• Published 9th Mar 2018
  • 2,554 Views, 56 Comments

Ouija - Knackerman

Apple Bloom reaches out to her parents across the gulf of eternity. Something else reaches back.

  • ...

Chapter 3

Even Apple Bloom was willing to admit things went a little too far after that. She moved the ouija board from the clubhouse to her own room where, during the times she wasn’t communing with her parents, she kept the game hidden beneath her bed.

That wouldn’t have been so bad, except now that the board was so near to her, she couldn’t keep herself from using it every chance she got. She’d keep making excuses to get out of chores, like she was tired or sick, and then sneak off to her room to pull the drapes on her windows closed, lock the door, and reach out to the other side by the light of a lonely candle.

Apple Bloom started skipping meals to spend more time in her room. She also skipped out on sleep, staying up until the rooster crowed and it was time to go to school. Inevitably her school work suffered. She had trouble focusing on the simplest of lessons, and that was when she wasn’t quietly snoozing behind a well placed book. To Apple Bloom, nothing was as important as the time she spent catching up with her parents. Things like school, food, and sleep could wait until later.

If that had been all that came of Apple Bloom taking the ouija board into her room, maybe no one would’ve noticed anything wrong. They might put it down to what naturally occurred when a filly bloomed into a mare and figure that after a time she’d settle down and get her head on straight. But Apple Bloom became sullen and snappish on top of everything else.

It started with her simply avoiding her friends. Since Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were busy with their own chores and after school activities it wasn’t a problem at first, but whenever they asked Apple Bloom to come with them to hear a Cutie Mark problem or asked her out to try a fun group activity, she’d get defensive and claim she was too busy. Too much to do on the farm, even though autumn had set in completely and the harvest was already in from the fields.

Her friends started to worry.

They weren’t the only ones.

To her family, too, Apple Bloom became a stranger. She’d talk back to Applejack and Granny Smith, and completely ignore Big Mac unless he was right in front of her. Even then it seemed like she had no time for her big brother and would go out of her way to avoid all the Apples if possible.

Then there were the pranks. They were harmless at first. A tipped over milk bucket here, a crude doodle on a blackboard there. Maybe somepony would find her pigtails tide up in knots behind her head, or a colt would fall down for no apparent reason than he happened to have cut into Apple Bloom’s path. But pretty soon it was clear who the common denominator was. Even if she was supposed to be lying in bed, at a friends house, or making up a test in detention, somehow bad things started happening if Apple Bloom was involved...

And they only went from bad to worse.

It was inevitable that Miss Cheerilee would end up calling Applejack down to the schoolhouse to discuss the changes in Apple Bloom’s behavior. While the adults had their chat, Apple Bloom was forced to sit, fidgeting in the hall. She could hear every word...

The sun was already beneath the horizon by the time Apple Bloom made it back home, crying and out of breath. She had run all the way from the school house without stopping, not even to do so much as say goodbye to her friends.

“Delinquent” that was what Miss Cheerilee had called her. “Trouble-maker” they had said. “Unruly”, “Disobedient”, and even “bully” they had called her. Her, a bully? When had she ever bullied anyone? When had she been anything but the victim of bullies in all of her life? No, if anything it was Miss Cheerilee and Applejack who were being bullies, talking about Apple Bloom like that when they knew she was just out in the hall. When they should have known that she would hear.

She had listened as long as she had felt able, bile rising in her throat as her heart sank lower and lower until finally she coukdn’t Take it anymore. She hadn’t waited for Applejack to walk her home, and she didn’t think she could speak to Miss Cheerilee again after everything she had overheard.

No, she needed to be home now. Where the people who were supposed to love her were.

Maybe it was the gathering twilight, or just the tears in her eyes, but Sweet Apple Acres looked anything but ‘sweet’ right now. The paint was sun blistered and peeling, the wood looked grey and rotten like it might be shot through with mold or termites. Even the trees, bare of leaves as they were, looked sickly and twisted. Maybe it was just the fact Apple Bloom was upset and in a foul mood, but suddenly her home looked like the ugliest place she had ever seen, woebegone and haunted.

‘Home’ wasn’t good enough anymore. Apple Bloom knew what she needed. She needed to talk to the only ponies that had ever really understood her... That loved her for her flaws, not just in spite of them. She needed her mom and dad.

As she thundered up the stairs to her bedroom, ignoring Granny’s exclamation at the commotion she was making, Apple Bloom only had one thought on her mind. As she slammed her door shut and pulled the drapes shut, she was thinking it over and over. The flaring match barely had a moment to kiss the head of the candle wick before Apple Bloom’s hooves found the planchette and asked, ”How do Ah make them see!?”

The darkness grew close around her. The game piece started to move...

Dinner that evening was unusually quiet. Suppertime at Sweet Apple Acre's had always been a joyful affair up until now. With the days work done, usually everypony was in a good mood and looking forward to how they were going to spend their evening hours. Not so today. The tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

Probably not one of these knives though... Apple Bloom thought darkly to herself. She couldn't help noticing how cheap and worn the cutlery was that had been set out on the table. How had she never noticed before just how shabby, chipped, and cracked the flatware was? With all the money the farm made at harvest time, you'd be forgiven for thinking a few bits could be set aside so they could eat off of something that looked like it wasn't from before the founding of Equestria. But it wasn't just the dining set. Everything in the kitchen was looking its age, old and decrepit and just barely held together with rust and good intentions.

Even the food, which a few weeks ago Apple Bloom would have been willing to swear was the best in five of the nearby counties, looked like little more than over boiled mush. Granny Smith was serving it up in heaping, wobbly lumps today too. In the tense silence, the steady squelching and plopping noises as she dug a spoon into the food and thumped it down on their plates. Apple Bloom was actually relieved when Applejack finally said something. Though her relief was short lived...

"So Ah couldn't help noticin' ya decided to head home on yer own before we had a chance to talk with Cheerilee," Her tone was mild enough, but a flash in her green eyes promised a storm on the horizon. Apple Bloom didn't have a response for the moment. She just looked down at the grey mush on her plate as her big sister continued. "She had an awful lot to say, even so. About how ya have been skipping classes, and sleeping through lessons when ya do bother ta show up. She was also tellin' me that ya've been actin' out. Avoidin' yer friends and, though she can’t prove it, bullyin' the other children."

Big Mac was steadily eating his pile of slop. Apple Bloom found it fascinating how he could wolf down anything that was put in front of him, even the dreck Granny had served up tonight. Or at least it was more fascinating than listening to Applejack.

"Are you hearin' me Apple Bloom?" her big sisters voice cracked on the third word. It was clear that the farm pony was doing what she could to hold her emotions in check, but there was only so much she could do to keep the roiling surface from giving way to the cauldron that was steadily bubbling away beneath. "It ain't like we ain't been noticin' it too! Yer up all hours of the night doin' who knows what! During the day ya run off and do whatever ya please instead of doin' yer chores! Worse, ya've been talkin' back to Granny and ignorin' Big Mac! Ya've grown mighty willful recently and it seems like ya think ya don't have to answer ta anypony but yerself anymore!"

Apple Bloom knew everything that she had said was true, at least as far as Applejack knew. She had no way of knowing that she was up at all hours and ignoring her chores, and disobeying them so she could have more time to talk to her parents. She had no way of knowing that the 'acting out' was Apple Bloom following her parents advice. Even so, she was hurt by Applejack's accusing tone... and she remembered how Her older sister had failed to defend her when Miss Cheerilee had been saying all those awful things about her. Part of her just wanted to break down, apologize, and come clean about the whole thing. But that wasn't what her parents wanted... and right now they seemed like they were the only ponies on Apple Bloom's side. So instead, she curled her lips into a knowing sneer and narrowed her eyes at her older sister, and said exactly what they had told her to say "Remind you of somepony?"

The silence rushed back in so quickly it was almost a sound unto it self. Big Mac's mouth locked up mid-chew. The spoon Granny Smith had been using to serve herself hung motionless in the air, a glob of dinner slowly and noiselessly sliding off the tarnished metal. The fire flickered out in Applejack's eyes, replace by a long, cold stare that sent a chill down Apple Bloom's spine.

A panicked thought crossed Apple Bloom's mind, This isn't how this is supposed to go.

"How dare you!" Applejack's hooves came down so hard on the kitchen table that the entire dining set, food and all, rose a good foot in the air and slammed back down with a rattling crack. "How dare you say that ta me! Everypony at this table does more than their fair share of work around here! Ah say more, cause they have to pick up for your slack! Even before you started acting up, we've all been having to pitch in to fix yer screw ups and clean up yer messes! What little respect you showed to us before was just barely enough to make up for all the stress, heartache, and pain ya put the rest of this family through!"

"Applejack, now wait just a minute..." started Granny Smith. But Applejack's blood was up now, and her face was going as red as Big Mac's.

"And ya've got the gal ta sit there lookin' down on us, lookin' down on the things we've worked so hard for! Ya think Ah haven't noticed? Ya think Ah haven't seen how ya roll yer eyes when we honor the least little family tradition!? "Applejack thundered. "Oh sure, ya get all moon-eyed when some high tech hunk of junk rolls into town, or some hot to trot celebrity comes down from the city, but do ya have even an ounce of respect and admiration for the hard work and traditions that have kept a roof over yer head and food in yer belly!? Ya think our way of life is so miserable and backward, but it's good enough for ya when you're hungry or sleepy, ain't it!?"

"Applejack..." Granny tried again.

"And another thing!" Applejack roared.

"Applejack!" it wasn't the volume of Granny Smith's voice that at last got the attention of the farm pony, but the tone. It was one neither Applejack nor Big Mac had heard in a long time. There was the crack of a belt in the old mares voice, and the promise of retribution for all crimes, known and unknown, if they weren't careful. "Now that's enough! Can’t ya see how terrified the youngin' is?"

It was true. Apple Bloom sat ramrod straight, hooves digging into the bench she sat on. Silent tears had been falling from her eyes for some time now, but she was too terrified to so much as sob. She'd never seen her sister so angry. She had no idea she had thought such awful things about her.

No, this wasn't at all how things were supposed to go.

More than the betrayal she felt from Applejack, however, a small part of her felt betrayed by her parents. They'd never led her astray before. Yet following their advice had blown up into this huge and painful mess. Surely this hadn't been their intention. Surely it was Apple Bloom who had somehow messed things up. After all, it was clear that Applejack had been angry with her for some time and simply hadn't been saying anything.

"You need ta calm down Applejack, fore you say anything else yer likely ta regret," Granny Smith stared her granddaughter down. For a moment it looked like Applejack might protest, but then she looked down, the brim of her hat hiding her eyes. Granny then turned to her youngest grandchild. "And as fer you young missy, Ah reckon you've got a thing or two ta be thinkin' about. Best ya head on up ta yer room."

Apple Bloom nodded mutely, climbing off of her seat and walking slowly out of the kitchen. Once she could no longer feel her families eyes on her, she heard the arguing start. She couldn't make out the words, but she could tell that they were all angry, hateful things being said.

And she knew all the words, one way or another, were about her.

Choking back a sob, Apple Bloom fled up the stairs to the relative safety of her room, but she couldn't outrun the sound of angry voices and the heartbreak they made her feel.