She had a feeling that things were going to change. She didn’t know what, exactly, but she could see herself trotting down that path, day after day. Something was coming up on the road she had been traveling, but what it was, exactly, she couldn’t tell. It scared her. And she was never scared.
Things were going to change.
“Ah still don’t understand why ya have to take me into the Everfree Forest!” The orange cowpony complained to her pink companion, who was hopping up and down as they walked through the thick trees.
“I told you already, you silly silly filly,” the pink one said. “We have to get to Zecora’s so we can get some of the super fun stuff she created for the party we’re throwing in Ponyville tonight!” The orange one sighed.
‘Does everything have to be parties with Pinkie Pie?’ she thought. “Alright, but ah still don’t see what any of this has to do with bringin’ me along.”
“It’s a lot of stuff!” Pinkie said proudly, a grin plastered on her face. “We need more than just two ponies to bring all of it into town! So, I thought to myself, ‘Pinkie, who better to help you out than your super strong friend Applejack?!’ And then I said to myself, ‘Pinkie, you are so right! I’ll just go over to Sweet Apple Acres and-’”
“Ah told y’all earlier today that ah had to do work around the farm since it was Big Macintosh’s day off,” Applejack scolded. “Why didn’t ya ask somepony else, like Rainbow Dash?”
“Rainbow’s busy clearing the clouds today,” Pinkie said, not losing her exuberant energy one bit. “Besides, she’s not nearly as strong as you are! And we need all the strength we can get from one pony!” Applejack merely groaned as they continued to trot. She stopped, however, once Pinkie turned an unexpected turn into a darker patch of trees; one that Applejack had never been through.
“Pinkie, where do ya think you’re goin’?” Pinkie turned around. “Zecora’s house is along this path here. We just need to keep goin’ straight, avoid the poison joke, and-”
“Iiii found a shortcuuuuut~!” Pinkie proclaimed in a sing-song voice, interrupting Applejack’s statement. “Seriously; this way takes tons less time than that old, boring path! Plus, it’s a lot more funnerific!” Applejack glanced from her friend to the well-worn path; then back to Pinkie, and then to the trail again.
“Well, ah-” But Pinkie had already started walking, singing a song about trees as she did so. Nervously, Applejack followed her into the darkness.
“Did AJ ever say where she was goin’?” The red stallion asked. He had been plowing for the majority of the day, not minding the extra work that had been thrust upon him due to his sister’s sudden absence, and was now resting underneath a large apple tree. The filly he had addressed was studying a book that her class was assigned to read under a tree next to him. The cover was a simple blue, and the story was a simple tale of two ponies that would simply fall in love and had to overcome all sorts of not so simple obstacles in order to simply end up together. And then they would die.
“Ah still don’t understand why we have ta read this stuff…” She mumbled, flipping the page of the book she was so bored with.
“Apple Bloom, did ya hear me?”
“Ah think she said somethin’ about goin’ to Zecora’s. Don’t understand why she couldn’t take me along with her.”
Big Mac grunted unhappily as he stood up on his sturdy hooves. “It’s prob’ly important work. She wouldn’t have left the farm today if it wasn’t important. Don’t matter. Besides, you have work of your own to be doin’, little filly.” He began to trot off and resume his day of work “…And ah don’t like that Everfree Forest,” he added in a quiet mumble.
“Hm. Well, I don’t remember that from before.”
She knew this would happen. Applejack banged her head against a tree in frustration. She just knew that they’d get lost.
“Ooh, it’s that tree!” Applejack looked up to see Pinkie staring at one of the many trees surrounding them.
“Pinkie, it looks just like all the other trees,” she said, using every fiber of her being to keep herself calm. “There’s nothin’ special about it.”
“Huh… nope! I’m sure of it; this is the tree I passed the first time I went this way! Now, was it ten trots, or twenty trots west… or east? Which way is which? Hm.” Applejack had had just about enough of it. She began to trot away when she heard something in the distance. The sound was hard to make out, but she couldn’t place what it reminded her of…
“Oh right, silly me; we have to keep going this way!” Pinkie rushed ahead of Applejack as she bounced off. Applejack followed quickly. At long last, they had reached a clearing, and the source of the sound Applejack had heard earlier.
The stream ran wide and fast. It also appeared to be very deep; the two ponies noted that it wasn’t the same river as the one occupied by the sea serpent several miles off. Maybe an estuary of that one, perhaps, but not the same exact one. “Huh. Don’t remember this being here,” Pinkie said as she began to walk off, looking for the way to Zecora’s; something to trigger a memory.
Applejack, on the other hand, remained still. Not noticing Pinkie leave, she whispered aloud. “Ah… ah remember this place…” She put a hoof into the water, then another. The water was cool and steady. “Ah… ah don’t remember ever comin’ here, but…” Suddenly, the quick pace of the steady stream of water died down. The liquid was still. Nervously, she walked further into the river, looking around, trying to understand all the feelings going through her. She heard another sound; something different than that of the water…
She saw him standing several hundred feet away, farther down the water. He was small; maybe a year or two older than Apple Bloom. His body was tinted a bright and lively shade of green; not a bit of him looked sickly or pale. He was built much like Big Macintosh, Applejack noted. The pony was taking a drink from the still stream. He looked up and saw the mare staring at him. She wanted to look away, embarrassed, but she couldn’t. Something kept her gaze fixated on the colt. He smiled at her.
“I found it!” Applejack looked back to find Pinkie Pie running back to the edge of the stream. “Applejack, what are you doing all the way out there in the water? Ooh, is this a new game?” The cowpony looked away from Pinkie and back to the- where was he?
The pony from before was gone. She slowly made her way back to the ground, shaking the water off of her. “…Anyway, I found the way to Zecora’s! Come on!” Pinkie bolted away, with Applejack trotting slowly behind her. Applejack looked back one final time at the river before disappearing into the trees again.
She could still hear that sound… that song…
Something was wrong. Something had been changed.
It scared her.
apples and acres
Applejack woke up very early that morning with a smile on her face. She wouldn’t let her lack of sleep that past night dampen her exuberance. The sun hadn’t begun to peak over the hills yet. She walked through the large abode in which she lived happily, looking at the pictures hanging on the wall of her entire family with joy; however, she focused on the photos that captured her immediate relatives. Her parents had died several years ago, and Granny Smith had passed on a month or two ago due to old age, but with Big Mac being the man of the house, they never had anything to fear. She knew that the four of them had lived on Sweet Apple Acres for years without a problem, with extended family visits never unexpected and always welcome. Though, they hadn’t had a reunion in quite some time.
‘Maybe we should have one soon…’ she thought, smiling at the pictures. ‘But then again, who needs the rest of them? We’re the perfect loving family, so adoring. And I love them every day of every week. So, my little brother raises hell, my older one is boring, and my sister, though a genius, is a freak.’ She sighed. ‘Still, I help them love each other. Colts and fillies; sisters, brothers, cheek to cheek.’ She was broken from her reverie when she heard a noise from the kitchen. Nervous, she walked inside, seeing Apple Bloom sitting at the table, a large textbook sitting on top of it. Her eyes scanned the content of the pages tiredly. “Sugarcube, is everything alright?” Applejack asked gently. Apple Bloom looked over at her older sister, startled by the noise. “It ain’t even time to get ready for school yet.” The yellow filly yawned loudly.
“Everythin’s fine, AJ,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “But it is mah last year studyin’ at school here; ah need to work real hard if ah wanna get to go to Canterlot.” Applejack remembered; Apple Bloom had been going on about it for several months now. There was a special, selective two week program at Canterlot for young ponies who had just finished their primary school studies and wanted to pursue learning. And Apple Bloom, who - along with her two friends, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle - still had not gained her cutie mark, wanted to get in so that she could find out what it was that she was meant to do. Applejack smiled.
“Alright, just don’t work yourself too hard,” she said. “Take some time for yourself… you’re growin’ up so fast. Ya only live once, remember that.’ Apple Bloom muttered something, acknowledging what her sister had just said, as Applejack left the room.
She soon found herself walking into her older brother’s room up on the second floor. The red stallion was sleeping in his bed soundly, his snores filling the dark room. Trotting over to his bedside, she nudged his shoulder, eliciting a grunt from the older pony. “Time to get up,” she said in a kind whisper. He grunted once more, removing himself from the confines of his bed. “Ah’ll go get yer coffee started.”
“Much obliged, li’l sis,” Big Mac said, stretching his legs as he yawned. Applejack smirked at her brother, planted a small kiss on his cheek, then left for the kitchen once more.
When she returned, she found Apple Bloom sleeping, drool leaking onto the open pages of the book she had been studying moments before. Applejack wiped up some of the liquid with a nearby towel, letting the filly get at least a little bit of sleep in before she had to go to school. She moved over to the coffee pot and began to get a cup of joe ready for her older brother.
“Hey, sis!” She turned around and saw the green colt trot in, a smile on his face. Smirking back, she gave him a peck on the cheek like she had done to Big Mac before.
“What’re you doin’ up so early?” She asked the pony. He groaned in response.
“I couldn’t sleep that well,” he said.
Applejack shook her head. “Well, if it’s any consolation, ah couldn’t sleep well either.”
“And your reason is?”
Her smile disappeared as she grew somber. “It’s the seventh night this week ah’ve lied in bed ‘til mornin’ imaginin’ the ways ya might have died.”
“Ah, yes, and today’s winner is?” An apple from the counter made its way into her younger brother’s mouth.
She inhaled deeply. “In a freak September ice storm with no warnin‘.”
“Because that happens,” he sarcastically commented, biting into the apple expertly.
She continued. “There’s a gang war. There’s a riot. Trains collide.”
“This is about the trouble in Stalliongrad, isn’t it? What did I say about watching the news?”
“Ah waited fer ya all night; sneakin’ in while ah slept fer an hour? Now yer actin’ sweet an’ surly, but ya swore ya’d come home early. An’ ya lied.”
He bit into the core of the apple, finishing it off, as he began to walk away. “You’ve gotta let go, sis. I’m almost eight!”
“Growin’ colts still need their sleep.”
Rolling his eyes, he spun around. “How can I sleep, when I have to be babied for my whole life? Come on; I’m a whole year older than Apple Bloom!” He pointed at the sleeping filly to make a point. “Why do I always have to be treated like I’m the little one?“ He asked, huffing. Applejack chuckled softly.
“All ya need to remember,” she said, patting the slightly smaller pony on the head, “is that we all love ya very much. So, what have ya got to be upset about when ya have fam’ly?” Her eyes were met with her brother’s smiling face. “An’ a great body to boot! Whah, ah think ya could be as built as Big Macintosh in, well, two months!”
His eyes glowed. “Really?”
“Would ah lie ta you?” She asked, hugging him closely. “But only if ya work hard out on the farm. Now git!” Applejack gave him a pat on the back as he chuckled and started toward the kitchen door. The slow trotting of hooves on the stairs above them caused him to stop. “Hurry up,” she continued.
“Why does he hate me?” He asked, looking up. Applejack raised a hoof to her chin in mock thought. She shrugged her shoulders.
“Because you’re a little mule.”
The other one smirked. “You can’t call me a mule,” he said. Apple Bloom mumbled in her sleep, opening her eyes for a brief second before closing them again. “Morning, sunshine.” With that, he left, heading outside toward the trees as Big Macintosh trundled into the kitchen.
As if on cue, the pot of coffee began to boil.
Just the four of them.
Just another day.
She had forgotten to take the pills that day.
She found herself in the bathroom, looking at herself in the mirror. The mirror, which was above the sink. The sink, which was next to the toilet. The toilet, which was next to the doorway. The closed doorway. She examined the bags under her eyes. The cowpony hat on top of her neatly brushed mane. The completely average - if not slightly toned - physique. Everything was normal. Nothing had changed.
Or so she had hoped. She recalled what had happened over the last month.
It had started with a conversation.
“AJ, are ya alright?” The pony tossed the bale of hay into the barn and looked over her shoulder to see Big Mac standing behind her. She flashed a phony smile as she began to walk past him.
“Ah’m fine, of course ah’m fine,” she said, trotting away. “Why wouldn’t it be fine?”
“It’s just,” Big Mac started. Applejack looked at him once more. She was confused; Big Mac wasn’t very outspoken. He’d only talk when he felt he needed to. Obviously, something was up. “Apple Bloom’s noticed it too.”
“You’re not the same, AJ,” Big Mac said. Applejack was taken aback. “Ya seem stressed an’ tired. An’… there’s no reason for that. It’s not even Applebuck Season; ya shouldn’t be this worn out.” Applejack looked at him with wide eyes. He sighed and nuzzled her head in a protective manner. “AJ, ah know you’re a hard worker.” She looked away from him. “But I think ya need some rest. After all, we have a lot of big plans for next month; ’specially with Apple Bloom graduatin’ an’ all.” Applejack nodded reluctantly in agreement. “She’s been workin’ really hard. An’ she really wants to go to Canterlot.”
“Ah know,” Applejack said with a small smirk, pulling herself away from her older brother for a moment, “so she’s the one ya’ll should be worryin’ about. Not me.”
“But yer our glue,” Big Mac said, putting a comforting hoof on her shoulder. “Yer what holds this family together.”
And that’s when it hit her.
“So you’re graduating in a few months, right?” The purple baby dragon asked Apple Bloom as they sat down in front of the tree that acted as the library of the town.
“Next month, as a matter ah fact, Spike,” Apple Bloom replied. Spike whistled.
“Wow,” he said. “Time really flies by here in Ponyville.”
“For you, maybe,” she said. “Ah’ve been workin’ mah tail off tryin’ to keep mah grades up.”
“What do you plan to do after school here?”
“Well, since ah still don’t have mah cutie mark,” she said, looking at her blank flank, “ah want to go to Canterlot. Ah think goin’ ta such a big place could open up a buncha possibilities for me.”
“Wow, Canterlot U, huh?” Spike asked. “But don’t you need to be, like, a genius to get in there?”
“That’s why ah’ve been tryin’ so hard,” Apple Bloom said. “Ah really want this, so ah’ve been studyin’ all day an’ night for all mah extra classes.” She yawned, as if to emphasize the point. “It’s really hurtin’.”
“I think you need to take some time to relax,” Spike said.
“Ah can’t do that; not until the end of the year.”
“Come on! Work isn’t everything! You need to live a little!”
“So, Spike,” Apple Bloom started, wanting to change the conversation, “how’re things goin’ with ya an’ Rarity?” The mentioning of the pony of his dreams caused him to chuckle slightly.
“Eh, I’ve abandoned all hope,” he said, waving his hand through the air. “She’ll never see me the same way I see her.” Apple Bloom playfully hugged Spike.
“Well, ah wouldn’t worry ‘bout it. Ah’m sure there’s someone out there in Equestria for everypony.”
“Everypony, maybe,” he said, chuckling. “But what about everydragon?”
The two laughed in unison as they enjoyed each other’s company.
“…And that’s all that happened.” The purple unicorn listened intently as she stared at the pony opposite her. Applejack had come over to the library to talk with one of her best friends, Twilight Sparkle. Applejack had been feeling unwell, and, not wanting to go to the hospital and having to deal with those pesky, annoying nurse ponies, opted to talk with her magical friend. Twilight had asked her about the last few months, wanting to know if this sort of thing had happened before. She recounted her journey with Pinkie into the Everfree Forest.
“Anything else you remember out of the ordinary from that trip?” Twilight asked. Applejack shook her head.
“It’s just like ah told ya, Twilight,” she said. “Ah reached that river, felt kinda strange, then walked away. But after that… ah felt like somethin’ changed in me.” She buried her head in her hooves. “Ah don’t know what it is!”
“I’m sure it isn’t that bad, Applejack,” Twilight lied. The pony before her had noticeably lost weight over the past few weeks, and her lack of energy only made her worry even more. But she didn’t want to have Applejack worry too much. “All you need is rest!” Applejack scoffed at the comment.
“You and ah both know that ah need much more than rest,” she said. “Which is part of the reason why ah came to you.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Yer magic! You can use one of yer hokey-pokey spells to get me out of this… whatever the hay it is.”
“Applejack, you’ve never been fond of me using my magic before to help you. Remember? ‘That’s not how we do things ’round here in Ponyville’?” Twilight put on a southern accent in a poor attempt to imitate the other.
“Psh. Ah know, Twilight. And ah’m sorry ’bout that. But this is different!”
“How is it different?” Twilight asked, raising her voice a touch.
“Because this is somethin’ much more than just… gatherin’ apples or… plantin’ seeds,” Applejack said.
“More than tradition?”
“Much more. This is family.” Applejack looked down, trying to avoid Twilight’s gaze. “Ah’m… the glue. Ah could lose them. And ah don’t want to lose what ah have.” She looked out the window of the library, and could see Apple Bloom talking with Spike. The two of them laughed, and began to run off out of sight. “She needs me. They need me. An’ now ah see her feel the fire. Now ah know she needs me there to help.” She chuckled hollowly. “Ah’m nowhere.” Applejack turned back to Twilight. “You understand, don’t ya?” Twilight sighed.
“…Zecora gave me a few different medicines,” she said after a long pause. Applejack perked up with hope. “New ones. She made them from pre-existing formulas and recent studies at Canterlot University. They’re only samples, primarily for research and testing purposes. Allegedly, they can help with… calming a pony down. Easing pain. Keeping them from being… depressed.”
“But…?” Twilight looked at her friend with sad eyes.
“I wouldn’t feel right giving them to you without having them properly and fully tested.”
“Ah can be a test subject!”
“I can’t let my best friend do that!” Twilight said, backing up in frustration. “There’s no telling what side effects there could be to these things! I don’t know; Zecora doesn’t know!” Applejack looked deep into her friend’s eyes and could see that she was holding something back.
“How long have ya been researching these medicines?”
“A few weeks,” Twilight mumbled. Applejack inched closer.
“Ah beg yer pardon? Ah didn’t quite catch that.”
“The whole month,” Twilight confessed. “And no; nothing bad has happened yet in the research to show that they’re deadly or poisonous or… whatever.” Twilight could see that Applejack was beginning to grin at her. “But Applejack, nothing has come up that’s shown that they work either!”
“No harm, no foul, am ah right?” Applejack asked. “And if ah feel odd or funny, ah’ll be sure ta tell ya!”
“Please, Twilight,” she pleaded. “Ah can’t let mahself go crazy. Big Mac… Sweet Apple Acres… they mean all of Equestria to me.” Twilight groaned in defeat.
“Alright, but promise that you’ll be careful,” she said, walking up to her bedroom. The unicorn returned moments later with two bottles with different labels on them. “Take the white pills once every night with a glass of water, take the yellow ones twice a day with food, but be sure to place at least three hours of time between the yellow ones and white ones to allow for…”
“Come on, Apple Bloom,” Applejack said, emerging from Twilight’s house and library while putting the bottles into her saddlebags. “Say goodbye to Spike, it’s time to go home.”
“Can’t we just hang out for a few more minutes?”
“Don’t ya need to study for them tests comin’ up?” The little one scoffed.
“Now ya care.”
“Ah hear ya, ah hear ya… see ya later Spike.”
The effects were already becoming evident. Applejack was much more calm and subdued. She’d go about to do her daily work, as would Big Mac, and would help prepare dinner for the family when they were both done.
But she felt like something was missing.
“Well, ah had to come on over ta’ thank ya fer this, Twilight Sparkle,” Big Mac said upon arriving at the library. “Applejack is years better. Eeeyup.”
“Just make sure she sticks to the instructions I laid out for her,” Twilight said, happy that it was working but still worried. “I don’t want her to get hurt because of this.”
“Don’t you worry,” he said as he prepared to leave. “Everything is under control.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Well, Twilight… ah don’t feel terrible. Ah don’t feel dizzy. Or tired. Or overworked.”
Ah don’t feel anything.
She was standing in front of the mirror. The half empty containers of pills were in the open medicine cabinet.
“Applejack?” Turning, she saw her younger brother in the doorway. “It’s half past midnight; is something wrong?” She felt as if she hadn’t seen him in weeks. He yawned while waiting for a response.
“Sorry, sugarcube,” she said. “Ah’ll be back to bed… in a few minutes. Don’t ya worry none.” Unconvinced, her younger brother walked in and looked at the pills in the cabinet.
“You know, I think these are doing something to you,” he said, closing the cabinet. “You don’t need them,” he whispered before leaving the room.
“Sugarcube?” Applejack called. She could see the green coat of her brother return to the doorway out of the corner of her misty eyes. “Ah… miss the mountains,” she admitted. “Ah miss the dizzy heights. All the manic magic days an’ the dark depressin’ nights. Ah miss the highs and lows. All the climbin’, all the fallin’…”
She thought of the days of her youth wistfully, closing her eyes and remembering a time when she would run around with her only care being tending the farm. And to her family. “An’ all the while the wild wind blows, stainin’ you with snow, an’ soakin’ you with rain. Ah miss the pain.” Opening her sad eyes, she gazed at her reflection once more. A hollow chuckle escaped her mouth before she continued talking to her brother.
“Mountains make ya crazy! Here it’s calm, and mah hooves are on the ground. Everythin’ is balanced here and on an even keel. Everythin’ is perfect!… Nothin’s real!” With that statement, she forcefully re-opened the medicine cabinet and removed the two bottles with her mouth, setting them on the sink. She opened up the toilet seat cover. “Nothing’s real!” Applejack reached up with her hooves and, in a flash, took her hat off her head and threw it aside. She didn’t bother to look over at the doorway to see that her younger brother was no longer standing there; didn’t bother to notice that she was speaking to herself. Her hooves and head had begun to shake erratically, trembling at random. It was as if a shock of electricity was coursing through her body.
“And I miss the mountains!” With a glare and a quick hoof, she knocked one of the bottles on its side. The pills inside of it fell into the toilet. “Oh, ah miss the lonely climb!” She undid her elastic hairbands, tossing her mane around while mussing it up with her hooves. “Wand’rin’ through the wilderness, and spending all mah time where the air is clear an’ cuts you like a knife!”
Suddenly, she stopped. Her breathing was heavy, and she was gasping for air. The reflection in the mirror stared back at her. Hair was strewn everywhere. Her once beautiful mane was now messy and unkempt. “Ah miss… mah life.”
With lucid eyes, she looked at the final bottle of white pills. Trembling, she picked it up with her mouth, and dumped its contents into the toilet as well. With a shaking hoof, she flushed them down the drain, watching them disappear.
She waited to feel again.
“I miss… my… life.”
The cowpony was walking back from the Ponyville marketplace where she had been shopping when she turned around to see the blue pegasus who had called out her name. “Oh, hey there, Rainbow Dash,” she said, a complacent smile on her face. “How’re ya?”
“I should be the one asking you that question!” The laughing pony said. “I heard that you’ve been a little unwell.” The smile disappeared from Applejack’s face, replaced with one of fear.
“Wha-what’d ya hear?”
“Eh, nothin’ much,” she said. “Just that you’ve been a little under the weather.” The other thanked Celestia profusely inside her head.
“Right, that’s all,” she muttered. “Ah’ve been gettin’ loads better, though.”
“Good to know. And I’m doing great!” Rainbow Dash spread out her wings to emphasize the point. “I hear the Wonderbolts are gonna come to Fillydelphia sometime soon, and since that’s not far off, I’m thinking I’m gonna go out there and show them my stuff!” The mentioning of the famous aerial team made the other chuckle in appreciation and admiration.
“Ah’m happy fer ya, sugarcube,” she said.
“But ya know,” Rainbow Dash continued, taking on a more serious tone, “it’s been awhile since the gang’s gotten all together. The six of us, I mean.” She sighed. “I don’t know how long I’ll be gone once I go off to Fillydelphia. Before I leave, I want us to all… ya know, hang out again! Go on an adventure!”
“Ya haven’t been seein’ Twilight and the others recently then?”
“Actually… I have. All of them. We’ve done stuff, but… it’s just not the same without you. We miss you.” Applejack could almost tell that Rainbow Dash was hiding something more, but she brushed it aside.
“We’ll do somethin’ before ya leave,” she said, the smile returning to her face. “Ah promise ya.” With that, she continued on her way back to the farm, leaving a discontent pegasus pony behind her.
“Happy birthday to you…”
The acres were quiet as dusk began to settle over the farm. The sky was a myriad of oranges, reds, and pinks. Soon, they would give way to Princess Luna’s illustrious night, where only the darkest of blues and blacks would appear. The solitary sound that could be heard was that of three voices, singing in unison inside the living quarters of the house.
“Happy birthday to you…”
Smiles were on every face as the apple cake was placed on the table in front of the birthday filly. Six candles were ablaze.
“Happy birthday to Apple Bloom…”
She began to inhale, even before the singing had finished.
“Happy birthday to you!”
As soon as the last note was hit, clopping of hooves and soft cheers began to echo throughout the room. Apple Bloom blew out all six candles in one breath.
“Thanks, y’all,” she said. “This really means a lot ta me.”
“Well, of course,” Big Mac said. “We’re yer family. We have to celebrate your birthday. ’Course, the big event won’t be for another few weeks.”
“Ah sure am glad ah could convince Pinkie Pie to combine the end of school celebrations with mah own birthday party,” Apple Bloom said. “Ah can’t go crazy partyin’ before all mah tests are done.”
“And like I said, you need to live a little!” Spike said, giving her a pat on the shoulder.
“Which is whah we’re havin’ this little celebration right now,” she responded. “All ah need is fam’ly.” Her smile illuminated her face. Meanwhile, Big Mac was looking around the kitchen for his other sister.
“Now where did AJ run off to?” He thought aloud, moving out of the room in search for the missing pony.
“Thanks fer comin’, Spike,” Apple Bloom said, serving Spike a small slice of the cake. It had been Apple Bloom herself that had insisted on bringing Spike to the small party.
“Don’t mention it!” He said before taking a bite out of the cake. “Anything for you, Apple Bloom!” Pieces of apple cake were sprayed on the table from Spike’s mouth as Apple Bloom giggled at the dragon’s behavior. He quickly reached for a napkin and wiped the residue off both his mouth and the table. “Pardon me; I don’t know where my manners were.”
“Now what’s this here?” Apple Bloom asked, feigning curiosity. “Spike? Actually concerned ‘bout manners?” Hearty laughs escaped from her mouth. “Wow, ain’t that a surprise!” Spike raised his eyebrows slyly.
“Oh yeah? Well how’s THIS for a surprise?” With that, he rushed forward and began a tickle attack, targeting the space under her forelegs. She burst into laughter practically immediately after his claws touched her, almost falling off her chair in the process. Spike chuckled maniacally as he continued his assault. “Where’s your precious Celestia now?! Ha ha ha!”
“S-s-stop!” Apple Bloom cried out in between fits of giggling. “Ha ha h- OOF!” The game was interrupted as the two of them came tumbling down, Apple Bloom falling backward off the chair, and Spike, losing his balance, falling with her. Their fall was broken by the soft carpet beneath that section of the dining room, with the dragon landing on top of the filly in a very uncomfortable position. After several moments, he pulled himself off of her as he blushed, muttering a small “sorry”. She straightened herself out as she got up, putting the chair back into an upright position.
Not a moment had passed since the chair was fixed that Applejack walked into the room tiredly. “Whah, ah never,” she muttered to herself. The two children spun around and froze, as if Applejack had caught them doing an unthinkable act. “Ah can’t believe yer brother, little sis.” The two breathed a sigh of relief.
“What’s wrong?” Apple Bloom asked.
“What’s wrong?” The older sister echoed. “Whah, he didn’t even come down to sing ta ya! But don’t you worry none, sugarcube; Ah’ll make sure he makes it up to ya.” Apple Bloom simply stood still, a confused look frozen on her face.
“What’re ya talkin’ about? Big Macintosh was here,” she said, matter-of-factly. As if controlled by some supernatural power, the stallion in question trotted into the dining room at that moment.
“Ah know that-”
“There ya are, AJ,” he said, looking somewhat relieved. “Ah’ve been lookin’ all over fer ya. Where’d you run off to?”
“Nowhere important,” Applejack shrugged. “Anyway, Apple Bloom, ‘course ah know that Big Mac was here with us.”
“Then what’s the prob-”
“Ah’m talkin’ ‘bout yer younger brother.”
All action in the room ceased, as if everything had been frozen in both time and ice. Big Macintosh appeared like he had just seen an apocalypse unfold before his eyes; a look of shock and fear adorned his face. Apple Bloom merely remained silent and unmoving, her mouth agape slightly. Spike was only growing more and more confused by the second.
“AJ…” Big Mac whispered, his eyes growing misty. Applejack looked at him inquisitively.
“What?” She asked, as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on around them.
“I didn’t know you had a younger brother,” Spike whispered to the filly next to him. Apple Bloom snapped back to reality, and slowly turned toward him.
“Ah… don’t,” she replied in a murmur, her voice hollow and without emotion. “…He died before ah was born.”
“What in tarnation are y’all whisperin’ about?” Applejack snapped, looking wildly from the two younger ones back to her brother.
“He’s not here,” Big Mac stated, struggling not to let his emotions show. “Look, ah know ya know. Do ya feel like he’s still real?” He shook his head as Applejack stood still, frozen in astonishment. “It just ain’t so. He’s been dead… fer seven years.”
“Horsefeathers,” Apple Bloom muttered with disdain. Big Mac momentarily broke his stare with Applejack to address the comment.
“Watch yer tongue, little filly.”
“Dead…?” Applejack asked, still in a state of confusion. She felt like the whole world was crashing down around her.
“I think… I should go,” Spike said, preparing to exit the room. Before he could leave, he saw Apple Bloom’s pleading eyes. “…We should go.” They walked away. The two remaining ponies could hear the shut of a door, signaling that they were now alone.
“I thought this was over,” Big Mac said, raising his voice. “Ah thought that we were over all of this. We swore to be honest with each other! That medicine; is that what did it?”
“Ah have to tell ya, Twilight has nothin’ to do with this,” Applejack retorted. “Them pills actually made it go away!”
“Then what-” Big Mac stopped. He paused to think about what his sister had just said. Her choice of words. “…‘Made’?”
“We have the happiest septic tank in all of Ponyville.”
“So them pills were workin’!” He shouted in disbelief. “Horsefeathers, AJ! We were actually back to normal!”
“Define normal. Ya don’t know what it’s like to go through all this.” As Applejack spoke, he shook his head, trying to make sense of all that was happening.
“Then what was it that brought him back?”
“Ah don’t know.” The statement made him even more frustrated. He rubbed his temples with his hooves, trying to remember anything that could point toward her sudden behavior. Anything that had happened…
“Can ya believe her?” The voice cut through the silence outside of the barn as the two walked through the acres. “Ah mean, whah bring him up? Ah never even knew him!”
“Come on, Apple Bloom,” Spike said, patting the filly on the shoulder. “I’m sure it isn’t all that bad!”
“It has ta be!” She retorted, distraught at the sequence of events that had unfolded that evening. “Imagine; all the other ponies pointin’ at her! ‘There goes Apple Bloom’s sister: the lunatic pony’!”
“Hey, don’t talk about Applejack that way. She’s done so much for Ponyville already; they wouldn’t turn their back on her, no matter what.”
“Ah… ah don’t know, Spike.” The two found themselves sitting on a nice patch of grass under a large, overgrown apple tree. “Ponies ’round these parts can be strange folks. An’ ya heard mah brother.” She let out a chuckle, devoid of happiness. “Seven years. Ah don’t know why she’s only doin’ this now.” Her voice began to crack. “Ah mean… did she always think he was here? Does she care about him more than…” She couldn’t finish the sentence as tears began to silently stream down her face. “Oh, Spike, ah don’t know what to do!” Her sobs became open now as she pushed her face into the ground. Spike nuzzled next to her and held her head, stroking it softly, hoping not to make matters worse.
“Shh, shh,” he said, trying to act more mature than he knew he was. “There, there. Everything’s gonna be alright, you’ll see.” Apple Bloom raised her head long enough to look the dragon in the eyes.
“Whah do ah believe you?” The tired pony rested her head on his lap as he continued to pet her. She wanted to ask, “why do I feel so safe with you?”, but she couldn’t bring herself to. Instead, she remained in his tender embrace.
“Luna really outdid herself tonight,” he whispered, looking at the beautiful nighttime sky presented to them both.
Suddenly, he remembered.
“…Everfree. When ya go into that Everfree Forest, where do you go?” Applejack tilted her head quizzically.
“Now how in the hay does that matter?”
“Where do you go?!” Big Mac repeated stoically, slamming his hooves firmly on the ground for emphasis. Applejack walked backwards, frightened by her brother’s sudden outrage.
“Zecora’s,” she blurted out. “B-but ah’m in an’ outta that place lickity split!”
“Ah don’t remember!” She shouted back, tears filling her eyes. “Ah don’t know!” Her brother sighed, putting his hooves up on the table and closing his eyes, trying to relax and concentrate. He exhaled slowly.
“AJ,” he said after a moment of silence, “ah want to help. Ah know yer hurtin’.” Applejack had backed herself into the corner of the room, her eyes wide as saucers.
“Really?” She asked, almost challengingly. “Do you?”
“Yeah. Ah’m hurtin’ too.” Applejack took that statement as clearance to walk forward.
“Do ya wake up in the mornin’ and need help to lift yer head? Do you know?” She asked, continuing her advancing assault. “Ah said, do ya know? What it’s like to die alive? Do ya know what it’s like to feel that Equestria once had color, but it’s faded to white and grey and black? Or when tomorrow terrifies you, but you’ll die if you look back?” The cowpony shook her head vigorously. “You don’t know!” An accusing hoof was pointed at her brother as her face twisted in pain. “Ah know ya don’t know. Ya say that yer hurtin’!” She guffawed. “Well, it sure doesn’t show! An’ it lays me so low when ya say let go and I say ya don’t know!” Now Big Macintosh was the one who was backpedaling.
“The sensation that yer screamin’ but ya never make a sound,” she went on. “Or the feelin’ that yer fallin’ but ya never hit the ground. Ya don’t know what it’s like to live that way!” Her voice bounced off the walls as she approached the table. “It’s like some dark horse is after me, and ah’ve done somethin’ wrong. If it gets me it’ll kill me, but ah don’t know what ah’ve done!” With that, her hooves moved erratically, knocking off all the silverware on the table in one sweeping motion. Big Mac, fed up, strutted forward with determination plastered on his face.
“Can ya tell me what it is yer afraid of?!” The pony before him now had a look of terror on her face. Feeling pity and sorrow for his shouting, he brought down his voice. “Can ya tell me why ah’m afraid it’s me?” Applejack shook her head, sitting down on a chair. Big Mac continued. “We’ve been fine fer so long now. How could somethin’ go wrong that ah can’t see? ‘Cause ah’m holdin’ on.” He took his sister’s hooves in his own, at which point Applejack felt a shiver run up her spine. “An’ ah won’t let go! So you should know that ah am the one who knows an’ cares fer you. Ah’m the one who’s always been here.” She at last pulled her hooves back, got off the chair, and trotted behind the other side of the table. “But if you say that ah just don’t give a damn, then you just don’t know who I am.”
Applejack just wanted to disappear. She shut her eyes, thinking that when she would open them, she’d be somewhere else. However, when she did lift her eyelids, she was still in that same room, with her older brother staring at her from across the room. But one thing had changed... she noticed another figure begin to enter the room. “Hey guys, it’s me,” he said. Her eyes lit up with joy as she saw her younger brother walk into the dining room. “Sorry I couldn’t sing for Apple Bloo-” He quickly noticed the tension in the air. “What’s wrong?” Applejack gulped, hoping Big Mac wouldn’t notice the other pony now in the room.
“Ah love ya, AJ,” her older brother said, walking over to her. She back trotted away from him, causing him to stop. He frowned. “But we’ve got to let him go.”
“Let who go?” Applejack turned to her younger brother as he spoke. “Sis, I’m the one who’s always been here for you. He doesn’t give a damn.” He came forward a few more steps, and she looked into his deep eyes. “Look at me…”
“Tell me what to do, AJ.”
“And you’ll see.”
“’Cause ah’m the one who’s helped you, an’ ah’m gonna help us get through all this pain.” Applejack returned her attention to her older brother, who was now only inches away from her. She looked at him with derision.
“Ya say ya hurt like me…”
“’Cause ah do!”
“I won’t let go,” the voice from behind her whispered in her ear.
“You say that ya know!” She shouted, backing away.
“NO!” The pictures on the wall could be shaking due to the power from her voice. “You don’t know!” She sobbed, walking toward the doorway of the dining room. “Ya say that yer hurtin’, but ah know it ain’t so!”
“You don’t know…” Big Mac whispered as he reached out for his sister, helpless as he watched her walk away. He sat down at the table, defeated. Applejack felt her younger brother’s hooves around her as she retreated from the area.
“No, you don’t know,” she could hear him say. She felt her hooves carry up the stairs. The door was locked behind her.
“Who I am.”
Luna’s moon was brighter than usual that night.
“Did she tell ya anything?”
Big Mac stared at Twilight; a worried look was plastered onto both of their faces. Twilight had known the stallion before her to be calm, cool, and collected. Now, he was in her library demanding answers. She remained silent.
“Please, Miss Twilight,” he said, trotting closer to her. “AJ means the world to us. Without her, our farm… it, it’s nothin’.”
“Big Macintosh,” Twilight said with a sigh, “I only want the best for Applejack as well. But if she wants off the meds, then I can’t stop her. Nopony can. It’s her decision, and I respect it. Whether or not you do is your choice.”
“Ah know that. All ah wanna know is,” he took a deep breath in, afraid to take the plunge. “…if she said anythin’ about a river.”
The silence permeated the room for what seemed like hours. They could hear the soft giggling of some ponies outside the library. The chirping of birds sounded through an open window. Twilight got up and closed the gap to the outside world before divulging unto Big Mac the answers that he was looking for.
“Wow, fillydictorian?” Spike asked.
“Ah ain’t lyin’. An’ ah didn’t even know that the school here had things like that,” Apple Bloom said. The two found themselves inside her room. The scent of hay from the nearby barn wasn’t as overpowering as the clean air from the open window. It was full of life; the sun burst into the room, which featured an ordinary bed and desk on the side opposite the door. The reflection of light gave the quarters an orange complexion. “But now ah have ta write a speech for everypony at graduation,” Apple Bloom continued. “How’m ah supposed to do that on top of all these tests?”
“I’m sure you’ll find a way,” Spike replied. “You always do.” He sat down on a chair that was positioned at the desk, while a laughing Apple Bloom rested on the bed. She soon became quiet and grew solemn.
“Ah’m still sorry about what ya had to see last night, Spike,” she said. “Dunno what came over AJ.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s fine!”
“Ya know how it is… them parental figures.” A nervous chuckle came from Apple Bloom.
“Actually,” Spike said, looking down. “I don’t.”
The filly’s laugh died off and was replaced with a quizzical look on her face.
“I… never really knew my parents,” Spike muttered. “All my life, all I can remember is… life in Canterlot. Being put into the service of Princess Celestia. Twilight’s the closest thing to family I have. And you guys, of course,” he added hastily.
“Spike, ah’m sorry,” Apple Bloom said. “Ah had no idea. Ah mean, ah didn’t really know mah parents either, but ah have Big Macintosh and AJ. An’ ah can’t imagine life without a family. You… ya never even met yer parents?”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “And I probably never will. I mean, have you heard about the absence of dragons in Equestria? They’ve all either left completely or been forced into the most desolate of caves.”
“Ah’ve been readin’ about that… The dragons are so few and far between now.” Hiding her discomfort with the discussion at hand, she put on a smile. “Ah’m happy that yer here, Spike.”
“What do you mean?” He asked, leaning forward in his chair so that he was only a few inches away from the filly. “‘Here’ here?” His arms expanded. “Or…” Pointing down at the floor of the room with his claws, he continued. “… ‘Here’, here?”
Apple Bloom opened her mouth to respond when the door swung open wildly. The two backed away from each other instantly, looking at the entering Applejack. “Apple Bloom!” She said breathlessly. “Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle are here ta see ya!” Awkward and stiff, she left just as soon as she had arrived. The two remaining simply stared at each other.
“Sorry… ah should probably go see what they’re here fer.”
“Yeah… I should probably start heading home too.”
“Are they datin’, or what?” The stairs creaked under Applejack’s hooves as she asked the question. She watched as Apple Bloom left the house with her two friends.
“Not sure,” her younger brother replied as the front door slammed. “But whatever it is, it’s wrong to be eavesdropping.”
“Imagine, a filly and a dragon,” Applejack said, shaking her head with an aloof grin. “Your parents wouldn’t-a approved of that, ah tell ya.”
“I couldn’t care less,” the colt replied. “As long as they’re in love with each other.”
“Not sure if yer brother would approve either.”
“Yeah. But what does he approve of?” With that, he left. Applejack had been watching him go when the sound of the front door opening caused her to spin around. She forced a smile as Big Mac entered.
“Ah’m home,” he said to no one in particular.
“Ah’d been wonderin’ where ya’d been,” she said, feigning interest. “Usually yer still workin’ the farm at this time.”
“Had some business in town,” he responded, walking into the kitchen. Applejack followed.
“Really? An’ who would that be with, if ya don’t mind me pryin’?”
“A certain Miss Twilight Sparkle,” he said. A gasp caused him to look at Applejack; her smile had fallen.
“What’d she tell ya?”
“All ah needed to know.”
She took a step forward, anger filling her eyes. “Ah trusted her, an’ ah trusted you!”
“We only want ta help ya,” Big Mac said, starting a pot of coffee. “And we think we have an idea. There’s this pony comin’ ‘round here; an expert in new, uh…” He paused, struggling for the right word but coming up short. “…mental studies.”
“So ah’m crazy.”
“Psychological! That’s the word, psychological.”
“Y’all think ah’m crazy,” Applejack repeated.
Big Mac turned away from the pot and faced his sister. “No, AJ. We think yer fine. We just think that this pony can tell us all what it is yer strugglin’ with.”
“Are ya sure?” She asked, doubting.
Exhaling, Big Mac allowed himself to smile somberly. “Ah haven’t left ya yet; ah won’t leave ya now.”
Applejack couldn’t remain angry after the true statement rang in her ears. Her grimace subsided, and she sauntered slowly toward her older brother. The two embraced.
He didn’t bother to note the yellow filly with the pink mane he had run into on the way back.
Rainbow Dash hated to wait.
Yet when everypony else had left, she remained. She trusted that she would come. But, as the night went on, it became apparent that the cowpony would not be showing up. A roar of thunder in the distance caused the filly to jump a little. A sigh came forth. With a grunt, she lifted herself into the air with her wings, heading to her home in the sky, a plan formulating in her mind.
The waiting would soon be over.
Magic Gladden - or Madden, as he was not so affectionately referred to by others in his workforce - had gained a notable reputation by those in the medical and scientific fields at Canterlot. However, that reputation was not one of bravery and heroism; rather, his was one shrouded in infamy.
First of all, his methods were deemed as unorthodox and potentially harmful to the pony on which he was assisting. His more revolutionary ideas involved shocking the patient with jolts of electricity in hopes of relieving the tension within the neural sections of the pony’s minds. He believed that was all that anypony had a problem with. “Tension,” he had said, “is the root of all problems. All we need to do is extract it and the pony should return to a life of ease.”
During his first demonstration of his newfound technique, those watching reacted with vehement fervor.
“He’s insane! He’s mad!”
“It’s almost contagious; everypony else goes mad with him.”
“‘Gladden’? Are you sure it’s not ‘Madden’?”
Second, the aftereffects visible on some of the ponies he had treated were shocking. Some would seclude themselves, refusing contact with anypony else. Others would attempt to do away with their own lives. And a select few…
When Big Macintosh had been told about this pony by Twilight, he was skeptical at first. However, the strain on his family that had resulted from Applejack’s problem was a larger weight on him than that of his curious doubt. Twilight assured him that she would make sure that Madden would not try anything on Applejack that they did not agree with. Reluctantly, he decided that it was for the best.
The day the pony entered town, he told Applejack various things; he neglected to tell her about the particulars of this pony’s past.
“We’re seeing him first thing tomorrow,” he had said. “Right after Apple Bloom heads off to school.”
She merely nodded her head in acknowledgement before receding into her private world.
Apple Bloom stared out her window in complacent pondering. She watched pegasi move the clouds above her in the sky, setting them so that the weather might bend to their will.
‘I wish I could fly,’ she thought. Her eyes wandered off to a unicorn on a hill by the acres. She recognized the pony to be Twilight. As she blinked, she saw Twilight vanish in a spark of light. ‘An’ magically appear and disappear.’ She returned her attention to the pegasi, who were now leaving the skies above the apples and acres behind them for someplace larger. ‘I wish I could fly,’ she repeated to herself. ‘I’d fly far away from here.’
In a few brief seconds, she found herself trotting outside her room and into the hallway by the stairs. Her eyes filled with anger and betrayal as she saw Applejack in front of her. She lost her cool.
“Ya don’t care about me,” she hissed at her older sister. “Ya only care about him! He’s the one ya wish’d appear. He’s your hero; forever alive!” The sound of her hooves stamping the floorboard with her hooves in fury sounded throughout the house. “Well, he’s not here. Ah’m here!”
Applejack shook her head passionately. “Ya know that’s not true!” She took a few steps forward; Apple Bloom countered by retreating an equal amount of paces. “You’re our little pride an’ joy. Ya know ah love you. I love you as much as ah can…”
Apple Bloom stared in disbelief as her sister looked off and above her head, seemingly staring at something behind her. She didn’t bother to turn around; she knew there was nothing there.
The sky was still dark when Applejack and Big Mac arrived at Twilight’s tree. They had made it in time to see the unicorn herself exit the front door. “He’s in there waiting,” she stated matter-of-factly. Big Mac let out a small “humph” of acknowledgement, having been told a few days prior that the doctor would be staying with her. “Spike’s not in there. It’ll just be you.” Twilight trotted away as the remaining two let themselves into the tree.
The main floor of the library was clean as a whistle. Two comfortable-looking, plush chairs were positioned in the center of the room so that one was facing the other.
A blue coated unicorn peeked his head out from the door to the kitchen. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you come in,” he muttered. He grinned as he adjusted his glasses and shuffled into the larger room. Applejack’s eyes became fixated on the pony’s cutie mark; a pair of glasses - not unlike the pair he was currently wearing - with a small spark of lightning behind it. She felt a shiver run down her spine as she gazed into his piercing pale eyes.
“Hello, doctor,” Big Mac said as he trotted forward to greet the new pony.
“Please, call me Madden,” he insisted. “It may have rustled my mane in the past, but I’ve grown accustomed to it.” One of his hooves ran through his silver hair as he said so.
Big Mac pulled the doctor aside as Applejack took a seat in one of the posh chairs. “Uh, you ain’t gonna… shock her. Are ya?”
Dr. Madden flashed him a tender smile. “Of course not. That treatment, if used at all, is only meant for a patient who is beyond any other means of help. She doesn’t have her hooves in too deep; there’s no need for it.”
Hesitantly, Big Mac nodded and turned around, taking a quick glance at Applejack over his shoulder before leaving the library. “Ah’ll see ya… uh…” He paused as he looked at the doctor, then his sister; and back at the doctor. He let out a soft grunt as he exited. The door shut behind him.
Applejack sat still as the doctor stood behind his own chair on his hind hooves, leaning on it complacently. She raised an eyebrow.
“Ain’t this the part where ya tell me ah’m crazy?” The pony before her shook his head. “Give me some pills?” Another shake. “Fry mah brain?”
“You have a good sense of humor,” Madden said with a small laugh, taking his glasses off and placing them on the arm of his chair. “I like that. A lot of my patients had lost that.”
“Would that be the next step for me?” She asked skeptically.
He chuckled again while moving around the chair and sitting down. “See what I mean? And no, no. Your problem is lingering in your head. Your memories. Your… tension.” The two stared at each other for several moments. “I don’t want to dive into anything that you aren’t willing to go along with.”
“Alright, then let’s start with your past. Your memories. Usually tension is a result of some conflict that‘s happened in your life before. We need to extract that before we can figure out a way to cure it.”
“Hard to go about this,” Applejack muttered, leaning her forehead on her hooves. Madden’s horn glowed as a nearby clipboard and pen rose toward him. He began to scribble quickly.
“How do you mean?”
“Well,” she said, taking a deep breath in while contemplating her next words, “when ah think about mah past… mah history…”
“It-” Her mind flashed her a series of images from years before; some things she recognized, and others she couldn’t recall as her own. “It feels like it’s about somepony else.”
Madden stared intently at Applejack as the pen continued to write furiously across the clipboard; seemingly with a mind of its own. “How so?”
Applejack told him about the feelings she had been devoid of while taking the pills. She told him about how everything felt so plain when she was drugged, but at the same time, how miserable she was before she had seen Twilight about it. Her hair stood on end as she continued to spout out what was on her mind. ‘Stupid honesty,’ she would later tell herself.
Madden simply nodded all the while. “And now,” he asked, “how do you feel?”
“Ah beg yer pardon?”
“You said you felt awful before the primary treatment. Then you felt nothing. How about now? What are you feeling right now?”
Looking down, she considered the question. Her eyes shut as she tried to focus on any emotion that was running through her body. She was hit with a wave of nonsense, unable to concentrate on anything. Growing nauseous, she quickly dispelled the feelings, wanting to regain a grasp on reality. She opened her eyes and gave Madden a faint smile. “Ya know, ah haven’t got the darndest idea.”
The pen stopped. The clipboard floated away to some far corner of the room.
“I want you to take some time off from your work.”
Applejack’s ears perked up at this.
“Whuh? But ah-”
“You have an older brother, don’t you?”
“He seems strong enough. I’m sure he can handle the work on your farm for the time being.” He stood up as Applejack followed suit. “Look, I want you to take time off; relax. Spend some more time with your family. Find out what it is that’s making you tick.”
The two made their way toward the front door of the library.
“That’s all ya got?”
“For the time being. I’m sure we’ll find something soon.”
“Not a very exact science, is it?”
“Have a good evening, Miss Applejack.”
It dawned on her as she opened the door. The sun which had not even come close to rising upon her entering the library was now setting beyond the horizon. The time passing unnerved her. She spun around with her mouth opened, preparing to speak, but the doctor had disappeared.
‘He knows my deepest secrets,’ she thought, letting the door close behind her as she began a slow trot home. ‘I know his name.’
A blur of blue stopped her as she was halfway back to Sweet Apple Acres. “Hey there, Rainbow,” she said. “How’re ya?”
“I guess you forgot?”
“Forgot?” Applejack inquired. It was then that she remembered. She slapped her face with her hoof. “Right, we promised to all get together. Sorry ‘bout that. Got a little… caught up.”
“I’ll say,” the pegasus in front of her said. “But that doesn’t matter. We’re gonna have a fun night, and you’re gonna like it!”
“Look, I’ve already spent time with all of the other fillies,” Rainbow Dash said. “I want to at least have a cool night out with you before I head out of here! There’s a party coming up later in the week just outside of Ponyville. We’ll go out to eat, crash that shindig, and have an awesome time.” She stepped up to Applejack so that they were only inches apart. “And I’m not taking no for an answer.”
Applejack resigned with a sigh. “Whatever ya say, Rainbow.” A satisfied smirk spread across the pegasus’s face.
“I’ll pick you up around five!” She shouted as she took off into the sky. A rainbow trail was left behind in the dark of night.