The Chase

Bucky Bitters struggles to escape the airborne affections of Derpy Hooves after a chance encounter caused them to bump noses together. His real mistake was trying to comfort the mare after the snoot-bump. Little does the poor stallion realise that their meeting was only the prologue to a journey that will change not only his life, but the lives around him forever.

This story is a sequel to The Catch

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Berry Punch sat, stirring a bowl of thin runny oatmeal with a spoon, her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth as she concentrated. She had added her own milk to the bowl, thinning out the oatmeal and cooling it off.

Raising an eyebrow, she looked at Bucky, who nodded.

Bucky, sitting across the table, set down his coffee cup and smiled at Cadance, who was sitting on the table between them. “Hey Cadance… Cadance… you know what would make daddy happy? Can you name one of your sisters? What about your brother? Can you say one of their names?”

Her wings fluttering, Cadance’s eyes went wide as she concentrated. Her lips moved and she blew a spit bubble. She looked around her, looked down at Bucky’s coffee cup for a moment, and then looked over at Tourmaline who was sitting at a nearby table with Belisama.

“Come on Cadance, I know you can do it.” Bucky leaned forward over the table.

“Harpy?” A line of drool trickled down Cadance’s chin and she slurped it up.

“Yes! Harpy. Harper is your sister. Very good!” Bucky said, using an exaggerated happy voice. He reached out his talons and, using one of his talon tips, he tickled Cadance’s ribs.

Cadance, having been praised and tickled, chuckled and bounced around in place.

It was in this moment that Berry Punch launched her sneak attack. The spoon full of runny oatmeal was slipped into Cadance’s open mouth, and then, with lightning fast reflexes, Berry Punch used her other front hoof to close Cadance’s lower jaw.

Wide eyed, worried about a mouthful of strange stuff, shocked and surprised, Cadance, not knowing what else to do, swallowed. She sat there for a moment, trying to comprehend what had just happened. She looked at Berry Punch, then at Bucky, and realising that she had been tricked, she stuck out her tongue and blew a raspberry at her father, spewing oatmeal into his face.

“Solid foods already?” Celestia asked. “Has it been that long?”

“Bucky recovered Cadance just after the hurricane and just before the first meeting of the Stable of Representatives,” Berry Punch replied. “It’s been a few months.”

Bucky, covered in oatmeal, made a silly face at Cadance to distract her. Once more, Cadance began to laugh. Extending a talon, Bucky tickled her navel.

Working in time with Bucky’s movements, Berry Punch prepared her spoon. She waited until Cadance was lost in the moment, laughing, and having fun as Bucky tickled her. When the time was right, she slipped the spoon into Cadance’s open mouth.

The pink alicorn foal looked very alarmed when the spoon entered her mouth for the second time. She swallowed and then looked at Berry. Smacking her lips, Cadance banged one front hoof down upon the table. She smacked her lips a second time, the action every little foal did when they wanted to nurse or wanted to be fed.

Glancing at Bucky, worried that this might be too good to be true, Berry Punch scooped out more oatmeal and then held the spoon out to Cadance, who went cross eyed when she tried to look at it. Berry waited, patient, hoping, and felt a flood of relief when Cadance opened her mouth.

“Oh you're going to make this easy,” Berry said as she fed Cadance. After getting the spoon in Cadance’s mouth, Berry Punch scraped oatmeal from Cadance’s chin using the spoon.

“I can’t believe how easy this is,” Bucky said, shaking his head. “After all of the fighting with Harper.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet. We caught her off guard with oatmeal and she likes it. There are lots of other things she might not like.” Berry Punch slipped another spoonful into Cadance, who gobbled it down with gusto.

“So Cadance is our good foal—”

“Bucky! All foals are good foals!” Celestia conjured up a wet wash cloth and dropped it in front of Bucky.

“Say that after catching Harper in a bad mood,” Bucky said in a low grumble. He picked up the cloth and began wiping his face.

“Luna got zapped by Harper.” Celestia smirked, unable to help herself. “Luna refuses to talk about how it happened, other than she got zapped.”

Berry Punch, focused on her task, smiled as she scooped up more oatmeal. “Luna was ducked down below the edge of the bed. She popped up and shouted ‘BOO!’ at Harper. Harper unloaded on her. Facefull of lightning discharge.”

Chuckling, Bucky drummed his talons upon the table. “At least Luna is lightning aligned. She shrugged it off and was okay. I was kinda proud of Harper though. Most foals would have been scared silly.”

 

 

Reclining upon a sofa, Bucky watched as everyone around him did something with their time. The griffons were making music, something that Bucky found soothing, and he listened as he distracted himself by watching everything going on around him. Beside him, Bell Heather lay on her back, making foal-babble as she looked up at her father.

Tourmaline was playing with her pet spider golem, running around the room after it, trying to catch it. It beeped and booped in protest as it darted in and out between the chairs and tables. It begged for the Sun to save it from the tiny terror.

Violet and Raven had their noses buried in paperwork and ledgers. Vacation paperwork and ledgers, as Bucky had found out when he had inquired. Light work that wasn’t work at all. The mares spoke of it as a hobby, a means to pass the time, something interesting to do.

Celestia, too big for the couches and sofas that lined the walls of the common room, lay in a nest of large cushions set up in the corner. A small pink foal napped beside her. Cadance had eaten every bit of oatmeal offered and was now comatose as her body worked to digest the semi-solid food she had eaten.

Berry Punch and Thistle played cards with one another, some cutthroat competition that caused a bit of good natured squabbling between them. They were using spoons to gamble with, each one trying to outdo the other. Berry Punch held her cards close, peering down her muzzle at them, while Thistle left her cards upon the table, face down, lifting one up on occasion to have a look before she made a play.

It was clear to anypony watching that Thistle was winning.

Unnoticed, Bucky slipped off into a doze…

 

 

The hallways were strange and distorted. Bucky looked around, trying to remember the name of this place. It was the orphanage in Tall Tale. He was sent here to do something… something important. He couldn’t remember the train ride here, but he sort of remembered the walk. He hadn’t been sleeping right and Bucky worried that his mind was out of sorts.

From inside the walls, Bucky heard squeaking. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He caught of whiff of something he hated, the scent of urine and of filth. Rats.

He trotted down the hall, looking around, the scent growing stronger and worse. The stench of decay hit his nostrils. It was, as Sentinel would have said, mouthwateringly bad.

Ahead, he heard thumping, a rhythmic sound that repeated over and over, a steady sound almost like a heartbeat. Other than the squeaking, it was the only sound. This was an orphanage. There should have been sound.

As Bucky continued down the hall, the windows darkened. Clouds moved in, blotting out the sun, and the daylight shining in the windows grew dim. Bucky came to the slow worrisome realisation that he could not hear the sound of his own hooves.

The walls were alive with the sounds of squeaking now.

Stopping at a door, Bucky looked at it, looking up at it, it seemed too tall for equines. It did not seem square. The angles were odd… off… the top of the door seemed wider than the bottom. The keyhole was dark, no light shone through.

The heartbeat like sound was coming from beyond the door. It thumped, a steady sound that made Bucky feel sleepy. He blinked a few times, trying to rid himself of his drowsiness. Reaching out his talons, he pushed the door open.

The room was full of bodies. Little bodies. Tiny little bodies of foals, all of them smiling lipless grins, the soft parts of their faces chewed off, little square teeth were visible. They had no ears, no eyelids, and most of them had no eyes. The few that did looked at Bucky with wide eyed accusing stares.

In the corner, a lone living foal bounced a red rubber ball against the wall. It thumped against the floor, against the wall, again against the floor, and then back to the colt, who kicked it away once more in an endless loop.

“You there… come here… let me take you away from here,” Bucky said, gesturing the foal to come closer. “What is your name?”

The foal turned to look at Bucky. The ball, interrupted from its endless loop, bounced on the floor, once, twice, and then rolled away, stopping when it hit the lifeless body of a foal.

The only living foal, a colt, was dark purple-grey and had black mane.

“My name is Larch and I talk to the dead.”

“Larch, come here to me. We need to go.” Bucky gestured once more.

“You came too late. They’re all dead now and I can hear them whispering to me.”

“Larch… let me get you out of here.” Bucky began to step through the room, trying not to step on any equine remains. He almost slipped in a slick puddle of ichor.

“You can’t save me. You can’t save yourself. You can’t save anything.”

“Don’t say that Larch,” Bucky said in a low voice, feeling queasy as he stepped over a filly whose body quivered in an odd manner, as if there was something crawling around inside of it. “Larch… it feels… it feels like… it feels like I have met you before.”

“You have… you came to me and you took me away. You took me out of the orphanage and you bought me lunch and a sundae.”

Bucky, feeling confused, stepped over another foal, trying to reach Larch, who was much farther away than it first seemed. “Why are you back here? If I took you away, why did you come back to this place?”

“A better question is, why are you here?” Larch replied.

The ball moved on its own, rolling back towards Larch, who began to bounce it against the wall once more, ignoring Bucky as Bucky tried to make his way across the room.

“I came here to rescue you.” Bucky looked around. The room was getting darker. No light shone through the windows. It was getting harder to see Larch now.

“The only things that are here in this place are dead things.” Larch, bouncing his ball, scowled and turned away from Bucky.

Bucky’s eyesight shifted as the room became dark. Things took on a silver hue as his night vision manifested. “I can save you.”

“Who will save me from you?” Larch asked.

Freezing in place, his heart stopping, Bucky stared at the colt.

“You don’t get it, do you? The only things here are dead things… you’re here for a reason. You can’t stop what is happening.”

“I’m not dead… I don’t want to be dead!” Bucky cried, the dreadful meaning of the colt’s words settling into his brain.

“I talk to the dead,” Larch said in a soft voice. “I’m sorry, but that is just how it is. I have accepted that and so should you.”

His voice a low whine, Bucky said, “But I’m not dead… I’m not!”

“You are becoming dead… you have no warmth of your own… you crave the warmth of others—”

“NO!” Bucky squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. He opened his eyes and looked at Larch. “NO! I don’t accept that. I will not become a shadow! I will keep myself… I will find a way!”

The darkness vanished and sunlight flooded through the windows. The room filled with golden light. For a moment, Bucky felt warmth. He felt alive. The warmth of the sun permeated into his bones.

But the warmth kept increasing. The sun became brighter and brighter. Bucky felt himself grow hot. Too hot. The sun was burning him, searing his skin, it became hard to see.

There was no place to hide, no place to go, there was no dark place to slip off to so he could find shelter from the sun.

“NO!” Bucky shrieked as he felt himself ignite.

Flames lapped along his pelt. He felt his skin blister, peel, he could smell hair burning. Searing heat stabbed through his body and Bucky felt the flames consume him. The sun was a bane to shadows. Bucky could feel his own flesh melting like hot wax as the fires of the sun purged his shadowy existence.

Too late, Bucky realised that the sun was death.

 

 

 

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