• Published 30th Sep 2013
  • 6,495 Views, 44 Comments

Dreamscape - Midnight Mist



Graeme's night terrors torment him nightly, and there seems to be no way for him to overcome them. That is, until his dreams call out to the Princess of the Night herself. But, is she real? And can she actually help?

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Dreamscape

Dreamscape

-o-O-o-

Graeme couldn’t remember precisely when the night terrors had begun. All he knew was that they were getting worse, and much more frequent.

As he sat alone at his breakfast table in the wee hours of the morning, supping anxiously at his strong mug of coffee, the hour so early that the darkened skies hadn’t even began to break for dawn, he realised that he couldn’t even recall the last time he’d had a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

He was exhausted; mentally, physically. Emotionally.

The relentless heavy ticking of the wall-mounted clock above the doorway behind him only served to emphasise his lack of sleep. The second hand taunted him each time it paused between tick and tock, its every hesitation a momentary infinity that sought only to deprive him of yet more rest.

It was going to be another long, long day…

-o-O-o-

As anybody who’s ever been consistently deprived of sleep can tell you, there’s a state of mind easily lost somewhere just beyond exhausted where the brain and the body slip into a poorly coordinated autopilot. Time itself appears to slow to a near complete halt, and the hours of the day blur into a single obscure eternity without any clear division between them.
Time lost any sense of meaning it may have once had.

“Have you tried talking to a doctor about it?”

Graeme let out a hefty sigh of dejection, his head between his hands as he rested his elbows on his desk. Samantha, sitting at the only workstation directly adjacent to his own, was a long-time friend and co-worker. He knew she was only trying to be helpful. But he was sleep deprived, highly irritable and just ever so slightly grouchy to say the very least. Pointing out the obvious solutions just irked him further, and he had to work very hard to prevent his ire from rising to the point where he became snappy. Sam didn’t deserve that. After all, she was just trying to help.

Massaging the bridge of his nose in an attempt to soothe his temperament, Graeme took a couple of slow, deep breaths and counted to ten. It seemed to work, for the moment at least.

“I’ve been a few times.” He flopped back in his work chair, arms falling limply to his side as he looked up towards the typically corporate foam tile ceiling, eyes gazing absently into the middle distance. Getting them to focus was becoming far too much like hard work, “All they do is prescribe medication to get me back to sleep, and then I’m having two episodes per night instead of just one. Without the luxury of being able to wake up before I reach the worst parts of the nightmare, I might add.”

He’d grown tired of the doctors and their associated pharmacists messing with the chemical balance of his brain after the first few months of trying their remedies. He distinctly recalled being told that the results could be a bit hit and miss, of course. But after the first “incident” when he couldn’t wake up, he’d come off the stuff, and promised himself that he’d only ever use them again as a last resort.

With how desperate things were becoming as of late, he knew there was a distinct possibility that he’d have to use them again. Soon.

The thought made him shudder.

“But at least you’re getting some sleep, right?” Samantha asked thoughtfully.

Graeme just grunted, “Would you want to sleep again, knowing something like that was waiting for you? I only sleep when I absolutely have to…”

He sent himself spinning full circle in his chair, just to work off some of his latent frustration. All it did was make him dizzy. He fell forwards, his head hitting his desk with a loud thud. Had that work surface been anything other than faux-pine fibreboard it would’ve likely proven quite painful.

“Well, you have to do something,” Sam stubbornly crossed her arms and frowned, “You clearly can’t go on like this.”
Graeme’s only response this time was a protracted groan.

-o-O-o-

Graeme sat bolt upright in his bed, a cold panicked sweat plastering the bed sheets to his skin. His breathing was sharp and shallow, but as the panic began to fade away he soon managed to get it under control again. Whilst the slowly descending veil of reality did much to push the slow-to-retreat memories of terror away, they were instead replaced with a sense of frustration and anger.

They were only dreams! They couldn’t really hurt him, but why would his brain only realise that once the conscious part of it was back in the driver’s seat?

Graeme let his head fall back to the down-filled pillow with a dull thud and closed his eyes, concentrating on nothing more than the sound of his own breathing. It was the only way he’d found that he could truly relax again. It was the sensory deprivation and a steady, regular rhythm that seemed to help the most.

In the near pitch dark of his bedroom the only illumination came from the angry red glow of his alarm clock. It tauntingly revealed that he’d only had two hours of sleep.

It wasn’t enough.

And Graeme knew that it was far too early for him to get up and start his day.

With no small sense of consternation, Graeme resigned himself to the fact that only one option remained open to him.
Sitting up and leaning over to his nightstand, he reached out for the bottle of water he replenished and stored there every night – nothing was worse than waking up from the nightmarish dreams with a coarse, dry throat and having nothing at hand to remedy it with.

He’d once opted for a bottle of Scotch, but that had done him no favours whatsoever.

He also took a moment to open the top drawer of the table-cum-cabinet, reaching inside and removing a small, white paper bag. Within it, a small box containing the medication the doctors had long-since prescribed to help him sleep. Even as he withdrew the foil-sealed caplets from the box Graeme fought the same internal battle he always had when preparing to take this particular medication.

He knew, with as much certainty as anyone can know the future, that if he went back to sleep he’d be plagued by yet another dream of near unimaginable personal horror. He also knew that whilst these pills would make it easier for him to get back to sleep, they would also make it far more difficult for him to wake up from whatever nightmare awaited him – that was the part he feared the most.

“Oh well… Here goes nothing…”

-o-O-o-

It was getting dark.

The last vestiges of daylight clung gingerly to the westwards horizon, its retreating orange glow the only thing keeping the darkness completely at bay. A huge bank of thick, dark clouds pushed their way inexorably across the sky from the east, as if chasing the very sun itself away, their blackened mass threatening the typical squally summer storms.
From his vantage point in the middle of the vast, open meadow below, Graeme could just make out the dimly lit silhouette of a horse herd to the south-east, apparently grazing down by what he presumed was the river that marked the boundary of the long grassy expanse and the distant woodland beyond.

It was a remarkably peaceful evening, all things considered, the only sound being the wind as it danced amongst the fronds and leaves of grass and brush.

A distant rumble of thunder shattered the near-silence, and Graeme began to consider heading home. Turning his back to the storm, and the distant grazing horses, he started to make his way back along the faintly-marked track which had led him there in the first place.

A strange feeling of unease worked its way into his gut as he walked, as if something wasn’t quite right. He didn’t resist the urge to look back over his shoulder when it struck him; the storm was getting nearer, the sky ever darker. And it felt like he was still standing in the exact same spot.

The rumble of thunder grew louder, nearer.

With a distant flash of light and the clamorous clap that followed, the first drops of rain fell around him.
Graeme’s anxiousness only grew as the storm came closer.

When the next bolt made ground-fall just the other side of the river, striking a tree on the edge of the woods and rending a limb from its trunk, some part of his mind knew he was in serious trouble. He couldn’t quite place why, it was just a rapidly developing feeling of unease.

Then came a different kind of rumble, stopping him in his tracks.

It was faint at first, growing steadily in intensity as the second passed, but he couldn’t quite place precisely what it was. Then, most alarmingly, he began to actually feel it through the ground beneath his feet. Something was causing this. And whatever it was, it was drawing nearer. It sounded like it was coming from behind him, from the direction of the ever-encroaching maelstrom.

Graeme dared to turn fully and look. Through the darkness he could see nothing. But when the lightning next illuminated the blackened scene for a few fleeting moments, he felt his heart leap into his throat.

The herd of horses, mindless terror rife in their eyes, were surging his way across the meadow! The nearby lightning must have spooked them.

They were stampeding directly towards where Graeme was currently standing.
He suddenly felt very, very small…

“Oh shi-!” another lightning bolt touching down a short distance away completely silenced him.

Survival instinct quickly overcame his paralysing fear, and he turned to run as fast as his legs would carry him.
The raging horses were no more than a hundred metres away, the vast herd’s hoof-falls so tremendous that they even blocked out the rolling thunder. But, out in the open like this, it was at least twice as far again to the nearest shelter. Graeme knew, heart thundering in his chest from fear and exertion, that there was no way he could outrun them. It would only take moments before they were upon him, even at his fastest.

The urge to look behind himself was overwhelming, and he regretted giving in to it almost instantly. The herd was so close now. But worse, not looking where he was going, he misplaced his foot on uneven ground. His ankle twisted in a way that his mind faintly registered should have been extremely painful. Such concerns were dismissed and set aside for later consideration.

Flailing wildly, he fell to the floor and tumbled a fair way further. He found himself now facing the oncoming wave of panicked equines, having barely enough time to pull himself into a tight ball to try and avoid being trampled.

The far-off, detached, rational part of his mind said there was no way he could survive this. The herd was vast, all around him, and would have little care for such an inconsequential obstacle.

He closed his eyes tight, bracing for the worst.

For what seemed like an eternity, the massive beasts thundered by. But the fatal, crushing blow never came.
Only with all of his willpower did he dare open his eyes again to look.

The horses were running around him. But there, standing before him, cyan eyes scrutinising his form with unknown intent, was a horse unlike any he had ever seen before. Fur of a dark sapphire blue as if it were made of shadow, barely setting it aside from the darkness all around – only the backlit flash of lightning revealed the true scale of its form, creating an intimidating towering silhouette from his vantage point on the ground, and Graeme felt truly dumbfounded by what he was seeing.

Aside from a long pointed horn atop its crown standing proud of a flowing mane of deepest star-speckled midnight – and what looked like a regal tiara - this creature bore a spread wingspan that made it seem thrice its actual size. At full stretch they cast an imposing figure over the cowering man.

It was obvious to Graeme then that it was in fact this creature that the herd were steering to avoid, and not what had been his prone, helpless form.

Was this unbelievable creature saving his life?

Even with the herd racing all around him, Graeme somehow managed to rise to his feet. His fear, his anxiety, all took a back seat to his curiosity. He wasn’t sure if it was the impossible nature of the animal, or the strange depth of comprehension in its eyes, but something compelled him forwards.

And then the last of the herd passed, rumbling away into the distance.

Graeme stopped and simply blinked.

His eyes fell upon the peytral across its chest, an embossed silver crescent moon stark against a black that seemed carved from the sparkling, starlit night time itself. Was this fellow being night itself incarnate?

No answer came.

As the sound of the herd faded towards the distant horizon, the horse locked eyes with him for only an instant. In that instant Graeme wasn’t entirely sure what was conveyed between them. His thanks? Its acknowledgement? Whatever it was, it imparted a serene calm upon Graeme’s troubled mind and heart.

Its head bowed then, and before he could utter a single word, Graeme watched it step around him and set off at a gallop after its contemporaries.

He kept his eyes upon her until her midnight coat had faded into the darkness.

-o-O-o-

Graeme slowly opened his eyes to warm, radiant daylight. Birds chirped along to the dawn chorus outside his open window, filling the air with their eager song.

There was no screaming. No cold sweats. No overwhelming sensation of fear, terror or panic.

Just restfulness. For the first time in as long as he could remember, Graeme felt refreshed.

He smiled at the revelation, even as the dream began to slowly fade away.

-o-O-o-

"Don't worry, about a thing…” Graeme sang just under his breath as he sketched away at his desk, the pencil in his hand tapping away a slow tempo every once in a while, “'Cause every little thing, gonna be all right…”

“Well, you’re in a better mood today.” Sam had been watching him intently for the past few minutes, “What’s new?”

Graeme looked up, offering a knowing chuckle, “Oh, just a few decent nights of sleep on the trot.”

From the way Sam shook her head it was obvious she’d suspected as much, “A few long naps, and suddenly you’re a morning person?”

“Hey, I’ve always been a morning person,” Graeme mock protested, giving her a sideways smirk before turning back to his work and picking up where he’d left off, “I just sometimes wish they were later in the day…”

He heard Sam snort, followed a few seconds later by a crumpled up ball of paper hitting the side of his head. Graeme stopped again, turning to face her properly. Her expression was a mixture of incredulous disbelief and mild amusement. Clearly she wasn’t done with the conversation yet.

“So, no bad dreams, then?” she prompted him to continue.

“Well,” Graeme reclined slightly in his chair, scratching the back of his neck with his pencil as he tried to pull forth the previous night’s memories, “I had one earlier in the week, which woke me up as they always do. Managed to get back to sleep…” he made a point of not mentioning the pills, “Ended up starting on another bad dream, but it ended… Strangely.”
Samantha’s eyebrow piqued in that curious little way it always did when she was taking genuine interest in something. Graeme couldn’t stifle his chuckle.

“Strange bad, or strange good?”

Graeme shrugged, “I’m not sure. Just strange. It was shaping up to be just another really bad dream. Only, just before it reached its climax, something else appeared – some creature. A horse of some sort. It appeared, the nightmare didn’t happen, and then I woke up.”

“A horse…” Samantha raised an eyebrow, piqued along with her curiosity.

“Well, yeah.” This was going to be a tough one to explain, “Only it wasn’t a normal horse.”

Samantha’s curiosity changed to simple puzzlement. He wasn’t making much sense, “How do you mean?”

Graeme knew that it was going to be a lot easier to draw than to explain. Reaching across his desk for a spare scrap of paper and a sharpened pencil, he took to drawing a vague outline of the creature, as he’d seen it the very first time – facing him directly, head held high, its wings raised out at full span.

“I know this is a bit rough-and-ready, and the details are a bit sparse, but it was fairly small for a horse– no bigger than me – and it had these wings and a horn. Like a unicorn or something.”

Graeme watched as Sam seemingly subjected the picture he’d been sketching to an excessive degree of scrutiny. He could see the concentration on her face, as if she was trying to work something out. But it was fleeting, passing in only a moment, before she looked back to him, “That’s an alicorn.”

“A what now?” he puzzled.

“A winged unicorn. An alicorn.” She leaned forwards, rapping her fingers against the desk thoughtfully, “Well, not really… Alicorn is the name of the mythical substance unicorn horns are supposedly made out of. But in some…” she seemed to wrestle for the right words, “’fictional media’, they’re known as alicorns.”

Graeme gave off a low, appreciative whistle, “Wow. Look at you, all up on your horse mythology.”

Sam suddenly seemed a bit unsure of herself, as if she wasn’t certain as to whether she should continue or not. In the end she deigned to carry on regardless. Her gaze was once again locked firmly on the simplistic rendition Graeme had made, her fingertips tracing gently across the rough surface of the paper, “They’re supposed to be extremely powerful creatures.” She whispered almost under her breath, “Akin to near-immortal demigods.”

“Huh…” Graeme watched her carefully. There was an almost forlorn, wistful quality to her usually carefree, relaxed mien, “Well, I know nothing about all that. But I must’ve seen one somewhere, and my subconscious threw it into that dream for some reason. Glad it did, because I haven’t had this many good nights’ sleep in a row in a very long time.”

Samantha’s cheeky smirk soon returned. She straightened up, turning and perching lightly on the edge of Graeme’s desk so that he’d be exposed to the full force of it, “With any luck you’ll be able to make it a regular thing.”

“Shhh!” Graeme leapt up, clasping a hand across her nose and mouth, “You’ll jinx it!”

There was a moment’s pause where Sam simply looked at him.

Then he felt her tongue snake its way across his palm.

“Ewww!”

His co-worker just laughed.

-o-O-o-

Over the next few nights Graeme was surprised to find himself sleeping the full way through until dawn, completely uninterrupted. His recurring nightmare had, inexplicably, taken this bizarre twist – not that he was complaining. Each and every time the self-same winged unicorn-like horse made itself known in some way – slightly differently each time, but still always there just in time – and proceeded to intervene and stop the dream from turning nasty.

Several times he’d come close to actually speaking to it. Something about the look in its eyes made him think it was capable of understanding. And, after all, this was a dream. Was there really any reason why this creature that his mind had somehow managed to pluck from a long-forgotten mythological reference wouldn’t be able to grasp a simple conversation?

Well, maybe. Who could tell with dreams?

At any rate, he’d struggled to think of anything to actually say. After all, what do you say to a horse?

Every time he’d tried to think of something, he’d been too late. He’d get a bow, a flick of its tail, or a flutter of wings, and then it would vanish into the darkness as quickly as it had arrived.

It was difficult to fathom. But still, he knew, he owed it his thanks.

Someday, he’d figure out precisely how to do that.

-o-O-o-

When Sam returned from her lunch break she was surprised to find Graeme had already returned to his desk. He was hunched over it, clearly drawing away at something or other. Even though he had his back to her, Sam could clearly envision the look of intense concentration that was undoubtedly plastered across his face – it always was when he threw himself into his work like this. But precisely what he was drawing up when he was supposed to be having lunch was a complete mystery to her.

“What’re you working on?” Sam asked as she stepped up next to him, her hand finding its way to his shoulder as she leaned in to get a closer look.

Setting down his pencil and straightening up a little bit, his lower back giving a click of protest and his limbs beginning to ache, he took a moment to stretch and work out the kinks as he explained,, “It’s the alicorn I was telling you about. She keeps appearing in my dreams, just before they turn bad. No nightmares, no terror.“ he thought for a moment, “Well, I presume it’s a she. There’s just something about-“

“Luna.” Samantha interrupted.

“Luna?”

Sam nodded, “She’s called Luna.”

A frown coloured Graeme’s expression, “How could you possibly know that?”

The deep sigh that Sam let loose sounded to Graeme’s ear like one of resignation; as if there was something she’d considered not saying, but decided it was for the best if she did. As it turned out, he was spot on.

“She’s a character from the My Little Pony franchise.” Sam began slowly, “The princess of the night; co-ruler of their land.”
She didn’t go into much detail. In all honesty, she didn’t think it would make too much sense to Graeme if she delved too deeply – there were certain basic concepts about the show that he was probably unfamiliar with, and that would lead into more explaining, and a protracted conversation that she simply didn’t want to have.

So, she reasoned with herself, the simple explanation was for the best.

“My Little Pony? The cartoon?” Graeme tried to clarify.

Sam nodded, “Have you ever watched it?”

“Not knowingly,” he admitted after a moment’s pause for thought, “But I’ve obviously caught glimpse of it somewhere, or something.” He looked back to the fairly detailed drawing he’d spent the last hour working on, “She’s a pretty good match to the show, right?”

Sam allowed herself a moment to appreciate Graeme’s art. The scale was spot on, and the colours a near dead-on match with her memory of the night-time princess, though she did look a bit less tony and more three dimensional. The logical part of Sam’s mind reasoned that to draw such an accurate depiction there was no way it could be mere coincidence.
But another part of her mind, uncertain and dubious, dissented, wondered how somebody who hadn’t seen the show in more than a cursory fashion could create a rendition with such accurate depth of detail.

The two disparate voices were equally vocal in their dissonance. All it did was imbue a wealth of uncertainty. Something simply didn’t add up.

“Well,” Graeme clapped his hands together, pulling Sam from her reverie, “at least I know who she is now.”

Sam simply nodded in agreement before returning to her desk in silence, and a head full of unanswered questions.
Graeme’s own mind was far from idle. He had a name now, and that was a means to uncovering more information about this “Luna”, and seeing how it could all tally. Perhaps then, somehow, he could figure out precisely what had changed and why.

He was grateful the nightmares had stopped.

But he was more than a little curious as to the why. And, when piqued, only the answers would sate his curiosity.

-o-O-o-

Graeme stood in the meadow, admiring the last lingering remnants of twilight as they faded in the western skies. He could feel the distant yet oppressive presence of the usual storm clouds to the east, but for some reason he no longer found them as foreboding as he had done previously.

It was all unfolding precisely as it had done countless times before, but this time he simply felt more aware of everything that was going on around him. And that, in turn, was actually quite reassuring. It also meant that when the inevitable happened – the flash of electricity; the clap of thunder; the sound of a thousand stampeding hooves heavy against the earth – he felt reasonably confident in standing his ground. The panic, the urge to run, was still present. But he was also certain that he would be kept safe from harm.

By her.

It still took some effort to steel himself as the horses approached. He flinched involuntarily, despite his best efforts to resist it, and that meant he looked away for only a moment. Sure enough, though, when he once again looked up, there she stood in all her calm, imposing majestic splendour.

Luna…

Graeme kept his eyes upon her own, and she simply looked back at him as the herd rumbled by.

As soon as it was over, she made for her usual bow and to depart as she always did, stepping around Graeme and giving chase to the herd.

But this time Graeme didn’t simply stand in silence.

“Luna!” he called out to her before she reached full gallop.

She stopped dead in her tracks, turning to face Graeme. The look of intrigue on her face was unmistakable.

“This must be a dream…” Graeme whispered under his breath as he walked slowly up to her, “It can’t be real.”

“If it were not a dream,” she spoke softly, having obviously heard him, “We would not be here with thee.”

Stunned into silence that she’d actually spoken, only one word made it all the way passed his lips, “Touché.”

Luna nodded slightly, “Walk with me.”

Graeme didn’t have it in him to refuse.

-o-O-o-

The stillness of the night came as something of a surprise to Graeme. The impending storm had seemingly completely vanished, evaporating into nothingness and leaving behind a glorious star-scape spanning the full breadth of the sky and leaving no horizon untouched. A crescent moon, low but climbing, hung unassumingly in the easterly sly.

Graeme couldn’t help but wonder how much of this calmness was down to Luna’s presence. Having become better acquainted with her… characteristics… Graeme certainly knew that such things were well within her power.

The silence that had descended between the two as they walked, though not entirely uncomfortable, wasn’t really getting Graeme the answers he sought. But his mind just didn’t seem capable of articulating itself.

What do you say top a mythical winged unicorn? Or, moreover, to a fictional character?

It was actually Luna who broke the silence, her voice quite gentle and low, "’T'is an interesting form that thine mind chooses to project. Tell me, is it one of your own design, or should We assume it unintentional?"

Graeme was completely baffled by her question, "Pardon?"

Luna appeared to be lost in her own thoughts for a moment, but obviously decided against saying whatever it was she had intended to say, "No matter. It was simply a minor supposition."

Silence once again ensued, and this one was definitely less comfortable than the first. Perhaps because it was the result of his confusion, but Graeme wasn’t quite sure.

“Pray tell,” it fell upon Luna to once again spur the conversation forwards, “what is thine name?”

“Graeme.” He said simply.

Luna stopped walking, glancing sideways at him with a raised eyebrow, “Grey-amm?”

Graeme shook his head, “Grey-ham.” He over-enunciated.

“Grey Ham?” she toyed with the word, “Grey… Ham… Well, ‘tis an odd name, to be sure. Quite exotic. Perhaps that is why you do not know Us so readily. Do you hail from the borderlands of Equestria, or perhaps even beyond?”

“Equestria?” The word was somehow familiar. Hadn’t some of the ponies mentioned it in the show? He tried to recall, but the bits he’d watched had been mostly clips rather than entire episodes. Still, it definitely rang a bell. And, being a figment of his own imagination she could obviously only draw on what he already knew, right?

Luna seemed to register his confusion with a nod, before adding sagely, “This explains much.”

Graeme was more than a little baffled. Precisely what conclusions was she drawing? That he was ignorant? A fool? Or perhaps just ill-informed? Still, it didn’t sound like she was being patronising, so he just let the whole thing drop.

He didn’t want to overanalyse it. She was a talking unicorn with wings, that his subconscious mind had somehow managed to conjure up from memories he hadn’t even realised he’d had. Trying to make sense of it all was just going to result in one big headache.

Unquestionably, it was one of the strangest dreams he’d had. But, he thought reassuringly, at least it wasn’t another nightmare – no pun intended.

-o-O-o-

Graeme opened his eyes to sunlight yet again. It was something he knew he’d never get tired of – a full night’s sleep, and feeling completely refreshed.

What also surprised him was how clearly he remembered his dream, specifically the night-long conversation he’d held with Luna. It had been a surprisingly delightful experience, once the ice had been broken and they’d both relaxed into a casual but open repartee. He’d expected the whole experience to feel very much like he was talking to himself, being a dream as it was. Instead he’d found her to be astute, sharp-witted, and surprisingly jovial, even with her somewhat formal “Ye Olde English” way of talking.

Beyond the thees and thines, she was clearly quite laid-back and amicable.

Not that he thought his subconscious mind wasn’t any of those things. But she’d had far more dimensions to her personality than any person or creature his mind had thrown into his dreams before.

Despite the fact the entire day lay ahead of him now, Graeme couldn’t help but look forwards to the next night, to sleep, perchance to dream – an unusual sensation for one who’d come to loathe sleep and fear their dreams with every fibre of their being.

With a smile as warming as the rising sun, he decided to start the day.

-o-O-o-

The lightning bolt was right on time, as always. But, even bearing down on him as the whole experience was, Graeme’s fear of what would happen next was nowhere near as paralysing as it had been before he’d started seeing Luna appear. It was strange; just thinking about it now, her presence was hugely reassuring, even though at this point in his dream he couldn’t actually see her yet.

She’d been regular as clockwork, right from that very first day.

The horses would be upon him in mere moments.

“Any second now…” he thought aloud, barely a whisper.

The head of the herd passed, missing him by mere centimetres. The rest began to follow suit.

And there was no sign of Luna.

Graeme felt panic welling up within his gut, along with a feeling of being increasingly small and helpless. Had she abandoned him? Had the previous night’s discussion purged her from his subconscious? Was his mind merely playing cruel tricks on him, offering that one chance at salvation, and then cruelly plucking it away?

Oh, cruel fates… Vicious mind.

But Graeme became aware of moments – and horses – passing by without even the slightest incident. They came close, but they still avoided him…

“What the…?”

"You always seem so caught up in this terror." Luna’s voice came from close behind him.

Graeme would’ve jumped out of his skin under any other circumstances, he was sure. But the earlier panic had reached such a fever-pitch, on the verge of overwhelming him, that his body simply couldn’t have reacted to the additional surprise.
Her sudden appearance actually had the effect of calming him down somewhat.

Unshielded by her form, but clearly protected by her presence, Graeme was able to see the terrifying panic-stricken beasts as the careered by, their visible terror perhaps form given to his own unbridled emotions, "It's... Not something that's easy to get over."

He could hear Luna’s delicate hoof-falls as she stepped up closer still behind him, “Are we to believe that the nature of these dreams is fully understood?”

The endless mass of horses held his attention, but Graeme was at least still listening to her, “You mean, do I know what caused them?”

“That is what we asked.” There was mild amusement in her tone.

“It… It’s a memory, I suppose.” Graeme admitted with some reluctance. The horses were beginning to thin out. It wouldn’t be long now until they were all gone, “From when I was very young.”

“That alone does not explain thine terror.”

“No,” he admitted, “but there’s more.”

The last horse passed them, and they were left overlooking an empty, trampled meadow. Graeme simply beheld the view, for once not bothering to turn and see the remnants of the herd before they vanished into the darkness. Long grasses and short, soft turf torn asunder, leaving behind a rutted, divot-filled mess, the disarray he saw very much reflected the emotions he was currently feeling.

He could hear Luna flapping her wings idly, perhaps stretching them out a bit before folding them neatly along her sides. Holding them tensely at full extension for any prolonged period of time had to be taxing and uncomfortable.

But she gave no outward indication that she minded. Instead, she simply offered Graeme verbal encouragement, “Go on.”
“It’s hard to explain…”

There was a firm nudge at his back, urging him to turn around. He came face-to-face with the stony-eyed serious expression Luna had adopted, “Show Us the memory.”

“But…” he was a bit reluctant to live through it again, as heavily related as it was to the actual nightmare.
“It is a memory.” The midnight mare reassured him, “It will cause you no harm.”

Graeme ran a hand through his hair. He still had his doubts, but Luna hadn’t led him astray thus far.
“Okay…” he replied at last.

His mind returned to that day all those years ago. And honestly, the scene didn’t really change much.

It was the same meadow, perhaps a little less exaggerated in scale and ambiance, but the fundamentals hadn’t really changed; unkempt, wild long grass and brush scrub, dancing in the breeze at twilight. The horizon was a bit nearer, and the menacing thunder clouds were still encroaching on them from the east.

But the whole setup felt far less threatening than the dream ever had, as if they were apart from it all, detached in some way.

Graeme then noticed the young child standing no more than ten metres away. It was a child he recognised instantly as a younger version of himself, completely oblivious to their presence. It felt incredibly surreal to see himself like that, and a question or two arose almost immediately from the scene before him.

“Why is my memory in third person? Surely I should be him?”

Luna stepped up beside him. But she didn’t answer his question. She seemed totally engrossed in what was happening around them.

Maybe she didn’t have an answer? He’d have to remember to ask her about it again later.

A bolt of lightning caught them all off-guard, drawing their attention to the east. The child-version of Graeme seemed extremely startled by it.

If he were honest with himself, Graeme had to admit that his fear of lightning had never really gone away completely, even as he’d grown up. He could fully recall the sensation that his younger self was experiencing right now, out in the open and exposed.

It was something he’d always been told to avoid at all costs, being out and exposed during a summer storm. There was every chance, being the tallest thing in the open meadow, that the lightning would choose him as the path of least resistance between the belligerent clouds and the ground below.

He watched as his younger self took off at a walking pace that was as fast as his little legs would carry him.

Remembering vividly what came next, the sound of the ground rumbling didn’t catch his grown self by surprise at all. To his younger self, it was an unexpected noise. He stopped, looking around, trying to identify its source.

There was a herd of wild horses, no more than a dozen of them in total, running from the east to the west, spooked by the tumult of the storm. There wasn’t many of the great animals in that herd. But, to a child, a dozen large horses stampeding towards you was just as intimidating as a hundred or a thousand.

It really didn’t matter.

Graeme watched as his younger self panicked, turning his back on the animals and running as fast as his short little legs would carry him – which wasn’t fast at all. Or particularly well co-ordinated.

He’d barely taken five steps before his frenzied pace caused him to lose his footing, and he tumbled head over heels. Before he could even think about getting up, the herd was upon him.

The small boy cried out in fear, curling up into a foetal position, hoping to shield himself from the worst of it.

The horses, though terrified and simply fleeing, actually seemed to pass by with considerable room to spare. But to the cowering boy it no doubt felt as if he were mere centimetres away from being trampled to death by an endless stream of hooves.

A very noticeable shiver went up Graeme’s spine as he watched his younger self tremble in fear, remembering it all too well. Eventually the horses did depart.

When it was all over, Graeme looked to Luna, who was completely silent. A look of pure confusion coloured her expression.

“This… “ She seemed unsure, “This is an accurate representation of your memories? Unaltered?”

“Yes…” he nodded slowly, his own bafflement working its way into his uncertain tone, “Why?”

“You are not a pony.”

It seemed a very odd thing to hear, her stating something so obvious as if it were some sort of major revelation. Of course he wasn’t a pony. Where the hell did that come from?

Graeme was more than a little stumped, “No, I’m human. You’re the pony.”

Luna stepped around in front of him, her gaze scrutinising, pressing to see if he was actually telling the truth, “We had thought thee a pony,” she explained, “and that perhaps this was simply thine dream form.”

“No. This is the real me.” Graeme gave it some thought, “Odd. If I’m aware of all this then being a part of my imagination you ought to be aware of it too. Unless, this is just how my mind made you…”

Luna’s eyes went wide with surprise, “You are clearly confused. We are very much as real as thee.”

Graeme scoffed reflexively, unable to rein it in, “Well, of course you’d say that.” He chuckled, “But you’re a fictional character that I’m recalling from memory somehow.”

Luna kicked at a small clod of loose grassy earth with one of her fore-hooves, betraying her growing frustrated consternation, “We are as real as you.” She insisted.

The forcefulness with which she’d reiterated her point came as something of a surprise to Graeme. She really did seem highly resistant to the idea that she might not be real. It seemed odd, somehow. But then, Graeme had never spent quite so much time with a figment of his own imagination as he had with her.

In the end, he had to fall back on his logic, and what he knew of the situation,. “But... I watched the first two episodes.”
The scenic evening dreamscape around them shifted quite suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving the wide, open outdoors and being replaced with an enclosed space and broad daylight. Graeme recognised the place instantly – his bedroom. It was a recent memory, he easily recalled, noting the mental projection of himself sitting at his home computer desk.

He looked to Luna, watching his own memory of himself watching his computer screen, a cartoon playing happily across it.
A clip of My Little Pony; the six main characters in their final crushing defeat of Nightmare Moon. It had been the first Luna-related clip Graeme had stumbled across when he’d entered her name into the search engine.
“This is…” Luna stumbled for the right word, “Confusing.”

Graeme could fully understand – sort of. But it did go a long way towards proving his point, “See what I mean?”
What were the consequences of revealing to a dream character that they weren’t real, anyway? Did they cease to exist? No, wait… That was time paradoxes, wasn’t it? Perhaps it was it nothing at all?

Well, he noted rather obviously, Luna was still with him. So she obviously hadn’t vanished into mere memory or nonexistence.

But her reply wasn’t what he’d expected, “That was many years ago…”

An uncomfortable silence fell as the memory faded away. Luna didn’t seem to respond as the meadow faded back into existence around them, or if she did she certainly gave no outward indication.

She looked completely bewildered.

When she finally put words to her thoughts, again it wasn’t quite what he’d been expecting, “And Twilight Sparkle is the protagonist of this… This “Show”?”

Graeme nodded. She’d surmised that much from observing a couple of minutes of cropped video footage, recalled from his own recent memories? Quite an impressive piece of deductive reasoning.

“And you have seen no more than this?”

Graeme nodded again, more or less truthfully.

“Very well.” Luna declared, “We can prove to thee that We are real.”

“How?”

“The next time We interacted directly with Twilight Sparkle was upon Our Nightmare Night, in the town Ponyville. You will see Us having fun with the locals, saddened by their fear, and eventually accepted by the colt Pipsqueak and his comrades. We will also frighten Rainbow Dash towards the end of the evening by using her own prank against her.”

“…Okay.” Graeme was none the wiser, “And that proves what, precisely?”

“That We possess foreknowledge that you do not. Thus, We cannot be a mere figment of thine imagination.”

There was an air of smugness about her as she revealed her plan. Not that Graeme could blame her. It was clever, very clever, though his naturally skeptical nature suspected nothing would come of it. Still, what did he have to lose?

“We will be back when you are ready to receive Us.” Luna declared with some force. She turned her back on him before he could response, and walked away into the darkness.

“I think I upset her…”

-o-O-o-

At work, Luna’s suggestion was all that Graeme could think about. Her logic was undeniable, but there was no way she’d be proven correct, surely? It just didn’t make any sense; she was his subconscious’ take on a fictional character. So sensibly everything she did and said ought to be easy enough to explain away as a function of his own mind.

So what did that mean, precisely? That some part of his unwaking mind wanted Luna to be real, and so she wanted to be real too? No, that made no sense. Luna already believed that she was real. Perhaps she was the incarnation of his subconscious desire to get over the nightmares that had been plaguing him for all those years? To his mind, that seemed reasonable enough – except that his desire to move away from those nightmares was a conscious one, and the nightmares themselves were the product of a bad memory that his subconscious itself kept dragging to the fore and tormenting him with over and over again.

Or, perhaps he was simply overthinking it all? Even if there was a rational explanation, did it really matter one way or another? He’d go home after work, try to find the next instance of Luna interacting with Twilight, and see if any videos showed up. What else had Luna said? Something about a Nightmare Night? That ought to help him to refine the search a fair bit.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

Graeme turned to his left. Samantha was watching him closely, looking somewhat amused.

“Hmmm?”

Sam’s smirk widened with a chuckle. She rolled her eyes, “You’ve been away with the fairies all day. Or should I say, away with the pony?” she added with a wink.

Graeme rolled his eyes in response, “It’s not like that, and you know it.”

Sam held up her hands in mock surrender, letting him know she’d only been joking, “So?” she leaned casually against her desk, “What is it?”

“Well...” Graeme began. He explained the conversation he and Luna had had, about whether or not she was real. Sam’s reaction seemed to be a combination of surprise and amusement, but Graeme couldn’t get a reading on whether it was regarding the things he was describing, or at the obvious internal conflict it was clearly causing in him.

“So, she thinks she’s real.” Sam concluded.

Graeme nodded, “And then she explained how she could actually prove it. So I guess I’ll be looking up the next episode with her in it.”

Sam’s hearty laugh elicited a little smirk from Graeme, “You know you’re crazy, right?”

“Yep.” He’d been seriously entertaining the thought that a figment of his imagination could be real. Obviously, he was nuts. Graeme couldn’t deny that at all. “But still…”

Something still nagged at him; something he couldn’t quite put his finger on, or even begin to explain.

Sam seemed to read the very thought purely from the expression on his face, “You’re actually going to do it, aren’t you?”

Graeme’s shrug was entirely noncommittal, “What do I have to lose?”

“Fair point. Your sanity clearly left years ago.” Sam teased, sticking her tongue out at him playfully.

Graeme’s expression simply fell neutral, “Very funny.”

“Seriously, though;” all humour drained away from Sam’s tenor, “you’re over-thinking this.”

“Maybe.” Graeme was very much aware of how much thought he was putting into it. But he just couldn’t help himself – once thinking, his mind ran away with itself, “But if she’s right, and she has told me something I couldn’t possibly know, you know what that means, right?”

“That you’ve either got an amazing sense of premonition, or a fictional night-time princess of the ponies is coming to you in your dreams. Either way, you’re bloody crazy.”

“You know what?” The only thing that came to his mind, the only thought he was able to entertain at that point, was just how much better his dreams had become as of late, “I think I could live with that.”

-o-O-o-

Graeme sat in stunned silence, watching names and titles filter on and off his screen in due order, accompanied by a jingle that was probably far too insidiously joyful for its own good.

When the video reached its inevitable end an eerie stillness descended upon the practically vacant room. It was several long moments before Graeme shattered it.

“Holy pants!”

He tried desperately to wrap his mind around the implications.

“This means… Luna is really Luna!”

Thoughtlessly, struggling to completely absorb the fact, Graeme rose to his feet and headed across the room to his bed. He sat calmly on its edge, retrieving the sleeping tablets from his little medication draw and the water from atop the little bedside cabinet.

He downed them very quickly.

It was the only way he’d get any sleep that night.

-o-O-o-

It was dark already.

There were no lingering signs of the long-passed day; no storms on the horizon; no distant rumble of thunder or sign of a horse stampede. The skies were clear from one horizon to the other, filled with the fine sprinkled clarity of an ocean of stars and nebulae. Not even the twilight lingered anymore.

The breeze was chill, but not uncomfortably so. Graeme’s surroundings were almost too dark to see beyond any more than a few metres, being as there was no moon yet to cast its gentle silvery glow. A world without light was also a world without shadows.

It was peaceful.

The sounds of long grass being trodden under hoof near-silently alerted Graeme to Luna’s presence. He had no doubt that it was well within her power to appear silently if she so wished, as she indeed probably always had, and he appreciated the common courtesy of her opting to not startle him.

“You are real.” Graeme turned to her slowly.

“Indeed.” Luna’s expression betrayed no emotion, her eyes simply regarding him carefully.

A dozen questions vied to escape Graeme’s lips all at the same time. The vast majority of them simply fell away into silent incoherence, until only the simplest of them remained to be asked, though they still came out rapid-fire, “How?! When?! Why here? Why me?”

“We-“ Luna faltered for a moment, considering, “I am here because thine dreams called out to me… Such was their intensity. I am the princess of the night; watching over the dreams of others is my duty of care.” She stated simply, “I could not refuse such a plea.”

“They were that powerful?” Graeme shook his head, unsure, but not daring to disbelieve, “That terrifying?”

Luna’s nod was slow and measured, “Yes.” She circled around to his side, still looking him in the eye, “Somehow, they were intense enough that you touched our world, though We did not at first realise thine true nature. And thus We found Ourself saving thee from a stampeding herd.”

“But then… “ One particular thought ticked over in his mind as he allowed Luna’s purpose to sink in, “You’ve steered me away from that. I haven’t had a nightmare in some time. So why have you kept coming back?”

“You call out to Us still.” She pointed out, turning her full body to face him, “It is Our suspicion that it is Our help that thee seeks, rather than Our mere presence.”

That left Graeme completely baffled, “Help?”

“Yes.” She carried on explaining, “It is within Our abilities to instruct thee in becoming master of thine own dreams. The substance, the flow, even thine own form.”

The penny finally dropped as he realised what she actually meant, “You’re talking about lucid dreaming?”

“Yes.”

“And it would stop the night terrors?”

“Yes.” She repeated slowly.

“Where do we begin?”

-o-O-o-

“The key,” Luna had elucidated in detail, “Is to realise that this is but a dreamscape, and not reality.”

Graeme had been listening to her explanations regarding the basic rules of dreams and how they could be manipulated with eager anticipation at eventually putting it into practice. She spoke at length and with enthusiasm, leaving no doubt in Graeme’s mind that this was her obvious vocation.

She was royalty of her homeland, of course; he knew that much with certainty. Her realm, he had also learned, was very much the night, and all the celestial wonders that lay above the midnight sky.

But her passion - perhaps even her calling, judging by the way she waxed and enthused on the subject - appeared to be dreams.

“Once the dreamer is aware of the dream, taking control is but a matter of pure willpower.” Luna explained, to the point, “Certainly We have seen you are able.”

Graeme hadn’t expected her to say that, “We have?”

“Of course,” Luna chuckled as if it was obvious, “You no longer have bad dreams. You have subdued them.”

Graeme frowned, trying to fathom precisely what she meant. Her sudden and unexpected presence had signalled the change in his dreams, and as he’d come to realise that had scant little to do with him, “Me? But I thought you had-“

Luna raised a hoof to interrupt, “Whilst it may be true that Our presence has become the trigger for your realisation that this is but a dream, the peaceful nature of this dreamscape is a function of the will you are projecting. We are simply a guest here.”

“But… How?” To Graeme’s mind, it still didn’t make complete sense. He didn’t doubt that she knew what she was talking about. It wasn’t that at all. He just didn’t quite grasp the mechanics of it all.

How had he achieved this, simply by having her there?

“It is likely not a conscious effort.” Which explained why he hadn’t been aware of it, “Clearly Our presence here reassures thee in some way.”

Graeme couldn’t deny that, either.

“We did, after all, save thee from a herd of wild equines.” Luna added with a playful wink.

Of course, she was right there too.

“Touché…”

Her entire demeanour changed from playful back to serious business as if Luna had actually thrown some kind of internal switch, “If we are to make real progress, We will have to ensure thine fears are properly faced.”

So, at some point (he reasoned) he was going to have to endure the nightmare again. Perhaps more than just the once. He couldn’t imagine that mastering lucid dreaming would be something he could pick up at his very first try. It would take time to practice and to master.

Still, it was a means to an end. And with Luna’s guidance, Graeme felt that he could probably manage it.
“Alright. Lead the way.”

-o-O-o-

The next few nights were all spent in the same calm, pleasant meadow, surrounded by the peaceful tranquillity of the night. Luna had explained to him that whether he was aware of it or not, it was entirely his own doing that led them there each night. The dreamscape reflected his mind set, which was obviously much more serene than ever he’d thought possible.

The princess of the night had also revealed to him that she had never made an appearance without him having called to her. Of course, he had no conscious memory of that either. Graeme was very quickly coming to realise that he was actually two minds within one body, and there could quite easily be a certain degree of cognitive dissonance between both facets of his being.

All the more reason for him to put in the effort to assert his waking mind’s dominance over the part of him that held most sway over his dreams.

“Never forget that you are the architect of this world.” Luna had assured him as often as she could, “You are the master of it. Will it to be, and it will be so.”

Graeme had been practicing with changing small things; summoning a breeze, levitating a small rock or two, or partially parting the clouds. Each time, he’d slightly upped the ante, and then taken a few pointers on board from his more experienced tutor.

The most challenging part had actually been making changes to his own form. Luna had explained how self-image was one of the most automatically forged aspects of any dream state, and was usually influenced by any number of hidden, intangible factors. They didn’t always reflect self, not in the literal sense. But it was one of the most challenging things to change because it was almost always formed unwittingly..

And, as with all things, it was best to start small.

Graeme’s first trick had been to add an extra inch to his height – something that had proven far easier than either he or Luna had expected. A greater challenge had revealed itself when he’d tried to change the colour of his eyes – mostly because it was difficult to envision without the aid of a mirror (which was something else he’d managed to summon into existence with a little practice).

But, he’d succeeded. And they had built upon it over several practice sessions.

This time, though, he wanted to try something truly ambitious.

He didn’t outline his plans to Luna, and he wasn’t entirely sure how she’d react to what he was about to do.

The first changes were subtle, and it didn’t seem that she’d noticed at first. She did soon become aware of the fact that he was focusing intently and entirely upon her, however, and as the transformation began – albeit slowly – Luna wasn’t entirely sure whether to chuckle at the effort he was making, or frown at his audacity.

She watched her forelegs intently as her fur receded, and hooves turned into hands. Soon, she was forced into standing upright on her hind legs, as her arms became too short – or her legs too long? – to keep her properly apportioned on all fours.

When she felt her snout recede into a more human-looking nose, she finally deigned to protest, “We did not mean for thee to change Us!”

Graeme smirked, picking up on the mild tone of amusement in her voice, underlying the feigned annoyance. He had worried she may find it alarming or disturbing. Apparently not.

It didn’t take long for the transformation to be complete.

“I don’t know…” Graeme rubbed his chin, looking her up and down thoughtfully as the alterations were completed, “I think it suits you.”

Before him now, the humanised princess of the night was so dissimilar to the alicorn form she had previously been. She was more or less the same height as she had been before, perhaps an inch or two shorter than Graeme, but easily able to still look him in the eye.

Her pale, porcelain features reminded him very much of the moonlight, wan and soothing. Her hair retained its usual ethereal beauty, flowing and shimmering with all the majestic grace it usually engendered, and even its entrancing star-scape.

Her eyes were unchanged, holding their lustrous deep cyanic hue. He had left them alone for a reason; he saw so much of her there, and it just didn’t seem right to alter them. And, quite simply, he thought they were beautiful. To change that would be akin to desecrating a great work of art.

He had been generous enough to preserve her modesty too – ever the gentleman – and outfitted her in a dark sapphire-blue gown which was, quite obviously, tailored elegantly to suit her form. The peytral that had been across her chest as an alicorn had also been put to use, at least in terms of inspiration, giving rise to a waistline sash that hung stable but loose around her waist, tied at the middle with a buckle-like upturned crescent moon.

“Indeed…” Luna conceded, pausing for a moment, “Project us a mirror.”

Graeme was quite surprised that she’d asked him, “Couldn’t you do it?”

“Yes” of course she could. He felt a bit daft for having asked, “But you need the practice. We do not.”

Graeme silently complied. With a careful thought to form and composition, he managed to summon up a free-standing full-length body mirror. Admittedly, it wasn’t his own creation, but something he’d plucked from his memory. Memories, as he’d quickly learned, were often the easiest things to call into a dream.

“So this is human.” Luna looked herself over in the mirror, turning slightly this way and that. She held out her arms ahead of herself, twiddling all her fingers as if testing them out, “It is not without its merits.”

Placing her hands upon her hips, she looked herself up and down. Her eyes settled upon the soft skin of her generous décolletage, “Or its oddities.” She added.

She turned slightly to the side a bit, noticing the curve of her back, and the way it arched elegantly from the small of her back, downwards. She actually scoffed, “Our plot appears surprisingly substantial.”

“Plot?” Graeme wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that.

“Rear.” She explained, gesturing to herself, or specifically her backside.

“Ah.” Graeme nodded sagely, offering his own vernacular in return, “Butt.”

“Butt…” Luna toyed with the word, still examining herself from numerous angles. The form was very strange to her, though not entirely unpleasant.

“I kept you in proportion.” Graeme explained, then conceded, “Sort of. I may have been a bit generous in places…”

Looking at her now, he certainly felt like he was stating the obvious.

“Indeed.” She turned to face him, crossing her arms beneath her chest. Graeme wasn’t sure whether she was doing it on purpose or not, but in that gown the effect was quite considerable.

He shook his head to clear his thoughts, “They call this shape “hourglass”. Quite desirable in a human female.”

“Ah.” A smirk of pure mischief parted her lips into a smile, revealing pearly white teeth, “So you have made Us become thine dream girl?” she teased him.

Graeme simply rolled his eyes at the obvious pun.

He watched as Luna carefully returned to her more typical, equine form. She must have been doing it herself, because Graeme hadn’t tried to change a thing about her.

“Come.” Luna made the mirror vanish into nothingness the moment she was fully formed, “There is much more We have to teach you.”

-o-O-o-

Days turned into weeks as Graeme practiced and honed his skills under Luna’s skilled direction. Taking control of the dream had become second nature to him now, or so he felt, a series of subtle subconscious hints triggering the full depths of realisation that was required in order to do so.

Luna had made a point of not appearing until after Graeme had taken advantage of the triggers and at least gained some semblance of minimal control. Up until then, she had been the trigger, and it was a crutch that needed to be removed if he was ever to make the full progress required.

Luna had been completely satisfied with Graeme’s progress. There were still a few refinements to be made in quite a few places, but he was displaying a high degree of mental discipline. She suspected that some of it may have been to do with the sheer depth of imagination the human had displayed. Dreamscapes were nearly always vivid to the dreamer, but Graeme’s had shown a depth and dynamic that, whilst not unheard of, was a rare joy for her to experience.

It was like a little universe all of its own.

Of course, that added depth also meant that it was that much more complex and difficult to fully manipulate, and there was much she could teach him in that regards to that very goal. She had no doubt that he would work quite a large amount of it out on his own – he seemed to have an intuitive feel that gave him an undeniable edge.

But she still had a lot of things to teach him; some things they hadn’t even discussed yet. All of the basics he was currently learning would lead into that, eventually, months or maybe years down the line.

There was a lot to be discovered. Even in the multiple millennia of her existence, Luna hadn’t learned all that there was to learn about dreaming.

Luna also knew that the next big test Graeme would face would be to try and actually conquer his fears alone. Things were rapidly building up to that.

Graeme was getting as much practice in as he could handle.

Standing in the open meadow, the deep rumble of heavy hoof-falls growing ever closer, Graeme faced an oncoming herd of hundreds. Luna kept her distance – far enough off to the side to not directly interfere, but to be able to intervene at a moment’s notice if she were required.

Graeme lacked the control at present to simply stop the horses in their tracks – he simply couldn’t influence that many distinct objects at once. However, he did have the power to influence the form of a few at a time as they approached him.
Luna watched as Graeme held his ground, a look of intense concentration on his face. The horses that drew nearest to him on their approach began to shrink with each step they took, until after no more than a dozen galloping strides, each one was no bigger than a mouse, running harmlessly by Graeme’s feet, completely oblivious to the change they’d just undergone.

The whole scene was comical.

Luna couldn’t help but laugh as she approached where Graeme was standing, watching the last of the mice-sized horses run away, “An interesting touch.”

“Yep!” Graeme seemed thoroughly enthused by the whole experience, still on something of an adrenaline high, “That was too easy! I feel like I could do anything!”

Luna smiled softly. His fervour was admirable, but in need of a little grounding, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

“What,” Graeme seemed genuinely wounded, “you don’t think I’m ready?”

“It is not that.” Luna began, “It’s-“

Graeme raised an eyebrow, “You doubt me?”

Luna frowned, at both the interruption and not being allowed to clarify. He was being awfully cocky, “Perhaps a real test is in order, then?”

“Great idea!” Graeme seized upon the idea, flexing his fingers so far that they cracked, “I’m ready for anything.”

His over-confidence only seemed to be growing, and that gave Luna some cause for concern. If he wanted to be tested, then she would. But she still had her doubts, “We shall see.”

-o-O-o-

Graeme had to keep reminding himself that he was in control. He’d effected change on the horses the last time, but now – in the full throes of what had been his worst nightmare – he was actually feeling a little overwhelmed. The atmosphere was more dark and oppressive than he’d recalled. The dark storm clouds overhead bristled heavily with lightning and thunder, stoking the anxious lump that was rising in his throat.

He did his best to focus, but there was still come uncertain trepidation lingering at the back of his mind.

Closing his eyes, Graeme allowed himself a few deep breaths. He could feel his heart rate rising, thundering in his chest. He needed to keep that under control if he could.

“Keep calm…” he whispered to himself. He waited for the inevitable bolt of lightning which would signal the start of the stampede. ”Focus you mind…”

The devastating bolt was right on schedule, lighting up the middle-distance and signalling the beginning of Graeme’s deepest fears.

The ominous rumble vibrating through the floor and up his legs turned into the all-out roar of wild, fleeing beasts. When they came into his view he was met with a sensation that he hadn’t felt in quite some time; he felt small and helpless. Genuine fear.

His confidence wavered for a moment.

“No.” his expression became stern as he steeled himself, “You can do this, Graeme…”

Concentrating, he focussed on the first line of horses as they approached, trying for the same shrinking trick he’d used before. Indeed, the horses began to get smaller, but far too slowly this time. Graeme felt mild panic rising in his gut.
“Shrink! Dammit!”

He soon realised that even if he did manage to assuage the threat posed by that first wave, he wouldn’t have time to do anything about the horses that came next, or the ones that followed after that. Or after that.

Or after that.

His eyes went wide as he lost all pretence of concentration, his instincts to run completely overwhelming him.
What had gone wrong?!

He turned to flee.

Luna was suddenly right there in front of him. She stood tall, proud, fearless and intimidating in front of the stampede, offering safe haven and reassurance to Graeme until the very last crazed horse had vanished from sight.

“I… I don’t know what happened.” Graeme was at a complete loss, still trying to gather himself, trembling and shaking, “Why didn’t that work?”

Luna flexed her wings before folding them down neatly once again, “We released the barrier on your subconscious. You were not simply fighting the dream, you were fighting yourself also.”

“Wait, what?”

“Your conscious mind attempted to turn the horses to a fraction of their size. Your subconscious mind, however, took your anxiety and uncertainty and limited the changes you attempted to affect.” She explained, “Your subconscious fear of not being in control, and small and helpless, manifested in your projections as a loss of control.”

‘We’ released the barrier?

“You…” Graeme tried to absorb everything she was telling him, “You mean you’ve been shielding me from this all along?”
“If you mean suppressing your subconscious, yes.” Luna nodded, “We have.”

“You’ve been protecting me.” Graeme began to feel a mixture of genuine despair and frustration, “All that progress… It wasn’t real?!”

“Of course it was.” Luna tried to reassure him, “You learned to manipulate your dreamscape. “

He wasn’t buying it, “But only because you were protecting me!”

“It was the only way I-” Luna began, only to be interrupted by an increasingly angry-looking Graeme.

“You made me feel the fool!” he clenched his fists in anger, “I thought I’d made real progress!”

“You have.” Luna stated flatly with a frown. Why was he reacting so badly to this?

“No I haven’t!” he fumed, marching up so close that Luna actually took a step back to avoid being snout-to-snout with the irate human, “You’ve been shielding me from it all!” he gestured accusingly at her face, “I haven’t accomplished shit!”
“Yes, you have,” Luna tried to insist, “I simply protected you from your-“

“I don’t need your protection!” He yelled at her.

A clap of thunder overhead seemed to punctuate his point. Luna looked up, uncertainly. Was Graeme unwittingly summoning this tempest, or was it a deliberate attempt? Judging by the way his emotions were obviously running high, she suspected the former.

She needed to calm him down.

“Graeme, I-”

“No!” he bellowed so loudly Luna actually recoiled like she’d been hit, “I don’t want to hear it!”

“But-” she tried to protest.

“Get out of my head, Luna!” Graeme roared at her, “Leave me alone! You’re not welcome here!”

Her eyes went as wide as ever Graeme had seen them, only to be filled with something that looked very much akin to hurt, and then narrow dangerously. Graeme flinched when her wings snapped open with a very audible, vicious swoosh through the air.

She pushed off forcefully into the sky, before turning and flying away, not bothering to look back.
Graeme stood alone. But he was too angry to care.

-o-O-o-

The nightmares returned with all their vicious force, plaguing Graeme’s nights and once again interfering with his sleep and overflowing into his days. It cut into his pattern, leaving him tired and restless at all the wrong times.

But he refused to submit to it.

He knew that he had the ability to overcome it, and he was resolved to do precisely that.

He knew he had the mental triggers in place. He knew precisely what it was that he needed to do. The only missing piece from the equation was the princess of the night herself.

But no matter his resolve, no matter how hard he tried, the results just weren’t turning in his favour. On more than one occasion things had actually backfired, and he found himself being shrunk down to the size of a mouse, facing down horses of gargantuan stature that only left him feeling all the more rattled and helpless.

Graeme just couldn’t figure out where it had all gone wrong.

-o-O-o-

Graeme faced the oncoming horses for the umpteenth time that week. He’d honestly stopped counting, and he was too tired even in his own dreamscape to care exactly how often he’d put himself through this.

He knew he could overcome it, but still he was plagued with doubts.

Bracing himself for the first wave to reach him, Graeme focused as he always did on rendering the horses harmless.

There was no reason it shouldn’t work, if he believed it would. But it seemed that his doubts were colouring his subconscious mind’s take on the whole thing.

The change in the horses began exceptionally slowly. Things were lining up to be yet another failure, giving rise to the usual panic that Graeme was increasingly frustrated with having to battle.

“Why isn’t this working…?” he growled, angry with himself. He was beginning to despair. If everything Luna had taught him was true, then this should have been more than enough!

Perhaps he really didn’t have it in him? Perhaps it had been Luna’s presence that had made all the difference, and it was something he’d never be able to do alone?

Graeme instantly felt a pang of regret wash over him at having yelled at Luna, and worse, at having sent her away and saying she was unwelcome.

He knew it wasn’t true. Things said in anger…

The regrets mixed with his doubts, sending his confidence in his ability to ever conquer the nightmare falling through the floor. No matter how much he focused on the approaching horses, it would never be enough to have them shrink before they reached him.

The all too familiar sensation of shrinking himself began to take hold, negating any effect he’d manage to rend upon the leading line of the stampeding herd, and making those he hadn’t tried to change yet seem to grow to absolutely gigantic proportions.

This nightmare was even worse than the one he’d originally suffered with.

For some reason, Graeme recalled one of the last things Luna had said to him, and it played upon his mind, “You were not simply fighting the dream, you were fighting yourself also.”

Fighting himself? That was all well and good, but how exactly could he put it to any practical use?

The first horses were upon him, even as he was still shrinking. He felt small, weak, vulnerable. What exactly could he do about it, though?

Nothing. His despair alone told him that much.

You’re feeble, Graeme, and there’s nothing you can do. May as well open your eyes and face it like a man.
How he cursed that little voice in his head.

But he didn’t object. He didn’t resist. He simply obliged.

Graeme opened his eyes fully to his surroundings, now no larger than a dormouse in stature. One solid trample, and the dream would be over and he’d wake up screaming in bed, plastered in cold sweat.

But the end didn’t come. Looking around himself, he realised that though the great lumbering beasts were all around him in their dozens, from this vantage point he could see every single hoof-fall that threatened to land anywhere near him. Most of them impacted well out of the way, completely harmless, several of his current body-lengths away. The great beasts were so much larger than him, their pace so long and wide and fast, that he had more than enough time to move this way or that and keep well out of their way.

He wasn’t small, he was less of a target.

He wasn’t weak, he was agile.

And he wasn’t powerless. He was in complete control of precisely where he was, any given moment to the next. He was now in control of whether or not he got trampled.

With a gleeful laugh, Graeme began to jump left or right, concentrating on each hoof that came his way and keeping well out of its path. Though it dragged on, he stayed well clear of them, and the whole thing began to feel almost like some weird game of dodgeball.

Only the balls were hooves, and none of them seemed as if they were actually being deliberately aimed at him.

Moments flew by as Graeme began to thoroughly enjoy the game, until the very last of the horses had passed. The moment they were out of sight he willed himself back to full size, meeting no resistance or objection, the grin plastered across his face accompanying him all the way.

“Yes! I did it! I did it!” He punched the air, jumping up and down on the spot in a little jig of joyous self-vindication, “I can’t believe that worked! Thank you! Thank you Luna!”

He stopped himself mid jump, his cries of elation vanishing into the night, leaving silence in their wake.

Luna…

Graeme knew he owed her so very, very much for that sweet moment of victory over his fears. But he’d sent her away.
He’d told her she wasn’t welcome.

Graeme began to wonder whether or not he’d ever see her again.

The chance to say thank you may never come.

-o-O-o-

“Well, you look like somebody stole your lunch.”

Graeme turned in his chair to look at Sam. He’d spent much of the workday staring idly out of the window, not looking at anything in particular. He couldn’t recall whether he’d been looking out over a sunlit landscape or a bleak and dismal thunderstorm; he’d simply been gazing into the same empty space his mind had chosen to wander into, and opting to ignore the world.

“What’s up?” Sam asked.

Graeme let out a sigh, turning to his desk and sprawling forwards over it.

“I finally got the better of my nightmare.” He admitted.

“So, studying under the princess paid off, huh?” Sam seemed genuinely pleased for him. What was odd was that Graeme had declared it without any joy or mirth at all in his tone, “So why the long face?”

“I told her that she wasn’t welcome in my dreams.”

“I… See…” Samantha was a bit dumbfounded, “Well, if you’re in control now, can’t you just conjure her back into them?”

Graeme sat up with another apathetic sigh, returning his gaze back out the window, “It just wouldn’t be the same…”

Sam could think of nothing to say. Clearly he was inconsolable.

-o-O-o-

The nightmare never did return after that. But that only left Graeme with mixed feelings.

To think that he’d overcome a memory that had manifested itself in nightmare for longer than he cared to remember, he felt a certain pride and no small measure of joy at finally being free of it.

But, in the end, doing so had cost him more than he’d imagined it would; more than it had needed to. And as much as he could take any credit for getting to where he was now, he was acutely aware that all the blame lay squarely at his feet too.
That night he returned to the meadow. There was no room for the storm this time – the sky was completely cloudless, playing host to a celestial display of twinkling stars, any given one adrift in an entire ocean of its kin. A couple of horses were still at the far side of the vast, wild field, but they seemed content doing whatever it was that they were doing down by the slowly meandering river.

Graeme simply sat there in the middle of it all, watching a glorious full moon poke furtively over the horizon. It held a red-tinted hue across a full, bright face that would no doubt become a bright, silvery-white as it climbed to meet its heavenly kindred of the night

It was peaceful. Tranquil.

Dull.

Graeme let off an exasperated sigh, throwing himself backwards onto the cool, soft earth, gazing up at the swathe of stars that bisected the sky.

His view was suddenly obscured by a dark, horned silhouette looming over him. The crown on its head was instantly familiar, and the peytral sparkling in the starlight was truly unmistakable.

“Luna?”

Graeme sat up, slowly turning to look at her. She straightened up a bit as she watched him rise carefully back to his feet.
“Is that really you?”

When he took a step forwards, the midnight alicorn took a step backwards, almost as if she were afraid to let him get too close.

“Luna?” Graeme wondered why she didn’t respond. When he tried to step forwards again, she once more took a step back, maintaining the distance. Something was just a little off.

Holding his arms out at his side to show he meant no harm and stepping forwards slowly he managed to approach without Luna trying to move away. When he was within an arm’s length of the mare he carefully reached forwards with his right hand. His fingers delicately came into contact with the soft fur of her muzzle, being careful to only rest there very lightly.
From her body-language she seemed unsure at first. But as Graeme gave a couple of gentle strokes she seemed to relax into it. But when he ran his fingers down from just beneath her horn to her muzzle and back, she whinnied like a common horse.

Graeme scoffed to himself, “I thought as much.”

It wasn’t the real Luna. This one really was nothing more than a figment of his imagination. But he didn’t stop his ministrations; her company was at least willing. And there were a couple of things he really wanted to tell her, because he knew he’d likely never get the chance to say them to the real Luna.

This pale shadow of the magnificent night princess was a pretty good facsimile, but she was a poor substitute, a shallow mockery of a creature whose description was beyond the grasp of mere words.

"If I never see the real Luna again, I just... I want to say thank you. I owe you so much."

She leaned forwards, his hand finding its way to her poll. She seemed to enjoy his fingertips there.

“You’ve made a huge difference to my life,” the faux-Luna looked up at him as he went on, her eyes containing none of the glorious depth of the real mare, “I don’t think I can say just how grateful I am for that. I just don’t have the words.”

The alicorn kicked at the ground with a fore-hoof before leaning down unexpectedly to graze.

Graeme sighed sadly, “I’m sorry for what I said. You didn’t deserve that.”

The creature before him suddenly straightened up, looking directly at him, her ears flicking this way and that. Graeme simply patted her on the neck.

“I’ll always remember you.” His smile was sad, bittersweet, but earnest, “I’ll miss you. More than I’d care to admit, I think…”
The faux Luna’s eyes widened. A fraction of a moment later she was turning sharply and setting off to run away at a fast gallop. Graeme was content to let her go. It wasn’t like she understood him anyway, and he felt no better for having spoken to her at all.

“We did not mean to scare her off.” A voice came from behind him.

Graeme had turned in an instant. There stood another Luna. He met her eyes without hesitation. There she was – the depth, the emotion, the intellect burning behind them.

He ran at her, throwing his arms around her neck and pulling her into a hug that caught her completely by surprise. After a moment or two she began to return it, wrapping one foreleg around him. It wasn’t the reaction she’d expected, but it wasn’t one she seemed to mind.

“I’m so sorry.” Graeme whispered into her mane, barely loudly enough to be heard.

Luna shifted her weight a little, breaking the embrace without undue force. Graeme simply let go as they separated, stepping back a half pace.

“We know.” Luna gave him a warm, knowing smile.

And he realised he knew why, “You heard all that, huh?”

“We heard every word.”

Graeme couldn’t resist reaching out again and giving her a second less aggressive hug. It was much more brief than the first, but it spoke the volumes that he was unable to put into words.

“You came back.” He marvelled as the parted the second time.

Luna’s expression took on a bashful quality, her cheeks reddening somewhat even beneath the midnight blue of her fur, “You called out to Us, “ she explained, “not in fear, but in earnest longing. We could not turn thee away. We…” she paused, as if the next words were struggling to take form, “I care for you more deeply than even I suspected.”

Graeme’s expression softened, “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to push you away, I just…”

Luna silenced him with a simple shake of her head, “We understand.”

Graeme didn’t doubt that she did. But there were some things he needed to say, now that he had the real Luna before him, in a position to actually listen, “Yes, but still, I feel-“

Before he could continue, Luna leaned forwards and placed a gentle kiss upon his cheek. The words fell to dust on his lips, slipping entirely out of existence, never to return. He was so dumbfounded that he was fairly sure all of his higher brain function had ceased in that moment.

Luna laughed, light but hearty.

When Graeme’s brain finally caught up again he noticed that the night princess was changing form. It wasn’t his doing, but in a few seconds the grand elegant alicorn had been replaced by the same beautiful human form he had once given her. Even the attire she donned was almost the same, the difference being the lower hem taking on an ethereal pulse and flow that he’d come to expect in her mane and tail.

It added a certain degree majesty to her graceful look that truly did her justice.

“Come,” Luna reached out to him with a small, delicate hand, “There is still much We can show thee.”

Graeme reached out and took her fingers in his own, the porcelain skin surprisingly soft and delicate in his own artist’s hand.

“Where are we going?” he asked.

Luna didn’t say. She simply set off across the meadow, Graeme easily keeping pace by her side. He didn’t ask her again. He realised that it didn’t matter.

The destination didn’t matter. It was the journey.

And wherever she would lead, he would follow.

-o-O-o-

Comments ( 44 )

I think I'd be more keen to read this were it told from Luna's perspective; the princess being mysteriously drawn in to the dreams of a strange creature...

An idea if you ever want to make a sequel or something; retelling the events of this story through Luna's eyes.

3281707
A suggestion I'll definitely keep in mind. Thank you.

please moar:pinkiehappy:im loving it:heart::raritywink:

3283594
Thanks! I have a couple of other plans for this universe, so watch this space.

I guess I'm nitpicking, but something that bothers me is that you keep referring to the problem as Night Terrors but you also talk about them as if they are nightmares. A night terror is actually a sleeping disorder and not a scary dream.

3285279
I know, and I figured somebody would call me out on that at some point.

Graeme's experiences are supposed to be night terrors, which is why I made a point of including the associated features and tells - something which doesn't occur with mere nightmares. I know I've then gone on to use nightmare as a synonym, but that was largely just to break things up, or I would've been using "night terror" or "pavor nocturnus" every other paragraph.

Very good. Nice job as a first story: Definitely better than my first attempt.

3290432
Thank you kindly. I appreciate it. :pinkiehappy:

I'm the 666th view. :pinkiecrazy:

:rainbowderp:wow
*slow clap* that was beautiful cdn.gifbay.com/2012/12/wave_of_feels-18739.gif nothing like a philosophical luna story to remind you just how forever alone you really are

A pretty touching story to be sure and I enjoyed this. ^^

A truley great fic, well done!

well done! i enjoyed all the deep descriptions you made throughout the whole story. enjoyed the characters personalities. i feel like they interacted with each other well. :pinkiesmile:

3475427 I'm glad you liked it. But nobody's alone forever.

3536107 Thanks! I appreciate it.

3539025 Thanks. I often feel I struggle to balance the depth of description and the pacing, slipping from weak description to being overly verbose.

But I think I'm improving.

Graeme is actually my name in real life... same spelling and everything... woa... :pinkiegasp:

3577299 It's also the name of a close friend of mine. The character is loosely based on him.

3577299
I couldn't resist sorry…

All names shown in this title are entirely fictional. Any resembling people either living or dead are purely coincidental.

:twilightsmile:

Daring, bold, ambitious and truly courageous! I enjoyed this story for several reasons;

The fact that the MLP show is catered to so well in the context of the story.
The unfolding development of repressed childhood trauma.
The lessons on dream manipulation and the perspective of the process involved within.
The protagonists interactions in the real world and discovery of the show through a seemingly random dream.
Luna's dialogue!

Grey Ham

my favourite quote! (despite all the wise things she discusses)
The conclusion being satisfying and yet a great preface for more to come.

This story was a wonder to read and I look forward to read the remaining ones! You have a style that does not beat around the bush at all! I enjoy short stories, and this was a super one indeed! MOre so I respect your inclusion of minor anthropomorphism, the humour, the disturbing dreams, and the medication.

Thank you for writing it and sticking with it so there are more to see soon!

Hey I want a Luna in my head!
Actually nevermind its already crowded in this small brain of mine, but still being able to talk to Luna in your sleep would be one of the greatest things ever.

Awesome story, good characters, and well written.

I really enjoyed this! I love how the story flowed, and I'm definitely glad that you've already wrote a sequel by the time I have found this! Your writing style definitely fits into the styles I find most enjoyable. :twilightsmile: great work, and I hope that I can see more work from you in the future!

Ps: I have already read the other 4 parts, and will be commenting on them in a moment!

Sup

Sup,
That was impressive. I would definitely put this as the best Luna fiction I've ever read. You really deserve more views for this. I'm glad you continued their story together and I hope you get the success you deserve.

well I never had a perspective of luna done like this before well done well done:pinkiehappy:

Comment posted by ultrasolarflare deleted Jun 9th, 2014
Comment posted by oron61 deleted Feb 15th, 2015
Comment posted by Midnight Mist deleted Feb 15th, 2015
Comment posted by Zanec deleted Feb 10th, 2015

This is one of the most satisfying stories of a romance for me. The romance is subtle, and happens largely without his awareness, as a good romance should. Congrats on making me want to check out your other work.

You have no idea how sad I was that it had ended...

Comment posted by Zanec deleted Nov 22nd, 2015
Comment posted by Incinarator deleted Nov 22nd, 2015
Comment posted by Zanec deleted Jun 10th, 2016

I loved reading this story. You did a fantastic job in creating it:twilightsmile:

Very, very good. The characters work well. Biggest flaw was that the main character tends to feel too exaggerated in certain places to be believable. But other than that, it's a captivating read. I quite enjoyed it.

7850272 Yeah, it sucks in places.

7852506 But it's GREAT in places, too. :pinkiehappy:

I loved this story! The only nitpick I may have is more me maybe overinterpreting it.

Sam's character, I got the feeling she was Celestia, or Luna. Even when she revealed she was actually 'just' a brony, I half-expected her to reveal herself in the end.

Kinda ended up disappointing myself.

Awww, I was hoping for him to be paired with Sam. Still, this was particularly good, I very much enjoyed the manipulation of dreams, and how he figured out that he could just dodge the hooves.

Very beautiful, I personally am torn between wanting going more and not "overindulging".

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