• Published 1st Nov 2015
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Sunset Slayer - Pen Stroke



Seven friends work to keep Equestrian magic secret, but somethings will refuse to be kept hidden away.

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Floor Licker

Sunset Slayer

By Pen Stroke

Pre-read & Edited by

Chapter 1

Floor Licker

==========

“Do you want red or blue paper?”

Sunset Shimmer turned slowly, her eyes following the beam of her flashlight as it swept across the room. The public bathroom of a park at night was perhaps the last place she wanted to hear a voice asking her such a strange question, yet that was exactly where Sunset found herself.

While not in total disrepair, the five stalls of the woman’s restroom bore all the signs of a tight city budget. A few of the doors were missing their lock, and one was about to fall off its hinges. The paint and tiles of the bathroom were littered with scratches, names, numbers, and lewd gestures carved with a bevy of sharp tools. The mirror had a few long cracks, and one of the faucets leaked with a steady, rhythmic drip every few seconds. Then, of course, there was the smell. The sharp, undeniable odor of the business done and trapped within the windowless, under-ventilated space had almost floored Sunset when she first came in.

She, however, had muscled through it, and then heard those words. It was a whisper in her ear, strange and unnatural. The room was empty. She had checked every stall. Even she wasn’t supposed to be in there at such a late hour. The doors were normally locked after nightfall, but Sunset wasn’t the first to break in after dark, nor would she be the last. Unlike others, however, it wasn’t a driving call-of-nature or a peer-pressured-prank that placed her in the bathroom.

She had come to hear that exact question.

“Do you want red or blue paper?” The voice asked again.

Sunset tensed and spun quickly, having felt the warm puff of the spoken words on the back of her neck. She clenched her flashlight tighter and backed up until she was in the very corner of the room. Every stall door was open. She could see every approach, and with that reassurance, she acted. She raised a hand into her hair, touching something near her ear, and then she found her voice.

“Blue,” Sunset said, and a chill ran down her spine. She flicked her flashlight, checking each stall door and the cracked mirror. She was still alone. Nothing was drawing near, yet every sensation in her body was telling her that danger was looming closer. Suddenly, she felt a flick of wind on her hair, and cold, clammy hands grasped her throat. Sunset dropped her flashlight, reaching up to grab at the bony appendages, but it was already too late. They had encircled her neck and were beginning to squeeze.

She tried to kick and pull away from the wall, but her vision started to swim. Her lungs violently convulsed, trying to force air past the tight grip on her throat. She heard a hungry growl that carried undercurrents of a delighted laugh. The creature was committed; it would not let go until it had accomplished its task.

It was exactly what she wanted.

Reaching up, Sunset grabbed the wrists of her assailant. She held tight as a golden aura began to envelop her body. The amber gemstone studs in her ears glinted, and from deep within, Sunset felt the rising sensation of her own magic. The tender warmth started at her core and radiated out, like the comforting sensation of a hot beverage on a cold day. She tightened her hold on the wrists, while the hands themselves released their vice-like grip. Sunset gasped for a fresh breath of air, and her magical aura surged with fresh life.

With all the strength her arms could muster, Sunset pulled on the hands that had attempted to steal her life, yanking their owner out of the shadows. She flung it over her head and smashed it into the ground at her feet, giving her a good look at her attacker.

The monster looked like a clog of hair that had been yanked out of a shower drain. Its unnaturally narrow limbs were a conglomeration of filth, hair, and the occasional glinting piece of metal. The strange creature flailed to get back to its feet before turning to roar at Sunset, and from its hands extended several gnarled razor blades.

Sunset, however, did not cower in the face of the creature. Instead, she took a step forward, her own magical aura blazing. Her ears moved to the top of her head, becoming pointed, and her hair extended into a near ankle-length ponytail. The restroom was bathed in the light shining from her, and the monster began to back away as it roared in protest.

“And where do you think you’re going?” Sunset raised her hand, and her aura of magic extended from her fingertips towards the creature. It grabbed hold of the monster and, slowly but surely, pinned it down against the floor.

The beast’s body convulsed, twisted, and deformed. The refuse that comprised its body unwove, the human shape devolving into a writhing mass. It was not going down without a fight. One of the razor blades from its fingers flew at Sunset, and she had to dodge to the right to keep it from cutting her shoulder.

Sunset brought her free hand to her ear but did not take her eyes off the unraveling monster. “Anytime now.”

The bathroom door swung open and slammed against the interior wall. The boot responsible for kicking it was worn by Applejack, her usual school skirt replaced with a pair of durable blue jeans. She leapt into the air and stomped down on the monster. She had already ponied up, and her orange aura spread out from her feet to cover the creature, replacing Sunset’s own magic. “Boy, this one’s ugly enough to make a freight train take a dirt road. What’s the verdict?”

“Aggressive class three,” Sunset said, reaching through the neck of her shirt. “Drain and dispose.”

“Well, we thought as much when we heard about this one. That’s why we didn’t bring Fluttershy.” The creature managed to free one failing appendage and took a wild swipe at Applejack, but she promptly stomped down on it a second time, applying her magic with greater force. “Hey, keep them hands to yourself!”

Sunset finished fishing out a large, circular device. It was similar to the one that had started the whole situation they found themselves in, though improved in comparison to the original prototype. It was one of seven, and after pressing a few of the exterior buttons, Sunset cracked open the locket. The circuitry within came to life, and wisps of sickly-yellow energy began to flow from the creature. Its struggles grew weaker and its growls faded as the magic was drained away. Eventually, all that was left was a pile of mushy, wet hair, a mess Applejack swiftly stepped out of before covering her nose.

“Phew, hard to believe it was using some of that magic to make itself smell better. You think any is stuck to my boot?”

Sunset stepped gingerly around the pile of the creature’s remains, getting over beside Applejack. Her own pony power was fading, but before her magic fully receded, Sunset flicked her wrist. A portion of her magic leapt onto the creature’s remains and set them ablaze. The fire quickly covered and began consuming the remnants of the beast, leaving no trace and doing no damage to anything that had not been part of the monster. “Let’s just say, I wouldn’t go walking inside The Library without cleaning them off first.”

Applejack nodded as her magical aura began to dissipate. Her body returned to normal as the glow disappeared, receding into the orange gemstone studs she had in her ears. “I can hear Rarity’s voice already.” She opened her mouth, about to perform what Sunset knew would be a fairly accurate impersonation of Rarity.

Instead, both of them heard a piercing scream over the radios in their ears.

“Rarity!” Applejack bolted for the door, while Sunset followed a few steps behind. They raced across the park towards one of the other public bathrooms, Rarity’s screams blaring in their earpieces.

Sunset caught up to Applejack just as they reached the other bathroom. They put their shoulders forward and rammed their way through the door together, nearly unhinging it. Rarity was still screaming at the top of her lungs, the piercing sound now echoing through both their earpieces and the cramped bathroom. She was standing on top of a sink, hunched over and pressing her head and hands against the ceiling. She was unharmed, but she would not stop panicking as she stared at the creature below her.

It was a monster not unlike the one Sunset had just encountered. The majority of its body was comprised of the muck that could be pulled out of a stopped-up drain, but it was also clad in plastic water pipes, like a suit of armor. It also was showing no aggression towards Rarity. Instead, it was just licking at the floor, creating a slowly-expanding clean spot in the otherwise filthy tile and grout.

“Quick, Applejack, Sunset! Class three! Kill it! Kill it!” Rarity wailed as she shut her eyes tight.

“Yeah, that ain’t no class three,” Applejack deadpanned as she watched the thing go about its work. She bit her lip and made a sharp whistling sound, managing to draw the monster’s attention. It turned to look at them, a pair of lost wedding rings looking to represent its eyes, but did not relent from its gut-wrenching method of mopping the floor.

“I’ll go ahead and tag this one,” Applejack said before motioning to Rarity. “Why don’t you get her back to The Library?”

“Come on, Rarity.” Sunset chuckled a little as she tried to encourage her friend to come down from the sink. “It’s not going to hurt you.”

“You must be joking. It’s absolutely disgusting. Even being around it makes me feel like I need a bath.” Rarity dared to glance at the creature again and happened to witness it take a particularly long lick from the bathroom floor. She shivered and brought a hand to her mouth. It was hard to believe Rarity’s skin could become any paler than it naturally was, but she managed it. She scampered down from the sink and bolted for the door.

Sunset followed behind her at a leisurely pace, but stopped at the door to look back at Applejack. “Sure you wouldn’t have rather brought Fluttershy?”

Applejack drew out her own locket, hitting a few buttons on it to begin the tagging process. “As long as Rarity doesn’t barf, yes.”

~~~

“Ooo, I was right, the first one was an Aka Manto, and the second one sounds like an Akaname. Their close proximity to the city’s Japanese district is also further evidence that the cultural makeup of the neighboring area influences what types of creatures manifest,” Twilight said while Sunset held out her locket. Twilight snatched it and whisked it away to her computer, quickly inserting it into the docking station. A few taps on the keyboard, and a number of analysis programs began humming away.

“Thanks for the tip about answering with ‘blue,’ by the way.” Sunset removed the earpiece from her ear and the paired radio on her hip. She dropped them on an end table and flopped down on the neighboring couch, stretching out across its length. “I’d hate to have found out what answering red would have done with the nasty razor blades it had hidden in its fingers.” She glanced over at Twilight to continue the conversation, but could only smile as her friend was already lost deep in her work, the ever-relentless researcher in their little library group.

Their little base of operations had been named “The Library” by Princess Twilight. She claimed it was an inconspicuous codename, something that could be said openly in public without much concern. She had been wearing a rather large grin when she thought up the name, but no one had thought to ask her why it made her so happy. Still, no matter its name, the once modest storage space had been transformed to meet the needs of their situation, becoming a secret base, a research lab, and, for Sunset at least, a home.

Twilight’s workstation, a growing arsenal of human technology and pony lab equipment, dominated one corner of the room. A neighboring wall had also succumbed to Twilight’s need for workspace. A large corkboard had been hung, and it was now cluttered with pieces of paper and colorful pins that were strung together with lengths of yarn.

From that one side of the room, things became a homey but cramped apartment. A small communal area near the center of the room was occupied by a couch, a chair, a coffee table, and a television won in a radio trivia contest. Beyond that, on the wall opposite Twilight’s workstation, a quartet of twin-sized beds were crammed tightly together, and a kitchenette had been assembled around an old janitor sink. Three doors lined the exterior of the room. One led to a bathroom, and the other two led to stairs that could take them either outside or into the interior of the high school.

Perhaps they could have splurged a bit more, considering their operation was being funded by Equestria, but what they had received was more than enough to fulfill their needs.

Sunset heard a key in the lock and turned her head to look at the door as it swung open, revealing Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. They looked like they had been rolling in dirt and grass, but Rainbow Dash was twirling her locket on the edge of her finger. That was always a sign their mission had been successful.

“Hey, how did it go?” Sunset asked, although she felt she knew the answer.

“Class two.” Rainbow tossed her locket into the air, caught it, and held it out like a freshly-won award. “Nothing we couldn’t handle. Just a tree that decided it didn’t like having punks carving their names in it anymore. Though, we got there just in time to see this one idiot get whipped in the butt by the branches. You should have seen his face.”

“You couldn’t really blame it.” Fluttershy reached out and took the locket from Rainbow. She held it gently and even petted it a few times. “I doubt I’d be very happy if I had just been brought to life with magic and then someone carved their initials into me.”

“I doubt you’d be happy about that even if you hadn’t just come to life,” Sunset said as she watched Fluttershy carry the locket over to Twilight and set it down on the desk. Twilight managed a thank you and welcome back before refocusing on her work, the screen fluttering with numbers and graphs.

“What about you?” Rainbow Dash asked as she plopped down on the nearby chair. “Was it as bad as it sounded?”

Sunset brought her hand to her neck, remembering the sensation of the fingers that had choked her and the whispered questions in her ear. “Yeah, but we tripped over a class one at the same time. It was licking the bathroom floor clean, so we decided just to tag it and leave it alone for now. Though, hearing Rarity scream, you would have thought she was being murdered in some bad horror movie.”

Rainbow began to laugh at the thought of Rarity’s reaction, but that expression soon faded, being replaced by a new one. She stuck out her tongue, and her face contorted into a few different expressions of disgust before she shook her head firmly. “Well, I was going to eat something, but after that pleasant mental picture, I think I’m just going to catch some Z’s.”

“Sure, just remember to set the alarm so you aren’t late for class. Otherwise, I’ll get to wake you up my way.”

Rainbow Dash waved off Sunset’s concerns before she flopped down on one of the beds in the room. Fluttershy waited a moment, then stood up and took Rainbow’s place on the couch.

“So, I guess Pinkie Pie went home for the night?” Sunset asked.

Fluttershy nodded. “Yes, you know how her parents are. They get worried if she spends too many nights away from home.” Her hands fidgeted a little, as if searching for something they couldn’t find. They eventually grasped at the bottom of her skirt, twisting and wrinkling the fabric with their tight grip. They were all signs Sunset had become experienced at noticing.

“You skipped yesterday, didn’t you?” Sunset said, concern in her voice.

“No, it’s fine. I wasn’t even hungry.” Fluttershy turned away, trying to hide her face behind her hair as she stared down at her hands.

Sunset sighed and stood up. She took off her leather jacket and tossed it across the back of the couch leaving her in a short-sleeved, sky-blue top. She then plopped back down on the couch and said, “You know that isn’t how it works. Come on.”

Fluttershy turned her head further away and remained silent for a few seconds. Eventually, however, she nodded. Cautiously, as if she was trying to step on eggshells without breaking them, she moved from the chair to the couch. She began to pony up, her gentle, welcoming, yellow aura bubbling to the surface. Halfway through the transformation, the aura’s color shifted, changing to something comparable to a slurry of rotten vegetables. With it, Fluttershy’s complexion changed, her colors growing darker as her equine ears grew larger and more predatory.

Sunset felt a pair of soft hands raise her arm up. She knew what was coming, but it didn't bother her anymore. Except for the always squeamish Rarity, she and the others had become used to playing their part.

A whimper of pain came from Fluttershy. It was the final warning, the final step in what had become a practiced process. Sunset could hear Rainbow Dash turning over on her cot, and Twilight looked away from her computer for just a second before submerging herself back into her work.

As Sunset waited for the inevitable, her eyes wandered to a framed picture on the wall. It was all of them, standing together with their medals right after the Friendship Games. They didn’t know it then, but the veil between the two worlds took a lot of punishment that day. It weakened, and miniscule portals began to open and leak Equestrian magic into the human world. Myths and legends began to come to life, slowly drawing international media attention. As time went by, one fact became apparent: to keep Equestria’s existence a secret, they had to stem the tide of spirits, beasts, monsters, demons, and other entities being created by the leaking magic.

It had even been exciting at first, heading into the city at night to hunt the entities. More than once, Rarity tried to make them team uniforms.

But it couldn’t be friendship, picnics, and easy wins forever.

A sharp, familiar pain hit Sunset’s nerves. Her fist clenched briefly, but relaxed once the initial jolt had faded. She looked away, to distract herself and to give Fluttershy some semblance of privacy. She listened to the tapping of Twilight typing and focused her gaze on the corkboard with its numerous pins, notes, and lengths of yarn… anything to dull the sensation of the tears on her arm and mute the sound of Fluttershy’s whimpers.

The wound would heal by morning, and the physical pain would fade before she went to sleep. The guilt, however, always lingered with Sunset and drove her eyes to trace the paths of yarn on Twilight’s corkboard. The green pins were sealed portals. The orange ones were possible sightings. The blue were confirmed class ones and twos they needed to clean up, and though currently absent, the red pins marked suspected class threes.

Sunset’s eyes searched and followed the trails of yarn that connected the black pins. They were few and far between, but they marked clues to the vendetta Sunset and all her friends shared—the vendetta Sunset held most closely.

“We’ll get him, Fluttershy,” Sunset said. It was something she had repeated in this situation more than a dozen times before. She meant every word. Their only failed capture had left its mark on the group. It was a mark that wouldn’t go away until he had been drained of magic and burned from existence, and Sunset would do it. She would see the entity, codenamed “Dracula,” be reduced to nothing more than smoldering ash.

Otherwise, the kindest of her friends would never be freed of the torturous hunger for blood she had to endure every day.

Author's Note:

Between work, friends coming over for the weekend, a vet visit for my cat (nothing serious), a fall cold, I managed to get two chapters of this story written & edited for Halloween. Hopefully the rest of the chapters will come out at a healthy clip, ideally being done by mid November.

Beyond that, I hope you enjoy the story. And remember, if you see typos, I ask that you send them along in PM rather than post them in the comments.

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