Snowflake the Snowpony

by Spangle

First published

I spent hours pouring my soul into carefully crafting my snowpony. She turned out better than I could have ever hoped.

IMPORTANT: This story is undergoing various and extensive revisions of the previous chapters. Until they are complete and reviewed, all chapters will be unpublished. Estimated time until completion is no later than the end of August 2014.

The southern United States doesn't usually get what I would consider snow, my current residence of Arkansas included. Normally, the most the South ever gets are only dustings, small flurries that are so light you can't even have a good ol' fashioned snowball fight. So imagine my excitement when a blizzard strikes the state on Christmas day and absolutely buries the area in layers of heavy, wet snow, ideal for winter fun. It's the perfect Christmas gift!

Time to grab my friends, throw some snowballs, and build a snowman! Who knows? I may even decided to build myself a snowpony while I'm at it. Why waste a Christmas miracle....

NOTE: I started this story in late December shortly after the events that inspired it, but due to various delays, its publishing was postponed until recently. So if you're asking, "Why did you write this in the summer?" you now have your answer. Additionally, pictures of the actual Snowflake can be found HERE on my deviantART, and a special thanks to my friend Colton (AKA Dragmod) for the cover art commission.

Ch1 - A White Christmas

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I suppose I'll begin my story by saying this: it was not what I expected. There I was living in a small town just a little under an hour outside Little Rock, Arkansas... and it was snowing. Now when I say "snowing," I really mean falling from the sky in blankets, full-blown blizzard "snowing." This was the southern United States! Blizzards aren't supposed to happen! Yet, right outside my window, I saw nothing but a storm of white falling from the sky. Granted, I've seen worse growing up in New York state, but I’ll still admit that it was definitely a respectable amount of snow.

The day was December 25th. That's right, it was Christmas. I suppose you might call it a Christmas miracle if you believe in those. Me? Well, I’d like nothing more, but my rational thinking usually won't let me. You see, I’m an idealist—a dreamer—who's cursed with a strong sense of logic. In essence, I’m a house divided between my heart and my mind, a man of faith chained by his reason. God help me and all those like me.

Now, I'm not sure if it's nostalgia from my childhood growing up in white, forested mountains or maybe something more, but walking outside in the snow on a crisp winter's night has a certain... effect on my soul. I would even go so far as to call it magical. When I step out into the snow and feel that rush of the blood come from the cold in my chest, a profound sense of peace flows through every part of my spirit, and all seems right with the world. I was glad it was snowing. I needed that sense of calm and that feeling of home.

Why? Well, despite being in the military for a little under five years at that point, it was the first time I had ever truly been away from my home and most of my family during Christmas. The only reason I was even in Arkansas was because the Air Force had very recently stationed me there after my disenrollment from the US Air Force Academy... but that’s a story for another time. Still, I had always somehow managed to make it home for the holidays the four years prior... but not that year. That year, my maintenance shop told me "No-Go." Of course I had asked to take the time off, but by the time my supervisor got around to my leave request, it was already too late. The shop was shorthanded, I was one of the new guys, and they needed the manpower.

I mean, such is the life of a military man. "Service Before Self" as the Air Force says. Hooah? Hooah... I guess. Honestly, I didn't really have a reason to complain. I had been very fortunate to see my family every previous Christmas. Hey, I had just seen them a few weeks prior during Thanksgiving. Other guys I knew hadn't seen their families for much longer, some of them by choice, others because of military obligations. All things considered, I was blessed.

So, if you’re an observant reader, you may have noticed I said most of my family. You may have also noticed I’m using a very informal and personal narrative and, by doing so, possibly breaking someone’s rules how to write a "proper" story. If you're that person, you might want to stop reading now. Otherwise, you'll have to "deal with it" as the saying goes. It’s the style I've chosen for this story and... I’m letting myself get a bit sidetracked. I'll do my best to limit that to a minimum.

Refocus! Blizzard. Christmas. Miracle-like things. Yeah...

Continuing on, my mom—being the awesome mother that she is—decided that if I couldn’t go to her, then she would fly out to visit me. Again, I'm blessed in more ways than I can count. It wasn’t too much trouble, though. I was renting a two bedroom apartment with no roommate at the time, so I gave her my bed and got an air mattress... because that's what a good son does. A nice, quiet Christmas with my dearly beloved mother, or at least it would've been if it wasn't for a couple of my Air Force friends jumping into the picture.

It was actually my mom’s idea. She wanted to do the nice thing and give some of my fellow airmen who were stuck—like I had been—a delicious, home-cooked meal. It was definitely thoughtful of her, more so than I had thought to be. When I told her only two of my friends had taken me up on the offer, she was a bit skeptical. I had to explain to her how common the ‘invite other airmen into your homes for the holidays’ idea was before she actually believed me. In her defense, I've been known to be less than, uh... completely upfront with her in the past, so it’s quite understandable.

"Invite your friends," she said. "It’ll be fun," she said. Well... she was right. The two airmen who actually accepted the invitation were my closest friends in the area at the time, and with good reason: like me, they were both bronies. While most people typically refer to them by their last names—that’s a thing most military members tend to do in case you were previously unaware—I usually addressed them by their first names: Ryan and Andrew. They’re both incredibly great guys to have around, if not a little loud at times. Heh, I say that as if I’m the quiet one. Not even remotely the case.

Anyways, believe it or not, the snow almost ruined Christmas. The weather began to take a turn for the worse in the early afternoon and nearly kept both of them from making the trip to my apartment. Fortunately, they were able to brave the storm and arrive safe and sound. Once the snow actually started sticking later that evening, Andrew got the bright idea to go outside and have some fun in the winter wonderland that our previously snowless state had become. Being good brony battle buddies (I love alliteration...), Ryan and I were naturally in complete support of the idea.

So, we equipped ourselves against the elements the best we could, using things like combat boots, mechanic's gloves, and whatever jackets we had on hand. I threw on a Wonderbolts ushanka I bought at a brony convention along with my waterproof and slightly (not slightly) oversized All Purpose Environmental Clothing System (also know as APECS) jacket issued to me by the Air Force, which in my mind gave me a slight edge against the elements. However, I'd later wish I had waterproof pants and gloves instead. I’ll say this much: there is a big difference between being just cold and being cold and wet. After we geared up, we ventured out in pursuit of fun. Pure. Unmitigated. Fun.

The snow was perfect... wet and packy. Naturally, that could have only meant one thing: a snowball fight! I honestly can’t tell you how long it lasted or how cold it was. We weren't really paying attention as we ran around in those snow-filled spaces. The wet, white flakes continued to drift endlessly and softly from the night sky as we ducked and weaved in between the snow-covered cars, using them to help make our ammo. I could hear and feel snow crunch beneath my boots with every step as we ran through the lawns and yards that separated the white-topped, two-story apartments. Our snowballs flew with horrible accuracy, but that only drove us to throw more.

We became so lost in our wonder of that night that we were absolutely oblivious to how much time had actually passed, but it couldn't have been all too long before we found ourselves breathless, the freezing cold finally seizing our lungs. Tired of pelting each other with snowballs, Andrew half-joked that we should make a snowman since he had never actually made one growing up. I saw Ryan give him this skeptical sort of look, making some comment or other about there not being enough snow on the ground to do such a thing. I'm not trying to make fun of the guy, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. The many winters of my childhood gave me plenty of experience building snowmen and other snow-related structures, and let me tell you, the conditions were perfect.

Instead of trying to join their argument—excuse me, I do believe I meant friendly debate—I decided to just start working as they continued to argue over the validity of making a snowman in Arkansas... or whatever it was they were actually talking about. I wasn’t paying all that much attention to them by that point. It wasn’t long before I had a boulder of snow a little less than three feet wide rolled up to the side of the parking lot. That was when they finally noticed what I had been doing all that time. Initially, they just laughed from the unexpectedness of it all. I didn't even have to say a single word before they joined in helping me construct the first snowman either of them had ever built. Of course I had to show them a thing or two because of their lack of experience, but building a snowman really isn't that hard. It's literally child's play, not rocket science. I would know, just trust me on this one... sorry, self-indulgent squirrel moment. Back on focus!

It was around that moment when my mom took a step outside to see what exactly we had been up to in our winter shenanigans; we had been outside for quite a while and curiosity was getting the better of her. Not one of us had gone inside even once to warm up from our prolonged exposure to the cold. She couldn’t help but laugh when she saw the scene of three grown, military men building a snowman. You have to admit, some might consider it a rather odd sight to see, but it shouldn't be completely unexpected when considering the “brony” factor. I've noticed that bronies in general tend to do whatever they find fun. Too many people seem to forget what it truly means to let go have a good time as they get older. A lot of us bronies don’t really let things like self-consciousness or embarrassment stop us from enjoying ourselves, especially around each other.

Did my mother know? Oh yeah, she definitely knew I was a brony, but she didn't really get it at the time. She hadn't tried to get it either, she just accepted it. I had never been what most people would consider "normal," so she didn't give me too much fuss over the issue. That hadn't always been the case, though, as she admitted to me a little later that visit. She told me that she had tried to "help" me when I was growing up by doing what she could to make me more like everyone else. It's what our culture pressures us to do, unfortunately, rather than just accepting and loving people for who they are.

"The only thing I can do is ask for your forgiveness." That's all she could manage to say. How does someone like me say "No" to that? I couldn’t. I was just glad that her efforts to make me "normal" over the years had proven futile. I can't imagine what my life would have been like otherwise. I know this: that night would have been very different, and what was about to happen to me, what I was about to learn, would have never happened at all.

Now, somewhere along the line, Andrew got the idea to add pony ears to our little version of Frosty. Well, I suppose "little" isn't quite the right word to describe him considering the fact he was taller than either us. Regardless, we added the ears, and when we had finally completed him, pony-Frosty stood over six feet tall, had a baby carrot nose, a couple of branches from a nearby dead tree for arms, eyes and a mouth made of pennies, and a set of pony ears made of snow sitting atop his head. We made due with what we had. He certainly wasn’t the most impressive snowman ever shaped by human hands, but that didn't bother us one bit. We took some pictures, made some comments about our work, and when all was said and done, we weren't really sure what we wanted to do next. It seemed like such a wasted opportunity to just end the night there.

Well, it wasn’t long after we had finished our snowman-pony hybrid when I was struck with an absolutely brilliant idea: I was going to make a snowpony, or at least I would try. I had seen several pictures of snowponies that other people had made posted to Equestria Daily the previous winter, and I thought, "Why not give it a shot?" It would be my first snowpony. If I'm being completely honest, there was a little voice in the back of my mind telling me that I would eventually realize that I had no sculpting talent whatsoever, and that I would end up abandoning the project only partway through it’s completion, something I seemed to have a habit of doing.

Despite my doubts, I've never been one to give up without at least trying, so I began my work after we all went inside to warm up for a bit. It wasn’t much longer than ten minutes or so until I was back out in the cold, alone and unsure I'd be able to complete the task I was about to start, but before I could begin, I had to find the right place to work. Fortunately, I didn't have to go far. I found a nice, open spot behind my particular apartment with plenty of snow and well-lit by the building's lights. It also happened to be close to a treeline, only fifteen or so feet away, but that just meant more building material and maybe a little less sun to melt my work once morning came around.

With my workplace set, I rolled up what I thought was a sufficiently-sized cylindrical mound of snow to use as the framework for the body, and started sculpting. I first focused on shaping the plot simply because it seemed the least complicated. Yes, yes... I know some of you are probably laughing at that. "He said plot. Ha, ha, ha." Get it out of your systems now. Finished? Good. From there, I worked my way back to the tail. In all seriousness, that was when I first began to feel like I might actually be able to accomplish my goal. The tail actually looked something like an actual pony’s tail from the show.

Eventually, my brony battle buddies joined me in the snow and saw what I had managed to complete on my own. Of course Ryan and Andrew were willing to help me make a snowpony, but when they saw the quality and detail of what I was attempting, they expressed concerns that the project was beyond the reach of their talents. Rather than risk ruining the final result, they were instead content to watch me work for a short while before going back inside the warm and cozy apartment. Did that bother me? Honestly? Not one bit. If you'll forgive the pun, I was glad to take the reins. I was fueled by my inspiration and kept warm by the fire of creativity that was now burning bright inside me... I have my poetic moments.

All the while, the snow continued to fall through that cold, dark night as I slowly and carefully crafted my snowpony. After I finished with the tail and the plot, I went on to systematically molded each part of the body, piece by piece. If I'm being completely upfront with you, I didn't have a plan. I simply focused on the section that was immediately in front of me. I never looked further ahead for fear of being overwhelmed just as my friends had been by the magnitude of the project that I had begun. When I finished with one part, I moved on to the next, making it up as I went along. Looking back on it, it all feels right, strangely enough. Maybe sometimes art is just supposed to happen with nothing but vague inspiration as your guide, and you simply work it out as you go along.

Gradually, I worked my way to the hind legs, the chest, the front legs, the neck, and finally the head and mane. Each patch of snow was placed and shaped with the utmost care in a never-ending cycle of packing and shaving. With each scoop of snow taken in my gloves, every body part, every feature, every curve was shaped and reshaped with the highest of diligence, caution, and determination as the mound of white laying before me painstakingly became a pony.

My gloves were almost soaked from the snow and my hands were beginning to ache from the cold, not to mention that the legs of my pants were becoming nearly just as frozen and wet, but I was consumed in the inferno of my imagination and the passion for my project. I was an artist enraptured by his work. I labored for hours on end, working tirelessly to bring that pony to life. She wasn’t just a whim anymore, she was my pony, and I would be damned if I wasn’t going to give her life.

And then at last... she was complete. Midway through molding her, I had jokingly made the comment—aloud to no one but myself as I often do from time to time—that I would name her Snowflake: The Prettiest of the Snowponies. Now that she was finished, the name just felt right, with the exception of the cute little title. That had just been me being my normal, silly self. I took a moment to step back and admire my work.

I had tried my best to make her life-sized. It was difficult to tell from the references provided by the show, but there was enough fan-created content out there to know that I was at least close to what most bronies would consider a pony’s actual size. If anything, she might've been a little larger than your average pony. I hadn't given her any distinctive features, like a cutie mark, eyes, or mouth. I had a feeling that trying to carve out such intricate details large and deep enough to make them visible in her white form was far too risky, but I was happy without them. The curves of her body flowed elegantly and seamlessly from one part to the next, and even though she wasn't without her flaws, she had turned out better than I ever dared to hope. She was my first sculpture after all. Regardless of any imperfections, I was still proud of her. An artist's love for their work is a little something like what I'd imagine a parent's love for their child feels like, though almost certainly not as deep.

Despite the fact it was still snowing, I started to brush off some of the loose snow that had fallen and covered Snowflake in a thin blanket. As I ran my hand across her back, feeling every curve and cleft I had so carefully crafted through my gloves, it almost felt as though I was actually brushing the coat of an actual pony from Equestria. Not just any pony, my pony, a pony I had an intimate connection with. I realize how ridiculous that must sound, but I knew that she was probably the closest I would ever get to the real thing, and that thought actually sent a ping of sadness echoing through the depths my heart.

Pathetic right? I was a twenty-three year-old military man, and there I was kneeling out in the slush and snow wishing that the pony in front of me was real. Is it really so misguided for me to long for a place as perfect as Equestria? Is it wrong to want to know one of its purehearted, adorable little ponies? I know I’m idealizing it a lot. If the series has shown us anything, it's that Equestria isn't perfect, nor are all of its ponies, but you have to admit that it tends to look like a better place than our world is most of the time.

Let's face facts. Our world had me growing up between two houses; our world had me bullied and rejected when I was just a hurting kid who didn't fit in; our world had just recently taken the chance to crush the dreams I had been working towards for most of my life when I hit a wall at the Academy. Did some good come from all that bad? Did I become a stronger, better person from those hardships? Were there still plenty of opportunities ahead of me? Of course, but even so... when a dream breaks, a part of your soul shatters with it, and it's not easy picking up the pieces. That’s the part of me that longed for Equestria most of all, the part that was still broken.

At the time, my moment of introspection was over as quickly as it began, and I made my way inside to let everyone know that my work was done. They were all just as surprised as I was that my snowpony had turned out so well, and the expected praise and pictures followed. I even grabbed my digital camera and took quite a few pictures of my own because I certainly wanted to save Snowflake somehow. No one lingered for too long, however. It was already past midnight, and we were all ready to hit the hay after a long and snow-filled Christmas day. The three of them began walking towards the door to my apartment to go to bed, but I stayed behind. I wanted to spend a little more time with my masterpiece.

Soon enough, I found myself outside and alone again with only Snowflake to keep me company. I took a few last pictures and video of the sculpture that I had worked so hard to create over the last few hours. I knew that she wouldn't last long—it was Arkansas after all—and I wanted to be sure to preserve her memory the best I could.

With the batteries in my camera running on low, I decided it was finally time for me to call it a night. The fact that my pants and gloves were far past uncomfortably soaked and that my was body beginning to shiver uncontrollably from being so cold were also contributing factors. As I mentioned earlier, there's a big difference between dry cold and wet cold. Not to mention it was getting quite late, and there was still a slight chance I had to report into work for swing shift the following afternoon if the snow hadn't caused too many problems, which wasn't likely. Southern United States, remember?

I took one last moment to give a final look down at the pony that I had spent several cold, dark, and damp hours to create. I turned off my nearly-dead digital camera and placed it in one of my jacket pockets as the snow still continued to fall softly and silently around me. It made for a very peaceful calm, and I once again found myself feeling that same twinge of sadness and longing from earlier. In a very intimate (and potentially embarrassing) moment, I dropped onto one of my knees, put two of my fingers to my lips in a kiss, and touched them to her forehead. I closed my eyes for a second as I knelt in the slurry of snow, and wished harder than I had ever wished for anything before that Snowflake could somehow become real, even if it was only for that one night. Of course, when I opened my eyes, she remained nothing but the same snowpony that she had been when I closed them. Realistically, I'm not sure what else I expected.

With no real reason to linger any longer, I got up, turned my back to Snowflake—to everything I wished could be true—and began the short walk to my apartment's front door. I faintly heard the sound of crunching snow nearby, but I didn't think much of it. Being so close to the treeline, I had been hearing similar sounds all evening as the heavy snow fell from the branches. Then a soft, unmistakably feminine giggle, a sound I had not heard throughout the evening, came from somewhere behind me and just barely reached my ears through the chilled night air, but it wasn't until I heard the voice actually speak that it managed to catch hold of my attention.

“Wait! Please don’t go,” it had pleaded.

The sound had been as delicate and soft as the falling snow, and it had stopped me dead in my tracks. I slowly turned around to see who had called out to me in such a sweet, heart-melting tone, not quite sure what I'd find. My eyes went wide and my mouth moved without a sound as I tried to find my words, but I was at a complete loss.

“Aren't you going to say something?” she asked.

Ch2 - Miracles And Magic

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She was standing only a few feet from where I had stopped, staring up at me with beautiful, cobalt blue eyes that seemed to radiate like the Moon on a crisp winter's night. A shiver went down my spine, and my heart seized up in my chest. I could feel the adrenaline from the pure shock of it all surging through my body, but I was frozen like a statue. I was about to burst from joy, but I didn't dare move, afraid that any action might make her disappear right before my very eyes just as magically as she had appeared. Only the word "impossible" managed to barely escape my lips as a whisper, causing her to giggle slightly at my disbelief.

It was a miracle. What else would you call it? Snowflake, the same earth pony made of snow I had finished creating not an hour earlier, was alive. She gave a brief shake of her body similar to what you'd expect from a dog, and every imperfection created by my unskilled hands simply fell away from her form like a layer of loose snow, revealing an incredibly intricate design of a snowflake on her flank. Unsurprisingly, her coat was as white and glistening as the snow that was still softly drifting downwards around us; however, I was completely captivated by her mane and tail. Both seemed almost ethereal as they flowed from her elegant figure in a dense veil of falling snow that gradually faded into the nothingness of the night's air. I guess you could say I really liked her mane. Hah, bad reference joke! Right before she spoke again and snapped me out of my entrancement, she gave an obviously-pleased grin of just as stunningly-white teeth through her newly-formed mouth.

“Well.. aren't you going to say something?” she asked again, giving another short laugh as she simply stood there smiling at me. I'm not sure if you'll understand what I mean by this, but her voice rang with a pure and innocent tone, and resounded with a child’s wonderment and enthusiasm. I'm not sure how else to describe it.

Still at a loss for words, I said the one word I could think to say: “How!?

It was more another exclamation of my disbelief than a proper response, but I think it was appropriate given the situation. I mean, honestly, what would you have said? Probably something similar, right? In hindsight, I kind of wish I was a bit wittier and had said, "Are you the ghost of Christmas pony?" or something like that, but I was too surprised to be smart.

“It’s not really that hard, silly,” she replied with a playfulness clearly present in her voice. “You made me!”

Yep, simple as that, agreed? No. There was no way that's all there was to it. My brain hurt. We've already established that I’m a logical thinker. I like things to make sense, and this made none. Then again, what fun is there in making sense? Heh, more reference humor. But in all seriousness, I had to at least try to get a somewhat reasonable understanding of what exactly was going on.

“But that doesn't explain anything!” I blurted with a little too much volume.

I’m also a very loud and easily excitable person, especially when I have good reason to be. I cringed a bit and quickly placed a hand over my mouth as I realized people were probably trying to sleep, and honestly, I didn't want any company. I had no idea what would've happened if someone had just wandered out and seen Snowflake, and I didn't want to put it to a test. She, on the other hand, simply gave another adorable laugh at my outburst. Geeze, was she cute.

“Would it make you feel any better if I said it was the magic of Christmas?” she asked with laughter in her words.

“...Not really, no,” I said flatly, shaking my head slightly at her nonsense.

“How about the power of true love?” she asked, batting her eyes at me as she drew out the last word.

What?" I responded a little incredulously.

I have admit, that one had thrown me off. I've never been one to feel any particular sort of physical attraction towards anything outside my own species, especially inanimate ponies made of snow. My mind simply short-circuited itself at the comment as my face contorted itself in confusion. Snowflake simply gave yet another giggle upon seeing my apparently amusing reaction to her little joke before explaining herself and saving my brain from a complete nuclear meltdown.

“Well you did just spend the past few hours freezing cold and wet to make sure that I wouldn't be half a snowpony. What else would you call that?” she asked.

She did make a good point. She had become a labor of love, though, like I mentioned before, it was certainly more similar to the love a parent would feel towards their child. Once I began to give her a form, she became more than just a pony; she became my pony. There wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that I was going to abandon her half-finished, never to become whole. It just wouldn't have felt right. Snowflake was my first snowpony and—you know what? I hadn't even thought to ask her if that was really her name until that very moment.

“Snowflake...?” I asked somewhat hesitantly.

"Yes?" she said in a drawn-out response, giving a slight tilt of her head while she continued to smile at me. It was obvious she was thoroughly enjoying the entire encounter.

“So that is your name,” I said with a satisfied shake of my fist, briefly looking off to the side in thought.

“Of course it’s my name! You gave it to me, after all,” she pointed out, drawing my eyes back to her. “Don’t you remember?” she asked with a slight and playfully-disapproving shake of her head. Her mane trailed snowflakes as it swayed with the motion. She lifted her chin high as she planted a hoof forward. “I’m Snowflake: The Prettiest of the Snowponies!” she said striking her proud pose. She certainly lived up to the title, I gave her that. I was still astounded that she lived at all!

“Yes, of course I remember... I just wanted to make sure,” I explained, “but I'd still like to know how you’re actually alive. I'm pretty sure I didn't do that.” She was definitely having her fun making me state the obvious; although, I’ll admit I've been guilty of the same every now and again. Like father like daughter, I suppose... if that even applies to a situation like the one I faced.

“Let’s just say a couple of princesses thought you could use a little magic in your life tonight,” she said in a tender tone as she gazed up to the sky, the snow still falling softly from it's starless expanse.

The Princesses? Yeah, you read right. I admit, I was skeptical as well, but then again, I was talking to a magical snowpony. I didn't really have much room to argue for logic at that point. Regardless, it felt very odd to think of Luna and Celestia as anything more than fictional characters, but apparently their magic was at work right in front of my eyes. Seeing is believing, as they say. All the evidence indicated that they were real and that they had somehow brought my snowpony to life, but I couldn’t stop myself from trying to ask her those very questions.

“Then they’re—”

“Uh huh,” she said with a nod.

“And they—”

“Yep!” she exclaimed with a small, cheery hop. The snow gave a satisfying crunch when she landed.

Snowflake having apparently read my mind and her origin essentially clarified, I moved on to the next obvious question on the list of stupid things people ask when something truly wonderful—or horrible—happens to them.

It was the typical expression: “Why me?”

I told you it was stupid. Seriously, why would I want to question it? It was the best possible thing I could have ever wished for—in fact, I did wish for it if you recall—and there I was just asking for the universe to come in and ruin it! It reminds me of those situations when people say, “At least it can’t get any worse,” and then it does. Thankfully, the universe did not seize the golden opportunity I had so graciously given it to crush my dreams once again, and instead Snowflake just took a cleansing breath and closed her eyes for a moment before answering my generic, very predictable question. When she did, she gazed deep into my eyes and spoke into my very soul.

“Beneath all your laughter and smiles is a lot of pain... pain that you really don’t want anyone to see because you don’t want them to worry.”

I gave a short laugh and shook my head at the ridiculous accusation. It was ridiculous, and I told her exactly why it was ridiculous. Did I mention that it was ridiculous?

“Have you seen my life?” I asked with my usual enthusiasm. “Sure it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good! I've got friends and family that care about me, a good job in the Air Force, and more opportunities than I know what to do with. I love my life!” I said as I threw my hands in the air, breathing a little heavy from becoming a little too excited in my explanation. Snowflake remained calm and kept looking at me with caring, knowing eyes.

“Then why did you just spend the last few hours outside, alone in the cold?” she asked softly yet confidently.

“Uh... b-because I like to be artistic...?” I suggested with slow and heavily enunciated words as I gave exaggerated shrug and nervous smile.

She gave me a look, and I'm pretty sure you know the kind I mean. My arms dropped to my side as I lowered my head in defeat and let out a sigh. I could tell she didn't buy it and neither did I. Those pains in my heart I felt when I was sculpting her from the snow had been too powerful, too real to be just a passing whim. Something was wrong in my life, and it was time for me to face reality. Ironic considering I was talking to the pony version of Frosty the Snowman.

“So it wasn’t because you were trying to escape from your pain?” she pushed, taking a step towards me. “Trying to forget about the disappointment and emptiness you feel almost every day?”

I didn't say anything. I couldn’t say anything. I just kept looking down at my boots. She was right. How she was right, I didn't know. To her, I was an open book. She even seemed to know things about me that I didn't know about myself. Magic, am I right? She didn't have to explain sh—anything. She closed the rest of the distance and placed a hoof tenderly on my chest.

“So, what then?" I asked as I slowly lifted my head. "Is that why you’re here? To help poor little ol’ me get over myself?” I accused a bit sharply, causing her to lower her hoof and give me a bit of space. I admit, I felt a little bad about it, but I had to say my peace. “Please. I’m sure there’s plenty of other people who could use that help a lot more. In fact, I would prefer you go help those people,” I said somewhat resentfully. Before you say it, yes, I was being stubborn and defensive and pushing away the most incredible thing to ever come into my life. Blame my stupid self-pride. Snowflake closed her eyes for a moment before she spoke again.

“No,” she answered with a shake of her head. “That’s the reason I’m here.”

Now I was confused again, and I could see that she could see I was confused. She lowered her head with another sigh before continuing on, again looking me straight in the eyes with that same warm and understanding gaze of hers when she began speaking again.

“You’re always so focused on others that you never think to take care of yourself. You hide your true feelings because you don’t want to feel like a burden anyone else. That’s not healthy!” she blatantly pointed out.

All I could do was rub my neck and avert my gaze as I internally admitted defeat; she had scored a direct hit, good effect on target. I always tried so hard to make everyone else’s lives easier, doing my best to keep their minds at ease, always telling them I was alright when I wasn’t, always keeping all my hurt and pain hidden from those who cared about me most or avoiding them when I couldn't. I loved to help others, but never wanted to bother anyone with helping me. I gave and gave and gave but never let anyone give back. I didn't want them to give back. I had joined the Air Force to make the world a better place. That was my mission, not to be a burden for someone else to carry, or... that’s the way I thought about it, anyway.

If I was being honest, it was draining the life out of me, sucking all the joy and happiness from my soul until there was nothing left. Deep down, I felt empty and exhausted. The happiness everyone else saw was nothing but a lie. Well, maybe not a lie, but it wasn’t the whole truth at the very least, like only showing your good side when taking a picture.

“So, what now?” I asked flatly, my voice low and defeated.

“Now...” she continued, “I bring some magic back into your life,” she said with barely contained excitement in her words.

The term “magic” had caused me to snap me out of my sulking to see her giving me a sly smile and wink. My eyes were now bright with curiosity as my mouth hung slightly open, trying to think of what to say or ask next, but nothing came to mind. I just stared at her for a moment as she turned around and began to trot lightly towards the treeline, the wet snow crunching under her hooves with each step. She stopped just short of entering the forest and looked back at me over her shoulder.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” she asked. “Are you coming or not?”

I gave a slight shake of my head to rid myself of my stunned surprise. "Y-Yeah, absolutely..." I answered and casually ran to her side, still trying to understand what was happening.

The two of us crossed into the treeline without another word, gradually leaving the artificial light provided by the exterior apartment lamps. Luckily, the snow tends to amplify any ambient light, and having the white of the ground in such stark contrast to the dark colors of the trees made finding our path not too difficult. As we went deeper into the forest, only the sounds of our steps and the noises of the forest kept the silence at bay. I could hear the wind blowing through the trees, the snow falling from their branches, and the trees creaking, cracking, and occasionally collapsing under the unfamiliar weight of the snow and ice.

It wasn't unfamiliar to me. I had grown quite fond of similar surroundings during the many winters of my childhood wandering through the woods, although there was more underbrush than I was used to that made it a bit difficult to traverse. As I recalled those times from my youth, I felt that familiar spirit of peace and calm begin to take up residence within my soul. The nostalgia was nearly overwhelming. It was undeniably nice to walk through the snowy wilderness and down memory lane, but nothing all too special. It wasn’t magical.

I turned to look at Snowflake who had simply been looking forward the entire time. She seemed to be focusing on something, although I couldn’t tell what it was. We had been making our way through the forest for a short while, but didn't really seem to be headed in any specific direction, just wandering aimlessly. Then... it happened.

With a shake of her mane, a flurry of snow suddenly flew upwards around us in a small whirlwind, gusting and twisting violently enough to the point where I had no choice but to shield my face from its assault. When it vanished only a few seconds later, it seemed as though nothing had changed. As far as I could tell, we were still in the forest, but what I failed to observe was the abrupt and unnatural change in the weather: the snow was no longer drifting softly from the sky and not even a single cloud obscured the suddenly star-filled night, making it noticeably easier to see. Snowflake simply resumed walking without a single outward reaction to the curious event. I, on the other hand, had stopped altogether, completely dumbfounded as I tried to figure out what in God’s frosted winter night just happened.

“What was that?” I asked loud enough for my words to carry to her ears, knowing full well she had something to do with it.

She didn't say anything, but I could’ve sworn I saw the slightest hint of a smirk on the side of her muzzle with a small snort of white from her breath through her nose, but she kept moving otherwise unfazed towards a break in the treeline that I had apparently failed to notice a few moments earlier. After running to catch up with her, the underbrush pleasantly less prevalent, I leaned over until my head was level with hers, looked intently at her face, and asked a slightly different question in the hopes of getting any sort of answer with a second attempt. This time, I would let her know I was onto... whatever it was she was doing.

“What did you do?” I asked, stressing each word for added emphasis.

Still nothing, though I swear I saw the telltale signs of yet another grin suppressed beneath her lips. Her silence was absolutely maddening, but I didn't have to wait much longer for an answer. As we emerged from the trees just a moment later, she extended her hoof forward.

“Welcome,” she paused for dramatic effect, “to the land of Equestria!” she announced with the skill of a seasoned performer.

I shifted my gaze towards the direction she was pointing. Surely she was pulling my leg, but when I finally saw the landscape, my eyes shot open as wide as humanly possible. We were at the top of a small, snow-covered hill with the forest to our backs. Off in the distance, I could see the very familiar scene of Canterlot sitting on its mountainside perch with what I assumed to be the flickering lights of Ponyville off a bit to the right of the mountain’s base. The night sky was strikingly clear, causing my eyes to drift upwards and take in the countless stars and Luna’s impressively large moon directly overhead. I bent my head back further to continue my stargazing and wound up losing my balance, falling flat on my butt. I didn't mind; I just continued gawking at the incredibly unbelievable sight before me. Snowflake simply shut her eyes and place a hoof over her lips as she gave a soft, mirthful laugh at my bewilderment.

Only three words managed to escape my mouth:

“Best. Christmas. Ever.”

Ch3 - Look To The Light

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My butt was getting cold, but I didn't care. I was just sitting there in the snow, staring at... everything: the stars, the Moon, the snow-covered fields and mountains with the lights of pony settlements spangling their visage. The only thing keeping my rear end dry was the bottom length of my APECS coat. For once, somewhere in the back of my mind, I was actually happy it was oversized. It may have failed to do the same for my legs, but they had already been soaked through-and-through from the hours I had spent outside; a little extra moisture didn't matter much at that point. And regardless, such things were insignificant to me at the time. There was absolutely nothing that could’ve ruined that moment. I was in a place I had only dreamt about. I was in Equestria.

And I had apparently failed to notice that the same magic that brought me there had at some point changed me into a pony...

Haha, just kidding! Like I would ever use that cliché... but I got you good, right? Pretty funny, right? N-no? No? O-okay, I'm sorry... back to the story, then. I've had my fun.

Well, despite it clearly being winter, the weather was surprisingly comfortable. Part of that was no doubt due to the fact that there was no wind to speak of. Most of you probably know how much of a difference windchill makes on a person's ability to tolerate the cold. If you don't, you just learned something today: windchill sucks. I estimated it must have been just below freezing, high 20s or so. Cold enough to keep the snow from melting but still bearable. I suppose top marks go to the weather ponies.

Sooo... you like your gift?” asked a clearly satisfied Snowflake. As if she had to ask. The answer was plastered all over my face! She knew full well what my answer was; I could see it in the playful smirk across her muzzle. She was obviously just being coy with me. I’ll concede this much: it was a very cute kind of coy. I think I might've even heard a squee from the cuteness of it all.

I, however, was stupefied, barely managing to mutter, “Out of all the things that could happen... this is the best possible thing,” in classic brony show-paraphrasing fashion. You've done it, too. Don't deny it; everyone's at least pulled a "20 percent cooler" quote once.

“Glad you like it!” her voice rang, resounding with the same enthusiasm and pureness it had earlier. She closed her eyes and gave an adorable tilt of her head as she said so, nearly causing me to fall over from cardiac arrest. Everything about her was just plain heart-melting. Gah! It’s as if some ponies are made of cute, you know what I mean? Right in the feels. No complaints here, though.

Anyway, I know they say never look a magical, bursting with cuteness gift-horse in the mouth, but I still had to ask at least one more nagging question. I’m a logical thinker after all, always asking this and that to get everything to make sense in the grand scheme of my mind.

“But why bring me here?” was the question as I continued to look at the scene around me in disbelief, doing my best to take it all in. I never wanted to forget that moment. “Not that I’m ungrateful,” I continued, “it’s just... I can’t imagine that I’d be allowed to meet anypony or—”


Yep, that was a cold and wet snowball. A snowball had just pelted me right upside the head and was now sliding down my face, leaving a very familiar sting. When I looked over at Snowflake, apparently something in the corner of her vision had caught her interest and she had suddenly began to whistle what I assume was Equestria’s most innocent tune. As if such an obvious ruse would ever work against me. Personally, I think she was just trying to weaponize her cuteness. It was official: "War were declared."

“Oh, it is ON!” I shouted in a show-quoting battle cry.

Naturally, I took the appropriate retaliatory action: I dug both my gloved hands into the snow, scooped up two massive clumps, and proceeded to use them to make a Snowflake sandwich. Her attention conveniently elsewhere, it was too late when she turned her eyes back at me and tried to back up. Her hooves failed to gain any traction and the snow made solid contact with each cheek of her adorably innocent, little face.

“Ah!” she yelled out in a cry surprise. I decided to take advantage of opportunity to quote my favorite lunar princess.

“Huzzah! The fun has been doubled!” I shouted with laughter into the night. I’m sure Luna approved.

Snowflake’s laughter joined mine, melodiously escaping into the cool winter’s air as she wiped the snow from her cheeks. By the time she opened her eyes, I had already fallen back a good distance and reloaded, a misshapen snowball in each hand and at the ready to be thrown.

“Try it, tough guy,” she taunted, lowering her chest close to the ground and sticking her rump up in the air, her tail swaying back and forth leaving a trail of ethereal snowflakes. She was ready to pounce, dodge, or weave at a moment’s notice, but I sure as the Sun shines wasn’t going to let that discourage me from trying to land a hit! I chucked those snowballs as hard and fast as I could, one right after the other, and they sure did fly; they flew right over her head. She stood upright and turned her neck to watch as they sailed past, letting out a boisterous laugh at my lack of precision aiming skill.

“Oh yeah,” I scoffed as I proceeded to rolled my eyes, “like you can do any—”

SMACK... again. Headshot. Right in the face.

I’ll admit I walked right into that one, but you can bet your bottom bit I didn't take that lying down. Both of us volleyed snowballs back and forth, launching barrage after barrage of the icy projectiles at one another outside the treeline of that snow-covered hilltop. I nearly lost my footing more than a few times, threatening to make me take an unexpected tumble down to the bottom. If you’re wondering how Snowflake made the snowballs, you got me there. She just scooped her hoof through the snow and voilà! A perfect snowball. Chalk up another one on the ‘How do ponies do that?’ board. When the dust settled—metaphorically speaking—there was only one obvious victor... Snowflake. Hey, she’s a magical snowpony, that’s an unfair advantage if you ask me.

As you might expect from the previous snowfall fight I had earlier that night, it wasn't all too long before I was completely winded from our friendly little skirmish in the snow, so I surrendered to my exhaustion and ceased fire. I bent over to help catch my breath—yes, I know it's bad form and actually doesn't help, but it felt good—only to look up in time to see Snowflake take a running leap and tackle me to the ground, eliciting an "OOF!" from me and causing the two of us to slide the fifty-or-so feet down the small hill on my back. She simply let out an adorable "Weee!"

Once we reached the bottom, she rolled off my chest and we laid beside one another on the soft, yet cold ground, both of us laughing at her little stunt. When the laughter faded, we just laid there for a few moments more in companionable silence. If you've grown up with the snow like I have, you know exactly how comfortable it can be, especially when your energy is completely spent. If not, I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Our chests heaved and gradually slowed as the frigid night air entered our lungs, white puffs forming with each outward breath as we simply stared at the stars. Lying there, I pulled off my gloves and stuffed them in the out-of-the-way upper-right arm pocket of my jacket. My hands were starting to become achingly numb and the gloves weren't helping anymore. They had already been frozen and damp from back when I made Snowflake, but that snowball fight pushed me past my tolerance for pain and cold. Instead, I elected to shove my hands in my pockets, hoping to utilize some my body heat. I certainly didn't want something like frostbite ruining my time in Equestria.

The welcome and peaceful silence still lingered between us as our breathing finally became calm and natural once again. It was nice, but I spoke up anyway. I still needed everything to make sense, and she had been cleverly avoiding the issue. That's my game, and I know how to play it.

“Ya know, you never answered my question,” I said lightheartedly and maybe a little accusingly, though my gaze remained on the night sky.

I heard Snowflake give a sigh. Yes, I knew I was ruining a perfectly happy moment by being all ‘srs bsns’ and stuff, but it needed to be done. I had turned my head to look at her, but she kept her brilliant blue eyes fixed to the stars, almost as if she was looking to them for the answer as her mane still flowed with the appearance of snow falling gently from the sky.

“Well, you were kinda right,” she replied, “about not being able to meet anypony, that is.”

Not quite the answer I was expecting. I hadn't even been able to really finish that question before I had gotten a surprise chunk of snow upside the head. Perceptive little snowpony, wasn’t she?

“Oh? So you were paying attention before your sneak attack!” I playfully accused. She gave a short, mirthful laugh with closed eyes. I couldn’t help but smile at the sight.

“Heh heh, yeah. Part of the magic that brought you here makes you invisible to everypony but me and the Princesses,” she explained.

I couldn’t say I was surprised; although it was a somewhat disappointing. A part of me had hoped I would be able to spend some time with the ponies I had grown so fond of, even if it would only be for one night, but I suppose it’s not like Equestria’s rulers could risk me running around, causing all sorts of problems and questions. And making anyone invisible to the Princesses was just asking for trouble. Honestly, I was still struggling with the concept that Equestria actually existed and that my actions could have consequences, but that was the apparently reality of the situation.

“I guess that makes sense enough,” I conceded and turned my eyes back up to the stars. “So why did you bring me here?” I asked. After all, I still hadn't gotten the answer I was really looking for.

“Well, magic doesn't really work on Earth—not very well, anyway—so we brought you here for some magic,” I heard her cheerfully explain as I simply stared at the Moon overhead.

There was that word again: magic. She was there to bring magic back into my life, or so she had said. It was very cryptic of her, and I didn't have the slightest idea what she was talking about.

“What do you mean? You know, about this whole ‘magic’ thing?”

“You see,” Snowflake began, “Luna has put together a very special light show tonight—with a little help from her sister—and you couldn’t very well see it from Earth, now could you?” She had me there. “So instead they brought you here!” she said with barely-contained enthusiasm. She was clearly as happy as I was that we both were in Equestria, causing me to smile at the thought.

“Then the Princesses don’t really have any influence over what happens on Earth,” I stated simply, thinking on it for a moment. I suppose I had already intuitively known that, though, even if I hadn’t really given it any tangible thought until that point.

“Not in the way you're probably thinking,” Snowflake interjected. “They don’t control the Sun or the Moon or anything as significant as that. They could bring me to life, but even that was only possible with a little extra help. There’s a lot to be said for the heart you poured into making me.”

That last comment caused me to turn my eyes away from my stargazing and towards Snowflake. I found her looking right back at me with a soft gaze of her own, a smile on her lips. I was glad to know that I had an important role in her coming to life, but there was also something that was personally a little unsettling about this whole situation.

“You know what I want to know?” I asked somewhat rhetorically as I pulled my hands out of my pockets and threw them forward to onto my legs to help me sit upright.

“Sure!” she responded with a beaming grin and closed eyes.

“If Equestria is real, if Luna and Celestia are real, what does that mean for Earth’s religions? What does it mean for my beliefs?” I asked. Understandably, the tone of my voice had become somewhat somber and serious when expressing my concerns.

There was a moment of silence as she contemplated how to answer a question of that magnitude. I could see the gears working behind the thoughtful twisting of her face, which eventually relaxed as she closed her eyes. When they opened, any sign of her smile was gone, but she wasn’t frowning either. It was nice to know that she could be serious when it really mattered. I mean, how do you even answer a question like that? It certainly wasn’t a nice thing to ask, I know, but this whole experience—as awesome as it was—was giving me something of a crisis of faith. That’s not a problem I can ignore. I needed something like that resolved right then and there. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a man who believes strongly in his God, much to the disdain of my logical mind.

“If you’re asking if there’s a God, I'm afraid I don’t have the answer,” she said bluntly, “but let me ask you a question: Why can’t God and Equestria both exist?”

I tried to think of a proper response to that question, but nothing came to mind. Well, I could think of a few things, but nothing that could provide an absolute answer to the philosophical question of life, the universe, and everything. My brow furrowed and my lips thinned as I racked my brain for something that would help satisfy the question. Clearly seeing my dilemma, Snowflake was kind enough to give me a different idea to contemplate, something I could answer.

“How about I ask you this instead,” she began as she rolled over from her back to her chest and placed her legs underneath her. “Why do you believe in God?” she asked looking back at me with her concerned eyes more or less level to mine.

It was a thought so simple that it hadn't even crossed my mind. There I was trying to solve the monumental problem of providing a solid, logical argument of why God and Equestria could or couldn’t both exist when all I had to do was look inside myself. Cheesy? Maybe, but true nonetheless. Just call me "Cheddar."

“I guess I believe in God because He’s done so much in my life,” I started. “I've felt His love heal and change my heart from the angry and anxious child I used to be into a heart filled with patience and peace. I look at everything that’s happened to me throughout the years, all events and circumstances that fit together too perfectly and poetically to just be coincidences. The funny thing is... a lot of the evidence seems illogical. Ends turned out to be beginnings, doors that should have been closed were opened, things that seemed like impossibilities became possible, and all of it feels like it’s connected and leading up to some greater purpose, like someone's writing a larger, amazing story with my life.”

Snowflake simply nodded and listened with closed eyes, opening them when she spoke. “Then why can’t He have had a hand in this as well? All I’m saying is to believe what you feel in your heart. I never wanted you to question your faith,” she said softly, guilt slightly evident on her face.

“I know,” I said with a smile, trying to assuage her concern, “and thanks... for helping me find an answer.”

Snowflake simply gave a cheery hum of acknowledgement and the silence returned once again. I was staring at the snow between my legs with my hands on my knees, looking at nothing in particular as I thought about what she had said. It made a lot of sense, as much sense as a discussion about God and ponies could make anyway. As I've said, despite being a logical thinker, my heart is always telling me to believe in God, miracles, and I suppose to some extent magic as well. It’s definitely a very complicated relationship, and the two rarely seem to get along. I’m not sure how long I was lost in my introspection—which happens quite frequently—when Snowflake had apparently decided that the quiet had gone on long enough.

“Enough thought!” she declared as she energetically smacked a hoof on the ground, effectively grabbing my attention. “We’re going to be late if we don’t get a move on!” she said as she rose to her hooves.

“Late for what?” I asked, unaware that we now supposedly had a schedule to keep.

“Don’t you pay attention?” she said with a playful, exasperated sigh. “Luna’s light show! Come on,” she said, waving a hoof for me to follow, “I've got the perfect spot where we can watch it!”

She hadn't even finished her sentence before she started trotting at a quickened pace towards the next treeline, which wasn't all too far from where the bottom of the hill began. Not wanting to get left behind, I swung myself onto my feet and gave a short sprint to get up beside her before slowing my speed to match her steady, light gallop. From what I could tell, we were running towards a mountain range a bit of a ways off in the distance. I could still see Canterlot glistening high to our right, meaning we were heading north-ish as we made our way through a few open fields between the patches of forest. At some point, I thought we even crossed some railroad tracks, but it was difficult to be sure with all the snow while moving at our quickened pace. When we finally emerged from the last treeline after running for what seemed like forever, we had arrived at the base of a massive hill. It was at least seven or eight stories tall, probably taller; although, as far as I could tell, we hadn't quite reached the actual mountain range, only one of its larger foothills.

“Don’t stop now, we’re almost there!” she cheered.

Snowflake continued her gallop up the hill. Me? I was gasping for air and doing everything I could to stop myself from just flopping to the ground. My lungs do not like the cold, and after holding that healthy jogging pace for what was probably at least a good few miles, I wasn't surprised that I was out of breath. How she wasn’t in the same shape was impressive and a little irritating at the same time. Snowpony magic or earth pony endurance, take your pick. Regardless of my exhaustion, I wasted no more time and began painfully and slowly making my way onward and upward.

“Last one to the top’s a silly filly!” she taunted, taking a moment to look back down at my suffering.

Ya know what? That was fine with me. You have to understand, this was a steep hill. I even had to use both my hands and feet to have any hope of scaling the side of that monster. Fortunately for me, the snow packed together well and formed natural footholds, otherwise I probably would've been slipping and sliding more than actually climbing. When I eventually reached the top, I was still hunched over and looking down at the snowy ground. I dropped almost immediately to my hands and knees, the cold barely registering. It's amazing how much heat your body generates after such an extended and intensive physical exertion.

Barely a moment later, I had rolled over onto my back, my legs bent and feet firmly planted on the ground. Thankfully, my overly-large APECS jacket yet again served as a waterproof layer between my still dry backside and the wet snow. I closed my eyes and finally took a moment to catch my breath. I pulled off my Wonderbolts ushanka and let my head fall in the snow, my short military haircut doing very little against the cold, which was perfectly fine. The heat was visibility steaming from my head into the frigid night air, doing its best to help me cool off after all that effort. While I was recovering, I heard the crunching of the snow under Snowflake’s hooves get closer as she cantered over and gracefully plopped herself down beside me.

“You have to see this,” she said nearly whispering.

When I turned my head to look at her, she was staring wide-eyed at something behind me on the horizon. Rather than arch my neck to try and see what was so astounding, I instead rolled closer to Snowflake and onto my stomach, supporting my body with my elbows and forearms. What I saw... no description could ever do it justice. It was one of those things that I simply cannot adequately translate into something like the written word. All I can do is try to give you some small understanding of the absolutely breathtaking sight to the north before us.

The horizon was barely visible between the dips in the snow-covered mountain peaks with the Moon, massive and full, glowing a soft blue in the sky above. Between the two, colorful lights in beautiful shifting hues of green, indigo, and violet danced like curtains in the wind. The true coup de grâce, however, was throughout the midnight masterpiece. Behind and around the aurora, countless shooting stars fell and streaked across Luna’s vibrant canvas as the constellations themselves seemed to come to life.

I’m definitely the stargazing-type, the person who’s always looking to the Moon and stars on a clear night, and I’m certain I’ll never witness anything like it again. Something like that is beyond a once in a lifetime moment. If I were a different man, I might've been saddened by such a thought: to only be able to revisit that incredible sight in dreams and memories. In all honestly, I just felt blessed to be able to see it even once, to be able to cherish that memory for all my life.

“Wow,” was the only word that came out of my mouth, and even that was barely a whisper. Underwhelming, right? Well, that’s because the view was so amazingly overwhelming to me. I really did mean what I said: nothing spoken or written by my lacking abilities could ever be sufficient to completely capture that sight. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what I saw was probably worth at least a million. Clearly that didn't stop me from trying here on this page, now did it? Snowflake, on the other hand, was at less of a loss.

“Kinda takes your breath away, doesn't it?” she commented, tilting her head towards me as she spoke.

It did... it did that and more. I didn't just feel awestruck, I felt inspired. I felt alive, something I hadn't felt in a long time. All I could do in that instant was take a deep breath and let it all sink in. Then, I let it all go. Every hurt, pain, and sorrow that was harbored deep within my heart was released with a sigh into the air of that night. It was cathartic in every sense of the word.

"I needed this," I said softly. My eyes never wavered from the horizon as I continued. "I've felt so exhausted and empty for so long, but here? Now? I feel like myself again... It's kinda sad this night has to end."

“The point was to cheer you up! ‘Bring some magic back into your life,’ remember?” Snowflake playfully jeered, giving me a light nudge with her hoof as she giggled.

Sorry!” I said, nudging her back. “This night has been perfect, I promise. I just find it hard to believe that the Princesses would do this all for me.”

“Actually,” Snowflake interposed, “this is for the Winter Moon Celebration. Tonight’s the longest night in Equestria. Luna just thought you would like to see it. She wanted you to rediscover your... ‘Guiding Star’ I think is how she put it?”

“But how did she—” I began to question only to see Snowflake giving me a certain ‘haven’t you learned your lesson’ type of stare, causing me to simply say, “I’ll stop.”

“Good!” she said with smile and exaggerated nod. “Now why don’t you tell me about that sigh earlier?” she asked somewhat schemingly. Clever pony is clever.

My initial response to that was another sigh as I gathered myself for the inevitable. I had a feeling she wasn’t going let this go until I completely spilled my guts. I mean, honestly, one of the first things she did after she came to life was call me out. I didn't really see a point in avoiding it anymore considering the circumstances. Here was someone who was willing to listen, who genuinely wanted to help, and she seemed to know more about me than I knew about myself, so I decided to get comfortable. I shifted from laying on my stomach to sitting and rested my arms against my knees for support, fully unzipping my jacket so I could feel the refreshing winter’s air flow around my chest. APECS doesn't like to breathe all too well, in case you were wondering.

“Have you ever tried to burn so bright that you end up only burning yourself out?” I asked, trying to be somewhat poetic and metaphorical.

Snowflake arched an eyebrow as she looked at me. “I’m not even a day old,” she pointed out.

“Right, I forgot. Fair enough,” I said sheepishly, smirking at my own absentmindedness. She did have a sort of wisdom about her that betrayed that fact. “I guess what I’m saying,” I continued, “is no matter how much I try, it just feels like I’m never who I want to be.”

“How do you mean?” she asked.

I knew enough by that point to tell that she really did care and that her question was sincere, so rather than doing what I habitually would've done, which is provide a halfhearted explanation to end the subject, I instead took a minute to gather my thoughts as I watched the shimmering night sky that continued to dance before the two of us. Snowflake laid patiently and quietly for my answer, realizing that I was basically about to rip my heart out and show it to her.

“I try so hard to make the best out of everything,” I began simply enough, “but it feels like I’m getting nowhere... like nothing I do really matters. Even when I’m at a full sprint, working as hard and fast as I can, it feels like the finish line never gets any closer.” I closed my eyes and gave yet another sigh before continuing. “Most days, I have trouble just getting out of bed. I don’t feel like there’s really a point to keep trying because it seems for every step I take forward, ten more steps are added in front of me.” I wasn’t quite sure what to say next. It wore me down just talking about it.

“Wow,” interjected Snowflake with an exaggerate bob of her body. “You really are depressed,” she facetiously observed.

“Tell me about it,” I said in a slightly dark, flat tone as I fell on my back and just let my arms fall to my sides. I simply stared straight up at the sky, Luna’s nighttime spectacle barely entered the lower edge my peripherals. I wasn’t upset, but I didn't think it was funny either. Snowflake leaned against my chest. I could feel the warmth of her body through her soft coat.

“Hey,” she said tenderly. “I’m sorry, I didn't mean to make fun of your feelings.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said, putting my arm across her back. “It’s not all bad. I've been able to experience a lot of incredible things in my life, but I always feel like I fall short. I never seem to reach the goals I set for myself.” Snowflake continued to lay against me as brief glimpses of the cosmic display licked at the bottom of my vision.

"Why is that?” she asked. I could tell that her questions were going somewhere. They weren't from simple, random curiosity; they were thought out with a purpose in mind.

“I work so hard to do something meaningful,” was my answer, “something worthwhile using the gifts God’s given me, but I try to do so much that I end up taking on more and more, setting higher and higher expectations for myself, and giving so much that I eventually just feel drained and discouraged. I begin to feel overwhelmed by it all and don’t know what to do next, so I end up not doing anything.”

“Then why do you take on so much? What are you trying to prove?” she questioned. She had every right to; it didn't make sense. It was illogical to overload myself, but there was an answer. I lifted my head, put my free arm behind it, and looked again at the incredible lights in the sky.

"You're starting to sound like my mother," I lightly observed with a slight hint of laughter.

"Well, maybe that's because she has a point," playfully retorted Snowflake.

"Honestly?" I started, earning a soft hum to continue from Snowflake. "I guess I'm honestly just insecure about my own abilities. I'm trying to prove to myself more than anyone that the gifts I think I have are real and not just in my head." I took a moment to think about it more and went a bit deeper. "When I first start something, it's all driven by my inspiration and determination to achieve my vision. It's a pure and uninhibited passion for whatever I’m doing, but the more I work, the more I feel like I can’t do it, like I’m not good enough...” I paused for a second, but not because I had to think. I stopped because what I had to say next I hated to admit. It was a hard truth, but it had to be said.

“So I avoid it," I said, the self-loathing clearly present in my voice. "I always avoid it because I'm not strong enough to overcome my anxiety and uncertainty. I just put it off until I feel like I can do it,” I continued, “until I feel like I am good enough, but that feeling never seems to come and another project or goal gets pushed aside. It happens again, and again, and again until I’m surrounded by half-completed attempts that are constantly reminding me of my failure, which just adds to my insecurity. Sometimes, I think it would all be easier if I quit trying, if I quit dreaming."

There was a respectful silence; my steady, deep breathing could be heard clearly as I soothed myself with the crisp breezes of the night while trying to clear my mind with the beauty before me. Another moment passed before Snowflake proposed the inconceivable.

“Then why don’t you?” she asked in a flat, almost accusatory tone. "If it’s so hard on you, maybe you should just quit." Looking back on it, I know now the words were forced and she didn't enjoy saying them.

What?” I asked incredulously, a bit hurt by the comment. She lifted her head and looked back at me, her cobalt eyes uncharacteristically cold, unyielding and demanding an answer.

With a nonchalant tilt of her head, she closed her eyes and gave a response of “Sure.” It lacked conviction. I pieced together that she wasn’t seriously telling me to give up, only trying to make me acknowledge how wrong my thinking was. It worked.

“If only it was that easy,” I stated calmly, “but it’s not. The thought of giving up is totally unacceptable to me on principle alone, but that’s not even the whole problem. Somewhere in my mind, I unquestionably believe I can reach my goals and that I’m simply not living up to my potential, preventing me from letting go. In some twisted logic, if I only avoid them indefinitely, then I haven't really quit; I haven't really failed... I guess the answer is I can't accept failure; I don't know how to completely give up. It's not who I am.” She gave a nod with a smile. Her question had clearly done exactly what she wanted it to do, but Snowflake still had one more to ask.

“Does chasing your dreams and inspirations make you happy?” she inquired with a gentle and knowing tone.

I was a little taken aback. I took a moment to think about the implications of the question and tried to think of how to answer. It seemed so benign, but it certainly wasn’t as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’... maybe it should have been.

“At first, yeah...” I finally responded, “but the more I get involved and the more I invest, the more I feel the need to make them my definition of perfect: my absolute best. Then I start to suffer setback after setback of not being satisfied with anything I do. They stop being enjoyable and start being stressful, and rather than finding the strength to push through the stress... I let it control me, paralyze me.” I said, my frustration clearly present in my voice. "I just don't seem to know how to let go of my expectations and live in the moment. I'm always worrying about not achieving the end result I want. Every criticism I get from others just reaffirms my own doubts and insecurities."

“And there’s the problem,” she declared, tapping a hoof against my chest. “You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to love what you’re doing. You know, do things from the heart and stop taking yourself so seriously?" she asked, giving a pause to let it sink in before continuing. "You have to realize that you usually give your best at that moment, that doing less is usually a conscious decision. Being content knowing that you gave all you had at the time instead of saying, 'I should have done better,' is one of the hardest things to accept."

She turned her head and went back to staring at the sky before continuing, as if drawing upon some greater wisdom than just her own. "I'm not saying you shouldn't take note of your shortcomings and focus on improving them next time, but do that for next time. And don't forget to notice what you did right and what did improve. Take it all in stride, don't expect to reach your potential so quickly, and remember to cherish the journey."

She turned her gaze back to me, though mine had never left her. Her eyes were even more gentle than before, and it was clear what she was about to say next was very personal for her. "Enjoy what you've created," she said softly, "because it's part of who you are and don't be afraid to share that with the world, but don't gauge your value by their approval. Trying to find your worth from the praise of others is a hollow happiness that's short lived. Real joy—true happiness—can't come from anywhere but inside yourself, from loving who you are and what you do. As long as what you're doing brings you joy, it’s as perfect as it needs to be.” She looked at me with eyes that were almost begging me to understand. “If you do that,” she said, “I can promise you that you’ll end up with something worthwhile.”

I made a thoughtful noise and gave a few slow, slight nods of my head. Snowflake stared hard and searchingly at me for a while, trying to appraise if her message had really gotten through before her gaze again softened and a smile crossed her lips. She went back to leaning against my chest and we both resumed watching the horizon.

As I laid there with Snowflake, I thought about what she had said. She was right, I didn't have to be perfect. It wasn’t about what you could do, it was about loving what you did. I had to let go and just live my life the best I knew how, being content in the knowledge that I had nothing to prove. Easier said than done, to be sure, but at least I knew what I had to do.

In that moment, however, I let myself enjoy the remainder of Luna’s gift with Snowflake in peace, knowing that the night would be over all too soon.