She looked at the note she had placed on her bed once more; it had been resting at the bottom of the balloon's basket, as if it had been waiting for her to find it.
"Laughter and smiles of youth, together as they find out truth. Dreams of the future are held, as fears of the past are expelled."
She had been dwelling on this note since she'd found it. She knew it was a riddle…she wasn't very good with riddles. But her mind had finally calmed down enough now to start thinking more coherently. Her brain was finally not reeling from horror long enough to take deciphering these words seriously.
"…Well…I guess the first line means foals…foals finding truth? Like…learning?" That word sparked it for her, "Oh! This riddle is about a school." She said rereading the riddle in context of a school and all the lines fit, "So…does that mean I should head for the school?" She asked herself.
She looked around at the dilapidated room, the balloon that was torn apart, the body of half a filly…
"…No reason to stay here." She sighed as she packed the note into her bag before grabbing the lantern and heading outside. She shivered as she hit the cold, snowy air once more. She hadn't realized how warm it was being inside of the buildings…
She turned the lantern off and placed it back in the bag. She then began her gallop towards the school.
She watched carefully from behind a tree as the lumbering form of the monster paced away from the entrance to the school. It looked just like the first monster she had encountered, the three legged groaner. 'If there's more than one of those things, maybe Groaner is a good thing to call them…' she thought to herself.
She had hoped the buzzing of her phonograph wouldn't give her position away, but it didn't seem to notice any sounds unless she made them. It soon began to lumber away into the fog, turning into a dark silhouette of itself. She figured now was the perfect time to move.
She quickly made it to the front door of the school and pulled on the handle, trying to get inside quickly. The door jammed from the sound of it being locked.
"W-What? It's locked?" She said bewildered. She hadn't expected it to be locked, not after that riddle had told her to come to the school. 'Did I get the answer wrong?' she asked herself as she looked at the door again. It was then that she noticed just above the handle was the lock, with the symbol of a star on it.
It felt like a switch was flipped on in her head. She quickly reached into her bag and pulled out the key Gummy had left for her, being careful not to undo the ribbon. She placed the key into the keyhole, it fitting perfectly. The door unlocked with a satisfying 'click' that made her smile softly. She went to grab the key to hold onto it again.
The key turned into ash, the tiny pieces quickly falling to the ground.
She stared in shock at the gift Gummy had given her. The only part that hadn't turned to ash was the ribbon that floated down gently, landing on her outstretched hoof.
"No…Gummy's gift…" She said, her lip quivering as tears threatened to fall once more. She shook her head quickly, taking a deep breath of cold air as she calmed herself again. She'd already cried a lot…if she kept crying she wasn't going to get out of this situation anytime soon. Besides, she still had the ribbon from the key…
She very carefully tied the bow to the end of her mane. It still didn't have its frizz to it, but tying it at the end helped make her feel like it was a little poofy again. The ribbon gave her comfort, she felt as if Gummy was right beside her while wearing it.
She opened the school door and headed inside. To her surprise the area was fairly well lit, she had been expecting to need her lantern like at her house. The school seemed to have fared better than her house did, it had a thick layer of dust but the structure wasn't nearly in as much disrepair. Lockers lined the walls as the hallways lead to classrooms, before her an opening to the main auditorium. Signs hung on the wall pointing out the direction to the gym, nurse's office, Principal's office and the numbers of the classrooms.
"Huh?" She said as her ear twitched upon hearing a sound. It sounded like the laughter of young foals. She turned her head in the direction of the sound, simply amazed at the sight. She could see the ghostly apparitions of two young foals playing in the hallway. They laughed and pranced around each other before running down the hallway in the direction of a classroom.
Pinkie watched as they faded through the door to the classroom. She quickly turned her head to her bag and listened for the static of her phonograph…but it was silent.
"…Well…maybe those ghosts aren't monsters like the others…" she said quietly to herself. Perhaps if they weren't monsters, they were a sign. She quickly followed after the foals, opening the door to classroom 104.
The classroom was as quiet as the halls of the school, stagnant air mixed with a layer of dust. But the room gave Pinkie a sense of nostalgia; it was the classroom she had gone to when she had moved to Ponyville.
Memories began to flood her mind.
"Well Ms. Pinkamena Diane Pie, we recognize that you have been home schooled for most of your life, but upon testing you on the Ponyville Standardized Test your score was not high enough to acknowledge a graduate level pony. So we are requiring you to take at least one year of public school here in Ponyville." The mayor explained to her.
"W-What? I have to go to school?" Pinkie said pouting in her seat opposite the mayor's desk. "But learning was so boring!" She stomped her hooves a little in her chair.
"Now, now sis," Octavia said reaching over and placing a hoof on her sister's shoulder, "it won't be that bad. Just think of all the new friends you'll be able to make. You'll have a lot more ponies to invite to your parties." She said comfortingly.
"But…but…" Pinkie said looking at her sister with pleading eyes. She already knew that she wanted to spread smiles as much and as far as she could, but this was her first time finding other ponies to be friends with to host a party for. She was rather intimidated by the thought that they wouldn't like her parties.
"Tell you what," Octavia said with a comforting smile, "if it's alright with the mayor, I'll go to school with you. How does that sound?"
"I don't see why not." The Mayor said nodding with a smile.
"Really!? Oh my gosh you're the best big sister ever!" Pinkie said hugging her dear sister with all her might, a big smile on her face. Octavia smiled in return as she petted her young filly sister.
Pinkie smiled at the warm memory. It was one she hadn't thought about in a long time. When Pinkie had decided to leave the farm Octavia was the one who had been the one willing to help her adjust to life outside of it. Her parents seemed to understand and stayed behind to let their kids experience the world.
Octavia had been the biggest help to her while they were at school. She gave her the confidence boost to meet the new ponies and she made so many friends. She was also the reason she'd met Mr. and Mrs. Cakes and ended up staying with them.
It was after that year of school that Octavia decided to leave on her own adventures, having discovered her love of the contrabass and classical music. She'd been sad to see her sister go, but understood she had to go live her own life. Besides, she'd left her in the care of some very wonderful friends.
Pinkie walked down the rows of desk with a soft but warm smile on her face. The room certainly gave her plenty of happy memories to remember. She stopped before her old desk in remembrance, but noticed a piece of paper lying on top of it.
"What's this?" she asked before taking a quick breathe and blowing the dust off of the paper. Sitting on her desk was a little foals drawing. On it was the picture of a family smiling on a rock farm. She gently placed a hoof against it; it was one of her old drawings. She smiled as she remembered the fondness she had for doodling during class. She could see their old house in the background, her mother and father standing behind their kids in the foreground. She smiled at the cute scribbling of her and Octavia.
"…Wait…" she said suddenly realizing something. She took her hoof away from the picture and stared at it. Something was wrong with this picture. She couldn't put her hoof on it though…
"It's my family…what would give me the impression somethings wrong?" she stared at the happy family of four. She couldn't fight the strong urge that there was something wrong with the picture. But no matter how she racked her brain, nothing seemed to come to mind. She scrutinized the picture carefully.
"…I'm sure if Octavia was here she would know what the problem was." Pinkie shook her head softly, "She always was the smartest of us. If we were ever in trouble she would always bail us ou-" Her words stopped dead.
"Alright fine, I'll play with you, but only because you're so insistent."
Her eyes shot back to the paper as she scanned it and counted the number of people in her family once more.
"One, two, three, four…five?" She counted out loud as she pointed to an empty spot that should've contained her other sister. "Where's Bellamina? Where's my younger sister?" She scoured the picture for any sign of her. She wouldn't have drawn a picture of her family without her…would she?
"…Wait…come to think of it…when was the last time I thought about Bellamina?" she asked herself quietly. She remembered thinking about Octavia several times over the years, but she'd never thought about Bellamina…"Oh my gosh…I must be the worst sister in the world!" She said feeling so rotten for having forgotten about her other sister.
She tried to recall memories of her sister desperately, but the only thing that came to mind was the story of how she got her cutie mark…but beyond that…
She shook her head furiously trying to jog loose any memory, but she didn't remember anything else. She looked down somberly before slamming a hoof against the ground.
"I'm so so SO sorry Bellamina! I promise you; once I get out of here I'll keep you in my thoughts!" Pinkie said determined now. She had to escape the horrors that had befallen Ponyville. She looked around the classroom, her eyes being drawn to the desk next to hers; the one Octavia had sat in during school. On the desk was a red circle with an X through it written with a red marker. She carefully grabbed the edge of the desk and opened the top of it, looking inside.
Inside of the desk was a blue jewel carved into the shape of a contrabass.
"…Wow…it's beautiful…" Pinkie gasped examining the item. She wasn't sure what it was doing there, but she had the strong feeling that it was something she was meant to keep. She picked it up carefully before placing it gently into her bag. She closed Octavia's desk, before realizing she should check her desk as well. She was careful not to disturb the picture and opened hers as well. Inside was a red jewel in the shape of a balloon. She quickly placed it inside of her bag as well.
She closed the desk and looked around. None of the other desks appeared to have anything of significance on them. She headed to the front of the class and checked the teacher's desk. There was a note written on the desk:
"At the eve of the switch from night to morning, the red moon will shine."
"Another riddle?" Pinkie asked aloud to no one. This one certainly made less sense then the last riddle she tried to solve. Off the top of her head she couldn't figure out what this riddle was trying to tell her…
She twirled her head towards the door when she heard the laughter of the foals coming from the hallway once more. She quickly exited the room and looked around the hallway for them. She saw them further down, playing with each other. She slowly approached them, trying to get a better look at the two little foals. However, once she got close enough they began to run down the hallway, she gave chase.
The little foals didn't run too far, they quickly made a turn into another room. Pinkie stopped in front of the door and read 'Janitor's Closet' on the front. She heard a click come from the door, as if it had just been unlocked. She reached for the handle and opened it, walking into the closet.
The room didn't look anything like a Janitor's Closet should, rather than shelves of items for cleaning it was a mostly empty room. At the end opposite the door stood a small knee-high pedestal, then behind it was what looked like a door with a clock and symbols around it, in-between two portraits of the princesses.
"Oh! Is that lantern oil?" she said as she walked up to the small pedestal, noticing a small bottle of yellow liquid. She sniffed it real quick to confirm what it was before picking it up and placing it in her bag, "Good, that should keep me stocked for a while."
She then walked forward to take a closer look at the door. To the left of the door was a picture of Princess Luna, graciously drawn with her body in a circle, surrounding a small hole in the wall. Princess Celestia was drawn much the same way, also surrounding a small hole in the wall.
"Wait…this hole…I know this shape." She said having noticed something about the hole Celestia was surrounding. She quickly reached into her bag and pulled out the red balloon jewel and fit it gently into the hole. It snapped into place with a satisfying click.
"Then that means the other jewel must go here." She said placing the blue contrabass underneath Luna's picture. When the second jewel clicked into place, the clock moved forward out of the door a little, followed by the symbols placed in a circle around it. She looked carefully at the symbols; there were six pictures, three of suns, one red, one yellow, one blue and three moons, one white, one green and one red.
"Wait…a clock and a moon…" The words from the teacher's desk came to mind. "The eve of the switch from night to morning…night is pm; morning is am…they switch at twelve…and the red moon will glow at that time." She placed her hoof against the dial of symbols and turned it, placing the red moon so that it was directly above the number twelve on the clock. Then she moved the two hands of the clock to point at the number as well.
The clock chimed twelve times as it and the dial moved back into the door, before the door moved up and rose into the ceiling opening the path. Pinkie quickly walked into the next room.
"Huh?" She said as her ear twitched. She heard a very quiet sound, like it was a sound coming from Ponyville itself. She recognized it as a siren, a siren was blaring in the distance. She wasn't sure what it meant, but she had the gut instinct it didn't mean anything good.
She focused on the room before her. She regretted it instantly.
The room itself gave off the stench of it rotting, the ceiling was brown with missing tiles, the walls were a mess of peeling rotted walls, and the floor was covered in dirt, mold and grime. Holes littered the room, revealing a mesh of iron grating behind them, apparently the foundation holding the room together.
Two dead ponies hung from the corners of the room, their bodies wrapped in some kind of cloth, but their blood splattered the wall and floors next to them. They hung by chains and metal that kept them suspended. On the wall between them was a single word written in their blood.
She didn't need to be told twice as she ran out of the room. She ran out of the janitor's closet and back into the hallway.
"W-Wait…what happened to the light?" She asked as the hallway she entered was pitch black. She quickly reached into her bag and pulled out her lantern. The flame came to life illuminating the hallway. She gasped as the hallway was no longer that of the calm and quiet schools, but instead was made of the same dilapidated materials as the room she'd just escaped.
Everything was rotting, held together by a metal grating. The grime covered the floor in splotches and blood caked the walls. Hanging bodies of ponies were visible at various intervals down the hall. The smell of so much rotting gagged Pinkie; if not for the lantern in her mouth she would've lost her stomach.
The sound of static hit her ears next. Her heart started pounding as she next heard footsteps echoing down the hall. She turned to the direction of footsteps, listening to the hiss of static grow louder as the footsteps grew closer. Her brain was screaming at her to run, listen to the wall and put every force of power into her hooves…
But she seemed stuck, almost glued to the spot. This feeling wasn't like the other monsters. This sensation was piercing down right into her very soul. This feeling was biting into her and was forcing her feet to stay.
The edge of the light hit the creature. It walked further into the edge of her light and she felt her heart stop for just a brief moment.
It was one of the monsters of her nightmare.
It was a tall, slender pony that towered over her. It had no face; its skin clung to its face and body as if they were attached directly to its bones. It was pale, deathly pale, accentuated by the black suit and red tie it wore on its torso. It continued to take slow careful steps toward her; every hoof step echoed in her brain like it was trying to grate her mind.
The Phonograph erupted into its loud high pitched ringing as she felt a pain strike her mind. She finally felt herself no longer glued to the spot and with every ounce of strength she turned around and ran.
Her heart jumped to her throat and beat away a mile a minute as her hoofs connected loudly with every single step she took. She didn't care about the grime or the bodies she passed, she had to get away. Her mind grated with the feeling of a haze that the creature seemed to bring with its presence. The loud ringing of the phonograph seemed to be the only thing that kept her in any state of mind to run as fast as she could.
She rounded a corner with lightning speed. She was putting everything into this; she knew she could run fast, she could keep up with, if not out-run Rainbow Dash at times. She had to be losing the Slender Pony, she had to be escaping. She dared to look over her shoulder.
It was keeping up with her. It seemed to only be walking, somehow the slow paced canter it strutted kept up, and his whole being seemed to slide towards her, as if there was no escaping.
Her mind reeled and she whipped her head forward trying to go faster. She had to turn another corner. Her hoof caught under one of her legs and she nearly fell. She scrambled her legs and took off again.
"SHKYAAAAAA" A blood curdling scream bellowed out before her as she saw half of a white filly start to crawl straight for her. She jumped over it, its tongue passing over one of her hooves as it tried to bite her. The screams of the filly were cut short as she heard the sound of it being crushed by the monster chasing her. Her stomach hit her heart inside of her throat as her lungs burned. Her mind was reeling and the haze was growing.
'I can't escape I can't escape I can't escape I can't escape I CAN'T ESCAPE' the words yelled and flung themselves to the very corners of her mind. She felt it: She was about to die. This monster was about to kill her and there was nothing she could do about it…
Her eyes flung open as she saw at the end of the hallway an open door.
'An exit!?' Her mind screamed as she continued to book it. She raced as fast as she could, trying to ignore the constant looming presence of the threat behind her. She had to get to that door! She was almost there! Just a little closer! Just a little closer! She was going to make it!
She jumped, passing straight through the open door and skidding to a halt inside of the room. Her heart instantly sank as she looked around. The room was a square with one entrance, no exit. She had jumped straight into a dead end with that monster behind her.
She looked around frantically; the room was adorned with party decorations: multi colored streamers, balloons caked with blood, vile looking snacks, poorly wrapped and rotting gifts, hanging ponies at every corner, a seal of blood drawn out on the floor.
She instantly turned around, watching as the Slender Pony gradually walked into the room. The only opening to the room sealed shut with an iron gate behind it. There was no escaping it now. She was trapped in the same room as this monster.
She dropped the lantern from her mouth, no longer able to hold onto it as she panted frantically. The lantern rolled to the center of the room, turning itself up right and in the center of the blood drawn seal. The seal lit up with a red glow filling the whole room with light. She could see the red hued Slender Pony as it walked towards her.
"STAY BACK." She yelled as she ran to the gifts. She began grabbing them one by one and throwing them at the Pony. The gifts struck the pony and seemed to stun him for a moment. But as the gifts hit him, they fell to the ground and burst into a pile of ash. They slowed his walk down for a moment, but soon they didn't even phase him.
She grabbed the last gift and tossed it with all her might, straight at his head. It struck him before blowing up into a pile of ash.
Pinkie cried out in pain as she felt like her forehead was splitting open as her vision hazed into oblivion.
She stomped her hooves down and ran blindly in a direction away from the pony. Her vision returned as she felt blood trickling down between her eyes, dripping off of her nose. He'd opened up a fresh wound on her head.
She grabbed the table holding the vile snacks on top of it and tossed it to the ground. She raised her hind legs up and with all her might she kicked the table straight at the Slender Pony. The whole table struck him and pushed him back. He hit the wall as the table seemed to hold him in place for a moment.
Pinkie panted as she stared at the creature. He got up. He pushed the table gently and the table fell apart as a pile of ash.
Pinkie's legs gave way under her as she fell to her knees. Tears fell from her eyes as she sobbed in pain and exhaustion. She couldn't fight this monster. It was too much. Her mind reeled and wanted to accept her death. Her body couldn't take it, her mind couldn't take it.
She felt her mind begin to hurt worse, the Slender Pony was drawing closer. She couldn't look at him, she sobbed with her eyes closed shut just wanting the horror to end once and for all.
The pain stopped. The hoof steps of the Pony had stopped getting closer. The ringing of the Phonograph was dyeing down.
Pinkie dared to open her eyes and looked up. He was still there, but he had stopped its assault on her. He looked like he was looking away from her, at some something she couldn't see…
That's when she heard it. The siren. The siren was going off again in the distance. The Slender Pony put one of its lifted hooves to the ground and turned to look at Pinkie. She braced for whatever he was going to do, but he just stood there. Then, slowly, he lowered his head into his suit and pulled out a small brown box. He placed it on the ground before turning around and walking away from her.
The light in the room dimmed until it was pitch black.
Light from her lantern began to bring a gentle glow to the room.
Pinkie hiccuped, taking in a huge breath of air that burned her lungs again. She could feel her heart still racing at top speed as she began to get her bearings. The room wasn't the one she had just been in. It looked like a normal basement. It had pipes and fixtures that controlled water and heating throughout the building. Her lantern lay on its side in the middle of the room, glowing with its gentle flame.
The brown box was still where the Slender Pony had left it.
Words failed Pinkie. She didn't have the strength to get up at the moment. She lowered her head and let herself sob again.