• Published 11th Nov 2012
  • 17,152 Views, 263 Comments

Just Human - Lightless Void

There is a reason why there are no humans in Equestria. Allow me to show you why.

  • ...

A Truth Told With Bad Intent...

Just Human, Chapter 4: A Truth Told With Bad Intent...

“We arrived at the orchard at noon, but Granny Smith said Applejack stormed off after they had an argument. She said she had never seen Applejack act like this before... Like she didn’t trust her own family!” Rarity said behind Twilight, though she showed no sign of slowing down. Her heart was racing, every bit of weakness she had felt before completely suppressed by the fear that this time she would be too late.

The sun was turning the sky a blazing orange as she began to set behind the treeline, just as Twilight and her friends arrived at the farm itself. Granny Smith sat outside on her rocking chair, keeping an eye on the horizon. As she noticed Twilight approaching, she simply shook her head sadly. Applejack hadn’t come back yet.

Twilight looked at the setting sun. She knew there was no time to waste. Once the light was gone entirely, they’d stand next to no chance at finding Applejack before sunrise, and she knew that anything could happen during that time. She couldn’t afford that delay, not even one night.

“Alright, we’re going to have to look for her! We’ll split up into groups of two, and... Wait.”

In the distance, she saw a red shape moving towards them. It was Big Macintosh, carrying a tired looking Applebloom on his back. She wasn’t sure if they had just gone out to look for Applejack, but judging from their expressions, Twilight guessed they hadn’t found her either way. She did her best to try and come up with ways that would help them find Applejack. Just randomly searching an area as big as the orchard could take hours, and she knew they didn’t have that time.

Maybe I should ask Mac? Maybe he heard Applejack say something, or do something, that could give us a clue as to where she went. It’s a long shot... But it’s all we’ve got.

“Mac, did Applejack say anything unusual?” Twilight asked Big Macintosh as he she approached him. “Anything that might tell us where she’s going? ”

He averted his eyes, taking Applebloom off of his back and pushing her forward.

“Just tell ‘er what you told me, lil’ sis.”

Applebloom looked up at Twilight. Tears were already starting to well up in her eyes, but she still managed to speak softly.

“A-ah heard mah sis and Granny Smith fighting from outside. Ah didn’t know why, but she threw open the door and began to walk away all angry an’ such. Ah asked her what was wrong, but she didn’t say anything, so ah asked her again, and she... She told me to go back home and stop following her. She said—” Applebloom managed to utter, before a choked sob broke through. “She said that if we didn’t want her here that she didn’t have to be told twice. That she’d leave, forever, an’ then she went into the Everfree Forest!”

Applebloom began to cry pitably. Big Mac nuzzled her to try and comfort the filly, to no avail.

Twilight remained dead silent. That which she had feared to be the case had come to pass. Applejack had put herself into mortal danger because of this thing that was affecting them. The Everfree Forest was full of perils, not to mention huge, and they had far too little time to search it thoroughly.

But I can’t give up. Not as long as anypony, especially not a friend, is in danger.

“Do you think you can take us to where you last saw her, Applebloom?”

The filly nodded as she rubbed the tears out of her eyes. Twilight tried to smile, forcing herself to push her fears away and not give up hope, if only for Applebloom’s sake. Yet, some part of her wouldn’t cease telling her that every second of daylight lost made the chances of finding Applejack even more slim, and the odds were already against them.

It was but a short walk to the location, where the orchard was separated from the Everfree Forest by a gentle stream. In the mud surrounding the stream Twilight saw hoofprints, which she had no doubt belonged to Applejack. On a branch of a tree, at the very edge of the forest, hung the hat she always wore, waving gently in the breeze. Pinkie walked across the stream up to the hat, picking it off of the branch, and hugged it closely. Far more pressing was what Twilight saw on the horizon. Large, dark clouds were gathering, occasionally lit by a flash of lightning. Their time was running out.

“I’ve never even seen this many come our way,” Rainbow Dash commented as she stared at the distant clouds. The sound of distant thunder rumbled, further unsettling the entire group. It wasn’t hard for Twilight to imagine why. Going into the Everfree Forest was dangerous in its own right. Doing so when it was getting dark, during a thunderstorm, was so insane that she’d have called herself mad for even thinking of going in there, were the situation not so dire.

She had no doubt what had to be done. She had to save Applejack, no matter what, but looking back at the rest, she saw they were afraid. They averted their eyes, the worry that they all shared now plainly visible, even if they refused to speak about it. Twilight was sure they wanted to save Applejack, but the events of today had painfully obviously drained them of their courage. They were at the end of their rope, and Twilight wasn’t sure if she’d be able to press on without them.

“Come on everypony! If Applejack is in the Everfree Forest, it’s up to us to get her out! We can’t give up now!” she spoke, trying to raise their spirits, but the group continued to give her that same look.

“I know you’re all worried about Applejack, but we can’t give up! She’s out there somewhere, in Celestia knows what condition, and we—”

“Twilight,” Rainbow Dash said suddenly, interrupting her. “We’re all worried about Applejack, and we’re not gonna give up on trying to find her, no way. But...”

“But what?” Twilight asked, though anger began to creep into her voice.

If they’re just as worried as I am about Applejack, then why would they hesitate!? Don’t they see that we’re running out of time!?

“Is it because you’re scared!? How can you even think about leaving Applejack in the Everfree Forest!?” she snapped at Rainbow Dash, completely losing her ability to restrain herself.

“It’s not Applejack!” Rainbow Dash retorted bitterly. “It’s you!”

Twilight’s mouth fell open in shock. At first, she didn’t believe what she was hearing, until she noticed how all of her friends were looking away, trying to avoid making eye contact.

“Applejack can handle herself, and we’ll find her in time. There’s no way we’re gonna give up on her... But we all know you’re not okay, Twilight. We’ve all seen it.”

Rarity stepped forward, now looking straight at Twilight, but showing an unwillingness to say what was on her mind. Twilight knew what was coming, even though her stomach turned at the mere thought. It was the cold dread that had been haunting her every waking moment all day.

“We... know you’re sick, dear. You haven’t been yourself all day. We really think it’s for the best if go home and get some rest.”

“No!” Twilight shouted, backing off as the group stepped forward, concern etched on their faces. “You can’t expect me to go back while Applejack is somewhere out there and needs my help! I won’t do it!”

“Twilight, relax,” Rainbow Dash said with concern. “You’re not alone in this, you know? But what if you get worse while we’re out there?”

“If something happens we’re out there, we’ll be really far away from Ponyville,” spoke Fluttershy with even more worry than the others. “If your condition gets any worse, who knows what will happen?”

“I won’t get worse. I swear I’m fine!” Twilight exclaimed defensively, but she could see she hadn’t managed to convince any of them. She couldn’t bear the thought of being forced to return home, not knowing what would happen to Applejack or everypony else. Even more terrifying than the hopelessness she’d feel at knowing her friends would go into danger without her was the fear that whatever was affecting her would return even stronger than before, right when she was all alone.

“Girls please, don’t make me go back! I can’t explain why, because I don’t understand what’s going on, but you can’t leave me! Applejack needs all of us, and... And...”

Twilight faltered as she failed to find the words. The more she thought about it, the more sense they seemed to make. Maybe they were right. She knew there was something very wrong with her, without any idea when her condition would get worse. Maybe she’d just be a burden out there, or even put them all in danger.

She noticed Pinkie Pie making her way through the group, Applejack’s hat now upon her head. She gave Twilight a dour look, the likes of which Twilight had never seen on her before.

“Twilight, if you really want to come with us, then pinkie promise you’re going to be okay. Pinkie promise, or I’m not letting you come along, because if something would happen to you in the Everfree Forest, I’d get really really mad at you... And I’d never forgive myself.”

Twilight looked at Pinkie pleadingly, but Pinkie didn’t flinch. It was clear that Pinkie wouldn’t tolerate any argument. Twilight didn’t want to take such radical steps just so she could come along, but to her, this wasn’t a matter of choice. Going home simply wasn’t an option.

“Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”

Rarity shot a worried look between Pinkie and Twilight.

“Pinkie, are you sure about this?”

“She pinkie promised. I trust Twilight,” Pinkie deadpanned. The others looked at one another, but didn’t argue. This was enough. They began to walk towards the Everfree Forest, everypony close together, though Twilight stood at the back of the group, facing Big Mac and Applebloom.

“Big Mac, we need someone to warn the weather patrol. Tell them there’s another storm coming from the Everfree Forest. And tell Spike... Tell him I’ll be alright,” she said hesitantly. She knew it would be a lie, but didn’t want Spike worrying about her on her conscience. With a last look at the dark forest before her, she began to make her way in.

She had no idea what to expect, but there was no turning back now. She’d find Applejack and bring her home. She wouldn’t accept anything less, despite the terror she felt at the unknown fate that awaited her beyond the shroud of trees.


The call echoed in the forest around her as her friends repeated the call. They had spread out a little to make sure they covered as much ground as possible without going out of earshot of each other. The storm above already on top of them, though rain had yet to fall. The Everfree Forest had a habit of creating completely unpredictable weather, and threat of the rain taking them by surprise had the entire group on edge. Still there was no sign of Applejack. Her tracks were far and in between, until it became hard to tell whether they were really following Applejack anymore, and not just some other creature that lived in this place. Every minute Twilight despaired more for the fate of their friend, and her friends seemed to feel the same, as their voices began to crack more and more as time passed.

More and more horrible thoughts began to assail Twilight, as every minute that passed seemed to drain her hope that Applejack was okay, but it was more than that. There was a pressure in the air, a foreboding sense of tension, like something terrible was about to happen. They were in the eye of the storm, and she wasn’t sure if they’d be able to get out of it again. Some part of her began to regret coming here, despite the determination she had felt before. Now, it felt more like she was leading all of them blindly into the maw off some great beast that was waiting to devour them.

“Twilight? Are you holding up? Do you want to take a break?” the voice of Rainbow Dash called out to her. She swallowed before she replied, trying to clear her throat so that she wouldn’t give a hint of the fears and worries grinding her down.

“I’m fine. Just keep going, I’ll keep up.”

“Okay,” Rainbow Dash called back a moment later. Twilight could hear the reluctance in her voice. She had dodged a bullet, for now. She fought the urge to sigh deeply, for she knew her voice would quiver, and was too afraid anypony else might hear. She sat down, her back against a tree, giving herself a moment to catch her breath.

I can’t fall behind now. I told them I would keep up... Even though I’m tired.

Falling asleep was so tempting now. Her body craved the rest she had missed this past day, and it was starting to catch up to her. She fought the urge to close her eyes, if only for a second, for she knew she wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to sleep if she did.

Twilight’s ears perked up as she heard a strange sound. A familiar giggle carried on the wind, coming from a female voice, though she didn’t immediately recognize it. Hopeful that perhaps, she had finally found a sign of Applejack, she unsteadily pushed herself to her hooves and began to walk towards the sound. Knowing that sound wouldn’t travel very far in the forest, she knew that the source wouldn’t be too far away.


The giggle sounded again, clearer this time, though Twilight still wasn’t sure of the direction it was coming from. The sound seemed distorted somehow, not just by the forest, but also like there was something wrong with it beyond the wind warping it. She walked even further into the forest, now less hopeful that she might have found Applejack, and more wary that whatever was luring her here might not be of kind intent.

She heard that same giggle again, though this time it was certainly more mocking, even malicious, than it had been before. She froze in her tracks, her ears swivelling around to try and home in on the source. She soon realised that the sound wasn’t coming from in front of her. It was coming from above her.

She looked up, and was confronted by what seemed like a black-coated unicorn, lying lazily upon a branch high up in a tree. As Twilight looked closer, she realised its coat and mane rolled as though it were made of smoke, gently waving in the breeze. Of its eyes and mouth only a soft lavender glow was visible, making it look more like a spectre rather than a thing of flesh and blood.

Twilight’s mouth ran dry as the creature’s strange looks sank in. She realised that despite its unnatural appearance, its mane, its face and its body were shaped to look just like her own. The reason that the giggle had sounded familiar was because it sounded just like hers. As Twilight observed it, the thing’s mouth curled into a wicked grin as it looked down upon her.

“Hello, Twilight.”

Twilight didn’t respond. She merely stared wide-eyed at the strange apparition, unable to form words or coherent thought, which soon prompted the thing to enter another fit of giggling.

“Aww, what’s the matter Twilight?” the thing cooed mockingly. “Aren’t you happy to see me, even after all that time we spent together?”

Twilight blinked in confusion.

“What are you talking about? Who... What are you?”

The spectre didn’t move much in response, just enough to shift her weight, making it slip off the branch it had been lying on. Much to Twilight’s surprise, it caught itself by its tail, making it swing gently left and right, much like a pendulum. It chuckled again, as though it was endlessly amused by the whole situation.

“I’m the little lie you tell yourself before you go to sleep. I’m the doubt you feel when your friends turn you down. I’m the fear you feel when you’re all alone in the dark. But most of all...” it said, as its grin turned into a beaming smile.

“I’m you.”

Twilight shook her head, unable to acknowledge what she was being told. She struggled to understand what this thing was, making it all the more easy for the spectre to play with her head.

“What are you saying? That doesn’t make any sense! You can’t be me!”

Despite the spectre’s lack of pupils, it still seemed to make the motion of rolling its eyes. It seemed disappointed, more than anything else.

“Tsk tsk Twilight, and here I thought you were such a clever mare. Well, if you won’t listen...” she spoke, as she somehow managed to use her tail to flip herself back onto the branch she was hanging from. She walked to the very tip, the spectre’s weight somehow bending the branch as she began to hunker down.

“Then I’m just going to have to show you!” the spectre said as she used the branch as a diving board, propelling herself into the branches of other trees, leaping from one tree to another with unnatural grace.

It took Twilight a moment before she spurred herself into action. The spectre was on the verge of disappearing from sight as she began to run after it.

Whatever that thing is, I can’t let it get away! It has something to do with what’s going on, I just know it does!

Twilight chased the spectre blindly through the forest, heedless of the distance she was putting between herself and her friends, her mind set only on chasing this dark reflection of herself down and getting the answers she desperately needed. For some reason it stayed well out of reach, but close enough that she was able to track it by sight or sound, as the thing giggled the entirety of the pursuit.

Suddenly, the thing lept through the canopy and out of sight. Twilight followed it, panting as she went as she depleted what little strength she had left, before breaking into a clearing. Of the spectre, there was no sign, but instead, she was greeted by a very different sight. Several timber wolves had their back towards her, their attention focused solely upon a cave set at the other edge of the clearing. They hadn’t noticed her, and she could hear why. From inside the cavern, she heard the sounds of growls and barks, mixed with the sound of a person fighting for his life.

There’s somepony in that cave! I have to do something, but what!? There’s no time to go back for help, and if I just distract them, I’ll put myself in danger! But then, what can I do!?

She began to gather magical energy, her horn glowing softly, as she tried to come up with some way to save whoever was in that cave. Eventually, she settled on the only thing she could do right now, and the glow intensified.

Alex backed off further from the wolf that approached him, his spear very nearly within striking distance of the wolf, but only used as a tool to force it to keep its distance. The wolf growled as it closed the distance, carefully taking one step at a time, which also forced Alex one step at a time.

His back hit the wall of the cave, and he knew he had to make his move now, or never. He stepped forward, driving his spear forward with all his might. The tip connected, the blow itself hard enough to force the wolf back several steps. The spear glanced it without doing any sort of damage, simply not having the strength to pierce the wooden flesh of his opponent.

The wolf wasted no time capitalising on his victim’s failure. As Alex realised his folly, the wolf lunged at him, landing on him with a heavy thump. Alex only just barely managed to bring the spear up to stop the wolf’s teeth from clamping down onto his throat. With both his hands, he did his best to keep the wolf’s jaws off of him, but its talons were not as restricted. The wolf dug them into his shoulder, making him cry out in pain.

No, I can’t die like this! I don’t want to die here! I have to keep fighting! But I can’t... I can’t win this. Someone. Anyone. Help me!

The wolf began to overpower him, the jaw of his attacker coming ever closer to biting down. Alex felt himself losing the struggle. Though he refused to accept it, he knew that he already lost.

Suddenly, a strange violet glow began to surround his attacker. The strain on his muscles and the pain in his shoulders began to lessen, until the wolf lifted off of him entirely. He watched in awe as the wolf floated through the air, yelping in fear, as it floated out of the cave.

Alex lay there, breathing heavily, trying to grasp what just happened. Something had saved him, but there was nothing that could explain how. It took him some time before he was able to gather his wits and stand up.

As shocked as he was, curiosity called to him to stand up and see what now stood outside the cave.

Twilight panted heavily as the wolves floated helplessly in the air above her. There was no time for her to come up with a plan, or get help, or for her to weave a spell. Whoever was in her cave needed help right now, forcing her to go for the most direct approach she could manage, even if she knew it would exhaust her completely.

She gritted her teeth, turning up the power even more, her horn blazing with light as the yelping timber wolves began to float upward above the canopy, and then moved some distance away from Twilight. At last, she released her telekinetic grip, the wolves tumbling through the branches audible in the distance. It wouldn’t hurt them much, timber wolves were durable creatures, but hopefully they’d get the message and wouldn’t come back.

Twilight felt the world spin around her. She tried to catch herself, but her muscles didn’t respond. She fell to her knees, utterly spent by the ordeal.

“You made it, well done,” a familiar voice spoke. As Twilight looked to the side, she saw the spectre coming out of the treeline, a smile on its face and a skip in its step. If anything, it only seemed to have grown more cheery than before. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure if you’d be able to pull that one off, but you sure proved me wrong!”

“Wha?...” Twilight managed to utter in between breaths.

“Well, we’ve been having so much fun, Twilight,” the spectre spoke as she came closer. “I mean, didn’t you have fun? Especially last night, I had to dig quite deeply for that particular horror, but it was sooo worth it when I saw your face when you woke up!”

“You... You’re the one...” Twilight said breathlessly as realisation finally dawned.

“Yes, me! Oh, the past week has been the best in my short existence! It’s so much fun to have somepony to play with every single night! And today, I could get the others involved! It was like one big party, and all our friends were invited!” the spectre said as she danced little circles of joy around Twilight.

“What others? There are more of you!?” Twilight asked. At first, she thought this strange creature had been the cause for everything that had been happening to Ponyville, but now, she was terrified at the idea that there were more of them causing havoc.

How am I ever going to be able to stop several of these... Things!?

“Well, yes! One for each of you,” the spectre claimed as it pointed a hoof at Twilight. “And there will be many, many more.”

The spectre laughed cruelly, which further fueled Twilight’s anger at this thing that was tormenting her for its own amusement. She forced herself to stand up, trying to at least show the spectre she wasn’t going to give in easily. Not after having come this far.

“Why are you doing this!? Why won’t you just leave me and my friends alone!?”

The spectre waved a hoof dismissively, not at all affected by Twilight’s attempt at resistance.

“But Twilight, I’m not the cause. Now that we’re this close, don’t tell me you can’t hear it. Don’t tell me you can’t feel it?” the spectre said cryptically. At first, Twilight felt herself just getting more angry as the spectre seemed to reject the notion that it was responsible for what had been happening. That’s when she started hearing it. A heartbeat, soft, yet powerful enough to make her tremble with every beat. It was almost like it reverberated within the air she breathed and the ground upon which she stood. It frightened her deeply, and her eyes darted around, looking for the source.

“Wh-What’s going on? What are you doing?” she asked fearfully, but the spectre merely chuckled in response, before slowly pointing a hoof, drawing Twilight’s eyes to the cave entrance.

“You wanted your answers Twilight, and now, you will finally see.”

The heartbeat she noticed before began to grow louder, drowning out all other noise in the forest around her. The darkness in the cave grew thicker as she watched, some unknown force keeping her gaze locked upon it. Before her very eyes, the darkness in the cave seemed to move, exiting the shadows like a cloud of roiling black mist. Two eyes were only vaguely visible within the cloud, standing far too high for this to be any creature she knew of. It stopped just outside of the cave, its expression completely unreadable, though it seemed to study her intensely.

“Isn’t he beautiful, Twilight?” the spectre asked, its voice somehow carrying over the deafening drum of the heartbeat. “He is father, from which we all came.”

Twilight watched in horror as, from the black mass, small wisps seemed to peel off, before eyes and a mouth appeared within these tiny separate clouds. Soon, they began to solidify into tiny shadowy forms, imp-like creatures with wicked little eyes and claws. As Twilight watched, she began to realise many more of these glowing little eyes already present in the forest around her. From every branch and every shadow, one of these things seemed to be looking at her. It was an army, and she was surrounded entirely.

The spectre that resembled her stepped forward into her sight, smiling gleefully.

“Well Twilight, isn’t this what you wanted to see?”

Alex stepped out of the shelter of his cave, blinking against the faint light outside. He rubbed behind his glasses, trying to stop his eyes from stinging after spending so much time in the dark. When he looked up, there was nothing that could have prepared him for what he saw. At first, he believed himself to be hallucinating, or dreaming, or quite possibly even mad. There, in the centre of the clearing, no longer stood a pack of wooden wolves, but stood a single purple-coated unicorn. Her mane deep blue with a streak of pink and violet, a single horn jutting out from beneath it, and two incredibly large lavender eyes staring in the same wide-eyed surprise that he felt.

For what seemed like an hour, he couldn’t bring himself to move or speak. He merely looked, utterly dumbstruck at the strange creature that now stood before him.

That... That is a unicorn. A small, purple unicorn. Why is it just looking at me? Did that unicorn save me from those things? How the hell did it do that? Why isn’t it doing anything? Does it even speak?

Alex very carefully put his battered spear down on the ground, trying his best to show that he meant no harm. He raised his hands, showing his open palms, to let the unicorn know he posed no threat.

“Are you the one who saved me?”

His words seemed to have an immediate effect. The unicorn began to shake its head, as though denying something, and much to his surprise, began to speak in a voice that sounded not just feminine, but very human.

“No, no, no, no no no! Stay away from me!

Her tone rapidly became completely terrified, which in turn made Alex panic. As insane as the idea of a small talking unicorn sounded, this was his best, or perhaps, his only chance for rescue. He needed help, and the idea that this one chance that had been presented to him would get away drove him to desperation.

“Please! You don’t understand!” he pleaded, lowering his hands as he fought the urge to just run towards her. “I don’t belong here! I can’t survive in this forest. I need help!”

He let his words settle in, but the unicorn simply stared at him in mortal terror, giving no further response.

“Please!” he said again, as he took a step forward.

As soon as his foot hit the grass, the unicorn began to shriek, turning around and fleeing into the dark of the forest. She was running for her life, and didn’t stop screaming for one second.

“Wait! No!” he called out, chasing her to the edge of the clearing, but before he even reached the treeline, he knew he wasn’t going to catch her. She was fast, and it was getting darker. Unless he somehow managed to walk right into her, there was no way he would find her now.

Alex growled in anger and frustration, balling a hand into a fist and slamming it into a tree. It did little harm to the tree, but pain shot through his limb immediately. He hardly cared. This might have been his one opportunity to escape from this wretched forest, and he blew it. It didn’t even matter if he really was to blame or not, that she was going to react that way no matter what he did. All that mattered now was the calm certainty that he was going to die here.

“Did you hear that? That’s Twilight! Quick, it came from this way, hurry girls!”

Alex heard more voices coming his way, all feminine, though not the same as that of the unicorn he just chased away.

Could it be there are more of them? But, what will they think of me? I just scared away one of them. Will they flee as she did? Will the one I scared away give them enough cause to attack me on sight?

The voices rapidly came closer, and Alex was torn between his two options. Stay here, and risk whatever these creatures had in store for him, or escape into the forest. He remembered what that one unicorn did to those wolves.

Picked the one that was attacking me up like a stuffed animal. God knows what she did to it. How many of them are coming my way now? Two? Three?

As the voices came so close that he feared they would spot him, he made a choice based on the one thing that had been guiding him all day. Fear. He ran back, scooped up his spear, and ran into the forest, his heart heavy with the thought that now he had made enemies with the only creatures he had met that might just save him from this hell.