I was walking through Ponyville with a now empty wheelbarrow meant for now sold out apples. Its splintered wood made its age show through, if the sun-bleached wood didn’t already make that obvious. I had just sold out the my last apple after a tiring day’s work, and was trotting back to Sweet Apple Acres, when I saw a familiar pink pony sprinting towards me.
“Applejack, there’s a fire at the orchard, the barn is on fire!” yelled Pinkie Pie as she ran up to me. The look of anguish in her eyes told me she was being serious, this wasn’t one of her pranks, especially not one I would find funny.
“Sweet Celestia, we better hurry, grab the others!” I didn’t wait for a response as I began sprinting, leaving the wheelbarrow behind. I ran as fast as my hooves could go, but that still wasn’t fast enough. The dirt beneath my hooves barely had time to shift before I was already feet in front of it. The farm was my life, the reason I got my cutie mark, my home.
I made it to the farm and it was worse than I had imagined. The entire barn was masked in thin black fiery bits. It was engulfed in billowing waves of red orange flames that crackled and snapped. Some sections were just glowing red embers in a fire. In the few areas that were not in direct contact with the hungry fire, the red paint singed under the intense heat, until finally falling off in heaps. I held back a tear, but didn’t waste another minute.
I ran to Big Macintosh, who was frantically shoveling buckets of water from the well. His coat, once a cherry red, was now scarred with black patches. I could see his muscles shaking from over exerting himself. I jumped to help him. I grabbed from the pile of buckets, and using all the energy I could to get water to the barn, in hopes of stopping the fire before it engulfed the entire orchard.
Right on cue, the rest of my friends showed up. Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Twilight all flew down at tremendous speed, and landed around the well, then folded their wings in as they did. Rarity and Pinkie Pie were not far behind, and I could have sworn I saw a bead of sweat on Rarity’s forehead. They all seemed off however, their facial expression weren’t worried. It was as if we were just strolling through the market, not a care in the world. I didn’t dwell on it, we needed to stop this fire.
“Come on y'all, let’s get to it,” I hurried some buckets over to them, expecting them to jump at the chance to help.
“Sorry Applejack, we can't help you,” said Twilight, with eyes cold as steel, and body like one of those ponnequins at a Manehatten storefront, stiff and still.
“Yes, very sorry,” said Rainbow Dash in the same monotone way, barely moving even the tiniest muscles in her mouth to speak the words.
“But, but this is my home, my entire life is here!” I stammered out. I was confused, scared. My friends would always help each other, what was happening?
They all said in unison, “No one can help you.” Everything blurred. The world seemed to stop all around me, as if time and space itself were breaking down. Then everything in front of me sank into the ground like water. I tried to scream, but I heard nothing.
I almost jumped out of bed; I came up so fast, “Oh, thank Luna it was only a nightmare,” I sighed in relief. I never know if Luna is slacking, or these atrocities are exactly what she wants. Whatever the reason, I’ve had nightmares for the last week. I can't for the life of me figure out why. Maybe it was something that my mind knew, but I didn't. Now how does that make sense, Applejack? I shook my head at my thought babblings.
I looked at the clock, it was half past five, still half an hour from when I usually wake up to eat, and start the morning chores. I stretched one last time, to take in what was likely one of the last pleasantries of the day. I got out of bed, not bothering to make it afterwards. What’s the point, I’ll just sleep in it again tonight. I was glad I still got sleep at all, even if it is plagued with malicious nightmares.
I made my way to the restroom, where I grabbed a towel and got into the shower. Twilight told us that when she went through the portal, she arrived in a world where you had to wear clothes all the time. I couldn’t imagine it, I hated wearing clothes when I went to the fancy stuff. I smiled, happy to have at least one convenience in my life, amongst the numerous responsibilities and sacrifices. I got out of the shower, dried myself, and walked over to the sink. In the mirror there was an orange pony with beautiful freckles on her cheeks, with a long, flowing, silk mane of an almost white shade of blonde. At least those are the words Rarity used to describe me. She says I could be even more beautiful than most model ponies if I just let her style my hair a bit. But I’m not a model, nor do I ever wish to be. I’m just a simple farm pony. I tied my mane and tail at the ends with red ribbon like I usually do to keep it manageable, put on my stetson, and left the restroom.
Now that I think about it though, it did seem our little batch of friends was a little withdrawn lately. Twilight's been doing her important princess papers, boring old desk stuff. Rainbow Dash seemed to have been taking more naps than usual, but maybe that was just me. Everypony just seemed far-flung lately. Even me, I’d been doing a lot more work lately to help out the farm. I hardly ever saw Pinkie or Rarity, besides our weekly tea parties... Wait a minute, our weekly tea parties have recently seemed to be lacking a member, either Rainbow or Twilight. Maybe I was just being at bit sick in the head. It was just a happenstance, I guess. I broke out of my thoughts and walked on through the hallway and eventually downstairs.
I heard someone singing as I made my way downstairs to the kitchen. The female voice was angelic, slow, and rhythmic. There was only one pony it could be, but I couldn’t believe it.
“If this is a dream, let me keep on dreaming, where have you been all my life…” I continued down into the kitchen and it was none other than Granny Smith. I was surprised at how my granny could sing so beautifully, even in her old age.
“Ah didn’t know you could sing like that, Granny,” I interrupted.
Her voice returned to its normal raspy crackle “Oh pumpkin, ah weres getting breakfast ready and everthing.”
“It's alright Granny, now ah can help ya”. I went over to the oven to finish up the pancakes she had already started. The batter crackled as I shook around the pan. “So Granny Smith, where did you learn how to sing so beautifully?”
“Oh Jackie, ye don’t learn how to sing, yer bern with the ‘bility," she said.
People say that I have a thick southern accent, but people don’t know thick until they’ve met my Granny. “But ah weres in the school Choir, ah was the lead soloist when there were a part.” She walked over to wash the few dishes still in the sink. I stopped paying attention to the pan I was holding as I listened to her and almost dropped it on the floor, but thankfully I recovered it and set it down on the stove.
Her words reminded me of my school days. School wasn’t a big deal in Equestria unless you’re learning a specific skill. You learned the basics of math and science, how to speak the right way, which someponies choose not to follow, equestrian history, and life skills. After that, there really is no need, since your cutie mark pretty much tells you what to do. I took up leadership of the farm from my granny when I was but fifteen years old. I grinned, feeling a sense of pride at my accomplishment, but that quickly turned into a frown.
Sometimes I wish I hadn’t. The farm has fallen on hard times ever since I reserved the entire western orchard for those blasted fruit bats. I didn’t want to do it, I was pressured by my friends, even Rainbow Dash, who was on my side until Twilight convinced her. Friendship, it's all fine and dandy, and I love every bit of it, but it doesn’t put food on the table. We weren’t in any immediate financial danger, but the funds were definitely decreasing, slowly but steadily.
“Hey Granny, what d’ya make of this here situation with the farm?” I inquired.
“Oh, pumpkin, now don’t ya git worked up about somethin’ so fer away, you’ll come up with somethin’ right quick, if ah didn’t trust ya, ah wouldn’t o’ handed the ferm over to ya,” she reassured me. She did always make me feel better, but I wasn’t a filly searching for her cutie mark anymore, I had a duty to keep this farm going strong. I flipped the finished pancakes onto a plate, and started walking towards the kitchen table.
“You’re right granny, but this here is serious, ah need to get out there and figure somethin’ out. Ahm a hopin’ Twi might have some ideares.” What I didn't tell her though is that I didn't just want to talk on farm business. I was going to talk about the farm, of course, but I was also starting to worry about the gang. It was likely just my sleep-deprived mind rousing up my imagination, but it wouldn't be the first time a hunch of mine was on the nail.
I sat down to eat some of those delicious pancakes I helped Granny make. I complimented her, even though I did most of the work. Although I did barge in here before she was finished. I got up from my seat and put my plate into the clean sink, its sheen now ruined by the single dish. I waved Granny goodbye, and left to do the morning chores.
The sun was just barely poking up over the trees. I flared my nostrils to smell the sweet morning air. It was filled with the scent of dew that always comforts me. The birds were not yet chirping, further relaxing the mood of the outside. As I walked towards the barn to grab the necessary tools, I decided I would go see Twi, but later today. Since I bet nopony in Ponyville gets up as early as me, save Granny Smith that is. I just couldn't get the thought out of my head that something may be wrong. I just hadn't seen it yet.