Thunder crashed outside, rolling through the clouds with a low rumble that shook the very air. Rain pelted the roof and the walls sang the sound of the galing winds outside. The room was lit by a single, flickering candle on a nightstand by the bed. A shivering pegasus mare lay cowering in the middle of the cloud floor.
“Jack, I can’t!” Derpy cried, putting her front hooves over her head as she knelt down on the floor.
“Just try, please,” her companion pleaded softly, his voice barely audible over the pouring rain.
Derpy looked up, removing her hooves from her head and using them to support herself. She stood up and gazed into the golden eyes of her friend Jack. “Okay, I’ll try,” she choked, wiping away a tear with her hoof.
Derpy closed her eyes for a few moments and put a hoof to her forehead. She squinted hard and tried to remember. A cliff. Running water. The stench of blood. A few tears leaked from beneath closed lids. Derpy felt Jack’s clawed hand on her shoulder, and her head started aching as beads of sweat formed on her brow. Thunder crashed again outside, causing her to jump.
“I can’t!" She exclaimed, throwing her hooves back over her head. ""It’s no use. I just can’t remember.”
Jack took her hooves in his claws, and gently lifted them. “It’s alright,” he replied, staring calmly into her eyes. “I know someone who might be able to help. But it will have to wait until tomorrow. Can you try to rest until then?”
Derpy stared back at him through half closed eyes. “I’ll try,” she said, releasing a heavy breath and hanging her head in defeat. She slowly walked over toward the bed behind him. He followed her, settling down and ignoring the storm outside. He soon fell asleep. Thankfully, he’d left the candle lit. It was very dark without it; she did not want to be reminded of the same nightmare she’d been having for weeks. And of course it she had to have these dreams on a week when they’d scheduled a storm.
She lay down on the bed next to him and curled up, feeling his warm feathers against her wing. She closed one eye and looked over at the candle with the other, watching it dance in the night. Jack didn’t believe her about the candle, when she told him it was the only thing keeping her dreams at bay, but he was kind enough to have left it lit for her since the dreams began. It was comforting to stare at it on stormy nights like this—a small, gentle glow amidst the shadows that surrounded her. Guarded from the wind and the rain, it became her anchor, to keep her rooted to reality in the storms of her mind.
Giving up on getting any sleep at all, Derpy rolled off the bed and trotted over to the window, staring down at the gale. The cold wind outside bit her face and tugged at her mane. A fork of lightning split the sky, and she quickly ducked down behind the layer of cloud in front of her. It was only a dream. Wasn’t it? A strong gust of wind swept through the room, snuffing the candle out. No! Derpy could hear herself screaming as darkness flooded the room. Her shrill cry cut the air as she collapsed and the world went black.
The wind still howled, pelting her body with tiny, icy missiles. A tongue of light flickered across the sky, revealing a high cliff just to her right. A second later it was gone, and the darkness brought with it a rippling roar which shook the ground beneath her. She shivered as the rain water pooled around her, drenching her mane and filling it with mud.
The wind howled above her, accompanied by the wet pattering of chilling rain. She was lying on her side, one of her wings pinned beneath her, and the other stretched out behind her. Her head felt very heavy as she tried to lift it, and moving only made her dizzy. Derpy tried calling for help, but found that her voice was gone. She put her head back down, letting her tears roll out and mix with the rain.
A slight crackling could be heard through the rain. Some random, sharp taps that grew closer. Pain shot through her wing as something landed on it, producing a resounding crack as the bone snapped.
Her scream tore through the night, and the stench of fresh blood reached her nostrils as she drifted into unconsciousness.
Somepony was shaking her. A large weight was pressed against her side.
“Derpy! Come on, wake up!”
It was Jack’s voice. Derpy opened her own eyes to find two more staring back at her, filled to the brim with silent tears. She blinked. The smell of blood was gone. There was light in the room. She glanced at her right wing to find it unbroken, but with an odd knob close to the shoulder.
Jack was leaning over her. “You were having another one of your nightmares,” he said.“Are you alright, Derps?”
She was on the floor by the window sill. It was still pouring outside, and the candle by the bed was lit. She turned her head and stared up at him, unable to speak. The blood was still pounding in her ears, and her quick breathing gradually slowed. Derpy rolled onto her hooves and pushed herself up, letting out a groan
“I’m okay, Jack. It was just a dream. I’ve got to go to work now.” She strode boldly over to the door, heart pounding and face heating up.
“I just worry about you,” he said, extending a clawed hand. “It hurts, not being able to defend you from this new demon.”
“Jack, I said I’m fine!” She whirled around and stomped her hoof defiantly, lashing her tail in frustration. Derpy grabbed her saddle bag from the hook by the door and took off into the rain outside.
Her tears mixed with the rain as she flew, but it didn’t matter. It was always raining, and she could fly to the post office blind if she had to. She beat her wings furiously amidst the high winds from the storm. The town wasn’t too far away, and the lights from the buildings were enough to gauge a good landing spot. Derpy angled her wings toward town and glided down skillfully between the buildings. She hit the ground with a soft thump, and trotted through the mud to a small building with a giant envelope above the front door.
“I’m here,” she called, pushing open the front door with her hoof. There was no response. Derpy looked around cautiously.
The lights were on, but nopony was in the office. Papers were stacked neatly on the desk across the room, and quills stood in a small cup next to them along with a bottle of ink. Her hoofsteps echoed on the wooden floor as she trotted over past the main desk—toward the back room. Two large bags of mail were lying there, ready to be delivered. She was about to open them when the bell above the door jingled, announcing the arrival of somepony.
Turning around, Derpy trotted quickly back out to the main room, to find a small grey unicorn filly sitting there with a silver parcel in her mouth. It was little Dinky. The filly had come in every week for something or other. Sometimes she needed a package delivered, other times she just wanted to play a game with Derpy. Derpy didn’t usually have time to play with her, but on some days when there was little mail to deliver, they enjoyed a good puzzle together.
All sense of fear vanishing at the sight of the young filly, Derpy smiled at her. “Hi, Dinky. What’s up?”
Dinky didn’t return the smile, instead, she dropped the parcel she’d been holding. “I need you to take this letter to my mommy. She’s very sick, and I want her to come home. I think if she reads this letter, she’ll feel better.” The little filly stared at her with somber eyes, her lip curling over, as if pleading with Derpy, whose eyes grew wide.
“What? Of course I’ll deliver the letter!” she replied, rushing over immediately to take it. She picked it up with her hoof, then paused when she felt the weight of it. It was a bit heavy for just a piece of parchment. “Um, what else is in here?” Derpy asked.
“It’s a juice bottle,” said Dinky, staring at the ground. “It was my idea. I thought if mommy had some of her favorite juice, she might feel better. Daddy said it was a good idea. He wrapped it up with lots of bubbles and put it in with the letter.”
Derpy gave young Dinky a soft pat on the head. “Don’t worry, I’ll get this delivered right away.” She reached down and nuzzled the little filly’s nose, then turned and took off out the door.
The rain outside had formed a small stream which cut into the dirt road like a knife as it wound around the side of the building. Rather than sink her hooves into the mud, Derpy tucked the parcel into her saddle bag, opened her wings, and took off from the raised platform just outside the building. It was difficult to gain altitude in the pouring rain, and she had to flap her wings very hard to get far from the ground. It didn’t take long for her to become soaked to the bone, but at least the parcel was safe in her saddlebag.
It occurred to Derpy soon after she took flight that she had not asked Dinky where the package was to be taken. She turned her head to look back toward the post office, and smacked into something solid.
~ ~ ~
“Miss Hooves?” a firm but gentle voice called to her. Derpy opened her eyes. She was lying in bed in a white room. There was a second mattress above her. To her left was a window, which showed sunny skies outside, and to her right was a nurse wearing a pale green uniform.
“Good afternoon, Miss Hooves,” The nurse said. “I’m sorry to wake you from your nap, but I thought you wouldn’t want to skip lunch.”
“Huh? What?” Derpy asked, rubbing her eyes as she sat up.
“Do you remember who I am, Miss Hooves?” The nurse asked.
Derpy looked at the nurse for a moment, squinting her eyes a little bit. She shook her head, and the nurse gave a quick smile. “That’s alright. My name is Nurse Redheart, I’ve been taking care of you for some time now. We’re serving lunch in the cafeteria if you would like to join us. Do you feel up to walking?” Her voice was sweet like honey, but strong and confident as well. It seemed safe to trust her.
Derpy’s stomach gave a small grumble. She looked down at it, rubbing it with her forehoof. “Um, yes. I think I would like something to eat,” She replied, looking back up at Nurse Redheart, who moved back so Derpy could get off the bed. She followed Nurse Redheart out the door, looking down the hallway in both directions. They turned left and walked down a small hallway, before turning left again through a large doorway with no door. As they passed through, they entered a large room with about ten small round tables and six stools surrounding each. On the far wall to the right was a short line of ponies leading up to a small window in the wall, through which Derpy presumed lunch was to be served. They were greeted by a large cream colored pegasus, who wore a similar uniform to Redheart’s, except his was light blue.
“Well, hello there, Miss hooves. Up and at ‘em not a moment too soon I see. We were just about to close the lunch line.” He spoke with an energetic and buoyant attitude, and seemed to bounce every couple of words. “Well, Miss Redheart. I think I can take her from here. You have other patients to attend to I imagine.”
“Indeed I do. Thank you, Parcel, just please remember to be careful with Miss Hooves. She’s been having memory problems lately, and I don’t want her wandering off. Keep an eye on her, please.”
Parcel snapped a hoof to his forehead. “Will do, Ma’am. She’ll be safe with me, you’ll see.” Redheart trotted off back toward the rest of the building, while Parcel led Derpy over to the lunch line, which was now empty.
“Remember me, Miss Hoo— er, Derpy, I should say? I think we’ve known each other long enough.”
Derpy shook her head. “I’m sorry, um, Parcel, but I don’t.”
He merely smiled at this. “That’s quite alright. We’ll get to know each other before too long. Hey! Don’t close the door just yet there, sonny.” Parcel called out to a young blue earth pony as they approached the window. “We’ve got one more hungry customer waiting.”
The pony behind the window, who had been about to lift a large pot off the stovetop in front of him, slid it back with a smile.
“Of course, Mr. Flight,” he said, filling another bowl. “She’ll be in for a treat, it’s potato soup today, with a large blueberry muffin for the side.”
“There ya go, Miss Hooves,” said Parcel, resting a hoof on Derpy’s back as he passed her the bowl with his other foreleg. “Potato soup. Finish that and I’ll fetch you the muffin.” Derpy took the bowl and sniffed it. She couldn’t wait to eat it.
Leaving the kind pony who had served it for her, she headed over to one of the small tables scattered throughout the room, carrying the soup in her mouth. She didn’t know what potato soup was, but judging by the smell, she imagined it was very tasty.
Parcel joined her when she sat down, having gotten a bowl of his own.
“Haha, eager eater aren’t you, Miss Hooves. You usually are when there’s a muffin coming after.” He laughed. Derpy leaned forward and took a sip from the bowl in front of her, allowing thick creamy potato soup to enter her mouth. It was every bit as delicious as her nostrils had foretold. She licked the tip of her snout to clear the rest of it off.
“Oh, silly me,” Parcel exclaimed, placing a hoof on his forehead. I forgot to get you a spoon. I’ll be right back.” He got up and walked toward the window in the wall again, and disappeared through a door next to it. Derpy could not wait for him to get back, however. She grabbed the bowl in both hooves and brought it to her lips, tipping it back to allow the rich creamy soup to slide back into her mouth. She nearly choked on the lumps, which she hadn’t been expecting, but managed to chew them enough to swallow without too much difficulty.
She placed the bowl back on the table just as Parcel returned with her spoon, and a large muffin. “Heh, shoulda known,” He chuckled. “You never did like to wait.” Derpy licked her lips and smiled at him, and he passed her the muffin he’d brought. She took it and breathed in the enticing aroma. Her mouth watered, and she couldn't wait any longer. She took a large bite out of it. She squished the soft, feathery dough around in her mouth, enjoying the small pockets of juicy flavor scattered throughout. She swallowed what was in her mouth and took another bite. The muffin was gone in only a few more gulps. Derpy licked her lips and leaned back in her chair, patting her belly.
“That was really yummy,” she said “Is there more?”
“I think you’ve had enough for now,” Parcel laughed, taking the bowl from her, and reaching forward with a napkin to wipe some crumbs from her cheek. “Why don’t we sit and talk for a bit? I don’t think I ever got to tell you about myself.”
He went on to tell her his name: Parcelflight—and of his cutie mark: a package with wings. He was the owner of a delivery company, and he volunteered at the hospital on weekends. His daughter used to help him deliver packages when she was a little filly, but she’d left the house when she got older. By that time of course, everypony else in the cafeteria had left, and the light turned off.
“Well now, it’s been a fun talk, but I’ve got to get to other things at the moment.” Parcel leaned back and stretched his forehooves high above his head, lowering them with a grunt. “See you later, Derpy.” He walked her as far as the main lobby, where he left her with Redheart once again.
~ ~ ~
Derpy shivered as the chilling wind bit at her frozen limbs.
“I don’t get how you take it, Jack! It’s so cold!”
They were flying up over a mountain range, through yet another storm, heading back to Jack’s hometown, Griffon Village.
“Ah, you get used to it!” he called back. “It’s these feathers, really. Keeps me nice and warm.” He flew a few body lengths ahead of her. The rain was weighing down her wings, making it very difficult to keep up. He on the other hand, seemed to have no trouble at all.
“Why do we need to fly through a rainstorm, though?” she called back. “I mean, rain is nice and all. but I’m kinda having a hard time flying.”
“Rain? Wha— Oh, come on, Derps. This is beautiful flying weather.” Jack rolled over onto his back, placing his claws behind his head as he flew upside down. He closed his eyes and crossed his legs, too, as though lounging on an invisible couch. His tail hung lazily below him as he floated effortlessly through the air
“Well I’m not a griffon, Jack!” she snapped, unable to tell if she was shaking from the cold or her own exhaustion. “I need to land soon. How much further before we get there?”
Jack looked up. “Oh, come now. Just enjoy the rid— here, I’ll carry you.” He doubled back and swooped under her, placing her directly on his back, just like when she was a filly. “There, see? It’s not so bad once you get used to it. Just relax, and I’ll handle everything. Just don’t fall asleep back there, ‘kay?”
She settled down onto his broad back, letting out a soft hum to show that she’d heard him. His feathers were indeed quite warm, and she closed her eyes, allowing herself to drift off to sleep.
~ ~ ~
“Hello there, Miss Derpy Hooves. How is my favorite patient today?”
Derpy looked up from the jigsaw puzzle she’d been working on. A large, cream colored pegasus with hazel blue eyes was smiling brightly at her from across the table.
“Oh, I’m doing alright,” She replied with a brief smile, picking up another piece and examining it. “I was just enjoying this puzzle, I think. Would you like to join me?”
“I’d be delighted to.” The other pegasus said, sliding a few pieces over to himself. He chuckled as he picked up a piece and examined it. “You know, my daughter used to love to play with these all the time. Oh—I think that piece goes here.” He indicated the blue shape in her hoof, which she had been turning in place near the corner. She moved it to where he’d indicated, and it at least matched the color of the surrounding pieces. She left it there, deciding she’d find the rest of them out later, and selected another piece, this one yellow.
“Do you remember much of your daughter?” She asked, clicking the yellow piece into four others like it.
He placed a blue edge piece next to another one. “Well, yes and, unfortunately, no. I know that she loved these puzzles quite a bit, but I was never able to do them with her very much. I was often busy, you see.”
Derpy pointed to the brown tile he was fiddling with. “That piece goes over here,” she said, indicating a larger group of brown tiles.
“Thank you,” he replied, placing it. “I ran a parcel shipping company—still do, in fact. My name is actually Parcelflight, by the way—I don’t think we were properly acquainted when I sat down.” He extended his hoof at this.
Derpy took it, responding: “Derpy Hooves, but I think you knew that already.”
“A pleasure to meet you. And, yes, I did,” he replied. “So anyway, she would often follow me to work, as I couldn’t really leave her at the house alone, and she would always—”
“Why would she be alone? Were you married?”
Parcelfight stopped, his hoof hovering over a piece in the center of the table. His face was frozen in shock for a moment, but he soon regained his composure. “Oh, I suppose I forgot to mention that. Yes, Sunset died when little Ditzy was very young—”
“Was that her name?” He stopped again.
“I... well, you are simply full of questions today.” He chuckled. “Yeah, my late wife’s name was Sunset Shimmers. She had a beautiful golden coat, a long flowing mane of blazing—”
“I meant your daughter,” Derpy said flatly, placing another blue piece near the far edge of the puzzle. She stared blankly across the table at Parcel.
“I must say,” he began, rubbing the back of his neck with his hoof. “While I don’t mind the interruptions for the sake of curiosity, I kind of wish you would let me finish a thought before you cut me off like that.” Parcel chuckled again, only this time it felt forced.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Derpy replied, dropping her gaze and returning to the puzzle. “It just sounds really interesting.”
“Yeah, such stories often are, I suppose.” He said, reaching for a stray puzzle piece that had been left lying on its own. “Anyway, yes, my daughter’s name was Ditzy Doo. Adorable little thing. She would often bring a puzzle to the office with me, and sit on the floor behind the desk while I sorted through mountains of paperwork. her Favorite puzzle, though, was a picture of lots of bubbles, which made it incredibly difficult to solve.” He slid a white tile over toward her. “I think this piece goes right there.” He indicated the space just to the left of her hoof.
“What did you two do on weekends?” Derpy asked, placing the piece Parcelflight had indicated.
He put a hoof to his chin and looked up for a few moments before picking up another brown piece. “Well, she always enjoyed walking the mountain trail with her mother, now that I think about it. It was so long ago that she—”His smile disappeared for a brief moment. “well, it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen her.” He returned to the puzzle between them, and his smile returned. “Yes, Ditzy used to love going up on the hill; She used to watch the sunset from up there. I would often wonder if it was the sense of being up high on the ridge with the wind on her face, that made her feel like she was flying.” He placed one final piece on the puzzle. “And, I think we’ve about finished this one, don’t you?”
They both looked down at the nearly completed puzzle. There were three pieces still missing, but it was obvious what it was. A griffon in flight. He looked very majestic, the way his wings appeared to effortlessly lift him above the clouds. Derpy flexed her wings, as if preparing to take off. Parcelflight tilted his head to look at her left wing for a moment, then stared at the puzzle, then back at her. He tilted his head to the side, narrowing his eyebrows.
“Have you... ever flown before, Miss Derpy?”
“Not that I can remember,” she said, folding her wings again. “I’ve never been outside the hospital, as far as I can tell.” She turned and stared out the nearby window. The clouds in the sky looked nearly as beautiful as the ones in the puzzle, and she longed to soar through them.
Parcelflight smiled fondly. “Well, I’ll just have to see if I can do something about that.”
~ ~ ~
Rainwater soaked her mane and chilled her coat as she trudged on through the mud. “Come on, Jack! Where are we going? I’m getting tired,” she called.
“Just hold on, Derps. We’re almost there.” Jack was just up ahead on top of a ridge, juxtaposed against the dark grey of the clouds behind him. His wings were tucked in tightly and he held his head high. His tail waved slowly behind him as he waited for her to catch up to him. It was slippery coming up the slope, but she eventually made it and stood on the ridge next to him, pressing her face into his chest feathers.
“See? I’m right here. There’s nothing to be afraid of. We’re headed to that town up ahead.” He jerked his head toward some lights just below the next hill. She turned her head so see several tall buildings arranged neatly in a bunch. It was difficult to see much through the rain, but lights brought hope; they were not the pressing dark she’d endured out here.
“Come on, Derps. I’m gonna take you to a place where there’ll be no more nightmares.” They both began walking forward along the ridge, her head nestled against his side, with his wing wrapped around her. She nuzzled his neck, and he rested his head on her shoulders as they walked along the muddy trail.
It wasn’t long before they heard a clap of thunder. Jack turned to look behind him, then looked back at her.
“It’s alright, Derps. I’ve got you, we’re almost there,” he told her softly. They began descending into the valley below while Derpy tried to stifle her shivering.
“We could have flown, you know,” she said. Lightning struck the ground about a hundred or so feet in front of them, shattering the air with a resounding boom. Derpy jumped, losing her footing and slipping in the mud. The ground beneath her gave way, and she slid off the side of the ridge, along with a river of rock and mud.
“DERPS! NO! HOLD ON!”
The last thing she could see was Jack’s face disappearing on the other side of the remaining ledge. She turned to right herself in the air, when her vision suddenly ended with a sickening crunch.
~ ~ ~
“Hey there, Derpy. Remember me?” Derpy looked up from the couch. The door had opened and a cream pegasus now stepped into the room.
“Sorry, no.” She went back to staring at the blue ceiling.
“Ah, that’s too bad. I enjoyed our talk last week, and I kind of hoped you wouldn’t forget me so easily.
“I don’t tend to remember anypony around here.” Derpy sighed. “I don’t even know how long I’ve been here, but it’s the only thing I remember. I only remember that I live here at the hospital, and that I’ve never been outside.”
She heard the other pony walking over to her, and soon saw him standing over her.
“Why don’t you come with me? he said, smiling at her. “I think you might enjoy this.” He led her out of the room she’d been in, and turned right, down a long hallway. “You can call me Parcel, by the way,” he added.
They got to the end of the hallway, and walked through a set of double doors out into the sunlight.
Derpy’s eyes hurt for a few moments, and she had to blink several times before she could see what was around her. There were many leaves scattered throughout the grass in front of her, which stretched out a good hundred feet in every direction. A few trees of varying sizes littered the lawn; there were some small trees, placed near parts of the walkway, and two very large trees, both missing all of the leaves from their branches, in the center of the lawn. There was a cold breeze blowing by, but the light of the sun was warm on her back. Parcel smiled at her.
“Do you like it?” he asked. Derpy simply stood and gazed, awestruck. She had never seen the outside of the hospital before. She nodded slowly.
“Miss Redheart told me I was allowed to take you on an adventure if you so wished, on the condition that I have you back by lunch, and that you don’t ever leave my sight. Shall we?” He motioned for her to walk with him, and she followed as they made their way through the lawn and toward the street that lay beyond it. They passed a few small buildings, and headed into the town, passing one particular building that had a large window out front. Derpy stopped, seeing her reflection in the glass, and gave herself a good long look over.
“Parcel?” She called.
Parcel stopped walking, and turned back toward her. “What’s up, Derpy?” he asked.
“Why don’t I have a mark on my flank, like everypony else?” She looked around at the other ponies walking the streets. They all had colorful marks on their flanks, even Parcel had one—a package with wings. But her own flank was as dull gray as the rest of her coat. She stared at her reflection in the mirror, noticing also that her eyes weren’t straight like everypony else’s.
Parcel froze. “You mean to tell me you’ve never turned to see your own flank before?” he asked.
Derpy shook her head. “I’ve guess it just never occurred to me that I might not have one. I spend most of my time making sense of every day; I don’t even know what I did yesterday.” She could see through his reflection in the glass that his mouth was hanging slightly open.
“Well,” He started. “We’re not really sure why. Nurse Redheart believes it may have something to do with your memory. That while you cannot remember what your special talent is, your cutie mark may not appear. That is what your ‘flank mark’ is actually called—a cutie mark—and it usually appears when a young filly discovers that one special quality about herself, that makes her different from everypony else. I remember the day my daughter found her cutie mark. She was playing with the bubble wrap in the mail room. She had always loved that—”
“Was her name Ditzy?”
Parcel’s mouth snapped shut. He turned to stare at Derpy, and she turned to stare back at him. It was several long moments before she spoke again.
“You told me this story before. You had a daughter name Ditzy who liked to bring puzzles into the mail office to work on, and... I can’t remember much after that, but it sounds familiar.” Parcel remained fixed to the spot. Derpy continued to stare at him, wondering what had caused him to become so transfixed.
“Yes,” he finally spoke, slowly, still staring at her with wide eyes. “her name was Ditzy. And a patch of bubbles on her flank became her cutie mark.”
“Do you think it has anything to do with my eyes?” Derpy asked. “That I can’t remember anything, and I don’t have a— cutie mark?”
“Well, I don’t know, actually,” he said, rubbing his neck. "The nurses would know, but it’s possible you received some sort of head injury when you were younger. Why don’t we keep walking?” He continued along the original path they had taken, and Derpy followed.
The sun disappeared behind some dark clouds, and the fur on her back began to prickle as the autumn breeze swept across it. Her feathers stood up as the temperature began to drop.
“You know,” Parcel started. “If you really do remember that conversation we had last week, that might be a sign that your memory has improved.”
Derpy looked up at the gathering clouds, then to the other ponies, who seemed to have gone indoors. “Does that mean I might get to leave soon?” She asked.
“Well, I can’t say, as I’m only a volunteer, but I’ll definitely tell Miss Redheart. Perhaps, if you can remember me next week, you're that much closer to returning to life outside the hospital.”
Derpy wanted to smile at that, but the clouds had covered most of the sky now, and the air grew very cold. They came to a very tall building in the center of town. It had several sections of balcony running around the outside and two large double doors on the front of it. She walked up to it and looked straight up the side, at the sky above. Small droplets of rain landed on her face, and several others began to fall around her.
“Um, Miss Derpy?” she turned around, and a small grey unicorn filly stood beside her. The little one’s eyes were filled with worry, and were watering up. “You never asked me where my mommy lived, and then you flew right into the Town Hall Tower.” Derpy stared, dumbfounded at the little filly. “Are you okay, miss?” Dinky prodded Derpy in the side with her hoof, except there was something there, blocking her from touching Derpy’s skin. Derpy turned to see that she was wearing a saddlebag. She reached inside to find a small parcel wrapped in silver cloth—the same one from earlier.
“You gotta take that to my mommy. She’s sick, and Daddy and I miss her a lot a lot.” Dinky’s lip curled and her eyes began to tear up. Rain water dripped off of Derpy’s chin as she stared back at the sad young filly. She looked around. There was nopony else but her and Dinky. “Alright,” she finally said, stowing the parcel back in her saddle bag. “Show me where your mommy is.”
Dinky took off at a run, her little hooves making big splashes in the rain. She led Derpy down the street at an incredible pace, making a turn here or there, but mostly keeping in the same direction. They got to the edge of town and kept going into the trees beyond. The ground became soggier and began to slope upward. Derpy struggled to keep up with the little filly, but she pressed on. Her mother needed this parcel, and she wasn’t going to abandon young Dinky.
They came out of the woods onto a trail, that led upward into the mountains. Derpy looked both ways, and saw little Dinky off to her right, near a cottage. She stood there and waited for Derpy to catch up to her, calling out as she did. “Come on! This is where she lives!”
Derpy caught up to her, and Dinky disappeared inside the door. Derpy followed, but did not find little Dinky inside. She stepped into a warm, dry room, with a couch on the left wall, and a fireplace on the right. There were empty picture frames on the walls, and a tall candle stood lit on a small, round table in the center of the room. Derpy proceeded slowly into the room. “Hello?” she called out. “Is anypony here?”
As if in response, she could hear hoofsteps approaching from the next room. A tall, purple unicorn strode out from behind the wall, levitating a book in front of him. He turned his head as he passed through and—noticing her—stopped.
“Oh, good, you’ve awoken. I was rather hoping you would, because I must say, I’d have been rather put off if you hadn’t. Three days is quite a long time for somepony to be asleep. Given your injuries I was inclined to assume the worst, but here you stand, and it gladdens me to see you so.” He closed the book and smiled at her.
Derpy blushed slightly. “I’m afraid I didn’t catch your name, Mr…”
“Dirk, my fine young mare, you may call me Dirk. Most do.” He extended his hoof, and she took it, smiling a little more now. He turned to look her over, then stopped. “Good heavens, my dear. It appears your cutie mark seems to be missing. I do hope it didn’t wash off in the rain. I daresay you look like you went for a bit of a swim. Why don’t you come and sit by the fire?”
He led her over to the couch opposite the fireplace, and sat her down. He sat beside her, rubbing the cold from her body with his hooves. His body was so warm, she nestled her head against it. He lifted her chin, staring into her eyes.
“You know,” he said. “You have beautiful, golden eyes.”
Derpy instantly lost any sense of the cold, her heart fluttered, and she could not help but smile. They sat there for quite awhile in each other’s hooves. Neither of them said a word; they just stared at the fire, flickering and dancing as it warmed the cabin. The candle on the center table continued to burn as the rain pattered outside. Eventually, Derpy felt herself drifting off. She closed her eyes, and snuggled up against Dirk’s side, feeling very safe in his hooves.
~ ~ ~
“Well, look who’s awake,” came a familiar voice. Derpy looked up to see Parcel standing over her. “You gave us all quite a scare back there, you know.” He sighed. “It’s my fault, really. I should have read up more on your profile before I took you out.” His face did not look as happy as it normally did, and in fact held a frown as he stared solemnly into his hooves.
“Parcel, what’s wrong?” Derpy asked. He looked up at the mention of his name, and for a moment a smile flashed across his face, but it disappeared the moment his eyes met with hers.
“Your wing is broken,” he sighed. “As it turns out, you broke it during some prior accident, and haven’t flown since. You tried to fly to the top of the tower at the center of town, and fell when it didn’t support your weight. I—” He stopped, a tear escaping his eye. “I’m so sorry. I thought it would be a good idea to let you outside.”
Derpy sat up, and looked down. She was lying in a bed, and her wing was bandaged up. She looked around the room to find all the walls to be white. Parcel sat next to her in a small chair, and to the right of him there was a small table, where a small, silver parcel lay unwrapped. Parcel was turning a bottle wrapped in a strip of thick plastic in his hooves. ’.
“Hehe. She... always used to love... playing with this stuff.” Parcel sniffed.
Derpy held out a hoof to rest on his shoulder. “Parcel. What happened to your daughter?”
“She—” The words caught in his throat, before he burst into tears. He covered his face in his hooves and cried for a long minute before he spoke again. “She was very young. She had gone out to sit up on the hill, like she always liked to. There was a storm coming, so I told her to be back before it started raining, and—” He put his face in his hooves. “She never came back.”
He continued between sobs. “I went to check on her, but she was nowhere to be found. I searched those woods for days, but I couldn’t find her. Weeks and months went by and I kept hoping she’d turn up, but she never did. Without her I—I couldn’t focus on my work. We slowly went out of business, and then got bought out by another company. I came to work here at the hospital, hoping that if I could focus on helping the other patients, maybe I could forget about her.”
“And then one day I met you, and you reminded me of her again. It was like being given a second chance. I promised the unicorn who gave me this parcel that I’d help you remember who you were.” He reached over to the unwrapped parcel and picked up a scroll of parchment, which he then hoofed to her. “There’s a letter for you here. You should read it.”
Derpy took it and read, through astonished eyes, the letter she’d been sent.
My Beloved Derpy,
I’ve known you since that day we met at the orphanage. You had such nice little golden eyes. I didn’t know it then, but I was in love with you. I watched you grow up into a beautiful young mare, and from there our relationship blossomed. I know you don’t remember us, but you have a family at home who misses you very much, and we wish desperately for you to come home. We’re waiting, so get well soon.
Fly home soon, Mommy.
With love always,
Dinky and Dirk.
Derpy looked up from the letter to find Parcel staring at her through teary eyes.
“They love you very much. You’re so lucky.”
He got up and left, still crying quietly. Derpy sat and stared at the letter for a long while, before she set it down, picked up the bottle Parcel had left on the table, and rolled off the bed onto her hooves. She stuck her head out the door to see if anypony was there. Seeing nopony, she quietly stepped out of her room, and turned right down the hallway. She walked all the way to the end, where there stood a set of double doors. She pushed them open and strode out into the dim light of day.
There was nopony in the courtyard, so she continued on to the tree in the center. Placing her front hooves on the trunk, she stared up into the tree, then sprang back on her hooves, and leapt upward. Striding out on a long, sturdy limb, she gazed out over the nearby town. She looked at the bottle in her hoof, and thought of the little filly she must have waiting for her at home. “Fly home soon, Mommy.” Derpy extended her wings, ignoring the pain in her left one, took a running start, and leapt from the tree, high above the buildings below.
But her left wing didn’t unfold, and she fell, spiraling toward the ground below. At the last moment, something caught her in mid fall and whisked her away back up into the sky. Rain pelted her in the face as she looked up to see a chest of white feathers, and two strong, clawed hands holding her.
“JACK!” She exclaimed. She looked up at his face, and he smiled back.
“I couldn’t let you fall,” he said. “You’re too precious to me.”
“NO! Mommy stop! Come back!”
Derpy turned to see Dinky standing where she would have landed, standing outside a cottage in the rain
“You can’t, Mommy! You can’t go with him. You have to come back, we need you!” They flew upward through the cloud layer, and little Dinky disappeared behind a wall of grey.
“Jack! You have to take me back! She needs me!” Derpy shrieked.
“I can’t,” Jack said. “She’s gone. They’re all gone. Even if I took you back down there, you wouldn’t find anything.” He set her down on the cloud, and she did not fall through.
“But, Jack, she—”
“She doesn’t exist, Derps. She never did.”
“But—” She pointed with her hoof through the white clouds below.
“Look at me, Derps.” He said. “You’ve been having these terrible dreams for weeks now, and I’ve been trying to figure out what they mean. You had a terrible accident when you were young, and I think these nightmares are just you reliving old forgotten memories. I don’t know who this little filly is that you keep seeing, or her father, or the kindly doctor who you talk to all the time, but they’re not real, Derps. I’m real, and I love you very much. Wake up. Come back to me.”
Derpy looked around, and found that she was no longer sitting on a layer of cloud. She was kneeling on a quilted blanket, in the middle of a grassy field, and there was a strong, handsome griffon sitting on the other end.