• Published 23rd Mar 2020
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Do Ponies on Earth have Magic Dreams? - Tiki Bat

The story of an optimistic young night pony, the special pony that enters his life, and how the two of them follow their dreams to make the world a better place!

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Chapter 46: Sometimes the Most Important Decisions are the Hardest to Make

The orange colored morning sky heralded what would be the final hours that Stanley and the ponies that had become his closest friends would spend in Sanctuary. A bittersweet feeling of nostalgic longing (for lack of a better term) ate away at the young night pony’s heart, for as much as he had grown to see this place as his home, he knew that it wasn’t meant to be. Sanctuary was exactly the kind of place he had dreamt of finding only a short time ago, but like most dreams, the reality was often more disappointing than the fantasy.

In this case, the disappointing reality was the drama and politics that had cropped up and driven a divide between the village. As beautiful and inspiring as the vision that drove him to this place had been, he supposed that not even ETS could change the fact that overpowering egos and blind faith towards that vision couldn’t have ever worked out without a level of compromise. That compromise was something that Dawn was either incapable, or unwilling to do, and as much as it tore at him he knew that leaving was the right decision in the long run.

Clay and rock walls surrounded the modest farm that sat a small distance from the village proper, and almost ironically gave Stanley the feeling that the farmers had always been the lone wolves of the village, finding their place as a pack in their own separate walled off compound. If any pony had a right to be unhappy here, it was them, because they were the ones that worked tirelessly to feed the rest of the village, and had often been written off as wanting more say than they deserved. This was something that both Stanley and Midnight yearned to do with their future endeavors: give every pony the chance to live in the paradise that the vision offered, but in a way that was actually attainable.

As he looked around at the fifteen or so ponies that had gathered together, he couldn’t help but see them as a sort of family of ponies that were all dealing with the same thing. In truth he only knew maybe four or five of them, and had really only grown close to Midnight and Patrick, but that didn’t change anything.

“Are you ready?” Midnight whispered to him.

“As ready as I can be,” Stanley replied. “What about you?”

She shrugged. “My stomach’s in knots over this, but it’s a little too late to back off of it now.”

“A lot of us have reservations,” Patrick chimed in, “but the majority of the vote was in favor of us leaving. If you want to stay around then you can, but there’s a lot of ponies here looking up to you two, and they need a leader right now.”

This struck Stanley with a feeling of doubt that was very hard to shake.

He shook his head. “I’m not a leader, and I don’t think I need to be that for anypony.”

“Whether you want to be or not, that doesn’t change the fact that these ponies look up to you.” Patrick countered. “The village had a lot of problems that you unintentionally helped bring to the surface, and while it might not have been the best thing to do right after showing up, it would have happened eventually. You just happened to be there to help guide it into something good instead of something that could have ended very badly.”

Stanley reflected on this for a moment. As true as Patrick’s words might have been, he still didn’t consider himself a leader, but the gathered ponies certainly saw him as one, or at the very least they saw him as one above Dawn.

“Thanks Patrick, but I think it’s important to remember that we all have a role to play in this. Sure there’s the more logical ponies like me and you, but there’s also the compassionate ones like Midnight and the physically strong ones like Gizmo.”

“Which makes it all the more important that we stick together on this. You know, show them that we can do what Dawn couldn’t.”

“I hate to interrupt,” Midnight interrupted, “but the Sun’s almost up. We should get going before Dawn checks out for the day.”

“Does that really matter?” Stanley asked, dragging the moment out longer, if even just subconsciously.

“I’d say so,” she reaffirmed. “We’re not antagonizing her, so it’s important that we do this amicably while she’s still in town hall. Give her our reasoning for leaving and officially part ways that way.”

“If that’s what we need to do, then that’s what we need to do. I said I’d be with you so I’ll stand with you in this.”

Midnight smiled, “Thanks Stanley. It means a lot to me.”

“Ponies help each other out, right? I know I’m kind of mixed on everything, but it’s a little late to turn back.”

“Right… well, I guess it’s now or never.”

The walk from the farm in the outskirts to the town hall was quiet and surprisingly tranquil, even though the feeling in Stanley’s gut kept him on edge. More scattered thoughts that jumped from his time before ETS and up until the present flashed through his mind again, and with a cautious sense of optimism he looked forward to the future. That was always what he was good at— finding optimism in even the most uncertain situations.

“Everything okay Stan? You seem a little on edge,” Patrick asked.

“Just thinking a lot about how far I’ve come is all.”

“Oh?” the unicorn raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“Well I was a shy timid human and here I am now, leading a group of ponies to exile. It’s just a weird shift, you know?”

Patrick laughed and nodded his head, “Oh believe me I do. Sometimes I sit up at night and think about how things were before.”

“Is that right? What kind of things?”

The question seemed to catch his friend by surprise, because he sat silent and considered it for a moment.

“All sorts of things. Stuff like where I was, where I was going— lots of thinking back on my career choices and wondering if I made the right ones?” He paused for another moment and seemed to well up with emotion. “I lost my dad before ETS, and that was a big thing that I kept thinking about. Really made me wonder if it was worth staying where I was or whether I should just pack up shop and start fresh somewhere else.”

“And that’s what got you to move out here?”

“It was part of it,” he agreed. “The whole turning into a pony thing really made me realize how unhappy I had been for a while. Made me realize that I needed some more laughter in my life and that got me thinking about what I needed to do to fix that. Wound up hearing word of a place called Sanctuary, a village for ponies that wanted to start anew, and well, the rest was history.”

Now it was Stanley’s turn to pause, and in a move that caught Patrick off guard, he pulled his friend into a tight hug. “I’m sorry you had to go through all that, and I’m sorry that now you’re being pushed out of this place.”

“It sucks but what can you do? I moved on before and I’ll move on again, there’s no point in dwelling on what’s lost…”

“Because you’ll just lose sight of what’s ahead.” Stanley finished for him.

Patrick smiled, “I can’t believe you still remember that.”

“How could I forget? That was practically your dad’s motto when we were kids.”

“He always was a real optimist, eh?” Wiping a few tears that had welled up in his eyes, Patrick continued his stride. “Thanks for everything, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I’m looking forward to it.”

The town hall was slowly approaching, and with it came another hushed silence. Midnight stepped forward into the meeting chamber and nervously looked back before taking a very deep breath.

“Dawn, we need to talk.”

The striking orange mare looked up from her desk and raised an eyebrow, “Midnight? I thought you had today off.” She looked past her and towards the gathered crowd, “I’m going to take it that this is an impromptu meeting then?”

“You could say that,” she replied. “It’s important though.”

She rolled her eyes and nodded. “Well, I guess the floor’s yours then.”

She took another breath. “It’s time I come clean. After our last meeting I went behind your back and gave the earth ponies exactly what they wanted. This was dishonest, untrustworthy, and went behind your back because I got tired of trying to make peace here.”

Dawn sat speechless for a moment, no doubt unsure of what to make of the situation.

“What did you do?” she finally asked aloud.

“I scrapped your approved plan,” Midnight admitted, “I let the farmers have their free reign and hid it from you. Faked records, diverted you away from there… and I lied to you about it all.”

Dawn stood up from her seat, “Midnight I… you did all of that?”

“I did.”

“I… I’m going to be honest, I feel very betrayed right now.”

“And you have every right to be.”

“Oh do I now? I have every right to be upset?” She began to raise her voice, “I’d ask you if you knew how much I had to sacrifice to keep this place afloat but I know full well that you do.”

“I do Dawn, and that’s why I’m owning up to this. Because the guilt was killing me and instead of continuing it like I was going to do I decided I owed it to you to come clean.”

“Well thanks for considering my thoughts on this,” she sarcastically quipped. “As for you,” she turned to Gizmo, “I’ve had about enough of your antics and at this point I’d rather have you gone. So consider this your eviction notice.”

“We actually took a vote,” Stanley added. “And the result was us deciding to self-exile instead of sitting here and overthrowing your order even more.”

The mare shook her head, “So you’re all leaving too then? Leaving me without an administration team?”

“You seem to do a fine job of ruling over this place by yourself.” Gizmo fired back.

Dawn’s gaze narrowed into a furious glare, “All of you can leave right now. And if I see you around here again, security’s not going to play nice.”

“Adding threats in doesn’t help your case,” he calmly replied.

“We’ll leave without any trouble, Dawn,” Midnight answered back to her. “I know it seems like we’re coming over here just to rile you up but I felt I owed you an apology and a goodbye before leaving.”

“Apology rejected. We could have negotiated and handled this in a way that didn’t involve going behind my back, and if you were really sorry then you would have thought of that.”

“What can I say? We already tried negotiating with you and that ultimately went nowhere. It really hurts me to do this but if I wasn’t sorry then I wouldn’t have made the effort to come clean. We would have just continued as we were or left out of the blue one day. I respected you and considered you a friend as much as we butted heads, and I only did what I did because I didn’t want to see this place fail.”

“Well it probably will now.” Dawn shook her head, “What hurts the most is that I considered you a friend too, and I don’t think I can say that anymore right now.”

The petty drama was starting to annoy Stanley, but he wisely chose to remain silent instead of voicing his opinion on the matter. This was clearly something that could have just ended as it had, and Dawn’s insistence at making it a bigger problem wasn’t helping.

Deciding to try and move things along in a more productive way, Stanley interrupted the two. “Okay, let’s step back and just accept that what’s done is done and move on. I realize that what Midnight did hurt you, but we can’t change that now. We’re about to leave forever so if you have anything to say you should probably do it now.”

“I don’t have anything else to say to you. Just know that you’re hurting the village with this, in ways you can’t even understand.”

Stanley could have fired back that the blame went both ways and that Dawn’s own inability to compromise had directly led to this, but he simply nodded and waved Midnight out, not wanting to go down the path of another argument. “Goodbye Dawn.”

Stanley quickly but carefully packed his few belongings into the bag he had come here with, and let the fresh memories of this place rush through his mind again. This was it, the last time he’d ever see this room, and the last time he’d see this place. There was still that loose sense of longing for a peaceful resolution that would have fixed all of the problems here running in his mind, but he knew for a fact it wasn’t as strong as the one Midnight had to have been feeling.

She had helped start this place, and in a way she had also ensured its end. Stanley could only assume that it was hitting her hard with the sunken and withdrawn way she carried herself which only seemed to confirm that. Her dark purple coat almost seemed a shade darker, as if her emotions had bled out into her physical being, but alas it was only a trick of the light. A part of him wanted to pull her into a tight hug and say everything was going to be okay, but she deserved to have this final moment to herself.

“You know, I knew this wouldn’t last. The writing was on the wall for a very long time,” she spoke in a low voice. “But even right now it feels so… surreal.”

“It's a big change. But you just have to stick with your feelings and look at what both decisions would have ended with.”

“I am,” she nodded, “but the guilt’s still there, even if I really don’t have much to be guilty about.”

“It’s valid though,” he reassured her, “you made a tough decision and just came clean to a pony who was a friend. It’s only natural that you’ll think about all the what if’s and run the scenarios through your head. But what’s done is done and we need to move on.”

“Do you think it’ll work?” Midnight looked up at him.

“Starting fresh? I don’t know to be honest. But I guess we have to make it work, right?”

“Right… we owe it to everypony else to.”

Midnight picked up the small bag that carried her worldly possessions and looked back wistfully at the building that she had considered her home for many months now.

“Okay, let’s get going.” She solemnly said as she led the way outside to the waiting group.

Slowly trotting through the village, the assembled group glanced around, no doubt reflecting on their own paths in life. Many would continue on with Midnight, Patrick, and Stanley, but a few others were simply parting ways and finding their own places in the world.

Together they hiked away past the parking area that Stanley had first arrived in, until they had settled in a field that was a safe distance away from the village. They could have taken the farm, or settled just outside the gates…. but together they unanimously chose to distance themselves from the home they no longer had.

Stanley looked up at the bright sun and squinted his eyes, turning to Midnight. “I’m going to go ahead and call my friends, see how fast they can get out here. We’ll probably be camping out until tomorrow though.”

“I think we can manage that.” Midnight smiled. “Just clue me in on what we’re doing and I can let everypony know.”

“Will do.” Stanley looked around for a good place to make his call and decided on a small stone bench that was a little further from the rest of the group. There wasn’t any reason why he couldn’t just make the call from where he was, but with how loud and nosey ponies could get, he figured that at least a small semblance of privacy would be best.

Fishing through his bag, he pulled out his phone and used the voice command function that his father had helped him set up. For a moment the brief question of whether he had entered the right number flashed through his mind. The phone continued to ring for a few short moments before the person on the other end finally picked up.

“Marcus speaking, what’s up?”

Stanley’s ears perked up and a rush of relief washed through him. He had no idea what he would have done if he had screwed this one very important task up.

“Hey umm, this is weird but I’m one of Tinker’s friends and he said that you’d be able to help us out?”

“You’re the bat with a whole village’s worth of ponies coming down this way, right?”

“Something like that,” he agreed. “So Tinker told you about the situation then?”

“Just what I needed to know. Group of ponies is skipping town and needed a human to help drive them over to the spooky old ghost town?”

“More or less. So what do you need from us?”

“Location, how many ponies you’ve got, and when you want to get picked up.”

Stanley glanced over towards the group a short distance away and quickly took a mental count of them. “There’s about fifteen or so ponies here, as soon as possible would be nice, and I can send you the directions. It’s not really on the map but I can drop the closest spot and guide you over.”

“Fifteen you say? Gotcha.”

“That’s not going to be an issue, will it?”

“Not at all. Just gotta spring for the shuttle instead, won’t be trouble at all though. I won’t be able to get you until tomorrow though, so you’ll have to hang tight until then, is that good?”

Stanley thought back to the discussion that he and midnight had had, and nodded out of habit. “Yeah, that won’t be a problem at all.”

“Then it’s set. I’ll get you sometime in the afternoon tomorrow. I’m good to call you back at this number then?”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Just let me know when you’re on your way and we’ll be all set.”

“Groovy, I’ll see you then.”

“Thanks!” Stanley cheerfully replied.

The line went dead and with it so did some of his anxiety. There was still a sense of urgency and uncertainty, but at least it wasn’t as strong as before. Time would only tell what the future had in store… but the next day would hopefully bring a bright start to it.

Author's Note:

Only one chapter left until the last stretch of the story. After that chapter I’m putting the story into a hiatus and finishing the rest so I can do daily releases for the last week.

I know I’ve said this a lot throughout this story, but this is genuinely a really special project to me and I’d really appreciate any feedback or thoughts. I know it might feel like it’s not worth saying what’s on your mind, but hearing what readers think means a lot to me and I always welcome and appreciate it, even if it’s just something small.

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