• Published 15th Jul 2021
  • 236 Views, 12 Comments

Mirage on the Horizon - Hope

Eris, student of Luna, faces the spirit of disharmony who already killed her once.

  • ...

Ch. 3 I’ve been just fine, where you left me.

When Eris and Spike approached Sweet Apple Acres, it was easy to see that something was wrong.

The friendly open gates were closed and barred, the fencing was reinforced with new logs.

Several "No Trespassing" signs were posted across the intimidating barrier, and on the road a group of farm workers were collecting their belongings from where they were scattered on the ground. As Eris watched, a pair of saddlebags were tossed over the fence and knocked one of them to the ground.

"And stay out, ya thievin rats!" AJ's voice called through the fence, the farm workers flinching and turning away.

"Now that doesn't sound like the Apple Family Generosity I know!" Eris shouted in return.

“What in… Eris?!”

The ramshackle gate scraped open and AppleJack peered out suspiciously, examining each pony before she spotted Eris.

“You’re the worst rascal of them all!” AJ shouted as she raised a section of two-by-four in one hoof in a threatening manner.

Eris took a step back, wide eyed.

“Took this town from me! Used to darn near rule it! Respect, admi-ration! Now ya’ll march inta town I was born in and steal all that love!” AJ said as she stepped out from behind the gate and approached, cruel intent in her eyes while Eris backpedaled, Spike turning tail and running full speed away.

“Hey now, you’re loved just as much as me if not more!” Eris objected as AJ swung and missed with her heavy weapon.

“Listen, I don’t want to do this, I want to convince you to change your mind!” Eris pleaded as she tripped and slid on her back. “Stop, AJ, please!”

But the earth pony kept coming, and as she raised her chunk of lumber, Eris covered her eyes and snapped her fingers yet again.

Leaves were falling around her, and the soft melody of the wind through the trees was the only sound. Eris sobbed on the ground alone, noone else in sight.

Slowly, she stood and dried her cheeks, looking for whatever horrible thing awaited her now. But the forest stood empty but for a trail leading away from her.

She walked it while listening to the wind, the birds, and the gentleness of the world around her. Nothing felt right, if she was honest with herself, but there was nothing she could really do about it. Sometimes pain and fear soaked through a person until there was nothing left for them to feel but a numb acceptance of it all.

Then she turned a corner and she saw a single bright sunbeam coming down through the cloudy sky to illuminate a pony laying on the ground.

And with just that, Eris forgot her current reality, and rushed to the pony’s side. The white coat and pink mane gleaming in the sun, as Eris kneeled next to her and touched her neck so gently, just to make sure….

“I’m just napping,” that beautiful and impossibly perfect voice said, filled with amusement.

But the body in front of Eris had no heartbeat, and didn’t move. Her lips were closed and still. Eris bit her lip, trying to hold back her emotions as she brushed the pony’s mane back out of her face, and wondered how she could fix this. Every problem that she ran into seemed impossible, her magic just strong enough to move her along but not strong enough to save her. Never strong enough to set things right.

“Something’s wrong, Celly, please,” Eris whispered, softly shaking the body.

“But it’s just a joke!” the voice giggled. “Just a silly joke, why would it matter if I breathe or not? Breathing is so boring, so old fashioned.”

“Look at me,” Eris whimpered, shaking the body more urgently. “Please, I don’t care if you breathe or not, just look at me.”

“I don’t care if you breathe or not,” her voice echoed back on her a thousand times. But the tone wasn’t pleading and desperate, it was cold and cruel.

Mirrors burst up through the ground, and fell from the sky, impaling themselves in jagged shards around her like the walls of a prison cell. She was surrounded by a million shattered reflections of herself, all different ages and powers, some sneering, others disinterested, some wielding weapons.

“Look at me,” Mirage’s voice demanded.

Eris looked up, and as the army of her past selves charged forward to slay her, she finally spotted the sun, a great fuschia eye, watching without a hint of emotion.

Eris blinked, and AJ was shaking her.

“I am so sorry, sugarcube, y’allright? C’mon now, all y’all, back inta the barn, I didn’t mean what I said. Not a one of ya ever stole from me and I know it, I am so sorry,” AJ was directing others, while Spike leaned over Eris.

“She’s focusing on me again,” Spike said.

Eris twitched, and AJ helped her up quickly, as the farm helpers slipped back into the farm.

“So… I snapped my fingers and you got better?” Eris asked AJ numbly.

“Sure did,” AJ said softly. “Don’t know what ya put into it, but it were like wakin’ up. Thank ya for that.”

“No need to thank me,” Eris mumbled, waving a hand as she looked around at the trees, mind somewhere else.

“But I gotta, Eris. I hated who I were, for a bit there. Glad to be back.”

“You’re welcome,” Eris sighed. “I’ve got to go, she’s probably gotten to Rainbow, Pinkie, and Fluttershy too.”

“You mean, we’ve got to---”

Spike was cut off by Eris waving her hand, and the world shifted around her, effortlessly relocating herself to wherever Fluttershy was, as easily as though she’d taken a step.

It happened to be a distant road, beyond the hills around Ponyville. Fluttershy was pulling a small cart of things, and looked up at Eris who was blocking her way.

Fluttershy’s cart was loaded down with all of her belongings, blankets folded with love and gifts she’d been given carefully wrapped and packaged. No animals. The pegasus had an expression of annoyance, rather than anger or fear.

"Really? Fleeing town, that's your evil version?" Eris said, annoyed.

Fluttershy snorted, but didn’t say anything as she walked around Eris and kept going, her hoofsteps on the dirt road soft, and the sing-song of birds in the scattered trees around them painting a far calmer and happier scene than Eris felt.

“You’re being brainwashed. Yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah, stop it,” Eris groaned, following her, already feeling helpless except for her chaos magic.

“No pony, and I mean no pony,” Fluttershy snapped as she turned to confront Eris, stopped by the cart’s harness. “Cares about me as much as I care about them.”

Eris stopped, wide eyed and a bit hurt by the declaration. She took a step back and shook her head.

“That can’t be true, we care about you so much, Fluttershy…”

“I would die for you,” Fluttershy snapped. “Would you die for me? This me, the worst Me there is, huh? Because I don’t think you would.”

Fluttershy unbuckled the cart and walked up to Eris, confronting her physically and emotionally, refusing to let her declaration be ignored.

“Would you?”

Eris looked away, shoulders hunched, tears in her eyes.

“No,” she whispered. “I’d fix you though,” Eris said softly, as she raised her hand and snapped her fingers.