Apples at Sunset

by Wolfton

I Only Go Outside When It's Raining

“Mind if I take this seat, sir?”

The speaker is that strange middle-aged pony, the one that’s been almost following you around the past few days talking about history and magic. His black mane and dark eyes pierce your own as he looks down at you.

“Not at all.” There’s plenty of room to sit, as the room had been empty outside of you and a familiar stetson on the pew nearby. You were actually curious as to how he got in here without you hearing him. Must have been lost in thought.

That had been happening a lot to you, recently.

“How long has it been, then?” he asks.

“Two weeks, six hours, eight minutes.” You’d take the memory of that fall with you to the grave.

The stranger nods and looks forward with you. You consider asking him what brought him here, but preferred the silence. Besides, you already had a pretty good guess.

“What is it about boxes, I wonder? We seem so interested in putting so much inside of boxes: plain, boring, unimaginative things they are.” He turns to you. “I’ve always thought the raw form of things are more interesting. And if we are going to insist on putting everything in some container, why not a cylinder? Or sphere? Or anything else besides a mundane old box?”

You close your eyes and pinch the bridge of your nose. Not the time for a philosopher, I think.

“Ah, of course. You’re probably not interested in such things. Especially not now.” He bows his head in apology.

Now you’re wondering why he’s got the urge to strike up a conversation. This room reverberates the sounds within it—a prison of noise. There are no shutters or drapes on the two windows, but the sun had set long ago. Twenty by twenty square feet of solitude, and it had been perfectly sufferable all day in silence. Why come in here and disturb things?

You sigh, though it comes out a bit louder than you anticipated. No excuse to get short with him, he’s probably not comfortable here, either. You suspect conversation was one of his coping mechanisms. How ironic that yours is keeping quiet.

“Been here long?”

That question chokes a scoff out of you. Been here long. Who is this guy? You cross your arms on the pew in front of you and bury your head in them. Almost a year, now. A year since...

“Catch, AJ!” An apple buzzes towards the orange pony, ‘AJ’, you assume, and she snatches it out of the air.

“Consarnit, Rainbow, I’m trying to harvest, here! This ain’t the time for lolly-gaggin and horseshoes!”

Apples. Oh, god, you are so hungry. Your shuffle becomes more urgent as you make your way towards the talking animals. You won’t let your body collapse this close to your goal.

“And I’m helping! Here’s another!”

A second apple flies out of the tree, zipping in AJ’s direction. She kicks it into a nearby bushel. “No, ya ain’t! An’ why don’t you have weather duty?”

The head of another pony, this one cyan, pops out of a nearby apple tree. “Oh, c’mon, my boss only gives me the work of one ordinary pegasus. Work I’m able to finish in a couple of hours. Besides, it’s—” her voice cuts off when she spots you. You’re beyond caring. You see food, now. It’s all that matters. Your eyes widen as you approach the bushel AJ had been filling.

“What the heck is that?”

AJ spins to face you. “Sweet Celestia, I ain’t never seen a creature like that!”

The memory of apples fills your mind: the sweet juiciness, the resistance it gives as you bite into it, the feeling of red delicious dripping down your chin. You need it, now more than ever. You urge your feet onward, faster.

“It’s coming after you, AJ!” Rainbow leaps out of the tree and lands between you and your apples, then strikes the ground with a forehoof. “Bring it on!”

AJ leers at you cautiously. “I’m not so sure, Rainbow. It doesn’t look very, er, healthy. I think somethin’s wrong with it.”

Closer, closer...

“It’s just playing with us. I bet it’ll try to eat us once we let our guard down.” The glare Rainbow is giving you could melt a steel beam. Your cognitive functions are long gone, though. You need those apples.

“Eat us? Ya really think so? I mean, it looks like it’d have a hard time fittin’ a full-grown pony in that belly.” AJ is wandering out from behind Rainbow.

Almost there...

“Not happenin’, bud!” Rainbow spins around leans forward on her forelegs.

“Rainbow, no!”

Pain. You’re on the ground, but you can’t really comprehend why. The world is spinning around you. Panting, you look around, trying to figure out what happened. And where were those apples? Something blocks the noonday sun from your eyes. It’s just a silhouette at first, but after a few seconds you can make out a color: green. Two rings, unabashedly jade in hue.

They were beautiful.

“Long enough,” you reply.

He lets out a deep chuckle. “I know the feeling. You see the sun rise and set, over and over, and you think one day it’s just got to stop; you’ve seen it so many times you don’t even know what it’s supposed to mean any more, or even if it’s supposed to mean anything at all.” Turning away, he drops his head again. “Ah, sorry. Not the time.”

The room feels colder. You rub your bare arms to warm up, swearing it wasn’t this chilly outside. You shake your head; it must just be your mind playing with you, but you put the stetson on for comfort anyways. Your brain is protesting all the work you’d put it through in the last couple weeks, but it’s the only way you could keep the pain at bay.

There is a hurricane raging inside of you, tearing up memories and thoughts and throwing them about like snowballs as they smash against the corners of your mind. At the eye of the storm, both creating and calming it, is that radiant, orange-coated mare. You curl one of your hands into a first and strike the pew it rests on. What the fuck was all of this good for, if all you’re going to be doing in the end is sitting in an empty room feeling sorry for yourself? Is there really no recompense? No purpose?

“It has to do with ripples.”

You glare over at the stallion next to you, but his gaze is forward, ignoring you.

“A drop of water in a still pond creates ripples that shock the entire surface, if only for a few moments. It’s an effect that cannot be refused or disregarded; something unique and magnificent. That’s what’s in a life, friend. Ripples.” He pauses and closes his eyes. “Only, the world is an ocean, and it’s raining.”

“And what the hell do you know about ripples, old stallion? We making ripples just sitting here? Seems pretty stupid to me. I’d prefer to define my life by what it is, not by what some philosopher calls it while sitting up in a tower, alone with his books.” You clench your teeth in an effort to keep yourself from talking further. If this kept up, you know you would lose your temper.

You take several deep breaths. Wouldn’t do to get riled up like this. She wouldn’t want that. You straighten your back and lean against the back of the pew, letting out one more lungful of air. Concentrating, you try to force a smile. No such luck.

What you need right now is a good drink. Maybe a lager or some well-aged scotch would help.

What you get is more yapping.

“You two must have quite a history.”

That was a perfect way to sour your mood further. He didn’t have the decency to straight-out ask the question, so he instead implied it.

The memories come anyway.

Your lungs are about to burst and your legs object to every movement, but you have to keep sprinting.

“I don’t think I’m any good at this ‘herding’ thing, AJ!”

Applejack isn’t far behind you, but safely to the side of the raging horde. There’s a rope looped around her neck. “You ain’t kiddin’!” You catch a touch of mockery in her reply. You’d smirk if your attention wasn’t required elsewhere.

“Hold on!” says AJ, grabbing the lasso. She starts to swing it above her head; you can see the razor-sharp concentration in her face. There’s no doubt in your mind she’ll get you out of this.

With a grunt, AJ launches the loop into the air. You can hear it whistle. Her aim is true, and the lasso grabs the lead cow. You give a quick whoop and continue on your path while Applejack directs the herd away. As soon as you’re clear, you put your hands on your knees and bend over, panting like a dog. You may be in shape, but outrunning a stampede of cows is exhausting no matter what world you’re in. Just the idea of rampaging cows was strange. Once your breathing becomes relatively normal, you head back toward the barn. AJ’s waiting for you there, leaning up against the barn doors.

She wears a grin as big as that hat of hers. “What’d ya do without me?”

You roll your eyes, but she’s earned gloating rights. “Probably be flattened into cow patties.”

“I don’t think I’’ve ever seen somepony lose control of a herd so quickly.” Her eyes go skyward. “Though Apple Bloom came close.”

“You let Apple Bloom try shepherding?”

“Nah, she got herself into that mess.” AJ walks up to you and jabs your side with a hoof. “But yous s’pposed to be a responsible a-dult.” She’s on the verge of giggling at her own quip.

You let your demeanor turn serious for a moment. “Applejack.” Her gaze turns inquisitive as you lay a hand on her back. “Thanks. I mean it.”

She turns away, blushing. “Aw, you don’t haveta mention a silly ol’ thing like that.” Her eyes dart back at you. “But I ‘preciate the sentiment.”

You rub her back a little before removing your hand. “Bout time for lunch, I’d say.” Wiping the sweat from your brow, you start toward the farmhouse. AJ seems... hesitant, though. Like there are unspoken words trapped inside of her. You just shrug to yourself and decide to give her a moment to herself.

She’s a pretty cool pony, you say to yourself.

You find yourself crying. You touch your face, wiping a tear away and holding your hand out to stare at it. Over two weeks since the accident, and you hadn’t cried once. Yet, these are definitely tears. You brush the rest of them off of your face, trying to make sense of it.

But things don’t make sense. Not here, not today.

“You’re looking at those tears like you’ve never seen anything like them before.”

You shake your head. “Just... wasn’t expecting them.”

“Already done your crying, then?”

“No. Never started.”

Your compatriot smiles and nods. “Nows a good a time as any. Never really know when you’ll run out of it.”

He’s starting to talk strange again. “Time, or tears?”


Wasn’t that the truth. She certainly wasn’t expecting it when it happened to her. You shiver and rub your hands against your arms in an effort to warm them up. It’s late; you shouldn’t still be here. Something holds you back, though.

“Dark outside.”

Well, isn’t he just a regular Einstein. “Yes, it is.”

“You planning on heading home anytime soon?”

You squint at him. What business of his was that? “I’ll leave when I need to.”

“Travel is Dangerous. Especially by yourself, once the Sun has set and the night has taken over.”

“I already know where I’m headed. I’ll be fine.”

“Just as you are now?” He keeps his face calm, almost serene. Like he has a wealth of knowledge behind those eyes. It only manages to frustrate you further, so you turn away to avoid snapping at him.

You had always considered yourself a strong person. Not just in body, but in mind as well. A font of endurance and stability. That’s what drew you to her in the first place. The two of you were similar in a thousand ways... and yet so radically different. You’d been raised by your mother in the suburbs; gone to decent schools, even spent a couple years in community college. Your mom had died when you were still fairly young, though, and the state took care of you for a while. The mare, on the other hand, always had a home full of family to learn from, to look up to. Never gone to school past the pony equivalent of high school, but she was still sharp as a tack. She had a practical kind of smarts, one you truly respected.

You can’t remember how many days you two spent out in the fields, working dawn to dusk, laughing, chatting, learning. That pain is starting to come back. You bury your face in your hands. The tears have passed, but their shadows still linger. It is an unrestricted darkness, looming over your psyche, threatening to drive you to hysteria and insanity.

And she isn’t there to drive it back.

You look to the large wooden box at the front of the room, polished to a clean shine, half-open with flowers scattered about. You know what kept you here.

It’s guilt.

The moon is full tonight. You and Applejack walk side-by-side down the road, not far from Sweet Apple Acres now. The sound of her hoofsteps fills your ears, drowned out only by the sweet nectar of her voice.

“Ain’t never expected you to take a pony out for a fancy dinner like that. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when you came back. From the looks of it, though, things came out alright.”

You scratch the back of your head. She was right, but only half-right. You squint at the sky. Damn, the moon is bright.

AJ notices your silence. “I ain’t made-a flowers, sugarcube. Speak your mind.”

You’re facing the dirt, face red as a beet. The words are there, but you just can’t lend them your voice. They are corrupt, filthy things. Don’t deserve to be said.

But hadn’t Applejack earned your honesty? Out of anypony, isn’t she worthy of the truth? You clench your fists to the point of pain. You can even feel your fingernails dig into your palms.

“I, I can’t do this, AJ.”

Just like that, it’s out there. The scared little boy from Earth can’t keep his damn insecurities to himself. Can’t open his mind just a crack and let somepony—no, someONE else in. She is just as alive, just as intelligent and thinking as you are.

“It’s Alice, ain’t it.”

You cede the answer with your silence. Both your and AJ’s walking pace have slowed considerably.

“Well, I can’t rightly change anythin’ about that. I tried, but to be honest, I wouldn’t want to any more. I’ve always respected your commitment to the past. You’re alone in a world you feel like you don’t belong in, stickin’ out like the moon in a sky of stars, but you never lost who ya were.” She pauses and stops in her tracks. “And if ya ain’t one to see yourself with me, then I oughta respect that, too.”

There’s no way you deserve a woman like her. She has twice the respect for you that you have for yourself.

“I’m... sorry, Applejack. I wanted this to work out.” You words tumble out of your mouth like pebbles rolling down a hill.

She starts trotting back home, leaving you with one last thought. “I reckon, at one point, you really did.”

You fall to the ground, dropping your head into your hands, again defeated by your greatest fear, your worst enemy:


The room was a terrible shelter from your memories. It only trapped you in them, drowned you in them.

“I wonder if the story ends here, then?”

You scowl at the pony. The entire night you’d fought to keep control, stay polite, but he was on a mission to piss you off.

He met your gaze with that frustrating composure of his. “Why do you think she’s in there?”

You burst from your seat and slam a fist down onto the pew. “Why is she here? Because I killed her, that’s why! She’s dead, and I’ve made myself alone again! We screw ourselves up until there’s nothing left of the person we were! That’s how the world FUCKING works! You give and you give and you give until you’ve got nothing left, and when you think it couldn’t ask for more, it does, but when you’ve nothing to give besides your life, it starts taking from those around you!” You’re yelling right into his face, almost spitting at him.

The stallion never flinches, though. “That’s how Earth works, sir. This is Equestria.”

You throw your arms in the air. “Oh, so we have the goddamn magic of friendship to make everyone feel better and every day ends with a smile because we’re all just so happy!” Leaning in to the point where your noses are touching, you lower your voice to a hoarse growl. “Death doesn’t care where you die. Just that you fucking die.”

His eyes narrow, finally showing some emotion. “And what makes you think that? What makes you so sure you know how Equestria works? You, who came here not even a year ago. You don’t even know my name. How would you know what I do and do not care about?”

With a scoff, you turn and walk away from him, putting your hands to your hips. You hate dealing with know-it-alls like him. So sure of their opinions, so wrapped up in how things are supposed to work that they forget to see for themselves.

You walked over to the coffin in your rage and lay a hand on it in an effort to calm yourself. That night, under the full moon, you made the worst mistake of your life. You threw her away, and now you’d never get the chance to take her back. She is lost to you, to the world, forever. You rub your eyes and blink. No more time for that.

That dark-coated pony sits in the same spot, staring at you. Almost like he is waiting for something. “Why are you even here?” you ask.

“I’m here to make a decision. To see if you’re still blind, or maybe, for just a moment, you’ve learned how to see.”

You start pacing around the front of the room. “See? See what? That the most wonderful mare I’ve ever known is dead? That I’m helpless and despicable? Well, that’s real clear without some genius like you coming along and showing it to me.”

He has to be a sadist, some sick degenerate who draws joy only from the pain in others.

“But what if you could have her back? What did you really lose with her?”

That does it. You stomp up to him and grab the scruff of his mane, lifting him up to shout in his face. “Don’t you dare joke about this! It’s not some game that you’re the master of, it’s my life. My heart! You want to know what I lost? I, I lost—” Your voice falters as you wrack your brain. There were so many things lost when she left, but what did you lose, what was so important to you that you were here for the third day in a row, alone, prisoner to your own thoughts?

You drop the stallion and point him to the door. “You’ve done enough for one night. Get out.”

He gives you a short bow. “I don’t expect we’ll see each other again for a good long while. My suggestion is that you make the most of the time you have.” You turn around, listening to his ambling as he makes his way to the door. It opens with a creak. “The world isn’t fair, sir, but sometimes... sometimes it’s alright.” You hear another creak, and a click as the door shuts.

A sigh immediately leaves your mouth. That pony had scrambled your thoughts into a million pieces and it was all you could do to keep your head together. That question lingers, though. Stronger than anything else.

What did you really lose with her?

At first, it sounded condescending, like he was implying you’d lost nothing at all. The longer you think on it, however, the more it sounds like he was asking you what the most important thing was that you lost. For the life of you, you can’t answer. She was the Element of Honesty, but that isn’t it. You don’t lie to ponies and they don’t lie to you. She was dependable and genuine, but that isn’t it either; you’d learned those things growing up.

Your gaze lands on her old hat, the one Big Mac made you swear you’d take if she didn’t make it back. You always felt it should have stayed in her family, not with some human who had cast her aside, but he was vehement about it. He had the same kind of stubbornness as her sister. Must run in the family. Slowly, you reach down to pick the stetson up. It’s rough and rugged, just like its previous owner. The thing doesn’t sit right on your head, either. In no way is this yours, but here it is anyways.

Approaching the coffin, you allow your hopes to rise just a little. What if that dark-coated stallion was right? What if you could have her back? This world has magic, does it not? Your footsteps slow as you get close. You straighten your back and crane your neck, looking perilously at the empty coffin. Almost with a mind of its own, your hand reaches out, and just barely grazes the inner lining, hoping for anything.

But the world remains still.

You close your eyes and smile—a shallow smile, one meant only for the one who wears it—and lay the hat once again on your head. The patter of rain comes from the ceiling and the windows. That’s alright with you, because you only go outside when its raining. You know the way home.

Spinning on your heel, you make your way around the room, blowing out the candles lighting the area. This place is disgusting, horrendous, filthy to your eyes and venomous to your mind. The foulness is marred only by the idea of a serene sleeping mare in that box. You know what Applejack was trying to tell you when she left you alone on that road. Now you need to leave. You approach the coffin and lay your hand on it one last time, then pull out a key to lock the place up.

“Ya’d be an idiot to think death’d keep me away, sugarcube.”

The key falls to the floor, clinking against the ground. You dare to turn around. Your head moves slowly, so slowly, impossibly slow, a hundred years worth of thoughts racing through your mind in that one moment, contemplating that perhaps the one thing that could absolutely never happen just did.

It’s just a silhouette at first, but after a few seconds you can make out a color: green. Two rings, unabashedly jade in hue.

They were beautiful.