• Published 9th Sep 2012
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Human Nature - Blank Page



Torn from his world and thrust into another, Hunter Grey struggles to survive in the alien land of Equestria.

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Act I: The Unwelcoming Committee

"FIRE AT WILL!"

"What the " I started.

The pink oddity fired its cannon, unleashing a colorful ball of unknown terror upon me. I was knocked out of the house as the ball connected to my chest and exploded, and I fell on the dirt road covered head to toe in confetti, streamers, and various small party decorations. The streamers were instantly soaked in the rain, making them easy to rip apart, but there were so many that they began to cling to me. I groggily rose up and immediately stated clawing away at the paper decor that had suddenly wrapped around me.

A sky-blue missile blasted out of the house, a brilliant rainbow trailing behind it. I braced myself for another round of the pink one's confetti barrage. Unlike the first projectile, however, this one was much more... solid. It impacted my diaphragm, effectively knocking the wind out of me, and propelled me down the street. As it carried me, I managed to examine the colorful missile. Two wings protruded from both sides, each flapping frantically to keep us moving forward. The spectral mirage that trailed it was an echo of its similarly colored hair like material at its front and end. I glanced down at my chest to see two appendages branching off of the main body. It was definitely an odd shape for a missile. It wasn't until I saw a contorted face on a rounded head that I realized it was organic. But if it was organic... then it could feel pain...

It was time to test its limits.

I grasped its wings near the joints and twisted us into a frenzy of barrel rolls. I heard it, well, her, cry out in fear as she lost control. We crashed into the ground, hard. Thankfully, at the last second, I maneuvered us to where she hit the earth first with me "surfing" on top of her. She weakly groaned as our ride came to a sliding halt.

I propped myself up on my hands and knees above her and struggled to regain my composure. There was a sharp pain in my right knee where I could feel the skin touching the mud. My jeans must have ripped over the leg when we crashed. I winced as fire shot up my leg when I shifted some of my weight to the right. It would definitely become a problem if this madness carried on much longer.

The blue missile groaned again underneath me. I glanced down in curiosity and took the chance to better inspect her. She had a similar equine structure as the pink horse-thing from the tree house. This one in particular, however, had wings sprouting out of her back, giving her the appearance of a pegasus. Her eyes were screwed shut in pain. She lifted a blue foreleg up to her head and moaned, "Ugh, my head."

I zoned out as my mind struggled to comprehend what I had just heard. My eyes focused on her mouth, waiting to see if she would say something again, but nothing else come out that was comprehensible.

"Hold on, Rainbow! Ah'm a-comin'!"

Before I could turn to meet the new voice, there was a sudden constriction around my torso and upper arms as a rope slithered itself over me. A force dragged me backwards and away from the blue pegasus. When I managed to get up to my feet, I whirled around to discover an orange horse with a blonde mane and a stetson hat standing a few yards away with the other end of the lasso in her mouth. She gave the rope another tug to pull me further away from her fallen companion.

"Stay away from my friend," she growled, muffled by the rope in her mouth.

I planted my feet in the ground and tried to resist the pull of the rope, which was no easy feat. Whatever this thing was, it was strong. My leg screamed in pain as I exerted too much weight on it, but I tried to tune it out. This wasn't the time to worry about physical discomforts.

"Let me go," I demanded as I struggled with the mare.

"No can do," she said in a strained tone. She gave another strong pull, and I lost a few feet. "Y'all ain't goin' anywhere 'til my friends get here."

Her words hit me like a brick wall. As fear began gripping my heart, I prayed that I had simply heard her wrong. If there were more of these things coming, then I needed to get out of here. This place wasn't safe.

I grasped the rope with both hands and summoned all the strength I possessed into one swift yank. The orange mare flew at me with its mouth still clenched on the rope. She landed at my feet belly-up and eyes twirling in different directions, betraying her disorientation. I planted a foot on her stomach to pin her down long enough for me to undo my bindings.

A cannon's blast filled the air. Once again I found myself knocked down on the wet earth, covered in quickly dampening streamers and confetti. Off in the distance, I could make out three equine silhouettes barreling towards me through the heavy storm; I identified the one in the middle as the pink horse from before and her cannon. Her dark pink mane and tail were significantly straighter in the rain.

"Stay away from Applejack, you big meanie!" she screeched as she fired another round. This time, however, I saw it coming and rolled out of the way. A pile of party preparations erupted where I had been a few moments ago.

The three creatures were still getting closer. I scrambled up to my feet and fled as fast as I could from the scene. I shot a glance behind me to see if they were chasing me, and to my relief they had stopped to check on their companions. A ghost of a smile formed on my lips at my fortunate head start, and I ran for all I was worth.

It had only been a few minutes of running when an awful truth dawned on me. I was lost in an unfamiliar town, running around in the middle of a storm. I had no idea where to find safety. As I ran through the muddy streets, panic slowly began to overtake my mind. My eyes darted around frantically between the buildings as I passed them by. Suddenly, the sensation of eyes watching me became too realistic for me to handle. I could already imagine more of these creatures waiting inside the structures.

A small headache began to form in the back of my head. My legs were filled with lead, and my lungs felt as if they were ablaze. I wouldn't be able to keep running like this. I needed to slow things down and think this through.

An alley came into view up ahead. It was as good of a place as any to rest for the moment. I stumbled over to it as fast as I could and collapsed on the cool, damp earth once I was inside. A part of me just wanted to lie down there for the rest of the night, but I knew doing so would just put me in danger. I sluggishly crawled up to a metallic trash can near me and rested with my back against the alley wall. The rain pelted my body randomly. I closed my eyes and tried to think.

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. My mind was in complete disarray. Nothing was making sense. These creatures, these... ponies were a threat. I needed to get away from them. But how? Everywhere I turned, more and more of them seemed to pop up. This whole town could have been infested with them for all I knew.

My right knee was still stinging from my little crash landing with the pegasus. I took the opportunity to better inspect the damage. My jeans were definitely torn; a large hole exposed my skin to the world. My knee was drenched in a strange, dark liquid. It was hard to tell exactly what it was, but even in the low light I caught the faint glint of crimson here and there. I experimentally tried to wipe the grime off with my hand, only to quickly retract it as a sharp pain erupted from my knee. There was no mistaking it; my knee was bleeding horribly. I needed to get out of this town now before it became any more of a handicap.

"Come on, girls, I think I saw it go this way!" The blue pegasus with the rainbow mane landed in the street just outside of the alley. I hid myself behind the metal trash can but couldn't resist the urge to poke my head out and watch. The mare was searching the area impatiently. She whipped her head back and called, "Hurry up! That thing could be getting away."

"We're running as fast as we can," a voice called back. Four more ponies came into view; two of which were the orange and pink ponies, the latter having her sick joke of a cannon in tow. One of the newcomers had a white coat and a long purple mane that appeared to be curled at one point but was now limp in the rain. The other had a light purple coat and an indigo mane with two pink and purple streaks. A horn protruded from both of their heads, making them look like unicorns.

"Are you sure it went this way, Rainbow Dash?" the purple unicorn asked, scanning the vicinity for herself. "I don't see it anywhere."

"I'm totally sure," the pegasus, Rainbow Dash presumably, assured. She suddenly cringed and massaged her head with a hoof. "Well, mostly sure," she corrected. "I was flying blind for a few seconds, and then it just vanished."

"Well, it couldn't have gotten too far," the orange pony pointed out. "That thing shouldn't be too hard to spot, either; it stands out like a sore hoof." She hesitated for a second. "Ah've never seen anything like that before, Twi. What was it?"

The purple unicorn shook her head. "I don't know, Applejack; I didn't get a good look at it. But it's imperative that we find the creature and contain it. There's no way of knowing what it can do, so everypony needs to stay together."

I shifted uncomfortably at the ponies' conversation. The thought of being captured by them didn't settle well with me. I needed to get out of here soon, but first I needed to retrieve my hatchet. It was the only way I could defend myself at the moment. Once I got my hands back on it, I could leave. But I wasn't about to go anywhere until these ponies left; the last thing I wanted was to attract any unwanted attention while they were still close.

"Hold on a minute," the orange pony said, Applejack if I interpreted the name correctly. "Where's Fluttershy?" she asked worriedly.

"The monster must have gotten her!" the pink one gasped.

"That would be unlikely," the white unicorn commented while flipping some of her limp purple mane out of her face. "I do believe she is still in the library. She never came out with us when we left to help Rainbow Dash."

"Could you get her, Rarity?" the purple one asked. "It would be beneficial to have her expertise on wild animals at the moment."

The white unicorn was already trotting off. "Anything to get out of this dreadful weather. Just look at what it's doing to my mane," she complained.

"Pinkie Pie, why don't you go with her?" the purple one asked. "Just in case she runs into the creature on the way."

"Aye, aye, Captain!" the pink mare saluted. She dragged her cannon around and began following Rarity. Just before she left, though, she hesitated and turned back. "Are you sure, Twilight? What if it comes out and attacks you? My knee's still pinching, and "

"I can assure you that we will be perfectly fine," Twilight interjected. "Besides, even if it does show up, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and I are more than capable of subduing it." The pink mare didn't appear very reassured, and with an uneasy expression and a shrug, Pinkie departed along with her cannon.

By this point I was becoming antsy. Only three ponies remained, and, by the looks of it, it appeared as if they too were prepared to leave. In my eagerness to leave, I was already shifting behind my hiding place to get ready to bolt out of the alley. Unfortunately, I accidentally kicked the trash can during my shuffle, causing an audible clang to echo through the storm.

My heart stopped as all three of the mares' heads snapped to the alley where I hid. Fear had me paralyzed in hopes that they would disregard the sound as some random rodent. Ice pumped through my veins as Applejack cautiously made her way to the alley. Her eyes were locked in my general direction, but I couldn't tell if she could see me in all the darkness. Each step she took closer put me more on edge. She only hesitated when she reached the edge of the alley.

A bolt of lightning arced across the sky. The entire alleyway was bathed in white light for a brief second, me included. Applejack's eyes widened in shock. There wasn't a shadow of a doubt in my mind that my fears were true. I had been spotted, and the chase was about to begin.

Rainbow Dash flew into the air and directed a hoof towards me. "There's the monster!" she exclaimed. "Get it!"

When the ponies charged into the alley, instinct took over, and I bolted in the opposite direction. I tore down anything and everything I could to impede my chasers' progress. Trash cans, soggy cardboard boxes, random stacks of debris; if I could get my hands on it, then it came crashing down. A small smirk managed to find itself on my face as the ponies tripped over the obstacles I was creating, and it slowly grew as the exit came closer and closer. I soon burst into the streets and immediately took a sharp right. I may have had a head start, but I still needed to shake them off my tail.

The powerful beating of wings sounded behind me as I ran. A sudden mass rammed into my back and drove me into the earth, causing my exposed knee to slam into the ground. I would have been screaming in agony, but the only sound that escaped through my clenched teeth was a strangled groan. The mysterious weight jumped off of my prone body and landed before me.

"Ha! You're going to have to do better than that if you want to outrun me," Rainbow Dash's voice proudly announced.

I grunted and slowly lifted my head out of the mud. The blurry image of the blue pegasus appeared a few yards before me. I struggled to pick myself up but couldn't find the strength. After all the running and hiding tonight, my weary body was yearning for rest, and the ground was so inviting. It was so tempting to just lie there.

The sound of hooves trotting across the wet earth could barely be heard over the rain. I craned my head back to see that Twilight and Applejack had caught up to us. They came to a stop a good distance from me.

"Good job stopping the creature, Rainbow Dash," Twilight said. "Now all we have to do is keep it here until Fluttershy arrives. I'll try to put a force field around it. If it tries to move, you two try to stop it."

A small shower of sparks erupted from the unicorn's horn. A lavender mist rose out of the ground around me in a ring, and a glassy, purple wall began to quickly sprout out of it. I laid there mesmerized as the strange wall ascended and curved inward, making a dome around me. As it came to its completion, the newly-made purple dome slowly faded until it was nearly transparent. I could see the storm raging on outside of it, each raindrop lighting up in a faint purple glow as it splattered across the dome's wall.

I slowly lifted myself up to my hands and knees, wincing slightly at my angry protests of my muscles. Applejack and Rainbow Dash tensed up at the sight of me moving, but Twilight interjected.

"It's alright, girls," she assured. "That creature isn't going anywhere. That force field should hold it until everypony else gets here." The other two mares relaxed, but only slightly. Applejack trotted up to Twilight and began talking in her ear, never taking her eyes off of me. There was little doubt in my mind as to what they were discussing.

I groggily rose up to my feet, wincing as a sharp pain erupted in my knee. My eyes immediately dropped down to my legs, and even in the low light I could see the dirt and grime that had accumulated over my exposed knee again. I gingerly tried to scrape it off with my hand, only to be rewarded with another sting as more crimson spilled out of the wound. I hunched down and covered my knee with my hands in hopes of stopping the flow, succeeding only in painting my own hands red.

This wasn't the time or the place to tend to my wounds. If I heard the unicorn correctly, then there would soon be other ponies joining us. I couldn't let that happen. I refused to allow them to corner me into submission so easily. If they wanted me so badly, then they were going to have to work for it.

I glared at the strange purple wall that surrounded me; the one thing that was preventing me from escaping at this very moment. It was only built in a matter of seconds; surely it couldn't have been too sturdy, right?

I staggered towards the wall. The three ponies' eyes were locked onto me, but I paid them little attention. I outstretched my hand and pressed it against the barrier. It was smooth; its texture reminded me of the same barrier in the woods. Maybe this one would be just as easy to break through.

It was then that I noticed the smoke leaking out from between my fingers. I instinctively pulled my hand back to find the source of the smoke, and a cold shiver ran down my spine at what I discovered. It was my blood. My blood was sizzling away off of my bare hand.

"Twilight, it's doing something," Rainbow Dash warned. I glanced up to the force field and saw my crimson hand print slowly eating a hole in the barrier.

"T-T-Twi?" Applejack asked, voice lined with fear. "Is it supposed to be able to do that?" I could practically see the anxiety radiating off of Applejack. Rainbow Dash must have caught it, too, considering how badly she was shaking on her legs. I was pretty spooked myself. After all, it was my blood that was disintegrating.

The bewildered unicorn shook her head. "No."

At that point, a perfectly hand-sized hole was made in the barrier. I didn't wait for the ponies to come back to their senses. I shoved my hands through the hole, grabbed onto the wall the best I could, and pulled back for all I was worth. The wall was sturdy, much sturdier than I had anticipated. The only way I knew I was making any progress was by the lavender cracks slowly branching out from the hole. My hands began smoking again as my tortured blood sizzled into nonexistence.

Twilight was first to recover. Her horn lit up once again in a violet aura, and the wall began mending itself. It finally hit me that she was doing this. I didn't know how, but somehow she constructed this wall around me and was sustaining it. Her friends watched helplessly from the sidelines, unsure who the victor would be.

The barrier was mending faster than I could break it. Soon the cracks were gone and my fingers were being crushed by the healing shield. I had to rip my arms away before my fingers could be severed. With her barrier whole once again, Twilight plopped into the soaked dirt.

“There,” she panted. “See? Nothing to it.” Her head fell heavily from exhaustion after uttering the last syllable.

If there was ever a time for me to make a move, I couldn't think of one better than then. I had a weapon against the barrier, its power source was too tired to even stand, and the two others were busy trying to keep her awake. I pressed my hands against my bleeding knee, trying to gather as much blood as I could. Once they were bloodied enough, I painted a crimson circle on the wall. As planned, the shield began deteriorating. I clasped my hands together and swung with all my might at the weakened section of the wall. A web of brilliant lavender flared out around the source of impact. I backed up a few paces and prepared to charge.

"Twi, it's goin' at it again," a worried Applejack said. She started shaking Twilight violently, trying in vain to awaken her to the problem at hand, but the tired unicorn wouldn't respond.

I rammed my shoulder directly in the center of the web of cracks. The space around me was suddenly filled with falling water and a cascade of purple shards as I tumbled back into the storm. The second my feet hit the mud, I made a mad dash away from the scene. Rainbow Dash and Applejack were too occupied with Twilight to give chase, allowing me ample amount of time to lose them.

The storm had reached a crescendo. The deafening drone of rain filled the air, drowning out all other noise save for the occasional clap of thunder. The heavy drops of rain pelted my head as I ran. I needed to get out of this town, out of this storm, but I couldn't leave without my hatchet. It was all I had to protect myself. Without it, I was as good as dead.

After a few minutes of stumbling around, the tree-house came into view in the distance. The front door was left ajar, bathing the opening with light from the inside. Three figures stood before the opened doorway; two of which were equine, and the third was a small, oddly-shaped creature.

I slowly drew closer, sticking to the shadows of the buildings as I moved, and soon realized that retrieving my hatchet would be a more difficult task than I thought. The tree-house was isolated from the other buildings, surrounded instead by a vast empty space. It was impossible to get any closer to it without being out in the open for the ponies to see.

Disgruntled by my new situation, I hid myself by the nearest building and decided to wait until the three figures left before making any moves. Now that I was closer, I recognized the two equines as the white unicorn and pink pony. The third figure appeared to be some sort of bipedal lizard with purple scales and a green spine. I could just barely make out my hatchet at the feet of the lizard. They were in the middle of a conversation, but it was nearly impossible to hear what they were saying over the storm. I strained my ears to try to listen in on what they were saying.

"Come on, Fluttershy," a young male voice spoke. "There's nothing to worry about. With Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Twilight searching for it, that thing is as good as caught. Heck, they probably already have it caught by now." The male voice perked my interest. Up until now, everything I've met was female, or at least sounded female.

"Spike is right, Fluttershy," the white unicorn cajoled. "There's no need to be afraid of that atrocious beast. Besides, we need your help. Who better could tame a wild animal than you?"

There was a brief moment of silence. Whatever response was made was drowned out by the rain.

"Nonsense, darling, you're much more qualified than all of them. Besides, most of them aren't even here. Now come on; it would be impolite to keep our friends waiting."

As if on cue, Rainbow Dash flew pat my hiding spot and landed in front of the group. The words barely stumbled out of her mouth as she stopped. "Guys, we have a problem. We found that creature again and managed to catch it, but it broke loose. Twilight's out cold, and Applejack's watching over her while she recovers."

An uproar of questions erupted from the trio. I couldn't discern anything in the rush of words from my distance.

"Hey!" Rainbow Dash shouted over the crowd. "Twilight said we need to find this thing before it causes any more damage. We gotta hurry; every second we waste standing here is another second that thing is on the loose."

Her speech managed to quell the uproar, and there was a small moment of silence before the white unicorn took a step forward. "Well, I for one agree with Rainbow Dash," she explained. "We simply cannot have this creature running amok in our town. If we split up, we should be able to cover more ground."

"Split up?!" the lizard cried. "Are you nuts? That's exactly what the monster wants! Everypony knows that."

"Yeah!" Pinkie Pie chimed in. "We can't split up. That's, like, the worst idea in the history of bad ideas! If we do, then the monster will be able to slowly pick us off one by one until there's nopony left." Her voice was rising with panic. "And everypony knows the monster always goes for the funny one first!"

Rainbow Dash sighed. "Look, if it'll make you two feel better, we'll split up into groups. Pinkie, you can come with me. Spike, you stay with Rarity. Fluttershy " The front door suddenly slammed shut. Rainbow Dash let out a groan. "Fine, Fluttershy can hold down the fort. Now if everypony's ready, we have a monster to catch." After exchanging a few farewells and good-lucks, the four split off into their respective pairs and took off in opposite directions.

I hesitantly emerged from my hiding place. There may have not been any ponies in sight, but I still had to worry about the one that was still inside the house. Lights were still pouring out of the windows like a searchlight. I had to be careful not to get too close to them as I sneaked closer to where I last saw my hatchet.

"Oh, no," I whispered. I stopped dead in my tracks and searched frantically for my hatchet across the ground. It was nowhere to be found. "This can't be happening," I muttered under my breath. "Not now." I mentally beat myself up for not paying more attention. There it was, laying at the feet of that bipedal lizard, and next thing I know, it disappears. It couldn't have just vanished into thin air; something had to have picked it up. A pony couldn't have picked it up; they didn't have the right appendages. The lizard, on the other hand...

I froze. Thoughts began to quickly form in my head. I stared off where I last saw the lizard and pony. The lizard was the only thing that could have taken it. I had to get it back; it was my only sword and shield in this mad world.

"Just grab the hatchet and run," I thought out loud. "Simple as that." Gathering as much nerve as I had, I took off in the direction they departed.

After a few minutes, their figures appeared in the rain. They were walking close to each other, deep in conversation, but it appeared as if the lizard was lagging behind Rarity a bit. I could make out my hatchet in his claws. A small smile threatened to show on my lips. This couldn't have been more perfect. I stalked closer toward the pair, trying to remain as quiet as possible despite the deafening sound of the storm around us.

"So, Rarity," the lizard began. "What exactly does this thing look like?"

"Oh, it was the strangest thing I have ever seen," Rarity explained. "Unfortunately, I never got the chance to get a good look at it before it took off. It was quite tall, and thin, too. Like a lanky minotaur, or a diamond dog with short arms. It was rather interesting, actually. The most peculiar thing, though, is that it was covered head to hoof in clothing. I have no idea what it really looks like."

"What was it doing? When you saw it, that is."

"It was standing on top of Applejack with a rope in its hands. I believe it was leaning over her when Pinkie Pie shot it with her party cannon."

The lizard hesitated before continuing. "What do you think it was going to do?"

"I'd rather not think about it," Rarity deadpanned.

"Um, yeah. Me, too." The lizard cast a glance in the other direction. I could see a sliver of his white cornea before he snapped his head back to Rarity. "But I can’t help it. What if it was trying to steal her, or hurt her up, or… or…” Spike let out a gasp. “What if it was going to eat her?!”

Rarity gave a nervous chuckle. "Spike, please. I'm pretty sure it wasn't going to eat her. I don't even think it could have if it wanted to."

"But you said yourself that you couldn’t see its face. What if it has huge jaws with loads of sharp teeth-"

“Spike…”

"What if it has a hundred eyes that stare into your soul so you can’t scream-"

“Spike.”

“What if… What if it doesn't even have a face?”

Spike! Honestly, you’re going to give me nightmares. Would you please stop?”

I was practically right on top of them. It was now or never. I covered the lizard's mouth with my left hand and hoisted him up to my chest. He let out a muffled scream as I pried my tool from his claws.

Rarity turned around and sighed. "Spike, what is it n-n-n-aah!" Her voice escalated into a shriek as she beheld me holding her companion. A burning sensation enveloped my left hand as a bright green light erupted between my fingers. A cry of agony escaped my throat as I released the lizard – no, the dragon from my newly scorched hand. I clutched my wrist and buckled down to my knees as the dragon scampered off.

"Take this, you ruffian!"

I only had enough time to glance up as a white hoof connected to the right of my head. The entire world flipped underneath me. Colors flashed across my line of sight, most of which were red. My senses numbed, but I could feel a warm trickle curve down my face. The fabric of my hood stuck to my head. The headache intensified. The pain… so much pain…

What are you waiting for?! a voice screamed in my head. Fight back! Kill them for all the pain they have given you! I recognized the second voice as my own, but at the same time it sounded so... alien. Still, its reason was sound enough for my broken condition to accept. I had had enough of all this running. It was time to retaliate.

My fingers brushed up against the wooden handle of my hatchet and tightly curled around it. A new rush of energy washed over me. I slowly raised myself to my hands and knees. My aching body shouted in protest to the movement, but I ignored it. I wasn't about to let anything hinder me from getting my revenge, not even a little pain.

"R-Rarity," a young voice called behind me. "It's getting back up."

When I finally managed to get up to my feet, a blunt force rammed into the back of my head. I stumbled forward a few steps from the momentum and turned around to find the source of the blow. My eyes fell on a white, pony-sized smudge that brightly contrasted the darkened world around it. A small patch of earth near it glowed light blue and hurled itself towards me.

I took another blow to the shoulder and felt some mud splattered onto my face. It didn't hurt, but the force behind it was enough to nearly knock me off balance. A grimace formed on my face as I wiped the grime away from my eyes. My grip tightened on my hatchet. I was ready to end this.

I charged forward and haphazardly swung my hatchet at the unicorn. She quickly leaped to the right before I even began to swing, causing my weapon to hit nothing but air. Another muddy projectile struck me in the hip. I growled in frustration and attempted another strike, trying to be more accurate. Once I was nearly upon her, I swung my weapon downward as hard as I could onto the pony, but once again she dodged my attack. My blade buried itself deep into the earth, and before I could dig it back out, the earth underneath me shot upward and rammed my stomach.

My hands released their grip on the hatchet and instinctively retracted to cover my stomach as I tried to catch my breath. This wasn't cutting it; I needed a new tactic.

A brief thought flashed through my mind, and I glared at the pony with a twisted smile tugging at my lips. She must have caught my crazed expression as she tried to scramble away again. I leaped forward and outstretched my hand, clamping my fingers down on her tail the moment they made contact. The unicorn gave a surprised yelp as I pulled her back to me, and I swung my foot as hard as I could at her underside. She crumpled to the ground from the force of the kick, causing a small wave of mud to ripple away.

I pinned her down to her back before she could scurry off, raised my burned hand, and brought it down on her head as hard as I could. She went cross-eyed immediately, but she was still conscious. I struck her a few more times until she completely blacked out.

"Hey!" Something small hit me in the back. I rose up from the dazed unicorn and turned around on the tilting earth to find the young dragon standing boldly before me, holding a few rocks in his claws. "Stay away from her, you... you freak!" he shouted.

I took a few staggering steps towards the dragon. A panicked expression flashed across his face as I got closer, and he retreated a few steps in return. A brilliant jet of green flames erupted from his maw towards me, blinding me with its intense light. I stumbled back away from the fire and tripped backward, landing on my back.

I crawled up to my feet and searched the area around me, expecting another attack, but none ever came. I rubbed my eyes to clear out the afterimage, and once it faded all I saw were the darkened streets and houses of the town. The dragon and pony were nowhere in sight.

Cowards, the voice growled in my head. Hunt them down. Make them pay.

I shook my head. "No," I breathed. "Not worth it." My eyes fell upon my hatchet, still buried in the mud. I staggered up to it and wrenched it out of the ground. "Besides," I added, musing over the feel of the tool in my hand, "I got what I came for. I'm ready to get out of here." I chose a random path and began lumbering through the town, knowing that if I kept going straight, I would eventually find an exit.

As I traipsed down the empty streets, I felt another pang where the white unicorn kicked my head. A warm trickle slid down my face, reminding me of my broken condition. Colors were starting to blur together. I needed to get out of this mad town before I blacked out entirely. No more fights. No more stumbling around. Stealth was key to success.

I stuck to the shadows as I weaved through the labyrinth of houses. Eventually, an exit came into view, and I soon found myself in what I assumed was a park. A few trees dotted the area, and the forest stood on the other side. I hesitated as memories of the timber wolves resurfaced but quickly dispelled them. I must have lost them a while ago considering that they didn't follow me into town. For all I knew, they had lost all interest in me, which made the forest my best bet to find safety.

Three pony-sized blurs soon appeared ahead of me. I tried to make out the distorted images, but my eyes refused to cooperate. Not wanting to attract any attention, I hid behind a nearby tree and silently waited.

Minutes slowly ticked by. Two of the colorful blurs eventually departed, leaving the third all alone. It was clear that it wasn't going to be moving anytime soon, and it was impossible to bypass without causing an alarm. I silently cursed as the inevitable became clear. If I wanted to escape, this pony would have to die.

I slowly stalked closer to my prey, moving from tree to tree, silently hoping that it would scurry off before I could get to it. Not that I wouldn't have minded blowing off some steam, but the last thing I needed was for the ponies to know where I left. To my displeasure, the smudge of a pony was still there by the time I was halfway across the park. I waited for my eyes to correct themselves before going any further, knowing that running in semi-blind at an unknown enemy would be suicide. They adjusted enough for me to barely make out the situation. The pony was positioned next to a tree a small ways from the forest opening.

I would have to be more careful now. My body was in no condition to fight, and there wasn't a doubt in my mind that the pony would attack if it saw me, or at least call for reinforcements. I needed to find a way to sneak up on it. If I could break the line of sight with the tree next to it, then I should be able to get close enough to the pony to take care of it before it raises any alarm. It was my best bet. I slowly trudged through the rain until the tree came between me and my prey before I advanced.

I was shaking with anxiety as I drew closer and closer to the tree. It wasn't too long until I close enough that one small slip would ruin everything. If the pony so much as moved, it would undoubtedly spot me. My rain-soaked hands were beginning to get sweaty as I approached the tree, and I had to readjust my hold on my hatchet.

I pressed myself against the bark and slowly revolved around the tree. I craned my neck around the edge to my target. Through my hazy vision, I could see the pony’s frame shivering violently with its back turned to me. A small, twisted smile began to tug at my lips. This was going to be an easy kill.

I tightened my grip on my hatchet. Sweat mixed with my scabbing blood. I left my cover and ever so slowly snuck up behind it. I was mere feet upon it when lighting cracked the sky behind me. The startled pony spun around and started shaking harder than before. I pounced before it could scream. In one motion, I knocked it down on its back and pinned it down with my blistering hand wrapped around its neck and my body crouching above it. It struggled underneath me, but to no avail. I constricted its airflow with a quick squeeze. It gave one last spasm before falling still.

I elevated my hatchet as high as my tired arm would allow and sent it hurtling down on my prey's head. It would have hit its mark, too, if it hadn't been for another clap of thunder. The sudden noise startled me, and my aim suffered for it. I missed the pony's head by inches. My blade was buried deep into the earth along with some severed strands of the pony's long, pink mane.

My vision finally cleared enough for me to see details. The pony had a long pink mane and tail, probably once smooth but now ruined by the rain and mud, accompanied by a faint yellow coat covered here and there by crimson blotches from the blood dripping from my body. It had two wings with feathers matching the body in color. My heart nearly stopped when I saw its face. Its eyes were clamped shut, and tears rolled down its cheeks. A quiet sobbing emitted from its mouth, cut off every now and then by random coughs.

My headache slowly intensified. Once again the strange voice made itself known. Why are you hesitating? it asked. You can kill it right now and get it all over with.

I shook my head. I couldn't do it. No matter what, I couldn't bring myself to lift the hatchet. My eyes were glued to the pony's face. It was unsettling to see it crying. Every other pony I've come across always tried to attack or intimidate me; this one, on the other hand...

This pony wasn't like the others. It could feel emotions just like me. It could feel fear just like me. It could cry just like me. It wasn't an "it," either; it was a she. She was a she. She was more human than I thought, and I almost murdered her. She was mortally terrified and I was the cause. I didn't recognize her as one of the ones who attacked me. She never tried to impede my escape; she was just standing here. She never attacked me; she never tried to hurt me. She was... innocent.

I relinquished my grip from her throat and simply hovered over her. She cringed once my hand left her and turned her head to the side, the severed strands of her pink mane partially covering her face. Even now, with nothing holding her to the ground, she still didn't scamper off and flee. It was as if she was completely paralyzed with fear.

"Fluttershy!" The yellow pegasus's deep teal eyes shot open. She stared up at me, tears still rolling down her cheeks; her cry much softer, almost inaudible until she coughed. It was impossible to tell if she could see my face through the shadows my hood gave. We stayed there, frozen like statues until the familiar voice cried again. "Stay away from her!"

With my body still crouched over the pegasus, I turned around to see the source of the noise. The five ponies and dragon from before were back, each looking prepared to tear me limb from limb. What was I going to do? It was six on one; there was no way I could win. I could easily run into the forest, but that would only delay the inevitable. I needed an advantage over them; something other than a silly hatchet. Something that would discourage them from following me. Something... like a hostage.

My eyes drifted back down to the pegasus underneath me. She looked back up with fearful eyes.

I couldn't...

It's either your life or hers, the voice whispered. The choice is yours.

The pegasus struggled to free herself, and at that moment, my choice was made. I grabbed one of her forelegs and pulled her up. She tried to fight back, but it was in vain. Even in this state, I was stronger than her. I hoisted her up to my chest, tucking my left arm under her forelegs to keep her pressed against me. With my right, I wrenched my hatchet out of the mud and rested the edge of the blade under her chin. As expected, the other ponies' eyes lit up with shock.

"Listen up," I shouted over the pounding rain. "I've had enough of this game of chase. I am going to walk into that forest, and none of you are going to follow me. Got it? If any of you do," I tilted the blade to expose Fluttershy's neck, "well, I hope you're smart enough to figure out the rest." I slowly began backing into the forest. Rainbow Dash started to make a move, but Twilight quickly cut her off. "I'll let this one go when I'm done," I assured.

Fluttershy tried to shift in my arms. I pressed the hatchet closer to her neck to discourage her. "P-P-Please!" she desperately cried out to her friends. "D-Don't let him take me!"

This time Twilight took a few steps forward. The others cautiously followed her lead. I halted and made it appear as if I was prepared to slice Fluttershy's throat. "Don't think I'll hesitate," I warned. It was a hollow threat, but thankfully the ponies bought it and hesitantly backed up.

"Don't worry, Fluttershy," Twilight called, her voice verging on cracking. "Everything's going to be fine. You're going to be okay; I promise."

The canopy of the forest soon covered me and my hostage. I gingerly retreated deeper and deeper, casting frequent glances behind to make sure I wouldn't stumble on anything. Ever so slowly, the storm began dying down. Eventually, the entrance disappeared from sight.

As soon as I was sure that the others hadn't followed us, I dropped her on the ground. Immediately, she curled up on the ground and buried her head underneath her forelegs. Her entire body was trembling. "P-Please don't hurt me," she begged.

A crater was beginning to form in my chest, quickly becoming filled with guilt. I could only shake my head, disheartened by her first words towards me. Words were failing me at this point. Did she really think I was going to kill her after all of this? Was I really just a monster in her eyes? I sighed and finally managed to get a word out.

"Go."

For a second, Fluttershy stopped shaking. She lifted a hoof to reveal a tearstained eye. "Wh-What?" she asked uncertainly.

"I said go!" I snapped. I cringed at the unintended harshness of my own voice. Nevertheless, she received the message. After scrambling up to her hooves, she darted away, back to the town. A sigh escaped me as the sound of galloping hooves faded off in the distance, and I began stumbling aimlessly through the forest.

The storm had lifted. Every now and then large drops of collected rain would hit me from the leaves up above. As I stumbled through the trees, my mind struggled to comprehend everything that had happened. Everything felt so unreal, like it was just one bad nightmare. To think that in one night I changed from an average high school student to a psychotic survivalist sent a shiver up my spine.

My wounds began taking their toll. My vision was fading in and out, causing me to walk blind every now and then. I felt light headed, and the all too familiar taste of bile formed in the back of my mouth. My muscles felt ablaze, aching for relief. I tripped over a root but didn't have the drive to get back up. I only had enough energy to roll over on my back to breathe better. My pain slowly melted away as sleep’s sweet embrace covered my mind.

You have given us a taste of life... We hunger for more...