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"I will forge my own way, then, where I may not be accepted, but I will be myself. I will take what they called weakness and make it my strength." ~Rarity, "Black as Night"

More Blog Posts136

  • 92 weeks
    "A Place of Safety"

    I came up with this story idea a little while ago. I wrote out a lot of it, and then I figured, "You know what? This would be a really great way to close out the show. Put this out on the day of the finale, and you can sorta bookend everything."

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    0 comments · 141 views
  • 109 weeks
    "Of Wake and Sleep Combine"

    The Nightmare had one thousand beasts…

    The days after defeating her were hell.

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    1 comments · 201 views
  • 111 weeks
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  • 122 weeks
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  • 126 weeks
    The Tale of the Glorious Angel Food Cake

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    0 comments · 156 views

"Of Wake and Sleep Combine" · 1:37am Jun 21st, 2019

The Nightmare had one thousand beasts…

The days after defeating her were hell.

I had thought my sister’s attack on me was petty revenge, more heat than light, meant to terrify me rather than any serious attempt at conquest. I had seriously underestimated her. She’d been secretly amassing an entire army to wage war against Equestria, to make them truly fear the night, if they would not love her. So for days upon weeks, we were out late at night slaying the demons she’d raised to destroy us—bats with mouths festooned with teeth, coiling and hissing razorwire snakes, black abaddons and fiery balrogs, and the thestrals, grim parodies of ponies made of rot and shadow that would, in time, evolve and shed their madness to one day become the modern batpony species. The attacks eventually abated once the monsters realized their leader was imprisoned, and they slunk back to their hiding holes, like the howling gorges and the Everfree Forest.

We thought we had won.

...of wake and sleep combine…

Then the reports came of children howling in their sleep. And we realized she had been far too canny than we had understood.

Before we arrived, or so they’ve told me, there was no such thing as dreams. When ponies laid down for the night, their brains amassed little snippets of sense data: a subconscious attempt at curation that was only experienced on the periphery of conscious experience. My sister, with her talent for walking through the mindspace, had sought to have her own kingdom in the collective unconscious, and so had gifted the Equestrian world with the miracle of visions. Playful stories of adventure, impossible fantasies, riskless experimentation that vanished like the dew upon the dawn.

And there was the problem. Dreams were beautiful, but they weren’t real. By the time the ponies had made it to their coffee, they had already forgotten most of the dream, save for some of the residual emotions. So they never recognized her gift, and she grew more resentful.

She’d decided to give us another gift, instead. The gift of bad dreams, of chimeric torment so painful that when you woke up, you could still feel the pain hours after. We named them in her honor, then: “nightmares.”

And of course she targeted primarily children. Adults had much stronger defenses against fantasy.

I couldn’t walk through dreams, so I couldn’t face the nightmares directly. I could only don my scientist tiara and attempt to purge them from where I stood, in reality. Like the first set of monsters, we made some headway. One we called the “Omen,” because it was a dream that suggested that everyone you knew and loved was about to die. These we could heal with counseling and a watchful eye. Another was the “Apnea,” a drowned mare that would hold its hooves around your throat until you woke up choking and gasping for air. It turned out that this had a physical component, and with the right equipment and environment, we could prevent the Apnea’s appearance and curse. Then there was the “Spinem,” a cactus-looking creature that appeared in the dream, and seemed harmless at first. But the child would grow increasily paranoid of it, and then begin to claim that it was appearing in reality. I realized that it was using the child’s inherent magic to attempt to manifest; a magical aegis frustrated its attempts, and it would abandon its victim in search of a new target.

So some were physical, some were psychological, and some were magical. It’s very important you understand this when I tell you of the last I ever tried to combat.

But of all the ills that haunt the night…

This one was called the “Alp,” a foreign word equivalent to “elf,” because it looked like an ugly, squat creature sitting on you. In the dream, it would lurk menacingly over your body, then suddenly fly towards you, throw you to the ground, and squash you down with its fat body. The children reported a stifling sense of pressure, as though they were being crushed by tons of rock. Our Alp victims were somber sights, all shivering and pale-faced, terrified of the next moment when they would sleep and feel it pressing, pressing, pressing…

But we couldn’t find anything physiologically different with them. They appeared, by all accounts, exactly the same as any other sleeping pony. We tried various treatments, some designed to deepen sleep, and some to lighten it, and neither seemed to help. So then we thought it was perhaps psychological, but we could find no common tie between the ponies who reported Alp torture. They were not all, to a pony, filled with lives of stress, or crushed by recent failures, or burdened by heavy secrets. (You may laugh at my use of metaphor, but these are creatures of mind and myth. To them, metaphor is as good as reality, because it is their reality.) So there was only one option left, in my mind. It had to be a magical case.

So I did what I was good at: I blasted the problem to Tartarus with magic.

And the children woke up.

...the Alp, I fear, is mine.

But when the children woke up, they wouldn’t respond to our prompting.

We hurried up and down the row, but to a pony, it was all the same. They had their eyes open, but none of them were moving. I thought perhaps that maybe their consciousnesses were still asleep—maybe their eyelids had simply opened spontaneously—but then one heart monitor began to beep wildly, and then another, and then another.

And I suddenly understood what I had done.

We had known for some time that when ponies slept, their brains “disconnected” from their bodies, in a sense. This was so that, during their dreams, they wouldn’t run about and playact what they were doing to an invisible audience. (The “dreaming walker” form of nightmare had broken this rule, but it was a physical malady, and one easily treated by simply waking the victim.) For every other pony, they never noticed this, because the dream kept them distracted. That was precisely why the brain had disconnected in the first place.

The Alp victims, however, were waking up, just a little bit, just enough to experience this disconnect, a little bit. The Alp had preyed upon that by amplifying the feeling, turning it into a pressing sensation.

The Alp was a physical nightmare. It was a physical nightmare, and I’d just pumped it with the most powerful magic I could muster.

The children were waking in their sleep, but their brains weren’t reconnecting properly, because of course they weren’t, I had just amplified the sensation one thousandfold. They were waking up to a body that was a prison to them—and no doubt the pressing sensation was still there. They were awake, and they were screaming, and they were totally paralyzed, and I could do nothing to save them.

And it was all my fault.

...They woke up in time, Twilight. Don't you fret. They described the effect as horrific beyond measure, and I could only beg them with tear-filled eyes for forgiveness. We taught them about the science behind their current condition; some of them continued to have episodes, while for others, that was their first and last sleep paralysis. I don't know if they cursed me for all the days of their lives, but they're dead now, and any hatred of me is in the void now.

It's not them that keeps me up at night--to use a horrifically inappropriate turn of phrase. It's the ones who will experience this for the first time, out of nowhere, and be totally bewildered and terrified. They won't understand the physical mechanisms of it; they won't have heard of the children from before; they won't have any knowledge of the Alp and its pressing, pressing, pressing...

And they won't know that the reason why they're in this position is because I was only trying to help.

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Comments ( 1 )

… goodness. Very immersive.

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