Life is a Lemon

by Blueshift

Chapter 3: Chapter 2 - Out Of The Frying Pan (And Into The Fire)

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Lemon Dreams’ house stood at one of the farthest corners of Ponyville, where the streets gave way to picturesque shrubbery and wildflowers. It was a modest affair with fading paintwork and slightly rickety windows, but Lemon Dreams didn’t really care. It was just a useful building to keep out the rain and cold, her true home was amongst the trees.

She flung open the door, throwing down the heavy bag of fertiliser and assorted gardening goods that made up the majority of that day’s excursion into town. She gave the bag a little pat – sometimes she liked to sleep in the fertiliser, to make sure she was well fed and fresh for the next day, but she didn’t like to be selfish; her lemon friends would eat well tonight.

She cast her eyes back to the door. Wedged into the letterbox was a crumpled envelope which bore some familiar writing. In the next town over, there were two ponies who thought they were her parents, and would send her money and a letter like clockwork, every week. Of course, they couldn’t be Lemon Dreams’ parents because her real family was made from citrus and pith, not flesh and blood, but she thought it was important not to break their illusion. If it made them happy to think she was their daughter, she would let them continue. Sometimes they would try to visit, but Lemon Dreams would hide upstairs until they left. Sometimes they would sit outside the house for hours calling for her. Some ponies could be strange.

Lemon Dreams tore the envelope open, carefully depositing the coins inside into a jar that rested on a nearby table. The envelope and letter within was stuffed into a cupboard that was bursting at the seams with letters.

She never read them.

“Hi guys, I’m home!” Lemon Dreams threw open the back door and trotted out with a beaming smile. Before her stretched her orchard, a dazzling array of greens and yellows, tree upon tree all lovingly cared for. She walked amongst the strong trunks of the trees, giving little waves to all the lemons that nestled in the branches, all her brothers and sisters, safe and sound in her protection. Around the borders of her garden stood a tall stone wall that rose almost to the tops of the trees. In the past she had trouble with ponies trying to hurt her lemons by picking and eating them, or just trying to gawp. The wall kept them all out. It kept them safe.

The sun was still high in the sky, a late lazy afternoon glow now, and Lemon Dreams stifled a yawn. There was probably still time to catch some rays, and so she scrambled up the nearest tree, finding a sturdy branch and flopping down on it, her limbs splayed on either side as she rested her head and fell soundly asleep.

There was something wrong. The dream she fell into was not the normal soft happy cushion she was used to, but instead something that sent her into restless fits. It was black. Something was falling in the darkness, tumbling end over end; she could feel herself leaping out to it, but it was too late, and she too fell into the darkness, screaming out a helpless cry that went forever unanswered.

A sharp cracking noise snapped her back to consciousness. She had obviously been asleep for a good few hours: the orchard was dark now, bathed in the orange light of the setting sun, and the air was cold as it ruffled the fur on her back. Almost in slow motion she could see the lemon on the branch in front of her splitting from its stem, and then with another crack, it plummeted downwards.

“No! Snicket!” Lemon Dreams cried out to the lemon as it fell. With a deft motion she sprang into action, launching herself off the tree and at the ground, twisting as she fell hard against the ground, her forehooves snatching in the air as they grasped the lemon before it could hit the cruel grass. It had taken less than a second, but Lemon Dreams had caught the lemon. She always did.

“Oh, Snicket!” Lemon Dreams looked sadly at the lemon in her hooves. Snicket had been one of her favourite lemons, nurtured from a small bud. She was still young and smooth, not old like some of the other lemons that sat withered on the branches. “You were too young to fall,” Lemon Dreams sighed, hugging the poor lemon to her chest and giving it a slight kiss. “Don’t worry, I’ll look after you.”

With the greatest of care, she took Snicket into the house where it was still warm, and placing her on a table, took out a tub of wax and polished the lemon’s skin until it was glowing yellow. “There!” She looked proudly at her lemon friend, and picked her up to place in the bowl of lemons that sat on the kitchen windowsill. This was where the old lemons that fell off the trees lived, so they could spend their retirement being looked after while still being able to stare out across the orchard.

“No…” Lemon Dreams paused, and then gently rubbed her cheek lovingly against Snicket. “You don’t want to sleep with those old lemons, do you Snicket? You can sleep with me, just this once.” As carefully as she could, she took Snicket in her mouth and carried her up the stairs to bed.

Lemon Dreams’ room was simple, just a bed and blankets with barely any decoration. She didn’t like to have to sleep in the house, but it was just too cold at night for her to stay in the trees that she loved without catching a cold. She started to coo softly to Snicket, wrapping her in a pink blanket as she sat in bed, rocking the lemon gently from side to side. “Oh, Snicket, what a happy life we lead,” she intoned, looking out of the window and into the beautiful orchard below, dappled with the first rays of moonlight.

“I know, I know…” She focused her attention on the lemon again, feeling the strange sensation of tears pricking at her eyes again. “I’m sorry you fell, Snicket, but I caught you. I’ll always be there to catch you and your brothers and sisters, and make sure nothing bad ever happens to you.” This made her feel better, and she hugged the lemon to her chest, safe and warm.

“You are my sunshine,” she started to sing as she rocked the lemon, “my only sunshine, you make me happy, when skies are grey.” She wasn’t sure where she had heard the song before, but it gave her a warm glow to sing it to someone she loved. “You’ll never know dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.” She breathed in deeply, hugging the lemon tighter as that contented feeling spread through her. Everything was silent and at peace, with only the slight rustle of the wind brushing against the leaves outside to disturb the serenity.

…my only sunshine…

Lemon Dreams froze, eyes wide. There was a voice singing, like a half whisper. She put Snicket up to her ears and listened for a while, but there was no sound. “Wait here!” she hissed to Snicket, placing her carefully on the bed as she trotted over to the window.

“Hello?” Lemon Dreams called down into the orchard. Everything was silent again, and Lemon Dreams started to convince herself that it was only the noise of the trees she had heard. As she turned to go back to bed, she felt a sudden pang of pure dread as a sing-song voice whispered up from the garden:

…you make me happy, when skies are grey…

“Hello?” Her heart was thumping in her chest now as she span back towards the window, craning her neck out. There was a sudden flash of colour amongst the subdued hues of the moonlit orchard, as something small scurried between the tree trunks. “Who is that? Get out of there, this is my orchard!”

She turned to race down the stairs, half tumbling in her scramble to get outside. There was no way someone could get into her orchard – they would have to break into her house or climb over the high wall. It was her safe place, her sanctuary from the world. “Get out, get out, get out!” she could hear herself half-screaming as she threw upon the back door and skidded into the moonlight.

She strained her eyes against the dark, trotting forwards into the orchard. Every inch of ground, every trunk was familiar as the back of her hoof to her, and yet she could feel a chill creeping across her body every step she took as if the most friendly place in the world was somehow unwelcoming.

…you’ll never know dear, how much I love you…

She twisted with a start as she heard the sing-song voice drifting through the air again. There was a flash of yellow as something the size of a filly darted across the far end of the orchard. “Apple Bloom, is that you?” She started to shake, an uncontrollable shudder rising through her body as she moved deeper into the darkness of the orchard. “This is my orchard, get out! It’s mine!”

…please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Impossibly, the voice came from behind her now, clear and loud in a soft, filly like lilt. Lemon Dreams swung round, ready to admonish the intruder, but her words dried in her throat.

Standing before her in the dark was a small yellow filly. It wasn’t Apple Bloom though. It stood still, bathing the ground before it in an ethereal light, its body flickering in the night like a wisp of smoke as if it wasn’t even there. A spectral hoof slowly reached towards Lemon Dreams. It was lemon-yellow.

There was something about the apparition, something unknown and yet so familiar, causing a bubbling sensation of pure dread to well within Lemon Dreams. Something deeply wrong and deeply terrible. She screamed as loudly as she could until she was hoarse in the throat, racing back towards the house as if her life depended on it and slamming the back door hard, dragging every table and movable object against it until she was sure nothing could get in.

A brief glimpse outside the window caught a flash of yellow in the moonlight, causing Lemon Dreams to start to shake again and hyperventilate. She bolted up the stairs as quickly as she could and dived under her covers. There was something about the thing in the garden, something she felt she should know. Something that sent an icy chill around her heart and caught her in pure irrational fear.

For the first time in years, she did not want to spend the night in the orchard. Instead she sat in bed with the covers bunched around her, staring up at the ceiling with wide, bulging eyes.

She did not sleep at all that night.

Next Chapter: Chapter 3 - Objects In The Rear View Mirror (May Appear Closer Than They Are) Estimated time remaining: 45 Minutes
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