Act 6 - A Hazy Shade Of Winter
Act 7 - Cuts Marked In The March
| AUTHOR'S NOTE |
This is the first fan-fiction I've ever written, and it was written in about 4-5 days, so I appreciate honest critique. I hope you find it as cathartic to read as it was for me to write. Any alternate endings, continuations, artwork, etc that anyone wishes to create based on this story is welcome,
I only ask that you send me a copy!
Feel free to e-mail me with any comments: [email protected]
The truth is good, right?
You should always be truthful, shouldn't you? It's better to know the truth than be lied to, no matter how much better the lies were. All those sayings about the "truth shall set you free" and so on. They weren't just sayings.
They couldn't be; everypony believed them.
So why did it feel like someone had punched her in the stomach? She knew the truth now. She should feel better. Even though the truth was not very nice. Somehow though, it seemed as if the true world she found herself in was very different place than the one she knew the day before. She sat alone in her room with nothing but a confusing batch of thoughts that raced like mad to make sense of the new paradigm of her life. She wasn't even sure what that word meant; but she'd heard it before and it seemed like it fit.
She'd built a very happy life, and had done so without much effort. All she had to do was what came naturally; make others happy. It had brought her friends, a sense of purpose and of belonging. But now... If what she thought made her special, what gave her purpose, wasn't enough; if she wasn't really making others happy, what was the purpose? Her friends - what she thought were friends - didn't care for what she thought made her special at all. So much so, in fact, they went out of their way to exclude her when she worked so hard to make them happy. Why bother lying? Just come right out and tell her, she thought - I can take it.
The voice was not her own. It was hard, it's inflection sharp and direct. Her eyes darted around the empty room for the source to no avail. It was inside of her - but it was not her. For a moment she was scared - she never got scared, she reminded herself. There's no reason to be afraid of something that isn't there, right?
"No, you can't," the voice spoke again, authoritative and sure.
There was no doubt about it now; it was a voice inside of her. Something other than her own. Now the fear was more than momentary. It was real.
"Who.. who are you?!" she tried to ask commandingly, but her fear made it a laughable bluff.
"I'm nobody. Just like you. I'm you - just not so pathetic and deluded," it responded with disgust.
"I'm not nobody!" she tried to rebut, but her previous failure made it sound like a lie even to her.
"Sure you are... Just admit it. It's not so bad," a new voice interjected, slow, with a lethargic sadness in its tone.
"Oh, don't lie to her you pitiful sop, her friends do that enough," the angry voice shrilled in response, the emphasis thick with hate.
Pinkie tried to respond, but a voice from below - a real voice - interrupted this new and unnerving conversation. There was someone downstairs; she could hear voices talking, but couldn't make out what they were saying. It was Rainbow Dash, that was for certain. And they were talking about Pinkie.
"Great... Maybe she's come to tell you the truth, " the despairing voice suggested.
Pinkie felt a nervous swirling in her gut. She didn't want to see any of them right now. Certainly not Dash. Not when she was so... out-of-sorts; these crazy voices talking to her. She didn't want to be here right now. She wasn't sure she wanted to be here ever. Now that she thought about it, what was left for her here? It had turned out she didn't have any friends, they just humored her for some reason. Maybe pity.
"They have every right to pity you - you're pitiful." a new and slithering voice broke her thoughts. "Think about it; they're all so special, aren't they? Isn't that why you loved them? They're all so talented or beautiful or athletic or cool," the jealousy poured from every word, but each one of them seemed logical in Pinkie's mind.
"Yeah. You don't want to be here. You can't face her now, can you?"
There was a pause for just a moment; then, when Pinkie could think of nothing to retort, the harsh voice seemed to take it as assent, and continued.
"No, you can't," there was no denying how true it sounded. And the truth was good, right? The voice was so commanding, so sure. And right - she didn't want to face any of them... Not now.
"Come on, quick! Grab your things. We'll leave. They won't really miss you anyways, will they?"
She wasn't sure why, but it sounded so right. She was sure they'd miss her, of course. But she just couldn't deal with them right now. She was confused, upset. And their plan sounded smart. She didn't want to be here. She didn't want to face her so-called friends. She couldn't. Without thinking further, she'd begun to collect a few things and place them in her bag. The voices egged her on, to move more quickly. She scrambled, taking just what she needed. She didn't want any reminders of this place anyways. They urged her to scribble a quick note; it would throw them off the trail. She was about to turn away, then went back and hastily put down a few more words. She finished just as she heard hoof-beats coming up the stairs. She slipped out the window as the door began to open.
Dash came through the door just a moment too late. She looked around the empty room, seeing nothing but a few empty drawers and a note on the table flittering in the breeze from the open window.
"Well, that's weird. Then again, remember who I'm talking about," she said to herself as she went over to the note.
``Going on a trip! Suddenly remembered I had somewhere to go! Sorry for the short-notice, everypony. Don't know when I'll be back.
P.S., Gummi's got plenty of food in the top drawer. If he needs anything else, let Fluttershy know, okay?- Love, Pinkie``
"Now that's really weird..." Dash thought. She had to show the others right away.
As for Pinkie, plans were not so clear. She'd made a rash decision - where did she go from here? Anywhere in town would be unbearable. The more she thought about it, the more she couldn't stand the idea of having everypony she knew... looking at her. Pitying her. Now that she knew what they really thought about her, it all made sense. They tolerated her strangeness, humored her antics and felt too guilty to say anything. She always knew she was different, weird even. She didn't realize she was such a bother, she thought; an annoyance. She was -
"Nothing." the Angry Voice finished.
"I didn't say that!" she interjected.
"No, but you were thinking it. Look at you, slinking away from town, unable to show your face for the shame. It's pitiful."
"But... you told me to leave! And where am I supposed to go?!"
"We should go home. Where we really belong. Digging up rocks. Your face to the ground. That's all we deserve," the Sad Voice chimed in solemnly. "We should never have left."
"Why do you have to say it like that? That's not very nice!" she tried to rebut. But it made some sense, at least. She could go 'home' for a while - you know, just to visit, right? Funny, she always thought of Sugarcube Corner as home, from the moment she moved there it felt like she was finally where she belonged. But now, it wasn't the same. Leaving seemed like the right thing to do... for now.
"Alright. We'll go... home. I can stay there for awhile, at least. Until I figure this out."
"Of course, of course; until you figure things out..."
The voices were finally quiet for awhile. Ever since this started she felt a dull ache in her head. It was painful when they talked. She at least had some peace now, but it didn't change what had happened. With the quiet came an uncomfortable realization of just how heavy her heart felt. Everything they'd said was true. And honesty was important.
The walk to her home town was long and laborious. Not because it was far, or because the road was hard. But because despite the few things she took with her, she felt burdened by a weight she couldn't explain or understand. And the quiet moments she'd had when the journey began were gone - the Voices began anew, and as the hours and acres passed, she'd already begun to be used to their clawing chatter. It still ached every time they forced their loaded words into her already preoccupied thoughts, but it was becoming 'normal' now. Travelling used to be one of her favorite things; the miles flew by, a song in her heart, enjoying the changing scenes before her eyes. Now it felt like a forced march.
"What are you going to do from now on? Tell me, tell me now!" the Angry Voice demanded.
"What can she do? She's nothing anymore," the Jealous Voice insisted before Pinkie could respond. "This is the way it will be from now on."
"W-why are you saying these things?" she finally blurted out, aloud, in spite of herself.
"...Because they're true," the Sad Voice solemnly remarked.
And the truth was important. She had no response to their sure-sounding words. She hung her head as she trudged along slowly, the burden heavier by the moment. There was no pleasure in the cool autumn air or the crunch of leaves beneath her; as if these little sensations that used to make her so happy so easily were no longer valid anymore.
Eventually, and with great effort, she neared her home town - and the ramshackle farm she'd left behind what seemed like a lifetime ago. The rocky ground, the monochromatic shades of the landscape, the gloomy hill overlooking it all... She was unprepared for the sickening, sinking feeling in her gut as she approached the door. Even though she'd had plenty of time on the way, there had never been a free moment to think about what it feel like to be back `home`, to face her parents like this. She didn't realize how unprepared she was to deal with anypony else feeling like this. But here she was; there was nothing else left to do. She took a halting breath, and knocked on the door.
Dash hurriedly flew to the rest of her friends, already gathered together across town for what they'd though was to be a party. The enthusiastic mood was soon to change. She burst through the door, out of breath. Nopony seemed concerned at first - that was normal for her, of course. But after a moment, they realized that the worried look on her face was certainly not like her. And she was supposed to have Pinkie with her. Instead she had a piece of paper.
"Whatsa matter, Dash? Couldn't find her?" Applejack asked.
Catching her breath enough to respond, she showed her the note, "She's gone! She left this."
The others gathered around to see what had been written. They all shared some concern, but Dash could tell right away that none of them seemed to understand; they didn't take it as seriously as she did.
"Well... that's Pinkie for you, I guess," Rarity said with a sigh, "Not much for manners. But that's a part of her... charm."
"D'ya think she finally remembered that it's her birthday?" A.J. asked.
"Oh! Of course... She must have suddenly remembered," Fluttershy said meekly, but hopefully, "M-maybe she had plans...?"
"Without us? No way! Even if she remembered, she wouldn't ditch us, not a chance!" Rainbow exclaimed.
"I dunno, Dash. How can you be sure? She's pretty unpredictable," Twilight tried to calm her, "Maybe she did just realize and had something she wanted or needed to-."
"UGH! You guys aren't taking this seriously! You don't know her like I do," Dash interrupted, "I'm going to look for her some more. You guys do whatever!" and with that, she hurried out as quickly as she came in.
The rest were left in a strained silence. But what could do they do? Dash was obstinate and impossible to reason with, and Pinkie was unpredictable and chaotic. Although they were concerned, there didn't seem to be much to be done about it. It would work itself out - it always did, right? Everything would be back to normal soon enough... Right?
The old door creaked open, and the butterflies in Pinkie's stomach momentarily subsided when she saw her. The weathered but smiling face of her mother was comforting; and when she saw Pinkie there in the doorway, she gasped with delight. For a split-second Pinkie felt a welcome wave of relief - she remembered how much happiness she'd brought to her mother and the rest of her family. It brought her to a time when she found her calling, her purpose in life. But it was not to last.
"My stars! Pinkamena!" her mother exclaimed as she embraced her, "You've come to visit on your birthday!"
Pinkie was dumbfounded. She absently returned her mother's embrace as she processed what she'd said. It was her birthday? How could she have forgotten?
"Well don't just stand there on the porch, come in, come in!" her mother exclaimed. "I'll go fetch your father!"
She said some other things, but Pinkie wasn't really paying attention. How could she forget her own birthday? More importantly, how could all of her friends have forgotten?
"Because they're too important of course. Why would they notice your birthday? Who are you, anyways?" the Jealous Voice declared.
"No, they didn't forget. Think about it, Pinkie - nopony in town, nopony at all said anything about your birthday. Not one word. Either they all forgot all together, or they knew - and they didn't care," the Angry Voice said assuredly.
"Then... then that's why they ignored us. That's why they avoided us - they didn't want to be around us on our birthday..." the Sad Voice added soberly.
"That's... I-I don't know which is worse," Pinkie thought, "Either way... they didn't really care about me after all."
"That's what I've been saying all along! I told you!"
It'd been right. It hadn't lied to her. It was important to be honest. But she had no time to think about it further; her mother returned with her father, and their comforting smiles and greetings gave her some small respite in the swarm of thoughts.
"We're so glad to see you, darling! Oh, I wish you'd told us you were coming, we'd have had something ready for you!" her mother said the next morning.
"Oh, that's alright Mom - I.. I wanted it to be a surprise."
"Well, your mother and I are very happy to have you visit - you don't come by nearly enough, you know," her father added.
"I know, Dad. I was thinking maybe that I'd stay for a little while, you know. I could use a break from... from all the busy-ness of-" Pinkie began to say.
"Oh, yes - life in the big town is too much for us! I know exactly what you mean. Stay with us as long as you like, dear. It must be exhausting with the bustle of so many ponies around," her mother interrupted.
"Oh, yeah - that's it.. exactly. I'm just... exhausted. I just need a little time to clear my head."
"Well, your mother's right - stay as long as you need," her father added, "We could use a little help around here anyways. The harvest festival is coming up, and then of course we're scheduled to have an early snow to make up for winter's late start last year. It'll be nice to have you here now that your brothers and sisters have struck out on their own."
"That sounds great, Dad. It'll be... fun.. to be back home for awhile," Pinkie wasn't so sure about it, but at least she had somewhere to be. She could be useful for a little while. There would be a purpose. Something to keep her mind occupied.
Dash just couldn't take it any more. It had been days - and not a word about where Pinkie might be. Every day she spent a little time circling the town, seeing if maybe she was around somewhere. But there was nothing. If only she'd gotten to her sooner that day.. The others would be gathered in the center of town today in preparation for the following night's harvest festival. She made her way there with a growing knot in her stomach. Something wasn't right. Festivals, celebrations, hay - any occasion to get together with your friends was something Pinkie never missed. When Dash arrived, the others were already there, busying themselves with planning.
"No word from Pinkie, anypony?" she asked, as she did every day she saw them.
"No, I'm real sorry Dash. Nothing today either," Twilight said, "None of us have seen her."
Seeing the dejection on Dash's face, Rarity chimed in, "But she might be here tomorrow, of course. She wouldn't want to miss a perfectly good opportunity to celebrate."
Dash tried to look comforted, knowing what she was trying to do, "Yeah, you're right. We'll see, I guess.. But I'm still worried, ya know?"
"I know, Dash. We all are, but I'm sure she's fine. You know how she is. Hay, she might even just be playin' a joke on us," AJ added, but didn't sound so sure herself.
"We'll see," Dash replied, but she couldn't help but have a bad feeling about it all.
Days could not have dragged on slower for her. What she thought would give her rest and peace had been a curse, not a blessing - the busy work of collecting fire-wood, helping out around the farm and so on had only given her anxious mind all the time in the world to crawl around her head. There was nothing else to think about; the night's were by far the worst. Alone in that quiet room, where she spent so many lonely nights before, they had free-reign to torment her - and they took full advantage.
Her parents didn't make it any easier, though not for lack of trying. When they engaged her in conversation about how things had been going, about her friends, about how she liked it in Ponyville... It just brought up the very thoughts that hung over her head unyieldingly.
It was the night before the festival. It had been a particularly rough day; the clamoring voices had been persistent as they beat her down. This was becoming harder and harder, keeping them at bay, defending against their relentless insults. She grew weary of debating their accusations. She wasn't good at arguing. She didn't like it. It didn't help that she had no appetite. Everything had lost its taste. She picked at a few things at meals, made excuses and tried to keep her head down and work.
She climbed the old stairs to her room. Tonight was sure to be a storm. Sleep did not come easy, and with the ammunition of her friend's betrayal and her forgotten birthday, they clawing voices would make the night's battle a lengthy affair. She made her way to the battleground - her old bed - and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Out of the corner of her eye she looked just like the sad little filly she'd been all those years ago. Her hair was just the same; she already looked gaunt from the strain and lack of appetite. She turned away reflexively. She couldn't look at herself.
"Of course not - why do you think others find it hard to look at you without pity?" the Jealous Voice asked snidely.
"They're just being nice," Pinkie responded as she climbed into bed, "They're nice."
"But it's a lie. It's a lie and you know it! Why pretend? Why bother pretending to be nice when they don't like you? They should just be honest and tell you to your face!" The Angry Voice insisted.
"But they won't, of course. Just like tomorrow at the festival - they'll all smile at you, but you just know what they're really thinking," the Jealous Voice spewed, "just look at that pitiful little filly!"
Pinkie didn't feel so well, now. They were right - and she didn't relish the thought of being around the festival in this state. How could she look any of them in the face? A little town like this, they all knew. They all had to know, right? That she was...
"Nothing," the Sad Voice finished.
"D-don't say that! I told you, I'm not nothing. I'm not!" she sputtered in meek resistance.
"Then what are you?!"
Pinkie had no answer. Just a sickly feeling deep in the back of her mind. They hadn't lied to her yet. But they couldn't be right about this. She wasn't nothing. She was weird, yes. Strange. Different. An annoyance, perhaps. Her life may have been a fortune in lies, her friends just acquaintances who tolerated her, and her purpose a useless sham... But she wasn't nothing, right?
The night crept along languidly. Ever slowly, the tendrils of sleep finally overtook her. It was not restful; rather, bitter and dreamless, no safe harbor from her torment. When the slivers of light began to spill through the ragged blinds and rouse her, it was as if no time had passed at all - as if she had passed directly from night to day. With great effort she heaved the covers off and tried to stand from the bed.
She was not successful. Her knees buckled, her head swooned and she fell back onto the mattress. She became aware of a dull throb behind her eyes. And why was she so hot? Autumn was nearly at its end, yet she suddenly realized she was burning up. Everything had conspired to this point; little food, mental stress, a gnawing ache. She succumbed to this feeling of sickly discomfort and fell back to sleep, sprawled just as she had fallen back into bed.
When she didn't come down to breakfast, her mother came to check on her. Finding her listless body across the bed, her breathing shallow and labored, she rushed back down the stairs and yelled to her mate. Pinkie had a vague sense over the next few moments of a hushed and heavy concern around her, in a dreamlike stupor.
"The doctor will be at the festival, I'll go out and get him right away!" her father exclaimed.
Her mother hovered over her nervously until the doctor arrived, tucking her into the bed. Pinkie roused for a moment.
"N-no, I-I'll be alright, I'm just.. tired," she mumbled.
"Not a chance, darling, you stay right where you are! Your father will be back with the doctor soon and we'll get you taken care of!"
Pinkie was too delirious to argue. Her weakened state was fresh ground for her tormentors to attack. They began slow, their whispers just outside perception, aching her head and making her strain - despite just how badly she wanted not to hear. Her father returned shortly with the doctor, and through her fuzzy consciousness she was slightly aware of their activity around her. She was more concerned with the harsh words she could now make out inside herself.
"Now you've done it!" the Angry Voice proclaimed, "now they'll miss the festival to wait on you hand and foot out of pity. Now that's pathetic of you, little Pinkie Pie."
There was no denying how hard the truth hit her; and she felt punch-drunk, her mind aswirl with what this meant. Now she was a burden on top of everything else... It couldn't possibly get any worse than this.
The festival came and went. It was a joyless blur for Dash and the others. Without hide nor hair from their friend, their general concern grew into genuine worry. They gathered together at the end of the day's events, but none of them had much to say. Twilight was the first to break the uncomfortable silence they shared around AJ's festival booth.
"Well.. If she's not here, where else would she be? Where else would she go?"
They all looked over at Dash inquisitively. "I dunno! Why would I know more than you guys!" she exclaimed accusatorily. "Aren't you all her friends, too?!"
The others were taken aback, and looked at each other sheepishly.
"I-I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” Dash added anxiously. “I didn't mean that. I'm just upset.”
Trying to be helpful and defuse the awkward outburst, Fluttershy piped in quietly. "She said in her note she was going on a trip... Maybe she went to, to, visit someone?"
They all thought for a moment, and a flash of recognition came to Dash. She dismissed it at first; why would she go there? Especially during the festival? She never liked going back there, even though she did like to visit her parents and siblings.
"Maybe... Maybe she went home," she finally said after realizing there was no reason not to suggest it.
There was a kind of finality in the way she said that took the others by surprise. Went home, as if... it was permanent. They understood what she meant - back to her hometown - but the implication saddened them.
Rarity didn't let them think about it too long, "That's true - maybe she did go to visit her parents for the festival," she said with particular emphasis, to try to break what they were thinking about. "She never talked about it much, at least to me, but from what I remember it's not too far..."
"Well, okay then - if she might be there, let's go!" Dash interjected.
"Hold on there, sugarcube," AJ replied. "Let's not go rushing over in the middle of the night."
"Applejack is right. We'll write her parents. They can tell us if she's there or not," Twilight suggested.
Dash wasn't quite satisfied, but relented anyways. They were right, after all. "Okay. At least then we'll know one way or the other. "Can... Can I write it?" she added quietly.
Another night, another day. Her mind began to clear - though only of the fog; the persistent rattle of the raging inside never ebbed for a moment. They'd taken a firm hold in her delirium, and they seemed to relish in the tighter grip. The heat began to dissipate, at least. The doctor had long left; nothing in his arts could've made a dent anyways. Her parents were left to let her rest at his suggestion. That's what they always said when they had no idea what was wrong. She realized she was alone again in the room. Good, she thought - she had to try to get up. She couldn't be a helpless lump in addition to everything else. Her arms were shaky as they pulled off the covers, but she was steady enough to stand. She willed herself down the stairs. She had to do this; she had to keep herself from being another’s problem.. She felt useless enough as it was - to be stuck in bed would be unbearable.
When her mother saw her gingerly make her way down the stairs, she covered her mouth in sad alarm; but she seemed to be making it down alright. She wanted to rush over to her, help her, tell her to go back to bed; but she was finally starting to see that there was something else wrong. Something she couldn't place or understand.
"H-hey mom.. I'm feeling a lot better today," Pinkie managed to squeak out.
"That's... That's great, honey! I knew you were just a little under the weather," her mother responded, but the words came hollow from her lips. She didn't believe them herself; she just didn't know what else to say.
"Yeah, guess that must have been it. I'm sure I'll feel a lot better if I get back my legs back under me. I'll go help with some chor-"
Her mother cut her off, "No! I, I mean, no, dear, you really.. Well, I mean, you shouldn't strain yourself too quickly.. Why don't you help me around the house today? We'll just get some cleaning done, alright honey?" She stumbled over the words, unsure of what the right thing to say might be.
Pinkie felt her doubt, but couldn't do anything about it now. "That sounds alright, I guess. Okay."
It was about as strenuous a day as she could remember. Bracing herself against every word her mother or father said, every stumble on her shaky legs, they all brought a fresh assault from the nagging chorus in her head.
"We told you this would happen!"
"You're a hardship to everyone now!"
"We can't do this anymore..."
She forced it all back. At dinner she managed to choke down a few more bites than usual, the food like ash in her mouth, the nausea heavy and overbearing. Taste, smell, they were unpleasant afterthoughts. Her parents seemed relieved by it though; at least it had the desired effect. When she excused herself to turn in early, they did not object.
Though she dreaded the thought of going back to bed, she couldn't keep herself going further. Maybe she'd feel a little stronger tomorrow. It couldn't be worse than today, right?
She moved quickly past the mirror tonight, making sure to avert her eyes. She had a feeling she'd not be very pleased with what she saw. She recalled with some bitterness what she used to remember seeing when she would wake up happy and rested not so long ago. Was it a few days? A week now? Longer? It felt like a century. She felt gaunt, empty. She crawled into bed with no resolve to fight this time.
"Just say whatever you want... I don't care anymore. At least it can't get any worse."
"Yes, it can. You know it can. It can, and it will," the Angry Voice was calm this time, not so harsh, but the words were no less painful to hear.
It seemed like only moments later she heard a knock at the door downstairs. She was exhausted. She wanted to know what it was; but it wasn't going to be anything good for her. Not if the Angry Voice was right - as it always seemed to be.
"Who could that be at this hour?" her father asked rhetorically.
She heard her fathers heavy footsteps towards the door, and an exchange she couldn't quite make out. The door closed, and her father walked back towards the kitchen. She turned over and pulled the pillow over her head.
"Who was that, dear?" her mother asked him.
"Some gray Pegasus with a letter," he responded, "wonder who it's from."
There was silence for a moment as he tore open the envelope and read.
"Well? What is it, dear?"
"It's from a friend of Pinkamena's. Seems she didn't tell anyone where she was going, and they've been worried about her," he noted somberly.
"Oh... I see. Well, you know how absent-minded she is. She probably just forgot, don't you think?"
"Yes, that would make sense, I suppose..." he replied.
"Do you think we should tell her?" her mother asked quietly.
"Tell who? Pinkamena... or her friend?"
Her father nodded soberly. Something was wrong; they didn't know what it was or what to do, they didn't understand and they couldn't bear to see their little filly, who used to bring them such joy, go through this much longer. If only she could see that.
"I'll write them back. Why don't we invite them over? Maybe it would cheer her up to see her friends again," her father suggested.
"I don't know what else to do. We have to do something. Write the letter. We'll send it right away," her mother replied.
Upstairs in the quiet of her room, Pinkie struggled with her tormentors. No one else could see or hear the battle. She held the pillow ever closer, but it couldn't drown out the chaos welling up inside. This shouldn’t be so difficult - joy was supposed to come naturally, yet she felt like someone else entirely. She should be able to simply ignore this - it should be easy. But she could feel their unseen hands wrap around her being, choking her resistance. Their writhing tendrils slithering through her subconscious, devouring every doubt, seeking out every hidden fear. They suffocated the spark inside.
"It's going to be like this forever, you know..." the Sad Voice pointed out.
"It always was. Everything you thought you had, your fortune in lies, it was never real," the Jealous Voice concurred.
"I keep telling you. It won't be like this forever - it's only going to get worse!" the Angry Voice retorted.
"It can't.. It just can't. I... I can get by if it's like this. I don't know if I can take much worse," Pinkie meekly replied. She didn't even bother to argue or fight with them anymore. All she could do was hold on.
"I know. You can't. But it will get worse. You know I'm right."
She prayed that it was wrong. She hoped against hope that it was wrong. But it'd never lied to her before. It'd always been honest, even if it hurt.
And honesty was important.
She dreamed this time. For the first time since she'd been back, she dreamed. Right away she wished she hadn't; she was inundated with scenes from memories in washed out grays, formerly happy remembrances now subverted by the jeering commentary the voices infiltrated. The little moments she used to relish - she never looked back much on what everyone else would think of as the big and exciting times - rather, when lost in daydream she'd see the face of a friend she made smile with a small act of kindness, or hear the raucous laughter that invariably followed some prank or another she'd pull.
But they were all used against her now. Her keen memory for little details like that were turned on her; and it was a potent weapon. As she drifted in and out of dreamstates and semi-lucid consciousness, their jagged barbs persisted.
"Look at all this... worthless silliness," the Angry Voice derided, "what was the point? Have you ever done anything worthwhile in your life?"
"Of course not!" the Jealous Voice joined in, "don’t you think that’s a bit of a stretch for our trivial little filly?"
"What do you expect from us," the Sad Voice responded, "....we're nothing."
"W-why do you have to keep saying that?" she implored, "Stop it, please!"
"No! You have to admit it! Stop lying to yourself!" the Angry Voice demanded.
"If you're something, then tell us! What are you? What are you going to do with your life now?" the Jealous Voice contested. "What were you going to do with your life before anyways? You're a silly, stupid little filly - did you think you could live like that forever? You think you're crazy now - you were out of your mind then!"
"No, I - I could... I was just...!”
"Ah, now we're getting down to it! The truth! Are you finally going to admit it? Are you going to tell us the truth?! Say it! You're nothing!"
Their clamoring voices rang out together, repeating in her head. She couldn't drown them out. She squeezed her tired eyes in their half-asleep stupor, but she couldn't stop it. They held dominion now, and all she could do was listen. She didn't want to hear these things anymore... They wouldn't stop! She couldn't take it anymore!
"You were always nothing!"
"STOP IT!" she yelled, "Please, just leave me alone! Please!"
A hush finally fell over her mind - and she became aware of the echo in the room. She had yelled it out loud, and her outburst still rang in her ears. The voices seemed to whisper in strange delight, and she felt a sinking dread at what this meant.
"...Now you've done it. Now they'll know you've lost it. Now they'll know the truth..." the Angry Voice said in an unexpectedly low tone.
"They'll look at you with prying eyes.. They'll see you for what you are. It will be just as if you'd come right out and told them everything. They'll look at you with... pity."
"They will. Just as if you'd come right out and told them! So tell us, tell us the truth!"
"Just admit it. They'll never leave you alone until you do. It's not so bad. Just say it."
She begged them, "no... I won't, please, just stop... please. I-I can't. Please..."
There was no place to hide from them. No shelter from the storm. She couldn't squeeze them out. She couldn't argue against them. Every word they scratched inside her brain ached. She was tired. Desperate. And they were tireless and adamant; she could find no reasons to hold back the quiet sobs that began to shake her. And they wouldn’t stop until she’d cried herself into a fitful sleep.
With the first light creeping through the window, she pulled herself from bed. There was no point in lying there further. The day held only a dull apprehension, but it had to be better than last night. It had to be. She rubbed her bleary eyes and walked uneasily towards the door. She was too out-of-sorts to remember to to avoid the mirror; she stopped in her tracks when she glimpsed the stranger looking back at her. She was familiar, a face from a vague memory. It was her, but someone she wasn't anymore - at least, she kept trying to think so. The sullen face, her straight hair, the lifeless eyes - which didn’t used to look so red and mournful. At least back then there was a sober acceptance of the way things were, the way she thought they'd always be. Now... things were worse.
"I told you!" the Angry Voice proclaimed, "I told you it would only get worse!"
She didn't respond. There was no point. They would say what they want, there was nothing she could do or say now to quiet them, to prove them wrong. Perhaps as if to spite them, she moved on towards the door and down the stairs. Let them rant. They had to be wrong now.Thing were as bad as they could possibly be.
"Keep lying to yourself, you silly filly... You'll see."
They were waiting for her, her parents, at breakfast. As she came off the stairs she couldn't bear to look at them. They'd be eyeing here with that look, that pitiable concern. They knew, she thought. They had to. But she strained to smile, to look... 'better.' She didn't know why she bothered. Why couldn't she be honest?
"That's an excellent question - it's what we've been asking all along!"
She didn't get a chance to respond - even if she'd wanted to.
Her mother hesitantly spoke upon seeing her. "Good morning, dear..." she tried to say naturally, but Pinkie could tell the uneasy glances her father and mother exchanged, even without looking them in the eyes. Her father was holding something, but she couldn't quite see what it was. He stuffed it into his patchy bag.
"Ah, yes, good morning darling. I was just off to.. to run some errands. I'll be back soon."
When he left, there was some small amount of relief. It would be one less set of prying eyes upon her, judging her every move, her mood, her vacant stare. The day went like a watched pot. The minutes dragged, like they were aware, and wanted to hold on as long as they could as Pinkie went about the mundane household chores.
...When her father returned, the conspiring voices would seem prophetic.
When he came in, there was a change in the air. The vague nervous tension that hung around her mother seemed to transmute to a strange kind of hopefulness. Her mother came over to her, embraced her, as her father sat at the table. Pinkie reflexively flinched at the contact, but caught herself before her mother would notice - or, at least, she hoped so. She felt uncomfortable with it, but it would only upset her mother. She stroked Pinkie's hair as she and her father shared a nodding glance.
"Dear, you know what would be nice?" her mother cooed, "we thought it would be just wonderful if we invited your friends over.. you know, company for the big storm? We'll be cooped up in the house, we thought it be good to have some guests!" she spoke calmly, comfortingly.
"Yes, we'd love to meet them. And I'm sure they miss you. We can all catch up, stay up late and talk," her father added collectedly, "I just sent them a letter. I, er - we - can’t wait for them to get here.
Shock. Devastation. It was worse. Her mind raced, she had to say something. They'd expect her to say something.
"Oh, yes.. Yes, that's - ... that's great. I can't wait," she said haltingly. She didn't want to believe it. She didn't want to believe them. But they'd been right - again. They'd told her the truth, even though it hurt; even though they were cruel and heartless, they told her the truth. But she was frozen by its implications. It was worse.
Dash's endless pacing was becoming unnerving to Twilight. Dash had arrived at daybreak, pounding on the door and waking Twilight and Spike. She wanted to wait there for any response... any word that maybe Pinkie had gone to her parents; that she was alright. That she wasn’t lost or hurt somewhere. But as the day dragged on, Twilight at least had the sense to go about her normal routine. She couldn't make the reply come any faster - and obsessing over it would only make it harder on herself. Dash however, was Dash. She wandered listlessly around the room, in the yard, saying little - which was out of character enough as it was. She'd lost track of time as the minutes turned to hours.
When neither of them thought they could take much more - Dash of waiting, Twilight of Dash's absent-minded heedlessness - a knock at the door brought first alarm, then nervous excitement. “Finally,” they both thought. Dash rushed to the door, and indeed it was a delivery. She hurriedly took the letter from the gray pegasus in the doorway, paying no mind to her; she shut the door in the confused pony's face immediately after. Twilight was aghast, but hay - she could understand Dash's haste.
She wasted no time in tearing it open and poring over its contents. Twilight tried to come over and read it as well, but seeing Dash's expression fall, she could already guess at its message. Dash looked crestfallen.
"What is it? Is she there... Is something wrong?"
"We've got to go. Now. Get your things together, I'll get the others!" Dash exclaimed, tossing the letter towards the desk as she burst back out the door, leaving Twilight standing there agape, any follow up question hanging in the air. She stopped and took a breath, calming herself from aggravation; Dash’s impertinence but have had a reason, she considered. When she read it for herself, it became abundantly clear.
"Dear Rainbow Dash,
Thank you so much for your letter. The last times Pinkamena has visited, she's told us all about you and her other friends. It's all she talked about before this time. She's here with us now, but she's not feeling very well. Her mother and I are concerned. The doctor said there was nothing wrong with her physically. We don't know what to do, but she's just not herself. We've never seen her like this, not even as a filly. Perhaps you could find the time to visit us, maybe it will lift her spirits to see her friends.
Mr. and Mrs. Pie"
She would go to Rarity's first. It was closest. When she came bolting through the door, she hadn't even noticed the pair of ponies Rarity was - rather, had been until the interruption - working with. They all stood back a bit in shock at the raucous intrusion,
"Rarity, we -" Dash began quickly
"Dash, dear, I'm with customers right n-" Rarity began calmly.
"Rarity!" she yelled, in no mood to waste a single second. She'd planned on at least explaining a little, but she couldn't keep control of her temper now; "we're leaving! Grab your stuff and get your flank to Twilight's. And I swear, if you're not there when I get back, I... I'll never speak to you again!" she added forcefully as she zipped back out the door.
There was a stunned silence for a moment, but Rarity quickly regained her composure.
"I'm sorry, but we're closed now. Family emergency. You'll have to leave," she said cooly to the pair.
"But we're n-" they began, only to be quickly cut-off:
She shot them an icy glare. "We're closed."
Now she'd have to get out to Sweet Apple Acres. Hopefully without having to yell at another friend. When she arrived, Applejack was just outside the house. AJ could hear Rainbow's approach before she even got into sight, and when she did she could tell the look on her face meant business. She didn't bother landing, screeching to a halt in the air a few yards away, kept the explanation as concise as possible.
"I got a letter back from Pinkie's parents, she's there," she began.
AJ didn't need much more to go on; Dash wasn't aware of just how much she was saying with just her expression. "And somethin's wrong. I got it, sugarcube. We leavin' then, or what?" she put matter-of-factly.
Dash was relieved she didn't have to explain further. "Yeah. Meet me back at Twilight's," she said, already jetting off to her last destination.
Fluttershy was the last stop. It was the furthest, and it was already getting late; she had to make this the last destination... having already spoken to the others, she'd be less likely to blow up at her sensitive friend. She needn't have worried, however; when she got to the door, making sure to carefully knock, it was as if Fluttershy was already waiting for her. She opened the door just moments from the rapping at the door.
"Oh, hi Rainbow. I-I've been expecting you," Fluttershy disclosed.
Dash was confused, and seeing the look on her face Fluttershy gestured towards the living room where Angel and Gummi seemed locked in a staring contest.
"T-the Cake's came by today... He hasn't been eating and they were worried. I figured something must be wrong with Pinkie," she added.
"Yeah. She is at her parents, and we're gonna go see her."
"O-okay. I'm ready," Fluttershy responded, noting her bag already packed on the couch. "I.. well, I got ready just in case."
Dash smiled at her empathic friend. "Alright then. Let's get going."
It was already dark, too dark to travel now. They'd all assembled now at the tree; in a somber mood they all seemed to think the same unspoken thought. When the first light came, they'd go and see their friend. What they'd find they couldn't say, and all tried not to think too much about it. While they hoped for the best, their dreams betrayed their sobering doubts.
Night was falling fast, faster than she'd like. It seemed funny how time slowed down when all she wanted was for it to accelerate; yet instead it sped towards the very events she’d rather avoid. The last thing she wanted was to be back in that bed, in that empty room, with no defense against the darkness. She had about as much control over the flow of time as she did over her own mind. As if transported there against her will, she found herself staring into the mirror's truth once more.
"Look at you. Just look at you," Jealousy sneered, "how could you ever think you were good enough?"
She didn't argue. She didn't even seem fazed by the taunting accusations. She stared without concern. It was the simple truth; why should she bother pretending otherwise?
"And now, they'll all be looking. They'll be here. They'll come; they'll come out of pity."
"They know now, mom and dad... They know, don't they?"
"Oh yes, they'll come. Your parents probably begged them to - you saw the way they looked at you! You know they heard you last night!"
"In fact... they probably want your friends to come and take you back," Anger suggested pointedly. "It's not surprising. You're a bother."
No. That wasn't true. That was a lie. "No, you're wrong. They're just worried. They care," she finally responded.
"Like your friends cared?"
"They lie. You lie. We don't."
"So... nobody wants us? We don't belong here either? Where will we go?" Sadness finally mumbled.
"That's... that's not true. Stop that. We'll be fine here," she weakly insisted.
"But they will be here. Tomorrow you'll have to face them all. With that look in your eyes. With that look in theirs. Don't you have any shame, you silly filly?"
"No one wants you. No one wants a worthless nothing."
Their implications grew more and more callous, their voices loud and more insistent.
"I-I told you not to say that!"
"But it's true... You know it is. Just admit it. We're nothing."
She shook her head strongly as she made her way to bed.
"But we've never lied. I told you it would get worse. It will always get worse."
"It will be like this forever, because there's nothing you can do."
"...I can't take this much longer. I can't take much worse than this. I can't stand to face them all."
It was just like last night. They were ruthless, ever-present. And they were right that there was nothing she could do. Except she didn't fight much now. She lay there staring at the ceiling as they railed, scrawling their insinuations ever deeper.
"You know... you'll have nowhere else to go, now. You can't go back. You can't stay here."
"I... I know," she finally announced softly. She didn't want to. She didn’t have to, she told herself. She didn’t believe all their declarations... even if they’d been right before. But she was so tired. She wanted them to just let her rest. To finally get some sleep. To eat without feeling nauseous. To not feel empty. To stop scratching inside her brain, to stop making her ache. She hadn't even realized she'd started to cry again.
"Look at you. Weak and pathetic. Why didn't you just listen in the first place!"
"We shouldn't lie to ourselves. It's not right."
Every word seemed to hold mysterious power over her. Manipulating, twisting their way further and further into the dark places of her heart of hearts.
"Hmph! She lies to everyone else, why not. She won't admit the truth, even though it's staring her in the face!"
What could she say? She didn't believe it, did she? But if they believed it, and they didn't lie, and they were inside of her... what if she was the one who was wrong? She didn't want to think about it - but what choice did she have? They would never leave her alone. They would never stop.
"Not until you admit the truth!"
She shook her head fiercely through a few tears. "No. I know it's worse... I know I can't face them... I know I don't belong, but I'm not nothing. I'm not!"
"We keep doing this song and dance, you pathetic foal! If you're something, tell us what it is! What do you do? Who are you!? What's so special about a dirt-digging crazy filly who can't even care for herself, that no one wants around?!" Jealousy viciously spewed.
There was a certain shock at the fierceness of the attack. She was stunned. She tried to think, tried to respond. Her mind - what parts still responded to her - raced to come up some with rebuttal, some indication that the accusations were false.
But there were none. Her lip quivered at the significance. This couldn't be right.
"I'm so sorry... I'm so sorry, but it's true."
"Will you finally admit it now, girl? We've never been wrong. We've never lied. You're nothing. It's only going to get worse. You don't belong," Anger spouted, listing them as indisputable facts.
"Admit it, can't you at least not be a liar on top of everything else?"
She bit back hard as they scolded her. Everything had fallen apart. It was true, wasn't it?
It was true. The truth was important. She hated it; hate was an unfamiliar and frightening feeling for her, but she hated it. She hated these voices, how they lambasted her, how insignificant she was, her weakness. She hated how she felt. Most of all, she hated that they were right.
"Just admit it..."
It was too much to take. They scourged her without mercy and she was already raw.
She broke from the strain. She lashed out at their condemnations.
"Okay! Yes, okay?!" she pleaded, "It's true..."
They fell silent in anticipation. "It's true..."
"I'm nothing," she sobbed, "nothing..."
She wept openly, bitterly. They were jubilant. They exalted in their triumph. They gloated as she languished. There was nothing left to say. They were right after all; she was nothing. And she believed it.
She was awake before the sunrise. Not that she had slept through the night; merely wandered through her semi-conscious state in a stupor. She just wanted to be out of bed, away from last night's defeat. She lingered at the window, watching the gray frost give way to a joyless sunrise. It did not bring a new beginning; the ever-renewing promise of life it used to represent. In the moment, however, it seemed to solely tick the march of dread. They didn't even clamor for her attention this morning. They didn't have to; there was little need for goading at the time, letting her stand awash for awhile in the mire they’d wrought.
She pulled herself away from the uninspiring view beyond her window and made her way downstairs.
"Good morning, dear!" her mother noted cheerfully. She promised herself she wouldn't let her worry show. It only seemed to make things worse for her sullen child. "Did you sleep well...?"
"Oh, I.." Pinkie began, to be cut off by a slithering voice behind her eyes.
"Don't you dare lie now, not after admitting the truth..."
"I was too excited about my... my friends coming," she managed with as little hesitation as possible. It wasn't technically a lie, right?
"Hmph. I suppose that will have to do. For now. But they already know anyways."
"Oh, I see. Well, don't worry - they'll be here soon. I'll start getting things ready, okay?"
"S-sure. I'll just help with the last of the firewood before the storm gets here..." Pinkie falteringly added just wanting to get outside and away from things for now.
Her mother was about to say something about not straining herself, but she was at a loss. Would it just make things worse? Would it just seem like babying her? And so she said nothing, only watched with a mother's heartache as Pinkie trudged out the door.
Outside she slung herself against the silo wall, her head down in apprehension. She stared absently at the hard world around her. The rocky ground, the ramshackle farm, the gloomy hill overlooking it all. Time was passing, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. She almost wished for the Voices' attacks, to take the place of the nervous silence of the whispering winds. She felt a chill on her nose; it broke her from her thoughts, but it was no relief. A snowflake fell upon her, and then another. The storm was coming. There would be no shelter from it now.
It was strange to be around them all with hardly a word, Twilight noted. Ever since she'd known them, there was always some commotion or another. But this was something different. When the dawn came, they collected their things and put on their coats in focused silence. They'd have to make haste if they wanted to get there before the storm. As they headed out the door there was already a chill in the air and frost on the ground. They’d only just gotten underway when they felt the first dustings of snow. It gave unwelcome sense of foreboding that tried to gain a foothold in their thoughts; it seemed an ill omen, perhaps. Dash and Twilight were too focused on the task at hand as they tried to make as much progress as they could. Fluttershy too reticent to speak up and break the quiet between them. AJ wanted to say something encouraging, but could think of nothing that wouldn’t come out hollow - and she couldn’t lie, even in comfort. Rarity felt it strange to be the one to speak up, but she picked up on how keen the others were not to wallow in this silence.
“You know... If my new scarf gets ruined in this, I’m holding each of you responsible!” she blurted out, as self-deprecating and kidding around as she could say it.
They chuckled restlessly, but it had at least for the moment given them a smile.
She sleepwalked through the early part of the day. Her brain felt murky, a swirl of indefinite thoughts and fears keeping her from focusing on anything in particular. She told herself she was just tired, but she knew-
"That's a lie!" the voice boomed from the vapor of her mind, catching her off guard.
"I-I know.. I'm sorry. You're right," she mumbled to herself.
It had begun to snow in earnest now, and the winds picked up and made the walk back and forth from the barn to the house a challenge because of her unsteady gait. She had to rest. She couldn't stand the thought of giving in to the unstoppable flow of time and accepting the coming calamity, but she had no choice. She propped herself up by the silo once more, the stern dread and her throbbing head made her nauseaus. She retched; she would have thrown up if she'd eaten more than a few constrained bites in days. Everything seemed-
"Hopeless..." the doleful voice finished.
That was that. She finally gave in to the truth and made her way back to the house as the darkness of the storm overtook the afternoon sky. Inside, she sat at the living room window; her parents watched in muted distress as she stared out. She didn't even trouble herself trying to pretend now. They knew. She knew that they knew. Why bother with pretense? She watched in dismal trance at the growing tumult outside. Ice began to form on the glass. It looked just like her head felt.
It seemed as if the day had conspired against them. The early flakes that greeted their journey's start had turned into a mounting torrent of thickening snow. They made slow headway, Dash at the front urging them on against what was quickly becoming a berating gale. They drove on against the seemingly aware headwind, it pushed back as if in malice to their plans, gusts abusing them ever they rallied themselves.
"I-I don't know if we can make it," Fluttershy tried to say in the midst of the growing tempest. She couldn't even be sure they'd heard her, despite staying close together in the driving sleet.
"We will. It can't get worse than this. We'll manage, sugarcube I promise," Applejack tried to assure her, but even her unbound resolve sounded uncertain in the sudden assault of the elements.
But there was still uncertainty in her voice, and they all recognized and knew it to be true. Twilight was quiet for a moment, then a flash of inspiration struck her. The others’ eyes grew wide at the site of a faint glow from her direction, they watched her intently as a mystic cocoon began to surround them - the buffeting winds beat against its outer edge, a shimmering barrier holding them at bay. The winds died down inside of it; the snow no longer fell on them.
"Brilliant, dear!" Rarity cheered.
For a moment they all shared a bit of hopefulness, and it spurred them on; Twilight led the way now. It wasn't as fast as they'd like, but as she strained to keep up the spell and keep moving towards their goal, they felt like they might just be alright.
Her mother had set dinner on the table. She was about to call Pinkie to eat, but she knew it would be a fruitless endeavor.
"I guess you'll probably be too excited to eat, honey? I... I thought they'd be here by now, but I'm sure they're just slowed by the weather..."
Pinkie couldn't muster the will to confirm the excuse that her mother had provided for her. She just nodded listlessly.
Her mother and father looked at each other with parental anguish.
"Well, that's alright... I'll keep it warm for you. I'm sure your friends will enjoy a hot meal when they get here," she added.
The reaffirmation of it bit Pinkie like a viper. "Mmhmm. I... I think I'll go upstairs and get... a game or something ready for us," it was the best she could manage to mumble out. She dragged herself from the window; she didn't bother to look at them, but went directly, achingly, to the stairs. She looked at the foreboding room when she opened the door. This was it. The final assault of her internal oppressors before she had to face the truth before everyone she thought she'd loved and cared for. She passed the mirror and paused before it's callow truth. The ghost of herself that stared back blankly was a frightening reminder of her bitter admissions.
"Nothing," she muttered.
She plodded aimlessly towards the window. It was no different than it was downstairs, but at least there were no eyes upon her. Other than the lightless ones of her obscured reflection in the condensation on the glass. But those didn't count. Not anymore. At least she was alone.
"For now, you silly foal. For now. Soon enough you'll be surrounded," the Jealous Voice purred in smug antagonism.
"Then we'll all know the truth, won't we? You'll finally see it. You'll have to admit it," Anger added.
"I don't want to... Please, don't make us. I just want to be left alone..." the Sad Voice murmured.
"Oh, you'll be alone soon enough. Forever. They'll come, and they'll look at you, but they won't take you back there. And you already know you're not wanted here."
Pinkie absently started to answer, in a unfeeling monotone, "That's not-" but she was cut off before she could finish.
"STOP LYING!" it commanded, with a sharpness that made her jump.
"...I... I'm sorry."
"Then tell us the truth," it demanded.
"Please, it doesn't matter now," she meekly put forward.
"The truth is important. You will tell us the truth!"
"Yes, the truth. You're nothing. None of them want you around. They're all better off without you!" Jealousy sneered.
"It's true... We only held them back. We only were a nuisance."
"I know. I know it's true. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry... I'm sorry," she repeated. She hated herself for saying so. She hated their badgering, but she had no more arguments to deny them.
"You certainly are sorry, aren't you?"
"I know," she admitted. She tried to be matter-of-fact, like she wasn't upset by the caustic barbs, but it still came out simpering and... and..
She couldn't take this. Not now. Not when she'd soon have to talk face to face with all of them, her parents, her friends, trapped in the house by the storm, all while the tenacious voices in her brain would no doubt doggedly assault her. She tried to whimper objection, to plead for just a little peace before it all came to a head. But they would only take her requests for weakness, and chastise her for it.
"You know what? I bet they put you in one of those homes for crazy ponies. Don't you think?" it dribbled out giddily.
"If she's lucky."
"I can't take that. I can't take this. I don't want to see them...!"
"Oh, you have no choice. And where else would you go anyways? Yes, should be so lucky."
She shook at the thought. The Sad Voice wailed now, it's doleful sound splitting her head, "We... we'll have nowhere to go?!"
"Not a place in all Equestria. You'll be alone with us forever. For the rest of your pitiful life, you useless little filly..." It pressed her buttons knowingly, capitalizing on prescient fears.
"We can't live like this... We can't..."
She let out a deep and regretful sigh. "....I can't..."
"No. You can't."
It was a strange deja vu of their first conversation. She recalled it reluctantly.
"And have we lied to you? Have we? Haven't we told you the truth?"
"...Yes," she admitted.
"That's right. We have. You're pitiful. Pathetic. Everyone else is special somehow; but you're just a blubbering nuisance, aren't you? Aren't you!?"
She squeezed her eyes shut, already knowing it would be useless gesture. The tears flowed freely, and she made no attempt to stop herself as they revelled in their mastery of her.
"Just... say it..."
"I... I am," she muttered. Her gaunt and tired body shook with every sob. The devastated landscape of her mind matched the weather that was separated from her by only the thin pane before her. And soon she'd be in the middle of that big empty living room, surrounded by prying eyes and whispering stares. Judged. Pitied. She felt sick at the thought. She retched as the seconds ticked by; her head fell forward into the glass. Harder than she'd anticipated. It cracked slightly. It broke her momentarily from her despondency, but the little dribble of blood from her forehead didn’t seem important at the time.
She stared out the spiderwebbed glass into the howling storm outside. She wanted so badly to be free of this. Of them. But it would be like this forever, wouldn't it? That's what they said. And they had always turned out to be right. They would always be there, abusing her, punishing her weaknesses and harping every flaw. She would be alone with them. Unwanted, pointless, and at their whims. She wept at the thought of life like this... Forever. She would never get a break from them, never a rest, she would never have any...
"Peace...?" they suggested together.
"Yes... It's all I want now," Pinkie said through sobs.
"Oh, you'll never have that again. Not for as long as you live, my dear..."
"As long as you live."
She come to expect this stinging commentary from them by now. But she couldn’t quite grasp the full measure of their implication. Then it dawned on her. She was repulsed; how could they even... how could they even suggest such a thing? That was... nopony did that! Well, except a few crazies now and then... And she wasn’t-
"Well, aren't you?!" it demanded harshly.
She wanted to fight it now, through her tears. This new invitation wasn't right, she was obliged to argue despite her previous and utter defeats.
"N-" but before she could even counter a single word, she was sharply put back down.
"DON'T YOU DARE LIE TO ME!"
She fell silent as they continued. "We are always true. We are always right. We told you what you were. Didn't we? You admitted it! Don't you lie to us now!"
"We told you they didn't want you. We told you it would only get worse. Didn't we? You admitted it! It came true, don't lie to us now!"
"Yes!" she yelled. "Yes, it's true... It'll be like this forever. You were right. I can't... I can't do this anymore... What am I supposed to do?" she pleaded through heavy cries. She couldn't trust herself. They were always right. She was nothing. It was all pointless.
Suddenly the quiet, mournful voice became stronger and clearer. "Come with us. Trust us. We'll show you."
She couldn't. She didn't want to. She recoiled at the very thought.
"Or of course, you could stay here. And wait."
She didn't want that either. She was desperate. Filled with a dense and heavy dread that mired her, doubting every option.
"Come. It's okay. We won't make you do anything. It's up to you; we'll just show you. It will be your choice," it said, seductive in its despondency.
Choice, she thought. Did she really have choices? She couldn't think. She could barely breath. The very air was oppressive.
"Open the window," it commanded softly.
She did so reflexively. The blast of frozen air was shocking, but it gave her some relief.
"Come. They're close now. Give us a choice. Please...?"
Her head swooned; she was confused, her mind in disarray. Everything was upside down. She needed to think, but they gave her no opportunity. No thoughts would form in the haze of her pain.
She did as they asked. She was desperate for a choice. Desperate to avoid the shame of it all. She knew what they wanted; she pulled herself up into the open windowsill, entranced. The rage of the storm obscured her vision, and nothing was clear anymore inside either. There was no turning back now, no way to change her mind. Her eyes red with tears; she would see what they wanted her to see now.
She dropped down from the window into the tempest outside, falling into the thick snow below.
The renewed confidence they'd felt kept them going for a time. The sense of expectation started to seem less unsettled; this was the break they needed. They made strong progress under Twilight's barrier, slower than they would have liked, but steady and sure. The time that had passed under the persistent progress they’d plodded out escaped them each, and each wondered together unspoken just how close they might be... We’re almost there. We must be. It gave them something to hold on to, to block out the misgivings that tried, almost with a life of their own, to cast doubt. Twilight felt the strain of what it meant to lead now, all her friends, and their goal, dependent on her actions. This focus squeezed out the feeling of premonition, of that ill omen that plagued them from the start.
But Twilight couldn't keep it up much longer. She knew it. Twilight had tried to pace herself, but concern for her friend - and desperately wanting not to disappoint the others - got the best of her. She was pushing herself too hard. She couldn't keep up this spell and moving at such a pace, stopping now was not an option. They were so close. Irritation set in, growing annoyance with this inadequacy - if only she were better, if only her skills where sharper. Maybe too much time had been spent on silly things with her friends instead of studying, practicing... A shadow of doubt crossed her mind. Her pace slowed. Something itched at the back of her mind...
"It will be all your fault if you're too late!" an unexpected voice whispered at the edge of perception.
What was that? Who was that? Too late? Too late for what?
"It's your fault you're too weak! If you want to be worthwhile, you can't waste your time with nonsense!" a new and belligerent voice implied.
She didn't understand. She kept trying, but her energy was fading. She couldn't do it. They were... right?
Rarity had noticed the change, the subtle flow of energies around them had shifted ever so slightly; the others were oblivious, just trying their best to keep trudging through the snowdrifts. But Rarity sensed the change in the vibrations around them. She wasn't the most gifted unicorn when it came to the intricacies of magic, but she a keen eye for detail, and her attention to little things gave her a sixth sense when it came to her friends. She sped up to be side-by-side with Twilight.
"Twilight? Are you alright?"
Twilight didn't answer. She could barely hear it now... Her eyes had glossed over from the strain, and she faltered momentarily. She answered finally, reflexively, in a doubtful voice.
"I-I can't keep it up... I'm too weak."
Rarity knew something was wrong - and it wasn't Twilight's skill or reserves of energy.
"Yes, you can! We've all seen you do things much harder than this, dear!" she said encouragingly.
Twilight's head picked up a bit; she had accomplished quite a bit before, hadn't she?
"We're all right here, don't worry. If you need to stop, we understand. But I know you can do this!" Rarity reassured.
Whatever tendrils of doubt had tried to wrap around her shrank back away. Twilight felt a surge of confidence. Her friend was right.
"I.. I think I'll be okay. Let's keep going," she said as her pace picked back up. They were so close now.
They reached the edge of the little valley where the Pie homestead stood. Through the tumult they could just make it out. Their eyes brightened - they'd made it! They broke into a full run, within seconds Rainbow Dash and Applejack were at the door. Dash was about to go bursting through the door impatiently; AJ snagged her back the tail just in time, yanking her back from barging in full steam. The others caught up and the gathered at the doorstep. They knocked, and waited a tense moment.
Pinkie's father opened the door, and greeted them with a relieved smile.
"Ah, you must be Pinkamena's friends! We're so glad you made it... We were worried there for a while, with this storm!"
Pinkie's mother chimed in as well. "Oh, yes. It's amazing you got here in all this! Come inside, please! I'll go fetch her, she's up in her room..." she trailed off as she went up the stairs.
"Nothing could have kept us away, Mr. and Mrs. Pie. It's a pleasure to meet you," Twilight said tiredly as they trotted in. She didn't have much left after all that.
The girls trotted in and began to gather around the fire. They were about to ask about how Pinkie was when they heard her mother gasp from up the stairs.
"My stars! She's gone!"
They bolted up the stairs. The broken and open window, the droplets of blood on the windowsill. They stood in shock for a split-second; but Dash was first to act. She jetted towards the window; AJ tried to stop her, but nothing was going to hold her back. She was out the window in a flash.
"C'mon, girls!" Applejack implored, "Let's go! Start searchin', but don't get too far from each other!"
They ran back down the stairs, out the door, and back into the tempest.
She didn't need to raise her eyes to know where she was going. They led her by an unseen leash; and besides, following their strong compulsion was excuse to ignore recognition of their route. She barely felt the wind beating against her. The sharp crunch of snow beneath her had used to be one of her favorite sounds. Now it was a mesmerizing marching beat; one leg in front of the other, right and left, right and left. Each step barely felt in her legs already from the numbing cold. They hadn't told her to get a coat before she'd gone - it seemed appropriate now. She tried to console herself with the comforting lie that it was still her choice; but it was an afterthought. She didn't need a coat, because she wasn't coming back, was she?
She shook her head. No. It was still her choice. It was still...
And then she saw. She'd unconsciously made her way to the top of the hill overlooking the valley. The wind was not so strong now, up here between a row of trees that stood just before the rocky outcropping at the ridge. She paused in the windbreak, eyes fixed. She felt sedated, everything surreal. Stepping almost reverently towards it, movements stiff and automatic. She stood atop the rocks, and looked across the whited-out landscape before her. Here would be the final battle.
She couldn't have gotten far, they thought. Not in this weather. Not if she was ill. She had to be close by. She had to. They tried to encourage themselves with this thought, but it wasn't much help. Not as they spread out among the valley in the blinding snow to search. They called out as they went out in each direction, but they could barely hear themselves think - let alone hear each other just yards away.
Pinkie didn't want to be up here. This was wrong. She knew it was wrong - didn't she? She shook her head softly. Through the fog of storm and muddled mind, something intuitively tried to resist.
"No.. This isn't right..."
"Oh, so you know better than us now, do you?" it droned sarcastically.
"That's not it, I just-" she began to rebut, inching back slightly.
"You will listen to us, you pathetic filly!" it commanded.
But... they'd said it was up to her, hadn't they? They couldn't make her.
"It is.. It's up to you. You can always go back there. With them," it said, it's emphasis dripping with disdain.
"No, we can't. We can't go back... You won't make us go back, will you?"
"Oh, yes. You can always slink back down there. I'm sure they're all wondering what's happened to you. Why don't you do it? Yes, let's do that instead! We can go back and tell them everything."
"Oh yes, that's a much better idea! I can't wait to tell them all about us!"
That she did not relish. It made her troubled stomach turn over to think about. She just wouldn’t, couldn’t tell anyone. That was-
"We won't let you lie, you fool!" the Angry Voice fumed. "You will face the truth, one way or the other! Here and now, or in front of all of them."
"That's impossible - we can't. You know we can't. We can barely make it through the day as it is..."
She couldn't refute it. It was undeniable. But if she could just get through this night - things would be-
"Okay? Was that what you were about to think? Oh, you are a stubborn foal, aren't you? Do you really think you'd get through it anyways?"
"No. You can't," it repeated as it had before; retreading ground they’d already beaten her on. Their words and phrases held strange dominion over her.
"You will tell them everything. All about us. Everything you've admitted. About this moment - and what you're doing here. Everything. Just i-m-a-g-i-n-e how they'll look at you..." it said, drawing out the words slowly, painfully.
"You already knew you couldn't go back. You've nowhere left to go but down. You'll end up in some home for crazyponies - it's the only place you'd ever belong. And we. Will never. Leave."
No, she shook her head - that was unbearable. She didn't want to imagine it, but she had no choice. They showed her such appalling things. Her mind's eye was held open, force-fed the sensations. Her physical ache. Her exhaustion. Her gnawing anxiety; the doubts, the fears they expertly preyed upon. The helplessness of every word offered in response so easily brushed aside, how piteous her resistance was. The embarrassment. The worthlessness. And they led her through it day-by-day. It would always be like this. It would always be like this. It would always be like this. It would always-
"No. It won't..." the voice began
Hey raw eyes went wide. Not again - she couldn't hear that phrase again, but already knowing it started it ringing her ears. She hoped against hope that it would not say it again.
"It won't always be this way. It will only. Get. Worse."
It was a slap in the face. They knew. They knew just what to say. The way they slithered in her consciousness and knew just how to hurt her made every wound ever deeper.
"Every day, worse than before..."
"We can't do it."
"NO!" she yelled with what little fight she had left, biting back hard against her tears.
"Yes! Yes! You will never be free of us! You will never escape the truth! And now you have your only choice! Here and now, or a lifetime of your useless existence - with us and the terrible truths you've already admitted!"
She didn't want to remember, how they'd beaten her into submission. The things she'd said, what they'd made her admit. It flooded her all over again. Choice? What choice? They were stronger than her. They had to be, to crush her so completely. They were smarter than her. They had to be, to always be so right. They'd been right every time. She was worthless. She was pathetic. She was nothing. She heaved a defeated sigh.
Their words were in her mouth, their thoughts had become hers; at once sour and caustic. The broken pane of her shattered defenses reflected only their malicious whims in every fragment. Everything she tried was turned against her. Every defiance was broken. Her head felt heavy; she'd lost sense of time. She absently wondered how long she'd been standing there - the matted hair clumped to her body, her numb and frostbitten legs, and the stinging frozen stream down her face gave her some small indication. The furious storm howled, encompassed all around her, raging gusts whipped into a frenzy of blinding sleet.
"Every day, worse than before."
She shuddered at the thought. One more day would be a heavy enough burden. Another week? Another month? Another... year? She broke down anew. They were right. She couldn't do it.
"I don't wanna do this anymore..." she whimpered, the fight faded from her spirit.
"We don't have to. We don't have to feel this way any more. We never have to feel like this again," the pleading sadness whispered.
She was tired. Cold. Hurt. She wanted it to go away. She wanted-
"Peace. Finally, peace. We can be free of this. No more fear. No more hurt. No more anger or sadness. It will all be over."
Pinkie looked over the edge, the wind battered her and she swayed. She buckled from the strain. In her mind now, it didn't seem so far down...
Her inner voice was strangely calm now.
"...Will it hurt...?" she asked softly.
"No, my dear. We'll never have to hurt again. No shame. No guilt. No emptiness. You don't have to fight it anymore. All our doubts and fears erased. It will be painless, I promise. It will be painless."
The word echoed in the cavern of her empty head. It was hypnotic. Comforting.
Painless, she thought.
She breathed in the frozen air. She whispered something quietly. An apology? A goodbye?
She took a single step.
She had to find her. She would find her. She swore to herself she would. She squinted in the wind and driving ice, trying desperately to spot any sign. But there would be no tracks in the blowing snow, and every second that passed she could be further and further away. This couldn't be happening, she thought. She’d known all along something was terribly wrong, why didn't she do something sooner? This was-
"All your fault!" something dark inside chided her, a voice not her own, distant.
"You'll never be able to forgive yourself..."
"No!" she yelled; but still doubted for a moment. What if it was true? What if it really was all her fault? What if she never found Pinkie? Dash could already feel the guilt come over her.
She realized then, this wasn't about her. It was selfish to think of how she might feel. None of that was important now. None of that mattered. This was about her friend. And her friend was in trouble.
Concentrating solely on the needs of another squeezed the doubting voices out. She pressed on, harder against the wind. Then she noticed it, a flash of color. Something standing out against the monochrome surroundings. She called out, but every word was swallowed in the shreaking wind. But it was her. It had to be. She yelled again as she rushed towards the craggy hill when she saw something that made her heart stop - yes, it was her... And she was falling. Or had she jumped? The sickening thought was squeezed out, it didn't matter. She pushed with everything she had. There was no time to doubt, no time to think. Life or death, all or nothing. Time stalled in its tracks. All things narrowed to one point just above the jagged ice and rock of the base of the hill.
They collided in the air with tremendous force, Dash grasping her desperately and slowing their descent just before the ground. With Pinkie’s dead weight from the plummet atop the peak, and Rainbow's top speed racing towards her, they plunged into an enormous snowdrift. It was only slightly better than having fallen - but it was still better. Dash barely had time to contort herself to brace her friend from the impact. Disoriented, mostly buried in the snow, she scrambled to her hooves, eyes frantically darting around for Pinkie. With a sharp jab felt in her sides as she stood, she winced - a broken rib, maybe more. But there she was - Pinkie Pie, her shallow breathing all the painkiller Dash would need. Nothing else mattered. Dash pulled her from the snow and began to drag her back towards the others, towards the farm.
Little was said as they gathered around the bed. Pinkie lay in a fevered stupor; Dash at her side with a grimace on her face, but only concern for her friend in her heart. Pinkie’s mother, holding back as best she could the anxiety of her child in such a dire straight, nervously pacing the room. Fluttershy at the other side, tending as best she could. But something put her off; something wasn't right - moreso than the obvious. The air had been taken out of them all. It was almost... palpable; something unnatural. What in heaven's name had happened? The voices raged at Pinkie for her failure. And in this wounded, sickly state she was more shell than soul. She muttered incoherently, but the voice was not her own; flitting between shrill staccato gasps, low moans and piteous cries. Finally she mumbled something comprehensible, in a voice more like her own, and they all moved closer.
"Why.. Why'd you catch me.."
Dash knew what she meant. The others were confused, but she knew. Pinkie's half-open eyes stared at her with a chilling alienness; eyes not the same as those she knew, no longer filled with wide wonder and boundless, energetic joy. She had jumped. Dash was mortified. How could this have happened? She hadn't had time to think about it then, but now...
The others wondered among themselves, exchanging glances before Twilight spoke their thoughts.
“What does she mean, Dash?”
But somehow, Dash knew this wasn't important now. And there was no need for anyone else to have to know. This would be a secret. Just between them.
"It's nothing, she's just delirious..."
The others were unconvinced, and they'd all noticed Rainbow's limping gait and pained expression.
"Dash... what happened?" Applejack tentatively asked.
"I told you, it's nothing. I slipped on some ice or somethin' when I was carryin' her," she said with a note of finality.
The others would not question it again. They had more pressing issues now. She was in a bad way; the shock, the fall, the frost, the fever, her utter broken-ness; there was so little spark of life left after all was said and done. Her body shook with pain; at times they had to turn away from the sight, the wincing expressions on their faces showing the overcoming empathy they were awash in. Fluttershy held a wet towel over her burning forehead, but somehow couldn't shake the sensation that she was out of her element of caring for the hurt. Something... she looked around the room at the sad faces all around her, and yes, there it was. Twilight's face was not the same as the others. She was thinking, not staring at Pinkie. Twilight noticed she as being watched. They locked eyes - Fluttershy nodded to her solemnly. Confirmation of what they both suspected. Their unspoken understanding was interrupted by Pinkie's mother.
"We.. we won't be able to get to the doctor in all this!" she lamented.
"Well maybe Twilight can help, she got us through the-" Applejack began.
"No," Twilight said matter-of-factly. Everyone stared in surprise. All except Fluttershy of course.
"No," she continued. That won't be necessary," she added, marching over near Fluttershy who finally spoke up.
"I-I don't think a doctor can help," she started, with the others giving her unsure looks at what she was implying. "There's something else wrong."
"Don't you feel it?" Twilight asked to no on in particular. "We're not alone here. Something has done this to her. I just don’t see any other logical explanation. And I-... I felt it earlier, too. I feel it stronger here, now, but... I felt it before. It's the same feeling. Something was trying to get inside. I can feel it now - it's inside of her. Something dark is going on here."
They all looked at each other for a moment. Dash spoke up after a hushed silence. "I felt it too. When we were outside, lookin'. Something tried to, I dunno, distract me or something."
"It's kinda been this way the whole time. Like somethin' was against us from the start," Applejack added.
"Exactly. And I think knowing that is where we start to stop it," Twilight concluded. "I can't be sure about this, but there's one way to find out. Gather around her, all of you," she directed.
They did as she instructed. Each of them, in a semi-circle around the bed, Twilight at the foot of it. She closed her eyes and concentrated. She was tired from the journey, from the search, but now it was all about Pinkie. They would not fail her now.
The glow began to grow softly from each of them. As the light built up and shone out from each, it met with an inky barrier around their broken friend. Something was fighting back - and had been all along. And very shortly, It concluded that the ruse was no longer of use. There was no point in hiding, for They had been discovered. Twilight's spell and the energy put forth from the others began to push at the dark force that held Pinkie in it's death-grip. They could hear them now; the voices were furious at being discovered. The friends’ united strength of purpose was too compelling a force. Now its murky light crackled with energy, insidious and incorporeal tendrils slithering out from her. A nebulous form hovered above them all, shrieking with a strange cacophony of voices that cursed at them.
"THIS IS NOT OVER!" it shrilled, and with a blinding flash and ear-splitting cackle, it was gone.
"No..." Twilight quietly acknowledged, "This isn't over."
It was hard to make sense of at the time. Certainly they had time to reflect while they anxiously watched Pinkie's shallow breathing; but it was hard to think about anything else but whether or not she'd be okay. They had no way of knowing what had really happened. But for now, none of that mattered. They took turns at her side - except for Dash, who never left the other side of the bed - but it felt like they'd done all they could. They were helpless now, it seemed. It was up to her, wasn't it? Whether she had life left in her?
As the hours passed and the night wore on, the storm subsided. It's calm was not unlike the nervous peace inside. The storm was over, yes - but what had it wrought? They began to sleep, fitfully on the floor around the bed. Twilight first; completely spent from all her efforts. Eventually it was only Dash, holding her side, staring down at Pinkie with bleary eyes.
"Please be alright... Please," she pleaded.
Pinkie's eyes fluttered open. There was still a strangeness to them; they couldn’t see just yet what affect might have been wrought. But there was some recognition in them, or at least Dash tried to convince herself so, holding back from avenging instinct at that... thing that had abused her friend
"Y-you should've let me-" she began to mutter.
"No, don't say that!" Dash quietly interrupted. "I could never do that!"
"...But none of you... wanted me around..."
Dash felt a terrible twinge of guilt. At first she wanted to be upset with herself, to feel ashamed - but like before, this wasn't about her. Maybe after all, it was her fault. It was all of their fault. But there would be time enough for feeling guilty later. Pinkie's eyes closed again. Her body shivered despite the heavy blanket and the fire, and Dash could hardly stand to watch. She was racked with the aching of so many days of mental and physical strain. She tossed and turned, clenching and unclenching, chattering and shivering in a cold sweat as the minutes turned into further hours. Dash was at a breaking point. She bit her lip to keep from crying at the sight.
Pinkie's eyes opened again slightly. She managed a hoarse whisper.. "I'm... cold."
Looking into that face, hearing those words... It was more than Dash could take. She could barely bite back her emotions. Laboriously against the piercing protests of cracked ribs, but she pulled back the covers and climbed into the bed next to her. She wrapped her arms around her friend, and held her tightly. Pinkie shivered in the embrace, at first trying to pull away in conditioned response.
"N-no. You'll just... leave me... alone, again," she whimpered.
Dash could just about have died of heartbreak to hear it. She could barely choke out the words as she tried not to cry.
"No. I won't. I won't ever leave you alone again. I promise. You're... You're my best friend, and I'll never let you be alone again. I promise."
In between snarled and hazy thoughts, Pinkie couldn't truly process it. And what she could grasp, she wasn't sure if she could believe. They'd scratched their hate and fear and anger and sorrow so deeply. But she wanted to believe. She didn't want to be alone. And there was her friend, holding her. She had a choice. A real one this time.
She turned herself into Dash's embrace. She cried softly through the night as she held her. But it was no longer bitter sorrow. It was cleansing; the dam-break of a lifetime of secret pain.
And when the sun rose over the horizon, it brought with it the hope she'd all but lost.
It was a beautiful sight, and while they all thought so, they couldn't say a word; as if for fear of breaking the moment. When Dash's eyes opened, she saw the others standing around them with touched smiles. She smiled sheepishly back, but her thoughts went back to Pinkie. She was already awake, a clearer light in her eyes. Her hair was frazzled from everything that had happened, and if she glanced at her out of the corner of your eye, she almost looked like her old self again.
"I'm sorry, y-" she began.
"D-don't you dare be sorry, sugarcube," Applejack interjected with a shaky voice, "everything's all right now."
None of them really knew if that were true, or just a comforting lie, but it wasn’t important for now.
Pinkie looked at each of them in turn. The others weren't sure if she understood what had happened, if she knew what had been at work. But again, there would be time enough for that later.
"I.. I just thought you didn't like me anymore.." she added.
The words hit them like a suckerpunch. It would have been very easy to feel ashamed, but they'd all learned better by now. Though it made them want to cry, they had to stay composed for her.
"We're so sorry we made you feel that way, Pinkie darling," Rarity managed to say.
She still wasn't sure. Pinkie wasn't sure she could be sure of anything right now. But there they were - gathered around her. Not with pity in their eyes, but love. Concern. Compassion. It was antidote to the venom she'd been injected with. She could turn away, or she could take a chance. There was a long pause as she took a breathe, and made a choice.
"I wanna go home," she said softly.
There was no holding back their emotions now. They rushed over and all embraced her. None of them could speak for a long time as they held each other. Finally Dash managed to respond.
"Then we'll take you home."
Scars can fade with time, but they are not erased from memory. It would take time to mend the damage done. But they would all work tirelessly to do exactly that. Nothing can ever be 'normal' again when it is broken, but it can be made right. It can even be stronger. So who cares about going back to 'normal?' The days come, the days go, you live your life alive, and do the best you can.
Slowly they rebuilt from the pieces back into the whole; though none of them would ever really know what had happened, or understand just what she went through, they would always be there for her. It would not be easy. It would not be painless. But they would never let her feel alone or unwanted again. And Dash would keep her secret - telling a friend's secret, well - you know what happens.
The winter had come and passed, spring had brought its renewed promises. Summer was upon them. Pinkie sighed contentedly, albeit tiredly. Not the exhaustion she'd known before, but the satisfied sleepiness after a good long day. Everyone wanted treats and snacks for their summer parties and celebrations. Summer was her favorite time of year, of course.
Across the town, as night fell, Twilight lit a candle and took a deep breathe. She'd waited for Spike to fall asleep; this was a letter she needed to write herself. She'd put this one off for too long, not knowing how to say what she wanted to.
Dear Princess Celestia,
It's been some time since my last report. I apologize for my tardiness. I've learned some very hard lessons recently. It's taken awhile to understand it all.
You see, I almost lost one of my friends. We all did. Because we weren't paying attention. We forgot who we were. We forgot what we were supposed to represent. We forgot that we had taken a stand against the darkness once - and when you do that, you make enemies of it. We were careless, and we let our friend feel isolated from us. If we had noticed sooner, we could have prevented a lot of hurt - and if we hadn’t noticed when we did... It might have been too late. Something sinister had slipped in, took the opportunity of one of us separated from the strength of the group, and poisoned her. Some element of discord nearly took her away from us - forever. I learned that if you don't pay attention to your friends, you might miss something important. This is not a perfect world we live in. There will always be forces of chaos and darkness that hate the light, that seek to destroy what's good and true. And if you're not careful, someone you care about could fall victim to it. You have to guard your friends like you would your own life - because if they're your true friends, they'd do the same for you.
It could happen again. It could happen to any of us. But if it does, we’ll be ready - because we’ll have the one thing we need to fight back - each other.
I guess this lesson doesn't just cover friends, either. All those you meet, even in passing, can be deeply affected by your smallest interactions. Any idle word, any thoughtless action you think is innocent at the time, can have lasting repercussions. You never know what ripples you might make; the consequences may not end up as innocent as you thought.
These lessons keep getting harder and harder. And it doesn't seem like they'll get any easier. But I wouldn't trade them for anything.
Your faithful student,
Pinkie trotted up the stairs to her room. She could hardly wait for tomorrow - Dash, as usual, would come by early to say hello before heading off to daily duties. It was one of her favorite things now. It always made her day start out right. She passed the mirror on her way to bed, and she paused. She turned and looked back at it. She liked the way her smile lit up her face. She looked like her old self again. There was a short time there where she couldn't stand the sight of herself, yet somehow... Somehow she'd gotten another chance. And she liked the way her smile made others smile. She liked making others happy. She knew better than most now how important that was. Her purpose was very special indeed - joy was a gift beyond price, and there was nothing she loved more than to give it.
As she climbed into bed, there were still scars in her mind. Maybe there always would be. But that didn't matter much - the memory of a wound might still be painful, but you just had to remember that it was already healed. They couldn't hurt her anymore. There was a time when she felt like that hurt would never end, but she'd been cured. She thought it would have taken a miracle to feel like this again. To feel alive again. Turns out, she didn't need a miracle. Her friends had saved her. Their friendship had brought her back to life. She shouldn't be surprised, she thought. After all...
Friendship is magic.
Dedicated to my friends. You know who you are.
"Painless" by Anonthony!AppLeJAcK
Ver. 1.9 - 8/25/11 (last revision 3/1/12)
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