Candy Heart sat on the floor, adding up the tick marks on the padded wall. To the doctors and orderlies, the wall was a sterile white. To her, it was a chalkboard filled nearly to capacity. One hundred and seventy three days were checked off on her mental chalkboard, one week shy of fulfilling her court-mandated period of ‘observation and assessment.’ Not that she’d given the idiot doctors much to observe or assess, of course. She’d been passing psychological evaluations since grade school; the whole process was rote now.
‘Rote’ was about all she was good for, unfortunately.
An empty tray lay by her side, her morning meal and medications dutifully consumed. Did they assume the pills were working on her, turning her back into a functional member of society? Pills, for the hoof or the head, were for curing sick ponies. No drug could alter her mind. At least, not the portion of it that she still possessed.
Her time here, forced though it may be, wasn’t a complete waste. The solitude gave her time to adjust to her newfound handicaps, to feel out the dregs of creativity and organization that the incantation had left her with. There wasn’t much of either quantity left, but at least she’d moved beyond robotically harvesting spell ingredients. If she’d ventured onto that nature preserve at midnight instead of noon, she might’ve gone unnoticed. Or she might’ve been eaten by a dragon. What-if scenarios were largely beyond her, at least for now.
Candy Heart’s invisible chalkboard was mainly tick marks. The only other thing worth noting, the only other thing she could visualize, was the incantation. It started with a small paragraph she’d found in an ancient spell book pilfered from the restricted section of the Royal Canterlot Library. The language was antiquated, and yet potent. The title over the spell read For the Exorcisement of Undesired Quality. The final word had caught her eye from the start: quality. The spell itself was riddled with the word, too. At no point did the spell confine itself to leeching impurities out of diamonds like the author intended; it was a magic of a more general use, assuming the spell-caster gave it enough thought.
After the neat paragraph came the wild Zebra scribblings she’d found on a dried papyrus leaf in a museum, a potion to make thoughts and traits manifest, to make the emotional physical. Combining those two disparate magic sources, unicorn spell casting and Zebra potion brewing, was the key to removing everything holding her back. There would be no more loneliness, remorse, or regret. Everything that debased her, everything that brought her down to the level of other ponies would be gone. The quest she’d started upon earning her cutie mark would finally be complete, and not by excelling at some mere talent. She herself would become the best: the smartest, most perfect pony to ever live. Her purified intellect would rival that of Celestia herself.
At least that’s what the incantation should have done. She’d make it right soon it enough.
The door’s heavy bolt slid aside. A moment later, an orderly was standing next to her, regarding the white wall with his usual, vapid expression. He cleared his throat and spoke in a thick Trottingham accent, the backwards speech that was nigh-inescapable in this rotten corner of the world. “Never did figure what you saw in that wall, Miss Candy Heart. Your time with us is just about up! Seven more days and you get to clear out.”
Candy Heart nodded. “I know.”
He picked up her tray and set it on his back. “Been such a model patient, you have. Wish you could have a word with a few of your neighbors for me.”
She’d sooner curse his whole family, both verbally and magically. She’d sooner jam the corner of the tray in his eye and dash through the open door. If only she still had a unicorn horn. If only she still possessed the creativity to plan an escape and the organizational prowess to execute one. The incantation had stripped so much of her away; thinking too hard both hurt and tingled, like trying to flex an amputated limb. All that remained was the very core of her being: pure, burning ambition.
“Thank you,” she said, “I can’t wait to go back home and put myself back together.”