• 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 IV

Rainbow kept a close eye on Fluttershy as the latter picked up the plates. Somewhere nearby, Discord was strolling from furniture to furniture, rapping his digits against the walls and occasionally hitting a birdhouse with his wrench – and with inexplicably metallic thuds.

White flashed by the window. Rainbow heard the howling winds outside as time briefly started up again. “Where are we going, exactly?”

“Where won’t we be going, exactly?” Discord chuckled and another metallic thud echoed. “To a chthonic wonderland of bizarre dimensions and horrific, animalistic Things from the Infinite Chasm between worlds!”

A pause while he scratched his antler with the wrench.

“Nowhere dangerous, of course,” he added.

Both of them glanced at Fluttershy, who was balancing plates and teacups on a tray between her hooves. If her blank face was any indication, she seemed to be taking it remarkably well.

“I have absolute confidence in Discord’s judgement,” she said… calmly? Coldly? Either way, Rainbow shivered. By now, her experience was telling her the mare should’ve been shaking and cowering.

“Good!” said Discord, smiling and nodding. “Good. Well, that’s quite a relief, here in the midst of Nightmare Night and all.”

“I’ve seen your home, after all,” Fluttershy continued politely. “There’s nothing to be afraid of in the land of chaos. It’s like you said. You’ll be right there the whole time.”

Still smiling and nodding, Discord sidled up to Rainbow Dash and leaned down.

“Scared yet?” he whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

Innocently, Rainbow whispered back, “Why would I be? You’ll be right there the whole time, right?”

“For Fluttershy, yes.”

“And for me?”

“So long as you’re reassured, that’s the main thing.”

Rainbow glared up at his smirk. “Don’t go overboard. I’m watching you.”

“Ooh, I’m quaking in my mismatched boots.”

And Rainbow looked down, because Discord was just the sort to take common sayings literally. Sure enough, a clown shoe and a hiking boot materialized. When he sauntered off, one honked, the other tramped.

Feeling it might do to give her friend some confidential support, Rainbow zipped over to Fluttershy – making Angel and Harry sit up straight with surprise – and leaned down and raised a hoof to whisper.

“Rainbow,” said Fluttershy, turning to the kitchen door sans even looking up at all, “it’s fine.”

“Seriously, are you sure about –?”

“I enjoy Nightmare Night my way, and you’ll enjoy it yours. I don’t see what the problem is.”

As Fluttershy strode off and disappeared behind the closing door, Rainbow turned and got a cookie to the face. Crumbs rained down. Angel dusted off his paws and stuck a tongue out at her.

Overhead, Harry was watching Discord like a refined and well-trained hawk, an impressive feat for a gigantic, five-hundred-pound competition of grizzled hair, muscle, and fat.

“Hold on to your flanks, girls!” Discord stood before the table and gripped a lever that hadn’t been there a moment ago. “Onward to a fantastic voyage!”

Show-off, Rainbow thought. Nevertheless, she leaned forwards, mouth slightly open.

He pulled.

All eyes drank in the sights of the window. White blurs of frozen wind cracked and shattered. Snowflakes evaporated into heat hazes that rippled and distorted as cleanly as waves on a disturbed pond. Shards of black and purple shimmered into view, and then the remaining flakes turned into streaks of white. Rainbow tensed, then realized she wasn’t moving and relaxed.

The streaks blazed into one ring of stripes, and then rushed out of sight.

Rainbow gritted her teeth as the air popped about her ears.

“Whoops.” Discord snapped his talons. “You may experience a slight pressure drop during the first few minutes of our flight. Just ask your nearest available draconequus for assistance.”

The popping… unpopped. Relieved, Rainbow felt her ears clench and rub themselves as though someone were dusting them of pain. Given the sort of things Discord was likely to conjure up, she wisely did not turn to look at whatever was doing the dusting.

Up ahead, the window was a black screen.

Angel hopped up and stared out. Impatiently, he rapped his paw against it. Even Harry peeked between his claws and leaned closer.

Pure oblivion. Rainbow deflated. Was this the best he could do?

The darkness opened an eye.

Angel squealed and rolled off the window frame. More alarmingly, Harry howled and charged – Rainbow had to leap backwards at once – phasing through a surprised Discord and thundering his way into the kitchen. Guiltily, Rainbow heard Fluttershy’s tutting and soothing voice.

Up ahead, the eye filled the window, blazing yellow, round pupil twitching and squeezing as though it were a maw trying to suck out the very air itself.

Rainbow’s heart beat a little faster. She remembered Discord was right there. She willed herself to remain steady.

Then the eye shifted, a wall of shadow surged past, and the thing gave way to…

“Oh my gosh,” Rainbow said, instantly cursing herself. He must have heard that.

Discord chuckled beside her.

Blazing lights seared and screamed across the infinite expanses. Pink trees floated around islands of red, green, and polka dot mountains. Black sand hissed as a river of it fell past, a ribbon of glistening grains. Ropes and shipwrecks and carts and books were all flotsam amid the garish nebulae.

“Fluttershy!” cried out Rainbow Dash. “You’re missing it!”

“Yes, terrifying isn’t it?” muttered Discord, elbowing her in the ribs.

Rainbow frowned. He always insisted on getting too close, and anyway there was such a thing as pride beating in her chest.

Loudly and obviously, she stretched her mouth and struggled to block the yawn with a hoof. “Yeah, not bad,” she said. “Cute effort. I hope you haven’t run out of tricks already.”

From the kitchen came a scream. It shot straight through Rainbow’s brain along with the sounds of crashing fine china.

Instinct seized her and spun her round to charge, forgetting for a moment that the most direct route, in fact, was blocked. Discord and Rainbow tumbled away from each other and hit the floor on their backs.

Rage focused as an archer’s arrow on him. Rainbow shot up at once.

“You said it was safe!” she snapped.

Mostly safe,” he said, eyes widening – she sincerely hoped through terror rather than mild surprise, or she’d tear him limb from freaky limb –

A small green mass burst into the room. Rainbow blinked and the next thing she knew, there was a squelch and a yelp of alarm.

Rainbow stared at Discord.

Forelimbs raised high, Discord slowly tilted his head to follow her gaze down.

A pony-sized blob of green clumped around his midriff, wrapping tentacles of gunk around him and dripping all over. Beneath a film of ooze, two blinks indicated eyes.

Angel hopped cautiously closer. He sniffed.

Then again, once she focused and stopped trying to breathe through her ears, Rainbow relaxed and noticed smaller details. Whatever the thing was, its slime at least was translucent. Leg-shaped appendages under the “tentacles”. Two hunches that contained wings like an insect trapped in amber. Familiar pupils shrinking and familiar eyes blinking…

“Fluttershy!” Recognition jolted Rainbow Dash into action. She surged forwards and plunged both hooves into the gunk.

“Ew,” she added.

A heave later, she had Fluttershy – dripping slime over the floorboards and rug, coughing up more, and shaking her head to slap the splodges out of her mane – hovering safely out of the mass. She was safe, at least.

This close, Rainbow held her breath. “Tell me you weren’t cleaning the sink, please.”

Discord growled. “I’m fine, thank you for checking.”

“Huh? Oh. Don’t look at me. I’m not touching that.”

“Geez. Loyal to a fault, aren’t you just?”

Fluttershy smacked her lips, and straight away spat and spluttered. “Urgh. That stuff tastes like garbage smells…”

Instantly, concern elbowed all else out of Rainbow’s mind. She gently eased Fluttershy onto the part of the rug that was least swimming in what looked horribly like mucus. Nice going, Rainbow. You just had to trust Discord with something, didn’t you?

“Are you OK? Are you all right?” She darted around the body, not caring that the Cerberus heads bounced off her own with the turbulence. “Wings fine? No stomach pains? Did you swallow anything?”

“Look at my poor, poor feathers!” said Discord, gesticulating and enunciating with more melodrama than an entire opera while his lower half began to melt. “It burns! It burns! I’m going down… three… two… one…”

Fluttershy said something indistinct.

“What’s wrong?” Rainbow said at once. “Oh no, if you swallowed any –”

Glowering at her, Fluttershy stepped out of reach. “I said please take your hooves out of my mouth.”

“Aheheheh… sorry. Can’t be too careful.”

Discord sniffed. “Excuse me. Some of us need rescuing here!”

“You got yourself into that mess, you can get yourself out.” Rainbow resisted the urge to kick him. I told you! I TOLD you!

Irritably, the remains of Discord’s tail flexed and snapped like a whip. The residual pile of green glowed briefly and then vanished, making Rainbow wonder what all the fuss had been about.

“It’s a matter of getting into the spirit of Nightmare Night,” he snapped. “You’re supposed to be terrified. But I suppose the unflappable Rainbow Dash doesn’t worry about possible horrors befalling her good pal Discord, does she?”

“You fixed yourself, didn’t you? Well then. Pull yourself together. Sheesh.”

Glowering, muttering, occasionally sniffing, he let his lower half congeal into legs and torso and tail again. You put on a good show, Discord, she thought, but you’re still just a flapper trying to join the Wonderbolts. Ha! Let’s see you act that metaphor out!

Something glooped in the doorway. At least, it made a wet, sticky, slurping sound. They looked up.

Even if the sky outside had been sunshine and clouds, and invitations sent out, the Smooze still wouldn’t have been a pleasant sight. It looked like something had sneezed it out, and a pretty big something at that, considering it was large enough to smother a huddle of ponies.

It was also wearing a towel. And a bathing cap.

It cocked its head. Or rather, it bent slightly sideways.

“Morning, Smoozie!” Discord snapped his talons, and the remnants of slime on and around Fluttershy vanished. “Sorry to barge in unannounced. Just giving my friends the sneak peek on the freakshow.”

Rainbow shuddered. Fun as the Smooze had been at the Gala, it was still essentially a blob. When it burst into a wobbly grin, she couldn’t tell if it was delighted, demented, or just determined to gobble them up.

It oozed forwards. She backed away.

Calmer now, Fluttershy sighed with relief and straightened up. “Pleased to meet you again, Mister Smooze. Um. If you like, we could return you home and move along?”

“Watch it, Fluttershy,” hissed Rainbow Dash. “Celestia’s not here this time.”

Ignoring her, Fluttershy held out a hoof.

The Smooze – insofar as its eyeless face could stare – stared at her leg as though working out a complex topological problem. It bit a green tongue thoughtfully. After a while, a stretch of blob shot straight out and then landed wetly on her offered hoof. She shook it, then quickly let go.

“Splendid!” said Discord, shifting in between them. “You see? No reason to panic whatsoever! Smoozie could be… uh… a guest! Yes! How’s that for a perfectly ordinary idea? Oh, Smoozie? Would you like to stay for a cup of tea?” He looked the thing up and down. “Green tea, I take it?”

Now the smile almost cut it in half.

“Wonderful.” Discord spun round and almost head-butted Rainbow Dash with the speed. “Of course, if there are no objections to having an otherworldly monstrosity in on Nightmare Night? I gather the aim was to keep them all out, after all.”

Rainbow matched him glare for glare. No way she’d give him an easy victory.

“Nothing comes to mind,” she said through gritted teeth.

“Well, you be sure to let your old pal Disco know if it does, ahahaha.”

Her eyes narrowed.

And then she shot back as Discord yelled, “SMOOZIE! Let me give you a quick tour of the house. And you absolutely must put something decent on. Trust me, the au naturel look only works on some of us, darling, aheheheh.”

Rainbow waited until they’d both left the room – through the wall, of course, Discord being Discord – and then rounded on Fluttershy. “‘The aim was to keep them all out’? He thinks Nightmare Night is all about sheltering from monsters? Really?”

Fluttershy could’ve frozen a campfire with her expression. “It is for me. That’s all he wanted to know.”

“But –”

Something shouted in Rainbow’s head. She glanced up at the window, where bits of what looked horribly like bone drifted past. Sheltering from monsters sounded really good right about now.

“I –” she tried again.

She saw the thin line that was Fluttershy’s mouth. The way her eyes hardened. The careful blankness around the face. The stiff posture.

She absolutely hated seeing Fluttershy as mad as this. And the worst part was that Fluttershy would, if asked point-blank, adamantly deny that she was mad at all. Now that was as bad as two slaps to the face.

“You –?”

“I’m fine,” said Fluttershy coldly. “Why wouldn’t I be? It’s like Discord said. This is still a nice, pleasant teatime with friends.”

On the table, Angel Bunny looked from one to the other. To Rainbow Dash, he shrugged and turned his back. No help there.

She sighed while Fluttershy went into the kitchen – from within, Harry growled pitifully, and was gently shushed – and then came back with mop and bucket for the fresh trail of slime.