Lightning struck two trees I didn't see before at the same time on either side of our path, just then... we double timed right underneath them before they fell, not even thinking! I now had a hunch if we'd tried to go around the lightning would just strike more trees.
We ran inside the hospital doors that opened automatically. I braced myself. The inner doors opened. No gas. No darts. No chainsaw-wielding Nurse Redheart.
And the hospital was awfully strange. The further we went in, the more it didn't look how the rest of the world did now. Everything look more detailed, but not sketchy, like a painting, and everything wasn't that sick shade of pink! Oh, and it was actually well lit enough for us to see that clearly!
...I hope that all made sense.
My friends and I all looked at each other, but none of us had an idea what to even say. Blanky looked more confused. Vendetta Mask, still the same sick pink color with white eyes as the world outside, didn't even seem to notice.
And it looked like a real hospital. It didn't look anymore like a bad dream where ghoulish creatures might crawl out of any corner and eat you. It even smelled like a real hospital. Well, that just meant it smelled like Rarity's cleaning closet. But that's a lot better than smelling like blood and sickness...
Something about it felt familiar somehow. It wasn't a dream I was trying to remember. For a moment, the idea of not being able to leave these white walls made me scared, but they weren't made out of clouds, so it didn't last long. Huh? What did I just think?
It wasn't a picture, it wasn't a sound, it was a feeling. Of being a shooting star, and being with an adventure-loving friend...something to do with patches? It wasn't home, but...a part of me felt welcomed here. I knew nothing bad was going to happen to us in here. Blanky seemed to feel the same way, since he didn't seem as agitated as he had outside.
Still, we were ready for anything as we all made our way to the reception desk.
Nurse Tenderheart, (Nurse Redheart's little sister, I think,) smiled at us from behind the desk. She didn't look like us (how the world was supposed to be) but she also didn't look like the grimy pink ponies outside. Her eyes were smaller, she had a rounder figure, her muzzle was a bit longer and rounder, the outlines around her body were thinner, her ear smaller, and she was holding a pencil in her hooves like it was tapped on or something! But all the same time, she wasn't scary-looking so much as weird.
Apple Bloom looked at her close, closing one eye, then looking at her with the other. She blinked, but at least she didn't run screaming out of the place like she had with Miss Cheerilee, that was a good sign, right?
Mr. Mask, Nurse Tender Heart, and us, we didn't look like we belonged in the same world, clashing style as Rarity would say. It wasn't like when my hooves got pruney in water like half my family. I wonder if this is how Bumblebee and other changelings felt in disguise.
"Oh my!" Nurse Tender Heart said going right next to Mr. Vendetta Mask and examining him.
"Don't touch me, you puppet of the Alicorns."
"Sorry, sir, but I don't think you're in condition to refuse treatment." Nurse Tender Heart was still Nurse Tender Heart.
Then little sparkles shimmered along Nurse Tenderheart's hooves. What? The bruises on Vendetta Mask vanished, but he still had a lot of other boo-boos. We all drew in breath. Scootaloo tensed. Apple Bloom did the thing with her eyes again, she looked more confused. Blanky still didn't growl. I was surprised at being more surprised than scared.
"There you go. I'm not as skilled as my sister, you'd better see her," she told Vendetta Mask, and put him on her own back. She looked at us. "And you best come with me too dears."
We looked at ourselves, and remembered, we'd gone through a drain pipe, been chased by irascible monsters, all while traipsing through evil magic-after-all fog. Thanks, I always do good on my vocabulary tests. Point is, we were dirty, sweaty, had scratches, bumps, and bruises.
Our Crusaders capes...they weren't dirty at all though, not a tear or speck of dirt on them. They were as clean as a void. None of us said anything, because none of had any idea what to say I think. Apple Bloom gave me back my saddle bags, and Blanky along with them.
Good thing Nurse Tenderheart couldn't see Blanky; animals aren't allowed in hospitals.
Nurse Tenderheart began to trot away, looking back at us. We looked at each other, and followed. We all wanted just to TRUST somepony. And...I just felt safe here, like...like it was against the rules for something bad to happen to us here. Did the others feel the same way? I couldn't tell.
Though the hospital...well, LOOKED different, the hospital itself wasn't that different...I mean that everything was where it was supposed to be! There was the flu shot poster. Ick. There were the same potted plants in the lobby. But then we saw a life-size statue against the wall where the hospital split into two different ways. It was white marble, with the mane and tail painted pink with a painted pink heart with littler heart cutie marks around it. What was that gold flaked ring behind its head?
"Whose that?" I asked when Apple Bloom didn't.
Tenderheart didn't stop, I guess cause she was carrying a hurt pony to get help. But she said in that voice Miss Cheerilee used whenever we asked a 'cute' question. "That's Saint Sweetheart, dear."
"Who?" Scootaloo asked.
Apple Bloom then answered before Nurse Tenderheart could. "She's a mare from WAAAAY back in pony history before they were was even the Three Tribes, Nurseheart's supposed ta be part of her family. The fairytales say she could heal others with earth pony magic. But since when did ya get a statue of her?"
"Well, this is Saint Sweetheart Memorial Hospital."
That wasn't right. "Huh?"
"And you can't really call it fairytales since everypony in my family can use her magic." Her hooves sparkled a little again.
"HUH?" We all said together, even Blanky's eyes widened.
"Since when?" Scootaloo squeaked.
She stopped for a tiny bit to look at us again. "Girls, are you feeling well? Did you hit your heads? We've healed your bumps and bruises plenty of times. Your families told us to HOLD BACK on healing you with our gift so you wouldn't take it a as a excuse to be EVEN MORE reckless in your dangerous stunts of yours! Like with Rainbow Dash."
I was worried about Nurse Tenderheart 'healing' our memories, so I lied quickly, "Of course we do Nurse Tenderheart, Scootaloo meant how good you've gotten."
"Oh. Oh! Why thank you! But I'm still not as good as big sister. She actually thinks the statue is a waste of bits we could have spent elsewhere, but I think it's important we show our gratitude to Saint Sweetheart and inspire others."
We'd left the statue behind already.
"Saint Sweetheart watches over us. She helps us. What healing we can't do alone, she helps us do," Tenderheart said with a real smile. When I say real, I mean it didn't look like the smiles I'd seen on ponies Chryssy and Jitterbug had brainwashed. The way she said it reminded me how changelings spoke about Queen Rosedust.
"Myth to placate the masses," Mr. Vendetta Mask said, nopony even looked at him but me. I felt sorry for him.
Then there came a big barking noise that made us all jump. It wasn't Blanky. Behind one of the doors, there was a sound of another big door banging.
"Oh sorry! Don't be scared girls, Madam Lickety Split is in her lycantherope phase right now. Don't worry, her collar and the bars are coated with silver, she can't break out."
"Barking Mad?" Scootaloo gasped out.
I knew the name. I'll never forget that one time on my paper route, when I was passing by Lickety Split's house on my scooter, and I got chased by that crazy lady barking and biting at me! She was in the hospital again instead of the loony bin?
"We do NOT use that horrid nickname here, young filly!" Nurse Tenderheart said in that tone I'd heard from any adult when I'd said something I shouldn't've.
"Uh, okay, sorry?" My wings wilted.
Then Sweetie Dictionary took the heat off me. "Lycanther-you mean a werewolf?!"
"Please dear! Don't use such terms! She has no control of herself as she is. She's a victim."
Werewolves? Yer kiddin'!
"Yes ma'm," Sweetie Belle said.
"Nightmare Moon sleeper agents," the conspiracy pony rambled but none of us paid attention.
At least the hospital wasn't like a maze, everything was straightforward. In a pinch, I could've led the others back out easy. I had avoided visiting the hospital whenever I could before I was took in with Dash, I could forged signatures, but the less doctors wondered where my parents were the better.
Plus I didn't have the bits to burn on hospital bills so I learned good first aid. How did I look after myself before Dash? I DIDN'T DUMPSTER DIVE! I might as well put a sign around my neck saying 'Come And Get Me Foal Services!'
It wasn't like my parents left me with only the feathers on my wings.
My Scooter, wagon, helmet, a small but decent amount of bits, and other things I was able to carry with me to Ponyville. And I had a newspaper route and a few other jobs to fill my belly before I got direct access to erm, borrow apples from 'Bloom's orchard and the clubhouse to sleep at.
I was able to set up a mailbox at the post office for my 'parents.'
Hotels were too expensive, and sleeping in boxes or public places would have gotten Foal Services attention too!
Fluttershy's chicken coup? Besides that it stinks in there, I think Fluttershy would have noticed!
Sleep in a tree? That had the same problem as the box.
The school house? Cheerilee would notice!
I kinda...migrated from place to place for a while, a bell tower here, amphitheater there, the post office saying I was trying to get some extra hours in (before I was told about foal labor laws)...why did I come to Ponyville in the first place?...It sounds really dumb now but...I was hoping I'd find clues to my parents here (it is the closest town to Cloudsdale)... And...I had no idea where to go after here.
I know Foal Services in Equestria aren't bad! But mom and dad were aways wary of government ponies, and I didn't want to find out why. And I got the idea that in a small town, maybe Foal Services would be less likely to notice me...I didn't say I thought it through.
Before Dash, I never really questioned my parents leaving me in Cloudsdale: they simply did it, so it had to have been for the best. There'd been lots of things we'd done they told me before was 'for our safety.' I didn't understand at all, but that was okay. Now, I really did question why.
I never questioned a lot of things before, like why my parents taught me how to copy hoof writing to begin with.
Fiesta Flaire? Yes I remember her. I'll admit, if I heard somepony call a friend of theirs from their home town under a curse 'in the past' I'd be upset too.
She managed our theater. She was good with the maracas. And was part of the Lady Bugs band. She spoke with a thick Mexicolt accent even though none of us were sure where Mexicolt was (not even her)! That's all there was to her.
So many us were shallow, but there was no such thing as a stranger, everypony was a friend. We had hearts!
That thing from before, it was a ghost-zombie or something, it wasn't her.
No, I don't want to forget again. I asked for this, and I want to be loyal to at least their memory. And it's nice to know I've been Sweetie's friend in two lifetimes.
While I was thinking about this we stepped into the room that Nurse Tenderheart had been leading us to. It kinda reminded me of the field hospitals I'd seen in pegasi history books. A big room with beds evenly spaced out. Weren't patients kept separate to keep them from spreading germs to each other?
There were so many ponies in here.
I'm gonna bet that wall opposite us was blank before, now it had a mural of the same pony from before, Saint Sweetheart, lovingly shining lights on sick ponies. I expected for her eyes to be creepy and follow me around the room or something.., but that didn't happen. It was just a picture that made the room look kinder.
Nurse Tenderheart spoke to the conspiracy pony while putting him on an empty bed, "Don't worry sir, Doctor Redheart will be able to help you very soon."
Doctor Redheart? The three of us all looked at each other, eyes wide for a sec.
“Sweetheart? Can you please look after the fillies? I need to get back to the lobby!"
"Nice to see you again dears," said this big violet mare nurse with a purple and white stripped mane. She looked like how Tenderheart did.
"Nurse Battleaxe?!" Sweetie Belle gasped taking a trot back.
I don't know where the name came from, all I knew was seeing this nurse sent a wave of disgust through me that wasn't mine. The other girls looked at me, but I didn't know what to say. I felt small now. I look in her eyes, and I feel like somepony just said something mean about mom.
"Nurse Sweetheart dear Nurse Sweetheart," she said politely smiling. "You know, like the Saint? I was named after her."
I grasped at straws. "T-That's what other ponies call you though!"
She tilted her head, looking a little hurt. "Really? Who?"
"I don't remember," I said honestly.
"Well, you shouldn't repeat mean things other ponies say dear." She smiled warmly.
"Y-yes, madam. Sorry!" I meant it, too. It made me feel rotten when she was being so nice.
"It's no problem, I forgive you. Now dears, how are you feeling?" She kept that polite smile on her face though we looked like we'd crawled through a storm drain and run around in circles chased by monsters.
"We're just fine," Scootaloo lied.
"Well you certainly don't look fine."
There were lots of ponies on the beds. Even if they were different from before I could still recognize them. There was Miss Carrot Top, she had these big thorns stuck in her and rope burns.
"Don't worry cousin Carrot, you're going to be fine," said... Doc Top? Wasn't he a baby doctor? I still remember all the shots he gave me when I was much younger. And the lollipops afterwards. He was always nice...I was kind of happy he still looked like a nice guy!
I also saw... I think her name is Sea Swirl, the mare with the two dolphin cutie marks. She was half-submerged in a tub and I couldn't see her rear legs. A filly with a nurse cap was looking after Sea Swirl...I think her name is Nursery Rhyme. She's called a Candy Striper, no not, like Twist, but they do look kinda alike, I think she's home-schooled and is training to be a nurse.
Also there's Nurse Snowheart. She's next to...the unicorn who DJ'ed for Rarity's fashion show. She's DJ PON-3 right? Scootaloo and me have different opinions about her music. She looked sick. And, ick, is she being given a blood transfusion? She looks like she has two bug bites on her neck.
There were two mares in beds next to each other, face down with a bucket in front of them. Their hooves were stained green with something.
One was a brown unicorn with a creamy mane with a wrench cutie mark. I think her name is Silver Spanner or Quickfix. Her special talent is repairing stuff, I know she fixed Miss Bon Bon's radio once and she's fixed Rarity's sewing machine, she doesn't really get out much except for cider season. She lives near the same spot as Doctor Whooves' junk pile we 'borrowed' the flux capacitor from.
The other was this really light blond mane earth pony mare with a dirty beige coat with a thunder hammer cutie mark. She lived near Quickfix's place, she's a blacksmith I think. She's good at making horseshoes for pegasi. I heard one pony say she had a sandwich cutie mark when she first came to Ponyville, but that's just silly right? Ponies just don't change cutie marks, right? I THINK her name is Mjolnir, no I don't know how to pronounce that, other times she claimed it was 'Thor.' Ponies kinda left her alone. All I know is she's really strong, and Apple Bloom said AJ got some metal stuff from her sometimes.
I remember Apple Bloom telling me that they tried to drink themselves silly on the 'not-messed-up' cider the Flim Flams left behind, until Applejack reminded them that cider was still made with Apple apples.
"I can't remember WHY I agreed to a cider drinking contest with you AGAIN after fighting those monsters!" Silver Spanner groaned.
"Father Odin! Why have thou forsaken me? Why have we be struck ill of trying to drink and be merry like in the glorious halls of Valhalla?"
"Maybe he's trying to teach you a lesson about drinking, maybe you should stick to things that won't poison you. A father wants his foals to be well right?"
I didn't recognize this Nurse Pony, she had the cap though. She was pink, had a pink, blue, and white mane. Her eyes were blue. Odd for a nurse pony, her cutie mark was a pair of ice skates.
That was weird! I knew everypony in Ponyville...it was PONYVILLE! Everypony knows everypony!...Pinkie Pie would probably be throwing her a party now if...if she...change subject!
This time it was Scootaloo gasped as Nurse Battleaxe, ugh, I mean Nurse Sweetheart, was looking us over.
"Glitter Glide?" Scootaloo slowly trotted towards her. Huh? Blanky growled at her. Uh-oh.
"Glitter Glide, what are you doing here?" I asked, trotted right to her.
She turned and smiled at me. "Why, it's Nurse Glitter Glide, Scootaloo."
"Gltter Glide, how are you here?" I asked again. She looked the same way as everypony else here...but...
She looked uncomforted. "Scootaloo, I've always been here." The way she said it...it was like she was scared. Her eyes wandered to my braid, and her eyes widened.
The words just poured out of my mouth. "Your special talent is ice-skating, not nursing. You were named Best Friend Of the Year once. I served you at the outdoor roller cafe I worked at. You're the one who taught Minty how to ice-skate. You helped me and Cheerilee learn how to ice-skate. You had this little pink crown you'd wear while performing. You and Goody-Gumdrop-"
I heard a dog growl behind us. It made my fur stand on end.
She covered my mouth. "PLEASE, Scootaloo!" The look in her eyes, she was scared, she was begging. "Light shines so bright in this bubble compared to the others, and I was lucky to slip in while things were still forming."
"Bubble?" I echoed. The dog growled again, bigger, loader this time. I was a little scared too.
She leaned down and whispered. "Please, Scootaloo! I can't say anything wrong or I'll disappear! I promise I'm not doing any harm! Please, Scootaloo! I...I feel again while I'm here...please..."
I felt this big black shadow over us. Glitter Glide looked ready to burst out crying. So scared. So alone. So cold. So empty just wanting to be whole again. She didn't feel the same as
Fiesta Flare, like something wasn't missing.
I made a choice.
"Nice to see you again Nurse Glitter Glide, keep up the good work!" The growling stopped and the shadow vanished.
"Nice to know I'm appreciated." She played along and went back to looking after her patients.
It's funny, I swear it was like things had begun to slow down around us as that shadow had fallen over us. But that WAS Glitter Glide. Ponyville, the happy-land Ponyville, LOOKED small, but it was like you had every earth pony in the world there. So many of us, and all of us dear friends.
Nurse Sweetheart didn't really seem to notice I'd wandered off, but Apple Bloom, Sweetie, and that creepy new pet of hers sure did.
"Scootaloo," Apple Bloom said, "What was that all about-"
"SHHHH!" I put a hoof to my lips. I pushed Blanky down into Sweetie's saddle bag with another. "I swear, she's a friend I haven't seen in a really long time, but-" I whispered and made sure Blanky couldn't hear us in the bag, "She isn't supposed to be a Nurse."
The look on Sweetie Belle's face told me she did NOT like me pushing around her pup like that and I stopped before things turned sour, Apple Bloom didn't look too happy either but didn't say anything.
Then Sweetie Belle out of nowhere asked. "Nurse B- Nurse Sweetheart, are... are my parents here? Or Rarity? Or any of her friends? Or maybe Silver Spoon or Spike?"
"I, no dear. I don't think any of them are checked in, but I'll double check with Doctor Redheart, if you want."
"Yes, thank you."
Nurse, I guess Doctor Redheart came in, with Doctor Stables alongside her. They were looking through folders and clipboards. She wasn't wearing the cap, she was wearing the same coat as Doctor Stables. Nurse Sweetheart trotted to her and gave her the load down on how we'd hurt ourselves this time. 'Doc' Redheart stepped right in front of us.
"Hello, Sweetie Belle, thankfully none of your family or your friends are here. Why do you ask, anyway? Are they missing? Did they get hurt?"
"Uh, no. Thank you." Sweetie Belle shuddered.
"And Apple Bloom, could you please ask your sister to come in for more group therapy? There's no shame in admitting you have a problem."
Apple Bloom looked 'Doc' Redheart right in the face. Her eyes widened and she fell on her flank.
Ah don't know what the deal was with Scootaloo, but a quick look with, well, the Truth, and she didn't seem any different than before she was talkin' with her out of town friend. Ah swear, Blanky looked like he was gettin' bigger for a bit before Scootaloo came back and he was the size he was before. What is with it? Ah don't know if ya know this or not, but my family and Redheart's? Our families have been friends since forever. Ah mean, nopony remembers when it started, a lot earlier than when Ponyville was founded. She fixes Granny Smith's back all the time! Ah kept lookin' at everypony here with the truth, none of 'em had...had those things inside what Ah hope is still Miss Cheerilee somewhere.
Scootaloo's friend, she...Ah don't know how ta say it. It was like she was an outline filled up with somethin'. It was the same...well, it was a warm glow, it was cast on everythin', everypony. I did notice Redheart had a pendant around her neck that was like the statue in the lobby. When 'Doc' Redheart talked about Applejack, Ah did my hardest not to growl.
Ah know Ah didn't think too hard how them stories as Gabby Gums would hurt Big Mac and Applejack's feeln's, until Applejack wouldn't even talk ta me and Big Mac was shouting our ears off how'd Ah humiliated them and they didn't want to so much as look at me! It was like Ah'd stabbed 'em right in the back!
But now...Ah think Ah knew what other foals felt when our stories said things that were colored facts, tall tales, or things that were true but hurtful to THEIR big sisters. Then I looked her in the face and...maybe Ah didn't notice before cause that glow was just everywhere, or maybe cause there wasn't any fog anywhere or anythin' truly nasty lookin' with either of my eyes but...
My other eye showed there was something inside Redheart, but...it wasn't darkenin' her, it was like it was makin' it brighter. No, that isn't right. Those things, Cheerilee and the others, it was makin' her less Cherilee! But here...it was like, this was somehow makin' her more Redheart than Redheart was before!
"Apple Bloom, you okay?" Sweetie asked.
"Ah...Ah, Ah don't think it's bad," Ah whispered, not knowin' what ta say.
Redheart went to the crazy pony we'd brought in with us. He was the same grimy pink like the outside. Redheart touched him, all those sparkles from her hooves again, but brighter and more of them than Tenderheart. The hurts that Tenderheart didn't heal now closed up fine and bone fit back into place.
"Now please, just rest."
"Extermination Squad, the Glue Ponies, they finally came for me!"
"You can tell us how you got injured later, please for now just rest." Redheart told him, before turning to us.
"Now just hold still dears." We didn't get much chance to as she ran her hoof on us, those same sparkles as before appeared as our cuts and bruises vanished and we were in tip-top shape again.
It felt warm...kinda like a hug...Ah know that sounds weird, but it just felt nice and warm.
"So uh, can you just forward the bill to our big sisters?" Scootaloo asked.
"Oh there's no charge for something as trivial as this, it costs us nothing to use the gift passed down from Saint Sweetheart. Though if your families would like to make a donation that'll be fine."
"Oh, okay, thank you N-Doctor Redheart," Sweetie Belle said.
That warm glow... it was comin' from what was inside her.
But all the ponies around us, they weren't actin' like puppets. They weren't like Cheerilee with a bunch of parasites hijacking her. They weren't happy cause they were bein' MADE happy. They were happy, cause they were gettin' ta help ponies who needed help. They wanted tah help ponies. this was like their wish come true! And… all the stuff with Saint Sweetheart? She was smiling in all of 'em. Like she was sayin' she was happy they were helpin' cause of her. Okay, back up, Ah KNOW there's no way Ah could know that fer sure. But Ah was.
Yeah, Ah've heard about Saint Sweetheart, Redheart's family talked about her on occasion, she was family after all, so Ah respected they respected her. But all the stuff she did was just a legend...like we thought Nightmare Moon was... All the hospital ponies here, they were all just a little bit brighter.
"Now you three rest for just a moment and you'll be right as rain. Please tell Nurse Tenderheart how you got so hurt before you leave though, I know it's Crusader business, but hospital rules," Redheart said, going to the other hurt ponies.
"Redheart!" Ah asked, thinkin' of somethin'. "Ya," Ah tried my hardest to think of how to ask this without soundin' weird. "Ya still pay respect to, er, 'Princess Gaia' right?"
She blinked. "Fluttershy? She's a dear friend, and I, she's done good work for ponies here. Of course I respect her. Why do you ask?"
Last I'd heard, Redheart was on the Princess Gaia Mailing List for her 'supporters.'
"Oh," I tried to say 'No real reason' but I felt sick tryin' to. "Just bein' sure. Ya both do important stuff."
"Why thank you. Excuse me."
"Okay," I said and turned to my friends. "Now let's compare notes here."
So we each talked about Miss Cheerilee, what made us run, what we'd all spotted, how things had gone this morning that felt like last year. The dreams we'd had, and what we'd done last evenin'.
Scootaloo said the braid was really cause it was how she wore it when she hung out with old friends she had before moving to this Ponyville. 'This Ponyville' she said. Ah explained about mysteriously gettin' the worst headache ever from a dream about Nightmare Applejack and Nightmare Pinkie Pie. Scootaloo seemed, no, she was worried about lookin' me in the eye. So...so was Sweetie Belle but not as bad. Applejack, this is how ya felt? Blanky, he looked at me without even flinchin'. Ah guess animals are immune to Truth too.
Ah...left out about what Nightmare Applejack said about Princess Luna wasn't kidnapped by Nightmare Moon, that she was Nightmare Moon, that Miss Fluttershy wasn't possessed when she turned into a monster. Ah...we were already confused and scared about so much, Ah didn't want to stir the pot MORE.
We left the conspiracy pony in the room, he was crazy, and it was better he was here instead of out there.
"You don't think, him being here will...'infect' this place do you?" Sweetie Belle asked.
Ah thought about it. "If any place knows how to deal with an infection, it's a hospital. Otherwise, what else we gonna do with him? Carry him with us?"
We went back to the lobby where Nurse Tenderheart was, we didn't feel like tryin' to be Cutie Mark Crusaders Candy Stripers today. We sat in a corner whisperin' to each other.
We had to go by again..."Madam Lickety Split? Did he get turned into a girl and a werewolf?" Ah asked finally thinkin' about it.
"No," Scootaloo said, "I got chased by his crazy gradma once, she thinks she's a dog."
-Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney Bewitching Puzzle-
Ah thought about this. Everythin'. The hospital. Redheart. Her family. Saint Sweetheart.
Ah asked, "Sweetie Belle, why did ya call Nurse Sweetheart 'Nurse Battleaxe'?"
"I...I don't know...It was just a feeling...like she wasn't nice."
"Well she sure was nice there."
"I know...does she have one of those thingies inside her making her be nice?"
"I, I didn't SEE anythin' like that inside her. The only one who did was Redheart, and it, it was like the OPPOSITE of the ones inside Miss Cheerilee." And Ah told 'em the differences.
Scootaloo asked. "If all this stuff turned everything nasty, why is this place MORE nice than it was before? Did all the nice in the world get put in here instead?!"
"No,” Sweetie Belle said, "I don't believe that. Whenever Fluttershy was nice to somepony, she didn't make somepony else in the world be mean instead. Did she?"
Ah thought about the Foal Free Press, all the nasty lies in it that were suddenly true. But... Gabby Gums... we three weren't under evil mind control and blanking out and writing those nasty stories and then waking up without even remember doing it were we?
The scary part about that sort of thing is that ya can never know for sure. But that didn't make sense. If we didn't remember doing it because we were under a spell, that would mean the spell did it instead, and then we wouldn't have been able to write squat! I shook my head. No. No way. No how. Not happenin'. Mr. Vendetta Mask. Ah wasn't turnin' inta him. Ah wasn't gonna go crazy chasing after every little possible thing that might be true or Ah'm scared is true!
Use yer head, Apple Bloom, use yer head. Think.
Them stories about Saint Sweetheart, about her bein' able to heal ponies with a touch, they've been a around a lot longer than anypony we know has been alive. They didn't spring up yesterday. But it came true along with all them nasties lies in the paper. Them nasty stories weren't around until the paper started givin' 'em out. They weren't around as long as the stories about Saint Sweetheart.
And Button Mash bein' Sweetie Belle's coltfriend wasn't in the paper neither.
Everythin' about Saint Sweetheart said nothin' bad ever happened in her place. Everypony was safe with her. This hospital sure counted as 'her house' now I guess.
Barkin' Mad, acting like a dog...how many ponies saw her down the street chasin' after Scootaloo?
All them stories Mr. Vendetta Mask kept spreadin' around? Ah thought of all those ponies the nurses were helpin', nopony said much of anythin' about Carrot Top, not when she lived right next to our farm and ponies liked to talk about us. Seaswirl, some ponies thought she had to be a seapony in disguise, she even went as one one Nightmare Night after she lost a bet.
PON-3? Some joked she had to be a vampire with how she stayed up late at night and slept during the day sometimes. Mjolnir and Silver Spanner? They keep to themselves, with the much more weird Doctor Whooves livin' nearby, nopony really notices them.
"It's not just what was printed in the newspaper. It was whatever a whole bunch of ponies THOUGHT was true!" I shouted.
Nurse Tenderheart 'shushed' us.
Ah explained my idea to my friends like Ah just said.
"So...you're saying, a whole bunch of ponies thought me and Button Mash were special friends?! How does that make sense?!"
"I dunno. Maybe somepony said it as a joke and it went from there."
"So let's tell a whole buncha ponies how the world is supposed to be and everything'll be fixed!" Scootaloo declared.
"Before or after they try to eat our brains?" Ah asked.
"Hey! Maybe if we can get to the school newspaper, we can fix things up. those papers change to whatever is written on'em in the printing room remember? So we just need to change what they say!" Sweetie Belle offered.
"Let's hope ponies are still botherin' to READ IT after everythin' turned nasty," Ah said.
"HEY!" Scootaloo grinned. "I've worked paper routes for three years! Even if that magic paper isn't working anymore I can still get it to every pony in Ponyville no matter how crazy they've gotten!" She buzzed her wings proudly.
"That poser's got nothing on us," Sweetie Belle said with a cat like grin, "We're the original Gabby Gums! If anypony knows how to spread stories whether they're true or not it's us!" Sweetie said with maybe a little too much pride about that shameful moment in our lives.
"We're gonna get back everything back to normal in no time!" Scootaloo cheered as loud as she dared. "This time the REAL Gabby Gums is gonna tell everypony the truth!"
"Finding the master copy and healing the damage done by all of this foolishness? That is a good plan."
We looked to see a brown pegasus foal with broken wings and a jack-o-lantern cutie mark. Blanky went back inside Sweetie's saddle bag.
"Boo." Phobia grinned at us. "Nice to see you girls got here okay. I was visiting Button Mash and he seems okay too."
"Phobia, why are ya here?" Scootaloo asked.
"Oh just here for a regular checkup," he said, "And to check on you three. It's nice to see you girls still have your heads on straight."
"How do you know Button Mash?"
"We're...we're friends. Well, acquaintance at least. He'll be VERY HAPPY to know you're okay Sweetie Belle."
Sweetie Belle blushed and said quickly. "Where's Miss Void?"
"She..." Phobia wilted. "She's lost. I don't know where she is. When this nonsense was dumped over everything, she, she got caught up in it."
"We're sorry," Ah said, lookin' back at mah Crusader cape.
"She'll . . .she'll be fine, she's tougher than a rock and twice as cool and collected, well, as long as you don't try bossing her around." Phobia gave a smile that Ah could tell was slightly forced.
Ah can't remember which of us said it first when it hit us. "Wait! Ya remember what's happened?!"
Another 'Shush!' from Nurse Tenderheart. We didn't notice. Our hearts leapt. Somepony...somepony besides us remembered! Ah knew we weren't crazy, but, it felt GOOD to have one pony more! We didn't hesitate to hug him. We were careful not to damage his wings. He looked really surprised by the hug. We didn't know 'em all that well, but he was still a port in the storm.
There were bits so far that Ah thought the whole world was gonna crush us! Having another pony who remembered how the world was supposed to be, it made everythin' a little bit brighter.
"Oh...I guess I do remember. Funny how that works. But you should Understand, that me remembering Isn't The Point. With all this nonsense going on, can anypony really account for everything? I'm not sure Void remembers now. Maybe I should be surprised I remember when she might not."
When Phobia said that...he sounded old. Sweetie Belle patted him on the shoulder.
"It's, it's okay if you're scared, I'm scared too," she said.
"That's how I keep from panicking, I'm always scared," he said.
"Don't worry about it!" Scootaloo grinned. "As long we fix this mess, it doesn't matter what happens! It'll be like a bad dream! That's how this stuff works!"
"...That may not be exactly true,” Phobia said, this is the first time Ah think Ah've seen 'im not smile. "You agree with me that you'll be 'healing' the damage done to everypony by this nonsense with your plan?"
We all nodded.
"In any video game you'd care to name, no amount of healing spells can help a character after their heath drops to zero."
Ah felt my heart chill. Sweetie Belle wilted.
Scootaloo stuttered. "B-but, if it happens because of all this crude that never actually happened, that means after we clean it up, that never happened!"
Now Phobia looked sad. "Look around you, can you really tell these grown-ups that this hospital hasn't always been dedicated to Saint Sweetheart? This nonsense hasn't just changed what is, but changed what was. Unless you can heal things, it's what you remember that never happened."
Ah felt sick. The others looked mighty green themselves.
"But that doesn't make sense!" Scootaloo stomped her hoof. "If that's true, then even if...even if...even if something REALLY BAD happens to somepony, after we fix things, then it never did!"
"Alright, answer me yes or no, do you believe in an afterlife?"
We all nodded. Ah never met 'em, but Ah know Ma and Pa are lookin' out over me.
"And do you believe in separate worlds out there? I mean really separate, not 'you can get there if you travel long enough' like say the moon."
Ah thought of those crazy places we visited when we traveled sideways through time. We nodded again.
"Would you say the afterlife counts as a separate world?"
We looked at each other, but nodded.
"And what happens in separate worlds don't effect each other, right?"
Ah thought of what happened in that one world I saw, with AppleGem who was the bully and Diamond Tiara was the one Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle stood up for. Ah nodded, but the others just tilted their heads at me.
"If a pony...goes to the afterlife...and it counts as a separate world...then why should what happens in this world pull them out of that world? What if what came back, was a completely different pony on the inside?"
"That's a whole lot of 'ifs.'" Scootaloo pointed out. "The whole world is full of 'ifs,' and you should never 'if' yourself into doing nothing." All the same, Ah could tell Scootaloo was as shaken to the core as we were.
Phobia tapped his chin. "Okay, do you remember Mr. Vendetta?"
"We were just with him not five minutes ago."
"You brought him here when he was badly hurt, right?"
"Why did you do that?"
"...Because I was afraid he wasn't gonna make it," Sweetie said.
"How would you feel if you left him behind and I told you what I just did? Even if what I said was just a possibility?"
Ah shuddered. "...Probably pretty guilty..."
Phobia nodded. "Then does it MATTER if my theory is just a theory? Is that a chance you want to take?"
"...We can't worry about every fear we have, this world would drive us nuts," Ah said, and Scootaloo nodded hard.
"That is true, but some things are worth the risk, aren't some things not worth them?"
...We risk gettin' hurt all the time...but we never risk anythin' we think is gonna do us in . . .
"HEY! How did you know we brought him in here?!" Scootaloo demanded.
"It's kind of hard to miss the stallion spitting blasphemy in a religious place. Sticks out like a plastic spoon among silver forks."
"I MEANT how do you know WE brought him here?!" Scootaloo got in his face.
"Because I saw you carrying him."
"We didn't see you anywhere and we had our eyes out for monsters!"
Ah gotta admit, that's suspicious. Ah looked at 'em one eye and the other, but Ah didn't see anythin' different. Still a scared foal like us.
Phobia pointed to his Cutie Mark. "My special talent is scaring ponies, it comes with 'be good at sneaking around'. I can as unnoticed as a shadow if I want. I didn't WANT you to see me."
"WHY?! If you're scared too, why WOULDN'T you want to help us? Are you a spy?"
Phobia facehoofed. "What were you doing that entire time?"
"Talking to Tenderheart."
"And what would have happened if a little pegasus with broken wings interrupted that conversation?"
"...It'd probably have stopped..."
"And I found what you were talking about interesting. I was a little worried this place might not be safe, but that conversation put THAT worry to rest."
Scootaloo narrowed her eyes. "Why?"
"Simple: this is a holy place, and in most horror films..."
My eyes widened. "You heard us talking about HORROR FILMS?!"
Phobia shrugged. "Anyway, unless some annoying commentary on religion, what is it horror movie monsters can't do in holy places?"
"Exactly, so that means this hospital is actually safe...but if I'd just walked up, we might not have know that."
"Barking Mad is here,” Scootaloo pointed out.
"Really? Why did they say she was here?"
"…She's a patient…" Sweetie Belle said. "I think."
"Ah! That explains it, after all werewolves are often believed to be poor cursed souls, wouldn't invoking a Saint's healing power to exercise that curse make sense?"
We looked at each other, Ah've had to deal zombie curses, but werewolf curses that didn't exist before? Ah liked it better when Ah could just say curses weren't real and call it a day.
"It was great seeing you girls. I am happy to see you're okay. But I have some things to take care of that won't wait. Including seeing if I can find Void. And you have some classmates to save now that you have a plan, but that's something I can't help with." He fluttered a little his broken wings. "This is something you need to learn on your own. Sorry."
"What?" Scootaloo balked. "Okay. Back up. I know your wings are hurt but I bet Nurse Redheart can fix them, she said before she HELD BACK on fixing Dash's wings! And seriously! Haven't you ever watched a horror movie? The pony who breaks off from the main group always turns up later as a zombie!"
"Maybe I'm the hero with a separate story going on?"
"That NEVER HAPPENS in horror movies!" Scootaloo shouted.
Phobia shrugged. "Maybe this horror story isn't actually a 'movie,' then. Could be you're in more of a miniseries, or one of those experimental new video games with deeper narrative complexity. You should try one of those sometime."
Rather than try to argue with this, Scootaloo turned from Phobia and shouted, "Nurse Tenderheart! We have a friend over here with broken wings! Can you have Nurse Redheart help him?"
"MY?! What?! I didn't notice the doors open! Let me see you!"
"Hey! Wait! What! Let me go! I command ye mortal!"
"I hear that one all the time," Nurse Tenderheart said.
"Don't worry." Sweetie Belle said, "We'll wait for you to heal up."
"Ugh! You can't do this!"
"You'll be better able to look for Void with us, and with healed wings right?" Scootaloo said rationally.
"Trust Me when I say this: you have two 'movies' you could be in. The one where somepony dies by going off alone, or the one where that character actually was important and comes back when you need it. And doesn't the fact I made it here myself show I'm not helpless?"
"You girls can discuss your fun make-believe rules after my sister helps you, please," Tenderheart said nicely.
"Wow, is that a spider on your neck?" Phobia pointed.
"Nice try kid," Tenderheart smirked.
"Sorry. I actually didn't want to do this, BOOGA-BOOGA!" Then Phobia made this creepy face that made my heart skip a beat, Tenderheart gasped and let him go. Then he slipped underneath Nurse Tenderheart's shadow.
She looked between her legs and...nothing?
"Where'd he go?" Scootaloo said. We all looked around. Nothing.
"I need to tell the others to look out for him, I"ll be right back!" Nurse Tenderheart galloped off.
“Phobia, ya still here?" I called out. I tried lookin' with the truth, but there was nada.
"Don't worry about Phobia. He can take care of himself, but you need to take care of ponies who can't, that why doctors do, and that's what you girls want to do right?"
In the last hour I've now met three ponies from the memories of a life I never had. This time I kept from gasping out her name.
Sitting behind the desk now, was a purple mare with a birthday present cutie mark. Around her waist was a satchel. Her mane was white, with strips of pink and blue and dark blue eyes. She also had some white swirl marks on her forehead and back.
"Where did you come from?" Apple Bloom said doing the thing with her eyes again.
"Who are you?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"My name is Razzaroo. I was in the archives. It's not good to leave this place empty so many times so this time I snuck out. I don't think I'll be staying here for long, I have some places I need to be. But as long as I'm here, how about I write your progress? After all, you were supposed to write that down before leaving the hospital, it's in the rules."
Sweetie Belle asked, "Uh, you aren't going to trap us in a magic book, or changes details about us once we're 'written down' that changes the real us are you?"
"Sweetie Belle, it's okay, we can trust her," Scootaloo of all ponies said. Huh? Okay. I took Scootaloo by the shoulders and looked her in the eyes, deeper until she started sweetin'. Then she shouted, "I WET THE BED UNTIL I WAS FIVE!"
I trotted back as Scootaloo glared at me. "Don't ever do that again!!!"
"Apple Bloom how could you?" Sweetie Belle gasped.
I shuddered and bowed my head. "Sorry, Scootaloo it's just .. . yer kinda the..." I tried to think of a nice way to say it. "Know best not to trust strangers."
"She's not a stranger she's...from the same place
Fiesta and Glitter are."
"Which is where?" I asked, to which Scootaloo hemmed and hawed a bit.
"It's nice to see you again Razzaroo," Scootaloo smiled at her.
"It's, nice to see you still remember me, Scootaloo." Razzaroo leaned down and snared a nuzzle with Scootaloo. Both of 'em acted like the other was a ghost that would go poof if they looked away. "I'm sorry we can't catch up, but I have responsibilities I need to take care of."
I sighed. I remembered when Rainbow Dash had to call things off for her weather work.
I swear I didn't secretly cry after Twilight Sparkles gave me these memories...I mean, there's no way a little foal crying to herself would get left out of stores of a big battle to free Canterlot from invading bug ponies, right?
Razzaroo was a friend who was somehow back from the erased world from everything going on. Maybe Pinkie Pie spread stories about them and that's how they're here? I don't care. She's a friend.
"Alright, I...I understand."
"Thank you Scootaloo. So uh, want me to record your progress?" She looked right at me.
Maybe Ah'm usin' Truth too much, but with all the bad things we keep runnin' inta, better safe than sorry. She...it wasn't really the way she looked even with those funny marks on her. It was more like a feelin', it was like bein' near Princess Celestia.
"Uh, yeah, thank ya."
If Ah was right, and things were based on how much ponies thought was truth, then writing down what we knew was for the best right? We...we didn't even really think about it, we just, let it all out, Razzaroo, she was holdin' the pen with her hooves but that didn't feel that weird.
Then we just stopped right where we were, it was like comin' out of a dream.
Ah looked at the clock, it hadn't really moved all that much since Razzaroo began to write stuff down. Oh right, like the clock at school...but this one was tickin' forward. Ah didn't think about it when we brought in Mr. Mask. Ugh! This is makin' mah head hurt.
"Thank you girls. I hope to see you later.” Razzaroo smiled.
"So back...back to school...back to Cheerilee," Scootaloo said.
"But how?" Sweetie Belle asked. "And... why?! Couldn't we call the head doctor ponies at the asylum and let them know that something's not quite right with our teacher?"
Scootaloo looked Sweetie right in the eyes. "If the whole world wasn't crazy! If we can even find the place we're likely gonna end up locked up in there ourselves! Even if they're sane, it's always the authority figures who get never-heard-from-again when they try to help."
"They don't have the truth. My gift lets me see the truth, so Ah'm gonna see the truth of which way to get back!"
We were run back where we'd run away from before. Now Ah know how Applejack's friends felt stormin' the castle.
Uh, hi, sorry Scootaloo and Apple Bloom, and I guess me too... the way we keep skipping back and forth between us telling the story but...that's just how we are. I'm sorry if it's making things confusing.
"Good luck, Scootaloo, please help Cheerilee?"
"You know I will," Scootaloo nodded.
Scootaloo and Razzaroo hugged and out of the watercolor hospital's inside we marched...back into that ugly pink world with everything was like a grimy sketch. But we were still ourselves. We were still the way we remembered Equestria being. None of us were that confused about the fallen trees and the monster being all gone.
Apple Bloom looked about the fog and said, "This way."
This time we didn't question her. We weren't going to be scared of the fog. In we went after Apple Bloom; Scootaloo, me and Blanky. She didn't hesitate for a second, she knew exactly which was she was going! But it was all pea soup for the rest of us, and we held onto each other's tails'. Scootaloo buzzing her wings to keep from having to swim through it.
Here comes our imagine now
Our moments haven't gone
We still have our vital signs,
the game's not over, we're one
Home's not lost for interpretation
We sat and watched your colors run
Down our faces one too many times
Your heart's poisoned, we'll make it undone,
But try to shut us out
Closing the doors
We'll break through somehow
We won't lose our way