She was a big pony. No, wait, even bigger than that. Almost imposing. It was a largeness that started right down at the bone structure and grew veritably outward from there, with a healthy heftiness that would have seen her well through working or waiting in colder climes. But no, she’d never been in the deep cold like that, nor did she think she’d want to be, ever. Besides, it was a beautiful day in Ponyville, where wispy clouds danced across the bright sun. Birds sang a chiming chorus from the branches of trees, though lullaby might have been the better word for the way the mare slept.
Dozy Dreams swayed gently on her hooves as the breeze rolled through her mane and tail. Not that it’d topple her, both for the reason that her body was well used to being asleep in strange places and that the wind would have to huff and puff very hard indeed to blow her down. It was a lot of pony to blow down. Like many scaled up people, Dozy was slow to move and careful when she did, cautious and calm in her words and actions, as if all intensity were spread out and mellowed by merit of greater volume. It couldn’t get much more calm than utter unconsciousness.
Her coat was a very pale silver, speckled with flecks of flint along her hooves and chest. A tiny travel wagon was hitched to her back. It looked to be the sort of brightly varnished little thing that would bounce lively on the flattest of pathways, but as always it was extremely light.
Such was the advantage of being a pillow-maker and salesmare, a full case hardly weighed anything. In fact, the lighter the load, the better the quality of the product.
The clouds drifted by dreamily, opening a channel for a stray sunbeam to poke Dozy in the eye. With a dainty snort - a feat managed only by years of practice at being woken abruptly in strange places - the mare blinked, yawned, and tried to remember where she was.
Oh yes, Sweet Apple Acres. A few stray strands of her long hair, coloured as if woven from strands of the summer sky drifted over her eyes. With a huff and a puff, she blew them to the side and tried to focus her hazy thoughts.
Sweet Apple Acres because... she’d been bringing a new pillow for... Big Macintosh because...of his neck... but had she already done that? Was she coming or going now? She vaguely recalled seeing somepony or other here. Had that been today, or a memory of an older visit? As always, she struggled to clamber up out of the muddling mire of sleep.
She wasn’t having much success with that. The siren song of sleep called her back, and she succumbed with a pleasant yawn. She plunged into dreaming with the softest of poofs, dimly aware of the warmth of the day and the swaying trees. They coloured her softly, like calming music in the distance, and she dreamed of nothing much. All was airy and ethereal, as free of thought and concern as the clouds in the breeze.
With a hazy awareness Dozy noticed a horizon, a direction. She felt a bit of wonderment at that. Who else is dreaming in the middle of the day? she thought, the idea as tangible as mist.
In a way she had never ever even tried to explain, she moved towards that dreaming, though like the clouds, it seemed more like the world moved around her instead.
Rest. Comfort. Having something long anticipated; these feelings were like colours of a tapestry and painted with strokes just as soft. Dozy pressed against it with all the firmness of dew at dawn, just until she could feel whose dreaming this was.
Dozy recognized the gentleness, the quiet confidence and strength of Big Macintosh. A mote of pride alighted within the mare at a job well done and at a minor puzzle solved. Nopony slept so well as they did on one of her hoof made pillows. It would be fun and mischievous to push further into his dream, but she choose not to. Instead she resigned herself to the sweet nothingness and let herself go free, drifting into deeper sleep...
A dream like none she’d ever touched before snagged Dozy, hitting her with a terrible sensation of hope, fear and instinct that left her reeling and spinning like a pegasus in a storm.
It flung her into waking, which for once was a scary event. Dozy blinked furiously against the sunshine and tried to take stock of her bearings.
What was that? she wondered, feeling more aware and unsettled than normal. Everything seemed too detailed, too rigid...
“Sorry, sorry miss Dreams! I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Dozy looked around ponderously, agitated and unnerved by the dream impact.
A little filly wearing a red bow looked up at her apprehensively. “Sorry,” the girl mumbled again.
Dozy couldn’t remember her name, but still recognized the filly. Big Mac’s littler sister. A small, secretive smile snuggled into the big mare’s expression as she thought of him, and the world slipped back into its familiar haziness, as if seen from behind smoked glass.
The filly asked something.
With a blink and a start, Dozy tried to focus on the little pony. “Pardon?”
“I asked if you were alright. Are you?” the filly fidgeted on the spot. “You’re awful sleepy. Applejack keeps tellin’ me that sleep is mighty important, but she and Big Mac get to stay up later than me and it ain’t fair, ‘cause sleep is boring and what’s your cutie mark?”
Dozy recoiled. Sleep...boring? She couldn’t hold that foolishness against the child, but still...“Three pillows,” she said in answer, keeping her other opinions to herself.
“So your special talent is...pillows?” the filly asked incredulously. “What kind of talent is that?”
Dozy’s chuckle ran to a yawn. “A very comfortable one. Which way is it back to town?” Pretty and peaceful as the farm was, one gently swaying tree looked much like another. With the noontide sun high overhead, she didn’t know which way to go, or quite how she’d come to be here in the first place.
“Oh, uh. This way. What’s in the wagon?” The filly lead on, casting curious glances at the rickety little contraption all the while.
Dozy stifled a particularly deep yawn. “Oh? the wagon...uh, my pillows,” she said dreamily. The singing birds were just so soothing and the breeze playfully tousled her long blue mane. She’d already slept away the morning here and needed to stay awake, though it was a bit of a struggle. The frightful twinge of the dream that had struck her helped with that, but Dozy wasn’t sure if she wanted to flee from it or go looking to see what it was. Not a nightmare. It was...different.
“...ah sheep,” the filly said under her breath. Dozy blinked as she did a double take, but the words had been apt. The poofy people ambled aimlessly in the fair weather...there had to be what, two, three dozen-
Dozy dropped back into sleep like a brick in the sea, and like the sea, she plunged into the ebb and flow of dreams, but too deep and too suddenly to hold onto her awareness. In the swirling currents she forgot herself and what she’d wondered, but it was there, darkling and compact, both recognizable and alien.
Something nudged her shoulder.
The nudging continued with gentle insistence.
“Miss Dozy,” a deep voice called softly. Somewhere in her muddled brain a little alarm bell chimed, but the rumble in that tone felt incredibly good as it rolled through her.
Dozy’s limpid blue eyes flung open and she picked up the situation much faster than her usual. She was laying on her side, awkwardly stuffed into the back of a large horse-drawn wagon, one of her trademark pillows stuffed delicately under her head. It was still noon, but the birdsong had given way to the hustle and bustle of town. The hoof that nudged her shoulder was red. Big and red.
Dozy blushed and fumbled awkwardly to get out. Dozy didn’t often mix up dreams and reality, but one or two she remembered fondly might’ve started this way...she felt terribly embarrassed.
A terse moment passed in which she couldn’t meet his honest and casual gaze, though she stood almost to eye level with him. Big Mac waited calmly.
“You kinda dropped off with Apple Bloom there. You kept fallin’ back asleep she said.”
Dozy nodded and yawned, and on this safer ground of conversation. Standing on her own hooves, she could meet the stallion’s eye. “Sheep,” she said. “Sheep and pegasi, but sheep are the worst.”
“One’s fine, but as soon as there’s two...or three...”
She had to be roused again, which set off the embarrassment anew. Dozy fought valiantly against a mighty yawn, but didn’t quite vanquish it. “Sorry...what?” she asked. Big Mac had said something about bringing her back to town, but she’d missed it.
He shifted on the spot. “Wouldn’t normally have disturbed you, but, uh, it’s a bit more work than normal. It’s not usually Apple Bloom’s chore. Corralling them up again, I mean.”
The yawn returned in force. “...’m sorry,” she managed to squeeze through the yawn, then added, “ ‘m sure you want to get back to sleep too.”
“Eeyu-?” the word cut off abruptly as Big Mac’s expression turned inquisitive.
For once, Dozy feigned being dozier than she really was. She’d nearly let slip her secret. She hoped he’d chalk it up to the confused ramblings of a sleepy pony and nothing more.
He did, to her relief. With a nod and farewell, Big Macintosh brought his cart around and left with his steady gait. Slow, but with strength that made dragging the heavy wagon seem effortless. She caught herself staring wistfully after him, but couldn’t quite care enough to avert her gaze. Her own little delivery wagon waited at her side and beckoned her to get on with her own day.
Dozy sighed and eased herself into the harness. Only then did she take stock of exactly where the stallion had left her; she was in the middle of town, rather than the outskirts.
She wasn’t surprised by that. Trust to Big Macintosh to go the extra mile for somepony, or in this case, the extra two hundred paces.
Still, it meant that Dozy had less than twenty to go from here. After the farm, her delivery schedule had been to Carousel Boutique, and the grand structure stood as a crown jewel in the heart of the otherwise quiet town. She smiled with each step. Leaving her travel wagon to one side, she delicately lifted a lacy, elegant pillow from it and carefully balanced it on her back.
The door opened before she need worry about attempting to knock. There stood Rarity, unicorn of beauty and fashion, with a welcome full of sincerity and eyes glinting with hunger for gossip.
“Come in, come in,” she intoned eagerly, standing as the eye of a delicate hurricane of activity. “Tell me dear, how have you been?”
The flurry of shining baubles and silky cloth was bedazzling. “Oh, you know. Good.”
“And how’s Big Macintosh?” Rarity added. It was so casually asked, so perfectly poised in tone that Dozy took no note of the actual question.
“He’s good, I think. Really enjoying his new pillow...oh!” The big mare turned to the unicorn with a look of surprise and a pale blush.
Rarity shrugged it off. “Oh come now, you can’t blame a lady for inquiring an innocent little question like that.” The alabaster unicorn whirled about suddenly, a certain serpentine sparkliness to her eyes. “Sooo?” she prompted.
“So what?” Dozy asked back, fumbling the words.
“Dear, don’t be so obtuse. Oh, let me take that pillow off your hooves. You can just tell me all about it in the meantime.” At Dozy’s empty expression, the unicorn elaborated, while magic lifted the soft, lacy pillow aloft. “You. Big Macintosh.” Rarity made a couple of suggestive gestures that, if Dozy had been more attentive, would’ve her coloured her cheeks his red.
“There’s nothing to tell,” she admitted.
“Oh come now, I’ve seen the way you look at him, and that’s counting just five minutes ago. He carried you into town!”
“He was just being nice,” Dozy said sleepily, but it was tinged with melancholy. It wasn’t the first time a pony had been kind enough to move Dozy along on her way when she was indisposed by slumber. It always left her a good bit humbled.
“Yes, he is nice, isn’t he.”
Dozy could very clearly hear the italics, and it didn’t help matter that Rarity was very good at speaking in them.
“Half the mares in Ponyville must have eyes for him,” the big silver pony said defensively, hoping Rarity wouldn’t press her to admit on which half she dwelt.
“Yes,” Rarity admitted as she floated the pillow around. While she examined it, the storm of activity quieted. “it’s strange that he’s still on his own...I do hope Sweetie Belle and that blasted love poison haven’t put him off the idea of having a special somepony entirely.”
Dozy grasped the change in conversation like sailors grab lifelines, though few yawn whilst doing so. “How is Sweetie Belle?”
“As much to deal with as ever,” Rarity said wearily. “You came at a good time, actually. Apple Bloom came for her not half an hour ago and the two went barging off to earn their cutie mark in finding something or other, once they have done some chores at Sweet Apple Acres. She said something about you and the sheep?”
Dozy nodded and her eyes closed for a silent yawn, but heard the question mark well enough. Farm business wasn’t high in Rarity’s interests, but gossip was gossip. As she yawned a second time, this time audibly, Dozy noted the trick question: you were there. What was happening? What’d you do? She intentionally misheard it, nodding all the while in casual agreement.
“They were all over the place. Had to be twenty...thirty...” Her last conscious thought was oh darn.
Her first unconscious thought was to note how pretty her dream of the Boutique was. Soft colours waltzed around her to the sound of chimes. Dozy could nearly lose herself in appreciation of the beauty, but the memory of that earlier shock painted a black streak across her misty thoughts. Like a chill, the prospect made Dozy hold herself together more tightly than she otherwise would have.
In the same way a pony might strain their ears to hear or see something in the distance, so to did Dozy extend herself into the dream. The sensation was like leaning over the ledge of a view, but she felt firmly rooted to herself, her thought, identity and body. Though she’d told nopony of this side to her talent in sleep, she had indulged it freely for years and felt well founded in her confidence.
There were few dreams about, much like there would be few stars on a cloudy night - she could see nothing of dreams that weren’t being dreamed, and not many slept at noon. Those that did were the young, the old and the sickly, and these she kept a respectful distance from, leaving them to their rest.
When Dozy had discovered this aspect of her talent she’d agonized over the implications. What did it mean to be able to glean feelings and images from the private hearts of others? Not that she did - she let herself see no more than any mare might infer on somepony’s rest by seeing the tussling of their mane and the bleariness of their eyes in the morning, but that was her talent, wasn’t it? Bringing rest. If she could, and did, espy uneasy, turbulent dreams, who would blame her if by the waking hours she made a special pillow for that individual?
Even so, she treaded carefully within her strange ability. Dozy wondered if she hadn’t been given something higher than her worth, something she might easily mishandled if not always self-conscious of it. For the most part though she was comfortable and confident in her dreaming, so long as she kept her sense of right and wrong strongly in line.
There were no words, no apt experiences to explain where that line was. In a hazy existence of thought and image it was even less tangible than a line in shifting sand, though it was something she felt intrinsically. Just as there was nothing wrong with smelling the rich flavours of food wafting across a room, but to take the food would be stealing, so too did Dozy observe passively, never allowing herself to engage with the dreams of others, or peer beyond the most basic feelings of the dreams she witnessed.
It didn’t mean she couldn’t put herself in the dreaming equivalent of a comfy seat by the hypothetical door and watch the metaphorical room. Dozy extended herself further, feeling cautiously outwards for the presence she’d felt before. It’d not been a nice experience the first time, but still she pushed herself. That thing had been anything...everything but restive.
Here in the dream she could recall its shape more clearly. Quite like nothing she’d felt before, knotted through and through with potent emotions and instinct. To think of the thing in her dream she inadvertently dreamed her own, a shadowy copy born of thought and feeling.
It took form frightfully close to Dozy, a form without dimensions, shape or colour, yet somehow a stark contrast to the artistic beauty of the Boutique. It was only a dream within a dream, this impression, an idea of what she’d seen. Dozy’s own misgivings, slight but present, gave it strength.
The construct of her dream lunged. With nowhere to go, Dozy recoiled into herself and shut her awareness tight against the bite.
There was a terrible whoosh of air as the dream menace struck, until Dozy realized that wasn’t it at all, it was her own indrawn gasp. She blinked her eyes furiously, not just recalling but feeling the sting of that bite.
“I am so sorry dear! So clumsy of me!” Rarity fluttered around the larger mare like a dainty moth. A pin gripped by magic was hastily shoved back into its cushion and Dozy realized it had been holding a piece of fabric in place over her. Her questioning look asked everything her throat failed to.
Rarity laughed nervously and averted her gaze as she fumbled with something or other, and the cloth lifted gently from Dozy’s back. “My dear, ahah, you were standing there and uh, I wasn’t sure what to do...”
“So you made a dress for me, using me as the model?” Dozy asked testily. She knew Rarity had integrity and had no doubt she’d been respected, but the mere potential there was unnerving.
The unicorn fixed her with an open look. “No. I was making you a nightgown, which is an entirely different article of clothing and somewhat outside my usual range. And you have unique measurements.” Defiance and apology clashed behind Rarity’s eyes.
Dozy smiled softly and relaxed, prompting Rarity to do the same. “I suppose I may have been somewhat...eager in my inspiration.” After a moment’s thoughtful pout Rarity began anew with brim and enthusiasm. “But do look at this colour, it perfectly compliments your own.”
Indeed it did. With a flick of her horn and step that was almost like dancing, Rarity conjured the creamy silk, coloured of lilacs, back into her magic. It wafted like a fragrance through the air and settled like snow over the big mare’s shoulders.
“With a coat like yours it is positively dreamy.” The mare was too enraptured appraising her work in progress to catch her own pun, but Dozy forgave it anyway. “Oh, you must forgive me that little poke, for I absolutely must finish this for you.”
Dozy was by far the larger pony, but she stepped back as if confronted with a slightly rabid wolf. Rarity’s starry eyes glinted like gems.
“Er, I’d love to, but I got to go. Thing. In the place. Yeah.” Dozy stumbled through the words like brambles and briars as the enthusiastic unicorn hounded her.
“But dear, it’d be but a moment!”
“I really must go.”
Rarity stopped and pouted thoughtfully. “Well, I’d feel wrong to detain you, but do come back, and soon. For me, please? And you simply must tell me more about you and Big Macintosh.”
“There’s nothing to tell,” the earth mare insisted as she made for the door.
“Not yet,” Rarity said with a wink. “Do come back.”
Dozy breathed a sigh of relief as she closed the door behind her, exhaling even as she smiled. It lingered with warmth as she drew up her little wagon, which only grew as the daylight shone down upon her. With only one more stop on her schedule today the big mare enjoyed her time strolling across the town.
The street corners and open air stalls were busy, both with transactions and talk. Some ponies nodded as she passed them by, and she returned the gesture in kind. Dozy could almost imagine the intricate network of news and hearsay, innate to every town, as it bounced back and forth from mouth to ear.
By merit of being, well, dozy, she didn’t partake much of it. It didn’t mean she was ignorant of the fact Rarity had something of a key spot in that web. The unicorn certainly worked for it, and if she agreed that half the mares had eyes for...well, Dozy could take that as truth.
It sat sorely in her stomach to know that. It was one thing to entertain a fantasy she well doubted could be real, another all together to have reality slap it aside.
Dozy shook the unusual bleakness of spirit aside as she left town, letting the simple sounds of birds and streams ease her. It was always a pleasure to come to Fluttershy’s cottage. Not that Dozy had any deliveries to make here. Quite to the contrary, she needed to stock up on supplies.
As the scent of flowers rolled through her, Dozy considered for the umpteenth time how it worked. She’d heard something or other somewhere about ‘earthpony magic,’ apparently all ponies had something or other, but wasn’t sure what she thought of it. She certainly couldn’t make anything light up, float up or blow up, which in Dozy’s understanding was nine tenths of magic right there.
She just made pillows, and if her special ones needed special ingredients, well, that was just the way it was. It worked, and she didn’t have to understand it.
The argent mare was not at all ardent. She unhitched a ways away, then knocked lightly as she could manage and stepped back. Dozy liked Fluttershy as a pony, on principle, but something about the nervous mare made Dozy frustratingly self-conscious of her size, as if the world insisted that being so big, the only acceptable personality for her was ‘bully.’ If Dozy listened closely enough, she could imagine the eggshells crackling under her hooves nearly.
Fluttershy was a spectator favourite for snagging Big Mac in her gossamer web, so to speak. It didn’t help that Dozy’s private opinion of her, and provoked a denied little glimmer of envy. The pegasus seemed entirely too oblivious to note or too meek to make comment of the...somewhat ravenous matchmakers that punctuated life in Ponyville.
On top of all that, she’d been a model.
“Hello?” a voice like the flapping of butterflies’ wings asked. Seeing Dozy’s silver coat and sky-blue hair Fluttershy smiled and opened her door. In kind Dozy smiled, though it felt a little conceited. She stooped to get through the door.
“How are you, Fluttershy?”
“Thank you. Um, good.” Every surface of the little space was filled to brimming with animals, odds and ends, or trinkets and little decorations. Fluttershy moved through it all as easily as a breeze. If it hadn’t been so thoughtfully laid out (not the animals, of course, which sat where they pleased) it would have been quite the clutter. It was nice, but only heightened Dozy’s anxiety another degree. She wasn’t a bull and this wasn’t a china shop, and the expression was quite unfair, she’d met a few bulls in her time and they were a decent sort, but all the same it was what she felt.
She helped herself to a spot on a likely looking couch, making sure nothing fragile was immediately near. The couch sagged under her, there was no pretense of room left over. Dozy curled her legs under herself and resolutely denied to be any more awkward than she already felt.
“So. What’s new?” she asked the pegasus stiffly. The prompt launched the yellow pony into a veritable tirade of insights and updates on the lives of every animal this side of Ponyville. Between the subject matter and the sweetly soft voice that carried it, Dozy nodded off, literally nodding along with the monologue.
Dozy wasn’t all that embarrassed, not here. At least, not with falling asleep here. Fluttershy did provide such a quiet, welcoming home after all. She never seemed to mind either. She’d say something if she did, right? Right?
The mare settled into the dreamstate and the sensations bombarded her like raindrops. Tiny dreams, simple dreams. In one sense of the word Fluttershy lived alone, in another she had the most crowded home of anypony. Animals were sleeping at all hours of the day and night here, entire families of them. In a way that had nothing to do with physical existence Dozy eased out, proverbially stretching the kinks from herself. She couldn’t knock over anything here. Not accidentally.
After minutes of feeling cooped in consciousness, it was a great pleasure just to flitter between the dreams and their warm, indistinct fuzziness. The mare caught uncomplicated impressions. Dreams of food and pleasant memories, it was all very nice. As she drifted between them she came to realize something startling.
It was an animal dream. The one she’d felt before, there was no mistaking it. And yet, it was different, as different as a bird’s dream was from a mouse’s.
It was all very exciting. An animal dream, it’s an animal dream, she kept thinking. It was an answer...an answer, not the answer, but a step towards it all the same. If only she knew what it was, and why it was distressed.
Dozy bounced like a rubber ball between the dreams of all sorts of creatures, feeling for one that was the same. How many dozens did Fluttershy care for? There had to be a clue here.
There wasn’t. Dozy’s dream-self slowed, and would’ve sighed if she could’ve. She could hardly wake herself up and tell Fluttershy to impose some kind of militaristic naptime. Somehow, she just felt it that whatever it was she was curious as a cat about, there wasn’t one of them here.
And it wasn’t a cat - Dozy had already bounced across dreams that made her want to climb curtains and swat at balls of yarn.
The mare took a moment to consider, though in sleep the concept of ‘moment’ was vague at best. With the equivalent of a deep breath Dozy steeled herself, then extended further than she’d gone before, then further still.
Her subconscious awareness of the cottage and its little glows of life fell away. Dozy felt huge, almost insubstantial, as if she’d sublimated into steam. There was a moment of terrifying vertigo as she steadied herself from spreading too thinly, too far to remember herself.
After a few attempts she remembered her purpose, and clung to it like a beacon. Holding it proved the best way of holding herself together. So long as she had a single direction, she wouldn’t drift apart in all of them.
A creature. She was searching for a creature. Not one seen here, in the cottage. Fluttershy’s cottage, the mare much more likely to get the stallion...
The world trembled, but no, it was herself, like an iceberg threatening to topple and spin. Focus, she commanded herself sternly. The extent of her awareness left her gawking. Had Dozy been in Ponyville, at its centre, she might have felt edge to edge, nearly.
Her awareness rolled through the surrounding landscape, not how a bird sees it, overhead and remote. No, it was like how the grass, each blade apart, creates a rippling wave together. She was the wave, a thing separate from the reality of the individuals, but connected.
Does grass dream? Dozy wondered. She couldn’t feel anything from what she knew had to be there. Forgetting her search, she shifted her focus to the grass, and pushed, gently.
There was no sensation from it, not that she would have noticed. Dreams so tiny they could hardly be called such made themselves known to her, in all their myriads. Insects and spiders and all sorts of things that creep under the soil.
Too much, too much! She recoiled instinctively, nearly drowning in the hyper-awareness. She realized, too late, she was drowning in it. Dozy sought for her body desperately, a shining silver needle in a haystack of millions.
The connection was there. Thin. Stretched. To tear at it would sever her entirely. Full of fear, Dozy’s awareness imploded in on itself and went in the only other direction she could think of in the dreaming.
A flash of darkness, then nothing. Dozy’s awareness winked out.
Something that was very nearly Dozy’s awareness came to. It knew and remembered itself enough, and even felt sheepish as it carefully untangled itself from the warm simplicity she’d crash landed in.
There was no mistaking it, this was the mysterious, dark thing she’d sought. Even so, all agitation, all stress had vanished from it. There was exhaustion and satisfaction now. To her great shock, it knew Dozy rode with it. She’d gone too far. Much too far. For its part, it was too tired to be anything but amused.
Well, she thought cautiously, no harm done. Dozy probed innocently at its dreams. It made no reservations against letting her.
The images flowed into her, at first confusing, then assuring, then warming.
Oh, was all she thought, with a sort of reverential silence. The creature might have been smug. Just a little.
How do I...uh, go back?
With a sort of mental shrug, a direction was pointed out to her. Giving in to trust, Dozy coiled up her awareness and sprung.
A flash of darkness. Dozy’s awareness winked out.
“Aaaughh!” The big mare yelled inanely as she flailed and toppled from the couch. Her outburst triggered a whole cascade of panicked reactions from the animals, least of all from Fluttershy who shrieked, folded up and fell on her back like a convenient carry-bag.
“What...where?” Dozy stared out dumbly from her widely peeled eyes. Everything was so vivid, so sharp. She’d never been this forcefully awake since...ever. It was as if a bucket of cold water had been dumped over her head.
When she felt the chill and drip, she realized a bucket had.
A mouse was just concluding its annoyed, pantomimed telling-off of the mare for disrupting the peace and quiet when Fluttershy rallied. To her credit, once she did, she acted quickly.
“Oh! Oh, Dozy Dreams, are you okay? You were asleep and then I couldn’t wake you and none of us could wake you up and even the water didn’t wake you and I was really worried.”
It was here that Dozy learned something about Fluttershy that every animal in her care already knew: when it came to her and doctoring, Fluttershy knew of no such thing as personal space. It was like being mauled by a pink and yellow flower.
“Do you feel alright? Is your mouth dry? Are you feverish? How many wings am I holding up?”
“I’m...I’m fine. Sorry.”
Fluttershy’s hyperventilation had a musical quality to it, and the mare was so invasively close Dozy could feel the heated little breaths splashing across her body. “No, no! I’m the one who’s sorry! I poured water on you and that was cruel but I didn’t know what else to do are you sure you’re alright sometimes you feel alright because there’s fluids rushing to the area do you feel any rushing fluids?” Fluttershy nearly managed a wheeze after that, except this was much more dainty.
Dozy gently but firmly disengaged herself from the smaller mare, feeling a funny sense of deja vu as she did so. “Look, uh, sorry to worry you, but I just remembered somewhere I need to be. I’ll come back tommorow to get those things, ok?”
“Oh, um, alright. If you’re sure.”
The door looked oh so inviting. Not that she disliked Fluttershy or anything, but...“I’m sure. Sorry.” It closed behind her and Dozy felt like she could breath. She’d have to enjoy it on the move, Dozy thought as she hitched her little wagon.
She’d nearly lost herself there. Everything was alright now. The sun was still shining, this was definitely her oversized silver body, her blue hair. Dozy felt lively...more than lively, she felt conscious, more than ever. The breath she took was breathier than any breath she’d breathed before. And she needed a good few deep ones. For all her self-assurance, the mare was rattled.
It had felt like standing at the bottom of an endless well. She’d never known she could expand and expand, stretch and stretch until her mind was nothing more than soft mist, no thought or feeling to come back together or an inkling of how. Dozy suspected she’d opened herself up to a nightmare or two in the coming nights about losing herself to that.
In the meantime she felt purposeful, even good. Who knew there was so much sense to make of things to be made in wakefulness? She could feel the endgame at play, she knew that she knew the answer to the mystery, somewhere in the clues, somewhere between sleeping and waking she’d put them together.
The dream impressions, the ponies, the sheep, the chores, the work, the animals. The answer was there, and it’d guide her hooves. Under the sunny sky, it lead Dozy’s hooves, well trusted to keep her upright waking and sleeping, to the spot where it had first started.
One tree did look very much like another, but they were still lovely to see. For all the same reasons Dozy felt at odds in the little cottage, she liked being at the acres. No, it wasn’t just a pretense to see Big Macintosh, she really did like that.
Seeing Big Mac was merely icing on the cake.
It was spacious here. Nothing felt fragile. Dozy could relax her guard and let down her hair, which, being very long was quite nice to proverbially do. Being Dozy, she had hers down always. But still.
And the filly seemed to have wrangled the sheep by now. Well, she could enjoy everything later. She had something important to do, and a secret she’d have to break to do it. The dirt felt...not dirty, not like that, but grittier, more grounded and grounding than she remembered.
Suddenly the mare felt alone and uncertain. She’d have to tell him something, and then where would that leave her? All her thoughts and fantasies...were only that. Today had been the most contact she’d Dozy had ever had with the stallion, and she’d been asleep for most of that.
What if she had to tell him something of her secret, and something came of it? What if something didn’t? Which was worse? Normally she’d never thought this far and would’ve sunk into dreams if she had, but her vivid consciousness was stinging like a coat scrubbed too vigorously.
And then there he was. Big Macintosh nodded in casual greeting as he came around the side of the barn. A few starts later and Dozy managed to speak.
“Can I help you?” he asked in his rumbling tones.
“Uh...no. No. But I can help you,” she replied hastily, hoping her blue hair wasn’t looking too wispy in the breeze. Even so, now that she’d said it, it was like the breaking of some dam. “I think I know where she is. Your dog, I mean.”
His ears flicked up. “You seen Winona?”
“Er, not exactly...”
Big Mac had always been the epitome of quiet, calm strength. To see even a mote of frustration flash across his expression was surprisingly scary, and even more so it was...the tiniest bit thrilling. “Well, do you know or not? She’s been missing nearly three days now. We’re all worried.”
Dozy felt defensive all of a sudden, which didn’t make sense, this was the guy she liked, what was she doing, taking a step back and standing straighter, almost challenging. “Look, I just know, alright? Let’s leave it at that.”
Big Mac’s sister, the orange one, came round the barn. “Leave what at what now?” she asked innocently.
“Dozy Dreams here reckons she knows where Winona is.”
“Really? Well shoot, that’s great news. So where is she?”
“I’m not really sure... but, uh, I know she’s nearby. And she’s alright. Sleeping.”
Both Apples gave her a flat look. “You playing some kind of riddle with us?”
This wasn’t going right at all! If it’d been a dream there wouldn’t even be a mare here with them, except for that one...that one time, which Dozy firmly told herself was the consequence of a bad sandwich and nothing more. Really.
“Look, I know its her, alright? I’m nearly sure of it, because Fluttershy has all sorts of animals but she doesn’t have any dogs, and I first noticed it here and just found out how far I can go, which means she’s near enough.”
Dozy let her own words reach her thoughts. She certainly felt she wasn’t using the latter guide the former anyway. Somehow, her buzzing thoughts, primed up on consciousness hadn’t bothered to come to work today as regarded controlling her mouth.
So yeah. Of course. Of course it sounded crazy, what she’d said. Well, she was crazy, for getting mixed up in something weird like this and for longing after Big Macintosh and spilling out her secret talent to these ponies she hardly knew. Being able to transcend the confines of her body and feel the dreams of others seemed paltry in comparison.
The two Apples retreated further into their deadpan expressions. “Right...”
Dozy rambled on. “I found her, or she found me. In my dreams. It's part of my talent, but I’ve never told anypony before because they’d think I was crazy pretty much like you do right now.” She turned to Big Mac. “Earlier I said ‘I bet you want to get back to sleep’ and I knew you’d been sleeping because I knew you’d been sleeping and I’m telling you this now because I want you-want to help you,” she amended hastily. As a mare of sleep, Dozy had never taken to coffee, but imagined this what it must feel like to be three or four cups under. Jittery. Alert. Distracted.
The two Apples looked to her, then to one another, back to Dozy, then a final time back to one another. It was the longest moment of Dozy’s life.
Applejack shrugged. “No need to get all frantic about it.”
They seemed satisfied, a result so unexpected Dozy had to wait for her own racing thoughts to catch up. “What?”
Applejack laughed and Big Macintosh’s posture softened. “Quit your fussing and relax,” the mare began. “If that’s part of your talent I’m not gonna hold it against you, and trust me when I say I’m a simple cow pony, but even I’ve seen a few talents weirder than that. You’re makin’ a mountain of a molehill, I think. Ain’t I right, Big Mac?”
He stood there, quiet and thoughtful. “You knew I was dreaming?” Several unasked questions Dozy nonetheless heard reignited her worry.
Something compelled her to spit out the honest answer. “Yeah. But I didn’t look into them, or anything,” she added quickly.
“You can do that?”
Dozy’s mouth worked around a few shapes before finding some words that managed. “Um. Yeah. To an extent. Sorry.”
Well, he didn’t look angry or revolted, just deep in thought. That was probably a good thing. “You do make the best pillows, Miss Dozy.” Whatever kind of answer that was, he seemed satisfied with it, and from that the mare took a hesitant confidence.
A flighty smile settled on the silver mare. “Um. Would you keep it a secret though?”
Applejack flashed her a broad grin, Big Mac merely nodded once. Both seemed as much an assurance as anything.
“Right on then, miss. Lead the way.”
“Er, right.” Dozy hastened, the little wagon bouncing madly behind her, but for all that she barely knew where to go. She closed her eyes tightly, trying to draw on the ghostly impressions left of her dreams. “I think...she was in the dark. Somewhere snug? She was tired...tired but okay.”
“In the dark? In the middle of the day? Where could that be? You said somewhere near...”
“Umm...” Dozy wracked her brain for answers, but it was like trying to catch mist. ‘Near’ was still a very big area to search without some kind of further clue. She knew where to find it.
“How many sheep live here?”
“Forty two, why do-” but Dozy was already gone.
The mare snored lightly. Applejack looked to her brother.
“I thought you were exaggerating about that.”
A moment passed between them, sounded with nothing but breeze and birdsong. Applejack scuffed at the dirt. Dozy swayed gently.
Applejack broke the peaceful quiet. “She’s awful fond of you.”
“Smitten, I dare say.”
“She don’t hide it well at all. We weren’t born yesterday.”
Applejack stretched out her shoulders and relaxed.
“She seems nice enough. Bit odd, but who ain’t?”
“So,” the sister began coyly. “You gonna let her off lightly? You gonna tell her?” The brother gave her a look, then shrugged.
“It’d be fair,” was all he said. Before Applejack could press him further, Dozy came to with her distinctively dainty snort, blinking furiously.
“Underground. A stump. Roots.”
The Apples let the panoramic vista of the orchard and all its green glory hit the mare upside the head for them. “Gonna have to be more specific there. We’re anything but short on trees.”
The silver mare looked dazed and glazed, still steeped in sleep. “It was pulled up, part way. A stump that’s half pulled out.”
“I know the spot,” Big Mac said.
Dozy was happy to make the transition from leader to follower. The stallion had a brisk pace, in no time at all a big old stump came into view, stubbornly refusing to let go of the soil. By the way it leaned at a steep angle with roots dangling in the air and the soil torn up beneath it, Big Mac had given it quite the fight at some point.
The mare’s mouth hung a fair bit open, her gaze sweeping from stallion to stump and back again.
“Not supposed to strain myself,” was all he said, somewhat abashed. This only made Dozy’s mouth hang open all the further.
“Under that? You sure?” Applejack asked.
“I think so.”
There was no pretense of who’d squirm in to find out. The orange mare was the only one with even a chance to fit under the mess of broken roots and soil.
She jumped to it without hesitation or reserve. “Winona? Winona? You down here girl?” The mare poked her way in until more than half of her was under the stump. A muffled “Oh” reached them, but carried a lot in its tone.
“You found her?” Big Mac asked eagerly.
“Yeah. She’s here. Hey, Dozy, bring that wagon near as you can get it.”
“She’s not hurt, is she?”
The laughter that answered her was hearty, Dozy could nearly feel it reverberate through her hooves. “Anything but. She looks fine. So do the puppies.”
“Puppies?” the two large ponies asked in synch.
“Yeah, caught me by surprise too. Come on, come on,” she said softly. She backed out from the little pit much more cautiously than she’d gone in.
Five little bundles of fuzz explained why, mewling and squirming in firm hooves. The sheepdog followed them out tiredly, looking, well...sheepish.
“That answers a few questions,” Big Mac said.
“She was pregnant?” Dozy managed to whisper.
“Definitely seems that way,” Applejack replied.
“How...how didn’t you know?”
There passed a moment where the orange mare decided between affront and humour. She chose the latter.
“Winona ain’t just a family pet, she’s a working dog. Out and about, you know? I never even thought this could be the reason, I was just worried about her. Glad to see your good,” she added for Winona’s benefit, managing to nudge the dog while being mindful of the puppies she carried. She dropped them gently into the tiny wagon, onto one of the softest pillows this side of Ponyville. The feeble little things had no hope of resisting its rest inducing embrace.
Dozy hadn’t realized she was staring at them until Applejack nudged her. “Want one?”
The big mare recoiled. “Now? I couldn’t take a puppy, I don’t know anything about dogs!”
The farmer flashed her a look of disbelief. “That I can believe. But you wouldn’t be taking one now. They’d stay here with their momma for a coupla weeks, at the shortest, before going anywhere. Gonna have to find them homes in the meantime.”
The more Dozy looked at them, sleeping and sprawled over one another, the more she realized that, yes, she didn’t know anything about caring for dogs. But she kind of wanted to learn.
“Could I really? Have one, I mean?”
“Well shucks, you helped us find them after all, I’d say that kind of entitles you to pick of the litter. What’d ya think, Big Mac?”
“...What’s ‘pick of the litter’ mean?” she asked hesitantly.
Applejack face hoofed. “A litter, yeah? A litter of puppies. You get first pick.”
“Oh,” the big mare murmured, as if some secret of the trade had been imparted to her.
She still believed she’d decline the offer, right up to the moment her eye settled on the plump little thing snuggled in under the others. Like them and its mother it was brown and white, but a streak of silver ran down its brow, all the way to its shoulder. Seeing the puppies all together like that, Dozy realized how lonely her own life had become.
Spending so much time in dreaming was only the half of it. She didn’t keep close friends; beyond her deliveries of custom creations, her social life was limited to calls of recognition and acknowledgement in the marketplace. Other than the houseplants, she lived alone.
This little guy could change that, could be the companion she longed for.
“I wouldn’t know...how to...care for him...” she whispered in a monotone, her thoughts elsewhere, her eyes fastened to the little sleeper.
“Aw shucks, it ain’t a science or art, keeping a dog. Love, patience, and a bit of good sense is all you need. From what I can tell, you’re pretty much sorted for the first, anyway. The other two you’ll figure out. Like I said, it’d be a few weeks before you could take him home.”
“Before I could take Sweet home,” Dozy replied impulsively, and with the naming there was no pretence of indecision any more. Logic and restraint and caution all said no, don’t do this, think it through, but as a mare who lived in dreams Dozy wasn’t given to listening to those all that much.
Dozy leaned down to their resting mother, head on paws and eyes shut. “You saved me there,” the mare whispered. “You caught me before I went too far. I promise I’ll take good care of Sweet.”
It’s not normally considered possible for a dog to smile, but as Winona rolled to her side and looked up at the big pony she did just that, conveying all the same affection, albeit in a panting, doggy kind of way.
The walk back was all the slower for the sleeping puppies. A peaceful silence reigned over the ponies for a while, even as they worked to lay out a thick bedding of straw in a corner of the barn for the mother and pups.
Applejack thanked Dozy heartily for her help, insisting all the while she was certain Dozy would do just fine at caring for the little guy. With a thousand pardons she rushed off to let the rest of the family know that Winona was found and all was well. More than well. Swell, even.
That left Big Macintosh and Dozy alone at the edge of the acres. None of her dreams had ever gone like this, that was for certain.
“Can’t thank you enough for the help there,” Big Mac said.
Dozy blushed. “It was nothing,” she said. It certainly wasn’t nothing, but that’s the sort of thing that was supposed to be said in these situations.
Big Macintosh wasn’t one for that convention. “No it weren’t. You used something special there to do something special, and we all appreciate that.”
“About that...please keep my secret? It’s just...it’d save me a lot of trouble if ponies didn’t all start asking me questions, you know?”
“Eeyup.” Dozy turned to leave, but something in the way Big Mac fidgeted drew her attention back. Him fidgeting was a rare sight, to say the least.
“Look,” he began awkwardly. “I owe you, I reckon. A secret for a secret. Something you should know about me...”
He told her.
She blinked again.
She laughed aloud, a deep bellowing laughter, all daintiness forgotten. It did make sense, why hadn’t anypony thought of it? Even Rarity would be blindsided if she ever caught wind...but it wouldn’t be from Dozy.
Big Mac looked hurt. “You laughing at what I am?”
“No, not you,” she said through the laughter, her smile warm as any three pillows and blankets a pony could care to find. “I’m laughing at half the mares in Ponyville. What they are, and me too.”
It was, she had to admit, really funny. Still, that didn’t stop the day from running into evening, and Dozy had a house to get back to, a dinner to scrounge and a home to prepare.
“I’ll see you around, ok?” she said over her shoulder as her hoof trod the path home. With a puppy in the barn, she had an excuse to visit whenever, until she realized that no, with the Apples, there never needed to be an excuse to visit, just companionship and friendship were enough for them.
“Take care, Miss Dozy. Thanks again, and for being uh, understanding.”
The silver mare couldn’t have wiped the smile from her face with a warm soapy cloth. So she’d never get the stallion. Oh well. She could dream.
Author’s note: Dozy Dreams is not to be confused with fimfiction user/ponysona Dozy Dreamer, although my thanks to this person for being cool with me accidentally stumbling across an extremely similar name, and for the insight they provided while we sorted through the coincidence. Big thanks to Staraptor for providing the image and Riesz for creative input and prereading.