The stitches in Pinkie’s stomach and chest caused every shaky breath to be torture. The wounds on her head and legs hardly compared to those in her mind. The ones that, even with her eyes closed, still haunted her and would be with her long after the physical wounds have scarred over.
A repetitive blip echoed in her sore ears. She breathed in through her nose and caught a waft of cinnamon, but it wasn’t all that she smelled. It was like cinnamon mixed with laundry detergent. She felt her stomach churn at the unnatural mix of appetizing smells and puke-inducing chemicals.
She fluttered her burning eyes. The blinding light on the ceiling flashed into view as she squinted and slowly took everything in. To three sides were sterile-green curtains, and to her left was a medical baggy and tube that was inserted into her front left leg.
She moaned as her body woke up to the pain. Then she heard a gasp.
“Hey, gals! She’s awake!”
The curtains in front of her whipped open, and she saw all her friends rushed into view. Seeing familiar faces, even if they were featureless blurs of color in her tear-soaked and heavy-lidded eyes, washed away much of the anxiety. She was with friends, and they were there for her. As each of her friends spoke, she struggled to aim her tired gaze in their direction.
“Oh, darling! When we heard the news, we rushed right over,” said Rarity. Her face was covered with the remnants of her night-time facial mask that she had hastily washed off, and curlers were still in her mane.
Rainbow Dash stomped the tiled floor. “I still can’t believe this happened to you! When I get my hoofs on that gutless coward, I’ll clobber him! I’ll shove my hoof so far up his--”
“Rein it in, sugarcube. Now’s not the time for that.” Applejack walked up closer and put a hoof up on the bed next to Pinkie’s head. “Pinkie, don’t you worry none about that brute. That murderer is behind bars. We’ve got ‘im, and we’re gonna make sure he pays for what he did.”
“Um…” Fluttershy pointed to a scented candle left on top of a blipping machine. “I don’t know if this will help, but I brought some cinnamon-scented candles to make you feel more comfortable.”
Pinkie’s friends were so close to her that she could feel their warm breath on her fur, but she didn’t care. It was proof that she was alive. That she was with her friends. She tried to get up to hug them, but her muscles protested and kept her bound to the bed. All she could do was move her eyes and open her mouth.
“Girls…” she whispered. Her tongue and mouth were like sandpaper. Some of her friends bent down to hug or nuzzle her, but she hissed at the searing pain the pressure sent through her muscles, so they all pulled back and restrained any further physical contact, except for Fluttershy who gently pet Pinkie’s mane.
Everything was going to be better now, or so she thought. Like a delayed firework, an explosion tore through the peace in her mind. Memories of the past few days rushed back. The threats. The lies. The blood.
Pinkie cried. She let out a mournful wail as her head rolled to one side. Her friends cooed and comforted her, telling her everything was alright.
But it wasn’t. She didn’t want them to know. Even if that no-good bully was punished, the truth would still be exposed. He wasn’t the murderer.
Applejack laid her head next to Pinkie’s. Snot and spit ran down Pinkie’s face and smeared in Applejack’s mane.
“Now, now, sugarcube. It’s over. You have nothing to fret about.”
She couldn’t keep it in. It gnawed her insides like she had swallowed a live parasprite. She had to tell them. She opened her mouth to speak, but the curtains burst open one more time, and Twilight rushed in. “Pinkie, you’re awake!”
Pinkie cringed. Of all the ponies she didn’t want to find out, it was her. She was the one who had everything to lose and nothing to gain from her confession. Should Twilight know what happened, everything she’d been working on for the past several months would go up in smoke.
Already, Twilight’s plans had been devastated by what Pinkie had done. Pinkie had tried to settle this on her own, had tried to keep Twilight out of it. She wanted to fight logic and give herself a reason to not tell Twilight what she had done. But she couldn’t stomach it.
“Twilight,” she said between sobs. “I have something to tell you.”
Applejack pulled her head back and stepped to the side to let Twilight get through.
“Closer,” whispered Pinkie.
Twilight inched closer and focused her ears on Pinkie.
Pinkie felt the bed fall out from under her as she made her confession. “I am the murderer.”
Twilight jumped back. “What!?”
Pinkie did her best to nod. “It’s true. I’m a-- a--” She choked on her confession and wailed again.
“Pinkie, you must be in shock; there is no way that--”
“It’s true! And Zecora! I-- I didn't mean to--”
“Hush, Pinkie!” Twilight breathed shallowly as her eyes darted about. She turned around and pushed her way through her friends.
Rarity leaned in closer. “What? What did she say? What about Zecora?”
Twilight ignored her and shoved her to the side before sticking her head out of the curtains. She looked all around, but nopony was in earshot. She closed the curtains and flared up her horn, and a clear-magenta bubble encapsulated them all.
“Listen, everypony,” said Twilight. “Whatever we discuss in this bubble stays between us. This is a secret that only I, the Princesses, and the guard are aware of. There wasn’t only one pony killed the other day. Zecora was also murdered.”
Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Applejack recoiled in horror.
“That’s awful!” said Fluttershy.
Rarity covered her mouth. “Who would do such a thing?”
Rainbow was bouncing off the walls. “It was that gryphon, wasn’t it? I’ll kill him!”
Pinkie squeezed her eyes shut. She didn’t want to see her friends’ faces when they learned the truth. Their fear. Their anger. Their rejection. She was about to spill her guts about how she had done the same to a helpless pony. She wanted to curl up and die.
“Settle down, everypony,” said Twilight. “Please, I want you all to be quiet for Pinkie.” She turned back to Pinkie. “Pinkie, please tell me everything.”
Pinkie bit her lip and looked about the room.
“Please, Pinkie. We’re your friends, and we want to help you.”
Her friends’ assurance renewed her confidence that they wouldn’t abandon her, but her fear still remained. How would they react? Telling them scared her; it would hurt--like pulling off a band-aid. She decided to treat it as such and get it over with as quickly as she could.
“It was the day the Gryphon King came to Ponyville…”