"Whose turn is it now?"
"I believe I'm next," Rarity said primly, standing.
"Oooh, Rarity! This'll be amazing!" Spike sighed dreamily. "Everything you do is amazing, fair princess…"
Rarity giggled at the flattery, while Twilight facehoofed, and Rainbow gagged. Everypony knew the little dragon had the crush to end all crushes on the glamorous unicorn.
Rarity silenced Rainbow with a death stare, and then cleared her throat theatrically and began. "Ahem. This story is called… Tailypo…"
"Once upon a time, oh, a very long time ago, there lived an old mare and her dog in their cottage on the edge of the Everfree forest…"
A chill crept over the little group at the mention of the Forest. The Everfree Forest was dark and twisted and unnatural. Unlike the rest of Equestria, in the Forest the plants grew without having to be planted or tended… the strange, wild beasts that lurked there cared for themselves… even the weather was untamed, as the clouds moved all on their own, without the aid of pegasi.
Everypony huddled closer to each other, taking comfort in each other's warmth… except Pinkie, who went on cheerily munching her popcorn as if nothing was wrong.
"The old mare's mane was grey, and she was blind in one eye. And every night she took her faithful dog, and they went out into the Forest and scavenged for food.
"One long, cold winter all those years ago, the plants all froze over, and she ran out of stores. And so the mare did the unthinkable… she turned to eating the flesh of other creatures!"
A shocked gasp went through the group. They all knew that some animals ate each other: hawks and otters ate fish; Timberwolves ate rabbits, squirrels, and other small forest creatures; Manticores ate anything they could get their paws on. But the idea of a pony—an intelligent being that knew better—eating flesh was awful!
"Whoa, she's good!" whispered Dash, deeply impressed.
"One night, though, even that produced no food," Rarity went on, "and the old mare and her dog went to bed starving.
"And then…" Rarity paused for effect, "just as the mare was falling into a deep slumber… she saw IT!"
"Wha… what's IT?" gulped Applejack, trying to seem casual, but sounding like perhaps she'd rather not know the answer.
"Nopony knows…" Rarity answered mysteriously.
"IT was large, almost the size of a pony. It had burning yellow eyes like flame, and pointed ears, and long fur as white as snow, and most of all a huge luxuriant bushy tail.
"The creature was all fangs and claws in the dark room. The old mare didn't know how it had gotten in, because the window was shut tight.
"Nopony knows why she did what she did next. Perhaps she was afraid of the creature, and acted in self-defense… but I think she had been driven mad by starvation and her unnatural diet of flesh.
"Whatever her reason, she quietly picked up the axe she kept in the corner… crept over to the thing with the white fur… and brought the axe down upon it!"
Even the logical Twilight jumped. Dash's rose-colored eyes were wide with horrified fascination.
"Blood spattered! With a high-pitched screech and a flash of white, the creature streaked away through a hole in the wall that the mare hadn't noticed before. It was all over in an instant. And then the mare was left alone in the dark room. The only evidence of the event that had just transpired was the axe in her hoof, a large red stain on the floor… and the long white tail of the creature, with a bloody stump at the end where the axe had sliced through the skin and bone.
"So first, the old mare took some rags and stuffed them into the hole in the wall, plugging it up. Next, she took the tail, skinned it, cooked it, and ate it, sharing the flesh with her dog. Finally, she went back to bed, her hunger finally sated.
"But just as she was falling asleep… she heard a noise outside. Scratching and scrabbling and clawing. And with it, another sound: a voice!"
Spike was by this time biting his claws. AJ's teeth chattered.
"The voice was not a pony's voice. It whispered like the wind, hissed like steam, echoed like a ghost… And what the voice said was: 'Tailypo, Tailypo, I want my Tailypo…'" Rarity's usually crisp, cultured tones took on an unearthly wavering quality as she imitated the voice. In the darkness of the library, lit only by the dancing firelight, it sounded disturbingly like a real ghost.
"The old mare started straight up in bed, and called for her dog, Ruff. 'Ruff!' she called, and the dog came running, wagging his tail. 'Go get that noise,' cried the mare, 'sic 'em!' And the dog raced out the door, howling.
"But a few minutes later, Ruff came back, and there was no sign of whatever the voice belonged to.
"Now, the old mare knew that her dog had the most sensitive nose in all of Equestria. If Ruff couldn't find it, it wasn't there. And so, convinced that it had all been her imagination, she went back to bed.
"But once again, just as she was falling asleep… there came that sound, scratching and scrabbling and clawing. It was closer this time, in her own yard! And, closer too, that hissing, echoing voice sang mockingly, 'Tailypo, Tailypo, where is my Tailypo?'
"The mare started up in bed once again, and once again called for her faithful dog. And once again Ruff went bounding into the night, and once again came back without his quarry.
"The mare decided to stay up and stand guard through the watches of the night. She sat with her axe in her hoof, and her faithful dog by her side. But oh, she was so tired! And her eyelids drooped, just for a moment, and then…
"The next thing she knew it was nearly dawn. The birds in the Forest had begun to stir, and to caw shrilly. In the grey light of pre-dawn, she felt nearly safe… until…
"'Tailypo, Tailypo, give me back my Tailypo!'
"This time, the sound was right outside her door! And as before, the old mare sent Ruff out… and then she waited.
"But Ruff didn't come back.
"Suddenly, a long howl pierced the morning. It went on and on, a sound of dying agony, and then just as suddenly as it had begun—it was cut off. And the mare understood then that Ruff, her faithful companion, her best friend, the only creature in the world she cared for any longer, was never to return.
"She flung open the door, axe at the ready, and stepped out. Tears streaming from her old eyes, she screamed out into the Forest, 'What do you want?!'
"And the voice returned, whispering like the wind in the trees: 'Tailypo, Tailypo, I want my Tailypo…' It was very close now.
"And her sorrow turned to rage. 'COME AND GET IT THEN!'
"There was only silence at first. And then she heard something in the trees… rustling in the bushes… stalking through the tall grass… Closer and closer it came, but she stood her ground, shaking in her horseshoes.
Everypony leaned in with bated breath, hanging on her every word.
"Then, at the very last moment, the old mare decided she didn't want to fight the thing after all. She galloped inside and shut the door with a BANG! Only then did she allow herself to give into the grief for her dear lost dog. She fell into bed and cried herself to sleep.
"She must have only slept a moment, for when she awoke to that horrid scratching and scrabbling and clawing, the sun had not yet risen. The sound was no longer outside the door. It was inside the cottage. The voice sang: 'Tailypo, Tailypo, give me back my Tailypo!'
"The old mare looked for a weapon, and found none. She realized, in a moment of sudden and terrible clarity, that she had left the axe outside.
"The scratching claws were in the room now; the voice was at the foot of the bed! 'Tailypo, Tailypo, you took my Tailypo!'
"'GO AWAY!' screamed the mare, hopelessly. 'LEAVE ME ALONE!'
"And with that… the sounds stopped. She breathed a sigh of relief."
There was a sigh of relief in Twilight's library too. Rarity let her friends relax a moment…
"…Then…" she said darkly, "then the THING, the white creature from before, landed on her heavily. Its tail was a bleeding stump, and its eyes blazed yellow fire!
"And the thing looked down on her with its blazing eyes, and it SCREAMED: 'Tailypo! Tailypo! You took my Tailypo! And I'm gonna get it back NOW!'
"The sharp claws dug into her, and the old mare's screams echoed through the silent forest for a long time… but there was nopony nearby to hear her. Only the wild things that lived in the Forest heard, and they knew as they listened to her screams that justice had been served at last.
"Months passed. Winter Wrap Up came and went, and as the ice dripped off the branches of the Forest, the old mare's niece came to visit. She didn't think it odd that she hadn't heard from her aunt—it had been a harsh winter, and delivering letters had been near-impossible in the cold blizzards.
"But when she got to the cottage, she found the door open to the elements. Traces of snow drifted across the floor, squirrels chattered noisily in the kitchen, and raccoons nested in the support beams. There was no sign of the old mare or her dog.
"As she left that place, the niece thought she heard a voice… though afterwards, she decided it was just the whistling of the wind.
"The voice, whispering and echoing, sang quietly, contentedly, to the empty cottage. It sang…
"'Tailypo, Tailypo, now I've got my Tailypo.'"
"The End," Rarity concluded.
"Awesome!" Dash cried. "That was—!" But a sudden yell of terror interrupted her. The ponies turned as one to follow Twilight's trembling hoof.
Something lurked in the shadows, creeping towards the firelight. Something with long fur as white as snow, and eyes like fire, and a huge bushy tail that stood on end—
"It's the THING!" Dash screamed.
The thing with the white fur pounced with a high-pitched yowl. It landed in the circle of screaming ponies, and only then did they see its true nature.
"Opal!" Twilight shouted, exasperated.
Rarity's cat trotted smugly over to the white unicorn and purred like thunder. "What a good girl, Opalescence!" Rarity chuckled, and tried to pet the cat, earning her a swipe from Opal's claws. "Heeey!" she cried, uninjured except for her pride.
Rarity wasn't the only one with a bruised ego. Dash hovered above the unicorn's head, her wings beating the air furiously. "I wasn't scared," she insisted morosely.
"Oh, really?" AJ raised an amused eyebrow. "An' is that why y'all screamed like a lil filly?"
Dash streaked towards Applejack like a rainbow bullet, prepared to do battle for her honor. Twilight used her magic to grab the pegasus' tail, and Dash screeched to a halt, struggling and using some rather explicit phrases. AJ laughed uproariously.
"GIRLS!" Twilight yelled above the din. With some effort, Applejack managed to hold her amusement back into mere snorts and giggles, though she still shook with silent laughter. Rainbow eventually subsided as well, and Twilight cautiously lowered her to the floor, watching her like a hawk as she freed the pegasus from her containment spell.
"Okay," Twilight said, once she was sure that the hot-tempered mare wasn't going to attack again. "Okay," she said again. She took a deep breath to steady herself, then let it out slowly. "Rarity, that was a great story. I think we were all scared," she said pointedly to Dash, then chuckled. "I know I was. Rarity… who knew you had that in you!"
"Just because I'm a lady doesn't mean I can't come up with a good scary story," Rarity said, as prim and proper as ever, sitting back down on her velvet pillow.
Twilight grinned. "Okay… who's next?"
Rarity's story is based off a North American folk legend. It seemed fitting to have this be the first story told, as it was my favorite scary story as a child.