It was a calm day on the streets of Ponyville, a rare sight in the growing little city. Twilight looked up at the sky above, seeing only pale blue, with only the occasional white fluffiness shuffled about by various pegasi. The streets below were populated by ponies wandering to and fro, just going about their daily routine.
“Morning, Twilight,” came a voice.
She turned to see a pony wave to her. “Good morning,” she responded, passing by and continuing to trot down the road, head held high. She was on her way to visit Carousel Boutique. Her best friend, Rarity, needed some assistance with her latest collection; and like any good friend, she had offered to help.
Her trot picked up into a canter, as she continued down the street. Nothing could go wrong, this day, she thought.
Spike laid down in his bed, relaxing. It was almost midday. He hadn’t started on any of his daily chores, but he didn’t feel he needed to. It was one of those warm summer days where he didn’t want to do anything, didn’t feel he needed to, and felt good doing it.
His eyes scanned across the book he held above his head. A fascinating little coming-of-age story about two young foals falling in love. It was one of those things that just made him feel warm and fuzzy inside. He ended another chapter, where Plum Cake finally told Spring Showers how he felt about her, and Spike’s hopeful heart was held aloft, so he decided to put a pin in the narrative. Just as the story started to build to an impressive climax, he thought this was the perfect time to take a break.
He pulled the bookmark from its previous position and placed it on the current page, before closing the book, and dropping it to his side. He was hungry.
Rolling out of bed, he quickly ran out his bedroom door. He had a plan. A plan involving sweets. Sugarcube Corner was the place he wanted to be.
“It’s not that simple, Apple Bloom,” Applejack explained.
“But why not?” her little sister replied.
Apple Bloom’s mild tantrum was starting to annoy her sister. All Applejack wanted to do this day was finish up the harvest in the north field, before moving on to the next. And all that was actually happening was a pointless argument that she could not understand the necessity of.
“Because just planting more trees means more crowded leaves,” the elder pony explained. “Meaning less sunlight will actually reach them, which means less fruit.”
“Or, it’ll mean less actual leaves will grow, meaning more fruit will grow in its place.”
As she was listening to her sister’s rebuttal, Applejack quickly bucked a nearby tree, allowing some of the last loose apples to fall. “Come on Mac,” she interjected, gesturing to her elder brother only a few trees away. “Back me up on this.”
“You just don’t like any of my ideas,” Apple Bloom continued. “Just because it’s my idea, doesn’t mean it’s a bad one.”
“Well, sugarcube, once you come up with an idea that’ll actually work, I’ll pay attention.”
“You just don’t care about me,” she pouted, turning around and slouching on the grassy field.
“What was that!?” Applejack asked, slightly incensed.
Apple Bloom crossed her forehooves, with her back to her sister, as she attempted to give Applejack ‘the silent treatment.’
The front door of Sugarcube Corner swung open as two young fillies exited the store, carrying their sarsaparillas, as they laughed away the day.
“Of course, that’s when I decided, ‘screw this, I’m going on my own,'” Scootaloo explained. Her story just about reaching its climax.
“Then what happened?” Sweetie Belle asked, taking a sip of her beverage.
A small amount of the carbonated drink went up Sweetie Belle’s nose.
“I fell off the cloud, onto another one,” Scootaloo continued, coming to a stop as her best friend recovered. “Then I fell off that one, onto another one. Thankfully it wasn’t the hardest impact I ever had, but still, it was pretty bad. I’m blaming Mercury on that one. I think she made the clouds extra hard to spite me.” She proceeded to take another sip.
“Please,” the young unicorn explained, bowling over. “Please don’t do that again, not when I’m drinking.”
“It’s your fault,” she explained. “You asked.”
The two best friends shared another laugh, as they continued down the road.
In the skies above Ponyville, many pegasi were working hard.
“Sunny,” came a voice from high above. “We’re cutting it close with those rain clouds. They need to be at Sweet Apple Acres within the hour.”
Sunny Skies was wrestling with a small cloud. She could tell something was wrong with it. “Sorry Rainbow Dash,” she shouted to the skies above. “I think there’s something wrong with this one. It doesn’t feel very stable.”
Her boss swooped down to her level. “It’s a rain cloud, Sunny.”
“Yeah, but feel it,” she said, squeezing the firmament next to her. “They asked for a drizzle right? This feels more like a storm cloud.”
Rainbow Dash placed her hooves on the cloud, and began squeezing. Noticing the subtleties in the fibres, she determined they were a bit too fragile. Bringing her hooves together within the structure, she felt a mild electric current running through. “You’re right,” she explained. “It’s not a storm cloud, but the wrong kind of jolt could make it one.” She pulled her hooves out. “I don’t want us accidentally starting a fire over there. Applejack would kill me.”
“So what do we do?” Sunny asked. “Should we just throw it out and grab a new one?”
Rainbow put a hoof to her chin. “We’re already running thin enough as it is. I don’t want to dispose of any clouds unless we have to. The next cloud shipment’s not ’til next week.”
Sunny paused for a second. “Can we fix it?” she asked.
“That’s what I’m thinking, merge in some more stable cloud fibres.” Rainbow’s eyes scanned the immediate area. “Clear Skies, Open Skies,” she shouted, waving her hoof. “Over here, bring those clouds!”
Everyone makes mistakes. It happens every day… everywhere. They can be tiny mistakes, like spilling a glass of juice, or big mistakes, like breaking an ancient sculpture. It is only natural. A slip of the finger, a careless word, or a misjudgment of one’s strength. But no matter the scale, everyone wants to fix their mistakes. Clean up their messes. Fix the damage. But sometimes, a mistake cannot be fixed. A mistake cannot be corrected. Which is something that cannot be helped. But normally, the consequences of these do not spread far. Normally, the consequences of a mistake would not be felt by every living being across existence. The consequences would not cause death and pain on every planet in the universe.
Today was a normal day in Equestria. But that was about to end.
Applejack walked away from her sister. “If you’re gonna sulk all morning, go sulk in the farmhouse,” she explained. “Your brother and I are trying to work.”
Apple Bloom didn’t move. She wanted her sister to see just how upset she was.
“Mac,” Applejack shouted. “Could you bring the wagon over?” She looked over in her brother’s direction. Only to find he wasn’t there. “Mac?” she wandered over to where he was, eyes scanning the area, “Macintosh!?”
Apple Bloom suddenly grew concerned. She twisted her upper body around. Applejack was right, her brother was missing.
Applejack proceeded to trot over to her little sister. “Apple Bloom? Where’s your brother?”
It was at that moment, Apple Bloom saw something that would haunt her for life. As she watched her sister turn to ash, the fragments being caught in the air, drifting into the sky, and vanishing before her very eyes.
Shock permeated her soul. She instantly got to her hooves. “Applejack?” she cried. Running over to where her sister stood a moment earlier, she quickly started scanning the area. “Applejack!”
Was it a prank? Were they trying to fool her or something? Teach her some life lesson? She didn’t much care, she just wanted her siblings. She wanted to see them, and have them tell her everything was alright.
She spun around, searching for some type of clue, something that would tell her what had just happened.
“Macintosh!?” she screamed. Desperate for some response. “Applejack!?”
Tears rolled down her face.
Fear and pain possessed her.
Rainbow shoved the new cloud pieces into the unstable cloud. Sunny, Open, and Clear all worked together, massaging the structure to ensure the cloud merge was complete.
“It’s feeling a lot better,” Sunny replied.
“Nearly…” Rainbow interjected. “Open Skies,” she said, gesturing to the stallion across from her. “Pass me another tuft.”
He reached behind him and tore another piece from the much stabler source cloud before tossing it across.
Rainbow Dash deftly caught it, and shoved it in a position very near the middle of the cloud. She immediately got back to carefully massaging the structure, and the others quickly joined her.
“Stop,” their leader said. They all complied. Then, she quickly folded the whole thing in half, stomped on it a bit, and started rubbing it down into position. “Alright, go.” They began massaging again, as per Rainbow’s orders; stretching and kneading to ensure it was all evenly mixed. After around twenty seconds, Rainbow stopped, and so did they. She took out a small tuft, and began examining it. “I think we’re done,” she explained, before returning the tuft to its home.
The four of them collectively took a break, and began resting their forehooves on their completed work.
“Thank you so much, Rainbow Dash,” Sunny Skies said. “I don’t know what we’d do without you.”
Rainbow began rubbing the back of her neck. “Aww,” she replied, slightly embarrassed. “It’s nothing, really.”
Sunny Skies smiled at her boss, nay, friend. Grateful for her help. As she suddenly dissolved into dust.
The smile slowly faded from Rainbow Dash’s face as she realized what she had just witnessed. She turned to the other two weatherponies.
“Where’d she go?” Clear Skies asked. Just before she disintegrated as well.
Open and Rainbow, suddenly panicked, quickly took their hooves off the finished rain cloud, before Rainbow Dash kicked it away.
“What was that!?” he screamed.
“I don’t know!” Rainbow replied, panic and desperation in her voice. “I don’t even know how it happened! It’s a rain cloud! Not a volcano!”
Just then, they noticed they could hear screaming above them. Craning their necks, they looked to the skies, and saw that no pony was working, because many of them were too concerned with the fact that many more were turning to dust before their eyes.
Then, Rainbow realized. “I don’t think it’s because of the rain cloud.”
Twilight stood by Rarity’s work table. Her friend had already gone to the back room to retrieve the supplies they were going to work with. She wasn’t sure exactly why Rarity needed the assistance, but when a friend asks for help, you gotta help a friend.
“Now,” Rarity said, exiting the back room of the dress shoppe. “Twilight, I need you to understand something very important.” She gestured to the roll of pure white fabric balanced on her back. “This fabric is very sensitive to magic, it does not react well.”
“Okay,” Twilight responded.
“This means no magical spells, no magical grips, no touching it with something that’s in a magical grip, and no magic near it whatsoever.”
Her friend’s caution worried her somewhat. “Okay, why? What happens?”
Rarity grabbed the roll with her teeth, and slid it onto the work table. She let out a sigh, recovering from the gruelling labour she was not used to. “Do not concern yourself with that, darling,” she said, before wandering over to her desk. “Just avoid the situation in the first place.”
Twilight felt slightly uncomfortable. “Honestly, Rarity if it’s so sensitive to magic, it’s probably not a good idea to make a dress out of it. I mean, are you going to rely on everyone your customers encounter knowing the ‘don’t let magic touch my dress’ rule?”
The pen holder shuffled around in Rarity’s magic as she pulled out a small pen knife. “Oh darling, don’t assume I’m naïve. Once the dress is complete, there’s a special treatment that’ll protect it from magic, and make it impervious.”
Then Twilight realized. “Oh, it’s dragonweave,” she responded, as she started to rub the fabric, appreciating its soft texture.
“Yes, it’s a very special order, that I honestly have to keep hush-hush about.”
Rarity continued to examine all her tools, just to make sure she had all she needed. Measuring tape, pen knife, pen, and cut-out diagram. She examined the diagram quickly, so she could come up with a plan of attack. Finally satisfied she was ready, she gathered all her tools with her magic, and began trotting back to her work table.
As she heard her friend approach, her attention still fixed on the dragonweave, she wondered. “So, where exactly did you get this stuff? It’s not exactly easy-”
A soft clatter rang out.
Twilight looked up. Rarity wasn’t there.
“Rarity?” she asked. Her head turned every which way it was capable of, as she quickly scanned the room for her friend. “Rarity?”
Turning her attention to the space in front of the desk, she noticed what caused the clatter. The tools Rarity was carrying earlier were now scattered on the floor.
Twilight then noticed something else; something quite suspect. For above the small scattering of equipment, she could see a loose cloud of particles, like flakes of ash, floating in the air.
She ran over to the cloud, and saw it fading away.
A thought sneaked through her head. Was she just being paranoid? That cloud… that couldn’t have been… How?
She ran into the back room.
She spotted the spiral stairs leading to the second floor.
She ran to them.
“RARITY!?” she cried to the upper level.
Panic was starting to properly set in, now.
In one of Ponyville’s many public squares, ponies from all over town were milling about. Some were wandering through, on their way to other parts of town. Others were visiting some of the many storefronts, shopping for supplies, looking for entertainment, or browsing for fun. And even more were just chatting to friends they’d unexpectedly encountered on the way. And observing all this, sitting on a bench on the edge of the square, were two young fillies, still nursing their sarsaparillas.
“You know,” Scootaloo said. “I think someone should tell ponies that if you’re going to dress up… probably pretend you’re actually going somewhere.”
Sweetie Belle followed her friend’s gaze, and saw a stallion in a very nice jacket-shirt-and-tie combo, wandering about… looking around. He walked from one end of the square to the other, looking at the store signs, then walked back. He shuffled around a bit, looking at every sign he could, before returning to the other side of the square. He was clearly lost.
The two fillies had a private giggle.
Sweetie Belle’s eyes landed on the nearby café, off to her left. There were a few ponies there, dining on pastries and coffee, in the outside dining area. But two unicorn ponies caught her eye.
“See those two?” she asked.
Scootaloo turned to look, a straw sitting in her mouth as she took a sip of her beverage.
“What do you think?”
“Hmmmm…” she moaned pensively, releasing the straw. “First date?”
“Unlikely,” Sweetie Belle explained. “Look at him, happy, enjoying himself, loves to just be around her.”
Scootaloo watched, and her friend was right. The smile on the stallion’s face was plastered there. Even when he was eating his danish, or drinking his coffee, the upturned corners of his mouth indicated that it wasn’t just an act he was dropping when his face was covered. He was his most happy at this moment.
“But the mare,” she continued. “She’s laughing, she’s smiling; but notice, she looks down.”
Scootaloo observed, and her friend was right… again.
“Smile drops, she takes a sip of her coffee, and only when she looks up does she start smiling again.”
“Ooooo…” Scootaloo replied. “What does that mean?”
“Best guess? He’s really into her. She has to let him down gently,” Sweetie Belle explained. “What you’re looking at there is a ‘breakup lunch’.”
Scootaloo grimaced. “Kinda feel sorry for him,” she said, before quickly slurping down the last of the sarsaparilla. She examined the now-empty bottle, and quickly tossed it into the trashcan beside her.
Suddenly, a bit of commotion occurred to their right. The two girls turned their heads, assuming whatever it was would be more interesting in the immediate than just watching two ponies who might break up later have a sedate lunch now. And what they saw may have been more interesting. But they would’ve described it as confusing and horrifying.
Two stallions were standing at the edge of the square. Obviously, they were friends, intending to just talk about their day. But at this moment, rather than talk, one of them was too busy staring at his hoof as it started to disintegrate before his eyes.
His companion backed away in fear, before tripping over and falling on his rump, as he watched some type of corruption creep down his friend’s foreleg, and across the rest of his body, turning the stallion into dust.
“What the–!?” Scootaloo exclaimed.
Over at the café, more commotion. They turned to see the sorta-happy couple, as their lunch came to an end. Not because of the breakup, but because the young mare’s body was being transformed into ash before her frightened coltfriend’s eyes.
The business-suited stallion stood in the road, still looking for his destination. But it was all rendered unnecessary when he dissolved into a scattering of dust.
Panic began to set in across the square. A unicorn ran across, carrying her shopping bags in magical grips above her head. But suddenly… her bags fell to the ground, their contents scattering across the street, as her ashy remains blew through the air.
Sweetie Belle got to her hooves. Standing on the bench, her drink levitating next to her, she was suddenly in a panic. She didn’t understand what was going on or why, or even what to do about it. She knew she had to do something. But she was paralyzed with fear, and overcome with shock. She wasn’t prepared for this.
“Sweetie Belle… What’s happening?”
She continued to watch as more ponies across the square started turning to dust. Unsure of anything, and unsure of herself, she just stood there in a frozen daze.
“Um… Sweetie Belle…”
She turned to look at her best friend, Scootaloo. The friend she knew would always be there for her. With the two of them, plus Apple Bloom, Cutie Mark Crusaders forever, nothing would ever come between them. Nothing would ever separate them.
She watched her friend… as she lifted her hooves… staring as they crumbled before her.
“Oh no…” Scootaloo lamented.
“Scootaloo!?” Sweetie Belle exclaimed, shocked and scared at the scene before her.
“It doesn’t hurt…” she said, with a melancholic smile.
“Scootaloo!” the unicorn tried to grab her best friend by the forelegs, but all they did was crumble to dust the moment she touched them.
Scootaloo looked at her companion. “Sweetie Belle, it’s okay, it’s fine. You’re my best friend, I love you…”
Her body continued to crumble, like a wave creeping across her flesh…
“… be happy…”
… flowing across her chest, up her neck…
“… please don’t cry…”
The last of Scootaloo’s body vanished, her remains caught by a slight breeze in the air.
Sweetie Belle’s still half-full bottle dropped next to the young unicorn, bounced off the edge of the wooden bench, and shattered on the street below.
A few seconds ago, she thought she was panicking. A few seconds ago, she thought she was afraid. No. What she felt earlier was merely white noise. Now she knew panic. Now she knew fear.
“Scootaloo!?” Sweetie Belle cried. “SCOOTALOO!?”
She waved her hooves through the space her best friend had previously sat.
In a panic, she scanned the area.
“This isn’t funny!”
Tears flooded her eyes.
Spike sat in Sugarcube Corner, eating another Rainbow Cupcake. They were Pinkie Pie’s specialty, and his favourite sweet from the bakery.
“Heya, Spike!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed, as she entered the shoppe front with a tray of doughnuts bouncing on her head. “Enjoying your cupcake!?”
“Really good,” Spike stated with a mouthful of pastry.
“I assumed so, it’s your sixth one of the day.”
His eyes widened. “Is it?” he asked, slightly embarrassed.
Her head popped up from behind the counter. “Uh huuuuh!” she said, before slipping the tray of treats off her head, allowing them to slide into the counter display case.
He swallowed. “Guess I should pace myself,” he said.
“Oh come on, Spike,” Pinkie said, racing over to give the growing dragon a big hug. “You don’t need to worry about that.”
“I don’t?” Spike asked, from somewhere beneath Pinkie’s chest.
“No,” she cried, putting him at foreleg’s length. “You’re brilliant, just the way you are.”
A slight rosiness appeared on his cheeks. “Thanks Pinkie.”
“I mean, you are getting a little chubby, but that’s nothing a bit of exercise can’t fix.” She turned around and hopped into the back of the store, singing a merry tune, leaving Spike alone with the awkwardness that followed.
Spike picked up the remaining half of his cupcake. His mind was conflicted. Was his waistline bad enough that he had to worry about it? Or should he just relax and finish his treat? He spent several seconds staring at the pastry, his mind wavering back and forth. Unsure of what to do.
But as he was lost in thought, his concentration was broken. Broken by a noise on the street outside. Broken by a scream.
He looked up, and shifted his gaze to the window outside. At first he was surprised to see nothing unusual out there. No nasty virus-bugs, no giant monsters, no mad ponies trying to take over the town, and no evil spirits conniving to shroud the land in darkness. But after a few seconds, he saw exactly what all the fuss was about, and in Spike’s view, it was more frightening than all those things put together. What he saw were ponies, in the street, instantly turning to dust.
A young colt, still of school age, ran down the road, only to collapse in a pile of ash.
In the skies above, he saw weather ponies, flying around in a panic, as many of their numbers crumbled before his eyes.
Across the road, two ponies sat, observing the carnage around them, in shock and horror, until they too collapsed into dust.
“PINKIE!?” Spike screamed. “Something’s happening!”
“Spike?” Pinkie’s voice had shifted. It was not the usual cheery tone that it was a mere minute ago. It was much more sombre… much more nervous… much more scared.
He turned around to see Pinkie Pie stumble into the room, a look of sadness and concern on her face.
“Spike,” the baker said, as she stumbled in front of the counter. “I don’t feel so good.”
She collapsed in the centre of the shoppe.
Spike acted quickly, jumping off his chair, he went straight to his friend, and helped her lean her back against the shoppe counter.
Putting a claw on her chest, he found her heartbeat. It was racing. She was panicked. She was scared.
But most jarringly, now that she was up close, Spike could clearly see pink flakes come off her body. He realized, whatever was happening outside, was happening to her.
“Spike…” Pinkie said, her voice shaking. “I’m scared…”
“It’s okay, Pinkie,” he replied, in the most reassuring tone he could manage. “You’ll be fine, you’re gonna be okay, you’ll be fine.”
“Spike,” she replied, bringing a hoof to the side of his face. “Friends don’t lie.”
The tears he was holding back were suddenly let loose. “I think you’re dying!” he sobbed, anguished and afraid.
Pinkie nodded, turning her gaze forward, preparing to accept her fate.
Then Spike realized: she wasn’t gone yet. His tears began to ebb. “Pinkie, you’re fighting this. Keep fighting it! Don’t give up!”
She shook her head. “I’m not gonna win this one.”
“No… no no no…”
She then turned to her best friend. “Spike,” she said, preparing for her final request.
He looked up.
“Pinkie Promise me…”
“Find who did this… make them pa—”
Pinkie’s body dissolved into ash. Spike fell through, as his hand hit the floor where she just was.
The tears continued to flow.
“Pinkie… please… no…”
Twilight trotted out Carousel Boutique’s front door. The screams of terror outside suddenly made her realize something else was going on. Then she saw it; ponies falling into dust all around her.
A young mother, with a tiny stroller, became lost in the wind, leaving her infant child alone.
An elderly couple sat, as they realized what was happening, holding each other in their forelegs. When suddenly the elderly mare vanished into dust.
Off in the distance, she could see two young foals, one colt, one filly, running around, chasing each other, playing and having fun, oblivious to the pain around them. Until one of them dissolved into a cloud of ash. Leaving her friend, alone, confused, afraid, and saddened.
Twilight didn’t understand. What was happening? Why was it happening!? And what could she do to stop it?
“Twilight!” a voice came. A soft voice… a sweet voice… a beautiful voice… an innocent voice… a pure voice. The voice of her best friend…
“Fluttershy,” Twilight said with a smile, finally finding happiness in the world.
She turned and saw the mare gallop toward her, clearly in distress.
No matter what, Twilight knew she would protect her.
As she approached, Twilight opened her forelegs, ready to give her friend a big hug… a comforting hug.
“Twilight,” Fluttershy asked. “What’s going o—”
Suddenly, Twilight saw up close exactly what was happening, as the remnants blew through her. She observed the particles get caught on the breeze, and break apart again… further… even further… and further… until she could no longer see them anymore. The individual elements were now microscopic. And Twilight had no reason to doubt that they weren’t dividing further… even further… and further… until they were nothing more than individual atoms floating in the air.
Twilight would’ve found the whole thing extremely fascinating, and worthy of much research. Save for the fact that she just watched her best friend die.
A tremor went through her body.
She collapsed into a heap.
Pain, anguish and despair, were all she had left…
Spike stumbled out of Sugarcube Corner. His head torn apart. His heart in tatters. He had nothing. No energy. If whatever took Pinkie was about to take him, he was okay, he was ready. There was nothing left.
A young, cream, adorable unicorn filly galloped toward him. Her haste justified.
He caught Sweetie Belle in his claws. Her face brushed against his chest. He could feel the moisture from her tears on his scales.
“SPIKE!” she screamed. She turned her gaze upward to look the young dragon in the eye. “Scootaloo!” she cried between sobs. “I just saw her— She disappeared— we were just sitting there— she was gone—”
Spike looked her in the eye, refusing to hide the anguish in his eyes, as tears continued to stream down. “I—” He gestured to the store. “Pinkie— she— I held her— She made me promise—”
“It’s happening everywhere!” She cried. Fear and pain in her voice.
“I know…” he replied. Sadness and despair in his.
“Are you next?” She whispered, afraid and sorrowful.
He answered honestly, “I don’t know…”
She looked at him with sorrow and pain. “Am I?”
The tears grew in his eyes. “Please no…”
He held her close.
They collapsed on the street, holding each other close, each begging the other to not leave… to never leave…
Rainbow Dash was incensed. What was happening!? How could this happen!? She flew above Ponyville, watching the streets below… witnessing the ashes flow.
She didn’t know who was dusted, and she didn’t much care. She just wanted it to stop, before everypony in town joined them. She could mourn the dead later. She had to save the living.
She flew as fast as her wings could carry her. Downtown. Through the city streets. At the speeds she was going, the height she was travelling, Rainbow Dash knew that it could kill her. She had absolutely no time to react to any changes in the environment.
But she didn’t care.
If she died, it didn’t matter. Because she was probably going to die anyway.
What she had to do was too important to worry about dying.
She scanned the streets, looking for her target. Only one pony could help. If she hadn’t yet turned to ash.
Turning a corner she examined a square. The fountain in the middle; A small earth pony climbed on it, trying to get some height to scan the area. But it didn’t much matter. For as she looked around, her body dissolved.
A young filly, running with her mother, panic in their faces. But no matter the speed they travelled, no one could be saved, as the child collapsed into dust.
Off in a corner, near Carousel Boutique, a purple lump had collapsed in a heap. Hair draped across. Hair of a darker shade of purple, with lighter streaks within.
She found her target.
“TWILIGHT!” Rainbow screamed. She accelerated, straight toward her friend.
Twilight raised her head, looked up to see her best friend charging right for her.
She recoiled slightly as the brash weathermare approached. But before Rainbow Dash made contact, she spread her wings wide, as her hind hooves hit the ground.
Skidding for several meters, she raised her hooves. And just as she was about to make contact with the young princess, Rainbow Dash grabbed her by the shoulders, and braced against her to complete her ferocious braking manoeuvre.
“TWILIGHT!” she screamed. “What’s going on!?”
“I— I…” Twilight stammered.
Rainbow could see it in her friend’s eyes. Red. Bloodshot. Her face, soaked with tears.
“Twilight!” she explained, going slightly calmer. “I need you to get it together. What’s going on?”
“I… it…” she looked at the ground below. “Fluttershy…”
Rainbow looked. She could see a slight discoloration on the ground. She understood. Fluttershy was dead. But that didn’t matter now.
“Yes, I get it, Twilight.” Rainbow explained, in a vain attempt to reassure her friend. “I’m sure you did everything you could. But I need you to focus.”
She looked up at her friend.
“Twilight, what’s going on?”
She stammered silently.
“Twilight, what’s happening? Why is this happening?”
“I… I… I…”
“Twilight! What do we do!?”
“I don’t know.”
Rainbow stood with shock. Fear in her eyes. Twilight was her only hope. That hope was gone.
“There’s nothing we can do…” she continued. “There’s nothing we can do…”
Rainbow immediately punched her best friend in the face.
“SNAP OUT OF IT!!!” she screamed. “Look! I get it! Fluttershy’s gone. And she’s not coming back. You just watched her die. I understand that’s awful for you, but I just watched a large chunk of my team dissolve into clouds of ash. Dozens of ponies, all gone. Dead. And I would love to be able to mourn my best friend, and all the others who I just saw die, but we don’t have that luxury. Now I don’t know how many are gone. But all I know is that the rest of us still need help. We need to stop this happening to us. So don’t tell me ‘there’s nothing we can do.’ We’re still alive, Twilight.”
Twilight rubbed the side of her face, still in shock from Rainbow Dash’s actions. But the words she heard stuck. Her eyes crossed the ground, where a portion of Fluttershy’s remains lay.
“Twilight,” Rainbow continued. Grabbing her friend’s chin, she turned Twilight’s head to look in her direction. “We can mourn the dead later. Right now, the rest of us need help. So I’ll ask you one last time: What do we do?”
Twilight stared into her friend’s eyes. Still nursing her bruised cheek. She couldn’t speak. She could barely think. How to stop it… how to save them… she had no idea. But then she realized, that’s not what Rainbow was asking. ‘We’re still alive.’ She was asking what they do now.
“I think…” Twilight began, lowering her gaze. “We could, we should probably find out who’s still alive.”
Rainbow smiled her nervous smile. The only kind of smile she could muster at that moment. “Right… see…” she responded. “That’s a start.”
Her eyes scanned the area, Carousel Boutique was right behind Twilight.
“Rarity,” Rainbow began. “Maybe–”
“She’s gone,” Twilight interrupted.
“Oh… okay,” she stammered nervously. Not because she didn’t expect it, but because she didn’t want to believe it. But it didn’t matter, she knew she had to move on. “Well, we have other friends, Twilight. I’m sure they’re okay.”
The young princess looked up.
“Sugarcube Corner’s not far from here,” Rainbow continued. “I say we go there next.”
Twilight merely nodded.
“Are you coming with me?”
She nodded again.
“Okay,” she released her best friend, and started to turn around. But Rainbow was immediately interrupted by a massive hug from Twilight Sparkle, who held her best friend close to her.
She whispered in her ear, “Please, don’t ever leave me alone.”
Rainbow responded in kind, hugging Twilight as tight as she could, before whispering, “Never ever.”
Apple Bloom wandered through the orchard. It didn’t take long for her to accept it. Applejack and Macintosh were gone. Gone forever. And they were not coming back. She didn’t know how this was possible. How two ponies could, out of nowhere, just vanish into clouds of ash. But it didn’t really matter, because that was exactly what happened. There was no denying what she saw. And there was no denying what she knew.
Applejack and Big Macintosh were dead.
“Honk honk honk!”
She looked to the sky.
“Honk honk honk!”
Apple Bloom peaked between the trees, to see the source of the noise. What was it?
“Honk honk honk!”
Moving around, to try to get a good view, she eventually spotted her prize: A flock of Crystal Empire Geese, flying above, in a V-formation. She learned about them in school; how the geese would actually fly their annual migratory patterns all on their own, without the help of any pegasi. But the V-formation was the most fascinating. By flying in a ‘V’, they actually save energy. The bird at the front does most of the work, but the ones directly behind actually have an easier time, because of a slipstream behind the first bird that pulls them through. It was remarkably clever of the birds, and without the assistance of any pegasi.
But what she saw next made the whole exercise worth it. Suddenly, as they were flying through the sky, it happened. Scattered throughout the flock, several of the geese just began to disintegrate. There was no pattern. There was no design. It was just a random selection of geese that simply vanished, like her sister and brother before them.
The remaining birds immediately saw this, and went into a panic.
“Honk honk honk honk honk honk honk!” They cried.
“Honk-honk-honk-honk honk-honk-honk!” They screamed.
They flew around in circles, trying to find those they lost.
But eventually, it was only a matter of time before they needed to move on. It took less than a minute. They rebuilt their formation, with a new leader, like nothing had ever happened. They had a journey to make. And despite everything, it still had to be made.
But as Apple Bloom observed all this, and understood the lesson they presented to her, there was one crucial piece of information they imparted to her. It was very important. The one piece of information no other pony yet had.
“Half…” she said. “Exactly half…”
Apple Bloom immediately turned around, and ran straight back in the direction she came from, toward the farmhouse. But she was not going to the farmhouse, she was heading for the road into Ponyville. She had to tell somepony… anypony. But that was assuming the right ponies were still alive.
As fast as her hooves could take her, she ran.