• Published 29th Dec 2012
  • 11,308 Views, 1,197 Comments

Mother of Invention - zaponator

Awake and alone, Applejack will find a way to survive.

  • ...

Old College Try

Step by step, one hoof in front of the other, Applejack made her way up the slope. The going wasn't terribly slow, but it wasn't fast either. After about 15 minutes of walking, she broke above the forest canopy. She stopped for a moment to turn around and see what she could see. As an earth pony, Applejack lacked in the pegasus appreciation of the sky, but she had to admit that it felt nice to be above the trees with an unobstructed view of the endless blue, not even a cloud in sight. As for the land below, the treetops extended almost as far as the eye could see. They did stop eventually, but from her current height of just above them, Applejack was unable to see what lay beyond the solid mass of green. She decided that she was wasting time, and should simply wait until she reached the peak to get a view of everything at once. That thought in mind, she resumed trudging upwards.

Her mind began to wander as she climbed. The slope was not treacherous or difficult, and so she was able to keep moving without focusing on it at all. She thought of her friends. What would they think about her sudden disappearance? The idea that a magic accident of Twilight's might be involved crossed her mind again. If that was the case, then Twilight would feel terrible about it. She would probably send a letter to Princess Celestia as soon as possible to ask for help in retrieving her lost friend. Applejack smiled at the thought, that would certainly expedite her return home. Hopefully Twilight wouldn't tear herself up too bad over it. Accidents happened, and Applejack was quick to forgive ponies for things that weren't even their fault. Of course, that wouldn't stop her from giving Twilight a stern talking to about being more careful in the future. Then again, it might not have been Twilight at all. Applejack's brow furrowed at the thought. What if she had been ponynapped? She was an Element of Harmony tasked with the protection of Equestria, so there were definitely beings out there who would want her out of the picture. That was a far more troubling option. Her friends might not have any idea what happened to her, and that would make it very unlikely that they would know to look for her right away. They might even think she was dead, in which case they wouldn't look for her at all. Well then, that was exactly why she had to start finding her own way home as soon as possible. At that moment, she very nearly stumbled as another deeply troubling thought occurred to her. If she had been ponynapped, was her family okay? Quickly her rational mind assured her that they were just fine, seeing as they held no value to enemies of Equestria, but there was another problem. What if her family thought she was dead too? They would be absolutely devastated if she just up and got killed one day. Applejack was honestly more worried about if her family could cope with the loss than the thought of her own death. She picked up her pace slightly, intent to find her way home to her friends and family as soon as possible.

She realized that her thoughts had taken her nearly to the top of the gravelly slope, and at her increased pace she made the rest of the first leg of her climb in short order. Breathing heavily with exertion, Applejack pulled herself up onto the flat space at the top if the slope. It had taken her about an hour to make it up the steep hill at a walking pace, not her best time, but she'd take what she could get. There was a little more plant life up here, leading her to believe that if a landslide really had happened here, then it hadn't reached this high. Applejack decided to check the view before beginning the second, and far longer, portion of the climb.

Just as she had seen below, the jungle sprawled over a significant bit of land. From this height however, she could finally see what lay beyond. The thick green vegetation came to a sudden stop a good distance from the mountain, giving way to the sparkling blue waves of the ocean. The late-morning sun was visible ahead and above her, casting its rays down on jungle, ocean, and mountain alike. This meant she was facing east, which in turn meant that she was apparently on the east coast somewhere. Not for the first time since arriving in that strange place Applejack wished she knew more geography. In any case, that still left north, west, and south as options for finding civilization. Failing all of those, she would simply head north until she reached Equestria, though that would hardly be ideal. No matter which path to salvation she eventually took, she couldn't even begin until she was able to get a view of the other three cardinal directions. That meant scaling the mountain all the way to the top.

The first step to reaching the peak was deducing if it was even possible to climb up at all. Applejack turned away from the view of the jungle and distant sea, and started to examine the rest of the mountain in earnest. From the plateau she was currently located on, the cliffs became drastically steeper. Continuing on could no longer be referred to as walking. She would have to climb almost straight up for most of it, and the rest of it didn't look much easier. Even though she could see plenty of spots wide enough to stop and rest, the cliff face was nearly twice as tall as the hill she had already climbed. Most of it was made up entirely of grey stone, but there were patches of green in the form of grass and moss, and even a few trees audacious enough to grow out of the side of a mountain. There seemed to be plenty of hoofholds, so Applejack's only concern was her right forehoof. It had been feeling a little better as the day wore on, and after a quick test she concluded that it was fit enough for a climb.

Applejack paused to take several deep breaths. The climb was definitely doable, but it was going to be tough, she had no illusions about that. If nothing else, Applejack was a practical mare, and she was perfectly aware that sitting around thinking about it would not make her task any easier. Now was the time for action. With that thought in mind, Applejack stood on her hind hooves, and reached up to the first available hoofhold. From there, she began the slow, steady process of ascending the nearly straight-up mountain. Applejack had little experience with free climbing, but she was an extremely athletic mare, and was generally good with her hooves. Plus, she had done it one or two times on the mountain near Ponyville, after the dragon incident that took place there. Of course, this time Rainbow Dash wasn't there, ready to catch her should she fall. She reached a small ledge, and grunted with effort as she pulled herself all the way up onto it, rolling onto her back in the space available. The ledge was just large enough that she could lay there without fear of falling off.

Not wasting any time, Applejack awkwardly worked her hooves under her in her limited space. Now upright, she sat on her haunches, and peered carefully over the edge. The plateau she'd started from was a fair ways below her, plenty far enough for a single slip from her perch to prove fatal. Suddenly, Applejack regretted looking down as a wave of vertigo hit her. She scrambled away from the edge, and pressed her back up against the solid, reassuring wall of stone. This was silly, this was excessively dangerous, this was foolish, this was... her best bet for seeing her family as soon as possible. Applejack stood up, a defiant smirk playing across her countenance. She wasn't going to let a risk of falling to her death stop her, and she wasn't just going to sit around waiting for a rescue that might not even be coming. An old saying came to mind, it was one that Applejack had put a lot less stock in ever since meeting her five best friends, but it was applicable to the current situation at least. 'If you want something done right, do it yourself.'

With a new found conviction, she gripped the next hoofhold, and resumed her arduous climb. She moved slightly faster, dead-set on reaching the peak. Each hoofhold passed by with a grunt of effort, but that old saying kept her going. As she climbed, she thought a bit about the saying. Really, that idea was only encouraging when viewed from the right angle. Sure, she trusted—

Applejack's right forehoof suddenly had a slight twinge of pain, just enough to lose its grip. She barely managed to hold herself up with her left, leaving her dangling precariously by a single hoof, far above the ledge she'd been resting on. She hung there for a moment on the edge of a screaming fall to certain death, before chuckling slightly, silently thanking Celestia, and shakily bringing her other forehoof up to continue her ascent up the wall of stone. Her thoughts resumed where they had left off.

She trusted her friends to find her eventually... if they were even looking. It just felt better to have a little control over her fate for herself. She had certainly learned her lesson about accepting help when she tried to harvest an entire applebuck season by herself, but this was another matter entirely.

A bit of rock was kicked loose by one of her rear hooves, tumbling away haphazardly, bouncing off the cliff face at uneven intervals before landing with a loud crack on the plateau that was now far below. Her breathing came in heavy pants as she hauled herself onto another ledge. This time, she didn't pause to rest. She was nearing the top now, but the sun was just past its midday point, leaving her no time for laying down on the job if she wanted to make the return trip before dark. She shook her head, returning to her derailed train of thought.

This was another matter entirely, this time she wasn't refusing help, she would gladly hop on the first airship home if one turned up. It was only that there might not be anypony coming, and if she was going to walk home, she wanted to get started on that as soon as she could. Still, old habits die hard, and the stubborn farm pony couldn't deny a certain sense of satisfaction from taking charge in this situation. Ever since she was just a teenager, Applejack had been forced to take on the leading role in her family, taking care of everypony else, and making sure the farm ran smoothly pretty much all on her own. This had molded her into the pony she was today, hard working, dependable, and able to handle any situation without help from anypony. Regardless, as she pulled herself up to reach the next hoofhold, she noted that some help from somepony would not go unappreciated anytime soon.

By now, she was just a few feet from the top of the mountain. It was slow going at this point, she was tired, and there wasn't exactly an abundance of things to grip this high up. Finally, after hanging there just out of reach of her goal for a couple of minutes, she spotted a path up. Reaching it would take some doing, however. There was a 'ladder' of sorts, really just a series of small ledges, a bit to her left. Unfortunately, there was nothing between it and her current perch but empty air and blank stone. At first she considered moving down and approaching it from below, but upon careful examination she realized that there was no path leading to it from below either. There was really only one thing to do. Applejack took several deep breaths, tensed the muscles in her forelegs, leaned away from the natural ladder, and with a silent prayer to Celestia, flung herself with all her might to the left. For one split second, she was sailing through space completely unsupported, hundreds of feet in the air, with nothing solid on any of her hooves. Before her heart even had a chance to skip a beat, she caught the lowest ledge of the natural ladder, swinging back and forth with her momentum for a moment, but managing to maintain her grip.

Applejack quickly ascended the comparatively easy climb, and in a matter of seconds hoisted herself over the top, and onto the peak of the mountain. For a few minutes she just laid there on her back, breathing deeply, and waiting for her heart to slow down. Then, almost without warning, a chuckle escaped her lips, followed by a snort, which devolved into side-clutching, teary-eyed fits of laughter. Her realization of the absurd foolishness of what she'd just done, combined with the glorious feeling of having survived it, warranted no other reaction.

After a few minutes of her laughter resonating through the stillness of the mountaintop, she finally calmed down. Her heart rate and breathing had by that point returned to reasonable levels, so she stood back up to all fours, ready to finally finish her mission. A huge grin adorned her face at the thought of beginning the journey home. That grin fell immediately the second she looked around. She spun in a full circle repeatedly, each time hoping that what she was seeing would change, but it was of no use. Applejack suddenly found herself incredibly dizzy, her vision darkened at the edges. She whimpered as she fought the urge to vomit, before collapsing onto her belly, clenching her eyes shut tight in a vain attempt to forget what she had seen. It was of no use, even with her eyes closed the sight she'd witnessed played on a loop in her mind.

An island. She was on an island. The ocean stretched literally as far as the eye could see in every direction, glittering blue waves mocking her with the utter hopelessness of her situation. The sight of the ocean from the beach had been mind blowing to Applejack, having never seen more than a lake before. This was another level entirely. Looking in a circle, she had completely seen the spherical nature of the planet. How she was even conscious after such a mind-blowing sight was beyond her. She lay there for a while, shivering on the hard stone of the mountain's peak, eyes shut tight, trying to put her shattered mind back together. Tears began to flow freely for the normally stoic mare as she grasped the full meaning of this revelation; she was trapped there in the middle of the ocean. Getting herself home was an impossibility, and her friends finding her was hardly more likely. Honesty was a curse sometimes, because being completely honest with herself, Applejack realized that she was probably never going to see her home again. She had never cried so hard in her life.

Author's Note:

Edited by Pilate, because he's alright I guess...