Let's Just Say...

by Obselescence

Chapter 1: If I Wanted To...

Let's Just Say...

It was that beautiful peak time of autumn, when all the leaves were still on the trees. The branches were heavy with shades of red and orange and gold, and for that brief moment, it could be imagined that they’d be that way forever. It could be dreamed that the winter would not come this year, and neither the spring after it, nor the summer again after that. There’d just be the forest, with all of its fiery colors, and the cool drifting breeze that sometimes blew by.

Of course, it wouldn’t happen. The Running of The Leaves would be in a week’s time, to tear it all down and leave the trees bare. There were reasons — very good reasons — why there could never be a perpetual autumn, but one could imagine it anyway. If only briefly.

In the heart of the forest stood Equestria’s own Princess Celestia. She was completely alone, and it had taken much effort for her to get that way. Canterlot was presumably in an uproar about her mysterious disappearance. Particularly when she was due for meetings with three different ambassadors, two distant relatives, and a concerned citizen.

But so what?

She felt free for a flickering moment. Not free enough to forget that she was still the Princess and that inevitably, invariably she’d be found and brought back, but so what?

So what?

She was technically away from it all. Still in Equestria, but away from the rest of it. The ponies. Her loyal subjects. There were no sycophant upper-crust Canterlot ponies in these woods, nor were there any of the rustic Ponyville types, who’d throw themselves off a cliff if they thought their Princess would like the sound of the splatter. It was nice to be ten miles distant from either of them. She was, at any rate, sick of both of them.

Not all of them. There were a few good apples in the bunch, so to speak. There were a few ponies who didn’t make her despair, but those were few and far in between. Most of the populace, though... Well, there was something wrong with them. They were shallow or stupid, or, more often than not, both. Plus a few extra character flaws for good measure.

And they didn’t even know it. Didn’t even notice how silly it was to panic and scream over every little thing. Didn’t even realize how stupid it was to build their identities around the approval of every flash-in-the-pan-pony who achieved some minor fame in Canterlot. Didn’t even, didn’t even. Well-meaning idiots, the lot of them.

There’d been an infestation in Fillydelphia just two months ago. Parasprites, nasty little buggers. What had brought them? Well, some traveling salesponies nonpareil had got the bright-spark idea to go sell them as pets. The town, for its part, had been stupid enough to believe that parasprites, of all things, would ever make good pets. A spark, some dry leaves, a fire.

And who’d been forced to clean up that mess?

Who’d been called out of Canterlot to solve the problem Fillydelphia’d set on itself?

Why, the Princess, of course.

A squirrel scampered by, twisting and turning its way past her legs. Birds who hadn’t the good sense to go south already chirped in a lovely little chorus. Yes, this was lovely. The sort of thing a Princess needed when she wanted to get away from it all.

Not away from it all forever. She’d never get away from it forever.


“Suppose...” she began, speaking to nopony in particular, “Suppose I killed them all.”

A passing-by bunny stopped in mid-hop and stared up at her with its big black eyes. Was it listening? Had it heard? Did it understand? Maybe. Animals were smarter than most ponies gave them credit for. Just as most ponies were dumber than they gave themselves credit for.

“Let’s just say,” Celestia repeated, now for the pleasure of her little woodland friend, as well as herself, “That I killed everypony.”

“Hypothetically, of course,” she added when the bunny’s eyes widened. “I’m not being serious. But let’s just say...”

A few more animals scurried up to listen, trying to figure what all the fuss was about. A hedgehog poked its head out from inside a log, a squirrel peered down from a low-hanging branch. It was an audience in the making, but Celestia didn’t mind. She welcomed it, even. The more ears there were to hear her crazy ideas, the more sense she could make of her own rambling.

“It wouldn't be very difficult, you know, to kill everything,” she told them. "If I really wanted to.”

“Which I don’t,” she added again. “But if I did...”

The hedgehog chittered something. She didn’t know what it was really trying to say, but she took it to mean How?

“Well, let’s just say — let’s just say — that I left the sun up too long...”

Some of the animals did something that sounded a bit like laughter. Of course they would laugh, Celestia knew. They didn’t see it yet.

“Let me finish,” she said patiently. “Say I left the sun up too long... Not too long. Just a month. Maybe two. That doesn’t sound very bad, does it? More time to frolick and play and do what you want before going to sleep. Yes?”

Most of the animals nodded. An owl, listening sleepily from inside a tree-trunk, silently disagreed.

“But that’s what they’d all think at first. They’d say ‘This is a little strange,’ of course, but nopony’d really question it. They don’t ask questions if they think it’s a good thing. Well, maybe Twilight Sparkle does, but she questions everything...”

The bunny made some angry scratching sounds. Get to the point already! it seemed to be saying. The rest of the audience followed suit, and made noises to a similar effect.

Well, if they insisted.

“And without any of them realizing it, it would happen. All the water would dry up. Slowly, at first. Too slowly for anypony to notice. But all the rivers and lakes and ponds in Equestria would eventually evaporate. Little by little. No night time for them to cool off, you see. Just heat from the sun. For days and days and days.

“The plants would all shrivel and die. They’d try to keep them for a while, maybe schedule a few more storms, but it would only be temporary. The water won’t last. Sooner or later, all the crops will wilt and turn brown. They’d still have the food-stores, but those won’t last either. And even if they did, what would they drink?

“The forests would burn at some point. Dried out so thoroughly that just the tiniest flare would set off a fire. Probably the towns would burn down too. Only Canterlot is anything approaching fireproof — small consolation, that. Once all the water’s gone, and the food’s gone too, and everything’s dead, it’d just take that one last wildfire to wipe out everything completely, and make the land a desert proper.

“So that’s what we’d have when all’s said and done: a desert. A vast, sprawling nothingness where Equestria used to be... If I left the sun up for too long.”

All the animals were staring up at her with wide open eyes. Not the tiniest noise could be heard in the forest at that point, not even from the birds. She could just tell that they were all thinking the same thing: Why would you do that?

“I wouldn’t,” she assured them. “I’m not going to. I love all my subjects. Even when they're being very stupid. But if we just say that I did...”

She swallowed and thought about it for a second more.

"If we just say that I did, maybe I'd finally—"

But before she could go on, a voice could be heard passing through the trees: “Princess? Are you out there?” It sounded very much like a Royal Guard.

“Oh, dear, they’ve found me at last,” said Celestia, just the tiniest bit annoyed that she’d been interrupted. “I’d hoped for a little bit more time...”

“Princess?” The voice repeated. Closer and louder this time.

“I'm here,” she called back. "Follow the sound of my voice."

“Stay where you are, Princess. We’re coming for you.”

Soon enough, a pair of gold-armored stallions trotted up and bowed before the Princess. “We are glad to have found you, Princess,” said the first. "Everypony was much distressed to hear that you’d gone missing.”

“There is much work to be done now in Canterlot,” added the second. "The ambassadors are all furious with you, and there is talk of a petition requesting that the Princess pay more attention to the state of the—"

“Of course there is,” Celestia sighed. “Let’s go, then. Come on.”

She turned to her new animal friends and gave them a wink before trotting off, flanked on both sides by her guards.

A minute passed. Two. Hoofsteps in the distance, and then... silence.

The animals looked at each other, then at the sky, and they saw autumn sun shining brightly above them.

They prayed very hard that it would go down soon.

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