Furthermore, the Newfoals possess no survival instinct whatsoever. All they care about is worshiping Queen Celestia and carrying out her will. Even if you shoot them, they don't scream in pain or retreat - they'll just keep going with unnatural determination, tripping over themselves or even their own spilling entrails to get at every unconverted person they see. It's also noted that they still have those enormous, glassy-eyed smiles pasted on their faces as they die.
Queen Celestia herself. In canon, Celestia is the Big Good, a Reasonable Authority Figure, The Mentor for the heroes, and The High Queen who cares about all her subjects. Meanwhile, TCB!Celestia's an utterly insane tyrant and a xenocidal monster. She has every intent of destroying humanity as we know it, has almost certainly brainwashed most of her citizens (it's confirmed for the Royal Guards at least) into becoming her unquestioningly loyal followers and has also committed multiple counts of xenocide on the other species in Equus. On top of that, it would take almost enough firepower to take down a Reaper to kill a clone of her. To quote Discord:
On that note, there's this little tidbit in "The Answer, Part 2" which has Celestia surviving the explosion of the Castle of the Two Sisters. It's one of the first hints the reader gets of something being wrong on some deep, fundamental level with not just Celestia, but Equestria itself - a hint that Celestia did something to her citizens. Something horrible.
Strangely, no-one seemed too concerned about the several dozen guards lying crushed and shattered in the imploded cave.
The Barrier is perhaps the most horrifying Advancing Wall of Doom ever conceived. It started out as a humble shield in a portal, only to grow and disintegrate every human in its path, or anything built by a human. Cars, concrete, artwork, buildings, graves and famous landmarks and monuments are lost on contact with this pink wall. It's not only driving away and destroying any human in its path, but erasing all evidence that we even existed. Millions of homes and thousands of years worth of irreplaceable history, just gone, and it doesn't even leave behind dust to mark their destruction.
You know the tired old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words"? Redskin agrees, and posted two pictures showing just how much of Earth was consumed◊ by the time the story started.
Let's face it - The PER is pure Paranoia Fuel. They could brainwash you to think however they want you to - and cheerfully did, brainwashing numerous doctors all over the world, along with the head of numerous organization like the FDA, to push the potion onto the unsuspecting public. They have the capacity to take over entire towns, letting loose Newfoals to destroy them in an orgy of destruction, plunging countries into civil war - and again, they have. One interviewee from Case Files describes how she saw her neighbor Mr. Norton drag his children out on leashes to ponify them, and Kraber is not the only one who lost his children in mass ponification. It's become common practice to carry firearms in daily life and/or wear wetsuits and gas-masks under clothes. On top of that, the PER prey on oceangoing vessels to halt the transport of goods, and any ship could be next. And if you're a Pacific Islander, your island could be the next to get ponified.
While the Newfoals are usually nothing more than mindless drones, there are a few that do possess somedegree of intelligence and cunning. Focus Ray, from 'The Answer (Part 2)', is the latter. When TCB!Trixie decides to break him with some well placed words, he starts to lose it, to put it mildly.
Ray's face was twitching, expression fluctuating as if caught in a seizure. It was nothing like when [Trixie] and Cadance had deprogrammed Green Fields; that had been a pony's true nature rebelling against a bond that had been placed upon him. This, this was software fighting itself, a decision-making-schematic on the verge of collapsing, even as his body succumbed to the toxins polluting it. She almost expected to see the Blue Screen of Death flash up in his eyes, but his willpower was extraordinary.
And when Trixie successfully subdues him in a physical fight, Focus Ray undergoes a downright disturbing Villainous Breakdown where he ends up mangling biblical scripture while replacing "God" with Celestia, and finally screaming:
"Where is it? Where is it?! Mother, I've failed you... Mother, MOTHER!"
In both a creepy and funny way, Kizuna Tallis states in a comment that she can visualize Focus Ray sounding just likeLemongrab. Doctor Fluffy has approved, on the basis that he thinks Lemongrab sounds like he's in a constant state of a Villainous Breakdown.
The flashback explaining how Marcus was forced to kill his ponified brother. Stalwart Heart (formerly known as Jacob Renee) keeps trying to convince Marcus to stop the fight and join him in "spreading harmony". What really edges this into creepy territory is how there is nothing of Jacob in Stalwart Heart, despite Marcus' own efforts to reach out to the pony that was once his brother, and he displays such utter contempt and hatred for who he once was. It really drives in how deeply brainwashed the Newfoals are.
It's confirmed that the entirety of Equestria has been brainwashed, largely through magical means. Imagine being corrupted.... the sensation creeps up on you slowly, as thoughts that aren't yours flicker into your head. You wake up one day filled with hatred, and you don't notice anything wrong. Months later, your species is committing truly horrifying crimes on another intelligent race, and you can't help but cheer as they steamroll the filthy apes out of existence.
TCB!Granny Smith's nightmarish description of TCB!Equestria, as she pleads with Applebloom to leave Equestria before it's too late:
Granny Smith: No! Landsakes no Bloom! Get yerself away from this place as soon as you ken'. Get out of Ponyville, getch yerself outta Equestria! This [whole] place has been poisoned. It's dyin' Bloom, and what'll be left will soon be just a corpse, movin' and talkin' and playin' like it were alive, but dead through and through...
Moreover, Applebloom initially didn't listen to her dying grandmother, staying on the farm out of obligation to the family. As time went on, she slowly feels her thoughts drifting towards feeling an irrational hatred for humans and a desire to see all of humanity ponified. Also, in a heartbreaking sense, Applebloom and Big Mac could only helplessly watch as their beloved sister became consumed with hatred as well, to the point of neglecting her own duties to the family and the farm.
The creature screaming back at her, while Granny Smith was still warm in her casket, was not the sister she remembered. None of Applejack's warmth and love shone in those eyes, just a dark fire that spoke of endless wrath. When Applebloom looked deep into them, all she could see was a hoof smashing down on a pony's face, forever and always...
In 'War March and Past Sins', dragon king Spykoran and elder zebra shaman Quagga explain that in order to become the perpetually smiling zombies they are now, the Newfoals' human souls are literally broken to pieces and bound to Tirek's will. Even worse, according to Quagga, it is completely impossible to repair said souls; only death will make the Newfoals' souls whole again. Meaning that even if the Queen and the Bag are defeated, only mass euthanasia will set their souls free (and that's only if the Newfoals don't just drop dead once Tirek is neutralized).
Queen Celestia's "Ashes of Solaris" spell. It disintegrates a person's body into ash from the inside. TCB!Cheerilee gets a firsthand look at how painful it is when she tries to comfort a dying Child Soldier hit by the spell.
Twilight's mindscape. At first it looks like a replica of Canterlot Castle. But once Luna starts heading deeper into it, the place becomes more distorted, decayed and falling apart; a screaming, lost, hurting filly version of Twilight begs for help as shadows cry and whisper in her voice. The mental construct that "imitates" her is so disgustingly deformed that Luna didn't recognize her as Twilight at first, and it viciously berates the filly-ghost for even being near Luna. And as for the real Twilight herself, she's buried in her own mind, a filthy and ill-looking shell of herself, and roots have impaled themselves all over her body, one even going through her heart.
Another flashback shows that after being turned into a puppet, TCB!Twilight creates the ponification potion in a manner that rivals Josef Mengele in ethical bankruptcy. The problem is, you see, that the potion needed to be perfected for it to actually convert a person without killing them. And this is told in extremely graphic detail, including people's eyeballs exploding, their skulls splitting open as horns force their way out, their fingers falling off as their wrists fuse into hooves, bloody wings exploding out of backs, shattering spines as they go... Families were split apart and forced to watch as their fellow humans were fed into the meat grinder of ponification testing. Not even children were spared - in fact, when Twilight finally succeeds (on test subject two thousand nine hundred and eighty seven), the subject is a little girl. And the first thing we hear after that is the girl's poor mother screaming in Spanish that the creature prancing on the table is not her daughter. Throughout all of this, the real Twilight is impaled in her own mind, screaming helplessly as the thing controlling her body mutilates children.
This knowledge is so bad that it causes Luna to fly into an Unstoppable Rage and challenge the Tyrant herself by "Unstoppable Rage", we mean she transforms into Nightmare Moon out of sheer rage and despair.
In perhaps the darkest irony, the author of the original Conversion Bureau once said this:
"I've seen a lot of backstories written about how Equestria is simply a post-apocalyptic Earth set in the distant future. I decided to expand on it in a much less... grimdark fashion."
Some very awful Fridge Horror: TCB!Twilight Sparkle was married to Stalwart Heart, Marcus's ponified brother. TCB!Rainbow Dash is also said to be in a relationship with Lightning Dust. Not one of the Elements of Harmony have had any control over their actions in a long, long time. Things played out very differently in TCB Equestria starting from the reappearance of the Crystal Empire, so while TCB!Rainbow Dash doesn't have the same experience with Lightning as her canon counterpart, she is nonetheless still watching herself having sex with a pony she probably doesn't even know. TCB!Twilight was forced to live out encounters with her Newfoal "husband", while knowing what it took to create the potion that turned Jacob Renee into a perpetually smiling doormat that sings her praises everyday. The mental constructs in their minds have ruled their words, their minds, and their bodies for years, so every sexual encounter any of them have had is completely without consent. A minimum of two of the TCB!Mane Six have been regularly subject to rape.
As someone pointed out on the Fridge page, since Jacob was Mind Raped as well, and the default state of a Newfoal is an Extreme Doormat so drained of free will that Acevedo (the narrator of the Starvation side story) questions whether Newfoals have any higher brain function, there was no possible way that he could have said no. And it's confirmed that any pony who didn't escape TCB!Equestria has been brainwashed, and Lightning would be no exception. So when you get down to it, they were essentially raping each other. While the real TCB!Twilight and TCB!Dash, who have roughly the same amount of agency as a human controlled by a yeerk, were stuck in their own heads, watching.
Acknowledged in "Sons of Legacies, Part 3", which claims that TCB!Twilight used him as little more than a toy, all the while the real Twilight was screaming and desperately trying to stop this, but failing to. Doctor Fluffy also states that TCB!Twilight made Stalwart Heart give her a RustyVenture.
Acknowledged again in The Calm Before the Storm as well, when an aspiring Intrepid Reporter uncovers a Newfoal brothel.
Acknowledged again in Chapter 4 from Last Train From Oblivion where a woman getting ponified gets specifically programmed/mind raped into a Sex Slave for a barrack of Royal Guards, despite her fear of sex due to having been raped in her past.
TCB!Pinkie Pie is known for her wonderful parties that bring smiles to everyone present... only to ambush all the partygoers with potion. Just imagine, you're enjoying the wonderful festivities, everyone around you is having a good time next thing you know, you've been transformed against your will, you can't control your new body, and guess what? You're thanking the very pony who just effectively killed you.
Remember how Queen Celestia gave the PHL a lot of trouble in Boston? She's only a clone created by the Mirror Pool. An imperfect copy. A shadow of the original. And unlike the Pinkie Pie Clones, she's smart, as demonstrated when she nearly prevents the Prime!Equestrians from forming an alliance with the humans.
It gets better. The actual Queen is implied to absorb the clone's memories and experiences like a Kage Bushin from Naruto. Even if the resistance fighters can kill a clone, the Queen will learn from its mistakes and make the next one more effective.
The 'Sons of Legacies' arc has the following;
In Part 1, King Sombra Mind Rapes and takes control of Marcus's body, fully intent on draining his runes' power to become a second Solar Tyrant. Thanks to Discord, this doesn't take, but it seriously impedes the group's efforts to reach the Crystal Heart.
Stephan is forced to confront his worst fears and memories when facing the Dark Door, in which a bunch of Newfoal children chase him down an endless maze of hallways and classrooms, telling him to drink the potion and join the herd, then Queen Celestia's Mirror Pool clone's resurrected corpse appears before him, her mouth opening wide as if she were about to swallow him whole. And all the while, his friends, family, comrades and even his girlfriend Trixie look on, calling him a murderer for killing those ponified children.
Marcus' memories are most certainly not pleasant, as Discord can attest. Field hospitals and tents full of amputees that have bloody buckets of limbs, dead children, a tortured pony in the middle of what's presumably an HLF encampment, a woman having Mercy Killed a room full of soldiers, some of which were children, then desperately trying to kill herself after her pistol ran out of ammo...
The worst part isn't the vision of TCB!Twilight begging for death as Not!Twilight eggs a group of Newfoals on, but when Discord witnesses a group of Newfoals brutally beating a dream version of TCB!Cheerilee and hanging her, leading him to realize that moments like that are the only times their mangled souls have anything close to real emotion. They could have killed her quickly, but they're extending her suffering purely For the Evulz. Or possibly because somewhere deep inside, they're desperate just to feel something, even if it's sadistic glee. It's confirmed in the Calm Before the Storm side story and it's every bit as horrifying as one can imagine.
We're also treated to a visualization of Lyra watching on, wearing the same empty, glassy-eyed smile as the Newfoals.
0Training Days: First Days (Part 2)' shows the various races of Equestria just how terrifying warfare against Newfoals is... by giving them a view of New York City being attacked by Newfoals. Kill one and five more come to take its place, they attack in skyliners (or "Zeps" as the Future Slang goes) while creating aerial defenses from pegasus cloudwork, enough that one minotaur can barely see the sky.
Then there's the Newfoals attacking a church during Mass, ponifying the devoutly religious who gleefully stomp on their former religious icons...
A little boy on a crashed subway train getting ponified, then advancing on his mother...
And there's the outright glee they're shown to have in slaughtering or ponifying humans.
'Training Days: The First Month' has the reveal that Tirek is doing all this not just for revenge, but because all the suffering the war is causing amuses him. Especially turning Equestria into a fascist hellhole. As Discord puts it:
The scene at the end with TCB!Twilight apparently cooking up new batches of potion and the Nausea Fuel laden descriptions of the Flawed Prototypes.
'Training Days: The Second Month': In a reversal of situations, Weaver is treated to a truly horrifying vision of her Queen's corpse being desecrated by Tirek before he reaches out for her, ready to utterly destroy her.
While Prime!Twilight is conversing with the sentient embodiment of the Element of Magic, it's made clear that all of existence itself is in danger if humanity and Prime!Equestria lose. Em puts it rather bluntly:
Em:There shall be nothing but Tirek, and he will die alone in a lifeless multiverse of rusting automata, and rejoice in that death...
'Love and Hate': We are introduced to Pineapple Cutter, a mare of questionable sanity and an especially twisted worldview, topped off with a constant craving for excitement. Whatever goes on inside her head can't be pretty.
In Chapter Eight, 'A Melody Of Flames and Frost', Yon-Soo and Porter come across an HLF encampment in an abandoned school, happening upon a room full of pony corpses that are so brutally maimed that Yon-Soo notes that he can't even tell what kind of pony they were, what color their coats were, or find their cutie marks. He also takes a moment to reflect on the HLF's apparent love for wearing necklaces and belts adorned with broken horns and wings.
Chapter Nine, 'A Journey to the East', opens with Yon-Soo having a nightmare. It starts off benignly enough, with him relaxing in a calm meadow... only to realize several things are off about the landscape. He's approached by the Newfoal form of his friend Eun-Hee as she tries to coax him into coming with her to Equestria, whereupon he sees Porter and his human friends becoming Newfoals, as well as a vision of his pony friends wearing the same empty smiles on their faces. Yon-Soo tries to be Defiant to the End, but Queen Celestia herself shows up, delivering promises of eternal happiness, and orders his converted friends to force a bottle of potion down his throat. And then he wakes up.
'The Face of the Enemy', Chapter Ten, features another literal nightmare. After finding some respite from HLF atrocities at a safehouse controlled by their new allies in the underground, the team's rest is interrupted by the news that Firebrand's fire tornado to cripple the Empire's forces at Erenhot also killed 88,000 civilians and refugees. Devastated, the pegasus tries to sleep it off, but Weaver appears in his dreams (carrying Lyra's namesake lyre) and proceeds to give him an Affably EvilBreaking Lecture, followed by a bizarre form of baptism where she throws him into the sun. It isn't described graphically, yet the Rule of Symbolism wording makes it sound like the fire is literally stitching him into a tapestry. The dream ends on this note:
For added creepiness, some of Weaver's lines directly echo the condemnation of Martin Walker by John Conrad at the end of Spec Ops: The Line.
It's revealed that Button's mother works with Newfoal children to try rehabilitating them, and she hates every minute of it. It says volumes about how the Newfoals are given that this mare has more patience for her obnoxious and accident-prone son than she does for the zombie-like shells of formerly human children. Not helping matters is that according to Button, the unicorn Newfoals kept stabbing her with their horns, forcing her to get protective gear for herself. To add insult to injury, this is a wasted effort, since the Newfoals' souls are so damaged they can never be functional people again.
Acevedo's descriptions of his hunger pains. He's become skinny enough for his ribs to start becoming visible.
Calm Before the Storm
The first chapter in Prime!Equestria has the Mane Six and Lyra see security camera recordings of the PER and Newfoals infiltrating maternity wards and converting helpless newborn babies. As if any further confirmation were needed that affiliating with the Solar Empire required being a complete and utter sociopath...
According to the 'Empire' chapter, the Newfoals are used as slave labor. However they get plenty of breaks. This isn't out of the kindness of Equestria's collective hearts, though, no - it's because they will literally work themselves to death if they aren't told to take a rest break.
It is a bit unsettling to see TCB!Big Mac exploit this weak point when he finally says Screw This, I'm Outta Here! and leaves Equestria.
TCB!Big Mac describes the Empire's brainwashing as such:
And sometimes, I'd get the most terrible thoughts... thoughts that I knew were not mine sometimes just slipping in. I do my best to ignore them. But every day it gets harder, and I'm putting myself at greater and greater risk trying to funnel info to humanity. Every day, I worry that I'll wake up, and I won't be me.
One in-universe interview with a PHL pony has her recall seeing a woman getting ponified and the resulting Newfoal looking exactly like her. Moreover, this mare was in the PER at the time, but she was so horrified by what she witnessed that she turned against the PER on the spot.
"It was like Celestia was trying to replace me, replace all of us, with something terrible, and it was like looking into a funhouse mirror... it wasn't me, but it was so close to being me that it was all wrong. And she looked dead. She looked like she couldn't do anything but smile. And I knew what Equestria was doing. Replacing everyone with Newfoals, or turning us all into something so much like them that I can't tell the difference."
Last Train From Oblivion
Chapter 3 reveals that there's a new batch of potion straight from TCB!Twilight, supposedly to make the Newfoals smarter (and better at actually fighting). Unfortunately, according to TCB!Prism Flash and an unknown other stallion, it doesn't work very well. There's some hints of the human's personality under the programming, aware of what's happened, though unable to do anything while begging to die. Then, as icing on the Nightmare Fuel cake, TCB!Prism Flash and the other stallion order her to kill herself. She asks how they'd like her to kill herself, with no regard whatsoever for her own life, and they callously say they don't care.
Chapter 4, 'Bloodstained Sketches of a Small Town'. Doctor Fluffy has said that he and TB3 were competing to outdo each other in the Nightmare Fuel department. Hoo boy...
The Newfoals marching to the Barrier. Three hundred are going to die, frozen to death as winter comes, and as they march on mindlessly, they're muttering on bizarre snippets of poetry and bastardized prayers.
We get to see the ponification process... from the perspective of the person being converted. It starts out fairly innocently, with an artificial version of Twilight Sparkle contained within the ponification matrix talking about the process to a PER member... only for the convert's desires to be a pony nurse to be discarded, as she's systematically mind-raped into becoming a soldier (flying completely in the face of her belief of the ponies as Perfect Pacifist People) and the fuck-toy of a barrack of Royal Guards despite her fear of sex due to having been raped in the past. Her memories are destroyed and/or replaced with memories that are more equine, until there's nothing left...
We actually see Rio/Nepenthe's transformation... from the outside. It's bad enough seeing just how broken she is as a human, but it really adds a whole new horrifying dimension to her eventual conversion.
And after she's fully ponified, she hones in on Maddy with the intention of making her into another "Pretty Private". To reiterate, Maddy is only ten years old.
The reaction of the Newfoals upon the train crash, which results in them going into an orgy of violence and chaos.
Nepenthe is downright unstoppable fighting on her own. God help us all if something like her is mass-produced...
Jean's ponification. He undergoes near-instant mind-rape.
Chapter 6, Lost In Dispatches 2:
The totem-proles are actually crystal ponies kidnapped from the Crystal Empire, either amnesiacs wandering the streets or prisoners of war.
The report on the Pretty Private program that spawned Nepenthe. It takes the ponification process to an even worse place as it's revealed that Rio's soul was so thoroughly destroyed and fading away that none of her original self can be salvaged, rendering her Deader Than Deadnote Granted, it's semi-mitigated by the Hope Spot of Word of God confirming that only the other side of death can repair ponified souls, but Rio still has yet to be Mercy Killed for that to even happen..
'The Double Hook': Diamond-Mint Jewelup, a natural born pony, gets turned into a Pretty Private thanks to Nepenthe channeling the ponification spell through a tiara. God help us indeed...
The Light Despondent
Kraber's mental state in Light is revealed to be even more deteriorated. He hallucinates a dead Newfoal talking in other people's voices (sometimes his wife's, sometimes his children) telling him that he's in the wrong, trying and failing to get him to accept his own guilt. And then there's his truly bizarre nightmare in Chapter Two...
Highlights include the dream-version of Kate, his wife, telling him he's a coward who murders ponies and can't realize what he is. Then she turns into a pony while Kraber's having sex with her, and he stabs her to death... only for her to turn back to human while she bleeds out. He runs away, killing even more ponies, only for them all to turn into humans upon death. And then, after he's killed his own children and realized that he'll have to do so in the future, TCB!Pinkie Pie appears, holds him down and ponifies him and he briefly turns into a Pretty Private....
Then Kraber suddenly becomes the one actually giving the nightmare fuel, briefly recovers his sanity, and descends into Krieg-esqueAx-Crazy-ness, in allcaps for a paragraph, by punching Pinkie Pie while screaming nonsensical obscene threats. He then wakes up, only to hallucinate the dead, bleeding Newfoal of Emil (a character from the last chapter) staring at him and asking what he's looking at. Damn.
At one point, his leg is broken and his left collarbone is cracked. He's forced to limp out of the way, to find a sympathetic unicorn, and he barely makes it out. Not helped by hallucinating himself drinking the potion, a vision of his dead daughter, and actually shooting one hallucination, with the implication they may be realer than they let on...
We actually get to see Kraber torturing the pony clown. It's... not pleasant.
TCB!Applejack's mindscape looks like a burnt down and destroyed Ponyville, with Sweet Apple Acres nothing but a dead and hollow shell of its former self, overrun with mutilated Newfoals just walking around without a care. The house is covered in photos of either Applejack gleefully ponifying and slaughtering humans or of Apple Family members with their backs turned in disgust. He finally finds AJ, trapped in the hardened sap from a rotting apple tree and he tries to rescue her, only for the Homunculus to show up and try to kill him, but Applejack pushes him out of the way, taking him out of the dive.
TCB!Rarity's mindscape is of a desolate and closed down version of the Carousel Boutique, riddled with broken mannequins whose eyes follow Rockwell everywhere he goes. He finds Rarity being sewn into a dress made of human skin by her Homunculus and he manages to rescue her and tries to help get her out, only to fail again.
TCB!Pinkie Pie's mindscape is a jumbled mish-mash of parties and of the Rock Farm, with doors that lead to random locations that she remembers. Rockwell finds an embodiment of Pinkie Pie's fillyhood, named Little Pinky, who informs him that the Homunculi could wind up causing the TCB!Mane Six to undergo a malady called the Cutie Mark Fracture, and on top of that, the embodiments of Pinkie's imaginary friends from the "Party of One" episode were all brutally murdered for trying to save her. Pinkie Pie's homunculus is especially horrifying, having a mouth full of razor sharp teeth and Creepy Blue Eyes, and Little Pinky describes her as being all of Pinkie Pie's joy being channeled into a sadistic glee for murder and ponification. And then there's the fact that the actual TCB!Pinkie Pie is found hanging from a tree and was being used as a pinata by the Homunculus and the Newfoals.
Finally, there's Queen Celestia's mindscape. There are Newfoals everywhere, as well as the propped up corpses of the other sapient races of Equus in the Canterlot city square. Rockwell then stumbles upon the body of a human being burst open from the inside and a Newfoal coming right out in an explosion of blood. He finally finds Queen Celestia in the throne room of Canterlot Castle and after a brief verbal confrontation, Tirek reveals himself, calling Rockwell's efforts insignificant before reaching out to destroy him... only for Rockwell's special abilities to manifest and manage to No-Sell the attack, expelling him out of the mind dive but not before getting horribly burned by Queen Celestia's magic.
Also, there's the fact that Tirek states that the real TCB!Celestia is "withering away as [he] thrives".