• Published 6th May 2019
  • 3,077 Views, 268 Comments

Walk Where There Is No Path - theOwtcast

When everything you’ve ever known goes against everything you believe in, can leaving help you live with yourself?

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Losing It

The pile of broken planks floated slowly and steadily on the river’s surface, undisturbed by any living creature that might have seen it. An occasional deer or rabbit would stop for a moment and stare at the unusual sight, but for the most part, the floating debris was ignored. A pony may have taken a closer look, but none were around to take interest.

I washed up ashore in a forest, hours upon hours away from the picturesque village, at a spot where the river made a slight turn and no creature was around to witness a piece of wood suddenly acting strange when it separated from the others and burst into a blue flame upon reaching dry land, creating a black menacing-looking monster that then walked gingerly into the forest.

I looked around. The forest was dense, quiet, and darker than the last few I’d been in. The trees were different, too: pine and spruce were the predominant kind while oak and ash had prevailed elsewhere, and the ground was covered in needles. I turned back and, though the river was partly obscured by the underbrush, it seemed to have lost its rainbow colors this far away from the waterfalls. I wondered when that might have happened. Maybe soon after leaving the village, around the first waterfalls, or maybe later, when it merged with another river, an ordinary one? My disguised eyes had been turned upward, where they could watch the surroundings better so I would know whether or not it was safe to shapeshift at any given moment, leaving me unable to see the water I’d floated on. Not that it mattered much; it would have merely satisfied my curiosity about the unusual village and its surroundings.

Night was falling soon, and though I didn’t know what possible dangers might loom in this particular forest, the fear of hidden changelings waiting for me in the shadows had left me at some point. I had no palpable reason to think so, but I believed the hunters hadn’t followed me here nor posted sentries to keep an eye on this particular forest. If I was wrong, I’d know soon enough... but so far, I seemed to have nothing to worry about. Not when enemies were concerned, anyway. I still had to find a place to sleep, which wouldn’t be very hard if my experience with forests so far could be applied here; but my hunger screamed more urgently with every passing minute! If I didn’t befriend anypony soon, I feared my journey would end soon in a very tragic and anticlimactic way!

I came across what appeared to be an abandoned mining shaft. It would be a good enough place to spend the night in, but I wouldn’t go too far inside; I might get lost, and trying to find a way out in pitch dark wasn’t the kind of adventure I needed right now! The entrance was boarded up, so most likely I wouldn’t be disturbed by anypony. I didn’t mind sharing the shaft with any wild animals small enough to enter. As for any larger and potentially dangerous animals, even if this wasn’t the only entrance and such an animal was occupying the shaft, I could still get to safety by turning into something small enough to pass between the planks nailed to the gate.

First thing tomorrow, I would go looking for a city or village and try to befriend somepony; but now, I was too tired to go anywhere. I found an especially dark corner and curled up to sleep.

The following dawn found me already on my hooves, walking through the forest to continue my search. I would have flown up above the trees to get a better idea of where to go, but after having tried several times and colliding face-first with a branch every time, I decided it was too dark to keep trying to fly through the canopy; I could end up hurting myself again! Though I’d collided with a number of tree trunks in the dark afterwards, sticking to the ground at least eliminated the risk of falling damage. Now that I could see better what I was flying into, I was able to proceed with my original idea of air travel.

It took most of the day to fly to where I could get a glimpse of a city on the horizon beyond the forest, and by the time I got close, it was already evening again. The ponies would be returning to their homes for the night soon. I wanted to kick myself for having given up precious time last night so I could sleep - time mostly wasted as my growing hunger hadn’t let me more than doze off for a few minutes at a time before I’d given it up after several hours and left the mining shaft. I hadn’t even been so tired that I couldn’t have skipped sleep! If only I’d kept going before darkness had enveloped the forest, I wouldn’t have wasted the time first trying to sleep and then flying blindly into branches and trying to get my bearings every time I’d fallen! If I’d reached the city just a few hours earlier, I might have met somepony by now - a pony I might have at least made acquaintance with enough to have any love they shared with me last me through the night until I got to befriend them more closely and share more of that love to quench or ease my desperate hunger! Now I would have to rely on my depleted reserves for yet another night!

I struggled to keep despair from overwhelming me. I’d come this far; I wasn’t going to give up now! I’d found a way out of one trouble after another; I could do it again! Just because I was getting weak and desperate didn’t mean I couldn’t last just a little bit longer! I might get discovered and run away again, but I felt like I was so close to my goal; I couldn’t give up, even if I only got to share a little bit of love! After all I’d been through, I had to be able to figure out how to make it work this time - I just had to! Everything I’d learned about ponies, every effort I’d made, every friendship I’d nearly forged before having to flee for safety... it couldn’t have all been for nothing!

It was night when I finally crossed the city limits. By now I was so distraught with hunger that I barely remembered to disguise myself. I wasn’t even sure what kind of disguise it was this time: maybe a bird, maybe a pegasus, maybe something entirely different, maybe even a random mashup of creatures such as didn’t even exist as a real being. Either way, it had wings, and I flew over the deserted streets, telling myself it was to try to get a feel for the town and figure out the best places to start looking for a friend in the morning... but all I could think of was my overwhelming hunger.

Eventually I saw a lone figure strolling down an empty street: a young mare, enjoying the peace and beauty of the night.

And then, in a flash of failure, my desperation pushed me into the darkness. The walls of honor and integrity I’d worked so hard to build and maintain had finally collapsed. All my principles, all my vows and promises, all my self-control - everything was thrown in the wind. I even gave up trying to maintain my disguise.

Before I knew it, I was standing over the mare’s unconscious body, gorging myself on her love.