The sun burned a dull red in the smoky gold sky. Twilight lay in what appeared to be Canterlot, the buildings fallen into ruin and sand covering the street. A voice began singing, waking her up.
“This is the end, beautiful friend/this the end, my only friend, the end/of our elaborate plans, the end/of everything that stands, the end/no safety or surprise, the end/I’ll never look into your eyes, again.”
Twilight got up and opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out. The wind suddenly picked, blowing up a huge sandstorm as the voice continued to sing.
“Can you picture what will be, so limitless and free/desperately in need, of some, stranger’s hand, in a, desperate land.”
When the storm died down, Twilight found herself in what appeared to be the wreckage of Ponyville, barely recognizable with the sand and ruined buildings. Curiously, statues could be seen poking out of the sand too; Celestia, Luna, Cadence, and someone else whose statues were too weathered and damaged. Twilight wandered briefly and bumped into Apple Bloom. She was staring up at the sky, her face a black, dressed in colonial-era clothing that was covered with what looked like dried blood. She held a sickle in her hand, likewise covered in dried blood. Shocked, Twilight stepped back and bumped into Scootaloo, dressed the same way and staring up with a blank expression, only she was holding an ax. Twilight looked up too, but could only see empty sky. When she looked back down, all of Ponyville’s children were there: Sweetie Belle, Diamond Tiara, Silver Spoon, Twist, Rumble, Snips, Snails, Lickety Split, Pip, Dinky, Berry Pinch, Truffle, Featherweight, Shady Daze, Button Mash, and others, all wearing old time clothing, covered in dried blood, wielding farm tools like scythes, saws, knives, wrenches, chains, and the like, and staring up at the sky like they were waiting for something. The voice started singing again.
“Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain/And all the children are insane, all the children are insane/Waiting for the summer rain, yeah.”
The wind blew again, revealing a large dead tree, bodies hanging from the limbs like rotten fruit. Carved into the bark were the words ‘For the glory of the centaur god of death and destruction.’ Panicked, Twilight began to run down a long path leading out of Ponyville as the voice continued singing.
“There's danger on the edge of town/Ride the King's highway, baby/Weird scenes inside the gold mine/Ride the highway west, baby/Ride the snake, ride the snake/To the lake, the ancient lake, baby/The snake is long, seven miles.”
As Twilight ran, the pathway suddenly transformed into a serpentine body covered with brown fur. Up at the end rose the head of Discord, his eyes glowing with power, his mouth turned up in an evil grin, all devoid of jokes and mockery, instead brimming with malice. Twilight stopped running and backed away in horror, staring at Discord. Around her, more figures took shape; Nightmare Moon, Chrysalis, Sombra. They hovered ahead glaring hatefully and grinning sadistically. Twilight wanted to run again but her feet were frozen in fear. Out of nowhere, a bus pulled up in front of her.
“Ride the snake, he's old, and his skin is cold/The west is the best, the west is the best/Get here, and we'll do the rest/The blue bus is callin' us, the blue bus is callin' us/Driver, where you taken us…”
The door of the bus slowly opened. Twilight looked inside. In the driver’s seat was a black cloaked figure. He slowly turned to face her, revealing the bleached skull face of death, a scythe blade for a horn and fires raging in his sockets. Again, Twilight wanted to run but couldn’t, the eyes of fire were drawing her in, pulling her in. She found herself falling in deep, deep, until she landed into a black abyss. A spotlight clicked on, making shadows dance in front of her until they took shape.
“The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on/He took a face from the ancient gallery/And he walked on down the hall…”
A winged and horned silhouette appeared, a knife in its hand. It walked across the wall to where three other winged and horned silhouettes were. The knife-wielder went to the first two silhouettes and stabbed them both.
“He went into the room where his sister lived, and, then he/Paid a visit to his brother, and then he/He walked on down the hall, and/And he came to a door, and he looked inside/Father, yes son, I want to kill you/Mother, I want to...”
Eventually, the knife wielder came to last figure and began stabbing it, only this one put up a fight, struggling fiercely under its assailant, only to eventually fall still. The spotlight then went out.
“C'mon baby, take a chance with us/C'mon baby, take a chance with us/C'mon baby, take a chance with us.”
Twilight wanted to scream. Obviously, this was a dream, but what did it mean? What was all this insanity? The darkness around her melted away and she found herself in the ruins of the castle, the roof caved in, the halls flooded with sand, and portraits clawed up.
“And meet me at the back of the blue bus/Doin' a blue rock, on a blue bus/Doin' a blue rock, c'mon, yeah/Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill/This is the end, beautiful friend.”
Twilight ran through the ruined halls towards the throne room, praying she’d be able to find some answer to this madness. She eventually came to the throne room door and threw it open, discovering the walls gone and Celestia’s throne turned away from the door, looking out at the blighted Equestria. Twilight sensed that someone was sitting on the throne. She slowly approached, dreading at who she’d find as the occupant. Soon she was close enough to see a spindly arm clutching the arm of the throne with nails that would’ve made Rarity faint. Twilight slowly moved to a point where she could see who was sitting there.
“This is the end, my only friend, the end/It hurts to set you free/But you'll never follow me/The end of laughter and soft lies/The end of nights we tried to die/This is the end.”
The figure slowly turned around to face Twilight, revealing a weathered old face, empty eyes emitting a thousand yard stare, a cracked and rusted Element of Magic on her unkempt snow white mane, with a broken horn poking through the bangs. Ragged weathers dangled from useless dead wings on the back of figure. Despite all this, Twilight immediately knew who it was.
“Where are your friends now, Twilight?” The older alicorn Twilight asked her younger self.
Twilight catapulted up in bed, eyes wide, coat soaked in sweat, and gasping for breath. She ran into the bathroom and began washing her face. Looking in her mirror at her frightened and haggard face, the look of her older self was still fresh in her mind.
‘What in the name of Tartarus was that?’ She asked herself.
She passed the still sleeping Spike and went out onto the balcony for fresh air. Panting slightly, she tried to make sense of the dream. All Twilight could figure was that song…The End by the Doors. Other than that, she had no idea; Equestria in ruin, foals in a cult, centaur god, Death on a bus, winged figures killing each other, herself some ragged old Ozymandias…what in the name of Equus did it mean?
Twilight spent the next few minutes calming herself down. It was nothing, it was just a dream, she kept telling herself. When she went back to bed, she couldn’t find the courage to close her eyes again.
Mac was up early, as per usual, and getting his coffee ready when Soarin and Applejack came back in from the barn and headed back up to AJ’s room to get their clothes. Applejack shot Mac a murderous look as she went by. He ignored her.
It wasn’t that Soarin was a bad guy; he was friendly, hard-working, polite, great with kids, but he and Applejack had a bad habit of jumping each other’s bones if they felt they could get away with it and Mac did not need to know about his sister’s sex life, healthy or otherwise. Also, given the fact that Applejack and Soarin had been seeing each other for over a year now and had slept together quite frequently, the elders of the Apple clan believed that if they were going to act like a married couple, they might as well make it official. Of course, they’d be even more imposing if AJ got pregnant, to the point that they’d be bringing shotguns to the ceremony. That’s why Applejack always made sure they had protection: Apples were notoriously fertile and she wasn’t planning on becoming a mother just yet.
Speaking of Soarin, his first day back had not ended well. Mac had thrown him and AJ out while they were in the middle of things, putting Applejack in a horrible mood for the rest of the night. And an angry mare made for a horrible bedmate. Once he’d dressed, Soarin went downstairs to find AJ complaining to Granny Smith about what Mac had done.
“I may run this place, but Big Mac is still the man of the house. And frankly, I agree with him. If you two are gonna keep rolling in the hay the way you do, well, in my day that was a sure sign a couple was gonna marry.”
“Well, uh, heh-heh, I just don’t know if-“Soarin began.
“You sayin’ my granddaughter is good enough to lay but not good enough to marry?” Granny accused.
“No! No! It’s just that I don’t know if we’re ready for that kind of commitment yet!”
“Poppycock. Married couples have just as much sex as those who aren’t. Believe me, I should know.”
Soarin could not remember the last time he was this uncomfortable talking about sex. Hell, his own parents weren’t this pushy about marriage!
Big Macintosh was in no mood to discuss this now. He got up and left, hoping to find Twilight and that AJ would be in a better mood later.
Twilight was still on edge from her dream. She moved tentatively around the library, looking like she expected something to jump out and knife her. Spike noticed this, but Twilight kept dodging his questions, blaming it all on nerves from a bad dream, which was technically true. She began secretly hunting for any books about dream interpretation and toyed with the notion of taking up drinking. However, she hadn’t disqualified the notion that some evil force may be targeting her and was currently reading a book on Equestria’s most notorious rogues: Catrina, a cat witch who had once enslaved a town and forced the inhabitants to make witchweed potion, the source of her powers, Grogar, ram wizard king of the city of Tambelon, Squirk, giant octopus who tried to conquer Equestria by flooding it with a gem known as the Flashstone, penguin King Charlatan, who had tried to freeze all of Equestria…
A knock on the door interrupted her readings. She opened the door and, to her surprise, was delighted to find Big Mac standing there with a straw in his mouth and a bouquet in his hand. Twilight took the flowers and let him in.
“What’s all this you’re looking at?” Mac asked, picking up the book she’d been looking at.
“Oh, it’s nothing. Just research.” She told him.
“Is it important?”
“No, not really.”
“Would you like to go for a walk?”
“I’d like that.”
The two of them set off through Ponyville together, some looking at them with amazement, others looking at Twilight with jealousy and rage. Once they’d gotten out of town, Mac finally felt safe enough to take Twilight’s hand in his. Both tried to hide their shyness by discussing the other races and their relationships with ponies.
“Ah’m not sayin’ what was the changelings did was right, Ah’m just saying we shouldn’t automatically think they’re completely evil.”
“I see where you’re coming from; after all, no one had heard of them before then and for all we know, they could’ve been starving! Yes, Chrysalis didn’t need to try to conquer Equestria and she deserved what she got, but no race is 100% evil. For all we know, they might think we’re evil.”
“Ah think Ah remember seeing some old posters…’Crush the Bugs!’ ‘Eliminate the Threat to our Love!’ Ah mean, ponies have done bad things too.”
“Yes, I’ve also heard that the griffons live in pretty bad poverty, yet no one’s tried to do anything about it.”
“Speaking of the changelings
“Ugh, please don’t mention the wedding. I don’t know how my brother was put under that spell nor how Cadence was captured, but it was still stupid how the wedding wasn’t postponed due to the threat of invasion, my brother more or less embarrassed himself what with how quickly his soldiers were defeated (not to mention some people said the only reason Celestia made him captain was because he’s my brother), I still can’t believe Celestia was too busy to not realize something was wrong with ‘Cadence’ and it still kind of hurts that no one even tried to listen to me. Yes, I wasn’t very tactful, but…”
Twilight suddenly stopped. She and Mac had come to the graveyard and she was standing right in front of an open grave.
“Twilight?” Mac asked, confused at how intently she stared into the grave.
“Mac,” She finally said. “Do you ever think about dying?”
“Not really.” Mac replied, unsure where that came from.
“Like, do you ever think that life is just too much for you? That it’s too confusing and demanding and whatever people do to fix it, just end up making it worse?” Twilight could hear the singing in her ears again; “Come on, baby, take a chance with us…”
“Twilight, where’s this all coming from?”
“I had a dream…it was so horrid…so vivid…”
“I don’t…really know.” Twilight said, envisioning a coffin in the grave, covered with a shroud emblazoned with her cutie mark.
Mac had no idea how to respond. He just looked at Twilight as she stood over the grave. Finally, she took his hand.
“Let’s just go, all right?” She said as she led him back to Ponyville.
You’re certain about this, Celestia?
Of course. She’s been preparing for it her whole life.
Does she know?
Well, no, but I’m certain she’ll accept.
Luna, I know Twilight better than anyone.
Celestia, Twilight had a very disturbing dream recently. I only got a glimpse but I sensed a lot of fear and anger…
Being a hero isn’t easy, Luna.
Neither is being a ruler.
Twilight will be fine! She’s smart, friendly, loving…a perfect princess!
But do you think our subjects will accept it? There was quite an outcry when Cadence reappeared.
Admittedly, keeping Cadence under wraps wasn’t the smartest idea. But our subjects know all about Twilight and all she’s done! They’ll love her!
Are you absolutely certain she and they will accept all of this with no problem at all?
Luna, this is the way we’ve always done it. We’ve always done what’s best for Equestria and I see no reason why we should change now after all this time.
Well, I have been out of the loop for quite some time now, so I suppose you’re right. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, after all.
That’s the spirit. We’ll send her Starswirl’s journal soon.