Why can I never wake up normally?
Grudgingly, I opened my eyes to see what it…wait a second.
I went through the subconscious motions that would tell my eyelids to open. Nothing happened. There wasn’t even a feeling of strain. I tried my arms, legs, toes, everything! I got no response. Complete and total paralysis.
I panicked…only I didn’t. My breathing and heartbeat remained calm. This made no sense since my mind was in the middle of DEFCON 1!
As if on command, but not by me, the lids snapped open and flashed to the right. Standing in the shadows was…
Oh my God.
The bitch that started this gave me a sweet little smile. Her shiny black hair, now in a ponytail ironically enough, streamed out behind her. She looked maybe twenty years younger and…fuller. In some very specific areas. Seriously, she looked like a freaking porn star. And not one of the crappy free movies either, but the kind you actually have to pay for. She’d also swapped out the black outfit for some tight robes. Also black and covered in mystic and frankly disturbing silver runes. And of course, the fateful umbrella was strapped to her back, only now it was some kind of mace. She did a little twirl and I saw a strange glow emanate from the center.
“Like the new look?” I did the mental equivalent of a snarl which didn’t seem to do anything but amuse her. “If there is one thing I like about humans, it’s their bodies. Most people think hairless creatures are disgusting, but at least your skin is smooth.”
If I got to do what I wanted to do to her, it wouldn’t be all that smooth. Also, it’d be a lot more red.
“Can’t believe you made it out of that.” She walked towards…whatever it was I was lying on (everything was shrouded in mist) with a shake a stripper would have killed for. “When those Lacuni came charging out of the bush, I thought you’d just piss yourself and get stabbed.”
Glad you enjoyed it.
“I am too. Good entertainment’s hard to come by these days. So I figured, why not take some random shmuck, send him to a dangerous fantasy land, and laugh as the world rips him to pieces.”
YOU RUINED MY LIFE FOR SOME CHEAP LAUGHES!
“Hardly cheap. Do you know how much power it takes to get a human here? I had to store it up for millennia. Still, you’re here now.” She leaned down and looked me straight in the eye. Hers were black as sin and had just a hint of malice. “Let’s see what I have to work with.”
What followed was the walk around someone does when shopping for a car or a racehorse. Hand on her chin, appraising look, and mumbling to herself like I wasn’t there to hear.
“Not as strong as the dog and less skilled than the griffon. No innate magic like the dragon. Lacks the variety of the wing-wolf. Has almost zero battle experience and very little in the way of survival skills. And then there’s the injury to consider.” Injury? What injury?
“However, has good reaction time coupled with a new body that can use it. Keeps a cool head under pressure and capable of staying in control even in the heat of battle. Does not shy away from killing, even during his first taste.” At that, I winced. It just seemed too easy, you know? First kills are supposed to be hard, brutal things you do in the heat of the moment. That’s how it is in all the books. I just kind of…did it. I looked at the guy, saw he was trying to kill me, and killed him first. Shouldn’t I have felt bad about that?
“Ultimately, I could do far better, but he has potential, so I think I’ll see where this goes.” She leaned in close put on a dazzling smile that I would love to just rip out tooth by tooth. “Congratulations. I’ve decided to let you be my piece in this little game.”
Piece? What the hell is that supposed to mean?
“Let me explain.”
For no reason what so ever, she crawled up onto the…thing I was on and straddled me. My body went to war with itself. The upper half screamed bloody murder while the lower half remarked on how it wasn’t that bad. The upper half then preceded to beat the lower half unconscious with a rusty shovel and resumed its fuming.
“What’s the matter? Nervous?” I’m sorry, strangle.exe has stopped working. Life is currently not giving a fuck about your problems. She adjusted herself so her face was directly above my own. “Better?”
Go fuck yourself.
“Now why would I do that when I have you here?” She gave me a smile that was definitely a rape face. I was suddenly very glad she was controlling my body. If I was in charge, I would have shit myself by now. “I could do anything to you right now. Did you know that? Anything at all.” Is there something past FUBAR? I really don’t think it’s strong enough for ‘About to be raped by…whatever the hell she is.’ Goddammit, why don’t I know anything?
“Oh would you relax. This isn’t a pleasure visit.” Thankfully, she slid off me. My lower half began to protest, but my upper half held up the shovel menacingly so he backed off. “On to business.”
“As for why you’re here, blame Discord. He did something really stupid that left the gate wide open for the rest of us. There’s a good chance the whole world is going to burn to the ground and I’ll be damned if I’m not a part of it.”
And that’s where I come in.
What do you want me to do?
“Very direct. I like that.” I made a mental note to be as vague as possible in the future. “I can’t tell you.”
So you want something from me, but can’t tell me what it is.
“Sorry, it’s in the rules. And no you can’t hear the rules either.” Why do I get the feeling I’m not going to like this game much? “Suffice to say, you’ve already done better than I expected. But not good enough.” She paced around me again, only this time with the air of a teacher. “The Dog just survived having his throat torn out, the Griffin killed a dragon, the Dragon can use magic effortlessly, and the Wolf can take an entire pack of his forest cousins.” She put one finger on my forehead, digging it into flesh.
“The Lacuni were a good start, but child’s play compared to what the others have done. I am loosing this little game.” She put her face right next to mine and snarled. “I DO NOT LIKE TO LOSE!” The demon (she could be nothing else) stared deep into my eyes. I could see something terrible in their black pits. “I give you one year to impress me. Fail and you shall suffer more than you can possibly imagine. Okay?”
Her demeanor immediately returned to its appraising sluttyness. I felt whatever power holding me in place fade. I was too scared to do anything but nod.
Who the hell are you?
She smiled evilly.
For once that day I woke up normally. No tree, no crazy cannibal cats, no strange bed in the middle of nowhere. Just me and…a cot. Not the most comfortable bed in existence, but a far sight better than the ground.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I opened my eyelids, savoring the feeling of calm that comes in those first few moments of waking before you remember the crazy shit that happened last night.
“I bet Charlie Sheen never had a night that wild. No, scratch that. No one has wilder nights than Charlie Sheen.”
“Who’s Charlie Sheen?”
“Ahhh!” I screamed and tried to bury myself in the blankets. What? I woke up to danger like six times in the last day! Nearly pissing myself is completely justified.
Before me stood a cat woman, light orange in color so at least she wasn’t Lacuni. Other than that she was the same as every other cat woman I’d seen except her clothes were less decorated, the skirt was slit at the legs, her tail had a fluffy white patch at the end of it, and she had amber eyes.
“Wha…who…” It was then I saw that wherever I was, it definitely wasn’t Kansas. The walls were covered in plants. Plants hanging from ropes, plants on shelves, plants in boxes and sacs and vases. All of them surrounded and paid homage to the big almighty mother of a cauldron placed in the middle of the room. Really, the only other things in here besides me, the cat chick, and the herbology orgasm were a few chairs.
“Well you definitely like plants.”
“Yeah…” For some reason, she looked angry. Or maybe it was sad. There was probably a story behind that, but before I could ask the look passed. “My name’s Nadene.”
“Really? Ren said it was Jack.”
“Well it’s not. It’s Khajiit.”
“Oh…” she looked at me for a few seconds. “But I like Jack better.” I let out a loud groan. I prayed to the gods that obviously didn’t care about me that this didn’t become a running joke.
“Whatever. How long was I out?”
“About two days.”
“Don’t act so shocked. You were almost dead when Ren dragged you here.” Holy shit! You ever been told you almost died? It’s a pretty humbling experience. A direct confirmation of your mortality. Scary stuff. I shelved it with ‘bad shit that’s happened to me in Equestria’ and moved on.
“And where is here exactly?”
“Which is where exactly?” If her look was anything to go by, this was one of the dumbest questions ever asked.
“How can you not know where Valen is? We are right next to the sacred grove!”
“Well I’m not from the jungle so I have no-”
“You’re not from the jungle!” she practically screamed at me. Apparently cat people are universally fast because she was at my side in less than a second. “Tell me everything!”
I present to you a problem. The admittedly cute cat lady just asked me for information on the world outside of the jungle, which I will assume she’s never left. The only place outside of the jungle I know of is Earth. I do not want to explain how a witch-demon-thing kicked me out of my universe and that I am an inter-dimensional creature. And if the question of whether there were any cat people on my planet was asked, I would be forced to reveal that my species enjoys keeping our version of hers as house pets and that some very sick people enjoy that age-old country pastime of putting cats in microwaves to watch them die. And at that point they would probably string me from the highest tree.
That was a worst case scenario mind you, but with my luck I wouldn’t discount it. So to preserve my neck I did what men have been doing to women since the invention of speech.
I lied through my teeth.
“There’s nothing to tell. I don’t remember anything.”
“Nothing at all?”
“Well...I remember talking with a woman in black. Then I was on the cliff.” Nadene looked heartbroken. It was almost Fluttershy levels of adorable. Am I that cute?
“Alright. What do you remember? Ren told us about the escape and your time on the cliff. Did you really fight a roc?”
“Well if by fight you mean wet myself and jump off a cliff, then yes.” She laughed. I did to. “And to answer your other question, I remember jumping off another cliff into a river. And then…nothing.” Okay, when you tell someone about which part you blacked out at and their eyes go wide, that is a bad sign. I suddenly felt afraid. Very afraid. “What happened?”
She didn’t look at me. Also a bad sing. She just backed up a few steps, looked at the ground, and said:
“Sorry for what? All that happened was…” The rest of last night came back to me. Specifically a sound.
With my left paw shaking like a Richter scale in San Francisco, I reached over to my right side and felt around.
I’m sorry; the arm this shortcut links to no longer exists. Would you like to delete it?
I slowly brought my right arm up to my face. Instead of my new, four-fingered, fuzzy paw, I was greeted by a bandaged stump one inch down from the elbow.
It hit me then. I was trapped in a dangerous world, put there by a creature I didn’t understand. My old body was gone, replaced by something out of a hentai comic. My old face might be lost forever. My old world might be lost forever! There was a good chance I’d never see my family again! I killed four people! I lost an arm! I ALMOST DIED!
I don’t know when I started screaming, just that I didn’t stop. Not when Nadene tried to hold me down. Not when Ren and two others ran into the room. Not when they started talking.
I didn’t stop until they force fed me a potion and I collapsed into a dreamless sleep.
Well, at least that’s two times now.
The sun had set. The whole hut was dark. There was no sound save the jungle insects and the howl of the wind. No one was around.
Please let it have been a nightmare, please let it have been a nightmare…
I looked at my arm. The stump greeted me.
“Jesus…” I felt myself start to cry. I hadn’t really cried since I was a little kid. Why the hell was this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?
You’re a murdering psychopath.
That guy you killed, he had a family. People who cared about him and are busy missing him. You didn't give him a passing thought.
But…but he was…
Attacking you? Is that really an excuse? You could have just knocked him out or ran when you had the chance. But no, that would take too long. You were in a rush. You had to kill him.
You’re a murderer! Still, I suppose you’re already paying for it. After all, you’ve already lost your family, your life, your ARM. And I guess we can kiss any chance at Heaven goodbye. Not that you believe in God, right?
“I need some air.”
It was a simple thing to throw off the covers and get to my feet. Staying there wasn’t. My weakened legs crumpled under me and I fell to the floor. Losing half an arm really takes it out of you. Grasping one of the wooden shelves, I hauled myself back to a standing position. Then I took a step. And another. And another. The feeling rushed back to my numb limbs and I let go of my improvised rail.
I pushed aside the small curtain acting as a door and got my first look at Valen. It was bigger than the Lacuni village by about ten huts. I was in a side building for the largest which was placed on a hill. Down below, the other houses circled a small pool. A path wrapped around it and shot off in two directions. One went off into the jungle and the other led up the hill. It was all awash with the cool light of the full moon.
It was like one of those paintings made by people you’ve never heard of, but teachers insist everyone except unlearned savages know. Too bad I wasn’t really paying attention.
Without a sound I took the path. Any kind of noise would have ruined it. It was a slow walk, very peaceful. I let my mind wander…
You’re stuck here. Forever.
Okay, so letting my mind wander was a bad idea. I tried to clear my mind instead.
You killed someone and you don’t even care.
So that doesn’t work either. Fine! I’ll just think about…video games.
Not that you’ll ever play those again.
“Screw this!” I started running, just so I wouldn’t have to deal with all this. I couldn’t deal with all this. There was too much too fast. I’d been in Equestria for three days! THREE! And already I wished I’d never even heard of My Little Pony. Hell, I wished Lauren Faust had retired after Foster’s!
I reached the pond, sprinted around its banks and took the path into the jungle. I reveled in the physical exertion, the simple act of movement keeping my thought at bay. I ran all the way out of the village. I ran through the brush that littered the start. I ran up into the rock, not caring what I’d find there, only know that if I stopped I’d think and thinking was bad.
The trail cut straight through the jungle, winding and twisting between trees. There were forks, but I took random directions without thinking. I just seemed to know where to go. My footsteps echoed along, letting me know how utterly alone I was on the path. Good. I liked being alone. Always have. Gives me time to think.
You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the hunters was that scout kid’s parent.
Right. Thinking was bad right now. Can’t think. Just run.
So I did. Faster than I ever had before. Even when the Lacuni were chasing me I hadn’t gone this fast. Running from your own mind will do that. But the problem with fleeing an existential concept that exists inside your own head is that you can never go fast enough. That little voice in the back of your mind that haunts you when you do something wrong had found a loudspeaker. Every little thing I’d ever done, even before coming to this god forsaken place, was thrown back at me.
That time I stole my brother’s sandwich and blamed it on the dog.
Buying an essay from that stuck up nerd.
The one time I tried weed (don’t ask).
“DAMMIT!” I pushed myself farther. By now I was practically flying. I don’t know how fast humans could run but it was nowhere near what I was pulling. I must have been going at least thirty. So fast I had to tuck my ears down to keep them safe from the wind.
I ran and ran and ran and ran and-STOP!
Well it wasn't so much a stop as a tumble. Actually, I fell flat on my face. Turns out, just because I can go that fast doesn't mean I’m built for it. At least the little voice in my head stopped. Wherever I was going, I was here.
Before me was a break in the vegetation at the base of a rock wall. To my left, some trees. To my right…
I looked between the two for a while, unable to decide between them. Then, with a sigh on my lips, I walked straight to the edge of the cliff…
…and sat down.
I hated this jungle.
This fucking jungle had fucked me over in almost every way. Literally the only thing I had left was my life and my pants. I have no idea where my shirt went. Everything else? No, sorry, bye-bye! It even had pieces of my body and my soul. Out there somewhere was a corpse being buried and a severed arm pinned to a tree stump.
I felt terrible. Physically and emotionally. I ran myself ragged to get here. Now what? Why have a path that just led to cliffs and a few trees? It had obviously taken generations to make. It was too flat, too free of plants, and too specific to be natural. There was something here I was missing.
Did it really matter? It wouldn't change anything. I was still stuck in whatever hellish version of Equestria that bitch decided to send me to. It might not even be the right world! All I had to go off of was the word of one old man that could very well be insane! After all, there had to be a reason he was locked in that cage right? What if he was lying about the cannibalism? What if I helped a dangerous criminal escape? I might have killed n innocent person!
I felt a tear roll down my cheek. Followed by another. And another. Then ten more. I cried for everything. My now fucked up life. The arm I’d lost. The people dead because of me. The family I’d never see again. And one horrible realization.
“I can’t go back.”
Even if I did find a way to regain my human body and return to Earth, I couldn't. Not after this. I was never going to be that stupid high school loner I was a few days ago. Now I was a murderer. They would be able to tell. I know they would. They’d see it in my eyes and then they’d ask and then they’d hate me.
I’m all alone.
I looked down. Below was a dark chasm. I couldn’t see the bottom. I’d survived cliff jumping twice…
“Third time’s the charm.”
“I don’t know about that.”
I didn’t have to wonder who that was. In hindsight, I knew he’d follow me. He just seemed like the kind of guy who could leave private matters private.
“Go away Ren.”
“Please. Just leave.”
“I ran all this way to see this chasm and I’m going to see it whether you like it or not!” He forcefully sat down next to me. I didn’t look at him. “You’re very fast.”
We were silent for a time. Me…thinking. Him doing whatever it was he was doing. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore.
“What are you doing here?”
“Seeing the chasm. Like I said.”
“You’re one to talk.”
“I have amnesia.” It was a weak excuse, but getting fancy just increases the odds of getting caught. Unless your going up against smart people. “You can keep your past secret if you want, but don’t pretend I’m stupid.”
“What’s bothering you?” At least he’s straightforward. I held up my right arm. “I believe we’ve already established how we feel about…what did you call it? Bullshit? I like that.”
“You’re not going to leave unless I tell you?”
“I’ll watch if need be.”
I didn’t want an audience for this. It was a personal thing, you know? I wanted it to be as simple as possible.
“It’s a lot of things.”
“It’s just…I was ripped out of my life and shoved here and on the first day…”
“You lose an arm?”
“I killed him.”
“Oh…OH!” He looked at me incredulously. “Is that what this is about?”
“Of course it is!” I snarled at him. “I KILLED HIM! I had no idea who he was, why they were doing it, and I…I just stabbed him.” I was crying freely by this point. I really didn’t care who saw. “I don’t even feel bad about it.”
“You’re upset for not being upset?”
“I’m a monster.”
Again, silence. We just sat there on the edge of a cliff. An old warrior and a crying young man sitting on the edge of everything.
“Did you enjoy it?”
“The killing, I mean.”
“…No. I didn’t. It was just kind of a thing.”
“Then no problem.”
“But he was attacking you. He was planning to eat you. After you he would have gone on to eat more people. You acted in self-defense and slew a dangerous and vile person. All it means is that you are a natural fighter. My first kill, I put some of his blood in a vile and wore it around my neck for a time. And that’s not even the worst I know of! You didn’t even take the knife.” He looked at me with some amusement. “Trust me, you are a long way from being a monster.”
“Doesn’t change anything.”
The smile went away. We returned to silence. He was grasping at straws, but I…I wanted to believe him. The logic made sense, but…
Four days ago my biggest concern was finding a nice shirt for graduation! Now I have to deal with THIS! It made no sense! There wasn’t a single reason I could think of that would make that witch pick me. There were far more qualified bronies out there. People who’d enjoy shit like this. Instead she takes me, some random teenager who keeps to himself. Now…
Now I just wanted it to end.
“I was in that cage for five months,” he began slowly. “During that time they brought in 41 prisoners before you. I watched as each of them was strewn over that table and ‘given to the gods.’ I could have opened the cage at any time, but I didn’t. Do you know why?”
I was shocked, to say the least. 41 people. And he did nothing!
“Every single one of them had already given up.” His voice was quite. Sad. “They were just resigned to their fate and I…they wouldn’t have followed. You though.” He looked back at me. “At no point in that cage did you actually believe you would die.” He put one hand on my shoulder. The injured shoulder. “You had something the others didn’t. Some kind of potential not even you see. I didn’t want to let that die.” He turned back to the cliff.
I have potential. The witch said that to. Somehow, it meant more coming from this old fighter than it did from a being that had the powers of a god.
“Maybe I was wrong.”
I felt a jolt through me. I’d only known him a short while, but Ren was the closest thing I had to a friend here. He was the closest thing I’d had to a friend in a long time.
I didn’t want to disappoint him.
“Well, I’m going to go.” My jaw dropped.
“You’re just going to leave?”
“Yeah.” He stood up and stretched. “You obviously want to be alone right now. Besides, if I start moving now, I can make it to the sacred grove before morning. It’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in existence.” He started walking, turning his back on my stunned face. “I’d offer to take you, but it looks like you have some cliff diving to practice.” He turned towards the trees and lifted his left hand in a wave. “Have fun Jack.”
I stood there staring, wrought with indecision.
It would be hard. People have trouble enough losing limbs, but all this on top of that. No matter what I was coming out different in the end. It was just the nature of these things. There was a good chance I’d lose everything that made me, me.
I looked down into the black depths of the chasm. Part of me wanted to see what was down there. As fast as possible.
In the end though, I guess it was never really much of a choice.
“This sacred grove better be something old man. And I told you before, my name’s Khajiit!”
I followed him away from the cliff, off into the trees.
I never looked back.
A few notes from the Author:
First off, Somnambula isn't mine. She's an old G1 villain you can find here.
Second, as most of you probably know, the Nadene and the Vren aren't mine either. They're one of the tribes Blackwing invented and I got permission from him to use them.
Third, for those who don't know, there is now a group for stories set in Rust's world. You can find it here. We're all on there and will attempt to add anyone joining the world.
Thank you all for reading and making this my most successful fic by a mile!