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Apple Bloom's Odd Day

by Quillfeather

Applebloom stared at her new jigsaw puzzle, trying to make sense of it. Not necessarily the puzzle itself, but the fact that it was here at all. One moment she was eating breakfast, and then she had seen it. No one else was home, so nopony would have left it there. Was it dark magic? Was someone trying to play a prank? It didn't seem like the sort of prank Rainbow dash and Pinkie Pie would play.
She began to circle it, narrowing her eyes at it. The puzzle was still in the box, the tape still holding it closed.On the box was a picture of a hot air balloon, surrounded by puffy white clouds. It was very difficult to tell, but the puzzle's image seemed to be...shifting. A lot. The balloon became a cart being pulled by a brown stallion, and she swore she heard his hooves clopping on the path.
"What the…?"
The picture had begun to turn and swirl, almost becoming like a portal. Tentatively, she reached out to touch the swirling vortex. As her hoof made contact, she was swiftly pulled into it, yanking her forward. She gasped as she began falling down, down into a dark hole. Then, she saw sunlight, and heard the clopping of hooves, just as she had before. They sounded much closer now.
"Where to, little filly?" A deep voice asked. It was the stallion from the puzzle box that had spoken. He stood before her, smiling gently.
"Uh...Ah'm not sure. One minute Ah was here, and then Ah fell through the least…Ah think it was a portal."
What was going on?
The stallion chuckled, nodding as if he understood. "Well now, it sounds to me like you're just lost. Maybe I can help you." He nodded to the card, and then looked back at her. "Come on then. I'll give you a ride."
Not knowing what else to do, Apple Bloom hopped into the wooden cart.
"You're not the first foal I've found on my route." The stallion continued. "Heck, I'm not even sure where you all come from, but I try to help."
"Other foals? What do ya mean other foals?"
"Other foals like you that drop onto my land. They're usually confused, not knowing where they are or which way is up sometimes, so I try to help."
Looking ahead of them, Apple Bloom could see a loan cottage up ahead. There was nothing else for miles, and the cottage was surrounded by long, dry grass. There was a large stone wall that surrounded it, made of hard grey stones. The stallion seemed to be heading towards it.
"Is this where you live, mister…?"
"Golden Glove. And yes it is, miss…?"
"Apple Bloom."
The stallion nodded happily, as if her name was a slice of chocolate cake that he could not wait to try.
"Apple Bloom...that's a fine name. Well, Apple Bloom, maybe you can give me a hoof."
It was here that she noticed they had stopped at the cottage. As they passed through the gate, Apple Bloom gasped. There was a lush, beautiful garden inside the wall. Rose bushes lined the edges, and the sunflowers stood tall and proud, and vegetables of all kinds grew closer to the house. Other flowers of vibrant pinks, reds, violets, and others, carpeted everything else.
"Sweet Celestia!" She blurted, "Did you grow all of these yourself?!"
He nodded sagely, smiling as he patted her head.
"Oh yes. I love tending my garden. It's one of my greatest joys." Sighing, his smile faded, and he lowered his head. "The foals that appear here as you have always help me tend it, but there is one they have never gotten to grow."
Leading her to the right side of the garden, he pointed at a tall, and familiar looking tree. An apple tree.
"With a name like Apple Bloom, I'm certain you'll be able to help this tree bear fruit. Will you try it Apple Bloom?"
Apple Bloom examined the tree, thinking back to all of the things her big sister had taught her about tending to the trees. She examined the bark, the branches, every inch. Besides the lack of fruit, she didn't know if anything was actually wrong.
"Have ya been waterin' it?" She asked, attempting to narrow down the problem. "That might be the problem."
Golden Glove nodded, placing a hoof on it's great trunk. "Oh yes. Every day."
Placing a hoof to her chin, Apple Bloom thought and thought. She wasn't sure why, but the fact that this place was so lush while the rest of the land was so dry was starting to bother her. And the fact that there didn't seem to be anything wrong with the tree was also confusing...and suspicious. Spotting the door to the cottage, she began to walk towards it.
"No!" Golden Glove's hoof blocked the door. "I...I can't let you cross it."
Apple Bloom was now much more suspicious. "Ah only wanted a glass of water. And what can't I cross?"
"The threshold of the cottage. I can't let you cross that."
"Why not?"
"Because it's private property, and i haven't welcomed you inside."
"What happens if I do?"
"Bad things happen when you cross the threshold. Very, very bad things."
His face, once kind and welcoming, was now stoney and cold.
"You said you would help me with my tree. Do you know what's wrong with it?"
Apple Bloom glared back.
"Ain't nothin' wrong with your tree. The Apple Blossoms just haven't come yet."
With both of her small front hooves, she shoved him toward the door, forcing him to let her through. Grabbing the handle, she pushed through the door. Before she could cross into the cottage, Golden Glove grabbed her, tossing her to the ground.
"You foals just don't listen, do you?" His voice had changed again. Now it sounded sad and desperate. "I warn you over and over again, and each of you make the same mistake."
Apple Bloom was so angry and confused that she began to cry. She didn't know why she was here, or why that enchanted puzzle had sent her here, but she was fed up. She just wanted to go home. Home to her friends, her family, and her old life. She had thought this stallion was going to be trustworthy, but it was clear that he was lying to her. This was not fair.
"To cross the threshold…" He whispered, "Would mean that I would be alone again. Do you know how long it's been since I've seen another pony?"
His eyes were wild. He paced back and forth before her, ranting and raving.
"They all did it...they all crossed the threshold...and do you know what happened? They LEFT!"
On the last word, Golden Glove bucked the wall hard, causing it to shake. "Bit by by day...the land fought back against me. But I keep safe inside these walls."
Now she understood. He didn't want her to cross the threshold because it would take her home. If she left, he would be alone.
"Come with me then! You won't be alone if you come back to Sweet Apple Acres. Maybe my sister can give you a job or somethin'."
Golden Glove bucked the wall again, his name and tail now wild.
"You think I haven't tried that?! I'm the only one that can't, don't you see?"
Walking toward the door to the cottage, he attempted to grab the handle, only to have his hoof pass through it. He tried again, and again, but the same thing happened.
" long have you been here?"
"Too long, Apple Bloom. Too long."
It was then that Apple Bloom began to notice something against the side of the house: a bicycle. A foal's bicycle. The initials G.G. were etched onto the metal handle bars.
" were a foal? Like me?" She whispered. She had to get out. Before she was stuck too.
"I...think so." He staggered, as if dazed. "I...must've been...or was I?"
While he was distracted, Apple Bloom dove for the door, yanking it shut. As she did, she felt a similar tug to the one she had felt as she fell through the puzzle. With a cry, she fell forward onto the floor, right next to it.
She looked again at the puzzle, but only saw the hot air balloon from before. The stallion was no longer visible, and the picture was no longer shifting.
Glaring at it, she picked it up in her mouth and brought it to the back garden of the farmhouse, burying it beneath the rose bushes, the light of the setting sun casting everything in shadow.