Silent Ponyville: Reunion
"Where is she?!" Posey shouted as she burst through the door.
"BEH!" Lance jolted awake from his spot napping on the couch and promptly fell off in the grip of his waking panic. Before his mind could even reorient itself she was already standing over him glaring down.
"Answer me!" she demanded as her husband's bleary eyes slowly blinked twice below her.
"What? Posey? What are you doing here? We're supposed to meet for lunch after the-"
"That's right! We were, but instead you leave me waiting there for an hour and a half so you can sneak that younger prettier mare in here and do Celestia knows what with her behind my back while you two talk about how ugly and fat I am!" she accused as she got snout to snout staring death at him, the menace somewhat tempered by the sparkle of moisture in her eyes.
As it turned out being accused of infidelity worked wonders in snapping Lance back to full consciousness. "What?! No! I came home right after the exam and went to sleep!"
"Oh don't even try to deny it, I've seen you two together already!" she said, placing a hoof on his chest and pushing him back to the floor in response to his attempt to get back to at least a sitting position.
"Who? When?!" Lance asked incredulously while ceasing his efforts to struggle back to his hooves.
"That orange unicorn mare with the blue mane! You two were talking and laughing over a cup of coffee at the cafe without a care in the world if anypony saw you! Well I did! And now it doesn't matter if you tell me where she is hiding or not, I'll just find her myself!"
Before Lance could explain she had already flown off down the hallway and began ransacking the two bedrooms looking for the alleged seductress intruder. He sighed and got back to his hooves before looking at the alarm clock he'd set on the table in front of the couch. There had to be some reason it hadn't woken him at the appointed time...and it didn't take him long to find it.
"Lance you moron," he chided himself as he set the clock back down and sat there waiting for Posey to wear herself out. She was about five months along and ever since she had started to show, the hormones in her system had been giving the insecurities she usually kept in check ample opportunity to rear their ugly heads all over again. It was a strange, often scary new experience but he'd learned by now it was best to just stand his ground as nicely as he could manage until her good sense returned.
It took about ten minutes worth of various things being tossed around in the bedrooms before she emerged again, still fired up as ever while hovering in front of him. "Okay, she's a unicorn, she probably teleported away or something but you are still in big trouble miste-why are you pointing at your alarm clock? Stop trying to change the subject!"
"I'm pointing at the alarm clock because I set it to go off at 12:30 so that I could meet you at 1:00. I neglected to check the AM/PM setting though so it was set to go off at half past midnight, and that's why I accidentally slept through lunch. I'm sorry Posey," Lance explained calmly.
Posey's face went blank briefly before flaring up in anger again. Her mouth opened for another retort, but then closed again as she fluttered over to the table and grabbed the alarm clock to see if his story checked out. Moments later she set it down and turned on him again. "Okay, maybe she wasn't here but-"
"That mare at the cafe was Mannie's new marefriend. His birthday is coming up, and she wanted to interrogate me for present ideas for him so she invited me to meet for coffee one day after classes before I had to go to work," he said, pushing his luck by interrupting her. It worked out better than expected though.
Her face went blank once more and this time there was no spark to reignite it as she sank to the floor feeling ashamed of herself. "Oh my gosh Lance I'm so sorry."
"It's okay Posey," he said while placing a reassuring hoof on her shoulder. She took advantage of the offered limb to pull him into a tight hug.
"No it's not! You lose so much sleep just studying for your exams because you want to help everypony and here I am yelling at you and being paranoid just because you didn't show up for lunch once! Now I'm not just fat and ugly, I'm mean too, I'm a terrible wife!" she cried while pressing her face into his shoulder and holding on for dear life. He tried to say something to comfort her but it became apparent she didn't hear him over her own sobs, so he contented himself with just holding her.
She was fine inside of five minutes.
"Mood swings are dumb," she observed bitterly from her spot on the couch before taking another bite from her generously sized salad bowl that rested right next to an entire jug of cranberry juice that hell nor high water would take from her.
"It's just biology honey," Lance replied before polishing off the last bite of his daisy sandwich then getting up to take his plate into the kitchen.
"Well...biology is dumb then," Posey countered from the living room while he gave the plate a good thorough cleaning in spite of it only having had a few stray crumbs at worst.
"I don't know, I think the knowledge that particular field of science has brought hasn't done anything but improve our quality of life overall," he answered obliviously as he made his way back into the living room and sat down next to her.
The cessation of the steady chewing noises next to him caught his attention, and he noticed Posey staring at him again. It was less the angry fire she had displayed earlier and more of a small smolder that was threatening to burst into one. "What?"
Posey sighed and placed a hoof to her forehead, managing to douse the unreasonable fire before it could get any worse this time as she pushed her salad bowl aside. "Lance, I'm going to tell you something most stallions would kill for their wives to just com out and say, so pay attention okay?"
He nodded silently, obediently giving her the attention she had requested.
"Right now I just really need you to agree and support whatever I say, no matter how wrong we both know it is. Got it?" she concluded with a hoof pointed at him.
Lance nodded once more.
"Good, let's try this again. Mood swings are dumb," she stated matter of factually.
"Pretty dumb, yes."
"Biology is also dumb."
"Dumbest thing ever put to paper," he agreed in spite of his having lost countless hours poring over untold volumes of knowledge on the subject.
"And my husband is a big dummy for not telling me he was meeting his best friend's marefriend for coffee, and it's his fault that I became incredibly suspicious, so he will be sleeping on the couch tonight," she said while eyeing him warily.
"Now wait a minute! That was no big deal and..."
Her expression belied the fact that she was neither interested in hearing, nor would she be swayed by his explanation at the moment.
"...by that I mean he's the biggest moron I've ever met and deserves what's coming to him," he quickly acquiesced, wisely choosing the path that would enable him to live and fight another day.
"I wouldn't go that far, and I really don't appreciate you talking about my husband like that," Posey said while still remaining at the same level of seriousness she had maintained throughout the conversation, eyes closed and nose slightly raised in an expression of faux haughtiness.
Once she had opened her eyes again the sheer level of confusion on her husband's face forced a giggle out of her throat that she tried to contain by covering her mouth, but the jig was clearly up and they were both laughing the last bit of tension in the room away within seconds.
"But, hehehe, but seriously though," Posey began while wiping a tear from her eye, "couch night."
"Can't I at least sleep in the guest bedroom?"
"Lance? Lance?! Lance! Lance!!!" Posey's voice persisted with increasing desperation, periodically punctuated by a tap of her hoof against the bars.
He blinked and shook his head. Door 303 wasn't there anymore, replaced by Posey standing on the other side of another set of iron bars.
"Posey!" he exclaimed as he stepped towards her with as much enthusiasm as his injured body would allow.
"Oh thank goodness, you were worrying me again!" she said with a sigh of relief as she took a seat. "I thought the blood all over the elevator was yours at first but...you'd..."
"I'd already be dead if it was," he said, finishing the sentence she would rather not finish for herself.
She nodded in appreciation.
"You're alright too though, right?" Lance asked, looking her over.
"I'm fine. The elevator stopped here, I got out, and I had barely set hoof outside when these bars slammed down behind me. Then after a few minutes the elevator went back up without me...and then I see you going down in it right after that, looking at me like you'd seen a ghost with that blood all over the place. Didn't you see me? I was yelling after you so loud...I was terrified!" she answered, her face a mix of concern for him and relief that he seemed to be okay now.
His eyes widened a moment before his brow furrowed and he looked down in thought.
"That doesn't make any sense...when I was going down the first time I saw a hall full of doors going up and down, and that colt that saved me before was standing there on the floor looking at me...well, I guess it was the wall at the time, but you get what I mean, right?" he asked while looking back up to her.
"I...I don't...but go on?" she replied with a raised eyebrow.
"And just now when I came back up, door 303 was right here in front of me. It even showed me another memory," he continued.
"What? No, it wasn't. I've been standing here yelling at you ever since you came back up." Her look of concern returned as he described things that didn't quite match up with her version of reality at the moment. Lance broke eye contact with her again, his face going blank as everything failed to add up in his head.
"I'm actually going insane aren't I?" he asked without bringing his gaze back up to her.
"Lance, no, nonono," she said as she reached through the bars and put a hoof to his cheek. "It's this place Lance, it's messing with you. You probably are seeing everything you say you are, it's just not letting me see it. It's not you. Okay?"
"...okay," he replied as he softly pressed his cheek into her hoof.
"Good. Listen, I had enough time to poke around on this floor a bit. I can't go any further in but I did find this key that doesn't seem to unlock anything down here. Maybe you can find some way to use it?" she explained before pulling the key from her saddlebag and holding it up for him to look at. It was an unremarkable key, looked the same as any other save for the 'EC2' etched into the handle.
"I'll see what I can do...thanks Posey. I'll keep heading up and see what I can find up on the top floor." He didn't want to leave her again but from the sounds of it she would be stuck there until he found some way to let her out elsewhere, so there was little point in delaying.
"Okay. I guess I'll look around for anything we can use while you're doing that...it'll be a lot more useful than just waiting for you at these bars now that I know you're alright," she replied with a smile as he opened his saddlebag so she could drop the key inside. "You be careful up there."
"You too." With a great deal of hesitation he stepped back and gave her one last fond gaze before turning his eyes back to the panel.
"I love you Lance."
"I love you too Posey," he said before pressing the top button. The doors closed and she was out of sight again within moments.
As he ascended Lance pondered what the initials on the key could mean. If he could remember anything that would direct his search it would be far preferable and much less time consuming than just trying to key in every door he came across. Was it the electrical room in the basement? If it was he was headed the wrong direction, but since he couldn't think of anything for the C or 2 to represent he didn't worry much about that possibility.
Wait...he knew! They had seen it right after floating down from the empty husk of a hospital above on the roof. There had been a door labeled Elevator Control. That had to be it. Maybe he could get the other elevator working? Once he had reached the top floor he took a quick look around to make sure nothing had changed in his absence before slowly climbing the stairs back up to the roof. It was rough on his leg, and he gave some more thought to drinking his health drink to alleviate the pain, but his life still wasn't in any direct danger and he thought it best to wait until it was.
He wasn't sure he was happy with somehow knowing his life would be in danger in the near future, but there it was.
Back on the roof, he turned toward the elevator control door adjacent to the stairwell door from which he had just emerged. The key didn't work, but he wasn't discouraged yet. The other L shaped structure on the opposite side of the roof was unlabeled but he would bet bits that the unboarded door it featured was the entrance to the elevator control room for the other unpowered elevator. He was right, and the key slid in smoothly to unlock it and allow him entry.
Out of sheer curiosity he held the now fairly useless key in his hoof and watched. Sure enough, it started to burn to a small pile of ash in his hoof within moments. He found it strange that neither crowbar nor key had burned his hoof in the process, but he had better things to be doing besides adding more phenomenon to his lengthy mental list of strange things that had happened in that town. It was time to figure out what was wrong with the elevator.
There wasn't much room inside, but that was only because there didn't have to be. All this room needed to do was house the elevator's motor and pulley system and give workers a few switches and access to some of the more important wires. Immediately in front of him was the currently inactive motor attached to the pulley system that seemed to be in good repair. There was a chain link fence keeping him away from both but that didn't seem out of place here as it handled basic safety issues. He was mostly interested in the panel in the wall off to his right. Several bundles of cable came up to it from a hole in the floor, then continued through it over to the motor. Lance unlatched and pulled open the cover, the obvious problem now right in front of him as he saw the main power switch set to 'OFF'.
Simple enough to fix. Lance flipped the switch to the 'ON' position and heard the hum of power being restored to the motor, now ready and waiting for commands from the button panel below. Quite content now that he was making progress again he closed the panel cover and turned to leave only to make another discovery. There was another folded piece of ragged leather sewn shut with thin wire glued to the inside of the door such that he would not have spotted it until he tried to leave. After pulling it open he found another note inside, this one obviously not from the deaf colt either with the same torn paper and red ink.
"No Matter What YoU LoSE
I'll Still Hurt YoU Twice As Much."
That still didn't tell him much as to what use this note and the other would be. Still, his bags were not exactly lacking for room and he quickly stashed it with the first odd note he had found.
The trip down the stairs proved predictably much easier on him than the trip up had been. Apparently he was also growing increasingly popular as there was yet another note waiting for him stuck conspicuously between the bars of the closed elevator doors. This one was of the style he was more familiar with, the paper neat, the ink a deep black. What had he done to tick off the deaf colt this time?
No, you know what? I think we're familiar enough to no longer be so formal. Right?
To get to the heart of the matter I begrudgingly admit that I owe you something of an apology. It seems door 303 is, strangely enough, actively following after you. Don't ask me how, my guess would be as good as yours. My point is, it isn't exactly fair to be angry with you for being near it when it keeps seeking you out for whatever reason, so you'll no longer be hearing from me when it finds you. Not your fault.
Unlike that lock you took off. That was very much your fault. Still angry about that one but I can still let bygones be bygones at this point. Don't do it again. I mean it would be extra spiteful of you to do so after I saved your pathetic flank from her, right? You pretty much owe me one.
I'd thank you for your time again but its sort of belongs to me already anyway don't you think? Would be odd to thank YOU for something that's mine and all."
"Well somepony's certainly not bitter at all," Lance remarked as he stashed the note in his bag and stepped into the elevator. Despite how ultimately unhelpful the note had been it was still something of a comfort to know he had a little extra breathing room now.
He pressed the middle button, figuring it wise to let Posey know what he was doing on his way down. But when he had reached the barred off middle floor she wasn't there. No reason to panic though...worry a little, yes, but not panic. She had said she would be searching for supplies for them after all.
"Posey? Posey can you hear me?!" he called out and waited for a reply. One was not forthcoming though. She must have been out of earshot Lance pressed the bottom button with a sigh and got on his way. It was better than lingering there longer and delaying his getting her out of there any further.
When he emerged down in the basement and began limping to the other side of the hall to get to the other elevator he noticed the telltale trail of small blood spatters already leading his path. He swallowed hard and pointed his flashlight over to see the same kind of grating from the first elevator lying on the floor of the second, just as he had feared. The thing he had gotten a glimpse of, whether it was actually the mystery mare or not, had been through and gone up while he had been away.
It didn't make him hesitate for too long though. Freeing Posey was a potent motivator, and aside from that the creature in the elevator had enjoyed ample opportunity to attack him but had chosen not to. Still, he gave the hole in the top of the elevator car a good long stare before actually pressing the button, wanting to at least not be taken by surprise this time, if at all. Now having the power it required to serve his needs, the door closed and the motor far above sprang to life in order to start pulling him upward. Even though it was really the least of his problems at the moment Lance still dreaded waiting through another lengthy elevator ride with only cracks in the wall to occupy his mind.
As luck had it, his worries were misplaced.
There was no concrete wall to speak of, and the strange reason for the numerous missing elevator buttons was made clear. The floors they would have normally taken him to were missing. They were gone entirely. In their place was nothing but open space, the floors kept in their same positions by gigantic rusty steel beams, and the encroaching earth held back on the sides by a gigantic grating that looked to be made of the same material. Lance could only stare slack jawed as he ascended, his elevator car surrounded by nothing but the vertical wheel rails needed to keep it in place as it moved about.
A boarded up entrance to another floor quickly passed by and broke him out of his shock. He hadn't expected that to be there. The entrances that would normally lead into the opposite elevator shaft must have all been cemented over, save for the one with the bars separating him from Posey of course. Lance would pass by one other such floor during his ascent but that one was likewise barred from access by being boarded over. Finally, he felt the elevator slowly and finally came to a stop at an unboarded entrance that lead into a familiar hallway cut in half by a chain link fence piled with blood spattered stretchers. He was back on the top floor on the other side.
That left him only one door on his left side, so his next choice of action was rather obvious. To his muted delight the door opened and he was finally let into a part of the building proper. It was yet another hallway stretching off in both directions that lead around a corner on each end. Since the corner on his left was much closer than the corner off to his right he opted to head in that direction first. Past that turn, the hall connected with a corridor a short distance ahead on his right, then stretched on for quite a while longer before finally making another right turn. He could see two doors on the right wall past the central corridor, and one more on the far opposite wall. Lance took a few steps forward and looked down the aforementioned central corridor was never got a chance to count the doors, as he was distracted by what was sending his watch into another buzzing fit.
Lance became conscious of a feminine sounding panting noise, desperate in tone but strangely mechanical in how steady it was, coming toward him via the corridor. He turned his light on the source of the noise just as they spotted one another.
It was a mare, wearing a ragged nurse outfit and hat. She had no coat to speak of, and although her face lacked any sort of eyes she was not entirely featureless. Her mouth was sutured shut with wire, and her ears were sewn against the side of her head with similar methods. As though the wire suture over her mouth hadn't been enough there were several long, rusty nails that had been hammered down through the top bone of her snout and then out the bottom of her jaw. Her neck, torso, and forelegs were wrapped with lengths of barbed wire, and below the wrist joint several more long rusty nails had been hammered through the front of her hoof and out the back. Every bit of skin that was visible was a sickly pale color and covered with a network of small, black veins. As she moved toward him in an unnaturally quick limping motion she suffered from odd twitches, no doubt in catastrophic pain from the bits of metal that had been wrapped around and forced through her.
As her unnerving panting grew closer and closer it became quite obvious to Lance that this barbed nurse was coming right for him. There was no way he could outrun her, he had to find someplace to hide and there were only three doors close enough that wouldn't necessitate going towards her to get to. He limped to the first nearest but found the lock was broken, the panting noise placing her just around the corner now. Lance moved to the second that was labeled 'OR6' but was denied entry by the lock just as she rounded the corner and started covering the last bit of distance toward him. The last one was quite a bit further away than the first two. By the time he would get to it she would be so close that he would either find it unlocked or she would get hold of him.
Despite moving with all the speed he could muster she was still easily gaining on him, her breathing putting the hair on the back of his neck progressively more on end as she drew nearer behind him. He was all but ignoring his leg now, the newest spike of adrenaline in his system dulling the pain so that he might get away and survive. Both door and barbed nurse became closer, and closer, and closer, until his hoof was on the doorknob and she was practically breathing down his neck. Something wanted him to stay alive, because the door was unlocked. Completely abandoning his balance, Lance opened the door, literally fell inside, and then slammed the door shut behind him and held it closed with his good back leg as he pushed backward with his forelegs.
The barbed nurse gave the door a few halfhearted strikes before lingering in front of it a few moments more and then moving on, allowing his watch to calm down.
He lie there catching his breath for a few moments before struggling to his hooves, wanting to get that bit of business over with before the adrenaline rush wore off and he could actually feel the fresh hell his injuries were doubtlessly unleashing upon him. With no further hesitation he fished the bottle of health drink from his pack and downed the contents; he was now in the requisite life threatening danger he had pondered earlier and would need to be mobile. At least he had stumbled into a safe room in his bid to escape, and he knew for a fact it was a safe room because if there had been something inside his watch would have already given it away.
Wait...his watch...he hadn't been five feet from that thing in the elevator when he'd spotted it. Why hadn't it gone off well before then? No...no this wasn't worth thinking about right now. The monster in the elevator had run away without trying to hurt him. If it wasn't going to hurt him then he didn't really need the warning, and he didn't really need to worry.
Whether it was because he was genuinely curious or just wanted some more time spent safe in that room, he decided to look around a bit next. It was mostly bare save for a metal and glass shelf with three drawers in the corner and several sockets on the ceiling. If he had to hazard a guess he would probably say that this was an operating room, which would explain very well the 'OR4' label on the door. That meant this building was, or at least had been, a hospital. Thus far it was way too large to have Ponyville's hospital though, even with the missing floors it was already larger than the husk of a building above. The shelves were visibly empty but the drawers contents were yet to be revealed. After finding nothing in the first two Lance found a replacement health drink in the third. He would have much preferred some fresh gauze but beggars couldn't be choosers.
Finding nothing else of note in the room he went back to the closed door, his timing proving fortunate as his watch buzzed back to life. He heard the barbed nurse pass by outside, going in the same direction she had been going before as she walked on by. Instead of poking his head out after she was away, he instead waited, wanting to confirm a hunch he felt. Sure enough, within a couple minutes he heard her pass by again along the same route. She was patrolling. That meant he couldn't simply avoid the area she was occupying but at least her movements were proving predictable...so far.
Opting to follow behind her, he waited until she passed by again and then eased the door open while making minimal noise. He crept out, but his efforts at stealth were spoiled as he shined his light down the hallway searching for doors to investigate, instantly attracting her attention.
"Oh you idiot," he scolded himself as he switched his light off. He was about to retreat back into the room under cover of darkness but then noticed her panting wasn't getting any closer. She had apparently lost interest with no light and moved along around the corner. Knowing that would certainly prove useful. For now he turned his light back on, careful to keep it angled down at the floor nearby so she wouldn't catch sight of it on a wall, and began checking doors in as much of a hurry as he could manage in order to stay ahead of her. He zigzagged down the hallway, blocked by three broken locks in a row before discovering the furthest door on the right was unlocked. The barbed nurse was closing in around the corner again so he slipped inside and shut the door behind him before she could spot him. Lance was then puzzled by how suddenly his watch began buzzing as loud as it possibly could. Had the barbed nurse suddenly moved very quickly to stand just outside the door right after he had closed it?
No, a familiar screech of metal accompanied by a curious yet monstrous murmur within the room answered, no she had not.