• Published 11th Nov 2012
  • 17,164 Views, 263 Comments

Just Human - Lightless Void

There is a reason why there are no humans in Equestria. Allow me to show you why.

  • ...

Beginning of a Nightmare

Just Human, Chapter 2: Beginning of a Nightmare

Twilight brought the cup of hot milk up to her mouth, tentatively taking a sip. She did her best to take things easy, but she felt drained, as though she had been in some great battle overnight but couldn’t remember it upon awakening. She dared not eat anything, too afraid that it would make her even more nauseous than she already felt.

She levitated the cup back towards the table, only narrowly avoiding hitting the side and tipping it over. She gritted her teeth as she focused harder, raising the cup just high enough for her to drop it on the table. Her fatigue was taking its toll on her concentration, just as it took a toll on her body. Though Spike had been doing his best to look after her, nothing seemed to be able to soothe her nerves. Her every thought dwelling the horrifying events of last night, and the more she thought about it, the worse she felt.

Her horn began to glow softly as she took hold of her writing quill with her magic, raising it from its inkwell and to the piece of parchment in front of her. After a brief moment, she stopped writing as she finished the first sentence of the letter, the only one she was sure about.

“Dear Princess Celestia,”

Spike had encouraged her to do this, but some part of her mind wouldn’t relent.

I promised Spike I’d do this, for both our sakes, but what if he’s wrong about this? What if Princess Celestia thinks I can’t handle my studies here in Ponyville anymore and demands that I come back to Canterlot? What if she will never let me see my friends again, thinking they were the cause of my breakdown?

The quill began to tremble in her telekinetic grip until she lost her hold over it, causing it to float gently down to the floor.

And I won’t be able to tell them anything! I have no idea what’s causing this, just that I can’t sleep and that it feels like I’m going mad! They’ll tie me up in a straitjacket and toss me in an asylum! The princess would be so disappointed... And my friends. I’ll never see my friends again.

Twilight felt her eyes sting with fresh tears as she imagined the worst-case scenario. She knew she had to sleep eventually, and she was sure that when she did the nightmares would come back, and she’d wake up in an even worse state than she was now. It would only be a matter of time before somepony began to realise what was going on and spread the word around. As much as it terrified her to think what could happen to her if she didn’t manage to cure herself, somehow, it didn’t even begin to compare to the dread she felt in knowing that there was a chance she’d lose her friends forever.

Now having made up her mind, she picked up the quill again, dipped it quickly into the inkwell, and began to write.

“Dear Princess Celestia,

I am afraid that this is not a friendship report, but rather a request for help. I’ve been feeling under the weather for several days now, and I’ve been having trouble sleeping.

I know that you must have a lot of things on your mind, and you may not have the time to assist me. If this is the case, I understand, and ask that you discard this letter. Still, I kindly ask you for advice in dealing with this, I’ve not slept well for a few nights and I’m feeling worse every day. Is there anything you can recommend? Meditation, certain herbs or perhaps a doctor? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle”

She rolled up the scroll as Spike came walking in. He balanced a bowl of soup in every claw. Exactly the opportunity Twilight needed.

“Spike, can you send this?” she asked as the levitated the scroll towards Spike.

“I sort of have my claws full Twilight, can you hold up a second?”

“Oh come on Spike, it’s not like you need your claws to breathe fire, and I’m pretty sure I don’t need you to check my grammar this time. Just light it and it’ll send itself.”

Spike raised an eyebrow, sighed reluctantly, but did as he was asked anyway. He blew forth a plume of green flame which quickly consumed the scroll, the smoke disappearing through an open window.

“There you go, I’m sure the princess will know what to do. You’ll get better in no time Twilight, I promise!” Spike said in an effort to cheer Twilight up. She nodded, faking a smile.

I’m sorry Spike. I know this isn’t what I promised I would do... But I can’t let anypony take me away from my friends just because I’m having some nightmares. I’m just going to have to figure this out on my own.

A few hours later, Twilight was walking through Ponyville, her face pointed towards the ground, despite her best efforts to keep her head raised.

I promised Spike I’d take it easy today. I’ll be at Sugarcube Corner soon. I can catch my breath when I get there. Just don’t let anypony see me like this. I don’t want Spike dragging me back to the library.

She had done her best to convince her number one assistant that she was strong enough to go out alone, but even she was starting to have her doubts. Her limbs felt weighed down by some invisible extra weight, while her stomach groaned, despite her light breakfast.

Maybe staying in bed wouldn’t have been such a bad idea, Twilight thought. She dismissed that thought immediately. She needed to get out of the house, get her mind off of things. She didn’t want to stay locked inside the library, where she knew her thoughts would inevitably return to the nightmares, followed by the same maddening sense of hopelessness that’s been plaguing her all morning.

I just need to keep myself distracted, stay busy and not think about it. As long as I keep myself occupied with other things, I’m sure I’ll improve...

She only wished she could believe it herself. She dreaded the coming night. She knew she had to sleep again eventually, and it hung over her like a dark shadow, haunting her thoughts. She could already feel that same fear, that same sense of despair, creeping into her chest.

She walked over to the edge of the street and sat down, staring at the ground as she took deep breaths to try and calm herself down. She knew she had to let it go, or else she’d arrive at Sugarcube Corner a complete mess and Pinkie would start asking questions that she really didn’t want to answer.

Please... Just let me get through this morning. That’s all I ask. Just this morning, and I’ll be fine.

Twilight took another shake breath, before she opened her eyes again. She gasped as she saw the scene that lay before her.

Everywhere she looked, colour had drained from the world. The houses. The trees. The townsfolk. Even the sun no longer shone golden, but merely glowed with bleak, grey rays of light. Ponies walked the streets, shivering in a non-existent chilling breeze, all looking just as worn-out, tired and fearful as her.

She blinked, and as she opened her eyes again, the vision was gone. Ponyville had returned to normal, just like everything else.

Was that just a dream? she wondered. Did I fall asleep just now?

She blinked several times more. She rubbed her eyes with her hooves, but no matter how hard she tried, whatever she had seen did not return. She shook her head wearily.

I’m... I must not be feeling as good as I thought. I better hurry to Sugarcube Corner. I need to sit down for a while.

It didn’t take her long to reach Sugarcube Corner, but she hardly felt better now that she had arrived. Though it hadn’t been a long walk, she felt a lot more tired than she knew she should. Eager to be able to sit down for just a bit, she walked to the front door, dragging her hooves a little as she moved. Just as she was about to knock, she noticed a sign hanging from the handle.

“Closed for today.”

Strange. The bakery shouldn’t be closed today. I know the Cakes are out of town, but Pinkie should be running business while they’re gone. Is anypony even home?

Twilight knocked several times on the door. “Hello? Is anypony in there? It’s me, Twilight!”

The silence from within the bakery was interrupted by hoofsteps. The door opened shortly afterwards, revealing Pinkie Pie. Pinkie smiled widely as she realised who had been knocking.

“Hi Twilight! How are you doing?”

Twilight didn’t respond immediately. There was something off about the way Pinkie was looking at her. It wasn’t that she didn’t seem happy to see her, but her smile seemed different from usual. Forced was the first word that came to mind, though Twilight was quick to disregard that. After all, Pinkie always smiled, and it was always sincere. However, that smile quickly faded as Pinkie got a better look at her.

“Are you okay Twilight? You look a little pale, is something wrong?” Pinkie asked, now sounding far more concerned than before.

“I’m fine Pinkie, but can I come in? I think I need to sit down, just for a little bit,” said Twilight, failing miserably at hiding the fatigue in her voice.

Pinkie stepped aside as Twilight made her way into the bakery. It was more then a bit dark in here, as though Pinkie hadn’t bothered to turn on the lights. The usual scent of freshly baked goods was absent, and she noticed a pile of what seemed to be shredded party decorations lying in a corner. Before she could get a better look, however, Pinkie popped up right into her field of vision, smiling guiltily as she grabbed Twilight by her shoulders.

“Don’t worry Twilight, I got just what you need!” Pinkie said as she rushed Twilight over to a nearby table, plopping her down on a pillow before bouncing off towards the kitchen.

“Just sit right there, and don’t let any nasty ol’ frowns pop up until I get back! I’ll be back in a jiffy!” Pinkie declared before disappearing from sight.

“Pinkie, wait! Why is Sugarcube Corner closed? Are you all alone in here? I thought the cakes were out—” The sudden noise of pots and pans clattering to the floor made Twilight wince.
“—of town...”

“Oh, uhm, no, Rarity is here too. She went upstairs before you came in,” Pinkie called back, though her voice was rather reluctant. Sure enough, hoofsteps from above soon followed as Rarity came down the stairs. Realising Twilight was here, she hurriedly put up a smile and waved.

“Good morning Twilight, what brings you to Sugarcube Corner?” Rarity asked as she made her way down the stairs, taking a seat at Twilight’s table.

“I just... I just needed to get out of the library for a while. I haven’t been feeling too well lately, thought I might need to get my mind off of it. Have you been here long? What were you doing upstairs?”

Rarity’s smile dropped, as though the clamps holding it up were released. “Uh, I just needed to freshen up!”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “You came all this way just to use Pinkie’s bathroom?”

Rarity visibly hesitated before speaking up, choking on the words before they could form. Before she could speak up, Pinkie Pie came bouncing out of the kitchen, balancing a tray of freshly baked cupcakes upon her nose.

“Oh, you know Rarity! She felt so bad about her sister not being able to sleep well last night that she came here to pick up an extra special breakfast for the both of them! Right Rarity?” Pinkie Pie said as she shot a wink to Rarity, who nodded gratefully in response. Twilight, however, was left pondering if she hadn’t been the only one in town who had trouble sleeping.

As Pinkie Pie placed the tray of cupcakes on the table, the smell hit Twilight like a brick wall. She felt her stomach churning in protest. She averted her gaze, trying to banish the very thought of the sugary treats from her mind, but every breath was like an assault, making her feel even worse.

“Darling, are you sure you’re welling well? You’re looking a little flushed.”

“No, I’m not feeling alright. Last night, I hardly slept, and this morning I didn’t feel too good. I’m not sure if Sweetie Belle has the same thing, but for all I know it could be contagious. Do you two know of anypony else who might be having the same problems?”

There was a long, painful silence. Twilight did her best to just focus on her breathing so she could avoid her stomach turning around completely, before a voice interrupted her concentration.

“Well... I... I...”

It sounded like Pinkie Pie, but her voice was all wrong. Instead of the joyful cheer it always carried, now she seemed to be on the verge of crying.

Shut up Pinkie,” a different, harsher voice spoke, which finally made Twilight look up. She failed to find the words to talk as she looked at what she knew should be her friends.

One one side of the table was Pinkie Pie, her mane flattened entirely, her eyes puffy as though she had recently cried. She looked absolutely pitiful. On the other end was Rarity. Her eyes were staring down at Pinkie Pie, a scornful look on her face. Twilight could’ve sworn that Rarity’s horn seemed far sharper than it otherwise would be. Whereas she immediately felt sorry for Pinkie, Rarity actually hurt to look at, and were her eyes not locked on the scene before her, she would’ve turned around and ran away as fast as she could.

“But... But Rarity,” Pinkie pleaded.

“A-ah!” Rarity said to try and keep Pinkie quiet before she could continue. “You promised, remember? After all, it was your idea to keep this quiet!”

Pinkie’s head sank even lower. “You didn’t have to do this. You didn’t have to tear my streamers down and ruin the party I had planned. You know everypony is feeling bad! A party would-”

“I already told you!” Rarity interrupted, her voice raised as though berating a foal. “I needed the fabrics I gave you back! I already explained this to you before, do you want me to do so again?!”

“Please, Rarity! I said it was okay! I forgive you, just don’t get angry again, please!” Pinkie begged as she let herself sink to the floor, whimpering pathetically as Rarity continued to bear down on her.

What’s going on here? What are they doing?! Twilight thought as she watched one of her worst fears coming to pass. Her friends were turning on each other in the most horrible way she could imagine. She wanted to do something, but the sheer shock of what she was seeing prevented her from bringing herself to speak.

Rarity stood up and began to pace around Pinkie, grinning widely as she admired the miserable state Pinkie was in.

“Ofcourse, I wouldn’t expect you, of all ponies, to understand.”

Pinkie began to sob as she covered her head with her hooves, trying to block out the sound of her own friend crushing her spirit.

“No dresses to create and sell, no good reputation to maintain, not even a little sister to support! All you do is ‘party this’ and ‘party that’ with not a care in the world! You wouldn’t know responsibility if it hit you on the head!” Rarity added a quick move of her front hoof to her last words, making Pinkie flinch.

I have to stop this.

“After all,” Rarity said as she gently took Pinkie’s head and brought it to eye level, forcing her to look her in the eye. Twilight could see a horrifying change come over her friends. Rarity’s horn practically became a blade, so keen and sharp, while her eyes became slit and glowing, her mane waving behind her not unlike that of Nightmare Moon. Bruises began to appear on Pinkie’s face and body, while she became gaunt, as though several weeks of starvation washed over her in a matter of seconds.

“After all, you will never amount to anything.”

This has to end! Twilight thought, panic taking over completely as she began to lose all her nerve to the horrible drama unfolding before her. She desperately sought for the words she needed to bring a stop to this right now.

“You’re worthless, you stupid foal.”

That was the final straw. Pinkie began to openly weep, while Rarity grinned like a mad pony. Twilight couldn’t take this anymore.

No! Stop! Please stop! Please stop!” Twilight screamed at the top of her lungs, covering her ears and closing her eyes to try and block out any more of this torture. She didn’t understand why this was happening, just that it was tearing her apart to watch it. She didn’t care how, but this had to end. It didn’t matter how. She just couldn’t bear it anymore.


Twilight looked up again, her hooves still clamped down over her ears so hard it hurt, but was unprepared for what she saw. She saw Pinkie and Rarity, still sitting where they were a few moments ago, looking completely fine. Her eyes darted between them both. They were just staring at her, worried, and neither of them appeared to have moved. Like the last few moments hadn’t even happened.

“Twilight, are you okay? You seem a little out of it,” asked Rarity, who got up to walk over to Twilight, obviously concerned about her. “Maybe you should lay down for a while, Twilight dear. Heavens, you look like you’re going to faint any second.”

Twilight wasn’t listening to her. She was desperately searching for a logical reason to explain what just happened.

Did I doze off again? Am I in such a bad condition that I’m hallucinating?... Am I going insane?Wait, what did they say during that... That vision? Something about streamers, and Rarity getting angry ‘again’?

“What happened before I got here?” Twilight asked slowly and deliberately. She looked at Rarity, waiting for an answer, but Rarity didn’t speak. Instead, her worried look seemed to turn to dread, and she looked at Pinkie, who tried to shake her head as subtly as possible.


“No,” Pinkie said, interrupting Rarity mid-sentence. Pinkie’s smile was gone entirely. Instead, she just stared at the table, speaking blandly, without a hint of joy in her voice. “Nothing happened Twilight. Rarity just came to visit. That’s all.”

Twilight’s eyes widened as she realised that something did happen. They were lying to her about it, she just knew it. More importantly, she knew she wasn’t the only one who seemed to be suffering from “something.” She had no idea whether it was a disease, or a spell, or something else, but something was influencing her and her friends.

This is bad. This is very bad!

“There’s something wrong with Ponyville!” Twilight blurted out, startling both Rarity and Pinkie with the urgency in her voice. “I don’t know what, or why, or how, but something’s wrong, and we need to stop it as soon as possible!”

Pinkie and Rarity both looked at each other, before turning back to Twilight. “But then, what should we do? Should we get help?” asked Pinkie.

“First, we gotta make sure everypony is okay! We gather everypony and then... Then we’ll see what we can do next. Maybe there’s some spell that can reverse the process, or a cure. If all else fails, we’ll call Princess Celestia.”

Both of them nodded in agreement, though Rarity seemed a little distracted. Twilight wasn’t sure, but she seemed even paler than usual.

“We’re going to have to do this as quickly as possible, there’s no telling what will happen if we wait too long! I’ll go find Fluttershy, you two go and find Applejack and... Rarity?”

Rarity was staring blankly ahead of herself. Suddenly, she snapped out of it, shaking her head. “I... I’m sorry Twilight, but I can’t! What if Sweetie Belle has it too?! What if she’s at home, sick and I’m not there and—” Rarity ranted in desperation, before a pink hoof shot up to her mouth and silenced her.

“Don’t worry Rarity, I’m completely sure that Sweetie Belle is fine! How about we both go, make sure she’s alright, and then see where we can go from there? I’m sure she’ll be super happy with these cupcakes I made!” Pinkie said cheerily. Rarity let out a little sob, quickly hugging Pinkie tightly. They visibly relaxed in each other’s embrace, and Twilight too felt relief seeing that those two dealt with the situation as well as they could. It gave her a little hope that she’d find some way of fixing this, before any real damage could be done.

“Thanks Pinkie. You’re the best friend anypony could ask for.”

Soon, all three were standing outside the bakery.

“You two go and make sure Sweetie Belle is okay, I’ll find Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. We’ll meet up at Sweet Apple Acres if we can, or at the boutique if we can’t.”

Rarity and Pinkie nodded, and quickly set off. Twilight swallowed as she turned to head to Fluttershy’s cottage. She dreaded the task that lay before her. Not only did she have no idea what she was dealing with, but judging from Rarity and Pinkie, there was no way of knowing what condition her other friends would be in. There was a grim possibility that they were even worse off, though she shuddered to think about it.

Please, just let me find some way to fix this, before somepony gets hurt.

“Where is it!? Where is it!?” Alex kept repeating as his hands searched the forest undergrowth. He was on his knees, he hands brushing over the forest floor as he desperately sought for his cellphone. Some part of him realised he didn’t even have it when he lost consciousness, but he desperately grasped at any straw that could save him from this nightmare. All he knew now was that he needed to get out of this place. It didn’t matter how he got here anymore. He just wanted to go back home.

Finally, something sharp in the undergrowth pricked his hand. He quickly recoiled from the source, and though it didn’t even draw blood, the pain snapped him out of his terror-induced state. He let himself calm down, as he began to contemplate his situation. He knew the area around his home well, and knew for a fact that for miles around the areas with trees were small artificially planted forests. The forest around him was, to put it simply, an impossibility, and he struggled to cope with the knowledge that wherever he was, it was a long way from home. An impossibly long way. He tried to control his breathing in an effort to keep himself calm, though it wasn’t doing him much good.

Okay... Just... Just stay calm. Think! How could you have gotten here? Did I get drugged and dumped into a forest somewhere? Why would anyone do that? Besides, it would take days, at least, to get me to a place like this, and there should be something like tire marks or footprints around. But if that’s not the case, then how did I get here? Am I... Am I dead?

It was a terrifying thought, to think that you’re dead and know that, wherever you are, it sure isn’t heaven. He placed a hand on his chest, his heartbeat quite noticeable even beneath his shirt.

Well, if I’m dead, I’m sort of sure I wouldn’t still have a pulse... Or be breathing.

As he concentrated on his own breathing, he realised something was wrong. Not with him, but with the forest that surrounded him. He listened closely, but the only sound that disturbed the forest was the sound of his own breath. The birds had gone silent. Only the sound of a gentle breeze brushing past the treetops could be heard, causing even the sound of his own breathing to seem painfully loud to Alex’s ears.

A rustle in a nearby bush drew his attention. His heart skipped a beat as he felt his hope for a rescue daring to rise again. Did someone find me? Have they come to rescue me?

“Hello? Is anyone there?” he called out, as he rose to his feet. In response, the rustling became more intense, but what stepped out into visibility was anything but a human being. The creature seemed vaguely recognizable, standing on all fours, two glowing yellow eyes set into its head. To his amazement, Alex recognized this to be a wolf, but it appeared to be made entirely out of wood, it’s body making the creaking sound of branches being bent or twisted as it moved. It growled deeply at it slowly paced towards him.

Alex was at the verge of panicking completely, his entire body shaking like a leaf as the monstrosity made his way towards him, but his mind still recoiled at the thought that this creature, this thing, could move on its own. A voice inside his head told him to run as fast as he could, away from this predator that had come to devour him whole. Another voice kept screaming that what he was looking at couldn’t possibly be real, that he was dreaming or watching an illusion, that he needed to wake up.

He took a step back as he became more panicky, wanting to keep distance between himself and the wolf. It reacted by increasing its pace. As the gap between the two of them quickly closed, Alex knew it was now or never. In a burst of adrenaline-fueled speed, he ran the other way as fast as his legs would carry him. The canine behind him barked as it began the pursuit. Only just in time did Alex notice movement in the bushes left of him. Another wooden wolf jumped out, and he could hear many more jumping out of their hiding spots in the surrounding forest.

Fuck! I gotta get out! I gotta get away!

He jumped over fallen trees and tried to get as many low hanging branches in the way of his pursuers as he could, but no matter how many obstacles he cleared, the sound of barking and howling and that of claws ripping through the leaf litter remained close. It didn’t take Alex long to realise that his situation was hopeless. These things would catch up to him eventually, either because they were faster than he was or because inevitably he’d wear himself out. He could already feel their hot breath in his neck, their fangs sinking into his legs until one made his way to his throat for the killing blow.

No! Think! If you can’t outrun them or hide, then what can you do!?

A tree with a great number of branches low to the ground appeared before him. Alex took his chance, hoping that whatever these things were, they wouldn’t be able to climb trees. He threw himself up towards the highest branches he could reach, pulling himself into the tree’s canopy as fast as he could. He kept climbing up, afraid that looking back would cost him a precious second, as well as his life.

Finally, he reached a split where the tree had divided into two main branches. Seating himself there, he finally allowed himself to stop. His heart was pounding in his ears, even as his pained lungs struggled to draw air into his body. As he looked down, he could see the pack that was chasing him gathering at the base of the tree, growling angrily, their slavering jaws hanging open to reveal rows of long sharp teeth. A total of six pairs of yellow eyes stared up at him, making him thankful for not trying to stand his ground earlier. He wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Finally... I’m safe.

Alex’s victory didn’t last long. The biggest of the wolf-things reared up against the tree, standing up against it on its hind legs. Suddenly, it pushed itself forward, using its front claws to keep a hold as it kept pushing itself up. It latched on higher with its front claws, pushing itself up again. Inch by inch, it began to make it’s way up into the tree.

Fuck! Since when do wolves climb trees!?

He knew he was cornered, his only way out would be going down where the pack would be waiting for him, and climbing higher would only result in him snapping a branch and falling down. As he looked down towards the growling beast making its way towards him, he could’ve sworn the thing grinned maliciously at him, like it knew Alex had nowhere to go. Alex stood up on the branches that supported his weight, desperate to gain more height.

I’m not going to let myself get eaten!

Alex reached higher, grabbing a thick branch and pulling on it with all his weight, nearly falling down when the branch broke free. He lifted it with one hand, keeping it suspended until the wolf very nearly reached him. As the wolf got within reach and prepared a final push that would launch itself into striking distance, Alex brought his weapon down upon the wolf’s head.

The impact of the blow knocked the wolf’s head against the tree trunk, dazing it enough to make it lose its grip. It fell backwards, clawing at the air as it tumbled down towards the forest floor. It hadn’t shown any signs of pain when Alex hit him, nor when his skull impacted against the side of the tree. Still, the wolf yelped as it’s body connected with the unforgiving earth, its startled packmates giving the bigger wolf a wide berth.

The bigger wolf got up, though it seemed to have trouble doing so, and stumbled away into the forest, the rest of the pack close in tow. They had given up on capturing this strange prey that had turned the tables on them. The nightmare was over, for now.

Alex slumped down, his back resting against the branch supporting his weight, as only now he fully realised how much his body hurt. He had pushed himself well beyond his limits with the sudden burst of activity, and every muscle in his body craved rest. As the adrenaline began to sink away, thoughts slowly began to trickle in again.

So, this isn’t just some primeval forest in the middle of nowhere, it’s got monsters too.

The realisation suddenly struck him at how close he had come to dying back there. Had he slipped, or stumbled, or if a branch had broken as he tried to climb the tree, he would have been dead right now. It was the closest he had ever come to death, and the realisation was making his hands tremble. He hit his head against the branch behind him, and again, as his sanity seemed to slipping to his fingers as he watched, helpless to stop it.