• Published 6th Mar 2024
  • 1,254 Views, 26 Comments

The Crying of the Sun - InkStone

  • ...

Impression, Sunrise

The squawbush were losing their whitish-yellow bracts to the hot, humid air, dotting the immaculate green grass of the lawn with their petals like stars painted on an alien firmament. The sky above was a clear cerulean as pure as the limpid waters of the tropical locales, the ideal summer day that hordes of people were taking advantage of like desperate revelers following the procession of a beloved prophet. Young couples let their love blossom on picturesque hills while their elderly counterparts shuffled along paths traversed hundreds of times in bygone years, and exuberant children eagerly climbed hot plastic playground equipment as their over-tired parents watched with half-awake eyes. All of these acts were tinged with the sadness of the temporary; yes, it was almost time to return to the gloomy months, the months of work and school and cold and gray, because the tears of St. Lawrence had already spilled themselves upon the Earth and brought with them the end of August.

Not that any of that mattered to Celestia. For her, the end of the summer brought with it not last-minute revelry or a desperate clinging to the sun's warm rays, but a flood of work that preceded the return to normalcy. She would love to be sitting on a beach right now, feeling the white sand sifting through her toes and smelling the salty tang of the sea, but instead, she was stuck in a stuffy office with no air conditioning, sweating like a sinner at mass as she leafed through a disorganized pile of transfer paperwork, back and forths on the yearly budget, and dozens of other pertinent issues that only came across her desk the week before the start of the school year.

After eight straight hours of staring at tiny type until the letters were swimming before her eyes like Olympic swimmers, Celestia filed away the last piece of errant paperwork with a sigh. Placing her sweat-slicked forehead on the cool wood of her desk with a groan, she couldn't help but mutter to herself:

"I should have had Raven do this..."

The foolishness of this statement was evident the millisecond it left her lips. She couldn't have Raven do the paperwork for her, even though the secretary would be more than willing and more than capable. Celestia had only just been appointed Principal of Canterlot High School at the end of the last school year, and it was no secret that a faction of the Superintendent's office was unsure of her ability to do the job due to being rather young for the position - just south of thirty. To have Raven do the paperwork would be proving them right, admitting that she couldn't handle the work, that they never should have promoted her beyond her role as a Science Teacher. School politics were full of sharks, and Celestia couldn't afford to bleed.

Her face wrinkled in discomfort when a rogue sunbeam struck her eye. Sitting up straight and brushing her rose-pink hair out of her face, Celestia glanced out the window and felt a gentle smile forming. The sky was a beautiful mosaic of pinks, purples, and blues, a breathtaking vista that was the envy of all artists, originating from a blood-red sun slowly inching its way below the horizon. The last light of the day beat on the tall mountains to the north, their mighty shadows bathing the quiet suburban neighborhood in a half-hearted darkness. The Wondercolt statue in the school's front plaza shimmered in the sunlight, brilliant gold instead of white marble, and Celestia felt her mood lift as she thought back on halcyon days when she, Luna, and their mother used to sit on the rolling hills outside of Canterlot and watch the sun sink below the horizon, gradually being swallowed by the earth until its thousands of tiny siblings appeared and weaved a brilliant tapestry of ancient heroes, formidable monsters, and misplaced kitchen implements, all interwoven with the unshakeable skein of fate.

"If only I could go back to those days," She muttered, rubbing her weary eyes. Her exhaustion was so extreme that she could swear she saw the pedestal of the Wondercolt statue rippling. "No paperwork, no bills, no superintendent. Just school, hanging out with your closest friends, and chatting about boys, " Her nose scrunched as the more distasteful elements of adolescence came to mind, "...and petty drama, acne, and teenage angst. Maybe being young isn't all it's cracked up to be."

With a sigh, Celestia got herself ready to leave, straightening the few pieces of paperwork that had been disturbed by her rising, grabbing the beat-up leather messenger bag she had tossed into the corner earlier today, and smoothing out the wrinkles in her tan blazer. With nary a glance backward, she hurriedly walked from her office, eager to get home and put the stresses of the day behind her until she inevitably had to repeat the whole process again on Monday. Her footsteps echoed hollowly in the emptiness of the large school hallways, sounding like a specter following not far behind her, an intruder just a two-step away, but the only organism in the building was her, condemned to be there like a prisoner who had committed a heinous crime, but in this case her only crime was youth.

"Until we meet again." With a flick of her wrist, the front doors of the school were locked. A prisoner given temporary leave, she was free from her cell for a few days before she inevitably had to return to pay her penance. Celestia let out a heavy breath as she touched the glass of the door almost gingerly; it was sad how complex her feelings towards this old building had become. Just a few months ago she was eager to walk through these doors every day. Now, they only promised paperwork, endless administrative meetings, and limited interaction with her students beyond dealing with the most delinquent of the lot. This wasn't why she started teaching.

She was momentarily blinded when she turned around, the sun being at just the right angle to strike her directly in the eyes. Her only shield against the assault an outstretched hand, Celestia walked forward blindly as colorful spots danced the waltz before her eyes. Naturally, she had kept her sunglasses in the car because that was just her luck. She had made it halfway to the staff parking lot when she heard it, drifting across the lawn with the soft, barely audible tone of a bird flapping its wings, a sound ingrained deep into the mind of every human and animal, a sound that reached across thousands of years and triggered a primal instinct in Celestia, a slight quickening of her heart.

The quiet cries of a child.

With hurried steps, Celestia made her way to the source of the sound, just around the base of the Wondercolt statue, coming around to find a sight that made the ostensibly stoic woman gasp.

A little girl was splayed out on the grass with all the grace of a corpse, and if it were not for her sharp but quiet cries, Celestia would have wondered if she was even alive. The girl's face was covered in a mix of tears, snot, and mud, nearly blotting out the yellow of her skin completely. Her hair, the vibrant colors of a roaring flame, was caked with dirt and torn in some places. Denim overalls were covered in disturbing red stains that did nothing to settle Celestia's rapidly beating heart. Without thinking, she reached out to the child.

The girl's eyes, pure aquamarine gemstones set into a human face, stared at her in absolute terror. With a quickness that seemed unnatural for her tiny body, the child scrambled back, clumsily tripping over her legs like they were lead weights and resorting to dragging herself with her hands.

"S-s-shtay awwray." The words spilled out of her mouth, garbled, almost unintelligible, not like a lisp or the frustrating struggle with an unfamiliar language, but like she had not the slightest inkling how to use her mouth.

"Hey, hey, don't worry, little one. I'm staying right here." Celestia dropped to her knees to make herself seem as unintimidating as possible. Both she and Luna were unusually tall, over six feet, enough to make even grown adults feel like teenagers in their presence. The last thing this frightened little girl needed was a living giant looming over her. "I'm going to stay right here, little one."

There was something odd in her eyes, something that was more than simple fright, something much deeper. There was a flicker of... recognition.

"Yyyouush look jus' lie errrrhhh," the girl spoke breathlessly. "Soun jus lie erhh."

She tried to keep the confusion off her face, but the girl's words were gnawing at her. "Look like who, little one?"

Now it was the child's turn to be confused. "Lie Pwinchess Cewestria."

So the child knew her name, but thought she was a princess? Well, the girl did look young, likely somewhere in the four to six range if Celestia were to guess, and so it was possible that she had heard about a Principal Celestia and had conflated it with a vision of royalty. In a weird way, Celestia was flattered.

"Yes, my name is Celestia, little one." The child's confusion only grew, and her eyes gave Celestia the impression that she was drinking in every detail about her, from the most obvious to the seemingly insignificant. Finally, she shook her head.

"Can' be. Yer hair ish awl wron'. 'N y'don 'af the eyeshh." The girl devolved into a storm of muttering, staring at a fixed point on the ground.

Needless to say, Celestia was concerned. The child's behavior was... exceptionally odd, to say the least. Combine that with her slurred speech, blood all over her clothes, and a possible problem with her legs - Celestia didn't miss how they wobbled when she briefly stood up - and the alarm bells started ringing in Celestia's head - no, they were full on klaxons at this point. Never taking her eyes off the young girl, Celestia grabbed her cell phone and began to dial emergency services, but not before grabbing a piece of vital information.

"Little one, do you mind telling me your name?"

The girl paused in her muttering and stared suspiciously at the older woman. Finally, after a moment that stretched into what felt like minutes, she whispered.

"Sunshet Shimmew."

Author's Note:

If you find Sunset's speech grating, don't worry; it won't be present for long. It's just as much of a nightmare to write.

There's some references hidden in this piece. If you catch them, you have my eternal respect and admiration.

Hopefully you enjoyed it. Shoot me a comment down below if you're feeling up to it. I'll try to get chapter 2 out soon, hopefully a bit more refined and polished.