Today, Tomorrow, and Forever
by Chopper's Top Hat
Twilight Sparkle let out a deep sigh. She didn't want to admit it, but it was no use denying the horrible truth. “Spike!” she cried out, her voice anguished, “I have nothing to read!”
“What? Yes, you do!” said the small purple dragon, gesturing at the hundreds of volumes which adorned the walls of Twilight's library. “You've got tons of books here you haven't even touched!”
“Well sure, encyclopedias and spellbooks and histories, but this library has a serious deficit of good fiction, and that's what I'm in the mood for right now.”
“Um, I could tell you a story,” offered Spike. “Once there was an awesome dragon superhero. In his secret identity, he worked for this fussy nerd who-”
“Seriously, Spike,” said Twilight, “Has the mail come yet? I ordered a bunch of new books that should have come in today.”
“Huh?” said Spike, “Didn't you see the slip Derpy left with the mail yesterday?”
“What slip?” asked Twilight. “I don't remember any...”
She glanced at the previous day's mail, most of which sat unopened on her desk. Poking out between two envelopes was a small green slip.
“Oh! I must have missed it.” Twilight picked up the slip and read the following:
I AM TERRIBLY SORRY, BUT THERE WILL BE NO MAIL TOMORROW DUE TO A PERSONAL MATTER. NORMAL SERVICE WILL RESUME THE FOLLOWING DAY.
YOURS IN CLAMS,
“She's always so much more eloquent in her writing than her speech,” said Twilight. “Even if she's still not perfectly coherent unless she's writing a poem. Is it unusual for her to take a day off?”
“It's not just unusual,” said Spike, “It's unheard of! Applejack was telling me that in all the years Derpy's been Ponyville's mailmare, she's never once missed a day!”
“Wow,” said Twilight. “I knew Derpy was a hard worker, but...well, then I wonder why she would take the day off so suddenly like that?”
Not far away, Ponyville's post office, which doubled as Derpy's home, bustled with activity. Derpy was very pleased with herself: the banner was hung, the decorations were in place, and the cake had turned out beautifully. It had taken three tries – she'd never baked before – but everything was proceeding perfectly. In all honesty, she probably didn't need to take the day off to do this. She could have asked Pinkie Pie to set up the decorations for her, but that seemed wrong somehow. Today was a day for family. No one else.
“Rhinos and flan,” she said to herself. “Almost time for liftoff. Abort, Houston!”
It probably would have also taken less time if Derpy hadn't been fighting back her emotions the entire time. Every streamer she hung, every balloon she put up, served as a reminder of what today meant. And of what would happen at sundown.
Everything was ready now. Dinky would be home from school any minute.
Dinky Hooves pranced happily down the path to the home she shared with her mother. The small, light-purple unicorn couldn't wait to tell her mom what had happened at lunch that day. Scootaloo's parents would probably be less pleased to hear that their daughter had attempted to sing her highest note and now the school needed new windows. But it was just the sort of story that always made her mom laugh.
She burst through the front door, but for the first time she could remember, her mom wasn't there to greet her. Instead, there was a little card taped to the wall, reading simply, “DINING ROOM.”
Dinky opened the door to the small room where she and her mom ate dinner. It was pitch black.
“Mom?” asked Dinky, “is everything oka-”
“SURPRISE!” yelled Derpy, as the lights went on and confetti fell from the ceiling. She flew over to her daughter and gave her a big hug. “SUPER NARWHAL, MY MUFFIN!”
“M-mom?” asked Dinky, happy but confused. “What's going on?”
Derpy stepped back, looking at her daughter with tremendous pride. On her face was a smile, more bright and happy than any Dinky had ever seen. But then there were her eyes.
Dinky was probably the only pony in Equestria who could read her mother's eyes. Their odd appearance made it difficult for anypony else to understand them, but Dinky found that once you got the hang of it, Derpy had two of the most expressive eyes she had ever seen. And today, they seemed to be the eyes of a mare who was in incredible pain.
“Mommy...are you SURE everything’s alright?”
Derpy nodded vigorously. “Shoes! Shoes!” she pointed at the table.
There was a small cake, with a slice already cut out and put on a plate waiting for Dinky. Carrot cake, her favorite. Derpy ran over to the table and pulled out Dinky's chair. “Rest your beads!” she said. “Styrofoam prepares the beatbox!”
Dinky sat down. She found it weird that Derpy was throwing a party at random, but that wasn't completely out of character for her mom. She was always doing little things for her daughter. This was just...a big little thing.
Derpy and Dinky talked happily over cake and tea. Dinky told her about the broken windows, and her mom seemed so interested that she went on to tell her about every detail of her day. She normally didn't do that, but Derpy seemed so enraptured, hanging on Dinky's every word, that Dinky felt compelled to go on. The hours whiled away, as mother and daughter happily chatted. Then suddenly, Derpy spun around and looked at the clock on the wall.
“Tesla coils!” she exclaimed. “It's dangerous to go alone!”
She produced a box from beneath the table, wrapped up in a big red bow. Derpy grinned.
“A present? Oh, mom...um...thank you!” Dinky thought her mom was going a bit overboard, but a gift is a gift. Maybe it was that pretty hat from Rarity's she'd been asking for?
Dinky tore open the box at lightning speed. It wasn't a hat.
Inside was a beautifully framed photo of Dinky and her mother. It was one of the set of family photos Derpy had insisted they should have taken, professionally, a week before. The two of them had gotten all dressed up in their nicest outfits, and Fluttershy had called in a favor to get Photo Finish herself to take the pictures.
The frame was the expensive kind, too, with professional engraving on the bottom. The inscription read:
TODAY, TOMORROW, AND FOREVER
Dinky had thought it strange at the time that her mom was suddenly so interested in photos, but had shrugged it off. But now, between the photos, the frame, and the sudden party....
Dinky looked up at her mother. “Mom, if there’s something you need to tell me-”
With a smile, Derpy put her hoof gently up to her daughter's mouth. “For you, my muffin,” she said. “Always. Always, for you.” Derpy's voice was shaking. She kept smiling.
“What...” Dinky shook her head, and put the photo on the table. “Mommy...what's wrong?”
“Brightness!” said Derpy, still smiling. “Gleeful days in Pepperland!” she pointed up at the ceiling.
That was when Dinky noticed the banner. She gasped.
The banner hadn't been draped in a visible area like a normal one. Derpy, for whatever reason, had used it to cover the whole ceiling, so it couldn't be seen unless one looked straight up. In giant gold letters, obviously written by Derpy, it read:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MY MUFFIN!
“Mom...” said Dinky, her tone suddenly fearful. “My birthday isn't for four months.”
Derpy nodded. “Everyday,” she said. “Every day forever.” She sniffled. She was still smiling.
“No, you're hiding something!” said Dinky. “This is really weird, mom! Even for you!” She ran past her mother into the kitchen.
“Suspenders! Interlope with care!” said Derpy, trying to run after her. In her haste, she tripped and fell crashing to the floor. By the time she got up and ran into the kitchen, it was too late.
Dinky stood there, a look of utter shock on her face. There was a letter on the ground in front of her.
Derpy ran up to her daughter and hugged her.
“Is this true, mom?” Dinky asked. “It's...it's a joke, right?”
The letter was dated two weeks earlier. It read:
WE HAVE CONSIDERED YOUR APPEAL AND IT IS DENIED. WHILE IT IS CLEAR THAT YOU INTEND NO HARM TOWARD DINKY, IT IS THE DECISION OF THIS COMMITTEE THAT YOUR UNIQUE MENTAL SITUATION RENDERS YOU UNFIT TO RAISE A FOAL.
THUS, WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT THE EQUESTRIAN FOAL PROTECTION AGENCY HAS DECIDED TO REMOVE DINKY FROM YOUR CARE AND PLACE HER IN A FOSTER HOME. WE FEEL THIS IS THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION FOR HER CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT.
AN AGENT WILL COME TO TAKE DINKY AT SIX PM TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT ANY ATTEMPT TO PREVENT THIS REMOVAL FROM OCCURRING WILL BE CONSIDERED KIDNAPPING, AND PROSECUTED AS SUCH.
WE HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND THAT EVERYTHING WE DO IS IN DINKY'S BEST INTEREST.
EQUESTRIAN FOAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Dinky was shaking. With tremendous dread, she turned around and looked at the kitchen clock.
It was two minutes to six.
Dinky turned back to her mother. “No...mommy, please...you can fly. Pick me up, we can fly far away. Right now! Let's go!”
Derpy shook her head. She kept holding on to her daughter.
“Or...we can call someone! Maybe Twilight can use magic to make us invisible! Or Rarity can give us disguises! Right? Mom...mommy, please, say something....”
Derpy kissed her daughter on the top of the head.
“Sandwiches and turpentine...” Derpy said, fighting back sobs. “Wooden ducks and...and...muffin...you...I....”
There was a knock on the door.
“Can't...be....normal.” Derpy said.
Derpy let go of her daughter, and began walking to the door.
“Mom, no! Stop!” Dinky ran after her. So Derpy flew, far faster than Dinky could ever hope to go. She opened the door.
“Good evening, Miss Hooves,” said a tan-colored unicorn with glasses and a red leaf for a cutie mark. “I'm sorry, but it's time.”
Derpy said nothing, but gestured for the unicorn to come inside.
“Dinky?” the tan unicorn called out, “Are you here?”
There was no answer.
The tan unicorn concentrated for a moment and her horn lit up. Seconds later, it a faint glow appeared from the kitchen. “Ah,” she said. “There you are...it's okay, sweetheart, I promise I'm not here to hurt you...”
Dinky dashed out of the kitchen, past the unicorn and embraced her mother.
“Mommy, PLEASE!” she said. “Don't let her take me! I don't care if you're weird! I don't care if you talk funny! You're my mom! You're my mom...”
Derpy didn't say anything. But Dinky felt her mother embrace her, and everything felt okay. Things were going to be alright, she was sure of it. Dinky felt safe, and so calm, and so peaceful...
Derpy gently placed Dinky's sleeping form on the floor. The unicorn walked up to her.
“I'm sorry I had to use a sleep spell, but it's just easier this way. You understand.”
“Fried beehive,” said Derpy. She looked down at the floor.
“Muffin...love her. Promise!” she said, then she looked up at the unicorn. “Love her...for me.”
“Don't worry,” said the unicorn. “Dinky will be all right...”
“PROMISE!” said Derpy.
“I promise,” said the unicorn. “Thank you for your cooperation, Miss Hooves.”
The unicorn magically lifted the sleeping Dinky unto her back, and began to walk out. Just then, Derpy dashed into the dining room, shouting “Red light!” as she went.
A moment later she was back, carrying something in her mouth. She gently placed the framed photo of herself and Dinky in her sleeping daughter's arms. Then she kissed her daughter on the tip of the nose, and stepped back.
“Good night, Miss Hooves,” said the unicorn. “I...I'm sorry.”
Derpy turned away as the unicorn left with her daughter. Almost robotically, she walked into the dining room.
In front of her were a table, two chairs, a half-eaten cake, and a banner, which wished her daughter a happy birthday.
It was the emptiest room in the world.
“Mail's here!” said Spike. “Looks like your books arrived, Twilight.”
“Great!” said Twilight, running down the stairs to Spike. “How is Derpy? Did you find out why she took the day off?”
“Actually,” said Spike, “Derpy wasn't there. Rainbow Dash delivered the mail today. She said the Pegasus ponies are going to take turns delivering it until a new mail carrier is chosen.”
“Yeah...” said Spike. “Derpy...quit this morning. It looks like she walked into the mayor's office with a resignation letter and then just flew out of town.”
“That's...so unlike her...” said Twilight. “What could have happened?”
Dinky Daybreak was a perfectly normal, happy little unicorn. She was just beginning to learn magic, and was popular with all the other ponies at her school in Coltsburg. Since moving there a year ago, she had made many friends and proved to be an excellent student. There was even talk of skipping her ahead a grade next year. There was just one peculiar thing about her.
Every day, Dinky would leave school the second the bell rang. She never walked home with her friends, and she never stayed to talk to the teachers. Instead, she'd dash home as fast as her little hooves could carry her, and wait patiently by the mail box.
On this particular day, Express, the town's mail pony, handed her the mail like he always did. She thanked him cheerfully, and then skipped inside. As was her custom, she placed the mail on the kitchen table, except for one thing: a single postcard. This she took into her room, careful not to let her parents see.
There, she opened a dresser drawer and took out a neatly stacked set of postcards. There was one for each day since she had come to Coltsburg, and they came from different places all over Equestria. On the back of each one was a short poem, a different one for each day.
Dinky took out her favorite card, the very first one she'd received, and read aloud:
“I wish I could be someone
as wonderful as you
I wish I could speak clearly
and make sure each pony knew
How greatly I adore you,
how every thing I've done
was just so I give you
your own moment in the sun.
I wish I could be clever
I wish I could be wise
I wish there was a way that
I could fix these funny eyes
But my fondest wish is greater
than every one before
and that's for a bright future
for the muffin I adore.
So please don't cry my dearest,
don't worry about me
just be the brilliant pony
I've always known you'll be.
The only thing I ask of you,
for whom I'll always pine:
please, please don’t forget me,
that way, you're always mine.”
Dinky wiped away a tear and placed the newest postcard at the top of the stack. She would read it that night just before bed, like she always did.
“Dinky!” came a voice from downstairs, “Do you want to go out for ice cream?”
“Be right there, dad!” she yelled back.
Before leaving the room, she turned to a framed picture on her nightstand.
“See you later, mommy,” she said. Her eyes passed over the inscription. It was like a silent answer.
Dinky Daybreak was a perfectly normal, happy little unicorn.