• Published 20th Aug 2020
  • 449 Views, 25 Comments

A Town's Story - RoMS

Luster Dawn hates field trips. Especially when it's about gleaning a story on an event that tore a no-name town apart: Ponyville.

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14. The Last Laugh

"This is it?" Cheerilee asked.

Pinkie and I turned to face her cross-faced as she tightened her coat.

I bit my lip and sighed. "I guess... It's not like we're walking into the belly of the beast."

"Oh, come on, it's not a beast, it's a Wall," Pinkie said, with a dark chuckle and a hiccup.

"We have proof that Sweetie Belle is in there! Alive!” Cheerilee heaved in a hurried tone. “We have to go or– or Rarity would never forgive me."

“You don’t know that,”I countered, a hoof to my throat, pushing down the spiny knot that rested there. "What if we’re wrong and there's nothing left on the other side?"

I breathed and watched the puff of steam die as it left my lips. The early morning cold stung my eyes. I avoided both Cheerilee and Pinkie's expectful eyes.

"Ponyville's at stake, Mayor,” Cheerilee said. “Heck! Equestria might be too if we don't do anything. And help is hours away."

I broke my gaze with her and went on to look up at the black behemoth. The blueing night sky barely drew its contour.

"If we’re right,” I said, “and time is broken, we have all the time in the world out here. It’s when we step in that time will be of importance."

Cheerilee joined me by my side and whispered. “It’s weird that nopony in Canterlot found out about this. Timeturner’s clocks...”

I chuckled darkly. "Did anypony ever mention it?"

Cheerilee nodded. It was a small detail. Inconsequential to the naked eye.

Pinkie walked past us, the ghost of a quiver on her lips, but with determination in her eyes. Her tail swung from side to side and frost licked at the tips of her long mane. “We gotta do it.”

I bared my teeth, sifting the cold night air between them. I had hopes about this, jumping in, but no certainty. Nothing but an intuition. I was no Twilight or Sunset, or anypony important. I was just a pony, in a town, in a dire need of help and guidance. And I had received none.

I carried my cold, slumbering, old body to Pinkie’s side and hugged her, quickly inviting Cheerilee to join in.

Feeling the warmth of their coats against my cheeks, I held back a few tears. I was betting on an instinct, and carrying them with me on this uncertain trip.

“You gotta go to the manedresser, Pinkie,” Cheerilee mumbled. “This doesn’t suit you.”

“I’ll let you pontificate me when it’s all over,” she replied with a giggle.

"You don’t have to come," I finally said. "I’m the mayor. It’s my town."

"Heck, I have to," Cheerilee burst, grabbing both my shoulders and staring right into my soul. "I am not going to let you walk in there alone."

"I don't want you to get hurt," I replied and I looked down.

She laughed, and kissed me. She always gave them unexpectedly. As we held lips together, I threw Pinkie a glare. She better not have a doozie then. Like she did when this whole mess started. At least I didn’t have a rose bouquet for Fluttershy to drop on.

"It's only right to have one last quickie before the jump, right?" Cheerilee asked into my ear after she departed my lips.

My face shot red, I muttered something incoherent back. “That’s not what that word means…” And prompted her to laugh.

"You, dummy," she mused with a half smile curling the sides of her mouth.

"You're the teacher," I said. “You should be aware of your double-entendres."

She chuckled. "Or play with them."

I shook my head disapprovingly. "You must have been the delight of your Equestrian Lit' teacher during college."

"If only."

We turned to Pinkie. I was smiling despite the crushing weight in my chest. The party pony smiled back. A playful smile.

"Should we go?" she asked.

"I don't want to be late to the party," I said.

"I think we're already late." She struck the snow with her hoof. "And I will solve this. Or my name isn't Pinkie Pie."

"Ready?" I asked Cheerilee.

She closed her eyes and chuckled once more. "I don't think so. But it's like a school test. You're never really ready even though you know it's coming." She took a deep breath, nodded to herself, exhaled, and snapped her eyes open. "Let's do this."

The three of us stood in line to face the nearby monster, the Wall, in its ominousness and sharp outline as the night sky had finally turned into ultramarine blue. Somewhere behind the Wall, dawn had begun to rise.

I wished I’d felt the cold bite of the winter’s sun on my muzzle one last time.

“What do we do once we’re inside?” Cheerilee asked. “We don’t even have a plan?”

Pinkie shrugged. “We run to the castle and listen to whatever Twilight will be yapping at us about, right?”

“Sounds about right,” Cheerilee replied.

“Yeah.” I nodded.

Another series of uneasy smiles, huffed laughters, nods, and swallows. A certain apprehension washed over me again as I peered into the blackness now within the reach of my hoof.

That was until Pinkie did what she does best.

"LET'S DO IT!" she screamed.

Cheerilee jumped, her hoof clamped on the edge of my sleeve, and I followed her.

Cold. The first sensation I felt was cold. A freezing wave of it, like stepping under an icy rain.

Second came heat. Like a burst of dry warmth over your face as one switched on a gas stove and the combustion blew hot air at the tip of one’s snout.

Then came the fall. In total darkness, Cheerilee's hoof released its hold and I was alone, tumbling, every point of my body dropping, accelerating towards an unfathomable ground.

Noise. A crashing wave that beat at my chest in shockwaves stronger than any of Vinyl's oversized speakers could ever produce. A thud-thudding that overtook the pounding blood in my ears, the beating in my chest that lifted my insides as they shifted and tumbled inside my belly.

If I screamed, I never heard myself.

And finally came colors, or rather a single color. Blue. Violent and bright. Far too strong to sustain.

I didn't pay it much mind at first to be honest. I was fixated on the agitated waters below my hooves. The one I crashed into. Water forced its way down my throat.

I didn't see Cheerilee. But I felt her. She pierced the surface above me and hit my withers. White hot pain shot through my back and eyes.

I coughed and gasped for air, my hoof finding no place to pull myself up. I swam towards the blue light, kicking and struggling until I reached oxygen once again.

I opened my eyes to a flooded world of chaos, storm, and lightning.

As I swam with difficulty, I cast my eyes up and found no real source to the bright blue glow that bathed this pandemonium. The Wall’s dome stretched far and wide above my head, encasing swirling motes of black clouds, striped with lightning that cracked like whips and rippled through the air, assaulting my ears. The wild body of water that flooded this place swallowed me again.

I hit a tree and dragged myself up its branches through the water. The waves rumbled and crashed against my face and down I went again. Back in the silence, underneath the surface, where the muffled gurgles and bubbles that escaped my gritted teeth remained unheard.

I kicked and jabbed, and hit something — somepony! I clasped my hoof on a torn cloth and swam upwards, back to the light. Back to this mess.

I gasped for air and looked upon a known face.


"Cheery!" I screamed at whoever would hear. "Cheery!?"

I looked around, searching for a hint of bordeaux purple and a dash of a mauve mane. But Nothing! There was nothing!

I rammed hooves and legs at the water, biting the neck of Pinkie's coat. Kick after kick, I brought us both to the whining branches of the nearby tree and helped Pinkie lock her hooves onto the body of branches.

Searching for Cheerilee, I finally caught a wide berth of the town. I now knew where the river had gone since the Wall had overtaken its bed. Swallowed, but not vanished. It had rushed into a berserker lake that washed and swept across the streets and abandoned houses of the eaten part of Ponyville.

The water cracked windows, battered walls, upturned carts and other discarded everyday items. The cacophony of destruction was like a dagger plunged into my heart. Yet, I watched as the waves ripped through the meanders of my town.

Once I couldn't bear it anymore. I looked past the debris and torn off roofs and found, wholly visible, at the end of a long street, the sight of the castle.

I paused.

Something wasn’t right.

The bet we’d made was that time played differently between the inside and the outside of the Wall.

What I hadn’t expected was that, past the Wall itself, it would play differently as well. I crawled my way up the branch of the drowned tree, Pinkie searching for Cheerilee by my hindleg. I stared in disbelief at what I saw.

As my eyes traced their way to the Castle of Friendship, the blue tinge that shone over the water gave place to mauve, then to purple, and finally to a dark orange hue. While the color shifted, so did the water’s chaotic ride through Ponyville.

The closer to the castle one got, the slower the water would be. The strong, crashing rush that battered Pinkie and I calmed to a near standstill. Until the white crests of foam over the waves stood near umbreaking, steady, like epoxy dioramas from an art exposition gallery.

And even further, there stood a horizon made of water. A wall of water, a large rushing wave that was advancing at a snail’s pace through the town, towards the castle.

Time slowed further as one got closer to the epicentre. I couldn’t hold a madden laugh.

That oranged wall of water. It was a tsunami like those I'd read about in geography journals. In all my years, I'd never seen the ocean, and then and there, I was given a spectacle to watch unfurl at a crawl’s speed: one of nature's most devastating feats. Hydrologists and oceanographers would kill to see what I was seeing now.

Time... We still had time.


Snapping back to my dire reality, my eyes darted back to my surroundings, scouring for a hint of purple or pink in the blue haze.

Before I could cry out, a tug at my hindleg captured my attention. Pinkie Pie, a weary smile on her face, was holding Cheerilee in her arms. Bless her.

A weight lifted off my chest and I crawled my way down the tree.

“You see that thing!” I screamed over the din. “Discord would be at home here.”

Pinkie looked down the long, stretched out street that led to the Castle. And the tsunami stuck in time at its end.

“He sure would,” Pinkie said.

Cheerilee coughed up a bit, looked up at us then down at the same street. Her eyes narrowed then grew. “You know it’s going to accelerate the closer we get to the wave,” she warned wearilly.

“You once told me you wanted to go surfing,” I commented.

“I never said that.”

I feigned not listening.

We couldn’t go back anyway. Pinkie had tried swimming back towards the inside of the Wall to no avail. Beyond the current itself and violence of the elements, a force seemed to push us back.

We exchanged a nod, clasped hooves together, and battled forward towards the castle.

Houses after houses, past boutiques, gutted restaurants, flooded stores, we dodged floating wood, poles, shutters hanging about broken windows.

We swam past one of the small town squares where only the marble head of a fountain statue emerged from under the battling foam.

"Careful!" Pinkie screamed, catching me off guard.

A loose wooden beam slammed into us, shattering our hoofhold. Pinkie sunk towards the fountain while Cheerilee called out for me and lunged for my hoof, missing.

I went down. My rump brushed against a few underwater shards of wood or metal, then hit the murky gravel that once was a road. I tossed back and forth in the current and felt myself rushed in through a small enclosure — a door.

I hacked for air, trapped in a whirlwind of water roiling inside of a destroyed shop. Wooden desks flung about and I kicked in the water to avoid them slamming into me.

I punched my way to the nearest wall, aiming away from the windows where the mad water would spit me out into another flooding torrential street.

I anchored myself to a piece of furniture screwed above the water line. A clock.

And it was ticking.

A laugh escaped my lips, water rushing in to drown my impudence. Coughing, hacking, grasping at any grip I could find, I dragged myself out of the indoor maelstrom and onto the set of stairs that led to that shop’s first floor.

I shook my head, pushed my soaked mane back, and put my body into motion.

I slammed open a window that gave onto the square where I'd been sucked away from and found Cheerilee and Pinkie Pie clung to the head of the centerpiece fountain.

I called and waved, motioning to them that I was still around, and saw Cheerilee's brighten as Pinkie pointed in my direction.

We needed out. I looked up towards the roof of the house, its wet slates rushing with the battering rain. I was too old for rooftop parties, I told myself. I wasn't built for adventures either.

But there was a first time for everything.

I dragged myself out of the window and onto the roof, studying the chaos to find a glimpse of the castle.

And so I did. Past two blocks of houses at the edge of town was the Castle. The tsunami was still crawling forward, patient. It had reached the small bridge that led to the entrance gate.

I turned back to Pinkie, and with the lightning’s electric light studied the swirls and foam that raged in a circle around the town square. The fountain top had already gone under.

The water was rising swiftly.

I followed the flood’s flow, tracing a map of its winding currents in and out of the plaza. There was a way out for them.

Waving at Pinkie, I called her attention to the wooden beam that had struck us apart as it accomplished a last roundabout at the edge of a nearby house and evacuated through a side street that led closer to the Castle.

Pinkie and she exchanged a word, nodded, and let go. I followed them from my vantage point, running across the roof and skidding to a halt.

To jump or not?

My heart caught in a vice, I watched them round the plaza, carried by the current towards and past me in a circle.

Following them, I ran and jumped over to the next roof, my heart crawling up my throat. I half-way landed on the next roof over, kicking my hindlegs till I got fully onto the slippery top. I galloped, jumping from houses to houses, calling out to Pinkie and Cheerilee to guide them out of the plaza and further towards the edge of town, and the castle.

Meanwhile, the trudging tsunami shifted and grew more and more violent as we closed the distance.

The blue haze had now lifted off of the houses, the water, roofs, and us all. It only clung to Ponyville’s apocalyptic landscape behind us.

As I reached the last house of Ponyville proper, panting like mad, I closed my eyes and dove back into the water. Back to Pinkie and Cheerilee. We embraced and we front crawled onwards.

We never did reach the edge of the tsunami. We rode its back as it slammed into the castle’s gate. No riding the wave like one of those "surfers" I'd read about in the Canterlot journals Ditzy used to deliver to me. I would owe Cheerilee a trip to the sea someday.

"Brace!" she cried out.

We aimed and went into the gullet where the castle’s two large crystal doors had stood moments ago. The opening sucked us in and into the main hall. The water ripped off the canvas off the nearby walls and lifted the furniture deeper into the edifice.

We reached out and held onto a balustrade giving to the first floor as the water rushed in beneath us, its level ever rising.

Pinkie Pie, the sturdier of us, carried herself over the rail and caught us, dragging us to safety, dry ground as bits and pieces of rocks, wood, and shattered houses flooded into the Castle’s lobby.

By the distorted physical laws of this encapsulated world I was sure Ponyville had ceased to exist at least a month ago on the outside.

My thoughts didn’t dwell on the state of the rest of Equestria for long. I propped Cheerilee up and asked, "Are you okay?"

She burst out laughing. "I’m not. But it could be worse."

We deadpanned and chuckled. Only for her ears to perk up.

"Did you hear that?" Pinkie asked.

We did.

A scream.

The scream of a pony. Furthermore one I knew: a Princess.

"Twilight!" Pinkie burst, falling into a frantic run up a nearby set of stairs, slipping off the first one and slamming her jaw against the crystal floor.

While proverbial stars shot out of her eyes and over her head, I grabbed her by the shoulder and dragged her onto her hooves. We stumbled up the stairs till we reached a long corridor that had been spared the flood up until now.

"I wrote the message, Starlight! But I told you it’s been three months!" a shrill voice reached our ears from a room beyond a bend in the corridor.

Our eyes grew wide as we recognized the filly's voice. My legs fluttered under my body and my knees hit the ground.

She was still alive.

"I can't escape," Twilight screamed.

"The book! Write for help! Fast!" Starlight’s panicked and strained voice shouted.

“I already did!”

Starlight's voice rasped with exhaustion, and carried through the stonework under our hooves as the Castle quaked under the assault of water a few stories below.

Muffled screams followed as Pinkie, Cheerilee and I scrambled down past a set of closed doors where I was sure knowledge I would never understand lurked within books I would never get to read.

"Sweetie Belle," Twilight howled. "Save yourself!"

We turned that corridor's bend and there, a stone's throw away, was an open door.

We scrambled forward, fighting a sudden gust of wind that shot out of the opening, peperring us with paper shreds covered with eerie designs. A desk rammed against the door and flung it off its hinges.

We stumbled into the antechamber where the destruction of my town had been set in motion.

Chaos swirled across that lab, twisting and snapping in electric arcs, papers and all sorts of research remained. All swirling around a raised, round marble base on which a large pentagram of chalked runes glowed in all their cryptic nature and powerful light. All danced under a black orb the size of a cart that licked the ceiling and bent colors and light around its extremities in a strange hue that bled over anything that came into contact with it.

Pens, papers, chairs, all things turned into nothing at the mere brush with the sphere. A monster of black geometry. I watched a desk drawer fly by, touch the black surface and freeze. If only for an instant, the brown of its wood and the bronze of its knob twisted and stretched, reddened, then darkened. Then nothing was left.

"We're here!" We three screamed in unison, once stupor seeped away from us.

Starlight, her horn erupting with magic, didn’t even register our presence. Her four hooves locked onto a hefty crystal chair.

Twilight screamed for help. Suspended in between Starlight and the monster at her back, wrapped in the salutary prison of magic shooting from Starlight's horn. I looked at Sweetie Belle, the book at her hooves, the crayons still floating in her magic.

I fought tears.

Cheerilee beat me to the words I wanted to say. “I’m proud of you.”

A few stares were exchanged, filled with surprise, pleas, and uncertainty. A deep-seated sense of grim realization choked me and wound in my chest. We were ill-equipped to deal with such craziness.

Why us and not... Miss Sunset Shimmer, Princess Celestia? Or anypony else.

I contemplated how foolish I’d been to step into this world of unfettered magic. I was a mayor. Not an adventurer. I was no Daring Do, or Element of Harmony. I glanced at Pinkie who stared with horrified marvel at the spectacle of lightning and red colors that bled around the hole in the ceiling.

We were Earth Ponies. We had practical knowledge. Not... this deadly nonsense. Cheerilee and Pinkie were by my side and we could only watch the eldritch tug of war between the black sphere and the two mares who had created it.

“I can’t walk back,” Sweetie Belle pleaded. “It won’t allow me.”

The Wall wouldn’t let any of us go back. And as I thought about that, I heard water rush behind us.

"Look," Cheerilee said, pointing at the left side of the room by a large cracked window.

A bundle of rope was snatched under a heavy, hardwood desk. Rope...

Practical knowledge. Maybe we could achieve something after all.

"Cheerilee, you’re crazy!" I exclaimed.

I gave her back the kiss she’d given me earlier and her face burned with a red that nearly matched the orb’s. Pinkie Pie clapped her hooves together.

"Help us!" Starlight gasped, wiping the sweat off her forehead against the headrest of her bolted, life-saving chair. "Please!"

We hadn't yet entered the room when a flying bucket flung itself against the doorframe and at my hoof.

"The rope, Sweetie Belle!" I screamed over the violent bedlam that filled our ears. "I have an idea."

"What are you...?" Cheerilee started.

"The rope !" I said, pointing at it.

Sweetie Belle let go of the crayons and lit her horn, a long filament of light rushing out and towards the rope.

Then it died.

She gasped and cried, and tried again.

It died.

As it did with her and us, it seemed magic couldn’t go further than a determined perimeter. You couldn’t affect anything that was further from you around some invisible sphere.

As I processed what to do, The hardwood furniture that retained the rope ripped off its screws, its drawers opened, and its content and wood flew towards Twilight.

As the Princess raised her shield, Pinkie guffawed hard and jumped faster than I had ever seen her do before, a clattering of teeth and she snagged the rope in her mouth, and skidded to the bolted crystal desk and the chair where Starlight had nearly passed out.

Cheerilee looked at me with weary eyes as I pointed at Pinkie with a nudge of my chin.

“Now you’re the crazy one!” Cheerilee said. “What are you thinking about?”

I shrugged.

“You fool.” And her expression mellowed. We held hooves and jumped after Pinkie, skittering across the floor, feeling the hairs on my back stand on end as the attracting force of the sphere that trapped Twilight into a certain doom without Starlight’s magic made itself known.

Earth Ponies are practical creatures, I repeated to myself. A down to earth no nonsense. At least that's what I hoped I needed to be.

Starlight looked down at us from her legs locked around the crystal chair. Her eyes unfocused, panting and grunting, she tried to speak words. She hardly could breathe.

“If I wipe off the runes at the center of the room with my hooves,” I screamed at her. “Will it stop this madness?”

She didn’t answer, her head nearly lolling to the side.

“Starlight!” everypony screamed and she sprung back, having never let go of her magic.

I repeated myself. After a while spent staring at us, she shook her head. “No.”

My shoulder sagged and I hung against the crystal desk, eyes wide. All this way for nothing. All this suffering for nothing. A life spent in bureaucracy, writing down rules and laws and audits and recommendations on blackboards and official papers. Always adding, never removing. And it had to end like this.

Now that it was time to remove something, to save everything. I was useless.

We were trapped. And though the realization hung about, color seeping away from our faces, nopony screamed.

Pinkie Pie went on to tie the rope around one of the legs of the crystal desk and threw the other end towards Sweetie Belle. She managed to catch it and tie it around herself. Cheerilee trudged to my side and sat down, hugging me tight. And I gave her another kiss.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered , digging my muzzle into her mane and taking in her scent. She smelled like a wet river.

“It’s okay. We tried.”

“But…” Starlight rasped. As I looked at her, the beads of sweats on her face glinted with the white hot light of her magic. “Do you happen to have water? Like, a lot of it?”

My jaw dropped a little. Cheerilee burst out laughing, a raving mad laugh that shook some horror into Starlight and twisted her facial features. This whole ordeal was so stupid… had been such a chore. And now that we were so far into this journey riddled with sunk cost fallacies, the Celestia-damned resolution had to come to us by pure accident. Water.

Bloody water.

Pinkie Pie looked at the door and, with a smirk I could not have thought possible, called out for us all to hunker down.

First a rumbling, then a crash. A layer of broken wood, foam, and grime washed into view first, then the wave. Dark, rumbling and reeking. At the moment, it was the most beautiful thing in the universe.

It roiled into the room, carrying with it hints of Ponyville and of the Castle’s destruction. It slammed into us and Cheerilee tightened herself around me. So did I. We locked around the base of the desk and watched in terror as it nearly lifted Pinkie Pie who held onto Sweetie Belle’s lifeline with everything she had.

The water spray and splashes shot upward like a twisted, inverted rain, encountering only a screaming Twilight before it flew into the black sphere.

And finally, as we all started with hope gripping our hearts, the grey wave flung itself over the marble base and the runic inscriptions. The chalk darkened and disappeared, swallowed underwater in a matter of seconds — or maybe years.

And then it all turned to white.