• Published 4th Sep 2014
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Ghost of a Rose - Noble Thought



Roseluck goes on a journey through her past to discover what her future holds.

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Chapter 2: Wilting Roses

“Where is it?” Rose prodded the edge of a hole in the center of her garden.

The centerpiece of Roseluck’s garden, a rose bush given to her by her mother, was gone. In its place was a hole with a only a few dead, dry straggling roots poking out. Somepony had been careful to get as much of the root ball as they could.

Was it me? I could have, I suppose.

Except it was meant to sit in the center of her garden, and she couldn’t think of a reason to move it elsewhere.

Maybe it has something to do with the weather... or... She could almost smell it, but the sweet, heady scent of her flowers was little more than a suggestion of a sensation.

“I’ll have to ask Goldie about it. My memory must be going.” Rose stamped the edge of the hole and stepped back. All around her it felt like a pall had fallen over the world, and the flat, featureless sky was so blank that she could have mistaken it for a dingy painter’s canvas.

Rose stared up at the sky, desperate to see some variation, some difference. But it seemed like it was going to be another one of those days. The steel grey canopy taunted her with its unrelenting sameness. It was so thick that not even the sun could even break through the uniform grey sludge to brighten the day and bring a little happiness.

But there was light. A mare in a more charitable mood might have cheerfully considered the steady half-light bright enough to call it sunlight, and found it somewhat bearable.

Rose wasn’t feeling particularly charitable or cheerful and her mood wasn’t helped by being unable to escape the oppressive, color-draining light. Everything that should have been painted in bright, happy colors was instead done up in the drab colors of a world on the brink of death.

There was no shade, nor even the hint of a shadow anywhere. Without shading or nuance the entire world appeared as though it were an aspiring artist’s unfinished masterpiece.

A masterpiece that would never be finished.

Rose sighed and pulled her attention away from the depressing sky to focus on what she’d been avoiding since... When? A ragged hole in her memory tormented her with half formed images of ponies who should have been important to her; whose names were always on the tip of her tongue, their faces always in the corner of her mind’s eye but never in focus.

She shook her head. Who am I forgetting? Why? The world around her offered no answers and everything she looked at only brought up more questions she wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer to.

Even more frustratingly, the cool serenity she prided herself on stayed elusively out of her grasp.

Her garden, once a source of that serene feeling of peace, had become a terror to behold. But she’d put off worrying about it far too long. She stamped her hoof on a patch of weeds starting to creep out of the precarious containment of the planter box they’d taken over and turned her attention on the rest of the garden.

Spreading blankets of viney weeds reached out over the hard-packed, pebble-crusted paths. Tangles of prickly lettuce, clumps of dandelions, and a wider assortment of weeds than she’d ever let invade her garden were everywhere. She could have left off weeding for a month, or even two, and not been surprised to see her garden looking as it did.

Wasn’t I just weeding and watering it yesterday? She should have been, like every day. Rain, or shine, the enemy attempting to invade her peaceful world never slept, and neither could she let up her guard. It was a mystery why she hadn’t been, and not one she particularly wanted to solve.

Something in her heart told her it wasn’t something she was ready to know.

Also a mystery were the inexpert attempts to root up some of the weeds. Divots here and there told a story of somepony without a lick of garden sense or patience digging at them and leaving them piled up at the end of the walkway. There’d been no attempt to cover the ragged holes with suffocating mulch or even put the weeds into the compost pile, placed far away from her precious flower beds for precisely that purpose.

Even worse than the invasion were the deaths of so many of the plants she cared for. The calla lilies she tended for Lily were dead, nothing more than dried sticks standing like the markers of a dense graveyard. Daisy’s daisies were also long dead, the once-white petals dotting the ground like so many yellowed husks of dead bees, while the heads stood stiffly still in silent air.

But the worst, and what drove the despair in her heart even deeper, were the roses. Nearly all of them were cuttings from the rose bush her mother had given her. All of them were dead or dying. She couldn’t even feel them through the earth. Not even the weeds, nuisances that they were, prickled at her attention. It was as if the earth itself, the living ground, had died.

The earth can’t just die. I’m just... having an off day. I’ve had those before. But the state of her garden suggested it was more than just an off day, and it wasn’t an implication she liked.

She stamped a patch of too bouncy prickly lettuce on her way back down the path, and glowered when it sprung back up as soon as she removed her hoof. Whomever had so inexpertly attempted to weed her garden should have kept going. Wherever she had been in the last month... or however long it’d been, it would have been better to come back to an inexpertly tended garden instead of one that hadn’t been tended at all.

“Rose...”

Roseluck looked around. Had somepony said her name? After listening for a follow up, she sighed and turned away from her garden to go back into her house. She stopped.

The door was hanging open, sagging against the side of the house. One of the hinges was broken, and two hoof marks were planted squarely in the center of the door. Nopony else was around, and the silence that had been bothering her since...

The silence shivered, then popped.

“Hello?” Rose’s voice sounded flat even to her ears.

The silence, before existing only as a background distraction, started to hum in her ears again as she strained to hear anything: the buzzing of a bee, the whispering wings of a hummingbird... anything.

Silence reigned absolute.

She snorted, snapping the hum while her tail flicked back and forth, and stared at the house. All the windows were boarded shut, and there’d been a half-hearted attempt to close the door. A board hung off it, rusted nails jutting out like jagged teeth.

“If there’s anypony in the house...!” She shuddered and took a step back.

What if there is?

Not even a faint echo of her shout came back. Prickles crawled up her legs, and she scraped at the ground again before taking a step away from yet one more mystery she didn’t want to learn the answer to.

“Rose, please...” The voice, a mare’s voice, was definitely there, and so familiar it yanked at her heart. A name almost came off the tip of her tongue, but the voice faded away too swiftly and left her alone again.

The name retreated and left her grasping at hay. Who are you?

“Hello?” Rose couldn’t seem to remember a face or a name to go with the voice. “Is anypony there?”

“Rose! Please, listen to me...!”

Memories rushed in to fill the void tugging at her. Laughter, out of place in the dreary world, percolated throughout them, and she found herself smiling.

A name leapt from the tip of her tongue. “Pinkie?”

“Yes, Rose. It’s me.” The voice didn’t fade away.

Pinkie was sitting in the swing chair at the end of the porch, as if she’d been sitting there the whole time. She had one hoof hooked around the chain and the other touching the stem of a red rose as vibrantly colored as her coat.

Rose hadn’t seen her. It was as though naming her had called her forth. Am I going insane?

“You remembered me.” Pinkie’s smile barely touched her lips, and her ears stayed limp against her head. Even her mane looked less Pinkie than usual.

“I—” She frowned, shaking her head, and forced a smile, feeling like a mirror to the one Pinkie had. “Of course. How could I forget about you, Pinkie? You’re one of my best friends.” Saying it, she realized it was true, and more memories of Pinkie came rushing forth. “Y-you sing a lot, and you love to see others smile.” I almost forgot that. Why? It’s not like Pinkie’s easy to forget.

Rose took a tentative step forward, eying the door and her friend; each one the source of an equal measure of uncertainty, and not a small amount of worry. She couldn’t stop her tail from ticking back and forth. What is going on today? Am I losing my mind?

“I’m glad you remember me.”

“I could never forget you, Pinkie.” Liar.

Pinkie beamed a bright, encouraging smile at her. “It’s okay, Rose. I—” She shook her head, smile faltering for long enough for the uncertainty to return to Roseluck, and lifted the rose in the crook of her ankle to smell it. “It smells beautiful.” She held it out, offering it to Rose.

Rose could smell it even from so far away. The scent tugged at her with an almost physical force and the memories it yanked free sent shivers down her spine.

A stallion with a creamy coat sat across from her at a cafe, and she laughed at something he said. The joke, and the reason it was funny, was too vague in the half-formed memory. His image was fuzzy with time and grief, but when she looked at him her heart leapt, and she wanted to hear his voice clearly. She took a step towards the rose, shaking.

His memory faded and was replaced with a shining gravestone reflecting back her face.

She stumbled back to sit on her haunches as a sob tore its way free of her throat and threatened to choke her.

No! I can’t be—

She shook her head. The memory faded away, leaving her sitting in her yard while all around her the mystery of why began to fade into a fog; but not the anguish.

Rose looked again at the doorway yawning open, the door hanging loose.

She backed up a step. Then another.

Rose looked back at her dead and shrivelled garden, choked with weeds and missing its centerpiece.

“Pinkie, I—” The situation was too odd; her garden, the house, her rose bush, and the rose with its tantalizing smell. It shouldn’t have been able to affect her so deeply. Too many warning bells got set off by each of them. She flicked her tail and took another step back.

Nothing about the moment felt right. Pinkie was too bright, the rose was too bright, and its distant aroma was too tantalizing. Every time she looked away from it, her attention got drawn back by its scent.

Rose wanted to smell it. It didn’t feel like a trap. It felt wrong. She wanted it too much, wanted to bury her nose into it and find the memory again. That scared her—that she could want something so badly she wanted to throw away caution.

She stumbled back another step. Half of her wanted to go forward, and the other wanted to flee. “Pinkie, I’m sorry. I have to go.”

“Rose, please don’t forget!”

“I’m sorry!” She turned and fled into the street.


Pinkie waited. Sometimes Rose came back right away, never remembering that she was still there. Other times, it would be... days, maybe. There was no way to tell time there except by the little changes that persisted. Rose’s garden had been the worst to watch.

Time passed, or it didn’t. Sometimes it felt like she would turn around and the world changed all of a sudden. Other times, she could stare and stare, and nothing would happen until she looked away, though she would have sworn only seconds had passed.

Pinkie, she was pretty sure she was Pinkie, clumped to the porch when it became clear that Rose wasn’t going to come back immediately.

Wandering down to the garden, she found the latest rose Rose had lost—or left behind. It, like all the others, smelled beautiful. But there was also an undercurrent of despair like rotting weeds.

“I’m sorry, Rose. I keep doing this wrong.” How many more roses, how many more lost pieces of her friend would it take before she would get it right?

“Please.” She looked up at the slate grey sky, then at the silent homes filled with the stories of their occupants, and memories waiting to be remembered. “Don’t let me learn too late.”


Thick fog spread out across the town, obscuring all but the closest houses. Rose could barely see across the street to...

She frowned. “I know who lives there. I just...” She looked up at the sky, the same greyish slate as the fog clinging to everything. Static, and unchanging, it didn’t so much as drift on even a slight breeze. “I’m sure it’s just the day. I’ve never seen it so foggy.”

She left the empty porch, where Goldie would sit in the mornings sipping her coffee and watch the sun rise. Her absence tugged at Rose, already feeling out of place in the morning mist.

It is morning, right? The faded light could have been evening or morning, or a foggy day anywhere in between.

Back inside, she closed the door on that uncomfortable feeling, and spent a long moment gathering herself. It’s just the fog. Just one of those days. The comfortable, familiar entryway to her home buoyed her heart and lent her a bit of peace that felt like it had been missing too long. It was the same as she remembered, and there were good memories waiting for her.

On the walls were pictures of her and her ‘sisters,’ the flower mares of Ponyville. She paused to glance over each one. Lily Valley and Daisy, her best friends in the whole world. Pictures of them as fillies together dotted the wall, spaced out over the course of their lives together.

She smiled at the one with all three of them showing off their cutie marks. That had been a fun week. Three cute-ceañeras merged into one, and the Fall Harvest festival to boot. It was the most fun she’d ever had during the celebration before or since.

She touched the picture with a hoof, and frowned.

A thin layer of dust had settled into the base of the frame, and she could see streamers of cobwebs connecting the picture to the wall. She backed away from it.

I don’t remember leaving it so dirty.

It was almost like she’d been gone for months, and nopony had even so much as opened the door. Four spots on the wall free of cobwebs and marked by unfaded paint haunted her.

The gaping, sharp-edged hole in her memory tugged at her heart and cut deeply into the weakening hold on her calm front. She sagged against the wall, barely holding herself up.

“Why can’t I remember?”

The sound of little hooves on the hardwood floor tore her attention away from the wall and its lost memories, and led her further into the house. She paused at the entry to the living room and glanced back. The entry hallway felt empty. The small table where junk went, the scratchy hoof rug, and the softer welcome rug were still there. But along the walls six more unfaded spots glared at her where pictures of her life should have been.

It was as though they’d vanished. She shook her head and shivered. I’m not going crazy!

Everywhere was the same. Goldie’s bedroom looked as if it’d been empty for years. Even though there was only a thin coat of dust on the wooden floor, the brighter patches where furniture sat were almost indistinguishable from the rest. How long has she been gone? The smaller bedroom down the hallway was almost empty except for a small bed and a doll tucked away behind a door—left behind and forgotten.

Rose collapsed with her hoof not quite touching the doll as vague images of the same doll rampaged through her mind, tearing free of the gaping hole in her memory she longed to fill.

Rose saw the doll again and again, held in the mouth of a filly with a deep pink coat, or it was riding on her back, or nestled between her legs. Coming from the same place as the half remembered likeness, a name, or part of a name, pulled free and filled her mind with unbearable joy.

Berry!

And then it was gone—swallowed up again by the dust and fog hanging over everything.

Weeping, Rose rested her head against the wall and tried to remember who the filly was. Nothing came to her except the hole in her heart, and the pain of missing memories she wanted to find again so badly.

Who were you? Why can’t I remember you?

The questions she had went unanswered, and the doll only stared at her with its blank glass eyes. Rose looked away from its empty gaze, haunted by a feeling that whoever the filly was, she had been the center of a large part of Rose’s life.

When she looked up again, the doll was gone.

The fog grew thicker.


The rest of the house was covered by a different kind of fog: Dust, cobwebs, bits of debris, and leaves tucked into corners and against the baseboards. The serene feeling slipped farther and farther from her grasp the more she searched through the house. Everywhere else she looked was the same and what she was searching for continued to elude her.

Dust lay caked into carpets and on floors, countertops and tabletops. Haunting, phantasmal drapes hung from doorways where spiders had spun their little webs, building and building over longer than she wanted to think about.

Her kitchen was no better and held a heartrending story frozen in the last moment of its telling.

A teacup lay shattered on the ground, half swept to the side, and a dark stain long since seeped into the wood. The back door to her garden lay ajar, sagging on the one hinge still clinging stubbornly to the frame. She paused at it to touch the indentation of two hoofprints pressed into the wood.

“What happened here?” Neither the stool toppled on the floor, nor the lone tea setting, sitting on the opposite side of the table gave her an answer.

“Rose... you...”

The whisper faded into the sound of distant weeping.

“Hello?”

In the silence she expected her voice to be echoed back from other parts of the house, but not even the faintest whisper of her own voice came back. It was as though not even the world around her could hear her.

She shivered.

“Goldie is just gone to the market.” Nodding to herself, she forced a smile she didn’t feel. “She’ll be back soon. We can talk then.” It felt good to say it, to hear it, and it numbed some of the ache in her heart. I’m not alone. I’m... just taking care of the house for the morning.

“It’ll be better once the fog lifts.” The lie that sounded hollow in her mind sounded worse out loud.

“Rose...” The voice, almost certainly a figment of her imagination, called her out on the lie.

“I’ve... come back from a long trip.” Again, the lie felt flat and false to her ears. “That I don’t remember taking.” I can’t be alone!

I can’t be— She shied away from the thought, rising up from the depths of her mind with a host of images too painful to bear. A stallion whose smile lifted her heart and tore free a ragged sob. A mare, too bright for a dark world, whose smile lightened her heart, and whose persistence terrified her.

“Rose...!” The urgency of the whisper banished the images and brought her back to the house.

The weeping came back, louder than before, accompanied by the cloying scent of a rose that she couldn’t see.

Rose stood still, listening to the weeping she wasn’t entirely certain wasn’t only in her mind until it faded away. The fog grew thicker still.

All around her, the kitchen showed the same signs of disuse throughout the rest of the house. Rusted cutlery lay in the sink, and rings of scum sank down to a bone dry bottom.

Even the clock sitting on the counter was still. Its little pendulum stood unmoving, and the clock face read noon... or midnight. The light filtering in through the fog seemed to be stuck at someplace between the two times.

“What happened to me? Why can’t I remember what happened here?” She opened the clock’s front panel and tapped the pendulum lightly. It moved, but didn’t continue its motion further. She closed the panel again and stepped back.

The silence in the house gave her no answer, and the fog didn’t so much as stir.

“Is this even my house?” The rusted knives gave her no answer, nor did the broken teacup, nor the kettle on the stove with rust starting to creep down the outside of its spout.

An untold story hovered below the surface of everything and she could only guess at the characters, while the plot felt like of those of stories that had given her nightmares for weeks after reading them. It felt like she should know the reason for everything being in the state that it was in, but all she found when she tried to think of it was a ragged, painful hole in her memories.

“Was I in a coma?” There were no more answers in her house, only more questions. She stepped past the broken door and back into the fog. Maybe it held the answers.

Pinkie stood in the doorway, watching Rose leave, and clutched the latest rose to her chest, its cloying scent hinting at memories that weren’t her own. “Don’t forget me, Rose. Please.”


Ghostly figures walked through the fog with her, comforting for their presence. She wasn’t alone out in the dense mist, at least, but it certainly made it harder to find where she wanted to go.

“Where was I going?” She stopped, looking around and trying to make out more than the vague shapes of buildings in the fog.

“Rose, please look at me...”

She looked at the closest figure, but it ignored her as surely as the still fog all around her did, and moved along on its own business.

“Hello?”

Of the few ponies closest to her only one seemed to pay her any attention, but even it shook its head and moved along without even looking in her direction. She stopped to look at the other figures, and the buildings all around her.

They were the same shapes she was so familiar with, but even through the fog, she should have been able to see some color seeping through. It certainly wasn’t dark enough. Even more strangely, none of the ponies seemed to be walking together. She knew her fellow ponies and—like them—she wouldn’t have wanted to go out into the dense fog alone unless it was urgent.

More questions. More unexplained oddities.

“Rose!”

The voice behind her startled her into a short trot. Other than the sound of her own hooves on the pavement, the world had been eerily silent. A quick look behind her told her little more. There was nopony there, aside from an odd swirl in the mist, and a hint of pink bleeding into the world.

The one spot of color in an otherwise dead world scared her. Memories of hurt trickled through her, sourceless except for the color pink and the scent of a rose too sweet to be real.

A stallion’s voice spoke from the depths of her mind, a fragment of memory dredged up by the aroma. “Will you...”

“Leave me alone!” she cried, striking at the air with her forehooves. The voice left, but not the lingering ache in her heart begging to let her hear it again and let him finish the sentence.

Another voice, louder, came back to haunt her. “Please, Rose. Don’t forget—”

She galloped away in silence, leaving behind the voices—and the pain.


Pinkie slowed to a canter and stopped, staring after the friend fading into the washed out world.

Heart heavy, she looked down at the latest rose. It was wilted, nearly dead, but still brighter than the street it lay on.

“Please! Rose! Don’t forget me!” She looked out over the town, past the ghostly figures that had haunted her since the moment she arrived and felt her heart sink. “I’m so sorry, Rose. I wanted so badly for you to find peace.” But it hadn’t been Rose’s rest she had striven for. It had been her own peace of mind. “I was being selfish. Making you confront your death.”

None of the other phantasms paid Pinkie any mind. They weren’t gone yet.

She’d tried, at first, to help them. But they all shied away from her, just like Rose.

But, unlike Rose, Pinkie didn’t know them or their lives, didn’t have memories of them, and didn’t even know their names. They didn’t even have cutie marks.

She could relate to Rose and understand the struggle that Rose must have been going through. Pinkie could remind Rose who she was, and what she’d meant to her friends. She could help Rose find her memories again.

She still worried for the other ghosts, but she didn’t feel responsible for the state they were in. They were almost gone—almost ready to slip away into oblivion after letting go of those last memories. Their last connection to the world would be severed.

“I don’t want you to leave that way, Rose. Please don’t leave me—” She choked back the rest of the sentence and shook her head. “Please don’t let go of your life.”

None of the phantasms paid her any mind. None of them were Rose.

Pinkie wandered through the town, looking for her friend—the ghost with the rose cutie mark.

“What wouldn’t you have been able to confront?” From atop a hill at the edge of town, near Rose’s home, she saw the top of the flagpole marking the Ponyville medical center. She’d been by there many times—reluctantly—to look for Rose after she failed to reappear right away again at her home.

Too many ghosts lingered there, too many lives had found an end there. Every time she went by, there were fewer. It was a place where ghosts went to say goodbye to themselves.

She knew where Rose would be next.

Sisters, please don’t let me be too late.


Cool white surrounded her: blurry, clinical, and chilly.

It was a room, but the features of it were indistinct as though she weren’t able to see any of it properly. In the center stood a bed, and beside the bed sat a stallion whose features were blurred into anonymity. A smaller form lay at his feet with her chest rising and falling in the slow rhythm of sleep.

Why am I sure it’s a she?

Thump-thp.

The sound of a heartbeat, weaker than it should have been, sent a shiver through the walls.

The stallion at the side of the bed stroked a hoof down the still figure lying atop it, and Rose felt a mirrored tingling run down her leg.

“Please, Rose... Come back to me.”

“N-no... I—” I can’t be—

There was no door in the room and no place for her to flee to; no place to escape from the fear that welled up inside her.

Thump-thp.

Weaker, but still there, the heartbeat shook the mist in the room. The stallion at the edge of the bed kept his attention on the mare’s face.

Why am I so certain it’s a mare?

“Rose, don’t leave.” It was barely a whisper, hoarse, and cracking under a strain that Rose could only imagine.

“I’m so sorry.” There was no place she could hide from the anguish that lay resting below the surface of everything in the room. There was nothing left for her to do. The mare was dying, and there was little she could do, except say goodbye to her.

Thp-thp.

She walked over to stand beside the bed, and looked across at the stallion. She could almost put a name to his face. The memory of it, of her saying it, felt close. The mare he watched over was so familiar that she felt like she should know her, even though her features were even more indistinct than his.

“I’m so sorry I can’t remember you.” Her hoof hovered over the mare’s, but she couldn’t bring herself to touch the body she should know.

“Rose, please don’t go. Not that way.”

Rose skittered away from the bed. That wasn’t the stallion’s voice.

An ember of a memory in her mind flared bright, and a pink mare, too bright for the whitewashed world, opened a door to... someplace else.

“Not that way,” the mare repeated, her voice soft and soothing where dim fragments of memories suggested it had been pleading, and frightened.

Rose stepped back from the bed, staring at the pony she knew she should know, and looked back at the bed again. The world stopped, hesitating on the outcome of her choice.

“Rose, I wanted to help. I thought I was helping, but there’s more to this,” the bright pink pony waved a hoof at the bed, “than what you know. Please. There’s so much more you should know before you say goodbye.”

“Say—” She swallowed. “Say goodbye? I—” She glanced once at the bed, at the dying mare and the stallion pleading with her.

Why is his voice so familiar?

A rose’s fresh, sweet scent came to her, bringing with it scattered shards of memory that pricked at her. Each one felt important and connected to the mare on the bed. She should know them; know her.

Saying goodbye could wait. It wasn’t easy to leave them behind, to not say goodbye to the mare whose life was ending, but it wasn’t time, and the bright mare was right.

She wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Not yet.

Lifting her head, she looked down on the mare and the stallion grieving for her. “I don’t know who you are, but I’m so sorry for your loss.” She reached out to touch the mare’s shoulder lightly. “And yours.”

An answering touch brushed against her shoulder, eerily in the same place her hoof rested, but endured it for a long moment before stepping around the bed towards the door and... Pinkie?

How could I forget her name?

Pinkie stood back, holding open the door leading to... somewhere. She would have to find out. But she was going to find out her way. Somehow that felt important; and different.

Thp—

Time resumed its course as Rose left the bedside and the last, faint heartbeat sounded not from the room. The heart beat its last in her own chest. She froze as a string of thought snapped taut between her and the mare. She knew this mare.

Agony twisted in her chest. Please...

Rose turned, her private fears clamoring for attention as the pain in her chest swelled to steal her breath and choke out the frantic denial she wanted to shout. The mare’s chest stilled its too slow rise and fall as the pain in Rose’s crescendoed to mind-blanking agony.

Please don’t let it be...

Rose could see her face clearly. It was thinner than she remembered, but that couldn’t disguise the features she’d seen countless times in a mirror, even with her mane gone and bandages swaddled around her head.

Cold, undeniable knowledge snapped into place with grim finality.

My face. Still.

My heart. Silent.

Me.

She stamped her hoof and shook her head, fighting the searing agony. Breathe! she wanted to scream, but couldn’t. The body—her body—didn’t move. The agony in her chest clawed at her and threatened to tear her apart while her lungs burned and her eyes watered.

Do something!

The hoof under the stallion’s leg twitched and lay still.

All the little noises she had barely paid attention to popped away, one by one until the room was silent again.

The stallion lifted his head and clutched her leg. His lips moved, but nothing came out.

Again, Rose felt the tingle moving up her leg, weaker than before.

He shook her leg and the tingle faded away. His mouth opened wide in what must have been a shout, but she couldn’t hear anything.

Rose shook her head once more and backed out of the room, away from the body laying lifeless on the bed, and away from the stallion standing up beside her bed, his face so close she should have heard his shouts.

She heard nothing. She wanted to hear his voice again. One last time.

The silence continued, cold and empty.

Dead... I’m dead... Realization set in, and try as she might, she couldn’t deny it. It felt like she’d been denying it for so long that the effort was fruitless. Why?

“Pinkie...” The room disappeared as though a bubble were popped, taking with it the body, the stallion, and the small form laying at his feet.

She didn’t want to remember. She didn’t want the realization. She didn’t want to be dead.

But Rose did remember. The whole world blurred as she stumbled to her friend. She had so many questions she was afraid to find out the answer to, but only one she wanted to know.

“I’m so confused. Why did this happen to me?” Rose drew in a ragged breath, waiting for the answer she didn’t want to hear.

“Rose, don’t. I know you want to know.” Pinkie sat back on her haunches and drew Rose in with both forelegs. “Don’t try to understand right now.”

“I-I felt it! I felt it stop!” Dead. “Why...?” Her strength sapped, Rose let herself be drawn into her friend’s embrace. She found a measure of comfort with her muzzle buried into Pinkie’s warm, solid shoulder—small though it was.

She wasn’t alone.

“That’s it, Rose,” Pinkie cooed. “Give yourself a chance to grieve. I’m here for you.” She fell silent, rocking back and forth while Rose wept.

It was what she needed.