• Published 11th Jul 2015
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Life in the Donut Hole - Revenant Wings



My name is Matthew Rock. I made the dimension leap hoping to find a better life in Equestria and a decent job, but instead I'm stuck at some hole in the wall. Guess I gotta make the best of it for now.

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Episode 2: The Hypnotist's Roommate Can't Sleep

My name is Matthew Rock. I’m 24 years old with two bachelor’s degrees, and I’ve just fallen asleep on the job.

“Wake up, Matthew!” Donut Joe shouts in my ear. “I don’t get how you can fall asleep standing up.”

Indeed, I did somehow manage to find a way to sleep standing up. I manage to jolt myself awake from Joe’s shouting, almost tap him on the head like an alarm clock, and go back to tending the pastry counter. I just thought I’d get a few moments with my eyes closed when there were no customers. Instead, I dozed off by the donuts.

Probably because they look as soft as a pillow, and the sheet paper they’re on would be a decent enough blanket if one layered it.

Donut Joe gives an exasperated sigh as I check the coffee and hot chocolate supplies. “Honestly… That’s the second time this week you’ve fallen asleep on the job. Are you not getting enough sleep? What is it?”

I’m pretty sure I have been, as I tend not to see my alarm clock between the hours of 12 and 7 am. “Seven hours a night. Normal for my age, at least.”

“If you were getting enough sleep, you wouldn’t have found a way to do so at work,” Donut Joe reprimands. “Look, you need a vacation? At least work until 11am when Cast Iron comes in and she can finish out the day for you.”

I’m not wide awake, but I certainly don’t want that. “Hell no. I’ll finish my service and try going to bed a bit earlier.” I try to say it with more conviction, but a yawn breaks through. “I’ll just set aside a cup of coffee for now.”

Donut Joe’s still irritated, but his voice is softer and not so angry anymore. “Look. You’re a good chef. You’ve done a fantastic job and I’m glad I’ve hired you. But you’ve got to find a way to stay awake at least while you’re here. Look, you’ve got today and tomorrow. Manage to make it through that and you’ll have a break, alright?”

“Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir. I’ll try to stay awake for the rest of the time.”

“Good man. We need two cups of coffee and a hot chocolate for table six. Can you get that for me?”

I nod and pull out two cups of coffee and a cup of hot chocolate, get some packets of creamer and sugar, and send them off with Donut Joe for a small family that just came in and start musing how I got myself into this situation.

I have two degrees: bachelor’s in Culinary Arts and Business Finance. I came here six months ago when job prospects looked slim back on Earth. Might be surprising, but despite the situation I’ve found myself in – working at a hayburger stand for 5 months, barely making payments and taxes, only about a month ago finding a decent job at Donut Joe’s – I haven’t looked back.

Until now.

It might be surprising – might not, too – but I haven’t really thought about my family that much. I’ve been so busy establishing myself here that I kinda forgot about them. If it makes me sound like a prick, I’ve had too many other things going on. I started with a work visa, became nationalized with a dual citizenship not long ago, and finally got a decent-paying job that’s allowed me to pay off some of my debts. Only now with a little free time do I really have time to think, and it started by thinking about home.

A few more customers come in for a breakfast run and I have to supervise and help out two young attendants in the kitchen. Eggs, hay bacon, toast, potatoes, vegetables. Simple stuff, most can be done in a quick fry. But as a sous chef I take my job seriously, and plates don’t go out until I’m sure they’re of the best quality they can for a casual dining restaurant.

I work the back for a couple of plates until the customers lighten up and head back to the pastry counter out front. Out front is a familiar face: Midnight Glow, a rare grey bat-pony pegasus with slitted green eyes and my roommate. Also, he’s gay, but he hardly tells anyone that.

“Anything you want?” I ask him.

“Eggs, croissant, potatoes, coffee and a glass of water before I go in to work.”

I repeat the order to the attendants and Midnight’s own meal is ready in ten minutes. I bring out the plate to him and get him a glass of water and a coffee. I can’t help it when another yawn escapes me as I set down his food.

“Tired again, honey?” he asks.

“No, moonhorse, I’ve had my breath taken away by your stunning good looks.”

The desired effect is obtained: Midnight is torn between being irritated at my nickname for him of ‘moonhorse’ after his cutie mark, and being pleased at the compliment about his looks. He settles for the middle road. “Well, your sarcasm is still working fine on low energy.”

I sigh, but smile at him. “Course I’m tired. I get sleep lately, but keep rolling around in the middle of the night. I get it, but it doesn’t feel like it.”

Midnight nods in sympathy. “A lot of the guard gets that way, too. It’s stress, due to something. How about I take you out to dinner tonight? I know a nice little café down the road from our apartment. I’ll pay.”

“Sounds like you’re asking me out on a date.”

“What? No.” Midnight chuckles. “If I was, I’d be adding on a ‘Hey baby’, or ‘Honey, you look like a dream’.”

“You already do that sometimes.”

“I swear it’s not a date. We’re just going out somewhere that you can de-stress for a little while. Sound good?”

He might be a bat pegasus and I might be a human, but already Midnight sometimes treats me like blood. I already went over to his family’s house for the Summer Sun Celebration and they all liked me. Surprisingly, no mistakes were made about our relationship and no one bothered me about it, them saying they were glad I was his roommate.

That, combined with the fact that he’s currently got as much of puppy dog eyes as you can get with eyes slitted like a cat, does not help my argument against it any.

“Fine,” I say. “I give in. You treat me tonight. We’ll head out. But I’ll want to try and head to bed earlier tonight, so we’ll have to be back reasonably and not drunk.”

“You know what they say around here,” Midnight says with a wink. “Wherever the night takes us.”

I try to ignore the flirt. “Sort of like ‘let the chips fall where they may’? Probably the closest thing to an Earth equivalent.”

“Sure, assuming you mean ‘chips’ as in poker chips and not actual potato chips, though I could go with some of the latter about now.”

All I can do is put a palm to my forehead, groan, and try not to yawn again. “So, why are you here? You’re not exactly the type to shirk work.”

“Morning break. Plus, I’m meeting someone here.”

I smile at him slightly. “A date? If you’ve found someone, why are you still teasing me?”

“Sadly, no. It’s a work thing, as they’re not allowed inside the guard compound.”

I don’t question it. Instead, I leave him alone for a little while and help cook a few more orders. I’m back outside at the pastry counter and have just served a few drinks when a new face comes in.

She’s a pinkish unicorn with a purple mane and three gems for a cutie mark. Honestly, of all of the ponies I’ve seen around here, I admit she’s one of the cutest I’ve seen, bright and happy and with a spring in her step. She trots right up to the counter and sits herself down. A small bag is around her neck.

“Hey, Midnight!” she calls over. “Whoo! Sorry for keeping you waiting. I only just got it finished.”

“Hello, Amethyst,” he says. “How much is it going to cost me?”

“Um… let’s see… I think it was seventy five for the particular crystal and cut you wanted and another one hundred and fifty for the white gold setting and chain. So… adding in taxes… I think it’s about two hundred and thirty. I’ll contact you if that’s overpaying.”

Midnight takes out a bag himself, likely hidden behind the counter, and counts out the bits. Amethyst orders a coffee and holds out a hoof to me.

“It’s alright,” she says. “You can shake it. Amethyst Star, jeweler.”

I shake her hoof with my hand. “Matthew Rock. Sous chef.”

“Oh! Where’d you get the degree from?”

“I made a dimension leap from Earth. I got it at a university there then came looking for a job here.”

“Oh. I know a lot who came from Canterlot University. Want good training on vegan or vegetarian diets? They’ve got it.”

I nod.

Amethyst turns back to Midnight and pushes him the bag. “Here you are! I made sure it was cleaned and polished before I sent it off. I personally have been watching every phase of it’s creation to make sure it’s to your specifications.”

To me, it sounds like Amethyst is touting good customer service. Like a big blinking advertisement going ‘Look at me! I do a damn good job!’ But there’s something in her tone and posture that says more. She’s relaxed around Midnight, looking him square in the eye, and has an extra little lilt in her voice that says it’s not customer service but personal.

I’m not sure if the rules are different here, but it certainly looks like she’s flirting with him.

Midnight is trying his best to be polite but not actually acknowledge her. He takes the bag and opens the drawstring. Inside is a fine crystal, almost perfectly round and smooth. It has a rainbow of colors where the light hits it, but otherwise is almost like the moon on his flank. It’s attached to a bright chain, almost like silver but shinier.

The craftsmanship is surprisingly nice for such a simple pendant. What strikes me even more is that the chain doesn’t even look long enough to hook around a neck. My wrist, maybe, but then I notice there’s no clasp.

Midnight, however, is rather delighted. “Thank you,” he says. “It’s excellent work. Exactly what I needed.”

“Good to hear!” Amethyst said. “I know not too many ponies will do it, but you can come around to me any time you need another one.”

“I might be fine for now, but if I need any replacement chains or jewels, I’ll be sure to come around.”

“We also have a fine variety of watches, necklaces, and earrings, too, if you just want something aesthetic. You know… you’d look really cute with an earring right at the top of your ear. Maybe a single gold one to bring out your already pretty eyes.”

Yep, she’s definitely flirting with him. It’s surprisingly professional overtones, but it’s still flirting.

Too bad Midnight isn’t interested. He places the pendant back in the bag and closes the drawstring, putting it around his own neck. “Thanks, but I’m fine. I’m not much for piercings.”

Amethyst shrugs. “Well, I’ve got to go to work. Thanks a lot. See you again sometime!” And she trots out as happily as she came in.

I take Midnight’s empty cup, wash it in the sink behind the counter, and come over with a towel as I dry it. “Seems like she’s got a thing for you, buddy.”

“Certainly does,” Midnight replies. “Not into her myself. I get the feeling I’m missing something, but she’s not my type.”

“No mare is your type. Quit being an asshole and let the poor girl know.”

“I don’t want to. I have the feeling I’d be rude. Especially when she does as much as she has for me.” He pulls out the pendant again and shows it to me. “White gold? Should have been two fifteen. Fine cut on the crystal? That’s a hundred. And tax? I swear I should have been closer to three hundred bits. Either the jewelers are having a boom or she gave me the employee discount.”

I put the cup away. “What is that thing, exactly?”

“This? Looks like a pendant, doesn’t it?” Midnight gently swings it back and forth. “It is, but it’s a special one.” Back and forth. “It’s a pendulum.”

It takes a minute to figure it out. “Put it away, moonhorse. I’m on a job.”

Midnight smirks and puts it back in the drawstring bag. “You look like you could use a hypnotherapy session. The bags under your eyes are way more noticeable today than they were last week.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. Sleep isn’t my problem.” And yet I yawn. “Fuck me, I’m tired today.”

“Would love to, but you don’t allow it.”

I shoot Midnight a dirty look, but he’s already left his bits on the counter – including tip – and is marching his way out the door.

* * *

After we’re both home, Midnight does eventually take me to his little café. It’s right in the middle of summer so it’s still light and warm when we go, but already the mountain air of Canterlot is keeping us cooler than just about anywhere else. I pull on a set of clean clothes and follow Midnight, gently flapping alongside, to the place.

It’s rather nice; the building itself is an appealing mix of grey cobblestone and dark polished wood. The outside is lit by fires in metal bowls on top of stone pedestals, and the inside has a stone firepit and small modern-style light structures, with dark oak and glass tables on a fine, wine red carpet. Tinted windows make the inside appear darker, and the dim lighting gives a more intimate and personal atmosphere.

“This,” I say to Midnight as we wait for the maître-d to lead us to a table. “This is the kind of restaurant I want to work at.”

“One day, perhaps,” Midnight says. “One day.”

We’re led to a table on the patio that has a candle in the middle of it. We’re set down with a couple of menus and the promise that a waiter will be right over.

“I am already impressed by this place,” I say. “I mean, the service is nice, the atmosphere is perfect, and the food looks appetizing.”

“I come here to spoil myself every once in a while,” Midnight says. “Order whatever you want. I’m paying.”

A waiter comes around and takes our orders. I take a glazed chicken with wild rice and fresh vegetables, while Midnight goes for a stuffed potato also with wild rice but does braised asparagus instead of the vegetables. We get no appetizer, but order a noodle soup (mine with chicken) that comes with the meal. The menus are taken away and me and Midnight are left alone.

“I’m surprised there’s as much meat on the menu as there is,” I say.

“Iron and animal nutrients,” Midnight replies. “Can’t get them all ourselves. Just one serving a week is enough. Probably half of what you normally have.”

Two glasses of ice water are set down in front of us, and a pitcher of iced tea comes to the table with two glasses. I pour myself a glass and give one to Midnight and we sip.

“Well, so far, I can’t complain,” I say. “This really is a nice experience. Perfect for relaxing after the long day I had today.”

“Bad lunch rush?”

“Yeah. And since I’m tired, everything moved so damn slow. God, all I want to do is head home, watch an old movie or two, then go to bed.”

“What about a little gaming on that system you bought a few weeks ago?”

“Shit, that requires too much thinking. I thought about reading a book, but that would almost make my head hurt at this point.”

Midnight looks at me with concern. “How long has this been going on?”

“How long has what been going on?”

“You being unable to sleep.”

“I told you already, moron. Sleep isn’t the problem.”

Despite my attitude, Midnight is being absurdly patient with me. “You’re irritable. If it’s not you falling asleep, it’s you having trouble while sleeping. Maybe you’re restless. Maybe you keep waking up in the middle of the night but can’t remember because you’re back asleep fast. It could be any number of things.”

“Look, I didn’t come here to get psychoanalyzed. I came here for a nice dinner, so could we drop the subject, please?”

For the first time in any of our conversations, Midnight’s smile falters. “I’m sorry. I… I’m just trying to help. I… I care for you. Seriously.” He reaches a hoof across the table towards my hand. “I love you like a—”

I don’t say anything. I just pull my hand back before he can touch it. Midnight never finishes his sentence and gives me an almost pitiful frown.

“Please. Sweetie, please tell me.”

I slam my hand on his hoof, which bangs against the table. “Don’t. Call. Me. ‘Sweetie’.”

Midnight doesn’t say a thing. He is, however, frozen in a combination of fear and hurt; his eyes are shimmering and he sniffs a few times, his hoof slowly shrinking away from me, his ears down and wings pulled in to make him look small. I realize I’ve gone too far and try to lighten up, but it doesn’t help.

The meals come and we start eating, but it’s lackluster. I get through a few bites of chicken and rice before I realize that Midnight has hardly touched anything. He’s got a fork in his hoof – still don’t see how he can hold it – and is mostly picking at his meal.

I sigh. “Do you want me to tell you what’s wrong? Or would you rather tell me what’s wrong with you?”

Midnight motions with his hoof for me to go on.

“Alright. I’m homesick. That’s the best explanation I got for you. I don’t remember dreams that often, but I had a dream about being at home with my family again. And maybe it upsets me enough that I’m rolling around at night.”

Midnight shrugs. “It’s a possibility,” he says without real emotion. “I mean, you’ve gone six months without going back. It’s natural one eventually has problems with leaving home for the first time.”

I sigh again. “Come on, man; now you’re the one turning pissy! What did I do?”

“Nothing,” Midnight chokes out. “You did nothing. I just… I just keep forgetting you aren’t…”

I look at him curiously. “Aren’t what?”

Midnight shakes his head. “It’s nothing. Seriously. I… I’m fine.”

No, he’s not.

But through the rest of dinner, the walk back to our place, and the evening at our apartment, Midnight says nothing more. He pays like he said he would, but when we get back he picks up a book and says nothing. I find an old black and white comedy that I like and try to get him interested, but he kind of ignores me.

At 11 o’clock, I decide I’m going to try going to bed. I get up from our couch and stretch. “Well, I’m hitting the sack. Good night, and make sure to lock the door tonight.”

Midnight doesn’t respond.

I go to the bathroom, take a final leak, and wash my face before heading over to my bedroom. I turn on the small TV and DVD player and put in an old comedy show. I get down to nothing but a pair of shorts and get in bed without a single blanket on me when I notice I’m not alone.

He’s keeping his distance, but Midnight is at the door. I can’t see him clearly – he must be shutting down the house for the night, but his green eyes are in the dark hallway.

“What is it?” I ask.

Midnight steps into the light of my TV screen and I find myself reaching for the sheet. “If you need to talk with me,” Midnight says tenderly, “let me know. Whether it’s about home, your family, your job… anything. I’d rather you speak to me about it if you have a problem than go around mad.”

I nod. “Alright. I’ll… I’ll make sure to let you know.”

Midnight nods and turns away to go out the door, but looks back at me once more. He sighs before walking away, and I’m left wondering what the hell is going on.

* * *

I woke up the next morning actually remembering what happened in my dreams. Which made me flip out momentarily because I thought it was some magic shit, then realized that no, it happens every once in a while. The second thing was actually thinking over the dream, which had a new twist to it.

I saw my family back at home having dinner with a seat empty, sitting on the couch with an empty seat open as though waiting for me to come back home. I stepped in the door and they were glad and happy that I was home and safe, and they asked me a bunch of stuff about how I was doing. I went to go hang out with a friend of mine when the dream ended.

But I never had a friend with black hair and green eyes. Sounds weird, but I do have something of a photographic memory. Or, at least, I don’t remember hanging out with someone like that.

I yawn as I get out of my bed again and head for the shower. The pounding cold water feels good and helps wake me up as I resolve to just get through one day – one day – before I get the chance to sleep in tomorrow.

That’s the nice thing about Donut Joe’s. He’s open on weekends, but only for donuts and coffee, which he can handle himself. I don’t have to go in since he’s not cooking any actual meals. Probably nets him a little extra income, but gives me and Cast Iron a break.

I get out and get dressed for work when I hear Midnight up and walking around. He doesn’t even have to get up for another half an hour, so I’m curious. I step out once I’m dressed and go to the kitchen, where he’s fussing with a coffee pot. His eyes are bloodshot.

“Hey,” I say to him. “How’d last night go? Trouble sleeping?”

Midnight shrugs. “It was… alright. How about you?”

“I… had a dream about home again. I feel better today, but I don’t know. I don’t want this shit interfering with work like it did yesterday.”

Midnight nods. “When do you get home?”

“Around four or so. Why?”

Midnight shakes his head. “No reason. I was going to ask if you wanted to go somewhere again tonight, but you probably wouldn’t like it.”

I look at him weird. His tone is accusing, which is rare. “What do you mean? I mean, if you’ve got something in mind, I’m down since I’m off work tomorrow.”

“I’d rather not. You’ll probably just get mad at me again since I’ll eventually say something wrong.”

I sigh. “Fuck, man. What is wrong with you today?”

“Oh, so you can say ‘fuck’ but I can’t call you names or invite you places?”

“I’m not using it in the sense of something dirty. I’m saying it as an exclamation. I mean I’ll stop if you want, but I don’t see what’s wrong with saying ‘fu’—”

“THEN STOP!” Midnight isn’t looking at me, but his back tenses up and his wings flare open as though he’s excited. His tone is anything but. “Stop saying that word. I don’t care whatever other profane words you use, just not that.”

“Look, I don’t get what’s wrong still. I’ll reduce my swearing if you want, but what is going on? You’re a psychologist; why don’t you talk it out?”

“Fine.” Midnight turns around and I can see his eyes are now shimmering. “If you have a problem with me, sweetie, just come out and say it.”

I am stunned. I sit there for a moment trying to think it through, but the only thing that comes to mind is What's his problem? “The worst problem I have is that you leave the toilet seat down.”

“Oh, really, honey? You’ve got zero problems with me? None at all?”

I have a feeling there’s something I’m supposed to get here, but either I’m tired or oblivious and I can’t get it at all. “Seriously. Dude, I have no problems with you. Like, at all.”

Midnight manages not only to stand himself upright, but lean on the kitchen counter. His tail swishes over the area between his legs and he looks at me with almost half-lidded eyes. “If you’ve really got no problems with me, then come over here and let me kiss you like the stallion you are.”

“What? No! You know I’m not into that. I don’t mind you being that way, but I’m not interested.”

Midnight rolls his eyes and growls, stamping his hooves on the counter and glaring at the ceiling. “No, you dolt! That’s not what I meant at all!”

“Then what is!? Quit dicking about and get to the answer!”

Midnight damn near produces an evil laugh in response. “Oh, wow, you really are dense. I’m surprised you haven’t noticed it.” He walks almost sultrily over to me. “But you have to go now, so I suppose that’s for me to know and you to find out.”

Midnight comes close enough so that our noses touch for a moment. But before I can say a thing in response, he turns away, walks down the hallway, and slams the door to his room while the coffee percolates.

I can do nothing more but leave. It’s seven forty five, and I have a job to do.

I am awake for the rest of the day, if only to try and figure out what the hell is going on with Midnight. I push it out of the way whenever an order comes through, but whenever there’s any downtime, I immediately go back to my main two problems: who is the friend I don’t remember in my dream? And what was going in in Midnight’s head?

The best thing I can come up with for the latter was that Midnight was as sleep-deprived as I’ve been lately. He probably spent one night rolling around and went loopy. It at least explained his eyes going red, being unable to sleep. Combine that with being awake for nearly twenty-four hours and he might have started going a little weird on me.

As for the friend, I try and think back as far as I can. I had a friend named Jeffery who had green eyes, but he had blonde hair and was on the football team and moved away to take up a football scholarship. I had another friend named Mark, who had really dark hair but had brown eyes. I probed around for a few more names but found nothing, and eventually decided to leave it be.

When I get home, things have changed. Midnight is home early, as it’s four fifteen and he doesn’t get home usually until five thirty. I walk up to him in the kitchen making a sandwich from leftovers and take out a soda.

“Hey,” I asked. “You alright? You normally aren’t home this early.”

Midnight sighs and turns to me. “Matthew, I’m sorry. I was… I was acting like a jerk this morning.”

“Look, if you have a problem with me, fine. Let me know.” I crack the can of soda – store-brand vanilla cola – and take a sip. “If there’s something you don’t like me doing, I’ll stop. I mean, I’m a dick about some things, but since we’re living together I’ll quit if it bothers you.”

Midnight turns back to his sandwich. “While I do have a problem, it is something I think you need to figure out on your own.”

“Can’t even give me a hint? Oh, oh! Can we do it like a game of ’20 Questions’?”

Midnight shakes his head, but gives me a little smile as he takes his sandwich to the couch. “Not exactly an animal, vegetable, or mineral, I’ll tell you that.”

“Alright, that narrows it down a lot. But did it really necessitate you coming home from work early?”

I follow Midnight over to the couch as he replies. “Well, since I figured these last few nights might have been troublesome and I probably aggravated it a bit – I mean, I heard you rolling around all last night – I figured it was due an apology.”

“Alright, eighteen left to go.”

Midnight rolls his eyes. “It’s not a game of ’20 Questions’. I’m really not telling you. I will say it’s based on a reaction to something that I do that happens frequently between us.”

I think about it a little bit. “Does it have to do with those times you’ve tried to hypnotize me?”

Midnight facehoofs. “No.”

I nod. “Although, on that note, do you think you could hypnotize me to sleep tonight? I mean, as a friend and as something of a therapist?”

Midnight smiles. “I could do that for you. Perfect chance to try out the new pendant I got yesterday.”

“Cool. Oh, and, uh, I promise I won’t explode on you for anything.”

Midnight grins. “Thank you, sweetie.”

All I can do is groan.

* * *

That night we have dinner, dessert, and each have a bottle of Canterlot cream stout before settling in with a few games of chess over an old movie and a variety show. I have never played chess before, but Midnight is something of a decent player and taught me all the moves and even claims he’s won a few guard tournaments.

That being said, I whoop his ass at the first game, which he jokingly deems beginner’s luck, and manage to make it down to him with three pawns and me with two in the second game before one of his turns into a queen and moves in for the final checkmate.

By the time our second game is over, it’s 11 at night. I don’t know if it’s the subdued nature of our evening or my lack of sleep is catching up with me, but I’m already tired. Which is a good thing, as Midnight is still wide awake and claims he wants to go for a late-night fly to stretch his wings before bed. But, as he reminds me, not before I undergo hypnosis for sleep as an experiment.

As I prepare myself, we talk of our game.

“It’s not uncommon for one who has played so long to be stumped and beaten by a beginner,” Midnight muses as I wash my face with a cloth. “The beginner is unpredictable, unforeseeable in his tactics. The expert has go-to strategies and becomes predictable, but the beginner knows no strategy.”

“Yeah, but the expert knows how to play. Certainly you could at least read possibilities.”

“Quite a few discoveries have been made by beginners simply because they do not know the limitations.”

“Quit being all philosophical, man! Shit, why can’t the expert be the expert who knows these things and the beginner be the beginner who doesn’t know jack shit?”

“That’s just how it goes sometimes,” Midnight says with a shrug. He waits outside the door while I change into a pair of shorts. “Besides, I might be an expert on psychology, but I still can’t understand how you can’t sleep in the nude.”

“It’s indecent.” I sniff the pair of shorts I’ve worn for a few nights now, decide they smell like ass, and throw them in a hamper with the dirty underwear and pull on clean shorts. Thankfully, laundromats do exist here and one of them is right next door to the apartment complex. “You don’t go around on display twenty-four seven.”

“Do females of your species do the same thing? Certainly they’re more covered up.”

“Yes, because it’s still indecent. Let’s see what you think when others are staring at you because there’s two lumps sticking out of your chest.”

“Same effect as my pendant, I’ve heard.”

I open the door. “Honestly… you’re probably not that far off.”

Midnight smirks at me. “So the only problem is they can’t put theirs away.”

“That’s why they have clothes. And even with them, God knows men around the world are enslaved to their whims.”

Midnight smirks again as I get in bed and he sits down next to the bed. “Makes me feel lucky. I’m one of the rare few who happen to be immune.”

“Yeah, good luck with that. They’re few and far between.”

“Fair enough. Well, let’s start. Prop your pillow up slightly; I’ll need it for your attention.”

I lean my pillow up against the back of the bed and lay down on it. My head is up at just enough of an angle to see Midnight clearly as he produces the drawstring bag but comfortable enough I don’t mind it. Midnight pulls out the pendant and hooks part of the chain onto his hoof; I now see he has something of an insert that goes into the bottom of his hoof like a slot and he holds it about a foot away from my face.

“Tell me this: where is the moon-shaped crystal located? Is it in the center of your vision, in front of your nose?”

“In front of my nose.”

Midnight nods and reaches another hoof over and taps the pendant. It starts swinging back and forth and almost immediately… “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold on one minute! I just want to know a couple of things.”

Midnight pulls away the pendant and nods, attentive.

“No mind control?” “Not without unicorn magic.” “No making me cluck like a chicken?” “That’s not what we’re here for.” “Not going to make me kill anyone?” “Carries a stiffer penalty than I’d like to deal with.” “Not going to make me do anything indecent?” “Ooh, kinky… but no.” “Not going to brainwash me?” “As much as I’d like to, not effective this way.” “How many of these are jokes?” “Depends on how you read them.” “Not going to keep me under?” “Just enough to get you through the night.”

“Well,” Midnight says. “I think that about covers the big ones. Anything else?”

There’s a question left, I know it, but it’s stuck in my throat. So I shake my head.

“Right.” Midnight places the moon pendant right in front of my field of vision again, taps it, and it starts swinging back and forth. “Now, listen to me and just relax. Take a few deep breaths to see if that calms you.”

I take a few breaths. I’m reminded of a magic show I went to on Earth back in Las Vegas where someone hypnotized a person’s belt to be a snake around them, or how he hypnotized two people so that one felt what the other had touched and the first felt nothing. I didn’t think it would work, and he used a different pendant than this guy did.

“Just keep your steady breathing,” Midnight said, his tone soft but only just louder than a whisper. “Try to time it with the swinging of the pendant. Each time it makes a full swing back and forth, breathe in. Each time it makes another swing back and forth, breathe out. Try to keep an easy, steady pattern.”

I’m wondering how this is supposed to work. Sure, I saw him hypnotize Blueblood at the shop, but he’s not using eye contact. So… is this really going to work or am I going to get screwed over?

“Just relax and focus, Matthew. Focus on your breathing. Let all your senses be focused on maintaining your breathing carefully, quietly. Feel yourself relax as your slow breathing slows your heart rate and gently soothes your mind.”

Okay, so now there’s a familiar way of going about it; he’s enunciating the ‘s’ sound again. I don’t get why he does it, but at least it’s a fami—

…is that pendant glowing? Why the hell is it glowing?

“Relax, Matthew… Feel your eyes begin to close; the relaxation washing over you in slow, calming waves. Your whole body is focused on keeping calm and relaxed, your attention kept on following the pendant and keeping your breathing slow and steady.”

Oh, God, what the hell is going on!? No, no, no, no, no!

“Yes, feel your eyes close more and more with every breath, the relaxation and my voice making you feel sleepier and sleepier. Let the glowing pendant remind you of the glowing moon, and how it’s time to sleep.”

Somebody! Anybody! Get me the hell out of here!

“Good, good… let yourself relax, let your eyes close. When I tap your forehead, you will fall into a deep sleep. Three… two… one…”

I can see the hoof coming towards my head, but I can’t move. It’s like my body is paralyzed. I want to thrash about, but I can’t do a damned thing about it. Whatever Midnight’s done, I can’t move. It’s like ropes are bound around me and I’m wondering what he’s going to do to me…

“Sleep.”

A trap door opens up in the bed and suddenly I’m falling down, down, down, away from the light that is Midnight and his glowing pendant and down into the blackness. My body isn’t locked anymore, but now I’m flailing around and screaming as I plummet further and further. The blackness is all around me, but I’m going faster and faster and there’s no sign of stopping.

I flip myself around and suddenly I’m going towards a series of lights down below me. As I fall closer they gain shape and color, triangles and squares in blues and greens. I fall closer and find myself plummeting down into them, still screaming my head off, but above me is only blackness.

I’m falling closer and the lights are getting bigger and stronger when suddenly the colors shatter like glass and out comes Midnight’s head roaring at me like Godzilla. But before he can swallow me hole he closes his mouth and one of his eyes suddenly pops out of his head and I fall through the slit like a coin in a soda machine.

I’m launched through the eyeball and onto a soft surface, my head face down in an all-encompasing whiteness. I look up and spit a few times to get the taste of cloth out of my mouth and look around where I’ve ended up.

My god, I’m in my bed at home. Like, at home on Earth exactly the way I left it before I made the leap.

“…what the hell?”

A sharp rapping comes at my door. “Matthew, wake up! Aren’t you supposed to be at your friend’s house today?”

…mom calling me? What the hell?

I get up from the bed and notice I’m in a casual short-sleeved shirt and pants. It’s two o’clock in the afternoon on June 31, and I’m apparently about to be late for a game day at a friend’s house.

…wait a minute. That wasn’t there before. I just fell through an eyeball and landed in my bed at home after falling through a trap door in my apartment in Equestria where it was 11 o’clock at night. What the heck is going on!?

“Alright, alright! I’m coming!” Well, might as well follow through. I find a pair of my shoes and socks, put them on, and head out the bedroom door.

Only I’m not in the hallway leading to the living room. I just stepped out the front door of my house. And my bedroom door just shut closed behind me.

“Mom!” I call. “I, uh… I think I left my keys on the kitchen counter.”

No movement from the windows. “They’re in the back pocket of your pants, Matthew.”

I feel the pocket of my pants and, sure enough, they’re there. Just the truck keys, though, and not the ones to my house. I walk to where my old truck is parked at the curb of my house even though I have no clue where I’m going and get inside.

I turn on the truck and the odometer reads ‘696969’ miles. But why’d that have to get so specific? I put the truck in gear and leave the curb, driving off to who knows where.

I don’t remember the route I took, and even think I looped around once that theoretically should have gotten me back home but instead takes me to the other side of town. And suddenly the freeway suddenly stops and I’m driving down an old dirt road with three sets of tire tracks. I look in the rearview mirror to see that nothing is behind me but dust.

I pull up to an old house out in the middle of farmland. I don’t recognize the place, and yet I do. The outside is vaguely familiar, but I’ve never been here before in my life.

“…what is going on?”

I pull up a driveway and my friend comes out of the gates. He’s wearing a greyish shirt and has bright green eyes, and greyish-blue hair. “Hey, man!” he calls me as I come out of the car. “Where have you been?”

I don’t even know his name. I don’t think I do, but it’s sitting there at the tip of my tongue and I’m unable to reach it. “Doing… things. What about you?”

“Oh, doing things. Hey, you want to come inside?”

I follow him back through the cast-iron gates and go inside the house. I’m almost dumbstruck.

It’s the living room of my apartment.

“…what the fuck!?”

“Yo, dude, I thought I told you never to say that. But, yeah, the color scheme’s a little weird. It’s my first house; I thought the painters would be coming around this week.”

“No, dude. Your eyes. They’re… slitted.”

They are. His green eyes are slitted, bright, and abnormally large. Like my parent’s cat. Like… like…

“Contacts!” he replies cheerfully. “Like them?”

I’m staring at him, dumbfounded. “…it’s not your usual.”

“Yeah, neither is my boyfriend. Come on inside. He should be getting here shortly. You’d like him; he has the same copy of…”

My friend trails off into a rant, and I’m still dumbfounded that I don’t even have a name for him. And yet… it feels like I’ve known him. How long? I don’t know. But I do. But I don’t. But I do but I don’t but I do but I don’t but—

“…and we were watching TV last night and that British comedy show you liked came on and he said he was totally into that.”

I’m half glad my friend came in because otherwise I would have given myself a migraine from all the weird shit that’s happened to me this afternoon. No, it’s night! No, it’s afternoon. It’s definitely afternoon. Because the sun is high in the sky. I can see it through the living room window.

And then the sun blinks at me, revealing a green slitted iris. A cloud forms another iris and the hills form a smile and I swear the sky had somehow smiled at me.

“You should… come join us sometime.”

I look over to my friend. I had no idea he was that close to me, close enough to be standing and almost touching me with his nose. “Come… join you in what?”

“On one of our dates,” he says. “You’d like him, and he’d like you. And… you could come back to his place afterwards…”

“…no. This… this can’t be happening. I don’t even know you. I don’t know who you are. You are a familiar face but I have no name. I have never seen you before. Who the hell are you!?”

My ‘friend’ gives me a smirk. “That’s for me to know… and you to find out. No 20 Questions this time.”

And then his shirt explodes and two leathery wings come out his back. His teeth grow fangs and his hands grow claws, his feet change into hard-bottomed things that I can’t describe and he opens his mouth and hisses at me with a snake-like forked tongue.

“Come, Matthew… join us… join me… we’ll have so much fun together.”

I feel the wind knocked out of me and crash backwards through the door, feeling splinters flying everywhere as I fall onto the pavement outside. I’m now somewhere in the middle of Canterlot in bright daylight and the monster that was my ‘friend’ is still inside. He pulls a sword out of nowhere and points it at me, aiming at me right from his crotch.

I need no second guessing. I jump up as quick as I can and start running down the street, the monster running behind me still pointing the sword at me and covering as much ground as I am running easily with his large leathery wings.

“No no no! This isn’t real! This can’t be real! Fuck me!”

The monster says nothing, but gives a low growl and smiles hungry at me.

“I don’t want to know what that’s supposed to mean!”

I have to find somewhere familiar. But… where? I’m in the middle of downtown Canterlot? What’s supposed to hide me from what pretty much to me looks like a demon?

“Wait a minute!” I say aloud, still running. “I remember being hypnotized by Midnight right before this whole thing happened. I’m not awake. I can’t be awake. I was hypnotized by Midnight at 11 o’clock at night. That means this… this whole thing…”

The idea hits me before the realization does.

“Donut Joe’s! It should be open at this time! If this is how I think it is, I’ve got to go to hell first.”

I run down an alleyway and throw myself to the ground; the monster tries to get through but slams into two brick walls, busting up the walls and sending bricks flying at me. It’s only when the coast is clear do I stand up and cut through the alleyway to Canterlot’s worst intersection, and my salvation is right in front of me.

The monster is nowhere in sight, but I waste no time. I fling open the double doors and hop over the counter to bust into the kitchen into the back. I turn on the stove without worrying about the overhead fan and grab the pan off Cast Iron’s cutie mark from the picture on the wall. It’s not long before a mild flame is going and the pan is heating nicely. I check the spice drawer and immediately mince a few cloves of garlic.

“This better work.”

There’s a crash of glass just as I finish mincing the garlic. I get the garlic into a mixing bowl and get a paper plate before heading out of the kitchen to face my adversary.

“I think you’re hungry, aren’t you.”

The monster looks at me with it’s green, slitted eyes, growls, and licks it’s lips.

“Well, I think I can cook something up for you that’d be perfect for your picky tastes.” And I threw the garlic at the monster.

Cheesy, but it always seems to work in the movies.

I don’t even think I threw it at the eyes, but suddenly it’s clawing at it’s own eyes and shredding itself apart and growing smaller by the minute. As soon as it gets small enough, I launch myself at it and clamp the mixing bowl down on it hard. The monster gives another shriek as the bowl surrounds it and it hits the side, getting even more garlic oil and residue on it. I take the paper plate, scoop it up, and trap it in the mixing bowl.

The pan is red hot by now except for the handle, so I put oil in it and drop the monster in the pan. It shrieks and howls painfully as I grab the pan by the handle and begin to shake. The monster howls and hisses and growls, but the oil is slippery enough to keep it from leaving the pan. I wait until the hissing dies down before taking out a large butcher knife and slam it in the middle of the monster.

I’m pretty sure the thing’s dead now, so I lift the knife out and turn off the oven. Taking the knife out, I realize the inside of the creature is hollow. I take the knife and carefully, carefully, slit open the top of the monster, only for a nice clean cut to be made all the way down from head to toe without me doing anything. The sautéed corpse folds apart and reveals something now sitting inside the blackness of the pan.

A pony. A bat pony. A bat pony with greyish fur and leathery wings and a greyish-blue mane and tail. I go to poke it when it suddenly reveals one slitted, bright green eye and the blackness consumes me.

* * *

“Midnight!”

It takes me a while to realize I’m back at my apartment in Canterlot again and it’s nighttime like it should be. I turn over to the clock as I hear a thumping noise coming from nearby and see it’s 4:17 am. The light of the moon is the only light coming through the windows of my apartment and a cool breeze is blowing through.

The knob opens and I see two slitted green eyes at the door, but they’re soon joined by the rest of the stallion as he turns on the light and looks at me, worried. “What’s going on!? Is everything alright, are you okay?”

I want to say everything’s not okay, that I thought I just murdered him not too long ago by fry cooking him in the kitchen of Donut Joe’s, but I manage to condense that. “Sorry. Bad dream.”

Midnight nods. “Do you… do you want to talk about it at all?”

I shake my head. “No. I… I think I’ll be alright.”

Midnight nods again. “If you need to, wake me up. I can talk about anything you need to.”

He’s just about to leave the room when I remember the odometer, the monster, the sword, and I call to him. “Midnight, wait. There is something I want to talk with you about.”

He stops and turns around in the door. He takes a few paces towards me and makes a motion with his head if he can jump on the bed. I let him and he sits down almost like a cat facing me, sitting up and reclining against the backboard. I sigh.

“Midnight… I want to ask you a few things.”

Midnight nods and a small smile comes to his face, like he’s been expecting this for a while. “Alright. Where do you want to start?”

“You’re gay. You… you like stallions. You have… no interest in mares whatsoever.”

Midnight nods. “Yes. I can think certain women are beautiful, but… I’ll never fall in love with one.”

“Right… um, have you… have you ever had an attraction to me?”

Midnight has to think about it. “Maybe a little. Soon after we met. I flirted with you before, when you moved in, but you were unresponsive.”

I nod my head. “I have never found you attractive,” I say with a single shake of my head. “I don’t get how a male can find another male attractive.”

Midnight looks around awkwardly for a moment. “And I will never understand how you could find a female attractive. But I figured out that’s where your preference lay, so I stopped flirting.”

I nod. “Whenever you call me ‘sweetie’, or ‘honey’, how much of it is flirting and how much is teasing?”

“It’s all teasing. Has been for three months, when I figured out you weren’t going to be interested in me.” He chokes and sniffs. “Ever.”

I have to avoid looking at him. Pony eyes look worse when they’re crying because they remind me of puppies who look at you leaving the house for fifteen minutes like you’re leaving forever. “Can I tell you something?”

Midnight nods. “Sure. Whatever you want.”

I sigh. “I… haven’t been homesick. In my dreams, there’s been a friend of mine I never met on Earth. Turns out I think he was based on you. And… and my fear of you at one point making passes and advances on me and, eventually, taking advantage of me.”

Midnight looks at me with shock. “Matthew! What… I would never do that to you!”

“I know!” I growl. “I know you won’t. But that’s what goes through my head. Every time you say ‘sweetie’ or ‘honey’ or call me pet names, I think that’s what you’re going to do. It’s… it’s stupid and irrational, but that’s how I think.”

Midnight looks at me like he’s about to cry.

“I’ve considered going to Hoity Toity and asking him if he could find me another roommate somewhere,” I continue. “Not because of you. Because of me. Because I know you won’t, but I can’t help but think that you will.”

“Matthew…” Midnight crawls up to me and takes my head in both of his front hooves. “Listen to me, Matthew. I will never do that to you. Never. I won’t try to seduce you. I won’t try and get you to bed with me. Because I know. I know you’re not interested.”

Midnight releases my face and steps back towards the edge of the bed and sits down again. He stares at me for a while and sniffs again and I realize he’s crying. “Are you… are you going to move out?”

I shake my head. “No. All I want to do is ask if you could stop calling me those pet names in public. You’re the first friend I really ever made here, Midnight. And, given my attitude, I’m not sure how many others I can make. I don’t want to lose the one I have over some shitty reason that’s all in my head.”

Midnight looks at me strangely. “…that’s all?”

I nod. “And your assurance that you won’t ever try and seduce me.”

Midnight smiles. “Can I… can I at least get a hug?”

I smile back at him. “Sure. I’ll give you a hug.”

And he gently comes up to me and wraps his front hooves around my neck. I wrap my arms around him and feel his soft coat and leathery wings. It’s actually nice and feels good. “Can you forgive me?” I ask. “For being so rude?”

Midnight nuzzles my neck. “Of course.”

“Can you… can you hypnotize me back to sleep? So that, maybe, I can have a peaceful night tonight?”

Midnight lets go of me and nods. “Yes.”

* * *

I feel like I’m watching it through a camera.

The camera flies through the nighttime sky in Canterlot. It goes through the streets before appearing at our apartment window. It flies through the glass like it’s not even there, and settles itself where the ceiling fan is.

I am sleeping with only a sheet, my head and shoulders propped up against the pillow and reclining against the backboard of the bed. My eyes are closed and my breathing is easy, probably for the first time in weeks if not months. Midnight isn’t under the sheets, but he’s right there next to me, one hoof wrapped around me and his head leaning on my chest. The moon pendant is still in his hoof, draped over my heart and with the chain scattered haphazardly by it.

I will find him there in the morning. I don’t know how, but I know that. I will wake up in a few hours and he will still be there next to me. He will wake up, we will apologize, and we will go on with our lives. But it will be a new start. A new life. One where there isn’t any sort of misunderstanding, but somehow we’ll be closer than we were before because it’s out there, it’s resolved.

And, strangely enough, I am okay with this. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I am not afraid anymore. We might only be friends, but at least I have someone here who tolerates me. Who loves me.

And I suppose that is enough.

Author's Note:

This probably won't be the normal, but upon thinking up this whole thing I couldn't pass up the idea.