Veil of Thoughts
The ceiling wasn't moving. That was the way it should be. It didn't seem to matter how much Twilight Dash thought they understood this, whenever they glanced away, they always expected the ceiling to be moving when they looked back. Ceilings shouldn't move, they didn't move. Except for that one time.
There were many odd memories, like the moving ceiling, floating around in their head. Some were distant and out of reach, as if they were deliberately trying to stay as far away as possible. Others were forefront in their mind – usually more than one at a time – which made them appear as little more than flashing images.
Twilight Dash had been laying in the hospital bed since they had awoken. They had been doing their best to stay put. The nurse had told them not to get out of bed but it was so hard to stay cooped up like this. They needed to be outside, to run, to fly!
Their wings, pinned behind them against the pillow, tried to flap at the memory of flight. They pressed themself into the bed, forcing the wings to halt. A moment later they relaxed so that their wings could flap again.
Why had they done that? They wanted both things, they wanted their wings to flap, they wanted their wings to be still. They wanted to stay in bed, they wanted to leave the hospital.
Stay and go. Motion and stillness. Quiet and noise! They wanted all of it, all at once.
This room was so boring! They must have been laying here for days or maybe even weeks! No, that wasn't right. Not days. Not weeks. It was still hard for them to grasp the concept of time. Their eyes moved to the clock, its hooves ticked slowly across the face, jumping from one number to the next in slow, steady, beats. It had been less than an hour since they had woken up.
Everything felt like it had all gone wrong weeks ago but it was only just yesterday that all this trouble started. They tried to think back and found that – before the ceiling had decided to move – there didn't seem to be anything they could understand.
The memories weren't gone, they were… broken. Somehow the memories were broken. Yesterday was colored fragments but not a complete picture. It all seemed to be that way, like every memory had been painstakingly painted on glass then shattered haphazardly. That was how the day before was and the day before that.
It was like it all didn't fit quiet right. Like the puzzle of their mind had all the pieces they needed - maybe too many - but the shapes were all wrong. No matter how they moved the shards of broken memories, nothing went with anything else.
The door to the hospital room opened silently. Its motion drew their attention away from the chaos inside their head.
The first two ponies to enter the room they recognized. That was good, they still recognized ponies. At least those parts still fit… sort of. Quickly they double checked that the ceiling wasn't moving. It wasn't.
Doctor-Guy came first and behind him was Apple-Hat. They shifted uncomfortably in their bed. Yesterday's conversation with Apple-Hat had been bad, it was not a memory they wanted to repeat.
The orange earth pony seemed to correctly interpret the look on their face. She stopped in the doorway and whispered something they couldn't hear. Her worried expression and uncertain eyes made them shift uneasily in the bed.
"I still think it's best if you're here for this," Doctor-Guy replied to the inaudible question. "Somepony familiar will make things easier for her."
They didn't like the sound of that. They grabbed the sheets, ready to pull them overhead and hide beneath like a little filly. If they couldn’t see her, maybe their visitors would just go away and leave them alone.
However, something stopped them from hiding. There was a third pony entering the room, if it could even be called a pony. She was something completely new, something very different and at the same time, so familiar. They knew this pony, if that's what she was, knew her with their heart instead of their thoughts. Unfortunately their heart was not kind enough to provide a name.
"Good morning," said Doctor-Guy. "How are you feeling today?"
Twilight Dash shrugged.
"Not… no idea," they replied, correcting themself. "Body not…. hurt. But mind is… blind." They struggled for the right words. They weren't perfect but they worked. The tiniest of frowns flickered across Doctor-Guy's face.
"I see," said Doctor-Guy. "Are you up for a visitor today?" Their mismatched eyes moved towards Apple-Hat, who smiled sadly at them before she looked away. "No, not her. She is just here to give you moral support." Their eyes traveled across the room, over the doctor, past the door and finally to the tall white pony standing in the back.
"Do you recognize her?" Doctor-Guy asked. There was a very kind, yet sorrowful look, upon the tall pony's face. Her eyes were the lightest touch of purple and her flowing mane was pastel pink, blue and green, it danced in an invisible wind. She wore a golden crown that shown like the morning sun.
All of that seemed perfectly normal to Twilight Dash. What really stood out was atop her head and at her sides. She had a horn, just like a unicorn but she also had wings, just like a pegasus. She stood twice the height of anyone else in the room.
"No," Twilight Dash said at last. They had both those things too, horn and wings, why weren't they taller than everypony else?
"I am Princess Celestia," said the tall white winged unicorn. "Ruler of Equestria and bringer of the Sun. I have come to help. Tell me my little pony, what is your name?"
"Twilight… Dash," they said, their voice changing pitch between the two words.
"I see," said Sun-a-Horn. That had been her name, hadn't it? Maybe they would remember her proper name later… just like Doctor-Guy… or Apple-Hat.
For a brief moment their eyes turned back to Apple-Hat, she still wasn't looking at them.
"Would it be alright if I used my magic to examine you?" asked Sun-a-Horn.
"Don't hurt?" asked Twilight Dash. Sun-a-Horn did not answer right away, her purple eyes looked seriously at Twilight Dash. It made them feel uncomfortable but they didn't look away.
"I cannot promise that," said Sun-a-Horn. They shook their head.
"Enough pain," said Twilight Dash, again her eyes crossing over Apple-Hat. "Don't want more. Don't need more." Sun-a-Horn looked back towards Apple-Hat – who was standing nervously at the back of the room – trying to look anywhere else.
"Your friend?" asked Sun-a-Horn, sounding a little confused.
"Not friend," said Twilight Dash. "Don't have friends. Don't want friends. Don't need friends."
"Do you not remember her?" asked Sun-a-Horn.
"Hurt to remember," said Twilight Dash. "Painful to remember."
"Just to remember your friends or to remember anything?" asked Sun-a-Horn. They had to think about their answer for a moment. While they couldn't quite remember much else that made any sense, they could remember other things, like the ceiling. They could remember that. That didn't seem to hurt.
"Just friends," said Twilight Dash.
"If you let me examine you, I may be able to find out why that is," said Sun-a-Horn. "I may be able to make it so it doesn't hurt to remember your friends."
Again, they had to ponder her words for a long moment, but at last they nodded uncertainly. They weren't making any progress on their own, maybe Sun-a-Horn could help them?
Sun-a-Horn trotted up next to their bed, standing over them and looking down with sharp eyes. Her horn glowed with a soft white light that rushed out, enveloping Twilight Dash. They felt tingly all over as the light rippled across their body.
"What do us?" asked Twilight Dash.
"I am trying to determine the spell that caused this," answered Sun-a-Horn. They looked up at the tall pony's eyes. They could see themself reflected in those calm purple mirrors. Something about those eyes seemed to instill a feeling of trust in them. Just to be safe, they double checked that the ceiling hadn't moved.
The examination continued for several minutes and the ceiling stayed right where it was supposed to be. Each time Sun-a-Horn cast a new spell a new sensation would accompany the different colored glow. None of the spells had been painful, but some had felt unpleasant, like red washing over them.
With each attempt the expression on Sun-a-Horn would grow slightly more worried. It was getting harder to look at her eyes. She wasn't sad. She wasn't afraid. It was something else they were unfamiliar with.
It was the sixth spell that finally did something other than make them feel funny. It had started just like every other spell that Sun-a-Horn had cast. Her horn had glowed and the warmth of magic on their coat. Except, this time, the pain came.
It came without warning, from every direction, attacking from the corners of their mind. They didn't want to, but a scream escaped their lips. Instantly the spell stopped. The pain however was not kind enough to do the same. It hurt worse. How could it hurt worse?
"Twilight!" shouted Apple-Hat, the sound of her voice nearly suffocated by the pain. "What's wrong? What happened?"
The warm magic filled them once more. For one horrible moment, they feared that the pain that was everywhere would get worse. However, the pain receded as quickly as it had come. A gentle hoof touched their forehead and their breathing calmed slightly. At least they couldn't remember the pain.
"I am sorry my little pony," whispered Sun-a-Horn. "It is all right, I am done now." She tried to hide the uncertain look upon her face but didn't do a very good job. She smiled at Twilight Dash before turning away and making her way to the exit. Apple-Hat and Doctor-Guy shared confused looks, but followed after her.
Doctor-Guy stopped at the door, turning back to Twilight Dash. "I'll be back to check on you. Try and get some rest for now."
Then all of them were gone and they were alone with their unreachable thoughts once more. They checked that the ceiling wasn't moving. It wasn't, but, now it was doing something else. It had gone all blurry and watery, they could hardly even see the ceiling at all through the pools in their eyes.
The ponies were waiting for her when Princess Celestia returned to the waiting lounge. Fluttershy had taken one of the chairs and was sitting nervously as far back in it as she could go. She was trying as always to hide herself behind her curtain of pink hair. Rarity was pacing in a circle around the large low table that made up the center of the room. And Pinkie Pie was hanging party decorations, in anticipation of the news of miraculous recovery.
Applejack's weak attempt at a smile said it all.
"It is as I have feared," said Celestia, drawing all attention in the room. "Twilight Sparkle has cast a very powerful, very dangerous, spell on herself and Miss Rainbow Dash. What's worse is that the spell does not appear to have fully worked.
"Twilight Dash, as she is now calling herself, is two ponies inhabiting one body. Their body may have joined into a single form, but their mind is having trouble accepting that. Their thoughts and memories have all been pressed together, unable to account for being two separate minds in one."
"But you can fix her, right?" asked Pinkie Pie brightly, her smile lasted only a moment as Celestia shook her head sadly. "But… but… why not?"
"Some things just can't be fixed sugarcube," said Applejack. She seemed to be having some trouble looking at her friends.
"But you're the Princess! You raise the Sun!" Pinkie protested. "How much harder can undoing this be than raising the sun?"
"Magic is not as simple to undo as performing the opposite effect," explained Celestia. As she talked she moved towards the table in the center of the waiting room. "The spell Twilight Sparkle used is called Fusion." Celestia stopped in front of the table. She looked at the bowl of fruit that had been set out that morning. Using her magic, Celestia levitated an orange and an apple from the bowl.
"Fusion takes two different, yet similar, things and makes them into one," as she spoke her horn glowed brightly. The apple and orange glowed too, moving closer and closer together. They touched and a flare of bright white light filled the room. When it subsided, only the apple appeared to be left. "The spell takes the best parts of both and creates something new."
The apple was pulled apart, split cleanly down the center by her magic, yet, the inside was not at all apple like. What should have been a whole solid mass of meal was instead sub-divided into sections of fruit, just like an orange would be. There was no core at the fruit's center and while the outside skin was red, shiny and still apple like. The interior was a mix of both orange and apple.
"That's the most disturbin thing I reckon I've ever seen," whispered Applejack under her breath.
"Oh! Oh! Oh! Lets call it an orange-apple, no, wait! An apple-orange!" exclaimed Pinkie Pie. "What sounds better Fluttershy? Orange-apple or apple-orange? Orange-apple or…
"You will pardon me for asking," interrupted Rarity who couldn't take her eyes off the fruit. "But where are the other parts of the orange and the apple, the parts that were not the best?"
"When properly preformed, they are not lost, but changed into energy," replied Celestia. "If you were to eat this fruit it would be like eating both an apple and an orange at the same time."
"Like brunch!" cried Pinkie Pie brightly. "Or Linner, or Snackfest, or my personal favorite dessert, because dessert goes with everything and it's an anytime kind of meal! Hey! Can you cast that spell on these?" Out of nowhere, Pinkie produced a cake and a pie, holding up the delectable dessert in excitement.
"Pinkie, hush!" said Rarity. Celestia smiled. Her horn glowed again and the pie and cake became magically fused together. The pink pony nearly exploded with excitement as her newly formed treat appeared in her outstretched hooves. She took a huge bite of the cake-pie.
"Oh-my-gosh! This is the mostest bestest tastiest pieiest cake I have ever tastediest!" exclaimed Pinkie Pie.
"Like I said, the best of both, with neither part lost," Celestia continued. "Everything that was there, is still there. While fruits and baked goods work fine, this spell was never meant to be used on a pony.
"In the case of Twilight Sparkle and Miss Rainbow Dash, their bodies are very much one and the same now. Their minds are struggling to fit in a space for one. Only once have I ever seen this spell used on a pony." Celestia's face darkened at the memory.
"The last pony to use this spell on another pony was called Aurora Wind. She was a student of magic, much like Twilight Sparkle in some respects. She was fascinated with me. She admired my wings and horn to no end.
"She would ask me to tell her all I knew about the subject, every time ending at the same question. How could she get both? And each time my answer was the same. She could not. It seemed that was not the answer she wanted.
"It was not long after she left my school that I heard unsettling rumors about her. She was using her magic on other ponies, trying to unlock the secrets of my power. I found her and tried to reason with her. My power comes from the Sun. I look the way I do because I am part of it, and it is part of me.
"That answer was not enough for her. I asked her to stop, to give up on her fascination with this want. We did not part ways on good terms to say the least.
"It was only a month later when it happened. A letter arrived claiming that Aurora Wind had done the unthinkable and joined herself with a young pegasus mare by the name of Silver Stars. It did not appear to have gone as planned.
"Not only had the spell decreased her magical prowess, but her mind began to unravel. Silver Stars was fighting back, no matter how much Aurora Wind tried to deny it. Their fusion was imperfect; not a true joining for Aurora did not want to lose herself in the mind of another.
"The strain of two minds constantly fighting took its toll. I watched as they lost their grip on reality. Within a few days their body began to fail." Celestia paused in her recount of past events, she looked very sad. Everypony in the room was listening with wide eyes, both desperately wanting to know what had happened and fearing the worst. Pinkie Pie was stopped in mid bite of her cake-pie.
"I used my power to put them right, to reverse what Aurora Wind had done in her misguided attempt for power. However, things - as Applejack has said - can not always be put right."
Celestia's horn glowed again, re-enveloping the orange-apple. Once more there was a flash of light and once more there were two fruits… sort of. The orange had returned, yet the peel was missing and juice ran down its sides, dripping onto the floor. The apple – if it could even be called that – had become a pile of little more than mush. It was like it had been mercilessly crushed. She placed the damaged fruits back on the table.
"They did not go back the way they once were. Silver Stars, while mostly whole, was never able to fly again. The rest of her life was tormented with whispered nightmares of her trauma. Aurora Wind… was not as fortunate. Even when she was at her end, she struggled to hold onto her failed power and unrelenting desire.
"I fear that a mind once joined cannot be un-joined. It is no longer about picking out one pony's thoughts from another, but untangling individuals from a whole. I am not sure such a thing can ever be done properly."
"And you think the same thing will happen to Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle?" asked Fluttershy. Celestia shook her head.
"I do not know what will happen. I like to think that I know my student. What Aurora Wind became, and what she did, I have never seen in Twilight Sparkle. I looked into their mind, I saw beyond the veil of thoughts inside their head. It may have been too late to bring them back the moment Twilight Sparkle cast her spell."
"But Twilight would never do something like what Aurora Wind did! She isn't like that!" said Pinkie bouncing up and down; trying to will everypony to understand her. "She would never do that to anypony and especially not to her friends! This has to all be just a big accident!"
"Unfortunately, this spell is no accident," said Celestia with a sad shake of her head. "It is true that some magic can happen by mistake. Levitation, teleportation or transformation can sometimes be cast without the user intending to perform any of those spells. However, this spell requires absolute concentration to work. The caster must pay attention to every detail or risk combining things the wrong way.
"No, whatever the reason, Twilight Sparkle knew exactly what she was doing."