A Chilling Experience
written by Sugarberry and Tabby

Sugarberry stood on Tabby's front porch balancing two pies while pressing on the doorbell. From somewhere inside the house several moments later, she heard angry hooves stomping across the floor. She rang the doorbell again just to be on the safe side, and then waited impatiently for Tabby to answer the door.

After what seemed an eternity of time, the doorknob finally moved, and the door swung open. "You must be awfully talented, Sug," Tabby stated, "to hold both those pies and ring on that awful doorbell at the same time. What's up, anyway?" Her line of speech was broken off by a yawn.

Sugarberry sighed. "What's up? Tabby, it's the day of the church picnic! You can't have forgotten."

Tabby glanced over Sugarberry's exasperated face, and then to the two luscious-looking pies in her hooves, before realization struck the pink unicorn. "O-o-oh, yeah," she breathed as she simply turned and headed to the kitchen.

Sugarberry followed her friend and gratefully set the pies on the counter next to a cherry torte that she had helped Tabby bake the day before. "Well, I see Tarquin didn't destroy your dessert for the picnic, anyway," commented Sugarberry, regaining her good humor.

"We both wanted to, terribly," Tabby explained, "but I ended up convincing him that Tess would be terribly disappointed in him if he snitched a dessert intended for a church affair. Guess I must have convinced myself of that, too."

"We are supposed to report to the dessert table by ten thirty this morning, you remember," Sugarberry prodded as Tabby poured herself a class of milk and extracted two chocolate chip cookies from a container on her counter.

"Mm, yes," Tabby mumbled. "Isn't it interesting, Sugarberry, how exactly two cookies are all I can eat at a time without getting full?"

Sugarberry's eyebrows rose in consternation. "Is that what you call breakfast, Tabby? Let me fix you an egg."

"But we don't have any time, remember?" Tabby said. "Besides, this is what I've had for breakfast the past three days. Isn't it terrible to have to take the time to eat breakfast?"

Sugarberry knew when she was beat, so she stopped nagging Tabby and instead helped herself to a glass of milk and a cookie. "Mmm, these are good."

"They should be. You made them," Tabby pointed out. Tabby had no time for domestic duties like baking, which was why Sugarberry had lent a hoof in yesterday's baking of the torte.

"Hey, where is Tarquin, anyway?" Sugarberry questioned, as Tabby's talkative Meowth was usually not shy about making his presence known.

"Oh, he's still sleeping in a sunbeam," Tabby said lovingly. "He sleeps late on weekends, you know, to make up for getting up early to go to the Pokèmon Center with me during the week."

Sugarberry nodded. "These cool morning make those sunbeams look awfully tempting! Fluff is always laying on his back with his flabby, fluffy tummy soaking up the beams when I leave for work in the mornings."

"It always amazes me how you can fit so much description in your sentences when you talk," Tabby commented.

Just then, the doorbell sounded again. "Grr..." Tabby muttered. "That doorbell is getting on my nerves." She pushed back her chair and went to answer it.

From her seat at the kitchen table, Sugarberry was pleasantly surprised to hear the voice of Vanguard at the door. "Hello, Sugarberry," Vanguard greeted her as he followed Tabby back into the kitchen. "I just stopped in at your house, but when you weren't there, I figured you were at Tabby's," he explained. "I thought you might need a hoof to help you get your desserts to the picnic."

"Hi, Vanguard!" Sugarberry smiled appreciatively at him. "That's wonderful!"

And-- much to Tabby's annoyance-- her doorbell rang once more that morning. "ARGH! WHO DARES RING MY DOORBELL AGAIN?!" she screamed as she stomped off to answer it.

Sugarberry giggled softly as Tabby returned a moment later, rather red in the face, with Thomas at her side. "...I figured I'd assist you two with getting yours pies over there," he was explaining.

"Oh, hello!" Sugarberry said brightly. "You two are the greatest!"

"Gee! All that just for volunteering to help the two prettiest ponies in Ponyland?" queried Vanguard with a twinkle in his eye.

Sugarberry blushed. She would never get over the joy she felt when Vanguard was near.

"So, what do you two get to do at the picnic today?" Tabby asked as she abruptly dumped the remaining milk in her glass down the drain. She didn't particularly care for milk in the first place; why bother finishing it now?

"I work the dart toss game," Thomas replied. "Spike is going to help out, too."

"Better keep a bucket of water handy in case Spike loses control of his fire-breathing ability," ventured Sugarberry. "It does go astray sometimes." She and Tabby giggled as they remembered some of Spike's escapades.

"He's getting to be a big baby dragon," Tabby nodded in agreement.

"The refreshment stand is right next door, so we can always douse him in lemonade," Thomas said.

"Good insurance."

"Vanguard will be selling dinner tickets at the door," Sugarberry informed Tabby.

"Figures; they'd need someone who could add and subtract for that job," Tabby said in distaste.

"Actually, they thought it would allow me to meet more ponies that way," clarified Vanguard. He had only moved to Dream Valley several months earlier.

"As much fun as this is," worried Sugarberry, "we really should get to the church hall. Serving for the dinner starts at eleven o' clock, and Tabby and I have to cut all the desserts yet."
The guys loaded up the pies and torte while Sugarberry hastily cleaned off the table; then they headed off to the main fund-raiser of the year.

After arriving at the church hall, Thomas and Vanguard deposited the girls' baked goods on the table allotted for desserts while Tabby and Sugarberry each got a knife and spatula from the kitchen.

"Remember, Tabby, that a lot of the desserts are stored in the refrigerated cooler over there." Sugarberry nodded towards the far corner of the kitchen where a heavy door with a large, industrial latch stood waiting. "When we need more desserts, we can go back to the cooler to get more."

"Doesn't it seem like ominous music should be playing now?" Tabby said in awe as her gaze rested on the dark cooler. "It looks so forbidding, doesn't it?" She was obviously not listening to Sugarberry's next line.

"And remember to leave the door open when you go in so you don't get locked inside."

The kitchen was bustling with activity as Snuzzle and Bon Bon oversaw the cooking of the chicken and ham. Crumpet was making dressing, and Blue Belle was mashing potatoes; Tex was busily cutting up celery and carrot sticks.

Sugarberry and Tabby were relieved to get out of the crowded, rapidly warming kitchen and out to the open hall where their work station was located. With knives in hoof, they began cutting the delectable pies, cakes, and tortes that literally filled the table.

"Now, would that be six pieces, or eight?" Tabby queried. "I can't remember."

"Go with six pieces, Tabby. Everyone likes to get the most for their jangles."

As Tabby cut and put pieces on plates, Sugarberry set them out on another table for the diners to choose from. "You're not arranging them aesthetically," Tabby said, frowning. "Let me work on that."

Anyway, the table was finally covered in a scrumptious array (and aesthetical, too, in Tabby's opinion) of treats featuring blueberries, apple, peaches, rhubarb, raspberries, pumpkin, lemon, chocolate, and a few unidentifiable yet tasty concoctions.

When serving started, the desserts fast disappeared, and Tabby and Sugarberry were kept busy cutting and serving to refill the empty slots on the table.

The only breaks they got were when one or the other trotted across the hall to the kitchen to fetch more desserts from the cooler. As the dining room warmed up, the sharp coolness of the refrigerator felt like a blast of arctic air. Stepping out again with hooves full of tasty treats was like stepping back into summertime. The desserts stayed fresh and tantalizing in the cooler.

"It's the ones with the most calories that go first," Sugarberry whispered to Tabby as she served up a light and fluffy chocolate mousse topped with smooth whipped cream. The pieces barely made it to the table before they were scooped-up.

"Oh, that looks divine!" cooed Tiffany as she reached for the largest serving.

"I want a piece of that!" complained Dawn as she eyed Tiffany's piece. "Tabby, can you get me some?"

"Sorry, that was the last piece," Tabby said absentmindedly.

"Here, Dawn," soothed Sugarberry. "Here's a big piece of lemon meringue pie that is just perfect."

Dawn was about to continue her griping until she saw how luscious the lemon meringue looked. She took the pie from Sugarberry and followed after Tiffany bragging. "My lemon meringue is bet-- more nutritious-- than your chocolate mousse!"

Tabby snickered at the bickering princesses, and cocked her head at the clock. "Sugarberry, it says it's six o' clock, if I'm reading it right. Wasn't serving supposed to end at two?"

"Oh, Tabby, that clock doesn't work. It's been six o' clock since last Friday."

4-Speed was standing at the table deciding on a dessert, so Tabby asked him the time. After consulting his watch, he informed her, "Twelve thirty."

"Oh," Tabby sighed, "I'm so thirsty. Sugarberry, can I go get something to drink?"

Sugarberry surveyed the line of ponies waiting to eat, and the currently filled tables. "Sure, Tabby. It looks like things will be quiet for awhile."

As Tabby took off, Sugarberry leaned against the wall to catch her breath. She was amazed to find that after cutting so many delectibles that she had no desire to eat any of them. She felt like all the calories had already somehow soaked into her body.

Just as Sugarberry was beginning to feel overwhelmed by whipped cream, sugar, chocolate, and spices, Tabby came running up to her, eyes sparkling with excitement. "Sugarberry, Sugarberry!" she squealed. "Look what I found on the rummage table outside!" She held up a scrawny plastic dog with pink yarn hair. Sugarberry was unimpressed.

"Sugarberry! It's a Fluppy Dog! And get this, it's the one I donated to the rummage last year, before I collected Fluppy Dogs!" Tabby went on. Sugarberry stared in wonder.

"And I was able to buy it back this year for a quarter!"

"Well, fancy that," the tongue-tied Sugarberry finally was able to respond. "You gave it away last year and bought it back this year?"

"Yes! Isn't it great, Sugarberry?" Tabby held up the forlorn little toy. "Look into his little eyes, Sug. Isn't he cute?"

Tabby knew Sugarberry's downfall. One look into anything's "cute little eyes" and she was a pushover. "I'm glad you were able to rescue him from a life on a rummage table," Sugarberry conceded. "The poor little guy does look to be in need of a good home which I'm sure you'll provide."

"Ah-hem!" a deep, gruff sound reached their ears. The two ponies turned their heads simultaneously to see Hydia the witch standing at the dessert table, looking disdainfully over the selection of pastries. "I'm looking for poppyseed cake," she bristled.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Hydia. But there wasn't a single poppyseed cake donated this year," soothed Sugarberry fearfully.

"But, look!" intercepted Tabby as she produced an ambrosial wedge of pistachio fluff (personally, she thought it looked awful, and wanted all trace of the dessert off the table). "This is obviously better than any poppyseed pie."

Hydia looked as if she might zap Tabby right then and there, but as the pink unicorn lifted the plate up to Hydia's nose, the wrinkled witch broke into a twisted smile. "Green is my color," she decided as she roughly grabbed the tidbit from Tabby's hoof.

"Whew! That was close!" stuttered Sugarberry. "Thanks for rescuing me!"

"No problem, Sug," Tabby said nonchalantly. "Besides, that was the last piece of that disgusting pistachio-whatever."

The girls continued their chore until Locket informed them that it was one thirty, only half an hour until closing. "Should I get some more stuff out of the cooler, Sugarberry?" asked Tabby.

"Yes. We need something with lots of layers of sweet, gooey stuff and topped with Cool Whip. Most everything left is apple pie."

And so, Tabby merrily tripped off to the cooler past the rows of tables and chairs and discreetly entered the kitchen. Hmm, the door's open, she noted to herself, slipping through the open crack in the door into the cooler.

Pinwheel was already in the freezing chamber, looking for something on the shelf opposite of the one the pies were on. Tabby thoughtlessly began peeking under the tinfoil coverings of the remaining pans. No, not that one, she thought in alarm as she uncovered a pile of greasy chicken bones.

It's really too bad that whipped cream tastes so awful, she pondered as she selected a creamy, white topped dessert. It looks awful good.

Just as Tabby turned around to leave the cooler, Pinwheel was trotting out already. And didn't appear to notice Tabby. And closed the door behind her.

Tabby didn't panic. She didn't faint. She just screamed. "SOMEBODY LET ME OUTTA HERE!"

* * *

Meanwhile, Sugarberry was straightening up the remaining desserts on the table. As she worked, Baby Sweet Celebrations ran up to the table with Daddy Sweet Celebrations scurrying behind.

"Me want dat one!" Baby Sweet Celebrations informed his dad as the baby pony reached across the table to grab a moist and yummy looking chocolate cupcake sprinkled with nuts.

Daddy Sweet Celebrations caught his son's hoof in midair. "You come with me back to the line and wait your turn!"

"But, Daddy, what if it gone then?" Baby Sweet Celebrations' sorrowful eyes looked longingly back at the cupcake as his dad dragged him back to the waiting line.

Sugarberry grinned, knowing there was another dozen of those very cupcakes sitting in reserve. Baby Sweet Celebrations would definitely get his cupcake.

When more seating was again available and the line moved forward, Baby Sweet Celebrations joyfully got his precious chocolate cupcake. As he lifted the plate off the table to carry it to his spot, the roly-poly cupcake tottered precariously, then fell with a thump to the floor, and rolled tauntingly under a fully occupied table.

Baby Sweet Celebrations watched disbelievingly as his prize disappeared in a sea of pony legs. His eyes filled with tears, and he turned to Daddy Sweet Celebrations. "Cupcake gone," he forlornly stammered.

Sugarberry had watched the tragedy unfold, and now quickly responded. She grabbed two chocolate cupcakes from their box and hurried to where Daddy Sweet Celebrations was attempting to sooth his son. Dropping to her knees, she offered the two cupcakes to Baby Sweet Celebrations.

As Baby Sweet Celebrations realized his good fortune, his tear-streaked face radiated a glorious smile. His eyes glowed with happiness as he accepted the treats. "Tank you, Sug-a-berry," he lisped as he and his grateful father continued on to enjoy their dinner.

"Wasn't that sentimental?" teased a waiting Thomas as Sugarberry returned to her work station. "Leave it to you to dry a baby pony's tears. Now, Tabby, on the other hoof..." He peered around the room. "Where is Tabby, anyway?"

Sugarberry frowned. If Thomas was finished with his shift at the dart booth, it must be two o' clock already. And it had been half an hour ago that Tabby had gone to the cooler for more desserts.

Thomas watched the play of thoughts pass over Sugarberry's face. "And?" he prodded in concern.

Sugarberry's eyes opened wide in shocked realization. "She might be in the cooler," she whispered.

"In the cooler?" Thomas echoed.

"Well... I sent her back there to get another pie... and she never came back after that," Sugarberry gulped.

Without another word, Thomas turned and headed to the cooler with Sugarberry following on his heels. They passed through the still crowded kitchen there the chattering of ponies filled the air as the cooks prepared-- now that everyone else was fed-- to enjoy their own taste of the food.

Thomas went directly to the cooler door which looked ominous and forbidding under the present situation (just as Tabby had predicted earlier that day, as a matter of fact); he pulled the latch out and swung open the door.

Tabby's impatient taps on the floor could be heard as she paced across the dark cement. She turned abruptly at the sound of the opening door. "Oh, good, someone finally came," she sighed dramatically. "I thought I'd be stuck here for life. Of course, I could've lived on all the pies, but they're all made with disgusting whipped cream. There are some cherry ones left, I suppose, but I can usually only stand Sugarberry's cooking, anyway. Then I started to wonder if there was an unlimited amount of air in here or not. And then-- oh, I should really stop talking, shouldn't I?" she gasped out as she collapsed into Thomas' forelegs.

"What happened?" queried a concerned Vanguard as he came in on the tense scene. His anxious eyes looked questioningly into Sugarberry's worried face; silent tears washed down her cheeks.

"Tabby got locked in the cooler for half an hour, and I didn't even realize it," she sobbed as Vanguard drew her into his embrace.

Vanguard looked over her shoulder at Thomas. "Anything I can do?"

"For Pete's sake, Sugarberry, I'm not dead, am I?" Tabby snapped. "There's nothing to be sorry about."

Snuzzle, who had noticed the sense of urgency in the air, had joined the rescue team. She quickly commandeered some blankets from the rummage sale, and in a motherly manner tucked them around the protesting Tabby.

"I'm not that much of an invalid," she retorted. "I'd be fine if you stopped making such a fuss."

"I feel terrible about this," moaned a distraught Pinwheel. "I had gotten some salad out of the cooler and must have been the one to close the door on Tabby."

"Certainly there's a release handle on the inside of that thing," stated Vanguard.

"Yes, there is," verified Snuzzle. "But we always just leave the door open when we go in, so most of the workers aren't even aware of it."

"I never knew about it," confirmed Sugarberry through her sniffles. "If I had, I'd have told Tabby, and she wouldn't have gotten chilled!" This set off another volley of tears.

Tabby rolled her eyes in annoyance. "Excuse me, Sug," she began, tapping her friend on the shoulder while hastily squirming out of the blankets. "Granted, this set me behind in keeping the dessert plates organized, but I did get out of being broiled to death in the intense heat." She eased herself onto a bench outside the hall door.

Vanguard drew Sugarberry away to the concession stand where they purchased enough food for the four of them, and then returned to Tabby and Thomas for a real picnic lunch. Vanguard moved a second bench into position so they could converse easily and the fear of the refrigerator episode slowly melted away as Tabby regained her usual disposition more and more every second.

"I hope there's never a Mr. Mime brought into the center. I positively can't stand Mr. Mimes," Tabby was rambling while they moved to a location closer to the stage where Ponyland's country singer, Garth Hooves, was performing for the crowd of Sunday picnickers enjoying the festivities. "They have got to be the scariest Pokèmon of all time. They rank right up there with giant squid. I'm certainly glad there aren't any giant squid Pokèmon. Can you imagine if there was? I think I'd just..."

"Are you sure you're feeling okay, Tabby?" fussed Sugarberry as they settled themselves on the makeshift seating set up for the show.

"Do I sound like I'm all right, Sugarberry?" Tabby said cheerfully. "I've only been rambling on nonstop like a lunatic for ten minutes now. What do you think?"

Just then, Chocolate Chip ran up to them and grabbed a hoof of Sugarberry and Vanguard, pulling them out of their seats. "Come on! We need more dancers!"

"But what about Tabby?" Sugarberry turned her head.

"I'm too much of an invalid to dance, you know," Tabby said, smiling sweetly, though sarcastically. "Besides, I still have the story of the really clueless trainer that came in to tell about..."

Sugarberry was exhausted by the time Chocolate Chip and Current had determined that they'd danced enough. She collapsed in the seat next to Tabby.

But by this time, Tabby was ready to move on. "Let's walk around the grounds," she suggested. "Maybe someone brought more eighties' toys to the rummage. I keep hoping that the My Little People Hair Salon I donated years ago is going to show up here again."

So they set off at a leisurely pace, exchanging greetings with friends old and new. As they passed by the bingo tent, Quarterback-- who was calling the numbers-- motioned them over.

"You guys have to play some Bingo. Friendly, give them each a card."

Friendly, the energetic blue Bushwoolie, hopped up with a handful of cards which he spread on the table. "Pick lucky one!" he advised.

They had no sooner gotten organized when a one-of-a-kind "Ho-ho!" greeted their ears; and Clever Clover, accompanied by Merry Moments and Berry Bright, slid into seats across the bingo table.

After greetings had been exchanged, Clever Clover explained how he had stumbled onto the church picnic. "I went to the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, as always, only to find a sign posted saying that the shop was closed due to this affair."

"And then he bumped into us," continued Merry Moments. "We were on our way here to meet Quarterback. His shift ends soon." She waved spiritedly at Quarterback as Friendly passed out more cards.

"One jangle, please, yup, yup!"

Finally, the tentful of bingo players quieted down as Quarterback began calling the numbers. "B9" was first.

"Ooh," Tabby breathed. "I think I got that one."

"You forgot to cover the free space," observed Clever Clover.

"What are you muttering about, Cleve Clove?" Tabby said absentmindedly as she grabbed a translucent red disc off the pile on the table and covered the space.

Everyone in the group seemed to be doing quite well until a shrill voice from across the tent screeched, "Bingo!"

"I know that voice!" Tabby exclaimed in annoyance.

"Good grief," added Sugarberry. "It's Tiffany."

"As if she needs the jangles," Tabby said sarcastically.

But to the girls' delight, it was discovered that Tiffany had placed a disc over an incorrect number, and her card was therefore disqualified.

"That'll teach her to keep her mind on the game rather than flapping her eyelashes at Toby all the time," Tabby tittered, obviously enjoying Tiffany's blunder.

Quarterback's voice informed the ponies that, because of the error, the game would continue from the point were Tiffany had called bingo.

"Argh," Tabby muttered. "I already dumped my card!" She was able to get her discs back in order, but it was Baby Noddins who won the bingo on the very next call.

"Shouldn't baby ponies be at the fishpond booth?" Tabby complained. "This is boring, Sug."

"No, Tabby!" pleaded Sugarberry. "Let's try again."

Outvoted by the gang, Tabby settled down to play more bingo; but in the end, they were all empty-hooved.

After the last game, Quarterback joined the group. "Where's Scoops' ice cream booth? I'm starved!" he said as he took Merry Moments hoof in his.

"Oh, yes! Ice cream would taste great right now," agreed Berry Bright.

But Tabby held back, shivering involuntarily. "Not for me. I've been chilled enough today."

"I never thought I'd see the day Tabby didn't want to have a strawberry sundae," Quarterback said in surprise.

So, Sugarberry explained about Tabby's experience to those who were unaware of it; Spike joined the group in time to hear the story.

"Maybe I'll just go home and curl up in a sunbeam with Tarquin and Callie," Tabby yawned.

"I'm tired, too," admitted Sugarberry. "You guys party on. I'll walk home with Tabby."

As the two ponies headed homeward, Sugarberry sighed deeply. "When the picnic is over, winter is never far behind." The breeze blew a shower of colorful leaves across their path as if to affirm the fact.

"Winter's cold," was Tabby's only comment. She seemed lost in thought. "Doesn't this seem like the end of a story, Sugarberry? The day is over. The leaves are blowing around violently. It's as if we're on the verge of a dramatic change!"

"Are you still just talking about winter, Tabby?"

"Oh, no. I wasn't really talking about anything. Now, come on, hurry up; you're walking too slow! Who knows what could've happened to Tarquin back at home while I was gone? And then there's yesterday's new taped Pokèmon episode to watch. And then--"

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