PonyFall: The Dawning of Twilight

by MrBackpack


Chapter 1: In Which Life Becomes Complicated

Chapter One: In Which Life Gets Complicated.

        “Sonnofa-” I swore, rubbing at my jaw and picking myself off of the floor. It was with a certain sense of satisfaction that I watched two of the ER’s security guards tackle the patient back onto his gurney and attempt to fasten the restraints. The patient, an average looking man of middle age, had been brought into the ER unconscious after being involved in a DUI. He had regained consciousness as I was collecting a blood sample for the police report and getting his vitals for his chart when he decked me.

        It was just another normal day working the ER.

        Ahead of me, my car sat under the concrete awning of the hospital staff parking, the silver paint dulled by several months worth of dirt, road grime, and bird crap. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the other cars parked to the right of my own, the Texas sun beating down on them mercilessly. With a practiced throw, I sent my empty Diet Coke can sailing towards the trashcan, missing by a mile. With a muttered curse, I jogged over to the can, picked it up, and dropped it into the trashcan before finishing my journey to the car.

        I impatiently jabbed the unlock button on my car keys several times, then yanked the door open and tossed my bag into the passenger seat.

        “I swear,” I muttered to myself, as I slammed my car door shut. “These shifts keep getting longer and longer.”

        Working as a Licensed Vocational Nurse is grueling work, and the twelve hour shifts don’t do much to alleviate the pressure from an already stressful environment. There are some days, like today, that just made me wonder what possessed me to take the classes in the first place.

        The engine started on the first turn of the key, my Princess Luna keychain clinking softly against the numerous other keys. It took a few seconds, but my CD player eventually blared to life and blasted several ear-shattering notes into my throbbing brain before I could turn the volume down to a more reasonable level. The familiar tune of Smile Smile Smile is so infectious and upbeat that I couldn’t resist giving into Pinkie’s demand and smiling, despite the ache in my back and the pounding behind my eyes.
 
        There was already someone waiting to take my parking spot as I threw the car into reverse and backed out.

The asshole nearly took my tail off as he zipped into the spot and parked.

        The one good thing about the long shifts that I work is that I leave at random times; usually there’s no traffic. But today, my shift ended just in time for every other person in the city to get off from work and park their cars between me and my home. I wasn’t even out of the parking lot when my phone beeped. It was a new text message from Michelle, my fiance: Dont 4get ur mowin 2day.  

        It was adorable, and incredibly annoying, how my fiance could butcher the English language. I even bought her a smartphone so that she would actually spell out her texts to me, I’m more than reasonably certain that she writes that way to annoy the hell out of me.

        
        Getting out of the parking lot and onto the highway was entirely too easy, and I foolishly let myself think that maybe there would be no traffic today and everyone took the day off. I should have known that it was as likely as the sky turning pink and fluffy. Not even a mile down the highway, I found myself sitting in another parking lot.

        I hate traffic.

        The people in Austin are dumber than rocks when it comes to driving, and not just cars either. I don’t know what is so hard about changing lanes before your exit is twenty feet in front of your car, and if it is only twenty feet from your car, just keep going, get off at the next exit and turn around. Don’t slam on your brakes and swerve across four lanes of traffic, nearly killing everyone in your way, and then exit, still going over ninety miles an hour. Of course, today was just like any other rush hour, move ten feet, stop, rinse and repeat; not forgetting the crazy swerving sportscar and lunatic biker.

        Today was not my day to be dealing with this.

        In a display that would have put a blush on the face of a sailor, I let loose a string of curses and epitaphs that called into question the integrity of everyone’s mothers, fathers, sexual preferences, probable connections to a communist conspiracy, and everything else that could be conceived in-between. Unfortunately, the strength of my outburst was no match for the tyrannical tedium of automotive travel, and the cars that boxed me in remained stubbornly unmoved. With a groan, my head fell forward onto my steering wheel, the unwelcome blast from the horn sending waves of pain through my already-aching head.

        Sometimes I wonder how much of my life I’ve lost to sitting in traffic, but I really don’t want to know the answer to that; I’d lose my mind. Pinkie’s song had long since ended, and the CD player filled the car with guitar riffs and angry vocals.

.oOo.

        It had taken me well over an hour to get home. Usually it takes only twenty minutes; ten minutes if I decide that the speed limit is merely a suggestion. Home was a welcome sight, more so than usual. It might have been the fact that I wasn’t sitting in the Hellish parking lot, also known as a highway, while frying to a nasty, sweaty mess. Maybe it was the mere welcome sight of my home, free of the trappings and confines of work. Or maybe it was that my headache had finally ceased its pounding behind my eyes.

        Grabbing my bag out of the passenger seat, I hauled myself out of the car, slamming the door behind me with my foot. It would lock itself in a few minutes.

        My keys scraped the worn deadbolt of the small house that I bought the moment I was able to get out of my rundown, inner-city apartment. It was the perfect size for myself, my dog, and my fiance to live in comfortably. We technically had three bedrooms, but one had been converted into my computer room/library. There is a spacious living area that served to hold my TV, gaming consoles, sound system and dining room.There’s a kitchen attached to the living area, separated by a low wall that half-served as a bar.

        And of course, my corgi, Emma, welcomed me with her amazingly loud barks. One would think that they’d come from a much larger dog. I don’t know about other dogs, but Emma is all kinds of special; short bus special. Seriously, if anyone else came to the door, she wouldn’t make a peep. But when I get home, the entire neighborhood knows.

        “Hi Matt,” greeted my fiance from her spot on the couch. She had her laptop opened and was probably reading some random Harry Potter fanfiction. “Did you have a good day at work?”

        I grunted in reply, kicked my shoes off next to the door, and dropped by bag onto them. There really is no such thing as a good day at work; people are never in hospitals for good reasons, staff included.

        There’s just enough room on the couch to flop down with my legs hanging over one of the ams and put my head into her lap, blocking her computer from use. It’s a win-win in my book. I get her attention, and she stops reading those mind-numbingly bad homoerotic fanfictions on the internet. Right as I was about to get really comfortable, the laptop’s keyboard making all kinds of interesting impressions on my face, when just she had to bring up my promise to mow the damn lawn.

        “Do I have to?” I whined, pawing at her arm.

        “Yes,” she said, trying her hardest to not giggle. “Get.”

        With a shove that took me completely off guard, I was rolled off the couch and right onto the dog.

.oOo.

        It was early evening by the time I got changed from my scrubs into clothes that I didn’t mind getting grassy. The sun was still high enough in the sky to ensure that I actually got the lawn mowed, but not high enough to fry me out of my skin.

        I hate being bored while mowing the lawn; the drone of the machine is mind-numbing, and all but deafening. Add in the welcome invention of sound isolation earbuds and the entire chore becomes much more tolerable; that, and Metallica makes everything better. The monotonous task blanked everything from my peripheral, my world shrunk down to the mower and the few feet of grass that was immediately in front of me. Despite the cooler weather that we’d been having, I was still sweating like a pig. As usual, I had to kill the mower in order to rub the stinging liquid from my eyes. I learned the hard way to never do that with the mower still running.

        The mower sputtered and shrieked to a stop as a double-dosage of sweat ran down my brow and into both of my eyes at the same time. I stood there for a couple of seconds, rubbing my eyes, then took a look at my progress thus far. I was almost done. A couple more passes, and I could go inside and enjoy my time off from work.

        With a roll of my neck, popping the upper vertebra to ease the tension that had accumulated from pushing the heavy machine all over my lawn, I gazed to the heavens and tried to gauge the amount of sunlight that I had left for the day.

        Pink.

        “Beautiful sunset,” I sighed to myself, grabbing the pull-cord.

        Pink.

        “Nothing’s gonna get done by itself,” I muttered as I yanked on the cord. The mower finally started after three pulls.

        Pink.

        I looked to the sky again. It was a peculiar shade of pink, not unlike pepto bismol.

        “I really should go in tomorrow and get checked for a concussion,” I murmured as I rubbed the bridge of my nose with a free hand and pushed the mower with the other. “That bastard must’ve clocked me harder than I thought.”

        It took another five minutes to finish. Not nearly enough time for Master of Puppets to end, but long enough for my hallucination to fade. The sky was back to its normal oranges, purples, and darkening blues of an average Texan sunset.

        I was sorely tempted to just leave the mower where it stood and let it rust into pieces. It would deserve as much for all the trouble it had put me through. I trudged my way over to the shed and shoved the offending contraption into the overstuffed building.

        My AC unit welcomed me back into the house with open, if metaphorical, arms.
        
        With a sigh of total relief, I made my way over to the bathroom, shedding articles of clothing as I walked and not caring where they landed. I yanked the bathroom door open with a grunt and turned the water on, before turning around to grab some clothes from my room, which allowed the water to get warm before I actually got in. The shower was a welcome relief. The mowing, combined with the stress from the day and getting punched in the face, really made for quite a bad day. Luckily for me, I had the next three days off. Yet another perk of being a nurse.

        I would have stood under the warm spray of water for a couple of hours if it had not been for my fiance banging on the bathroom door.

        “Hey!” she shouted above the running water. “Dinner’ll be ready in five! Get out if you want it hot!”

        I’ve never missed a hot meal, especially when I didn’t have to make it myself. My fiance is a great cook, when she does decide to cook, and she can make a killer stir-fry and usually whatever else she tries her hand at. My shower ended up being much shorter that I had planned.

        I was still dripping water from my hair as I sat down at the already-set table; my fiance had started eating without me. She had made a delicious-looking spicy Italian-esque dish. I loaded up my plate with as much as I could, and was just about to take a bite when she asked:

“Did you smell anything weird earlier?”

“Like what?” I replied around a mouth of pasta and sausage. The spice cleared my sinuses from the accumulated allergens.

“I don’t know,” she said, putting her fork down on her plate. She had always had better table manners than I ever claimed to have. “I would have sworn that you stopped to buy fudge on your way home.”

“I couldn’t smell anything over the gas I put in the mower,” I replied absentmindedly, continuing my assault on the pasta.

She sighed and went back to her own food.

“I’ll get you some tomorrow,” I said reassuringly. I am nothing if not a good fiance.

Just then, Emma started barking wildly at the back door; scratching at the glass and doing everything in her meager power to tunnel through the barrier.

“Damn dog,” I growled under my breath. “What’s gotten into her now?”

My chair creaked as I heaved myself up and pushed it aside with my ankle, stuffing one last bit of food into my mouth.

Emma was really freaking out. She was jumping, scratching, and whining at the door with a vigor and intensity that I had never seen in her before.

“What’s up with Emma?” my fiance asked, getting up from her seat as well.

“I have no idea,” I said, grasping the handle on the door, sliding it open. Emma tore across the lawn, barking the entire way and beelining towards a strange, lumpy form on the ground that was obscured by the shadows of a garden gnome and my neighbor’s oak tree.

“What is that?” Michelle she asked, finally joining me at the back door.

“I don’t know,” I replied, stepping back into the house. “But I’m gonna grab my gun and a flashlight. Get ready to dial 9-1-1.”

My glock sat in its usual place in the drawer of my nightstand, laying on top of a couple of old issues of “American Rifleman,” and next to a couple of loaded magazines. I snatched it up and slid the slide back to check the chamber before loading a fresh magazine and chambering a round.

Michelle met me at the door with the kitchen flashlight in her hand. Emma was still barking and pawing at the mysterious shadow.

“Do be careful,” she whispered, her face white as a sheet.

I grunted in reply, flicking the flashlight on and stepping out into my backyard. I always forget that the kitchen flashlight is next to worthless when it comes to anything beyond three or so feet. I kept my gun and flashlight trained on the shadow in the freshly cut grass with my finger on the trigger guard.

The light pierced the deep shadows, slowly pooling around the bare back of a person. From the shape of the shoulders, hips, and legs, it was clearly a young woman.

“Michelle,” I shouted back at the house, jamming the gun into my waistband and dashing forward. “Grab the first aid kit and better flashlight!”
 
I didn’t bother checking to see if she was doing what I asked. My main concern was making sure that I didn’t have a dead girl on my lawn. As I dropped into a crouch next to her, I gently rolled her onto her back and grabbed a wrist to feel for the radial artery. There was a fine, strong pulse accompanied by regular, unobstructed breaths.

“Oh my gosh,” gasped my fiance as she ran outside. The larger flashlight better illuminated the young woman. “Is she okay?”

“I think so,” was my distracted reply as I opened the first aid kit and grabbed my pen light. I paused before handing Michelle my gun. “Take this and grab a shirt or something to cover her up.”

As she ran back into the house, my attention returned to the young woman. I mentally  noted physical details and any distinguishing birthmarks and tattoos. She was, for all appearances’ sake, a perfectly healthy young woman in her late teens or early twenties. Her hair was dyed a dark shade of purple with a streak of bright pink, bordered by lighter purple that ran down the middle of her bangs and behind her ear. Her complexion looked good. It might have been a little pale, but it was nothing really out of the realm of normality. I used the pen light to check her inner-elbow, her thigh, and between her fingers and toes. From the limited light that I had, I couldn’t see any telltale injection scars that could have pointed to substance abuse.

Michelle came running back out of the house with a large shirt and her cell phone in hand.

“Should I call 9-1-1?” she asked, her thumb on the green ‘call’ button and the number already dialed. I should have let her call and gone back to my normal life.

“No,” I whispered, unconsciously lowering my voice. “Her vitals are perfectly fine, she’s not one of the usual druggies I see at the ER. There’s no sign of trauma. Let’s get her inside and see what she has to say for herself when she comes to.”

Michelle just leveled one of her famous looks at me before canceling the dialed number and dropping her phone into her pocket. Together, we threaded the woman’s arms through the short sleeves of the long shirt, pulling it over her head and down over the rest of her body. I was able to note the presence of a tattoo below her hip, but not quite on her thigh or buttocks. I’d have Michelle get a description of the image later.

I slid one arm under her shoulder and my other under her knees and lifted her off the ground. She was very light; probably under 130 pounds. Emma jumped up at her from underneath my feet with a loud bark, reminding me that she’d been out there the entire time.

“Emma...” I sighed, adjusting my grip on the woman in my arms. Emma followed the three of us, doing her best to herd us into the house with little nips to the back of our heels.

It was going to be a very long night.