Scootaloo moved through the desert, and the light followed.
Scootaloo looked around her. All was flat. All was trampled. And all—all—was featureless, like her blank flank. She stood in the middle of a vast wasteland, trampled flat by the hooves of thousands and thousands of ponies who had come before her.
“Isn't there anything?” she whispered. All her life, all she had wanted was something to call her very own. Something different. Special. Alive. She didn't want to be one of those ponies who found something that had already been found: no. She wanted excitement. Adventure. She wanted to be Rainbow Dash, but in her own way. Nothing less was acceptable.
Slowly, she hefted herself off the ground, wincing as rivers of sand ran down her coat, sending shivers through her body. This vast desert—a wasteland devoid of creativity, of meaning, of freshness and newness, had almost swallowed her whole. That would not stand. This would not be.
As though she were carrying a heavy weight on each hoof, she took one step. Then another. Then another. In the distance, she saw something. Maybe an answer. Maybe a guide. Maybe a mirage. She did not know, but neither did she care. It was something new.
The warm, welcoming light of the not-place beat down upon her. Rest, it said. Take this, it said.
Although “this” was likely the last thing Scootaloo wanted, she looked anyway. There, gleaming in the sun, half-buried by the sand, was a vision. An image. An answer.
An orange bolt, cleaving a cloud asunder. It gleamed, sparkled, shone in the light. What about this? it whispered to her. Is this not what you desire? What you have always wanted? Take it, child. Take it and rest.
Scootaloo parted her cracked lips to answer. It gleamed with the sort of light she would have been overjoyed to see, shining and announcing her purpose to the world. Yet, the journey had been hard—years upon years of searching, always searching, never once finding an answer—but even if it took all her life to do it, she would find what she sought. A tiny, cracked, parched croak escaped her lips.
Don't try to speak, child. We know this is what you wish.
“No.” Scootaloo sharply swung her head away from the flickering, tempting vision.
“No. This isn't me.”
Is it not what you've always wanted? The ability to soar through the clouds just as she does?
“I...” Scootaloo's breath caught in her throat. To her dismay, sand had begun to pool around her hooves, and she felt herself sinking lower and lower as her eyes fluttered closed.
Sleep, young one. This is your answer. This is your—
“No!” With that violent yell, Scootaloo summoned all her will and sprang from the growing mound of sand, panting as her bulging eyes tracked the sand melding back into the ground, hiding what could have been from her sight; the sparkles had vanished, just another possibility gone in favor of a hope that her neverending search would supply her with some sort of answer.
Why, child? Why do you persist?
“Because.” Scootaloo kept her jaw set; she would not fail. She could not fail. The possibility of failure was not even worth considering in her quest, her crusade for meaning.
She walked on, her hooves raising dust that whispered of dreams:
You make nice flower arrangements.
You do aerial stunts like none other!
You can lend an ear when ponies most need it.
You never lose track of time.
You bring peace to all the animals around you.
You can read the faces of others perfectly.
You drink from glasses and they never spill!
One by one, dream by dream, purpose by purpose, the whispers faded, only to be replaced with fresh ones as she trod on. Her scuffling hooves paid no mind to the unworthy whispers of overdone things. For her, there could be but one answer. She didn't know what that answer was, but she was sworn to not rest until she found it.
But how would she know when she found it? That was the question. A question for which she had no answer, save one built solely on faith. Faith, the kind of faith that could move mountains, defy death, and boil oceans, kept her moving forward.
Rainbow Dash had not taught the filly to be just like her. The light was sorely mistaken about that. What Scootaloo had learned from the enchanting speedster was not how to be like every other pony. What she had learned was how to be awesome. How to be her own pony. How to be different.
The endless expanse stretched out in every direction. Dust blew in every direction; in the distance, other young foals plodded along, in search of an answer of their own. Scootaloo grinned; no matter how personal the journey, she was never alone. Out there somewhere in the expanse were two fillies very near and dear to her soul, struggling along their own ways.
Sweat poured down Scootaloo's brow as she felt her mane mat together with her coat. “Can't... be much further...” Her legs wobbled. “Can't stop... now.”
What is it you desire, child? Concern emanated from the light surrounding her. If you continue, you may exhaust yourself. Rest. Let us find an answer together.
Scootaloo kept walking, ignoring the light. It hadn't listened before and it wouldn't listen now. It would never, ever understand. She walked on in stoic silence, ignoring the plaintive cries of rest, rest and the whisperings of possibility her hooves kicked aside as she moved. She would find an answer. She would.
Just on the horizon, something glittered. Something new. Something different. Something... awesome.
“There it is!” Scootaloo cried, liquid flame running in her veins as she galloped towards it with all her might.
At last, she would have her answer. Her end to the journey, and the beginning of another.
She crested the hill it had appeared upon, relishing an end to a lifetime of struggles and tribulations, all so she could claim her one prize: a singular, unique, completely her sense of being and purpose.
It was so close, she could almost taste it: a delicious, new reason to live beyond finding a reason for her life. She could see it: a lone, solitary, untrampled plant, impossibly sprouting in the midst of this blasted wasteland.
However, just before she reached it, another foal galloped up and snatched it; her voice sounded with triumphant laughter as she found her unique purpose. Scootaloo's heart sank as her pace flagged. In moments, she stood, staring mournfully at where both filly and plant had been moments before.
It's still there, you know, the light whispered. Somepony else just found it first, that's all.
Without a word, Scootaloo turned and gazed out at the horizon, searching for something other than the forms of questing foals. She took a step, leaving the now-tired purpose behind.
Scootaloo moved through the desert, and the light followed.