Eternity was formless: dark, empty, and silent. Inky blackness filled the universe, and at first, I didn't exist. Nothing did. I was the very stuff of nothingness; no eyes, no body, no substance. I existed there, unmoving, unfeeling, unthinking for what could have been centuries.
Consciousness returned first, niggling feelings and broken thoughts swirling through the deepest recesses of my ethereal mind. As they began to take shape, so did my self image, and my form coalesced from the very stuff of the void. My body formed, unfeeling. My eyes opened, unseeing. My mind inhabited the empty shell, but there was no sense of self. I sat there dumbly for another few millennia, as my brain slowly percolated and frothed.
Eventually, self-awareness pieced itself together, scattered thoughts and memories colliding randomly until they created something of substance. As my mind began to slowly clear, faltering occasionally, I began to breathe again. My eyelids fluttered as pupils appeared and grew from tiny dots back to their normal size. Muscles twitched, and my body moved. Haltingly, I lifted a hoof and rubbed my cheek: I still had no sense of touch and my entire body was completely numb. As that realization sank in, I found more of my memories returning. Surprisingly, all my recent ones appeared intact, despite the trauma of my fall. Everything seemed so crystal clear now, after the fact. I found myself going over all that had just happened and analyzing every detail. I had the time now, I thought wryly to myself.
Despite my best efforts to keep my mind on other things, my thoughts kept returning to that mysterious yellow filly that had appeared out of nowhere. Images of her seemed to be locked into my head, but each and every time that I thought of her, I found that they were shrouded by that last look she had given me. That final look of fear and betrayal overshadowed all else, and I knew it would haunt me for the rest of this eternity, more so than any other painful memory that I had ever had.
I sighed inwardly. And of course that look would be the last thing I ever saw of her, wouldn't it? I knew she had at least hit the fog bank I had managed to create at the last possible moment. What bothered me was that I had no idea whether it was enough to save her, or if I was just fooling myself. I once again found my thoughts turning dark, as my mind immediately started hypothesizing all the terrible things that could have happened to her.
After my imagination finished torturing me, that train of thought led me to thinking about what terrible things must have happened to me. My final memory was of pain and sickening noises, which I knew must have come from collisions in my final seconds before impacting the ground. At least, I hoped they came from me. I shuddered to think of what they would mean if they came from her. Frowning, I shook my head. No, I was sure she was fine. That cloud bank had reached the all the way to the ground from above the trees... hadn’t it? My brow furrowed as I obsessed over our possible fates. It took some time before I was able to free myself from my thoughts. Once again I shook my head clear, and turned my attention outward.
I shifted position and looked down at myself, the only thing somehow visible in a vast sea of black. As I took stock, I realized that all my colors seemed muted and dim. My fur, once a vibrant shade in-between blue and purple, was now murky and nearly grey. My mane, normally black, was invisible in this place; I had to put my hoof behind it to see that it was even there, as I still had no sense of touch to feel it. This was concerning, being completely deadened like this, but after the pain I had just gone through, I found it was a welcome respite.
Deadened. Numb. The words suddenly dominated my existence, such as it was. I leaned back and took in the infinity of emptiness above me. Well, here I was. My wish had been granted; the pain was over. I didn't need to worry about anything anymore. My eyes closed slowly. I thought I would feel happy, or fulfilled, or something... but all I felt now was hollow, as empty as the void surrounding me. I couldn't really say I felt anything. I guess I truly was numb, inside and out. My mind slowly cleared of thoughts as I began to accept my fate.
Sometime later, my reverie was interrupted as I became aware of a quiet sound disturbing the silence. My eyelids, now feeling heavy, lifted slowly, as I looked around dispassionately for the source of the noise. Unsurprisingly, there was still nothing in sight. Eyelids drooping, I lowered my head... and heard the sound again. It was a quiet “plip”, so soft that normally it would be inaudible. I listened carefully and heard it again. Lowering my head further, I finally saw the source of the noise: I was now sitting in a pool of clear water, of which I was sure hadn't been there before I closed my eyes. Slowly, every thought feeling like an effort, I wondered where it came from... And that's when I saw the droplet fall from my face into the pool.
Surprise returning some small amount of focus, my eyes opened wider, and I put a numb hoof to my face. Pulling it away, I examined it: It was covered in the same clear liquid. Still uncomprehending, I leaned forward and looked into the pool.
The face that looked back was streaked with tears.
Shock finished the job: clarity returned, coincidentally, like a splash of cold water. I stared into my own face, wiping the tears from my face with the back of a hoof. Why was I crying? This was what I wanted... wasn't it? Thoughts racing, I looked deep into the pool, searching my face, looking for answers.
That’s when something changed in the reflection. Shimmering, warping, the image moved without ripples. I suddenly found myself deeply disturbed as I saw the face in the pool begin to smile.
A sudden jab of pain shot through my head, disturbing the lack of physical sensations. As I felt my head throb, a whispering voice began to speak, startling me. 'Aw... Why so sad? It's all over, just like you wanted. Come come, now, I thought you'd be happy!'
I closed my eyes and placed my forehooves on my temples, trying to control the pounding. The voice continued. 'Oh, stop being such a wimp...' My eyes shot open wide, suddenly recognizing the sound. It was my voice! Coming from inside my head! I opened my mouth to speak, but it cut me off. 'Don't bother: as you've already figured out, I'm in your head. I know everything you think, so, really, words are just a waste of time.'
Still confused, I tried to formulate a reply without speaking. 'Who...'
The voice let out a loud sigh. 'Do I really sound this dumb? I'm you, foal. The inner you, or something. I don't know. Honestly, I don’t really care. Pretty sure I didn't exist until just now. Maybe you've lost your mind. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised, truthfully.'
I tried to protest that I felt sane, but once again, I was interrupted. 'Sane or not, you are talking to yourself. Are we really going to debate this?’ The voice paused, sighing again. ‘Look. I figure I'm here for a reason, so lets just get to the point, shall we? Why are you crying? See, I know everything you do, and I'm at a loss. This was what we wanted. We wanted it over. Done with. No more problems. And now, here we are. Not satisfied? Something missing? Please, do tell. I’m dying to know.' The voice finished its speech with a sarcastic flare.
Inner Me sounded strange, irritated, somehow unlike me, but I shrugged it off, as he’d raised a valid point. I had wanted this... hadn't I? Searching my brain for the answer that I needed, it didn’t take me long to realize that I didn't... hadn't wanted to die. Not deep down. Not really. All I had really wanted was the pain to be over. I hadn't wanted my life to end. Not now. Not like this. Despite all that had happened to me, I still had so much that I wanted to do. So many dreams left unfinished.
Tears welled up from my eyes again and began to drip into the pool, causing the grinning reflection of my face to ripple. My mind filled with all the things I would now never do. I would never have a family, or real friends, I would never have a house, or a pet. I would never read another book, or touch another cloud. I would never find love. There was nothing left. Everything was gone now. All that was left was me. Alone. Again.
Solid streams of tears now poured into my reflection, distorting it wildly. The smile on my face seemed to stretch wider and wider until the grin seemed larger than the face itself. The voice in my head began to chuckle. 'Really? That's all? This makes you cry like a baby?’ It snorted derisively ‘Get over it. It’s over. The sooner you get that through your thick little skull, the better.'
Suddenly angry, and tired of the verbal abuse, I finally threw a completed thought back at the voice. 'Shut up! I know it’s over! I don't need you to tell me that, and I definitely don't need you laughing at me!'
My rebuttal only served to make him laugh harder. 'Yeah. Right. Like you can silence a part of yourself! You're stuck with me. Besides, the faster you come to terms with it, the quicker I can move onto more interesting things.’ The reflection yawned, looking at a watch that suddenly appeared. ‘Face it, buddy, you got what you wished for. And in the end, it ended up being the one thing you never wanted. Irony, hah! Can't you see the humor in that?'
Shuddering with repressed rage, I tried to reply calmly. 'No... it is NOT funny to me, and shouldn't be for you either. Just... leave me alone. I've lost everything... absolutely everything... and you laughing is just making it worse. So just. Shut. Up.’ I glared into the puddle. ‘Go away, and leave me be!'
The voice roared with laughter, causing me to hold my head again as it began to throb faster. 'Really? Like I care what you say! To me, this is hilarious, and all your protesting just makes it all the sweeter.’ The image in the puddle began to smile again, the eerie grin stretching its face wider and wider. ‘Oh, this feels amazing! Poor little pony, feels so bad... Hah! And to think, all of this happened because poor little old you couldn't control his own stupid horn.'
That was the last straw. Exploding with fury, I screamed and wept openly as I lashed out blindly at my reflection. “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!!! I DON'T WANT TO DIE!!!” I shrieked as I thrashed and stamped at the pool, splashing and frothing the water until I couldn't see that awful grin anymore. “I DON'T WANT TO DIE!!!”
As the image faded, so did the laughter, and my head emptied of sound. My ears were not so fortunate. The scream had shattered the silence, startling me with its sudden intensity. It seemed to echo and bounce back at me, louder with each and every pass. Soon, it became so loud I had to cover my ears, and still the volume increased. It began to vibrate my bones, and soon my entire being. I screamed out in pain as it became too loud to bear, but my cries only seemed to harmonize with the echo of my voice, increasing the decibels further. Once again I found shadows filling my sight as the sound drilled into my mind, nearly causing me to black out.
Just as my vision almost blurred to incomprehensibility, the noise somehow finally managed to leave my range of hearing. The shadows began retreating from my vision, but this was now the least of my worries: Just because I couldn't hear it anymore didn't mean it wasn't still going on. The entire universe began to vibrate. The pool of water I was standing in started rippling of its own accord, waves forming in the miniature lake. And that's when it happened.
The vibration suddenly stopped. I looked up, surprised to see that a crack had appeared in the darkness above me. Crumbling noises replaced the silence of before, as more cracks quietly began to appear in the void. Bright white light pulsated through each and every line, causing me to shade my eyes as they tried to adjust from the pitch blackness I had been enveloped in for so long. As the fissures continued to grow and merge, pieces of the void began to rain down around me, colliding with the ground, sections both small and large of the once solid surface beginning to fracture and fall away. I realized very quickly that this was no longer a safe place; I needed to leave. Right now.
I looked around quickly for any signs of an escape, but besides the light, nothing new had appeared. What sections of the void were still intact were unchanged, at least for the moment. I tried to relax and clear my mind, and as I did, strangely, I found an old saying coming to mind: When you have hit rock bottom, the only place to go is up. I had certainly reached my lowest point... or at least as deep as I wanted to go. Turning my gaze towards one of the newly opened holes in the ground near me, into which the pool was now draining, an involuntary shiver ran down my spine. The holes were foreboding, somehow managing to exude an even deeper darkness than the rest of this place. I definitely did not want to find out what was down there!
Tilting my head back, I looked over the surface of the vaulted ceiling of this place, and immediately saw that the light was shining brightest through the fissures directly above me. As they grew, the light spread throughout and my shattering world came into view. This place I had been trapped in was revealed to be a cavernous chamber made of some sort of obsidian crystal, shards of which were now crashing onto the floor, which was made of the same substance. Each falling piece was causing more cracking and collapses as well when they impacted the ground.
My goal was above me, and the only way up was out. Purpose restored, and with a destination in mind, I gathered myself up and set off, splashing through the remnants of that horrid pool. With the world crumbling around me, I noted that the shattered wall was now broken in several places revealing large, gaping gaps of blinding light. I veered to the right and galloped towards the nearest one. As I neared the opening, a large chunk of the ceiling fell directly in front of me, causing me to have to skid to a halt. The ground shook violently, the collision sending crystal dust into the air as small hunks of crystal skittered around me. Accidentally sucking in a lungful of the dust, I broke out coughing, and my eyes immediately began to water. Thankfully, the floor held, at least for now.
As the dust finally cleared from both my sight and my wheezing lungs, I saw the opening I had been headed for was now mostly blocked, no longer even large enough to squeeze a pony through. Despairingly, I looked upwards at the mountain of rubble now only meters away and saw that while it was true that it blocked the opening, that it was not the case entirely: there was still light shining from near the peak, so it couldn't be completely sealed. I shook my head and grinned; I would not be deterred so easily. Brushing myself off, I began the slow climb up the giant shard.
I had only seen crystals in the Cloudsdale museum on childhood field trips, but compared to the tiny samples I had stared at through the glass display cases, this mountainous gem was amazing. Despite the surface being flat, the facets of the gem shone in the bright white light from above, flickering and flashing. I had never imagined that I would ever see, much less climb, anything like this. Truthfully, I had never stood on something that wasn't made of cloud before. The feeling of walking on something like this was indescribable, unlike anything I had ever experienced.
The climb was arduous: It was slow going; the surface smooth and slippery, especially since I still had no feeling in my hooves. Ascending was made all the more difficult by the rumbling shocks of other crystals crashing to the ground. I was careful where I placed my hooves, however, and made steady progress, despite slipping and sliding backwards several times.
While I trudged onwards, I was glad the voice had gone silent. I didn't need it laughing at every little slip I made. As thoughts of the voice crossed my mind, I found myself shivering again. I had never sounded like that in my life... but if it wasn't me, then what was it? Distracted, I misstepped, and the slide backwards refocused me on the task at hand. I didn't have time to try and figure it out right now, I had to keep going.
I could have given up at any time, but I was determined to at least see what was outside of this forbidding place. As I gained altitude, the light shining off of the obsidian also became a hazard, reflecting into my eyes and blinding me repeatedly, but I just winced and tolerated it, pressing onwards and upwards. Finally, as I gingerly slid myself around a rather large, protruding outcropping, the opening presented itself: a small jagged hole in the wall of my prison.
Poking my head through, I immediately regretted it: The brightness of the light was piercing, and it immediately resumed the earlier pounding in my skull. It was different this time though, as the throbbing was now behind my eyes, whereas before, it had been in my temples. As much as I wanted to pull my head back into the soothing shadows, I resisted. There was no place for me there. I was not about to give up now! I opened my eyes again slowly, trying to let them adjust. As they did, what I saw shocked me: There was nothing there!
Instead of an infinite darkness, what presented itself to me now was an endless sea of white. No horizon was visible: I could not even tell if any part of it was solid. No colors, no other obsidian structures, just... nothing. There was nowhere else to go.
I slumped, feeling defeated once again. Dejectedly, I began to pull my head back into the comforting darkness when a sudden flash of light seared my eyes. I yelped, but whatever it was had certainly gotten my attention! Turning my head, I looked upwards, suddenly remembering that that had been my original destination. Even from here, I could see what appeared to be some kind of a brightly shining orb, way up at the top of the structure. I girded myself: I was not done yet! Sliding my hooves into the opening, I squeezed myself through to the other side.
The outside surface, at least the parts of it that were still intact, was smooth and slightly rounded. I had no doubt that if I had seen it from a distance when it was whole that it would have been a perfect obsidian sphere. Or perhaps a dome. (I had no way to tell if it extended that far down.) As I positioned myself properly for the climb, tremors continued to shake the structure as parts of the interior collapsed. I began to tremble as much as the obsidion, but I squashed my fear and made sure of my footing before quickly continuing upwards.
For the moment, the ascent was uneventful; the higher I got, the easier the slope became, until finally I was no longer climbing, but walking. Moments later, I was very grateful for this, as out of nowhere, the section I had just trod across broke into several pieces and disappeared from sight. I froze in fear, my legs locking up, questioning my decision. Could I not just have found shelter somewhere below? Was whatever that was up here worth it? Leaning over, I peered into the newly formed chasm. My mouth went dry as I saw how high up I was, eyes staring fixated at all the sharp edges glittering far below. My knees began to buckle, and I almost fell in, but as I did, the face of the yellow pony came to mind once more. My legs locked and braced; I had to keep trying. I needed to know she was alright, and I felt the answers were ahead. She knew me as little as I knew her, but I was not a heartless pony. I cared about her well-being. A spark flashed in my mind as I came to the second realization since my arrival. If I cared about her, and she cared about me, then, dangit, I could care about myself too! For her sake at the very least!
I straightened back up, new-found resolve and self confidence building once more. Breaking into a gallop, I headed directly for the source of that beautiful light. More shards and structure fell away around me, but as long as they weren't in my path, I ignored them. Sweat poured down my face and I blew steam from my nostrils; I had never exerted myself like this before. Even though I could barely breathe, it felt glorious.
The dome began to level out, the rounded peak coming into view. The light was becoming intolerable. My eyes began tearing up in agony, but I did not dare close them. Small pieces of the dome were breaking away constantly now, and every step had a risk of sending me through. I could just make out the orb through the glare. Wheezing, I let out a breathless cheer: I was so close I could smell it. Taking a deep breath to try and fill my aching lungs, I realized that I WAS actually smelling something. I took another whiff; It was like nothing I had ever smelled before. Clean and fresh, but also filled with warmth and life. Rich and heady, with a strong scent of spices. I even smelled smoke, something I had only ever smelled years ago, when it had drifted up to town from a forest fire far below. So many strange things in this place! The aromas were enticing, and as I took it in, I missed the cracking noise directly in front of me.
Mid-gallop, my forehoof broke through the dome, creating a hoof-sized imprint in the surface. I fell face-first onto the ground and skidded to a stop, my hoof popping out of the hole. Splintering noises filled my ears as I tried to make my head stop spinning. When my vision cleared, I saw that the entire top of the dome was spider-webbed with cracks, originating from where I had originally punctured it. Looking up, I could see the spinning, pulsating light was only a few hoof-lengths away, just out of reach. I tried to slowly shift myself towards it, but every movement caused the cracks to grow. Hoping things would settle, I stopped moving, but even then I could feel the surface beneath me shifting, beginning to give way.
Emotions ran high; I wanted to cry, to shout, to scream in frustration. I even swore I could hear that terrible laughter again, echoing in the back of my mind. I had come so close, only to have it denied me. I knew that no matter what I did, I was going to fall. Laying there, wallowing in my failure, anger began to blossom in my heart. Tears formed in the corners of my eyes, muscles clenched in fury at myself; I wouldn't be in this mess if I had been born a pegasus, like my parents. Once again my differences were ruining my life. If I had just been born with wings instead of my stupid horn, none of these terrible things would have happened to me in the first place. I'd just be able to fly to the dang ball of light and be done with it. No more worries of falling either.
As I lay there pitying and hating myself, scents continued wafting towards me from the light. I found the aromas nearly overpowering now, chokingly so. As it garnered my attention, and my focus shifted to it, I swore I could hear a bubbling noise coming from the glowing orb. Despite my pounding skull, I wiped my eyes and looked directly into the pulsating sphere, trying to make out what was contained within. If I couldn't get to it, I at least wanted to know what it was. The intensity of the light felt as if it was burning my eyes from the inside out, but I forced them open with my hooves.
I still do not know if I was seeing things or not, as the light may have been playing tricks on my mind, but I was sure there was something in there. I squinted and tried to make it out.
Colors swirled and churned; it was impossible to tell exactly what I was seeing. Just before I gave up, for just an instant, an infinitesimal moment in time, I saw something familiar; a pair of azure eyes, framed in yellow and pink. It disappeared almost instantly, but for that split second, I recognized that look of concern. As the image faded, I sat there blinking for a moment, my resolve growing by leaps and bounds as I did. She had cared, to the point of nearly killing herself for a pony she did not know. Even if I still wasn't completely sure that I deserved it, I was not going to give up now!
Steeling myself, I got to my hooves. The ground immediately resumed trembling, as pieces flaked away. I started moving quickly, shifting myself from shard to shard, making sure to get off of each before it fell. My progress didn't last long; the movement had caused the entire shelf to begin to crumble. As I felt every shard I stood on fail under my weight, I gathered myself onto the biggest one I could see, bunched my muscles, and leapt towards the light. The force of my jump was the last straw, as everything below me disappeared with a roar as rubble bounced against each other in midair, crashing to the floor below. As I soared through the air, I already could tell that I hadn't gotten close enough to enter the sphere. Desperately, I stretched myself outwards, reaching for the outer margins of the orb. As I fell past it, the tip of my outstretched hoof brushed the surface, and seemed to stick to it, forming a solid bond. Dangling by my hoof, I hung there in midair for only an instant before I found myself pulled in by some unseen force.
Light filled every fiber of my being, and I quickly lost myself in it, but even as it took me away, I smiled. And the sneering laughter finally faded completely from my mind.