Megan Williams snored gently on the rocking chair. Falling asleep on the porch was becoming an unfortunate habit of hers. An unfortunate, if understandable, side effect of working 18 hours a day on a farm for weeks on end. The work was hard and gruelling, and it didn't help that there was rarely an immediate result. She had farm hands at one point, but between a recent outbreak of West Nile and the war economy, they were currently extremely short staffed. This, and her grandfather’s worsening condition, left little room for rest and relaxation. So she worked, if not on the farm, then around the house.
Her head fell forward, and she jerked herself awake. She sighed, and carried herself into the house.
It wasn't that she was unhappy, but this just wasn't where she wanted to be at twenty-five. She may have been born and raised on a farm, but she was a writer at heart. The feeling she got when she wove tales of flight and fancy was unlike any other. On paper, anything was possible, on paper, nothing ended.
Of course she knew that it was her childhood that shaped that part of herself. Her friends, her dear, dear friends that were unlike any other, had changed her in wonderful and inevitable ways. The adventures they shared had stayed with her ever since, and she knew that they would until the day she died. This flipside to that coin was that the adventures they shared had stayed with her . . . all the time. That magical world she had been apart of had soured real life for her. She had eventually found a way to balance the two worlds, but it had not been easy.
Not that it ever was, she thought, then immediately berated herself for thinking such bitter thoughts.
She was not unhappy, but that did not mean she was happy either. When she was young, as the young are wont to do, she had promised herself that nothing would ever change. That she would be with her friends in Ponyland forever.
And then, as it so often does, reality smacked her hard in the face. Her parents died, her brother joined the Marine Corps, and the first signs of her grandfather’s cancer had appeared. That was before things really got hard. Before the war had picked up, before people started getting sick. Now, she, and everyone else for that matter, lived in constant fear of sickness, or bombs, or the dreaded visit from men in uniform with a folded flag.
She had fewer and fewer opportunities to be with her friends as time went by. And when she turned eighteen, she just stopped visiting her pony friends entirely. It had become too painful, and she connected to them less and less. They were immortal beings of another world, with no concept of war or famine or plague. They were, at the end of the day, children, and they would forever have childlike mentality.
She went to the kitchen, fixed herself a cucumber sandwich, and ate it slowly, feeling sick to death of cucumbers.
She thought of them constantly, of course. She had even been able to vent her frustrations through ‘fiction,’ and had even won a Hugo Award from her first story, ‘Rescue from Midnight Castle.’ Before the war, she had been approached with the prospect of turning the story into a TV special.
Ah well, she thought, no use crying over rotten apples you never had in the first place. The thought made her feel better, until it reminded her of Applejack.
She laughed at herself, OK, now you're just being stupid.
She didn't regret her time with the ponies, nor did she wish things to be different. Her life wasn't ideal, but she was a thriving member of society. And in the current state society was in, that was saying something. She looked at the time, and spouted the first four letter word that came to mind. She was late with Grandfather's dinner. She hurried to heat up some pancakes, his favorite, and brought the tray upstairs to his room. They had always preferred breakfast food, this family.
She knocked softly, and when she received no response, knocked a little harder. He must be asleep.
She opened the door and went in, “Hey you, dinner’s ready, sorry I'm-,” she stopped suddenly when she saw what was on the bed.
He seemed smaller, as if he had crumpled in on himself. The good natured, forever smiling face that she loved so much was absent, replaced with a solemn look that she hardly recognized. He was pale, and lay with an unnatural stillness.
Afterward, she couldn't tell you how long she stood there, or when she realized what she was looking at. She just kept staring, her brain uncomprehending. Maybe it was the sound of the bird that snapped her out of it, maybe not. The next thing she knew, she was clutching at him, howling in despair and rage, the tray of food, disregarded on the floor.
He was dead.
It had been three days.
Three days since he died.
Since then, she had felt numb, almost cold to the situation. The responsibilities of the situation had called for her attention, and she carried through with robotic efficiency. In the end, once the body was taken care of, however, it seemed that there was little to do besides inform the relatives. The first had been her brother. He was the eldest, and the sole heir. He would be arriving within the week. And that was something she was not looking forward to; the siblings never liked each other, and the only thing that kept them from hating each other was a shared love for their grandfather
She stood there, in the room where it had happened, and tried desperately to feel something, anything. But she didn't, she hadn't, not since the night he died . . .
She ran through the forest north of her farm. She ran through the trees and the bushes, and she cut herself on the branches. The world was a blur of green through her tears.
Where was it? It had always been here before. The entrance to the other place, the other world.
She stopped, out of breath. It wasn't here, why wasn't it here? Is had always been before?
The rage and grief she felt overwhelmed her, and she screamed. It was a scream of pain, sadness, and frustration, then she said, “WHERE ARE YOU?! Where are you? Why aren't you there? I was always there for you! I need you! Please! I can't do this anymore! Please . . . help me . . .”
She broke down. She curled against a tree and cried and cried and cried. She remembered things that she no longer wished to remember. She remembered her grandfather reading The Last Unicorn to her as a child. She remembered her parents taking her to her cousin's country house. She remembered watching the majesty of the stallions. She remembered begging her parents for a pony. She remembered TJ, and her friend's broken leg on her 15th birthday.
But most of all, she remembered her friends of Ponyland, Twilight and Ember, Applejack and Fairy Dust. And dear, sweet little Firefly, her favorite and best friend.
Why weren't they there? Was she to old for the magic to work for her? Or was it forsaking her, as she had forsaken it?
It wasn't right, it wasn't fair. She had saved this world ten times over. Didn't she deserve something? Anything?
She cried, and sank into darkness.
It had been three days.
She had since gone back to the forest and apologized. Neither it, nor her friends deserved what she gave. She had felt better afterward, but not by much. The it was time to deal with the body. That was easy enough, a simple call to 911 later, and the ambulance was there. She had driven to the hospital after that, and the doctors told her that it was a heart attack. In the end, it wasn't the cancer that got him. She could just imagine her grandfather up on a cloud somewhere, good-naturedly trading death stories, adding a humorous flair to them. He had never been one to worry over his own mortality.
Megan always regretted not telling him about Ponyland. Out of everyone she ever knew, she had always imagined that he would believe her. But she had always been scared; scared that he wouldn't believe her. Scared that he would. That somehow, if someone else knew about her wonderful secret, it would disappear. Now, she would never know.
Megan sat on the bed. It creaked under her weight. Besides her brother, she had not gotten the sense that her grandfather’s passing had any real impact on their relatives. They said what they needed to, of course, with classics such as If There's Anything I Can Do, and the age old He's In A Better Place Now. She didn't blame them, not really, the old man had always been a bit of an introvert. If he wasn't working on the farm, he was watching Law and Order and playing poker with his grandchildren. But still, it was hard not to get angry when you heard the same empty platitudes five times in a row.
She was suddenly aware that she was very tired. It a moment of morbid amusement that she never thought herself capable of, she laughed at the idea of sleeping in her grandfather’s deathbed. She flopped onto her back, took a moment to count the dots on the ceiling, then curled onto her side. What would she do now? She could keep working the farm, but that was the last thing she wanted to do. Her brother, the spiteful prick he was, would undoubtedly cheat her out of her inheritance, and she hardly had any money saved up, all of her spare cash had gone towards Papa’s medicine.
Well, he can have it all, she thought, he can have the farm, the money, the house. I have my memories, and he can never take that away from me!
There it was! That spark of emotion she had been looking for! She drew it out with all her being, and felt exhilarated! She was not happy, but she relished it the mere fact that she was alive, and that she was finally free! She loved and missed her grandfather deeply, but she could no longer deny the fact that this life was suffocating her. Now, she had no obligation to stay, and she was free to go where she would go, to do what she might do.
Her mind reeled at the possibilities; she could travel, she could finally take that hike in South America, and once she had seen it all, she could settle down, maybe find a nice guy to settle down with, or a nice girl, and write to her heart’s content.
Then, to her surprise, she found that she was happy! She felt so much joy at the possibilities of her newfound freedom. The logical part of her mind knew that this was absurd: she still had no money, and there was little to no chance of her being able to do all of this. But the illogical part of her brain shouted at the top of its metaphorical lungs, Screw that! I shot a freaking Rainbow at freaking Lord Terac! This’ll be a piece of cake.
Thank you so much Papa, I love you so, so much.
And for the first time in three days, she was at peace.
And then her arms went numb. She frowned, and started to sit up. She couldn't. And when she tried even harder, she felt a blinding pain in her chest. The numb feeling had spread to her legs, and was crawling towards her torso. Her heart was beating out of control, desperately trying to combat its fate, despite the icy sensation crawling it's way up her arms and legs slowly making its way towards its final destination, like a swarm of insidious spiders, taking its time with the kill.
Megan was terrified. She knew what was happening; in the moment of her acceptance, fate had decided to play it's last, cruel trick on her.
She fought against the terror, the fear, to formulate her last thought...
I am going to die.
The numbness reached her heart, and her world went black.
She only had vague sensations at first. Flashes of color, the smell of fruit and sunlight, a feeling not unlike millions of small blades piercing her flesh in the most pleasant way possible.
She did not know how long she was in this void, but soon she became aware of her surroundings, even if her eyes refused to open. She was laying in clouds. No, that could not be right. Sheets, not clouds. Sheets, on a mattress, with a heavy blanket. It was warm, and there was light, lots of light. The smell...
She recognized it from her childhood.
Suddenly there was a voice, a pleasantly deep voice with a distinctive southern accent, “You gave us a right scare there, sugarcube, Twilight here wasn't sure that you would make it.”
Twilight? As in Twilight Twilight? But that couldn't be. Where was she? Was she finally back? After all these years?
Megan opened her eyes, the light was blinding. She sat up and raised her hand to shield her eyes.
“Woah,” the voice said, “ careful now, you're not fully recovered yet. Mah friend just went to pick up some supplies, she'll be back soon.”
The light had lessened, but her vision was still blurry. She look towards the voice, and gasped. She would know that body type, she would know it in her dreams and in the waking world. But it was different. The body was thinner, the head and eyes, larger. The equine in front of her had an orange coat, and a blond mane. Just like her old friend. Just like-