Today began just like any other school day. I got up, fed Spike, changed his water, washed, got dressed, and headed down to the dining hall for breakfast. I had just finished my bran muffin and tea when Dean Cadance came on the public address system and called all students and faculty to the auditorium. In all my time at Crystal Prep Academy, it was the first time an assembly had ever been called first thing in the morning.
Needless to say, all students and faculty promptly reported to the auditorium. Once everybody was present and accounted for, Principal Cinch took the stage. She announced that yesterday, four students went hiking in the woods behind the school and, as of yet, have not returned. Those students were Sunny Flare, Sour Sweet, Sugarcoat and Indigo Zap. Principal Cinch assured us that she and Dean Cadance were working very closely with the police, and urged us to likewise give the police our full cooperation and volunteer our free time to helping with the search effort. She also made sure remind us about keeping curfew and exercising caution when leaving the Academy grounds.
This is truly weird. Countless students go hiking in the woods without incident. This was the first time anybody has ever gone missing, and not just one, but four students! I have to admire Principal Cinch for keeping her composure - her own niece Sunny Flare's whereabouts unknown.
As the day went on, the whole school was abuzz about the missing girls. By lunch however, I'd overhead from several sources one detail that Cinch did not mention during the assembly. There was a fifth girl - one who ventured into the woods with the others and the only one to come back: Lemon Zest.
I did not see Lemon Zest anywhere on campus today. According to all the hearsay, she went with the police and search volunteers to retrace her steps the day before. I can only imagine how hard this must be for her.
Since yesterday morning, search parties have been combing the woods for Sunny Flare, Sour Sweet, Sugarcoat and Indigo Zap. Students volunteering after classes to help search are invariably assigned to teams led by teachers - no doubt to prevent any more students from going missing. So far, the search efforts have turned up no trace of the missing girls.
Those like me, who are less inclined to the outdoors, assisted by printing photos of the missing girls and canvassing the surrounding urban areas. Who knows? They might have made it back to the city and taken shelter somewhere. With Spike in tow, I was on my way to the public library when I spotted Lemon Zest walking alone on the sidewalk. I don't know why, but I decided to join her.
The Lemon I met was a far different person from the carefree girl normally seen dancing through Academy halls. She did not wear her signature headphones and had a haunted look about her - like she had not gotten any sleep. She told me she was going to canvass the mall and check some of her friends' favorite haunts. When I offered to join her, she gladly accepted my company.
I had never been particularly close to anyone at Crystal Prep - I'm not much of a social butterfly. Lemon, however, opened up to me rather quickly - especially after Spike made his presence known in my backpack. Petting Spike seemed to help Lemon a great deal. Together, we canvassed the mall and covered more ground than either of us could have on our own. We decided to get our dinner at the food court. As we ate, Lemon recounted what had happened two days prior.
Lemon joined Sunny Flare, Sour Sweet, Sugarcoat and Indigo Zap to go hiking in the woods. The plan was to leave just after classes and be back on campus before sunset. After half-an-hour of hiking, they came to a clearing. Lemon says that she and the others suddenly began to feel dizzy and decided to stop and rest. It was then that they noticed that none of their smartphones had any reception. Nevertheless, Lemon lay down and quickly fell asleep. When she woke, the others were nowhere to be found.
At first, Lemon thought they were just playing a prank and called out to them. When she got no response, she began to frantically search the vicinity, but could find no trace of them. Sunny Flare, Sour Sweet, Sugarcoat and Indigo Zap had simply vanished. With sunset fast approaching, Lemon rushed back to Crystal Prep as quickly as she could.
Upon her return, Lemon went straight to Dean Cadance and Principal Cinch. According to her, Principal Cinch seemed especially suspicious, and even made her repeat the entire story twice before calling the police. Pretty harsh, considering the fright that Lemon had experienced. No doubt Lemon still had to re-tell the story to the police - both verbally and in writing.
It's only a guess on my part, but Lemon probably blames herself for what happened. I reassured her - as best as I could - that we would find the others. We returned to the Academy together at dusk. No sense in pushing the curfew limits.
Still no leads. Today after classes, Lemon and I went to check out the nearby park. Lemon does not seem to want to return to the woods. I don't blame her - if it were me, I'd be terrified to go back to where my friends vanished. But that is not the only thing weighing down on her.
Some rather wild rumors have begun to circulate. Some think that Sunny Flare, Sour Sweet, Sugarcoat and Indigo Zap might have been kidnapped by human traffickers to be sold as "brides" halfway around the world. Others think they were murdered as a ritual sacrifice by a devil worshipping cult. One person even speculates that they were abducted by aliens in a UFO!
Farfetched as these theories are, they aren't the worst. A few of the students and at least one teacher think Lemon Zest might have played a part in the disappearance of her friends! Depending who you talked to, Lemon was either a willing co-conspirator or the mastermind behind the incident. Fleur Dis Lee even approached me during fourth period and warned me to "watch myself" around Lemon and to not turn my back on her.
This is crazy! How can anybody believe anything so outrageous? And without a shred of evidence! None of this is helping the situation one bit!
Update 8:11 PM
They found Sour Sweet. Alive! Finally, some good news for a change!
This morning, another assembly was called. Principal Cinch confirmed that yesterday, just before sunset, a search party combing the woods found Sour Sweet. She was unconscious but alive, and rushed to the hospital. Principal Cinch thanked the students and faculty for her assistance in the search efforts and encouraged us to continue until Sunny Flare, Sugarcoat and Indigo Zap are found.
After classes, Lemon and I went to visit Sour Sweet at the hospital, where she was being treated for dehydration and exposure. The nurses were filtering visitors in pairs limited to ten minute sessions. Lemon and I waited about half-an-hour before it was our turn. Sour lay in her hospital bed and was hooked up to an IV drip. Despite being a little groggy, she was happy to see us. According to her, the last thing she remembered before being found by the search volunteers was lying down to sleep in the clearing. She claims she has no memory whatsoever of what happened between the afternoon of the 15th and the evening of the 18th.
When our time was up, Lemon and I decided to return to Crystal Prep. We were about halfway to the ward entrance when we heard Sour frantically screaming. We rushed back to her room, but were barred by a nurse as she ushered Upper Crust and Jet Set out of the room. From the door, I could see Sour wildly flailing about in her hospital bed as another nurse tried to calm her down.
Lemon asked Upper Crust and Jet Set what happened. Upper Crust told us that Sour started screaming like crazy when they presented their get well gift to her. What could have bothered Sour so much about a plush horse?
No new leads since Sour Sweet's return. Volunteers continue to search the woods and canvass the city, but nobody has found any trace of Sunny Flare, Sugarcoat or Indigo Zap. Lemon has been a bit more withdrawn these last couple of days - witnessing Sour's episode in the hospital must have really affected her.
I've been trying to convince Lemon that we should both volunteer to search the woods - this morning, she finally relented. We were assigned to Coach Rommel's team along with most of the soccer team. I could tell Lemon was nervous just being there. She had not been back to the woods since leading the police to the clearing where her friends disappeared. Although our classmates were polite and civil at all times, they kept watching Lemon out of the corners of their eyes, as if expecting her to do something hostile.
We spent the whole afternoon searching, but found nothing. I asked Coach Rommel where Sour Sweet was found. According to what he'd heard from the other search leaders, Sour had been found lying on the ground less than a kilometer north of the clearing. Odd, because this was an area that had been searched daily since Day One. If Sour Sweet had been in the vicinity the whole time, how did the search parties miss her for two days before finding her?
Nobody had seen or heard from Sour Sweet since her release from the hospital last week. Rumors had been circulating that her parents were pulling her out of Crystal Prep Academy. Today, those rumors were confirmed when Sour Sweet returned with her parents to the residence hall to gather her belongings. Sour said her goodbyes to every one of her friends present as she cleaned out her room. Lemon and I managed to catch her just as she was finishing up. She embraced us both, promising to stay in touch and encouraging us to not give up hope of finding Sunny Flare, Sugarcoat and Indigo Zap. Lemon was especially emotional as she bid farewell to Sour.
Over the past week, twelve more of our classmates have been pulled out of Crystal Prep by their parents. On top of that, yesterday two of our teachers tendered her resignations. Although Dean Cadance and some of the faculty, Coach Rommel in particular, are doing their best to "rally the troops," many of us fear that this is only the beginning of a mass exodus. With no new leads, the volunteer efforts have largely tapered off. Only a handful of students and faculty continue to comb the woods on the weekends.
Today, after classes, Principal Cinch called me into her office. On my way, I passed by Sunny Flare's parents in the hall, both of whom looked especially upset. I can't begin to imagine the rift this incident has torn in their family.
As soon as I sat down, Principal Cinch got right down to business, asking me all sorts of questions regarding Lemon Zest and my interactions with her over the last three weeks. Had I noticed anything odd or questionable in her behavior? Had Lemon told me anything she did not already tell the police? Had I ever witnessed Lemon smoke, drink, or use any other controlled substances? I answered every question truthfully. After all, I had nothing to hide! But with each "No" response, Cinch pressed for further details. Then the questions took a very peculiar turn. Cinch asked me if Lemon had ever "made light" about her friends' disappearance, and if Lemon had ever made any "advances" toward me. I could only continue to answer truthfully, despite my principal's persistent probing for the most miniscule of inconsistencies. After nearly half-an-hour of questioning, Cinch finally dismissed me, though I could tell that she was not satisfied.
Does Principal Cinch believe the rumors about Lemon? Or is she looking for a scapegoat?
Today was Lemon's last full day at Crystal Prep Academy. Tomorrow, her parents were arriving to pick her up. Apparently, they too are following suit with the other parents who have pulled their kids out. I decided to give her as best a send off as I could, treating her to dinner at the Hey Burger. She then invited me to her room for some moon pies and cream soda. It was the first time I'd ever been in Lemon's dorm room. Aside from memorabilia of her favorite metal bands, her room was adorned with several photos of her and our missing classmates - Indigo Zap most notably.
I noticed on Lemon's desk several pencil and ink drawings, each depicting a horse. When I asked her about the drawings, she revealed something peculiar. Ever since our classmates' disappearance, she had been having a recurring dream in which she was a horse. Every night, the dream was the same - she would be galloping through a green meadow, approaching the edge of a forest. Once she reached the forest, the dream ended.
We chatted for a couple of hours. Lemon is worried that her parents pulling her out would only give credence to the rumors about her. I think it's for the best, however. As much as I can appreciate Lemon's pride, trying to stay would only continue to drain her both mentally and physically. I promised to see her off tomorrow and to keep in touch. I just hope that she can put all of this unpleasantness behind her.
I started today just like any other - I woke, tended to Spike, washed and dressed. The moment I stepped out of my door, I could hear the entire residence hall abuzz with activity. Several students where gathered around the central staircase, gazing down over the railing. As I approached, I heard the unmistakable chatter of a police radio. I came to the top of the stairs and looked down.
At the bottom of the steps were Dean Cadance with two police officers standing over a fourth person lying on the floor - over whom they were pulling a sheet. I immediately recognized the prone person's long green hair. It was Lemon Zest.
Without a word, I turned around, went back to my room, and spent the next hour sobbing my eyes out. Poor Lemon - how could this have happened? Eventually, a knock came at my door. It was Dean Cadance - apparently, she had spotted me earlier. I struggled to compose myself as she explained that a custodian had found Lemon this morning and that the police suspect that she broke her neck falling down the stairs.
Something tells me, however, that this was no accident. What's more, all day today, Principal Cinch was nowhere to be found on campus.
The last three days have been a daze. After that horrible morning, I did not feel like leaving my room - none of us did. Since then, more of my classmates have been withdrawn by their families. Yesterday, my parents followed suit. To quote my father, the recent events have given them much reason to "reconsider their confidence in Crystal Prep Academy." I feel for Lemon's parents. To be greeted by the police bearing that terrible news on the day they were supposed to pick her up.
This afternoon, the police issued a press release. Early this morning, the body of Principal Cinch was found by a hiker in the woods. The cause of death has been ruled an accidental fall - the exact same ruling as with Lemon. Irrational as this might sound, I wonder if this is a form of "karmic justice."
This morning, Dean Cadance called an assembly. It was surreal seeing the auditorium not even half-full with our remaining students and faculty. With a heavy heart, Cadance announced that Crystal Prep Academy's Board of Directors have decided to close the school down at the end of the week.
We all knew this day was coming. Three students missing, one student dead on campus, and its principal dead under equally suspicious circumstances. At this point, some might probably think the school is cursed.
I just realized something. Sunny Flare, Sour Sweet, Sugarcoat and Indigo Zap disappeared in the woods on the 15th of February. Sour Sweet was then found in the same vicinity three days later on the 18th. One month later, Principal Cinch disappears on the 17th of March, then be found in the exact same area three days later on the 20th. February 15th and March 17th both marked the date of a New Moon. This cannot just be a coincidence.
Why have only Sour Sweet and Principal Cinch resurfaced? If Principal Cinch were alive, would she have suffered the same gap in memory as Sour Sweet?
Although I had already moved out yesterday, I came for one last look at the Academy as Dean Cadance locked up the front entrance and handed the keys over to the Board of Directors. Most of my classmates are transferring to Canterlot High to finish the school year. I've already submitted my application to the Everton Independent Study Program - now, I'm just waiting on a response.
At the Academy's front gate remains a makeshift shrine to Sunny Flare, Sugarcoat, Indigo Zap and, most recently, Lemon Zest - with flowers, cards, candles, and photographs left by friends, family and classmates. Wherever Sunny, Sugarcoat and Indigo might be, I hope that they are well and know that we are thinking about them.
Farewell, Lemon. I know you're in a better place.
Today, while visiting Cadance with Shining Armor, I happened upon a copy of Principal Cinch's autopsy report in her study. According to the coroner, the cause of death was not an accidental fall as officially stated, but asphyxiation resulting from three broken ribs, a collapsed lung and injuries "consistent with being trampled by a hoofed animal."
Even more peculiar was the cataloguing a dark blue bow tie found clutched in Cinch's left hand. I can't be sure without actually seeing it, but this sounds like the standard issue bow tie for a Crystal Prep Academy uniform. Did Cinch find some trace of Sunny Flare, Sugarcoat and Indigo Zap? What really happened to her out in the woods?
So many questions. Will we ever know any of the answers?
Been a while since I've written something, hasn't it? After repeatedly running into blocks with several other concepts, I began composing this story a week ago and gave myself a seven-day deadline (which is today). This scenario was inspired by the 1975 Australian movie Picnic at Hanging Rock.
I've been itching to write something spooky. As a fan of the original Unsolved Mysteries TV show hosted by Robert Stack, I remember being unnerved by many stories of people inexplicably disappearing without a trace. I decided to play with that idea in the Equestria Girls setting.
The title came to me as I watched the X-Files episode "Invocation". If you've seen it, you'll know what I mean.