• Published 15th Dec 2013
  • 1,198 Views, 47 Comments

Prompt-A-Day Collection - Admiral Biscuit

A collection of random stories from the Prompt-A-Day group's challenges

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3: "The Sign Said: 'Do Not Enter. Ever.'"

The sign said, "Do Not Enter. Ever."

It had probably been a nice sign once—as nice as warning signs ever are, anyway. It was made of white-enameled steel, and the block letters had been neatly hoof-painted in a brilliant red. But time took her toll, and now there were trails of rust down the sign. The lettering had faded to a dried-blood maroon, with the brush marks clearly visible.

More recently, the final ever had been added—this was scrawled crudely across the bottom of the sign, written in soft coal held in a filly’s uncertain aura. She had picked up the sign, which had been lying face-down on the scarred soil, and propped it back up, then added her post-script.

The sign had been fairly well-protected, so that it was still somewhat legible. The rock face had not been; thus the names that the filly had written next to the sign were lost forever, erased from the stone as if they had never been. Perhaps that was well, for such was the nature of time. Memories fade, so it might be right for the memorials of those who have passed to fade, too.

The colt knew none of this. He had been out playing in the woods, alone. A rousing game of hide-and-seek had ended abruptly when his companion’s parents had called them home for dinner, leaving him to his own devices. He didn’t much mind; he often found the company of other ponies nearly intolerable. He wanted to be an explorer, like Daring Do—they wanted to play their silly games. Sure, they could pretend . . . but pretending never found them anything new in the park, except for the lost clasp from Sweetie Belle’s saddlebags. Rarity had made them for Sweetie’s cute-cenera, all those years ago.

He’d happened to glance down into the woods, and the light had been just right, and he’d seen a path. It wasn’t much of a path—it was the memory of a path. He knew that nature abhorred straight lines, though, and there was one right in front of him.

Curious, he pushed his way through the shrubs that surrounded the park. He wondered how he’d never seen it before.

It ran off north of town, curving to the west as it went. He occasionally saw small signs of ponycraft at his hooves—a splintered baulk of timber, adz marks still vaguely visible, a rusty spike, and the occasional soft black rock. He didn’t know what those were, for he’d never seen coal before. He’d picked one up in his mouth, grimaced at the taste, and promptly spit it back out.

It was a grand adventure. There had been ponies here once, and now there were not. It was like discovering an ancient civilization. Each artifact was mentally catalogued, and he vowed to come back with saddlebags and pick them up.

He’d gone farther than he’d intended. His quick look into the woods had turned into an idea of just getting up to the next stand of aspen and seeing what was there . . . before too long, he’d walked nearly five miles into the woods.

The rumbling in his stomach reminded him that he hadn’t eaten dinner yet, and should probably get home sooner rather than later. He was about to turn around . . . but just up ahead at the top of a small rise, a delectable patch of thistles beckoned to him.

He cantered up to them and greedily buried his muzzle into the delectable purple flowers, biting their heads off one-by-one until he’d denuded the entire patch. A whisper of the wind carried a metallic bang to his ears, and he turned in surprise at the source of the noise.

• • •

He walked the streets of a long-abandoned town, his eyes wide with wonder. It was obvious that most of the usable materials in the town had been salvaged for other projects, but the shells of small homes still lined an overgrown street, their roofs and windows long gone. A more-substantial stone building still stood in the center of the abandoned town, and a line of tracks—narrower than any he’d ever seen—pointed like an arrow up to a small rock wall, where a dark hole beckoned.

He trotted alongside the rails, stopping to examine a string of small hoppers. The hoppers were filled with the same black rocks he’d seen on the path to the ghost town. Whatever that rock was, somepony had wanted it very much—enough to build all of this. He grinned. It was probably valuable, and it had just been left behind. He would take a small one back with him. He’d go to the jeweler’s, and see what he could get for it. Then . . . then, he would come back here. He’d find them all, all the oily black rocks that were scattered about.

He looked up at the yawning entrance. The rails led there; it was obvious where the black rocks had come from. There’d be more left inside. Bigger ones, he was sure.

He wasn’t sure how it had happened, but he had reached the rock face. Behind him, the empty town spread out in the small valley. Ahead of him, richness beckoned.

For a moment, a voice in his head urged caution. The cave would be dark, and he had no candles, no lamp, no nothing. But he could go in just a little ways, have a look around . . . there was some light that would come in through the entrance, he was sure.

He took a step inside. Then another. Tool marks on the wall showed where ponies had scratched at the rock to prise loose its treasure. Dry, splintery supports bowed under the weight of the earth.

He glanced down once at a small white rectangle, propped against the wall of the mine. There were markings on it . . . just like the signs and posters around town. He considered it carefully, before he looked back down into the mine.

The sign said, "Do Not Enter. Ever." Too bad the colt couldn't read.