Once my heart stopped trying to explode, I slowly inched back over to the sink, where the water was still running. From my seat on the floor, I reached up and turned off the faucet with a trembling push. Still shaking slightly, I placed my hooves on the edge of the sink and raised myself up, back into the range of the mirror. The creature stared back, and I found that I was looking at myself. Other than its bright yellow eyes though, the thing in the mirror looked nothing like me.
The pony that stared back at me was disheveled, coat filthy and ungroomed. In fact his purplish-blue coat was still discolored by swirls of rainbow goo, giving the majority of his body a muddy brownish-grey tinge, with areas of bright random colors. As I looked myself over, I saw that I must have been completely submerged in it at some point. The colors were smudged and faded however, as if somepony had tried to sponge me off a bit, but years of working at the weather factory told me that it would take a much more thorough cleaning than that to get my coat to look even close to normal. In fact, it would probably take days of scrubbing for my coat to return to its vibrant hue again after taking a dunk in rainbow juice... along with whatever else had mixed in from the forest floor.
My mane, for the most part, was as bad as I expected. Matted and tangled, filthy, but still black, at least for the most part. Seems that the rainbow juice had a harder time soaking into that, or it had been easier to wash out. What made my jaw drop again was that narrow swaths of it had somehow gone grey. Not just regular grey, but a bright shining grey, more of a silver, really, than anything. And not just a little at the roots or tips, but each strand had changed completely from top to bottom. As I reached down and pulled my tail into view, I found it was the same; messy, and streaked with silver. As I looked closer at it, the silver hairs seemed to shine in the light, almost as if it was made of some metal. Still in shock, I poked and prodded at them. They were definitely still hair, though I had never seen anything like it before. Another mystery that I wanted answers for.
What concerned me the most, though, as I examined myself, was that I found myself suddenly thin, to the point of looking malnourished, even emaciated! I had always been a bit pudgy, so this change was completely out of the blue. How long had I been up there! I studied my reflection, swallowing a sudden lump in my throat. My eyes were sunken yet swollen, my skin pulled tight all over my body, outlining every muscle I could see. Around my chest, it had gotten to the point where my ribs were obviously visible. Large sections of my torso had blossomed into deep, discolored bruises. No wonder Zecora had been so insistent on getting food into me right away; I looked like some kind of horrible zombie pony, about to keel over at any second, or maybe even about to eat somepony. My stomach rumbled again, reminding me that she had more food ready for me once I was finally ready to leave the washroom and face them again. And sweet Celestia, did I need it apparently!
While all these thoughts passed through my mind, it was the startling change to my body that caused me the most panic. I found myself almost hyperventilating at the sight, and before I knew it, I was trembling again. Before I could get a hold of myself, I was already running for the exit. I pulled the bathroom door open and bolted out... finding myself face to face with a bright pink pony who had pressed herself right up against it. With absolutely no space to stop, I barged right into her. We tumbled into the main room, a jumble of hooves and mane. I wound up flat on my back as the pink one, seemingly unfazed by the impact, stood over me with a big goofy grin on her face.
Before I could even catch my breath, her mouth popped open and words started pouring out everywhere. “Hi there! I'm Pinkie Pie! I heard you moving around back there and so I figured you were about to come out, so I stood by the door because I wanted to finally meet you because I haven't met you before and if I haven't met you before you must be new here and if you're new then you must not have any friends yet and so I thought that must be lonely so I decided since I was already throwing Fluttershy a ‘Get Well Soon’ party that this could also be your ‘Welcome to Ponyville’ party and we could have snacks and games and there would be balloons and streamers and then maybe you wouldn't be lonely anymore and you would get better faster since I want you to get better faster, even though I've never met you before and the ‘Get Well Soon’ party was for Fluttershy but she doesn't seem that hurt but wow you look like Twilight did after all those things fell out of the delivery wagon on her! But I think that maybe the party already helped and you are feeling better already because you charged out of the washroom like Whoosh! and I was there and it was all Zoom! Bang! Crash! And then we landed on the floor and I was on top of you and then I said Hi!!!”
After what seemed like an impossibly long time, she finally paused and started to take a deep gasping breath. As she did, my eyes finally stopped rolling around my skull long enough to shake my head clear and look up at her. When I did, my jaw dropped so far that I think it hit my chest. Her face was only millimeters away, her wide open mouth almost touching mine as her poofy mane brushed against my forehead. She was bouncing up and down on all four hooves which, since they were all around me, had pinned me to the floor. Each time she landed her chest softly squished against mine: though thankfully she was not putting any real weight on me. Her eyes were closed, so I don't think she even realized what she was doing. Blushing involuntarily, I weakly tried to pull myself out from under her. I had no idea what to do, how to react. This was completely out of my comfort zone.
Before she could start up again, I was miraculously saved. I heard a loud gasp and then from out of nowhere Fluttershy tackled Pinkie Pie, pulling her off of me and landing in another pony pile back in the alcove with the leopard print blanket.
Everypony in the room stared at the spectacle: This was obviously not something that this shy pony does often. As suddenly as she had appeared, she pulled herself up and backed away from Pinkie, her cheeks glowing as she forced herself to speak out. “Oh my, I'm so sorry Pinkie. I um... don't know what came over me, but this really isn't the time to jump on the poor dear. He was in a lot of pain before Zecora gave him that medicine, and where there's pain, there’s injury, even if we can't see it. At least, I think so... maybe?”
She started to shrink back, but her eyes filled with determination and she stood tall again for a moment and finished. "But um, neither Zecora or I have enough medical training to tell just how badly he might be hurt inside. So if I could just ask, you know, um, for everypony to try not to touch him, that would just be perfect. Um... pretty please?”
Her courage finally faltering, she once again withdrew behind her mane with a squeak. It was obvious to anypony that she did not feel comfortable speaking out in public and drawing attention to herself, but for some reason she was making the attempt. Despite not really knowing her, I was glad to see she was trying to overcome her shortfalls, but it made me wonder how she had gotten this way in the first place, or if this was just somehow normal for her.
Pinkie Pie rolled out of the blanket and hopped up nonchalantly. Cantering over to Fluttershy, she put a reassuring forehoof over her cowering form. “Aw, it’s OK Fluttershy, I guess I just got a little overexcited. I promise I'll keep my hooves to myself... at least for today. You know how I get when I meet new ponies.”
Fluttershy peeked out from behind her bangs. “Will you Pinkie promise?” She asked timidly.
Pinkie looked a little surprised, but shrugged and took a seat on the ground. “Well, sure, if it means that much to you." She coughed into her hoof. "Ahem. I, Pinkie Pie, promise to be careful and keep my hooves off of... um... ” She trailed off, her eyes widening as her gaze passed over the others before coming to rest on me. “Oh my gosh! We never asked you what your name was!”
An awkward silence filled the room. I had managed to roll over at this point and had just put my hooves back on the ground. Rarity swept gracefully over to me and extended me a courtesy hoof to help me up. As I took it gratefully, she spoke. “So sorry, my dear! How very rude of us to interfere with your healing and not at least inquire into such an important thing as the name of the pony we nearly accosted! May we please ask for your forgiveness and your name?”
Still partially dazed from the recent impacts to my head, I responded without thinking. “Uh, it’s Indigo. Indigo Flash. Of Cloudsdale.” As my thoughts began to focus again, however, I cursed myself inwardly. They didn't need to know that. The less they knew, the better, and the sooner you can get out of their manes. Besides, you already told them you were from Cloudsdale, you idiot! Hurriedly, I added “Don't worry about all that other stuff though, I'm fine.” Taking a step gingerly, I found myself tipping and began to fall over.
Instantly I found a white flank propping me up. “You most certainly are not! No offense dear, but you look absolutely horrid. You need rest, food, and time to heal. I'm sure a closer look from Nurse Redheart back in town is also called for. No offense intended Fluttershy, dearie, but while your veterinary skills are unmatched, I think a proper checkup is in order.” Fluttershy nodded at this, not seeming to mind at all.
Rarity paused, then turned to Pinkie. “Um, Pinkie my dear, did you say something about a party?” she asked, giving her a curious look that seemed to have a tinge of apprehension.
Pinkie clopped her hooves together. “Oh right! Just lemme finish this first.” Clearing her throat loudly, she restarted her promise. “I promise to help Indigo get better and not hurt him anymore.” Waving her hooves in a choreographed movement that she had obviously used many times, she swore: “Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.” Finishing her routine, she shoved her hoof into her eye. I winced. Didn't that hurt at all?
Smiling sheepishly, she looked to Fluttershy. “That good?”
Fluttershy nodded and smiled, coming out from behind her mane as she stood up. “Yes.”
Pinkie jumped for joy. “Okie dokie lokie! Its time for a party!”
Twilight put a hoof to her forehead and groaned. “Please don't tell me you're going to run back to Ponyville to set up a big party, like you did when I was the new pony in town. Even after all this time, I still sometimes have trouble tasting things properly, thanks to that hot sauce debacle.” Sticking her tongue out and shuddering, she then smiled cheerfully. She was obviously in a much better mood now than she had been earlier, as she turned to face the pink pony.
Laughing, Pinkie Pie skipped towards her. “Nah, I'm all good. We're gonna have a party right now!” Raising a hoof, she pointed behind the other ponies, to where she had been sitting earlier. After having finally regained my balance and getting all four hooves under me again, I looked over to where she was gesturing. As all eyes focused on the area, everypony in the room seemed to simultaneously realize that she had somehow produced and laid out several plates of treats, mostly what appeared to be cupcakes with different colored frostings. Next to the platters I could make out the distinctive shape of soda bottles. Also, at some point, she had finished hanging the all those decorations she’d begun upon arrival, as streamers and balloons now littered the ceiling. A big banner was strung across the back wall, reading “Get Well Soon!”. Underneath the printed text, it appeared somepony had hastily scrawled “and Welcome to Ponyville!” in what appeared to be purple frosting.
Twilight spun back around towards Pinkie, a look of incredulity on her face. “What? But... but... when did you manage to finish setting all this up? I saw you stop and sit down!”
Pinkie Pie stopped, and covered her mouth, giggling. Waving her hoof as if dismissing the question, she replied. “Oh, I finished all that while he talking about that whole pegasus ancestry stuff. I already knew all about that from when I used to visit my great aunt Surprise, way back when I was just a little Twinkie Pinkie!”
Twilight's look of confusion only deepened. “Huh? What? Then why didn't you say anything earlier?”
Pinkie grinned mischeviously and sang out in a sing song voice: “You didn't aaaa-aaask!”
Twilight groaned as Pinkie continued, shrugging. “Besides, it's not like its a secret or anything. Great auntie Surprise was a pegasus too, so I got the talk when I was still just a little filly, no bigger than Applebloom.” Her normal bounciness seemed to fade a bit as she walked slowly over to the window where the puny little cloud I had created had ended up after being neglected and left to drift. Looking straight at Twilight, she lifted a hoof and shoved it right into the cloud. It went right through, a few small puffs coming out the other side. "Too bad I wasn't as lucky as him though." She said, pointing at me with her other hoof. "I'd love to jump on clouds like Rainbow! It was super fun when we went to Cloudsdale!"
Everypony's mouth hit the floor at this revelation: She had a bit of pegasus ancestry? Obviously, she couldn't really touch the cloud, but still: she had some? Pinkie continued, nonplussed, as if this was normal. “I remember lots of things from way back then. Let's see... like um... oh! I could tell you what he meant earlier, when he said 'Full ability to walk on clouds.' "
Pinkie shook her hoof, easily escaping the cloud as it slowly drifted up towards Rainbow Dash, who swooped down and caught it. Once free, Pinkie put the same hoof to her mouth and tapped her chin, adopting a thoughtful expression. "How did it go again?" She paused, rubbing her temples forcefully with both hooves. Suddenly, she popped up, eyes open wide, glinting in the candlelight. "Oh yeah! Basically, it goes something like this. You can get different special stuff if you have a pegasus in your family. Like if your mother, or your uncle, or your great grandmare twice removed was a pegasus, and you weren't you might still get some cool abilities. Auntie Surprise told me that the most common one is light bones. She said that they can be anywhere from as heavy as an earth pony’s, to as light as Rainbow Dash's!"
Rainbow, who was still hovering near the ceiling, appeared to take offense at this. Swooping down a bit, she gave Pinkie a glare from close range. "Hey! Who are you calling a lightweight?!"
Pinkie just giggled and jumped, wrapping her forehooves around Rainbow's outstretched neck and pulling her to the ground with a crash. Rainbow groaned at the impact, her eyes spinning as Pinkie ruffled her hair playfully. "You are, silly! Well, your bones are, anyway. Light bones make it so you fly faster, and higher, and crazier! If you aren't born a pegasus though, you usually have stupid, normal, heavy bones."
She released the cyan pony and jumped back to her hooves. Standing up on her hindlegs, she began clopping her hooves together in glee. Rainbow Dash, having recovered at this point, leapt into the air and tackled Pinkie. I couldn't tell whether the expression on her face was playful or annoyed, but they collided with the back wall with a thud, knocking loose several masks. Zecora frowned, but Pinkie didn't seem to mind though, as she started laughing. "Ha! Gotcha!" Rainbow exclaimed, grinning mischievously as she got to her hooves, standing over her.
As she backed away, her victorious look faded into confusion as Rainbow Dash glanced sideways at Pinkie. "But uh, Pinkie? How do you know all that stuff about Indigo anyways?"
Pinkie stopped laughing abruptly and gave Rainbow a strange look. "Huh? What do you mean, silly? Weren't you listening earlier? He told us all about that before he had to run off to take care of his 'urgent business'." She smirked, and I felt my face grow red, but I refrained from saying anything. She rolled over from her back to her stomach and continued. "Besides, I can tell! He ran into me, remember? He's a heavy boy!"
Rainbow Dash looked taken aback for an instant, but quickly regained her composure. "Uh, yeah! I didn't forget, I was just... uh... testing you. Right! Yeah! Good job!" Bracing herself, she flapped her wings and took back to the air, returning to the rafters, where she took a seat on my tiny cloud, which barely held her. The shadows in the roof darkened her face, but not enough to hide the look of embarrassment as her face reddened.
Pinkie got back to her hooves and shook her head, before smiling and looking back towards me. "Aaaanyways... where was I?" She paused, thinking. "Oh yeah! Auntie Surprise also mentioned something about a pegasus who couldn't touch clouds, and an earth filly who could. She said they were probably just old mares’ tales, but if Rainbow met one..." Pinkie’s eyes twinkled and she nearly vibrated in glee. "EEEEE! I can’t wait to tell her at the next family reunion!"
Twilight's mouth hung wide open, stunned by all this information. Suddenly she shook her head, the look of confusion replaced by one of frustration. “Pinkie, we've known each other for a long time now. Why didn’t you tell us about this before?”
Surprisingly, Pinkie's expression shifted into a frown at this comment, something I had begun to think I would never see on her face. Her mane seemed to lose a little more of its puffiness as she looked down, scuffing her hoof on the floor. "Well, like I said, you didn’t ask. And... I... I don't really talk much about weird things like that. At least, not anymore, ever since that whole Parasprite thingy. I know you all think that I'm hyper and crazy and... how did you put it, Applejack? A few apples short of a bushel?"
Across the room, I saw Applejack, who had been nonchalantly leaning against a wall, startle at this. Losing her composure, her hat fell from her head, landing upside-down on the floor. Cheeks rosy and chuckling awkwardly, she stuttered. "Oh... um... wow... hoo boy, Ah'm mighty sorry Pinkie... Ah didn't mean to, uh... oh, horseapples." Trailing off as her face grew more and more red, she picked up her cowpony hat and replaced it, tilting it steeply to hide her rosy face.
Pinkie didn't seem to notice, and continued softly. "So since then, I try and keep the craziest stuff to myself if it isn't super important. Besides, you don't need to know all the random things I know, just like how I don't need to know all that magic stuff you know, right Twilight?” Suddenly perking up, the frown disappeared, replaced by another big smile. “Anyways, because of my great aunt, I've got the light bones too! It's awesome, cause I can fly around with balloons whenever I want and I can run really really fast!”
While all this had been going on, Twilight had levitated her quill and parchment again and had been scribbling furiously. At Pinkie's admission, however, her magic cut off abruptly, causing the writing materials to fall to the floor with a clatter. She rushed over to Pinkie and hugged her tightly. “Pinkie, I know we said some hurtful things during the Parasprite swarm; we were all stressed out of our minds and... well... we all went a little crazy. But I know I speak for all of us when I say that we meant it when we said we were sorry, and that we should have listened to you.” She pulled away, holding her hooves. “We all love you for who you are, and you don't need to try and hide anything about yourself to make us happy.”
The other girls took this moment to all gather around and give their own apologies. All traces of sadness were gone from her eyes as Pinkie stretched her arms around the group and squeezed them tightly. My eyes widened at this feat, as did all of theirs; she looked to be hugging them so tightly that I could've sworn I heard spines cracking. Gleefully, she laughed, “Oh girls, I love you too, and I know you didn't mean all those Meany McMeanyPants things you said. I forgave you forever ago!” Releasing them from her death grip, she started hopping around the room again happily.
Rainbow took to flying again after taking a few deep breaths, obviously desperate for air after that bear hug. Swirling around Pinkie, she ruffled her bouncy pink mane and laughed. “Yeah, I remember the last time you thought we didn't like you anymore. I really hope you got all that crazy out of your system.” A look of curiosity came over her face. “Hey Pinkie, what did you do with all of that weird stuff you had in your room that day anyway?”
Pinkie paused looking thoughtful. “Hmm, let’s see... Rocky's at the bottom of a lake, I buried Mr. Turnip in the back of Carrot Top's garden... hehe, she was so surprised when she dug him up!” Her eyes crossed, concentrating. “Um, I dunno what happened to Sir Lintsalot; I think Gummy probably ate him when I wasn't looking... Oh! And I cut open Madame LeFlour and turned her into cupcakes! Lots and lots of delicious cupcakes!” Pinkie salivated, licking her lips as she remembered. “I made her into so many that after I ate a ton I had a tummy ache for hours! Even then I still had some left over, so I had a cupcake sale at Sugarcube Corner. Remember that day, Zecora? It was a super extra special day because you came to town, so I gave everypony one for free! Hehe, I guess I could say you all ate a bit of her!”
Rainbow Dash landed with a thump, laughing. “Nice one, Pinkie! That must've been an awesome prank on Carrot Top. Wish I had seen it!”
Pinkie giggled. “It was! But you were busy with weather patrol when she finally got to that part of her garden, so I watched her myself. It was hilarious!”
The rest of the ponies, myself included, were flabbergasted by this confession. Zecora was the first to recover, and voiced what I'm sure we were all thinking. “Buried, drowned, cooked and consumed. Creatures with names, or so I have assumed. But this cannot be true; it does not make any sense. The Pinkie we know would not even kill in defense. So without judging, I will sit here and wait, and pray you do not tell us it is a pony we ate.” By this point, Zecora was positively green, and Rarity looked absolutely horrified, visibly gagging.
Before I had a chance to look at the others, Pinkie gasped loudly and reared up, pawing at the air in a panic. “Oh, no no no no no!!! I would NEVER do anything like that! They were just... things! Things that were lying around Sugarcube Corner. When I thought my friends hated me, I went a little loco in the coco, and decided I needed to make new friends: and so I did. Literally!" She shrugged. "Seemed to make sense at the time. A pile of rocks, a bucket of turnips, a ball of lint and dust... and a big bag of flour.” Regaining her composure, if you can call it that, she gave the ponies a look of disbelief. “You actually thought I killed and cooked up a pony? And then fed it to everypony in town? That's just disgusting! Where would you even get such an idea?”
Though she was turned towards the others, for some reason I saw her right eye, the one that faced me, shift, as if she was looking sideways, out the window. Her eye had a look to it, as if she was watching, or recognizing something out there, and the look she was giving was of disapproval. I turned to look, and saw a flash of light, but it was just a torch flickering outside and the forest beyond. By the time I looked back, her eye had returned to normal, aimed back towards Zecora. I shrugged it off; must have just been a trick of the candlelight in here.
Rainbow Dash walked over and put a foreleg over Pinkie. “Well, that'd probably be my fault. I decided not to tell them about the um... party... you were throwing when I found you, remember? I figured, you know, my gal pal Pinkie Pie here had a bit of a breakdown and probably wouldn't want it spread around.” She shivered a little, and smiled awkwardly. “I mean that place was seriously creepy-town, Pinkie. I don't even like thinking about it.” Rainbow looked a little embarrassed and rubbed the back of her head with a hoof. “But yeah, didn't think that decision would come back to bite me in the rear. I know I should've spoken up, but I guess I just forgot that I hadn't told you guys. So yeah, sorry!”
Pinkie gave Rainbow a hug. “Aw, thanks Dashie. That’s sweet of you, but it's okay. I'm not gonna hide anything from you girls ever again. I'm an open book... like half of Twilight’s library on a daily basis.” She giggled loudly as Twilight blushed at this. “But enough of this sappy stuff, it’s time to PARTY!”
Disappearing in a flash of confetti and streamers, Pinkie reappeared from outside the house with a small phonograph clutched in her teeth. Placing it on a table near the sweets, she spun, giving it a bump with her hip. The needle bounced smoothly onto the record and lively party music began to play.
While all this had been going on, I had just been standing there, in various stages of befuddlement both from all the references to things I didn't understand, and the interactions between these ponies. My mind boggled, unable to make sense of what was going on. A party? For me? Here? Now? After what had just happened? Why? How? Where was she getting all this stuff? As the logic center in my brain started to break down, I found myself swaying, losing my balance again while Pinkie skipped past me to nudge Zecora, who was the only one who looked surprised at this turn of events, over to the others. They had now begun to circle the snacks, bouncing to the beat, as if this was somehow normal.
Spontaneously, mid skip, she froze, somehow balancing on one hoof. Turning her head to me, she grinned. “Ooooh, by the way, I really like your mane! Those streaks are WILD!” Resuming mid stride, she continued over to the others, humming happily to herself.
Dumbfounded, wobbling erratically, my brain still processing at the speed of molasses, I attempted to reply. “My mane? What do you...” Suddenly, sense kicked back in, and I involuntarily cried out. “Oh my gosh, my mane!”
Mentally, I snapped back into clarity as my earlier train of thought crashed back onto the tracks, and I remembered my current state. Regaining stability, I slammed my right forehoof into the ground to draw attention to myself. Unfortunately, this worked far too well, for as soon as I put my full weight onto the hoof, it collapsed under me. Pain flared through the numbness, as it sent me face first into the ground with a loud thump.
I didn't lose consciousness, thankfully, but everything went fuzzy, and appeared in wavering triplicate. Laying dumbly on the ground for a moment, I found myself wondering where the music went as a loud ringing filled my ears. Several big yellowish blobs appeared in front of me, making some kind of noise that I couldn't make out. I tried to shake my head clear, but it didn't seem to help; In fact, it seemed to make things even more blurry, so I closed my eyes instead, waiting for my head to clear.
As I lay there, I felt something brushing up against my newest injury, causing me to wince. I wanted to see what it was, but my head hurt so much I decided not to open my eyes. That was when it hit me: I was able to feel things again! The numbness had started to fade! I quickly realized that earlier I had felt Pinkie squishing my chest, and wow, could I feel the pain in my hoof, and oh... oh my head. I cursed myself as I came to the obvious conclusion: that I had just injured myself further, right as the medicine was wearing off. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
The ringing slowly started to subside, as did the sharp throbbing that pounded my skull. Gingerly, I cracked open my eyes. Clear sight returned slowly, as the three images merged into one, and what I saw was Fluttershy holding my hoof between hers, carefully using her mouth to wrap gauze around what appeared to be a splint. She was using what looked to be kindling from the nearby wood pile. Embarrassed, I tried to pull my hoof away, but she held on tightly, and gave me a disapproving look. Despite it not being malicious, I still quailed at the thought, and stopped resisting.
Finishing the splint, she dropped the remaining gauze, turning her head demurely to the side and coughing and rubbing her tongue with her hoof. Involuntarily, I cracked a smile: obviously gauze was not very tasty. She turned back and spoke... or at least I think she did. I found myself watching her mouth move, but still unable to hear anything. Using my left hoof I wiggled my ear, tilting it forward. She moved in closer and repeated herself. This time I thought I heard something, but it still wasn't understandable. Before I realized what I was doing, I found myself calling out, but far too loudly.
Fluttershy must've jumped several feet in the air, and when she landed, she scrambled backwards, blushing furiously. I realized that I had just embarrassed her in front of all of her friends, and immediately felt horrible. Quickly, I tried to apologize, but unfortunately, only ended up making a fool of myself as well in the process.
“Sorry! I didn't mean to be so loud! I can't hear anything!”
I flopped my left ear back and forth with my good hoof, trying to stop the ringing. As the others gathered around me, I shook my head furiously, wanting to hear what was being said, but all I could hear over the noise was a dull mumble, completely unintelligible.
I opened my mouth to speak again, but before I could say anything, I found a light purple hoof blocking my mouth. I looked up at Twilight, who shook her head: No. I nodded, comprehending, and she took her hoof away from my face. Under the watchful gaze of the seven mares, I closed my eyes, and waited.
Laying there patiently, I had time to really gather my thoughts. Inwardly, I sighed: What a mess. As my thoughts calmed and slowed, I found myself coming to an abrupt decision. Given this opportunity, after putting all the craziness aside, I realized that none of this mattered. Not my mane, not my body's current condition, not my hunger, or the questions I had begun to stockpile... nothing at all. The ponies here, while they all seemed so nice, obviously had their own lives to get back to, and I wasn't a part of it. I couldn’t, wouldn’t be a part of it. Whether or not their kindness and interest in me was sincere, I had to get out of here. Right now. Before anything else happened to me... or to them.
My eyes opened quickly, hardened with determination as I struggled to my hooves. Even though I still couldn't hear them clearly, their expressions made their feelings clear: Sit back down! It was just as obvious to me, as I felt my bones creaking in protest. I really should’nt be moving. Shaking, I regained my balance on three hooves and stood firm, putting on a brave face to hide my discomfort. Solemnly, I nodded towards Fluttershy and Zecora, and spoke, making sure to force out a normal volume level. “Thank you for your hospitality, but I really must be going now. You all have things to get back to, I'm sure, and I need to get out of here as soon as possible. Since I can still walk, that means now, before anything else happens.” I limped towards the door, pushing past the stunned ponies. Turning my head back to towards them, I continued. “I promise I will find some way to pay you back for the services you provided in healing me, some day. So thank you again, and goodbye.”
I had almost made it to the door when the orange pony jumped in front of me, blocking the way. I stopped suddenly, not wanting to bump into her. Noticing I was still swaying slightly, I focused and stopped it before I spoke. “Please don't try and stop me. Trust me when I say this is for the best.” She stood firm, shaking her head negatively. Growing annoyed, I was curt. “Look, you really don't want me around! Bad things happen to me and those around me lately, so please just let me go! I'm sure I can make it on my own from here out.” I really wasn't sure, but what I was sure of was that the longer I spent here, the more likely it was that something would happen to them, just like what happened to the jocks... or to Fluttershy. I quashed my feelings harshly. Dangit, I just wanted to be alone right now!
Applejack looked angry and stood her ground. Her mouth opened wide and I strained to comprehend the sounds that come forth.
“~~~ need kelp!”
I blinked at this. Kelp? Why in Equestria would I need... wait. Where had I heard that today... Oh right! That green goop Zecora had put on my horn was made with kelp. I looked up crosseyed at my horn, and realized that I had accidentally washed off the potion when I stuck my head under the sink. Ah. One mystery solved. Oh well.
I forced a smile at Applejack. “Oh sorry, you mean the goo for my horn. Seems I accidentally washed it off when I was in the washroom. I'm sure it'll heal on its own in time. Now if you could just move out of the way...” Applejack didn't budge, if anything, the expression on her face grew more frustrated. I sighed. “Please, I can't impose on any of you any further!”
Applejack reared up, taking a deep breath. As she landed, she yelled out at the top of her lungs, and this time, I heard her clear as a bell.
“YEW NEED HELP!!!”
The loudness of her outburst cleared the last of the fuzz from my ears and caused me to take a step back. Unfortunately for me, the hoof with which I did that with happened to yet again be the one I had apparently sprained. This time though, I gritted my teeth and pulled the hoof up close to my chest, not allowing myself to fall again. I opened my mouth to refute Applejack's claim, but she marched right up to me and stared me right in the eyes before I could let out more than a squeak.
“Lookie here pardner. Trust me when Ah say Ah know a thing or two about being stubborn, but Ah'm not about to listen to any more of yer fancy-shmancy talk about protectin’ us at yer expense, ya’ hear?” She took a step towards me. “Now you listen and you listen good. Yer a badly injured pony, smack-dab in the middle of the Everfree forest, the most dangerous of the dangerous parts aroun’ here!” Another step. “Yer’ as weak as a newborn kitten: the forest'd eat you alive! Even puttin' that aside, the nearest place ya’ can get to from here is Ponyville, where we all live anyhow. Like you are now, you'd never even make it close ta’ there before you collapsed. So ya’ can just sit yer pretty little behind right back down an’ let Fluttershy an’ Zecora take care a’ you.” Having reached me, she butted her head against mine. “Now do ya’ understan’ me?”
With that light headbutt, my balance was lost and I toppled, managing to brace with my good hoof so my face didn't hit the floor this time. As much as I didn't want to admit it, she was right; I had nowhere to go, and no idea of where I was, other than deep in the Everfree forest. Even so, I knew I wasn't planning on going to this Ponyville place; there would just be more ponies there. No, better off that I just disappear into the forest, and learn to survive in the solitude of the wilderness. I was a smart pony, I knew I could do it if I put my mind to it.
Bolstered by this new life choice (as illogical as it may be in hindsight, having never been on the ground before today), I strove to rise again to my hooves, only to now find the purple mare in my way. Twilight's voice rang out clearly and defiantly as she spoke. “You can't go. You promised me that you'd answer all my questions, and you haven't yet. I told you that I would hold you to that, and now I am. So stay put!”
I winced: I knew that was going to come back to haunt me. Still, a broken promise, as much as I hated to do it, was something I knew I could live with. Ruining their lives, on the other hoof...
I still had no idea what had happened to me back in Cloudsdale. That purple haze, the screaming faces of those jocks, fires roaring, smoke swirling, ponies glaring... I shuddered, shoving the broken memories aside. All I knew was that when it happened I had hurt other ponies as if it was nothing, and that for all I knew, I could do it again. Guilt bore down on my mind, along with fear. Fear of myself... what I was capable of. Even though I’d hated those ponies, they hadn't deserved that! Nopony did! Especially not these girls. They hadn't done anything to deserve... what I could do to them. Tears threatened to form as those screaming faces reappeared in my mind: I had never wanted to hurt anypony! I had to go, now! I strained against gravity, finding it much harder to get up this time, as muscles screamed at the abuse.
Out of the blue, I found my face buried in a pink mane. Fluttershy had quietly snuck up behind me, wrapping her hooves around me and holding me tightly. “Oh please don't go. You're in no condition to be moving around... and um... well... um... you know... I'd really like it if you stayed... so... please?” Her grip tightened, it was almost as if I could feel her concern for me coming off her in waves, making this all the more difficult. I wanted to protect her the most: She had saved me!
Trying to center myself, I took a deep breath, the memories fading again. This may have been a mistake however, as her mane smelled of wild flowers and spring. She seemed to just emit peacefulness, and, against my better judgment, my resolve soon crumbled. Before long, I gave in completely. My muscles relaxed and I slumped into her embrace, letting out a deep sigh.
The tension in the room seemed to lift. Twilight grinned and clopped her hooves together, delighting in her victory, letting out a happy: "Yay!". Fluttershy loosened her grip as she moved away, smiling joyfully, her eyes twinkling in the faint candlelight. Once I was free, Zecora trotted over and placed another bowl of broth in front of me. Leaning down, I took a deep sip: It was even more delicious than I remembered. Draining the rest of the bowl, I swallowed, took a deep breath, and asked the question I had wanted to know since awakening in this strange place.
“Why?” I asked, in a sullen, monotone voice.
Twilight seemed to think the question was directed directly at her, and responded quickly. “Why what?” she asked, looking at me curiously.
“Why do you all care so much about a pony you don't even know?” I asked coolly, fighting back the anger that was growing at being forced to stay here with these... phonies. “I have nothing left, what could I possibly do for you that makes you want me around enough to force me to stay here?”
The ponies looked back and forth at each other, a puzzled look crossing each of their faces in turn. An awkward silence filled the air, as nopony seemed to know what to say. The quiet crackling of the fire and the sound of the record skipping was all that was heard. Apparently, my face had met the ground with enough force to knock the needle clean off the record: no wonder my head had been ringing.
After many long, quiet moments, the white pony named Rarity spoke, breaking the silence. “Indigo Flash, was it? Sorry for the silence, but then none of us have said anything about wanting anything from you, so you must understand our confusion. All we want is for you to get better. Do we need another reason?”
I snorted in disbelief, my anger surpassing my ability to suppress. “Yeah, right. You’re trying to tell me that nopony in this room wants something from me in return for all this? I mean all you had to do was just let me walk out that door, and then you could all go back to your happy little lives.”
Rarity responded immediately in a huff, obviously offended by my tone. “Of course not! To ask for something for basic care would just be crude and unseemly. I would never!”
Applejack was still adjusting her hat, trying to get it just so. She straightened up her neck, fitting it back in tightly into her headpiece. Crossing her hooves, her face bearing a serious expression, she coolly let out a short and blunt: “Nope.”
Pinkie turned her head sideways and gave me a strange look. “Well duh, I mean you're hurt, we can help, why wouldn't we, silly?”
Rainbow gave me a cold look. "Well, I still don't trust you, and I still think you are at least partly to blame for what happened to Fluttershy, but you did save her, at least. Besides, you got nothing I want, or need, bud."
I sputtered, inanely trying to defend Fluttershy. "It was the other way around, she saved me!"
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes and flew slowly towards me. "Yeah, yeah, whatever. Either way, I'm watching you." She darted towards me, face to face, then smirking, she pitched sideways into a barrel roll and landed over near the snacks, looking over the selection.
Speechless, I looked towards Zecora and Fluttershy, hoping for some sort of support. The former just smiled at me, while the latter squeaked, blushing, and hid behind her mane again. Seems I was all alone here, since even Fluttershy didn't want to stand up for herself.
I knew I didn't deserve this praise: She did! I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her. Before I could open my mouth to try and defend her more sensibly this time, though, the final pony in the room spoke up.
Twilight's cheeks were nearly as rosy as Fluttershy’s at this point, her being the last pony to reply to my earlier query. “Well, I mean, I’m dying to ask you more questions, but I also want you to get better. And since I'd want you to recover whether or not you answer my questions, then I guess I don't need another reason either.” She paused, before meeting my gaze. “Why would you ask that though?”
I looked back and forth, into the faces of all the ponies in the room, still in disbelief. Their eyes shone in the candlelight as I looked deeply into each of them, looking for the deceit that I knew had to be there. Not one of them flinched or looked away, especially not Rainbow, who glared at me... but I just couldn't tell. I’d never believed my old friends were lying to me either. Anger dissipated as tears formed in my eyes. I broke down; how could I ever believe again that anypony could really care, not because they had to, or because I would do something for them if they did; but because they wanted to, because it was the right thing to do... or even because anypony actually truly liked me.
I sniffled as I wiped the tears from my eye with my good hoof. Responding quietly, my voice cracking slightly as I forced it through, still attempting to hold my feelings at bay: “B... because I can't remember a time when anypony else ever really has. C... cared, I mean.”
I choked up at this, as all my memories of happy times for many years had all been destroyed by a single pony who had finally been truthful with me. A truth which was so obvious now, in hindsight, but I had blinded myself to it, choosing instead to believe they liked me, and not just my money. So many years, living a lie. Try as I might, I could no longer remember a time when I was truly happy.
Having managed to squash the tears again. I steeled myself. I would never allow myself to be fooled like that again. Looking up, I saw the others moving towards me, concern plastered all over their faces.
Twilight placed a hoof on my shoulder. “Do you want to talk about it?” She asked softly. “We're willing to listen, and we've got time.” Applejack cleared her throat. Twilight rolled her eyes “Well, most of us have time.”
Steel shattered and I slumped again. Fake or not, their concern felt good... it felt right. And... ponyfeathers! I did want to talk about it. I had just had the worst day ever, and here was a group of ponies who wanted to hear all about it. It was more than any of my so-called friends had ever offered.
Sniffling again, I wiped my nose with a hoof and nodded silently.
Applejack, who had been leaning against a wall, tilted her hat back. “Welp, Ah better get goin’. Big Macintosh'll be needing help with the harvest. Ah went and ran off in a tizzy when ya’ told me about Fluttershy and Ah feel a might bad about leavin’ him with all the work.” Heaving herself off the wall, she started making for the door.
Rainbow Dash flew overhead, slowing down next to Applejack. “What, after all that commotion at the door you’re not even going to stay to find out why? Are you nuts?” Spinning around in midair, she landed in the doorway, blocking the exit, wings flared wide.
Applejack sighed, trying to shuffle past. “Ah ain't crazy, Rainbow. Ah jus’ happen to have responsibilities to mah farm. Just 'cause Ah wouldn't let an injured pony waltz on out into the Everfree forest on his lonesome, don't mean Ah trust him any more’n you do! Besides, Ah feel just awful leavin’ the farm hangin’ like this.” Stopping and turning to me, she smiled awkwardly. “How ‘bout you give me a quick run-down, sugar, before Ah head out, jus’ enough that Ah can get the gist a’ things?”
I gave her a look of utter confusion. A run-down? What in the world was that? Twilight, seeing my expression, leaned in and whispered in my ear. “She means a summary.”
Applejack rolled her eyes, obviously having very good hearing. “Yes sugarcube, a summary. Real quick like.”
I gulped, at a loss for words. A summary? Right now? With no preparation!? I’d spent most of my life in the middle of bureaucracy. Summarizing was not part of my job description: they expected long-winded documents that nopony would ever read!
Staring at the floor, I dug at it nervously with my good hoof. Swallowing hard, I opened my mouth, brain whirling in a mad panic. In this frenzy, I latched onto the two biggest events in my mind, and the words just fell out haphazardly into the silent room.
“I... uh... exploded... and um then I... exploded again? And then I hit the ground? With a splut?”
I began to curse myself. You foal, that was the worst summary in the history of the world! There’s such a thing as being too brief!
Before I could apologize and try again, I looked up with embarrassment. And then I saw Applejack’s face. She was staring at me, eyes wide, mouth hanging open, moving but not finding words. Finally, she found some, speaking in a flat, shocked tone of voice. “What in tarnation did you jus’ say?”
Pinkie, who had somehow managed to stay quiet up to this point, burst out laughing, pounding the floor with her hooves. “Hehehehehe! You heard him Applejack! He exploded, and then he EXPLODED again!” She leaned forward. "Do you remember? Do ya? Huh? Huh? Huh!? You told Spike that could never ever happen in a million jillion years! Now you have to stay!" Raising her hooves over her head, she fell over backwards, rolling back and forth on the floor in mirth.
Twilight also began giggling, covering her mouth. “Pinkie, I don't think she went quite that far. But you do have a point. You did say that a pony couldn't explode twice, Applejack; She’s got you there.”
Confused, I looked around the room. With no idea what or who they were referring to, I looked to the others for guidance. Their expressions mirrored my own, however; apparently I was not the only one not in on this particular joke.
Applejack's entire face turned bright apple-red. She spun around smartly, marching right back over to me. Looking me dead in the eye, she dropped down onto the ground, smack-dab in front of me before saying a single word. “Hoo boy, Ah don't know how you did it, but you came up with probably the only thing in all of ponydom that would'a made me change mah mind. Ah'm roped into this like a steer at a rodeo, 'less Ah want to eat mah words without knowin' why.” She shrugged. “Ah well. Ah reckon that Ah deserve a day off anyhow after all that buckin'. Mah brother is a big boy, he can handle himself for one day.”
The others moved in close, positioning themselves around me in a rough semi-circle. Twilight and Rarity set themselves down on one side of Applejack, while Pinkie and Rainbow grabbed some snacks from the display she had laid out earlier. Pinkie snagged a big pile of random sugary treats and drinks from the snack table and plopped down on the other side of Applejack. Rainbow grabbed a few things for herself too, but also flew by and dropped a few treats in front of the others. In case they got hungry, I assume. She then hovered over Applejack and Pinkie, nudging her way in between the pair.
Suddenly, something splatted against my forehead. I looked up in surprise as another batch of green goop was slathered gently onto my horn. Moments later, another large bowl of broth was placed in front of me. I took a deep breath, calming myself before I raised my head, smiling gratefully towards Zecora. “Thank you again, for everything.”
She nodded happily. “No need for thanks: potions are my trade; all of these things, for you they were made. However, I hunger and so I will join you. There is plenty of broth: if not, more I will brew.” Dipping another bowl in the cauldron of broth, she lay next to me, and placed it in front of her, before leaning in and taking a sip.
Still recovering from the shock to my face, I nearly jumped when I heard another clunk and felt a warmth against my other side. I quickly turned my head to see Fluttershy pulling away, a bowl in front of her as well. Shyly, she spoke with concern “Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bump into you. Did it hurt? Are you okay?”
I smiled reassuringly at her. “No, it didn't hurt at all. In fact, it felt nice.”
Fluttershy blushed a little at this, and realizing what I’d just said, so did I. Softly, she asked: “Nice?”
I coughed and looked away, into my bowl of soup. “Um, yeah. Yep, nice.”
Moments later, I felt her side brush up gently against mine again. Surprised, I looked over at her. A small smile graced her lips as she looked up at me; apparently I was a little taller than her, at least while resting on the floor. Awkwardly, I smiled back, and took a drink from my bowl.
Looking up, I saw the faces of the others, waiting patiently. Twilight... perhaps not so patient... had her quill and parchment ready. I shivered a little, not used to being in the spotlight, but I felt Fluttershy lean against me a bit and I felt safe. There was a better feeling here than I had ever felt in my office, even if I couldn't really trust it.
Even so, I sighed, disliking having to relive these memories again. The fact that they actually wanted to know, actually seemed to care made it better, though, so I began.
“To get the full story, we have to go way back. I guess you could say my problems started on the day I got my cutie mark...”