Despite what he had been told time and time again about the joys of scientific discovery, Dusk found it hard to enjoy what he was experiencing.
“Oh sure, go explore the Everfree…surely the animals would stay away from something as strong as you…” Dusk murmured to himself, watching the snake-like body of a cockatrice slowly move past the bush he was hiding in. He breathed shallowly, making sure not to move to the hybrid creature wouldn’t spy him.
Dusk stepped out of the bushes and shook himself off once the cockatrice was gone. He took a deep breath and sighed, shaking his head as he continued down the barely used path. Draping his cloak around him, he continued down the path to reach his destination; the site of Tirek’s defeat. It had been several months since the demon had been defeated by the Element Bearers, but being a pony created by scientific meddling, he had an overwhelming curiosity in regards to things from other worlds or plains of existence.
The area wasn’t hard to find, especially with how many trees the demon had demolished in his brief rampage when he had the alicorns’ magic under his control. Despite this, Dusk found himself getting turned around and disoriented constantly. He would have flown up above the canopy, but the vines and branches were far too thick. He continued down the path, but once again found himself in a familiar area, or at least he knew he had been here based on his hoof prints.
“Darn it.” He pulled his map out of his cloak, spreading it out on the ground to look at it. It didn’t help much, considering the only landmarks he had was the old sisters’ castle and Zecora’s hut, neither of which he could see. He sighed exasperatedly and rolled up the map, continuing to trot along what was presumably a deer trail at this point. As he looked around for any sign of a landmark or noticeable rock formation, he slammed headfirst into something solid and unmoving.
He fell backwards, rubbing his head and slowly looking up. Standing in front of him was a statue, a very well carved one at that. It was the size of a pony, and in fact depicted a rather terrified looking mare. It seemed to be just an arbitrary design, as he didn’t see anything that could have indicated who it resembled. Of course, despite the creature he had encountered earlier, he didn’t put two and two together. Inspecting the statue for a bit, he continued on. No point in marking down a landmark if he didn’t know where it was on the map. He reached a small stream, eagerly walking up to it. All streams in the Everfree were offshoots of the main river, so if he could follow it back to the river he would be fine. He trotted along the bank of it, following it in the opposite direction of where it was running. He stopped after a few minutes of walking, feeling a chill run up his spine. Something wasn’t right.
He looked around, shivering again as a cold breeze blew through. He was part reptile, so the cold was unpleasant, to say the least. Other than the breeze, he saw nothing. He sighed and slowly turned his head, reaching back to pull his hood over his head.
Suddenly, as he looked up, he was greeted by the blood red eyes of a very familiar cockatrice. He gasped, his icy blue eyes immediately becoming locked to the fiery orbs embedded in the horrific amalgamation of a creature’s head. He tried to look away, but it was far too late. Already his hooves were cemented to the ground, weighed down by stone that felt heavier than lead. He desperately tried to move them, the foul beast letting out a sound that was a mix between a screech and the crow of a rooster. The stone creeped further up his legs, soon reaching his thighs and making it impossible for him to move a single muscle of his lower body.
He desperately flailed his front hooves, feeling an intense pressure in his stomach as the stone encased it and made it impossible for him to flex his abdominal muscles. He twisted and turned, but only managed to rear back further as the cold rock conformed to his back, chest, and finally reached his legs. The tips of his hooves twitched feebly and he screamed for help, having taken a full breath of air that allowed him to breathe…until his organs also turned to solid rock. He wheezed, feeling himself shut down as the stone almost seemed to slow down, creeping up his neck and reaching his skull.
His jaw locked in place as the joints were cemented together, his eyes the only thing left moving besides his flared nostrils as he looked around desperately, the cockatrice having already left him to his fate. Finally, the rock encased the very last of him, ending at his nose.
Dusk stayed there, wondering why his body hadn’t shut down. His heart wasn’t beating, and he certainly wasn’t breathing, so what had happened? He tried to move, but his body of course couldn’t respond. He couldn’t move any part of him except his eyes, and even they didn’t truly move. He could only see directly in front of him, and as he was reared up on his hind legs, his eyesight was half obstructed by his snout.
This is what they do to you? He thought to himself, as he realized the true horror of his situation. They freeze you…but leave you alive… his mind was suddenly flooded with an overwhelming sense of, not only dread and realization, but an unending feeling of biting, frigid cold. No matter what he tried to think about, all he felt was the icy cold embrace of the rock that filled his entire body. Perhaps some nerves had been left intact.
He went through the five stages of grief in what could have been seconds, days, weeks, or even months. He found himself denying it vehemently, even going so far as to say it was a dream.
This isn’t possible, he mused. I’m at home, surely I am. This isn’t real…
This feeble attempt at comforting himself ended with a fiery mental rage that burned through him, or would have if the coldness of the rock did not quench it.
DAMN IT! CELESTIA DAMN IT! THIS CAN’T HAPPEN TO ME! NOT TO ME! He wailed in his own mind, overwhelmed by anger at his own stupidity and the cruelty of these woods.
He then found himself pleading to the two sisters, his mind devolving into the pleading and pathetic whines of a stallion who had nothing to lose.
Please…celestia….luna…help me… he begged. See my dreams, hear me, anything! I’ll do anything you desire! I’ll come back to the royal guard! He continued babbling apologies and useless requests for whatever increment of time his mind allowed him to before breaking down into nothing but a mental stupor.
It’s over…my life is over. I can’t do anything now…I’m just…done…
He said nothing more after that. Not that he could speak. Thousands of thoughts and feelings filled his mind during this time, allowing him to reflect on what had led up to this point. Eventually, an overwhelming feeling of calmness overtook his thoughts.
I can’t do anything about this…this is just how life intended me to end. I suppose I can just…sleep…
And sleep he did. Letting his mind drift into a state of utter silence, he drifted to a state that ponies who could move their bodies would call sleep.
He wasn’t sure how many times he was woken up. How many times ponies had run past him, gleeful and curious. Often they were fillies or hikers, and sometimes even Fluttershy as she ventured from her house, which ironically was only several hundred meters downstream. As if adding insult to his injury, she would often place flowers by the ‘statue’, believing it was a tribute to Princess Luna, considering the cloak. She never looked close enough to see the tail shape, nor the wings that faintly pressed out from underneath the cloak.
Over time Dusk became overgrown with moss, his mind now barely recalling that he was, in fact, a pony. It seemed to him that even if he were to be rescued and somehow have the affects reversed, he wouldn’t be able to function as a pony any longer. Fluttershy now came by quite often, using him as a sort of vessel to listen to her problems or happy stories. It brought him some solace, keeping him sane in the prison that was his mind.
One day, though, Fluttershy stopped coming by. She was certainly not old, so he presumed she had moved away or forgotten about him. He never saw her again, this was all that he knew for sure.
Dusk stopped thinking at this point. His mind drifted off into his sleep state again, from which he knew that he would not return from unless by some stroke of a true miracle. His statue would be forgotten as the forest swallowed it up, vines draping over it and trees covering up the last bit of sunlight that shone down upon it, symbolizing that even Celestia had abandoned him in his time of need.
Let it be… he mentally remarked before the world went dark.