Chapter Three: Awkward Introductions
The first thing I noted when consciousness returned was the pain in my skull. With each beat of my heart it felt like someone slammed a hammer into the inside of my head. I couldn't help but cringe as each beat of the hammer made the pain behind my eyes intensify a little further.
I tried to move a hand to rub my forehead and felt a soft material rather then skin, lightly prodding it revealed it to be some kind of cloth like material, a bandage perhaps?
"Hey I think it's waking up." A voice abruptly came from my left resulting in another sharp flash of pain behind my eyes, it was quickly followed by a faint clopping sound which steadily grew louder and drew up on my right side. "It's movin' anyway," the voice on my left continued, as my brain began working again I noted it was a voice I recognized but couldn't place.
I risked opening my eyes a crack, only to swiftly snap them closed again when the room abruptly began spinning and my stomach abruptly lurched. A few seconds passed before my body calmed and I risked another peak.
Everything was a blur at first, only the hazy shadows and featureless blobs greeting me as I fought down another wave of nausea. Blinking a few times everything began to swim into focus, though it didn't make much more sense.
The wall was the first thing I caught sight off, dark coloured wood that reminded me of my bedroom though it was the a darker shade then the wood walls I was used to. Shifting my gaze to the left I couldn't see the source of the voice from a moment ago, instead I found myself staring at a window and the reddish sky beyond giving me the impression it was late afternoon.
My eyes moved to the right next, and found myself meeting the staring at a familiar orange coloured pony. I blinked a few more times in hopes that the image would go away. It didn't.
"You're real?" I asked quietly, the question directed more at myself then the pony. A chill ran through me as I stared at the pony that –up until a few hours ago- had been nothing more then a cartoon character. My heart started beating faster as panic set in, sadly as a result this led to my headache intensifying. Slowly my scattered thoughts were coming back together and I began to recall the reason for my pounding headache. I had run into Applejack, I ran in a panic…And everything after that was a blank.
Applejack's expression lit up very slightly when I spoke, her lips curling into a thin smile and her eyes widening a tiny bit. "'Course I am!" She stated with a slight nod of her head, again I winced as the sudden voice caused a fresh twinge of pain in my head.
"Great," I glanced away and focused on my current situation next, apparently I was on a bed of some description, how I got here or even why the pony had decided to be generous enough to put me here were questions I put aside for later. For now I was still trying to piece together my thoughts.
"You took quite a knock to the head there," she continued as though I hadn't spoken, her eyes never leaving my face as I focused my attention back on her. "You're lucky I was there to bring ya back to the farm, Rainbow wanted to leave you out there, said you were 'weird and probably dangerous.'" Her smile brightened a bit more, I forced myself to weakly return it.
"I suppose this is you're handy work as well?" My hand idly tapped the bandage wrapped around my forehead, I received a nod in response. "I appreciate it, given the circumstances I wouldn't blame you if you left me out there."
Applejack's smile faded in an instant and her eyes lost the friendly glimmer they had a moment ago. "That wouldn' have been right, leavin' a stranger hurt and helpless." There was a slight edge to her voice and her eyes narrowed very slightly. I couldn't help but wince as it seemed I'd just offended her with that comment.
"I meant no offense," I said quickly in hopes of defusing the situation before I wound up making it worse by accident. "I just meant that, well given I'm-"
"Funny lookin'?" A voice from the other side of the bed pitched in. My head snapped around to face them but again I only found myself looking at the window. A quiet cough finally brought my eyes down a few notches and I located the source of the voice.
Just shy of the edge of the bed was another pony. She was only about a third of the size of Applejack by my estimate which was no doubt why I'd not seen her sooner. Her coat was a bright yellow and her mane and tail was a crimson colour, topping off her attire was a pink bow set just behind her ears.
Applebloom, I bit my tongue as the name sprung to my lips as recognition set in. I was still getting used to the fact that this was all real and I doubted letting slip that I was from another…planet, dimension? where they were nothing more then cartoon characters wouldn't help my situation any. Another wave of panic set in, damn this wouldn't stop! I must have lost my damn mind! I forced the dread back down and swallowed the lump in my throat as my fear started to make me feel ill.
No, I couldn't let panic take hold, this was real and I had to deal with it. Easier said then done of course but I had to try. For now it was probably best I just play it safe and keep my knowledge of Equestria to myself, at least until I could figure out how, why, and for what purpose I had wound up here. If I let on that I knew about their world, dimension or whatever this counted as. I'd probably wind up in the pony equivalent of Arkham Asylum or something.
I shook my head slightly as the hammer inside my skull began pounding away again, my rampant thoughts not helping in the least. That brought my attention back to the fact that I had been staring at Applebloom for a good few seconds without reaction. By now her eyes were wide as dinner plates and she was lightly scrapping one hoof against the floor as she looked anywhere but directly at me.
"I would have gone with, 'a stranger that you know nothing about' but I guess that works too." I responded quickly and with a smile in hopes of making up for lost time. The filly still didn't meet my gaze and continued studying the wall.
Sighing under my breath I focused back on Applejack, her expression had returned to its original neutral state by now. "Again though, thank you for the aid," I did my best to pick my words, hoping to avoid another awkward moment. "I guess I owe you one…Miss?" The orange pony's eyes lit up again and she lightly plucked the hat from her head as she dipped it downwards in some form of respectful nod.
"Applejack's the name, that there's Applebloom," the pony nodded to her sibling on the other side of the bed. "And you are?"
"Simon," I said after a moments pause as I pretended to take note of the names. "Strange names if you don't mind my saying so." The orange pony's lips curled upwards in a slight smile once again.
"So is, 'Simon'," she responded, I couldn't resist a smile of my own.
"Touché," Applejack's head tilted slightly. "Never mind."
Slipping her hat back on, her face grew serious once again. "Where exactly do you come from if you don't mind me askin'? never seen anythin' like ya in Equestria before."
"Equestria, you mean this isn't Earth?" I sat up abruptly at the new, causing both ponies to move back a few paces. A frown darkened my expression when Applejack shook her head in response.
"Earth? never heard of it." My frown deepened as I let the words sink in. "How exactly did you get here?" I lifted my head and focused on Applejack again.
"I don't rightly know," I responded slowly, this time the confusion in my tone and expression were genuine. "I was home and there was a storm. Something approached me, some creature I didn't recognize. I blacked out and woke up here. I don't really know how it happened or why I wound up here…"
Applejack's eyes began to narrow slightly and her ears perked up and stood perfectly straight. "I wish I could tell you more, maybe when my head stops pounding and I can think clearer I'll be able to remember more." In truth the ache had faded to the point that I barely noticed it anymore, but I really didn't feel like trying to explain the situation that I barely understood myself. Her eyes narrowed a touch further, I had a feeling she wasn't buying my story, thankfully her smile returned a moment later and her head bobbed slightly in a nod.
"It hardly matters, you're here now. We gotta find a way to get you home though, I doubt you want to stay here too long." she responded slowly, her voice growing subdued and quiet as one hoof moved to lightly tap her chin. "Maybe Twilight could help you…she's good with all that magic stuff."
"Twilight?" I quirked an eyebrow again, feigning ignorance as to the name of her friend.
"Oh! She's a friend of mine, she knows a lot about magic, spends all her time readin' books on the stuff. If anyone can find you a way home it'll be here."
"Well its better then nothing, hopefully she knows of a way to get me home." Applejack nodded again, smiling brightly. I wish I shared her enthusiasm. Chances are if my memories were right and I was dragged to Equestria by a creature of my own creation. It wouldn't be as simple as just clicking my heels and saying 'there's no place like home'.
"I sent Rainbow out to find her and the others, she should be back soon." The pony's voice broke into my thoughts. At first I just nodded, but as the words sunk in I jolted slightly.
"Wait, what, you're telling people about me?" My thoughts came to an abrupt halt at the news. Being found by Applejack was bad enough, but if they were spreading it all over Equestria that I was here…oh man nothing good could come of that!
"Only a few friends, were gonna need their help to figure out what's goin' on." The orange earth pony responded quickly eyes widening a touch at my reaction.
I forced myself to relax, my shoulders slumping slightly as the shock started to fade. "Sorry, I'd just rather not create a panic or something. Judging by the conversation so far I'd wager humans aren't a common sight around here."
The pony seemed set to object to my words, but after a brief hesitation she shook her head. "True, if word got about it might create a bit of a fuss." I forced myself not to grin, let's not forget the incident with Zercora Applejack. "But I doubt we can keep ya hidden forever, somepony'll figure it out eventually."
"Well, with luck I won't be here long enough for that to happen. I'd rather not be away from home any longer then necessary." As fun as it was to find myself in Equestria and talking to Applejack, I couldn't ignore the fact that this wasn't home, that I didn't belong here…
"Well don't you worry about that sugarcube, we'll get ya home in no time flat!" Again she seemed so sure of her response and I found myself wishing I was that confident. My mind naturally jumped to the worst conclusions most of the time and this was no different. I couldn't help but think even IF I got home, the Nightmare (you'd think after months of writing about the damn thing I'd have thought up a better name for it) would probably just drag me back, or probably just kill me for ruining its fun.
I was about to respond when a faint knocking sound reached my ears, and judging by the way Applejack's shot up hers too. "That must be Dash. You stay here and I'll go get the others." Knowing better then to argue, I simply remained in place as she started towards the door, Applebloom was quick to catch up and follow her out of the room, pausing only briefly to shoot me a glance before ducking out of sight.
I never was any good with kids…
Applejack was rather surprised to find only three of her friends waiting on the doorstep when she opened the door, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie. "Evenin' girls, where's Twilight and Rarity?" She asked as her eyes moved to each face in turn before settling on Dash, she had asked all of them to attend so they could figure out what was happening.
Dash's eyes narrowed a touch and she briefly spared a glance towards the ceiling as she collected her thoughts, before exhaling a long sigh. "Rarity is busy with some dress order again, says she can't leave until it's done...as for Twilight.' One of her front hooves moved to scratch the back of her head. "I don't really know. She wasn't home, neither was Spike."
"She's probably at Zercora's again." Applejack voiced the most logical conclusion, though it didn't explain why her dragon companion was missing too as he rarely if ever went with her into the forest. She generally made those trips alone or with one of the other ponies. "She'll turn up."
Everypony mumbled some form of agreement before focusing on the situation. "So who's this stranger we've been hearing about?" Pinkie spoke first, ending the brief silence that had descended.
"I don't rightly know, it was talkin' earlier, said somethin' about a place called Earth, best I could gather is its either far away or some place else entirely, beyond that it wasn' willing to say much, got real nervous when I mentioned telling you girls though." Applejack began to trail off as she recalled her conversation with the, whatever it was.
"I don't like this," Rainbow pitched in. "A creature nopony's ever heard of pops up out of nowhere in the middle of you're farm and doesn't want any pony knowing about it?"
"A-are you sure it's safe? W-what if it's dangerous?" Fluttershy spoke up next, her eyes growing wider with each passing second.
"If it's from another place that means it doesn't have any friends!" Pinkie spoke up last much like Fluttershy her eyes widened, though instead of looking panicked she was literally bouncing on the spot. "Oh! We could throw a party to welcome it!"
Applejack and Rainbow Dash simply rolled their eyes at the suggestion, Pinkie could use anything as an excuse to throw a party. "Now hold on a second! Like I was sayin' it doesn't like the idea of ponies knowing about it, so no parties." The pink pony stopped bouncing and pouted. "Something's not right about it though, it seemed rather confused about being here, but it was takin' the news pretty well in my opinion."
The ponies fell silent as they digested the comment. "Think it's spying on us or something?" Dash once again spoke first. "Maybe this 'Earth' place is planning something and it came here to watch us."
"Oh, my," Fluttershy gulped as her head drifted back and vanished behind her mane. "What did we do t-to them?"
"Now calm down!" Applejack cut in before they started jumping to conclusions. "I doubt it's a spy and if it is then there ain't nothin' we can do until we prove it. For now we'll just have to take its word that it has no idea how it got here and try to send it home, I figured Twilight could help there…"
"But she's not here." Dash finished for her.
"Exactly," the group lapsed into silence once again as they contemplated what to do with the small amount of information they had to go on.
After a few minutes of waiting I forced myself to get off the bed and back onto my feet. Thankfully the pain in my head had subsided to a tolerable level, giving me a little freedom to think with.
Sadly this resulted in my mind sinking into a number of different thought processes, and before I knew it I was pacing back and forth in the small room while I waited for Applejack to return.
The thoughts occupying my mind for the moment were of home, and the number of possibility's that awaited me if Twilight could in fact send me back without incident. Did time pass differently there? Was I only gone a few hours or would it have been years since I'd vanished? Had I vanished at all or was I in a coma or dead or something?
Every plot of every self insert story I'd ever read played out in my mind. I could have been dead, asleep or any other number of possibilities. Hell maybe nothing at all would happen and I'd return at the exact time I left, unchanged.
Maybe I couldn't return at all.
I finally stopped pacing as I reached the window for what felt like the hundredth time. My hands came to rest on the frame as I let my eyes wander along with my thoughts. By now the sun was creeping down below the far away mountains and casted a beautiful orange glow over the rapidly blackening sky.
A smile touched my lips as I studied the landscape, the acres of apple trees, the distant mountains; it was like staring at a painting.
It didn't occupy my thoughts for long though and I soon drifted back to the 'what if's' of my return home. What would my parents think if I simply vanished in the middle of the night, only to pop up an hour or even days later? How the hell would I explain this, this mess?
My heart began to ache as I continued to think of home, since waking up here I hadn't really had a chance to just stop and think, everything had been a happening faster then I liked.
What if I couldn't go back? So many of those stories usually resulted in this being a one way trip, was this going to be one of them? The picturesque landscape started to blur as tears invaded my eyes. I might not have had the best life ever (due to my own choices) but that didn't mean I was happy to give it up.
Closing my eyes tightly, I felt my hands clench into fists as a mixture of emotions began to vie for control. Anger at the creature for bringing me here, sadness from my thoughts and the very real possibility that I'd just lost my life, my family for good, and confusion as to the how's and why's of my predicament all assaulted me at once and it took all of my self control not to let one or the other take hold.
Vaguely I heard steps drawing closer to the room, and I forced my emotions back down, barely before opening my eyes again. Blinking away the tears I turned to face the door just as Applejack entered, closely followed by a small group of familiar faces.
The first pony to follow here had a cyan blue coat and a rainbow coloured mane and tail, her red coloured eyes were narrowed and she fixed me with a glare the second she came into view, Rainbow Dash.
The second literally bounced into the room, bright pink in colour with a similarly coloured mane that looked almost like cotton candy with the way it was puffed up, her eyes widened at the sight of me and her lips curled into a cheerful smile as she stopped hopping and seemed to study me, Pinkie Pie.
The third was more of a yellow colour her face mostly hidden behind her mane, I caught only a glimpse of one eye before she ducked further into the mass of pink hair and vanished behind Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy.
I did my best to prevent the frown that wanted to form, there were two ponies missing, and one of them was the one I was hoping to meet. "You're friends I presume?" I asked Applejack as I clasped my hands behind my back, it took al of my self control to keep a neutral expression as they stared (or glared in the case of Dash) at me. On one hand my heart was beating a little faster and a tinge of excitement crept into my mind upon seeing more of the mane six, but on the other the familiar 'oh god this is real!' panic was setting in.
"Yep, this here's Rainbow Dash, that's Pinkie Pie, and behind Dash is Fluttershy." Applejack nodded to each in turn, Pinkie gave another bright smile and began bouncing again, Fluttershy somehow managed to vanish even further behind Dash, and Rainbow simply narrowed her eyes further and squared her shoulders in what appeared to be an attempt to intimidate me, sad thing was it worked.
I let my frown form properly this time as my gaze passed over the group. "It's nice to meet you all, the names, Simon." I offered a slight shrug, not really sure what else to say. My gaze instead shifted back to Applejack. "You mentioned someone named 'Twilight'?"
"She couldn't make it," Rainbow cut in. "Business elsewhere." I met her gaze for a moment, but her stare quickly won out and I found myself glancing towards my shoes.
"I see," the disappointment in my voice was genuine this time.
"Don't worry she'll be here in the mornin' and we'll get ya home." Applejack said quickly as Rainbow moved to respond, they exchanged a brief glance, before the pegasus clamped her mouth shut. "In the mean while, ya can stay here the night."
My eyes jumped back to the orange pony at the comment, judging by the determination in her eyes I had a feeling this was a choice made for me. "That's kind of you, but I think I've caused enough hassle for one da-"
"Oh! You can stay with me! We can have a sleep over!" Pinkie Pie cut in, her words tumbling out in a rush. My eyes briefly darted back to Applejack, who only offered a helpless shrug.
"Not like I have anywhere else to go right now…"
After a brief debate between Pinkie and Applejack, it was finally decided (much to the pink pony's dismay) that I would stay at the farm for the night. For one they actually had a few spare beds in case relatives visited, and for another Pinkie happened to live in the middle of Ponyville. Which upon learning was a nearby town, I grew quite adamant about wanting to avoid for fear of creating a panic (In truth I was ready to use anything as a polite excuse to get out of sleeping in the same house as Pinkie Pie, I doubt I'd ever get any sleep).
The party pony was still determined to plan a welcoming party for me and no one could dissuade her, though Applejack had promised that she would try and get her to keep it small and secret for my benefit. With luck I'd be back home before she got the chance.
Finally things had calmed down, mostly. Rainbow Dash was still giving me dark glares and Fluttershy was hiding behind anypony that she could and only stealing the occasional glance before ducking out of sight again, it was hard not to find her behaviour somewhat cute in my opinion.
They asked a few questions, mostly about the details of how I ended up in Sweet Apple Acres, and I told them most of the details, naturally withholding the information about the Nightmare (I'd described it as some demon creature that I had nightmares about once or twice) actually being something I created…somehow.
Luckily due to the late hour before they started talking to me, I wasn't interrogated for long and they soon departed, leaving me alone with my thoughts once again.
Again I found myself leaning against the window and staring out at the stars, there really wasn't anything else to do.
I tried my best to focus on the stars, but eventually my mind turned back to home, and to the question of whether I'd ever see it again…