• Published 5th Jun 2014
  • 4,922 Views, 255 Comments

Wear Flowers in Your Mane - jkbrony



On a day she spends with her surrogate little sister, Scootaloo, Rainbow Dash receives news that will change her life forever. Everypony must deal with loss at some point or another....

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Chapter 7 -- Dive

Twilight looked up at the clock on the wall just as it ticked half past nine. The day had passed by in slow motion. It could have easily been days since she first heard that Rainbow Dash was in the hospital, and she'd have been shocked to realize that it had only happened that morning. Everyone remained in Room 27, still awaiting any indication that Rainbow was going to wake up soon, particularly after the doctor had begun treatment on her. Yet aside from a few sharp jolts in movement which happened sporadically throughout the day, she remained wholly unconscious, still without any sign of when she would awaken again. The idea that Rainbow had attempted suicide still hung ominously in the room's atmosphere, even though it had not been discussed much since it was first brought up. Scootaloo sat in the far corner of the room, looking almost as distraught as Pinkie Pie. She had barely said a word since Twilight informed them about her suspicions that Rainbow's injuries were of her own doing.

Except for the purpose of eating meals generously provided by the hospital in the cafeteria, no one had left the room during the day. Pinkie and Scootaloo had not left at all, both flatly refusing to eat, and Fluttershy only picked at her food somberly with only tiny portions entering her mouth. Only a few additional visitors stopped by, including Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle, some members of the Ponyville Weather Team, and even Mayor Mare. Upon seeing Rainbow Dash, each visitor instinctively asked how she ended up in a coma, and Twilight, Rarity, and Applejack were constantly forced to repeat that they did not have any answers and would not have them until she eventually woke up. But much to their dismay, the doctor informed them that a patient awaking from a coma should not be forced to answer questions upon waking, and that they would need to give Rainbow Dash at least few hours (but preferably a day) to collect herself again before doing so.

The room had long fallen into an uncomfortable silence as everyone continued to wait for either Rainbow Dash regaining consciousness, or the doctor coming back in to deliver a new update on her condition—whichever would come first. After a while, the constant beeping of the electrocardiograph stung their ears every other second until it eventually seemed to be picking irritatingly at their brains, making them all wish that Twilight had some kind of useful sound-muffling spell in her repertoire. Fatigue had long begun to set in—eyelids were droopy and a mouth opened to yawn every few minutes.

"Have I ever told you guys about the time Rainbow Dash was suspended from Flight Camp for sticking up for me?" asked Fluttershy, interrupting the silence that had lasted for nearly an hour.

Every head turned in her direction except for Scootaloo's, which remained hung downwards so that she was staring directly at her reflection in the polished floor.

"I...don't believe so," noted Rarity. Everyone else stared at Fluttershy with intrigue, eager to hear the story if for no other reason than to drown out the beeping—not that Fluttershy's voice was actually capable of drowning anything out.

"When Rainbow Dash and I met at Flight Camp, I was no one to her," she began. "It was like we were on the opposite ends of a staircase. She was one of the best flyers in camp, and I was one of the weakest. She was popular and well-liked while I was often teased and ridiculed. Many of the same fillies who admired her also teased me. She could have chosen to join in right along with them, but she didn't. Instead, she defended me, telling them to leave me alone. Knowing that there was somepony willing to stand by my side is what got me through Flight Camp. We became friends, and she eventually told me that if they didn't stop harassing me, she was going to take matters into her own hooves. At first I thought that meant that she was going to actually fight with them, and I didn't want that. Not only because I didn't want anypony getting hurt over me, but because I knew that if Rainbow did something like that, she would be kicked out of camp—and I needed her.

"Over the next few days, I tried my best not to react to anypony teasing me. I thought that maybe if I acted like they didn't bother me anymore, Rainbow Dash would forget about it. But that wasn't easy, especially since by that time, they had begun to tease me over my cutie mark because I had received it on the ground. But one day when their teasing got worse, Rainbow Dash told me that she was going to do something about it. I wanted to tell her not to, but we hadn't known each other for very long, and I still felt a bit uncomfortable talking to her. I was also worried that if I told her not to, she would take it to mean that I didn't want her defending me anymore, and she would stop. So I didn't say anything, and just waited for what would happen next. The next day, we had to do lap exercises, which were a pain for me since I would always be last to finish and the entire camp would be laughing at how slow I was. But on that day, the camp had something else to laugh at. As I circled around to finish my third lap out of ten, I noticed that two of the fillies who tormented me every day were screaming, running around, flying in circles, and trying to swallow chunks of clouds. The entire camp was amused by it, and Rainbow Dash stood grinning with a sense of accomplishment, and I knew at once that whatever had happened to them, it was something that she did.

"As it turned out, once she had finished her own laps—and as usual, she was the first one finished—she took their water bottles and flew over to the Weather Factory to fill them up with rainbow. I could hardly believe it when she told me. I was amazed that she was willing to do that for somepony she barely knew. Camp was cancelled for the rest of the day after that, and the next day, the instructor told us that Rainbow Dash had been suspended. I never told her, but though I appreciated what she did, I felt really guilty. I didn't think that she deserved to be suspended for my sake. But after that, I knew that Rainbow Dash and I would be friends for a long time."

Fluttershy paused and took a deep breath. Everyone appeared to be transfixed by her story, but Scootaloo seemed to remain closed off inside her own private bubble, continuing to stare down as though she had not heard a word.

"Rainbow Dash is my best friend, and I know almost everything about her. I think we all know how stubbornly proud she can be, and sometimes it does go against her better judgment. Was it not from this very hospital that she tried to steal a Daring Do book because she was too proud to ask to borrow a copy from you, Twilight? We've all seen it before. This is a situation that she's completely unfamiliar with and one that she probably doesn't know how to deal with. Her relationship with her father had always been very personal, and I'm sure there are things she never even told me about. But whatever happened to her last night, whatever it was that got her here, I know in my heart that she did not deliberately do this to herself. I needed time to think about it for a while—I needed time to question if I truly knew her well enough to say this with certainty. But I am now completely sure that this was an accident, and that we have nothing to worry about."

Scootaloo's bubble seemed to have burst, as she finally looked up at Fluttershy after she closed her last sentence. The room went silent for several moments as everyone reflected on her words.

"I really hope yer right...," said Applejack.

"So do I...," added Twilight.

"That was quite a story, Fluttershy" acknowledged Rarity. "But I'm curious about something. Did those awful fillies finally stop teasing you after that?"

As if on cue, everyone else who had lingering questions unanswered by the story suddenly began to ask them, one after another. Scootaloo remained silent, already knowing the answer to most of them. Her mind remained fixed on Fluttershy's closing sentence, hoping upon anything and everything that it was true. When all questions had been answered, silence began to fill the room once again.

Applejack yawned. "Well, Ima bit plum tuckered, so I think I'm gonna call it a night."

"Me as well," replied Rarity. "It has gotten quite late."

After a few words of farewell, Applejack and Rarity exited the room, followed shortly by Twilight and Spike, who was already drifting asleep on her back. Pinkie remained by Rainbow's side, still unwilling to move. As Fluttershy turned to leave the room herself, her eyes fell upon Scootaloo still sitting in the corner, looking down at the floor once again, appearing as though she wanted to go unnoticed.

"Scootaloo?"

The young filly looked up. "Hm?"

"Aren't you going home, too?" asked Fluttershy.

Scootaloo shook her head, looking down again. "I don't feel like it right now."

"I know how you feel, but Rainbow Dash is going to be fine," Fluttershy said, moving closer to her. "There's nothing to worry about."

Much to Fluttershy's surprise, Scootaloo began to tremble, which was followed shortly by a flood of tears raining down her cheeks.

"It's my fault. It's all my fault..."

Stunned and frozen in place, Fluttershy instinctively placed a hoof around her. "It's not your fault, Scootaloo. Why would you think—"

"Yes, it is!" Scootaloo cried, nodding forcefully. "If I had just told you about her dad yesterday like I was going to, this might not have happened. It's because of me. It's because of me that you almost lost your best friend. I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry!"

Fluttershy said nothing for a moment, taken by surprise at the young filly's distress. "I don't think that's true, Scootaloo. We don't know how this happened."

"Why? Why do we even bother living if this is what it comes down to?" Scootaloo asked through sobs. "It's...it's like we only live to see the ponies we love die, until the day death finally comes for us..."

"Now, stop that. That's a horrible way to think," scolded Fluttershy. "Rainbow Dash is going to be fine. We could have lost her, but we didn't, and that's something that we should be thankful for. We don't live to see the ponies we love die, we live to enjoy the time that we have with them. And when their time does come, we mourn them, and then we find a way to move on because that's what they would want us to do. Rainbow is going to be fine, and you need to realize how much of a blessing that is."

Scootaloo hung her head in sorrow, taking Fluttershy's words to heart.

"Fluttershy...are you absolutely sure that Rainbow Dash didn't...do this to herself?" she asked, wiping away the tears from her eyes and cheeks.

Fluttershy nodded. "Yes. I'm absolutely sure."

Scootaloo let out a sigh, looking unconvinced.

"Don't worry," Fluttershy said with a smile. "I know Rainbow Dash will be very happy to see you when she wakes up."

Scootaloo said nothing, turning her head to look at Rainbow Dash on the bed. Pinkie rested her ear on Rainbow's torso, listening for her heart as though the electrocardiograph's beeps were not enough to prove that it was still beating.

"Come on, I'll walk you home," said Fluttershy.

With another sigh, Scootaloo hesitantly followed Fluttershy out of the room.

****

"Fluttershy, pal, this won't cut it
I need a pet to keep up with me
Something awesome, something flying
With coolness that defies—"

Rainbow Dash shivered suddenly as the wind blew rain directly into her face. Her soaking wet mane and tail hung down sloppily, and the longer she walked, the more desperately she wished that she could shake them dry. The wet grass was cold beneath her hooves as she walked on it, and it was the only thing in sight for miles in any direction—no matter which way she faced, there was nothing but an empty horizon of green. A light, gray sky engulfed the entirety of her surroundings, and heavy raindrops poured relentlessly out of it.

"Why am I singing that stupid song, anyway?" she asked herself, irritated that she had decided to pass the time singing, particularly with a duet that did not sound anywhere near as good when sung as a solo.

Rainbow Dash did not have the slightest clue of where she was or how she had gotten there, nor did she have any idea of where she was going. Her only objective in mind was to find her way back home, or to at least find another pony or otherwise sentient being who could point her in the right direction. Every hoofstep she took left a permanent impression in the grass, and her trail could have been followed back for what seemed like miles. Her hooves were becoming sore, and though she deeply wished to fly, her wings remained closed. She vaguely remembered something terrible happening to her the last time she took to the sky, and the memory now kept her grounded like an ominous premonition hanging over her head.

For the next twenty or so minutes, she walked without speaking another word, continuing to ignore the cold and the rain as best she could. The wind blew against her, and her eyes were soaked with raindrops once again. Sighing with annoyance, Rainbow paused for a moment to wipe them then continued on, resigning herself to close her eyes whenever the wind picked up. In her silence, her thoughts once again began to question how she got there, what had happened that made her afraid to fly....and whether or not this was even real.

These questions had been penetrating her thoughts for hours, yet she was no closer to receiving any answers for them. The last thing she knew she remembered was staring into Fluttershy's scowling face as she lay in the grass. She struggled to remember why Fluttershy was scowling, and why she had been lying in the grass at all, but no matter how hard she thought about it, it was all memories that she did not seem to be able to recover—memories that were probably lost forever.

Frustrated by her inability to remember anything for the hundredth time, Rainbow Dash stopped walking and plopped herself down in the grass. In that moment, she suddenly did not believe that anything lay beyond the grass—it simply stretched on infinitely, and no matter how long she walked, she would never find anything or anyone beyond it. For the first time since finding herself in this place, she felt entirely alone, so much so that she would have been willing to believe that she was the last pony in the world. The light, gray sky now seemed to grow even darker and and the wind now began to blow more frequently.

"What am I doing here?" she asked herself, striking her head with her hoof multiple times. "Come on, think! How did I get here? What happened to me?"

None of her questions received answers, and striking her head only accomplished giving herself a headache. The rain continuously striking her head now began to irritate her, and she covered her head with her forelegs.

"I...I have to—"

Rainbow glimpsed briefly to her right and could faintly see a single, solitary tree protruding from the grass in the distance. Without hesitation, she hurried over to it, hoping that it would not disappear as she got closer like a mirage in the desert. As she approached, she noticed that a white and red checkered quilt lay directly under the tree, flowing gently in the wind. It appeared to be a picnic quilt, but there was no food anywhere to be found on it.

Finally, Rainbow reached the tree and curled herself up on the quilt. The tree did not offer too much protection from the rain, but it was still a relief to finally not feel the raindrops splattering endlessly upon her head. However, the sound of the raindrops striking the leaves was so noisy that she wanted to cover her ears. Intent to muffle the sound, she ultimately found herself singing once again, this time a song far more familiar to her and far more appropriate for her current situation:

"So many clouds scattered across the sky
The softest of pillows lying way up high
Twisted and formed to the whims of a dream
Like fortresses of the heavens or castles of ice cream
Whiter than snow, and lighter than air
Casting shadows everywhere

But today they cry
Today they weep
Today their agony darkens the sky
The sun is gone, the air is cold
Because today they cry

I feel their tears upon my skin
Raining down and down again
The thunder roars a scream of pain
Trembling the wet air through the rain
How I wish to see the sun once more
And the soft, white clouds that I adore

But today they cry
Today they weep
Today their agony darkens the sky
The sun is gone, the air is cold
Because today they cry

If only I knew why
They cry so high
Up, up in the sky
To them I would fly
Just to say "hi"
And that I would try
Till the day I die...

...To feel those soft pillows beneath my head
That I will not feel them cry instead
To hope that tomorrow the sun will shine
And those lovely clouds will again be mine

But today they cry
Today they weep
Today their agony darkens the sky
This dark day brings so much pain
And I'll be shivering in the rain

Because today they cry"


Tears released from Rainbow's eyes as she finished the song. Lying upon the wet quilt, she suddenly felt the eyes of her mother looking down upon her.

"I miss you...," she whispered. "I wish you were still here..."

A strong wind made the quilt flare up, and Rainbow's body was all that kept it from blowing way and disappearing into the vast emptiness, just as any food that had been set upon it before she arrived likely had.

"Can you hold me...?" said Rainbow, feeling both shame and embarrassment at asking such a thing. "Please...?"

Another strong gust of wind served as the only answer to her request. Shivering, Rainbow grabbed an edge of the quilt and pulled it over her body in a somewhat vain attempt to make herself warm, but it was now far too wet to provide any considerable warmth.

"It's so cold," she said weakly. "Please...?"

The sky seemed to grow even darker and the wind and rain seemed to intensify. Rainbow buried her head underneath the blanket and held it as tightly as she could, fearful that she would lose her only protection from the cold. She felt her mother's presence gradually slipping away as her pleads went unanswered.

"I'm scared...," she whispered, tears returning to her eyes. "I'm so scared..."

The quilt only became colder as rain continued to pour down on it, and before long, it no longer provided Rainbow with any warmth at all. The sky now appeared to be so dark that for all she knew, it could have been nighttime. As she shivered and succumbed to the cold, Rainbow Dash finally had an answer for what the empty, grassy field was—or at least for what it represented: a prison. A vast, empty, bar-less prison most likely located within the confines of her own mind. A prison that she was sure she would not allow escape from until she delved deeper inside it...

****

Rainbow finally let the quilt go, no longer feeling any comfort or warmth from being wrapped in it. It blew away within seconds and quickly disappeared into the darkness and intense rainfall. As it left her, so too did any feeling of her mother's presence, and a sense of loneliness consumed her again. She tightly wrapped her forelegs around herself in an attempt to reduce her shivering, but a great roar of thunder accompanied with a flash of lightning in the distance instantly made her jump up uneasily. The tree now seemed like an unsafe place to rest, as Rainbow assumed that it was probably the only thing around for miles that could possibly attract a bolt of lightning.

Taking a deep breath to brace herself for the struggle against the relentless wind and rain, Rainbow stepped away from her haven and continued onward, placing one hoof upon her forehead so as to shield her eyes from the onslaught of raindrops blowing into her face. The raindrops now came down with enough force and speed that they stung when making contact with her body. The wind was now strong enough that she feared she would be blown away if she even dared to open up her wings. And her pace was slowed considerably as it was now too dark to see anything just inches away from her face.

"I don't know what I'm supposed to do, mom!" Rainbow cried, hoping in vain that calling out to her mother would allow her to feel her presence again and receive a guide through the darkness. But she received no answer.

Her anger and frustration on the rise, Rainbow continued onward, but another flash of lighting stopped her suddenly in her tracks. During the brief second when her surroundings were lit up, she was able to see that the grassy field had unexpectedly changed. In place of grass now lay wilted flowers, each of the same species and small enough that they only rose about six inches from the ground.

Rainbow wondered if this was the answer she was hoping for, but could not comprehend its meaning. Instead, it only made her feel uneasy, as if the wilted flowers were a warning as to what awaited her when she reached the end of the field. With the next flash of lightning, Rainbow Dash was easily able to identify the species of these flowers. Though she was no expert at identifying flowers, she would have recognized this specific one anywhere. They were Birds of Passion, easily identifiable by their two distinct and vibrant petals on the opposite ends of the receptacle which resembled birds' wings. It was often described as "the official flower of Cloudsdale" due to the fact that it only bloomed in very high places, and it was commonly worn in the manes of pegasi during funerals due to its symbolism of freedom and passing on. When wilted, the flower's "wings" appeared to be solemnly closed.

"What does this mean...?" Rainbow whispered to herself, standing in place for several minutes as she tried to think of an answer. But she gave up quickly, now tired of wracking her brain for answers that she knew were not there.

Shivering with fear and cold in equal measure, Rainbow continued to walk, continuing her search for any escape, any shelter from the rain she could possibly find. Every few minutes, the foreleg she was holding above her eyes grew tired, and she frequently switched it for the other. Every step she took was filled with fear—every hoof trembled as it raised from the ground. She scoffed at herself in disgust, ashamed at how terrified she was, ashamed at how much she felt like a little lost filly searching and crying out for her mother. Under normal circumstances, Rainbow would not have wanted anyone to see her in this state, but in that moment, she desperately longed for someone's presence...

"I don't know what I'm supposed to do!" she shouted again into the nothingness. "Please, show me what to do so I can get out of this dumb place!!!"

Again, she did not receive any response. The wind and rain refused to relent, and the darkness did not clear away. Rainbow gritted her teeth in hostile frustration.

"Okay, you know what? Fine!"

Rainbow Dash finally spread her wings and leapt into the sky, disregarding the unpleasant premonition that kept her grounded as she no longer felt any safer walking than she did flying. She picked up speed at once, and the raindrops stung her face so painfully that she covered it entirely with both forelegs, effectively cutting off her vision in the process—not that she would have been able to see anything in front of her anyway. She was now more determined than ever to break out of this prison and wake up again.

As if in response to her act of defiance, the wind blew considerably harder—so hard that Rainbow felt as though she was suddenly caught in the grip of a tornado. At once, she was lifted higher into the sky against her will, her wings and legs flailing about wildly to regain balance, but it was impossible. Screaming in fear, she twisted and spun around uncontrollably in the air until finally crashing down to the earth....and straight into mud. The Birds of Passion flowers were now gone, and for the second time, the ground had changed.

"What?! What do I have to do?! WHY CAN'T I LEAVE?!!!" Rainbow screamed, picking herself back up.

She angrily wiped the mud from her face and body, feeling as though she was cruelly being taunted—as though someone, somewhere was laughing their flank off at her as she struggled to clean herself up. With that thought in mind, just as suddenly and unexpectedly as she felt her mother's presence earlier, she now felt her father's eyes hovering above in the sky, peering down at her with an unmistakable sense of satisfaction. Unsurprisingly, his presence did not make Rainbow feel as warm as her mother's had...

"Go away...," Rainbow Dash said softly, using the rain to wash the mud from her mane and tail. "I know you're not going to help me. Just have your laugh and go away..."

As soon the wind returned to its previous speed, Rainbow Dash resumed walking, her hooves disappearing into the muddy ground with every step she took. The mud was highly uncomfortable to walk through, but after what had just happened, she was once again fearful to open her wings, even to hover a few feet off the ground. Rainbow Blaze seemed to followed her, coming down closer and closer until eventually Rainbow Dash thought that if she were to look to her left, she would see him walking alongside her. She sighed with frustration, still ashamed of how frightened and helpless she felt. In spite of how much she wished to reject her father's presence, feeling him beside her somehow made her less afraid, even though she knew that he was not really there.

Rainbow no longer bothered to cover her eyes; instead she simply walked with her eyes closed and her head lowered as the rain blew against her face. After walking for a long stretch of time, the length of which she could not even begin to specify, the rain suddenly ceased pouring down on her with great force. She looked up at once, hopeful that her fortunes were finally changing and the rain was beginning to stop.

"Mom!" Rainbow called, suddenly feeling her mother's presence again, this time much closer and warmer than it was before. The rain was not stopping—instead, it appeared as though she was simply being protected from it...

Rainbow Dash's heart skipped several beats as her mother and father suddenly materialized to her left and right sides, respectively. They were both entirely translucent as if they were ghosts, yet they were illuminated brightly so that they cast light upon the darkness and rain. They did not speak, and instead only smiled warmly at their daughter.

"You're....you're both here...," Rainbow said, smiling as tears filled her eyes.

Without bothering to waste a single moment questioning this apparent impossibility, Rainbow walked in between her ghostlike parents, thankful for the light they provided her. Their light reflected the colors of their coats, and both the beige of Sunstreak's Shine coat and the periwinkle of Rainbow Blaze's coat blended together well to grant her with a bright enough light to see several feet in front of her. Their presence also shielded her from the rain, and no longer could she feel it pouring down upon her head or blowing into her face. After what seemed like hours of walking in complete darkness with raindrops assaulting every single inch of her body, Rainbow Dash finally felt a sense a freedom from her prison.

****

Rainbow could not help but squeal with insatiable joy at her parents standing by her side. It was a sensation that she was entirely unfamiliar with, a sensation that had been robbed from her at a young age. Having spent her entire fillyhood wishing that she had two parents like most other fillies she knew, for the first time ever, she had them right within her grasp. Their presence was like a brand new set of wings—a set of wings with which she felt thoroughly protected, a set of wings which were now permanently attached to her body, never to fail or abandon her. Though she still felt like a helpless filly who was now simply bursting with excitement because she had finally been found, she did not feel any shame for it. Every last ounce of fear she had felt before was gone. All was well. All was right. And she wished that this moment would never end, even if it meant walking aimlessly in this place for all eternity...

After a while, Rainbow's hooves no longer touched mud and instead touched solid stone, and she did not need the light to let her know that the ground had changed again. She rose her hooves up to the rain, allowing the mud to wash off of them. But after a few more steps forward, Rainbow stopped immediately in her tracks, seeing that they were now standing at the edge of a bottomless pit that stretched on endlessly both horizontally and vertically, with nothing but pitch darkness lying inside it and beyond it. It was the end of the field.

"So...this is it, huh?" Rainbow said. "What now? Should we fly?"

Rainbow looked up at her parents, and was somewhat disturbed to see that in place of their smiles were grim expressions, as though they somehow knew that it was no positive sign that they had reached the end. The rain that fell inside the massive pit vanished almost as soon as it entered, disappearing thoroughly into the void of darkness.

"I guess we should start walking back, right?" asked Rainbow, turning around quickly in response to their expressions. However, she instantly noticed that neither of her parents had made a move to turn away from the cliff, and they remained staring down into the dark void.

Before Rainbow had a chance to turn them away from the cliff, her mother continued to walk forward, and to her horror, she began to step carelessly over the edge...

"NO, MOM!!!!! NOOOOOO!!!!!" Rainbow screamed, but it was too late. Sunstreak Shine fell into the void, her body instantly losing its unique glow as she disappeared from sight. Tears flooded from Rainbow's eyes as she felt her mother's presence vanish entirely. In a single moment, the joy she had felt just minutes ago was replaced intense grief at losing her mother for the second time in her life.

Her soaking, tear-filled eyes looked up at her father, she was horrified to see that he had also begun to take a few steps forward...

"NO, DAD!!!! NO!! PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME!!!!"

But Rainbow Blaze ignored her, and he cast himself into the bottomless pit, disappearing into nothingness just as her mother did before him.

"NOOOOOOO!!!! NOOOO!!!" Rainbow Dash screamed in agony, curling up on the ground. They were gone, and she could feel their absence ripping into her heart. She was all alone again, and she now realized that this is how it would be forever and for the rest of her life.

"I'm an orphan...," she whispered, feeling no shame from her words. "I'm a little lost orphan. And I'm scared..."

The rain resumed pouring atop Rainbow's head with the same level of cruelty as it had before. She stared down into the bottomless pit in a trance, as though expecting her parents to fly back out of it. But she knew within her heart that they were never coming back again.

Rainbow no longer wanted to keep walking, she no longer wanted to keep fighting the rain and the dark, and she no longer wanted to be stuck inside this never-ending hell. It was now vividly clear to her what her only option for escape from this prison was...

"Mom. Dad. I'm coming..."

Rainbow Dash stepped closer to the pit's edge and leaned forward slowly. Within seconds, her hooves no longer touched the rocky ground. She slipped forward into the void, tumbling and tumbling as she swiftly fell through the nothingness. She closed her eyes and awaited the end, her wings remaining shut with no desire to save herself or even slow her fall...

It was all over...

****

"How is she today?" Rarity asked the nurse who was currently standing by Rainbow Dash's bedside.

"She's looking very well, you'll be happy to know," the nurse answered. "Her mental state appears to be stabilizing, and there's no reason to expect that it will drop again. I do believe that this will be passing soon."

"We can only hope...," Applejack said with a relieved smile.

Everyone had gathered together in Rainbow Dash's room before breakfast the following morning, hopeful that she would have regained consciousness at some point during the night. Instead, they were only greeted by the nurse, who was in the middle of running tests and checking Rainbow's vitals. Pinkie remained sitting beside her comatose body, looking both increasingly tired and hungry with heavy bags under her eyes and tiny strands of hair popping out from her mane.

"Pinkie, have you slept at all?" Twilight asked after the nurse left the room.

Pinkie shook her head without taking her eyes off of Rainbow.

"Have you eaten at all?" asked Fluttershy with an equal amount of concern in her voice.

Pinkie shook her head again, and the friends exchanged apprehensive glances with each other. As they expected, Pinkie was intent not to leave Rainbow Dash's side for even a second, just as she had not left the mailbox after Rainbow went away to the Wonderbolts Academy. They suddenly realized that they had even more reason to be thankful that she was not in any critical condition.

"We were about to go out to breakfast," said Twilight. "We would really like it if you came with us."

"No," Pinkie answered at once. With a sorrowful sigh, Twilight walked closer to her.

"Pinkie, you need to eat," she said, placing a tender hoof on her shoulder. "Just come with us for a little while. She's not going to wake up any sooner if you just continue to sit here."

"I'm not hungry," Pinkie responded, shaking her head. Twilight stared apologetically at her friends, hoping that one of them would have a better idea of what to say to her.

Rarity took a step forward. "Darling, Rainbow Dash is going to be fine. We were just told that she's doing fine and this may not last that much longer. It still may still be some time before she wakes up and you have to—"

Rainbow's body suddenly jolted forcefully, went still for a brief moment, then jolted again with even more force. Everyone immediately crowded around the bed, staring intently at her. The electrocardiograph beeped with more intensity as her heart rate increased. Rainbow continued to jolt and shift on the bed, displaying far more motion than she had the previous day. Her friends watched her, scarcely blinking, hoping that this was finally it. But once Rainbow's body went still again and the electrocardiograph slowed its beeping, an icy fear fell over them as they realized the possibility that something far worse might have been taking place right before their eyes...

After an unbearable moment of silence and stillness, the crimson of Rainbow Dash's irises could faintly be seen as her eyes gradually opened...

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