An old white unicorn trotted through the streets of Ponyville. Her walk was slow and balanced. The warm sun caught her black and purple sunglasses and made them reflect a beam of light on the ground in front of her. She focused on following that yellow spot with her eyes, her mind being elsewhere.
None of the ponies that passed by paid attention to her presence. They all knew the mare, but most of them only knew her by name and face. They knew that she would often take a walk at this time, stroll around Ponyville while admiring the scenery and the ponies, and then she would retreat to her house at the edge of the town, near Sweet Apple Acres. The majority of the ponies in the town harbored no ill feelings towards her, though very few got close to her. She had an aura of mystery around her, something that scared away most ponies that did not know her in her youth.
But today was different somehow. She was beautiful, just out of the shower. Even though most of the moisture on her coat and mane was already gone—dissolved by the gleaming sun—a couple of small pearls of water still lingered in her mane. Her white body almost shone, competing with the silver locket she wore around her neck. Most of her face was hidden behind her trademark purple sunglasses, but you could still see the wry smile on her lips. Her cutiemark—two black half notes—was clear and almost highlighted, black on white, like a dirty spot on clean china.
While her age had caught up with her, she still owned a vast collection of music that many would frown upon listening to. The drop of a heavy bass made her feel young again and the whine of an electric guitar made her blood boil as though it were on fire. Yet even though she was proud of her music, she kept it to herself instead of shoving it in ponies faces like she did in her youth.
Somepony had taught her better; taught her love and compassion. Not that she hadn’t known those traits back then, but in a different way. It was as if she had always walked around with her volume on half power, not knowing how to turn it up. She realized that it was impossible to turn it up herself - she needed somepony to help her. A grey mare, supportive and understanding, though not afraid to speak her mind. The same grey mare she was heading to visit.
The mare’s train of thought was cut short by a soft bump on the side. She looked to the right and saw a mare with a yellow coat and red hair looking at her with an apologetic expression on her face.
“Ah’m sorry, Vinyl. Ah wasn’t watchin’ where Ah was goin’,” Applebloom apologized in her usual thick accent. Vinyl just smiled at her, re-adjusting her glasses and waving her hoof dismissively.
“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, Applebloom,” Vinyl answered with a smirk. “I might be old, but I can still take a bump from a filly like you!”
“Ah ain’t a filly no more!” Applebloom stated with an angry tone before catching the smile on Vinyl’s face. She gave a little shrug as she continued. “Heh, Ah’m as old as you were back when you first came to Ponyville. How many years ago was that?” The last sentence was more an audible thought than an actual question.
“Many, many years ago,” Vinyl answered with a smile before continuing her walk towards her destination again, giving the yellow mare with the bow in her mane a little wink. “Say hi to your sister for me, will you?” Vinyl shouted back.
Vinyl followed the road leading east, out of town. The sun was at its highest now, sending its warm yellow light down upon everything. Vinyl could feel it on her back, and it did not take long before small beads of sweat had formed on her forehead. She looked up from the ground to find herself in the gardens just outside Ponyville. The smell of roses and lilies filled her nostrils, and made her stop for a second to scout her surroundings. To the left of her she found a white bench almost swallowed by the flowers and vines growing, making it almost look one with the wooden wall behind it. She trotted over to it and sat down on it slowly. A few creaks from the bench made her frown.
“I guess I’ve put on a few pounds,” She said with a smile, poking her own stomach with a tired hoof. "Tavi did always cook for me.”
She took her shades off slowly and stared at a honey-bee sitting on a red rose in front of her. She inhaled through her nose and blew a gust of wind at the bee, who quickly started to fly around in circles before landing on the same spot on the flower, buzzing its wings aggressively. Vinyl gave a chuckle as she watched the bee look around to find a source to the disturbance.
“Leave the poor bee alone, Ms. Scratch,” a voice rang out from behind her. Vinyl didn’t turn around, but instead poked the rose with a hoof, making it shake. She watched in amusement as the bee flew away to find another flower without an annoying white unicorn to tease it. The elderly mare glanced over her shoulder with a smirk on her face.
“Hello Roseluck,” She said while putting her thick shades back on. “I was only teasing him a little.”
“Teasing to you is terror to others, Vinyl,” Roseluck replied in a deadpan voice, before giving a deep sigh and watering the flowers in front of her. “What are you up to anyway? You rarely come all the way out here. I think the last time I saw you was the funeral?”
Vinyl continued to smile at Roseluck, a warm genuine smile that made her look like a princess, sitting on a white throne, surrounded by red flowers. She took off her shades again, her red eyes looking like two additional roses in the mixture of colours.
“I’m on my way to visit ‘Tavi. But I wanted to take the long road there, walking through your beautiful garden.” Technically she didn’t exactly consider the garden a destination, but a feeling inside of the unicorn told her that it was a good thing. She had missed the garden. And the ponies in it.
Roseluck giggled, a low and sweet giggle, and shook her long red mane. “It is always a pleasure seeing you, Vinyl. My sister has been asking a lot about you, how you were holding up. But I couldn’t answer her questions, and you know how Lilly gets when she is curious,” she said with a smirk. Vinyl looked at her with her piercing red eyes, inhaling as if she was about to reply, but let out a deep sigh as she could not formulate her words correctly.
“It’s been rough. It’s a whole new life I’m being forced into, one I was hoping to share with her.” She stroked the pendant hanging around her neck, a treble clef made out of silver on a thin chain of the same material. Roseluck stopped watering the flowers, and slowly moved towards Vinyl as the white mare tried to gather her thoughts, to no avail.
Vinyl gave up with a shrug as she let her gaze follow the vines on the bench up towards a tree. She noticed several bees flying around the same flower, fighting over it. The low humming was audible even down at the bench she sat on, and she felt almost hypnotized watching the small creatures compete. She felt a hoof on her shoulder that dragged her out of her short trance, and turned her head only to look into the dark green eyes of Roseluck, who was smiling.
“You know, you are always welcome for some tea with honey at the Flower Sisters’ House,” she said. Vinyl gave her a melancholic smile back.
“I might take you up on that, Rosey,” Vinyl answered and gave her a quick nod. She got up from the bench and waved a hoof at Roseluck before starting to trot away from the red-maned pony, onwards to her destination.
The heavy smell of flowers continued to hang in the air around her long after she left the gardens.
The sun was still high in the sky when Vinyl reached her destination. The tall iron gate in front of her read “Ponyville Cemetery” in big, golden, almost Gothic letters. The little area had a small wooden fence around it, with two trees standing tall between several gravestones and dug up dirt. The cemetery was empty except for Vinyl who opened the gate with a tired hoof.
It opened with a metallic squeak. She walked through the gate and was greeted by silence. The white unicorn stopped for a moment to take in her surroundings, spotting a small road to her right, almost hidden between overgrowth and flowers.
She followed the path that so many ponies had walked before her, their hooves beating the ground hard and grass-less. The path guided her past several tombstones and graves, each decorated with flowers and little trinkets serving as gifts for the departed. One of the graves had balloons tied to it, two yellow and one blue, but besides that all of the graves looked alike to Vinyl. But even through the alikeness of the graves, sadness overtook her as she bowed her head and flattened her ears. She knew too many of the ponies laying here.
Her eyes caught the end of the road. An open spot where one headstone towered high, away from the other graves, in the shadow of a tree. Its leaves were blocking most of the sunlight from reaching the grave. Even though she had walked this path many times, everything seemed to be in slow motion, as though she was underwater all of a sudden. She tried to count to ten in her head to ensure that time was still going as it was meant to, but when she reached seven she noticed that she was already standing in front of the grave. She shook her head and looked up at the tree, the blue sky without a hint of clouds, the green grass softly dancing in the wind. Anywhere but the cold stone in front of her, hidden in the shade.
She took a deep breath and forced her attention downwards, finding the right balance in her body. With closed eyes she moved her head into position and stood still. A gust of wind flew through her mane and coat, giving her slight chills despite its warm embrace. With a melancholic smile she opened her eyes to face the reality, set in stone in front of her:
May Celestia and Luna bless her and guide her, and may the Steed embrace her.”
Vinyl Scratch sat down in front of the grave and for the first time since she entered this dreaded place opened her mouth and spoke:
“My dear. Do you remember?
“Do you remember how we met? The very first day that K-colt aired, and they assigned you as my co-caster? Heh, I guess that was fate pulling a prank on us. I remember when I saw you for the first time, I thought ‘I’m going to have some fun with this mare’. You had an aura around you - A sophisticated aura, something I thought I’d seen a million times before... but I later realized that this was different. You weren’t like the usual snobs that you meet around Canterlot, trotting around in their fancy clothes with their nose in the sky. No, there was something special about you. Simplicity, I think it’s called. You didn’t try to hide that you were a fine mare, but you didn’t try to shove it in everypony’s face like all the others. You wore it like armor. An armor I wanted to break at first, to have my fun with. But later... I guess I wanted to fortify it.
“I don’t remember when it happened. I just remember seeing you one morning, right before we went live, and it was like a spark inside of me burst forth. All those little things that used to make me laugh, like the innocent look in your eyes after a little harassment, started to make me feel... warm? Welcome? I guess welcome is the word I’m looking for. It was like you accepted it, you knew that this was what you signed up for, and for some unknown reason you chose to go along with it instead of fighting it.
“But we did have our fights. Inside and outside the studio. I remember the fight we had on our first date when I took you to D'echelles for dinner. ‘Such an ungraceful place,’ you said. ‘The food tastes horrible, their wine is dull and their service is dreadful!’. You wouldn’t shut up about it until I said that it was me taking you out, and if you didn’t like it you could just take me out. Oh the look in your eye when I said that. That stubborn little glimpse that emerged. I waited for you to retaliate with whatever words was in your arsenal, but for some reason you didn’t. You just muttered ‘fine’ and continued to eat your food in silence. It was kind of shocking that you didn’t fight back, but something inside told me that you were going to get your revenge in some way. You always did. Kind of like the time where I scratched your russian cello the day you bought it... but that’s another story.
“The rest of the night you were quiet, only speaking if I asked you something, and even then it was short answers. But never just yes or no. You always had a short explanation. Every time I asked something I got a little piece of you with my answer. I did not realize this until later, of course. I remember, at the time I thought the date was going horribly. I thought you were mad at me, angry that I wasted your precious time. I even got a bit mad just by thinking that you thought so of me. But after the dinner, when I had paid for everything, you grabbed me by my neck and pulled me close, whispering ‘I know a little stand that sells oranges just around the corner’.
“I looked at you with a deadpan expression. I thought you were joking. But of course you deduced my thoughts before I even opened my mouth. ‘If you want to, we can buy some and go for a walk around the town?’.
“I don’t remember my precise response. I don’t even think I gave you one. You just dragged me along. I wasn’t sure how to react to any of this. You took control of the evening, and I didn’t mind at all. As we walked along the streets in silence, I savored it. That evening I was taught the beauty of silence, how two ponies can communicate without words. I’d always been the one to speak the loudest, to initiate conversation. I didn’t like awkward silences, or silences at all. Too dull, too actionless. Whenever a silence occurred I had to beat it down or else I wasn’t comfortable. But with you it seemed so serene. Like the silence was a conversation in itself.
“I guess I fell in love. I didn’t know what that meant back then, but I could feel it. Like a melody stuck in your head, but you didn’t know where it came from or what it was. You only knew that it was there. We walked for almost an hour before you opened your mouth. And when you did, all conversation seemed to flow. It was like I’ve wanted to say so much to you, but I never had the chance. And now the chance was right in my face, so vivid that I could almost taste every word. And you listened. Not because you felt the need to do so, but because you wanted to. And I did the same.
“We reached the north side of the park, the one overlooking the rich part of town, with all its big houses and enormous gardens with swimming pools and garages. I wasn’t poor, but I was definitely not rich. I made enough money through my live shows and music to live a normal life, but I had no privileges such as traveling or even a garden I could call my own. But you pointed out your house to me, a big house made mostly out of wood. I couldn’t believe what I saw. You living in such luxury? But when I looked at you, I saw you blush and look away.
“At that moment I think I understood what you had been through. Being a rich pony with a rich family, always being taught how to think, act and be. You wished for more than money, but you couldn’t give it up because without it you couldn’t do what you lived for; playing the cello. Was that why you didn’t like the fancy dinner, but would rather just eat a plain orange with me? Share something simple, because for you it was almost alien? You never answered that in words, my love, but your look that night said it all. Was that why you chose me? Because I was the total opposite to your everyday life? Wild, reckless, dumb...
“It’s funny how we started out being so different, and ended being so much alike.”
Vinyl Scratch looked upwards as she sighed, feeling the words getting stuck in her throat. The road down memory lane had been harder than she expected. The cold stone proved a good listener. Perhaps too good.
She looked around, immediately noticing the lone tree to her right. A single bird sat on a branch overlooking the cemetery with its back to her. She stared at it while gathering her thoughts. A warm breeze flew over her, making her shiver slightly. The sudden movement made a slight pain shoot through her spine, reminding her that she had been sitting still on the soft dirt for too long. As she changed her position, the bird gave a peep before taking off, allowing the breeze to carry it upwards.
As she watched it, pictures started to stream before her eyes. Memories, like watching a movie underwater, most of it blurred by age. But some images stood out; A grey mare and a white unicorn on a hill in the middle of a picnic, laughing over nothing. An orange rolling down the hill as the two ponies kiss. The picture changes to a teary face of a grey earth pony with purple eyes. A white veil hung down from her beautiful hair, trying to hide the tears. “They just don’t understand” is being repeated in a angry whimper, the words getting spat out through grinding teeth. Vinyl’s mouth started to move on its own.
“It wasn’t always easy. Actually, now that I think about it, it was anything but easy. But it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Me sitting here, telling memories to stone while you went on without me. You know, when you died I didn’t accept it. I knew that you weren’t sleeping, even though you looked so serene. The atmosphere around you was different. It was almost like the glow you always gave the room you were in suddenly disappeared.
“But I ignored it. I made you breakfast. And when you didn’t eat any of it I actually got a bit angry. It was a silly thing to do, but I think I needed it. I mean, what else would you do if you lost your other half? I guess I tried to continue living a half-hearted life. But you know what scared me the most? That I was unsure what to do, and you weren’t there to tell me. I was like a filly being forgotten at school. Every path I tried to take all seemed so full of colour it almost blinded me. Too many colours. All I wanted was grey.”
Vinyl had to stop. She noticed the wet trails going down her cheeks. She had forcefully kept her eyes closed even though the pain in her muscles had started to become unbearable. She loosened her face and pried her eyes open slowly.
The mare’s world was blurred. What greeted her was a mash of colours. She blinked and wiped her eyes with her hoof. When she looked again she saw the bird from before sitting on the tombstone, facing her. She continued to stare at it, time standing still in her world.
“Good evening little fella,” she said as she slowly moved her hoof closer to the bird. The bird stared at her before whistling a note.
Vinyls eyes opened wide. The sound of music somehow triggered something inside of her. It penetrated her defenses. It toned down the colours. She tried to utter a word, but all that came out was a whisper. She closed her eyes as pictures began to flood her mind again. But this time it was different. This time the pictures did not have a melancholic glow to them. They had a purple glow, a warm and welcoming glow. She opened her eyes again and looked at the bird with a smile. She knew what to do. She knew what path to take.
“Do you want to hear about a friend of mine?”
Roseluck slowly trotted up the dirt road leading to the cemetery. It was Tuesday and the day was almost over, which meant that it was her turn to maintain the flowers and plants. Not that she minded, though. Every time she saw a family member or a friend leave flowers at a grave, she couldn’t help but feel bittersweet. Most of the flowers she saw up here she planted or sold herself, but they all had a different meaning. Each told their own story, from seed to bloom.
But she did not expect to meet any ponies up here.
As soon as she passed through the gate she could see her. A mare with a yellow coat and red mane and tail standing beside a white and blue spot. She trotted towards her, slowly at first, but as the yellow mare began to call out for help, Roseluck suddenly found herself galloping.
“Ah don’t know what happened! When Ah came up here she was just laying there!” Applebloom shouted as soon as Roseluck was within range of her voice. There was a clear ring of panic in her voice which made the mare gallop even faster. When she reached the yellow earth pony she could suddenly see the whole scene:
Vinyl Scratch was laying in front of the tombstone, not moving. Her glasses were neatly placed at her side. Roseluck stood still for a second, stunned by the scene in front of her, before moving closer to Vinyl and Applebloom.
“When did you find her?” Roseluck asked the yellow mare.
“No more than five minutes ago! Ah was up here putting on some flowers on ol’ Granny Smith’s grave, and Ah couldn’t help but spot her. First Ah thought she was sleeping so Ah minded mah own business, but when she didn’t move at all Ah tried to talk to her and...” Applebloom fell silent.
“Applebloom, gallop to town and get nurse Redheart and your sister.”
Applebloom gave Roseluck a determined nod before galloping away from the scene towards the gate. She hit the gate with her shoulder as she ran past it, making it slam open with a metallic and rusty crash.
Roseluck followed her with her eyes until she was sure that she was on her way, then returned her attention to the white unicorn laying in front of her. The sun was going down, its final waves of sunlight embracing the cemetery. And in one of those waves of sunlight, Roseluck noticed a glimmer coming from something Vinyl was holding.
She reached down and moved Vinyls hoof a little to the side to reveal a silver pendant in the shape of a treble clef. Roseluck sat down next to the white unicorn on the ground. The tranquility of the scene made her relaxed. It was like it was all emitting a soothing aura. She found herself staring at Vinyl who looked so angelic. It really was like she was only sleeping..
“I think I understand what you meant,” Roseluck whispered, “When you said that you wanted to take the long road. I guess none of us could have stopped you.” She gave a sigh as she looked up into the sky almost on instinct.
“I just hope you did the right thing. A lot of ponies are going to miss you, you know?”
A sudden movement to her right made Roseluck look at the gravestone. A grey bird sat on the stone, observing her calmly. As she was about to open her mouth, another flash of movement caught her eye as a white bird landed on the stone right next to the grey one. As she watched them the grey bird spread its wings and flew to the sky, swiftly followed by the white one. Behind her, Roseluck could hear the sound of hooves approaching.
She didn’t turn around, her eyes fixated on the two now small dots in the sky. She could hear Applebloom’s voice behind her, but she still did not turn her head. She couldn’t. The two birds disappeared from her sights as it got more and more blurry. She quickly wiped her eyes with her hoof and gave a nod in the direction of the birds.