It’s a lot more common these days.
I used to be the fastest pegasus in Equestria. From the Best Young flier Competition in Cloudsdale to the Canterlot National Cup, everypony knew my name.
“The only pony who ever performed a sonic rainboom!” my fans would boast.
Twice. I performed it twice, just for the record; I’m also the humblest pony you’ll ever meet.
…That was a joke, in case any of you are slow on the uptake.
During my younger years, age was just a number to me; when I was a pegasus at only twenty something, getting older wasn’t really a concern. Gliding through the clouds and blasting through the skies at face-ripping speeds made me feel like I was invincible. Only something catastrophic could have shaken me out of that mindset and made me realize I had limits.
So now, even when I wake up in a bed that’s as soft as a cloud (mainly because it is one), I’m plagued by pains so strong that everything else is washed out. Do I know I’ve got limits now? You had better believe it.
They expected me to be a completely different mare after that day; they expected me to hate her. Knowing the old Rainbow Dash, I can see how they thought that way. I did change...but not in the way they expected, not into that mare they thought they would see. I did what I did to save a friend. I did it so save more than a friend; I could never be angry.
Even so, it’s a lot more common these days: that tired feeling. I can’t quite explain it, but part of me just isn’t here anymore. It feels like I’m in a fog, I guess you could say.
My movements are glacial, and it seems like I spend more time snoozing away every time my head hits the pillow. And that whole flying thing? Heh…I haven’t flown in decades.
Every morning, I find it just a little more difficult to get out of bed. Lately, it’s hard to even get my eyes open; they seem to glue themselves shut every morning, determined to keep me confined to my bed. I have to ask myself: “How long will it be before I close them for good?”
I ask that question every day, and every day, I get closer; sometimes I think I’m right near the end, but I never dwell on it. That’s simply the way of life: things grow old and change. A mare trades her youthful energy for wisdom, and crazy adventures for a family.
And then one day, she’ll close her eyes and trade this life for the next. All the others did it; they weren’t afraid, and neither am I. Every moment I spend holding that little filly reminds me that I never need to fear again.
The sun is shining through my cloud home’s window by now; it can’t be earlier than ten in the morning. Call me crazy, but maybe it’s time to get up.
I ruffle my wings to get rid of the stiffness that returns to them every morning. As I throw the covers off my bed and sit up, I realize I’m actually feeling more sluggish than usual today; I can practically hear my joints creaking as I set my hooves on the spongy cumulus floor. It’s just incredible what age can do.
I chuckle and roll my sore shoulders around in their joints. I never thought I would grow fond of a body like this. Of course I know I haven’t got all the time in the world left; I would be a fool if I didn’t know that. I have no doubt that Ol’ Grim will come knocking any day and beckon with that gleaming scythe of his. On that day, I’m not going to cry, bargain or plead for mercy.
No, I’m going to smile. It would be an insult to them if I didn’t.
I’ll close my eyes and beam up at the sky, because I’ll finally get to trade my amazing life for an even better one; I’ll get to go even higher than the clouds and see things I’ve never seen before.
Best of all, I’ll get to see them again. I won’t have to be satisfied with memories. It’ll be just like the golden days: we’ll have picnics and camping trips, we’ll walk on the beach and take naps in fields of flowers as the sun sets. I’ll won’t need to spend another minute thinking about the days they all left
We’ll be together forever.
My small home is, well...small. As I got older, a house with six bedrooms wasn’t really necessary anymore. While Fluttershy and I had our filly, while she was still here, it sort of did, but then-
Well, the moral of the story is that I moved into a one bedroom flat once since she…eh, left. Anything bigger just became cumbersome, honestly. I have a kitchen, a living space, a bathroom and a bedroom. It’s all I really need.
I rub my eyes as they adjust to the blinding light streaming through the picture window and hobble to the refrigerator. You know, I never quite figured out how it was possible to make a refrigerator out of a cloud; It probably has something to do with quantum physics and biochemistry, or something like that. Twilight would be able to explain it; she was always great at helping me with that kind of thing.
The chill that rushes forward when I open the refrigerator door reveals mountains of delicious food. I could make an omelet, or a vegetable medley or-
I could just do what I always do: remember that I hardly have an appetite in the first place, and eat as little as possible. It sometimes amazes me that I can feel so full, yet so empty. Maybe the old pipes are finally rusting up.
Or maybe I’m just getting tired.
I carry a lone chocolate muffin from the fridge toward my dinner table. Well, it’s more of a breakfast table these days; I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt hungry for dinner.
As I bite into my food, I run through my checklist for the day.
Wake up? Check.
Eat breakfast? Check.
And next is…do I even have anything else to do today?
Usually I’ll at least have something. A trip to the Cloudsdale farmer’s market or a spa visit like Rarity and Fluttershy used to have, but-
Well, I’m sure I’ll find something to pass the time. Maybe I’ll dig into that pile of…what were they called? “Lego bricks” Pinkie gave to me. I always wondered how she managed to get such a kick out of filly’s toys, but then again, that was just Pinkie Pie for you.
I also wondered how my grandfilly always managed to grab those bricks. Pinkie would “break physics” all the time, so I didn’t give her much thought. But how anypony else managed to do more than put a few of those bricks together in a stack is beyond me. My grandfilly…grandfilly-
Oh my goodness, how could I have forgotten?
I leap from the dining room chair as quickly as my feeble body allows me and bound into the living room. I need to think fast; they’ll be here any minute. Now, what would a filly want on her birthday?
My living room’s furnishings are sparse, but dozens of old mementos cover the shelves. Photographs, pieces of jewelry and assorted nick-knacks sit everywhere; from the tiny silver plow on my end table to the photo of five other ponies and me on the shelf above my hearth, every place I look holds a memory. That filly loves hearing my stories so much that she’d probably be thrilled with any of these gifts.
No, that isn’t going to work. Come on, Dash, think! This is her tenth birthday, you need to be creative; this gift needs to be special!
But then comes the knocking. Ordinarily, that sound would send me galloping toward the door. Now, all I can do is dread the heartbroken face I’ll have to look into when I open it.
How do I wish my own grandfilly a happy birthday without a gift?
I barely notice as my hooves start carrying me to the door. You’d better think fast, Dash
As my hoof connects with the cold metal doorknob, it hits me:
I made her that promise one year ago; I still have to finish that story.
“…and then she flew at top speed from the peak of the mountain! The wind was whipping through her mane, the G-force was so strong that she thought she might pass out!”
My grandfilly clapped a hoof to her mouth melodramatically, rocking so far back and forth in her seat that I thought she might fall off. “What happens next?” she demanded several octaves higher than normal.
I smiled and continued the story; it was nice to have such an enraptured audience. “The mare zipped from the mountain toward the ground below; she didn’t know if she could make it in time! The fillies were getting closer and closer to the ground as the dragon flew into the distance.”
She covered her eyes with her hooves, shaking her head. “I can’t watch!”
I chuckled and grabbed her shoulders. “Don’t watch, just listen! Just as all hope seemed lost, our heroic mare felt a sudden burst of speed! As the fillies were only ten feet from the ground, she pushed forward as fast as she could and scooped the little ponies up just in time!”
My grandfilly let out a massively exaggerated breath and slumped to the floor.
All I can do is laugh; melodrama has always been her game. Then again, maybe it was for real; she seemed to take my “stories” very seriously.
“That was the best one yet, grandma!” she jumped up from the floor and hopped into my lap as I reclined on the couch. “Is there any more to the story?”
“Well of course there is!” I ruffled her mane. “But that part of the story is about something different; you have to wait a while before you can hear it.”
She shook her head in surprise.
“But grandma, you never made me wait for a story before!” she pleads with sparkling eyes, poking me gently in the nose. “I want to know what happens to the fastest pegasus in all of Equestria!”
“I know you do, sweetheart.” I bend down and kiss her on the cheek. “But this part of the story is very special; your mommy had to wait for it, and so do you. When I think you’re ready to hear it, I’ll tell you. Does that sound fair to you?”
She crossed her arms and gave a tiny “humph!” while staring intently at her the floor. “I guess so,” she says despite her obvious disappointment. “Do you promise you’ll tell me some day?”
I wrapped her in a tight hug. “Cross my heart.”
She smiles and leans her head into me. “Grandma, is the pegasus in your story real, or is she just a ponytale?”
All I can do is look down and beam. “Someday you’ll know, sweetie; someday you’ll know.”
It’s finally time for me to finish that story; it’s the last promise I have to keep.
The door swings into my hallway, and sure enough, there she is: my beautiful navy blue filly, suspending herself several feet above her mother as she beats her wings.
“Grandma Dash!” the filly shrieks, as she flutters in to hug me
“Happy birthday, Daisy.” I squeeze her tight and kiss her on the cheek. “Just look at you: you’re only ten years old and already flying like a pro!”
“Well, I had a lot of help from mom,” she smiles, gesturing toward the green pegasus standing on the cloud outside.
“Hi, Rosie dear,” I say, giving her the same warm hug I gave Daisy.
“It’s good to see you, mom,” she replies. “How have you been?”
As I start my sentence, I can’t help but hear the progressively increasing volume of a hoof tapping on the cloud. I chuckle and glance down at Daisy. “I bet you’re wondering what your gift is, aren’t you?”
The tapping stops abruptly as she looks up with a smile. “Well, I won’t pretend I wasn’t thinking about it,” she giggles.
I nod with a grin. “I figured as much. Go have a seat inside; I have a very special gift for you this year.”
Her wide eyes widen further as she flies through the doorway and to the brown-carpeted living room.
My daughter approached me with a shake of her head. “Is it finally time to finish the story?”
“Yes,” I answer with a nod.
“Are you comfortable, Daisy?”
She nods, cradling the bowl of popcorn I gave to her as if it’s a Faberge egg. Her eyes are locked immovably on me. I was right, apparently: she takes my stories very seriously.
“Well, where did we last leave the Clear Skies, the fastest pegasus in all of Equestria?” I ask, emphasizing those last words dramatically. I laugh as I use the name “Clear Skies”; it’s amazing that she never connected that pseudonym to me.
“She had just saved the fillies from the Dragon of the Fanged Forest!” she answers, practically falling out of her seat from excitement.
“That’s right!” I nod. “But the next part of the story is a little different.”
She tilts her head. “Different how?”
“This story isn’t about an adventure, or danger; it’s about something a lot more important.”
She crosses her fore-hooves and huffs. “What could be more important than an exciting story?”
I laugh and tousle her mane. “I didn’t say it wasn’t exciting; I just said that it was different. How about you give it a chance?”
She shrugs and nods.
“Good!” I smile. “As I was saying, our brave pegasus had just returned from her heroic exploits, exhausted after defeating the dragon of the Fanged Forest. As usual, she left before anypony knew who she was; it was as if she was never there at all.”
“Why didn’t she ever take credit for anything she did?” my filly asks.
I smile as the memory crosses my mind. “Because her friends taught her that gloating never gets anypony anywhere; it’s better to be satisfied that you’ve done a good deed.”
“Clear Skies’ friends really cared about her, didn’t they?” she asks.
That question stops me dead. I can only sit back in my recliner and marvel; I don’t think Daisy understands just how profound that question is. I sniff slightly, attempting to recover from the sudden blow. “Yes they did, Daisy; yes they did.”
I take a deep breath. “Anyway, she returned to her home in Cloudsdale, hoping that she could get a little rest before the next crisis reared its ugly head. But when she walked in through the door of the house, a mysterious letter had been slipped through the mail slot.”
Her eyes widen. “What was inside?”
“The letter bore a Canterlot seal; Clear Skies knew that whatever the envelope contained, it was extremely important. She picked it up, shaking from head to toe,” I tell her as I mime the actions dramatically, “When she finally pulled the letter from the envelope, she could barely breathe.
“The letter was from Soarin’ of the Wonderbolts!” I reveal in a whisper.
At this point, I start to wonder how Daisy’s jaw is still attached to her body. It’s amazing: I’ve told this story a hundred times to a hundred different ponies, yet her reaction is the best by far.
Her eyes remained locked on me as she stuffs her mouth with popcorn. “Wha haffen necks?”
“‘Dear Clear Skies,’ the letter said, ‘Congratulations on your recent feats of bravery. After observing the part you played in dealing with the recent dragon attack, as well as your past encounters with our members, we are inviting you to join us.’”
Her mouth starts to resemble a crater. “She got offered a place on the Wonderbolts?”
I nod with a reminiscent smile. “It was a dream come true for her; she could barely believe her eyes as she read the letter over and over again!”
“What did she do next?” my filly demands, forgetting her manners for a moment.
I can’t help but laugh at her enthusiasm. “Well, as you can guess, she was more excited than she had ever been before! She left the house immediately to go tell her friends.”
“Who did she tell first?”
“Well, there were all sorts of ponies she could have shared the good news with!” I answer. “There was her magically gifted friend; that pony would always be willing to listen to a good story. Her fashionista friend and the hardworking farmer would have loved to hear as well! Or perhaps the party throwing pony, the one who always loved to rejoice with others. But there was one mare that Clear Skies thought of right away.”
She tilts her head. “Who was it?”
I smile and look up to the ceiling as the memory comes floating back into clarity. “All this time, I’ve been talking about the loving friendship this pegasus shared with other mares. But did you know there are other types of love than that?”
She shakes her head as her eyes narrow in confusion.
“The truth is that our brave flier had been in love with another pegasus for a long time, but this was deeper than friendly love. Even though she put on a brave face every day, the fastest pegasus in Equestria had kept a secret locked away for a long time.”
“What secret?” she inquires.
“Beneath her tough exterior, Clear Skies felt feelings feelings for one of her companions that transcended friendship; she was deeply in love with her quietest friend.”
The filly simply sits back in awe. “I never thought she would have feelings like that!”
“She didn’t think so either,” I chuckle. “But she did have them, and the pegasus she was in love with was the first pony she wanted to share the news with. So she set out immediately to find the love of her life!
“Bolting down from Cloudsdale, Clear Skies rushed to the forest in which her friend lived. She arrived at the door of the meek pony’s home only a few minutes later, preparing to share the news.”
“Was she happy?” the filly wonders allowed.
“Happier than you could ever imagine,” I reply with an ecstatic grin. “Our brave pegasus knocked on her friend’s door and immediately tackle-hugged her, shrieking in happiness as she relayed the good news.”
“And what was her friend’s name?”
“Meekness,” I tell her. I sometimes amazes me that I manged to keep this “ponytale” facade up so so long. “Anyway, Meekness and Clear Skies decided to have a picnic to celebrate the invitation to join the Wonderbolts. So, they packed a basket full of food and set out from Meekness’ house. They chose to have their picnic atop Ponyville’s highest mountain, somewhere they could be alone and discuss all of the wonderful things that had happened in their lives.”
“Was Clear Skies going to tell meekness how she felt?”
“Yes she was,” I nod with a smile. “Clear Skies had kept that secret for so long, and it was starting to eat away at her. She finally decided that it was now or never; she either had to share her feelings, or forget about them forever.
“So, Meekness and Clear Skies set out their picnic atop Ponyville’s highest peak and began to share stories with one another. As the luncheon went on, Clear Skies became more and more excited about finally telling Meekness how she truly felt.”
“And did she?” Daisy asks with wide eyes.
I pause and take a deep breath, remembering the pain that came later in that day. “No,” I answer heavily, “She didn’t. You see, in the midst of their picnic, as they shared stories and laughed together, a huge rumble was heard across the mountain.
“A rock slide began,” I tell her with a grimace.
The filly gasps and claps her hooves to her mouth. “Did they get away in time?”
“Clear Skies started to fly away from the mountain; she could have escaped easily! But there was a problem,” I answer, playing the drama of the story. “As she turned to fly away from the mountain, she noticed that Meekness had been left behind. She was frozen in fear from the terror of the falling rocks.”
Daisy’s lip quavers as she awaits my next words. “Did she escape in time?”
“Barely,” I answer. “When Clear Skies noticed that Meekness had been left behind, she immediate turned to go rescue her friend. Amidst the careening assault, she swooped in and picked up her friend just as she was about to be crushed by the debris.”
“So they escaped in time, didn’t they?” Daisy asks desperately. “They got away?”
“No,” I shake my head as a single tear escapes my eye. “Clear Skies was struck by one of the rocks as she attempted to escape the onslaught. Meekness walked away completely unscathed, but Clear Skies was crushed under the weight of the avalanche.”
Daisy’s breathing quickens as she awaits a silver lining to the horrific tale. “What happens next?!”
“Meekness immediately rushed Clear Skies to the hospital,” I tell her. “When they arrived, they discovered that while Clear Skies had survived, her wings had been horrifically damaged.”
“Damaged?” Daisy ask in horror. “But she recovered, didn’t she?”
I shake my head with a bittersweet smile. “No, she didn’t. As Clear Skies sat in the hospital bed in horrific pain, the doctors came in and broke the terrible news: she would eventually recover, but-
“She would never fly again,” I say finally.
Daisy sits back in shock, mouth agape with wide eyes. “A pegasus...never able to fly again? Was she mad at Meekness because of what happened?”
I shake my head, preparing to share the optimistic side of the story with her. “Not at all. Meekness burst into tears when she heard the news; she expected Clear Skies to hate her for the rest of their lives. She said that if Clear Skies never wanted to see her again, she would understand. Meekness had never felt more horrible; she had ruined her friend’s chance at fulfilling her dream of flying with the Wonderbolts.”
“Did Clear Skies hate her?” Daisy asks in terror.
“Not in the slightest,” I shake my head. “Clear Skies told Meekness that she would never hate her; even if the greatest flier in all of Equestria would never take to the skies again, she wouldn’t want to live in a world without Meekness. Flying would mean nothing to her if she was gone.”
“And did she finally tell Meekness how she felt?” the filly asks.
“It took some bringing around but...yes, she did,” I nod happily. “After years of keeping her feelings inside, after years of never talking about them, she poured her heart out to Meekness.
“Clear Skies said that she had been in love with Meekness from the first day they had met; she said that she would spend every night dreaming they were together. She told Meekness how she would hope every day that they could one day walk through Ponyville’s streets hoof in hoof.”
“What did Meekness say?” Daisy squeals excitedly.
“Well, at first, Meekness just hung her head,” I reply. “Clear Skies thought that she had failed; she thought that her dream would never be fulfilled.
“But just when all hope seemed lost, Meekness lunged forward and locked Clear Skies in a kiss. They simply sat like that for a moment, sharing every feeling they had ever felt for one another in that one embrace.”
I see Daisy’s face light up as if all of her dreams had suddenly come true. “They felt the same way about each other?”
“They always had,” I confirm with joyful tears. “Meekness said that she felt the same way from the first time they met, but had been just as afraid of sharing her feelings. As they pulled back from the kiss, they realized they had been in love with one another all along; all they needed was the right moment to share it. When Meekness saw that Clear Skies was willing to sacrifice her flight, one of the few things that made her truly happy, it was finally time to reveal her feelings.”
“What happened after that?” Daisy pleads.
“They were married,” I say simply. “One year later, when Clear Skies had finally recovered, they tied the knot on the first day of spring. Their relationship was everything they had dreamed it would be; they were happier than two mares had ever been before, and everyone in Ponyville was happy with them.”
Daisy simply sits back in a daze after hearing this story. “Everything worked out,” she says with a teary smile to match mine. “Even after all those horrible things, they were still happy together. But the story doesn’t end there, does it?”
“Not at all,” I grin. “I could tell you that they lived happily ever after; that much would be true. But there’s so much more to the story. Clear Skies and Meekness decided that it wasn’t enough to just be happy; they needed to share that happiness with other ponies as well.
“They decided they wanted to raise a filly together, but since they were both mares, it wasn’t possible to have their own. They spent the next year touring orphanages, hoping they could adopt a filly and share their happiness with her.
“They met a young pegasus who lost her parents in a terrible fire; they decided they wanted to share their happiness with her, so they took her as their own.”
I glance at my daughter standing in the doorway. She’s looking down with teary eyes as she remembers the day we took her home from the orphanage and nodding as the memory returns.
“That filly learned Clear Skies and Meekness’ philosophy; when she was old enough, and when she met stallion who was brave like her, she carried on their spirit by having a filly of her own to love. A filly that has brought so much happiness to everypony she knows.”
Daisy simply sits back and gives me a curious expression; I grin at her naivety. “What Clear Skies did changed everything, didn’t it?” she asks. “She may have lost her flight, but she got something even better, didn’t she?”
“Something better than she could ever have imagined,” I nod happily, letting my tears pelt my armchair. “And so life carried on in Ponyville; Clear Skies and Meekness were happy as could be for a long time, but eventually, it all had to come to an end.”
“End how?” Daisy asks, clearly dreading the answer.
“Old age will do many things to a pony, and the most bittersweet of those is also the most simple: eventually, a pony needs to pass on from this world. That’s what happened to Meekness,” I answer as my eyes fill with tears.
“Meekness...she died?” Daisy asks; I can see her heart breaking. “How?”
“It’s simply the way of life,” I reply. “Only seven years after she and Clear Skies were married, Meekness fell terribly ill; even though the doctors did their best to cure her, it wasn’t enough. On the seventh anniversary of their wedding, she finally passed on from this world.”
Daisy sniffs and breaks into quiet sobs upon hearing this information. “How did Clear Skies feel? Was she able to go on?”
I nod and close my eyes. “She stood by Meekness’ side in the hospital, never letting go of her hoof as she slipped away. Clear Skies was horrified; she was torn apart inside, but there was also so much to be thankful for. Even as the love of her life went on to the next life, she told Meekness how much she loved her, and how grateful she was that they could spend their lives together, even if their happiness was short lived.
“What did Clear Skies do after that?” Daisy asks, wiping a tear away.
“She moved on,” I shrug. “Even after all the pain she had experienced, Clear Skies could look back fondly on all the happy memories she was able to share with the love of her life. She lived her life the same way she had lived it when Meekness was still around, living every day to the fullest and sharing her happiness with every pony she knew.”
“What about the rest of her friends? Did they...go on too?” Daisy asks.
“Yes they did,” I answer, leaning back in my seat as I think of those ponies. “Some of them sooner, some of them later than the others. But eventually, they all went on to play above the clouds. The hardworking earth pony, the fashionable unicorn and all the rest; eventually, they passed on as well. They were all buried alongside Meekness so that their spirit could be carried on even after they were gone.”
Daisy sits back, clearly trying to work through her feelings on the story. “But Clear Skies was still happy, wasn’t she? Even after her best friends were gone-”
“She still had all the happy memories,” I say as my head bobs up and down. “Even though she would never spend time with those ponies again, their spirits lived on in her.”
Daisy simply sits back, completely silent. “Did Clear Skies ever go on?” she asks finally.
I look up for just a second before turning back to face her. “Not yet...but that might happen very soon.”
She falls silent again, doing nothing but breathe and blink as she ponders my story.
“I think it’s about time for dinner,” Rosie says, stepping into the room and laying a hoof on Daisy’s shoulder. “Why don’t you go into the kitchen, dear?”
Daisy just nods without a word, leaping from her seat and bounding into the kitchen.
“Her reaction is a lot like mine, isn’t it?” Rosie turns to me and smiles. “I remember being just as amazed.”
“I remember that too,” I chuckle, “It’s always nice to have a good audience.”
“Are you going to tell her it’s real, mom?” Rosie asks.
“Interesting question,” I reply, “I wondered that myself. But I think I’ll wait until she asks; if she doesn’t, there’s no need to tell her that was all true.”
“Fair enough,” Rosie shrugs with a grin. “Shall we?” she asks, extending a hoof.”
I smile and rise slowly from my seat. “Let’s.”
Daisy’s birthday dinner that night had an unusual air about it. Celebrations at my house tend to be lively social affairs, but I could see the emotions going through her mind as she played with her slice of cake: every ounce of her brainpower was spent thinking through the story I had just told her. An unusual silence pierced the air as she sat back, silently contemplating her feelings.
“Well, I’d say it’s about time we get you back home and into bed, kiddo,” Rosie tells her daughter after several hours. “You’ve got a big day ahead of you tomorrow; you need to be well rested for your party at Sugarcube Corner.”
Daisy looks up, the slightest hint of disappointment painted on her pensive face. “I guess,” she speaks for the first time in hours.
The three of us stand from our seats around the dining room table and make for the entry hallway. Rosie embraces me as she prepares to leave.
“Thank you for another wonderful birthday celebration, mom,” she says. “I think this might have been the best one yet.”
“I do too; I wouldn’t have traded this day for the world,” I tell her, squeezing her tight.
Rosie kisses me on the cheek and steps back with a smile. Looking down at Daisy, I stoop and open my hooves. “How about a hug for your old grandmare, sweetheart?”
For just a second, she stares at my open hooves, motionless. Then, without another moment of hesitation, she rushes forward and grips me fiercely, pouring an infinite number of untold emotions into her hug. “Thank you so much, Grandma Dash. That was the best story I’ve ever heard, even if it was a little sad.”
“You bet, sweetie; only the best for the ponies I love,” I smile as she steps back from the hug. “Have fun at your birthday party tomorrow, I’m sure it will be a blast.”
She nods, wiping a bittersweet tear away. She and Rosie turn to the door, but Daisy turns rapidly to face me once more.
“I have to know, Grandma,” she starts desperately, “Does the story ever stop? After all of Clear Skies’ friends passed on, does the story ever come to an end? Does Clear Skies ever leave?”
My smile falters as I blink rapidly. Will I ever go on?
“I think she just might, Daisy,” I nod, my smile returning. “I think she might leave very soon, as a matter of fact. Maybe today.”
Daisy seems unfazed by this statement, simply tilting her head in curiosity; her mother, on the other hoof, stands with her mouth agape. Even though she doesn’t say a word, I know she understands what I mean.
“I still have one more question,” Daisy says finally after pondering my answer. “You promised you would tell me one day: is the story real?”
I smile and look down at the floor; this is one question that I know how to answer without a second thought. “I don’t know, Daisy,” I answer cryptically, bring my head back up to look her in the eye as a tear slips from me. “Are you real?”
Her eyes widen; she blinks, but only once. I’ve waited so long to give that answer; I knew she would never understand before. But I know the new Daisy, the more mature Daisy, she finally understands. She’s so shocked that she can’t even respond to my statement, but she finally knows the truth.
“I love you, Daisy,” I pat her gently on the head. “Happy birthday.”
Daisy kisses me on the cheek before turning to walk out the door, dazed by my revelation. “I love you too, Dashie,” she says as she leaves my house.
I turn to Rosie, still gaping at me and still wearing that expression of shock. “Mom, what did you mean by ‘Maybe today’?”
“Nothing all that interesting,” I shrug with a smile. “Just that Clear Skies might pass on soon. I think she’s starting to get tired.”
She shakes her head vigorously. “I guess there’s nothing more I can do than hope you’re kidding,” Rosie says with a watery eyed smile. “But what are you planning to do today?”
“Nothing extraordinary,” I assure her. “I’m just planning on visiting a few friends. Some very special, very old friends that I think I owe some respects to.”
“Always so cryptic,” Rosie criticizes. “It’s a wonder we ever understand what you’re saying at all.”
“But would you change me?” I raise my eyebrows.
She rushes forward and hugs me tight once more. “Never.”
“Thanks again for having us, mom,” she whispers. “We had a wonderful time.
“You were always welcome here,” I reply.
Rosie suddenly becomes motionless in my arm. “Were?” Her voice is so quiet that she’s nearly downed out by the bird songs outside.
“I love you, Rosie,” I say, staring at her with an unfaltering smile as I pull back. “I’ll always love you.”
Rosie remains dead silent as she turns to leave, never breaking eye contact until the door finally slams shut. I simply stand in my hallway for the longest time, reminiscing and remembering all the good times, all the love I’ve shared with those two. But there’s an even stronger love that I felt before.
I pull a scarf from the rack in the hall and wrap it around my neck. Pausing only as long as is necessary to assure that Daisy and Rosie have left, I walk out the door into the quiet Cloudsdale sunset.
I believe it’s time I returned to those six.
Flowers. I always bring flowers when I stand in front of those stone effigies.
I brought six bunches; one for each of them. I go down the line of headstones, laying one bouquet of them at each monument to my passed friends.
I lay a dozen white roses in front of the headstone bearing a diamond; a single four sided diamond, etched into the gray.
Next is the one bearing a six sided star, and the one after that an apple. I place red carnations on the ground in front of each of these. These flowers are simpler than roses, but I feel they fit these ponies’ personalities the best; they’re so simple, yet so magnificent.
After that comes the stone marked with a balloon, the one to its right marked with a quill. I lay a dozen daisies at each of these.
And then comes the last headstone: standing proudly with the others, untouched by the weather even after decades of wear and tear. It’s as perfect as the first day I saw it, on that horrible, bittersweet Sunday morning. I lay a single golden rose at this grave; the flower I have for her may not be as glamorous as the others, but this single rose has the most meaning of all:
It’s the same rose I wore on the day of our wedding, magically preserved for more than forty years.
I step back to observe my handiwork; the colorful flora are gleaming like tiny stars in the fading sunlight.
I take a deep breath. “It’s good to see you all again. I’m just sorry that it took so long for me to come back.”
I glance at the diamond headstone. “How’s the fashion world up there, Rarity? Do they love your sense of style as much as we loved it here?”
I chuckle and let a single tear drip to the ground. “I’ll bet everypony is clamoring to get you to design new dresses, even if us ponies stuck here on earth don’t get to see them. I’ll bet you’re even more beautiful than you used to be.”
I look to Twilight’s grave with a smile. “How about you, Twilight? Are you happy where you are? Knowing you, even death couldn’t stop your study habits. I know you’re sitting on a cloud somewhere, trying to figure out how heaven’s physics work, and performing experiments on the clouds. You were always like that.”
I shift my gaze to the headstone on Twilight’s right. “What about you, AJ? You’re still farming apples, I bet. Even lying in a coffin in the ground couldn’t get you stop working. I bet your cider is as delicious up there as it was down here.”
“How about you two?” I address Spike and Pinkie’s places of rest. “Still eating cupcakes and being crazy? I can still remember the first day I met both of you; Pinkie came bounding up to me the first time I set foot in Ponyville and blasted me with a confetti cannon. Or how about you, Spike?” I chuckle. “Do you hate making lists up there as much as you did down here? Have you saved Twilight from any magical explosions?” I let out a choked sob as the macabre thought rings home. “I bet the consequences up there are a lot less permanent.”
I sigh and step forward, laying a hoof on Twilight’s headstone. “It would be selfish to wish you back here. I know you’re all living the afterlife to the fullest; I know you’re living your lives just the same way as you did before.”
My hooves clench the cold stone tightly; hot tears burn away the cold that the winter wind brought. “I only wish I didn’t need to live mine without you.”
Finally, I shift my glance to the right, eying the block of stone at the far end of the line. “And don’t think I forgot about you, sweetheart.”
I trot to her grave as quickly as my feeble hooves allow me. “You were the best thing that ever happened to my life.”
Standing atop her grave, my tears flow like a river. I smile as the setting sun casts a shadow on the stone’s inscription.
“Here lies Fluttershy, the kindest mare alive,” I read aloud. “Though you’re resting on the clouds, my love will never die.”
I break down sobbing and embrace the gravestone as I would Fluttershy-
If she were still here.
Twilight and the rest decided that I should pick the inscription; even though I was never much of a poet, if it was for her, I became T.S. Eliot.
I lay down atop the solid earth that marks her final resting place. A bed of daisies have sprung up where barren ground once was.
I smile when I glance at the flowers; only Fluttershy could produce such beauty.
“Are you happy up there, Fluttershy? Do you make everypony there as joyful as you used to make me?”
That question seems redundant even as I utter it; Fluttershy can’t help but bring tearful joy to everypony she meets.
“It’s so much colder without you here, dearest,” I tell her. “I’m not unhappy; I could never be unhappy after all the love I’ve gotten to experience. But there’s still this...emptiness.”
The ringing silence seems to be telling me to continue. “I love the life I’ve lived here; I’ve gotten to do and see so much, but there’s a hole in my heart. You took up so much of my love that when you left, I was hollow. Even though I’m happy with my life, there’s a void left in my soul; a void left from all the things I wished you could see.”
I look toward the sky and ponder the countless years that have passed. “I wish you could have seen our little Rosie grow up; you should see her now, she’s more beautiful than you could ever imagine, but more than that, everything about her is incredible. She makes her husband proud every day, her spirit can never be broken. Our love lives on in her.
“And Daisy...I could never forget Daisy. Are you watching over her from where you are, Fluttershy? Can you see how wonderful she is? Learning to fly, spreading love and care wherever she goes; can you see?”
I begin to sob softly. “I wish you could have seen her grow up; I wish you could have seen her grow from the tiny filly in the premature ward, the filly that barely survived the day she was born, to the vibrant and joyful pony she is now.
“I wish you could have seen her the first time she flew, and witnessed the way her eyes lit up and sparkled when she finally lifted off the ground; even if it was only for a few seconds, I’ve never been prouder of that filly in my life.
“I wish you could hear me tell her stories,” I tell the headstone, remembering the events of the day, “I wish you could see the way her eyes glow whenever she hears me tell her about all the adventures we had together, and the love we were able to spread.”
My hooves begin to shake. “I just wish you were still here; I wish that I didn’t have to wake up every morning with half the bed empty. I wish I could have more than just memories, and see your glowing smile every time I wake up.”
I sigh and paw the flowers beneath me. “There are so many wishes I still have; there just wasn’t enough time to see them all happen.”
I pause, touching the headstone’s inscription with my left hoof. “Do you remember, my love? The day I gave up the biggest part of my personality for you? You expected I would hate you for the rest of your life. But now, every minute I spend holding Daisy in my arms is better than a thousand with the Wonderbolts.
“I might have been so much more,” I sigh gently. “I might have been one of them. I might have been the greatest pegasus to ever live in Equestria. But even though I never was, I got to be so much more than that. I was loved; that means more to me than being a Wonderbolt ever did.
“Thank you for making my life paradise,” I say tearfully, my hoof still touching the cold stone.
I feel the heat of the sun on my back as it approaches the horizon, its glow casting shadows on the stones.
“Every time I looked into Daisy’s eyes, I feel like I’m a new mare, as if I’m ten years old again. But I feel like there’s so much more than what’s here.”
I sigh at the headstone. “I’ve just been so...tired lately,” I tell her. I never would have admitted something like that so anypony but the love of my life; the one who always kept my secrets, no matter what. “I don’t have the same jump in my step that I used to have, my old energy is gone.”
My gaze shifts to the rest of the headstones, placed in a uniform line; flowers have sprung up on every grave. “I miss you all so much,” I tell them as I begin to sob once more. “Without you, even the happiest of memories are still bittersweet.
“I’ve been thinking about this for so long,” I tell Fluttershy’s headstone. “Before today, I still had a purpose; I still had morals to pass on to Daisy. But now-”
I let out a slow breath. “Maybe now, I’m done telling stories.”
The bottom of the sun touches the horizon; it’s almost time.
“Do you remember that song, Fluttershy? The song you used to sing to Rosie when she couldn’t sleep? The one you would sing to me when I had nightmares about my wings? I think it’s time for me to sing it again.
“One last lullaby.”
“Hush now, quiet now, it’s time to lay your sleepy head; hush now, quiet now, it’s time to go to bed,” I sing tearfully the headstones.
“It is time to go to bed.”
I close my eyes for the last time. I don’t need to be afraid; every part of my life has been filled with indescribable joy. There are no decisions to regret, no mistakes to mar my emotions. My feelings are no longer bittersweet; I’m as happy as can be. I’ll finally get to see them again.
It’s just as easy as going to sleep. My heart starts to slow down and my breathing becomes calmer. Other ponies might be fearful of what lies beyond, but I’m not other ponies.
Fluttershy, Twilight, Pinkie, Rarity, AJ, Rosie, Daisy and countless others; they’ve made my life here so amazing. They showed me I don’t need to wonder about what lies beyond. They’ve made me so happy that even as my consciousness slips away, I don’t even give it a second thought.
I’ve had so much love and joy here; there’s not a doubt in my mind that wherever I go next, whatever new adventure I start, whoever I’m with when I arrive, the next life will have just as much love.
I might have been; that phrase crossed my mind countless times over the years. But now I know it doesn’t matter; I might have been different, but what I got instead...I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
And now, it’s finally time for me to close my eyes and trade this world for the next.
Author’s notes below.
To all those that supported this story, thank you so much; My Little Pony is a huge part of my life now, and being thought of well by this community means more than I can possibly describe.
I don’t want to make this seem like an awards acceptance speech (for all I know, no one will ever read it), but I wanted to thank one person in particular: my best friend, Jordan Bakke.
He’s been so generous by offering himself not only as a person to bounce ideas off of, but offering gentle critique for my stories and helping them to be all they can be. Without his help, this fic wouldn’t be what it is today.
And to everyone in general, thank you for supporting this story; being a part of the brony culture has changed my life in a way I can never articulate. As Dashie would put it, thank you all for making my life paradise.
Should you feel the need to tell me anything you particularly loved or hated in this fic, feel free to email me at Joshuameihaus@gmail.com.