Tara awoke early that morning, her eyes flashing open in a second. She was never a morning person, yet she felt a strange burst of energy upon her awakening. Despite this energy, she still stretched her legs, observing them as she did so. Her two legs, with ankles, heels, toes.
She was Tara Muschel, a twenty-five year old woman who once aspired to be an author, and was currently living in a mental institution. Her father died sometime when she was seven due to leukaemia, she had lived with Clarice most of her life, and never had a boyfriend. All of that really happened. Clarice, as sickening as she was, actually existed as an actual human being, with a skeleton, organs, and muscles. She wasn’t made of...whatever dreams are made of. Clouds, moonbeams, all that ethereal stuff.
Placing a hand to her chest, Tara listened to her heart beat. It was quicker than usual, but it was an actual heart, pumping blood throughout her body to keep her alive. Did she hear a heartbeat when she was a pony? Did it beat fast when approaching that dragon on the hill?
She actually didn’t remember much about that incident. It wasn’t clear enough. Good.
The sound had Tara scrambling out of her bed onto the floor. She lay on the floor, ready to hear a high-pitched ‘Oh, Twilight!’, but thankfully, she heard nothing of the sort. The laugh returned briefly, but now Tara noticed it was deeper than it first seemed.
‘Yeah, them loonies, eh? Never know what they’s gonna do next.’
Oh, those two orderlies. They always came in to restrain her, even when she wasn’t doing anything violent. Tara giggled slightly to herself, pondering on how lovely it would be to be rid of them.
‘’Ere, Bert.’ They were outside her room. ‘I ‘ear old Maggie’s takin’ out the girl who thinks she’s a pony.’
‘Really? Maybe she’ll take ‘er to the glue factory, eh?’
‘Or maybe to the track. I wonder if we’ll be able to bet on ‘er, eh?’
‘But still, I’ve seen the folks here think of themselves as weirder things. Weren’t there one bloke who thought ‘e was a cactus?’
‘Don’t be silly,Bert. Wasn’t a cactus, was a cowboy. ‘
‘Ah. Never got into westerns.’
What a pair of idiots those two were. Imagine what it would be like to have their thought process. They do have brains after all. What is their home life like? Did they ever mention that they were married? What do they watch on television?
She still felt the floor under her feet. She still felt the chill her room usually had. She could feel the smooth texture of the wallpaper with her fingers. Yes, her fingers. That’s what she used to pick things up, not magic or a unicorn horn. Marge had fingers too, and she was going to use them to open that door and set Tara free.
It took a shorter while than Tara expected, but in came Marge, carrying a pile of clothes.
‘So,’ said the doctor, handing the clothes to Tara, ‘do you think you’re ready?’
Something inside Tara’s mind found this question laughable, but she chose to respond with a single ‘Yes’ punctuated with a smile.
Marge left for a while to give Tara some privacy to dress, and she put on the baggy t-shirt and plain jeans as quickly as she could. After dressing, she took a minute to observe her clothes. Bland, nearly colourless, perfect.
All dressed up, Marge re-entered. ‘Are you ready to go?’
‘Of course,’ was Tara’s reply, and that was all that was needed to grant her a temporary exit.
‘Now stay close to me at all times,’ seemed to be the first thing Tara heard before she stepped outside. The walk down the corridor, past the machines and the moaning of certain patients, all of that was a dash, a quick sprint. Did her repressed energy and excitement for today cause her to run down the halls? No, if it did, she would have been tired by the time she reached the door. She may not have been tired, but she still found her body frozen.
Everything had begun to swell.
The sky – that overcast sky with far too many clouds – pulsated and seemed to throb to the beat of Tara’s heart. The road, even though Tara could see no end to it, stretched and elongated, promising the drivers a longer journey ahead of them. A van roared by, reminding Tara of a bear...who knows where that road leads...but what is that up in the clouds? She swore she saw two eyes, narrowing at her.
What a big world.
What an adventure.
‘Is everything alright, Tara?’
‘Great!’ Tugging on Marge’s arm, Tara began to run to the pavement, wobbling a little as she did so. Upon seeing someone walk towards the bus stop, she forced herself to come to a halt, much to the relief of Marge.
‘Don’t try and get too excited, okay?’ said Marge as they neared the traffic lights. Upon the sign turning green, they crossed, and Tara took a look at the nearby buildings. She saw a small house, a rustic thing sporting a dull brown coat and a chimney adding to the grey sky. Taking a look at it, she briefly imagined its construction, imagining grizzled workers laying down the cement and placing down the bricks. Those bricks being levitated by unicorn horns briefly entered her mind, but she briefly tossed it away.
The two continued their little stroll through the town until they came to a newsagent, which would be indistinguishable from the other brown lumps on the street if not the white sign outside. Both entering, Marge, oddly silent, bought a newspaper, along with a Mars bar, giving both to Tara as they left. The Mars was to help ease any tension, the newspaper was to make reality seem all the more solid.
The front page story was about how a protest on the streets, what happened when the police were brought in, and the amount of injuries and arrests the debacle resulted in. It was due to a new government policy...apple trees. Apple pie. Maybe if they all sat down and ate some apple pie they could have come to an agreement.
Oh, that’s not how real life works.
As she walked beside Marge, she took time to glance in the newspaper. The police managed to arrest several drug dealers and users the previous night. They probably didn’t need any Elements of Harmony for that. If they didn’t need magic, then neither did she. Keep walking, keep reading.
Turning her gaze from the newspaper, Tara saw a certain bright spot among the houses...no, it couldn’t be.
Prancing down the streets was the little pony herself, slowing down as soon as she gazed at Tara. On her face was that bright smile that had always lightened Twilight’s mood, the same way Spike soothed Tara.
No, she wasn’t smiling.
She was scowling.
Just then, Tara felt her foot dip in something, and turned down to see she had stepped in a puddle. Looking up, she saw Marge raise an eyebrow, and Pinkie Pie nowhere to be found. ‘It’s a good thing I brought you outside,’ said Marge, gesturing Tara to turn around the corner, ‘You need to get out more.’
They walked through the town, with its clouds yet to be cleared, the puddles staining the roads, and the emotionless people strolling along. Still, Tara looked about to further let her know that this was reality she was in, and for anything of interest. Occasionally she would take a look in the paper as she walked by. Oh look, some school held a fair for charity. Those kids earned something.
With only a few more steps on the pavement – with Tara once stopping to ponder on how some cracks were made – they arrived at the coffee shop Marge had spoken of. It was no brighter than the usual building found along this road, and yet it stood out, beckoning Tara to come within.
When Tara entered, however, she treaded slowly, as the entire room seemed to be shrouded in shadows. Two men sitting at a table looked like a pair of floating heads above disembodied hands. All it took, however, for Tara to go deeper was a slight push on the back from Marge. As Marge promised she would buy them both a cappuccino, Tara went to find herself a seat.
That one. It had to be that one.
Not too far from where Marge was ordering, and with a nice view of the window. Look, a window. This place isn’t all shadows.
‘What are you doing in this boring old dump anyway?’
Just when Tara had sat down. When she heard the voice, the chair had suddenly gained a firm grasp of her body, trapping her, forcing her to look at Pinkie Pie.
Another memory of a fantasy of a memory or whatever it was sprung into Tara’s brain. It was shortly before she re-emerged in the human world that she imagined Pinkie Pie – she was Pinkie Pie. She sat at a table, surrounded by inanimate objects, all speaking to her. Your friends had abandoned you, they said. You should leave them be, they said. Marge didn’t know about Pinkie, so Tara provided her own diagnosis. She wondered if it was her subconscious trying to bring her back to the real world. Like Pinkie Pie was speaking to imaginary friends, so was Tara, and if a fictional character talking to nothing is crazy, what about a real person doing so?
Yet when she looked at Pinkie sitting there, her expression strangely blank, Tara imagined the skeletal structure holding together this playful equine. Hearing Pinkie breath heavily, Tara thought of the lungs under that pink coat. Under that firm mane there must be a brain, working to give her all those wild thoughts.
Figments of the imagination can’t have minds, can they? Can something that comes from the brain have a brain?
‘Twilight!’ Tara remained silent, choosing to turn her attention towards Marge ordering their coffee. ‘Hey, Twilight!’ Not much of a queue, the coffee shouldn’t be long. ‘Hellooo, Twilight, have you got hay in your ears?’ Silently, Tara turned to Pinkie. ‘Why would you leave Ponyville for this boring old dump?’ Her eyes enlarged, transforming Pinkie into one of those twee little figurines Marge had in her office. ‘Don’t you want to be my friend anymore? And what about Rainbow Dash? Applejack?’
Clutching tightly onto the table, Tara knew she shouldn’t respond, yet her mouth hung open. Words pounded on her lips, telling her to let them free. Her mouth moved left, her mouth moved right, and Pinkie rested her head on her foreleg in impatience.
Then Marge arrived with the coffee.
Two cups, with little milk containers and sugar satchels. Tara turned her attention towards them, taking a long whiff of her cup. Hot, luscious, ah. Real coffee. As she dumped in the milk, she looked up, and Pinkie Pie was still sitting there, right beside Marge.
‘This place is so boring,
And the coffee’s sub-par,
I can’t even throw a party here,
Because it’s so bourgeois!’
Knocking over the chair, Pinkie began a miniature dance, folding her forelegs and letting her hind legs move in several directions. Tara wanted to turn her head to look at Marge, knowing that she wouldn’t acknowledge Pinkie’s presence, and yet something about Pinkie’s dance mesmerised her.
Was it a test? Yes, if Pinkie was her subconscious, then perhaps this is its way of telling her how stupid she was being. All she had to do was, in her mind, tell Pinkie to go away and Equestria would be defeated forever.
She closed her eyes and tried to shut out Pinkie. She thought of real, physical things, all she knew existed: the buildings, her room at the institution, clouds, cupcakes...
Upon opening her eyes, Pinkie was gone.
That sense of pride welled up in her again as she guzzled down her coffee. She took a look at Marge, who had a pleased look on her face. Yes. She had done it. How many of the other patients in that institution could do that? Gilda had been there longer than she had, and she’d likely stay longer still. Imagine how Clarice would feel, if she was still alive.
This coffee shop is far too dark. Maybe some balloons would lighten it up.
Was it the sense of accomplishment or the caffeine from the coffee she didn’t know, but Tara still sprung up from her chair, knocking it over, and dashing for the door. Though her appendages propelled her, they all began to feel numb. Letting the door’s ringing become a tune to accentuate this mood, she ran out onto the streets. Everything seemed much brighter than usual. Even the clouds had parted, the light of the gods beaming down upon Tara as she proclaimed her victory.
The best day ever.
‘What happened?’ was the first thing Twilight said upon rising, her eyes still closed.
Rubbing her eyes with her hooves, Twilight found herself in her bedroom, her friends beside her. Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, Fluttershy. Wait...
‘You feeling okay, sugar?’
‘I think so, but...’ Twilight rubbed her head, looking about the room. ‘It all seems so...’
Rainbow Dash intervened. ‘We were collecting some special flowers for Princess Celestia, remember, and you fell near this weird plant thing?’
No, Twilight didn’t remember.
‘We got the flowers, but then we found you out cold. We asked Zecora about it, and she said the pollen from that plant can knock anypony out, and give them weird dreams or something.’ Rainbow shook her head. ‘Don’t really understand it myself.’
‘Di’n’t she also say some ponies used it to see other worlds?’ interrupted Applejack.
‘Yeah,’ said Twilight, a hoof on her horn, ‘I did have quite a strange dream...hey, where’s Pinkie?’
‘Oh,’ said Applejack, ‘She just went off to get some cakes for when you come to...which I guess is now.’ A moment of silence followed. ‘Something wrong, hun?’
Twlight shook her head, crawling onto the floor. ‘No, no. Everything’s fine. Say, isn’t the gala coming up soon?’
Her body shuddering, Marge looked over the unconscious Tara. Despite her cries, her protests, she couldn’t stop Tara running out onto the road and having that accident. Limbs were fractured, and she took a major hit to the head. She saw the irony or the appropriateness of Tara getting damaged in the head, but chose not to dwell on it. There were other things to dwell on.
She tried to ignore the white of the room, which seemed to flash and burn, and the beeping of the monitor, which began to sound like laughter. Instead, she looked closer at Tara’s face, beautiful in spite of its marks. It was what lay beyond those marks that made her shudder, a woman with intelligence and potential, reduced to a motionless shell, just another looney.
It seemed like she had recovered. It really did.
She’s probably off with the ponies now.