• Published 6th May 2021
  • 355 Views, 14 Comments

Twilight Opens a Door - Golden Tassel

Twilight Sparkle has a completely normal day in Ponyville.

  • ...

Chapter 3

Twilight Sparkle was walking down a hallway. The checkerboard patterned floor was a hideous combination of pink and neon green, and somehow the square tiles didn't line up properly as if they were averse to very concept of parallel lines. Looking at it for too long gave Twilight a headache. There were no walls, and Twilight had quickly learned to avoid looking out into the vast empty void that the hallway existed in. She hadn't tested to see if there were some kind of invisible barrier that would keep her from stepping off the hall (accidentally or otherwise), but after the bout of vertigo she'd experienced from a brief glance over the edge, she resolved to never find out.

Of course, there were doors in this hallway. Every few paces there was another one along either side of the hall. Some of the doors were tall, some were wide, some were very small, and most were oddly-shaped with sharp angles and wildly crooked frames that would, under normal circumstances, make them impossible to open. Twilight had yet to see any two doors that looked alike, and she had been walking down the hallway for a long time. How long exactly, she wasn't sure, but she hadn't felt tired or hungry since she'd arrived, and though she couldn't explain how, Twilight knew that the hallway extended to infinity in both directions.

Keeping pace at Twilight's side was a dromedary wearing a beret. He had been there for as long as Twilight could remember, but hadn't said a word to her in all that time. It occurred to Twilight at that moment that she hadn't said anything either.

"Um, hello. My name is Twilight Sparkle," she said as they continued walking. "What's your name?"

"Je m'appelle Albert," he answered with a smile. "Nice to meet you, Twilight Sparkle."

"Nice to meet you, Albert."

"Albert. The 't' is silent."

"Isn't that what I said?"

Albert shrugged. "Perhaps it was."

"This place is strange, isn't it?" There was a peculiar inflection to the way she asked the question. It was not the tone of idle conversation one might have in an elevator with a stranger, but sincere and slightly anxious as though she needed confirmation. Though what comfort that might bring her, she was equally unsure of.

"It is, oui," Albert said while craning his head around to admire every detail of their surroundings. His smile had grown to an almost giddy proportion that reminded Twilight of the feeling she had upon first arriving at Celestia's school as a young filly.

"Why are we here?"

"Comme c'est absurde!" Albert laughed and shook his head. Catching an impatient glare from Twilight, he cleared his throat and said, "Excuse me, I don't mean to misconstrue the intent of your question of what caused us to arrive in this place, but I'm afraid the answer to that is as equally absurd as the larger question itself."

"The larger question?" Twilight thought for a moment. "The meaning of life?"

"That. And there is none. Life is meaningless."

"Now you're being absurd," Twilight scoffed.

"Completely unavoidable."

"No. I mean that's blatantly false: My cutiemark represents my destiny, so of course my life has meaning."

Albert turned his gaze upward, staring out into that vast and empty void above them with the sort of far-off expression as of a chess player when deeply evaluating their next move.

In the extended silence that followed while the two of them steadily walked the hallway, Twilight began to parse through possible defenses for her argument. My destiny is important, she thought, affirming her certainty, though that affirmation immediately crumbled under the weight of her self-consciousness of its arrogance. Well, that I have a destiny is important, she reaffirmed with greater humility this time, but still plagued by that self-conscious arrogance that her destiny in particular was undeniably profound—she had witnessed for herself the alternate timelines in which realization of her destiny had been thwarted. Destiny can be thwarted? That couldn't be right. Destiny, by definition, necessarily had to happen. No. What had been thwarted must not have been her destiny but something else. So was her destiny then reduced to something as nonspecific as "being good at magic?" That was almost so vague as to be . . . meaningless.

"Do you believe only ponies have destiny?" Albert posed his question with an earnest curiosity that indicated an affirmative answer would not be taken as a sleight or accused of implying superiority.

It was not lost on Twilight, however, her failure to consider that Albert was not a pony and did not have a cutiemark. While she did briefly consider rephrasing her assertion to be more inclusive, she was far more troubled by the realization that she had either grievously misunderstood her destiny, or—perhaps more worryingly—that she didn't have one at all.

Seeming to have predicted her consternation, Albert offered a way out: "Maybe destiny has nothing to do with the meaning of life."

Twilight wrinkled her nose at this. She had trapped herself between an indefensible position and conceding to Albert's claim that her very existence had no meaning. "Let's assume," she stressed with a sidelong glance at Albert, "just for the sake of argument, that life is meaningless." Her voice was sharp and resolutely defiant, though she was certain Albert was as aware as she was that it was so only to conceal the despair she felt in knowing that the placid and familiar conception of the world that she once had could never be reconstructed. "Life is meaningless," she repeated, strangely feeling more comfortable with it this time. "Then what?"

"Then we have arrived at The Absurd." Albert gestured toward the infinite hallway ahead of them.

"This is The Absurd?"

Albert shrugged. "Or some approximation which we can make practical use of in conversation. Here you are presented with three options: you can leap into the void of nothingness, you can open a door, or you can rebel and confront the meaninglessness of it—continue to do what you always have without consciousness of The Absurd."

"Walk the hall forever?"

"Walk the hall forever." Albert nodded, smiling.

Having already discounted the leap, Twilight scanned along the doors lining the hallway. "What's behind the doors?"

"Nothing better than the void."

Twilight pondered what that could mean. With each door they passed, she imagined that it opened into another world. Surely one of them had to be better than nothingness. One of them might even take her back to Equestria, to her friends and everything she once knew—or at least fancied she knew. Life is meaningless. Her mind shook with the thought, and she at once concluded what Albert meant.

"It's hope," Twilight said with a faint tremble in her voice. "Hope is behind the doors. Hope of a place where life has meaning and I can paper over the cracks in the walls of my mind to forget this place."

Albert nodded somberly.

Twilight came to a stop in front of a polished metal door, struck by the pony reflected in its surface. She was a tall and imposing alicorn with a flowing mane of purple gradients that glowed faintly at its end. And were those crow's feet around her eyes? When did I become so old? Will I keep aging in this place? Twilight recoiled from the reflected stranger and bumped into Albert as she stepped back. He gestured again toward the infinite hallway ahead of them, and they continued walking.

"Is this it, then? Am I stuck here?" Twilight asked after a long silence. She glanced over her shoulder at the reflective door, now barely visible in the distance behind.

Albert rocked his head from side to side. "Yes and no."

"Of course," Twilight deadpanned, though she felt a chuckle worm its way up from her heart. She should have expected such a contradiction.

"Hope has one advantage over the void, I admit. Once you have reached this place, you will—or at least it's possible to—always return to it. It's inescapable in that way, but if you value diversity of experiences at least as much as the quantity of them, then you may well visit each and every door in time. Behind some of these doors it might be possible to forget your encounter with The Absurd, but at any streetcorner the feeling of it may strike you in the face."

A comfortable silence fell upon them while Twilight mulled that over. Each door she passed now seemed a little less distressing. Were she to open one at random, she no longer feared that she might become trapped. Rather, she felt a growing sense of liberation now; if she were ever so dissatisfied with whatever equally meaningless life awaited her behind any door, she knew it was never without appeal. The only such place was here in The Absurd where the only thing to do was to continue forward in open rebellion against the meaninglessness of it all.

Twilight Sparkle smiled.

"Wait!" Twilight came to an abrupt stop, staring in slack-jawed amazement of what she saw. Before her was a stained oak door with a painted carving of a candle on its face. "I recognize this door. It's been so long, but I'm certain. I know this door. I know where it goes!" She bounced giddily on her hooves, overcome by the nostalgia of her once simple life as a librarian. Of course with infinite doors and infinite time to walk the hall, Twilight knew it should be no surprise that eventually she would find a familiar door, but she had given up the illusion of seeing one long after she lost count somewhere in the tens of thousands.

"Are you going to open it?" Albert asked pointedly.

Twilight pressed her hoof to the door and slowly traced the outline of that candle. "You said I can always come back, right?" she asked, looking over at Albert.

"In a way, this place will never leave you." He laughed quietly as he realized in Twilight's look that she was seeking his approval, as if she feared he would be disappointed in her for opening any of the doors, much less this one in particular. "In the grand meaninglessness of all things, hope is as legitimate as anything else you can do from here. I cannot condemn you for opening a door any more than I can condemn myself for continuing to walk the hallway."

Twilight frowned. "You could come with me?" She was fully aware of the futility of her offer, but felt compelled to make it nonetheless. Albert was her friend of many years now, and she would miss him.

Albert laughed, shaking his head. "Au revoir, ma chère."

Twilight opened the door.