• Published 25th May 2021
  • 1,780 Views, 147 Comments

Through Despair and Hope - Blue Writer



How does one help a grieving child? How does one heal from losing everything?

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Chapter 16

Applejack and Big Mac were helping Granny finish preparing breakfast when Applebloom came in, looking downcast.

“What’s eatin’ ya?” asked Applejack.

“Ah can’t figure out what’s wrong with Ben,” Applebloom answered. The rest of the family internally cringed, remembering yesterday’s disaster of a party. “Ah ain’t never met nopony who didn’t care none about cutie marks. Ain’t never met nopony with such a dirty mouth, neither.”

“Eeyup,” concurred Big Mac.

Applejack sighed, wondering how Ben would misbehave today. She quickly chided herself for thinking like that. “Ah don’t rightly know mahself,” she said. “Ah just know he’s hurt and he really misses his family. Don’t really excuse his mouth, though.”

“Well, talkin’ ‘bout it behind ‘is back like this ain’t gonna do no good,” said Granny. “Best tell ‘im what he’s doin’ wrong and show ‘im how ta act right.”

The Apples heard the telltale sound of a door opening and closing from upstairs. Ben had emerged from his room and was heading down the steps. He moved slowly and carefully, putting one hoof in front of the other. Applejack went over to the stairwell, ready to catch Ben in case he fell. The colt eased himself down and managed to reach the bottom without issue.

“Now that that’s out of the way,” said Ben, “What’s for breakfast?”

Applejack was shocked by how pleasant Ben sounded. She would go so far as to say he looked positively chipper.

“Apple pancakes and syrup,” Granny answered with a smile.

Ben grinned. “Sweet!” Applejack’s jaw dropped. Did Ben just make a joke? Where was the sulking? The glaring? The swearing? What the hay was going on?

“Well, come on and sit down,” said Granny. “Hope yer hungry.”

“Starving.”

Applejack shook herself and refocused as Ben sat down at the table. “Yer lookin’ mighty happy,” she commented.

“I oughta be,” he replied. “I talked to a dream goddess last night and she listened to me and knows what’s up.”

Dream goddess? “Ya mean Princess Luna?” Had the princess found some of his memories and helped him remember who he really was? Did he remember his parents?

Ben had cut into his pancakes and was ready to take a bite. “Yeah, that’s the one. She said I’d hear from her and her sister, so all my problems are going to be over pretty soon.”

“Did they find yer family?” asked Applejack.

“No, but we’re going to fix that.” He shoved a forkful of apple pancake into his mouth.

Applejack wasn’t sure what Ben meant by that. Why would the Princess be contacting him if the government hadn’t found his family yet? Were they going to look at his memories or something? Couldn’t Warm Light do that? “Did they say they’d be comin’ here?”

Ben looked thoughtful for a moment. “No, Luna just said I’d hear from her and her sister ‘on the morrow,’ as in today. They’ll probably come here or bring me to them. Either way, I’m going home soon.”

Applejack said nothing, but Ben’s great eagerness to leave Sweet Apple Acres hurt a little. She did her best to help him by being a good foster parent, but it wasn’t enough. He had basically avoided her by burying himself in magic books, not that she could blame him after the soap incident. The best she was able to do was hold him when he cried. It was the closest they got to bonding. Nevertheless, Applejack was glad to know that Ben was going to be with his real family again. She reached over and gave him a small hug. “Well, Ah’m mighty happy for ya.”

Ben hummed and nodded as he swallowed some more pancake. “Thanks.” He smiled. “These pancakes are delicious, by the way.”

“Yer welcome.” It felt wonderful to see him smile, even if he was going to leave soon.

“You know, I should probably go and return those books to the library,” Ben mused. “I don’t really need them now.”

Applejack’s eyebrows shot up. Ben had to be absolutely certain that the princesses were coming to see him with a means to get him home. Those books and his obsession with magic had been what kept him going the past few days. He would not give them up without a very good reason.

“Well,” said Granny, “Ah’m sure Applejack can take ya there today. Ah’d best clean up if’n the princesses are comin’ ta Sweet Apple Acres.”

Of course, thought Applejack. Surely Twilight would know whether one or both of the princesses were coming. She could take Ben to return the books and ask Twilight if she had gotten any letters. “Ah can take ya,” she affirmed. “Finish up and we can get goin’.”

“You know, I could just walk there myself,” said Ben. “I remember how to get there and the road’s perfectly safe.” Applejack was about to respond when everypony heard knocking at the front door. “Well, well,” Ben said with a grin, “I wonder who that could be.”

The colt almost leaped out of his seat and hurried toward the door, Applejack following close behind at a slower pace. Ben reached the door first and opened it, revealing Twilight and the princess of the moon herself, Luna. Doctor Warm Light was also present.

“Morning, Pony Cthulhu,” Ben greeted, “Morning, Twilight. I didn’t know you two were sisters. Not sure why the therapist is here, though.”

“Do not refer to us by that ridiculous name ever again,” Luna admonished, not mentioning that Celestial had no idea what Ben was referring to when he called her that. For all Luna new, it was an insult. Furthermore, as she had said, it was a ridiculous name. “And Twilight Sparkle is the student of my sister, Celestia.”

“Right, sorry.”

“Mornin’, princess,” Applejack said with a slight bow. “Mornin’, Twilight. Doctor Light. Come on in.”

“Thank you,” said Luna. “There is much to discuss.”

“That’s an understatement,” agreed Ben.

The ponies moved into the living room. The princess permitted the Apple family members to be present, but Applebloom needed to go to school while Granny Smith and Big Mac had chores to do. Applejack would’ve excused herself to go and help Big Mac, but Granny and Warm Light both insisted she stay. As Ben’s foster mother, it was her responsibility to be at important meetings concerning his welfare, despite the colt’s indifference to her presence.

“We shall get directly to the point,” Luna declared, “Ben is not truly a pony.” Everpony else widened their eyes in shock, bewilderment, or anywhere in between. Ben merely smiled. “He is a creature long considered to be myth in Equestria: a human.”

Applejack was shocked. The other mares were equally surprised. Warm Light had told her that Ben was delusional, that he had imagined himself as an adult and a human to escape traumatic memories. She recalled Ben saying that they would think he was crazy if he told the truth. Was that why? Had they been wrong the entire time?”

“But… how?” asked Warm Light.

“We came to him in the dream realm and he showed us his memories. They were memories of a human, one older than the colt that sits before us.” Luna gestured to Ben, whose grin was positively smug. Applejack felt herself reeling from the declaration.

“Couldn’t the memories have been fabricated?” Warm Light suggested, struggling to wrap her head around what she had just heard. “I mean no disrespect, Your Majesty, but it’s entirely possible to subconsciously create happy fictional memories to replace traumatic real ones.”

Ben groaned, the smug grin now a frustrated scowl. “See, this is why I didn’t bother telling anyone the truth after I told that nurse. She straight up panicked because she thought I was crazy and I knew you’d think the same thing.”

Warm Light raised a placating hoof. “I do not think you’re crazy.”

“That excuse you just came up with is the very definition of crazy.”

“Enough,” declared Luna. “This bickering is pointless. We have determined that Ben speaks the truth. Nopony could have simply imagined the memory he presented, especially as he recalled being not only older, but also a completely different species. Furthermore, what little ponies know about humans is based on myth and conjecture. Ben’s memory displayed far too concrete and vivid an image of humans to be false.”

“There’s more where that one came from,” Ben added. “I’m willing to share more if it’ll completely convince everyone else, but I really want to get home as soon as possible.”

“Do you remember what spell was used to bring you here?” asked Twilight, still shocked yet intrigued.

“Nope. As far as I know, my home universe doesn’t have magic.”

Twilight’s eyes widened so much they threatened to pop out. “No magic?”

“Apparently there is magic because something had to have brought me here and I seriously doubt it was alcohol.”

“My sister and I know of only one way to enter the human world, but before we reveal it, we must ask that you all swear to secrecy. Only a select few know of this.”

Twilight nodded. “I understand, princess. I Pinkie promise. Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”

Ben blinked. Twice. “What?”

“That was a Pinkie promise,” Twilight explained. “If you break it, well, bad things happen. You don’t have anything like that?”

“Uh, no. Can we get back to me going home?”

Once the mares all promised to keep what they were about to be told a secret, Luna revealed that there was a portal kept hidden within the royal castle at Canterlot. “The portal will only open for three days once every thirty moons,” she explained. “It is still too early for it to open, however.”

“That can’t be the only way back, though,” said Ben. “When I first got here, I woke up in that forest on the edge of town. Logically, there should be a portal in there somewhere.”

“That does make sense,” said Twilight, “But there’s no way of knowing where in the forest the second portal is or if it’s even open.”

“We’d better start looking, then.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Why not?”

“Because if even the princesses don’t know whether or not there’s a portal in the Everfree Forest, that means it’s very well-hidden, if it even exists. It could be anywhere in the forest, behind any tree or under any rock. Not only that, but the forest is very dense and covers a very wide area. You’d need at least a massive search party if you want any hope of even stumbling across it, and even that could take weeks, possibly months.”

“Twilight is correct,” affirmed Luna. “However, the process could be cut short if thou couldst recall any specific details regarding where ye first entered our world. Knowing what landmarks to seek out would be most invaluable.”

Ben rubbed his head, clearly wracking his brains for anything remotely significant. “Ugh! I just remember trees and foliage. I probably would’ve remembered more if I hadn’t been so hungover.”

“You were what?” asked Applejack, speaking up for the first time since the start of the meeting. She had spent nearly the entire time trying to take in that Ben was apparently older and from a different universe. It sounded completely absurd, especially since it was extremely difficult to reconcile those details with the fact that Ben looked like a colt. Ben was right; nopony would’ve taken a little colt seriously if he told the truth. They had all assumed he was either pretending or delusional. Even now, Applejack struggled to focus on the fact that Ben was older than he looked, likely because she realized that she had held him against her barrel when he cried. It was giving her a headache and Ben talking about being hungover only further muddied the issue, as such a thing was never heard from the mouth of a child.

“Yeah, I might’ve had too much to drink the night before. My buddies and I were celebrating our college graduation.”

“College?” asked Twilight, eager to learn more about this other world.

“Wait, you don’t have that?”

“Please,” said Luna, “Do not distract from the subject. There will be time for that later.”

Twilight shrank in embarrassment and her face reddened. “Sorry.”

“You’re good,” said Ben. “Anyway, I must’ve blacked out or something, because the last thing I remember before waking up here was me having a good time with the guys. Whatever portal spat me out here must’ve been invisible or something. Somebody else would’ve found it by now. Come to think of it, are there any records of ponies saying they used to be human?”

“None that we are aware of,” Luna replied.

“I’ve never heard of an invisible portal before,” Twilight added. “It’s possible that your world’s magic functions differently and is largely hidden, which explains what you said about there being no magic.”

Ben nodded. “And if anyone actually found an invisible portal, walked through it, transformed, came back through, turned human again, and actually told anyone about it, they’d be sent to an institution faster than you can say ‘Looney.’”

“Back to the matter at hoof,” said Luna, “It might be best if you waited for the portal in Canterlot to open, as it would take an unknown amount of time to find any portal in the Everfree.”

“No can do,” Ben countered. “There’s no telling where that other portal would send me. It probably leads back to my universe, but I don’t want to wind up in Antarctica, you know what I mean?”

“I’m guessing this Antarctica is a bad place in your world?” asked Twilight.

“It’s frozen tundra, so I’d definitely freeze to death in minutes.”

“Bad, then.”

“Pretty much, unless you bundle up.”

“We’re diverting from the subject again,” Luna interjected. “We could arrange for a small search to begin, so as not to draw too much attention, under the pretense of exploration. A larger search party could place our little ponies on edge, and they would ask invasive questions. I doubt you want that kind of attention.”

“Yeah, I’d rather not be swarmed by the paparazzi.”

“The what?”

“The press.”

“As we were saying, if the search party has not found anything by the time the Canterlot portal opens, we would advise taking that one. If, for any reason, it does not send you to your destination, simply come back through and the forest search will continue.”

Ben thought for a moment. “Fair enough,” he eventually answered. “Are my living arrangements the same for now?”

“It would be unwise to bring you to live in Canterlot,” Luna advised. “It is a far from ordinary occurrence for a foal to be summoned to Canterlot by order of the princesses.”

“And that would attract the press, which would get the rumor mill going. When I eventually vanish, that’ll cause more questions. If I stick around here, nobody’ll notice when I leave. You could just say I was moved somewhere else in the foster system and no one would bat an eye.”

Luna nodded. “Indeed.” She turned to Applejack. “What say you, Applejack? Will you continue to allow Ben under thy roof, knowing he is not what he appears?”

Applejack looked over to Ben, feeling very awkward. “Ah held you,” she said. It was not an accusation. She simply hadn’t yet gotten over the shock of who and what Ben was.

“Yeah…” Ben said slowly, catching onto how she might’ve been feeling. “It was kind of awkward for me too, but it… helped. You saved my life, you know. If you hadn’t taken me in, I wouldn’t have learned that I could use magic in this body. I would’ve died if it weren’t for you.”

Applejack sighed deeply as memories of Ben’s despair returned to the forefront of her mind. Nopony should ever want to die, child or adult. She felt happy to have brought somepony back from the brink. Still, there was the issue of family to consider. “Ah wanna help,” she said, “But Ah’d have ta tell the family what’s goin’ on. Ah won’t lie to mah own kin.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Ben.

“Can you vouch for their discretion in this matter?” asked Luna.

“The Apple family is completely reliable and trustworthy,” declared Twilight, “And I trust Applejack with my life.”

“The Apples are some o’ the most dependable ponies in Equestria,” affirmed Applejack. “That’s the honest truth.”

“Very well,” said Luna, “The matter is settled.”

Author's Note:

Well, this took forever, so I’m sorry for the long wait. Graduate school is keeping me busy.

The end is near.