• Published 22nd Feb 2021
  • 4,157 Views, 131 Comments

The Endeavor of the Damned Shadows - dannny43

After having been stripped of everything but name, awakening to a strangely familiar world, and having all of his reality turned on its head, Austin Merkelo is determined to return to Earth, sparing no caution, effort, or opportunity.

  • ...

Chapter 6: Know Thy Enemy.

The day had started like all the rest. He awoke, he ate, he watched, he waited, he existed and soon, he would fall asleep. That was how he had lived for the past week, rinsed and repeated behavior akin to a machine with one linear code of function. It was how he was the moment he had recovered from his breakdown within the guest chambers, having not since spoken or even acknowledge the existence of any others as they came and went. The Doctor, nurses, therapists, the Princesses, even the Element Bearers paid a visit, yet it did nothing to evoke a semblance of his original self, only continuing to remain a husk of a pony.

The days wasted away as blurs of moments for Austin. Barely recollected memories of movement and beings that fail to register to his clouded mind. Everything played like a barely functioning slide show to his eyes. Frame by frame blurred motions or changes of his surroundings was all he comprehended as the time counted away. He remembered what happened in that room, he remembered how everything went down, how insane he had gone from finding out the truth, how he lost all control of himself, how he became a puppet to his very own madness, and it only further drove himself into the recesses of his mind.

There he lingered, at first trying to cope with the reality of things, to calm himself enough to move on and get some sense of order within himself, but how can you do that when everything you thought you knew turned into a lie? How can you simply move forward and disregard the very basis of your life as if a mere replaceable piece? Maybe with enough time, you eventually push past the barrier, but to do it so soon? Impossible. Austin tried to break the barrier, but the strain of everything was too much for him to even try. No, he needed a moment, or in this case, a week for his senses to calm enough for him to be rational once more. However, the madness, the anger, the confusion, the questions, still lingered within, trying to tear away at his mind, ready to emerge once more.

One constant Austin faced was the presence of Luna. Day in and out, Luna would always make time to visit Austin, often breaking the silence with tales of the day court, or the progress Twilight had made, or even the shenanigans from Ponyville's very own party pony. The past few days, however, have found Luna merely joining Austin by his spot at the window, where they both would sit in complete silence, watching the world as it lived its life, watched as the ponies down below conversed at the little outdoor café, how the children ran and played in the roads and parks, how the pegasi enjoyed their freedom of the sky, how the guards remained ever vigilant at their stations, how society moved ever forward. Luna would remain long enough to display her power over the moon as night moved to claim its domain, and she would always finish with wishing Austin a goodnight before retiring to her chambers, ready to continue the cycle the next day.

Just as Luna was crossing the doorway, one, almost in-audible, word was uttered, ceasing her actions in a heartbeat, "...Beautiful..."

Orienting herself back towards Austin, she noticed his elevated head fixated on the grand display of her night sky. Finding herself right back next to him, Austin held his gaze to her for a scant few seconds before once again fixating on the beauty of the moon and stars. "...It's amazing, how everything just... is. All those stars, the moon, space, all of it always fascinated me as a child. Finding out how big the universe was, how in the grand scheme of everything happening on Earth, all the wars, famine, plagues, how in the end, we were just an atom in the cosmic scale, was a surreal feeling in itself. Too vast for the human mind to truly comprehend, makes me wonder just how humanity will cope with all that stuff when we get to exploring out there, if we don't kill ourselves first."

"...I... don't quite follow."

"It's no wonder how humans of ancient history correlated the stars and moon to gods of all kinds of faiths. They saw beauty, they saw mystery, they saw wonders before them and needed a way to comprehend just what these concepts were. As time moved forward, new faiths and religions were born for a multitude of reasons, one of which would be ingrained into my family tree for many generations to come. Growing up in a religious household, my brother and I were simply told some of Jesus's stories, we attended church every now and then, read the Bible once in a blue moon, and said prayers every night before going to bed, and that was it. Growing up, I simply accepted the faith and believed in the Holy Trinity, never thinking otherwise, but my reasons for why could not be farther from everyone else's. Other people in the world, my parents included, believed in God for various reasons: fear, love, devotion, faith, along with so many others. Mine? Insurance. Insurance, that should there truly be something beyond death, that I would be saved from the evil that sought to take my soul down to hell for eternity. Ironically, The only reason I continued to believe in the Christian faith later in my life, was because I was so scared of the thought of going to hell for all eternity. Beyond that, I cared not for the 'cult' of some bearded old guy up in the clouds who foolishly allowed the sacrifice of his son for undeserving people. I would always inwardly scoff at the remarks my dear mom always made about how some politician was unironically the devil incarnate, or I would groan at the religious gifts my devout cousin would sometimes give me for Christmas. I was by no means a bible thumper, but I still retained an open mind to things beyond our understanding, so while I believed in God enough to fear the afterlife, I was not a firm believer in the notion that man was created from dust and ribs on the sixth day of creation."

"But now? After all this? What am I to do? What do I know? What do I believe? I'm fucked in more ways than I realized, Luna. An entity, a god, or some eldritch being not from my religion has made itself known and revealed all this impossible shit. Everything I knew is a lie or fake or hell, it was always true! Heaven, Hell, God, the Devil, angels, demons, if this being is real then what's to say they aren't too!? Fuck, everything has gone to shit and I can't make sense of anything anymore. They were fiction, ...but so were you. I'm probably going to hell, it might be too late to repent for my sins. Even if I did, it might not even work, to begin with. Earth has dozens or hundreds of religions, each with its own unique rituals and ceremonies of asking for forgiveness, but which one is real or fake? How do I know if Buddha is real, instead of Zeus, or Jesus? *Sigh* I'm sorry... I'm just rambling my thoughts here, don't bother to understand what any of this means, this isn't something for you to worry about, this is something for me to figure out eventually, or maybe never at all..."



"...Ya know, speaking of gods, back in the dream realm, you said something, something that reminded me of what my father said once. You mentioned how every star in the imagination realm was someone's dream right? My father once told us that he would imagine every star in the night sky to be its own universe. When someone died, they would become God themselves and would be given one of those stars to rule over, to do as they wished." Austin turned to face Luna, "I guess you know that all too well, huh?"

"You are mistaken. I do not rule over the night sky, Austin, I guide it. I guide the moon to its realm once the moment has come and I guide the stars to their rightful place within the sky itself as dusk makes way to night. I guide the dreams away from the night terrors that wish to feed on the fear of the hosts, and I guide our ponies and subjects alike to a brighter future of promise and hope. And now? I can finally guide you. Guide you away from the madness that lays beneath your mind, and guide you back to your home... should you choose to go back."

"Wha? Should I choose to? What does that mean?"

"... I do not believe it to be chance that summoned you into our realm, Austin. The probability of landing here amongst all others is beyond calculations. There are forces here that protect us from the outside realms with powers beyond anycreature's understanding. It is entirely possible that you were not forced into our land, but instead were invited. The possible reason as to why eludes me, but... maybe... you should not be so haste to return. I'm...I'm..." Luna turned away with highlighted cheeks, a frantic race of words spewed forth, "...I'mnotsayingsuchformyownsake! ...But, so much so in the case that you... will not be allowed to return so soon."

"... It wasn't by chance Luna, nor was I invited either. Some entity ripped me from my home and placed me here, it said it chose me. It described everything like I was an actor, performing to an audience of eyes, whatever the hell that means. It wanted me to go home, to progress the story or whatever, and I just don't care to understand or even try to understand what it wants right now. Whether I'm allowed to or not, Luna, I have to go home, I will go home. Nothing will make me think otherwise." Austin uttered the last sentence with an undertone growl, having let slip the madness for a few seconds.

Luna did not respond, instead choosing to keep herself faced away from Austin. "...Then we shall do all we can to help you, Austin. I promised to be there for you, I'm here now, and I will continue to be by your side until the end. I above all others understand what it means to see your world changed before your very eyes. Nopony was there to comfort me, to truly understand my heavy heart, not even my own sister. But I will not allow the same to happen to you. You have me, Austin. I shall not waver before you."

"...Thank you, Luna."

"Get some rest, Austin. Tomorrow we shall have a scheduled meeting with Twilight, she may already have a way to find your home, but she will need some information from you, and I believe it will be a long, taxing, and tedious task. Goodnight." With that, Luna excused herself from the room and ever gently shut the door behind her. She lingered in that spot for only a few seconds, enough so to let one single small tear to drip before resuming her duties as the Princess of the Night.

Austin was already being subjected to a bad start upon waking from his slumber, his wings felt bumpy and pain flared with almost every touch that made contact with them. Having spent the whole week in a vegetative-like state, Austin almost failed to remember what the Doctor had described back in his last patient room before going nuts on them. He described something called a ten-day period of recovery and recession, his body had finally recovered and he was now beginning to feel the recession hit. Once again Austin took note of the many blisters that were beginning to form along the inflamed skin on the base of his wings, sores filling up with puss and blood that will no doubt be ready to be popped once night comes, meanwhile, his horn was beginning to leak droplets of blood.

Not long afterward, Luna had stopped by to escort him to the designated meeting area. A little wave of deja vu kicked in Austin's head as he saw Celestia and Twilight once again outside the room just like before.

"Good morning Luna, good morning Lone Star, it is good to see you have recovered from your troubled mind, the past week or so has not been very kind to you, has it?" Celestia greeted Luna and I upon our arrival to the meeting room entrance, the same room from way back before. Twilight and Celestia had settled themselves right back into their old positions like before with Luna taking her seat too.

"I can't say anything has been too kind to me lately besides ya'll Princess. I take what I can get though. Before anything else, I want to apologize to you Celestia for what I did back there, what I tried to do, and I also want to apologize to you too, Luna. You tried to save me when I was so far gone, and I returned the favor by attacking you like a rabid dog. I can't begin to say how horrified and disgusted I am with myself for doing such things."

"You do not need to say anything, Austin. We both understand the hardship you're going through, the revelations your mind struggled to cope with were simply too much. You are a lost soul dealing with the consequences of powers beyond our understanding, none of what has transpired lately is your fault nor should you feel too guilty of your actions, in the end, we both accept your apology, and I too, wish to offer my apology in return."

"What? What for? You haven't done me any wrong?"

"Perhaps not, but I had repeatedly allowed the day court to take precedence over your recovery within the hospital, so much so that Luna had to continuously fill in for me when we both should have been there together for you, yet I failed to show myself when it all mattered. I will not allow that to continue anymore, from here on out, you shall be my top priority, all other matters will come second to my attention."

"Thank you, Princess, and I accept your apology. So, with all that stuff out of the way, what's the deal for today?"

Twilight was the one to pipe up this time, "Well, over the past week I have made tremendous field research on the inner workings of the mirror that Luna requested I look into and after all this time, I think Luna was on to something. The data I've managed to scrounge up looks very promising, and with more research that is to come, we may have a potential template to work off when the time comes for me to begin construction on our own portal device. Sadly the mirror has been the only project that has managed to produce information vital for our effort, all other leads have proven to be insubstantial and all of the reference material we have managed to find in the Canterlot Library have so far been duds. That's the progress so far, as for why you're here, well after a surprisingly short conversation with Discord, he as agreed to assist us. He was quite fervent actually, so much so that he wished for me to tell you in pony, Austin, this phrase word for word ahem, 'I want you gone because you are the magical sword to my Aku, which is me.' He said you would understand what that meant."

"...Ok? So... how is he gonna help us again?"

"Well, he said he could potentially find the dimensional signature of your home realm within the memories of your time there. Any and all information you can remember, he wanted me to write down as a reference note once he begins the search, any information about anything is all he needs, so if you can just give us a basic rundown of Earth or anything in general, we can find your home that much faster."

"Well shit, that's all you need? Huh, where do I even begin? Well, ...first off, unemployment is down, stocks are up and the U.N has just declared global peace forever."

"Really? Well this is sounding good already."

"Nah, heh, I'm just fucking with ya'll. But seriously, where do I even start? ...Well, I guess there's nothing but the present for starters. Ok, um... ok, uh, ... The year is 2034, I live in a two-bedroom apartment with Ethan, on the outskirts of a small town called Hamilton in the state of Texas, which is the second largest State in the fifty-two state union that together makes the country called the United States of America, one of the global superpowers that dominate the Earth, and it is plagued with many problems for various of reasons, the most important issue our country is facing, is a proxy war that is happening between my country and the two other major superpowers, China and Russia. Our military forces are currently deployed within a minor nation called Kazakhstan after diplomatic issues broke down completely. As for why? I haven't really been paying attention all that much because the issues back home are of more concern for me and my family than what's happening abroad. I hear it's because of oil, or terrorists, or some other nonsense that people have been spouting. In the end, America is in another Vietnam-like War as the youth is being drafted into service. Back home, it is becoming an ever-increasing struggle to stay above the tides of poverty when stuff like taxes and mortgages and student loans and all that jazz just keeps spiking with every annual period. My family was extremely lucky that my father had made his payments with all this stuff at the beginning of the year when he initially passed away because none of us would have had a clue on what to do. And I guess while we're at it, we can talk a bit about my family. I had a father, Jauleno, a have a mother, Rosita, and a brother, Joel. He's about five years older than me, has a wife and two children, a son and daughter and he's a nuclear engineer, working at a power plant at Comanche Peak... used to work there. My mother is fifty-six, and my father was sixty-two. I am twenty-three, I work at a Walmart Super-Center, and I'm taking classes at a local college in the hopes that I can enter into the medical industry. Is this enough for ya?"

"I'm afraid not Austin. You said you're twenty-three? That's pretty young to be a guardian, maybe you can elaborate a few things about Ethan?"

"Ethan? Aw jeez. *Sigh* Ethan has been nothing but a complete pain in my ass for the few years that I've known him, and I regret ever accidentally making the mistake of becoming his guardian. I guess it starts with the passing of my dad. It took us a month or so to find his will, some of our extended family was constantly hammering us about it and I guess I know now why, it for whatever reason featured Ethan. Ethan is... well, he's like a fourth, fifth cousin or something. I don't know how or why but he was a small part of my dad's will. Legality issues ensued, his part of the family tried to sue mine and a 'compromise' was reached, blackmail more was it since we didn't have the money to fight back, and now he was my family's problem to deal with. He's such a parasite that his own family leeched him onto us, after everything that we were currently going through already. At the time, I didn't know the guy, I only heard bad things from his family but I didn't take them seriously. My brother had his own family to worry about, and my mother was too distraught at the time to think clearly, and me being the only adult who had recently moved out, was left with a choice. Do I essentially leave him to fend for himself with the C.P.S, or do I take him under my custody? Looking back on it now, I have to question just what those lawyers were thinking exactly, they must have been crooked or something because I don't think they even bothered to find out how we were financially or anything, of course, stuff was becoming so bad that they must have had their hands full or something."

"Anyway, at the time, I had just made a pledge of devotion to my family, but I guess the full impact of my father's death just hadn't hit me yet because I accepted the proposal without thinking otherwise. Guess I was more naïve and distraught than I realized. The issue about Ethan made itself pretty damn clear to me not soon after everything was concluded, I saw myself through him. I saw a fat, lazy and useless pile of meat that would spend over at least ten hours doing nothing but playing on the computer or console, not doing a damn thing about himself or his room or his hygiene or anything. Like me, he had no experience with the world at large, but unlike me, he refused to see the bigger picture and concerns that should have been red flags for him. But as everything went to shit, he seemed to completely ignore everything, It took me forever to finally force him to get a job, or in his case, jobs to help pay rent. I figured he could be with me until custody was over and that through our time together, we'd both come out better and functioning members of society. Oh how wrong I was, the amount of fuck-ups and backstabbing he did to me, to my trust, would put Caeser's tragic tale to shame. Had I known the amount of hell he'd dish out at me, I'd... I wanted to throw him out, I wanted to kick him away from my life, or hell even forget he existed, but what he meant to me was too much for me to do otherwise. He was a test. A test not only for myself but from my father as well. I didn't accomplish anything with my life up to then, practically no different than Ethan in that regard, but with dad gone, It was up to my brother and I to support Mom because she was in no condition to maintain any income. But then the country goes down the crapper and what money we managed to get from dad's will, two million to be exact, was flushed down the drain when the Second Depression hit us. So I had a lot to do to prove myself, to my family, to dad, that I could be reliable, that I could help, that I was responsible. I unfortunately had to start with Ethan, and that was what I was trying to do before all this shit just happened out of the blue. And all these troubles I told ya about? Tip of the Iceberg for us, but I'm not exactly in the best of moods to talk about that stuff. So yeah, there's my present story."

"Well, that's quite a lot to go on, do you think you ca-"

"Your father." Luna spoke over Twilight's inquiry, "...Maybe you'd like to talk about your father?"

"...Man... there wasn't anything not to love about dad, well maybe a couple things, but man was he the lifeblood of our whole family, and I mean that literally. Dad was the go-to guy for everything, he had all the connections to all sorts of people who could do all sorts of things, he was the man of the hour at all parties he went to and brought life to all social gatherings just by himself alone. He had it all, charisma, diligence, authority, respect, intelligence, determination, he was always two steps ahead in everything, he was the man with the plan. He knew when the taxes were due, he did them all by himself, he would always research about the various house appliances so that when they eventually broke down, he knew how to fix them without having to call the handyman, he always said he saved us two hundred dollars by doing it himself, he knew how to make friends with the right people, enough so to help Joel out when he struggled with his engineering classes, he was just the top dog for everything. He was truly a special person for everyone in our family, so much so that some of our extended family resented our guts just because of what he accomplished and how successful his life was."

"What made him special? Well, when he graduated college, he became the first person in our entire family tree to graduate from college, followed only by Joel and hopefully myself in the near future. You see, my family on both sides come from poverty and drug-stricken livelihoods. Our heritage traces back to a neighboring poverty-stricken country called Mexico, where opportunity for about anything was non-existent. Somehow, both families managed to gain citizenship in Texas where both my parents were born into. Both of them worked a harsh childhood, moving from state to state working farm fields and such, never staying in one place for too long. Well, eventually my father managed to break the cycle by gaining enough money on the side to eventually get into college, he was damn lucky to get in there too."

"Where did the money come from? Well, that's the interesting side of my family. My father's side consists of drug traders and Mexican gangers up in a state called California. From what little my father told me, well let's just say they were the hardcore kind of gangers that did some horrible stuff to a lot of people. My father thankfully never met that side of the family, but he did get himself into the drug business just long enough to get into college. He knew that if he failed his one chance, his life would remain bleak and hopeless. But not only did he just barely pass, but he also managed to land himself a sweet job at Comanche Peak, a local nuclear power plant. There, he worked for over forty years eventually topping himself as a Shift-Manager, one of the big bosses. The job brought a steady income that nobody had ever managed to get before in our family, and soon enough he had his own middle-class house, his own car, his own saving account, his own property, everything a man needed at the time. Then he met mom, saved her from an uncertain future and they had a nice stable little family with all the opportunity they could need to have a better and brighter future than anyone else could. So many family members came, bugging him, asking for money and handouts and such, but our family came first and he rarely if ever budged from it. But the one thing that kept him from reaching further in life, was himself, specifically his alcohol drinking. I don't know what drove him to drink every day, but initially, my mom and eventually my brother and I begged and pleaded and cried to our dad to make him stop drinking, it was hurting the family and himself as well in more ways than I guess he ever realized. He always said he would stop and maybe for about a week he would, then he'd keep on drinking for the next few months while we continued to reason with him, only for the cycle to repeat over and over and over... until one day... he was just gone. No warning... no reason... no knowing... he was there that day... then just... gone. ...I never even had the chance to say goodbye... I guess the only silver lining was that he at the very least managed to retire from his job just before he passed away, he always said that was what he wanted to do year after year...I just wished he was allowed more time, he truly deserved to relax for once in his life."

"Austin, I'm sorry I shouldn't ha-"

"No. *Sigh* No, it's ok. I'm long over it. Is that enough for now or...?"

"Well, Discord never specifically mentioned how long this needed to be so, maybe just a little more? We could always just have another meeting some other day if he needs more information."

"A little more? Yeah, ok, I can do that. A little more, a little more. Well, take everything I'm about to say with a grain of salt because ancient history was never my forte but ...apparently, 13.6 billion years ago there was a big Ka-Boom in the cosmos or something, how the hell 'scientists' came up with this bull-shit I'll never know, but yeah there was a big explosion and suddenly there was a universe. Fast forward to 4 billion years ago, a mass of molten rock and gas and water morphs slowly into a planet that would eventually inhabit life, this planet came to be known as Earth. Earth and another planet got intimate and then the moon was born. Fast forward, the first life to emerge on the planet is tiny bacterial microbes. Fast forward, fish are a thing and the ocean that completely covered the world has receded, bearing new land. The fish want to go for a walk but can't because the sun is a deadly laser and they need to evolve some legs. Fast forward, hey look! Dinasou-... aw no they dead. Mammals rise up and become the dominant species on Earth. Fast forward to 400,000 years ago and the first humans ever are emerging from the animals, they carry bones and use tools and stuff but have a long way to go. 10,000 years ago maybe, they leave Africa and spread out among the continents that had formed from the oceans. At this point, I'm pulling these numbers from my ass, but 5,000 years ago we discover farming and society and writing, 4,000 we discover metal, 3000 we have Spartans and Greece and stuff, 2000 Jesus is born and we make a new calendar and start from scratch with year one. So from then till like the mid 15th century, we fought with swords and bows and arrows until some Chinese discover boom-dust, and then we get boom-sticks. Then the industrial revolution happens 400 years later and we get electricity and machine guns and tanks and airplanes and the atomic bomb and space flight and the moon landing and electronics and computers and video games and now we have a little colony on Mars. We as humans, went from sticks, two sticks and a rock for a whole platoo- I mean for all of humanity, to a functioning colony on another planet, with no magic to boot."

"Oh yeah, one more thing. In the year 2010, a little TV show for little kids aired its first episode about colorful magical, and wonderful little ponies. This show featured six ponies, all but five hailing from a little town known as Ponyville and it told the tale of how they came to be the bearers of the elements of harmony, defeated some evil alicorn, and restored friendship in the kingdom known as Equestria. A little boy was also born in the year 2010, he would grow up to eventually watch these ponies and their little escapades until the show's ending in the year 2019. This boy would then forget that he had ever laid eyes on the cartoon and would move on with his life before some eldritch god-thing decided to fuck with the guy, and now he somehow finds himself in said cartoon about fifteen years later."

"... That's... informative... This entity you speak of seems to be the reason for all of this right? It's imperative we know as much as we can about it, what can you tell us about the being?"

"Look, I don't know shit about whatever it is, but it seems to have a thing for me. It talked about me like I was the star of a story for an audience or some shit. I don't know what else to tell you, but this thing is powerful enough to play god so, I hope you have some kind of contingency to handle it."

"Hmm, I was hoping for more, but I wouldn't worry too much Austin, the girls and I are always ready to stop evil, together."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, together because friendship is blah blah blah, is that enough for today?"

"We can always reschedule another time like Twilight said should we need more from you. You may go as you please, Austin. I hope you have a good rest of the day."

"Wait what? I'm not confined to my guest chambers?"

"Of course not."

"But I thought... but with the escorting... and the... I can go where ever I want?"

"I don't see any reason why you can't go exploring, I trust you will keep the cloak on at all times? I would believe it would be quite boring staying cooped up in your room all the time, should you need to pay for services, just tell them to put it on the royal tab. If Twilight's calculations are correct, our research will be completed within three weeks at the very least, and that estimate is before we even take into account the amount of time we will need before construction on the portal would even be feasible."

"Holy shit, three weeks?! ...*sigh* Figures, I thought I'd be stuck here waiting for you guys to do your thing for like a month at least, goes to show my fucking luck. Ya know what? I trust you guys will pull something through, I believe in ya'll, and these days? That's all someone needs I guess. So you guys go do your thing, and I'm gonna take some much needed R&R, take my mind off all this shit, otherwise I'm gonna blow a fuse, so see ya!" With that said Austin wasted not a second to bolt out the doorway, ready to enjoy the luxurious services Canterlot had to offer, leaving behind all three Princesses to watch his mad dash.

"Come along Twilight, we have business to attend to."

"Oh, right. I hope this will be enough for Discord, although I wouldn't mind spending just a little more time with Austin, if only to further expand my notes on his realm."

"Now, now, Twilight, we wouldn't want to impede upon Luna's efforts, now would we?"

"Beg your Pardon? My efforts?"

"Oh don't you play innocent on me now, Lulu. Even a blind pony could see your inner adulation. I'm honestly surprised you're still standing here now, letting me squawk in your ears when he's out there, trying to have a relaxing time after all he's been through, and what's more relaxing than spending some time with a 'friend', hmm?"

"Yes well, ...I suppose somepony will have to keep an eye on him, lest he gets snatched up by the Nightmare of all things. Good day to you both."

Celestia watched as Luna exited from the room, making way to be by Austin's side. "Good luck, sister."