• Published 15th Oct 2020
  • 1,062 Views, 68 Comments

Stomachaches - The Red Parade

Lightning Dust’s life has been a perpetual mess. As she struggles to put her life back together and repair her relationships, the last thing she needs is another version of herself appearing on her doorstep.

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Guilt Tripping

Two hours and many cups of coffee later, I find myself leaning back and yawning, having made a nice dent in the day’s paperwork. Whitey’s off checking in with ground patrols, so that just leaves me in charge along with a few pencil-pushers in the building.

If I close my eyes and ignore the burning pain in my stomach, I can maybe just pretend that everything is normal and okay.

My stomach rumbles again, forcing me to sigh and hop out of my chair. Clock tells me I’ve got two and half more hours to go until lunchtime.

I stumble my way through the bullpen and into the bathroom. Quickly I heave myself over the sink as my stomach fights against me, making the room spin around faster than a hurricane.

“Easy girl. Breathe. Breathe.”

I force air down my lungs and squeeze my eyes shut. I try to ignore the discomfort running through my body and force the bile back down to where it came from.

Some days I wonder why, out of all the ponies in Equestria, every single thing seems to come crashing down on me.

“Probably because I deserve it,” I mutter, spitting into the sink.

My mom had a saying she used to whisper to me at night. She said, “Lightning, there are a million stars in the sky. It’s only a matter of time before one of them falls on you.” Of course, she meant that in the positive sense: that success was bound to hit me someday.

Looking back on it, I guess she was right. But stars falling from the sky aren’t a blessing. More of a curse. Because they hit you hard and shatter your entire world, burning your life down around you as you sit and watch. And I’ve had more stars fall on me than I’d like to admit.

My mom used to tell me that stars were a sign. A sign that things were going to get better. That there was always tomorrow. I think she is right, stars are a sign. But they don’t mean anything good. In fact, they probably just mean that Equestria is sick and tired of me.

“Or it just means I’m stupid,” I grumble as my stomach lands another blow against my sides. Through a veil of tears I look up at my reflection. If I squint hard enough, I can see the Lightning Dust I was all those years ago. The Lightning Dust who had just gotten into the Wonderbolts Academy. The one that still had both wings and was going places.

Then I rub my eyes, and the vision fades. What’s left is an older Lightning Dust, with a stump for a right wing and scars covering her body. A Lightning Dust that’s weaker, a Lightning Dust whose body gave up on her years ago.

I smash a hoof into the counter. The sound echoes through the bathroom as pain shoots through my system. It makes me laugh, because it’s the only thing I can do to make me feel anything anymore.

I want to scream. I want to cry. But I can’t.

This is who I am now. And I have to live with it for the rest of my life.

“Red flare! Red flare!”

My ear twitches as I hear a chorus of voices calling from the bullpen. I quickly steel myself up, take a deep breath, and head out the door. There’ll be time to hate myself later. For now, it looks like I’ve got work to do.

There’s a group of ponies waiting outside the weather office as I burst out the doors. I quickly locate the signal flare, off to the north-east corner. It spirals up into the air, a column of red lingering in the air.

Seconds later, Whitey appears on the horizon, dipping down and landing feet away from me.

“What’ve we got?” I ask, glancing at the flare in the distance.

“Scouts reported some type of storm headed right at us,” Whitey says. “Doesn’t look natural.”

I raise an eyebrow. “What’re you thinking, then? Magical?”

“Possibly,” Whitey admits. “You could feel it in the air, chief. Even from miles away. Something… something ain’t right about that.”

I exchange a glance with the other gathered Stormchasers. Time for me to make a choice. “Let’s play it safe, then. Code three alarm, general shelter notice. Move!” I bark.

The gathered ponies nod and take off. One of them charges back into the office, and a few seconds later raid sirens start blaring, along with an automated message. “This is a message from the Appleloosan Weather Patrol. Please seek shelter immediately. Say again, seek shelter immediately.”

From there, the town erupts into a sort of organized chaos. Thankfully everyone here has been through more safety drills than they’d like, so everything is more second nature than anything else.

The other Stormchasers hop to the air, some headed for the storm to see what they can do while others assist in getting everyone to shelter.

“I’ll take the market,” I shout at Whitey. “You go townhall!”

“Got it!” Whitey replies as she shoots into the sky again. I take off running down the streets, yelling at some stragglers to get inside.

“What’s the news, Lightning?” someone calls as I run by.

“Don’t know!” I call over my shoulder. “Just get safe first!”

There’s a crowd of ponies at the farmer’s market when I get there. The sheriff’s deputies and a few Stormchasers are already on scene, reminding people not to panic but to seek shelter urgently.

A few of the more experienced stall keepers are shutting down their stands, locking up products and taking their valuables before bailing. The newer ones fumble with their lockboxes and knock over shelves, so we get them going early. Their lives are more important than their crop, even if they won’t believe that.


My ear twitches, and I turn around. Fiddle trots up to me, a concerned look on her face.

“What’s going on? Dust devil?” she asks.

I sigh, scanning the market for any stragglers. “I don’t know yet, Fiddle.”

“Don’t know?” She gasps, holding a hoof to her mouth. “Is it bad?”

I manage to muster a smile. “I don’t think it’ll be bad, Fiddle. But you better get going, we don’t know what we might be dealing with.”

She nods, then grabs my hoof. “Lightning… stay safe. Please.”

“I will. Don’t worry about me. Now go!”

She turns away reluctantly, galloping towards the nearest public shelter.

I watch her go before snapping out of it. I’ve got a job to do.

I take off down the street again, looping through Main Street, and head back for the weather office. The blaring of alarms fills my ears as the streets empty out. Ponies out here will let anyone into their basement in an emergency, but I think I’ve got enough time to beat the storm.

“Go, go, go!” I shout at a group of foals on the other side of the road. They nod and run faster, yelling and giggling to each other before ducking into a house.

Another scan of the street shows it’s empty now. I take a deep breath and continue my run.

Then, a sharp crack of thunder nearly destroys my eardrums. I stumble and look up to see a swirling mass of pink and purple clouds above, occasionally lit up by a bolt of lightning.

“Crud! It’s right on top of us!” I kick myself into high gear and run as fast as I can, barreling down the deserted roads for safety.

A harsh wind whips through my mane, threatening to knock me over. The bright blue sky is completely masked by misty clouds, and a strange, tingling sensation runs through my body.

“Come on, Lightning,” I pant. “Nearly there!”

The town’s lit up by a flash of lightning, and I almost stumble again. The weather office is just a few more feet in front of me. As my heart soars way above normal tempo and blood screams in my ears, I put on one final burst of speed.

Then there’s white.

I don’t feel it hit me, but it did. The impact sends me flying through the air before I hit the ground.. Vaguely, I can feel my body get bruised by some loose rocks and pebbles, and a cloud of dust obscures my vision.

Through the ringing in my ears I hear the angry cry of a thunderclap. I taste iron in my mouth and hold a hoof to my nose. It comes up bloody.

I pull myself to my hooves, shakily looking up at the sky again. The pink and purple is wavering now as it passes by, and I can see flickers of blue beyond it. I grunt in pain and take a step forward, before realizing there’s a strange hazy lump in front of me.

It’s a pony. My breath hitches in my throat, and I turn them onto their back, checking for a pulse.

Where the heck had they come from? My path to the office was clear! I hadn’t seen a single soul in the street! And why weren’t they in shelter?

Questions race through my mind, even as I feel a pulse thumping throughout her system. I scan their body for injuries, but I don’t see any blood staining their light turquoise coat. I see a set of wings on this pony. They’re wearing some sort of flight suit, but the dust obscures some of the details.

Weird, though, I don’t know of any turquoise pegasi currently living in Appleloosa.

“All clear, all clear!” I hear the loudspeakers sound off again as the sirens cut out. Ponies start poking their heads out of their homes, looking up and down the street.

“Chief!” White Lightning gallops over to my side, gasping as she sees the downed pony. “Hey, someone go find Doc! You alright, chief?”

“I’m good,” I reply automatically, still focused on the injured pegasus. Something about her seems familiar. “Whitey, are you… are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

White Lightning bends over to get a look at the pony when she suddenly freezes. Her eyes go wide, then she glances up at me. Slowly, she pulls off the pony’s hood, revealing her face for the first time.

My heart stops. I look at the pony’s face and nearly fall backwards. “That…. That can’t be….”

“It is, chief,” White Lightning replies. “That’s you.”

“I said I’m fine!”

The nurse backs away, holding up two hooves apologetically.

“Stop ragging her for doing her job, chief.” Whitey smirks. She folds her forelegs across her chest, leaning against the doorframe.

I grunt, sitting up on the medical cot. “I’m not worried about me. I’m worried about the… other me. Is she alright?”

“I’ll go check,” the nurse replies, ducking out of the room.

I sigh again, rubbing my face and glancing at Whitey. “Whitey, I’m not dreaming, right? This isn’t some stupid sick prank?”

Whitey shakes her head, her smirk morphing into a frown. “I don’t know, chief. Brae’s been on the telegraph with Canterlot, trying to figure out what the hay just happened. But as of now, we have no idea why a young you just showed up out of nowhere.”

I sigh, sinking back into the uncomfortable cot. “Why does all of this stuff happen to me, Whitey?”

She gives me a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. “Just some rotten luck, chief.”

I hold a foreleg over my eyes. “I think it’s more than that. I don’t think I can blame bad luck for every single thing I’ve done…”

“Chief, you can’t let that get you down.”

“How can I not?” I ask. “Whitey, what am I living for anymore?”

I look up to see Whitey biting her lip and glancing down. “Sorry,” I quickly apologize. “That’s a tough one to spring on you. Didn’t want to dump all my problems on you…”

“Is it that bad?” Whitey blurts out, looking up at me again.

I sigh, meeting her gaze. Yes, I’m tempted to say. Yes, it is that bad. And no, it’s not getting any better. “It’s not, Whitey. I’m just… a little tired.”

Whitey exhales slowly. “Well, if you say so. Sorry. I didn’t mean to push you like that.”

“Not your fault,” I mutter, rubbing my face with both hooves.

“Chief, you know I’m here to help you, right?” Whitey asks. “If this whole thing is wearing you out, just talk to me. Let me know.”

I feel something awful churning in my stomach again but I swallow it down and just nod.

Whitey lowers her head and sighs. “I just want to help you,” she says slowly. “But you need to let me in. You need to tell me what’s bothering you.”

I only offer a grunt in response. The truth is that I don’t want to weigh Fiddle or anyone else down with more of my problems. I don’t want to make myself a thorn in their side. I don’t want them to depend on me, because I know I’ll find some way to let them down again.

“I’m trying, Whitey,” I whisper, squeezing my eyes to hold back the tears. “I’m trying.”

She nods and takes a seat at the side of my cot.

“So, what do we know about that storm?” I ask, voice still wavering slightly.

Whitey shrugs. “Not much. It came from the northeast, almost like it was coming straight towards us. I got close to it with Hailstorm and Stormy Night. We all felt some magic in there. Something ran right down our wingtips. It was… electric, I guess.”

“I may have some answers,” comes a voice from the doorway.

Every time I see him, I swear that Braeburn gets five years older. I guess politics can do that to anyone. He looks a lot more ragged since we first met and doesn’t smile much, or even laugh. Being the mayor really has taken its toll on him.

I sit up, eager to know more about this stunt double of mine. “What’ve you got?”

“Got some telegrams from Canterlot,” Braeburn answers. “Apparently what hit us was some sort of magical discharge from the Everfree Forest. The Ponyville Weather Team didn’t know what to do with it, so they tried to get rid of it. Darned thing just kept goin’ and goin’ until it got here.”

Whitey rolled her eyes and huffed. “Of course it was the Ponyville team. They never do anything right.”

“Princess Twilight will be here soon to look into it,” Braeburn continues.

“And what about the other me?” I ask. “Where does she fit into all of this?”

Braeburn runs a hoof through his graying mane. “Well, the Princess thinks that the storm opened some hole in the, uh, space-time continuum. Put a tear right into another dimension. She used a lotta words that I frankly don’t understand, but she thinks she can get it squared away right quick.”

I frown, rubbing my chin. “So… it’s another version of me. From an alternate dimension.”

Braeburn shrugs. “Stranger things have happened.”

I sigh, avoiding his eyes. Braeburn… still scares me, especially after he threatened to kill me when I broke up with Fiddle. Brotherly love, I guess.

“Brae, LD,” calls a voice from the door. “The patient’s awake now. Reckon you might want to talk to her.”

Braeburn nods. “Thanks, Doc. C’mon, let’s try and sort this out.”