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Lesson Zero, part 7
nervous breakdown, failed her SAN roll
The sun is getting low in the sky over Ponyville. No one, not even Princess Celestia herself, is more aware of this than Twilight Sparkle.

"Clock is ticking, Twilight. ClOcK. iS. tIcKiNg."

She paces back and forth in front of the window. "Keep it together," she mutters to herself over and over and over again. She can do this. She has to do this. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

But how? Rarity doesn't need help, Apple Jack doesn't need help, none of her friends need help...


"If I can't find a friendship problem," she says to herself, "I'll mAkE a friendship problem!"

She rubs her forehooves together in glee as she opens up her old toybox. She knows just the perfect tool for this job...

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It gets worse.

Big Macintosh isn't running alone, any more. The Crusaders have noticed that he's got the ♥doll♥, and are giving chase. "Give her back!" "No! Don't touch it!"

It's still a beautiful day, and several other ponies are out enjoying the weather. Big Macintosh and the others run past the mayor, who calls out, "What's all the commotion about?"

"They're fighting over that ♥doll♥!" answers one mare, who then starts after it herself.

"That incredible, amazing ♥doll♥!" contributes somepony else.

More and more ponies join in the chase, and Big Macintosh can't avoid them all. Before long he's surrounded by a struggling pile of ponies, trying to keep Smarty Pants out of their reach.

Somewhere in that pile is Twilight Sparkle, attempting to get a line of sight so she can disenchant Smarty Pants.


Big Macintosh is both strong and big, but nopony can keep on top of that kind of pile forever. As he sinks, the doll gets closer and closer to the other ponies.

Finally the mayor, of all ponies, manages to get high enough. "Give me!" she shrieks, and snatches it. Then she tries to run off.

A few of the piled ponies have realized that Big Macintosh no longer has the doll. Between that and the sudden need, not just to keep it, but to get it back, he manages a burst of strength that sends them flying. "Nnnope," he says, and charges after the mayor.

And once they've recovered, the rest of Ponyville goes charging after Big Macintosh. Except for Twilight, still stunned and horrified by what she's witnessed.

"Oh, what have I done??"

Back at the picnic Twilight left a while ago, things are winding down. It's almost sunset, and the picnic supplies are getting packed up.

Applejack is the first one to notice the ground shaking. "Y'all hear that?" she asks. The others look around, just as the herd comes thundering between and around them. "What in the name of all things oats an' apples is going on here?" she demands.

Possession of the doll is still being hotly contested. A pegasus manages to snatch it away from the mayor, only to find herself in a tug-of-war with another pegasus. Both of them lose their grips, and Smarty Pants lands not far from Rainbow Dash. The latter turns to get a look -


Twilight claps her forehooves over Rainbow Dash's eyes.

"Don't look at what?" Rarity asks.

"My Smarty Pants doll!" Twilight covers Rarity's eyes too before she can catch a glimpse of the toy. "I enchanted her and now everypony is fighting over her!"

"W-why would you enchant your doll?"

"Well, I had to do something!" Twilight wails. "I had nothing to report to Princess Celestia. I thought if I couldn't find a problem, I'd make a problem. The day is almost over!"

"Not almost..." Applejack corrects her, turning to watch the sun slip fully below the horizon.


A beam of white light shines down on the six ponies from directly above. Hovering above them, gleaming bright as the noonday sun, is Princess Celestia in all her glory. She does not look happy in the slightest.

Apple Jack gulps. "Whoa nelly."

Celestia's horn gleams gold, and a ripple of light passes over the fighting citizens of Ponyville. Immediately, they stop in their tracks, blinking in bewilderment. As one, they all stare at the bedragged Smarty Pants doll... then, as one, they all turn and go their separate ways. Clearly, this is one of those things that Will Never Be Spoken Of Again.

(Well, everyone leaves except Big Macintosh, who grabs Smarty Pants in his teeth and takes off running.)

The Princess settles on the ground next to Twilight Sparkle. The unicorn pony cowers, looking even more miserable than before.

"Meet me in the library," is all Celestia says before flapping her massive wings and taking to the air once more.

Slowly, with the grim reluctance of a prisoner being led to execution, Twilight gets to her feet.

"Goodbye, girls. If you care to visit, I'll be in magic kindergarten, back in Canterlot."

And with that, she begins the long, slow trudge back to the town library.

Wait, what?

"Magic kindergarten?" asks Fluttershy.

"Canterlot?" echoes Rainbow Dash, shocked.

Nopony speaks for a moment, until Pinkie Pie wails, "We're never gonna see Twilight again!"

"What're we gonna do, y'all?" asks Applejack, gently patting Pinkie on the back.

Rarity has... well, not an answer, but something to say. "Of all the worst things that could happen, this is the worst possible thing!" On seeing everypony else's expressions, she adds, "What? I really mean it this time!"

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