• Published 27th Feb 2013
  • 7,282 Views, 765 Comments

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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Good Ponies

CHAPTER TWO – GOOD PONIES
“Freedom’s just another word for ‘nothing-left-to-lose’.” – Janice Joplin


I know what you’re thinking, O, Book of Weird Magical Things That Have Happened To Me. I promised you a story about my cutie mark. Relax. I’m getting to that. Sheesh!

The fact of the matter is, when I woke up, I had a lot on my mind, and my flank wasn’t exactly the first thing I looked at when I tumbled out of bed screaming.

Roseluck held me for a long, long time. She didn’t stop me to ask why I was upset. She just let me cry.
In my whole life, I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy to see my sister as I was that morning. It felt so good to be safe again, but all good things come to an end. When I was finally ready, I pulled away.

“You done?” She asked as she bopped me playfully on the nose.

I smiled meekly.

“Good. Let’s get those knees cleaned up. I’ll be right back, okay?” She waited for me to nod, and wandered off in search of rubbing alcohol.

I had no idea why I was nodding or what she had been talking about, but when I looked down, I saw that I was bleeding all over the floor. Blood. On the floor. My blood. Coming out of my knees – the same exact knees I’d scraped in my dream!

When the realization came crashing in on me, I shrieked a good, long drawn-out vowel. (I can’t remember which one it was, but I am pretty sure it was an “e.”). At the end of it, I had just enough breath left over to whisper to myself.

“How is that possible?”

“You fell out of bed, kid. Banged yourself up pretty good.” Roseluck called out from the other side of the house.

How did she do that? Roseluck had no business being that good of a whisper-hearer.

I brought my knees so close to my face that I lost balance and toppled over. Lying there with my back against the floor, I still kept my eyes on my wounds. Ordinarily, I’d revel at how cool they looked, and imagine myself with boss scars that I could show off at the playground, but I was a bit more concerned by the fact that I hadn’t gotten the wounds from falling. They looked like the skin had been scraped clean off by tumbling down a mound of the sort of rubble you’d expect to find in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Roseluck was out of sight, so I lifted the sheets off the bed and took a little peek. There was blood there too. Whatever had happened to my knees happened in the middle of the night.

Roseluck appeared with a bottle, some cotton, and a package of bandages. I flung the blanket back down over the bed the moment I heard her hoof steps, but it was too late. She saw the terror in my eyes. Thinking quickly, I threw on my poker face, which just so happened to be a pair of glasses I kept near the edge of the bed with an exaggerated nose and mustache attached to them.

“You don’t have to pretend.” She caught me off guard.

“I don’t?” I said.

“You think I don’t know you’re scared?” She said with a touch of sass. “Who you think you’re fooling?”

I let the glasses drop to the ground. “I’m frightened.”

“Of course you are, but it’ll be over soon.” She said.

“It will?” My spirits lifted. How in Equestria could she know that? Maybe she knew more! Maybe she could tell me it was all gonna be okay, and it actually would. Maybe she could fix this! Maybe she could save that colt in my dreams. Big sisters can do that sort of thing! I looked to her desperately for answers.

“Come on.” She punched me gently in the shoulder. “It sucks. It hurts, and you’re scared, but give me your knee, I’ll swab it, and it'll all be over in 30 seconds. I promise.”

She knew nothing. My heart dropped into my stomach.

How could she know anything? Who sees the world destroyed in their dreams, and wakes up with scars to prove it’s gonna be real? Nopony! That’s who. Things like that just don’t happen. Except that apparently they do, and they were happening to me.

“It’s all gonna be okay.” She said, unknowingly twisting the knife further.

There was no way she could say that, and know what it really meant. I looked up at Roseluck’s smiling, reassuring face, and I faked a smile right back.

“You’re right.” I said. “Hit me with your best shot.”

I hate lying to Roseluck, but she has enough to worry about without having to fret over a little sister who’s going bonkers. I smiled for her. I winced at the knee swabs. I gave her a hoof bump, and when all was said and done, I felt more alone than ever.

Note to self: destroy those sheets.

Of course, Roseluck wasn’t stupid. I wasn’t the only one who could tell that my cuts were strange, but she didn’t ask any questions. Not after holding me for so long, and letting me blubber away into her mane.

Instead, we shared an abnormally quiet cup of tea over an abnormally quiet breakfast, and after a long dark silence, she finally turned to me, and said, “Did you have a bad dream?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you want to…I don’t know, talk about it?” She slid closer to me. She was really trying. I desperately wanted to meet her halfway. I’d never felt so distant from my sister before. We told each other everything! But I’d almost died in that wasteland. I couldn’t stand the thought of her worrying.

“I’d like to.” I said honestly. “But not right now.”

She nodded. “I didn’t know what my cutie mark meant when I first got it either.” Said Roseluck. “It’s not supposed to be that way, but you’re growing up now. Sometimes the answer isn’t always as clear as you’d like it to be.” She patted me on the back, and turned to clear the table.

What was she talking about? I whipped around, and shot my ever-perceptive gaze at the sight of my own flank.

* * *

“Rose petals? Really?” I squeaked aloud.

“What?” Said Blueberry Milkshake. “It’s what you always wanted.”

I leaned in close as we walked. I didn’t want every kid on the long slow death march to the schoolhouse to overhear us.

“I wanted to know my purpose.” I barked at her in whispers.

“And you still don’t.”

I shook my head frantically. I had been all jerky and twitchitty like that all morning. I needed real sleep.

“Hey, kid, you okay? What happened to your knees?” Asked the sofa pony as we passed him, quills dangling from his teeth.

“Ahh!” I shouted back in return.

Sweet Celestia, I had had one hoof in the grown up world for less than an hour, and already I was starting to act tense. Like a grown up. It made me feel dirty somehow.

“Well,” Blueberry Milkshake chewed on her pigtails as we trotted down Mane Street. “What were you doing just before you got it?”

“Nothing.”

I hate lying.

“Whattaya mean nothing?” Asked Blue.

“Whattaya mean, what do I mean, nothing?” I said. “I mean I was doing nothing.”

Saying that out loud stung. I mean, what had I done to help that poor kid, when you got right down to it? Nothing.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Said Blue. “Ponies don’t just get cutie marks for standing around! Whatever you were doing right before it showed up – that’s gotta be...like, your destiny.”

She gestured to the sky - her natural awe for the mysteries of the cutieverse coupled with a rather artificial flare for the dramatic. Sooo not in the mood.

“I didn’t just stand around!” I snapped.

Silence. Even the birds seemed to stop chirping for a moment as they flew over us on their southward journey. Blueberry stared at me. She wasn’t mad. She just stared.

Damn it, Rose Petal, you went and worried her too!

“I’m sorry.” I said at long last, head hung low.

“It’s okay.” She put a hoof on my shoulder. A comforting moment followed by the first awkward silence the two of us had ever shared. Even as she tried to comfort me, I stared off into space and got right back to thinking about what I was going to do to stop the megaspell.

It must have seemed like I wasn’t even there with her. I had to be the worst friend in the History of Ever.

“I was asleep.” I said at long last.

She looked at me blankly.

“When I got the cutie mark. I just sorta woke up and…well…” I gestured to my flank.

“Oh.” She nodded reassuringly,

We walked on after that in a far more comfortable silence. It only lasted a moment, though, because out of the blue, she dug into the ground and threw her hoof in front of me.

“Hold perfectly still.” She demanded.

Blueberry leaned in to examine the image further, as if a close look would reveal something special about a cutie mark earned while unconscious. Honestly, I don’t know what she expected to find. They were just a couple of red, pink, white, and yellow rose petals.

“You must have dreamt it.” She added with the firm authority of a diagnosing physician.

She brushed my bird’s nest of a mane out of my face. “Didja do anything, you know, special in your dreams?” She asked gently.

My eyes drifted as far away from her as they could possibly get. I focused on a pair of clouds that looked rather a lot like sandwiches.

“I don’t remember.” I said.

An obvious lie. When I finally worked up the nerve to turn and face her, I was met with a cocked eyebrow.

“Girl, please.” She said, bobbing and weaving her head. “Talk to me.”

I never could figure out how she did that bobby-weave-a-majig with her neck. It made me smile. She deserved an answer, or at least some kind of hint about how I was really feeling. But the only feelings I could put into words were about those silly sandwich clouds. They used to make me so happy. They used to make me want to eat sandwiches. Now they just seemed like a bunch of stupid old clouds.

“Are ponies good?” I blurted out at long last.

“What do you mean?”

“Us. Ponies. We control the Sun, the Moon, the weather. But are we, you know…good? In our hearts?”

She didn’t laugh at the question like I thought she would. She actually stopped to give it serious thought. We both stared on down the road in silence, watching our fellow Ponyvilleans getting ready for their busy days.

“Yes.” She said. “I think so. At least when we want to be.”

Hmm.

* * *

I was like that all day. Thinky.

I hate being thinky. I’d much rather be talky, or better yet, do-y. But there was nothing I could do to make it alright, and there was nothing I could say either.

I made it through the gauntlet of students’ oooh’ing and ahhh’ing over my cutie mark. Would you believe that nopony at school even thought twice about the bandages on my knees? (Was I really that clumsy and predictable?) But after getting sprayed with more attention than I cared for over the stupid rose petals on my flank, I finally made my way into that big red house o’ learning, where boredom kicked down a wall in my brain and made way for a whole new wave of thinkiness.

First of all, sounds, smells, shivers of unexplained cold, the taste of stale wasteland air on my tongue – they all drifted in and out of my consciousness at unexpected times. I hate that! It was so jarring; I didn’t even know where I was half the time.

Perhaps under different circumstances, I would have liked to forget that I was sitting in school, but everything about what was happening to me just felt totally wrong. To make matters worse, I kept nodding off.

Every time I so much as blinked, I saw that damn boy from the wasteland staring at me in disappointment again. Sometimes it was just the memory, but occasionally, I saw him in different landscapes, asleep on the back of one the meanies, trudging under the pale light of what apparently passed for dawn in the sunless wasteland.

It wasn’t long before I grew to hate blinking.

“So you see, class, it was Smart Cookie, Clover the Clever, and Private Pansy who made the first Hearth’s Warming Eve possible.” Miss Cheerilee’s voice drifted to me in fragments from the front of the classroom. “Equestria was built on the friendship and unity of everyday ponies like you and me, because the leaders at the time refused to do the right thing.”

I saw the boy and his captors in different places – traversing over dead buildings, over dead fields. I let it all wash over me in one great big giant exhausting mess. Then suddenly, it occurred to me what I’d been seeing. Just like that! With all of the thinkiness going on, I’d missed the obvious answer – I was watching their journey. I was following them.

Was part of me still there in the wasteland?

Cheerilee must have read the epiphany on my face, because the next thing I knew, my name was being called.

“Rose Petal,” (She said, as you might have guessed).

“Huh? What?” I asked with my usual poise and charm.

Miss Cheerilee tapped her hoof impatiently. She was standing right over me, staring me down.

Buck! I thought. She expected me to answer a question. “Um…Three!” I said confidently.

She looked up to the ceiling for a moment as she contemplated my answer.

“I suppose so, yes, but what did those three do?”

Darn it, our math lesson was over! When did that happen? What in Equestria was she asking me?

I sifted through the pile of loose leaf scraps scattered over the surface of my desk. Maybe I had jotted a note down somewhere – a clue of what she might be talking about! The problem was that piles of smoking wasteland rubble would have looked tidy compared to the disaster area that was my desk.

Doodles, doodles, my name and date on an otherwise blank piece of paper, more doodles, the phrase “April is the cruelest month,” scribbled down for no reason at all on an old piece of homework, doodles, doodle, still yet more strikingly haunting doodles.

Darn it, what did she ask me?

“Um…Umm…” I said.

The class giggled.

“Three…uh…um…Well, you see, the three ponies, what they did was, like…” I was starting to wish that I’d died in the wasteland the night before just so I wouldn’t have to die of embarrassment there in class.

“That’s enough.” Said Miss Cheerilee, who shot the gigglers a stern look, but thankfully chose not to make an example of me.

I closed my eyes and sighed. I didn’t get any real relief out of it, though - just a picture in my head of a boy who needed my help.

* * *

I’d hoped recess would be better, but it was too cold. That weird time of year just after the Running of the Leaves, and just before the first snow of winter. Not cold enough to need hats and scarves or to have snowball fights, but cold enough to be uncomfortable. Still, I almost wish it had been just a little bit chillier. Roseluck always sent me out in scarves when I didn’t actually need them, which is all fine and good except for the fact that if I lost one of the stupid things, it would be my fault. Again.

We jumped rope – the girls and I. It helped me think, or stop thinking, rather. It gave me the chance to just chill with Blueberry Milkshake and do something normal.

“I, 2, 3, 4! Nightmare Moon don’t dark my door. 5, 6, 7, 8! Whatcha gonna do to set her straight? Jump! Jump! Hop-skip-jump. Jump-n-skip and jump-n-skip and hop, skip, jump.”

Ok, I didn’t so much jump rope as I stood next to Blueberry and some other filly, (I don’t even remember which), calling out numbers. The last time I tried to physically jump over a piece of rope, I tripped, lost control, and when all was said and done, I had a giant bruise on my forehead, and my tail didn’t grow back for a month.

The point is, the thinkiness didn’t go away, but the rhythm of the rope sure did muffle a lot of it, which was a nice relief because I still had no idea how the hay I was supposed to single-hoofedly stop the apocalypse. The sound of clapping hooves, chanting fillies, and rope smacking against dry grass worked so well to calm me that I made it almost halfway through play time before stumbling across something I didn’t want to see.

It wasn’t a vision. Not like those phantom shivers and mysterious smells. No. Over by the schoolhouse there was a big gray pegasus colt, except that he wasn’t acting big. He was cowering. I couldn’t tell exactly what was happening, but I know it was nothing good because his back was up against the wall. Literally.

Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon had him flanked from both sides. They weren’t touching him, of course, or pushing him or anything like that. No. They were subtler than that, but trust me, what they were doing was torture. There’s a reason I called Diamond Tiara a bitch earlier.

‘Cause she is.

She has a way of getting under your skin with her words, her judgments – her presence. She and Silver Spoon had done it to all of us at some point or another, so I could spot it a mile away when I saw it happening to somepony else.

The boy looked me in the eye for half a moment and cringed - averted his eyeballs like he’d done something wrong. Why? I took stock of the playground around me. There wasn’t a single filly or colt who hadn’t been picked on at one point or another (usually by the same two bitches). But whenever it happens, we curl up. We hide. We think that everypony else is laughing at us, or worse, watching us with sympathetic eyes. ‘Cause seriously, what good is your pity when you’re just standing there gawking, or turning your back pretending like you didn’t see anything. All you’re really thinking is “Glad it’s not me this time.” Yeah, thanks for the sympathy.

When that pegasus boy turned away from me in shame, it all suddenly made sense. We are Jerkland. Not war-torn Equestria, not Equestria hundreds of years from now. Right here. Right now. Jerkland.

The entire schoolyard was full of deaf ears and conveniently turned blind eyes, and that’s how the world is going to end – in front of deaf ears and blind eyes.


It starts out just like a new bully in town. It tests the water. It sees if you’re willing to stick up for the zebras you don’t particularly like. Just one little jerk move, but you don’t do anything about it. Then comes another jerkface move, and it starts to get a little scary, so you hide some more like that’s gonna fix it. Like the bully doesn’t notice.

The thing is: everypony can see that the bully is pushing you to see how far you’ll go, but they hide too because they’re glad it’s happening to you and not them. Before you know it, the whole schoolyard is Jerkland and you’re twirling a baton at the head of your own personal pity parade.

I was wrong to suspect that ponies are Evil. We’re not. We are Good! We do good deeds; we try each day to be a little better than we were the day before. Quarrels resolved, the charity work the Filly Scouts put their backs into, the cooperative spirit of Winter Wrap Up, the all-healing hoof bumps of forgiveness between friends – awesomeness all around. We are good when we want to be.

But doing good isn’t enough sometimes. Good though ponies may be, we are also afraid, and what good is goodness if you’re too chicken to use it when it’s needed the most?

In my life, I’d been picked on more times than I could count, and in all those years, I couldn’t think of a single occasion when somepony stood up for me. Not one! Can you?

That’s the war in a nutshell. It’s not the tattletale. It’s not the armed guards storming the zebra’s storefront, or even the colt who drew the poster depicting the whole sordid scene for all to see. It’s the folks who got up out of bed every morning to a world where that was normal. The ponies who try to be good – want to be good – the ponies who know the war is wrong, and know that the treatment of zebras is more than a thousand million jillion times unfair, but don’t do a darn thing about it. Or even say anything!

I wanted to be mad at them – to scream at the stupid ponies who are going to let the war happen, but I couldn’t. They were just afraid.

The boy from the wasteland was dragged off by truly Evil ponies right in front of my eyes, and I had done nothing to stop because I was afraid.

Who was I to judge?

The really bucked up thing is that the kid (who’d probably seen his house burned down in front of him) had had hope that I might save him. Just because I was there. The big gray pegasus colt standing right behind me didn’t even have the slightest expectation that somepony might come to his aid.

Think about that! A post-apocalyptic bucking wasteland was a place where you had more cause to expect help from a stranger than a playground in our own perfect little town. It wasn’t right. I couldn’t let it be like that. Not after what I’d seen. I had to do something, I needed to…

Wait a minute. Why is he standing behind me?

I took a quick look around. I was standing in front of Diamond Tiara. Right in her face. I was yelling. When did that happen?! How did that happen?

“…And nopony likes you, Diamond Tiara!” I shouted. “You hear me? Not even Silver Spoon. She just hangs around you to feel cool.”

Silver Spoon blushed and shrunk back into the crowd. Shocked as she was, Diamond Tiara smirked at the knowledge that her approval made other ponies feel cool.

“But you’re not cool!” I continued. She did her best to hold the smirk in place, but I could see it twitching.

“Nopony thinks you’re cool. Nopony wants to be like you. Nopony gets up in the morning and says ‘Gee, I hope whatever I do today makes Diamond Tiara happy,’ because nopony wants you to be happy. If I think of you in the morning, do you want to know what I say?” I took a series of shallow, rapid breaths.

“I say ‘I hope Diamond Tiara doesn’t show up to school today because she caught fire and she melted into goo and smoke and melty stuff.'”

Tears were streaming down my face. My voice was cracking.

“And I don’t like being that pony – somepony who thinks horrible things, because I’m a good pony. And I want to be good, but I do think these horrible things, and I’ve been thinking these horrible things because I was afraid of you.”

I was already only a few feet away, so before she could dare crack a smirk at me again, I charged right up to her and stared her down. I mean really stared her down. I got so close that our eyelashes could have gotten tangled together if one of us had blinked wrong.

“And you think that makes you cool, but you’re not!” I cried. “You are everything that is wrong with the world and you will never ever ever know what it’s like to have a real friend. So a million years from now, when you’re old and sick and crazy and crying all the time, nopony in the world is gonna take care of you. Because. No. Pony. Likes. You."

At some point in all of this, either I’d gotten taller, or Diamond Tiara’s knees had started to bend as she shrank from my aggressive stare, because I found myself looking straight down at her. My voice curled up into a low growl. She was actually shaking.

“Because I hate you, Diamond. He hates you, she hates you.” I pointed my hoof at random kids in the crowd without taking my eyes off of Diamond Tiara, even to blink. “Every single pony in the entire school hates you, and you are going to die sad, bitter, and alone.”

Her knees buckled completely, and her body flopped limply on the ground as it shook.


Silence.

Even the wind shut the heck up long enough to listen to what would happen next.

But Diamond Tiara didn’t have a word to say in her own defense. I, on the other hoof, was panting so hard that I was losing my breath. I mustered up my last bit of strength to bend down further just to drive one final point home.

“I’m not afraid of you any more.”

Thundering heartbeat. Panting. Wheezing. I was a mess. Handled with dignity, class, poise, and grace, Rose. Well done.

I’d backed off, and was busy catching my breath, so she had risen to her full height by the time I held my hoof up, and spun around slowly. I had one last thing to throw out there.

“P.S. You suck.” My little addendum.

The entire class was gathered ‘round in a semi-circle. Staring at me. The wind was making noise again. It had apparently stopped listening, but nopony else had. I scanned the crowd. Snips, Snails, Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, my friend Blueberry who watched fearfully from the greatest distance of all in the crowd – every one of them was staring at me.

Suddenly, the adrenaline came crashing down. I wanted to curl up and hide. Like I’d done something wrong.

Diamond Tiara must have read the terror on my face, because she finally shook off her own shock, and whipped out the smirk again. I lowered my head to try to escape their stares, but even when I turned around to face the other way, there stood the pegasus kid I had defended – tears running down his face, just like mine.

I’d scared him! I had become the schoolyard menace. Why does everything have to be so ironic?!

I opened my mouth but nothing came out. There must be words that exist for telling somepony you’re sorry that you tried to help them but actually just ended up scaring them because you’re nothing but a big dummy, but I couldn’t think of any words like that, so I just closed my eyes.

Yes, Rose. That will make them all go away.

I don’t regret stepping in, but I really wished that I would stop messing up every single thing I tried to do. It was starting to get old.

I squeezed my eyes shut as tight as they would go, hoping the whole scene would just go away. Then, out of the dark, I heard the sound of clapping hooves. Like drops of rain on a tin roof, the sound gathered momentum. First one pair of hooves. Then another. Then a veritable storm of hoof.

I looked up. They were applauding me. My entire class. They were all applauding me.

I whipped around to face the pegasus behind me. He had his hoof held out. Were those tears of…joy?

I bumped his hoof. Slowly. Cautiously.

What had just happened?

The class walked right passed Diamond Tiara as though she wasn’t even there, and before I knew it, I was completely surrounded. They all wanted a piece.

I gave them all hoof bumps of course, but I did it while laughing. The kind of frantic, crazy hysterical laughter that rips out of you when there’s nothing funny at all going on.

I think my body just resorted to laughter because it didn’t know what else to do with the stress. I was all out of tears.

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.
https://www.patreon.com/sprocketwriting

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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