by Zealous Shift


“Why does this always happen to me…”

In an odd twist of fate I had found myself in a very familiar position. Like the prior night I was lying in the woods and nearly paralyzed from how stiff my muscles were. The only difference being from said night was that I was stuck in a tree. Twilight, in a grand display of her intelligence, decided that throwing the ‘dangerous demon’ towards the oncoming titan would be a brilliant idea. She was also blind, apparently, as I didn’t even see the damned thing in the direction that she threw me. The only thing I saw was the colour blue and a bunch of leaves before passing out.

While I was still quite concerned about the titan that was no doubt still on the loose, I had two bigger problems to worry about. First of said problems, would be how to get myself out of the tree. The second, and more important of the two, was how to do so without breaking my neck. Based on the slight, blurry view I had on the ground I was about seven feet up. While that wasn’t too bad, I was lying horizontally on a tree branch with all my muscles seized up. While I could have waited it out to climb down, that could take anywhere between an hour to a day and I didn’t want to take the chance that the Royal Guard would do a check up to see if I was actually dead.

The destruction, from what I could see in my leafy loft, was catastrophic. It looked like Godzilla had just taken a leisurely stroll through the woods. Trees were uprooted and bushes were stomped right into the ground. Fortunately, and coincidentally, enough Twilight had thrown me right on the edge of destruction. Half of the tree I was in was gone and I got stuck in the surviving half.

“Stupid purple pony princess,” I laughed. It was a sentence that I never expected to actually say, but I was never quite so happy to say it. My lungs felt like they were filled with water, but I couldn’t help but continue to laugh in the treetop. Perhaps I was delirious, perhaps I was just thankful to be alive, but in that moment laughter was the only thing to come to mind. Sweet, painful, laughter.

My laughter slowly turned to chuckling, which in turn transformed into raspy breathing. In a strange way, I felt relaxed. Maybe that old saying about laughing and medicine was true, but it gave me sound enough mind to properly think about my situation. A large crow, who I could only assume wanted to investigate the crazy man in a tree, landed on a nearby branch with a befuddled expression. As I struggled in the branches to get a better look at it, a low cracking sound came from the tree. The bird took off for a few seconds before sitting back down on the twig, confident it wouldn’t collapse on both of us.

“Do you have any idea how I can get down from here?” I asked the crow, the list of ideas in my mind exhausted with how fragile the rest of the tree was. It tilted its head in a cartoonish way before looking down to the ground then back up at me. The bird flapped its wings for a few seconds, never taking off and continued staring blankly at me.

“I can’t fly, but thanks for the suggestion,” I responded dryly. The crow bowed its head, apparently deep in thought. A light breeze passed by through the leaves, causing the tree to sway ever so slightly. Yet again, branch I was resting on cracked ever so quietly. Whether I moved or not, the tree was going to break out from under me. The only question was which would hurt more, jumping or falling?

My avian comrade, who probably couldn’t think of anything, flew off into the forest and left me alone in my slowly breaking tree. I hoarsely called goodbye to him, I thought it was a him, and went back to thinking. If I tried to move the branch would collapse, but I’d get footing for when I hit the ground. On the other hand remaining still would ensure that the branch would take most of the damage, assuming I braced myself properly.

As if to make matters worse, I heard the roar of the titan bellow across the landscape. I couldn’t see if it was heading my way, or even see it for that matter, but I was certain it was fairly close. The ground shook violently and I heard the distinctive sound of bark snapping. Exit route two it was then. I immediately held onto the nearest sticks and branches that I could grab onto as I felt my head tilt back with the tree giving way. The branch hit the forest floor and I flipped over to get a good face full of grass. It only hurt half as badly as I thought it would have, but I wasn’t quite sure of what was stabbing my neck. No, wait, that was my staff, never mind.

I propped myself up on my staff to try and stretch my muscles, only to fall back over when I realized that both of my legs were asleep. Why I hadn’t noticed earlier I contributed to the fact that most of my body was numb as well. Which, upon reflection, was probably why the fall from the tree didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. The Elements, as devilish as they were, also dulled my senses enough that it wouldn’t have been as painful as it could’ve been. Though if the reaction I had was based off ‘baby’s first statue imprisonment’, I shuttered to imagine what would have happened without the dulling.

I didn’t notice the small shadow that flew overhead as something small and red collided with my face. After slowly reaching up with my iron enclosed hand to make sure that my nose wasn’t broken, I titled my head to the left to see what had hit me. There a shiny, if slightly bruised, red delicious apple sat on the ground. Luck was finally looking my way as I had been gracefully delivered my first meal in Equestria. Why an apple fell from a maple tree wasn’t on my mind as I was just grateful to actually have something to eat. Before I could sink my teeth into the apple though, I was distracted by the cheerful caw of a crow. I roughly sat up to see my friend from before sitting on the fallen branch, looking rather proud of himself. For a bird, he sure was quite expressive. Then again, I had already held a conversation with him so I shouldn’t have questioned the expressions of an apparent sapient crow.

“Did you bring me this?” I questioned, holding the apple before him. Sure enough, the crow nodded vigorously as it chirped merrily. “How very kind of you.” As you might have expected, I was stunned at the display. I was given an apple by a friendly, sapient crow. I know I had already befriended a spirit of chaos and a river monster and was being hunted down by a nation of pastel ponies, but for some odd reason the crow was what surprised me. A simple gesture, just the offering of food, spoke volumes to me. It was so human, but was carried out by something so definitely not human. Funnily enough, I had made myself an avian companion. The growl from my stomach reminded me why the crow was so kind to give me the apple, as I immediately bit into the delicious fruit.

The crow sat there happily as I bit into the apple. I had never had very large meals back home, so the apple was relatively well sized for breakfast. The fact that it was one of the best apples I had ever seen helped as well. Granted I didn’t wash it, but if I was going to be infected by alien bacteria water wasn’t going to help me at all. The sun, I had noticed, was in its noon position, so I had to have been out for at least three hours. The sun was still early rising when I had left and I doubted that it ascended very far in the half hour I had been walking around with Remedy.

Remedy… My heart sank as I recalled the name. I already had justification for my actions, but what concerned me was the titan attack. She didn’t have wings and she didn’t look like she was a marathon runner either. I could only hope that she didn’t get killed in the attack, but hope was the only thought I was willing to give her. Regardless of her possibly painful demise, I was still in a life and death situation. The involvement of such a large creature would only warrant the necessity of more reinforcements. It was tragic, yes, but I wouldn’t let myself get shut down by it.

I found that I had been staring at the ground with apple core in hand for some minutes as my newfound friend was pecking at my boots for my attention. Broken out of my stupor, I looked to him to see what was the matter. He jumped back and chirped lowly, which I took as bird for ‘Are you feeling okay?’. I shook my head to dispel the negative thoughts before attempting to stand back up. As luck would have it, I fared much better than last time. My legs held together, but I couldn’t move them very much without them wobbling about.

“Would you like the rest?” I asked, holding up the apple core for my companion. In a quick spring of action, he took off and snatched the core from my hand and sat back down on the ground to get a peck at my left overs. “I’ll take that as a yes then.” The beast from before roared a third time, though it seemed to have gained some distance since its second. The crow seemed alarmed at the development, even more than me. His head bounced up from the apple, twitching spastically in every direction before lowering back down to continue eating.

“Do you know of any place that I could use to rest up?” I asked my hungry friend. The crow’s head bobbed up again, nodding quickly then descending into the fruity flesh again. “Away from pony settlements?” It, I assumed he, stopped eating and hesitantly looked up at me. His head was tilted ever so slightly, eyes slanted enough to be half way between confused and suspicious. He nodded again, but slower than before and took one last bite of the apple before turning back to me.

My avian companion straightened himself, stretching his wings out before taking off. He circled around me for several moments before heading off into the woods. I made haste to follow him, wobbly limping as fast as I could with my staff in hand. My legs screamed, the exhilarating feeling of blood rushing through them seeming foreign after being numb so long. A strange sense of clairvoyance had taken me and helped to keep my eyes tracked to my newfound friend. Perhaps it was a side effect of the world’s magic or maybe it had something to do with my situation in particular, but I was recovering much faster than I would have back home. I reasoned that the numbness from magic wasn’t as potent as it would be from drugs, but it was really more of a quick answer to keep my attention directed forward.

Thankfully the forest was much sparser as I followed the crow deeper into it. While the trees didn’t seem as claustrophobic, the rocks however did pop up in clusters. Once or twice my staff would get stuck in a small hole or crevice, but nothing very worrying. My friend was kind enough to wait for me, apparently having quite the reserve of patience, and our journey went relatively smooth. Relatively was the key word, as my friend had evidently forgotten that I did not have the capability of flight. I did have to wade through a three foot stream, falling in once or twice, but aside from that there wasn’t any notable issue.

The air got moister as we continued on, I could practically feel my pours open from the humidity. It was odd to have such warmth in the forest during the fall. Most of the Everfree nearby Ponyville looked dead and ready for the winter. The trees were much greener in the interior, but the path I was being lead in felt like a swamp. What was next, a winter wonderland? It was like every season was crammed into one single forest, utterly ridiculous. Based on the slight decline, we were definitely heading for a basin of some sort, but not some swamp. Stupid ponies and their magic, they were probably the ones to blame for how idiotic the weather was on their world.

We had arrived at our “destination” after roughly an hour of travelling. The crow had lead me to some kind of old campsite, if one could call it that. An old lean-to stood up from the surrounding bushes, offering only slight protection from the elements of nature around it. There was also a fire pit, forgotten by its creators and the world, filled with leaves and rainwater. The rest of the encampment was underwater, as some high power found it amusing to divert a small brook over it. Granted the stream was only half a foot deep, but it didn’t help the situation. It was a source of water and it appeared to be quite clean, getting water from the basin was a lot filthier than it was at the source. Still, I supposed, beggars like myself didn’t get a choice in survival.

“Thank you,” I called to my friend, who I should have thought about giving a name earlier. The crow beamed in apparent pride, a look that birds really should use. It was unsettling with that blinkless stare he gave, but at the same time welcoming. He may not have had reality bending powers or giant strength, though that made him a bit easier to relate to. Ironic, considering that out of my three friends / allies, he was the only one that couldn’t actually speak to me. He took perch upon the roof of the lean-to and watched me expectantly to go inside.

I approached the old structure slowly. It seemed to be sturdy enough, not groaning under the stiff breeze that flew by, but I was quite paranoid of the possibility that hundreds of insects were sitting in the dark corners inside. I was okay with a couple ants, but spiders, centipedes or anything of the like and I was sleeping outside. The lean-to, a now given blessing from God himself, didn’t have bugs inside it. After three thorough inspections, I found nothing wrong with it. There were a few crevices that ants could get through, but the only thing that I found was a dead fly. There was some kind of scratching on the wall, but I couldn’t read out what it said. Of course I’d have the luck to end up in an alien world that spoke English but didn’t write in it.

“What is this place anyways?” I asked aloud. My comrade whistled, trying to charade me the answer back. He wiped his beak with his left wing before falling back lazily, emanating a noise that sounded like a bird’s imitation of a snore. From what I could gather, the area was some kind of pit stop for tired travellers. It was either in close proximity to the edge of the forest or some kind of road because there was no reason for there to be a campsite in the middle of the dangerous woods. It’d be like having a convenience store in the middle of the Sahara Desert, no one in their right minds would build it.

“If it’s a pit stop,” I questioned, “why has it been abandoned for so long?” My comrade in response gestured towards the stream before pointing off into the distance with his beak. My puzzled look and tilted head must have convinced him to explain more, as his wings swooped down in a fast motion into an outlaying branch. The gestures stopped, leaving me to figure out what he was trying to explain. The brook went down a ways and it must have stopped when it reached the basin at the marshlands. The swinging motion looked like it was describing an impact, so maybe the river washed away some kind bridge used to get across the basin? But a river this small couldn’t wash away a bridge unless…

“It floods near the end of the river, doesn’t it?” I asked. True to his silent nature he shook his head before flying to a nearby tree. He must’ve noticed food or something, because he bounced around the branches looking for it. With my new resources and free time acquired, I began to take mental stock of what was going on.

First of all, I had shelter and water. The journey to the site revealed the location of several nearby berry bushes, so I wouldn’t have to worry about starving to death in the immediate future. Vitamin and protein deficiency was concerning, but there was nothing I could do about it. I’d either have to stumble upon a conveniently abandoned farm house or take up the hobby of hunting the local fauna. Seeing as how the former was dumb hope and the latter would most likely be reversed on me, I was at a loss on how to maintain a proper diet. On the bright side, I did have a bird which would act as a brilliant partner to warn me of approaching predators and ponies. Plus, assuming that he had maintained a hunter’s instinct over the years, he’d be excellent for finding game. It would be based more on luck, but it was still a possibility that could turn out favourably.

While I was concerned on how Discord would be able to find me again, my mind reasoned that a magical chaos thing like him wouldn’t have much trouble locating a guy wearing a black in the middle of the forest. He had done it once after all, so it stood to logic that he should be able to do it again. Unfortunately, Discord didn’t seem to run on any kind of logic that humanity was familiar with, so it could have been a while before I would I see him again. His antics did bother me, more from making my head hurt than actually annoying me, but I had enough trust in him that he wouldn’t throw me to the wolves. Err, ponies. Perhaps we’d even be friends by the end of the whole ordeal, which was both uplifting and depressing. I’d have a new friend, but by the time that we’d actually be able to act as friends I’d be sent home.

My mind briefly considered staying an extra couple days to say goodbye and make amends with Equestria. The voice in my head rejected the idea outright, which I expected, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. To home, I was either missing or dead. By the time I made it back, people would have already assumed the worst and possibly have moved on. Staying another day or two wouldn’t make that much a difference. Then again, it could make a huge difference as well. Another day to be imprisoned, another day to be hunted, another day to fall ill to some kind of infection or attack, another day to leave my parents in the misery that their only son was lost and alone…

“Oh God…” I muttered aloud, sitting back on the soft grass as I thought of it. My parents must have been heartbroken. Peter must have looked everywhere for me last night. My stomach turned as I thought of him walking back to tell mom and dad that he had lost me. My mom would have broke, going on wild fantasies that I had gotten lost, kidnapped, or worse. My dad might have taken it better, either by going vigilante all around Chicago to find me or just take hope in the fact that I knew how to handle myself.

The Hell was I even thinking? I didn’t know how to handle myself. I should have had my ass handed back to me on a silver platter the night before, everything after that was luck or divine convenience. Bear Grills would’ve given up at that point, yet there I was thinking that I could survive for more than three days. The Equestrians probably wouldn’t even find me, my corpse either devoured by the beasts in the woods or rotten away from disease. I might not even get home. Even if I did survive long enough to wait out the month, which was a miracle in of itself, there was no reason to believe that Discord could actually find me a way home. He didn’t know how I was brought there, so what would make him know how to send me back? Whatever brought me to Equestria, a spirit, a portal, God or just the forces of the universe itself, wasn’t just going to let me go.

With the time that I had been given and the thoughts I had willingly brought, I sat on the smooth grass. I sat on the smooth grass alone. I sat on the grass afraid. I sat on the grass and cried like a child.