• Published 9th Mar 2018
  • 2,533 Views, 56 Comments

Ouija - Knackerman

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

  • ...

Chapter 4

At some point Apple Bloom must have drifted off to sleep. The filly awoke in her own bed, sheets tangled about her legs, at the sound of a sudden loud knocking on her bedroom door. Her head felt like it was full of cotton or wool. Had she been dreaming? She half remembered something about using the ouija board to talk to her parents, but the memory was warped and hazy, almost like it belonged to somepony else. She looked groggily around the room for something to help jog her memory. It must have been getting close to dawn by now, but it was still black as pitch outside her bedroom window. The night was moonless and starless, so Apple Bloom assumed it must be overcast. Although she had too much on her mind at that moment to be overly concerned with the weather, and so didn't spare much thought as to what that might mean.

Apple Bloom was struck by the sudden urge to feign that she was still asleep and hadn’t heard anything. The idea of dealing with anypoony else right now just didn't sit well with her for some reason. As she was rolling over to face the door, however, a second knock shook it so hard she was afraid it was going to fall off of it's hinges! Apple Bloom remembered then about the terrible events at dinner earlier that evening. The knocking sounded angry, and if one of her family members was that mad at her still she had best confront them before they broke down her door. She quickly slid out of bed and trotted over to throw the door wide open.

There was no one there.

She had half expected to see her sister standing in the hallway, still fuming with anger and ready to finish what she had started at dinner time. Instead the hallway was completely empty. Everything was dark and quiet, save for the creaks and moans of the old farmhouse settling. Whoever had been knocking, they were long gone now. It struck her as strange and Apple Bloom couldn't help looking around a bit. Had someone just knocked and then run away? That didn't make any sense, but then what other explanation was there?

In the gloom of the hallway, Apple Bloom could see someone had left a plate of food sitting in front of her door. The gesture would have been touching, except as she lent over to pick the grub up off the floor she caught the sour stink wafting up from the food. As she got a closer look, it was clear the leftovers were splotched with hairy green and black mold and, as Apple Bloom reeled back from the stench of it, several fat cockroaches skittered out from under the plate and into the darker shadows of the hall.

Whatever the rancid mush had once been, it now looked as rotten as Apple Bloom herself felt. She could only assume that this was some hurtful and hateful message from one of her family members.

Tears streaming down her face, she went back into her room and slammed the door shut behind her. Whatever appetite she might have had was long gone, leaving behind only a hollow ache and a feeling of deep depression. How had she managed to screw things up so badly with her family? Apple Bloom had made mistakes before, but never anything like this!

There was only one way she could think of that she might get some answers.

Taking the ouija board out from under her bed, she carefully lit the stub of a candle that she kept with it. The light of the little flame didn’t do much to illuminate the night, it's flickering flame seeming only to lend texture to the darkness and increase rather than reduce the number of looming shadows. Even so, Apple Bloom felt like that tiny light was the only good thing left in her world. She reached her hoof out, ready to try and contact her parents once more, only to realize that something was different about the game board.

It was completely blank.

It was as if all of the letters had been wiped away, leaving behind a perfectly smooth piece of wood. Apple Bloom turned the board over, thinking that she might have just accidentally flipped it over the last time she had used it, but the other side was also perfectly blank.

Apple Bloom flipped the board back and forth a few times, unable to understand how this was possible, before finally wailing, “Now what am I supposed to do!?”

As if in answer to her question, three small words appeared on the board when she flipped it over again “STAY WITH US”.

Squealing in sudden surprise and fright, Apple bloom threw the piece of wood away as a flood of bad memories came rushing back like a sudden flood of murky water. Her eyes darted around the room, remembering the cold breath she had felt on the nape of her neck. Was she really alone? Had she ever been? Suddenly the darkness seemed to be crowded with unseen horrors and faceless eyes.

How had this all started? Where had her life gone so terribly wrong?

... the ouija board.

That had to be it didn’t it? Things had been going from bad to worse ever since she had been using the game board as a means to communicate with her parents. Apple Bloom eyed it suspiciously, and took no comfort from the fact that it now appeared to be back to normal.

Impulsively, she grabbed up an old knapsack she had once used while camping and quickly stuffed the board game and planchette inside. After carefully edging around the plate of moldy food set in front of her bedroom door, Apple Bloom quietly slipped into the hall and down stairs, not pausing a single moment before opening the front door and running out into the night.

Immediately she was hit by an unidentifiable sense of dread. It wasn't so much that she felt like she was in danger, but there was a disquieting sense that she was somehow in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact that was the best way to describe it. There was a wrongness that hung in the air, not unlike the cold and clammy fog that seemed to cling to Apple Bloom's hooves as she ran into the orchard. She tried to ignore the feeling as she galloped among the trees, but the further she went the more the creeping sensation grew until she felt as though she would be overwhelmed by it.

The air smelled not of crisp autumn leaves but of damp and mildew. Though the sky overhead churned with ominous black clouds, they seemed to glow faintly, but not by any kind of moon or starlight. Rather the source of the illumination seemed to come from within the clouds themselves and wobbled and bobbed about in strange patterns. Though the light was fitful at best, it allowed Apple Bloom to see the thick spider webs that cluster high in all of the nearby tree branches. The thick strands of webbing dripped with a moisture that looked too cloudy and foul to be early morning dew. There were also strange noises off in the distance, like a warbling howl, but it sounded nothing like the call of the Timber Wolves that sometimes hunted in the nearby forest.

Panicked, certain she was being watched, Apple Bloom decided she had gone far enough and put some of that vaunted earth pony strength to work digging in the dirt near a particularly tall apple tree. Instead of the scent of freshly turned earth, however, she was met with the fetid odor of rotting mulch. It was like she was digging into a compost heap rather than the good fresh soil of Sweet Apple Acres. Apple Bloom tried not to gag as beetles, nightcrawlers, and millipedes crunched and popped under her hooves. The soil was alive with worms and insects, and they only seemed to grow thicker the deeper she dug.

At last she judged she had dug deep enough, or as deep as she could stomach, and tossed the nap sack into the hole. She haphazardly and hurriedly covered up the sack with the foul mounds of dirty that wriggled when she touched them, and turned and ran back to the farmhouse. She stopped briefly to rinse off her hooves in the frigid water from the pump, but didn't bother drying them as she thought she heard something moving among the trees. Whatever it was, she was certain she didn't want to meet it.

Apple Bloom hurriedly darted through the front door and locked it behind her. As she trotted back upstairs, careful to go slowly so as not to make them creak and wake her family, Apple Bloom already felt a little better.

That is, until she rounded the corner to her room and came face to face with her sister, Applejack.

Both siblings gasped as they gave each other a tiny jolt of surprise, but Apple Bloom was clearly still much more shook up than her big sister. That was probably why it was Applejack who was first to break the awkward silence. “Ah, so there ya are Apple Bloom. Yer Granny brought you up some vittles awhile ago, but she said ya didn’t answer when she knocked. Ah figured it'd be best if I came up and checked on ya...” she cleared her throat,” And maybe, uh, clear the air a bit between the two of us.”

Apple Bloom burst into tears and hugged her sister. “Ah’m so sorry Applejack! Ah never meant to cause trouble for you, or Granny Smith, or Big Mac! Ah know Ah don’t always show it but Ah know y’all all do yer best to look after me, and Ah really do appreciate it! So please don’t be mad at me anymore!”

Applejack was clearly surprised by this sudden rush of emotions from her little sister, but she hugged her tight all the same. “Ah wasn’t mad at you sugarcube. Alright, well, maybe Ah was a little mad, but more than that we’ve been worried about you is all. We all have, even Miss Cheerilee,” Applejack wiped away her little sisters tears with one hoof before continuing. “Ah hadn’t thought about it but ya probably only overheard part of what yer teacher and Ah were talkin’ about and got upset and run off before ya had a chance ta hear the rest. We know ya haven’t been actin’ like yourself lately, and we want you to know that we’re here for you. Whatever yer goin’ through ya ain’t gotta put up with it by yourself.”

That only made Apple Bloom cry harder and bury her face in the soft tuft of fluff on her sisters chest. “Ah know,” she sobbed, “Or, maybe Ah should say Ah shoulda' known. Ah’ve always said ya were the best big sister a filly could ask for Applejack! Ah know we don’t always see eye to eye, and sometimes Ah forget that, but it’s true! And Ah know yer there for me when Ah need ya the most.”

“And your the best little sister a big sister could ask for sweet heart,” replied Applejack with a smile and a few tears of her own. “Tell ya what, it’s gettin’ pretty late and Ah imagine we’re both still a little raw. How about you head on back to bed and we’ll talk about the rest of this in the mornin’? Does that sound alright to ya?”

With a shuddering sigh, Apple Bloom nodded her wordless agreement. She felt extremely exhausted, and not just from her tears; as she walked back into her room she didn’t notice that the moldy mush had somehow been miraculously exchanged for a slice of apple pie with a dollop of whipped cream. Nor did she notice the full moon that road high in the starry night sky. But as sleep came to her, weighing down her eyelids, she couldn’t help but notice that there were fewer shadows in her room than before. Fewer creaks and distant moans too.

For the first time in a long time, Apple Bloom slept peacefully, and dreamlessly.