• Published 12th May 2013
  • 2,590 Views, 153 Comments

Summer break, with much at stake. - My little pedagogue



A high school teacher and a lab technician undergo some alarming changes. A "Five Score, Divided by Four" side fiction.

  • ...
9
 153
 2,590

Chapter Eight: Welcoming Chaos

What is the appropriate response to a revelation that lends undeniable evidence to your entire existence being a lie? To experience a single point in time where the accumulated observations of the past two days finally overcome the painstakingly constructed architecture of your own definition of what is real, or impossible, where twenty five years of work to understand the line between fact, and fiction is shattered in two days. What would you do when faced with this? What should I do when faced with this?

I had defined my faith as Agnostic Atheism, having no belief, but reassuring my religious friends and family that I would happily alter my view on the spiritual when presented with sufficient evidence. I was confident in the knowledge that this evidence would never materialise, I was certain there was no God, nothing supernatural about our existence, and that by accepting this, there was nothing I couldn’t understand if I put my mind to it…

I was wrong… I was so wrong.

I had listed four possible outcomes, but only shared three with Sharon, I was too ashamed to even be considering the fourth…

One: the changes are temporary.

Two: the changes are cyclical, or oscillating.

Three: the changes are permanent.

“Four… We are reincarnations, reliving previous lives in our dreams… and we’re now returning to our original forms…” Saying it aloud, even in the privacy of my own room, was still the most ashamed I’ve ever felt.

I was ashamed that by accepting this as possible, I’d denied my scientific beliefs, I was ashamed that by extension of denying my beliefs, I’d denied twenty five years of my existence as a human, but most of all, I was ashamed that given all the observations I’d made, all the evidence staring me in the face, I didn’t want to believe this was happening to me, I wanted to cling to my safety blanket, reassure myself that none of this was possible, and that everything will be back to normal in the morning…

That wasn’t how I should think. That was how weak-willed idiots should think, but not me. I would make my observations, and call it as I see it. I would never flinch from the truth, however inconvenient, or unpalatable. No matter how much I desperately wanted to believe otherwise, I would always draw my conclusions from evidence…

And yet here I was, alone, curled up into the foetal position, choking back tears, wordlessly begging to who knows what, to make it all go away… I disgusted myself… And that made me want it all to go away so much more…

The distinctive click of my front door signalled Sharon’s return. She had offered to drive Kyle home upon realising how much I was struggling to tolerate his presence. It had been a terrible mistake to involve him in this… he couldn’t tell us anything useful, he was excitable over our predicament to the point where I couldn’t trust him to keep this a secret… it was all such a mess! “Carl? Are you in there?” Sharon’s call came from the other side of the door.

“I… I’m ok.” My voice cracked in futile effort to disguise my sob.

The door handle turned slowly to allow a sliver of light into my room “Carl… I’m coming in… I’ll give you a few seconds first, ok?” Sharon’s words were slow and deliberate, especially when pronouncing my name… a slip of the tongue would have hurt, I silently thanked her for that small kindness as my door remained stationary for a moment, I took the time to roll to face away from the soon to be opened door.

Sharon tentatively entered my room. She moved to turn on the light, but paused. “Carl? What happened? Have you… changed some more?” Not a bad guess, but surely Sharon would know if… oh, I get it…

I moved my hand to between my legs and breathed a sigh of relief to confirm my gender was still unchanged. “It’s not that…” I didn’t know how to continue… I can’t just ramble through a truthful explanation, this kind of introspection isn’t something Sharon needs right now… simplify it… “It’s just… all too much.” Perfect, that could mean anything.

I felt the bed shift as Sharon crossed the room perched on the edge, reassuring me with her closeness, but not risking an invasion of personal space. She’s never seen me like this before. There was a mask of calm, but she had no idea how to proceed… I’m a liability as long as I’m like this... “Carl… I’m sorry what I said about your job, but you can’t let this eat at you… As far as we know, this is way beyond our control, so any time spent on worries or ‘what ifs’ is utterly wasted.” Sharon paused. I could sense her watching me, looking for a shrug of the shoulder, anything to show acknowledgement… I remained still, until my tail rebelled and flicked of its own accord. “So is it one swish for yes, two for no?” real sensitive, Sharon.

I had nothing to say, no kind words to reassure my friend that I would get better, I knew things were going to get worse, and the final acceptance of this left me no emotional crutch. With this acceptance, I had been utterly broken. “How can you just… not care? I want to… I want to just stop worrying, but I can’t just flick a switch to solve this…” as I spoke… I questioned which one of us is the more insane? The one who has seen the impossible, and has been reduced to a gibbering wreck? Or is it the one effortlessly accepting the impossible without breaking her stride?

Sharon laughed nervously, “It’s not easy, but the alternative of just wallowing in despair looks pretty crappy from where I’m sat right now… If caring does that to you… I choose not to care… I hope you can find it in you to join me sometime soon” Sharon had shifted to lie at my back, she pulled me into a hug as she moved… Was it truly that simple for her?

I felt incredibly awkward, my weakness, my inability to cope as Sharon was coping, was a burden for her. It was obvious that Sharon desperately wanted to make it better, but there was no way I could approach the problem as she had done… my brain simply didn’t have the ‘screw this’ trip switch that Sharon was so blessed with. “This is a platonic hug, right? I’d hate to think you were about to do anything reckless out of pity…” smooth, Carl… Real smooth.

That managed to evoke a laugh from Sharon. “You just looked like you needed a hug… but if you ever want to continue this line of thought when you’re not in need of pitying, let me know” Sharon gave me a light nip on the ear before standing and retreating to the doorway. “If you need me, I’ll come running… I promise.” And with that, the door was closed, and darkness returned.

*****

I regained consciousness, and with it, the pain flooded back, both physical and emotional. The burning sting in my chest and side, the rattling, sticky breath that told of crusted blood in my respiratory tract served to remind me of my failure. I’d bought the fillies some time, but how long? Who would be there for them next time? I was no use to anypony now, and whoever saved me had wasted their time.

I took in my surroundings. I was in somepony’s bathroom, there were blood-stained towels strewn around the floor, and an empty bottle of disinfectant… that would explain the sting. I Struggled to stand, but my hooves wouldn’t respond. “H…hello? Is anypony h…here?” it still hurt like crazy to expel air to speak.

I heard frantic scrabbling of hooves on floorboards from downstairs, and in no time, the door was flung open to reveal a familiar face “Berry! The fillies! H…he’s after them!”

Berry rolled her eyes and set down a bottle of wine by my side “tap-dancing at death’s door and you’re still worried about your pupils? It’ll have to wait. It was touch and go if you’d live at all, and you’re not ready to be left alone yet…” berry glanced down to my flank “your hip was dislocated… I was gonna try and pop it back in while you were out cold, but since you’re awake now…” Berry nodded to the bottle. “It might help a little…”

My gasp of exasperation was cut short by another coughing fit… this was fast becoming tiresome. “Dammit, I’m no use to anypony like this! Anytime you spend on fixing me up is wasted! The fillies are…” I was cut short by berry placing a hoof to my mouth.

“Might not want to finish that, Cheerilee…” Berry was staring past me, into the mirror as she silenced my pleas.

I removed Berry’s hoof to enquire after her sudden cryptic statement. “What? Why would I possibly not want to finish?”

Berry picked up the bottle in her mouth, and swung round to face a far corner of the room “Because we’re not alone!” She hurled the bottle to have it shatter against the wall, the deep red contents spattering across the wall and floor. “Wha?! He was there! I saw him in the mirror! He was…” Berry’s protests were cut short as a familiar talon reached from within the surface of the bathroom cabinet mirror to close around Berry’s neck and hoist her off the floor.

“Discord! Stop!” I fought the urge to cough mid-sentence, but my demand carried little weight, as I was currently unable to stand.

“Oh absolutely!” Discord emerged fully from the mirror, but Berry was still struggling in his grasp. Her mouth was wide, tongue lolling out, however no sound escaped her. She couldn’t breathe, and her deep purple eyes showed nothing but pure, animal terror. “In a moment, if you have time to hear my proposal?” The cordial tone was terrifyingly mismatched with Discord’s gleefully sadistic visage.

“She doesn’t have time to hear your proposal! You’re killing her!” I sputtered out with as much urgency as I could muster, once again struggling in vain to make it to stand on all four hooves.

Discord did a mock double take to glance at Berry “Oh, her? How inconsiderate of me!” Discord leaned in to Berry’s ear “Take a deep breath dear, it might be your last…” Discord loosened his grip, and Berry’s ragged and desperate intake of air was cut sickeningly short as the talon closed around her neck once more. “Now where were we? You don’t mind if I clean up while I talk do you? Miss Punch seems to have made an awful mess here…” Discord extended a paw across to the spatter on the wall to have shards of glass, and globules of liquid reform into an un-marred bottle.

“Hurry up! She’s dying!” I pleaded desperately.

“Manners, Miss Cheerilee! Patience is a virtue, after all…” Discord tutted in a mocking imitation of my own voice again “Now… After our little dance in the schoolyard, a thought occurred to me… I could go and look for those fillies, and I don’t think it would take long at all to piece together where they went… but wouldn’t it be so much more… fun? Yes, fun if I was able to tell them all that Miss Cheerilee gave up their hiding place to me… willingly?”

I gasped at the proposition “Buck you! I’ll Never…” the rest of my sentence was drowned out by the sound of Berry’s body shattering the bathroom cabinet mirror, as discord slammed her into the wall. The sheer barbarism of the act stunned me into silence.

Discord continued as if nothing violent whatsoever had transpired “Ok class! It’s time to play word association! A correct answer gets Miss Punch another breath of air, a wrong answer, and we spin the wheel of woe.” Discord glanced towards the wall at his back, and gasped in mock frustration “What? I left the wheel of woe in the office? That’s terrible! I’d spent all afternoon working on it… it had an acid bath and everything! Fine, I’ll just rough her up instead!” Discord produced a pair of spectacles and a set of cue cards from thin air “ok, first word… the location of the Cutie mark Crusaders?”

I used my forehooves to drag myself across the bathroom to Discord’s feet my posture was dripping submission “Discord… Please…” Before I could finish, Berry was hurled against the door with another sickening crunch of timber and bone. Berry was able to mercifully draw breath for a moment, but discord crossed the room with unnatural alacrity to reassert his grip. Berry’s eyes were tearful, in addition to a terror that far surpassed her previous expression, and there was a pleading in those eyes that insisted on making contact with my own… a pleading that I couldn’t give in to.

“Discord and Please were both incorrect… by the letter of the law, I should have smashed her twice… but since I think you need to be diagnosed with several learning disabilities, I’ll let this one slide… just this once.” Discord held berry out to make eye contact once more “Look at her face, and look into those big, pretty eyes… you can’t save those fillies… I will find them, and nothing you can say or do will stop me… but you can save her… all it takes is a simple act of betrayal, a few words, barely a sentence, and it’s done. She’s safe, and you’re safe.”

Discord jerked Berry away from my face, and leaping across the bathroom, he slammed her into the bathtub, Discord was now standing on Berry to free up his talon to uncork the recently repaired wine bottle. Berry’s now freed throat issued forth a series of frenzied pleas that were barely intelligible over discord, his voice rose to a roar “But refuse my offer once more, and she dies here and now! And it will be on your hooves!” Discord began to pour the wine bottle into the bathtub… the bottle remained full, but the bottle kept pouring… he was going to drown her!

I hesitated… I couldn’t look him in the eye to say this… I squeezed my eyes shut as tears flowed freely… “I… I can’t tell you that…” I weakly forced the words from me… and with one final effort, I forced my lungs to produce a cry as loud as I could manage “I’m sorry Berry! I’m so sorry!” I finished, and collapsed into uncontrollable sobbing.

“I know you are.” I heard Berry’s voice, crystal clear no sound of shortness of breath… My eyes snapped open to be met with Discord’s Leering snout. “You never had a choice.” Discord continued. “But I just needed to let the pony who carried your broken carcass across town… I needed her to know how highly you value her life… you two have fun together now, I’ll be seeing you again in… Five score, Divided by Four”

*****

I woke with a start. That was the most vivid of all my dreams so far. My bed was drenched with sweat. Hell, my ribs and flank ached just as Cheerilee’s had done.

I massaged my hip to soothe the ache… I realised something was terribly wrong… it was covered with a soft velvety fur that seemed to cover an awful lot of my leg… I carried on running my hands along my hips to investigate how far the coverage went… my hands stopped between my legs, and then started shaking uncontrollably.

I screamed. “Sharon!” She promised she’d come running if I needed her! She promised!

I heard the slow, deliberate clop of hooves on floorboards from outside my room, the door opened to reveal a silhouetted Sharon standing with a new pair of satyr-like legs. Her ankle joint had travelled much further up her leg… there was no way we could pass as humans now. These legs couldn’t be concealed.

“My name… is Berry Punch…” The tone of her voice was so alien. The hatred in each syllable was palpable “And I remember... everything…”

Author's Note:

Ok chums, this was a tough one to write... I wanted to get the write balance of 'pure evil' for discord without diluting the humour from the earlier chapters... suffice to say, the fic will be taking a more serious turn for a while until our protagonists can resolve some issues with their past...

As always, Feedback, or grammar corrections are welcome.