CHAPTER 14: Reflections and Revelations
Twilight struggled to open her eyes. She felt groggy, as if she had just woken up from a late night of studying. What had happened?
She started awake as she remembered. Spectral Slash had betrayed her. And she had left her friends. Where were they now? Were they safe?
For that matter, was she?
She peered around the room she was in. A single light hung from the ceiling, causing such a contrast that she couldn't see beyond the radius of illumination, the deep shadows taunting her. The floor, as much as she could see, was cold and harsh concrete. She was sitting in a chair, her front legs pulled back and restrained by thick cords, and her hind legs tied to the chair in a similar manner.
So, it was a foalnapping. She closed her eyes in concentration. Her horn sputtered and sparked, but didn't engage. They had drained her energy pool. She frowned with a dark anger. That was one of the first laws of magic. You never took another's power. Slash had some questions to answer.
But wait. Spectral Slash wasn't a unicorn. Somepony –wait, somebody– No. Why did she even care what Spectral Slash thought anymore? But the fact still remained that it wasn't Spectral Slash who had drained her magic. She couldn't have; she was a pegasus. Others must have been involved.
Who wanted her? And why? She thought back over her time here in The Land of the Lost, as the Metaspectre had called it. She had only really met four ponies. The stallion who gave them the cloaks, (Which, Twilight noted, she was still wearing,) the blacksmith Temperament, the bartender and Spectral Slash. She had only told her purpose in the realm to the bartender and Spectral Slash, but she had been with Slash the entire time, so the bartender couldn't have hired Slash, and Slash had blatantly said she was working for somepony else.
Somepony must have known they were coming. It was the only logical explanation. But who? And why? What did they have against her? Against the rest of the Elements?
She started once more. The Elements. She had placed hers in her saddlebag as they had been traveling. Could her captors be after the Elements of Harmony? She looked around once more, craning her neck as far behind her as she could. Nothing. Her saddlebags, and everything inside of them, were nowhere to be seen. So, the lovingly named 'big crown thingy' was gone, and no chance of help from the energy inside. She'd have to get out through physical means.
She struggled against her bonds, but they were done tight. Whoever had tied her was a professional. Keeping at it would probably only chafe her. She looked up again, squinting against the light, which seemed brighter and almost harsh now. “Hello?” She called out. Thankfully, she noted, they hadn't gagged her. There was always some silver lining.
Her voice echoed for a moment, and then faded into nothing. The outburst made her realize just how quiet it was in here. The more she thought about it, the more irritated she felt. The silence was everywhere, pressing in on her. She could hear her heart beat, her own breath. It was maddening.
Time passed. How long she sat there, she had no way of knowing. She hummed songs to herself to distract her from her predicament and the silence. “Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake...” She whispered quietly, remembering a time when everything was simple. She only had a couple people to worry about in her childhood. Her family, her sitter, and herself.
But she wouldn't trade her new life for her old one. Things were more difficult, of course, and sometimes she found herself in predicaments like this, but in the end, it was worth it. The looks of joy and happiness between her friends and those she helped were priceless.
Now if only she could get out of this stupid room so she could affirm her friends were safe.
Twilight flicked her ears. After so much silence it was impossible to miss. Somepony had entered the room. Almost silent hoofsteps stalked towards her. Twilight peered towards the sound coming directly in front of her.
From the shadows melted a familiar pink form. Relief flooded over Twilight. “Oh Pinkie! Listen, you have to untie me. Have you seen the others?”
Pinkie's chest heaved with silent laughter, her still straightened hair amplifying the motion around her downcast face. “Twilight, Twilight, Twilight... For being the smartest pony I know, you can be pretty dense at times.”
Twilight pulled back. “What are you talking about?”
“Nothing is as you know it.” Pinkie raised her head and looked Twilight square in the eye. Those bright blue eyes were joyless. Cold. Calculating. Not the Pinkie she knew.
“Who are you? What have you done with Pinkie?”
“Can you figure it out? You've met me before. Briefly.”
Twilight racked her brain. “When we threw you, or rather Pinkie, a surprise birthday party. She had the same hair. A similar demeanor. Are you Pinkie's Hyde?”
“A good comparison, but not quite. But you are correct about the timing. Why was she acting that way? Do you recall?”
“She thought we were giving her a farewell party. That we were kicking her out of the group. It was a misunderstanding, of course.”
“What was she feeling at the time? Sum it up in one word.”
Twilight thought for a moment. Finally, the emotion rose to her consciousness.
“Despair. She felt Despair.”
The dark pony in front of her held out her hooves. “Congratulations. You've named me.”
“Your name is Despair?”
“That was a hyperbole, of course. My name is Pinkamina Diane.”
“But... that's Pinkie's full name, right?”
“Wrong. She is, and always has been, simply Pinkie Pie.”
“I don't follow.”
“Use your brain, Twilight. You've been blessed with a good one. The pieces lie before you. Pick them up.”
Pinkamina sat down, watching Twilight stoically. Twilight tried to ignore her as she racked her mind. This Pinkamina Diane. She had introduced herself as Despair. A word only whispered in tales of great heroes of old. Back in Reality, worries were resolved with speed. There wasn't time for despair. There was only time for...
That was it. Pinkamina Diane was, in some way, a physical reflection of Pinkie Pie. The reflection of Pinkie's element, Laughter, wasn't the absence of the action. It was the absence of the joy. Despair. A fear for tomorrow.
But, if Pinkamina was a physical reflection of Pinkie, it stood to reason that other physical reflections might exist. Thinking back, Twilight realized that past all the grime and sweat, Temperament shared a startling resemblance to Rarity. The purple mane, the white though soot-stained coat, the three-diamond cutie mark, a seemingly random symbol for a lowly blacksmith.
Rarity was the Element of Generosity. The reflection must be Avarice. Yes. That was it. Temperament had seemed rather off-put by their request, as if she didn't want to help them despite it being a simple question. Then she went and cheated them out of some money. And now, she realized that Temperament had started to greet Pinkie, or rather Pinkamina, as if she recognized her. But she had stopped as if she remembered something, or saw something that cut her off. And then Temperament had directed them to Spectral Slash.
Ah. Spectral Slash. It was then Twilight began to see this world for what it was; a mirror to Reality. But she had been thrown off the trail by Slash's outgoing demeanor. She had seemed friendly, helpful, almost like an old friend. But it went with her Element. The reflection of Loyalty, Rainbow's Element, was Betrayal. It had all been a setup. An elaborate scheme. Which had ended...
Here. Twilight looked up. “You're us. In some way, you're a twisted form of our mentality, our body, our Element.”
Pinkamina clapped her hooves, the condescension pouring out of her in waves. “Oh, very good. Very good. But why? What do we want? Where is Pinkie? Can you figure that out?”
Twilight frowned. “No,” she admitted. “I don't know where Pinkie is. Spectral Slash and Rainbow Dash inhabit separate bodies, but you and Pinkie seem to be one. And I don't know why you'd foalnap me. We've done nothing to harm you or whatever position you have here. I'm innocent. Please, let me go. I know Pinkie's in there somewhere. Listen to me!”
The blue eyes returned nothing. “You are innocent. And that's why we need you.”
Pinkamina stood to her hooves, and got right up into Twilight's face. “Look at me. Look at me and tell me honestly. Is Pinkie here?”
Twilight almost flinched at the intensity of her stare. She searched the irises for a single spark, a single fleck of her friend, the pony that was everypony's light. A beacon in dark times.
But no. There was only the very darkness that her friend strove to dispel.
“She's not there.”
“You know why? Because this world is meant to be a separation from yours. But we both know Pinkie. Boundaries don't apply to her. One time, before you ever met her, she wandered into this world. Our Reality, your Forgotten Realm. The separated personalities met, and in a moment of coincidence and perhaps fate, the conditions were perfect. She and I merged into a single body. But her innocent mind couldn't handle the horrors I've seen, the horrors you've yet to even begin to taste. She remained completely separate from me. Our only union was in body. Yet I remained the stronger personality. I maintained my consciousness when she jumped back to the other world. She forgot everything. I remembered all.”
Pinkamina pulled back, and began circling Twilight hungrily, her voice rising in pitch and distress. “What I saw in your world was a torture more pure than any I've employed. A heaven, a paradise, that I could only feel through another's eyes. I shared her joy, felt the ghost of the peace there. And I wanted it. Inevitably, the fates pulled me back to my world, Pinkie once again shutting down to avoid the terrors she couldn't understand. I saw what had once been my reality, a fact that simply had to be dealt with, and realized it was wrong. This world is a cruel joke. Each and every sentient being here has a dual personality in your world, who gets to enjoy the beauty that we're paying for. We're the ones who deserve it, but we don't even have the comfort of death. We can die again and again, only to be reborn, cursed with eternal life until our counterparts finally pass on in peace. Only then do we get rest. At the end of a pointless struggle, an eternal struggle for power, in the hopes that we can forge some good out of this world, this garbage dump of your wonderful Princess Celestia.”
Twilight's anger and indignation rose to a boiling point. “It's not our fault! I'm sorry for you, but you can't blame it on us!”
“No?” Pinkamina once more drew face to face with Twilight, with those eyes... Those eyes drawing out the last hope Twilight had. “You're wrong, Twilight. You see, that's the most delicious part of our problems. Celestia, the Alicorn of Mercy, created this world. She gave us Hell so you could experience Heaven. Your Princess, your Goddess of Comfort, is our Goddess of Pain. And the best part?
“Her lies are crumbling around her. The worlds will be merged once more, and there's nothing she nor you can do about it."