The Emotional Illness
Chapter 1: The Mad Colt with a Box
Had you, on that day, simply looked down at Ponyville from the rolling hills around it, you would have seen a quaint Equestrian town, complete with a library housed in a hollowed-out tree, a stage used for the inhabitants' numerous celebrations, and several outlying apple orchards dotting the countryside. Had you only glanced, you would have noticed nothing wrong.
But if you were to let your gaze linger on that point in the valley, you would have felt an uncomfortable feeling, a sense that something was amiss, and despite your better intentions, you would have desired to steer clear of that town as you made your way through the valley.
But even that strange observation would tell you nothing of the town's true situation, of the darkness that hid within.
The streets of Ponyville were bare, neither pony nor beast daring to use them. The morning was devoid of the cheerful chatter between friends and neighbors, or the clip-clop of hooves as they walked, worked and played. The air, usually filled with the aroma of fresh pastries from the kitchens and bakeries, was stale, unpenetrated even by nature.
The night had given way to a beautiful sunrise. But there was nopony outside to enjoy it.
The Ponyville library was the only building in obvious use. It was here that Twilight Sparkle had made her residence, and where she was now worriedly tearing through her bookshelves.
"No, no, no…" She opened book after book with her magic, flipping through the pages, hoping that there was something, anything she had overlooked the last time. But once again, her efforts yielded nothing.
She sighed as she began to replace the mountain of books that had accumulated during her search. Normally, Spike would have assisted her, but he was among the numerous victims of the town's crisis.
After finishing her task, she stepped out of her adopted home. Even now, the utter lack of activity in the town surprised her, deepening her mood further.
Applejack walked down the road, pulling along a cart full of food and supplies gathered from various houses. "Mornin', Twilight," she greeted, her normally bright tone replaced with fatigue. "Can ah get you anything?"
"No, thanks, AJ," Twilight said, dipping her head appreciatively. "I'm going for a walk if anyone needs me."
"Alright. Y'all be careful now, ya hear?"
The sound of Applejack's cart faded slowly as Twilight continued down the dirt road, and she found herself missing it. It had served as a reminder of the town as it had been, and hopefully would be again.
The sights of the valley did little to lighten Twilight's mood. How could they, knowing the horrors contained in Ponyville? Even she, having been there, could hardly believe what was happening. In the span of a month, the entire village had become unrecognizable. She felt her mood couldn't improve even if Celestia herself descended from Canterlot and embraced her then and there.
She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't notice the box until she ran into it.
The blue box was a curious thing to behold, not just because of its unusual location, but also because it was unlike anything Twilight had seen before. It was identical on all sides but one, where double doors presumably opened to whatever was inside. A sign was posted on the right door, detailing something about police that Twilight did not understand. A cylindrical object adorned the top, which the mare presumed was a light. It was off, but another light was visible through the box's opaque glass windows. Though she wasn't sure why, Twilight got a strange impression that the box was both old and new at once, that it both had been placed here just moments ago and had been here forever. Curiosity overcame her as she reached towards the door handle.
It was then that a colt burst his head out the door with a cheery, "Hello!"
Twilight jumped back in fright. "Wha – who are you?"
The colt stepped out of the box and subsequently tripped over his own hooves, landing face-first in the grass.
Twilight slowly walked closer to him. He was a light brown earth pony with a complementary dark brown mane. His cutie mark was an hourglass shape, making her wonder what his special talent was. Unlike most ponies, who found little use for clothes outside of special occasions, he wore a blue suit with a red tie. Twilight wondered what exactly he was doing in the box, dressed so well.
"Um…are you okay?" she asked, leaning over him.
"Sorry, sorry about that," the colt replied, shakily getting up. "I'm still getting used to these. I mean, hooves! Nothing like a new set of feet to show you how much you take your toes for granted. Especially pinkie toes, I miss those little guys."
He looked up from his rambling to see the purple mare staring at him confusedly. "Oh, sorry!" he said, taking her hoof and shaking it firmly. "Hello, I'm the Doctor. And you are?"
"Twilight Sparkle," she replied.
"Right, Twilight." The Doctor fidgeted for a few seconds, looking around randomly before finally saying, "Sorry, bit of an idiot, but…where am I?"
"Well, Ponyville's just a few minutes down the road," Twilight replied, motioning behind her, "but you probably don't want to go there right now. The entire town's caught a weird sickness."
"A sickness, you say?" the Doctor said, intrigued. "That's good – well, it's bad, really, but it's good because I am…" he paused as he reached into his suit's pocket and pulled out a card and waved it in front of Twilight's face. "Doctor Whooves, pony doctor extraordinaire. But it's just 'the Doctor' to you."
The card was flashed too quickly for Twilight to see the details, but what she saw looked very professional to her. "So, you're here to help us?" she asked excitedly.
"Yes, indeed," he affirmed before running down the road. "Well, there's no time to lose. Come on, Twilight! Allons-y!"
"He had run about thirty feet before Twilight said, "Uh, Doctor? Ponyville's this way."
The colt looked down the path both ways before turning around and breaking into a run again. "Yes, of course! Let's go, Twilight! Can't keep those ponies waiting!"
The mare shook her head in bewilderment and took off after the strange colt who called himself the Doctor.