• Published 3rd May 2016
  • 758 Views, 72 Comments

Woebegone - Lost_Marbles



The embodiment of bad luck comes to Ponyville, and anypony foolish enough to cross his path meets disaster. And he's very sorry.

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Chapter 2 - Picking Bones

All around Fluttershy, the animals seemed to cry out in distress. They couldn’t stay still, as though they sensed an impending, unstoppable force of nature would come crashing through. She couldn’t make any sense of the chatter--something about bad luck and misfortune. Her house was an asylum full of excited animals; after a few minutes of coaxing and reassuring that no harm would befall them, the excitement finally settled, but the glint of fear in their eyes still remained.

That wasn’t to say she dismissed their strange behavior. She knew from experience that animals had a sixth sense about these kind of things and didn’t become hopping mad without provocation. She would keep an eye out for any signs of danger while she continued about her day. She picked up her bucket of fish and walked outside of her cabin. It was time to feed Mr. Bear.

As she stepped outside, she noticed a sad, hunched-over hobo near the little bridge at the end of her walkway. Draped in wet rags, the two-legged hobo shambled in circles with one hand up scratching his head and the other holding up an umbrella frame against a tiny but persistent storm cloud. Even from where she stood, she caught glances of the lost expression on his tired face under that enormous hat. An overwhelming urge to help gripped Fluttershy.

She put down the bucket and approached the little hobo. He didn’t seem to notice her as he searched about and mumbled to himself about his luck and directions. “Excuse me?”

The hobo didn’t hear her.

Fluttershy cleared her throat. “Excuse me.”

A little boom of thunder from the cloud drowned her voice. The hobo didn’t hear her.

This time for sure he would hear her. She opened her mouth wide and took a large breath and swallowed a fly. Startled and disgusted, she hacked and choked and spat.

The hobo heard her.

“Oh goodness, are you okay, miss?”

Fluttershy turned her back to the hobo so he wouldn’t see her smack herself on the chest and puke up the bug. Several more hacks shook the clog loose, and a final snort and loogie freed the fly from her throat. She scooped up the fly and wiped it clean of the spit and phlegm against her fur. “I’m sorry, little one. Do be more careful from now on.”

The fly chirped in affirmation and buzzed away in happy little loops. Then a frog ate it.

“Oh, dear.” Fluttershy turned to the hobo. She looked into his puppydog eyes. “I’m fine. My name is Fluttershy.”

The hobo nodded and took off his hat to greet her, revealing his long, tangled mess of wet red hair and a bald spot. “I’m Woebegone. I’m sorry for bringing bad luck onto you.”

“No, I’m sorry for worrying you, Woebegone. Are you looking for somepony?”

Woebegone put his hat back on. “It’s not really a pony I am looking for, but a place. Do you know where Sugarcube Corner is? I’m supposed to meet a pony there.”

Fluttershy nodded. “Oh yes, I know where it is. I can take you there if you’d like.”

“That’d be very nice of you. I don’t mean to cause you any inconvenience or offense, but it would be better if you could just point me in the right direction. That would be more than enough,” replied Woebegone with a weak smile.

“It’s not a problem at all. We can go together once I feed Mr. Bear. I need to go into town and get some things anyway.”

Woebegone shuddered. “Mr. Bear? As in a real bear?”

“Oh, no need to worry--he’s a big sweetie. Let me introduce him to you. Oh, Mr. Bear! Feeding time!” A loud grumble echoed from behind Fluttershy’s cottage, followed by heavy footsteps; with speeds that others never thought were possible for such a large animal, Mr. Bear came galloping around the house and down Fluttershy’s walkway. His eyes were trained on her, and he showed no signs of stopping.

Mr. Bear scooped up Fluttershy in a bear hug and twirled around like a ballerina before falling down on his rump and rubbing her against his cheeks. “Oh, you big silly,” said Fluttershy. “You always get so excited with food, don’t you?” Mr. Bear let out a gruff laugh and released Fluttershy.

After regaining her footing, Fluttershy turned around to see Woebegone lying on the ground in a shivering mess trying to hide under his hat, like a frightened mouse or a spooked squirrel; but he should know that Mr. Bear wouldn’t hurt a single hair on his head. So she walked up and caressed him on his wet cheek. “There, there, Mr. Woebegone. Mr. Bear is a friend. He wouldn’t hurt a single hair on your head.”

Woebegone peeked between his fingers. “Are you sure? But he’s so big. He has sharp claws and big teeth and--”

“Yes, he does,” said Fluttershy with motherly confidence. “And he also has a heart as big as a bear’s.” She pointed a hoof up to Mr. Bear, and Woebegone looked. Mr. Bear wiggled the toes on his front paw with a huge smile.

“Heart?” Woebegone pushed himself up off the ground, but he still didn’t look at ease around the big predator.

Luckily for Fluttershy, she knew just the way to help Woebegone become comfortable around Mr. Bear, and Woebegone had come at the perfect time. She took a fish out of the bucket and called Woebegone’s attention to her before tossing the fish to Mr. Bear, who caught the fish in his claws and happily stuck the fish in his mouth up until the tail fin. After a few chews, he pulled the tail, and the remaining skeleton of the fish popped out of his lips. Each rib bone struck against his teeth and produced a musical chime like a xylophone. As it had every time before, Mr. Bear’s entertaining way of eating fish made the viewers more curious than afraid.

She scooted the bucket closer to Woebegone as he looked on with his mouth open in surprise. “Would you like to feed Mr. Bear? He’d like it very much if you did.”

Woebegone looked at the bucket of fish as he twiddled his thumbs together. “Oh, I’m not sure if I should… I, uh…”

“Oh no, it’s completely fine, isn’t that right, Mr. Bear?”

Mr. Bear nodded.

“Okay, if you say so.” Woebegone picked up a fish from the bucket with his fingertips and held it as far away from his body as equinely possible as he turned to Mr. Bear. He recoiled in terror from the sudden flash of claws that snatched the fish from him.

“Mr. Bear!” scolded Fluttershy. “Where are your manners?”

Snapped from his excitement for food, Mr. Bear had realized how rude he had been and growled an apology to Woebegone.

“Okay, let’s try that again.”

Mr. Bear nodded as he handed the fish back to a perplexed Woebegone. “A bear just handed me a fish.” He looked back up at the bear, who now had a paw extended and grunted something resembling a request in bear-talk.

“He says, ‘May I have the fish, please?’” said Fluttershy.

Without taking his eyes of the bear, Woebegone dropped the fish in Mr. Bear’s gigantic paw and watched Mr. Bear tip an invisible hat while grunting more bear talk. Woebegone tipped his hat in response. “You’re welcome.” Mr. Bear then repeated his trick before as the moment sunk into Woebegone’s head.

“I just had a conversation with a bear,” said Woebegone to nopony in particular.

Fluttershy giggled at his astonishment. She loved these little moments when she got to introduce Mr. Bear for the reactions. “You can give him another if you like.”

Woebegone took another fish from the bucket and handed it over to the bear who grunted it’s request and said “Here you are,” and “You’re welcome,” forming a psuedo-conversation with the bear. Then both tipped their hats. The experience of feeding a bear might have been an everyday thing for Fluttershy, but it was something new and exciting for everypony else, and seeing smiles on others’ faces as they got a chance to do something new always made her smile.

His face lightened and relaxed, as if all of his troubles were forgotten. The raincloud above Woebegone stopped raining and became a few shades lighter as he cheerfully repeated the routine, each time with a little more energy and cheer in his voice. The conversation grew longer with each exchange.

“Why, how do you do, Mr. Bear?”

“Graraaararaaaahrrr.”

“Oh, a bit peckish, you say?”

Mr. Bear rubbed his tummy. “Grargerr grrrrarrrr.”

“I have the cure for what ails you: a fish! Fresh from the stream and ready for the dish.”

“Rrrgeraharerrr. Raragggrrr.”

The fish was exchanged with courteous tipping of hats and bows. Then Mr. Bear ate the fish and belched.

Woebegone turned to the bucket and saw that there were no more fish left to give, and like a balloon, his spirits seemed to deflate; but he was still quite happier looking than when Fluttershy had first seen him.

“Thank you so much for feeding Mr. Bear,” said Fluttershy. “Now that I’m finished, let’s go to Sugarcube Corner.”

“Why, thank you, Fluttershy.” Woebegone turned to Mr. Bear. “Goodbye, Mr. Bear, it was a pleasure to meet you.”

Mr. Bear waved back, but then his face froze with a pained look before he started gagging and coughing. Fluttershy darted up to Mr. Bear. “Oh goodness, oh my, what is wrong?”

Mr. Bear pointed at his throat while gasping for air.

“You’re choking! Oh no!” Fluttershy flew around Mr. Bear and started beating on his back, while Mr. Bear continued to gag and wheeze. His face was turning visibly blue underneath his shaggy fur.

“Mr. Bear!” cried out Woebegone. “Lie down on your back!”

Fluttershy looked over Mr. Bear’s shoulders and saw Woebegone standing at Mr. Bear’s feet with a look of confidence she didn’t know he was capable of. “Lie on his back!? But--”

Mr. Bear fell onto his back and continued to claw at his throat as Woebegone climbed on top of him while Fluttershy stood over Mr. Bear’s face and urged him to stay calm. Balancing himself on the struggling bear, Woebegone felt around the bear’s stomach and ribs until he came close to the solar plexus, then moved a bit down until he found the spot he sought. He clenched both hands together, raised them over his head, and pounded on Mr. Bear. The clog in his throat was blown clear of his esophagus.

The cough knocked Fluttershy off her hooves. She fell on her back and hit her head on the ground with a klunk.. The sudden blast was like taking one of Pinkie’s party cannons at point blank. They might have been full of glitter, but they still hurt. She rolled to her side, shook away the spots, and turned back to see Mr. Bear breathing slowly and color returning to his furry, sweaty face. His chest rose and fell with each slow, deep breath, and he was no longer clawing at his throat. Fluttershy wiped the spit from her face with a sigh of relief. “You saved him, Woebegone!”

However, Fluttershy only saw regret and defeat on Woebegone’s face as he climbed off the massive bear. “No, I didn’t save him. If I didn’t feed him, he wouldn’t have choked. It’s my fault.” The cloud above him blackened.

“No.” Fluttershy shook her head. “You had no control. Don’t blame yourself for something you can’t control.”

“It’s my bad luck that caused this.” Woebegone turned around, picked up his umbrella frame and started to walk away. A boom of thunder cracked the air, and the little raincloud started raining again. “I’m sorry, Fluttershy.”

“Wait!”

Woebegone stopped and looked at Fluttershy from a corner of his eye.

“Let me take you to Sugarcube Corner. I mean, if you don’t mind. It’s the least I can do for you since you saved Mr. Bear.”

“Are you sure? I’m bad luck.”

Fluttershy shook her head. “I’m sorry if I sound rude, but that’s a bunch of applesauce. Sorry. But you don’t really believe that, do you?”

Woebegone nodded.

Fluttershy sighed. “Well, I’m sorry. I-- ow.” A sharp pain in her head disturbed her thoughts. “Can you wait just a moment? I think all this excitement has given me a terrible headache. Let me take some aspirin and we’ll head on to Sugarcube Corner together, okay?”

She turned around and trotted into her cabin and into her bathroom. All the while the animals kept giving her weird stares and gibbering on about “alicorns” and “boneheads.” What has gotten into them today? If it wasn’t for the terrible pain in her head, she would have taken a few seconds to try to understand them, but it could wait.

When she got into the bathroom, she took the aspirin bottle out from the mirrored cabinet above the sink, downed a pill with a glass of water, and returned the bottle to its original place. As she shut the medicine cabinet, she saw her reflection. Her mane was quite frazzled and had bits of fish chunks in it--she could give it a few quick brushes before heading out of town. Woebegone probably wouldn’t mind.

She grabbed her brush and ran it through her mane, but it knocked on something and agitated the pain in Fluttershy’s head. What the? Fluttershy tried once more and felt the same stab again. She pulled her mane aside, and her heart stopped.

She screamed.

Her face went pale as she saw the fish bone jutting out of the top of her forehead like a thin, pointed unicorn horn. And it was a just as long.

She hyperventilated and trotted in place. She stopped and took a deep breath to calm herself down. Come on, Fluttershy. You’re alright. You’ve seen worse. You can take care of this. Once more, she looked at herself in the mirror and shivered.

After pulling out bandages, gauze, and disinfectant, she tried to pull the bone out. It wouldn’t budge. She clamped it between her hooves in a vice grip and pulled, but her hooves kept slipping on the smooth surface. Again and again, the bone just slipped through her hooves. She fell onto her back, clamped down with all four hooves on the “horn,” and pulled with all her might. It didn’t budge, even after her hooves slipped and she banged her head on the floor. When her vision returned, she saw Mr. Bear standing just outside the bathroom door. She pointed up at the bone in her forehead, and Mr. Bear’s face turned green.

He picked up Fluttershy and held her securely under one arm, and with the other, he wrapped his strong bearclaws around the bone and pulled.

“Ouch!”

Mr. Bear pulled even more. I can feel it moving, he grumbled.

“No! Ow. Ow. Ow!”

No, I got this. He fixed his grip and pulled again.

Fluttershy’s neck stretched out like a rubber band. “Owowowowowow! Stop!”

Mr. Bear let go, and Fluttershy’s neck snapped back to normal length. Sorry. He let Fluttershy back down on the tiled floor.

“It’s okay.” Fluttershy rubbed her head and moaned in pain. “Oh… fluffy bunnies! I can’t get this out on my own. I’ll have to go to the--” She gulped. “--hospital.”

Fluttershy hung her head in defeat, walked up to her room, and put on the largest sunhat she had. She could see in her bedroom mirror that it hid the bone--as long as she didn’t look up. Behind her, Mr. Bear was rubbing his hands together, drooping, and apologizing. He looked a lot like Woebegone. Hopefully she hadn’t kept him waiting too long.

“No, no, it’s alright, Mr. Bear. It wasn’t your fault. Now, watch over the place while I’m gone. I’ll be away longer than expected.”

She walked out and saw Woebegone pacing nervously in the front yard. The cloud above him had swelled slightly and turned a darker, inkier black. He jumped at the sight of her but kept his distance.

“Oh, Fluttershy, are you alright? I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to--”

“No, it’s alright. I’m sorry I scared you…”

“No,” Woebegone shook his head. “I’m sorry. My curse did…”

“No, I’m sorry.”

No, I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m--”

“Grrrrarreh.”

Both Fluttershy and Woebegone jumped at Mr. Bear’s growl. He was pointing one claw to his wrist at an invisible watch.

“Oh, right.” Fluttershy turned to Woebegone. “Let’s go. I’ll take you to Sugarcube Corner before I go to the hos-- take care of my errands.”

Woebegone nodded, and both of them walked down the path to Ponyville.

Author's Note:

The dominoes are beginning to fall. That hospital better have a lot of open beds.:trollestia: