Knick's head rose up from the pillow with the large boom of thunder outside and a flash of lightning. He was breathing hard from the shock of the noise and looked around himself. Everything was so dark. Was he with the cyclops unicorn? Did it kill him, capture him? There wasn't any light anywhere! Knick rose up on his hooves and regretted the jarring movement when he did it, his leg reminding him of his injuries. So he was alive at least, otherwise why feel the pain?
Lightning and thunder struck again, the bright flash lighting his surroundings up momentarily. He was back in his house. There wasn't a light source anywhere in his room but the flashes of lightning allowed enough to come in through the boarded up windows for him to see what was around. Knick waited for another flash and spotted next to his bed the woodspony's ax that had proven so useful to him back in the woods. Once he spotted his weapon Knick dug around in his saddle bag.
He rooted around inside finding his two candles, the record and at the bottom his pack of matches that were still safe and dry. Everything seemed to be as it should (as much as anything should in this place). Laying back down on his bed he wondered what had happened exactly? The cyclops unicorn had approached him and destroyed the wagon that revealed his exit. Why didn't it kill him too? If it could blow up a whole wagon then killing a pony should be easy enough. Did he break some rule again when he cut down that tree? If that was the case then why didn't it attack right away?
"Whatever." Knick was feeling irritable, angry and groggy. His wounds hurt but his head hurt more. The only satisfaction he'd gotten from all of this horrible experience was laying waste to those monsters that wanted him dead. Since then every step had been a stressful cornucopia of horrors designed from him to run from or murder to survive.
Getting up Knick picked up his ax in mouth, feeling better keeping the sharp object close by than letting it lay in the dark where he could hurt himself on it. Knick turned and got ready to exit out of his room when he recalled his last prize and the one before that. Curious Knick turned to where he'd hung the picture of Nightmare Moon. It wouldn't be bad to look at a pretty (if evil) mare's face but also he was curious how this thing was destroying his home like the fridge and the abacus had.
Knick waited for the lightning to flash and when it did he saw her picture still hanging with the pulsating vines creeping out from it underneath the wallpaper. They were thicker than before and whatever was flowing through them was dripping out and staining both the wall and his dresser. How nice, now he had something else to avoid stepping in when he woke up. Also each time the lightning flashed he was sure the picture of Nightmare Moon moved.
The frame was still in place, but she was moving inside of it. Sometimes smiling at him. Sometimes looking angry or malevolent. As if she knew he was watching her. Deciding that Knick didn't need to have his mind played with further and that she was fine where she was he turned and felt around the room until he found the bedroom door and then the stairs.
Thankfully on the shop floor there was still enough room between the boards over the windows that the lightning let him see around this area too. The display with the school supplies showed bloody hoof prints all over it now and the decay of each item (except the abacus itself of course) had gotten worse. It was like each haunted item from the other world was trying to corrupt his home from the inside. He could only imagine what the kitchen looked like at this point. It had the most time to fester up and infect his home. "Time to add another one." Knick Knack waited for a few lightning strikes to help him see where he'd knocked down several display items earlier so he didn't trip. In short time he found himself directly in front of his record player.
He almost never used it, just a few times during store hours so that there would be something nice for his customers to listen to while they shopped. It was too bad whatever was happening to the rest of his house would happen to the player as well. Despite not getting much use it was in good shape and he was proud he'd bought it for such an affordable price when he found it. "Here we go." Knick reached out and placed the record on the player. Turning it on he set the needle down and backed up to let it play and do whatever else it was going to do.
"Stay... didn't listen... you don't deserve!... mine... shut up!... out of sight... Behave!... waste of flesh..." Knick listened to the odd voice speak through the record player. Maybe this should have creeped him out more but after everything he'd been through up until this point it was just annoying. "I'll take... they'll get you!... Star... Hide you maggot... I didn't deserve... disappointment..." Knick watched through the flashes of lightning as the record player began to peel off its paint and darken as if it had been through a fire. The device becoming dirty and stained and the stand it rested on growing ashy and black. "It should have been me... why can't we... loved you!" Knick waited a while but finally the random ranting record stopped with its confusing playback and Knick heard the clicking noise like a lock turning by his hooves. He looked down and saw that there was a trunk near by.
"Finally." Knick opened up the trunk and felt around inside until he pulled the last book out. The final puzzle piece to this long torture. He looked it over but even with the flashes of lightning he couldn't read it correctly. "You know I've had enough wandering in the dark like an idiot." Knick closed the trunk and set the book on it, then pulled out one of his silver candles. About time he made use of them. Setting it on the stand next to the record player he carefully pulled out a match from the book and struck it against the floor. It came to life in a blaze and he used the flame to light the candle. Its odd silver glow providing a much easier way to see around the front desk of the store.
"Okay, lets see... 'The Magic of Companionship', weird title." The book was lavender in color with a deep purple for the words imprinted onto the spine and cover. No wonder it was so hard to read in the dark. Knick prepared to run off with the book to its case when he heard something strange.
"It's really coming down isn't it?" A voice spoke up from the record player. "Did you want me to get you an umbrella?" It was a stallion's voice but it wasn't the same one from before, this was some other stallion.
"No thanks dear, if you can take a little rain then I can too." That was a mare's voice. Actually it sounded somewhat familiar. "I think he fell asleep. Guess the rain did well to calm him down."
"Yeah. I'm sorry I made you both come with me on this trip. I know it isn't the most enjoyable." Come to think of it the stallion that was speaking sounded familiar to Knick too.
"Don't worry dear. We're together so I'm sure it will be all right. Maybe we can even do some tourist traps when we get there." Knick put the book down and sat in place as he listened to the apparent couple speak to one another through the record player. He was suddenly transfixed by their words.
"I wouldn't mind spending some time for that. As long as... did you see something out there?"
"What, out there in the road?"
"Yes, I'm sure I saw a figure just now but... there it is again!"
"Wait I see it now too. Do you think that's somepony traveling or..?" The was a suddenly louder clap of thunder than Knick expected as it rocked the outside and inside of his shop. Knick leaped to his feet in surprise. "MARK! "Mark, Mark no! Oh please no!" There was another sound of thunder clapping hard and then everything went quiet. Knick stared at the record player in the silver light for some time and his legs shook. A realization creeping up on him.
"Mom?" That voice. That mare's voice that he heard over the record player. He knew it from a long time ago. "Mom... mom what happened?" It didn't respond. The record was done and Knick Knack was alone again in the shop as the only voice that inhabited it. He wiped his eyes as tears were threatening to form and reminded himself that he had to stay strong. Something awful had happened to his family that he'd forgotten, he was now sure of that. Something terrible that he couldn't really recall but in time he was sure he would. Was that the point of all this?
Clearing his eyes Knick then noticed something about the record player itself; it was clean. The dirty exterior and burned appearance that it once held had vanished. Furthermore the candle he'd used was nearly melted away, holding stable at the size of a small tea light candle now. None of the wax had even dripped to the floor, it was if most of it had dissolved next to the haunted record player. To his surprise there was another sound of a click from the trunk near by and he looked at it curiously. "I thought I took care of you already?" The book was still out on the floor near by him, he'd dropped it when the record played its second recording.
Pushing the trunk open Knick's eyes widened when he saw what was waiting for him inside. Reaching in with his mouth he pulled out by the handle a brilliantly beautiful looking silver dagger. It was clean, sharp looking and deadly. He closed the trunk again and set the dagger on top of it in awe. "What... in the world?" It looked similar to the blade that had held the ghost foal in place back at the cobblestone street home. But this was a lot easier to wield by the mouth or tail, he was sure he could use it as a weapon. Its short reach though made his ax a lot better of a choice.
"I wonder..." Knick picked the blade up and found a safe place to secure it under the straps of his saddlebag that wouldn't cut him. He then loaded up the book of "The Magic of Companionship" and picked up his ax and walked over to the display of school supplies. Setting his ax down he reached into his bag and pulled out another silver candle, setting it down on the display by the abacus and lighting it with one of his matches. He watched the silver light make the inside of his shop brighter and the deteriorated state of his display revert. The bloody stains and hoofprints faded, the wood returned to its original dingy but healthier appearance, and everything seemed to calm down.
Knick's headache faded away as well. Being around the silver light seemed to make him feel better, though it didn't actually heal his wounds any. Soon though he was rewarded with another "click" of a lock turning and Knick opened up the cabinet door of the display stand to find another prize waiting for him inside. "Is that a hair clip?"
Reaching in with his hoof Knick pulled out what was indeed a filly's hair clip. It was shaped like a mint leaf and it was shiny with a green splendor and a sliver outlining around its shape. It made even less sense to Knick than the silver dagger he'd found earlier but he wasn't one to question the purpose of odd items at this point. Tossing the hair clip into his saddle bag Knick looked over at the silver candle which had also melted down to that of a tiny, tea light candle size. It looked like whatever odd power the candle had against these haunted items was drained after they were used.
"One more." Knick took the now smaller candle and set it on the check out counter, searching around behind it. After a bit of rummaging he found the last of his silver candles and pulled it up with his mouth, carrying the tea light candle that was already lit with one hoof. Hobbling around he made his way to the back into the kitchen.
"Holding the smaller silver light up Knick could see the entire kitchen had succumbed to the refrigerator's curse. Everything was wet with a horrible red stain, as if someone had coated the walls and cabinets with blood. He was happy he got his matches previous to all of this happening. Although he didn't like it Knick walked over the filthy floors inside the kitchen and set the smaller silver candle next to the fridge. Nothing happened. "Figured as much. Only one thing to do now."
Knick held the larger candle to the flame and set it down near the fridge, watching as if by magic the stains on the walls and floor began to revert back to their dull, dirty appearance from when he first woke up in this mockery of his home. As the blood and gory mess pulled itself back towards the fridge the appliance also began to change to its original state. Knick waited and was soon rewarded with the sound of something coming loose and falling on one of the racks inside the refrigerator itself. Knick carefully opened the door and pulled out his prize.
"You better not be toying with me." Knick pulled out the most beautiful thing he'd seen in this world yet; an apple pie. It was large, its crust looked fresh and it felt warm to the touch despite being in the refrigerator. Knick didn't want to be stupid and sink his teeth into something that turned out to be pony meat or a substance equally as terrifying. Using a hoof he pulled at the edge of the crust and broke it to smell the contents inside. It was apple filling.
Knick devoured the entire pie faster than he ever thought he could eat. It was the best meal he'd had in a long while.
Stretching his sore legs out Knick found that he oddly felt pretty good. His body still hurt but it wasn't as bad as it had been and his headache was almost completely gone now. That pie must have really done the trick. Taking one of his tea light candles Knick walked back out into the shop and spotted his ax. It reminded him of what was coming next. "Can I keep this up?"
He sighed taking a moment to ready himself. Each world had shown him more violence than the last, and each time he rose up to meet it with equal levels of violence. Back in the woods he'd planned the murder of two creatures and fought one savagely to the death. At the time he not only felt he could stand up to the monsters but he was delighting in his victories in a way he never thought he could. The death of those monsters made him happy. Now... could he kill again if he had to?
"Deal with problems as they come." It was something he'd been saying in some form or another since he started this nightmare. It kept him alive so far. Picking his ax up in mouth Knick started towards the book case. As he weaved through the aisles of product he realized that he hadn't checked his front door since the first time he found it chained up. And now he had an ax. Knick decided to skip the book case for a moment and hobbled to the front door instead, happy to have his small candle to see. The lightning strikes outside weren't very reliable for making his way around the dark store.
When he got to the front of the store the door was the same as he'd left it. Chains strewn about every which way with pad locks securing it that needed keys to release them. If they'd been combination locks he could have just guessed at them till the door opened but as of the moment he still needed to figure out where the keys were at. Setting his ax down he noticed not everything was exactly as he'd left it.
The words "DON'T LET HIM SEE" were still scrawled along the inside of the door in red but they weren't the only words there now. Below them written in random directions and styles were also the words "I SUFFERED", below that was the insult he'd seen earlier of "NO-HORN". Even stranger were the words "SAVE ME" and then finally "COWARD".
Knick wasn't sure what to make of all of it. He hadn't been to the front of the store since he first woke up here, was there someone visiting and putting these words here every time he left? Or had it happened each time he came back? "Doesn't matter, can't do much about it now." Still he used the candle to look around himself and be sure there wasn't some monster with a red paint brush sitting in the corner waiting to write something further. When he was satisfied there was no such thing Knick picked his ax up and walked back through the aisles to the book case.
"Moment of truth." Setting the tea light candle down on the floor Knick set his ax near it and pulled out the book from his saddle bag. Sliding "The Magic of Companionship" into its spot the book fit perfectly and Knick waited for something to happen. Maybe confetti would drop from the ceiling and he'd get his prize for beating some puzzle game he'd secretly been part of from the beginning?
Something did start to occur though, behind the book case a red design began to imprint itself into the wall. It was a large circle with smaller circles inside and Knick began to realize seeing its edges that it was the same design as the imprint around the holes he used to travel between the other worlds. "Oh no, not again." He really didn't want to go through another set of awful evil worlds with monsters. "Haven't I done enough!?"
In response to his question there was a sudden gust of air and Knick felt a powerful wind pushing him forward. It blew through some unknown source inside his shop and soon the force became so strong it cracked the book case. Knick realized it wasn't a wind blowing through the store but instead it was a vacuum pulling in from the hole itself. He tried to back up but it was useless, the wind became so strong that it splintered the book case entirely and pulled the broken furniture as well as all the books on it into the black void. Knick tried to run, making a reach for his ax but it was too late. The force of the vacuum had him and he was sucked into the dark void as well.