Fluttershy awoke to the sounds of birds chirping merrily outside of her window. She sat up and arched her back, giving the kinks a satisfying stretch. The events of the previous day slowly washed over her, leaving the taste of curiosity lingering on her tongue.
Then again, it might just be morning breath.
After quickly completing her morning rituals, she trotted down the stairs, eager to check up on her animal friends. A new addition always caused unrest among the other animals. She just hoped they hadn’t overturned her coffee table, like last time.
When she cleared the floor, however, she stopped and stared wide-eyed. Her animal friends were all in their places once more, playing and scurrying about, eagerly awaiting their morning meal. Exactly as they hadn’t been when she had first brought in Biggs. She bit her lip.
That wasn’t a dream, was it?
Fluttershy looked to the couch, but it was facing away from her. She couldn’t see Biggs from her current angle, so she took the next simplest course of action and looked towards the entryway. The leather bag sat exactly where she left it last night, by the coat rack.
No, it wasn’t. So why is everyone acting like nothing is new?
Just then, Angel Bunny hopped up to her, sporting a conspiratorial grin. He gave her leg a few pats and an approving nod, then hopped off to round up the other animals for breakfast. She stared after him, mind spinning.
What was that all about?
Bewildered, Fluttershy opted to continue with her morning routine and wandered into the kitchen. It was a dry food morning, so she grabbed the boxes of bird and small animal feed. But then, she stopped mid-stride, remembering her new charge. What should she feed Biggs? She knew he was an omnivore, so did he need something with protein? Then again, bears were omnivorous too, and Harry was usually content to eat the large-animal dry food. After a moment, she decided to bring Biggs a bowl, just to see if he would eat it.
She set out the plates of food, which were immediately swarmed upon by eager, hungry little mouths, and filled the bird feeders, whose perches were already occupied. Angel, of course, received a special salad for his assistance, which he dug into with gusto. Then, she flew over to the front of the couch.
“Alright, Biggs, rise and sh-”
Biggs was nowhere to be seen. Her heart dropped into the pit of her stomach. Immediately, she dashed over to Angel, who looked up from his meal in alarm.
“Angel, have you seen Biggs?!”
The rabbit raised a questioning eyebrow. Eventually he pointed at Fluttershy, then pantomimed picking something up, opening a door, and then putting the thing down, brushing his paws off. He watched Fluttershy pointedly, waiting for her reaction. A moment later, Angel’s game of charades clicked.
“What? I didn’t put him outside! Where did you see him?”
Angel slapped a paw over his eyes, and shook his head. Wearily, he raised the other paw and pointed to the kitchen. Fluttershy galloped off, leaving a disappointed bunny to lament his owner’s indiscretion.
Fluttershy glanced around the kitchen, just in case she had overlooked him the first time, then sprinted to the back door. Her heart skipped a beat when she found it unlatched. Had he let himself out last night? Then why hadn’t he come back inside? She pushed open the door and scanned the grounds until her eyes fell on a fleshy lump a stone’s throw away.
Fluttershy took off, reaching the ape with only a few strong wing beats. He lay motionless on the ground, eyes closed and mouth hanging open, his skin a shade too pale. Tearily, she placed a hoof on his neck, fearing that she would find no pulse. For a moment, there was nothing. Then a roaring snarl ripped through the air around her.
With a yelp, she toppled onto her back and curled up on herself, trying to present as small a target as possible. But then, the snarl devolved into a coughing fit. Her ear perked up. It sounded like it was coming from… She lifted her head.
Biggs, coughing weakly, was curled into a ball of his own, clutching at his head and grimacing in pain. As soon as the coughing died down, he groaned. Fluttershy sighed in relief, chastising herself for being so startled by a snore. She scrambled to her hooves and trotted over to the ape, who was still cradling his head.
“Are you alright?”
He responded by covering his ears and burying his face in the grass, moaning into the dirt. Somehow, he seemed to be hungover; which was odd, seeing as she didn’t keep any alcohol in her cottage. Nevertheless, she couldn’t just leave him to suffer.
“Oh, you poor thing. Wait right here, I’ll be back with some water.”
Biggs only grumbled in response. A moment later, Fluttershy returned with a bowl of water, and set it down before him. He cracked an eye open and, upon identifying the contents of the bowl, snatched it up. The bowl upended, pouring water down his throat and his front in equal measure. In mere seconds, it was dry, and his face transformed from a scowl into one of intense relief. He caught her eye, and held up the bowl with a slight pout. With a pitying smile, she brought him another helping of water.
It was fascinating to watch Biggs handle the bowl. The way his fingers folded over and pinched the rim; she’d never really had the opportunity to study primates this close. Sure she’d seen the spider monkeys in the Canterlot Castle Gardens, but that was only ever at a distance. Of course, she’d seen minotaurs and griffons work with their hands and talons, but to see the same level of dexterity, if not more, in an animal was nothing short of astounding. That, and the fact that he had four fingers instead of three, as most other species had. It made her wonder if his species had developed tool-using behavior.
Biggs finished the second bowl without spilling a drop. As soon as it was empty, he set it down with a satisfied sigh and tugged at his dripping beard. Fluttershy gave him a worried grin.
Biggs gave a noncommittal grunt and rubbed his eyes. Fluttershy rubbed a foreleg nervously against the other, trying to gauge his mood.
“Well, if you come inside, I have some breakfast waiting for you, and I’ll see if I have an aspirin if you still have a headache.”
Biggs stared at her, then gave a disgruntled snort and rose to his hands and feet, loping after her. Fluttershy ruffled her wings happily, smiling at Biggs as he followed her into the kitchen.
But when they got to the cottage, he did something that made her stop and stare in confusion.
As soon as they crossed through the doorway, Biggs pulled down his undergarments, hopped over to the washbasin she had washed him in yesterday, and sat down inside, watching her expectantly. It took her a moment to realize what he wanted.
“But, Biggs, you just had a bath yesterday.”
He only frowned, gave a short, insistent grunt, and scratched his chest. She sighed.
“You’re not going to budge on this are you?”
He blinked at her.
“Oh, alright. I guess I can understand. After all, who knows how long you were stuck in the forest? But, if you don’t mind, let’s make this a bit easier.”
Fluttershy beckoned Biggs out of the kitchen and, thankfully, he followed. She led him upstairs into her bathroom. Curious, he stepped through the doorway as she pulled her shower curtain aside.
“You’re not terribly hairy, so it will probably be alright if I use the shower.”
She turned the knob for the hot water, and she heard Biggs gasp as hot water began spraying from the showerhead.
Oh no! I didn’t startle him did I?
But when she spun around to check if he was still there, she was met with a massive grin and sparkling eyes. He hopped around in place, wheezing with laughter. Then, without warning, he charged. Fluttershy yelped, barely dodging out of the ape’s way as he barreled towards the tub. With a single bound, he cleared the lip of the bath, landing inside with a splash.
When Fluttershy lowered the wing shielding her face from the spray of water, she saw Biggs sitting in the tub, face pointed directly into the deluge of hot water. She couldn’t help but giggle at the blissful expression spreading across his face as his hair and beard deflated with the growing precipitation.
I guess he really likes showers.
If there was only one thing that would ever keep him sane in the coming years confined to a physical form, it was the sudden ability to taste. There was nothing quite like it. Sure, even prior to occupying Sam, he was able to sense atmospheric changes on the molecular level, but oh, man... Hormones were addictive. The sheer euphoria Sam’s brain rewarded them with for eating made him wonder if incorporeality was all it was cracked up to be - and he was only experiencing pet food!
*What I wouldn’t give for another apple.*
For a brief moment, he wondered what Sam would think about eating pet food, but then disregarded the notion. It was doubtful Sam would remember any of this once he regained his faculties. Besides, Sam had to get nourishment one way or another, and this dry food was both delicious and nutritious, especially for an omnivore in world apparently run by herbivores.
That did beg the question: how was he going to restore Sam’s humanity? It certainly seemed he wasn’t going to find the answer cooped up in this cottage. He needed to get out, to test the boundaries of this blanket of chaos magic. But how was he going to do it without their ‘keeper’ noticing.
It was only at that moment that he realised that Fluttershy had been talking the entire time he and Sam had been shoveling food into Sam’s face.
“...fter I get back, I need to go help Applejack to give Little Piggington his booster shot. That might take me a while, but I promise I’ll be back in time to make dinner.”
*Perfect! She’s going out! That’s just the opportunity we need!*
“In the meantime, I’m leaving Angel in charge. He knows what to do while I’m gone, so make sure you listen to him, alright Biggs?”
Sam stopped chewing. He felt the hairs on the back of Sam’s neck stand on end. He turned his attention to the doorway while Sam sat frozen in his chair. There, at the foot of the threshold, a small white rabbit sat, squinting at him. Sam, feeling the malevolence burn against the back of his head, slowly turned until the rabbit was just in the corner of his vision. It lifted its paw up to point to its eyes, then at Sam. The boy ducked his head, locking his gaze back on his food. For reasons he couldn’t fathom, just looking at the rabbit seemed to make the boy’s stomach churn.
*It’s just a rabbit, you fool boy!*
That seemed to do the trick, as Sam lifted his head once more to glance at the doorway. But the rabbit was gone. This only heightened the boy’s anxiety, and he began whipping around searching for the malefic little creature. As much as he wanted to take control of Sam’s hand and slap him across the face with it, he knew he shouldn’t. Instead, he sent a jolt through the boy’s central nervous system, stimulating his serotonin production. Sam gave a single, violent shiver and itched his back fervently. Finally, he seemed relaxed enough to pay attention to Bob’s plan.
*There, now listen up. This ‘Fluttershy’ is heading out pretty soon. As soon as she does, I need you to get out there and explore. You can sense something’s wrong, can’t you? That you’re not quite yourself?*
Though it was obvious he couldn’t quite grasp the question, Sam frowned down at the remains of his dry food, furiously trying to process it. He could sense a vague feeling of discomfort and unease from the boy, and that was all he really needed.
I shouldn’t have to tell you that the sooner we get this figured out, the sooner you can go back to being your old self. In order to do that, I need to get a lay of the land, to figure out exactly how far this blanket of chaos reaches, and in order to do that, I need you to take me outside for a good look-around. As kind as the creatures here seem to be, I’m sure you’d rather be living under your own power.*
Sam seemed to perk up. Hopefully, he understood what was at stake.
Good. I need you to do what I say when I say it. I realize this will be difficult for you, but if you can follow my directions, you’ll soon have control of your own thoughts, I promise.*
Still, Sam seemed unsure of the specifics, but he could sense the general understanding in the boy’s mind that there was something to be gained by listening to the voice. However, he also sensed hesitance about trusting an unknown entity. Heaving a mental sigh, he realized there was really only one way to circumvent this.
*Fine, if you must have a name, you may refer to me as “Bob.”*
At this, all doubt seemed to vanish. He supposed that was as good as it was going to get.
*Alright, then. Now begins the waiting game.*
It would be a while before Fluttershy was ready to leave. She first insisted that she needed to help all the creatures under her care to clean out their homes. Bob, still unused to having a phonetic alias, took the opportunity to experiment with it.
It seemed that whenever he spoke to the boy’s primitive mind, the appellation would flash through Sam’s consciousness for an instant before he began paying attention to the imparted instructions or advice. With each passing comment, the association cemented further, and the boy’s doubts began to vanish. Furthermore, if ‘Bob’ was actively associating himself with the name, Sam appeared even less concerned about his trustworthiness.
So Bob tasked himself with becoming intimate with his moniker. As blunt and awkward as it was to use, he understood the importance of having the boy’s implicit trust, at least for now. As soon as his intelligence was restored, Bob would be able to take the back seat, and concentrate solely on keeping them alive and under the radar. The sooner the better.
Finally, with a bit of assistance from Sam and the other animals, Fluttershy had finished her morning tasks. With no uncertain amount of reluctance, she took up her saddlebags.
“Alright, I’m off to the market. Are you sure you have everything you need?”
The one known as Angel Bunny nodded impatiently and shooed the mare towards the front door. Bob decided to offer his own method of reassurance.
*Smile and wave, boy. Smile and wave.*
With Sam and the rest of the animals apparently backing the rabbit, Fluttershy seemed satisfied enough to take a few steps out of the house.
“Well, if you need me, you know where to find me.”
Angel rolled his eyes and slammed the door on his owner. If he had a face of his own, Bob would have frowned incredulously. At exactly what, he couldn’t be sure, but there quite a few things wrong with this picture.
Before he could rally Sam into enacting his plan, however, he found that the boy was transfixed by the rabbit’s glare. The rodent had flipped the switch from mildly irritated but outwardly happy to a little burning ball of ire. Even Bob found his attention had been captured, although more out of skeptic curiosity than anything. Then, the glare morphed into an evil grin.
Angel snapped his fingers. From one of the side rooms, a bear lumbered in on his hind legs and carrying an easel under one arm and a large ring-bound sketchbook under the other. He set it up next to the rabbit, who pulled a retractable pointer seemingly out of the ether.
Fascinated, Bob watched as the semi-intelligent rabbit began giving a silent presentation on the pecking order of Fluttershy’s cottage. He couldn’t help but wonder how such a small creature managed to exert so much influence over the others, but he suspected that a close relationship with the owner of the cottage was a large part of it. He was particularly amused by a visual representation of the chain of command. At the very bottom of the graph was a crude stick figure drawing of Sam, below what he hoped was supposed to be a pile of dirt, then worms, then the other animals topped by Angel and Fluttershy on an equal plane. However, he did notice the drawing of Angel was slightly larger than that of his supposed equal. The whole thing was utterly ridiculous.
However, it seemed that Sam was taking it a bit too seriously. He hung onto the rabbit’s every gesture as though his life depended on it. Granted, if Bob hadn’t been there, it may well have. But he was, and his authority most definitely superceded that of a rabbit with a Napoleon complex. Then, when Angel ordered Sam to fetch him a bowl of carrots and Sam took off for the kitchen in his gorilla-like run, Bob had seen enough.
*I’m disappointed, boy.*
Sam skidded to a halt in the middle of the kitchen as his attention immediately locked on to Bob’s ‘voice.’ Bob felt a bit gratified by that. At least the boy put more stock in his thoughts than a rabbit’s.
*Are you really going to allow a self-important rodent stop you from reclaiming what’s rightfully yours?*
Sam seemed confused by the vagueness of the question, so Bob tried a more direct approach.
*Out there is the key to regaining the missing parts of your mind. You won’t be able to fill in those gaps by staying here, and that’s exactly what that rabbit would have you do. Are you going to allow him to stop you?*
Sam dragged a forefinger through his beard. Bob saw the image of Fluttershy appear in the boy’s mind, accompanied by feelings of gratitude and the desire for continued amity. Then Angel appeared, perched atop her withers. Finally, he was getting somewhere.
*So you’re afraid that, by disobeying the rabbit, you might be displeasing her?*
Sam grunted an affirmative.
*Well then, consider this: Fluttershy is a kind and caring being, yes? So, do you think she’d be happier that you followed her orders, or that you found your lost voice, and could actually speak with her?*
When Sam took longer than necessary to respond, Bob decided to just give him the answer.
*I’m sure she’d rather you were made whole again. So here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll get the rabbit his carrots. The biggest, heaviest bowl of carrots he’s ever seen. We’ll get the bear some fish while we’re at it, reassure him we’re no threat. Then when we’re alone with the rabbit, you take the bowl, dump out the carrots, and trap him inside of it. Not much he can do to stop you from beneath a heavy ceramic prison.*
Sam grinned maliciously. Even his simple mind could grasp the plan, and Bob felt the confidence he placed in its success. *Perfect, we’ll get rid of this chaos magic yet. Now get to it.*
“So that’s when Big Mac decided the best way to get the plow out was pullin’ it by his teeth.”
Fluttershy gasped through her demure smile.
“Oh no! He didn’t…”
Applejack grinned conspiratorially.
“Surely did. And when he tried pullin’ it up, the muck held onto the plow like rubber, and yanked Big Mac down into the ditch. So not only was the plow stuck, but Mac too.”
“Is he okay?”
“Fine and dandy, though right now he’s strugglin’ to work up the nerve to ask Twilight if she knows a hair regrowth spell. There must've been sap in that mud or somethin', 'cause we had to shave off the parts of his coat that didn't wash out.”
Applejack chuckled at Big Mac’s expense, and Fluttershy couldn’t help but join in, adding her quiet giggle to Applejack’s deeper mirth.
“So how’s your shoppin’ trip going?
“Oh, it’s going well. I got just about everything I thought I might need to help Biggs to feel comfortable here in Ponyville. I just need to ask Rarity if she might be willing to try making more clothes for him, since he seems to like wearing them so much.”
In the blink of an eye, Applejack’s expression changed from jovial to stern.
“Fluttershy, I’m a bit worried. I mean, how well do you really understand that thing? Are you absolutely sure it’s a good idea to keep him around Ponyville?”
“Well, I can’t say I’m one hundred percent certain. But, from what I’ve seen, he’s really well-behaved. I don’t think he’s likely to hurt anypony, if that’s what you’re concerned about.”
Applejack sighed and cast a far off look in the direction of Fluttershy’s cottage.
“I know. I didn’t think you’d take in a critter you couldn’t handle. It’s just a feelin’ in my gut, I s’pose. Somethin’ about him just don’t sit right with me. Like he’s hidin’ some-”
The shout came from the middle of the market square. The pair turned to see a frantic Roseluck running towards them. Immediately, Applejack’s attention became skepticism. Just what emergency had befallen her this time? A bird perching on her fence, watching her seeds menacingly? A squirrel making it’s home dangerously close to her flower bulbs? Maybe even a bunny that ate a poor defenseless daisy outside her garden.
Fluttershy, ever the concerned citizen, gave Roseluck her full attention as the frantic gardener ran panting up to them. She paused a moment to catch her breath before launching into full panic mode.
“Fluttershy, thank goodness you’re here!” Rose gasped, snatching Fluttershy’s hoof and dragging her along until she decided it would be best to follow of her own accord. “Come quickly, Flitter told Daisy, Lily and I about a huge beast on top of the Ponyville water tower. You have to convince it to go back to the Everfree, or wherever it came from!”
“W- What kind of beast?” Fluttershy asked tremulously, envisioning another Ursa Minor situation.
“We don’t know! Some sort of great, big, hairless ape thing. Flitter said he’s sitting up there, snarling and glaring at everypony that passes by! What if he attacks?! What if… Fluttershy? Where’d you go?”
“Already passed you up, pardner!” Applejack shouted as she galloped by, following the yellow streak in the sky.
The situation looked bleak, no two ways about it. From their vantage point on top of the local water tower, Bob scanned the rooftops of Ponyville. The chaos magic blanketed the entire town, connecting to Sam with a fine filament of energy, yet touching none of the rest. In fact, whenever he witnessed a unicorn casting a spell, or a pegasus in flight, or any of the ponies doing pretty much anything, the chaos magic actively avoided them.
It was avoiding detection.
Someone was going to great lengths to ensure that whoever ate the flower-fruit stayed under its influence. The more he thought about it, the clearer it became. The state he found Sam in upon arriving in the meadow, the addictive, soporific, and stupefying effects of the fruit, and now this backup town-wide enchantment: those flowers were meant to be a kind of roach hotel for trespassers. If he hadn’t intervened, there was no doubt Sam would have perished in that meadow. The only question was whether the flowers were meant for humans, or if they were just a catch-all for undesirables. Whatever the case, whoever created them were also doing their best to make sure the village’s residents were unaware of the pest control. That was never a good sign.
Unfortunately, his sour mood appeared to be affecting Sam as well. The boy was in a constant state of anxiety, intermittently looking over his shoulder and scratching at a phantom itch. He could feel the sweat beading on the boy’s brow, and the urge to run, to escape to a safe place.
*Calm yourself, boy! We’ve only just begun our re-*
Just then, he noticed a pegasus focusing a bit too intently on them for his liking.
*Sam, we’ve been spotted. Time to make our escape.*
But Sam didn’t respond. Instead, he locked onto the approaching pegasus.
*Now is not the time, Sam! Move!*
Sam showed no sign of acknowledging his directive. Instead, he straightened his back, puffing out his chest, lean as it was.
*What are you-?*
“Are you alright?”
A low, feminine voice cut into his thought. The pegasus hovered before them, and Bob took a moment to size her up. She was small next to Sam, but still average size for a mare, judging by the few other ponies he’d seen. Her diminutive stature belied her strength, as he could see the lithe and toned muscles beneath her lilac coat. Sharp, purple eyes stared questioningly at them from beneath a mess of spiky sky-blue and white mane. This mare was no stranger to action. They were better off far away from here. Unfortunately, Bob could feel the anger building up inside Sam.
*Back down, boy. Don’t start a fight you can’t finish.*
A poor choice of words, he instantly realized, as Sam took them for a challenge. His hackles rose, and the tiniest growl formed in his throat. Bob knew that the pegasus could recognize the hostility.
“Cloudchaser, what are you doing? Don’t get that close to it! Can’t you see that it’s angry?” Another pegasus called out, fluttering up behind the one called Cloudchaser at a safe distance.
“Yeah, I know,” she called out to her long-haired companion, “he’s also pretty big. He could do some serious damage if things get out of hoof. Go find Fluttershy. I’ll keep him distracted until she gets here.”
“Flitter, go! Now!”
Bob watched Flitter give them one last nervous, sidelong glance and fly off.
*Just perfect. What foolish, half-cocked ideas are you going to follow now?*
“Easy, buddy,” Cloudchaser soothed, “we’re going to get a friend. Then you can go back to wherever you need to be.”
Sam snarled at her this time, taking a single menacing step forward.
“Whoa! Okay, I’ll keep my distance. You just stay right there, and everything will be fine.”
Sam just glared at her, growling under his breath. Bob, desperate to keep the situation under control, decided the best course would be to release more serotonin into Sam’s system, hopefully calm him down.
As soon as the serotonin hit Sam’s nervous system, it began to burn, sending a painful, fiery itch spreading across his body. Sam cried out, falling onto his back in a convulsive shudder, frantically scratching at every inch of skin he could reach. Bob’s connection to Sam’s thoughts was all but lost, as he struggled to retain composure through the immolation of their minds. He could barely make out Cloudchaser shouting through the roaring affliction.
“Oh boy... Somepony go find Fluttershy and Dr. Fauna, quick!”
Bob was unsure how long they lay there, writhing, but it seemed like hours. Eventually, he heard Cloudchaser call out through the burning haze.
“Dr. Fauna, thank goodness! Do you have any tranquilizers?”
Bob felt something snap in Sam’s mind. In a fit of sudden, terrible, fiery clarity, Sam’s eyes shot open. He had but one objective: return to the meadow at all costs. At the moment, there was only one thing Bob dared to do, lest he cause another fit. He scanned the boy’s body. Sure enough, the chaos magic was asserting itself, forcing Sam to return to the meadow on pain of death. As Sam leapt to his feet, there was only one thing on Bob’s mind.
*Twenty-four hours… I’m allowed only twenty-four hours to find a way to purge his system before he returns to square one. This complicates matters.*
Sam locked onto the pegasus hovering before him and charged, yanking Bob back into the action.
But it was too late. Sam lunged at Cloudchaser, hurling himself over the edge of the water tower. Only the gasps and screams of the gathered ponies alerted her of the attack.
Were she another pony, Cloudchaser might have turned around first, to see what was happening. But she was one of the Wonderbolt Reserve. Cloudchaser immediately propelled herself into an inside loop. In the moments when she was upside-down, she looked up at the ground, and saw the creature in midair, grabbing at the space she had occupied just previously. With a gasp of surprise, she tightened her loop and dove for the strange bearded ape. She would never hear the end of it if he wound up hurting himself.
Meanwhile, in Sam’s head, Bob was having a decidedly one-sided shouting match with the boy’s primitive instincts.
*STUPID, STUPID MUD-CHILD!*
*OH, SHUT UP!*
Fed up with herding this particular cat, Bob retreated back into the small corner of Sam’s hypothalamus that he had claimed. There was only one thing he could do at this point to increase the boy’s survivability. A jolt of energy kicked Sam’s adrenal glands into overdrive.
*Hopefully the stupid child has enough sense to roll when he hits the ground.*
Luckily for Sam, it never came to that. Slammed with a sudden wave of adrenaline, he was momentarily stunned. In that moment, Cloudchaser collided with him and latched on, slowing his descent. A few of the quicker thinking unicorns in the crowd added their magical pressure to slow his descent.
Unfortunately, Sam regained his senses before she could set him down. He began violently thrashing around, so violently that she couldn’t hold onto him without getting hurt. When one flailing arm came within an inch of her wing, she let him go with a yelp. The thrashing, combined with the sudden weight, overloaded the unicorns’ combined capacity, and he tumbled the last few yards to the earth.
Sam hit the ground running, charging hand over foot towards the Everfree. Dr. Fauna called out after him, “Wait! Biggs, come back!”
Panting after her recent exertion, Cloudchaser landed next to her. “Biggs? … That thing… has a… name?”
“Yes. Fluttershy and her friends found him in the Everfree, and were taking care of him. He seemed so docile when I first met him. What in Equestria could have happened?”
Fluttershy quite suddenly appeared in front of them, breathing heavily.
“Where’s Biggs? What happened?!”
“He just took off!” Cloudchaser cried, gesticulating wildly at the forest. “What in the hay is he?”
“W- we’re not sure. Um, excuse me.”
But it was too late. Fluttershy had already zoomed off, making a beeline for the edge of the Everfree. Before she was even out of sight, the staccato of galloping hooves from behind them broke the stunned silence. Cloudchaser turned to find Applejack charging down the street, hot on Fluttershy’s trail.
“Sorry, Cloudchaser! It’ll have to wait!”
Just like that, she raced right by them without another word. They stared after her, stunned. Seconds passed, and finally Dr. Fauna spoke.
“I think someone needs to go warn Princess Twilight.”
Cloudchaser nodded dumbly, preoccupied with trying to process what had just happened. Dr. Fauna gave her a pointed look and cleared her throat. Cloudchaser snapped out of her trance and stared at the doctor, who simply raised an impatient eyebrow.
Being the faster of the two, Cloudchaser flew off towards the library. With a sigh, Dr. Fauna turned back towards her veterinary clinic.
“I ‘d better go prepare the office for an incoming patient, though I really hope it doesn’t come to that.”
“Fluh’rshai, shlow down!” Applejack growled around a mouthful of rope.
“But he’s in there!” Fluttershy cried, straining against the lasso around her waist. “What if he gets lost! Or hurt!”
“An’ whuh goo’ll ih be if you geh loss yaself?”
Fluttershy stopped struggling, sinking to the ground with a sniffle. “But I can’t just leave him in there…”
Relieved of the strain on her teeth, Applejack spat the other end of the rope out. “I know you’re worried, sugarcube, but you ain’t gonna help nopony by runnin’ off into the Everfree without even half a plan. ”
Applejack sighed. “Now we ain’t givin’ up either. I’m gonna run back to the farm right quick, and-”
Twilight’s worried shout rang out from behind them. She landed next to them and shuffled her hooves nervously.
“What happened? Cloudchaser showed up at the library saying that Biggs had gone crazy and ran off into the Everfree!”
“That’s about the size of it, yeah,” Applejack nodded solemnly. “I dunno the details, but I was about to go back to the farm to get Winona, have her track him down. Do you have anything of his on you?”
“No, but I can rush back to the library and grab something.”
“Good. Grab Pinkie while you’re at it. The more eyes we can muster, the better. Fluttershy, you go get Rarity and Rainbow, and we’ll all meet back up here. Deal?”
“Deal. Come on Fluttershy, let’s hurry.”
“Oh, okay. See you again really soon… I hope.”
The plan set, the three dashed off to their respective tasks, hoping against hope that Biggs wouldn’t get into too much trouble in the meantime.
Sam charged through the underbrush with reckless abandon. His blood was boiling, and he knew only one thing could cure it. The fruit called to him. He could almost taste the delicate, flowery juices on his tongue. He leapt over ravines and uprooted small saplings that dared to stand in his way. None could stand against him.
Bob stalked through the dark corners of Sam’s mind, raging at the circumstances.
*It’s unjust! Outrageous! What sick, depraved mind would come up with something this devious? There’s no way such a plant could evolve naturally, and the effects are abhorrent! Robbing creatures of their intelligence? Unspeakable! If the Council knew about this-!*
The thought instantly drained the acid from his anger. He felt tired, true exhaustion of the soul, for the first time in ages.
*The Council cannot find out about this. Any of this. I have to figure this out myself. If they were to find out how miserably I failed them… No, this is my burden to bear, and bear it I will.*
Sam was getting close, he could smell it through the boy’s dilated nostrils. That damnable dusty fragrance. The meadow was close, and Sam homed in on the scent like a salmon returning upstream to its spawning grounds. In seconds, the deep blue field peeked through the treeline, and Sam pounced through it with manic glee. If he had his own heart, the first glimpse of the clearing would have brought it to a screeching halt.
Fruit. Fruit as far as the eye could see. Every single blossom had budded into the mind-numbing agent. There would be no escape this time. The boy’s mind was so fogged by the addiction that he wouldn’t receive any impulses Bob sent him. There was only one thing he could do if he was to even survive the coming days. Bob ran Sam’s temperature up, flushing out as much of the chaos magic as he could through the boy’s sweat. All that was left was to steel himself against the incoming tide.
Sam barreled into the meadow, laughing giddily. He began snatching up the fruits as quickly as he could, shoveling as many fistfuls as his mouth could handle. He danced about in primal celebration, throwing the cored fruit around like chunks of wet confetti, then fell over, the fruit already making him dizzy.
Had either of them access to their full facilities, they might have noticed a pair of yellow eyes, red pupil constricted in triumphant glee, staring at them from the darkened treeline across the meadow. They might have heard the sinister chuckle, and possibly even the single muttered word that followed.