• Published 13th Feb 2013
  • 564 Views, 7 Comments

One More Day - Fire-Dash



When Twilight awakes in a strange, unknown and terrifying place she struggles to find answers nopony seems to be able to give. She is told she has been chosen but for what, she cannot say.

  • ...
 7
 564

Dust

Chapter Six
Dust



{Twilight}

Nova looks sick. In fact, all the earth ponies are starting to look that way. All weary and numb. How long do they plan on having them walk around like this? Until there's permanent damage?

Well, that's probably exactly what they want. They don't want the earth ponies to be strong, just as much as they don't want the pegasai to use their wings, or the unicorns to—

I shake my head, moving a little closer to Nova. Her medium-length, deep blue mane bounces with every awkward step. Her back hooves are dragging a bit but she still moves forward. Her face is a mask of pain, her eyes are squeezed shut, her teeth grit. I brush against her to guide her but the guards aren't letting me do much more to help than that.

Dusk, on the other hoof, looks utterly terrified. His eyes are wide and his breathing irregular. He stares on ahead vacantly, just following the rest of us but not looking on to see where he is. It's noon, according to the grey-cloaks. I wonder how long they keep us awake here? We must have a curfew in a place so controlled. How many hours sleep do they let us get?

Well, it shouldn't matter. My friends will figure out where I am in no time. They're smart, they're probably looking right now. Oh, if only I knew where I was. If only I could use my magic. I could send a message. I don't know how but I could have figured it out. I could have tried.

But I can't. I can't do anything. All I can do now is wait.

They lead us down to the far end of the courtyard, where the smaller buildings are. They're all made of cement and the doors are constructed of that same thick steel that contains the sleeping areas. I start to wonder why these buildings need steel doors. What could they be doing inside? Why lock us in when we all know we won't get anywhere?

Once we reach the buildings, they begin to split us up. Not by species or gender, but entirely at random. Some ponies are sent to the building on the far left, some to the middle, some to the one on the end. I stick close to Dusk and Nova, hoping they'll keep us together. If whatever's in there is worse than what they've already done to us, I don't want to face it alone.

Dusk is shaking so hard I'm afraid his legs are going to give out. He's doing little better than Nova, who looks about ready to collapse. I realize I'm shaking a bit too. There's a strange pulse in my head. Not quite like a headache, more like a kind of pressure on my temples. It's not painful, just strange. I try to ignore it.

Out of sheer luck, all three of us are sent to the same building—the one in the middle. They lead us and a third of the others up to the doors, but don't open them yet. A guard calls out in a harsh, loud voice for us to turn around and we obey, straining to look at nine ponies lined up in red jackets behind us. There's a mumur of confusion from the crowd, these ponies seem to have come out of nowhere.

One steps forward, a pale yellow mare with a deep maroon mane. She appears to be an earth pony, but thin, like the light blue stallion who had talked to us this morning. In fact, all the red-jackets look like that. Maybe the guards do too, it's hard to tell.

“Welcome to your first Test," she begins in a sharp, steady tone. "You have the right to know that these tests will not be easy. They will be confusing and maybe even painful. But you must complete them. We cannot give you any answers now to the questions you all must have but trust us, we know what we are doing.”

Trust them? Trust them? Trust the ponies who mutilated us? Trust those who force others to walk on broken legs, who took away our magic and flight? How could they possibly expect us to trust them?

The crowd is silent. Nopony dares to question them. We all know there's no use. I can see some are trying to bite back their anger. Some barely able to contain themselves, but they do. No one tries to fight.

The head red-jacket nods to the others and they proceed forward, three per building. They move through us and make their way up to the door. One of them passes close by Dusk and he jumps out of the way to avoid being touched, nearly running into Nova as he does so. “S-sorry,” he mumbles, barely audible. Nova starts to tell him something—probably that it's okay, but the opening of the door cuts her off. The red-jackets rush us in before anypony can blink.

Nova can't take it any more. She collapses as soon as we're inside, struggling for a moment to get back up but failing. Dusk quickly checks for guards, then looks down at her. “N-Nova?” he asks, concerned.

I lean down beside her. “Nova, I know it hurts but you have to keep trying.” I know it's a terrible thing to say when she's in too much pain to keep it up, but I'm afraid of what will happen if she stays like that. Other earth ponies have collapsed as well. Some leaning heavily against others, some starting to lose consciousness. I look around frantically but the red-jackets aren't watching and the guards didn't follow us in. The building inside has grey walls and a cement floor. It isn't very wide but it is quite long, stretching back into the shadows. Several floating lights hover overhead, illuminating the area just enough that I can spot a door in the back, but nothing else. The walls are bare, as are the floors. There's no equipment of any kind to be seen. What are they testing on?

Nova groans and I turn my attention back to her. “Come on,” I say frantically as a red-jacket turns our way. “You need to get up. Please try.”

She grits her teeth and attempts to push herself up with her front legs, not bothering to try the back. She grunts, struggling for every inch before she collapses again, breathing hard. The red-jacket watching us trots over and Dusk flinches, jumping back and away from Nova. I look up but hold my ground. I don't want her to be punished.

“Don't worry, dear,” says the red-jacket in a surprisingly soft and calm voice. He smiles pleasantly, looking down on her with what seems like genuine concern. “I know it hurts, but we promise that once you complete your test, you will feel much better.” He smiles again and strokes her mane lightly with his hoof before cantering back to the corner of the room.

Nova looks up at me with a raised eyebrow; a 'what-the-heck-was-that' sort of expression. I shrug and shake my head. I have no idea.

Dusk carefully moves back towards us, looking embarrassed at having been so frightened. He sets his eyes on the floor, not knowing what to say. I want to tell him it's okay, that his reaction was perfectly understandable, but a voice that carries from the far end of the room stops me.

“Aright, ponies, it's time,” it's a red-jacket, white coat and orange mane, bearing the same severe cut as the blue stallion. “These first tests you will complete individually. When it is your turn, you will proceed through here—” he gestures to the door behind him, “and once inside, you will await further instruction. Are there any questions?”

Of course we have questions, but nopony is bold enough to ask them. A few look like they want to try but angry glares from the red-jackets stifle them. A mare begins to open her mouth, only to snap it shut again and look away, frustrated.

We have no voice.

“Very good,” he continues, appearing oblivious to our anger. “We shall begin.” He pulls aside a terrified unicorn and nudges her gently towards the door as another red-jacket opens it. She acts as though he'd just struck her and bolts inside to get away.

Dusk stares at the door, but not out of fear. He looks... curious? Studying him, I ask, “what are you thinking?”

He blinks, shaking his head, then turns to look at me like he'd forgotten I was there. “I-I don't know. I j-just had a strange f-feeling.”

I tilt my head. “What sort of feeling?”

“N-not a good f-feeling. I feel like th-that's the closet m-monsters hide in.”

I know what he means. This whole place is like some terrible nightmare. But it's far too detailed to be a dream, far to real to be anything I could conjure up in my sleep—

Suddenly, the world goes black. I blink, trying to look around but find I'm paralysed. Dusk? I try to call, my voice failing. Nova? What just happened?

Red and white stripes snake along the darkness of the abyss, entwining together to morph and form a big-top circus tent in front of me. It looms overhead, stretching up taller than anything I could imagine. I can just barely make out the little triangular flag waving at the top.

What the heck is going on? I ask no one in particular. Where did everypony go? What in Equestria just happened?

A hidden door in the tent suddenly flies open and I'm sucked inside like a speck of dirt in a vacuum cleaner. I try to cry out but no sound comes as I'm tossed and thrown about inside. The stripes spin around me, merging into one. I hear voices but I can't make them out. The air rushes and burns in my eyes. My ears are pulsing, my heart racing. Help! I want to scream. Somepony help me!

And all at once—everything stops.

I hang in the air for a second longer before gravity kicks in and slams me to the floor. Dust rises up all around me, whirling and diving, leaping and dancing. Figures start to form, the stallion who had lead us out of our sleeping quarters and who had spoken on the stage. Dusk forms with his wings in tact, Nova with her legs healed. The stallion grins and waves at me before he rises into the air, hovering a moment. Then he morphs back to dust and dives into the Dusk-figure, tearing off his wings as his face pulls back in a silent scream. His glasses fly off, shattering back into a million tiny particles. He stumbles and hits the floor, huddling into a ball and hiding his face. The dust-stallion morphs back to his pony form, grinning wide. He wears an expression like sunshine as he brings his front hooves down on the Dusk-figure's back, shattering his illusion.

I try to run over him—to cry—to scream, but I can't. I can't move. I can only watch as he trots over to Nova's image, swishing his tail back and forth happily as he shatters her back legs before rising up again. He spirals down, throwing his delighted gaze at me while smashing into her side. Dust flies everywhere and I cough, squeezing my eyes shut and trying to pretend this is all fake. All in my head. They've done something to my head—they must have!

Something—I'm not really sure what—forces my eyes open again and I'm staring at a full dust-audience, jeering and hooting in the stands. Every single one of them wearing uniforms like the grey-cloaks or Doctors or red-jackets. Some wearing uniforms I haven't seen yet but I feel like I will.

The stallion manifests again in the centre of the stage and bows, blowing kisses and waving. He reaches into the ground and pulls up two wooden crosses with strings attached to the ends. He yanks them upward and rises into the air, his form expanding and growing larger as he does so. He shoots up to the top of the tent and hits the roof. I watch, still frozen, as it tears and he towers up into the black abyss above. He tugs on the strings again and ponies begin to rise from the dust below, dancing and gliding at his will.

The audience roars.

I can't see Nova or Dusk in the mass of lifeless puppet-bodies, but I know they're there. I want this to end. I try to close my eyes but something's keeping them open. I'm being forced to watch.

The dust-figures explode, flooding the tent, stinging my eyes. The mass swirls around me. Faster, faster, faster until it tears what's left of the tent to pieces. The dust slows, starting to settle before one final strong gust of wind blows it away.

Then a luminescent figure forms in the distance. The stallion. But this time, he isn't made of dust. He's glowing like the hovering lights, brighter than anything I know. I can do nothing but stare as he moves towards me, an inviting, pleasant smile on his lips. His eyes are soft and calming. I want to scream, I want to hurt him for what he's doing to us but with every step he takes, my anger ebbs. I feel numb. He glides over to me on hooves lighter than air and when he speaks, it's with a voice softer than feathers.

“My dear, my poor dear. Accept what we are doing. Do not fight.”

I can see his glow start to fade, his image begin to dissolve but the voice remains.

Do not fight.

Everything goes black.

* * *

{Applejack}

I don't know what's goin' on. I'm so angry, so darn frustrated that I can't even see straight. I want to take my anger out on everypony I see and it scares me. It scares me that I'm so angry the thought of hurting one of my friends actually crossed my mind.

I want this feeling to go away.

I grit my teeth and kick backwards, bucking another apple tree as hard as I possibly can. Need to get the anger out. Need to stop being so mad at nothin'.

I know my friends left, and I know what they're worried about but it's all for nothin'. It's got to be nothin'. I just woke up in a bad mood. It happens. Just need to get the anger out and I'll be fine. They're chasin' ghosts, that's what they're doin'.

It's a coincidence we all feel weird. Nothin' more. I had a bad dream. Left me angry in the mornin', that's all.

Must've been one heck of a dream.

I don't like myself when I'm like this. I don't remember ever being this angry before. What could that dream have been about anyway? What could possibly make me feel like this? Why do I keep feelin' like the dream ain't over? Why can't I just let it be and get on with the day?

I need to get rid of whatever's makin' me feel this way.

I strike another tree, so hard it nearly snaps in half. Apples fling everywhere, some smashin' against other trees, some bruisin' against the ground. I can't even do my job! All I want is to break somethin'—anythin'!

I start pacing, shaking my head, tryin' to clear it. This just ain't right. Dreams never bothered me before. Heck, I don't think I've had a single real nightmare in years. Why now? What the heck was it about?

I sigh, forcing myself to stop. I just stand there a moment, not knowin' what to do with myself. I need to forget this. Ignore it. It's nothin'. Absolutely nothin'.

There ain't a single thing wrong today. I just got up on the wrong side of the bed. Yeah, that's got to be it. Everything's just fine. My friends'll figure it out eventually and it'll all go back to bein' the way it was before—

—Before what? The dream? Yeah, that's it. Got to be.

But what about last night? What happened then? I can't seem to remember....

I toss my head from side to side, tryin' to clear it out. There's nothin' wrong, I tell myself, nothin' at all. But I just can't help to think that maybe, maybe there is. Maybe I can't just dismiss this so quickly. My friends sure didn't.... But they've got to be mistaken. It's just an ordinary day. Some weird feelings but that's all. Feelings. No solid evidence of anythin'. It's got to be fine.