It was so bright. My eyelids instinctively closed, but the blinding magenta had already been burned into my retinas. Every sensory nerve imaginable was lit up in the purest form of pain. Even my hard talons were cut right down to the bone with pain I never knew I could feel. In my mind, I was screaming in agony because I realized I couldn’t work my mouth to do it. No limbs or muscles were responding. I was completely paralyzed by the sheer intensity of it all.
My sense of orientation told me I was falling backwards; however, the impact with the floor could not be felt. I thought I was convulsing, but my brain was so overloaded I really had no idea. All I could focus on was the excruciating pain.
If death was to come, I would run to it rather than from it.
Only a second after that thought, I was pulled into darkness.
I blinked. Everything around me was so serene, so lucid. I found myself on a large flat cloud in the dark blue sky. I looked myself over and saw that I was in perfect condition. There were no longer any scrapes or light bruises from my crash landing. If anything, I looked aglow with sleek feathers and polished claws. I turned my head to my surroundings, stopping to look at the only person with me.
She bolted straight off the cloud flying incredibly fast. I leapt off after her, working my powerful wings. I was accelerating to top speed, yet I still couldn’t close in on Dash. All I could see of her was thinning rainbow streak, pulling away from me.
“Dash stop, it’s your best friend!”
After a few more yells, Dash still wasn’t slowing down. Suddenly, she veered downwards and disappeared through thick cloud coverage, leaving a lingering rainbow contrail. She was clearly trying to shake me off. My heart leapt to my throat; did she really hate me that much? I wanted to stop then and there to admit defeat, but my pride would have nothing of it.
Oh heck no! After all the crap you went through, you’re going to catch her and teach her some manners.
Instead of despair, anger flared in my chest, fueling my wings to work faster than I had ever done before. I swiftly sped over the same position Dash had dived from, stopping to hover for an instant. I pushed my arms ahead of me, clasping my claws together ready to dive. With one great final flap, I plummeted through the clouds after her.
Speed, all I need is more speed.
My eyes began to leak tears from the utter vertical drop. The winds were howling, whipping against my face from my unstoppable momentum. I was dropping so fast that my feathers and muscles were vibrating. My wings had been tucked in to my sides for maximum velocity, yet I still could not catch sight of her through the dense cloud coverage. After half a minute, I realized for the first time just how high Dash and I had started from. As I finally broke through the hazy clouds, I saw the whole world spread beneath me – from horizon to horizon.
In my whole life of flying, I had never seen the world from this distance before. From the northern lands of snow capped mountains in Griffon territory, to the southern coastal villages of Equestria – it all appeared like a tiny model.
Through a thin veil of streaking tears, my eyes picked up on Dash. She was flying downward at an angle, pitting herself against the buffeting winds. As a Griffon, I was naturally built for rapid dives to hunt prey, unlike pegasai. I flared my wings open to flap in deep strokes every several seconds, giving me bursts of speed. I was closing in on her …
What just touched my arm?
For a split second, I felt something thick rub itself on my forearm ever so lightly. I quickly pushed it out of my mind. No distractions, stay focused. You’re almost there.
My distance with Dash had shrunk to a mere kilometer, yet at the same time, the ground was speeding ever closer. From the corners of my eyes, I could now pick out more definitive details of differing Equestrian cities. Dash however made no movements to pull up.
“I am not losing her,” I snarled.
Half a kilometer now, she’ll know... What the heck is touching me!?
Again on my forearm something was rubbing gently against it, almost like it was trying to comfort me. I took my eyes off Dash to look over my body, nothing was wrong. I was alone and could see no signs of misplaced feathers or any other disturbances. Deal with it later, you’re so close.
I looked back to Dash to see her only fifty meters off. Her wings were beating slower against the prevailing winds, her form becoming sloppy and sluggish. She was exhausted. The vision of her weakened state was kicking my hunting instinct into high gear. Adrenaline began flooding into my veins, giving me a type of fliers high. A feeling of exhilaration washed over me, sharpening my senses and tightening my form. She was finally in reach; I extended my claws to her tail and left hind leg.
“Daaassh!” I roared.
“G! We’re going to crash!”
Spluttering, I took a look past her to see the ground dangerously speeding towards us. I was so focused on Dash and caught up in the moment; I had failed to keep in mind the most basic rule of flying: Never crash going over 300 kilometers per hour.
The apple orchard in Ponyville could clearly be seen now by our low altitude, and with my grasp on Dash, I had messed up her flying form. She was twisting and turning in my claws, no longer in control of her flight from my interference and her complete exhaustion.
With all my might, I swiftly flapped while pulling my body upwards; but after all my years of flight, I knew deep down it was too late. We were simply going too fast. In desperation, I aimed for a particularly large apple tree to somewhat cushion our imminent crash. My eyes widened in panic, and before I knew it, I pulled Dash in close to my body trying to leverage her above me so I would take the brunt of the collision instead of her. I felt a hot tear escape my eye, dissipating in the wind along with my anger.
“Dash…” I sobbed, “I’m sor –
Cupcakes. I smell cupcakes.
There was something soft and warm under me, nestling my numb body. My eyelids fidgeted, they felt heavy along with the rest of me. I could hear a few indistinct whispers around me and something shuffling along on the floor. Everything sounded odd, like it was muffled under a pillow or set underwater.
Cupcakes, why does it smell like Cupcakes? It’s like that dumb party all over again, but wait; there is something important I’m forgetting.
My mind was full of dull pain signals, sensory nerves complaining all the aches in my body. I could feel the poor circulation of my blood, injecting a tingling sensation to my brain; making it hard to collect my thoughts. I was mentally groping for something gravely important, like it was the answer to all my questions.
Cupcakes... Pinkie... party... Dash!
The memories of our flight came in fast lightning strikes, pounding into my inner vision one right after another. I could see it all: The eerie dark blue sky, the thinning rainbow trail, the dive, winds whipping all around me, clouds everywhere, the world, Dash flailing in my grasp, and the crash.
Against the enormous lead-like feeling in my whole body, I sprang upwards with all I was worth. My eyes snapping open, I saw briefly a shadowed room with a purple dragon pacing and a couple ponies turned away from me. A plate of cupcakes sat nearby on a small stool.
“Dash!” I yelled.
Something wasn’t right. My back felt curved, setting me off balance. Before I could tell who was who and where I was, I began tilting sideways – collapsing over the side of my bed and into the unforgiving floor.
I heard loud, high pitched gasps of shock, but couldn’t make out make out most of their words.
“Oh my g-sh, nurse c--- quic---!”
“Twi-----, lift her w--- your m---- gently. S-- is in ------- condition, do it s-----.”
The next thing I saw was the green tiled floor moving away from me as I was levitated upwards and sideways back into a white bed. I was easily placed down with my head propped against a few pillows, shifting my vision outward to the room. I could hear the distant sound of hooves galloping in a hallway towards my direction. Vaguely recognizable ponies gushed into the room. I counted seven in total excluding the dragon, but only the blue one stood out from the crowd.
Their mouths began moving, but I could only hear a muted wash of noise. I lifted my claws to my ears trying to –
What the heck.
Something flat and round was pushing against the side of my head. I knew what it felt like, but I couldn’t believe it. The thought of it would not go away though, no matter how hard I tried to refuse it. The idea clung to my mind, forcing the numbness out of my body to finally persuade my senses that it was indeed true. The feeling of my limbs started to focus in. Like a dam with water bursting through it, the strangeness of my body flooded my nerves, relaying impossible information to my brain. My tail wasn’t there anymore, or at least, I couldn’t feel the latter swishing parts of it. I felt the stub of its beginning with strands of hair flowing beneath my hindquarters. My legs felt thick, and my wings trembled against my body - feeling smaller and lower on my sides. My ears twitched, folding flat against my head in distraught.
Griffon ears can’t do that. No, just stop, close your eyes. Don’t look down, for the love of God, don't look down!
My eyelids tightened shut, scrunching my muzz –
I have a muzzle?!
That was the final straw. My eyes flew open I as jerked my head, staring down at my body.
The muffled voices stopped, and I could feel a strong gaze pressed against me. The pressure in my eardrums changed, and after ten more seconds, I was finally able to take in full sound. Nothing. There was only absolute silence. The atmosphere of the small crowded room was heavy with awkwardness.
As I looked back up, I saw Pinkie bouncing forward from the line; taking a short pause to pick up a white frosted cupcake from the stool. She pushed her beaming face only an inch away from my new muzzle with the biggest smile I had ever seen in my life.
“So Gilda, would you like one? I made it just for you!”