Reaping Rainbow

by The Hat Man

Dashes to Dashes

Mr. Waddle made one last note on his report and gave a somber nod at the pony lying before him. He adjusted his glasses and sighed, a gentle smile on his wrinkled face.

He was alone in the morgue, save for the body of old Mrs. Teacake. He’d known her in life, though they weren’t close, and knew she’d lived a long full life… or at least that’s what her family would almost certainly say at her funeral, as ponies typically did when a relative lived to an exceedingly old age. In truth, Mrs. Teacake had tired of knitting and tea parties and letting her children use her as a free babysitter for her ill-behaved grand foals, and she really wanted to go to Las Pegasus, party like a boss and have relations with a stallion half her age, or at least watch one dance provocatively while wearing a black leather saddle, so she didn’t really consider her life fully lived.

Thus, if the afterlife is indeed like what ponies say and filled with whatever activity you want to do best, then any relatives of Mrs. Teacake who would pass on in the future were in for quite a surprise when they reunited with her. In fact, though, given the lascivious and excessive desires many ponies possess, it’s likely that Heaven - if it exists at all - is nowhere near as wholesome as ponies would like to portray it; it is most likely a positively filthy place.

As coroner and funeral director of Ponyville, it was Mr. Waddle’s sad duty to file a last report on cause of death and later prepare the body for showing at the funeral. 

He had assistants, of course, and after years of doing the job, he was strongly considering retiring and passing things off to one of them.

He signed the final report, listing “Complications due to old age” as the cause of death. He put the paper down and zipped up the body bag that contained Mrs. Teacake before wheeling her over to the square refrigerated unit in the wall - one of many - and placing her inside.

“Rest in peace, Mrs. Teacake,” Mr. Waddle whispered.

He washed his hooves and stepped out into the funeral home. Nothing was scheduled that day, so many of his assistants were either taking the day off or catching up on their paperwork. He decided to take an early lunch and stepped outside.

He shivered, startled at how cold it was. Strange, since it was supposed to be a warm day and the sun was out with a near-cloudless sky.

Something is wrong.

He wasn’t sure why he suddenly felt that way, nor was he sure about why he was so sure that he was right. The reason was, of course, that all his years working with the dead had given him a sense of it. Dying was, of course, natural.

What he was feeling now was decidedly unnatural. 

“Hello, Mr. Waddle!”

Mr. Waddle turned, broken out of his stupor, and smiled at the mare who’d greeted him. “Oh, hello, Miss Berry!” he said. “How are…”

As Berry Punch was passing by the funeral home, he immediately noted her appearance. The sunken yellow eyes, the dull coat, the way she moved as though riddled with rigor mortis… she looked like a corpse that had climbed out of its coffin.

“Oh, d-d-dear!” he cried. “Miss Berry, are you ill?”

She scowled as she walked by. “I wish ponies would stop asking me that! I’m fine! I’m just a little stiff!”

Mr. Waddle watched her go on her way but couldn’t shake the chill he felt going down his spine. He tried to ignore it, but his instincts told him that would be a grave error.

He swallowed and turned back into the funeral home. He wasn’t hungry anymore. He felt an odd compulsion drive him back into building, toward the morgue. He went inside and found himself once again surrounded by the chilled compartments. Once there, he merely stood there, silent and still as a statue.

Then he heard a knock. He looked back at the door. “Come in?” he asked uneasily.

No one entered.

There was another knock, only now it had become a pronounced thump.

He slowly turned around, his mouth going dry. He listened as the sound intensified in both frequency and volume. He crept toward the sound which was most distinctly coming from where it should never come from: the compartment where he’d placed Mrs. Teacake.

Steeling himself, wondering if perhaps there was just some problem with the refrigeration unit or maybe a small animal had gotten inside the body bag, he went to the door and opened it.


He pulled out the flat drawer where he’d place the body bag and unzipped it.

Mrs. Teacake was still there, completely still in restful repose.

“Oh… just my imagination,” Mr. Waddle sighed, the tension draining from him.

Then Mrs. Teacake’s eyes opened. Her eyes fell on him. With a dry, rattling groan, she reached for him.

He screamed, stumbling back until he was stumbling over his hooves. All around him, the other chilled cabinets began to shake as their residents began to stir and struggle free of their body bags until the morgue was a cacophony of thuds, crashes, and groans.

Mr. Waddle scrambled to the exit, ran through, and shut the door behind him, quickly locking it. His assistants had all gathered to see what the commotion was.

“Mr. Waddle?” asked one mare. “What’s going on?”

His heart pounding, he managed to say between desperate gasps, “Bar the door! Don’t let them out! We need to find Princess Twilight!”

He immediately ran off as fast as his old legs would carry him as his stunned assistants all looked at each other.

“Uh, are we being punked?” asked one young stallion.

Then they all jumped as something began banging on the door, a chorus of groans audible through the wood.

“Bar the door!” shouted the most senior among them. “If this isn’t a prank, I don’t want to find out by having my brains eaten!”

“...and so you see, it was never about taste - mere simple taste! - but about the harmony of texture and presentation.”

Rainbow Dash’s latest “client” had seemed amicable at first, if a bit snooty, when she’d introduced herself as a food critic, and Rainbow had expressed enthusiasm about getting to taste so many different foods.

At the word “taste,” the mare’s expression had turned sour and she’d said, “Ugh! You see, this is the problem with pedestrian cuisine these days! Let me tell you something about food…”

Rainbow was trying to be polite and patient with the pale gray mare with white hair before her, but the ramble had gone on for the last few minutes and she just wanted to finish work and get back to Twilight to see if she’d made any progress with Death’s guidebook.

Also, she felt like she’d heard about this pony before, though she couldn’t place where.

She looked again at the name on her clipboard: “Zesty Gourmand.”

“...which would have spread to all of Equestria if I hadn’t fallen out of favor in Canterlot! But still, I am certain that I will be vindicated once ponies realize how artless their food has become! Then Rarity and that boorish friend of hers will realize what a mistake it was to involve themselves in a world they have no business being in!”

“Wait, Rarity?” Rainbow asked, tapping her chin. “Food… snooty pony… hey, I know who you are!”

Zesty ignored the “snooty” comment and beamed. “But of course! I am Zesty Gourmand! The preeminent food critic in all of—”

“You’re that pony that made everypony in Canterlot cook all that bland, terrible food!”

Zesty’s face turned sour, her eyes glaring so hard at Rainbow that she resembled a cockatrice turning its victim to stone.

Rainbow was oblivious as usual, of course, and had broken into laughter. “Oh wow, wait until I tell Rarity and Pinkie Pie about this!” she said between guffaws. “Seriously, even I’ve eaten at the Tasty Treat, that restaurant you wouldn’t even try, and it was awesome! And you thought everypony should eat food that barely has any taste to it?!”

Zesty rolled her eyes. “How typical. And just when I thought you were enlightened enough to understand,” she said. “Were you not listening to a thing I said? Art! Texture! Presentation! Overly obvious flavors ruin the experience of the meal!”

“Jeez, lady, how’d you get a name like ‘Zesty’ when you don’t even like zesty food?” Rainbow asked. “Maybe you should’ve changed it to something like… I dunno… ‘Blandy Hatesgrub.’”

“You have an awful lot of nerve!” Zesty shouted, pointing an accusing hoof at Rainbow. “You dare to come into my home and insult me?! Get out! Get out this instant! Once I’ve regained my place in Canterlot society, you’ll never be allowed in any restaurant in Canterlot again!”

Rainbow raised an eyebrow. “Yyyyyeah, that comeback you’re talking about? It’s not gonna happen.”

Zesty smirked. “Are you so sure?”

“Totally sure.”

“Hm hmm… and how is that, pray tell?”

Rainbow pointed at something behind Zesty. The gray unicorn turned with a sigh and then froze in her tracks.

She saw herself, her body, slumped back in her chair at the head of her long dining room table. Her eyes were wide, and her mouth was hanging open. A half-eaten lump of… something was on the plate in front of her. (Rainbow wasn’t sure what it was, as Zesty apparently insisted on eating everything in weird, pretentious shapes, so it could easily have been sushi or lasagna or a child’s craft project.)

“W-what is the meaning of this?!” Zesty demanded, spinning around to face Rainbow Dash. “What’s going on here?! Who is that imposter at my table?!”

“That’s not an imposter,” Rainbow Dash said calmly. “That’s you. Well, your body at least. You’re dead.”

“I’m… I’m what?!”

“Dead. D-A-E-D, dead.”

“That’s not how you spell that!”

Rainbow blushed. “Look, I like to read, I’m just a bad speller, okay? We all have our flaws! I’m bad at spelling, for instance, just like you’re a food critic with terrible taste in food!”

“I do not have terrible taste in food! I have a refined palette that can detect the slightest subtle… wait, how did I die?”

Rainbow looked at her clipboard. “Uh, looks like poisoning.” She glanced at the plate of food in front of Zesty’s corpse. “Probably in your dinner. Guess your palette didn’t pick up on that, though.”

“What?! Impossible! My chef has been held to the highest standards! He would never serve contaminated food! He—”

Just then, a blue unicorn wearing a chef’s hat and smock walked into the room. He glanced at Zesty’s corpse impassively and then went to her, placing his hoof on her neck to check her pulse. He then held his ear up to her chest, and then, just to be thorough, put his hoof over her mouth, just to make absolutely certain that she wasn’t breathing.

“Well, Mademoiselle Zesty,” the chef said as he stroked his thin mustache, “it seems zat you have enjoyed ze delicate almond flavor of my secret ingredient in your meal: cyanide.”

Zesty’s spirit gawked at him. Her mouth worked silently as she struggled to find the words to say, not that the chef would have heard her anyway.

“Poor Zesty,” the chef continued with a smirk. “I ‘ave spent years and years cooking for you zis terrible food. Zis is for all ze times you made me cook your meals again and again until zey were bland enough for you. And all ze times you forced me to make zem into ridiculous shapes! You would not even let me make food for myself unless it met your own répulsif standards!” He spat on the ground in disgust. “But now your reign of terror over ze world of cuisine has come to an end. I will relish working for an employer with an actual sense of taste, much like I will enjoy ze money all those restaurateurs paid me to put you out of your misery for all ze insults you heaped upon zem!”

The chef tapped Zesty’s body lightly on the cheek before walking out of the room, his laughter echoing throughout the house.

“My own chef murdered me?!” Zesty screamed. “That ungrateful, artless buffoon! He had the honor of cooking for me, the greatest food critic in all of Canterlot, and he… he just…”

“Wow, this is my second murder case in two days,” Rainbow said. “I mean, if it makes you feel better, I’ll totally tell the police about him after I get back to my own life.”

Zesty grit her teeth. “Plebeians! Wretches! Simpletons!” she shouted. “Is there nopony in this world that understands that food is meant to be enjoyed as an art form? Can’t they see that I brought greatness to their dinner tables? Are they not grateful that I have freed them from the tyranny of flavor?!”

Rainbow blinked. “Uh, maybe it’s just me, but I like it when my food tastes good,” she replied. “Seriously, did your parents just raise you eating white rice and water or something?”

“Of course not!” Zesty snapped. “My dearly departed parents were critics, certainly, but they were chefs as well. They made such wonderful meals! Gazpacho… paella… pie a la mode… positively delicious!”

“So… what’s with the whole ‘food should look good, not taste good’ thing?”

Zesty sighed. Suddenly all her energy drained away and when she spoke, it lacked the haughtiness it had before. “Look, it’s… when my parents passed, I was just starting my career. I had to establish myself somehow, but all my detractors and rivals thought I would just follow in my parents’ hoofsteps. I had to distinguish myself somehow! So, I executed a bold new vision for food! A totally new direction! Food as art! Food liberated from the obvious tastes of the past!”

She paused, looking down at her corpse, and then heaved a sigh. Then she smirked and actually began to chuckle.

“But it was all a big waste of time, wasn’t it?” she asked. “Even if I had just done the same thing as my parents, I would have been happy and the ponies of Canterlot wouldn’t have wasted all that time on the pretentious kibble I browbeat them into making.”

She wore a serene smile as she looked to Rainbow Dash. “Perhaps there will be delicious meals in the afterlife. Maybe I can get something decent to eat for a change.”

Rainbow smiled. “Well, only one way to find out,” she said, raising her scythe. “Enjoy your meal!”

Once Zesty faded from sight, Rainbow stretched her back and let out a loud groan. “Well, I think that’s the last for now. I better head back to Twilight so I can—”

Just then, she heard a loud chime come from her watch.

“Okay, never mind,” she muttered, holding it up as she stared into its face. “Oh great, another job in Ponyville. This day is just getting worse and worse!”

As Berry Punch made her way through the streets of Ponyville, she couldn’t help but notice how quiet everything was. Ever since she’d gone to the marketplace, it seemed that the busy little town had gone deathly silent.

She saw a few ponies here and there and greeted them like usual, but she could tell there was tension in the air, and it wasn’t helped by everypony asking her if she was all right.

Of course I’m all right! she told herself. That thing with Rainbow Dash this morning was just a big misunderstanding. Maybe I just feel a little weird because I didn’t quite reattach my soul to my body correctly. Yeah, like… maybe it’s like breaking it back in again? Like a new pair of boots or something?

She smiled. That explanation, however odd it was, seemed plausible enough. All that mattered was that she was alive, and nopony, especially not Rainbow Dash in her stupid costume, was going to tell her otherwise.

She finally reached her destination, Sugarcube Corner, and trotted merrily up to the door… only to find a large “Sorry, We’re CLOSED” sign hanging there.

“What?!” she exclaimed. “What gives?” She started pounding on the door. “Hey! I was meeting my sister here! Open up!”

She heard a noise above her and looked up to see Pinkie Pie leaning out of her window on the top floor of the bakery.

“Hi, Berry!” she called down. “Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Cake had to close the bakery early today!”

“Why?” Berry asked. “Sugarcube Corner is always open at this time of day! I was coming here to meet Pinchy!”

Pinkie, usually one of the most cheerful ponies in town, wore a surprisingly sober expression. “Haven’t you heard? Some weird, awful sickness is spreading around Ponyville! The Mayor’s been going around asking ponies to stay inside their homes and close their shops! But I think I saw Pinchy here earlier, so she probably went back to your parents’ house or something.”

“Sickness?” asked Berry, pausing to consider that. “Hm… I haven’t been feeling well lately myself. Maybe I should go see a doctor too.”

Pinkie gasped. “Oh no! You should hurry! I heard that a bunch of ponies got sick at the marketplace this morning!”

“The marketplace?!” Berry exclaimed, her eyes widening. “I was at the marketplace this morning too!”

“Eek!” Pinkie shrieked. “Then you really need to go to the hospital, Berry! To tell the truth, you don’t look so good, and you don’t want to end up like poor Applejack or the others!”

Applejack’s sick too? I was talking to her… maybe she got me sick!

“Okay, I’ll head over to the hospital,” Berry said. “Thanks, Pinkie!”

She turned and galloped toward the hospital, leaving Sugarcube Corner and Pinkie behind.

“Wow, Gummy,” she said, turning back into her loft apartment to address her pet baby alligator, “this is really serious! If it gets any worse, I might have to turn my Party Planning Cave into a plague shelter! I mean, it’d still be the funnest plague shelter ever, but those are still some of the most un-fun things ever!”

Gummy blinked slowly in response.

“You’re right, Gummy,” Pinkie continued. “I shouldn’t get carried away. After all, this is probably one of those 24-hour bugs or maybe just a bad case of food poisoning or something. 

“And speaking of food, since nopony’s going to eat all those baked goods downstairs, I think I’ll help myself to a few!”

Pinkie went downstairs as she mentally weighed having cake, pie, or a nice fruit tart (and decided that she might as well have all of them). Once she reached the bottom floor, however, she paused as a sickly odor reached her nostrils.

“Eugh… did somepony make a quiche with rotten eggs or something? I better toss it out before—”

She froze when she reached the display case of the bakery. She staggered back. Her chest tightened and she broke into a cold sweat.

“N-no,” she managed to croak. “That’s… that’s impossible!”

Every single item in the display case, and even back in the kitchen, was dry, stale, and covered with spots of mold. The entire bakery’s contents of fresh-baked goods had gone bad in the few hours since they’d been baked.

“Nooooooooo!” Pinkie shrieked, howling to the heavens. “It’s not just a pony plague! It’s a cake plaaaaaaaague!

Spike was dusting Twilight’s reading table in the library when a flash of light startled him enough to make him stumble backward and land roughly on his own scaly tail. When he looked up, he saw that Twilight herself had teleported back into the library.

“Welcome back, Twilight,” Spike said, getting up and dusting himself off (with his own feather duster no less). “You sure left in a hurry earlier! What’s going on?”

Twilight trotted over to the medical history section of the library, drawing out several books with her magic. “I was here reading that book Rainbow Dash gave me when Nurse Redheart from Ponyville General Hospital came to see me,” she replied as she laid out the books on the table. “There’s some strange disease sweeping through Ponyville and nopony can make heads or tails of it, so they called me to see if it was something else.”

“What do you mean, ‘something else’?” Spike asked. “Wait, you mean like… magic?”

“Exactly, Spike,” Twilight said. “And based on my own experience and a diagnostic spell I learned a while ago, I think that’s just what’s going on. I can sense some strange magic at work here. Maybe an enchantment or curse of some kind, but I can’t figure out exactly what it is.”

Spike gulped. “How bad is it?” he asked.

Twilight bit her lip. “I’m… I’m not sure, Spike.” She glanced over to him. “It’s spreading all over town, infecting our friends and neighbors and… it’s infected Applejack.”

“Oh no!” Spike exclaimed. “Any idea what the cause is yet?”

“No, I just—”

Just then, there was a commotion outside. A voice began calling for Twilight.

“What now?!” Twilight groaned. She teleported herself and Spike down to the foyer to see who was there. To their surprise, it was Mr. Waddle, the funeral home director.

“Mr. Waddle?” Twilight asked, tilting her head to the side. “What’s the matter? You’ve never come to my castle before today.”

“It’s… it’s impossible!” he panted. The elderly pony was drenched with sweat and wheezing like an old bellows. “The d-d-dead… the dead are…” He took a few more wheezing breaths.

“What?!” Twilight asked. “The dead are… missing? No? The dead are smelly?”

“Oh, let me try!” Spike cried. “The dead are gross? The dead are even deader than before? Umm… the dead came back to life?”

Mr. Waddle pointed at Spike emphatically.

“Ha! I win!” Spike exclaimed.

“Spike, be serious! That’s not what he means!”

“Yes I do!” Mr. Waddle shouted. “The dead… the dead live!”

Twilight gawked at him. “Wait… what?!”

“They’re… they’re rising from their b-b-body bags in the morgue! I had to bar the door, and I barely got out alive! I… um… why can’t I feel my front leg?”

He held up his left front leg, wiggling it about as if the limb had fallen asleep.

“Mr. Waddle?” Twilight asked. “Are you okay?”

“I, um… I feel a bit lightheaded. And my front leg is numb. And my chest hurts a lot. I… oh. Oh dear. I think I’m having a—”

He suddenly clutched his chest.

“Mr. Waddle!”

“Hrk! I’m coming, Elizabeth!” Mr. Waddle exclaimed before his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed to the floor.

“Oh my gosh!” Twilight cried, rushing to Mr. Waddle’s side. “Mr. Waddle, are you okay?”

“Wait, who’s Elizabeth?” Spike asked.

“Not now, Spike!” Twilight snapped. “Quick, we need to give him CPR!”

“We do? But I don’t even know how to find Tree Hugger!”

“I said CPR, not CBD!”

“Well, why don’t you do it?”

“I never learned how!” Twilight shouted, pulling at her mane. “Quick, Spike, we need to find someone who knows CPR!”

A moment later, there was a slash through the thin air next to them all and a rift opened. Rainbow stepped through it, pulling the hood on her cloak as she entered Twilight’s foyer.

“Rainbow, you’re back!” Twilight exclaimed.

“Oh, hey Twilight!” Rainbow said. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Huh? But… I mean, I live here,” Twilight muttered. She then shook her head. “Never mind that! Rainbow, do you know CPR?”

“I sure do!” Rainbow said. “Why do you ask?”

“Mr. Waddle’s collapsed! I think he’s having a heart attack!”

Rainbow glanced down and finally noticed the collapsed form of Mr. Waddle on the floor.

“Wait, Mr. Waddle? Hang on…”

She looked at the sheet of paper on her clipboard. She winced.

“Uh, sorry, Twi, but I don’t think CPR’s going to help him now.”

“Why not?! Hurry, Rainbow, you need to help him or he’s going to d—ohhhh… oh. Oh.”

Rainbow sighed. “Well, I better take care of this,” she said. She tapped the corpse of Mr. Waddle with her scythe.

A moment later, Mr. Waddle’s spirit stood up from his corpse to stand among them.

“Hm? Oh, I feel much better now!” Mr. Waddle said. “Anyway, as I was saying, Princess Twilight, the dead are… wait, who is that pony on the floor? Is that me?!”

“Um… nooooo?” Twilight said, forcing herself to smile.

“Yeah, I think it’s better to just tell them, Twilight,” Rainbow Dash said, tapping Mr. Waddle’s spirit on the shoulder.

“Huh?” Mr. Waddle said, whirling around to face Rainbow. He paused a moment and adjusted his glasses. “Oh. Oh, Miss Rainbow Dash, it seems like you’re dressed as the Grim Reaper.”

“See, the thing is, I’m kinda subbing for him for a few days.”

“Oh. I see,” he said, frowning slightly. “You know, with all the time I spend surrounded by death, I thought Death himself would show up for me.” He paused and took another look at his own dead body on the floor. “But since that’s my body, I guess that’s not the case.”

Rainbow sighed. “Look, I’m sorry that I’m not what you were expecting, but apparently nopony I’ve met today expects to see me. Or Death. The real one, I mean. But it could be worse: you could have gotten the Death of Yaks.”

Mr. Waddle pouted, drawing circles on the floor with his hoof. “Well, sure, I can understand that,” he said. “Still, after all the close experiences working with the dead… I mean, I even met him once…”

“Look, Mr. Waddle,” Twilight said, waving her hoof to get their attention, “I think we have more important things to worry about right now.”

“Oh, yes, of course!” Mr. Waddle said. “The dead in my funeral home have come back to life! They were escaping their body bags and trying to come after me!”

“Wait, so… you mean zombies?” Rainbow asked, raising an eyebrow. “Real ones? Not like that time everyone pretended to be cookie zombies to scare me?”

Twilight and Mr. Waddle shared a chuckle.

“That was pretty funny, actually!” Twilight said.

“Some of the most fun I’d had in years!” Mr. Waddle agreed.

The two shared a hoof-bump.

“Okay, yes, ha ha, good job pranking ol’ Rainbow Dash,” Rainbow said with a roll of her eyes, “but maybe we should return to talking about the actual zombies in Ponyville right now?!”

Mr. Waddle regained his composure. “Oh, yes. Yes indeed! Those bodies were 100% dead. Morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably, and reliably dead!”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Not merely dead?”

“Really most sincerely dead!”

“Okay, okay, we get it!” Rainbow groaned. “So why the heck are dead ponies coming back to life?! I’ve got enough to worry about right now without worrying about ponies that are already dead coming back!”

She sighed. “I mean, I thought the one time was a fluke, but…”

Twilight froze. “Wait. ‘The one time’?” she asked.

Rainbow blushed. “Oh, ummm…”

Twilight narrowed her eyes. “Rainbow?” she asked slowly. “What did you do?”

“Well, I mean… look, it wasn’t my fault—”

“Rainbow!” Twilight shouted, taking her by the shoulders and pressing her muzzle into Rainbow’s. “What. Did. You. Do?!”

Rainbow Dash fidgeted slightly. “Nothing!” she protested. “I mean, Berry’s the one that did it…”


“Yeah, Berry Punch?”

Twilight paused, shutting her eyes. “Hmm… who was that again?”

“The purple pony with the grapes and strawberry as her cutie mark?”

“Hmm…” Twilight hummed, shutting her eyes even more tightly as she tried to remember.

“The second biggest party animal in Ponyville besides Pinkie Pie?! The one who always brings the best punch to every major event?!”


Rainbow groaned. “Okay, the pony who came to your Hearth’s Warming Eve party, but then you hit her with a rolled up newspaper for flirting with Spike after she drank too much of the eggnog? The one who puked in your azaleas, and then you found her asleep in your bathtub wearing a toga made out of your bedsheets?”

“Ohhh, right!” Twilight said. Then she frowned. “Right. Her.”

Rainbow cleared her throat. “Uh, again, she’s dead, Twilight.”

Twilight regained her composure. “Oh. Oh, yes, of course, it’s so sad,” Twilight said, bowing her head.

“Um, not to interrupt or anything,” Mr. Waddle’s soul said as he held up a hoof tentatively, “but I saw Miss Berry this morning. Are you sure she’s dead?”

“Yeah, totally sure,” Rainbow said, giving a dismissive wave of her hoof. “She just won’t admit it. No matter how many times I told her she was dead, she just wouldn’t accept it. She even climbed back into her body! Through her own mouth!”

Twilight’s eyes bulged. In a flat, even voice, she said “What.”

“Uh, which part do you want me to repeat?”

Twilight stared at Rainbow. “You let her back into her own body?!”

“No! I mean… I told her not to!” Rainbow protested.

Twilight teleported out of the foyer and then reappeared a few moments later. In the grip of her magic, she levitated the book Rainbow Dash had given her to study.

“Hey, that’s the book Death gave me!” Rainbow exclaimed. “Find anything useful, Twilight?”

“A lot of things, actually,” Twilight said as she flipped through the book, “but right now maybe we should focus on this!”

She opened the book to a specific page and shoved it into Rainbow’s face.

“Huh? Uh, let’s see,” Rainbow said, reading the book. “‘Even if the deceased wants to remain to warn their relatives, be adamant that the living cannot see dead ponies unless they possess a sixth sense, and that it’s generally better to just accept death and move on.’”

Rainbow scoffed. “Yeah, good luck with that! Most ponies I talk to practically need me to beat it into their skulls! I wish just once I could meet a pony who was okay with it!”

“I’m okay with it!” Mr. Waddle said helpfully.

“No, not that page, the other page!” Twilight shouted, pointing at the adjacent page. Exasperated, she heaved a sigh and began reading: “‘Though many ponies may not wish to give up their old lives, you must find ways to convince them to do so. A select few may even try to enter their recently-departed mortal remains. However, it must be stressed that under no circumstances should you allow them to do so. If anypony manages to reanimate their own corpse, they will have willingly become a member of the undead, thus becoming a lich.”

Rainbow stared back at Twilight. “So, like… one of those bloodsucking worm thingies or those ponies Applejack’s always going on about depending on the government?”

“No no no, not a leech, a lich!” Twilight shouted. “A member of the living dead! That’s…”

She froze. “Oh my gosh, that’s why all this is happening!”

“Why what is happening?” Rainbow asked.

Twilight paused and took a deep breath. “Okay, Rainbow,” she began, “remember your history class when they talked about the Necromancer’s War of 210 CYP?”

Rainbow blinked.

“Are you kidding me?! One of the few parts of history class everypony finds interesting?!”

“Look, don’t judge me!” Rainbow protested as her cheeks colored. “I hear a bunch of dates and immediately start falling asleep. And while we’re talking about it, I bet it’s not everypony who finds it interesting. I bet it’s only eggheads who like that stuff!”

Mr. Waddle held up a hoof. “Well, I thought it was interesting,” he said.

“You keep out of this, Corpsy!” Rainbow snapped.

“Look, the point, Rainbow is this: when a pony willingly becomes undead, they become a lich. As a result, they start generating huge amounts of necrotic energy. That energy starts by making food rot, but it also starts causing disease and resurrecting dead bodies, turning them into ghouls! All three of those things are happening right now in Ponyville!”

“Wait, then Berry’s responsible for this?!” Rainbow exclaimed.

“Yes!” Twilight shouted. “And if you don’t get her back out of her body soon, she’ll get worse and worse until she transforms into a horrible undead abomination! Of course, by the time that happens, it won’t really matter to anyone in Ponyville since they’ll all be dead, followed by undead right after that!”

Rainbow swallowed. “Okay, things might be a lot worse than I thought they were,” she said.

“You think?!” Twilight bellowed.

Just then, Twilight felt a tap on her shoulder. She glanced down to see Spike trying to get her attention.

She took a deep, calming breath. “Sorry. What is it, Spike?”

“Well, two things,” he said. “First, it’s starting to get a little weird watching you talk to yourself. I mean, I guess you’re talking to Rainbow Dash and Mr. Waddle’s ghost, but I can’t see either of them, so… you know… if you want to fill me in, that’d be nice.”

“Ugh, sorry, Spike, it’s just that this is kind of urgent and—”

“Okay, sure, but the other thing I was going to ask about is Mr. Waddle. So, he is dead, isn’t he?”

Twilight looked to Mr. Waddle and Rainbow Dash. They exchanged looks, each regarding each other as the resident expert on the subject (being a licensed coroner and the anthropomorphic representation of Death[’s substitute] respectively), and then turned back to Twilight with a nod.

“Yes, unfortunately, it looks like Mr. Waddle is dead, Spike,” Twilight replied.

“Then, uh… why is his body moving?” Spike asked.

They looked to the body. Mr. Waddle’s corpse was twitching. Then it sat up. Then it turned to face them with an ashen expression and lifeless eyes. A gurgling, bestial moan escaped its throat.

All four of them let out a scream.

“Ugh, what is all that noise about?!”

They turned, momentarily distracted from the sight of Mr. Waddle’s reanimated corpse to see Starlight Glimmer coming down the stairs.

“Twilight, I hate to complain, but Trixie and I were… um… practicing magic tricks,” she said, averting her eyes for a moment, “but all this screaming was killing the mood! F-for magic, I mean!”

“She’s not fooling anyone,” Mr. Waddle whispered.

“So what exactly is the big crisis here?” Starlight asked.

Then she saw Mr. Waddle’s zombified corpse as it stood and began shambling toward her, moaning and drooling as it slowly gave chase.

“THE DEAD LIVE!” Starlight shrieked, firing a massive beam of energy from her horn that disintegrated the zombie form of Mr. Waddle in a split second before screaming and running back up the stairs.

“Oh dear,” Mr. Waddle said as he looked down at the small pile of ash on the floor that had once been his body. “I guess I’m getting a closed casket funeral, then.”

“At least she didn’t blast me again,” Rainbow muttered.

“Uh, sorry about my former pupil, Mr. Waddle,” Twilight said as she rubbed her temples in exasperation.

Mr. Waddle shrugged. “I suppose it’s not really important. I mean, she probably saved me the cost of cremation anyway.”

“Okay, Spike, get something to scoop up Mr. Waddle’s ashes,” Twilight said, taking charge of the situation. “Rainbow, you need to find Berry Punch and get her out of her body immediately. Once you do, that should stop the flow of necrotic energy and everypony should be fine. I’ll start drafting a letter to Princess Celestia for Spike to send to Canterlot so we can let her know about the outbreak.”

“Sure thing, Twilight!” Spike said, running toward the kitchen.

“You got it, Twilight!” Rainbow exclaimed. She took out her scythe and created a rift to pursue her quarry.

Twilight teleported out of the foyer.

This just left Mr. Waddle’s spirit alone as he suddenly realized he’d been forgotten in all the chaos.

“Um… hello?” he called. “I think I was supposed to, um… ‘pass on?’”

Spike returned a moment later with something in his claws. He took a dustpan and a small broom and began scooping up Mr. Waddle’s remains.

“Ohhh, not a coffee can!” Mr. Waddle moaned as Spike obliviously scooped the ashes into a nearly empty can of Foalger’s. “I swear, if you end up drinking that, I’m going to haunt you and every donut you ever dip into that cup!”

To be continued…