• 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 V

After a while, Fluttershy gave up on mopping up the slime trails, if only because the Smooze kept making more whenever it closed in to inspect her work.

Instead, they were all now seated around the coffee table, Angel Bunny and Harry the Bear elbow-to-elbow on the far corner of the settee. Nearer said table, Fluttershy glanced behind her and sighed over her mug.

Next to her, Rainbow Dash watched Discord like a hawk, albeit a hawk in a Cerberus costume. On his hassock, Discord watched Rainbow Dash like a considerably less refined hawk. The air sizzled between them.

As one, they raised their mugs. They sipped in unison. They lowered their mugs.

I know something you don’t, thought Rainbow. She wished her inner voice didn’t sound so smug, but Discord’s narrowed eyes were stronger than two prods to the chest, and she’d be darned if he’d get one over her. I know what Nightmare Night’s really about, and you don’t have a clue. You don’t have a clue about a lot of things, Disco boy. Just because you can mess up reality with a blink, doesn’t make you so hot.

Out of the corner of her gaze, she saw how twitchy Fluttershy was, as though expecting at any moment the walls of the cottage to fold in on themselves. Angel’s squeaks and Harry’s moans seemed to come from her.

Of course, the Smooze merely stood next to Discord, a teacup on the floor before it and a vacant grin on its face. Slurping, it oozed forwards and smothered the cup. One green tongue licked two green lips, satisfied.

From the window came the howls of distant creatures.

I know your game, Discord. This is just a bigger, weirder game of Chicken. You throw everything towards me as fast as you can, and the instant I blink or cry out, you’re gonna rub it in my face. But here’s the thing: I know you can’t put up with Fluttershy’s normal-ness for long. Not someone as crazy as you. And I’ve given you a challenge. So I know you’re gonna do everything to try and catch me out. But I’ll know you’re trying to do it, so I’ll know not to trust anything you do. And you won’t do anything really bad, not when Fluttershy’s watching you, so nothing you can think up can really catch me out. Face it, you’re cornered. I’ll psych you out. I’ve got nothing to lose so long as I don’t lose my cool, and I’ve got a whole iceberg of cool.

I can’t lose! I won’t lose!

“Er…?” said Fluttershy. Neither of them looked round, in case the first to do so lost the staring match. “Rainbow Dash? Discord? You don’t have to stare like that. We’re enjoying a nice tea party. That means we’re friends.”

To Rainbow’s delight, Discord looked away first, and then he gaped once he realized what he’d done.

“Oh, er, Fluttershy?” he said, glancing from pony to pony.

“There’s no competition here,” she said sweetly. “Why don’t we say something nice to break the ice?”

“Break the ice?” Rainbow looked at her, on the basis that it was OK since Discord had broken ranks first. “We already know each other.”

“Mister Smooze,” said Fluttershy. “Do you like the herbal tea?”

The belch filled the room with a smell so putrid it rotted the insides of Rainbow’s nostrils and she had to fight against the gag reflex burning her throat. Discord grimaced and snapped his digits; the green haze cleared, as did the smell.

A chuckle in her voice, Fluttershy said, “Glad to hear it! How nice is it that we all get along so well.”

“Yes,” muttered Discord, shifting his hassock a few inches away from the blob. “How… restrained we must feel.”

“Self-restraint is very important for friendship,” said Fluttershy. She took a sip. “I know I don’t always say it, but I do appreciate how well you keep your old, evil urges in check. You’ve come a long way, Discord.”

Discord’s talon tapped the edge of his cup. He coughed and inspected the ceiling.

Is he… blushing? Rainbow shuffled where she sat, not sure she ought to be looking.

“Yes, well,” he said, freezing his mug in a block of ice and then picking chunks off absent-mindedly.

“And Mister Smooze is a wonderful guest. We should invite him over more often. I love his smile, and he’s always so quiet, like he’s thinking about everything we say.”

Hearing this with unseen ears, the Smooze widened its smile.

“That’s because it can’t talk,” muttered Discord. “Or think. Or do anything other than sit there.” On his hassock, he shivered with disgust.

Rainbow, for once, didn’t blame him. The way that smile suggested nothing was going on behind it… well, that sort of thing gave her the shivers. At least, if she hadn’t forced herself not to shiver. Which was probably just as well, as she was starting to wish she’d never gone for the fake Cerberus heads sitting like hot pillows on her shoulders.

“Tell me all about your wonderful time at college,” said Fluttershy. Behind her, Angel and Harry leaned closer, ears cocked.

“Oh come on,” said Rainbow Dash; those fake heads were starting to chafe every time she moved. “He was making that up. They’ve never been to college. I’m not even sure the Smooze has a brain.”

“Apparently, it doesn’t need one.” Discord threw another broken-off cube of ice over his shoulder. “But we have met before, of course. I just said that to give it a bit of colour.”

“I know.” Fluttershy’s ears drooped.

Discord coughed and cleared his throat; the iced-up cup evaporated. “Perhaps you’d like to hear how we really met? It was shortly before my great reign in Equestria. I was busy searching the dimensions for somewhere to set up shop, for the umpteenth time.”

“Why the umpteenth time?” Rainbow said.

“Well…” Discord struggled against the words breaking up around his mouth. Helplessly, he shrugged. “Remember when I said I’d taken some jobs as a genie, a hybrid, and a demon? The career of an eldritch creature back then was a tad volatile, shall we say?”

“Ha! Seriously? You got fired from being a demon?”

“Excuse me! I didn’t get fired. I was merely far too free-spirited to stick with it for long. That was all. Spirit of Chaos, remember?”

“Oh, Discord,” said Fluttershy sadly. “You should say something. I helped my brother find a job when he was struggling with his fears. Maybe I could help you find a job too? All it takes is a little courage and belief.”

Paw held up expectantly, Discord chomped, then opened his jaws, in the process un-eating a cookie that appeared already half-bitten. “You’re too kind, Fluttershy my dear, but a being who can conjure food and shelter at a whim does not need a job.”

“Free-spirited, huh?” said Rainbow Dash. She watched him un-eat the rest of the cookie. “Sounds like me.”

“Except you have and need a job to live, I take it. Not for enjoyment, or personal life satisfaction.” Discord dropped the cookie onto the table, whereupon the Smooze slammed its face down, knocking china off the sides. Rainbow didn’t blame him for wincing. The sounds alone were disturbingly organic.

“If it helps, I got kicked out of Flight Camp when I was younger.” She glanced at Fluttershy, but her face was blank and unreadable. “Didn’t… quite… see eye-to-eye with the instructors… over the rules, I mean.”

When Discord raised his eyebrow, it kept on going up and splashed through the ceiling; a replacement grew back within seconds. “Is that so?”

“Yeah. You know how it is. I was winning races left and right. I got too cocky. Acted like I owned the camp, then made a huge mess like a one-pony whirlwind.”

Discord stroked his goatee, twirling it occasionally. “And lost it all soon after. How… interesting. Well, perhaps there’s hope for you yet, Miss One-Pony Whirlwind.”

Rainbow stiffened. “What do you mean by that!?”

“Give it a few hundred years; you might make an excellent Chaos Apprentice.”

“Yeah, right.”

“I’m serious, which – granted – is not normal for me, but who’s keeping score?”

Fluttershy sipped again. “Isn’t it lovely? You two have so much in common. I think you’d make fantastic friends.”

At last, the Smooze came up for air. Sensing a belch coming along, both Rainbow and Discord drew back hastily. Instead, the wretched, sagging ooze spat the cookie out. Something splattered against the wall behind Rainbow’s head. She didn’t dare turn to inspect it.

“Well, Rainbow ‘Whirlwind’ Dash.” Discord’s hassock scraped back and whimpered in protest. As he rose like a crane with two beady eyes on top, he darkened the room around him. “Now we’ve had our little tea break, what say you to a final tour of the Realm Ponydom Was Not Meant To Know? Unless, of course, your ‘free-spirited’ ways don’t extend to a little Nightmare Night spookiness.”

Pre-emptive guilt prompted Rainbow Dash to glance across at Fluttershy, who’d opened her mouth to speak.

“Uh, I mean,” he continued, stumbling over his words, “how would you like to see some of the places I’ve worked at? As a kind of friendly gesture between two fantastic friends?”

He winked.

Rainbow grinned. So, he’s still trying to test me, eh?

The fires of competition rose like a challenged phoenix within her chest. No way was she backing down. Once she’d beaten him at his own game and seen the look of surprise on his smug face… No, better yet: the sights she’d see, the sheer awesome he could unleash…

“I’d love to,” she said, flapping clear of her seat. “‘Fantastic friend’.”

“Discord…” Fluttershy stood up. Beyond her, Angel clambered up to Harry’s scalp, while Harry clambered up the back of the settee.

“Don’t worry,” he said, grinning. “As soon as we’ve settled this little chall – er, I mean, sorted out this little sightseeing shtick, it’ll be as if nothing’s happened.” A thoughtful pout jutted from his jaw. “Assuming, of course, Rainbow says when she wants to stop.”

“Not before you do,” said Rainbow, grinning back.

“Very well. To the window, everyone! Ahahaha!”

He snapped his digits. At once, Rainbow’s sight darkened. Cold, solid things landed on her muzzle. Sunglasses came away when she took them off to inspect them.

“I suggest you keep those on.” Discord reached down and shoved them back onto her face a little harder than was strictly necessary. “You need something to protect those pretty little eyes from the Things That Absorb Your Brain.”

“What!?” yelped Fluttershy. She and Angel and Harry sported sunglasses too.

“Fluttershy, come now. We have to be respectful towards the locals, remember? I’m sure that’s the sort of thing you’d preach if ever we went on vacation somewhere else.” A careless sweep of his paw knocked Rainbow’s glasses off.

“Quit doing that!” She rubbed her snout, not so much because it hurt as because she wanted Fluttershy to intervene if he tried it again.

“Hm. Then again, perhaps you’re right. Sunglasses are so easy to knock off.” Another snap of his digits, a snap of reality, and the sunglasses turned into goggles which snapped over their faces – OK, that was no accident, Rainbow knew he’d snapped hers on too tight.

Fluttershy landed next to Rainbow Dash. She leaned close enough that Rainbow could feel her ear burn under the embers of breath.

Rainbow, we talked about this.”

You tell him to stop, then,” Rainbow hissed back.

“Rainbow, please.”

“Look, it’s Discord. He’ll have his fun and then give up. Trust me.”

Hoping it might be sappy enough to work, Rainbow reached across and patted her gently on the elbow. She fancied, during the brief moment of contact, that Fluttershy was shaking slightly. Hard to tell without actually holding her.

“Here we go.” Discord cracked his digits as though about to play on a piano. Nearby, the Smooze gurgled and glooped its way across and to his other side. “The, aha, breathtaking views of the universe, right here, right now.”

And when he chuckled, it wasn’t a half-job. Low bouts of mirth rumbled through the floorboards and up their legs. The cottage echoed as though Discords utterly surrounded them. Even the mountains and trees outside froze in mid-float for a second, frightened or shocked by the sound.

“D-D-Discord?” whispered Fluttershy.

He gripped the lever.

Rainbow heard Fluttershy’s breathing. Briefly, the phoenix inside her was still.

“Uh,” she said. Hold on a second. Stop right there. Call it off now.

What, and let him win?

No! Just think for once! What about Fluttershy?

Tell her to look away.

That’s not how I fly. She doesn’t want this. She didn’t ask for this. This is her house. There’s stuff you just can’t do.

She got as far as saying, “Wait –”

The lever clicked.

Ripples crossed the window, wiping out the blazing lights and the floating islands. Squirming, scything, writhing, splashing, creaking, jerking, flapping, chomping shapes crammed against the glass. Every available space was packed with creatures. Then the eye resolved them, and the head of a horse joined the body of an octopus. Scales danced across lidless eyes. Wings sprouted out of more wings, which sprouted out of giraffe-like necks and elephant trunks. Tusks and horns blurred into each other. Legs competed with fins and spines, often on the same torso or carapace. Beaks sprouted out of oozing, oily masses that made the Smooze look tidy.

Rainbow didn’t need to hear the gasp beside her. Her own insides collapsed trying to understand what her eyes were telling her. Her wings slid out before she’d realized.

“I’m sure it’s OK,” she said, far more bravely than she felt. “They’re just… things.”

Soon, even Discord’s chuckles were lost to the zoo of screeches and yelps and whines and hisses and roars.

“Pretty terrifying, aren’t they?” he murmured, so low that she almost didn’t hear it.

Yet her heart blazed on. “Not really.”

She didn’t see what he did. All she knew was that, a moment later, knocks beat against the cottage walls from every direction. Fluttershy’s gasp was closer to a yelp. Not helping were Harry’s timid groans and Angel’s urgent squeaks.

“Discord?” Fluttershy’s voice fought not to wail.

“Nothing to worry about,” he said easily. “We’re perfectly safe in here.” In an undertone, he added, “At least, you are, Fluttershy.”

Oh please, thought Rainbow, not taking her eyes off the window. That’s just you trying to psych me out. I’ve been in enough races and staring contests to know it when I hear it. Keep going.

“We don’t know what we’re doing,” sang Discord into her ear. She felt no breath, but then who said he had to bend over? “We don’t know where we’re going. We don’t know what they’re after. We don’t know who they’re after.”

A bubble shield flared around him: obvious purple, so she’d notice. Another flared around Fluttershy. A third flared around the cowering fur that was Harry and Angel in the corner. The last one flared over the Smooze which was sliming away from the window as urgently as a snail. None flared around Rainbow.

Around them, the banging and shrieking continued.

“We don’t know why they want you,” he continued like a steady drip of water on her head. “We don’t know how they’ll get you. We don’t know when they’ll get you.”

It’s just a trick. It’s just a trick. I ain’t cracking. It’s just a stupid trick. Now the creatures started raking at the glass, leaving scratch marks.

Voice trembling, Fluttershy said, “D-Discord? H-how is this anything t-to do with –?”

“I lived here once,” lied Discord fluently; at least, Rainbow assumed he was lying. “Neighbours were a bit much, but you can’t help how you’re made, now can you?”

“We don’t know if we’ll leave here,” continued the steady drip in Rainbow’s ear. “We don’t know how we came here. We don’t know how they’ll break you…

“I-I’d like to go now,” said Fluttershy, and Rainbow almost sagged with relief that she’d said it for her. Every misshapen head focused on her, Rainbow Dash…

“It’s OK, Fluttershy,” said Discord. “Rainbow’s still taking in the sights, aren’t you, Rainbow ‘Fantastic Friend’ Dash?”

Darn you, Discord! Darn you and your evil brain! “I’m… OK with this,” she managed to say.

“Are you?” said Fluttershy.

“Y-yeah.” Rainbow forced herself to watch the crisscrossing claw marks and fang streaks across the glass, slowly turning it into white cobweb. “Nothin’… to it.”

Discord growled.

Thuds gave way to cracking timber. Bodies banged about the rooms upstairs.

This time, Fluttershy didn’t even pretend; Rainbow noticed her shoot up to the ceiling out of the corner of her eye. “What was that!?”

“Maybe now Rainbow has appreciated all the sights I’m giving her?” spat Discord.

Rainbow tightened her jaw against any weak words. The lock eased up enough to let her grumble, “It’s OK.”

Really? Well, we’d better not stay long. They look quite angry, if you catch my drift.”

“Yeah. Right.” She didn’t even wince when Harry roared with horror and blundered past to hide in the kitchen. Angel shot after him, stopping only to shake a paw like a fist at Rainbow Dash.

Fists and hooves punched through the glass. Fluttershy landed so hard Rainbow almost went up on the boards as they seesawed underfoot.

“You better fix that.” Rainbow refused to let even her voice burst with panic. Even as her limbs itched to run.

“Discord!” yelled Fluttershy. “I want to go now!”

Nearby, Discord’s form undulated. He seemed to be looking for something.

“Ah,” he said.

The way he said it put icicles through Rainbow’s chest. She almost heard her inner phoenix howl as though from shock.

“Whatdoyoumean ‘ah’?” Fluttershy’s hoofsteps scampered about, while more bodies crashed onto the floors upstairs. Things broke. Wings smashed through the walls. Tentacles began to seep through the floor as fluidly as tar.

He’s just faking he’s just faking he’s just faking don’t look away he’s just faking

“I can’t seem to do any magic,” Discord said.

“Quit messing around, Discord,” she snapped.

“I’m not messing around! I really can’t do any magic.”

A bulbous, elephantine head smashed through the window. Five eyes burned as embers embedded at random in flesh like leather. Still, Rainbow refused to move or look away, by now vibrating with the bodies pulsing or crashing into the walls and floor. Bits rained down on her from the ceiling: chips of wood, she guessed from the feel of them. A few bounced off her Cerberus heads, making them dance on her shoulders.

“C-come on, D-Discord,” Rainbow said. “We know you’re j-j-joking.”

Fluttershy leaped into view before them both, wings barring the way. Whether she meant to confront them or to shield them from the probing tusks and six trunks, it was hard to tell. Rainbow would accept either option right about now.

“Discord!” Fluttershy yelled. Her eyes were wide. Her musk was acid on the nose. Her coat was shining with slicks of sweat.

“He’s faking!” Rainbow said desperately.

Something clammy seized Rainbow’s leg. She couldn’t help it. She looked down.

One tentacle oozed and bubbled around her hoof. The thing tightened its grip. Under the whitening around her leg, stabs of pain slid through her and she suddenly broke away, stumbled, tried to walk on the thing, and found it numbing at the touch.

To her shame, she cried out, and instantly cut herself off. No. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of beating her at –

Discord yelled out. More tentacles and a few clawed hands burst through the floorboards and walls to hold him steady. His mouth was open in a silent scream. Mismatched limbs feebly tugged before his spine flexed like a trapped snake. Nothing about his bulging eyes suggested this was remotely a joke.

“Come on!” Rainbow’s voice was a squeal, but she suddenly didn’t care. “Snap out of it!”

He’s not joking!

“You have to be joking!” she insisted, more to herself than to him.

“Aargh! Noooo! Not trapped again!” More appendages gripped him, moving up from the feathers of his torso to his neck. Baring his fangs, Discord’s head tugged as though he could yank his whole body free. “No!”

“You idiot!” Rainbow screamed.

Then she wailed; through the mass of body parts pouring in from the broken window, a crocodile’s smile drew closer. Fangs stretched. Tongues or tentacles or stranger things undulated, reaching out for her face.

Panic hit her. No matter how hard she flapped, she couldn’t move. Fluttershy’s cottage was lost to a rising tide of bodies. Hot breath closed in on her.

He must be joking! He’s gotta be joking! This is just an act! Discord, darn you! Why did you have to do it this way!?

The thoughts had nothing to do with her now. Everything else knew, down to her bones, that the hot breath was real. The teeth gently pressing into her head were real. She turned to see Fluttershy’s face straining to explode with terror, and felt her own instincts take over, and Rainbow screamed, screamed, SCREAMED.


Digits snapped.

The creatures vanished. The breath and teeth vanished. The goggles vanished, as did the dark tint they’d brought. Fluttershy’s cottage came back, as though it had never been gone.

Rainbow took a moment to realize she’d been picked off the floor in all the confusion. Then the boards hit her rump hard when she landed. Beside her, she heard Discord’s mismatched footsteps draw closer.

“Um…” he said, in a voice that wasn’t at all sure it should be venturing out right now.

“You pea-brain!” Terror collapsed into rage within Rainbow’s chest. She was still shaking. “What were you thinking!? We could’ve been –”

Between them, the Smooze rolled forwards as urgently as an avalanche. Both she and Discord turned to watch.

Terror still stretched Fluttershy’s face, but now it jolted and sparked with the tics of anger. Ancient bits of instinct gripped Rainbow’s head. They whispered, Don’t you dare say a word. Don’t do a thing. Don’t even breathe loudly. If at all.

The Smooze leaned over Fluttershy and then leaned on Fluttershy. Flaps of green dribbled down either side. It was a moment before Rainbow realized it was trying to give her a hug.

Fluttershy still glowered at them, utterly oblivious to the green sliming over her.

“How could you?” she said.

That voice was the subtle click of a crossbow being aimed. Painless in itself, it had steel and tension locked behind every tiny twang.

What bothered Rainbow was that she seemed to be looking at both of them.

“Fluttershy,” Discord said quickly. “I apologize. I don’t know what came over me. I only meant to keep it nice and slow until Rainbow here… um… said something.”

You mean chickened out, Rainbow thought.

“The situation was under my control the whole time,” he said, pouring honey over his offered words. “Of course I’d never do anything to hurt our friendship. Or to hurt you. You have to believe that, right?”

And I did chicken out.

Who cares NOW? You’re just as much a pea-brain as he is! You couldn’t resist it. You had to push your luck, didn’t you, Rainbow? Well. Some friend you are.

“If I’d known how much it would have frightened you,” continued the suicidal Discord, “I swear on my ninety-nine lives I would never have done it. Let’s have the old tea party and forget about all this? Please?” He reached out as though to supplicate, and teacup and saucer landed in his paw and talons.

Rainbow judged it best to look down. Anything was better than meeting that glower, even the trail of mucus the Smooze had left on the carpet.

“Sorry,” she said, hating the very word.

Fluttershy’s voice was a volley; Rainbow tensed under each hit. “You didn’t think, did you? That’s your problem! Rainbow! Discord! Couldn’t help yourself!? You didn’t even try! Anyone sensible would have known better than to go down that path at all, not if they’d known they couldn’t help themselves!”

“Fluttershy, I –”

“We just –” added Discord.

“No! If this is what it takes to teach you both some self-control, then so be it!” Fluttershy stamped a hoof, using such force that chunks of the Smooze dislodged themselves and splattered on the floor. “Discord! Take us back now! Rainbow! Sit down and don’t do anything! I’ve never been so ashamed of you two!”

“But –” Discord said.

“Can’t –” Discord said again.

“Maybe if –” Discord tried hopelessly.

At last, he said, “Oh, all right. Just give me a few minutes. Moving through the dimensions isn’t as easy as I make it look.”

Rainbow heard the pop of firecrackers, and knew he’d gone. The air beside her felt lighter. Since that left her alone with Fluttershy – the Smooze didn’t count – she forced herself to look up.

“I’m sorry,” she said, a little less ashamed now that joker Discord wasn’t within earshot. “I didn’t want you to be scared.”

Fluttershy’s eyes were swimming, alone amid a mask of anger. “Me, scared? You were terrified!

“I wasn’t,” Rainbow lied at once.

“You know why I don’t like Nightmare Night! I hate seeing you that way!”

“I wasn’t terrified.”

Coming unstuck from the Smooze, Fluttershy shuffled over to the table and stopped to rub herself down. Rainbow looked at the perfect mould she’d left in the Smooze’s body, which soon enough sagged back into its heaped shape.

The Smooze’s mouth was a perfect “o”. It swivelled to “look” back at her with its eyeless face. Even it grimaced with distaste.

“I know,” she whispered back. “I know. Just give me a minute, OK?”

The Smooze screwed up its mouth doubtfully, but gave a curt nod and slithered to the far side of the room. Rainbow rubbed her own forelegs, feeling unclean, and not because of anything the Smooze had done.

I hate seeing you that way. That’s what she said. Oh horsefeathers, why didn’t I think? She said it herself last year! That’s the real reason she hates Nightmare Night. I should’ve known her better than that.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! Rainbow beat her skull, trying to knock the right words to the surface, but stopped when her forehead started to throb.