• Published 9th Mar 2018
  • 2,534 Views, 56 Comments

Ouija - Knackerman

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

  • ...

Chapter 6

They arrived at Sweet Apple Acres a short time later.

Iit was hard to believe that anything was wrong. It was a bright autumnal afternoon. The last of the birds were singing before being rounded up and sent south for the coming winter, the late season flowers were blooming and adding their mellow colors to the riot of reds, golds, and orange leaves that still littered the ground. Though the apple trees looked a little creepy denuded of their fruit and leaves, there was something almost comforting about seeing their thin limbs reaching towards the blue sky.

Applejack rushed out to meet them as soon as she spotted them coming up the dirt drive, “Landsakes Apple Bloom, Ah’ve been lookin all over for ya all mornin’! Yer brother needs help bringing in the apple crates out behind the barn and Ah have’ta start fixin’ lunch. Scoot round back and help him out so the food won’t be cold by the time y’all are done.”

“Sorry Applejack, but that’s gonna have’ta wait,” Apple Bloom gestured to Twilight and Starlight beside her. “There’s something going wrong around here and we’re going to get ta the bottom of it...”

“Now none of that missy,” replied Applejack sternly. “Ah’m sure whatever is wrong Twilight and Starlight can handle it for a few minutes without you.”


“No buts! Get!”

Apple Bloom looked pleadingly to her companions but Starlight simple shrugged and Twilight could only manage sheepishly to say, “Well, the Cutie Map did only summon us...”

With a frustrated sigh, that was more of a groan, Apple Bloom hung her head and started slowly towards the barn.

“That filly has been findin’ all kinds of excuses to get out of chores lately. Ah’d hoped she was done with those shenanigans but Ah guess she’s just gettin’ ta be that age,” Applejack said in a too loud 'conciliatory' whisper, prompting another sigh/groan from Apple Bloom who was still in ear shot. “Why don’t the pair of ya follow me to the kitchen. Y’all can fill me in on what’s goin on while I work on lunch."

As Apple Bloom left her sister and the others behind the day seemed to suddenly turn colder and darker along with her mood. She hadn’t expected Applejack to believe her right away, but she didn’t anticipate being ignored out of hoof before she even had a chance to tell her what was going on. It wasn’t likely that Big Mac really needed any help moving empty apple crates. The grown stallion could haul an overloaded wagon like it was nothing, so any help his kid sister might offer would be negligible at best.

It was clear to Apple Bloom that her big sister had just wanted her out of the way so the ‘adults’ could talk without worryin' about Apple Bloom butting in.

Still, the only thing she could do now was work to get the chore done as quickly as possible. Hopefully by then Twilight would have impressed on Applejack how serious the problem was...

Lost in such thoughts, Apple Bloom didn’t notice the strange changes going on around her. How the sky was steadily darkening despite there not being a cloud for miles, or how all of the wooden fences seemed to twist as the seasoned wood warped and grew grey and worm eaten. There was a clammy dampness to the air that hadn’t been there a moment ago, and the dust that Apple Bloom kicked up as she trotted across the yard seemed to rise slowly into the air behind her rather than settling back down to the ground like it ought to.

It was only when she reached the barn that Apple Bloom realized something was wrong. The edifice should have been warm and inviting, painted a cheery red. Instead it loomed, dark and cavernous over the filly, what little paint remained on its exterior blistered and peeling away, revealing the rotten planks beneath. Apple Bloom had the disquieting sense that she was seeing this barn for the first and possibly last time. Which didn;t make a lick of sense considering she had help put it up in the first place.

Hadn't she?

“Big Mac?” Apple Bloom called tremulously, “Are ya there? Applejack said that ya needed some... help...”

She couldn’t finish her sentence as the sound of a distant clanking and scraping noise came from deep inside the rickety building. Something heavy was being drug slowly towards her from that forbidding darkness. Something that made Apple Bloom’s mane and tail stand on end.

The sound steadily drew grew closer and closer, only growing louder as it did. The filly was frozen to the spot by fear. She wanted to run far away, but her legs wouldn't do what she wanted them to.

Mere moments later a hulking figure emerged into the half light of the darkened day, towering over Apple Bloom as steam rose off its haunches. The filly felt her heart cease to beat.

“We were waiting for you Apple Bloom,” whispered the enormous dark creature. It’s eyes rolled towards her, black liquid pouring like twin waterfalls from the blind white orbs. It smiled, showing rows of crooked broken teeth that also seeped the same rank liquid. Thick rusty chains hung from the horse collar the behemoth wore around its neck. The sound of them being drug over the barn floor was what had frozen Apple Bloom's blood before, but now realizing who it was that stood before her, it was the mere sight of the stallion that sent a chill down her spine.

“Big Mac?” she whispered, tears wobbling at the corners of her eyes.The fact that the monster resembled her big brother only enhanced the fear that had stopped Apple Bloom’s tiny heart.

“Now we can begin...”

Applejack busied herself with crockery and utensils with her back to her friends. There was a lot of activity but it didn’t seem like much work was getting done. Even so, it wasn't like Starlight and Twilight were domestic types, leaving most of the kitchen work to Spike when they weren't specifically baking something themselves for friends, and even then they tended to cheat and use their magic. Maybe making lunch the Earth Pony way always took this much prep on the Apple farm?

“Are you sure you don’t want any help with that Applejack?” asked Starlight. She got a little nervous when other ponies were working hard on something and she was sitting doing nothing.

“Wouldn’t dream of it sugarcube,” replied Applejack brusquely. “Now what’s all this talk about somethin’ bein’ wrong here at Sweet Apple Acres? Why, this here is one of the most peaceful and serene spots in Equestria. What could possibly be wrong here?”

“Well, we’re not exactly sure,” started Twilight before Starlight cleated her throat and gave her a meaningful look. Twilight pressed on, “But the Cutie Map has sent us so it does seem like there must be something. Apple Bloom came to us with some pretty disturbing stories and...”

“That filly,” interrupted Applejack, “Always telling tall-tales and getting folks worked up over nothin’. Ah tell ya Twi, ever since she got her Cutie Mark that one has just been a real hoof-full. Not that she wasn’t before either, Ah reckon, but the older she gets the worse she seems to behave.”

“So the problems with the ouija board, all the strange things Apple Bloom said she saw she’s just making it all up?” asked Starlight, her voice brittle and eyes narrow.

“Ah can’t rightly say Ah know all the details of what she’s filled yer heads up with, but Ah reckon ain’t a bit of it the truth,” replied AJ firmly, selecting a very large and sharp looking knife from the cutlery drawer. “Ya ask me, it was a waste of time y’all coming out here. If there is some kind of friendship problem on this farm, we Apple’s can take care of it just fine without any fancy Unicorns or Alicorns help.”

Starlight’s expression dissolved into a look of hurt, but the look of doubt on Twilight’s face instead changed to one of resolve,”I know how you like to be self reliant Applejack, but I thought you learned a long time ago that your friends are like your family. We’re here to help you with your troubles whether you want to acknowledge them or not.”

“Well, alright then, can’t say Ah didn’t try ta warn ya.” Applejack’s voice had a far away quality to it, flat and emotionless. She seemed occupied by whatever it was she was doing with the knife. A sharp iron scent suddenly hit both of the other ponies square in the nose.

“What exactly is it you are making for lunch?” asked Twilight, thrown off by the metallic odor.

Applejack suddenly brightened back up,”Oh, this? This is just something Ah’m makin’ up for Granny. Her teeth have been botherin’ her lately, so she’s on a liquid diet.” Applejack let the butchers knife clatter into the sink, and both of her friends could see it was streaked with blood and caked with gore.

As the farm pony turned around it wasn’t the tray of slightly steaming blood that caught their attention, but the hoof she was holding over it. She had stripped the skin halfway up her forelimb, exposing the red flesh beneath. Black veins bulged and throbbed in the angry looking meat as blood and black filth drained into the saucer, Despite this, the warm and welcoming smile never left Applejack’s face.


With that loud cry, a corpse suddenly fell from the ceiling and slammed onto the kitchen table with enough force to shake the kitchen. Twilight and Starlight both jumped back, nearly falling over one another in their haste to get away from the blood spattered dead body that lay across the table.

Only, the thing wasn’t exactly dead.

On closer inspection, the creature bore a disturbing resemblance to an emaciated Granny Smith. Her body was slick with black filth and long, sharp bony protrusions extended from all four limbs where her hooves should have been. Her tiny shriveled body hung in the air as she slowly rose into a crouch. Twilight looked up and could see where there was a long black smear leading out of the kitchen where the creature had apparently crawled along the ceiling to get into the room.

Applejack just laughed at her friends bewildered and horrified expressions, “You’ll have ta pardon Granny’s enthusiasm! It’s been a long time since she last fed and ya might say she’s a little desperate for a warm meal.” To the ponies disgust the corpse-like creature that Applejack referred to as her granny began to lick and slurp at the saucer of her granddaughters blood like a starving animal, grunting gutturally as she did so with gusto. Applejack's smile grew painfully wide as she waved her skinned limb in front of their staring eyes. “What’s the matter? Never seen a peeled Apple before?”

As the farm pony roared with maniacally laughter Twilight eyes met with Starlight's, “Okay, I am willing to revisit the theory that something supernatural may be occurring.”

“Now is not the time Twilight!” shouted Starlight, clearly freaked out as “Granny Smith” stopped slurping up her bloody meal long enough to raise her head and sniff the air, revealing rows of needle like teeth between her blood stained lips. Her eyes had gone completely white and seemed to be leaking the same thick black fluid that coated her body.

As suddenly as it started, Applejack’s laughter stopped. She seemed to be listening for something. Twilight and Starlight couldn’t help mimicking her, so they heard it too. In the distance, a filly was screaming. At that, ‘Applejack’ gave an uncharacteristic giggle. “Sounds like our little filly is finished helping out Big Mac. Starlight is right Twilight, now is not the time. No, it’s way past time for all of you. The harvest rots on the vine, and it’s due a good, solid reaping!”

Saying that, the farm pony scooped up the butcher knife from the sink and let out a high pitched scream before she lunged towards Starlight, brandishing the gore slick blade.

With only seconds to spare, Starlight threw up a magic barrier between herself and the howling creature that had so recently been Applejack. Without the least bit of effort, the manic passed through the barrier as if it wasn’t even there and plunged the kitchen knife down hard. Shocked by this development, the Unicorn couldn’t quite dodge in time, and the blade sank deep into the meat of her shoulder.

Starlight’s own high scream was a cacophonous counterpoint to Applejack’s own.

With a bark of laughter and a satisfied grin, Applejack removed the blade and gave its edge a long slow lick, slicing open her own tongue on the gorey edge. “Delicious,” she moaned. “I think we’ve found our second course!”

Starlight’s horn flared and her magic kept the wound closed, staunching her bleeding, but she was already soaked with blood down her back. There was panic in her eyes as Applejack eyed her hungrily. “Twilight, my magic isn’t working on her!”

“I know,” Twilight looked equally panicked. “I tried to pull her off you and my magic had no effect either. They seem to be out of sync with the thaumological laws of our reality!”

“What does that mean!?” squealed Starlight as the farmer gave the kitchen knife another long lick and smacked her lips.

“Oh Starlight, Twilight's first and slowest student,” mocked Applejack twirling the blade. “That just means your magic can’t touch us. But we can touch... you!”

As the maniacal Earth Pony lunged at Starlight once again, a nimbus of magic engulfed the table Granny Smith was squatting on and flipped it across the room and into Applejack, flattening her against the kitchen floor. “Well it looks like that touched you!” screamed Starlight triumphantly. Applejack struggled to get out from under the table, but slick as she was with blood she couldn't just push the heavy table off without the wood slipping out of her hooves.

"RRargh! Get 'em Granny!" screeched the fallen farmer.

For her part, the thing that had been Granny Smith gave a very unpony-like roar that split her face down the middle before she leapt back up onto the ceiling. Neither Twilight nor Starlight new what to expect but braced themselves for another attack. When the monstered started making loud retching noises, they lowered their guard for just a moment, confused as to what was happening. In that moment, 'Granny Smith' vomited a boiling stream of blood and black filth down on the two ponies.

Twilight was the first to react, raising her wings in front of herself and Starlight to shield them from the deluge of stinking liquid, but as she did her feathers began to sizzle and smoke. Agony wracked Twilight's body as her feathers fell like autumn leaves, smouldering as they littered the floor. The alicorn let out a tortured scream of her own as blood drizzled down her back and flanks.

"Twilight!" Starlight cried in alarm. "You'll pay for that you monsters!"

"No... time!" Twilight struggled to say through teeth clenched against the pain. "We... have to go! Come on!" Twilight practically had to drag Starlight out of the kitchen, she was so angry.

The Granny Smith creature clambered after them, lightning fast as she darted across the ceiling. The injured pair bought distance for themselves as they ran into the living room where the monster had to waste time climbing up the wall to the second story to remain above them. All the while it continued to spit it's acrid venom in their direction, but since they kept moving it only lightly singed their hides. Quick as a wink they were outside with the front door slammed behind them and held firm by their combined magic as the monster hammered at the wood.

"What do we do now?" asked Starlight. As if in answer, a fresh round of girlish screams echoed from the nearby barn.

"That has to be Apple Bloom," Twilight reasoned. "We need to get her away from here. Whatever is going on with the Apple family, she doesn't need to be in the middle of it. She doesn't need to see her family like... like this."

"Right," Starlight nodded, "Then we can come back with the Elements of Harmony and..." the unicorns eyes went wide. "Uh... wow. Maybe not. I don't think we're in Ponyville anymore."

For the first time, Starlight took in their surroundings. Twilight did the same and gasped aloud.

The sun was gone.

It wasn't that it was night, nor that it was cloudy. There was simply no sun, no moon, no stars. An endless black void yawned above them. Dust and puffs of something feathery floated gently in the still air. All around them the world had taken on an alien appearance. Thick fog floated between trees that looked overgrown and dead, yet were swollen and pulsed with a rotten vitality. Maggots and other insects squirmed beneath the tree bark, and similarly churned in the dark soil beneath their hooves. In the distance alien shapes darted through the gloom, the light from their eyes the only illumination in this darkened realm. Despite the darkness neither Twilight nor Starlight had any problem seeing every gastly detail.

Sweet Apple Acres had also changed. Gone was the cheery red paint and wholesome looking little buildings. In their place were broken down and rotten edifices as filthy and corrupted as the orchard that surrounded them. The barn didn't even appear to have a floor to it anymore and was instead just four walls erected around a huge yawning pit that sloped down deep into the decaying earth.

Of course, that was where Apple Bloom's screams now echoed from. It couldn't have been anywhere else.

Twilight shook her wings. They were useless as they were, covered in gunk and half burned. She wouldn't be flying anywhere anytime soon. Not that it looked like there was anywhere she wanted to fly any time soon. Not if what the Cutie Map had shown them of this dimension was accurate.

"So it seems we've slipped into another world. An alternate Equestria that has clearly seen better days," summed up Twilight. "We don't know how to get back, there is no hope of help coming, and we seem to be surrounded on all sides by monsters, some of whom look like the Apple family. Is that about it?"

"You left out our magic doesn't seem to work on them and um..." Starlight vanished for a second and then reappeared right where she had been before. "I just tried to teleport back to the castle and didn't go anywhere. So I think we can assume our magic will also be unreliable in general. Oh... and your poor wings are ruined."

"Doesn't matter," Twilight shrugged dismissively, wincing as she did. "It's not as bad as what that harpy did to your shoulder. Are you going to be alright?"

"I'll live."

Then we're just going to have to see this through," Twilight said resolutely. "The Cutie Map sent us here for a reason. If we're the two ponies best equipped to solve this mess than we will find a way to solve it."

As she said this a loud screech shook the still air and the sound of shattering glass drew their attention to one of the upper floors. The Granny smith looking creature flew out of one of the upper windows in a shower of glass shards. It landed heavily in the dust and with a snap, one of its limbs crumpled beneath it. That didn't stop it from using its other three limbs to drag itself towards the two ponies with surprising speed. Their eyes wide, Twilight and Starlight looked at each other and nodded.

"Looks like we can't stand around talking about this all day."

"Lets go!" With that, Twilight charged boldly towards the yawning abyss inside the barn.

"Yeah... lets go," Starlight winced. The wound in her shoulder would make keeping up difficult, but she didn't have much choice with that monster nipping at their heels.

Of course, she didn't notice the thick black liquid that had started to seep from the wound, taking the place of her blood...