• Published 14th Apr 2018
  • 5,551 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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8. All or Nothing

I rose from my bed, bleary eyes hidden behind a tangled mess of a mane. Mother must have tucked me in while I was asleep, though I couldn’t remember dozing off.

If I said I felt any better, I’d be lying. I felt a little calmer though. Who knew how long it would last. As last night had proven, my emotions were as volatile as a newborn unicorn’s magic.

And beneath the calm was still the soul-crushing emptiness and question of ‘what now?’ Did I walk through life with a smile on my face, pretending everything was perfectly fine, ignoring the inevitability of nothing after death?

I climbed out of bed, feeling oddly light. The sun winked at me from behind the fluttering window curtains. I needed to find Mother. Our conversation wasn’t over yet. I no longer had the urge to scream at her, but she still had to answer some of my questions.

I brushed out my wild hair, finding the repetitive motion rather soothing. When I was presentable, I stepped out of my room, finding Platina was still absent. The two guards on duty paid me no mind, not even bothering to salute me as I closed the door. It was going to be one of those days.

The castle felt quieter than normal. It wasn’t the kind of silence that came with the absence of ponies; it was almost as if someone had pressed large earmuffs over me. Everything sounded muffled; my hoofsteps across the carpet were nonexistent.

The castle staff paid me no mind, as usual. But there was something different in the way they did it. I couldn’t put my horn on what though. Maybe it was the way their eyes went over me. It wasn’t the usual glossy stare, where they knew I was there, it just took a while to register. It was as if they couldn’t see me at all.

Or perhaps I was just being extra paranoid now. The odd silence didn’t help either.

With how high the sun was, I guessed Mother would be getting ready for the Day Court. I hoped to catch her before she got to the throne, otherwise, I’d have to wait until evening to speak. I hurried up to her room in the eastern tower. The world seemed to get quieter as I ascended the steps and made my way down the hall.

I waved at the guards standing before Mother’s door. Their eyes remained resolutely forward. “Umm, I’d like to see my mother. Can I get through?”

They didn’t acknowledge me in the slightest.

Something started to gnaw at me from within my stomach. I spoke louder, hoping I was just having a really off day. “Can I see Celestia, please?”

Neither one so much as blinked at me.

My heart hammered. I looked down at my hoof. I could see and hear myself, so why couldn’t they? Then again, if they couldn’t see me, they couldn’t stop me. I was about to enter Mother’s room when the door opened for me.

She stepped out, dressed in her regalia, her rainbow mane blowing in the breeze. She smiled at her two guards and said something in a quiet voice I couldn’t make out. The guard must have been using an equally quiet tone, because I couldn’t hear him either. Celestia turned her head and looked at me.

No, not at me. Through me. She couldn’t see me either.

“Mom?” I asked, my voice trembling. But she took no notice. She strode forward, and as if I was nothing more than wind, walked right through me.

I didn’t feel it. It was as if I wasn’t there at all. I stood, shaking, then turned around and ran after her, shouting the whole time, tears falling again.

No! No, this can’t be happening!

She would stop and greet other guards and castle staff. But I couldn’t hear a word they were saying, no matter how close I got. I threw myself against Mother’s forelegs, but I tumbled right through.

“No!” I screamed. “Stop it! Stop it! I’m right here!”

I hounded after my Mother to see if she would go down to my room to see me. Did she know I was gone? Did she care? Had she already forgotten about me? Was this death? Was I to wander around like a ghost, unable to communicate with anyone?

But Celestia did not go down to my room. She went straight to the throne room and took a seat on her large pillow. I stood right in front of her, desperately waving my hoof.

“You really can’t see me, can you?” I choked back another sob. Her mouth moved, but it was like someone had muted the whole world around me.

They couldn’t see me, and I couldn’t hear them. I was perfectly cut off.

But I can still walk, and breathe, and see everything. The optimism was still there, small and fleeting, but alive.

It didn’t last long.

I started feeling lighter, both physically and mentally. The world was starting to grow more hazy. I looked down and screamed as loud as I could. Before my eyes, my hooves were disappearing, fading away like I was blending into the room around me.

“No…” I said, more stunned than scared. “No, please! I don’t want to go! No!”

But the erasure spread. Soon, my hooves were completely gone. It spread up my barrel, then moved up my neck. Even my falling tears vanished. I looked desperately at my mother, who merely looked beyond me, completely unaware of my plight.

“Mom…”

Then, I was gone.

******

I screamed as I woke up, thrashing and gasping for air. Two warm forelegs wrapped around me and held me tight while a voice spoke in my ear.

“Shh, it’s all right, Sunset. You’re okay. You’re fine.”

But I couldn't relax. It had felt too real. It had been a premonition, not a dream. Wings spread over me to strengthen the embrace, and while I ceased thrashing, I continued to hyperventilate and wail, clutching onto Mother tightly.

“I have you, Sunset. You’re safe,” she said, her voice as soft and warm as her feathers.

“I was being erased!” I cried into her chest. “No one could see me!”

“I can see you. You’re here, with me.”

“I was dying!”

“You’re safe. You’re fine.”

“I didn’t want to go! Don’t let me go!”

“I won’t.”

“Don’t let me go.”

“I promise.”

I stayed wrapped in her embrace for what felt like hours. Finally, I composed myself enough to pull myself away slowly. I peeked out over her feathers, finding that we were still in the storage room. It was dim, the only sources of light coming from the lone window, and Celestia’s ethereal mane.

She produced a handkerchief from midair and wiped up my face, just as she had when I was a filly. I felt like one again with all of my crying and huddling into Mother’s hooves. Not that it wasn’t deserved if I was being honest with myself.

“Breakfast,” she said, speaking as if one syllable too loud or harsh would break me again. “Come now. You need to eat.”

I followed along with nary a word. My throat was raw from crying. Upon exiting the storage room, Raven, Mother’s personal secretary, ran up to her, looking frantic.

“Your Majesty! I was looking all over for you! Then I heard you in the storage room, but I didn’t feel like it was my place to enter! But, the Day Court was supposed to begin an hour ago! And you have three afternoon meetings with—”

“Cancel the day court and all of my meetings today, Raven,” Mother said kindly, her eyes still forward as she walked down the hall. “I am going to be spending all of today with my daughter. And if anypony asks, tell them exactly that.”

Raven, hurrying to keep up with my mother’s long strides, looked curiously at me, then back at Celestia. “Y-yes, Your Majesty. Right away.” She fell back, scribbling on her clipboard.

My spirits lifted marginally. A whole day with my mother sounded lovely in theory. But there was a wall between us now, even if she wouldn't acknowledge it. Yes, I had broken down and sobbed into her chest, twice now in the last twelve hours. But there was still a twinge of resentment buried within me, like a deep splinter.

And the wall didn’t just separate us. It seperated me from the rest of the world. They had all been made and acknowledged by the Maker. They were loved by a supposedly benevolent goddess. I was not.

So there was a second splinter of resentment. One held for everypony else around me who got to enjoy life. Whether or not they believed in the Maker on high, whether or not they knew there was something waiting for them after death, they could walk through life knowing they had a place somewhere in the grand scheme, no matter how small.

They had a destiny. They would not fade away. They would not be forgotten by the world.

And that left in me a third piece of resentment. It wasn't a splinter—it was a knife, wedged deep into my heart. It twisted every time I thought about The End, my doomed existence.

And I realized, this burning in my heart wasn't resentment. It was full blown hatred. Hatred for the goddess benevolent to all but me.

Perhaps Mother could sense my darkening cloud, for she draped a wing over my back. Normally, this would have dissipated all of my fears, but, with that splinter of resentment toward her nestled within me, her wing only dulled the pain and confusion. It would return soon.

She led me to the dining hall and ordered breakfast for us, telling the staff we were not to be disturbed. Neither of us spoke while we waited for our food. I stared down at the white linen and perfectly set tableware, unable to look at Mother for more than a few seconds. I could only fathom what was going through her head at the moment.

She’s probably weaving a new lie, the cynical voice whispered. Trying to think of the best way to placate you—to stop you from asking too many questions.

I frowned. What else could Celestia say or do at this point to stop my inquisition? What possible information could she be withholding that would make my situation worse? I pushed the voice out. No, we had already hit rock bottom. And while I didn’t see a way for this to get better, I knew it couldn’t get any worse.

Our food came: plates of waffles, eggs, toast, and fruit, accompanied by tea and juice. The servants bowed and quietly left. Staring at the dishes before me, my stomach gave a pleading growl, but like the previous day, I had no desire to eat.

“You need food,” Mother said softly.

I looked up at her. She was looking down at her tea, absently stirring it with a spoon.

“I’m not hungry.”

She looked up at me, the infinite wisdom in her eyes clouded with emotion. “Yes, you are, Sunset,” she said, reminding me painfully of last night.

I didn’t flare up this time. I lifted a hoof full of grapes onto my plate and ate them one at a time. My stomach rumbled, pleased that I was finally eating, eager for more. It became a subconscious effort, refilling my plate with more fruit, then guiding small pieces to my mouth.

All the while, Mother stirred and sipped her tea, occasionally taking a small bite of toast. She was stalling. In truth, I couldn’t blame her. Where did we go from here? I had a few ideas, a few desperate questions. But, now that there was food in me, I was a little more calm, a little more willing to yield to patience and let Mother make the first move.

Just as I graduated from fruit to eggs, she finally spoke. Her voice was weak and uncertain, two traits I never expected to hear from her.

“It is rare when I find myself truly at a loss for words.” She kept her eyes on me, holding back another wave of tears. “I know there are no words I can offer to make you feel any better. As for actions…”

She left that word hanging on purpose. It was an invitation.

Seize it! She’s offering it on a silver platter! Seize it!

But did I want it?

What choice do you have? Do you want to die? To be forgotten?

I set my knife and fork down, thinking hard. Last night, thoughts of immortality and alicorns had strayed through my mind; lofty and ridiculous means to avoid oblivion. But what if, what if it was possible? If I could obtain eternal life, most of my problems would be solved. Living forever seemed daunting, but it was far better than the alternative. And I would have my mother there with me.

Power. Immortality. Remembrance.

I took in a shaky breath. “How do I…” I backtracked, and started from a different angle. “Are alicorns immortal?”

Mother raised her hooves and pressed them together in front of her mouth in thought. “Luna and I are born from the Maker. We, in full truth, are demigods, and are immortal until we choose not to be. But that only means we can walk amongst you for as long as we desire. We can still fall ill, we can still be wounded and killed. Death… death comes for us all, eventually,” she finished somberly.

Not for her. She gets to choose her end. How nice it must be, getting to decide when to leave the mortal coil.

I blinked slowly, pushing the voice out again while I chose my next words. “And what about Cadence? She wasn’t born an alicorn; she became one. You said she ascended by doing something nopony else had done. She… understood the deepest element of love.”

Mother nodded slowly. “Cadence is… new. We’re not sure what to expect from her. Her alicorn status was granted by Harmony, and has never occurred in recorded history. Whether she is mortal, long lived, or immortal is something we will have to wait and see.”

The flicker of hope inside of me dwindled into a dying ember. So even becoming an alicorn gave me no guarantee.

Lies. Why else would she be bestowed with great power if not to become something more than a mere mortal? She shall live a long life! She will be remembered!

I nodded, mostly to myself. Even if it was just a chance, it was one I had to take, wasn’t it? If the Maker just expected me to roll over and accept my fate, she had another thing coming.

“But, I still don’t understand,” I said, my voice stronger than it had been in days, “how exactly did Cadence become an alicorn?”

“She stood against somepony who had no concept of love,” Mother said, her eyes drifting toward the window. Outside, the the tips of the northern mountains could be seen, hazy in the distance. “When faced with the dark magic the witch wielded, Cadence was able to take it and reverse it, breaking the witch’s spell. She understood love on such a level that jealousy and hatred couldn’t harm her.”

“And she became an alicorn for it.”

“Yes.”

I blinked again. It felt like I was missing a step. I decided to stop beating around the question and cut straight to it. “How does one become an alicorn?”

She didn’t answer right away. She turned her head up to the ceiling, her rainbow mane rippling down her back like a celestial waterfall. “I can only give you theories based on what I have witnessed with Cadence. Ascension appears to become possible when somepony has gained a deep understanding of one of the world’s elements, and demonstrated the power to wield it fully.”

“A deep understanding of a world element…” I gazed intently at my plate. Cadence had become an alicorn by understanding and wielding the power of love. Did that mean if I learned to harness something like the wind or the very earth, I would have enough power to ascend? How much power and understanding would be enough? And would those elements suffice? Did I need something more abstract, like love?

Magic, the voice whispered seductively into my ear.

Of course. Studying and learning magic was already a passion of mine. I was taught by Princess Celestia, the most powerful mage in all of history. I knew and understood many of its secrets. Still, I hesitated. Theories I could crack with ease, but the practical applications of it? I was not strong enough to cast many of the spells I new and understood. If Mother was right, and ascension required understanding and the capacity to wield magic, would just knowing how every spell worked be enough?

But again, I had to at least try. If anything, it gave me purpose. I couldn’t sit in my room and dread my doom; I needed to act. I would shape my own destiny. I would not be discarded by the world.

I raised my head, the blazing determination on my face reflected in my Mother’s eyes. “I’ll do it, Mom. I’m going to become an alicorn."