Okay, so this is the third part of the story. You're probably going to notice that I have a little more detail from The Story of the Blanks than I do from the other two fanfics, and that's because I actually took a more in-dept look at this game in the fan wiki (I've never actually played it, and don't really plan on it), and found it quite interesting. I do have to warn you, though, I do feel like some of the stuff that I have in this story is a bit forced, as it is very difficult keeping Apple Bloom adimant about her fears, and to avoid repetition to express her feelings. In case you haven't read them, here are the links to the other two parts (story 1, and story 2). So without further ado, here's story 3:
It was the first day of summer vacation. The sky was clear, the breeze was calm, and Apple Bloom was on her way to the Everfree Forest. Most ponies thought that the Everfree Forest was a creepy place, but Apple Bloom wasn't scared of it. It may seem a bit unnatural, but with the lack of ponies living in it, it would only make sense that the plants grew, animals cared for themselves, and the clouds moved without any help but the wind. Besides, it didn't mean any harm. You just have to pay attention to your surroundings so that you don't run into any dangerous animals or trip on any roots. Apple Bloom certainly knew how to do that, so she knew that she would be able to take care of herself.
On her way to the forest's entrance, she met up with Cheerilee, her teacher, and Fluttershy, her friend. The two mares were on their way to Fluttershy's cottage for some tea, and to clean the habitats, which can get pretty messy when you have lots of animals on the property. They stopped to greet Apple Bloom as they walked by.
“Hello, Apple Bloom,” said Cheerilee, happy to see her student outside of class.
“Oh, hi, Miss Cheerilee. Hey, Fluttershy,” Apple Bloom replied, adjusting her saddle bag. “How's it going?”
“Oh, just lovely,” said Fluttershy. “Certainly a perfect day for tea.”
“And cottage cleaning,” Cheerilee added.
Apple Bloom giggled. She had experience cleaning a barn, so she knew how that can get.
“So how are you enjoying your first day of vacation?” Cheerilee asked.
“Well, the responsibilities don't end,” Apple Bloom told her. “In fact, I'm on my way to do a job right now.”
“What kind of job?” Fluttershy asked, her curiosity getting the best of her.
“Well, Spike has a fiery cough that's been going on since midnight last night,” Apple Bloom explained. “So I'm taking some herbs to Zecora's so that she can put together a special remedy for it.”
Fluttershy's ears dropped when she heard this. Was she serious? She wasn't going into the Everfree Forest all by herself, was she? Surely she wasn't allowed to do so. She's just a filly! Fluttershy decided to check.
“Um, are you sure that's a good idea? I mean, Zecora lives pretty deep in the Everfree Forest. I sure wouldn't want to go in there by myself.”
“Oh, don't worry about me, Fluttershy,” Apple Bloom said reassuringly. “I've gone through there plenty of times, even on my own. I ain't scared of it. Besides, Zecora doesn't live all that deep in the forest. She's just a couple miles from here.”
“Well, you certainly seem to know your way around,” Cheerilee acknowledged.
Apple Bloom nodded. “I pretty much know the way to Zecora's hut like the back of my hoof.”
“Well, good luck, Apple Bloom,” said Cheerilee. “I do hope that Spike gets better.”
“Be careful, Apple Bloom,” Fluttershy cautioned, still concerned.
“Thanks, y’all,” said Apple Bloom. “See ya around.”
As Cheerilee and Fluttershy walked off toward Fluttershy's cottage, Apple Bloom walked into the Everfree Forest, not minding the change in lighting.
The walk through the forest turned out to be pretty uneventful. The timberwolves were no where in sight, and the cockatrices only came out at night. There weren't any rivers to cross, so there weren't any cragidiles to worry about, and there were no signs of any manticores. Apple Bloom just had to walk on through whilst watching her step.
Finally, she arrived at Zecora's hut. It really didn't look all that horrible, especially since it had become a familiar location with a friendly zebra living in it. Apple Bloom walked up to the door, knocked on it, and waited for Zecora to answer. After a short minute, Zecora opened the door to find the face of the filly who had become her very first friend since she had lived there.
“Ah, Apple Bloom, you've returned,” she exclaimed in delight. “And I see that you have not burned.”
Apple Bloom laughed at her joke. Zecora may seem wise with all her sentences rhyming, but she did have a fun side.
“I've brought the herbs that you needed for the remedy,” she told her.
“Ah, the water hyacinth and the icicle fern,” said Zecora, looking in Apple Bloom's saddle bag. “So that Spike's cough will no longer burn. Now to make the potion and stir-up a cure, so that Spike's throat can finally feel pure.”
Zecora and Apple Bloom went into the hut and put the ferns and hyacinths into the pot of the unfinished potion. Zecora stirred up the potion as Apple Bloom kept the fire burning with the bellows, making sure not to press to hard, or too fast. Finally, the remedy was finished, so Zecora and Apple Bloom collected it in several jars.
“Make sure we get every little drop,” Zecora informed Apple Bloom. “Otherwise, Spike's cough will never stop.”
Apple Bloom obeyed this order, as difficult as it was, especially when the pot was nearly empty.
Finally, the jars were all filled, and the pot was dry. The duo collected the jars and carried them in a wagon all the way to Princess Twilight's castle.
When Apple Bloom and Zecora's castle, Twilight and Spike were waiting outside for them. Twilight was wearing a fire-proof suit, which protected her in case Spike started coughing again. Each time Spike coughed, sparks of fire would come out of his mouth, putting anyone who was in the wrong spot in danger. When Spike saw all the jars of medicine he needed to take, he had to resist the urge to let his jaw drop, in case he started coughing again.
“I have to take all that?!” he gasped. “That's a lot of medicine!”
“Yes, Spike, it is true,” Zecora explained. “All of this is needed to help you. Just one full cup per every hour, and your fiery cough will lose all power.”
Spike was still alarmed by the amount of potion that he'd have to drink. But he really wanted to get this cough to stop, so he nodded.
“Okay,” he croaked, his throat dry from all that fire coming out. “I'll do it.”
“And I'll make sure that he drinks it every hour,” said Twilight, intensely. The firmness in her voice told everyone that she was serious. And if that didn't do it, the kitchen timer that she gave him certainly did.
When the four friends went inside the castle so that Spike could take his first dose of the medication, Twilight decided that it would be a good time for her and Zecora to catch up.
“So, Zecora, did you want to stay and talk a while?” she asked. “It has been a long time since we've gotten together.”
“Why, yes, Princess,” said Zecora. “I would love to stay and chat. Or as my aunt would say, 'chew fat.'”
Apple Bloom grimaced at the expression. “Chew fat?” What kind of saying was that? Zecora and Twilight laughed at her reaction. It was pretty gross-sounding, so they understood where she was coming from. Twilight decided to let Apple Bloom stay out of the “fat,” so to speak.
“Apple Bloom, if you'd like, you can go into my library and read for a while.”
“Okay, Twilight,” said Apple Bloom, as she trotted toward the throne room.
When she got to the library, she looked around the room for something interesting to read. There were plenty of interesting books to check out: Cocoa and the Chocolate Factory, Pony Treasure Island, Little Stable on the Prairie; Apple Bloom couldn't decide! But then, she came across one book that seemed to stick out. She pulled it out and looked at the cover, which read The Story of the Blanks, by Creepy Pasta. Apple Bloom looked at the word “blanks,” and wondered if it had anything to do with blank flanks like her. She looked at her cutie mark-less flank, curiously. Then she looked back at the book. It was an orange book with a filly on the cover. The filly looked to be a little older than Apple Bloom and had a magnifying glass for a cutie mark. Apple Bloom wondered if she would be getting her cutie mark during the story, or if she would be helping others to get theirs. She decided to find out, so she sat on the floor and opened the cover. Much to her surprise, the story was about Apple Bloom herself. She wondered if she's ever met this Creepy Pasta before. She sure didn't remember anypony with that name. Maybe she could ask Applejack if she knew anypony like that. She made a mental note to do this as soon as she got home.
But as she read the book, the mental note got lost. The story started out nice and cheerful, albeit mysterious, but then it got dark and scary. As she read through the frightening details, her body became shaky and sweaty.
Finally, she reached the end, relieved that she made it home safely, but still shaken by the horrors that she experienced in the story. She slowly closed the book, her hoof tremoring as it gently laid the back cover onto the last pages, and slid it back into its place, as if fearing harm if she placed it wrong. Then, she backed away from the shelf on which it sat, and walked out of the library and back into the throne room, where Twilight and Zecora were still talking. Just as the two friends laughed at a funny story, Twilight looked up at Apple Bloom, who was standing there at the library's entrance. Her yellow face had gone white, as if she had seen a ghost.
“Apple Bloom, are you okay?” she asked.
Apple Bloom trotted over to the two grown-ups and started rubbing up against them, whimpering.
“Apple Bloom, what's wrong?” Twilight asked, now feeling concerned.
Zecora was concerned as well. “My dear Apple Bloom, please tell us why. What is it that has made you want to cry?”
Apple Bloom didn't know how to tell them. She really wanted them to know what was bothering her, but she just couldn't find the words to explain it. Finally, she found her voice.
“I've just read a really scary book, and we were all in it!”
In an instant, Twilight knew exactly what book she was talking about. It was a brand new one that she had found on her front stoop a few weeks ago.
“You don't mean The Story of the Blanks, do you?”
Apple Bloom nodded.
“Apple Bloom, if that story's about you, I don't think you should have anything to worry about. It should be pretty obvious that the events in it are fake.”
“Besides, you have gone through the Everfree Forest many times,” Zecora added. “And you have never experience any of those crimes.” She had read the book too, and remembered that part of it took place in the Everfree Forest.
Apple Bloom pressed her head up against her body. She knew that she lived in the forest, so she should've experienced what she read in the story. Then again, the Everfree Forest is a big place, so surly she doesn't know the entire area. Zecora looked up at Twilight.
“Princess Twilight, what can we do? We cannot allow her terrors to continue.”
Twilight thought for a minute. “Well, Applejack should know what to do. She knows Apple Bloom better than anypony else.”
On Sweet Apple Acres, Applejack was hard at work with her apple bucking. She was determined to get her work done by the end of the day. Finally, she had filled all of the buckets and was getting ready to carry them to the barn. But as she started to lift one of them onto her back, she heard a voice coming from behind her.
Applejack turned around to see Twilight and Zecora at the fence. “Howdy, gals. What's going on?”
“Well, Apple Bloom just read a pretty creepy book and we're hoping that you can console her,” Twilight explained.
“I'd be happy to, Twilight,” Applejack told her as she looked around for her sister. She noticed that Apple Bloom was nowhere in sight. “But, uh, where is she?”
Twilight lifted her wing and showed that Apple Bloom had been clinging to her from underneath it. Applejack was shocked. She had never seen her sister this scared before!
“Um, what was it that she read anyway?”
“The Story of the Blanks is name of the book,” Zecora explained. “A story so creepy, I wouldn't take a second look.”
“It's a story about her finding a magical town in the Everfree Forest and discovering that it's actually a dangerous place,” Twilight added. “She was able to get out okay, but when she read that book, it just got her spooked.”
Applejack put her hoof on Apple Bloom, still clinging to Twilight's wing. “Look, Apple Bloom, you've been through the Everfree Forest hundreds of times before, haven't you?”
Apple Bloom looked up at her and nodded.
“And you don't remember getting yourself into that situation during any of those times, do you?”
Apple Bloom shook her head.
“Well, that settles it!” Applejack exclaimed. “You have nothing to worry about! There's no magical town in there! The only residents you'd be able to find in the forest are them woodland critters and Zecora!”
“But what about the future?” Apple Bloom asked in a soft voice. “What if I do find something like that in the future?”
“Listen, Apple Bloom, you don't need to worry about that,” Applejack said in a firm voice. “That story is just a work of fiction. If it's never happened before, it's never gonna happen in the future, especially if you are the main character of that story.” Applejack briefly got a confused look on her face. “Kinda baffling that you're even in it, but nonetheless, you shouldn't have anything to worry about.”
Apple Bloom finally relaxed and let go of Twilight's wing, allowing her to close it, ruffling it as she did.
“And it's not just her that's in the tale, oh so gory,” Zecora told Applejack. “It seems that both Twilight and I are in the story.”
Applejack looked at her in shock. She looked to Twilight, who nodded her head, and chuckled. “Well, that's ironic.”
With that, all four of the friends busted up laughing.
“Well, Apple Bloom,” said Applejack after calming her laugh. “How 'bout you help with taking these apples into the barn so that you can get your mind of that story.”
“Alrighty!” Apple Bloom agreed.
And the ponies and zebra parted ways.
That night, while Apple Bloom was getting ready for bed, she started thinking about the book that she had read earlier. It no longer bothered her, especially since it was about her and she had gone through the Everfree Forest without any sort of incident like that. She talked about with her sister as she tucked her into bed.
“I don't know what I was even scared about,” she told her. “I mean, I've gone through the forest enough times to know that there's no weird town in there.”
“That's exactly right,” Applejack agreed. “There's no town, just a bunch of animals and a zebra friend.”
“And I'm the central character of the story,” Apple Bloom went on. “That should be proof that it isn't even real. But, um, why is it about me?” About that time, she remembered that mental note that she had made before she read the book. “Uh, Applejack, do we know anypony named Creepy Pasta?”
“Creepy Pasta? Where in Equestria did you hear that name?”
“Well, that's the name of the pony who wrote that book, so I wondered if we knew anypony like that.”
“Oh, I don't know, Apple Bloom. I mean, it might just be a pen name. A lot of authors do that sometimes.”
After saying their good nights, Applejack turned out the light and closed the door, and Apple Bloom snuggled up with her Babs Seed plush and fell asleep.
The next day, Apple Bloom woke up, feeling refreshed from the horrors of yesterday. She ran downstairs to the kitchen, expecting to find her family getting ready for breakfast.
“Gee, I hope we're having pancakes today,” she said to herself. “I've been craving those for the past few days.”
But when she got to the kitchen, it was empty. “Huh? Where is everypony? They're all usually up by now. And Applejack's usually got breakfast all made.”
She looked all over the house for her family members. She looked in Granny Smith's bedroom, there was nopony there. She looked in Big Mac's room, there was only Smarty Pants. She looked in Applejack's room, her hat wasn't even there. She looked out in the barn, there was just Winona, the only family member that she could find. After filling her food and water dishes, which was something that Applejack would usually do, she went outside to see if she could find anypony. But as she walked out, she suddenly found herself in the middle of the Everfree Forest. She looked behind her and saw that her house was missing as well, meaning that she may have also lost the dog. Apple Bloom suddenly became scared. She wandered around the forest, trying to find her family, as well as a way out.
As she walked, she heard a distant sound that sounded like a filly giggling. Apple Bloom got a sudden chill down her spine. She started walking faster, scanning the area to see if she can find anything, or anypony. She heard the giggling again and started trotting. Then again, motivating her to start running, desperate to find her family and get out of there.
Finally, she saw a clearing that seemed to have a small town in it. She came in closer to see if there were any ponies. As it turned out, there was a good sized population in the town, but much to Apple Bloom's puzzlement, none of the ponies had any cutie marks, even though most of them were grown-ups. She wondered about this when she suddenly heard the giggling again. Flinching, she hurried into the town and started looking around. She decided to ask around to see if any of the ponies there had seen her family.
After a while, she still had no luck. Nopony had seen any of her family members, and she was starting to get desperate. Especially since she seemed to be getting an unsettling feeling from them. Even so, she kept looking, hoping for an answer.
Then, as she walked down the street, she found another filly all alone in the grass next to the road. She seemed to be a little older than Apple Bloom, and she seemed to be crying, as her face was hidden in her hooves. Apple Bloom felt pity for her and started to walk toward her to comfort her. But then, something occurred to her: she was in a town where nopony had any cutie marks, and this was one of the ponies that she had met in the book! Apple Bloom suddenly became scared of her and started backing away from her, not realizing that she was going into a strange, empty house.
When she finally saw where she had gone, she became startled, but curious. She looked around the house, wondering if anypony lived in it. It didn't look like it, as it was completely empty and devoid of any pony life. Then, Apple Bloom looked at a fireplace in the middle of the room where she had entered. There wasn't anything significant about it, but for some reason, Apple Bloom couldn't help but stare into it. Then, right before her eyes, the fireplace lit up, even though there wasn't any wood in it, and among the flames, Apple Bloom could see a ghostly filly in the fireplace. The filly looked familiar, and she seemed to be the same age as the filly that Apple Bloom had found crying outside. Suddenly, it dawned on her: this was the same filly that was on the cover of the book! As soon as she recognized who this pony was, she screamed in fright and ran outside. But as soon as she got outside the door, she saw that day had suddenly turned into night, even though it was still morning when she first went into the house, and the entire town had a creepy feel to it. Apple Bloom panicked and started running through the town, trying to find a way out.
Along the way, she ran into some of the ponies that she had talked to earlier and discovered that they had become zombies. The zombies had their sights on Apple Bloom as they started their slow tromps toward her.
“Join us. Join us.”
The zombies wanted Apple Bloom to become a part of their community, but Apple Bloom wanted no part of it and frantically ran away to try to evade them. With zombies at every which way, Apple Bloom lost her sense of direction and found herself getting lost in a frightening town.
Finally, she came across three figures in a distance. She looked at them for a minute, and recognized their shapes to be that of her family. Eager to be with them so that they can protect her from all these terrifying ponies, she ran right toward them.
“Granny! Applejack! Big Mac!” she called out. “I'm here! I'm here!”
But her relief didn't last. As soon as she got close enough to them, she realized that their flanks were blank, and their coats had gone dark. As they turned around and their glowing red eyes laid upon her, Apple Bloom realized that they had become part of the zombie community. Apple Bloom screeched to a halt as soon as she realized what had happened to her family, and, having no time to feel a broken heart, turned around to get away from them, too. But as soon as she did, she found herself surrounded by other family and friends who had all suffered the same fate. They closed in on her, still chanting the slow chant:
“Join us. Join us.”
Apple Bloom tried to find a way to escape, but there was no way out. She was trapped by her own loved ones who had become frightening monsters. There was nothing she could do but scream in terror as everypony sealed her fate.
Then, all of a sudden, Apple Bloom woke up with a start. She looked around and saw that she was safe in her own bedroom. It had all been a dream! But Apple Bloom was still frightened and ran out of her room and into Applejack's, where she was still sleeping. Then she jumped into her bed, waking her up, and cried on her shoulder. Applejack was stunned.
“Apple Bloom, what's wrong?” she asked. “Did you have a bad dream?”
“Yes!” Apple Bloom sobbed. “I found the town, and I didn't make it out!”
Applejack sighed and hugged her little sister. She didn't know what to do about this backslide, except to let her sleep with her tonight.
The next day, Applejack went to Twilight to tell her about what had happened to Apple Bloom that night.
“Are you kidding me?” Twilight asked in disbelief. “I thought she had gotten over that!”
“So did I,” said Applejack. “But she was just so scared, she was actually crying!”
Twilight sighed. “Well, what do we do now? We can't just let this linger. She'll never want to even be near the Everfree Forest if it does.”
“I don't know,” said Applejack. “But we'd better think of something. I don't want to see my sister go into hiding every time the timberwolves start howling.”
Twilight thought about what to do. She didn't want to use anything that would bring any harm to Apple Bloom, but she also didn't want it to take too long either. She thought about one way that would work. It was controversial and required a lot of patients, but according to her research, it was probably the most effective way to alleviate fears.
“Well, there is one thing that we can do,” she told Applejack. “We can take her right through the forest.”
Applejack tensed up. “Are you sure that's such a good idea, Twi?”
“Well, it might not be the most comfortable way to take care of it,” Twilight explained. “But if we're patient and diligent enough, it just might work.”
Later that morning, Twilight had Applejack, Apple Bloom, and Zecora meet up with her just outside the Everfree Forest. She explained her plan to her friends.
“So, what we're going to do here is called an exposure therapy. It's probably the most controversial, yet most effective tool used for helping ponies to get over their fears. But in order for this to work, we're going to need patients and diligence, that way, Apple Bloom will have time to relax and regain her composure.”
Apple Bloom was already freaking out. She didn't want to go through with this. She just wanted to stay outside the forest where it felt safe.
“I can't do it!” she cried. “I can't do it!”
“Apple Bloom, I know this is scary for you,” Twilight said in a soft voice. “But we don't want this to go on forever. This forest is right next to Ponyville, so we want you to feel comfortable living right next to it. Besides, Zecora will be happy to have you visit once in a while.”
Apple Bloom looked at the forest. She knew that Twilight was right, but it still didn't seem like a safe idea.
“Come on, Apple Bloom,” said Applejack in a gentle, but beckoning manner. “I know you don't want to have anymore nightmares about this, and I don't want you to either.”
Apple Bloom took a deep breath and breathed out. “Okay. So what do I have to do?”
“Well, all you have do to is walk straight down to the Castle of the Two Sisters, and then straight back here,” Twilight explained. “Simple as that. And don't worry; Zecora and I will be walking right with you, and Applejack will be waiting for you right out here. Are we clear on that?”
Apple Bloom nervously nodded. She took Twilight and Zecora's hooves in each hoof and held on as they approached the entrance.
“Good luck, Apple Bloom,” said Applejack as they walked toward the forest.
Just as the three friends started to enter the Everfree Forest, Apple Bloom looked up at it. The trees loomed over her head and started to look intimidating. Apple Bloom's body started to tremble and her breathing became erratic. Twilight and Zecora held on to her as she struggled to stand up.
“It's okay, little dear,” said Zecora in a calming tone. “It is hard to face your fear.”
“That's why we have to be patient,” Twilight told her. “It's important that you remain calm during this procedure.”
Apple Bloom finally got herself together and was able to stand up on her own. Then the trio walked right into the forest and disappeared from Applejack's view. Applejack could only hope that this therapy would go well.
In the forest, Twilight and Zecora held Apple Bloom's hooves as they walked through together. Apple Bloom was still feeling nervous, but she seemed to be doing pretty well. As she looked around at the surrounding area, she couldn't find anything too terrifying so far. But as the three friends got to the halfway point of their trip, Apple Bloom started to hear strange sounds. She had heard these sounds before, but only now did she start to notice them. As the sounds continued to fill the air, Apple Bloom's courage started to fail on her. She came to a sudden halt and fell to the ground in a fit of tears. Twilight and Zecora sat down with her, still holding her hooves.
“It's okay, Apple Bloom. Just settle down,” whispered Twilight. “You're doing really well.”
“Take your time, my little filly,” Zecora whispered. “Just as long as you need to release your willy.”
Zecora stroked Apple Bloom's mane as Twilight rubbed her back. They waited for her to calm down so that they could continue their trip. Finally, Apple Bloom rediscovered her strength and stood up. She took in the sights and sounds, trying to get re-familiarized with them before she felt comfortable enough to start walking again.
After what seemed like a long, grueling hike, Twilight, Apple Bloom, and Zecora finally reached their destination: the Castle of the Two Sisters, where Princesses Celestia and Luna once lived. As she looked at the ruins of what was once home to two of Equestria's oldest princesses, she felt a sense of triumph. She had made it all the way through the Everfree Forest and to the castle.
“Great job, Apple Bloom!” Twilight congratulated. “You did it!”
“At the castle at last,” said Zecora. “You've taken the test, and you have past.”
Apple Bloom took a deep breath and grinned.
“Whoa, Zecora, not so fast!” Twilight cautioned.
Zecora and Apple Bloom looked at her in puzzlement.
“We've only made it half-way through the therapy,” Twilight continued. “We made it to the castle, but we still have to make it back to Ponyville.”
“Oh, that's right!” Zecora exclaimed. “We still have not finished the fight!”
Apple Bloom tensed up. She wasn't quite done with the forest just yet.
“Now don't fret, Apple Bloom,” Zecora encouraged her. “And don't get queasy. You have already gone through it once, so the way back should be easy.”
Twilight whispered in her ear. “Um, Zecora, her troubles in the book don't start until we were on our way back home. This may not be quite so easy.”
Zecora's ears dropped. She had forgotten about that part. But Apple Bloom seemed determined to finish the quest, even if she was a bit nervous. Besides, home was back that way, so she really had no other choice but to go through the forest again. So she took a calming breath and straightened up.
“Alright. I'm ready.”
Twilight and Zecora smiled as they walked with her, still holding her hooves, right back into the forest. The way back did seem a lot easier. Apple Bloom was once again recognizing the area, as she had gone through it a few times before. She became less and less worried about what they would run into, and felt confident that they would make it through.
As the trio crossed a river, Twilight decided that it was a good time to give Apple Bloom more encouragement.
“You're doing really well, Apple Bloom. I'm so proud of you.”
Apple Bloom couldn't help but grin and rub her head against her. Zecora laughed as she watched her affection toward their princess friend. But shortly after crossing the river, they ran into a problem: some trees had fallen over, blocking their path. Twilight was exasperated.
“Oh no,” she groaned. “Why now?!”
Apple Bloom looked at the trees as details of the book returned to her. Her body suddenly became shaky and she jumped onto Zecora, whimpering.
“Whoa, whoa, Apple Bloom!” Zecora exclaimed. “This does not signify doom!”
“Ugh, this is exactly how she met that filly in the book!” Twilight complained. “Now I have to move these trees out of the way.”
Twilight walked right up to the fallen trees and started using her magic to lift them up and move them off the path.
Meanwhile, Zecora talked to Apple Bloom, trying to calm her down.
“Apple Bloom, I know that this is just like the book. But there is nothing here to harm you, if you'd take a look. There is no zombie pony, and there is no ghost. It is your imagination that is scaring you the most. But do not fear, and do not worry; after all, we are in no hurry. Just remember that the book is a work of fiction, and then, you will not have a frightening prediction.”
Apple Bloom took these words to heart. She looked up at Twilight as she struggled with a heavy tree. She listened to her surroundings, but could only hear Twilight's magic and the sound of birds singing. She breathed another calming breath and climbed off of her zebra friend. Then, holding her hoof, she waited patiently for the path to be clear.
“Twilight was right,” she told Zecora. “This therapy does take patients.”
“Well we didn't expect to be slowed down by any fallen tree,” Zecora acknowledged, ruffling Apple Bloom's mane.
Apple Bloom laughed, smoothing her mane back out. The sound of her laughing briefly distracted Twilight, who looked back with a smile before realizing that the tree that she was lifting was going off-balance. She steadied it as she moved it to the side. Finally, the path was clear, so Twilight took Apple Bloom's other hoof, and she and her friends continued their smooth walk back home.
Meanwhile, just outside the forest, Applejack was still waiting for her friends' and sister's return. They were taking longer than she'd like, so some thoughts were running through her mind. Were they okay? Was Apple Bloom taking a long time to calm herself? Did they run into anything? Were they even going to come out? Applejack didn't know whether she should go in there to check on them, or just stay put and wait for them.
Around that time, Cheerilee and Fluttershy came walking by. They saw Applejack sitting by the Everfree Forest, not really doing anything.
“What's Applejack doing there?” Cheerilee wondered out loud.
“It looks like she's just sitting there, waiting for something,” Fluttershy commented. “Maybe we should ask.”
“Yeah, I think we'd better,” Cheerilee agreed.
The two ponies approached Applejack as she sat at the forest's entrance, not even noticing them.
“Hello, Applejack,” said Cheerilee.
Applejack jumped in surprise. She never even realized that anypony else was around until then.
“Oh, howdy, gals. Didn't see you two here.”
“Sorry about that,” said Cheerilee. “We were just wondering what you were doing here.
“Well, I'm waiting for Twilight and Zecora to bring Apple Bloom out of the Everfree Forest,” Applejack told them.
“Oh dear,” Fluttershy worried. “Is she lost?”
“Well, no,” Applejack explained in a low tone. “But she has read something that has gotten her scared of it, so Twilight is having her go through an exposure therapy so that she doesn't have to be, and Zecora went with them.”
Cheerilee and Fluttershy became puzzled. She didn't seem all that afraid of the forest yesterday, so why would a book make her afraid of it now?
“A book scared her out of the forest?” Cheerilee asked.
“Yup. And it gave her nightmares, too,” Applejack told her.
“Oh gosh. If a book can get somepony afraid of something that's never bothered them in the past, it must be terribly horrifying!” Fluttershy reasoned. “I don't think I could ever read it.”
“Me neither,” Cheerilee agreed.
At that moment, the three ponies heard hooves clopping on the ground. They turned to the forest and watched to see who was making that sound. After a minute, Apple Bloom came galloping out from the trees and over to a surprised Applejack.
“I made it, Applejack! I made it!” she exclaimed in excitement. “I made it through the Everfree Forest!”
“Good for you, Apple Bloom!” Applejack laughed as Twilight and Zecora emerged from the forest. “And nothing happened?”
“Nothing at all,” Apple Bloom bragged.
Twilight, Zecora, Fluttershy, and Cheerilee laughed as Apple Bloom hugged her big sister. Applejack looked up at Twilight and Zecora.
“So how'd she do?” she asked them.
“Well, there were some points when she lost her confidence,” Twilight explained. “But for the most part, she did really well. And I think she may have gotten over her fear, too.”
Applejack hugged her sister. “I'm so proud of you, Apple Bloom. I hope this means that last night was the only night that you worried about this.”
Apple Bloom was proud of herself, too. She had conquered her fears, and now she was more than willing to go through the Everfree Forest again without worrying about going into any towns like she read in the book.
A few weeks later, Apple Bloom did just that, this time, by herself. She was going back to Zecora's hut for a remedy for a rash that her cousin, Babs Seed, had developed during a game of hide-and-seek. She was also hoping that she had a book on plants so that she doesn't make the mistake of hiding in poison ivy again.
As she walked through the Everfree Forest, she started feeling a strange presence. She wondered if she still had remnants of fear from reading that book. She looked around, just in case there was something in the area that needed concerning about. She looked through some branches and was startled to find the exact same ghostly filly that had appeared in her dream not long ago! The two fillies stared at each other for a moment, not knowing what to do about the situation.
Finally, Apple Bloom broke the silence. “You're just a figment of my imagination, right?”
The ghostly filly could only respond with a shrug.