• Published 10th Mar 2021
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Paint the Sky - Flynt Coal



Having been adopted by human Celestia and her boyfriend Sable, the former Queen Chrysalis starts her new life in the human world. But she still has her old demons to contend with.

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Chapter 5 - Anything Can Happen on Halloween

With a thoughtful sigh, the mulberry unicorn said, “We really are two of a kind, aren’t we? Me, the legacy of Sombra. And you, the legacy of Chrysalis. I can understand why you’d think we’re both damned.” The unicorn leaned towards her. “But here’s the thing: We don’t have to inherit their sins. We can fight fate!”

Chrysalis hadn’t been convinced. “I’ve done so much evil over so many years, killed so many innocents. I don’t think it’s possible to go all the way back to good.”

“Maybe not,” the unicorn said. “But it’s never too late to start being better.


It had been a long time since Chrysalis had thought of Raspberry Beryl. But, as Sable drove her to Apple Bloom’s house that Monday evening after dinner, memories of their talk in the dungeons of Canterlot Castle inexplicably came to the surface. Chrysalis credited the life she led now to Celestia, and rightly so. The woman had given her the unconditional love that no one ever had in her millennium-plus of life. But Chrysalis would never have found that love in the first place if not for Raspberry Beryl.

As was the case with Octavia, Raspberry was a descendant of Sombra; one of the four Chrysalis had once sought to kill. But upon her defeat at their hands (and hooves), Chrysalis had been given mercy from Raspberry, who was greatly unlike her progenitor. She had shown Chrysalis that despite all she’d suffered and all she’d done, she still had value as an individual. That it was never too late to start being better.

All that I am now, I owe to her, Chrysalis realized, and then with a touch of sadness, thought, but I never got a chance to properly thank her.

Chrysalis felt the car come to a stop, and she realized they’d arrived at her destination. So putting the bittersweet introspection aside for now, Chrysalis straightened her costume and got out of the car.

“Thanks, Sable!” she said with a smile.

Sable didn’t return it. Ever since their evening with Sunset’s family on Friday, something had been bothering him, but he wouldn’t tell her what it was. She knew it involved her, but it wasn’t directed at her, per se. She trusted him now, but the uneasy feeling would still not go away.

“No problem,” he said, and then added, “Be careful, okay? Stay close to your friends.”

“Okay,” she said, not knowing what else to say.

Sable drove off, and Chrysalis walked toward the front door of Apple Bloom’s house, ready to see what this “Halloween” thing was all about.

That weekend, she had managed to procure a pretty decent vampire costume, even if her height required her to get one sized for adults (which meant it was a tad more risqué than was perhaps appropriate for a girl her age). Celestia and Sable didn’t complain though, so perhaps it wasn’t that bad.

Now, seeing Apple Bloom’s house, Chrysalis immediately understood what her friends meant when they said her family “goes all out” on Halloween. Their front yard was set up like a proper graveyard, with row after row of fake headstones all lined up. The upper half of a plastic skeleton lay partly buried before one of them, reaching out with (plastic) bony fingers as if clawing its way out of its grave. A cloaked grim reaper floated above, suspended from the tree on their lawn with fishing line. A great inflatable white ghost that nearly dwarfed the house’s façade gazed down at her menacingly while a flashing strobe light illuminated the scene. It was accompanied by recordings of thunder and other spooky ambiences. Chrysalis had never seen anything like it.

Stepping past the carved pumpkins with candles inside them up onto the front porch, Chrysalis spotted a large bowl of candy placed in the lap of a scarecrow stuffed with hay with another carved pumpkin for a head. Chrysalis stepped closer, sensing something unusual about the scarecrow. It seemed like just an ordinary—albeit large—dummy, but Chrysalis thought she saw something moving in the dark recesses of the pumpkin and leaned in closer….

OOOuugh!” The scarecrow cried, reaching out to grab her.

Alarmed, Chrysalis leapt back, her changeling instincts taking over as she crouched low and hissed at the creature. She was surprised to hear a deep, lackadaisical chuckle then emerge from the scarecrow.

“Okay, okay. You’re scarier. I yield!”

Realizing that the scarecrow was not, in fact, ensorcelled with dark magic to attack her on sight, but rather just a man in a costume, Chrysalis relaxed. She suddenly found herself thankful that her own costume allowed her to play off her more feral changeling behavior as being “in character.”

“Is Apple Bloom here?” she asked.

“Eeyup, I take it you’re Chrysalis?” the baritone scarecrow asked. “She and the others are waiting for you inside.”

After thanking the scarecrow, Chrysalis entered the house to find six girls all hanging out in costume.

“Chrys! There you are!” Apple Bloom exclaimed, greeting her with a friendly smile. She appeared to be dressed as a werewolf, complete with a nose, ears and tail.

“Finally! Let’s get some trick or treating done!” Scootaloo exclaimed, wearing a hockey mask and wielding a plastic machete.

Sweetie Belle nodded earnestly. Both she and Coco Pommel wore the same soft blue blouse and even had their hair done the same, making them look almost like identical twins. Crackle was dressed in what appeared to be more traditional Chinese attire, wore fake fangs and had applied make up to give her a pale appearance. Finally, a sixth girl (at least, Chrysalis was reasonably certain she was a girl under her costume) sat silently in black robes wearing the mask of a screaming ghostly face.

“Oh yeah, Chrys this is Ribby,” Sweetie Belle said, gesturing to the masked girl in question. “Ribby, this is our new friend Chrys!”

Chrysalis gave a casual “Hey,” while the girl Ribby said something barely audible under that mask. It sounded like “Hello.”

It was around that time that an older girl with blond hair and freckles walked in. Chrysalis recognized her, despite the unsettling clown make-up she was wearing.

“Hey, Applejack!”

“Hi, Chrys!”

“How’s life treatin’ ya?”

“Alright.”

“Ready to get out there, Chrys?” Coco asked.

Glancing briefly at Applejack, a thought occurred to Chrysalis and she said, “Actually, I need to use the bathroom. You guys go ahead.”

Rolling her eyes (at least, Chrysalis assumed she was under the hockey mask), Scootaloo said, “Would it have killed you to go ahead of time?”

“Then I would have arrived slightly later,” Chrysalis pointed out. “Either way, you’d be waiting for me the same amount of time.”

Unable to think of a counter to that, Scootaloo just cried, “Damn you and your logic!” then stepped out the door with the other girls.

“Bathroom’s just down the hall. You can’t miss it,” Applejack said, indicating the direction with the point of a finger.

“Thanks, but I don’t actually need to go,” Chrysalis explained.

“Oh?”

“Yeah, sorry for lying—I know you’re not particularly a fan of that—but I just wanted to talk to you about something…you know….”

Oh…” said Applejack, thinking she had an idea of what Chrysalis meant. “Well, shoot. What’s on your mind?”

Taking a breath, Chrysalis said, “Just last Friday, I had a talk with Sunset about this whole…‘pretending to be human’ thing.”

"Aren’t you human, though?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I guess. Sorry, go ahead.”

“Anyway, it was a good talk. She and the others had some good advice. I’m just curious…” Chrysalis hesitated as she tried to figure out the best way to say it. “How do you deal with it? With your family not knowing, I mean.”

“You mean not knowing that I have magic powers and hang out with a unicorn—sorry, alicorn—from another world?”

Chrysalis nodded. “Sunset said that before her own family found out what she is, it started to put a serious strain on their relationship.”

“And you want to know if it’s been the same for me and Apple Bloom?”

“Wow. You all are really good at this.”

Either shrugging or rolling her shoulder, Applejack said, “Well, when you’ve been in Sunny’s world for as long as we all have, I guess you get pretty good at figuring out what’s on others’ minds. ‘Specially when it comes to dealing with this stuff.” She then cleared her throat. “But to answer your question, it’s certainly not been easy. ‘Specially for someone like me, who values honesty so much.”

“Right.”

“Most of the time it’s not so bad. The fact that your friend comes from another dimension doesn’t really come up naturally in conversation that often. But every once in a while I’ll have to outright lie to my family for her sake.” Applejack frowned. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I resent Sunny for it or anything. But when I, for instance, had to come with her to her world for her coronation, I had to look my sister dead in the eye and tell her I was going to Klamath Falls.”

“Do you think she knew?”

“That I was lying? It’s possible.”

“Then…are things still cool between you two?”

“For now. The fact is, sibling relationships are complicated. There’s always gonna be rough patches no matter what. I think it’s the same with close friends as well.” Then with an encouraging smile, Applejack patted her arm and said, “The important thing is at the end of the day, you still love each other.”

That was more or less what Sunset, Twilight and Tavi had told her. “Thanks,” Chrysalis said. “Have you ever thought about telling them?”

Applejack rubbed her chin for a few seconds. “Maybe one day. Don’t know. I never really thought about it before. Guess I just assumed things were always going to be like this, but now that I think about it, that’s probably a silly assumption.”

“Who knows? Maybe in several years, the whole world will know about us and what we can do,” Chrysalis suggested.

“Maybe. I think I prefer only a select few knowing for now.”

“Well, when the day comes that I do want to let them in on the secret, I’ll let you know,” Chrysalis said. “Wouldn’t want to step on your toes or anything.”

“I appreciate that, Chrys,” Applejack said before going to the front door. “If there’s nothing else, you should get going. Wouldn’t want to keep your friends waiting.”

Chrysalis had done enough of that tonight already, so she thanked Applejack for the talk and made her way outside.

Driving back to Celestia’s townhouse after dropping Chrysalis off, Sable took a deep breath as he gripped the wheel tight. His mind had been on his conversation with Shining Armor on Friday for the whole weekend, and what it might mean for tonight. For a while, he’d been honestly considering prohibiting Chrysalis from going out on Halloween, knowing that she’d been looking forward to it all week. She would hate him for it, but if that was the price of her safety he could live with that.

Because what Shining Armor had told him and Troubleshoes that Friday evening down in the SIREN command bunker had him seriously worried.



When the three of them stepped out of the elevator into the cavernous bunker after dinner that evening, the triplets were already running the obstacle course, sweating out the chicken and mashed potatoes from dinner.

“To tell you the truth, I’m still not sure whether it’s even worth it for me to tell you guys this. It could turn out to be nothing,” Shining said. “But I’d rather err on the side of caution with this. Especially since both of you have a little girl you’re responsible for.”

“Is keeping us in suspense a part of your G-man training?” Troubleshoes asked, clearly trying to add some levity to the atmosphere but just as clearly getting impatient for the information.

“No, it just comes naturally,” Shining replied with the hint of a smile before getting to business. “Now, earlier last week the Bureau assisted in a human-trafficking bust down in Imperial County. Pretty standard stuff, especially for that area. The major difference with this particular trafficking ring is that A, we suspect they’re multinational; and B, the victims are young. I think the report mentioned the oldest one was sixteen.

“Now, we did manage to make a lot of arrests and saved a lot of kids. The only problem is, two of the ring leaders managed to slip away: a couple of bastards by the name of Iron Sulfide and Red Culpea. We’ve managed to track some of their movements, and by the looks of it, they fled here. To Canterlot.”

Sable and Troubleshoes exchanged another look as Shining continued, “At first, it was my belief that they have a safehouse here and that they’re laying low, but then….” Shining sighed. “But then on Sunday morning, a girl was reported missing. Last seen at the Olde Towne Shopping Center on Saturday afternoon.”

“Shit…” Sable swore, understanding now why Shining was having this conversation with them.

“Yeah, I was really hoping this girl—Twist Cane—would turn out to be just a runaway. CPD interviewed her family, and it fits the typical profile: Parents recently divorced, and the mother’s new boyfriend is a suspected abuser. But after twenty-four hours passed with no sign of her, the case was updated from runaway to possible kidnapping.”

“And you think that maybe Sulfide and Culpea aren’t just laying low, but have set up another human trafficking ring here in Canterlot?” Sable asked, thinking it was unlikely but possible. Perhaps they were already establishing a trafficking operation in Canterlot before the bust in Imperial County.

“Officially, the Bureau’s stance is that Twist’s disappearance is unrelated to Sulfide and Culpea. The police suspect Twist is with her father, who seems to have skipped town.” Shining frowned. “Me though? I have a bad feeling we’re about to see a lot more missing girls in the coming weeks. I hope I’m wrong. Because if I’m not, it may already be too late for Twist.” He rubbed the bridge of his nose. “And with the memory of the Dead Hand Killings so fresh on everyone’s minds, we really do not need this right now.”

“Tell me about it,” Sable said, glancing over at his master chief.

He saw Troubleshoes tense up and knew at once he was thinking about Tirespin.

“Do you want SIREN to look into this?” Sable asked. “If I talked to Sunset, I’m sure she could—”

“No. I mean no offense to Sunny or SIREN, but this is a Federal case. She’s got good intentions, but if she gets involved, she’ll just turn it into an even bigger mess.” With another sigh, Shining said, “I love Sunny dearly, but she really needs to learn to pick her battles. I hardly need to remind you of her little Europe trip, right?”

Sable shook his head; when he’d heard about it, he’d planned to give her a piece of his mind on that, but thankfully by that point everyone else had already done so.

“This crazy ‘magic’ stuff is her bailiwick and that’s what she should stick to,” Shining concluded. “She needs to leave the mundane stuff to the proper authorities.”

“All due respect, what was the point of even telling us this if we’re supposed to do nothing?” Troubleshoes asked.

“I’m not suggesting you do nothing,” Shining said, taking another look at the triplets as they ran the obstacle course. “I’m suggesting the triplets and even the ATG keep a close eye on Sunny and everyone in her circle for the next few weeks. Maybe tell them it’s a training drill for a ‘raised alert’ operational status or something, I don’t know. You’re the military experts here.”

“Right….”

“And hey, for all I know this could all be nothing. We could find Sulfide and Culpea tomorrow, and that girl Twist could turn out to be with her father over in Idaho or something. But….”

“But you’d rather err on the side of caution,” Sable said.

“Exactly,” Shining said, as he made to return to the elevator, evidently having said all he needed to.

“Hey, thanks for telling us this,” Troubleshoes said, giving Shining a grateful smile. “I’m sure you could get in a lot of trouble if your superiors found out.”

“Yeah, with a capital ‘T’. But I trust both of you to keep quiet about it,” Shining said, giving a little wink as the elevator doors closed.



Sable had to slam on the brakes a little harder than normal to stop at the red light in time, so lost he was replaying that conversation over in his mind. Sable suspected that Tirespin would be getting a much earlier curfew for the foreseeable future, and he wondered whether he should implement the same with Chrysalis. The girl had already survived sexual slavery once before, and it had cost her sanity for the next millennium. Sable couldn’t bear the thought of her going through that again.

What ultimately had changed his mind about allowing her to go through with tonight was the memory of OPERATION: LOST CHORD. He remembered the fearsome commander of the changeling army he had encountered in the underground caves of Equestria, and more recently the courageous girl who stood against her former friends in the defense of others. He was wrong: she didn’t need to be coddled. Sable pitied any trafficker or criminal dumb enough to mess with Chrysalis.

With nothing left to do in the house and eager to start going around the neighborhood, the seven girls set out, bidding farewell to the scarecrow: Apple Bloom’s older brother Big Macintosh, she explained. The “living scarecrow” bit was apparently a Halloween tradition he’d taken over from his father Appleseed after the addition of Apple Bloom’s baby brother Melrose to the family. It was a tradition that was very effective at scaring, if the startled shrieking that came from the house after they left was any indication.

Chrysalis managed to grasp the concept of Halloween pretty quickly after the first house they visited. All she and her friends needed to do was approach a house that was decorated for the occasion and proclaim “Trick or treat!” loudly. This resulted in the home’s resident (who might or might not also be in costume) depositing small handfuls of candy in their steadily growing bags. Chrysalis realized that at the rate they were going, she was going to have more candy than she’d know what to do with.

She couldn’t deny she was having fun. The costumes she and her friends wore elicited amusing responses from the adults at the doors they knocked on, which helped Chrysalis figure out what some of her friends’ costumes actually were. A number of people called Scootaloo “Splatterhouse,” and some of the older people seemed to get a kick out of Sweetie and Coco’s twins outfit (which honestly seemed the least like a proper costume to Chrysalis).

Every time they were recognized, Coco and Sweetie made sure to say, “Come play with us…” in unison, sometimes adding, “Forever and ever and ever…” which Chrysalis had to admit was actually kind of creepy. When they told her it was from a movie called The Shining, Chrysalis made sure to add it to her ever growing list of movies to watch. The only costume nobody seemed to get was Crackle’s, prompting Chrysalis to simply ask her after a while.

“I’m a jiangshi,” Crackle said as if that explained it. The blank stares from Chrysalis and her friends caused her to elaborate, “A creature from Chinese mythology. Undead, sleeps in a coffin, and roams the night sucking the life force from the living!”

“Dude, you could have just said ‘Chinese vampire’ and we would have gotten it,” Scootaloo said.

“That’s an oversimplification.”

“Yeah, which is the best way to explain things to Scootaloo,” Apple Bloom teased.

Scootaloo shot her an indignant look. “Pfft. I’ll oversimplificate your face!

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Your mom doesn’t make sense!”

“Ooh, shots fired,” Chrysalis deadpanned, and the others laughed.

Some time later, Chrysalis and her friends had been approached by a small boy who appeared no older than ten. He was a scrawny thing with brown hair and was carrying a camera around his neck.

“You guys look awesome!” he exclaimed, then asked, “Can I take your picture?”

Not seeing any reason to deny the kid, Chrysalis and her friends all struck a pose suitable to their costume and Chrysalis heard the click of the young boy’s camera.

“Thanks!” the boy exclaimed, running off to take more pictures before Chrysalis and the others had a chance to ask to see it.

All in all, Chrysalis was having a fun night with her friends. However, she’d almost completely forgotten one of them was even there until she whirled around—having gotten her candy from the latest house—and nearly bowled over the girl in the black cloak and screaming ghost mask.

“Oh shit, my bad…uh…” Chrysalis said, wracking her brain to try to remember the girl’s name. She didn’t usually have a problem remembering names, but this girl had been so quiet and meek Chrysalis had almost forgotten she was even with them until that moment. Not knowing what her face looked like under the mask certainly didn’t help. What was it…something with an R? Rrrr… Ra…Ri….

“Ribby!” Chrysalis exclaimed, suddenly remembering.

The girl in question jumped and nearly dropped her bag of candy. “Yes?” she said, her already quiet voice partially muffled by the mask.

The two of them were now lagging slightly behind the rest of the group, and Chrysalis realized this was an ideal moment to get to know the strange girl better. Throughout the night, Chrysalis noticed she seemed to be walking with a slight limp, so she asked, “Did you hurt your leg or something?”

Ribby just tensed up and said, “I-I don’t wanna talk about it.”

A sensitive subject, fair enough, Chrysalis thought, further perplexed by the strange girl. Out of all of the girls in her new group of friends, Ribby was the only one who didn’t seem to fit. Chrysalis had only really known Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo for a week; Coco Pommel and Crackle even less. But she already felt more at ease around them than this Ribby girl seemed to, and she’d known them longer than Chrysalis’ recent return to the human world.

“So, you go to school with Coco and Crackle, right?” Chrysalis asked. Ribby’s only response was a nod, so Chrysalis pressed further. “So…what do you major in?”

Ribby muttered something that was completely inaudible to Chrysalis, so she said, “Sorry, I didn’t get that.”

Ribby spoke a bit louder…but a car happened to pass by right at that moment, drowning her out.

“One more time?” Chrysalis said.

“I-I…d-don’t know,” Ribby stammered.

Chrysalis gave her a deadpan, lidded look. “You don’t know what your major is?”

“I-I mean…I….”

Chrysalis waited a few seconds, but when Ribby didn’t seem about to finish her thought, Chrysalis asked, “Well, what are your interests?”

Again, Ribby stuttered, “I-I don’t know….”

This conversation was going nowhere, and Chrysalis was starting to lose her patience. “Well what do you and the others do together?”

I don’t know….

Was Chrysalis talking to a person, or a skipping record?

“Well, what do you know?!” Chrysalis snapped, not even realizing that she’d raised her voice.

Under Ribby’s mask, Chrysalis could only hear sniffling, and she realized the girl was crying. Realizing she had perhaps let her frustration at the conversation get the better of her, Chrysalis took a breath and reached over to the crying girl dressed as a dark ghost.

“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” But when Chrysalis touched Ribby’s shoulder, the girl jumped and recoiled.

All at once, it dawned on Chrysalis exactly what was going on, and how badly she’d just fucked up.

“It’s okay, don’t w-worry about it,” Ribby said, increasing her walking pace so she was now limping beside Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle, leaving Chrysalis at the back of the pack.

Chrysalis knew exactly why Ribby had recoiled from her touch: it was the same reaction she herself had to physical contact even from those she loved and trusted. She could taste the bitter pain flowing from Ribby’s very being, but she had blocked it out because it tasted so very much like her own.

Good job, Queen Asshole. The one person in your group of friends who might actually understand what you’ve been through, and you pushed her away.

When they got to the next house, Sweetie Belle leaned towards her and whispered, “Did something happen between you and Ribby?”

Too ashamed to look at her, Chrysalis said, “You could say that. Is she okay?”

Sweetie paused before answering, “As good as she ever is.”

“Can you tell her I understand how she feels?” Chrysalis asked. “I don’t think she really wants to talk to me right now.”

“Of course,” Sweetie said. “For the record, I don’t think she holds it against you. But you need to understand: Ribby…she’s suffered a lot. It’s not my place to say what exactly happened, but please keep that in mind, okay?”

Chrysalis frowned. “Don’t worry, I have a pretty good idea what she’s been through.”

“Really? How…?”

“Let’s just say it takes one to know one.”

As the night progressed and their bags grew heavier, Chrysalis began to get an uneasy feeling. Back in Equestria, the hive mind had given her a sort of sixth sense. She always seemed to just know when danger was somewhere close. Looking around, she saw nothing but other trick or treaters, most of them families with very small children. There was certainly no danger here in this quiet suburb, so Chrysalis wrote it off as nothing more than a phantom sensation: a memory of a warning from the hive mind.

But when they got to the next house, Chrysalis was confronted with the possibility that perhaps that part of her that intuitively sensed danger was still present.

“Your group is certainly bigger than normal this year,” said the old lady at the door. It would appear that she was a long-time neighbor and friend of Apple Bloom’s family, because she spoke to Apple Bloom with familiarity.

“Yeah, I made a lot more friends this year!” Apple Bloom exclaimed.

“I see, and may I say your costumes all look great!” The woman said, depositing some candy into each of their bags with a smile.

“Thanks, Mrs. Butternut!”

“Though, aren’t you girls starting to get a little old for trick or treating?”

“Uh….”

The woman—Mrs. Butternut—then smiled, “I’m only teasing. Besides, at least you’re all still keeping with the spirit of the holiday.” She frowned and looked at something out in the street past them. “Not like those older boys up the street there, who had the audacity to show up at my doorstep in nothing but their normal clothes asking for candy. ‘We’re dressed as teenagers,’ they said, like it was supposed to be clever!”

Chrysalis followed Mrs. Butternut’s gaze as she ranted, more out of idle curiosity than anything, and that was when she started to wonder whether her danger sense was still intact after all. It was dark, and the four boys were far enough away that she couldn’t make out any details, but right away she noticed that one of them appeared to have their arm in a sling…and Chrysalis was pretty sure she was the one who put it there. Sure enough, a bit of light from a nearby street lamp illuminated something shiny around the boy’s neck, and Chrysalis was fairly sure it was a dog collar.

The group of them thanked Mrs. Butternut and started walking towards the next house. After spending some time mulling over whether to say something, Chrysalis leaned over to Sweetie and whispered, “Don’t look now, but I think I just spotted our old friend from the Olde Towne parking lot.”

Who, Rover?” Sweetie started to look over her shoulder before apparently remembering to not look. “Do you think he’s looking for payback?”

Chrysalis pretended to check herself as if she’d dropped something important then turned around, taking another good look at Rover and his friends. “Looks to me like he and his buddies just want to harass people for free candy. I don’t think he’ll bother us. Not if he remembers the beatdown I gave him last time.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” Sweetie said, taking a relieved breath. “Besides, there’s a lot more of us together now.”

“Hey, you guys wanna go check out Spooky House?” Scootaloo asked, further ahead of the pack and having heard none of the previous conversation.

“What the heck is Spooky House?” Coco asked.

“It’s a really old house just one street over,” Apple Bloom explained. “Been abandoned pretty much as long as I’ve been alive.”

“Yeah, it’s old and creepy and awesome!” Scootaloo exclaimed. “C’mon, we’ll show you!”

Just like that, Scootaloo was ahead of the pack again, and the rest of the girls saw no other choice but to follow her.

Most of the houses on this street were dark—it was starting to get late, and it would appear that many of the residents here were no longer giving out candy. The houses only lined one side of the street. The other side consisted entirely of a small forest of trees with a number of paths running through them. A sign read, “Owl Park.”

Chrysalis suspected she knew which of the houses was “Spooky House.” While the other houses on the street were dark, but very clearly still lived in (she could spot the flickering light of a TV set in a few of them), one house was dark and dead. The old stone walls, which looked to have been built in a different century, were completely overgrown with dried, dead vines. The windows were dark and dusty, the wooden porch was rotted away, and the roof appeared ready to collapse at a moment’s notice. A mud brown panel van sat in the driveway, looking as dead and forgotten as the house itself.

There was something else strange about the house that Chrysalis couldn’t quite describe. If her “danger-sense” had been acting up before, now it was practically going into overdrive. She took a quick look at her surroundings. There was no sign of Rover and his friends anywhere on the street, but their absence was a cold comfort. Chrysalis couldn’t shake the feeling like she was being watched.

“So, this is Spooky House?” Crackle asked.

“Sure lives up to its name,” Coco said.

“There’s something in there…” Chrysalis said at barely a whisper.

“Yeah, racoons probably,” Sweetie Belle said.

“Quit trying to scare us, Chrys,” Apple Bloom said.

“I’m being serious. I don’t know. I can’t explain it, but there’s definitely something in there….”

“Hey girls!” exclaimed a brand new voice right next to the group.

Suddenly all of her friends were shrieking, and Chrysalis turned to see a familiar pair of girls their age standing right beside them dressed as witches.

“Hey Toola, Creams,” Chrysalis said, barely flinching. She acknowledged her two classmates with a nod.

“You scared the absolute crap out of us!” Crackle exclaimed.

“Sorry,” Coconut Cream said.

“Your reactions were pretty funny though,” Toola Roola said with a giggle. “Except for yours Chrys. You just looked bored.”

“It takes more than that to frighten me!”

“HOLY SHIT!” Scootaloo exclaimed, incidentally causing Chrysalis to jump in place. Did you see that?!

“See what?” Sweetie Belle asked impatiently.

Scootaloo pointed at Spooky House, and Chrysalis noticed her hand trembling a bit. “There was someone in the second floor window!”

That feeling of danger—of being watched—suddenly came back to Chrysalis and she unconsciously took a step behind the rest of the group. “R-really?”

“Scoots, I swear to God this isn’t funny,” Apple Bloom said.

“Yeah, that’s cuz I’m being serious,” Scootaloo said, pointing again at the dark, lifeless window on the second floor of the dilapidated old house. “They were standing right there, looking down at us!”

“You’re so full of shit.”

“Don’t believe me? C’mon.” Scootaloo then started walking up towards Spooky House, prompting the eight other girls present to start shouting a chorus of “Hey,” “Wait,” and “Scootaloo, what are you doing?”

“C’mon, let’s take a look!” Scootaloo exclaimed. “If you really think I’m lying, then there’s nothing to be afraid of!”

Another chorus of “No,” “Stop, Scoots!” and a single “We’re trespassing!” followed, but so did the entire group of gathered girls. Not wanting to be left behind, Chrysalis followed them. The rusted metal gate of the property opened with a loud creak. The brown, overgrown weeds and other plants brushed against their legs as they walked up the path, almost like spindly fingers grasping for them.

The girls’ bickering had grown completely silent by the time they reached the porch steps, which creaked as Scootaloo led the way up. The other eight girls hesitated at the foot of the steps, not quite courageous enough to follow. At least, at first. After another moment of pause, Toola Roola lightly bounded up the steps, two at a time, and Coconut Cream followed. Then to Chrysalis’s surprise, Ribby quietly went after them.

Well, if that meek girl is brave enough to face whatever’s in Spooky House, I certainly am! Chrysalis thought, before ascending the porch steps after her.

The five girls all peered through the window on the front door, the shorter Scootaloo and Toola Roola at the front of the pack on their tippy toes. Coconut Cream tried to shove for more space while Ribby clung tightly to Scootaloo as she peered over her shoulder. Being a good head taller than all of them, Chrysalis had an easier time looking.

“What do you see?” Apple Bloom whispered, she and the rest of the girls refusing to get any closer and looking ready to bolt at the slightest provocation.

There was a fair amount of dust on the inside of the window, and the inside of the aptly named house itself was very dark, but Chrysalis could make out a few things. A dusty hallway stretched out in front of them, leading to a flight of stairs at the end. An old cabinet sat laced with cobwebs against one of the walls, and some of the floorboards looked like they’d been split open. A couple of doors that were partially ajar lined the hallway, and Chrysalis could see another one under the stairs that was firmly closed. A line of disturbed dust traced the opening radius of that one. Had it been used recently?

Their view of the hallway was suddenly obstructed by a pale bearded face, and suddenly Scootaloo and the others were screaming. Startled more by her friends’ screams than the face (though that had been pretty startling as well), Chrysalis let out a startled war cry of her own (it didn’t count as a scream, Chrysalis decided). She then turned and started booking it the other way, and the other girls who were peering into the house with her were right on her heels. Apple Bloom and the others still on the path couldn’t have been able to see what they saw, but their frightened screaming caused a chain reaction of noise, resulting in all nine girls in the group to scatter in the night like roaches in the light.

Operating purely on changeling instinct, Chrysalis sought out the cover of darkness, and the only place out of the street lights was Owl Park across the street. Chrysalis ran straight into the trees, her heart racing, and the sound of more shrieking behind her indicated that at least some of the other girls had followed her. So Chrysalis ran blindly into the dark, tripping and stumbling over branches and stones. All around her were glowing eyes in the trees, and Chrysalis let out another “war cry”, imagining more ghostly faces coming out of the darkness.

So, she kept running until at last, she emerged on the other side, where the park came out onto a wide open field with a playground and benches next to another street. That was when Chrysalis finally allowed herself to stop and catch her breath. Scootaloo nearly bumped into her stumbling out of the wooded path, and right behind her was Ribby. The three girls stood just at the threshold of the wooded section of the park, breathing heavily.

“Wha…what the hell was that?” Scootaloo asked after a minute or two.

Ribby was trembling considerably, and Scootaloo put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

Chrysalis, having had enough time for the adrenaline to wear off and think logically about the situation, said, “If I had to guess…probably a squatter.”

Scootaloo looked from Ribby to Chrysalis. “Wait, are you telling me that wasn’t a ghost, and we were all scared shitless by a…?”

“By a homeless man,” Chrysalis said with a self-deprecating chuckle. “Who was probably just as startled by us as we were by him!”

Chrysalis’s chuckle turned to full-blown laughter, and after a moment Scootaloo couldn’t help but start laughing too. Even Ribby, still behind her mask, shook with mirth. The three of them laughed for several moments, and then several moments more when Scootaloo suggested that the homeless man might have been tripping on drugs on top of everything.

“So, did you see where the others went?” Chrysalis asked when their laughter subsided.

“I dunno. Everywhere. I was just following you.”

Looking over at the nearby street, Chrysalis started figuring out which way to go to try to meet up with them. “C’mon, let’s start heading this way,” she said, taking a step towards the street.

Wait!” Ribby’s shrill voice suddenly called out, and Chrysalis looked back at the girl as she frantically searched herself. “Oh no. No no no no no! It’s gone!

“What is it, Ribby?” Scootaloo asked.

“My pendant! The one my Mom gave me for my birthday last year. I-I must have dropped it while we were running away!” Ribby exclaimed, looking back into the dark woods from whence they came.

“Oh. Shit….”

“Please, we have to get it back!” Ribby pleaded, her voice starting to hitch. “I-it was the last gift my Mom got for me before….” She trailed off, whatever she was about to say next cut off by a whimper.

Taking one look at the open maw of trees, Scootaloo said, “I’m not going back in there!”

At that, Ribby’s whimper became a sob, and Chrysalis realized what she needed to do. “I’ll get it. You two wait here.”

Taking a deep breath, Chrysalis took a step back into the darkness of the trees.

“I’ll let the others know where we are,” Scootaloo said, taking out her phone.

Acknowledging her with a nod, Chrysalis walked into the trees until Scootaloo and Ribby disappeared from sight.

Now that she wasn’t operating on pure adrenaline, Chrysalis realized that the dark wood within the park was not actually that scary. She could see a lot better now with the moon—covered by clouds mere minutes ago—now shining its light through the branches above. Still, she wouldn’t find Ribby’s pendant by moonlight alone, so she brought out her phone and turned on the flashlight function. Her phone’s light reflected off of the eyes in the trees, but with a clear mind, Chrysalis could see they were nothing more than the park’s namesake owls.

For a few minutes, Chrysalis retraced their steps, scanning the ground with her phone light. The tracks they left in their panicked sprint were unmistakable. There was very little chance of missing Ribby’s pendant. Sure enough, after another minute or two of searching, Chrysalis’s light glinted off of something shiny. Rushing forward, Chrysalis picked up the item, wiping off some of the dirt with the flat of her wrist. She was holding a pendant in the shape of a frog seen from above. Turning it over to look at the back, a message was inscribed To R.B. With Love, Mom. Chrysalis sighed with relief.

OH CHRYSIE! CHRYSIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE!” A deep boy’s voice called out from the darkness somewhere ahead of her.

Chrysalis recognized the voice instantly as Rover.

WE SAW YOU RUN IN HERE, CHRYSIE!” An unfamiliar boy’s voice—one of Rover’s friends, most likely—called out.

COME ON OUT!” A third voice. “WE JUST WANNA HAVE A FEW WORDS!

“Shit!” Chrysalis swore, quickly diving to the side of the path and hiding behind a tree, making sure to put out her phone light.

She had handily beaten Rover in a one-on-one fight. Against a group of his friends all ganging up on her, Chrysalis wasn’t so sure she could win. Not good.

She heard Rover call out for her again. They sounded close; close enough that they would probably hear her if she tried to take off. They would run after her, and where would she go? Back to Scootaloo and Ribby? Scootaloo could probably handle herself in a fight, but Ribby? The girl would probably faint if one of them so much as looked at her aggressively. For Ribby’s sake, running was out of the question. She could try to hide and hope that they’d go past her. Then again, even if they didn’t see her, they’d just end up coming out the other side of the woods where Scootaloo and Ribby were waiting for her.

Chrysalis could hear the rustling of leaves and the cracking of twigs. They were getting closer. Think, think, think!

Then Chrysalis got an idea.

Grunting, Rover trudged along the path of the wooded park, squinting to see in the darkness. His friends were spread out in the trees on either side of the path, casting a wide net in case the bitch was trying to hide.

Technically, he was only supposed to watch Chrysalis and see if he could glean anything about her. Those had been Diamond Tiara’s instructions, anyway. She was a cute piece of ass, especially for a freshman, but Rover was starting to wonder whether she was worth it. He certainly had other things he’d rather be doing on Halloween than playing spy for her. Flash Sentry was throwing a party at his place, and Rover had wanted to crash it and see what he could steal. At least his friends had the forethought to bring some beers to drink while they were at it.

Still, the thought of getting a chance for some payback had ultimately proved too enticing to pass up. Rover didn’t think Diamond would be too upset if he and his friends extracted some revenge on that disloyal punk. His friends still didn’t believe that he got his ass handed to him by a thirteen-year-old girl, so Rover hoped she’d at least put up a decent fight.

Rover had tried his best to keep an eye on Chrysalis throughout the night in spite of his friends’ constant efforts to grift some candy from the residents of this neighborhood. Thanks to their shenanigans, Rover did lose sight of her and her group of friends for a bit. Then he heard a chorus of screaming girls and managed to catch a glimpse of her running into the nearby park followed by only a couple of her friends. He wasn’t about to let an opportunity like that go to waste and gathered his friends as quickly as he could (who were trying to make off with more candy intended for little kids in costumes).

C’MON CHRYSSIE, COME OUT AND TAKE WHAT YOU’RE OWED!” he called out again.

He’d seen the glow of a flashlight—likely from a cellphone—illuminating the trees in the distance earlier. She was close, Rover could feel it.

A loud lupine howl suddenly echoed through the trees, sending a cold shiver up his spine.

Christ! What the hell was that?!” exclaimed Fido, a boy who in spite of his impressive size, was a complete wuss: immediately jumping back onto the path and getting next to Rover.

“Probably just a coyote or something,” Rover said, masking the fear running through him. Whatever it was, it sounded close.

Joining them back on the path, his other friend Spot—the smallest and nimblest of the three of them—looked at him with wide eyes. “That sounded like a fuckin’ wolf to me, man!”

“There aren’t any wolves in Canterlot!”

Whatever Spot was about to say in reply was interrupted by the sound of a deep, resonant canine growl. Just ahead of them, the bushes rustled and a pair of green eyes reflecting the moonlight appeared. The huge shadow they were attached to then emerged from the bushes, and Rover and his friends stood frozen in place as they came face to face with the biggest wolf any of them had ever seen.

Standing at nearly the same height as Rover himself, the huge lupine snarled, baring its massive fangs. In the light of the moon, Rover could swear he saw something red along its mouth. Blood? Then the massive wolf pushed off its front legs and began to stand. Now towering above the three of them on two legs, the lupine creature opened its front paws into a set of sharp claws, then reared back and bellowed out an ethereal howl at the moon…which Rover was fairly certain was full.

He then looked on either side of himself and noticed that both of his friends were already long gone. The monster wolf then lunged forward, letting out a deafening roar spraying blood and spittle. Rover took off running as fast as he could, whimpering, crying and praying to whatever god will listen to protect him from the monster.

Rather than go trick or treating that Halloween, Featherweight had decided to take his new camera for a little night shoot. He had gotten it for his birthday just that weekend, and just couldn’t get enough of it! He’d spent the early half of the evening taking pictures of the various trick-or-treaters in their costumes (with their permission of course). When he got bored of that, he decided to go into the park, hoping to test out the night vision setting on his camera by getting some shots of the owls that lived there.

His little photography session was then broken up by the high-pitched screaming of teenage girls, and Featherweight saw a group of three of them run past on the adjacent path like Hell itself was on their heels. Thinking they were nothing more than victims of a Halloween prank, he quickly forgot about it and continued snapping photos. Several minutes later, he heard older boys’ voices shouting. It sounded like they were looking for somebody named “Chryssie.” Featherweight paid them no mind as he had with the girls before (perhaps “Chryssie” was one of them).

Then he heard the howl.

The sound was otherworldly and shook him to the core, and he heard the boys who had been shouting talking nervously amongst themselves. So, pressing himself tightly behind a tree, Featherweight peered out to the path, where three boys were huddled together. Standing in front of them was something Featherweight had only ever seen in movies. A great wolf, as big as a person, stood on the path opposite the boys, snarling at them. Featherweight’s heart raced in his chest and his hands were trembling, but he was destined to be a great photographer one day!

So, knowing that moments like this one were just the kind he needed to capture on film (or in this case, on his memory card), he raised his camera, double-checking that the night vision was still on. He then set the camera to video, deciding that simple pictures wouldn’t do to capture this moment. Right as he did, the werewolf (that had to be what it was, there was no other explanation!) reared up on its hind legs and howled at the full moon through the trees, and two of the boys cowering before it took off running the other way. Then the werewolf let out a terrifying roar and the one boy who remained fled right after them.

Now alone in the woods with the apparent lycan, Featherweight kept filming. Rather than give chase to the fleeing boys, the werewolf merely watched them run. Then when they were out of sight, it looked around, seemingly checking its surroundings, and Featherweight was sure for a moment that it would see him. Instead, the great beast turned and started casually walking the other way. Then something happened that defied anything Featherweight expected.

The giant wolf was suddenly washed over in green flames as its form started to shift. In just a short moment, where once there was a terrifying werewolf now stood a young teenage girl with blond hair streaked with teal. Apart from the vampire costume she wore, she looked like just an ordinary girl. In fact, Featherweight thought that maybe he’d seen her earlier that night. Briefly checking something in her hand, the girl continued down the path out of sight.

It took a few moments of just sitting there, trembling with awe and fear in equal parts, that Featherweight had the presence of mind to stop recording. He then went to play it back but reconsidered. The hoot of one of the owls he had been taking photos of mere minutes ago sent another set of chills through his body, and Featherweight decided that he wanted to go home right now.

Even still, as frightened as he was, Featherweight was also giddy. He’d probably never film anything that cool for as long as he lived!

When Chrysalis exited the thick wooded section of the park, Scootaloo and Ribby weren’t the only ones waiting for her. Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and the rest of the girls were all loitering about. They immediately went to her when they saw her emerge.

“You okay?” Sweetie Belle asked. “I thought I heard something howling in there!”

“Yeah, I heard it too. Probably just a coyote or something,” Chrysalis said with as much nonchalance as she could muster. “I did, however, almost run into Rover and his friends, but whatever was howling scared them off.”

She then spotted Ribby, who was sitting on a nearby park bench with both hands on the leg she’d been limping on throughout the night. Come to think of it, Chrysalis was surprised the girl had managed to keep up with her and Scootaloo when they were running earlier. Chalking it up to the power of adrenaline, Chrysalis approached Ribby and presented the pendant. The girl had taken her ghost face mask off at some point while Chrysalis had been gone, and her raspberry eyes lit up at the sight of her treasured possession.

“Thank you so much, Chrysalis!” the girl exclaimed, smiling widely as her eyes brimmed with tears.

Something about those raspberry eyes struck a chord of familiarity with Chrysalis, but she couldn’t quite place her finger on where she would have seen eyes like that before. Come to think of it, even her smile reminded Chrysalis of somebody she knew.

“Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I think I’ve had enough excitement for one night,” Coco said.

“Yeah, we should get back,” Crackle said, checking her phone. “It’s getting pretty late.”

“Yeah, I’m ready to dig into our haul!” Scootaloo exclaimed.

“Wanna head back to my place?” Apple Bloom asked. The answer was a unanimous yes. At least, almost unanimous.

“I’m just gonna stop by Toola’s house to see if she’s there,” Coconut Cream said. “Lost track of her when we all ran away from Spooky House.”

“Is she not answering her phone?” Chrysalis asked.

Coconut shook her head. “No, but she’s pretty bad about answering her phone to begin with.”

“Makes sense.”

“It was fun hanging out with you girls, though.” Coconut smiled. “We should do it more often!”

Saying goodbye to Coconut Cream, Chrysalis and the rest of the girls all started walking in the direction of Apple Bloom’s place, chatting and laughing about the night’s events. As they did, Apple Bloom made her way next to Chrysalis.

“Hey, you said you ran into that guy Rover, right?” Apple Bloom asked, and Chrysalis nodded.

“Yeah. I thought he was just in the neighborhood by coincidence at first, but he definitely came here tonight to mess with me.”

Apple Bloom just glared ahead. “Diamond Tiara sent him.”

It was a pretty good guess, but Apple Bloom wasn’t guessing. Chrysalis could hear the certainty in her voice. “What makes you so sure?” she asked.

“This tradition of all my friends coming to my house and trick or treating in my neighborhood...it didn’t start when I met Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo.” Apple Bloom sighed, and Chrysalis understood what she meant. “It wouldn’t occur to Rover and his friends to look for you in this neighborhood tonight. But it would occur to Diamond.”

Chrysalis nodded and grunted an acknowledgement. Once again she found herself curious about the history between her current friend and her former one, but decided not to press it this time.

“She really has it out for you, doesn’t she?” Apple Bloom asked.

“Yeah, but it’s fine. I’ve dealt with worse than her.”

The two walked in silence for a bit, broken up by Scootaloo laughing at something Sweetie Belle said ahead of them.

“Hey Chrys, I’m sorry if I pressed you too hard for details about yourself before,” Apple Bloom said.

“You don’t have to apologize for trying to get to know me, Apple Bloom,” Chrysalis said.

“Well, Sweetie told me about the little incident between you and Ribby earlier tonight, and what you said to her after.” Apple Bloom gave her a sad smile. “Guess you and Ribby have a few things in common, huh?”

Chrysalis was pretty sure she knew what Apple Bloom meant. “It’s okay, you didn’t know.”

Chrysalis thought back to what Sunset and her siblings said to her in their talk Friday evening. And the similar words she received from Applejack tonight. Chrysalis knew she didn’t have to talk about her past if she didn’t want to, but in that moment she really wanted her friend to understand.

“It’s not just that I was abused. I took that pain and used it to hurt others. To give you a frame of reference, try to imagine how Sunset Shimmer used to be, but like ten times worse,” Chrysalis explained, and Apple Bloom listened quietly. “The reason I was so uncomfortable around Coco on Friday is because she just so happens to look just like one of the people I hurt the most. Honestly, it’s so uncanny it still kinda makes me uncomfortable.”

“I understand.”

Chrysalis looked ahead, where Coco Pommel walked beside Sweetie Belle, laughing in unison as if they really were the twins they were dressed as. “It’s not Coco’s fault. She’s a nice girl. It’s just something I’m going to have to get used to.”

Apple Bloom touched her shoulder and gave it a little pat. Then Scootaloo wandered over to brag about getting a full-sized candy bar.

A good several minutes later, they all arrived back at Apple Bloom’s house, which was a great deal quieter and less festive now that the evening was coming to an end. The spooky ambience and strobe lights had been turned off, the candles within the jack ‘o lanterns had all been put out, and Apple Bloom’s older brother had retired the living scarecrow for the night.

The seven girls all sat around the Apple family’s living room as they all went through their haul from the evening. Candy was enjoyed, compared and traded as the group of them all chatted about nothing in particular. Soon, it came time for the girls to start heading home; it was a school night, after all. Crackle was the first to go, followed shortly by Sweetie Belle. Coco left next, and Chrysalis tried to give the girl her best smile, just to make sure she knew they were cool. After that, Scootaloo went to catch the bus and only Ribby and herself were left. Chrysalis would have been fine taking the bus home, but Sable had been adamant about picking her up himself. So, she had messaged him as everyone had first started leaving that she was ready.

Chrysalis was chatting with Apple Bloom about an assignment for school that was due later that week when an older woman Chrysalis assumed was her mother came in requesting her assistance cleaning up some of the Halloween stuff.

“Are you waiting for your parents to pick you up?” the woman then asked, looking at Chrysalis.

“My d…uh, Sable’s on his way,” Chrysalis said, deciding she would not dwell on her near slip of the tongue at that moment.

Apple Bloom’s mom then looked at Ribby, and what she said nearly caused Chrysalis to do a double take.

“Raspberry honey, is Phoenix coming to get you?”

Whatever reply the girl in question gave, Chrysalis didn’t hear it, and it wasn’t because of the girl’s usual mumbled answer. Chrysalis had assumed that Ribby was the girl’s name, and not even seeing the initials R.B on her pendant clued Chrysalis in that it was a nickname. That certainly explained “Ribby’s” uncanny familiarity to Chrysalis, but she couldn’t believe it took her until now to realize it.

Looking again at this Raspberry’s hunched posture and meek face, Chrysalis thought, Of course I didn’t realize it. The girl in front of her was nothing like the Raspberry Beryl that she had known in Equestria. The unicorn Raspberry was strong, confident, and uncompromising in her beliefs. The girl in front of her was none of those things. While both versions of Raspberry Beryl had come face to face with darkness in their past, the Equestrian Raspberry had managed to come out the other side of that darkness. The Raspberry in front of her now was still lost in it.

It was around that time Chrysalis realized that Raspberry was staring at her. The girl blinked. “Sorry,” she said.

“It’s alright,” Chrysalis said. The way Raspberry kept glancing at her, it was clear there was something she wanted to say, so Chrysalis tried to help her along by asking, “What’s on your mind?”

“Oh, nothing. It’s just…I think you’re amazing.”

Chrysalis hadn’t expected her to say that. “I’m nothing special,” she said with a careless shrug.

“I think you are. Sweetie told me what you did for her a week ago at the shopping center,” Raspberry said, looking down at the pendant in her hand. The chain that made up the necklace was broken, which likely happened when they were running through the woods in the park. Raspberry would probably have to get a new chain before she could wear it properly again. “Plus, you found this. Even though you had no idea how important it is to me.”

“I could tell it’s important. Your mom’s gone now, right?” Chrysalis asked, and Raspberry confirmed it with a nod. Chrysalis almost didn’t ask what she did next—she was pretty sure she knew the answer, and didn’t want to bring up traumatic memories for Raspberry. But she realized it needed to be addressed. “And your father…he hurt you, didn’t he?”

Raspberry only looked at the floor, how lost she was plain on her face. “In ways you can’t imagine.”

“I can,” Chrysalis said, and Raspberry’s eyes lifted from the floor and rested back on her. “That’s kind of why I wanted to help you. Because…I’ve been there. I know what it’s like.”

Raspberry and Chrysalis both looked at each other, each one finally understanding the full measure of the other.

“I just wish…” Raspberry said with a sad, broken smile. “I wish I was even half as strong as you are.”

Chrysalis thought of the Raspberry Beryl in Equestria who had helped her when she was at her lowest point. Even though she had been an enemy, and it would have been well within her right to let her die or rot in prison, Raspberry had given her the help she needed. With that in mind, Chrysalis looked at her counterpart and realized, I can do the same for her.

"Honestly, I think you’re a lot stronger than me, Razz,” Chrysalis said, not even noticing her slip of the tongue.

“What do you mean?”

“We’ve both suffered the same—or similar enough. But in spite of that, you never became a monster like I did. Never lashed out at the world and hurt innocent people like I did. I can tell.”

Raspberry looked down at her hands and said, “My hands aren’t exactly clean, though.”

Chrysalis reached over and put her hand on Raspberry’s. “That may be. But it took me a very long time to get to where I am now, and you’re practically already there.”

Looking down again, Raspberry said, “I don’t think I am. You’re actually confident. You’re not afraid of your own shadow, or constantly feeling like you’re worthless.” Then with a hopeless sigh, Raspberry said, “I’m never going to be like I was before.”

“Maybe not,” Chrysalis said. “But somebody once told me that it’s never too late to start being better. That’s all we can really do. Even I’m not totally perfect. Some days you’re taking one step forward and two steps back. But as long as you never stop trying to be better, eventually you will be. Even if you’re not the same person you were before, you’ll still be someone…good, I dunno. I’m kinda rambling now, but you get what I mean, right?”

With a genuinely hopeful smile, Raspberry looked at Chrysalis and said, “Yeah, I know what you mean.” Then to Chrysalis’s surprise, the girl wrapped her arms around her and pulled her into a hug. “I didn’t know how badly I needed to hear that. Thank you, Chrys.”

Heading back from Toola Roola’s house, Coconut Cream’s nerves were fraught with worry. She had been certain that her friend had just decided to go straight home after the fright they all had at Spooky House. Still, considering Toola wasn’t answering her phone or replying to texts, Coconut felt like it was her responsibility to check on her just to make sure she got home safe. But the only person who had been home was Toola’s older brother and some girl he was with.

So Coconut Cream just started walking home, her stomach a cold pit of worry. Did something happen to her friend? Had that bearded ghost in Spooky House gotten her? She felt ridiculous for even thinking it, but the thought wouldn’t leave her mind. Taking out her phone, Coconut tried calling her again.

As expected, the phone rang, but no one answered. Less expected, she heard the faint sound of Hotline Bling playing in the distance, cutting through the dead silence of the night. She almost dismissed it as someone playing it in their car a few blocks away when she remembered that Toola had the song as her ringtone. Her ringtone that she always kept on max volume.

The song was coming from the street she had just passed, so doubling back, Coconut followed Hotline Bling down the street. A few seconds later, the song stopped playing, and for a moment Coconut thought she’d been hearing things. She then put her phone back to her ear and realized her call had once again gone to Toola’s voicemail. So hitting redial, Coconut listened and once again heard the first distant notes of Hotline Bling.

Now certain that she was on Toola’s trail, Coconut started a light jog in the direction of the song. “Toola?” she called out. “Toola, you here?

Her only answer was Drake’s siren song, and like a lost sailor Coconut continued to follow it. She had to hit redial one more time but she finally came across the closed convenience store at the corner. Hotline Bling was playing very loudly now. Coconut knew she was close.

She saw a light illuminating the inside of the dumpster in the alley behind the dark convenience store and was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Sure enough, peeking her head over the dumpster revealed that lying on top of the refuse was a phone. Coconut reached in and plucked it out of the dumpster. It was Toola Roola’s phone alright, and its screen displayed a number of missed calls from Coconut Cream.

How did this get here? She wondered. Something about the whole situation felt wrong to Coconut Cream. She couldn’t rationalize it, but she suddenly didn’t want to be out here anymore. She wanted nothing more than to be at home with her mom and dad. So, with her heart beating quickly in her chest, Coconut turned around to head back the way she came.

A mud brown panel van was sitting on the side of the road facing towards her. Was that there before? The van immediately stuck out to Coconut because she was pretty sure it was the same van she’d seen in the driveway in Spooky House. She could see the same logo of the cockroach beneath the flyswatter on the side of it.

So Coconut crossed the street as she made her way back, giving the van a wide berth. As she did, she heard the loud metallic click of the vehicle’s door opening and saw a man get out. She took a quick glance at him and realized that she was looking at the same ghostly bearded face she’d seen through the window of Spooky House. Only this was very much a man of flesh and blood, and he was walking toward her with a purpose.

Feeling more sacred than she ever had in her life, Coconut turned and ran…right into another man. She looked up to see a hateful grimace with a scar under his left eye. The man grabbed her. She tried to scream, but a hand quickly covered her mouth.

Author's Note:

It'll likely be a little while before the next chapter is ready. Workload at school has once again picked up immensely and free time is no longer a luxury I can afford. Hopefully things will settle down a bit in a month or so and I'll have time to write again