Dear Twilight Sparkle,
You once asked me what its like to be immortal. What it feels like to know that you will never die. I don’t really know how to answer that question. Its like asking you how you know how to breathe, asking how it felt before you were born.
I don’t really know how to explain it. Its not a question you’re ever really prepare to answer. You’re not even the first to ask this question. Eventually everyone does. More often than not as they sit beside me withered by age, and we laugh over our years together. With grace, they take hold of my ever youthful hoof and ask. Not out of fear, but out of curiosity. Too late are they for hope, all that is left is to answer those questions worth asking.
Yet, in all my age, my supposed infinite wisdom, I can honestly say that I could never answer that question. But now, after three thousand years of this life, of this world, I finally feel ready to try.
What is it like to be immortal?
For three thousand years I have pondered that. Yes, youth eternal, wisdom unending-strength and knowledge, dare I say even power-are all parts of it-but there is still much for me to learn and despite my age, I lack great wisdom. But, truth be told, to answer that question, all you need to do is look into another’s eyes and see yourself in them to know the infinite.
Love is, at the end of all things, the greatest singular idea that we ponies have ever developed. May it be the love between friends, or lovers or family, it is the greatest thing this world has to offer. I may not ever experience death, at least, not for some time yet, but I do not fear it-because death fears love.
I have known love and all too well. I know it still, despite what it has done to me. To be immortal is to know everything-and sometimes that is not a blessing-how can I know light without knowing shadow? But through that darkness I have realized that love is beautiful, even when it is lost.
A long time ago, I had a suitor.
He came to me as you did, but a child. He sat beside me and listened, as you have. He heard and learned my wisdom-my stories.
I can still remember the stories he would tell of me to anyone that asked. His forearms wheeling and flashing about as he stood atop desks and tables, shouting and professing my grand tales, eyes filled with wonder.
Every time he would end his stories with telling how he came to meet me. How I was the most beautiful mare he had ever laid his eyes upon. How he intended to marry me one day. The crowd would go wild with that soft, romantic “Awww”
I would blush-and turn away.
You see, I was already a thousand years of age by this point, and long before, I had loved another and lost him too. When he died, I swore to lock my heart away, as to never see it break again. To never feel that soul rending, crushing, pain that causes one to fall to their knees in silent, noiseless screams of agony.
He knew this. I told him the first time he said that he loved me that I could never return the feelings for him...and everyday he would return to me with a flower in hoof and ask for mine-not in marriage, but in courtship.
“My heart is always and forever locked away.” I would say, and he would reply with a bright smile, “and I will love you always and forever, until that lock breaks.”
He was my greatest friend, and as time wore on, so did the strain on his heart. I could see his shoulders sag, his face turn downwards, his heart ache and eyes become heavy with tears.
To spare him pain, I came up with a plan. To give him an impossible puzzle. He was to explain death to one who would never know it. If he could give me this one answer to the question that I could never experience, I would let him court me.
At first he seemed eager, if not rash in trying to explain it. Hours he would spend with me, giving me lessons on mortality. On the weakness, the fragility, the beauty of life. Interesting, and amazing, but nevertheless, I still did not know death. But he persisted.
Until one day, he presented himself to me, a bag heaved over his shoulder and a twinkle in his eye as he said “I love you. I will solve this puzzle of yours, even if I must travel all the world to do so.”
And he left. At first, I could stark believe it. Honestly, I was almost relieved the first couple of months, terrible as that is to say. Years he had spent dutifully by my side, and his pain which he tried so hard to conceal from me had left stains upon my soul.
Yet, like the oncoming chill of winter cold, the inevitable began to set in. I dreamed of warmer days, filled with laughter and happiness, when the soft wind would kiss my face and wrangle my mane into flurries of tangled messes; when the sound of little rivers twinkling in the starlight could run through my ears once more.
To feel soft grasses tickle my hooves as I ran through them to-the thought emptied my mind as quickly and suddenly as it had appeared. I saw his face, hidden amongst clouds and fog. I pushed aside my heart, whipping it back into line with the hard whip of experience. It hurt, but I knew that I could not let my heart escape from its confines-for that would destroy me.
Then he returned, carrying trinkets from lands afar, and a look that came only from a stallion who has walked the earth, his hooves worn and tired from the trail. He simply asked to answer my riddle.
I sat as he explained dozens and dozens of interpretations of death to me, from cultures and religions that spanned the entirety of the world. Fanciful tales of heroes whose last breath gave away these secrets.
And yet, I sat, as you do now, still unable to grasp the entirety of death-as you cannot grasp immortality. The stories, while interesting, refused to answer the question outright, lightly tip toeing their way around it-as I do now.
When I told him this, all he did was stand. He told me that he loved me again, but this time, he did not ask for my hoof. Instead, he respectfully bowed and kissed my hoof, looking me in the eyes not as a pitiful suitor, but as an equal, and with that, he turned on his heel and left.
Years passed before I would see him again. I had not forgotten him, no, I had, as all do, merely locked his memory away, hoping that one day I will have use for it again.
He would send letters from time to time, addressing his travels, containing little attempts to solve the riddle. From east to west he went, traveling through snow and ice, heat and sand, across water and land, over mountains and through jungles.
He would return time to time, his mane slowly turning from its glorious brown to demur gray, and eventually silvery white. We would chat and laugh, discuss the days of youth-how he had grown old and yet I was just as young as when we first met. It was the best of times-reading side by side, sharing his stories from lands afar, and watching the stars each night, together.
Then he would suddenly leave. For days, for weeks, for months, it did not matter.
After a particularly long absence, there was one last letter. It merely stated “I have it. I am coming home.”
I could barely believe it. I waited for months before finally he stumbled in through the doors. His silvery mane slicked back, his coat weathered and rough like parchment, his steps like the trees in the storm, yet thunderous and confident.
He came up to me and took hold of my hoof and simply said, “Let me show you your answer.”
Taking my hoof he led me out into the world, where the early morning stars laid out like ribbons, dancing in colors that you have never seen. Across the dark, hard earth, he led me, never saying a word beyond ‘wait’ to quell my curiosity.
There was a gate-old and worn, where the thick casing that locked away the brick and mortar had long fallen off and ivy grew in its stead. It was a gate that I knew well. A place I had wanted to forget-but I never could.
The sky was a soft grey now, lingering with certain light-hearted fear.
He took me through the sea of stones, carving a path through the thick gloom and rain that now patted the earth with soft tears. There, in the center garden, amongst the long withered and decayed stones stood a single marker-emblazoned with words that I had never read. It was long, larger than the others-no name rested upon it and yet I knew who it was.
Death rules over life, luck and wisdom. Yet above him lies love-for he knows that as long as love exists, it will always prevail. As long as it is never thrown away or forgone, death will fail. To my love, I ask you never give up on love-for I-love-will always triumph over death as long as you have a heart to give.
He said nothing to me, instead he held me as I fell and wept as scabs of wounds long though healed were ripped anew. As tears thought missing returned. As the world thought made whole again was ripped asunder.
I cried, as I had never cried before.
He held me. His soft, aged hoof stroking my head, running through my floating, falling mane and letting his coat become soaked with all the tears I and the world had to offer. All the while he gently nuzzled me, warm and comforting.
"I-I didn't want you to see me like this.”
“Why?” he asked, with all the softness that I had come to expect from him.
“Because I was weak. Because I never thought I'd see this-because I couldn't bring myself to face him again-because I...a princess should not cry.”
“We all cry sometimes, even princesses. Sometimes we have to let it all out-cry until there are no more tears, until the tears are replaced with heavy, dry sobs; until your entire body shakes in pain as your scream in silent agony; as you expend so much of yourself into this one solitary action that you possibly fathom being alive at the end of it all.”
This time, for the first time, I asked, “Why?”
“Because you will be alive. I can't promise that things will turn out the way you plan, but in the end, it is these times that make you stronger. You will rise from those ashes, and I will be here beside you, always and forever.” He said.
“You speak as though from experience.” I said, stifling what tears I could.
“Well, maybe I have a little.” he said with a chuckle, and with that, he took me back home, laid me to sleep and left before I awoke.
He never came again. At first I thought he merely wished to give me space before returning to make good upon my promise-one I now fully intended to keep, but after a week had passed, I went out into the world for him.
I searched the woods where we explored. I rummaged through the libraries where we would read. Around the cafes where we would dine. Through the parks where we walked, the fields where we would lay and watch the stars, the winding paths on which we talked.
I searched, and I searched, and then...and then I found him.
I found him-among the stones and dark grass, beneath the shade of a great tree that loomed over them all like a constant reminder that eventually, everyone wound up here.
His name was not on the stone-but I knew it was him.
All it said was “I will love you, always and forever.”
So, what is it like to be immortal you ask?
It is to be in love.
Always and Forever your faithful Teacher,