• Published 10th Mar 2021
  • 1,508 Views, 109 Comments

Paint the Sky - Flynt Coal

Having been adopted by human Celestia and her boyfriend Sable, the former Queen Chrysalis starts her new life in the human world. But she still has her old demons to contend with.

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Chapter 9 - Killer Queen

When Chrysalis awoke that morning, the first thing she did was check her phone, nervous about what she would find. But she was relieved to find no messages from her friends asking her about a certain video. Indeed, there was no trace of the video of her transforming anywhere online that Chrysalis could find. What was more, Diamond Tiara was silent across all of her social media platforms, her most recent post from about thirty minutes before their meetup the previous night. Chrysalis hoped that was a good sign: it meant she was really considering everything she’d said to her.

Even still, Chrysalis gave Sunset Shimmer a quick call informing her of the situation. Chrysalis wasn’t asking for help; in fact, she made sure Sunset knew she stood by her decision to deal with this matter herself. However, Chrysalis realized that morning that if her identity as a changeling was compromised, Sunset would need to deal with it regardless lest she risk her own exposure. The least Chrysalis could do was warn her should things come to that.

I see. Thanks for the heads up, Chrys,” Sunset said after Chrysalis finished explaining everything.

“You’d have done the same for me,” Chrysalis replied, not giving it a second thought.

You’re right, but you handled it yourself, and did it without resorting to violence or intimidation. Even I still find myself falling back on those kinds of tactics from time to time.

Chrysalis hadn’t expected that. “Really?”

Yeah, certain people are pretty good at getting under my skin even now. But the fact that you rose above it and tried to do the right thing in spite of what’s at stake is pretty impressive. You’ve really come a long way in the month you’ve been living with Celestia and Sable.” What Sunset said next made Chrysalis grin from ear to ear. “I’m proud of you, Chrys.

For a moment, Chrysalis was at a loss for words. “Thanks, Sunny.”

After concluding her call, Chrysalis went into the kitchen to make herself a quick breakfast.

“Well, somebody’s in a good mood,” Celestia commented, looking up from her own breakfast at the kitchen table.

“Yeah, I just have this feeling like everything’s finally starting to work out,” Chrysalis said.

It was the truth. Her nightmares were much more manageable last night than they’d been for the past few. Even Queen had been silent for the past twelve hours; a new record.

Her good mood carried her all the way to school, where her friends all eagerly waited for her.

“Well?” Sweetie Belle asked. “How’d it go?”

Chrysalis didn’t need her to clarify what she was referring to. “Like I told you last night, it went about as well as it could have gone.”

“I still think you should’ve beaten her up,” Scootaloo said. Chrysalis had told her what had happened in much more detail the previous night when she went over to her family’s place for dinner. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle she’d only messaged to let them know she was okay but didn’t give them any details beyond that.

“So, what actually happened?” Apple Bloom asked. “You got there, you met up with her and then what? Did you see what she had on you?”

“Yes,” Chrysalis said. The expectant looks from her friends indicated they wanted at least a little explanation, so Chrysalis told them what she’d decided would suffice. “It turned out to be nothing. A doctored video, and a badly done one at that. It was almost insulting.”

“She must have really been desperate,” Apple Bloom mused.

Her assessment certainly fit what Chrysalis had seen the other night. She wondered what exactly Diamond had been dealing with to get to that point but decided not to dwell on it.

“I’m just ready to put the whole thing behind me, honestly,” Chrysalis said.

“I hear that,” Sweetie said, and the topic of conversation quickly moved to other things: the day’s classes, homework, after school plans and the kind of matters typically discussed by high school freshmen.

Soon the bell rang indicating the start of the day’s first period classes, and Chrysalis left her friends to attend hers. Today’s first class was Geography, a class she happened to share with Diamond Tiara. Things in this class had already been awkward ever since her first fight with Diamond nearly a month ago. Chrysalis could only imagine how things would be now.

But before she knew it, the teacher ordered everyone to their seats and started taking attendance, making a note of Diamond Tiara’s absence. That was certainly unusual: Diamond wasn’t known to ditch classes. Maybe the events of the previous night had more of an impact on her than Chrysalis had initially thought. Only time would tell whether it would be for the better.

Cozy Glow watched as once again Silver Spoon (seated across from her at their usual table in the cafeteria) tried calling Diamond Tiara, and once again was taken straight to her voicemail without ringing once.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Silver said, as she tried to eat the food on her tray in spite of her very clear worry. “Di’s never just straight-up ignored my calls before! Ugh where the hell is she?”

As always, Cozy just half-listened as Silver rambled on. She knew that the girl didn’t particularly like her anyway, only tolerating her because of Diamond. It didn’t bother Cozy in the slightest. It didn’t matter to her what Silver thought; it wasn’t like she was real anyway.

Still, she clearly expected some kind of response, so with one of her patented sweet, caring smiles, Cozy said, “You can’t deny Di’s been acting…strange lately. I’m sure it’s nothing.”

Cozy then continued eating, satisfied that Silver found her answer acceptable. Cozy didn’t care what others thought, least of all Silver Spoon, but she found that if she didn’t answer them when she was spoken to every once in a while, they wouldn’t leave her alone. In spite of that, though, Cozy was vaguely aware that Silver was still glaring at her through the hazy blur that was her face.

“You say that like it isn’t totally concerning,” Silver said. “Something’s clearly wrong with her. I thought it was just the Chrysalis thing at first, but now I’m starting to think it might go a little beyond that.”

Cozy just shrugged and turned her attention away from the vague blur that was Silver Spoon to the crisp and clear peas, chicken and potatoes in front of her. Today was definitely a foggy day, and not a window day. Cozy found foggy days preferable to window days, as it was easier to ignore the others around her on foggy days. Window days were annoying because she could still see the dreams around her clearly; it was just that there was an invisible wall—like a window but not—between her and them.

“Hey Silver. Hey Cozy,” said another such dream walking up to their table veiled in a foggy blur.

“Hey Zipp. How’s your neck?” Silver asked.

For some reason, Cozy always found it amusing when two dreams talked to each other and smiled widely as Silver and Zipporwhil conversed.

“It’s fine, but…I heard the news. Silver, I’m so sorry.”

Silver tilted her head. “You’re sorry? About what?”

“About Diamond. She’s….” Zipporwhil put a hand to her mouth. At least, Cozy was pretty sure. It could be hard to tell on foggy days sometimes. “Oh…you don’t know,” Zipporwhil said.

“Know what, Zipp?” Silver said, clearly getting impatient.

“I thought maybe Di’s parents already told you. I only just found out now when I checked the news. Shit, I’m so sorry you had to find out this way!”

“Please, just tell me what’s going on, Zipp!”

“It would be better if you just checked the article on Equestria Daily’s website,” Zipporwhil said. “I’ll probably just get the details wrong.”

Silver Spoon took out her phone to do just that, and her curiosity piqued, Cozy Glow got up and moved around to look over her shoulder, Zipporwhil standing over the other. Silver opened the Google news tab and looked at the local section, scrolling through the top articles. She didn’t have to scroll far before Zipporwhil pointed to the screen.

“There. That’s it!” she exclaimed.

The article Zipporwhil pointed out made Silver audibly gasp, and Cozy raised an eyebrow. It was titled, Daughter of Barnyard Bargains’ CEO missing. There was a picture of Diamond Tiara underneath, likely taken from her Facebook or Instagram account.

Silver hastily opened the article and started reading. “‘Late last night, Diamond Tiara, fourteen-year-old daughter of Filthy Rich, owner and founder of locally-started superstore chain Barnyard Bargains, was reported missing. Although authorities initially suspected a simple runaway, the discovery of Tiara’s cell phone discarded in a parking lot at the corner of Castle Ave. and Queen St….’”

“Castle and Queen, isn’t that a few blocks away from the Sugarcube Corner?” Cozy asked, the gears in her head turning fast.

“Yeah, I think so,” Silver said, before she continued reading, “‘…have the police suspecting a kidnapping’?!” Silver sat back in her chair, running a hand through her hair in disbelief. “Oh my god….”

Cozy just continued to read the article on her own phone, which featured a quote from the chief of the CPD, who stated that no ransom or demands from the kidnappers had been received as of yet but sticking by the department’s official statement that the kidnapping is likely motivated by extortion for money. There was also a statement from Filthy Rich himself, who pleaded for the safe return of his daughter, as well as a statement from Diamond’s mother, Spoiled Rich, who criticized the inability of the police to catch the apparent criminals responsible.

“I don’t believe it…” Silver muttered. She sounded on the verge of tears.

Only one thought went through Cozy’s mind at that moment. That Diamond’s disappearance was no random kidnapping or even an attempt to extort a wealthy CEO out of a few million dollars. No: what had happened to Diamond was more personal…and more permanent.

“I think it’s clear who’s really responsible for this,” Cozy said. “And I don’t think Di’s merely kidnapped.”

Silver looked up at Cozy, who almost couldn’t see the tears in her eyes through the blurry fog obscuring her face. “You don’t mean she’s…?” Silver hiccupped. “No! How can you even suggest that?!”

“Come on, Silver. You remember what happened the last time Diamond and Chrysalis talked, right?” Cozy asked. “What Chrysalis said she’d do if Diamond tried to mess with her again?”

“Oh my god you’re right,” Silver said, her voice breaking as tears started to flow. “Dammit, w-why couldn’t she just listen to us? We told her it was a bad idea and now….” Silver’s hands curled into fists. “Chrysalis…. I’m going to make that psychotic bitch pay!”

“If that girl’s really behind Diamond’s…disappearance, shouldn’t we call the police?” Zipporwhil asked.

“It won’t do any good,” Cozy calmly explained. “They won’t believe a kid like Chrysalis would be responsible for murdering Diamond. Not without proof, which we don’t have.”

Cozy, of course, knew better. Some adults were smart enough to put two and two together in situations like this, but fortunately—for Chrysalis and for her—most of them preferred to turn a blind eye to it. To pretend that they couldn’t see what was right in front of them. Chrysalis certainly had a strong motive to permanently silence Diamond Tiara, and Cozy suspected it was well within her means. But right now, Cozy needed Silver Spoon to believe it was unthinkable.

“What about the video?” Silver asked.

“It doesn’t prove anything. To be honest, I still don’t know why Di thought she could blackmail Chrysalis with it.”

Still, it was evidently enough for Chrysalis to kill over. There was definitely something there, but Silver didn’t need to know that, either.

“Well Cozy, what do you suggest then?” Silver asked.

“We need more information,” Cozy said with a sunny grin.

“Diamond already tried to dig into Chrysalis’s life and didn’t find shit. What makes you think you’ll do any better?”

“I’ve got ways that are different from Di’s.”

Of course, Cozy had no intention of getting dirt or evidence of any kind on Chrysalis, but a cute girlish smile was all it took to keep Silver ignorant of that. Cozy found that nobody tended to question her if she acted cute enough.

Taking a breath, Silver said, “Okay, I guess it couldn’t hurt to let you try.”

“Great! Thanks for trusting me with this, Silvy. You’re a good friend.”

This too was a lie. Silver Spoon never really thought much of Cozy, which never particularly bothered her, but now Cozy was considering moving on to greener pastures. Diamond Tiara and her friends had been a fun distraction, but it was clear even before the events of yesterday that Diamond was slipping. She and Silver had been useful for Cozy Glow to camouflage herself as just another ordinary girl capable of making friends, but for some time now Cozy had her sights set on something better than mere camouflage. Diamond’s disappearance now was a sign that it was finally time for her to make her move.

It had all started weeks ago with Button’s betrayal and Diamond and Chrysalis’s falling out. Before that day, Chrysalis was just another foggy face that blended in with all the other dreams that were people. But then, Chrysalis had grabbed Diamond by the throat and had threatened…no, promised Diamond that she would kill her if she crossed her again. Even claimed to have killed before.

Right then, Cozy knew that Chrysalis hadn’t been bluffing or lying because that’s when she had changed. It had been another foggy day like today, but when Chrysalis made her threat all of a sudden Cozy could see her clearly. No blurry fog, and no invisible wall obscuring her. She had become real.

From that point on, Cozy knew she’d one day give up the charade of friendship with Diamond. She was going to finally have a real friend in Chrysalis.

As it was Thursday, Chrysalis had her weekly meet-up with the movie club in their usual classroom. Something was different about the atmosphere this time, though: When Chrysalis first entered, the other club members had been talking in low murmurs but suddenly went silent when they noticed her. Juniper Montage and the others had always been warm and welcoming to Chrysalis, eagerly sharing their favorite movies with her. Today though, something about their countenance towards her seemed somehow colder. Even Star Tracker wasn’t his usual friendly self.

The hour she usually spent with the movie club always seemed to go by too fast but today it hadn’t gone fast enough. Maybe they were all having a bit of an off day. Considering what Chrysalis had heard from Sweetie Belle during their afternoon class together, it made sense. It was for that same reason Chrysalis wasn’t terribly surprised to find Cozy Glow waiting for her alone outside the movie club’s usual room.

“Hey, Chrys. You got a minute to talk?” she asked.

“Sure, I guess,” Chrysalis said, mildly confused but nevertheless walking alongside Cozy as the two made to leave school for the day.

The Cozy Glow she had known when she’d been a part of Diamond Tiara’s clique had been bubbly and almost manic in her positivity. The Cozy Glow in front of her now was subdued, almost melancholy. Chrysalis wondered whether the girl she was seeing now was the real Cozy.

“I take it you know about Di?” Cozy asked after a short silence.

Daughter of Barnyard Bargains’ CEO missing. That had been the title of the article Sweetie had shown her and the others. Scootaloo had suggested it was only a matter of time before they found her body at the bottom of some river, while Sweetie and even Chrysalis had told her that was too much. Apple Bloom had just been quiet.

“Yeah,” Chrysalis said. She hadn’t talked with any of Diamond’s friends in a while, but she still cared enough to ask, “You and Silver holding up okay?”

“I’m fine. Silver’s taking it pretty hard though,” Cozy answered. After some hesitation, she then added, “She thinks you’re responsible for it.”

What? That’s insane!”

“I know, right? You and Di had your issues, sure, but why would anyone think you’re a murderer?”

“I... I don’t know.” Chrysalis’s voice nearly caught in her throat. Because the truth was, anyone who truly knew her knew that was exactly what she was.

“I understand why she’d think that, though. I mean, you were probably the last person to see Diamond before she vanished.”

That thought sent a cold chill running through Chrysalis’s entire body.

“And…she was blackmailing you, after all.” Then with a tiny frown, Cozy said, “I’m sorry for the role I played in that, by the way. For the record, I did try to talk her out of it.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Chrysalis said. Cozy could hardly be blamed for Diamond’s plan: She was only a pawn. Chrysalis had used (and disposed of) plenty just like her in her time as queen.

“Here, let me make it right.” Cozy then pulled out a small USB thumb drive and held it out, offering for Chrysalis to take it. “The video Diamond tried to blackmail you with. I pulled it off of YouTube and TikTok. Now, the only other copy is with Diamond and, well….” A ghost of a grin then appeared on Cozy’s face. “She won’t be showing it to anyone any time soon, right?”

Chrysalis took the thumb drive, not entirely sure how to feel about Cozy’s last comment. “I appreciate it, Cozy, but aren’t you afraid you’re going to catch hell from Silver Spoon for this?”

“That’s okay. To be honest, ever since you and Di first had your falling out, I’d been considering leaving her myself,” Cozy said. “The business with the blackmail yesterday was what finally made me decide to go through with it.”

At that, Chrysalis smiled. She remembered her last talk with Diamond at the mall the Saturday she’d left her for good. She remembered Cozy Glow looking lost and had even advised her to get out of Diamond’s clique as well. Her words must have stuck with Cozy, and it made Chrysalis glad.

“I think that’s the right choice, Cozy,” she said.

With a sigh and the saddest puppy dog eyes Chrysalis had ever seen on a human face, Cozy said, “Yeah, I just don’t know how I’m gonna break it to Silvy. She’s already lost one friend, after all….”

Chrysalis nodded. It was a complicated situation. Both Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon were toxic—there was no question about that, and Cozy had every right to put some distance between herself and them. But Silver was surely going through a difficult time and needed a real friend now more than ever. Still, at the end of the day it was Cozy’s decision.

“Well, whatever you decide to do, if you need somebody in your corner just let me know,” Chrysalis said.

“Thanks, Chrys,” Cozy said, one of her wider than normal smiles returning to her face. “People like us need to stick together, right?

Chrysalis cocked her head to one side. “‘People like us?’”

“Yeah. I’ve had my own share of bad rumors circulating about me, but that was before my family moved here.”

Chrysalis nodded before she realized she had no idea what Cozy was talking about. “Wait, back up. What does that have to do with us?”

With a curious frown, Cozy said, “Oh, I thought you knew! I’m so, so sorry!”

“Knew what?”

With wide, almost dead eyes, Cozy said, “It’s not just Silver who thinks you offed Diamond, y’know. The whole school is saying it.”

The world around Chrysalis seemed to fall away, and she was overcome by an inexplicable sense of vertigo. Right then, she wanted to lash out at Cozy, to call her a liar and expose whatever little scheme she had ruminating in her brain. But then she remembered the strange movie club meeting she had just now. The weird looks people she’d thought of as her friends had given her. The fact that they had been talking in hushed voices right up until she entered the room, bringing complete silence with her.

“Why…why would anyone think that?” Chrysalis asked, her voice catching in her throat.

“Everyone knows there was something going on between you and Diamond. Not like that means anything, of course. You wouldn’t be the first person to consider killing Diamond Tiara, after all.” With a casual shrug, Cozy said, “Who knows? Maybe you just look like the type.”

Maybe you look like a killer, was what Cozy was really saying once Chrysalis read between the lines.

“You are a killer, remember?” resonated the voice of Queen, finally making herself known after nearly a full day of silence. “You can act the part of Saint Chrysalis, the Redeemed all you want, but it won’t change what you are, what you did.”

Chrysalis did her best to shut her out. “You…don’t think I killed her too, do you, Cozy?”

With a sugary sweet smile, Cozy just said, “Don’t worry, I’m on your side, Chrys. I’ll let you know if I need your help dealing with Silver Spoon just so long as you let me know if you need any help dealing with…anyone else.”

Cozy and Chrysalis were outside the front door of the school now, and with a little wave goodbye, Cozy started on her own way.

“Cozy, wait a second,” Chrysalis said, and Cozy turned around with a patient smile. “What kind of stuff were people saying about you? Before you moved here like you said.”

Hesitation was clear on Cozy’s face, and Chrysalis was about to tell her that it was okay if she didn’t want to say. Then Cozy said, “They were saying I killed my mother,” and walked away without another word.

“Yeah, that’s definitely a little weird,” Scootaloo said after Chrysalis had told her and the others about her conversation with Cozy Glow.

The four girls were all having ice cream at the Sugarcube Corner Café. The other three girls were already seated by the time Chrysalis arrived, owing her lateness to her unexpected talk with Cozy Glow after her weekly movie club session. They were seated at what had become their usual table: the very same table where Chrysalis had met Diamond Tiara the night before. She decided not to tell the others just how uncomfortable it made her.

“Yeah, that Cozy girl always struck me as a little…off, y’know?” Sweetie Belle said.

Chrysalis nodded, remembering the times when she was a part of Diamond’s clique, and the moments she hadn’t been able to taste any emotions from Cozy at all. And yet, the emotions she had tasted from her during their most recent encounter seemed to be genuine.

“She’s definitely weird, but then again so was I when we first met, right?” Chrysalis said.

“Chrys, you’re still weird, but that’s why we love ya,” Scootaloo said.

“Tch, fair enough,” Chrysalis chuckled. “But my point is, I think Cozy was being honest with me. If she’s serious about getting a fresh start away from Diamond’s friend group, I want to do what I can to help her out.”

“And that’s fine, just…don’t expect us to welcome her into our own group with open arms,” Sweetie Belle said.

“Yeah, like…good on her if she’s turning over a new leaf and stuff, but things would get super awkward with her in our group,” Scootaloo said.

“That’s okay, I never said I wanted to invite her to the table,” said Chrysalis, still thinking about that conversation. “Why do you think people at her old school said she killed her mother?”

“I don’t know, dude. Kids come up with all kinds of crazy rumors. Apple Bloom could tell you that.” Scootaloo tilted her head to the girl in question, who for her part didn’t even seem to be listening to the conversation. Spoon in hand, she idly played with the ice cream in her bowl. It had been so long since she touched it that it was starting to melt.

“There’s always a little bit of truth to rumors, though,” Sweetie said, continuing the conversation without her. “My guess is Cozy’s mother died in childbirth. It’s sad but it happens. Could also explain why she’s so….”



Chrysalis, however, was no longer paying attention to this conversation. She looked at Apple Bloom and asked, “What’s on your mind, Bloomie?”

Apple Bloom didn’t look at Chrysalis, but at the whole table. “You don’t think it’s true, do you? What people are saying?”

For one brief but gut-wrenching moment, Chrysalis thought that Apple Bloom was asking whether Chrysalis was the one responsible for Diamond’s disappearance.

Then Sweetie answered, “Of course not, Bloomie. There’s no way that Diamond’s dead.”

“You said so yourself: ‘There’s always a little bit of truth to rumors.’” Apple Bloom argued, her tone dead.

“Well, not this one.”

“But you don’t know that!”

“Jeez, Bloomie. You sure are worried about a girl who regularly made our lives miserable,” Scootaloo deadpanned. “Don’t still have feelings for her, do you? Because gross.”

Tasting the sudden jolt of turmoil coming from Apple Bloom, Chrysalis slammed the table and glared hard at her friend. “Dammit, Scootaloo! For once in your life could you not say the first fucking bullshit that pops into your head?!

“Jesus, Chrys. Where’s this coming—?"

“Scoots,” Sweetie said, calmly but full of authority. “I love you, but you’re way out of line. Please shut the fuck up, okay?”

“Okay! Sorry, jeez.”

“I told you before, I’m over her. The person I cared about was already long gone before Diamond disappeared,” Apple Bloom said. “Still…I don’t want anything bad to happen to her.”

She glanced at Chrysalis, and her analytical mind went into overdrive. She thinks I killed her. Just like everyone else. She knows what I really am. She’s always known! Everyone’s always known!

“Chrys?” It would seem it was Apple Bloom’s turn to snap Chrysalis back to reality. “What’s bothering you?”

“Aside from the fact I was probably the last one to see her—right here at this table no less?” Chrysalis sighed. Might as well just get it out there. “You guys heard the other rumors going around about Diamond’s disappearance?”

Her friends all exchanged a look.

“We…didn’t want to say anything,” Sweetie said.

Chrysalis leaned forward in her seat. “Please. What did you hear?”

After exchanging another look with her friends, Apple Bloom said, “After final period ended and you were heading to your movie club, we overheard some girls in our class talking about how…how one of them saw you try to kill Diamond weeks ago at the mall. Said that you choked her until her face turned blue. That….” Apple Bloom stopped, but Chrysalis silently urged her to continue. “That when you saw an opportunity to finish the job last night, you took it.”

Chrysalis leaned back in her chair and ran a hand through her hair.

“I would’ve decked that bitch in the face if these two hadn’t held me back,” Scootaloo said. “But I made sure to tell her she was full of shit. I mean, who goes around lying about shit like that?”

Chrysalis’s voice caught in her throat. “There’s always a little truth to rumors,” she muttered.

“What was that, Chrys?”

“She wasn’t lying. Not entirely,” Chrysalis said, clearing her throat. “When I confronted Diamond at the mall the day I helped Sweetie and Button, I sorta…lost control. Let the old me slip out a little.” Seeing the nervous, uncertain looks on the faces of her friends around her, Chrysalis back pedalled. “But I swear, I never wanted to kill her! When I said I left our meeting last night without doing anything, I was telling the truth.”

“Of course,” Apple Bloom said, and the other two nodded.

Still, Chrysalis could see the doubt in their eyes. Apple Bloom had already witnessed Chrysalis “lose control” once before when she’d questioned Zipporwhil. They probably believed that Chrysalis never wanted to kill Diamond Tiara, but…she could have lost control again. Could have tried to dissuade Diamond from blackmailing her with a little bit of force. Except this time, she could have squeezed her throat just a little harder; a little longer…long enough that Diamond wouldn’t have taken another breath.

Chrysalis suddenly felt something nudge her foot under the table. Do the Cakes have a cat or small dog or something? Chrysalis wondered.

But then she heard a voice. A familiar voice she hadn’t yet heard during her time on earth. “There’s always a little truth to rumors, right Oracle?”

The voice was under the table. Chrysalis looked between Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo. All of them continued to talk as if they hadn’t heard anything. Chrysalis still felt that something under the table, and as she nudged it with her foot, she realized it was still. Still and wet.

Slowly, cautiously, Chrysalis leaned back and took a peek under the table. The eyes of a male pony with a coat of onyx and a mane of neon green looked back up at her from the darkness below. They were dead and lifeless. His neck was twisted and hung at an unnatural angle where Chrysalis had once snapped it with her telekinesis.

There were other bodies piled beside him. Mares and stallions—some with royal barding, others without—as well as other creatures. Griffons, zebras, even other changelings. All of them were stacked in a pile that stretched high above the ashen earth below. At the top sat Chrysalis and her friends at the table from the Sugarcube Corner, still chatting amicably about their day.

Chrysalis’s heart jumped up into her throat as the whole pile shifted and wobbled. She clung to the café table to keep the whole thing from falling off the high stack of corpses, her friends with it. Apple Bloom and the others shifted with the pile but didn’t seem to notice.

Be careful,” said the corpse of a construction pony she vaguely remembered keeping in a cocoon and bleeding dry over the course of days. He looked like he had when she had been finished with him: a withered empty husk.

Be careful,” his body said as the pile shifted again. “The foundation isn’t very stable.”

Chrysalis just tried to hold on to the table and focus on the carefree smiling faces of her friends. Even as the piled bodies continued to shift and speak under them. Their mouths didn’t move, and their voices were hoarse, like the final gasses escaping a body long after it expired.

Please keep your workspace tidy,” said a mare in simple clothes. Chrysalis figured out what she’d done to her when she noticed the fleshy umbilical cord still attached to her. “Don’t forget to throw away anything you don’t need.”

Chrysalis shut her eyes, begging for the nightmare to stop.

“Why should your nightmare stop when mine is just beginning?”

At the sound of the familiar voice, Chrysalis opened her eyes and saw that she was no longer sharing the table atop her pile of victims with her three friends. Diamond Tiara now sat across from her—at the same place she’d sat the other night—and the sight of the girl’s appearance nearly sent Chrysalis tumbling off of her self-made tower.

Her skin was pale and clammy, her face and body hideously bloated and wet, her hair dripping. Chrysalis thought she could see maggots wriggling in her ears.

“No. No no no no I didn’t kill you! I didn’t!” Chrysalis exclaimed.

Diamond’s corpse opened its mouth and dirty river water mixed with dead leaves came pouring out. “You might as well have. I’d have had no reason to come out that night if not for you.”

Chrysalis desperately shook her head as Diamond’s corpse continued. “You just had to get the last word in at the mall, didn’t you? Just had to goad me into coming after you. I’d have left well enough alone if you hadn’t needed to satisfy your own ego.”

“That’s not true,” Chrysalis said. The tears welling in her eyes said otherwise.

“Oh, don’t be so upset. It’s not like it matters.” Chrysalis looked down and saw that every single body in her pile was Diamond Tiara. They all said at once, “What’s one more body amongst hundreds?”

With a horrified shout, Chrysalis jolted awake in her bed, breathing heavily and drenched in sweat. Another night, another nightmare. Chrysalis checked the time on her phone. It was a little past five in the morning. She would need to be up in another hour and change to get ready for school. There was no point in trying to go back to sleep now.

Still wearing her pajamas, Chrysalis stepped out of her bedroom and made her way down the hall to the kitchen. She was surprised to discover that she wasn’t the only one awake.

“Morning, Chrys,” said Sable, seated at the kitchen table nursing a mug of coffee.

“Oh, hey Sable. What are you doing up at this hour?”

“SIREN business,” Sable said with a yawn. The man looked like he would rather be in bed, and Chrysalis couldn’t blame him. As usual, he was still up working after Chrysalis had gone to bed the previous night, and now here he was awake before Chrysalis before the crack of dawn. Didn’t he ever sleep?

“Yeah? What’s new with SIREN these days?” Chrysalis asked as she went over to the countertop where the coffeemaker was and poured herself a cup.

“Just overseeing some early morning drills Troubleshoes is going through with the ATG,” Sable took a sip of his coffee. “That and I wanted to inspect the foundation of the new residence Sunset’s family is building on their property. Construction crew put it down last week and I want to make sure it’ll work as a barracks.” He shook his head in amusement. “They wondered why we recommended an earthquake-resistant foundation when this part of California doesn’t have an active fault line. Didn’t want to tell them that it’s due to ordnance storage standards.”

Chrysalis grunted an acknowledgement as she sat down at the table beside Sable, her own coffee in hand.

“So, what’s got you up this early?” Sable asked. “Let me guess: more nightmares?” Chrysalis nodded, and Sable reached over and patted her hand. “I’m sorry, Chrys. I wish there was more Tia and I could do to help.”

“Honestly, you guys are doing great,” Chrysalis said, taking a sip of her own brown morning juice. As she did, she thought of a way Sable might be able to provide insight. “Actually, do you mind if I ask you a kind of uncomfortable question?”

With a shrug and a sip, Sable said, “If you think it’ll help.”

“When you were in the Army, you’ve…killed people, right?”

Sable frowned and looked at her dead on. “Yes.”

Unable to continue looking into the man’s eyes, Chrysalis looked down into her drink. “I have quite the body count myself. Recently something happened that—”

“What happened?” Sable asked, all of a sudden sounding way more awake and alert.

“Nothing. Well, not nothing; you remember Diamond Tiara?” Chrysalis asked, and Sable nodded. “Well, she went missing the other night, and…people at school think I killed her.” Sable didn’t answer her, and a troubled look crossed his face that made Chrysalis quickly add, “I didn’t, by the way.”

Suddenly remembering himself, Sable said, “Oh, I know. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to insinuate that’s what I was thinking, I was just…my mind was elsewhere. Please, continue.”

“Right. I know I shouldn’t let it bother me this much—it’s all just meaningless gossip—but it got me thinking….” Chrysalis tried to vocalize what she was feeling but couldn’t come up with more than a frustrated groan.

Fortunately, Sable seemed to have her figured out. “You can’t help but see the truth in their accusations because you really do have blood on your hands, even if it isn’t Diamond’s.”

Chrysalis nodded, and she thought of her friends, all seated on top of the wobbling tower of those she’d murdered in her previous life. The foundation isn’t very stable.

“How did I ever think I could have friends in this world? I must have been an idiot!” Chrysalis said with a single bitter laugh. “I’m a murderer! Even if I go the rest of my life without so much as crushing a fly, I’ll still have enough blood on my hands to last several more mortal lifetimes. How can someone like that have innocent friendships?”

“Well, I have to admit, for a while after I got out, I didn’t have many friends myself,” Sable said. “What friends I did have were vets like me. Many of them had taken lives in the line of duty themselves. Hell, it’s only been since I’ve met Celestia that I’ve started hanging around people who’ve never served, and you know what? I don’t feel like I’m any less worthy of their friendship for the things I’ve done in the line of duty.”

“That’s just the problem though: the things I’ve done weren’t in service to anyone but myself.” Chrysalis took a trembling breath. “And the ponies I’d killed weren’t just enemy soldiers. There were plenty of innocents too. Ponies I’d killed because…because it was convenient, or because I simply wanted to punish someone and didn’t much care who.”

Sable closed his eyes and let out a long breath through his nose. Chrysalis thought he was disappointed in her. That she had gone back to being a monster in his eyes. He then said, “I killed a kid.”

Chrysalis looked at him, realizing that he wasn’t judging her. How could he, when it was so clear to Chrysalis now that he was constantly judging himself?

“Yeah,” Sable said, seeing the look of disbelief on her face. “She was even younger than you’re supposed to be. But she was an enemy combatant, a child soldier strapped with explosives. She was scared...and I didn’t have to know her language to know that she was crying for help. But I was a soldier. I did what I had to do to protect my life. I still have nightmares about it….”

Chrysalis just stared at Sable, seeing him in a new light. “Sable…that’s awful, but…killing in self-defense isn’t the same as—”

“No, it is the same! That’s what I’m trying to tell you!” Sable exclaimed. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in defense of yourself or your country, or simply because you get your kicks from it: Killing is always wrong. But I’ve always believed that if you don’t move on and try to live your life, you’re doing a disservice to those that can’t do the same.”

The two of them sat there in silence for a long time. Eventually, Chrysalis thought to take a sip of the coffee in front of her, only to find that it had gone cold.

“Okay, I really have to go now,” Sable said standing up. He then put an arm around Chrysalis’s shoulder and pulled her close to his side. “I’m sorry what I told you probably didn’t bring you much comfort, but it’s the simple truth. You and me, we’re going to be haunted by the things we’ve done for the rest of our lives. But that doesn’t mean we can give up on trying to live them to our fullest. Okay?”

In spite of how shitty she still felt, Chrysalis leaned into Sable and said, “Okay. Thanks, Dad.”

With a smile, Sable left out the door to the townhouse, leaving Chrysalis alone in the darkness of early morning.

Sable didn’t even realize he’d been crying until he got into the car and needed to wipe his eyes so he could check the mirrors. It hadn’t been the first time Chrysalis had called him “Dad,” but it was the first time she’d done so easily. It drove home just how far she’d come from the days when the best she could do was “Sable,” and how she’d been afraid of being touched, let alone held.

Sure, Chrysalis still had regular nightmares, and yes, she was particularly beaten down by guilt this morning. But recovery from trauma was not a straight path; Sable himself knew this better than most. Chrysalis had made amazing progress after little more than a month with them, and it had never been clearer to Sable than that morning. He only hoped that Chrysalis would be able to see it herself.

Upon arriving at school that morning, Chrysalis was hit by an uncanny sense of déjà vu. She quickly realized that this was attributed to the sour feelings of discomfort she could taste from her peers—it tasted the same as when she started her very first day here. She had been a tall and intimidating stranger to the school then, but over time people in her classes had warmed up to her and she had…well, maybe not friends exactly, but many friendly acquaintances. Now though, those same students she’d exchange smiles and waves with on a daily basis kept their distance, and Chrysalis felt like it was her first day all over again.

More than once, she’d happen across a group of students speaking in hushed voices, and she’d realize when they suddenly fell silent at her approach that they had just been talking about her. It was a deeply uncomfortable feeling. At least Star Tracker still talked to her in their first period class, but even his smile seemed subdued.

“Hey, Star?” Chrysalis started as their class together started to empty out. “You…haven’t by chance heard what people have been saying about me, have you?”

Star didn’t answer her, and Chrysalis had to swallow the small lump in her throat before it could properly form. Perhaps he simply didn’t hear her.

“Star? You listening?”

Hey Star!” another boy’s voice called out from across the hall.

It was one of Star’s friends; a brown-haired boy with the makings of a mustache beginning to form above his lip. Chrysalis had only met him once—they didn’t have any classes together—but she was pretty sure his name was Soda Pop. Another boy with large thick glasses was standing next to him. This one Chrysalis hadn’t met, but she’d seen Star and Soda hanging around with him before.

Looking at Chrysalis apologetically, Star said, “I’ve gotta go. Sorry, Chrys.”

Not waiting for her to say anything, Star turned and joined his friends. Chrysalis knew she should have just headed to her next class, but something compelled her to follow the trio of boys. For the entire morning—and indeed, some of the previous afternoon—Chrysalis seemed to exist only on the fringes of other people’s conversations. They’d stop talking as soon as she arrived and wouldn’t start talking until (presumably) after she was gone. Chrysalis was tired of it.

So, keeping her distance and doing her best to blend into the crowd, Chrysalis stalked Star Tracker and his friends to their lockers and posted up in the alcove of a door leading to a storage closet within earshot. Then, leaning casually against it and pretending to check her phone, Chrysalis tuned out all of the other voices in the hallway and focused in on Star and his friends.

“…I’m serious, man. That girl’s dangerous. It’s a bad idea to keep hanging around her.” It was Soda’s voice.

Star replied, “Do you really think she did what people are saying?” He didn’t sound convinced, but Chrysalis wasn’t pleased that he felt he needed to ask at all.

“I don’t know if she killed Diamond Tiara, exactly. I think she’s just got her tied up in her basement or something.”

“I dunno, I heard she tried to kill Zipporwhil too,” said the kid with glasses. “Same day Diamond went missing. Apparently, Zipp barely escaped with her life, and she’s got the bruises on her neck to prove it.”

“Damn, Chips. Really?!” exclaimed Soda. “How hasn’t that crazy bitch been suspended yet?”

“Nepotism, dude. You know her Mom’s the former principal, right? Hell, her aunt is the current principal!”

“Eesh. That tracks.” Soda then turned to Star. “Didn’t you date her for a little bit, Star? Did she seem…y’know, murder-y then?”

“We just went on one date, but no. She didn’t have serial killer vibes or anything,” Star answered. Chrysalis’s heart then split in two when he followed up with, “There was definitely something off about her, though. Who knows? She could have just been very good at hiding it. People like that do exist, after all.”

Chrysalis had to look away. Seeing Star Tracker’s cute face was suddenly very painful at that moment.

“I just feel bad for those poor girls she hangs out with,” said the kid with glasses—Chips, according to Soda.

“You mean Apple Bloom and the others?” Star asked.

“Yeah, man. They’re absolutely terrified of her! They know she’s a killer as much as anyone.”

“Really? How do you figure?”

“It’s all in the eyes, man. I can tell! The only reason they still hang out with her is because they’re scared they’ll end up like Diamond Tiara if they try to leave her.”

Chrysalis couldn’t listen to it anymore, and stormed off to her next period class, the other students in the hall giving her a wide berth as she fought against the lump growing bigger in her throat. It was the knowledge that even Star Tracker—someone she still thought of as a friend even though they tried dating and it didn’t work out—seemed to believe the rumors about her at least a little bit that got her. It certainly didn’t have anything to do with what Star’s bespectacled friend had said about her friends.

That Chips kid was totally full of shit, Chrysalis told herself. Kids like him who always acted like they knew everything are typically the ones who know the least. He didn’t know her friends the way she did!

Full of it or not, what if he is right, though? Asked the little voice in her head, taking form in her shadow as a familiar insectoid equine shape. Your friends certainly haven’t treated you the same since yesterday.

Chrysalis just tried to ignore what could only be Queen’s voice and thoughts, but it was getting harder as the day went on.

Cozy Glow didn’t particularly feel like going to her second period English class today, so when Silver Spoon asked to meet her out behind the school, Cozy decided that she might as well. Silver wasn’t the only one waiting for her when she exited the doors into the cold autumn air. Rover and a couple of his buddies were leaning against the wall smoking cigarettes. Today was a window day, so she could see their faces, albeit through the invisible wall between her and the world around her. The shorter of Rover’s friends offered Silver a drag, but she shook her head. That was when she noticed Cozy approaching.

“Hey. You find out anything else about Chrys?” Silver asked.

“Nothing we didn’t already know,” said Cozy.

“Figures.” Taking another look at the boy who offered her a cig, Silver decided to take it after all. Inhaling deeply, Silver coughed hard and handed it back.

“I’ve been talking to Rover,” Silver said. “He’s also interested in getting justice for Di, and his friends are willing to help out.”

Rover nodded, “That disloyal bitch is gonna pay for what she did to my Diamond!”

Cozy kept her expression neutral, when in fact she was rather annoyed by this turn of events, even if she wasn’t surprised. She figured Silver would keep Rover and his idiots around, if only to make herself feel safer after what happened to Diamond. It would make what Cozy was planning difficult, but not impossible…with a little help.

“We just need to get Chrysalis away from her friends, and then we can ask her exactly what she did to Di,” Silver said. “Rover, that’s where you and your friends come in.”

Cracking his knuckles, Rover grinned and said, “I’ve been waiting a long time for a little payback!”

“Actually, I don’t think force will be necessary to get a confession out of Chrys,” Cozy said, hoping to mitigate the situation somewhat. Silver and Rover both gave her confused looks, each of them seeming ready to chew her out, so Cozy elaborated. “I managed to talk to Chrysalis yesterday and I think I actually managed to gain her trust.”

Silver raised an eyebrow. “Really? How’d you manage that?”

“I told her I was thinking about leaving you and Diamond and wanted her help.”

All of the best lies were based in truth, or so Cozy had heard. She liked to take it a step further, though. Rather than sprinkle crumbs of truth throughout her lies, Cozy preferred to tell only the truth…at least, in just the right way for others to think what she wanted them to think. It was just as good as lying, Cozy found, but much harder to get caught. Everything she’d said to Chrysalis the previous day, for instance, had been one-hundred percent true, as was everything she was telling Silver and Rover now.

“If you just give me a chance to talk with her again, I’m pretty sure I can get Chrysalis to be truly honest…about everything.”

“I still wanna smash her smug, disloyal face,” Rover grumbled.

“Trust me, I’d very much like to see that too, but I think it’s worth it to let Cozy try,” Silver said, looking at her—for the first time—like she was a trusted friend. “If there’s a chance Di is still alive, Chrys will at least know what happened to her.” Silver’s face turned hard and serious. It made Cozy want to laugh. “And if it’s true that Chrys really did end her life, then we’d have proof we can actually show people.”

“Shit, we’d be goddamn heroes!” Rover exclaimed.

Cozy put a hand on Silver’s shoulder and said, “Thanks for giving me this chance, Silvy.” Then, seeing another opportunity to use the truth to twist her meaning, Cozy said with an earnest grin, “I promise you won’t live to regret this!”

Feeling positively giddy about the afternoon to come, Cozy spent the rest of her time hanging out with Silver and Rover in her own little world. It had been a lonely life, living in a world where she was the only real person. It wouldn’t have been if testing the boundaries of her fake reality wasn’t so difficult. Cozy still occasionally thought about the first time she’d tested her world’s boundaries when she was a child no older than six.

Her family had just installed a bird feeder in their backyard, and Cozy had watched the little feathered creatures come to and from the feeder with the same detachment that she’d felt for everything else. Then one day, more out of boredom than anything, she’d picked up a small rock from the garden and tossed it at the feeder. It had made a satisfying clink sound and all of the birds at the feeder took off in a flurry of feathers. She remembered how good it had felt: for that brief moment, something she had done had managed to affect the fake world around her.

For days she’d spend hours in the backyard, watching the bird feeder and waiting for the birds to return, only to send them flying away with another rock. Already it was not as gratifying the second time. That had been when the idea to cast the next stone at one of the birds themselves rather than just the feeder came to her.

She still remembered the first time she’d hit one. Rather than a loud clink it had made a soft thud, and rather than fly away in a flurry of flapping wings the bird had practically exploded in feathers! The sight had been incredible, and little Cozy had wasted no time inspecting her work. The bird lay in the grass, its neck broken and its limbs twitching, still desperately clinging to the life fading from its tiny body. Again, Cozy had been filled with immense gratification. I did this! To Cozy, the bird looked more real in its final moments than anything else ever had.

It had been the following week and several murdered birds later that Cozy had been caught: her mother had come rushing out the moment Cozy had nailed another bird, yelling, WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU DOING, COZY?!

Her mother had tried to explain to her that what she’d done was a Very Bad Thing, but Cozy wasn’t terribly interested. She had calmly explained to her mother that the birds weren’t real; that by throwing rocks at them she was making them real. Cozy should have expected her mother not to understand: she wasn’t real either, after all.

The following day, her mother had taken Cozy to see a special “head doctor,” and she had talked to Cozy for a long time about the birds she threw rocks at and how they made her feel. Afterwards, Cozy listened to the head doctor speak with her mother and heard a lot of words she didn’t understand, like “derealization disorder” and “antisocial personality disorder.” Ever since that day, Cozy was made to have regular sessions with the head doctor, as well as occasionally eat some small objects that looked like candy but tasted horrible.

As more time went on, Cozy had become more and more frustrated. Her mother had been watching her like a hawk, making sure she wasn’t throwing any more rocks at birds. It made Cozy angry. How could her mother do this? Couldn’t she see it was the only way Cozy had any meaningful interaction with this fake world?

It had been about two years later when Cozy had finally hit the last straw. Her mother and father had both sat down with her and told her that she was going to have a little brother or sister. Cozy remembered feeling furious. How could they do this to her? Didn’t they realize that a new baby would be no more real than anything else? Cozy was already the only real person! What did they need some fake baby for?!

Cozy decided that night that she would teach them a lesson: let the two fake things that called themselves her parents know how she felt. She had taken all of her Micro Machines out of her toy chest and set them up at the top of the stairs after she heard her parents go to bed (this, too, they were always yelling at her to clean up).

She hadn’t intended for the tumble her mother had taken in the early morning darkness to be fatal. She just wanted her (or her father, she honestly didn’t care which) to hurt. But when she heard the scream and series of loud thumps, she was mildly surprised to leave her room and find her mother lying in a heap at the foot of the stairs. Still in her pajamas, Cozy had silently walked down the stairs to get a closer look at her handiwork.

Her mother’s neck was broken, and she lay still, the rest of her body not responding to her commands as she gasped for breath. It had been so long since the last time Cozy had thrown rocks at the birds, she almost didn’t make the connection until she realized she was feeling the same sense of gratification. I did this. Like with the birds, her mother looked more real now than she ever had before, and it made Cozy smile, causing her mother’s eyes to grow wide with horror even as life left them.

That was when she heard her father scream, and for a moment Cozy thought she was going to get into trouble like she had with the birds, but her father had rushed right past her and knelt by her mother, before scrambling for his phone. Before Cozy knew it, an ambulance had arrived, filling the house with flashing orange lights, to take her mother away. Cozy and her father had ridden with them to the hospital, but it hadn’t been long after they arrived when a doctor came out of the emergency room and told them sadly that they couldn’t save her mother. Her father had cried and held her, but Cozy didn’t feel particularly bad. Her mother and the baby she’d been carrying hadn’t been real anyways: It was no great loss.

Cozy had been allowed to stay home from school that day, and with no mother to stop her, Cozy realized she could finally throw rocks at the birds around the feeder again. Standing over the first bird she’d hit in two years, Cozy realized that they really were the same as her mother. Just as helpless. Just as fake. It had been around that time she had realized that her father had been watching her from the window.

The way he’d looked at her was unlike any way he’d ever looked at her before. It was like he wasn’t looking at his daughter, but some horrifying monster from his darkest nightmares. Unbeknownst to Cozy, her father had realized that Cozy was looking at the bird she’d killed the same way he’d found her looking at her mother, and for that brief horrible moment he knew exactly what his daughter really was…what she’d really done. Then he’d poured himself a very stiff drink and kept drinking. He drank until he forgot all about his daughter’s true nature, and continued to drink for years after, until the woman who was now Cozy’s stepmother came into his life and helped him get clean.

To this day, Cozy was still regularly seeing the therapist that her mother had set her up with years ago—Dr. Wellmind—only now she didn’t hate it quite so much. Indeed, Cozy found it a convenient way to get all of the thoughts out of her head, even if Wellmind was only as real as anybody else. The fact that she legally couldn’t talk about any of the things Cozy told her (patient confidentiality, Wellmind had told her) was a nice bonus. In fact, Cozy had even opened up about what had really happened with her mother.

“Goodness, Cozy. I’m so sorry, that’s awful!” Wellmind had exclaimed when Cozy had finished. “But I hope you realize what happened to your mother isn’t your fault.”

“But it is. I told you, remember?” Cozy stated.

“Cozy, all of us do and say things we deeply regret when we’re angry,” Wellmind calmly explained. “You may have wanted to hurt your mother then, but you never meant for things to turn out the way they did, did you?”

“I suppose….”

“Exactly, it’s perfectly understandable that you would feel remorse over what happened, but….”

“Oh, please. Make no mistake, Dr. Wellmind. I don’t regret what happened,” Cozy said with a serene smile. “In fact, I’m glad. It’s helped me understand myself better than I ever have.”

Wellmind had been silent for some time before saying, “Remember what we talked about. You are not broken, Cozy. You just struggle with things that come to others more naturally.” The word “empathy” often came up a lot in their sessions together. “Keep doing the exercises we talked about, and I’ll see you next week.”

Wellmind had ended their session fifteen minutes early, which was fine to Cozy. Then thanks to her father’s drinking, they had been unable to afford further sessions until he met her stepmom. By that point, her father had believed he’d only been drinking to fill the hole in his heart left by his wife and unborn child. He’d forgotten all about the brief moment of clarity he’d had when he found his daughter throwing rocks at birds.

Cozy hadn’t killed any birds for a very long time since then. Once or twice she’d thought about sending her father or stepmom on a similar tumble as she had her mother, but ultimately realized she probably wouldn’t get away with it again. The kind of accident that befell her mother typically didn’t happen to the same family twice. But still, she wanted to try again—to do it intentionally next time—and the birds and other small animals simply weren’t enough.

But the past year had given her hope: that she wasn’t alone. All the strange events of the past year: the Club, Hurricane Everblue, things that normally happened elsewhere were now happening here, making Canterlot feel more visceral, more...real. And then came the Dead Hand Killings, which turned out to be three girls not much older than her. She had no idea how to contact them so she could confirm what she was wondering, but...surely, they saw what she did, didn’t they? Somehow, they managed to make part of their world more than just dreams.

For the first time in a while, Cozy dared to hope that she wasn’t alone in the world. It had been what had driven her to set her sights on Button Mash initially. She let the others believe she only wanted him as a boyfriend, when the truth was she wanted to feel what those three girls must have felt. She wanted to stand over him and watch as he became more real after she forced her will upon him, just as she had done with her mother and the birds. Chrysalis had simultaneously dashed that dream and given her a better, brighter one.

Because one day, one bright shining day...she had seen Chrysalis nearly choke Diamond Tiara to death and realized that maybe she really wasn’t alone, and that there was someone just like her much closer and more attainable than the three Dead Hands. Because she could see Chrysalis clearly as soon as she realized what she had been doing to Diamond. Yes, there was no doubt about it: they were the same.

It had been a lonely life, living in a world where she was the only real person. But then Chrysalis came along, and suddenly Cozy realized she wasn’t alone anymore. Chrysalis was real too: She’d proved it when she tried to kill Diamond the first time. If that was the case, Cozy realized that Chrysalis must have had a lonely life too, believing herself to be the only real person as Cozy once had.

Well, don’t you worry, Chrys, Cozy thought, reaching into her bag and feeling the object inside. The pocket knife brought her comfort with promises of things to come. After tomorrow, neither of us will be lonely ever again!