• Published 21st Jan 2015
  • 3,333 Views, 193 Comments

The Mailmare - Bad Horse



The Equestrian Postal Carrier's Hoofbook lists three circumstances under which mail service may be suspended. The end of the world is not one of them.

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8. Ponyville

The Everfree had pressed in on Ponyville, rising around it like a slow vegetable tide, sweeping over outlying farms and cottages, as the ponies who remained hacked and burned to keep it at bay. The ramshackle walls around the town’s center, mostly pieces of blown-down barns and houses, looked from above like small and pathetic barriers against it.

“Halt!” a sentry called from the top of the Hayseed grain tower, the tallest building still standing. “Identify yourself!”

She ignored the voice and flew over the wall. She hadn’t spoken to a pony in two days and didn’t intend to start now.

“Come on, Derpy!” he called after her. “You’re supposed to identify yourself! And welcome back!”

She touched down on the open landing outside her little tree house, thirty feet up in a silver maple, wedged into a fork in the trunk. She kicked the door open, hurried inside, and kicked it shut behind her, making a slam loud enough to warn any welcomers away and kicking up two months’ worth of dust into the stale air.

This was supposed to be her triumphal return, but all she felt was burning anger at Summer Rain. Derpy’s wings quivered. For the first time in her life she was so angry she wanted to kill somepony. She hadn’t even been this angry at the raiders. She wanted to fly back to that ungrateful dam and kick her face in.

Her beastly son was still alive, and she had the gall to complain about unfairness. If life were fair he would be dead. She wondered whom he’d killed to stay alive. Probably ponies like Dinky.

But he was alive and Dinky was dead, and Derpy risked her life to deliver letters to townsfolk who shot at her and to the mothers of the rapists and killers who’d terrorized her.

Soon ponies would be gathering around her tree, with their welcome-backs and their unspoken I-told-you-so’s. They’d begged her not to go. Said it was dangerous. But they’d never said what they all must have known: it was stupid. She should’ve known that any idea she’d come up with would be stupid. Like sending Dinky to Canterlot.

She shut her eyes and let the tears run down her cheeks. Stupid, stupid, stupid Derpy.

She looked around the little treehouse, her home since the war. One corner was walled off to make the bedroom; the nook next to it held the kitchenette and the little folding table she ate on. The table still held a pile of things she’d decided to leave behind at the last minute: extra goggles, a mane brush and a violet ribbon, a half-finished romance novel.

The house felt like a museum diorama. She glanced at the decorations on the walls and the half-finished projects on the shelves, and tried to imagine the pony who had lived here and thought them worthwhile. A birdhouse, nearly-finished for the past two years because she didn’t know how to drill the entrance hole. A collection of pinecones that looked like faces. A book of fancy Prench recipes she’d never tried. Naked now as mere things, oblivious to the passion and attention she’d given them. If she’d died in the wastes, this would have been all she left behind. Some pony would have stood here, taking inventory of her life, and consigned it all to the garbage heap; there was nothing here anypony could give away.

She’d been outraged that the raiders had tied her up, had taken her freedom. Now, looking at what she’d done with her freedom, she felt selfish. On her own, she was no good to anypony. The raiders would have made better use of her.

To her right was her worn-out sofa. To her left, the sacks of mail she’d rescued from the ruins of the post office. She gave a particularly stuffed-looking mail sack a good kick. She’d hoped it would burst like a severed artery and spray letters across the room, but it was thick canvas, well-tied, and it just flopped like a dead body.

“Stupid”—kick—”worthless”—kick—”letters!”—kick.

She stopped, huffing, and glared at the bag, which stubbornly refused to break.

A match. She walked over next to her table and began yanking the drawers of her kitchenette open. Where had she put the matches?

The bag would go up like a torch. The whole place would probably go up like a torch. Maybe she wouldn’t get out in time. It seemed an academic question, from a textbook for a course she’d already failed. All the good ponies were dead, and all she had to look forward to was years of the humiliation of being herself. Clinging desperately to a pathetic life. The only things she’d ever been were a mailmare and a mother. Now she was nothing.

She could at least have the dignity of choosing when to let go.

Finally she found the matches in the very bottom drawer left of the sink.

“Always in the last place you look!” she said with a laugh. She struck a match and lit the candle on her dining table. Then she took a deep breath, wiped the tears from her eyes, and turned around to look for something that would burn.

Her eyes were drawn to a single letter lying on the floor by the door. There! That would be her tinder.

She picked it up in her teeth. As she was carrying it over to the candle, it suddenly struck her: How had that lone letter gotten there on the floor?

She hadn’t carried it in with her; her mailbags were empty. It hadn’t fallen from any of the sacks, which were on the other side of the room.

She dropped the letter on the table. It was addressed to her.

She recognized the bold, uneven strokes immediately. She took a knife from the wooden block and sliced the envelope open neatly at the top. She shook out the letter inside it, reverently unfolded it and smoothed it out on the table, and began to read in the candlelight.

7th Rain’s End

Dear Mommy,

I miss you very much! The school is very big and made of stone. It’s loud when a herd of students walks down the hall! We had steamed carrots and mashed potatoes for lunch. It wasn’t as good as yours but I didn’t complain. My best friend is Fizzy Pop. She’s a unicorn, like everybody else here. Some of the kids are mean, but I remember you said there will always be mean ponies and I have to be brave. I think I am a little brave but sometimes I am not sure.

Love you very very much!

Dinky

She read it over several times, imagining every torch and flagstone in the hallway, a grim-faced cafeteria mare ladling out mashed potatoes, a pink unicorn filly with frizzy blue hair. Each image found its way to someplace in her mind that had been waiting for it, pushing out some of the cold gray mists that had rolled out for her every time she thought of Dinky’s last days in Canterlot.

She picked up the letter and sniffed it. The paper smelled fresh and rustled crisply, as if it had been folded yesterday. She’s getting better at keeping her lines straight, Derpy thought, and smiled.

Then the letter fell from her hoof, and she laid her head down on the table and cried.

Some time later, she realized that the candle was guttering, and that she had finished crying. She lifted her head, wiped her eyes, and folded the letter up and put it back in its envelope. She set it down on the table, centered and lined up with the table’s edges like it was on display. Then she looked back at the door, where the envelope had been lying, and at the letter slot at its bottom.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

Then she blew out the candle and went to bed.

Author's Note:

Having someone deliver the letter to Derpy was AxisOfRotation's idea. I think it made a big improvement.

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