floor, and I could practically feel my irises shrinking in some comical overly-expressive way.

A pegasus!?

I've not only awoken to find that I am a cartoon-ish equine, but a pegasus cartoon-ish equine. Mind. Blown.

An involuntary smirk crossed my face when my jaw decided to lift itself. Flying was something of a personal dream of mine; although not quite like this. This was better. Jets and propeller driven craft and other means of flying in the great blue sky, watching as the ground disappeared, soaring above the clouds. I tried and failed to suppress another unmanly sound that came close to squee.

I tried to open my wing gifts, to see what my wingspan might be; a mental guess said around four feet, but the hell did I know? I was a creature straight out of myth now. When they didn't respond, I prodded them with a hoof.

And winced. Ouch! I felt like I had been stung by an angry spider. A familiar needling sensation washing over. Were the feathery wings numb? Quite possible, I reasoned, in all likelihood I had slept on top of them for hours. Under ideal circumstances, arms and/or legs can go numb even quicker. On the other hand (Hoof? This was weird.) maybe my human brain couldn't handle using the pegasus wings yet; after all walking had been, and still is, a tremendous challenge.

Even with the comforting thought that flight was still very palpable, it still sucked. If for no other reason than I couldn't leap out the window and fly right now. Another sensation at the back of my skull, the feeling of my ears pressing against the back of my head.

Odd, I thought at the strange notion, mentally imagining what that must have looked like. The familiarity nagged at me, where had I seen that before...?

I glanced passively at the clock, only about an hour had passed by. Knowing that I didn't have work to attend to, and could recall no social plans, I felt relieved. The time would be better spent getting used to this new body, the way it feels, the way it reacts, and most importantly, how to "convert" everyday things back into routine. This sort of upheaval on the magnitude of moving to a whole new country with a language and culture that's never been heard of before. My chest impacted at the notion.

I sighed.

It was going to be a long weekend...

_-***::: o :::***-_

Practice makes perfect.

But no one takes into account how much practice makes perfect.

My thoughts exactly as I recounted how many times I face planted while trying to trot around the limited space of the apartment. The most taken-for-granted action had taken hours to even mildly get used to. Walking on four limbs, fighting the urge to rear up on the new "hind" legs instead, while my still human brain protesting the unnatural motions. I managed to help the space issue by leaning the coffee table against the window wall next to the front door. Pushing things was as simple as bracing against them and, well, pushing forward – which was good news for when I would eventually have to go back to work.

Back to work...

That was one of many encounters I was dreading. I only had minor doubts about the ability to do my job; which entailed moving boxes of shipped product all day, sometimes involved in driving a forklift, and in general breaking down the daily loads. That would simply require a change of tact. But the biggest, and some say most important, aspect of the job would be customer service. Interacting with the public.

As in people. As in, possibly, not pony people.

Was it just me or was it everyone? I listened to the front door and took a quick peek outside the window. Unfortunately I didn't see another living soul that wasn't behind the wheel of a car, and therefore couldn't make out whether or not they were human or equine. But it must not have been the entire population of the planet; I assumed that if that was the case there would be panic in the streets, fires, disasters, etcetera. A similar reaction to science fiction movies when aliens showed up... right before they started blasting. I cursed my imagination, surely that wouldn't be the case right, since this is the real world and not some movie or book... right?

The window may not have given me a sufficient answer, but maybe the news would. I searched around for the TV remote, and after several curse lined minutes, finally found it on the floor halfway underneath the couch.

Now how to pick it up without fingers...

I could try to pick it up by using my fore hooves as a pair of pincers, but my previous experiences with crane machines said that would be a bad idea, and only lead to shouting more expletives. That left my mouth. No, literally, I would have to grasp the controller in my mouth. Yuck.

I sighed, then bent over to chew the hard plastic. Surprisingly, and gratefully, there was no god-awful taste waiting for my tongue – not that I was trying to taste it, nor curious as to what plastic tasted like. Quickly though, I sat the device on the bed, nudging it with my nose to point towards the inactive television.

Grimacing, I realized now I need to figure out how to push the damned button. A scene from Spongebob flashed in my mind, where Squidward was having a "grip" problem because he couldn't win at a crane game. He used his eyeball to press the changer's button. I winced at thinking about his reaction of pain. Not gonna happen. Besides that was still physically impossible – right?

I leaned over the plethora of buttons, trying to position my pointed nose over the red power on/off circle. I felt genuinely stupid for having to do this. There was really no reason why I felt that way, I just did. After a couple tries the TV finally flickered to life. I sat down on the carpet, ready to receive.

Luckily for me, the channel was already on CNN, and if this was bigger than I suspected, the story would at least be subtitled scrolling across the screen. The familiar visage of the anchor man appeared on the fancy wooden desk, the fake picture of the city plastered behind him as he gave the morning news. It took me a moment to notice his co-anchor was missing. I listened as he gave an update on an old story.

"In other news the extra terrestrial phenomenon is still inactive and passive after first appearing just outside lunar orbit almost one year ago next week." the anchor continued. "Military and intelligence agencies the world over are still actively monitoring the phenomenon for any and all changes, insisting that there is no danger as of yet."

I recalled when the strange energy occurrence had first arrived. It looked, to me at least, like a lightning bolt shaped tear in space. I glanced out the window. There is was, floating ominously over the mountains in the same place as always. Like a child had taken a giant lightning-colored crayon and drew a crude picture. When it first showed up, naturally, there was panic in the streets. After several days, everything calmed down when it became apparent that there was no invasion, no doomsday armageddon, no supernatural occurrences, etcetera. Still, that didn't stop every major earth military force from fully mobilizing and nearly starting world war three. After the first few months, the military backed down partially, in favor of passive monitoring with reaction forces on standby.

"... many woke up this morning feeling strange." My ears shot up, bending their way towards the source. "Reports of thousands of people being "changed" when they woke up this fine morning to find that they were no longer themselves." The screen flashed to some pictures in a hospital. The scene in the hospital was chaos as nurses and doctors wheeled patients about. They were a mix of normal humans while the other portions were more of the equine ponies. I made a mental guess that many of the newly transformed tried to drive to work without knowing, or they did know, and tried to seek help. Only to figure out the hard way that driving would be very difficult.

"Thousands of car accidents occurred within just an hour," the anchor confirmed my suspicion. "as many of these new creatures attempted to drive cars and trucks. Believing the vehicles to be stolen, the police departments of various cities have begun making arrests of those not critically injured."

That I did not expect. They're arresting them? Unless the anchor was exaggerating the numbers, surely there was enough evidence to say that those ponies are the people transformed? I found myself referring to one of my favorite cynical phrases: people are stupid.

I felt a minor sense of relief. At least it wasn't only me this had happened to. Although I regretted that many seemed to have been hurt or maybe killed. I still maintain that this was overkill: arresting the new "species" seemed very... fascist, somehow.

The anchorman paused in his news report, glancing at an unseen commotion off screen. It sounded like someone was trying to block someone else from coming on the set, a deep voice protesting. Another voice, this one a bit more familiar, insisted that (it sounded feminine) she be allowed to pass as it was her job... or something like that. After a few seconds, a new figure stepped into the screen – a pony mare.

Other than the dark shaded pink coat, everything else about her seemed very familiar. From the long blond hair (mane... arrugh!), and her deep blue eyes. It was the anchorman's female counterpart of the daily news, apparently another victim of this transformation phenomenon. I blinked a few times as I noticed she was indeed wearing clothing, a small business suit that looked like it was made for a child, and yet appropriate for this kind of job. My thought stirred and I frowned. How did she get such a suit in such a short amount of time?

The mare glared off screen at the security guard, or at least I assumed security personnel, while shuffling through some papers. After a moment her warm smile returned and began giving a few minor news announcements. Just like nothing had happened. Part of me admired the fact that she so boldly showed up for work and acted so very professional despite what clearly had happened. Although the other part couldn't blame the rude way the anchorman was staring at her, or the security guard; after all, no one knew what was going on yet... right? She finished her announcements and turned to look at her cohort, whom was still staring at her. After a few tense seconds, she coughed loudly and snapped him out of his reverie. I couldn't help but chuckle.

A sudden musical beat filled the air, making my heart thump out of my chest.

My eyes darted around, trying to pick up the source, and long ears turned this way and that. I was confused enough that I couldn't pick up where the random beat had come from and decided to forget about it. After a few moments of quiet, it announced again. This time I focused.

Indeed recognizing the familiar tone, I trotted into the kitchen and dug out the small cellular device from underneath a kitchen rag. The small, smart, touch screen phone had been plugged into the only outlet in my pathetic excuse for a kitchen. I grabbed the phone in my mouth, putting my left hoof on the cord to prevent it from being pulled from the socket, and pulled. The phone came free without mishap.

Setting the phone on the small cramped counter, I stared at it.

How the hell was I supposed to use this thing now?

For several minutes longer, I formulated and discarded what must have been a dozen plans. After a while, and muttering several expletives of frustration, I just went with the simplest. Turning the device long ways, I grasped it with my hooves and "held" it steady; then used my nose to slide the screen up, revealing the keyboard, garnering a sneeze for my efforts. This activated the screen and showed I had two new text messages. Again using my nose (a bit more gently this time, to avoid sneezes) to select them. They were both from one of my closest friends.

Marcus: Hey bud, what's going on?

I blinked. Was that a literal statement or just saying hello? Having no idea, I continued to the next message.

Marcus: Want to see a movie or something? I sent a text to Ash, but she hasn't texted me back yet.

I typed out a response, very slowly, since I had to use my damned nose.

Me: Um, I dunno bro. I struggled for some kind of excuse, then opted out as lack of funds. I'm kind of broke right now.

A minute goes by, and the obnoxious music repeats again.

Marcus: It's no prob. I'll spot ya. See if u can get a hold of Ash.

Damn it. For once I cursed his generous nature. Truth was I was nowhere near broke, in fact I had a decent savings built up. I was no penny pincher, I just didn't have many things I wanted to buy. Only the occasional game, like the release coming up soon, would garner the attention of the numbered plastic debit card in my wallet. I'll have to try another excuse to weasel my way out of this, but first I needed to text Ashley.

My heart fluttered a little bit at the thought of Ashley. Her, Marcus and I had been school mates since the fourth grade. We hung out, watched out for each other and played regularly as time allowed. Over time I... well... developed a crush on her. Unfortunately she didn't have the same interest in me. In fact she... well... had different interests as far as those kind of relationships went. Was it possible for your heart to burst multiple times in one lifetime? If so, then her telling me she was, my mind flared at the word, lesbian was one such event when I tried one time to express my crush in the hopes it would become more than just friendship. She saw I was so forlorn, and added that she still wanted to be friends with me. Right.

I felt my ears plaster against my head as a frown tugged my jaw muscles. Funny how they always want to be friends even after they rip your heart out...

I banished the thought from my head. No, that wasn't (completely) fair. I knew she didn't mean to hurt me, even though it did; greatly so. Though damaged, our friendship did continue to thrive. We still went out to movies, concerts, game launches (yes, she was a gamer too), etcetera. It would have been a great match, which made it none the easier. Eventually I got over it... mostly. What could have been and all that crap.

After a few moments I managed to get the new text message screen up.

Me: Hey Ash, how r u? Marcus wants to no if u want to c a movie.

I waited a few minutes. When no reply came, I briefly considered writing another message to her, but instead opted to send one back to Marcus.

Me: No answer yet. Maybe her phone broke? Probably nothing srs...

I tried to diffuse the worry that was likely concerning Marcus. He was a year older than Ash and I, and sometimes acted like an older brother of sorts, worrying about this and that. He was by no means a "worry wart", he just cared.

Marcus: Hm. Maybe we should go over, c if everything is all right. Case in point.

Panic washed over me. He can't come over and see me like this! He can't! But if I knew him as well as I thought I did (and I did) then he would come over regardless. Come on, think. Think!

Me: I'm sure everything is fine. No need to bother her. The message was a lie in almost every aspect.

I caught myself chewing my hoof, eyes glued to the little bright screen, waiting for his response as the seconds ticked by painfully slow. Dread hanging heavy, palpable, in the air.

Marcus: Eh, maybe ur right. Phew.

Another message popped up.

Ashley: Um, I can't go see a movie. Sick, real sick. Cannot go.

Another relief. Ashley, aside from announcing she had some cold or flu or something, was at least well enough to text. I relayed the news to Marcus, and he replied that he had gotten the same text.

Marcus: Well, we should definitely go see her Sam. God damn the sun to hell in a hand basket!

Arrugh! Damn it. He was likely going to come over now. How the hell was I going to explain this? I looked over my equine body, reminded by the newscaster mare that I was essentially naked ever since I removed the white tee shirt to alleviate the itchiness of my... wings. My eye twitched, this was still very weird.

Marcus: I'll be over in about an hour. Gonna stop by wal-greens and get medicine for ash. What is she sick with? Ffffffffff!

Double damn! I was screwed now. I repeated that phrase and the popular question of "what was I going to do!?" over and over in my head, pacing the room continuously. Ignoring the phone completely, I tried to formulate some kind of plan, something to keep Marcus from coming. I was reminded of Ashley's mysterious illness. Maybe I can use that too? Worth a shot.

Me: I dunno, it might be highly contagious. Best leave her be.

Heart thumping, I waited for his response. Annoyed at finding my damned hoof creeping up to my mouth again.

Marcus: Eh, we'll be careful. Besides, sick means vacation, lol.

Damn him! He was using my favorite excuse against me. I always joked and made cracks that I wanted to get sick just to get out of work, or school back when that applied. I head butted the phone, sending it deeper into the couch bed hybrid. One hour. I had sixty minutes (approximately) until this came crashing down.

I looked around the small studio, looking for anything I could possibly do to avert the inevitable. There was truly no place to hide in a studio apartment, everything was compact and small. Even though the bathroom and closet were separate rooms, they were still far too small to adequately hide in. Simply not answering the door wasn't an option. Most of us lived on our own, and we all had extra keys made in case any of us got locked out somehow or lost our own set. Which meant that Marcus could just let himself in; if I did hide, and he managed not to find me somehow, he might call the cops thinking something bad had happened. And I did not need that kind of attention.

Well, truth be told I didn't need any attention... at all. But that wasn't an option anymore. The more I thought about it, the more I realized this was inevitable. Whether it was revealing it to my friends, family, or co-workers, this had to happen. Eventually, irrevocably, inevitably happen. Closing my eyes and wishing it all away wasn't going to do shit. That and I knew now I wasn't the only person exposed to whatever this was. The news broadcast had proven that in more ways than one.

I took a deep breath, and concentrated. I knew what I needed to do, the only question now was what approach to take. With that thought in mind, I began straightening up the apartment like I always did before expecting company.