Silent Ponyille: Reunion
"This again," he muttered to himself as he closed his office door. The blackened entryway no longer stood out as prominently now that its surroundings were charred a matching black color. The floor beneath him still felt fortunately solid despite the sudden onset of extensive fire damage. The soft yet persistent buzzing of his watch told him that the sovereign was still lying on the balcony, and he was content to take its word for it. So while everything was relatively fine for the moment he wasn't sure he would be able to say the same thing when his burned out house had also become rotten and battered.
Lance sighed and took a moment to fish his newest health drink from his pack and drink about a third of the bottle's contents. The pain was slowly coming back, but it wasn't so bad as to require the whole thing yet. The cuts on his back weren't anywhere near deep enough to worry about too much, annoyances more than anything. He knew he should be worried about infection from the rusted, filthy barbs that had been covering the nurse, but he was worrying less and less about such things. If the dip in the tub alone hadn't already reduced him to a festering, inflamed mess, then he doubted anything there could.
So the question was, how exactly did infections just stop happening?
He put his drink away, moved down the hallway to the corner, and peeked around to the two other doors still waiting for him. No matter his worries about the building's condition, he couldn't do anything but keep going. The thought didn't do much for him as he approached the battered door though. It was next in line. It was only natural that it would be the one he'd enter after the burned door...but he couldn't bring himself to open it. He stood there staring at it, rooted to the spot for a solid minute or so before tearing his gaze from it. There was nothing forcing him to go through it next, so why should he? He'd get to it eventually. No need to continue standing there justifying it to himself. Lance started for the molded door at the end of the hallway...which was also now bearing a note with black writing.
You're killing her.
"You've had enough time to watch me," he started as he tore the note off the door. "There is no way you don't know that my wife is the only thing keeping me going. But you want me to stop. So that brings up an interesting question doesn't it?" he continued while staring at the doorknob. "If you want me to stop so badly, why haven't you done the one thing that you know would most immediately make me give up?" Lance's hoof took hold of the doorknob and turned. "So either you can't...or you won't."
He opened the door. The entryway that greeted him was ever so slightly at odds with the damp, mold infested panel of wood he'd just pulled aside. It was almost pristine, without even so much as a speck of dust coming into view of the beam from his surgical light. Even with how meticulous Lance could be, he couldn't manage to recall a time in all the years spent there by he and his family that the house had ever looked quite so clean. Aside from one detail, the place would have passed for a real estate agency's open house. He was fairly certain the blood red numbers drawn here and there on nearly every uncovered surface would have been a deal breaker though. Every 303 was crossed out by a black X mark that he could only guess was keeping them from showing him anything.
"You really don't want me to see something," he pondered to himself as he moved into the living room. It was in much the same pristine yet sanguine graffiti riddled condition, with a quiet, steady tapping noise that would normally make him want to start checking pipes. There was another bust in the same spot as the first, but the bed had been replaced with a gurney, thankfully a clean looking, unoccupied, completely inanimate one. Though located in the same place, the bust itself was different, this time made from one solid, formidable looking sculpted piece of metal instead of having been put together with slipshod welding. It also served as the indirect source of the tapping noise, a drop of water falling from above onto its forehead every few seconds. Lance looked up to see a hole that had been precisely cut into the ceiling, complete with a paneled border and everything. It exposed a single pipe, ending in a spigot with its valve opened just enough to let the water steadily drip. As far as he could tell somepony had gone to great lengths to...slowly make the floor wet?
Something else was slowly creeping up on him the longer he spent in there. He couldn't put his hoof on it either, it was just some intangible sense that something was off, and it had nothing to do with the numbers. Everything was silent except for the dripping noise, his watch, and his own breathing, but that in itself wasn't odd at all. It was something more extensive, like somehow the possibility of further sounds ever existing had been switched off. The air felt heavier, every movement bringing the almost imperceptible feeling that he was having to force the air around him to give way rather than it flowing around him on its own, even though moving about wasn't any more difficult than before. It was probably nothing though. Probably.
There were no stacks of boxes filling up the current version of his dining room so it seemed the next logical choice. The now expected bevvy of crossed out numbers continued in there, only interrupted by what looked like a wooden shipping palette bolted onto the wall on his left side as he entered, with the numbers seeming to thicken as they got closer to it. There were words crudely carved into it, and although the message was so nearly illegible that it took him a moment to work out what it was saying, the intent of the writer still became clear in the end...
"I DON'T WANT TO"
...or at least as clear as a sentence fragment could manage.
"Don't want to what?" he muttered to himself as he continued looking the room over. There was another gramophone waiting for him in the corner, and the obligatory glance at the back door reassured him there was still no way out. Perhaps as some sliver of mercy, this version had been boarded shut, saving him the trouble of getting his hopes up in the slightest. Their table was gone again, but this time there hadn't been so much as a hoof stool left behind to replace it. The room felt much larger for all the missing furniture, making the trip over to the gramophone seem a bit longer than before.
The label on the record was a different color than the first. Lance was left to imagine what sort of unrelated nonsense he was about to listen to as he gave the crank another few turns to move things along.
The recording began with the sound of hoof steps hurrying along a cobblestone street at a brisk trot. As the unnamed pony continued, the clopping of their hooves was joined by a crowd's murmur drawing closer and closer. The hoof steps came to a stop before the first voice spoke.
"What's the situation?" Lance recognized the voice as that of the younger stallion he'd heard in the first recording. Apparently he'd either made a miraculous full recovery or, far more likely, these were events that had taken place before the first record.
"An early morning patrol found a mare walking the streets alone looking visibly distressed, so they approached to ask if she was alright. She cut one of their cheeks open with a scalpel and ran off. The injured guard's partner helped him to the hospital, and they found out that same hospital had a patient sneak out last night matching the mare's description. They got word out, another patrol spotted her, and apparently she didn't think she could outrun them because she made a beeline for that cafe right there, and now she's in that alley with some old stallion's grandson who she's threatening to slice open unless we let her go," a mare's voice explained in reply.
"We obviously can't do that...okay, what else do I need to know? What's her problem exactly, why was she in the hospital?"
"We don't know exactly, but if she can give a guard a lopsided smile and then lead another two on a chase I'd hazard a guess her problem wasn't physical," the mare pointed out. "Frankly we don't have the kind of time to figure that stuff out, she's getting more paranoid by the second, and if the captain hadn't told me to wait for you I would've already gotten on that roof with my crossbow and put her down."
"So...that's your recommendation here? Kill her?" he asked with an ever so subtle hint of disapproval.
"Yeah. Yeah it is. I've been here watching her for over two hours. I've seen ponies try to tell her nopony wanted to hurt her, that everypony only wanted to help her, but she's still not budging. Every time somepony even starts to get near her she reacts like they're a bucking monster. I don't know what's wrong with her or how long they tried to fix it, but as far as I'm concerned time is up. The world will probably be better off with that colt in her hooves than it would be with a mare that would take an innocent foal hostage," she answered with little to no hesitation in her words.
"Okay then. I'll take it under advisement. Stay off the roof, if she spots anypony up there she'll panic. You have any other details for me? Things about the hostage I need to know?"
"What? You can't be serious, you're going to try to talk that down?!"
"I asked for details, not questions, now are you going to help me or am I going to have to pull rank on you?"
"What do you need?" she asked hesitantly.
"Anything you can give me."
"All we know is that the kid's grandfather Laughlin was taking him out for breakfast while his parents were getting a surprise party ready for his birthday, the kid's name is-"
"So nothing useful then. I'm going in."
Before the as of yet unnamed stallion made it two steps away, the needle reaching the end of the record cut off all sound. Lance took the needle off, leaving the gramophone to spin down.
"..." He wanted to be able to say something about how the stallion had deserved what had become of him. He wanted to hate him for his stupidly letting his ambition get the best of him at such a sensitive juncture, snuffing out an innocent life before it could barely get the chance to live. He wanted to feel as though he could call somepony like that out for their callous apathy for another pony. But even though all of those things were true, it had been a long, long time since he could say them in good conscience.
Now all the was left of the first floor was the hallway, which turned out to be a quick search, more of a glance really. His surgical light fell upon door after door that had been boarded up until it reached the end of the hall, where the laundry room door waited with no visible obstructions. Lance trotted the length of the corridor to check the doorknob, and found that it was unbroken, but locked. There would be a key somewhere, and since he'd already searched the first floor that meant it had to be upstairs...hopefully someplace other than the balcony. His watch was still warning him about his friend up there.
Lance made it four steps upward before his ear twitched and he stopped. He looked toward the wall to his right and waited. He could've sworn he'd heard some sort of squeaking sound outside the 'front' door, in the upstairs corridor of the central house, but it had been so faint it could likely have just been the house settling. After another few moments he disregarded it as a needless distraction and continued upstairs.
Upon reaching the top he spotted two unobstructed doors and noticed that the numbers seemed to have been strewn even thicker upstairs. His office was open in this version of the house too, and the second open door was to his home library at the corner of the hallway. He passed each one up though, intent on making sure he didn't blunder into another monster this time by clearing the corridor first. There was nothing alive waiting for him around the corner, though what he did find was was not all that pleasant either. A set of iron bars a few feet past Fluttershy's bedroom door blocked him from getting any closer to the master bedroom, the numbers and crosses getting so thick that the walls around the door were practically solid black with the occasional red spot. The door itself was strangely bare save for another crudely carved message.
He was beginning to rethink his whole 'open house' sentiment.
Lance momentarily felt both frustrated and appreciative at the writer's apparent inability to use complete sentences. It was irritating not being able to make out the blur that resulted from the lack of clarity, but he simultaneously doubted that he wanted to see any of this clearly anymore. At least he didn't have to ponder it any further; there were two rooms with which he could distract himself.
His home library had long served as a refuge where he could simply sit down, relax, and read things that had little to nothing to do with his job. He had many a pleasant memory of evenings spent with his wife at his side as they both read whatever had their attention at the time. They'd even taught Fluttershy to read there...which was a thought that made him suddenly want to get the search over with already.
The window that had once let sunlight into the room had been covered with taped on newspaper, the couple bits of furniture were gone, and the shelves that had once housed their books now laid bare. The only thing that remained was the grandfather clock near the far corner of the room that had for years ensured nopony lost track of time while reading. It still looked to be in fine condition, thought it wasn't working at that very moment. The pendulum inside of the case had ceased to swing and the weights were at their lowest position. Were it to ever tick again it would need the routine weekly pull on the two center chains to lift the weights back up, but that would be tricky. A heavy chain was wrapped tightly around the case, keeping the door held shut. Lance looked around the clock curiously but found nothing in the way of a padlock holding the chain together, it was all just one looped length of chain. He wouldn't be sliding the chains off the top or bottom of the clock either; the case was the timepiece's thinnest part and they were so tightly bound he had doubts that he could move them at all. It seemed that this was something he would have to come back to later.
Lance moved on along the hallway to his open office, and what he found there was even less helpful than had been his chained up longcase clock. Though there had been plenty of reading done in that room, none of it had been relaxing. This was his business room where he read up on his various medical journals, studied new editions of the Equestrian Medical Association Official Compendium of Diseases and Conditions religiously, and handled the family finances because as distant as his accountant parents had been some things about them had rubbed off on their son. Over the years it had become partially filled with boxes containing various documents and records, many of which would probably never have been needed but he had always figured it was better to be safe than sorry with such things. To his now complete lack of surprise, none of those things were there anymore. There was only his desk...with a rather curious thickening of numbers and crosses beneath it on the floor and another message messily carved into the top.
"Sorry, I can't," he apologized to the writer. He planted his front hooves on the side of the desk and pushed in attempt to see what it was hiding, but unexpectedly found that it absolutely refused to move. Lance blinked in confusion and then looked downward, knowing full well that his desk had never been that heavy. Though a sudden arbitrary change in weight would have been par for the course for recent events, the desk's weight had nothing to do with it. It had been bolted to the floor...which meant this would be another thing he would have to come back to later.
The amber, blood, and bandage coated pegasus emerged into the hallway with brow furrowed in frustration. Thus far he'd found a dripping pipe over a bust, a record that told him nothing, a locked door with no key, a door he couldn't reach because of some bars, a chained clock with no padlock, and a desk that might be hiding something but couldn't be moved. The burned out version of his house had been self contained...perhaps that didn't hold true for this one. Maybe skipping the battered door had been a bad idea after-
Lance just about leapt out of his skin as a loud crash of cracking wood sounded downstairs, followed soon after by an even louder rending and groaning of metal. He stood stone still with his gaze transfixed upon the stairwell next to him in case anything was about to come up at him, but nothing did, leaving his watch to continue with the soft buzzing that had been nagging at his ears ever since entering the house. There was only the steady noise of a repeated metallic tapping below him, daring him to descend and investigate. With everything else leading to a dead end, he let out an unsteady breath and crept downstairs...stopping briefly as he heard that sound outside the door again.
The racket had come from the far end of the first floor hallway, and Lance saw the aftermath as soon as he looked right after stepping off the last stair. The door to the laundry room had been bashed down and now laid in splintered pieces all over the floor. Somepony had taken something with two red handles and jammed it into the top of the dryer so hard that it had pierced right through the metal and deformed it to the point that the rotating drum inside was now getting caught on something repeatedly. There was a trail of dripped blood along the hallway floor, too copious to have been left by the grinning stalker. Yet Lance hadn't heard any fluctuations in the buzzing of his watch, so the only other creature he knew could have done this hadn't moved...right?
He quietly trotted to the door and cautiously peeked inside to find the room unoccupied, then entered and turned the dryer off to stop the grating noise it had been making. The two red handles sticking out of the top looked like a tool of some kind, so Lance took hold with both hooves and with some effort and time was able to wrench it free. It was indeed a tool, a heavy bolt cutter in fact. He instantly thought of the clock upstairs, but only managed a couple steps before an even better idea came to him. Instead of the chains on the clock, he could just save himself any further trouble and cut the chains holding shut door 303!
With a new spring to his step Lance stashed the bolt cutters in his bag then hurried to the front door and turned the knob to open it. All that resulted was the door opening a half inch before hitting something on the other side. He let out a quiet grumble to himself, frustrated at this new obstacle. After closing the door again he peered out the peephole to see if he could catch sight of what was stopping him, hoping that whatever it was would not prove so heavy as to be immovable.
The sounds outside hadn't been the structure settling after all. There were two flesh sheet covered roller gurneys parked right in front of the door frame, the other three waiting on the ceiling and each wall.
Lance recoiled from the door with a sharp gasp, suddenly wanting to get as far away from it as possible. He hurried back upstairs, quickly making his way to the library and shutting the door behind him, his breath coming a little heavier as he pondered the futility of running. They moved freely in the unseen spaces, and he didn't have near enough eyes to stop them. He'd been left alone so far though...best not waste time and tempt them to change their minds.
He brought the bolt cutters back out and caught a link of chain between the blades before snapping through them. The chain length instantly fell to the ground in a noisy clatter, and the handles of the tool broke off as it began burning away to ash in his hooves. Lance took a moment to hurriedly dust the ash off his hooves before opening the front panel of the clock case and pulling down on the chains until each of the weights were just below the clock's face. He then moved the pendulum to its leftmost position and let it begin swinging freely.
It was like he could feel the first tick...and then the next, and then the next. With each tick of the newly active clock, the vague feeling of all consuming stillness that he'd noticed when first entering ebbed away. When it was entirely gone he breathed a sigh of relief, as though the very air around him had stopped weighing so much upon him. But nothing else happened...the clock was now ticking away and that was all. He'd revealed no new item or opened any path by doing this, and those gurneys were still outside, assuming they hadn't just let themselves in yet.
Wracking his mind trying to think of anything else to try, Lance opened the door again only to receive another shock. His surroundings now quite well suited the rotted plank of wood that lead back to the 'normal' version of his house. Most of the buildings he'd been through had been abandoned, but this one had been left behind for quite a while longer than any of them. The air was moist and cold, his surroundings were covered by large patches of mold and bits of fungi that had rotted away a good chunk of the structure, and the smell of mildew was heavy in the air. The house had an infection that had been left to relentlessly eat away at it for decades.
He stepped out and looked around in dreadful awe at the changes. The floor felt a bit less stable but still able to support his weight reliably enough. What he was walking could still roughly be called 'carpet' but he never remembering carpet making a squishing noise with each step. A great deal of the walls had been rotted away, baring the now dank and filthy insulation, broken wiring, and rusted pipes that were normally hidden. What was left of the bars blocking his way to the master bedroom were a testament to the extent of the water damage. They had rusted to such an extent that they were unable to so much as hold themselves together, now mostly laying in scattered rust red bits on the floor leaving only the segments directly connected to the wall to maintain their laughably ineffective guard. It was difficult to tell if the black color covering the walls beyond was black mold or the cross marks anymore, and the door had been rotted to the point where the already hard to read message from before was now entirely gone.
Lance stepped through the boundary that the bars had once kept, his back hoof errantly knocking another rusted bit of metal from one of the lower segments in the floor. The doorknob assembly of the door wasn't faring any better than the bars, and he had only to nudge his hoof against the door to make it swing inwards. He flinched as the door hinges likewise gave way to their disrepair, the top hinge snapping free of the wall before the sudden shifting of weight broke the lower one. The door fell, the fairly tame impact against the floor proving enough to make the rotted plank fall into two pieces with an assortment of wet wood bits between them.
He set his hoof down and looked up from the mess that had once been a door. This room had been a treasured place to him...once. It's actual state looked nothing like the squalor before him, but it suddenly occurred to him that it might as well have for the way he treated it. The mirror above the drawer-less dresser was broken, the glass from the room's window was missing and the screen panel that had once accompanied it was blotched over with mold and fungal tendrils. It was certainly a distressing sight but it wasn't until his eyes roamed over to the bed that things began to take a turn for the sinister.
Their bed frame was absent, leaving only a sheetless mattress on top of a box spring. It was stained a horrible orange maroon color in patches all over, and there was what he could only assume was dried blood that had pooled on the floor after trickling over the side. In the middle of the mattress was a hole only a little larger than the space a pony would occupy while lying down. Tight leather straps held it all in place, the ends of each strap held fast to the floor via bolted metal plates. They crossed over the hole in varying, sometimes overlapping angles, allowing one to look inward but not enter...or exit. Lance approached the hole and hesitantly peered downward, greeted again by an infinite unending blackness that even his surgical light couldn't penetrate. He could also hear that same quiet, unending sound of exhalation that he'd heard in between the floors of the hospital...only this time it surprised him by pausing briefly and resuming, as though changing to an inhalation.
He would have left the room immediately save for having caught sight of something shimmering on the dresser when the beam of his light passed over. It was a small key with an attached tag on which the words 'FOR A GOOD TIME' were written with an accompanying heart symbol. Though he no longer immediately needed a key, he assumed it would prove useful later and stashed it away before getting the buck out of there.
Lance took a glance to his left into the library as he passed the corner of the hallway. The rot from the rest of the house had taken advantage of his absence and moved right on in. Whilst the clock was now in a severe state of mold riddled, fungi eaten disrepair it still manage to tick onward somehow, though the sound was so severely distorted from it's formerly comforting rhythm. He moved along towards the stairs but was stopped by the sound of voices in his office.
"Lance, please, you're not looking at this reasonably," came Posey's voice.
"Posey?" he replied as he trotted up to the office door and looked inward. It was indeed Posey, but she wasn't standing in the present. He saw his younger self seated at the desk looking over their bank statements as his wife stood next to him with a distinct frown.
"How am I not looking at this reasonably Posey? We just spent a bunch of money on buying this house and moving in just a month ago, and we need to have enough on hoof at all times to take care of Fluttershy. I'm sorry, we just don't have enough to safely spare right now," the young Lance replied as he looked over at her and pointed his hoof at the form he'd been examining.
"Honey, we have plenty, and even if things might be a bit tight for maybe a week if I go ahead and buy it, did you see your last paycheck?" Posey countered.
"Just because I'm making more doesn't mean we can afford to buy whatever luxuries we want yet sweetheart, we need to wait a bit longer and make sure things are stable here first," Lance said with a note of finality before opening a desk drawer and slipping the form into a folder inside.
"Luxury? Lance...my cutie mark is three flowers. I'm a gardener. I love growing things, as a job or as a hobby, it doesn't matter to me. It's as much a luxury to me as being a doctor is to you. I just thought you'd realize that I kind of left my dream job behind in Manehatten so that you could go after yours," she replied in a bout of exasperation that soon gave way to plain old sadness.
"Lance it's not like I think you're a bad pony for wanting to make sure our daughter is well provided for. But, I guess I don't see this huge risk that you're seeing. I only see a little bit of a chance that you won't take that would make me so much happier here at home, because Fluttershy is wonderful and I love her dearly but if I had this cloud enchanted soil to make a nice big garden with, it would be absolutely perfect," Posey pressed further at his lack of reply.
"Wait," his present self muttered.
"I'm still thinking like I'm on intern pay aren't I?" Lance asked after a brief pause before sighing. "Might be something you and Fluttershy could do together too...and you're right, it really isn't fair."
Her expression brightened a bit and she smiled at him with a nod.
"Okay...you convinced me."
She gasped happily. "Really?"
"Yep, send them the check before I change my mind," he said with his own nod and smile.
"Well since you insist," Posey agreed with a smirk before walking toward the door.
"What...not even a hug?" Lance asked behind her.
"You don't get a hug or kiss just for not being a jerk," she teased back while looking over her shoulder and sticking out her tongue at him.
"Whatever, you'll just ambush me later," he replied with a smirk of his own as he pulled the latest issue of his medical journal of choice from the shelf.
"Oh you think so huh?" she answered with a quiet chuckle. "...Probably."
Time stopped in the scene, and then it slowly burned away into nothingness. The vision of his office in its pristine form was replaced with an empty neglected room containing a desk that had fallen apart through the apparent ages, revealing the blood red number 303 beneath that promptly boiled away.
"Yeah," she reluctantly agreed with a sigh. "Just such a shame to see them like this after you insisted on buying the cloud enchanted soil for me."
"Hrm? Don't you remember? I was too worried for Fluttershy to spend the money on it after we moved up here, but you insisted because you knew how much I loved gardening.
"Yeah, I...remember that."
"Just...keep moving," he ordered himself before hoofing it downstairs. If this was anything like the burned version of his house, he would have to figure out some way to get something out of the bust in the living room, and hopefully do so before the roller gurneys decided to come insi-
Once he'd stepped past the entryway he saw all five of them arranged in a semi circle in the living room, with the bust as their apparent focus. It was the hospital day room all over again, save for the small favor of them being right next to a door this time. Though he did not exactly expect it to prevent the door from closing on him if it desired as much, he took a moment to duck into the entryway and preemptively open the door anyway. With his escape route semi-secure he craned his neck around the corner to get a look at the bust. The dripping water from the overhead pipe had slowed considerably, likely partially blocked from rust, but it made little difference as the water had clearly already done its job in the ages that had passed so quickly. What once had been a solidly constructed metal bust was now only the bottom half of one that had yet to rust away completely. Unfortunately he wouldn't be able to see what was inside until he got closer...much closer.
"As long as there's five I'm fine," he muttered to himself, keeping his eyes glued to the undersides of the gurneys as he crept closer and closer to the bust. The urge grew stronger and stronger with each step until it was practically an unseen knife stabbing at his gut...and that was before he knew he'd have to turn his back on them. It was alright though...deep down he knew his ears and watch would warn him if any of them were going to act up...or if it was. He still wasn't entirely sure how to refer to it...them...whichever.
Lance took a deep breath and turned toward the bust, finding what he was looking for immediately. He reached in and retrieved another small triangular tablet, this one bearing an engraving of a withered pony hanging upside down, manacled and chained inside of some kind of rectangular metal caging that was suspended from the ceiling. The inscription below the image read 'The Heretic', and Lance turned it to see a letter C on the opposite side.
His watch's steady buzzing switched all at once to calamitous screeching accompanied by a flurry of squeaking wheels behind him. A shock went down his spine and he whirled around to confront...nothing. The gurneys were all gone without a trace...but now that he was looking back toward the dining room he could not help but notice how clean it had mysteriously become. He glanced around quickly, breath still a bit accelerated from the sudden adrenaline spike as he made certain that they were truly gone before stowing away the tablet and continuing. Lance only made a step or two into the dining room before he saw a young filly Fluttershy, his wife, and himself approach the back door.
"Ready to go see the shooting stars my little angel?" Posey asked melodiously, looking down at the small yellow filly with a smile as she opened the door.
"Yes!" she replied excitedly as her little wings gave a couple flaps of excitement.
"Hang on dear, don't you want to put on a coat?" his past self asked, wearing his old coat as he held out Posey's and Fluttershy's.
"What? Why? I barely ever wear a coat. I like the cold, it's refreshing!" Posey replied, the cold air from outside already starting to make her breath visible. The younger Lance wordlessly made a subtle head motion toward their daughter, prompting Posey to turn his attention back to her.
"I'm j-j-j-just l-l-like M-M-M-Mommy!" Fluttershy proclaimed proudly as she stood there shivering in the doorway.
Posey's eyes widened briefly before she snatched her coat from Lance's hoof and starting putting it on. "Um I mean it's a good idea to wear our coats when it's cold out, you might catch a cold and colds are no fun!"
"Oh! Ok-k-k-kay!" the little filly said as she walked over to her father and let him start putting on her coat.
"Actually it's not the cold itself that makes you sick, but staying warm does improve your chances of keeping away the things that do," Lance explained as he got his daughter's coat on then pulled the little hood over her ears to keep them warm.
"Thank you Daddy," Fluttershy said, fidgeting a bit until the cold weather garment fit comfortably.
"You're welcome sweetie."
"Can I go outside now Mommy?" she asked her mother, turning to look up at her.
"Yes Fluttershy, Mommy and Daddy will be right out, don't try and fly over the fence again," she gently warned her.
"I woooon't," the little filly whined as she finally got to go outside and look up at the sky.
"Thanks Lance," Posey said quietly after their daughter was out of earshot.
"No problem, I'll just have to remember this next time you give me grief about all the mistakes I made so far," he replied with a smirk as he stepped past her, eliciting a scoff from the purple maned mare.
"Oh like my list of stuff you've messed up isn't ten times as long," she snarked back with a chuckle.
"Whatever," the younger Lance blurted out dismissively as he looked back at her over his shoulder still wearing that same smirk.
"Jerk face," she scolded, though the way she giggled and followed behind him completely took any sting out of her proclamation.
Once she'd closed the door behind her, it lit up with another blaze of smoldering red flame that consumed the entire room and bared the rotting present anew. Lance turned to his left, seeing that the pallet once bolted to the wall had decayed to ruin exactly like his desk, exposing another hidden 303 that burned itself away into an ill smelling vapor. He looked back toward the door out of which the visions of his past had stepped with a haggard, fearful look in his eyes. Every bit of that memory had been true...
"I was cold..."
"...so I...put the dress on..."
"..." he turned and walked toward the front door, unable to shake the dread in his stomach that was steadily growing more and more tense. As he was about to reach the entryway he heard a stirring and a few sharp hoof falls behind him from above. Lance looked over his shoulder and up to see that the bloodied alicorn was now sitting on the walkway over the living room, resting her head on the railing as she leered intently at him but made no move otherwise. They regarded one another for a few long moments before Lance tore his gaze away and stepped into the entryway. He placed his hoof on the rusty doorknob, and then remained there looking at the floor with a distant, blank expression.
If only there had been monsters waiting for him instead of memories...