“Fine! Is the teacher looking?”
“Nah, look, she’s still talking to the teacher’s pets about the evapp-oray-shun or whatever.”
Dash stepped to the edge of the cloud platform and flared her wings. “Then I’m gunna go check it out.”
“You’re kidding! You’re actually doing it?”
“The runt’s doing it!”
“Haha! Don’t get eaten, Rainbow Crash!”
Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth and launched before she had to listen to another word. She flapped her little wings hard, spiralling down from the observation platform, muttering to herself about the stupid colts and the stupid class trip and the stupid wild clouds and stupid school.
It only took a moment to spot the little cloud they’d seen pass under them with its unidentifiable cargo. Some sort of strange dark lump. Somepony had said it had leaves — which would make it a very weird sight on a cloud, but every cloud was weird near the Everfree. Somepony else had immediately declared it a swamp monster.
Hah! Yeah, right.
She touched down on the little cloudpuff. Up close, the… thing… just seemed to be a big pile of wet, leafy vines. Rainbow let a smirk onto her face. This was it? That’s what those colts were all so scared of? She snorted and reached out a hoof to touch it.
The vines drew away from her.
“W-what.” Dash pulled her hoof back and the leafy mass settled back down. She waited a long minute. “…Probably just the wind. Yeah. No way could it actually—”
The vines lashed at her, coiling around her hooves. A scream rose up, but Dash caught it in the back of her throat. She struggled, flapping her wings hard. A moment later they were entangled too. The vines gripped her like iron. They constricted her legs. They squeezed the air from her lungs. Rainbow growled and bit and bucked frantically as she was drawn deeper and deeper into the dark, damp mass. She couldn’t fly — she couldn’t see — she couldn’t breathe —
“You are… afraid.”
The grip around her stomach slackened and Rainbow gasped for air. “I— I am not!” she choked out. She winced at the squeak in her voice.
“Yes…” It was a filly’s voice, but it echoed strangely, seeming to come from all around her. It slithered like serpents over wet mud. And it sounded — hesitant? “You are not like… the ones before. Um… You aren’t screaming… or crying… You are… afraid but… you act like you’re not.”
Dash didn’t bother to answer that. Her body heaved with exertion, but she wasn’t fighting anymore.
“Because,” she said through gritted teeth, “my friends are waiting up there for me. They can’t know I’m scared.” Stupid monster. It should just eat her already, not make her explain the obvious.
Dash turned her head as much as she could, looking to where the colts would be if she could see them. “If you can call them that.”
There was a long pause. Then the vines began to loosen rapidly, releasing all of Dash’s limbs at once. Light returned. She landed with a little cloudy puff.
She could see now that — beneath all the greenery draped from it — the monster was pony-shaped. About the same size as Dash, but with gangly legs and awkward, oversized wings. She could see a few wisps of a long pink mane sticking through the foliage draped in front of its face.
“I have… um… never had friends,” it said.
Dash stood up. Her injured legs screamed at her, but that didn’t matter. She stared at this sorry wet creature. And then — for some reason Dash would never, ever understand — she said to the monster that had very nearly killed her, “Hey. Want to come back to Cloudsdale with me?”
Its head darted up and its wings fluttered shyly. “Could I?”
“Sure!” Rainbow grinned. “Uh. Yeah, you’ll have to lose the vines, though. They don’t really go for the ‘swamp monster’ look up there.”
Norse Pony’s comments: D’awww, swamp monster Fluttershy is a creepycute idea, and surprisingly plausible. Dash’s internal monologue was characterized well, and I felt like Fluttershy was believably not the pony we know from the show.
Also, the fridge horror here is delicious. Not only has Fluttershy devoured other ponies before Dash fell into her tendrils, but she is still the swamp monster. Makes me wonder if some of her animals just “fail to get better.”