Twilight Sparkle galloped faster than she had ever galloped in her entire life at the sound of Fluttershy’s panicked shriek, her hooves crashing down on the moist earth. Wait…Twilight thought to herself as she chanced a glance downward. What she saw nearly made her stumble again. As she began nearing the home stretch on the path to Fluttershy’s cottage, the dark green grass was stained a darker hue - stained with blood, glistening and glittering black in the pale moonlight. She could feel a bit of bile rising in her throat as she saw the mutilated corpses of woodland critters strewn about, as if they were torn apart in a raw, animalistic rage. Several rabbits and squirrels were clearly the victims here, their entrails strewn about horridly. Spike whimpered on Twilight’s back, and he began to retch, the sight of the carnage proving to be a bit too much to handle.
“Just close your eyes, Spike. We’re almost there.” With that, Owloicious came swooping back into Twilight’s line of sight, hooting furiously and wings flapping about animatedly.
“Inside? Inside her cabin?!” Twilight almost screamed.
“What? What did he say?!” Spike asked hurriedly, still unable to fully understand the owl’s unique form of speech.
“We‘re out of time. Owlocious, Spike, hang on!” With a sharp report and a brilliant flash of bright purple light, the three were instantly taken to the lower floor of Fluttershy’s cabin, which was in quite a state itself.
Most of the furniture in the cabin was shattered and lay in pieces, undoubtedly the same hoofdiwork of whomever had killed the woodland creatures. Bits of fabric and jagged planks of wood were scattered haphazardly amongst bent bird cages and holes in the floor. From the upstairs, Twilight, Spike and Owloicious could hear a steady, constant crashing sound.
“T-twilight? What is that?” Spike asked nervously, eyes shrinking to little pinpricks.
“Something we need to…” Twilight’s breath caught in her throat, unable to finish the sentence. Am I really about to do this? she thought to herself. Wordlessly, Twilight searched quickly around the wreck of a room for a suitable weapon. Eyes landing upon a particularly hefty looking plank of wood, her horn glowed and it was levitated into the air. The plank was still smooth on one end, but jagged and splintered on the other.
“Come on!” she cried. “Fluttershy needs our help!” The three took off up, bounding up the stairs two at a time, dodging broken glass and destroyed picture frames that littered the wooden steps. When they crested at the top of the stairwell, they froze at the image that immediately (and perhaps unfortunately) greeted them.
A stallion, perhaps in his mid-20s, was beating on the door leading to Fluttershy’s bedroom with his head. Clearly, the stallion felt no pain - there was a profusely bleeding gash that had opened up on his forehead, blood trickling down his face and leaving forehead-shaped imprints on the decidedly sturdy wooden door. Even still, the door itself had begun to crack under the strain of the repeated blows, and the sounds of slowly splintering wood filled Twilight’s ears.
The infected stallion did not, at first, notice the three new additions (or morsels) to his rear: he continued to pound on the door with his head, guttural grunts emanating from the very pit of his chest.
“HEY!” Twilight shouted, causing the stallion to stop in mid-head butt and slowly turn toward the sound. “Leave her alone!”
“Twilight?! Twilight, is that you?” a muffled, frightened voice came from behind the door. “HELP!”
In a manner similar to his undead compatriots, the stallion drooled a syrupy mixture of blood and saliva, which fell to the floor in viscous tendrils. His eyes burned brightly in his rage as he began to lumber toward the three at the top of the stairs. Without warning, Owloicious flew on ahead of Spike and Twilight to accost the infected head-on, effectively distracting him as he darted back and forth across the infected’s line of sight, taunting him. Twilight’s knees began to knock together, horn still glowing as she brandished the jagged plank in front of her. The infected, clearly annoyed, swatted aimlessly at the air with his free hooves for a time before connecting a head butt that sent the owl careening into a wall, smacking into it and instantly knocking him unconscious.
“Owloicious!” Spike cried out in concern for his friend. The infected colt began to advance on the feathered creature, and for Twilight, time froze.
I’ve never killed before, she thought. We defeated Nightmare Moon, but we didn’t kill her. Even then, I hated using violence. What purpose does violence serve in this world? What benefit could it possibly have? There are moral and philosophical implications here that…perhaps aren’t best to be dealt with at the time. Oh Celestia…Celestia forgive me, am I really about to kill? Am I really about to do this? she repeated the question she had asked herself moment earlier. Fluttershy needs my help. Maybe there’s a spell that can…I don’t know…isn’t there another way? Think, Twilight! THINK! The events which transpired before her very eyes still seemed to move in slow motion as the adrenalin flooded her veins, pulse quickening, breathing becoming more abrupt and shallow. With frightened, excited eyes, she regarded the makeshift weapon which floated in the air in a bright purple aura not two hooves from her face. The splintered wood looked absolutely deadly, and she knew that with her knowledge of physics and with enough force, she could -
- “TWILIGHT! DO SOMETHING!” Spike screamed at her, jarring Twilight from her internal dialogue. Brows furrowing deeply, she steeled herself for what was to come next. The light surrounding her horn grew in brightness and intensity, and so too did the aura which enveloped the plank. The somewhat tenuous magical bond between the unicorn and the plank instantly stiffened, as if mere twine were suddenly replaced with hefty rope. As the stallion was just about to fall on the unconscious Owloicious, no doubt licking his lips in anticipation of his next meal, there was a flash of pure magical energy as Twilight hurled the jagged edge of the plank at the infected’s head with all of the strength she could muster.
The plank hit it’s mark dead-on (no pun intended), a particularly wicked looking splinter the size of a small novel embedding itself into the infected’s eye socket with a sickening pop! Blood and pus-like gelatin from the popped eyeball sprang forth and joined the blood already trickling down his face from the head wound, dripping onto the floor with renewed intensity. The stallion roared in fury, turning on his hooves and ramming his head into Fluttershy’s door one final time, driving the splinter into his brain and killing him instantly. Without skipping a beat, Twilight commanded,
“Spike, I need you to tend to Owloicious.” Before the baby dragon could fully formulate a response, Twilight teleported herself to the other side of the makeshift barricade, again with a sharp pop! and a flash of light that elicited a terrified squeal from Fluttershy. She quickly dove under the bed, tail sticking out and quivering in a fashion that, in any other given situation, would have been rather endearing.
“Hey.” Twilight said softly, not wanting to startle the frightened Pegasus any further. “Fluttershy, it’s just me.” The purple unicorn had to make a conscious effort not to let her voice become ragged, her head still a bit fuzzy and perhaps a bit more lightheaded due to the sudden exertion from the spells she had just cast in quick succession.
The butter-colored Pegasus pony was still sobbing profusely from under the bed, but she managed to get a few words out between them,
“Shh. It’s okay, Fluttershy. That stallion can’t hurt you, or any of the animals any longer. I promise.”
“I know, I know. Can you come out, now? Do you think you can do that for me?” Twilight kept her voice as sweet as possible, despite grim visions of the atrocity she had just committed flashing before her eyes like a gruesome play-by-play. The pink tail that had been sticking out from under the bed slowed in its quivering ever so slightly as Fluttershy gingerly emerged, tears still streaming down her face, light yellow coat stained a darker hue with the liquid representation of her anguish. Twilight regarded her friend with a look of great concern on her face, taking a few steps toward her. Without warning, Fluttershy closed the gap between them with a few wing-assisted bounds, wrapping her arms around Twilight’s neck, tears beginning anew as she bawled her eyes out; her face pressed tightly against Twilight’s shoulder, Twilight could do little more than to rub her hoof along the grief-stricken Pegasus’ back in an attempt to console her, speaking in hushed, gentle tones.
“I’m going to clear the barricade now, okay?” Twilight said, reluctantly releasing Fluttershy from their embrace. Unable to speak, Fluttershy nodded and kept her head facing downward, hot tears pouring out of her and landing on the brown, hardwood flooring in little droplets. Trying her best not to overexert herself (given that she knew she would need as much of her magic as possible in the coming hours), Twilight pushed the odd dresser and furniture that Fluttershy had hastily pushed up against the doorframe - no small feat for the petite Pegasus, given the heft and weight of some of the furniture. She must have be absolutely terrified, Twilight resolved. She reached forward and turned the door handle with her hoof, temporarily forgetting about the twice-dead stallion corpse which lay crumpled in front of her. Cursing silently to herself, Twilight said,
“Fluttershy, we need to go downstairs, but…it’s not pretty, what happened in the hall,” at this, Twilight strategically positioned herself so that her body was blocking most of the carnage, “as I’m sure you heard. I need you to go ahead and close your eyes for me, okay? You’ve been through enough tonight already.” The gentle, even tones of Twilight’s voice seemed to soothe the Pegasus to some effect, as her previously rapid sobs were now reduced to the occasional sniffle. “Here, take my hoof,” Twilight gestured with her arm, locking it with Fluttershy’s. Angel hopped down from the windowsill, his normally vibrant, expressive eyes dull as the events which had led to this point in the evening played over and over in his mind. He followed the two mares silently. As she guided the yellow pony in a fashion that circumvented the corpse as well as most of the blood, she noticed that Owloicious was just now beginning to come to, much to her and Spike’s combined relief. “I’ll be right back, Spike,” Twilight told him.
“You got it, Twi,” the baby dragon replied, turning and reaffixing his intent gaze on the stirring owl.
“You can open your eyes now, Fluttershy - just don’t look back, ok?” Fluttershy nodded as the two approached the top of the stairs. Her eyes slowly opened, scenes of utter destruction again flooding her vision. Tears welled up in her eyes yet again, but she managed to keep them in as the two made their way down the stairwell, being careful not to cut themselves on any broken glass or sharp pieces of wood.
“Twilight?” Fluttershy asked tentatively, her voice barely audible. “What’s going on?” Twilight bit her lower lip, knowing that she would be unable to sugar-coat the situation at hand in any way, shape or form.
“In a moment, Fluttershy. First - can you tell me what happened?” Fluttershy’s knees began to buckle as they reached the bottom of the stairwell.
“I - well, um…” she began, her voice wavering noticeably as she made her way to the stuffed couch on the far side of the room, one of the only pieces of furniture that was not completely destroyed.
“I put the critters to bed just before I went to bed myself. It was just a normal night…” she swallowed, and continued, “like any other, Twilight. I was fast asleep. I heard what sounded like a bunny in pain - it was awful! I’d never heard anything like that before; I didn’t know a bunny could scream like that! I flew downstairs and outside as fast as I could, and…and-”
“It’s ok, Fluttershy. Just tell me what happened next.” The pink-maned Pegasus sighed wearily, and continued.
“I saw a pair of big, red, glowing eyes. It was dark out - the eyes were under a tree, still in the shadows - but from the shape, I could tell that it was a stallion. I heard…noises,” the last word just barely managing to eek its way out of Fluttershy’s mouth.
“What kind of noises, Fluttershy?”
Fluttershy went on to tell Twilight about how the stallion set about violently massacring any living creature in sight, blood-soaked muzzle working vigorously to greedily gulp down chunks of flesh. One half of a squirrel was trying desperately to crawl away, wet intestines dragging along the slick grass as the its lower half merely twitched. A sparrow was undulating about on the ground; both of its wings had been torn clean off. Angel was bravely assaulting the stallion with a stick, even going so far as to lob a few rocks at him; this was to no avail, however, as the infected was focused on his gruesome meal.
“Angel!” she had cried, the sight of the rabbit’s valiant - yet unsuccessful - efforts finally jolting her out of her paralysis. The stallion paused in mid-chew and turned at the sound, a half-chewed hunk of flesh packed into his gums, giving him a darkly comical chipmunk look. Bodies twitched at his hooves as the infected grunted a single, guttural syllable and began to lurch unsteadily toward Fluttershy.
Angel, negligible amounts of testosterone coursing through his little bunny veins, latched on to one of the stallion’s rear hooves, trying to slow his progress toward the cabin. Fluttershy’s heart was beating a mile a minute, hammering against her ribcage with feverish intensity.
“ANGEL!” she shrieked, motioning for the rabbit to discontinue his potentially fatal assault and rejoin her. The small, white rabbit immediately dashed to Fluttershy’s side as she turned on the spot, trotting quickly with shaking hooves into the cabin. Oh, hurry, Angel!- her internal voice matching her external dictions in levels of panic as well as intensity. As soon as Angel was through the door, she nosed the door shut as tightly as she could and turned her neck to do the latch on the right-hoof side; it was too late! The stallion, still grunting and retching horribly, had broken into a brisk trot and barreled toward the door, sending the delicate Pegasus flying backward from the force of the impact. For the second of what would be many times to come that evening, she shrieked. Without even thinking, she scooped up Angel with her mouth and plopped him on her back, taking off into a full gallop up the stairs as the rabbit held onto his owner’s soft, pink mane for dear life. Fluttershy could hear the stallion raging behind her as she made her way up the stairs, the sounds of an absolutely livid monster crashing into furniture and the titters of breaking glass filling the enclosed space with a nearly deafening cacophony.
She ran to the bedroom as fast as she possibly could, tears of fear and anguish streaming down her face, hoof-steps sounding sharply on the polished oaken floor. Fluttershy slammed the door behind her and immediately rushed to the nearest heavy piece of furniture - a solid dresser taller than she was - and set about pushing it in front of the door. The heavy Maplewood dresser nearly didn’t budge as she threw all of her weight against it again and again, wings flapping furiously in an attempt to aid her effort. She grunted and strained under the pressure, and still the sounds of the enraged stallion drew closer - she heard a tumbling sound as the infected surely tripped and fell down several of the stairs, eliciting an absolutely bestial cry of unparalleled loathing. Fluttershy cried out as the sound chilled her to the bone and sent icicle-like shivers coursing up her spine. She redoubled her efforts, and finally the dresser began to move - slowly at first as it groaned and scraped against the wooden floor, scoring it with lines littered with freshly-peeled wood shavings. With the help of Angel pushing alongside her (though it is understandably arguable how much strength the small rabbit actually lent to the effort), the dresser at last was nudged into place dead center (no pun intended) in front of the doorframe. And not a moment too soon! Just as Fluttershy was about to collapse to the floor in a heap of exhaustion from the sudden exertion, the stallion began his full-frontal assault on the door, drawing out yet another shriek from the yellow mare’s already taxed lungs. Angel leapt to the windowsill and looked out into the not-so-peaceful night, hoping to spy any remaining critters who could help them escape - or survive - but it was to no avail. Any woodland creatures that had been around before the infected stallion’s morbid snack had now surely fled, lending the darkened landscape an eerily calm quiet, save for the constant pounding on Fluttershy’s bedroom door.