Sweet Apple Acres was always a beautiful place to be during spring. The grass was always greenest, the air was always sweeter, and the birds always seemed to sing their happiest. It was wonderful.
"I bet you can't catch me!" taunted Scootaloo.
"We'll see about that!" replied a determined Sweetiebell.
"You guys," Spike paused to take in a few breaths, "go on. I'll catch up." The little dragon was awfully tired. He wasn't exactly made for running all day, like a pony. The young dragon placed his hands onto his knees and tried to fill his lungs with air as quickly as he could. They seemed to burn with each breath.
As Spike panted, a little yellow filly came walking up beside him. She laid a hoof onto his shoulder, which caused him to look up at her. Instantly he noticed her crimson mane and the Cutie Mark Crusaders cape she was wearing, like the others.
"Are ya ok?" asked Applebloom.
Spike drew in a few more breaths and replied "Sure, never better."
The little filly smiled slightly at his sarcasm. "Yeah, Scoots and Sweetiebell do tire ya out after a while."
"Just a little," Spike said, in another clearly sarcastic tone.
Applebloom chuckled slightly and took her hoof off of Spike's shoulder. She was about to take off in a full gallop when Spike quickly asked "But could you not run off and leave me behind? Please?"
Applebloom smiled slightly, trying to hide a laugh. "Sure Spike."
The little dragon wanted to say thank you, but he just lowered his head and took in a few more, well needed, breaths. After a moment he looked back up to see that Scootaloo and Sweetiebell were playing along the tree line. 'How can they still be running?' he thought to himself. The little dragon took in a few more breaths, but was beginning to slow his breathing. Suddenly, Spike felt something nudge him on his side.
"Are you feeling better yet?" asked Applebloom.
Spike quickly stood fully erect and answered "Yeah, but can we please slow down?"
The pair then turned towards Scootaloo and Sweetiebell and began towards them. The fillies were still trying to chase each other, but it looked like Sweetiebell was finally gaining on Scootaloo. Suddenly Sweetiebell lunged on top of the orange Pegasus. They both hit the ground with a loud thud. "Ha! I got you!" she yelled victoriously. Scootaloo tried to move, but the white unicorn was holding her firmly in place.
"Okay you win," Scootaloo said reluctantly.
"You're dang right I win!" gloated, a happy, Sweetiebell.
Spike and Applebloom stopped just a few steps away from the pair. Sweetiebell was beginning to arise off of Scootaloo when she saw the two.
"Hey guys," she said happily.
Scootaloo stood up next to Sweetiebell and added "Did your coltfriend slow you down much Apple?"
The two fillies couldn't help but laugh at this. However Applebloom and Spike didn't have the same reaction. Spike had a very angry expression on his face. Applebloom, on the other hand, had a mad and embarrassed look on hers; along with a bright red blush beginning to form.
"She's not my marefriend!" yelled Spike.
"Yeah!" added Applebloom.
Their reactions only seemed to fuel Sweetiebell and Scootaloo's laughter. Spike just rolled his eyes and did his best to ignore it. During his brief upward glance at the sky, he noticed the position of the sun was a bit lower than he thought it was.
"Hey Sweetiebell, don't you have to be home soon?" Spike said with a slightly happy, and sarcastic, tone to his voice.
Sweetiebell's laughter instantly ceased and her face quickly went from a smile to a frown. "Aw man!"
The little white unicorn looked up at the sun herself to see if Spike was correct. Unfortunately he was.
Sweetiebell was a little sad that she had to leave, but she knew that if she didn't Rarity would have one of her over dramatic fits. The little unicorn lowered her head and looked over to Spike and Applebloom.
"Well see you guys."
"See ya," they replied simultaneously.
Sweetiebell then looked over to where Scootaloo was standing, to see that the little orange Pegasus was gone. "Scoots?" she asked.
"Hey, where did Scootaloo go?" she asked the pair before her.
Spike and Applebloom hadn't noticed. They were too fixated on Sweetiebell to see what happened to her. Then Applebloom had a thought. "Her idol is Rainbow Dash after all, so I bet she's playing a prank on us."
"Yeah probably," agreed Spike.
"Hey, maybe we should go find her. Then we could prank her," Sweetiebell suggested. The white unicorn then looked back to the sun to see that it was just above the horizon. She knew she didn't have time for such things, no matter how much she wished she did. "On second thought, I better head home before Rarity has a fit."
"Oh, that's ok. We'll find her," assured Applebloom.
"Well bye guys," Sweetiebell said as she waved a hoof.
"Bye," Applebloom and Spike both said in unison, once more.
The little unicorn just turned away from her friends and began towards the path. Her hooves were beginning to become moist from the newly formed dew on the blades of grass. The air was feeling cooler as she drew nearer to the trail. It made her feel incredibly uneasy, as if something was wrong.
When her hoof stepped onto the sandy surface of the path Sweetiebell felt a chill run down her spine. After a moment of walking she felt something on her hooves. She looked down to see that the moisture from the grass and the dusty path had begun to make splotches of mud. 'Oh no. Rarity is going to be so mad at me for this,' she thought to herself. Suddenly, the white unicorn put a hoof to her stomach; feeling as if she were going to be sick. She let out a low moan as it seemed to get worse. Sweetiebell stopped walking and sat back on her flank, waiting for her stomach to feel better. As she waited, she looked around the path to see that the trees had begun casting eerie shadows in the twilight. Then her ears began to ring. It started off quietly, but slowly grew in intensity. She knew something was wrong, but she had no idea what it was. Sweetiebell continued to scan the trees, trying to get her mind off of her body's discomforts, but they only seemed to get worse.
Suddenly one of the shadows, that she thought was a tree branch, began to move. Sweetiebell quickly jumped back in fear. The shadow continued to move forward slowly until she could see what it truly was. Her blood ran cold as she stared in horror.
Spike and Applebloom were in the forest still looking for Scootaloo, despite how dark the sky had become. The eerie shadows and shades of color gave them both chills.
"Scoots!" called Applebloom. "Scootaloo! Where are you?!" asked Spike. Suddenly there was an ear piercing scream. The pair's faces went pale. They now knew this was surly no prank. "Th-That was Sweetiebell," Spike said in a shaky, horrified, voice. Instantly Applebloom darted off in the direction of the scream. It took Spike a second to realize what she was doing, but he quickly followed suit.
Applebloom could hear her hooves and her heart pounding as she ran. She was snapping branches and hitting spider webs, but she just brushed it off. She knew that whatever had happened was much more important than her minor discomforts. "Sweetiebell!" she called. Her only answer was the sound of leaves and branches brushing against her coat.
Spike was trying to keep up with the little filly, but it was rather difficult. The darkness surrounding him just made it that much harder; especially since Applebloom would always beat him in a race anyways, and with her extra adrenalin she was unstoppable.
Applebloom shot out of the forest and onto the path to see that it was empty. There was no screaming, no fighting, nothing. The only sound she heard was a light gust of wind. "Sweetiebell?" she called. Still there was only silence. Suddenly she heard the grunts of a familiar friend. Seconds later Spike fell out of the tree line and landed face first onto the path. Applebloom trotted over to him and outstretched a hoof. Spike gladly took it and arose to his feet. "Thanks," he said as he brushed off his scales.
"Sorry about leaving ya," Applebloom said in a regretful tone.
"It's okay. We're both worried about Sweetie bell." The little dragon paused to look around, and then added "Hey, where is Sweetiebell?"
"I don't know. It's like she just vanished."
"This is starting to get weird, first Scootaloo now Sweetiebell. This better be a prank."
Applebloom kept scanning up and down the path for any sign of the two when something caught her eye. It looked like a dark piece of cloth was stuck to a tree branch. Applebloom examined it a little more before she realized what it was. She outstretched a hoof in its direction and said "Spike, I don't think it was a prank." Spike's eyes followed the filly's hoof until he saw the cloth as well. It was one of the Cutie Mark Crusader's capes. It looked as if it had been thrown into a blender.
Applebloom was beginning to shiver at the site. Spike saw this and put an arm around her lower neck. The little filly jumped a slightly, but quickly leaned into him. Spike pretended that he was doing this for her comfort, but in all reality he was doing it for his as well.
"Spike?" Applebloom whispered quietly.
Suddenly Spike put a hand to his stomach. He felt like he was about to lose its contents. Then Spike felt Applebloom squirming in his arm. He looked down at her to see a sickly expression painted onto her face.
"Does your stomach feel sick too?" asked Spike.
"I don't like this. Let's get out of here."
Spike looked down the path back to Sweet Apple Acres to see just how dark it had gotten. He could barely see more than fifty feet in front of him. It was a pitch black and moonless night. "Come on," said Spike as he began to walk. The little filly was slow starting, but she began to trot along with him.
The silence around them just made things feel very eerie. The only sounds they could hear were their steady steps, the beat of their hearts, and the breaths they took. That's when Spike realized something; there weren't any owls, crickets, or anything for that matter. It was as if they were the only living things on the planet.
"Do you hear that?" asked Spike.
"No. What is it?"
"Exactly. There are no crickets, frogs, or anything."
"What the hay?"
"Let's just hurry back to the house."
The two began to quicken their pace, when suddenly they saw a few branches in front of them move. They both froze in fear, not because it startled them, but because there was no wind to move it. As they continued to move, Spike made a fist over his stomach. He felt as if he were going to be sick any second now. Applebloom felt the same way.
After a few more tense seconds, an owl flew off of the branches. The pair let out a, well needed, sigh of relief and began to chuckle slightly.
"I bet that was Owlicious," joked Spike, "He has a habit of annoying and scaring me."
Applebloom let out an uneasy laugh and looked towards Spike. "Yeah I-" Her face suddenly lost all color and expression. Behind Spike was the most horrible thing to ever walk on Equestria. It looked like a very tall and pale pony, but it didn't have a mane or tail. But what was the most shocking thing about it was its face; it's awful face. It didn't have one. There wasn't even a snout; it was just skin and fur.
Spike saw the look on Applebloom's face and was horrified to know what she was seeing. Suddenly she let out an earsplitting scream and jumped away from the little dragon. Just as soon as she began to let out her cries the pony, or whatever it was, receded into the darkness.
"What is it?" he asked, with fear mounting in his voice.
"Behind you! That thing!"
Spike quickly turned around to see nothing. There was only forest and darkness. The fearful dragon looked back to Applebloom and asked "What thing?"
"It was just there!" she screamed as tears of fear began to well up in her eyes.
Spike walked over to Applebloom. "Let's just get the hay out of here."
Applebloom nodded and wiped away a few tears. The two looked back down the path and began walking. Their steady walk turned into a light jog. Their light jog quickly turned into a panicked run. The two weren't even bothering with trying to calm each other down now. They just wanted out. They wanted this nightmare to end.
As the two rounded a corner they could see the light's from the house. This gave them a little hope, but suddenly that hope faded and was quickly replaced with fear. For standing just at the mouth of the path was the most awful sight they'd ever seen. A tall, pale, and slender pony just stared at them with what should have been a face. It almost seemed as if its face was a blur instead of just blank, but it was hard to tell through the shroud of darkness.
Spike and Applebloom both let out the most fearful yell they ever had in their lives. They instantly turned completely around and ran as fast as they could. They were utterly horrified. They had to get out of the forest.
As they ran past tree after tree they saw it. That thing was standing in the forest ahead of them. It was off in the tree line so the thought they could just steer clear of it and make it past. Stopping to turn around would only slow them down, besides it'd probably be waiting there for them if they did.
Then they saw it again on the other side of the path. It was as if it were teleporting, like a unicorn, but it didn't have a horn. So how could it possibly be doing this?
The two didn't ponder that question for very long, because they simply didn't care. They could worry about things like that later.
Suddenly it appeared just a few feet away from Applebloom. She let out a terrified scream and jumped away as she ran. They were almost to the bridge; they were going to make it. And just as it had earlier, their hopes returned. Except this time they weren't shattered.
The two sprinted across the bridge and ran down the streets of Ponyville. Neither looked back, because neither wanted to see that horrible monster again. However, instead of seeing the monster they saw something much more encouraging.
"I can see the library!" yelled Spike with the slightest happy tone in his voice.
After a few more seconds of running, Spike bolted through the door with Applebloom only inches behind him. They quickly slammed it behind them and started bolting locks.
Twilight, who was reading a book, was startled by their sudden entry. She quickly stood to her hooves and stared at the exhausted pair.
"Spike, I thought you were spending the night at Applebloom's house," Twilight said with a great deal of confusion in her tone.
The second the two heard their friend's voice; they sprinted over to her and wrapped their arms and hooves around both of her forelegs. Instantly the two broke down into tears.
Rarity was pacing back and forth by the front door of the boutique anxiously awaiting her sister's return. 'Where in Equestria is that little filly! I told her to be home before night!' she thought to herself. Rarity had been considering going out after her, but she assumed Sweetiebell was just having fun or was already on her way. But it had been dark for over twenty minutes now and she was growing increasingly concerned with the idea that something may be wrong. She thought for a moment and then yelled "Once I find her I'm going to kill that filly!" Quickly she stormed out of the door and slammed it behind her.
Rarity trotted down the streets of Ponyville in her usual feminine manor. There was nothing too out of the ordinary, besides the fact that every light was on in Twilight's library. She just assumed that the lavender mare was doing some cleaning; after all it was rather dusty the last time she had stopped by. Ignoring it, the white coated unicorn continued down the dusty streets and soon came to a small bridge.
Around this time she began to notice how eerie the trees looked without any moonlight. But she knew there wasn't anything to be afraid of; right?
Rarity had an uneasy feeling as she approached the path to Applejack's house. It felt like somepony, or something, was watching her. However she ignored it and assumed it was just her imagination combined with the rather creepy scenery. 'Come on Rarity. You just need to find Sweetiebell and go home. She's probably just playing inside Applejack's home with the oth-.' Her thought was suddenly cut off when she stepped onto a small piece of cloth. She examined it for a moment and quickly realized what it was. It was one of the Cutie Mark Crusaders' capes. It looked as if it had been ripped to shreds. This realization made a chill run down Rarity's spine. "Sweetiebell would never leave this, or let it get into such a horrid condition. None of them would," she said aloud.
She looked around the path, worried that something had happened to her sister. This wasn't like her, or any of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, at all. "Sweetiebell?" she called. There was no answer other than a steadily quickening heartbeat. All of a sudden, Rarity felt very nauseous. Despite this, she continued to call for her sister. "Sweetiebell!?" she yelled with fear beginning to mount in her voice.
Suddenly a tree branch in front of her began to move. "Sweetiebell?" she asked. She jumped when she saw the hoof of a white pony step out onto the path. "Sweetiebell, there you are. Where were-" The white unicorn stopped mid-sentence when she saw the pony step out completely. Her eyes widened in horror when she saw it in its awful entirety. The slender, faceless, pony was just a few feet away from the white unicorn, and it was staring right at her with that terrible face. After a brief moment of shock Rarity let out a horrified scream and turned completely around. She kicked up a small cloud of dust when she did so.
The fearful unicorn darted back down the dark path with every bit of strength she had. Rarity had never been this scared in her life, and she surly didn't want to spend any more time than she had to near that awful thing. Whatever it was, she knew it couldn't want to do anything good.
After no more than thirty seconds Rarity darted across the bridge and down the streets of Ponyville. She was lucky that she hadn't ventured any farther into the forest. Otherwise she may have not been so fortunate.
The white unicorn continued running down the streets, but quickly looked over her shoulder. The faceless pony was standing on the bridge which she had just crossed. She let out a fearful yelp and ran to the library's entrance. She tried to open the door, but was surprised to find that it was locked.
Frantically, Rarity began banging her hooves onto the door. "Open up Twilight!" she screamed. Rarity turned back to the dark streets of Ponyville to see the faceless pony standing in the shadows of a nearby building. Quickly, she turned back to the door and continued beating on it.
After what seemed like forever, Rarity finally heard the sound of locks moving and the slight creak of the door opening. Not waiting for whoever it was to open it, she quickly barged in and in doing so she knocked Twilight onto the floor. She would have apologized, but she was too scared to even realize what she had done. She just closed the door behind her and locked everything on it.
The lavender unicorn was a bit knocked around, but still stood up on her own. Rarity, on the other hand, sank down to the base of the door and began to sob.
"Rarity, what's wrong?" asked Twilight.
"Th-Th-That THING! THAT NIGHTMARE! IT TOOK MY SWEETIEBELL!"