Filthy Rich liked to consider himself a fairly simple stallion. He kept his eyes on the prize, his mind clear of doubts, and most importantly, he never looked back. It was an important skill to have in business. One couldn’t afford to get caught up in their past, after all.
He looked at his reflection in the smooth metal surface of the elevator’s doors, adjusting his tie and smiling. Filthy gave himself a smile and a confident nod. Another deal sealed, he thought to himself, still riding the high after the last hoof shake.
With a wry smile, he exhaled again, feeling the adrenaline and anxiety coarse through his system.
The Canterlot Business Center was new and shiny, sporting new technology and brand new equipment. It was all very comforting to him and almost reminded him of his private mansion.
There was a crisp ding that indicated the elevator carriage had arrived. The doors glided open silently, revealing the carriage to be empty except for one pony dressed in a security uniform.
Filthy nodded at the mare and stepped in, pushing the button for the ground floor.
The guard didn’t react to his presence, flipping a page in the newspaper she was reading.
The doors slid shut again, and the elevator began to ascend. Filthy sighed at the minor inconvenience but decided it wouldn’t be all that consequential for him to lose fifteen seconds. After all, he had a relaxing night to look forward to. He’d take Diamond trick or treating, then when she was all worn out, he’d enjoy a nice glass of wine with his wife.
He could afford to wait fifteen seconds. Filthy tapped his rear hoof on the ground impatiently, waiting for the new passengers to enter.
When the doors opened again, two more ponies trotted in. “I don’t know, Sassaflash,” an earth pony was saying. “I haven’t been to a Nightmare Night celebration in years.”
“Come on, Caramel,” his pegasus companion replied. “It’ll be fun! And I’m not talking about trick or treating with foals in discount store costumes.”
“If you say so,” Caramel answered with a roll of his eyes. He punched the ‘shut door’ button, and the elevator dinged again.
“Please stand clear of the doors,” an automated voice announced, before the elevator shuddered again and started its descent.
Sassaflash glanced at the newspaper the guard was reading. “Oh, hey, the Ponyville Schoolhouse Tragedy. Ouch.”
Filthy’s ear twitched at the mention but he didn’t respond. He felt an odd pang in his heart at the mention of the name, and a few brief memories flashed through his mind.
The guard grunted, flipping a page in the paper. “Yeah. Damn shame, that.”
“How many dead?” asked Caramel.
“Last count? Fifteen kids and the head schoolteacher,” Sassflash answered.
Caramel inhaled sharply. “Celestia.”
“Yeah,” Sassaflash remarked with a shudder. “I just… I can’t imagine losing so many kids like that. So close to Halloween, too.”
“And they were saying it was because the contracting company didn’t do a good job, right?” Caramel asked. “They skimped on funds or something?”
“Yeah, they took a lot of shortcuts.” Sassflash shook her head in disgust. “Damn pigs, I tell you. Care more about making bits than the safety of kids.”
Filthy Rich rolled his eyes and sighed softly. Ponyville Schoolhouse. That was the school Diamond would have attended if Filthy hadn’t enrolled her in boarding school. He tapped his hoof impatiently, glancing up at the elevator’s floor indicator. The number suddenly began flickering, the display shifting into a strange series of numbers and letters.
A strange shudder ran down Filthy’s spine. He tilted his head, squinting at the glitching indicator. Sassflash’s voice became distant and faded as blood began to rush to his ears, a sudden panic filling his body.
Then there was a sudden roar that made everyone in the elevator flinch. The dim lights suddenly cut off, and one of the ponies let out a scream. The entire carriage shook violently, throwing Filthy against the side of the wall.
He grunted in pain and shock as the handlebar rammed into his ribs. The carriage continued to shake, accented by the startled cries of the others. The passengers became shadows, phantoms lurking about in the darkness. Filthy shied away from them, falling to the ground and trying to scramble away.
It wasn’t long before his back hit the wall.
“Everyone alright?” came the voice of the security guard.
The shadows began to take the shapes of ponies again, gathering on the other side of the elevator. “I think so, yeah,” said Caramel. “You okay, Sassflash?”
“Yeah,” she affirmed with a groan.
“What about you, suit guy?” asked the guard.
“I’m just fine,” Filthy muttered, dusting himself off. His eyes darted about the carriage, searching for any signs of danger. Satisfied that nothing was out of place he stood, a sharp breath escaping his body.
A bright white light filled the carriage as the security guard pulled a flashlight from her belt. “Anybody hurt?”
“I don’t think so, Mrs…”
“Midnight Strike,” answered the guard, going over to the control panel. She pressed a few buttons, but there was no response. With an annoyed sigh, the guard pushed the emergency button. A distant bell began ringing, and Midnight keyed up her radio. “Hey, central, patch me through to maintenance, we got a stuck elevator here.”
“Oh, great,” Filthy muttered, rolling his eyes. “I’m going to get home late.”
Caramel sighed sympathetically. “Well, I’m sure they’ll get us out soon.”
“I’m surprised this even happened!” Filthy declared, smoothing out his suit. “This place is supposed to have the most advanced, up to date facilities in Equestria!” He hoped his demeanor hid the creeping dread that was building beneath his skin.
Midnight shrugged. “These things just happen sometimes.”
“My wife is going to kill me,” Filthy muttered. “I was supposed to take my daughter trick or treating.”
Sassflash offered him a pat on the back. “Chin up, I’m sure we’ll get out of here in plenty of time.”
Filthy offered her a plastic smile. “Thanks.”
Caramel rolled his eyes, pacing the elevator impatient. “You do have a point though. How does an elevator in a brand new complex just stop working?”
“Machines just stop working sometimes,” Midnight muttered, going back over to poke at the control panel. “No matter how new they are.”
Filthy rolled his eyes. “Hmph. Still no excuse. I ought to have a word with whoever built this place…”
“Hey, is one of you hurt?” Midnight suddenly asked.
The other three exchanged confused glances. “No, I don’t think so, why?” Caramel asked.
Midnight pointed her flashlight down, where the newspaper was sitting on the ground. A bright red hoofprint stained the front page, right over the image of the destroyed schoolhouse.
“Is that… blood?” Sassaflash asked.
“I don’t know,” Midnight replied, guiding her light over the others. “But I don’t see any of us bleeding. And I don’t think it was there before…”
Filthy felt something run down his spine as he stared at the paper. “PONYVILLE SCHOOLHOUSE COLLAPSES,” the headline declared. “DOZENS DEAD. F̴I̶L̴T̴H̸Y̸ ̶R̴I̴C̴H̶ ̶I̷S̸ ̶T̸O̴ ̵B̶L̵A̷M̷E̷-̴-̸”
Filthy blinked rapidly, staggering backwards. He read the headline again. “PONYVILLE SCHOOLHOUSE COLLAPSES. DOZENS DEAD IN HORRIFIC TRAGEDY.”
“What’s wrong?” asked Caramel.
“Nothing! Nothing,” Filthy stammered. “I just… I think my eyes are playing tricks on me.”
Before he could continue his line of thought, the elevator’s speaker crackled to life. “Hey, Midnight, you got Torque Wrench.”
“Hey Torque,” Midnight said, waving at the camera. “Bit of a jam here.”
“I can see that,” came the response. “Trying to find the problem right now. I don’t have a camera feed up here, which is... weird.”
Sassaflash tapped her chin in thought. “Is the power out for the whole building?”
“Nope, just you guys,” Torque answered. “I’m going to try and restart the power, one second.”
The elevator shook and shuddered again. The carriage rocked back and forth as a series of grounds and creaks sounded through the cracks.
And Filthy felt a flash of fear shoot through his system. He glanced between the others, who paid him no mind, and frowned. What in Equestria did he have to be afraid of?
Then there was the distant hum of a generator, and the lights flickered back on. The elevator shook for a little longer, but didn’t budge.
“Okay,” came Torque’s voice through the speaker. “Think I’ve got feed back… it’s pretty grainy, though.”
Filthy flinched as the elevator suddenly let out a chime. “Please stand clear of the doors.”
“Woah! What happened in there?” came Torque’s staticky voice, tainted with panic.
Midnight raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think I know any more than you do, Torque. Power just cut out suddenly.”
“Please stand clear of the doors.”
Filthy inhaled sharply, feeling the sense of panic surge through his body again. The four walls seemed to be closing in around him, and the ceiling seemed to slowly crawl downwards.
“Alright, I’ve got the fire department and an ambulance on the way. Sit her down or something,” Torque commanded.
“Torque, what are you on about? We’re not hurt,” Midnight shouted into the camera.
“What do you mean she’s not hurt? Are we lookin’ at the same thing right now?” asked Torque.
Midnight scanned the cabin nervously. “You tell me, Torque.”
“̸P̶l̶e̸a̶s̴e̵ ̸s̷t̴a̷n̸d̶ ̴c̴l̶e̸a̸r̵ ̵o̵f̴ ̸t̵h̴e̴ ̶d̸o̴o̴r̸s̷.̵”̴
“I see five ponies, and one of them is covered in blood.”
Filthy’s heart caught in his throat. “Five? There are only four of us in here!”
“̶P̷l̵E̷a̴s̸E̸ ̸H̶e̵L̶P̴ ̶s̶t̷A̸n̷d̶ ̶C̵l̸e̷a̵R̷ ̴o̶F̵ ̵T̶h̶e̴ ̸D̷o̵o̸R̴s̵ ̸H̸e̴l̴P̷ ̸U̶s̴.̵”̸ ̵
“I see five on my screen! The one standing right behind the suit guy is covered in blood right now!”
“W-wait, did anyone just hear the elevator voice say--”
Whatever Sassflash said next was cut off by a sharp cry of feedback from the speaker, forcing Filthy to clamp his hooves over his ears.
“P̵l̷e̶a̵s̴e̴ ̸d̸i̷e̴ ̸d̸i̵e̶ ̵d̵i̸e̵ ̴d̵i̴e̷ ̷d̴i̵e̴ ̵d̶i̷e̵ ̵d̸i̵e̴ ̴d̴i̷e̴ ̵d̷i̸e̶ ̷d̷i̵e̴ ̶d̸i̷e̸-̶-̷"̸ ̸
Then there was a distant crash followed by another roar.
Sassflash recoiled in fear, flying into Caramel’s arms. Filthy recoiled himself, barely biting back a startled scream.
“Midnight? Midnight? Can you hear me?” came Torque’s voice, though it was distorted through the speaker.
“Yeah, what was that?” Midnight asked.
“Midnight, if you can hear this, I’ve lost all video feed up here. I’m not seeing or hearing anything,” Torque reported. “I’m going to try and climb down the shaft. Sit tight!”
Midnight growled, kicking the door in frustration. “Oh, great…. I better be making overtime for this.”
Sassflash hugged Caramel tightly, eyes wide as saucers.
“Hey, hey, calm down,” Caramel whispered, though his own voice wavered.
“Are we just going to ignore the fact that she said there were five ponies in here?!” Sassflash asked.
“She might have been messing with us,” Midnight answered, glancing up towards the roof.
“That seems awfully cruel,” Caramel muttered.
Filthy shuddered again, feeling something run down his spine. He looked down to see that the newspaper was sitting at his hooves, the headline facing right up towards him.
He was pulled from his musing by a distant clang far above them. Filthy’s ear twitched and he looked up at the ceiling.“Did… please tell me you heard that?”
Midnight frowned, her hoof subconsciously moving to her taser. “That’s probably Torque.”
“Probably?” shouted Sassflash. “What do you mean probably?!” The mare jumped up, moving dangerously close to Midnight.
“Keep her back!” Midnight barked at Caramel. She flapped her wings a few times, lifting up the maintenance hatch on the roof. “Stay here, I’m going to check it out.”
“Wait, are you… are you sure?” Filthy asked nervously.
Midnight gave him a strange look. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I just… I’ve got a bad feeling,” Filthy muttered. “Maybe it’s just claustrophobia…”
Midnight shrugged. “I’ll let you know in a bit.” With that, she propped up the hatch and hoisted herself out. “Wait until I call you.”
A few tense seconds passed.
“Midnight?” asked Sassflash. “Is it safe to go up there?”
“I don’t know,” Midnight answered. “Hold up.”
The pegasus let out a grunt, and she pulled herself up and out of the elevator fully. Filthy heard the distant clanks of hooves on the roof, heading for the far corner of the elevator.
Filthy glanced up through the hatch, at the swirling darkness that seemed to hang heavy outside of the elevator. The clanging from above seemed to draw closer and closer, but he couldn’t see any shapes against the inky blackness.
“Midnight?” Filthy called. He couldn’t see the pegasus in the dark chasm. It was like the darkness had swallowed her whole, taking her without leaving a trace behind.
Then, the hatch fell shut with a slam.
Caramel scrambled to his hooves. “What the hay? Midnight? Midnight! What happened?”
There was no response from the other side of the hatch. The entire carriage was shrouded in an eerie silence, with not even the distant clang of machinery to break it up. But then, Filthy’s ears detected a soft distant sound. One that sounded just like a foal’s laughter.
“Oh shit,” Filthy hyperventilated, his heart leaping in his throat. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!”
Sassflash shot up to the hatch, kicking it back open.
“Sassaflash, wait!” Caramel cried, trying to grab at her tail.
The mare ignored him, poking her head up over the carriage.
“Do you see her?”
“No,” Sassflash replied, turning her head. “She’s just gone! I don’t see her anywhere! Maybe she--”
Before she could finish, the mare let out a guttural scream and came crashing back into the carriage.
The hatch slammed shut with a bang.
“Sassflash!” Caramel yelled. “What happened?”
“There was a face!” Sassaflash cried, clinging tightly to Caramel. “There was a face, Mel! Right next to me! It was… oh Celestia, it was terrifying!”
Filthy held his breath, trotting over to her side. “What face?”
“I don’t know,” Sassaflash sobbed. “I don’t know! It was purple, and… wait, I’ve seen it before.”
“Where?” Caramel asked.
Sassflash scrambled to her hooves, grabbing the newspaper Midnight had been reading. She flipped it to the main article. “There! It… it was her!”
Filthy’s heart froze in his chest. “Schoolmaster Cherilee was one of the ponies confirmed to have died in the Schoolhouse collapse,” the caption read.
“You… you saw the teacher that died?” Caramel asked, worriedly.
Before Sassaflash could reply, there was a sudden thud from above.
Everyone in the elevator froze.
Three sets of eyes went up to the hatch, and the three passengers held their breath in anticipation.
Filthy didn’t dare to move, but even if he wanted to, he doubted his body would obey. He was completely frozen, rooted to the spot and petrified.
Something lifted the hatch open.
Then, there was nothing. Filthy blinked, taking a hesitant step forward. “Midnight? Is that you?”
Ỳ̸̠O̷̖͐Ṵ̷̏ ̴̢͑Ą̵̇R̵͍͠E̶͓͝ ̴̠͌T̶̞̐Ó̵͖ ̷̥́B̸͈̍L̴̬͋Å̶̭M̴̤͗Ȩ̵̕.̶̳̈
Caramel screamed, clawing at his own eyes as he fell backwards.
T̶̯̄H̴̨̛Ë̶͔́R̷̢̿E̵̯͝ ̷͙̄I̵̫̕Ş̴͗ ̶͇̊B̸̛̙L̶̝̕Ỏ̶̪Ó̴̭D̷̃ͅ ̴̼͆O̴͈̕Ñ̵̼ ̶̛̖Y̵̥͂Ỏ̵̙U̶̢͘Ṙ̷͜ ̸̨̿H̸͆ͅO̵̫͝O̴͉̓V̸̜̓E̴̫͘S̷͍̚ ̸̻͊A̸̛̠N̴̦̽Ḓ̵͊ ̴̙̊B̸͍̆L̸̜͂O̷̝̓Ȯ̶͙D̷̼̆ ̷͚̇I̴̞͒Ǹ̷͚ ̴̖̎Ẏ̷͓O̸̡̿U̶̺̽Ŕ̵̖ ̶̠͗Ŝ̵̤Ȯ̶̱U̵͕͑L̵͕̍
Sassflash sobbed, slamming her back into the wall.
Ď̶͔O̵̟͠ ̴͈̊Y̷̲͌O̷̭̕Ú̴̝ ̷̙͑D̷̻̎Ä̶̧R̶͇͐E̴̺͝ ̴͖̍T̸̻̊Ǒ̵͍ ̶̙̆T̶̩̒Ȓ̵̲Y̶̻̔ ̸̡͠Ä̶̮́Ṉ̷̋D̸͇̚ ̴͇̈́W̷̗͠A̸̞̐S̵̨̿Ḩ̶̔ ̷̗̕I̷͓̅T̷̓͜ ̶̬͝O̷̥̚F̸̝́F̶̰̏?̴̱̊ ̵͕̚
And Filthy Rich cried out as words burned themselves into his eyes, flashing by almost as fast as he could read them.
He recoiled as an intense pain flashed through his mind, accentuated by a sharp, stabbing sensation against his side.
As the words and the pain faded away, Filthy was aware of a stinging sensation against his side. He looked down to see blood trickling out of a thin cut against his coat. “Gah! Did one of you fuckers just stab me?!”
Caramel stood to his hoove shakily. “What… what was that?” he asked groggily. The stallion locked eyes with Filthy, a sudden realization dawning over him. “She said… she said you killed them. What did she mean?”
“I didn’t!” cried Filthy. “I was just in charge of managing the finances! The contractors were the ones who cut the corners—”
Before he could finish, there was a noise from outside the carriage. It was laughter.
Sassaflash, still on the floor, slowly looked up at him. Tears streamed down her face. When they locked eyes, Filthy realized that hers were barren and empty. “She’s going to kill you,” Sassaflash said without emotion.
The lights cut out again in the carriage. The laughter outside drew closer and closer, and it grew in its intensity. The one voice became many, forming an entire chorus of foals, chanting and singing and laughing.
Filthy backed into the corner, trying to block out the noise. They began banging on the hatch, then on the doors. His vision blurred and his heart hammered.
“No!” Filthy roared. He turned and bucked the side of the elevator with all his might. The voices suddenly stopped as the entire carriage swayed.
“You’re a real piece of work, you know that?” Caramel asked. He glared at Filthy while kneeling next to his marefriend. Sassaflash sat stock still with her eyes glazed over, staring at nothing at all.
“Stay the fuck away from me!” Filthy barked, jabbing a hoof in his direction.
“Or what?” Caramel challenged, still cradling Sassaflash.
“Please stand clear of the doors.”
Both stallions froze as the elevator doors suddenly glided open. But the floor outside wasn’t one in the business park.
Instead, wooden floors and tall windows greeted them on the other side. Rows and rows of desks lined the side, facing a large blackboard on the far side of the wall. The entire building felt tainted by some cursed sense of nostalgia, although Filthy knew that he had never been in this place.
There was a violet shadow that stood in front of it. It blurred and hummed with a pulsing energy, as if it were writing something on the blackboard.
“She’s waiting for you,” Sassaflash said, turning to look at Filthy. “She wants you.”
“Go!” hissed Caramel. “Just get out there!”
Filthy room a defiant step backwards “Hell no! You go out there!”
“Me?” Caramel pointed an accusatory hoof at him. “This is all your fault! You’re the one she wants!”
“Fuck off!” spat Filthy.
Caramel lunged at him, a burning hate in his eyes. He knocked Filthy to the ground, his voice rising to a scream. “Midnight died because of you, I’m not going to lose Sassaflash too!”
“No!” Filthy struggled against his grip as Caramel dragged him towards the doors.
As he neared the threshold, he heard the laughter of children, and looking over his shoulder he saw their faces flickering in the darkness, grinning with an eager bloodlust.
And he heard her voice, beckoning him to come closer. Singing of his sins. All too eager to take her revenge.
“No!” With another shout of defiance, Filthy broke loose from Caramel’s grip. He shoved the stallion backwards, sending him stumbling backwards and through the doors.
Caramels eyes widened as he scrambled to his hooves. Dozens of faces suddenly poured through the windows, piling onto him and burying him beneath wave after wave of shadows and darkness.
Caramel screamed, but it was drowned out by their laughter. The violet form at the board slowly turned around, eyes boring straight into Filthy’s soul.
“Please stand clear of the doors.”
Then the doors slid closed as Caramel’s form vanished beneath the shadows.
Filthy panted, eyes still locked on the unforgiving metal doors. They seemed to make a noise when they closed, like a final breath from a dying soul.
“You’re going to pay for him. You’re going to pay for them all.”
Filthy whipped his head around only to find himself alone in the carriage. But the silver metal walls were covered in papers now, each one marred with crayons and markers. Filthy ripped one off as his eyes adjusted to the change in light.
It was a foal’s drawing of a pony. But not just any pony. It was a drawing of him.
Filthy dropped the paper in shock, as if it were on fire. He whirled around to face the doors again. “What?! What do you want from me?!” he shouted, on the verge of tears.
The speaker crackled to life. “Really, do you not understand? Do you not see what you have done?” a garbled voice asked.
Filthy gasped. The lights cut back on again, but this time they were tainted in a bloody red. Bathed in the light were dozens of husks that completely surrounded him, gazing at him with empty, hollow eyes that once held life and joy.
“Perhaps, then, I must teach you. Well, that shouldn’t be very difficult now, should it?”
Filthy looked back behind him to see the doors slide open. His breath hung in his throat as his mind raced in reverse, uncovering memories of his wife and of his daughter.
“̸͙̿P̵̤̔l̶̞͑è̶̪ȁ̶̳s̸͐ͅe̵̥͐ ̸̧͋d̴̠̀o̴͓̽ ̵͙͆ń̴̞ǫ̶͗t̵̯͗ ̵̲̌s̸̤̄t̵͙̚á̵̧ṇ̴̕d̶̫̆ ̸͚̍c̴̼̀l̵̜̓e̸̛͖ä̴̙́r̷̡̐ ̷̻̄õ̷͔f̸̰̎ ̶̤̑t̵̢́h̵̥͐e̴̪͝ ̵͇͊d̸̪̈́ò̷̻o̸̺͠r̸̛̖ś̴̫.̵̫͊ ̶̰͝P̷͙̊l̶̫̇e̸̼͐a̷̠̍ş̸̃ȇ̴̻ ̴̩̈d̵̹̿i̷̜͘ȇ̷͖.̴̛̟ ̶̗̾P̴̧̆l̸̮͑ḙ̸̒ä̸̭́s̷̲̉e̴̡͂ ̶̥̕d̸̖̔i̶̝͛ḛ̴́.̸̨̓ ̸̡̀P̸͚͌l̸͇̈́e̴̩͐a̴̰͠s̸̬̀e̸͚͊ ̷͚̈d̵̲͠i̷̢͑e̶̹͑.̷̾ͅ ̵͉̓P̵͉̐l̵͈̕e̶̪̊a̸̹͊s̶͉̔e̴̯̿ ̵͚̊d̵̝͝i̴͙͊ḛ̸̚.̴̯̈”̴̛̼ ̵̯̓
The husks came to life around him. They shrieked and cried as inky tears fell from their blackened eyes. They battered his chest and pummeled his head, and with every hit he slipped closer and closer to the door. Filthy gripped the door frame tightly, even as he began choking on his own breath.
He tried to let out a scream, but the phantoms screamed louder, drowning him out completely.
“The darkest pits of hell have opened to swallow you whole. But please, do tell the devil that I said hello.”
Then, there was one final blow, and Filthy was falling.