Horizontal Lines

by horizon

Moon Bright

The chickens were nervous. Pistachio understood. The moon was too bright.

That was all it was. The moon was too bright.

He stared up at its smooth white face, squinting a bit. Despite its terrifyingly blank look, any minute now it would yield to the sun. Of course it would. It already had, once.

There was no reason for it to remain in the sky again, not with Princess Celestia back in charge. The moon — and its former dark prisoner — had set like clockwork every morning for his whole life, and countless generations before him. And according to the royal proclamation that a Wonderbolt had posted in the town square after the long night ended, the Princess said everything was back to normal. That was all there was to it. He trusted Princess Celestia like he trusted the sun to ri…

No, bad analogy.

Pistachio thought for a moment. Like he trusted the seasons to turn.

… But that came back to her, too, didn't it? Changing temperatures followed the shifting of the solar schedule as days were lengthened and shortened.

Like he trusted trees to grow, then? But that was guided by earth pony magic, and the blessings of magic came from friendship, which came from a nation united under Princess Celestia.

Pistachio stepped back from the edge of the porch and turned his back on the orchard. He didn't want to think about analogies any more.

He shifted his gaze through the farmhouse window at the grandfather clock in the living room. Five fifty-seven a.m. on the nose. Exactly three more minutes.

Some hens trilled. A rooster clucked. Pistachio stared as the second hand sank to the bottom of the clock face. Then the languid sway of the pendulum propelled it upward. Then across. Two minutes.

Pistachio turned at the clip-clop of hooves on packed earth — his son plodding back from the orchard. Pecan's head was turned, staring back over his shoulder at the too-bright moon suspended over the horizon.

"Chickens are nervous," Pecan said, slowing as he neared the porch.

Pistachio took a long and silent breath, and tried to ignore the birds' spreading trilling. "Two minutes now."

Pecan glanced at his sire and languidly walked up onto the porch next to him. "I was just gonna say the moon's too bright."

" 'Course," Pistachio said, turning away as his muzzle flushed. "Sun's gonna rise, you mark the Princess' words."

Pecan returned to staring at the moon.

" 'Course it will," he slowly said. "That sister o' hers has been reformed."

"That's what she says," Pistachio said. And then, as he realized that hadn't come out with nearly the note of finality he had intended, he clarified, "What Celestia says." Even that seemed insufficient, so he coughed and continued: "That settles that."

They stared at the moon. Pistachio snuck another glance at the clock. One minute.

"Let's say it didn't set," Pecan said. "It will, o' course, but if it didn't … I reckon the Royal Guard might need some good, strong earth pony volunteers."

Pistachio frowned. "Hypothetically," he said, "if the moon didn't set, yer military career would last exactly as long as it takes to charge at the lunatic."

"Proclamation asked us not to say that no more," Pecan said, with a note of acid at the edge of his tone.

"Well, we're speakin' hypothetically," Pistachio said. "If the sun didn't rise, I reckon that's what she'd be. But it will, so she ain't."

Pecan was silent for a moment. "True."

A breeze stirred leaves in the orchard. A poor, confused rooster crowed — a sound as sad and half-hearted as the pale light of the not-a-sun.

The ponies stared at the sky, squinting a bit. Was the moon moving? It was. Maybe. No? It kept looking like it was moving, but it wasn't changing position against the few nearby stars it hadn't washed out.

"Any second now," Pistachio said, his heart pounding against his ribs.

"Sun'll rise," Pecan said tightly.

Pistachio glanced back at the clock. Six o-clock and eight seconds, and his heart stopped. He opened his mouth, turning toward his son —

Shadows shifted. The moon shivered, and lurched, and visibly, unmistakeably sank.

The horizon brightened. The rooster crowed again, full-throated. Sunlight kissed the wall of the farmhouse. Pistachio let out a long, shuddering breath, closed his eyes, and felt the light warm his skin.

He'd have to go talk to the local pegasi. The night had to have been unseasonably cold for him to be shivering like this.

There was a snort next to him. "Clock's a few seconds fast, pa."

"Reckon so," Pistachio said. "We oughta fix it. But there's chores that need doin'."

Pistachio heard the sound of Pecan plodding back out to the orchard. "Reckon so."