• Published 27th Apr 2014
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Friendship Harder: Collected Microfiction - KwirkyJ

Collection of stories too short to publish individually. There is ostensibly no consistent underlying theme.

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Pines [Sad, Slice of Life]

The letter found me, and there was nothing to avoid it. In the span of one hour I had informed my research partners, gathered my few belongings and Boulder, sent my reply by Pegasus courier, and boarded a train for the heartland. That I did all these at a walking pace would astound most... I always thought it went to show how little ponies thought of walking.

The three days of travel were not pleasant, lifted from the Base Earth and a prisoner to my thoughts, but Boulder was there to keep in my company. Other ponies of all tribes came and went, most content to send a furtive glance in my direction, uncertain. I delighted a young filly by name of Quick Step with a geode from my bags. The rock could be replaced; her joy could never be.

I petted Boulder often, his stead presence merely at my side often feeling insufficient. I am sure that I slept, but I do not remember it.

It was with mixed feelings that I greeted the Earth again upon arrival at the station, doubly so with my siblings gathered there. I was very happy to be rejoined with them, true, but it was also terribly sad.

I did not need to look at Inkie or Blinkie, but I did anyway. The moment was enough for greeting. There was nothing for the matter that words could articulate that Feeling could not express more deeply. For Pinkie, however, words were required, and she was instantly upon me.

"OhmygoodnessMaud, you came, you're here, I mean you said you would but we didn't know for four days and we thought maybe you wouldn't come back because of everything but then we got your letter and I wasn't sure if you really meant it but they reminded me that you wouldn't lie about that kind of thing and I felt even worse because I... I..."

I let her hold on to me, and she began sobbing. She looked how I felt.

"Pinkie," I said, "it's okay. We'll take care of things now, together."

She composed herself after a moment, and we were joined by her Ponyville friends who had been courteously standing to the side. I remember my startlement from not recognizing the colt behind the ticket booth.

To the outside observer, the homestead appeared as it always had. The shed and the adjoining silo stood, as did the homestead flanked by the unflinching pair of pines. That would change soon enough, but it was a deeper lack that evinced any change—a hollowness I had never felt in the land before.

All the same, I announced myself well before entering the door.

What greeted me immediately was the stark lack of change. I had become so inured to the rushing pace of the greater world—what one could consider a normal life—that it was startling, for all that it was familiar. I paced thought the hall, reviewing the bookshelf, our old rooms, the painting and the fireplace and mantle that had never found use. Behind me stood Blinkie like a statue. Inkie wound herself about, in her perpetual dance to the unheard music of magma far below. Her movements recalled my infantile jest that she wanted to be a Pegasus and leave the Earth behind—a jest to which Mother's punishment ensued such blasphemy never passed my mind again.

Pinkie waited outside.

I delayed entering Mother's bedroom for as long as possible. The crunch of the soil beneath my hooves and the occasional words with Pinkie's friends would serve only so long.

We busied ourselves for a time outside around the pines. Applejack was enlisted, a long-lost cousin, to fell them. Her aid simplified the task immensely, as she could ask the trees to yield their great selves—no need to move the whole of the Earth that embraced their penetrating roots.

Lady Rarity Belle expressed confusion that we did not sever them at the ground and leave the roots to waste.

The princess Twilight offered to fashion the boards, and I agreed even without Pinkie's encouragement—the idea of a Unicorn manufacturing Mother's casket gave me perverse delight. Father would not have minded, on his own.

At last, there was nothing to do but move them. Being the eldest, the duty fell to me, and I would not shirk it. I asked the others to wait separately, and they did.

In the bedroom they lay, side by side. I was startled by how withered they had become. Growing up, even to my departure, they appeared to age as a landscape—it had been easy to forget them as living things. Before me then, I was confronted with the fact of the matter, more difficult even than the reality. My parents had grown old.

There was no reason in my doing it beyond that it felt right: before I moved them, I touched each in turn, and I said, "Father, I'm still doing my best. Mother... You're not made of stone, after all."

I do not care to think of the burial, but it was very much a simple business.

When I finally left, I looked back, the vacancy inside now visible by two pine saplings freshly planted aside the house.

Author's Note:

Originally written for ThirtyMinutePonies legacy prompt No.33, "The Return" Just how long have I been gone?

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