• Published 19th Oct 2012
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Eljunbyro - Imploding Colon

Bellesmith must perform experimental tasks in order to keep herself and her beloved safe.

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Holding Fort

My vision cleared by the time I reached the east edge of Ponyville, and that is when I realized just how much was already behind me. I dried my eyes and sat in a slump atop a hillcrest beyond the furthest row of houses. The sun was nearing the horizon behind me; I could feel its golden bands waxing down my back and wing feathers.

Something weighed at me, something heavier than the golden pendant hanging around my neck, bulkier than all the random things shoved into my saddlebags. I could still feel the trembles in Granny Smith's limbs and the heaves of Big Mac's lungs. Sweetie Belle's whimpers hung off my flicking ears, and somewhere Luna was passing me a lasting prayer upon the winds.

There were so many anchors: the green fields, the rustling leaves, the smell of flowers and hay and straw. For such a boring place, Ponyville had a plethora of fragrances, innumerable scents that I was just seconds away from no longer having the grace to count.

I wondered if there would be new smells, new sounds, and maybe even new colors. None of them would matter, I realized—not even the alien hues of the dark world. The only senses that ever mattered were the ones that had become a part of oneself. I had already been divorced from my friends, what would be left over if all the textures of life had been ripped away?

I was about to find out. It was a truly frightening prospect, but fear had always appealed to me a great deal more than sorrow.

I spread my wings and coiled my legs to spring. I heard a rustling noise, but there was no wind. With a shiver, I understood, and I spoke without turning around.

"Keep that up, and you'll get a throwing star for a cutie mark," I said.

The air was silent, until a tiny murmur—tinier than I expected—limply returned, "You can find out what it'll be with me..."

I closed my eyes, my nostrils flaring. Slowly, I turned all the way around and reopened them.

She was framed in a golden halo of light. The sun was setting over Ponyville, my last glimpse of it, and all of it dripping with platinum shades of the dying day, the shattered past. She sat in the midst of the effluent haze, her ears drooped, her violet eyes shiny and earnest.

"I can't stay, kiddo," I said. "I know..." I bit my lip, fidgeted, and said, "I know you were probably expecting a lot of things, but stuff has a nasty habit of changing on you."

"So much has changed already," she murmured, her eyes avoiding mine. "Must it be the same with everything?"

I had no answer to that.

Thankfully, she wasn't pleading for one. "I figured your eyes might be tearing..."

"Huh? What?!" I looked away from her, wincing. "Earlier, I was just—"

"Cuz of the wind and all," she said, fumbling behind her with a pair of hooves. "So, uhm, when I heard that you were flying out, I made you something."

My heart rose back from my gut. "Oh," I exhaled. "What's that, pipsqueak?"

"It's not much. And I know it may look and feel like leather, but it's not..."

"Wuh oh." I smirked.

She made a face at me, then took a deep breath as if she was about to offer a sacrifice. Instead, Scootaloo held out a pair of shiny lenses that glinted in the setting sunlight. I saw a strap attached to them, and immediately beamed—

"New goggles? Wicked!"

"You r-really think so?" she stammered with a nervous smile.

"Only one way to find out." I plucked the article from her hooves—and froze upon seeing the initials. "'S.L.?' What does that stand—" I blinked, then looked at her. "Oh."

She blushed slightly.

I brought the goggles over my ears and snapped them tight before my eyes. The refracted world grew before me, a beautifully dying evening. I whistled. "Dang, if these don't feel real sturdy. I think these will last me a long while."

"I'm glad you like them," Scootaloo said with a slight shiver. "I made them to last a long time and in rough weather."

"I guess I'll have to put them to the test."

"If they break by the time you get back, Rainbow, it's... uhm... it'll be okay..."

I was quiet. I gently slid the goggles up and gazed down at her.

She was biting her lip.

With a sigh, I said, "I can't... uhm... I can't say just how long I'm gonna be gone for, kiddo."

"I know," Scootaloo said with a nod, her eyes avoiding me as she exhaled hoarsely. "You've got things to do."

"It's not so much that I've got things..." I grimaced as I ran a hoof through my mane. "It's more like places."

"What kind of places?"

"Well, I guess I don't know yet..."

"I see..."

I shrugged and murmured, "But I'll always be thinking about this place, this town, these ponies..."

"Uh huh..."

"You are all really cool. It's... uhm... it's gonna be a real downer not having you all around."

She sniffled, her hooves curling up in the grass as she whimpered, "Then why are you going away?"

I opened my mouth to speak, but the air was filled with the quiet percussion of her sobbing voice. I felt my pulse jump through my chest, then descend into a soft murmur. So I lowered myself along with it. I scooped Scootaloo up in my forelimbs and hugged her for the first time ever.

She knew it would also be the last time ever. She buried her tiny head in my chest and released all of the confusion and pain that I was now tasked with keeping inside. I couldn't decide whether I envied or pitied her. I couldn't decide on anything, save for the choice to fly.

"I know I said that there's always somepony to be loyal to, kiddo," I murmured, running a hoof through her silken mane as she shivered against me. "But I'm lost, and I can't stay in one place. I have to go far away, Scootaloo. I have to go find that somepony before she gets too far away for me to help."

"St-stay here," she mewled, choking on a shuddering breath. "Stay here and we can f-find her together."

I clenched my eyes shut, tilting my seething face towards the sky. After a few seconds, I dredged a smile up from the depths of me and tilted her gaze towards mine. "That's gonna be difficult, seeing as you have a full-time job now, squirt."

"Hmmm?" She sniffled, her face wet with tears. Her lips quivered to produce, "I d-do?"

"Heck yeah!" I said with a devilish grin. "With me gone, it's gonna be somepony's job to be awesome for Ponyville! I can think of one candidate!"

She blinked innocently. Her cheeks turned red. "Me?"

"Well, it's sure as hay not gonna be Twist, now is it?"

Suddenly, Scootaloo snorted, shaking her head with a painful smile. "No... No it isn't."

I stroked her bangs aside and smiled at her. She had an innocent face, so full of trust as she clung to my every word. I wondered if this was what having a foal of my own would have been like. I decided to keep talking before I could think any harder. "You've always been way more wicked cool than you've given yourself credit for, kiddo. Stick to your guns, be there for your friends, and don't let the world treat you like crap. Cuz you're in charge of things while I'm gone."

She wiped her eyes dry with a forelimb, but still shivered. "Rainbow Dash, I... I don't think—"

"Can I count on you to hold the fort?"

She gasped at me, her wings twitching. "Why... Of course! I mean... if... if you believe in me..."

"You'll find that believing in you comes easy," I said with a wink as I ruffled her mane. I did my damnedest not to let my voice crack, and for once I succeeded. "When somepony like you gives so much, it's only right that the world gives back."

"You... really believe that?"

"I'm about to go give the world a swift buck in the face to be sure." I gently laid her down onto the grass. "So, go and be awesome, Scootaloo. Just not too awesome. I've still got some thunder in me yet."

She bit her lip with a tender shadow of a smile. "Will... Will I ever see you again?"

"Scoots, what you've yet to see..." I lowered her gift over my eyes before she could see me breaking. "...is only bound to be way more wicked."

I kicked against the earth. Scootaloo shrunk away, and the rest of Ponyville vanished in a golden blur, like dying starlight.

I never looked back.

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