She’s a nice mare, really. Honest. Certainly not the type of respectable pony my mother would want me to associate myself with. The type you crossed the street to avoid. The shady kind of pony up to no good, with a penchant for mischief. Uncouth, undignified, oh yes, Vinyl Scratch was all of those things.
And I couldn’t have asked for a better friend.
She was a rough-and-tumble tomboy, no doubt. Her mane was an absolute disaster, just awful, impossible to tame. And those colors, ugh! Her sense of fashion left something to be desired. A hoodie in the middle summer? Why not.
Her table manners were impeccable. I’m joking, ha-ha. Yes, that was a fake laugh.
Was it wrong for me to laugh when she snorted milk out of her nose? Or when she had lettuce in her teeth? Good idea, Vinyl, let’s have a belching contest in a five-star restaurant; I’m sure nopony will mind.
Vinyl Scratch was definitely confident. She radiated confidence. She had something that I just couldn’t put my hoof on. Swagger, maybe?
Shall we strut down the sidewalk with our noses in the air next to those stuffy Canterlot nobles? Of course we shall, my dear.
She definitely knew how to draw attention, get others to notice, make herself known. Her mere presence could change the atmosphere of the room. She was loud and proud and obnoxious and I couldn’t help but wonder why I still hung around her. Her taste in music left something to be desired. It was obvious we would butt heads. She preferred something of the electronic variety. Mine was a more organic medium with wood and strings and soul. But it was alright.
We were complete opposites, Vinyl and I. Understatement of the century. She was the yin to my yang. Red oni, blue oni. We had a love-hate relationship, if you could call it that.
“C’mon Octy. Up here!” Vinyl called, dashing up the stairs.
It wasn’t my idea, moving in with her. Really! I just went along with it. Financial reasons, you know?
"Wait 'til you get a load of this! Ta-daaa!" She pushed open the door with a flourish and a bow.
I gawked, running inside, turning around the foyer. “This place is great,” I said with a haughty sniff. “It’s certainly…”
It was certainly not Manehattan. And it wasn't the Canterlot penthouse of my dreams either, but it would have to do. Already pre-furnished, how wonderful. The paint wasn't peeling, so that was a good sign. Not like my dingy old apartment. The carpet smelled fresh. Straight ahead from the door there was the foyer. A coffee table, two couches. Some vases with wilting flowers. Then a balcony with a glass door with a great view of the castle. To the left, a kitchen with a fire extinguisher.
Break glass in case of Vinyl Scratch.
"Dibs!" she yelled, bolting off down the hallway.
She was a peculiar mare. An enigma. I could never tell what she was thinking. Her eyes, goodness, I had no idea what she looked like without those gaudy sunglasses on. She wore them in her sleep, probably in the shower as well, if I took a peek.
Not that I would, mind you. I was just curious. About her eyes.
What secrets are you hiding, Vinyl Scratch?
What secrets? There were no secrets between us. I knew her favorite color, songs, places to go on a Friday night. But did I really know Vinyl Scratch, the mare behind the sunglasses and bravado? Or was I only scratching the surface? Friends, family? Did she have any? Or was she raised by a pack of wolves? I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. Or her cutie mark? How did she get it? It was a mystery.
She was a mystery mare, with an air of…mysterious…ness surrounding her.
“Nightmare Night! What a fright!” the pale unicorn chanted, bobbing her head. “Give us something sweet to bite!”
“Vinyl," I said.
She danced around the room, weaving decorations, oblivious.
“Vinyl!” A bit louder this time.
She jerked her head, flipping off her headphones. “Yeah?”
“Please. I’m trying to read.”
She rolled her eyes. I couldn’t tell, but the way she tossed her mane said it all.
“Octy?” She wiggled her hips. “See something you like?”
I flushed. “I was looking at your cutie mark.”
“Sure,” she snickered. “What ‘cha reading?”
Vinyl was by my side in an instant, pushing me over on the couch and laying on her belly. I shifted slightly, feeling her coat brush against mine. I moved over some more to give her some space. Instead, she closed the gap between our bodies. I stared at her, hoping she would get the hint. Instead, she only grinned.
Personal space and all that, right? Right.
I showed her the cover. It was my turn to roll my eyes as she snorted.
“Vampires? I never knew you into that sort of thing. Nightmare Night…”
“What a fright! Give me something sweet to bite!”
Vinyl leaned in suddenly, sandwiching me between her and the couch, her muzzle hot against my neck, sending a shiver up my spine.
“Get off of me!"
"I vant to suck your blood, my dear!"
I pushed her off, flustered, watching her roll onto the carpet with an,
“Oomph." She stood up, pouting. "Ah, you’re no fun. You gotta get into the Nightmare Night mood!”
"That's not for a while, Vinyl. At least a week." I frowned, looking around the loft. “Remind me never to hire you as my interior designer. The apartment looks dreadful. Cobwebs everywhere! You’re cleaning this up.”
“An entire night of free candy! It’s better than Hearth’s Warming Eve!” She danced around. “Uh, hey, what’s for dinner?”
Vinyl stared. “Seriously?” Her mouth scrunched up in disgust.
I chewed and swallowed, dabbing my lips. “Just eat the pasta, Vinyl. You act as if you’re allergic to pasta.”
“I’m not allergic to the stupid pasta. It’s the garlic!”
“What’s wrong with the garlic?”
I can’t see her eyes, but I can tell she’s looking away now.
“I hate garlic,” she muttered.
“Just try it!”
“Vinyl, eat the garlic.”
It wasn’t a plea, or compromise. It was a command. An order.
Ooh, so assertive, Octavia.
She glowered at me, opening her mouth and levitating her fork, moving it closer to her mouth. The mare took a bite, chewing for a bit before I saw her face contort.
She had left the table and dashed over to the bathroom, spitting it out. “Ugh! Gross, gross!” She scraped her tongue with her hoof.
“Hey, are you alright?”
Positively green. Not really, just a little pale. But Vinyl’s coat was always sickly pale. Pale like a vampire’s.
I furrowed my brow. What was wrong with garlic? My mind drifted to my book. It was a bit stupid of me, but my mind had already made the connection. Garlic and vampires. Vampires hated garlic.
What if Vinyl was a vampire?
Vinyl Scratch wasn’t the type of pony to stop and smell the flowers.
Come with me, Vinyl, and we can go on a journey through the Canterlot gardens! No thank you. I’m staying right here, Octavia. The dank, dark apartment room, with all the blinds closed. Yes siree! Enjoy your nature.
No wonder she looks like that. I wasn’t the outdoorsy type, but I liked the occasional walk through the park. Come to think of it, she never came out when it was bright. She locked herself in when it was summer and came out in the winter.
She claimed, “I have sensitive skin.”
Vinyl seemed to have an adverse reaction to the sun, always clinging to the shadows. Vampires didn’t like the sun.
Vinyl Scratch the vampire, hah. That’s a good one.
She was just nocturnal. Her job called for it. By day she was Vinyl Scratch, the laziest mare Equestria had ever seen, lounging around. Sluggish. By night, she was somepony else. She was DJ-Pon3, somehow even more loud and obnoxious than Vinyl Scratch.
“You’re coming with me and that’s final.”
“But the sun is still out!” she moaned.
I gestured to the moon outside our window.
“You’re getting fat. Look at this.” I slapped her flank, only realizing seconds later what I had done.
I shook my head furiously. “I’m sorry! I wasn’t thinking!”
She grinned even wider, leaning in close, arching her eyebrows. I tried to see her eyes behind her purple lenses. She pulled away, dragging me along while I blushed, red as a tomato.
A little too close, Vinyl. Too close for comfort.
Our warm bodies pressed together as we strolled through the park. Summer had passed all too quickly and now Equestria was beginning its transition into fall. We took a scenic route through the park, trotting beneath the tree canopies with bare branches thanks to the Running of the Leaves. I shivered at her touch. I bumped my rump into hers, pushing her away. She snickered, throwing her arm around my neck, pulling us closer together. I squirmed, unable to slip out of her grasp, and resigned myself to resting my head against hers.
Just friends, huh?
“You know, I really like you!” She grinned.
Perhaps things only made sense to me in hindsight. Looking back, I realized that I was little dense. A little, or a lot? Maybe in denial. A little bit of both. You couldn't blame me. Let's call it ignorance on my behalf. I should have put two and two together. At the time I hadn't thought much about it. Well, I hadn't thought much about anything. I had seen the signs and chosen not to heed them.
“I like you too?” I said slowly, deliberately, cocking my head slightly.
There was a subtle twitch of her lip as she gazed at me, her expression unreadable. She wore her grin like a mask and kept grinning, pulling me along, laughing.
For some reason I wanted to apologize to her.
"Vinyl, do you think you could swing by the store and grab me some eggs?"
She groaned. "It's too hot. Can't I do the cooking?"
When I didn't answer she poked her head into the kitchen, donning her black pullover.
"Vinyl, you just said it was hot. Why in Equestria would you put on a jacket?"
"I sunburn easily!"
I narrowed my eyes. Perhaps I was reading too much into it. But it was starting to seem fishy. Back then, we'd only go out at night, after I finished my rehearsals and she finished her DJing. Her behavior was erratic. Irrational. Normal ponies didn't always wear sunglasses at night and inside the house, and they certainly didn't hide from the sun and try to lock themselves in on a perfectly fine day.
No. Octavia, you silly mare, she is not a vampire.
Oh how hard I tried to convince myself. But my mind had already been made up, and I had all the "evidence" I needed. She hated garlic.
Maybe she really doesn't like garlic, Octavia. You're being the irrational one now—
She hated the sun.
Maybe she really does have a skin condition, you never know—
The sunglasses. Her jacket. Her wardrobe made so much sense now.
Not everypony can be as fashionable as you!
I kept chopping, slicing the carrots, my mind formulating conspiracies and—
"I'm back!" Vinyl chimed in.
I pulled back, bleeding. The kitchen knife clattered to the floor, the tip stained with red.
"Octy!" Vinyl gasped at the sight of me clutching my bleeding hoof. "Are you alright? Are you feeling woozy? A little dizzy? Do you need to sit do—"
"I'm fine, Vinyl. It's just a paper cut."
"You call that a paper cut? It looks like you got tangled up with a manticore!"
"You're exaggerating, just get me a banda—"
She grabbed my hoof suddenly. "Here. Let me see."
Her muzzle inched closer.
"Ew! Vinyl! That's unsanitary!"
She didn't listen. She kept sucking until the wound was dry and pulled away with a pop.
"All better now?"
I blinked. "Yes." The wound had stopped flowing. I snatched my hoof away. "Thanks, I guess."
"I'll go get some bandages."
It was her being overprotective, that's all.
I was lying to myself. There were just too many coincidences, too many that I just couldn't ignore! Everything I'd read in my novel pointed towards Vinyl being a vampire. And what was that thing, sucking on my hoof?!
Maybe I could demand an explanation, yes.
...And have my throat ripped out for asking. Vampires were bloodthirsty monsters.
She had tasted my blood! I trusted Vinyl, but there was that glimmer of doubt in the back of my head. What if she betrayed me? What if the lust for blood was enough to overcome our friendship?
I was going to need some garlic.
A round table. No, not like Knights of the Round Table. More like mares of the Round Table. Hah. Get it? We're both mares and we're sitting—
Oh shut up.
She lifted her head slightly, looking up from her sheet music. I hoped to catch a glimpse of her eyes as her shades had been sliding down the bridge of her nose, but she pushed it up with a hoof once she caught me staring. Drat. She spat the pencil she had been chewing on for the past hour or so out and set it down on the table.
Yuck. So unrefined. So uncouth. Quills are much better, Vinyl. There's a certain elegance, flourish to using ink.
But then how do you erase?
Shush Vinyl, you wouldn't understand.
Octy. It was never Octavia. Always Octy. The first time we met she called me Octy after finding out my name. Trying to get Vinyl Scratch to stop calling me that was like trying to get Vinyl Scratch to do anything.
This was stupid. The idea had seemed like a good one at the time, but then again all my ideas sounded good in my head.
"What?" Vinyl pushed her glasses up again. "C'mon."
Her voice was low and husky. At the same time it was scratchy and rough, masculine almost. Her vocabulary was juvenile, consisting most of slang. I spoke with a refined accent, ar-tic-u-la-ting each and every word. The first conversation we had was mostly me asking her to repeat herself, because I couldn't understand a word that came out of her mouth.
"Never mind." I waved my hoof dismissively.
Now she was interested. She leaned forward on her cushion.
I shook my head. "No, it's alright, really. I was going to—"
"—ask me something, and now you're going to tell me," Vinyl finished.
I sucked in, taking a deep breath before blurting it all out.
An innocent question.
I cringed, waiting for her reaction. For her to point and laugh. Instead, Vinyl said nothing. Not once did she even break into that insufferable grin. A faint smile tugged at her lips.
I stared. "Really?"
"Yeah. Why do you ask?"
She arched an eyebrow. "Ohhh, I get it. You've been reading that book, haven't you?"
"It has nothing to do with that!"
Lies. All lies. I was lying to myself, and her.
Ah, the Canterlot concert hall. Chandeliers, sweeping red carpets, massive enough to seat all of Ponyville. I was grateful to be back in Canterlot. The great thing about living there was that there was always an opportunity to listen to music. I thought it would be a great place to take Vinyl for a night out.
How wrong I was.
Fun fact. Did you know Vinyl Scratch sounded like a motorboat when she snored? I bet you didn't. The acoustics were great in here, for everypony in the hall could hear her snoring. Definitely worth all the bits I paid to listen to some fine classical music in the hall.
Oh good, she's awake. What's that? Oh for Luna's sake, that's not popco—yes, yes that is popcorn. Oh she wouldn't dare—she just ate some. And now she's smearing the butter everywhere. And now she's slurping soda. Why did the music stop? And why is everypony glaring at me? And why are you throwing your instruments at me?
"You aren't mad at me, are you?"
Oh dear, dear Vinyl Scratch. I couldn't possibly be mad at you.
I was furious.
And may I say, it was an honor and a privilege having the entirety of the Canterlot nobility focusing their attention on me. Me, of all the dumb (oh so very dumb) luck, hah! Of all the ponies in Equestria, I had the good misfortune of being subjected to their furious gazes. I felt like an egg being cracked over a hot frying pan on a stove ablaze with a grease fire, with the egg's yolk having not survived the drop and more gasoline being poured on to douse the flames. If that makes any sense to you, it shouldn't.
"Octy? You okay? Hey Octy—gack!"
And why, you may ask, was I bestowed with this great honor? I was trying to figure it out myself, starting by choking the life out of a certain nincompoop!
"I am going to find a way to legally murder you!" I giggled, a manic grin spread across my face as I wrapped my hooves around her neck.
She gasped. "Killing—me won't solve—anything!"
"And then after I legally murder you, I'm going to do so many not-very-nice things to your corpse that there won't be any evidence left!" I cackled, shaking her around.
"No, you aren't. You aren't sorry, because if you were sorry, you wouldn't have brought popcorn and drinks, and snored when they started playing!" I let her go, sighing. "I need...a drink."
She said nothing, pulling me along. It was like that for a while, just us walking together to our favorite watering hole. Being the Canterlot native, I knew these streets like the back of my face.
I almost turned my head from the shock of hearing my actual name coming from her mouth. "No, no, I'm not going to look at you right now."
"No, I'm being mad at you right now. See how I'm not looking at you? That means I'm mad."
"I'm really, really sorry."
"Well, here we are anyways."
I harrumphed and turned away from the unicorn snootily, climbing the few steps and pushing open the door for her.
It was a little hole-in-the-wall, out of sight and out of mind and out of place compared to the rest of the grand capitol city. Most ponies only saw Canterlot from their postcards and their view from the countryside. It was small, and cramped. There was most definitely a bar of some sort, with creaky stools and torn cushions. The bartender seemed to brighten as he saw us.
"I'll have some sparkling water, and for my friend...?"
"A Bloody Mary!" Vinyl grinned. "Extra blood!"
The bartender chuckled. I merely stared at her, my jaw agape.
She's a vampire.
Octavia, a Bloody Mary is a drink—
She's a vampire.
It's a cocktail! The blood is the tomato juice—
She's a vampire!
My mind was made up. Maybe I had finally snapped. Maybe I'd lost it. I'd been living with her for far too long. Just being around her guaranteed some form of mental deterioration.
I sighed and in one mighty swig, downed my entire drink.
She wasn't a vampire. Just me being a silly filly, over analyzing every little coincidence.
I glanced over to see her, a red mustache above her lip. I giggled and pointed. It was hard to stay mad at her.
"You go on ahead. I gotta run an errand."
"At one in the morning?" I cocked my head.
"Just a quick stop."
"Then I'll come with you—"
"No!" She sighed. "I mean, this is something I have to do by myself."
Very suspicious. Very irregular, even for her.
"Alright then, if you insist. See you later," I said, walking away.
I decided that I was going to spy on her. Not in a creepy way, mind you. I wasn't stalking her, but then again, that depends on your interpretation of the word.
She waved, and waited until I turned a corner to start trotting away. I silently ran around to the other side of the street and spotted her again. My heart raced with excitement. As she crossed the street I followed her, trying my best to stay hidden and inconspicuous to any bystanders. While the streets of Canterlot were desolate at this hour, there were always a few stragglers.
"Where is she going?" I whispered, poking my head out before squeaking.
She had turned around, her head darting back and forth. I held my breath and listened for the sound of her clopping to grow fainter before moving on. Canterlot Hospital? Somehow, it felt like I was walking into a trap. And I felt guilty, like I was about to be caught. Canterlot Hospital was one of the best hospitals in Equestria, second only to the princesses' own personal hospital inside the castle. Why did Vinyl need to visit the hospital? She was fit as a fiddle!
Any closer and I would have been found out. I resigned myself to watching her walk past the door and sighed, slumping down against the brick wall.
Perhaps she was getting a check up. At one in the morning? That didn't make any sense.
I bit my lip and trotted back to our apartment, mulling over the ramifications of what I had seen. I hurled myself onto my bed with a heavy sigh.
How did I ever get involved with her?
Six months ago. Manehattan. Cloudy gray skies. Hard rain, a downpour almost. And then there was me, stuck inside some pub, sipping away at some sparkling water while listening to some blues on a jukebox. Not cider or anything fancy like that. My mind wandered to that strange mare I had met, with the electric blue mane and pale coat. I didn't know where I was going that day, or why I left my apartment. I just put on my scarf and wandered, aimlessly, until I had found myself in that nightclub. A pounding rhythm and enough flashing lights to give me epilepsy. Music I couldn't stand.
I would probably never see her again. How wrong I was on that faithful day.
I'm a good girl, honest. Certainly not the type to get mixed up with the wrong crowd. It seemed, however, that I had attracted all kinds of attention, and not the good kind, from a bunch of rowdy stallions who had too much money to blow on too much cider.
I was in too much of a daze to remember their faces, their coats or manes, anything like that. I couldn't even remember what they said to me. All I remembered was her, Vinyl Scratch, coming to my rescue.
"Thanks," I said quietly, "Vinyl Scratch."
"Octy, my mare!" She shook my hoof. "Good to see ya."
There was something that attracted me to her (in a friendly way). Her charisma. Something like that.
Living with Vinyl Scratch was like living with a friendly manticore who had no concept of personal space or hygiene. She was an absolute slob. I didn't dare venture into the pit of Tartarus known as her room, though I had gotten a peek. Energy drinks everywhere. Glowsticks hanging from the ceiling. Records on the walls.
She had her days, though, and I'd wake up and be pleasantly surprised to find her washing the dishes. She's great, right? A roommate who does the dishes!
"Good morning, Vinyl. Did you finish your errand?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah."
"So what was it?" I asked.
"Ah, I just had to pick up a few...cables and cords and stuff. For my set. DJing and stuff."
I bit my lip and studied her, boring my eyes into hers, hidden behind those shades.
I shook my head. "Nothing."
"Can I see the list of ponies that visited last night?"
The mare at the front desk eyed me warily. "Sure. Name?"
She scanned the list. "Ah, yes. She had an appointment with the Canterlot Hematology branch."
"Pretty much anything having to do with the study of blood."
"Does it say why she had an appointment?"
"Sorry, no, that's confidential."
I growled. "Is there a blood bank around here or something?"
She blinked. "Why, yes. We offer our services year round. Would you like to donate some?"
The very thought made me queasy. "No thank you."
I had no hard evidence to prove that she was a vampire. All of it, circumstantial. I had reached a dead end. Why would she visit that branch of the hospital? Why would she visit the hospital at all? It was all very fishy. I was going to have to do a little bit more digging if I was going to see this through.
"You got any jacks?"
We sat opposite of each other, our eyes shifty and narrowed as we looked at the cards we had been dealt. This was it. The moment of truth. When all would be revealed. Life or death. This would change everything. I smiled coyly as I glanced down at my cards and then back at her.
She jumped up from her cushion and flipping the table in a fit of rage, sending our cards and drinks flying.
"Vinyl, why would you do that?!" I screeched. "What a mess!"
She snorted. "Because it's hilarious!"
"You won't be laughing when it's your turn to clean the bathroom," I snapped.
She wilted. "Aw."
Knock knock. Who's there?
"Huh, I wonder who could that be?" Vinyl trotted over to the door, pulling it open with her magic, and was promptly tackled and sent flying clear across the room with a great crash.
"Vinyl!" I shrieked, by her side in an instant. "Vinyl? Vinyl, speak to me!"
My attentions were drawn away from Vinyl and the gray pegasus on the carpet to the loud chatter by the door. There was a sharp gasp as Vinyl sat back up, resuscitated.
The gray, wall-eyed pegasus with a blonde mane squealed as they hugged each other tight.
"Octy, I'd like ya to meet my friends from Ponyville! Lyra Heartstrings!"
Mint green, with a mane that looked and smelled of spearmint, eyes of gold.
"And her marefriend—"
"Vinyl!" Lyra flushed.
"—Bon Bon," Vinyl teased.
A mane like cotton candy, a voice sweet and sugary.
A disastrous mane the size of a disco ball and somehow even worse than Vinyl's.
"And finally, Derpy Hooves!" The pegasus waved, sticking out her tongue in jest.
I chuckled nervously. "And what do I owe the pleasure of having you four wonderful mares today?"
"You don't mind, do ya Octy?"
"Of course not! Come right in—well, you're all already inside, so uh, make yourselves...comfortable..."
Lyra grinned. "Ooh, Vinyl, she has an accent!"
"You talk funny!" Derpy noted.
"Derpy! Don't be rude!" Carrot Top chided.
"So are we gonna play or what?" Bon Bon butted in.
"Play? Play what?" I asked.
Apparently they all loved to gamble.
"With real bits?" I sighed. "Isn't that irresponsible?"
"And now you know where my paycheck goes!" Vinyl joked.
I tossed a few bits into the pot, trying to keep a straight face as I took another peek at my cards, biting my lip.
Jackpot, sweet Celestia, if I won...
"Pair of queens."
"Three kings!" I laid my cards down with a satisfied smile, trying to hide my grin as Lyra and Bon Bon swore.
"Royal flush!" Derpy cheered.
Our jaws dropped.
"Yay! More muffins for me!"
And for the second time that day, a table was flipped.
Day turned to night, the sun dipping into the horizon. Luna's moon, a full moon, high in the sky, a sea of twinkling stars blanketing the world as ponies all over Equestria took to their beds, drifting off into peaceful slumber. When darkness fell Canterlot became something else.
I had left my door ajar, so as to mask the squeak of the doorknob or the creaking of the hinges as I slipped into the hallway, holding my breath.
Careful now, Octavia. Watch that loose floorboard.
My eyes flicked back and forth shiftily. I craned my head, sidling up against the wall adjacent to Vinyl's bedroom door, my ears twitching as I listened.
That feeling in my chest, what was it? The fluttering of my heart as I heard the unicorn toss and turn? Right, I needed oxygen.
I gasped, sucking in air, and slowly pressed on her door with my hoof, using my other hoof to manipulate the knob. With a squeak and a graceful trip, I tumbled in, surprised, rolling head over hooves into Vinyl's domain with a painful thump. Moonlight poured into the room, casting eerie shadows all over the place. I stood up slowly, eyeing the sleeping mare on her bed, taking a step forward. As my hoof connected with the carpet, it was met with the hair-raising sound of a potato chip being crushed underhoof. I pulled back, disgusted, before pressing on, cringing.
I was finally at the foot of her bed. I crawled, peeking up above her mattress. She slept on her back, her head facing away from me. Vinyl continued to snore loudly. She turned her head, and I saw that she did wear her purple shades in her sleep.
It was time to find out what she really looked like.
I lifted myself onto the bed, the mattress shifting with the new weight. She snorted and smacked her lips. I swallowed, my hooves above her face as I grasped her lenses, lifting them off the bridge of her nose to find...
...that she also wore a sleep mask.
I resisted the urge to groan.
Vinyl turned again, this time facing me. She snored, breathing through her muzzle. At least she brushed her teeth. Her hooves wandered, searching around until they found me. I squeaked, freezing. She pulled me into an embrace, murmuring to herself.
"Mmm, Octy," she cooed deliriously, still sleeping.
Is she dreaming about me? Should I be flattered? Or worried?
I rasped and struggled for air as her hooves tightened their vice around my neck. Can't...breathe! She nuzzled me, combing her hoof through my hair. I blushed furiously, my face heating up. I squirmed as she continued to press against me, holding me close. Too close! Way too close! Personal space officially violated, and in so many ways I couldn't even begin to describe—oh sweet Celestia, please let me go.
No, it doesn't feel nice, Octavia. You're about to smothered to death by your roommate!
But she's so...warm.
No, no, she is not! She is not adorable when she is sleeping and her coat doesn't feel like silk rubbing against yours and you don't feel woozy when she pulls you close!
Liar. You feel it, don't you? Opposites attract. The butterflies in your belly when she brushes up against you in the street. Your heart racing...
I can't stand her! She's a slob! A mess! She is rude and rowdy and—
—I was oh so very attracted to her.
There are things in life you cannot choose, like how you feel. I couldn't possibly have affections for her. It was unheard of. I couldn't possibly be in love. Call it denial. I wanted to get her to stop drooling on me. I wanted to remove all doubt from the equation. Make my problems disappear. Not have to worry about the ramifications, the social stigma, the impact it would have on my musical career. I could see it now on the front page of Equestria Daily. The word was out. Octavia the fillyfooler.
What would my mother think?
Life knows two miseries. Getting what you don't want and not getting what you want. The trouble with wanting something is the fear of losing it, or never getting it.
Finally she loosened her grasp on me and I slipped away, undetected, slipping beneath my covers and shivering.
A beautiful melody. The sound of harmony. We were a well-oiled machine, in sync—
I cringed as I snapped into reality, my bow pulling across the strings of my bass, creating a horrifying sound that sounded like an angry feline with kidney stones.
My three companions glared at me.
"You've been kinda distant lately, Octavia."
"I vote that we end rehearsal today," Frederic suggested, idly tapping a key.
I slumped and packed up my things and left. I had been distracted. Thinking about what I tried and failed to do last night. So far, I wasn't any closer to finding out whether or not Vinyl was a vampire. At that point, my mind was focused on other things: my feelings for her. That cursed mare. It was all her fault. It had taken a while for me to come to terms with it all. I'd brushed off the signs as nothing more than Vinyl being overtly friendly. But I knew, oh yes, I knew. I knew that she wanted me, wanted me to want her.
I was in love.
Was I really? I couldn't even grasp the concept. I had never loved before. Never kissed a pony. Never had a relationship, intimate and open. But I knew this was love. When somepony, no matter what the cost, shows you there was a choice.
You can't pursue this relationship, you stubborn mare. It's career suicide. Social suicide. You're going to risk everything for her?
I silenced that voice in the back of my head indefinitely. Maybe I was over thinking things. She liked me, and I liked her. Wasn't that enough?
If only things were that simple.
Of course, fate would not leave me be, and as I tore open the fridge to grab some sparkling water, thinking I had all the answers to the mysteries of life, I spied something, hidden behind some orange juice and some leftovers. I reached in deep, feeling around with my hoof, until I grabbed onto something cold and lumpy.
I pulled the object out and screamed at the top of my lungs.
A blood pack.
I shut my eyes and tried to will it all away, pretend I was seeing things. I wasn't. There it was, laying on the kitchen floor, cold, crimson blood inside the offending plastic package with a clear label stamped upon it stating the blood type.
What do I say to her? What do I do? What kind of pony brings home blood bags? I certainly didn't bring them home and that meant that she had.
I felt woozy. I felt sick.
Vinyl Scratch was a vampire.
Unless she has to give herself her own blood transfusions! What about that, Octavia?
That voice inside my head, the voice of reason, had stopped making sense. Even it could not dissuade me from the truth. Logic told me that there was a reasonable explanation. Logic was such a liar. This was undeniable proof. Now what? Nopony would believe me. What could I do, call the guards? Try and slay her myself? Leave. Disappear. Make myself scarce. That would have been the smart thing to do.
I guess I wasn't that smart.
I wanted to ask, confirm my suspicions, see if they were true. And again, probably end up lying in a pool of my own blood for asking.
It was time to invest in some silver, garlic, and a wooden stake. Maybe some holy water. I imagined myself screaming, "The power of Celestia compels you! The power of Celestia compels you!", as I splashed it on her.
I heard the door open. I gasped and grabbed the bag with my teeth, trying not to think about it, and tossed it back into the fridge.
"Octy, I'm ho-ome!"
I slammed it shut and turned around, grinning nervously, my grin stretching wide. If she found out that I found then they would find my body in a ditch, or a dumpster! I was too young and beautiful to die!
Play it cool, Octavia. Be cool. Just pretend that you didn't see anything. She's still your friend, she's still Vinyl Scratch.
How am I supposed to be cool when my best friend is a blood sucking monster?!
"Hey Octy, you got some mail."
"Yeah, Octy, could you move? I wanna drink."
Blood! She's going to drink the blood!
"Ha-haaaa, I've never gotten mail before!" I sidestepped her awkwardly, never taking my eyes off of her.
"Are you alright? You look nervous."
"Me? Nervous? Of course not! Let's just see who this mail is from." I read the return address and recognized the stamp immediately. "Mother?"
Breathe in, breathe out. Use the paper bag, Octavia. Go to your happy place! Where was that happy place? I don't know!
"Octy, you're gonna pass out if you keep hyperventilating like that."
"Who's hyperventilating? I'm not hyperventilating, are you suggesting that I am? Because I'm not! I'm not!" I shrieked.
"I don't see what's the big deal. Your mom just wants to take you to dinner—"
"But it's not only Mother, Vinyl!" I cried. "It's her, and Father, and they want you there as well!"
"Aw sa-weet! Where are we going? Do they have hay fries there?"
I slammed my head down on the table with a painful thud and an, "Ow...", groaning miserably.
Remain calm. Everything will be fine, it'll all be fine, just fine. You just have to make it through dinner with Mother and Vinyl Scratch. Sitting together. At the same table. You can do this!
But what if I can't?
You can! Keep calm and canter on! You just have to keep it together! Keep—it—together!
"How did she know we moved in together?"
I grabbed her face with my hooves, whispering harshly, "Mother knows everything."
"Don't you worry your pretty little head," Vinyl said, patting me on the head in a patronizing manner, "Your Auntie Vinyl Scratch's got it all taken care of!"
She didn't understand, did she? What this meant? Of course she didn't. I wouldn't expect her to, no more than I would expect anything from her. I had no right to. And to think, everything had started out so simple. Black and white. Light and dark. Somewhere down the road, that line that I had been walking went blurry. Suddenly things weren't as clear as they seemed. The colors started to run together, like some foal's chalk art on a Manehattan sidewalk being washed away by the rain. Smudged and gray. There were no easy answers, ever, especially not for this. I had to make a choice, to commit to her.
My head hurt. Too many things to think about. Triage, priorities. The vampire issue was the last thing on my mind now. The dinner. Nightmare Night was in a few days, not that I particularly cared. The Grand Galloping Gala in the winter; after last year's fiasco, I was surprised they'd let us come back. If Mother didn't approve of Vinyl...
Vinyl munched on some celery, peanut butter all over her face. "You want some?" She grinned.
She was beautiful. And I hated her for making me feel this way, hated myself. This self-loathing was starting to get to me.
"Octy? You look kinda stressed."
I sighed, nodding. "A little. Just trying to think about how I'm going to get my mum to like you is all."
"Quit your worrying. She'll love me! I'm the life of a party!"
I smiled. "That's what I'm afraid of."
My heart pounded against my chest as I walked over to the cabinet, facing away from her. I reached in and with my hoof, crushed some garlic, the juices spreading. I had to finish this. Crack the case. There was too much at stake for me to play around any more. I had taken on the role of a detective, unraveling all the mysteries that plagued my thoughts. Following that sketchy trail of clues to that final revelation, even if it was going to kill me. I had to know, and I had to know now before we went any further with this.
I struggled to form the words in my mouth. I closed my eyes. "The other day, when you said you had to run an errand." My voice was slow, deliberate, velvety.
Vinyl ventured cautiously. "Yeah. So what?"
"You lied to me, didn't you?"
"I know where you went."
"I can explain."
"Can you?" I wheeled around on my hooves. "Please do. Do explain, Vinyl."
"I was visiting...a friend."
"Liar," I snapped. "The Canterlot Hematology branch! What were you doing there?"
"You've been spying on me."
It wasn't a question.
"Fine. I'll tell you."
My heart raced even faster. I was all wrong! Thank Celestia, I was being so stupid! There was a completely reasonable, rational explanation behind all of this, and now I was going to solve the riddle that had tormented my mind!
"I was getting the results for a blood test. That's all."
"Why? Are you ill?"
She sighed and bit her lip. Finally she said, "I'm an albino."
"You're a what?"
"An albino," she mumbled, her head cast down. "I can't go out in the sun cause my eyes are sensitive and my coat sunburns easily."
The way she said it made it sound like it was a condition to be ashamed of. At least that explained her strange wardrobe, and the sunglasses.
"And what about garlic?" I said quietly.
My hoof moved over to one of the kitchen drawers as I pulled it open slightly, searching for a certain silver implement.
"Garlic. You wouldn't eat any of my pasta."
"Octy, I just really hate garlic! Is that so hard to believe?" she sputtered. "What's the third degree anyways?"
"Vinyl, you don't look so good."
I reached towards her, my hoof dripping with garlic juice, watching her shift back, startled.
"Are you sick?"
I pressed my hoof against her head, watching her wince in pain.
"Your temperature seems normal," I lied. "So what you're telling me is that all of this secrecy is just to hide the fact," I growled, "that you have a skin condition?"
I hadn't prepared for this. I hadn't taken any precautions. I was just being me, being my impulsive self. Ready to jump to conclusions.
"You should have just told me."
Vinyl frowned. "Sorry. Didn't know it meant so much to you."
So that was it, wasn't it? All wrapped up, nice and neat, with a little bow on top. It was perfect. Too perfect.
I snorted, and began to laugh.
I laughed a little more, wiping an imaginary tear from my eye. "Can you imagine, all this time, I thought you were a vampire?"
Her jaw dropped. And even then, she began to laugh. But it wasn't the kind of laugh where you would injure yourself by laughing too hard. It was the kind of laugh when you had something to hide. A nervous laugh. The kind where you were laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, amazed that you had gotten through unscathed.
"That's, heh, that's really funny, Octy. I told you you were way into those vampire novels."
I narrowed my eyes. "So if you're not a vampire, then I have to ask," I said, bucking the fridge door open, the blood bags spilling all over the floor as I shouted, "what are these for?!"
Complete and utter silence. I tried to bore my eyes into hers.
Vinyl sucked in. "Octy, it's just pomegranate juice."
My eyes bulged. "You've got to be joking." Who thought it was a good idea to package fruit juice in a bag with an IV needle?!
She laughed, picking the "blood" bags up from the kitchen floor. "Nightmare Night? It's this week. Remember? I thought you'd like it."
Pomegranate juice was my favorite. "Oh, well that explains it then."
"Now will you let this all go?" Vinyl asked, moving to put them back in the fridge.
Let it go. Seriously.
"Wait," I said.
She froze, turning her head slowly.
"How about you and me share one, right now?"
And with those very words I saw her pale, the color draining from her face.
"Uh, y' know Octy, it wouldn't make very much sense—"
"C'mon, let's just have a sip."
"Err, I'm not really that thirsty anymore..."
"Vinyl, open it."
She gulped and poked it with a straw. Taking a sip, she grinned nervously, sweating bullets. "Mmm." She gulped it down, still grinning. "Tastes delicious."
"Really? Let me try." I reached towards it.
She snatched it away. "No!" She stammered. "I mean, no, Octy, this actually tastes really awful. You wouldn't like it—"
I grabbed it from her.
"Octy, no, don't!"
I scowled, taking a sip. My eyes widened as the taste filled my mouth. Coppery, metallic, bitter. Difficult to swallow. Cold and slimy going down.
I was drinking blood.
I immediately spat it out, screaming, hurtling it away. The blood cascaded from my lips into the sink as I gagged on the vile fluids. I turned to Vinyl and saw her, turned away from me, her body twitching as she struggled with some invisible foe. She let loose a primal scream, howling in a way so unnatural, so hideous, it sent a shiver down my spine.
"V-Vinyl?" I whispered, edging closer.
She turned around. I screamed again. My mind barely had any time to process it. A pair of fangs jutting from her upper jaw, glinting, razor sharp. I lunged for the silver kitchen knife. What else was I to do? I swiped at her with it, watching as she dodged the blade and yanked it from my hooves. You can't say I didn't try. Now I was a dead mare. Dead on arrival.
"You shouldn't have done that," she hissed. Her voice was harsh and wicked.
I smashed my hoof into her face, into one of her purple lenses, shattering them, revealing what lay beneath. An eye, crimson and evil. Demonic. This was not the Vinyl Scratch I knew and loved. This was a monster.
I screamed again. My, I was getting good at this.
I know nothing of angels, but it is fear that gives ponies wings. I ran, as fast as I could, down the hall and darting into my room, tripping over my vanity and breaking the mirror. I hissed in pain, feeling one shard cut my hoof. I locked the door and scrambled underneath my bed.
I could hear nothing but the sound of my own breathing that I kept trying to stop, my heart racing, my eyes dilated with fear. I was cold now, my body shaking. The sound of hooves on carpet grew louder and louder.
"Where are you, Octy?"
The way her fanged mouth twisted my affectionate nickname. I couldn't help but cry some more.
"You know I'll find you."
She was the hunter, I was the hunted. Predator, prey. She was sniffing me out!
"I can smell you," the vampire cooed.
My bedroom door flew open, flying off its hinges. I mouthed a scream, closing my eyes. I quivered underneath my bed, tears streaming down my face as I tried to stifle my sobs by biting down on my hoof. Opening my eyes I could see her hooves walking around. Dangerously close. She moved over to my closet and tore it open with unimaginable strength. My whimpers grew and grew as flattered my ears, trying to block it all out, trying to hide.
I watched her hooves disappear from the room. Seconds passed. A minute. What felt like hours. The breath I had been holding was let out and I sighed in relief.
As I shifted my hooves I felt something grab onto my rear legs. I tugged, struggling, before I was yanked out from underneath the bed.
One last breath. A bloodcurdling scream ripped from my throat, my last one as I gazed up at the vampire, a pair of crimson glowing eyes gazing down upon me, a pair of glinting fangs in her mouth, wet with saliva as she licked her lips.
"And just where do you think you're going?" Vinyl snapped, planting a hoof on my chest.
No. Not Vinyl Scratch. She, or it, or whatever it was, wasn't Vinyl Scratch. Something else had taken over. Something animalistic, something feral.
I swallowed, afraid to speak, squirming. I yelped as I was grabbed by her magic, her horn aglow, hurling me onto the soft bed. I bounced once and sat back up, watching the vampire, trying to hide myself with my hooves.
If I can't see her she can't see me if I can't see her she can't see me...
A quick peek revealed otherwise. I barely managed to elicit a squeak, my heart skipping a beat as she appeared by my side.
"You shouldn't have gotten involved," she snarled.
I quivered, sniffing, hypnotized by her crimson eyes and her fangs jutting from her jaw like canines, sharp and pointy. Both looked equally vicious and deadly, but mesmerizing at the same time. I couldn't help but stare.
"Quit your sniveling, Octy, I haven't even bitten you yet, sheesh."
Those very words made my blood run cold. Maybe that was a good thing. Vampires probably preferred their blood warm and sticky.
I swallowed. "Please," I whispered tearfully.
She moved closer. I scrambled back, my rump bumping against the headboard. I was trapped, cornered. No place to run or hide.
"I won't tell anypony! I swear!" I cried.
How pathetic I was, begging for my life. But what would you say? What would you do?
She grabbed me roughly, wrestling me down onto my back, pinning my legs back, licking her lips at her tantalizing prey. No longer did I feel her warmth as her body pressed against mine as she leaned in, her face above mine.
"You know," she whispered in my ear, her voice a sultry coo, "none of this would have happened if you'd just kept your nose out of this."
You're right, Vinyl.
My mind flashed back to Manehattan, roughly five months.
That past week had been somewhat of a nightmare for me. So far, I'd nearly gotten into a bar fight, had every cent robbed from me, and was now aimlessly wandering around the streets of Manehattan at some ungodly hour past my bedtime looking for some nightclub among dozens of nightclubs for that blasted unicorn with the electric blue mane. Vinyl Scratch, better known by her stage name, DJ-Pon3. I'd felt a little proud of myself, accomplishing so much in so little time. I didn't know what to think anymore. This town had more smoke and mirrors than the Great and Powerful Trixie's magic show.
It was a seedy establishment, a worn-out, worn-down brick building with even seedier ponies hanging around outside. This was the same nightclub I had wandered into the other day. Where I had met her. I was going to need a real drink to cope with the robotic music, the robotic ponies, and the flashing lights. What was I really doing there, gatecrashing their little party with my scarf and bow tie? What was I looking for? I was just some dumb Canterlot filly in a place where dumb Canterlot ponies were less popular than the authorities.
When you've been living in Manehattan for less than a month and can't find your way around after being fired for a disastrous Grand Galloping Gala and you're in some lonely nightclub in the middle of some poor slum and you can still have to gall to call yourself a musician, then you know you're a loser.
How is this my life?
I struggled to no avail. I felt my face heating up.
"Just...relax," she crooned.
I had one last shot at this. She obviously wasn't in control, right?
"Vinyl Scratch," I swallowed, throwing as much passion as I could into my words, "I love you."
Thinking back, I'd realized how shallow I sounded, throwing those words out there.
I saw her eyes dilate for a second. And for a second, her demeanor changed. Her stance loosened and her expression had changed from predatory to...perplexed. Confused. Had it worked? Had reciprocating her love for me changed her back? Yes! I'd gotten through to her!
"Vinyl, oh thank goodness!"
"Nice try," Vinyl sneered.
"Did you think the power of love was going to save you?"
Drat. Well everypony, I tried my best! Nice knowing you lot. You can't say I didn't at least try and not be devoured by some bloodthirsty creature of the night. Game over, everypony.
"Now just hold still..."
I'm going to die. She's going to bite me. Maybe I'll pass out from the blood loss.
I felt her teeth scrape across the soft flesh of my neck. I cringed, tensing up, feeling her fangs sink into my neck. Well that wasn't so bad, I mean sure, I was bleeding now. It felt like getting a shot. After she bit me, I felt her suck and lap at my wound. I let her feed in silence and clucked my tongue, staring at the ceiling. She was certainly vulnerable in this position, but it wasn't like I could grab a lamp and smack her with it. Well this was awkward. It wasn't the most pleasant experience, I'll admit. And it wasn't quite as romantic as I'd hoped, preposterous as the idea sounded. Having somepony's jaws clamped around your throat wasn't as fun as it seemed and I made a note to send a very angry, disapproving letter to the author of my novel telling them how wrong they were. Still, I'd take having a vampire suck my blood rather over getting my blood taken at the doctor's any day of the week. It was certainly a much more intimate experience.
Was the room spinning? Or was it just me?
Ohh my, I feel quite lightheaded...
Vinyl pulled away, my blood staining her muzzle.
I leaned forward, mustering all of my strength, all of my courage, putting every ounce of love I had into my kiss, pressing my lips against hers, closing my eyes and moaning into the kiss. At that point, I was more worried about cutting my tongue rather than the taste of my own blood. When I pulled away, I saw her looking down at me, her jaw agape.
Please snap out of it please snap out of it...
I had expected her to tell me that I was a darn good kisser, or something along those lines.
"Oh Vinyl," I said woozily. "You're back to normal..."
She spotted my bite marks and gasped. "Octy!"
"Oh yes, I think I might have been bitten by this beautiful mare," I drawled. "Would you mind grabbing some bandages?"
"Hold on! I'll save you!" Vinyl gasped.
"Oh yesh, jus' some antiseptic. I'd hate for it to get...infected...I think I'm gonna pass out now, if you'll excuse me..."
Now like I was saying, it was a long time ago.
Vinyl Scratch yanked off her headphones, hugging me tight. I pushed her off of me nervously.
"So what brings you to my part of the town?" she asked cockily.
"Oh, well," I stammered bashfully, "I just thought I'd say thank you for saving me the other day..."
"Don't mention it! Hey, now that you're here, how about we go dancing?"
"Dancing?" I gulped. "Oh, um, well, you see, the thing is..."
But she wasn't listening. And before I knew it I was on the dance floor in the sea of ponies, unable to see my own hooves in front of my face, and dancing along with my new friend. I was an awful dancer. If I was, however, she didn't say anything. And I had to admit, it was actually quite nice! Not the part where I was dancing in close proximity with a bunch of sweaty ponies, just spending time with her.
Time to wake up, Octavia.
When I came to, I sat up, wincing at the soreness in my neck. Touching it, I felt bandages wrapped around my throat. I heard the sound of weeping. Vinyl sat in the corner of the room, as far away from me as possible. She seemed almost...docile now. Harmless. I was a little dizzy, only a little bit. I guess I hadn't lost that much blood. And in that moment, I felt something rise inside of me. I didn't know how to feel. Angry, I suppose. Anypony would feel angry. Betrayed.
"Vinyl?" I whispered. "Vinyl, are you alright?"
She turned around, her eyes bloodshot and bleary, no longer the shade of crimson but now a beautiful magenta.
"No! I'm not alright, Octy! I just bit my best friend!"
"Am I vampire now?" I asked cautiously.
Vinyl shook her head, sniffing. "No."
Oh. Well then. That was a bit of a disappointment.
She wailed again. "But now my best friend hates me!"
I sat up in protest. "Vinyl, I don't hate you!"
"I just lost control!" Vinyl ignored my words. "I tasted the blood and I thought of you, and how," she sniffed, "how delicious you tasted and I was so thirsty!"
Now I knew why she had gone to the hospital. And I wasn't quite sure if me tasting delicious was supposed to be a compliment, but I took it as one anyways.
"You know Vinyl, I would have let you bite me sooner if you really need a drink," I said quietly, trying to lighten the mood, grinning.
"I just snapped you know?"
Not really. I didn't. Not in the slightest.
"I mean, your best friend's trying to kill you—"
I shot back, "Hey, I wasn't trying to kill you per se..."
"I'm a monste-he-he-herrr!"
"No! No Vinyl Scratch, don't say that!" I snapped.
I stood up, moving over to her and lying next to her on the floor. She flinched and shrank. I'd never seen her like this. So small. She was always bigger than life in my eyes.
And then I slapped her.
She looked at me, stunned. "Ow, Octy, that kinda hu—"
I slapped her again for good measure.
"I think you've made your point," Vinyl sniffed, rubbing her sore cheek.
One more time because I was still mad at her and it felt really, really good.
"Repeat after me, Vinyl Scratch. You are not a monster."
"I'm," she shuddered, "not a monster."
"Good." I smiled, satisfied.
"I'm just an awful best frie-he-he-heeend!" And with that, she buried her face in her hooves again.
Ugh, I wasn't getting anywhere with her.
I watched as more tears began to flow again. Her magenta eyes shimmered, glassy, and she blinked, drops sliding down her face. My expression softened.
Vinyl made no move to slip away as I pulled her into my arms, kissing her wet cheek, stroking her mane to soothe her. She rested her head against my shoulder, her body racking with each sob.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she sobbed. "I'm sorry..."
I held her close, squeezing her to remind her I was still there. Her sobs became softer and softer and her tears stopped flowing as she drifted off.
"...'m sorry," she mumbled.
I'm sorry too.
As it turns out, Vinyl Scratch still slept like a log, vampire or not, and was apparently as heavy as one. I spent the next hour or two trying to drag her onto my bed after changing the sheets. I was going to have a hard time explaining that to the other tenants, but I decided that telling them that it was Vinyl's time of the month was appropriate. Hah.
She was like a big, bloodthirsty teddy bear, and the best part of it was that she was all mine. I giggled, hugging her tight as I too, slipped into sleep...
Ow. I'm awake again. Her horn is poking my eye. Ow, ow. I hadn't expected my first time sleeping with a unicorn to be so horny.
When I awoke she was no longer in my arms and I could smell smoke. Smoke?
"Smoke!" I shrieked. "Fire?! Where!"
Vinyl appeared in the doorway, grinning, still missing her glasses that I accidentally broke. "Just making breakfast."
"I didn't know you could burn juice."
"Shaddup!" Vinyl sheepishly grinned. "I tried making a hey-sorry-for-trying-to-kill-you breakfast in bed, but I don't think it's very good."
Wait, she turned on the stove by herself? I didn't hear any sirens.
"It's the thought that counts, right?" I smiled. "How bad can it be?"
Vinyl sighed in relief. "Whew, that's good. You're gonna need a spatula to scrape the eggs off of the frying pan. Oh, and we're all out of toast."
"I just bought an entire loaf!" I yelled.
"Well, the toaster didn't agree."
I should have been angry. Traumatized. I had every right to be. Instead, I was fascinated.
Her fangs extended from her jaw, slowly growing into a pair of wicked canines, hanging there like stalactites for the world to see. And then, just like that, they retracted back into her mouth. Her irises changed from their crimson red hue back to their normal colors, a calm, soothing magenta that you could lose yourself in forever.
I caught her sneaking glances at my bandaged neck, looking guilty.
They say the eyes are the window to the soul.
It was much easier to communicate with her now, and I no longer found myself having to wonder what she was really thinking inside that head of hers. Whether she was laughing or crying, happy or sad. Now I could really see her for who she was. The real her. The way her eyes lit up with excitement, or dulled with sadness. Maybe the reason why I was so mesmerized by her eyes was because I had never seen them before. She had kept them hidden from the world behind those signature shades of hers, so as not to frighten anypony with her eyes, which had a tendency to accidentally flicker between magenta and red even when she didn't bare her fangs.
And in my humble opinion, I thought they were so freaking cool oh my gosh oh my gosh where can I get some I'm jealous!
"Pretty cool, right?" Vinyl smiled.
I giggled. "Very, very cool."
We continued to munch on our pancakes, which I had made after Vinyl Scratch somehow managed to not kill us both by trying to cook herself. Vampire or not, Vinyl was still a messy eater. Red juices stained her muzzle, dribbling down her chin. It's strawberry jam, I promise. An awkward silence settled over the kitchen and we found ourselves looking around at the floor and ceiling, unsure of what to say.
I coughed. "So, um, Vinyl."
"How much do you need to drink?"
She frowned. "Well, I guess normally one blood bag a month."
"All at once?"
"Nah. I'd much rather mix it in with my drink or something."
I looked at her, aghast. "You haven't slipped that into our meals, have you?"
A devilish smile spread across her face.
"Vinyl!" I shrieked, pounding a hoof. "That is disgusting!"
"Oh come on, you've tried it already—"
"That doesn't mean I like the taste! So you have, haven't you?"
I sighed in relief.
"Well maybe once or twice..."
"So have you worked out some kind of deal with the hospital? Is that why they let you have some every once in a while?"
Her expression darkened. "I can't tell you that."
"Oh. Come on now. Is it Vampires Anonymous?"
She shook her head. "I'm sorry, I wish I could tell you, Octavia. It's...confidential."
I was taken aback.
Oh well. I guess we all have our secrets.
I looked bashfully down at my plate and murmured an apology. "In any case, I'm sorry about wasting one of them."
"What? Oh." She waved her hoof dismissively. "Ah, don't worry about it. I think I got plenty when I uh, erm." She fell silent, looking away shamefully. "You know—"
"Yes," I said, a bit too loudly. "When you drank."
"Yeah." Vinyl cleared her throat and took another bite of her pancakes.
"Have you ever fed?"
I titled my head slightly. "You know. Drank blood from a pony."
"Oh, Celestia! No! No, you were my first," Vinyl laughed, covering her face. "And I've never killed anypony, if that's what you wanna know."
I sighed in relief, laughing nervously. "I can't be living with a murderer, now can I?" I wiped my lips. "Now you must tell me how I tasted."
Her jaw dropped and she blushed furiously. "Octy! I - I can't!"
"I'm just curious," I laughed. "Was I salty? Or sweet? Bitter?"
She shook her head.
Vinyl sighed in exasperation, rolling her eyes. "You tasted...very nice. Sweet."
I raised an eyebrow. "Like candy?"
"More like...cough syrup."
I couldn't contain myself. I shook my head, laughing, pointing at her., watching her redden even more. This was absurd. This was surreal. Here I was, having a conversation with a vampire over pancakes.
"Are you immortal?"
"Heck no. And I'm glad," Vinyl said, swallowing. "I mean, who wants to live forever?"
"There has to be some benefits, Vinyl," I scoffed. "Insurance?" I gasped. "Can you turn into a bat?"
"No!" Vinyl cackled. "I wish! The usual, I guess. Super strength." To demonstrate, she lifted the couch with one hoof. "My eyes and ears are sharper, and I can smell a lot better. I heal a bit quicker than most ponies, but it's not anything spectacular."
"And you won't go poof in the sun, will you?" I asked worriedly.
"I won't sparkle, that's for sure," she laughed, shaking her head at my naivety. "Octy, it's not like that. It's just really uncomfortable. It might be a nice sunny day for you, but for me, it's really hot." She paused. "Octavia? When you said you loved me..."
I was surprised. "You remember?"
"Kinda." She groaned, rubbing her head. "It's like there's this huge blank space in my head. One second I was talking with you and then I was on top of you, and your neck was gushing blood..." She shuddered. "I've never lost control like that."
"It must have been scary," I said quietly, idly tracing a pattern into the table.
"It was awful!" She hugged herself. "I thought I had everything under control, this curse! It was finally becoming manageable. But now I'm not so sure."
"I'm sure it'll be fine."
My words were hollow and empty, something to offer for the distressed mare. They didn't mean anything and I wasn't so sure I believed myself.
"I'm afraid the next time I'll lose it, I'll turn into a," she gulped, "a monster, and you won't be able to bring me back," Vinyl murmured.
I turned to face her. "Don't talk like that. It won't happen again."
She was quiet for a bit. "Anyways, when you said it, it snapped me outta it, but only for a second. That kiss though, that definitely set me straight. Did you mean it though?"
"Yes, Vinyl!" I exclaimed, shocked. "I meant it! With all of my heart."
As cheesy as it sounded, I had. Or maybe I had been desperate. I would have liked to believe that I had meant what I said, and said what I meant to say last night. But I'd be lying if I didn't say that they were the words of a pony whose life was in imminent danger. I would have said anything.
"So you will be my very special somepony?" Vinyl's eyes widened, hopeful.
Did I really know what I was getting myself into? Would this relationship even work out? Yeesh, breaking up was already hard enough without throwing a bloodsucking marefriend into the mix. The more I thought about it, I realized the only thing stopping me was my lack of faith. While things were more liberal in Manehattan, Canterlot nobility tended to stick to more traditional values, if you get my drift. A fillyfooler wouldn't stand a chance. And my mother would definitely not approve.
You can't keep living your life according to your mother's standards.
I sucked in. "Yes. I'd love to be your very special somepony."
You should have seen the look on her face. She raised her hooves in the air, ready to implode with joy, before I interrupted her.
"But!" I stopped her. "But, you have to promise me something. No more secrets. No more lies. I want to know the real Vinyl Scratch. You already know so much about me, and I don't know anything about you."
"Okay. I can do that," she said. "Yes! Finally! Oh sweet Celestia, whoo-hoo! It took six freakin' months—"
"—for you to finally get a clue!"
"For your information, Vinyl Scratch, I was not a complete dolt the entire time!" I huffed. "I knew that you liked me. I just wasn't sure if I...liked you back."
"I tried being subtle about it..."
I rolled my eyes. "Oh puh-leez! You were about as subtle as Princess Celestia in a BANANA SUIT!"
"Yesyesyesyes!" She hopped around like a foal. "YesyesYESyesYES!"
"Sit down and eat your pancakes."
"Yes mom." She stuck her tongue out. "Oh man, I can't wait to tell Lyra..."
I coughed. "Uh, Vinyl? Can we keep this under wraps for the time being?"
She glanced up from her plate. "Still in the shed?"
"Some of us aren't as comfortable as you are, Vinyl. You know where we are."
"Ah, so what? Forget Canterlot! They can kiss my fat flank for all I care."
Her flank wasn't very fat. In fact, it was very curvy, nice to look at oh I'm getting distracted again.
"You know what would really get their britches in a bunch? Us kissing."
I choked on my orange juice.
"We should just walk out into the street, and start like, making out."
"And we should make it extra messy, with lots of tongue action. It'll be hilarious."
I looked her with lidded eyes. "You know, we don't need an excuse to make out."
There was a glint in her eye. She shifted her chair over until she was close, giving me her very own bedroom eyes. "Oh really?" She puckered her lips and leaned in...
I stopped her, pushing her face away with my hoof. "First, brush your teeth. And watch those fangs."
I gave her a quick peck on the cheek, and I swear, she just melted.
Vinyl agreed that we both deserved a day off. So after making a few calls, she and I were free. Free to do, well, just about anything. She suggested taking a nap. I wanted to cuddle. We did both. A few times I had woken up because she had been hugging me so tight she was crushing the life out of me.
After some take-out we just sat outside on our balcony, watching the Canterlot skyline. And for a while, things were alright. I tried to tell myself that it was over, the worse had come to pass.
The worst had yet to come.
"We only have tomorrow to make you into a proper mare," I reminded her. "And we'll start by getting rid of those gaudy sunglasses!"
She had an entire closet full of sunglasses of all colors and shapes. I think she was more miffed over her broken glasses than the fact that I had tried to kill her with a silver knife.
I snatched them away from her and dangled it out of her reach.
She sighed. "The dinner with your parents. Right. Are you gonna tell 'em about us?"
I blanched. "Absolutely not! They can't know! Nopony can know! Not yet! It's bad enough that I'm a fillyfooler, Vinyl. If word gets out that I'm fooling around with a vampire..."
Vinyl shook her head. "Bad, very bad. I've worked too hard to keep this a secret from everypony."
"So you understand."
"I understand the vampire part. So what? Are we going to some fancy restaurant?"
I told her the name.
"Hey, I thought we got kicked out of there a few weeks ago," she said.
"Because somepony decided it was a good idea to burp as loud as she could and use her fork and spoon as drumsticks!"
She waved her hoof. "Forget it. What's for dinner?"
I cracked open the fridge.
"Hey, do you want the rest of the sandwich?" I asked, holding up a plate.
I planted a soft kiss on her snout, burrowing myself into her encircling arms deeper into that comforting embrace, pressing an ear against her warm chest. The steady thump of her heart. Strong. Everlasting. It promised many things. Life. Love. It told me that she wasn't some cold-blooded monster. That we could make this work. And that she was mine forever.
Even I knew how impossibly stupid that sounded.
How did you know when you were in love? Or that what you had was even love at all? True love, what does that even mean? These were the thoughts that plagued my wandering mind.
I heard her mumble and felt her shift her legs. Heehee, she must be dreaming.
Dreaming of me. How sweet. What does a vampire dream of?
Her fangs jutted from her jaw, extended. She was snapping at the air, licking her chops.
"No, no," she murmured, her face scrunching up.
My mind flashed back to that horrifying night. I touched my neck, feeling the bandages wrapped around it. I closed my eyes, whimpering I recalled with clarity how helpless I had felt. What I had seen, what I had smelled, touched, tasted. Her looming form above me, a predatory grin spread across her face. That pinch as her canines pierced my flesh. The throbbing in my neck as warm blood oozed from the puncture wounds. The metallic, bitter taste of my own blood mixed with her saliva as I kissed her.
Her face, twisted with anguish, hot salty tears streaming down her face. Her sobs, racking through her body as I held her.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. More like a buck to the face.
Vinyl had tried to kill me. She had bitten my jugular and I almost bled out. I had tried to edit it out, pretend that things were all right. They weren't. By some stroke of luck I'd managed not to die. And the worst part was that I didn't know how to feel. Maybe it was the shock that had stopped me from thinking things through, stopped me from screaming bloody murder as she fed on my blood, let me forgive and forget all too easily.
Had we rushed into things? Was it all just a part of us being young and stupid, quick to jump into things, throwing our hearts in first before our heads? And if so, were we allowed to be young and stupid and make mistakes?
I liked to think of myself as a sensible mare, but after the past few days, I wasn't so sure anymore. I felt like a novice, inexperienced for my age. My rudimentary knowledge of how love worked was based off of trashy chick flicks and romance novels, such as the vampire one that had gotten me into this whole mess in the first place. This was my first relationship, and with another filly, no less. And I was pretty sure Vinyl Scratch had had romantic dealings with other ponies in the past, but that didn't concern me in the slightest. What bothered me was why we were attracted to each other. Why we even liked each other in the first place. Did our mutual love for our passion in life, music, bring us together? Or was there something more? To be honest, I didn't have a clue. It transcended physical appearances, clearly.
Octavia, you idiot.
Yes. I was an imbecile.
Can't you ever be satisfied with what you already have? Isn't it enough that you've won her heart?
I guessed not.
What a mess. I didn't want to have to think. It hurt to think.
"Wake up, sleepyhead."
"Get up, Vinyl. We've got a big day ahead of us."
Today was the day.
"I'm up," she mumbled, her face buried in her pillow.
We agreed to put some distance between each other as we strolled through Canterlot, the streets paved with gold, smiling and giggling every once in a while as we brushed up against each other, skipping like foals, laughing at the nobles, with their ridiculous hats and noses in the air.
"Here, here," I said, pointing to the clothing store.
I was never one for dresses, as you could tell by my bow tie. They hindered my movement and made it nearly impossible to stand up to play my cello. Anypony who was anypony, or at least those who could afford it, wouldn't be caught dead wearing anything but Carousel Boutique.
We unfortunately could not afford a custom-made dress. I preferred simplicity, and Vinyl disliked wearing dresses altogether. We agreed on a simple evening gown, mine being black and hers navy blue.
Vinyl stifled her laughter as I was fitted. However when I emerged from the changing room, I saw her jaw drop.
Vinyl's turn. I found myself having to reread outdated magazine articles detailing last year's Gala. That's Canterlot nobility for you. Never forgive. Never forget. It seemed that Vinyl intended to make the process as painful and drawn out as possible. The seamstress was having all sorts of trouble with Vinyl, who was seemingly incapable of remaining still for more than three seconds, her hooves tangled up with the measuring tape. After she had been fitted and sent to the changing room, I found myself clipping coupons from advertisements.
"Are you done?" I bristled. "How long does it take to put on a dress?"
"Why do we even have to wear them?" Vinyl moaned from inside the changing room.
"Because not wearing them would be indecent," I answered, flipping through the magazine. Even though we don't normally wear clothes anyways.
"We're always naked!"
"Vinyl, put on the dress."
The sound she made sounded like a pregnant hippo going into labor. How flattering.
There were many words to describe her. Delicate? No, not delicate. Hardly. Calling Vinyl Scratch delicate would be an insult to delicate things, like flowers and Fluttershy. Not graceful either. She was about as graceful as a cow and was liable to trip over her own hooves.
"Are you done?"
She let out a whine. "I look so stupid!" She sighed. "You better not laugh."
The door unlocked and she stepped through. My jaw dropped.
"I told you I look dumb," she pouted.
She was absolutely stunning, clad in a flowing blue evening gown, velvet and attractive. It accentuated her natural curves. Formal and classy. It was perfect. My mouth watered at the sight of her in her dress.
"Octy?" She waved a hoof in front of my face.
"You look amazing," I whispered.
Her cheeks were tinged with a faint blush. "Thanks. You too."
"Well, you look the part, now you must act it!" I cried. "You must carry yourself with a modicum of grace and sophistication!" I struck a valiant pose.
"Octy, what the hay are you doing?"
"The magicks!" I snatched her away. "We go!"
By simply walking through Canterlot, you would find that there were a multitude of cafes on every street corner. We chose a rather elegant restaurant, relaxing on our cushions outside underneath an umbrella.
"Sit straight up."
Vinyl sighed. "I don't understand why we—"
"Don't talk with your mouth full."
Even with her glasses on I could tell that she was frustrated. She swallowed. "Why do I have to pretend I'm all high class? It's not my style."
"Because if my parents disapprove of you, regardless of what I say, they are going to make my life difficult."
"And in turn, yours will become a living Tartarus. Oh, and that reminds me, please try to confine your vocabulary to traditional Equestrian for tonight."
"Don't say that."
"What did I just say?"
And in the blink of an eye, night descended upon Canterlot. The calm before the storm had passed, and now we were on rocky waters. After a rather steamy shower session, we both donned our dresses.
"I hate makeup, Octy."
"Just bear with it, Vinyl," I said, dabbing a little blush on her face.
"I look like a clown."
She looked absolutely breathtaking, clown or not. And even if she was a clown, she was my clown. I patted her mane affectionately.
"Now help me put on my tie," I told her. "Make sure you hide the bandages well. The last thing I need is my parents asking more questions."
Using her magic, she fastened it around my neck snugly. I caught her staring at the bandages, her eyes cast down. When she said nothing, I walked over to the mirror, adjusting it.
"There. Not too shabby. You'll only be able to see it if you're up close."
She nodded glumly.
I gave her a quick peck on the cheek. "Now come on. And smile."
When she gave me a halfhearted grin I grabbed her cheeks, stretching them wider into a painfully fake smile. Down the stairs to the first floor of our apartment complex. I hailed for a carriage. As we boarded, I nearly slipped. Vinyl caught me and pulled me up. I blushed faintly.
"We can't have any of that during the dinner," I reminded her. "Are you ready?" I asked.
"As ready as I'll ever be." Vinyl shrugged.
"Remember not to take too long when ordering. Just long enough. And no alcohol. Or blood." I giggled.
"Shh," Vinyl grinned. "Are we going to that snooty Upper Crust place again?"
I sighed. "Yes, Vinyl."
"How are my eyes?"
She rolled her eyes.
We sat in silence for the rest of the short ride. A long line of ponies stood outside the fancy restaurant, waiting for a table. We had already been informed that reservations had been made. As we strolled in, we saw ponies murmur and mock our dresses. The interior architecture was royal, almost as elegant as the royal accommodations in the castle. Dimly lit and crowded. The color palette of the tables and chairs and cushions were gold and ivory. We walked up to the waiter.
"Reservations for Octavia and Vinyl Scratch?"
He regarded us as if we were bugs and pointed to the farthest corner of the room, not even bothering to lead us there.
"Dude, you look just like your mom," Vinyl whispered as we trotted. "And your dad."
"I what?" I harrumphed. "Are you telling me that I am old and wrinkly and have gray hair?"
Vinyl was quick to clarify. "No no, I mean you're her spitting image! She's got your mane and coat and eyes!"
"Is that supposed to be a compliment?"
"Look at her! She's even got the same smirk!"
"The I'm-so-much-better-than-you one that you put on when you play your cello," she teased.
I whacked her lightly.
As we got closer I could hear Vinyl gasp. "Octavia, your parents are both—"
I hushed her.
"Mmm hello, Octavia," a haughty voice said.
And there she was, that wretched mare.
"Hello, Mother," I said. "Hello Father."
"Octavia, so glad you could make it," he said pleasantly. His voice was always a bored drone.
"And this must be your roommate," she said.
"Hello, ma'am," Vinyl said smoothly, her voice no longer rough and masculine. "Pleased to meet you both."
Good job, Vinyl.
We took our seats next to each other. But not too close, of course. Just close enough for me to squeeze her hoof underneath the table. I gave her a reassuring smile. She smiled back, a bit nervous. I could already see her sweating bullets. Why was she nervous? Oh, right. Because I was nervous.
This is going to be a long dinner.
It was one of the few times that I actually felt grateful to be lacking a horn, despite me sticking out like a sore hoof. I actually was starting to feel sorry for Vinyl Scratch. There were nearly a dozen different types of forks, spoons, and knives all specifically suited to a eating a particular dish on silk napkins. Lacking the ability to levitate objects meant that as a lowly Earth pony, I was forgiven for eating messily.
I caught her staring at my parents' horns. I squeezed her hoof tightly.
Things got off to the kind of start that made you wonder why you had even said yes, what made you think it was even a good idea in the first place. If there was ever a time to get absolutely wasted, this was it.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Scratch. Or would you prefer I call you by your stage name, DJ-Pon3?"
"Vinyl Scratch is perfectly fine," she replied without a beat.
"Tell me, Octavia darling, how did you two meet?"
I cleared my throat, looking up from the menu that I had studied for the past five minutes, keeping an ear turned towards the conversation. "As you know Mother, I found myself, err, financially challenged—"
"After that Gala fiasco, yes, I am aware," Mother interrupted.
"—I moved to Manehattan since it was all I could afford that the time," I finished.
"I honestly don't understand why you did not simply move back in with us, dear," my father suddenly said.
I bit back a retort. Why do you think?
If had I found myself to be stricken without poverty, unemployed and not a bit to my name, starving and cold in the streets, I would still have slept on the sidewalk rather than come crawling back home to them.
"Well, I wanted to be...financially independent," I smirked.
"Your wardrobe certainly reflects that," she smirked.
My face fell slightly, keeping my expression neutral. Says the mare wearing more frills and lace than a lingerie store with husband who looks like a penguin!
A brief respite came when a waitress came to take our orders for appetizers, gazing down upon Vinyl and I as if we were the dregs of society.
"Could I have some garlic bread?" Vinyl paused. "Hold the garlic. And could I have a glass of water?"
The desire to give myself permanent brain damage was overwhelming.
"I'll have what she's having," I simply said. "With some scotch." I was going to need something strong.
"Scotch?" he chuckled. "I believe we've raised a mare with expensive tastes, my dear."
Mother was less amused. "Such strong alcohol."
I continued, "As I was saying..."
"And you say you met Vinyl Scratch where?"
I paled. "In a," I squeaked, "club."
"A nightclub, dear? I taught you better than that."
Mother was giving me the look. That disappointed, disapproving look that was meant to shame me.
"There were some extenuating circumstances!" I nearly shouted, slightly panicked. "I met Vinyl in the club-"
"Were you drinking?" she inquired.
We were absolutely smashed beyond belief.
"Not at all! Mother, I am certainly not that type of mare, and neither is Vinyl!"
She smirked, seemingly satisfied. "Good. I'd like to get to know you a little more, Vinyl Scratch, if you don't mind."
Our appetizers came, and I realized all too late that I had gotten bread and butter. Imagine being able to eat using only your mouth! Butter, margarine, they're all the same. Incredibly delicious, fattening, and messy. I decided to settle for the bread when I saw Vinyl's horn glow.
Vinyl held a piece near my face. "Have a bite," she grinned.
She was trying to feed me. I wanted to die right there on the spot. I laughed, a bit too loudly.
It would have been a faux pas for me to refuse, so I leaned over and took a dainty bite.
"What would you like to know?" Vinyl asked.
"Anything you've be comfortable with telling us," my mother answered politely.
Vinyl paused. "Well, I was born in Ponyville. I lived there for eighteen years and set off to pursue my music career in Manehattan and occasionally Canterlot."
Good job, Vinyl.
Her answer was vague enough so as not to be specific but enough to keep a conversation going. I found myself a little interested in her background myself, having no knowledge prior to our meeting in Manehattan. Born in Ponyville?
"And how was Ponyville?" My mother was hoping for an answer to justify her prejudice against those "backwards country bumpkins."
"Ponyville was great. Really cozy," she answered. "A tight-knit community. Everypony knew each other. Not like Canterlot."
"And what will you all be having for tonight?" the waitress rudely interrupted.
"I'll have the potato salad," Vinyl answered. "And some corn on the side."
"The stir fry, please," I said. "She works as a DJ in Club Canterlot," I continued, hoping that the prestigious nature of the nightclub would impress her.
"A disc jockey?"
"Not only a disc jockey!" I threw in, stammering. "She also produces her own music! Perhaps you've heard of the song Equestria Girls? She worked on that song with one of the Elements of Harmony. Isn't that right, Vinyl?"
"Oh yeah! Pinkie Pie sang the vocals."
"The Element of Laughter? My, what an honor." Mother's eyes raised. "Quite the one-hit wonder, I must say, though I'm afraid I'm not much of an enthusiast of pop music."
The way she said it made it sound like it was worse than death. Her offhoof comment about Vinyl's song being a one-hit wonder made my blood boil. It was insulting. However, Vinyl took it in stride.
"I could scarcely go outside without hearing it," my father added snidely.
I asked Vinyl innocently, "I believe you did a fashion show in Ponyville as well?"
She nodded, smiling. "For Miss Rarity. I met her through my mother, who connected us together. My mom's a fashion photographer, you see."
That got my mother's attention. "What an honor. Carousel Boutique fashion is quite prestigious in Canterlot."
And for a while, our conversation ended, leaving an awkward pause with only the music and chatter in the background to fill the silence as we ate. Vinyl stabbed her fork into her dish, taking a bite with a loud, obnoxious crunch. I cringed, glaring at her.
"Vinyl," I grunted, "I thought you ordered a potato salad."
Vinyl thankfully swallowed and wiped her lips before answering. "I did. A potato chip salad."
The velocity at which my skull would have collided with the table would have been enough to send Vinyl and I on a vacation to the moon, with enough speed left over a round trip.
"Vinyl and I got to know each other and we started to hang out a bit more," I explained, leaving out plenty of details.
"Oh, just some classical concerts, discussions on music theory," I lied. "She suggested that we move in together and find a bigger, better apartment and well, we've been together since!" I smiled, closing my eyes in a satisfied manner.
She raised an eyebrow.
"I meant living together. Not together, together," I laughed nervously, tugging at my collar. "That would be quite improper of me to suggest that she and I were, well, together."
Mother gasped. "Your neck!"
I choked, covering it up immediately.
"The bandages!" my mother shrilled. "What in Equestria happened to your neck?"
Vinyl came to the rescue. "Don't worry! We were uh, horsing around the other day."
I jumped in. "Yes! Just us two, getting a bit too friendly and getting tangled up. Nothing to worry about!"
Mother eyed us suspiciously. "Show me."
I gawked. "Here?"
"Is it a bruise? A cut?"
I stammered. "I don't think the other guests," I sucked in, speaking as loudly as I could, "would appreciate having blood everywhere!"
I saw Vinyl lick her lips at the thought.
"Did you go to the hospital?" my father inquired. "Goodness, it sounds severe."
Subject change, now.
"So, what's for dessert?" I sheepishly grinned.
I felt sorry for Vinyl to have to listen to their mindless drivel about the superiority of unicorns as opposed to the other types of ponies out there.
We spent the next half an hour mostly poking at our dessert, which consisted of the best cheesecake in all of Equestria, crafted with only the finest ingredients and topped off with fresh fruits, nearly rivaling Princess Celestia's personal chef's cooking. I leaned down, trying to angle my mouth so as to not get frosting everywhere. I took a bite and leaned back up. Delicious.
Vinyl giggled, pointing at me.
"What?" I said.
There was a dollop of frosting on my nose. She leaned in, and for a second I thought she was going to lick it off. Instead, she wiped it off and grinned.
"Such a shame Octavia wasn't born with a horn," my mother lamented.
"Uh, yeah," Vinyl said, not exactly agreeing.
She looked about ready to crack. I considered using a knife to lobotomize myself. I decided the fork would be better suited to my purposes.
"Although I think it's amazing how far she's come, despite her disability."
Just eat the cake, Octavia. Don't say a word, not a word.
"Ouch!" my father exclaimed rather lamely, examining his hoof.
I suppose that was what you got for trying to eat cheesecake with a fork and knife.
"I believe I have cut myself." He used his napkin to wipe at his incredibly miniscule cut.
A hundred bits they're going to sue.
Vinyl sucked in sharply, her eyes a faint tinge of red. I could see her lip quivering. I followed her gaze to the silk cloth, where there was a drop of blood. She clenched her jaw and shut her eyes.
"Is there something the matter?"
"Nothing! It's nothing!" I grabbed Vinyl's hoof and pulled her along. "She just needs a moment."
She hooked her arm around my neck as I pulled her along. "I'm—fine!" she growled, struggling.
"Where's the nearest bathroom? Thank you!" I blurted.
I bucked open the door and threw us both in. I turned on the sink and splashed Vinyl's face with ice-cold water.
"Vinyl. Vinyl," I slapped her face lightly. "Are you alright? I thought you had fed."
"I did," she grunted, her face tense. "You know how it is with us vampires. Warm blood bags everywhere."
"Don't say that. You're going to be alright."
She didn't look alright. Even the sight of fresh blood was enough to send her into a frenzy. She slumped to the tiles, her fangs extended and her eyes crimson. She was moaning, clutching the side of her head. It was as if she was trying to psychologically fight off her blood lust. I squeezed her hoof as tight as I could, never leaving her side.
"I think I'm gonna be okay," she finally said after a breather.
"It's fine. I probably should've taken a sip before we left."
I smirked. "Well it's not like you anticipated this." I helped her to her hooves slowly, holding on to her and never letting go.
"Octy," she mumbled, her head cast down.
"Hey. Shut up."
I kissed her on the lips, slightly perplexed as to why her eyes were wide with horror. Vinyl was looking right past me at something. She tried to mumble something as our lips were locked.
Vinyl pointed behind me.
"What? What are you...?"
I turned around. We should have locked the door behind us.
My mother screamed. I barely had any time to open my mouth and scream myself before Vinyl dashed up to her and slammed her hoof into the side of her head. Mother crumpled and collapsed, laying on the floor, still breathing and miraculously alive.
She just punched my mom.
"What? Why did you...?" I struggled for words. "Bluh?!"
"Man, I've been waiting to do that," Vinyl said, shaking the pain from her hoof. "No offense, but your mom's kinda an ass."
"Vinyl?" I whispered shakily. "I want to—"
"Give me a hug?"
"NO! TO BITCH SLAP YOU!"
It was pretty pathetic of me to even try. Lest I forget that Vinyl was a vampire gifted with super strength, she was right there to remind me, holding me away with one hoof as I attempted to whack her to no avail. I instead resorted to flailing my arms like a madmare.
"Whatdowedowhatdowedo?!" I screeched, shaking Vinyl.
She pushed me off and slapped me. "First off, calm down," she commanded.
I gawked, touching my cheek.
"Now just...hear me out for a sec." When I tried to speak she pressed her hoof to my mouth. "Listen. Your mom only saw us making out." She fell silent for a second.
"How is that a good thi—"
She shoved a hoof in my mouth, hushing me, her ears twitching, craning her head toward the door. "You hear that?"
I shook my head.
"Nopony heard her screaming. That's good. Now listen, we've got about three minutes before your dad starts asking questions."
I blinked. This was certainly not the Vinyl Scratch I had been talking to a few seconds earlier, vulnerable and succumbing to her blood lust. And she was most certainly not the loud and proud disc jockey either. This was another side of Vinyl Scratch, calm and collected and cool. It was...unnerving, seeing her like this. In a way I was frightened. She was emotionless, pragmatic, almost methodical now.
"She didn't see your fangs," I stated. "Or your eyes."
It was as if a huge load had been taken off my back.
Vinyl shook her head, grateful as well. And for a second I thought to myself that things were going to be alright. Then reality came crashing down upon me like an anvil out of some cartoon. Reality was a cruel mistress.
"But now she knows I'm a fillyfooler," I gasped. "I'm doomed! She'll disown me!"
Vinyl rumbled, rubbing her forehead. "Look, either we tell her the truth..." She trailed off.
"Not a chance."
Her expression darkened. "Then we're going to have to cover this up. Help me move her body."
The more I thought about it, it dawned upon me that there was more to her than meets the eye. It was almost as if I was looking through the iridescent lenses of Vinyl's sunglasses, putting on a different pair and looking at her from a different angle each time.
"Hey!" Vinyl's stern voice shook me from my thoughts. "I can't move your mom's fat flank all by my self." Even as she said this I could see her smiling.
"What are you doing?"
"Hiding the body, of course."
"Kidding." Her eyes were lit with amusement. "I'm kidding. Your mom'll be fine."
I sighed with relief.
"Mostly fine. I think."
I glared at her as I helped position her in a way that suggested that she had collapsed near the sink. I cringed as I held my mother's limp body, dragging her over.
"Are you alright?"
"Me?" I cracked an unstable grin, quaking. "I'm fine."
"You're shaking," she stated.
"What are you talking about?" I laughed nervously, rubbing one leg against the other.
"Just sit down." When I refused to oblige, she forced me down onto my haunches. "Relax. Breathe. Okay okay okay," Vinyl muttered to herself. "I uh...I get queasy at the sight of blood. Yeah yeah, that'll work."
She ignored me. "Your mom came in here just as you were helping me out and, and...one of the employees had..."
Her eyes wandered and she spotted a vase of flowers. Using her magic, she yanked the wilting lilies out and dumped the water all over the tiles.
"...had mopped the floor and forgotten to put out a wet floor sign. And she slipped, bumping her head against the edge of the sink..."
"Vinyl, I don't want anypony getting fired over this!"
"Do you want to do this or not?" she asked coldly.
I was shocked. "Y-Yes!"
"Then work with me. Now how do explain what she saw? Aha. She was drunk."
"Something tells me this isn't your first time doing this."
I received a grunt in response. "Drunk, under the influence of alcohol..."
I interrupted. "One problem with that, Vinyl. She wasn't drinking."
"We're going to have to roll with it."
Before I had any time to even inquire as to how she was going to convince everypony including my mother that she had been drinking enough to have been hallucinating, she continued.
"Now here's what's going to happen. You're going to scream as loud as you can. In fifteen seconds, ponies are going to come flooding in here asking questions."
I nodded. There was no point in asking, and I wasn't going to get a straight answer if I did, so I was just wasting my breath. I realized a long time ago that Vinyl was as sly as a fox.
"Keep your mouth shut. Not a word. Let me do all the talking. Look scared." She counted down for me. "Three, two, one..."
I let out the most terrified, bloodcurdling scream I could possibly muster, my mind flashing back to when Vinyl had lost control and attacked me.
Vinyl mouthed, "Very nice."
I was surprised to see tears running down her face, until she winked. Perhaps she should have gotten a cutie mark in theater arts! And lo and behold, in fifteen seconds, several ponies came rushing in, including the manager and my father. I was crouched down by my mother's side. Vinyl tearfully explained to them what had allegedly happened, including a dramatic recreation of how my mother slipped and bumped her head, and they ate it up, hook, line, and sinker. I would have been so impressed, if I wasn't worried for my mother. Don't get me wrong, just because she was my mother didn't change the fact that she was a pompous overbearing wretch of a mare. But...
She grabbed my hoof, jerking her head towards the exit, mouthing, "Come on."
They say blood is thicker than water.
"Thank you," I said. "For everything."
We moved like shadows through the night. I clung onto Vinyl as she led us back home, her sharp eyes accustomed to the darkness. We stopped. Vinyl stared at me for a bit, probably wondering why I was in such a wistful mood. I smiled back at her earnestly.
"No problem," she said slowly.
"I don't know what I would have done," I stammered.
She kissed me. "Don't mention it. Really. And uh, sorry for decking your mom in the face."
"It's quite alright. I think any sane pony would have done that a long time ago. Although I'm not so sure if it was such a good idea."
"But you know, you can't always run from your problems, y' know."
"It's not like you can keep it a secret forever. That you're a fillyfooler, I mean. Your folks are gonna find out eventually, one way or another."
I studied my hoof contemplatively. Did I really care if my parents knew? Would it change anything between us? Was it worth keeping all the secrets and lies just to hide something so...trivial as our relationship? I shook my head. Like it or not, nearly all of my employers were Canterlot nobility. And it wasn't fair to the rest of our quartet for me to ruin our jobs.
I huffed, "We all have our secrets. I guess I'll have to learn to keep one too."
Vinyl paused. "See, the thing about secrets is that they don't stay a secret for long. I mean look at me." She laughed wearily, her eyes red and her fangs extended.
"Even if that is true, I can still try."
We climbed the stairs, tired, burnt out from the evening's events.
"Vinyl? Would it be okay if I asked...how did you get this way?"
Vinyl laughed bitterly. "A vampire, huh?" She turned to me. "Maybe you'll get your answer someday."
I felt compelled to comfort her. I hugged her, as tight as I could, whispering sweet nothings in her ear, promising to never let go...
"Octy," Vinyl gasped, "could you let go?"
We both stirred in each others' arms, our coats and manes messy and unkempt and disheveled.
"You get it," I grumbled, pushing Vinyl with my hoof, not bothering to open my eyes.
DING DONG DING DONG DING DONG—
"Vinyl. Get the door," I demanded.
Without warning, I shoved Vinyl with my hoof, watching her tumble and roll over the edge of the bed with the sheets. I had overlooked one slight problem with my solution to our more pressing issue of who was at the door. I found myself being pulled along for the ride, tangled up in the blankets, yelping as I landed right next to Vinyl on the floor.
She stuck out her tongue. "Ha. Owned."
We untangled ourselves, giggling. I squealed even louder when I felt Vinyl nip at my ear and I shoved her away. I smoothed out my mane and cleared my throat as I went down the hall, with Vinyl standing behind me as I opened the door.
I was sent flying, bowled over by our rude guests with a bright flash.
"I, Photo Finish, have arrived!" cried a voice with a thick accent.
I craned my head up from my vantage point on the ground, feeling the onset of a splitting headache. "Photo Finish?" I gasped.
"It's a travesty, it's what it is!" Hoity Toity remarked as he looked around the room.
For most ponies, meeting these two fashion magnates would have been a prestigious honor, and would have included a reaction of screaming, squealing, and jumping up and down. In a way, we were all celebrities. My name had meaning, at least, it used to, in music. DJ-Pon3 was a household name nowadays. Hoity Toity had his own line of designer suits, and Photo Finish her own magazine! I was hardly impressed, nor starstruck at their appearance, merely surprised as to why they would come make such a personal visit. I had met both of them before on numerous occasions at many of the venues I had performed at. They were both eccentric and rather unconventional in how they conducted business and went about with their public image.
"Hey mom." Vinyl laughed nervously. "Hey dad."
My eyes bulged and my jaw dropped.
As they all had their little family reunion, I couldn't help but stare. It all made sense now! I stared at all three of them, my eyes growing more and more aware the longer I stared as I could see the uncanny resemblance.
"Come, come, sit! Make yourselves at home. Vinyl, can I talk to you?" I asked cheerily. Dragging her by her mane into the kitchen, I hissed at her. "You never told me your parents were Hoity Toity and Photo Finish," I said through gritted teeth.
"You never asked," she shrugged.
Never before had I wanted to hit her so badly. My eye twitched.
"Weren't you paying attention last night?"
I took a slow, deep breath to regain my composure. "Do they know?"
She gazed at me, her purple eyes flashing red for a brief moment. "Yes. They do," she admitted.
"Try not to call us vampires. Dad thinks of it more like a condition than anything."
"You mean your parents are?" I gasped.
Photo Finish was a vampire! Hoity Toity too! Sweet Celestia, they were all vampires! It was like they were all one big happy bloodsucking family! So that explained why Photo Finish was always covered up in some gaudy dress wherever she went, and the sunglasses! The room was spinning. I felt confused. Deceived. A week ago I could barely comprehend the existence of vampires and now, it seemed that they had been able to infiltrate the top echelons of Equestria's society! I was in over my head. This was crazy! Nonstop insanity since I'd gotten involved with that insufferable DJ!
What a fool I was to get involved in all this madness.
"You know we wouldn't hurt you, Octavia," Vinyl said honestly.
Right. Of course. Where did I put the silver?
The first thing that came out of the fashion photographer's mouth when she saw us together was, "Oh, you two make such a wonderful couple!"
I paled. "I assure you that Vinyl and I are nothing of the sort!"
"Give it a rest, Octy. They already know," Vinyl sighed.
I blinked. It was a strange feeling. Being accepted, not being judged. Being allowed to be myself. I relaxed visibly, no longer feeling the need to put up false pretenses for the sake of appearance.
"So, you are the filly who has stolen my daughter's heart!" Hoity Toity proclaimed dramatically. "Very classy. Quite the catch, dearie!" He winked, tilting his shades.
"Thanks dad!" Vinyl beamed.
"So very nice...to meet you both..."
Do you know what vampires like to eat for breakfast? Eggs, sunny side up, with toast and a little Sweet Apple Acres jam on the side. Not a drop of blood in sight. Vinyl never asked me to incorporate blood into our meals, and the thought was rather unappetizing.
Why was I still there, having breakfast with a family of vampires? What was I really doing? Improvising? I don't know. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. Here they are! Vampires are real!
A friendly visit out of the blue less than twelve hours after the disaster at the Upper Crust? I may have been dense as a cinder block when it came to relationships, but it would take an ass not to see some sort of correlation.
I guess I was trying to accommodate them, make them feel comfortable, give them a reason not to turn my body into a withered husk. It seemed to have the opposite effect, judging by the looks on their faces when I'd asked if they wanted some wanted something to drink besides orange juice. They must have thought I was blind or stupid, as I caught them sneaking furtive glances across the table, and I started to wonder if vampires could telepathically communicate with one another. Perhaps they were plotting to kill me now.
An awkward silence settled over the cramped kitchen as we ate. I poked at my breakfast, not feeling too hungry. A little sick, a little tired. A combination of the two. There was this throbbing in the back of my head, this constant ache. Life used to be simple.
A cough. "It's a good thing you know how to cook!" Hoity Toity praised. "I don't know where our daughter would be without you."
I reddened, taking the compliment. "Thank you."
"Hey!" Vinyl said, chewing. "There's nothing wrong with cup noodles."
"Three times a day?" Photo Finish inquired.
The story of Photo Finish and Hoity Toity was a rather touching one. It was that feel good, heartwarming, rags to riches sort of thing. A real fairytale with a happily ever after, the kind that you'd find in a foal's storybook. Photo Finish and Hoity Toity, two Earth ponies from Ponyville who were hardly extraordinary or spectacular who both had an eye for fashion. Through the forces of fate, love, or plain convenience, the two came together and formed a partnership, working their way to the top of Equestria's fashion industry, striking it rich in Canterlot through shrewd business aptitude and innovation. In a way I envied their success.
"Did Vinyl ever tell you about her mane?"
"I mean just look at us!" Photo Finish. "Is it not obvious? Vinyl dyed her mane!"
Said unicorn nearly did a spit-take as she chugged her orange juice. After much coughing and wheezing, she whined exasperatingly, "Mom!"
"Really now?" I raised an eyebrow. "Do tell."
Hoity Toity chortled. "Oh, yes, darling. I remember the day."
I couldn't help but laugh, seeing her parents embarrassing her. I covered my mouth with my hoof.
"She saved up all her bits, you know her mane used to look like a cotton ball—"
"Dad! Don't tell her!" Vinyl flushed, sinking beneath the table, ready to die from embarassment.
"Ach, yes, I remember when you tried to comb her hair, you'd lose the comb! She came home with that spiky haircut and her blue mane. Oh, I thought it was so unique!"
Hoity Toity agreed. "Such style and flair."
We shared a small chuckle at Vinyl's expense. She looked ready to kill, and she would have made the cutest murderer with that blush!
"If you don't mind me asking," I said, feeling braver than usual, examining my hoof, "why have you come to visit?"
"I can not come see my daughter when I miss her?" Photo Finish pouted.
I simply glowered at her. "You're telling me you just came to visit, out of the blue?"
A sigh. "Many ponies think my accent is fake," Photo Finish explained. "However, it is very real, much like the place from where my family hails from. Much like how things like vampires and werewolves are real."
I glanced up, staring at her, hearing that key word.
"Judging by the bandages on your neck, I'm sure you're aware of Vinyl's predicament."
She pulled off her trademark hot pink sunglasses, brushing her straight bangs from her face, opening her blood red eyes. Hoity Toity followed suit, taking off his glasses, revealing the crimson behind them. I couldn't help but gasp when I saw a pair of fangs poking out from their lips.
"And I'm sure by now you already know what all three of us are," she finished.
Hoity Toity said, "We are terribly sorry about what happened to your mother, Octavia. A slip and fall like that..."
She whacked Vinyl upside the head with an audible smack. "What have I told you about being more careful!"
I winced. Vinyl hissed, "Ouch, mom!"
"We came here to apologize, first and foremost, Octavia dahling," Photo Finish said. "For Vinyl and for what she did to your mother."
"That's quite all right," I butted in.
Her accent was rough. "You must understand, we must do what is necessary to protect our own."
"We wanted to come here to offer our blessings, and say that we would never, ever harm anypony."
I nodded. "Thank you. If it's not out of line, may I ask how you two came to be..."
"Vampires?" Hoity Toity said. "I was originally not a vampire, Octavia. Of course, when I found out my wife was one..." He laughed softly, winking at Photo Finish. "There's a reason why they call them love bites, my dear." He grinned toothily, like a shark.
I touched my neck as he said those words, the color draining from my face. I didn't want to even think about it.
"Don't worry. It takes a lot more than just being nipped."
A nip? Is that what they called it?
"And I'd rather not get into the details, seeing as we are eating," he said.
Why thank you. Excuse me while I go scream my head off.
"And how have you managed to subsist like this? Surely the hospitals are not willingly giving out blood packs whenever you ask."
"A little money can go a long way in this city, Octavia," Hoity Toity said with a glint in his eye. "So long as how much we ask for is in reason and doesn't overstep our quota, they have no issue. This condition is more widespread than you think."
"I'm sorry? Are you suggesting that there are more vampires out there?"
"Of course! We all know each other personally. Like that gorgeous model, Fleur," Photo Finish said.
My eyes bulged. "Fleur de Lis? The supermodel?"
"How do you think she maintains that youthful appearance?"
Head spinning. About to throw up. Oh sweet Celestia...
"You'll have to forgive me," I stammered, "It's just that it's hard, taking this all in at once."
"Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about something much, much more serious," he deadpanned.
I gulped, my eyes shrinking to the size of pinpricks.
"We simply must know more about you, Octavia," Photo Finish cried. "If you are to be my daughter's marefriend..."
"Now hold on, Vinyl and I haven't done anything outside of walking next to each other on the sidewalk. What if I told you we weren't together?" I challenged.
"Rumors spread like wildfire, dear," Photo Finish said, as if she was speaking to a foal. "Surely you of all ponies know that."
"Plus, anypony with a pair of eyes and a brain could tell that you both are in love," Hoity Toity scoffed.
It was new, having to talk about myself for a change. Besides Vinyl, I kept a very professional manner when in the public eye, remaining silent and taciturn, with a cold, stoic expression on my face. My job was to perform, not to speak.
In any case, what was there to talk about? Born into a family of unicorns, a father who owned an entire company selling musical instruments and a mother who only married for his money. Raised in Canterlot as an Earth pony, always being treated like a second-class citizen, years and years spent grooming me to become a proper mare, which included music lessons. My instrument of choice? A cello. When I wasn't in school I was practicing. Now don't get me wrong, I loved it. If I didn't, why would my cutie mark even be of a treble clef? It was just tedious, dreary at times. If you play an instrument, you'll know what I mean. First the scales, then your repertoire.
It was a lonely childhood.
"It was a pleasure to meet you two."
They shook my hoof vigorously, proving that they were indeed, incredibly strong.
"A pleasure meeting you as well," Hoity Toity said pleasantly, right before his wife snaked a leg around his neck, dragging him away.
I closed the door behind me, sighing.
Vinyl rubbed a hoof awkwardly. "Heh, sorry about that. They're kinda weird like that, even if they weren't vampires."
I shook my head. "Don't say that. They love you. Even if they have a funny way of showing it."
She said nothing. "Well, anyways, don't you have to go to rehearsals today?"
"I have to go to rehearsals every day," I said with a huff, strolling aimlessly around the foyer. "And it's the same thing, over and over. I've only missed two, maybe three days." I rubbed my head. "I'm so out of it I can't even count."
"What are you sorry for?" I snapped. "Don't be sorry. I should be sorry. I was the one who dragged you to that blasted restaurant in the first place."
Thanks for the boost, Vinyl!
"You need to work tonight?"
"Yeah," Vinyl said. "Club Canterlot can't run without DJ-Pon3."
"Right, right...And I still need to replace your purple sunglasses."
"It's cool, Octy."
"No. They were your favorite pair. Where are they now?"
She titled her head towards the kitchen island, where the frames sat next to a fruit bowl. One of the lenses were completely shattered and the frame was partially cracked.
I guess I don't know my own strength.
I was good at breaking things. So far I'd taken out her lenses, my vanity mirror. I'd shattered my illusion of my own comfortable world, where vampires and werewolves and monsters didn't exist and I wasn't a fillyfooler and my parents actually acted like they loved me. Everything I knew to be true was wrong. You can't fix what was broken. Only mend.
I fell down onto the couch, looking outside our balcony window. It was a rather gloomy day and I was in a gloomy mood.
"At least Nightmare Night is tomorrow," Vinyl noted, sitting down next to me.
I perked up slightly. "That'll be fun. You know what I'm gonna be?"
Vinyl frowned. "You didn't tell me you were dressing up."
"Because it was a se-cret!"
"No, you said dressing up was for little foals, and I said..."
I ran off without another word, digging around my closet.
Wait 'til she sees this!
"Just show me, Octy," Vinyl giggled.
With a flourish and a bow, I came out of the hallway, a black cape with red lining draped around my body. A pair of fangs hung from my mouth.
"Really?" she laughed. "Really?"
"One! One gorgeous mare in the room!" I said, mimicking Photo Finish's accent. "Ah, ah, ah!" I spat the plastic fangs out. "And you can go as yourself."
"What?" Vinyl blinked. "Oh, I get it!"
"Your face is scary enough as it is."
Canterlot fell silent and for the first time, I felt at peace. Things were calm. I didn't have to think about anything, answer phone calls.
I was in my own world.
It was a lazy afternoon, with gloomy weather and cloudy skies, the kind you tried to avoid by staying inside. The weather was dark and strangely appropriate, considering the celebration the next day, and it set the mood for me to brood for a bit. What to do about life, love? How do you put up with everything? Do you take it in stride? Do you just let the big bad world close in on you and corner you until you've had enough, at wit's end, about to give up, fed up with the way things were going?
It looked like it was going to rain, and for a while it did. And for that brief hour as droplets of rain began to fall from the heavens, I sat there inside our cozy, lived-in apartment, watching the water slide down our window, washing away the dirt and grime. Content with just listening I rolled onto my back, staring at the ceiling, closing my eyes for a spell. Across from me, lounging on the other couch was Vinyl, her eyes closed as she listened to her music. Though she wasn't sleeping. She too, was also brooding. Thinking about things.
I could tell by the way her forehead was scrunched up, like she was concentrating.
What makes you tick, Vinyl Scratch? What goes on inside that pretty little head of yours?
The worst part of it all was that I couldn't even content myself with knowing that I never had a choice. I had had a choice, but I just chose not to take it. I could have stayed away from her, never moved in with her, never fallen in love with her. And like all the bad choices in my life, they came back to bite me. Sometimes literally.
I heard the sound of hoofsteps. Sitting up, I saw that Vinyl was going out, donning a pair of purple sunglasses exactly like the ones I had broken.
"Time for work?" I yawned.
"Yeah. Having a good dream?"
Before this week my dreams consisted of me, alone on that stage with a single spotlight and a sea of faces in Blueblood Concert Hall, poised with my cello, eyes closed as I let the music take hold of me. My dream was to play my very own composition. But it seemed that I was doomed to perpetually perform in my little quartet at balls and weddings and galas, playing background music for those nobles who needed a little atmosphere and a drink to gossip and fritter away their money. Now it seemed like I didn't dream at all. When I did, I dreamed of us, together on stage, performing a fusion of club and classical music. It was an idea I entertained with Vinyl, who had suggested it in the first place.
My dreams were quick to turn into nightmares, and I'd see her, her maw stained with red, eyes strung out and bloodshot, her fangs sinking into my—
"If you could call it that," I said wryly.
"Go back to sleep," she said softly, before closing the door.
An entire evening to myself. Nopony around. I stood up, twisting my neck and stretching, smoothing out my disheveled mane. I felt drawn to the case in the far corner of the room. It'd been days since I'd touched it. Snapping open the latches, I admired the craftsmanship. Polished, gleaming wood, smooth and heavy. After a bit of tuning I sat down, my bow poised. The piece I began to play was of my own. The soundtrack to my life. Slow, brooding notes, long and lingering in the air, ominous and foreboding.
My hoof faltered. The bow screeched across the strings. My concentration snapped and I frowned, settling the instrument down. I wasn't thinking straight. What was I so worried about anyway? I wasn't a monster with a constant desire to feed off others for their blood.
No. Not a monster.
Somewhere in the middle of my billionth time trying to flesh out the notes of my composition, I heard the door open.
"Oh Octy, I'm home!"
Indeed, Vinyl was home, levitating a mysterious paper bag.
"What's in the bag?"
"Close your eyes," she said.
"Just close your eyes. No peeking."
I giggled, doing as she asked.
"Okay, now look."
Vinyl stood before me, dressed up in her Nightmare Night costume. A silk cape, black with red lining like mine, was draped over her back. A pair of very real fangs hung from her mouth. Her chest was stained with some fake blood, sticky and dried.
I clopped my hooves in applause. "Very, very nice," I said.
"Now we can be vampires together!"
I laughed. "Yes, yes."
"Everypony will love us! And man, once we start making out—"
"—all the stallions will be all over us!"
"Vinyl, we are not going to make out!"
She pouted. "Everybody loves lesbian vampires."
I yawned. "What time is it? One in the morning?"
"I was kinda surprised you were still awake," Vinyl said, taking off her costume. "What were you doing?"
"Just some music," I said. "I'm gonna hit the hay."
After a long, hot shower, Vinyl came out of the bathroom, sweaty and warm. Her mane was damp and coat silky. She toweled herself off, slipping underneath the covers and sliding up next to me. After a few moments of tossing and turning to get comfortable, we found a comfortable position where I held Vinyl, my hoof idly playing with her hair. For a while I struggled to keep my eyes open, my head nodding off before I slumped onto the bed, snoring the night away with her.
It was the kind of sleep where you didn't dream. It was almost as if I closed my eyes, staring into the darkness, and opened them a second later, only to find the sun was up.
Daybreak. Tangled limbs, tangled hair. We shifted, twisting and rolling away from each other. I squealed as she encircled me with her arms. It was impossible to describe the way it felt. Perhaps if your mother actually loved you and gave you hugs you would understand. It was that indescribable feeling of having somepony touch you, squeeze you, hold you. That feeling of fuzziness and warmth as they reminded you that they were there.
"Good morning, princess."
I laughed, pushing her away from me. "Don't call me that. I hate those cutesy wutesy nicknames." Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I rolled over. Eleven o' clock. My new record. "I'm sleeping in later and later."
"Nothing wrong with that. Besides, it's Nightmare Night!" she squealed.
I grabbed her pillow and smacked her with it. "It's all your fault. I used to wake up at five—"
"Ugh, don't remind me. Mornings were so depressing with you playing that cello of yours."
"—I was disciplined, organized!" I ranted jokingly. "Now I'm a mess!"
"A very sexy mess."
I mustered up the strength and willpower to drag myself out of bed and into the bathroom, hopping into the shower eagerly. Hot water cascaded over my body, my mane wet and loose, falling over my face and neck. I hummed a tune idly as I stood, my eyes shut as I let the warm water soothe me.
I heard another voice hum along with me, purring in my ear, "I love it when your mane is down."
My eyes snapped open.
"Vinyl Scratch, what are you doing?!" I screeched, glaring at the mare standing in the bathtub next to me.
"What? We can't shower together?"
I sputtered. "W-What? No! No, no!" I began to shoo her away. "Out, out!"
"Aw, you're no fun."
Vinyl held an ice pack to her head woozily. "You sure know how to buck, Octy."
I stuck my tongue out at her. "You deserve it."
She rolled her eyes, clearly faking her injury. "We're leaving in a bit."
"Where are we going?"
"Ponyville! You know how Canterlot is, Octy. Half the ponies around here are too cheap to hand out treats!"
I sighed. "If we must."
"It'll be fun! Now c'mon, go get dressed!"
We were quite the sight as we left our apartment. Two ghastly looking vampires drenched in blood with sunken eyes and canines. We received all kinds of attention as we made our way to the train station. Some gazed upon us with scorn and some with amusement. Vinyl made faces at the ponies passing by, who would have never guessed that her fangs were real.
The sun was slowly dimming as it made its descent into the horizon. At the same time, the moon was rising to take its place.
A full moon.
I looked up at the sky thoughtfully, breathing in the fresh, crisp air. The wind whipped past my mane as I stuck my head outside the window, granting me a gorgeous view of Equestria's countryside. Rolling hills of green grass dotted with flowers in bloom. And there was Whitetail Wood of orange and yellow trees, some of the branches starting to lose their leaves as the season approached winter.
"You've been quiet."
"Things," I teased.
My mind had been occupied as of late. I was thinking of all sorts of things. Thinking about Vinyl Scratch, thinking about us. Thinking about vampires, of which ponies I knew who could potentially be one. Thinking of a secret world, kept hidden from the rest of us normal ponies.
"A bit for your thoughts?"
I harrumphed. "It'll take a lot more than that to get me to spill."
The train came to a gentle halt and she and I got off. Ponyville was...quaint. Rather homely, in my humble opinion. Old fashioned, though charmingly rustic. The entire village had been redecorated with cobwebs and toy spiders and other Nightmare Night decorations. On the boarding platform were four other ponies I recognized immediately.
"Vinyl!" Lyra called, waving us over.
Vinyl galloped over, pulling me along. "Hey guys! Ha-ha, nice costumes!"
Bon Bon and Lyra each donned sunglasses, fedoras, and tailored black suits. Carrot Top appeared to be some sort of devil from Tartarus, complete with horns and a tail, with a wicked looking coat and shoes. Derpy Hooves, well...
"I see it's plastic this year!" Vinyl remarked.
She was wearing plastic bags on top of her head and on her hooves. She clopped her hooves together with delight, her eyes crossed.
"We're on a mission from Celestia," Bon Bon intoned.
"A hundred and six miles to Manehattan, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses," Lyra chimed in.
I stared. "I don't get it."
Vinyl slapped her forehead.
Lyra pulled off her shades, her eyes half lidded and suggestive. "So, are you two, y' know, together?"
I gave Vinyl a peck on the cheek, smiling as I saw Lyra squeal. We made our way to town square, laughing and conversing as Lyra began asking if Vinyl was a good kisser.
Ponies around us gasped as they saw DJ-Pon3, murmuring amongst themselves.
Applejack, the Element of Honesty? She was dressed up as a scarecrow.
"Well howdy there, Vinyl Scratch! Don't tell me you've moving back!" she gasped in mock horror. "Twilight'd have a fit."
Vinyl snickered. "Man she hated it when I blasted my tunes."
"At the crack of dawn!" Applejack added. "Who's yer friend?"
"Octavia," I said smoothly. "Pleased to meet you, Miss Applejack."
Applejack gave me a funny look. "Aw shoot, don't call me Miss, it makes me feel old! You're hanging 'round Vinyl now?"
I nodded, glancing down at the tub of water. "And what is this?
"Don't tell me you've never bobbed for apples before, Octy!"
"My mane will get wet," I protested to no avail.
I sucked in and closed my eyes, dunking my head underwater. I resurfaced, an apple in my mouth. Vinyl suddenly leaned in, taking a bite of the apple as it was in my mouth. I blushed faintly.
Lightning crackled and thunder boomed. I gasped in fright, shrinking as I saw black, ominous, swirling clouds begin to loom overhead, casting a dark shadow over Ponyville. Maniacal laughter echoed, striking fear into my heart. A black carriage descended from the heavens, pulled by two fierce-looking bat ponies with glowing yellow eyes and webbed wings and fangs.
"It's Nightmare Moon! Everypony run!"
Ponies all around us screamed. I felt compelled to scream as well, trying to drag Vinyl to safety. She was...grinning?
"Whoo!" she called.
"Vinyl, run!" I hissed.
"It's Nightmare Moon!"
Vinyl laughed, yanking me back as I tried to run. I gasped as I saw the pony inside the carriage fly off, cackling. Her hood flew off, revealing the black creature of the night, clad in blue armor. She gazed upon us with slitted blue eyes, grinning toothily. Horn, wings, all black.
"Luna! Luna! Luna!" everypony chanted around me, stomping. The crowd was deafening.
Foals rushed up to her, chattering and cheering, swarming her.
"Hello, Ponyville!" Princess Luna bellowed, laughing merrily.
"It's Ponyville tradition, Octy!" Vinyl explained. "C'mon, let's go meet her!"
"What?! She's a princess!"
"I mean, we can't just trot up to her and say hi!"
She rolled her eyes. "Luna and I are tight, don't worry."
Vinyl knew Princess Luna personally?
"Hey Luna!" Vinyl hollered.
She turned to face us, finished greeting the foals. I shrank under her gaze.
It's just a costume, Octavia. Just a costume.
"A very interesting costume you have there, Vinyl Scratch," Luna said archaically, frowning slightly as she saw Vinyl's fangs and eyes.
Did she know?
"Charmed," I said nervously, sticking a hoof out.
Luna shook it, smiling. I shivered.
"So this is the famous Octavia," Luna remarked. "I've heard a lot about you."
"You have?" I blurted. "Err, I mean, what kind of things, Princess?"
"Good things, I assure you. And please, call me Luna," she said. "Do you like my costume?"
"It certainly is...authentic."
She hadn't been paying attention to me. Instead, she was looking right at Vinyl. I wasn't very good at reading other ponies, but I could see that they were communicating in a very subtle manner. I tried not to make it apparent that I was staring. Princess Luna nodded shortly, only tilting her head slightly. Vinyl returned her nod.
"Hey Octy, why don't you uh, go get us some drinks?" Vinyl said, still looking at the princess.
Something felt off. And I didn't like it, not one bit. Hadn't she come here for the candy?
"Of course, dearie," I said in a false manner, trotting away slowly as I kept my ears craned toward them. I heard Luna murmur to Vinyl as they started to walk off.
"You would do well to be more cautious, Vinyl Scratch."
"It's Nightmare Night, Princess! Nopony...suspect..."
Horseapples, they were too far away. The initial crowd of Ponyville ponies had been rather sparse. After Princess Luna's arrival, it already began to thicken. On stage, a group of musicians began to play lively Nightmare Night themed songs as costumed ponies began to dance. I moved through the crowd, never taking my eye off Vinyl and the princess, bumping into ponies rather rudely.
"Where are you going?" I mumbled to myself.
I could hear them talking rather lowly as we neared the edge of Ponyville. They crossed over a bridge and headed towards the...
"The Everfree Forest?"
Why did they feel compelled to converse in such a dreadful place? I was going to get to the bottom of this.
Somewhere in the distance, a wolf howled. I gulped, feeling rooted to the spot on the dirt path. I could see Vinyl and Luna in the distance, already disappearing through the thick foliage of the Everfree. It was now or never. My heart raced with each step I took, jumping every so often as I thought I saw something move in the bushes or dart behind me. The fog was thick and I could barely see ahead. Creatures chirped and howled and hissed around me.
Just stay on the path.
Every so often they would turn around. I'd freeze, my heart pounding as their eyes scanned for something. The path eventually ended and we came to a clearing, with a statue in the center of Nightmare Moon. I ducked underneath the foliage, peeking out from the leaves, staying back near the trees as I eavesdropped on their conversation.
"And this Octavia...Does she know?"
Vinyl said nothing for a moment. "Yes."
Luna sighed, pressing a hoof to her temple. "Please tell me that you didn't—"
"One thing led to another and I might have accidentally bitten her."
"Anything else you'd like to tell me?"
"Err, mom and dad came to visit?" Vinyl said sheepishly.
"We are going to have to deal with her."
My heart stopped. Oh, sweet Celestia, what did they mean by that? Deal with me? How were they doing to deal with me? Time to go, time to go. I'd heard enough.
I cringed as my hoof snapped a branch underhoof. Luna and Vinyl fell silent.
"It's seems we have an uninvited guest," Luna said rather loudly, her voice devoid of any warmth. "We do not appreciate prying ears!"
They knew they knew they knew oh buck me!
"We've been tailed."
I backed away slowly, gasping when I felt my rump bump against somepony. I turned around, whimpering as I came face to face to Luna's royal guards.
Their expression was humorless as one of them bit my cape and dragged me over to Vinyl and Princess Luna. I felt like a foal about to be punished.
I grinned sheepishly. "Trick or treat?"
"Octavia!" Vinyl groaned.
Eep, full name. Serious business.
"I won't tell a soul! I swear!" I shrieked. "Please don't hurt me!"
Luna's eyes flashed red and I watched in horror as her canines began to grow. Princess Luna was a vampire.
At this point I was started to get a little jaded. Nothing surprised me anymore. It'd probably be easier to count how many ponies I knew who weren't vampires. How far did this go? When would it end?
I wrenched free from her guards, running for my life, not caring that I was venturing deep into the depths of the Everfree Forest.
"Octy! Wait!" I heard Vinyl call.
Where to hide, where to hide?! Nothing but leaves and trees!
It's a cave, Octavia, are you insane?
Too freaked out to care. Into the cave we go! I always wanted to go spelunking.
I darted in, scrambling and laying low as I listened, holding my breath, trying to still the pounding in my head. Something snarled behind me. That dawning moment of apprehension hit me like a buck to the face as my eyes widened in terror.
I seemed to have stumbled into the den of a wolf. Wonderful, just wonderful.
"Nice doggie," I whimpered.
I scrambled back, never taking my eyes off the creature staring back at me. It barked and growled. And in the blink of an eye, it lunged at me. I could have done many things as I felt its jaws clamp down around my rear leg, sinking its jagged teeth deep. I could have screamed, I could have cried. My brain could barely process the pain as I stared at the thing biting me. This was no wolf. This creature was pony shaped, with a coat long and matted, like fur. Its eyes were glowing yellow and feral. There was a wet black nose on its muzzle.
I was unable to form words as I stammered, trying to pull my leg from its mouth in vain.
"Hey, leave her alone!" a rough voice shouted.
It released my leg and I scrambled away. but not before its claws raked over my side, leaving several bloody gashes. I think I might have broken a rib. Vinyl's horn glowed, doing something. I didn't know, I didn't even care anymore. Whatever she was doing, it was making it back off. Looking back I could see that it was retreating deeper into the cave, turning around and slinking off into the cave.
"Octy! Octy, speak to me!" Vinyl cried as she cradled me.
I couldn't stop shaking as I tried to speak, feeling paralyzed. My body was going numb. I felt cold. Everything was sliding out of focus. One, two, three Vinyl Scratches? Oh, hello Princess Luna. How's your Nightmare Night going? Ah, the guards. Doing a great job there. Keep up the good work. Oh, wow, is that all my blood?
"She's been bitten!"
"This is no ordinary bite," Luna said gravely.
My last thoughts as I passed out were sardonic. As far as I was concerned, I'd donated enough blood for the rest of my life.
You could call me many things. A renaissance mare. A musician. An artist. A fool. I was all of those things. Now could add "monster" to the list.
They were carrying me to some cottage near the Everfree.
"Go away! No candy here! No visitors on Nightmare Night!"
"Fluttershy, it is I, Princess Luna! We need your assistance!"
How did it all come to this? Was it a series of bad decisions all on my part? Was this all a situation of circumstance and coincidences?
"Oh my," the Pegasus squeaked. "That looks nasty."
No. There were no choices made. Things just happened. One thing led to another. That was life. And life, my friends, was unfair. The circle of life. It doesn't stop, it doesn't end. It just keeps going, like time. That was how life worked. You could spend your life asking those questions, like why me? What if? My life had been full of what ifs and maybes lately with some could haves, would haves, and should haves. Looking back, if I had done something differently, would anything have changed? Would I still be the same Octavia today, currently walking that fine line between life and death?
"Lay her on the couch. Prop up her head," a soft voice commanded.
"Octy, stay with me. You're gonna be just fine," Vinyl said, touching my forehead. "She's hot." She lowered her head, her horn near my wound before Luna pushed her away gently.
"We would not advise that. Magic may be helpful for small cuts and scrapes, but it might only serve to worsen the injury if you try."
Vinyl nodded, looking and probably feeling helpless. She stamped a hoof, growling.
Fluttershy asked, "If you don't mind me asking, shouldn't we take her to the hospi-"
"No!" Vinyl and Luna shouted.
If I had done something differently, it would be somepony else looking back, asking a different set of questions. Right now, something was changing on the outside and inside. Something monstrous.
The pain in my leg seemed to grow more and more as I writhed. Fluttershy came closer, a roll of bandages in her mouth.
"I'm sorry," she told me.
"Please, do your best Fluttershy," Princess Luna said soothingly as she worked on my side.
The gashes were fairly shallow, though they oozed profusely. She used her magic to dab at them, causing me to wince. She set about trying to use some rubbing alcohol. The touch of the soaked cotton ball to my side made me whimper, though it was nothing compared to the pain in my leg. I could've used a drink right then and there. Something strong enough to make me pass out. I weakly gasped. Fluttershy inched closer, pouring a bottle of water over the bite marks in my leg. I hissed, clutching the sheets beneath me.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
Vinyl let me squeeze her hoof. I squeezed it as tight as I could. The blood washed away from the bites in my leg, I wasn't prepared for what came next. Fluttershy began pouring some rubbing alcohol on my leg. It was like my leg was being set on fire. I couldn't help it. I cried, I screamed. Throwing my head back, I thrashed, trying to fight Vinyl and Luna's grip on me, howling. Fluttershy wouldn't stop apologizing, even as she began bandaging my leg and Luna began using butterfly stitches on my side. The pain was unimaginable, to the point that I was going blind. I couldn't see anything. The sides of my vision were blacking out.
And then, it seemed, that the pain had begun to subside. I lay there, my chest heaving as I stared up at the ceiling, watching the fan spin around and around.
"Hey," I croaked back, sitting up to look at my leg. Something compelled me to look. Morbid curiosity? The pain in my side seemed to multiply as I tried moving.
"Oh, don't do that!" Fluttershy said.
I eased back onto the cushions, breathing slowly.
"How do you feel?" Luna asked.
"Better," I answered curtly. "Are you going to 'deal with me' now?"
She looked rather surprised. "Well...no. Did you hear that?"
I nodded lamely. The Princess of the Night didn't seem so mysterious and imposing anymore as she seemed to shrink a little and blush.
She was apologizing?
"Our word choice could have been a little better," she admitted. "Though we must say that it was very rude to eavesdrop."
"I thought there were no more secrets!" I roared suddenly. My voice was hardly elegant, betraying my lack of composure. Vinyl looked horrified. I had screamed at her in jest only several times. This time, I was truly furious. "I'm...sorry," I said slowly, ashamed. "But you promised me, didn't you?"
"It's okay. That wasn't Octy speaking."
What did she mean by that?
Luna continued to pester me. "Are you sure you are all right? Any discomfort? Cravings?"
"I'm fine, really," I snapped a little more testily than I should have.
"You were bitten by a creature most foul, Octavia."
"I shouldn't have followed you two," I sighed, leaning back. "Of course there would be wolves in there."
Vinyl and Luna glanced at each other, once again keeping me out of their imaginary conversation.
"Yes...a wolf," she said slowly. "Right."
"Could you open the window? It's a bit stuffy in here."
I had to get out, I had to move around. I felt almost rejuvenated. I felt drawn to the moonlight shining through the window. I rolled over slowly into a standing position.
"Oh, oh!" Fluttershy panicked.
Vinyl was frantically waving her arms. "Don't!"
I hobbled over. "I just need some fresh air."
I moved closer to the window. tearing it open and basking in the light of the moon, breathing slowly. Unbeknownst to me, my deep breaths slowly turned into ragged huffs. I felt itchy all over. I began to salivate for no particular reason, panting with my tongue out as my tail wagged.
I turned around, raising an eyebrow. "What?" I growled.
They all stared. Fluttershy gasped, pointing at me, stammering, pale as ever.
"Fluttershy, you must promise not to speak of what you are about to see!"
"I-I don't understand!"
Vinyl raised her hoof, ready to knock her out.
"Vinyl, don't you dare!" I snarled, lunging at her. I'd moved faster than I'd ever moved before. Vinyl sat, her jaw agape as she sat on her hindquarters, staring at me. "Why are you all looking at me like that? Don't look at me like that. Do I have something in my teeth?"
They all shook their heads.
They all glanced worriedly at each other. Princess Luna nodded and Vinyl brought the mirror over, wrapped in her magic. My ears wilted and I cocked my head, trying to process the creature looking back at me in my reflection. The first thing I noticed was that my mane was a disaster, absolutely horrendous. It seemed as if I was having a bad hair day, if you could call it that. My gray coat had grown exponentially, at least an inch or two longer. On the end of my muzzle I now had a nose, black and wet. My eyes had turned yellow, bloodshot and feral. Opening my mouth, I could see that not only had I grown canines, but that I had two sets of very sharp teeth on my upper and lower jaw, meant for ripping and tearing. Down at my hooves, I'd grown a pair of wicked-looking claws.
I was going to need one heck of a manicure after this.
My eye twitched and I stared at myself for a while, trying to take it all in.
"So what, is this some kind of a joke?"
That would have been nice, wouldn't it? In my imaginary world, Vinyl would have told me that this was all some elaborate prank on her part. The fangs in her mouth would be plastic and I wouldn't be a...
"Am I a werewolf now?" I asked, my voice a low growl. It was deeper and much more harsh to listen to. It was hard to to talk with a mouthful of sharp teeth.
"Not quite. Werewolves only transform in the light of a full moon. While that still applies to you, it would make more sense to call you a...lycan, yes."
A lycan. A monster.
"Unlike a werewolf, you have been gifted with the ability to transform at will."
"Gifted?" I scoffed, wheeling on her. "You think this is a gift?!"
"I believe your situation is not as awful as it seems," Luna said quietly.
Was this a curse? Or a blessing? Peeling off the bandages would reveal my wounds already beginning to heal. I felt stronger, faster, sharper. My hearing was starting to become more acute and already I was beginning to experience new smells.
I turned away, gasping, resting my hooves against the windowpane, my claws digging into the wood. "I never wanted this."
"No pony does."
I'd never asked for any of this. But since when did I ever have to invite trouble in? Trouble came to me. I was like a magnet for trouble.
"Fluttershy, you can come down now," Luna called upstairs.
"Oh nooo! Thank you Princess. That's very kind of you, but I'd rather not see anything that would get anypony in trouble!" her sweet voice chimed. "I'm plugging my ears and blindfolding myself right now and Angel is tying me to a chair!"
Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil, do no evil.
I laughed, right in her face, "You can't be serious."
I was outraged, and understandably so. I had a right to be. I felt cheated by the world. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs at the injustice of it all. I wanted to find somepony to blame. Somepony to focus my anger on. Never before had I felt so...predatory. Violent, even.
"There has to be a, a cure, or something like that! Anything, please!" My voice cracked.
"If there was I'd give it to you. But unfortunately for you, and that lost soul that bit you, there isn't."
"Wait, wait, lost soul? That lycan that bit me, what happened to them?"
Luna sighed, a far away look in her eyes. "They were past the point of no return. That poor creature you met has probably lost all its mental faculties. Its memories, its personality. Only through guidance and support lycans are able to live as normal ponies." She faced me. "You mustn't lose yourself."
In the face of the demon inside me, I laughed. I just laughed, throwing my head back and laughing at all of it. "At least it's only once a month, right? A full moon only comes around every once in a while!" I reasoned, pacing around, nearly stumbling when I tried to step forward with my claws, touching the mirror.
Still in one piece! Everything was fine. I was still me. Still Octavia, just a little more bitchy. Get it? Hah!
Turning around, my eyes locked with my tail. There was a desire in me to chase it, of all things. I began following my tail, trotting around in a circle as I tried biting it.
"Octavia!" Vinyl yelled.
Not now, Vinyl. Busy chasing tail. Must have tail.
I snapped out of it, shuddering. "It's not so bad! See?" I smiled widely. The smile was painfully fake and apparent. "Everything's fine..."
The facade was still there. The mirror wasn't broken. Who's that in my reflection? Octavia! See? I'm right there! Just a little furrier...
"I mean sure it's a little inconvenient, but you can't have your cake and eat it too, right?" I giggled, a sob creeping in. "I'm right, right?!"
There was a crack in the mirror.
"Octy!" Vinyl grabbed hold of me.
I was frantic. Panicking. "This is great! Just great!"
"Octavia!" She shook me, holding me.
My metaphorical mirror shattered into thousands of tiny little pieces. I was trying hopelessly to put the pieces back together, trying to solve the puzzle, cutting myself in the process. I couldn't help it, I cried. I broke down. My laughter slowly broke into sobs and then the waterworks came. It must have looked pathetic to Luna, looking on silently as I held Vinyl, trying to burrow deeper into her coat. I felt a comforting hoof on my shoulder, and it wasn't Vinyl's.
"All is not lost, Octavia!" Luna cried triumphantly. "There is hope! Salvation!" She began to rise, hooves to the sky.
Jeez, and I thought I was a drama queen.
"For you are not the only one! There is an organization dedicated to helping ponies like you, and Vinyl as well!"
I bit my lip. What choice did I have? "Go on," I sniffed.
"I extend a hoof, and welcome you," she paused, most likely for dramatic effect, "the Inner Circle!"
I wiped a tear away and found myself chuckling. "Really?"
"What?" Luna descended from the air, rubbing her head where she had bumped it into the ceiling.
"The 'Inner Circle'? I could have come up with a better name."
Luna flushed. "It is a perfectly legitimate and innocuous sounding name for an organization! Does it not strike fear into your heart? Does it not sound mysterious?"
"The Inner Circle makes it sound more like a crime syndicate!" I snickered. "What about Vampires Anonymous? Or Supernaturals?"
"I like it," she mumbled.
"Are there introductions? 'Hi, my name is Octavia, and I'm a lycan. Hi Octavia!' Is there a twelve-step program?"
"Names aside, what the Inner Circle does is no laughing matter. For centuries now since its inception, we have worked together to assist and aid vampires, lycans, and creatures alike with coping with their...condition. I am its founder."
"Princess? Does your sister, err, Princess Celestia," I asked, "Does she know what you are?"
Luna smiled. "Of course. She is perfectly aware of my vampirism, though not afflicted with it herself. In fact, once, she allowed me to feed off her—"
"Okay, too much information!" I shouted quickly.
"Yeah, T.M.I. Princess."
She huffed. "In any case, Vinyl Scratch's recent actions have nearly led to us being compromised. Her parents, who donate generously might I add, were willing to cover the cost of damages." She glared at her. "Really? That was the best you could come up with?"
Vinyl smiled cheekily. "Improvise."
There was still some reservations. "Princess," I gulped, "will there be problems? In our relationship?"
"Well, see, the thing is, Vinyl and I are together."
"How sweet. What problems do you speak of, Octavia?"
"Well, seeing as I'm this lycan and Vinyl's a vampire..."
"No, you two will not be at odds," Luna sighed, rolling her eyes. "It seems that many think that lycans and vampires are locked in a fierce war."
"I don't get it either," Vinyl piped up. "I mean, it'd make sense if we were like, cats, or something. Why can't we be friends?" she sang.
That was a relief. "What do members of this circle do, Princess?"
Luna cleared her throat. "First and foremost, our goal is to help each other. Our second goal is perhaps a little less...noble."
"We're the ones who help keep things the way they are, if ya know what I mean," Vinyl said. "Equestria's not ready to know about us, and you've got ponies like me to make sure things stay that way."
"You mean you work to keep our existence a secret then."
By any means necessary.
She nodded. I frowned, studying my claws. It's not like I had a choice. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I extended my hoof.
Luna smiled, shaking it. "Welcome to the Inner Circle."
"When do I start?"
"Meetings are every Friday. And you can also get in on a very lucrative deal at your local supermarket..."
"Do you guys have a secret underground cave where you hold all your meetings?" I asked excitedly.
Luna frowned. "No, we just meet at the local donut shop."
My ears perked up in alarm.
"Ah, it seems that the moonlight beckons."
Shh, blue pony. Want to go out.
I let my new body take over, darting through the open window into Fluttershy's yard. I sniffed the ground, my rear in the air as I clawed around.
"Hah, she's like a dog!"
I barked. "I beg your pardon? I am no such thi—SQUIRREL!"
Maul later. Squirrel now.
"Hey Octy!" She waved a stick around. "Fetch!" Vinyl hurled the stick away.
I came back with a tree.
"Who's a good girl! Yes you are! Yes you are! Wait, hey, whoa! OUCH! HEY! OW!"
Luna laughed, amused at our antics. I lapped at Vinyl's face, having tackled her to the ground.
I planted my haunches down, howling a bone-chilling howl. "Awoooooooo!"
"That was a good one," Vinyl said nervously.
"I shall have my guards monitor you two for the rest of the night while I leave. I trust you won't enter yourselves into any costume contests?"
Once upon a time in the magical land of Equestria, where mystical creatures roamed, there was a secret world. A secret world where supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves were real. A secret world where magic and myth, legends and conspiracies came to life before your very eyes. And now, it seemed, I was a part of this secret world.
So that was it, huh. I'd live the rest of my life as this...lycan. Sunshine and rainbows from here on out? Maybe we'd all share a laugh at the end of all this. Was this my happily ever after?
There were no happy endings. I lied to myself that it was over. It wasn't.
Not by a long shot.
Fluttershy whimpered, "H-Hello? Is anypony there? Can somepony untie me?"
We ducked back inside, closing all the windows and locking the doors. Luna's guards stood outside, stalwart as ever. It seemed that if I stayed out of the moonlight long enough, even on a full moon, I would slowly change back. It was a painstaking process, and after waiting at least an hour for my claws to retract and my coat to shrink, we talked to Fluttershy. The sweet thing, she let us sleep over for the night.
"Anypony friends with the princess is a friend of mine." Vinyl still wanted to deck her, but Fluttershy assuaged her fears. "And don't worry. I'm sworn to secrecy, and by royalty too! That's even more than a Pinkie Promise! Even though I don't really understand what's going on..."
Vinyl took the couch. She had offered but...I really wanted to sleep on the ground. I trotted around in a circle before settling down into a comfortable position.
Vinyl stared. "What are you doing?"
"I...don't know. It just felt right," I admitted.
Things would never be the same for either of us. There was no going back. We had reached that pivotal moment past the point of no return.
We only had a few hours until daybreak, and we decided to make the most of it. Vinyl was out like a light and began to snore softly. My eyelids drooped, a wave of exhaustion flooding over me.
Lights, camera, action.
Enter an expensive mansion nearly the size of a castle, with an elegant hedge garden with a fountain in the center. The family that lived here was rich.
Cue classical music, somber and simplistic in melody. Transition to inside a hall.
A despondent little filly near the massive window, the sunlight casting a shadow that stretched across the smooth floor. A second shadow. Her mother.
"Mother, did I do good?"
"Again. And this time, no mistakes."
The train ride home was uneventful. Mostly just me, sulking near the windows. Vinyl went home. The princess, well, she was long gone. She didn't have time to deal with us lesser mortals, I supposed. Or maybe she was just busy. In any case, I still had rehearsals. I'd skipped out for at least a week. There was going to be hell to pay.
"Where in Tartarus have you been?" Frederic demanded the second I walked into the studio.
"This entire week you've been gone! You haven't been answering your calls! You haven't come to rehearsals!" He began pounding his hoof for emphasis with each point.
What to say at a time like this?
"Sorry," I mumbled. "I've been busy as of late."
"Busy making out with your marefriend?"
My eyes flashed and I was nearly at his throat, inches away from throttling him, purring, "What I do in my own personal life is none of your business."
Their jaws hit the floor. Harpo and Brass Beauty stared, unable to comprehend the calm and stoic Octavia losing her cool.
Frederic mumbled an apology. He sniffed, his nose scrunching up in distaste at our close proximity. "Eugh. You smell like a wet dog."
Are you going to let him talk to you like that? Show them who's boss.
"And you look like you just stuck your face in a blender and set it on high, but you don't see us telling you about it," I snapped before I could even process the words coming from my mouth. I stuffed a hoof into my mouth, my eyes bulging.
"Oho, you have the right to remain BURNED!" Brass hollered, shoving her hoof in his face.
Harpo glanced worriedly at me, idly strumming his harp.
What was I saying? "I-I'm sorry," I barely managed to stammer before I ran from the room, not even bothering to bring my cello along with me.
Brass screamed, "Scorched!"
"What's gotten into her?" Frederic snapped.
I stormed out of the building, trying to calm myself. How would I face them again? At least I had an excuse for not showing up tomorrow. Pony Joe's Donut Shop? I'd expected something a little more professional, or at least, secretive. In my saddlebags, my phone rang.
"Yeah, what?" I asked abrasively. I hadn't even checked who was calling.
I jumped. "Father? H-Hello!"
"It would mean the world to your mother if you came to visit."
I rubbed my forehead. "Uhm, of course." She was still in the hospital? Leave it to mom to take advantage of a bump on the head. Although Vinyl did have a pretty mean right hook. "Where is she?"
"Canterlot Hospital, fifth floor, room F."
"Be there in five."
I flipped the phone shut. Father was always...distant. Impersonal. He only spoke out of necessity, even with his own wife and daughter.
They were perfect for each other.
Who knows? Maybe this will go well. I'll say hello and be on my way.
"I don't want you hanging around that DJ!"
"You don't get to tell me what to do!" I shouted before I even realized what I was saying. Those weren't my words. It was that...voice!
"Watch your mouth, young filly! I am still your mother!" she screamed back.
"I'm not your little filly anymore."
"You will do as I say!"
"BUCK you!" I barked impulsively.
She gasped, horrified. "Octavia!"
I slammed the glass door behind me, cringing as I heard the sound of glass splashing all over the floor. Nurses and doctors stared. One dropped the pencil she was holding in her mouth. A desk pony spilled her coffee. You could hear a pin drop.
"I can fix that."
That went well.
"How was your day?"
Pretty awful, thanks for asking.
"Octy? How's dinner coming along? Octy?"
And we're late on last month's rent. I should reschedu—OOH SHINY!
I couldn't tear my eyes away from the silver kitchen knife.
"Wait, Octy, don't touch tha—you still touched it."
Upon touching it, my hoof seemed to burn and sizzle. "It seems my hoof has spontaneously combusted into flames," I noted dully, holding it up for her to see.
"Quite," Vinyl said. "Shall I get the fire extinguisher?" Break in case of supernatural creatures.
First day as a lycan and somehow I'd still managed to end up in the doghouse. Vinyl hadn't wanted me to stay home by myself. She even insisted having somepony come over to watch me.
"Having any cravings? Any homicidal thoughts lately?"
Sure, I could KILL you for doing this to me. But I won't.
"I assure you, I'm fine," I lied. "I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself."
"Look, I'm not too comfortable with this. I'll have somepony come check on you when they can, alright?"
The second that door closed I began pacing in a circle. My tail wagged around, even as I tried to read to take my mind off things. I couldn't stay still. I had to move. I couldn't help it. I had no control over my own faculties. I sat down on the couch, only to start scratching. It was getting worse.
They are weak.
The voice in my head wouldn't shut up. I need something, anything to take my mind off my current situation. Turning to the bottle would have been irresponsible. I was better than this. Better than the lycan in me.
You are strong.
I slumped over, groaning. I took out a glass with two ice cubes and a bottle of scotch, pouring a good amount in. Swirling it around I studied the orange liquor before tilting the glass back. It was unbecoming of me, really. I didn't booze very much. Once in a while, maybe. Not all the time.
You are the alpha mare.
The drink went down like fire.
You poor, helpless thing.
I needed a refill.
There was a time when I rejected things like destiny, or fate. I was starting to figure out that I had the worst luck in Equestria. There is nothing more deceiving than the belief that you ran your life, that you have some semblance of control, that you were large and in charge. We were all insignificant specks of dust in an infinite universe, trying to make the best of the situation. Nopony knew what they were doing, why they were doing it in the first place. It was like gambling. The cards had been dealt and what was left was us grasping at straws. You play or you pay. Or maybe it was like playing jazz music. You just rolled with it, you just improvised.
I knocked another one back. Yeesh. Ponies always told me I got sappy and philosophical when I drank.
And where was I in the middle of all this? Was I still living the dream? Where was the Canterlot upscale penthouse? The bits, the extravagant parties and concerts in Blueblood Hall? That dream was starting to slip away.
"No, no, someday..." I said, if only to reassure myself.
Someday? Someday your dream will come true? How pathetic.
Was that how I coped with the truth? Is that what I told myself to help me sleep at night? I was the mule, always trotting forward that for carrot that dangled just out of my reach. This dream of mine had turned around on me. Who was I? A nobody. Some two-bit, has-been cello player for a quartet playing lounge music just to pay the rent. We'd all been banking on the Grand Galloping Gala to rake in the cash. Reality came crashing down on me, and I was treated with a glimpse into my bleak future. Suddenly I was old. My dream? Not a chance. I wasn't going to happen and it probably never would, because I wasn't ever going to do it anyway.
That was the old Octavia, weak and feeble. I am new Octavia. Stronger, faster. Better.
At least...at least I had family. "Mom she, she cares. I know it," I said. Somehow I thought by saying it out loud, it would make it true.
Your mother despises you.
I still had friends.
You don't have friends.
Acquaintances, coworkers maybe.
They don't deserve you.
I hurled the bottle against the wall, watching it smash on impact. I clutched my head, groaning, falling to my knees. I was due a hangover straight from Tartarus.
Let no pony stand in your path. Prove your dominance!
I didn't even feel my head hit the ground as I passed out.
I sat in the shadows in the farthest corner of the room. The balcony window had been smashed. My sharp ears twitched, able to pick up the faint sound of Vinyl's hoofsteps approaching. My heart raced as she came closer. That final moment as she fished her key out of her bags and shoved it into the lock, twisting it. The door swung open. Vinyl stared.
"Jeez Octy, you look like hell." She stepped forward, into the light. She stopped when she saw my face. "Is that...blood?"
Dark crimson stained my coat and my muzzle. It was like the life had been sucked out of my eyes. I was scared, traumatized. I stared off into the distance in a thousand-yard stare. All it took was a nod and Vinyl dropped her bags, rushing over to me.
"What happened?" she asked.
"I don't know," I spat.
I felt that rise of that old familiar feeling in my gut. Wait, no, that's just—urk...I ran over to the bathroom, emptying the contents of my stomach into the toilet. What had I eaten? Never mind, I didn't want to know. Ignorance is bliss.
"Did you get drunk?"
"You bet your ass I did," I gasped, wiping my mouth before I continued to retch.
"My contact said she rang the doorbell at least a dozen times! She tried knocking and almost considered bucking the door down."
Vinyl leaned in. I didn't want to kiss. It made me sick. Instead, she licked the blood from my cheek, smacking her lips.
I didn't even want to know how she knew what rabbit's blood tasted like.
"What did you do?"
"I already told you I don't know! One second I'm in the loft, passed out on the floor, and when I woke up I was still here! Except this time, I'm covered in...ugh!"
Vinyl wasn't playing around anymore. She was locking all the doors, closing all the windows, pulling all the curtains. "Did anypony see you?" she demanded.
"How am I supposed to know?" I growled.
For a while Vinyl struggled over what to do, muttering to herself before settling on a decision. "Octavia, I gotta run."
She sighed. It seemed like she was in a hurry. "You wanna know what I do for the Inner Circle? This is what I do. I run damage control. Now I gotta go—"
"And clean up my mess. It's practically the dead of night, Vinyl. How are you even going to find out...what I did?"
"I got this!" she grinned cockily.
She turned briefly. "Were you going to say something?"
"No no, never mind."
"Go ahead. "
"Okay, fine," I heaved a heavy sigh. "Vinyl, I don't how to tell you this..."
"You wanna break up?" Vinyl asked.
I stammered. "N-No! I simply want to...take a break."
"Is that what they call it these days?"
Had there been anything between us in the first place? Was it something official? Or was it something that needed no words? We'd never discussed anything. I'd kissed her, and she'd kissed me. We'd slept together and cuddled for a while. That was it, really. It seemed that we had passed the initial "puppy" love stage in our relationship, pardon the pun, after the novelty and passion had worn off. I had seemed so sure that Vinyl was the object of my desires in the heat of the moment.
"Vinyl, a break doesn't mean anything. Just some distance."
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, I think so too."
"What?" I gawked. "Frankly I'm a little insulted."
"Octy, the last thing you need right now is a relationship. You've got...too much on your plate. You've got a job, performances. You still gotta deal with this new body of yours. You don't need me to make things worse."
"You don't do that!"
"Maybe I don't. But your parents are gonna give you enough grief already. Let's not give them another reason to make your life miserable, alright?"
"This is so stupid," I sniffed.
"Let's just back off for a while, huh?"
This was a blessing in disguise. I nodded, a bit too eagerly. "My thoughts exactly. Thank you, Vinyl."
It was a clean break. We'd severed our relationship cleanly, and both parties had come out unscathed. It was almost too perfect.
But I suppose once in a while things had to work out, right?
"But don't get any ideas, I'm not moving out, you know!"
I smiled. She closed the door. She poked her head through again.
"I'll still be here. Don't worry." She winked. "You're not alone in this."
My journey continued on through the night. I had a feeling things were just getting started.
And the band played on.
I didn't sleep. Didn't need to. Was too afraid to close my eyes. The monster inside me would awake.
When I got up the balcony window had been fixed. All the glass had been swept up. There wasn't a trace of any of my nocturnal activities.
"Did you...find it?" I ventured.
"Mmhmm," Vinyl nodded, peeking out the corner of her eye as she downed some coffee. "You want the details?"
"Not in particular, no."
"Good, then I won't tell you. But I'll say that it was very, very messy."
"I mean seriously, what the heck did you do that poor bunny? I won't go into any specifics, but there was a lot of blood. It was like, everywhere!"
I ran to the bathroom, barfing.
"Octy, I think you need to take the day off."
"Vinyl, I have been taking days off. I've been using up nearly half of my sick days."
"No, no. I mean having fun!"
I glared at her. "Fun?"
Right then and there I should have stopped her. She sucked in, and began to sing, "F is for friends who do stuff together!"
"Please don't sing," I groaned.
"U is for you and me!"
"I swear to Celestia, Vinyl, not the singing. It's too early."
"N is for anywhere and anytime at all—"
I shoved a hoof in her mouth, silencing her. "I will rip your throat out."
"Dawwww, is somepony all grumpy wumpy they didn't get their morning coffee?" Vinyl cooed. "What do you do for fun anyways?"
"I play my cello."
"Octy, that is your job. Not fun."
"Who said my job wasn't fu—"
She cut me off with a hoof. "Moving on!"
"Well, sometimes I listen to music."
"You can do that anytime." She rolled her eyes.
"Read a book?"
Vinyl's head slammed into the table. "Ugh, you're such a...a Twilight Sparkle! I need to take you out."
"Where would you like to go?"
"I thought we were taking a 'break'," Vinyl said.
"Doesn't mean we can't do things together. What did you have in mind?" I asked, arching my eyebrows suggestively.
She leaned in, whispering.
I flushed. "Oh no!"
"What? You've never?" Vinyl gasped, her eyes widening. "You mean you've never—"
"Never!" I gasped, scandalized. "My parents would never let me do that!"
She put her hoof down, determined, flipping on her shades. "It's time to pop your cherry, Octy."
"Did you see how big it was?" Vinyl gushed.
"It was huge!" I giggled.
"So long and thick!"
"And creamy," I shuddered. "It got all over my face!"
"Oh, I know, I had to lick it off you. It was so sticky too!"
"I can't believe you swallowed that entire thing down your throat! I didn't think I could take it all in!"
Passing ponies walking on the sidewalk stared at us, their minds working to put two and two together. Mothers covered their foals' virgin ears.
Vinyl cheered, "That was the best banana split I've ever had! Where the hay do they find bananas that huge anyway?"
"Oh Celestia, with all that chocolate syrup and whipped cream, I'm going to need to work my flank off!"
I kept trotting down the street amiably until I realized Vinyl was no longer next to me. Looking back, I could see she was staring at a particular restaurant we had visited (and been banned from) in the past. An all-you-can-eat buffet with salads and soups and pastas. Hardly considered high class, we'd come there for a meal.
"You know what I don't get? The drinks."
"Not this again," I moaned.
"They gave us a glass of water with a lemon in it. It was deceiving!"
"Vinyl, there was nothing 'deceiving' about a glass of water that we both ordered!"
"You raise the glass and you smell the lemon and you think, 'Oh, this is going to be some really good lemonade', only to be disappointed and crushed when you realize that it's just a glass of water with a lemon in it," she ranted.
"For the love of Celestia, will you let that go? And how in the hay did we even get banned from there?!"
"The sign said it was a buffet! All you can eat!"
"You ate everything!"
We glared at each other. My lip twitched. We burst into uproarious laughter, snickering and giggling. She wiped a tear from her eye.
"Oh, Vinyl Scratch! Fancy running into you!"
"Oh hey, Miss Rarity! What's up?"
My eyes narrowed at the cage on Rarity's side. I wasn't even concerned with the fashionista or their petty conversation. What I was more concerned with was that vile creature inside the cage.
"Grrrr!" I growled, baring my teeth at the feline, lowering the front part of my body to hiss and spit at the vile creature.
Opalescence hissed back, screeching and clawing at her kennel.
"Is your friend all right, Vinyl?" Rarity asked nervously, inching away slowly.
"She's just trying to communicate with your cat, that's all. Inspiration for her, uh, next piece."
"Uh huh. Very well then. I shall be on my way. I'll let you know when I have another commission for you."
"Will do, thanks."
"Octavia, get a grip!" Vinyl hissed, still waving to Miss Rarity.
My ears perked. "What was I doing? Why am I like this?"
"'Cause you like it doggy style."
Many ponies came as they were, fangs exposed and eyes crimson. There was even a fellow lycan or two crouched on the floor, their tails wagging. Among the crowd of ponies packed inside the donut shop, I saw Vinyl's parents, Princess Luna, Fleur de Lis, and Fancypants, of all ponies. Many of them, I didn't recognize. In fact, nearly everypony there I had no clue as to their name. Although I recalled seeing the one with the top hat the other day...
"Ah, hello Octavia," Fancypants said, adjusting his monocle. "What brings you here?"
"I, err, well, I'm—"
"You're one of them, aren't you?"
I blanched, nodding.
"Did that Vinyl Scratch finally sink her teeth into you?"
"Well yes. But, no. Not really. Are you one as well?"
"Heavens no. I make it a point to come along with Fleur to understand her situation a little better. Although may I say, I wouldn't mind if she exsanguinates me, if you get my drift." He winked. "Your secret is safe with me."
I don't even want to know I don't even want to know...
Luna cleared her throat, standing behind the counter. "Good evening, everypony. It is currently seven o' clock. Everypony is here and accounted for. Let us begin. Pony Joe?"
She levitated a pouch filled with plenty of bits. "Go get yourself a salad or something. Lose the weight."
He saluted. "Will do."
"Now then, back to—who is this?"
In the back of the shop sitting on a stool was a certain wall-eyed Pegasus.
Vinyl whispered, "Psst, Derpy! What the hay are you doing here?"
"I dunno!" she chirped, sticking her tongue out.
"Scram, Derpy," Vinyl said.
She crashed through a window. Luna facehoofed.
"Octavia, if you will?" Luna said.
I paled. "Oh, no no, that's alright, I'm not good with public speaking."
I was roughly bucked onto stage, landing painfully on my stomach. I looked up, seeing Luna's kind face.
"I'd like you all to give our newest member to the Inner Circle a warm welcome."
I gulped, taking the counter. Beads of sweat rolled down my face. Performing a piece using an instrument was much, much different than speaking. On stage, I let my cello do the "talking", if you will.
"H-Hello. My name is Octavia."
"Hi Octavia," a chorus of voices chimed.
"And...I'm a lycan."
Boos and cheers erupted in the small donut shop. One side of the room struck a pose, throwing their heads back and howling.
"AWOOOO! Score one for Team Lycan!"
"Aw screw you guys, Team Vampire all the way!"
A solitary voice in the back of the shop cried, "Whoo, Team Fairy! Yaaaaay."
"Shut up, no one cares about fairies!" somepony on the vampire side shouted.
A sniff. "You guys suck. Oh, wait, you guys do suck! Hah!"
"Get over yourselves!"
And so began the food fight, in which objects of various sizes including donuts, stress balls, and war axes were hurled between both sides of the room.
"BE STILL!" Luna bellowed, her eye twitching. After everypony settled down, she continued. "Now I'd like you all to give Octavia your undivided attention. I'm sure many lycans were aware of the...disturbance last night."
"Doing some hunting?" one pony snickered.
I cast my eyes down. "I was turned only a few days ago, on Nightmare Night."
They remained silent out of respect.
"I thought I could handle it, I thought I had everything in control." I swallowed. "But there was this...voice, in my head, saying all sorts of things. Trying to make me doubt myself."
I could see some lycans were beginning to nod, empathizing with me.
"I started getting...more aggressive. I was grouchy, short-tempered, unpleasant, clumsy even. I kept bumping into ponies and breaking things. I couldn't take it, so I drank."
"What were you drinking?" one called.
There was a collective cringe in the shop. "Ooh."
"The entire bottle?"
I nodded, ashamed. "I woke up, I don't know, two hours later coated in blood."
Gasps. They weren't ridiculing me. Their gasps were genuine.
"I found out later it was...rabbit's blood."
"And how did that make you feel?" Luna asked.
I struggled for words. "J-Just awful! I felt traumatized. Horrified! Sick to my stomach."
"Oh. I was thinking something more along the lines of indigestion, bloating. But that works too."
Once again the room exploded into chatter.
"Yeah, rabbits don't go down very well."
"Psst! Did it taste good?"
I blinked. "I-I'm not sure."
The Princess of the Night raised her hoof, silencing the ponies.
"Thank you," I simply said, dashing off the counter.
"Let this be a reminder to all of you to be vigilant," Luna warned. "We all have our demons. Octavia here was very lucky that her situation was not worse. And I will also recommend that you do not drink at all. It impairs judgement and clouds the mind."
This received groans. I sank down in my seat. Good job, Octavia. Congratulations, you're an alcoholic.
"And let me make this clear: if you are discovered, we will not be able to help you." She paused, letting her words sink in, "You can release names, but we will deny your existence and this group. The best we can do is provide you a new identity. From the moment you are discovered, you are on your own."
I guess it wouldn't be much of a secret organization without secrecy.
"Moving on," Luna cleared her throat. "As per request, we have gotten a more 'family-friendly' packaging for blood packs in the form of," she frowned, "juice boxes."
Vampires cheered, giving each other hoofbumps.
"And they even come with holes for you to 'sink your teeth' into!"
"So, what did you think?"
"It's like a dysfunctional family, with a tyrant at the reigns running the show," I answered without a beat. "So that's it, huh?"
"Just 'bout sums it up, yeah."
"You meet once a week to talk about your feelings."
"That's," she chuckled,"that's very funny, Octy. You know you've got a great sense of humor."
I took the compliment. "Well, I suppose it's time we head home."
"Are you freaking kidding me?" She tilted her shades down, giving me an are-you-freaking-kidding-me look. "This is the best time of the day! C'mon!"
And I had no choice but to follow her. Into the jungle we went.
The entrance was extravagant and flashy with a Canterlot flair thrown in with ivory walls and gold trim strewn all over the place to hide the rot underneath. Lines of ponies wound around the sidewalk and buildings, waiting to get past the bouncer. Vinyl walked straight up to him.
"You know my name." She grinned.
As I made my move to follow her, I was stopped by an unfurling wing.
"She's a friend," Vinyl said.
Using her magic, she shoved open the double doors with a bang and a flourish, revealing two paths that snaked down into the mosh pit. The electronic music was deafening. The checkerboard floor was illuminated, flashing neon colors in sync with the music playing over the sound system. I had to flatten my ears just to be able to think straight. The bass was a constant pounding ache in the back of my head, shaking the room. Flashing lights. Laser shows. The place reeked of cigarette smoke, stale booze, greed, and other things I didn't care to mention, and was filled to the brim with colts with way too much money and free time to spend on fillies who also had way too much money and free time. I followed Vinyl through that sea of glow sticks and writhing bodies.
This was the nightlife tourists paid to experience.
Even in the pristine capitol city, money could go a long way to having guards turn the other way when patrons at Club Canterlot indulged in their vices. Here, they had all kinds of party favors imported straight from the zebra badlands. Pick your poison. I knew she was better than that, but I wouldn't put it past Vinyl to indulge in that sort of thing at least once in her life.
I needed a drink already. But I needed to lay off the sauce. I needed to make sure I didn't lose control.
You can't lose something you never had.
It was that niggling voice in the back of my head again, there to whisper my doubts. I'm sure many of you would expect that I could differentiate between my thoughts and the wolf inside of my soul. But that was the most disturbing part about it all. These thoughts were not separated by some raspy growl that hissed these words in my ear. I heard these thoughts in my own voice, and yet they were not my own.
"Vinyl!" I shrieked. "You can't just jump on stage!"
"And why not?" Vinyl struggled with the DJ currently at the stand, snatching the microphone away from them with her magic. Feedback. Everypony yelled, flattening their ears.
"HEYOH! DJ-Pon3, in the house!"
Cheers. Stomping. Elation that their temptress of the record had come. DJ-Pon3 wasn't just a stage name. It was a personality. Larger than life and the life of a party. And, this, all of this with all of its flaws, was her domain.
"You don't even have your set!"
"Don't need it," she scoffed, flipping through the record library on stage. "What tunes you got? Sapphire Shores? Really?"
The DJ stuck his hoof out in a gesture. It wasn't a nice one.
Vinyl levitated me onto the DJ stand, where I stood alongside her.
"For a very special somepony in the room, you know who you are. This little remix is for you, baby!"
I gasped, hearing the familiar classical tune. I blushed, unable to keep a grin off my face as ponies lavished me with cheers. I curtsied. Her horn fizzed and sparkled with strain as I saw her manipulate knobs and switches and dials that made my head spin.
She was beautiful.
And for a while, I was able to live and forget. That night I realized sometimes, something good comes out of it all. Something you know you wouldn't deserve in a million years.
Something that gives you a reason to go on.
"Vodka, on the rocks."
"Ahem," Vinyl cleared her throat, elbowing me rather hard.
I sighed. "Just a soda."
"She's trying to stay sober," she explained to the bartender. "Ay, I gotta get back to the stand. My audience awaits."
I smiled. "Alright." I scowled as she trotted away.
Try to get a drink in this town...
I cracked the can open with a hiss and pop, sipping at the froth and swallowing the zingy flavor. As I set the can down I became aware that somepony was staring.
She had the eyes of a hawk. Or maybe a killer. They were cold. Dull, jaded, silver. Everything about the mare was silver. Her hair was short and professional, bleached silver. Her coat was much like the rest of her. Gunmetal gray. She wasn't like the others. Maybe just as robotic as the ponies on the dance floor, writhing to the electronic music, shallow and hollow. But there was something different about this one. There was something more to her. The way she moved, the way she spoke. Her calculating gaze never wavered, not once. I felt uncomfortable.
"Nice to meet you." Her voice was smooth and velvety. She stuck a hoof out. "Silver Streak," she said without even waiting.
I shook it carefully. "Octavia."
Her horn glowed and I found an envelope being pushed into my hooves.
"I'd recommend opening that later someplace more...private."
Maybe it was just the hangover getting to me, but I decided to humor the mare for a bit.
"Of course," I nodded, smirking. "Confidential. You have my word."
Silver Streak smirked, her face twisted in an expression that I recognized as patronizing. "Keep an eye out. By tomorrow you'll see your face all over the papers."
And with that, she drifted off, disappearing into the nightclub.
What was that supposed to mean? And who was she? It was all too mysterious.
Never mind that.
"Another soda, please?"
"Absolutely," I giggled, skipping along with Vinyl.
It was two hours till the crack of dawn. Up the stairs we went, laughing and giggling like fillies.
"What do you got there Octy?"
"Oh, this?" I held up the envelope I'd stuffed into my saddlebag. "Somepony handed this to me. Told me to open it later."
You could feel the atmosphere change around Vinyl. It was almost as if the air had been sucked out of the world. That warm, fuzzy feeling I'd had standing next to her faded into something more sinister. That other side of Vinyl was back with a vengeance, methodical and ruthless in her dealings. By any means necessary, Vinyl would protect me. That feeling in my gut; it was back.
My mouth went dry as I saw who was striking a pose in the picture. There was a vile canine hunched over in Canterlot Park, baring its teeth at the camera, blood and saliva dripping from its muzzle. Say cheese. Stamped on its rear was a familiar symbol, a purple treble clef. A gorgeous mane ruined with leaves and twigs.
"At least she got your good side," Vinyl said humorlessly.
On the back of the photograph were two words that made our hearts stop:
The impromptu visit was met with slight irritation on part of Princess Luna, who had just gone to bed. Though when Vinyl explained the situation, Luna immediately snapped to attention. I watched them pace back and forth together in a circle. If the situation wasn't so serious I might have actually laughed.
"Can somepony please tell me what's going on?"
"Octy, not now!"
I screamed, enraged, Without thinking, I let my frustration take hold. The beast inside of me awakened. Feral thoughts of aggression filled my mind as I growled, snorting. My legs were bent. I was crouched, ready to lunge.
Vinyl and Luna flinched back slightly. I shook my head, looking down at my claws and feeling a bit furrier. I squeaked, whimpering as I let myself change back.
For a while I sat, ashamed. After a while, I spoke up.
"If it helps, the pony who handed this to me said her name was erm, Silver? Silver Stripes?"
Luna and Vinyl stared.
"What? You look like you've seen a ghost." I clopped my hooves together. "Wait, I've got it. Silver Streak!"
"Goddamnit!" Vinyl roared, slamming her hoof into the table, hard enough to leave a dent. "Not these guys again."
"Wait, what? Slow down! New to all of this! Anypony care to explain?"
"The Silver Horseshoes, an organization—"
Was this some new trend?
I groaned. "Where in Equestria do ponies find time to join secret societies? Don't they have day jobs? A life?"
The princess furrowed her brow. "As I was saying, the Silver Horseshoes are seemingly hellbent on making our lives a living Tartaurus."
"So basically, they don't like vampires. Or lycans. Okay. Any reason? Motive?"
"If there is any reason to targeting us, we are unaware. And they seem to target most supernaturals."
She shrugged. "That is it, Octavia."
"You're telling me that you don't know anything about these ponies?"
"Watch your tone."
"There is a point to being a secret organization, Octavia. Even as Princess of the Night, I am not privy to everything that goes on in Equestria, and I do not know everypony either. It is my job to do the best that I can." She sighed. "Their origin dates back at least two centuries, perhaps even more. Their activities were much more bloody in the past. Now they resort through financial and political means to expose any of us."
Somehow, in less than the blink of an eye, our day out had turned into something of a nightmare. I could barely think. Life seemed to enjoy throwing me curveballs every second. It was too fast, too quick. One second I'm having a drink and the next I'm embroiled in some sort of war. There's nothing quite like the feeling of having your dirty laundry aired out for everypony to see to make you more alert. Much like being caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar, I felt trapped. It dawned on me that these ponies, whoever they were, had me in their clutches. I could scarcely imagine what would happen. It was horrifying to think about it.
"Have they ever outed anypony?"
"In the past, yes. And we've tried our best to relocate them to someplace safer, place them in a protection program. Most of the victims of the Silver Horseshoes end up in the Everfree. But this, this new generation has largely remained underground."
"They've been quiet for a while now," Vinyl muttered. "Silver Streak. What a jackass."
"You know her?"
"She is the head of the entire organization," Luna explained. "This is not the first time she has attacked us like this."
"Just burn it, plain and simple," I suggested.
"This is just a copy. You think they'd be dumb enough to hand over the real thing over to you?" Vinyl spat. "They have to have it archived somewhere. She said she would go public with the information, right?"
"And I quote, 'By tomorrow you'll see your face all over the papers.'"
She stomped a hoof. "Equestria Daily. That has to be where they've sent the story."
"Can't you do something about this, Princess?"
Luna shook her head. "We are afraid not. We are not allowed to interfere with the media and press."
"I've got this, Princess."
"You have my permission to do what is necessary."
"Don't worry. I'll handle everythi—"
"No!" I yelled. "Vinyl, I can't keep having you clean up after me!"
"I am not taking you along! And this is not up for discussion!"
I stared her down, my expression earnest. Luna silently watched us stare each other down.
"Princess, c'mon, tell her—"
"It is her choice. She deserves to know."
She growled. "Fine. Just don't get in the way. You're not going to like what you see."
I didn't sleep well.
She grabbed the janitor by his mane, slamming his head into the glass. I shrieked, recoiling as shards splashed over the floor. Vinyl dangled him by his collar out the window, her hoof and magic the only standing in the way of him and the long trip down.
Equestria Daily's headquarters was basically your basic run-of-the-mill printing press and newspaper agency rolled into one, though it was a bit of a stretch to say that they were a reputable source. It was supposed to be empty, seeing as it was past closing hours.
I realized that night how good Vinyl was at breaking things. Breaking into Equestria Daily was a breeze for her, and now, it seemed, she was cracking skulls and breaking windows. Did you know she kept masks around? She even had a special set of dyes to blot out our cutie marks.
"Where is it?!"
Throw the rules out the window, odds are you'll go that way too.
"What are you DOING?" I screeched.
The poor stallion screamed at the top of his lungs, about to wet himself as his legs dangled precariously in the air. "FILING CABINET, TOP SHELF!"
Vinyl dragged him back inside, dropping him unceremoniously on the ground, sweating and pale. She let him scream his head off and run down the hall, probably to hightail it out of there.
"You didn't have to do that."
"No loose ends."
"It was unnecessary."
"Will you shut up and help me?"
I pulled open the filing cabinet, searching through the files before it was promptly knocked over. The cabinet tipped over and fell with a crash.
"We're not going to search for it."
"Then what are we doing?"
She lowered her head, her horn glowing and sparking. I pushed her away.
"If we don't find it, this'll all be for nothing!"
I sifted through the packets and folders most recent.
"Good. Put it in the trashcan."
"Vinyl, I think we should shred it or something."
"Put it in," she demanded.
I tossed it into the bin, watching as she set fire to the contents. I gasped, pulling back, watching the embers rise and glow, the smell of paper. She was burning it all right. Along with just about everything else in the room. Smoke filled the room quickly.
"Vinyl, this is insane! We're committing arson!" I screamed, coughing.
"And you're an accomplice. What's your point?"
"We could have just taken the real photo!"
"You think that was the real one?" A bitter laugh. "That was another copy! This doesn't end here! This!" She dropped her saddlebags onto the floor. The contents of her bag fell with a solid thud. "This is about sending a message!"
I gasped as I watched her levitate a detonator. Her bags, they had...
"Time to bail."
She shoved me through a window that led to a fire escape. My mind was numb as I held onto her, following her down the iron staircase and back onto the streets, gazing at her.
Take it or leave it was the only choice given. It makes you think. Think about free will. Had our choices been made for us because of who we were? My options had narrowed to a singular path on that road.
"The royal guards are here," I hissed as we ran down the street in the opposite direction, ditching our masks in a storm drain.
I cringed, flattening my ears and dropping to the ground as a horrifying boom ripped through the night, and also through the floor we had just been on, destroying any evidence. The explosion had started a fire, burning bright. The flames raged, with black smoke rising from the building. Red, orange, yellow, hot to the touch, incinerating everything in its path. Yet the flames couldn't burn away our crimes. They only made the shadows behind me leap higher. I watched numbly as the building was engulfed in flames, the smell of misery and smoke filling my nostrils.
I can't say I wasn't warned.
"Still breathing? Come on!"
She grabbed my hoof, dragging me along. And we kept running through the streets, blending into the shadows. Her domain. Our clops echoed through the night. I ran out of steam in a dead end alleyway with steam boiling out of the sewer grates, like all the fires of hell were burning high beneath us. We caught our breaths. Or rather, I caught my breath, while Vinyl scoped the corner, pressed up against the wall. I narrowed my eyes.
They say you only know how much you love somepony when you know what you're willing to sacrifice. How far would you go to save the ones you love? How much would you sacrifice to protect them? Sometimes it's better not to know. Despite all of the lies, the secrecy, everything, I know that everything she did, she did out of love.
Did that make it right?
Have you ever been subjected to the force that is the Royal Canterlot Voice? I wouldn't wish it upon anypony. Imagine standing in front of a tornado.
"WHEN I SAID, 'BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY', I MEANT SHORT OF SETTING OFF A BOMB!" Luna bellowed, her eyes aglow with rage. "BE FORTUNATE THAT I DO NOT BRAND YOU A TERRORIST!"
Vinyl cringed. "You should have been more specific?"
"YOU IDIOT!" She whirled around. "WHAT AM I SAYING? I'M THE IDIOT!"
"It was a tiny bomb."
"HOW COULD YOU BE SO STUPID? HOW COULD I BE SO STUPID? I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN YOU WOULD PULL SOMETHING LIKE THIS!"
The princess was now slamming her head into the wall repeatedly.
"THIS IS A NIGHTMARE! HAVE YOU SEEN THE HEADLINES?"
That actually looked quite painful.
"ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS SNEAK IN AND REMOVE THE EVIDENCE!"
"'YOU'VE GOT MAIL!' MESSAGE RECEIVED, VINYL SCRATCH. DO YOU KNOW HOW THIS LOOKS? NOT ONLY FOR CANTERLOT, BUT ALSO FOR THE INNER CIRCLE!"
"HOW IN EQUESTRIA CAN WE EVEN FATHOM EXPOSING OUR TRUE NATURE WHEN WE HAVE HOTHEADS LIKE YOU PULLING THESE KINDS OF STUNTS?!"
I'd never seen Vinyl so meek.
"WOULD YOU CARE TO BLOW UP AN EMBASSY WHILE YOU'RE AT IT, VINYL SCRATCH? A SCHOOLHOUSE FULL OF FOALS? MAYBE THE LOCAL SUPERMARKET?" Luna pulled herself away from the wall, baring her fangs. "You are suspended of your duties as a cleaner until further notice."
Vinyl wilted. "Yes Princess."
It was hard to feel bad for Vinyl, seeing as Luna was right. This had turned into a grade-A disaster for public relations. But in the back of my head I was thinking of all the ways I could have prevented this. But in reality, what could I have done? Could I have really stopped her? Would it have made a difference if I had come or not? I had known Vinyl to be a bit impulsive, but this was taking the proverbial cake. Perhaps things would have been even worse if I hadn't been there to keep her in check.
Why was Vinyl acting like this? Why was she resorting to such drastic measures just to make a point? Vinyl was many things, but she wasn't dumb. She certainly knew how to act. Her attack on Equestria Daily was a calculated move of some sort.
It's no wonder we have enemies.
After being roughly escorted out of the castle, I wheeled on Vinyl.
"Why did you do it, Vinyl?" I whispered.
"It's them or us, Octavia!" Vinyl growled. "I've done dealing with these jerks. Maybe Princess Luna thinks we can work things out, but you know how things are."
"No, I don't," I snapped. "You've made things worse, not better! We were making breakthroughs! Princess Luna said..."
"You're not stupid. Don't start acting now. Don't tell me you would be so naive as to even think for one second that things would change."
"I would! This is Equestria!"
"Sunshine and rainbows, isn't it? Ponies have a hard time accepting change. We can barely kiss in public. I don't think we could even marry. Us! Two mares! You think that Equestria's just going to accept us just like that?"
"Yes! Princess Celestia, she can explain everything! She'll tell them we won't hurt a fly!"
She scowled. "Everypony may love Princess Celestia, but that doesn't mean they'll like it. And what then?"
That shut me up good. What then?
Vinyl was lying, straight through her fangs. She was emotionally invested in this. She had something against that Silver Streak mare, against the Silver Horsehoes. I just had to find out what.
Or maybe I should just cut things off completely.
Perhaps the most jarring thing was how Vinyl could change her attitude with a flip of a switch. One second she could be DJ-Pon3, partying and dancing and banging her head to the beat of the music. Then she could be a vampire, predatory and monstrous. At the drop of a coin she could then perhaps be something more terrifying. This was another side that knew no bounds, had no restraint, would risk whatever it took if it meant keeping our dirty little secrets by any means necessary. Ruthless and violent. Almost psychotic.
Which was why after another sleepless night, I was perturbed to find Vinyl up bright and early, sashaying around and singing as she...made me breakfast?
"Morning Octy!" She flipped off her headphones.
The way she said it was too cheerful. Too innocent. It made me shiver.
"G-Good morning, Vinyl."
It looked like the room had been torn apart.
"What are you doing?"
"Oh, just some...spring cleaning." She waved a hoof dismissively.
"It's November," I deadpanned.
"Well, better late than never! Princess Luna said no more explosives so I'm...cleaning them out."
I jumped. "You keep explosives in our kitchen pantry?!"
"Just a few. I have grenades stashed all over Canterlot, in case of grenade emergencies," Vinyl explained as-a-matter-of-factly.
"What is that?!" I shrieked, pointing at the object stashed inside our closet.
"That's not a party cannon, if that's what you're asking."
"I can literally see it."
"No you can't!" Vinyl jumped in my way, knocking over a few things on the shelf.
"Is that a stick of dynamite?"
"Did you hear the explosion last night?" Beauty Brass hollered. "It was so loud I could hear it across the city! Awesome!"
Harpo shook his head. "Brass, that's not funny. Somepony could have gotten hurt."
"Ahhh, forget you! No pony got hurt. Life needs a few explosions now and then to spice things up! KABOOM!"
"They say it was a gas leak," Harp added.
"In a newspaper agency? Not likely," Frederic scoffed. "And what about you, Octavia?"
I squeaked. "Uhm?"
"You were the closest. Did you see anything?"
"Well yes, it was...very loud," I stammered. "It woke me up. Quite terrifying."
It was a white lie. Harmless, completely insignificant in the scope of things.
Then again I suppose lies got me to where I am.
I hurled myself onto my bed with a sigh. Life was complicated. Life needed a pause button. That feeling of laziness overwhelmed me. It was getting late.
Sleep now. Think later.
My eyelids drooped.
My voice echoed endlessly in the pitch-black darkness. I could barely see my own hooves in front of my face. I stopped myself from panicking.
This is clearly a very vivid dream, Octavia. You're simply lucid.
I heard a growl.
And it seems that I'm not alone either! How wonderful.
Once I had established that fact I contented myself with screaming my head off for a bit. This felt real, too real. I was actually there, standing, able to move and feel the invisible ground beneath me in that void. I didn't like this dream. I much preferred the one where Vinyl was wearing socks and lavishing me with kisses.
The creature slunk closer and closer as I scrambled back, my heart racing, my stomach lurching as I realized the inevitable result of what was to come. It narrowed its yellow eyes, sniffing at me. I could feel its hot breath against my neck. I shut my eyes, shrinking myself down as much as I could.
The dark abyss illuminated itself with the flip of a switch. I now currently stood in some sort of white void, standing on an invisible plane, face to face with the wolf inside of me. I blinked. Hi? This was the menacing voice twisting my thoughts? I shook my head. My dreams were getting stranger and stranger. Probably a good thing I'd stopped drinking.
Good to know that my head is full of empty space.
The lycan Octavia wagged her tail, panting eagerly.
"Hi?" I said uneasily.
"My name is Octavia," she panted. "I have just met you and I love you."
I stared, hopelessly confused. Was I having a literal conversation with myself?
She spoke, this time in a much more refined manner. "I'm kidding." Her feral eyes were lit with amusement.
"Where am I? Who are you?"
"Well, in your head! And I'm you, of course!"
My throat went dry.
"Well, at least the more canine side of y—SQUIRREL!" Her head suddenly darted off into space.
"I'm kidding again!" she cackled. Her laugh was throaty. "Oh, that never gets old."
"Right," I said slowly, unsure of the lycan's intentions. "So, err, what brings you to my head?"
"I should be asking you that. Do you like what I've done with the place?" She twirled around on her clawed hooves, humming a familiar tune before falling down, splayed on her back.
She didn't seem very hostile. Nothing like that voice, constantly whispering of dominance and pack mentality. She was quirky, but friendly.
She laughed again. "You don't have to lie. You're me, remember?" She stood up, trotting over unsteadily, almost dancing as she poked me on the nose. "I know all your secrets."
Suddenly she didn't seem very friendly.
"I hear all of your thoughts." She clucked her tongue, her eyes flashing wickedly. "Oh yes. Those niggling doubts in the back of your head, your insecurities..." She grinned wolfishly, turning around, flicking her tail in my face.
Not friendly at all.
"I'm only you, but better."
I glanced up sharply, my eyes flashing.
"Aha, there it is." She pointed. "That look. I've been waiting to see that."
"What do you want?"
"You, of course! I get so bored in here. I only want to come out and play," she said sweetly, as if it was the most obvious thing. "You have no idea what it feels like, being trapped in a cage. Or maybe you do."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"All your miserable life, you've been caged in like a dog inside that mansion of yours. Quite the gilded cage."
I shook my head. "You have no idea what you're talking about."
"Don't I? I'm you, after all. I suspect," she grinned toothily, "that I know you better than anypony." She trotted around in a circle. "Your parents..."
I glared. "Don't you dare—"
The lycan turned to look me in the eye with a pathetic look, brushing a strand of her straggly mane. "They never loved you."
"And now you've moved to another cage. Only this time, your cage is a little more trashy and now you have a...roommate, don't you?" she snickered. "She's got you on a tight leash, doesn't she?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Stop playing dumb!" she roared. "You and I both know she has you wrapped around her hoof like some kind of pet."
"Maybe I should speak in musical terms so this gets through your hard head!" She raised her voice higher, circling me now. "You're always going to be bass. The accompaniment to the melody. Playing second fiddle. You're never going to be first chair cellist because you're weak. And only one of us can be alpha."
"You think I care about that nonsense?" I snapped.
"Maybe you don't. But I won't have some weakling blessed with this power sitting around with idle hooves."
"Look at you, sniveling. Compassion is the enemy," she barked. "Mercy defeats us!"
I clenched my jaw, tensing my body. I could feel the changes starting to happen. But this time, instead of unbridled rage, I felt something else. Tranquility. A calm fury. I could feel the claws starting to prick out of my hooves. My fangs filling my mouth, lining my jaw with razor sharp teeth. My senses grew sharper. Everything became clear, though there wasn't much to see, smell, or hear. The only thing I had to focus my anger on was the creature in front of me.
"I'm keeping my body."
"Oho. Going to hit me now?" The lycan leaned in, giving me a clear shot at her jaw. "Here, I'll give you an easy one."
In the blink of an eye I swung my hoof wildly, managing to connect with the underside of jaw with a sickening crack. The sucker punch threw her off her feet and onto her back.
"Not bad! It still doesn't change the fact that your mother doesn't love you!"
"Shut up!" Another punch, right to her muzzle. Blood streamed freely from her broken nose. If I hadn't wanted to throttle her so much I would have been disgusted with getting my coat stained.
"Did she ever hug you? Kiss you goodnight?" she taunted. "You were never good enough for her, Octy."
My anger flared even more at her usage of my beloved nickname. "Shut up!" I swiped at her, my claws raking at her coat.
"Always average, always making mistakes. You could never satisfy her. She always wanted a unicorn."
"SHUT UP!" I tackled her, screaming, frothing at the mouth.
"Not a friend in the world!"
"SHUT UP! SHUT UP!"
There was nothing left but the sound of me slowly crushing her throat with my hooves. She gasped with a wet gurgle and I tightened my grip, feeling her struggle for air.
"I'm glad we could work things out," she rasped. "Although technically, you're trying to strangle yourself right now."
I released the death grip I had around her neck, huffing and puffing. She rolled over onto her side, bruised and battered. "Wow, oh wow, you've got a mean right hook. Listen, what I said about Vinyl..."
I lunged forward to kick her right in the gut, hearing a rib break. She groaned.
"Ow! That hurts, you know!"
"Save it," I bristled.
"No, listen, listen! That's your problem, you never listen!" She sighed. "Why can't you be more assertive out there? What you have with Vinyl is wonderful."
"Really now? Then why am I here, with you?" I hissed bitterly, staring down at my claws. I dug them into the ground.
"Maybe because you love her."
I glanced up, frowning.
She shrugged. "I don't know, seeing as you don't even know."
"Yes, well, I'm starting to have second thoughts about her. She's nothing but trouble," I found myself saying. She nearly jumped when I felt her wrap her hooves around my neck from behind, giving me a tender hug.
"Maybe she is, maybe she isn't. But right now, she's not the enemy. The Silver Horseshoes, remember? Or did you already forget?"
Vinyl was the answer. I caught glimpses of her out of the corner of my eye, felt her presence everywhere I went. And like it or not, I needed her right now.
I murmured, "Squirrel."
"Octy! Octy! Wake up!"
I thrashed, trying to fight off my invisible attacker. I snapped my eyes open, gasping. "Vinyl!"
She held me down, trying to soothe me with her presence. "Sh, shh. I'm here. It's alright. Are you okay?" Vinyl hugged me tighter and tighter.
I saw a cut on her leg. "Vinyl! You're hurt!"
She pushed me away. "Stuff it. Had a bad dream?"
When you're waking up, the world is a blur. What was clear in a dream, suddenly makes no sense.
"You could say that."
These moments, blinding as snow, they change you. You die and live again, remade. Reborn anew, able to wield the darkness inside. Wielding the shadow. They say there are various stages of grief. I had still been grieving, not for the loss of a loved one, but for myself. I'd thought I'd lost myself that night. It seemed so far away. First came denial. I was trying to pretend that nothing changed. I'd tried to lie to myself, and hopefully trick my brain into thinking that I was still the same mare I'd always been. I refused to accept reality. Then came anger. And I was angry. But instead of expressing that anger in a constructive, wholesome manner I let it fester. I kept it bottled up inside as long as I could, until I'd been given a good shake, ready to explode.
I glanced down at my claws and then at her, smiling at my reflection. I gave Vinyl a sloppy lick on the cheek.
"Eugh, gross! H-Hey, get off!"
I lapped at her cut, giggling as she tried to push me off. It was almost morning. And things were all right. I'd reached the final stage:
Flurries of snow began to drift down from the heavens, the sky abysmally gray and gloomy. Yet the snow was white, pure and clean. A new leaf was turned over. And so began the transition of the seasons from fall to winter. A merry time approached, filled with tidings and joy. A Grand Galloping Gala and a Hearth's Warming Eve. Outside, the world was freezing, chilled to the bone.
On the inside, things were getting hot. Beads of sweat rolled down my furry body as I clenched the sheets, tearing into them with my claws. Vinyl was panting, working her magic.
"Nggh! Oh, Vinyl! Yes! Yes!" My cries grew louder and louder. Vinyl grunted, hard at work. "Right there! Don't you dare stop!"
I felt all my troubles melt away, my body falling limp.
"That was the best massage I've ever had," I breathed.
"I've got something for you."
"For me?" I gasped, rolling over. "It's not even my birthday."
She rolled her eyes, dashing off into another room and coming back with several items in her magical grip.
"I figured since winter's on its way..."
"Oh, Vinyl, you shouldn't have!" I squealed, touched, hugging her.
"Don't thank me yet."
I caught the first articles of clothing.
"A hoodie? How wonderful," I stated flatly.
"Put 'em on first."
I reluctantly poked my head through the black cloak, grumbling. Hoodies were so juvenile! Vinyl pulled the hood over my head unexpectedly.
"My mane!" I cried.
"I look like a hoodlum."
"No, you look like nopony. That's the point."
I pretended to understand.
"And with these..."
"Egad, not your shades!"
"I wear them for a reason, Octy."
They were a pair of aviator shades, large with reflective lenses and subdued frames. They were certainly stylish, if I were a Pegasus. With the entire ensemble complete, I looked like, well, Vinyl on most nights.
"Look inside the collar."
There was a small tab insert in the front of the jacket. I bit down, pulling it up.
"A mask? Because nothing says 'subtle' like a mask," I mumbled, my words muffled by the thing in my face.
"They're for emergencies, when you gotta bail out. This way, nopony can see your face!" Vinyl reasoned, pleased with herself. "Or you could wear something else, if you don't like it."
"I like it!" I blurted. "I like it a lot. It's very thoughtful of you. Celestia knows how many ponies are after you and I."
I trotted over to my closet, pulling out my favorite black woolen pea coat and purple scarf. I completed the look with her sunglasses, trotting around in a circle to show it off.
"How do I look?" I asked, tilting my shades down.
"Very inconspicuous." Vinyl clopped her hooves in approval. "If you're going to be disguising yourself, you gotta learn how to change accents."
"Accent? I have no accent."
"Yeah, you do."
"No, I do not."
"I can hear you right now, and you have one of the most heavy Canterlot accents I've ever heard. The second somepony hears you they'll know who you are."
"Well, you hardly sound like a Ponyville pony either! You sound more...Manehattanite," I huffed. "And whatever happened to that snooty Canterlot accent? I thought they were hereditary."
She giggled. "You do know that my folks fake their accents, right?"
I gasped. "No way."
"It'll be a scandal!"
"Shhh, heehee!" She cleared her throat. "Say it with me. Tomato."
"No, no, you're saying it all fancy. To-may-to!"
"Tomato!" I snapped.
"No, no, you keep doing that thing!"
Vinyl growled, "That thing where you, I dunno, make your voice all posh! You keep saying it like, 'to-mah-to'!" She grabbed my cheeks, forcing me to squish the words out of my mouth. "TOMATO!"
"Tomato!" I mumbled.
She slapped me.
"As I'm sure you're all aware, two nights ago there was an explosion on the top of floor of Equestria Daily," Luna declared, trotting around slowly, letting her words sink in for dramatic emphasis, "caused by a...gas leak."
Some members of the Inner Circle tittered, snickering and snorting.
"Sometimes that happens when I try to bake muffins!"
"Derpy, seriously, how the hay do you get in here?" Vinyl asked.
"Through the door, silly!" Derpy giggled.
Vinyl pointed for her to leave. She crashed through the door.
At least she used the door this time.
Luna sighed, "Of course, you and I know that this is not the case, of course."
"Jeez, I knew Vinyl Scratch had a short fuse..."
"At least the bomb was smaller!"
"Yeah, she didn't level the entire building this time."
"That's supposed to be an improvement?!"
"It coulda been worse!"
"How could it have been worse?"
"It could have been like last time!"
"Ooh, yeah. That was pretty bad."
Vinyl snapped her jaws, extending her fangs. They fell silent immediately, cowed by her show of dominance. It probably had something to do with hierarchy. Even the vampires had their own food chain. She tilted her purple shades down, winking at me.
"Indeed." Luna clucked her tongue. "Regardless, I am postponing any meetings until further notice." Before anypony could protest, she held her hoof up to silence them. "This is not because of Vinyl's recent actions, though they may have potentially compromised this group. While her actions may have been reckless, judging by the pony on the third floor to the window on the left with a pair of binoculars, I'm assuming that they are not bird watching."
Silence. I felt a chill run down my spine. Fleur squeezed Fancypants a little tighter.
When everypony slowly started to shift to see, she snapped. "Do not turn to look. We are being watched. I will conclude this meeting in ten seconds. You will all shuffle out of here and be on your way."
We all nodded sullenly.
"Lest you all forget, it seems that we are at war."
No pony wanted to stick around, for obvious reasons. The lycans darted off into the bushes, about as subtle as Vinyl Scratch. The vampires slunk off into the alleys and shadows. As for said mare, she was on her way to work. That left me, all by my lonesome to trot on home.
Even as I took my regular path back to our apartment, I felt uneasy. I was being watched. Turning around would reveal only an empty street. I could smell somepony. I could hear their hoofsteps. I just couldn't pinpoint where they were.
I dashed up the stairs as fast as I could. There was a note on our apartment door with a picture of Vinyl Scratch crossed out with red ink, presumably blood. There was a message scrawled at the bottom:
"Miss Silver Streak sends her regards."
At my hooves there was a copy of the latest edition of Canterlot Today, with a picture of Equestria Daily after it had been bombed.
"Oh buck me!"
It seemed that tonight, Vinyl Scratch was the star of the show. And she was in trouble.
In my head, my brain was already working out a plan. It was an improvement to having no plan at all. I'd sneak in quietly and warn Vinyl, and hopefully get as many ponies out as I could...
A Pegasus wing extended with lightning speed.
"Hey, back of the line!"
I swiped the offending appendage away from my face. "I'm a friend of the DJ."
"I don't see yer name on the VIP list," the bouncer drawled.
"I don't have time for this."
I ducked into the crowd, slinking through, trying to focus on the stage that seemed so far away with the pounding beats. There was no point in screaming Vinyl's name; I doubt she could hear me over the music and the crowd.
There were several deafening explosions, all in quick succession. Had they already begun setting off the bombs? Ponies around me screamed and panicked, scrambling towards the exit. I forced my way against them, pushing and shoving, trying to get closer to Vinyl.
I hit the ground, moving faster than I thought I could. Several objects whizzed overhead, slicing through the air and shattering against the opposite wall with terrifying accuracy and speed. Vinyl was hurtling her records with her magic! It seemed that the club had cleared out in less than minutes, leaving only me, Vinyl, and several other uninvited guests with silver coats.
At least nopony got hurt.
Good job, Octavia. Always on the bright side of things.
"Don't worry, they're Sapphire Shores!"
I was going to warn you about the armed cultists intent on murdering us all, but alrighty then!
I sprinted, ducking as I felt more objects slam into the dance floor beneath my hooves, rolling over the bar and taking cover. A few seconds later following some more loud pops, Vinyl slid into cover next to me.
"Just great," I muttered. "Vinyl, they've rigged the place to blow!"
I screamed as a volley of fire slammed into the wall opposite of us, leaving vicious holes. It probably wasn't a good idea being hit with those things.
"Agh, looks like they've got guns!" Vinyl hollered.
"They've got what?" I shouted.
"Gryphon arms," Vinyl said. "Flintlocks. The kind you gotta have claws to use. You point and shoot and they go bang."
"Tell me again how you know these things?" I shouted over the gunfire.
She ignored me. "Looks like they've got 'em loaded with silver bullets. Great, just great."
"We can run now. Hide in the streets. There has to be an exit!"
Vinyl's records had kept them at bay only for a second or two. And sure enough, just a few seconds into the next song, we had some partners on the dance floor. Now they were back, unicorns and Pegasi and Earth ponies, with their manes and coats dyed silver, armed to the teeth with weighted horseshoes and "guns".
"Ready to die, vampire?"
"The wolf's mine!"
"I'll cut off your bucking heads! All of you!" Vinyl screamed.
I gawked, absolutely mortified at the words coming out of her mouth. She rolled her eyes.
"I'm not really going to cut off their heads, Octavia. We just gotta make them think we will."
Somehow, it seemed counterproductive to act like monsters when the very thing we were trying to do was dispel that sort of image.
I sighed in relief.
"Relax, will you? Stay here. I'll go talk to them." She paused. "Actually, I'm going to go kill them. Excuse me."
"No, wait, don't hurt them!"
"Are you kidding me?"
And there she goes. From the safety of the bar, I watched her fight, moving faster than ever. She was using her gift of speed, along with strength to wreak havoc on the Silver Horsehoes' forces. And she was grinning. She loved this! The heat of the battle, the smell of blood. I watched with a mixture of morbid fascination and horror as Vinyl screamed at the top of her lungs of threats to desecrate their bodies and profane battle cries. As for me, well,
C'mon, go out there!
Are you insane?
Let me out! I wanna play!
I would have been incredibly disturbed by the whiny voice asking to essentially come out and cause physical harm if it weren't for the extenuating circumstances. I roared, unleashing my bestial form, lunging and tackling the first pony I saw to the ground. I felt stronger, faster, braver. A little stupider, if that was even a word.
"About time you cut loose!"
Even when fighting Vinyl had her own sense of style and flair. She was unpredictable, dancing and stumbling around, losing her balance frequently. She somersaulted through the air and pulled fancy kicks and flips. I, on the other hoof, decided against being flashy, resorting to basically ramming my hooves into their heads, smashing beer bottles into their heads, or slamming their head into the closest thing I could find i.e. a table, my face, the ground.
We were doing quite a number. They were already making their retreat, helping their comrades to their hooves and dragging them out for reinforcements to come.
"Time to go!" Vinyl called.
"I couldn't agree more!"
"Vinyl, what are you doing?!" I hollered.
"We gotta grab one of them! This'll all be for nothing if we don't get some answers!" Vinyl dragged along an unconscious cultist.
"Here, put him on my back!"
I shoved myself through the doors, trying to hobble as far away as I could.
"What are ya running for? That's not cool. You have to trot away from the explosion!"
"Club Canterlot is about to be blown to smithereens and you're concerned about how cool you look!?" I screeched, struggling to drag the unconscious stallion along with me, grabbing his mane in my teeth.
The explosion ripped through the night, magnificent and fiery. Vinyl trotted slowly, almost in a casual manner as debris rained down on us.
"Luna says we can use whatever methods to interrogate him."
"No. Actually, we're not supposed to lay a hoof on him," Vinyl pouted. "And she's having somepony come over to arrest him and process him later."
"But he doesn't know that," I stated. "Good cop bad cop?" I suggested.
"First off, that never works. It's gotta be bad cop, bad cop. Except instead of cops, we're emotionally unstable, psychopathic, lesbian supernatural demons with homicidal tendencies and a penchant for cold-blooded torture," Vinyl laughed evilly.
"Vinyl, that sounds absolutely horrendous."
"I know, it's going to be so awesome!"
"You scare me."
I had no idea how interrogations worked. I figured they were like job interviews, except instead of your manager, you had a pony with no sense of morals or ethics or a conscience, and instead of a nice, air-conditioned office, you were in some dank closet with a single lightbulb strapped to a cold chair. Do you have a job? Or do you still live in your mother's basement?
I had a feeling this pony did.
"What's your name?" I asked calmly.
"Okay, since you're not answering, I dub thee, 'Dirtbag'," Vinyl snapped.
"Vinyl, that's not very nice."
"I'm not nice. And you wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
"You wouldn't like her when she's angry," I added.
"So maybe you should tell me what you know about Silver Streak," Vinyl hissed, "and your little club."
"You should," I added again.
Vinyl rolled her eyes.
"You don't scare me," he spat.
"What will it take for you to tell us where Silver Streak is?"
"For you all to die!"
"Will you answer us if we make out?"
"Wait, what? Vinyl!"
"N-No!" the colt sputtered.
Vinyl turned to me. "Let's do it."
"Vinyl, what the hay are you doing?!"
"Just roll with it."
We kissed. And indeed, we both made it a very passionate, sloppy, messy affair, with plenty of tongue action and saliva. I pulled away feeling a little violated.
"Was that completely necessary?"
"Nah, I just wanted to do it."
Vinyl was getting fed up. She lunged, starting to choke him.
"You like air? I do too! And I'm wasting it trying to get answers out of you!" she shouted, shaking him around as he turned blue.
"Vinyl, no!" I shoved her off of him. "Out!"
"Excuse me good sir, will you please tell me where your base of operations is?" I asked in the sweetest voice.
"Pretty please with a cherry on top?"
"NO! I'll never tell!"
"What do you think the answer is?"
I slammed the door shut with a huff.
"How'd it go?"
"He didn't talk."
"What technique did you try?"
"You wanna stay a colt?"
"Vinyl, put those hedge trimmers away right now!"
"You said we can't kill him! I mean, her, once we're finished with him. Can we use the kitchen scissors?"
"What about the new bread knife we just got for our kitchen set? I hear serrated edges are really good for cutting," Vinyl said gleefully, putting as much emphasis as she could on the last word.
"Mmm, maybe the paring knife."
"That's too small. Ooh, what about a butter knife?"
"You can't cut with those."
"I think he passed out."
"Wake him up again."
I dunked a bucket of ice-cold water over his head.
"Hey, what's soaking wet and clueless?"
Vinyl snatched the bucket from me and slammed it over his head with a thunk. "Your face!"
"N-No, not really."
"Good, because I'm dying for a drink," Vinyl hissed. "And I see one right in front of me."
"She hasn't had a taste of blood in ages," I added. "She'd just love to sink her teeth into you."
"Then you and I could be vampires together," Vinyl grinned.
"Then again," I started, "I've been having cravings lately. I haven't eaten anything in a while and I've been dying to try pony."
"I'll drain him of blood first," Vinyl cackled, pausing. "Wait, if I bite him first and then turn him into a vampire, and then you bite him, what would he be?"
"He'd still be a vampire missing a chunk of his leg." I rolled my eyes.
"No, no, I think he'd be like a...hybrid!"
"Wait, whoa, seriously? That's so cool!" I gushed. "See, you should've turned me into a vampire."
"So you could be a vampire lycan!"
"I DON'T WANNA BE A FREAK!" he wailed.
"Oh Vinyl, dearie, could I see that knife?"
I tested the edge against my hoof, sighing. He was uncooperative, unwilling to make any bargains or compromises. This was going to hurt. I pressed the blade into my leg, feeling it cut into my flesh. I gasped in delight, as if I was enjoying it, feeling the blood start to run. I wanted to get him thinking,
"If she's going to do that to herself, what will she do to me?"
I dangled my hoof over his head, trying to look soulless as I dripped my blood onto his face. He squirmed, screaming. Vinyl's lips quivered at the sight.
"Mind if I have a drink?" she giggled hysterically. Vinyl leaned in, lapping away and sucking at the cut.
"You're freaks! All of you, freaks!" he screamed, thrashing in his chair.
"TELL US WHAT YOU KNOW!"
Vinyl began licking my blood off of his face, relishing each and every drop.
Ew, gross. That can't be sanitary.
He hyperventilated faster and faster as her fangs neared his throat, whimpering.
Vinyl opened wide with an, "Ahhhh."
"OKAY OKAY!" he squealed. "I'LL TELL YOU DON'T BITE ME PLEASE I DON'T WANT TO BE A LIFELESS HUSK HELP ME MOMMY—"
Vinyl shut the door behind us.
"I think he wet himself."
"I'll get the mop. Ugh, I need a Band-Aid," I murmured, sucking at my cut.
"You still taste delicious," Vinyl purred in my ear.
"That's it! I'm cutting it off!"
"OH GOD NO PLEASE I WANNA STAY A BOY—"
"Vinyl, I said put those hedge clippers away!"
Why do we even have those? We don't have a garden to trim!
"Damn straight, I'm using the safety scissors this time!" Vinyl hollered back, a pair of safety scissors in her deadly magical grip. "Whaddya mean you don't know where Silver Streak is?!"
"I can't tell you because I don't know!" the colt shouted back. "I don't think we even have a meeting place!"
"I'm gonna give you five seconds to spill before I spill your guts!" Vinyl bellowed, holding the scissors at his neck.
"Vinyl, not on the carpet!"
"Right, right, we'll move him to the kitchen. The blood'll be easier to clean!"
"We operate as cells!" he yelled. "Little groups, parts of the Silver Hooves, sprinkled all over Equestria in different cities, different districts!" When he saw that Vinyl wasn't going to eviscerate him, he spoke more calmly. "We get our orders through discreet methods; business cards, napkin letters, things like that!"
"If you're lying..."
"I'm not!" he sputtered. "I'm the courier of the cell who retrieves our orders! I swear!"
"Then tell us where your little friends are hiding," she hissed.
"I don't know that either! It's all secret! We don't even know each others' real names! We all go by codenames!"
"Gah! I-I'm Silver Stone! Okay?!"
"Vinyl," I sighed, pushing her off. "Go cool off."
Vinyl begrudgingly tore open our balcony window, slamming it shut. I sighed.
His ears perked.
"Why did you even join the Silver Horseshoes in the first place?"
Silver Stone slumped a little. "I-I have my reasons." He let out a heavy sigh. "I miss him so much."
"Oh boy, here it comes," Vinyl said, rolling her eyes. "What sob story do you got for us now? Bring on the waterworks!"
He sniffed some more.
"Vinyl, have a heart!" I scolded.
"Newsflash, I'm a vampire, remember? We don't have hearts. At least, according to these guys," she snapped, jerking a hoof at him.
"He's a...bunny," Silver Stone admitted.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.
"My pet bunny, Angel," Silver Stone began to sob. "My best friend!"
Angel? Where have I heard of that name before?
"Oh brother," Vinyl snorted.
"So what happened to...Angel?"
"A lycan ate him."
"Do you know this for a fact?" I said slowly.
"Absolutely. What else could have broken into my house and gobbled poor Angel up! There was even blood on the floor! And I know it wasn't ketchup!"
"That has got to be the stupidest story in the world, if it even is true," Vinyl said.
"Why are you so mean to me?" he sniffed again.
"Because you tried to kill us with a," Vinyl paused. "What is this?"
"Vinyl that's a—"
Vinyl continued to hold the blade in her sizzling hoof, despite the fact that she had a horn on her head. "A silver knife? Really? That's the best you could do?" Sniff sniff. "Does anypony smell something burni—OUCH, OW, HOT, HOT, HOT!" She waved her hoof around.
He blew a raspberry. "Serves you right."
"That's it! That's it! Where's my torture kit?!"
"You have a torture kit?" I watched her trot into her room. I turned back to the pale colt, reassuring him. "She doesn't have a torture kit, I promise."
He squealed, seeing the white mare levitating several objects in her magical glow. Our doorbell rang several times. I jumped up, snatching the devices from Vinyl. Opening the front door, I met with one of our neighbors. He looked particularly peeved, with bags under his eyes and in need of a shave.
"Can you keep it down in there? What in Equestria are you two doing?"
I glanced down at the whip and gag in my hoof. I was sweating and my face was flushed.
His eyes arched, glinting with a revelation. "Oh. Oh!" He grinned lewdly. "Can I watch?"
I slammed the door in his face.
"My nose!" he cried.
I huffed. "The nerve."
"You're so hot when you're assertive," Vinyl grinned, leaning in a little, throwing a hoof around my neck.
"Not now, Vinyl," I giggled as she pulled me closer.
She rolled on top of me, our chests pressed close...
Well, that kills the moment.
"Uh, erm! Keep going! Just pretend I'm not even here!" Silver Stone sputtered sheepishly. "You can go ahead and kiss...if you want."
Beep, beep, beep.
I slammed my hoof down upon the alarm clock, shattering it into pieces. I rubbed my temple with a sigh before becoming acutely aware of the pony next to me in my bed. I wasn't even going to bother asking why she was in my bed.
"Did we do anything last night?"
Vinyl smacked her lips. "Nope, not tasting a thing."
My head was throbbing. Mainly due to Vinyl's speakers, currently put at a reasonable volume, blasting out a song.
"Are you listening to Sapphire Shores?" I asked incredulously.
"Remixed, of course."
There were several muffled cries from the living room.
"He still there?"
"Uh-huh." Vinyl's head followed the beat of the song.
"I'm surprised nopony's come to get him."
"Luna's guards'll be here eventually." She clucked her tongue. "Eventually. What a waste of time."
"We learned something, didn't we?" I tried being optimistic.
"Nothing useful," Vinyl said bitterly.
"I know you're frustrated."
"I'm more than frustrated," Vinyl replied. "And if it weren't for my limited vocabulary, I'd be able to convey it to you in a much more refined manner."
I stared. "I've never heard so many words with that many syllables come out of your mouth." I shook my head. "Anyways, I'm sure everything will work out. We'll find Silver Streak and put her in jail."
"She won't be able to rot in jail."
"Why is that?"
"I'm going to kill her."
The eyes of a killer.
I glossed over Silver Streak's public records, flipping through the manilla folder. She was young, almost as young as us. Her coat and mane seemed to be natural, and not dyed like the rest of her organization. I felt a little uncomfortable staring at her mug shots. Her gaze was sharp and cold, devoid of any happiness of joy.
"I'm assuming that by her mug shots, she has a criminal record?"
"Not at all," Luna replied. "Everypony has their face and side profile on record."
"Right, right. Well, this is very short," I noted.
"Correct. Obviously because according to this, Silver Streak is an upstanding member of society. Not a single misdemeanor, not a single infraction. Not even a littering ticket."
"Perhaps we could look into other things," I suggested, tracing my hoof over the page. "It says here her family is deceased, both sides."
"So it seems. I am afraid there is no pony to look to if we want to learn more about Silver Streak."
Another dead end.
"I'm so sick of this bureaucracy," Vinyl snapped. "We've got all the evidence we need!" Vinyl spat. "The photograph, the note on our door! Why aren't we grabbing this hayseed?!"
"We cannot prove it was her on such flimsy evidence. At most, we could connect her name to the note, but then what? She'd look like a friendly neighbor dropping a newspaper off at your front door."
"There's gotta be eye witnesses. Octavia's one of them! She met her face to face!"
"In a nightclub, yes, in which an exchange of a compromising photo that we cannot even show to the public took place. Vinyl, I understand you want to end this nightmare, but you must be patient—"
"I'm done waiting around, Princess! All we're doing is sitting on our fat flanks waiting for something to happen!" she shouted.
Vinyl Scratch was the only pony I ever knew who had the gall to raise her voice at the princess. In a way, it spoke volumes about her.
"Just think, Vinyl Scratch. Just think for one second," Luna snapped, putting her hoof down. "We apprehend Silver Streak. Then what?"
Vinyl remained silent.
"We detain her for a few days, at most before her minions come to pay her bail."
"Talk, talk, talk," she muttered. "No action. Nothing's getting done." As she trotted away I could hear her mumble. "Want something done in this town you gotta do it yerself..."
"Vinyl, you are not to go after her yourself!" Luna bellowed, stamping a hoof, leaving a crack in the floor. "Do I make myself clear?!"
Vinyl waved a hoof behind her dismissively.
I sighed. "May I have a copy?" I asked Luna.
"And do you think you could get me a copy of her bank statements?"
Luna raised an eyebrow. "Yes, although I fail to see what they would reveal. I shall request the papers as soon as possible."
Our little impromptu meeting with the princess had made me late for rehearsal. I found that those hours spent with my group were a brief respite from all that nonsense about secret societies and whatnot. I was feeling better as of late, and it reflected in my music.
Late into the evening when the day was done, I'd expected to catch Vinyl on her way down the stairs going to her job. I usually did see her leaving.
I twisted the key in the lock, spitting the bitter copper taste out. The door creaked open slowly. The apartment lights were dimmed.
I dropped my bags, beginning to trot a little faster around the room. Something was missing. Not something, a lot of things. The entire apartment looked off.
Her room looked bare. Her bed was still there. Her records, her set. A quick glance at her room revealed some clothes missing. A few pairs of shades.
On a napkin on our kitchen table there was a message scrawled in sloppy printing with an ink pen:
There's just something about our brain that takes a few seconds to fully process things. By the time I'd read the note and fully understood its meaning I was already in a state of panic. I liked to think of it as our head giving us some time to sort things out before things really hit home. Vinyl was gone. I was alone.
"Wait a minute! I'm part wolf!" I cried triumphantly, dropping the note. "I can just sniff her out!" Bending down to pick up the note I realized there was a back side to it:
"P.S. Don't try to sniff me out 'cause I masked my scent with Victoria's Secret fragrance."
"What do you think, Princess?"
"If you will excuse me for a moment, Octavia," Luna said.
Thud, thud, thud.
Her head solidly connected to her bedroom wall.
She held up a hoof to silence me.
THUD, THUD, THUD.
It was actually starting to look like it hurt.
"I think I'm done," she said finally, rubbing her head. "Wait, no." She slammed her head a few more times before there was a visible bump on her head. "Vinyl Scratch, you imbecile..."
"What should we do?"
"What can we do?"
"What if she blows up the castle?"
"Then we shall increase security."
"Vinyl is out there, on the loose, intent on murder, Princess! And I still can't figure out what she even has against this Silver Streak mare."
"Perhaps you do not feel the same way as she does because you fail to see things from her perspective."
"How can I?! She hasn't said a word. She's an enigma, Princess. Even when we promised that there would be no more secrets..."
Vinyl may have been doing this to protect me, but I thought I'd made it clear that I didn't need protecting. This couldn't go on. This relationship we had felt fake. The attraction was there, but the communication was lacking.
"I am the wrong pony to speak to about this. Although what I can say is that what Silver Streak did to Vinyl Scratch is unforgivable."
That made no sense.
"Octavia, it is midnight and I am tired and so are you. Vinyl Scratch does what she usually does, and We still cannot figure how her brain functions, so in the meantime, perhaps we should both catch up on some sleep. "
"The files you requested are over there."
On my way through the street I caught a glimpse of Club Canterlot. It still was in one piece, somehow, and looked on its way to being back in tip-top shape to service a club lifestyle. I didn't go home. I took that bundle of papers and went to the nearest bar I could find. It was the only place I could think. Back at home, things felt empty. At least at night, the city could keep me company, with its bright lights.
I'd been at the bar until the crack of dawn, I suspect, drinking away my sorrows with some sparkling water. I was just on my way out the door, the folders hidden in my saddlebags before I passed a certain pony.
I wasn't even a menacing kind of introduction. That was the problem. All this time I'd imagined some kind of confrontation with Silver Streak to play out in some dramatic fashion with Latin chanting and opera music in the background with lots of slow motion. Instead, what I got was some mare that I just happened to bump into the street saying hello. Her velvet voice was enough to send a chill up my spine. Only this mare had all the evidence she needed to ruin my life. That made things personal. I'd already broken the cardinal rule of going after somepony with malevolent intentions. You never make things personal.
She sat down and ordered a drink, some cocktail some some sort. I didn't care.
"Hello," I said was icily as I could, slowly taking a seat as far away as possible yet still within earshot. The bar was empty, save for the bartender, who'd decided that it was a good time as any to take a smoke break out in the back.
And there she was, in all of her silver glory. I hated that dull color with a passion. But more than just her color, I hated her face. She smiled pleasantly. It wasn't even a remotely malevolent smile. It was a calm, amiable smile that still betrayed a superiority complex behind it. I wanted to wring her neck and smash a hoof into that smirk.
"Are you stalking me?"
Rip her throat out! Tear her to pieces!
I smiled back a little toothily, my eyes flashing. "You know, you should probably bomb the place before telling me about it."
"Oh, I think you'll understand if I hadn't intended to kill her." Silver Streak smirked. "Think of it as...sending a message."
So this was payback for what happened at Equestria Daily.
"Though I have a feeling Club Canterlot will be up and running before you know it," she said.
"Quite. It's amazing what taxpayer bits go to nowadays."
"They certainly didn't account for this, now did they?"
"A shame about Silver Stone," I said casually.
Fraternizing with the enemy. I'd stepped over the edge. More appropriately, I'd slipped. But that was alright. I'd probably jumped over the edge more times than Vinyl had crossed the line, which was saying something, seeing as Vinyl liked to cross the line twice and do a little tap dance on top of it just to make sure she'd done it with style.
"So why all this?"
"Why all the trouble? Why all the effort to spy on us, hunt us down and out us?"
She said nothing, taking a sip.
"You've clearly got some stock in the situation," I remarked wryly. "I can't imagine a mare who'd go through all this trouble of trying to ruin my life to have no reason for doing so."
"We all have our reasons," she said with a sniff.
"Could it be because of what happened to your parents?"
And just like that, her little facade of stoicism faltered, almost as if I had scratched that glass wall separating me and her. It was a long, jagged scratch, and with my words I suddenly made something that was "just business" into something personal.
You never make things personal.
She seemed to stumble even in a sitting position as she whipped her head toward me, her eyes ablaze with fury.
"I read your records. It certainly can't be a coincidence, can it? Your parents are murdered by what appears to be a wolf."
"You know nothing."
"I read the autopsy files. A timberwolf clearly attacked your parents. It was an unfortunate accident and now you blame us."
"Do not dare speak of my parents, you filthy mutt. You believe that lie? I didn't. I know who to blame."
"You surely can't blame all of us for what happened."
"Wouldn't you?" she spat.
"You've blaming an entire species for the act of one. Does that not sound illogical?"
"And that is exactly where you are wrong, Octavia. It is not simply the act of one. How many times has a foal come home to find their parents slaughtered?"
"I'm sure you can give me an estimate," I said callously.
"You are all monsters. Beasts. Look at you!" Silver Streak snapped, pointing an accusing hoof. "You, of all ponies, could barely contain herself from hunting down a poor little bunny. Imagine if that were some innocent pony."
My lip twitched. I didn't even want to consider the possibility that I could have injured another pony. What if and maybe? I don't think I could live with myself if I kept thinking like that. But she was right. The possibility was still there. And there was no doubt in my mind that ponies had gotten hurt along the way. As much as we all liked to pretend, Equestria wasn't La-La-Land. Even so, she was a hypocrite. Who was innocent and who was guilty? Could she distinguish which one of us had done wrong? According to her, all of us were evil. And we'd all be going down.
"You're dangerous. And I'm going to show the world."
"It must give you some sort of satisfaction, yes? Ruining another pony's life, that certainly embodies the Elements of Harmony."
"There is no other way to deal with your kind."
"So you must stoop to the level of an animal to deal with us. How appropriate."
"It is the only way."
"Right, of course," I said sarcastically. I was mocking her. "I'm sure you have Vinyl in your clutches..."
"Oho..." Her eyes lit with amusement and mockery. "It looks like Luna's right-hand mare has gone rogue. How interesting. Did she leave you as well?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." I turned away with a huff.
"You'll find out, sooner or later what kind of mare she is," Silver Streak said ruefully.
"Either she'll get to you first or I will." I shrugged.
It was mostly a bluff. A desperate grasp at anything to tip the odds back in my favor.
"Look who's talking," I shot back.
"You still think you've got the upper hoof," she snapped, a little annoyed.
"That's because I do," I said, tilting my glasses down. "That's because you've got nothing."
"I'm the one who decides whether or not you wake up in chains tomorrow and thrown into the Everfree Forest, dog."
"You still think I care about one candid picture? Even if you were to go to another newspaper agency Princess Luna would simply intercept it!"
"Face it, Silver Streak. You've lost your own bargaining chip."
"Buck me, yes. I'm irresistible. Look at these juicy flanks," I laughed, sashaying as I trotted away first. "Though I suspect you're not into mares..."
"We'll see who gets the last laugh!" she shouted after me.
"Ha!" I laughed.
Though I would have been the better mare, I would have been an utter imbecile to walk away. She was the entire mastermind behind all of this. Through my carelessness, I'd just given Silver Streak a crucial piece of information, no matter how inconsequential it was. We were short one Vinyl Scratch. What did that say about the Inner Circle as a whole? We were weak. Disjointed.
Across the street was a quaint diner, open 24/7. I wouldn't look too out of place, even though it was nearly empty, save for the two ponies working the register and cooking.
"Evening," she said cheerfully. "What can I do you for?"
"Plenty of coffee."
Now, all I had to do was wait.
Wait...for that demon to walk through the door.
Waiting...waiting...any day now...
At some point, I can't recall, I must have fallen asleep. Perhaps I had been staring so intensely across the street that I'd exhausted myself. Maybe coffee had the opposite effect on me. That brief jolt of energy from the drink made me lethargic.
When I lifted my head groggily a few hours later, it was day. One of the employees was poking me.
I'd watched that door!
I stormed over and shoved the doors open. The bartender jumped.
"Mare, silver coat, silver mane, silver eyes, silver cross Cutie Mark. When did she leave?" I demanded.
"Oh, you were that pony a few hours ago. She took the exit. Now listen, are you gonna buy something or not? Hey!"
The next few days were a blur in my mind. I was just shuffling along from place to place. My parents hadn't bothered to call or write in at least a week, not that it bothered me in the slightest.
As far as anypony was concerned, the culprits of the bombings at Equestria Daily and Club Canterlot were one and the same. There was a palpable tension in the air. Normally the weeks leading up to the two biggest events in Equestria, Hearth's Warming Eve and the Grand Galloping Gala, would be filled with anticipation and excitement. Now, everypony was on edge. The streets, covered in snow, usually packed with wealthy ponies strutting the latest winter fashion line and bratty foals throwing snowballs, were largely empty. Desolate. Sometimes I think I'd forgotten how to be a normal pony. I couldn't possibly begin to imagine what everypony else in Equestria was feeling. Our actions, whether we liked it or not, had an impact on society.
They had been spying on me for days, weeks, months even. My every action, observed, recorded, analyzed. I was becoming agitated, to say the least. Silver Streak had been able to find me whenever she wanted. I was being watched, and I couldn't do a thing about it. Paranoia was beginning to set in. I couldn't even take a simple stroll down the street anymore without looking over my shoulder. I kept seeing things and nearly bit Harpo's head off the other day when he gave me a pleasant, "Hello."
If my entourage noticed my behavior, they didn't say anything. For the most part, I'd been able to work with them through our rehearsals. You may ask yourselves why I find them incredibly dreary and boring, and I can only tell you to imagine a passion in your life. Something you genuinely enjoy doing, like painting or writing. Now imagine if somepony told you that you could keep doing what you loved, but you had to do it their way, paint or write what they wanted. We weren't making music. The music at the Grand Galloping Gala wasn't meant to be lively, or passionate. It was meant to be background noise. In a way, our music was almost as repetitive, if not more so, than Vinyl Scratch's electronic music.
My spare time was spent analyzing Silver Streak's bank statements, and for the most part, I didn't learn a single thing about her. Anything before the past six months were insignificant. She, like all ponies, had to eat, drink, and sleep. She was mortal, just like us, and she too purchased the same things as we did. But I managed to narrow down ten payments of a substantial sum, five hundred bits, made to a jewelry store on Main Street. Silver Streak didn't wear jewelry, as far as I could tell, nor did she seem like the vain type to do so.
Before I could even investigate, I received a call on Friday night from Princess Luna.
"I thought you'd appreciate me telling you that tomorrow night is a full moon."
I frowned. "Did you call me here just to tell me this?"
"No. But I have a present for you."
I flipped through the booklet. "A calendar? You shouldn't have," I said flatly.
"Oh, but the best part is is that it's personalized!"
Indeed, it was personalized, with pictures of the princess in sexy poses.
"And it even has a system to tell you when full moons are, see?" She pointed out a small picture of a grumpy wolf Octavia.
"Why is an entire week me being grumpy?"
"That would be 'Octavia on her period' week."
"Nonetheless, I believe we may have found something."
I cocked my head. "Princess, I do not doubt your abilities, but I don't think you have very much time to go running around Canterlot."
"May I remind you that you are not the only member of the Inner Circle, Octavia?"
Luna paced. "Though it doesn't seem like it Octavia, all the other members of the Inner Circle are doing their part to fix this mess," she said. "All over Equestria, though mostly in Canterlot, our members are currently scouting for any sightings of Silver Horseshoe members and where they are congregating." She gave me a small smile. "We all look out for each other. Do not think you are alone. Photo Finish and Hoity Toity are just as frantic about Vinyl's disappearance as you are."
"We haven't had a meeting. How did they find out?"
"The Silver Horseshoes may think of itself as secretive, but we can too," Luna smirked. "Have you subscribed to our newsletter?"
It was...reassuring, knowing that somepony had my back.
"So does this mean we have a lead?" I asked eagerly.
"Yes. a potential lead on Vinyl Scratch's whereabouts." My heart leapt. "One of our scouts has just noted an incident taking place two hours ago where three ponies were injured and the paramedics had to come."
"Well, that explains why you called me here on such short notice."
"Yes, well, what is more interesting is that these ponies all have silver manes and coats."
"Oh, there is no doubt in my mind they are. But what is more interesting is where they were: a local motel. They received multiple blunt trauma injuries and one of them reportedly has a bite mark on his upper leg."
"Sounds like a scuffle with a squirrel," I remarked dryly.
"Two of them will have to breathe through a tube for six months. One, a fractured horn, another several broken ribs, and the last has had their jaw dislocated."
"I thought you said multiple blunt trauma injuries."
"You didn't let me finish. Oh, and did I mention one has a hemorrhaged diaphragm?"
"Now it sounds like they've been mauled by a manticore."
"Worse, Vinyl Scratch." Luna set several photos of the victims on her table.
I paled, surprised at the severity of their wounds. "Is she always this brutal?" I shrieked.
"She is dangerous, and now she is off on some personal vendetta."
I didn't know what Vinyl wanted, if it was the same thing that I was after. I chased the lesser of mysteries. Other ponies' crimes.
"I think I know why now as well. After meeting Silver Streak, she said something that implied that...they may have been in a relationship together. Something about Vinyl leaving her."
"That is correct."
I raised my head.
"They were in a relationship together, two years back."
"Are you trying to tell me that Silver Streak has it out for us because Vinyl dumped her?"
"That is only half of the story," Luna explained. "Vinyl did cut off her relationship with Silver Streak only after she found out she was being used."
"As in she was using Vinyl to get her money?"
"No. She was using Vinyl to get to us." Luna let her words sink in. "And she was extremely close to causing irreversible damage on the Inner Circle. Only Vinyl found out and..."
"It didn't end well?"
"Surprisingly, it did. Vinyl managed not to kill her."
"I suppose that counts."
"Silver Streak fled for obvious reasons after Vinyl confronted her. Now that would have been the end of that for Vinyl," Luna sighed. "But she managed to get away with some information about some of our members." I remained silent. "Enough story time, I suppose, and onto business. Seeing as you're emotionally invested in her, I almost considered not sending you to investigate." When Luna saw the indignant look on my face she added testily, "Almost. But I have decided to let you go. You will go there and see what you can find. You will not confront nor pursue any Silver Horseshoe members and you will report to me your findings. Clear?"
"Crystal," I muttered.
The motel was a run down sort of place. Seeing as the struggle took place not two hours ago, there were still a few ponies clamoring on the opposite sidewalk. Rumors were already beginning to spread.
I ducked underneath the yellow tape. The Night Guards gave me a nod, permitting me to enter.
A struggle had definitely taken place here. The broken shards of a vase were littered across the floor. An electric cord had been ripped from the wall, and I suspect it was used to attempt to strangle somepony. There were several drops of blood on the dirty carpet, and pillow feathers were everywhere. Perhaps a pillow fight had taken place here, and it had gotten out of hoof.
Oh yes. Vinyl had definitely been here, the ponies in the hospital the sign of her passage. What did that tell me? Nothing. Could I track her down? Not around all these ponies. And I doubt that I'd be able to pick her scent out. I sniffed around. There were more than four scents here. Vinyl's was the strongest. The others were fairly new. Three in the hospital, no Vinyl to be found. That could only mean there had been other Silver Horseshoes. However, the strongest smell that overwhelmed my nostrils was vinegar. They'd used it to mask their scent. Following the trail of vinegar would take me to the dumpster outside.
I pulled open the nightstand drawer. Inside, a pair of headphones. Definitely hers. Amongst the broken shards of the vase I managed to pick out a lone purple one. No doubt it belonged to her glasses.
The trail had gone cold. But I still had one more lead.
"Hello! How can I help you today? Are you here to buy some jewelry?"
"I'm here on the authority of Princess Luna, and I demand to see your ledger."
The jeweler blanched. "O-Of course!" He thrust a clipboard at me.
I can't believe that actually worked.
I scanned my eyes down the pages, noting the signatures and purchases made within last month. I squinted, my hoof hovering over a box dated for last week.
Princess Luna? An alias.
"Do you check who writes their name down on these orders?" I narrowed my eyes.
"O-Of course I do!"
"It says here that Princess Luna ordered a pearl necklace for...five thousand bits?" I frowned. "Last time I checked, a pearl necklace doesn't cost nearly as much, not to mention that the address this was sent to isn't Canterlot Castle."
I lunged, catching the poor pony by his tie before he could run away. "Now you listen carefully. I am in no mood for games. I want to know who ordered what, when, and where it was sent to."
"I-I don't remember."
"Remember harder," I snapped, yanking on his tie.
"Uhm, uh, it was a silver pony! That's it! Came in asking about silver jewelry, nearly cleaned me out! I didn't ask questions because it was the best deal so I didn't ask why he needed so much. Told me to have it sent to the water treatment facility."
Water treatment facility? That must be where they are!
I let go of his tie, smoothing it out for him and giving him a condescending pat on the head. "Thank you. I will be sure to recommend you to my colleagues."
He laughed nervously.
As fast as I could I dialed (how are we supposed to even used these things?) Princess Luna. I didn't even have to wait for the phone to ring when she picked up.
"Princess? I know where they might be."
"What? How did you find out?"
"It doesn't matter how I found out. I need you to send everypony available to the Canterlot water treatment facility."
"Octavia, I order you, do not approach!"
"I can't wait, Princess. Vinyl might be there, and I think she's in trouble."
I ended the call.
Anypony could tell you what Canterlot looked like. A shining white castle on the edge of a mountain with a waterfall pouring out the bottom. See the waterfall? That was where the water treatment facility was. Or at least, the main part of it. To get there, you would need to travel to the industrial side of Canterlot, where there were no ivory towers to be found. Only old, run down buildings and such. The water treatment facility was a large warehouse building spanning at least an entire block. Even from here I could hear the waterfall.
Nopony around. No movement from the windows, though I doubt you could see in or out of them, considering how grimy they were.
The two double doors that served as the entrance were open when I tried to open them. They were most definitely meant to be locked. Inside was a maze of catwalks, ladders, platforms, all the same color, a dull, gunmetal gray. The sound of the rushing waters grew louder. One slip and I'd be taking a one way trip down the waterfall. The fall would surely kill me. It was poorly lit and a tad on the creepy side.
They knew I was here. I knew they were watching me. Why all the suspense? This was a trap. I knew that.
There was a plan somewhere in this. Decoy, yes. I would make a great decoy. They'd distract themselves with the poor, pathetic gray Earth pony. I'd find Vinyl. A rescue would be launched. Great plan, Octavia.
Luna would obviously send backup. Help was coming. The only reason help was coming was because I'd made things urgent. Because I didn't listen to her. Now, I was forcing her hoof to make a decision. If I was smart and actually listened to Luna, she'd spend at least another day before launching an attack. So why wait? Waiting could cost Vinyl her life. And I wasn't going to risk that, even at the risk of my own life.
The things I do for love.
Before I could give myself a pat on the back, something slammed into the back of my head, knocking me out cold.
Yes. A great plan. Genius Octavia activated.
They'd tortured her, the fiends. Vinyl sat before me, her body slumped over in the chair opposite of me, sitting in a pool of her own blood, dried and black. Dangling above us was a lone light bulb, flickering and eerie. Our location? Less than a few feet from where I'd been standing when one of them took a hoof to the back of my head, on the center platform highest above all the other catwalks, where all the various panels and switches and boards were located. How long I'd been out? Less than two minutes. Still, the blow was enough to daze me. We were both tied up, bound by silver chains that dug into our flesh.
I struggled. I was trying to transform. If I was in my lycan form, I could have broken out. But...
These chains! They're...preventing me!
I'd made the right choice. Nopony could tell me otherwise. Vinyl was walking that fine line between life and death, and I'd saved her. I'd saved her. That was a fact. Not a half-truth, not something to comfort me. At least now, I could turn their attentions towards me, and stall. A quick glance at Vinyl was all that was needed to send me in a fit of blind rage. I had no words for the silver mare in front of me. I howled at them like a monster.
But we both knew who was the real monster.
"You call that a punch?" His hoof connected with my cheek. "My mother punches harder than you." Silver Streak stood a ways away, watching us from the shadows. "Vinyl?" I shouted.
She didn't move.
"She can't hear you. She's unconscious."
At the very least, she was alive. Though, in her condition, not for long.
"You call us the monsters, yet you do this? Irony at its finest," I spat.
She emerged from the shadows, that confident smirk on her face again. "Monster? You can't even begin to grasp the concept of a monster. You are the monsters, and that is a fact."
"Is that so?"
"Silver Star, the handsome stallion you see before you, had his little brother taken from him by a vampire who succumbed to their lust for his blood. Do I need to go on?"
"My condolences," I said sweetly to Silver Star. I got a nice backhoof in the face for that. "That still doesn't justify this."
"The ends justify the means."
"That's just some trite expression used by those who delude themselves into believing it."
"While few would approve of my methods, you'd be surprised to find that many would agree," Silver Streak said, "that I'm making Equestria a better place, getting rid of your kind."
I suddenly burst into a fit of laughter. "This is all so interesting!"
She narrowed her eyes. "Do tell."
"I still don't know a thing about you. I don't know who you are, and to be frank, I don't care. But it's interesting, no?"
I swallowed, clearing my throat. "It's just funny is all. The two of us, out to ruin each other, intending to cause harm, and it's just odd. We barely know each other."
"Are you suggesting I should get to know a pony before I kill them?"
Throughout this entire exchange, her other silver-coated colleagues never said a word.
"Your parents were killed by a lycan. This is true?" I said. Perhaps we would never know the truth, but right now I wasn't so sure it was a good idea to make her even angrier. "You lived in Canterlot Orphanage until you were...?"
"Sixteen. What is your point?" she snapped impatiently.
"Nothing. I'm just trying to confirm the things I've learned about you is all."
In the grand scheme of it all, Silver Streak wasn't really some delusional mastermind. Scratch that, she was delusional. But she was just a pony, like me and Vinyl. The only difference was she had the power of other ponies beneath her, and money, and a cause.
"Nopony deserves to have their parents taken away like that," I said quietly. "Not even you. I can't even begin to imagine what it feels like." I looked into Silver Streak's cold eyes. "I'm sorry."
"You think that changes anything? You think it will bring them back?" She raised a hoof to strike me, but didn't. "Words are useless. They are so easy to throw out, even if the intentions behind them are not genuine." Silver Streak narrowed her eyes. "You do not know me. Do not act like you do."
This isn't good. She's trying to end this.
"But I know what you plan to do with the silver you bought!" I shouted. "Oh, yes, quite the ingenious plan. Poisoning the water supply with silver. A quick and painless way of doing it, I'd imagine. Next time you should spread your purchases out."
Silver Streak stopped, turning around. "You actually looked at my bank statements? I'm impressed."
"You'd be surprised what you can learn just from looking at the kind of things a pony buys," I shot back. "You can tell if they're callous and materialistic, or frugal and thrifty."
Why in Equestria was I still talking to her? Oh, right, I was stalling.
Keep her talking.
"That's smart. You're quite the clever one."
Silver Star ended my moment with another swing at my jaw. I took the punch, working my jaw, testing if I could still move it.
"This is what concerns me."
"What?" I asked, intrigued.
"You're too smart."
I laughed nervously. "Well, clearly not smart enough, seeing as I walked in here all by my lonesome."
From my vantage point, facing towards the entrance of the water treatment facility, I could see shadows shift behind the massive grime-streaked windows of the warehouse. A trick of the eye?
"No," she spat.
"No? Well, I am sitting here, aren't I?"
"You're too smart to walk in here. Vinyl, yes, she would do something like this," Silver Streak deduced. "But not you."
"Perhaps Vinyl has rubbed off on me."
"I think you'll find that I have a following. There is no way you can defeat all of us."
I'd never asked her how many ponies she had armed to the teeth. She was telling me this, why? She was nervous. She knew I had a plan, she just didn't know what.
"Time to move on," Silver Streak smirked. "Words may be useless, but...words also have power."
A table was brought over. On the table, a camcorder, the film in the reel spinning. They were filming this, or rather, filming Vinyl.
"Oh, Vinyl Scratch," Silver Streak sang. "Time to wake up."
When Vinyl didn't comply, she viciously struck her. It took all of my willpower not to froth at the mouth.To my elation, Vinyl moved. She jolted.
"Vinyl!" I cried.
My voice was sufficient enough to make her open her eyes. Instead of being filled with relief, her eyes were filled with fear.
"No," Vinyl uttered. "Oh no no no."
"Vinyl put up quite the fight when we found her," Silver Streak explained. "Took down three of my best fighters."
"What are you doing here?" Vinyl hissed at me.
"Now, Vinyl, show Equestria those pretty little fangs of yours. Tell Canterlot who was really behind those bombings." When Vinyl spat at her she lunged, grabbing her mane and pulling it tight. "Look at the camera and speak."
"Make me," Vinyl growled, looking directly at the projector. She received a blow to the side of the head.
"Why do you insist on making things difficult?" Silver Streak sighed. "You want to do this the hard way? We'll do this the hard way."
"We've tried everything, you see," Silver Streak explained to me. "We've beaten her, made her bleed." My blood was already boiling. "But Vinyl simply won't comply."
I remained silent.
"Oh, Vinyl, I promise I'll leave your friends alone."
Was the cavalry coming? I sneaked a glance at the windows. Nothing.
"You're an even worse liar than Applejack, Silver Streak," Vinyl said.
"You'll go after everyone," I added. "You're going to poison every supernatural in Equestria with all that silver." I swallowed. "Are you happy?"
The question seemed to make her stagger. "What?"
"You've won," I lied. "You've gotten your revenge on all of us. Probably the one that killed your parents. Are you happy?"
Stall. Keep stalling. They're coming.
"What a...preposterous question! Of course I'm happy. I'm ecstatic!" she shrieked.
"Then why do you continue to torment Vinyl?"
"Oh, would you prefer I torment you?" She sighed. "I need a confession. Ponies need proof of the monsters that inhabit Equestria."
"You just need somepony to pin all this on, don't you? For the bombings?"
"Once they find out who was behind it all, I imagine all of Equestria will be singing the same tune."
"So a confession. That's it?" I asked.
"You're wasting my time."
That was the point.
"Well, I'll say it."
"I want Vinyl to," she said childishly. "I want her to know what it feels like to suffer. You, I have no qualms with. You were just another pony I used to get to her." In her magical grip was a box cutter. "Vinyl won't talk, but I'm sure with some persuasion with our new bargaining chip..."
I found the blade pressed to my throat.
"NO!" Vinyl yelled. "Don't hurt her! I'll...I'll say it."
"No, you won't! You say it and she wins, Vinyl!" I jerked my head at Silver, as if to challenge her.
The box cutter trailed downwards from my neck. The tip of the blade pressed against my shoulder, drawing blood.
"Be quiet, Vinyl!" I screeched. "You say it and I'll never forgive you!"
The blade slashed downward. I howled.
"OCTAVIA, SHUT UP!"
"CUT ME AGAIN! DO IT!" I screamed. "COME ON!"
The tip dug into my chest and dragged down. I was starting to lose my vision, my sanity. And blood.
This is a billion times worse than a paper cut.
There were two long gashes in my chest, oozing more and more dark fluids. Silver Streak added another one.
I hate paper cuts.
I'd lost my mind. I was rambling in my head.
Paper cuts suck. But you know, tongue cuts suck more.
Vinyl was screaming something. I couldn't hear her.
Earth ponies have to taste all sorts of awful things. Like paper. And then we get tongue cuts.
I slumped over, not moving.
"Octy?" Vinyl's scared voice asked.
I didn't answer. Couldn't.
"Octy, p-please." A sob. "Move! Y-You're not...Stop playing around! Octavia!"
My vision blacked out. But my hearing remained, and I could hear Vinyl slowly regaining her breath as she let out an enraged howl. Another scream of anguish. Her voice was a savage growl, hoarse. With abandon she screamed again. She didn't scream words. There was only distress. Misery.
And pure hate.
"Now do you see what you've caused?" Silver Streak whispered.
Vinyl didn't reply. Instead, she said something else.
"When I found out you were using me, Streak, I was angry," Vinyl said quietly. Her voice was a calm croon.
I could scarcely breathe.
"I was furious. I was ready to do all sorts of things after you ratted out my friends. I wanted to drain every drop of blood out of your body."
My chest...hurt. It felt constricted. My lungs felt like they were being crushed. There was a rotten smell in the air, metallic and bitter. The water was poisoned with silver dust from the ground-up jewelry.
"But now you're hurting Octavia, and that..." Her eyes snapped open. "That's just unforgivable. And this time, there won't be anything left after I finish you."
A choking sob. "And now that she's...gone..."
I was on the verge of death, but not yet. But I couldn't say anything. I wanted to scream that I was still alive. My breathing had become so shallow I didn't even make a sound. I'd stopped moving.
"There's nothing stopping me."
Gunfire rattled from outside. The other Silver Horseshoes were discharging their flintlock pistols.
An explosion of magical energy surged through the warehouse. The glass windows exploded, sending glass shards everywhere. Silver Streak fled as fast as she could.
Fueled by her rage, Vinyl broke free from her chains. Silver Star turned to swing at her. She dodged it and tackled him to the ground, right where I could see the animosity in her eyes as she strangled him. Vinyl's eyes bored in Silver Star's. Even as her hooves wrapped around his neck, slowly crushing his throat tighter and tighter, her red eyes never stopped staring into his. That is, until her eyes met mine. And just when I thought I'd hear a sickening crunch from Silver Star's neck, she let go. She was crying, tearing open my chains.
I collapsed onto my side, breathing sharply. Vinyl was actually crying.
"Yes," I gasped. "Not for long."
Outside, more gunfire rattled, along with the primal roars of the lycans and vampires as they fought against the Silver Horseshoes.
It was a slow, painful process as Vinyl began dragging the both of us along, down a flight of metal stairs to the main catwalk, back towards the two double doors I'd gone through.
An explosion rocked outside, tearing the doors off their hinges. We both fell back painfully, the fireball singing our coat. I hissed in pain. Vinyl moaned, trying to pick the both of us up.
A creak. The pathway we were standing on was about to collapse.
Vinyl scrambled and threw me over to safety as it fell, grabbing onto the edge. I lunged, trying to pull her up.
"PULL ME UP PULL ME UP!" she screeched.
By some little burst of adrenaline (probably my body trying to save itself) I dragged her onto the platform. She rolled over onto her back, panting and laughing at the same time. I stood up slowly, crawling out into the street where the action was.
Everypony was there. Hoity Toity, Photo Finish. Even Fleur de Lis was kicking some flank. Princess Luna had also come with a squad of her own Night Guards, wearing a matching set of armor. Both lycans and vampires (and fairy) were working together.
The moment by body fell into the light of the full moon, I felt its effects begin to wash over me, tingling. I transformed, and right before my very eyes, the wounds on my chest were closing. Still, they would probably scar. It looked like somepony played Tic-Tac-Toe on my chest.
I watched, my eyes softening at the brief family reunion.
"Honey, you need to get to safety, right away," Photo Finish commanded.
"No! Silver Streak is getting away."
"Vinyl, sweetie, you need blood."
"Drink from me," I volunteered.
"Vinyl. Shut up." When she refused I pulled her into a hug, pushing her head down. "Bite me."
She sank her teeth into my neck. It was like a dull squeeze on my throat.
"Oh, honey, I have one of them in a headlock!" Hoity Toity called.
"Ach, yes! Comink, dahling!" Photo Finish let out a fearsome battle cry as she charged.
Vinyl grinned. I helped her limp along as we ran through the street, ducking as bullets whizzed over our head. Rounds sparked at our hooves as they struck the ground.
"Jeez, it's like a war zone!"
"HELLO, OCTAVIA! IS THIS NOT EXCITING? IT HAS BEEN SO LONG SINCE WE HAVE DONE BATTLE!"
"Princess," I panted. "The water, they've poisoned the water!"
She stomped a hoof. "The barbarians! Do not worry, we will take care of that. We must give chase to Silver Streak."
"We don't even know where she went!" Vinyl said.
"The only way out of here is through the entrance."
As if on cue, a carriage drawn by four of the burliest stallions I'd ever seen pulled up on the cobblestone road, with Fancypants at the reins like a knight in shining armor.
"Get on!" the gentlecolt cried valiantly.
I grinned toothily, taking shotgun. Vinyl hopped inside, her head poking out the window as Fancypants commanded his ponies to gallop.
Down the road we went, taking lefts and rights.
"There!" Vinyl pointed.
Silver Streak was taking the road from downtown Canterlot back into the main city. Fancypants egged his stallions on. We were gaining on them. My muscles tensed as we were neck and neck. Fancypants' stallions rammed Silver Streak's. They rammed us back. The carriage shook.
Time to even the odds.
"What are you doing? Octavia, are you crazy?!"
"Just a bit," I retorted.
My legs coiled and I sprung from my seat, grabbing onto Silver Streak's carriage. My weight was enough to throw it off balance as I grabbed onto the edge. It tipped over. The silver stallions pulling the carriage detached from the speeding vehicle, which crashed into a lamp post. Silver Streak and I were both sent flying. I landed painfully on my back. Silver Streak, like a cat, regained her balance on her hooves.
The stallions were having to deal with Vinyl. That just left me and Silver.
I snarled, bolting and tackling her. At least, I tried to tackle her. She nimbly rolled onto her back as I grabbed onto her, shaking me off. My claws scraped the ground as I scrambled to regain my balance. Silver Streak smirked, readying a pose to take me on.
My only advantage was my lycan form. All that it granted me was strength, speed, and reflexes. But none of that would be enough if I didn't know how to fight.
I knew I should have taken karate lessons.
Silver Streak was much more trained than her cronies. I charged at her wildly, swinging and swiping my claws at her each and every way. She ducked, dived, and dodged. Even with a direct attack she slid beneath my belly on her back, bucking her hooves upward and catching me in the belly.
Despite having been healed up, the gashes in my chest were still sore. That was enough to make me reel.
"Enough. Time to end this."
In her magical grip, I saw she had a different gun than all her other members. It was fashioned completely out of metal, and elegantly engraved. Instead of one shot, she had six in a cylinder. She cocked the hammer and fired at me.
The round went wide, making me scamper and duck. The streets of Canterlot were narrow, and lacking in any alleyways to duck into. No place to hide.
She cocked the hammer and fired again. The bullet smashed into a window. A third sent sparks flying at my feet. A fourth sank into the wall behind my head.
I charged, zigzagging and ducking low as I galloped, straight at her.
The fifth shot grazed my shoulder.
Still, even for a graze, it felt like I'd been shot. The feeling was akin to having somepony take a sledgehammer to my leg. Yes, really. Still, I stumbled forward like a drunk mare.
The cold barrel was pressed to my head. Silver Streak cocked the hammer. Last shot. I could see the silver bullet in the chamber. The trigger was pulled.
The world exploded.
Actually, I believe that was my right eardrum. Vinyl had tackled Silver Streak, disrupting her channel of magic. Still, the gun had gone off next to my right ear. There was a high-pitched whine. They were on top of each other, rolling and throwing punches. Vinyl got the upper hoof and was beating the living snot out of Silver Streak, grabbing her by her mane. Each punch forced her skull to connect with the concrete.
She snarled. "No, Octavia, just don't. You know what I hate? When you read about about somepony who goes on a quest for revenge, and they gotta murder everypony in their way," Vinyl ranted, still pinning Silver Streak down. "And then, at the end of the stupid book, they find who they were trying to kill, and then they pull this stupid I'm-better-than-this-so-I-won't-kill-you crap! What's with that?!"
Only Vinyl Scratch would find that moment a perfect time to start ranting about literature.
"Vinyl, you kill her now," I pointed, "And you validate everything that she's been working to prove."
"I don't care. She doesn't even have the film to prove anything. She's getting what she deserves."
"She wins if you kill her. This is what she wants!" I approached Vinyl, saying softly, "Let the princess take care of this. She'll get what she deserves in prison."
"She doesn't deserve prison." Vinyl planted a hoof on her neck, threatening to apply pressure. All it would take was a little weight to break her neck.
"You're not a murderer, Vinyl. You haven't killed anypony yet." Well, she certainly beat the tar out of plenty of ponies. "Don't start now." She looked at me, then back down at Silver Streak. "Look at her, Vinyl. Revenge is never the solution. It just leaves nothing behind."
Vinyl pulled away. "Damn it!"
Silver Streak was laughing raspily. Cackling like a madmare. "You know I'll walk. You better kill me now."
Vinyl growled, coming down upon Silver Streak with a hoof.
"NO!" I screamed.
There was a sickening snap of bone.
"You walk, you walk with a limp!"
Silver Streak screamed, clutching her broken leg. Vinyl approached me, pulling me along.
"You're bleeding," she stated flatly, pressing a hoof to my shoulder.
"Just a flesh wound."
"It passed through."
"You might die."
"We need to go to the hospital."
"Hey." I shoved her. "Shut up."
We both began limping away from the fiery wreckage, leaving the destruction and Silver Streak behind us. Fancypants could deal with her. Luna would have this mess cleaned up by tomorrow with a cover story. If she wanted, I bet she could have made this look like the work of a posse of clowns from a circus.
"C'mon Octy. Let's go home."
You'd think that Silver Streak would get charged with conspiracy, or attempted murder of the first degree of at least a hundred ponies. You know what she got charged with?
Possession of illegal firearms and explosives, and pollution of the water supply. The Equestrian justice system did not rule in her favor.
A bill was swiftly signed, banning all arms trade with the gryphon nations, and an address was sent out, denouncing their lack of authority on black market weapons. The Silver Horseshoes had purchased crates of flintlock pistols and silver bullets for her own use.
And so for an entire day, all the water in the the city of Canterlot had to be filtered and purified of the silver dust.It was hardly an issue, seeing as tea was the preferred drink of all the nobles and royals anyway. I soon discovered afterward that while we supernaturals would find the lethal amount of silver in the water to be 250% above the normal amount usually found in trace amounts in the water we drank, the silver in the water could prove potentially harmful to ponies if they consumed it. Not to mention the irreversible damage on the environment!
Vinyl had suggested execution to Princess Luna, but she clearly didn't agree, seeing as it had been outlawed for at least three centuries. Ultimately, Luna kept the details of Silver Streak's ruling from us, preferring not to satiate our curiosity. Our only guarantee was that Silver Streak was going to be locked up, serving her sentence for a very, very long time. As for the rest of the Silver Horseshoes, they were charged as accomplices. I didn't particularly care what happened to them.
Princess Luna was able to play up the Silver Horseshoes as an ecoterrorist group, out to force change by harming the environment (believe me, I was impressed how she managed to spin that one). Luna and her Night Guards swooped in to save the day, with no credit to the Inner Circle.
It was jarring to return to some semblance of normalcy in my life. I stress, a semblance. While I no longer had to worry about genocidal ponies after my blood, the wolf inside of me did not seem as content. The desire to let loose and give into the beast was tempting at times. I found that if I kept it caged inside my soul, it would yearn to escape. It seemed that I hadn't made peace with it at all. That time spent inside my subconscious, speaking to the physical manifestation of my inner canine, was only to beat it into submission to give me some peace for the time being as I worked to fix the other problems in my life. The wolf in me was back and there to stay, always wanting to be let out to "play". Someday, I'd come to terms with it. But for then and now, it seemed that an agreement had been reached. My aggression had been toned down slightly, though I could say that I was much more assertive and a little brash and daring.
I learned quickly that there were even more downsides to being a lycan.
Oh, sweet Celestia, fleas, and cats, and the tempting scent of prey.
We'd earned our happy ending. I still don't know what that is, but...
Anyways. There were no words said, no teary goodbyes or any melodramatic things like that. Vinyl simply said one day in the first week of December,
"I'm gonna go for a while. Alright?"
Go away, as in leave, and not come back for an extended period of time. How long was not specified. In truth, it was exactly what I wanted. Did I blame her for everything? Yes, and no. The blame could not be placed solely on her shoulders. I, too, had brought this upon myself, not keeping my nose out of things. I wouldn't pester Vinyl anymore about "secrets" and whatnot. I knew everything I needed to know.
They say distance makes the heart grow fonder.
Week two of December, Wednesday night.
The Grand Galloping Gala.
I stood in front of my fixed vanity mirror, fitted in an impeccable tuxedo with coattails. It was masculine, and I daresay I looked very charming.
No Vinyl there to comment on it though.
I stood up tall, balanced on my hind legs. Things were looking up.
Frederic, Harpo, Brass Beauty, and I stood in the same exact places we stood last year, with the same exact haughty expressions on our faces. Once again, nobles and the upper class of Canterlot chattered the night away. Once again, the decorations were beautiful and the hors d'oeuvres were tiny. There were the Wonderbolts, there was Fancypants and Fleur de Lis and Hoity Toity and Photo Finish and Caesar and the Elements of Harmony.
With practiced hooves, we performed our piece again and again. On loop.
And of course, being who I was, I got the hardest part of the piece.
Oh, I prayed that that Pinkamena would not show up again. If this year's gala was meant to be a repeat...
This year, instead of the bright aesthetic design of last year's Gala, this year had a much darker, more subdued theme, reminiscent of Princess Luna's coat colors.
If only Vinyl was here.
I stumbled, my bow faltering. I quickly picked up my pace again, making sure not to waver and get distracted. I was working. No time to think about her.
On the outside, my expression did not change. I continued playing and kept an irritated, standoffish expression. On the inside, I was squealing like a foal. She was here, she was here!
"Care to dance?"
With a slight tilt of my head, I looked sideways to see Vinyl standing there in a dress from Rarity's Carousel Boutique.
Oh, she even has earrings on!
"Hello, Vinyl," I said stiffly, going through the motions of playing. "Where have you been?"
"Taking a break. Got a dress."
"I can see that."
"So? Wanna dance?"
"In the middle of something."
"Oh, don't worry. I got a DJ."
"Hay, no. I'd bring the entire castle down with my bass!"
"C'mon, everypony! You wanted a par-tay?! So let's paaaaar-tay!" a familiar voice chimed in.
OH SWEET BABY LUNA SHE'S HERE SHE'S HERE SHE'S HERE.
My eyes bulged. In the blink of an eye, a DJ set had been set up on our little stage, with that pink monstrosity at the reins.
Vinyl extended a hoof towards me.
"May I have this dance?"
I looked back at my group. Harpo and Brass Beauty nodded eagerly, the widest grins on their faces. Frederic rolled his eyes and smirked. I set my cello down right there on the floor and jumped off, fixing the lapels of my suit.
I grabbed her hoof. "You may."
"Hey there, everypony! Time to rock this gala, Pinkie Pie style, starting off with a nice classy piece for all you rich ponies," Pinkie Pie hollered into the microphone, "Fly Me to the Moon."
Vinyl and I took the center of the dance hall, holding each other up, standing upright, looking into each others' eyes as we swayed back and forth. Already we'd begun to garner a crowd. Ponies murmured around us. But we didn't care. As far as we were concerned, we were the only ones there.
"No, I lead," I shot back. "I'm wearing the suit."
We giggled softly, our faces close.
"You love this, don't you?"
"What can I say? I love the attention," Vinyl mumbled.
"Fillyfoolers! At the gala!"
"Frankly, I am disgusted!"
We ignored them all.
"This is great, isn't it?" Vinyl asked with a big smile.
I smiled back. There was nothing to say. Suddenly Vinyl stopped swaying so quickly. We simply held each other, slightly moving.
"Octy," Vinyl hesitated. "I'm sorry."
I twirled her around. "For what?"
"For...everything," she choked.
I suddenly leaned forward, pushing her back and holding her in a pose. "Vinyl, you twit, I already know you're sorry. You were sorry a long, long time ago. Now you're bringing this up again?"
"I know. But I never said it."
"The best apologies are the ones you never have to say." I paused, twirling her around again. "But..."
"Do you think this will work? Us, I mean."
"No," I said humorlessly. "I can't live your life, Vinyl. The excitement, the danger...I can't do that anymore. Maybe once. Not again."
She said nothing.
"Will you be done with your work as a cleaner?"
"Luna says I'm still suspended for my little stunt..."
"Are you done?"
She was silent for a while. We'd stopped dancing. "Yes."
"Do you mean it?
"I mean it."
"And will you clean out the pantry already? I accidentally bit a grenade the other day when I tried to eat an apple."
We turned our heads to see Lyra and Bon Bon and Derpy and Carrot Top, dancing beside us.
"Mind if we join in?" Lyra winked.
Vinyl and I grinned.
"I was offended before it was mainstream!"
"Octavia! I demand you get away from that mare this instant!'
My blood ran cold at the sound of her voice. My mother and father were here.
I did the unimaginable.
I kissed Vinyl, right there in front of everypony. It was like a big, "Buck you", to all of them.
There was a loud, unanimous gasp from all the bystanders. The kiss sealed the deal. I was an independent mare. I had a feeling they'd try to distance themselves from me. My parents no longer had a say. I watched my mother storm off angrily, my father trailing behind.
No regrets. No doubt after this little stunt I'd be hearing my name a lot more in the news.
Derpy Hooves applauded. "Yay, fillies!" She grabbed Carrot Top and gave her a smooch.
Said orange mare blushed redder than an apple, stammering. "Derpy! I told you, I like boys!"
"What is going on?"
An even louder gasp from everypony as we all knelt down at the sound of her voice. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna had finished greeting everypony. The two strode up with regal authority.
"Is she your date, Octavia?" Luna asked with a twinkle in her eye.
Damn her, she knew very well Vinyl was my lover. Now she was putting me on the spot.
"Err, yes," I admitted. "Vinyl is."
"Best of luck, you two," Celestia said with a wink.
We accepted her blessing. At that moment, the music suddenly kicked up a notch.
A gasp. "WE LOVE THIS SONG. EVERYDAY WE ARE SHUFFLING!" Luna bellowed.
There was no denying Princess Luna. To everypony's surprise, Princess Celestia joined her. I thought some of the older gala attendees were going to have a heart attack! Reluctantly, everypony began to dance.
"Now this is a gala!" Vinyl cheered.
It was a night to remember.
We lay in bed back at our apartment, still wearing our suit and dress.
"What ever happened to our little project anyways?"
"Our little music project," I said.
"Oh, our classical/electro mashup?
"Yes. We were going to fuse music genres!"
"Ahh, I don't know. We just never got around to it."
"You still wanna do it?"
"Make music," I said in the most suggestive, sultry fashion.
It went right over her head. "Hay yeah! Heck, let's start! Where's our blank sheet music?"
I rolled my eyes, slowly beginning to slide beneath the covers.
"Octy? Where are you going?" Vinyl asked. "I thought you said you wanted to make musi—OH. Oh. Oh wow."
And then we made music. And it was very, very sexy.
Vinyl Scratch counted the bits she had saved up. According to her calculations, she had just enough to get what she wanted. For the past few months, the little filly did as many chores as she could around the house while juggling her schoolwork. Vinyl had even taken up odd jobs here and there from her neighbors without her parents knowing. She did everything and anything. Nothing was too much for her to handle.
And nothing would stop her from getting what she wanted.
The next day, instead of going home after school, she went to the optometry. It was fancy inside, and pretty empty. Eyeglasses of all shapes and sizes were on display in glass cases. A grumpy unicorn with a pair of eyeglasses for a cutie mark, sat up front, his hooves up on the table as he read through a tabloid. After several minutes with struggling with the door, Vinyl finally mustered enough strength with her weak unicorn magic and her hooves to push open the door, ringing the shop doorbell.
“Welcome to–aw no, not you again!”
“Huh?” Vinyl cocked her head. She had been making weekly visits to the shop, checking out different styles of glasses and frames before finally settling on the one she wanted.
“Are you finally gonna buy something, kiddo? I might hafta start charging you just for looking,” chuckled the optician.
Vinyl Scratch gave her trademark grin and nodded happily. “I’ve got enough this time!” She held up her wallet and shook it for him to see.
“You know which pair you want?”
“Definitely!” She pointed her hoof at her prize on the top shelf where the designer sunglasses were. “The pretty one, with purple lenses!”
“Of course.” The unicorn chuckled and levitated the special pair out, floating it down to the expectant filly.
These sunglasses were a special kind of glasses that lacked any stems. They basically clipped onto a pony’s nose bridge.
“You want anything else?”
“Can I get it with custom lenses?”
“Do you have an old pair?”
“Yeah,” she replied, handing him her old pair of glasses.
Everyone at school teased her about her black round glasses with their ugly thick frames. But as much as she hated her glasses, the thing she hated the most were the color of her eyes. Grownups were too nice to say anything, but they probably thought there was something wrong with her. Foals, on the other hand, didn’t have any problem with telling her that her eyes bothered them.
“That’ll be a hundred bits.”
“WHAT?! You said they were seventy bits!” she shouted, enraged. She jumped up onto the counter and towered over the unicorn. “Are you trying to rip me off?”
“Custom lenses, kiddo!” the optician said. “They don’t come cheap, you know.”
Vinyl sighed and jumped back down, slumped over, her ears drooping low. She didn’t have enough to spare. She shut her eyes and bit her lip, her eyes stinging as tears sprung to her eyes. All that hard work and she still didn’t have enough.
“I’ll come back next month,” she said glumly.
The old unicorn sighed. He was too old for this. “Wait!”
She turned around.
“Your old frames are still in good condition,” the unicorn fumbled with his words, “so I guess I can give you a little discount if you ‘sell’ them back to me.”
“Really?!” Vinyl gasped.
“Sure.” He smiled. “I’ll even tint these lenses for you for free.”
“Wow! Thanks, mister!”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t mention it.”
She started to count out the bits she would need before the shopkeeper swiped the exact amount needed, scraping it into a cash register and locking it.
“That’ll still be eighty-five bits, though.”
“Cheapskate.” She stuck out her tongue.
“You betcha. Come back later and I’ll have them done by then.”
Vinyl left the shop, walking out into Ponyville, losing herself in the crowd of much taller, meaner looking grownup ponies. She suddenly stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to examine her reflection. She needed a haircut, badly. Her mane was an absolutely impossible sticky mess of white clumps that made her head look like a cotton ball. Once, she recalled, she tried to run a comb through disaster of a mane and lost it. Normally she would go to someplace cheap, like Pegasus Cuts, but even she couldn’t pay them enough to even try working with her mane. She finally stopped in front of the salon and peered through the window. It was dimly lit and had weird velvet furniture. She could hear some music that was in desperate need of some more drum and bass. A pretty earth pony with the craziest hairdo she had ever seen was sitting at the desk, looking bored out of her mind. She spotted Vinyl Scratch and waved her in. Vinyl took a few tentative steps into the salon before she was suddenly whisked off her hooves into a chair. She got a much better look of the interior of the place. Scented candles were everywhere. She managed to come to a conclusion:
This place was weird.
“I assume you are here to be styled?” she asked Vinyl.
Vinyl nodded stiffly, nervous.
“You’re very lucky, you know,” the pony told her as she began setting up the hairdresser’s station, “All her appointments just canceled.”
“Look who I’ve got for you today!” she called to the back room.
A voice squealed hungrily. “Let me get my hooves on this one!”
Vinyl was sure she was going to die.
The desk pony spun Vinyl in her seat.
“Egad!” The prettiest unicorn Vinyl had ever seen (too much makeup though) shrieked in horror and collapsed dramatically. “The horror! The horror!”
“Is she gonna be alright?” Vinyl asked, raising an eyebrow.
“She does this from time to time. But I have to agree. Your mane is a disaster, honey.”
“Thanks,” Vinyl replied lamely.
“We shall operate immediately!”
Vinyl gulped. “I’ve changed my mind, I’m leaving!”
A cape was wrapped around Vinyl’s neck, nearly strangling her.
“Dahling, we simply must fix your mane.”
The way the hairdresser drew out the word “darling” reminded Vinyl of her rich aunts from Canterlot.
“It’s no good for getting a coltfriend.”
Vinyl blushed. “I don’t want a coltfriend...”
She gave a haughty laugh and began to work. “Any preference? Any particular style?”
“I dunno. Cool, I guess.”
“’Cool’. Hmph. Not very specific. Vinyl Scratch, why don’t you take a look in this book and tell me which one you like while I go get some drinks?”
None of these styles suited her. They were too old or too much or too normal. She needed something that stood out! She turned the page and saw it.
“I like that one!”
“Hm?” she trotted over. “Oh my. I’ve never been asked to do this one before.”
Was it a bad choice?
“I love it!” she shrieked, turning to the desk pony. “She really does have style and flair!”
Vinyl flushed again and suddenly asked, “Uh, miss? What about color?”
“Color? White is a very nice color, dahling. Very rare, I must admit, for someone so young.”
You’re telling me.
“I want it blue.”
“Electric blue with streaks!”
“How unique!” she gushed. She clapped her hooves together, the lights dimming and the music growing louder. “Let’s do this!”
“Are we done yet?”
“Vinyl Scratch, dahling, you cannot rush perfection.”
Vinyl was getting bored. The last time she had her mane done, she got out in less than fifteen minutes, though that may have been due to the fact that she had been threatening the barber with his pair of scissors. The unicorn had spent the last few hours putting these weird conditioners and shampoo and washing her hair over and over and styling it and putting foil in Vinyl’s mane and tail. She had no idea what it looked like. This was taking forever! And forever was like, a really long time! Maybe if she could reach a hoof out and change the music. She was in some serious need of electronic music.
“It is DONE!”
Vinyl jumped and spun in her seat, facing the mirror. Her jaw dropped.
She stared at her reflection. Vinyl Scratch could hardly recognize herself.
“So? What do you think?” she asked.
She broke out into a huge grin. “It’s PERFECT!”
Her mane was now much, much shorter. It flowed like silk and bobbed with her head. Now she could headbang in style! It was spiky and cool and swooped exactly where she wanted it and a little short in the back. The colors were striking and bold, with a darker blue as the base of her hair and electric streaks running through.
The desk pony cheered. “Isn’t it amazing what foals are doing nowadays?”
Vinyl got up to pay.
The desk pony told her, “Fifty bits!”
Vinyl’s jaw dropped. She only had fifteen bits left. She meant to pay only seventy for the glasses and maybe thirty for a nice styling. Now she owed,
“FIFTY BITS?” Vinyl’s heart raced. She began to sweat.
“Is there something wrong?”
Was she shrinking? Thoughts raced through her head. Was she going to jail? Or worse? To the dungeon? Princess Celestia would probably banish her, and then lock her in a dungeon! What if they made her parents pay?
In that case, she would rather take banishment and the dungeon.
“Vinyl Scratch, dahling. It’s quite expensive here, isn’t it?”
She nodded numbly.
“How about I take those bits off your hoof,” she said gently, “and you can pay off the rest.”
“Okay,” Vinyl stammered. “Thanks a bunch, miss.”
What time was it?
Oh, shoot, she had to get home! Her parents were going to kill her!
…Well, they were going to kill her anyway...
“Don’t call me miss, dahling! It makes me sound old!”
Vinyl trotted as fast as she could back to the optometry. This time, she practically kicked open the door.
“Hey kiddo, your glasses are done–WHOA HEY!”
The filly jumped up and grabbed the glasses with her mouth and quickly ran off. “’ANK ‘OU!”
Don’t break them, don’t break them...
Vinyl stopped outside her house and panted, taking slow, cautious steps to the front door. Maybe her parents weren’t home yet. She turned her glasses in her hooves, examining the quality of the tinted purple shades. The lenses were shaped in a way that made her look like an alien. She placed her new sunglasses on her head, letting it hang on her stubby horn.
It was still dark inside when she walked in.
The lights suddenly turned on, revealing that both of her parents had, in fact, come home from work, and were lounging in the living room.
“Are you going to tell us why were you were out so late?” Hoity Toity asked. When he saw her mane and tail, he uttered, “Oh.”
Her mother gasped. “Vinyl Scratch! What did you do to your mane?!”
“You look like a delinquent!” her mother admonished as she began to attempt to wash the dye out from Vinyl’s hair to no avail.
“I do not! I look cool!” Vinyl protested before having her newly styled mane scrubbed furiously. “Ow! Mom!”
“Blue hair! No daughter of mine is going to have blue hair!”
“It’s not the worst thing that she’s ever done, honey,” soothed Hoity Toity.
“What will ponies think?” Photo Finish wailed.
“They will think I look cool!”
“Is this permanent?!” her mother screeched.
“Nah. I’m gonna get it retouched in a couple months...”
Once upon a time there was this Earth pony who played a cello, which is totally lame in every aspect, not to mention that Earth ponies pretty much suck. Anyways, this Earth pony was named Octavia, who was seen like, for maybe five seconds on screen for her cameo and then people got the idea that, "Hey, wait a minute. She's a musician, that wicked cool DJ-Pon3 is a musician, therefore, they should both be lesbians!"
So one day Octavia was like, "My life sucks and my parents don't love me so I'm just going to move in with this DJ because I'm poor and my special talent sucks."
AND SO IT WAS that she moved in with this DJ because she was poor and nopony liked her and she sucked. But then all of a sudden out of nowhere somewhere in between the lines at the bottom of the page in the fine print written in invisible ink Octavia started liking Vinyl Scratch because Vinyl Scratch was cool and wore awesome purple glasses and had a sexy mane that was spiky and blue. But since there would be no plot if Octavia suddenly just, I don't know, confessed her love to the mare because obviously Vinyl Scratch is about a subtle as a goddamn hippo painted in neon colors with Princess Celestia riding on its back wielding a sword when it came to Octavia because Vinyl Scratch also loved Octavia!
But then there was more problems because if there weren't there'd be no story so buck you Vinyl Scratch is now a vampire because logic dictates that vampires make everything cool and it attracts a good audience of Twilight fans and prepubescent girls. Octavia suspects something because she has no life and starts thinking, "Maybe Vinyl Scratch is a vampire!"
DUN DUN DUN.
So then after a whole bunch of plot Octavia comes to the conclusion that Vinyl Scratch is a vampire because if the author tried to stretch it out any longer it would become boring because we all know everyone is there to read the good stuff:
VAMPIRE PONY SEX.
So then Vinyl Scratch bit Octavia on accident and she was very very sorry.
"Oh Octavia I am sorry I just bit you."
Octavia was still bleeding but that was okay because she was losing lots of blood and it was getting all over the bed and she said, "It is okay Vinyl I still love you."
"I love you too."
"Okay let's be lesbians."
But then there was another problem because parents. And parents don't like Octavia being gay because lesbians. And because parents Vinyl now has excuse to punch the living shit out of Octavia's mom because she is badass.
In any case the story should have ended by now because all problems are solved and we all know that Vinyl Scratch is a vampire except the author wanted BAYSPLOSIONS AND ACTION AND HOOF FIGHTS SO HE MADE OCTAVIA A WEREWOLF SHIT NOT A WEREWOLF I MEAN A WEREPONY WAIT NO LYCAN NOW OCTAVIA IS WHINY EMO BITCH.
Oh no now the story sucks the shark has been jumped because now there are wolves. Bitch you wanna see jumping a shark? I'll jump over goddamn Jaws with a jump rope while singing Winter Wrap Up on a motorcycle riding down a ramp from the top of the moon!
"I'M LYCAN THIS IDEA."
THE AUTHOR IS ON CRUISE CONTROL AND CAN'T STOP okay keyboard fixed anyways because BAYSPLOSIONS we move on and skip past everything which happens to include breaking into a bank, blowing more things up, gunfights, slow motion, club music, and druuuuuuugs.
In the end everypony is happy and the sun is singing and the birds are shining and the flowers are burning and everything is okay because now Octavia and Vinyl can love each other and make out sloppily with lots of tongue action and then everybody is satisfied because they finally got their VAMPIRE PONY SEX EXCEPT WITH A LYCAN THROWN INTO THE MIX OH GOD HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK WATCH OUT FOR THE TEETH
And that's how things would have gone if this were a vampire romance. Happy?