Veil of Thoughts
A flash of brilliant white light was all that Fluttershy could see, it was all that she could feel. Even with her eyes closed the light still blinded her but it wasn’t just in her eyes, it was in her body, it was in her mind. She was wrapped in the light and it made her feel fuzzy, almost like she wasn’t really there.
Then, as quickly as it had come, the light faded and the strange sensation was gone.
Fluttershy chanced a glance, to see what had happened. She was not prepared for the sight before her. The first thing she noticed was that the magical storm had gone. The second thing she noticed was that Rainbow had gone. The last thing that she noticed was that everypony had gone.
She looked down at her empty hooves. Applejack was gone too. She had been right there a moment ago; Fluttershy had been holding her as tightly as she could! Yet, she hadn’t even felt her friend leave her forelegs.
Desperately, Fluttershy searched the ground for any sign of her friends. The wind had blown out all the candles and without magic only the moonlight lit the dim room. She was able to make out shapes in the shadows. The library floor was a mess. Books were tumbled everywhere around the wreckage of the table. The rest of the furniture had been pushed over or broken.
But none of what she could see on the ground resembled a pony at all. Where had her friends gone? She had looked away for one second and they had all vanished.
Her mind began to race with wild possibilities. Maybe they had been teleported away. Maybe they had all run outside. Maybe they were hiding, because they were afraid.
No, if anypony was going to be hiding, it was going to be her, not her friends. They were brave and strong and Rainbow was the bravest and strongest of them all.
A loud, startling, knock echoed from the door. The terrifying sound caused Fluttershy to dart to the ground and cower beneath a pile of books. The knock came again, louder and more urgent this time.
“Go away,” Fluttershy whispered to herself. “Please go away.” There was a long pause. Had the pony left?
The door exploded in a shower of wooden splinters. There was nothing for it, Fluttershy screamed in terror, her tiny voice no louder than a whisper.
At the door stood the tallest, most frightening pony she had ever seen. Dark shadows covered the pony, obscuring its face and body. Or maybe it was made of shadows! Fluttershy pressed herself lower to the ground.
“Is anypony here?” asked a voice that didn’t belong to the shadow at all. Fluttershy knew that voice. It had — no, it couldn’t have been — but it had, it had come from the terrible darkness pony standing at the broken door. It was the voice of Rainbow Dash!
“Yes,” said Fluttershy, getting to her hooves. The shadow pony looked at her, its eyes reflecting white in the glint of the moonlight. Then the pony stepped forward and the effect was washed away. The rainbow hair came first, then the soft pink eyes. With a squeal of delight Fluttershy leapt into the air, grabbing the pony in a tumbling hug that carried them both back out the door.
“Whoa, hey,” said the sky-blue mare with a nervous laugh.
“You’re alright!” cried Fluttershy, tears of joy in her eyes. “You’re back to you! You’re…” Fluttershy stopped mid sentence. Her overjoyed outburst left her at last as she returned to her normal, timid, self. “I’m glad you’re okay,” she finished quietly.
“Uh, yeah… me too. I guess?” said the pony beneath Fluttershy. “Do you, you know, mind getting off me?”
Fluttershy blushed heavily as she realized she had tumbled her friend end over end and come out on top of her. “Sorry,” muttered Fluttershy. She moved off the pinned pegasus.
“It’s alright,” said the pegasus nonchalantly. A quick flap of her wings got her standing again. She held out a friendly hoof. “Name’s Dash by the way. It’s nice to meet somepony else that isn’t a crazy filly.”
“I know who you are,” said Fluttershy, giving her friend a strange look. Dash lowered her hoof. “Crazy… filly?”
“Yeah, this crazy little filly named Sparkle has been following me around, telling me nonsense,” said Dash. “But I think I finally lost her.”
“If you say so, Rainbow,” said Fluttershy in confusion.
“Rainbow?” repeated Dash absently, her eyes drifted away. “Why does that sound so familiar?”
“Because it’s your name?” said Fluttershy. “You’re Rainbow Dash.”
The sky-blue pegasus shook her head. “No, that isn’t my name!” said Dash, taking a step back. Her pink eyes suddenly snapped up in defiance. “Who are you! How did you get here!”
“I’m… I’m… Fluttershy!” said Fluttershy, taking a step towards Dash. Her friend was frightening her. “I’m your friend! Don’t you remember me?”
Dash put a hoof to her chest and winced in pain as she took another stumbling step backwards.
“No,” grunted Dash. “No, I don’t… I’m all alone in here. I’m supposed to be all alone.”
“You aren’t all alone,” said Fluttershy, taking another step towards Dash. “Your friends are here with you. I’m here with you!”
“Get away!” cried Dash, holding out a hoof. “Please… stay away… please…”
Fluttershy stopped her advance. The expression in the eyes, the voice, the words… she had experienced all this before. This was exactly like the last time that she and Rainbow had come face to face out on the hospital grounds. It was the exact same feeling. Rainbow… no, Dash, was afraid of her. Dash didn’t know who she was.
“She cannot remember you,” said a new voice that made both ponies jump. Fluttershy’s usual reaction, when anything startled her, was to jump into some ponies forelegs. However, Dash tried to do exactly the same thing. The two ponies collided in midair and crashed down in a tangle of legs.
“Heh-heh, the two of you look silly,” said a small lavender unicorn. Both Dash and Fluttershy were tangled up on the ground, so that they were eye level with the filly. Her large purple eyes were glinting with laughter.
“Not you again!” exclaimed Dash trying to struggle out from under Fluttershy, who had once more landed on top of her. “Get off me!”
“No,” said the lavender filly suddenly serious. She pointed a hoof at Fluttershy. “You stay right there.”
“Um, I really do think I should get off. Dash doesn’t really seem to want me on her back.”
“No,” repeated the filly sharply. “Dash,” said the filly, turning her attention to the struggling pegasus. “You have to listen to me. I am trying to help you.”
“Horse-feathers!” shouted Dash defiantly. She was still trying to work her way out from under Fluttershy. However, without even trying, Fluttershy was able to keep her pinned. It made Fluttershy wonder how she was managing it without even trying.
“You can’t run from this. You can’t fight this,” said Sparkle, her eyes locked on Dash. “You have to see it and you must accept it.”
“I don’t want to,” said Dash, finally giving up on her futile efforts to escape. “Everything you’ve told me doesn’t make any sense! Nothing good’s come out of you!”
“You found her,” said Sparkle. She held up a hoof, pointing it at Fluttershy. “Just like I said you would.”
Dash looked up at the yellow pegasus on her back. Fluttershy smiled weakly down at Dash.
“So what,” said Dash despondently. She let her head drop to the ground in defeat. “I don’t even know her and all she’s done so far is sit on top of me.” Fluttershy felt her heart sink in her chest.
“Yes you do,” said Sparkle. “But you do not know how to see her.”
“That doesn’t make any sense! I’m looking right at her!” shouted Dash, holding a hoof up towards Fluttershy. “You keep telling me nonsense! Why can’t you do something useful like get this pony off me!”
Sparkle looked at Fluttershy and nodded. Taking this as an okay to finally release Dash, Fluttershy used her wings to get off her friend. Once Fluttershy was clear Dash got slowly back to her hooves.
“Dash, you cannot see her because you do not understand how to see,” said the filly.
“Hey, my eye doctor says I have perfect vision!” exclaimed Dash.
“Eyes have nothing to do with seeing,” said the filly. “If all you do is look, you’ll never find out what you need to know unless you see.” Dash crossed her forelegs and sat back on her haunches defiantly.
“Look at this pegasus,” continued Sparkle, holding out her hoof to Fluttershy, who looked at the ground timidly. Dash stared at Fluttershy, the pink eyes glancing over her without recognition. It was strange, Fluttershy felt like Dash didn’t really see her, like she was invisible.
“Okay, I’m looking,” said Dash. “So what? She’s just the same pegasus that’s crashed into me twice now.”
“Because you do not see!” said Sparkle.
“Yeah, whatever,” said Dash.
“Maybe you can’t see because you don’t want to,” said Fluttershy. Both Dash and Sparkle looked at Fluttershy in surprise. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll be more quiet.” She backed away a little.
“No,” said Dash, uncrossing her forelegs and looking away. “Maybe you’re right… I don’t want to see. Not really. I’ve been looking for answers, but I feel like I’ve done it with my eyes closed…”
“It’s not about eyes…” the filly interjected.
“…Yes, thank you,” said Dash annoyed. “I’m afraid of what I’m going to find. I’m afraid that I will see the truth and it will be terrible.”
“Why?” asked Fluttershy. “What truth do you think you’ll find?”
“The truth about me,” said Dash. “Twilight told me that we’re merged together into a single pony. But she didn’t tell me why.” Dash looked up at Fluttershy. “I’m not sure I want to know why.”
Fluttershy found that she suddenly didn’t want to know either, but she couldn’t find her voice to tell that to Dash.
“Something happened to me,” continued Dash, her eyes drifted to the tree house behind Fluttershy. “Something I don’t want to know, something that I don’t want to remember. Something, that happened in there.”
Dash trotted past Fluttershy, moving back towards the library. Fluttershy knew she didn’t want to find out what was inside but her voice simply wouldn’t come to tell Dash to stop.
“When you see it Dash,” called Sparkle. “When you know it and finally accept it, not with your eyes but with your heart, it will change you. You will finally see. And you will not like what you find.”
“I know,” whispered Dash. She halted at the threshold, looking into the dark interior.
A panic suddenly raced through Fluttershy. She did not want Dash to go inside, she did not what her to see what was in the darkness.
A cold shiver caused her whole body to tremble. She couldn’t explain it, couldn’t understand it, her hooves were moving on their own. She was running towards Dash, charging towards her friend.
Slowly, Dash stepped forward into the house. There was darkness inside that was shadowy and deep and never ending.
Fluttershy leapt into the air, momentum carrying her in a rush towards Dash. They collided for a third time, Fluttershy once again ending up on top.
“Hey! What’re you doing!” cried Dash.
A crack light thunder split the air above them. Something rushed overhead missing them by inches. Fluttershy looked up and instantly wished she hadn’t. A massive pointed spike filled the space above them.
It had come from inside the library, extending outward from the dark depths. It was so long that it reached all the way across the street before it had crashed into another house. It was wide enough around that it filled the entire doorframe.
The ground began to tremble very slightly.
“This is the part where you run,” said the filly. Her horn glowed brightly and she vanished in a flash of purple light.
“RUN!” Fluttershy yelled. She grabbed Dash and hauled her friend up from the dirt. No sooner where they clear then more spikes burst from the ground. They extended several dozen hoofs into the air behind them, creating a jagged fence that barred the way.
However, there was no time to examine it further. Fluttershy gave Dash a hard push, moving them aside as the road in front of them erupted in gleaming points.
The two ponies ran side-by-side as they fled from the spikes bursting out of the ground in every direction. Around them Ponyville began to crumble, spikes thrust out of the windows of buildings, through their roofs and past the doors. Every direction was pointed, every path ending in gleaming spikes.
They were surrounded. There was nowhere left to run. Crisscrossing spikes blocked their path in every direction, walling them in. A rapidly closing circle of points was slowly coming for them.
It was then, when they had nowhere else to run that two things went through Fluttershy’s mind. The first was that these things surrounding them didn’t look like spikes at all, now that she’d had a proper look. No, she was sure they weren’t spikes. They were horns, unicorn horns.
The second thing that came to her mind was that she had to hold Dash. She grabbed Dash around the middle and held her tight as the end approached. The spikes were only hooves from them now, closing in, tightening.
They struck from every direction, all at once, their points elongating and moving fast. The two ponies stood frozen, only moments from their end.
But Fluttershy had also thought of a third thing and she was ready, she knew what she had to do. With only inches left, she leapt skyward, Dash held tightly in her fore hooves. She had been quicker, her wings flapping harder then they ever had before.
Higher and higher they rose into the moonlit sky. Below the spikes churned and gnashed like jagged teeth, devouring all of Ponyville. Fluttershy looked away from the terrible sight, her eyes finding the shocked face of her friend she held in her forelegs.
Fluttershy had never seen Dash so shaken as she was now. The sky-blue pegasus was trembling from head to wing tip. There were tears in her eyes and she was squeezing Fluttershy even tighter than Fluttershy was holding her.
“It’s okay!” said Fluttershy, trying her best to sound as confident as possible. To her surprise, her voice was unusually steady. “Everything’s okay!”
“No,” said Dash, shaking her head. The tears in her eyes ran down her cheeks. “Everything is not okay…” Her words seemed to fail her. She looked her friend in the face, pink eyes meeting soft blue ones. “I think I finally see at last, the truth I don’t want to remember, the thing that’s been holding me back. I think… I think I died.”
When Applejack awoke, she found herself lying on the floor. Her head was pounding, like some tiny pony was playing a drum on the inside of her skull. It took her a moment to realize where she was. She felt confused as she looked at her surroundings.
This was the Ponyville public library, right where she had passed out after touching Twilight Dash. Yet, it couldn’t be. The books were all neatly shelved. The table, that had been torn asunder was whole once more, as was the bust of the marble unicorn that sat atop it. Everything was in its place, neat and tidy as it almost never was.
Her head still hurt.
Something else wasn’t right. It only took her a moment to realize what was wrong. Her friends! Her friends were not here either! She looked around in a panic. No Rarity, no Fluttershy, no Pinkie Pie and no Twilight!
She shouted for her friends but her words had an odd quality to them, like trying to talk underwater. The air was unnaturally still here too. Applejack felt like she couldn’t breathe. She had to get out of this place!
Nearly breaking down the door in her panic, Applejack rushed outside into the street. Bright warm light crashed into her, hitting her eyes like a solid force. The sun was high in the sky. How could that be? How long had she lain there unconscious on the ground?
Her eyes came back down to Ponyville. The streets were empty. At this time of day there should have been dozens of ponies out an about. Yet, there was nopony else here!
“Well, not nopony else,” said a voice from beside her. Applejack turned her head to look in the direction of the voice, her eyes darting back and forth. At first she didn’t see anypony but when she glanced down, she found a small sky-blue filly looking up at her.
It was a little Rainbow Dash who looked just the way she should have looked, except, smaller.
“Rainbow Dash?” asked Applejack confused. “Why y’all so little?”
“Nah, just Rainbow,” said the filly. “Twilight’s coming. She’ll be here in a second.”
A pop and flash of light signaled Twilight’s arrival by teleportation. Applejack couldn’t believe her eyes. It was Twilight! She was back like she should be, her own pony once more!
“Twilight!” Applejack cried, rushing forward and hugging her friend before Twilight could get any words out.
“Applejack?” asked Twilight confused. “What… how… you can’t be here! This doesn’t make any sense!”
“You remember my name!” said Applejack, overjoyed by her friend’s miraculous recovery. “How’d you set yourself right? Where’s everypony else? Why’s Rainbow so small?”
“Applejack!” Twilight interrupted sternly. “How did you get here?” Applejack blinked, confused by the question.
“Uh, I came out that there door,” she pointed behind her, turning to the tree house she had just come out of. Or at least she would have if it had been there. The building seemed to have vanished. “Huh, it was there just a minute ago.”
Everything shook, the ground, the buildings, even the sky. In the distance Applejack could swear that the mountains moved a little closer. In fact, she was sure that Canterlot was much closer to Ponyville than it should have been.
“Twilight, what the hay is going on here?” asked Applejack.
“I’m not sure how to explain this, so, I’ll just say it,” said Twilight. “This isn’t Ponyville, not really. This is a construct of my imagination, a metaphysical manifestation of how I remember Ponyville. I thought it was a dream at first, but it isn’t, not really.”
“Twilight, I have no idea what y’all are talkin’ about,” said Applejack, now thoroughly confused.
“Applejack, you’re inside my mind,” said Twilight as bluntly as she could manage.
“Inside your… wait… you ain’t saying that… that we’re all joined up, like you and Rainbow!” cried Applejack in shock. She lifted a hoof to see if it had changed color, which it hadn’t. She felt for a horn, which she didn’t find.
“No,” said Twilight. “Fusion only combines two things, not three. Having you would be one too many. I don’t know how you’re here, but I’m pretty sure that your body and mind are still your own.”
“That’s a relief,” said Applejack, relaxing a little. “For a moment there I thought we might really have a mess on our hooves…
“Twilight, there’s somethin’ I have to ask you,” said Applejack. The expression on her face looked very serious. “Somethin’ I need to know.” Twilight looked uncertain but didn’t interrupt. “Why? Why’d you do this to Rainbow? Celestia said it couldn’t have been an accident.” Twilight glanced away uncomfortably, unable to withstand Applejack’s gaze.
“You’re right, the spell wasn’t an accident,” admitted Twilight. “I did this, knowing what would happen.”
“But why!” shouted Applejack, shocked by Twilight’s admission.
“I didn’t have any other choice, it had to be done. I had to do it!” Twilight shouted back. There was silence between the two mares for a long moment.
“She can put them back exactly the way they were,” said the filly at last. “Twilight Dash can wield both the element of Loyalty and Magic. Two elements can achieve what one will not. What Celestia cannot.”
Applejack’s eyes widened at this announcement, she looked at Twilight, to see if the filly was lying. But it was there in Twilight’s face, she could do it, she knew she could do it.
“I wont!” shouted Twilight.
“You can undo this? Y’all can put you and Rainbow back just how you were?” Applejack shouted in frustration. Twilight nodded. “Then do it! Set this right!”
“No!” Twilight shouted. “If I do that, Rainbow will die!”
“But, you just said…” Applejack tried.
“Exactly as we were!” shouted Twilight. “Exactly as she was…” Twilight sat back on her haunches, lifting her forelegs to look down at them, like she expected to see something there.
“What… what happened?” Applejack asked, much more softly this time.
“Rainbow was at my house,” said Twilight, both her purple eyes looking off into the distance as if she could see the memories unfolding before her. Applejack was suddenly surprised when the air rippled and she could see the memory too. It was like looking down through a window in the air, with the main room of the tree house below.
“I had a surprise for Rainbow, a book. The newest Daring Do. It’s not supposed to be out for another month, but I received an advanced copy, signed by the author.” The Twilight in the memory held up the book for Rainbow to see. “She was so excited for it. I had never seen her that happy, not even when she met the Wonderbolts.
“You know Rainbow, she couldn’t contain herself.” In the memory Rainbow was hugging the book to her chest, the widest smile spread across her face. Then Rainbow leapt into the air inside the library. She flew in circles of excitement, crying out her joy.
The smile on Twilight’s face darkened into terrible sadness as she watched her own memory.
“You don’t think about it, not in your own home, not where you feel the safest… It’s my fault. I simply couldn’t have left the table empty. I had to pick something Rainbow wouldn’t knock over…”
The laughing memory of Twilight set down her checklist and called up to Rainbow, telling her to come down. The momentary distraction caused the soaring pegasus to collide with one of the bookshelves. Her speed rebounded her through the air and towards the table in the center of the room.
Applejack saw it happen in the memory. She watched in horrible slow motion as Twilight realized too late what was about to happen. She couldn’t react fast enough, couldn’t will her magic quick enough.
The horn of the marble unicorn atop the table went right through Rainbows back. There was a scream of pain and terror and it took all of Applejack’s will to not look away.
“She was…” Twilight couldn’t finish the thought, her voice barely above a whisper now. “… Right there in front of me. All my magic and there was nothing I could do. No time to get to the hospital. Too dangerous to try teleporting. Too deep a wound for healing magic to be effective.”
Rainbow looked up towards the Twilight in the memory but it was like she was staring through time right at Applejack, her pink eyes wet with tears. “I guess… I’ll have to give this back without reading it… let me know how it ends…” The book dropped from her hoof, bouncing under the table. Her eyes closed slowly, the faintest grimace on her face.
“I would not let that happen,” said Twilight, suddenly defiant. “I would not allow that!” The Twilight in the memory began to glow, her horn shining with what seemed like the light of the sun. The memory ended.
“I did the only thing I could think of,” said Twilight. “I saved her by giving up myself.” She looked at Applejack, her eyes pleading for acceptance. Applejack said nothing. She moved forward and wrapped her forelegs around her friend. Twilight began to sob uncontrollably and Applejack held her.
“It’s okay,” said Applejack softly. “It’s not your fault. I don’t blame you.” Through her sobs, Twilight did not notice that Applejack’s words weren’t entirely honest.