• Published 14th Apr 2018
  • 5,633 Views, 308 Comments

The Maker's Reject - Albi



Every pony has a destiny—a reason for being. Sunset Shimmer has no cutie mark, and struggles just to feel like she belongs in this reality. But the price to find her purpose might be one too high to pay.

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1. Mirror Mirror

“Tell me, Sunset, what do you see?”

Her voice, tender and warm, settled on my shoulders like a blanket. I held onto it as tightly as I could, and stepped up to the crystal clear mirror. It sat on a raised dais, the glass set in a purple frame embedded with gemstones. As I drew close, anxiety and trepidation began to eat at me. For no matter how close I got, my reflection never appeared on the other side.

Was it a trick? An optical illusion? Were only the worthy able to see within it? No, it couldn’t be the last one, for I could see the storage room behind me, and of course, Princess Celestia.

I looked over my shoulder. There she was, standing right behind me, smiling encouragingly. I looked down at my hoof. I was still here. But when I looked into the mirror… I wasn’t there. Shaking my mane, waving my hoof, no movement made me appear.

“I… I don’t…” I took a step back, starting to hyperventilate. “I don’t see anything. I don’t see myself.” I back-peddled into Celestia’s legs, which instantly wrapped around me. “What am I supposed to see?”

Celestia was warm. Of course, she was always warm. Not just her smile or her demeanor or her words, her body was always the perfect temperature. She craned her neck down and brushed her muzzle against my cheek. The simple physical contact: being held by her alabaster forelegs and nuzzled softly returned my heart to its normal speed. I was ashamed a stupid mirror had gotten me so worked up in the first place.

“It’s okay, Sunset, it’s fine.” She slipped one of her hooves free from its golden slipper and ran it through my mane. “The mirror is meant to show your heart’s desire, nothing more.”

“But I…” If it was meant to show my heart’s desire, why wasn’t I in it? I admit, I don’t have the highest opinion of myself sometimes, but I think I would want to be in my own heart’s desire. Or was it supposed to be a given? “I just saw you and the rest of the room.”

Celestia kissed me on the cheek. “Well, I love you, too.”

My cheeks burned. I knew she was trying to change the subject—there was something more to the mirror than what I saw, or rather, lack thereof. Still, something in the back of my head, a primordial fear, told me to leave it alone.

I looked at my own hoof again and agreed with it. I wanted—needed to get as far from this mirror as I could. Turning my face up to the radiant mare standing over me, I put on one of my better fake smiles. I had learned from the best after all. Well, it wasn’t like she ever faked it. Some smiles were just less genuine than others.

But every smile she had for me was real. It was one of the few real things I knew.

Celestia unwrapped me from her hug and gestured me out the door with her angelic wings. “Come, come, I think we can conclude this exercise. Let’s have breakfast, shall we?”

At the word ‘breakfast’ my stomach let out an eager rumble. “Okay, Mom.”

My name is Sunset Shimmer. I am the adopted daughter of Princess Celestia, ruler of Equestria. One could call my life something out of a fairy tale.

Sometimes, I think it really is.

******

After looking into that mirror, I checked my appearance in every surface I passed by. It must have seemed narcissistic to the guards and castle maids, but I needed that confirmation that I was still here.

Perhaps what scared me the most from not seeing my reflection was that it fueled my belief that something was wrong with me. Everyone has out-of-body experiences, like they’re floating in a vast void, untethered from the physical world, weightless and free. I experienced those more frequently, occasionally twice a day. Accompanying them were bouts of fatigue and lethargy, sometimes depression, but I think that’s on my end. You’d be depressed too if it felt like you were slipping out of existence.

I looked into the full body mirror that stood adjacent from my four-poster bed. There I was, crimson and gold mane that settled around my shoulders, save for a bang that liked to hang in front of my eyes, teal like the still ocean. My coat, a light amber and perfectly maintained with nary a scar or thin patch of fur… or a cutie mark.

Mother said I was just a late bloomer. Fourteen years old is pretty late. I tried not to think about it too much; it gave ponies a reason to look at me sometimes. A boon since they usually glossed over me. Even being the princess's daughter wasn’t enough to get ponies’ recognition. It took a long time for ponies to remember me. Teachers would forget my name or skip over me during roll call. Whenever I walked outside, ponies’ eyes would drift over me like I wasn’t there. If I interacted with them long enough, I finally stuck in their minds.

The lapse in memory still happened, but it took a shorter time for others to remember me thanks to my blank flank. I guess that was one advantage of not knowing my special talent yet.

I talked to Mom about this frequently. Not even she can come up with a good explanation for it. Maybe that’s why she spends extra time with me, or takes me with her whenever she goes out. Not that I mind.

I brushed my hair out, leaving the bang where it hung. I thought it suited me. I gave my reflection a smile, and she returned it.

“You are somepony,” I said, repeating what Mother always tells me. “You’re special, you’re loved, and you have a destiny.”

As cheesy as it was, I honestly think it helps sometimes, especially on the days where I truly feel like I don’t belong. Not in the typical outsider, weird kid way. Like, I wasn’t supposed to be here. In this life. It was kinda like having a permanent existential crisis.

The sun continued to rise, guided by Mother’s magic. It gave Canterlot an orange glow that reminded me of juice. Speaking of which, breakfast had to be nearly ready. Just as I turned away from the window, an explosion rattled it until it flew open. I stuck my head outside and gasped, eyes alight.

Above me, a wave of colors flew over the city, bathing everything in a rainbow aurora. I saw every color, each one tickling me and making me smile. Nothing like this had ever occurred over Canterlot before, and I wasn’t the only one taking notice. Below me, ponies stared up and pointed, awestruck.

But where did this wave of colors come from? What did it mean? Why—

I clutched my heart and stumbled backwards, falling onto the carpet. In one single moment, I could feel every piece of myself, every cell and molecule in every part of my body. In the next moment, I could feel each of them coming undone, being erased like I was nothing but a drawing.

It was nothing like how some ponies described dying. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes. No sense of calm or acceptance came. I was completely paralyzed, my body spasming on the floor in some sort of futile effort to stay in this reality. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel. I stopped existing. For just a brief second, I floated in a black void, absent of anything, even myself. Nothingness, still and absolute. When I crashed back into my body, every part of twitched and jerked violently, and I still couldn’t breathe.

The paralysis lasted for another minute, and when I finally could breathe again, I screamed as loud as I could. I couldn’t close my eyes. Every time I blinked, I saw and felt the crushing nothingness that had almost taken me.

Two of my guards burst in as I laid on the floor, panting and staring at the wall. “Lady Sunset, are you all right?”

I shook my head. “Mother,” I whispered. “Please, bring me my mother.”

One of them rushed off while the other put me on his back and carried me to the infirmary. My spasms had stopped, leaving my body numb and weak, like falling out of existence had taken all the energy from me. I still refused to close my eyes. I couldn’t go back there.

My out-of-body experiences never escalated to that. Brief dizzy spells, momentary lapse in memory, fatigue. But never that. Was the rainbow to blame? Or did it have something to do with that damn mirror? Why had Mother really shown it to me? And what was I supposed to have seen?

The guard laid me on the soft infirmary bed, and Doctor Panacea took my vitals immediately. He was one of the few ponies who could remember me without trouble, being that I saw him three times a week.

“Sunset, what happened?” he asked.

I shook my head, not wanting to say anything until my mother came. I didn’t want to repeat myself more than I had to. Thankfully, she didn’t take long to arrive. She rushed into the room and dropped to my bedside, gently brushing a hoof against my cheek.

“Are you okay, Sunset?”

Again, I shook my head. My voice still shook when I spoke. “I had one of my experiences, but… it was worse than ever before.” My eyes stung from having not blinked in a whole minute and from remembering why I refused. They finally closed involuntarily, and I gasped and shuddered, seeing the darkness close around me. Celestia gently shushed me and continued to brush my cheek.

“I felt like I was gone,” I said, starting to cry. “I was just in nothing, fading away. And when I came back, I couldn’t move or breathe.”

Mother wrapped me up in her forelegs and draped her wings around me. Tears filled her eyes as she spoke. “My little Sunset, I am so sorry. It’s going to be okay, though. You’re safe. You’re here with me. Everything is fine now.”

Doctor Panacea walked over, clipboard hovering in front of his face. “Her heart level was twice its normal BPM, but her magic levels were drastically low, and she showed signs of extreme fatigue. She needs food and bed rest, preferably here so I can keep an eye on her.”

I looked up at Mother, still trying to fight back my sobs. “Mom, please tell me. What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing is wrong with you,” she said urgently, hugging me tighter. “You’re fine the way you are. You’re just a little unwell, that’s all.”

The way she held me prevented me from looking up at her eyes. But I knew she was lying. To spare my feelings perhaps, or maybe even she didn’t know what my diagnosis was. But this loss of self. This isolation from ponies not recognizing you. This feeling, like I was stuck in a lucid dream. And my absent reflection in that mirror. I was more than just ‘unwell.’

Something about me was broken.