• Published 16th Dec 2013
  • 1,472 Views, 81 Comments

Limited - Cynical

It didn't exactly start out as the best day for Twilight Sparkle, and that trend doesn't seem to be improving anytime soon.

  • ...

Chapter 2: We Never Change

She winced as she came to, a headache waking her up from her sleep. She reached out for the glass of water next to her and drank deeply from it, trying to ignore the pounding in her head.

Someone knocked at the door and she called, “Come in.”

Spike came into the room carrying a tray of breakfast. “Morning, Twilight,” he greeted, “How’re you feeling?”

Twilight sighed, rubbing a hoof against her head. “As well as can be expected, I suppose…” she muttered, glancing at the clock next to her. It was 9:30 in the morning.

Spike put the breakfast in front of her and sat at the end of her bed as she inspected the marmalade-on-toast and orange juice.

“So much for breakfast for the sick,” she said jokingly, biting into her toast and giving an appreciative moan.

Spike chuckled and rubbed his claw behind his head bashfully. “Yeah… about that,” he started, “We’re completely out of pancakes.”

Twilight raised her eyebrows at Spike in surprise, “I thought you went to get some more yesterday…”

Spike looked at her oddly for a moment, his half-smirk still frozen across his face. “You sure you’re okay, Twilight?” he asked.

“As okay as you could expect…” she sighed, shaking her head, “What with… everything and all that.”

“Yeah…” Spike shuffled uncomfortably for a moment, “Listen… is there anything that I should know, Twilight? Like… anything important?”

Twilight paused, thinking for a moment. “You mean… anything important beyond the fact that I’m dying?” she asked bluntly, “Because I don’t think so… not unless you mean-“

“What do you mean, you’re dying?” Spike asked incredulously, looking agog at her.

Twilight paused again. “Don’t you remember, Spike?” she asked gently, “I told you and the other girls that I’m dying… in fact, where are the other girls, they said they’d be here sometime early.”

Spike spluttered for a moment before he could get the words out, “Don’t you think I’d remember something like that? And no, none of the girls are here; I haven’t seen them since a few days back.”

Twilight sighed before she cleared her throat. “In the presence of news that a pony (or dragon) cannot bear to believe,” she recited, “they may refute that it ever happened, blocking it from their memory entirely. Minds and Maladies, sixth edition, page five-hundred and twenty.”

Spike kept looking at her doubtfully and Twilight sighed, shutting her eyes and leaning back against the cushions. “Listen…” she said into the silence, “If you still don’t believe me, what were you doing at five ‘o’clock last night?”

“I was looking after you…” Spike said uncertainly, “You’d appeared on the doorstep and-“

Twilight opened her eyes and looked at Spike, irritated, “I said yesterday at five, not the day before that.”

He shifted on the bed and fixed Twilight with an even deeper look of concern than before. “That was yesterday,” he said, allowing his features to crease in worry, “I came outside to find you on the doorstep, dead to the world, and I brought you up here. Twilight… do you want me to call the hospital?”

“But-” Twilight started before her brain caught up with her mouth. To say that she’d lived a day that had never happened would almost certainly get her marked as crazy… or more so anyway. “No…” she said finally, “Would you mind leaving me alone for a little while, Spike? I need to do some thinking.”

He nodded and stood up from the bed, but he didn’t make any move towards the door. “Twilight…” he said, his voice uncertain again, “When you said that you were dying… did- did you mean it?”

A lump formed in Twilight’s throat as she met his gaze, the tiniest glimmer of hope caught in his eyes, and nodded. She watched as the hope died and his face went slack.

“I’ll… I’ll send a message to the princess and the others…” he said quietly, moving towards the door and trying to keep his face hidden from Twilight as the tears formed. Twilight stayed silent and let him leave, acknowledging the door shutting behind him with yet another sigh.

“Was yesterday just a dream then?” she asked herself in the empty room. She looked around at her room. There was the glass of water, half-empty, on her bedside table, and there was the tray of food that Spike had brought; the toast with marmalade still present along with half of the orange juice.

“It’s not that uncommon of a breakfast…” she muttered to herself, “It was probably just a coincidence that Spike brought that in the dream…” The reassurance didn’t help her and she fell back against the headboard of the bed, trying to put the dream or whatever it was, firmly out of her mind.

It hadn’t happened and that was what mattered… or didn’t as the case may be.

She put the tray on the side and swung herself out of bed, heading towards her personal bookcase in the corner of the room. There on the bottom shelf was the book she’d quoted from not ten minutes ago. She bit her lip and tried to levitate Minds and Maladies by Clear Thought from the shelf only to wince and cut her magic a few seconds later.

“Still no magic then…” she muttered to herself and leant down to pick it up manually, balancing on three hooves and trying desperately not to let the fourth drop it. She dropped it on her bed and opened the back cover, searching the index for something.

“Here we go…” she muttered, starting to flick through the pages with increasing ferocity, “Delusions, delusions, delusions…” Eventually, she stopped flicking through the pages and started reading out loud, “Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition that causes a range of different psychological symptoms, including: hallucinations, delusions, muddled thoughts based on the hallucinations or delusions and changes in behaviour.”

She paused and flicked back to the index, looking for the same line she’d found before. “Delusions… pages 435, 255, 634…” Once again, the book was flicked open onto Drug Abuse, flicked shut again, then opened for a final time onto Delusions of Grandeur.

She choked back a laugh; of the three mental conditions to which the symptom pointed to, it had to be the only long-term one of the three. “I’m not sure I appreciate the irony,” she said to herself with a small smile that died on her face.

There was a quiet knock on her door and Spike poked his head in. “I’ve sent a letter to the princess,” he said, spotting the abandoned breakfast and the vast tome that was resting on the bed, “I’ll be going out for a little while to tell our friends… are you going to be okay?”

Twilight sighed and nodded. “I’ll be fine, Spike,” she reassured, trying not to think about the book in front of her for once, “I’d go and talk to Rarity first, she’ll probably save you a bit of effort later.”

Spike gave her an odd look, but nodded. “Sure,” he acknowledged, “I’ll go and pick up some pancakes while I’m out too shall I?” he asked with the ghost of a smile that Twilight barely returned.

“That’d be nice.”

The door shut again and Twilight returned her attention to the book in front of her. Somewhere outside, the clock started its dutiful tolling, Twilight counted out eleven loud tolls. She shut the book.

It had all felt so… real. She was almost certain that she’d gone to Applejack’s, only to find Big Mac instead of his sister. She was more-or-less positive that Pinkie hadn’t been at the boutique when she’d asked and that Mr Cake was missing somewhere. She was nearly sure that Rainbow had been looking for her with something to say.

Far below her, someone knocked at the door.

She briefly contemplated ignoring them; she wasn’t in the mood for visitors. Then she stood up and left her room. There was no point inflicting her bad mood on ponies that might genuinely need her help.

As she passed through her house, she saw that Spike had left her a note on the table saying that he’d left some sandwiches in the fridge for her if she got hungry. She wondered when their roles had been reversed and he’d started taking care of her.

She put that thought to the back of her mind along with all her other worries before she opened the door. Rainbow Dash looked in at her from the other side, hopping lightly from hoof to hoof. “Uh… Morning, Rainbow,” Twilight said, not sure whether she should be surprised or not, “What can I do for you?”

“Hey, Twilight,” Rainbow greeted somewhat jerkily, pausing for another moment before she continued, “Listen… would you mind if I talked to you about something?”

Twilight raised an eyebrow in faux surprise as her mind worked overtime. The toast might have just been a coincidence, but this didn’t seem as likely. Possible, maybe… but highly unlikely. “You want to talk to me about something?” she asked, deadpan, “What is it this time then? Something so important that it can’t wait?”

Rainbow nodded.

Twilight groaned to herself inwardly. “You’d better come on in then,” she invited, stepping back from the door and letting Rainbow slip in.

“Are you okay, Twi?” Rainbow asked as she passed, “You seem a bit… edgy.”

“I’m fine…” Twilight replied, shutting the door with a quiet click, “I’ve just not had the best of mornings.”

Rainbow nodded sympathetically, “I hear ya… One morning I woke up, climbed out of bed and slipped on Tank. Ended up-”

“Rainbow,” Twilight interrupted, her voice tense and quiet, “I don’t mean to be rude, but would you please just get to the point? I’m somewhat preoccupied.”

Rainbow looked at her, embarrassed, “Sorry…” she said quietly, all traces of humour and confidence gone, “Sorry for interrupting you… I’ll just leave you be. I’ll come back when you’re a little less busy.”

Without further ado, she fled. Twilight was left looking at the space that she’d occupied moments ago and she cursed under her breath as the door swung shut behind her departing friend. “Stupid…” she berated herself, trying to push her bad mood back under control, “Why did you take it out on her? She hasn’t done anything to you?” she asked herself.

She shot a glance at the note from Spike that was still on the table. As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t find a shred of hunger within her. It seemed that the morning had left its marks all the way from a bad taste in her mouth to a bad feeling in her stomach.

“Wonderful…” she said to herself bitterly.

A lone candle in the middle of the table spat into life and Twilight looked up as it flared bright green and spluttered out. It had been something she’d made as an afterthought a couple of years ago. Sometimes Spike wasn’t around to send or receive messages for her so she made her own device to do just that.

The fact that her letters no-longer smelt like earth was another bonus.

This letter was not unlike any other she’d seen. It was sealed with the royal crest and wound tight enough to be exactly 1.6 inches in diameter. She reached out and broke the wax with a quick snap. The letter was unrolled and she read the words in silence.


Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Please could you ask her what she has been diagnosed with so that myself and my sisters can aid her in some way, shape or form? I realise that she has grown apart from me in recent years and that she might be unwilling to accept this help, but please… I don’t want to sit here and do nothing while my student is dying.

It might be wise that she never sees this letter.

Twilight read the letter twice more before she rolled it back up. It was true… there were only so many lessons of friendship that existed and once they’d all been exhausted, contact between them had dried up, then stopped.

Twilight had assumed it was because Celestia had nothing left to teach her… she couldn’t even begin to imagine what Celestia thought had been the cause. Looking at the letter though… it seemed as if she imagined that Twilight resented her for that same fact.

Did she? She pondered the question for a moment. Celestia had nothing left to teach her; there was nothing left to teach that could be taught by her. That was precisely the reason why she’d been sent to Ponyville so long ago. She never imagined resenting the princess for such a decision; it had been the best one in her life.

She didn’t resent the princess. She knew that. She opened the scroll again and looked at the bottom of the page. There was just enough room for a few sentences to be left and re-sent.

Her magic sparked into life and a quill shivered for a moment before the magic was cut, the sound of swearing echoing around the library as Twilight clutched a hoof to her horn.

She lifted the quill in her mouth, letting it rest between her teeth as the pain dulled itself down. After another few moments, she let the quill meet the paper and scrawled the words advanced magical hyperactivity flux disorder beneath Celestia’s signature. Then, beneath that, she wrote her own, signing the reply with a simple ‘I’m sorry,’ then she paused.

The candle stood inconspicuously in the middle of the table, as quiet and unassuming as any other. It was enchanted; that was how it worked of course. She’d enchanted it to take in a letter and send it on its way to Celestia or vice versa. But it still needed that slight push to send it.

It one of the basic laws of magic: Something has to be lost for something to happen. She’d simply built the door when she enchanted the candle… opening it would require a spark of magic that she could not provide.

“Looks like I’m waiting for Spike then…” she murmured to herself, sitting back into a chair. Spike, who she’d cared for since he was little more than a baby. Spike, who she loved like a brother. Spike, who she still hadn’t told. She had a lot of secrets; the full extent of the disorder was one of them. No matter what Princess Celestia had asked, she probably still wouldn’t have told him about just what was going to happen to her.

She didn’t want others to be scared for when she died.

There would be no grave for Twilight Sparkle: No bones to bury or ashes to scatter. That was the curse of who she was. She was not an ordinary unicorn. She didn’t have a limit on the magic she could call or craft. If she so wished, she could summon her own sun and her power would still be there at the limit.

When she died… she would simply cease. The curse of the magi as it was known. They lived, leaving their mark on the world before they left. Specifically… they left with a rather large bang.

Celestia had told her a few years ago now; there was nothing she could do about it. She’d noticed it on the first day they’d met… no filly should have had that much power at their hooves, no matter how talented they were.

And now... She’d taken the precaution of building a special room, far below her home, where she could die in peace and with the knowledge that her death wouldn’t cause Ponyville to be flattened.

It wasn’t a matter that she particularly liked focussing on, but it was a necessary one nevertheless. She sat up, reading the letter from Celestia once again.

The door opened and Spike came in. Twilight quickly rolled up the scroll in front of her to stop him seeing it, notching the wax slightly so that it was held closed. “Hey… Twilight,” he greeted, his smile wan and forced.

She smiled back at him slightly. “Hey,” she said quietly, “Would you mind sending this along to Celestia?” she asked, holding out the sealed scroll to him.

He took it, somewhat confused. “But what about the candle?” he asked, looking pointedly at it, still sitting inconspicuously on the table.

Twilight glanced its way for a moment, trying to invent an excuse before she turned back. “Oh…” she said, letting some annoyance seep into her tone, “It’s on the blink again… I don’t think there’s much point in fixing up another one though… not now.”

“Right…” Spike said softly before a tongue of flame took the scroll from his claw, dissolving it as his fyre did its work.

“So I take it you found everyone?” Twilight asked, trying to change the subject to something a tad less relational to her impending demise.

“Sort of…” Spike said quietly, clearing his throat before he continued, his voice slightly stronger, “I asked for them to all come round a bit later… in about an hour or two actually. Rarity said she’d find Applejack and Fluttershy, Mrs Cake said she’d speak to Pinkie whenever she got back; oh, and apparently Mr Cake is missing somewhere. I couldn’t find Rainbow though… Is that alright, Twilight? Twilight?”

She’d stopped listening halfway into his explanation, finding some of its contents eerily familiar. “Did you by any chance tell them to come around at five, Spike?” she asked innocently, wondering just how similar the dream was to this.

“Yeah…” he said, looking at her suspiciously, “How did you know?”

“Lucky guess…” she said absent-mindedly, trying to think back to the other details of the dream. What happened when they all came over? “Spike,” she started again, “What time is it now?”

There was a pause as Spike went over to a window and looked outside. “It’s about ten-to-four,” he replied after a few moments.

“What is it about the afternoons and slipping away?” she asked herself quietly before she grimaced. “Thanks, Spike,” she said out loud and nodded to herself. If her memory was as good as she remembered, Rarity would be arriving in a bit less than an hour, then it would be Pinkie Pie, then Applejack and Fluttershy, and finally Rainbow-

“Spike?” she asked again.


“Did you say that you couldn’t find Rainbow?”


Okay… no Rainbow then.

“Listen… Twilight… is there anything else that I need to know?” Spike asked from behind her, “Like… what’s going to happen to me when you’re gone?”

Twilight sighed again. She’d completely forgotten that part. “I’ll… talk to the mayor tomorrow,” she started, rolling out the details on the spot, “I’ll see if you’ll be alright to stay in the library… that is… if you want to.”

Spike shook his head. “I don’t mean where I’m going to stay…” he said, “I meant what am I going to do without you here? This is your home; I can’t imagine you not being in it.”

Twilight smiled sadly and reached out to hug Spike. He leant into her and wrapped his arms around her neck. “I’m sure you’ll figure out a way…” she said quietly, “You always seem to. Just remember that I wouldn’t want you moping around the place, okay?”

Spike let out a choked laugh, “No…” he said, smiling slightly, “You’d want me to make sure that all the books were neat and tidy for any customers that happened to come calling. I still can’t remember a day where you’ve shut the library due to illness.”

“That’s right,” Twilight smiled fondly, “No matter what… the library will remain open.” She wasn’t sure whether she was joking or not now. It had always seemed so important that she didn’t let her own problems get in the way of everyone else… She still maintained that, but she would be damned if she was going to spend her last few days on her own.

She let Spike go and he stepped back, smiling sadly to himself as he headed into the kitchen. Twilight bit her lip as she realised that she’d still not touched the food he’d left for her; she’d just not been hungry – she still wasn’t for that matter.

With nothing else to do, she scanned the bookcase for something to read to pass the rest of the time. There was The Lord of the Rings that she’d looked at in her dream… or whatever it was. She considered reading it again; she’d still not gotten any further than the first paragraph after all.

Then her eyes moved over it. Something else would be good… something a bit lighter and less… dense. Her eyes landed on her Daring Do collection and she smiled slightly. “Sure… why not?” she muttered to herself, standing up and lifting the first book from the shelf. It had been hers after the first week it’d hit the shelves of Canterlot – her parents having bought it for her birthday – and she’d kept it since.

She sat back down in the chair and started reading, allowing herself to get lost in the world of Daring Do and far-off lands.

Soon enough though, someone knocked at the door, breaking Twilight from her reading. She looked up as Spike headed towards the door. A glance out the window showed her that it was quarter-to-five. She sighed and folded the page she was on, putting the book down next to her as Rarity came into the room.

“Hey, Rarity,” Twilight greeted, smiling as Rarity sat down opposite her on the sofa.

“Good evening, Twilight,” she said, “Sorry I’m early, I know you said five, but I just wanted to let you know that I’ve told Applejack and Fluttershy to be here too.” She paused, looking at Twilight with worry, “Is there something the matter, dear? Spike was-” she looked around for a moment to check that he wasn’t listening to them, “Well… Spike looked as if he’d seen a ghost.”

Twilight nodded, “That’s what this is about… yes. I’ll tell you about it when everyone else is here first though… speaking of which…”

As if on cue, the doorbell rang again and Spike went to answer it, letting Pinkie into the fray in her typical high spirits. “Heya, Twilight,” she greeted, hopping over the sofa and landing next to Rarity, who blanched.

“Do you mind,” Rarity said hotly, glaring at Pinkie, “I’ve just had this tail curled. I’d-”

“Prefer it if you didn’t sit on it, dear,” Twilight murmured to herself, echoing the words that Rarity said at exactly the same time. She shivered. As déjà vu went, this seemed to be one of the worse cases she’d had.

The doorbell rang for the final time and Spike left to let Applejack and Fluttershy in, both of whom greeted Twilight warmly before saying hello to the other two ponies in the room.

After a few more moments, Twilight cleared her throat. The others settled down and focussed on her as she started speaking, “So since Rainbow couldn’t be found… It’s unlikely that she’ll be coming here to join us. Someone’ll have to pass this on to her later,” she said calmly, knowing she had their rapt attention; she’d had it before after all.

Recalling how she’d explained it before, she continued, “I’m dying. I’ve been diagnosed with a rare condition that’s fatal,” she paused, looking around the horrified stares from the audience, noticing how incredibly similar they were to the ones in her dream, “I’ve been given a few days of life before it happens… Any questions?”

The silence of the library echoed around her for a moment, as she knew it would, then Applejack asked the question that sent the others tumbling around her.

“You’re… you’re sure about this, right?”

“What about a second opinion?”

“Is there a cure?”

“What about princess Celestia?”

She didn’t send up a flare this time, she just held up her hoof and waited until they all fell silent before her. She sighed, “I’m sure… that was the second diagnosis I’ve been given. The disease I have… it’s incurable. The princess already knows and there isn’t going to be anything she can do about it, as much as it’s going to pain her to know that…”

“Is there anything we can do?” Fluttershy asked quietly, looking at Twilight with sorrow etched plainly across her face.

Caught between lying and telling her the blunt truth, Twilight settled on something else, “Just… be with me tomorrow…” she said, already wishing that Spike hadn’t asked them all over. This was already making her feel uncomfortable and she wanted to be left to herself again… there was still something about that dream that didn’t quite seem right.

Before she could voice her thoughts, she felt hooves wrap around her neck and leant into them, welcoming the hug, then the group hug as the others joined in with Fluttershy. There were no tears in this hug though, all eyes present remained dry as they mourned for their friend’s problems.

“Thanks, girls…” she said, her voice drugged and weighted.

“We’ll be around first thing tomorrow, ya hear?” Applejack said quietly into the group hug and Twilight nodded, hardly able to form any more words around the lump in her throat. They stayed like that for a little longer before the hug broke.

“We’ll see you in the morning,” Rarity said, trying to keep the tears from trekking down her face.

Twilight nodded and let them go, listening to them leave and the subsequent sound of the door shutting behind them. Once it had happened, she let herself fall against the chair and let her mind wander.

She had done exactly what she had done in her dream: She’d told Spike and her friends; she’d even told Celestia. And then there was the dream itself… it had predicted everything that would happen today, from when Spike had brought her marmalade on toast and a glass of orange juice, to when Pinkie Pie had jumped over the sofa and landed on Rarity’s tail. It was almost as if it was today that was the dream and the dream that was reality.

She hardly even knew anymore.

Spike was somewhere in the kitchen; he’d left Twilight to explain her predicament to her friends in peace. She knew though, that sooner or later, he’d come in and ask her if she wanted something to eat. She’d refuse and try to go to her room for some peace and quiet, he wouldn’t like it, but with a bit of prodding, he’d accept and leave her to her thoughts.

She’d go outside and look out over the balcony, feeling the chilly breeze on her face as she looked into the starry sky. She’d repeat to herself that she hadn’t enough time to say goodbye to everyone, she didn’t have enough time to get everything in order. Then she’d wish for another day…

A shiver ran up her spine as she thought about that last point.

Something like this was a myth, of course it was. There was no-one in living memory who had ever been caught inside something like it. Those that had gave dubious explanations too, about how they had been caught inside the same day for years and years; how they’d been stuck in a time loop.

She kept thinking about it. Two days… that might have been coincidence, but three… if she woke up tomorrow to find marmalade on toast and orange juice in front of her, she’d know it to be true.

In front of her, the candle lit up again and the fyre burned for a moment before it died, leaving another scroll on the table, this one also sealed shut with wax.

She lifted it up and cracked the wax open, letting it unroll in her hooves as she read it.

No… I’m sorry.

Author's Note:

And still with an hour to go before the day is out...

The first few chapters are probably about as sad as I'm going to let it get (he says infamously, preparing to get quoted in the later chapters).

Thanks for Timaeus for prereading.

Note: Fyre is a deliberate spelling, meaning in this case dragon fyre as opposed to normal fire.