Disclaimer: I do not own My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic or The Number 23, the cool movie this story is based on.
A week ago...the only thing that surprised me was that it was my birthday. I guess you could say that the day didn't exactly set the "birthday mood" as Pinkie Pie called it. Funny...I still remember what she used to say about a birthday. According to her, it was the one day of the year made especially for you. A day made entirely for me...a day that I now wished had never happened.
"Excuse me?...Ms. Sparkle?!"
"Huh?...Oh, what is it, Mrs. Cake?"
"I've told you three times already what I've wanted! I want you to deliver this cake to Doctor Whooves for me. You know how much he likes his cakes."
"Ugh, why can't Pinkie Pie take care of it?"
"Twilight Sparkle! You know as well as I do that Pinkie Pie has been in bed sick for the past week!"
I had been studying so hard lately that my mind had had to make room for all of the recently acquired information. As a result, it had to erase certain memories from my brain...like the fact that one of my best friends was sick.
"Okay, Mrs. Cake, I'm on it!"
She gave me the coldest stare I had ever gotten from her...Well, actually, the second coldest. See, she was mad at me for something I had done a couple of months back...I guess that's where my story really began.
"I think I've come down with a fever."
"Oh, no! Come here and let me have a look!"
By looking at the thermometer, I could tell that he used the old "stick the thermometer in the oatmeal" trick because there was oatmeal dripping off the end. I guess I realized then that he didn't care about going to Mrs. Cake's Hearth's Warming Eve party. See, she may be the caretaker of Ponyville's greatest party-thrower, but she certainly didn't acquire the same skill. She always wanted to plan her holiday parties herself, without Pinkie Pie's help. Everypony that went knew that her parties failed in comparison to Pinkie's parties. But everypony also knew that if they told her what they really thought about her parties she would never let them order desserts from her bakery again. So, I decided to let Spike stay while I went by myself. I knew somepony had to take cookies for the party. It's funny...I now wish that I could've said "Screw the cookies! I'm staying here too, Spike!" If I'd have done that, then I wouldn't have had to go to the party and make Mrs. Cake mad...I want two words on my tombstone..."What if?"
"Oh, Twilight, I'm so glad you could make it!"
"I wouldn't have missed it for the world, Mrs. Cake."
I tried my best to enjoy the party, but even Pinkie Pie, who was forced to stand on the sidelines, had to agree with me that the party could definitely use some "touching up." I had brought a book with me, so I decided to read my way through the party. I got some apple cider to drink while reading. However, I was so into my book that I had forgotten the problem I have with cider...Six glasses later, the words of the book were a 3-D movie to me.
"Twilight, darling, could you do me a favor and deliver the goody bags to everypony who couldn't come?"
"Hey, pipe down lady! I'm trying to ride the words!"
My actions that day got Mrs. Cake working me several hours a day every day for several weekends. She said it was to pay for all the "precious cider" I wasted, but I know that she's just doing it to get back at me. And if I hadn't have had to work that day, I would have been at home reading... and never expecting the events that were to soon transpire.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
"Doctor Whooves, hello? I've got your cake here!...Hello?!"
I waited a few minutes but got no response. I was just about to leave it on his doorstep when I heard the growling. I spun around to find the angriest-looking black dog I'd ever seen. His eyes were like those of a demon, looking right through my soul. I was afraid for the cake, so I said the only thing I could think of.
I had no time to react as the dog lunged at me. Knocking me to the ground, I watched as he tore the box apart, helping himself to the now-totally-ruined cake. My body filled with anger as I imagined Mrs. Cake's reaction. There would go about a thousand more of my weekends. My horn glowed bright as I started to aim a knock-out spell at him. I was gonna make him pay for what he did. But, as soon as I began to focus, he started to run away...To this day, I regret chasing that dog more than anything.
"Hey, you stupid mutt, get back here!"
After chasing him for what seemed like hours, he led me to the Ponyville Cemetery. That place had always given me the creeps, but, that day, I was determined to catch that dog.
"Come on out, you stupid dog! I'm not gonna let you go that easy!"
I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye and immediately followed. It led me to a random grave. One of a "Laura Toffee." Even though I didn't know her, I considered her lucky...At least she didn't have to deal with stress anymore. After failing to find the dog, I decided to give up and head back to Mrs. Cake's to accept my fate. However, on the way out, I discovered a dog tag lying near the entrance. I figured it belonged my long-gone demon dog. It read "Ned."
"Ned?...Nasty. Evil. Dog. Yeah. I think that's what I'm gonna call you from now on. And the next time I see you, you're gonna be Ned with two D's...Nasty. Evil. Dead. Dog."
I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to meet Rarity at the local bookstore before heading to my house for my party. I decided to call Mrs. Cake on a payphone when I got to the store and tell her what happened there. I didn't want to disappoint Rarity. As I left, I didn't notice Ned staring at me from afar.
"Rarity! I'm so sorry I'm late!"
"Oh, that's quite alright, dear. I was just browsing through the store's vast selection of literature when I came across something interesting."
She pulled out a blood-red book from one of the store's plastic bags, meaning she had already purchased it. It was titled "The Number 22" and subtitled "A Horrifying Odyssey by Topsy Kretts."
"I already bought it for you. Happy birthday!"
"Oh, Rarity, thank you! I can't wait to see what it's about."
"It doesn't have a summary on the back, but I did skim through the first page. It had a rather sincere and frightening message."
Picking it up with my magic, I opened the book and read the message.
"My fellow reader, before you thrust yourself into this frightening tale of horror and mystery, I warn you that if the characters in this book relate themselves in any way to any ponies, animals, or magical creatures in your life, do not read any further."
Flipping over to the first chapter, I found the title to be "The Dog Next Door."
"The dog next door? That's weird."
"What is it, darling?"
"The picture of that dog looks a lot like the dog that used to live next door to me during my childhood in Canterlot."
"Hmm...That is a bit odd...Oh my goodness! I hate to interrupt your memories, Twilight, but we're going to be late for the party! Let's get going!"
As we dashed off to the library, I failed to remember to call Mrs. Cake. Little did I know that her angry lecture to me would be nothing compared to the horrors my birthday present would bring me.
"Twilight! I'm so glad you could make it! I was just about to show everypony my new trick!"
"Um, Rainbow Dash, there are two things I'd like to point out. (1 This is my birthday party, so of course I was going to be here. (2 You will not be doing any tricks here because this is my house!"
"Oh...heh heh...right...Sorry, everypony! Maybe some other time!"
As the party progressed, I had a fun time eating cake, playing Pin the Tail on the Pony, and getting presents. But all I could think about was the book. It had drawn itself a place in my mind and now I couldn't stop thinking about it. So, after I finally got everypony (including Rainbow Dash) to leave, I started on the book.
The Dog Next Door
You can call me Hoofling. That's not my real name. I just like it better. I got it from a book I read as a child. Hoofling at the Zoo. I think that was my first book. My mother would read it to me all the time...The funny thing is...I don't even remember what it was about. I just remember the name...Hoofling.
I put down the book for a moment as a though flashed through my mind. My mother had read the same book to me as a child...I was also pretty sure it was the first book I had ever read...Freaky. I had no idea how much more freaky it was gonna get.
My childhood was nothing special. The stork dropped me off in the fancy-pants kingdom of Canterlot. All of the other kids stayed there, becoming part of the its higher society, but I didn't want to spend my life in that fru fru place. I wanted to live somewhere all my own.
My father was an accountant. I guess he thought I would someday step into his shoes and become one too. But, on my eight birthday, I disappointed him by telling him and my mom that I wanted to be a researcher...or a librarian. This fueled his hatred for our next door neighbor, Lady Gumdrops, who blamed my newly-wanted future on the fact that I had spent almost every day of my childhood spying on her. I knew that I could write an entire research paper on her strange behavior. She had a dog, one that my dad thought of as "pure mischief", that would come into our yard every day, do its business, and run back into the house. I was told never to cross the fence over into her yard...But, on my eight birthday,...I broke that rule.
As I followed the dog up her
creaky stairs, I realized that the house's outside looks did not match
with its inside. While the outside was bright, shiny, and looked brand-new, the inside was old,
dusty, rotten in some places, and very dark. It was as if no one had lived there for years. Then,
when I got to her bedroom, I saw her. Lady Gumdrops was lying on her
bed, completely motionless, covered in blood. She had multiple stab
wounds in her chest and neck. The moment I saw her dead body, the first
one I'd seen in my life, my heart raced.
The police labeled it as a suicide, but my mind wouldn't let me believe that. I imagined her being killed by an insane lover. That adrenaline rush of imagination I got that day drove me to become a full-time researcher. A later encounter with Princess Celestia at the Summer Sun Celebration inspired me to also learn magic, making me double busy. Did I forget to mention I was a unicorn? Oh, well, now you know.
This book had not only taken memories from my life, but had imitated them. While not every fact was correct, this book was almost an exact copy of my childhood. And, like the character in the book, I was immediately filled with adrenaline.