I'm The Sentient Cloud, a writer and pianist from New Zealand. If you're looking at this, then you've probably already found your way to my flagship stories "The Piano Man" or "Those Who Came Before".
17w, 5dChecking In 4 comments · 242 views
29w, 6hUpdates on /everything/ 7 comments · 278 views
33w, 6dHard at Work 2 comments · 162 views
40w, 2dGoogle "The Piano Man" 17 comments · 386 views
44w, 2dVery Important Updates 10 comments · 331 views
46w, 3dThe Sentient Cloud Takes a Holiday 13 comments · 417 views
47w, 3hPiano Man Update 19 comments · 295 views
49w, 1hNew Year's Update 6 comments · 267 views
50w, 4dYeah, Stuff's Still Happening 8 comments · 284 views
52w, 11hThose Who Came Before - News 15 comments · 114 views
So here we are. All caught up. With that in mind, I suppose it’s time to fill in what happened afterwards.
Well, waking up tethered to the side of the cage was very stressful. I’ll admit that I freaked out – considerably so, complete with thrashing and screaming. My wrists still haven’t really recovered from the wire cutting into them.
Trixie didn’t show her face for a good two days. Smart move. I was ready to rip my own arm off and use it to beat her to death.
I have been denied my last freedom, and she will never give me another opportunity to end it. To that effect, the piano is now located outside of my cage, well out of reach.
My neck throbs slightly, but Trixie’s removed the bruising and healed the damage to my trachea and the surrounding area. I suppose that if I have to keep living, at least I don’t have to put up with the pain either.
So all I could do for what felt like nearly 24 hours was lie in an odd position against the bars of the cage. When Trixie finally decided to grace me with her presence, the news she carried was more than a little startling.
We’re in Canterlot. Canterlot. More than that, we are actually in the royal palace. As it turns out, I was unconscious for close to a day, and left alone for a further day after that. In that time, Trixie moved us all the way to Canterlot.
The real shocker though, was finding out that we had been contracted by Celestia and Luna – for me to play an actual concert at the Grand Galloping Gala. I’m not providing ambient music for the guests; I’m playing a full fledged concert in the Royal Theatre Hall.
I would have killed for a chance like this on earth. Now I’m being forced into it, less than four days after I tried to ‘off myself’. Bravo, Trixie. How very inappropriate.
Honestly, I had no idea that the Grand Galloping Gala was coming up. I would have imagined that it should have taken place around the time of the Canterlot wedding episodes, same time as the year before it – that’s assuming that the Equestrian year functions the same as the world that created it.
On the topic of Earth and its relation to Equestria: I have no idea how that works anymore. Is Equestria the result of some alternate universe that came into existence when the show was created, or did Faust just get magical glimpses of it as ‘inspiration’? Honestly, I have no idea what to think any more.
I can hear Trixie coming. I think the wagon is in a chamber under the castle, or something, because I can hear Trixie coming a good fifteen seconds before she arrives. Hoofsteps sound so different to footsteps. They’re much louder, more chaotic, and much faster.
I miss hearing normal, standard footsteps. I miss a lot of things.
I twist my head around as Trixie opens the door to the wagon, tentatively stepping inside.
“What?” The venom in my tone produces a notable – and extremely satisfying – reaction from the mare, as she lowers her head slightly at the comment. I may not have managed to die, but it looks like some good came of my efforts. If only it had instilled enough guilt in this bitch for her to let me go.
Trixie composes herself, once more adopting her mask of indifference, which now seems laughable. I know she feels guilty, and I know she’s no longer comfortable with all this. Acting indifferent is the most redundant thing I’ve ever seen.
“The Gala starts in less than a day, and you will be performing.”
“Of course I will.” My voice is layered with loathing and hatred. “I don’t exactly have a say in what goes on lately. Did you notice?”
Trixie’s mask of indifference morphs into a frown. “You seem awfully active for one who recently attempted to take their own life.”
“You’re the one forcing me to live.” I spit back. “So why not enjoy it?” I layer the ‘enjoy’ with enough sarcasm for every ‘Condescending Wonka’ image ever created.
Trixie shakes her head. “Your situation could be much worse.”
“Of course it could. It could also be a lot better. Now why don’t you fuck off and let me prepare?”
Trixie shakes her head, this time more in disbelief. Maybe she’s having a nice little epiphany on how badly she’s treated me.
Oh, right. That will never happen, because that would require luck.
To my surprise, Trixie turns and leaves without a comeback, which is more than I ever expected. I can’t say that’s progress, because the goal that it would be progressing to is unreachable.
I can’t help but chuckle. This new Trixie is so different. I’ll have to ‘enjoy’ it while it lasts. I’m sure the surprise of finding me hanging from the roof will wear off soon, and then she’ll be back to… normal.
Ugh. There’s no such thing as normal any more. Not in a world of ponies.
Trixie has her game-face on when she comes back some time later. She's using the works, harsh voice and all.
I myself managed to get some sleep. I don’t feel overly refreshed – what with the restraints and all - but it’s better than nothing.
Trixie silently undoes the lengths of cable securing me to the cage bars, using her magic to make me stand.
I keep my eyes off of her as she herds me out of the cage, she herself only deigning to state a stout “It’s time.”
“Yeah. Of course it is.” I mutter back. “How long do I need to play?”
“An hour. And keep it interesting.” She commands, opening the door of the wagon ahead of me.
I was right about the wagon being in some sort of chamber. It looks to me like some sort of enclosed courtyard, with an arched glass roof. The idea that the princesses would set this aside solely for Trixie’s wagon is astounding. The wagon could have gone anywhere – unless for some reason it needs to be here.
Trixie takes point, leading me towards a small side-door in the courtyard, which opens onto an equally small side corridor.
We both remain silent as we follow the length of the corridor, which leads out into the backstage area of the Theatre Hall – which is somehow deserted, despite the fact that the show is going to start.
Before I have time to wonder why, Trixie ushers me out onto the main stage.
The stage itself is large - Extremely large, as to accommodate for the yearly performances by major theatre groups – and empty, save for one stark white grand piano sitting in the centre, positioned slightly forward so that the front rows of the audience wouldn't have their view obstructed by the lip of the stage.
Oh wow, a grand piano. Finally, after all this time, I finally get to play one. How wonderful. To think that a few days ago, I was constantly noting its absence from my performances.
Trixie seats me at the piano, which is impeccable and immaculate. Not a single blemish to be seen on its pearly cladding.
“The curtain is going up in three minutes.” She explains in a hushed tone. “Wait for the spotlight to come on, and then you play.”
“I’ve done this enough to know the process.” I mutter back “Let’s just get this over with so that I can go back to huddling in the corner.”
Trixie nods and walks away, leaving me to sit on the stage. Have we reached some sort of agreement? Unlikely. I'm just not being rational.
She heads backstage, to be met by a pair of stout and proper-looking unicorns, who immediately begin talking rapidly to her as they fall into step. It looks like the backstage crew have finally shown up, a whole two and a half minutes before curtain.
The muffled sounds of the audience engaging in idle chitchat drift through the thick curtains. I can’t imagine how many ponies there are in the audience. Hundreds? Surely not a full thousand.
The Princesses will be there – probably the Mane Six to boot. I could probably spot a few background ponies in the crowd as well, but by this point, I think I’m beyond playing a game of ‘Where’s Derpy?’. It's far too trivial for my situation.
The backstage lights dim, and the curtains slowly and silently slide open. I can understand the effect it creates. With the house-lights shining in the right direction, the opening of the curtains will be unnoticeable. Quite a melodramatic way to start out. Either way, I have a small amount of time before the house-lights shut off, and I do indeed use it to scan the audience.
There is a lot of them. I’d say close to six hundred ponies out there in the audience, packing the theatre full. It’s impossible to discern recognizable ponies from the sea of equines that rolls backwards and upwards like some multicolored quilt, so I instead turn my attention to the private boxes.
I can immediately spot Fancypants and Fleur De Lis, Prince Blueblood – all on his lonesome – and Hoity Toity with Photo Finish (An unexpected token pairing, I must say), all with their own private boxes on the left side of the theatre, but none of them are the ponies that I’m looking for.
I cast my eyes further towards the centre, searching for – oh, there they are.
One of the boxes is notably bigger than the others, positioned in the centre of the back wall. From my position, I have a perfect view inside.
They’re all there, Celestia, Luna, Cadance, Shining Armour, and the Mane Six, chatting merrily while they wait for the show to start. What a wonderful turnout.
I scowl and shake my head, looking back down at the piano. Maybe Trixie will let me take a break after the Gala – or she might make me start working double. Probably the later.
The houselights finally dim, throwing the entire theatre into darkness.
After a few seconds, the chatter fully dies down, and the spotlight comes on, illuminating me in a brilliant and dramatic shaft. Less than a second later I feel Trixie’s presence in my mind, giving the usual command.
It’s time to start.
I don’t need to say that this is my first major concert, so I want to start out with a hard and attention grabbing piece.
With that in mind, I reach down the keys, and begin the rabidly fast piece by Nobuo Uematsu, ’J-E-N-O-V-A’
The crowd is silent, captivated by the sheer number of notes that a crowding the air, while I stare at the keys, my forehead creased in a scowl of concentration.
I can’t really put into words how I feel right now. The song is such an intense one... it feels like an outlet for my pent-up rage, although I don’t suppose that’s accurate. It would take a lot to exorcise all of the rage I’ve been dealing with.
By the time the hour is drawing to a close, I find myself struggling to think of a final piece.
I’m chewing up The Pirates of the Caribbean Theme, when I remember that Cadance is in the audience. She’s come to watch me slave away, so why not give her a little treat?
So I finish up the theme, and with that thought in mind start to gracefully work my way through This Day Aria. Maybe if I get lucky I’ll give her a heart attack.
As always, I play. I continue the piece through to the end, and then sit back, giving a tiny sigh as Trixie’s presence stops its constant application of pressure to my brain.
The house lights slowly come back on as my spotlight drastically drops in intensity, giving me the perfect opportunity to view the product of my handiwork.
I turn my head slowly and look out over the audience, feeling vaguely pleased and resentful as the audience starts to clap and stomp generously, their comments on my evolution made all the more irritating by their upper-class Canterlot accents.
Deciding to ignore them all – As I have realized is the best way to not fly into a rage at the entire situation – I cast my eyes up to the Royal Box, receiving the extremely pleasing image of both Twilight and Cadance staring down at me in shock.
My mouth twitches in the beginnings of an evil smile, but my sliver of happiness is cut off by the curtain, and the approach of Trixie.
“You shouldn’t have finished so softly.” The mare frowns at me as she forces me to my feet.
“Well, they seemed impressed.” I snap back. “And you can hardly call the third verse soft.”
Trixie’s frown degrades into a scowl as we start walking, and I can tell that I’m really starting to push her buttons. Now would be a good time to shut up, before I use up what little of her reluctance.
She continues to talk as we leave the stage – and I note that the backstage area is once again deserted.
“You’re going to wait in the cage. I have a lot of important ponies to talk to.”
“Fun-fun-fun.” I mutter as we emerge back into the courtyard. “God forbid that they’d want to talk to the actual musician.”
Trixie ignores my comment, herding me into the wagon and then the cage.
“You spend most of your time doing nothing.” She snipes at me. “I’m sure you can bear waiting for a little while.”
I have no retort, and simply lie down on my mattress, hoping that Trixie won’t tie me up again.
It is to my relief that she doesn’t, and simply leaves, slamming the door behind her.
I look across at where I had been bound to the side of the cage, noting that the four lengths of piano wire are still there. Not big enough to hang myself, but still long enough to strangle a certain pony.
Of course, I would never be able to manage that. The moment I tried Trixie would just seize control of my mind... possibly beat me...
I give a little sigh, looking down at my wrists. They’re bruised from my thrashing when I first freaked out over my restraints – I think they were even cut by the wire in a few spots. I wonder if anypony in the audience noticed.
A quiet curse escapes my mouth as I stand up, looking around the wagon. Why hasn’t Trixie ever increased the lighting in here? I still have to be in this crappy little pool of light, leaving the perimeter and far end of the wagon in darkness. What effect is that meant to have? Because it's not having any - save irritation.
I scuff at the floor. I suppose this is the height of my ‘career’. After this, I’ll probably be back to roving shows, and from there my popularity could simply decline. What will happen if it comes to that? Will Trixie just put me down? She’s been so unpredictable this whole time, I can’t really say that I know what she’d do.
My vague musings are suddenly interrupted by the sound of hoofsteps, announcing Trixie's return.
‘She’s back so soon?’ I turn around, fixing the darkened doorway with a steely glare as it opens – before I pause.
It isn’t Trixie.
Three shapes emerge from the darkness, each one approaching the little circle of light. I should have been able to tell that. The hoofsteps had been far too chaotic to have been caused by one pony.
“Wha…” I mutter under my breath, my angry stare faltering in confusion. I haven’t talked with a single pony but Trixie since I got here.
Twilight Sparkle, Rarity and Princess Cadance step into the light, and I take a short breath.
“Wow.” Twilight glances at Cadance. “This is… It lives like this?”
“I have to say, it looks dreadful.” Rarity interjects, looking me up and down. “Look at those marks on the end of its arms!”
Cadance steps closer, peering at me. “I think Trixie has been abusing it…” She takes in my crooked nose, my wrists and my general malnourishment. “…Badly... but before we go tell the princesses, I want to find out how it knows… the song…” She looks me in the eye, clearly concerned and worried - although I think it's more over what I know than my condition.
While they continue to talk, I myself am rapidly boiling over. Every single time the word ‘It’ pops up, my fuse shortens by a considerable fraction more. It’s just wasting away to an inevitable detonation that threatens to strip the meat from these bitches' bones.
Rarity takes a closer look. “It doesn’t seem that dangerous… quite fragile, in fact.”
“Yeah.” Twilight joins the other two in their close examination of me. “It-”
My temper reaches breaking point, and I bound over to the bars, grasping them and shoving my face towards the three mares.
“IS THAT ALL I AM TO YOU?!” I scream. “A THING?!”
The rage has reached a peak I never thought possible. To think that these three could watch me play as a slave, and then have the nerve to come find me, and talk like I’m not even here. Isn’t my situation enough?
“Well FUCK you all!” I shout at the startled mares. “I didn’t ask for this! You are all monsters for what you've done to me! MONSTERS!”
My rage subsides, capped as I manage to not go off on a full-blown rant about the injustices I had been subjected to – or, to be more accurate, I don’t have a suitable sentence to continue my tirade.
I instead resort to turning my knuckles bone white as they grip the cage's bars, and glaring venomously at the my visitors, all of which are staring at me with looks of sheer horror.
The silence lasts for a further five seconds, before Twilight takes a step closer, her expression one of mortification.
“You can talk?!”
What did she just say? Did she just accuse me of being an animal?!
“OF COURSE I CAN FUCKING…” I trail off as what the lavender mare has said properly registers. “Of course… I…”
Did Twilight just accuse me of being and animal?
I fall silent, my rage flowing away as if someone has opened a floodgate in the back of my skull, and my face morphing into an expression of horror and disbelief that puts the other three to shame.
I stare at Twilight, my mouth forming countless silent obscenities as countless waves of crippling realisation wash over me.
I finally manage to open my mouth, voicing what is undoubtedly the general opinion in the room.