• Published 14th Apr 2018
  • 5,550 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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7. Nihility

I didn’t get out of bed the next day. Mother came up to check in on me and drop off my presents. Buried in my blankets, I kept my back to her and told her I didn’t feel well.

Her muzzle pressed against the blankets as she searched for a way in. I had developed a tight cocoon though, and she gave up after a few tries.

“Would you like me to bring you anything? Some soup?”

“No.”

I could feel her gaze on me. Part of me wanted to crawl out and beg for her embrace. A larger part of me still seethed at her. How could she keep that from me? How could she have come so close to forgetting me and letting me fade away?

It was irrational. I knew it was irrational. She had chosen to love me. She was the reason I still existed in the first place.

So why was I mad?

I closed my eyes, feeling the dried tears rimmed along the edges. When I opened them again, I could feel the onset of night. Hardly any light penetrated my cocoon, but the shadows I could see had shifted. I blinked again, and when I opened my eyes this time, I could hear birds singing outside.

Lethargically, and with the speed of molasses in the winter, I worked my way out of my blankets, poking my head free. I squinted my eyes at the light pouring from the bay window. Why hadn’t I closed it? My entire body felt stiff, and moving reawakened my stomach, empty and clamoring for sustenance. Looking around, I saw a silver tray sitting on my desk.

I tried to decide which would take less energy, levitating it to me, or getting up and walking over. After trying to concentrate on my magic and getting only sparks, I decided to fully unwrap myself and crawl over to the food.

I practically fell onto the carpet, face buried in the soft down. After a few seconds of rest, I dragged myself forward and used the chair to pull myself up. I nudged the silver lid off the tray, finding a plate of pancakes ringed with whip cream and strawberries. Inside the lid was a note.

Feel better soon. Love, Mom.

Despite the fact that my tear ducts were empty and my throat was raw, I broke into a fresh fit of sobs. My stomach roared with hunger, but my appetite was gone. Never before had two emotions clashed together so violently within me. I wanted to run up to Mother and hit her in the face, then throw myself into her embrace and stay there forever; a place where she could never forget me.

If she really loved you, she would have found a way to save you from this miserable limbo, a cynical voice said.

But what else could Celestia have done? She had pleaded to the very creator of the universe and been stoutly ignored. Still, the irrational anger sat like a thorn in my heart, nettling me every time I thought about her. Maybe it wasn’t the fact that she hadn’t told me—it was that she had lied to me. I asked her what was wrong, and she said nothing. It was either a lie or a very cruel joke on her part.

I shoved the lid back over the pancakes and dropped my head into my hooves. What did I do with this revelation? How does one walk through life knowing you weren’t supposed to exist? I supposed there was many a pony who had been conceived from a drunken stupor and a fit passion rather than being planned out, but if Mother was to be believed, even they fit somewhere into the Maker’s grand scheme.

I had not been part of the plan. I was more than an accident, I was, as Nightmare Moon had put it, an anomaly. It was almost flattering.

My head dropped against the desk, next to the container. I could smell the pancakes on the other side, and my stomach gave another roar. My heart told me it would be better to starve.

Then, a new thought struck me. What would happen when I died? Even if I managed to live a full life, it would all be rendered pointless at the end. I would fade into that horrifying abyss while everyone got to go to the Summerlands. Would anyone remember me when I died? Or would everything just reset completely? If they no longer had a reason to think of me, soon, they would forget completely.

I then thought of Twilight in Ponyville. If she no longer had contact with me, would she forget soon too? My face lay in a puddle of tears, but I didn’t move. A different abyss threatened to swallow me, one of absolute despair. It spread out from my heart and devoured what little strength I had.

No matter how I looked at it, I was doomed. Destined to fade into nothingness. What did it matter what happened now? Die here. Live out my life. Either way...

The abyss ate everything inside me, and I felt hollow and brittle, like a mere touch would shatter me. I trembled furiously, sobs pouring out of me. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to fall back into the abyss! But I couldn’t stop this. Mother couldn’t stop this. Celestia, who could move the sun and the moon, who could stare down fifty foot tall dragons without blinking, who could rule an entire nation, dealing with petty politics and border disputes and economics, yet still found time to read me a bedtime story…. She couldn’t stop this.

There is one way to stop yourself from fading away, the cynical voice said. All you have to do is become immortal.

I let out a mirthless laugh. Was that all? Then I was as good as saved. I lifted my head up, face matted with tears. How the heck did I become immortal? Did I want to be immortal? I didn’t want to die but… what would I even do if I could live forever?

It’s better than not existing.

That was a fair argument. Maybe I would ask Mother next time I saw her. I pressed my face into the puddle of tears, now dripping over the side. What was I going to say next time I saw her? Would I see her again?

The fact that I could go at any moment paralyzed me with fear again. It subsided, allowing me to breathe. The rational part of my brain reminded me in a meek voice that Mother had not forgotten me yet. Sure, there were close calls, but I always came back.

The irrational part screamed in response. There never should have been close calls in the first place! Did she know when she almost stopped thinking about me? Did she know when I teetered on the edge of oblivion? I should have been on her mind at all times!

What was I going to say to her next time I saw her? Did I tell her that I knew? That I was scared? That I was furious? I didn’t know if I had it in me to keep it a secret. Right now, I didn’t have much in me.

How did I live this knowledge? Nevermind telling my mother, how did I go on with this weight on my back? How did I go on knowing any day, any hour, any second could be my last? So few ponies would remember me, if any.

My brain shut off for a moment, and I floated in the nightmarish abyss, all of my will and conviction gone. Just give up, a new voice said. There’s no point in living like this.

But dying would be worse. It would be far worse. Over and over, this circled in my noisy brain. Living in constant anticipation of a sudden death. The stark emptiness and all-consuming terror death would bring. What did I do? What could I do besides just exist?

Exist.

I barely existed.

I wasn’t supposed to exist.

My eyes shot open. My head snapped up. I was breathing very fast and erratically. Everything crashed down again at once, a tsunami of emotions and pain. Brittle existence, cold death, lies upon lies, cruel jokes, pointlessness and futility. Everything was pointless! Nothing I did mattered in the end! So what if I existed? Other ponies would live on in some way! I was condemned to be erased and forgotten.

Pointless.

My erratic breathing stopped. I couldn’t take in air anymore. Instead, I pressed my hooves against my head until they felt like clamps, then, I screamed.

I didn’t want to. I knew I would be heard. But I couldn’t hold it anymore. It tore itself from my throat, desperate to be released. I obliged, closing my eyes and hearing my own scream echo through the room.

It did nothing to relieve the pain.

The door burst open, and Platina and two additional guards charged in, spears at the ready. “My Lady, are you okay?”

Releasing the scream allowed me to breathe again. I took a large gulp of air, then turned from my desk, a wide smile plastered on my face. “Hi, Platina,” I said pleasantly. “Yes, I’m fine.”

Naturally, she gave me the greatest look of skepticism possible. “You were screaming.” She eyed the pool of tears. “And you’ve been crying.”

I made a short chirp of laughter. “Oh, it was nothing. Just had a brief moment. Early midlife crisis. Thought too hard!” I laughed again. It came out cracked this time.

Platina stared with a mixture of scrutiny and concern. “Would you like me to go get the Princess?” she asked slowly.

“That won’t be necessary,” I said in clipped tones. “No, no, no need for that. I’m just going to lay down for a little bit.”

“You’ve been in your room for a while, Lady Sunset. Are you sure you’re fine?”

I felt the smile slide off my face. Whatever replaced it was enough to make Platina wince. “Perfectly fine, Platina. You’re dismissed.” My voice was high, tight, and sounded nothing like me.

Platina stood her ground for a moment, bowed, then retreated, the other guards hot on her tail. I stared at the door after she closed it, long and hard, like I could burn holes with my eyes.

She’s going to tell Mother.

That was fine. The conversation was unavoidable. Inevitable. Destined to happen. All things that are fated to happen shall happen, whether you want them to or not. I only had one fate. To fade to nothing.

The sadness, the anger, the hysteria; it all drained out of me, leaving me empty once again. I dropped my head and stared at the carpet. It lunged toward me, smacking me in the side of the face.

I laid sprawled on the carpet, devoid of energy or reason to get up. It was rather soft, all things considered. I would just lay there until Mother arrived.

But the afternoon came and went, and the sunlight drifted across the room, spreading over me like a warm blanket before climbing up the walls. Mother never knocked on my door. Nopony did.

Night fell, and my stomach painfully cramped up from the lack of food. My head swam as I raised it. Whether I wanted to or not, I had to eat now. I climbed back into my chair and tossed the lid off the pancakes. They smiled. I frowned.

After several hours under a tin cover, they were cold. Still delicious though. Consuming them, however, only made me notice how hungry I truly was. As much as I abhorred the idea of leaving my room, I needed more sustenance. Even if I was just existing at that point, I wanted to exist with a full stomach.

With reluctance, I left my chair, actually standing up for the first time in over a day. My knees wobbled, but I got ahold of myself and opened the door. Two guards were stationed outside, but Platina was nowhere to be seen. I trudged past the pair, my eyes daring them to ask questions. But they merely saluted and kept their gazes straight.

I had no idea how late it was. Most of the braziers were out, leaving me to guess it was close to midnight. Soft moonlight came in through the windows and gathered in patches against the carpet. I stopped and looked up at the moon. It was odd, seeing it without the ominous face that had decorated it for centuries.

I made my way down to the first floor, passing a few of the night maids on the way. They and most of the other guards on duty paid me no mind. I didn’t care. Tonight was definitely a night where I loathed to talk to anyone.

I was almost to the kitchens when a figure rounded the corner in front of me. It was Princess Luna. She seemed a little taller from when I last saw her. Not by much, but still noticeable.

“Sunset Shimmer,” she said softly, a smile pulling at her lips. “Coming down for a midnight snack as well?”

“Yeah, I, er, forgot to eat today.”

Luna regarded me, her smile fading. “You seem greatly troubled.”

“It’s nothing,” I said shortly. “Just hungry.”

She did it again; that piercing stare, like she was examining my very essence, or lack of one. The longer she looked, the hotter my face got.

“Stop it!” I shouted.

Her ears flattened against the sides of her head. “My apologies, Sunset. I did not mean to make you uncomfortable.”

She sounded sincere. Maybe she didn’t realize what she was doing. I still wanted to keep shouting at her. What would it gain me, though? At least she could see me.

I made an irritated huff and moved to pass her, but she extended a wing. “Please, Sunset. I know we are not close, but… I would like to help you if I can.”

“I sincerely doubt there’s anything you can do for me,” I said darkly. I tried to move forward again, but Luna stood firm.

“You know, don’t you?” Her voice was barely higher than a whisper.

A jagged smile broke across my face, and my head twisted to look at Luna. “Know what, dear aunt?” I asked in an overly-pleasant voice that startled even me. “That I’m not even a speck in the Maker’s eye? That my existence is tied to how many ponies can remember who I am?”

I took a step toward her very apprehensive face, gaining a thrill when she took a step back. “Do I know that I’m only alive by Celestia’s grace? Do I know that my existence is ultimately pointless, and that no matter what, I’m going to fade into nothingness? Do I know that I was never supposed to be here? If that’s what you’re referring to, Aunt Luna, then yes, I know.”

To my satisfaction, Luna lowered her wing. She had nothing to say, she could only stare at me with trepidation and pity. I wanted to punch the pity off her face, and a loud voice in my head screamed to follow through. I chose to restrain myself and continue to the kitchens, giving Luna one last broad smile.

This wasn’t me. Then again, I didn’t really know who or what I was. Sunset Shimmer was the name I was given. What did it really mean though?

There were only two chefs in the kitchen. They seemed happy to have something to do when I asked them to make me a sandwich. Lavender, honeysuckle, and tomato on a sweet roll. That’s all I needed to hold me until morning.

When I left the kitchens, Luna had vanished. I didn’t particularly care, but if Platina hadn’t reported my incident with her, Luna most certainly would speak to Celestia.

I climbed back upstairs, wolfing down my sandwich. My stomach’s roar quieted into a whimper. Still hungry, but at least it wasn’t causing me anymore pain.

The halls were quiet. The silence spread to my mind and heart, quieting the raging storm. I stopped and breathed through my nose, appreciating the quiet atmosphere.

“What now?” Without my thoughts spiraling around, I felt like I could perhaps come up with a plan. But nothing came. Did I just accept my fate and make the most of my life until it was over? Knowing that I would not carry any feelings or memories with me when I died? Knowing that the world would forget me?

You deserve more than that pitiful existence.

I did. I deserved to be remembered like anypony else. The question was how?

Become powerful. Ponies notice those with power. Become an alicorn. Become immortal.

My hooves started leading me down the hall again. That was all easier said than done. Though I supposed if Cadence could become an alicorn, I could too. How though?

She knows.

Of course Celestia knew. Would she tell me a secret like that though? She seemed to like keeping life altering information from me.

If she loved you—if she wanted you to stay alive, she would tell you.

I stopped, an old wooden door on my left. There was something familiar about it. It wasn’t a bedroom, in fact, it looked more like a storage door. I gave it a nudge, only to find it locked. A flash of my horn fixed that, and I pushed it open.

Oh… right.

On the other side of the room, raised on a crystal dais, was the mirror. I remembered staring into its reflection four years ago, unable to see myself. Mother said it showed your heart’s desire. I had always been skeptical.

The fear that had gripped me when I first looked into it returned as I drew closer. My mind told me to turn and walk away, but I had to see. If it really did show my heart’s desire, I would see myself this time. I wanted nothing more than to fully exist in this world.

I stepped up onto the dais, aligning myself to the glass. But just like before, no matter how close I got, no matter how many times I waved my hoof, my reflection never appeared. I stared at the room behind me, dark and full of old crates.

“What are you?” I growled at the mirror. Mother had lied again. Did the mirror show the truth? Did it show someone’s hidden nature? Did it only work for real ponies? I wanted to smash it to pieces. “Worthless piece of junk!”

My horn lit up as I considered the best way to destroy it. A simple spell? Or did I fling a box into it?

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a calm but sad voice said. “That’s seven years bad luck.”

I watched Celestia step into the reflection, standing behind where I should have been. She had none of her regalia on, and her whole body seemed to hunch, like she was carrying something heavy.

I kept my horn lit and stared at the mirror. “I’m guessing Luna came running to you?”

“She did,” Celestia said with a slow nod. “She seemed greatly concerned over your mental well-being.”

“I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not, Sunset. I know you’re not.”

“Of course you know,” I said bitterly. “You know everything. You just never want to share. Or you downright lie about it!” I wheeled around, tears pouring out of my eyes again. “‘What’s wrong with me?' I would ask! And every time, ‘nothing, Sunset. Nothing is wrong!’ What, did you think you were being clever?”

Celestia at least had the decency to look ashamed. “No, of course not. What did you want me to say, Sunset? I couldn’t burden you with knowledge like this. Nopony should ever have to deal with this.”

“Well I’m the pony that does!” I yelled. “You don’t know! You don’t know what it’s like to be robbed of all your strength and sense of self! To fall into an endless void that slowly eats away at you! It could happen anywhere, at any time! And it’s all determined by one pony!”

“I’m trying my best!” Celestia shouted desperately, tears in her eyes now. “I think about you all the time. You’re always on my mind. I want other ponies to remember you, too. If they did, you wouldn’t be tethered to just me. Sunset, I’m so sorry for what you have to go through, I truly am.”

And she meant it. She was inches away from breaking down and crying, I could see it on her face. It wasn’t her fault. None of it was. But I needed someone to be mad at—someone physical since I couldn’t shout at the Maker.

“Do you know when you’ve forgotten about me?” I asked.

“Sometimes,” she said quietly. “I know when I’ve become too distracted and that you may have slipped my mind for a few seconds. I think about you extra hard then, hoping it will counter it.”

I grunted and turned to the mirror again. The perfectly polished glass taunted me. “What does this really do?” I saw Celestia look away, biting her lower lip. “Well?”

“It… it shows the viewer’s full potential. What their destiny could be if they applied themselves the right way. I—”

“So you showed me this knowing what I was and what I would probably see?” I asked, seething again.

“I was hoping I would be wrong!” The tears were falling now. “I hoped you would see yourself doing something, anything! It would prove the Maker wrong! That you did belong here, that you had a destiny!”

“Well, guess what, Mom, there’s still nothing there!” I spun around again, snarling. “There’s nothing there because I’m nothing! That’s all my potential is! To die and fade away!”

My heart shattered again, and the next thing I knew, I was lying against the cold dais, crying my eyes out. Mother scooped me up and cradled me against her, wrapping her wide, alabaster wings around me.

“You’re not nothing!” she sobbed. “You’re my daughter! I don’t care what the entire universe says, you’re mine and I love you!”

There was so much I wanted to say, so many ways I could refute her words. The cynical voice in my head whispered so many things into my ear. But I ignored it all. I was still angry and terrified, but I set it all aside. It would all come back later, and I would address it then.

Right then, the only thing I wanted was my mother. She held me, and I hugged her, and we cried well into the night.