• Published 27th Feb 2013
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Fallout: Equestria - The Hooves of Fate - Sprocket Doggingsworth

A young filly in present day Ponyville is cursed with nightmares of post-apocalyptic Equestria. She finds herself influencing the course of future history in ways that she cannot understand.

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The Wasteland


There's always the bomb - the megaspell that's destined to obliterate Equestria. When I first saw the Wasteland in my dreams, I thought it was my job to stop it. To stop the war, to stop the megaspells, to stop us ponies from becoming the monsters I saw in visions of our dark future.

The trouble is: I can't stop it. Nopony can. You can change the future; you can change the present. Rumor has it that, with the right spells, you can even change the past, but some things simply won't budge. The apocalypse, sad to say, is one of them. It is going to happen. No matter what you do, the doomsday clock just keeps on ticking.

There's always the bomb.

* * *


* * *

"I will show you fear in a handful of dust." -T.S. Eliot

My story starts where so many other stories get started, and so many beginnings get begun - the quest for a cutie mark. What sets my experience apart from others' is that when I finally did achieve my cutie mark, it was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. It's supposed to be the happiest time in your childhood. You discover your purpose, your meaning, the one thing in the whole wide world you do better than anypony else.

Not me. I still don't know what the stupid symbol means.

Here’s the thing, though. That confusion wasn’t what made me miserable. Sure, it sucked, but it was a cover up – an excuse. What really ate at me was my secret life. I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really just wanted to be like every other kid.

I didn’t realize that that was what I wanted until the complete opposite happened. I found the Wasteland, or rather, it found me. I had to pass through every fire in Hell to do it, but I came out with a picture on my flank.

I was a totally changed pony, but I wasn’t sure it was for the better.

* * *

You see, I'd spent months trying to figure out what my special talent was. I wanted to be the first in my class to get one, so I laid out a plan. Have you ever noticed that a lot of ponies' names are pretty much just descriptions of their cutie marks? Well, I did, but nopony believed me, so while everypony was off joining clubs and sports and pursuing bizarre and irrelevant interests, I started right with my name - Rose Petal. I mean, that had to be it, right? Think about it! I looked almost identical to my sister Roseluck, except for the yellow, white, and pink streaks running through my red mane – all the different colors a rose could possibly be. It didn’t take a genius to figure out my destiny.

"Sis," I said. "Can you teach me to garden?"

She spat out her tea at the mention of it.

"Um…Are you sure?" She said, dabbing her chin with a napkin. It concealed her awkward smile.

I just grinned widely and nodded. My smile was cute enough to make a squeaky sound, so I knew I had her wrapped around my hoof.

Roseluck stared me down for a good long while, furrowing her brow, stroking her chin for dramatic effect as she silently weighed me with her eyeballs.

"Well," She said at long last. "If you really want to give it another try."

"I do! I do!" I bounced around her in circles.

After breakfast she led me into the garden - a cathedral of roses of every conceivable color. Bushes guarded the corners of each walkway like temple statues, or those big kitties I’d seen pictures of perched at the entranceway to the Manehattan Public Library. I don’t know why, but I pet them as I passed by, even though they were just regular old bushes. I even decided to name one of them. “Larry,” I called it, though I have no idea where the idea for the name came from. It just sounded like a funny word to me.

When you’re standing in Roseluck’s garden, great big vines arch over you from all directions - giant buttresses of flower. Sometimes, when the dew on the pedals catches the sunlight just right, it shines like a stained glass window. In fact, Roseluck says they're even brighter than Celestia’s windows, but she said we shouldn't tell Princess Celestia that, of course, because that's not very nice. Plus she's the princess and you don't say things like that to princesses. So far, I have not met any princesses, but if it ever does come up, I feel totally ready to be civil about the whole window thing.

Anyway, it was one of those stained glass window mornings. The sun was still low in the sky, the flowers were shining, and my sister was yelling at me again.

"Rose Petal, no!"

Before I knew it, the giant shears that I'd picked up were snatched right out of my hooves.

"But - but," I started to whine. A stern look zipped my lip pretty fast, and told me that that line of complaining wasn't going to get me anywhere. My poor sister looked exhausted. She tried to hide it, but she never was very good at that sort of thing.

"Why don't we start you out with…" Roseluck looked around at all of the various gardening tools, desperate for something she could give me that I wouldn't hurt myself with.

"Relax." I threw on my smoothest smile. "I can handle myself."

"Oh! I know!"

A big old sack of soil plopped down in front of me. A cloud of dust burst out when it hit the ground.


This time it was her turn to give the adorable squeaky smile. Older sisters shouldn't be able to do that! It’s not fair.

"See? All you gotta do is stomp out the clumps until they're nice and soft."

"That's it?" I said dryly.

Desperate as I was, I really didn't want to end up with a cutie mark in dirt. Luckily, as it turned out, I was in no danger of that. No sooner had Big Sis disappeared into the shed to get some supplies than I found myself face first in a pile of soil, and covered with thorn scratches from head to hoof. I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but it started with a garden hose I tripped on, a rake to the face, a whirlwind of I don't even remember what, and, well, let's just say it escalated from there. I am not a graceful pony.

Gardening was out. Check.

* * *

Over the months that followed, I volunteered to help out in just about every shop and farm. My friend Blueberry Milkshake came with me every now and again, but she wasn’t as passionate in her search as I was, especially after she found her own cutie mark which was, as you may have already guessed, a blueberry milkshake. To her credit, she tagged along for my sake, but I was the one who really threw my heart into it, and pitched in toward every local activity I could think of.

Except school.

I liked Miss Cheerilee and all, but I wasn't about to spend any more time in that big red house than I had to. I'm not crazy! At least I wasn't crazy yet. I didn't start losing my mind until the dreams started happening.

Anyway, on the night I got my cutie mark, Roseluck tucked me in as always, and I was reluctant to let her, as usual. It wasn’t ‘cause I was afraid of nightmares or anything like that. At that point, I didn’t have any idea what awaited me on the other side of the veil, and the only nightmares I’d ever had had involved being late for school, or dropping a pile of dishes in front of everypony I knew, or something to do with that bitch* Diamond Tiara.

(Okay, I’m really, really, really not supposed to use that word, but since neither Diamond Tiara nor Roseluck are ever going to read this, I might as well get it out of my system now. Diamond Tiara is the bitchiest bitch who ever bitched in from Bitch Street down by the Bitch District of midtown Bitchville. Why? Because she’s just that big of a bitch, and even her cutie mark indicates that her special talent is being a spoiled bitch. I bet she will die alone. She will die alone of being a bitch. There, I said it.)

“Time for bed.” My sister called out in a sing-songy voice. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to soothe or insult me, but I didn’t care. I was in too bubbly a mood.

“What about sandwiches?”

“Not before bed.”

“What about a story?”

“Another one?”

“The other story wasn’t about sandwiches.” I whined as I literally tried to leap out of bed. Roseluck pulled me back down and pinned me gently but firmly under the covers.

“You can’t have a sandwich so you want me to tell you a story about sandwiches.”

“Can the story have pickles on it? And mayonnaise?”

Roseluck didn’t bat an eye. She’s just that used to me. “Sure,” she said, on condition of my going to sleep afterward.

I don’t remember what the story was about. I just know it started with, “Once upon a time there was a sandwich named Ryelight Sparkle, who journeyed to Sandwichville to oversee the planning for the Summer Sandwich Celebration.” Then I fell asleep.

* * *

At first it was black. Black as black blackitty black black. Then I saw a blinding green flash, and heard the screams of millions of ponies. It was like having a chalkboard inside your brain with countless razors scraping against it, only worse because every scratch was actually somepony crying.

I think I screamed. Yes, I must’ve. But I couldn’t hear my own voice. At all.

The next thing I knew, I found myself shivering, huddled against cold brick on every side. Celestia only knows how long I had been crouched there. I don’t even think I realized I had been huddling – that I was even cold. I didn’t realize I was anywhere at all. I had totally shut down after the chalkboard-full-of-explosions thingy that had happened in my brain. It was only nostrils full of smoke that slapped me in the face and made me come to.

I opened my eyes. I was alive. Out in the cold somewhere, surrounded by brick, I must have been in a broken old chimney or something, but I couldn’t tell. It was too damn dark. Covered in ash and dust, I squeezed out of a hole in the side of the chimney, and wriggled on out of there, snagging my mane on the jagged bricks as I fell. A dry yelp climbed out of my throat. I rubbed my sore scalp. It was definitely night time, but it had to be like, the darkest night in the history of ever. Luna’s beautiful moon was gone. Just gone. That’s how thick the clouds were.

I looked for a fire to determine if I was in any immediate danger, but found none – only clouds of smoke wafting aimlessly across a field. I stumbled around, looking desperately for signs of life - a place I might recognize, any sign of civilization at all, but there were only silhouettes of twisted metal framework around, and partially crumbled brick walls.

“Hello?” I called out with a cough.

The dust in my throat probably saved my life. Everypony in the Wasteland knows you don’t just call out blindly like that. You’re a whole lot safer if whoever is out there doesn’t find you. But I didn’t know that. I wasn’t from the Wasteland, was I? I cleared my throat meekly and went out in search of water.

Stumbling out over brick and rocks, I made my way over a toppled wall, and came down with a big stupid clumsy crash. I rode the skin of my knee all the way down a nasty little pile of rubble, and came up crying. Again I was saved by a small miracle. As banged up and bruised as I was, the moment I looked up, I saw something that knocked the wind right the buck out of me, and actually made me forget for a while that I had a great big ol' bleeding knee.

Right in front of me was that touch of civilization I’d been looking for - a bit of familiarity. But I was sorry I’d found it.

A sign bigger than a cottage loomed over me - at least the parts of it that were in tact. There was a zebra depicted in the center - unlike any zebra I’d ever seen. Okay, so I’d only ever seen one zebra back in Ponyville, but she was nothing like this. The zebra in the picture had features so exaggerated that she was hardly recognizable as pony at all! Giant white teeth and eyes, more rings on her ears and neck than any actual zebra could fit on her whole body, and a bone driven straight through her muzzle. She lurked maliciously in the back room of a bookstore, cackling over a cauldron full of skulls. An entire battalion of strangely dressed royal guards seized her, and reached into her satchel, but even then, she didn’t seem to want to take her attention off of that skull pot. It was as though it would take a dozen of Equestria’s Finest just to take out a single zebra by the sheer malice of her personality, and terrifying Evil of her intent. Standing in the corner was a concerned citizen, smiling like a dope, hoof pointed nobly at the zebra’s direction, and a crowd of proud onlookers patting him on the back.

The caption on the poster, in gigantic yellow letters, read “IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.”

There was a lot about that picture I didn’t understand at the time, and still don’t understand today. All I know is that it was clearly designed for grown-ups. I mean, look at it! It would have to be.

Sitting there in the middle of a wasteland, staring slack-jawed at this crazy image, I was reminded of how stupid adults are. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t understand them. I hope I never have to. I didn’t know who drew that ridiculous thing, but I did know that you were supposed to look at that Concerned Citizen, and think he’s a swell guy – a bucking hero. I couldn’t. All I saw in him was the worst thing anypony in the whole wide world could ever possibly hope to be – a tattletale. Any kid in the world could look at that poster and tell you that, but grown-ups - a lot of them anyway - just aren’t too bright.

I turned it over in my head a while, but it was just baffling. I mean, sure, there was this zebra lady everypony was terrified of when I was little, but she turned out to be okay, and even if she hadn’t, we hid from her. We didn’t attack her! Ponies don’t do things like that.

That’s the thing I had the hardest time understanding. The poster was like nothing that anypony in Ponyville would ever have dreamt up in their wildest nightmares.

I mean, the gleam in that zebra’s eye was so evil that you couldn’t possibly feel anything for her. Like she wasn’t a real pony at all – just a caricature - a thing. I was in a world where Celestia’s guards could rummage through your bag just because you were funny looking and stripy. Nopony saw a problem with this. You were actually rewarded for turning on your fellow horse!

It was too bewildering.

No. I decided. Celestia’s guards would never do anything like this! Luna’s neither.

I didn’t know where I was, or how I would ever manage to get home, but one thing was absolutely certain – this place was some new kind of hell, and I wasn’t in Equestria anymore.

* * *

It was only when I stared at that poster for a good long while that it dawned on me how far away from home I really was. I backed away slowly in disgust, knocking crumbling hunks of brick into one another as I stumbled. Nothing I’d ever seen in Equestria had ever lead me to believe that such a thing would even be possible – this kind of recklessness, this kind of hate.

That darn poster was to blame! I wanted to tear it down, or throw a rock at it or…something, but sadly, I didn’t get the chance. Instead, my hoof caught on a metal wire jutting out from a broken wall fragment, and I found myself flat on my back.

As suddenly as I had fallen, I heard hoof steps, or more precisely, that rattling sound when a rock tumbles down a pile of other rocks. I laid myself back down again. Slowly. I didn’t know what had happened to the world in the poster – the world I had, in my own head, named Jerkland – but I sure as hay didn’t trust anypony around here – the descendents of those left around to tell the tale.

The rocks tumbled closer. I remained dead silent. I didn’t even know what I was afraid of. I mean, anypony I ran into would logically want to get away from there as much as I did! But still something inside of me screamed. Hold still, hold still, hold still, omigosh, what the hay is going on, hold still! For once in my life, I listened and was quiet.

Tiny pebbles and particles of dust kicked up by the strangers’ hooves started raining on me. They were that close. I heard no talking, just tedious stomping. I wasn’t sure how many of them there were, but they weren’t friends, and they weren’t enjoying each other’s company. Scared as I was, I found that kind of sad.

I lay there quietly. I didn’t scream. It didn’t occur to me to scream. I would have coughed, but it didn’t occur to me to cough either. It didn’t even occur to me to breathe. I just sat there listening to my own heartbeat thundering in my head, terrified that its stupid thumping would give me away.

Then a hoof stomped inches from my forehead, and I flung my eyes open in terror. I couldn’t help it. I thought it would be the end. They passed right by me. Just like that. Before the dust cloud started stinging and my eyes began to water, I caught a quick glimpse of them.

There were two bad guys, each wearing matching pink cloaks with yellow daisies on them. That sounds cheerful, but their robes were tattered and covered with blood. Not the red stuff you see when you first bang yourself up, but that black stuff you see when you throw away the bandage. Whatever these guys were up to, it didn’t seem to bother them that they had nasty crusty old blood on their robes. They surely woulda had time to wash it off. They just didn’t care. The thought sent shivers up my spine.

Draped over one of their backs was a colt just barely older than I was. His hooves were bound. There was fresh blood in his mane, and he was looking right the buck at me. I don’t know how he saw me, but he did. In fact, he downright lit up at the sight of me.

I squeezed my eyes shut and wrinkled my nose, desperate not to sneeze as the dust and ash settled in full force on my face. What in Jerkland was going on? Why were they towing around some kid? What were they going to do to him?
It didn’t even make any sense. Why?!

As I squeezed my eyelids shut to keep the dust out, I started to shake with anger. I had to squeeze down even tighter just to keep from crying or screaming. Right in front of me, something horrible was happening, and there was nopony around to do anything about it! I was powerless to stop this colt from getting – well, I didn’t know what they were going to do to him, but I knew I needed to stop the Jerks from Jerkland from doing it.

I opened my eyes again just in time to watch the strange boy’s head sink. I’d let him down. I’d done nothing. Nopony had ever looked at me like that before. I mean, sure Roseluck had been disappointed in me from time time to time, but this was not that “we are mad at you for stealing from the cookie jar and knocking over the cookie jar, and trying to cover it up by pasting the cookie jar back together and sweet Celestia, look at you, how did you even manage to get entire cookies pasted into your mane?” kinda disappointment. No. I gave that strange little boy a glimpse of hope for a tiny moment – maybe even the last feeling of hope he would ever know before they locked him up in a dungeon with no toys and no books and no friends (or whatever it was they were planning to do to him). I gave him hope. Then I broke his heart.

To make matters more confusing, I heard a voice just then. It sounded like my voice, but I have no idea where the idea came from at all. It just sort of surfaced inside my head like a bubble coming up in the middle of the ocean.

Follow them.” It said.

It sounded just like me.

Follow them, are you crazy?” I snapped back at myself. I also sounded just like me.

Follow them.” The voice repeated.

I watched the silhouettes disappear behind the billboard. I could still hear them, but the sound was still all shuffling, and no talking. The two cloak-headed meanies were definitely not friends.

But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I was out of their line of sight, and I needed to find some kind of safety. I rose to my hooves, brushed myself off, and tip-hooved out of there. I wanted to run. I wanted to gallop wildly in the total opposite direction, but everything in Jerkland was equally awful all around, so I made my way across the most even ground, and tried not to kick loose any rubble.

I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do, but I knew that it had to involve moving. I may not have had the guts to charge after that poor boy, slung helpless over the cloak-head’s back, but I didn’t have the heart to let him out of my sight either.

Steadily, I made for higher ground. The bad guys had come from the other side of a hill. I hadn’t heard a peep from them till they’d emerged over the top. That meant that, whatever else I might find on the other side, there had to be ground that I could move on quietly.

Maybe there would even be a village or something!

Follow them.” I told myself again, but couldn’t figure out why.

Maybe the boy has parents over there.” I reasoned with myself.

Follow them.

There was a pale light on the other side. Maybe somepony could help!

Follow them.” The voice repeated firmly. It was still my voice. Why did I keep saying that?
The ground gradually became more earth and less rubble, so I broke out into a trot. The hill was steep, and I was already running out of breath. But I didn’t care. Anything to make the voice stop.

Follow them.” It said yet again, louder than before.

“Follow them,” I parroted what it said under my breath in a nasal sing-songy voice. Maybe if I teased it, it would go away.

It didn’t. The voice just repeated itself.

“For the last time,” I shouted inside my head as I broke into a silent gallop. “There’s nothing I can do to save him.” A few more steps and I would reach the top of the hill.

Then the voice replied quietly and calmly. “He’s not the one you have to save.

I stopped in my tracks, and looked back over my shoulder. “What?” I actually said aloud. No answer came.

I could see the bad guys down there, far past the billboard – their shapes anyway. If I’m not supposed to save him, what in the hoof was I supposed to do then? Just follow them and watch?

Watch him die? Is that what they were going to do? Could ponies actually do that? Kill each other? Even Jerkland couldn’t be that terrible a place. Sure, this place had a tarnished past. Hate. Fear. All that fun stuff I’d seen in that stupid poster – that air of wrongness I could still smell in the air 190 years later. (How did I know it had been 190 years?) But killing children? And I was expected to watch it?

I kept my eye on the figures moving slowly and steadily across a vast gray wasteland. I kept walking without looking where I was going; I was so intent on staring down those strangers. They were actually going to kill him.

For some stupid reason I had to follow them, not even to save him, but to save somepony else who I hadn’t even seen. I wanted to scream, but instead, I walked right into the remains of a cement wall. It only went as high as my scuffed up knee. I’d reached the top of the hill, and hadn’t even noticed. Immediately, I whipped around to see what life was like on the other side.

There was a village, alright. I wouldn’t be getting any help from them any time soon. It was only a blotch in the distance, but it was a blotch that was on fire. Nopony was stampeding around trying to put it out. Nopony was rushing in or out of buildings, because anypony who could possibly have cared about the fate of the village was already gone. There were only figures moving calmly and dutifully away, towing some sort of cargo – as if the fires didn’t faze them. The bastards had done it on purpose. This is what ponydom had come to in Jerkland.

Looking past the village, or what remained of it, I saw something far worse. It was a mountainside. Built against the side of it was the silhouette of a castle – a skyline that I’d seen pictures of before lit up by millions of magic lamps. There were no lights now. It was just a shadow, but its shape was positively unmistakable. I was looking at the ruins of Canterlot.

The dirt in my hooves, the ash in my face – it was us. Not a bunch of jerks from some far away land where jerkiness was somehow more possible than in Equestria. The dust was Equestria. I was home, and somehow, the jerks had been us all along.

The ground gave way beneath me.

I felt weightless for a moment before I realized that I was falling. Falling off some cliff or some precipice I must not have seen. Falling into some Celestia-forsaken darkness. Falling, falling, falling. I couldn’t see a damn thing, and all I could hear was the barking of angry dogs.

* * *

I found myself on the floor of my bedroom screaming. Roseluck came rushing in. She knelt beside me. “Rose Petal, Rose Petal, answer me.” She said, gripping me by the shoulders. It was the first real terror I’d heard in her voice since Dad left. “Rose Petal!”

Suddenly, I looked around. I was home. Actual home, not some weird future home where everything sucks and is covered in ponydust.

I was back in Ponyville. I reached out and touched Roseluck’s cheek with my hoof. She was real. She ran her hoof over my mane, not a clue what had happened, but clearly terrified for me.

I threw myself against her chest and finally allowed myself to weep. She didn’t say a word.

Author's Note:

SUPPORT: Hooves of Fate is a labor of love. However, I also have mouths to feed. If this story, or my Heart Full of Pony essays have touched you in any way, and you can manage to spare a few bits, I'd very much appreciate your support on Patreon.

If you can't, no pressure. For those of you who already are pledging, seriously, and for real, thank you. Your support makes a difference, and it means a great deal to me. /]*[\

Column: My Derpy Hooves News column about Love, Tolerance, and Friendship, “Help! My Heart is Full of Pony!” is now archived at http://heartfullofpony.tumblr.com

Music: Check out my pony music (rock, jazz, hip-hop, blues, classical, and experimental). http://www.youtube.com/sdoggingsworth

Cover Art: http://shadesofeverfree.deviantart.com/art/The-Rose-Queen-334850063

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