The stallion trotted by the tall, unkempt trees, some of the lower branches scratching his thick coat or getting caught in the straps of his large, well-worn saddlebags. Beads of sweat poured out of the edges of his mask, fogging its glass face after each panting breath. Deciding that he had had enough, he leaned against the nearest tree, the sharp bark of it catching on the material of his hood.
He looked up, the bright midday sun catching on the glass of his mask and sparkling brightly. He looked back down in shame; the sun's light was too beautiful for the darkness of his heart.
With a grunt, he pushed himself away from the tree, trying to walk away before his stomach reminded him of an unfortunate truth. The growl was loud, unbearably so in the quiet that dominated the orchard. Not a single bird sang, nor did the wind whisper between the trees in the unnatural silence. The world was in mourning... And yet, he wasn’t.
Twisting around, the stallion flicked his saddlebags off his back and onto the ground, throwing open the flaps dismissively to peek in. They were mostly filled with tools: ropes, pieces of cloth, a clean blanket, a flint to start fires, a small wood carving knife with a blunt, rust-red edge. No food.
Air flushed out of his mask as he sighed, leaning down to slide the bags over his back again. Glancing up, he saw a few apples halfway up the tree, their red forms almost glowing against the dull grey sky. Mouth watering, he walked back to the tree, turned, and bucked it. The sharp clack of hooves on wood echoed through the orchards and along the barren roads.
A single apple fell, its form bouncing once as it hit the yellowing grass. Smiling to himself, the stallion walked over to it, pushing the mask up his face as he did so. As he stood above the fallen apple, he inspected his surroundings, ears perked. He was alone, quiet pervading the peaceful place.
He grabbed the red jewel, rubbing it against the insides of his dirty jacket before putting it in his mouth, his eyes inspecting his surroundings the entire time. His teeth sank into the apple, his eyes widening as he realized that something was really wrong. Coughing, he spit the chunks of apple out, the bits and pieces flying everywhere as he sputtered.
The apple was rotted, holes having been burrowed into the once sweet core by hungry worms. The inner edges were brown with sticky rot that bubbled in the warm air. In disgust, he threw the deceptive little fruit, its small impact against a nearby tree splattering it into a million pieces.
Grunting unhappily, the stallion replaced his mask over his face and trudged on, his hoofsteps heavy on the sodden ground.
Soon, he came to a once-clean sign. ‘Welcome to Sweet Apple Acres: Best Apples in All of Equestria’ it proclaimed proudly in a beautiful, yet rustic, script. The edges had long ago been worn and dented. The few screws still holding the old sign in place were heavily rusted. Even the slightest breeze threatened to tear the sign from their grasp. Across the entire thing was a hastily written piece of graffiti declaring, ‘They’re all dead’, followed by the vaguely carved outline of an arrow under the phrase, "Inky was here."
He harrumphed at it, placing a gloved hoof over the weather-worn carving before abandoning it to the road. Not too far ahead was a barn and a small country house, the red paint of the buildings peeling away as vines crept up their sides. The lawn was dirty, small trees and unruly bushes poking through chest-high grass.
He started towards the house, the overgrown weeds swishing lightly against his belly as he trudged onwards. From the corner of his eye he spotted two graves. The ground was still brown-ish around the two mounds; only a few weeds had grown on the fertile soil. Both graves were adorned with jury-rigged markers, names carefully carved on the smooth wood.
He didn’t bother to read the markers, preferring to inspect the house.
The door was a mess: parts of it --the handle and lock-- were still stuck to the wall, while the rest hung on a single twisted hinge. The smell of stagnant water emanated from nearby puddles that had formed on the deck.
He avoided them gingerly as he walked into the home. The scene that met his eyes upon entry was not that of a well-kempt household. Things had been thrown off shelves or stacked haphazardly on nearby tables. A stove in one corner had been emptied of its ashes, which lay in a pile at its base. An oil lamp rocked lightly, creaking as it hung on a rusty nail, still half full of its precious liquid. Empty boxes of foodstuff lay scattered across the floor, as did bottles of still-sealed bottled cider. Flies buzzed around a bucket of rotten apple cores in one corner.
Even through his mask, he could smell the mold and rot that had began to form. A wooden creak broke the silence inside the house. His ears perked beneath his hood.
The wind was picking up.
Turning, he ran to the door, forcing it shut with a loud metallic squeal of protest from the damaged hinges before returning to his position in the centre of the room. Rearing up, he grabbed the lantern before reaching into his bags and grabbing his flint. With two quick strokes the lantern was lit, casting an eerie yellow light throughout the room.
He glanced around again, this time aided by the lamplight. The windows had towels stuffed along their edges, and the legs of chairs had been ripped apart and now served as makeshift barricades. He nodded silently, admiring the quick handiwork of a fellow survivor. Walking forward and deeper into the building, he found a staircase beside a pantry, the latter having been raided already.
Trusting his instincts, he began climbing up, his ears picking up the faint sound of leaves rustling in the wind. His breath quickened.
His hooves stomped against the steps, purposefully loud so as to warn any possible bystanders. It was best not to surprise somepony that was sleeping afraid. At the top of the staircase was a tarp, covering the entrance entirely. Depositing his lamp on the step, he ran a hoof along the edge until he found a catch. There he fidgeted with the material until it let go, allowing him access into the upper floor. Nopony was there.
The stallion let out a relieved sigh upon inspecting the upper floor. In one corner, heaps of canned food and sealed bottles had been stacked in neat rows. Clean blankets were folded and pressed beside them. Holding the lantern aloft, he examined the rest of the room. A bed had been placed in the centre, the covers cleanly pressed and collecting dust. A thin black book placed atop the bed caused a ripple in the otherwise smooth blanket.
On one wall was a calendar, dates crossed out in more and more erratic fashions until only the last few remained, blank. The chimney of the stove on the lower floor had been pierced, and the hole stuffed full with a blanket. A small pile of straight cut wood was stacked nearby.
The wind whistled outside, stronger now as it battered against the side of the house. Fearfully, he looked down a nearby corridor, almost melting in relief as he saw that every doorway had been nailed shut and insulated with thick woolen blankets.
A smile crossed his lips. This place was safe, or as safe as any he had found in a long time. Trudging over to the stack of cans he picked one at random, finding a rather conveniently placed can-opener as he did so.
Opening the can, he pushed up his mask, emptying the contents into his mouth. Baked beans. He had had worse, he concluded as he smacked his lips.
He sat on the ground, eyes closed and brow furrowed as he observed the world around him, listening to the wind as it howled by. After a few minutes, he opened his eyes. He would be here for a while.
He glanced at the bed and at its inviting sheets. Shrugging to himself, he walked over to it, dumping the small book on the ground before billowing out the covers. Dust speckled the air before he jumped in between them, bouncing on the springs like a foal.
He lay there, quiet, thinking, trying desperately to sleep. The sound of the wind rushing by kept him awake. Sighing, he leaned forward, one hoof popping out of the covers as he started climbing out. It landed on the book. Glancing down, he inspected it. Across the tanned brown cover, the word ‘Journal’ had been written in a flowing gold script. The edges of the pages were tattered, beginning to yellow with age.
An eyebrow perked up as he lifted the book and brought it into the bed with him. Propping himself on his elbows, he flicked the first page open.
It was a list. Materials, provisions and numbers had been written and crossed off along the sides. Small notes had been tucked into the margins. He examined the items, everything from food to water, to some medication and tools that had been placed under a ‘to get’ column. He nodded sagely. He had a list much like it.
The next page was a map, with ‘Ponyville’ scribbled at the top in steady, precise hoof-writing. Under the title was a hoof-drawn map of the nearby town. Areas had been marked around it, pointing out locations that held various provisions and others that were dangerous.
Smiling to himself the Stallion kept turning pages, only to be greeted by half a dozen blank sheets. Finally he found writing.
6th day of spring.
Not sure how to start this...
My name is Applejack, I’m an apple loving farmpony who works real hard to keep her family afloat. I really love them, Apple Bloom my little sister, Big Macintosh my older brother and Granny Smith, my grandmother. We all live on Sweet Apple Acres, where the best darned apples in Equestria are made!
Twilight gave this to me, a ‘journal’ she called it, just an over glorified diary if you ask me. But I’m bored, nothing else to do since I pulled a tendon on my good bucking leg. Doctor said I’d be fine in a week or two, just a lot of rest and all that.
Hope I’ll be able to heal up in time, we’ll have to start planting soon. Big Mac might be tough and all, but he ain’t that good.
7th day of spring.
Woke up to see Rarity and Fluttershy leaving this morning, hadn't heard them trot into my room. Oh well, hopefully I’ll remember to say thank you to Rarity for the blanket, it’s real nice, although I don’t think I’ll admit that to her. She might try to teach me knit.
Had a fever most of the day, didn’t know you could get that from a knee injury. Apple Bloom left to get the doctor, when he arrived he took my temperature and almost begged me to go to the hospital. I don’t want to leave home. Gave me some pills, they’re making me drowsy.
I think I’ll just sleep for a while.
8th day of spring.
Big Mac woke me up this morning, told me that something was going on in town and that everypony had to go. Of course he left me here, can’t remember what it was about. I was too tired through the whole thing.
Been waiting ever since, clock on the wall reads eight thirty at night. Still no sign of anypony.
My fever’s starting up again, think I’ll take a few more of those pills, they made me feel real good.
9th, or maybe the 10th day. Not sure.
Nopony was home today, and I mean all day. I screamed, kicked, hollered. But nothing.
Stuck here all day long, had to do my business in that bucket Big Mac brought for me to puke in, I’ll let him take care of it too! So, nothing to do but lay here and wait. Oh, and write in this stupid thing. I can’t believe my friends haven’t come to see me yet!
...Still the 9th.
Wind is picking up, I tried to get out of bed to see what was going on but I got dizzy the second I got on all fours. Think I’ll have to take a few more of those pills. Although they don’t seem to work as good anymore, takes two to put me down for a few hours now. They sorta taste like oranges.
Got outta bed today. Made it all the way downstairs before I put too much weight on my back leg, hurts like mad. Took half a pill, feel a bit better now, still drowsy. Had a nasty windstorm last night, the windows in my room were shaking like crazy. Kept me up for a while.
Made breakfast for myself, just toast and jam. Spent the morning planning out my revenge on my friends, but I’m half worried that something bad happened, you know, for them not to show up like this.
Tomorrow I’ll try to go to Fluttershy’s place. It’s not too far, and I’ll be able to figure out what’s going on.
Didn’t make it to Fluttershy’s. Got outside to find that nopony has cut the grass in a few weeks, the apple trees didn’t get trimmed yet, the soil still needs tilling, and worst of all, there’s smoke coming out of Canterlot. And I mean lots of it.
I could see the towers, some of them anyway. Big holes in others. And full of smoke everywhere. Ponyville seems alright. But it’s the opposite there, no smoke whatsoever.
Need to find my family and my friends.
But first I need to find out what the hay is going on.
Saw something in the field today, I’ll go there tomorrow, it’s little, and brown, and alive.
Kinda weird, haven’t seen anything alive in a few days, really scary.
It was Winona, my dog. Cruel irony right? Not big on that stuff myself, Twilight was always the bookish one. Guess I’ll leave it to her.
Anyway, Winona is injured, hurt, not sure what is wrong with her. Now I’ve cured sheep and cows before, and I ain’t scared of looking, but I can’t find anything, nothing at all. She’s real weak, coughing up blood and whimpering. I think Fluttershy has this stuff that Zecora brewed up for her, another reason to go there tomorrow.
Noticed something else, there aren’t any birds. Nothing, the cows are gone, I reckon they stampeded through the fence out back. Even the sheep are all gone.
Today I made a list of everything I had. I`m going to run out of pills, have to take one every few hours to stay painless. Enough canned food for quite a while, and two entire barrels of Cider in the cellar, that ought to keep for quite a while. Went out and picked some apples too, they’re starting to grow wild. That’s no good.
So Fluttershy’s tomorrow, I have to save Winona, she’s the only one here with me.
The page rustled and crackled lightly as the stallion turned it. An eyebrow arched as he ran his hoof over the wet circles that dotted the page.
Can’t stop myself from crying.
Fluttershy’s place was a mess. The birds that she had left in cages were all dead. Her garden out back was overgrown with weeds. Critters were gathered around her place, most dead, some dying. They were coughing up blood.
I couldn’t stick around, I
I couldn’t take it, had to vomit in one corner. Angel Bunny was there. Staring at me. Tiny black beads of his eyes just there. He started coughing, but his eyes stayed open. I, I think I killed him, it was the right thing to do... I think.
I galloped back home. Didn’t realize I was running again ‘til I arrived at home. Downed a few pills, the numbness helps.
Gave what I had to Winona, she seems to have regained some colour.
14th day of Spring
Winona is better, mostly, she can bark and walk a bit, still seems a little weak, real thin too. Gave her what was left of the dog food, bunch of worms and stuff in it. Guess we aren’t that alone, worms still alive and all.
Was going to head towards town, then the wind picked up. Winona started barking, pulling me back into the house. Don’t know why, something about it scared me. Felt my mane freezing up, maybe I’m becoming like Pinkie Pie? Ran back in and shut the front door. Locked it behind me, in hindsight that wasn’t a good idea. Don’t have the key for it, and that door’s a pain to open.
Stayed huddled upstairs. Winona was afraid of the windows, so we stayed in the main hallways. All I had was Rarity’s blanket, this journal and a pen. Least it’s something right?
Woke up to find Winona gone. Panicked before I found her running around outside. She’d found an old toy somehow. Played with her for a little. First time I laughed in a while, it was fun. Still, I miss my friends, and I miss my family. Turns out the toy belonged to Apple Bloom, started crying when I found out. Winona stayed close, snuggled me and all that.
Fixed up some food, and my old saddle bags, tied Winona to a tree and walked towards Ponyville. Didn’t make it far before I saw something strange. A sky cart or carriage, Rainbow would know.
It was broken, it was also weird, not like the one the Princess uses, this one was boxed in and painted bright yellow. There was a pegasus at the front. Dead. Flies and the likes were going ‘round him. I puked again, popped another pill, will have to be careful, running out.
Decided to search the cart after waiting a bit, figure whatever it is that killed him isn’t around anymore.
Hazmat suits. I’d seen ‘em before, few of the ponies in Ponyville had some. Anywho~ the cart was full of them, all folded nice and neat inside these big glass helmets. I think that whatever it is that’s going around is contagious. Seems like whoever planned to send the suits forgot to give one to the pegasus.
There was a note tied to the case nearest the door. I’ll slip it in here. Picked a few of the suits and decided to run back home, too much time wasted already.
Thirty Hazmat Suits For The Ponyville Region
Note: This is the third shipment and we still haven’t got news of the last two, honestly I am not sure why we’re still sending these over there. We could use them to help Canterlot, but the Princesses’ orders are the Princesses’ orders. There were supposed to be six more, special models or some-such, real nifty. They’ll ship with the next trip, hopefully the town won’t get hit until then.
Make sure everypony gets one, that big box at the back has masks, they are not as good, but they’ll do the trick.
Oh, and please stay indoors. Heck, barricade yourself at home and try to make it airtight.
The stallion shifted, squinting as he tried vainly to read the next page. Grunting, he looked up. The room was dark, almost foreboding as the only source of light began to flicker and die. Sighing, he moved out of the bed, sliding across its surface until his hooves met the ground.
The building still creaked as the windstorm outside beat heavily against its old wooden sides. A shutter somewhere had gotten loose and was now battering the walls with a disconcerting frequency.
He trotted forward, grabbing the lamp in a hoof before expertly twisting the cap off. Glancing around the dark room he spotted what he wanted. In one corner was a thick glass bottle, filled with a viscous yellow liquid. Grabbing it with his other hoof he tipped the bottle into the lantern, filling it with oil. The thick fumes wafted into the air, choking him with its cloying scent.
A flick of his flint later and the lantern glowed a dull yellow, illuminating the room once more. Frowning to himself, he grasped a small table, which rasped against the wooden floor as he dragged it alongside the bed.
With a tug the stallion dropped the lantern on the table and hopped back into bed, enveloping himself back with the thick blanket. Propping the journal onto a dirty pillow, he read on.
Finally made it to town today, if you’ll call the outskirts the town. Took a peek inside and decided otherwise. It’s empty, at least from what I can tell. The market was still open when everypony... left. Roseluck’s flowers were all wilted and dead and that big pony who sold asparagus would be mighty mad if he saw his cart now.
No fires from the chimneys, doors and windows are still open. Half expected somepony to step out or stick their head out a window with a big smile. But there’s nopony there. Something about the town feels wrong, I’ll wait a few days before trying it.
Found something odd on the edge, two ponies, both dead.
One of them was wearing half a hazmat suit. From the marks on the ground I think they fought. One of the ponies, a green mare that I recognize, was wearing the helmet, the other was wearing the rest of the suit, looks like the mare fought to steal the helmet, then they both died.
Felt queasy, took another pill then made my way back home.
Haven’t written in this for... Three days? maybe four, pinned a calendar on the wall, still hard to keep the date. Twilight would know how to tell.
I-- I found Granny Smith. She was under that bridge. The one you need to cross to get to Ponyville from Fluttershy’s. She was brown, soaking wet and cold as her lifeless eyes stared at the sky. I’d never seen her afraid, not really, she always smiled at scary things. When I found her, her face was stricken with terror.
Took me a day to put her on a tarp and drag her home. Dug a grave in front of the house. She’d have liked that.
Didn’t know what to do after that, started to dawn on me that I might really be alone. No sign of my friends in... a week, almost two? Don’t think they’ll come back for me. The more I thought the deeper into the bottle of pills I got. Winona stayed by my side. She’s sad too.
Canterlot stopped burning.
My pills are running out.
Food is under rations.
I’m all alone.
Saw Winona stuck to a bush in the middle of the orchard. Started running towards her when the wind started to pick up.
I was afraid, honestly afraid. I ran back home.
It was dark, the wind. So dark, it smelt of rot and sickness and death. Winona started barking.
No, she started crying.
I don’t think I’ve ever put something on so quickly, Rarity would have been jealous. I ran out, Hazmat suit on, my back hoof started to burn as I galloped madly towards Winona.
The wind attacked me, slashing and cutting and punching me. It took me forever to reach her. By the time I found her she had stopped crying, her brown coat wheezed as she breathed in and out, blood trickling down the side of her mouth and eyes.
I got her out, not sure how, but I did. It’s still a blur, but I made it from the orchard to the house carrying Winona’s tiny frame on my back. When we arrived at the house the door was locked, I had left the keys inside.
It took three good bucks to break the door open, all the while the wind howled and neighed around me, screaming as it took the form of horses and ponies with wicked blue eyes.
We got upstairs. The wind was weaker there, even weaker when I shut the stairwell with Rarity’s blanket.
Winona was dying, I did everything I could, all the medication I had gotten at Fluttershy’s, all the clean clothes I could find, all my tears.
In the end she lay there, a mummy of useless bandages as she squirmed and coughed on the floor. Her eyes looked up at me, filled with a lonely sadness, a pity, not for herself, I knew, but for me. She knew that I was going to be alone now.
Gave her the rest of my pills.
Grave beside Granny Smith’s. It’s nice. Got a little marker and everything, piled some of her toys on it, then cried for a while. Felt better after.
Raging headache, and my leg hurts again. Need more pills. Cider helps.
Feel sick, stayed in bed all day, didn’t do much. Ceiling has one hundred and fifteen tiles.
I want to taste oranges again.
Twilight visited today, or was it Fluttershy? Said that the doc’s place has pills, so does the hospital. She’s such a good friend.
Feel sick, I’ll be going to the hospital, I’ll bring some bits. Wonder how much pills cost?
Guess I’ll tidy up first, make sure everything is nice and clean before I go.
Weather is really nice outside, there’s a breeze.
The stallion turned the page, finding it blank. Raising his head he looked under the nearest doorway. Light spilled through, it was daytime. Raising up on sore legs he climbed off the bed, his ears perked and listening as he did so. No wind.
Nodding to himself he emptied his saddlebags on the ground, throwing anything useless away before replacing it with food from the corner. He made the bed, pressing the sheets until they were nice and smooth. He found a small broom in one corner. Using it he wiped the floor, cleaning off the bits of mud that had trailed in after him. When he was done he sighed.
With a twist of his head he shut the lantern, casting the room into darkness. It suited it, he thought as he walked out, carefully closing the tarp with a zip that screamed regret.
Wrote this in a day, took two to edit... Yeah, I really should work on my important projects more.
Burraku_Pansa (The first half, section with the stallion)
Sorren (Everything else)
Millennial Dan (Proofread)
Frederick the Saiyan(Proofread)
Cpl Hooves (Proofread)