It was a Tuesday morning. That's an important detail. You can imagine what a Tuesday morning is like for you, then imagine what a Tuesday morning is like in Equestria. This is an important step in telling the story.
It was in Starlight's Village[sup]1[sup](This is the name given to the town in The Art of Equestria. Its referred to only as 'Our Town' in the season five premiere, and as 'The Town With No Name' in Cutie Map Quest: A Punch-Out & Play Activity Book_. That's another important detail. Starlight Glimmer was far too important to be there every day, but it's not as though the ports named for famous ships held them every day after establishment. Fields were named after ponies long past. All of this was normal.
It happened in a coffee shop. That's the last important detail. For the rest of the story, you can shift the bits around mostly anywhere. Names, colours, general descriptions—imagine a very nice painting of a meadow under a pretty sunset, and you will have a good time. If you read the story, other things may happen. We make no claim to them.
Do you remember Double Diamond? He remembers himself, as much as anypony remembers their own name. As it happens in Equestria, the general practice of 'name-calling'—that is, calling somepony by their name, as opposed to 'name-making', which was making up a name, and then calling them that—was elevated in comparison to surrounding standards and approximations. If you wanted somepony's attention, you yelled their name, and while you were talking about day-to-day activities and things you had eaten you said things like "Oh, [pony-name], it was just the most decadent thing I've ever eaten, [pony-name], you just have to try it." And they said things back like "Rarity, that's the best story about a cream-puff I've ever heard, I'll make sure to try one next time I'm in town, Rarity." All of this was normal.
Franchises in Equestria were believable since the Cakes had established a series of subsidiary bakeries, each independently owned and operated within the constraints of the Cakes' pre-established confectionary guidelines. Pinkie Pie could be a training supervisor or something. Maybe just a very busy coffee shop could suffice. Imagine that somepony who is very good at coffee has suddenly gotten very popular, and that this place is the place that Double Diamond frequently gets his coffee. That's why he's in there today, and that's why and where our story takes place, so let's get on with it, shall we?
We're watching Double Diamond. He's waiting patiently at the drink counter—the one you stand at while you're waiting for your drink, not the counter you stand at while you're looking at the menu and getting ready to order your drink. That's a different counter.
There's a clock on the wall, but he's checking his watch anyway. Now he's sighing. Now he's checking his watch again.
Finally, somepony wearing a pretty black-and-green apron walks up behind the counter, sets a drink on it, and calls out to the crowd.
"One medium espresso for Dublin Diamond."
Double Diamond raises his hoof.
"Uh, that's mine. I think."
The pony gives him the drink and smiles.
"Have a nice day," she says.
Double Diamond smiles back at her. His smile is a little 'less-so'.
Then he checks his drink.
Here's where we switch again.
Firstly, it wasn't particularly about the drink.
No, let's start over.
Double Diamond had come into this coffee shop every morning and every day after work for the past four years. He'd built it into his routine like a piece in a clockwork machine, and even through the transition from creepy cult-like pseudo-village to a properly operating, cutie-mark permissive town, the coffee shop had remained like a fixture, a single pillar on which he could balance all other fundamentals of operation. Wake up, shower, grab a quick breakfast if time permitted, and then head out the door to make it to the line just as the store was putting on its first batch of local beans. After a while they'd started to recognize him, remember the usual and get it going before he'd even shown up. Then ownership had changed, and he was once again a generic customer at the back of the line which was now five times as long. As best he'd tried to make pleasant and be friendly in all his visits, nopony had yet seemed to recall his name. Now it had been six months.
There was the drink: a medium espresso. It didn't have any fancy specifics or particulars in its composition, just a vessel for enough caffeine to weather whatever the stones and brambles of the coming day's work. But there was the soy substitution: the one he asked for every time, since learning after a year of persistent stomach aches that it was simply the moo-juice making his tummy grumpy. They got so good at mixing it he couldn't tell the difference, and had since never looked back on a pasture of black and white that included such frequent bathroom trips. So that was all normal.
But this was the third time they'd gotten it wrong.
It was the third time in the span of a week that his day became a non-starter. It would have been a simple matter to side-step the hazard: he'd waited in line for another drink, gotten the cursory apology from the pony at the counter who hadn't even made his drink in the first place, yet found herself performing apologetics simply because she was behind the cash-register—and then he'd waited for another drink, and checked it, and at least they were kind enough not to get it wrong a second time, until they did, and now were sprinkling a third helping of the whipped cream of scorn on top of his inedible concoction and expecting him to drink it. Somepony who had just started working there had cost him another irreplaceable second in his life's grinding wheel.
And even then, he'd taken a moment.
Deep breaths. Steady yourself. Be calm and remind yourself what it was like working behind a counter back in the day. Nopony needs to hear you raise your voice. Nopony needs you to make this an issue.
"Excuse me," he said, raising a hoof meekly towards the counter. "Um, sorry to be a bother, but I think you got my drink, uh..."
He trailed off as he realized nopony was listening to him. One pony behind the counter, handing out a drink to somepony else. Two or three ponies bobbling between the fridges and drink machines, preparing pastries and mixing drinks. One pony behind the counter, smiling and chatting loudly with her current customer, the front face in a line that stretched out the door.
"Excuse me," Double Diamond said again, slightly louder. He didn't want to be a bother.
"Excuse me," he said a third time.
We can imagine very perfectly the picosecond of silence that precedes an atomic explosion.
This may be referred to as an 'incident'.
"This is the the third time in a row," Double Diamond said. He was talking to himself at first. You had to lean in to hear it. Nopony did that.
"I can't drink it unless it's with soy," he said. "I'm lactose intolerant."
Everypony was busy, making drinks and giving them out. Taking orders and putting them through. Doing something else.
"I can't start my day without my coffee," he said. "I know it's silly. I know not everypony needs a silly little thing every day, like some kind of ritual. It's stupid. I just get really upset when something I'm very used to changes like that. When it changes and I feel like I can't do anything about it."
Double Diamond took a deep breath. Pause.
"I really just want my coffee," he said.
Deep breath. Pause.
"Will somepony please help me with my dri—"
"Will you shut up about your stupid coffee?"
That was somepony next to Double Diamond. A stallion, bit on the large side, with a brown-and-grey coat and a frizzy, light-brown mane. He had a pair of glasses, and a plate with a burrito on it, with lots of salsa, and sour cream. And a late on a cup beside it.
Double Diamond lowered his hoof and turned around.
The pony had a name, but we don't know what it was. Double Diamond didn't recognize him.
He thought about saying 'excuse me'.
"Just wait and somepony will get to you," the stallion said, frowning. "They're busy, the least you could do is show a little patience and respect—"
Double Diamond caught him in the throat with his foreleg in a lunge over the table. It toppled in an oddly efficient way, sent the burrito flying and landed the late upside down, which would have been cool if it had kept the late inside the cup, but it just spilled all over the floor, and there was no carpet to soak it up. So it kind of just went everywhere.
A few ponies sitting nearby got up. They made noises like 'ahh!' and 'oh no!'. Double Diamond regarded them as vaguely recognizable phrases that could be translated at his discretion.
A lot of things are 'felt'. They can be described in bits and pieces, or as a whole from overhead. Double Diamond felt like a series of strings were connected to his head, and his hooves were pulling them from up top. He could remember passages describing things in slow-motion, fast forwarded, or just frozen and analyzed like a picture of a murder scene. None of those 'felt' particularly right.
It was sort of like going down a slide. No, that would never do.
First it had taken something out of him to jump. He'd had to let go of his drink, and that was part of an equation. He'd already paid for it, and without evidence that his order had come out incorrect, there was no guarantee of a refund. In normal circumstance, simply letting go of the cup and watching it hit the floor would have triggered a chemical reaction in his brain, telling him something negative had happened, had impacted him in a serious way, and that he was entirely at fault, irreconcilably removed from compensation due to an anatomical motor misfunction. He would be down the bits for a cup of coffee, and that would put a dent in his pay-cheque.
Touching somepony against their will wasn't a done thing anymore—you didn't simply put your hoof on someone to push them gently aside in the grocery store, didn't pat somepony on the back when you sensed they were sad and needed physical reassurance. This wasn't a lament—Double Diamond had no problem keeping his hooves to himself. This story isn't about that.
What happens when you hit somepony in a situation like this, if it can be recorded independent of context, is that things start slipping into place. You notice holes in a giant sheet of fabric, or watch a metal fan spin for so long that you can see the spaces between the blades. You stick your hoof in and pull it back and everything is intact. Somepony was sitting there, and now they're not. They're not sitting anymore because you pushed them over.
Then there's the matter of what they want. The stallion didn't want to be pushed over. He tried to get up, even though Double Diamond was very insistent he do otherwise. He tried to compromise with the foreleg pressed against his neck, and came out in a sort of half-victory, wraggling and scrambling and thrashing around while Double Diamond tumbled down next to him and the two of them formed a sort of autonymous 'ball of struggle' that began to lurch slowly to an adjacent table. Grunting and swearing were prevalent.
But the pieces still go together. Double Diamond regarded, for example, that as the stallion took hold of the foreleg he'd used for choking and began to apply some kind of continuous hold or pressure, that simply abandoning the limb left the remaining entirety of Double Diamond's body free for application. He took his left hoof and started bashing it against the stallion's skull as hard as he could, aiming for the nose-bone, the glasses, the forehead, anywhere he could imagine the skeleton cracking like a coconut exterior and pouring out the pina colada insides.
Then the stallion fought him on that, he didn't seem keen to have his brains bashed in. So they rolled and tumbled, and suddenly both of Double Diamond's hooves were under contention, so he remembered his head, and used that, and started bashing it furiously against his neighbour's nearby skull. And after enough of that there wasn't much holding left to do, so Double Diamond remembered he had hind-legs, and a torso, and all the rest of him that could lift up just like that if he thought about it, he was practically a little brilliant white balloon yanking his limbs from place to place, he could grapple around and grab this little fucker from behind and choke the life out of him until his eyeballs popped out of his skull. Double Diamond thought about that, and then decided he wanted to do it. He grabbed the stallion's neck with both forelegs and squeezed.
In Double Diamond's view, there was nothing wrong with this. Nopony around was doing anything about it. Crowds resorted naturally to deferrment of agency. If somepony had called the guard, that was something. Double Diamond could do a lot of work before they showed up.
It was Shining Armor who opened the door. What was he doing here, of all places? Classic deus ex machina, that's for certain.
Double Diamond regarded him like a moth that had suddenly learned to speak. 'Suddenly'. Possibly moths had spoken all this time and simply never bothered to translate it. Double Diamond found himself thinking of summer evening balconies and intensely bright porch-lights. He really wished he'd gotten to drink his coffee.
"You're too late. I've always wanted to say that. I don't care if I go to jail. I'll do as much damage as possible until you drag me out of here, and when you lock me up I'll bash my head against the bars until you seal me in a padded room, and even then I'll be fine as long as there's water, because I'll start doing fractals in my head, and I'll finally actually get to be happy."
"Easy now," Shining Armor said. "It seems like you're having a psychotic episode right now. I want you to take a second to listen to me if you can. Nopony has to get hurt."
"You're not doing any of this right." Double Diamond shook his head. "You're supposed to be the Beowulf to my Grendel. You're supposed to be the post-modern champion of the populace, the authorial voice that asserts value even in the face of nihilistic certainty." He tightened his hold on the stallion's neck, who started making gurgling noises. "Did you realize the point was just for Grendel to accept death? The thing he always wanted? His final ballad is triumphant. Death frees us from all suffering, Beowulf. Surely you understand this."
"You make a poor dragon," Shining Armor said. "You know this story already too. 'No, Angulimala, why don't you stop?' You know we have two faces and that you are pulling us into the dark place. Won't you please end this unkindness, old friend?"
""If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him," Double Diamond said. He turned his hooves and snapped the stallion's neck like a twig. "Tell me what I have done wrong, and then take my life. Be as happy as a prince, marching to war. I'm not anyone of consequence. I was in two episodes. My cutie mark is supposed to be about skiing."
You really do have to stop. Anything going on like this... it's all pointless. A giant grinder that churns up the meat. We'll be pulp, all of us.
Have you been in the padded room? Have you seen the light even when your eyes were closed?
I don't beg for openings or awakenings. I wake up and find there are no walls. There has never been anything but a field and a dream of breathing.
Stand up, Arjuna.