• Published 17th Nov 2012
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Life is a Lemon - Blueshift



Lemon Dreams is a pony who thinks she is a lemon

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Chapter 5 - It’s All Coming Back To Me Now (Yes, It’s All Coming Back)

There are some philosophers who believe that time is not a straight line. Instead, the entire gauntlet of experience, all that ever was and will be, occurring in an instant. All of history happening at once. Time is simply our way of contextualising and processing such an awesome influx of information.

There are others who say that this is complete nonsense.

As Lemon Dreams lay sobbing in the cold and rain that stormy night, the barriers she had so carefully erected in her mind came tumbling down. And everything flooded back at once.


It is now.
Lemon Dreams lay in the mud, shivering and shaking as she was overcome with tears, begging forgiveness before the spectre. Dimly she was aware of a voice screaming “sorry” over and over again, before realising that was her, voice breaking with the strain of so much crying.

Slowly, the ghost took a step forward, its tiny hooves hovering barely an inch above the rain-sodden ground, staying silent as the grave as it looked down upon her. Lemon Dreams attempted to push herself back up, but her forehooves gave way, and with a sigh and a splash she fell back into the mud.

“I’m sorry,” she whimpered again. “So sorry.”


It is every night for the last ten years.
In her dreams, in the darkness, something falls.


It is sixteen years ago.
“Whoa, careful now!”

Lemon Dreams peered up at her dad from beneath the large wicker basket she had precariously balanced on her head which tottered from side to side with its cargo of lemons. She had picked them herself; she was only a small filly and not tall enough to reach even the lowest branch, but her dad had hoisted her into the air so that she could reach.

“I know what I’m doing daddy!” Lemon Dreams pouted back, toddling alongside the older pony, using one hoof to steady the basket. The smell of citrus wafted into her lungs, and she breathed heavily, savouring the sensation. She loved helping out at the family orchard, especially now that her parents had stopped treating her like a foal. Playing with her friends was fun, but there was something about walking the lemon-tree strewn hills with her dad that made her feel… important.

“I know, sweetie, I know.” Her dad stopped to smile at her. He was a big pony, the biggest pony Lemon Dreams knew, with a big moustache and the nicest, kindest smile of any pony, except maybe her mum.

Lemon Dreams felt a burst of happiness, and lifted her head to smile back. Unfortunately this spilled her heavy basket of lemons, which cascaded its contents down all around her. She swiped her hooves out futilely and felt to the ground with a thump having failed to catch a single one.

“Sorry! Sorry!” she yelped, forlornly picking up the nearest lemon and turning it over in her hooves. It was bruised now. Bruised lemons were no good for market, they were ruined. Her bottom lip started to quiver.

“It’s okay Dreamy, it’s okay.” A large comforting hoof hugged her tight, and Lemon Dreams found herself pressed into her dad’s chest, drying her eyes on his fur. “Accidents happen. You’re my little filly, and I’m so proud of you. Never forget that.”

Despite her tears, Lemon Dreams felt a smile twitch at the sides of her mouth. She broke away, and hefted up the nearest lemon, checking it carefully for bruising. “When I grow up,” she announced with all the authority of a small filly, “I’m going to be a farmer just like you and mummy.”

Her dad ruffled her mane in a playful manner, causing Lemon Dreams to squeal in delight and drop her lemon. “You’re a clever filly, Dreamy. It’s early days yet, you can be whatever you want to be! We’ll love you no matter what!”

“I know.” Lemon Dreams watched the lemon roll away. “I know.”


It is every night for the last ten years.
In her dreams, in the darkness, something falls, tumbling end over end into infinity.


It is four years ago.
“Is there nothing you can do?” Lemon Meringue slumped dejectedly against the chair, his head lolling back as he sighed. “You’re a doctor! That’s what you’re for! When we heard she’d come to see you, well, we hoped…” He trailed off and wiped a tear from his eye. He wasn’t the sort to cry. “We still love her, you know. She needs to realise that.”

“I know.” Lucid Light leaned forwards to scratch some notes into a large manila folder full of papers. It wasn’t particularly important notes, but the act of writing helped to fill any awkward silences. When he was sure the large stallion had stopped crying, he dropped his pencil. “It’s been ah, four years since the… lemon thing.” He chose his words carefully, ready to change tack at any moment in case of upset. “She’s an adult now; she’s got her own place in Ponyville. She came to me with bad dreams and I thought – hoped – I could fix things, but…” He threw up his hooves. “Maybe it’s better this way.”

Lemon Meringue sunk lower into the chair than Lucid thought possible. “Better?” he choked out. “Better? How is it better? We want our daughter back!” He stopped abruptly, realising what he had said as he went misty-eyed, feeling the prick of another tear on his cheek.

“Yes, well…” Lucid pushed a handy box of tissues across his cluttered desk. “That’s the problem, isn’t it? She’s happy, Mr Meringue. I’m sure I can cure her, but then she won’t be happy. In the final analysis, I think we will both agree that her current state of mind is for the best.”

Lemon Meringue did not reply. Not for a good minute, which in the silence of the office felt like forever. Finally he rose to leave. “Maybe,” he said quietly, almost imperceptibly, before walking to the door. He turned at the doorframe, looking at Lucid with large, sad eyes set above a faded drooping moustache. “We still love her, of course we do. How couldn’t we? But sometimes, late at night when I can’t sleep and have to watch my wife cry herself to sleep, sometimes, Mr Lucid, I don’t love her. And that kills me.”

He left without another word. Lucid gave a deep, long sigh and slammed the folder shut with an air of finality.

It was better this way.


It is every night for the last ten years.
In her dreams, in the darkness, something falls, tumbling end over end into infinity. Lemon Dreams reaches out her hooves, but it is too far away.


It is fifteen years ago.
Lemon Dreams paced up and down the clean white corridor restlessly. She didn’t like it. She didn’t like the sterile smell, she didn’t like the harsh, cold lighting, and most of all, she didn’t like the waiting. “Come on, come on!” she wailed, throwing her body against the waiting room door. “Come on!”

“Dreamy, please, calm down!” her father hushed, pulling her to one side. ”It’s all going to be okay, I promise. We’ve had this talk, remember?”

“But it’s a hospital!” Lemon Dreams wailed, breaking free to butt her little head against the door again. “I want my mummy! I want to know she’s okay! Come on!” She bounded at the door again, only to crash straight into the hooves of a nurse who had the misfortune to open the door at Lemon Dreams charged.

“Whoops!” Lemon Dreams heard her father laugh heartily, and gave a weak smile up at him as he set her upright again.

“If you’d like to come this way?” The nurse gave Lemon Dreams a little grin as she tumbled about her feet. Lemon Dreams perked up at this, and started to anxiously scamper after the nurse, feeling her dad grab at her tail whenever she was in danger of tripping up the larger pony.

The sounds and sights of the hospital were dizzying as Lemon Dreams trotted along. Almost everywhere she looked, she could see doctors and nurses busy at work, moans and groans from sick ponies, and the occasional wailing. Her ears flattened against her head whenever she heard anything like that, it brought up uncomfortable feelings of dread. Her dad hadn’t even wanted to bring her to the hospital, but she had begged and begged until he relented. It was important, she knew that. She knew she had to be there.

Finally they reached their destination. Lemon Dreams started to nose open the door, but she was swept back by her father’s strong hoof. “Now, you be a good filly and stay here for a moment, okay?” She began to squeal in protest, but then thought better of it. Her dad stepped into the room with the nurse and shut the door.

Lemon Dreams pushed her ear against the door, straining as hard as she could to hear anything. Every moment, every second filled her with a mounting panic. After what seemed like an eternity, the door opened and her dad’s head popped out. She looked up, mouth agape in shock.

He had been crying.

“No! No! Mummy!” Lemon Dreams leapt into the room, around her surprised father and towards the lone bed, screaming “no, no no!” the whole time. She skidded to a halt as she reached the side of the bed, looking in confusion at the beaming, happy face of her mother.

“Dreamy dear!” her mother cooed out in that soft, sing-song voice of hers, propped against a mound of pillows. She was holding something, but Lemon Dreams wasn’t quite tall enough to see.

“What is it?” Lemon Dreams started to hop in agitation, looking between her parents and the nurse, eyes wide and almost spinning from bewilderment.

Her dad reached over to the strange bundle and took it from her mum, lowering it down to Lemon Dream’s eye level. She could see now that he had been crying, but he was also smiling. She had never seen him so happy before. “Say hello to your sister, Dreamy.”

Lemon Dreams held her hooves out and with the help of her dad, supported the bundle, staring at the face that poked out of the blankets in slack-jawed amazement. A tiny yellow head framed by a flame-orange mane gurgled back at her. “Don’t worry,” she said to her dad as she took the full weight of the foal. “I won’t drop her. What’s her name?”

Her dad beamed down at her as she slowly rocked the baby. “Sunshine.”


It is every night for the last ten years.
In her dreams, in the darkness, something falls, tumbling end over end into infinity. Lemon Dreams reaches out her hooves, but it is too far away. She swims forwards in the air, but it is always just out of her grasp.


It is fourteen years ago.
Lemon Meringue risked a peek from the kitchen door, ducking back out of sight before either of his two daughters saw. “You know,” he said to his wife with a broad smile cracking across his weathered face, “I always thought Dreamy might resent not being the only filly in the family, but they’ve been inseparable haven’t they?”

“It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” Peachy Keen rested her head against her husband’s neck as she listened to the noise from the other room. “Oh, what a happy life we lead.”

Lemon Dreams gently rocked her sister back and forth in her hooves, marvelling at the warmth of her tiny body. “You are my Sunshine,” she sung softly, nuzzling her forehead. “My only Sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey."

Sunshine burbled up at her, waving out a hoof. Lemon Dreams gently bopped it in return.

"You’ll never know dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my Sunshine away.”


It is every night for the last ten years.
In her dreams, in the darkness, something falls, tumbling end over end into infinity. Lemon Dreams reaches out her hooves, but it is too far away. She swims forwards in the air, but it is always just out of her grasp. She strains her eyes in the gloom, desperately trying to see what it is.


It is eleven years ago.
"Argh, nearly got it!" Sunshine wobbled unsteadily on the branch, edging ever closer to the butterfly that sat atop a ripe juicy lemon, flapping its wings lazily in the afternoon breeze. She kept her full attention on her quarry, stalking forwards and doing her best not to look down at the ground below. It hadn't seemed that high when she was climbing the tree, but had a sort of dizzying quality whenever she glanced at it that made her feel slightly sick. Still, she knew nothing bad could happen to her.

"Get down from there!" Lemon Dreams glared as hard as she could at her little sister, lost amongst the foliage of the lemon tree. "You're not s'posed to climb the trees, mum and dad said so!" She placed a hoof on the trunk as if about to climb up herself, but thought better of it and withdrew. "You're too heavy!"

"Am not!" Sunshine squeaked back, settling back on her haunches as she tensed up her body, bright eyes fixed on the butterfly waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. Quick as a flash she leapt forwards, mouth opened wide ready to snatch up the butterfly by its wing. Too late, she realised her mistake as her full weight landed on the edge of the branch, which instantly snapped and sent her crashing to the ground in a flurry of broken twigs and leaves, the butterfly taking to the air in an almost mocking defiance of her tumble.

Sunshine barely had time to scream as the ground rushed towards her, but the tumble was broken as a pair of strong hooves dived in from nowhere, and she collapsed in a tangle of limbs onto her sister.

“Pah!” Lemon Dreams spat out Sunshine’s mane which had landed in her mouth and placed the small filly onto the ground with an admonishing gaze. “I told you! Told you! Trees aren’t for jumping about in and butterflies aren’t for catching!”

Sunshine wrinkled her nose, tail flapping side to side as she watched the butterfly flutter off against the bright sun. Eventually she had to look away, screwing her eyes at the harsh light. “I know, Lemmy, I know!” she squeaked.

“Good!” Lemon Dreams ruffled her sister’s hair and pulled her in for a hug. “You just listen to me in future, remember that!”

“I know!” Sunshine mumbled again, pressing her messy mane against her sister’s side before breaking into a big grin. “When I grow up, I’m gonna be just like you! You’re the bestest, most perfect pony ever!”

“Nah, that’s silly! Don’t be silly!” Lemon Dreams tilted her head upwards, ostentatiously to look at the overhanging lemons, but really to hide the big smile breaking across her face, her heart bursting with pride.


It is every night for the last ten years.
In her dreams, in the darkness, something falls, tumbling end over end into infinity. Lemon Dreams reaches out her hooves, but it is too far away. She swims forwards in the air, but it is always just out of her grasp. She strains her eyes in the gloom, desperately trying to see what it is. The shape in the darkness resolves itself with crystal clarity.


It is ten years ago.
“Happy birthday, Lemon Dreams!”

Lemon Dreams squealed in delight as she was assaulted by a bevy of streamers and coloured balloons, quickly wiping the sleep from her eyes and tussling up her mane to make herself look slightly presentable.

“Oh, you shouldn’t have!” She grinned from ear to ear, and then faltered somewhat as she peeked around her parents into the family sitting room which was worryingly bereft of presents. “Did you? I mean, you shouldn’t have, but you did, didn’t you?”

Lemon Dreams’s parents nodded to each other with a wry grin, and parted to reveal a small filly, half covered in sellotape and wrapping paper, with what looked suspiciously like a large yellow kite attached to her back.

“Bet you can’t guess what it is!” Sunshine yelped, waving at her sister. The motion of her hoof tore the paper on the kite slightly, and she gave a sheepish grin.

Lemon Dreams reached forwards and unhooked the kite from her little sister’s back. The wrapping paper fell neatly away from it and covered Sunshine like a shroud. “Oh, it’s a kite!” Lemon Dreams quipped in mock-surprise as she checked it over for any damage, snatching off a rogue piece of sellotape. “However did you know?”

Sunshine shook her head vigorously to throw off the paper. “’Cos you’ve been talking about it forever! An’ I’m a good listener!” She scrunched her nose up to remove a particularly sticky piece of tape. “An’ we’ve got vanilla slices for lunch cos that’s your favourite but it’s a surprise.” Realising her mistake, Sunshine slowly inserted her forehoof into her mouth and attempted to shrink into the background.

The kite duly inspected, Lemon Dreams looked between her parents, a hopeful gleam in her eyes. “Is there time to fly my kite now? I won’t be long, I promise!”

There was a flash of a glance between her parents, and then Lemon Meringue nodded, patting Lemon Dreams gently on the back. “Of course. You’re a big girl now, just be sure to get back before lunch time. Your mum’s been baking your birthday cake all morning.”

“Will do!” Lemon Dreams leaped up to grab both her parents in a quick hug. “Don’t worry; I just wanna see it fly!”

“Me too!” Sunshine grabbed onto the string of the kite with her mouth, crumpling one of the ribbons that adorned its tail. “Me too!”

Lemon Meringue rolled his eyes and laughed. “Go on then you two rascals. Be back within the hour, and don’t go further than the park.”

Lemon Dreams was already halfway out the door as her father spoke, the kite triumphantly resting on her back. “Don’t worry, I won’t!” she lied.


***


“Lemmy!” Sunshine whined as the two ponies trotted over a grassy verge, the wind starting to whip her mane across her face. “This ain’t the park! I thought we were going to the park!”

Lemon Dreams shot a hoof out to halt her sister, letting a sneaky grin break across her face. “It’s not the park, it’s better than the park! There’s not wind in the park, but there’s always loads here in Ghastly Gorge!”

She hefted the kite up, watching the yellow fabric brace itself in the breeze. The howling of the wind as it raced through the deep gorge below sounded like the wailing of a thousand banshees, but the updraft made it the perfect spot for getting the kite high into the sky quickly. The moment she had seen the kite she knew it had to be hers; she dreamed of proudly flying that big beautiful diamond in the air and watching it wheel and dance in the sky. There was no time to lose.

“Where we going then?” Sunshine started to chew on the kite string again. “I like this kite,” she mumbled through a mouth full of fabric, “cos the ribbons on the tails look like butterflies. I wanna make them fly!”

Lemon Dreams gently eased her sister’s mouth open and gingerly extracted the kite, inspecting the saliva-covered string for damage. Thankfully there was none. “No, you stay here!” she admonished. “Stay up here and watch me, down there’s for big ponies.”

Ignoring Sunshine’s protests, Lemon Dreams started her way down the slope towards the edge of the gorge. The grass was wet from the night before, and for several heart-stopping moments she slipped in small patches of mud that accumulated in amongst the grass. After a few giddy moments she made it halfway down the hill, steadying her hooves to avoid any accidents as she peered down the rest of the way to see the black maw of the gorge open up into a void.

She lifted the kite experimentally, to be met with a strong gust of wind from the gorge. It was perfect. With a brief glance back towards her sister at the top of the slope, who seemed more interested in the butterfly flitting about her head, Lemon Dreams began to carefully make her away along the middle of the slope looking for a good safe spot to get a run-up to launch the kite.

It was after she had walked about fifty metres that she heard the scream. The kite fell from her grasp and tumbled away discarded as her life turned on the briefest fulcrum. A small yellow and orange shape tumbled down the slope, letting out urgent cries as it fell headfirst in a sprawl of limbs that flailed helplessly in an attempt to arrest its progress.

“Lemmy!” Sunshine’s panicked voice carried oddly clearly over the whistling of the wind. “Lemmy!”

“Sunshine! Don’t worry, I’m here!” Her kite forgotten, Lemon Dreams only had eyes for her sister as she watched her roll down the hill towards the edge of the gorge. Her legs sprang instantly into life and she exploded across the hillside, racing downwards towards her sister and the edge of the chasm. Desperate eyes fixed forwards, she caught the briefest glimpse of her sister's face as she spun around and around, moving faster and further downwards.

"Lemmy!"

"Don't worry!" Lemon Dreams heard herself cry out, slipping and sliding in the grass as she tried to push herself harder.

"Lemmy!"

Sunshine was small and light; she fell down the slope almost effortlessly, tumbling faster and faster until she became a yellow and orange blur, heading relentlessly towards the gorge. Lemon Dreams was fast as well though, using her weight to push herself down the hill, the thumping of her heart in her chest almost painful as she raced forwards towards the gorge edge. She didn't slow down. Nothing else mattered.

"Lemmy!"

Sunshine's screaming echoed around her head as she bounded closer, scrambling down the grass and mud and digging great furrows into the slope as she raced down. She threw a hoof out to her sister, tantalising feet away. "Don't worry Sunshine, I've got you!"

The grassy slope suddenly gave way into rocky nothingness. Lemon Dreams leapt, beads of sweat pricking out on her face as her forehooves snatched frantically in the air for her sister.

But it was not enough.

Lemon Dreams crashed back down, inches away from the gorge’s edge as her sister sailed helplessly into the air, silhouetted against the black void and crying out her name. The last thing she saw were her sister's eyes, wide and frightened as they stared back up at her, descending rapidly into the darkness.

Then, to her eternal shame, she looked away.


It is every night for the last ten years.
In her dreams, in the darkness, something falls, tumbling end over end into infinity. Lemon Dreams reaches out her hooves, but it is too far away. She swims forwards in the air, but it is always just out of her grasp. She strains her eyes in the gloom, desperately trying to see what it is. The shape in the darkness resolves itself with crystal clarity.

And it is her sister.


It is eight years ago.

There was nothing she could have done. That’s what they said. Accidents happened. It wasn’t her fault. So many had comforted her, told her that not even the fastest pony could have caught her sister.

But in those quiet midnight hours where the silence of the family house was replaced with the silence of sleep, and the faint wracking sobs of her parents that drifted through the walls incessantly every night, she knew that was a lie.

The world was colder without her Sunshine. Everyone seemed so distant. And Lemon Dreams knew that it was her fault, that she just wasn’t good enough.

It took two years. Two years of sneaking down to that terrible gorge with a basket of lemons, rolling each and every one down the slope so that she could throw herself in their path and prove to herself that she could have caught it. That it was possible.

And it was.

“I did it,” Lemon Dreams whispered in a hoarse voice, shaking in shock, the perfect lemon gripped tightly to her chest. “I always knew I could. I knew I could make the catch.”

Copper looked at the lemon, then at Lemon Dreams with dawning comprehension. “No!” she said firmly, resting a hoof on Lemon Dreams’s shoulder as she risked a glance down to the gorge below. “No! It doesn’t mean anything, you hear? Not anything!”

Lemon Dreams ignored Copper as if she wasn’t even there, half walking, half staggering away from her friend, the lemon cradled safely against her. “I did it…” she crinkled her face, looking up at the grey sky as a few spats of rain started to fall.

She dimly heard Copper call out, but ignored her friend, instead running out across the fields into the darkening night in a strange half-aware haze. It was true. All of it true. She deserved everything she got because it was all her fault.

The thoughts thudded about in her head as she walked through the worsening storm. The rain lashed against her face but she couldn’t feel where the tears ended and rain began, trudging listlessly while evening turned into night and the young filly found herself soaked and covered in mud. It didn’t matter.

Eventually she made it back home. Standing in the family orchard, she could see the warm, inviting lights through the house’s windows, the smell of cooking wafting through into the cold air. It wasn’t for her. She knew she couldn’t go back, knew she didn’t deserve any of it, not after what she had done.

Lemon Dreams sat in the muddy orchard for what seemed an age as she stared at the house, mane matted about her face as she threw her head back and cried to the heavens for her broken heart. As her body shook, wracked with sobs, she felt the lemon still cradled against her chest, and hugged it tighter.

She risked a peek. It was perfect, nestled against her warm chest. She had saved it. Everything was okay. Slowly, Lemon Dreams turned away from the lights of the house and clambered up the rough, wet trunk of a nearby lemon tree to nestle on the lowest branch.

“It’s okay,” she whispered to the lemon. “I saved you. It’s all going to be okay.”

The rain continued to fall.


It is now…

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