• Published 10th Jun 2013
  • 3,962 Views, 285 Comments

When The Mare Comes Around - nanashi_jones



I woke up in a shallow grave off Highway 5. When I dug myself out, I was Applejack. And trouble followed with me.

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A Boy Named Sue

When I went to sleep later that night, I found myself standing in a field that lead into a treeline.

Applejack walked by me, lumber stacked on her back.

“‘Scuse,” she said.

“Oh. Sure,” I said, moving aside.

Seeing as nothing else was going on in my dream, I followed her. It was nice to be human again. Feel my hands flex. I was in jeans and a comfortable shirt, though I was barefoot. That wasn’t that new for me. I liked going barefoot when I could manage it.

What was new was walking across grass without worry of stones or sharp rocks poking even my toughened feet.

“What’re you doing?” I asked.

“Just settin’ up a little place for me,” she said, coming upon another pile of lumber. ”I’m gonna be here awhile, and used an old memory for foundation.”

“You can do that?” I said.

“Looks like. This whole traversin’ the mind business seems to play itself by ear, y’know?” She popped her back up and the lumber flipped over to join the rest in a small pile.

“Why not just... Imagine it all as a place?” I said. I looked at the space next to the lumber and then at Applejack. I thought about a small, comfy house for her. It wouldn’t be like her place back in Ponyville- that was made for a big family, so I thought of a cottage. A starter house almost.

It was there. Wooden walls bare of paint, shingled roof needing a finish, but the windows looked pretty freakin’ quaint, if you asked me.

Applejack snorted next to me, amused.

“Well, I’ll be,” she said.

“It’s just a house,” I said. “Not that hard to imagine one. Even for a pony I don’t know too well.”

“Y’see, you say that and I take it you’re like Rarity who sees darn near six impossible things before breakfast!”

“Lewis Carroll?” I said, an eyebrow raised in amusement.

“You’re pretty private,” Applejack said, knocking on the house’s side and smiling at the solid thunk she got in response. “Most only things to look at are stuff you’ve read or watched or the like. Definitely likin’ that Firefly thing. That Mal character- Heh. Knew a colt like him back when I was a filly.”

Her gaze got distant for a minute and she smiled slightly. I felt briefly nostalgic.

“Had a thing for the bad stallions, eh?” I said, smiling myself.

“Oh he wasn’t that bad...” Applejack hedged with a guilty grin.

I gave her a knowing look and she laughed.

“Okay, okay, he was, but he was as good for me as the trip to Manehattan. Reminded me what I wanted and what was important.”

“What’s that?”

“Family and business,” she said, sure as stone.

I eased to the ground, sitting, and thought more about the inside of the small house. Applejack probably didn’t need to eat in here, but I bet she’d appreciate a kitchen, so I concentrated on a fully stocked one as I smiled. Wistful-like, as my mental guest would put it.

“I’m jealous,” I said. “Do you like a couch or a plush chair, by the way?”

“Couch is fine,” she replied. “About what?”

“You know what you’re good at.” I painted the house red. “I still can’t decide if I want to finish college or not.”

“You seem pretty good at this whole creatin’ thing,” she said, nodding her head at her rapidly materializing house.

“Yeah, I’m really good at building imaginary houses,” I said, leaning back on my hands. “People are beating down the door for someone like that.”

She regarded me, but shrugged. “I think you’re bein’ hard on yourself, but if you say so, then I’m gonna trust ya.”

I stared at her as I realized she meant it. Usually, when I heard “if you say so,” it was from, well... Everyone and not spoken nearly as kindly. I think this was the first time anyone had just accepted it when I told them I couldn’t do something.

Who was this mare?

“Really. You believe me. Just like that?” I said.

“I’m a guest, for all this is my body too. Ain’t my place to call you out on somethin’ I don’t know about.”

“You can if you want,” I responded. “I mean, we’re in my head. You don’t have to lie or anything.”

Applejack gave me a lopsided grin. “Well, that’s tricky ‘cause I ain’t lyin’. You say whatcha got here ain’t gettin’ any nibbles, I believe ya. Ya can’t sell apples to ponies that came to market for pears.”

“Is that some folksy, pony wisdom?” I asked, cocking my head at her.

“Naw,” she said. “That’s experience. Worked out alright though. Brought the spares home an’ Granny made a mess o’ pies. That was good dessert that night.”

“House’s done,” I said. “Wanna go in?”

“Sure!” she chirped excitedly and went to the door, opening it.

“Lan...” she muttered, looking around.

I bent down to see if it looked as good as I thought it would. It did. Go me.

“This is sure nice of y’all,” Applejack said, trotting in to look around.

“Feel free to decorate. Not like there isn’t enough dream stuff or whatever for you to use.”

She chuckled. “Thanks. Wish I had yer gift. Not that I don’t mind bein’ the best bucker in Ponyville, but this must be real nice.”

“You can’t dream up a house?”

“Not without thinkin’ about th’ cost o’ nails,” she said with a smirk.

“Sounds dull,” I said, pulling my head out of the door. I’d be like Gandalf in there and I didn’t want to scrape my head. Could I do that here?

“Not dull,” Applejack proclaimed, joining me back outside. “Just practical. You want flights o’ fancy, you see my sister, Apple Bloom. She dreams in 3-D, far as I know.”

Her expression clouded at the mention of her sister.

“Hope she’s okay...”

I looked away, seeing the horizon. It was like it was constantly three o’clock even though we’d been here for some time. I looked back and Applejack was still obviously distraught. Feeling a faraway ache in my heart, I half-frowned.

“I’m... I’m sure she is,” I said.

This is why I mostly hung out with boys. I suck at feelings and feelings talks, but there wasn’t anyone else around and I couldn’t just... Not say anything. Right?

“What if she’s ended up on this side of it?” Applejack raised her head up and seemed to have more imagination than she thought. She was clearly conjuring all sorts of imagery. “What if she’s with some bad apple? What if she’s in some place where there ain’t any pony folk?”

I shrugged. “Then that sucks, but at least she won’t be alone.”

Applejack turned to me and I could see the storm I’d kicked in her. “Pardon?”

“If she’s like us then she’ll have a human with her, like you do with me,” I said quickly, pointing between us. “Most likely doing what we’re doing. Spending some time together, talking. And, yeah, we’re not off to a good start, but am I a ‘bad apple?’”

She turned that over.

“No... You’re alright,” she said, slowly.

“So, I doubt she got stuck with some whoever. Probably she’s with someone more mature. Or like, a really chill kid or something.”

She nodded, the worries fading in the presence of this new idea.

“And besides,” I added. “You think anything could be worse than how I woke up today?”

“Guess not,” she snorted, a wry grin on her face. “Hope she ain’t had to deal with that.”

“She’ll be-”

“Fine,” I said awake.

Day 8

Ugh. Argh. It’s like some kind of super mental whiplash when that happens. One second, me, next this. It’s like I’m never really sleeping.

I smacked my mouth. Dawn creeped just outside the window and I was glad for my pony size. I wasn’t much bigger than a medium dog, so crashing on Max’s couch hadn’t been the kind of hassle it was when I... When I was human.

Rolling over, I stared up at the ceiling.

I didn’t want to think things like that. I’m still human. I’m still me. I’m just... Going through some stuff. Sure. Let’s go with that.

Ya ain’t goin’ alone, Applejack said.

I snorted softly. “Fair enough.”

I continued to lay there.

“I’m not going back to sleep, am I?” I asked the pony in my head.

I’m a farmer, she replied. I’m surprised you stayed up as late as you did.

“I’m the opposite of a farmer, so this... Early thing isn’t going to work for me.”

Well, good luck with that. I been doin’ it since I was a filly. My body’s got a better clock than most clocks.

“Great,” I grumbled and just threw back the covers Max had provided.

I hadn’t really needed them, but the gesture was there and it gave me a sense of normalcy that I was sorely lacking.

So, feels like you made yer mind up about some stuff, Applejack offered as I rolled off the couch.

“Yeah. The sleep cleared my head. I’ll call my parents, go to the cops, sort this out. Probably just some drunk asshole ran me off the road and thought I was dead so he buried me because he was an idiot.”

Sounds like you’re stretchin’ there, but I can see it.

“After that...” I shrugged, looking outside through the blinds on Max’s window. “I don’t know.”

Look, I know you’re not up for the whole “destiny” thing or whatever yer friend was talkin’ about, but maybe we can find a way to cut you loose in New York.

“That’d be nice,” I said. “No offense, but this really stinks.”

None taken.

As I thought about getting my body back, horror struck me. Applejack felt the thought too.

Well... she said. I don’t know since I kinda came in...

“But it could happen,” I said, quickly, softly. “We separate me and you and it turns out my body is, like, two minutes from death and I die because my face is caved in or whatever.”

Now, just calm down. No need to get riled. I’m sure Twilight or Celestia can sort this out.

I didn’t calm, but I tried to clamp down on the rampaging bull of anxiety that had bloomed under that line of thinking. So it was more of a controlled panicking, really.

“I’m more concerned about having EMTs there to keep me alive,” I said and my voice shook. I was charting entirely new levels of freaked out now.

Hey now, easy there. You ain’t dead yet.

“But I could be,” I whispered and looked myself over again.

Was this the new me? An orange pony with a blond mane where I could only be myself in dreams? I shuddered.

C’mon. You’re gettin’ stir crazy.

Then, I felt a jerk, like someone tugged me and my right side listed slightly.

“How did you-”

It’s my body too. But I ain’t gonna do much more than this. That’d be rude.

“Oh. Okay. Thanks,” I said.

Initially, I’d felt like she reminded me of my mom. Now that I thought about it, she was more like a friend’s mom. Like, Max’s mom would watch out for me, but she gave me more slack. Way more than my own mother and that was more of what I needed. Someone concerned, but not smothering me.

Outside was a good idea though. I wasn’t feeling as panicked about being beyond the relative safety of the apartment, so I went over and stared at the door.

Need a hoof?

“Go for it,” I said.

Ever get a muscle spasm or like a twitch and you’d wonder how your finger twitched or your foot popped up? Having Applejack raise me up and take the doorknob in her mouth and opening it was like that times a million. Super weird and super disorienting.

“Thanks,” I said, making faces as I spat the taste of metal out.

Not a problem. Y’get used to the taste. I think copper’s almost okay.

“Something to look forward to,” I said, trotting out the apartment and down the two flights of stairs.

As soon as I touched the little grass outside, I immediately felt better. Like I’d just dipped my toes in a spa bath or eased into a hot tub. It was subtle and powerful all at once.

“Is... Is this what it’s like for all... Um. Earth ponies?”

Depends really. I’m pretty good since I do a lot of work in the dirt and part of my special talent’s in growin’ things. Big Mac, my brother, he’s the same way, but Granny’s better in the kitchen, once everythin’s out of the ground. Or, my friend, Pinkie. She can’t grow beans for beans, but she’s so keen on everything else you’d hardly know. Earth ponies’re subtle like that.

I grinned, clopping along the ground, actively enjoying the feel of grass and open air.

“Subtle’s cool,” I said. “I like subtle.”

Well, then you’re in good company! I’m as subtle as a possum in its hole on rattlesnake day!

I chortled. Great. I was sharing a brain with Sheriff Woody. Eh, it could be worse.

A little after seven a.m, it got worse.

I went back inside and set about making sure all the belongings I had weren’t under an inch of dirt anymore. Max woke at 6:30 ish and went through the bathroom before stumbling out in just pants. I was starting to suspect he had a personal aversion to shirts.

I was eating cereal and Max was staring at his coffee maker like it was complex math. My phone was on, glaring at me from the coffee table as I debated whether to listen to Mom’s message, read her text, or just up and call her. Then, a knock came from the door.

Looking at Max, I said, “Are you expecting someone?”

“Not at this godforsaken hour,” he said, running into his room and coming out a few seconds later, tugging a shirt over his head.

The knocking went up a notch as he dressed and Max called out, “Coming! Coming!”

Max opened the door and revealed... A guy. He was taller than Max with broader shoulders, but with a pretty big gut. His hair was short, black and not quite tidy and he looked like he forgot to shave this morning. He was dressed in gray slacks and a tan jacket with a blue, button up shirt and his demeanor practically screamed, “OFFICIAL.”

Except... I could smell him. He didn’t smell like someone official because official people didn’t smell like that much... What was that?

“Hi. Is this the residence of Mr. Adams?”

“It is,” Max said, leaning around the door, so it was a little between him and the guy. “Who’s calling?”

“My name’s Detective Waters.” He held up a badge and identification, but not so fast that Max didn’t snort at something on them. The detective looked resigned and went on. “Mr. Adams, we’re trying to locate Rachel Shelton. Is she around?”

“In a way,” Max hedged. He glanced back at me.

I sighed. Might as well get this over with.

Have I smelled that before? Applejack said.

Stepping into view, I looked up at the man, who seemed to tower over me. I got a good whiff now and I realized what it was- weed. He was sweating out marijuana. Not a lot, but with my nose, I didn’t need much to confirm it.

Wait. What’s- Oh. Ooooh. I let Applejack go through the quick and dirty version of my understanding of pot.

So why’d this guy smell like it?

“Morning, sir,” I said, letting my drawl go a little heavier. “What’s the problem?”

Detective Waters blinked at me as if a pony had randomly started talking, which I had, so I gave him a minute to recover and rally.

“Uh. We, uh, we found your car crashed and...” He stared. “Sorry. I wasn’t really prepared for that.”

I chuckled. “Me neither. Can I see your identification too? Yesterday was a long day.”

Still kind of boggling at me, he pulled out his identification again and I looked at the name and badge number and I snorted.

“Susan?” I said.

He rolled his eyes and snapped the wallet shut. “It’s a name,” he responded neutrally.

“How can I help you?”

Apparently, his sore spot name got him back on track because he went back to his official bearing.

“Yeah, we found your car and ID on the side of Highway Five, but no sign of you. After running some of your information, we found your phone active with some use. We checked in with your parents, but they hadn’t heard from you, just your friend.” He indicated Max. “Mind if I come in and you tell me what happened?”

I was about to say sure when something struck me. Biting at my memory. Something important. Something about Waters’s badge.

If you’re okay with me doin’ it, I can find out why a whole hay of a lot faster, hon, Applejack said.

I nodded slightly, not wanting to clue the detective in.

He and Max stared at me as I stood still, my gaze downcast like I was considering something.

I’ve- Oh. Oh my stars. Rachel, we might have to do something here.

And I remembered.

Detective Susan Waters sometimes came to the company. I knew this because accounting was next to legal. Legal sometimes dealt with local law enforcement because some jerk would try to mess with the company I worked for. Detective Susan Waters came by about once every couple of weeks or so.

And she was a really nice black woman in her mid fifties.

I raised my gaze up at the man claiming to be Sue.

“You know what? Wait here. Let me get my purse,” I said carefully.

I went back into the apartment, glad I’d eaten a heavy breakfast. My purse was in the living room, next to the couch, still drying from its scrub-down yesterday. Till I could use it again, Max had loaned me a backpack his niece had left the last time she visited. It was red with a mouse holding a flower on it. I scooted my phone into the backpack as well as the two other apples I’d planned on eating that morning.

Zipping the bag up with my teeth, I slid it on, Applejack helping with some of the finer movements. Back at the door, the two men waited silently.

I don’t know about this, Applejack said.

Neither do I, but it’s all I can think of.

Applejack nodded. So did I.

Stepping up next to Max, I glanced up at him. “Thanks,” I said.

“For what?” he said.

And I bolted.

It wasn’t hard. Detective Not-Sue had his legs spread wide to support his weight and all I had to do was duck down. I heard him swear as I leapt the stairs in three bounds and hit the dirt at a full gallop. I heard him start pounding after me, but he wasn’t in the shape necessary to keep up.

I didn’t go for the road either.

I dove deep into the forest that banked Max’s apartment complex. Detective Not-Sue couldn’t follow me there. He was either coming off a high, or might still be a little baked. He might have been able to tackle me, but he was not catching up to me. Definitely not in the shape he was in. And definitely not the way I was running.

Applejack was helping. I could feel it. She was working out the rhythm of my hooves and eventually, I got it and I was thundering. Really, truly thundering. Holy. Crap. I’d never run this fast in my life.

“You’re in pretty good shape,” I commented as trees flew by.

Y’should see some of my other friends move when they want to.

My phone started ringing and I ignored it.

You gonna get that?

“No,” I said.

Why not?

“Because they traced us by it once and they could do it again,” I said, grim.

I felt all those Sherlock books I read coming to me. So did all those little detective bits from the shows I watched. Fantasy was suddenly reality and reality felt like fantasy and I was a running pony who was insanely fast.

I didn’t stop until I came to a small, but fast-moving creek. These were quickly becoming a staple of my life.

I wasn’t even winded. I was sweating a bit, sure, but...

“You are in ridiculously good shape,” I said.

I do alright, Applejack replied. I swear I felt her smirk.

Rummaging in my slightly floppy backpack, I pulled my Android out. I had to admit, it was a nice one. Two year plan. I got a few games for when I’d have to wait anywhere.

I tapped it open.

Two voicemails. Four texts.

I hit speaker.

“Hi, Rachel, it’s your mom. Listen, the office told me that Max called? Said you were staying with him because you’re sick? If you could call me soon, I’d really appreciate it. Bye.”

I deleted it. Not that it mattered, it was habit.

“Next message...” the digital voice said.

“Rae! What the fuck?!” Max yelled. “What’s going on?! You took off like you were on fire! Jesus! Call me. Call me soon, okay?”

First text from Mom: Did you get my voicemail?

First text from Max: What’s going on?

Second text from Max: Srsly, that guy was swearing like nuts. Call me back. Text me.

Third Text from Max: He came back and gave me his card. It didn’t say Sue. Says he’s James Matthews. A P.I. DUDE!!!! Call me back!!!!!!!!

I went to my contact list.

What’re ya-

“Please.”

She was quiet.

I dialed my mom’s cell.

It went to her voicemail.

I sighed, then took a breath. I only shuddered a little.

“Hi Mom. It’s me. It’s... It’s Rachel. I know I sound like cousin Abbie, but it’s me. If you google the news for ponies or people turning into ponies, you’ll know why.” I swallowed. “Things... Things have gotten really... Really messed up. I’m sorry. It wasn’t my fault to start but now...” I looked up. Birds chirped in the distance and I could still smell dew on the grass.

“I have to run Mom. I think... I think someone’s trying to hurt me. I’m sorry I can’t say any more. I don’t know anymore. Just- If a guy says he’s a detective, make sure he is. Like, check his badge, call his superior and ask for a warrant because this guy just showed up and he...” I realized tears were coming to me and I was running down the voicemail.

“Just- Just be careful Mom. You and Dad. I’ll... I’ll get in touch when I can. Not by this number. It’s Secret Fortess time Mom. Only for real. I’m sorry. I love you.”

I hit End.

I stared at the screen. Then, before I could change my mind, I slammed it with my left forehoof and slapped it into the creek with my right. What my first blow started the impact on a rock finished and broke the phone into bits that the creek carried away.

Better? Applejack asked.

“No,” I said, solemnly. I moved my backpack around. I’d need something sturdier soon. This kids’ pack wasn’t going to cut it if I was... Going the way I was.

I looked around, wishing I’d checked my map.

“So. New York?” I said.

Sure thing.

I lead us deeper into the woods.