“Okay, you ready to give this a shot?” Twilight called across the kitchen of the bakery. “We’re set to open in just a few minutes!”
Sugar Belle did a quick physical and mental check of her work station. She had her sugar, flour, butter, eggs, milk… She had her stand mixer, and the first cupcake tin was already greased and ready. The oven was already preheated, and she’d donned her finest white apron. In her head, she was a bundle of nerves, but this was what she wanted. Her very own pop-up bakery, specifically for making cupcakes. Even if it was only for a one week engagement, she was very excited for it.
“Okay,” she said, taking a deep breath. “Go ahead and open the front door.”
Twilight gave her a knowing smile, and went over to Sugar Belle’s baking station. She gave her a quick hug, then patted her on the shoulder. Usually, she’d have been too busy for all this, what with her princess responsibilities, but Ponyville luckily hadn’t tried to destroy itself recently. With this little amount of downtime, Twilight had gotten to visit a few of her favorite neighboring cities and towns. And as luck would have it, she’d come across Sugar Belle, and had offered to help her out on her first day.
“We’re going to do great,” Twilight said gently. “Just you watch, everyone is going to love your cupcakes!”
“I sure hope so,” Sugar Belle said with a sigh. “And I’m going to do my best.”
“That’s the spirit,” Twilight said with a wink. Her horn lit up in a soft glow, and the front door was enveloped in a glittering light. “Ready?”
Sugar Belle nodded.
“Yeah, let’s do this.”
The wooden door magically flew open, and she swallowed a big gulp as the first of her customers entered. Twilight put on her best smile at the front counter, and began taking orders. Before she’d even turned to relay them to Sugar Belle, the purple-maned pony was already in action.
The batter was mixing, she was choosing which flavors to add, she was putting them in the baking pan. Her hooves moved like clockwork as she made every single cupcake fresh to order. Once one pan was filled, she put it into the oven, then sat back to breathe for a moment before starting on the frosting. The whirr of her stand-mixer filled the small bakery as ooh’s and aah’s echoed from the waiting customers.
After fifteen minutes had passed, there was a ding from the oven. Sugar Belle popped out the cupcakes and then moved them to her shiny new blast chiller, so that they wouldn’t melt the frosting when it was applied. Then, she added sprinkles to each finished cupcake, put them in brightly colored little boxes, and proudly presented them to each customer.
The crowd gave delighted exclamations each time, and Sugar Belle felt a swelling of pride with each successful order. The crowd dwindled slightly, and as the afternoon came there was a short lull, in which both Sugar Belle and the princess were able to catch their breaths.
“Have a great day!” she called after the small group of last-remaining customers as they walked out the door.
She was smiling broadly, and she realized this was what happiness felt like. This was all she’d ever wanted, and it was going smoothly.
“Great job!” Twilight whispered to her with a nudge and a little giggle. “You’re a natural at this, and you hardly even need my help at all! I think even Pinkie Pie might be impressed!”
That was high praise, and Sugar Belle blushed deeply.
“Thanks,” she said. “I’m just doing my best. You’re helping out more than you know by taking orders, it lets me focus and get each order done. But this is actually… kinda fun, you know?”
“Yeah, once you really hit your stride on a lifelong passion, it can be easy to…”
Twilight abruptly trailed off, and Sugar Belle saw an odd expression cross the Alicorn’s face. She seemed to look past Sugar Belle, to some distant unknown point.
“Um… Princess Twilight?” Sugar Belle said, waving a hoof in front of Twilight’s eyes.
It didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Twilight walked past her, almost stumbling on a nearby stool, and then stepped up onto the front counter as if she didn’t realize her own actions. Sugar Belle rushed over, worried about the sanitary conditions, but also what might be wrong with the princess.
“I smell something,” Twilight said haltingly.
“Well, we’re in a bakery, so…”
“No, I smell… something,” Twilight said, again with that distant voice.
“What is it?”
“I smell… that smell. A kind of smelly smell. A smelly smell that smells…smelly.”
Sugar Belle blinked at her in open confusion.
Suddenly, Twilight’s eyes went wide, and her pupils constricted. She had the look of a pony with a horrible case of PTSD that was in the middle of resurfacing.
“…anchovies,” she barely more than breathed.
“ANCHOVIES!” Twilight suddenly screamed.
All at once, Sugar Belle became aware of several strange-looking red busses parked out in front of the store. She’d never seen any quite like them before, and as she watched, their side doors flew open. What happened next was so odd and so sudden that she would not really grasp what had occurred for years to come.
The first thing she heard was the Meeping. It sounded like tiny bike horns almost, but somehow more masculine and more… hungry. Then, the busses seemed to explode. Out rushed a crowd of strange, bipedal creatures that looked like some Lovecraftian horror. Their eyes were pointed upwards, unblinking and wide, and they were all dressed in the same white shirt. Their mouths were constantly moving, and all that came out was the sound “MEEP.” They had fins rather than arms and legs, and they moved so rapidly that Sugar Belle suspected no pony could keep up. And move they did, as they surged forward in a massive wave, practically tearing the door from its hinges. They were coming to her shop, she realized way too late.
They all wanted cupcakes.
“MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP!”
Both she and Twilight screamed and dove underneath the front counter for cover. Even then, there was the sound of a crash and splintering wood as the army of fish-people slammed into their hiding place.
“WHAT ARE THOSE?” Sugar Belle screamed above the Meeping.
“They’re these fish things!” Twilight whimpered. “I’ve only seen them once before, under water when I went to find the hippogriffs! But I do remember that they’re insatiable.”
Sugar Belle puffed up her chest and bit her lip.
“Well, then I better go serve them, they are customers,” she said bravely.
She moved to get up, but Twilight quickly hauled her back down.
“Are you nuts?!” she shouted. “They’ll eat you alive! Literally!”
Sugar Belle was cut off by another crash as the front counter began to give way. She felt a tightness in her chest as she realized that this might be the end for her. That she and Twilight might perish here under a wave of these things called Anchovies. She cowered there, and the two ponies hugged tightly as Twilight’s horn lit up with magic to reinforce the counter for as long as possible.
“Batten down the counter, Sugar Belle!” Twilight cried out.
The counter began to bow in the middle. The Meeping intensified.
“MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP…”
“We’re taking on invaders, Sugar Belle!”
“MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP…”
“I want my mommy, Sugar Belle!”
Sugar Belle knew they wouldn’t last much longer, and she shut her eyes, holding the princess tightly as a final comfort. This was the end. She never should have dared to dream!
Then, softly at first, Sugar Belle heard music coming from far away. She didn’t recognize it initially, but then she began to realize that the voice was one she’d heard before. One she admired, deeply, and one that should have been far far away in Ponyville right then.
“…come on everypony, smile smile smile…”
Twilight seemed to hear it too, for her grip relaxed slightly.
“P-pinkie?” Twilight whispered.
The music grew louder and louder, and then all at once there was a crash as Pinkie Pie in all her impossible glory broke in through the ceiling. She was flying somehow, kept aloft by a strange spinning tool. Sugar Belle squinted at it, trying to make it out. Wait, was that… YES! It was a hydrodynamic stand mixer with port and starboard attachments and turbo drive! She stared open-mouthed as the pink pony descended towards the floor.
“Pinkie Pie reporting for duty, sirs!” Pinkie said, saluting the two hiding ponies.
“Pinkie,” Sugar Belle stuttered out. “What…?”
“PINKIE FIX IT FIX IT FIX IT!” Twilight began to shout immediately.
“Okie dokie loki!” Pinkie chirped, then turned, still hovering. “TO THE KITCHEN!”
“We’re in the kitchen,” Sugar Belle said.
“Oh… then here we go!”
Sugar Belle watched in amazement as Pinkie Pie began to work. All around them, a light, happy music about smiling played in rhythm to the pony’s actions, and she never stopped grinning. Even as the frantic Meeping continued, Pinkie Pie’s hooves moved in a blur. Everything was mixed, greased, put in the oven so quickly that Sugar Belle couldn’t really see it. But it seemed to be working with some form of secret magic, because when the oven door opened, freshly baked, fully frosted and decorated cupcakes were waiting there. They literally flew out of the oven in a wave, impacting the surging anchovies with a sound of child laughter and fairy magic.
“Who’s hungry?” Pinkie called as more cupcakes practically exploded from the oven. The Meeping intensified.
“MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP!”
But quickly, the Meeping then abated, and the creaking of the front counter began to decrease. The more cupcakes that spewed out of the oven, the less frantic the shop seemed to become. Before long, there was a distant sound of bus doors shutting, and the Meeping stopped entirely. Only then did the smile music stop, and Sugar Belle felt comfortable enough to let go of Twilight and stick out her head.
Sure enough, the shop was empty, and in place of the anchovies, there was a hefty pile of bits. She blinked at this, then over at Pinkie Pie as she climbed into the kitchen again.
“Pinkie,” she said with a shake of her head. “How did you…”
“Eh,” Pinkie said with a shrug. “It’s a living.”
“I’m impressed,” Sugar Belle said. “I hope I can be as good as you one day. Especially if those cupcakes are as good as ponies say they are.”
“Oh, they’re even better than that, you bet!”
“Hey,” Sugar Belle said slowly, “It seems we’re at a bit of a lull here. Do you think you could whip us up a couple of those cupcakes to try?”
“SUGAR BELLE NO!” Twilight screamed and dived back under the counter.
But it was too late. Pinkie’s eyes widened, and the song about smiling and being happy started up in the background again. Before Sugar Belle could protest, Pinkie Pie turned back to the baking station, her body a blur, and cupcakes began to stream from the oven once more, ricocheting off of everything like delicious sugary bullets. Sugar Belle too dived under the counter with Twilight. The princess glared at her, and the purple-maned baker let out a long sigh.
“Well, did you learn anything today?” Twilight grumbled.
“Yes I did, Princess. Next time,” Sugar Belle said with a groan, “I’m going to stick with making burgers or something instead.”