Octavia was experiencing a rare oddity in her shared household. It was the middle of the afternoon, and the cello musician was seated in the living room, enjoying a sandwich and tea she prepared with some relative peace and quiet. This was strange because, if anypony knew of her roommate and longtime friend, Vinyl Scratch, then they should know that that shouldn’t be the case. Like, at all.
Not to say that the DJ was absent from the house or anything, as it was made perfectly obvious that she was indeed there due to the telltale sound of her music blasting away from behind her room’s locked door. No, what made this strange was the fact that her normally loud and ear-splitting music was set to a… dare Octavia say…. reasonable volume. If the grey mare wasn’t already aware of what her friend was doing in there, she’d have assumed Vinyl was sick or something.
Recently, Vinyl had taken up a new hobby; something to occupy her time between gigs and when not producing new songs. She called it content creating (something Vinyl technically already was), though in this case it meant making videos for her many followers on social media to enjoy. Ever since Vinyl created her channel, she would film just about anything she thought would be interesting or entertaining for her fans.
From pranks, gaming streams, how to videos, parkour, failed parkour, and hospital updates after said failed parkour, Vinyl dabbled in it all. That would be all well and good with Octavia, if only she hadn’t played some unwilling role in more than half of them. Honestly, it just felt weird to her being forced to hold the camera while Vinyl popped bubble wrap in bear slippers for half an hour. To this day, she still didn’t know what demographic Vinyl was trying to cater to there…
Nevertheless, Octavia didn’t need x-ray vision to know that her friend was most likely laying on her bed with her laptop, editing her latest escapade before releasing it to the masses. She just so happened to need her music at a lower volume to concentrate, which was a much appreciated bonus to the grey mare.
As Octavia continued to enjoy her meal and drink in the calm while she still could, she was soon interrupted by the doorbell ringing. Still chewing, Octavia set her sandwich on its plate, then patted her forehooves free of crumbs before getting up to answer the door. Upon opening it, she was met with a pleasant surprise.
There standing in front of Octavia was Ponyville’s delivery mare Ditzy Doo. The wall-eyed mare was beaming her usual cheerful smile, and laying on the gravel walkway before her was a brown package. Deducing what the reason was behind her visit was wasn’t a stretch to Octavia.
“Well hello there, Ditzy,” greeted Octavia, returning the pegasus’s smile in kind. “Is that parcel for us?”
“Yup!” Ditzy answered with a quick nod that caused the visor of her delivery hat to fall over her eyes. She quickly set it back in place with one wing, then used the other bring a clipboard to her sights. “Well actually, it says here it’s for Vinyl.”
“Vinyl’s, hm?” Octavia mused, eyeing the box curiously. Who knows what that impulsive mare has ordered this time, she thought. “Sorry to say, but she’s a bit predisposed to come to the door right now. I’d be happy to sign for it, though, if that’s acceptable.”
“That’s fine, long as it’s a resident of the listed address.” With that said, Ditzy offered the clipboard to Octavia, which she readily accepted.
Taking the pen chained to the flat surface in hoof, Octavia used it to promptly sign her name over the form’s dotted line, then returned it to the delivery mare. After giving the paper a quick skim to confirm everything was in order, Ditzy gave a curt nod, then took the clipboard under her wing.
Her business concluded, Ditzy slid the box over to Octavia. ”Hope Vinyl enjoys her package… whatever it is.”
“Trust me,” Octavia replied, her expression neutral. “If Vinyl still has that sponsorship deal with that certain company that makes silicon molds of certain parts of anatomy from all sorts of species, and this is what I suspect it to be, then yes, I can say with full confidence that Vinyl will enjoy her package.”
Stunned, Ditzy’s face began to take on a red hue, and her wings twitched and stiffened.
“Oh… oh my...”
“Horrifying, I know. And what’s worse is that she sometimes stages a puppet theater with them.”
Whatever Vinyl’s package was, it couldn’t have been from that rubber knob company. The box was remarkably plain, and its return address of ‘321 Dummy Road’ was obviously fake. How it managed to actually get processed through the mail was beyond Octavia. Regardless, she went to inform Vinyl of the package waiting for her on the kitchen table.
Octavia knocked, and miraculously the music on the other end cut off seconds later.
“Yeah?” answered Vinyl.
“Your package arrived. Now come get it before I end up selling whatever’s inside for your half of the rent.”
“Package?” Vinyl paused. “I didn’t… Oh wait, yeah! I’ll uh, I’ll be right there!” Suddenly, there was quite the ruckass emanating from behind the door. Something had clearly excited the mare; Octavia could hear her moving to and fro in her room, knocking over empty cans and other knick knacks as she did who knows what.
With her task completed, Octavia made her way back to the living room, as she heard her unfinished sandwich calling to her. Minutes later, Vinyl’s door finally opened, and the brash mare’s voice called from the hall.
“Hey Octy, so where’d you--”
“Kitchen table,” Octavia answered before sipping her tea. So far she been having a pleasant Vinyl-free day, and she wasn’t going to ruin that so soon by turning back to her roommate.
“Kitchen, cool,” said Vinyl. “Was gonna set up there anyway; better lighting.”
“Oh no,” Octavia breathed out disparagingly, her teacup clinking its saucer.
She should have guessed that whatever that box contained probably had something to do with a video Vinyl was hoping to create. The question now was: was Octavia going to be forced to participate in some way, or could she just remain seated where she was and hopefully enjoy her meal? Already she could hear Vinyl approach the kitchen via her hoofsteps, as well as her carrying presumably her camera and other recording equipment.
Octavia considered leaving the house on some false errand to avoid such torture, but at the same time, though, somepony responsible had to remain to ensure she had a house and roommate to return to. Last time she left Vinyl alone without a babysitter, Octavia found her running around with scissors, and at another instance she was slamming the oven door repeatedly while playing a trombone. Nevermind the fact that she had unknowingly left the gas on during and could have blown herself and the house to smithereens with the tiniest spark, ‘cause hey, apparently the video dubbed ‘When Octavia Isn’t Home’ went viral shortly upon release...
No, as much as it pained her to do so, Octavia thought it best to stay put. She’d like it more than anything for this to be Vinyl’s last video, just not in a way that involves accidental suicide. Just why, she asked herself, why did she have to love that idiot like a sister from another mister?
After letting out a begrudging sigh, Octavia sat quietly and observed Vinyl set up her camera from the corner of her eye. Vinyl had placed the camera on the kitchen counter, its lense facing the table and living room behind it. Octavia knew she was being caught in its shot, but she didn’t care enough to move out of the way. This wasn’t her first rodeo, and it was her house, after all.
With everything done to her liking, Vinyl took her place beside the table, then engulfed the camera with her magic. There was a click, followed by a red blinking from the device. Presumably recording, Vinyl began to act out… whatever it was she was doing.
“Hey there Wub-fam, it’s ya girl, Vinyl Scratch!” Shortly following that energetic introduction, Vinyl sat on her haunches and… and dabbed.
She stayed locked in that position for a while, leaving Octavia to believe that’s where she’d edit the scene to have the screen do a shaking zoom in with fireworks or confetti popping off… or something like that.
Before long, Vinyl soon dropped that pose and returned to her previous stance, and with it some of Octavia’s faith in equinity returned. Some, mind you, as society still somehow allowed this mare to sleep in the room across from her own.
“So!” Vinyl resumed, slapping her hoof on top the package. “It’s Mystery Loot Box Monday, and guess what arrived in the mail just now!” Using her other hoof, she gestured to the box with a flourish, then smiled back to the camera. “But hey, this isn’t your ordinary mystery box, ‘cause I’ve decided to spice it up a bit this time around. And looking at the title of this video, you can already tell why that is.”
Vinyl’s hooves shot forward, both pointing at the camera. “That’s right! Last week a lot of you were asking for it, and a whole lot more were saying that I shouldn’t, but because I love you all I decided to go ahead and do it anyway. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get straight to business and see what we got!”
Taking a spot behind the table, Vinyl repositioned the box so it took up the center of the screen, then she used her magic to retrieve a box of plastic gloves and a pair of scissors from a nearby drawer. Octavia understood what the scissors were needed for (she at least she hoped they were for opening the box), but she was a bit lost on why Vinyl would need gloves.
Unmoving from the couch, Octavia breathed a small sigh of relief when she observed her roommate use the scissors in the correct fashion. Vinyl’s magic opened the blades and she slowly moved them towards the strip of tape keeping the box shut. Before the sharp metal even came into contact with its target, Octavia heard her friend take a breath, and noticed that her body appeared to have stiffened.
Moments later, the scissors snipped one end of the tape, prompting Vinyl to drop the tools and throw her head up. “Oh thank Celestia,” she uttered, wiping her brow. “Phew. Still in one piece, guys. As you can see, nothing exploded.”
“Pardon?” Octavia blinked, then sat up straighter. She couldn’t have heard Vinyl right. She couldn’t have said that ‘Nothing exploded.’ Why would she expect something to explode? What could she have possibly ordered that would have the potential to explode?!
Before Octavia could even dare ask Vinyl for confirmation, the DJ had already moved on to the next segment of the video by snipping off the other end and running the scissors between the box’s semi-freed flaps. Once the tape was no longer an issue, Vinyl fully opened the box. Instead of immediately looking inside it, however, she instead turned back to the camera.
“Alright, opened. Now, like always, because this is a mystery box, I’m gonna be pulling out each item one at a time by hoof and showing it to you guys. But first!” Vinyl’s horn glowed, levitating the box of gloves over to herself before brandishing it in front of the camera. She set the box down, extracted a single glove from the container, slipped it over her hoof, then gave the viewers at home a knowing smirk. “Yeah. ‘Cause... you know… Anyway, let’s finally see what we got!”
With full gusto, Vinyl all but thrusted her gloved-hoof into the box. She poked her tongue out the side of her mouth, then began blindly rummaging.
“Huh,” Vinyl sooned mused. “There’s a lot of stuff in here, and surprisingly nothing’s stabbed or bitten me yet.” Octavia’s expression went from confused, to worried, to confused again. “Just gotta feel around for something good to probably start with… something like… Oh, that feels nice and solid! It’s a….”
Vinyl withdrew her hoof, and with it came a small rectangular device. The mare’s eye’s glossed over it, and it didn’t take long before she recognized it for what it was.
“Oh no effin’ way!” she cheered excitedly. “It’s that new phone that just hit the market, the uh, the Zap Apple 6! Man, this thing’s gotta be worth a couple hundred bits!”
A phone? Octavia thought. To her that seemed to be a bit odd and pricy for a company to be including in a loot box, but she supposed they were trying to get some free endorsement for their product using Vinyl’s follower count. The grey mare was soon shaken from her ruminations when Vinyl began inspecting her find in the light.
“Huh, I can see a small crack on the screen, and there’s some sort of reddish-brown stains on the back. You don’t think…” Vinyl shook her head of that thought, then reaffirmed her smile for the camera. “Nah, they’re probably just trying to mess with folks for a laugh. Still, this is a good first pick. Let’s see what else we can fish out. Hopefully the phone’s charger or something.”
Vinyl set the phone down on the table, then once again plunged her hoof into the box.
“Alright, next on the agenda is…” Out came her foreleg, and with it this time was a small wooden cube resting on the flat of her hoof. “It’s one of those… foal’s playing blocks? Heh, well ain’t that creepy? Let’s just set this right here and see what else is in here.”
Placing the block next to the phone, Vinyl returned her hoof to the box. Now Octavia was even more confused. High-end gadgets and children’s toys? Just what kind of loot box company did Vinyl subscribe to? Despite her figurative head scratching, Octavia found herself transfixed on the couch, unable to look way as Vinyl pulled out item after item from the box, each one stranger than the last.
What the white mare soon amassed around the box so far consisted of: one phone, a block, a key, a corkscrew, somepony’s retainer (ew), an unlabeled half empty prescription bottle, a bag filled with fake eyelashes, an assortment of filly scout patches, and an empty glue stick tube. It wasn’t until Vinyl produced her latest item, the broken bottom half of a porcelain mask, that Octavia finally decided to voice what was on her mind.
“Okay, I’ve kept my mouth shut long enough!” she proclaimed, marching her way into the kitchen. “Vinyl, just what in the blazes is going on here? What is all… all this?”
Despite her smile, Octavia knew Vinyl was none too pleased to have her recording session interpreted. She prided herself on having genuine reactions in her content, so she wasn’t going to go through the box again just because Octavia butted in. To the mare’s credit, she did respond in a civil manner, albeit in that Vinyl sort of way.
“Well gee, Octy, have you never seen a loot box before?”
Annoyed, Octavia rolled her eyes. “I know very well what a loot box is, Vinyl. This,” she twirled her hoof over the items, “I’m talking about all these things. Did you get this box from a rundown flea market or something, because I’m seeing absolutely no rhyme or reason to these items!”
Her eyes locked on Vinyl, Octavia shot her hoof into the box and immediately scooped out the first thing she could. For some reason, Vinyl seemed more shocked by that action than she should have, her eyes widened and her mouth agape as she stepped back.
“I mean look at this!” Octavia shouted, presenting a somewhat crumpled piece of paper resting on her outstretched hoof. “This is... ! I, I don’t even know what this is.” She pulled her hoof back and quickly inspected the paper. “Some sort of… crudely-made coupon of some kind? ‘Buy one “accident” and get another half off?’”
“Uh… O-Octy,” Vinyl muttered nervously.
“What is that supposed to mean!? And what’s with the quotations around the word ‘accident’?”
“Octy, I’d--I’d put that down if I were you. Or at the very least put on the gloves I have here...”
Vinyl’s words reached Octavia right as her tirade ended. “Put this down, why?” she probed sternly. “It’s just a sliver of stationery!”
“I know that,” Vinyl replied with a single nod. Suddenly her smile grew tense, and her next words seemed forced out. “It’s just… well… that paper might… be covered in jizz…”
Octava blinked blankly at Vinyl, and slowly her ears leveled to the sides of her head. Her eyes then fell on the paper on her hoof, and it took her all of two seconds before she reacted accordingly.
“Vinyl, the hell!” she shouted, the paper falling to the ground as she shook her hoof madly. Without realizing it, she wiped her hoof on her chest fur, only to become horrified once it hit home what she had done.
“Why!?” Octavia yelled, her hooves pating desperately at her chest as if she were putting out a fire. “Why would that paper be covered in… in…!”
“Hey, I said it might be!” Vinyl stated. “I ordered this loot box off the dark web, so naturally you gotta assume some guy nutted all over the things inside before shipping it out.”
Octavia freezed mid-pat, and for a brief window in time she was like a living statue. That was until her eyes focused all their attention on the white mare before her. Bit by bit, she returned to her regular standing position; she moved so slow she was certain her bones and muscles were giving off audible creak with her movements. For a while after that, Octavia just stood there and stared, no doubt giving off an unsettling aura.
After a lengthy pause, Octavia licked her lips, leaned forward and broke the silence.
“Come again?” she asked softly, her smile betraying her true emotions. “Clearly I must misheard you, because surely you couldn’t have been so moronic as to have something sent from the dark web to this very address. You know, the very place where we bathe, eat, sleep, and--oh yes--live.”
In response, Vinyl opened her mouth, closed it, then opened it again.
“If it helps... I’ve taken precautions.”
“Oh did you now?” Octavia said in false pleasantry. “Please, do go on about these ‘precautions’ you’ve taken to ensure your safety.”
Vinyl’s brows furrowed at that, and her head tilted to the side. “Don’t you mean ours?”
“Until you tell me what you did, your fate is still up in the air,” Octavia enunciated through her cheshire grin.
“Right, well uh…” Vinyl tapped her chin in thought. The fact that she had to think about it worried the cello player. “I… didn’t use my credit card, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
That was but a mere snowflake of relief sizzling against the raging inferno that was Octavia.
“That wasn’t what I was asking for, but it’s someth--”
“So instead I used yours,” interrupted Vinyl.
Octavia’s eye twitched, coupled with the sound of one of her cello’s strings snapping in the living room.
“Vinyl…” she all but growled through her teeth.
“When you made this purchase, why did you use my bank information?”
Vinyl shrugged. “Well I had to throw those dark web weirdos off somehow, right? Like, you ever seen those crime dramas where the cops are trying to locate some hacker through the internet, and their tech expert goes all like, ‘Their bouncing their signal through multiple servers’ and junk? I figured using your info would make them think your card was being used to hide the identity of the true purchaser, or something.”
“Vinyl, that’s n--that’s not…” Octavia was seething, her anger starting to boil over. In an effort to calm herself before she threw her roommate out the window, she closed her eyes, took a breath, and exhaled. “Vinyl,” she repeated, her eyes still closed. “That’s not how computers work. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that your precautions became completely pointless the moment you decided to have this package sent under you name anyway!”
Opening her eyes, Octavia stared vehemently at Vinyl and hoped she understood the gravity of their situation that she so carelessly put them in. Judging by the far off look in her eyes, however, it was clear she didn’t.
“Vinyl, answer me this,” she spoke slowly. “Do you have any idea of what you’ve done. Are you even remotely capable of comprehending the weight of your actions?” Puppeteered by her rage, Octavia shot her hoof forward and knocked the package off the table, shouting, “You’ve gotten us involved with killers, for Pete’s sake! That’s what that strange coupon was for, now that I think about it!”
“Whoa, no need for that,” said Vinyl, catching the box with her magic. She set it back on the table (far from Octavia’s reach this time), then smirked to the grey mare. “Are you being serious right now, Octy? I mean, I thought you of all ponies would realize that the dark web, aside from blackmarket stuff and illegal videos, is nothing more than just a bunch of internet nerds trying to look scary. This box right here,” she tapped its side with her gloved hoof, “probably nothing more than just junk from some dude’s garage. Here, I’ll even prove it to you.”
She slid her hoof into the box and immediately pulled out an item from it.
“Ah ha, look at that! An ordinary issue of Ponies magazine with Princess Twilight and her friends on the cover!” Taking the magazine in her magic, Vinyl levitated it in front of her and began to leaf through it. “See, completely harm-- Hm…”
Vinyl paused, and Octavia wanted to know why.
“It isn’t like you to get quiet all of a sudden, Vinyl,” said Octavia.
Eyes still glued to the magazine, Vinyl turned a page, then another. “It uh...” she said stoically, turning yet another page. “It appears that somepony has gone to the trouble of, uh… cutting the eyes out of every mare in this magazine.”
Hearing that, Octavia glared daggers at Vinyl. She didn’t have to say anything at all, as her hard expression alone was enough to convey her thoughts to the DJ.
“So the guy took his time applying the creep factor to these things,” Vinyl said, closing the magazine and setting it down. “Big whoop. Just means I got my—er, your money’s worth.”
Again, no words from Octavia. Instead her eyes narrowed even more and a snort escaped her nostrils.
Giving a huff of her own, Vinyl rolled her eyes. “Look, I can still prove my point.”
Her hoof dove into the box, and what she pulled out next was a clear plastic bag filled with an assortment of miscellaneous items, the most eye-catching of which was an old and bloodstained knife. Suffice to say, Vinyl was quick to defend herself.
“Now I know what you’re thinking, but keep in mind that I can make the same prop with one of my butterfly knives and some ketchup.”
Likely wanting to drive her point home, she pointed to the rest of the items within the bag and began rationalizing them.
“Oh look at that, a few locks of hair from some ponies’ manes. Oooh~ Look out, Octy, somepony sweeped the floor at a barber shop~ And what do we have over here? Some uh, some teeth? Pfft! I still have some of my old baby teeth in a drawer somewhere. And, and what is this, huh? Some old newspaper clipping?”
Vinyl brought the bag closer to her sight and began to read from the faded paper out loud.
“‘Authorities remained baffled by gruesome massacre at 321 Dummy Road.’” Looking over the bag, Vinyl locked eyes with Octavia and grinned. “Aw, our little prankster really trying to seem convincing. Shame he couldn’t think of a better fake address, huh?”
Shutting her eyes, Octavia let out a shaky, defeated sigh, shaking her head while bringing a hoof to her forehead. “Vinyl…” she muttered. “I want you to look at the box, specifically at its shipping label...”
“Well alright, but I still think you’re overreact-- Oh, well how about that. Huh, uh… In light of new evidence, perhaps you were on to something after all.”
“Gee, you think!?” Octavia shouted, her voice causing several birds and other critters outside to flee in fright. “Vinyl, you’ve given our address away to a… a psychopath, and the most you can say is ‘oh how about that!?’ No, Vinyl, you’ve gone too far this time! I’m gonna, I’m gonna... ”
By some miracle, Octavia didn’t punch a hole in the wall using Vinyl’s head. Instead she shut her eyes tightly, held her breath, and tried to close herself off from the world in an effort to calm herself down. As much as it was tempting to do so at that moment, she knew violence wouldn’t solve anything. No, she had to be level headed, because clearly Vinyl wasn’t.
After managing to subside her immeasurable fury for the moment, Octavia opened her eyes, stared down directly at the floor, and began to think.
“Okay, okay… it’s not so bad,” she said more to herself than Vinyl. “We can fix this, salvage the situation to where we can come out of this with our lives. First, first we need to gather all these things back into the box and have the proper authorities look at it. Yes, yes and second, if they’re unable to assist, we look into moving elsewhere. I hear Yakyakistan is nice this time of year. And third, third is…”
This time, Octavia had no choice but to address Vinyl. She looked to her, and she couldn't stress her following words anymore than she was able to.
“Vinyl, listen to me.” She pointed to the camera sitting on the counter. “I know you really want to, but you can not upload that footage onto the net. The last thing we want to do is risk letting this pony know that we received his macabre care package. Delete the camera’s memory, smash it if you have to, but don’t let anypony else see what happened here today.”
“Oh, uh…” Vinyl stood on the tips of her hooves, averted her gaze, and scratched at the back of her head. It was a list of action that didn’t sit well with the grey mare. “That’s, uh, kind of a tall order you’re asking there, Octy.”
Octavia was afraid to ask, but… “Why?”
“Because I’ve sort of been….uh, live streaming this entire time...”
Octavia stood ramrod, her eyes unblinking as she stared off in Vinyl’s direction.
Her eye twitched once.
Twink! snapped another of her cello’s cords.
A third time.
The last thing to finally snap was her sanity.
“We’re… we’re gonna die,” she said in dismay. “We’re gonna, gonna... No, wait. No no no no no, what am I saying?” Suddenly, her demeanor changed to a more aggressive one as she then spouted, “I am going to die, either by killer or electric chair, because I’m gonna kill you Vinyl, right here, right now! Witnesses be damned!”
Octavia, with a crazed look in her eyes, took a step forward, and Vinyl took one back.
“Do you have any last words, Vinyl? Something to say that, for your sake, will hopefully redeem yourself?”
“Uh…” With her eyes still trained on the mad mare, Vinyl leaned her head in the camera’s direction. “Hey, uh, Wub-fam. If you guys don’t want me to die, please like, favorite, and subscribe to this video. And if you like what I do and wanna support the channel, don’t forget to--”
“RAAAAGGGHHH!!!” Octavia roared before lunging at Vinyl.