86w, 3dThe Crossroads Experiment
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The group of ponies continued talking amongst themselves, Haku and Chubs filling the party in on the basics of Equestrian history, while everyone got their new birdlike companion up to speed on the whole being dead predicament. Lucky Money listened to the description of Equestria with a practiced ear, searching for new business opportunities, and ways to avoid alienating customers. Abigail, meanwhile, looked a bit forlornly at where Loro’s plane had been. She didn’t know where any more electronics might be found, but that plane surely would have had enough supplies to start in on making a basic generator.
At the same time, a pink mare with cotton candy shaped hair was bouncing along, singing about how she deals with scary situations. Usually, the song was only a verse or two long, but today she was already five verses into it, making up new rhymes as she went. Her friends, had they seen her, might have noticed her gait was less bouncy than normal, her eyes wider, and her mane somewhat less poofy. The party pony was certainly out of her element as she passed the haunted grounds of the Crossroads.
Normally, Pinkie Pie would just avoid the place all together. An unfortunate event from years ago had made sure of that.
Pinkie trotted, or hopped rather, down the streets having just finished cleaning up from her own Welcome to Ponyville party or, more accurately, her ‘Clean Up from the Welcome to Ponyville, Pinkie Pie Party Party.’ As her path took her by the largely unused carriage station, she spied a forlorn looking mare sitting at one of the benches. She couldn’t help wanting to make the poor sad mare smile, so Pinkie bounced over to her.
“Hey, want some cake? We could have a ‘Use the Leftovers from the Last Party Party! I’ve even got streamers, so that we can decorate! What do you say?” Pinkie was sure the mare would love her party idea. Everyone did! Even her parents had broken out into smiles, and they could be downright dour at times. But this mare’s lips didn’t even quivver. She just stood up slowly and glared for a moment. Then her lips curled. The corners turned up, but not in a fun sort of way. It seemed more... scary. So, Pinkie did what her Granny Pie told her to do when faced with scary things: giggle.
It didn’t seem to do much. The mare didn’t go away, but instead, she advanced. Pinkie’s giggling was not so much the courage-building stuff she was hoping for now, but rather, it was a hollow, thin shell of fortitude keeping her from bolting away at top speed. The strange mare advanced, her forehead nearly touching Pinkie’s, and began to speak in a voice so calm it was a miracle that it could contain the malice it did.
“Oh, my my my, look at the brave little pony. Staring death in the face and laughing at it.” It was about now that Pinkie felt a pit in her stomach and her right hind leg twitch. It was a new signal from her Pinkie Sense that just screamed “RUN.” She couldn’t move though, she was too scared to even react. “Well, the dead don’t take too kindly to being mocked,” The mare had begun to circle Pinkie, and was now just outside her field of vision. “Now, what, exactly do you think I should do to you, now that you’ve wandered into my home?” A hoof was drawn across Pinkies back, sending more shivers up her spine than Pinkie thought possible. The mare was standing just on the peripherals of Pinkie’s vision when something changed.
She felt a wave of crushing loneliness wash over her. She could hear the screams of thousands of ponies, crying out for comfort, companionship, anything, but never finding one another. Their feelings carried in their voices, drilling the loneliness deep down into Pinkie’s core. Then she felt a leg tighten around her chest. The mare was pulling her into that... place! All Pinkie knew was that she had to get away before the mean, no evil, mare threw her into that dungeon of sorrow. The moment of desperation snapped Pinkie out of her paralysis and she easily broke free of the mare’s grip, aided by all the adrenaline and sugar her body could muster. Pinkie fled from that abandoned carriage station chased by a wave of oppressive loneliness and a hollow cackle, leaving behind the bag of streamers and the cake she had offered the mare.
Ever since that night, Pinkie had avoided the Crossroads. She’d sometimes come down a street a few blocks away, within sight of the ancient edifice, but only when there were plenty of ponies around. Every time, though, she couldn’t help but stare at the place. She knew every time how many ghosts there were, and what they looked like, even if she would have preferred to pretend the whole place didn’t exist.
Ever since she had become friends with Zecora, though, she’d been thinking that maybe the place deserved a second chance. She’d debated about it for weeks, which stretched on to become months. It turned out that fate forced her hand on the issue, though. Today was Mayor Mare’s birthday, and the Cakes had been hired to prepare her cake. Unfortunately, Pinkie had scarfed down the whole thing in one bite when she saw it. The Cakes then had to quickly bake a new cake and Pinkie had to rush the delivery, which meant that she couldn’t avoid cutting through the Crossroads.
But Pinkie had good friends now, and she was braver than before, and it was just a little past noon. There was no way that evil mare would still be hanging around, anyway. She probably got bored and left years ago. Yeah, that crazy mare totally wasn’t going to be there. Even so, Pinkie figured to brighten her spirits with a nice song, getting through the junction would take just a hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, skip, hop, skip and a jump.
“Sooo... do we just feed you crackers or something, Loro? Cause we have zero crackers and zero pirates for you to stand on. Now if you were pink and taller I’d just suggest pretending Chubs was a hippo and stand on him for a bit but I feel that’s just insulting to the hippo,” Lewdy said with his usual biting tone of mock. The fact nopony had kicked him yet showed a sense of self control that a Buddhist monk would be proud of. Of course nothing lasts forever and Lewdy was quickly pressing his luck with the insults.
“Actually that’d be a sight to see. Haku wants to ride you and if you stood on top of Chubs it’d be like a Roman orgy with the vomiting missing... well not missing but...” His voice trailed off as he looked over Loro’s shoulder to see a very familiar pink pony nervously passing by the crossroads.
‘Freedom ticket, freedom ticket!’ Lewdy cried out in his own head as he watched her pass with a hopeful spark in his eyes. He thought about shouting out to her to get her attention but he knew the results would be the same. This wasn’t the first time she or another of the mane six went by the crossroads. At first Lewdy would holler himself hoarse trying to get their attention. Each time it was the same, they’d pass by without hearing a word and not noticing the frantic pony attempting to get them to come over. Pinkie Pie especially in the past made an avid point to avoid the Crossroads. Memphis had hypothesized that it might be her Pinkie Sense warning her off but Lewdy saw no sense in that. His eyes followed her closely and he wandered away from Loro to watch her pass, contemplating getting her attention.
He found though that it wouldn’t be necessary.
A strange combination of motions were made. Pinkie’s right hind leg visibly twitched, the jolliness in her step disappeared as if she had been struck by something, and her mane and tail seemed to shiver. Lewdy stepped back, perplexed, this was a new Pinkie Sense he hadn’t seen before but then again he hadn’t been just five feet away from her before.
Pinkie’s eyes dilated and slowly she turned her head towards them, dreading what she would see. What she saw made the pit in her stomach grow and the shiver in her spine tingle from a growing terror that crept up her hooves. She gulped and looked at each of the shadowy ponies that she knew to be ghosts. She didn’t recognize any of them besides one that had the slightest of green and blue hints to it.
And there was one figure that seemed completely out of place.
Pinkie Pie had never met a Hippogryph before, she had only seen them in storybooks but knew they resembled gryphons like Gilda.Yet she felt with little doubt that what she saw in front of her didn’t belong in this haunted place.
Before she could stop to consider all the details she cried out to the red parrot faced pony, “Hey Mr. Hippogryph! You shouldn’t be in this spooky place with all these nasty ghosties around!”
And without thinking she addressed them all in a proclamation, “You here me spookie ghosties? Leave ‘im alone or deal with the Pinkie Pie!”
She suddenly covered her mouth with both her forehooves, the shock evident in her eyes as she quickly realized the mistake she made. She watched in horror as not only the red parrot pony become vibrant but the rest of the ghosts as well. The green pony she knew had been in the Crossroads for a while was closest to her, almost close enough to touch. He had a wild smile on his face, one that reminded her too much of the haunting, cruel smile the mare from so long ago gave her.
Her eyes darted around at the other ones. One colt was a brown unicorn with a curly black mane, another yellow with a green mane, the only mare there was deep blue with a black mane. The final pony nearly sent her over the edge of hysteria by the way he looked at her. The hefty grey pony with the blonde mane was looking at her in what could only be described as hunger.
“Pinkie Pie!” Lewdy shouted with joy that caused her to shrink in fear. “No! Don’t freak out, don’t freak out! I mean I’m a ghost but not a scary one, well ghosts are scary but I’m not trying to be scary!” Lewdy frantically spoke, his voice rising in pitch slowly. Pinkie Pie’s eyes frantically darted around for a way to get away, her hooves still covering her mouth for fear of screaming and gaining the ghost’s ire.
“Listen Pinkie! You gotta get us out of here! I’m going completely insane in this little square prison. You have got to get me out of here!” Lewdy desperately said, taking several quick steps forward so that his face was mere inches from the panicked pink pony.
Pinkie gasped suddenly when Lewdy roughly grabbed her shoulders with his hooves. His pupils trembled from wild desperation, “Please! I cannot go to hell! Get us out of here!”
Abigail and Lucky Money quickly saw how serious Lewdy was making the situation and rushed forward. Grabbing onto Lewdy’s legs, Lucky tried his best, with all his might, to pull the green pony away from Pinkie Pie. Meanwhile Abigail was at Lewdy’s side trying to shove him away.
The blue unicorn closed her eyes from the exertion of keep Lewdy away from Pinkie as well as trying to tap into her inherent ability. Chubs had said something about unicorns being able to make things float with their magic. She had no idea if it would work, but she had to try to break Lewdy’s grip on Pinkie Pie. With eyes still closed shut she concentrated, trying to visualize pulling Lewdy’s hooves off the pink mare with her mind’s eye. It didn’t take long before she felt a heat in her forehead where she knew her horn to be. Abigail kept the clear image in her mind, focusing on it more than trying to push the frantic green pony away.
Her horn and Lewdy’s hooves were slowly surrounded by a red aura, the same color as Abigail’s eyes. It was weak at first but in a quick burst of strength Lewdy felt his hooves be pulled away and his body dragged away.
“Damn it! You bastards, let me go!” He shouted as he fell to the ground.
“Not ‘til ya calm the ‘ell down lad!” Lucky shouted back, still pulling trying to pull the pony back.
He failed to see the slow ambling form of Chubs pass by.
“Chubs? What are you-” Abigail started when she opened her eyes to see the hefty stallion pass her by. Her eyes widened even more when she watched in horror as he simply stuffed part of Pinkie Pie’s tail into his mouth and start to chew, a trance of heavenly satisfaction on his smiling face.
This was too much for the poor mare and with a scream Pinkie Pie shot into the air, getting her tail free from Chub’s mouth. Before she even touched the ground she was away. Galloping at full speed back the way she came. Screaming as she went and not looking back.
Loro’s beak distorted in revulsion and confusion. Lewdy watched in disappointment as his pink salvation ran away. He groaned and buried his face into the dirt, muffled by the ground he said, “Why Chubs, why?”