The crusaders were going to bankrupt me with what they’ve done to Sybil’s room alone. Cereal crumbs, Pop-Tart bags, flecks of instant mac and cheese, and various other bits of food covered her carpet. If she got fined, I would have to pay.
“Wow!” Scootaloo jumped up and down on Sybil’s bed.“Humans have a ton of awesome food!”
“But it’s not a good as Pinkie’s stuff.” Sweetie sat on the bed and looked up at her friend.
“Their apple juice isn’t as good as ma sister’s, either.” Apple Bloom took another sip from the apple juice bottle I’d gotten her from the snack bar.
I took my glasses off and rubbed my eyes. “Sybil, why did you let them eat your food? That can’t be a good idea.”
“Don’t look at me! I had to take a shower. How do you think I felt when they were eating my stuff?” Sybil brushed back her hair as she spoke.
“Well, we need to get them real food.” I sighed. “I really didn’t want to break out my bank account.”
“Hey John,” Jane asked, “who else are we gonna tell? I mean, we can’t keep this a secret. We’re lucky the police haven’t already come here.”
“Hmm.” I clasped a hand around my chin. “Normally they’d be the first people I’d go to in this situation, but I think we should try and get a hold of CERN.”
“Um, okay.” Sybil tilted her head at me.
“Well we need a physicist or something. They’ve got to know how to fix this.” I hope.
“John, we don’t even know what exactly happened to them. I mean, it could have been Discord, but...” Jane facepalmed. “Guh, what am I even saying?”
Sweetie walked over and looked at Jane. “Ms. Jane, do humans like to put their faces in their hands a lot?”
Jane stopped facepalming and turned her eyes toward Sweetie. “Sorry, Sweetie, it’s something we do when we’re trying to understand stuff.”
“Did ya’ll get your cutie marks in thinking then?” Apple Bloom asked. “Cause ya’ll have been doing that all day.”
“That reminds me.” Scootaloo stopped jumping on the bed. “The sun set a while ago. How does that work? I mean, do you have a princess here too?”
“No,” I said. I feel like a kindergarten teacher. “See, on Earth, our planet just naturally goes around the sun.”
“Wait.” Sweetie raised a hand, signalling for me to slow down. “This place goes around the sun? Not the other way around?”
“Yeah, it also causes Earth to naturally go through seasons,” Jane explained. “So we don’t need to do things like Winter Wrap Up.” Jane paused and brought a hand to her mouth, then she turned to me. “John, I swear, if I wake up with hooves tomorrow, I blame you.”
“I didn’t do this!” I yelled, but then I lowered my voice. “Sorry, I’m just a little tired is all.”
“I believe ya,” Sybil said, “the Crusaders really did a number on you, didn’t they?”
“I guess.” My face still stung a little. All three Crusaders we’re now looking at me. “What?”
“We’re sorry,” they all said in unison.
“Girls, it’s fine. You were scared and I can’t really blame you. I’d probably wail on the first thing I saw if I wound up in a strange world. Heh, you’d make good cutie mark brawlers.”
“That reminds me,” Sweetie spoke up, “you said that humans watch us a lot, right?”
“Um, yeah.” I don’t like the sound of this.
“Okay, got it.” Sweetie nodded and then turned to her friends. They huddled together and whispered for a few seconds.
“We’ve come up with a plan!” Apple Bloom said with a smile.
“You have?” Sybil raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah.” Scootaloo’s eyes shifted to Sweetie and then to Apple Bloom.“We’re gonna...”
“Yes?” Jane stared at them.
“Be Cutie Mark Crusader Celebrities!” the trio yelled.
“Girls!” My eyes frantically darted between the girls and the door. “Remember what I said about volume?”
“Oh, sorry.” Apple Bloom frowned a little. “But we still think it’s a great idea.”
“Yeah,” Scootaloo continued, “if we become famous, then everypony will know us and that’ll be sure to get somepony’s attention. Then we’ll just go back home when they find us.”
“And we’ll get our cutie marks!” Sweetie beamed us a smile.
Oh god, they act just like they do in the show. Please don’t...
“Hey.” Scootaloo flashed a devilish grin. “We already realized a bunch of people watch us. Technically, we’re already celebrities.”
“What are ya getting at, Scoots?” asked Apple Bloom.
“We already have a special talent for entertaining people.” Scootaloo’s grin grew wider. “You know what that means?”
Sweetie’s eyes lit up with joy. “Maybe we already got out cutie marks!”
No. No, no, no! This is not happening!
“Well, we just need to check.” Apple Bloom looked down at her overalls. “Under these weird coat things you still have a blank fl–”
I need to get their minds on something else, fast! “How would you girls like to watch a movie?”
“What’s a movie?” Sweetie asked as her hands moved away from her dress.
“It’s like a long show,” I explained.
“Hmm, that does sound interesting.” Apple Bloom rubbed her chin as she spoke. “What’s it about?”
“Your choice.” I nervously smiled at them and hoped their curiosity of Earth would overpower their desire to get cutie marks.
Scootaloo eyed Sybil’s textbooks. She extended her arms and brought her friends together. After a few more seconds of whispering, they looked back at me. “We’ve decided we want to watch something not about school.”
“Why’s that?” Sybil asked.
“Well, Mr. John said that ya’ll live at this big school, which sounds pretty awful,” Apple Bloom explained.
“So if we’re gonna stay here until we get back home, we might as well treat it like a vacation.” Sweetie smiled. “A vacation means no school!”
“Okay,” I stood up, “I got just the thing for ya. I’ll be right back.” I opened Sybil’s door and rushed down the hall to my room. I darted over to my DVD collection and picked out the box I was looking for. I then ran back to Sybil’s room. “This is actually one of my favorites.” I gave the girls the box and handed the actual disc to Sybil.
“Humans wear some pretty weird things.” Sweetie examined the box alongside her two friends.
“Yeah, he kinda looks like he’s wearing a cheetah under a weird white and grey coat thing.” Apple Bloom pressed her face close to the cover.
“It’s from a while ago,” I explained as Sybil got her DVD player started up. “People wore weird things back then.”
“Wish we could read that weird human stuff though.” Scootaloo squinted her eyes as she tried to analyze the red writing on the box. All three girls jumped suddenly when the title menu of the DVD popped up.
“Bueller, Ferris Bueller,” a young boy on the screen said while suave music played in the background.
“So if it’s not about school,” Apple Bloom tilted her head at the screen, “what is it about?”
“Um, was there ever a time you played sick to get out of school?” I asked. Sybil pressed pressed the play button.
“Oh yeah, there was this one time Ah was really embarrassed by Granny Smith and Ah didn’t want to go to school.”
“So we made it look like she was sick,” Sweetie explained.
Great, the awkwardness of knowing their lives is back. Maybe the movie will help me forget stuff for a while. “It backfired, didn’t it?”
“Yeah...” Apple Bloom’s face was dotted with red.
I watched the opening scene of the movie start to play. “Well, what if you got away with playing sick and had the best day ever?”
“Ha!” Scootaloo laughed. “Nopony could ever pull that off. If they faked sick, they’d have to stay in bed all day.”
“Ferris didn’t.” I smiled. John Hughes movies always made me feel better. “He did everything you could want to do in a day, and he did it while everyone thought he was sick.”
“Wow, wonder what cutie mark he got.” Apple Bloom’s eyes were now glued to the screen as she watched Ferris explain how to fake out his parents. All the Crusaders were now transfixed by the television.
I think they fell asleep right around the museum scene. A shame; that was my favorite part. Before I left, I helped Sybil and Jane tuck them into Sybil’s spare bed. I grasped Sybil’s shoulder, probably a little too hard. “If anything is wrong, come get me,” I whispered to her.
“Got it,” Sybil replied.
“Get some rest, John.” Jane gave me a pat on the shoulder. “You need it the most out of all of us.”
“No.” I looked back at the sleeping Crusaders. “They do.”
“Don’t worry, I wasn’t serious about the hoof stuff,” Jane apologized.
“What if I did cause this though? I’d never want to–”
Sybil lightly punched me in the arm.
“What was that for?” I rubbed the spot she had punched.
“Quit bitching and get some sleep. We’ll worry about it tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Sybil.” I smiled at her. “You’re at least direct about stuff.”
“Damn straight. Now I need to get some rest too.” Sybil quietly closed her door and left Jane and me in the hallway.
“Well, night, John.” Jane walked over to her own door. “Don’t worry about it, okay?”
“I’ll try,” I lied. “Night, Jane.”
Jane disappeared behind her door and left me alone in the hall. I slumped back to my room, turned off the light, and fell on my bed. I placed my glasses on the nightstand and passed out after that.
I slammed a hand on the alarm clock. “Damn it, I forgot to change the time.”
It was eight in the morning. I grabbed my clock, fiddled with it, and set the alarm to eleven. Ugh, I really was messed up last night. No, wait, the whole day. Fricking thinking the Crusaders were real. I must have had a twenty-four hour bug or something. Eh, whatever, I’m going back to sle–
Just as I closed my eyes, there was a loud rapping at the door. I swear, unless that’s the devil on the other side of my door, I’m cracking some skulls. It’s eight on a Saturday!
I leapt out of my bed and rushed over to my drawer. Then I realized I’d fallen asleep in my clothes. Guh, I didn’t even change my clothes! I must have really been out of it. I walked to the door and looked through the peephole.
“Huh?” I pulled open the door. “Sybil? Jane? What are you...” The Crusaders were standing by them. “Jesus! What are you doing with them in the hallway?! Get inside!” I pulled the door open and gestured wildly for them to get in my room.
“Sorry, John,” Jane whispered as she entered the room.
“Don’t apologize. This is his responsibility too,” Sybil muttered. The Crusaders followed after her. I rubbed my eyes to make sure they were working properly.
“Mr. John, your mane looks funny!” Scootaloo giggled.
Sweetie frowned a little. “If Rarity was here she could probably fix your mane in a jiffy.”
“Ya look a little like Big Macintosh in the morning... hope he’s okay.” Apple Bloom walked into the room and instantly jumped on my bed. “These beds are pretty comfy.”
Aww crap, it wasn’t a dream. I sighed deeply. “What’s going on?”
“Well, we woke up,” Sweetie said. “But Ms. Sybil was still sleeping, but her camputter thing was open, so we thought maybe we’d be able to find everypony else by using it. But...” Sweetie kicked her feet around.
“I think we woke up a monster.” Scootaloo looked at Sybil and then at me.
“John...” Sybil’s voice sounded like some Lovecraftian horror. “I don’t like being woken up to Slayer.”
“N-n-now, Sybil you’ve already woken me up, isn’t that good enough?” I backed up into my drawer.
“I only said I’d let them stay in my room. When they’re awake, they’re your problem.” Sybil walked to the door and flung it open. Jane walked over to it and grabbed it before it slammed.
“Thanks.” I breathed a sigh of relief. “Now what?”
“I don’t know.” Jane shrugged.
“Hey,” Scootaloo spoke up, “what’s this thing?” She pointed at my Gurren Laggan wall scroll.
“It’s from one of the shows I like,” I said.
“What about this one?” Apple Bloom pointed at my One Piece flag.
“Ooh!” Sweetie spastically flailed her arms. “I know! It’s a pirate flag! Rarity loves reading books about them! Although most of the stories are just about captive mares describing a stallion’s chest. They’re kind of boring.” Sweetie squinted her eyes. “The skull looks weird on this one, though.”
“It’s from another show I like. It’s about pirates, too.”
“You like watching stories about mares describing a stallion’s chest?” Sweetie raised an eyebrow at me.
“What?! No! It’s not that kind of show. Guh, I can’t believe Rarity really even owns something like tha– ugh, nevermind.” I looked over at Jane. “We can’t stay here.” I saw my roommate shift around in his bed a little. “Let’s just go on a walk.”
Jane turned over to the Crusaders. “Is that safe?”
“It’ll be fine with us together,” I replied as I opened the door. “Let’s just get going. I need some air.”
We left my hall and went outside. It was pretty nice out, you know, except for the feeling of being freaked the hell out.
“So is this whole world one big school?” Scootaloo asked.
“No.” I pointed at the skyscrapers that were barely visible over my school’s trees. “See those tall buildings over there?”
“Those are buildings?!” Apple Bloom exclaimed. “Oh ma stars! Not even stuff in Canterlot was that big!”
“So is this like some school for gifted humans?” Sweetie asked. We started to walked down the sidewalk.
“Not really,” Jane explained, “this is just a normal school and a normal town.”
“But it’s so hu–” Apple Bloom clasped a hand on Scootaloo’s mouth.
“Quiet!” Apple Bloom whispered to her friend.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
With her free hand, Apple Bloom pointed at one of my school’s parking lots. “T-those things! W-what are they?”
Sweetie huddled close to her friends. “T-they don’t want to eat us, d-do they?”
“John?” Jane turned her head to me. “They think the cars are monsters.”
“I can see that Jane.” I squatted down to the girls’ eye level. “Don’t worry, they’re not gonna hurt you, they’re just things humans use to get places... they’re like trains.”
Scootaloo pushed Apple Bloom’s hand off her face. “You drive monsters?”
“No,” I wagged a finger in their faces. “They’re just machines... like that time those two brothers came to Apple Bloom’s farm, they’re kinda like that.”
Apple Bloom furrowed her brow. “Well, if they are, then Ah stil don’t wanna get near them.”
“That’s probably a good thing,” said Jane. She squatted next to me. “They can go really fast, so you need to be careful if you see them, okay?”
“Okay!” the girls said in unison. We all got back up and started moving again.
“So where are we going, anyway?” Sweetie asked.
“I’d like to know too,” said Jane.
“How about we cut through the park and go to that pancake place?”
“Ugh! No!” My face must have turned a little green. “Jane, we have the Crusaders with us! We are not going to IHOP! We’re going to that good German place!”
“But the wait there takes forever!” Jane complained.
Scootaloo tugged at my shirt. “What’s a ‘German?’” We were coming up on an intersection.
“It’s the name of a country in our world, we also use it to describe their food.” I pressed the button to get the walk signal to change.
Apple Bloom started walking forward.“Is it gonna be as good as that toast stuff ya made yesterd–” I yanked Apple Bloom by her overalls. “What was that for?”
“What did I say about the cars?!” A bunch of cars zoomed through the intersection that Apple Bloom had tried to cross. “You need to look out for those things!”
“Ah... Ah...” Apple Bloom teared up.
“Oh... um...” I patted her on the shoulder. “It’s okay, I didn’t mean it. I just don’t want anyone to get hurt, okay?”
“But... but...” Apple Bloom hiccupped and rubbed her teary eyes. “Ah thought you could fix stuff with those medicine things.”
“I can’t fix everything. Please,” I looked at all three girls, “promise me, pinkie promise me you’ll be super careful from now on.”
Apple Bloom rubbed away the last of her tears and turned toward her friends. They nodded in agreement and stuck a hand over their eye. “We pinkie promise.”
“Okay,” I put on a false smile, “let’s go get you some breakfast then.” I stood up as the signal changed. “Jane, help me hold their hands for the street, okay?”
“Right.” Jane clasped Apple Bloom’s hand while I grabbed Sweetie’s, while Scootaloo grabbed Apple Bloom and Sweetie’s. Together, we made a formation with Jane and me on the ends and the Crusaders in the middle.
Please don’t let this be repeated. I got the distinct feeling that crossing the street would be the least of today’s hassles.
We somehow made it through the park and to the restaurant. Unfortunately, I had to make more promises to let them try out the jungle gym at the park... and the train. Thank god I avoided the zoo, that might have made things awkward.
“What would you like to drink?” The waitress asked.
“Apple juice!” Apple Bloom cried out.
“Soda!” Scootaloo yelled.
“Milk please,” said Sweetie.
The waitress looked over at me and Jane. “You two have got some crazy siblings.”
Jane eyed me for a second. “Um,yeah, it’s what we get for having our parents be friends.”
The waitress now turned to Jane and me. “So what’ll you be drinking?”
“Coffee, decaffeinated,” Jane said. I felt bad that she couldn’t drink coffee; we’d be needing a lot of extra energy.
“I’ll also have an apple juice.” Personally, I just didn’t like coffee.
“Okay then.” The waitress turned around. “I’ll be right back with your drinks.”
“So what’s good to eat here?” Scootaloo asked as she struggled with her menu.
“Well there’s the pancakes, but they’ve also got this thing that’s kind of like a pancake, but it’s got apples in it.” I thought back to when I’d first come here. I definitely hadn’t thought I’d be coming back under these circumstances.
“That does sound pretty good.” Instead of opening her own menu, Apple Bloom, along with Sweetie, was looking over Scootaloo’s shoulders at the menu. “What’s this apple thing called?”
“I can’t really pronounce it. It’s in German so it’s kind of hard to say,” I replied.
Scootaloo looked up from her menu.“So is this “German” place like another town?”
“No, this world has many parts to it called countries. Germany is a part of this world,” I explained.
“Oh!” A look of revelation dawned on Apple Bloom’s face. “It’s like how Zecora is from a faraway place that’s not part of Equestria.”
“Um, yeah,” Jane replied.
“But the person who worked here didn’t look that different from other humans,” said Sweetie.
I folded up my menu and looked across the table at the girls. “She’s probably not really from Germany. But some people are from different parts of Earth and they speak different languages and sometimes look different.”
“Earth is weird,” Scootaloo bluntly said.
“But it’s still got some good food,” said Apple Bloom.
Sweetie’s attention was on the bottles of syrups at the end of the table. “Yeah, but they sure do have a lot of different syrups.”
“Hey! Maybe we can get cutie marks at Earth food tasters!” Apple Bloom grinned.
Jane and I nervously smiled at each other. Syrupstorm incoming in three, two...
“We’re really sorry!” Sweetie pleaded as we walked through the park back to campus.
“I, uh, guess we have a knack for this kind of thing.” Scootaloo nervously looked up at me and Jane as she tried to wipe some of the syrup off her shirt. Syrupstorm had been too light of a term to describe what had happened in the restaurant. A syrup nuke would be a more fitting definition of what happened. Fifty dollars in damages and a completely ruined set of clothes. Jane and I were banned for life from the place. I hadn’t even finished my breakfast by the time we were thrown out.
I brushed a hand through my sticky hair and a piece of pancake fell to the ground. “It’s my fault, I should have known better than to take ponies to someplace potentially messy. Let’s just get back to school and get cleaned up.”
“Ah’m with ya on that,” Apple Bloom said. A drop of syrup fell from her bow. “Ah guess we’d make good Cutie Mark mess makers... sorry.”
And there’s the eyes again. Seriously, Flutteryshy’s stare has nothing on Apple Bloom’s “sad eyes.” Despite being a complete mess, I just couldn’t stay mad at the Crusaders. But I was still horrified at the prospect that the Crusaders needed a bath. I sighed and looked at Jane. “I’m really sorry, but could you...”
“I need to take a shower anyway,” Jane replied. A large coffee stain covered most of her shirt. “I’m not sure how much good that will do though.”
“Thank you so much.” I breathed a sigh of relief. My eyes scanned over everyone. Now, on top of the mess from the restaurant, dirt, leaves, and whatever else lined the park’s grounds were sticking to our legs. “When we get back, I’ve got some cleaning up of my own to do. Just take my key if you need to get me, but only use it if it’s an emergency.”
“Okay,” Jane replied.
Add clogged shower to list of things I’m going bankrupt over. A half an hour of scrubbing, three quarters of a soap bottle, all my shampoo, and I still felt a little sticky. I toweled off and opened my bathroom door. Thank god I always brought at least my underwear into the shower with me, otherwise I might have scarred three ponies and a friend. I still covered myself up with a towel though. “Christ! Jane! I know I said emergency, but what in holy hell happened in thirty minutes!?”
“I...” Jane eyed the ground. The Crusaders then rushed me. They were wearing Jane’s clothes, which would probably be the only time her clothes would ever be considered baggy. Their eyes were all brimming with tears. I didn’t see any wounds on them though.
“It’s not true, please say it’s not true John!” Apple Bloom cried.
“I just wanna go home!” Sweetie yelled as she tugged at my towel.
“There’s...” Scootaloo hiccupped, “there’s no way this place can be that awful!”
“What? No... girls... I...” My head started to spin. I locked my eyes onto Jane. “What’s going on?!”
“They... um, saw my flank.” Jane blushed profusely.
“You were just lying!” Scootloo screamed. “No world could be that mean!” She turned to me and her eyes went wide. “Ha!” She jabbed a hand at my chest. “See! John has a cutie mark! You’re just trying to make us feel bad!” I noticed that Scootaloo was pointing at the birthmark along my ribcage.
Why is she... Shit. Birthmark. They think it’s...
“It’s kinda of an odd looking cutie mark though.” Sweetie had now calmed down a little. “I guess Ms. Jane was a little embarrassed about being a mare with a blank flank.”
“Yeah.” Apple Bloom rubbed her runny nose with her arm. “That explains everything.” She turned back over to Jane. “Sorry, Ah guess we all got a little carried away. Ya saying nopony gets cutie marks here to cover up that ya don’t have one and us for well...” her eyes darted back to her friends, “Ah guess we just got a little scared.” She looked up at me. “So what does your cutie mark mean anyway?”
I need to put this to rest now! Maybe... maybe telling them the truth will make them less likely to do anything dangerous while they’re here. “Girls, wait a minute. I need to put on some clothes and then I’ll explain everything.” I rushed over to my drawer, pulled out pajama pants and a t-shirt, and went back into the bathroom to put my clothes on. Then I came back out. I pointed at my bed. “Girls take a seat over there.”
“Okay,” they all simultaneously replied while they climbed onto my bed. I sat at my desk chair and Jane just leaned on my drawer.
“So is your cutie mark one of those phycoanythings?” Apple Bloom asked.
“No, Apple Bloom.” I clasped my hands hard together. “It’s not for that. I’m sorry, I didn’t want you to know.”
“K-know what?” Sweetie’s voice cracked.
“I know I’ve asked this a lot, but can you all Pinkie promise me something?” My stomach was twisting in a knot. I was about to do the equivalent of telling kids Santa wasn’t real... if kids came from a world where he was. “I’ll give you anything you want in exchange for that. Any food, any movie, I’ll spend my entire day searching for a way to get you home if that’s what it takes. Just please don’t scream or be angry.”
The Crusaders nervously looked at each other. Then they stuck a hand over their eyes. “We Pinkie promise.”
I took a deep breath. “I’m so sorry girls, no one gets cutie marks on Earth.”
Silence filled the room. Then the girls’ eyes rolled back in unison and they hit the bed with a light fump.
“That could have gone better,” Jane said.
I hadn’t bothered putting my glasses back on yet, so I was free to place a hand over my eyes and rub them. “Considering how they reacted to you, this might have been one of the better scenarios."