• Published 13th Feb 2015
  • 934 Views, 37 Comments

Too Much Love Will Kill You - A Hoof-ful of Dust



How much do you trust what you can see? What you can touch? What you experience? How sure can you be that all you have lived through, all you have loved, is not a dream that will fade at daybreak? Twilight must end the spell.

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The Day Aftermath

"I had the weirdest dream last night," Rainbow Dash said.

Twilight listened, but she wasn't listening. She kept trying to smile and nod and agree in what felt like the right places in the conversations she hadn't been completely involved in, but she felt like a fake. An impostor. The puppeteer guiding marionette Twilight through her day. And any moment, she'd slip up and break character and all her friends would know. Just what they would know wasn't exactly clear, but Twilight was surprised they hadn't noticed anything wrong by now. Or perhaps they had, and they were just being polite while she went quietly mad.

"I was in my house, but it was like, made of ice cream? It wasn't really my house, either, just where I lived in the dream."

She would feel normal for a little while, but then she would see half an expression or catch hint of some faint scent or mishear a word and be struck by a memory that never happened. It was like watching her friends from behind one-way glass, she monitoring them silently in the dark.

"I had to swim through the walls to keep it from melting, or it'd drip all over Canterlot and I'd be arrested."

She couldn't tell them. Could she? How would she tell them? Excuse me girls, but I seem to have developed a series of one-way faux-relationships with all of you that happened completely in my own mind, so if I'm behaving a little unusual around you then that's why. It's nothing to worry about, unless of course I can't separate the memories of what actually happened from what I think happened, in which case I may be crazy. Pass the syrup, please?

"Why would you be arrested?" Pinkie asked. "That sounds super-teriffic. Superiffic!"

It wasn't really her fault that any of this had happened. She could tell her friends. They would be understanding, wouldn't they? It wasn't like this was the first time some bit of magic had gone wrong and done something unexpected. They could hardly hold her responsible.

Rainbow shrugged. "I dunno. Dream logic. Dreams don't have to make sense."

But what if it wasn't completely the fault of the spell? Twilight still wasn't completely sure what it did, exactly. Was it symbolic, or did it point to some hidden desire even she was unaware of? Or was it all garbage, nothing more than a idle what-if brought to life? Did the romantic overtones come from the magic, or herself?

"I thought dreams said something about the pony dreaming them," Fluttershy said. "Not that you're wrong, Rainbow. They don't always make sense."

What if somepony else used that spell and they experienced something completely different? Something mundane? Something straightforward? How could she even find another test subject that wasn't herself? The spell wasn't complex, but it did require some understanding of how to harness spoken magic, and a tremendous amount of force behind it.

"Yeah, that's what I heard too," Applejack said, "that dreams are subconscious whatevers, stuff you ain't ready to handle yet when you're awake."

She could always try the spell again, she supposed, even with the risk involved. But...

"What d' you think?"

...What if she had tried the spell again, and this was it? How could she tell? How could she ever tell?

"I said, what do you think, Twilight?"

Could she ever be sure that she was experiencing what she was experiencing, that it might not turn out to be--

"Twilight? Are you okay?"

Twilight blinked. "Yes," she said, and cleared her throat, "I'm fine. Just zoned out for a second there."

"Daydreams?" Rarity asked with a wry smile.

"Something like that." Twilight returned the smile.

She felt present at Sugarcube Corner in a way she had not since stepping inside, like the bakery was an anchor for her thoughts. Bedrock to rebuilt sanity. It was like remembering to breathe.

"Anyway," she continued, "while some dreams can reveal things about their dreamers, they're usually infrequent and require some kind of external method of recording, like a dream journal, to be analyzed in any great detail. The majority of dreams are fragments of memories assembled in a haphazard way by the sleeping mind. Mental noise, in other words."

"So..." Rainbow said, "does that make me right?"

"For most dreams. I'd say swimming through an ice cream house counts as just noise. Speaking of ice cream," Twilight said, coming to a realization as she spoke, "I'm still hungry. Do you girls want anything else to eat?"

"Ice cream?" Pinkie suggested.

"Not quite what I was thinking. Like pie, or something."

"For breakfast, Twilight?" Rarity asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Any time of the day is a good time for pie."

"Sure, I'm in," Applejack said.

"Me too," Fluttershy added.

"I could go for pie," Rainbow said, "as long as it's not blueberry."

"Blueberry?" Twilight said, as her mind threatened to double, buckle like heated wax. "What's wrong with blueberry?"

"Nothing's wrong with it, I'm allergic. Like, really allergic, my whole mouth gets a rash." She showed off her tongue to drive the point home. "It's gross."

When she was a little filly, Twilight would take her father's reading glasses to pretend she was grown up, as very smart ponies had glasses and naturally she would have them when she got older too. She would sit in her father's easy chair and read a book she had read easily hundreds of times before but secretly pretend to be deep in research for something very important and very complicated, and when she would be called for dinner, she would take the glasses off and be surprised every time when the world around her came back into focus. She had been adjusting to the lenses without knowing it, and taking them away made the room snap to attention. Every time she would think: This is what the world really looks like. I'd almost forgotten.

Rainbow saying she had allergies to blueberries, obliterating any possibility that for several weeks they had shared ritual slices of blueberry pie, made Twilight's mind snap to attention. She remembered the way the world really was, after almost having forgotten.

"Alright," she said with a smile that was only for her, "no blueberry."

Author's Note:

"Too Much Love Will Kill You" is a Queen song. Quite a good one, too.

Also, in case it wasn't obvious, this is a metaphorical story.

Comments ( 19 )

I... wow. Just. Wow. I don't even know what to say. That made me think. Hard. And I'm still not sure if I fully got everything. That was such a trip into Twilight's mind.

I'm not lying when I say this should have more views. Brilliant work!

I feel dense, because I have no idea what it was a metaphor for. :/

Still, beautiful as always. Your prose is artful and great at conveying emotion, and the snippets of relationships here were adorable.

Wow. This completely blew me away. Every sentence felt perfectly crafted. Just, well done. I don't know what else to say, but you have certainly earned that.

5635879
This is the exact reaction I wanted.

Is this- is this about head canons?

Because it is magnificent, no doubt, well written and well plotted and as compelling as possible. I loved it.

And I read it as about the tendency for head canons- for personal unconfirmed ideas that are possible as fitting in with canon but not necessarily confirmed- to make us lose sight of the real story, the canon we love, the dream we share instead of the dreams that are just for us.

This was fantastic.

5637796
Nailed it.

Headcanon's such a weird malleable thing, especially when you get into when something's repeated enough times that it becomes difficult for people to remember that it wasn't actually in the show to begin with. It's hard to keep straight, especially with orders of magnitude more fan content than official content, and that's just for an outsider writing about things; I started thinking about what would happen if a character became somehow aware of all this extra fanon material being generated about their lives, and the story grew out of that.

Ah, finally; another delightful work of yours to partake in.

The dream imagery is well done, as usual for your stories. I liked the clock imagery throughout, though felt that use of mirrors, especially given their prominence at the end, could have come into play more. I don't know if describing the clock's surface as reflective at the beginning was part of that, but it struck me as a terribly odd word choice at the time; wood is highly polished usually, not reflective. The relationships, thin as they were, I think hit the most well known tropes that you were aiming for and that did the job of showing what they were in the shortest time. I might argue Pinkie is the weakest, but Twipie isn't a ship I care terribly for so can't judge how accurately it was done. The ending was certainly cleaner than a lot of your other stories have been when it comes to the reality of events. It's debatable whether this is a good or bad thing; personally I find ambiguity makes a story stick longer as the reader tries to wrestle out a truth that may or may not be there. That's probably why I like Them Bones so much. Part of me had been hoping that at the end of One, Rarity had replied to her statement that none of it was real by saying "It's all equally real. That's the problem."

I don't know if this idea is one you might revisit later, but it could certainly hold promise. Alas MLP, like so many other cartoons and fictional works, too easily succumbs to the It Only Works Once trope. Take for instance the episode It's About Time. The premise functioned on Twilight's ignorance of the mechanics of the spell. Now that she is fully aware of its function -- has seen the gears behind the clock face, so to speak -- there is no reason that it wouldn't work the way she originally intended. (Of course the sheer volume of stuff that such a realization would break is staggering.) And now that she has seen the gears behind this particular clock face, what's to keep her from going back and delving further, to see what else may be there?

In the end, it was nice. Interesting things were said. Was the spell a reflection of the caster, was it a doorway to other worlds; we don't know and Twilight does not seem to care enough to investigate. The metaphor for the piece, as you stated in your own comment, came through well and is something authors should dully keep in mind when playing in "other people's" sandboxes.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

And I have my other favorite entry in the H&H event. :) Fantastic work!

This was very lovely. :twilightsmile:

Well, this is awesome. I'm iffy on the idea of 'story as a metaphor.' What makes this story awesome is that it's more than just whatever metaphor or message you were trying to convey (something about shipping?). There's a story here that can be fully understood and enjoyed without understanding the metaphor, at least on the surface. And that story is well-told and well-written. I mentioned before that I thought the transitions between scenes were very cool, but I think the highlight of this story is all the individual relationships. This story wouldn't have worked if each one of the five relationships hadn't felt real, but in a very short amount of time you managed to distinguish and uniquely characterize each relationship. And that ending was great. This would have been disappointing if it had left off on another 'Oh noes! We'll never know what's real' but Rainbow Dash's comment was a clever and effective way of sidestepping that. Again, this is an awesome story.

5787092
I tried really hard to find an angle to show each of Twilight's relationships in a concise way, and I think I got it with most of them; Pinkie is a little ephemeral, but neither I nor Twilight really have any clear picture of Pinkie Pie in a relationship, and I didn't really get all of the Twilight-and-Rarity Canterlot power couple I was envisioning into the story, but that's what other stories are for, aren't they? I really like shipping stories, but it's tough to find the ones that treat the characters like themselves let alone the relationship as something unique between those two characters and not just Generic Couple Template.

Maybe I should rethink the "this is a metaphor" thing. I mean, all stories are saying something in an indirect way in some fashion (whether the author means to say it or not), so maybe that's redundant to say, but I get this nagging feeling that if I don't point out that there's another layer that readers should specifically be looking for then nobody will look for it. I didn't want it to be ambiguous, whether what Twilight experienced actually happened or not, nor if she was really back in the real world, but she can't know these things for sure, not right up until the end of the story anyway. This is sort of my take on cosmic horror, which doesn't necessarily require beings of unfathomable infinity slumbering outside of space and time but just realising you are a sack of meat with an unreliable method of processing the world around you and a completely subjective recording device to make sense of it all.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

6188374
ahaha

Well, I'm actually very glad you said that, because I was thinking about writing a story with a white text gimmick, and now I know it wouldn't work for some readers!

Damn, what a fic. It is deep without trying, and I love the structure, how each chapter feels like a terrible shipfic on the surface. Props for managing to make something this seemingly scattered so interconnected.

This is truly exceptional. Your writing brings to mind a finished sculpture; it is solid, impeccably crafted, and can be viewed from multiple angles. To say it is thought-provoking would be a massive understatement. It lends a whole new dimension to how I view the workings of Twilight's mind, my own mind, and the nature of reality. It is terrifying to be without certainty, and to realize how few things in life are or ever were certain.

I am grateful to Rainbow Dash for mentioning the blueberries. Without that part, this story almost certainly would have given me nightmares.

Legit chills at some of the chapter endings. Great work.

Twilight listened, but she wasn't listening. She kept trying to smile and nod and agree in what felt like the right places in the conversations she hadn't been completely involved in, but she felt like a fake. An impostor. The puppeteer guiding marionette Twilight through her day. And any moment, she'd slip up and break character and all her friends would know. Just what they would know wasn't exactly clear, but Twilight was surprised they hadn't noticed anything wrong by now. Or perhaps they had, and they were just being polite while she went quietly mad.

and oof, that anxiety and guilt. something i can relate to even as someone who never cast a spell to ship myself with all my friends in what is either a dream or an alternate reality or who knows what

"I was in my house, but it was like, made of ice cream? It wasn't really my house, either, just where I lived in the dream."

so the sheer stupidity and inanity of this dream is both perfect as a contrast to what’s on Twilight’s mind as well as Rainbow Dash being Rainbow Dash, love it so much

"I could go for pie," Rainbow said, "as long as it's not blueberry."

"Blueberry?" Twilight said, as her mind threatened to double, buckle like heated wax. "What's wrong with blueberry?"

"Nothing's wrong with it, I'm allergic. Like, really allergic, my whole mouth gets a rash." She showed off her tongue to drive the point home. "It's gross."

and, oof! that answers at least some of the questions Twilight had about all this. but the answers to those questions aren't the most interesting things to take away from this fic, at least in my opinion.

just loved this. simultaneously a deconstruction of and homage to shipfics of Twilight with her friends. even the ones that felt a touch underdrawn, like the TwiPie and RariTwi, actually work really well in the story itself for their underdrawnness, making perfect sense within the context of it. thanks for the great read!

This was really interesting.

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