• 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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Circles

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE - CIRCLES
“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” -Mark Twain



Kettle Corn’s place was the first stop of a long, long, looooong busy day. There was only one problem with showing up at her cottage and asking for forgiveness:

I didn’t wanna.

How was I supposed to face Kettle Corn again? I couldn’t even hear her name without that awful image popping up in my brain. The look on her face as she cowered on the floor, afraid for her life.

Afraid of me.

She had looked at me like I was a shadow-majig. And I might as well have been! I’d hurt Kettle Corn. Really, really hurt her. Almost killed her even. She had every reason to fear me.

And I was about to make her relive it all over again. Just so I could feel better about myself.

As I walked through the snow, I pictured Kettle Corn. She'd smile as she opened the door. Laugh. Then she’d catch sight of me. And that grin would run from her face. I wasn’t sure what she would do after that. Whether she’d scowl. Whether she’d cower. Whether she’d scream, or run, or cry. But I couldn’t stand the thought of it. Any of it.

What if she doesn’t forgive me? One of my Rose Voices said quietly as I tromped over the snowy road.

‘Doesn’t matter.’ Cranky’s voice showed up in my head, totally unannounced. ‘It’s the right thing to do.’

“Ahhh!” I cried aloud when I heard that gruff voice echoing around inside my skull.

“What is it?” Cliff Diver turned to me and said.

“Oh.” I said, suddenly remembering that I wasn’t alone.

Cliff was walking by my side. For moral support. It was awesomely helpful. Really, it was. I wish I hadn’t been tuning him out the whole time. But he’d been singing Badwing Jubilee songs all the way across town. And there was only so much of that that I could take.

“Are you okay?” He pressed me.

“Yeah,” I said. “Don’t worry about it.”

We kept walking. Hearing nothing but our own boots on the tightly-packed snow. Crunch crunch. Crunch crunch. Crunch crunch. ‘Till finally, Cliff spoke up again.

“You really think you have to do this?“ He said.

I threw him a sour look.

“Yeah, yeah. You’re right. I know.“ He backpedaled. “Just look at it this way: once you’re done, our next stop is the hospital, and we’ll finally get to talk to Bananas Foster again! Together.“ He nudged me, leaned in for a whisper as best as he could without breaking pace. “She’s gonna tell us about her special kind of friendship.“

Fwoom! I felt like somepony had just shaken me awake from a deep sleep and pelted me in the head with wooden dice.

Changelings and their special brand of friendship. I had totally forgotten!

“She told you about that too?” I said.

“Oh yeah.” Cliff smiled. “I have no idea what to expect. You?”

“No”

He squeed. “I can’t wait! Like...what kinda friendship does, you know...her kind even have?“

“Yeah,“ I said. “I wanna know more too.”

Though it gave me no comfort to look forward to it. ‘Cause up ahead, just behind an old oak tree, was Kettle Corn’s cottage. Stonewalls. Thatched roof. Big wooden door with a picture of a bright yellow corn on the cob on it.

I gulped. Cliff looked at me quizzically at first. Concernitty. I must’ve looked like I had just seen a ghost. Then he saw the cottage too. And just sorta nodded at me. Somber-like.

From that point on, the two of us, by unspoken agreement, slowed the fuck down. Crept toward the cottage at a sloth’s pace. I felt like I was gonna hurl the whole time.

“Whatcha gonna say?“ Cliff asked me.

“I don’t know.” I whimpered.

And I got to wondering. What the fuck was I gonna say? Instinctively, I found myself asking what Twink would do.

I don’t know why. Maybe ‘cause she was always so fearless. So bold. But it didn't matter. The moment my brain asked, a string of expletives started running around inside my head. Futureisms as Princess Luna had called them.

I chuckled lightly to myself. No. Emulating Twinkle Eyes was probably not the best way to go.

* * *

When we finally did make it to Kettle Corn’s cottage, Cliff went and hid behind the big oak tree. I crept up to the path to the front door. Inch by agonizing inch. From the flawlessly-plowed path straight to the doormat, which had had any trace of snow lovingly dusted off of it.

I paused to bend down and squint at it. Snowless though it may have been, it was still pretty worn down. “WELCOME, FRIENDS!” The doormat read in squiggly letters. There was a picture on it too. A cartoon cob of corn hugging another cartoon cob of corn.

“Hmm.” I said aloud, and looked back to the tree where Cliff was hiding. His hoof stuck out and waved at me.

“You can do it.” He whisper-shouted. It was barely audible, but I knew Cliff pretty well. And I could make out his inflections.

I nodded back at the tree. Then turned around and faced that big wooden door with the bright yellow cob of corn nailed to it. I think it musta been some kinda knocker or something. Whatever it was, the corn-on-the-cob thing was just above my head now, so when I looked up at it, it seemed to loom over me like a massive Corn Tower.

I would rather have knocked on the door to Tartarus or the fucking shadow castle than do what I was about to do. But that wasn’t an option, was it?

I took some deep breaths. Counted to three. Held my trembling hoof up in the air, ready to knock, when suddenly I remembered.

“My peace offering!” I whispered to myself.

I had totally forgotten!

I plunged my face into my saddle bag. Grabbed the bouquet my sister’d packed there. Roses of red and white and pink and yellow - the finest we had, picked straight from our personal garden, and arranged in a speckled pattern with precision and love.

I straightened them delicately, held tightly onto the bundle with chattering teeth. And at long last, rapped on the door.

* * *

I stood there. Awaiting an answer. But none came. I waited and waited and waited and waited and waited.

Nothing.

I looked to the oak tree for support. “Knock harder.” Said the tree in Cliff Diver’s voice.

I nodded back. As though the oak could somehow see me. Then I breathed in good and deep, and worked up the nerve to give it another try.

Knock. Knocky. Knock-Knock. My hoof said to the door.

But again, there was no answer.

Except of course for the sound of my own mind-thoughts.

Hooray!” One of the voices in my brain rejoiced. “They’re probably on vacation. You can come back later. Try back in a month, or two, or seventy-seven. What matters is that you tried. Now go on, get outta here!

Don’t be silly!” Another Rose Voice said to me defiantly. "Try again! Do the right thing!

Then yet another voice added to the chorus inside my brain. “What if they’re hiding?” It said. "What if they’re hiding because they hate you? What if they’re hiding because they’re scared of you?...As well they should be! You’re a terrible pony who attacks little kids!

The whole thing was starting to give me a headache. The voices. Shouting at me. Shouting at each other. Putting me down, no matter what decision I made.

‘Till Twink’s 2 x 4 o’ Friendship slammed me hard. Beat them all into silence. “No one talks that way about my friends!

I flinched. Rubbed my head as though I’d actually been clobbered. And when I looked up, the front door was open, and a stallion was standing there. Yellow and green. Kettle Corn’s father.

“Oh.” I said. “Hi.”

Corn Dad didn’t answer.

Suddenly, all the voices in my head went into panic mode. “AaaaaaAAAAaaaAAAaAHhhhh!” For once, saying something in unison.

But they all fell silent the moment I caught a glimpse inside. There were flowers everywhere. Lillies. Tulips. Chrysanthemums. Marigolds. Coxcombs. Daisies. Violets. Begonias. Bellflowers.

Everything but roses. They were gift arrangements for Kettle Corn. Gorgeous ones. Which meant that other florists had worked on them. Roseluck’s friends. Roseluck’s business partners.

I swallowed hard. Clutched Roseluck’s bouquet to my chest with a single forehoof.

“I...I’m really sorry.” I whimpered. “I, um...didn’t mean to. It was an accident. I got confused, you see." I struggled to conjure up the words to explain what had happened. You know, without getting into all the crazy mojo stuff. "I was having like a nightmare at the time." I continued. "...Except it wasn’t! Because I was awake, and not asleep, but that’s still not an excuse!“ I quickly threw in there, just in case it sounded like I was avoiding responsibility . “But really, I’m, you know, so so so so sooooooo sorry.” My voice started to crack.

I stopped to catch the rose bouquet as it slipped out of my trembling foreleg. Bunched my shoulder up to keep the bundle from coming undone. Sucked in a quivering breath, and summoned the courage to look Mr. Corn in the eye.

“I want to make this right.” I said firmly, making eye contact. Standing tall. Adulting. “May I please, please, please speak with Kettle?“

Then, instead of replying like a normal pony, Mr. Corn just looked at me. Without saying a word. His stone cold face, devoid of anger or pain or contempt, or anything you might expect to read there. Just still as petrified wood.

Then he slammed the door.




I fell to my knees. Let the roses hit the ground.

It’s not supposed to go this way. I said to myself.

I'd known that it would be awkward. I knew there was a chance they might be afraid, or uneasy, or angry, or whatever. But I expected somepony to say something at the very fucking least!

I didn’t even get to speak to Kettle Corn!

I looked up at that bright yellow, happy-looking door, slammed and bolted right in my face. And I started sobbing. Zwoom. I ran away before I could make a giant spectacle of myself. Because that’s just what I fucking needed. The whole town seeing me wail and moan on the front lawn of the girl I had attacked just the day before.

I made for the oak tree. The closest spot where I could find some cover. Hide a little from public view. Get myself together.

I scrambled and stumbled, and came up bobbing and weaving. I was so desperate to get away, that I forgot that Cliff was hiding behind the tree.

Clonk! I ran right into him. Literally rammed him.

“Ow.“ He said. “What happened?“

And without stopping to answer, I plunged my face into his coat. Wept like a pathetic foal. Muffled my cries with his puffy down jacket.

Hoped all of Ponyville couldn’t hear.

I don’t know what Cliff was thinking. I couldn’t read his mind, or see his face. But he wrapped his forelegs around me. Carefully held his boots away from my jacket and my mane. And shushed me gently.

After Luna-only-knows-how-much-time-had-passed, I peeled my face off Cliff’s chest. Wiped the snot off my nose. Pulled my bangs away from my face. And then I saw her. Up there in the tree. Kettle Corn.

She was perched on one of the low hanging branches. Looking down on Cliff Diver and me. Still wearing her jammies.

“Hi.” She said sheepishly.

I froze like a draconequus turned to stone. Cliff waved to her mechanically. He was pretty stunned too. Kettle Corn craned her neck around the trunk of the tree. Stole a glance at her house.

“My dad‘s really overprotective.“ She said.

I nodded back at her in shock. Half astonished to be talking to her, half amazed that she was willing to talk to me, and all kinds of confused. ‘Cause how the fuck did she get up there in the tree?

I studied the branch she was perched on. It was big, and sturdy, and stretched all the way out to what appeared to be a bedroom window. I could only presume that Kettle Corn had slipped out of it.

“I, um, heard what you said.“ She told me. “About yesterday.”

“I’m really, really sorry. I didn’t mean to —;”

“I know.“ Kettle interrupted.

I bit my lip. Tried to keep myself from bursting into tears all over again.

“I have nightmares too.“ Said Kettle. “At least I used to.”

She snuck another peek at her house. “Can you and me, uh...talk...about...something?

“Uh, sure.” I said.

“Of course.” Cliff added.

I leaned forward in anticipation, waiting desperately for her to continue, but then a gentle gust of wind blew against us. And though Cliff and me were okay, Kettle Corn huddled up and shivered something fierce. She was only wearing jammies. And those polka dots weren’t gonna keep her warm.

“Wait here.” She shivered. “I’ll be out in, like, ten minutes.”

“Ten minutes?“ I exclaimed, whipping my head all around to check the road for passers-by. And scoping out the house. Just to make sure Mr. Corn wasn’t eyeballing us either. I scanned the evergreens for danger too (even though I had no reason whatsoever to suspect that danger might be lurking there).

“Nopony’ll see you.” Kettle Corn replied. “I used to play hide and seek here with my brother. Trust me.“

“But—;”

Without saying another word, Kettle Corn was gone. Up that branch, onto a little patch of roof, and in through the window. Leaving Cliff and me wondering what the fuck was going on. At least I thought that Cliff was as confused as I was.

“It all makes sense now!” He exclaimed.

“Huh?”

“The nightmares.” He said. “Kettle Corn had nightmares! Isn’t that great?”

“Shhh!”

I plunged his scarf into his mouth. Poked my head out from behind the tree again to see if anypony was coming.

The last thing we needed was to be heard, getting all jubilant-like, laughing about Kettle Corn having nightmares!

“Are you crazy?” I snapped.

“Mmph mm mmm.” Cliff mumbled, mouth full of scarf.

I rolled my eyes. Helped pull it out with my teeth.

“I didn’t mean it like that.” He said, as he scraped his tongue clean of wool fragments and fluffkins. “Pfff. Pftt! Pffff!”

“I know.” I sighed.

“What I’m saying is that maybe...pleh!” He paused spit out a hunk o’ scarf. “Ac-hem. Excuse me.”

Cliff Diver leaned in close to whisper in my ear. “Maybe fate made you freak out. And try to...” He paused, stammered, wrinkled his nose as he searched his mind for the politest possible word to describe what I had done to Kettle Corn. “...It made you try to, you know…stomp her.”

“What?!” I held back a squeak of outrage. Struggled to speak in whispers. “No! It was my own fault.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Cliff reassured me. “Responsibility and stuff, but you heard what Kettle said.“

“What?“

“Nightmares!” Cliff squeed softly. “She has nightmares. And she knows what to do about them.”

“Oh, come on.” I said with a groan. “Everypony has nightmares. It doesn’t mean they’re being attacked by shadow monsters.”

“Seriously?” Cliff said. “You don’t see it?”

He chomped down on a low hanging branch from the tree, broke off a twig. And started drawing in the snow.

“The shadows came after all of us during the blizzard. All of your friends. Aaaand Kettle Corn…“

“I barely know Kettle Corn.“

“Yeah, but what if you’re going to be friends?” Cliff said. There was lightning in his eyes now. The words started spilling out of his mouth faster and faster and faster and faster and faster. “You’re going to be friends, she’s going to teach you to fight shadow monsters! Sooooo…”

Cliff drew some lines in the snow, weaving them around one another in knots.

“...The shadow monsters decided to attack her before that could happen!“ He brought the squiggly line back to the point it had started from. “During the blizzard, you see? But it was because they attacked her that she learned how to defeat them in the first place!” A great big smile stretched across Cliff’s face. “Maybe the shadows just did their own doom!”

The diagram in the snow became one giant ring now. And Cliff traced it.

“Circles.“ He whispered. “She’s always drawing circles. I’ll bet that has something to do with it. You said yourself that all this apocalypse stuff is cyclical, right?“

“Uh, all she said was that she has nightmares.”

Had nightmares.”

“Whatever.”

“She beat them, Rose.”

“So what? So did I.”

“But...the musical number. Back on the hill—;”

“That was all me.” I interrupted, leaving Cliff in confuseitty silence. “I don’t know what exactly happened out there. But it wasn’t the shadows, Cliff. It was me. Something. Is. Wrong. With my head.”

Thwick. The twig in Cliff Diver's mouth snapped. He let the pieces crumble and fall from his lips.

“Oh.” He said softly.

And I couldn't bear that puppy dog disappointment of his. So I cast my eyes downward.




In the quiet that followed, I found myself studying Cliff’s great big circle in the snow. I thought about his crazy talk. About time. About going backwards and forwards. Preventing things that weren’t supposed to happen. Causing things that were supposed to happen. I thought about what Princess Luna had said. Of golden ages. Of decline. Of apocalypse. Of renaissance.

Circles.

“Maybe you’re right.” I said shyly.

As ridiculous as Cliff’s presentation might have been, his theory still seemed like something worth considering. I turned it over carefully inside my head, until suddenly, I saw the flaw in his reasoning.

“No.” I said. “In Pinkie Pie’s playing card games, all the fate stuff she predicted - it was from other worlds - other times. Never here. Or now.”

“What does that mean?” Said Cliff.

“I dunno.” I sighed.

Cliff fiddled with the twig. Used it to scratch at his head. Pulling tufts of his mane out from under his woolen hat.

“Well, maybe there is no way it’s supposed to happen when you’re here in Ponyville. At least not one that any of us can ever see or know.”

I let the idea bounce around the inside of my brain-skull for a moment. “I think I like that.” I said, a smile slowly forming on my face.




“Hey, nice circle!” Came a tiny little voice from behind me.

“Ahh!” Cliff and I both startled.

“Sorry,” said Kettle Corn.

She looked to me, clicked her teeth together nervously, and furrowed her teeny little brow. But when my eyes met hers, she shied away. “Mind if we, umm...take a walk?“

Cliff and I looked to one another. Didn’t say anything. Didn’t gesture. Just agreed with one another using only our eyeballs. It would be a big relief to get the fuck away from Kettle Corn‘s house.

So off the three of us went. Down the snowy road. Side by side.

It was a little unnerving at first.

Being out. In the open. With Kettle Corn. Even though, logically, I knew there was nothing to worry about. Even though there was nopony else around. I still felt like we were being watched somehow.

For a while, we walked down that lonely road in silence. ‘Till Cliff got the idea to drift back. Give us some space.

“You really scared me.“ Said Kettle Corn at long last. “I spent all yesterday thinking about what I was gonna say to you.”

She kept her eyes fixed straight ahead. As if not looking at me made it easier.

“I even practiced in the mirror.”

“I see.” I replied meekly.

“But I don’t wanna say any of that stuff anymore.”

For a moment the road was silent again. Except for the sound of our hooves.

Crunch-crunch crunch-crunch crunch-crunch crunch-crunch crunch-crunch.

In all the crunchitty silence between us, my Rose Voices started getting antsy. Pushing me to say something.

But I had nothing of value to add. Kettle’d already shushed me once for apologizing profusely. And that was all I could think of to do.

“I have a confession to make.” Said Kettle Corn. She cast her gaze down and stared at the snow. “You are my hero.“

“What?“ I said. “Why? How?”

“This Fall, my brother went away to college.” Kettle sighed. “We used to do everything together. And no matter what, he always-always, always protected me. But once he was gone, then...The whole wide world just felt kinda empty without him. I started having nightmares. Monsters. I’d wake up so exhausted, I didn’t wanna do anything at all anymore.

“I even stopped drawing circles.”

I gasped.

“I know, right?” She giggled shyly.

I smiled back at her.

“Then one day, I saw you stand up to Diamond Tiara. And I saw how eailsy she stumbled. And I thought. ‘I can do that.’

“So later that night, when the nightmares came back again, I…” Kettle smirked to herself. Blushed a little. “I...told the monsters to go suck an egg.“

She chuckled. Snorted a big loud elephant snort.

I feigned shock. “You didn’t.”

She nodded gleefully. “I did...But I never got to tell you what that meant to me. To all of us! ‘Cause then you went to the hospital. And we all felt so bad.”

“We?” I said.

“The younger kids. I wasn’t the only one who looked up to you after you stood up to Diamond Tiara.”

“Oh boy.” I said to myself.

“Did you get our get well card?“ Kettle asked eagerly.

“Yeah.“ I whispered. “The card was great.“

Though I could not, for the life of me, remember what she had written in it. Or what anypony else had written in it for that matter.

I was too busy trying to force myself to breathe. ‘Cause damn! I hadn’t just hurt Kettle. I hadn’t just scared Kettle. I had let her down. I had let everypony down.

I thought of the last time that a bunch of kids had looked up to me. The mine-o slave foals. They’d viewed me as their liberator. And the littlest ones - Sub Mine F. They’d risen against their captors. And failed.

“I was so hurt yesterday.“ Kettle Corn continued. “I thought I did something wrong. And then, I remembered how scary you became. And believe it or not, I thought of how Diamond Tiara must’ve felt. When you flipped out at her.” She laughed awkwardly. “She had it coming, but you know, I saw it from the other side. I was really confused, you know? I’m still confused. Kinda.”

“I’m so sorry.” I started crying again. The dam just sorta broke. My throat tightened and my eyeballs felt like popped water balloons.

Kettle Corn stopped walking. Cliff went on ahead a little, stealing glances at me over his shoulder to make sure everything was okay. Even through my blurry watery eyes, I could tell that he was fighting the urge to come running.

For a few moments, Kettle and I just stood there. Me crying. And Kettle watching. Then, she reached out with her foreleg. Stuck her snow boot right up to my face. My eyes fixated on that boot. And my bawling ceased, if for no other reason than the fact that I was really fucking confused.

Then the tip of her boot tapped my nose. “Boop.” She said.

I raised a leg. Rubbed my nose with my jacket sleeve. Totally stunned.

For a moment, the wind whistled through the bare branches in the trees.

And then, out of the depths of nowhere, I broke into laughter. The tears didn’t stop running down my cheeks.. I just sorta laugh-cried.

“That’s a trick my brother does to me.” Kettle Corn said.

“It works.” I said, still heaving.

Kettle grinned a grin so wide her teeth seemed to take up half her face. “I never got to try it on anypony else.”

I buried my face in my scarf. Dried my tears with the scratchitty wool. And slowly, steadily, caught my breath.

“So what now?” I said at last.

Kettle Corn shrugged. “I dunno. I guess that's it. I said everything I wanted to.”

We started walking again. Kettle looked to the sky. I followed her gaze. Watched the sun shining through the clouds.

It gave me this weird feeling. A gratitude, so profound - so overwhelming - that I could hardly speak.

I was fortunate enough to actually live in a world that had a beautiful sky. To live under a beautiful sun. Captained by a wise and benevolent, and yes, beautiful leader. But even better than that, Kettle Corn was okay! The more I thought about it, the more incredible it seemed. She really shouldn’t-a been okay. She should have been messed up and crazy, and she shoulda hated my stupid rose guts for what I did to her. Luna knows she woulda had the right.

But Kettle didn’t hate me.

I looked to her, walking peacefully by my side, still watching the clouds. Not looking to them for answers. Not reflecting on what the world would be like without them. Just sorta ogling them. Simply because they were pretty.

It made me feel unworthy somehow. To be booped by somepony like her. One of the good ones.

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. /]*[\


SOME COMMENTS AND STUFF: Today is the Full Moon. This chapter got released at the exact minute the Moon was at its fullest. Praise our glorious princess of dreams!

SPECIAL THANKS: First of all, I would like to thank Seraphem as always for his tireless assistance providing feedback during the editing process, and Kkat for writing the original Fallout: Equestria story that inspired me to write Hooves of Fate in the first place.

NOTE In the original draft that I published, there were a few more paragraphs, which I cut two weeks later (on 11/13/2018) because the last line sent mixed messages and was generally problematic. I thought about reframing it, or elaborating on Rose Petal's response to clarify my intent, but upon examining the chapter, I think the new last line of the chapter works better anyway. I'm archiving the original deleted passage here...


“Kettle Corn?” I said at last.

“Yeah?” She answered.

“Mind if I, uh, ask you a question?”

“Sure.” She replied.

I sighed. Lowered my head. Watched my boots as they crunched against the freshly plowed snow.

“Why’d you forgive me?” I whispered.

The little filly furrowed her brow. Stared at me like I had seventeen eyeballs growing outta my ears. Like I had just asked the craziest, stupidest, most ridiculous question in the whole wide world.

“Um...Because,” she said. “That’s what ponies do."

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