Canterlot fell silent and for the first time, I felt at peace. Things were calm. I didn't have to think about anything, answer phone calls.
I was in my own world.
It was a lazy afternoon, with gloomy weather and cloudy skies, the kind you tried to avoid by staying inside. The weather was dark and strangely appropriate, considering the celebration the next day, and it set the mood for me to brood for a bit. What to do about life, love? How do you put up with everything? Do you take it in stride? Do you just let the big bad world close in on you and corner you until you've had enough, at wit's end, about to give up, fed up with the way things were going?
It looked like it was going to rain, and for a while it did. And for that brief hour as droplets of rain began to fall from the heavens, I sat there inside our cozy, lived-in apartment, watching the water slide down our window, washing away the dirt and grime. Content with just listening I rolled onto my back, staring at the ceiling, closing my eyes for a spell. Across from me, lounging on the other couch was Vinyl, her eyes closed as she listened to her music. Though she wasn't sleeping. She too, was also brooding. Thinking about things.
I could tell by the way her forehead was scrunched up, like she was concentrating.
What makes you tick, Vinyl Scratch? What goes on inside that pretty little head of yours?
The worst part of it all was that I couldn't even content myself with knowing that I never had a choice. I had had a choice, but I just chose not to take it. I could have stayed away from her, never moved in with her, never fallen in love with her. And like all the bad choices in my life, they came back to bite me. Sometimes literally.
I heard the sound of hoofsteps. Sitting up, I saw that Vinyl was going out, donning a pair of purple sunglasses exactly like the ones I had broken.
"Time for work?" I yawned.
"Yeah. Having a good dream?"
Before this week my dreams consisted of me, alone on that stage with a single spotlight and a sea of faces in Blueblood Concert Hall, poised with my cello, eyes closed as I let the music take hold of me. My dream was to play my very own composition. But it seemed that I was doomed to perpetually perform in my little quartet at balls and weddings and galas, playing background music for those nobles who needed a little atmosphere and a drink to gossip and fritter away their money. Now it seemed like I didn't dream at all. When I did, I dreamed of us, together on stage, performing a fusion of club and classical music. It was an idea I entertained with Vinyl, who had suggested it in the first place.
My dreams were quick to turn into nightmares, and I'd see her, her maw stained with red, eyes strung out and bloodshot, her fangs sinking into my—
"If you could call it that," I said wryly.
"Go back to sleep," she said softly, before closing the door.
An entire evening to myself. Nopony around. I stood up, twisting my neck and stretching, smoothing out my disheveled mane. I felt drawn to the case in the far corner of the room. It'd been days since I'd touched it. Snapping open the latches, I admired the craftsmanship. Polished, gleaming wood, smooth and heavy. After a bit of tuning I sat down, my bow poised. The piece I began to play was of my own. The soundtrack to my life. Slow, brooding notes, long and lingering in the air, ominous and foreboding.
My hoof faltered. The bow screeched across the strings. My concentration snapped and I frowned, settling the instrument down. I wasn't thinking straight. What was I so worried about anyway? I wasn't a monster with a constant desire to feed off others for their blood.
No. Not a monster.
Somewhere in the middle of my billionth time trying to flesh out the notes of my composition, I heard the door open.
"Oh Octy, I'm home!"
Indeed, Vinyl was home, levitating a mysterious paper bag.
"What's in the bag?"
"Close your eyes," she said.
"Just close your eyes. No peeking."
I giggled, doing as she asked.
"Okay, now look."
Vinyl stood before me, dressed up in her Nightmare Night costume. A silk cape, black with red lining like mine, was draped over her back. A pair of very real fangs hung from her mouth. Her chest was stained with some fake blood, sticky and dried.
I clopped my hooves in applause. "Very, very nice," I said.
"Now we can be vampires together!"
I laughed. "Yes, yes."
"Everypony will love us! And man, once we start making out—"
"—all the stallions will be all over us!"
"Vinyl, we are not going to make out!"
She pouted. "Everybody loves lesbian vampires."
I yawned. "What time is it? One in the morning?"
"I was kinda surprised you were still awake," Vinyl said, taking off her costume. "What were you doing?"
"Just some music," I said. "I'm gonna hit the hay."
After a long, hot shower, Vinyl came out of the bathroom, sweaty and warm. Her mane was damp and coat silky. She toweled herself off, slipping underneath the covers and sliding up next to me. After a few moments of tossing and turning to get comfortable, we found a comfortable position where I held Vinyl, my hoof idly playing with her hair. For a while I struggled to keep my eyes open, my head nodding off before I slumped onto the bed, snoring the night away with her.
It was the kind of sleep where you didn't dream. It was almost as if I closed my eyes, staring into the darkness, and opened them a second later, only to find the sun was up.
Daybreak. Tangled limbs, tangled hair. We shifted, twisting and rolling away from each other. I squealed as she encircled me with her arms. It was impossible to describe the way it felt. Perhaps if your mother actually loved you and gave you hugs you would understand. It was that indescribable feeling of having somepony touch you, squeeze you, hold you. That feeling of fuzziness and warmth as they reminded you that they were there.
"Good morning, princess."
I laughed, pushing her away from me. "Don't call me that. I hate those cutesy wutesy nicknames." Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I rolled over. Eleven o' clock. My new record. "I'm sleeping in later and later."
"Nothing wrong with that. Besides, it's Nightmare Night!" she squealed.
I grabbed her pillow and smacked her with it. "It's all your fault. I used to wake up at five—"
"Ugh, don't remind me. Mornings were so depressing with you playing that cello of yours."
"—I was disciplined, organized!" I ranted jokingly. "Now I'm a mess!"
"A very sexy mess."
I mustered up the strength and willpower to drag myself out of bed and into the bathroom, hopping into the shower eagerly. Hot water cascaded over my body, my mane wet and loose, falling over my face and neck. I hummed a tune idly as I stood, my eyes shut as I let the warm water soothe me.
I heard another voice hum along with me, purring in my ear, "I love it when your mane is down."
My eyes snapped open.
"Vinyl Scratch, what are you doing?!" I screeched, glaring at the mare standing in the bathtub next to me.
"What? We can't shower together?"
I sputtered. "W-What? No! No, no!" I began to shoo her away. "Out, out!"
"Aw, you're no fun."
Vinyl held an ice pack to her head woozily. "You sure know how to buck, Octy."
I stuck my tongue out at her. "You deserve it."
She rolled her eyes, clearly faking her injury. "We're leaving in a bit."
"Where are we going?"
"Ponyville! You know how Canterlot is, Octy. Half the ponies around here are too cheap to hand out treats!"
I sighed. "If we must."
"It'll be fun! Now c'mon, go get dressed!"
We were quite the sight as we left our apartment. Two ghastly looking vampires drenched in blood with sunken eyes and canines. We received all kinds of attention as we made our way to the train station. Some gazed upon us with scorn and some with amusement. Vinyl made faces at the ponies passing by, who would have never guessed that her fangs were real.
The sun was slowly dimming as it made its descent into the horizon. At the same time, the moon was rising to take its place.
A full moon.
I looked up at the sky thoughtfully, breathing in the fresh, crisp air. The wind whipped past my mane as I stuck my head outside the window, granting me a gorgeous view of Equestria's countryside. Rolling hills of green grass dotted with flowers in bloom. And there was Whitetail Wood of orange and yellow trees, some of the branches starting to lose their leaves as the season approached winter.
"You've been quiet."
"Things," I teased.
My mind had been occupied as of late. I was thinking of all sorts of things. Thinking about Vinyl Scratch, thinking about us. Thinking about vampires, of which ponies I knew who could potentially be one. Thinking of a secret world, kept hidden from the rest of us normal ponies.
"A bit for your thoughts?"
I harrumphed. "It'll take a lot more than that to get me to spill."
The train came to a gentle halt and she and I got off. Ponyville was...quaint. Rather homely, in my humble opinion. Old fashioned, though charmingly rustic. The entire village had been redecorated with cobwebs and toy spiders and other Nightmare Night decorations. On the boarding platform were four other ponies I recognized immediately.
"Vinyl!" Lyra called, waving us over.
Vinyl galloped over, pulling me along. "Hey guys! Ha-ha, nice costumes!"
Bon Bon and Lyra each donned sunglasses, fedoras, and tailored black suits. Carrot Top appeared to be some sort of devil from Tartarus, complete with horns and a tail, with a wicked looking coat and shoes. Derpy Hooves, well...
"I see it's plastic this year!" Vinyl remarked.
She was wearing plastic bags on top of her head and on her hooves. She clopped her hooves together with delight, her eyes crossed.
"We're on a mission from Celestia," Bon Bon intoned.
"A hundred and six miles to Manehattan, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses," Lyra chimed in.
I stared. "I don't get it."
Vinyl slapped her forehead.
Lyra pulled off her shades, her eyes half lidded and suggestive. "So, are you two, y' know, together?"
I gave Vinyl a peck on the cheek, smiling as I saw Lyra squeal. We made our way to town square, laughing and conversing as Lyra began asking if Vinyl was a good kisser.
Ponies around us gasped as they saw DJ-Pon3, murmuring amongst themselves.
Applejack, the Element of Honesty? She was dressed up as a scarecrow.
"Well howdy there, Vinyl Scratch! Don't tell me you've moving back!" she gasped in mock horror. "Twilight'd have a fit."
Vinyl snickered. "Man she hated it when I blasted my tunes."
"At the crack of dawn!" Applejack added. "Who's yer friend?"
"Octavia," I said smoothly. "Pleased to meet you, Miss Applejack."
Applejack gave me a funny look. "Aw shoot, don't call me Miss, it makes me feel old! You're hanging 'round Vinyl now?"
I nodded, glancing down at the tub of water. "And what is this?
"Don't tell me you've never bobbed for apples before, Octy!"
"My mane will get wet," I protested to no avail.
I sucked in and closed my eyes, dunking my head underwater. I resurfaced, an apple in my mouth. Vinyl suddenly leaned in, taking a bite of the apple as it was in my mouth. I blushed faintly.
Lightning crackled and thunder boomed. I gasped in fright, shrinking as I saw black, ominous, swirling clouds begin to loom overhead, casting a dark shadow over Ponyville. Maniacal laughter echoed, striking fear into my heart. A black carriage descended from the heavens, pulled by two fierce-looking bat ponies with glowing yellow eyes and webbed wings and fangs.
"It's Nightmare Moon! Everypony run!"
Ponies all around us screamed. I felt compelled to scream as well, trying to drag Vinyl to safety. She was...grinning?
"Whoo!" she called.
"Vinyl, run!" I hissed.
"It's Nightmare Moon!"
Vinyl laughed, yanking me back as I tried to run. I gasped as I saw the pony inside the carriage fly off, cackling. Her hood flew off, revealing the black creature of the night, clad in blue armor. She gazed upon us with slitted blue eyes, grinning toothily. Horn, wings, all black.
"Luna! Luna! Luna!" everypony chanted around me, stomping. The crowd was deafening.
Foals rushed up to her, chattering and cheering, swarming her.
"Hello, Ponyville!" Princess Luna bellowed, laughing merrily.
"It's Ponyville tradition, Octy!" Vinyl explained. "C'mon, let's go meet her!"
"What?! She's a princess!"
"I mean, we can't just trot up to her and say hi!"
She rolled her eyes. "Luna and I are tight, don't worry."
Vinyl knew Princess Luna personally?
"Hey Luna!" Vinyl hollered.
She turned to face us, finished greeting the foals. I shrank under her gaze.
It's just a costume, Octavia. Just a costume.
"A very interesting costume you have there, Vinyl Scratch," Luna said archaically, frowning slightly as she saw Vinyl's fangs and eyes.
Did she know?
"Charmed," I said nervously, sticking a hoof out.
Luna shook it, smiling. I shivered.
"So this is the famous Octavia," Luna remarked. "I've heard a lot about you."
"You have?" I blurted. "Err, I mean, what kind of things, Princess?"
"Good things, I assure you. And please, call me Luna," she said. "Do you like my costume?"
"It certainly is...authentic."
She hadn't been paying attention to me. Instead, she was looking right at Vinyl. I wasn't very good at reading other ponies, but I could see that they were communicating in a very subtle manner. I tried not to make it apparent that I was staring. Princess Luna nodded shortly, only tilting her head slightly. Vinyl returned her nod.
"Hey Octy, why don't you uh, go get us some drinks?" Vinyl said, still looking at the princess.
Something felt off. And I didn't like it, not one bit. Hadn't she come here for the candy?
"Of course, dearie," I said in a false manner, trotting away slowly as I kept my ears craned toward them. I heard Luna murmur to Vinyl as they started to walk off.
"You would do well to be more cautious, Vinyl Scratch."
"It's Nightmare Night, Princess! Nopony...suspect..."
Horseapples, they were too far away. The initial crowd of Ponyville ponies had been rather sparse. After Princess Luna's arrival, it already began to thicken. On stage, a group of musicians began to play lively Nightmare Night themed songs as costumed ponies began to dance. I moved through the crowd, never taking my eye off Vinyl and the princess, bumping into ponies rather rudely.
"Where are you going?" I mumbled to myself.
I could hear them talking rather lowly as we neared the edge of Ponyville. They crossed over a bridge and headed towards the...
"The Everfree Forest?"
Why did they feel compelled to converse in such a dreadful place? I was going to get to the bottom of this.
Somewhere in the distance, a wolf howled. I gulped, feeling rooted to the spot on the dirt path. I could see Vinyl and Luna in the distance, already disappearing through the thick foliage of the Everfree. It was now or never. My heart raced with each step I took, jumping every so often as I thought I saw something move in the bushes or dart behind me. The fog was thick and I could barely see ahead. Creatures chirped and howled and hissed around me.
Just stay on the path.
Every so often they would turn around. I'd freeze, my heart pounding as their eyes scanned for something. The path eventually ended and we came to a clearing, with a statue in the center of Nightmare Moon. I ducked underneath the foliage, peeking out from the leaves, staying back near the trees as I eavesdropped on their conversation.
"And this Octavia...Does she know?"
Vinyl said nothing for a moment. "Yes."
Luna sighed, pressing a hoof to her temple. "Please tell me that you didn't—"
"One thing led to another and I might have accidentally bitten her."
"Anything else you'd like to tell me?"
"Err, mom and dad came to visit?" Vinyl said sheepishly.
"We are going to have to deal with her."
My heart stopped. Oh, sweet Celestia, what did they mean by that? Deal with me? How were they doing to deal with me? Time to go, time to go. I'd heard enough.
I cringed as my hoof snapped a branch underhoof. Luna and Vinyl fell silent.
"It's seems we have an uninvited guest," Luna said rather loudly, her voice devoid of any warmth. "We do not appreciate prying ears!"
They knew they knew they knew oh buck me!
"We've been tailed."
I backed away slowly, gasping when I felt my rump bump against somepony. I turned around, whimpering as I came face to face to Luna's royal guards.
Their expression was humorless as one of them bit my cape and dragged me over to Vinyl and Princess Luna. I felt like a foal about to be punished.
I grinned sheepishly. "Trick or treat?"
"Octavia!" Vinyl groaned.
Eep, full name. Serious business.
"I won't tell a soul! I swear!" I shrieked. "Please don't hurt me!"
Luna's eyes flashed red and I watched in horror as her canines began to grow. Princess Luna was a vampire.
At this point I was started to get a little jaded. Nothing surprised me anymore. It'd probably be easier to count how many ponies I knew who weren't vampires. How far did this go? When would it end?
I wrenched free from her guards, running for my life, not caring that I was venturing deep into the depths of the Everfree Forest.
"Octy! Wait!" I heard Vinyl call.
Where to hide, where to hide?! Nothing but leaves and trees!
It's a cave, Octavia, are you insane?
Too freaked out to care. Into the cave we go! I always wanted to go spelunking.
I darted in, scrambling and laying low as I listened, holding my breath, trying to still the pounding in my head. Something snarled behind me. That dawning moment of apprehension hit me like a buck to the face as my eyes widened in terror.
I seemed to have stumbled into the den of a wolf. Wonderful, just wonderful.
"Nice doggie," I whimpered.
I scrambled back, never taking my eyes off the creature staring back at me. It barked and growled. And in the blink of an eye, it lunged at me. I could have done many things as I felt its jaws clamp down around my rear leg, sinking its jagged teeth deep. I could have screamed, I could have cried. My brain could barely process the pain as I stared at the thing biting me. This was no wolf. This creature was pony shaped, with a coat long and matted, like fur. Its eyes were glowing yellow and feral. There was a wet black nose on its muzzle.
I was unable to form words as I stammered, trying to pull my leg from its mouth in vain.
"Hey, leave her alone!" a rough voice shouted.
It released my leg and I scrambled away. but not before its claws raked over my side, leaving several bloody gashes. I think I might have broken a rib. Vinyl's horn glowed, doing something. I didn't know, I didn't even care anymore. Whatever she was doing, it was making it back off. Looking back I could see that it was retreating deeper into the cave, turning around and slinking off into the cave.
"Octy! Octy, speak to me!" Vinyl cried as she cradled me.
I couldn't stop shaking as I tried to speak, feeling paralyzed. My body was going numb. I felt cold. Everything was sliding out of focus. One, two, three Vinyl Scratches? Oh, hello Princess Luna. How's your Nightmare Night going? Ah, the guards. Doing a great job there. Keep up the good work. Oh, wow, is that all my blood?
"She's been bitten!"
"This is no ordinary bite," Luna said gravely.
My last thoughts as I passed out were sardonic. As far as I was concerned, I'd donated enough blood for the rest of my life.