PART II - The Things We Need To Forget
When I get up the next morning the mare is still snoring under my arm. I’m so happy that she’s there that I just lie next to her and feel as her sides rise and fall. She wakes up shortly after I do, and immediately yawns and looks around.
“So, any ideas about what we should do now?” she asks sleepily. I have a few ideas but I don’t think now is the time to share them. Instead I think more realistically.
“It would make sense for us to head in a new direction and start looking in towns neither of us have been to,” I suggest. “There’s no use in either of us backtracking.” The mare nods in agreement. We both get up, but she still looks a little weak on her hooves.
“Wait a sec’,” I say. I help her take off her saddlebags and put them on over my own. She grins at me.
“You’re the best, you know.” I blush again, and before a few minutes have passed, we’re outside and walking back to the center of town. We pick up an assortment of dried foods from the shops around the city before heading to the major crossroads.
“I came from over there,” I say, pointing to the left of us.
“And I was coming from that direction,” she adds, pointing forward. That left the road to our right as the one we hadn’t yet explored, as the one behind us lead to a dead end. We begin to walk out of town at a good pace. I look to make sure that the mare isn’t struggling, as I still remember how weak she was a day ago. A few meals and some good nights of rest seem to have helped her out, because she is keeping up with me easily. I don’t mind carrying both of our saddlebags. I’m happy to help. We don’t say anything until we’ve walked for at least an hour.
“I’ve been wondering,” the mare begins, “since neither of us can remember our names, why don’t we make some up?” I look at her, puzzled. “I mean,” she continues “it doesn’t make much sense for us to trot around nameless, does it?”
“I guess not,” I answer, though I hadn’t really given the matter much thought. Names are arbitrary; they don’t serve any real purpose. Then I look at the mare’s eyes for a minute. “I think it might be sort of nice to have a name to associate with you.” She gives a little hop at my response that puts a genuine smile on my face.
“Ok, ok,” she says, her voice growing excited, “let’s pick each other’s names, alright?” she asks rhetorically, not giving me a chance to reply. “Let’s see, how about…” she starts, her brow furrowing in thought, “how about… Sun Spot?” she asks expectantly, obviously pleased with her choice. I’m a bit surprised, but I’m guessing she’s making a reference to the orange of my mane and my yellow coat. I shrug as best as I can while wearing the saddlebags. She frowns a little at this, and I can tell that was not the response she was hoping for.
“I like the name!” I say exuberantly. “I think it’ll be nice.” I can’t tell if she believes me, but her frown fades and that’s enough for me. Now it’s my turn to decide what she should be called. I want the name to be something that shows her how much she means to me, but I don’t want it to sound sappy. “For you,” I start “I’m thinking April Bloom.” I look to try to gauge her reaction, but the mare appears to be deep in thought.
“I guess that’ll do,” she says. I hang my head and sullenly look down at my hooves, fearing that she hates her name, but I start to hear her laughing loudly. I look up and she’s practically beside herself in mirth.
“You have no idea how silly you looked right then!” she shouts in between spurts of laughter. “Don’t let it get to you; I’m sure both of our names will grow on us after a while. It doesn’t matter that much anyway, does it?” I try to pick my head up and I laugh with her a bit.
“No, I guess it’s not anything to get worked up about.” April and I walk on, both of us now with a name. My mind flashes back to just a few days ago when I was looking over the edge of a cliff and wondering how long it would take me to hit the bottom. Then I look at April and realize what I could have missed out on. I thank whoever or whatever made that rainbow, though I’m not sure I would have jumped even if it hadn’t appeared.
We don’t reach another town by nightfall, so we have to stay outside for the night. Both of us huddle close together as the nighttime breeze blows in, and I promise to grab us some blankets next time we reach a city. I don’t really mind being this close to her, but I think it would be the proper thing to do. We doze off quickly, worn out from the day of overland travel.
It’s becoming easier to tell my dream and my real life apart now. For one thing, April isn’t in the dream, so that helps me remember that I’m only asleep. My nighttime vision has also become less intense since I met her, and I’m thankful that I’m not as affected by the screams or the looks on the faces of all of the ponies.
But I don’t want to become too comfortable with them either.
We wake up and continue on in the same manner as yesterday; silent at first, but with April speaking up after a while.
“Sunny, there’s something I’ve been wondering about since the day I woke up,” the mare begins cryptically. I turn to look at her and try to put on my friendliest look.
“And what would that be?” I ask. Her demeanor is different fro the day before. She isn’t giggling or bouncing around. Instead she’s walking along with me gazing straight ahead at nothing in particular.
“What do you think happened to all of the other ponies?” she asks evenly. The question catches me off guard, and I actually stop in my tracks. She stops a few hoofsteps ahead of me and turns around to look at me. She looks troubled, as if this question had been nagging her for a long time. I wouldn’t doubt that fact. I can’t formulate a good answer for her though. I want to tell her about my dreams, but if I do, I risk losing her as a companion. I couldn’t bear to do something like that.
“I have no idea, April,” I answer. She looks at me more intently, her brown eyes shining in the sunlight.
“Well, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and I guess I might as well tell you about it now,” she explains. I’m trying to read her emotions, but I can’t get anything, just blankness. “I’ve been having these dreams,” she starts. The last word of the sentence makes my heart nearly stop. I have to make a conscious effort not to let my jaw hang open. “It’s recurring, like it happens every night. I…” she trails off, looking down at her hooves. I notice a tear roll to the end of her nose, and watch it fall to the ground beneath her. I move to step closer to her, but she holds a hoof up to stop me. “I see myself standing over these ponies, and I don’t know any of them, but they fear me. Then, I…” she trails off again, her voice quavering.
“Press the blue button?” I ask flatly. I’m having an out of body experience. The words I’m hearing don’t come from me, yet I know that I said them. She looks up at me, her eyes heavy with the weight of tears. Her appearance is one of rapt astonishment. I don’t like seeing April like this. I don’t want her to be sad. I don’t want her to feel how I felt. I take a few steps closer to her, but my legs are moving on their own. I’m not thinking, just acting. I get close to her, and she puts her head under mine. Her mane is soft underneath my chin, but her sobs shake me to my core. I fight as hard as I can to hold back any tears of my own.
“How did you…” she shakily starts to ask before I pull her in tighter to me.
“It wasn’t you,” I whisper. She’s still shaking under me and my eyelids are losing a battle with my tears. “It wasn’t you.”
“But how can you…” she sputters until I put my hoof up to her mouth to silence her gently. For the first time since I met her, I want April to shut up and let me think. My entire concept of what has happened is falling down around me. I’ve had suspicions about whether or not the dream was a memory, and this only confirms what I’ve been thinking for the past few days. It isn’t real. It’s never been real. Maybe the only real thing about it is
April pulls away from me and runs to the side of the road before falling to her knees. She starts retching and I recognize what had happened to me over a month ago. I walk beside her and run my hoof across her back, telling her everything was going to be ok and not to worry because that was only going to make it worse. She stops after a few seconds and I help her back to her hooves and lead her away from her vomit. I sit her down and she looks at me. I give her some water from one of the bottles in the saddlebags, and she uses it to rinse out her mouth.
We sit there, once again silent. Half an hour passes. I try not to touch her out of fear that she might not want to be reassured right then, but she leans against me and I feel a little better emotionally.
I can’t think very clearly. I can’t believe that April and I have both been experiencing the same dream, but I don’t know what other answer there is. We both know about ‘September.’ We both think we caused all of this. We both blame ourselves. But this makes me feel better, if anything. If we both have the same identical ‘memory’ of pressing the button, than that means that neither of us could have done it. I say this, and April smiles a little.
“I was just thinking the same thing.”
“Ready to get back on the trail?” I ask. She smiles and gets back up. She still looks a little green, but I think she’ll be able to make it. We start heading forward on the road again, and soon the outskirts of a large city come into view. I know we’ll make it there after a half-day of travel tomorrow, and I suggest that we settle down here for the night. We both get to the side of the road and sit, facing each other. April looks at the ground and starts to speak.
“I’m sorry,” she says quietly.
“What for?” I ask.
“I ruined today for both of us,” she mumbles. “I don’t ever want to think about it again.” I smile at her and raise her chin with my hoof so that I can look at her eyes. I love her eyes. I feel like I can see everything about her in them.
“You didn’t ruin anything,” I say. “If anything you’ve made things a lot better for me. Now I know that I didn’t cause all of this.” I motion to the vast empty space around us. “And I think you should be feeling a little better too, right?” She nods at me as an answer. “That’s great,” I comment. “We don’t have to talk bout this again unless you want to,” I reassure. “Do you think tomorrow you can get back to bouncing around and asking silly questions?” I ask, blushing with impunity in the half-light of dusk. “I missed that today.”
“I think that can be arranged,” April says in a more characteristic tone. In a second she’s leaning forward and her lips are on mine. They remain there only for a brief moment in time before she sits back on her hooves. “But who really knows?” She’s too good at catching me off guard. I try to regain an ounce of composure, and I feel like she can sense the heat radiating off of my cheeks.
“Well then, uh,” I say stupidly, “shall we call it night?” April giggles and then nods before lying down from her sitting position. I do the same, and soon we’re both asleep.
The dream can’t hurt me anymore. I’m not afraid of myself. I look at the word SEPTEMBER again and commit it to heart, knowing that it’s the only thing that matters in this nightmare. I don’t know why I have to relive it, but like any horror movie, it loses its power when you’ve seen it enough times.
In the morning we both get up and finish out trek into town. We waste no time before we start talking, though we don’t talk about anything in particular. We comment on the scenery around us, and April tells a few jokes, but we have no conversations of any substance. We make it to the edge of town around midday as I had expected. This is definitely the largest city I’ve been in yet, and April seems pretty taken aback by it as well. We first focus on restocking our food and water supplies. April says she’s strong enough to carry her saddlebags, and that she has been for a few days, so I give them back to her and help her put them on. We split up and agree to meet back in the same spot in an hour.
I stumble around the city and find a few stores carrying non-perishable foods. I’ve gotten a bit tired of dried nuts and candied fruits, but I’m happy to not be starving. I finish off the hour by refilling my water bottles before heading back to meet up with April. She’s waiting for me, and she starts hopping a little when I’m within earshot. The sight makes my stomach do a little flip.
“I found a sur-prise,” April yells to me, accenting the syllables of the last word. I’m curious to find out what she’s talking about, so I speed up to get to her quicker. She’s perfectly pleased with herself, grinning from ear to ear.
“What kind of surprise is it?” I ask when I’m close. She puts on a sly smile,
“Oh, you’ll have to wait until tonight to find out,” she says with an aura of mystery. I sigh and say alright. We make our way around, looking at all of the buildings for anything that looked like it could be a help to us. We find an old newspaper office, but the papers don’t give any clue as to what has occurred. They do stop on the 14th of May, however, so at least we know when the ‘event’ happened.
The sun begins it descent and we soon take shelter inside of a bedding store. I can’t wait to fall asleep on an actual mattress, but April reminds me that I still don’t know what the surprise is.
“Well then, what is it?” I ask, excited to know what she had found but more interested in sleeping. She gives me a look and the only thing I can think is here comes trouble. She reaches into her saddlebags and pulls out a candle, which she proceeds to light with a match that she also had in the pack.
“This isn’t the surprise, it’s just so we can see better,” she illuminates. Her tan coat looks stunning in the candlelight, and her brown eyes reflect the light beautifully. She turns around and pulls out a pair of crystal glasses that she puts on either side of the candle, followed by a large bottle. I’m sure that my jaw is hanging open at this point, and April definitely notices. She beckons for me to come and sit across from her, and I silently oblige. She undoes the cap on the bottle, and the sweet smell of apples assails my nostrils.
“Vintage cider, my dear Sunny. I’ve got two more bottles of the stuff in the bag for when we finish off this one.” She picks up the open bottle between her front hooves and pours both of us a glass of the amber liquid. My mouth is watering, and I can’t wait to taste the stuff, having drunk nothing but water for as long as I can remember. She puts the bottle down, and invites me to pick up my glass.
“How about a toast, then?” I ask. April agrees and starts it.
“Here’s to the future,” she says loudly.
“Because after what we’ve been through, only better days can lie ahead,” I add at an equal volume. We clink our glasses together and down their contents in unison. The sweetness of the apples mixed with the sting of the alcohol refreshes me immensely. We repeat the process twice before the bottle is finished. I can feel the drink clouding the edges of my perception, but I’m still alright. April looks a little more affected as she reaches behind her and grabs the next bottle. I volunteer to pour the drinks, and she laughs and hands me the cider. We finish another round of drinks, and I stop before immediately pouring the next two.
April is sweating a bit, and her mane is matted down over one of her eyes. She keeps trying to push it away with a hoof, but she just can’t do it without the hair falling right back into place. The scene is adorable. She realizes that I’m staring at her.
“Hey Sunny?” she asks slowly. “I don’t wanna’ say anything I’m gonna’ regret later,” she slurs. “But I wanna’ letcha know that I love you.” She giggles at the end of the sentence and leans forward on her hooves. “And thass not the cider talkin’. Iss true.” I don’t know if it’s the truth, not being plastered enough to believe her outright or sober enough to throw it out altogether. I decide to fix that by pouring myself another drink.
“Hey, gimme’ some,” April says, reaching for the bottle. I push it out of her reach.
“You’ve had enough, I’m just trying to catch up.” I think she understands, because she stops grabbing for the cider, but she doesn’t look too happy. I down my glass in one gulp, no longer able to taste the sweetness of the apples. I put the crystal glass down and focus on the mare in front of me, who looks like she’s fighting very hard to remain upright.
“April, I love you too,” I say, not feeling drunk in the slightest. “I don’t know what would have happened to me if you hadn’t come into my life.” She smiles and tries to get her hair out of her eye again. I lean forward and do it for her, but she pulls on me and I fall forward, knocking over the glasses and putting out the candle in the process. I’m on top of her, and she pulls my face into hers. I can smell the cider all over her mouth. A moment passes and were kissing again, but differently than last night. It’s more primal now. April keeps laughing and soon she rolls over so she’s on top of me. Her breath is warm and I’m in love. I don’t know how long we stay like that but we both fall asleep soon.
I don’t have the dream.
Waking up is awkward. We never did get off of the floor, and April is hugging me from behind, still asleep. I find it ironic that we ended up sleeping on the floor in a store filled with beds. I start to recall everything that happened the night before, including both of our admissions. I hope that nothing changes when she wakes up, but I’m not sure. April is a serious lightweight. She begins to stir, yawning and stretching her hooves.
“G’mornin’ Sunny,” she says, still half asleep. She nuzzles the back of my neck and my heart starts to race. I shimmy out of her embrace and begin to gather up our gear. I take the remaining bottle of cider out of April’s saddlebags and hide it under one of the display beds. Last night had been fun, but I don’t want another one like it for a while.
I take out some trail mix for breakfast and some water that I’m sure we’ll both be needing. April gets up shortly after I do, and she looks exhausted. Regardless, she’s smiling, and she happily eats the food I’ve laid out. I’m chewing when she starts to talk to me.
“I meant what I said last night, Sunny.” I start coughing at the out-of-the-blue statement and have to take a sip of water before I can respond.
“I did too, April. You mean a lot to me.” She smiles and I smile and we sit there smiling until I suggest we get on with our day. By the time we actually step outside, it’s almost noon. We walk to the center of the city, which by now we’ve identified as Hoofington from the various signs. Unfortunately the name means nothing when you have nothing to reference it with. I say this, and April hops a little.
“Wait, that was the other part of the surprise, Sunny! I found this hanging in a little café yesterday, and I thought it might be of some use to us,” April says hurriedly as she opens her saddlebags and roots around for something. She emerges with a carefully folded paper in her teeth. “Ish a mah,” she says.
“A what?” I ask, unable to make out what she had meant. She spits out the paper and begins to unfold it.
“I said it’s a map! We can use it to plan out where we want to go from now on,” she answers. The paper is huge when it is unfolded all of the way, and I’m surprised any establishment would devote enough wall space to hanging it up. We scour it, and I spot Hoofington relatively quickly.
“Ok,” I begin, “It looks like there’s a few ways we can go; north to Trottenham, East to Salt Lick City, or West to Seaddle. What do you think, April?” She’s focused intently on the route between here and Trottenham.
“What’s this little dot right here?” she asks, pointing at a nearly invisible mark slightly off of the road to Trottenham. I lean in close and try to read the faded print next to the mark.
“It looks like it’s a little village or something. I can’t really make out the name; it sort of looks like, hmm, maybe ‘Something Falls?’ ‘Seven Falls?’ ‘Surrender Falls?’”
“Look closer,” she commands.
“What? Oh, maybe it’s ‘September Falls.’ Ok, so there’s a village we can stop by on the way there. Sounds good to me.” I’m ready to put the map away, but April puts a hoof heavily on my shoulder.
“Sunny, what if the ‘September’ in our dream isn’t talking about a month?” The question hangs in the air like its tangible. I wonder if she can hear the gears literally turning in my head as I try to process what she had asked.
“You don’t think…” I begin.
“There’s only one way to find out,” she says, quickly.