• Published 1st Sep 2019
  • 1,732 Views, 231 Comments

No Longer Living In A Van Down By The River - Peni Parker

Since The Dazzlings agreed to be motivational speakers at CHS they're no longer living in a van down by the river, but the job may make them wish they still were.

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Finale (Part 2)

Aria Blaze ran out of room 237 and down the hall like a bat out of Hell, a river of tears beginning to flow down her cheeks as she did so. She didn’t get very far though. As soon as she reached the first corridor she came across she quickly ducked around the corner and ceased running, finding herself too overwhelmed by emotion to keep going.

What did I just do? She gravely thought as she leaned back against the wall.

Without really thinking about it, Aria brought her right hand up closer to her face so that she could get a better look at it. It was trembling. Not from pain, but from the realization that she’d just used it to strike one of her sisters. She had never done that before. She’d ignored them, insulted them, yelled at them, even pushed them away once or twice during the course of her life, but never once had she ever hit either of them. Not until today that is. And now that she had, she found herself filled with large amounts of regret and self-hatred for it.

“Fuck.” She softly uttered as she slowly slid down the wall until she found herself seated on the floor.

What pained Aria the most though, or rather what was the rotten cherry on top of an already bitter-tasting dessert, was that Adagio hadn’t been wrong when she’d compared her to their mother. Even before she’d raised her fist in anger against her older sister she had crossed the line when she’d threatened Sonata, and she knew it. She just hadn’t wanted to admit it to herself, so when she’d been called out on it by Adagio she lashed out, which only further proved how much like their mother she’d been acting.

“Argh!” She airily groaned in frustration as she slammed her right hand down onto the floor.

As Aria sat there on the hallway floor, tears still running down her face, two thoughts plagued her mind: how had she allowed herself to fall so far, and what now? The former thought, she realized, could wait. It didn’t matter right now. What did matter right now was the latter one. What now?

Much like after she’d learned of Glen’s passing, Aria’s first instinct was simply to run. Run fast and run far, away from all the negative things she was feeling right now. She had already done this by running out of the room and into the hallway, but to her mind that wasn’t enough. She felt like she needed to run farther, outside, into the cold, snow-filled mountains. She knew, of course, that if she did run out into the mountains she’d eventually freeze to death, but even still that’s what she felt like doing. So long as it meant she could get away from all of her pain.

Quickly dismissing the idea of running from her mind, Aria tried to think of what other options she had at the moment. She couldn’t go back to her room and face her sisters, not yet at least. She needed time to think first before doing that. Time to think about what she was going to say to them, and what she was going to do to try and make amends with them. The thought of going to a friend’s room for a while briefly crossed her mind, but she quickly dismissed that idea as well. There weren’t any friends she felt she could go to with this right now. Trixie was out of the question after their conversation at school earlier and any of the Rainbooms would probably try and get involved, which she really didn’t want. This was strictly a family matter.

Before Aria could figure out what to do, she heard the sound of a door opening just around the corner. Not wanting anyone to see her in her current disheveled state, she hastily picked herself up off the floor and ever-so-slightly peered around the corner to see who it was.

“Shit.” She faintly said as she saw Sonata emerging from room 237.

In one smooth motion, Aria swiftly ceased peering around the corner and dashed off down the hallway in an attempt to avoid running into her younger sister. As she ran, she found that she had no idea where within the hotel she was headed, but she didn’t really care. All she wanted was to put some distance between herself and her sisters.

Sonata wandered up and down the various hallways of the Overlook Hotel in search of an ice machine. She’d been searching for a few minutes now but so far she had yet to come across one, which started to make her worry. She’d promised Adagio she would bring her some ice for her aching face and side and she intended to keep that promise. Especially considering how Adagio had defended her against Aria’s accusations that their impending job loss was her fault.

As she continued searching, Sonata’s mind naturally fixated on what had happened over the course of the last few minutes. She couldn’t believe how a simple talk amongst sisters had gone so wrong. Aria placing blame on her for their misfortune hadn’t been too surprising, she was used to such things after all these years, but the sheer ferocity with which her sister had hurled her accusations was nothing short of shocking to her. However, what concerned her even more than the fierceness of Aria’s accusation was whether or not it was true.

“M-Maybe there just isn’t an ice machine on this floor.” She told herself as she refocused all of her mental energy into finding some ice, in a desperate attempt to stop thinking about what Aria had said.

It didn’t take long for Sonata to find a small staircase that she used to take her up to the third floor. But as she ascended said staircase her mind automatically went back to thinking about Aria’s belief that their getting let go was all her fault, much to her chagrin.

Was Aria right? Had someone caught her and Rainbow Dash having sex in their office, and as a result of that all three of the Dazzlings were being fired? The very possibility made Sonata feel ill. She’d never imagined that having some kinky fun with her girlfriend could have such a cataclysmic consequence. Though, in hindsight, she probably should have. At any rate, she dreaded the thought of being the cause of all this current distress.

Plus, as if being unsure of whether or not she was the cause of the Dazzlings’ current woes wasn’t bad enough, the situation as a whole left Sonata with an extremely difficult decision to make. Did she follow Rainbow Dash to Vanhoover so they could remain together, or stay in Canterlot with her sisters. Before learning about the unfortunate news regarding their job, she had been leaning towards the former. She loved Rainbow Dash deeply and wanted to stay with her, even if it meant leaving her sisters. But now…now she wasn’t so sure. Could she really leave her sisters during such an uncertain time for them, especially if it did turn out to be all her fault?

With all this drama going on in her life right now, Sonata began to feel…agitated.

“Where is that darn ice machine?” She said, sounding slightly irritated, as she continued to search the third floor hallways.

The longer it took Sonata to find an ice machine, the longer it left her alone with her thoughts. Which only caused her agitation to grow.

“Where are you, dammit?” She muttered under her breath, as though she were addressing the elusive ice machine, as she turned a corner.

Alas, much like every other hallway Sonata had already been down, there was no ice machine to be found.

Why? Why was it so damn hard for her to find a single ice machine within the Overlook? All she wanted was a little bit of ice so she could help her aching sister. Was that too much to ask? Apparently, it was, as it started to seem to her like the hotel was purposely making the act of retrieving ice more difficult than it needed to be.

“Ugh!” Sonata exclaimed as she ceased walking and stomped her right foot down in frustration.

After a few seconds of some calming and collecting breaths, the youngest Dazzling came to the conclusion that she wasn’t going to find an ice machine simply by wandering around. She figured her best hope of finding one at this point was to go down to the lobby and see if Mr. Ullman or some other hotel employee could point her in the right direction. But just as she turned around to head back to the staircase she’d come up, she heard a sound that caused her to stop dead in her tracks.


It was the sound of a young child laughing. The exact same sound she’d heard earlier just before entering room 237.

Like before when she’d heard this laughter, Sonata turned and looked down the hallway where she thought she’d heard it coming from to see who it belonged to. But also like before, no one was there, only this time she didn’t shrug the whole thing off as her mind playing tricks on her.

“Hello?” She called out down the hall.

No answer.

Realizing that she didn’t have time to waste on all this, Sonata quickly turned back around to head to the stairs. She hadn’t taken more than two steps before she’d heard the laughter again.


It was louder this time. Loud enough that she was sure of two things; it was real, and it belonged to a young girl.

Sonata swiftly turned around once again in the hopes of discovering who was making these laughing noises, and this time managed to catch a glimpse of some long, blue hair with a few light blue streaks in it before it quickly disappeared around a corner further down the hall.

“Hey, wait!” She shouted out as she ran after the mysterious girl, suddenly feeling compelled to do so.

As Sonata ran, she heard the laughter again. It was even louder than the last time she’d heard it, and clearer too. So clear in fact that she got the feeling she recognized it. Not from when she’d heard it by room 237, but from a time and a place long ago that she couldn’t quite fully recall.

It didn’t take the Dazzling long to reach the corner where she’d seen the hair disappear behind. She didn’t see anyone right as she turned the corner, but when she looked further up the new hallway, what she saw made her eyes go as wide as dinner plates and her blood run cold.

“Hi, Mommy!” A young Dolly Dusk blithely shouted as she waved to her.

All Sonata could do was continue staring straight ahead in complete and utter disbelief. How was this possible? How was her daughter here? And, more importantly, how was she a little girl again? She wasn’t a little girl anymore, she was in college now. It didn’t make any sense. Yet there she was, around the same age as when she’d left her.

“D-Dolly?” She managed to get out in her shocked state.

“Betcha can’t catch me!” Dolly told her before turning around and running off up the hall.

“W-Wait!” Sonata replied as she began to pursue her daughter, ignoring every sense she had that told her not to do so.

But Dolly didn’t wait. She just kept on running up the hall, with surprising speed, as Sonata chased her. Eventually she rounded another corner to the right, causing the Dazzling to lose sight of her.

“Dolly, please stop!” She called out, almost pleadingly.

Sonata turned the corner just in time to see Dolly running into one of the rooms about halfway down the hall. Without a second thought, she quickly made her way down to the room and entered it herself. She was immediately greeted by Dolly, who wrapped herself around her in a hug.

“Yay! You caught me, Mommy!” The young girl joyously exclaimed.

Despite Sonata’s extreme confusion about everything that was happening right now, she had to admit that it felt nice to receive a hug from her daughter. She didn’t know how, but Dolly had always had a way of making her hugs feel extra warm.

But as much as Dolly’s hug made Sonata feel happy, it also made her feel sad. It reminded her of how she’d pushed her daughter away all those years ago and missed so much of her childhood. How in one moment of anger she’d allowed herself to lose the person she cared about most in the world. She’d told herself time and again when it came to this that there was no point in dwelling on the past since it couldn’t be changed, but that never stopped her from wishing she could go back and undo her massive mistake. Even now.

“Ah, Sonata, good to see you.” A male voice addressed her from the right side of the room.

It took Sonata no time at all to realize who the voice belonged to, but she knew that she had to have been mistaken. It was impossible that the person she was thinking of was here, even more impossible than Dolly being a little girl again. She knew for a fact that they had been taken from this world. She quickly turned her head to the right to see who it actually was, but sure enough, there, sitting at a table next to the window, was none other than the father of her child.

“N-Neighsay?” She said as she felt her blood run even colder.

Aria’s aimless running through the Overlook eventually brought her to the hotel’s lobby, where she decided to stop and rest for a while. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been running, but she knew it had been long enough to make her feel tired. There was no shortage of available seating for her to choose from, so she made her way through the lobby a bit before coming across an especially comfortable looking chair just across from the reception desk and decided to park herself down there.

As Aria sat down in her chair, which did turn out to be rather comfy, she let out a small sigh as she contemplated what to do next. She still didn’t feel up to confronting her sisters just yet, so going back to her room wasn’t an option. And she knew that she couldn’t stay in the lobby for too long. If, for whatever reason, Adagio and Sonata decided to come look for her they’d probably check there since it was somewhere they’d all already been. Of course, she realized that by that logic she needed to find someplace they all hadn’t been yet to lay low, but where?

Just as the Dazzling sank a bit more into her seat and tried to recall the layout of the Overlook from the pamphlet that Adagio had shown her and Sonata, she noticed Mr. Ullman slowly approaching her from over by the reception desk.

“Hello, Ms. Blaze.” The hotel manager cordially greeted her. “How has everything been for you and your group so far?”

“Oh, uh, good. Real good.” She casually replied, trying her best not to convey any sense of distress, lest Ullman misinterpret it as a critique against the Overlook.

“Wonderful to hear.” Ullman heartily said. “And how have you found your room? You’re in 237, correct? We just had it refurbished a few months ago by a well-known designer from Fillydelphia.”

If that’s true than you should ask for your money back. Aria silently thought to herself as she recalled how tacky and dated she found some of the aspects of her room to be.

Of course, she couldn’t say that to Ullman. The last thing she needed right now was to get on the hotel manager’s bad side, which she suspected was particularly bad. In her experience, people who acted so prim and proper all the time like Ullman were the ones who had the ugliest bad sides.

“It’s…nice. Real nice.” She decided to say, as complementary as possible. “I just came back down to see more of the hotel, since the whole place is so nice.”

“Well thank you for saying so.” Ullman replied as he slightly bowed his head to her, similar to how he had when she and her sisters first met him. “Have you had a chance to see our gold ballroom yet?”

At first Aria had no idea what Ullman meant by ‘gold ballroom’, but then she remembered how Adagio had mentioned a ‘Gold Room’ earlier where everyone was supposed to have dinner and figured that was what he was referring to.

“No, I haven’t.” She told him.

“Oh, well you simply must.” Ullman insisted, as though he were trying to get her to test drive a car, before extending his arm out towards the other end of the lobby. “It’s one of the aspects of the Overlook that we pride ourselves most on.”

Aria looked towards where Ullman was gesturing and, sure enough, it was the same place Adagio had gestured to earlier when Pinkie Pie had asked where the Gold Room was.

“It’s been host to some of the most renowned gatherings and parties in the country since it’s construction 111 years ago.” Ullman continued to try and sell the ballroom to the Dazzling. “Even to this day we still continue to hold our annual New Year’s Ball in it, with only the finest imported champagne served to our guests to drink at the stroke of midnight.”

The mention of champagne peaked Aria’s interest.

“So, there’s a bar in there?” She inquired.

“Oh yes.” Ullman confirmed. “It’s rather modest but is always fully stocked with virtually every type of alcoholic beverage imaginable.”

And that was all Aria needed to hear to convince her to check the place out.

“Well if that’s the case, I think I’ll go see the Gold Room then.” She told Ullman as she got up from her seat.

“Very good, Ms. Blaze.” Ullman said before turning his attention back to the reception desk, where he noticed an employee subtly waving at him in a silent attempt to get his attention. “If you’ll excuse me, it appears I’m needed elsewhere. But please, do enjoy yourself.”

As Ullman swiftly made his way back over to the reception desk, Aria slowly made her way through the seating area as she headed towards the Gold Room.

In truth, Aria didn’t really want to go to the Gold Room since she knew that Adagio and Sonata would show up there at some point for dinner, but the prospect of having a drink or two was just too tempting to pass up. She desperately felt she needed one after everything that had happened to her today. That, and she figured a little booze might help her find some courage when she would eventually face her sisters again.

“Really hope they have Jack Daniels.” She said to herself as she approached the threshold to the hallway which led to the Gold Room.

The wall directly across from the entrance to the hallway, which featured a number of framed black and white photos, caught Aria’s eye as she stepped inside. No doubt they were all pictures of the various renowned gatherings and parties Ullman had mentioned. They weren’t of any real interest to her, but she decided to take a quick look at them to see if she might recognize any famous people in them. Most of the photos only contained about half a dozen people or less, and she didn’t recognize anyone within those ones, but the photo directly in the middle of the wall really caught her attention, as it contained at least a hundred people. But when she saw the caption on the photo, which read

Overlook Hotel
July 4th Ball

she figured she wouldn’t recognize anyone from that far back. However, just as she was about to back away from the wall and head down the hallway, the corner of her eye spotted a beautiful woman located in the back of the large group that made her pause. She couldn’t make out too many details about the woman on account of how far back she was, really only a few vague facial features and her long, silky hair, but she knew she looked familiar.

“Who are you?” She asked no one in particular as she stared at the photo more intently.

What really caught Aria’s attention about the mystery woman was her smile. It was the kind of smile that looked pleasant enough on the surface, but a closer look at it would reveal something behind it. Something…wicked, and the Dazzling knew she’d seen it somewhere before but just couldn’t remember where exactly, no matter how hard she tried. Like there was suddenly a fog around her mind that prevented her from remembering clearly.

Eventually, Aria gave up trying to place the woman and started making her way down the hall towards the Gold Room. When she reached the end of it she turned right, the only way she could turn, and then almost immediately turned right again into a longer hallway. Seeing that there was only one door located at the other end of the hall and to the left, she started to make her way down towards it.

As Aria got closer to the entrance to the Gold Room, she began to hear the faint sound of music playing.

Despite how faint it was, her keen sense of hearing and musical expertise allowed her to deduce that it was a foxtrot-tempo ballad, though something was off about it. It wasn’t anything with the music itself, but rather something more…acoustic in nature. Like the song was being played in a large, empty room which caused it to echo a lot. It was very peculiar, and raised a bit of curiosity in her.

Soon enough, Aria reached the entrance at the other end of the hall, stepped inside, and immediately knew why it was called the Gold Room. The entire room shimmered and shined like it was actually made out of gold, which was only accentuated by the various chandeliers shining brightly within. And it was fairly large to boot, with a number of red chairs and couches along the entranceway and plenty of tables and chairs spread throughout most of the room for dining. Plus, just as Ullman had said, a bar, which was located right across from the entrance.

“Good evening, ma’am.” A man dressed in a butler outfit unexpectedly greeted her.

“Oh, hey. Evening.” She greeted back, having been caught off guard a bit.

Aria half-expected the man to ask her if she wanted to be seated or see a menu or something, but he didn’t. After he greeted her he simply turned to his right towards a nearby podium and started looking over what she assumed was a reservation book of some sorts. She was fine with this though, as all she wanted was to go to the bar anyways.

As she slowly advanced towards the bar, Aria looked over to her right to see the source of the music she’d been hearing. Over on the stage located clear on the other side of the massive room was a small band with a real crooner-looking guy singing in front of an old-fashioned microphone.

“This place really needs to invest in some modern technology.” She remarked to herself as she began to wonder why so much within the Overlook, like the microphone on the stage or the typewriter in the lounge, was so dated.

What really caught Aria’s attention about the room as she continued to walk towards the bar though was just how empty the room was. She noticed a few people, no one she knew, sitting in the dining area eating and enjoying the music, but not many. It made her question why the band and crooner guy were performing with such a small audience.

“Good evening, ma’am.” A middle-aged man behind the bar greeted her once she reached it.

“Evening.” Aria casually greeted back as she pulled out a chair, took a seat, and pulled it back up. “You got any Jack Daniels?”

“We do.” The bartender cordially replied. “But I’ll need to see some identification before I can serve you, ma’am.”

“Right, right.” Aria replied as she reached into her pocket and produced her ID, knowing this drill all-too-well.

Over the years, Aria had found that one of the drawbacks to looking so young was that people often assumed she was under the legal drinking age, and thus would always ask to see her ID before serving or selling her alcohol. She was used to it for the most part, but there was an aspect of the process she still found annoying; the looks of suspicion she often received. People would take her ID, skim it over for a few seconds, and then look up at her suspiciously, as though they suspected she was trying to fool them with a fake ID. She rarely had anyone actually challenge the validity of her ID, but she almost always got the suspicious look. The Dazzling expected this time to be no different.

As Aria handed the bartender her ID she suddenly got the strangest feeling she’d seen him somewhere before, but she couldn’t remember where exactly. Much like earlier when she’d looked at that photograph and couldn’t place the woman with the long, silky hair. She once again felt a fog start to creep its way into her mind that kept her from recalling where she might know him from, or even who he was. Not liking this, she quickly gave up trying to place him.

The bartender looked over the Dazzling’s ID intently for a few seconds, but, much to her surprise and mild delight, never once brought his gaze up to her in suspicion.

“Thank you, Ms. Blaze.” He said as he handed her back her ID. “You wanted some Jack Daniels, correct?”

“Yeah, Jack Daniels.” Aria confirmed as she took her ID back.

“Coming right up.” The bartender replied as she took a small glass out from under the bar and placed it on the countertop, before turning around to get a bottle of Jack off one of the many well-stocked shelves behind him.

After Aria put her ID back in her pocket, she rummaged around another one of her pockets for a second before pulling out a couple of $10 bills to pay for her drink. She wasn’t quite sure how much her drink was going to cost her, but she figured $20 would be enough for at least two glasses of Jack.

“Here you are, Ms. Blaze.” The bartender said as he finished filling the glass and slightly nudged it closer to her.

“Thanks, um…” Aria began to say before she realized she didn’t know the bartenders name.

“Lloyd, ma’am.” The bartender urbanely introduced himself.

“Lloyd.” She reiterated, making sure she heard him correctly, as she grabbed her drink in her right hand and placed her money on the counter with her left. “Thanks, Lloyd.”

Just as Aria lifted her glass up, she noticed Lloyd slightly nudge her money back over to her.

“No charge, Ms. Blaze.” He told her as he did this.

Aria abruptly stopped just before taking her first sip of the sweet whiskey and put her drink back down on the counter, but didn’t let go of it.

“No charge?” She asked in both bewilderment and suspicion.

“Orders from the house.” Lloyd said very matter-of-factly.

Orders from the house? Did he mean Ullman? Had the hotel’s manager called him before she arrived and said that her drinks would be free of charge? These questions ran through Aria’s mind as she looked down at her money and then up at Lloyd for a moment, essentially giving him the suspicious look she’d expected to receive from him when he checked her ID.

“If you say so.” She said as she decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth and took her money back.

After putting her cash back into her pocket, Aria promptly lifted her glass back up again and allowed the drink within it to enter her mouth. She didn’t swallow it right away though, she never did when she drank whiskey. She held it in her mouth for a few seconds so that when it went down her throat she’d get the full taste of it. When she did swallow, she gave a little wince at the slight burning sensation traveling down the back of her throat. God she loved that feeling.

“Ah.” She uttered in relief as she put her glass back down. “I needed that.”

“Rough day, Ms. Blaze?” Lloyd benignantly inquired.

“Like you wouldn’t believe, Lloyd.” Aria nonchalantly replied as she relaxed a bit into her seat. “My friend who wanted me to be her girlfriend turned me down because I was taking too long to give her an answer, I found out I’m going to lose my job at the end of the month, I threatened one of my sisters, and to top it all off I punched my other sister right across the face.”

After hearing herself list off all the bad things that had happened to her over the course of the day, Aria brought her glass back up to her face and downed the rest of the Jack Daniels inside of it. Though this times she didn’t hold it in her mouth to get the full taste of it.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Ms. Blaze.” Lloyd sympathized as he poured her another glass.

Much like having her ID checked, Aria was fairly familiar with this as well; talking to the bartender about her problems. In fact, she was so familiar with it that back in Canterlot City there were one or two bartenders she was on a first name basis with because of how often she’d drink at their establishments and talk their ears off about her woes. She sometimes felt guilty for essentially using them as an alternative to therapy, but they always seemed to be okay with it. Maybe that was just part of their job description; take orders, serve drinks, and listen to customers bitch and complain about their life.

In any case, the Dazzling felt she could confide in the man behind the bar.

“You ever feel that your whole life is just one big fucking joke, Lloyd?” She asked in a rather somber manner.

“Is that how you feel your life is, Ms. Blaze?” Lloyd replied as he nudged her new glass of Jack over to her.

“…Yeah.” Aria even more somberly admitted as she pushed her empty glass off to the side and took her new one, downing almost half of it immediately.

“Why is that?” Lloyd inquired.

“Because…” Aria began to say as she stared down at her drink, feeling her words getting caught in her throat as she tried to utter them. “…because I’m the architect of my own misery.”

A single tear ran down Aria’s cheek and fell into her drink after she made her confession.

“I’m afraid I don’t quite follow, Ms. Blaze.” Lloyd said.

“I ruin everything good in my life.” The Dazzling explained as she continued to stare down into her drink, as though it were a reflecting pool that showed her all of the unfortunate truths of her life. “I ruined my friendship with Trixie, the one who wanted me to become her girlfriend, by being so indecisive about my feelings. I ruined my relationship with my sisters by threatening and hitting them.”

A few more tears ran down Aria’s face and into her Jack Daniels as she spoke, making her wonder just what the heck was going on right now. Never before had she gone this deep while talking to a bartender. Normally she would just vent or complain to them, but now it was like she was performing a psychoanalysis of herself in front of one. She didn’t like it, but she found that she couldn’t stop.

“And Glen. Oh god Glen.” She continued, feeling even more choked up now. “Why did I leave him when he was sick? I cared about that big, dumb emu like he was my own flesh and blood, but I left him when he needed me the most. And then he…”

That was as far as Aria could get before she felt an overpowering urge to finish the rest of her drink, hoping that it would make her forget all of her sorrows and regrets. But it didn’t.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the distraught Dazzling, Lloyd began pouring a third glass of Jack.

“Just what the hell is wrong with me?” Aria said, more to herself than Lloyd, as she put her now empty glass down on the counter.

“If I may be so bold, Ms. Blaze.” Lloyd began to say as he placed the new glass of whiskey in front of her. “It seems to me your problem lies with your attachment to others.”

Aria’s head shot up so quickly that she didn’t even notice she’d been given another drink.

“My…attachment to others?” She confusedly asked.

There was a brief moment of silence between Aria and Lloyd.

“Friends, family, pets. What good does it do to attach yourself to such things?” Lloyd eventually spoke up. “All they do is make life more difficult for you. They leach off of you, make their problems your problems, and treat you as if you’re just a means to an end. And in the end, they just leave you. One way or another.”

It was at this point that Lloyd pushed the glass of Jack closer to Aria so that she noticed it was there.

“So wouldn’t it be better if you simply remove such burdens from your life, Ms. Blaze?” He then asked her.

Aria stared down at her new drink intently for a moment. Part of her felt an incredible temptation to pick it up and chug it down in one swift motion, still believing that it would help her feel better. But another part of her was fighting that temptation, out of a much grimmer belief. This part of her had a feeling that if she took this drink it would be the first step down a dark and lonely path for her life. A path from which there would be no turning back, and where she’d view death as a welcome release from the inevitable desolation she’d face.

Without saying a word, the Dazzling gently pushed the glass of Jack Daniels away, and as she did so she began to feel the fog that had clouded her mind since she’d sat down at the bar begin to fade away. She was now able to recall why Lloyd had seemed so familiar to her, and she couldn’t believe how she hadn’t realized who he was sooner.

“Is that why you left us, Dad?” She solemnly asked as she looked back up at him with a great sadness in her eyes. “Because we were a burden?”

“You’re just in time for dinner.” Neighsay said to Sonata as he gestured to the seat across from him. “Please, join us.”

“Come on, Mommy!” Dolly said as she broke her hug with the Dazzling and took her right hand, trying to lead her over to the table where Neighsay was. “We’re having fish for dinner!”

Sonata put up little to no resistance against Dolly’s efforts to drag her across the room. She was too aghast to do so. Her mind reeled wildly trying to find a reasonable explanation for how Neighsay was alive. Dolly, the adult Dolly who had visited her back in Canterlot not long ago, had told her that he’d lost a two year battle with pancreatic cancer a while back, so how was it possible he was here right now? The possibility that Dolly had lied to her briefly crossed her mind, but she quickly dismissed it. She knew Dolly would never lie about such a serious matter.

And then there was the matter of Dolly herself. Sonata was still befuddled as to how her daughter had become a little girl again. Between that and now Neighsay, she was being to think she’d suffered some sort of mental breakdown and was simply hallucinating all of this. But even if that was the case, she decided it best to just roll with it. There was no harm in that. At least, none that she could see.

Soon enough the Dazzling found herself standing in front of the table Neighsay was sitting at in the random hotel room. The table was fully-set for three with some mashed potatoes and a piece of fish on each plate. Cod, by the looks of it.

“Yummy!” Dolly exclaimed as she hastily took the seat next to her father and began scarfing down the fish in front of her.

“Slow down, Dolly.” Neighsay affably but firmly told her.

“But it’s so good, Daddy.” Dolly replied, almost euphorically, as she continued to attack her dinner.

“I know it is, sweetie.” Neighsay said. “But if you don’t slow down you’re going to give yourself a tummy ache.”

Dolly immediately slowed down when she heard the words ‘tummy ache’.

The small family scene elicited a soft, involuntary chuckle from Sonata as she took a seat next to Dolly. After she’d ceased being mad at her daughter she sometimes wondered what Dolly and Neighsay’s home life was like, and what she’d just witnessed was almost exactly as she’d imagined it. Dolly being so energetic and Neighsay being firm but compassionate with her. It was the sort of thing one might expect to see on an old sitcom.

The only downside to the scene was that it reminded Sonata of what she’d missed out on by being so angry at Dolly for so long; a happy family life. While she’d never actually desired a family of her own before, she couldn’t help but feel sad that she’d thrown away the chance at one all those years ago.

“Are you all right, Sonata.” Neighsay concernedly asked her.

“Oh, y-yeah, I’m fine.” She tentatively replied.

In an attempt to emanate a sense of being okay, Sonata picked up her knife and fork and cut into her fish. Once she’d cut off a small piece, she impaled it with her fork and brought it up to her mouth. As she took a bite and chewed her food, she found it to be surprisingly good. If this was just a hallucination, it sure was a tasty one.

“Are you certain?” Neighsay then said, clearly not having been convinced. “You seem…put upon.”

“Put upon?” Sonata confusedly asked once she’d swallowed her fish.

“Yes, put upon.” Neighsay reiterated. “Like a terrible weight has been put upon you by someone.”

As soon as Neighsay said this, Dolly put down her eating utensils, leaned over in her chair towards Sonata, and quickly looked her mother up and down for a few seconds, much to the Dazzling’s bewilderment.

“Mommy doesn’t look like she’s put on any weight, Daddy.” She said as she turned to her father.

Neighsay gave an amused chuckle at Dolly’s comment. Sonata simply dawned a bright red blush across her face.

“T-Thank you, Dolly.” The Dazzling told her daughter with a hint of embarrassment in her voice.

“Not that type of weight, Dolly.” Neighsay explained to the little girl. “I was referring to emotional weight.”

“Ohhh.” Dolly replied, acting as if she understood but clearly didn’t.

Even in her slightly embarrassed state, Sonata couldn’t help but give a small giggle at Dolly’s misunderstanding.

“So tell me, Sonata.” Neighsay then addressed her, getting back on topic. “Is there anything that’s been bothering you lately? Anything that’s been causing you emotional distress?”

Oh, there were plenty of things causing Sonata distress at the moment, not the least of which being that she was in a room with her mysteriously age-regressed daughter and supposedly deceased former lover. But she decided it best to not bring that up with said daughter and former lover.

“Well, I’m a little worried about my sisters.” She meekly replied. “See, Aria and Adagio got into a fight earlier. A big fight. Bigger than any they’ve had before.”

“Why were they fighting?” Neighsay inquired.

“Because we’re losing our job soon and…it might be because of me.” Sonata somberly said as she looked down at the table. “I made a mistake. A big one. One that could end up costing us everything we’ve worked so hard to build for ourselves.”

Much like when she’d first been accused of being the reason for losing their job by Aria, Sonata began to feel like she was on the verge of tears.

“And on top of all that, Rainbow Dash asked me to move to Vanhoover with her, putting me in a position where I’d have to choose between her and my sisters.” She continued, managing to hold back tears for now. “I’m not mad at her for that though, in fact I’m actually happy that she wants us to stay together, but I…I don’t know if I can choose between her and my sisters. I love Dashie with all my heart, but I just don’t know if I can leave my sisters during this difficult time to be with her.”

At that moment, a single tear fell from the corner of Sonata’s eye.

“I just wish there was another way.” She solemnly finished as she wiped the tear from her face.

Just then, Sonata unexpectedly felt a small pair of arms wrap tightly around her waist, and she looked down to see Dolly embracing her in a hug and staring up at her with a sympathetic expression.

“Don’t be sad, Mommy.” The little girl said to her. “You don’t have to choose.”

Feeling touched by her daughters compassion, Sonata reached down and returned the hug as best she could.

“Thank you, sweetie.” She warmly told her. “But unfortunately Mommy does have to make a choice between Rainbow Dash and Aunts Adagio and Aria.”

“Not necessarily.” Neighsay spoke up. “If you want, you can stay here with us.”

Upon hearing Neighsay’s words, Sonata immediately broke her hug with Dolly and looked up at him with a look of shock on her face.

“W-What?” She very confusedly asked.

“You can stay here with Dolly and myself.” Neighsay explained. “If you do, you won’t need to make such a difficult choice.”

“Yeah, stay with us, Mommy!” Dolly energetically chimed in, causing Sonata to return her attention to her. “Then we can play together forever and ever and ever!”

Sonata had no idea what either Neighsay or Dolly were talking about. How could she possibly stay with them? They weren’t real. They were just hallucinations created by her mind. She couldn’t stay with them. But then again, what if she was wrong about all of this just being in her head. What if they somehow really were real. What if fate was giving her a second chance at the family she could’ve had all those years ago. She found that she couldn’t rule this possibility out, mostly because she didn’t want to. She desperately wanted to believe she was being given a chance to start again with Dolly, to correct the mistakes she’d made before.

But even as Sonata contemplated whether her current reality was really real or not, there was one facet that still troubled her; staying with them forever. Even if they were real, could she really leave both Rainbow Dash and her sisters forever just to avoid having to choose between them? Wouldn’t that be worse than choosing one over the other? And how would forever work anyways? Would they just live together in the hotel until the end of time, immortal and unchanging?

The more Sonata asked herself these questions, the more she found that staying with Dolly and Neighsay simply wasn’t an option, even if it truly was possible.

“I’m sorry, Dolly.” She said as she gently removed her from her person. “But I can’t stay with you.”

“But if you go, you’ll have to make a choice and you’ll be sad, Mommy.” Dolly sullenly said to her.

“I know, sweetie.” She judiciously began to reply. “But making choices is how you move on in life. You can’t run away from them just because they might make you feel sad when you make them, otherwise nothing will ever change. I don’t know which choice I’ll make yet, or how I’ll feel about it later after I make it, but I know that it’s a choice I have to make. Even if it makes me sad for a bit.”

And with that, Sonata got up from her seat and kneeled down to give Dolly one last hug before she left, which Dolly didn’t return. After that, she got back up and looked over to Neighsay.

“It was good seeing you again, Neighsay.” She genuinely said to him. “And thanks for taking care of Dolly.”

Neighsay said nothing as Sonata walked past Dolly and headed for the door. The Dazzling didn’t get very far though, as she soon felt a small tug on her skirt that kept her from leaving.

“Don’t go, Mommy.” She heard Dolly rather grimly say.

Feeling a slight chill run down her spine at the way Dolly had told her not to go, Sonata turned around and saw what was perhaps the most frightening thing she’d ever seen. Her daughter, now much paler and rotting, like a living corpse, wearing a tattered and torn dress.

“AHH!” She shouted in horror as she pulled herself free and fell backwards, her eyes unable to move away from the sight of the now deceased-looking Dolly, no matter how much she tried.

“Yes, Sonata, don’t go.” Neighsay just as grimly added, gaining Sonata’s attention.

Neighsay too looked like he’d just crawled out of a cemetery as he got up and slowly started walking over towards the Dazzling.

Her survival instincts kicking in, Sonata hastily got up from the floor and bolted for the door in a panic, wanting to scream as she did so but finding herself to frightened. Once she reached the door, she swiftly opened it and stepped out into the hallway, making sure to slam the door shut behind her.

Frozen in fear and breathing heavily, Sonata simply stood out in the hallway for a few seconds with the doorknob clasped in her hands, hoping that neither Dolly nor Neighsay tried to turn it in an attempt to follow her. Thankfully, it never turned.

“That wasn’t a hallucination. That was real.” She timorously told herself as she let go of the doorknob and slowly backed away from the door. “Oh god, oh god, oh god…”

As Sonata tried to process everything that had just happened to her, she ran down the hallway towards the stairs she’d used to get up to the third floor. The only thing that she could think to do now was go back to her room and tell Adagio everything that she’d just experienced. She wasn’t sure if Adagio would believe her or not, but she had to tell her anyways. Something malevolent was at work within the walls of the Overlook Hotel, and she needed to warn her about it.

Fortunately, just as Sonata reached the second floor, she spotted Adagio just a little ways down the hall.

“Dagi!” She shouted as she ran towards her.

Adagio turned around just in time to be nearly tackled into an embrace by her younger sister.

“Sonata, what-” She tried to say before Sonata cut her off.

“I saw them, Dagi, I saw Dolly and Neighsay!” Sonata started rambling like a madwoman. “Dolly was a little girl again and Neighsay was alive! We ate fish and talked and then they turned into living corpses or something and tried to make me stay with them! I know it sounds crazy, but you have to believe me! You have to belie-“

“I believe you, Sonata.” Adagio interrupted as she looked her sister square in the eyes to show her she was serious. “There’s something wrong with this place, Sunset was trying to warn us about it.”

As much as Sonata wanted to ask Adagio about what had happened with Sunset since she’d left her, she knew that that wasn’t what was important right now. And quite frankly, given what she’d just gone through herself, she didn’t want to hear about any more spooky encounters.

“So what do we do now?” She diffidently inquired as she let go of her sister.

“First we find Aria and then we get everyone out of here.” Adagio answered. “I’ll continue searching the hotel while you go back to the room in case she goes back there, okay?”

“No!” Sonata alarmingly exclaimed as she grabbed hold of her sister again. “Please don’t leave me, Dagi!”

If it wasn’t clear enough to Adagio before just how frightened Sonata was, it was certainly clear enough to her now. While she still felt one of them should wait in their room just in case Aria returned there, she knew that there was no way Sonata was going to leave her side.

“Okay…okay, new plan.” She calmingly said as she removed Sonata from her person once again. “We’ll go back to the room and see if Aria’s there first. If she isn’t, we’ll go looking for her together, all right?”

“A-All right.” Sonata agreed.

And so, the two Dazzlings quickly made their way back to room 237, though neither of them really expected to find Aria there. Deep down, they each knew that they were going to have to search the massive hotel if they wanted to find her.

“I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else, Ms. Blaze.” Lloyd said to Aria. “I’m just a bartender.”

Aria just continued to stare silently up at Lloyd with a great sadness in her eyes. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that the man before her was her father. She was sure of it. Maybe not the exact same father she’d had back in Equestria, but another version of him at the very least. Even still though, how could she not have realized that it was him from the first moment she’d laid eyes on him?

As much as Aria wanted to solve that mystery, she had more pressing concerns to worry about at the moment.

“Sorry.” She placidly apologized as she looked back down at the counter. “It’s just…my dad left me and my sisters when we were young, and we never knew why. We each had our theories though. Adagio believed it was because he’d had enough of Mom’s abuse. Sonata never believed he’d actually left. She thought something bad had just happened to him. And me? I always believed it was because he didn’t want to deal with any of us anymore. Because he saw us as a…a burden.”

The sadness in Aria’s eyes manifested itself into a few tears that quickly rolled down her face and onto the counter. She felt so pathetic in that moment, crying over the loss of her father like she were a child. It had been how many years since he’d left, and yet apparently she still hadn’t gotten over it. She began to wonder if this was just one of those things in life a person never fully got over, that it was a mental scar that would always hurt to some degree. But even if that was true, it still didn’t change the fact that she didn’t like how she was acting right now.

The temptation to have her third drink once again popped into Aria’s head. Only this time, the part of her that wanted to resist that temptation didn’t pop in as well. She went to reach for the glass of Jack but stopped when she noticed Lloyd reaching for it as well. The bartender picked up the drink and downed the whole thing himself in one swig, much to the Dazzling’s surprise.

“Some people are just meant to be alone.” He said to her once he was finished, sounding a bit different now. “They may try to socialize with others, or find love, or raise a family. But no matter how hard they may try, they can’t change the fact that, at their core, they’re just a lone wolf.”

Lloyd then put the glass down on the counter and looked Aria straight in the eyes.

“So tell me, Aria, are you a lone wolf?” He pointedly asked her.

As Aria pondered her answer to that question, she began to think about the type of person she was. It was true that she often preferred to be alone instead of around other people, and when she was around other people, even her sisters, she often wished she wasn’t. But did these things mean that she was a lone wolf? In all honesty, she was beginning to think they did.

But as she began to think more about it, Aria started to come to some surprising realizations. Despite all the times she’d desperately wanted to be alone, like when she’d been watching some low-budget kaiju movie with Adagio or shopping for outfits with Sonata, she’d never once walked away. She’d always stayed and participated in whatever activity it was she had complained about as being so unpleasant. And why? Because deep down she actually enjoyed being around other people, especially her sisters. Even if the only thing she enjoyed about it was being able to complain.

“No, I’m not a lone wolf.” She told Lloyd with no shortage of conviction in either her voice or eyes.

At this, Lloyd dawn a small, almost unnoticeable smile.

“Very well then, Ms. Blaze.” He simply replied.

“Aria!” Sonata’s voice suddenly rang throughout the room.

Aria quickly turned around to see both Sonata and Adagio rushing over to her from the entrance, each with a mixed expression of relief and worry on their face.

“What the?” She confusedly said to herself as she got up from her seat.

Once up, Aria couldn’t help but notice that the ballroom had filled up significantly with students and various other guests since she’d walked in, indicating to her that it must have been close to the scheduled dinner time.

“Aria! Thank goodness we finally found you!” Adagio said with great relief as she reached her.

Aria felt extremely confused right now. Last she’d seen her sisters she’d yelled at both of them and even hit one of them, but the way they were acting right now it was like none of that had happened.

“Is…everything okay?” She inquired, figuring that something big must have happened since she’d left their room for them to just sweep all their bad feelings regarding her actions under the rug.

“No, everything’s not okay!” Sonata alarmingly said. “There’s some seriously bad magic or something in this place. Adagio said Sunset became possessed for a little while and I saw these really spooky ghosts of Dolly and Neighsay!”

Normally Aria would simply dismiss such wild claims as pure nonsense, especially since they’d come from Sonata’s mouth. But after everything she’d just gone through with ‘Lloyd’ she had a hard time finding these claims to be all that crazy. She turned around for a moment to see if Lloyd was still behind the bar, but he wasn’t. All that remained were three empty glasses on the counter.

“I believe you.” She earnestly said as she turned back around. “So what do we do.”

Just as Adagio was about to answer her sister’s question, the lights in the room suddenly dimmed. All except for a single spotlight over the stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen.” A booming voice from over a PA system started to say. “The Overlook Hotel is proud to present to you this evening, for your entertainment pleasure, the one and only Siren of the South Seas herself, Ms. Madrigal Moonlight!”

The audience gave a loud round-of-applause as a beautiful woman with long, silky scarlet hair wearing the most amazing champagne gold V neck flapper dress you ever did see walked out onto the stage. Aria immediately recognized her from the photo she’d looked at earlier, and, much like with Lloyd, she began to feel the fog that had clouded her mind dissipate. She knew who she was now, and she really couldn’t believe how she hadn’t realized who she was sooner.

Even though Adagio and Sonata hadn’t seen the photo that Aria had, they immediately recognized the woman as well.

“Thank you, thank you. Welcome to the show.” Madrigal Moonlight ardently said to the audience as they applauded her. “Before I begin, I’d just like to dedicate this first song to my three lovely daughters; Adagio, Aria, and Sonata.”

Each of the Dazzlings cringed when they heard Madrigal say their names, and felt a truly daunting amount of despair that they hadn’t felt since they were young sirens. Their mother had returned, and as she started to sing they began to fear that they and everyone else weren't going to survive the night.