• Published 9th Jan 2018
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Eldritch Fun Times - Impossible Numbers



To make sure she's OK, Rainbow Dash visits Fluttershy on Nightmare Night. However, this peaceful and quiet cottage is about to – ahem – “play host” to some strange and unnatural forces.

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Eldritch Fun Times, Part III

Harry shivered. Fluttershy shivered. Angel shivered and frowned because he was supposed to be pretending not to shiver. Discord leaned forwards, mouth slightly open, tea undrunk in his paw and talons, utterly riveted.

“And when the Lady turned around,” continued Rainbow, who’d pulled the costume’s hood off so she looked at least moderately frightening, “the mirror was right behind her. She looked around. No one else was in the room. Yet when she got closer to the mirror… slowly… quietly… and peered through the glass… the room behind her was completely full… of ghosts.”

“R-R-R-R-Rainbow,” stammered Fluttershy. “P-please. Y-y-you’re sc-scaring D-D-Discord.”

“And then what happened?” Discord’s face was a mask of hunger.

“The servants heard her screaming!” Rainbow leapt up from the settee, making all but Discord jump. “They rushed up the stairs, hammered against the door, broke it down using one of those big clock thingies as a ram, and burst in! But no one was in the room. Just a fallen dress, some leftover shoes, and above it all, a normal mirror. And they say on some nights – even to this day – that if you press your ear up against the glass, you can just hear, very quietly, the voice of the Lady… screaming.”

Fluttershy whimpered. Angel hid behind his mug, no longer able to stop the shaking.

To everyone’s surprise, Discord burst out laughing. He fell off his hassock and rolled around on the floor, tears exploding from his eyes and turning into a flock of tiny exclamation marks which flew away.

Caught off guard, Rainbow sat back down and frowned at him. “Hey, it’s supposed to be a scary story.”

“And it is!” Struggling back onto all fours, Discord forced his laugh down to a cough and then cleared his throat. “Oh my. The sheer horror of it all! My sides ache!”

“Oh yeah? Well let’s see you do better.”

He pouted at her. “Do better? My dear Rainbow Dash, I’ve been better. Before I was the Master of Chaos, I was working in all kinds of terrifying roles.”

“Like what?” Rainbow cocked her head, groaning as she bumped a Cerberus head again.

“Well…” He clambered back onto the seat, swatted away an errant tentacle, and counted on his talons. “There was the time I acted as a genie – that was during my Saddle Arabian stint – then after that, I had a few years in the Ancient Pegasus Empire. They had hybrid monsters all over the place back then; it really was a tough market. Oh, and of course not forgetting the time I was trapped in Tartarus for a century and had to do some part-time work as a demon… What else…?”

“Whoa.” Then Rainbow noticed his sidelong smirk and forced herself to lean back again. “I mean, not bad. Not bad at all. I’ve probably dressed up as one or the other here and there. Just to try different things. You know how it is.”

“And you would dress up as an entity of horror… why, exactly?” Discord’s tongue flicked out, wrapped around another sundae on the tray, and then withdrew from his mouth towards the sundae and made both vanish with a snap of reality. “Mmmm, delicious.”

Rainbow caught Fluttershy’s shivering face, which briefly solidified into a meaningful scowl.

“Oh, you know,” she said breezily. “Playing pranks, terrifying ponies at the door into giving you candy, that sort of thing.”

“Why even put on a costume? I’m sure your oversaturated head of hair is horrifying all by itself.”

“Says the big-eyed goat-head and walking zoo.”

“Oh, you flatterer, you.” Discord straightened up, ears rising. “Well now, this is interesting. Know any more scary stories?”

Rainbow narrowed her eyes suspiciously. He seemed genuine enough… “Wait, you actually liked that? But you laughed at it.”

“Gee, a Master of Chaos confusing cause and effect. Whoever heard of such a thing? But seriously, you do know more scary stories, right? I’m wondering if I might have had a hand, or a paw, or a talon, in some of them.”

Over his rapt expression and excessive forward lean – he seriously should’ve collapsed at that angle – she watched his tail flick idly like a contented cat’s.

Out of the corner of her eye, Rainbow caught Fluttershy’s slight shake of the head.

And if the clock over the kitchen door was correct, then she’d already spent half an hour here. The others would start wondering.

“Well, uh,” she said instantly, pausing to drain her mug in one gulp. “I’d love to, uh, Discord, but I really should get going. You know how it is. Ponies to scare, pranks to set up, yadda yadda yadda. Anyway, you’ve got a whole evening of catch-up with Fluttershy. Ciao for now.”

As soon as she drew up her hood, however, she noticed the brief flicker of annoyance cross his face. Then it was gone, and he was looking almost genial.

“Oh, time is no objection,” he said. He clicked his talons.

The tick-tock over the kitchen door stopped. Outside, snowflakes stopped in midair. Howling winds fell silent. Only the inhabitants of the cottage moved, in Harry’s case by yelping and falling out of his seat.

“Discord, I’ve told you about freezing time,” said Fluttershy with a sigh. “You know I feel funny afterwards.”

“Rest assured this won’t take long… metaphorically speaking, of course.” Discord stuck his teacup behind his ear, which promptly sprouted fangs and chomped it down. While it chewed, he turned to Rainbow Dash. “Since ‘terrors from beyond’ seems to be the flavour of the month, perhaps I could offer to give you lovely ladies a special guided tour of the eldritch dimensions?”

Fluttershy turned pale. “Discord, please –”

“A-bop-bop-bop! Think of it like this,” he said hurriedly. “I’m showing you a few places where I’ve worked, that’s all. You keep saying how nice it’d be to visit the college me and old Smoozie used to go to. Well, this is like that.”

Rainbow’s memory came up short. “Smoozie?”

“You’ve met him. Big, green, likes gems, made of magically impenetrable slime? Tsk, tsk, tsk. Rainbow, you do disappoint me. You met him at the Gala, for crying out loud.”

“Oh! You mean the Smoozinator. Ha! Now there’s a slime monster who knew how to cut a rug.”

“If I recall correctly, he tried to eat it, but I get your point.”

Please,” said Fluttershy, reaching across and putting a protective hoof to his chest. “Let’s just have a nice, relaxing tea and a pleasant chat. No scares or terrors or eldritch abominations – I mean, not that I have anything against eldritch abominations, of course, I’m sure they’re very lovely like you are, but we could always do it another time. Please?”

Discord looked down at the hoof scuffing the feathers of his chest, and Rainbow was sure for a moment that a look of blank shock rushed across his features. Then he beamed at her, sprouted a second pair of forelimbs, and gently eased her hoof off while picking up another cup that, judging from the angry squeak, turned out to be Angel’s.

“Bah. There’s hardly any need for concern, my dear Fluttershy,” he said with what Rainbow considered a know-it-all smirk. “What, when you get down to it, could possibly attack you while I’m here? And after all the trouble dear Rainbow Dash went through to get here, it’d be a shame to turn her out without a little show-and-tell.”

Yet in that smug grin, Rainbow saw the cutting edge of competition as clearly as a raised sabre. And part of her wanted to raise her own answering sword and meet it, clashing, halfway. No challenge was going to get past her.

Bring it.

Unfortunately, she could still smell the stinging scent of worry from Fluttershy, now becoming sharper and more potent. Something kicked Rainbow in the brain. They’d all agreed not to drag Fluttershy into any more Nightmare Nights, and for good reason.

Still… Discord plus Nightmare Night was a calculation she could get behind. She’d tell the others about it later, with special mention to who had inspired him in the first place.

“Sounds like a plan,” she said. In deference to Fluttershy’s chattering teeth, however, she quickly added, “Just don’t go overboard or anything.”

“Oh dear. Not turning chicken, are we?” A flash of magic, and Discord the suddenly-chicken clucked mockingly at her.

Meaningfully, Rainbow’s gaze flicked towards Fluttershy until he followed it. A second flash later, Discord the suddenly-draconequus-again mouthed the word “oh”. A cheesy smile and an even cheesier halo lit up his face.

“I mean, sure,” he said, reaching across and patting Fluttershy on the head. “Nothing excessively exciting. We wouldn’t want to worry… uh… our dear friend Harry, now would we?”

They all looked up. From the peak of a mountain of fur, Harry’s nervous smile received the four gazes and nodded eagerly.

“Or Angel Bunny,” said Rainbow, earning an outraged squeak that sounded suspiciously like “WHAT!?” “He is very sensitive, after all.”

The “very sensitive” bunny gave a glower that should’ve reduced her to ash. He pounded a tiny fist into a tiny paw and pointed at her face. Rainbow didn’t dare laugh. Word on the street was that the last pony who’d laughed at Angel Bunny now ate nothing more solid than a bowl of soup.

Fluttershy swallowed. “I don’t understand. I thought you liked spending time at my cottage?”

“We don’t have to leave,” said Discord, conjuring out of thin air a lab coat and a pair of goggles which snapped over his face. “That’s the beauty of it. Give me a few seconds to rummage around for the resonator, the flux capacitor, the polarity-reversal device, the vice versa traverser, a scrambled egg, two pieces of string, and a juggling monkey, and we’ll see the highlights of the universe from the comforts of the common cottage chair. Be back in a tick. Metaphorically speaking, of course.”

He caught a wrench in midair, winked, and popped out of existence like a balloon, leaving nothing but a faint smell of elderberries.

“You know, Fluttershy,” said Rainbow Dash, wriggling to get comfortable both in the settee and in the costume, “this might turn out to be one heck of a show. You ought to invite Discord to Nightmare Night more often.” She pressed her head against the Cerberus ones as though they were portable pillows.

Fluttershy coughed and held up her cup and saucer. There and then, she looked as though she was half-heartedly sheltering herself from the world. Even when she glanced across to Angel’s cocked head, she did so with the furtive speed of a prey animal checking for traps.

Rainbow’s stomach knotted. She’d promised, after all. No dragging Fluttershy into this thing…

“He’s really getting into the spirit of the thing, ain’t he?” she said. Her chuckle faltered and faded away.

“Something’s going to go wrong,” said Fluttershy. To Rainbow’s consternation, the voice was eerily flat. There were overtones of grim resignation about it. That was a voice whose hope was on death row.

Rainbow glanced at Angel, whose face was a twisted mask of concern. It stood against everything she treasured on Nightmare Night, but…

She reached across – apologizing to Harry when she knocked his bulbous stomach – and patted Fluttershy on the elbow. “Hey, don’t worry. Discord’s weird, but he’s not dumb. I’m sure he won’t make it too scary.”

“But don’t you see?” said Fluttershy, still in that eerily flat voice. “He wants to push himself further. It’s like you said; he’s really gotten into the spirit of the thing.”

“Well, it’s not like you can hide it from him forever.”

I wasn’t hiding it from him,” Fluttershy snapped, and Angel squeaked in agreement from the table. “I was hoping it wouldn’t come up at all! Now he’s going to look into it! And I was really counting on this being the best Nightmare Night I ever had.”

They sat in silence for a while, sipping their drinks, saying nothing. Rainbow kept her gaze firmly on her own steaming chocolate.

Finally, a brief fanfare of saxophone music announced the return of Discord, who’d opted for the full engineer’s jumpsuit and oil stains. The wrench was slung over his shoulder.

“All righty, then,” he said brightly. “Dimensionator goin’ up. Hold on to your haunches, gals.”