Parasite Anon

Yoohoo Sep 18th, 2019 (edited) 224 Never
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  1. >Pale moonlight filters through the open window, casting its rays on a familiar scene
  2. >The humid midnight air permeates your bedroom
  3. >Your mother cries out your name as teeth sink into her abdomen
  4. >A sickening crunch echoes through the room as her ribs shatter, followed by the squelching of viscera
  5. >The tall, pale figure known as a Hunger looms over the still spasming corpse of your mom as it slowly, methodically tore into her
  6. >Your stomach churns up to the back of your throat and you fight your gag reflex
  7. >You watch, petrified from the stairway
  8. >Your father is already gone
  9. >Chest torn open, exposing the half-eaten remains
  10. >You watch from the closet, huddling under the jackets within
  11. >The Hunger rips chunks of your mother off, shoveling them into its maw
  12. >You’re hiding under the covers, hoping it doesn’t see you next as you hold your breath
  13. >Its tiny glowing eyes scan the room, passing right over you and then…
  14. >It keeps eating
  15. >You wake up and gulp down air as you lay unmoving on the bench you had fallen asleep on
  16. >Sunlight streams through the leaves above and the familiar flowery smell of the school’s garden fills your nose as you look around
  17. >Wallflower is looking down at you with a deadpan stare
  18. >”Bad dream again?”
  19. “Nngh, this is why I don’t take naps… Why is my head in your lap?”
  20. >”You looked uncomfortable.”
  21. “I’m now somehow more uncomfortable knowing that you messed with me while I was asleep.”
  22. >You sit up and rub the sleep from your eyes
  23. “What time is it?”
  24. >”You’re already late.”
  25. “God d-.”
  26. >You stop yourself
  27. “Dang it.”
  28. >You start formulating an excuse and quickly rush back up the path towards the school
  29. >Lost during an impromptu hike sounds fine
  30. >Not like Mr. Doodle would ask you to elaborate further anyway
  31. >You end up getting to his class about 3/4ths of the way through
  32. >The lights are out while the projector beams a slide onto the wall
  33. >Luckily he doesn’t see you sneaking over to your desk
  34. -
  35. >You are Sunset Shimmer
  36. >And something has been bothering you for a while
  37. ”Hey girls, you ever wonder why Anon is always alone?”
  38. >You whisper conspiratorially to your surrounding friends in class and take a look over your shoulder at him
  39. >He looks… Like he usually does
  40. >A baggy off-white, gray, and red windbreaker jacket and jeans covering what was a tall, tired looking, average teenage boy
  41. >”Pff, of course not. It’s ‘cuz he’s ranked dead last, that’s why.”
  42. >While blunt, Rainbow Dash has a point
  43. >He was ranked the absolute lowest out of the entire senior class
  44. >Meaning that no one has any reason to interact with him in the first place, as challenging him has nothing but downsides
  45. >And no one wants to be friends with a low-rank anyway
  46. >Why?
  47. >Because high school is still high school, and social stigmas will always be in place
  48. >Even IF most of the kids in CHS were Hosts
  49. ”But don’t you think it’s a bit weird that he’s constantly by himself? If his power is THAT weak, you’d think he’d want to surround himself with strong friends, or something.“
  50. >”Sunset Shimmer, is my lesson boring you?”
  51. >Darn
  52. >Mr. Doodle singled you out
  53. >Probably because you were whispering pretty loud
  54. >RD holds up her hand and without waiting to be called on, speaks
  55. >”It’s boring me, teach! We already know all this stuff!”
  56. >”Well, I suppose if you’re so confident in your abilities then you’ll do just fine on the test tomorrow, right?”
  57. >Rainbow, who had taken exactly zero notes, slumps into her seat and goes silent
  58. >”If no one else has any interruptions, let’s continue.”
  59. >Mr. Doodle clicks the remote and a new slide comes up on the screen at the front of the class
  60. >”As all of you are already aware, the X-4 Parasites are the source of what many have called ‘superpowers’.”
  61. >Mr. Doodle makes air quotes as he says superpowers and a couple of students snicker
  62. >He rolls his eyes
  63. >Another click, another slide
  64. -
  65. >This slide shows a diagram of the human body’s nervous system, and an enlarged X-4 Parasite next to it
  66. >”An X-4 Parasite, once introduced to a human, will take residence inside the body, turning that person into a Host. Though the location of the proper body of the organism varies, the fibrous tendrils of the parasite will always take root within the Host’s nervous system and spinal column.”
  67. >The two diagrams animate and overlap each other after being moved across the screen before a new image appears: One of a completely integrated Host
  68. >He was pretty good at Powerpoint transitions
  69. >”After a period of a few days, a newly created Host will then manifest a power, the extent and limit of which has not yet been fully discovered. Shapeshifting, telekinesis, extreme speed, etcetera etcetera. “
  70. >The sound of several No. 2 pencils writing down notes can be heard during the silence between Mr. Doodle’s lecture
  71. >”Currently there is no known medical procedure that can be used to successfully remove an X4 Parasite from its Host without killing the Host in the process. No known antiparasitics exist that affect them.”
  72. >The bell rings, cutting the lecture short and leaving an exasperated Mr. Doodle trying to get the attention of the students before they leave
  73. >”For today’s homework, I’d like you to split off into groups of two and write a report on your partner and their parasite; what it is, how it’s affected their day-to-day life, and their rank. You can find more details in the syllabus. It’ll be due next Friday. I’ll see you all on Monday.”
  74. >The bell rings and everyone begins to file out in pairs of two, already having selected their partner
  75. >Pinkie with Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash with Twilight, Applejack and Rarity
  76. >Which gives you the perfect excuse to finally figure out what Anon’s deal was
  77. >And this time he couldn’t worm his way out of it
  78. -
  79. >You are Anonymous
  80. >Anon for short
  81. >And you were more than ready to leave class for today
  82. >”Hey Anon.”
  83. >Oh god damn it
  84. >You just want to go back to the garden and relax
  85. >Mr. Doodle never minds you not having a partner
  86. >It would be fine!
  87. >You look up from putting your notebook away to see a girl standing next to your desk
  88. >Her again
  89. >This is the one that always hangs out with her six friends
  90. >Sunset Shimmer
  91. >Rank 44
  92. “Hi.”
  93. >”So I was wondering if-.”
  94. ”You want me to be your partner for the assignment?”
  95. >You raise an eyebrow before you realize that their group doesn’t exactly lend itself well to groups of two
  96. >You doubt that there’s an ulterior motive to her doing this
  97. >After all, being the lowest rank meant most people at CHS just ignored you, and beating you wouldn’t improve her own anyway
  98. “Sure, I don’t mind.”
  99. >”Great! C’mon, we can go meet the girls and introduce you to them.”
  100. >Wait a second
  101. “I thought this was just for the report.”
  102. >You’re already being tugged along by the sleeve towards the brightly colored group of women
  103. >And you get that knot in the pit of your stomach that you usually get when you find out that you’re getting into a situation that could have more ramifications than you realize
  104. >”Well yeah, but a study group can be a good idea for just about anyone.”
  105. >Nerd
  106. >Not that you had any room to hurl insults as the bottom rung bitch of the school
  107. >You should probably fix that sometime
  108. >Soon enough you find yourself walking down the hallway, flanked on all sides by a colorful cast of Sunset’s friends
  109. >You already knew all of their names of course, as they didn’t hesitate to introduce themselves to you
  110. >But they were asking a lot of questions
  111. >Why were they all so friendly?
  112. -
  113. >”I never see you on the bus, Anon. Do you live-”
  114. “Yeah, I don’t live too far away. I’m in Dewdrop Circle.”
  115. >”Ya’ll got a part-time job or anythin’? There’s a few openin’s at the farm if ya-“
  116. >They were extremely friendly, actually
  117. >But farmwork? No thanks
  118. “Already have one. I work at the Try N’ Save on 5th Avenue.“
  119. >”Oooh, whatcha do there Anon? Do you work in the bakery-Please tell me you work in the bakery.”
  120. “Nothing like that; I just unload the stock from the trucks.”
  121. >It keeps you well enough in shape
  122. >”I recall seeing him there multiple times, but every time he somehow had a convenient excuse to avoid conversing with me.”
  123. >That part was true
  124. >Most of the time you just didn’t feel like talking to some nerd with tri-colored hair
  125. >But you’re extremely good at finding an excuse to get out of doing something when you put your mind to it
  126. >Of course, it’s not as if you’re averse to hard work or anything, otherwise you wouldn’t be working at all
  127. >Sometimes there’s just things that you don’t want to do
  128. >”Are you apart of any clubs, darling? You seem like the sort of rugged type to be in the shop club. Ooh! Or perhaps the-“
  129. >Rugged? You? As if.
  130. >You’re wiry as hell
  131. >Kinda lanky too, have they SEEN your arms?
  132. “I’m actually in the gardening club.”
  133. >The silence that follows is almost as oppressive as the silence that followed after you tripped down the stairs of the school library with several books in tow
  134. >Almost
  135. >”We have a gardening club?”
  136. >RD asks, incredulous
  137. ”I’m not exactly surprised you don’t know. There’s only two members, counting myself.”
  138. >That doesn’t make it sound any better, but it will hopefully get them to stop pursuing this line of questioning
  139. >You don’t particularly want to regale them with the astounding, pulse-pounding, hype sounding tales of you pulling weeds and watering flowers
  140. >It’s relaxing, okay?
  141. >Luckily, Rainbow Dash seems focused on other things
  142. -
  143. >”Enough with the small talk already! Anon! Your parasite! What is it?!”
  144. >Somehow you knew it was going to be her to ask first
  145. >That or maybe Sunset, seeing as how she was your partner
  146. >Or Twilight; she looked pretty nerdy
  147. >Okay so you didn’t KNOW it was going to be RD, but you had a good thirty-three percent chance of it
  148. “Oh. Uh. Right. That. I guess that I’m what you could call a… Power brick. That’s what I’ve been calling it.”
  149. >The rainbow-haired girl makes a rolling gesture with her hand, silently telling you to explain more than that
  150. “Well, it’s like… I’m abnormally strong, abnormally durable, I’ve got a lot of endurance, that sort of thing. A big brick that can hit back. A power brick.”
  151. >”So um… Sort of like Applejack… But better?”
  152. >The quiet one finally speaks up, and when she does it’s specifically to burn the country one
  153. >Nice
  154. >Okay maybe it wasn’t JUST for that burn
  155. >But still
  156. >”Now wait just an apple-pickin’ second!”
  157. >Oh boy here we go
  158. >”IF. And this here’s a big IF! IF Anon were stronger’n me, then he’d be ranked higher than ah am! And he AIN’T.”
  159. >That’s true
  160. >Applejack was rank 50
  161. >The shitter filter
  162. “Well not that it’s hard to be stronger than I am. I try not to use my parasite too much as it is already.”
  163. >You give full-bodied shrug and a lazy smile
  164. >You’re not too invested in the whole situation, but AJ certainly is
  165. >At least she’s cooling off a bit
  166. >As the group eventually mills its way outside into the courtyard, Sunset pipes up
  167. >”So why don’t you use it, Anon? From what you’ve told us so far it could be pretty decent. Heck you shouldn’t even be ranked last if it’s a power and durability boost. That at least belongs up in the sixties. Even higher depending on how big of a boost it is.”
  168. “Oh that’s an easy one. Remember Mr. Doodle’s lecture last Tuesday?”
  169. >”The… One about the Hungers?”
  170. >You snap your fingers into one whole finger gun
  171. “Bingo.”
  172. -
  173. >For the easygoing nature you cultivate on a regular basis, the one thing that can really shake you up is…
  174. >THAT night
  175. >The one that you keep having a recurring nightmare about
  176. >You repressed it as far down as you could, but it still keeps coming up
  177. >It’s the one reason that you try your damndest never to use your parasite
  178. >There is exactly one rule that everyone is taught about these X-4 Parasites:
  179. >The more you use the power it gives you, the stronger the desire to eat other Hosts becomes
  180. >And when you lose it and finally tear into another Host?
  181. >It’s like a switch gets flipped on the parasite inside you
  182. >It starts multiplying itself, taking over more and more of your body until one finally takes control of your brain
  183. >From that point on, you’re not human anymore
  184. >You’re a Hunger
  185. >One of the things that killed mom and dad
  186. >You shudder as your gut turns over on itself remembering that night
  187. “I just don’t wanna become one of those… Things. Y’know?”
  188. >Twilight speaks up
  189. >”But Anonymous-“
  190. “Anon.”
  191. >”Anon, the need to consume is time-based as well. The longer your time as a Host, the greater the urge to eat others is.”
  192. “Yeah, well using your parasite expedites that process.”
  193. >You take a seat on the ground
  194. >There were no expectations on the ground
  195. “Besides, I don’t really care about the school’s stupid contest anyway, so being rank 100 suits me just fine.”
  196. >”Huh, I’m surprised. I would’ve assumed you at least somewhat interested in the top prize.”
  197. “Just who the hell needs that much money anyway? The Top 10 can kill each other over it as much as they want. Brawly Beats bit the dust last month when he challenged Norman over the rank 1 spot. I’m not about that life.”
  198. >Your statement gets a few uncomfortable glances, but little else
  199. -
  200. >”So you don’t use your parasite just because you don’t want to turn into a Hunger.”
  201. “Yep.”
  202. >”Despite the fact that the time factor has almost never played a part in a Hunger awakening at this school. AND that there’s never been a single Hunger awakening at CHS to date.”
  203. >You admit that she’s right about the last part
  204. >That’s sort of what the C.P.R. was all about
  205. >The CHS Parasite Rumble was why the entire senior class was ranked
  206. >1 all the way through 100
  207. >The Top 10 at the end of the school year are given free housing
  208. >Real fancy stuff. Condominium-style
  209. >The Top 3, in addition to that, get a free ride through any university of their choosing, no fees, no tuition
  210. >And the number 1 ranked student, in addition to all of THAT, gets a monetary prize
  211. >Somewhere around the 10 million mark
  212. >If anyone ever wonders where their tax dollars go, it’s there
  213. >The downside?
  214. >Ranks 1 through 10 fight each other to the death
  215. >Why?
  216. >Because only the strongest students are at those ranks
  217. >Which means that, usually, they’re already in danger of becoming a Hunger by the time they get there
  218. >[spoiler]It’s even worse getting ranked in the Top 10 right at the start, just because you’re already strong. You have to fight for your life the longest[/spoiler]
  219. >CHS pretty much stopped being a normal high school when the X-4 Parasites became widespread
  220. “That’s the gist of it, yeah.”
  221. >Sunset furrows her brow as she looks at you, as if trying to search for an answer on your face
  222. >”Well Anon, you’re a weird one but I can’t say you don’t have principles.”
  223. “An accurate description, but you missed ‘cool’ and ‘mysterious’.”
  224. >That nets you more than one pair of eyes rolling
  225. >You check your phone and unseat yourself from the ground with only your legs
  226. “I’ve got a meeting with the gardening club to get to,”
  227. >Calling it a meeting was a stretch
  228. “So I’ll uh, see you later I guess?”
  229. >Is that how this usually went?
  230. >You’ve only ever hung out with Wallflower, so making plans for later wasn’t your style
  231. -
  232. >You excuse yourself from the group of girls
  233. >As you start making your way around the exterior of the school, you become acutely aware of another presence walking alongside you
  234. >From the shorter strides and softer steps, coupled with the silence from your new companion, you already knew who it was
  235. “You know I was already coming to club, right? You don’t have to spy on me, Wallflower.”
  236. >Wallflower Blush
  237. >Unranked
  238. >[spoiler]Because CHS probably wasn’t even aware she was part of the student body[/spoiler]
  239. >Her parasite essentially turned her into a non-entity
  240. >A mental blindspot whenever she was involved
  241. >You don’t know whether she controls it or not and if she just turns it off around you
  242. >Or if it genuinely just doesn’t work on you for some reason
  243. >And in true Wallflower fashion, she disregards half the statements posed to her
  244. >”You were late.”
  245. “By like 2 minutes!”
  246. >You throw your hands up in exasperation
  247. >”Who were those girls?”
  248. “What, jealous or something? One of them is a partner of mine for a report and the rest are her friends. They’re weird, but nice enough I guess.”
  249. >”As long as it doesn’t cut into your time at the club, Anon.”
  250. “As if I’d ever miss club.”
  251. >The two of you start making your way down the path to the school’s garden
  252. >Hopefully the departure from your usual routine would pass as abruptly as it began when the assignment was over
  253. >Sunset would drop contact with the rank 100 nobody and, by extension, so would her friends
  254. >And you’d go back to being alone
  255. >Even though you weren’t, considering you were friends(?) with Wallflower
  256. >Does she count if nobody else acknowledges her?
  257. >It was confusing, and you’d rather not think about it
  258. >But you still couldn’t shake away that gut feeling you’d gotten earlier
  259. >Some cosmic, universal bullshit was looming on the horizon, and hadn’t packed your binoculars
  260. -
  261. (Chrono Trigger OST Wind Scene)
  262. >Your time at the garden was spent in relative silence, punctuated only by the occasional question from the only other member of the gardening club
  263. >Time spent with Wallflower is always pleasant
  264. >Time spent with Wallflower is also rarely exciting
  265. >Then again, you never sought out much excitement in the first place
  266. >In fact, Sunset and her friends talking with you has been the largest departure from your daily routine in several months
  267. >And you aren’t quite sure where you fall on the matter
  268. >A small part of you is almost looking forward to tomorrow
  269. >You don’t know what to expect out of your interactions with this group of girls, even if it IS mostly just mundane chit-chat back and forth
  270. >Your brain is already turning over with every possible outcome, no matter how outlandish
  271. >It’s like experiencing the holiday season as a child
  272. >Your parents have the chance to surprise you with whatever dumb thing you wanted that year, and you go nuts after tearing into the carefully folded wrapping paper
  273. >As opposed to experiencing it in your later years
  274. >You’re asked outright what you’d like, and you throw out a few suggestions of things that you really needed, maybe something that you WANT, expecting not to get much
  275. >You’re doing the same for others, and it becomes the yearly tradition
  276. >You grow accustomed to it, and while it doesn’t give you the same rush as it did when you were a kid, you tear into the wrapping paper, getting exactly what you expected
  277. >And it’s a different sort of satisfaction, one born of familiarity
  278. >That’s the kind of thing that your life is as of now
  279. >An enjoyable, if somewhat dull, stasis
  280. >”Anon you’re overwatering them!”
  281. >You find the pail snatched from your hands and you jolt back into the real world
  282. “Son of a-. My bad.”
  283. >No cursing around Wallflower
  284. >Or in the garden
  285. >”You were staring off into space for a while there. What’s up?”
  286. -
  287. >You lie down and stretch out in the soft grass
  288. >The sun was slowly beginning its descent, casting angled shafts of light through the trees that reflect off a small stream running off to the side of the clearing and setting it sparkling like glitter
  289. >The distant bustling of the town, cars honking and the sound of engines on a main road could be heard faintly in the distance, muddled by the rustling of leaves as a gentle wind blew through the trees
  290. >”You weren’t thinking about that night again, were you?”
  291. “What? O-Oh no it wasn’t that. That only happens when I’m asleep. Heh. Heh…”
  292. >Your sheepish chuckle trails off
  293. >”Was it something those girls said to you?”
  294. >Sort of, but not exactly
  295. >More like the entire situation has sent your mind a-thinking
  296. “Wallflower, we’re friends, right?”
  297. >She gives you the usual deadpan stare
  298. >”Anon we’ve known each other since sophomore year. Minus this weird talk we’re having, we do this sort of thing every day. Save for weekends, and holidays… And when you forget to come to the club…”
  299. >You stick your hand up in the air with your index finger extended
  300. “That happened exactly once, and I apologized for it!”
  301. >”Yes Anon, we’re friends. You’re the only person that actually acknowledges my existence, and the fact that you care about the school’s garden is just a nice bonus.”
  302. “Hey it’d be a shame to let these green thumbs go to waste.”
  303. >You give two thumbs up before you sit up
  304. “But I guess that’s enough of a break for me. Back to work.”
  305. >You spend the few hours pulling weeds and laying stones for a new planter in the garden
  306. >Of course, you’re missing the fertilizer, flowers, and herbs with which to put in it, but it’s important to take things one step at a time
  307. >By the time you’re finished, you’re thoroughly dirty and ready to head home and take a shower
  308. >You bid Wallflower farewell, making plans to return tomorrow and finish the work you started
  309. >With that, you begin the trek back home through the forest
  310. -
  311. >Finally arriving at your front doorstep around the time the light starts to fade, you fish out your keys from your pocket
  312. >You open the front door and step into the living room, closing it behind you
  313. “Hey mom, I’m home.”
  314. >You have an adoptive mother
  315. >Her name is Almond Milk
  316. >The two of you have a very simple relationship:
  317. >You be the best damn son she could ever ask for
  318. >And in return you get a loving and nurturing mother
  319. >Simple
  320. >None of that “YOU AREN’T MY REEEAAAAL MOM” bullshit
  321. >Losing one set of parents was more than enough
  322. >You weren’t gonna fuck it up and go double or nothing on the secondary mom front
  323. >”Anon! You’re home later than usual, dear. Is everything alright?”
  324. >She steps out from behind the dividing wall separating the dining room and the kitchen where she had presumably been doing dishes, judging by the sound of the faucet being turned off
  325. >She’s dressed rather conservatively: mom jeans, a pastel yellow button-down blouse and an apron with the words “I am the Queen, and the grill is my throne.” emblazoned upon it covering her front
  326. >Her brown hair was tied up in a bun, leaving two curly bangs framing her soft, matronly features
  327. >Good ol’ mom
  328. “Nah I’m fine. Just had more things to do during club than usual; can’t you see the dirt?”
  329. >”I can see that you’re about to track it on the carpet. Shoes off, mister.”
  330. >Damn that was close
  331. >You nearly gave yourself extra work around the house cleaning the dirt off the carpet
  332. >White carpet too
  333. >It’d be a bitch to get out without smearing everywhere
  334. >With your shoes successfully removed and resting carefully by the door you make a beeline for the bathroom at the end of the hallway
  335. >As you’re getting undressed and ready for a shower you hear your mom call out from the next room
  336. >”Anon dear I’m not going to be back ‘til Sunday. I cooked you food for the weekend so you don’t starve.”
  337. >She knows you can cook on your own right?
  338. >Whatever
  339. >Less work for you!
  340. -
  341. >After exchanging goodbyes with your dear mum through the bathroom door, assuring her that you would be having no parties while she was away, she leaves for work
  342. >You never asked what it was she did, and it never much mattered anyway
  343. >One relaxing shower later and you’re wandering around the house in your underwear
  344. >Because you’re a MAN damn it
  345. >And it’s so liberating
  346. >And free
  347. >The only way you could be even freer is if your junk wasn’t confined within these briefs
  348. >But you’d rather not tempt fate and have a repeat of… Last time
  349. >You cringe on the inside and distract yourself by watering the Venus flytrap on your windowsill
  350. >Wallflower had given you it as a gift a while ago
  351. >Apparently, it’s named “Hans”
  352. >He always looked like he was in various states of laughter
  353. >A good lad Hans was
  354. >Allegedly there’s another one at Wallflower’s house named Franz
  355. >The rest of your day slowly winds to a close after you eat and get started on the outline for your report, eventually culminating in you slipping into bed for a restful night’s sleep
  356. >God you hope it’s restful
  357. >But you know it won’t be
  358. >You don’t have any other dreams at night now
  359. >Just that one
  360. >Over and over
  361. >It’s a wonder you can get any sleep whatsoever
  362. -
  363. >”… You’re late.”
  364. ”I’m aware. Subject Delta returned home later than normal.”
  365. >”This “Delta” of yours hasn’t shown even a passing interest in the C.P.R., Number 9. We’re beginning to think that you might have been the wrong choice for this project.”
  366. ”You should have believed me when I told you that simply arbitrarily giving him the lowest possible rank wouldn’t work.”
  367. >”Then what WILL work, Number 9? We’re expecting results out of both you AND him.”
  368. ”After extensive observation, I’ve come up with an idea that could force Delta to participate, that way you can get all data you need.”
  369. >”Do tell.”
  370. ”The execution is simple enough: Engineer an “accident” to hospitalize Delta’s friend. A very specific accident. An accident involving a Hunger, to be precise.”
  371. >”Let me get this straight, 9: You want us to provide you with a live Hunger, AND allow you to release it on school grounds?”
  372. ”Along with some string pulling to make sure Delta has no choice. With your connections, it would be trivially easy to put Wallflower under the care of Number 3’s circle of medical personnel. Even with his job he couldn’t even begin to pay off her medical costs.”
  373. >”Out of the questi-”
  374. ”And what do you think is the quickest way for Delta to get more than enough money to secure his friend’s treatment? The one thing that’s constantly spoken about at this school?”
  375. >”The… Top spot of the C.P.R.”
  376. ”Exactly. With your cooperation, and a bit of gentle nudging on my part, Delta will have no choice but full participation in the C.P.R.”
  377. >”Alright Number 9, but it’ll be your head on the chopping block if this bites us in the ass. We’re taking a lot of risks on YOUR behalf. This better work.”
  378. ”Don’t worry.”
  380. ”I know it will.”
  381. -
  382. >You are Wallflower Blush
  383. >And you were currently tending to the school’s garden on a fine Saturday morning
  384. >As usual, Anon wasn’t here
  385. >But it’s not like you minded or anything
  386. >You weren’t about to ask him to spend his weekends here with you
  387. >You were just glad that he spent time here at all
  388. >He could be doing literally anything else and yet he decided to spend his free time here with you
  389. >It shouldn’t surprise you anymore at this point
  390. >He’s been doing it for the better part of three-ish years or so
  391. >Ever since he asked what you did in your spare time
  392. >You’re broken from your thoughts as you hear the distinct sound of a branch snapping deeper into the forest and the sound of rustling leaves on the ground
  393. >You stand up and look off in the direction of the noise, but the trees quickly obscure your line of sight, preventing you from seeing too deep within
  394. >Did Anon come to see you?
  395. >That would be a nice surprise...
  396. >You should probably meet him halfway though
  397. >It’s easier than you think to get lost in these woods
  398. >But you knew them more than Anon did
  399. >It’s for this reason that you venture just a bit deeper in
  400. >The foliage and underbrush swallows up everything, making it hard for you to discern the paths, and the canopy blocks the dawn light from shining through
  401. >The morning mist obscures your vision even further
  402. >Occasionally you would hear more snapping of branches, but the direction was less discernible
  403. >Something however, sticks out to you
  404. >Blood
  405. >Splattered across several trees
  406. >And nearby, the corpse of a dead rabbit
  407. >Well
  408. >More like several corpses
  409. >All bitten in half
  410. >Naturally there were predators in any ecosystem, sure, and these woods were no different
  411. >But you don’t know how common it is for half of a predator’s meal to just be left behind like this
  412. >And so many to boot...
  413. >Another branch snaps in the distance
  414. >You hastily start rushing back through the woods the way you came
  415. >It was time to leave
  416. -
  417. >You are Anon
  418. >And you are currently being woken up by a knocking at the front door
  419. >On one hand, it’s woken you up early from your nightmare
  420. >On the other hand, it’s 11AM
  421. >On a Saturday
  422. >You shouldn’t sleep in like this
  423. >You usually wake up earlier to water Hans
  424. >You roll a bit too far to turn yourself over… And fall out of your bed
  425. >This had better be good
  426. >One pair of jeans and a t-shirt later, you’re at the front door, looking through the peephole
  427. >It’s those girls again
  428. >Why are they all here?
  429. >It’s only Sunset you’re partnered up with
  430. >Do they always travel in a pack like this?
  431. >They look like damned girl scouts all grouped up at your door like this
  432. >You undo the deadbolt and open up the door
  433. “Look unless you’ve got any Samoas, I’m closing the door and going to water my plant.”
  434. >Calling your bluff, the pink one reaches into her giant curly hair and pulls out a box of honest to goodness girl scout Samoas
  435. >Damn, she’s good
  436. >It was supposed to be a joke
  437. >You can’t really complain though
  438. >You take it from her and eagerly tear into the box, getting through at least 1/4th of their coconut caramel goodness before you remember that you have company
  439. “Sho what’sh up?”
  440. >You ask, munching on a cookie
  441. >”You said we’d meet up later, then you ditched us an-”
  442. >You cut Sunset off
  443. “It wasn’t ditching! I had prior obligations to attend to. I even said so.”
  444. >”And your gardening club meeting took the entirety of the rest of the day?”
  445. >Okay, so maybe you HAD forgotten just a little bit
  446. >You were having some deep, introspective thoughts, alright?
  447. >Normally you don’t have them, but a certain few girls were messing with the natural order of things
  448. “Alright, I forgot.”
  449. >”Don’t worry about it. Pinkie suggested that we go bowling and we were wondering if you wanted to come along.”
  450. >Bowling?
  451. “Bowling?”
  452. >”Yeah,” Sunset continues “we can work on our reports while we’re there and we won’t have to work out who’s going to whose house.”
  453. >You opt not to mention they came to your house already
  454. -
  456. >The sound of leaves crunching underfoot
  457. >The sound of something else making heavy footfalls somewhere behind you
  458. >The scratching of brambles against your exposed skin
  459. >You are running for your life
  460. >There was something in the woods with you
  461. >Something that didn’t belong there
  462. >You caught a glimpse of it through the trees
  463. >It was a Hunger
  464. >A Hunger was here in the woods with you
  465. >And it knew you were here
  466. >It shouldn’t be able to track you, not with your parasite, but you’ve never been able to control yours very well in the first place
  467. >Maybe
  468. >Just maybe if you could make it back to the school somebody would be there
  469. >Someone who could help you
  470. >As you close and shield your eyes from a patch of thorns, the first face that flashes in the darkness comes is Anon’s
  471. >If he were here, he would save you
  472. >You just know it
  473. >But he isn’t here
  474. >And you’ll have to save yourself
  475. >You pivot on one foot and quickly jam yourself into the hollow of a large, dead tree to hide and catch your breath
  476. >You take slow, near-silent breaths as it stalks among the trees nearby
  477. >Th-Thump
  478. >Th-Thump
  479. >Your heart beats so loudly in the silence that you fear it might give you away
  480. >And then you see it
  481. >It slowly crawls into view before standing straight up to its full height
  482. >Easily nine feet tall, with a lanky, wiry physique that concealed the sheer amount of strength it possessed
  483. >The kind of strength that could easily rip you into two neat halves
  484. >Several parasites writhe just beneath the surface, making its taut skin undulate with their movement
  485. >The arms stretch nearly to the ground, the fingertips more akin to claws now
  486. >Its head twitches unnaturally as it looks around, searching for you with those tiny glowing eyes, its face covered in the blood of the creatures it had been feeding on
  487. >Two rows of flat teeth fill its mouth, more suited for crushing through bone and sinew than ripping and tearing flesh
  488. >But it can do both with ease
  489. >And it was looking at you
  490. -
  492. >You’ve never seen a bowling alley so…
  493. >90s
  494. >Honestly, you can kind of dig it
  495. >They don’t half-ass it, and all the employees are dressed in period-appropriate attire
  496. >And the only music playing over the speakers is from the 90s and before
  497. >After getting yourself checked in at the front counter, you find yourself sitting in a plastic chair, making sure that your snazzy bowling shoes are laced up tight
  498. >Applejack and Rainbow Dash are using their combined brainpower to try and figure out how to set up the electronic scorecards for the lanes while Twilight does her best to walk them through it
  499. >And they’ve already screwed it up once and had to start over
  500. >Meanwhile, Sunset sits nearby, already mocking up an outline for her report
  501. >Usually you at least waited a day
  502. >It speaks to her work ethic, you suppose
  503. >”So Anon,”
  504. >You tune out the Sugar Ray playing over the speakers and turn to her, ready to listen to whatever she has to say
  505. >This time you won’t even cut her off like you usually do
  506. >”You already told me what your parasite does, but can you give me an example? I’d like something more tangible, you know?”
  507. >Shoot, that’s not even a bad point
  508. >Easier to quantify that way
  509. “Sure, sure.”
  510. >You think for just a moment, trying to recall a good example
  511. “Okay okay so this was back in… Sophomore year I think. Before I met Wallflower I used to take an entirely different route when I walked to school. And when I was crossing the street a block from my house I ended up getting sideswiped by a truck that ran the stop sign.”
  512. >Sunset’s eyes widen at your story
  513. “Ha, if you’re surprised just imagine how surprised I was when I got up afterwards with nothing but a sprained ankle and a few cuts!”
  514. >You conveniently leave out the part where you were panicking and thought you were blind because your backpack had landed on your face
  515. >”Well, that’s certainly a plus for your durability...”
  516. -
  517. >You manage to scramble out through a small hole in the hollow tree just before the Hunger can grab you
  518. >But it tore a hole in the leg of your jeans
  519. >The calf of the leg it had bitten at pulses with a sharp pain every time you push off of that foot
  520. >It had torn straight through the fabric and into your calf, and based on the warmth that was running down your ankle into your sock, you were bleeding quite a bit
  521. >It knows your taste now
  522. >And your scent
  523. >You scream at the top of your lungs for someone to help you
  524. >For anyone to help you
  525. >You look over your shoulder to see it chasing you by bounding from tree branch to tree branch
  526. >Its long, spindly limbs making it trivial to keep up with you
  527. >You can hear it breathing, making animalistic gurgling and growling as it tastes your blood upon its tongue
  528. >It’s forcing you to run away from the garden and the school, trying to isolate you more than you already were
  529. >Not only that, but it’s gotten more vicious
  530. >It leaps from the trunk of a tree behind you, arms outstretched to catch you, its prey
  531. >With a tiny burst of speed you only narrowly escape its grasp, but its bony claws rend all the way down your back, leaving deep bleeding gouges that sting and soak your sweater
  532. >Your lungs ache, your muscles burn, and you feel a tightness in your chest that only gets worse as you keep running away
  534. -
  536. >CRACK
  537. >And the pins scatter against the backboard, the mechanical arm coming down to sweep them away to be replaced
  538. >You pump your fist back towards you in triumph as you get another strike
  539. >In your mind you’re singing along with “Don’t You Want Me” on the loudspeakers
  540. >You do an undoubtedly sweet-looking moonwalk back and step off the raised platform onto regular floor
  541. >Sunset has facepalmed
  542. >Pinkie is giving you two thumbs up
  543. >RD looks like she’s about a hair’s breadth away from throttling AJ, as the latter is currently winning
  544. >You gracefully take a seat in the booth opposite Sunset
  545. >Nobody told these poor girls just how much of a fucking dork you were
  546. “So what were you saying?”
  547. >”I was asking you about your super strength! How’d you already forget?”
  548. >Oh
  549. >Right
  550. >Shit
  551. “Sorry, I was just in the zone there. You know how it is.”
  552. >She rolls her eyes at that
  553. “But uh… As an example? That’s...”
  554. >When have you ever had to use it?
  555. >You had to at some point, right?
  556. >Otherwise you wouldn’t know that you had it
  557. >Oh!
  558. “Alright so do you remember that field trip a while back?”
  559. >”The one to Camp Everfree? How could I forget?”
  560. >Apparently there was a whole bunch of BULLSHIT going on during that trip
  561. >But you weren’t around for it
  562. >Instead you were off gallivanting around with Wallflower
  563. “Well you know those massive XBOX huge ironwoods they’ve got out there? I kinda sorta accidentally… Cut one down. With my fist. I punched a huge tree down, Sunset.”
  564. >She give you the “are you fucking serious” look
  565. >To which you hold your hands up with a shrug
  566. >”Anon are you lying to me?”
  567. “No! Hell I rarely if ever throw a punch at anything, I was just as surprised as you are now.”
  568. >That may have been an understatement
  569. >You had screamed pretty loud, afraid the thing was going to fall on Wallflower or you or one of the cabins
  570. >It didn’t, it just fell over into the woods
  571. >The sound of pins snaps you from your thoughts and you look over to see Fluttershy effortlessly sink a 7-10 split
  572. -
  573. >You barely have time to react before you slam headfirst into a low hanging branch
  574. >Looking back at the Hunger had distracted you for just an instant
  575. >And it was enough to knock you to the forest floor
  576. >Where you start rolling
  577. >You’re tumbling down an incline until you hit a bump that pops you into the air
  578. >Falling…
  579. >For just a moment
  580. >Until your skill lands against a rock with an earsplitting CRACK
  581. >You cry out, but no noise escapes your mouth
  582. >Nothing but a strained croak of air trapped in your throat
  583. >It sends a sharp, lancing pain all the way into your spine every time your head is jostled
  584. >Which is a lot, considering you’re still rolling down a hill
  585. >You close your eyes, hoping that it would end soon
  586. >That the pain would end soon
  587. >Tears sting at the edges of your eyes as you keep them shut tightly until…
  588. >You come to a stop face up and a cold wetness envelops you
  589. >A stream?
  590. >The water submerges most of your body, leaving your face dry as you stare up at the canopy
  591. >The sun shines down upon you through the trees, setting the stream alight with wavering light that dances across your body
  592. >You’re seeing double… Triple...
  593. >The water is washing your blood away
  594. >And it would feel so nice right about now to just… Close your eyes
  595. >Have a nice nap
  596. >You could wake up and see Anon on Monday
  597. >No
  598. >Wait
  599. >There was something wrong
  600. >You’d been running from something, that’s how you ended up here in the first place
  601. >But thinking hurts
  602. >What was it?
  603. >A guttural screech pierces the calm silence of the settling forest, sending birds retreating into the sky
  604. >You turn your head and see the Hunger once more
  605. >Slinking towards the stream as it once more zeroes in on you
  606. >You were bleeding so profusely at this point it was almost trivial to do so
  607. >You swallow hard, and taste salty, metallic blood in your mouth
  608. >Gotta get away
  609. >It takes an immense effort to simply sit up straight
  610. >Apparently you’d been running for quite a while…
  611. -
  612. >No matter how fast you try to drag yourself away from the stream, it’s not nearly fast enough
  613. >You can see it reaching out for you, almost in slow motion
  614. >Did it know that you couldn’t escape?
  615. >Was it just taking its time and not exerting itself now?
  616. >You roll over to your front and grab onto a nearby root as it takes hold of your good leg
  617. >When you aren’t immediately dragged back to it, the Hunger roughly yanks your ankle
  618. >With the death grip you have on the root, your arm is torn out of its socket, and you find yourself instinctively letting go from the pain shock coursing through your arm
  619. >Was this it?
  620. >You find yourself thinking as the Hunger lifts your leg and bites into your knee, splattering itself with your blood as it spurts out
  621. >The other hand snakes up, sitting poised above your abdomen for just a moment before it spears downward, impaling its claw into you
  622. >The pain was excruciating, and you were on the verge of blacking out
  623. >Your vision swims, and the entire world starts to fade
  624. >You can feel the bony claw moving around inside your guts, searching for what was juiciest to rip out and bite into
  625. >But then it stops moving
  626. >The Hunger’s head shoots up, taking a chunk of your leg with it as its entire body freezes like a mantis, trying to pick up on the sound
  627. >You’d heard it too
  628. >Footsteps
  629. >The water splashed with each step, and it put an immense strain on your muscles to simply turn your head to look at who was approaching
  630. >By the time you manage to slump your head to the side, you were already passing out
  631. >With a wet squelch you can feel the claw being removed, and the weight of the Hunger recedes from your body as it stands
  632. >The last thing that you can hear before unconsciousness takes you is the sound of chains…
  633. -
  634. >”Uuughh I hate it when she gloats. I lost by TWO points. TWO!”
  635. >You and Rainbow Dash, after she’d lost her game to Applejack (but still beat Rarity and Twilight), had decided to take a break for a bit and go grab some food from the mini-restaurant the bowling alley had
  636. >Of course, making sure to take orders for what everyone else wanted first
  637. “You don’t have enough force behind your throw.”
  638. >You state simply as you take a seat with the rainbow-haired lass while waiting for the massive order of food
  639. >8 people could really eat a lot
  640. >Taking a glance in Rainbow’s direction, you can see her glaring a hole in your head with a defiant —if pouty— expression
  641. >It was actually pretty cute, in a tomboyish sort of way
  642. “What?”
  643. “Well don’t just sit there, explain it to me so I can beat her!”
  644. >You groan and run your hand down your face
  645. >How are you supposed to further explain the fact that she just straight up couldn’t match Applejack’s strength?
  646. >That just seemed apparent
  647. >Apparent-ly not
  648. >Heh, good one brain
  649. “Well, every one of your throws were accurate, and you had great form,”
  650. >You may have been watching her during your downtime
  651. “But you didn’t have enough oomph in there.”
  652. >You punctuate your “oomph” by clasping your fingertips together against the thumb on the same hand and popping your fingers apart
  653. >You aren’t Italian, but you certainly feel like it doing that
  654. >Something’s nagging at you though
  655. “What’s your parasite, Rainbow?”
  656. >She kicks the tip of her bowling shoe against the floor and dramatically flips some bangs out of her face
  657. >”Rank 34, Extreme speed! There isn’t a person at CHS that can keep up with me!”
  658. >You didn’t ask for her rank, but it was nice to know regardless
  659. “So if speed’s your thing, why’d you try and imitate Applejack’s technique?”
  660. >”Say what?”
  661. >Oh god damn it
  662. -
  663. >Okay
  664. >So you couldn’t exactly blame her
  665. >It was probably just absentminded
  666. >And you doubt that she even realized she was doing it
  667. “Applejack roots herself in place rather than having a walk up, and she doesn’t extend her arm all the way back either. She doesn’t need to. She’s already got enough strength in her body that doing so would just be overkill.”
  668. >A little bell dings from the kitchen in the back and out comes the server, bringing you back the veritable pile of food, leaving you two to figure out how to transport it all back
  669. >An undoubtedly way-too-greasy pepperoni and mushroom pizza for you
  670. >A platter of nachos for Fluttershy
  671. >Two big bacon double cheeseburgers for Twilight and Sunset
  672. >Some sort of… Wrap for Rarity
  673. >Several chili cheese dogs that Rainbow Dash and Applejack were supposed to share (which would only go well)
  674. >And a banana split sundae for Pinkie
  675. >You do your best to balance the burgers, nachos, wrap, and sundae on top of your pizza box likes some sort of overpriced Tetris and leave the rest for Rainbow
  676. >The two of you start on your way back and you continue your explanation
  677. “Since your whole deal is speed you need that momentum, right? Hell, your walk up could be a run up. It’s not like you’re breaking a rule unless you step over the line.”
  678. >Probably
  679. >It’s not like the employees cared enough to make a big deal out of it
  680. >”Huh, that’s… Actually a pretty good idea! I didn’t even know I was copying her until you pointed it out.”
  681. >She giggles a bit to herself
  682. >”Heh, it’s the same way I beat her when we spar together too. How did I not figure that out before!? Thanks Anon!”
  683. >She gives you a way-too-hard slap on the back and takes off walking way faster, eager to challenge Applejack again
  684. >It nearly makes you lose your balance it was so unexpected, and you have to make a concerted effort not to let everything spill and tumble to the floor
  685. >You take a seat back at the booth with Sunset and the rest of the girls
  686. >Today was shaping up to be a good day
  687. -
  688. >Rainbow Dash has already challenged Applejack to a 1v1 rematch
  689. >Whenever it’s not your turn, you can watch her putting the advice you gave her into practice
  690. >And she’s winning
  691. >You feel a small amount of pride at having made a difference
  692. >As you enjoy your food in the company of 5 pretty girls, it strikes you that, well
  693. >You don’t actually know very much about them
  694. >Other than the fact that they’ve saved the school several times
  695. >You’re usually keeping to yourself or hanging out with Wallflower
  696. >Your thoughts drift to her, imagining that she’s most likely working in the school’s garden right now
  697. >She loved that place
  698. >You did too, but not nearly as much as she did
  699. >Wait shit you were supposed to be getting to know these girls, right?
  700. >Well, were you?
  701. >You don’t actually know
  702. >They seem friendly enough
  703. >Okay that’s an understatement, they’re really friendly
  704. >But genuinely friendly, like they wanted to get to know you
  705. >So you decide to ask with something benign
  706. >A usual icebreaker at CHS
  707. “So uh, I’m kinda curious; what’s YOUR parasite, Sunset?”
  708. >You could disguise it as asking for your report too
  709. >And then from there, continue down the line of their little group
  710. >Delightfully devilish, Anon
  711. >You already knew both Applejack and Rainbow Dash’s, and they were busy anyway!
  712. >Mine? It’s telepathy, Anon. I can read minds and communicate with my thoughts from a distance. I’m ranked-”
  713. 44, yeah. You er, told me before.”
  714. >It’s a bit odd how second nature it was to introduce yourself alongside your rank
  715. >It’s been like this for so many years that it’s just involuntary now
  716. >You take note of it and turn your gaze to the one sitting beside her
  717. “Twilight?”
  718. >She looks up from chowing down on her burger before wiping her mouth with a napkin
  719. >Before levitating a slice of pizza away from your hands just as you’re about to take a bite, snickering in the process
  720. -
  721. >”Telekinesis, Anon. I’m ranked 42nd out of our whole senior class. If you’d prefer, I can also give you a detailed explanation of how it works!”
  722. >No thanks, nerd
  723. >You snatch your ‘za out of the air and shake your head
  724. “I’m good, thanks. Uhhh… YOU.”
  725. >You level your finger at the quietest one of the bunch
  726. >Fluttershy, if you recall
  727. >Your voice nearly makes her jump out of her skin
  728. >It wasn’t even that loud, but you assume she just wasn’t expecting to be called out
  729. >”M-Me?”
  730. >She asks, pointing at herself incredulously
  731. >You nod
  732. >”I um… I control nsmsmm...”
  733. >She fidgets in her seat a bit, clearly not appreciating the attention
  734. “What?”
  735. >”I’m rank tnmmh...”
  736. >Leaning closer, you try and pick up what she’s mumbling, but a strike and cheering from Rainbow Dash drowns out what Fluttershy is saying
  737. >You look to Sunset for some sort of assistance here, giving her your best “is she for serious right now?” face
  738. >To which you’re met with a shrug
  739. >And an exclamation from the girl with the fabulous purple hair sitting at the head of the table
  740. >”If Fluttershy isn’t inclined to share the details with Anon, I’m more than happy share mine!”
  741. >You pause for a beat, blinking once, twice
  742. “Rarity, right?”
  743. >”The one and only, darling. And the one and only rank 46 in CHS.”
  744. >Well, unless someone took it that is
  745. >Not like you would
  746. “Well lay it on me then. What have you got up those sleeves of yours?”
  747. >She smooths out said sleeves, holding them up and wiggling her perfectly manicured fingers
  748. >Brilliant, diamond-like light emanates from between them like a strange spiderweb
  749. >”Twilight called it “hard light constructs”; I call it fabulous. You might be quite surprised at just what I can manage with it.”
  750. >You honestly probably would
  751. >But that isn’t exactly what you’re focused on right now
  752. >What you’re focused on is the pink one literally vibrating in her seat next to you
  753. >She looks like she’s practically about to explode, until she finally blurts out
  754. >”Anon! ANON! Anon ask about mine! Do it!”
  755. -
  756. >You sigh
  757. >Her overenthusiasm was pretty cute, you had to admit
  758. >But damn girl, calm down
  759. >You crazy
  760. “Okay okay Pinkie, tell me all about it. I’m all ears.”
  761. >You suck the lemonade in your cup through the straw as you look at her
  762. >”Well clearly you aren’t! Otherwise you would’ve heard me calling out to you in the hallway last Tuesday when I was trying to invite you to-”
  763. >”Pinkie!”
  764. >Twilight interjects, trying to get her back on track
  765. >”Huh? Oh! Right!”
  766. >She reaches underneath the table and pulls out a pair of aviators, donning them and snapping fingerguns at you
  767. >”Pinkie Pie, rank 20-”
  768. >You spit take
  769. >You legitimately do a spit take at that
  770. >Luckily Rarity is quick on the draw and blocks the spraying lemonade with a quickly made buckler
  771. >How?!
  772. >You didn’t expect her to be ranked so high
  773. “Bu- Wha- HUH? How?”
  774. >She pulls the sunglasses down her nose just enough to where her eyes are visible again, and she peers at you over the rim
  775. >”What’s the matter, silly? Didn’t expect a girl like me to be so high up the ladder?”
  776. “Well… Kind of, yeah! L-Like I didn’t mean any offense by it or-”
  777. >She starts to snicker, before she takes her aviators off and tosses them into the air
  778. >And as they begin to fall towards your face, you can see a bright pink light escaping through cracks webbing across the surface of them
  779. >And then it fucking explodes
  780. -
  781. >A haze of sweet, cake batter and icing scented smoke surrounds your head, and the sheer brightness of the flash makes you fall out of your seat
  782. “OH FU-!!”
  783. >Thump
  784. >You land on your back and groan before opening your eyes to see her leaning over your seat to look at you
  785. >”Omigosh I didn’t mean to surprise you THAT much, Anon!”
  786. >You’re fairly certain that she didn’t, but you can still hear her doing her best to stifle giggling
  787. >She reaches down and helps pull you back into your chair
  788. >”Pinkie Pie has the ability to “overcharge” any item she throws, at will. She can bestow these items will all manner of effects, depending on their composition.”
  789. >You cough a bit as the sweet aroma fills your nostrils and you try to wave it away
  790. “So I just got flashbanged because she threw a pair of sunglasses at me?”
  791. >”They’re both eye related!”
  792. >Pinkie chimes in with a smile
  793. >Yeah
  794. >You can see how that could be very dangerous
  795. >Just imagining what she could do if she chucked a bowling ball at you makes you a bit afraid
  796. >You could probably take it, but still
  797. >This girl can turn anything into a grenade
  798. >No wonder she’s ranked so high
  799. >”I’m really super-duper sorry, Anon! I promise to make it up to you for making you spill your lemonade! And knocking you out of your chair!”
  800. “Y-Yeah, thanks.”
  801. >Going over your mental notes as you calm down, you realize that all of these girls are above average or better in the C.P.R.
  802. >But moreso than that, well
  803. >They seem to be really good friends
  804. >It seems like they’ve been through quite a lot together, and if how they were treating you was any indicator, they didn’t have any qualms about petty things like rank or social status
  805. >It was… Nice, for lack of a better word
  806. >And they seemed to enjoy your company at least
  807. >You’ve done quite a bit more than just meeting up to work on reports together
  808. >Who knows, perhaps things might even continue beyond the end of the assignment
  809. >You chuckle inwardly
  810. >Heh
  811. >You, having a whole group of friends
  812. >How long had it been since you’ve had that?
  813. -
  814. >”H-853 really did quite the number on this one, eh Number 9?”
  815. >The rotund, jovial doctor chuckles as he looks over Anon’s friend
  816. “Yes, but can you FIX her, Dr. Stitch?”
  817. >He pushes his circular glasses up his nose and nods
  818. >”But of course! I could hardly call myself a doctor if not! She’s already been stabilized, and she’s in no danger of dying.”
  819. >Your old friend Dr. Stitch was good at his job, and his healing parasite only helped with it
  820. “And you’re still aware of our agreement, correct?”
  821. >”Yes yes, no need to worry Number 9. As per your request she’ll be kept in a medically induced coma until you give us the order. Until then she’ll be treated and kept under watch by my own team.”
  822. >You cross your arms, furrowing your brow
  823. “And you’re confident they can be trusted?”
  824. >”Indeed! They’re our old colleagues, don’t you know? They won’t ask questions, and they won’t say a word.”
  825. “Good… Good. I’ve taken quite a few risks to get Ano- Subject Delta’s participation.”
  826. >Dr. Stitch looks over Wallflower’s unconscious body, making sure that nothing was out of place
  827. >He was nothing if not thorough
  828. >”I remember you being ruthless during your time at CHS, Number 9. I suppose old habits die hard, eh?”
  829. “Please Scalpel Stitch, even I don’t enjoy getting Delta’s friend involved. It was a necessary evil. Doesn’t even have a number, and the poor girl can’t even control her parasite yet.”
  830. >You gently brush some bangs out of her face
  831. >”I believe the kids are calling them “ranks” nowadays.”
  832. >You sigh and shake your head
  833. “I need to get back and let the council know the first part of the operation was successful. I leave things in your capable hands, doctor.”
  834. >”Take care!”
  835. -
  836. >After a semi-productive day at the bowling alley, you find yourself parting ways with Sunset and her group of friends
  837. >You’d gotten a few notes on Sunset’s parasite (not to mention the rest of her friends’) but you’d need to talk with her more in the future to get everything you needed for your report
  838. >Which is why you swapped phone numbers with her
  839. >It was weird having another contact in your phone
  840. >Bringing the total up to 3
  841. >[spoiler]The only other two were mom and Wallflower[/spoiler]
  842. >Not to mention it was another girl
  843. >Man you really do have no friends
  844. >That slightly depressing thought thrown by the wayside, you begin the walk back to your home
  845. >Even though the sun was shining, there was a slight chill on the breeze
  846. >The telltale sign of Fall creeping up just around the corner
  847. >That meant your usual garden club activities would slowly start moving towards preparing it for the Winter
  848. >There were quite a few perennials, so they’d be fine with a bit of pruning
  849. >Not to mention getting the pumpkins ready for October
  850. >And doing some mulching
  851. >But it wasn’t anything you weren’t unfamiliar with
  852. >Besides, it was enjoyable, and you got to spend time with Wallflower
  853. >You wonder what she could be up to around now
  854. >Probably at home by now
  855. >You look at the meager contact list, your thumb hovering over Wallflower’s picture
  856. >Would it be poor form to call her just because you had nothing better to do?
  857. >Come to think of it, you don’t actually know what she does on the weekends other than go to tend to the garden in the mornings
  858. >Your thoughts wander a bit more, and you opt to give her a call
  859. >If nothing else it would kill some time getting you back home
  860. >But strangely enough she doesn’t pick up
  861. >You pull the phone away from your ear and stare at it, confused
  862. >Wallflower always picks up
  863. “Er… Hey Wallflower, I was just calling to see how you were doing. It wasn’t anything important though. Just uh, give me a call back when you can. Bye.”
  864. >Satisfied with your message, you hang up
  865. -
  866. >Afterwards it doesn’t take you too long to get back home, arriving at around 2PM
  867. >Unlocking the door and turning the knob, you take off your shoes and hang your jacket by the door
  868. >Maybe Wallflower was just busy
  869. >You’ve never asked her what other hobbies she has, so she’s probably busy with those
  870. >Yeah
  871. >She’ll call you back later
  872. >You make a beeline for your room and, once there, begin your time-honored tradition of talking to Hans
  873. “Afternoon, buddy. Caught yourself a meal, huh?”
  874. >You’re met with silence, as per usual
  875. >He wasn’t the most talkative of plants
  876. “Sorry I didn’t get a chance to water you this morning, I got an unexpected visit.”
  877. >You take the small pitcher and carefully give Hans some nice, refreshing water
  878. “There, nice and hydrated. What? Nah it wasn’t Wallflower, funnily enough.”
  879. >…
  880. “This girl from school; her name’s Sunset Shimmer. It was her and her friends. We went out bowling.”
  881. >You take a seat on your bed, neatly folding your hands in your lap as you lean forward to speak with your Venus flytrap
  882. >If anyone saw you, you’d have a hard time explaining yourself
  883. >”Yeah I just talk to a plant, man. It’s no biggie. No I’m not crazy.”
  884. “Bowling, I know right? I haven’t been bowling in almost a year but it was still just as fun as I remember.”
  885. >…
  886. “We were meeting up to get some work on our reports done, but it was mostly bowling. I got to know them all a bit better.”
  887. >Getting restless already, you reposition yourself so the you were laying down, looking upside down at Hans
  888. “I wouldn’t say that we’re friends or anything like that, but they’re nice. Really nice. I kind of… Enjoyed hanging out with them. We didn’t make any plans for next week but we exchanged numbers so, there’s that.”
  889. >…
  890. ”Yeah whatever Hans, you’ve got all your friends in the same pot, and they’re attached to you.”
  891. >You look away and wave your hand dismissively in the plant’s direction
  892. >Alright Anon, that’s enough being a sperg for now
  893. -
  894. >You know what you could use right about now?
  895. >A good-ass shower
  896. >You didn’t get a chance to take one this morning when Sunset and Co. came to get you
  897. >It would give you a chance to think on things
  898. >Not like you had much to think on, other than the events of today
  899. >You roll off your bed and walk to the bathroom, closing the door behind you
  900. >It didn’t matter if mom was going to be home on Sunday or not, you weren’t gonna take any chances
  901. >Not after last time
  902. >You turn the knobs on the bathtub and pull the little lever to swap the water over to the showerhead
  903. >While you wait for the water to warm up, you strip down to your briefs and do what any self-respecting, strapping young man does:
  904. >Look at yourself in the mirror
  905. >And naturally, you aren’t surprised by what you see
  906. >Tall? Check
  907. >Pale? Definitely
  908. >Maybe you should stop wearing long sleeves…
  909. >Strong?
  910. >Well, those muscles don’t exactly paint the picture of a lifter, now do they?
  911. >But if you can chop down a tree with a punch, maybe you didn’t need to lift
  912. >Honestly, you were closer to Rainbow Dash’s build if anything
  913. >Just instead of a cute girl, you were a confident, handsome man
  914. >Yeah
  915. >Confident
  916. >Press X to doubt
  917. >As usual you find your eyes drawn to the faintly orange, somewhat veiny lump in the middle of your chest
  918. >It wasn’t explicitly noticeable unless you were searching for it, and you could feel it all the way on your back too
  919. >But it was there
  920. >Where your parasite was located
  921. >Little bastard
  922. >Not that it was uncomfortable, you just weren’t a fan of looking at it
  923. >But it was an unavoidable fact of life now
  924. >Grass grows, sun shines, and parasites give you superpowers
  925. >The condensation fogging up the mirror alerted you to the fact that the shower was definitely warmed up by now
  926. >You’re just getting distracted all over the place today
  927. >You blame those girls
  928. >Messing with the natural order of things
  929. >How dare they extend an olive branch to you!
  930. >You roll your eyes at yourself and step into the shower, ready to scrub yourself clean
  931. -
  932. >”So Sunnybuns, what’d you think of Anon, huh?”
  933. >Pinkie asks, popping up in your peripheral vision as she skips along
  934. >”I mean, I think he’s pretty cool. Definitely not as cool as ME, but I beat Applejack with his advice.”
  935. >RD shoots a cocky grin at AJ
  936. >”Ah told ya’ll this before, we’re TIED now! I won one, an’ you won one!”
  937. >Honestly, you don’t know what to think of Anon
  938. “He’s… Something. He seems friendly but...”
  939. >You frown and rub her chin
  940. “I couldn’t read him.”
  941. >Even Rainbow Dash and Applejack stop their arguing at that
  942. >Everyone looks at you, confused
  943. >”What?! Like he was plugged into controller port 2 the whole time?!”
  944. >”You… You couldn’t? Not even a little bit, Sunset?”
  945. >You shake your head
  946. “I was reaching out, trying to probe his thoughts but it was like hitting a wall. I knew that they were there, but I was stopped every time.”
  947. >What kind of power brick can do that?
  948. >”It’s possible that you may not know the extent of your own parasite yet, Sunset. Perhaps someone with a sufficient amount of willpower COULD theoretically block you out.”
  949. >While that’s possibly true, it doesn’t leave you with a good taste in your mouth
  950. >Something didn’t add up
  951. >But it wasn’t as if Anon was making an effort to keep you out
  952. >You doubt that he even knew it was happening
  953. “Still, I don’t think that’s a reflection of his character! He reminds me a bit of myself when I first came here to CHS.
  954. >Maybe without the whole “intent on enslaving the school” bit
  955. >But you could tell he was lost and alone
  956. >He may have Wallflower, but two introverts in a little bubble like that seems like a recipe for disaster
  957. >Besides, Anon could use a group of friends like yours
  958. >There was no downside to having more friends!
  959. -
  960. >It’s been a few hours since your shower, and you’re currently in your room
  961. >You take a look at your phone, but there are no missed calls
  962. >Wallflower didn’t call you back
  963. >Not like she had an obligation to
  964. >But it was still strange
  965. >You could try again tomorrow during work
  966. >For now you’d just try to focus on getting a good night’s sleep for once
  967. >Even though you knew how much of a futile effort it would be
  968. >Still, it doesn’t hurt to hope, right?
  969. >As you lie down and pull the covers up, you close your eyes, doing your best to let the waking world just melt away
  970. >The silence only allows you to hear the subtle ringing in your ears and amplifies it
  971. >Until it was the only thing you heard
  972. >And like every night, it was strangely soothing
  973. >Like the soft chime of a bell drawn out forever until you finally sank into sleep
  974. >For your nightmare to start again
  975. -
  976. >Like most mornings, you awaken in a cold sweat, leaving a damp spot where you had slept that night
  977. >You groan and pull yourself out of your bed, shutting off your alarm and yawning
  978. >No matter how many times you have that same nightmare, you never get used to the feelings it evokes
  979. >The sheer terror
  980. >The anger
  981. >The helplessness
  982. >Oh well
  983. >Hans needed his morning water, and you needed breakfast
  984. >Your morning routine is always taken care of relatively quickly
  985. >Water Hans, do some stretching, get dressed, make something for breakfast, pack a lunch
  986. >And you’re ready to go
  987. >Of course, you can’t forget your Try N’ Save™ apron
  988. >Nice and blue, and keeps your clothes at least marginally more tidy than if you don’t wear it
  989. >Plus it was like the only piece of clothing that identified you as part of the staff
  990. >You take a glance out the window and sigh
  991. >It was raining
  992. >Just as you’re putting your shoes on and getting ready to leave, you hear a key being inserted into the lock, and the door opens
  993. “Hey mom. Didn’t expect you to be back so early.”
  994. >You must have surprised her, because you can see her jump slightly before she regains her composure
  995. >She walks in and closes the door behind her, heaving a sigh and setting her purse down on the stand next to the doorway
  996. >”Oh, good morning sweetie. Getting ready to head to work I see?”
  997. >You nod
  998. “Yeah. How was yours?”
  999. >She looks at you for just a moment and you see a flash of… Something behind her eyes
  1000. >An emotion you couldn’t quite place
  1001. >Mom gives you a tired smile and places her hand on your shoulder, squeezing softly
  1002. >”Rough day at the office, hun. Don’t worry about me, enjoy your day.”
  1003. >As she moves past you into the living room and you open the door to head out, she turns to you again
  1004. >”Anon… You know I love you, right?”
  1005. >What kind of question is that?
  1006. “Of course mom, I love you too.”
  1007. -
  1008. >The rest of your day is preoccupied with thoughts involving Wallflower
  1009. >You can focus on your work well enough not to get called out on it
  1010. >[spoiler]Plus you were only a part-timer anyway so they were more lax with you[/spoiler]
  1011. >But any time your mind wandered, it wandered to her
  1012. >Man you’re hopeless
  1013. >The moment that something might possibly be amiss, you’re a mess
  1014. >Well
  1015. >If “a mess” meant that you couldn’t get your mind off of someone, sure
  1016. >It didn’t help that Wallflower was cute
  1017. >Like damn
  1018. >Those freckles did something to your heart, man
  1019. >Not to mention everything else about her
  1020. >It’s because of this worried attitude of yours that you immediately call Wallflower’s phone right after you get off work
  1021. >The phone rings once
  1022. >Twice
  1023. >Three times
  1024. >You’re just about to hang up when the fourth ring is cut short and you can hear someone on the other end
  1025. “Wallflower?”
  1026. >You answer excitedly, glad to finally hear from her
  1027. >But
  1028. >The voice that comes through the receiver isn’t Wallflower’s
  1029. >”Anon? I-Is this Anon?”
  1030. >You look at your phone
  1031. >You knew that voice
  1032. >It was Passionfruit, Wallflower’s mom
  1033. >You’d been to Wallflower’s house once and met her before
  1034. >”You’re Wallflower’s friend, right? Hello?”
  1035. >You don’t even realize you’ve just been staring at your phone the entire time while you wait outside the employee exit
  1036. “Huh? Yeah! Yeah this is Anon, is Wallflower there? I tried to get ahold of her yesterday an-”
  1037. >”Wallflower is in the hospital.”
  1038. “W-What? The hospital?”
  1039. >Why?
  1040. >”They… They say that she was attacked by a Hunger.”
  1041. -
  1042. >A numbness runs up your spine and radiates across your entire body
  1043. >No
  1044. >That can’t be right
  1045. >How?
  1046. >How could one have ever gotten close to her?
  1047. >”Please, Anon you’re her friend, you have to know something! What happened?!”
  1048. >You start to book it down the sidewalk, cutting through traffic as you run towards the hospital
  1049. “I, I don’t know! I’ll be there as soon as I can, just hold on!”
  1050. >You hang up and hastily jam the phone into your pocket, ignoring someone in a pickup truck slamming on the brakes in an effort to not sideswipe you
  1051. >Not that it would have mattered
  1052. >You would have stood up and kept going anyway
  1053. >The water pooling on the sidewalk splashes underfoot with every stride
  1054. >The cold rain stings as it pelts you, matting your hair to your face as you leap a fence to take a shortcut
  1055. >Rainwater soaks deep into your jeans and socks, chilling your skin and sapping your energy
  1056. >It’s as if the world itself had conspired to turn this day into a somber affair
  1057. >You cut through alleys, through parking lots and backyards, inadvertently picking up burs, mud, leaves and twigs
  1058. >By the time you make it to the hospital you’re a soaking wet mess
  1059. >Panicked, you frantically ask where you can find Wallflower Blush
  1060. >You don’t even wait after they tell you where she is
  1061. >You had to see her NOW
  1062. -
  1063. >It doesn’t take you long to shoulder past patients and doctors alike on your way to Wallflower’s room
  1064. >Your shoes squeak on the tiled floor, leaving behind wet footprints
  1065. >Disgruntled nurses are left in your wake, and you’re just about to yank one aside and ask them to point you in the right direction before you spot Wallflower’s mom standing outside of a room
  1066. >You skid to a halt and almost slip before you catch yourself on one of the hand rails lining the wall
  1067. >You can’t bring yourself to look at Passionfruit now, even as she tries to flag you down before entering Wallflower’s room
  1068. >And then you see her
  1069. >Laying there in a hospital bed as a nurse finishes changing her IV
  1070. >All done up in casts and stitches
  1071. >Slightly bloodied bandages all over, even upon her head
  1072. >The one eye that you could still see was gently shut
  1073. >Your best friend
  1074. >Wallflower Blush
  1075. >In an instant you’re right at the side of her bed, softly grabbing her shoulder
  1076. “Wallflower! Wallflower I’m here! It’s me, Anon!”
  1077. >Your grip tightens, and you immediately wrench your hand away
  1078. >You’ve underestimated your strength before
  1079. “Wallflower come on! W-Wake up...”
  1080. >You shut your eyes tight and grit your teeth
  1081. >This had to be a cruel joke
  1082. >Why?
  1083. >Why would something like this happen to a girl like her?
  1084. >She didn’t deserve this
  1085. >Wallflower didn’t deserve any of this
  1086. >You’re fighting back a painful lump in your throat while you’re gripping the bed’s railing so hard that it starts to dent
  1087. >You feel a warm hand placed atop yours
  1088. >”Anon, please...”
  1089. >You open your eyes and turn around, looking down to meet Passionfruit’s gaze
  1090. >She’s a close second to how you look right now, and she didn’t even run several blocks through the rain
  1091. >You blink away the tears in your eyes and take a deep breath
  1092. >You’re supposed to be the strong one here
  1093. >Aren’t you?
  1094. -
  1095. >You sit by the window, doing your best to dry off with a towel graciously provided to you by the Canterlot General Hospital
  1096. >It doesn’t do much to make you feel better however
  1097. >”So you really don’t know anything, do you...”
  1098. >You shake your head sadly and your gaze is drawn to Wallflower once again
  1099. “No. I wasn’t even hanging out with Wallflower yesterday.”
  1100. >Instead you were busy bowling with Sunset and her friends
  1101. >There was no way you could have known something like this would happen
  1102. >And yet you still feel somehow responsible
  1103. “I’m sorry Passionfruit, I just wish that there was something I could do, or could have done.”
  1104. >But now you’re just sitting here
  1105. >Wet and useless
  1106. >What good are your powers if you can’t even use them to save your friend when she needs it?
  1107. >”Please, Anon don’t blame yourself for this. There was no way you could have known this would happen.”
  1108. >Your sentiments exactly
  1109. >”And I doubt even Wallflower would want you to be practically joined at the hip with her.”
  1110. >She pulls you in for a hug and you reciprocate it with a sigh
  1111. >”But they told me that she may not even wake up! T-They’re having to call in a healing specialist and everything!”
  1112. >That bad?
  1113. >You know that those with parasites that can miraculously heal others are in high demand
  1114. >Most if not all are busy helping the H.E.A.R.T. deal with the Hunger problems in more dangerous parts of the city
  1115. >”Worse yet, I… I may not be able to afford Wallflower’s treatment.”
  1116. >You perk up a bit at that, breaking free from your nervous face-rubbing
  1117. >Maybe this was what you could help with
  1118. “I can do my best to help in that department at least! Yeah… I’ve got some, uh, some money saved up. And I’m sure my boss wouldn’t mind giving me more hours.”
  1119. >Your mind is already racing with possible ways you could help Wallflower get better
  1120. >“Anon, I couldn’t ask you to do that.”
  1121. “Well it’s a good thing you don’t have to.”
  1122. -
  1123. >You stay as late as you possibly can
  1124. >In fact the nurses can’t physically remove you from the room, and you end up falling asleep next to Wallflower’s bed
  1125. >When you finally wake up the next morning, you feel stiff, cold, and groggy
  1126. >You’re already late for school by about an hour if the clock is correct
  1127. >You begrudgingly leave Wallflower’s room and slink your way out of the hospital, starting to walk to school in your still-dirty clothes
  1128. >Even if you WANTED to go to school today, you still wouldn’t be able to pay attention in class
  1129. >Mom must be worried sick
  1130. >Probably nothing compared to Wallflower’s mom though
  1131. >And you’re going to have to work your ass off to even put a dent in the exorbitant fucking price of the specialist
  1132. >It just isn’t fair
  1133. >Wallflower doesn’t deserve this!
  1134. >But getting angry isn’t going to help anything
  1135. >You’ll just… Go to school like normal and head straight to your job after to work out a new schedule with your boss
  1136. >Yeah
  1137. >”Like normal”
  1138. -
  1139. >”Ah nearly ran the guy over! He was runnin’ like a chicken on a treadmill with corn at the end!”
  1140. >You sip from a carton of orange juice as you listen to Applejack tell you about how she almost hit Anon yesterday
  1141. >”Oh my… Are you sure that it was him? It WAS raining pretty hard yesterday...”
  1142. >”Fluttershy has a point. In a downpour the likes of which we had yesterday, visibility can go down by almos-”
  1143. >Applejack slams her hands down on the table, making the trays clatter
  1144. >”Ah know what ah saw! ‘cause AH was drivin’!”
  1145. “Nobody is doubting what you saw, Applejack. It’s just odd is all. Why was Anon sprinting in the rain?”
  1146. >”Think it might’ve been some killer inclement weather workout routine?”
  1147. >Rainbow Dash, balancing on two legs of her chair with her feet up on the table, chimes in
  1148. >The group looks at her with varying levels of confusion
  1149. >”What? If Crossfit is a thing, why wouldn’t something like THAT be?”
  1150. >”Ah’m not seein’ it, Dash. Ain’t never seen someone runnin’ with that much purpose more’n a few times before.”
  1151. >”Well why don’t we just ask him!?”
  1152. >Pinkie points at Anon as he enters the cafeteria
  1153. >He looked so haggard, even from here
  1154. >His hair was a mess, his clothes were covered in dirt and mud that was very clearly not from gardening
  1155. >Pinkie summarily jumps onto her seat, pulling a conveniently dangling cord hanging from the ceiling to unfurl a banner with Anon’s face on it, several arrows pointing down, with the text “We saved you a seat!”
  1156. >”Hey! Hey Nonny over here!”
  1157. >...To which he takes one look at and turns away
  1158. >You can almost hear Pinkie deflate as she sits back down
  1159. >Rarity scoffs in surprise
  1160. >”Well, talk about the cold shoulder! And what IS that look he’s going for? Creepy vagrant? Stranded survivor?”
  1161. “That’s certainly an unexpected reaction. What’s wrong with Anon?”
  1162. >”I have no idea! I thought we all had a great time bowling, and he couldn’t have missed my banner!”
  1163. -
  1164. >You’re doing your best not to look at Sunset and her friends
  1165. >Part of you is angry
  1166. >This is why you never opened up to other people
  1167. >This is why you were only friends with Wallflower
  1168. >Other people just complicate things
  1169. >How very edgy of you
  1170. >But
  1171. >You aren’t kidding anyone
  1172. >This isn’t their fault
  1173. >Nor yours
  1174. >It was hopeless to try and blame someone for this
  1175. >But you wanted someone to blame
  1176. >Someone who you could just take out all of your emotions on
  1177. >Maybe you would have to talk to mom about this
  1178. >She’s a good listener…
  1179. >You could always talk to Sunset and her friends but you’ve only known them for all of three days, and only one of them was spent with them
  1180. >And not with Wallflower
  1181. >You bite your tongue, clenching your fist
  1182. >No
  1183. >It’s not their fault
  1184. >The rest of your day passes in a haze of one class to the next
  1185. >You can’t even bring yourself to tend to the garden before you zoom off to go check on Wallflower
  1186. >From there you have to pull yourself away to go the Try N’ Save
  1187. >Thankfully your boss is more than willing to give you more hours after you explain the situation
  1188. >Which begun your agonizing downward spiral
  1189. >Nothing but work until it was well past closing time
  1190. >Followed by you rushing back home to try and get some semblance of rest [spoiler]which could barely even be called that thanks to your nightmare[/spoiler]
  1191. >Before you woke up early for school the next morning to repeat the process
  1192. >School, hospital, work, home, school
  1193. >Interspersed with the most terrifying night of your life on repeat
  1194. >You barely even interact with your mother outside of the occasional greeting or goodbye
  1195. >And it’s not as if you were going to talk with anyone else at school
  1196. >You find yourself trying to get less and less sleep as time goes on
  1197. >But everything is slipping, and your frayed nerves can only take so much
  1198. -
  1199. >You watch your dad’s ribcage get pulled open and the snapping of bones wakes you from the sleep that you’d accidentally fallen into
  1200. >What day is it?
  1201. >The days were just starting to smear together like paint
  1202. >You rub the blurriness from your eyes and glance around
  1203. >Where ARE you?
  1204. >A sterile, clinical smell wafts into your nose and Wallflower’s unconscious body enters your vision as you look down
  1205. >The hospital, right
  1206. >You got here after school ended
  1207. >Or rather you left early to come here
  1208. >It takes a Herculean effort to even look at the clock on the wall, because you just know that you’re late
  1209. >And upon actually looking at it you realize that you’re 2 hours late for work
  1210. >Oh god oh fuck
  1211. >You nearly fall out of your chair as you swing your backpack on and start booking it for the door
  1212. >Only to end up tumbling over several people that were right outside the door and go headfirst into the floor
  1213. >”My word darling, where’s the fire?”
  1214. >Wait
  1215. >Rarity?
  1216. >”Anon are you okay?”
  1217. >Sunset?
  1218. >No, not here!
  1219. >Peeling your face off the tiles and rolling over, you see that the people you’d just ran over (essentially) are none other than Sunset and her friends
  1220. >Rainbow Dash offers you a hand, but you shake your head and spring to your feet before taking off without a word
  1221. >You couldn’t bear facing these girls again
  1222. >Not after how you’d been avoiding them these past weeks
  1223. >You already knew that this was just going to make matters worse, but there’s no way that these girls can help you
  1224. >You don’t have time to make friends when Wallflower needs you
  1225. >”Anon, wait!!”
  1226. >But you’ve already disappeared past the doors into the lobby
  1227. >And out the front doors
  1228. >You’re already tying your apron as you run, and with any luck, your boss will understand
  1229. >You just hope that when all of this is over that Sunset and her friends will understand too
  1230. -
  1231. >”Now what in tarnation was THAT all about?!”
  1232. >Applejack holds her hat while she gestures down the hallway that Anon had just run down
  1233. >”If that’s not avoiding us, then I don’t know what is.”
  1234. “Yeah, but why? Was it something we did?”
  1235. >”If you girls knew what he was going through, you’d know why.”
  1236. >An unfamiliar voice addressing you catches your attention and you turn around to see…
  1237. >A plainly dressed older woman in a raincoat and khakis
  1238. >She was probably in her 30s, and her deep crimson hair was cut short and tomboyish
  1239. >Several freckles ran across her cheeks and nose
  1240. >”Are you also friends with Anon?”
  1241. >She asks, tilting her head slightly to one side
  1242. >Well, it’s not really that far along yet, and-
  1243. >”Of course! But then again most friends don’t usually greet each other by running away at full speed!”
  1244. >Thanks Pinkie
  1245. “Yeah. But how do you know him?”
  1246. >The woman casts a solemn look your way before she enters the hospital room that Anon had come barreling out of
  1247. >”He’’s my daughter’s friend.”
  1248. >She leaves the door open for you to follow her, and when you do, the reason for Anon’s strange behavior becomes apparent
  1249. >There’s a collective gasp from the girls when they see Wallflower in the bed
  1250. “What… Happened?”
  1251. -
  1252. >Wallflower’s mother explains to you what had happened
  1253. >That Wallflower had been attacked by a Hunger and that Anon was working to try and help pay for the treatment she would need
  1254. >”But why not tell US about it? He’s a tough guy but he can’t shoulder all that himself!”
  1255. >”Well, in a way Anon is holding himself responsible for letting this happen. Even after I told him not to...”
  1256. >Twilight, punching away at a calculator with her pen, grimaces
  1257. >”But even taking into account the most generous estimation of Anon’s wages, there’s no possible way he could-”
  1258. >”I know!”
  1259. >Passionfruit cuts her off sharply before she regains her composure
  1260. >”And I think he does too.”
  1261. >”T-Then why work himself to exhaustion?”
  1262. >”Fluttershy dear, isn’t it obvious? It’s some odd form of atonement. Even if perhaps he doesn’t fully realize it, he’s punishing himself for not being there for his friend.”
  1263. >Rarity does her best to fix some of Wallflower’s hair without getting too involved
  1264. >Meanwhile, even Pinkie’s lost a bit of her usual energy
  1265. >”And I guess that being out bowling with us while it happened doesn’t help either...”
  1266. >”Half the time he doesn’t even go back home to sleep, he just falls asleep in here.”
  1267. >This is all painting a rather concerning picture
  1268. >And this has been going on for weeks!
  1269. >”Please, Sunset you’ve got to help him. He just can’t keep this up forever, one of these days he’s going to push himself too hard… And I don’t think that Wallflower would ever want to see him like this either.”
  1270. >You stand up from the seat next to her
  1271. >”He just needs someone to talk to; to let him know that he doesn’t have to go through all this alone.”
  1272. >Passionfruit was right
  1273. >Anon needed your help
  1274. -
  1275. >By the time you get to work, it’s already too late
  1276. >They’d called in someone else to cover your shift, and upon seeing your current state, your boss decided that it was probably best if you took the day off
  1277. >Despite your pleading, somewhere in your mind you knew that he was right
  1278. >You were basically dead on your feet at this point, and someone (or you) could get seriously hurt if you worked in the state you were in
  1279. >[spoiler]Wouldn’t want someone ELSE getting hurt because of you, right?[/spoiler]
  1280. >If the sound of your stomach growling is any indicator, you need something to eat
  1281. >When was the last time you had a meal?
  1282. >Oh
  1283. >Right
  1284. >The day before yesterday
  1285. >At lunch
  1286. >But it just feels wrong doing nothing while Wallflower is in the hospital
  1287. >Hell, even doing something for yourself felt wrong
  1288. >You don’t deserve it, horrible friend that you are
  1289. >You stuff your apron into your bag without bothering to fold it and exit the Try N Save™
  1290. >What sounded good right about now?
  1291. >Something quick, preferably
  1292. >Seeing Sunset earlier had unfortunately reminded you that you never actually did the report that Mr. Doodle assigned
  1293. >And by extension neither had she
  1294. >Fuck, now you’ve got one more thing to add in to your list of screwups
  1295. >And the garden too…
  1296. >Wallflower was going to kill you when she got better
  1297. >
  1298. >If she got better
  1299. >Your stomach growls again and breaks you out of the sadness spiral you were about to get yourself into
  1300. >You know what?
  1301. >Your buddy Deep Fry over at the Red Dragon could hook you up with some Chinese food
  1302. >Extra fortune cookies too
  1303. >Yeah
  1304. >Everyone needs a break, right?
  1305. >Even you
  1306. -
  1307. >It’s a relatively short walk to the Red Dragon
  1308. >Thankfully mom owns a place within walking distance of most things
  1309. >You’ve tried driving before, but you grip the steering wheel way too hard and had to replace it more than a few times
  1310. >The strangest memories always surface in times like this, don’t they?
  1311. >The familiar double chime of a bell on the door chimes when you enter
  1312. >”Anon, my favorite customer! Where have you been the past couple weeks? I’ve been worried about you!”
  1313. >Deep Fry throws his hands up cheerfully as he greets you
  1314. >He wasn’t too much older than you were, but he was still very much in the realm of “young adult”
  1315. >Messy, jade colored hair was pulled back into a ponytail and he was wearing some kind of graphic t-shirt that was half-covered up by the counter
  1316. >When he graduated, he took over his family’s business
  1317. “Hey Fry. I’ve just been uh… Going through some things.”
  1318. >”Yeah? How many things, because you look like shit.”
  1319. >The sounds of an angry Chinese woman echo from the kitchen, to which Deep Fry winces
  1320. >”Yeah yeah I know, mom!”
  1321. >He leans on the counter, looking up at you with a smile
  1322. >”So what’ll it be my man? The usual?”
  1323. >You nod
  1324. “Yep. And with some extra fortune cookies if you can swing it.”
  1325. >”Pffsh, ‘if I can swing it.’ Anon buddy I’m gonna put so many damn cookies in that bag you’re gonna be sick of them.”
  1326. >You let out an amused exhale through your nose before paying up and taking a seat
  1327. >Feels like it’s been forever since you could just slow down
  1328. >But it doesn’t take long for your order to be done and just as soon as you’re starting to relax, you’re already standing up and leaving
  1329. >”Don’t be a stranger, buddy!”
  1330. >Time to head home
  1331. -
  1332. >It’s such a small respite, but you’re actually looking forward to going home and eating your comfort food
  1333. >Then you’d be back at it again with renewed energy
  1334. >You put your key in and turn, opening the door
  1335. >And as you step back inside your house for the first time in days
  1336. >Your foot catches the welcome mat and you trip
  1337. >You close your eyes, letting go of your food to catch yourself instead of slamming facefirst into the floor
  1338. >When you open them, all you’re greeted with is lo mein, fried rice, and crushed fortune cookie bits all over mom’s pristine white carpet
  1339. >And something inside of you finally snaps
  1340. >All of the sadness you’ve been holding back over these past few weeks starts to bubble to the surface
  1341. >Such a tiny thing as this was all it took to send you over the edge
  1343. >You sit there on your hands and knees as the tears start to well up over such a trivial fucking thing as spilled lo mein
  1344. >You’re pathetic
  1345. >A pathetic excuse of a man that couldn’t even keep his only friend safe
  1346. >One that persisted to lie to himself about just how capable he was of saving her after he failed to when she really needed it
  1347. >And even then you became a wreck after only a few weeks
  1348. >It was like you weren’t even trying!
  1349. >All that effort and what do you have to show for it?
  1350. >Spilled lo mein
  1351. >You had done the math yourself, triple-checked it
  1352. >There was no way that you possibly could have even scraped the surface of the price tag on Wallflower’s treatment
  1353. >And yet you insisted on continuing your doomed spiral of working yourself into oblivion
  1354. >Your hands ball into fists and right as you’re about to start sobbing, you feel the familiar embrace of your mother
  1355. >”Anon, honey what’s wrong?”
  1356. “Fucking… Spilled it...”
  1357. >”Is that all, sweetie? It’s not a big deal, really, I can-”
  1358. >You bury your face into her shoulder and finally start to cry all of the tears that you’d been holding back over these past few days
  1359. -
  1360. >By the time you’re done your eyes sting and your throat hurts, but you can finally explain to mom what was really wrong
  1361. “She’s… She’s in the hospital, mom. Wallflower got attacked by a Hunger and… And her mom and I can’t even pay for her to be healed!”
  1362. >You clutch at her back like you did when you were small
  1363. >It has to be hurting her with how hard you’re clenching your fists, but she doesn’t seem to mind
  1364. >Instead she just pets your head in that soft, gentle manner she always did
  1365. >”So that’s why you’ve been working yourself to death, isn’t it.”
  1366. >You nod, further dampening her shoulder
  1367. >She pulls away for just a moment to lift your head up so you could speak eye to eye
  1368. >”Why didn’t you say anything, Anon? You could have talked to me.”
  1369. >She doesn’t even sound angry, just concerned
  1370. “I… I just… It was my fault, mom. I wasn’t there to protect her! So I’m the one that has to fix it.”
  1371. >Your mother simply sighs
  1372. >”Honey, it wasn’t your fault. You aren’t to blame here. But there’s no way you can help anyone if you’re like this.”
  1373. “But mom there’s no way I can help regardless. No matter how much I work it’s just...”
  1374. >You trail off, unable to finish that sentence
  1375. >She gently brushes your bangs out of your face
  1376. >”Anon, you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it, and that includes this. I think that you just didn’t have the right perspective. In fact, I seem to recall that you’ve got a way to help Wallflower that you’ve been ignoring every day, but...”
  1377. >There’s a way?
  1378. >She looks at you with concern
  1379. >”Well I would never even want to suggest putting my son in danger.”
  1380. >You sit up straight, filled with a renewed vigor
  1381. “Please mom, if there’s a way you have to tell me!”
  1382. >She gives you a look that only a mom can give
  1383. >The kind that says “I don’t want to do this, but I still can’t say no to my son”
  1384. >”The top spot of the C.P.R. has an absurdly large pool of money as it’s prize, doesn’t it?”
  1385. >And the realization slams into you like a truck
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