• Published 9th Mar 2018
  • 2,549 Views, 56 Comments

Ouija - Knackerman

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

  • ...

Chapter 5

Morning broke with the familiar 'cock-a-doodle-doo' of the farms rooster. Apple Bloom felt better than she had in weeks. Her sleep had been deep and untroubled, and as she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and gazed out her window at the first rays of dawn she could tell it was going to be a beautiful new day! The filly opened her window wide and leaned out so she could take in that first breath of clean, cool country air. The breeze invigorated her and set her heart at ease.

What a difference gettin’ rid of that old ouija board has made!, she thought to herself. Ah should got rid of that thing ages ago.

She could smell the welcome scent of breakfast drifting up from downstairs as she left her room. Apple Bloom was still a little anxious about seeing the rest of the family after what had happened last night at supper, but since the hard part of making up with Applejack was out of the way, surely making peace with Big Mac and Granny Smith would be even easier. Still, she was certain it was going to be awkward, so the filly took a little more time than usual washing her face in the bathroom and fixing the bow in her hair. When at last she felt as prepared mentally and physically as she was going to get, she trotted downstairs and into the kitchen.

As soon as Apple Bloom entered the kitchen however, she could tell something was wrong.

Really wrong.

Not with her family, but with the view from the dining room window. She had grown up all her life seeing the panorama of the orchard spread out before her in the mornings at the breakfast table. The sun shining bright and the birds singing. What she saw now, however, was instead any inky darkness that spread as far as the eye could see. For a moment she thought maybe the window was being blocked by something, like it was boarded over, but that didn't seem to be the case. For one thing, she thought she could see trees and some slight movement deep in the impenetrable murk.

For their part, Applejack and Big Mac didn’t seem to acknowledge there was a problem at all. AJ busied herself setting the table for breakfast while Big Mac read over the morning paper. Apple Bloom was just about to ask what was going on when something caught her eye on the other side of the window pane. There was a glimmer of light, faint and sickly, drifting back and forth. As she watched, more lights seemed to join the first. Apple Bloom thought they might be Fireflies, but the glow was steady and didn’t wink on and off like she was used to with Lightning Bugs. As she tried to puzzle out what she was seeing something slammed itself hard against the glass.

With the light from the kitchen Apple Bloom could just barely make out the creatures distorted face, dripping with moisture as small tendrils probed the windows surface, smearing a thick black substance all over the glass. The glow, the filly realized, came from the creatures many strangely shaped eyes. Two of them were spaced far apart on its face like a hammerhead shark, while other smaller eyes seemed to cluster all over the surface of the creatures skin. It’s long yellow teeth clicked as they bumped into the glass, and Apple Bloom felt the blood drain from her face as the mouth opened and latched onto the surface like a lamprey, revealing a circular maw lined with row after row of long barbed fangs that led deep down into the dark creatures throat.

“Apple Bloom? You okay? Ya look worse than that time y’all caught Hay Fever.” The words of concern spilled from Applejack’s mouth, but that wasn’t all. Thick, dark filth dribbled from the farm pony's lips, staining her teeth black as it dribbled down her chin. Applejack's eyes had also gone solid black, and steadily producing the same syrupy discharge. It oozed like molasses down either side of her face and began to softly patter on the kitchen floor.

“Eeyup,” agreed Big Mac as he looked up from his paper, agreeing with Applejack's earlier observation of the color draining from Apple Bloom's face. Like her sister, her brothers eyes and mouth poured the disgusting fluid, so much so it seemed the newspaper had been completely drowned in the substance. Even so, the look of concern on his face matched Applejack’s. Apple Bloom could see herself reflected in the wobbling jelly like jet black eyes of her siblings, and she did look as though she had fallen suddenly ill.

Realizing the two expected an answer from her, Apple Bloom couldn’t help taking a few steps back. “Ah... Ah am feelin’ a might poorly. Ah think maybe Ah’ll go lay down in my room for a little while.”

Before her siblings could respond to that, Apple Bloom darted out of the kitchen and thundered up the stairs. She didn’t stop running till she was on the other side of her bedroom door, and then only after she had managed to shift her closet over and block the rooms only entrance.

The only entrance that was, other than her window... Which Apple Bloom realized, with an icy dread that trickled down her spine, she had left wide open that morning.

Eyes darting around the room for any sign of the creature she had seen outside, she quickly galloped over to her window and slammed it shut! It was only then that she noticed the view from her window was very different from what she had seen downstairs. The sun was already bathing the orchard in orange and golden light, making the limbs look as if they were awash in fire. Outside her window there were birds singing, chickens clucking, and she could even see the Mail Mare flying about her duties.

“Just what in the wide world of Equestria is goin’ on here?” Apple Bloom wondered to herself aloud.

Was she seeing things? Hallucinating? Were her eyes playing tricks on her? Or was it all in her mind? Had recent events pushed her around the bend without her noticing? And if she was a few dozen apples short of a bushel, how would she even be able to tell? Was what she was seeing outside her bedroom window real, or was the nightmare downstairs the true reality?

She started to feel dizzy as her mind swam with the possibilities. It was like the world had fallen out from beneath her. Apple Bloom had to steady herself against her bed, and as she did so her eyes fell on a familiar shape that lay there among the rumpled blankets. Sitting there, pretty as you please in the morning sun without so much as a speck of dirt on its polished surface, was the ouija board.

Apple Bloom screamed.

After that, Apple Bloom tried everything she could think of to get rid of the ouija board.

She tried mailing it to Saddle Arabia, but she found it sitting on the floor beside her bedroom door moments after the Mail Mare and flown off with it.

She tried bundling it up and throwing it in a lake. As the board sank into the depths, leaving behind nothing but a few bubbles, Apple Bloom felt a wave of relief wash over her. Unfortunately the ouija board managed to beat her home and it was waiting, dry as a bone, beneath her bed.

After that she grew desperate and tried to outright destroy it. She tried tossing it in the wood chipper, but it came out whole and undamaged on the other side no matter how many times she threw it in. She tried burning it, but matches went out as soon as they got close to the game board. Apple Bloom thought she had finally managed it when she got a small campfire going and then tossed the ouija board in, but later that same day the filly found the piece of wood leaning against her bedroom door.

It wasn’t even singed!

She really was beginning to question her sanity. It was just a lump of wood! There wasn’t anything special about it that should make it act this way! Even so, no matter what she tried the darn thing just kept coming back! With mounting terror, Apple Bloom realized that even though she was done playing with the ouija board, it wasn’t done playing with her!

What was really bad was her nightmarish visions were growing worse. They weren’t constant, but every now and then she would glance out a window and see the alien world of darkness and decay waiting for her just behind the thin membrane of glass. Strange shapes moved beyond the edges of her sight, and muffled sounds of what she could only assume were hunting creatures vibrated the window frames.

What was perhaps the most disturbing though was her families apparent continued deterioration; They didn’t seem to notice it at all themselves, but Applejack, Big Mac, and even Granny Smith were now caked in a putrid filth that poured forth from their eyes and mouths constantly. Apple Bloom didn’t want to think about what this meant, but slowly her family seemed to be replaced by foul, twitching beings more suitable to the alien world she kept seeing through the looking glass. She was too terrified to hazard looking at herself in a mirror for fear of how she might see herself if she did so.

This was too much for one filly to deal with on her own... But that didn’t mean she was going to drag the Cutie Mark Crusaders into this now, even if the ouija board technically belonged to Sweetie Belle. No, there was only one pony she could trust to deal with something as bizarre and unsettling as this.

Princess Twilight Sparkle!

"Okay, so who put you up to this?" Twilight asked with a suspicious smile on her face as the ouija board hovering in her magical grasp between her and her guest. "It doesn't sound like a Pinkie Pie prank, so I'd guess Rainbow Dash, but I'd really expect that from Scootaloo rather than you Apple Bloom."

"Fer the last time Twilight, Ah ain't tryin' to prank you!" Apple Bloom practically wailed. It had been like this since she had arrived at Twilight's castle. She had pulled out the ouija board and told her story from the beginning. Twilight had listened patiently enough at first, but as Apple Bloom had gotten to the wilder parts of her story she could tell that she was losing interest. Still, the filly had pressed on until she had finished the whole sorry tale. It was then that the Princess of Friendship had burst out laughing and they had been going on like this ever since.

"What's all the ruckus in here?" Starlight Glimmer queried as she wandered into the throne room.

Apple Bloom wasn't too happy with the intrusion, but Twilight brightened right up, "You'll never believe the story Apple Bloom was just telling me about this ouija board she's been playing with! She claims it's haunted! Of all the superstitious nonsense, am I right?"

"Or cursed!" Apple Bloom interjected, feeling the need to defend herself. "Or, or, I dunno... Ah ain't familiar with how all this magic stuff works! Ah figured the Element of Magic could figure it out for me, but if ya don't believe me Ah might as well go ask Zecora for help!" The little earth pony had been frustrated before, but now she was getting angry. She didn't like being humiliated in front of an audience.

"Well, did you check it for enchantments?" Starlight's question mollified Apple Bloom a little. At least somepony was taking her seriously.

"Of course!" Twilight responded, affronted. "While she was telling her story I scanned the board, and planchette for any curses, enchantments, ensorcellment, hexes, jinx, runes, or old fashioned voodoo. Since it was a rather long story I also checked for any mundane tampering like hallucinogenic substances, drugs, or poisons. I even took measurements to rule out euclidean geometry. It's just a normal piece of wood that someone has poorly printed some letters and a few words on and a typical planchette playing piece that you would find in the cheaper copies of such foalhood games."

"Ya did all that while Ah was talkin'!?" gasped Apple Bloom, dumbstruck.

"Well, yes," replied Twilight nonplussed. "While I might not believe in ghosts and spooky goings-on that defy explanation, it did seem like you believed that you had witnessed some kind of strange events. Since I was able to rule out the ouija board as any kind of anomaly in and of itself, I was left with only the conclusion that either you were trying to prank me (and doing a very poor job) or someone had been playing some rather mean tricks on you. I mean are you absolutely sure that this is the original ouija board that you borrowed from Sweetie Belle? You do know you can just buy these for 5 bits a pop down at Filthy Rich's emporium, right?"

"Ya mean there really ain't nothin' special about the board at all?" Apple Bloom was unable to believe her ears. "Not even a little bit?"

"I'm afraid not. Though I can see by your reaction that you truly think there should be," Twilight hesitated. "What do you think Starlight?" The Princess of Friendship proceeded to recap Apple Bloom's story for Starlight, managing to concisely repeat the story while focusing on the most important details.

When she was done, Starlight eyed the ouija board cautiously, before seizing it in the grasp of her own magic and running one hoof over the smooth wooden surface. "I had one of these when I was a little filly. I kind of went through a phase where I was really into crystals, macabre things, and, well, the color black. I'd fool around with the game when I was bored or feeling... Lonely." She gave Apple Bloom a meaningful glance as she said that, "While I can't say I had the same experiences as Apple Bloom, there were some nights when it was dark and I was on my own that I thought I had made contact with something... Something that might have been better left alone."

"Really?" Apple Bloom and Twilight both asked simultaneously, one hopefully and the other in disbelief.

Starlight tried to suppress a blush."I'm sure it was just a teenagers overactive imagination," the unicorn added hurriedly. "Or at least that's what I had convinced myself of at the time. But you know Twilight, we've seen a lot of strange things. Odd creatures, ancient magic, and no end to unexplainable phenomena. It's just possible that what Apple Bloom was seeing wasn't just a filly's overactive imagination. It could be very real."

"So you think she's really been talking to the ghosts of her parents?" asked Twilight incredulously. "Or that she's been catching glimpses of some horrifying nightmare realm?"

"Well, why not?" Starlight shot back somewhat defiantly. Apple Bloom hadn't heard her speak like that Twilight since... well, ever. "I know you think Equestria is this wonderful place full of friendship and light, but it has a dark and dangerous side to it too. Starswirl the Bearded pretty much confirmed that himself when he sent us to places in Equestria that were once fonts of dark power."

"True, but if you remember we found out the places he sent us to had stopped being fonts of dark magic a long time ago," Twilight shot back. "Just because Equestria held such dangers long ago that's no reason to think it would spontaneously develop new such places now."

Starlight shook her head, "That's also no reason to just dismiss Apple Bloom;s experiences out of hoof. There are still places like the Hollow Shades in Equestria. We don't know why there are places that seem to call to dark magic, nor how they get started in the first place, or even how far they spread! Maybe what Apple Bloom has stumbled on is a small piece of something larger. Something that could pose a real threat to Equestria."

Apple Bloom was having a hard time keeping up with what they were talking about now, but Twilight seemed to find Starlight's words amusing. "So you think Sweet Apple Acres has become a font of dark magic?" she actually chortled! Apple Bloom had never seen anyone other than Discord chortle.

Anger flashed in Starlight's eyes, but she pressed on. "Sweet Apple Acres is the oldest place in all of Ponyville. It has been here longer than the town itself and much longer than you or I. If there is any place in Ponyville that might hide some dark secrets, then why not there? I know it must sound ridiculous, but sometimes the brighter the picture the darker the negative."

That seemed to give Twilight pause for thought, and it certainly wiped the smile off of her face. "Applejack has seemed like she has been under a lot of stress recently. Big Mac too. And now we're hearing this wild story from Apple Bloom... As much as I might not believe in superstitious nonsense, I do believe in my friends. If the Apple family is in trouble then we should do our best to help them."

Starlight and Apple Bloom both smiled. "Right!"

"Although... I'm not ruling out that this entire thing could just be psychosomatic," Twilight added, taking the ouija board back from starlight and placing it on the Cutie Map. "I mean, stress and trauma do funny things to a ponies minds, and if nothing else it does sound like Apple Bloom has been dealing with a lot of stress at home."

Starlight and Apple Bloom both raised a hoof to their faces. Once Twilight got an idea in her head it was sometimes difficult to dislodge it again.

Before anyone could say anything else, however, something drew the attention of all three ponies.

Where the ouija board had touched the cutie map, dark torrents of black liquid seeped into the crystal surface like thin varicose veins. The darkness spread beneath the surface of the map until it turned the crystal completely black.

Slowly, a magical projection of Equestria flickered to life. It was truly a dark reflection of the land that three ponies loved, with jagged and broken mountains, overgrown forests that seemed to have completely swallowed many of the cities and towns, and something that was even more disturbing: In the center of it all was a huge hole that seemed to extend down into the depths of the map. The swirling maelstrom of darkness sucked at the ponies eyes, not letting a single mote of light escape. It was right in the middle of where Ponyville should have been.

Suddenly, Twilight and Starlight both looked down at their flanks to see that their cutie marks were glowing! As they watched, tiny versions of their marks hovered precariously close to the edge of the yawning void in the center of the map. With a strange jerky motion they slowly drifted over to what looked like a broken down farm that sat just beyond the pool of shadow. There was no mistaking it... Their marks were floating right over where Sweet Apple Acres would be.

"Well..." started Twilight weakly, "I guess now we have no choice but to investigate."