Chapter 3: The Sickness
Opening Comments: I finally read “Cupcakes”....
It was a bright, sunny day, without a cloud in the sky. Twilight trotted lazily through the streets, enjoying the beautiful weather. There were ponies all around her, engrossed in their own conversations or business. Every now and then one or two would stop what they were doing and raise a hoof to wave to her. Twilight smiled and waved back before continuing on her course. She did not have any particular goal in mind, although the idea struck her to visit a certain pegasus' cottage. After a moment of thought, she decided that it would be a nice way to enjoy the weather. As she altered her course accordingly, the world around her began to blur and darken, until the scene was gone. Seconds turned into moments, and still nothing returned. Then, in a bright flash, she found herself standing inside what appeared to be a tree, surrounded by bookshelves. “Okay, this is weird,” she thought aloud. “When did I get back here?”
“What do you mean? You've been here all day,” a boy's voice replied. Twilight looked around frantically before spotting a small, purple dragon on top of a ladder. From the looks of things, he had been putting books back on the shelves.
“Don't be silly Spike, I was just outside enjoying the nice weather,” she said in response, walking over to a window to open the curtains. When she did, she was met with the sight of pouring rain. “Okay this is weird.”
Spike descended the ladder and walked over to stand beside his four-legged friend. “It's been like this for the past three days. Are you sure you're feeling okay?”
The world began to blur again, and Twilight shook her head in an attempt to fend it off. “No, I don't think I am. Something's wr--” she never managed to finish her thought before the world went dark.
Twilight sat straight up in bed, sweat pouring from her forehead. She reached for the lamp on her nightstand and flipped it on. A quick glance revealed that she had performed this action with fingers—not hooves. Her human status was confirmed after a quick glance in the small hand mirror that she also kept on the nightstand. She began to chuckle softly. “Pinkie's story must have really gotten to me,” she rationalized aloud. “A world full of talking ponies, complete with a little dragon named Spike. Yeah, she got me.” A glance at the clock revealed that she still had a full two hours to sleep, so she switched off the lamp and snuggled back into her bed. As she began to drift off, a thought occurred to her. Again she switched on her bedside lamp, then proceeded to open the small drawer on the night stand. From within she extracted her cell phone, hit the '3' button, and then hit send. The phone rang three times, and halfway through the fourth a groggy Pinkie Pie answered.
Twilight's voice was hesitant as she measured her words. “Hey, Pinkie. It's Twilight. Um...how are you? I suppose you made it back okay?” A long pause followed before Pinkie finally responded.
“It would have been nice to hear from you before now, but yeah, I got back okay. I'm not feeling very well, so I'd like to get back to sleep.”
“Well, alright...as long as you're okay,” Twilight said. “Sleep good then.”
“Bye,” was Pinkie's sole reply before the line went dead. For a moment, Twilight debated calling her back, but decided against it. Even someone like Pinkie Pie would be upset if their friend didn't even think to check in on them when they were upset.
I can't believe I didn't even think to check up on her until now, Twilight thought to herself. I'm such a jerk. Well, at least I know she's okay. I can worry about apologizing when we meet up in the morning.
She placed her cell back into the nightstand drawer before laying her head down on the pillow. After a few moments, she began to fall into an uneasy sleep.
At school the next morning, Twilight stood at her locker, waiting for her friends to join her. Rainbow Dash was the first to arrive, much to Twilight's surprise. The athlete was usually the last of the group to show up in the mornings. When questioned about her unusual early arrival, Rainbow replied, “I was too worried about Pinkie to do my usual running practice yesterday, so I woke up early to make up for the lost time. I didn't really have time to go back to sleep after I finished up, so I figured I'd just come here.” She shrugged her shoulders as if to dismiss the issue and proceeded to extract her notebook and texts from her backpack before tossing it into the locker. Twilight looked at the books and shook her head.
“Really Rainbow, you should take better care of your books.” She took Rainbow's copy of their literature text and held it out as an example. “The pages are coming away from the binding, the cover is all bent up, you've got so many pages dogeared—is that a coffee stain?! This is book abuse!” Twilight's eyes looked as if they might burst from her head as she doted over the book, shaking her head at every new travesty she found. Rainbow Dash couldn't help but laugh.
“Sorry Twilight, I know it's rude to laugh, but I think you're the only person that would accuse somebody of 'book abuse'.” She took the thick volume back from her friend, handling it with just a bit more care than usual. As she carefully tucked the book under her arm, she heard a familiar voice call out to them.
“'Mornin to ya, Twilight, Rainbow.” The thick southern accent gave away Applejack's identity before either girl even looked in her direction. The blonde girl joined them in front of the lockers. “So how are ya?”
“Hey AJ, what's u-holy mother of Celestia! What happened to you?!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, pointing at Applejack's face—or, more to the point, her eyes, which were swollen and bloodshot.
“Aw, I didn' sleep much last night. I was too worried 'bout Pinkie Pie. Darn near cried about every tear I had worryin' over that girl,” Applejack explained.
Twilight patted her friend on the shoulder, a knowing smile on her face. “You can stop worrying. She paid me a visit and then made it back to her dorm. I feel like a jerk for not even thinking to check up on her until four a.m., though.”
Applejack nodded in response, a relieve look spreading across her face. She moved to put her backpack in her locker, and as she was doing so she asked, “So what made you decide to call Pinkie at that time of the mornin' anyway? Seems awfully un-neighborly to wake someone from their sleep.”
“Oh, that,” Twilight said with a chuckle. “Well, it might be wrong to be amused, given the circumstances, but I think Pinkie's rantings got to me yesterday.”
Twilight proceeded to tell them about her meeting with Pinkie Pie the previous evening, and then went on to discuss her dreams. As she finished up, she heard a voice from behind ask, “So that's what happened with Pinkie Pie then?” She spun around to find Rarity and Fluttershy standing behind her.
“Yeah..how long have you two been there?”
“Around the dissociative identity disorder part. I didn't want to interrupt you,” Rarity explained as she moved past her friends to access her locker. Fluttershy, however, remained rooted to her spot, focused on her hands.
“Um...Twilight, you mentioned that you were visiting me in a cottage, and you said that I cared for small animals, right?” the shy girl asked, glancing up a few times.
“Well, yeah, but I don't see the relevance. Is there something you're not telling us?” Twilight cocked an eyebrow as she watched her friend begin to smile and blush.
“Oh no, it's just that I love small animals. Even if it was a dream, it makes me happy to know that I got to care for them.”
If she were speaking to anyone else, Twilight would have called into question why something so simple would make someone so happy. With Fluttershy, though, it was a miracle if you got her to say two words, so Twilight decided that it was best to leave the situation alone. After all, she didn't want to make Fluttershy regret speaking. For better or worse, the conversation quickly turned away from the Pinkie Pie situation as the rest of the girls began discussing their activities on the previous evening. Rainbow Dash had spent two hours practicing at the track before returning to her dorm room to play video games, ignoring her homework entirely. Rarity spent most of the evening sketching out design concepts for a new line of clothing her family wanted to introduce. Her family made it a point to work alongside their designers so that everyone would be happy with the results. Fluttershy spent the evening caring for the animals used for the school's Animal Grooming and Care program, which didn't surprise a single one of the girls. The five minute warning bell rang, snapping them all from their conversation. As they gathered up their books, Rainbow Dash looked around the group and said, “Hey guys, Pinkie Pie never showed up.”
At Dash's realization, the rest of the girls looked up and down the halls, thinking that perhaps Pinkie was keeping her distance after the previous day; however, there was no sign of her. After a moment of thought, Twilight finally spoke. “She mentioned that she wasn't feeling well when I talked to her this morning. Maybe she decided to stay in bed? I wish I could call her to see if she was okay.” Much to the dismay of the student body, cell phones were not allowed within the actual school building. The faculty saw them as a distraction, and if they found a student with a phone it would be instantly confiscated.
The sound of Rainbow Dash's locker slamming brought Twilight out of her thoughts. Her rainbow-haired friend was in the middle of shoving her books back into her backpack. “What are you doing?” Twilight asked.
Rainbow Dash smiled and slung her backpack over her shoulder. “Well, you're worried about Pinkie, right? I'm going to go check on her.” A disapproving look started to spread onto Twilight's face, but before she could say anything, Rainbow Dash continued, “I didn't do any of the homework from yesterday, anyway. If I stay, I'll end up getting scolded. Besides, I'm going to be an Olympic star one day, so I don't need school as badly as the rest of you guys.” She flashed a smile at her friends and dashed down the hallway before anyone else could protest her decision. As she made her way through the hallways, she had to slow down a few times to weave her way through crowds of students who had delayed entering their classrooms. After what seemed like an eternity, she finally reached the front doors, bursting through them as if they were the tape at the finish line. Outside, she took the steps two at a time, her skirt flying up around her. Thankfully, she was wearing a pair of biking shorts under her skirt, to 'protect her modesty' as Rarity put it. She didn't bother to slow her pace until she had put some distance between herself and the school building.
Now that she was a safe distance from the prying eyes of the teachers, Dash took a moment to admire the weather. It was a fairly warm day for fall, without a single cloud to obstruct the blue sky. She slipped out of her blazer as she walked, draping it across her arm. Man, this is great running weather! Maybe I should stop by the track... She shook her head to clear the thought from her mind. What kind of friend would she be if she blew off Pinkie Pie for track practice. It only took her a few moments to reach the dormitory courtyard. She passed the fountain in the courtyard's center and began winding her way through the rows of dormitory buildings, which were lined up to the left and right of the main pathway. Each building had four floors, with each floor containing approximately twenty rooms. There were four buildings to a row, with three rows of dorm buildings to each side. Dash followed the path past the first building to her right, turning to cut between it and the third building. The path behind the two buildings split three ways: to the left, right, and straight to the third row of buildings. She took the left path and approached the third building in the row. Before she could enter, though, she was approached by a cross-eyed, blonde haired girl carrying a sack full of newspapers. Rainbow had spoken with the girl on a few occasions in the past and now, like then, made every attempt to avoid looking her straight in the eye. “Er, can I help you?” she asked, directing her gaze towards the dorm building.
“I'm just hear to pass out today's issue of the school newspaper!” the girl said happily, pulling a copy from her sack and handing it to Rainbow Dash. “We have a really good front page story; you should check it out!”
“Um, yeah, that's great,” Dash replied with a nervous chuckle, taking the paper and using it as a focal point. “Shouldn't you be in class though?”
“Oh, I get excused from homeroom to make my deliveries! I need to put one in every mailbox, so I need to get going,” she explained, opening the door to the dorm building. Dash waited until the girl was busy stuffing newspapers into the small mail boxes just inside the building before entering. She felt bad for the way she acted around the girl, especially since everyone called her “Derpy” for the way her eyes looked, but she just couldn't help it.
Without stopping, Dash made her way up the center staircase until she reached the third floor. She proceeded to turn right and follow the hallway to the last door on the left, labeled “305”. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door several times and waited for an answer. When one didn't come, she gently called out, “Pinkie?” Again she waited, and again she received no answer. With no other ideas left, she decided to try the door knob, and was shocked to feel it turn.
Rainbow Dash pushed the door open and stepped inside. Despite the curtains, there was enough light coming through the room's lone window to allow her to see Pinkie Pie huddled up under her comforter, seemingly asleep. Dash closed the door and approached Pinkie's bed. “Hey Pinkie, it's me, Rainbow Dash. Twilight said you weren't feeling well.” Pinkie still didn't respond. As she reached the side of the bed, Rainbow Dash extended her hand and placed it on her friend's forehead before pulling it back almost immediately. “Holy cow, you're burning up!” exclaimed Rainbow Dash. That shout seemed to finally wake Pinkie from her deep slumber.
“Huh? Oh, Rainbow Dash, it's you. I was just having some cake at Sugarcube—oh, that's right,” her voice sank as she looked around the room and realized where she was. “It's hot in here.” Pinkie pushed the comforter off of herself, revealing that she was still wearing her school uniform, now soaked in sweat. Dash shook her head.
“You need to get out of those wet clothes,” she commented, walking over to Pinkie's dresser, which sat at the foot of the bed. She rummaged through the drawers until she found a pair of sweat pants and a plain pink t-shirt, which she tossed onto the bed. “You should put these on.”
Without a word of protest, Pinkie sat up, pushing her frizzy bed-hair out of her face. She slipped out of her school clothes and into the outfit that Dash had picked out for her before laying down again. Dash took the soaked uniform and tossed it into the small laundry basket near the door. She then proceeded into the room's small bathroom to look for a washcloth. The bathroom was situated to the right of the room's door, and though it was cramped it was a much better alternative than the communal bathrooms that other private schools utilized. The bathroom was laid out so that the sink was to her immediate left as she entered. Right next to the sink was a toilet, and across from the toilet was a small shower stall. Next to the shower stall was a towel rack, where Dash found the washcloths she was looking for. She grabbed one and stuck it into the sink, running cold water on it until it was thoroughly soaked. After wringing all of the excess water from the cloth, she carried it out into the main room and placed it on Pinkie's forehead. “This should help cool you down,” she told her friend.
“Thanks Rainbow Dash. Maybe when I feel better you can show me a sonic rainboom again,” Pinkie Pie muttered as she drifted back to sleep. Dash found herself wondering what a sonic rainboom was, but decided to just let it go. She pulled the comforter over Pinkie Pie and took a seat at the desk next to the bed. Within five minutes she was bored.
Gah, I need something to do or I'm gonna go crazy! Dash thought to herself, glancing around the room. Her eyes fell on the television, which sat directly across from Pinkie's bed. She had never watched daytime TV before, thanks to school, so this would be her chance. You can't do that! You'll wake Pinkie up! she scolded herself. Yet again she scanned the room, looking for anything that might keep her slightly occupied. After almost giving up hope, she remembered the newspaper that she had discarded along with her bag after entering the room. She retrieved the paper and returned to her seat, unfolding the periodical and staring at the front page. Dash wasn't much for reading, but the front page headline quickly grabbed her attention, and she found herself diving into the article.
Group Claims Queen Celestia Unfit Ruler; Demands She Relinquish Throne
A local activist group, going by the name “Shame on the Night”, claims that Queen Celestia has proven to be an unfit ruler. While the group offers no justification for their claims, they are demanding that Queen Celestia relinquish the throne and all familial ties to the royal line. Shame on the Night claims that its leader would be much more suited for the role of leading Tairiku. While the group seeks a peaceful resolution, they have also made it clear that they would be willing to resort to “traditional means” of overthrowing a monarch if the need be. The royal police force has been attempting to track down the group, but the members have proven to be elusive. Their messages are distributed online, typically from public IP addresses that are available to countless users, such as those at coffee shops and fast food restaurants, leaving a dead end on the electronic trail. We were able to contact Sergeant Richard Skoll of the royal police force for comment.
“Make no mistake, these people are little more than propaganda enthusiasts,” Skoll comments. “While this sort of speech—no matter how deplorable—is usually protected under the free speech clause of our constitution, we cannot ignore the fact that the group has threatened militant action against the throne. In this situation we have moved past simple ramblings to what can only be described as terrorist threats. We will not ignore this, nor will we show any mercy to the members of this group.”
When asked about what measures the force was taking to investigate, Skoll declined to comment. “This is a shaky situation, and the less information we divulge about the investigation, the better. These people are elusive enough without us giving them tips on what we're doing.”
Skoll did offer advice to the general public, though. “If you witness any suspicious individuals within a public establishment offering free wireless internet connections, do not hesitate to contact local authorities,” Skoll instructs. “Possible suspects are people sitting alone, as far from the general populace as possible. If you suspect somebody do not—I repeat, DO NOT—approach them. We are unsure of how dangerous this group is at this time.”
Queen Celestia's family rose to power almost a century ago, in the last great war. Tairiku has experienced it's longest period of peace and prosperity under her family's rule. For a more in-depth coverage of this event, please pick up a copy of our town's local paper, The Perryville Chronicle.
Rainbow Dash closed the paper and sat it down, sitting back in the chair. It wasn't the best written article, but she had to admit that it was interesting. It wasn't uncommon for there to be dissenters among Celestia's followers, but this was the first time that she could remember anyone outright threatening to use violence. She thought on it for another moment before shrugging it off. As far as she was concerned, there was nothing that she could realistically do for the situation, so as long she could keep running she would be happy. Besides, what harm could an activist group realistically do against Celestia's royal army? Her thoughts were interrupted by a groan from Pinkie Pie.
Dash looked over to check on her, but it seemed that she was only grumbling in her sleep. She said something about oatmeal muffins, which made Dash chuckle a bit. “Leave it to Pinkie to dream about baked goods,” she thought aloud. She reached over and checked the washcloth on her friend's head. It was starting to warm up, so she took it into the bathroom and soaked it in cool water again, wrung it out, and replaced it on Pinkie's forehead. She then retrieved her discarded paper and began scanning through it for anything else that might be semi-interesting.
After-chapter thoughts: This may not be some of my best writing, but overall I’m happy with how it turned out. I was originally going to have another section to this chapter, but I decided it would fit better as the start of Chapter 4. As always, a more expanded version of these can be found on my blog, www.realmenwatchponies.blogspot.com, for those who are interested in what I have to say about the chapter.