• 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 VI

Beyond the window, the world resolved itself with a crackle. Stars twinkled once more. Something large and round began to eclipse the view, as though the moon were peeking in to ask for a cup of tea.

Unexpectedly, the walls broke away. Furniture rose up; gravity had been switched off. Birdhouses, books, rugs, and tea things drifted in a silent, lethargic explosion. Such was Rainbow Dash’s mental state that she barely cared when even she and Fluttershy began to float, and the Cerberus heads strained to drift away from the rest of her costume.

Unfazed, Fluttershy sat down heavily on her sofa, reached across to the hovering table, and drew the cup to her mouth for a sip. A burst of pink globules and a gloing sound later, Discord popped into existence beside her.

He looked round and screwed up his lips. “Not quite where we were aiming for, then. But don’t worry. It’s not going to be a problem. Give me a few minutes to navigate this, that, and about a million other things, and we’ll be home and dry.”

Fluttershy took another sip. She showed no sign of having heard a word.

Around them, dozens of planets hovered in space. Some were so close that Rainbow briefly backed away, flailing in the air and worried about crashing into them, while others were so far that she briefly mistook them for stars.

Discord tried a chuckle. “At least I know where to get some excellent sugar here. Wouldn’t that be nice for the tea party?”

Drifting by as a sphere of slime, the Smooze reached out an improvised tentacle and gripped the back of Fluttershy’s seat.

Uh oh, thought Rainbow Dash. She’s giving the silent treatment. Oh my gosh, she’s giving the silent treatment! This is bad. This is so very bad. This is super-bad!

After a while, Discord hung his head. “We’ll be home in a few minutes. Fluttershy, look… I, uh… uh…”

Briefly, he writhed with the agony of trying to express himself. To her own utter surprise, Rainbow felt sorry for him. She’d known Fluttershy since they were old enough to think bogeymares hid under their beds, and even she still hadn’t figured out how to deal with her friend in this state.

The struggle came to nought; Discord slumped in defeat. “Well, I’ll be right back, then.”

He snapped his digits. A ripple through space, a smell of old cheese, a quack and a cluck, and he was gone.

Only then did Fluttershy sigh.

Guilt pushed Rainbow Dash forwards. She flapped once to drift a few inches closer and then spread her wings, slowing to a stop. Or trying to. However hard she flapped her wings, suddenly they didn’t work right. A few thrashes achieved nothing while she bumped into the side of the sofa.

“Look, uh, about what… just… happened…” Rainbow waved a wing about her. “About them abomination things. You do know Discord wasn’t actually gonna put us in danger, right?”

She waited for Fluttershy to reply. Nothing yet.

“OK,” Rainbow said encouragingly. “This is the part where you say, ‘Yes, I know. Now I want you to make it up to me.’ Just like that.”

Fluttershy was staring into her cup. Around her, the stars were shining on.

With a cough, Rainbow lowered her wings. She looked about, hoping the surrounding planets – or the floating bits of wall and furniture – could give her a clue.

“Um…” she said. “I, uh… probably shouldn’t have encouraged him… You know how I get around challenges… It was, uh, it was dumb. Really, really dumb.”

Hoping to get some sort of response, she braced herself, took a deep breath, and gingerly, nervously, carefully stretched a wing over the arm of the sofa to pat Fluttershy on the shoulder. She did it twice, though even that seemed too risky, and she hastily withdrew her wing.

Rainbow groaned. She beat her own face with both hooves, then wiped them off as though they were Smooze slime. Nothing was having any effect.

“Look,” she said desperately. “Will you say something, please? I’m sorry, all right? I’m sorry. Just say something.”

More for show than anything – maybe for thinking time too, Rainbow suspected – Fluttershy blew on her cup. In the distance, Angel and Harry rotated on their way up among the planets, both too stunned to do more than blink. Rainbow noticed she was drifting away slightly from the sofa, but any attempts to flap closer did nothing, and she stopped after a few frantic seconds. The air felt completely wrong here, if it even was air.

“Mister Smooze?” said Fluttershy without looking up. “Could you help my friends, please?”

The Smooze glooped its assent. Green stretches of blubbery slime reached out and scooped Angel and Harry, drawing them in. One reached for Rainbow, who winced at the warm slop running over her back and wings. The slightest of tugs sent her drifting closer.

Angel, Harry, and Rainbow gripped the arms of the sofa at once, the two animals opposite her. Between them, the Smooze leaned over the headrest and Fluttershy sat and stared at her tea.

“Thank you.” Fluttershy swilled the cup but still did not drink anything. “Rainbow –”

“I know, I know,” said Rainbow while a chest of drawers spun gently by. “What I did was nasty and thoughtless and rude and selfish. Story of my life.”

“It’s not the story of your life. You can be nice and thoughtful and polite and heroic when you want to be.”

Rainbow raised her eyes and her ears hopefully. “You’re not mad?”

“I didn’t say that.”

Eyes and ears fell. “Oh.”

“But I think you’re right. I’m not being kind to Discord, am I?”

Rainbow looked to the two animals for inspiration, but the bear and the bunny were poker-faced. Impressive, considering a bunch of tempting teacups and cookies chose that moment to pass among their heads.

“You kidding?” said Rainbow. “If Discord had been left to anyone else, Equestria would be drowning in chocolate rain by now. Look, you gonna drink that or not? It’s kinda distracting.”

Fluttershy stopped swilling her tea. She placed the cup gently on the table and watched as it promptly rose up, up to the stars.

“I meant about Nightmare Night,” she said.

Rainbow sensed a game being played here, and didn’t want anything to do with it. She’d never been much good at strategy. Right now, she’d rather Fluttershy went straight for the kill.

“Look, I know you don’t like seeing us scared. It’s not like I forgot. I tried to keep Discord from going over-the-top, but he wouldn’t take a hint.”

“I’ve kept him cooped up in here with me,” said Fluttershy to the stars. “I didn’t think he might take to all this Nightmare Night creepiness. No, that’s a lie: I didn’t want him to even try.”

“I swear I would never, ever set out to do that to you. I swear.”

“I shouldn’t keep him in here. It’s selfish. But you’ve made me think, Rainbow. If he’d have more fun going out and seeing Nightmare Night as you do, then I shouldn’t stand in his way.”

“It’s… well, you know. I get carried away. You know how I get around challenges, Fluttershy. I tried – honest, I tried – but I was dumb. And, uh, and I’ll make it up to you, if I can just figure out how. Tell me what to do. I’ll do it.”

“I should let him choose for himself what he wants to do.”

It occurred to Rainbow Dash that they weren’t quite of the same mind. The last few seconds of mutual monologue caught up with her.

“Let him choose?” she said. Realization dawned. She pointed an accusing hoof. “So that’s why you made him set up the blizzard!”

“Yes.” Fluttershy at last looked her in the eye, her own half-hidden behind a curtain of mane. “I knew you wouldn’t bother me on Nightmare Night. Everyone else usually keeps away.”

“So you lied to him?”

“I didn’t lie.” Fluttershy glowered. She turned pink about the cheeks.

“You told him it was to keep other ponies and the creepy Nightmare Night monsters outside the cottage. But really, it was because you wanted to keep him in the cottage till it was all over! Then next week, everyone else would’ve moved on anyway, so you didn't have to talk about it!”

“I just didn’t want anything to distract him. Or to ruin our lovely little evening.”

The words held Rainbow back for a moment, but then determination pushed through. “That’s not fair on him. I bet he’d love to get out there and scare everyone. He could let himself go for a few hours, and everyone’d love it. I bet.”

“What if he turned evil again?”

Rainbow smelled this for the desperate dodge it was and ignored it. If one night of spookiness was enough to overpower months of living with Fluttershy’s friendship, then a single raindrop could break Rainbow’s wing. Which was, of course, nonsense.

Sensing her question hadn’t really stuck, Fluttershy returned to staring at the stars overhead. “I like our tea parties together.”

“And I bet he does too,” said Rainbow. “But he does that every week. How often will he get to enjoy Nightmare Night? Anyway, maybe he can tell you all about it next week, or you could have a double tea party to make up for it, or… or something. I dunno. You should ask him, though, don’tcha think?”

Fluttershy looked to Angel, who shrugged. She looked to Harry, who nodded solemnly and grunted his quiet approval. Lastly, she looked to the Smooze, which was “gazing” down, slack-mouthed. The conversation had outclassed its brainpower long ago.

Rainbow gave her a nudge, wincing as one of the Cerberus heads poked her own eye with an ear. “Ow. Hey, come on. It’s only once.”

“Well, yes,” said Fluttershy with a sigh. “I was really hoping this would be the best Nightmare Night I ever had. No scary stuff, no worrying about everyone else worrying about me: just one of my favourite tea parties with one of my best friends.”

Harry growled.

“Of course you’re my best friend, Harry. I didn’t mean to overlook you.”

He stopped growling and started smiling again. Angel kicked her in the elbow.

“And of course you’re my best friend as well, Angel Bunny. We’ve been best friends for a long time.”

Angel nodded curtly, eyes narrowed in the classic “and don’t you forget it” style.

Fluttershy shrugged and looked up again. Overhead, the Smooze beamed back, not even noticing as a birdhouse floated up and buried itself in its green back.

“All right,” she said. “You’re right. I should let him do what he wants. I’ll have a word with him when he comes back.”

“Thattagirl,” said Rainbow, just glad she hadn’t gotten the telling off of the year this time. Gently as she could, she guided her hoof to give her friend a chummy slap on the back, though she restrained it so much that it came out as an exaggerated pat.

Fluttershy hummed and watched a nearby ringed planet loom directly ahead.

Wow, thought Rainbow Dash. She must really like those tea parties. Look at her, staring off into space! How does she do it? Tea parties are so boring, but she acts like they’re as fun as a day at a Wonderbolts show.

Well, yeah, because that’s what she likes. And she likes not going out on Nightmare Night. Come on, Rainbow. You’re not that dumb.

Then again, Fluttershy had just turned away, as though avoiding Rainbow. Rainbow wasn’t much for reading body language, but she knew what that meant.

What’s she hiding?

In fact, Fluttershy drew away slightly from Rainbow, a sure sign something was being hidden deep. Whenever she’d smelled this pungently of guilt, Fluttershy had always acted like she was a poison trying not to infect anyone.

Irritably, Rainbow shook herself down. Maybe there was something else going on, but she was hardly the mare to poke and pry about it, was she? Best not to press the point, she felt.

All the same, it wasn’t hard to guess. Fluttershy drooped like a wilting flower on her seat. She was trying to be as still as possible. Her coat smelled blue, as of one sinking into the hole of something lost, something that had once held her up and supported her.

Then Fluttershy inhaled with the effort of filling not just her lungs, but whatever hole had been present. She was no longer shying away from Rainbow’s hooves, though neither was she acknowledging them.

A vase full of flowers surged past. The Smooze sucked in those bits of itself that had dangled down from its face. Up ahead, the looming planet rose onwards and began to shrink away.

“Hey ho!” called Discord over the empty expanses.

A blazing smear of light, a sound like the sucking of a last bit of milkshake up a straw, and Discord faded back into existence before them. He had both forelimbs behind his back.

“Fixed it!” he boomed. “Homeward bound, as promised! Can I deliver, or what?”

Fluttershy sagged in her seat again. “It’s… nice.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Discord pouted and looked around thoughtfully. “The planets are a bit much, but it does have that certain ‘final frontier’ look, now doesn’t it? Of course, I haven’t visited this patch of the multiverse in aeons. Bit hard to keep track of all those space-time thingummyjigs.”

Grinning sheepishly, he brought his paw and talons round. “Here.”

Rainbow stared.

“I thought you might like these,” he continued. “As a way of expressing my… what’s the word… begins with an ‘r’?”

“Remorse?” said Rainbow.

Discord shivered. “Yes… that.”

“Not a word you’re used to saying, then.”

“Yes, thank you for that insight, Rainbow ‘Trash Talk’ Dash. It is nice to go five seconds without a reminder.”

All the same, Rainbow shuffled away from the things he was holding. “What… is that, exactly?”

“They’re native,” he said, a touch reproachfully.

They were flowers.

This being Discord, though, they weren’t ordinary flowers. Spikes and tentacles featured prominently, and those were just the stems. Rose petals clashed with tiny clusters of flower heads, which in turn sprouted Venus flytrap fangs and dangled snowdrops the size of buckets. No one flower was any one colour. When Rainbow’s gaze focused on one and went in a circle, the rounded petals she started with became splayed grass blades halfway along and finished with holly spikes and cactus spines. Hairs sprouted at random, and the smell was never the same – she gagged one minute and then hummed with vanilla delight the next.

Fluttershy reached out. She showed not the slightest quiver as Discord eased them into her grip. The Smooze gurgled and rumbled with a broad beaming smile on its face.

“They’re… nice,” she said, allowing herself a small smile.

Discord tugged at his neck as though it were a collar. “Um… no hard feelings?”

Rainbow flapped, but in this universe it was a wasted effort. The way she felt nothing… well, it creeped her out, that’s what it did.

“Can we go now?” she said urgently.

Discord scowled at her. “Trust you to spoil the mood. Ah well, let’s pull ourselves together, shall we? Bibbity, bobbity, boo.”

He snapped his digits. There was a pop and Rainbow felt suddenly stuffed in a world of pure cotton –