• Published 29th Aug 2014
  • 4,473 Views, 176 Comments

Rainbow Dash: Re-Animator - JawJoe



Rainbow Dash's loyalty extends beyond the grave. Whether society and the laws of thermodynamics permit it or not.

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Don't Expect to Tango, It Will Just Scream

The stairwell led Rainbow Dash into a researcher's paradise.

On the surface, the Golden Oaks Library was nothing out of the ordinary. Beneath it, however, lay a secret world of magic and science: Twilight Sparkle's domain. This time of night, when Ponyville was asleep and you listened just right, you could hear the soothing hum of machinery all the way from the main floor. And although Rainbow wasn't sensitive to such things, Twilight told her tales of magi-engines resonating with energies that made her teeth tingle.

A thick tube of metal sprouted just above the last step of the stairs, snaking to the ceiling of the basement before disappearing there. Wires and thinner pipes joined this tube with others to form an intricate network, freeing magic to flow as Twilight wished between her enchanted machines.

Machines with glowing buttons and levers filled every corner. Some were small, barely reaching above Rainbow's neck while others ran from the floor all the way to the ceiling.

Where the machines made space, countless shelves lined the walls, holding all manner of items arcane: potions and pickled ingredients, instruments of steel and glass that sparked with purple light, and of course, the books and parchments Twilight used to keep track of it all. The mare herself hadn't yet unlocked all the secrets of her own laboratory, but she knew her machines had the potential to do amazing things.

Pushing boundaries was what they were here for. Step by step, one project at a time.

Rainbow could never help but feel overwhelmed – humbled, perhaps – by it all. A constant doubt gnawed away at the back of her mind: the thought that she didn't quite belong. For the sake of her friend, though, Rainbow would always hide it. She was good at that, hiding doubt.

And things were looking up, anyway: Twilight's research was right on track, and Rainbow had proven herself – to herself – a more than capable lab assistant. Tonight, she strolled into the basement with an ease that surprised even herself.

“Don't bang your hooves so hard,” Twilight said. “You'll wake up Spike.”

“Sorry, boss.” Rainbow rolled her eyes for show, but admonished herself inside.

Amidst the amazing sights of the library basement Rainbow saw the most ordinary of things: Twilight, horn glowing, focused on a tome open on the table before her. A quill dipped itself in ink and danced on the page, jotting line after line with a finesse and speed unparalleled by any pony's hoof-writing.

The quill stopped, and Twilight turned her attention to a glass container that hung hoisted above a small burner. She inspected the bluish liquid that frothed inside, and the quill began writing again before Twilight turned back to the tome. Rainbow waited patiently – she was used to this – and, soon enough, the glow around the quill gave out, placing it gently beside the tome. Twilight turned around with a weary sigh.

“I was beginning to think you wouldn't show.”

“When do I abandon my friends?” Rainbow failed to suppress a yawn. Her eyes scanned the room briefly before settling on a freezer in a closet at the back of the basement. “You still got apples in there?”

She began walking to the freezer before Twilight responded. As she passed by, she saw Twilight roll her eyes, and pretended to not notice.

The freezer lay on its back, crammed into the small closet. Rainbow opened it up and took a moment to appreciate her reflection in the faintly glowing, greenish slime that filled it to the brim. Several apples floated inside, fresh, ripe and begging to be eaten. While she'd never admit it, Rainbow hated to sacrifice a good night's sleep on the altar of science – the apples, she thought, were a fitting consolation prize.

She stuck her hoof into the green slush and fished out one of the apples, wiping it off with a practised brush against her chest before taking a bite.

“Those are important research subjects,” Twilight grumbled, shooting a displeased look at Rainbow Dash.

“Yeah, yeah,” Rainbow said around a mouthful of apple. “I haven't had a bite to eat all day, okay? Just get some more.”

“I do pay Applejack for these, you know.”

“Then buy some on me.” Rainbow swallowed another mouthful and held up the apple in her hoof. “They're just too good.”

Chuckling, Twilight smiled in satisfaction. “At least it's working, then.”

Exactly, Rainbow thought. The half-eaten apple in her hoof was picked over a month prior by Twilight herself, yet still tasted as fresh as the day it had come off the tree.

In her head, Rainbow complimented Twilight's “Preservation Fluid” for a job well done.

“Now then, if you're done—” Somewhere on a high shelf, there was a scurrying noise, and an empty glass crashed to the ground, breaking in myriad pieces. “What was that?”

“Must be the rats,” Rainbow said.

“There are no rats here.”

“There are, I'm telling you. Saw one last time, too.”

Twilight pursed her lips. “Noted. Now then,” she began again. Her ears perked up, her lips curled into a smile, then a full-blown grin. “I haven't slept in two days.”

She hopped over to Rainbow – with unexpected grace for somepony so sleep deprived – and unfolded a wing, poking it under Rainbow's nose.

Rainbow craned her neck away. “For the record, I'm still not totally comfortable doing this.”

Twilight scowled impatiently and Rainbow sighed in compliance. Begrudgingly, she opened her mouth, pinched her teeth on the first feather she could find, and pulled.

Twilight winced and ruffled her wings as Rainbow jerked the feather loose. “Neither am I. But sacrifices must be made.”

“Ponies are going to notice your mangled wings,” Rainbow mumbled around the feather.

“I'll just tell them I fell down the stairs or something. Now, mix it in.”

Rainbow took the feather to the table and spat it onto the boiling glass above the flame. The feather dissolved in a matter of seconds, sending a puff of thin smoke above the glass.

“Yeah, remind me not to stick my hoof in this.”

The glass lit up purple, and bouncing on its hoist and splashing some of the hot blue liquid over Rainbow.

“Hey!” Rainbow mentally prepared herself for the incoming burning sensation, but she felt nothing. The liquid quickly ate itself into her coat and drooped a little over her wings, but there was no other effect.

Although glad it didn't happen, Rainbow still had to question Twilight's little prank. “You realise that could've hurt me.” Maybe the lack of sleep was getting to her.

Twilight playfully elbowed Rainbow's side. “That's just it: it couldn't have. At this stage, it only reacts violently to alicorns.”

Rainbow looked Twilight over. “Oh. So it's totally safe. I get it.”

“You don't seem to understand the significance,” Twilight said. “This proves that I am different, Rainbow. Cadence and I, we might be just like Celestia and Luna. Think of it: immortality.”

Intrigued as Rainbow was by the idea, she couldn't help the jealousy that clouded her opinion. “Must be cool.”

“Not to brag, of course.”

Twilight poked a hoof at the table with the stewing potion. “Would you finish this for me?” Lighting up purple, the tome slid closer, accompanied by the inkwell and quill. “I'm just too excited. And tired, obviously. My hooves won't stop shaking.” She giggled thinly. “Don't want to mess up. We must have done this a hundred times by now. You can handle it on your own, right?”

'They' – as in the two of them together – may have prepared potions before, but Twilight rarely allowed Rainbow to fiddle with lab equipment alone. To have it thrust on her like this was at once frightening and exhilarating.

Rainbow puffed her chest. “You bet.”

She'd been visiting Twilight in night time hours for long now, and she knew Twilight had been at this for much longer than that.

Thing is, Twilight's research was all very hush-hush. They were partners in crime, and that thought excited Rainbow Dash. She still wondered, sometimes, why Twilight had asked her of all ponies to be her assistant down here, but in moments like this, it hardly mattered. She'd never disappoint a friend – especially not Twilight, and especially not in a matter so personal.

Rainbow looked at the half-done potion, then peeked into the tome. “Which one are we doing again?”

“The Sans-Sleep Serum,” Twilight answered. “It's why I haven't been sleeping, right? So we can test it properly.” She prodded a hoof at the page. “See?”

There it was indeed, in Twilight's magic-writing. The page claimed that the Sans-Sleep Serum – the 'SSS,' as Rainbow liked to call it – was “exactly what it says on the tin. Safe and reliable, for all ages.” Further down the page were detailed instructions to the making of the serum, ingredients and all.

Rainbow ran her hoof along the words until she found what she was looking for. “So we just added the alicorn feather.”

“Yup,” Twilight said, turning away. With a spring in her step, she skipped over to a bookshelf and scrutinised a line of books. She placed the tip of a hoof onto one end, and gently brushed it over the spine of every book in the line.

Must have been some kind of a ritual for her, Rainbow figured. Twilight took a book in her hooves, and another floated up. She switched the two, pushing them in carefully. She then sat down, one hoof under her chin, another pointing to this book and that.

Rainbow reminded herself that she couldn't stand and watch; she had a job to do. She looked to the tome again, found the next step, and got to work.

She'd learned her way around the basement shelves by now; she knew where to find every ingredient and tool. Measuring everything carefully, she sprinkled in strange dusts and plopped in gooey balls and sticky petals. She mixed, stirred, and shook, adjusting the flame's intensity at the right times.

Rainbow was rather proud of herself, all in all. She'd never have imagined herself a science pony, but on nights like these she'd picked up plenty. She wasn't keen on writing everything down like Twilight was. In fact, she found she didn't need to. She was a natural.

Or so she liked to think.

Although Rainbow would never have said it out loud, it felt good knowing that Twilight trusted her ability.

True enough, she did almost drop a thing here, and she did spill some stuff there. She didn't always waste time to measure as accurately as Twilight would have demanded, preferring to quickly eyeball it instead. But right now, Twilight was wandering about the room, checking shelves and ordering desks.

Point is, she wasn't looking, which meant it was fine. Rainbow felt a desire to impress the mare, and worked as quickly as she could to that end.

They'd been working on the Sans-Sleep Serum for a while, too. Rainbow knew the formula like the back of her hoof. They'd tested it before – first on birds and rodents, to much success. Just last week they'd tested it on Twilight, albeit to no effect. But that's what tests were for.

Twilight promised to revise the formula – she was 'this' close, she said – and now, well... now here they were again.

Rainbow stirred the glass one last time, then blew out the burner's flame. She took the thermometer into her hooves and clinked it proudly against the glass. “Done.”

Twilight quickly paced closer. “Perfect.” A chair slid over, and Twilight dropped into it, placing one of her outstretched legs onto the table. “Will you do the honours?”

Raising a brow, Rainbow picked up a syringe. “You're really eager to do this, aren't you?” And probably high on caffeine, Rainbow mentally added.

Twilight shrugged. “What can I say? I have a good feeling about this one. I barely even had to change it. I tried ground chimera teeth first, you know, for the extra kick. Turns out, all I needed was some Mean Face Oak acorns to—”

“Yeah, yeah, I noticed.” Rainbow dipped the needle into the glass and sucked up some of the blue stuff. She knocked on the side of the barrel and pressed the plunger down a bit to force out any trapped air bubbles. Just like Twilight had taught her.

She had to wonder how much Twilight knew about medicine. Knowing magic is one thing, but stabbing ponies with needles and injecting strange things was a different matter entirely.

Ah, but among the many things she'd learned, one was not to voice concerns while Twilight was in 'research mode.' If anything, she felt lucky that Twilight always volunteered to test the potions. The idea of a needle coming anywhere near her skin made Rainbow's flesh crawl.

Twilight gave a determined nod. Rainbow sighed, felt for Twilight's artery, and put the needle to it. She'd missed before; she wanted to make sure she hit the vein the first time tonight. Twilight smiled encouragingly at Rainbow as she slid the steel into her vein.

“Steady now. You're good at this.”

Once the syringe was spent, Rainbow pulled it out. “Uh, thanks, I guess.”

“So like I said...” Twilight put up a hoof. “I'm positive this will work. It's an early formula, of course. I don't think it would be safe to use more than once, say, every three or four days. And I might be stretching it there.”

“Why?” Rainbow asked. “What if you used it every day?”

“I wanted to make sure it works, so it's a bit strong. It puts your brain in overdrive. Works through vast amounts of sleep in moments. Using it too much might, well, it might fry your brain.”

“That so.”

Rainbow took the quill and dashed off a few words into the tome. “Side effect: makes you crazy.”

“So you can stay up a night every week,” Rainbow said. “Big deal. You were talking about never dying earlier, that sounded way more awesome.”

Twilight scoffed. “Sleep is part of the brain's self-repair protocol. If we learn its secrets, think of how we could use that to help other parts of the body. It might be the first step towards reversing the ageing process.”

Rainbow grabbed a chair and pulled it up, sitting down beside Twilight. “Repair, huh? Think we can bring back the dead?”

Twilight crossed her legs and studied Rainbow. “Let me answer with a question. What if we could?”

Rainbow leaned back, grinning as the obvious answer crystallised in her mind. She didn't get why Twilight would even ask such a question. “Then we'd never have to die.”

“Yes.” Twilight leaned closer. “What would we eat? Where would we live? If nopony ever died, nopony could live.”

Rainbow looked away, propping her tired head up with a hoof. “A bit grim, aren't you?”

“No, I mean, as a princess... I think about these things too, it's not just you.” She uncrossed her legs. “But bringing back the dead? When you rationally consider everything, it would actually make life worse for everypony. And I haven't even mentioned all the ethical considerations. It would be insane.”

She leaned back, placing her hooves on her stomach and turning her eyes to the ceiling. “Not to mention impossible, in the long run. Very long run. On a principle level, I mean.” She looked at Rainbow. “Nothing lives forever.”

“I don't know, Twilight. Your magic does a lot of impossible things.”

“Nothing lives forever,” Twilight repeated. “Even if you keep reviving it. Sooner or later, it will have to die for good. It's a law of nature. The second law of—”

“Yeah, I remember.” Rainbow waved a hoof dismissively. “The second commandment of thermos-dynamics, you've told me all about it. But what about Celestia? She doesn't die. And you just said that you might be like her, too. How do you explain that?”

“Look, we don't know if I'm like her or not. That's what we're doing here to begin with. We're trying to find out.”

“Uh-huh.” Rainbow clapped a hoof on Twilight's shoulder. “Hey, feel anything yet?”

“Something, now that you mention it.” She lifted her injected leg, circling her shoulder a little. “A bit tingly. But I'm still pretty tired. Give it a minute.”

“You know,” Rainbow said, “it's pretty clear you're not like Celestia. Neither is Cadence, for that matter.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Your manes aren't all swirly-lookin'.”

“Yes, of course, I noticed that. We don't have all the details yet.”

Rainbow stretched, putting her hind hooves onto the table. Twilight slapped them off.

Rainbow fidgeted, trying to find a comfortable position. “Why not just ask Celestia? Point blank, straight to the face. Excuse me, Princess ma'am, am I gonna have to watch all my friends die?”

“I've already asked,” Twilight said. “With different wording, obviously, but I have.”

“In letters.”

“Keep your voice down. Fact is, Celestia refuses to answer. She told me I wasn't supposed to think about such things.” Twilight leaned closer to Rainbow. “Between you and me, I think she's using reverse-psychology. Wouldn't be the first time.” She sent Rainbow a conspiratorial wink. “She wants me to find out on my own.”

Rainbow grinned. “Looks like it's working.”

Twilight giggled.

“So, anything yet?”

Twilight pulled up her injected leg. “It feels funny. Sore.”

“That's not supposed to happen, is it?”

“No. And I don't feel any more awake, either.” She shook her head, looking over the desk, gaze stopping on a jar of dark-blue goo.

“Rainbow...” she poked her in the side. “You did add the jellied manticore venom extract, right?” She gulped, then put a hoof to her forehead. “I feel sick.”

Rainbow pointed at the blue jar. “Yeah, it's right here.” Rainbow looked at the label – for a moment, she froze up. Then she jumped to her hooves with a start.

'Boiled parasprite.'

“Oh dear,” Rainbow mouthed.

“What's that?” Twilight asked, sitting up straight to get a better look. “What is that? Is that parasprites? You put in star-forsaken parasprites?

With a pained groan, Twilight heaved and hunched over the desk. Her hooves caught the glass with the serum and knocked it off its hoist, sending it rolling across the table and spilling the blue potion. Rainbow was a second late in pulling the tome away, and some of it got soaked.

“You know what the manticore extract is for?”

Rainbow was supposed to know. She didn't.

“You remember what happened to my feather?” Twilight grabbed at her chest. “It stops that.” She breathed in heavily, and exhaled with another groan.

Rainbow gaped, hooves pattering on the floor, running in place. “What do I do, Twilight? What do I do?”

Twilight leaned back on her chair, one hoof on her chest, other fanning her face. “Okay, let's see,” she said, breathing heavily. “Parasprites. No manticore. Burning. Page four.”

Rainbow frantically slammed the heavy tome shut, then opened at the beginning, turning pages as quickly as she could.

“No,” Twilight said. “No, that's not it. Hold on.” She breathed through her teeth, hissing. “Page forty. That's it. Antidote.”

Rainbow flicked to the page, tearing a few out on the way. There she found a complicated formula she'd never seen before. She skipped the precursory text, gaze darting to the ingredients. A quick skim. They had it all in stock.

“Hang in there, Twilight. I can do this.”

“I'd say you have about three minutes,” Twilight replied. She bit her lip, suppressing a cry of pain. “Two, you have two.”

Rainbow dashed about the room, grabbing ingredients from a dozen more shelves and drawers. She grabbed a new glass, filled it with water, and threw one thing in after the other, stopping only to look at the label on each container. Again she mixed and swirled. No mistakes this time.

Time to boil. She lit up the burner and placed the glass on top. She glanced into the tome, but a blotched blue stain obscured the next step.

Rainbow turned to Twilight. “How long?”

Twilight opened her mouth, but only a pained gasp came out. She banged her hoof on the desk three times, then stopped.

“Three minutes?” Rainbow asked.

“No!”

Rainbow put her hooves around the glass, ready to pull up. “Three seconds?” Twilight shook her head, bending and snarling with pain, hooves scraping at her chest. “Thirty seconds? Thirty seconds.”

“Come on, come on,” Rainbow mumbled, watching the purplish liquid bubble. She counted each nerve-wracking second in her head. At thirty, she blew on the burner's flame, but it didn't go out. Rather than keep trying, she tried to lift the hot glass, burning her hoof.

She recoiled with a yelp and the glass slipped from her grasp, falling and cracking, rolling on, spewing the precious antidote across the table. Rainbow jumped after it, but the glass rolled over the table's edge and shattered against the floor.

The liquid spread out and seeped into the parquet. Rainbow Dash and Twilight locked eyes.

Twilight doubled over barely suppressed scream, interrupted by a fit of coughs. Trying to catch her breath, she tumbled off the chair. Rainbow saw and quickly dove, catching Twilight in her hooves.

Rainbow’s eyes grew frantic and she felt her heart sinking in her chest. “I'll make another one. I can. Hold out.”

Twilight shook her head. Twilight breathed faster than Rainbow had ever seen, but every breath came up shallow and wet.

“It's okay, hold on,” Rainbow said, putting Twilight back onto the chair. She rushed to gather more ingredients, but couldn't take her eyes off her friend. “Stay with me! I'll fix it, you'll be fine.”

Twilight slumped on her chair. Drool foamed at the corner of her mouth. Her glassy eyes stared forward, and didn't follow Rainbow any more.

Rainbow rushed back to her. She grabbed Twilight's head and turned her blank eyes towards herself. “Twilight?”

No response. Her breaths had stopped. Rainbow looked at her chest, and found it completely still.

A tidal wave of emotions – of terror, guilt, panic, desperation – washed over Rainbow Dash. It would have consumed her, had she not heard a new noise from upstairs.

“Twilight?” came the sleepy voice of Spike. “Where are you? I heard something.”

Rainbow looked at Twilight, lifeless and limp. She glanced at the mess on the desk, the broken glasses, and the spreading puddle of spilt potions on the floor. She looked to the back, at the freezer in the closet.

She didn't think. She couldn't think. In her conscious mind, she hadn't yet processed what happened.

On instinct, she dragged Twilight's body and stuffed her into the freezer, burying her in the preserving green goo. She ran back for the tome – the recording of Twilight's secret research – and threw it on top of the freezer.

“Twilight?” Spike asked again. “Are you down there? It's the middle of the night.”

Not far from the closet stood a peculiar magi-technological machine. Rainbow remembered Twilight's tales about the thing. Once, Twilight hooked Pinkie Pie to it in an attempt to determine the nature of her “pinkie sense.” When the machine yielded no usable data, she decided it was a worthless piece of junk. The device hadn't seen use since.

Its glass screens were now blank and devoid of life, and the tiny lamps and buttons that festooned its surface gave no light. A cascade of yellowed, crumpled papers hung from the machine's mouth, piling in an old, rusted bin below.

It was perfect.

Rainbow kicked the bin aside, throwing herself against the machine, pressing, pushing it to cover the closet. On the way, it left an ugly ridge of scratches on the previously pristine floor. Didn't matter.

Spike's steps were getting nearer. “Seriously, what's with the racket? Who's there?”

Rainbow flicked a switch, and the lights went out, leaving the basement in pitch darkness. She would escape, and think things through. She just needed a bit of time.

By the time Spike fumbled to the light switch, Rainbow Dash was long gone, escaping under the veil of darkness. When the lights came on in the empty room, Spike found only questions.

Rainbow Dash would come back later.


Rainbow Dash

Re-Animator

I almost slipped as I drove my shovel into the mushy earth. Just my luck, I thought. Take a week off at Cloudsdale to clear my head and miss a funeral. Old geezer had to have a stroke now of all times.

Ah, the taste of wet wood in my mouth. The shovel's slick handle grated against my teeth. Exactly the sensations I needed to compliment the smell of mud and soaked bones. Graves, rain, and a full Moon. Such lovely atmosphere.

I flung back another load of mud. Sticking my shovel back into the ground elicited a metallic clang – I'd reached the coffin. Sweeping a few rainbow hairs from my face, I exhaled in relief.

I leaned onto the shovel for a moment's rest. The hillside cemetery provided an excellent view of the sleeping Ponyville. It felt like yesterday that we first banded together. Beat Nightmare Moon, we did. And so many more after that. Good times.

We'll be having good times again, I promise. I'd never let a friend down.

Cracking my neck, I bit down hard on the spade and strained against the cemetery earth again. After a few more minutes of digging, the grave lay open before me. Open enough, anyway, for me to lift the lid of the coffin.

The corpse was several days old, and decomposition was in full swing. Tonight's rain did the body no good, either. At least he was still in one piece. Much better than that last one with the dislodged lower body and ruptured bowels. That one was nasty.

A body bag of my own making lay in the mud. Insofar as you can call a bunch of sewed-together garbage bags a body bag, at any rate. Hey, when you're conducting illicit – and probably illegal – research on the dead, you use what you've got. I unrolled the bag with a flick and prepared to fill it.

By the end of his short vacation underground, the old stallion had become all soft and smelly. It was like holding a soft bag of jelly. A really shoddy bag, too, like made out of old rubber, stretching and tearing everywhere. It wasn't a pleasant experience, and I refused to believe this was something you get used to.

Slowly and carefully, I dragged the corpse out of the grave, stuffing it head first into the bag. I found that was the easiest way, not sure why. One floppy leg followed the other, and once the entire body was inside, I slid the shovel in beside it as well. Ragged, discoloured tail-hairs clung to my legs. I wiped my hooves in the mud. Rather have wet earth on them than parts of dead pony.

Eager to get this thing home, I grabbed onto the bag's mouth, arched my back, and spread my wings. I'd be at the library in no time.

Then I sighed, relaxing my posture. “No,” I whispered. Can't rush things, not now. Bad things happen when you rush things. Have to take it slow. I hated taking it slow. But I wouldn't want to risk the bag coming apart somewhere above town. I didn't think I could explain a body falling into Ponyville from nowhere. With a displeased grumble, I bit onto the bag and threw it over my back. On the way back, I paused every so often to spit and rinse my mouth out with rain water to get rid of the taste of rotting pony.

I was already halfway through Ponyville when I noticed a hoof sticking out of a hole in the bag. Oh well, I thought. Lucky thing nopony's up this time of night. The hoof was a good reminder to double-wrap next time. You might not get used to stealing corpses, but even here practice made perfect.

The Golden Oaks Library was easy to make out, even in the night, standing tall in the open field. One stray look out a neighbouring window, and I'd have been busted. The darkness was my only cover.

My heart was pounding when I reached the tree. I walked around the back, trembling teeth clutching the bag, hooves feeling along the bark, step by step, inch by inch. It's gotta be here somewhere.

There was a soft snap; the dead stallion's nose poked from a new hole in the bag. At the same moment, my hoof touched a protrusion on the library's outer wall. Pushing it, a hatch opened with a reassuring clack.

I'd already spent too much time outside. I threw the hidden door open with a few skilful movements of my hind hoof. Behind the door was a flight of stairs: the back entrance to the library's basement.

I had to hurry, lest the worn bag disintegrate right there and then. I escorted my plastic-clad guest down the stair, shedding mud and water with every clop of my hooves. I issued a mental apology for each bump of his head, and prayed that the bag held out a little longer.

Once at the bottom, I hit the light switch, and the old bulb that hung from the ceiling flickered on. Without a lampshade, it cast stark shadows on the shelves. Blinding refractions bounced from the countless vials and glasses that filled them.

With one last groan, I threw the bag onto the operating table in the middle of the room. That is, the regular table I repurposed for “operations.” As the bag slammed against the wood, a half-eaten apple rolled off and bounced on the floor.

“Whew,” I huffed, shaking water from my soaked mane.

Carefully stepping over the fallen wires that spread across the floor, I made my way to the magical-analytical machine that hid the closet, kicking the little paper bin away with the last step. It flew into the nearest wall, tumbling and rattling as it came to a stop under a table with a broken leg. Since Spike moved out, I didn't have to worry about the noise.

I pressed myself against the heavy machine. Slowly, excruciatingly, the thing slid to the side, leaving another set of scratches on the floor. There were more than I could count now, so what harm were these?

The sight of the freezer was at once gut-wrenching and elating. Everything I worked for came back to this. I couldn't help but grin. Out of nerves, excitement, guilt, joy, I wasn't sure. Didn't matter. I pushed the tips of my hooves under the freezer's door and opened it up. A blast of cold air hit me.

“I'm home, Twilight.”

Princess Twilight Sparkle lay at the bottom of the freezer, covered entirely by the pale green goo. The body was whole, entirely untouched by decomposition. So much time had passed, but nopony would've told the difference.

“Haven't given you an update in a while. I've been hard at work. You know the apple I took out way back? Took long enough, but it started to rot. I used a brand new injection on it, developed by yours truly.” I patted a hoof on my puffed chest. “It worked. Didn't just stop the decay, it reversed it. That apple is alive, good as new. What's left of it, anyway.”

I paused, waiting for an answer I knew wouldn't come. I leaned closer so she could hear me better.

“So I did some changes to the formula, based on your research. Tested on the rats. Was messy. Learned things. But it worked. Oh yeah, the place definitely has rats. Convenient.” I cleared my throat, embarrassed before my silent companion. “So yeah, changed a few things up. Then I tested on body parts, pony body parts. I could make them move. Gonna test on a stallion in a minute. A whole stallion, I mean, all in one piece this time. It's gonna work, trust me.”

Talking to Twilight helped me preserve my sanity, or so I told myself. I wondered whether that was true, or if it was a sign that I'd already gone mad. I closed the freezer before I could think too much about it.

Alright, let's see. I had a desk somewhere with all sorts of cutting instruments. Finding it was harder than you'd think. Truth be told, keeping the place organised was a nightmare. I gave up after a few days, which only deepened my respect for Twilight.

Books and instruments cluttered the floor, a few shelves were turned over, and tables and desks stood here and there, loaded with as much as they could carry. The fire axe, I remembered, stood next to the desk with the rest of the cutting things: a big, red flag that I used to mark the spot.

Yes, of course I had a fire axe. I used several burners in my experiments, and when playing with fire, it's safety first. Didn't want any more accidents.

I found the desk soon enough and picked up my pair of scissors. I banged the blades against the side of the table a few times. Flakes of old, dried blood fell like snow. I really gotta clean these things once in a while. I'd been meaning to do it, but I never bothered. The work was always more important.

The scissors pierced the bag, and with one smooth motion, I cut it open along the length. The bag split open, the shovel fell to the floor, and the rotten stallion stared back at me blankly, jaw unhinged and hanging to the side. Not a pleasant sight at all, but if everything went according to plan, he'd be all better soon.

Throwing the scissors behind me, I turned to another desk nearby. This one I used to hold pre-prepared potions. A sizeable vat was hoisted above the desk, kept warm by the peaceful flame of a burner. Quickly putting an empty phial below the vat's spout, I turned the rusty, screechy valve to extract the bright green liquid inside.

I picked up a syringe and touched the tip of the needle to the liquid. As I pulled the plunger, the syringe began sucking it up. When I had just the right amount – I'd marked it earlier – I pulled it out, holding the filled syringe before my eyes. The syringe glowed green with the liquid – a hypnotising radiation.

The Re-Animation Potion, that's what I called it. I was fond of the name; it had a nice ring to it. And what a journey it's been. Twilight had wanted to study alicorn longevity, curious about her new body. She wanted to make things live longer, healthier, happier. On better days, she laughed at the idea of raising the dead. On worse ones, she scoffed. Impossible, she told me, physical laws and philosophical issues.

Unlike her imagination, however, mine wasn't curbed by an abundance of education. I knew what I wanted, and that was enough.

Syringe in hoof, I turned to the old stallion on the table. For a moment, I came this close to ramming the needle into his neck. But, again, I remembered what I learned from Twilight.

“Take it slowly now,” I reminded myself. “Be precise.” Remember what happens when you're not precise.

I looked back at the freezer, shuddering inwardly at the sight. I put the syringe down and went to scour the room for a notebook and a pen, knocking things off tables and pulling out every last drawer. Once I found them, I returned to the operating table.

In a corner was a dusty grandfather clock, showing eight past midnight. I quickly jotted the time down in the notebook.

Because you always gotta write things down.

“Cadaver lying on its back,” I wrote. “Airways unobstructed.” Yeah, I did pick up some big words from Twilight's notes.

I wrote down the exact mixture and ratios of the ingredients in the current formula. I noted the age of the subject, how long he had been dead – give or take a few hours – as well as the cause of death. His gravestone had been pretty informative. Then I dashed off the date of the experiment.

“Administering the Re-Animation Potion at 10 past midnight, sharp.”

The clock showed nine past midnight. I stared impatiently at the vein in the stallion's neck. Never seen one that thick. It popped right out of his shrunken skin.

I glanced at the clock again. Nine and a half past midnight.

I wiped sweat from my forehead.

Picking up the syringe, I brought it before my eyes again, pressing the plunger lightly to expel any air trapped inside. The sight of the glowing green drop at the syringe's tip made me grin. I watched intently as it slid down the needle and onto the barrel, its own glow dancing with the burner's fire. Such beautiful light – the light of life.

The clock's longer hand hit ten, and I jammed the needle into the old stallion's neck, letting the green glow creep into the body. Although there was no blood flow – not yet – the serum didn't seem to mind. The liquid snaked through the vein in both directions, towards the heart and into the brain, lighting up every tiny capillary along its way, glow dissipating the more it spread.

When the glow was gone, I glanced at the clock. “Ten seconds since potion administered. Nothing yet.” Make that twenty by the time I finished writing.

My gaze alternated between the still body and the ticking clock. I found myself grinding my teeth, counting every passing second in my head, biting a little harder each time. As the thirty second mark flew by, my ears drooped with lost faith.

Maybe I got overexcited, I pondered. Maybe reviving rats was simpler than bringing a thinking pony to life. Yes, I adjusted the amount. I did the maths and put in the new stuff and everything. Noting that a full minute passed since the initial injection, I looked back at the corpse.

His eyes were open.

The notebook slipped from my grasp.

I dove right after it, scrambling to pick it up. I could barely hold the pen in my mouth. “r/a 60s,” I scribbled before casting the notebook and pen aside.

I leaned onto the desk, legs shaking, above the corpse that wasn't a corpse any more. A grin crept across my face. “Hello,” I greeted him, voice wavering with excitement. “Welcome back to life.”

Slowly, his eyes slowly shifted towards me.

“Can you hear me? Can you?”

He stared blankly. His jaw moved, and out came a horrible gurgling, accompanied by a stench just as unbearable. I waved the smell away and covered my nose.

“Y-yes. Don't stop. Talk to me, go on.”

The head twisted to the side, twitching eyes staring at me. A brownish-reddish liquid drooled from his mouth. What do I say? Didn't think that through. Stupid. But I'm sure he can hear me. What was his name again?

His muscles swelled. Without taking his eyes off me, he dragged his front hooves across the table, face screwing up with pain. Clenching his teeth into a snarl, he pushed himself up, sending a round of pops and cracks along his spine. He turned his head towards me without moving the rest of his body, turning to an unnatural degree.

“Hey, pal,” I said, offering a hoof.

His eyes turned to my hoof, then back to me. His chest expanded slowly, making a sound not unlike air whistling through a pierced balloon.

“It's okay, just take it slow. Come on.” I put my hoof on his shoulder carefully.

In the blink of an eye, the stallion slapped my hoof, making me recoil and trip over a stack of wires on the floor. As I clambered to my hooves, I saw the stallion lean off the table and roar with rage, splattering me with the gory bile that bubbled in his throat.

He scooted off the table, landing with a clumsy, wet crash. His hind legs tensed, propping up his rear, but his front legs and neck went slack.

I took a step back, raising an innocent hoof. “Alright, alright, easy now!”

The stallion started running – his hind legs did, anyway – pushing his body forward as the limp head painfully howled. I jumped out of his way, and he rushed right by, ploughing through the scattered junk before ramming into the freezer.

Oh, no you don't. “Hey, leave that alone.”

As if gaining strength from my voice, his flabby front legs stiffened, straightening the stallion's posture, his neck cracking as it too came to life. He turned to me with his teeth clenched in pain and eyes alight with animalistic fury. He breathed in and coughed out wet, bark-like moans.

I paced in place, legs readying to move. What's he doing? Do I help him? Fight or flight?

With another deep breath, the stallion gave a howl and rushed at me, teeth jaws open and ready to bite.

Fight it is, then. I set my hooves and didn't move an inch. As we collided, I wrapped my forelegs around the stallion. He clamped his teeth around my neck, but I pushed him away so that all he tore was a few hairs. With a quick twist and turn, I tackled him to the ground. He kicked my chest and bit my hooves in a desperate bid to push me off.

For all his madness, he still possessed the physical capabilities of an old pony. An old pony who spent his last week taking a dirt nap. Not a challenge for the awesome Rainbow Dash.

I thought I'd effortlessly hold the old stallion down, then maybe talk some sense into him. “Now listen here, you—”

A hoof ramming into my throat and another slamming at my temple put a dent in that plan. Before I came to, amidst more screaming came another impact at my stomach, like a freight train, strong enough to knock the air out of me. I flew through the air, bumping the light bulb and sending it swinging wildly, the hot glass burning me.

I crashed into on a desk and felt a dozen tiny pricks. As I slid off, scissors and scalpels fell with me. The shadows of the basement followed the bulb's swinging. A burner – thankfully unlit – bobbed and fell from the desk. As the glass shattered, the liquid inside spread out on the floor.

That stuff was flammable, too. And I was inside a gigantic tree. If the library caught fire, I had no clue what I'd do.

Wait a sec. If something caught fire, I'd use...

Snarling, gurgling, and drooling bloody saliva – oh look, the body's producing saliva – the stallion charged at me again. He threw up his front legs to come trampling down on me. Still on the floor, I grabbed the fire axe and held the handle out to keep him at bay.

He strained against me, and I held him back, but it took all my strength. I struggled to understand what was going on.

To combat deterioration and help animation, the newest Re-Animation Potion was loaded with agents that strengthened muscle and bone tissue. The point was to give the corpse an extra kick, a jolt to get them going again after being turned off for so long.

This was something entirely new – I'd never tried it on a whole pony before. The apples hardly needed it, lone legs and hearts worked fine without it, and the rats were always fresh enough. I made this change specifically with whole ponies in mind. And on one hoof, I was proud of myself for being correct: the agent worked. On the other, I was terrified of how well it worked.

The stallion pushed against the handle; standing up, I pushed back. He pushed harder, standing on his hind hooves; I followed the dance, getting up on mine. It seemed he couldn't figure a way past the impassable barricade that the axe handle provided.

He pushed on, forcing me to back up against the wall. Unable to push past the axe, he opted to come in with his head, biting at anything he could reach. I slammed my forehead into the stallion's to put the him in his place.

Not caring for the concussion I may have given myself, I pressed a hind hoof against the wall for leverage, putting enough force behind my weight to finally push the flailing stallion off. He tripped and fell straight onto his back, hooves flailing in confusion. I swooped down and pinned him against the floor again, prepared for his burst of strength this time.

“Calm down! You're upset, I get it. Must've been quite a trip. But you're fine now.” He tried to push, but I pressed him down. “Work with me here.”

The stallion howled in response, tongue flapping, eyes holding no understanding. With a quick move and more barks, he flipped me over, coming on top. His cracked, bleeding hooves pummelled my head, making me lose all sense of direction.

I swung the axe blindly, blunt end first, managing to jam it into his soft stomach. The stallion pounded away, his head swaying side to side, his neck unable to mitigate the violent shakes of his body. Indistinct howling and moaning echoed from his busted windpipe.

Desperate to get out of his hold, I pushed against the axe's handle, driving it through his stomach. The wall of muscles proved sturdy – yeah, the potion worked – but with the stallion leaning on me with all his weight, I pierced through. Half-liquid blood leaked all over me, and a few maggots fled the sinking ship through the breaches of his torn intestines.

After tunnelling through the stallion's body, the handle's blunt end emerged from his back with a wet pop. It took one final push and a strong screw on the axe to throw the stallion off me.

He fell on his back, writhing, crying, the axe's bladed end sticking up from his stomach; a flag of victory, this time. I jumped to my hooves and pulled the axe out, lifting it high for him to see.

“Last chance.”

The stallion spat, gurgled, and hopped up, once again throwing himself at me. I knocked him aside with the broad side of the axe, sending him into the side of the nearest desk. I heard a crack and a snap at the impact; the desk wasn't the only thing that broke there. The stallion fell limp, trembling legs trying to gain a hold on the floor.

Before he got up, I slammed the axe's blade into his back, severing the spine. He howled and writhed with his front hooves, but the hind ones were still.

Another swing, this time where his lower left leg met the torso, tearing it clean off. I swung again; his lower right leg followed the left one, plopping off with a clean sweep.

By that point, I wasn't thinking. I've always had the tendency to do things I later regretted. Hot-headed, they called me. I never thought much about it. Not until Twilight's death.

Since then, things had been falling through the cracks. And each day it was getting worse. Different ponies deal with grief in different ways, I guess. Irrational anger at anything that moved turned out to be my way. Not something I'm proud of.

I let the fury consume me. It coursed through my veins and it clouded my mind. Every swing was a tiny little release. I needed more.

I was angry. Angry that this thing tried to kill me, even though all I wanted was to help. Angry that the potion worked, but didn't do what I wanted. Angry that it had to come to this. Twilight wasn't supposed to die. I wasn't supposed to be doing this. This was an insult! A slap in the face from lady fortune, destiny, or something, anything. Anything that wasn't me. This was out of my control. Had to be.

Not my fault, I thought. Couldn't have been. I did everything right this time. I did everything right. Everything.

“Everything!”

My voice resonated throughout the basement. It bounced off the walls and chimed with the arcane phials before the shelves and machinery absorbed it. Then the only thing left was my panting, and a stabbing pain in my lungs. Sweat rolled into my eyes.

The bulb above was still again. The shadows had stopped their dance.

Before me, in a pool of spilled viscera, lay the stallion's torso, torn open. Splintered ribs adorned his punctured lungs. The head, crushed and leaking, had rolled away – at its side, I saw the mark of kick. On my hoof, I found my coat bloody all the way to the first bend.

The stallion's legs were off, too. I counted three. A slushy of pulverised bone and sinew spread under me, trampled and splotched across the floor. That I figured to be the fourth.

The axe slipped from my hooves. The axe head clanged, and the wooden handle bounced once on the cracked floor. I sat down, bringing my cleaner hoof to cover my eyes. I tasted blood on my lips. I licked it off, then wiped my bleeding nose. I felt sick. I breathed in deep.

Closing my eyes, I raised my head, then exhaled slowly.

No sound but the peaceful ticking of the old clock. My rapid heartbeat calmed.

A breath. Not mine.

My eyes snapped open, and my heart raced again. The corpse's lungs were a pulpous mass in his collapsed chest. This thing couldn't even hold air, much less breathe. The sound must have come from somewhere else. I cranked my aching neck towards the back stairs.

I didn't know why. I didn't know how. But I wasn't dreaming – I didn't think I was. Unless I'd finally gone mad for good, I had to believe what I saw.

There stood Sweetie Belle, her eyes wide and breath taken.