“What’s it like to fly?”
Cloudchaser turned to the voice, somewhat startled out of her preparations for the oncoming storm by the odd question. The voice was that of a young, orange coated filly, gazing at her with longing gray-violet eyes. Her tiny wings were shuddering slightly in the wind as she waited for an answer.
“Excuse me?” Cloudchaser finally replied.
The filly stared at her with those big eyes for a few more seconds before her face crumpled into something of annoyance and she turned away with a flip of her magenta tail.
“Gah! Nopony can answer that!!” the filly said as she stamped off over to two other fillies standing some distance away. Cloudchaser watched them as they spoke- the pale yellow one trying to calm the orange one down, as the white unicorn stood a bit to the side with a confused look on her face.
“What was that, huh?” Thunderlane asked. Cloudchaser was startled at the sudden voice, and turned her head to him.
Thunderlane continued. “Isn’t that Rainbow Dash’s little sister or somethin’?”
Blossomforth shook her head as she approached the two. “Rainbow Dash doesn’t have a sister,” she answered him, snapping her goggles into place over her eyes.
Thunderlane scratched his chin as he turned his lighting yellow eyes to the sky, obviously perplexed. “Then... then maybe they’re cousins? They’re cousins, I know it.”
“Nope,” Blossomforth replied. “Hey, Thunderlane, why are you even here? I don’t think you’ve ever not been conveniently sick or visiting ailing family members during a storm.”
“It’s the biggest storm of the summer, and it’s supposed to be killer,” Thunderlane replied. He lifted his goggles from his neck to his eyes, found they were too tight, and struggled with the strap for a good half a minute, winning an amused stare from Blossomforth. “Besides,” he continued, “Cloudchaser asked me. And there’s no refusing her, you know it.” Thunderlane winked at Cloudchaser, and even she had to smirk at that.
What’s it like to fly?
“Obviously,” Blossomforth said in mock-exasperation. “Don’t flirt too much when you’re actually working. You’ll get your feathers singed off.”
“Thanks for your concern.”
Blossomforth waved a hoof as she pranced away to her position in the field. Cloudchaser looked away from her and back to the spot where the fillies from earlier had been gathered. She saw the local apple farmer, Applejack, speaking to them, before she gave a smile of willing defeat and began taking the route to Sweet Apple Acres, followed by the filles, cheering and prancing and somehow not falling over each other in their excitement.
A half hour later, the sun was setting and the weather team had gotten the all clear to begin storm tempering. The dark clouds billowed above, threatening to thunder or rain, but they stayed stubbornly silent. Cloudchaser pulled her goggles over her eyes and stood in position alongside two other members of the weather team. She gulped at the sight of the sky; this was scheduled to be a massive storm, dwarfing the tiny winter and spring storms that she had worked in by tens of times.
“Alright, weatherponies, listen up!” spoke their leader in a crisp, strong voice. Cloudchaser turned her eyes from the sky to the cyan-coated mare pacing in front of the team. Rainbow Dash hopped and hovered midair before continuing her speech. “This storm is going to be the biggest of the year. It’s no secret that there’s been a bit of a drought, crops failing, yada yada. You are the lucky ponies that get to be the heroes of our fair farmers, and you get to look super cool doing it! I mean, if there was anyone outside to see you, or if they could see you through the clouds...” Rainbow Dash drawled off, holding a hoof up to her mouth as she seemed to reconsider her speech.
“Ah, you know what, it’s a thunderstorm. It’s a big thunderstorm, there’s lightning, you should know the precautions. Be out of the sky and on the ground by midnight, Applejack’s having a super-late dinner after the storm temp for anyone who wants it. So, without any other delay: ARE YOU READY, STORM PONIES??”
There was an enthusiastic ‘YEAH!’ by the weather team, and Rainbow raised one hoof in triumph. “That’s what I like to hear! On my mark.”
What’s it like to fly?
Cloudchaser’s heart hammered in her chest as the question the filly had asked her echoed in her head. Flying is a utility. It is used to solve problems and make life easier. It’s a luxury, it’s beautiful- flying had uses. It was words that were used to describe it by those who couldn’t fly- words spoken by teachers when they spoke about pony races, by earth ponies upset over a rain that didn’t come when they wanted it, by unicorns who deemed it largely unnecessary. But what was flying to a pegasus like her?
Cloudchaser leaped into the air, flapping her wings in the hot, dry breeze as she fought to gain altitude against her racing heart and shaking nerves. She rose into the sky, looking to the side constantly to make sure she was keeping up to her teammates, approaching the black clouds, everything silent save for the hot wind.
Only a half minute after taking off into the air, Cloudchaser was breaking into the storm clouds, tearing a hole into the darkness, and from then it was chaos, as lightning hurried to escape from the clouds through the rip she had created. She could feel it reach it’s white tendrils straight past her as it hurtled through the sky down toward the ground. Her fur stood on end due to the electricity, and she had the sharp tinny taste of metal and summer in her teeth as she continued her ascent.
With dozens of holes punched in the clouds, it was raining in the darkness, soaking Cloudchaser’s pelt as she dodged lightning and wove her way into clouds, curving her wings to her body and narrowing herself so as to make the smallest hole possible; the hole would expand seconds after she had created it, giving her a tiny window of time to get out of the way before the lightning emerged, escaping angry and snarling and biting like a lion released from a cage.
Every once in a while, Cloudchaser would see a flash of dulled-down color as another pony pierced a black cloud. She never tried to wave. They didn’t have to when they were storm temping. They were united in lightning and racing heartbeats.
The storm was far from silent now. Thunder rumbled, lightning crackled, filling the air with electricity and frayed hairs, and the sound of the rain hitting the ground emanated from below.
The clouds were broken up now. There was room to weave between them and look for rouge clouds that had somehow gone unbroken. Cloudchaser reverted to the rain soaked, lightning free path between the clouds.
Adrenaline coursed through Cloudchaser’s veins as her feathers were tickled by rain and tiny branches of electricity reaching out from static-filled clouds and the question pounded in her head to the beat of the thunder all around her.
What’s it like to fly?
Lightning flashed. It was in front of her. It was too close. The lightning was much too close. She was blinded by the white flash tinged with purple. She could feel it in her bones, in her flesh, ripping through her veins and twisting into her DNA. Everything was lightning as she barreled straight through the thunderbolt. She tasted electricity and her ears rang as she turned head over heels, still continuing her path, not flapping her wings at all, only carried by her velocity as she made no effort to get herself out of her current upside down position.
Time slowed. Rain was crystalized as it landed on her neck and chin and wings and coated her already soaked mane in a fresh layer of condensation. Lightning pealed behind her and the rumbling and ringing in her ears seemed to dissipate.
Oddly enough, Cloudchaser felt no fear. The fear she had experienced when still on the ground before the storm, the fear when she had first entered the storm, when she was avoiding lightning like a skittish kitten- it all seemed superficial. She had flown through a lightning bolt, and she sure as hay wasn’t dead yet. She was in a storm, cradled by rain and clouds and electricity, and she was alive, she was so, so alive. She was breathing in the air, and she was alive. She was falling to the ground through the lightning flashes and rain and she was alive.
Cloudchaser spread her wings, the wind pulling at her feathers as the air built under them and her descent ceased. She hovered silent, gazing into the heart of the storm, and she grinned.
What’s it like to fly?
She zipped through the storm, darting into clouds and pulling the lightning out with her, static clinging to ever hair and feather, raindrops clinging to her eyelashes as she carved the air with fearless wings. She felt so, so alive. The thunder was in her veins, the storm and sparks were in her belly, she was drinking in the static and breathing in the sky.
No unicorn or earth pony could understand a storm like this. Unicorns could explain the science behind clouds and the water cycle and lightning conduction but they would never know the rain in their manes and the lightning in their veins and the belly-dropping feeling of lightning slicing through the air by their side. Their passion was gentle, and lay in numbers and letters and spells on crisp scrolls of parchment. Earth ponies knew the importance of storms, of course; their livelihood depended on it, whether they were farmers or bakers or fashion designers. They were appreciative, but their hearts lay with the earth; the soil, the grass, the blood and sweat of the planet, malleable but strong. The earth ponies were hard workers, making do with the land they had been given since the dawn of time. They couldn’t understand the silence of the rare moments of thunderless lightning strikes, with the moonlight shining down between slices cut out of the clouds, the lullabies of static as feathers curled into clouds and coaxed out fine drops of rain.
Flying bound pegasi to the sky. They were the fastest, the most agile, bound not to math or written law, and not to the dirt and knowledge of the earth, but to intuition; to their wings, to the storm in their bellies, the moonlight on their forehead, the sunset on their necks and the icy air on their backs. Passion driven.
What’s it like to fly?
Cloudchaser cut like a knife through the clouds, slicing her way upward, paying no attention to the cracks of lightning inches from her, the adrenaline in her body replaced by something much stronger, the rain cutting through her pelt, every nerve frayed and cracked and broken and patched together again by solidified thunder.
She broke out from the clouds, and the sky was clear before her. The moon was high in the sky, white and shining and huge, as the dark clouds below her rolled and was illuminated by lightning.
Cloudchaser knew what flying was.
She let her wings give way, turning headfirst into the storm and tearing through it, everything rain and metal and light. Flying was like being one with the sky, free and boundless and infinite and filled with stars collapsing in on themselves and forming black holes and the moon is shining on it and somehow the storm is beautiful even though it’s tearing you apart because it’s building you together again, and it’s putting you together a god.
Cloudchaser knew the words to describe flying- not as a unicorn, or an earth pony, but as a pegasus, meshed together and inseparable from the sky.
She caught herself seconds before hitting the ground, landing like a feather on the rain soaked grass.
She had flown through a storm, sliced through a thunderbolt, and found the words to describe flying.
As the storm began to dissipate and the moonlight shown down and the warm wind dried her fur, Cloudchaser knew exactly what to tell the young filly earlier.
What’s flying like?
Flying is the freedom to become the storm.