|Striped Like Me|
Cover art by alfa995
|Date published||December 26, 2011|
|Based on||Bridle Gossip|
Striped Like Me is an alternate-universe short story by Fernin. It rewrites the plot of Zecora's introductory episode Bridle Gossip, retaining the moral lesson but making it more visceral by focusing more strongly on the prejudice of a single character, Applejack. Its title is reminiscent of the book Black Like Me about a white man travelling through the Southern United States disguised as an African American. The story has an omniscient third-person, past-tense narrator, but the focus is primarily on Applejack's thoughts and emotions. It was inspired by a February 2011 image by Elosande.
The story begins with Applejack and Apple Bloom sorting apples into a cart for market day. Applejack teaches her sister which apples to avoid: apples which are rotten on the outside, she explains, will be rotten on the inside as well, a fact of nature that is true for fruit just as much it is for ponies.
The next scene is a near-copy of the scene in Bridle Gossip in which the other main characters first tell Twilight about Zecora and how they're afraid of her witchcraft. Apple Bloom is skeptical about the claims of the adults, but her sister refuses to listen to her (or Twilight). Unlike in the episode, the filly does not manage to sneak out of Sugarcube Corner, but she does escape her sister's supervision a while later, apparently following Zecora's trail into the Everfree Forest.
When Applejack notices she is missing, she follows the same trail, brushing against some Poison joke in the process. She finds Apple Bloom in Zecora's hut, having a conversation with the zebra. Applejack confronts her in a hostile manner, but Zecora remains calm, which only further infuriates the pony.
The next day, Applejack wakes up with a headache. It takes a while for her to realize that she has been turned into a zebra, with not just the stripes, but the spikey hair to match. She is also unable to complete any sentence without rhyming. Suspecting Zecora of putting a curse on her, she asks Twilight for help.
Twilight can't help her either, though. Spike helpfully suggests looking it up in the book Super Naturals, but Twilight declines, thinking it full of superstitious nonsense. Applejack therefore decides to go to the perceived source of her condition, Zecora. She concocts a plan: she will first try to get her to reverse the spell on her own, but if that should prove ineffective, she wants to lure the zebra into walking into Ponyville, where she can be ambushed by the other Mane 6.
After Pinkie and Rainbow Dash create a distraction so "Zebrajack" can sneak out of Ponyville without freaking anybody out, Applejack finds her way back to Zecora's hut. Zecora continues to calmly maintain that she is not a witch, even after Applejack attacks her. The attack fails, and the pony changes tactics. After she tells Zecora about the Poison joke, the zebra knows what to do and agrees to mix a potion to cure Applejack. Knowing that she is going to need ingredients from Ponyville, AJ leaves her hat in the hut, a signal for the ponies waiting in town that they should attack Zecora.
Before they go into town, however, Zecora looks for other ingredients in the Everfree Forest. The two make conversation, and Applejack learns that Zecora is a healer and herbalist, come to the Everfree Forest in search of usable plants that do not grow in her homeland. AJ believes her this time and starts to regret leaving her hat back at Zecora's house.
As they enter Ponyville, all the ponies disappear from the streets, afraid of not one but two zebras in their midst. They spring the trap, but Applejack quickly explains that she was mistaken and that Zecora is not responsible for her predicament. Vindicated in her skepticism, Twilight starts knocking on Daisy's door to explain that Zecora is no threat, and to get the final ingredients for the Poison joke cure.
Thanks to her newfound friend, Applejack soon turns into a pony again. She apologizes and offers to accompany Zecora on her way back to her hut, both to get her hat back and to make sure other ponies have also gotten the lesson. AJ asks the zebra why her kind is rhyming all the time, and Zecora surprises her with the answer: she rhymes so people focus on what she is saying. It is a personal decision and not something inherent to her "race". Applejack was forced to rhyme only because the Poison joke turned her prejudice against her.