“Miss Marlowe?” Dr. John Cruebel, as he called himself, asked Celestia, drawing her attention back to him and away from her nails, which she had been ceaselessly picking since that morning.
“I’m sorry, what?” the woman asked, feeling like she couldn’t focus on one thing at a time.
“I asked you to tell me about your sister Luna.”
Retorts whizzed around her mind too fast to catch them. Something seemed odd about his calm inquiry but she couldn’t decide what answer was most likely.
“I thought you didn’t believe me.”
“After some discussion with Sarah I’ve decided to change your treatment a little—”
“What do you keep drugging me with?” she asked before chomping down on one of her nails.
“Well... we started out by giving you what was originally intended to bring you out calmly. After a while we saw those drugs weren’t working so we had to try to shock you back into reality with... much stronger medication. I’m...” he watched her as she scratched at her hair furiously, “I’m afraid we might have made you a little... 'used' to the drugs we gave you. Now that we switched your medication again—”
“Is... is that why I’ve been having trouble...” she became intent on biting a hangnail on her left hand.
“Miss Marlowe, please stop that. I know it’s hard to concentrate. Part of that is my fault. But, as I was about to tell you before: I think you might have memories from your real life twisted up in this other life you’ve been imagining... What’s that face for?”
Celestia just looked down at her torn nails. It was growing harder each day to believe she was once the ruler of a magical land called Equestria. There was just one problem: Luna.
Luna needed her back. Celestia was no longer embarrassed to admit she needed her sister back too. She watched for the moon to pass in the night sky from her window. But this moon was strange. Instead of Luna or Nightmare Moon’s profile there was the face of a man. Never her sister. She had promise her to never again force them apart where they could not ever see each other. Was Luna wondering if she had broken that promise and simply run away? Were Luna’s letters of confidence in her sister’s character not so much to assure Celestia, but herself?
“I’m sorry. I was... thinking.” she realized that her eyes were clouded up and sniffed. Dr. Cruebel tapped the box of tissues in front of her and she took one, covering up the tear that dribbled out of her tired eyes.
“Anything specific?” he asked. Celestia shrugged as she crossed her arms. He looked at his hands resting together on the table. His lips tightened and Celestia saw him swallow as he addressed the empty chair in front of him while speaking to her. “I understand I’ve been a little rough with you since you’ve woken up here. I had hoped that your progress would be farther along and I got upset with you. Not only was it unprofessional, it did nothing to encourage you to trust me. I’m sorry.”
Celestia looked away. He may sound genuine but words didn’t heal the bruising on her back. He could speak all he wanted but he wasn’t going to change. He had hurt Twilight and the other elements of Harmony. Now he was not only hurting her but he was also hurting Luna. He would say anything just to get Celestia to trust him. She turned her face back towards the table when she heard something being set down. It was the baseball. Celestia looked at him with genuine confusion.
“I won’t use it as a bargaining chip. You’re not allowed to see other patients so you need some sort of occupation. I’m sorry I took it from you.” When Celestia didn’t move to take it he picked it up and held it out to her. She cowered back reflexively. But her muscles slowly released their tension. She withdrew her hand and cautiously reached out to take the baseball from his fingers. He released it, willingly, into her grasp.
“Thanks.” She mumbled, her cheeks blushing red.
“You’re welcome. Now, I would like to ask you some things. If you’d rather not talk, let me know. I will advise against ending the session, but I understand you might want to spend more time seeing if you can trust me or not. Does that sound alright?”
Celestia turned the heavy ball over in her hands. She nodded, half heartedly. Perhaps she could figure out what really had brought this change in him.
“Starting out: I couldn’t help but notice you have another note in your pocket. Have you read it?”
Celestia looked down at a small note tucked into her shirt pocket like the others. She took it out and Dr. Cruebel waved for her to place it in his palm.
She just stared him.
“Why should I?”
“I want to try something. I have a theory and if it’s true, you will know what this,” he pointed to the note, “says before you read it.”
“I haven’t been writing those notes.”
“Celeste, I am not angry or upset with you. I trust you when you say you haven’t written these notes... knowingly.”
“So when am I supposed to be writing these?”
“Perhaps in your sleep ...do you ever have periods of time here that you cannot recall?”
“It’s the drugs.”
“No, I can assure you that none of the side effects of the drugs cause memory loss. Please, Miss...”
“Call me Celestia, or Celeste or something else. Being called Miss Marlowe just makes me... I just just don’t like it...” she mumbled before biting her thumbnail and ripping the tip of it off, leaving her thumb a little sore as it started to bleed from where the nail had been.
“All right then. Celeste, I want you to tell me what you think this letter may say.”
“How could I know what is says?”
“Just... give a guess. Take a breath, close your eyes if that helps, relax... and take a guess.”
The woman stared at the box of tissues in front of her. She was so tired. She felt a dull headache above her eyes. Why was she even trying? She sighed and spoke half-heartedly.
“Dear Princess Celestia. We’ve been trying to find you for days. Luna has temporarily taken your position. I’ve been using my best spells to try to break through. I’ll be bringing someone with me but not Spike because I don't know how the spell to get him over here would affect him. I know what world you are being held in. We’ll find you. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.” she looked up at the doctor who sighed as he nodded at the paper before him. He looked up at her and handed the note back.
Dear Princess Celestia,
We’ve been trying to find you for days. Luna has temporarily taken your position. I’ve been...
She didn’t even finish. She couldn’t. Her head shook. She couldn’t keep reading.
“You did something!” she accused him.
He was silent.
“You read it over and over again to me when I was sleeping so I memorized it.”
He did not reply.
“You, you’re watching me and I read it but I forgot about it.”
“It’s your handwriting.”
“That’s a lie! I don’t even know how they get here! I don’t know where they come from!” The baseball thudded as it fell to the floor when Celestia stood. She strove to the window. “It a lie,” she whispered to herself repeatedly.
Her reflection watched her. This wasn’t a face of a Princess. This wasn’t the face of an alicorn. But this wasn’t her face! Her stomach muscled heaved. She squatted just as her stomach tried to expel what it didn’t hold. He throat burned and she spat the taste from her lips. The blood burned her face while her whole body trembled. A princess would never be seen like this. If Twilight saw her now...
Another wave from her stomach smashed her body into submission. Her eyes blurred everything. The smell sickened her even more. Her mouth and nose were aflame.
A hand, heavy with strength, rested over her shoulder as someone knelt next to her. A tissue was gently wiped across her face. The hand left when she shifted to sit with her back against the wall under the window. The note was still in her fist.
How could she have known?
“Did that help at all?” he asked. She closed her eyes as a new wave of tears began. A few tissues were pressed into her free hand. He could just take the letter now. He could just take it from her. He was Discord. He had done something. He must have. There was no other explanation.
Of course there was.
How did she know she was a Princess? Her memories. She had her memories. Where had they come from, if not from Equestria itself? Where else could she have come up with all that stuff?
But the letter... how could she have known what it said?
She looked at him again. What if? What if it was real? Not Equestria, but here? What if she was an ordinary human? What if by accepting that, she could find another life?
What about Luna? Twilight?
But, were they real? Could she have conceivably made them up based on something from her life... something she didn’t want to face?
What would she lose if she believed that this world was her real home? She could lose Equestria unless Twilight or Luna came to save her. What would she lose if she believed that Equestria was real? She could lose anything she might have here.
“You might need to take a nap now,” he suggested and helped her stand to shuffle towards her bed. The springs sank and squeaked as she sat down, with him standing before her. She turned the letter over in her hands and her bare ankles touched the baseball that had rolled under her bed.
She had no magic. She wasn’t an alicorn. She wasn’t a princess. She was human. What could she do about it? Keep fighting against what she was right now? Impossible. She had no power here. Here she was just... a sick woman.
“Would you like me to get you anything? A little something to put into your stomach? Could I being Sarah, perhaps? To keep you company?”
She shook her head.
“I’ll send Sarah back in an hour or so to check on you—“ he looked down at her upturned face. His deep brown eyes were under a quizzical brow as he glanced back towards her hand.
She was holding the note out for him to take.
“Thank you,” he slid the note from her finger and surge of panic ran through her. She had just given Luna's note away! What was she thinking?
“I’m sorry,” he said, pocketing the note. “This is for your own good. Do you understand?”
“Of course I don’t.” she mumbled to her feet.
“Get some rest. It will help,” he said, advancing towards the door. The metal rattled as he closed and locked it from the outside. Celeste brooded on the edge of her bed, letting tears fall onto her bare feet. With a sore back and exhausted limbs, she bent down and retrieved the baseball, rolling it from one hand to the other, pensively.
Nurse Alice breezed by after a few minutes to clean up her mess. She was background noise to the woman on the bed. After the sun crawled closer to the metal table, she left the patient behind.
The weight of the baseball tumbled from one hand to the other, slowly, rhythmically. She kept her mind blank but tears still brimmed and flowed over onto her cheeks.
Get some rest. It will help.
“Shut up...” she groaned. The blanket caressed her face while she crawled into bed and pulled the covered up around her. The pillow cushioned her head. She fell asleep after dampening it with confused tears.