When it was nighttime Ponyville was mostly silent. Other than the sound of the wildlife that drifted in from the Everfree Forest when carried just right by the wind, and the sparse assortment of ponies that worked best at night compared to the morning, there was little commotion to be experienced and that meant it was easy to get a good night's sleep and be well rested for whatever the new day may bring with it when Princess Celestia's sun rose once again.
Which is why the sound of a piercing scream in the middle of the night was enough to wake up more than a few ponies who were unaccustomed to such interruptions to the general silence of their peaceful village.
Nopony could tell just where the scream came from and under cover of night none of them really felt inclined to go and investigate it. Not that they'd find out who or where anyway as the source of the scream wasn't on the ground but rather high above in the clouds.
Rainbow Dash gasped for air as she sat on her cloud bed, her throat sore and hoarse from the solid minute of screaming that occurred upon waking up in absolute terror, her eyes wide as she desperately looked around at her surroundings to try and determine her exact location.
She sat on her bed, shaking in silence other than her own labored breathing. She felt herself frantically, ignoring the dampness on her fur that was born from sweat and other terror induced reactions that anypony would experience in the same circumstances. Her hooves flew to her flanks to examine her cutie marks, then to her chest and abdominal region. The soft downy feel of her wings bristling below her hooves was soothing and she collapsed back onto the soft cloud bedding and let out a long overdue sigh of relief. It was all just a nightmare.
One really bad, really horrible and painfully realistic nightmare that made her terrified to even entertain the notion of going back to sleep now.
But a glance at the illuminated points on the alarm clock informed her that it was just after two in the morning; far too early to be so awake and alert. She was in desperate need of sleep and she knew that; and once her body came down from its adrenaline high it'd likely realize that too.
A shower was desperately needed at this point. As well as a change of cloud bedding but she'd worry about that later as it wasn't like they could be stained by a simple accident. Her fur right now was the main concern.
It was a quick shower but the feeling of the warmed rain water beating down against her was very soothing and comforting, doing a lot of soothe her nerves and help her relax just a little. After which it was a combination of toweling off and simply shaking the excess water off like a canine would.
Unfortunately doing so did absolutely nothing but shake away whatever traces of tiredness she was feeling, bringing her more or less back to where she was when she woke up, just less terrified than before. And making matters worse the shower hadn't caused any significant passage of time so it was still way too early to be up and around.
Sleep was necessary, but the prospect of going back to sleep terrified her. There was no way she was going near her bed for any reason again tonight no matter how much she needed the rest. In fact there was only one place in all of Ponyville -perhaps in all of Equestria- she could think of that she might feel safe at right now. If a restful night's sleep was to be had anywhere it would definitely be there.
It was easy for Applejack to sleep deeply after a hard day's work on the farm. She could easily sleep through a storm going on right over the farmhouse and not be disturbed. Sometimes when she wound up snoring it was even harder to wake her up because of the added commotion.
However there were situations that could disturb her rest and force her awake; like when she moved and her hooves made contact with a lump in the bed that didn't move on contact. That disturbance in her territory was enough to make her stir and look around as her eyes adjusted to the low level of light in the room.
There was a lump at the foot of the bed that looked like it was under the covers, but for the life of her she couldn't figure out what it was. Winona rarely ever slept in her room, and it definitely wasn't Apple Bloom; when the little filly had nightmares she wasn't shy about crawling into bed with either of her siblings and curling up against them for comfort and security.
Now that she looked at it closer the lump wasn't under the covers, but rather a separate set of covers with the same pattern as her own. Thoroughly curious she reached over and took hold of the covers and pulled them back to reveal who had snuck into her room and bedded down in such a bold manner.
"Rainbow Dash?" she asked upon seeing that messy mop of a rainbow-hued mane come into view, the cyan pegasi's form curled up into a little ball where she laid. Rainbow Dash cracked open an eye before addressing her.
Applejack paused at Rainbow Dash's words. In all the times that she'd referred to her as her sister it was never as her big sister, except for when it was something that really, really disturbed her. For her to use such a title of respect and position told her that something was up and she really didn't want to be by herself right now. That alone was enough to tell her that this was no practical joke.
"Wha's wrong Sugarcube?" she asked.
"I don't wanna be alone right now. I...I had a nightmare," she admitted shakily.
"A nightmare?" Applejack asked, not fully believing it. Rainbow Dash had dropped in and curled up at the foot of her bed because of something as simple as a nightmare? She really didn't believe that and felt the urge to grill her on the disturbance, but something in her eyes told her that she was being quite serious. "Wanna talk about it?" she asked.
"Not really," Rainbow Dash replied as she pulled the covers back over her and settled in, trying to make herself comfortable again. She pulled the covers back up to her neck and then over her head, covering up her mane so only her face was visible when she turned to face Applejack again. "Can I stay here tonight? It feels safer than over at my house."
"Naw ya can't," Applejack told her firmly. The look on Rainbow Dash's face was one of pure misery and pleading, but she never got the chance to object. "Ah'm not makin' mah own sister sleep at the foot of the bed," she explained and moved the covers back. Rainbow Dash didn't need to be told anything else as she untangled herself from the borrowed blanket and made her way over and laid down next to Applejack. "Better?"
"Much. Thanks AJ," Rainbow Dash replied and snuggled up against her.
"No need ta be thankin' me, yer family after all," Applejack replied and kissed her forehead before pulling the covers over the two of them. "Ya sure ya don' wanna talk about it? Ya might feel better."
"You really don't wanna hear about it, it was horrible. I mean really, really horrible," Rainbow Dash stated.
"Worse than the nightmare about Discord stealin' yer wings?" she asked. Rainbow Dash nodded slowly. Applejack couldn't help but whistle in response, now very intrigued as to what could surpass that and the terror that was brought on by that particular nightmare. "Start unloadin' RD, tell yer big sister all about it."
She knew she was going to hate herself for using that term as it gave Applejack leverage to use, and in a situation like this she really didn't feel up to fighting her on it. She had little choice but to submit the details that she could still unfortunately recall.
"There was something pink in the room but I can't remember what it was. I was being restrained by somepony I couldn't see and they were...cutting me up piece by piece. That was bad enough but it just seemed so bucking real at the time and I could feel everything like I was actually there. I felt the burning pain of my cutie marks being cut off, of the hypodermic needles going into my heart, the...the hacksaw cutting off my wings...I never felt any of those things before but I was experiencing every single sensation firsthoof and there was nothing I could do about it except suffer until I woke up, right before...right before I was going to die..."
Applejack listened silently as Rainbow Dash shared the details of what scared her. Knowing now what she did it was easy to see what had brought her here to Sweet Apple Acres. After hearing what she had even she was uneasy, she couldn't imagine how her sister felt having experienced it all alone. As it came to a close and Rainbow Dash's voice became shaky she hugged her close for comfort.
"Ah'm mighty sorry ya had that dream Sugarcube. But yer here now where yer safe and nothin', ah repeat, nothin', is gonna hurt ya here. Ain' nopony gonna lay a hoof on ya er they're gonna get bucked in the face by yer big sister," Applejack reassured her.
She really hated being considered the little sister and addressed as such. But right now the idea of Applejack being the elder sibling and her protector was quite comforting and she was willing to go along with it for the time being. "I love you sis'," she whispered in response.
"Ah love ya too. Now try an' get some sleep, it's way too early ta be awake even fer a farm pony," Applejack replied. Rainbow Dash simply nodded and settled in, letting Applejack hug her from behind.
The rest of the night passed in silence with no more bad dreams haunting either one of them.
Applejack was the first to awaken as the sun rose and ushered in the new day. She cracked an eye open and took note of Rainbow Dash in her forelegs which was consistent with last night's events, but she was sleeping soundly now and she really didn't see much reason to wake her up.
She moved to get up but felt something pressing against her back and preventing such. Craning her head around she spotted the obstruction that was Apple Bloom curled up above the covers and snuggling into her back. When exactly she came in she had no idea, but she was certainly about to find out.
"Apple Bloom...hey Apple Bloom come on and wake up," Applejack said as she reached over and shrugged her sister's shoulder. That however turned out to be a process as it required several more tries before she finally stirred and yawned.
"Mornin' sis," Apple Bloom greeted her as she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.
"Wha' ya doin' in here Apple Bloom?" Applejack asked.
"Ah couldn' sleep so ah came in here ta lay down an' get cozy but ah saw RD layin' there. So then ah thought maybe ah should go back ta mah own bed but then ah decided to jus' lay down like we was having a slumber party er somethin'," Apple Bloom explained. "Wha's Rainbow Dash doin' over anyway? She slept over the day before so that ain' like her."
"She said she had a nightmare that spooked 'er somethin' fierce but didn' wanna talk about it none," Applejack explained, not wanting to go into the details with Apple Bloom that Rainbow Dash had shared with her last night and wind up traumatizing her. "Ah'm jus' gonna let 'er sleep 'til she's ready ta get up. Le's get ready fer breakfast."
"Don't leave me alone," came the mumbled reply from Rainbow Dash's prone form. She slowly rolled over and looked at the two through a partially opened set of eyes. "I've been up for a while now. It's just so cozy right here. Can't I get five more minutes of uninterrupted quality time with my two sisters?" she asked.
Simple flattery. Despite herself Applejack couldn't help but smile.
"...A'right five more minutes. But after that we need ta be gettin' up an' around fer the day. We gotta make a delivery ta the venders in Ponyville an' an extra set o' hooves would be a real help. Ya mind pitchin' in a might today?" Applejack asked.
"I guess I could do that," Rainbow Dash replied and shrugged before laying back down again. Apple Bloom didn't need to be told twice and settled back down pressed up against Applejack's back.
Applejack just shook her head and grinned weakly before laying back down as well. She really wouldn't trade her sisters for anything.
Hauling apples into Ponyville wasn't the easiest job she'd ever done at Sweet Apple Acres, but it also wasn't the hardest so she knew she was up to it. And with all three of them pitching in it was overall easier for each. And considering how many apples they had to haul that was a good thing.
"So who's getting all these apples anyway?" Rainbow Dash asked once they finally arrived at Ponyville.
"The grocer mainly, although the Cakes asked fer a bushel basket's worth 'cause they're tryin' some new muffin recipe. Ya mind takin' that over to 'em?" Applejack asked.
"Yeah no problem," Rainbow Dash replied and departed to Sugarcube Corner to make the delivery.
She was still tired from the events of last night, but at least she wasn't gripped with an overwhelming fear of terror from the nightmare she'd experienced. Come to think of it right now she was having trouble even remembering all the gruesome details of it, and she really didn't feel too inclined to try and recall them.
"Hello!" Rainbow Dash called as she pushed the door to Sugarcube Corner open, causing the bell overhead to ring. "Got a delivery of apples here," she said as she looked around. Not a pony was in sight, not even behind the counter. Where were the Cakes? Where was Pinkie Pie for that matter?
"Hi Dashie!" came the excited greeting of Pinkie Pie as she practically bounded out of the kitchen to greet her friend. "Ooh apples!"
"Yeah I..." she paused in mid sentence, something seeming really off but she couldn't put her hoof on it. With a shrug she disregarded the weird feeling. "I brought 'em over for those muffins the Cakes are trying to make."
"Thanks Dashie!" Pinkie Pie chirped and bounded over to examine the bushel. As expected from Sweet Apple Acres every single one of them was a beautiful shiny red apple. "I'll let Mrs. Cake know they came when she gets back with the other ingredients."
"No problem Pinkie, lemme know how they turn out," Rainbow Dash replied and turned to leave.
"Hey Dashie wait! Can you help me out in the kitchen a little? I could use an extra hoof with this batch of cupcakes and you're the only pony who can help me. I need a really special ingredient."
Rainbow Dash stopped in her tracks and looked at Pinkie Pie in confusion. Her words seemed so familiar but she couldn't place where or in what context at first. But then something in her mind clicked and her eyes went wide in terror as she looked at the pink pony's smiling face. Memories suddenly starting pouring forth like water from the dam that had broken long ago, crashing into her mind like a tidal wave and leaving her unable to escape the unfolding horrors that were all too real.
"Dashie?" Pinkie Pie asked, concerned with how her friend was looking right now.
"G-g-get away from me you SICK! PINK! FREAK!"
The commotion in the Ponyville marketplace was considerable. Usually some measure of commotion was almost expected, but to hear terrified screams coming from one of the village's best known locations was definitely out of the ordinary and brought more than a few ponies to wonder what was going on.
And when the screams could be heard all the way over at the grocer and were coming from her sister Applejack knew it was serious. "Wait here," she told Apple Bloom, leaving her to finish unloading the haul while she dashed off to investigate. She couldn't even remember Rainbow Dash sounding quite like that and naturally that left her feeling very concerned.
She muttered a few hasty apologies as she elbowed and pushed her way through the gathered crowd to make her way into Sugarcube corner, being greeted by a sight she never expected to see. Rainbow Dash was currently huddled down in a corner at the furthest end of the bakery behind a table, her eyes wide with fear as she shook violently. In the middle of the front of the bakery was a very confused and concerned looking Pinkie Pie.
"Wha' the hay's goin' on here?" Applejack asked.
"Applejack!" Pinkie practically cheered and turned to face her. "I'm so glad to see you 'cause I don't know what's going on here! Dashie brought the apples in and I told her I'd tell Mrs. Cake when she came back and as she was turning to leave I asked her if she'd like to help me make a batch of cupcakes and the next thing I know she's yelling and screaming and hiding in the corner and I can't even get close to her," she explained in her usual hyper tone.
"Like ah said, wha' the hay?" Applejack asked. Decoding Pinkie's usual rant speech wasn't all that hard after knowing the party pony for so long. But sometimes the information contained inside didn't make sense even when she wasn't talking about random nonsense.
"Dashie?" Pinkie asked as she tried to take a step closer to her terrified friend.
"Don't you dare come near me or I swear I'm gonna buck you in the head!" Rainbow Dash yelled from her hiding spot. "You're not gonna cut me up and turn me into cupcakes I won't let you!"
Applejack and Pinkie looked at each other, more confused now that ever before. Thoughts like that were...very disturbing and neither one of them could figure out where it had come from. Without a word exchanged Applejack approached, figuring she'd have far better luck.
"Hey there RD," Applejack began slowly as she approached, studying the cyan pegasus for any signs that she might try and make a break for it. "Mind me askin' wha' happened here? Wha's got ya so scared of Pinkie Pie?" she asked as she got closer.
"She's gonna kill me, she's gonna kill me," Rainbow Dash squeaked as she began rocking herself back and forth, "there's a torture chamber in the basement. She's gonna drug me with a poisoned cupcake, then she's gonna cut off my cutie marks and then she's gotta gut me like a fish and then she's gonna bake me into her cupcakes and serve them to everypony! And then after she's done with me she's gonna go after the others and do the same to them!"
"Lemme handle this one Pinkie," Applejack interrupted as she got closer until she could sit down in front of Rainbow Dash and block her sight of what had become the object of her fixation and terror. "Is this about that nightmare last night?" she asked. Rainbow Dash weakly nodded as she hugged herself. Applejack sighed and reached down to pick her up and put her back into a sitting position so she could look her in the eye. "Ah think it's about time ya told me wha' really happened las' night."
Rainbow Dash looked away and closed her eyes, not wanting to recall and relive those memories of what she was forced to experience so vividly in her nightmare. But she knew that Applejack wasn't going to let her get away with remaining silent. She knew from experience that if necessary Applejack was going to take on the role of big sister and prod her until she finally got what she wanted.
"Alright," she finally said before opening up.
She gave Applejack the entire story, sharing far more than the glossed over details of last night. There were events that occurred in her nightmare that she'd only become aware of after walking into Sugarcube Corner to make the delivery. In addition to the pain of having her cutie marks sliced off and her wings severed by the slow and methodical rhythm of a dull hacksaw scraping its way through her bones and tender nerves along the area, Applejack was also informed of the red hot railroad spike nails being hammered in through her hooves and how she not only felt it but smelt the burning of enamel. And then the electrocution through said nails and burning of her fur from the current that coursed through her body.
Rainbow Dash didn't hold anything back. Once she got the ball rolling of sharing the details she found it impossible to stop talking no matter how much she wanted to. Even through the trembling of her own body and the quaking of her own voice she kept talking, the details becoming more and more gruesome with each passing minute.
"...And then she was gonna stitch my body back together like I was a broken rag doll," she concluded as she cried, held securely in Applejack's strong forelegs.
Applejack sat silently, stoic on the outside but absolutely horrified on the inside. She was being choked by a dangerous level of nausea at the details of Rainbow Dash's dream and desperately wanted to go off somewhere and throw up, but she had to choke the disgust down as right now she was needed. Rainbow Dash's own strength had failed her and she was in desperate need of her sister.
However her thoughts were interrupted by a loud commotion from behind. Turning she saw Pinkie Pie, or more accurately the flat-maned Pinkamena Dianne Pie, sitting in the middle of the floor and bawling full force.
"Oh Dashie I'm so sorry!" she wailed uncontrollably, tears falling in a completely unrestrained manner.
Rainbow Dash looked on at Pinkie Pie in stunned silence. The sight of one of her best friends in such deep despair...something in her was coming apart. She could practically feel it cracking and crumbling and falling away piece by piece. And then she realized it; what was crumbling was the nightmare-induced fear.
This wasn't the demon in her dreams that was torturing her with the ultimate intention of turning her into baked treats, there was no way this demeanor could possibly contain something so evil and malicious, it just wasn't possible in the world of Equestria. Instead it was her friend and pranking buddy sitting there, wet with her own tears and deeply upset. She could feel her fears starting to melt away and be forgotten.
"Can ya walk?" Applejack asked, her voice soft and directed at Rainbow Dash. She nodded and was carefully released from the embrace. Applejack knew that look on Rainbow Dash's face well enough.
Her approach was hesitant, the nightmare still lingering vividly in her mind but slowly giving way to the facts that she knew. Pinkie wasn't a deranged and sociopathic killer, she was just a pony who was very random in nature who wanted to make other ponies happy and bake them cupcakes; not bake them into cupcakes. Wordlessly she stepped over to Pinkie Pie and pulled her into a hug, letting the party pony rest her head on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry Pinkie, I was horrible when I said all those things. I know you'd never do anything like that to anypony, I really am sorry," she reassured her, although it did little to quell the crying. This was unfortunately one storm they were just going to have to ride out until the end.
"Wha's goin' on sis'?"
Applejack was snapped out of her distorted thoughts by the sound of Apple Bloom's voice in the room. The little filly stood by the door, her saddle bags weighted down from what was most likely the bits in payment for the apple delivery, wearing a confused look on her face. That confused look gave her reason to let out a small sigh of relief as it told her that her little sister likely hadn't heard Rainbow Dash recalling the terrors of her nightmare; her little sister really didn't need that imagery in her head.
"Even ah don' know the answer ta that one," she said, giving as accurate a response as she could. Right now it seemed like the best answer she could give. "Why don' ya go find yer friends an' do some o' yer crusadin'? Ah'll take the stuff on back home later," she suggested.
Apple Bloom nodded and left her saddlebag with Applejack before heading off to to try and find Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, leaving the three of them alone again and undisturbed.
Eventually Pinkie's crying came to an end -which was a good thing because if it kept up much longer they were likely going to be treading water with all the tears she could produce- but the sadness remained as did her flattened mane.
"I'd never do anything like that to you or anypony else Dashie, you gotta believe me," Pinkie sobbed as Rainbow Dash continued to hold her. "Please don't stop being my friend."
"Never," Rainbow Dash reassured her and stroked her flattened mane, noting the lack of its trademark cotton candy scent. "I know you wouldn't do anything like that, it all sounds so silly and unbelievable when you hear it out loud. And I know that there's no torture chamber in the basement filled with pony parts."
"Of course there's not!"
"Mind if we take a look anyway?" Applejack asked as she approached. "Not tha' we doubt ya er nothin' ah just think it'll help hammer home the point that it was all jus' a bad dream."
"I guess it wouldn't hurt," Pinkie replied as she slowly got up and untangled from Rainbow Dash before leading them through the bakery to the basement entrance.
Pinkie Pie went down first where the others could keep an eye on her. Applejack went second to act as a barrier just in case of the one in a billion chance that something actually did happen on the way down. Rainbow Dash followed last and cautiously watched the two of them descend.
The storage room had the same structure as her nightmare but that was where the similarities ended. There were no table holding decorated pony -or griffin- skulls like macabre party decorations, no rotting organs strung up like streamers and balloons, no overwhelming smell of excrement or other bodily waste, and no sign of any dress made from cutie marks and pegasi wings. All that was present were bulk ingredients for the baking of cakes and other goodies, along with an obscene number of boxes labeled as party supplies which Pinkie was all to happy to show held genuine party items like noise makers, rubber balloons, streamer and confetti and other colorful paper items.
The more she saw the more she realized just how impossible her nightmare was. And also how bad she felt for freaking out like she had earlier because of something that was dreamed up.
"If I see that nightmare again I'm gonna punch it right in the face," Rainbow Dash commented and shook her head. "Pinkie I-"
"I know Dashie," Pinkie interrupted and smiled.
"So does this mean we can go about our usual business now?" Applejack asked, wanting to get back to Sweet Apple Acres now that everything seemed cleared up.
"Well not quite. I really do need Dashie's help in the kitchen with a special ingredient for the cupcakes," Pinkie replied. Rainbow Dash gulped in nervousness before she was quickly hoofed an empty quart jar that seemed to come out of nowhere. "Could I please get some liquid rainbow from your fountain? I wanna make the cupcakes zesty!"
Rainbow Dash stared at Pinkie and then the empty jar in her hooves, the words not matching up to the events as they unfolded. It was all so...so...random. The setup for terror had been followed through with such a hilarious turn she couldn't help it.
She snorted at first, before chuckling and then bursting into amused laughing that nearly tipped her over. Pinkie was confused at just what was so funny, but not being one to be left out of a good laugh she too joined in and was soon in hysterics. Applejack was more restrained and just chuckled.
"So I can have the liquid rainbow?" Pinkie asked hopefully.
"Sure thing Pinkie, anything you want," Rainbow Dash replied as she wiped a tear from her eye. Had she been paying closer attention she would've noticed the "pomf" of her friend's mane and tail returning to their poofy state and the scent of cotton candy coming back.
Rainbow Dash had fully intended to bring the jar of liquid rainbow back to Sugarcube Corner earlier in the day after she left, but things just sorta happened and the next thing she knew it was late at night and she was tired. She figured a day's delay wouldn't hurt and she could always drop the jar off at the bakery when it opened tomorrow; Pinkie was almost always baking cupcakes so it wasn't like it was a special batch being made that day.
She was still ashamed of how she'd acted earlier in the day, treating Pinkie like she was a nightmare because of some dumb nightmare she had. She'd lost track of how many times she'd apologized for earlier and even though Pinkie assured her she held no grudge she still felt that something more needed to be done.
But she'd worry about that tomorrow when she was better rested. Right now all she wanted to do was hit her cloud bed and get some much needed rest that was free from nightmares. She tightened down the lid on the jar as it was done filling and set it over on the dresser so she'd remember to pack it tomorrow. She was just about to move towards her bed when she stopped in her tracks as curiosity got the best of her and she looked back at the fountain.
Then again liquid rainbow wasn't exactly known for being a foodstuff. She remembered Pinkie's reaction back in Cloudsdale so it might not work out. Oh well she'd let the party pony worry about that, she had a bed to dive into right now.
When Rainbow Dash regained conciseness, she found herself in a dark room. She tried to shake her head but found that a taut leather strap held it firmly in place. She struggled to move, but braces around her chest and limbs glued her to a rack formed from a series of sturdy planks, which spread her legs wide apart. Rainbow Dash’s wings were the only part of her not tied down, and they fluttered frantically while she struggled to escape. As she writhed, Pinkie jumped suddenly into her line of sight.
“Goodie, you’re awake. Now we can get started,” Pinkie stated gleefully. She bounded into the darkness, and quickly reappeared pushing a small cart covered with a cloth.
“Pinkie, what’s going on? I can’t move!” Rainbow Dash said urgently.
“Well duh, that’s because you’re tied down,” chided Pinkie. “That’s why you can’t move. I didn’t think you’d need to be told that.”
“But why? What’s happening? I thought you said I was going to help make cupcakes.”
“You are helping. You see, I ran out of the special ingredient and I need you to get more.”
“Special ingredient?” Dash was now breathing heavily and starting to panic. “What special ingredient?”
Pinkie giggled and responded “You, silly!”
Rainbow Dash’s eyes widened, and her face contorted in fear. Then she started to laugh and said, in a voice bordering on hysteria, “Woo, you really got me there, Pinkie pie. I mean, tricking me in to thinking I’m gonna get made into a cupcake? I gotta tell you, this the best prank yet. You win, you’re the best.”
Pinkie only giggled even more. “Aw, thanks Dashie. But I haven’t done any pranks today, so I can’t accept your praise.”
Rainbow Dash was struggling again. “Pinkie, come on, this isn’t funny.”
“Then why were you laughing?” Before Rainbow Dash could answer, Pinkie grabbed the cloth and whipped it off the cart. On the cart was a tray containing various sharp medical tools and knives, carefully organized and wickedly sharp, as well as a large medical bag.
Rainbow Dash was now in full panic mode. She was starting to hyperventilate. Her mind raced as she tried to reason with the pink pony. “You can’t do this Pinkie! I’m your friend!”
“I know you are and that’s why I’m so happy that I’ve got you here. We get to share your last moments together, just you and me.” Pinkie was skipping again.
“But, the other ponies will wonder where I am. When the clouds pile up, they’ll come looking for me and then you’ll get found out,” Dashie cried in desperation.
“Oh, Dashie,” said Pinkie. “Don‘t worry, there are plenty of pegasus ponies to take care of a few clouds. And besides, no will find out. I mean, how long do you think I’ve been doing this?” And with that ominous statement, the lights suddenly came to life and revealed the rest the room.
“Oh no!” Rainbow Dash reeled in horror at the image presented to her.
The room was decorated with a typical but twisted Pinkie Pie flair. Colorful streamers of dried entrails fluttered around on the ceiling, brightly painted skulls of all sizes were attached to the walls, and organs done up in pastels filled with helium were tied to the backs of chairs. The tables and chairs were made of bones and the preserved flesh of past ponies. Dash cringed upon seeing the center piece of the table nearest to her. The heads of four foals, their eyes closed as if they were sleeping, were wearing party hats made from their own skin. With a thrill of terror, Rainbow Dash recognized one of them as Apple Bloom’s classmate Twist. Rainbow Dash’s eyes darted back and forth and then fell upon a patchwork banner hanging from the rafters. Made from several tanned pony hides, the words “Life is a party” were scrawled on it in blood red.
Rainbow Dash’s attention was brought back by a party horn unfurling and tickling her nose. She gaped at Pinkie Pie, who was standing right in front of her. The party pony was wearing a dress quilted from dried skin, emblazoned with cutie marks. On her back fluttered six pegasus wings, all of different colors. As the earth pony skipped in excitement, her necklace of severed unicorn horns clacked together loudly.
“Like it?” Pinkie asked. “I made it myself.”
Desperately, Rainbow Dash pleaded with the smiling pony before her. “Pinkie please, I’m sorry if I did anything to you. I didn’t mean it. Please let me go. I promise I won’t tell anypony.”
“Oh Dashie, you didn’t do anything. It’s just that your number came up and, well, I don’t make rules. We can’t turn back now.”
Dash was tearing up. How could this be happening?
“Aww, don’t be sad Dashie,” said Pinkie. “Look, this’ll cheer you up. I brought you a friend.” Seemingly out of nowhere, Pinkie produced a brightly painted blue and yellow skull. It was about pony sized, but it had a very defining feature: a beak.
Dash gaped in shock.
“Hey, Dash lets hang together. These ponies are lame-os. Dweebs, dweebs, dweebs,” Pinkie mimicked. “I caught her right before she left town. Remember when I left the party for about twenty minutes? That wasn’t enough time to play with her of course; I had to wait till after the party to do that. But boy am I glad I did. It was worth it for the flavor alone. Griffons taste like two animals at once, it’s amazing. I know she didn’t have a number like everyone else in Ponyville, but when was I gonna get another chance to try griffon? I probably should have asked where she came from so I could have gotten more, but I forgot. I’ll tell you what though, she was quite the fighter. She lasted a long time, which was a lot of fun for me. I got the chance to play with somepony other than a pony and try new things. It’s too bad she had such a meanie mouth. She said so much bad stuff I just had to take her tongue out. You know, bad language makes for bad feelings, Dashie.”
Rainbow Dash didn’t have anything to say. She just sobbed and writhed in her tight bonds.
“Well” said Pinkie with an air of finality, “that’s enough reminiscing. It’s time to begin.”
Putting down Gilda’s skull, the pink pony gripped a scalpel in the cleft of her hoof and walked over to Rainbow Dash’s right flank.
"No don't! Somepony, anypony help me!" Rainbow Dash screamed and struggled to try and break free, knowing full well what would be happening next.
Without any flair, Pinkie placed the blade an inch above Dash’s cutie mark and began the process of a slow circular cut around it by sinking the sharp blade into the flesh of her flank. Rainbow Dash shouted in pain and tried desperately to pull away, but the braces held her still.
The horrors Rainbow Dash was forced to experience were suddenly interrupted by a loud noise not entirely unlike a metal pot being hit with a wooden spoon, causing Pinkie to recoil in pain and slowly turn around. Rainbow Dash looked up in confusion and saw another Pinkie standing there, grasping what looked like a miniature sledgehammer in the cleft of her hoof. The Pinkie in the dress saw her other self standing there, a look of bewilderment on her face.
"Hi there," the other Pinkie greeted and smacked her counterpart on the head with the hammer, again producing a metallic clang. This was followed up by a rapid succession of quick impacts each producing the same noise, forcing the one Pinkie's head to bobble from the impacts well over a dozen times, before an underhoof upward swing caught her in the chin full force and sent her flying through the air and crashing against the stone wall to the side.
"That's what you get for hurting my friend," the one Pinkie said as she dropped the hammer on the ground and turned her full attention to Rainbow Dash, including the scalpel that was still sticking out of her flank. "I'm so sorry Dashie I couldn't get here any quicker or I would've. Hold on lemme get that out," she said and grasped the scalpel handle between her teeth and carefully withdrew it. She was about to spit the accursed implement out onto the floor but stopped and instead advanced and cut through the leather straps that kept her friend restrained.
Rainbow Dash was left stunned as things unfolded. This was the same horrible nightmare as last night and she knew what she was in for from the very beginning and that she was helpless to do anything in response. But things had taken a random turn and she was now left here. There were two Pinkies in front of her with one fighting the other and helping her instead of hurting her. And now it seemed she was free to move on her own accord rather than just being controlled by unseen forces.
"P-Pinkie?" she asked hesitantly as the last strap was cut and she fell to her hooves on the floor.
"Yes?" Pinkie Pie asked after dropping the scalpel to the floor.
"You're...you're helping me?"
"Well of course silly filly you're my friend!" Pinkie chirped. She looked around the room for the first time since arriving and cringed at the sights, and the smells as well. "Ugh. Dashie no wonder you were so scared this morning. This is definitely one party I'd want to not get invited to."
"How do I know you're the real Pinkie and you're not trying to trick me so you can cut me up in new ways? Tell me something that only the real Pinkie Pie would know!" Rainbow Dash yelled and eyed one of the sharp implements, wondering if she could make a grab for it in time.
"You mean like how I know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a bowling ball?" Pinkie asked.
Despite the terror she was feeling right now the sheer randomness of Pinkie's words caught her off guard and resulted in a snort of amusement. That was one Pinkieism she couldn't recall ever hearing before and that fact was a great comfort to her right now. Immediately she moved forward and hugged her. "It IS you!" she cheered.
Across the room the other Pinkie in the cutie mark dress sat up and groaned. Her head was killing her and her back wasn't doing her any favors either. And on top of it all somepony had the nerve to crash her friend's special party and ruin everything! They were gonna pay for that! "Nopony crashes my special parties and gets away with it," she stated as she stood herself back up.
"Your parties deserve to be crashed," the other Pinkie stated and stood in front of Rainbow Dash in a defensive manner. Immediately she reared up on her hind legs, her forelegs held above her head and hooves angled downward as her right hind leg raised up as if she were about to attempt a kick with it.
The Pinkie in the dress imitated this pose and the aggressive look on her face, ready to face down the imposter.
"No, no, no, no, you don't do it like that, that's all wrong," Pinkie exclaimed and took the other Pinkie by surprise. "Here lemme show you how it's done," she said as she walked over.
"Huh? Really?" the other Pinkie asked.
She positioned the foreleg of her other self right under her chin as if she were taking up a thinking position before bringing her hind leg up, her knee pressed to the elbow joint as it bent in an odd but not uncomfortable angle. "There that's much better."
"Better for what?" the Pinkie in the dress asked in a confused manner.
"Better for this," the other Pinkie replied and kicked the other's hoof, driving her hind leg up into her foreleg which drove her hoof up into her chin with a painful punch, sending her toppling and landing on her hindquarters. "Nopony gets away with hurting my friends! Absolutely nopony and that's a Pinkie Pie promise!"
"You can't make a Pinkie Pie promise like that I'm the real Pinkie Pie!"
"No I'm the real Pinkie Pie!"
"No I am!"
"No I am!"
All Rainbow Dash could do was sit and watch in horror as the two Pinkies leaped at each other and engaged in a struggle that soon resulted in a big obscuring cloud of dust like one would expect in the morning comics when the implied violence couldn't be shown. It was a mix of legs flying and sounds of mayhem, not the least of which was a cringe inducing roar like a motorized buzz saw. When the cloud cleared much to her horror the dress was shredded and laying on the floor and now there were two naked Pinkie Pies in the room and she couldn't tell who was who. Now what was she gonna do?
"Pinkie Pie?" she asked.
"Yes?" both replied in disturbingly perfect union before frowning at each other in annoyance. It was like watching one side to the side of a mirror and interact with their reflection.
"Which of you is..." Rainbow Dash started to ask but stopped herself. Asking which one of them was the real Pinkie Pie, especially in a dream, was no way to go about getting the right answer as both would just end up claiming it was them. There had to be a better way and she had to find it. She didn't know where to look amongst the horrors right now as her eyes wandered about. But then an idea came to her.
"I tell ya Pinkie I just love these new party decorations of yours. It's been a long time since I've seen anything as awesome as I was!" she stated.
The Pinkie that had spoken up was treated to Rainbow Dash's hoof slamming into her jaw as she hurtled forward with her still very much attached wings, the impact sending her flying backward and slamming into the wall with brick breaking fury and cutting a profile shaped indention in the stones.
"That's what you get for making me believe one of my friends would ever hurt me," Rainbow Dash replied and dusted off her front hooves before turning to face the remaining Pinkie Pie, a relieved smile on her face. "You alright?"
"I'm okay but how'd you know she wasn't me? For a minute even I didn't know if I was the real me or the imposter," Pinkie stated.
"The real Pinkie wouldn't take pride in these kinda decorations," Rainbow Dash replied and gestured to the room and its contents. "But that brings me to a really good question. If you really are the real Pinkie Pie then what're you doing in my dreams? How'd you get here?" she asked.
"Well I couldn't do it on my own so I got a friend to help bring me here," Pinkie explained just before moving in to hug Rainbow Dash.
"A friend? What kinda friend could do that?" Rainbow Dash asked.
"That would be myself."
Both ponies turned to look in the direction of the new voice and watch as the form of Princess Luna seemed to waltz in through the suddenly ether nature of the wall and stood before them. "Greetings Rainbow Dash."
"P-P-Princess Luna," Rainbow Dash stammered in surprise. She'd heard about the abilities of the moon princess being able to enter another pony's dreams but she'd never actually witnessed it before now. "W-what brings you here to see me?" she asked.
"Not so much as what but rather whom, that being your friend Pinkie Pie. When she entered the dreamscape her thoughts were disturbed by the accounts you shared with her earlier in the day and warranted my intervention to save her. In my interference she beseeched me to allow her to help you should you be experiencing another nightmare. Although it was a violation of proper dreamscape etiquette I could not find it within myself to turn her down her request," Princess Luna explained as she watched Pinkie Pie hug the cyan pegasus.
"It was an amazing trip Dashie, all flashy and full of colors and we were flying!" Pinkie squealed with excitement.
"I am sorry that I was unaware of your own nightmare and did not intervene earlier. There are a great many ponies for me to look after and check on during the night and I regret to say that some manage to fall through the cracks while others are tended to," Luna finished.
"So this really is just one really bad dream?" Rainbow Dash asked for clarification. Luna nodded. "So how do I know that you and Pinkie aren't figments of my imagination and this is nothing more than one really weird dream and you're not really here?"
"I can assure you that we are here and as real as you are young one, and I am able to present a very good reason to prove such. If I were nothing more than a creation of your subconscious our interaction would be influenced by your memories of myself during our exchange on Nightmare Night. I would be speaking in the old world dialect I was familiar with instead of the more modern usage of now. Furthermore I would be using the Royal Canterlot voice in addressing you."
"That...actually makes a lot of sense," Rainbow Dash replied after a pause.
"I have seen many of your dreams before since my returned Rainbow Dash. They are filled with happy thoughts, of your friends and family, of the Wonderbolts and warm spring days, of the archeologist Daring Do going on adventures and finding treasures of the old world. Something of this nature," Luna paused as she swept her foreleg around, "is far beyond what your mind would create. You do not have such horrors within you as I have seen."
Behind them the Pinkie in the wall groaned as she came loose from her entrapment and finally fell to the ground. Luna frowned and stepped past them, now standing over the prone form. "I must thank you girls. I have been looking for this one for quite some time now," she said as she turned her full attention to the Pinkie at her hooves.
The other Pinkie hissed as its form began to melt away leaving behind what looked like a withered and burnt form of an emaciated pony carcass. It looked a lot like a changeling drone but less insectoid and more...inky in nature.
If Rainbow Dash had to venture a guess she'd say it was like one of those indescribable monstrosities contained within the series of books penned by HP Lovecolt. She remembered Twilight trying to get her interested in them but they were really too out there for her.
Whatever it was it hissed even worse as it was surrounded by Princess Luna's magic and violently lifted up from the stone floor, its jaws snapping fiercely in an attempt to bite through the magical field.
"This has been a particularly malicious dream sprite and is responsible for causing many nightmares and has long evaded my capture. I have a special spot on the dark side of the moon reserved just for it," she explained and tightened her hold on it, causing it to spasm in pain and annoyance.
"So now what happens?" Rainbow Dash asked as she watched the scene before her.
"That will depend on what you girls wish. If asked I can adjust the perception of the flow of time and once this conversation ends you will wake up safe and sound in your own beds and it will be morning. Or I can guide the two of you to a more pleasant location so you may each have nothing but pleasant dreams for the rest of the night," Luna explained.
"Can I stay here with Dashie so she doesn't have to be alone?" Pinkie Pie asked.
Luna frowned. The sharing of dreams between two or more ponies was not something that was supposed to occur. It was a violation or protocol and etiquette. Dreams were a pony's innermost private thoughts and were not to be invaded by others or shared freely without consent from the dreamer. She was well within her authority to refuse and escort the pink pony back to her own dream realm and settle her in for the excitement of throwing her sister the biggest party Canterlot had ever seen. But to look at the two of them together made that difficult for her.
"If that is what you wish," she said with a defeated sigh, "but not in this place. Nopony should ever be here."
They watched as the surroundings were sanitized by Luna's magic, removing every trace of horror that was previously there until the basement looked just like it did in the daylight.
"So what happens now?" Rainbow Dash asked as she looked between the two of them.
"Hmm..." Pinkie thought and rubbed her chin. Then an idea came to her and a light bulb flashed over her head. Pinkie reached up and plucked the bulb out of the air and blew it out like it was a candle. "You wanna help me bake cup..." she paused before she could finish her sentence or even the word. Cupcakes really shouldn't be mentioned here now. "You wanna help me bake chocolate chip cookies?"
"But I'm terrible at baking," Rainbow Dash pointed out.
"No problem I'll teach you how to do it," Pinkie Pie reassured her and turned to face Luna. "Do you wanna help bake cookies too?" she asked.
"As much as I would like that I am afraid there are other more pressing matters I must attend to. If I am needed I will be present to help you, but I cannot participate at this time," Luna replied and turned her attention back to the dream sprite, constricting it with her magic like she was attempting to crush it.
"That's okay maybe you can come by Sugarcube Corner sometime and we'll bake for real then." Pinkie offered.
"I would like that very much, thank you. For now I must bid you a good night and wish you good dreams. Take care my dear friends. I shall be back when it is time to escort you back to your own dreams so you may wake up properly," Luna said to Pinkie, "in the meantime I must deal with this one. Many ponies will be able to sleep easier now that they no longer have to worry about the horrors this one brings to them," she explained, before disappearing back into the dreamscape and leaving them behind and alone together.
Alone with an uncomfortable and overwhelming silence that just about choked Rainbow Dash.
"Pinkie?" Rainbow Dash finally spoke up and turned to face her. "Why'd you go through all the trouble of coming to help me in my dreams? In the real world I can understand, but in my dreams? Nothing here is real so it's not like it mattered or anything."
"Because you're my friend silly filly. I'd do anything to help my friends," Pinkie told her and pulled her into another comforting hug. "And after hearing about what was going on in your dreams how could I stay away? Nopony should ever have to experience something like that."
Rainbow Dash didn't say anything in response. How exactly were you supposed to reply to somepony who crossed through dream boundaries to try and help you? All she could do was return the hug and rest her head on her shoulder, hoping the gesture would speak the volumes that she herself was unable to.
"So you wanna go back upstairs and start on baking cookies now?" Pinkie asked hopefully.
"Uh...sure I guess. Just don't blame me if I wind up burning down the kitchen doing this," Rainbow Dash said as she untangled herself from her friend in order to head back upstairs.
"Last one up has to wear the pink apron!" Pinkie giggled as she bounced her way up to the stairs.
"But I..." Rainbow Dash paused and then smirked. She got what Pinkie was saying now. "You're on!" she replied and took off after her.
Dear Princess Celestia,
This isn't much of a friendship report, just acknowledgement that I've got the best friends a pony could have. It's easy for some to say that they'll do whatever it takes to help a friend out, but it takes a true friend to prove that by actually doing it.
Signed, Rainbow Dash
P.S. Could you forward the enclosed letter to Princess Luna?
Dear Princess Luna,
I can't begin to thank you enough for saving me from that nightmare and putting an end to it. I don't know why that dream thing felt like making Pinkie my enemy but I'm glad it's over. Being afraid that one of your friends is going to hurt you is absolutely the worst and when you're the Element of Loyalty it really hurts to even think about that.
Signed, your loyal subject...and very grateful friend, Rainbow Dash
P.S. Pinkie wants to know if the 5th is good for you?