• Published 15th Mar 2013
  • 34,035 Views, 544 Comments

The Numbers Don't Lie - shortskirtsandexplosions



An ancient magical artifact causes floating lie meters to appear above everypony's heads. This causes Twilight to reflect on honesty and friendship. Based on an idea by theworstwriter.

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All night, Twilight tossed and turned, regretting many things. The top of the list: not indulging in Spike's "sleeping remedy."

She sighed and sat up, hugging herself as she stared out beyond the window by her bed. She stayed still like that for a long time, even into the bleak morning hours. All the while, the words of her fellow villagers—especially the bitter, bickering ones—swam through her head. The more she "listened," the more she honed in on one angry tone and one alone: that of her cold words during her spat with Spike.

It bothered her that they had come to such an impasse, and yet she didn't have to say a single, dishonest thing. Glancing aside, she saw her reflection in the window, lit up by the floating "0." Spike was the one who had lied, yet Twilight couldn't help but feel as though she was the one at fault, the uglier of the two.

"You were right, Rainbow," she muttered aloud. "It does hurt." She groaned and ran her hooves through her mane. "Ughhhhh... Celestiaaaaaa, come here soon already!"

Silence hung over the shadowed lengths of her bedroom. The darkness was a very familiar thing to Twilight, a quiet shroud that the bookwoorm was once all too well acquainted with before fate and providence brought her from the lonely chambers of the Royal Palace to the sunny lengths of Ponyville. There, the wondrous light of friendship revealed the undiscovered corners of life to herself, and she had explored every nebulous nook and cranny with great vigor, bolstered by the foundations that trust and companionship had so recently provided.

But now, those very same things appeared fragile and fragmented, easily dissolving into that familiar old darkness, a place in Twilight's youth that only the beacon of Celestia's lessons on honesty could illuminate.

"Without the Elements, my life just feels so..." She winced before ultimately murmuring, "Threadbare. Like all the magic is gone."

Just then, a sliver of gold light shimmered over the east horizon. Twilight blinked, and she thought of a mare whose mane matched that immaculate shine.

"Perhaps I've just lost track of the most important Element that eludes me right now!" she said, beaming to herself.

Though she had been sleepless all night, Twilight now bounced with renewed energy. Hopping out of her bed, she swiftly washed up, brushed her mane, and made her way out the door, heading west towards the farm fields just outside of Ponyville.


Twilight figured that Applejack would be up already to do morning chores. When she rounded the final hill leading to Sweet Apple Acres, she realized—to her joy—that she was absolutely right. She approached the red barn where Applejack was busily loading baskets full of freshly harvested apples into a wagon.

"Uhm... hey there, AJ."

Applejack glanced over, and her emerald eyes lit up, catching the morning light rising from the east orchards. "Why, howdy there, Twilight!" She adjusted her hat and wiped a fresh sheen of sweat from her orange brow. "My stars, fancy meetin' you at this hour! Yer usually restin' that smart lil' noggin' of yours until nine o'clock sharp, aint'cha?"

Delighted to be in the company of her honest companion, Twilight giggled and leaned against the wagon with a smile. "If you must know, Applejack, I couldn't sleep."

"Oh?" Applejack raised an eyebrow as she heaved another basket into the wagon beside them. "I don't reckon it has somethin' to do with this downright bothersome spell that's got the whole town bent out of shape?"

Twilight gulped and gazed down at her hooves. "I've... had a lot on my mind, Applejack. Recent events have gotten me all mixed up inside."

"Tell me about it!" Applejack panted, sweating some more as she lifted another basket. "I had to give Apple Bloom an earful the evenin' before last. With the early apple harvest that the family's deliverin', we ain't got time for no trouble-makin'! As of now, she's havin' to refrain from hangin' out with her rambunctious friends for an entire week while she does extra chores so she can think about what ruckus she's put the town through! My, my, don't I feel a might bit responsible for it all! I should have been more suspicious about her when she first asked about borrowin' that gul-durn shovel to begin with."

"I hear you," Twilight said with a nod. "I just... had a rather nasty argument with Spike over being dishonest myself."

"Oh? Our lil' baby dragon? That Spike?"

"Yeah, can you believe it?" Twilight ran a hoof through her bangs and sighed. "The thing is, even though he was the one I caught lying about something, I can't help but feel guilty about the whole thing."

"Guilty? In what way?"

"Oh, it's a whole crazy mess, Applejack," Twilight groaned. "I-I probably shouldn't have come here, especially this early." She gulped. "I apologize. There's no need to bother you with it all."

"Oh Twilight," Applejack cooed. "T'ain't no problem whatsoever." She swiveled about, panted one last time for breath, and said, "You know that I always have time for you."

"Well, in that case, I—" Twilight froze, her eyes wide.

She had just heard a chime.

"Twilight?"

With a quivering lip, Twilight looked up.

Applejack was squinting at her, her head cocked aside in an expression of concern. None of these details, however, could make Twilight ignore the unmistakable shimmer of a "1" over Applejack's blonde mane. "Is somethin' the matter? You look like you just gave up the ghost..."

"I... I just..." Twilight shook her head in disbelief.

"Twilight, calm down, darlin'." The farm mare gave a consoling smile. "I'm yer friend! You can relax and tell me anythang; I don't mind!"

Another chime. The glaring "1" morphed into an even more hideous "2."

Twilight started trembling uncontrollably. When she spoke, her voice came out in a foalish whimper, "AJ? AJ, h-how could... h-how...?"

"Twilight...?" Applejack breathed, taking a worried step towards her. "What's the matter? Talk to me. You know you can trust me, sugarcube."

Chime. "3."

"N-no!" Twilight spouted, her violet eyes springing forth tears as she backtrotted from her, hyperventilating. "Not you t-too!" She sobbed, openly. "Please, not you!"

"What about me?" Applejack's face paled in confusion. "I only want to help you—"

"4."

"J-just stop talking!" Twilight shrieked, shaking her head furiously. "Just stop! Ohhhh..." She turned about and galloped straight out of Sweet Apple Acres.

"Twilight! Wait up!" Applejack called after her.

It was too late. Twilight ran towards the rising sun, her body heaving in mid-gallop. Applejack's voice was a distant, warbling sound. All that Twilight could register was the noise of her own sobs.


Hours later, as the sun climbed its way towards the noonday position, much of Twilight's tears had dried. The exhaustion of the previous day had fallen upon her shoulders once again. She sat in a lethargic slump atop a wooden bench bordering the town's grassy park. Her tired eyes swam over the distant image of Carousel Boutique, its windows boarded up with a melodramatically painted sign displaying: "Closed Temporarily Due To Magical Crisis."

Twilight sighed. She rested her tear-stained muzzle on folded forelimbs and shut her eyes, remembering days of foalhood when she rested within the crook of Celestia's warm embrace as the two of them studied history, magic, and astronomy together in the royal archives. Aside from memories of her mother, Twilight couldn't recall another time in her existence when she felt so safe, secure, and at ease with the world.

Everything had been succinctly concrete and pure, presented to her in truthful clarity by the matriarch of Equestria, the one equine in all the land who refused to let down the ponies of that glorious kingdom. Celestia brought light to the world, exposing all the lies and holes in reality, so that Twilight had grown to respect—from early childhood—the undeniable power of conviction and integrity.

The warmth and toastiness of this delightful reminiscing almost distracted Twilight from the sound of voices behind her. Opening her eyes, Twilight sat up and glanced curiously over her flank.

"You mean we have to go for another day without school, Miss Cheerilee?" Snips asked. He and his lanky companion, Snails, stood before the schoolteacher on a bend of the park's dirt path. "That's like four days in a row!"

"Oh, what's this, now?" Cheerilee knelt down to smile at the two young colts. "You suddenly want to sit for hours on end in the classroom?"

"Well, erm..." Snips stirred nervously. "It's just that we have nothing to do, and our moms and dads aren't in the mood to go outside and do stuff."

"Plus, it's kind of freaky to not have school like normal!" Snails blurted.

"Shhh!" Snips slapped Snail's side with a hoof. "No, it's not! Stop saying stupid stuff like that, dummy!"

"But you were telling me the other day how creepy this whole spell thingy felt and—"

"I said can it!" Snails barked.

"Now now, boys..." Cheerilee leaned forward and rested a hoof on both of their shoulders. "Be nice to one another! What's all of this about, really?"

Snips and Snails hung their heads, not saying a word.

"You know..." Cheerilee smiled, ignoring the numbers hovering over their craniums. "It takes brave stallions to admit that they're scared of something."

Snips sniffled and gazed up at their teacher. "Really?"

"See?" Snails muttered. "What did I tell ya?"

Cheerilee stifled a giggle and said, "It's the truth! But I'm glad that I got a chance to run into the two of you. I now have a chance of delivering the good news!"

"Huh?" Snips looked up, his face brightening slightly. "What good news is that?"

"That Princess Celestia showed up here just overnight!" Cheerilee said with a bright grin. "And she's already cured the magical curse!"

Twilight raised an eyebrow from afar.

Snips and Snails did double-takes, their eyes wide. "She did?!" they both chanted at once.

"You betcha!"

"But..." Snails raised an eyebrow. "How come we still see numbers over ponies' heads?"

"Yeah! You even have one over yours right now, Miss Cheerilee!" Snips added.

"Do you?" Cheerilee waved a hoof over head, oblivious to the rising counter. "Well, I don't see any numbers over yours!"

"Huh...?"

"It's simple, really!" She smiled. "The spell is wearing off, but it does so at a different rate for each and every pony. Adults are the first to stop seeing numbers, but that doesn't mean you get to start telling lies left and right!" She winked. "This whole thing was just a test, you see, to see if Ponyvilleans like us could work well with one another while knowing what the other was thinking!"

"What—you mean Celestia made it up from the beginning?"

"Pretty much!" Cheerilee smiled.

"Wow, we sure failed the test, didn't we?" Snails said with a big dumb grin.

Snips chuckled. "Yeah! I'd say!"

"Did you really fail?" Cheerilee smirked. "Right now, I see two brave ponies in front of me who realize just how important this magic spell has been to the town, as well as to their families. It's one thing to be afraid of imaginary monsters and creatures under the bed—but as you grow older, you start having to deal with different, far more real concerns, such as how what you do and say can affect those around you. I think you both have gotten a very real taste of that way of thinking, and I can already see how genuine your concern is for your fellow equines."

"We just want everypony to get along with each other, Miss Cheerilee," Snails said. "It's no fun when we're all nervous around each other."

"Then live in a way so that you don't have to grow up building walls around each other," Cheerilee said, standing up straight as a gust of wind blew at her fuchsia mane. "Life's precious, and it's meant to be shared. You can't do that without trust and respect, now can you?"

"Heheh... I guess not..." Snips said.

"So... uhhhh..." Snails blinked. "The spell is gonna wear off? Does that mean we'll be going back to school on Monday?"

Cheerilee shook her head. "This week has had a toil on all of us. I think an extra day or two of recess is in order."

"Permanent recess!" Snails reared his front hooves and cheered. "Yeaaaah!"

Cheerilee giggled. "Now I didn't say it was permanent, my little ponies! I'll send a message to your families when I'm ready to start teaching you in class again."

"Thanks, Miss Cheerilee!" Snips waved as he and his buddy trotted off towards the green fields of the park. "Even when you're not teaching us, you're teaching us!"

"Heh... imagine that!" Cheerilee waved back. "Play safe, now!" She exhaled softly, all the while the numbers above her head ticked up until it settled on a glowing "23." She turned and gazed over at the bench, as if she had been aware of Twilight's presence the whole time.

Twilight gazed back, silent as stone. A lump was caught in her throat.

Cheerilee trotted over and stood beside the bench. "No doubt, you would like to chastise me now, Twilight."

"Well, no... n-not really..." Twilight gulped, trembling slightly. "It's just that... that you utterly lied to them just now." She narrowed her eyes. "Your students."

Cheerilee nodded quietly. "I know."

"Celestia hasn't even remotely reversed the spell. She won't be able to do it for another day at least, and we both can see the numbers above those colts' heads as clear as day."

Cheerilee looked across the park towards where Snips and Snails formed two distant dots on the sunny green horizon. "They weren't the first of my beloved foals whom I fabricated that story to today, and I seriously doubt that they'll be the last."

"But... why, Cheerilee?" Twilight gulped and rubbed invisible tears off her cheek. "I mean, I-I really don't mean to be ridiculing you or anything. I just... I just want to understand—"

"Why I would lie to a child and not feel remorse? Twilight, I am a bearer of knowledge. It isn't just my job to teach; it's my calling in life." The sun glinted off the smiling flowers on her flank as she trotted over and squatted on the bench beside her. With a warm breath, she said, "I've been thinking about it ever since our... chat that we had yesterday afternoon."

Twilight fidgeted, avoiding her gaze.

Cheerilee continued. "I thought about what life must have been like for you, having Princess Celestia as your only source of information and inspiration for so long. How lucky you've been, Twilight! The very apprentice to Equestria's bringer of the Sun! With a teacher like that, what I have to do or say must come across as relatively insignificant."

"Oh, Cheerilee—" Twilight began to protest.

Cheerilee raised a hoof and smiled. "And then I realized something, and it's what has allowed me to sleep for several hours last night. I suspect it will help you sleep as well."

Twilight gazed at her with a foalish expressin. "What's that?"

"It's fair enough to label each truth as 'good' and each lie as 'evil,'" Cheerilee uttered. She stared at Twilight as she then said, "But what is 'good' and what is 'evil' does not always factor into what is wholesome."

Twilight blinked at that.

"I want my students to learn, Twilight," Cheerilee said. "But more than that, I want them to live... free from fear, free from worry, and free from paranoia. I do not condone erecting a façade for our children no more than we already do for each other, but I do have faith that Celestia will come and free us from this spell, and furthermore I have every reason to believe in a beautiful tomorrow. I want ponies like Snips and Snails to believe in the same thing. Sometimes, I think... yes... I think that the facts of life stand to be the biggest and most distracting walls that stand in the way of embracing the feelings of existence, things such as friendship and love, which are precious qualities that can withstand even the rockiest blunders made in one’s commitment to trust."

Twilight gazed at the schoolteacher, her lips pursing. She glanced off towards the distance, thinking aloud. "The biggest and most distracting walls... walls..." She gulped. "The 'Wand of Walling.'" Suddenly, her eyes lit up. "Of course!"

Twilight hopped down from the bench, landing on wobbly legs.

"I-I gotta get back to the library and research something!" Twilight exclaimed. "Something that the Trudians forgot to make obvious!"

"And just what is that, Twilight?" Cheerilee asked.

Twilight was already galloping away. "What else?!" She smiled in mid-sprint. "The truth!"