Through Despair and Hope

by Blue Writer

Chapter 3

After the colt had finally finished crying, Applejack managed to coax him into the kitchen, which was somewhat difficult because he had sprained a foreleg from his fall down the stairs. Granny was waiting there with a bowl of applesauce and a cup of water. Big Mac had gone to take Applebloom to school.

“He’s gonna need more food than that, Granny,” said Applejack, “He must be starved.”

“Ah know,” said Granny, “But if we give him too much food, he’ll get sick.”

“Food overdose,” the colt noted dryly, “Not a bad way to die.”

“Don’t say stuff like that!” Applejack pleaded.

The colt sighed. “Whatever.” He looked up at one of the chairs, which was a little big for him. He then looked back at Applejack. “You’re kidding, right?”

Applejack had to help the colt climb onto the chair, lightly shoving him from behind with her muzzle. He sat down and looked dejectedly at his food.

“Best eat up now, young’un.” Granny said with a gentle smile. “Ah don’t think ya ever told us your name.”

The colt briefly looked up. “Ben.”

Applejack raised an eyebrow at the peculiar name. Of course, the source of the colt’s name was the least of their concerns, so she put it aside for the moment.

“Well, Ben,” said Granny, “Ya gotta get some food in ya so ya can feel better. When you’re all better, we’ll see about havin’ some of mah apple pie. Won’t that be good?”

“Sure,” Ben answered emptily, returning his attention to the bowl of applesauce and the spoon beside it. “How am I supposed to hold the spoon?” he asked.

Applejack’s brow furrowed in confusion. Everypony at that age knew how to grip things. Had his parents raised him differently because he was a unicorn? Was he taught to rely solely on magic for the most basic of tasks? If that was true, why would he have asked how to grip the spoon instead of just lifting it with magic? Did he think it was rude to use magic in front of earth ponies or pegasi? So many more questions and no answers.

“Ya can use your magic, sugar cube,” Applejack encouraged, “We don’t mind.”

Ben’s head jerked up, eyes wide with confusion. “My what?”

Applejack’s eyes widened in pure shock. Not knowing how to hold things could be explained away as a bizarre upbringing or, she shuddered at the thought, being without parents or even teachers for a very long time. Not knowing about magic? Even small foals learned at least a little about magic, regardless of race. How could anypony, much less a unicorn, not know about magic? For a unicorn, that had to be like not knowing how to breathe! Who was this colt and what had happened to him?

Granny was equally surprised. “Ben,” she said slowly, “Every unicorn’s got magic. Ya didn’t know that?”

Ben raised a hoof to his head, feeling around until he touched his horn. His breath hitched, as if he hadn’t known the horn was there. Had nopony ever told him he was a unicorn? Had he never looked in a mirror? He could have lost his memory, but he would’ve forgotten his family if that was the case. Applejack felt a headache coming on from confusion and worry.

“Wait, wait, wait,” said Ben, waving his uninjured foreleg, “Back up. Magic? Like lifting stuff with your mind, teleporting, turning things into other things, that kind of magic?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” replied Applejack, giving a slightly relieved sigh. So he did know about magic. Even so, how could he not have learned it? Had he never gone to school? Just how long had he been alone?

Ben hummed, eyes darting to and fro in thought. He then nodded. “Yes,” he said, a wide grin slowly forming on his face, “Yes, that’s it! That’s it!” He now looked positively giddy.

While Applejack was happy to see Ben actually smiling with the kind of giddiness a normal colt his age would have, she was still very confused. Nevertheless, she had to make sure he stayed happy. She would not break her vow.

“What is it, Ben?” she asked.

“Magic!” he replied, grinning in a manner that bordered on unhinged, “All I need to do is find the right spell or whatever it is, then I can get my body back and go home! Where’s the nearest wizard?”

Applejack blinked. Get his body back? Go home? Maybe his family wasn’t actually dead, but he had still been foalnapped and somehow escaped. It would explain some of his bruises, as horrifying a thought as that was. The comment about his body, however, made no sense. Was he talking about healing himself? He had said something about his body being weak earlier. Was it related to the nonsensical rant about an alien world? Did an alien world refer to him not growing up around ponies? That could explain why he was so surprised to learn he was a unicorn. Unfortunately, that painted a horrifying picture of “adoptive parents” not telling him what he was. Combined with the possibility of foalnappers and/or abusers to explain Ben’s marred body, it was clear that the poor colt had suffered greatly. Applejack did not know how she could help, and she hated feeling so helpless in such a delicate situation. This was beyond her. She needed to ask her friends for advice and set Ben up with a counselor.

“Now, just a minute,” said Granny. She took control of the situation, but she was just as confused as Applejack. “Ya ain’t goin’ nowhere else ‘till ya’ve had somethin’ to eat and gone to the doctor.”

“No time for that!” Ben declared, jumping out of the chair. He winced in pain the second his hoof hit the floor.

Applejack, disturbed by the fact that the clearly starving Ben would deliberately put off eating, moved to block his path. She would later muse that Ben had been channeling Twilight at the time, which would have been cute coming from a foal if said foal was not starving.

“You’re nearly coat and bones!” she exclaimed, “Ya need to eat!”

To Applejack’s frustration, Ben waved a foreleg in dismissal. “I’ll eat when I get home. Right now, I need to talk to the local wizard or mage or whatever you call them so they can open a portal and/or teleport me back!”

Applejack’s heart went out to Ben on account of his clear desperation to return home, but he needed to understand that his health took precedence. It pained her greatly to see him blatantly disregard his own wellbeing. His declaration that he wanted to die still rang in her ears. Furthermore, if his “family” was responsible for his not knowing basic facts of life, she wasn’t sure it was best for him to return home, wherever that was. She was treading a fine line, trying to keep him happy while also making sure he was healthy. Bargaining was needed.

“Ah’ll talk to my friend Twilight about gettin’ ya home, but only if ya eat your breakfast and go to the doctor.”

Ben’s giddy smile became a scowl and he growled. “Fine, but I’m holding you to that.”

He tried climbing back up onto the chair, once again needing assistance. He looked down at the bowl of applesauce, then at the spoon, then back at the bowl. Without warning, he scooped up the bowl with both forelegs and brought it to his lips, greedily drinking it in a manner that reminded the two mares how hungry he truly was. He lowered the bowl to allow himself time to swallow before repeating the process until the applesauce was gone. He was about to jump out of the chair again when Applejack stopped him.

“Ya didn’t drink your water,” she said, making a point to talk to him about table manners later. She was no Rarity, but she still had some standards, thank you very much.

He carefully took the cup between his forelegs and drank until it was empty. “Alright, time’s wasting. Where can I find this Twilight?”

“Hospital first,” Applejack said firmly. It was good to see Ben so excited and not dwelling on what he’d gone through, but his health was most important.

Ben groaned and jumped down from the chair, hind legs first and keeping his injured foreleg off the floor. “Fine, let’s just get this over with. Where’s the hospital?”

“Hold on, now,” said Granny, “Applejack’s gotta eat too, ya know.”

“Just give me directions and I can find my own way there instead of wasting everyone’s time.”

They would have to ask him later why he used “everyone” instead of “everypony.” Another question that needed answering.

“Ya ain’t wastin’ our time, sugar cube,” said Applejack, “We’re happy to help ya. We’ll be at the hospital ‘fore ya know it.”

His eyes narrowed in a way that might have been considered threatening to a foal. To the adults, however, it was more cute than threatening. He soon turned away and grimaced with childish impatience.

“The sooner I can get out of here, the better.”