• Published 13th Jan 2016
  • 3,250 Views, 84 Comments

Alicorn Time - AlicornPriest

Twilight's memory is skipping, like an old record. Perhaps Celestia can tell her why.

  • ...

Chapter 1

“Start at the beginning,” Celestia said. She waved a hoof at the tea set in front of her. “Perhaps a sip of tea will calm your nerves.”

Twilight snatched the cup from the table, poured a hoof's height into it despite its shivering in mid-air, and shotgunned it all in one swoop. Still a bit senseless, Twilight babbled, “It's just, I trust my memory for everything I do, and it can't be failing me now...”

“I'm sure your memory is just as good as always,” Celestia said.

“That's just it! I can't remember last week!” Twilight replied.

That caught Celestia's attention. “...Please. Tell me when you first noticed this problem.”

“It was… Tuesday, I think. I'm already starting to have trouble remembering, because I still feel like that was yesterday, but today's Tuesday as well, and--”


“...Right. So, it was Tuesday, and I was spending time with my friends. We were at the Star Greens Cafe; I don't know if that's important, but I should mention it in case it is.”

“It's probably not,” Celestia said. “Go on.”

“So I was sitting there, and we were chatting about nothing particularly important. Pinkie was telling us about her new shipment of balloons, I think, when I suddenly started feeling… different.”

“Different?” Celestia asked. “Different how?”

“Like… like I was falling asleep, or like I was suddenly really dizzy. Or… both. It's not something I've really felt before. Anyway, my vision started to blur, but none of the others seemed to notice anything wrong. And then… and then it was just this morning!”

“This morning, as in today?”

“Right.” Twilight shook her head and poured herself another cup of tea. “It wasn't teleporting; it wasn't time travel… I thought it might be a sudden-onset case of Dissociative Identity Disorder, but I talked with my friends, and they said I was completely the same as usual!”

“But you don't remember anything from the past week, though?” Celestia added.

Twilight sighed. “That's the thing. I'm starting to remember things. Bits and pieces, really. Cooking dinner for Spike one day, or meeting Fluttershy to do her animal census. I remember doing them. I remember being there. But I don't remember… doing them. Do you know what I mean?”

“I believe so,” Celestia said solemnly. “It seems like a different you altogether who did those things.”

“Yes!” Twilight sighed with relief. “So you do know what's going on, then?”

“I think so.” Celestia stood up from her little tea party chair and turned to look out at the horizon, where her sun was midway towards sunset. “My sister and I call it 'Alicorn Time.'”

“Your sister and… you mean you've experienced it, too?” Twilight asked.

“I have, and the descriptions Luna's given me of her own condition seem to suggest the same diagnosis.” Celestia tapped a hoof against the ground and looked to a corner, deep in thought. “If Cadance has had it, she hasn't mentioned it to me yet.”

“What is it?” Twilight asked. “Is it some kind of amnesia, or a sickness?”

Celestia shook her head. “No. Luna and I… we always called it a defense mechanism. A safeguard to protect the mortal pony brain from the pains of immortal life.”

“I don't understand,” Twilight said.

“Twilight.” Celestia spoke softly, resigned. “Eternity is a very, very long time. If our brains attempted to remember every single thing that happened to us, we'd run out of space. Memory's much more complicated than that, of course, but that's sort of the gist. Our brains simply can't handle millions, billions of years of memories all stacked up on top of each other. So for us alicorns, our brains… cheat a little.

“It's like… imagine a story where all of the pages are the same. Would you read every single page, when you already know what the next twenty, fifty, one hundred pages are going to say? No. You'd start to skim. You'd jump from page to page, looking for the pages that are actually different. That's what our brains are doing: skimming all the time that is the same, day-in and day-out, and jumping to the moments that are different.”

Celestia sighed. “Your case is just the beginning. Your alicorn brain decided to jump a week, but your regular pony brain panicked, creating a different day to land on. It'll probably do that a few more times before it eventually settles in.”

Twilight was starting to hyperventilate again. “So you mean… I'm going to start forgetting all of my memories with my friends? But they were valuable to me! They mean everything to me!”

“I know, and I'm sorry,” Celestia replied. “You'll still get the particularly important days: the weddings, the births, the funerals. But most of the regular days, the everyday chatter and fun… no, most of that you will simply pass over, like flying over empty plains.”

Twilight had never looked at her life like that before. Book-sortings came by months, and birthdays by years; but in 10 years, the marriages; in 15, the births; in 60, the funerals… and then another set if she made new friends. “Won't my friends notice if I'm acting strange? That I'm not 'there' for years at a time?”

“You'll act exactly as you always have,” Celestia reminded her. “Haven't you ever been in a routine?”

“...Have you, Princess?” Twilight asked. “What is it like? For you?”

Celestia frowned. Slowly, she said, “I've ruled for one thousand years, and I remember almost none of it.” Twilight raised her eyebrows, and Celestia continued, “I remember the days just after Luna was banished. I was grief-stricken, and I could hardly get out of my bed. But duty called, and soon, I entered into the daily ritual of ruling an entire nation.” She paused and smiled, a pale smile that didn't reach her eyes. “I remember the first few weddings. I'd choose some noble who'd caught my eye, date for a year or two, then have an elaborate ceremony. The more elaborate, the more likely I'd remember. But even that became a routine.” She laughed and shook her head. “Marry 'em at 35, bury 'em at 75. Like clockwork.”

“How many times did you do that?” Twilight asked, aghast. “How many times did you marry somepony you didn't truly love?”

“But I did love them, don't you see?” Celestia said. “It was still me. I went through all the motions, and nopony was the wiser. I fell in love, courted, married, and mourned when they died.” She stamped on the ground again for effect. “Like clockwork.”

“So what moments do you remember?” Twilight asked.

“The wars,” Celestia replied. “Apparently, I never created a routine for that. The natural disasters—earthquakes, floods, volcanoes.” At Twilight's teary-eyed expression, Celestia quickly added, “But I have positive memories, too! The day Luna came back is like a perfect portrait in a museum to me. The day when I founded Ponyville, if you can believe it. But the days I remember best are the days I found my students.” She walked over and placed a gentle hoof on Twilight's shoulder. “Every student is different to me. I remember the day you turned your parents into potted plants, and the day Sunset Shimmer almost set fire to my castle. I remember all of them, uniquely and specially.”

“And all the days you taught me?” Twilight asked. Celestia hesitated, just for a moment. “Princess… did you ever go into Alicorn Time when you were teaching me?”

Celestia tipped her head to a side, her eyes betraying tears. “Now, Twilight, you know I can't control it. I appear exactly the same whether or not I'm in Alicorn Time.”

“Please, just tell me!” Twilight said.

“Whether or not I did, you know that I cherished every moment with you, that I loved you--”

“Please!” Twilight cried.

Celestia paused for a few seconds. Then, trying her best to smile, she said quietly, “We… had an awful lot of tea parties, didn't we, Twilight?”

Twilight stumbled back, and her teacup fell onto the grass, spilling its contents into an inky pool around the table. “All that time… all that time, and you were just… on autopilot?”

“Autopilot connotes a lack of emotion, Twilight,” Celestia said sternly. “I was just as emotional as anypony else. The love was real. I just don't remember.”

Twilight scoffed. “You loved me as a matter of routine,” she said.

“And what about your friends?” Celestia replied quietly. “Do you love them as a routine?”

“No, but I—I suppose, but—I won't let it happen again!” Twilight shouted.

“How exactly do you plan on doing that?” Celestia said.

“I'll make each day different! I'll make every picosecond count!” Twilight said.

“And how long can you sustain that?” Celestia replied. “Alicorn Time exists precisely because you can't do that forever. And just to throw another wrench into your plan,” she added, “how long will it take before 'doing something new and different' is your routine?”

“--!” Twilight stopped and fell onto the ground. She wanted to cry, but it seemed like all of her energy had drained away, and she now had nothing left to even spill tears. “So… that's it. There's no escape.”

“No.” Celestia relaxed her body and sat down once more at the table. “This isn't a curse, Twilight. It's our body's way of protecting us from keeping track of too much. You'd probably done it before you were an alicorn, too. Do you remember every single day of your classes?”

“Not really, no...”

“They all just blur together. But I'm sure, if you really tried, you might be able to remember living each day, one by one.” Celestia smoothed out her mane and poured out another cup of tea. “Remarkably inefficient, don't you think? Having to live through a whole day when you're just going to forget it anyway. It's a luxury you simply can't afford as an immortal.”

Twilight sat down again and, her magic wavering, took another cup and tried to drink. “So… are you in Alicorn Time right now?”

“If I am, I won't know until I land again, and you'll never know for certain.” She sipped from her tea, slowly, relishing it. “Probably not, though. This is, after all, a lifechanging moment for my most faithful student. But then again,” she added, “you've gone through a great many already.”

“...Oh.” Twilight sighed and drank from her tea again.

“Are you in Alicorn Time right now?” Celestia asked.

“...I don't think so. I think I'm conscious, right this moment.”

“Mmm.” Celestia savored that for the moment, then continued. “Will you remember this moment, then?”

Twilight looked around the garden. “I hope so. It's so nice and peaceful, and I've learned so much.”

“How long do you think you'll remember? A year? A decade? A millennium? Or is this one of the rare, precious few that will last forever?” Celestia's horn lit up, and the sun sank a bit faster than normal, beginning its descent into sunset. “After all, there are a great many beautiful sunsets.”

Subconsciously, Twilight began evaluating the evening. This sunset was nice, but was it as nice as the one last Monday, or the one the evening after they'd saved the Crystal Empire? Was it better than all the sunsets she'd already forgotten? Finally, all she could say was, “I don't know.”

“Aah. So perhaps by the end of the month, you'll have forgotten most of the specifics, and you'll only remember the key points.” Celestia shrugged. “Perhaps that will be more than I'll remember. I have so many more memories jostling for my attention. So many more sunsets.”

For perhaps the first time, Twilight saw Celestia not as wise or just or benevolent, but as simply old, a mare with millennia upon millenia of time poured out and lost already. She wasn't sure whether to pity Celestia or to respect her more for it. Instead, she just said, “You have a few you value the most, right?”

Celestia smiled, for real this time. “Mm-hmm. I'm glad for the memories I do have. For the time well spent.” But then her smile faded, and she looked wryly out at the horizon again. “But alas, even the best of times are spent, and we must a-bed. Goodnight, Twilight.”

She didn't remember saying goodnight back.

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Comments ( 84 )

Someday Celestia needs to show Twilight the line of hoofprints she wore in the granite floor of the castle from where her routine was so unvaried for centuries at a time.

Hmm..Interesting I would like to see this continue

I can see Twilight getting emotional, though her retrospect should eventually conclude Celestia doesn't seem to be in control of her own Alicorn Time.

In contrast to 6830747 , I find the story got good closure. I'm curious why you marked it as incomplete... I guess I'll have to see when you post the next chapter.

6830798 You have a good point, but I commented that was because it said incomplete.

I can think of ONE way for Twilight to get out of this, she would need to be returned to a Unicorn, so she MUST give up her Alicornhood so she can become Mortal once more and live a normal Mortal Unicorn life and live along side her friends and family then.

What is sad is this is some what normal. How many of us can remember what we did on a certain day last week. Yes I have heard of people who can but it is not common. What is sad is that Twilight will forget many of the times with her friends but the important memories will remain forever!

I think one point Twilight is missing is she's confusing her long term and short term memory, it's more that her brain is deleting the unimportant bits, deleting the routine and monotonous moments of her life from her long term memory. She was absolutely herself, acting and feeling just the same when she lived though the moments she forgot, but now she can't recall the time because her brain declared it "unimportant" and deleted it Celestia said she had many spouses and while she doesn't remember everyday with them I'm sure she remembers each of them and the love she felt for them, she just has the "highlight reel" of their relationship in her long term memory. This particular moment, explaining Alicorn Time, Twilight and Celestia will recall because it's a standout moment.

Sadly this isn't JUST a aspect of the imagined mind of an immortal, we mere mortals forget massive portions of our experience because they didn't leave an impression. Memories can lie to us as we reconstruct them with incomplete information, because we forgot part of the experience, we fill in the blanks with "what would make sense" creating a mixture of what really happened and what we imagine happened.

Heck the show could very well be Twilight's memories of her times in Ponyville, we don't see the minute details, we don't see every day, only the things that stood out. What was worth recalling. We never see ponies use the bathroom, kind of makes sense, if her mind deleted "unremarkable" memories I doubt many bathroom visits would be worth recalling.

Whoops! I'm a derp. The story's complete. Just forgot to set it as such. :twilightblush:

wlam #10 · Jan 14th, 2016 · · 1 ·

This is depressing in a weirdly comical way. The whole idea just kind of makes me laugh for some reason, it's so completely ironic. Congrats, kid, you're immortal now - but can you really even call that living anymore?

I"m glad you guys liked it. Truth be told, this story is based a lot on my own experiences. Looking back on my memories of high school and college, all I remember are long blurs of routine. Like Twilight, I'd love to make every day unique and special, but it's simply not possible to sustain that for very long. (Or if it is, I don't know how to do it.)

6831531 What did you have for breakfast last week today?

What Twilight's going through is a slightly more aggressive version of what happens to all memories in all brains. Only novelty is retained. Routine is lost.

You don't consider yourself having lived less of a life for being unable to remember 90% of your childhood do you?

wlam #14 · Jan 14th, 2016 · · 1 ·

When was the last time you suddenly woke up from what's effectively a week-long blackout? I can't say that I have ever made that particular experience. Details are lost over time, but the conscious mind just all but shutting down and blanking out for periods of weeks, months, even years? That's literally not all that different from not having existed during those periods at all. She wakes up and finds the effects of having lived through that time before her, but in every practical sense? It wasn't her.

I was half expecting a twist ending where Twilight says her goodbyes because she needs to get back to her friends, only for the names to be somepony we've never heard of.

Still, as an immortal, this would be I suppose a blessing. Having a perfect memory over millennia could be quite maddening, not to mention necessitating huge offsite data stores.

This makes a lot of sense, everyone does this sometimes. Hay I am missing most of my life myself, its like in doctor who Ashilder is immortal because of the chip twelve used on her. Her brain could not retain multiple lifetimes anymore than anyone else could.

...Darn, that's a really good twist ending. Wish I'd thought of that. :pinkiegasp:

6833388 well in my experience I am miss years of my life as in no conscious memory of them and I can say that until you need to remember something from that whole in your memory it does not bother you.

Ah, thank you for sharing your story. I hope you don't feel as though this story is misrepresenting what you've experienced. If it is, I apologize.

6834633 No problem if anything many people have a similar issue and could use a chance to smile

I can't say I really feel the same way. I may not consciously remember every minute of my life, but I at least remember consciously living through every minute of it. I have never even once made an experience like waking up one morning and finding that I can't remember anything about what I did the entire last year. It's just kind of a fundamentally different thing than the slow loss of detail and definition that the passage of time usually brings with it.

6834770 No I meant a literal hole in your memory, being unable to recall anything no matter what. When the only parts of your past are stories others have told you is what I mean. A complete blank

I can't say I've ever made that kind of experience. If I did, I think I would have difficulty really thinking of anything that happened in that time period as done by myself. I'm not sure it would really feel like it's part of my own life to me, even if someone told me about it. Like something you've read in a book, maybe - the facts are there, but no real emotional association.

6835280 yep all the stories are just that stories, no matter how many time people try to remind you, it just feels disconnected and difficult to know what is true or not.

I suppose then you can probably see why I questioned if this can even be called really properly living. Hearing about your own life like it happened to someone else is kind of a few steps removed from what I think a real, fulfilled life is about. Even if they were happy stories, it's just not really the same.

6835321 true but it also means that any bad things don't feel like yours either and you can build a new life and reshape yourself

But you actually remember them. They're still there, memories that stay ingrained in you--not short-term memories that disappear once you "wake up" like a nice, fading dream.

Brains like to be efficient. Our mortal minds do exactly the kind of thing described in the story, but on a smaller scale. When you're a child, almost everything is new and you retain large portions of memory. As you get older, significant or unique experiences remain but when you've done something for the hundredth or thousandth time, even with a little variation, your mind efficiently skims over or combines it into a composite of previous memories. The older you get, the more it happens. If a human could reach Celestia's age they certainly could lose entire days or weeks that way, simply because they have done everything before, even if it was in a different order.

Yeah, my memory science is atrocious. In fact, looking back, there's more than a little weirdness in what's is actually happening. This isn't an exact 1:1 relationship between real brains and fictional brains.

Oh boy, if RealityCheck sees this he'll blow a gasket.

Anyway, decent short. Reminds me a lot of that scene in Interview With a Vampire; you know the one, "Decades passed like seconds."

I always wondered if Celestia and Luna remembered like this, or if they had some form of ethereal memory storage that surpassed the limits of our meatsuit piloting units.

What happened last Saturday? I woke up late ... uhm. That's all I remember.

Admittedly, I don't feel as though I've blacked out in the interim but I don't exactly remember what happened that day. Or that Friday. Or Tuesday. Or a year ago ... or what order my childhood homes went in. Live in the now, remember the important stuff and move on. Welcome to growing up! If you black out, though, that might be Alzheimer's.

6834324 ...I just felt a pain in my chest after reading that.

You have managed to convey quite a complex idea in a descent short. Bravo!

An interesting idea, if one I don't necessarily subscribe to.

Regardless, it's an interesting variation on how immortals might handle memory, and was delivered rather well in a surprisingly short time.

Well done.

Is it ok if I use this concept in my cannon? It's very good. :twilightsmile:

And thus was Twilight inspired to invent the magical brain VCR. :rainbowlaugh:

This was an alright little piece. Like so many Conversation Stories, however, it touches on interesting ideas without forging them into an actual plot. There a lot of beginnings of plotlines here, but none of them receive significant follow-through. The way it recontextualizes Twilight's relationship with Celestia, the comparisons and extrapolations of real life psychology, even the potential implication that perhaps not all alicorns do it.

One could argue that the entire point is to be open-ended and vague: after all, a story that offers a highlight and implications mirrors Twilight's "condition." I think that's a bit of a oversimplification, though. The idea still lacks weight.

One way to turn this into an actual story might be to treat this conversation/discovery as the beginning of the story. Then the rest of the story is a sort of highlight reel of different moments that Twilight actually remembered. Perhaps she writes them down or something. Then, much later, perhaps the final chapter is Twilight reflecting on all the experiences she bothered to keep. Or something.

TL;DR: No Vote. Has potential but more of a piece of headcanon than an actual story.

I completely agree. It's a picture-perfect example of an "explain fic," where the only point is to delve into some part of the canon and attempt to explain how it works. Honestly, I didn't put too much thought into it. :twilightsheepish: Still, it's one of the most popular fics I've written, so... make of that what you will. :unsuresweetie:

7183352 I think the popularity of Headcanon Delivery fics is a function of the fandom more than anything else. I've reviewed a fair number of them, and they always seem underwhelming compared to the audience reception.

Now, obviously, a strong story isn't a crucial component of story-telling. I think the headcanon delivery stories I've enjoyed most focused less on plotline and more on emotional immersion. Something like Where Have the Stars Gone or Red Apples have nonexistent or token plotlines, but the characters and emotion is enough to carry the story.

Now obviously some stories are going to be glorified blog posts explaining the author's headcanon. One can make an entertaining character piece, however, by selling how that headcanon affects the characters involved.

You made me cry. :fluttercry:


I hope that you cried because you experienced catharsis about it. If so, I appreciate your response. :twilightsmile:

For some reason, the idea of "alicorn time" makes me deeply and abidingly sick. The very idea of it is abhorrent, and I don't know why I feel like that. I don't think I'd be able to handle it, an idea that was rather blindsiding to me considering everything I DON'T react like this to. So, I guess that's where my lines are drawn: permanent forgetfulness and free will.

There is a man, whose name I cannot remember. He kept a diary for twenty years, and every entry in the diary, mere minutes apart, all said the same thing: "for the first time in years, I am fully conscious and aware." Then, twenty minutes later, he wrote the same thing, again and again. Notebooks full of practically the same entry, repeated ad infinitum. I think... I think it would break me, like nothing else would. I don't know if I would last even a year, but would I remember a year had passed...?

This may be a weird response, but thank you. This is certainly meant to be disturbing. It's a subtle wrongness that plays havoc with the regular understanding of our own minds. I certainly wouldn't want to live like that, either, but... I don't remember what I did a week ago. I know I went to my job, and I know I went back home, but everything else is a blur. What was the point of experiencing that time if I wasn't going to do anything meaningful in it?

It seems like "Alicorn Time" is what our brains already do normally, except on a much grander scale. Very interesting story. :twilightsmile:

...Kind of. As I admitted in another comment, my brain science is not particularly clean--I'm playing fast and loose with the rules here. Basically, the idea of Alicorn Time is that the alicorn's conscious experience does not actually experience those moments. In a sense, they're regularly blacking out, with the added wrinkle that those memories are still in there. Like Celestia says in the story, it's as though another pony lived it. (Perhaps this notion will make more sense if I reveal that in the past, I read a lot into hypnotism and tulpa possession.) The difference is that where we conscious beings experience each day, then forget it afterwards, alicorns don't experience it at all to save on conscious processing power.

Again, I have no idea if this is actually realistic to any psychologist. It's just a quirky little story. :twilightsheepish:

...well, it's time to go drink heavily and be depressed. :pinkiesad2:

Good job on destroying the reader. upvote!

Of course you could always cheat. There exists a memory spell in canon (among other abilities that deal with both memory and history), just record everything you want to remember onto a physical substrate and set up a sympathetic connection to it so that you can parse through it at your leisure. After all, 'Alicorn Time' isn't you on autopilot, it's you forgetting all of life's little moments as they become more and more routine. You're still 'there' for all practical purposes, you just aren't forming the proper memories. But by hooking yourself up to a massive recording device that problem becomes moot. You no longer 'skip' time as even if the memory never forms naturally it's still recorded and you can still access it at any time.

Sorry if I'm coming off as critical, that wasn't my intention. This is an interesting idea, and mentally solving problems like this is something of a hobby of mine. :twilightblush:

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