We've been walking for about two hours now. I must admit, this walk is a very pleasant one. The sky may be grey, but the forest is as beautiful as ever. We're walking past fallen pine trees just at the outside of a heavily tree inhabited area and apparently we're close to our first checkpoint. I'm still thinking of the image that's encouraging me to keep going despite my exhaustion and pain; when I get home I'm going to enjoy lying on the sofa eating a lovely lamb dinner and watching HOUSE by an open fire. The thought makes me more than eager to keep going to the finish. My friend in front, Mel, had stopped. I was relieved. A few seconds to rest my feet is just what I wanted.
She looks at the map while we stand still and savour our time of rest. She shows us where we are. I smile.
"We're quite close to the checkpoint!" I announce.
"We can have a long break once we're there," Gabriel says.
We agree and open a gate, which takes us on a short path. We follow it to see a car park to our left with a few cars parked. I remember that the checkpoint was at a car park, but Mel stresses that we have to keep going to get to the checkpoint, which confuses me. The place is much how I would imagine forest areas in Canada to be like, with huge, tall trees at the side by the road which darken the place naturally. The fact that the day sky was grey and cloudy didn't help to the lighting.
We cross a road to a similar looking other side. Grass with the last of the fallen autumn leaves lying helplessly to be taken by the wind. We turn a corner and see the entrance to a public park, which we follow and find a bench and immediately sit down.
I take off my bag and bask in the relief of having the huge weight on my back and shoulders taken off. Sighing happily, I turn the bag to its side and unzip a pocket, pulling out a packet of cookies I had bought the day before. I was starving, having only had cereal bars for breakfast and didn't bother to ask if anyone wanted any. The others in my group are Mel, Gabby and Alice. I feel sorry for Mel, she's been doing a vast majority of the map reading and direction, but we're in too much discomfort to offer to do it ourselves when she brings it up. She's good at encouraging us to keep going with a calm voice, telling us it's not much further and most of the time, she's realistically right. I offered to direct a few times, but found I wasn't very good at map reading; luckily I didn't get us lost, we were going in the right direction anyway.
Alice has taken more of a beating from Duke of Edinburgh than the rest of us, even me. We were all well and good on the first day but now Alice is usually trailing at the end. She's quiet and not as tall as the rest of us, but we still noticed her and waited for her at times so we could keep the same pace, but me and her usually fell back.
Gabby has been encouraging too, yet quiet. She will have the good joke every now and again though, which lightens the mood when we're walking along a quiet road. Right now her and Alice are watching squirrels scurry about the place. Some up in trees, some on posts. Mel is looking at the map some more. Then there's me. Scoffing my face with cookies and getting crumbs all over my borrowed waterproof jacket.
The jacket comes in handy now as it starts to spit with a little rain. Drops fall on my head and I quickly pull my hood up. I leave a few cookies left for later and put them back in my bag, then watch the surroundings with everyone else. Many people walk their dogs here; it must be a popular spot. I see lots of different kinds pass, mainly with elderly owners who merrily smile and say hello to us as they walk past. I really like the people we've seen here at the Forest of Dean. Not a mean person for miles. I would know. I've walked about thirty miles already. Every person we've met has said hello, wished us luck, asked how our walking was going. It felt good to know that people, every person we met, were suddenly looking out for us.
A few minutes pass and we decide to get going again. Mel studies the map once more and points us in the right direction. We walk around a small bend and are greeted by trees by the hundreds once more, but this time, on the ground, lavender, which is pleasant to me, seeing as it gives off my favourite smell. I take it even slower now to whiff the wonderful lavender scent and even stop walking in hopes that the smell would give me energy if I did so. I didn't realise that I was stood there for that long, a minute or so, and suddenly I heard my name being shouted.
Mel, Gabby and Alice were only just ahead, all looking at something on the ground. Alice called my name again, unusually loud for her and in a sense of panic. I walk as fast as my aching feet will allow me and stand behind them.
"This is the weirdest thing ever," Mel says with worry.
"What is it?" I ask.
"I thought it was just a...I mean...it's not real right?" Mel says just as fast.
"You're gonna want to see this, Luke," Alice says quietly.
I look to the three of them in confusion and they step aside. I see nothing ahead, so I assume it's on the ground. What I see makes my heart leap. I can't tell what I'm feeling right now. Fear, happiness, excitement, anxiety, insanity. What I could see below me was a main aspect of my life at that point and it gave me goosebumps. What was going on here? I think that I must be dreaming and punch myself hard, but it hurts and nothing happens. Then I check to see if I can see colour; they say only a small amount of people dream in colour, but I've never remembered specifically. I can see colour. I know I can see colour because what I see on the ground before me is orange.
I kneel down and look closely. This is exactly what I think it is. Who I think it is. She's not a human. In fact, I'm confused by her appearance myself. The apple mark, blonde hair and hat prove it.
This is Applejack. From My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
She looks like she was ripped out of the cartoon, but she's three-dimensional. It's amazing, just like the cartoon characters in Space Jam. I put my hand out to touch her. Her coat is soft, but short, like a dog. She grunts and I jerk my hand back quickly. I look back to my friends as they watch in amazement and an essence of fear. Then, Applejack moves. She slowly sits up and yawns, rubbing her eyes with her hooves. Her hat is on the ground. She picked it up and wears it, then opens her eyes. Her pupils quickly dilate and she stands up abruptly, quickly moving her head around confusingly like a cat watching a bird. She then looks at me, knelt down beside her and screams quietly.
"W-who're you?" she asks in fear.
I look at her eye to eye for a moment and suddenly my brain kicks in. What am I supposed to say? What order do I explain things in?
"I'm Luke," I say quite stupidly.
"Okay..." she replies awkwardly, "I'm Applejack."
"I know," I say, then suddenly realise what I had said.
"What? Whadda ya mean y'know?" she asks with a rasp of anger in her voice.
I look to my friends, but they can't say anything. I knew Applejack better than they. If anyone came to a close second it would be Alice, who watched the first few episodes of Friendship is Magic and adored Applejack, I even drew the pony for her, but she looked to be quite afraid right now.
I look to Applejack and put on a sincere face.
"You're not in your world anymore," I say, obviously.
"I can tell. What ARE you?" she asks.
"I'm a human. The dominant species of this world," I have to admit, I have thought of this kind of situation before, so I know what to say if asked.
"Never heard of 'em. But y'all seem to know me," she comments, "how?"
I wonder if it would be best for her if she knew. She looks like she has been sent directly from the show. She doesn't look realistic at all. I then decide maybe I shouldn't tell her just yet.
"I'm magical," I say. My friends giggle, "I have a special power which lets me know everything about everyone...everypony I see. It's a friend making ability."
"Y'want to be friends?" she asks, smiling slightly.
"YES!" I scream, then hold my hand over my mouth, my friends almost bursting with laughter behind me.
"Nice t'meet ya, Luke," Applejack says, putting her hoof in my hand and shaking it.
I look at my hand and see that it has become dusty and dirty, then I look at Applejack and notice that she does not look good. She is covered in soil and it looks like she has a couple of rough bruises and her mane and tail are scruffy and untidy. Perhaps however she was sent here was not good on her.
"Where are your friends?" I ask.
"Y'know about my friends?" she returns a question.
"I do. My magic told me," Gabby laughs loudly.
Applejack explains that she doesn't know where her friends are, but she knows that they were together before this happened, but she does not know what happened. Then, Alice bravely steps forward.
"You should come with us, we might find your friends on the way."
I smile at Alice, then nod to Applejack. She smiles also and I get back on my feet. Mel quickly comes back to terms with what we are doing and leads us once again. I explain to Applejack exactly what we are doing here. She seems very interested and keeps asking more questions about our world. The others even talk to her. I feel honoured to be friends with a pony. One of the kindest characters in the show. Before, Vinyl Scratch was my favourite character, but now I'm not so sure.
I then wonder what this means for Ashleigh Ball. What if she were to meet Applejack? But then I think of where the others could be. I assume that, if Applejack is here, then the others of the mane six are too, but where are they? They could be in any part of the world right now. What if others have found them? Done terrible things to them? Or perhaps whatever magic sent them here sent them here destined for them to be with those who would care for them? I ask Applejack once more if she knows where her friends are, but she doesn't know.
After an hour or so of now fun walking, we approach an entrance to a long winding road. Thankfully, nobody has seen us with Applejack. But what happens now is perhaps much worse than someone seeing her. I feel a vibration in my pocket. I hear a drumbeat.
Oh no. Someone is ringing my phone.
"My Little Pony!"
The end credits theme blares out of my pocket and immediately catches Applejack's attention. I worry; what will she think?
"What in tarnation?"