by Brony19

Chapter 1: Act 0, Part 1- Octavia: The Grass Isn't Always Greener...

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Act 0, Part 1- Octavia: The Grass Isn't Always Greener...

    The small fire crackled and hissed quietly at the two girls. The shadows that the meager amount of light cast danced back and forth in the dark, locked in an eternal waltz. The shadows seemed happy, care-free from the world around them, lost in the music only they could hear. Octavia wished she could hear their tune, lose herself in the soft flow of the notes. Both her and Vinyl stared into the small fire, lost in thought and silenced by a sad quiet that claimed both their voices. It was as though they were both under the same spell.

    Most nights were spent this way, in silence and staring at the fire. It wasn't safe to travel at night, because... they could always find you, but you could never find them. Octavia shuddered slightly at the thought of the... monsters. She held her knees a little closer to her chest as the small flames so gracefully danced with one another. This feels like a nightmare... She thought to herself. So why haven't I woken up yet? She wished she would now.

    Vinyl looked over to Octavia and opened her mouth to try and break the interminable silence, but a soft crash in the other room silenced her. Octavia's eyes widened and her breath caught in her throat. Vinyl silently rose and grabbed the handle of her baseball bat. The once sleek wood was now depressed in some areas and the once rich-brown wood was now dull and stained a sickly red in places. Vinyl raised the bat to a swing position and stood next to the doorway, ready to swing at whatever shambled through.

    Shuffling feet could be heard in the other room, shallow breaths being breathed by the mystery figure. Their breathing sounded like a empty spray paint can being rattled around. They let out a soft moan, one that chilled Octavia's blood. Vinyl tightened her grip around her bat and tensed her muscles. The figure moved into view.

    They looked like they would have been a male at some point. His lips were all but gone, the blood-caked and yellow teeth lining his slack jaw. His eyes held a lifeless stare that went forever, never ending or focusing on something. A deep red semi circle was plastered on his neck, the other half of the bite mark out of Octavia's sight. He held his arms out slightly as he shambled for the door. Once he entered, his lifeless gaze fell on Octavia. His arms raised fully and he opened his mouth, ready to unleash his hellish moan. Octavia's heart skipped a beat before beating fast and hard.

    With a sickly Crack!, Vinyl brought the bat forward and into his face before he could make a sound. The wood smashed him right in his nose, the sound of bone crunching slightly heard. His head snapped back and he stumbled before falling on his back. A weak moan came from him while Vinyl disappeared into the room in which he fell and another Crack! sounded. A weak hiss of breath was heard before one last Crack! silenced him. Vinyl walked into the room, the bat coated in fresh crimson and a grim frown on her face. She set it down to lean against the wall a few feet from her and sat down again, staring into the fire.

    Octavia's eyes never left their position from when they locked with the now-dead man's. In her mind, the bat smashing into his face played on a slow-motion replay, each bloody moment captured in high-definition, every drop of blood and bit of bone crystal-clear. Tears streaked down her cheeks and silent sobs moved her body. Vinyl moved over to her, sitting down next to her and wrapping her arm around her to pull Octavia into a sideways hug. Octavia turned and leaned into it, her quiet cries shaking her body while Vinyl slowly rubbed her back and stroked her hair.

    The flames and shadows never ceased in their dance, the music beautiful.

    \_/ /-\ \_/

    Octavia and Vinyl had been surviving this way for almost a month. When everything went to Tartarus, the two friends had found themselves on the edge of Ponyville playing baseball with some of their friends to try and forget about the odd sickness that was plaguing the country. Well, Vinyl was playing and Octavia was watching, both enjoying the normality of the game. When the first person stumbled towards the group from the direction of town, then another, then three others, both Octavia and Vinyl knew that life just became anything but normal. Some of their friends panicked and ran, dropping anything they might have been holding. Some simply stared in horror at the sight of now twelve infected moaning and stumbling forward, like Octavia and Bon Bon. And some, like Vinyl and Lyra, took up arms to protect their friends.

    Once the infected were dealt with and the dust settled, only Octavia, Vinyl, Lyra, and Bon Bon remained out of their group. After Octavia and Bon Bon were calmed down to a reasonably calm state, the four friends agreed to split into two groups and meet at the train station on the other side of town, knowing that going together would attract too much attention. Both groups split up what was left of the food, grabbed a baseball bat each, and made their way to town.

    That was a month ago.

    Through many trial-and-error encounters, Octavia and Vinyl discovered what the infected were capable of, and they were relentless. What may appear to be only one would moan and four or five more would appear around it, moaning as well. Vinyl and Octavia decided that stealth and fighting only when absolutely needed was the only way to make it through this alive. Using their phones, they relayed the information to Lyra and Bon Bon, both groups keeping in touch this way periodically. The going was no better for Lyra and Bon Bon; they had made about as much progress to their goal as Octavia and Vinyl had. Ponyville was surprisingly large when a horde of infected shambled around.

    But even with the odds stacked against them so high, they refused to stop, refused to quit, to just lay down and die, or worse. Even with their will to live as strong as it was, it was difficult for Vinyl, more so for Octavia. The idea that these things could even exist, but the fact that they did? It's only natural that some minds wouldn't be able to function quite the same now. For Octavia, nothing radical had changed at all, in fact, some of her thoughts may have even been strengthened. This was to her disadvantage, however. Octavia is a peaceful person, one to talk troubles out rather than use action. But Octavia and Vinyl knew that there was only one way to stop these things.

    \_/ /-\ \_/

    Sleep wasn't something that Octavia was getting a lot of nowadays. The nagging in the back of her mind that those... those... things could grab her in the middle of the night made whatever sleep she did get light and left her more tired than the previous day. While Vinyl insisted that she was fine, Octavia could tell she wasn't getting a whole lot either. She wouldn't slow reaction time, thank the Goddesses, but the bags under her eyes grew a little every day. Octavia hoped that they would both be able to get some real sleep soon; they would need it. But, it was daylight now, and that meant being on the move. Or rather, try to be on the move.

    Octavia watched from the makeshift bed of couch cushions and scattered pillows in the middle of the room they sheltered themselves in for the night as Vinyl slowly walked to the window. She slightly pulled the curtain back, only enough to just allow her to see the street. She stayed there for only a few moments before pulling back and shutting the curtain once more. She didn't say anything, just sighed and walked over to her stool that she sat on last night. Octavia watched her, waiting for an answer, but Vinyl only played with the embers with her bat.

    "How does it look outside?" Octavia asked hesitantly.

    "Too many to walk." Vinyl said, almost devoid of emotion.

    "... But we need food..." Octavia said weakly, looking at the empty cans next to the makeshift fireplace; a pot for a plant.

    "... I know." Vinyl said after a sigh.

    "What are we going to do?" Octavia asked.

    "You are going to stay here. I'm going to go look for something." Vinyl said, rising from her seat.

    Octavia stood as well. "What? You can't be serious! I'm not going to let you go alone out there!"

    "Shh!" Vinyl hissed, putting her index against her lips.

    "Sorry." Octavia mumbled.

    "It's okay, Tavi." Vinyl said softly, raising her fist. Octavia normally would have scoffed and said something about how immature the act is, but she slowly raised her fist as well and bumped it softly against Vinyl's. "I know you're concerned and all, but... well..." Vinyl trails off.

    "Well, what?" Octavia asked.

    "You can't... y'know... kill them." Vinyl said quietly.

    "So? I can still help..." Octavia's steam went out as she spoke.

    "I know you can Tavi, but... I just don't want you to get hurt. Or worse." Vinyl said.

    "But... what about you? What if you... you..." Octavia couldn't finish her thought.

    "I'll be fine, Tavi. I'll be back soon." Vinyl shouldered her bat and walked out the doorway, carefully stepping around the man from last night.

    Octavia simply watched her go. She fell to her makeshift bed and still stared after her. She'll be fine. She's a tough girl. Octavia thought to herself, without conviction. She layed down and stared at the ceiling of the building she was in. The ceiling a family once took for granted. The ceiling that kids played under and pets roamed and a couple loved each other. A life like that seemed so far away now. Even if they got to Canterlot, how could life just up and go back to normal? After this, there would never be a "normal" again.

    *Buzzzzz! Buzzzzz! Buzzzzz!*

    Octavia quickly sat up, looking about for the cell phone. She couldn't find it, where was it?! She groaned in frustration before a tiny light half buried by her pillow caught her eye. "Ah ha!" Octavia said quietly to herself, claiming the phone in victory. Looking at the screen, the small phone showed it was a text from Lyra and Bon Bon, as per usual. Octavia quickly opened the text, eager and fearful of what it might say.

    Hey girls. Everything ok?

    Octavia gave a small mental sigh that nothing bad had happened.

    We're fine. We had a... close encounter last night. Vinyl just went out to get breakfast.

    And send.

    A few moments later, the phone buzzed again.

    Is she safe???

    Octavia thought for a moment.

    I hope so. I'm sure that she will be fine.

    Octavia wished she could believe that.

    If u say so. Text later. Stay safe.

    Despite the circumstances, Octavia smiled.

    You too.

    After that, Octavia placed the phone on a small coffee table near her mound of cushions. Once she did, she realized that she had never really took a good look at the room she was calling "home" for now.

    The room looked like it would be a family room at one point. There was soft, white carpet beneath her feet, the light tan walls raising to a slightly domed roof the same color. There was the doorway to a hallway that lead to the front door that held the... visitor's body. There was the couch in a corner, lined up with the window and facing the center of the room, where their makeshift campsite was. An entertainment stand was at the center of the wall opposite the doorway, a flat screen t.v. still on it. Then, between the couch and t.v., was the coffee table Octavia put the phone on.

    It wasn't much, but it would have made a nice home for a family. Octavia wished that she could have had something like this, knowing that she never might. She made her way for the doorway, stepping around the body of the mystery man carefully. She looked to her right; a window, the curtains drawn. To her left was the other rooms, a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and dining room, respectfully. She walked down the hall a bit, turning into the bedroom. It was similarly sparse as the family room. A queen sized bed, end tables on either side, a vanity mirror and dresser combo, and a bookshelf lined with books and knick-knacks of all kinds. A cute picture of a couple sat in the center of the middle shelf.

    Curious, she approached the bookshelf, inspecting the many titles and little decorations. A snow globe, in particular, caught her eye. She picked it up and gently blew the dust off of it, the small name reading CANTERLOT CASTLE in bold letters across the brass base. Inside was a small mountain with the city in question sitting proudly on its side. Octavia gave it a small shake and held it close to watch the hundreds of tiny, white dots swirl and sink in the tiny world and coat the castle. It seemed so peaceful in the miniature world she held in her hand. Octavia wished she could go to that world instead, even if she hated the biting cold of a Canterlot winter. She replaced the snow globe and looked back at the shelf, one book title catching her eye.

    She pulled out a thick tome, one that was leatherbound and the pages a nice golden from age. For its look, it was surprisingly well-kept, perhaps even a prized possession. It was, as the inside cover read, the complete and unabridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo, one of Octavia's all-time favorite books. Going so far as to grin, she took the old book and walked back to the family room, minding her space from the dead man as she passed him. Sitting down on her cushions, she opened the cover, flipped through the first blank pages, and began to read.

    \_/ /-\ \_/

    The sound of the door opening and closing quietly tore Octavia from her reading. She placed a small piece of string that she had found in the book and closed it to mark her spot, set the book down on the coffee table where the phone rests, and turned just in time to see Vinyl come through the doorway and take off the backpack she had been wearing as well as set her bat down. Much to Octavia's relief, the bat had no bright red covering it or stains that weren't there when Vinyl left earlier today. Octavia jumped up from her sitting position, ran forward and wrapped Vinyl in a powerful hug. "I'm so glad you're safe." Octavia said.

    Vinyl hugged her back after a moment. "Yeah. I told ya that I would be." Vinyl smiled for the first time in a while.

    Octavia separated from the hug when her stomach growled. "Did you find anything to eat?"

    Vinyl grinned. "You bet your sweet ass I did!" Vinyl laid the backpack on the coffee table and opened it to not only reveal several cans, but something that Octavia was sure that she would never see again.

    Sitting neatly atop the cans was a small container. But it wasn't just any container, it was a container that had a pink color that, despite insisting that she meticulously watched her weight, Octavia knew very well. She walked forward to the container and slowly opened it. Inside was a small cake, larger than a cupcake, but smaller than a normal cake. On it was plain white frosting with no special pattern or wording. Octavia thought it beautiful. "Where did you find it?" She asked, not looking away from the small cake.

    "There's this bakery just down the road, Sugarcube Corner. I saw that and thought maybe we could have a little treat." Vinyl said, a self-satisfied grin plastered to her face.

    Octavia looked at the cake a bit more before rushing to Vinyl and wrapping her in a massive hug. "Thank you Vinyl."

    Vinyl, caught off-guard at the sudden hug, took a moment to hug her back. "No problem Tavi. But wait 'till after breakfast!" Vinyl playfully scolded.

    "Am I to brush my teeth before or after I eat it?" Octavia asked lightheartedly while separating from the hug.

    Both girls laughed at this.

    Outside, a blood-curdling scream was heard, silencing both girls.

    For a moment, they had forgotten about the world outside.

    A moment after the scream was silenced, frantic buzzing was heard from the phone on the table. Octavia was still frozen from the pure fear the scream had told of. Vinyl gave her shoulder a pat as she walked passed Octavia to where the phone rests. Octavia shook her head to clear the thoughts from it and turned to Vinyl. "What does it say?" She asked quietly.

    Vinyl gave a sigh of relief once her she finished the text. "It's Lyra and Bon Bon. They're asking if it was one of us that screamed like that."

    "So does that mean it wasn't one of them?" Octavia asked quietly.

    "No, they're fine." Vinyl said while typing the response text.

    Octavia wanted to feel relieved, wanted to think that it was all okay, but she couldn't. While it may not have been the scream of one of her friends, or even someone she knew, it was still a person. A person that was, most likely, dead now. Or worse. It was a feeling of helplessness that washed over her as she thought on the scream. She was snapped out of her stupor by Vinyl holding her in a soft hug; she must have guessed what Octavia had been feeling. Octavia hugged her back after a moment.

    Despite the hectic chaos that had become the world outside, she always felt a little more safe when Vinyl hugged her. Like her embrace was able to ward off the craziness that consumed everyone else. For those brief moments, everything was okay, everything was going to be fine. Octavia hugged Vinyl a little closer, her breathing calming her, if only a little. Vinyl hugged her a little bit closer as well, before disconnecting, much to Octavia's disappointment. Vinyl sat down on her stool, grabbing one of the cans as she went. Octavia's stomach did the duty of telling her that she's hungry, and Octavia went to get some breakfast as well.

    While the two girls waited for their meals to heat up over the pitiful fire that had been re-lit, Octavia found her eyes wandering over Vinyl. She would catch herself, mentally kick herself, and then avert her gaze to something else in the room. This was nothing new; for a few months now, Octavia had been noticing Vinyl in a new light, one that went beyond the realms of friendship. It worried Octavia slightly; she never invested too heavily in a relationship before, and never with another woman. She had heard of Vinyl's... promiscuity when it came to relations, and even had the unfortunate experience of walking in before, during, and after said relations. She kept score of when it was with a man, woman, or both, but lost count and frankly didn't mind that she had.

    A small part of her heart was elated that, despite how she found out, Vinyl was fine with being with girls. Another, slightly larger, part said that what she felt for her was wrong, even if it was her upbringing that controlled its voice. But most of her heart was confused; she never felt like this for anyone, ever. She had no idea how to act on these feelings, feared that Vinyl might say, "no", had so much doubt and uncertainty that she hid it from everyone, even herself at times. A small, brave voice in her head said that with everything that was transpiring around her, her time was quickly running out and she should act while she still could, but it was hardly heard with the roar of everything else. So, she kept it hidden, kept it secret. For the time being, that was the smartest thing to do. They had enough to deal with, she shouldn't pile, "uncertain feelings for Vinyl" on top of everything.

    But, still... what if she said yes? No, no, she shouldn't spring this on her right now. There was simply too much going on, she would wait for the time to be right. Maybe when they got to Canterlot? She could imagine it all in her head now; after so long, after overcoming near-impossible obstacles, they would have finally reached salvation. The shining city would spread before them, the Guard would help them with disaster relief services, and Celestia's sun would be slowly setting, casting a soft orange glow upon everything. Octavia would turn to Vinyl, and slowly, somewhat embarrassingly tell her how she felt. Vinyl, being her unpredictable self, would simply lean in a her lips would connect with-

    "Tavi? You're starring." Vinyl's voice shatters Octavia's mental picture.

    Octavia felt a heavy blush flow to her cheeks. "Oh, um... s-sorry." She said meekly. Great job, Octavia...

As Vinyl opened her mouth to say something and Octavia braced for the pestering the hyper DJ was going to give her when a crash silenced both of them, their heads turning to the doorway. A soft moan sounded through the house, muffled by the walls. No... no, not again... Octavia thought, images of last nights John Doe flashing through her mind. Almost with complete silence, Vinyl rose from her seat and grabbed her bat, standing near the door like last night. And Octavia knew just what she was going to do. Like last night. And the night before. And the night before. She wished it would just end.

At first, all was quiet after the initial crash, as though they had simply broken the window and moved on. While it would be nice, both girls knew better than to think that is what happened. They also knew better than to investigate it; it was here Vinyl would joke about how all those horror movies that she's seen taught her how to survive if this wasn't real life. But still, nothing stirred in the other room. Sometimes Octavia found the silence just as terrifying as the moans. A moan carried quietly from down the hall, as though just to spite Octavia. While Octavia simply sat on her makeshift bed, Vinyl's grip tightened around the bat handle.

Heavy, awkward footsteps sounded, the kind that told of a limp and almost drunken state that they had come to learn so well. The same empty paint can rattle was only just above a whisper as they moved about. Despite Octavia's best effort, she could feel the terror build in her, her breathing coming hard and fast. Vinyl looked at her with her index to her lips, "Shh." Octavia tried her best, and her breathing quieted slightly. She placed a trembling hand over her mouth to silence her further, to a surprisingly good effect. To both girls' disappointment, the breathing and thuds grew slowly louder. Octavia's already wide eyes widen more. Goddesses, please, don't let it find us.

They decided not to listen to her plea.

This one would have been a girl in life. A pretty one, too, Octavia would have guessed. Now, however, her face had an open cut spanning from her forehead to her chin down the right side of her face, part of her lip hanging lamely from the slash. Her unseeing eye was also cut, reminding Octavia of a cat's eye with the slit pupil. Her light brown hair went down her back, roughly half way down. Her mismatched eyes, like John Doe's, feel upon her quivering form. The girl raised her arms and opened her mouth, the teeth a sick yellow with fresh, red stains. Her tongue was also split from whatever caused the gash on her face.

A similar Crack! sounded through the house once more. The girl's head snapped back and she stumbled but did not fall. She uttered her hellish moan and turned to focus on Vinyl, her bloodied fingers reach to grab Vinyl. Vinyl, having stepped just through the door, didn't have time to beat her back. She dropped her bat to hold the undead attacker away from her. "Tavi! The bat!" Vinyl said through her teeth, the girl's jaw opening and closing as it tried to bite at Vinyl.

Octavia didn't move. She couldn't.

"Tavi...!" Vinyl said with strain. Snap, snap.

Octavia noticed that the wound had opened more. It was quite discusting.

"Octavia!" Vinyl said.

Octavia snapped out of whatever had grabbed a hold of her. She quickly got up and grabbed the handle of the bat. It felt so strangely heavy in her hands. She turned to the dead girl and raised it above her head. But she couldn't bring herself to send the bat down.

"Octavia, fucking swing!" Vinyl yelled.

Goddesses, forgive me...

She swung the bat.


The dead girl stopped snapping at Vinyl.

Vinyl pushed the body off her.

She landed next to John Doe, her still hand resting atop his when suddenly, it hit Octavia.

The picture she saw on the bookcase; it was of them. Upon each finger was a ring.

Till death do us part.

Next Chapter: Act 0, Part 2- Scribbler: Between The Devil... Estimated time remaining: 56 Minutes
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