By: Aquarian Poet
It was such a soft noise, you wouldn't have been able to hear it through her open window, where morning sunlight was starting to weave through, igniting the few dust motes flickering in and out of sight. A sight that she had become wearily familiar with throughout the years.
One that she wouldn't trade for the world.
Sitting up, Fluttershy lightly stretched her forelegs and wings out, rolling her shoulders slightly to the left, and letting out a pleasant sigh. Vibrant turquoise eyes slowly creased open, taking in the blurry sight of her bedroom. Raising a single ear, she couldn't help but notice the lack of chirping in her bedroom. Looking upward, she noticed the nests were empty, no scratching sounds in the few birdhouses hanging from the wooden supports. Apparently she had gotten up later than usual, the birds being courteous enough to fly silently enough out the window as to not wake her up.
So thoughtful of them…
Smiling to herself, the majority of the morning dizziness having passed, she -lightly- trudged down the hallway to the washroom, opening the door with nary a creak. Continuing to the sink, she picked up the small green container on the shelf to her right. Opening the jar, she gently dipped a hoof inside and pulled it out, smelling the gel-like substance. Immediately the fog cleared her mind as the refreshing aroma of peppermint oil wafted into the darkest recesses of her morning-muddled mind, the leafy-green vapors giving life back to her senses, prompting her to breathe in more of the invigorating substance. As she gingerly applied the cream beneath her eyes, she started thinking back to the day when she was given the invigorating product.
Her dearest friend Rarity, after a slow season of sales at the Carousel Boutique many years ago, had decided to try her hoof at a brand-new line of cosmetics, made from all-natural herbs and plants. "Rarity's Rejuvenesque" was the name of the product line, a cream or coating for almost anything you could think of, from wrinkles or warts, to pimples and baggy eyes. It was a fairly large success, but the stress of dressmaking and single-hoofedly maintaining a makeup line was simply too much work for the poor unicorn. After a particularly dramatic display of exhaustion and despair one day, Fluttershy decided to try and coax her friend into letting go of the cosmetic production, and refocus her efforts on making dresses alone. Rarity had balked at the idea, at one point even accusing her fellow spa-goer of having so little faith in her ability. But as time moved on, even she realized the limits of her mental and emotional facilities, and eventually moved away from the aesthetics business.
Still, the profit from her little project had given Rarity a short break from her seemingly-ceaseless duties, having made enough bits to renovate the Boutique, and even allowing herself to take a few weeks vacation to a lovely resort in Manehattan. She had even gone to visit her old benefactor to whom she had apprenticed under, learning the finer arts of fashion and fabrics in her youth. It seems that she had caught her only days before the aged pony was to retire her own local shop in Manehattan, and move into a lovely complex in Canterlot, much to Rarity's delight (and jealousy).
After returning to Ponyville, Rarity had appeared to dazzle with energy and motivation for months to come! Starting a whole new line of dresses, having been inspired by many an outfit and passing trend on her well-needed vacation, she quickly rose back to the top of the high-end clothing industry for miles around. Fluttershy had gone to meet her newly-revitalized filly friend for their weekly spa treatment when Rarity had produced the green jar from behind a changing curtain, handing it to her while thanking her for convincing the purple-haired pony to change direction. Apparently this was the last product Rarity had designed before abandoning the industry for good, focusing solely on dressmaking once more. Rarity went on to talk about the contents, naming the different ingredients and herbs it contained, ones that caused Fluttershy's mouth to run dry, as the exquisite… and expensive names of individual plants flew out of her friend's mouth as casually as one would read a grocery list. She insisted (threatened, at one point) that she keep the token of her appreciation, that Fluttershy had saved her business by saving her sanity, her life, she had even exclaimed. It was that phrase that had prompted Fluttershy to keep the jar without any more hesitance, those words that had meant more than the costly product she now used every morning without fault.
Rarity was not a pony who idly acknowledged a debt.
Even after years of use, the jar was still more than halfway full, surely a testament of Rarity's everlasting generosity. Fluttershy was surely convinced that should something ever happen to the house, whether it be foreclosure or a fire, this jar would be the first thing (aside from the birds and animals taking residence here) that she would save.
Heavens, she could sell half of the jar's contents, and make enough to repurchase a house just like this one!
Taking a deep breath, Fluttershy plunged her head into the washbasin under the sink, the cool water reawakening and intensifying her awareness. She pulled out, blindly reaching out to the right once more for her white towel. Drying her face and her hair, she took out a brush from the pastel-green drawer to her left, and continued her morning routine.
Humming a sweetened tune of Pinkie Pie's, Fluttershy gracefully walked back into her bedroom half an hour later, feeling clean and restored. She glided over to her bed, straightening her butterfly-patterned bedspread with a gentle series of tugs. After adjusting her pillows, she turned to walk away… when her hoof caught a loose floorboard, eliciting a small yelp from the pony as she felt her hip knock against the wooden bookshelf situated beside her. The cacophony of books, bottles, and an oil-lantern crashing down around her in turn caused a bout of squeaks and squawks from the tiny residents living below.
Coughing and wheezing, Fluttershy peered through the clouds of dust billowing around the room, mentally noting to rectify her decline in housekeeping habits in the near future. She could see a number of books strewn everywhere and pages of various notes and letters saved over the years had scattered around the room, as well as a new addition: a white rabbit standing on the top step leading to the ground floor, looking her way while tapping its little hoof impatiently. Despite her situation, she still maintained a tiny smile, if not looking a bit embarrassed.
The pair had opted to head downstairs after the startling event, deciding to calm down the other inhabitants while waiting for the dust upstairs to either settle, or circulate out of the open window An hour later, the haze of dirt and collectings had almost completely dissipated, the only movement in the simple room being Angel, who was looking under the bed for any papers that may have hidden underneath, and Fluttershy, drifting about the shelves and rafters with a pink feather duster in her mouth. Fluttering to the top, she gently dusted off the winding green vines lazily wrapped around the supports, and moving on to the birdhouses, dusting off the roofs and perches. Satisfied with her work, she then dropped a few hooves, and began working on her own knick-knacks. Hovering next to the first shelf above the fireplace, she tenderly started removing the various objects, and placed them on her bed…
A cute red candlestick and holder, charmingly fragranced with cinnamon, which had been given to her by Twilight during her last birthday.
A small, wooden clock that she had purchased from a shop going out of business, as a small thank you to the owner who had provided her with many a charitable discount over the years.
A turquoise-framed portrait of three pink flowers in a matching pot, one of the few memories she had kept from her old home in Cloudsdale.
And lastly, a lime green-framed picture of herself as a young filly, shyly smiling next to an older mare with a candy-grape coat and a pink mane colored much like her own, though in a much more… unique fashion, both enjoying the sunny hills outside of Ponyville that particular day.
Looking fondly at the last of these, she set the picture down on her bed, choosing to dust this particular keepsake first, but not before she felt a light patter on her shoulder. Glancing back, she saw Angel pointing a paw toward the desk, spot-free and holding a number of nicely-stacked papers and books. With a regal smile and bow, the bunny hopped off of the bed, and bounded down the stairs with a series of leaps.
"O-oh, thank you very much Angel!" she called down the stairs. Momentarily forgetting her current task, Fluttershy walked over to the desk (stepping over the loose floorboard this time), situated herself on her hindquarters, and began sorting through the nearest pile of paper. She inwardly sighed as she saw the extent of the disorganization her little tumble had caused. Somehow, most of the drawers had slid open, spilling more of the previously well-ordered pieces of parchment than she had originally thought. A quick glance upward, and she noticed that the top left edge of the dresser had caught onto one of the vines, and she realized even more swiftly, and with a touch of fright, that if it hadn't been for the little plant dangling above, the dresser may very well have landed on top of her.
Pushing that unsettling thought aside, she continued arranging the documents. From financial records, to old grocery lists with recipes she had written on them, even letters from strangers and loved ones alike, the different subjects were sorted and neatly put in a pile on the floor surrounding the area where Fluttershy sat. A few minutes into the activity, and it already felt like a chore. It had been quite a long time since she had last gone through this drawer, only occasionally having to take a book off of the shelf, or search through a specific stack of papers for a reference or statement.
In spite of what one would think of her seemingly material-less nature, she did a heavy amount of shopping, having taken it upon herself to open up her home to the various animals and creatures years ago, until eventually becoming the unofficial resident veterinarian of Ponyville. She now received a grant from the city every month allotted to the care and providing of any bird or animal that may receive an illness or injury, as well as a healthy sum for her services that she would often prefer to spend on the weekly spa visit with her dear unicorn friend.
Having to sort through many of these receipts and statements by the week brought on the realization of just how long she had dedicated herself to the wellness of her little friends all across Ponyville. It wasn't just her job, it was her ambition. It was in her essence to give all she could to the sub-society often forgone in favor of service to one's fellow ponies. It was hard work, and very scarcely would she find another pony who shared her fervor for surrounding herself with the troubles and burdens of these little, often needy creatures…
And not once had she found herself regretting her decision.
As she continued scanning through the steadily-shrinking mound before her, she came across a crinkled old piece of paper, beginning to turn yellow with age, and the words written starting to fade away. Skimming over the contents, she felt her heart skip a beat as she remembered this particular page.
It was a poem, one that she had written as a very young filly while attending Summer Flight Camp. The day where her life had completely changed. The day she couldn't remember ever having been so frightened in her entire life.
The day after she had received her cutie mark.
Fluttershy's eyes drifted back to the lime-green picture frame lying on her bed, her vision glazing over as she remembered that wonderful, horrific day…
A younger, happy Fluttershy had just dropped down from a couple of low-hanging clouds after gently reassuring a trio of ducks that it was safe to come out, landing legs folded in as the animals gathered around her. A white baby rabbit hopped up to her, staring in wonder as three pink and blue butterflies appeared on her flanks with a glowing flash of white, though Fluttershy didn't seem to notice.
"H-hello everyone… my name is Fluttershy." she quietly introduced herself, hiding an eye behind her long pink hair, though her voice held much more confidence. She was greeted with a series of chirps and chitterings of all kinds. She acknowledged them as best as she could, shyly smiling and nodding to the many creatures, before she directed her gaze back upwards, recollecting the events that had just transpired. Through her blind terror, it hadn't occurred to her just how far down she had fallen from the sky, and the dull ache in her wing joints informed her that her chances of making it back up were slim to none. As the forest natives scurried and shuffled away from the scene, she came to realize that the sky was beginning to turn yellow, the sun slowly making its daily descent toward the edge of the far off mountains. From the great distance between Cloudsdale and where she was now, she couldn't tell if any pegasus ponies were out looking for her.
Had they even noticed that she was missing?
Suddenly feeling very, very alone, she stood up on all fours, and starting looking around. Surrounded by trees that left no room to glimpse a nearby town or city, she started to worry. What was she going to do if they hadn't noticed she was missing? Where was she going to sleep? What was she going to eat? And what should she do now?
She depressingly noted that none of the animals were in the clearing any longer, all having returned to their respective nests and burrows. She saw little option at this point, so she opted to choose a direction at random. Closing her eyes, she slowly began spinning in place, and stopped a few seconds later. She exhaled, and started walking in the direction she had chosen, the song she had sung moments ago slowly fading from her heart…
It had been hours, and the little filly continued onward through the forest, which grew quieter and quieter with every minute that passed. Nightfall came and went, leaving a thin spatter of navy light against the darkening skies, dimming her hopes of finding a peaceful night's rest in this strange, alien world. The former beauty of this new place she had discovered was starting to lose its luster as the colors began to fade away, blending into the blanket of darkness that now kept around her…
One that tucked away her hopes, and insulated her fears.
She had never slept alone in her young life, it occurred to her. Having grown used to her parents being a wall of clouds away from her room, or occasionally a sleeping bag made of clouds apart from a friend during a campout in the skies, she doubted she would be able to fall asleep even if she did find somepony in this dreary place.
But here she was, miles and miles away from any pony, earth, unicorn or pegasus as far as she could tell. As she walked along, she became aware of the trees starting to look sickly, unhealthy, and a few even looked… dead. A low-hanging fog had found its way around her, making it difficult to see more than a few hooves ahead. She could only see so far upwards through the thick branches and mossy tree limbs, the hazy outline of the shiny moon a twisted mockery of the clarity she was used to, as she would often find herself gazing dreamily at the celestial orb from her window in Cloudsdale at night before going to bed.
The silence had long been broken by the noises of creatures she wasn't sure she wanted to meet. Hootings and howls in the distance, and (she hoped she imagined) the occasional low, guttural growl that sent ripples of ice-cold fear through her spine, her wings locking into place against her side. Her eyes wide and her head low, she persisted along the path she had chosen, unable to give up the hope that she would eventually find somepony who would help her.
An unexpected rustling sounded from her right, causing her head to shoot up. Standing completely still, she slowly turned her head towards a bush, barely visible above the misty cover. She held her breath as the rustling got louder, preparing to run away, when the rustling stopped, and something stepped out of the fog.
She had never seen anything like it before, the closest thing she could identify it with would be a young kitten, having seen a picture of one in a book from her school back in Cloudsdale. The whiskers, the eyes, and the cute (though somewhat intimidating) face were tell-tale signs, but it seemed that this cat was much different than what she had seen before. It had a gold-orange coat, with two patches of… scales on either side where a pegasus' wings would be, and a small tuft of deep-red hair atop its head. As it turned to face her, she also noticed the tail swinging behind it, the same color as its mane, and the end of it curling up into a sharp point.
The creature yelped in her direction, a sound that made her want to run away as fast as her little yellow legs could take her… if it hadn't sounded so sad. The kitten-like creature looked to be in pain, and upon closer inspection she noticed it was standing on only three paws, the fourth being the animal's front left paw that was held up and away from the ground. A new, resolute courage welled up inside of her, and banishing the feelings of fear and doubt in her heart, she slowly walked up toward it. The strange-looking kitten started to back away, a fearful expression emerging on its face.
"Shh… it's okay." she whispered reassuringly as she came nearer. The animal paused, and stopped retreating backwards. Instead, it sat down on its haunches, and lifted up its paw to eye level. Fluttershy stopped in front of it, and lightly nuzzled the back of the paw with her little nose, prompting the animal to turn it over, exposing the fleshy part of the tiny limb. There was an inch long cut running diagonally down the padded palm, a small trickle of blood leaking out of the open wound.
"Aww, you poor, poor little baby." The young filly continued to whisper soothing words to the injured kitty as she picked up a leaf, and gingerly wiped some of the blood away. The animal flinched, but didn't draw itself back, watching tentatively as Fluttershy bowed her head down, and kissed the little paw right above the cut.
"There there, is that better?" she asked the animal caringly, who in turn started licking the side of her face without warning, a light purring noise emitting from inside its tiny throat. She giggled as it started grooming her hair with its surprisingly long tongue. After a minute of the little creature's administrations, the pink-haired pony backed away, still laughing lightly.
"Alright, you should go on back home, your mommy's probably very worried about-"
The filly's heart nearly stopped as a deep, unholy snarl echoed behind her, the foggy forest around her going utterly silent. The little kitten-like creature yelped out again, and limped past her toward the source of the noise. Fears forgotten, Fluttershy quickly spun around, about to go after the animal and keep it away from whatever had made that scary noise, when she saw something that did make her heart stop.
She firstly noticed the pair of large, blood-red wings coated with a gold-orange fur, dismally similar to the coat of the little patient she had just tended to. Long whiskers protruded from an exceptionally intimidating face, sitting above two long and sharp-looking fangs that were sticking out of a petrifying scowl. A large, deep-hued mane adorned the abysmal visage of the creature before her, the same color as the wings…
…as well as the color of the tail waving menacingly behind her, the end coming into a very, very, very sharp tip.
Her newfound friend quickly hobbled over to the awe-inspiring creature, calling out once more as it nestled itself against a claw-adorned paw easily twice the size of itself. As the great beast bent down to nuzzle the little cub, a sinking feeling made its way into Fluttershy's stomach as the reality of the situation hit her.
This was the kitten's mother.
Fear washed over her being as she slowly backed away, her legs trembling and struggling to support her weight. The air around her grew heavy as the beast's eyes slowly turned toward her, fearful teals meeting beady blacks. The monster stood up on its hind legs, giant wings stretched out, and let out a blood-curdling shriek…
Her mind was blank. Thoughts of her parents, of Cloudsdale and the comfort of her room all lost as she tore through the woods. All that existed was her, and the loud patter of footfall from behind her. The blackness of instinct overwhelmed her senses, her insecurities and peculiarities. With perfect precision, she dodged every hanging limb, leapt over every rock and root, tearing through bushes and patches of mushrooms alike in her numb haste to escape the roaring monster chasing after her.
But the massive beast was too fast for her. With a striking lunge, the great monster was upon her, a massive paw colliding with her lithe body, sending the small pony through the brush, the remainder of her consciousness flying after it. She lay alongside a wilting tree, bruised and dazed, helpless to watch as the winged creature came nearer and nearer, until she could see the whiskers on its face in full detail, smell the creatures reeking breath, the powerful beat of its wings as it drew back on its hindlegs once again, a colossal paw raised in the air, ready to end her pathetic little life…
And then, for some odd reason, everything went white.