• Published 25th Aug 2018
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Sunset Shimmer Hunts the Undead - Rune Soldier Dan

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HORROR AT THE WATER PARK

Early December, approaching midnight. According to Sunset’s weather app, a blizzard now raged outside and would do so until morning.

She clicked off her phone and rolled lazily onto her belly. Sunglasses on, and all skin exposed save that beneath her swimsuit. Sunset folded her arms downwards, propping herself up to take in the sights – splashing and laughter, and screams from the giant slides. Blue pool-water sparkled in the Caribbean light, and balmy heat enveloped her toes as she wiggled them carelessly to the air.

“Pinkie?” Sunset said in a groggy tone. The late hour was finally lulling her to sleep, and she had no plans to move if it happened. “You knocked this one out of the park.”

Corralled and organized by their resident party planner, the Rainbooms made a point of gathering at least once a month to keep their friendship strong amid the rigors of college. Sometimes they went to Dash’s soccer games, or jammed some of their old songs. This time, Pinkie had scored basement-bargain weekend passes to Eternal Sun, a combination hotel and water park that maintained summertime light and temperatures every hour of the day.

Rarity lounged on the beach chair next to Sunset’s and pointed. “Darling, she’s over there.”

So she was. Sunset’s heat-soothed mind had somehow missed Pinkie’s giggling antics atop a foam log as she and Fluttershy jumped and dashed in a mad effort to throw the other off. A surprisingly close match: Pinkie was easily more nimble, but her chaotic movements left her badly unbalanced. It seemed almost inevitable when she launched herself into the drink, cheering all the while.

“Remind me to thank her.” Sunset lurched to a sitting position and took another sip from her iced coffee. Sleep could wait, with this paradise ending tomorrow. “It’s still snowing outside. I had to stamp it off when I came in, and my socks were wet on top of everything. Hemline boots don’t keep out the slush very well.”

“Mine will.” Rarity gave an assured smile, though quickly withdrew it. “If Miss Hemline has me designing boots, that is. She’s paying for my college, you know, so it’ll be ‘yes ma’am, no ma’am’ for at least three years after. Foot in the door, etcetera. But all the same, fashionable or no, the least a boot can do is keep out the slush.”

She paused. Long lashes blinked once. “Unless they’re open-toed boots, I suppose. Bit of an untapped market… hm, where’s my notebook?”

Sunset smiled patiently as Rarity began sketching and mumbling sing-song nonsense as Rarities were wont to do. She let her eyes and attention drift, idly considering her next activity. Could always get a second ice cream or third dinner and resume her poolside relaxation. Could also take a swim, or go for…

Applejack. Walking towards them with slapping wet steps upon the warm concrete.

Sunset traced the muscles undetectably through her sunglasses before pointedly reminding herself it was a damn creepy thing to do to a friend. And odd. Their communal living meant Sunset had gotten accidental eyefuls well beyond what AJ’s conservative orange swimsuit allowed. But Applejack was shy about disrobing, and making something of those eyefuls seemed like an easy way to crack their friendship.

Here and now, though, it seemed a knock of opportunity. No one made Applejack come to the resort, and no one made her expose those beautiful bronzed legs. The lazy heat encouraged playfulness and relaxation… what better time to launch a flare? With their finals scant weeks away and winter break right after, this might be Sunset’s last chance of the year. Nothing aggressive, just a few hints to put it in AJ’s mind. Then maybe they could find a quiet spot and talk…

There was Rarity, giving Sunset a raised eyebrow and grin. Rarities could sense thoughts like these. Sunset smiled back nervously and stood to greet Applejack. She sauntered forwards, leading with the hips while praying it came off as a sexy strut instead of waddling penguin.

“Howdy partner,” Applejack called, her wide green eyes locking Sunset’s gaze.

And, apparently, her brain. “Hi AJ! Your weather looks body in this great.”

Silence fell as Applejack’s grin shrank. Rarity buried her face in the notebook, while Sunset quietly contemplated that this was fine, she just had to lock herself in Celestia’s basement for the rest of her life.

“Y...yeah, ha-ha, good one.” Applejack’s confused words of encouragement only prolonged Sunset’s torture.

Sunset shook her head hard, desperately rallying. “No, what I meant was–”

“My dudes!” Rainbow’s voice sounded in advance of her arrival, jogging up with Twilight in tow. A slim blue arm wrapped around AJ and Sunset’s shoulders. “We have to ride the Daybreaker before we go. I looked it up, it’s the biggest water slide in the state! A twelve-story drop of terror, ready and waiting!”

Said water slide loomed into the artificial blue sky, decorated with enough flames and skulls to drive any eight year-old boy wild. Ironic, given the age requirement to ride. Sunset followed the slide upwards with her eyes, higher – and higher – along the very vertical path to the top.

A weight lodged into her throat, and she swallowed it down with a sizable gulp.

Rainbow ticked off on her fingers. “I got Twilight, Fluttershy, and Pinkie in on it. Come on, let’s make this the big Rainboom climax of the weekend. Don’t be scared.”

“Pass,” Rarity said smoothly. “I’ll get a salad and cheer you from here.”

Sunset wasn’t afraid of heights, but a twelve-story demon drop crossed the line. She opened her mouth to decline…

Applejack gave a hearty laugh and slapped Rainbow on the back. “Scared of that little thing? I’m in.”

An audible click sounded as Sunset’s teeth snapped closed into a grin. “Yeah, me too.”

“Sweet! Wait here and I’ll wrangle the others.” Rainbow took off, leaving Sunset chewing a nail and tracing their oncoming descent once more. An open topped slide, at that height? How was that legal?

Something had come through in her expression. A peach-colored hand grasped her shoulder, accompanied by a soft twang. “Y’all don’t have to do it.”

Applejack’s hand was like sandpaper, but felt warm and comforting on Sunset’s skin. Enough so to ease out the panic. Sunset found Applejack’s green, accepting gaze, and released a sigh. “I’m such a wuss.”

“Said the girl who hunts vampires,” came the needed reminder. Applejack gave the arm an extra squeeze and let go. “Stay here and tell me who screams the loudest. First pick ‘o the orchard says it’s Rainbow.”

Sunset winced, red-faced and casting her eyes to the side. “Rainbow… what am I going to tell her?”

“That you ain’t going and that’s that,” Applejack said steadily. “You’re better than fine, girl. This don’t change nothing.”

The sandpaper hands reached forward and gripped Sunset’s fingers. She gripped them back, still blushing. She played her thumb across Applejack’s knuckles and looked up into the beautiful green eyes.

Then she leaned in and brushed a kiss on a freckled cheek, not quite realizing it until after the fact.

Sunset retreated with a frantic laugh. “For luck! That’s all.”

A ‘tsk’ sounded from behind Rarity’s notebook. Applejack smiled hesitantly, scratching at the touch. “Mighty neighborly of–”

“All here!” Rainbow dashed between them once more, almost skidding into the pool as she bounced with excitement. “Come on, let’s show Daybreaker how the Rainbooms do it! Minus Rarity.”

“And Sunset,” Applejack mumbled, prying her gaze away.

“And Sunset.” Rainbow accepted the correction, already hustling to the slide at a pace calculated to just barely accommodate the ‘no running’ signs. “Snap a picture! I’m gonna be throwing the horns!”

The rest followed: Pinkie as exuberant as Rainbow, Fluttershy smiling with meek anticipation, Twilight on her (waterproof) phone… and Applejack, glancing back to Sunset.

Their eyes met once more. The confused smile on Applejack’s face creased to something a bit more mischievous, then curled and pushed as she kissed the air.


Daybreaker looked menacing from a distance. Closer, even more so. Giant red warning signs announced cautions and rules, governing everything from the lengthy climb to the actual boarding of the slide. Visitors dropped in scheduled pods, each one accompanied by speakers booming crazed, prerecorded laughter that sounded eerily like Sunset’s mom.

The laughter sounded as the group neared the top, flushing a set of guests down the three-minute plunge. Applejack shivered, peered over the side, and shivered again. ‘Twelve stories’ was a mighty small phrase for a mighty long distance.

Fluttershy and even Pinkie looked to be having second thoughts. Twilight had made her phone disappear before the staff caught her. Her arms folded impassively, though chewed purple nails scratched nervously at their elbows.

Rainbow’s voice cracked, a sure sign her confidence-to-bravado ratio was beginning to favor the latter. “So we’re all gonna shout, ‘Rainbooms!’ and throw up the horns. We have to lie down which is lame but I think Rariset will be able to catch our faces because it goes uuuuuuUUUH like straight down OhMyGosh it’s going to be so… awesome yeah I love this... yeah...”

“Next!”

They assembled, lying side-by-side in slanted tubes with their feet resting on a hinged wall. A timer above their heads helpfully ticked to the moment the wall would slide from their feet. Ten… nine…

“See y’all at the bottom,” Applejack called, keeping her own nerves firmly from her voice.

“Scared? Who’s scared?” Rainbow squeaked. “Not me!”

Three… two…

Twilight’s nasal voice carried over from Applejack’s left. “There’s nothing to be scared of. Only twenty-four people have died this year on water slides. That’s down from last year.”

...Zero.

The wall fell from Applejack’s soles. Prone and tilted, she had nothing left to block gravity’s pull. She could see the bright blue of the fake sky, and the plastic of the slide vanish from sight just a few meters to the fore. Past there came the drop…

Eyes unblinking, mouths tight, and ears ringing with Twilight’s words and the speakers’ laughter, the Rainbooms fell in synchronized silence.

The journey was eternal, and an instant. Applejack willed herself to close her eyes, but found she could not. Even as the initial plunge began to level out, her fists remained clenched. She forgot to breathe until pain found her lungs. The ground came mercifully closer with every instant. She prayed that the end would be swift and painless.

She chided herself, ‘I’ve tangled with gosh-dang gargoyles.’ It didn’t help. The receiving pool came to sight, and still she remained rigid.

Cool, deep water received her, slowing and arresting her momentum. Her head passed beneath its surface. She had survived.

The five regrouped and began paddling stiffly to the far end of the pool. Sunset cheered from its edge, while Rarity waved daintily over her salad.

“So awesome!” Rainbow’s voice cracked so badly she was hard to understand. “And I wasn’t scared at all.”

“You’re so brave.” Fluttershy swam low in the water, her voluminous hair pooling out like pink algae.

“Brave.” Applejack hid a quiet smirk and raised her voice. “Heck, Rainbow, let’s do it again.”

A guilty, gleeful twitch entered her smile as Rainbow stared back in horror for one second before recovering. “Nah, it’d lessen the awesomeness to go on multiple times. Besides, it‘s midnight. I’m tired.”

She yawned, loud enough to ensure everyone could hear how tired she was. Applejack chuckled, but her blood ran cold as Pinkie chimed in from the side.

“I’ll ride with you, AJ!”

“No thanks, sugar.” Applejack coughed into the water, then gave her own loud yawn. “I’m ready to hit the hay, myself. Gonna be an early morning to make the checkout time. Happy Monday.”

“At least we don’t have class,” Twilight said.

The pooling of Fluttershy’s hair fell back as she raised her head from the waterline. “Monday? I thought it was Sunday.”

Fluttershy halted her swim abruptly, causing the rest to follow suit. Her gaze shot between the others, eyes widening with each answered look of confusion.

Rainbow gave voice to the group. “Yesterday was Sunday. We’re past midnight so it’s technically Monday now. It’s a holiday weekend so we’ll have the day to recover.”

“Oh, no.” Fluttershy trembled hard enough to send her teeth chattering. Her surprise morphed to an expression of terror. “I lost track. You all have to run.”

“You can’t run in water, silly,” Pinkie giggled.

“Then swim!” Fluttershy screeched. “It’s a full moon, I can’t c… control...”

The rest was lost into a low, bestial groan. Fluttershy thrashed and jerked. Her face grayed and fattened, and a dark mass became visible where her legs should be.

“I don’t want to hurt–”

Her last warning cut off as she plunged downwards. The dark mass widened and grew, its spasms coming to an end as the transformation took hold.

The others stared.

The mass beneath their feet began to ascend.

“Run!” Applejack shouted.

“I told you, we can’t run in water.”

“Pinkie, now ain’t the–”

Gray, huge, and wrinkled, the transformed Fluttershy burst into their midst with a moist roar. Whiskers bristled below two bright blue eyes as she roared again, flapping her stubby fins to the air.

Her emergence sent a tidal wave over the others, scattering them to each side. The manatee spun, moaning and gnashing hungrily as the Rainbooms swam frantically for the pool’s edge.

“Fluttershy, chill!” Rainbow screeched.

Sunset called out from her post on the shore. “No good! It’s a full moon, which means her were-manatee side has completely taken over. She’s a ravenous beast now!”

“Ravenous!?” Rainbow reached the edge first, though swam back to put herself between Pinkie and Fluttershy. “What do manatees eat?”

Sunset raised a finger and opened her mouth… then closed it. Her eyes found Twilight at the pool’s edge, who offered a shrug in response.

The two pulled out their cellphones and began tic-tacing away.

The manatee swam in a few rapid circles, its bright eyes casting every which way. Finally, it stopped its gaze upon Rarity – then drifted down to the salad in her lap.

An eager snuffling noise came as the manatee surged towards her. Rarity screamed, paralyzed with fear upon her beach chair.

The manatee grew closer, and Rarity screamed.

It reached the pool edge, unable to arrest its momentum before bonking its nose to the wall. Rarity screamed.

It poked its head above the edge, eyes gleaming hungrily. Rarity screamed. Only two meters of flat pavement stood between her and the ravenous Fluttershy.

The head slid back into the water. The manatee backed up, wiggled its butt, and surged forwards to clear the edge. Instead it impacted the wall, earning another bonk on the nose. Rarity screamed.

The manatee tried to slide over the wall. It was able to bring its head up, but nothing more. The chubby tail worked frantically behind it, pushing to no avail as the head slipped back into the water. Rarity screamed.

“They only eat plants!” Sunset held up her phone triumphantly. Rarity screamed.

The manatee backed up for another jump. It breathed in and out steadily, its gaze upon the coming prize. It sped forwards, faster than ever. Jumped, higher than ever. Got almost half of its body onto dry land. The other half fell into the water. The manatee worked its fins, trying to cross the last of the distance. Instead, back-weight and gravity carried it inexorably backwards. The manatee redoubled its efforts upon realizing what was happening, frantically flapping its stubby fins and flipper. It lost ground slowly, tears forming in its eyes with the last desperate flaps before it sank into the pool. Rarity screamed.

The manatee’s head poked back into sight. Rarity would have screamed if Sunset had not clapped a hand over her mouth. “Rarity, stop screaming!”

Muffled sobs answered. “But she’s a sea monster and she’s going to eat me!”

“She just wants your salad!” Rainbow called out. “Come on, give it up! I mean, look at her.”

Frustrated and saddened with its goal so close and so far, the manatee stared longingly at the delicious vegetables in Rarity’s lap. The wide nostrils sniffled. Tears still rimmed the blue eyes.

Rarity stood, trembling and nervous. She gingerly approached the manatee, knelt down, and offered the salad.

The manatee sniffed once at the bowl, then plunged in its head. The sound of dull, smacking chewing emerged. It pulled back after a moment with a few stray pieces of lettuce around its smiling mouth, eyes closed and content.

Rarity gently settled her hand atop the gray head and began stroking.

“I’m going to get her another salad,” Sunset said.

Applejack gave a nod, approaching alongside the others. “I’ll chip in.”

“I’ll buy one, too,” a green woman called, approaching at a leisurely stroll. She paused shyly at the Rainboom’s quizzical looks, though her child pulled eagerly at her hand. “Ah, my name is Victoria. If the poor thing is hungry, I can help.”

“Can I pet her?” the child squeaked.

“No dear, it’s a wild animal.”

“Heh, this one’s as domesticated as they come.” Rainbow rubbed beneath Fluttershy’s chin, earning a happy mooing sound in response. “Come on, she won’t bite.”

Others gathered, chatting and pointing. A stream of volunteers brought vegetables Fluttershy readily consumed, while children hugged and put beach hats on her. Twilight took the chance to begin teaching a few lessons in ecology, and the night passed pleasantly for the next few hours until Applejack pulled Sunset to the side.

Sunset’s question died on her lips as Applejack held up a small, shredded piece of green nylon. Part of Fluttershy’s swimsuit.

“The rest must be down there.” Applejack gestured to the pool. “They’re gonna get a whole different kind of show when she changes back.”

“Towels,” Sunset said tersely. “Find some towels and start moving people away, before it’s too la–”

Author's Note:

SHOO BE DOO
SHOO SHOO BE DOO

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