Chapter XVII: All the Colors of the Monochrome
Off in the distance old Mare Liberty is standing on Equine Island’s back, holding up her torch and her tablet and all those false promises she’s so proud of. She’s out there stranded in the middle of Manehattan Harbor, a big, dumb copper castaway with nothing better to do than pose for clueless tourists as they drift by on ferries.
The Golden Bit Bridge feels less than real beneath me as I lean against its rails, looking out at the place in the distance where the grey sky lays flat across the Hoofson River. The carriages rolling along behind me seem even less real than the bridge. Especially the ones traveling west toward Hooflyn, tragically unaware that the world ended miles away back at Shanty Alley. I turn to watch the carts as they skitter by like water flies on wheels, half expecting them to drop off at the west end, and tumble over the edge of the flat world.
It’s early. Celestia only just finished dragging her ball of fire up past the Manehattan skyline, though I can’t see it behind the restless grey clouds. The whole sky is on edge, and I know why: it’s the last week of winter. For now it’s cool without being cold, but later tonight when the old timers punch-out and Tracy and her gang take over things are gonna get loud and messy and nasty.
This is it for the kids up in the weather factory. Come this time next week it’ll be spring. The trees will grow new leaves, and the parks will be painted in floral colors, and the breezes will be lazy, and the drizzles will be pleasant—and the kids up in the factory will hate it. They might stick around for a bit and stomp out a few piss-poor drizzles, if only because they need the money, but they’ll be sick of it by April. I know Tracy and her gang. For them it’s all about the fall and winter seasonal work. They like their sky ugly and their wind wild. Like to bang those thunderheads of theirs like war drums and to play that music they’re so crazy about. Play it loud and off key.
This week marks the beginning of their last hurrah. Tonight they’ll whip the wind into a frenzy and they’ll shake piles of snow out of the sky. Tonight their music will climb to its crescendo but for now it’s nice, and it’s quiet, and I’m all kinds of grateful for it. I’ve had more than my fill of excitement these past two seasons, and I’m long overdue for some peace.
Hard to believe winter is almost over in Manehattan. Leaning against the rails, looking off past Mare Liberty, my mind drifts back to that last autumn night when I watched Sparkle’s hat drift down to the sidewalk. I think I knew right then and there that Sparkle wouldn’t live to see spring. She made it pretty damn close, but in the end she wasn’t fast enough to keep up with all the chasing and fleeing. She couldn’t catch the ponies who stole her horn—her magic—anymore than she could outrun the demons that sent her chasing in the first place.
And I couldn’t save her. I don’t know what it was she saw in me, but she thought I could help her get through it. She kissed me, and she made the mistake of loving me, and she went to pieces just like all the others. She died in agony; agony I added to that night I cornered her and took her any way I liked. I don’t know who she was talking to up on that rooftop. Don’t know what demon she was trying slay with her taut cord and her aroused hooves, but it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t the ponies who stole her magic either. ‘You can’t have me.’ Those were her last words. I don’t know what horror wanted Sparkle, and now I’ll never know, but in the end I guess she got away.
And the worst part is they’ll mourn her. They’ll mourn Twilight Sparkle. All of them. Equestria will cry her eyes out over the loss of her favorite daughter, and she’ll reminisce about the good old days—the days when Sparkle and her friends saved us from those silly bucking comic book villains—and they’ll never know who the real villains are. Never know what Sparkle had become the night the sidewalk took her to pieces. Never know the animal with the taut cord and the aroused hooves—or they will know, know exactly what she was, and none of them will have the nerve to talk about it.
They’ll bury her, and they’ll cry, and they’ll live the rest of their lives thinking they loved her, when the truth is they never knew her at all. And ponies like Junebug and Temporal and all the rest—ponies like them will keep on suffering in silence, and the world will keep on turning, and Equestria won’t give damn.
…Doesn’t matter now. Sparkle’s gone, and that means I’ve got a whole new set of problems to lose sleep over. Once word gets back to the capital that Celestia’s number one student had to be hosed off the sidewalk, that clown Shining Armor and the whole bucking Royal Guard are going to come down on this city like a guillotine. It’s going to be fire and brimstone and blood in the streets. It’s all finally catching up to the old mule. All the sin and the decadence, and the apathy—and all the ponies who thought they could go on doing whatever they want to whoever they want, whenever they wanted are about to get a rude awaking. There’s a storm coming, and there won’t be any calm before it gets here, and there won’t be an eye to hide in while the wind and the rain are raging, tearing the old mule apart.
And I’ll be right in the middle of it—me and all the ponies like me. Funny thing is I always knew in my gut it was coming. I tried to warn Two Cents that night I dangled him out of his apartment. Tried to hold him still and make him look at me; and he was shaking like a leaf the whole time, not understanding or just plain not wanting to see the truth. It’s going to be the old days again, I told him. The bad old days. The days before Hearth’s Warming. All feuding and fighting and hatred and ageless cold.
So here I am: leaning against the rail of a bridge that exists somewhere beyond the edge of the world—and Crest is standing beside me—and overhead little Olive is circling the two of us, anxiously—and out in the distance Mare Liberty is stranded; she’s holding up her torch and signaling for a passing boat to come rescue her. Come take her far, far away from Manehattan.
Two ugly seasons and a big stinking heap of bodies in my rearview, and here I am: standing on the Golden Bit Bridge. Waiting to meet Crest’s boss. Waiting to meet Big Sis. Moving one step closer to the end of things, turning yet another page in this big city tragedy of mine.
We’re a strange bucking sight, us Daughters of Discord. Crest is on the verge of puking. Olive is a nervous wreck. Most of the gang is lined up along the railing, looking like a school for cross-dressing hooligans out on a field trip. Crest woke us up early this morning. Told us Big Sis had contacted him, and that she was planning a meet out on the bridge. Said she wanted us to show up in force. Show the cops and the uptowners we aren’t going to hide in our own territory. Big sis is flying in from Trottingham today. Bringing a few of the Mandem with her. Apparently negations went well.
We’ve been standing up here for almost an hour, attracting plenty of attention from passerbys. No attention from cops though. None from rival gangs either. Crest and Olive are on edge. All the Daughters are. I suppose I am too.
We wait in tense silence, none of us sure of anything.
And then I see her out in distance. She’s a pegasus pony, and she’s coasting down toward the bridge from some imaginary place beyond the edge of the word. I see her, and for a time there isn’t anything else. I don’t know where the bridge goes, or the skittering water flies on wheels. I don’t know where the gang goes or even where I go—but while we're gone the only thing remaining in our absence is her. Just the sky and the water and her, gliding easily somewhere in between. Suddenly nothing is real and nothing makes sense, and I’d laugh out loud except I’m gone with Crest and Olive and rest of the hopelessly, nonsensical world.
It’s not until the pegasus pony’s hooves touch the pavement that everything comes spinning back, and the sheer wild-faced ridiculousness of what I’m seeing spits in my eye. I feel the last of whatever sanity I’ve managed to hold onto melt away, and to be honest I’m glad to see it go.
The pegasus pony purposely lands a few yards away on the bridge, just so she can swagger up to us. She’s got a walk like the whole world belongs to her. Like she lugged the sun up over the horizon this morning all by herself and she’s planning to raise the moon at nightfall.
I move away from the railing and turn to face her, trying to make sense of what I’m seeing. Crest is literally hiding behind me now, probably only a few seconds away from pissing his panties. The other Daughters mutter to themselves, talking over each other like always. Olive surprises me. She puts on a brave face and floats out to meet the swaggering pegasus.
“Cheers, Big Sis,” she says, offering the pegasus a friendly hoof. “It’s, ah, it’s right good to see you again. Things go well in Trottingham?”
Big Sis trots by Olive, not paying her any attention. She passes the Daughters lining the rails. They don’t say a word as she makes a beeline for Crest, her eyebrows slanted in anger, her stride hastened by ill will.
You’re seeing things, I try to convince myself. That’s not her. It can’t be her. The world isn’t that crazy.
But it is her. She’s wearing tight clothing like the other Daughters, and her face is full of piercings, but I’m sure it’s her. Her mane is cut differently from when I knew her back in Ponyville. It’s long on one side of her head and shaved bald on the other, but that’s her mane all right. It’s unmistakable. That’s her multicolored mane and tail. Her cyan coat. Her gait. Confident. Arrogant. Like the world is hers. The sun and the sky and the clouds—like she’s the only reason any of it's allowed to be up there.
Without saying a word she shoves past me, grabs Crest by the collar of his blouse and starts slapping him across the face. Crest tries to tell her to calm down. To wait a minute. To let him explain himself. She doesn’t. She grabs hold of his collar and goes to town on him. Me and Olive and the rest of the gang don’t say a thing. Nopony budges an inch.
Then Big Sis opens her mouth to speak and I breathe a sigh of relief. She starts talking and world starts making sense again.
“Crest, Crest, Crest. You bloody useless bloody worthless stack of shite, what am I gonna do with you?”
I sigh. Reclaim my lost sanity. She looks the same, but the voice is all wrong. Her accent is Trottingham, same as all the others, but damn it all if Big Sis doesn’t look just like Rainbow bucking Dash.
“Now sis, just give me a second and I’ll explain—” Crest tries again.
“You’ll explain what, exactly?” Big Sis slaps him again. “Explain why me biggest earner is a bloody corpse?”
“Why me hometown is an ashtray?”
“Why the uptown twats and the uni cunt task force are moving in on me territory?”
“Or better yet, would you care to spell out—because this one I just really can’t wrap me blinkin’ head ‘round—why you thought it was okay to up and bump off TWILIGHT BLEEDIN’ SPARKLE, YOU DIZZY RAT BASTARD NACY CUNT!?”
Slap. Slap. Slap.
“Sis, please. I… I just… I didn’t mean…” Crest begs and pleads and sniffs, shaking in Big Sis’s grip.
“Inches, Crest,” she says, her voice jagged like broken glass. “I’m gonna pull you apart one inch at a time. You’ll be begging me to kill you long before I’m done.”
Crest sniffs. Sobs. Big Sis shoves him to the ground. He cowers. Shields his face, expecting another slap. But she doesn’t hit him again. She laughs. She does a whimsical little cartwheel in the air, then comes to hover just above the pavement, clutching her stomach, pointing, laughing in Crest’s face. A second later Olive is laughing too, and then so is Crest as soon as he figures out what’s going on. The laugh spreads like a flu virus and pretty soon they’re all laughing. Pointing and whooping and tearing up and having themselves a time.
“All right, all right. You got me, sis,” says Crest, dusting himself, smiling and being a good sport even though the joke was at his expense. “So… Does this mean you’re not mad then?”
“Mad?” Big Sis tousles Crest’s mane, rubbing the top of his head the way a real older sibling might. “Buck no. I should have left you in charge years ago. This place has been too quiet for too long. ‘Bout time somepony set fire to the Kitchen, I say.”
“But aren’t you worried about what’ll happen when word gets out that Twilight’s dead?” says little Olive, her voice much smaller than usual in the presence of Big Sis. “They’ll send in the Guard. That twat Shinin’ Armor will come and he’ll bring all the rest with him.”
“Shinin’ Armor…” says Big Sis, looking away thoughtfully. “Now there’s a uni cunt whose horn I wouldn’t mind havin’ mounted over me fireplace. Hell, send ‘em all. I hope Celestia stomps down here herself. Graces us with her royal presence and all that. I’ve always wondered if alicorns bleed red, same as the rest of us.”
“You’re madder than a March Hare,” laughs Crest. Big Sis laughs too. She talks of slaughtering a goddess and laughs. Scary thing is: there’s a glint in Big Sis’s eye that tells me she really thinks she could do it. She really thinks Celestia’s green earth belongs to her. I see now why Crest was so afraid of her.
“Sis, there’s somepony here I’d like you to meet.” Crest gestures toward me proudly, like a soon-to-be husband introducing his fiancée. “This is Rosy. She wants to join up with the Daughters.”
“Does she, now?” Big Sis swaggers up to me, looking me up and down, her eyes suddenly dangerous and cunning. “We met before, lovely? You look right familiar.”
“I doubt it,” I say causally. My voice must give me away, because there’s recognition in her expression now, where before there was only nagging suspicion.
“No, I’m sure I seen you before.” Her expression dims. Dims. Dims… Then brightens all at once, like a light switch being flipped. “Ohmegosh, ohmegosh, ohmegosh!” she exclaims, running the three words into one, and then doing it two more times. “I’d know that rosy mane anywhere. You’re one of Storm’s girls. You used to fight at the Ringer. I made a ton of money bettin’ on you!”
Big Sis grabs my face between her hooves. Kisses my cheeks. Pulls me into a hug. Kisses me again.
“Crest, why didn’t you tell me there was a livin’ legend joinin’ up with the Daughters?”
“Well, I don’t know about legend,” I say, breathing a sigh of relief for the second time today. “But I did all right for myself.”
“Did all right? I remember when you knocked out that big, mouth breathin’ blighter Heavy Hoof with a beauty of one-two.” Big Sis bounces up on her hind legs, doing her best impersonation of me the night I won my first fight at old Storm Chaser’s club. As part of my training the old stallion used to throw in me in the ring with ponies twice my size and experience. Got my ass kicked dozens of times before he put me in with Heavy Hoof. That was an ugly fight. Long. Brutal. Must have been fun to watch.
“The odds where six to one against you that night—six to bloody one. Oh, but I took one look at you and I said to me self, ‘now there’s a fighter born,’ and I put every bit I had on you. You never disappointed me after that night.”
It’s true. After I beat Heavy Hoof I held onto my winning streak until Storm figured I’d learned all I could from him. Still, I’m pretty sure I ended my career with a record of seven and sixteen. Primary must be out of her mind to have put money on a fighter like me.
“Or how ‘bout your match against Cheeks? Or Silver Mane? I’ll bet his muzzle never healed straight after that headbutt you fed him.”
Big Sis bounces around on her hind legs, shadowboxing and grinning like a sick orphan kid whose favorite celebrity is visiting her in the hospital. I can’t help but smile with her. She tells me to show her some of that famous hoofwork of mine, and I remember my training, and I show Big Sis how to bob and how to weave, and she does her best to keep up. And little Olive circles overhead, clapping and cheering. And Crest stands off to side, beaming, a lazy breeze slow dancing through his blue and white mane. And all around us the Daughters of Discord are laughing and joking and having themselves a time way up on the Golden Bit Bridge.
And for a moment I wish didn’t have to end it feels almost...normal. For a moment we’re just a couple of friends, out seeing the sights, sharing a laugh and just plain enjoying each other’s company. For a moment there’s no dead commissioner, no rival gangs, no killers I need to hunt down, no helpless little filly that needs saving. No chasing or fleeing or falling. No Manehattan and no criminals—just mares and stallions and fillies and colts who love each other. Just a couple of ponies out seeing the sites. Friends. Family, even. Me and the Daughters of Discord. Me and Manehattan’s criminals.
We stay up on the bridge for a long while, just leaning on the rail and looking out at the grey sky, and at poor, dumb, stranded Mare Liberty. Crest is leaning against me, and Olive is telling Big Sis about how she ‘mashed up’ Sparkle, her voice rising like a tea kettle, and the Daughters are listening eagerly and interjecting at random, talking over each other like they always do.
Then Crest surprises me. For the very first time since we’ve been together, he kisses me on the lips without opening his mouth. For the first time he pecks me the way real lovers ought to when they’re out having a good time with their friends. It’s not an “I want you” kiss, like all the others he’s given me. It’s an “I want to be with you,” kiss. An “I love you,” kiss. The only one he gives me that makes me want another.
“She must be special, this one, if she’s got that horn-dog Crest making with the puppy eyes and all that,” says Big Sis glancing over at us with a knowing smile. And then Crest does something else I’ve never seen him do before: he blushes. His white cheeks go as rosy as my mane. It like it on him. It’s cute.
“You take good care of me Crest now, Rosy,” says Big Sis, messing my mane the way she messed up Crest’s. “He’s a big pile of stupid, that one, but he’s me favorite big pile of stupid. You so much as harm one hair on his tail, and I’ll carve out you bleedin’ heart.”
“Aye. Don’t go temptin’ her,” chirps Olive. “She’ll do it. She’s done it before.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it, Big Sis.” I kiss Crest back. He blushes furiously.
“Enough of this Big Sis talk. Call me by the name me mum gave me: Primary.”
Huh? When I hear her name, I realize for the first time that she only has three colors in her mane: red, yellow and blue. Not nearly enough to be Rainbow Dash after all. But the cyan coat is a perfect match. So are the eyes and so is that gait of hers.
We hang around a little longer. I get a chance to talk with Primary one on one, and I swear it feels more like a reunion than a first meeting. She goes on and on about the old fight club, smiling big as recalls all the ‘blighters’ whose daylights I kicked out. She tells me about all the money she made betting on me. Money she would win down in the fight club only to throw away on strippers the very same night. She says the Ringer has the best strippers in the red-light district, and her jaw hits the ground when I tell her about me and Blondie and that rank bathroom stall.
We talk and it’s like I’ve known Primary Bolt my whole life. She’s rude and arrogant and more than a little obnoxious, but there’s an ease about her that makes hating her tricky. She’s carefree. Charming. Witty. The type of pony who could say anything about you, or do anything to you, and no matter how bad it was you’d write it off as her just being her.
Time gets away from us. By the time Crest suggests we get going, hours have gone by. Primary tells him we can’t leave without the others: the enforcers she took with her to Trottingham, as well as a few dozen members of the Mandem. She says they're traveling by carriage. Says she was traveling with them, but got bored of being cramped up in the cart and decided to fly out ahead.
It takes some time for Primary’s crew to show up, and it’s no wonder why. The carriages are huge and there are two of them, each being pulled by only two pegasi. The pegasi touchdown square in the center of the bridge, not giving half a damn that they're holding up traffic. The ponies driving along the bridge don’t say or do anything about it; they just pull their carriages around. They see the clothing and the piercings and the D.O.D. tattoos, and they decide it’s not worth the trouble.
It’s a strange sight. Suddenly the field trip for cross-dressers has become a convention. The carriage doors slide open, and the Daughters on the bridge hurry over to meet the newcomers, hugging and kissing and bumping hooves, turning the Golden Bit Bridge into their own personal family reunion.
Olive and Primary both hurry off to meet with the others. Crest and I stay near the railing. He turns to me. His expression soft. His eyes kind.
“Well, what do you think?” he says, waiting for me to be impressed.
“It’s nice,” I say dreamily. I mean it too. It is nice. Almost normal. Like we’re a family. One big happy, crazy family.
Crest pecks me on the cheek. “You look happy, lovely,” he says with a sweet smile. “You never look happy.”
“I never am,” I say, surprising myself. Thinking the words but really expecting to voice them. “It’s not for ponies like me. Still, this is nice.”
Bodies are pouring out carriages, and others are rushing up to meet them, and Crest is telling me I look happy. It’s sort of happening all at once. It’s almost overwhelming. Almost normal. Almost.
I let myself enjoy for a bit longer. I’ve already found what I’m looking for. What I’ve been looking for this whole time. I spotted the two of them climb out of a carriage together: Mares. Earth ponies. Drab coats. Grey manes. I spotted them the instant Crest kissed my cheek, but I figured why ruin the moment. I’ve found them and they aren’t going anywhere, and after today there won’t be any more moments like this one. I let myself enjoy it. Bask in it. They might be criminals, and they might be monsters in their own right, but they’re my monsters. My family.
I let myself enjoy it, then I peck Crest on the lips and I shoo him away. Tell him to go and be with his sisters where he belongs.
“You’re part of the gang now too, Rosy,” he says. The eagerness in his voice breaks my heart.
“No, it’s all right.” My voice comes out thin. Fragile. “Go on. I’m fine right here.”
“Go on. It’s where you belong.”
I kiss him again, and I promise to still be here when he gets back. I lie to Crest one last time and he buys it. I’m not surprised. He always buys whatever I’m selling.
I don’t say it. I think it loud like a hopeless plea, and desperate like the last wish of a dying mare, but don’t say it. Crest prances off to join his family, and I watch him go, and I don’t say it.
I start trudging away, slowly, heading west along the edge of the bridge toward Manehattan’s sister Hooflyn. Scope’s killers have spotted me too. They start wading through the crowd. Following me.
I chuckle to myself as the three of us pull further and further away from the Daughters. Temporal said they were doing jobs for the Daughters, which really meant they were working for Big Sis. My guess is Primary figured she’d run into trouble while dealing with the Mandem, so she hired herself a couple of sociopaths to watch her back over in Trottingham. Reason I couldn’t find them these past few weeks was because they weren’t here.
Makes sense. Stupid. Should’ve put it together sooner.
When I’m good and far away from my family’s reunion, I find a spot along the rail that’s as good as any other. I stand up on my hind legs, and I cross them, and I shove my front hooves in the pockets on my leather jacket, and I lean against the rail. I wait. The grey mares take their time catching up. They’ve got all the time in the world and they know it.
The breeze picks up.
A carriage rumbles by. Another.
Waves lick silently at the bridge’s support beams.
It’s funny. After everything that’s happened, I always figured I’d be mad when I finally found them. Figured I’d feel the anger rub against my cheeks and see red and lose control. But there’s no anger in me now. Just a sense of duty and that small sadness a pony feels when she finally gets a hold of something she’s wanted for a long time. Something she’s been chasing for so long that when she finally catches it, she’s got no clue what to do next.
Heh…chasing. The thought comes to me clothed in serene nostalgia. Chasing and fleeing. There won’t be any more of that come spring time.
“Took you long enough,” I say once they’ve finally caught up to me.
“We could say the same of you,” one of them says. The breeze pulls romantically at her overcoat. Her grey mane.
“So how do you want to do this?” says the other. Her voice is thin. Ghostly. “We could let you pick a time? A place?”
They stare nervously. Awkwardly. Like they’re meeting me out here for a blind date.
“Here and now works for me.” I shift my weight against the rails. Feeling calm. Clean. “So, which of you is gonna starts us off?”
“We assumed you would want the first move—” One starts.
“—it is two against one, after all.” And the other finishes.
“I’ve waited all this time. I think I can stand to wait a little longer.”
The two of them look at each other, unsure.
“One more thing before we start,” I say, preparing to ask a question I’m not sure I want answered. “Sparkle. Scope. Filthy’s kid. Why? Why’d you do it?”
One of them looks away longingly. The other giggles nervously and plays with her mane, twirling the end of it sheepishly.
They blush with the same grey cheeks and smile the same demure smile.
“Love,” I echo thoughtfully. I glance over edge. Waves lick silently. It’s a long way down.
I glance, and I remember old Storm Chaser’s words: what he said about the intimacy we share with our enemies, and I realize how badly I’ve wanted to meet Scope’s killers. Not just to find them and hurt them for what they did to Scope and to Junebug and to Sparkle, but to meet them. To see them and touch them and smell them and taste their blood wet and sweet on my lips. I’ve been living for this moment for two seasons now. Living for them.
“Love.” I let out a small laugh, idly wondering what that word is supposed to mean. “It never was a tragedy, was it? It’s a love story. It’s been a love story this whole time.”
I remember, and I laugh, and I wonder, and I glance over the edge—and the waves lick, and it’s a long way down. A good death.
“Well,” I say. My back to the rails. Hind legs crossed. Front hooves in my pockets. “Whenever you’re ready.”
They look at each other nervously. Awkwardly. Hesitantly.
Then one of them rushes me. Springs up on her hind legs and jabs with her fore. I bend slightly at the waist and tilt my head to the right, smiling as the blow grazes my cheek. Still balanced on her hind legs, she takes a quick half step back and tries again, faster this time. Her front hoof rockets forward like a bullet spiraling out of a rifle’s barrel. Lighting fast. Impressive-for-a-pegasus, impossible-for-an-earth-pony fast.
…But somehow still so slow. It’s like she’s moving underwater. I know it’s a fast kick, because I feel the air getting out of her way as she throws it, and I see her hips pivot perfectly, and I see her turn her shoulder into it like a pro. Like she knows exactly what she’s doing—but it’s still too slow. So slow I could reach out and touch it. So I do. My hooves dart out of my pockets, and the look on her face when I catch her kick is somewhere between blind terror and pure ecstasy.
I catch her front leg, and I turn, and her hind legs leave the pavement, and she doesn’t cry out as I swing her over rail. She blushes like a kid in love, but she doesn’t make a sound.
The only sound I hear is the mechanical click of a switch blade flipping open. I spin around, and the blade is in her mouth, she’s up on her hind legs and so am I, and point is cutting through the air, on its way finding a home in my throat.
It’s happening fast, and It’s happening slow, and I’m raising my foreleg, trying to shield myself—but the point is to close, and either I’m too slow or she’s too fast, because she’s got all the time in the world.
The point is nearing, growing larger and closer and realer—and somewhere between the rapidly shrinking space separating hard steel from soft flesh are her eyes, and my eyes, meeting—locking—relating—understanding—accepting—loving.
Our eyes meet.
I think of Redheart.
I don’t know what she sees when our eyes lock, but it scares her. Makes her hesitate. Slows her down just enough for me catch the knife in my foreleg; the is blade so sharp I barely feel it as it stabs clean through my ankle. Frustration makes her growl. Blood stains her face as she drives the knife in deeper. Deeper. I reel back on my hind legs, my free hoof reaching, reaching, then grabbing the collar of her overcoat and holding on. Keeping me from tumbling over the rail.
She jerks her head back and the knife slides out of my ankle as easily as it stabbed through. Freeing the blade throws her off balance. Creates and opening. It’s a small one, but still enough room for me to trust my bleeding foreleg into her throat. The shot makes her spit out the knife but there’s not enough power behind it to put her down. She’s too close. Can’t get any leverage.
She stumbles back. Before I can peel my spine off the rail and hit her again, her hooves find my neck. Squeezing. Pushing. Trying to force me over the edge.
“That was wonderful,” she says, her voice a husky purr. “You saw through our feint. Read my sister’s moves perfectly. It’s so easy for you. It’s second nature.”
Hooves are squeezing. Pushing. Forcing me over the edge. I’m pushing back, but it’s no good.
The rail is digging into my spine.
Blood is dripping.
Waves are licking.
Hooves… Hooves are squeezing.
“I knew you were good, but that was—that was wonderful! You’re wonderful, Rose. You’re perfect.”
Blushing. The mare is blushing, smiling her demure smile.
Squeezing. Pushing. Digging. Dripping. Licking. Waves are licking. Manehattan Harbor is getting closer. Closer…
And then somepony is calling for me.
I twist my head and see that somepony is coming for me. Galloping. Thundering. Blue and white and dressed like a mare. And not just him. All of them. My family. My family is coming for me. Galloping to my rescue.
A gray mane rustles. A flushed face looks away from me, then back. A smile melts away.
“You can’t go back to them, Rose.” Her cheeks are crimson. Her eyes are big and teary and longing. “You can’t. If you stay, they’ll only get hurt.” She squeezes harder. Pushes harder. My front hooves are pawing her face. Her flushed face. Her burning cheeks. Pawing. Trying to grab hold of something, but it’s no use. The water is getting closer. The waves are licking. Savoring the coming meal.
“You can’t go back. Come with me. Let’s go together?” Her voice is desperation. It is want and longing and need. “Come with me, Rose. You belong with me. To me.”
“Rosy! Rosy, no!”
My family is galloping. They’re close now. So close I could reach out and touch them…
…But, no… I can’t. I can’t touch them. She’s right. If I touch them, they’ll only break. Everything I touch breaks. Goes to pieces in my hooves.
“We’ll…go together, won’t we?” I say. “I don’t… I’m scared. I don’t want to go alone…”
“Of course we’ll go together.” Red cheeks turn upwards on a gray face. “You and me and sister. We’ll all go together. We’ll be together.”
She leans forward. Leans in close, and pulls my chest tight to hers, and kisses me.
I don’t push back.
We tumble like lovers.
Somepony up on the bridge shouts my name. Somepony else dives.
The waves lick silently. We don’t cry out. Don’t make a sound.