Memory Blanks

Jan 21st, 2020
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  1. >You give a half hearted look around your room one last time.
  2. >It’s almost different as you stand higher than you normally would but at the same time it’s all the same.
  3. >Your eyes drink it in and your chest begins to fill with that familiar feeling all over again.
  4. >The ghost of a smile graces your face.
  5. >A breathless sigh escapes you as even that phantom moves on.
  6. >Effigies, pictures and other assorted paraphernalia surround you.
  7. >All of them…every single one of them are—
  8. >Well, you have to be honest with yourself.
  9. >Not all of them.
  10. >You only have a grocery clerk’s meager wage to work with after all.
  11. >And after the bills and debts and life expenses and whatever else—not to mention the fact that you got mugged and…well.
  12. >It’s been a hard month.
  13. >One that had followed another hard month and so on.
  14. >Barely scraping by and working yourself to death one week and fighting just to keep at least forty hours the next.
  15. >Doesn’t matter.
  16. >All that matters is that you are drowning.
  17. >You’re drowning in the day to day.
  18. >But that’s fine.
  19. >You are drowning in a sea of people who don’t give a shit about you one way or the other.
  20. >But that’s fine
  21. >Family?
  22. >Well, suffice it to say you and yours aren’t on good terms in the slightest.
  23. >One accusation was all it took and despite being proven false your life was turned upside down and you are drowning in the fallout of it.
  24. >But that’s fine.
  25. >Your depression is laughable.
  26. >It’s circumstantial because you are in a hell of a situation with no way out.
  27. >But that’s fine.
  28. >You read once that surrounding yourself with things that make you happy would improve your quality of life.
  29. >And so you did.
  30. >So that’s fine.
  31. >But…
  32. >It isn’t.
  33. >It is not fine.
  34. >You are not fine.
  35. >When you first got into this show you cracked your first genuine smile not born of passing humor in weeks.
  36. >When you first saw her you wish you could say you were smitten with her first sight but you weren’t.
  37. >You did like her eyes though.
  38. >Over time you grew to like her more and more.
  39. >The way she talked and enunciated, the way she moved, her confidence and rarely the lack thereof.
  40. >That cocksure attitude and wry grin.
  41. >Eventually you stopped getting through your days, not getting it over with, but to see that smile again.
  42. >To see her.
  43. >To see her mane.
  44. >To see her eyes.
  45. >To see her fly.
  46. >To see her treat the great blue yawning sky like it’s hers and nopony else’s.
  47. >And that’s when you realized how far you’d fallen for this horse in TV.
  48. >Love.
  49. >You are in love with her.
  50. >Her flying, her attitude, her unwavering loyalty.
  51. >Her insecurities and her flaws.
  52. >The whole shebang.
  53. >She makes you happy and you let her.
  54. >So happy…that it hurts.
  55. >She is your waifu.
  56. >And…
  57. >She’s not real.
  58. >So…as you look around your room you feel that smile trying to hunt you again, twinging at the edges of your lips.
  59. >But that smile never comes and that feeling is snuffed out by the feeling in your chest demanding all of your attention.
  60. >It feels as if your lungs are full of water.
  61. >It feels like you’re drowning.
  62. >But you know that the fire in your lungs isn’t from water or anything of the sort.
  63. >They work just fine as your chest expands and your nose catches the acrid smoke filling your room.
  64. >The fire downstairs must have truly caught now.
  65. >But that’s fine.
  66. >You won’t burn.
  67. >But you will die.
  68. >Not to the fire…but to the rope around your neck
  69. >But that’s fine.
  70. >You refuse to live in a world where she is not.
  71. >But that’s fine.
  72. >You are drowning.
  73. >Drowning in love.
  74. >But that’s fine.
  75. >You kick the chair out from under you as you hear what sounds like something collapsing downstairs.
  76. >As the smoke begins to sting your eyes
  77. >As the feeling of drowning reaches its peak
  78. >The chair hits the floor with the sound of wood hitting wood and your feet do not.
  79. >But that’s fine.
  80. >You’ve never heard anyone mention how much this would hurt.
  81. >The rope digging into your neck as you whole weight is suspended by it is agony.
  82. >But that’s fine.
  83. >Even as the life is choked out of you…you feel like you’ll be able to take your first real breath in a long time.
  84. >And that’s fine.
  87. >The wind is what wakes you.
  88. >And it's a strong one at that as it buffets, and pushes at you messing with that feeling of vertigo that you sometimes get after waking up from a really intense dream.
  89. >That strikes you as odd though.
  90. >Strong wind in your bedroom?
  91. >Maybe you left a window open and it must be some fucking storm.
  92. >You slowly open your eyes, the embrace of sleep leaving you.
  93. >As you do, your situation dawns on you in a flash.
  94. >Memories rush past your widening eyes one after the next.
  95. >The pungent scent of gasoline, the sound of a match strike, the scratchy rope, the drowning, the pain of choking and her.
  96. >And then your eyes register the greenery of rapidly approaching treetops.
  97. >Oh shit.
  98. >Shitshitshitshit!
  99. >You put your arms in front of you in a vain attempt to save yourself but are met with a flash of green of a different sort.
  100. >You have only a moment to take in two green furred forelegs ending in hooves outstretched in front of you before you fall through the canopy of a tree.
  101. >A terrified shout escapes your lips as small branches dig at your body and…
  103. >You awake.
  104. >Your world is pain.
  105. >You limbs, your back, your head.
  106. >Your face feels…wrong.
  107. >Lumpy.
  108. >Hot.
  109. >There are scratches, scrapes and cuts all along your body that you feel burning furiously against the open air.
  110. >You think you can’t feel one of your legs but you can’t even focus through the pain to be sure.
  111. >You try to open your eyes but you can’t as exhaustion hits you like a freight train.
  112. >You vaguely remember something or other about something to do with being really tired and hurt but it leaves you as soon as it comes.
  113. >You try to stay awake regardless but like a sand castle against the tide, sleep overtakes you.
  115. >Cold.
  116. >Wet.
  117. >You don't realize you're awake until you notice those first two sensations.
  118. >Sharp stabbing pain and dull soreness follow them near immediately forcing a feminine gasp from your dry mouth.
  119. >Hearing your voice sends a spike of wrongness about this situation up your spine for reasons you don’t understand.
  120. >You lick your lips to get some semblance of moisture to them and try to open your eyes.
  121. >It was a mistake.
  122. >You only manage getting one open before the brightness makes you flinch bodily.
  123. >Hot pain shoots into your head from your left leg and chest, your nerves telling you just how bad off you are.
  124. >It rips a scream from your throat which turns into a coughing fit bringing more painful shudders to you.
  125. >You have no choice in riding it out until you can keep still enough to return to some kind of comfort.
  126. >You manage to do so after what feels like an eternity but there is a lingering soreness that saps your energy as you try and catch your breath.
  127. >The only thing you can do is catch your breath.
  128. >Your breathing and the pain in your body is your whole world right now.
  129. >All you can do is lie where you are, blind and hurting.
  130. >Helpless.
  131. >But still you lie and time continues its ceaseless march.
  132. >What feels like minutes pass.
  133. >Then hours.
  134. >Consciousness is fleeting, coming and going in fits like whispers on the wind.
  135. >Sometimes you are in a world of hurt beyond anything you’ve ever imagined.
  136. >Other times you are just cold and want to do nothing but curl in on yourself.
  137. >More often than not you are none the wiser.
  138. >You…have odd visions in the times between.
  139. >Dreams.
  140. >Flashes.
  141. >Of horns and glass and wind and cigarette smoke.
  142. >Of smiles and pain and engines and 4AM alarms.
  143. >Of wings and trains and milkshakes and a warm sofa with a blanket.
  144. >Nonsensical things with no relation to each other hot on the heels of one another.
  145. >None of these things having a rhyme or a reason and when you wake, however briefly, what you’ve seen has an obscure vagueness about them.
  146. >But they too are lost again and again as you fall in and out of blackness.
  148. >You come to again with a start, sucking in a breath as you feel a ticklish sensation near your nose.
  149. >You move an arm up to bat whatever it is away and end up striking a tender lump on your face.
  150. >You gasp and the pain in your chest makes itself known again.
  151. >At the sound of you hissing in pain, you hear whatever it was tear away through what sounds like dry leaves.
  152. >You open your eyes to try and catch sight of it.
  153. >But you don’t.
  154. >You are confused for a moment when only one eye opens.
  155. >Try as you might, your right eye refuses to open and only hurts worse for your troubles.
  156. >Why can’t you open that eye?
  157. >You gently bring your…arm up your eye to make sure the dang thing was still there.
  158. >That arm falters halfway there as a lump forms in your throat.
  159. >What if your eye isn’t there?
  160. >You don’t know what you’d do if you lost an eye.
  161. >But you need to know.
  162. >A bit more shakily, your bring your arm up until you make contact with it.
  163. >And you make contact with a swollen, painful lump.
  164. >It wasn’t what you were expecting.
  165. >Where you were expecting a single point of touch instead feels like you punched yourself in the eye.
  166. >But it is still there at least.
  167. >Even as you bite back tears, you are happy with the fact that it’s still there.
  168. >You look around to get a better grasp of your surroundings if for no other reason than to distract yourself from the pain.
  169. >A chaotic smattering of trees stretches as far as you can see from you place on the forest floor.
  170. >Whatever fog remained of your unconsciousness vanishes with a sobering thought.
  171. >Glancing around one more time to be sure, you come to the same conclusion.
  172. >You don’t know where you are.
  173. >You gingerly lay your head back down in the leaves.
  174. >You remain still on the ground for a few very long moments with nothing but the blowing canopy and birdsongs keeping you aware that time is still moving forward.
  175. >Some time later you bite your trembling lip and bring your head back up.
  176. >The trees haven't gone anywhere.
  177. >There is a lot going on right now and you need to not lose your shit right now.
  178. >You take a deep breath and hold it.
  179. >Upon letting it out you look yourself over, having steeled yourself against whatever sorry state you’re in.
  180. >You gasp in alarm at what you see.
  181. >You are green.
  182. >You are fuzzy.
  183. >Your strange for some reason green, fuzzy self lying your side on this leafy, muddy forest floor is not okay.
  184. >Patches of your green fur are gone having been scraped and scratched away from your fall leaving barely healed scabs in their place.
  185. >From the throbs and aches starting to rear their ugly heads, you are probably bruised all over as well.
  186. >A wing hangs limply from a joint on your back and it feels wrong.
  187. >It twitches when you think about it, leaving you with a fleeting sensation of pins and needles.
  188. >And from your position you can barely make out your hind legs.
  189. >You have four legs.
  190. >And one of them is bent at a very odd angle.
  191. >There’s something beyond knowing that it is broken that strikes you as being terribly wrong.
  192. >But that thought is overshadowed by another.
  193. >You aren’t…
  194. >Well…
  195. >You…aren't sure how you are going to walk on three legs.
  196. >You start trembling at the thought of having to get up.
  197. >You aren’t feeling that leg now but you know you will…and it’s going to hurt.
  198. >You try taking a few warm breaths to get a hold of yourself but you just can’t.
  199. >You wish you could be strong enough to move despite it.
  200. >But it’s going to hurt.
  201. >It’s going to hurt and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
  202. >You are alone and no one is here to help you.
  203. >Tears start falling down your face, hot and heavy.
  204. >You briefly think about just staying where you are but you know it’d be stupid.
  205. >You don’t know where you are so there’s no way anyone else knows where you are.
  206. >No one is coming to save you.
  207. >Acknowledging that thought tears a sob from your throat.
  208. >You can’t stay.
  209. >But you don’t absolutely have to go right now.
  210. >Which is good because you don’t want to even think about moving let alone getting up.
  211. >Right now?
  212. >All you want to do is cry.
  214. >You awkwardly trot three hooves with the fourth raised as close to your body as you can manage.
  215. >Standing…was an ordeal.
  216. >You fell the first time.
  217. >On your broken leg, no less.
  218. >After feeling that you just wanted to lie there and never move again.
  219. >But you didn’t.
  220. >Being afraid of feeling excruciating pain was small potatoes.
  221. >The thing that got you up and moving after quite a few false starts was the thought of being alone.
  222. >The thought of dying alone in some random forest really.
  223. >You couldn't think of anyone who would miss you.
  224. >No one at all.
  225. >Or anybody who wouldn’t miss you.
  226. >You stopped that train of thought before it could begin and tossed it in with all of the stuff you couldn’t afford to think about right now.
  227. >So you walk.
  228. >No, trot?
  229. >You limp.
  230. >And it’s all you really can do.
  231. >Trying to think about your situation and that nagging feeling that above all of this there is something else that's gone horribly awry is liable to have you burst into tears.
  232. >You don’t want that.
  233. >Despite all the uncomfortable aches and pains you focus on them and your movement.
  234. >You can’t get yourself worked up again.
  235. >Each step forward is a small battle.
  236. >You occasionally find yourself having to lean against a nearby tree to rest for a few minutes.
  237. >But trying to avoid thinking about everything is an even larger battle that you’ve nearly lost a few times already.
  238. >It’s not a battle you can afford to lose.
  239. >As cathartic as it would be if you just started crying now, you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to stop.
  240. >So you limp onward.
  241. >Your legs crushing leaves and dirt underhoof.
  242. >You’ve been moving for a while now.
  243. >It was cloudy from what you could see through some breaks in the canopy so you have no idea what time of day it is either.
  244. >You got some feeling back in your left wing in the time you’ve been steadily limping forward.
  245. >It’s still hanging limply from your side but the pins and needles sensation has upgraded to a throbbing ache through the whole limb.
  246. >Which is good.
  247. >At least you think it's good.
  248. >You stumble forward and barely catch yourself before eating dirt.
  249. >That’s what you get for not focusing on moving your legs.
  250. >That’s the other reason this has been a struggle.
  251. >You can’t exactly walk without focusing on your legs and how to move each one.
  252. >You’ve got a good system going where you are moving at something close to a walking speed.
  253. >Even then, you hope you aren’t too deep into this forest.
  254. >At the pace you’re going, you’ll be getting nowhere fast if you are.
  255. >It could be days before you find your way out.
  256. >Weeks if you’re particularly unlucky and you’re sure you can’t keep moving for that long.
  257. >You halt for a second to breathe deeply before continuing.
  258. >Not thinking about it.
  259. >You just hope you find water soon.
  260. >Before you can’t.
  262. >You eventually find yourself in a grassy clearing.
  263. >The blades themselves were tall things, tickling your belly in some places while irritating healing wounds in others.
  264. >The lot of it is taller than you are, making it difficult to make out the opposing treeline.
  265. >You glance to the sky.
  266. >The clouds had cleared up partially throughout the day leaving a few stragglers to lazily float over the world.
  267. >The blue has since bled away into a brilliant yellow and orange with the sun dipping below the trees.
  268. >The bottom of the few clouds in the air are colored a deep red, making the whole scene seem picturesque.
  269. >That isn’t right.
  270. >It doesn’t seem picturesque.
  271. >It is picturesque.
  272. >You let a breath out slowly as your eyes drink it in for a few moments longer than necessary.
  273. >And then a few more besides.
  274. >You realize that since the sun is setting ahead of you that the direction you face and have been walking is west.
  275. >You can’t recall how you know that.
  276. >Sorta.
  277. >You think someone told you about it but you don’t remember who.
  278. >Hardly matters though.
  279. >You don’t exactly know where to go even if you did remember.
  280. >Looking around through the grass as best you could is a fool's errand.
  281. >Most of it being above your eye level makes seeing anything beyond it difficult and lends you nothing of note aside from a large boulder dominating the center of the clearing.
  282. >A wave of lethargy suddenly moves through you.
  283. >You have been trotting through the trees probably for hours, after all.
  284. >You look one last time as you make your way through the field over to a large boulder that towers over the grass and gingerly lie down.
  285. >Your aching hooves sing praises to you as you do.
  286. >A groan of half pain, half pleasure and half some other third thing escapes your throat.
  287. >This is nice.
  288. >You sigh, settling down in the depression you made in greenery.
  289. >It shouldn’t be as comfortable as it is.
  290. >You’re a bit chilly and you could stand not to be so sore.
  291. >The grass stabbing or rubbing against your coat is kinda itchy.
  292. >Parts of your hair hang over your eyes far enough to tickle your muzzle.
  293. >But after everything?
  294. >You can’t help but to close your eyes as you rest your head on your hooves
  295. >The feeling that you are forgetting something important wiggles its way into your mind but you ignore it for now.
  296. >You’ll deal with it in a few minutes after you rest your eyes.
  298. >The chain of your swing creaks softly as your hind legs kick out propelling you forward.
  299. >You come quickly to the crest of your swing and gravity brings you back down again as your legs tuck back in.
  300. >Inky black strands of your mane blow forward ahead of your eyes as you swing back and come to a stop high above the wood chips.
  301. >Then the cycle repeats.
  302. >Back and forth, back and forth.
  303. >It’s a relaxing motion as much as it is a thrill when you get butterflies in your tummy when you hang in the air weightless for just a moment.
  304. >You can almost pretend that you can fly when you do.
  305. >From your perch at that moment you can make out the highrises of downtown above the rest of the playground and just over the treetops.
  306. >They peek at you each time almost as if urging you to go higher to get an even better look at them.
  307. >But you know better.
  308. >If you go any higher you could fall.
  309. >So you don’t.
  310. >You can pretend though.
  311. >That you are up higher than the swings and higher than the school building behind you and even higher than that.
  312. >So high that you can see the whole world from where you are.
  313. >It’s nice to pretend.
  314. >You hear hoofsteps behind you which throws off your kick mid swing when you turn to face who is coming.
  315. >Coming from the school is…something different.
  316. >Instead of a pony like you, the thing is tall and stands on two legs.
  317. >It wears clothes unlike you which makes you think about how you aren't wearing any.
  318. >If it's offended in any way it doesn’t show it as it keeps walking towards you.
  319. >You stop looking —him, you decide—over when you get to his face and are struck at just how sad he looks.
  320. >He sits on the swing next to you and stares at the ground ahead of him as your swinging slowly comes to a stop.
  321. >In a flash the word you’re looking for comes to you.
  322. >He’s human.
  323. >It makes you miss having hands.
  324. >Your face scrunches up when you gaze at your forelegs wrapped around the swing’s chain.
  325. >It’s hard to imagine how you could have gone from having hands to having hooves.
  326. >You must’ve always had hooves.
  327. >That’s the only thing that makes sense.
  328. >You look back to the…man on the swing.
  329. >You can almost recognize him.
  330. >Somehow.
  331. >You’re pretty sure you’ve never seen him before in your life but there's still this nagging feeling of familiarity gnawing at the back of your mind.
  332. >So much so that you could almost say his name if it weren’t stuck at the tip of your tongue.
  333. >You can almost put your finger on it but it evades you still.
  334. >And then you hear more hoofsteps behind you.
  335. >He looks up at you with a smile before you can glance to whoever is coming.
  336. >Happy smiles don’t look good on such sad faces.
  337. >Before you can ask him about it he motions with his head towards where the sounds of the hoofsteps are coming from so you turn to look.
  338. >A tall blue pony is trotting towards you and the first thing you notice is how she has both a horn and wings.
  339. >She was lucky.
  340. >The mare wears a sort of serene smile on her face that is no less than disarming.
  341. >Her eyes aren't so serene though, betraying her smile just a bit.
  342. >Then you see her mane and your eyes bug out a little.
  343. >Points of light sparkle in the ethereal thing like stars as it flows, sways and ebbs in a sort of wind that isn’t there.
  344. >The closer she gets to you, the more…invigorated you feel.
  345. >You can feel her presence from where you are.
  346. >She is something…not normal?
  347. >Just the mere act of laying your eyes on her tickles at you in a way you'd associate with looking at your mother or father.
  348. >Something so frighteningly intimate that the feeling of it almost jumps out to take on a physical form.
  349. >You don‘t really have the words for it but even if you did you wouldn’t know what to do with it.
  350. >Her eyes flick over to your right, probably to the guy next to you and her expression turns unreadable.
  351. >He says something behind you, much too quiet for you to catch and you turn to face him.
  352. >The swing next to you is empty.
  353. >You look around quickly to see where he’s run off to but are stopped when the tall pony reaches you and speaks.
  354. >”Greetings, little one.”
  355. >You hop off the swing and turn around to say some combination of a greeting and the fact that you aren’t little cause you’re 6’2”.
  356. >The words just die in your throat, however.
  357. >You blink up at her.
  358. >She’s really tall.
  359. >Like, really tall.
  360. >The tall pony stares at you expectantly but you’re just drawing up blanks.
  361. >You just don’t know what to do under her gaze.
  362. >The longer you look at her, the taller and taller she seems to get.
  363. >You feel like you’re shrinking before her as she rises even above the swingset.
  364. >She seems to recognize this and takes a step back to give you space.
  365. >Those gargantuan hooves make the ground shake when they come down on the earth, throwing you into the air.
  366. >Like on the swings when you stop coming forward, you hang weightless in the air.
  367. >Just for a moment.
  368. >Then you come back down.
  369. >And you fall.
  370. >You fall and fall and fall with no ground underneath you.
  371. >Just a yawning empty black that descends forever.
  372. >You’re gonna fall forever.
  373. >You hate falling.
  375. >Somewhere on bed sheets of ebony dyed silk and in a castle far, far away, a figure stirs.
  377. >Your eyes shoot open to a wall of tall grass as you suck in a noticeably frigid breath.
  378. >The freezing cold gives you no time to ponder on your fading dream.
  379. >You’re shivering too much to even think straight.
  380. >You sit in your little hole in the grass for a while, hugging your limbs as close to your body as you can.
  381. >It doesn’t really help.
  382. >Grudgingly, you try to stand on your hooves but groan.
  383. >Exhaustion from yesterday's trek still clings to your body like a cloak.
  384. >Your legs tremble with the effort and you try to fight it.
  385. >For now, gravity proves stronger and you fall bodily back down.
  386. >And yelp.
  387. >Your left hind leg is still broken.
  388. >It's a swollen mess and is tender as heck but at the same time… it doesn't hurt nearly as bad as it did yesterday.
  389. >Maybe because of the cold or maybe because of how tired you are.
  390. >Either way, that can't be a good thing.
  391. >Another round of intense shivers snaps you out of that line of thinking.
  392. >Your second attempt at standing is just as successful as the first but on the third you manage a shaky, unstable stance.
  393. >You hurt and you’re tired and you’re worried about your leg and a million other things right now but most of all you are fucking cold.
  394. >Casting a look around the field you look for something, anything really, to warm you up.
  395. >The morning sun is up but is still behind the trees so it casts the field and you in their long shadows.
  396. >Nothing really sticks out to you as particularly warming.
  397. >Except for the sun.
  398. >You could try to start a fire but you know that you’ve only seen it done a few times.
  399. >The name Bear Grills comes to mind but that doesn’t help you.
  400. >He's not here.
  401. >You turn to face the boulder you slept next to and look up at the tall thing.
  402. >The very top patch of the giant rock is nice and flat and most importantly lit up by the rays of the sun.
  403. >Your eyes trail down from there, one part of your mind noting how difficult it's gonna be to climb that and the other not caring.
  404. >You needed to be warm yesterday.
  405. >The rock was lopsided.
  406. >Aside from a small ledge you'll need to climb to get onto it, that face rises to the flat spot in the sunlight at not too steep of an angle.
  407. >It seems doable but you clench your eyes shut and cringe at the mere thought of falling.
  408. >Opening your eyes again, you look up at the tip of the boulder illuminated in warming light.
  409. >So close yet so far away.
  410. >You know it's stupid and there’s a legion of reasons not to do it but your shivers override any semblance of patience.
  411. >A shaky sigh escapes you and you take an unsteady step towards the rock.
  412. "T-this is-s-s so s-stupid…"
  413. >Your hoarse murmur is telling of your unused voice.
  414. >With a huff you rear up on your one hindleg and hook your forehooves over the lip of the rock managing to do it on your first try.
  415. >But then you stop there.
  416. >Just like that.
  417. >Suddenly the first ledge of this rock that seemed simple enough climb seems so much higher.
  418. >The boulder itself seems much larger and your task doubly so.
  419. >You just don’t have it in you.
  420. >It may as well be a mountain.
  421. >You turn your gaze away.
  422. >Whether it was an attempt to break your sudden vertigo or you were just looking to see if there was anything you can use to climb the thing, you'll never know.
  423. >It isn't as important as what you can see now that your head is that much higher above the grass.
  424. >Propped up as you are, you can make out a figure.
  425. >There, standing beyond the blades in what seems to be a thicket of cattails near the woodline stands a pony.
  426. >A little pale blonde maned, grey coated filly.
  427. >A flood of relief and even more fatigue washes over you at about the same time and you crack a smile before raising one of your forelegs as high as you can get it.
  428. “H-hey! Over here! Help!”
  429. >Of all the things you were expecting once you started yelling for help, the filly turning tail and bolting back into the trees wasn’t one of them.
  430. “Hey wait! D-d-don’t go! I b-broke my leg!”
  431. >An icy pit forms in your stomach.
  432. >She’s not going to stop.
  433. >She’s going to get away and you’ll be lost in here forever.
  434. >It’s all you can do to not fall all over yourself in your scramble to get off the rock and half hobble, half canter after her.
  435. “Please don’t go! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you filly! Please please please come back!”
  436. >You frantically call after her while fighting your way through the tall grass.
  437. >Try as you might, you aren’t making good time and you can practically feel her getting further and further away.
  438. “I’m sorry! Come back!”
  439. >In your haste you fail to see the drop once you break the grass and you fall off a small ledge into the mud of a creekbed.
  440. >You land face first with your hind end hanging in the air for a moment.
  441. >Then it falls to the side and your bad leg hits the ground.
  442. >Your vision flashes white and you think you screamed.
  443. >You can’t tell.
  444. >All you can do is curl up and be cold and shake and writhe and groan and wait for the agony to pass back into manageable levels.
  445. >But it never does.
  446. >You don’t have it in you to ignore it anymore.
  447. >It keeps hurting and hurting and hurting and it doesn’t stop.
  448. >All your other injuries make themselves known and pile onto what you’re feeling and you just want it to stop.
  449. >You wonder how you can hurt this bad with how tired you feel.
  450. >You wonder when this will be over.
  451. >You just want this to be over.
  452. >At some point you become aware of the fact that you can’t hear the birds anymore and that aside from you, everything is still.
  453. >The one time you manage to look around through everything you spot the reason why.
  454. >There is a fucking manticore not even three meters from you stalking towards you.
  455. >You want to cry so badly now.
  456. >You’re so tired of fighting it.
  457. >So you do.
  458. >You’re hurt.
  459. >You’re alone.
  460. >You’re about to be eaten alive by a manticore.
  461. >And…
  462. >You don’t even remember what your own name is.
  463. >All you have are bits and pieces of who you used to be.
  464. >Not that it matters anymore now, does it?
  465. >You turn your head away because you don’t want to see the fucking thing coming and find your muzzle in front of the legs of that grey filly.
  466. >How in the hell?
  467. >You look up and get lost in twin pools of luminous pale gold.
  468. >It’s when you notice that there are no whites to those eyes that the world starts to get a little runny around the edges.
  469. >You manage to tear your own eye away but when you do your head just flops to the ground leaving your gaze on the big kitty.
  470. >You can’t hold your neck up anymore.
  471. >Also, there is no big kitty anymore.
  472. >Maybe you are more messed up than you think.
  473. >Maybe there wasn’t a big kitty to begin with and the knocked over sign that says “Welcome to Sunny Town” has been there the whole time.
  474. >And now it's not.
  475. >Because you are tired this time.
  476. >Or maybe your good eye stopped working too.
  477. >You’ll figure it out after...
  478. >...
  480. >You bring your muzzle up after placing a warm mug of freshly brewed coffee on the table.
  481. >A mint green mare lies half draped off your couch and has made an impressive puddle drool on the floor beneath her.
  482. >You crack a half smile before frowning.
  483. >With a shimmy and shake your saddlebags slide off your back and onto the floor.
  484. >You make your way past your living room and all the hanging photos of smiling ponies of which very few are actually familiar to you.
  485. >You retrieve a towel and make quick work of Lyra’s mess.
  486. >The towel finds itself in a hamper and sheet music that had been scattered across the floor finds itself organized.
  487. >You take the golden stringed instrument that had been threatening to jump off the couch into your mouth and place it safely on the coffee table.
  488. >You look around for a final time and nod to yourself.
  489. >Everything is where it’s supposed to be.
  490. >Books are in shelves, picture frames at perfect angles and your Lyra is completely dead to the world around her.
  491. >The coffee you made would be cold by the time she wakes up but you know she’ll appreciate it nonetheless.
  492. >You stick your cream colored muzzle under the back straps of your saddlebags and slide your way into them before opening the front door as quietly as possible.
  493. >Lyra has been busting her flanks coming up with new music and deserves her sleep.
  494. >The amount of work she puts into it is really impressive even if she mostly busks at parks rather than playing in a proper concert hall.
  495. >You know she could if she wanted to.
  496. >But she doesn’t.
  497. >Like you, she prefers a simple life free of complications.
  498. >You only give yourself a few moments to smile at her sleeping form before closing the door behind you.
  499. >The sky is a frankly pretty blend of pink, orange and indigo on the eastern horizon.
  500. >The sun will be up in about an hour.
  501. >It seems like Princess Celestia really likes stretching out her dawns for as long as possible as of late.
  502. >You can’t really complain because it gives you a nice show from the east facing windows of your shop.
  503. >Rounding another corner into an empty street you smile a bit in the chilly air.
  504. >Ponyville is usually quiet at this time of morning.
  505. >Not a lot of ponies really get up before the sunrise like you do but that suits you just fine anyhow.
  506. >It just means that you don’t have to wade through morning rush as the farmers and other vendors rush to get set up for market.
  507. >Not that you could afford to wake any later.
  508. >Your ovens don’t heat to the temperature you like all too quickly.
  509. >That’s not to mention the advantage you have by getting a head start on your orders this early in the morning.
  510. >You make another turn and end up in the alley behind your shop as you start to hear some of the first birdsongs of the day.
  511. >You pull your keyring from your saddlebag and open the back door to your shop.
  512. >A probing hoof against the wall finds you a button and with a press the lights in the kitchen kick on.
  513. >You leave your saddlebags by the door and towards the large wood oven in the corner of the room.
  514. >Most places, especially the more popular shops in Canterlot, have done away with wood fired ovens entirely.
  515. >You’ve thought about following suit to keep up with them but candies, cakes, calzones and confections all taste different when baked in the new mana-ovens.
  516. >You don’t know if just in your head or if it’s your pride in doing things the earth pony way but you just find things not made the way you do it inferior.
  517. >Your loyal customer base says that most of Ponyville feels the same.
  518. >You suppose that makes sense considering this is primarily an earth pony town but either way it does your heart well knowing that ponies like what you have to offer.
  519. >A few logs in the oven with some kindling and a match gets the fire going nicely.
  520. >While you wait for that you heat up you busy yourself with preparing orders.
  521. >Fresh taffy and candy assortments mostly.
  522. >And most of those are for a certain party planner that goes through way too much of it.
  523. >You’d say you’re surprised she doesn’t have some form of diabetes but she is an Element of Harmony.
  524. >National heroines probably get the best healthcare the crown can offer.
  525. >Regardless, time flies as you mix, sort and bake.
  526. >Before you know it you are turning the sign on the front door to ‘OPEN’ and welcoming a group of fillies in to grab a few treats before school.
  527. >Pony after pony comes in as the day progresses and they all kind of blend together as your mind drifts off to other things.
  528. >Various chores that need completed, your dispute with the leyline company and most of all your best friend.
  529. >You’ve been doing this whole song and dance for the better part of what?
  530. >Three years now?
  531. >Four?
  532. >You love her to bits.
  533. >You know it.
  534. >She knows it.
  535. >You know she knows you know it.
  536. >Heck, you both do everything and anything special someponies would do already.
  537. >You just…can’t help but feel that maybe you're doing something wrong.
  538. >“Excuse me, ma’am?”
  539. >Maybe that’s why she won’t say just those three words back to you.
  540. >”Ma’am?”
  541. >And not in some roundabout way either.
  542. >”Miss?”
  543. >For pony’s sake, how hard is it to just say ‘I love you?’
  544. >”Ma’am?”
  545. >Why won’t sh-
  546. >’Ring’
  547. >You look up, abruptly torn from your thoughts by the bell on the counter.
  548. >A grey unicorn stallion in golden plate stands before you with a letter floating behind him.
  549. >You wilt.
  550. >This was going to be a court summons.
  551. >Stupid leyline company.
  552. >That was strange though.
  553. >The gendarmes would normally carry out a summons.
  554. >Looking behind him you can see a golden chariot outside with two armored pegasi hitched to it.
  555. >These were royal gaurdsponies.
  556. >You notice the unicorn’s horn is glowing much brighter than if he was just channeling magic for telekinesis.
  557. >No…
  558. >No.
  559. >It’s fine.
  560. >Everything is fine.
  561. >An earth pony comes in the door behind him and walks right past.
  562. >Sassafras, if you remember correctly.
  563. >She starts browsing your candies without acknowledging either you or the guards are even there.
  564. >You feel a pit in your form in your belly but you still give him your best smile.
  565. >There isn’t a reason you should be receiving a visit from the guard so this is probably a mistake.
  566. >You do have a cousin in the Long Patrol but if something happened to him then they’d be visiting your aunt in Horseshoe Bay.
  567. “Can I help you?”
  568. >He shakes his head.
  569. >”Ma’am, a letter from Canterlot.”
  570. >He places it on the counter in front of you face up.
  571. >Just a letter and not a summons?
  572. >There’s no address or recipient written on it but you note the quality of the paper.
  573. “Is there any reason this didn’t arrive in the ma-”
  574. >Your breath catches in your throat as you turn it over and see the wax seal.
  575. >The crest of the two sisters.
  576. >A bead of sweat rolls down your face as you look back to his glowing horn.
  577. >You begin to suspect what other spell he’s casting but you want to be sure.
  578. >That life was behind you and you are probably getting worked up over nothing.
  579. >In a flurry you break the seal and prepare yourself to read everything.
  580. >Fortunately, there wasn’t all that much there at first glance.
  581. >There’s only a few lines of text.
  582. >Unfortunately, what is written makes your blood run cold.
  583. >’Special Agent Sweetie Drops, as of receiving this letter you have been reactivated.'
  585. >”…this is for the protection of our…”
  586. >…
  587. >”… won’t let you do this right…”
  588. >…
  589. >”…as such we wish to apologize for what will befall thee…”
  590. >…
  591. >“…and ponies of Willowdrop, come see the sun.”
  592. >It's hard to tell if you are awake sometimes.
  593. >“The nightmare is over, the day has begun…”
  594. >But you think you are now.
  595. >It would be nice if you weren’t, though.
  596. >You feel some kind of awful.
  597. >Your whole body is sore and uncomfortable.
  598. >You feel hot and as weak as a kitten.
  599. >Too weak to move or roll into a position that feels better.
  600. >Your eyes don’t listen to you either.
  601. >Too tired.
  602. >Something cold and wet is removed from just above your eyes which pulls a pitiful whine from your throat.
  603. >You want to go back to sleep.
  604. >You don’t want to hurt.
  605. >You’re so tired of hurting.
  606. >”I know it doesn’t feel good, filly. But you’re safe now. This time will be different. Go back to sleep.”
  607. >You want to.
  608. >Something warm and wet is placed back just above your eyes.
  609. >It’s okay, though.
  610. >It brings you just enough comfort to let you slip back into a fitful slumber.
  613. >”You can’t keep doing this, Mitta.”
  614. >There are a lot of places you don’t want to be right now.
  615. >The graveyard in the forest just outside of town, for example, is one of them.
  616. >The gates of Tartarus, the fields of Castle Everfree and the middle of a firepit are also places you don’t want to be.
  617. >The last one makes you shiver and look at your flank.
  618. >Honestly, those are pretty extreme examples.
  619. >Still accurate, as morbid as they are.
  620. >At the same time, though, you could say a lot of your thoughts have been morbid recently.
  621. >”Mitta?”
  622. >You really wish they weren’t.
  623. >You wish a lot of things, lately.
  624. >You wish you weren’t here right now.
  625. >”Mitta, please just talk to us.”
  626. >Sitting on your hunches just inside the safety of your house with your back on the door with Grey Hoof on the other side.
  627. >He means well.
  628. >You know that in your heart.
  629. >Truly.
  630. >It’s just...
  631. >When he comes by like this it feels like your sanctuary becomes your prison.
  632. >Not just him.
  633. >Anypony really.
  634. >”Gladstone and I are starting to worry. I just want to see you and make sure you’re okay.”
  635. >You heave a sigh.
  636. >It’s all the same.
  637. >It’s always the same.
  638. >With a monumental effort you get to your hooves, still debating whether or not you actually want to open the door.
  639. >However, your hooves are already undoing the latch before you even make the conscious decision to do so.
  640. >The door opens with a groan of its neglected hinges letting sunlight into your home for the first time in a while.
  641. >You hold a hoof above your eyes to shield them from the sun as you step out.
  642. >Grey Hoof looks tense for a few moments but visibly relaxes when he meets your eyes.
  643. >”It’s good to see you under the sun, Mitta. How have you been?”
  644. >You grunt, acknowledging his peasantry but not saying anything.
  645. >After a few more moments of silence the dark coated stallion runs a hoof through his mane.
  646. >”Listen Mitta, you really should come outside. Sequestering yourself inside your home isn’t going to make her wake any sooner.”
  647. >He takes a step to the side giving you a better view of Sunny Town where many of your neighbors move hurriedly with supplies.
  648. >”I really admire what you’re doing.”
  649. >You raise an eyebrow.
  650. >”Celestia’s honest truth. That filly should have somepony at her bedside when she wakes but-”
  651. >You finish for him.
  652. “It doesn’t have to be me.”
  653. >It does need to be you but he wouldn’t understand.
  654. >Grey Hoof nods.
  655. >”You’ve taken her into your home and have been waiting on her hoof and tail nonstop for days now. I wonder if you even sleep.”
  656. >The pony smiles wryly and scuffs at the dirt with a hoof.
  657. >”Your mother would be proud that her filly paid attention and that her skills passed on to you, Celestia bless her.”
  658. “We’ve had more skilled healers, Grey Hoof.”
  659. >Your words weren’t an accusation.
  660. >Just a fact.
  661. >”Yes, we did. I count us blessed that you’re still with us, Mitta. You are part of our little Sunny Town herd and I worry for you. We all do.”
  662. >You notice a few ponies have slowed just enough to seem busy and not at all like they are eavesdropping.
  663. >”Why don’t you come outside? I can get Three Leaf or somepony else to keep an eye on her for an hour.”
  664. >You’re beginning to realize more ponies will come by if you refuse him now.
  665. >They’ll stop asking nicely after a while.
  666. >However, hearing a groan from the other room stops that chain of thought.
  667. >Eventually, you open your mouth to reply.
  668. “Not today, Grey Hoof. I’ll be out for the party, though.”
  669. >You can deal with a few ponies until the Summer Solstice.
  671. >You put a hoof over your mouth in a vain attempt to quiet your panicked breathing.
  672. >You know somewhere inside you that it’s pointless and it only makes the panic in your chest grip you tighter.
  673. >It has less to do with you trembling so violently that the cupboard you’re hiding in is rattling and more to do with the fact that you think they can smell you.
  674. >They being...
  675. >You don’t really know.
  676. >Formless, undulating things that hide in the dark.
  677. >A dark that moves around like a rolling fog that has been seeking you out for who knows how long.
  678. >Sometimes a mass of that dark will break off in a violent, jerky twitch and take on the loose form of a pony.
  679. >Your breathing halts as you hear a crash against the back door.
  680. >A moment passes before you hear another one and it tears a whine from the back of your throat.
  681. >You curl in on yourself.
  682. >With your forelegs trembling against your chest you try to get a hold of yourself.
  683. >Thud after thud and flinch after flinch, the things outside don’t stop.
  684. >The sound of your impending doom wiggling its way into your head, threatening to snap something.
  685. >It doesn’t take too long for you to devolve into quiet begging.
  686. >In another life you’d be embarrassed.
  687. >But this isn’t another life.
  688. >In this one you are cowering in somepony’s cupboard from something that did way more than bump in the night.
  689. “Please please please please please...”
  690. >With a final smash of the door breaking and falling to pieces on the floor, quiet returns to your hiding spot.
  691. >You want to run.
  692. >You want to scream.
  693. >You want to cry.
  694. >You just want this to be ov-
  695. >”...cursed...mark...”
  696. >Slowly, jerkily, you turn your head to gaze at the rain cloud and multicolored lightning bolt on your flank that seems to be emitting a dim, pulsating light.
  697. >Ice shoots up your spine and you whimper.
  698. >You realize that the things out there can probably see the light from under the cupboard doors.
  699. >Looking up from your glowing cutie mark, you can’t see the doors anymore.
  700. >They’re just gone.
  701. >Beyond where the doors were is an unnatural dark that stretches on forever.
  702. >You can make out waves, ripples and vague outlines in it.
  703. >You make no more observations as tendrils of that dark shoot out and drag you in before you can scream.
  704. >With a nauseating sense of vertigo, you realize you’re falling a split second before you land on your sweaty back.
  705. >You stare past your green muzzle in a daze at exposed wooden beams running across the sloped ceiling.
  706. >You take a deep breath.
  707. >The smell of woodsmoke, dust, your own sweat and something else play across your nose.
  708. >Letting it out, tension and memories of your nightmare flow away with the used air.
  709. >It was just a dream.
  710. >A really scary dream.
  711. >But still just a dream.
  712. >Well...
  713. >You turn your head to see a few pictures hanging on a wall just above the bed you fell off of.
  714. >All of the ponies within are unfamiliar.
  715. >...almost.
  716. >Just where are you anyways?
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