• Published 12th Oct 2021
  • 168 Views, 1 Comments

Nights of Frights and Butterscotch - Rocket Lawn Chair



On the eve of Nightmare Night, Luna's budding friendship with a young journalist is tested by a terrible secret she's kept for years.

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Frights and Butterscotch

The frontpage article looked very neat and professional, and was one of the most popular pieces on Nightmare Night the Canterlot Chronicle had ever published. They'd never had to run extra print runs during the holiday before. It even earned Ink Blot a promotion, which she couldn't help but accept. Her father couldn't be more proud of his "dyed-in-the-wool ace journalist daughter," and her mother insisted she take Ink's picture while holding a copy of her article.

Ink was happy that her parents were happy, but that was the only reason.

When Nightmare Night arrived, she told her parents she was going to a party one of her friends from work hosted each year. In truth she planned to spend it as she'd spent it in previous years: practicing her violin. After years of practice, she could almost play the entire concerto from memory. If she could nail the solo, she thought, then maybe it would be enough to impress the director of the Canterlot Philharmonic, despite the fact that she had no formal experience.

In the midst of practice, she heard a knock on her door. Ignoring it, she went back to her solo. She'd left a bowl of candies on her front porch, and a sign which said "Please Take One" with a little Jack-O-Lantern doodle. Nightmare Night may not have been her favorite holiday, but she wasn't going to be a grump about it.

Again, the knocking came. More loudly.

Ink lowered her violin with a growl. She yelled, "There's candy on the porch!"

"I know that!" came a booming voice. "There's no butterscotch in the bowl!"

Ink set her violin on her chair. She stormed to the door and ripped it open with a glare. Princess Luna stood on her front porch in an absurd costume that didn't fit her properly. Her sheepish face poked out of a fuzzy white suit, muzzle capped by a pointy, whiskered nose. A pink, ropy tail hung limply from her hindquarters.

"Can I help you, your highness?"

"Yes, I believe you can. It seems your candy bowl is out of butterscotch, and I—" She was unable to finish her sentence before Ink closed the door in her face.

Luna knocked on the door again. "I was only kidding! Ink! Please, come back!"

Ink did not return. Luna felt a tug on her costume's tail. She whirled around to see a group of small foals, impatiently waiting to get access to the candy bowl. Luna stepped away from the porch. As she did, the sweet melody of a violin caught her ear. She trotted around to Ink's parlor window and peered inside. The music wasn't bad by a long shot. Ink wasn't a virtuoso, but her music was still lovely to hear.

"Ink, please hear me! I need to tell you something!" Luna knocked on the window. "Can you please come to the door?"

Instead, Ink came to the window and closed the curtains.

"Very well," said Luna slyly. "If you'd rather not know what your vision meant, that's fine."

She heard the front door open a moment later. Ink stepped out onto the porch, glaring through her glasses. Beneath the cold disdain of her glare, the mighty Princess of the Night seemed to wilt.

"You mean the vision that didn't mean anything?"

"It did mean something. Before, when you asked, I wasn't sure how to reply. So I lied."

Luna raised her eyes and the pair of ponies shared an uncomfortable silence. Each one felt they needed to say something, but couldn't work it out. Out in the streets of Canterlot, the cheers and hollers of children undercut their silence drastically.

Finally, Luna spoke. "I...um...liked your music. You play very well."

"Oh. Thanks."

Ink rubbed her foreleg.

"I like your...outfit."

"Thanks. It's a possum. Dreadfully itchy, though," said Luna as she scratched herself.

Ink snorted. Luna blushed.

"Shall we take a walk?"

"Sorry," said Ink, covering her mouth with her hoof. "Princess of Possums is still cracking me up right now." She stepped down from her porch. "Yeah, let's take a walk."

"You should put on a disguise. It is Nightmare Night, after all."

"I don't have a costume," admitted Ink.

Luna pulled a set of plastic fangs out of the pouch of her costume. "Here," she said, winking. "I've washed them."

Ink shoved the teeth into her mouth.

"There. Howth thith?"

Luna laughed. "Utterly terrifying."

The two ponies vanished into the streets, piercing the night with laughter.

***

Luna had practiced for this sort of event in her head. She'd worked out all the details she might need to share, if she ever decided to tell somepony the truth about Nightmare Moon. Of course Celestia knew, and had worked out her own scripted explanation. She didn't think Celestia had ever needed to share the truth, either.

Throughout her explanation, she watched Ink's expression change from puzzled to disbelieving, to almost angry once again. Now she'd returned to puzzled, slowly working back through each of the pieces Luna had described to her. When she arrived at the end, she heaved a weighty sigh.

"It's...a lot to process," Ink said, having spit out the plastic teeth a long time ago. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the world would end, but I didn't think it would be her job."

Luna nodded. "Sometimes the visions she grants me slip through my mental barriers, and behold, another prophet is born."

It was the truth, in a perverted way, that prophecies came from Nightmare Moon. Ink had laughed this off at first, having only heard this as a fringe superstition taken seriously by absurd religious groups and huckster fortune-tellers. Hearing it from Princess Luna herself gave her serious pause for thought.

"But did it mean anything? In my vision, I was on a mountain. I felt cold, inside and out. I saw the darkness of space and welcomed it to me. Why did Nightmare Moon want to show me all that?"

Luna thought for a moment, then suggested they head to the Nightmare Night Fair that was being held in Bridle Park. It didn't answer Ink's question, but it would give her a chance to think of a good response. She would have to go slightly off-script.

"I don't yet understand why she sends visions to specific ponies," Luna replied as they walked. A group of nearby children screamed at her grotesque costume, without her needing to add any scary actions. "All she wants is to get out so she can inspire fear, which is why I fight to keep her locked inside. The more ponies know the truth, the more despair will take hold, and the stronger she'll grow. As I said, her first appearance was too soon. She only escaped because I was foolish and wanted her to escape. Thankfully, her power was weak enough to be fought back."

"So, there wasn't anything in that vision for me specifically?"

They were nearing the park, Luna could tell from the growing sound of lively music spilling through the streets and the crowds of costumed ponies congealing around them, all walking toward the source. She grinned at them, sticking her tongue out at the children, getting delighted laughter and terrified screams alike.

"It's possible she saw how you and I were becoming friends. Perhaps she wanted to show you the monster I would become to put a strain on your trust in me."

“Or maybe,” Ink replied, “she saw that I was a journalist, and hoped that I would blow the whistle?”

Luna raised an eyebrow at Ink. Ink laughed weakly.

"Sorry, that was a bad joke.” She cleared her throat uncomfortably. “Anyway, has this kind of thing happened to any of your other friends? Has anypony else close to you gotten a sneak-peak into doomsday?”

“None that I know of for certain,” said Luna with a sigh. “Except for my sister, of course. I tell her whenever I have those dreams. It helps. Talking to you about it helps as well. It's been difficult for me to hold onto this secret so closely for so long.”

Several grinning pumpkins greeted them as they approached the park. The Nightmare Night fair surrounded them in games and laughter and colorful street fireworks. Ink adjusted her glasses to the dazzling lights.

"I guess, in a weird way, that's kind of flattering,” Ink said. “To have the Nightmare of the Apocalypse think you're special. Should I be worried about that?"

"I wouldn't let it get to you."

"What about the doomsday in my vision? The visions you see every day? Can it be stopped?"

Luna sighed, sweat dripping from her brow. Her costume was both itchy and hot.

"That future is such a long way off that you will never see it. Very few ponies will. And the visions don't torment me every day, in fact, I've never gotten a single vision during Nightmare Night."

"But still,” Ink huffed, “you shouldn't have to live with that monster inside you. It doesn't seem fair."

"Don't focus on Nightmare Moon or her distant, ugly return," said Luna. She smiled, patting Ink on the shoulder. "Focus on a vision that matters, like playing the violin. That's a very good vision."

They approached one of the game booths together. Luna picked up a cream pie that was set out on the booth table. She offered it to Ink. "If you're still worried, just throw one of these at her." She slung the pie at the goofy wooden cutout of Nightmare Moon. The pie hit the cutout right in her snarling face.

"See? Cream pies! Her greatest weakness!"

Ink laughed. She threw a pie, hitting Nightmare Moon right in the flank. She laughed even harder.

"Cream pies and butterscotch, right?"

"Oh-ho! She hasn’t got a chance against an arsenal like that!"

The rest of the night they continued throughout the fair, stopping at booths to play games, or to steal a few of their favorite candies from the sweets stands. They brought up the topic of doomsday a few more times, but it was always to the tune of a bad joke and a flourish of laughter.

***

Author's Note:

This story has been sitting around awhile. I recently made a drawing inspired by it, and felt this was a fitting month to finally publish it here.