Twilight stared in horror at the most offending blasphemy against the natural workings of Equestria that she could’ve ever witnessed. An abomination of such horrific magnitude that she doubted that she would’ve been able to fabricate anything nearly as terrible even if she was suffering through a fever dream while she had a late assignment.
It was mid afternoon out by the sweeping hills outside Ponyville that were ideal for star-gazing as Twilight was looking up at the sun and the moon. In the same sky. At the same time.
And beginning to move into the same place.
An aberration like this was nigh unfathomable. Words attempting to describe it failed. Twilight doubted not even Discord was twisted and cackling mad enough to conceive an iniquity against harmony as egregious as this. And yet to her mounting horror, she watched and the heavenly bodies merged and became a single body that paralyzed Twilight in fear; a single black sphere that despite looking darker and more wretched than the gates of Tartarus spewed forth light. But unlike the warm, loving light of the sun she knew, it was malicious and angry like a raging fire and yet was somehow cold at the same time, as evident by the sudden drop in temperature.
She continued to stare even as her eyes burned to look upon it. And as she looked to the unholy thing in the sky, the entire world shook in fear along with her. Then the monstrosity in seemed to utter a guttural roar that shook her to the ground, and the with a sound like a plane shattering pop it summoned a torrent of howling winds that were being pulled toward it, momentarily after words pieces of the yellowed sky began to rip away and become sucked into the hole.
“Oh,” Twilight breathed; “I see what just happened.”
Twilight sighed as the world was sucked up into blackness.
Twilight shook herself back awake and looked around. She was sitting on her haunches in a large art gallery in what she assumed was Canterlot, based on the high class manner of clothing the ponies around her were wearing and the ensemble of either smug or pretentious looks plastered across their faces.
Looking around, she saw the paintings of dynamic pastels were of a very surreal nature, all of which seemed to feature an extremely scrawny, anemic-colored pony dressed in dilapidated, heavily stained denim jeans and a faded yellow shirt that had a symbol of a red, four-point diamond with two acute triangles protruding out from both sides on the upper half on it. However, its head resembled that of a horned owls’, coated in black fur with a ghostly pale face of gray skin, utterly devoid of fur; a needle-thin beak and hauntingly hollow eyes.
Before her eyes, the perspectives of the pictures began to shift. Once visible parts moved out of her field of view from the frame as others shifted in to accommodate, and they all began to take on a real sense of depth.
“Psst,” Twilight heard from behind her.
She looked in the direction of the noise to see another painting, this one of the thing-pony looking down a long hallway towards a circular door adorned with tooth-like spikes protruding from the threshold, and looking over a deep pit from which several vivid, malformed, horribly garish tentacles spouting twisted mouths filled with sharp teeth were emerging from.
She watched as the thing-pony became animate and looked back to her, then emerged from the borders of the painting to point a hoof towards the painting opposite from it, behind her to her left.
Twilight looked in the direction the thing-pony pointed her, and saw not another surreal painting but very large canvas, sporting painted words written in her own hoof;
Dear Twilight Sparkle,
Twilight had to resist the urge to facehoof. “How did I forget I put that there?” she muttered to herself as she lit her horn and began to summon the strongest shield she could generate. “Oh yeah., I know why now… stupid sun-moon-hybrid abomination.”
Just as her sphere-shield reached its full power, the tentacles snapped to life and began to pour out of the painting as multitude more erupted from the pit. They snaked out violently in all directions, voraciously devouring the crowds of now panicking ponies and paintings and world alike, ripping away existence to beams of blinding light with each gluttonous bite.
Twilight looked at the pandemonium all around her before her gaze returned to the scrawny thing-pony, now standing on what was left of the gallery floor, staring at her with a blank, expressionless gaze.
“Hay of a way for a subconscious to dismantle its own imagined realities, huh?” Twilight asked the thing-pony.
The thing-pony just shrugged.
Twilight groaned as she came to, greeted by the sounds and soft whirs of the machinery in her basement laboratory. She sighed as she rubbed her forehoofs against as much of her temples that she could reach from under the steel contraption strapped to her head.
Sighing again as she got to her hoofs, Twilight made her way to the machine that the technological helmet she was wearing was hooked up to. She set it to standby as she observed the charts flowing outwards from the apparatus, looking to see if the results further backed up her hypotheses and speculations about how the spell interacted with brain waves.
Ruling out possible interference generated from the spell itself by way of comparison to samples she’d taken of her own neural activities from earlier, the results looked similar to how she expected them to. The beta waves of her normal conscious state were congruent to her normal level of activity (that is to say higher than average due to her impressive intelligence), which descended briefly into alpha waves; indicative of entering a relaxed state as the sedation effects of the spell encumbered her. The frames in the timeline where she was asleep and dreaming were marked by theta waves, of which there was a change in their amplitude about half way through, marking when she entered a 2nd level dream, then the waves were marked by spikes of activity as the dreams failed and she fell through them back into consciousness, as shown by the return of the beta waves. However, there was a stark contrast in what Twilight had expected to see and what she actually saw inked onto the paper.
“That can’t be right…” she spoke aloud to herself as she looked them over again, trying to process the conflicting information she was seeing.
For one, despite her mind entering into slumber, the wavelengths in that state were extremely dense, as if her brain’s activity was increasing at the exact same time that it was decreasing, and drastically so, or if all the activity of a conscious state of mind was merely being condensed. The second was that the timeline was drastically off. Twilight hadn’t been keeping track of how long she was in both dream worlds, but she’d estimated the entire trip took about three to four minutes. However, the charts were saying she’d only been asleep for…
“Seven seconds?!” Twilight exclaimed her curiosity aloud.
There was accommodation for margins of error, and then there was just plain screwing up. She scanned the lengthy sheets of paper with more scrutinizing precision, double-checking in typical Twilight fashion. Sure enough, everything appeared normal except for the anomaly. So she checked the machine, too, but found everything was in working order.
Looking back to the charts, she decided to tackle the problem the old fashioned way; with serious number crunching. Withdrawing a quill and a spare bit of parchment, she began to mathematically strong-hoof her way through the graphs as she attempted to glean some reason behind the unprecedented oscillation of the vectors.
Twilight’s first thought was that the spell might not be sedating as much as it was subduing the mind into slumber by condensing brain activity into lower amplitudes, and that the exponential increase in activity was the result of those frequencies being crammed into such smaller waves. It initially looked promising, but the numbers she was getting were far below the ones she was expecting to see. There was some other variable she wasn’t accounting for.
Looking back to the diagram, she was still perplexed by just how sort a period the dream took up. Then a thought hit her;
“Factor for time…” Twilight spoke in a small eureka moment.
Twilight attacked the problem once more, accommodating for how much time she thought the dream lasted in comparison to how long the readings said it lasted. She punched all the numbers in, and to her liking found they were a little closer to what she expected to see. Not the exact ones, but closer than she was before.
“Is that why so much more time felt like it passed than it actually did?” Twilight thought to herself.
Dipping her quill into an ink bottle again, Twilight produced a new scroll and began to further document her findings.
“Month five, day twenty-six, entry four hundred and eighty-eight.
“I have come to the conclusion that at least one of my earlier hypotheses about causalities of catastrophic dream collapse has been confirmed; the pony whose mind hosts a dream cannot enter into a lower level dream. So for the love of Celestia, DON’T DO IT. DON’T TRY IT. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT TRYING IT. BAD things will happen if you do.
“On another note, my continued research has uncovered another interesting piece of information. It would seem that the spell does not so much sedate conscious thought as much as it does condense them into slumber, as shown by the affixed charts graphing brainwave activity when under the influence of this magic. Inversely, this increase in brain activity while under seems to have an effect on increasing the amount of relative time that passes while in a spell-crated dream. The aforementioned graphs testify that I was in a dream state for less than ten seconds when in actuality the felt as though several minutes had passed.
“I shall have to do more research into this matter. In the meantime, I’ll reframe from delving any deeper than a single level dream henceforth unless I can work with somepony else on the matter. Perhaps a second level dream would be possible if the first level was hosted by another mind. Assuming the spell can function while separate minds host dreams. If it can’t, it’s likely the spell will just fail and anypony involved will probably just wake up. Or at least that what has happened both times the dream failed on me.
“Perhaps I should be a little more cautious about all this. I shudder to think what would happen if the dream fails and the sleepers don’t wake up. I haven’t gotten any indication that something like that could happen, but then I never suspected this would open the door to layered illusions of reality, either.
“But, what if…
“PS: Don’t eat anything extraordinarily spicy before entering into a dream… anything, like, say, a jalapeño pepper-jack omelet served with extra hot sauce. Weird things will happen if you do.
“PPS: Don’t let any of your so-called friends convince you to eat a jalapeño pepper-jack omelet, especially when said omelet served with extra hot sauce.
Twilight set the quill down and put a hoof to her mouth. Everything still burned from that sadistically spicy plate of sin that Spike had made the both of them for breakfast, and her fur was still slightly damp from when she galloped screaming to the sink and dunked her head in without a second thought.
Speaking of second thoughts, she didn’t even think to touch what the dragon had whipped up for a beverage; a shot glass filled with what looked like muddy rainbow water that she had suspected was due to it being choked full of even more spices. He said it was a special recipe Pinkie had shared with him; something she called “Wake-Up Juice.”
Twilight looked back to the charts, observing the lines with her eyes from the jagged waves interrupted ever so briefly by an extremely dense block of spikes.
“Factor for time…” Twilight repeated to herself.
Refocused by new endeavors, Twilight reactivated the machine and laid her head back down on her pillow. Concentrating on a location and fueling as much of her energy towards her magic that she could spare, she closed her eyes and lit her horn again.
- - - - - -
The sound of water crashing down over rocks was ambient even from this distance. The air around Canterlot always had at least a pleasant level of humidity to it from the network of waterfalls and shining blue pools that surrounded it, and out here on the balcony of her old library, overlooking the trees of the rolling purple mountainside, the cool temperature and oh so gentle breeze felt wonderful. She breathed in deep until the crisp air filled her lungs, and allowed herself to smile contentedly, relishing in just how placid one of these dreams could be when they weren’t falling to pieces.
It was still morning back in the conscious world, but here, in Twilight’s place of serenity, the sun had already dipped below the horizon, painting the lingering puffy clouds in lively, passionate vermilion, juxtaposed ever so beautifully against the evening indigo sky. And off in the eastern horizon, the very first stars began to shine like diamond sparkles strewn across a violet cape, heralding the coming passage of the moon.
She knew a lot of it had to do with her namesake, but sitting back and watching the cascading crepuscular tones of the noble dusk hours was Twilight’s absolute favorite time of day.
She would’ve loved nothing more that to curl up with a good book or twelve and study until midnight came and passed, but she knew as lovely a thought that was, it would be trivial in this state of mind. Glancing towards the clock tower in the center of the city, she glimpsed the time; six-thirty in the evening.
Knowing she would only be here or a limited time as it was, Twilight opted to enjoy her moments of solace while they would last and bask under the marvelous splendor of the beautiful sky that stretched to the ends of the horizon in every direction. She summoned a pillow from her old bed and laid down on her back.
The luminous sky filled her vision, and Twilight couldn’t help but crack another smile in the face of the breathtaking vista. She relaxed as she beheld it all, her spirit sighing like a lover in her first romance.
Twilight lay there in peace, the minutes passing by unnoticed as she watched the color of the burning clouds became more tinted from the vanishing light, the sun’s glow receding in its harmonious trek across the heavens in conjunction with the moon. As the sky dimmed, sparse more numbers of the miniscule stars became visible, no more than tiny specks of light.
For the first time since entering the dream, Twilight let out a little frown. She loved the spectrums as the evening blended into the night, but she also adored star-gazing. She didn’t know how much longer the dream would last, but it would still feel like a bit of a lost potential to have such a serene moment but to not get to bask in the glory of the constellations.
Suddenly, something came back to her.
“Could we shape our own realities? Build our own worlds?” Dominus’ words seemed to echo in her head.
And with that, Twilight got an idea. A simple little thought really, but one that spread through her mind like wildfire, permeating her mind until there was nigh but this idea; this one, almost maddeningly inspiring idea.
Twilight sat up and looked back into the library and magically pulled her old star charts up to the balcony. Laying back down and lifting them above her head, she looked through them until she found the chart that matched the time and season.
Looking back to the purple sky with the chart as reference, Twilight cast a quick compass spell to help her spot where Equestria’s North Star should’ve appeared in the sky. She promptly located its proper place would be, right in the center of an opening in the cloud cover.
Twilight thought for a moment, trying to reason how she was going to accomplish what she had in mind. Her natural idea was to use magic, but then realized there was no spell for it, dream world or not.
“But I’m already casting a spell,” Twilight thought.
Reaching out with her mind, Twilight attempted to grasp the confines of the dream world. She hit them abruptly, then gasped as she felt an inexplicable wave of terror sweep through her. She was still safe and the dream still functioning, but to reach the end of the world as she perceived it; a limit to her reality beyond which there was nothing was unnerving to say in the least.
“But this isn’t the end of everything” Twilight reassured herself; “there’s still the real world beyond this dream.”
Calmed down by the thought, she opened her mind again and felt the magic feeding her visions again and sorted through them, searching for the sky. With its discovery, she pinpointed the hole in the cloud cover, and willed that the star appear in its spectral seat.
And suddenly before her eyes, a bright star flashed into being in the violet sky; a shining sparkle amongst the twilight.
The educated unicorn lay on her back, looking up at the sky and at her first ever creation within a dream, with the biggest grin plastered to her face.
“I did it,” Twilight spoke as she began to giggle like a schoolfilly; “I did it!”
She looked back and forth from her star charts to the heavens, spurred by overwhelming inspiration as she reached out to the dream again. And soon, the lone light to the north quickly became surrounded by its multitude of friends.
Twilight was no artist (though she’d certainly read a few books on the subject), but laying there on the balcony, never before had she been so spurred by a passion to create the beautiful things she loved. The sky was her canvas and her mind was the brush, and her heart was the force that moved them both. Entire clusters magically burned into being, all the while Twilight couldn’t stop smiling in her endeavor to paint the sky with stars.
It wasn’t long until the stars that dotted the sky stretched from one end of the horizon to the other, and right then and there, Twilight knew what it was like to love the dark as much as Luna. She was not the Princess of the Night, but somehow, when Twilight looked at the stars, she felt like herself. And right now, looking up at the wonderful tribute to the late hours, it felt good to be herself, and that made her happy.
At least until the entire sky above her began to fade away.
Twilight bolted upright, once placid heart now pounded as her forehead perspired cold sweat.
“Oh no, no no no! This can’t be happening!” Twilight exclaimed on the edge of panic. She ran to the railing of the balcony and felt her blood run cold. All of the capitol city and the world around it was beginning to fade into black.
But then another sensation came over the unicorn; not of fear, but of understanding. She could feel her body, her real physical body, and it was warm, not cool from the brisk evening air. She was not standing on her hind legs overlooking a vanishing Equestria; she was laying down on the floor, it felt like something clunky was strapped to her head, and even though she could see, she could feel that her heavy eyelids were closed.
She sat back down and put a hoof to her chest over his still racing heart. ”Oh,” she breathed a sigh of relief as she glanced at the clock tower; it was just past seven. “The dream isn’t collapsing…”
Now even she had become nothing.
“I’m just waking up.”
Twilight stirred as she came to, shaking off the lingering weariness of forcing herself to sleep and rubbing her eyes as their focus waned in and out. She knew she couldn’t have been asleep for long, and yet she still felt drained of energy and rather tired despite having just woken up. She yawned and stretched her back, then made her way to the machine and shut it off.
A quick look told her just about everything she needed to know. Once again, the segment the dream took up was demonstrated by and incredibly dense compound of short waves, and as expected, showed that the dream didn’t take up as much actual time as it seemed like it did from the inside. From her perspective within the dream, she was asleep for about thirty minutes. But according to the charts, Twilight had only been under for about a minute and a half.
“Ninety seconds of real time equates to approximately eighteen hundred seconds of dream time,” Twilight thought aloud as she did some quick math in her head. “That means the relative time that passes in a dream is about twenty times greater than actual time.”
Her eyes widened as she came to that conclusion. This newfound piece of information was something that had been entirely unprecedented. Nothing in the near six months of study, research, and calculated planning had indicated the magic would perform as it was now, but there the evidence was, clear as day. And aside from her mind working twenty times faster than normal, she had proved it was possible to cast the spell again while the caster was still asleep and in their own dream, and had found that she could indeed build upon a world purely by capricious inspiration. What else didn’t she know about this spellcraft?
The unicorn yawned again, and felt a little embarrassed by how tired she was. She had only been subconsciously maintaining the spell, so it was running automatically until she didn’t have enough energy to suffice it for any longer. And that’s exactly what bothered her; she, Twilight Sparkle, personal protégée of Princess Celestia, bearer of the Element of Magic, had only been able to maintain a single spell for a mere ninety seconds.
That didn’t sit with her at all. They called her ‘the most powerful unicorn born in a thousand years.’ Her brother could cast and hold a shield spell powerful enough to keep an entire army at bay and large enough to encase all of Canterlot all on his lonesome, and she was still arguably more powerful than he was. She was the Element of Magic, need it be reminded! And this shortcoming would not be allowed to stand! She would find a way to maintain the spell for longer, simple as that.
“Spike?” she called out for her assistant. “Spike!”
“Yeah, Twilight?” he answered from upstairs.
“Would you go fetch Modern Spellcasting for me, please?” She asked.
Twilight turned back to her notes and withdrew her quill once more to add another entry to her documentation.
“Month five, day twenty-six, entry four hundred and eighty-nine.
“I entered another dream, purely a single level dream this time (I’d rather not run into any more thing-ponies or evil tentacles) to investigate my previous suspicions about relative time in dreams passing faster than in reality. I’m reporting that this thesis has been well enough confirmed by further documentation of neural activity when under while tracking the time that passes in a dream. Initial documentation puts this differential ratio at about 1::20, where one unit of time in reality equates to twenty equal units of time in a 1st level dream. And based upon the charts recorded from earlier sessions, this effect is cumulative when entering a 2nd level dream.
“But as with previous studies on this topic, answers to previous queries ultimately result in new, unexpected discoveries, and inherently more things that need to be explained. And this time, I had the fortune of stumbling onto two new facets of this magic I hadn’t known about otherwise.
“The first new discovery is that Dominus’ early suspicions about ‘building our own worlds’ may indeed have merit. My dream took place during the evening hours, too early for the stars to show, and yet I was able to will every star visible during winter solstice onto the night sky purely by interacting with the boundaries of the dream using only my mind.
“The second is that maintaining the spell requires staggering amounts of energy, so much that even I, and I really am embarrassed to admit this, was only able to keep the spell active for a minute and a half before I became too weary and subconsciously deactivated it.
“I shall have to do more research into methods of increasing spell duration. Perhaps there may be a way to simplify the spell, or maybe it would be expedient to find ways of naturally increasing spell power. Perhaps multiple unicorns (or alicorns, nice wish) could power on dream spell simultaneously. This spell essentially makes multiple ponies share minds, who’s to say it can’t help them share power?
“Or maybe this is simply a spell that necessitates becoming more proficient with it in time. Either way, once I can figure out how to make a dream last longer than Rainbow Dash’s attention span, maybe I can really start to see just how far the limits of creating within a dream can go.”
Twilight finished the entry and set it aside. She looked back up the stairs; several minutes had passed while she penned the new entry, but Spike still hadn’t returned with the book.
“What’s taking you so long, Spike?” she called from her seat.
His response came a moment later. “Uh, Twilight, I can’t find it.”
“What?” she asked in disbelief. “Did you misplace it? Don’t tell me you sneezed on another book…”
Spike gave a little huff as he walked through the open door so they would have to keep yelling their responses back and forth. “No, and no. It’s not in its place on the shelf or in any of the spots you usual go to study. And before you ask, I already checked the records, and nopony has rented it out recently. As much as I hate to say it, I think it’s lost.”
The librarian’s blood ran cold. She could feel her face go numb with terror as one of her ears twitched. This was a die-hard bookworm’s nightmare come real; she’d lost a book.
Spike took a step back and held an arm up to cover his eyes from the flash of the unicorn teleporting herself next to him, a frantic look on her face.
“Did you check all the bookshelves?”
“Did you check in my bedroom under the blanket fort?”
“That to, but…”
“Did you check the desk I attached to the ceiling in the attic in the 1x10(-32.33) percent chance that the polarity of planetary gravitational pull becomes reversed?”
“Yes, Twilight! And it wasn’t in any of those places!” Spike retorted.
Twilight ran past him and began a frantic search for the book herself. She was a purple blur moving between every bookshelf and every compartment in every room in the house, but her desperate search left her empty hoofed. It wasn’t with any of the other books, it wasn’t misplaced, and it wasn’t hidden away in any of her secret book stashes Twilight kept around the library in case she needed a quick study fix. It wasn’t lodged outside in the branches and leaves of the tree, it wasn’t phased half-way through a wall as the victim of a teleportation spell gone array, and there wasn’t even and subatomic residue left over in the event the book had somehow make contact with its anti-matter counterpart (she had a spell to check for that).
It was nowhere to be found. But what she did find was even more disheartening. Not only was Modern Spellcasting missing, but so were several other books. And like the first book found to have gone missing, they hadn’t been improperly sorted, checked out, or destroyed via complete particulate matter nucleation. And after an hour or so of searching, Twilight could only come to one sad conclusion; the books were lost.
Pinkie’s words a kleptomaniac cat burglar with a taste for random personal affects came back to her. Her pulse quickened and her eyes narrowed once more, then she galloped off to her room. If there was one book she didn’t want to have lost…
She opened the the padlocks on the large chest and peered inside. All her notes, all her research, and the last known thesis of Dominus Cob were still there.
Twilight sighed in relief, but she quickly reminded herself that the other disappearing books were still none the less lost. She sighed again, this time out of exacerbation as she rested her head against the rim of the lid.
Spike slowly entered her bedroom through the door left ajar.
“Hey, did you find them?” he asked.
“No.” Twilight sighed again.
“Oh,” he said. “They weren’t in there?” Spike asked, pointing to the chest.
“No. I didn’t recall putting them here anyway. But then again, I don’t recall doing anything to have lost those books in the first place.” She gave an encore sigh. “Anyway, I was just making sure that these research notes were still here. You know, the ones Dominus had written about dream spells, imagined realities, contained consciousness, the primary subject of my studies for the last half a year, all that.”
Spike’s expression changed slightly as he looked at the contents of the trunk. His gaze appeared distant, like he was thinking about something absentmindedly, as if he decided to randomly space out.
“Spike?” Twilight questioned, attempting to get his attention back.
He shook his head. “What?”
“You looked like you were somewhere else for a second.”
Now the dragon looked slightly confused. “I did?”
Twilight cocked an eyebrow at him, but decided to brush of Spike’s brief bout of inattention to him just being himself.
Twilight couldn’t suppress another yawn as she closed the chest. After her frantic search for the lost texts, she remembered just how tiring channeling the dream spell was, and how worn out by it she felt. Coupled with the intense investigation for the lost books, she realized that her eyelids felt heavy and a nap sounded quite enticing. And it was just barely past noon.
Her stomach grumbled in neglect. She added hungry to the mental list of things that were bothering her at the moment.
She thought of Pinkie again, and realized there was a way to alleviate her grogginess and hunger at the same time.
Twilight got back on her hooves and walked past Spike. “I’m going to go to Sugar Cube Corner for a pick-me-up. Want me to bring you back anything?”
“Nah…” he started, but then got a second thought; “unless you could get some more sapphire cupcakes, those are always good. If not, then I suppose an ice cream sandwich would be nice.”
“Will do. See you in… later.” Twilight said while a slight mumble, stifling another yawn. “Try to find those books while I’m gone, if you can, okay?”
“I’ll try, but I doubt I’ll have any more luck than you; I’m not so skilled at searching for anything that I could find molecules if I wanted to.”
“They wouldn’t be molecules at the point; they would be, if there was indeed any matter left, the remnants of subatomic particles drained of their charge, and a lot of quarks…”
“Save the details for Rainbow Dash.” Spike cut her off with a tone that matched his disinterest.
She huffed in irritated rejection of her knowledge. “Fine then. See ya’.”
“Twilight, wait…” Spike stopped her before she was completely out the front door.
Spike opened his mouth to speak, but shut it as an impish look crept across his face. “Never mind.”
Twilight peered at him with squinted eyes. “You’re up to something…”
“No I’m not; it’s nothing. Nothing at all.” He said, looking off.
Twilight knew he was about as bad at bluffing as Applejack was, and she would’ve called him on it had her stomach not grumbled in protest again.
“Fine. Bye, Spike.” She said, and walked out the door.
“Bye Twilight.” Spike returned as the front door closed. With her gone he allowed himself a snicker. “Love the new hat, by the way.” He said in Twilight’s direction even though she was already gone.
“I just hope you don’t run into Rarity just to have her spoil the fun.” He continued, but his expression changed again as the words left her mouth.
“Rarity…” he said again, his words contemplative. Something felt different; he could feel thoughts of her in his mind, and for some reason or another they felt like splinters.
But that wasn’t the only thing he felt.
“Okay, Spike was definitely up to something” Twilight thought to herself as she trotted to Sugar Cube Corner. She’d been getting weird looks here and there from a few ponies along her way. Looks like those that said she had something unsightly on her face, but they were mostly of confusion, and that through their staring they might figure out what they were looking at.
“Look out!” a young filly cried out to her suddenly.
She looked in the direction of the voice and just barely dodged out of the way of a water balloon that would’ve hit her straight in the face and watched it explode as it hit the ground several hooves away.
“Both sides, cease fire! We have a risk of collateral damage!” Sweetie Bell called out.
“Aw, but that would’ve been an awesome shot.” Scootaloo muttered.
Twilight looked from the puddle of water splattered against the ground to the direction it had been thrown from.
“Hi, girls.” Twilight greeted the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
“Hi Twa’light,” Apple Bloom returned the hello before looking over the unicorn’s shoulder. “Cease fire goes fer both sides!” she yelled.
Twilight glanced in the direction the yellow filly was looking. From behind the cover of a nearby art sculpture emerged three more fillies who looked to be about the same age as the Crusaders. One was an earth pony with a light golden coat, a creamy orange mane and lilac eyes, the other was a cream colored pegasus whose mane was purple and eyes were sapphire and held a water balloon in one hoof, leg pulled back as if about to throw it, and the last was a unicorn filly of a very pale lavender with a sandy blonde mane and a golden irises exactly like her mother’s… except without the skewed orientation. She had a gentle restraining hoof on the shoulder of the pegasus.
“Now now, Alula,” the unicorn filly spoke; “we’re all good sportsmares here, right?”
Alula lowered her foreleg at the gentle prompting. “If you say so, Dinky.”
The earth pony with Alula and Dinky was looking up at Twilight, a quizzical look in her enormous eyes.
“Noi, it’s not polite to stair!” Sweetie Bell called to the gold earth pony. “Although…” she trailed off and let her sentence hang.
Twilight now became aware that all six of the little fillies were looking up at her, staring questioningly. Noi and Sweetie Bell looking utterly confused, while Apple Bloom and Dinky were shooting quick glances back and forth at each other like Twilight was the only one not in on some big inside joke. Alula was very poorly holding back her snickers, yet was doing a better job of it than Scootaloo, who looked on the verge of busting out laughing.
Twilight let out a groan. “What is it?” She finally asked aloud. “Do I have something on my face?”
“No… no, not at all…” Apple Bloom said as a smile slowly began to break up her face. Alula and Scootaloo started to crack up even more.
“Why would you think that?” Dinky deadpanned. The two pegasi were having an even harder time holding all their giggles in.
“Have you been doing some really intense studying, Twilight?” Sweetie Bell inquired, seemingly oblivious that there was humor somehow involved.
Twilight opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by Alula before she could say anything.
“Wait,” she asked. “Twilight? As in Twilight Sparkle?”
“Correct,” Twilight answered.
“Oh, then that makes perfect sense!” Alula continued. ”You’re probably studying all sorts of crazy things about as often as…” she put a hoof to her chin as she tried to think of a fitting analogy, then smiled devilishly when she found one.
“… About as often as Scootaloo fails to get more than three hooves of the ground.” Alula teased the orange pegasus.
“Hey!” Scootaloo yelled as her wings flared outward in anger. She snatched another water balloon from her trio’s pile and took off after Alula. “I’m going to bury you under so much water that you’ll have grown gills by the time you break the surface again!”
Alula just laughed as she ran off in her game of keep-away with Scootaloo. Dinky and Noi followed them with their arsenal. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Bell looked at each other for a second, then raised their hoofs into the air and shouted vigorously in unison; “Cutie Mark Crusaders Water Balloon Battlers!” then chased after the other fillies, their stockpile of hydro-technological artillery in tote.
Twilight gave a little chuckle over the youthful passions and endeavors of foalhood, then continued walking on to the sweets shop.
“Good afternoon, and welcome to Sugar Cube Corner! Oh, hi Twilight!” Mrs. Cake greeted Twilight from behind the store counter. “What brings you here?”
“Long story short,” she answered; “stressful studies, missing books, and experimentation with volatile theoretical magic. It’s all worn me out, and now I need sugar; lots of sugar.”
“Stressful studying? You don’t say…” Mrs. Cake spoke somewhat coyly.
Suddenly, there come an excited gasp and an aroma of cotton candy. “Twilight!” Pinkie proclaimed joyously as she bounced into the shop front. “I’m so glad you’re h-” she stopped in mid bounce to stare at Twilight for second. Her gaze drifted upwards to the top of Twilight’s head for a moment, and then she fell to the ground on her back, laughing hysterically.
Twilight had enough; she wanted answers now. “Okay, what is it?” she demanded to know from the howling pony.
Pinkie caught her breath long enough to squeak out an answer. “… on you head… are you trying to read everypony’s mind?” And then she collapsed into another fit of giggles.
Twilight put a hoof to her cranium. She was still wearing the apparatus from the machine. Now blushing, she started fumbling to undo the straps holding the device to her head.
“Before you ask,” said Pinkie as she slowly got back up on her hoofs, “no; I haven’t traveled a great distance to meet you, I don’t want to buy a subscription to the Saturday Evening Post, and I’m not interested in making a donation to the Coast Guard Youth Auxiliary.”
Now Twilight just looked confused. “What? No, that’s not what this is for. I was using this to measure my brainwave activity while under the effects of the dream spell I’ve been researching.”
Pinkie’s eyes lit up. “The dream spell? Oh, you promised you were going to show me that later! Is that why you’re here; to show me your super neat-o new trick?”
Twilight was still catching up. “What? No I’m here because…”
“But you told me that you’d show it to me later! And it is later!” Pinkie protested.
It took Twilight a moment to catch Pinkie’s logic, but the prancing little pony was still right. “Sorry Pinkie, but…”
Suddenly only a few inches separated Twilight’s face from Pinkie’s. “You Pinkie Promised, Twilight; and nopony breaks a Pinkie Promise.” There was a very faint undertone to her voice, like the faint ire of demons whispering up from the bottom of a deep cave.
Twilight had to resist taking a step back, but then looked forward with resolve. “I’m here because I’ve been practicing that same spell all day, and it’s worm me out! I’m about ready to call it a night despite the fact that it’s just barely past lunch.” Her stomach grumbled again. “I’m tired, I’m hungry, and I need something to help get me through the rest of the day.”
“Oh, well why didn’t you just say so?” Pinkie said, returning to her merry self so fast that it just now seemed hard to remember the breeze of something more ominous.
Twilight was opening her mouth to point out that Pinkie hadn’t given her the chance, only to find it plugged by her friend’s hoof.
“So it’s a pick-me-up you’re looking for, huh?” Pinkie asked with a sly smile and a deviously ingenious look in her eyes. “I think I’ve got just what you need….”
“This one’s on me,” Pinkie said as she sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the table from Twilight and slid the plate towards the unicorn.
Despite her friend’s generosity, Twilight could only stare at the contents of the plate, confounded as she tried to figure out what she was looking at. Her first assumption was that it was some kind or form of food, as there were few other uses for a plate but for to hold food, and she couldn’t deduce any reason why Pinkie would serve her anything but food.
So it was most likely food; that much she could tell. But it didn’t look like any food she’d ever seen. It smelled like chocolate, but no chocolate she’d ever encountered before smelled so concentrated, so pungent, to where she could almost taste it through her nostrils. It didn’t look like chocolate either; no chocolate was that deep a shade of brown; so much that it almost looked a muddy black.
That’s when she noticed the outer layer of frosting from the slice before her. ”Okay, so perhaps this is some form of cake.” Twilight logically deduced as she telekinetically picked up up a fork and carved out a slice. It didn’t cut like cake, though; cake didn’t cut like thick paste, or clay for that matter.
“Pinkie,” Twilight asked as she peered intently at the curious confectionery creation on her fork; she could fell the smell of it with her eyes. “What is this?”
“This…” Pinkie answered with a pause for dramatic effect, “is triple layered chocolate cupcake cake.”
“Triple layered? Shouldn’t there be three layers then?”
Pinkie rolled her eyes a little. “I never said that the final product would be three layers. I mean, yeah, that’s what the name implies, but for triple layered chocolate cupcake cake, you take cupcakes, smash them all together, bake them into a cake; and then take that cake and condense it into another layer of cupcake cake… twice.”
“So…” Twilight started to piece it all together; “… this is a cake, within a cake…”
“Within a cake!” Pinkie finished for her. She put a hoof to her chin and stared off into the distance, as if pondering over something. “I know there’s a word to describe it, but I just can’t put my hoof on it for the moment…”
The confirmation that it was indeed cake still didn’t entirely convince Twilight that she should consume it.
Pinkie was looking at her with big, expecting eyes. “What? Aren’t you going to eat it?”
“I said I needed a pick-me-up, but this isn’t really what I had in mind.”
“Trust me,” Pinkie said with certainty; “eat enough of this, and you’ll be able to fly fast enough to pull off a Sonic Rainboom.”
“Pinkie, I don’t even have wings!”
Knowing she wasn’t going to satisfy Pinkie until she took a bite, Twilight braced herself and moved the cake into her mouth.
Suddenly, everything was chocolate.
The taste of the smooth, sugary goodness was so potent that it was electrifying to her senses. It was all she could taste, see, feel, smell… even hear somehow. Pure energy coursed through her, vanquishing her weariness in an instant. Her mind spun and buzzed with a new-found flurry of frenetic activity. Her eyes darted around the room and out the open window like a hyperactive humming bird, soaking in so much overwhelming information about things she would’ve never give intensive thought that it made her mind spin even more, perpetuating the machine of her cognition.
Then she actually bothered to chew it.
Each bite was an explosion of immense flavor and frenetic thoughts that they fueled. Thoughts whipped though her head like the wind flipping through the pages of an encyclopedia, each as pungent as the substantial weight on her tongue. And with each chomp she internally debated whether or not she should continue to gnash it between her teeth or send it down her gullet to make way for more.
She eventually swallowed and looked back at Pinkie, who was waiting for her approval.
“So do you like it?” she asked hopefully.
Twilight couldn’t focus. Her mind hadn’t been subject to this much raw energy and activity since the first time Celestia introduced her to coffee. She looked back to Pinkie, and realized the mare was still awaiting her input.
Twilight’s answer came not with words, but with action as she threw away the fork and unceremoniously buried her face into the cake.
Suddenly, everything was chocolate again.
Pinkie couldn’t help but giggle as her usually so intellectually reserved friend plowed through the baked goods before her with a voracity that was usually only seen by the likes of… well, Pinkie herself.
“I’ll take that to mean you like it.” Pinkie said playfully.
“Like it?” Twilight’s head shot up from her plate as she licked the last few smudges of cake of her face. “I LOVE IT! THIS STUFF IS AWESOME!” the words were flying out of her mouth.
Twilight’s horn burst alight and a note and ink bottle with a quill suddenly appeared next to her, to which to took and began to hastily scribble, speaking as quickly as she wrote.
“Dear Princess Celestia,
“THIS STUFF IS AWESOME!
“Your frenetic faithful student,
The note and writing utensils disappeared in a flash of magenta as Twilight looked back to Pinkie, her ears and eyes separately twitching at uneven intervals.
“… so much energy, so much thought, so much to do, so many spells, so much to study, so much to read…” Twilight was muttering rapidly to herself; “so much, oh so much, so much so much SO MUCH. So much, too much, too much energy, too much thought, too much to do, too many spells, too much to study, too much to read, too much, too much…”
Pinkie grinned mischievously. “Too much space out in space?”
Twilight seamlessly continued her muttering from Pinkie’s interjecting tangent “… so much space out in space. Why is the so much space in space? Too much. Too much space. Way too much space out in space. What do you do with all that space? What do you do in all that space?”
Pinkie’s devious smile grew even wider. “Hey, I know what you could do; show me that dream spell!”
“Yeah?” Twilight’s gaze shot back to Pinkie. “Yeah! Let’s do it! Let’s do it now!”
Pinkie giggled with a quick little trot. “Ready to go to Prance?”
“Buck yeah, I’m ready! You ready? I’m ready! LET’S GO!”
And with that Twilight put her front hoofs on the table, clenched her eyes shut and lit her horn. A field of magical energy spread forth from it, branching out to both mares and encompassing their craniums with a sparkling glow.
As Twilight’s conscious thoughts began to drift away and outpace her sugar high, a new thought untainted by glucose suddenly hit her, and she realized just what she was doing as her vision blurred and faded.
Twilight looked around, taking in her surroundings. She was sitting at a small table of an outdoor café. The still bright blue sky gave the indication that it was sometime early in the afternoon. Judging from the masonry and proximity of the buildings to one another as well as the ponies strolling about on their daily business or enjoying a light meal of wine and cheese at a nearby table, Twilight guessed she was somewhere in a projection of mid-town Prance.
“This is amazing!” Pinkie cooed ecstatically.
Twilight sighed and facehoofed.
“Well, congratulations Pinkie; you’ve successfully duped me into bringing the both of us into a dream world.” Twilight scolded Pinkie, barely hiding her disapproval. “And I have no idea how long we’ll be stuck here for!”
The drop in Pinkie’s enthusiasm was slight, but noticeable. “What do you mean?”
“What I mean is that this spell functions automatically. The way this spell works, the caster can enter into the same dream that they’re using the spell to create, as you already know. And when that happens, the spell then functions automatically from a completely subconscious level.“
“I knew that, too. I read your notes, remember?”
“Yeah, you read my notes last night. Since then, I’ve found that the spell will last for as long as I have the energy to maintain it. And I haven’t found how to shut it down manually.”
Pinkie’s expression became flat with realization. “… oh.”
“If there is a way to consciously stop it, I haven’t found it yet. Perhaps that’s why; it’s my subconscious, I can’t control it.” Twilight continued. ”As it is, the only way to get out of a dream is to stay in it for its duration, or find a way to make it collapse from the inside.”
“So how long do these dreams usually last?” Pinkie asked. “What’s the longest you’ve been able to hold it for?”
Twilight felt herself blush slightly over having to share what she felt was a serious shortcoming. “About, uh… about a minute and a half.”
Pinkie smiled again. “Well, that’s not too bad.”
“Yeah, but every other time I’ve cast the spell, I haven’t been on a serious sugar high. With as much energy as I’ve got up there, I expect we’ll be here for a long, long time.”
“Oh, you’ll come down from it fast enough.” Pinkie reassured her. “And if this spell is as draining as you say it is, that’ll probably make you use all that energy up even faster. I know you’re good Twilight, but I still wouldn’t give you more than twenty minutes.”
“Did I mention that relative time in a dream passes much faster than in reality?” Twilight added.
Pinkie cocked her head to one side at this. “No… how much faster? How did you find that out? When did you find that out?”
“Recently,” Twilight answered; “this morning in fact, so it definitely wouldn’t have been in my notes last night. Why time passes at a differential rate, the spell doesn’t put you to sleep by sedating you as much as it suppresses neurological activity; forcing the amplitude of your thoughts to below conscious levels, making you fall asleep. But that activity hasn’t decreased; in fact, it actually increases so to speak, becoming denser and more concentrated.”
Pinkie’s expression was blank and oblivious, like all those words just went in on ear and came out the other, smelling like cotton candy.
Twilight grimaced slightly. “It does to your thoughts what your cupcake cake recipe does to cupcakes.”
Pinkie’s face lit up with understanding. “Oh, well why didn’t you just say so?”
Twilight sighed again, but then she thought about her own analogy. Suddenly, just using the dream spell at all sounded like even less of a good idea. She could think about if further though, Pinkie was still looking at her to finish explaining. She continued. “So with your brain capable of processing much more information much faster, it feels like more time is passing way faster than it actually is.”
“How much faster?” Pinkie asked.
“About twenty times faster.”
Pinkie’s eyes went wide as it finally hit her. “Oh…”
“So assuming your projections were accurate and I can maintain this dream for another twenty minutes in the real world, it’ll end up feeling like we’ll be down here for another…” Twilight froze for a moment as she formulated the equation in her head. “… almost seven hours.”
“OH…” Now it had really hit Pinkie. “So what if we did that other thing you were talking about and just tore the whole thing down? Besides, it was so cool the last time you did it!”
“Because…” Twilight started, but her words stopped at the knot that had just showed up in her throat. She stared for a moment at the almost perpetually happy pony in front of her, and thought about how much joy she loved to spread and how much she loved to make her friends happy. How she had once stated (in song, of course) that if there was only one thing in her life that made living worth it, it was making others smile.
Twilight thought about how much she cherished having Pinkie as a friend… and she still remembered how much it hurt when for even only a minute, Twilight thought she’d lost her. When for the briefest moment, she’d thought that there would be no more smiles, no more sweets, no more parties, and no more laugher among friends that would last for hours… how much it hurt when she thought Pinkie had died.
“Because destroying a dream world is dangerous, and… terrifying. And I’ve had… bad experiences, when a dream collapses.” Twilight almost had to force the words out of her dry throat. “That dream that you managed to enter, I got there without even remembering that I’d already cast the spell. I thought the Ponyville of the dream was real, and that it was actually being destroyed.” Twilight confessed, looking deep into Pinkie’s eyes. “I thought I’d lost Ponyville. I thought I’d lost everypony.” She had to force back tears now. “I thought that… my friends… that you….”
Twilight had to look away. She sniffled as she stared at the ground, trying to wipe away her tears with a hoof before they could escape her eyes.
“Come on, Twilight, get a hold of yourself,” she thought to herself with a sad chuckle.
She hastily tried to pull herself back together and put on a good face for her friend. When she looked back up, Pinkie bore her best comforting smile as a look of compassion poured from her big blue eyes.
“It’s okay, Twilight,” she said, her voice suddenly soothing; “I understand.”
That just made Twilight want to start crying again.
“But hey, if we’re going to be here for a while, that just means you can show me all the other neat things you’ve learned about dream spell worlds!” Pinkie exclaimed, her barely containable cheerfulness returning in an instant. “We could have our own little adventure!”
Twilight chuckled again, spirits beginning to clear.
“You really are a ‘glass half full’ pony, aren’t you?” Twilight asked, heart beginning to warm up again.
Now Pinkie just looked confused. “Why would I be a glass half full of punch?”
“What?” posed Twilight. “Oh, no, it’s an idiom. It’s a way of gauging somepony’s optimistic or pessimistic outlook by presenting them with a glass at half capacity, and their response to whether it’s half full or half empty is intended to be indicative of how well they take any given situation.” She explained. “You always one to smile and find the silver linings in bad situations is all I’m saying.”
Pinkie still looked puzzled. “But why would I have a glass only half full of punch? Unless I’d already drunk the first half. Then I’d just finish the second half and go get more punch!” she grinned.
Twilight laughed a little at this. “They don’t make them like they made you, do they?”
Pinkie put on a big, cheery smile.“Nope!”
Twilight chuckled again. “Well,” she started, gearing up for lecture mode; “since being in this dream has given us a lot of time on our hooves now, let me share what I do know about this magic…”
- - - - - -
“… and that’s how the mind creates these worlds.” Twilight explained to Pinkie. “The same physics and functions of the spell that force the mind into a dream are what spur the mind to create that dream. Still following me?”
“Yeah,” Pinkie replied. She looked very much like a schoolfilly who’d become tired of the lesson… or Rainbow Dash when Twilight was thoroughly explaining just about anything. Twilight had tried to keep the complete descriptiveness to a minimum, but the sheer complexity of the magic meant she’d been talking for over half an hour, and Pinkie had become antsy and fidgety, practically shaking in her chair waiting for something more interesting.
“Now, most of the scientific laws and physics of the real world that function in the dream are driven by the subconscious. Gravity, momentum, sensations to stimulations, interaction with physical objects of other ponies, everything is directed subconsciously based on how we are accustomed to it.” Twilight paused for a second of thought. “Though come to think of it, since we’re in your dream, I wouldn’t expect everything to function normally.”
“Wait,” Pinkie perked up. “We’re in my dream?”
”Indeed.” Twilight informed her. “Thanks to your previous interception, I knew it was possible for the caster to create and host a dream and for others to enter. I wanted to see if somepony else could host the dream, but for a different pony to be the one to create the dream.” She let herself puff up a little bit at another step forward. “That thesis is now confirmed. Anyway, like I was saying, the mind creates the dream and then takes it back in as it perceives it, further propelling the dream in a cycle so long as the spell remains active. But at the same time, we’re aware of the dream because even though we’re asleep, we’re still conscious in it. So we can interact with it, even manipulate it”
“Interact and manipulate it?” Pinkie’s interest had been genuinely renewed. “How?”
“Well, see the ponies around us?” Twilight asked. Pinkie nodded. “They’re not actually real, they’re just, so to speak, projections from my subconscious being driven like everything else in the dream. My mind says there should be ponies in a place like this, so my subconscious puts them there. You could even go up to somepony and talk to them, and my subconscious will carry the conversation.”
Pinkie bolted out of her seat at the nearest pony, over-enticed by the prospect of befriending and hosting a party for every projection in the dream.
“Hi, I’m Pinkie Pie!” she blurted to the nearest pony, a thin stallion with greasy black hair and a slim moustache. “What’s your name? Want to be friends? How’s your food?”
The stallion just looked perturbed. “Il était magnifique jusqu'à ce que quelqueponey jugé qu'il était approprié pour interrompre!” He responded as curtly as he could before turning back to his meal, muttering to himself. “Touristes condamnable…”
Pinkie scrunched up her face at the display, then trotted back to their table. “Geez, Twilight, your subconscious rude much?” she posed, irritated as she got back into her chair.
“Like I said before; it’s my subconscious, I can’t control it. Besides…” Twilight said as with a slight smirk; “he’s Prench.”
Pinkie snapped her head back to the Prench stallion and stuck out her tongue before turning her attention back to Twilight.
“Anyway, you can do more than just interact with the dream like the real world, can also also alter or change it. You’re aware that we’re in a dream created by our own mind, right? Since the dream is lucid, you can actually reach out and grasp the dream mentally and change or add to it in spite of what your subconscious says should be there.”
“Oooo…” Pinkie cooed in wonder at the prospect. “Like what?”
“Well take this dream for instance.” Twilight motioned to the city around them. “Not only is this not the real Prance, but it isn’t even an exact replica of Prance. If you don’t go into a dream with a setting in mind, it’ll just pull something from your memory. I’ve never been to Prance before, but I’ve seen pictures, heard stories, and obviously read about it, so when I entered the dream with Prance fixed in mind, my subconscious just whipped up what I thought Prance should look like.”
Twilight smirked again. “A tourist’s rip-off of an entire city, built purely with this,” said Twilight as she tapped the side of her brain with a hoof.
Pinkie was now legitimately interested. Her bright blue eyes flashed in awe and excitement like a filly whose birthday party had come early. “What else can you do?”
“Since this is all a dream that your mind is at least partially aware of, you could alter it the same way you can alter your own day dreams.” Twilight explained as she got up and trotted out into the street, Pinkie following close behind. “Hypothetically, there are limits to it since the subconscious as its own set of rules that dictate how the dream operates. I haven’t looked to see how far those limits can be pushed, and pushing past them will probably make the dream collapse. But that being said,” Twilight stated as she looked up into the sky, Pinkie’s gaze following hers; “watch this.”
Twilight focused and concentrated, casting her thoughts into the dream around them. Seizing a particular spot in the sky, she formed an idea and transplanted it into the world. Just like in her previous dream, a bright star appeared in the sky.
It was just a tiny speck of light in the clear blue sky, but Pinkie was looking at it with a smile as big as the first time she saw a rainbow.
“Ohmigosh Twilight, that was amazing!” she exclaimed ecstatically, cheeks pulling up her smile so tightly that it almost looked like it hurt. “The way you just… and then… Wow!”
Twilight blushed a little. “Really Pinkie, it’s not that much…”
“Oh, but this is incredible!” Pinkie interjected. “Think of all the possibilities! Wait,” Pinkie froze, a flash in her eyes as a bright new idea crept into her mind. “Can I do it to?”
Twilight contemplated that possibility for a moment. “Well, manipulation doesn’t require a spell to be cast, it just deals with the magical energy already there. And since every mind in the dream is connected to it, hypothetically…”
Pinkie proved any skeptics that she might have had wrong when her already massive smile got even bigger. She was almost visibly shaking from the vast expanse of possibilities that had just opened themselves up to her. Twilight could tell her mind was just overflowing with ideas of what she could do to forge in this new frontier.
Another sparkle flashed in Pinkie’s eyes. “Oh, I know what to do!”
Pinkie clenched her eyes shut and scrunched up her face in concentration. She stood like that for a moment, neck pointing her forehead down towards the horizon. Twilight just stared at her for a moment, thinking that she looked very much like a filly attempting to perform magic for the first time. “I’ve got a radical notion going on here… ” Pinkie spoke pensively.
Suddenly, Twilight felt and heard a low rumble sounded from far off as the world moaned. She looked off in the distance Pinkie was facing, and watched as more and more of the city came into view as the entire landscape in front of her folded upwards.
Buildings and streets moved to accommodate the crease in reality and shadows shifted as their position relative to the sunlight changed. A shadow came over them as more and more light became obstructed by the changing landscape. Miles of Prance was now visible from a pegasus-eye view from being vertical in relation to where they were standing. Another rumble sounded off in the distance, and a section of the city began to fold again, downwards this time, becoming more parallel to the ground they stood on. It continued to move until the rest of the city was directly above them, blocking out the sky. It shook one last time as it set into place directly over their heads, then ceased all movement.
Pinkie finally opened her eyes to look at the spectacle her imagination had created. Smiling again, she giggled as her eyes darted from scene to scene, from the city perpendicular to their view to the canopy of concrete that had completely overshadowed them.
Twilight merely stood there, eyes wide, jaw hanging open, and mind too confounded to from any words, or even a cohesive thought.
Pinkie looked to the befuddled unicorn and giggled again as she reached out and took hold of Twilight’s lower jaw with a hoof, pulling it down slightly before letting it go, making it snap shut like a roll-out set of window blinds.
Twilight’s head snapped upward slightly as her jaw closed shut, then shook her head to clear her thoughts. Still, she couldn’t help but ogle at the sight of the folded city around her. Above and in front of her, the ponies still trotted about, carrying through with their daily business on the wall and ceiling of the boxed-up city, seemingly oblivious to the world-breaking changes that had just occurred. She opened her mouth to speak, but the only word that managed to stumble out was; “… how?”
Pinkie just smiled and pantomimed Twilight’s earlier motion as she without a word tapped the side of her head with a hoof, then galloped off towards the direction of the fold, giggling along the way.
“Come on,” Pinkie prodded as she looked back to Twilight. One of her eyes twitched. “What happened to having an adventure?” And with that, Pinkie turned and galloped off again.
Twilight snapped somewhat back to her senses and took off after Pinkie, only to halt suddenly in a stupor as she watched Pinkie reach the axis where the city shoot upwards perpendicular to the ground, put her front hooves on the street wall, then with a little jump from her hind legs pushed herself forwards and began to further gallop along the wall.
“Hurry up Twilight!” Pinkie called back to her. “You’ve gotta try it!” Pinkie’s ear twitched.
Twilight tentatively reached out with a hoof and touched the street wall. Much to her surprise, she could feel the pull of gravity on that leg shift towards the wall. She stared at it for a moment, curiously assessing the situation.
“A hop, skip, and jump,” Pinkie sang; “just *irk* move your little rump!”
Twilight put another hoof to the wall and pushed off with her hind legs, almost tripping over herself as she stumbled onto the new ground. She looked around; now two walls of city stood at her front and back, ponies still going about business, carriages on the streets disappearing into tunnels that had formed at the creases.
Suddenly, the energetic earth pony was off again. “Pinkie, wait!” Twilight called after her as she galloped of to catch up.
“This is good,” Pinkie stated as she looked at all the changes; ”but Prance is still such a huffy place.” Pinkie put a hoof to her chin in thought, pondering her next trick for a moment
“I know what this place could use!” Pinkie exclaimed; “some roller coasters!”
Twilight heard another rumble to her right. She looked to see several entire blocks of buildings sink into the cobble-stone streets, only for multiple steel monuments to burst forth a moment later. The merry laughter and fearful screams of ponies could be overheard from the roar of wind generated from the many trains whizzing by.
“Or…” Twilight looked back to Pinkie, a devilishly ingenious look on the pink pony’s face as she spoke; “do you know what this place could really use?”
Twilight’s eyes went wide and he corners of her mouth pulled tight. “Please don’t say…”
“A PARTY!!” Pinkie shouted as she reared up on her hind legs. Holding her pose, the street behind her pulled back, and up from the opening rose a robin-egg blue cannon of epic proportions; so large that Twilight reasoned that any sovereign nation Pinkie pointed it all would immediately declare her an enemy of the state.
Pinkie reached into her erratic mane and withdrew a remote control with a single button on it. She looked to Twilight, then to the rest of Prance, then back to Twilight, mischievous smile growing ever larger.
“Pinkie, don’t…” Twilight stated to say.
“Which do you hate more,” Pinkie interrupted her; “Itaily or Prance?”
“Uh… Prance. But…”
Pinkie looked back to the controller. Her face twitched slightly. “They never say Itaily…” And with that she smashed her hoof into the button.
There was a deafening boom and a shock wave that Twilight could feel blast upon her coat, forcing her to shut her eyes as the party cannon of mass destruction detonated a charge as knocked itself back into a building from the recoil.
Twilight ears were still ringing when she dared open her eyes again. The whole city around her was caked with streamers, banners, and balloons that adorned every building, window, streetlight and lamp. All the produce and fine wine of the restaurants lining the streets had now been replaced with pastries, cakes, and various other baked goods. All of the water fountains that dotted this part of the town were now gushing out punch. The once pretentious and snooty flocks of ponies that once walked the streets with their noses in the air were now jovially participating in multiple party games that had broken out over the city; all which, herself and Pinkie included she noticed, were now sporting party hats.
“Pinkie, go easy with the manipulation!” Twilight called out.
“Don’t worry Twilight; Pinkie’s just doing what Pinkie does best!” she chirped back, then blinked, holding the smile on her face perfectly still. Twilight watched as Pinkie’s pupils slowly began to shrink and drift apart. Pinkie blinked again to reveal her eyes were perfectly fine, then galloped off towards the nearest fountain.
Twilight pulled the party hat off her head and looked around with concern. This was more than she’d ever dared interfered with a dream; more than she’d ever even thought possible. She didn’t know if the dream would be able to take much more of Pinkie’s sporadic antics.
She closed her eyes and reached out to the matrices of the dream world, looking to see how well they were holding up. Upon her first glance, she found that they were, much to her surprise, even in spite of all the activity and hubbub.
“That’s a relief,” Twilight thought to herself as she continued her scans. “Maybe how much a subconscious can take varies upon the pony hosting the dream.” She chuckled slightly to herself. ”That’s Pinkie Pie for… wait…”
She’d found something; a small anomaly emanating from what she fathomed was Pinkie’s subconscious in the overall scheme. Twilight felt her heart skip a beat, fearing it could threaten the entire dream. Now anxious, she prodded it further.
First impressions lead her to believe that its existence was indeed a sign of the dream world’s growing instability, but not as staggering a threat as Twilight had initially feared. She allowed herself a slight sigh of relief before investigating further. It was definitely caused by a wear in the fabric of the imagined reality, but what exact it was she couldn’t tell. Either way…
“Pinkie, you need to stop the manipulation!” Twilight urged Pinkie as she ran up to the party pony, “I’m detecting an anomaly in the dreamscape, and I think your interference with it is endangering its structural integrity!”
Pinkie’s head snapped up from underneath the flow of punch she’d placed it under, an expression of disturbing inspiration growing on her face. “You know what I’d really, REALLY love to see again?” she posed to Twilight, not having paid mind to a word she’d said.
“Pinkie, this is seri…”
But the pony cut her off as she got up and galloped several paces off. Pinkie scrunched up her face in concentration, leaving Twilight to watch as a single cloud formed over her friend’s head. Twilight gasped when she saw it.
It was pink, with a feathery texture and a slight sparkle to it.
“Pinkie, are you crazy?!” Twilight barked, panicked.
Pinkie looked her square in eye. “Yep!” she blurted as she tilted her head back, opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue expectantly. And that’s when the chocolate ran began to fall.
She knew it was Pinkie’s doing, but seeing those clouds again overwhelmed Twilight with a sense of foreboding. Almost instinctively, she reached out to check the anomaly with her mind again, only to find that she didn’t need to; Twilight could feel it, and judging by the look on her face and that she’d actually ceased her indulgence, so could Pinkie.
It felt ominous and dreadful, like a ghost that had been locked up.
“Ah…” Pinkie inhaled. “ah… Ah… CHOO!!!” Pinkie sneezed with gale-force winds towards the ground that flung her up through the cloud into the air, where she landed with an “Oof!” next to Twilight.
Pinkie shook her head, dazed from her rough landing, then looked back to the puddle of chocolate that had formed underneath the cloud. “Ew, gross!” she spat out.
Twilight looked for herself, and felt repulsed at what looked like extremely large globs of bloody snot sprayed onto the ground. But at second glance, she realized they didn’t look like snot as much as they looked like neurons; diseased and red from inflammation. And that’s when she felt it; the same feeling as the anomaly. Terrifying and… familiar.
The air became grey and hazy, and with a burst of thunder and lightning came forth harrowing winds that whipped Twilight and Pinkie in the face, forcing them to shut their eyes from the dust being blown at them.
A moment passed before Twilight dared open her eyes enough to squint. She caught an occasional glimpse at the anomaly through the fog via silhouettes caused by frequent flashes of lightning. She watched as the pile resembling neurons grew and stretched; the web of nuclei and axons becoming thicker to form a long and slender body, convulsing as it expanded. Separate segments branched outwards, forming what appeared to be uneven appendages sprouted out from the main body. One end stretched and morphed into a long, gaunt head. Twilight watched as a mouth at the end of its face opened, revealing a single snaggletooth as it let out a low chuckle that made the mane on the back of her neck stand on end.
Pinkie’s eyes snapped open when she heard it too, both her’s and Twilight’s blood running cold at the sound.
“It’s…” Twilight squeaked out before a final blast of air forced her eyes shut again. A moment passed before she found the courage to open them again. When she did, she found herself staring at a pair on asymmetrical red and yellow eyes.
“An old friend?”
Twilight and Pinkie almost shrieked simultaneously in terror upon seeing him again. “Discord!”
The old draconequus threw his head back as he let out a wicked laugh towards the lightning crashing down from the sky. In an instant, he snapped his head back towards them, a huge smile splayed on his crooked face before it became obstructed by a large camera that he lifted in front of it.
A bright light from the flash temporarily blinded them, forcing the two of them to shut their eyes. When their visions cleared of the burning after-image, another spike of fear struck them both as they saw that he was no longer in front of them.
“Where’d he- AH!” Twilight and Pinkie both let out a small scream as Discord swooped in from behind them, snatching the pair up in his arms, keeping them close as he held out the camera for them to see.
“What’d I tell you,” he said as he showed them the back of the camera, where a bright screen clearly displayed a picture of Twilight and Pinkie, looks of pure terror and shock on their faces. “Priceless! Now I just need one of all six of you…”
Twilight lit her horn and a bright pink flash surrounded her and Pinkie, disappearing from Discord’s grasp and reappearing instantaneously a moment later several hooves away, taking up defensive stances against their old adversary.
“What are you doing her, Discord?” Twilight demanded, focused and prepared for battle. “Why are you here?” She looked puzzled for a moment “How did you get here?” Stern focus again. “What are you up to?”
“Whoa, easy; one question at a time, if you will.” Discord responded, putting his hands up. “To which I must answer with a question of my own; why must I always be up to something, Twilight?”
“You’re Discord,” Twilight said forcefully; “you’re always up to something.”
“Hmm, touché.” He responded nonchalantly. “Well, you caught me. I figured since my last campaign against you girls failed, I’d take my schemes in a new direction this time. I was thinking perhaps starting a little underground club where ponies could meet up to beat the snot out of each other, then open up a shady soap business with the friends I’d make there, and use the profits to fund our little exploits into mayhem; filling up steam engines with gasoline, burning smiley faces onto buildings, opening up the dump valves on oil tankers and smother all those Prench beaches we’ll never see…“
Twilight just stared, utterly dumbfounded.
Pinkie facehoofed. “You’re breaking the first two rules, nimrod.”
Twilight’s jaw hit the ground again, opening up a moment of awkward silence.
“Hell-OOOO?” Discord interjected. “Perhaps we haven’t met; I’m Discord: Spirit of Disharmony. I’m The Ghost of Chaos Past, Present and Future, all rolled up into one easily affordable package!” He proclaimed with a smirk. “Caveat emptor.
“What else would I be here to do?” Discord asked. “Maybe you didn’t get the memo? I spread chaos. But from the looks of things,” he let his sentence hang for a moment as he took in the setting around them, reaching out to munch on the cotton candy cloud; ponies everywhere backing away from the scene has the city wide party came to a halt, the world bent and flipped on its side surrounding them, and confetti was still raining from the sky; “it would seem things are already in capable enough hooves.”
With a burst of light Discord appeared next to Pinkie, snaking around her with his lithe form. “You always were my favorite of your little troop, do you know that? And not just because of you sense of humor.” Discord commented as he pointed to her with his talon.
Pinkie recoiled from his claw, eyes locked on the cruel point in fear. She still remembered what had happened the last time he’d poked her with it.
To Twilight’s surprise, Discord looked at Pinkie with curious uncertainty. He looked at the cowering pony, then to the hand that she seemed to be terrified of, then slowly turned back to Pinkie with a devilish smile.
“Oh yeah,” Discord began to say slowly, voice filled with devious intent. “I made several mistakes last time; perhaps another I should add to the list was… politely suggesting that you should decide to become such an irritable little grump.” He said, moving in closer to gaze at Pinkie eye to eye. “Maybe instead of… borrowing your sense of humor, I should have just left it there, but with some modifications of my own. You already seem to have a knack to chaos,“ Discord allowed himself another glance at the folded city; “imagine what we could accomplish together if instead of some isolated grouch, you were an invaluable ally... if all of you were allies…”
He then looked to Twilight, and if it was possible, he looked even more devilish. “Imagine if the Bearers to the Elements of Harmony severed their greatest nemesis.”
Twilight teleported Pinkie away from Discord back to her side, and furrowed her brow in tensing up for a battle even more.
“So long as you’re taking up all of my time with your monologuing, how about you at least give me the courtesy of answering the rest of my questions?” she sassed. “Like for starters, how did you manage to break free this time?”
A hint of contempt briefly flashed upon the twisted dragon’s face, but it quickly disappeared under the smile of his usual juvenile disregard. “You really are quite brooding, you know that? No wonder Celestia looks upon you with such high favor.” He put his paw to his chin and thoughtfully stroked is goatee for a moment. “Do you really need to know anything more than that I am the embodiment of entropy? A deity of disarray? Even with your precious Elements, you can’t keep this kind of chaos contained forever.”
Twilight became even more tense. “You still haven’t answered my question.”
“Celestia’s finest at her finest.” Discord smirked. “But you’re right, I haven’t.” He didn’t bother saying anything more.
Twilight gave a little exacerbated groan over Discord’s typical hubris. “You never cease to surprise me as much as you frustrate me, Discord; it’s not like you to pass up an opportunity to gloat…” she paused as Twilight heard herself say those words. Then a thought hit her.
“You’re not Discord…” Twilight put forth.
Discord remained silent.
“You can’t be,” she continued; “the real Discord thinks too highly of himself to make a grand entrance by being sneezed out by a pony; and while we’re sleeping in a dream world, no less. If you were actually free and darkening Ponyville with your twisted magic, you’d probably be scribbling mustaches on our faces right now.”
Both Pinkie and Discord snorted at this.
“You’re just a projection; you’re not actually here. The real Discord is still in Canterlot, imprisoned in stone…”
“Oh, don’t remind me!” Discord groaned. “No wonder Celestia is so fond of you; you’re as keen on attempting to foil my little games as much as you seem intent on taking the fun out of them.” He sighed and conceded “But you’re right.” He finally answered with slight dejection, looking to Twilight and Pinkie. “I am a mere shadow of a far more grand design."
“So how does a projection like you end up here with a form like Discord’s?” Twilight asked.
Discord’s dastardly charisma started to creep its way back onto the projection’s face. “I’m just a projection, aren’t I? I’m a mere figment of somepony’s imagination. Perhaps I’m not the one you should be asking…” Discord advised craftily, his gaze fell intently on Pinkie Pie.
Twilight looked back to her, jarred by this piece of information. “Pinkie? How… why did you summon a projection of Discord?” She inquired, a slight tone of accusation in her voice.
“I… I don’t know; I didn’t mean to!” Pinkie stammered in her defense. “It’s my subconscious, I can’t control it!”
Discord chuckled deeply again as he slowly moved off the ground, swimming through the air in a wave motion, circling the two ponies like a predator.
“I may not be the one true Discord or actually here in the flesh… or mind to be accurate, but all you memories and fears of me, all your speculations and first-hoof knowledge of my power, and the lingering shreds of me when I seized your very essence; those are here, as parts of your very own minds.” He snickered. “Chaos lives in everything.” He drifted back to the ground, voice and eyes saturated with sinister motives.
“’Dreams feel real while we’re in them.’” He said intently to Twilight, sending a shiver down her spine that he somehow knew that quote. “With everything in your own minds that animates me here in dreamland, as far as you should be concerned, I am Discord, and I am very, very much real.”
Twilight gulped and her ears had folded back against her head, but she shook off as much trepidation as she could and looked back to her foe with steely resolve. “No, no you’re not. Even if our memories created you, you could never be as much as the real Discord was. And we’re not in Equestria; we’re in dreamland. And if you’re just one screwed up imaginary friend of ours, in this state of mind, we have more power than you.”
And at that, Discord fell to the ground, holding his gut as he trashed about on the street, laughing harder than either of them had ever heard him laugh before.
“… oh, you think… you think that you can beat me at my own game?” He barely managed to get out in between laughs. “BWA-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! HAHAHAHAHAha…ha ha ha, oh… pffft.. AH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!”
“Oh… oh, that’s rich!” he managed to say after all the laugher had subsided. “Oh, it really is a pity that I’m just a projection; you girls really are too much fun.” Discord said as he wiped a tear from his eye. “Awful pity, really.”
“Why, because Mr. Meanie-Pants here is still just a trophy statue hidden away in Canterlot?” Pinkie Pie interjected.
Discord sighed “Must you be intent as Twilight to point out the painfully obvious?” he asked. “We’ve established this already. In fact, unless as I suspect the Elements can grant their Bearers immortality or some other event sets me free again, I’ll probably still be trapped in stone even after all of you are dead and long gone.”
Suddenly, Discord froze and any sign of his usual colt-like bemusement vanished from his face, his expression blank as he realized what he said. He looked away, and for a moment, Twilight thought that he actually looked… sad… but in a way that was completely deadpanned, like the same way Pinkie had looked once when Twilight was helping her film some over-the-top cooking short about making an omelet of inconceivable proportions. Pinkie had mentioned something about using the eggs of the giant elephant bird of Maredagascar, only for Twilight to bring up the fact that those birds were extinct.
“Well then!” Discord suddenly sprung up with a big, dopey smile and bright eyes, clapping his hands together with a sound of a bowling ball striking the pins. “I suppose we’ll just have to make up for all that lost time then, won’t we?”
Twilight lowered her head point her horn at Discord. Confident as she was that the playing field was more even now given the circumstances, her heart was still pounding at the prospect of having to face what was essentially a being from their own nightmares. “Are you ready for this, Pinkie?”
Twilight looked, but the pony wasn’t next to her. She heard a gurgling come from another direction, and looked to see Pinkie sitting underneath the pink cloud again, happily gulping up as much chocolate rain as she could catch with her mouth.
“Just a second!” she called back with her cheeks stuffed. She catch a little more in the mouth, gulped it down, then hoped right next back to Twilight. “Okay! GRRR!”
The three stood in a stand-off, both sides staring at the other waiting for the other to make a move first. Moments passed, and none of them moved. Each second was saturated with tension. The streets were now empty save for the two ponies and the draconequus. An ominous breeze brushed passed them as if it too wished to escape from the coming fire. A lone tumbleweed rolled down the street in between them.
“DRAW!” Discord yelled. Twilight tensed and charged up a concussion spell, but lost concentration when she saw what Discord was doing. He was acting out exactly what he yelled; drawing, scribbling furiously on a sketchbook with a pencil he’d pulled out of nowhere.
She regretted letting her guard down as soon as she saw him reach into the sketchbook and withdraw an absurdly large shoulder-mounted cannon affixed with several laser designators pointed right at Twilight and a belt of rockets hanging out of one side, all of which literally had her name on them.
Discord pointed the weapon at her with a wild, ballistic look in his eyes. “Arrividerchi!”
There was a resounding shockwave from the boom of Discord firing the weapon. Twilight had just enough time to throw up a shield dome around the both of them before the rocket smashed into the defensive magic. To her horror she saw the shield disappear immediately, finding herself holding a mere umbrella with her magic.
Twilight heard another whoosh from the rocket launcher and dropped the umbrella, dodge-rolling away from it to see the rocket blast the umbrella and turn it into a pile of sugar.
“What the hay is with the rockets?!” Twilight yelled as she teleported away from another. She avoided the blast but still had to brace herself against the hammering blast and deafening roar of the explosion. The flash and heat from the explosion seared her eyes and pungent smell of burning sulfur and potassium nitrate made her gag, until suddenly the fiery explosion turned to Jell-o.
“A little party cannon of my own!” Discord yelled over the rhythmic explosions from his weapon.
And that’s when Twilight realized that Discord had only been shooting at her. Looking back to her previous spot for the stand-off, she saw that Pinkie had yet to move at all, sitting there, feverishly doodling in a sketchbook of her own.
“Just gimme one more second!” Pinkie called back. “Okay, I got it!”
With that, Pinkie plunged her own hoof into the paper. To Twilight’s shock, she felt a tugging on her tail, and suddenly she felt herself pulled back away from a rocket that was headed straight for her, though the paper, and into Pinkie’s grasp.
Pinkie put a foreleg around Twilight’s neck and moved her head down so her horn pointed towards Discord. Suddenly, Twilight felt her horn begin to charge with extraordinary power as Pinkie began to vigorously crack her tail around in a circle. A flurry of lasers flew through the air, forcing Discord to take evasive maneuvers from the onslaught.
“Just like old times, huh Twilight?” Pinkie asked through her gleeful smile as she steered the hailstorm of magical blasts at Discord with her own personal gatling laser.
“Yeah, just like old times…” Twilight muttered.
Pinkie began to cackle as she continued to lay down her assault. "BWA HA HA HA HA, CRY SOME MORE!" She yelled in a booming voice as the lasers torn through the dream.
Discord shot around the street, mocking Pinkie as her shoots continued to hit nothing but air. “Can’t catch me! Can’t catch me!” he teased as he bounced from place to place, using his tail as a pogo stick.
Twilight looked her with her eyes at the elusive target. “Pinkie, you need to fire at where he’s going to be, not where he already is! Or…” she paused as a thought passed though her her head doing a quick calculation of his trajectory.
“Man, you really need to work on you ai-AAAAAAAAAAAAAA...” his voiced carried away into the distance as he fell through a hole in the street.
Twilight smirked as they heard the sound of a splash come up from the newly installed mare-hole, its heavy lid conveniently placed off to the side.
“You’re not the only one who can come up with a little mayhem, Discord.” Twilight mocked.
Pinkie ran up to the sewer opening. “Now for a little mayhem of my own!” She held out what looked like a green sponge cut into the shape of a lizard over the hole, dropped it in, closed the mare-hole, and galloped off.
A slight rumble was heard from under the ground, then a low hiss.
“No, bad lizard!” Discord yelled, voice muffed through the street. “Stay back; back, I said! No, NO! YE-OOOOOOW!!!”
Discord burst through the street, look of wild pain on his face as his momentum carried the giant crocodilian lizard attached to his tail up with him.
Twilight chucked. “Nice trick with the alligator, Pinkie.”
Pinkie looked aghast, almost insulted. “That’s not an alligator!”
Twilight sighed. “Okay, crocodile.”
“Thanks!” Pinkie chirped. “Besides, ‘crocodile’ is more fun to say!” She giggled. “Crocodile.” She laughed. “Crocodile!” Pinkie fell on her back, paralyzed by guffaws.
Discord stopped struggling to free his tail from the lethargic crocodile’s jaw to sneer at the two. With a flick of his tail, the limp crocodile was toppling through the air, Discord’s tail still clammed in its teeth.
“Feraligatr, use body slam!” he yelled.
“Uh-oh,” the two mares peeped at the shadow of the reptile towering over them. They bolted in opposite directions as the crocodile hit the ground and crashed through the street.
Discord stood afar off from them, tense and irritated. “You think you know mayhem?” He spoke, his voice cold and threatening. “I’ll show you mayhem.” He held out both hands, and they began to glow with a pink energy as he charged a greater magic.
Twilight felt a cold spike of terror stab through her as the saw Discord readying his power. He may have just been a projection of their memories, but they all remembered how powerful he was, and those memories alone were terrifying.
“We’ve got to stop him, Pinkie!” Twilight called in a panic.
“On it!” Pinkie reached for her sketchbook and began drawing again, pulling out a smaller equivalent of her party cannon, modified with six compartments held in place by an under-slung wheel connected to the barrel. Its barrel was the same shade of blue, but the canisters were hot pink and the stock was a cool gray with an image of a white silhouette of a pony in mid trot stamped onto it.
Twilight and Pinkie let loss with a barrage of attack spells and artillery rounds; Twilight’s spells ripping through the air while the shots from Pinkie’s multi-canister launcher tore up the street and buildings with explosions of confetti as powerful as those from Discord chaos rockets in their attempts to halt the draconequus.
Discord dived into the window of a nearby office building, glass splashing and rippling to a settle as though he’d just jumped into a pool. For a moment he was gone. The two looked around nervously, trying to relocate their target.
His reflective image popped up in one of the windows, smirking as the light from his charging spell grew brighter. “Can’t catch me!” he mocked as Twilight shot a blast at the window. Discord disappeared just before the spell hit the window, shattering it into a thousand pieces.
“Can’t catch me!” he mocked again from another window. Twilight shot another spell at him, only to watch him flee unharmed to another.
“Can’t catch me!” he taunted from another window. Twilight turned and shot; another miss.
“Can’t catch me!” Another mockery from another window, and another miss by Twilight.
Discord appeared in another window, dressed foalishly like a duck and moving from one side to the other. “*QUACK.*” He moved to another window. “*QUACK.*”
Twilight shot a blast that knocked out all the windows in a row. He simply moved to the row above it.
“I’m here!” The window shattered.
“Now I’m here!” Discord mocked from a window on the building on the opposite side of the street. Twilight fired a blast that obliterated that window and every window next to it.
“Surprise you!” He provoked from a window before it ceased to exist.
Discord popped up from another window, wearing a comically large twisted black mustache. “Moustachio!”
“Hey, I can do this too!” Discord and Twilight both froze to look at Pinkie, hold up in a window herself, giggling.
“What the…” Twilight mouthed.
Discord tried to move to another window, but suddenly found himself unable to at the image of brick walls appeared on the reflective surface of the window, trapping him.
“Get him, Twilight!” Pinkie shouted.
“Uh-oh…” was all Discord got out before the blast tore through the window, leaving it nothing more than shards on the ground. And then silence.
Pinkie emerged from the window to look at the fragments of glass. Still, silence.
“Is it over?” Pinkie dared to ask.
“Nope!” Discord’s tinny voice rang out. Hundreds on miniature Discords then sprung from the shards of the glass, their combined voices a disharmonious chorus of intolerably annoying calls of “Can’t catch me! Can’t catch me! Can’t catch me! Can’t catch me!”
Twilight scrunched her face up in frustration, ears burning at the indignation. Pinkie put a hoof on her shoulder.
“Chill out, I got this!” Pinkie said as she pulled a vacuum cleaner out of thin air and bolted into the chaotic soiree, chasing and capturing all the Discord copies with her unconventional weapon.
With the last of the mini-Discords contained, Pinkie took off the vacuum cleaner and removed the bag, forcing all the little Discords back inside before any could escape and tied it off with a knot. Still holding onto the bag, she picked up her party cannon and looked at Twilight with a grin.
“Up for some target practice?”
Twilight returned the grin. “You’re on!”
Pinkie flung the bag high up into the air. They both took careful aim and fired a shot at it from the respective weapons of choice.
Twilight’s spell moved closer to Pinkie’s grenade, enveloping it in mid-air. The exterior of the party grenade burst into pink flames and shot forward at its target with increased velocity. The combined attack hit its target dead on, and then came a blinding flash and a deafening boom as the projectiles detonated. A shockwave of magic and confetti burst out in the air over the city billowing outward for a moment until all the shreds of confetti exploded into brilliant fireworks.
And then, once more, silence set it.
“Okay,” Twilight breathed. “Now it HAS to be over.”
Somepony tapped her on the shoulder from behind. Twilight turned, then her heart nearly jumped out through her ribcage.
Discord stared over them, hands still held out charging his magic while his face bore a smug, victorious grin.
“But… but… No way!” Twilight stuttered. “How?!”
“Tsk, tsk.” Discord voiced in bemused condescension. “Perhaps we haven’t met; I’m Discord, Spirit of Disharmony and… CHAOS!!!” He roared as he swiftly brought his hands together.
There was another boom of an explosion. Twilight braced herself for the worst, then looked up, surprised as she felt it pass right through her. She looked at Pinkie, who bore the same expression of confusion she did. They looked behind them, and watched as the shockwave ripped through the city, passing over its every feature but visibly leaving it unscathed. Its roar becoming quieter as it faded away into the horizon, until only uncomfortable silence remained.
Twilight and Pinkie looked around, darting this way and that in nervous anticipation of the inevitable worst. But everywhere they looked and in every direction they turned their ears in, they were met with nothing but unsettling stillness and uncomfortable silence.
They looked to Discord. He too stood there in silence, observing the nerve-wracking placidity of the still moment. He looked from one scene to the next, eyes shifty and devious, plotting and scheming like a mad artist staring down a blank medium.
Discord held out a hand, tips of the middle finger and thumb pressed up against each other. The hearts of Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle froze in fear. Discord caught their gaze, flashed an evil grin, and snapped his fingers.
And the dream world exploded into chaos.
The already warped land twisted and squished to unfathomable degrees, boiling and writhing, bubbling over and sinking in on itself and adopting wild patterns at irregular intervals.
The buildings didn’t fare any better. Some were dragged helplessly along with the roiling earth while others remained in place; some abandoned the ground and began floating in the air. Each one became a twisted version of its former self; most twisted and squished and stretched into various forms disassociated from their former geometric structure, but all bearing mutations of which no two were alike. One turned to a house of cards, another became covered in scales as each window became an eye, and another stood up from its resting place to reveal an odd number of mismatched legs before it trampled of to some place or another to name a few.
All the ponies that were once hiding now poured into the streets, propelled by motives that were not theirs, each one a grayed version of their former self, wearing clothing of such poor taste that it made even the two fashionably uneducated mares nauseated. One began to lick the sidewalk like it was a popsicle. Several broke into wild varieties of dances, of one which began performing lewd acts on the pole of a street lamp. Some started bonking themselves on the head, running up the walls, cooking with inedible materials, or beating each other senseless.
A long, low moan sounded from overheard, Twilight and Pinkie looked up to see a large group large, slender blue clouds swimming lazily through the air… only for her to shake her head and gawk at the sight a moment later when she realized they were, in fact, not clouds, but a numerable pod of humpback whales flying across the sky, which had now become an array of various cascading pastels.
The ground rumbled for a second, and then the crocodile burst through the street again, now wearing a massive pair of flight goggles and an equally massive jet pack. It looked up at the whales and licked its lips before the huge engines on its jet pack ignited and it took to the skies in pursuit of new query.
Just then, there was a sudden sound of shattering glass as a pony in a space suit was thrown into the street in front of them. It got back on its hooves as quickly as it could, panting, and brushed itself off to reveal a patch with the name ‘T. SANDERS’ written on the front. He looked back in the direction of the building he was thrown from, almost biding Twilight and Pinkie to look in the same direction just in time to see a large creature smash through the broken window, taking a large portion of the wall with it.
The creature resembled a hybrid of a stag and a bull and rippled with enough muscles to be on the cover of a romance novel. But what was truly odd about it was that it had a coat of fur that looked more like golden scales, four pairs of ears and three lower jaws layered one atop the other.
“You killed my goat,” the creature growled through its ragged, heavy breathing to the space pony; “NOW I KILL YOU!”
Sanders groaned. “I was better off lost in oblivion!” he exclaimed as he galloped away from the creature now charging at him.
The two ponies watched in terror as the world fell into hopeless disarray are the logical parts of their minds screaming for a shred of pity from this indignation against reason. It was abhorrent, an abomination, an atrocity; it was… slippery.
Twilight and Pinkie fell on their faces as their grip on the ground slipped out from underneath them, landing on a cold surface and splashing a small amount of deluded water in the face. Twilight spat and rubbed her eyes furiously, trying to get the soap out.
“Ugh, this again?” Twilight groaned.
Discord skated around them, sliding gracefully across the soapy water and ice road. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“No it isn’t!” Twilight hollered as she tried to get back up on her hooves, “And it wasn’t either the last time you…” she stopped herself; “… the real you did it, either!”
Discord gave a lighthearted sight as he did a jump and spin through the air. “Twilight, we’ve already been over this. For everything left of me that you two brought here, I might as well be.”
“But you’re not!” Twilight stubbornly put her hoof down, almost slipping again. “You’re just a subconscious projection! You never terrorized Equestria over a millennia ago, you never tried to take it over again almost a year ago, and you’ve yet to try again in vain! You haven’t broken free, your power isn’t legitimate, and you most certainly are not the same Discord that tried to turn all my friends into big jerks!”
Discord stopped dead in his back-flip. “Don’t have to power to corrupt you with chaos?” he tested the weight of those words.
He was in Twilight’s face faster than she could react, his expression pure gleeful wickedness. “Do I, now?” Discord whispered evilly. “Well, why don’t we put that to the test?”
Twilight squeaked as she was yanked upwards, gasping for air as Discord’s grip around her throat tightened. The projection now looked truly malicious as it glared at its prey, jabbing a claw into Twilight’s forehead.
Twilight’s scream died in her throat under the frost of the chills that ran through her. Her own mind began assaulting her with memories see wished she didn’t have, opening up a torrent of emotions that made the marrow in her bones squirm. She remembered and felt as though it was happening all over again.
They’d been fighting for a while and her frustration had surpassed her patience. Her friends; twisted reflections of their former selves, had been at each other’s throats for hours, bickering over the most trivial things while everything that actually mattered drowned in the depths of chaos. And when she’d finally managed to get all of them (minus the deserter) together for long enough to use the Elements, they had failed, then went right back to fighting with each other before storming off. As she watched them all gallop away, she couldn’t have felt more vindictive about it. She hated them. She was glad to be rid of those so called-friends. She was… alone.
A gaping wound was torn into her that drained the entirety of her colored soul out of her, leaving nothing but harrowing depression. Memories of that day still sent chills through her; the day that the magic of friendship had lost its spark.
All that sadness and misery, the pains of failure and woe of the past ripped across her mind in a matter of mere seconds. But directly on its heels came a new assault of alien thoughts; ones that told her she should still hate her friends.
Hate Applejack for her stubborn and linear thinking. Hate her for running from her failures until the point that the rest of them were dragged into the wake and had to pull her out themselves. Hate the believed Element of Honesty for only being so when it was the truth was easy enough to say.
Hate Rainbow Dash for her cocky attitude and overblown ego. Hate her for her disregard of anything her friends cared about that wasn’t ‘awesome’ or ‘cool enough’ for the self-important mare. Hate the so-called Element of Loyalty for opening such rifts between them with her brazen impertinence.
“No…” Twilight whimpered as she swung her hoofs blindly through the air as if to punch away the things that clouded her vision.
Hate Rarity for being such a stuck–up, pretentious snob. Hate her for her ostentatious materialism. Hate for the sake of indignation that the Element of Generosity only felt charitable when she had gotten everything she wanted.
“No…” Twilight choked as she begun to thrash her head about from its afflicting torment.
Hate Fluttershy for being such a spineless coward that she’d rather hide behind her stupid hair and talk to bucking animals all day than actually socialize. Hate the quivering pile of fur and feathers for at the same having such a capacity for truculence towards anything that didn’t want to be part of her namby-pamby ‘let’s-all-hold-hooves’ happy, lovey-dovey, stupid little fantasy world. Hate that the pansy-flank Element of Kindness could be both cruel and disgustingly terrified of everything to be anything but an overly apologetic door mat.
“no…” The animosity was overwhelming, relentlessly beating her poor senses to the core.
Hate Pinkie Pie for being so Celestia-damn crazy. Hate that she didn’t make a lick of sense. Hate that all the damn pony cared about was her bucking parties. Hate that she would act as more of an irresponsible foal than even a foal could and then try to laugh off all the damage she’d cause like nothing bucking mattered. Hate that the animate pile of cotton candy would try to shove happiness down your throat until she was raping you with joy for a stupid smile. Hate that the sporadic ding-bat was so hopelessly depressed if so much as one of her gatherings when unattended. Hate the Element of Laughter for being cackling mad.
“no…” Twilight could feel her soul trying to cry its way out through her eyes. She had been beaten back to the one thing she clung to when the conflict got its darkest…
Hate them all. Despise them all. Detest them all. Loath them all.
… a spark that she only felt when she was in the presence of her friends, relishing each other’s company. Making magic…
“NO!” Twilight screamed. Her vision cleared in an instant, banishing away the terrible temptations like shadows fleeing from a spontaneous solar flare. Eyes refocused, she saw the stupefied look on Discord’s face as she freed herself from his attack. Then all she saw was red.
“I LOVE ALL MY FRIENDS!” Her horn burst into light as she shot a blast so powerful that the recoil nearly gave her whiplash. The attack struck the projection in the face and it released Twilight, crying an otherworldly shriek of pain unlike that of its form.
Twilight hit the ground on her back, smacking her head on the street and jolting her with a new slap of pain. Her vision blurred again as her ears rung, but even through her disorientation see could make out the screeching pink blur of fury sailing over her towards their foe.
“GET AWAY FROM HER!” Pinkie screamed in rage as she tackled Discord with enough force to send him toppling over.
Twilight groaned as she righted herself, inner ears whining in protest from moving while still recovering from such confounding dizziness, looking to see what had become of her friend as she came back to.
Pinkie sat on Discord’s neck, knocking his face back and forth as she socked it relentlessly until blood began to spurt with each new hit.
Discord growled in frustration and tore Pinkie off his face with his paw as the righted himself. Twilight recoiled in horror as she saw his head; along with multiple nasty bruises and cuts, part of his face was missing completely, revealing a network of the diseased-looking neurons through the hole in the disguise. Pony still in paw, Discord threw Pinkie to the ground and pinned her, taking a moment to glare at his newest victim.
“Impudent party pooper!” He snarled at Pinkie before jabbing his talon into her skull.
Pinkie squirmed underneath Discord’s grasp. A terrified look shoot across Pinkie’s face as she gasped, opening her eyes to reveal brightly colored rings as she appeared to succumb to the cruel deity’s corruption.
“No!” Twilight howled in rage and desperation. She titled her head down again and fired another blast at Discord. He cried out again in that very un-Discordant shriek as the blast struck his talon, stumbling off of and away from Pinkie as he clutched his injury.
“Pinkie! Are you okay?” Twilight cried out to her friend as she tried to get back onto her unsteady hooves.
“I… I think so…” Pinkie replied with uncertainty. She looked up to Twilight; her eyes were once again baby blue, but there was fear in them. “I’m not turning, am I?” She gasped. “Do I look more gray than usual?”
“No, you look fine,” Twilight did her best to quickly reassure her, but her voice still betrayed some concern. “How do you feel?”
Pinkie broke eye contact as she did a quick evaluation of herself. “I… still feel like Pinkie Pie,” she answered as she looked back to Twilight. “But…” she looked away in disconcertion; “I don’t ever want to feel… that way, ever again…”
Discord let out a low groan. The two ponies looked back towards his direction, tensing up as they faced him with their battle stances again.
He moved his paw away to inspect the injury on his arm… or, as Twilight realized with a slight sense of revulsion, where his arm used to be. But moments later, even that became a past-tense term; right before their eyes, tendrils and neural clusters seeped out of the stump and across the hole in his head, fleshing out former shapes at seamlessly refilling the gaping openings. In mere fractions of a minute, Discord stood fully regenerated.
The contorted look on his face made it abundantly clear he was just as perplexed as Twilight and Pinkie, but without the dread. He scratched the once missing side of his face with his restored eagle claw, then looked at the fowl talons quizzically.
“Well, that’s interesting,” Discord broke the silence for a second before settling in again… to be promptly broken next by a dissonant marching band romping around behind them, which a second later got run over by a speeding carriage, which itself was promptly blown away a second later when a cannon fell from the sky and blasted it out of sight.
“I guess you were right, Twilight,” he said so nonchalantly that he almost seemed to be pretending that the last incursion never happened; “I don’t seem to have that power here. But on the other hoof,” he began impish intent returning; “my little venture was not without its rewards now that I’ve seen the chaos cramped up in your minds.”
He pushed his hands out as he interlocked his fingers, cracking his knuckles and sounding off a torrent of clashing sounds ranging from tires screeching to a slug beating its wings. “So I guess I’ll have to stick to what I’m good at…” He held out both hand again, digits tensed.
“No!” Pinkie and Twilight bemoaned.
Discord snapped his fingers again.
Liquorish streaked across the sky like wispy cloud in the jet stream. A toaster skipped along the crosswalk before it stopped dead in its tracks, coughed, and ejected a cat with a body of a pastry that took off, running through the open air as a rainbow trailed behind it. The roller coasters Twilight saw earlier writhed and molted their steel, revealing even more terrifying and monstrous contraptions of inertia; one in particular twisted into a jumbled up mess of steel that it could only be described as a knot of psychosis, threatening to drive even mere onlookers mad simply by gazing at it.
“Daddy!” an ecstatic voice called through the commotion. The two mares turned to see a periwinkle pony wearing a propeller hat flying through the air. Twilight did a double take on her when she realized the young mare wasn’t a pegasus despite having just clearly been airborne, and that her purple eyes lacked black pupils, instead sporting a white spiral in the center of each iris. Her cutie mark was a double image of an iron screw and a baseball.
“I missed you!” She cried as she flew into Discord and embraced him with the biggest hug, which, to their shock, he returned.
“I missed you too, Screwball.” He replied fondly. “What do you say we play a little game, just like old times?”
“Yeah!” Screwball beamed excitedly.
Discord and Screwball disappeared with a flash of light.
Twilight scanned her surroundings, looking for the pair. “Where is he?” she pined. “Where’d they go?”
Her answer came as the light shifted when the sun came directly over their heads, or low to the horizon from where they had initially entered the dream. Twilight’s logical mind screamed for reason again as she saw the moon bounce into view in the sky, followed shortly by Discord as Screwball.
Twilight’s internal rage for reason became more distraught as she watched the two set up. Screwball bit open a hole in the sky and pulled out a baseball bat while Discord picked up the moon, wound up for a pitch, then looked straight at Twilight.
“I’ll see your eclipse and raise you…” he looked off for a moment, searching for the right term. He failed. “… whatever this is!”
He threw the moon at breakneck speeds towards Screwball, who tensed up and swung like mad. There was a great *THWOCK!* as she hit the moon dead-on, sending it flying back towards Discord. He ducked out of the way as it sailed past him and crashed into the sun. A sound of heavenly bodies colliding almost deafened the two. Both sun and moon shattered into a multitude of shrapnel. The pieces ricocheted across the sky like billiard balls, sending various parts of the warped-beyond-recognition Prance into simultaneous noon day and midnight with dawn and dusk making up the in between.
Twilight had to mentally exert herself to keep the ‘likes everything explained’ part of her brain from rolling up into a ball and crying.
A rumbling feeling coursed through the ground before an explosion of color ripped up through streets, pouring out from the holes and opening new ones alike. Twilight groaned as she recognized the same masses of gaudy and ill-shaped tentacles emerge up from their chasms. These ones didn’t seem intent on devouring the dream however, but she still noted one take off after a fleeing pony that appeared to be made entirely out of chocolate.
As her eyes followed the mangled predator play tag with its prey using its mouth, her sight fell upon a familiar blank face and hallow gaze.
“You!” Twilight incredulously barked. “What are you doing here?”
The thing-pony just shrugged.
However, seeing the macabre omen gave Twilight an idea.
“Pinkie!” Twilight called out to her comrade.
“MAKE IT STOP!” Pinkie cried. Somehow, the mind of the pony who seemed to have diplomatic immunity from trivial things like physics and reason had been the first to throw in the towel.
“Pinkie, we’re breaking out of this mad-house!” Twilight’s voice was full of dismayed resolve.
Twilight gave a slight grimace. She’d really hoped it wouldn’t have had to come to this. “We’re going to tear this whole world down.”
Pinkie’s eyes went wide. “You mean we’re going to force the dream to collapse?”
Twilight steeled herself. “Yep.” She looked at the mad world stretched out before her, then concentrated, looking past the imagined reality and seized the contrived, cockamamie ordinances that made them up. “Scorched earth; leave nothing standing!”
She and Pinkie began to grab as large of chunks of the dream that they could grab with their minds and ripped them from the matrix without hesitation. An oblong building covered in polka-dots close to Pinkie exploded from an unseen source as she ripped its base code from the source. The streets exploded in waves and Discordant ponies vanished like memories from the dream as Twilight yanked them from the cogs of dreamland.
“Ah-ah-ah…” Discord tsked his amused disapproval of the attempted jailbreak. “I put a lot of effort into this, and you intend to uproot it all. Girls, I am disappoint. Besides, we have only just begun!”
To their horror, minds still concentrating on the make-up of the dreamscape, the anomaly projecting Discord moved in of its own fruition and began to fill in the holes they had been ripping out from the dream. All the debris from the blasts turned into a hail storm of random items that remained in the air, floating slowly along. A jack-in-the-box sprung up from the ground where the demolished building once stood, the hole in the ground that the street once covered became occupied in by a concrete pool filled with trees, and more Discordant ponies flashed into being, their appearance more wild and the behavior even more demented.
Twilight was aghast as she realized what was going on; a projection, an imagined entity from a subconscious, had been actively manipulating a lucid dream world. That was supposed to be impossible! Even by the loose rules of what could and couldn’t be, a projection was ultimately little more than a complex shadow puppet that could no more interact with the wall it was being showcased on than it could argue with the light that made it.
A thought struck Twilight over the head; Discord was just a projection. Projections were born of a subconscious. The subconscious could color the motives of the conscious. That meant…
“Pinkie!” Twilight called to her as she put her hooves on the other pony’s shoulders. “You’ve got to stop this!”
“ I… What?” Pinkie looked to be in a daze, overwhelmed by the fever dream.
“Discord is just a projection! Projections can’t do anything like this, only a sentient mind can,” Twilight paused trying to find a way or at least a tone to soften the impact of the words she had to say. “Your subconscious is causing all this!”
“What? No… this isn’t… me…” Pinkie tried to deny, looking distraught.
“Pinkie, you need to get a hold of yourself! I need you to get a hold of yourself!” Twilight asserted, a shake in her voice; it wasn’t easy balancing making necessary demands while trying to be compassionate at the same time, all in a chaotic situation. “We can’t get out of this alone….”
“No… I can’t… I…” Pinkie whimpered as she fell to her hunches.
“I… this isn’t… please, no…” Pinkie had curled up on the ground. Her voice quivered as tears leaked out of clenched shut eyes. “... make it stop…” she quietly cried.
Discord landed on the ground beside them. He inhaled deeply, as if trying to better catch the smell of victory as he stood triumphantly over them. Slowly, he opened his mouth, and began to chuckle maniacally.
“Heh-heh heh ha….”
Flowers made of lollipops sprouted up from the lawn of a nearby apartment complex/water slide while tiles of the street turned into rocket propelled pies, launching of in different directions.
“Ha ha ha ha…”
The sounds of a rhythmic, imposing stomps met the ears as a battalion of hammers began marching down an adjoining street.
A floating hunk of land with a windmill planted on it drifted lazily across the sky. A filly sat on the edge, legs hanging off the side and swinging happily back and forth as she strummed an acoustic guitar.
“Ha Ha Ha Ha…”
The filly jumped down from the airborne ground into a bulky yet sleek open carriage seating three other stallions, landing in the back row next to a very heavily built stallion that appeared to be descended from a zebra. The stallion sitting in the front right seat with unlike colored eyes smiled devilishly and licked his jagged teeth before he stomped a hoof down. The carriage bellowed a strange roar and took off like a bat out of Tartarus, prompting the blank looking colt sitting in the front left seat to begin singing an illegible song as they barreled towards an unfeasibly gigantic moose.
“AH HA HA HA HA HA…”
A great earthquake shook the land as the terrain buckled once more, as an alp of confectionery sweets rose from the ground; a ripple in the landscape noted particularly by a trio of a pink, blue and white unicorn.
“Look Charlie; Candy Mountain!” the pink unicorn said to the white one.
“Yay, Candy Mountain!” Blue voiced in excitement.
“Oh God, no!” Charlie bemoaned in dread. ”NO!!!”
“BWAHAHAHAHA-well, that’s new…” Discord interrupted his own mad cackling with such abrupt bewilderment that Twilight and Pinkie almost had to look out of her own curiosity as a great shadow passed over all of Prance.
Looking up at the sky over the initial horizon, a monstrous tidal wave charged across the city towards them, appearing to dissolve away everything in consumed in the white-wash.
“Okay, which one of you thought that up?” Discord asked, truly puzzled.
“It wasn’t me, daddy!” Screwball chirped from his side. “Honest!”
“I didn’t think it was you anyway, sweetheart.” He responded to the periwinkle pony. “What about you two?”
Twilight and Pinkie looked up at the arch demon of disharmony. Between the raging wall of water heading straight for them and Discord speaking to them directly again, neither managed to say anything out of shock.
“How about you?” Discord spoke over Twilight’s shoulder.
Twilight looked to her side and did a double take; the thing-pony was standing right next to her, staring blankly up at the tsunami, its roar now deafening.
“Do you know who’s responsible for this?” Discord asked.
The thing-pony just shrugged.
The water smashed into them with enough force the shatter ever bone in the body and tear all the flesh asunder. Dazed and blinded as she felt her consciousness slipping away, Twilight let out a muted scream.
- - - - - -
“… AAAAAAAH!” Twilight screamed as she lurched around blindly, mind frantically assessing the situation.
She couldn’t see, and she her face was wet. Oh Celestia, was she still underwater? No, she could hear herself, and she wasn’t and hindered as she trashed about. Was this…
She couldn’t finish her train of disorganized thought as Twilight fell backwards and felt her head unceremoniously collide rather impolitely with something very hard. She fumbled about on the ground, rubbing the water out of her eyes.
“Hey, hold up!” a filly’s rough voice called out through the blackness. “Time out! Cease fire! We’ve got colliteral damages!”
“It’s collateral, not collateral.”
“… you are a dictionary.”
“Twa’light? Are you okay?”
The voice had come from directly above. Twilight was vaguely aware of somepony standing directly above her. Daring to chance, she cracked open her eyes.
Little Apple Bloom was standing next to her face, looking down onto her with concern pouring out of those big peachy eyes, the ceiling of Sugar Cube Corner visible from behind.
“I’m…” Twilight tried to say ‘fine,’ but couldn’t. “What happened?”
“Well, after we ran inta’ ya’ an Scootaloo took off after Alula, one pegasi was chasin’ the other all over town, tauntin’ all the way. Even when Scoot kinda cornered Alula against a wall right here at Suga’ Cube Corner, she just kept on teasin’ her ‘bout how she cain’t fly yet an’ whatnot. So Scoot threw two water balloons at her, she ducked, they missed an’ flew right through that there open window. An’ then we heard ya’ screaming somethin’ fierce, an, well, ya’ know the rest.”
“Yeah, sorry about that.” Scootallo nervously smiled as Twilight sat up from her spot on the floor.
She stared off in no particular direction “Trapped in a dream, see a tidal wave, tidal wave ends dream, I wake up to find that I was hit by a water balloon.” She thought, piecing it together. “Wait; two water balloons…”
Twilight snapped her head back towards the table. Pinkie was still sitting her her chair, staring off in the distance as water dripped down her face.
“Pinkie?” Twilight checked.
Pinkie sat sat there, motionless, staring off into space. She didn’t bother to wipe the water away; she didn’t even blink.
“Pinkie?” Twilight asked again as she slowly walked over to her and prodded her gently with a hoof. She lurched so suddenly that it startled Twilight for a second. Pinkie blinked rapidly and shook her head as if to clear it of something.
“Twilight, what happened?” She asked, then took note of her sopping mane. “Why am I wet?” Her eyes went wide. “Where’s Disc…”
“Easy Pinkie,” Twilight cut her off. “We’re not dreaming anymore. Apparently, an abundance of water can disrupt the electrostatic field the spell generates, so we both woke up when Scootaloo accidentally hit us with a pair of water balloons.”
“Yeah, sorry about that!” Scootaloo called out
“Oh,” Pinkie sighed as she let the news that she was free of the terrible dream sink in. “That’s a relie- wait,” her face tensed up. “Nopony gets in a cheap shot with a water balloon at Pinkie Pie!”
“Hey, wait! It was an accident!” Scootaloo tried to plead in her defense.
“Oh, I hope you said your prayers, kid,” Pinkie said with an impish smile as she slowly reached behind her back and pulled out from nowhere two saddlebags overflowing with an arsenal of water balloons; “and took your swimming lessons!”
Scootaloo turned tail and shot out the door fast enough to almost take flight with Pinkie chasing her, launching a volley of plastic water grenades at the poor filly. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Bell followed close behind, rushing to the aid of their friend.
Twilight once again chuckled both at the endeavors of foalhood and Pinkie Pie… who she realized so often acted very much like a foal herself…
“… and that’s perfectly fine,” Twilight thought to herself as she fought off the chills, suddenly remembering the terrible influence brought by the touch of a wicked foe; “that’s what makes her Pinkie Pie, and that’s why we love her.”
“Come on, Twilight!” Pinkie cheerfully yelled as Twilight jumped in surprise again as the pinky pony seemingly teleported back inside to fetch the unicorn. “We’ve got a hydrated war on a filly to wage!” And with that, she whisked Twilight out the door, screaming a war cry to the heavens.
“Vengeance will be OURS!”
- - - - - -
As it turns out, Pinkie Pie’s inexplicable ability to rally the entire town into a frenzied water balloon fight was as impeccable as her ability to lead it into a song-and-dance parade, opening up a mass free-for-all the likes of which could usually only be witnessed during winter when she would do the exact same thing with snowball fights. Somehow, much with her hidden deposits of balls, Pinkie had the entire village stocked with enough water balloons that the fight kept going well into the late afternoon. Even ponies generally not prone to competitive combat like Rarity and Fluttershy got in on the action; though in Rarity’s case it was half to spend time with her little sister and half to field test a prototype raincoat she was designing, and in Fluttershy’s it was actually her ill-behaved rabbit, the ironically named Angel who pulled her into the fight, of which she’d spent most of her time dodging and pulling the bad bunny out of the way of oncoming projectiles.
Competitive sports like Apple Jack and Rainbow Dash on the other hoof were having a field day. The farmer had even managed to convince the normally indifferent Big Macintosh to join the fray as well, while Rainbow Dash decided to forgo the use of water balloons all together, instead opting to drop entire rainclouds on unsuspecting ponies.
The fund ended abruptly as it started however when the local mailmare decided to throw her hat into the ring. Derpy had decided to not only take a leaf out of Rainbow Dash’s book, but in a rare occurrence attempted to one-up the chromatic mare by finding the biggest, most unwieldy cloud she could get her hooves on and moved it straight over the heart of the battle. Unfortunately, her weapon of choice turned out to be a thunder cloud. And knowing how bad a combination water and high voltage electricity yielded could only get worse with the accident-prone pegasus involved, everypony bolted indoors faster than you could say “muffin,” to which Dinky lead her dejected-feeling mother home to make a batch of after the battle’s sudden end.
As she watched the two trot home to make the mailmare’s favorite brand of baked goods, Twilight let out a yawn so wide that she felt her jaw pop. The fatigue hit her even harder when she realized that she had been dog tired for six hours and essentially had just been running off a sugar high for the rest of that time, having not used it all powering the dream spell.
That dream… she’d learned a lot from that dream, half of it things she never wanted to experience. Being it still part of her study, she would have to document it, but later; she could barely keep her eyes upon long enough to towel off and make it up the stairs after returning home, let alone long enough to write what would surely be a long report.
“Want me to make you a quick meal before you call it a night?” Spike offered.
“No, I’m way too tired.” Twilight had to lean against her assistant just to get home after the war had ended. “Thanks anyway, though.”
She yawned again as Spike helped her into her room and onto her bed. She didn’t even bother pulling the covers over her. “Goodnight, Spike.”
Spike looked out the window; the sun had only just begun to dip below the horizon. “Um, technically, I think it’s still afternoon.”
Twilight gave a weary sigh. “Save the details for… Rainbow,,,” She didn’t even have a chance to finish before she passed out.
Spike walked over to the bed and pulled the blankets over his friend, then gently tucked her in. Twilight sighed contently in her sleep and pulled the blankets closer to her like a filly who’d just been put to bed by her parents after falling asleep in their hold.
Spike smiled at this as quietly made his way out of her bedroom to finish his duties and various chores he’d been attending to before getting swept up in the day’s brawl. After he’d finished, he spent the rest of the evening playing with his pet; Pee-Wee, a baby phoenix, until Owloysius appeared for the nightly baton pass. He let the two birds play together while he left to go make his dinner, which ended up being an extra large sundae, taking advantage of Twilight not being up to supervise him.
He burned through that sugar buzz quickly enough do to his own fatigue, and decided to call it a night for himself. But as he crawled into bed, he found it occupied by several very uncomfortable objects.
“What the hay?” Spike questioned as he pulled out one of the objects to look at it in the moonlight.
It was a book, one with a deep purple hard cover that had a gold platelet embedded in it with its title etched on the surface; Modern Spellcasting.
He just stared at it for a second, not sure of what to make of the missing book mysteriously ending up in his bed. He checked his bed again to find that the rest of the uncomfortable items in his bed were the rest of the missing books.
“How did these get here?” He mused to himself. He looked to the mound of blankets that contained Twilight.
“No, she wouldn’t…” he thought as he collected the books and took them downstairs.
“Hey Owloysius,” he asked the owl quietly as he descended the stairs, careful not to wake either the unicorn of the phoenix. The owl turned its head completely around, giving Spike that little shiver he always got when the bird decided to do that.
“You didn’t decide to put these in my bed for the time I accidentally put mustard on your mouse meatloaf, did you?”
“Who,” the owl replied, slowly shaking his head back and forth.
Spike sighed. “I’ll take that as a no,” he said as he walked to the appropriate bookshelf. He shot the owl another look. “And I hate it when you do that.”
The owl just winked at him before turning back to the notes he’d been scribbling.
Spike picked up the copy of Modern Spellcasting as he got to the gap in the books that it belonged in between, and moved to put it away.
But something stayed his hand.
He stood there, unmoving, unable to put the book back on the shelf. He pressed himself, but remained unyielding. There was a block in his mind that he couldn’t get past.
Slowly, he pulled the book back away from its place to look at it in the moonlight.
It was pretty in a way he’d never noticed before.