• Published 29th Aug 2014
  • 4,472 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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Go to the Golden Oaks, Scream a Little, and Wait for This to Blow Over

Sweetie Belle

I stretched my hooves out the window, draping my tired neck over the sill. As blood rushed into my head, I let loose a long, drawn-out yawn. To anypony on the street, I must have had the funniest face, but there was nopony there to notice.

Rarity loved the big rooms of the Carousel Boutique, but they had this tendency to gradually heat up during long summer days. Some days it got as hot as a sauna in the showroom.

When my hanging head started to hurt, I threw it back, letting my jaw hang open with a groan of boredom. “When's Apple Bloom coming already?”

Scootaloo responded by rearing up her scooter briefly only to drop back down. By the tired look on her face, she was having a blast as much as I was.

“Stop that,” I mumbled. The long wait and summer heat had sapped all my strength. I could barely muster the will to open my mouth. “Rarity's going to be mad if you ruin the carpet.”

Scootaloo threw her chest over the scooter's handles, hooves hanging loose. “It was your idea.” She kicked one leg out to scoot forward, but the wheels got tangled up in the carpet and barely moved.

“Not on the carpet,” I said. “We'll have to roll it up.”

“So why don't we do that instead of just sitting around?”

“Can't roll it while you're scooting on it.”

Scootaloo dragged her hooves off the handle and stepped off the scooter before kicking it into a corner. She trod out of the room with weary steps. Once she passed the doorstep, she dropped to her rump and crossed her hooves. “Happy?”

I came in from the window with a stretch and a yawn. “Yeah.”

I looked at the corner of the carpet, took a deep breath, and licked my lips. My horn prickled, and I felt the warmth of magic gather at my forehead. The corner of the carpet lit up green and lifted a few inches above the floor.

Scootaloo sprawled out on her back and studied the ceiling.. “Maybe Apple Bloom's at the hospital?”

My concentration faltered, and the carpet fell back down. “Why'd she be at the hospital?”

She raised a hoof and mimed out her words like it was a puppet. “Granny Smith broke her leg in a freak high diving accident yesterday. Don't ask me.” She poked her head up, looking to me. “Hasn't she told you?”

I frowned. “No. When did she tell you?”

“I bumped into her this morning.” Scootaloo put a hoof to her chin. “Yeah, now that I think about it, she did say they'd be visiting Granny today.”

My brows furrowed. “And you haven't told me, why?”

Scootaloo shrugged. “She was supposed to be back by now.”

I slapped a hoof to my forehead, a barely suppressed groan slipping between my teeth. “But Rarity's coming home in an hour.”

Scootaloo sat up, placing a hoof behind her neck and cracking her back. “How about I go get AB quickly and you prepare the room?”

I pursed my lips. Scootaloo could get around town pretty fast, but we'd have to cut it close. “Fine. Just hurry.”

She hopped up and snapped to attention, saluting. “Alright, one little Apple comin' up.”

With that, she whipped around and started for the stairs, nearly tripping over a sleeping Opalescence.

Opal liked napping there, around the stairs and under everypony's hooves. And oh my, if you accidentally stepped on her paw or tail or something. You wouldn't tell by looking, but there were claws like a tiger's on that little demon.

As Scootaloo made her way down the stairs Opal followed her steps with a single eye and a displeased, quiet growl.

“That cat's a monster,” Scootaloo said. “Anyway, see ya' in a minute.”

“See you,” I said after her, unsure if she heard. Shooting a quick glance at Opal, I mumbled a quick “Dumb cat.” I never got what Rarity loved about her.

Turning around, my gaze locked on to the scooter. I slapped my forehead again before rushing to the stairs. “Scootaloo!” But of course, she was gone. I ran to the window and looked out, but saw no sign of her anywhere.

Oh well. I had work to do, too. Just had to hope Scootaloo and Apple Bloom would make it back before Rarity came home.

Since Twilight disappeared, everypony's been on edge. Grown-ups kept an especially close eye on us 'helpless little foals.' Like we were looking to get ourselves into trouble. Sure, Rarity left me alone while she was off shopping today, but had I asked her a few weeks ago, I'd have been grounded just for thinking about leaving the house alone. All in my best interests, of course.

If Rarity was as punctual with her fabric shopping as I knew her to be, we had about an hour to prepare for what Scootaloo called the 'best move we'll see in our pony lives.' I started by rolling up the carpet, at first with magic. Somewhere halfway through, when my head became heavy and my horn winked out, my hooves had to take over. With the carpet rolled to the side, I moved the bed out of the way, making a clear path to the window.

We'd stashed a bunch of planks in a nearby alley yesterday. Scootaloo insisted that the hole in the clubhouse would be well worth it. I took a quick trip outside to retrieve the planks, making sure to avoid Opal both in the way out and in. I brought the first up the stairs with magic, then took a minute's rest before painstakingly dragging up the other few.

Once I managed to get the planks into my room, I propped them up at the window to make a ramp, using a chest of drawers for support and some tape to make sure they stuck.

Scootaloo's plan was simple. My room was pretty wide, so she was going to gain speed in here with her scooter, jump out the window, fly all the way to Quills & Sofas next door, then slide across the roof before an elegant glide to the ground. 'Easy-peasy,' she told us.

I had my doubts, being ever the responsible filly. But then, this was hardly more dangerous than zip-lining, right? At least this time, it would only be Scootaloo falling amusingly. And if she managed to pull it off, well, if this wouldn't get her a cutie mark, we didn't know what would.

Wiping the sweat off my forehead, I dropped onto my rump and leaned against the wall. The room was ready, and I had time to spare. Emphasis on I. The girls were nowhere to be seen.

I got up with creaking bones and an annoyed grimace on my face, climbing the ramp to stare out the window. No matter which way I leaned, I couldn't see them. We had half an hour or so to do this, and then we still had to get rid of the evidence. Goodness knew what Rarity would do if she found out we'd been scootering around inside the house.

“Oh come on!” I stomped in place, rocking the ramp left and right. When my call failed to reach my friends, I threw myself back with a groan, rolling down the ramp before sprawling out at the bottom. Watching the room spin kept me entertained for the few seconds that it lasted. I twiddled my hooves, threw my body this way and that, and made the silliest faces I could while using my imagination as a mirror.

Boredom kills. And that terrible heat. I couldn't shake the heat.

I think it was when I hung from the bed, hind legs coiling the covers and front hooves looking for dust in the cracks of the floor, when my wandering gaze came across the scooter. For all my boredom, I hadn't thought about that before. I guess my brain just locked it out on purpose, knowing full well it wasn't mine and I'm just that nice.

But when my head started hurting just trying to comprehend how I was stuck alone in my room on a summer afternoon, all these little locked doors in my mind seemed to slowly open.

Before I knew it, I was playing with the scooter. Scootaloo's tricks always impressed me, but I'd never tried it for myself. My first few minutes with the scooter I spent learning all the ways you can fall off it. Slowly, I got the hang of that 'actually staying on' thing that Scootaloo was so fond of.

In my excitement, I neglected figuring out the art of braking. I mean, the walls were right there.

Call it a flimsy defence, but I cannot bring this up enough: boredom does things to a filly.

The ramp looked inviting. Do I need to wait for Scootaloo? Maybe I could do it. Never know until you try...

Then again, the window was pretty high up. I had the presence of mind to drop that idea. I reserved to scooting in the safety of the room.

On the third or fourth lap, I kicked harder than before, gaining a refreshing burst of speed. This made the wall close in faster than I liked. I quickly swerved to the side, only to barrel towards the doorway. No wall to stop me there.

My legs froze up in fright, and so did my brain. I had no idea how to stop, and my legs refused to move. All I could do was hold on for dear life.

I bumped over the doorstep, which reduced my speed a bit, and that was a good thing. On the other hoof, the doorstep bumped me straight towards the stairs, which was a very, very bad thing.

As the front wheels rolled over the highest step, I considered how lucky it was that Opal wasn't in the way this time. The scooter bobbed forward, rolling down the high stairs, and I screamed with the rushing wind, desperate to stay on.

My teeth clapped together at each step, and the scooter became harder and harder to control. The handle yanked itself out of my grasp, and I felt the scooter slip from under my hooves. I lunged forward, managing to wrap my legs around the handle, just before another step kicked it right into my face.

I saw Opalescence sleeping at the foot of the stairs. For a brief moment, time seemed to stand still.

One of her ears twitched, and she raised her lazy head towards me.

Her eyes went wide. Her legs jerked, clawing into the floor.

In the last second, I grabbed the handle and pulled to the side with all my might.

There was a crash, a pained meow cut short, and a whole lot of pain.

It took me a moment to come to my senses. I remember lying on the floor. The first thing I noticed was the sound of a squeaky wheel spinning on a broken axle. Everything hurt. Getting up, I grumbled something about Scootaloo being a crazy pony and Opal being dumber than usual.

I wondered how I was going to explain what happened to the scooter.

Dusting myself, I accidentally stepped on Opal's tail. With a reflexive jump, I pulled my hoof away, falling over again. My first instinct wasn't trying to get up, but to quickly crawl to a safe distance. Knowing how Opal usually reacted to being touched, that was a perfectly reasonable reaction.

But I didn't feel the swipe of her claws this time.

She was lying on her stomach, like how she usually slept, just her legs were stiffer. And I couldn't put a hoof on it, but her neck was weird. I gave a quick, careful poke her with the tip of a hoof while keeping well away.

“Opal?”

Leaning forward, I stuck my head out, eyeing the cat for the smallest sign of movement.

“Opalescence?”

I rolled her onto her back. Her neck contorted, but her head stayed where it was, and I fell back in fright. The more I looked, the worse it seemed. My jaw hung agape. I wanted to look away, but I couldn't.

Slowly, I put my hooves to Opal's cheeks and turned her towards me. Her eyes bulged, staring back without blinking, out of focus. When I let go, her head fell back to the side.

I took a step back, my whole body trembling, my breaths growing quick and shallow. Trying to stay calm, I put a hoof to my mouth. I could feel my hoof shake under my nose.

There came a knock on the door, giving me a start. I glanced back at Opal. Then I panicked. If that's Rarity, what will I say?

Another knock. I eyed the door, but my legs were numb.

“You in there?” Apple Bloom asked.

“We're running out of time,” added Scootaloo.

I exhaled deeply. I could feel my legs again. Stepping to the door, I opened up.

Scootaloo's face lit up when she saw me. “So, you prepared the room?” She tried to butt her way in. “Come on, don't just stand there.” She paused for a moment, furrowing her brows. “Are you alright?”

“No offence Sweetie, but y'all's whiter than usual,” Apple Bloom remarked. “Did something happen?”

I opened my mouth to speak, but my lips trembled and my throat was dry. Unable to say a word, instead I threw the door open stood aside, casting my gaze to the floor. I didn't see their faces, but I there was silence for a bit.

Scootaloo rushed past me with a worried gasp. “What did you do?

“It was an accident,” I mumbled.

“My scooter's completely bust!”

“Wait, what?”

Scootaloo cradled her broken scooter with shaky hooves, looking at me teary-eyed. I cocked my head towards the cat.

“Oh.” The scooter slipped from her grasp. “Also completely bust?”

“That's one way to put it.”

“A-are we going to hide it?” I knew Scootaloo wanted to sound brave, but her quivering voice gave her away.

Apple Bloom took a step back and put up a hoof in protest. “Hey, hey, I wasn't here, alright? Don't know what happened, but I ain't touchin' it.”

Scootaloo slunk closer to the body and prodded it curiously.

“You sure it's...?” Apple Bloom asked.

“Pretty sure,” I said.

Scootaloo gave Opal another careful poke. “Cat's bust alright. So are we gonna let Rarity find it or what?”

“We're not hiding her, stop saying that,” I responded. Scootaloo's eagerness appalled me.

“I'm just saying,” Scootaloo added. “What's she gonna do if she finds out?”

“Well...” I pondered. “She'll be furious, first thing. She'll probably cave in on herself afterwards. No amount of ice cream will get her out of it. If I'm lucky, she won't skin me and sell me as a hat. Hey, what do you mean, if?”

Scootaloo cocked her head towards the back door, rearing up and making motions with her hooves that resembled working a spade.

I groaned, turning to Apple Bloom. She was slinking away, inch by inch. “You're being very quiet,” I said. “What would you do?”

“I'd stay very quiet,” she whispered.

“Rarity's gonna be home soon, right?” Scootaloo asked. “In, like, half an hour?”

“Yes, stop reminding me.” I dropped to my rump, putting my hooves over my eyes.

“Look, y'all, I didn't see nothing. But I don't feel like being a part a' this.”

I sighed, rubbing my forehead, not even turning to Apple Bloom to respond. “Yeah, sure, go. I'll handle this.”

Apple Bloom's response came with sounds of quick hooves and the door shutting. Then I noticed the sound of slower, more careful hooves moving the other way. Turning my head up, I found Scootaloo with Opal in her hoof, tip-hoofing for the back yard.

“Hey!”

Scootaloo froze, looking back, but didn't say a word. I took a step forward, thinking I'd wrestle Opal out of her grasp.

But then I stopped, too. She picked her up, I thought. It wasn't me. I hated myself for it, but she did lift an enormous weight off my chest. But I didn't see her take Opal. She took her without my permission. So my conscience was clear.

Right?

It's not like I wanted Rarity to know. It's not like I had a plan. And this was the easiest way...

I looked Scootaloo straight in the eye, then gave her a nod.

That was all she needed. As she rushed outside, I stayed in and scrambled to find a spade, or shovel, or something. Rarity has to keep one of those around for gem-digging, I figured. From before she had Spike to do it, anyway. After a few minutes of frantic searching, I found a spade tucked away on a shelf somewhere. There weren't half as many cobwebs on it as I expected.

I also grabbed Scootaloo's broken scooter. Didn't want that to be the first thing Rarity sees when she steps in. I rejoined with Scootaloo outside.

Behind the Carousel Boutique was a small garden where Rarity grew exquisite flowers. Here the dry earth was softer and relatively easy to dig through. Not that we had many options. We couldn't stash her away in the house, and it was best we didn't go too far. I didn't want to be seen with a cat's corpse in hoof, not by Rarity, not by anypony.

The ground, soft as it was, still provided resistance. The spade was twice our size, so we had to work it together. We stopped time to time, throwing our heads up and scanning for prying eyes. It was the middle of the day, after all. Our only saving grace was the heat. The adults didn't like it either, it seemed, so most of them were indoors.

My hooves were trembling so much that the spade slipped out of my grasp several times. I couldn't believe I was going along with this.

I'd never have admitted it to anypony, but I wasn't sad about Opal. All she ever did was scratch and bite me whenever I came to visit Rarity.

Now I broke her neck, and all I cared about was hiding the body so Rarity wouldn't be mad.

That's what made me sad: that this didn't make me sad. What did that make me?

Worse, I was sad because I knew what that dumb cat meant to my sister. And I took her away.

And I was angry, too, because I had no excuse. No reason, no explanation at all. I was an idiot. I hated myself.

Every time I drove the spade into the earth, my conscience protested. But I couldn't stop my panicking body. Maybe I didn't want to.

“Sweetie Belle!” Apple Bloom came running around the Boutique, wheezing and sweating.

I threw a spadeful of dry earth aside. “What is it?” I asked, wiping my forehead. “Why'd you come back?”

“I-it's Rarity,” she panted. “I saw her just around the corner.”

“What, this early?” Scootaloo yanked the spade out of my hooves and frantically stuck it into the earth. “She wasn't supposed to be home this early, was she?”

“No, she wasn't,” I said, looking down at Opal. We'd dug a sizeable hole, but it wasn't deep enough yet.

Scootaloo dug faster. “Come on, just a little more.”

“No,” I said. I tore the spade out of her hooves, using it to slide Opal into the hole. “It's okay, I'll finish up, you two get out of here.”

“But I—” Scootaloo began.

“Just, just go,” I said. “Saw nothing, know nothing.”

They both nodded and waved a reluctant goodbye. Apple Bloom was faster to turn and leg it. Scootaloo bit down on the broken scooter's handle, and ran off with it in tow.

On the other side of the boutique, I heard the front door open. I quickly threw the dirt we piled up onto Opal and evened out the ground a little. Her ears still stuck out.

“Sweetie Belle?” I heard Rarity call. “I'm home.”

I tore a few flowers from their place, sticking them onto Opal's 'grave.' It was rather undignified, and served more as camouflage than paying my respects, but it would have to do.

With a deep breath, I stepped inside.

“Oh, there you are,” Rarity said, seeing me across the hallway. A bright spool of cloth floated by her side. “You'll need to see this. I found this beauty at the market today, and I had to bring it home right away. Silver-lined and gem-gilded, it came all the way from...” She stopped, eyeing me up and down. “What's with the spade?”

That's when I noticed it was still clenched between my teeth. “Umm...”

Smiling, Rarity patted my head before blowing some dust out of my mane. “What has my little crusader been up to? Staying out of harm's way, I should hope.”

Okay, I got this. I spat the spade out. “Well, you know, just killing time.” Wait.

Rarity raised a suspicious brow, looking over my head, at the back door. “You haven't been digging around in my flower beds, have you?”

“Oh, no, of course not.” I grinned as innocently as I could muster.

“At any rate, like I was saying. This cloth...”

Rarity droned on about that dumb fabric that she just had to bring home early. I could barely hear it over my teeth chattering. At some point, I think when she was telling me about traditional Saddle Arabian garb, I excused myself to go get cleaned up. I felt awfully dirty, and not just because of the earth and dust.

As I leaned over the sink to wash my eyes, Rarity called out again. “Sweetie, have you seen Opal anywhere? She's usually all over me when I come home.”

“S-she's probably asleep somewhere.” I hoped the running water would drown out how shaky my voice was.

I heard Rarity's steps around the house, and my heart pumped faster and faster with every turn she took. Doors creaked, hooves clopped, and Rarity just didn't want to give up. “Opalescence, mummy's home. Here, puss, puss.”

Washing my hooves off kept me occupied for quite a while. Possibly longer than the amount of dirt demanded. I opened the tap fully and stuck my head under the flow to drown out the noise Rarity was making. And my conscience.

When I managed to cool off, and my heart became a bit less frantic, I closed the tap. My horn sparked alive and a towel floated closer. I grabbed a brush with a hoof.

Maybe this won't be so bad, I wondered as I dried up. Rarity's not going to find Opal. We hid her well enough. Well, not until she decides to do any gardening. And it's summer too, she loves tending to the flowers this time of year. Oh, I need to get Opal somewhere else before—

“Sweetie Belle!”

Gulp.

I burst from the bathroom, mane half-dry and messy, snapping my head towards the back door. It was closed.

“Sweetie Belle.” Rarity's voice came from upstairs, and although she sounded angry, it wasn't 'you killed my cat' angry. I'd never been more relieved to be scolded for... whatever Rarity was going to scold me for this time. I trotted upstairs with a surprising ease.

At the top of the stairs, Rarity stood stunned before my room, eyes wide and jaw agape.

Turning to me, she pointed into the room. “What in the sweetest namesakes of Celestia is this mess?”

Oh. Yeah, that. No wonder that the bare, scratched floor, and conspicuous planks leaning on the window made Rarity upset. Now to get out of it with a practised explanation. Come on, I'm good at this.

“Well, you see, um, we, that is I—”

Rarity ground her teeth, letting a suppressed groan slip between them. She rolled her eyes with a sigh. “I can see you've been very busy. I won't even ask. That Saddle Arabian fabric already made my day, and I'm not going to let a little clutter ruin it for me. Just put everything back the way it was, okay?”

Like I said, I was a natural. “Okay. No problem.”

“Oh, and I'll definitely be telling Mum and Dad once they're back from their trip.”

Oh goodie.

“See,” Rarity droned on, “this is why I'm so reluctant to watch you. I'm very fond of the boutique, you know. I leave you alone for an hour, and you make it your quest to destroy something I love.”

“I'm sorry,” I said, with more sincerity than she probably picked up on.

“No, it's okay,” she replied. She closed her eyes to take a deep breath. Opening up, a smile spread across her face. “Like I said, fabric.” As she turned for the stairs, I heard her mumble under her breath. “Just where is that cat?”

I cleaned my room in record time. Rarity spent the afternoon working on that exotic fabric, cutting and forming it into different shapes, putting it against dress after dress, seeing how the colour worked and whatnot. I know because I watched her like a hawk, ready to skip country the moment she made a move for the back door.

Occasionally, she'd drop what she was doing in favour of a walk around the boutique, chanting Opal's name and making all sorts of supposedly cat-like noises. I spent those moments biting my lips and breathing heavily. Out of sight, of course.

The Sun set, evening came, and Rarity was getting anxious. I decided to go to bed early to spare myself the stress. If she hasn't found Opal yet, she's not going to now, I figured.

Rarity stopped by as I was making my bed. From the corner of my eye, I saw her stand in the doorway. I pretended to be really focused on those sheets and blankets.

She knocked on the open door. “Sweetie?”

Act natural. “Oh, hi, Rarity. Didn't see you there. I'm just getting ready for bed. I cause less trouble that way. I'm sure she's fine.”

Rarity blinked. “I'm sorry?”

“Opal,” I said. “I'm sure Opal's fine. You came to ask about Opal, right?”

“Well,” she said, “I only wanted to ask, are you sure you haven't seen her?”

Okay, I practised this. “She was sleeping on the stairs, last I saw.”

I could see a faint hope die in Rarity's eyes. “Are you absolutely certain?”

Tucking the last bit of bed sheet into its place, I hopped onto the bed. “Yeah. Super positive. Last I saw Opal, she was fine. Why wouldn't she be fine now?”

Rarity bit the tip of her hoof. “I suppose. You think she'll turn up?”

“I'd be surprised.”

Rarity raised a brow.

“If she didn't, I mean.”

“Maybe she's stuck somewhere,” Rarity mumbled, turning. “Perhaps in the attic. My, I haven't checked there. She must be so scared.”

She hurried out of the room without waiting for a response.

Dropping into the bed, I wrapped the blanket around me, pulling it over my head and squeezing my eyelids as tight as I could. I felt tired. Tired from rearranging my room twice, tired from the digging, and tired from the guilt. Sleep couldn't come quickly enough.

Outside, the winds of a cool night rain rattled the window. Above me, hooves clopped up and down in the attic. It was rather soothing, listening to the white noise of the night. Better than listening to my conscience, anyway. I managed to fall asleep, in the end.

Only to be woken up by a prodding at my back.

“Sweetie. Sweetie. Are you awake, Sweetie?”

After some trial and error, I managed to poke my head out from under the blanket. My eyelids felt like lead. Rarity stood by the bed, a lantern floating next to her.

“Wha-what?” I spat out, squinting into the blinding light.

“I still can't find Opal,” Rarity said. “I think she might be lost.”

“What?” I asked again, rubbing my eyes. “No, she's not lost, don't worry.” I yawned, sitting up. “Cats wander off all the time. Normal ones, I mean. Doesn't Opal?”

“Opal would never spend the night outside. Think what the wind might do to her hair. Don't get me started on the dew. It must be the rain, she's terrified of it. Poor thing, she's probably stuck in a tree somewhere. I'm going to look for her.”

“Now?” I asked. “What time is it?”

“It's almost midnight,” Rarity said. “Sorry, I'm absolutely unable to sleep. I'll climb up the wall if I have to spend another minute just sitting here, waiting for her.”

“You can't climb the wall when you're sitting,” I grumbled.

Rarity didn't seem to pick up on the humour. “So I'm going outside. I just wanted to tell you. If you woke up and didn't find me, I didn't want you to be frightened.”

“I wouldn't have woken up.”

She patted my head. “I'll take a quick walk around Ponyville. My poor darling has to be around somewhere. You be good. Just go back to sleep. I'll be back with Opal soon, I'm sure.”

“Yeah, sure,” I said, dropping my head back onto the pillow.

As Rarity left, I closed my eyes and waited for the dreams. Good, I thought. The longer she spent away from the boutique, the better.

I drifted in and out of sleep for a while. I'm not sure how much time passed.

But one moment, my eyes burst open with a realisation. Rarity's out of the boutique! I had a chance to hide Opal. I wondered whether the rain had washed off what little dirt I threw on the body.

I rolled out of bed, crashing to the floor. I was halfway across the room before even kicking my blanket off. My head dragged me down, heavy from a long sleep and protesting the sudden jump. I almost managed to fall down the stairs again.

At the bottom, I turning to the back door, and I froze. The door was open, and outside the light of a lantern silhouetted a mare. In her hooves, a small furry thing.

Rarity's soaked mane hid her face. She pulled Opal closer, and the cat's head fell to the side. She inspected her neck, then lowered the body. Slowly, she turned her head towards me. Runny, skewed make-up circled her empty eyes. The rain made it hard to tell, but I don't think she was even crying.

My mind shut down.

Rarity knew. She knew what I did, she knew I lied, she knew I tried to hide Opal.

My body acted on impulse. Before I realised, I bolted for the front door.

I couldn't stand it.

“Sweetie!”

I didn't look back. I threw the door open and burst into the cold, rainy night.

I wasn't afraid of punishment. Deep inside, I knew I deserved it. I just couldn't imagine looking in my sister's eyes again. I wished I'd never have to.

My hooves splashed in mud, and the chilling wind stung my skin. With every wheeze I swallowed rain.

Somewhere halfway across town, my legs grew numb. In a narrow alley, I slipped in the mud and fell against a wall, bruising my side. My conscience had finally caught up with me. Looking back, I saw no trace of Rarity.

I felt cold and tired. I wanted to turn everything back. I wanted Opal to be okay, I wanted Rarity to be happy, and I wanted to be home, tucked in a warm bed. But I couldn't go back. What could I say to Rarity?

In the distance, a glimmer of light caught my eye. I squinted to make out the source: the Golden Oaks Library. After Twilight's disappearance, Rainbow Dash volunteered to work there. She wasn't supposed to be in town this week, though.

Spike moved out, too. Something about it hurting him too much to stay where he lost Twilight. I heard him mention it to Rarity some time ago.

The light didn't come from a window or the door. It seemed like the bark of the tree was cracked open, at the back of the structure. Like a back door or something.

Well, it's either this or Rarity...

I gave in to my curiosity, and following the faint glimmer, I found a hatch at the back of the tree. It opened to a steep staircase, going down. The passage was just fine for me, but a grown-up would have needed to watch their head. Along the ceiling, a long wire trailed downwards, tiny lights spaced out on it.

I took one last glance back and saw a shadow dart across a street. Frightened, I stepped inside and pulled the hidden door closed. Acrid smells lingered in the air, chemicals and disinfectants, kind of like at the dentist's, but with a little bit of garbage dump and sewer smell added.

I figured the stairs must lead into the basement. Would explain the smell. Rainbow Dash must have left the lights on when she left earlier this week. And the creepy back door open. Strange that nopony noticed all this time.

Hopping step by step, I noticed a trail of muddy hoofprints. Still wet. As I came to a turn in the stairs, I heard a crash from below. There was a groan, and a howl unlike any animal I'd ever heard.

“Hello?” I whispered. “Rainbow Dash?” I knew nopony would hear me, but I was afraid to raise my voice. The mere act of talking gave a little comfort.

There was more crashing and thrashing, and throaty sounds of struggle. After one last crash, they stopped. After a moment of silence, a fleshy, wet smacking noise made its way to my ears. Gulping, I took another step down and peeked around the turn of the stairwell. I found the library's basement, cluttered and dirty.

In the middle lay an elderly stallion... in pieces. Blood splattered everywhere. Rainbow Dash stood above him, axe in grasp. She swung it above her head before running the axe into the pony. She swung, she swung again, again, and again, teeth gritted, pupils tiny little pinpricks in her eyes, muttering to herself. The head of the stallion came off, Rainbow screamed, and her whole body trembled.

“Everything!”

Rainbow cast the axe aside, sitting down. I wanted to run, but my legs were frozen.

I'd forgotten to breathe in fright. When I did, Rainbow's ears fluttered. She turned towards me.

We locked eyes. Her gaze set my legs free. And as I whipped around to rush up the stairs, my voice was freed too with a long, uncontrolled scream.

I heard Rainbow's wings storm behind me, and I knew she'd be on me in a second. There was a thud and a groan, followed by a rapid clopping on the stairs. The narrow space must have proven too difficult to navigate in the air. With my head start, I had a chance.

“Stop!”

One of my hooves slipped as I scuttled along the steep steps, making me whack my head against the next. Ignoring the pain, I hopped up and ran on. Coming around the turn in the stairway, I saw the hatch. Rainbow's open-mouthed huffing echoed in my ears.

I felt a tap on my back and kicked instinctually, slamming Rainbow in the face with my hoof. “You little—”

Jumping over the final step, I flung myself at the hatch, ramming my shoulder into it. The door held, the oak's rough bark bruising my skin. I recoiled, losing my balance and missing a step. My momentum worked against me, sending me tumbling back down.

Rainbow caught me. “Nice of you to close the door after coming in,” she muttered, locking her legs around me. “That could've ended badly.”

I squirmed and screamed, trying to break free.

“Quiet now.”

She threw up her wings. Descending slowly, she could now easily manoeuvre the tight space. Her hooves were free to hold me, and they did, stronger than I could break.

I bit her legs, and her grip loosened for a moment. I slipped from her grasp only to be caught again.

“Calm down,” she said. “You want me to drop you? You want to get hurt?”

Rainbow didn't stop at the basement. She flew up the other set of stairs, into the library. Once in the main room, we stopped mid-air. Rainbow looked around, ears and eyes scanning the place. When she decided it was safe, we slowly descended.

Rainbow sat down, leaning her back against a reading table, hooves clutched tightly around me. I thrashed and bit and screamed for help, but all in vain. The fighting only exhausted me more. I never took Rainbow for an intimidating mare, but she was strong and fit. She held me effortlessly in her lap, pressing me against her chest and keeping my hooves pinned.

As my eyes got used to the darkness, I began taking in my surroundings. The room was completely dark, and the windows were curtained. The only sign that this was really the library were the smudged outlines of a few bookshelves.

When my squirming lessened, Rainbow stuck her bloody nose over my shoulder and I craned my neck to distance myself from her. Even though Rainbow's body felt burning hot, I was shaking wildly. Her rapid breaths ruffled my mane, and her heaving chest rubbed my back. I just wanted to get out.

“Calm down,” she whispered.

I felt tears rolling on my cheeks. My throat ached. “Please don't hurt me,” I pleaded. At least that's what I wanted to say. I'm not sure how it came out.

“I'm not going to hurt you,” she replied. Her voice was calm, now. Even motherly, in a way. I'd never have expected to hear Rainbow speak like that.

But that wasn't enough to calm me. I struggled against her hold. “Let go, let go!”

“Listen, what you just saw, it wasn't what you think.”

Finally admitting I couldn't break from her, I gave in. I lay back, letting her hold me. I wasn't even listening to her. I was just tired. I wanted to go home. I wanted Mummy and Daddy. I wanted to wake up.

Rainbow began rocking back and forth, gently, calmly, bringing me along.

“You need to understand,” she said. “I was defending myself. That was a madpony. He wanted to hurt me. I had no choice. Do you understand?”

Since I didn't struggle, Rainbow's hooves around me relaxed a bit. Seizing the opportunity, I tried prying them off, but then she held me even stronger.

“I just think you got the wrong impression, pip. That's all. I'd like to talk, just a little bit. Talk to me, kid.”

“I won't tell anypony,” I said. I was going to tell everypony.

“I need to know I can trust you.”

“You can trust me. I swear, I won't tell anypony.”

“Have you ever done something you regret?” she asked. When I didn't answer, she continued. “I have. I did something bad. Something really bad.”

I didn't answer for a while, rocking quietly with her. She was quiet, too.

“What did you do?”

“I found Twilight,” she said. “I found her, and I didn't tell anypony.”

I turned my head back to look at Rainbow. Her chin rested on my shoulder, but she wasn't looking at me, instead staring blankly forward.

“You know where she is?” I asked.

“I've known all along,” she said.

“Is she dead?” I asked.

The rocking stopped. She raised her head, turning to me.

Grown-ups always thought we didn't understand, just because we were little. I knew what death meant. Oh, did I know what it meant.

After a moment's stare, Rainbow looked away again. “She is,” she said with a nod. She relaxed her hold again. “This door's locked too, by the way.”

Feeling her hooves go slack, I pried them off and bolted for the door, yanking the knob. It wouldn't budge.

“I won't hurt you,” said Rainbow, getting up. “But I need to make sure. I need you to see something.” She extended a hoof. “Come on.”

I stood by the door for a little while. I pulled again, fully knowing it wouldn't open. Rainbow stood in the middle of the room, calmly, hoof out. She beckoned, and I had to give in. I wasn't getting out of here.

On our way down to the basement, she pulled me closer and put a hoof over my eyes. I'd have closed them anyway. That stallion wasn't something I wanted to see. Rainbow helped me down the last few steps, and when we reached the bottom, and she guided me around the room. Stopping, she took her hoof off.

Before me was a gigantic white box, humming quietly. Like a fridge.

“Don't turn around,” Rainbow said.

I nodded, eyes set on the box. I knew full well what kind of sight would welcome me if I did.

“Listen, squirt,” she continued, “I really don't like this. You weren't supposed to see any of this. I left the door open, didn't I? Stupid. But I'm not totally stupid. I know you're going to tell Rarity and everypony else. I'm showing you this in hopes it'll change your mind.”

“The box?” I asked.

“You gotta know that Twilight... she was always the studious one, right? Ever since she became a princess, things have been bothering her. She wanted to know if she'll outlive the rest of us. Like Celestia and Luna. But they wouldn't tell her. They told her she wasn't supposed to think about such things. But you know her. She started researching on her own. In secret. She eventually roped me into it. She said she trusted me, and I never told anypony. Until now.”

“You said she died.”

“She used her magic and book-smarts to make this... slushy stuff that preserves dead things. But this wasn't all. She made all kinds of things. She put Zecora to shame with all her crazy potions. And one night I came in, and Twilight was... dead. Just like that. I found her with an empty syringe. She must've tried something new on herself. I don't know.”

Rainbow stopped there. All I could think was, she was completely crazy. For what it was worth, at least, she didn't want to hurt me.

She opened the freezer, and a whiff of cold air descended on me. Rainbow sent me a nod. Reluctantly, I stood on my hind legs and leaned against the freezer. Sticking my neck out, I could peek inside.

And in there I saw Twilight Sparkle, suspended in green goo. I blinked in disbelief.

“I panicked, okay?” Rainbow said. “Twilight used this thing to keep apples fresh. Also for illicit research. See, it preserves things. Keeps anything the way it was. So when I found her, I stuffed her in there. Then I hid the freezer. I've been coming back ever since, and I've been trying to, to...”

She looked at the floor and shook her head. Then she looked up at me again.

“You'd better see this too. I'll be right with you, just don't peek.”

Rainbow sounded scarily enthusiastic. She skipped backwards, out of my view, and began rummaging about the room. In the meantime, I stared into the freezer. I couldn't wrap my head around it. I tried telling myself this was a joke. Rarity told me about Rainbow's pranks, but this! This was something else.

I heard a desk get turned over, then the inevitable crashing as everything on it landed on the floor. “Easy now,” Rainbow whispered. “A-ha!” I heard her throw herself to the floor with a smack, and I heard her groan in frustration afterwards. She spat, she cursed, then threw some more things around. “Gotcha.”

After a moment, she let out a breath of relief. “Alright. You can look.”

I counted to three in my head. Turning around, I found the chopped-up body gone. A trail of blood and hairs led to a pile of desks and shelves in the corner. A hoof stuck out from under them.

“Look here,” said Rainbow. “Not there, right here, look.”

She stood behind the central table. Her hooves were pressing down on something. Something dark, furry, and squeaking.

“Is that a rat?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she replied. “Can't go two steps without bumping into one these days. But they've got their uses.”

I felt something brush against my leg, but when I looked, there was nothing there.

Rainbow pressed on the rat's chest. The rat, in turn, swiped out and buried its claws in her leg. Rainbow bit her lip and mumbled. “Stop squirming, it'll be over soon.”

Although rats made my skin crawl, seeing Rainbow torture the defenceless animal, I couldn't help but feel sorry for it.

“Rainbow,” I risked, drawing myself up, “you need help.” I tried my best to sound like a mature and responsible adult.

“You think I'm crazy?” Rainbow asked, hooves still on the rat. “Well, watch this.”

There was an outburst of high-pitched squealing, a flurry of claws assaulted Rainbow's hooves, and then it all gradually died down. Rainbow lifted her hooves. The rat didn't move.

“You compress the lung a little harder each time they breathe out,” Rainbow explained. “That's how Anna Conda tried to choke Daring Do in Snake Queen's Treasure. Super simple stuff.”

Completely detached from reality, Rainbow was. I reminded myself to make no sudden movements. Didn't want to startle the mare, goodness knew what she'd do. Just do what she says, and she won't hurt you, I told myself. “Why did I need to see that?”

“No, that wasn't it.” She picked up a loaded syringe. The fluid inside gave a deep green glow. “Come closer, closer,” she said, gesturing at a chair by my side of the table.

“Rainbow, I don't think—”

“Closer!” she yelled, making me flinch. She cleared her throat, brushing a few stray hairs from her face. “Sorry. I don't wanna scare you, but you need to see this up close.”

I climbed into the chair like the good, obedient filly I was. I had to stand up, front hooves leaning on the table to see. The rat's hair was ruffled and scrubbed out in a few places, and its dead eyes gave a glassy stare. Rainbow stuck the needle into dead rat's neck, and the glowing stuff crept down the needle and disappeared into the body.

“You wouldn't believe me if I told you,” Rainbow said. “See, I've already made a solution for small rodents. Rats, they work perfectly.”

“What works perfectly?”

“So while we wait, that guy?” Rainbow continued, pointing over her shoulder. “He's technically been dead all week, so you can't say I killed him. I was testing a new formula to see if it works on ponies.” She shrugged. “It did not. He went mad and attacked me. Tried talking to him, but he didn't listen. Had to axe him.”

By now, she wasn't looking at me. She stared, without blinking once, at the rat. Her lips twitched, like she was trying to stop herself from grinning.

“I'm still not sure what you're trying to show me.”

The rat's body contorted, its legs twitched and bones cracked.

“See? See?” She hopped in place, pointing at the rat with uncontrolled excitement. “Would you have believed me?”

The rat's skin stirred and swelled, like there was something moving underneath. Its glassy eyes regained their shine, and after a blink, they began moving. Tiny, fluffy hairs sprouted where the rat's hair had been scarce. Its little clawed fingers snapped in and out, and the rat squealed.

“Close your mouth,” Rainbow said. “It's not done yet.”

The rat raised its legs, stretching paws. Its tail writhed side to side and its entire body trembled. It turned on its stomach and stood up before toddling to the edge of the table, swaying groggily on its way.

Looking over the edge, the weight of the rat's head brought its whole body along, tipping it over. Rainbow Dash extended a wing, catching the rat and putting it back onto the table. “Whoa there.”

The rat staggered across the table with wobbly legs, where it fell over with a fit of shudders. After a moment's rest, it got up, shook its head, and went back to the edge of the table. There, it reared on its hind legs to take a better look around, sticking its pulsing nose every which way. Emboldened, it hopped off, landing elegantly on the floor before scurrying off to a dark corner.

Rainbow grinned, puffing her chest proudly. “Better believe it.” With a flap of her wings, she skipped over the table and landed at the fridge. “I will bring Twilight Sparkle back to life.”

I stared where I'd last seen the rat, processing what I'd just seen. “No” was the first word that came to mind. “No. No, I don't believe it. This is a prank.” I turned to Rainbow. “Did Scootaloo put you up to this?”

“What do you want me to do?” Rainbow asked. “I could catch another rat and chop its head off. I can bring that back, you know, I've done it. It just doesn't last long. And I guess it also hurts. Wanna see?”

“No! Don't, just... just calm down,” I said, talking more to myself than Rainbow.

“I want you to believe me. Can you imagine what others would think if they found out?” She paused for a moment. “Think about Twilight. I promised to keep her research a secret. You go telling everypony, you'll be dishonouring her.”

I leaned back in my chair, crossing my legs. “I don't buy it. Why would Twilight pick you for a helper, anyway?” I took a look around the room. “You don't seem particularly good at this 'lab' thing.”

Rainbow's eye twitched. Although her grin seemed to grow wider, I saw her clench her teeth. “Not good, huh?” She walked closer, sticking her face in mine. “Tell me, who else? Who else?”

I looked her over. Unkempt mane, tired eyes, shaking legs. The mare was a wreck. “Just about anypony, really.”

She looked up, shaking her head. “What, what, like, I don't know, your sister? Syringes aren't sewing needles, y'know. You think she could handle that, giving up her precious beauty sleep every night to work in a lab? It's dirty work, even when you're not working with dead rats.”

“Dirty work?” I asked back. “Applejack.”

Rainbow pursed her lips. “Applejack. Yeah, Applejack. Excuse me, I know you're drop-dead exhausted from working on the farm all day, could you come in here and perform serious scientific tasks that require utmost precision?” Rainbow prodded my horn. “Hello, did you miss the part where we were keeping this secret? You think Applejack could keep something like this to herself?”

“Fluttershy? Pinkie?”

“No way Fluttershy could get herself to experiment on live subjects.” She put a hoof to her chin. “I wonder if she'd object more to the pony tests or the animal ones. Either way, I can't see her stabbing herself, much less anypony else with needles, not even for science. And Pinkie, well, I doubt Twilight ever wanted her anywhere near the lab again.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Pinkie's too Pinkie. But still. You, of all ponies?”

“I had all the free time in the world. I'm punctual. Reliable. Quick to learn and not at all squeamish. A dream to work with. And, maybe, just the right amount of crazy. Twilight must have realised that I was her best bet.” She leaned close again, lowering her voice. “And, most of all, I can keep a secret. The question is, can you?”

I licked my lips.

Rainbow picked up the syringe again and walked to the fridge, knocking on the side. “Keep this between us, Sweetie Belle, and Twilight can live again.”

Can she? If Rainbow wasn't lying, if this really wasn't just a horrible, elaborate joke...

“So you want to make me believe you,” I said.

“That was my plan.”

If Rainbow's 'formula' really worked, I knew what she had to do to convince me.

“Opalescence died today,” I said.

“What, Rarity's cat?”

“I want you to bring her back to life.”