My senses returned to me momentarily as I heard something. It sounded distant, but at the same time, very close.
After listening for a while longer, it sounded like a dog barking. I tried to move, but not a single nerve in my body would respond, not even my eyes or my voice. All I could do was lie here, in the barn, and let this dog bark.
Eventually, I heard something else. Footsteps. I held my breath (metaphorically speaking, seeing as my nervous system was, well... dead) and hoped that whoever was coming would help. I heard them getting closer, and the noise of their feet changed as they entered the barn.
"What is it, Winona?" A man, with a deep, soft voice. But there was something off about it, it sounded... different. It sounded like an accent from somewhere like Texas.
Whoever was there must have seen me, as I heard a loud yell and something getting dropped. There was silence after that, but I felt something poking me, probably the farmer. It felt harder than a hand though, must've been his boot.
Eventually, the person started to walk away, but I heard his voice, louder this time, as he called out to someone, "AJ, get out to the barn! There's somethin' you need to see."
The footsteps returned to me, and after about a minute, I heard someone else coming. It was probably this "AJ" person.
"What's goin' on big brother? Ah swear, if those caterpillars got into the apples again, Ah'm gonna have to find a pest remover." A woman this time, younger, but with the same southern accent.
I heard these footsteps stop too. They were sudden, but there was no cry of surprise this time.
"Oh my." I heard the new voice speak, "What do you think it is Big Mac?"
Huh? That was an odd question. They couldn't have been talking about me, maybe there was something else in the barn.
"Ah don't know sis, but Ah ain't seen nothin' like it." I felt "Big Mac" poke me again. "Do you think it's dead?"
What? I'm not dead. I willed my body to move. If they thought I was dead, they might just leave me, and I needed their help. I focused myself and channeled my energy to try and shout, to prove I was alive. My weak body meant it only came out as a groan, but it was enough.
Immediately I heard the two people jump back in shock, until "AJ" said, "Well, Ah guess that answers yer question." There was a pause, then, "Go and get Granny Smith. She's older than both of us together, she might know what it is."
It's obvious they're talking about me now, but why were they acting so surprised?
I heard Big Mac leave, and AJ started to wander round me, probably examining me. I felt her lift my left arm, and a sharp pain went along it. She must be looking at the bite marks, along with my crude attempt at bandaging them. *thud* Ow, thanks for that! I thought sarcastically, as AJ dropped my arm back onto the earth, sending through another shot of pain.
Finally, I heard Big Mac returning, along with another person. I heard this lighter set of feet approach, but I didn't hear any pause in their step, no gasp or yell. They almost didn't seem surprised, like the other two did.
"Well?" I heard Big Mac again, "Any ideas, Granny?"
"Ah don't know young'un," I heard "Granny Smith" this time. She sounded like she was in her eighties, at least. "Ah've seen a lot of things in my life, but Ah ain't seen anything like this."
"Well, what do we do with it?" said Big Mac.
"Maybe we should take it inside," I heard AJ speak again, but there was no reply from the others, "Take care of it until it wakes up."
"AJ! You can't be serious." Big Mac didn't seem to like this idea one bit. "We find a... thing in our barn. We don't know what it is, and you wanna take it inside? What if it attacks us?"
"Then we'll defend ourselves, we're perfectly capable of that!" AJ replied, sounding aggressive. "Look, whatever it is, it's hurt. It looks like it was bitten by something, probably those wolves we heard last night. It's tried to bandage up the wounds, so it probably has some form of intelligence. And it's wearing clothes, so we can assume it knows a thing or two about how to live. Besides, we can't just leave it out here, it could die. And imagine how the rest of the town would react if they found out we just let an injured animal die on our farm."
Thank god. It sounds like they want to help me. Or at least one of them does.
Granny Smith had remained quiet throughout, but now she spoke, "Ah think yer right AJ. Big Mac, you get it on yer back and carry it into the house. Put it next to the fire, it's soaking wet."
I heard Big Mac grunt in annoyance, but he complied with, "Eeyup." I felt my limp body get picked up, but it felt wierd, like they were trying to wedge something under me. When the thing was supporting my stomach, I felt myself get tossed in the air and land on something. It felt hard, but it shifted as it adapted to my shape.
I heard Big Mac stuggle from my weight, and he said with a groan, "Geez sis, have you felt this thing? It's as cold as ice."
"Probably from being out all night." I felt something touch my cheek. it felt like short hair, like that of a horse or a pig. It retracted quickly. "The sooner we get it inside and next to the fire, the better."
Thanks. I thought. These people were willing to help me. As soon as I got my strength back, I would thank them properly, find out where I was, and carry on home.
I didn't think that strength would return anytime soon however, as I felt my mind entering the void again, and I returned to full unconsciousness.
Big Mac carried the creature on his back into the house. Upon entering, he went into the living room and placed it next to the fire. It still didn't wake up, and secretly, Big Mac was hoping he wouldn't. At least, not for a while. This thing was found in their barn, and they didn't know what it would do when it regained consciousness. The creature was stiff and tense when he was carrying it, but when it sensed the warmth of the fire, it seemed to relax. Big Mac then left the room and shut the door; there was a child in the house, and she might freak if she saw it.
Meanwhile, Applejack was still in the barn, thinking about would happen when the animal woke up. Would it attack them, or would it be scared? It might even be able to communicate in some form with them, the clothes and the bandages suggested it was smart enough to know something.
She was brought out of her trance when she heard Granny Smith calling her from the front door, "You comin' Applejack? There's work to be done."
"Yeah, Ah'm comin'," she replied. She went over to the large object they had found next to the animal. It was made of some tough fabric, and looked like it was meant to carry something. She tried to pick it up and put it on her back, but the weight of it was staggering. It must've weighed more than her, definitely the weight of a few fillies. Eventually, she just settled with dragging it indoors, resting it against the nearest wall she saw.
She then went back outside and retrieved the pieces of cloth that were also next to the creature. They had a fairly similar shape to each other, but one was larger and thicker. They were soaking wet, but she picked them up and carried them in. She had a hard day's work ahead of her and she was going to sweat, so what was the point in worrying about some wet rags. At least they were light enough to carry.
She found the creature in the living room next to the fire. She placed the objects (she guessed they were clothes) on a hook near the heat so that they would dry, and whistled to the dog, who was wandering round the house. Almost immediately, Winona was sitting in the doorway, waiting for orders.
"Winona, Ah need you to keep an eye on our... guest. Come get us if he wakes up."
The dog barked happily and jumped on a chair in the corner, watching the animal patiently. Applejack then left the room and pulled the door until it was only ajar, so the Winona could get out. She then walked over to Big Mac and spoke in a whisper.
"Big Mac, can ya'll go and get Fluttershy? Tell her we got a wounded animal at the farm." Big Mac simply nodded and headed out the door.
As she was about to leave too, she heard her sister from the top of the stairs, "What's goin' on Applejack? Ah heard some commotion downstairs."
"Everythin's fine Applebloom. We dropped a glass and Ah was just clearin' it up." Applejack hated lying, but it was better than telling her that there was a strange creature in the house. As an afterthought, she added, "Could ya'll stay out of the living room today? Ah think there might still be some broken glass and Ah don't want you steppin' on it."
"Alright sis." Applebloom seemed to believe her, "Ah'll get ready for school." She left the stairs and returned to her room.
Hoping that everything was now in order, Applejack left the house and went to start her work on the farm.
I woke up on my back, and it felt like I had moved, again. It took a while for my vision to return, but when it did, I noticed I was in a house. Did someone find me? I couldn't remember much from last night, I recall the wolves and entering a barn, but nothing after that.
I felt warmth next to me, and turned my head to be greeted by a glowing fire. The sight of it alone was enough to give me strength, and I sat up, rubbing my head. Man, feels like I drank myself under a table.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move. I looked over and saw a dog sitting on a chair. It had the coat of a brown border collie, but it was smaller than one, probably a puppy. Upon noticing me however, it jumped off and ran out of the room barking.
Maybe it's gone to find the owner of this farm, I thought. I got on my knees, and slowly rose to my feet, using a nearby shelf as support. I then took this moment to inspect myself. I almost took a step back in surprise.
I don't remember much, but I knew that I didn't do all of this to myself. The bandage on my arm had been removed, and replaced with a new one, but it was wrapped cleanly this time. The wound on my shoulder was also covered, as the cloth ran over my shoulder and around my chest to hold it in place. My face was throbbing, and I ran my fingers along the area where the wolf had scratched it. I felt thin bumps along the cut, they must be stitches. I counted seven or eight of them. This is going to leave one hell of a scar.
At this point I heard the dog's barking. It was coming back, and I could hear another set of feet following it. The sound slowed as I heard the front door open, and the person approach.
Wait. That didn't sound like footsteps. They sounded more like... horseshoes?
The door was pushed open to reveal an animal standing there, not a person. It didn't do anything, it was just staring at me, and I took this time to have a good look at it.
It had four legs and a tail, those were easy enough. It had a short coat, with an orange hue, and its mane was a pale yellow, along with its tail. It's head was perhaps the largest part of its body, with a small snout and large green eyes. Overall, it looked like a horse, but much smaller. It only came to about four feet tall. My memory began to flash something into my vision. My dream in the woods. Was this what I had seen by that light?
There were, however, two things that were off about this... horse. The first was that is was wearing a cowboy hat. It looked like a stetson, but twice as big as a normal hat. The second thing was what I saw on its flank. It looked like it had been branded, but I didn't know of any hot metals that could brand three red apples, complete with a green leaf on each.
The horse was still staring at me, so I took this opportunity to look around the room. I saw my shirt and fleece hanging on a hook near the fire, and picked them up. The flames had dried them along with my jeans, and even the boxers underneath. They felt warm and comforting as I put them on.
My back was to the door, and I was just finished putting my arm through the final sleeve when I heard a voice, "So, yer finally awake. How do you feel?"
That voice. I recognised it, and the memories I had of when I was temporarily awake returned. It was the younger woman who had suggested to take me inside. It was her. I turned round, but there was noone there, just the horse, still looking at me.
I walked over to the doorway, only just noticing that it was only about five feet high, and stooped to poke my head through, ignoring the horse. The living room connected into a dining room, with stairs near the table, what looked like a kitchen further on and a door leading outside in the other direction. I looked around, but I couldn't see the source of the voice. Odd, it sounded like it was close.
I felt something tapping my leg, and looked down to see the horse prodding me with its hoof. I was starting to get annoyed with it now, but then it moved its lips.
"Ah said, are you ok?"
HOLY SHIT! I backpeddled at these new words and tripped over my own feet, landing on my arse and sending pain along my arm and shoulder. I crawled to the other side of the room. It talked! The horse just fucking talked! I drew my knife and held it in front of me.
What? If you met a talking horse, you'd panic a bit too.
The horse looked uneasy when it saw this new weapon, but it didn't run. Instead it started talking again, this time with a soothing voice.
"It's alright. We ain't gonna hurt ya. Just put the knife down and take a deep breath."
I felt slightly calmer after this, but I wasn't giving up my knife. I slipped it back into the sheathe and stood up. I had to balance myself on the shelf again.
"Good." The horse carried on, "Now that that's outta the way, my name's Applejack. You got a name?" She held out her hoof, as if offering a handshake.
I didn't reply. This thing was probably a hallucination, and I didn't want to talk to it unless I had to. Applejack eventually lowered her hoof, took another look at me, and left the room.
Ok, talking horses. That's new for me. I had to figure out where I was. I walked out of the room and noticed my pack leaning against the wall. I knelt over it and searched inside the pockets for my map. The pack had a waterproof lining, so everything inside was dry, even after the river. I found my map, unfolded it, and laid it out on the table. I was just about to examine it, when another wave of dizziness washed over me, and I nearly fell over again.
Applejack noticed me, and took my arm in her hoof. "Woah there, Nelly. Why don't you lie down for a bit. Ah'll be back to check on you later."
She led me back into the living room, and instructed me to lie on the sofa. I obeyed, and as soon as my head hit the cushion, I fell asleep.
Applejack spent a few minutes staring at this animal now sleeping on her sofa. She hadn't expected it to react the way it did, but at least they had avoided any incidents.
Eventually, she decided to let it rest. She left the room and closed the door behind her. Wandering outside, she made the decision to go and tell her brother what had happened. The sun was setting now, casting a vibrant pink across the sky.
She found her brother inside the barn, stacking barrels of apples in a corner. She approached him and simply said, "The animal woke up."
Big Mac almost knocked the barrels over in surprise, and took a moment to compose himself. Afterwards, he replied, "What happened? Did it try to attack you?" His tone gave an impression of concern.
"No Big Macintosh, Ah'm fine." She gave him a reassuring look, and he relaxed. "Ah don't think it can talk, it didn't reply when I spoke to it. But when it heard me speak, it jumped out of its skin. Ah've never seen so much shock from anypony. Anyway, it tried to look at what Ah thought was a map, but it was still really out of it. It's sleepin' in the livin' room now." She decided to leave out the incident with the knife.
Big Mac didn't reply. He simply nodded, like he always did, and went inside with Applejack to prepare dinner.
Feel free to leave comments. I welcome criticism, as I'm always looking for ways to improve. Just don't go crazy. Sorry these chapters have been short. I want to make them longer, so any advice on that will also be appreciated. Also, I don't know how frequently I'll be able to upload, college work can pile up. However, I'm going to be putting as much spare time as I can into it.