• Published 22nd Sep 2023
  • 1,059 Views, 76 Comments

Doubt Itself - Casketbase77



They're supposed to be inspiring, Sunset's stories of ponies with familiar names and faces. But to Cozy Glow, her other self is a warning she's grimly taken to heart. Too bad about the whispers still in her head. And the urges.

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Cozy wasn't going to make it.

There was no longer any difference between her inner monologue or The Voices. And no barrier between those and the harsh, grinding tinnitus that reddened her ears, whitened her knuckles, greyed her vision. She wasn't even sure if that was the homeroom bell just now. Cozy had the features of a cherub but the posture of a gargoyle, bent over a sink in the second floor girls bathroom.

"Don't be bad," she slurred, splashing her face with water. The cold was numbing. "Don't crack, don't give in..."

The words meant nothing to her anymore. Just hollow noises that stopped existing as soon as they were said. Not like the rock in her skirt pocket. It was oh so real, oh so magic, oh so shamefully stolen. But there was one thing it wasn't: her pill bottle.

No, Cozy wasn't going to make it. It was only the end of lunch period. She'd spent it here, cowering, as far from people as possible. The end of the day, the return home to her pill bottle, they were farther out of reach than that magical land of unicorns and pegasi.

There was a door behind Cozy, visible in her miserable reflection. It was suddenly kicked open.

"Big ups to everyone tuned into the livestream!" Three energetic sophomores shuffled in, two behind a lofted cell phone and the last mugging to the camera. "You know who it is, Scootaloo Shutter-Allgood, bringing you candid comedy content that make you shudder from jokes that are all good."

"Freaking cringe, Scoots," Sweetie remarked as she held her camera steady. "That's what you came up with for the channel's new catchphrase?"

"Ha! Smiles help hide hurt feelings. 'Sides, everyone knows that a good persona is more important than a good actual personality."

Apple Bloom, the only one with no job of her own, stood by with her hands buried in her jean pockets. Consequently, she was first to notice Cozy Glow.

"H-howdy there."

The camera swung Cozy's way. What it recorded was a shuddering little girl, rictus grin pulling at her rosy cheeks and babydoll fingers threaded together in a vise. Scootaloo's arm draped obliviously over Cozy's shoulders.

"Hey now! It's everyone's favorite guest star of our streams... uh... The Gal That Sweetie And I Remember From The Park A Few Weeks Ago!"

Cozy fantasized about melting them all with her new magic. Her lower lip split from her grin's desperate tightness. "Golly, you remember me? That's so fuzz- I mean, I'm all fuz- I mean that makes me feel all warm and fuz-"

"Hey," Sweetie cut in, "hey yeah, I do remember you. The crying girl! You changed your hair. Hope you're doing better now than when you were bawling in that sandbox."

Cozy's split lip was bleeding. Apple Bloom noticed.

"Umm... are you doin' better? You look fit to cry, sugarcube."

The three of them clustered around. Cozy felt them near, but her watering eyes saw only the phone. Recording her. Hearing her. Ready to broadcast what she said next. Cozy dug deep for the last wisps of self she still had. And finally told the truth.

"No. I'm not okay."

Her perfect little voice was cracking.

"I need help. Someone... please help..."

Cozy's eyes scrunched shut, not knowing what to expect next. What she got were hugs pushed in on all sides. But why? She barely knew these girls. And they only knew fake things about her. But being here, being held, even by strangers, that was enough to keep Cozy from collapsing. Had Sunset been right about trust? Had Pinkie been right about honesty? They must have been. They'd both been right and Cozy'd been wrong. Her darkest thoughts were still with her of course, still yearning for a crowd of sycophants, minions, and bootlickers. But that wasn't what she had right now. Instead she had friends. Embracing and encouraging. The tender touch of others filled her with soft, marshmallowy relief.

"Hey," the hallucination of Scootaloo whispered. "You know what'd make you feel strong again? If you fired up that geode in your pocket."

Cozy's eyes snapped open. She tried to flee, but couldn't. Her feet were turning stone, same as the geode.

"It's you who deserves magic. You and only you." The Voices were slurring closer and clearer then ever before. What once looked like Sweetie Belle pulsed and flexed, becoming almost like a looming red centaur.

Cozy whimpered. The petrification had passed her knees.

"Become the one in charge. Isn't that all you've ever wanted? For someone to leave you in charge?"

A hoop of green fire erased Apple Bloom. The monster remaining was full of holes, insectoid and hideous.

Petrification crossed Cozy's waist. More statue than girl now, she clasped her hands to her darkening cheeks. Cozy was sweating, shaking.

Sobbing.

"Y-y-yesterday upon the stair..."

"Drop the silly rhyme and find a Better Way To Be Bad."

The Voice that wasn't and never had been Scootaloo leered in Cozy's face. It had no disguise anymore. In a way, it never did to begin with. It flittered in front of her with electric blue locks bouncing on its head and tail. The delirious girl realized, through tears and terror and despair, that those curls couldn't be hers after all. They were Cozy's, not Cozy's. They had always been Cozy's and not Cozy's.

"Sad that you can't control yourself? Just control those around you instead. That's what I did!"

Petrification passed her neck. Cozy could no longer drop the geode. No longer look away. No longer be anyone but this, now and forever. Her hand was a balled fist, bruised around the activating rock. Spittle foamed on Cozy's tongue and her eyes rolled back in her skull.

The bathroom door swung open. For real this time, not in an illusory movement conjured by the Equestrian specters reaching into Cozy's collapsing mind.

A pink pony-turned-human panted in the doorway. She was alone, but not for long thanks to frantic running that sounded behind her.

"Cozy, did you take something from my pocket you really shouldn't have?"

Cozetta Glasgow screeched like a girl possessed, blasting a bolt of pure magic at Pinkie Pie's heart.