Veil of Thoughts
Applejack wasn’t sure what she was going to say. At first she had been onboard with the idea of being the pony to visit Twilight. She was ready, willing and able to go. She wanted to go! But each step towards their destination seemed to take away something, her confidence. She wanted to see Twilight, wanted to be there for her in this time of need, yet, could she do it? Could she be the strong pony her friend needed right now? Applejack wasn’t sure.
Each step seemed to fill her with something too, something she could only call fear. The more she thought about it, the more her being chosen seemed like a huge mistake. Any of her friends would have been better. Rarity always knew what to say. Fluttershy knew how to act around somepony who was hurt. And Pinkie Pie… okay, well maybe not Pinkie Pie, she might want to throw Twilight a get-better-party right on the spot.
Nervously, Applejack glanced back, her eyes searching for her friends who were not there. Doctor Red Cross had insisted that only one of them come for this first visit, so as not to overwhelm his patient. The vote for Applejack had been unanimous, Pinkie had even voted twice for her. None of her friends seem to notice that Applejack hadn’t voted for herself.
At least each of her friends had offered up advice on what she should say. Fluttershy had suggested that Applejack ask how Twilight was feeling. Rarity had said to reassure their friend that everything would be alright. And Pinkie Pie, being Pinkie Pie, told her to find out what dessert Twilight liked better now and if she maybe wanted her desserts combine into a single super-duper-looper-dessert.
“What…” asked Applejack, her voice coming out in a squeaky whisper. She cleared her throat and tried again. “What should I talk ta her about?”
“Anything you like,” replied the Doctor. “The most important thing is that you’re there for her. Try to be calm, reassuring. And you should refrain from asking too many questions.” He looked back to Applejack who nodded uncertainly. How the hay was she going to talk to her friend and not ask what had happened?
They had to travel up several flights of stairs before they reached the floor Twilight was on. From there it was only a short walk to her room. The hallways were practically empty and the air was oddly still. It always made Applejack a little uncomfortable to be in a hospital. She didn’t much like the way they made her feel.
They stopped at a simple wooden door. The brass numbers on the outside listed the room as 306, but otherwise it was just like every other door in the building. Yet, at the same time it was anything but. Behind that door was her friend but also somepony wholly different.
Applejack didn’t know if she was ready for this. Red Cross had told her what to expect. Even still, she felt like no amount of explaining would be able to prepare her for what she was about to see. The Doctor looked at Applejack one last time and asked if she was ready. Applejack nodded, suddenly finding it very hard to use her words. She could feel the last of her confidence slipping away and fear beginning to overtake her.
Turning the knob with his hoof, the Doctor pushed open the door and they both entered. The room itself was nothing special. Much like the hallways it had been painted a sterile white. A large window looked out over a nearby grassy meadow. The main feature of the room, apart from being a room, was the single bed placed in its center. It was a standard hospital bed adorned with standard ugly green sheets. Applejack could almost hear Rarity’s voice complaining about the horrid color.
Not for the first time did Applejack wish her friends had come with her. However, she was here and she would be strong. Her eyes turned to the pony she had come to see. She was not prepared for this sight.
Up until that moment when Applejack had seen Twilight with her own eyes she hadn’t really believed it, hadn’t really accepted it. Now that it was right in front of her there was no denying it. The Doctor seemed to be correct in his assumption, no matter how much she wanted him to be wrong. It wasn’t Twilight lying in the bed. It wasn’t Rainbow either.
Applejack’s first thought was of Twilight Sparkle. That was who she saw when she looked at the mostly lavender colored pony. That thought quickly changed into Rainbow Dash as her eyes drifted to the multi-colored mane. There was more than that. The features of the face were mostly Twilight, the shape of the muzzle, the overly large forehead. The body was lean and athletic like Rainbow’s. There were wings, but also a horn. Applejack simply couldn’t process it. She could see both her friends at once in the same pony and it made her head hurt.
When she opened her mouth to say something, no words came out. She closed it again. There were no words to describe her thoughts. She couldn’t look away from the pony lying in bed before her.
“How are you feeling?” asked Doctor Red Cross, finally breaking the awkward silence.
“Broken,” replied the lavender mare with rainbow hair. “Hard to words.” Applejack continued to look on with uncertainty, trying to get back the courage that had escaped her. She needed to say something, anything to her friend… friends, she corrected.
“That’s not unexpected,” replied Red Cross. “You’ve had a traumatic experience. For all that’s happened you’re doing very well.” The mare in the bed half smiled, half frowned. Her mouth twitched between the two expressions like it couldn’t make up its mind. “I brought someone to visit you. Do you know who this is?”
The mare’s mismatched eyes moved from the Doctor over to Applejack. One light purple, one bright pink, they stared at her for a long time. Then, ever so slightly, she shook her head from side-to-side. Applejack felt her ears droop a little, Twilight didn’t know who she was.
“She’s a friend,” said Red Cross. “She’s your friend in fact. Try and remember her. You know her name, what is it?” The mismatched eyes did not leave Applejack. They continued to stare at her uncomfortably without blinking. Now those eyes narrowed, as if this somehow made Applejack easier to remember.
“Apple… Apple… Hat?” the mare guessed. The narrowed eyes continued to stare uncomfortably. Applejack smiled weakly trying to hide her disappointment. At least she had gotten part of her name.
“It’s Applejack, sugarcube,” the orange earth pony said at last. The lavender mare twitched slightly and let out a low grunt like she was in pain. One of her hooves came up and pressed against the side of her temple.
“Liar,” whispered the mare. “That not yes.” Whatever Applejack had expected to hear, that wasn’t it. Her friend… friends… had just called her a liar! The one thing she absolutely was not!
“Now hold on just a darn minute! I ain’t no liar!” said Applejack, her voice much louder than she had meant it. The mare with Twilight’s lavender coat pulled the sheets up a little and shrunk back in the bed. Seeing her friends’ terror Applejack instantly regretted the outburst. “I’m sorry Twi… uh… sugarcube. I didn’t mean ta shout.”
“Doesn’t purple,” muttered the frightened mare, “isn’t blue.”
“Why’s she… uh, why they, talkin’ so funny?” asked Applejack, lowering her voice so that only the Doctor could hear.
“She’s undergone serious mental strain,” said Red Cross, also in a low voice. “We’re lucky she can even speak at all.”
Applejack nodded, not sure she really understood. She took a few steps closer to the bed. It pained her to watch her friend cower away from her, eyes filled with a fear that wouldn’t stop looking at her.
“We’re worried about ya,” said Applejack much more gently. “Me an Rarity an Fluttershy an Pinkie Pie. I don’t rightly know what ta say, other than we’re here for ya, to help yall through this. I’m sorry I shouted earlier.” She tried a weak smile. The mare loosened her hold on the ugly green covers a little.
“When?” asked the confused pony. She shook her head. “Where?” Again this seemed to be wrong. “Why?”
“Because we’re yer friends, an that’s what friends are for,” said Applejack. The small, unsure smile was still on her face. Tears were starting to well in her eyes, despite her best efforts to hold them back.
“Not friends,” said the mare, her odd eyes looking away at last.
“What!” Applejack’s voice cracked under the strain. “Course we’re yer friends! We care about ya!” The lavender mare turned her whole body away, shifting to her side.
“Don’t want friends,” she said softly. Applejack made to move towards Twilight, to grab her and shake some sense into her. Or maybe to hold onto her and not let go until she remembered who she was. Before Applejack could take a single step, a hoof came to rest on her shoulder, halting her progress.
“I think that’s enough for now,” whispered Red Cross. “She needs time to rest. You can come back tomorrow.”
Reluctantly, Applejack nodded her assent and let the Doctor lead her from the room. She took one last pain filled glance back at her friend… friends in the bed. The mare was still looking determinately away. They left, the door closing silently behind them and cutting off the rest of the mare’s words.
“Don’t need friends.”
Only when Apple-Hat had left did they look at the door. She had seemed so familiar, the longer they stared the more they could remember about her and the more it hurt. It hurt so bad. She couldn’t be a friend, friends didn’t cause pain like this. It was a pain, not just in the mind but in the heart. Looking at her, hurt. Having her there, hurt. Why? Why did it hurt? Why would any pony want friends if they hurt so much?
When they had looked at Apple-Hat, really looked at her, everything had erupted in their mind. Their head was still buzzing, filled with thoughts and noise, sensations and colors, words and sounds. Making sense of it, finding a middle ground to think had been all but impossible. Too many thoughts, too much noise. Strange sensations, contrasting colors. Misspelled words, blaring sounds.
They closed their eyes. Closing their eyes made it easier, less things to think about, even if this room was dull and empty. The buzzing was still there but the colors faded a little and the noise wasn’t as loud as before.
They tried to think back, to remember Apple-Hat before they remembered her. They pushed past the sensations of how blue tasted and hid from the looming senseless words. They looked deeper into themself.
Everything became still until the only thing they were aware of was the silence. Everything in their head had stopped. They felt empty inside without it. It was like they had lost something, something important, invaluable and critical. It felt like a part — no, more than a part, a whole — of them had gone quiet.
“Hello, are we there?” the sound asked to the empty room. Their own voice startled them slightly, they had not expected to hear it aloud. Yet for some reason they had expected an answer. They had expected their voice to speak back, to tell them what they wanted to know.
There was no answer, there was simply silence.
Perhaps the question was not clear enough? No, it was clear, it was just wrong, not important. Of course they were there, if they weren’t there they wouldn’t be here. No, it was the wrong question. So what was the right question?
“Do we know who we are?” the whisper tried this time. The moment they asked this question they regretted it. The response was overwhelming. Everything began to happen all at once. Images of places and ponies raced by. Sounds and voices all struck up in a cacophony. It was too much, too many things.
They put their hooves on top of their head trying to stop the thoughts from getting in. They shook their head, trying to throw out all the clamor currently erupting in their mind. It didn’t help. It was too much.
“One at a time,” the pony pleaded. “Please, one at a time!” But the flow of thoughts did not stop. It did not slow. It came, rushing through them like a torrent from a broken dam.
They were in Canterlot, trotting up great wide marble steps. They were dodging between obstacles at flight school in Cloudsdale. They were reading a really good book in bed. They were flying down the side of a mountain at breakneck speed. They were in Ponyville. They were at the library, at Sugercube Corner, at Carousel Boutique. They were high up in the sky, lying on the grass in the park, sitting in a tree looking down at themself on the grass. They were in every spot all at once!
Images and sounds and colors collided in their mind. They were remembering every thought they had ever had at the same time. Every moment they had ever been a part of was rushing through them. All of it was nothing more then flashes of a life they couldn’t recognize. As one thought vanished another appeared. On and on the memories came without end.
“STOP!” shouted the sound so loudly that all the other noise in their head actually stopped. The images crashed into an invisible wall and vanished. They were in silence once again. They were in darkness once more.
Both questions had been wrong. The first was not important enough and the second too hard to answer. A middle ground, they needed to ask the middle ground. The words formed on their lips even before the thought finished.
“What our name,” asked the whisper. For a long moment there was no answer, not silence but something else. It was like their thoughts were turning, like they were… thinking? Yes that was what it was like.
After what seemed like forever, or might have been no time at all, they got their answer. They spoke their answer to themselves. Not in a whisper, not as a sound. But a voice, their voice, spoke to them. “Twilight Dash. Our name is Twilight Dash.”