"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" the ponies shouted. Fluttershy's shock soon turned to a wide smile and a joyous squeal. That was enough for her friends. They had been preparing for this moment for weeks and that was a perfect thank you. They were all gathered in the middle of Fluttershy's house, along with Fluttershy's animal friends, standing in front of a party table and a banner reading "Happy Birthday Fluttershy!" Cake, punch, and other goodies were on the table, all baked by Pinkie Pie, who also brought party hats for everyone even the animals, to wear.
Pinkie popped a party hat on Fluttershy's head. "Thought we forgot?" Pinkie asked.
"Well... I didn't know." Fluttershy responded, still smiling. "I was really busy with animal emergencies and I never invited anyone, so I didn't think..."
"Come on, Fluttershy!" AJ said. "Ya think ya need to remind your best friends about your birthday? We knew ya were busy, so we threw this together for ya!"
"And it's wonderful! Thank you!" Fluttershy responded, clapping her hooves in glee.
"Hey! Why are we just standing around, talking?" Rainbow Dash asked. "Let's PAAAAAR-TAY!"
Twilight willed the record player's needle onto the record and turned it on. Party music erupted from the horn, and everypony partied! They played bobbing for apples, Pin the Wings on the Pegasus, and limbo. They danced to jams brought by each pony. They had cake and ice cream, both made by Pinkie Pie. They had so much fun, Twilight had to remind everyone-
"Hey! How about Fluttershy opens her presents?" The ponies stopped their activities as they remembered the best part about a party. Fluttershy could hardly wait as each pony brought her a gift.
"Open mine first!" Rainbow Dash said, excitedly. Inside the small package was a pair of Wonderbolt goggles. "I got two pairs at the last show, and I thought you could use some for if you're in a huge hurry to get to an animal emergency."
"Thank you, Dash!" said Fluttershy, putting them on. They were too big at first, but after a few adjustments, they fit perfectly.
Fluttershy then commenced with opening each of the other presents. Twilight got her a encyclopedia specifically on the animals of Equestria. Rarity got her a new pink-and-white dress "for the next Galloping Gala, which I just know we're going to attend." Applejack brought Fluttershy a large box of caramel apples "fresh picked and dipped on the farm!"
Then, it was Pinkie Pie's turn to give her a present. "This one's from me!" Pinkie said, excitedly, handing Fluttershy an irregularly shaped package. Her friends had all given her presents they specialized in, so Fluttershy decided that Pinkie had gotten her some cookies or a cookbook. ...But instead, when she tore off the wrapping paper, she was greeted by a strange sight.
It was a small, metallic dragon. It was in the form of a blue-green adult dragon standing on its hind legs, but only a foot tall. In its front paws were two metallic cymbals.
"Do you like it? Do ya? Huh? Huh?" Pinkie hyperly asked, jumping up and down.
"Ummm..." said Fluttershy, unsure of what to say. Its eyes were glassy and amber...and somehow unnerving as they stared at the Pegasus. Its mouth was frozen in a wide grin, rows of sharp teeth gleaming at her...
"I bought it from this weird peddler over at the marketplace, and BOY, was he glad to get rid of it. Must have been cluttering up his shelf space or something. I dunno."
"...Wow, Fluttershy." Twilight said, her attention on the dragon. "That's a nice toy you have. They stopped making these a long time ago."
"It must be an antique!" Rarity added.
"Hey. Does it work?" Rainbow chimed in.
"Turn the key! Turn the key!" Pinkie Pie said, hopping up and down.
Fluttershy quickly located the large brass key on the dragon's back and turned it. It made a winding, clicking noise as it ground against the inner mechanics to wind the toy. After several turns, Fluttershy stopped turning and placed it on the floor. The ponies watched and waited... but nothing happened. There were groans all around.
"Ahh..." Pinkie moaned, disappointed. "It's broken. No wonder that guy wanted it gone so badly. Sorry Fluttershy."
"...No, it's all right." Fluttershy said, putting her smile back on. "It's a great decorative piece. It'll fit nicely on my shelf. Thank you Pinkie Pie." Pinkie smiled again.
"Hey, everypony!" AJ said. "The day's not over! Let's go all out!" The ponies returned to their games. Fluttershy walked over to her shelf of animal collectibles, placed the dragon next to her porcelain bunny, and rejoined her friends.
"Great party, Fluttershy!" Rainbow Dash called on her way out. The sun had long set and the ponies were partied out and leaving.
"We should do this again really soon!" Twilight said, walking out the door.
"Hope ya liked our little surprise!" AJ said, following Twilight out the door.
"This party was tres magnifique!" Rarity complimented, heading back to her boutique.
"Enjoy the gifts, Fluttershy!" Pinkie said, walking past her.
"I will." Fluttershy responded, waving her hoof in farewell. "And thank you all for the party!"
When her friends were nearly out of sight, she walked back in and closed the door. Her friends were nice enough to clean up most of the mess, but streamers still hung from the walls and remnants of cookies and cake still littered the table. She knew her animal friends were tired, so she quietly started cleaning up the rest of the mess. She flew up to the rafters, grabbing streamers and banners and piling them in the corner. She then picked up the plates from off the table and swept the crumbs onto them.
As she was carrying them to the sink, her eyes wandered to her shelf of animal trinkets. It was a small hobby of hers. She had glass frogs, stuffed bird dolls, porcelain rabbits, and quite a bit more.
Her attention turned to the dragon Pinkie Pie had given her. ...For a moment, she wondered why she had decided to put it there. It seemed so out of place. So unfriendly. So... "Fluttershy, you're just being silly!" she thought to herself, shaking the other thoughts out of her head. "It's just a gift from a dear friend. Just a toy. You should be thankful that she got you something like this! And a collectible even!" "...You're right." Fluttershy responded to her thoughts.
She walked over to the sink and placed the dishes in the basin, to wash when she had some time. "What a great night!" she said to herself, in a low voice so as not to wake her animal friends. Then she yawned. "Wow. I really wore myself out... I'd better get to bed. I have a lot of work to do in the morning..." She walked slowly to her bedroom. As she passed the collectibles, her attention focused on the dragon one more time. It seemed like a normal toy. A little creepy, maybe, but... No. She was just tired and paranoid. Without another thought, she walked into her bedroom, got into bed, and soon fell asleep.
Fluttershy rushed through the next morning. She had been so tired from the party last night, she had overslept. She didn't know what time it was, but she knew it was way past time for her animal duties. She quickly brushed her teeth and combed her mane, ate a bowl of hay, made sure that the animals inside had food and water, and grabbed her saddlebag. "I'm off, Angel." she said to her white rabbit, who was sitting on her armchair. "Make sure everyone behaves!" Angel nodded and Fluttershy rushed out the door, slamming it on her way out. The house was quiet for a few seconds, then the animals began chattering and doing whatever they did when Fluttershy was gone. None of them seemed to notice the metallic dragon sitting on the shelf, seemingly staring at each and every one of them.
Outside was a nice, sunny day. Birds flew around, chirping and singing to greet the morning. One of them landed on Fluttershy's window box, right outside the living room's window, and started pecking at the dirt.
The dragon's amber eyes lit up.
Slowly and quietly, it spread its arms far apart as far as they would go. The bird continued to root around in the box, looking for some sort of insect to much on. The dragon brought its cymbals crashing together. *CLANG* Outside, the bird fell off the window box and dropped to the ground.
The dragon's eyes returned to normal and life went on as it always had for everyone and everything else.
Fluttershy sat back in her armchair, reading her new encyclopedia. It was later in the day and she had returned after a long day of keeping the animals of Ponyville happy and safe. She sighed somberly as she turned the pages. Normally, she'd be happy to come home after a long day of work, but when she came home, she had found a dead bluejay right outside her window. Even though she often came across them in her work, dead animals always made Fluttershy feel depressed.
"Don't worry about it, Fluttershy." she thought to herself, as she read the article on mallards. "These things happen, and there's nothing that can be done about it. It was probably just its time..." Yes. That must be it. There were no markings, no injuries, nothing to say that its death wasn't natural. But it looked so young. ...Well, youth didn't have anything to do with life. The next day, she herself might collapse dead of a-
"No. No! Fluttershy! Don't think that way! You're still young and healthy and you have so many years ahead of you. It's not time to think about depressing things like that!" Fluttershy sighed again. No matter how many dead animals she would see in her lifetime, she'd probably have these thoughts after every-
"Eep!" Fluttershy squeaked, as she jumped in her seat, startled. Her eyes quickly darted around the room as she searched for whatever could have made that sound. They focused on the metallic dragon, sitting on her shelf, staring in her direction. ...No. No. It couldn't have been that. It was broken. They had already proven that. She put her book down, got out of her seat and walked over to the shelf. She took the dragon down, turned the brass key on its back, and waited. ...Nope. Still broken.
"Wow, Fluttershy. Are you always this paranoid?" she asked herself. "Maybe you need a drink." "Yeah, good idea." Fluttershy answered herself. Just need a drink. She walked into the kitchen, grabbed a cup, and poured a drink from the sink. While she drank, she looked through the bottom of her glass... and screamed! There, in front of her, was Hummingway, lying on the table.
She dropped the glass on the floor and it shattered to bits. Too shocked to notice, she walked over to the dead hummingbird and picked up its corpse. After a few seconds of just staring in shock, her eyes welled up in tears and she broke down, crying over her departed feathered friend.
Fluttershy slouched back in her armchair, her eyes still wet with tears. It had been 3 hours since she discovered the dead bird. Very upset, she had dug a small grave in her backyard for him and buried him, still crying. Only recently had the waterworks ceased and she was now in a depressed mood. Two birds in one day. That was too many for her...
"Please, try to relax, Fluttershy." the voice in her head said to her. "Hummingbirds don't live very long. You should be surprised that Hummingway lived as long as he did..." "...But why today?" she asked herself. "It was such a good day today and yesterday. Why did this have to happen to ruin it?" "Nature doesn't work on a timetable. It decides things and nobody can change it. Besides, you should be happy you found its body tonight. If the noise hadn't startled you, you probably wouldn't have found it until morning and by then it would have-"
...Wait. The noise? Fluttershy sat upright in her chair. Now wasn't it just a little suspicious that she had heard the noise, then found one of her beloved pets dead? ...But what made the noise anyway? Getting out of her chair, Fluttershy started looking around the room. Her animals couldn't have made the noise. She didn't give them any metallic toys. Nothing broke on any of her shelves. The kitchen was still clean... except for the broken glass she still needed to take care of... Nope. Nothing could have made a noise like that... except... Her attention turned once again to the metallic dragon. ...No. She had already tried that. Its gears were frozen stiff. It was simply unable to move... at least, that's what she thought. She stared at the toy suspiciously, its amber eyes meeting her glare. ...Maybe there was more to this toy than met the eye, and she knew exactly who to talk to to find out...
Twilight studied the dragon. It was early the next morning and Fluttershy had called her over, saying it was an emergency. She had brought over a book on old toys and antiques and was currently trying to match Fluttershy's dragon with a picture from the book.
"Ummm... Twilight?" asked Fluttershy. Bags had formed under her eyes, a result of no sleep the previous night due to worry and anticipation. "Did you find anything?"
"...Well, it's a mechanical, wind-up cymbal-playing dragon, at least 50 years old." replied Twilight, reading through the article. "It was first marketed as Musical Happy Dragon with the ability to growl and play music when a button was pushed, but later versions removed the growl, leaving only the..."
"No. Not what I mean, Twilight. I mean, does it say anything about these toys acting... strange?"
"Strange how, exactly?"
"Ummm... I mean... that is... have they sometimes played by themselves, even if you don't do anything to them? And does their music do... something to animals?"
Twilight closed the book in annoyance. "Fluttershy, what's going on?" she asked, eyelids lower.
"Oh, um, nothing." Fluttershy responded. "Just... curious..."
"This is about Pinkie's present, isn't it?"
"Well... yes. I don't know why, but it just seems a little... creepy?"
Twilight rolled her eyes. "You brought me running all the way over here because you thought a toy was haunted?(!)"
"Yes...I mean, no... I mean..." Fluttershy started to cry. "I don't know anymore. It just makes me feel uncomfortable somehow..."
"Yeah, I think they made these things unsettling on purpose." Twilight responded. "It's just how they're made. There's no evil magic or anything behind them. Just a collection of cogs, springs, and sprockets, all fit together inside a metal casing in hopes of causing the arms of said casing to bang two pieces of metal together."
"...Yes... I suppose so..." Fluttershy said, her eyes wet with tears she had not yet cried.
Twilight sighed in slight frustration. "Look. If it makes you feel any better, I'll take it back to the library with me and see what I can find. OK?"
Fluttershy nodded and gave a small, timid smile. "Yes. Thank you. I'd love that."
Twilight willed her book and the dragon into the air and walked out the door. "I'll let you know when I've found something." she called back. Fluttershy nodded and Twilight started back toward the library.
Fluttershy sighed in relief. Even if there was nothing to this strange toy, it felt good to get it out of the house for a little while. And besides, soon Twilight would tell her that everything was just her own-
"BARK! BARK!" came a noise. Fluttershy, still in her doorway, turned toward the source. Winona was running toward Twilight, who hadn't gone more than a few feet away from Fluttershy's house, with Applejack close behind. Winona leaped into the air and grabbed the floating dragon with her mouth.
"Hey!" Twilight shouted, losing her concentration and dropping the book. The dog was running in circles right outside Fluttershy's doorway, the dragon in its teeth.
"Winona! Bad girl!" Applejack shouted, catching up to the hyperactive dog.
"Heel!" The dog stopped, walked over to Applejack, and sat down.
"Drop it." Applejack commanded. Winona didn't do anything.
"DROP IT!" Applejack commanded, forcefully. The dog wimpered and set it down.
"Bad girl. Get back to the farm this instant!" The dog wimpered again and walked off, tail between its legs.
"...Sorry 'bout that, Twilight." Applejack said, putting on a cheerful voice. "Don't know what got into her. One minute, she's roundin' up the chickens at the farm, an' the next, she's runnin' away, barkin' like an Ursa Major itself was after her!"
"Not a problem, Applejack." said Twilight, picking up the dragon and her book. "At least she didn't get very far."
"Nope. ...Welp, Ah'll see ya later!" Applejack walked back in the direction she came.
After pausing for a few seconds, Twilight started walking again. Fluttershy stood in the doorway, a little unnerved. "It was almost like... NO! There you go again, Fluttershy. Nothing unusual about this toy. It's just-!"
"Gangway! Coming through!" came a pair of brony voices. After a second, Snips and Snails came barreling down the path, laughing. Twilight ducked out of the way before they hit her, dropping the book and dragon, both of which they stumbled on. "Whoa! ...Oof!" the bronies shouted, as they tripped over the objects and hit the ground. The dragon toy rolled down the path and stopped right in front of Fluttershy's house.
Twilight walked back onto the path and glared at the two. "Why don't you watch where you're going?" she demanded. "...Uh... Sorry." Snips said, getting to his feet. "Yeah. Sorry." Snails repeated, doing the same. "We were just having some fun." Snips said. "Well, you boys go have fun somewhere else! Somewhere where you're not in anypony's way!" "Yes, ma'am." Snips said, and they headed back up the path, running like nothing had happened.
"*groan* This must be the special path for today." Twilight said sarcastically, once again picking up the book and dragon. "Ok, for real this time, I'm off." Fluttershy was too shocked to respond. The dragon had once again found its way to her doorstep. Maybe it was just an accident, but it still happened for the second time tod-
There was a screech in the air, causing Twilight to stop in her tracks. Seconds later, a large eagle swooped down from the sky and grabbed the dragon. "HEY!" Twilight exclaimed again. The eagle flew just a few feet and dropped the dragon right in front of Fluttershy's house, then soared off. "...Wow, Fluttershy." said Twilight in amazement. "Looks like something wants you to hold onto this toy. Must be pretty special." Fluttershy couldn't answer. Two times was coincidence, but three times... "Well, I give. I'll see what I can do though. See you Fluttershy!" Twilight picked up her book and walked back to the library.
Fluttershy just stared at the dragon in shock. Its amber eyes stared back at her, piercing the inside of her very soul... Whatever this thing was, it wasn't going to leave. It was just going to keep coming back and- "Oh, relax, Fluttershy!" she told herself. "You're making something out of nothing AGAIN! You've been doing that a lot lately. You have NO proof this is behind the deaths of the birds OR that it's magic. Just put it back on your shelf and forget about it!" Fluttershy nodded. She was right. This was just a toy. She grabbed it from off her lawn, went back inside, and placed it back on her shelf. She was just being nervous. Nothing to worry about... Nothing... *yawn* She was reminded of how tired she was. Seeing as how she didn't get any sleep last night, that was understandable. Maybe just a short nap. She walked over to her armchair, closed her eyes, and fell asleep.
She awoke a few hours later, jostled awake by Angel hopping on her lap. "Angel. Get off." Fluttershy mumbled, still half-asleep. Angel glared at her. "...Oh, that's right. I never gave you your carrot, did I?" Angel shook its head. "*yawn* Sorry... I'll get everyone some food right now..." She sleepily got out of her chair and walked to the doorway. She stopped before she opened the door and turned around. The dragon was still sitting on its shelf, grinning and staring off into space. Maybe she was just paranoid, but she couldn't take any chances...
She rushed around her house and quickly found some cotton and string. She put a wad of cotton on each of the dragon's cymbals and tied it around the hands with the string. In a second, the dragon had completely soundproof cymbals. Fluttershy smiled in satisfaction and walked outside to feed her animals.
The feeding session went without a worry or a hitch and all of Fluttershy's friends looked alive and healthy. Fluttershy couldn't help but sigh in relief that nothing bad had happened to any more animals. The others must have just been coincidental. Sad coincidences, but not on purpose. Nothing sinister. When she went back inside, Fluttershy looked at the dragon. It still had cotton around its cymbals. Fluttershy smiled. Nothing to be afraid of! She sat back in her chair and opened the encyclopedia again. She had only read a few pages, when she heard whistling coming up the path. She turned toward her window. It was the mail pony doing her rounds. Fluttershy smiled excitedly. Maybe she'd get that animal feed catalog she ordered today. The normal feed she'd been giving everybody seemed to be doing well, but she was sure that...
She sniffed the air. Was that... smoke? She turned back around to face the shelves. The cotton that was silencing the dragon's cymbals was... BURNING? Fluttershy dashed into the kitchen and filled up a glass of water to put out the fire. She dashed back into the room, but the fire had already burned off the cotton, leaving a small wad of burning material on the ground. Fluttershy poured out the glass onto the fire, which hissed for a split-second and went out. Her attention then went to the cymbal dragon. Its eyes were lit, giving the appearance of burning coals in its head. As she watched, its arms started to slowly stretch out. Fluttershy's jaw dropped. There WAS something to this after all! And if she was correct as to what would happen next... She rushed over to the window. The mail pony was still at the postbox, sorting through her mail saddlebag. She didn't look like she was in any danger.
...No... Wait! The tree next to her! Fluttershy looked back over her shoulder and saw that the dragon's arms had almost fully stretched out. "Ma'am!" she shouted at the window. "Go away! Turn around and run! You're in danger! Ma'am!" But of course, the mail pony couldn't hear her incredibly soft yelling voice. She was so busy sorting through her saddlebag, she didn't even notice the groaning, snapping sound as the tree next to the box suddenly decided to give away. Without a moment's hesitation, Fluttershy flung open her door and rushed to the mailbox. "MA'AM!" she called out, running at full gallop. Now the mail pony looked up... but too late. A *CLANG* was heard from inside and the tree toppled over onto the confused-looking pony. Snapping sounds emanated as every bone in the pony's body cracked from the weight. Fluttershy could only watch in horror as the pony's limbs flailed wildly from under the tree for a few seconds, then went limp. The last thing Fluttershy saw was a pool of blood flowing from underneath the ruined tree before she collapsed in a dead faint.
Fluttershy woke up to a large commotion.
"Hey, Fluttershy, ya OK?" asked a familiar voice. Fluttershy opened her eyes to see a worried AJ standing over her. "Good. Ya awake."
"Oh good." said another familiar voice. Rarity appeared a second later. "Fluttershy, what caused this?" she asked.
"...What?" was all Fluttershy could mumble.
"Didn't ya notice?" AJ said. "A tree fell on a mail pony right over there." She pointed north.
Fluttershy looked over and saw a large group of ponies standing around a felled tree. Royal guards were on the scene, keeping the ponies from getting too close to the tree. A team of hospital workers lifted a squashed piece of flesh, formerly known as the mail pony, from under the tree onto a stretcher and quickly covered it with a cloth. The events of several hours ago flashed back into her mind, causing Fluttershy to cringe.
"I agree. It's horrible what happened. And right outside your house, as well."
"Fluttershy... Did ya see what happened?"
Fluttershy could only stare at the tree, her jaw open and her eyelids lower in despair.
"Applejack! What a horrible thing to ask her! Can't you see she's in shock?"
"Well, that answers my question then! Somepony was gonna to ask that question soon anyway, since the guards are here!"
"You are so inconsiderate of your friends!"
"Inconsiderate? Ah was wondering if Fluttershy was OK!"
"How in any way was that a question to see if she was OK?"
"Well, if you'd just listen, you'd..."
Applejack and Rarity continued to argue, but Fluttershy didn't even hear the first part. All she could do is stare at the tree. The healthy tree that had somehow collapsed onto an innocent pony. She would have burst into tears, but the shock prevented her from doing anything other than stare... Stare and ask herself "...How could something like this happen? How could that piece of metal do... this...?"
Fluttershy sat in her chair and stared at the dragon. It was several hours since the tragic accident that took the life of the mail pony. They had removed the body and the tree and had questioned Fluttershy about what had happened, but she was unable to give them many answers besides that she had seen it happen, which seemed to satisfy them. Her friends had shown up when they heard about the accident and had tried to help her, but she didn't accept their help. They couldn't help... From Fluttershy's point of view, a pony was now dead because of her.
...Because of that toy.
She had moved her animal friends out and from around the house, hopefully far enough away so nothing would befall them. Now it was just her... Her and the toy... That blue-green dragon with the mocking smile, ready to take another life if it could find one...
- knock knock* "Fluttershy?" Fluttershy sat up with a jolt. What was Rainbow Dash doing here? "Fluttershy? Are you there?" Fluttershy had drawn the curtains on all her windows, so nobody could see in or out. "Just ignore her, Fluttershy, and she'll go away..." she said to herself. "Look, I'm sorry about what happened earlier. It must have you spooked out! So why don't we head over to Sugarcube Corner and have some fun, take your mind off it."
Fluttershy remained silent, staring at the dragon. "Don't. Please don't." she pleaded in her mind.
"...Fluttershy, I know you're in there."
"No, I'm not!" Fluttershy shouted back, distracted. She immedietly clasped a hoof to her mouth in horror.
"A-ha! You ARE in there. Now come on! We'll have some fun! We got Twilight and Rarity and Applejack and..."
Fluttershy had tuned out Rainbow Dash.
The dragon's eyes had lit up.
"Oh no. Oh please, no!" "DASH! GET OUT OF HERE!" Fluttershy called out in horror, her eyes still focused on the dragon, which had just begun to move its arms.
"...Come on, Fluttershy! I'm trying to help! This wasn't just my idea, you know. The other ponies are trying to get you to-"
"DASH!" Fluttershy shouted, running to the door. "RUN! GO! YOU'RE IN DANGER HERE!"
"Danger? Come on, Fluttershy! All because one tree fell on one pony doesn't mean one will fall on everyone here!" She wasn't leaving. Why couldn't she just leave?
The dragon's arms were halfway there.
"RAINBOW DASH! IF YOU KNOW WHAT'S GOOD FOR YOU, YOU'LL RUN!"
"...Was that a threat? Why are you threatening me? ...That's it. I'm coming in!"
"NO!" Fluttershy screamed. She grabbed the key to her door and quickly locked it. Outside, Dash could be heard fumbling with the knob.
"Fluttershy? Fluttershy, open the door! Fluttershy, come on! Let me in!"
"NO!" shouted Fluttershy.
The dragon's arms were almost outstretched. Right above the outside of her door, she heard a creaking noise, like rusty nails being pried from wood.
"NO! DON'T DO THIS! PLEASE! DON'T!" she begged the dragon, her body leaning against the door in a futile hope to strengthen it.
"Fluttershy? Is there someone else in there? Let me in!"
"NO!" Fluttershy screamed again. It was no use. Rainbow wouldn't leave.
The dragon's cymbals were ready to crash. Another death would soon happen and Fluttershy was powerless to stop it. ...Unless...
She galloped to the other side of the room and positioned herself right in front of the dragon. She waited for what seemed like hours as Rainbow Dash continued to pound on her door outside. Suddenly, the dragon's arms lurched forward to crash their deadly cymbals. With reflexes as fast as a rabbit's, Fluttershy stuck her hoof out into the path of the instruments. There was a small *clunk* noise as they struck the sides of her hoof.
Outside, a loud *THUMP* was heard as something fell from her house.
"RAINBOW DASH!" Fluttershy exclaimed in horror, running to the door. "RAINBOW DASH! ARE YOU THERE? ANSWER ME PLEASE!" She stood by the door, waiting desperately for an answer.
"...Wow, Fluttershy." came a reply. "You need to check the nails on your house. This windowsill nearly killed me!"
Fluttershy breathed what she thought was the biggest sigh of relief she had ever sighed.
"...Now, come on Fluttershy. Everyone's waiting at the-"
"FOR THE LAST TIME, NO!" Fluttershy yelled, now more in anger than fright. "I DON'T WANT TO BE AROUND YOU ANYMORE! I WON'T LEAVE HERE! JUST GO AWAY! AND TELL THOSE PONIES I DON'T WANT TO BE BOTHERED ANYMORE!"
"...Fluttershy?" asked Rainbow Dash in confusion over the out-of-character exclaimation. "Fluttershy, if there's something wrong..."
"GO!" Fluttershy yelled, her voice becoming hoarse from the yelling.
"...OK. If that's the way you want it, fine!" Rainbow Dash angrily replied from the other side of the door. "You want peace and quiet? We'll give you PLENTY of that!"
"Fine! Wasn't even my idea anyway..."
There was a flapping sound as Rainbow took off. Then Fluttershy was alone again.
She slumped against the door and cried, horrified at what she had just done. That wasn't Fluttershy. Not Fluttershy at all. "But you HAD to do it!" the voice sounded in her head. "Now your friends are safe. They won't come anywhere near you!" "Don't remind me!" Fluttershy sobbed to herself. Her crying soon died down and she got back in her chair, her eyes still wet with tears. She looked around the room aimlessly, her eyes resting on the dragon.
...It was scowling... Its smile had actually turned into a large, angry scowl...
Suddenly, her sadness turned to rage. "YOU!" she yelled, hopping out of her chair and furiously trotting over to the toy. "Everything's your fault! The bird! Hummingway! The mail pony! You're killing everything! ...Why? Why are you doing this?"
For several seconds, Fluttershy stared at the dragon, waiting for the answer that never came...
"...No. Nevermind. I don't want to know, because I'm going to make sure you DON'T TRY AGAIN!"
She snatched the dragon off the shelf and threw it across the room. It bounced off the far wall and hit the middle of the floor. Fluttershy pounced on it and started to stomp on it with all four hooves. ...But no matter how hard she hit it, it wouldn't even dent.
Scowling, she grabbed the toy, flew up to the ceiling, and threw it full force at the floor. It bounced off the floor and hit her shelf, knocking several collectibles from their perch and breaking a glass robin statuette. However, the toy remained unscathed. She tried again, this time throwing it with such force, she caused a noticeable dent in her floor. Still nothing happened...
With a frustrated growl, she picked it up and ran to the kitchen, where she threw it in the oven and set it for the highest temperature possible. She grinned as the oven quickly heated. After 10 minutes, the oven started to emit a black smoke. Fluttershy opened the oven, hoping to see a melted lump of metal. ...But there it was, still sitting in the center of the oven, not showing any mark of melting. Fluttershy turned off the oven and took out the toy. It wasn't even warm!
With an enraged yell, she ran to her door, quickly unlocked it, threw the dragon out, and slammed the door and locked it again. 2 seconds later, there was a crash as the dragon went flying back inside the house through the window.
Fluttershy screamed in anger, tearing at her mane with her hooves with such force that small clumps actually came off her head! After screaming for several minutes, she looked back at the toy. It. Just. Wouldn't. Leave! She was stuck with this thing! This killing machine! Her anger was soon joined with despair. There had to be something she could do. She couldn't tell her friends about this. They would just think she'd gone crazy. But there had to be someone. Anyone!
Fluttershy knew exactly who to talk to...
She wouldn't like it, but there was no other choice...
"...And that's when I came here..." Fluttershy finished telling Zecora, her eyes in tears once again. They were in Zecora's hut, Fluttershy having run all the way there immediately after deciding she was the only one who could help.
Zecora stared at Fluttershy, somberly. "Child, if what you say is true..." Zecora began, "Then I'm afraid there's disaster for you."
"I know..." Fluttershy muttered, hanging her head.
"What you possess is not a toy. It is a demon, sent to destroy. Its powers are vast. Its evil unbound. ...I'm sorry for the misfortune you have found..."
"...But what is it?" Fluttershy said, almost desperately. "It's killing everything! It won't leave! It won't come apart! It's just sitting there, waiting for something else to come along and... you know..."
Zecora walked over to a small shelf against the north wall. She pushed aside trinkets and ingredients and pulled out a green leather book. She opened it and hooved through the pages until she found what she was looking for. "The cursed toy has many forms, but darkness always follows in storms." she read in her versed voice. "Its magic occurs when owned by one, and it will continue til her life is done. If a living creature can be found, the magical energies gather round. A simple *crash*, the job is done. Its deadly magic has been run. As long as its appetite can be whet, it will not touch its unwilling 'pet'. But woe to those who try to cease the blackest magic of this beast. Its power will grow, its anger will max, til nothing can stop its evil attacks. And when its prey has run too low... it will finally kill the one who owns."
Fluttershy's eyes shrank to dots. It wasn't enough that it was killing everything else, but now it wanted to kill her, unless she gave it other things to kill? "How do I get rid of this thing? Please! Tell me!"
Zecora scanned the book until she found something relevant. "Only two ways exist to free yourself from the horrific monster upon your shelf. The first is to give the demon away. It may be a gift or require pay. The curse trades hooves, the seller is free-"
"That doesn't sound very good to me..." Fluttershy cut in. "Well, that explains why Pinkie Pie didn't have any trouble..." she thought. "Probably gave it to me before anything could happen to her."
"The second option is more final for this cursed and unholy idol." continued Zecora. "One who is skilled in the arts of magic can destroy this demonic item tragic." (At this point, Fluttershy was positive Zecora was free-versing it and not quoting exactly from the book.) "Without an owner, the magic fades, allowing good magic to invade. If one can find the toy at this time, an exorcism can be performed('That doesn't rhyme...' Fluttershy thought.) The0 power is gone, the demon destroyed. Life one again can be enjoyed!"
"Yes. I need that second one to happen. What do I need to do?" Fluttershy asked, eagerly.
Zecora sighed and closed the book. "Without an owner, its magic runs dry... But the only way for that to happen... IS TO DIE!"
Fluttershy's pupils shrank again. "D-die?" she exclaimed in her whispery voice.
"Yes." Zecora said simply. "If the owner passed on and there's no pony around, the evil magic will start to break down. There's no other way. The owner must die. And then will the magic start to subside."
"Die?" Fluttershy asked again, still in disbelief. "But... But...!" She started inching towards the door in fright.
"I know the choice doesn't suit your taste, but you must decide something with haste. Give up the toy or give up the ghost, you must choose the one that suits you the most."
Before she came within a foot of the door, Fluttershy stopped. Her expression turned to a glare uncharacteristic of the timid Pegasus. "No!" she exclaimed. "I can't give this to someone else! I won't wish this on anypony! And die? DIE? I'm not even fully grown up! I still have ponies to meet, places to see... ANIMALS TO HELP! I can't let all those animals lose their best friend! Their caretaker. Their... their... NO! I won't do it! There has to be something else!"
Zecora, unfazed by the pony's outburst, started to think. "... Another option presents itself." said Zecora, turning back to the shelf. She picked up a small necklace from the second to top shelf. It was a silver circle with the sun, moon, and several stars in the center. When it passed by the candlelight, it shone with a blinding brightness. She softly chanted in her strange language as she walked back to Fluttershy. "This necklace protects its wearer from evil power, day after day, hour after hour. As long as you wear this, you will live safe, but the beings around you will still be scathed..." She put the necklace around Fluttershy's neck. "You must run far away from where you live now. Take your things. Take the toy. Heck, take your tree's bough. Get far, far away from all of your friends. To an isolated area is my recommend. Here, you begin a brand new life. It may be of joy. It may be of strife. You'll never see your friends or all you hold dear. You can't let them know. You can't even go near... But they will be safe, and you will be too. This is my recommendation for you."
Fluttershy's jaw dropped. "Leave?"
"...No! I can't leave either!"
"I'm sorry, my child, but you must choose. Each has a gain, but you still lose..."
The choices flew through Fluttershy's mind, complicating her life more than it had been earlier. Three choices, but none would help her in any way... "I...I need to think about this." said Fluttershy, starting towards the door.
When she reached for the knob, she felt Zecora's hoof grab her shoulder. "A word of caution to yourself, concerning the necklace and the toy on your shelf. Don't let it see the symbol, not even a peek, or its magic will make the material weak. Now go to your house and try to decide, and please let my words help your guide..." Fluttershy stared at Zecora for several seconds, then turned back to the door, opened it, and left, the entire conversation weighing heavily on her mind...
Fluttershy sat in her chair, staring at the cymbal dragon. It was two days after she had talked to Zecora. Her eyes were red and bloodshot, dark circles around them, the result of two days of no sleep. Her stomach growled unhappily as it ate through another layer of mucus. She hadn't eaten during that time either. She couldn't allow herself. While she was away, the cymbal dragon had struck again. TWICE! Two fresh corpses of unfortunate birds lay buried in her backyard, next to Hummingway. Now the only way to stop it from claiming another innocent life was to sit in her chair and stare at it, knowing that it may awaken at any moment. "At least my animals are ok..." she thought. After it struck, she had asked the Earth Pony 'Green Leaves' to watch her friends, the excuse being that Fluttershy was sick. Now she was alone. Just her...and the dragon... She couldn't eat. She couldn't sleep. Every so often, she would get up for some water or to use the facilities, but it was a very quick trip and then back to the chair. She didn't dare allow herself more time to fulfill her needs, for she knew that it might awaken again, at any moment...
She rubbed her left hoof, which was wrapped in a blood-stained towel. Zecora had been correct. If she tried to stop it, it got stronger. When she had stopped it from killing Rainbow Dash, she had barely felt the cymbals slamming into her arm. The next day, however, it had targeted a rabbit that had strayed too close to the house. This time, when she stopped the cymbals from crashing, they had hit her arm with much more force, giving her a painful pinch before retracting. Then, only a few hours ago, when she attempted to stop it from killing a small bluejay, the cymbals drove into her arm, cutting through her skin like two white-hot knives and causing her to cry in pain. Luckily for her, the cymbals retracted before they had reached the bone, leaving behind two holes in her arm that bled and stung fiercely. Now she stared at the dragon in fear. Its expression had changed to one of rage and its angry amber eyes seemed to burn a hole through Fluttershy's mind. She knew that if it struck again, she wouldn't be able to stop it without, at the very least, losing a hoof. So now, she stared at the dragon. Stared in fear and determination. Determination to stop this monster from killing again...
While her eyes watched the dragon to prevent any move it made, Fluttershy's mind raced furiously. She had been given three choices and she mulled over each in her brain.
"First choice: Give the dragon to someone else." she thought. "I already know I can't do that. If anyone gets their hooves on this dragon, it will mean disaster not just for everyone around them, but for them. They'd live every day in fear of finding another dead pony or animal, killed by this sadistic demon. Their work would stop. Their relations would die. They would become reclusive. They would become... like me!" Fluttershy didn't know whether to laugh or cringe at that one. "No! No pony deserves that!" "No pony?" came a thought from another area of her mind. "What about the one who gave you this in the first place? The one who cursed you to your current condition? The one who took away your job, your friends, your life?" "...Pinkie Pie?" "Yes..." "...She did, didn't she? She's the one who started this! If it wasn't for her, I'd be happy right now! I'd have Angel on my knee, munching on a carrot, while Hummingway led the other birds in a song. Maybe later, I'd walk into town and visit my pony friends, and we'd eat cupcakes and sandwiches and talk about how our days had gone and then we'd go to bed, knowing that tomorrow would be a great day as well, and... and..." "BUT I CAN'T, CAN I?" she shouted in fury, suddenly sitting upright in her chair, her eyes breaking contact with the dragon. "PINKIE PIE! YOU STARTED THIS! YOU GAVE ME THE TOY! WELL, GUESS WHAT? YOU'RE GOING TO GET IT BACK! YOU'RE GOING TO SEE JUST HOW MUCH PAIN YOU'RE PUTTING ME THROUGH! YOU'RE...!" She stopped, as if she had just started to listen to herself. "...No." she muttered in a mellow tone. She slumped back in her chair, her anger dissipating. "I...I can't do that to her. She didn't know. She didn't... I can't do that to a friend... ...I can't do that to any pony..." Her eyes went back to the dragon. It continued to stare at her with the very angry expression it had acquired. She briefly wondered if whatever was inside could hear her... While she thought, she adjusted the necklace's string around her neck so the medallion remained against her back, out of sight from the monster. When she was confident it was hidden, she returned to her normal sitting position, sighed, and went back to her thoughts.
"Second choice: Die. If I die, Zecora can come and destroy the toy, then everyone will be safe forever. ...Except me. I'll be dead... Gone. Just like the toy. But... everyone will be safe. ...I wonder how I should die? Hanging seems simple... but what if my neck doesn't snap? I'm a Pegasus and I'm lighter than other ponies, so maybe I won't have enough weight on the rope to successfully sever my-NO!" She smacked herself across the face in anger. "STOP IT, FLUTTERSHY! STOP IT!" she shouted angrily to herself. "You can't die! You're still young! You have so much to do! So many ponies to meet! So many animals... And what about your friends? What will their lives be like if you suddenly die? Twilight. Applejack. Rainbow Dash. Rarity. Pinkie Pie. How would they react if they found out you killed yourself for seemingly no reason? They'd be destroyed! No. You can't kill yourself. You're the Element of Kindness. They need you!" Fluttershy took several deep breaths and mellowed out. "...You need them..." Tears formed in her eyes, but she didn't cry. Her thoughts turned to the last option.
"Choice 3: Run away. ...But where would I go? I'd have to run far away from Ponyville. Even further than the Evertree forest. Somewhere where there are no animals. No ponies. Nothing to hurt. Maybe the middle of the desert? ...But how will I survive there? What grows in the desert? It's just sand! And it's too hot! ...The top of a mountain, maybe? ...No. Same problems, but it's too cold... What about an island in the middle of the ocean? ...No, Fluttershy. You can't fly over that much water and you know it. Come to think of it, you can't make it to the top of the mountain either. How about a cave somewhere? It's nice and isolated... and dark... and... damp... and might be full of animals to..." Her chain of thought broke as she gave a frustrated squeal. "Fluttershy! You need to do something! You don't like those choices, but you don't have anything else! And the longer you take to make the choice, the more time that... THING in your house has to take a life! You need to do SOMETHING!" She grabbed her mane in frustration, not caring about her wounded hoof. "Why did I get stuck with this? Why? WHY? Why not Twilight or Rainbow Dash? They would know what to do! They're brave and strong and smart... but me? I'm the animal lover! I can't make decisions like this! Rainbow Dash was right! I'm scared of my own shadow! And now I'm stuck with this MONSTER, and I have to decide to give this to someone else, run away, or DIE! GAAH!" She screamed and pulled at her mane, already frazzled by the lack of sleep and care. After several minutes, she slumped back in her chair, too exhausted from stress and fatigue to do anything else. "There HAS to be another way." she spoke aloud. "There has to be something else to-"
There was a knock at her door. "Fluttershy?" came a familiar voice. Fluttershy froze in fear. "Fluttershy, are you in there?"
"T-Twilight?" Fluttershy stuttered.
"Not jus' Twilight!" came another voice. Applejack?
"We're all here, silly!" PINKIE PIE? RAINBOW DASH? RARITY?
"What... What are you doing here?" asked Fluttershy, confusion and fear in her voice. She glanced toward the dragon. It gave no indication of noticing 5 fresh lives at the door. ...Yet.
"We came because we're worried about you." Twilight responded.
"Yeah, we haven't seen you in a few days. Nobody's seen you!" came the voice of Rainbow Dash.
"Dash!" Fluttershy shouted. "I told you I didn't want to see any of you again!"
"Yeah, you did, but we're your friends!" Dash responded.
"Yeah!" Applejack's voice said. "Yer acting like yer in trouble, and what friends would abandon their friend when she needs them the most?"
Fluttershy turned back to the dragon. Still dormant. "NO!" Fluttershy shouted again. "I DON'T need you! I'm fine! Really!"
"You don't sound très bien to me..." replied Rarity.
"Come on, Fluttershy!" said Pinkie Pie. "Open the door and we'll have a party to make you feel all better!"
"NO! No parties! I'm OK! Just go!"
"Fluttershy, you're NOT OK." Twilight said. "You've been acting weird ever since the party. Is this about that doll?"
"Doll? What doll?" voiced Pinkie.
"The one you got her for her birthday."
"Oh, THAT one! I remember that. I bought it from an old brony in the marketplace. He practically gave it to me. ...Actually, he DID just give it to me! I mean, I guess it was an ugly toy for him or something, because he was sure happy to get rid of it! But Fluttershy likes it, don't you?"
Fluttershy was hardly listening. The dragon's eyes had just lit up... "Well, thank you for coming." she rapidly said to her friends. "But you can see that everything's fine here and I don't need any help, so BYE!"
"Forget it, Fluttershy." Rainbow Dash said behind the door. "You're not brushing us off this time."
"It's obvious you need some help." Twilight said. "We're here to help. Open the door and we'll discuss what your problem is."
Fluttershy heard the knob jiggle at the same time the dragon's arms started to move. "NO! I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!" she screamed, nearing hysteria. "I'M FINE! JUST LEAVE!"
"No, Fluttershy! Yer not OK!" Applejack said, oblivious to Fluttershy's predicament. "Just tell us what's wrong! We can help you!"
"Yeah, open the door, Fluttershy! Come on!" Rainbow Dash added. The knob jiggled furiously as the knocking nearly intensified.
The dragon's arms continued to spread out. Above her, Fluttershy heard a cracking noise as one of the branches on her tree started to break. "EVERYPONY! JUST GO! LEAVE! WE'RE IN DANGER!" She clasped both hooves to her mouth after that last word.
"A-Ha!" exclaimed Rainbow Dash. "You ARE in trouble!"
"NO! YOU'RE IN TROUBLE! LEAVE! NOW!"
"What kind of trouble, Fluttershy?" Twilight asked. "Just tell us what's wrong and what we should do."
"RUN!" Fluttershy screamed at a volume unheard from the pony before.
"From what? Just tell us!"
Fluttershy couldn't say any more. She already let it slip that she was in trouble and they wouldn't leave!
The arms fully outstretched. The creaking branch sounded ready to fall, but her friends, who were shouting their concerns for Fluttershy at the door, couldn't hear it.
"NO!" Fluttershy screamed at the dragon. She dashed forward and put her damaged arm right between the cymbals. She braced for the impact, her eyes shut and her teeth clenched. The cymbals came down even harder than last time, colliding with her arm like twin arrows from a close-range creossbow. There was a loud *CRUNCH* as they shot through the skin and smashed into the bone, snapping it in several pieces. Fluttershy screamed in pain as her arm was nearly split in two. The creaking above stopped.
"FLUTTERSHY?" she heard Twilight exclaim in concern from behind the door. "...That's it. Applejack, break down the door."
"With pleasure!" came Applejack's voice. The sound of two back hooves slamming into the door soon followed. The wooden door creaked and groaned as the wood started to give way to the strong workhorse's blows.
Fluttershy was in intense pain as she attempted to rewrap her hoof with the towel. Every nerve screamed in agony as she straightened it out. Her mind was clouded with the pain from the injury and the fear of her friends close to barging in and discovering the incredible danger they were all in. "I...I need to die!" she thought. "It's the only way! I can't let them find out about this toy! There's no other way! I need to-!"
She stopped as something popped into her head. ...There WAS another way! How could she have not seen it before?
She turned to the dragon. Its expression had changed again, pure malice emanating from its face and eyes. The same expression appeared on the wounded Pegasus' face as she grabbed it from off the shelf. Keeping her damaged hoof off the ground, she limped over to the nearest window. The door made a splintering sound as the wood cracked under the force of the blows.
With hooves of lightning, Fluttershy undid the latch, threw open the window, and jumped out. Before she hit the ground, she spread her wings and soared away from her house, making sure to keep a tight grip on the demonic toy. She quickly glanced back at her house. Applejack had broken down her door and the ponies were rushing in, hoping to help the now-absent Pegasus. She picked up speed, hoping to get as are away from their line of sight as she could. If Rainbow Dash saw her, she would ruin everything...
She soared through the skies of Ponyville, passing over homes and shops and dodging other Pegasi that were flying through the sky. She had never gone this fast before, but she didn't think she was going fast enough! Straining her wings, she flew faster and faster until she had left the borders of Ponyville behind, but still she didn't stop. She flew and flew until she finally came to a small clearing far away from Ponyville.
She landed next to an old tree, watching her bandaged hoof, and dropped the toy down. Without any time to lose, she started to dig near the tree's roots with her good hoof, not noticing the dark clouds starting to gather overhead. "You come into my home..." she started to mutter, insanity grasping her mind. "You kill my pets..." She dug at the ground furiously, ignoring the pain from the friction. "You keep me awake for days..." Clouds filled the sky as the sound of thunder started to rumble. "And now you try to murder my friends!" Fluttershy shouted. She finished digging, her hoof rubbed raw from the hard ground. "...But no more!" She grabbed the toy and stared at it, her expression full of anger and hate. "NO MORE!" she shouted again.
She felt something heavy drop from her back and dangle around her neck. ...The necklace! The dragon's eyes flashed. Suddenly, it felt as though Fluttershy's neck was on fire. She screamed in pain and dropped the toy. It was the necklace. It was burning white hot! She grabbed for the chain, but pulled back her hoof in pain. The entire necklace felt like it was melting! Her flesh sizzled as the burning metal sank into her skin. A strong wind started to blow, blowing the medallion onto the area just below her neck. Fluttershy gritted her teeth in agony as it melted her skin. She thrashed her head violently and pawed at the necklace. With an angry shout, she threw her head forward with such force, it sent the necklace flying off, where it landed several feet in front of her and melted into a puddle. Her wounds burned.
The wind started to blow harder. The tree above her swayed. "...OH NO YOU DON'T!" she screamed, grabbing the toy back up. She limped to the hole, threw the toy inside, and started to bury it, screaming a word with each hoofful of dirt. "I...HAVE...HAD...ENOUGH...OF...YOU!" She wrapped her arm around the last of the dirt and piled it on top of the hole. Then she stomped on the dirt until it was packed firmly in the ground.
Then... it was over. The toy could not crash its cymbals again. Fluttershy stepped off the packed ground and caught her breath. "NO...MORE...DEATH!" she screamed. A smile appeared on her face and she started to cackle with insane happiness and relief. Around her, the wind blew with a gale force as lightning cracked in the sky. But Fluttershy didn't notice. She was too busy laughing insanely at the demise of the toy that had made her life a nightmare. So busy, she didn't notice the tree's roots start to uproot from the force of the wind... Something hit Fluttershy over the head and she lost consciousness.
"HAPPY GET WELL SOON PARTY!" Pinkie Pie shouted, blowing a noisemaker in Fluttershy's face. Fluttershy's expression quickly changed from one of shock to one of happiness. That was enough for her friends. They had been planning this party ever since they had first visited Fluttershy in the hospital. Rainbow Dash, with the help of several Pegasi who had seen her fly furiously through the sky, had found her a few miles away from Ponyville, trapped under a large tree, unconcious. She flew for help and then stayed by her side as the rescue team lifted the tree off the Pegasus, placed her on a stretcher, and rushed her to the hospital. She was admitted for severe burns around her neck and a broken arm and neck and spent several weeks in their care. But now, she was out of the hospital and back in her house, where her friends were throwing her a welcome home/get well soon party.
"Ya really had us worried for a while, Sugarcube." AJ said, replacing her farm hat with a party hat. "Ya were so bruised up by the accident, even the doctors thought ya wouldn't make it!"
Fluttershy walked toward the table in the center of the room, keeping her weight off her bandaged, stinging front hooves. "You... really shouldn't have done this." said Fluttershy, a smile on her face.
"Horseradish!" Rarity exclaimed from the other side of the room. Fluttershy had to turn to face her due to the neck brace. Rarity was sitting in the armchair, eating ice cream, while Angel hopped at her back hooves. "You've been through a lot of stress and pain these last few weeks. We needed to do something for our bon ami!"
"Like I said, we just want to help." Twilight said, sitting at the table, drinking punch. Abover her, Rainbow Dash flew around the room, playfully chasing Fluttershy's birds.
"Its nice to see you out of the hospital and back in your house." Pinkie Pie exclaimed in her always excited voice. "We couldn't have this party without you. Well, I mean, we could, but then it wouldn't be your party. Or maybe it would. Is a party without the guest of honor still for the guest of honor, or maybe its just for thinking about the guest of honor? ...Oh well. We don't need to think about that because you're here!"
Pinkie cut a piece of cake and set it in front of Fluttershy. It started to hover a few inches. "I can help you eat it if you need help." said Twilight, her horn glowing.
"No. Thank you, Twilight, but I can eat it."
Twilight set the cake back on the plate. Fluttershy picked up the cake and took a bite. The bandaged burns around her neck stung when she swallowed, but she didn't care. She had nothing to worry about anymore...
"Hey, Fluttershy." Dash said, hovering right above her. "Why were you so weird a few weeks ago? First you hid inside your house, then you screamed at your friends, then you gave your animals away, then you decided out of nowhere to fly to the middle of nowhere, where you got hit by a tree. What's up with that?"
"While I disagree with how blunt Rainbow Dash is being..." said Twilight, glaring at the blue Pegasus, "I'd like to know that too. We were there to help, but you kept saying you didn't need help, even though you obviously did. Why?"
Fluttershy's smile vanished as she slowly set the cake down. "What should I tell them?" she asked herself. "...I guess I could tell them the truth now, but what would they think if I told them it was all because of a toy-"
"Was it because of the mail pony?" Twilight asked. "Oh. Ummm... Yes. I was really scared because of what happened to the mail pony." Fluttershy responded. "I mean... one of my trees fell on her. I... I tried to warn her, but she was so busy with the delivery, she couldn't..."
Her expression changed to fear from remembering the accident her toy had caused. ...But at the same time, she felt relieved. Relieved that they thought that was the reason for her strange behavior, instead of what it actually was...
"Well that explains it." Twilight said, satisfied. "Why didn't you just tell us?"
"I...I thought that if I...I...I..."
"Nah. No worries, Sugarcube. It's understandable to get spooked by something like that. Heck, if one of my apple trees fell on a pony, I don't think I'd even go near that part of the orchard for a LOOOONG time!"
"Well, I just felt... that..."
Rainbow Dash landed and put an arm around her shoulders, carefully avoiding her sores. "It's not your fault. It was probably an old tree anyway. The pony should have been paying more attention. And now it's over. You're out of the hospital, you're back with your friends, and there's nothing else to worry about."
She was right. There WAS nothing to worry about. The toy was gone. The curse was gone. No pony would ever find it again. It would never destroy another life. It was gone. Forever. And she was safe with her friends. Yes. There was nothing to worry about. She finished her cake and got another slice.
"Oh, I almost forgot!" Pinkie Pie said, slapping a hoof against her forehead. "Stay right there, Fluttershy. I have a surprise for you!" Fluttershy smiled. Pinkie was so random. Wonder what sort of gift she brought her this time? Maybe a muffin recipe or another bird or maybe a-
"TA-DA!" Pinkie shouted, holding up her prize. Fluttershy smiled, looked in Pinkie's direction... and her pupils shrank to the size of dots.
The cymbal dragon!
"W-where did you find that...?" Fluttershy asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
"I found it right outside the hospital where you were. Funny, right? I mean, how could this thing have gotten there? It's like it's some big friendly dog who follows you along because you fed it this one time. ...Nah, I'm just being silly. This is a toy. It's your toy. Aren't ya glad I found it? Huh? Huh? Aren't ya?"
Fluttershy didn't hear a word she said. All of a sudden, it was like her entire world had vanished, except for her and the dragon. ...She had failed. There was no way to escape this thing. Her work had been in vain...
"...Hey, is this really the one I got you?" Pinkie Pie asked. "I mean, I thought the one I got you was smiling, but this one looks... REALLY unhappy."
Fluttershy stared at its expression, breathing heavily with fright. Its face had taken the appearance of rage, malice, and hatred at levels she had never seen before. Something emanated from it that chilled every bone in her body. She felt faint.
Its eyes lit up. "Hey! It works!" Pinkie exclaimed. "...Oh no..." was all Fluttershy could manage to say, her throat almost sealed shut with terror.
Suddenly, the house started to shake. "...Hey, what's going on?" Pinkie asked, looking around the room, her smile gone.
"EARTHQUAKE!" Rainbow Dash shouted. The tremors started to shake everything in the house. Plates rattled on the table. The collectibles danced on the shelves. Books and furniture hopped along the floor.
"We need to get out of here!" Twilight exclaimed, rushing toward the door with the other ponies. All except Fluttershy... She stared at the cymbal dragon on the table as its arms started to move.
Twilight focused on the knob to the new front door and tried to open it. "...Applejack! What's wrong with this door?"
"Ah don't know!"
"Why not? You built it!"
"Well, it worked fine earlier. Here. Let me try." AJ pushed her way to the door and grabbed the knob. "Hnrrrgh! Come...On...!" The knob refused to move.
"Fine, Ah'll just break it down again!" The other ponies gave AJ some room as she turned around and started hammering on the door with her back hooves.
The tremors increased. The plates on the table crashed to the ground, joined by the glass items of Fluttershy's shelves. The armchair gave one great leap and overturned.
"Quick!" shouted Rarity. "Try the windows!" All but AJ and Fluttershy ran for the nearest windows.
"...What's wrong with these windows?" Rainbow Dash demanded, struggling to open one. "They're stuck! Fluttershy! Help us out!" Fluttershy didn't. She couldn't. There was no way to escape this one...
The tremors intensified. Shelves fell around the house. The cupboards came crashing down. Everything breakable was shattered.
"SMASH THE WINDOWS!" Twilight shouted. The ponies turned around and aimed for the windows with their back hooves, but missed. It was too shakey to get a foothold.
"...It's no good, everypony!" AJ shouted. "That door won't budge! It's like something's holding it closed!"
"There's got to be someway out!" Rarity exclaimed. "Check everywhere!"
All the ponies ran around inside the house in a panic. Fluttershy remained in her place as she watched the arms complete their stretch, the cymbals ready to crash.
"THE CEILING!" One of the ponies shouted. Fluttershy didn't bother to find out which one this time. "IT'S CRACKING!"
Above the ponies, the ceiling was indeed starting to give away.
"WE'RE TRAPPED!" shouted another pony. Then they started to scream, for there were no more words to be said.
"Zecora..." Fluttershy muttered, tears filling her eyes. "Please! Find this toy and destroy it!"
The ceiling fell.