The Light in the Darkness
She panted, heart pounding as she stood in the center of town. She could hear the blood coursing through the veins in her ears, sounding like the roar of a distant ocean. Her mind was numb, barely registering where she was or that she was covered with a sticky red substance, the pungent scent of copper filling the air. Her eyes slowly fell to an object on the ground: a stained knife that glinted in the midday sun. Next to it was a growing red pool. Her eyes trained on the pool and slowly moved to its source.
The deed had been done.
Luna's Moon hung high above Equestria, its gentle rays bathing the countryside in an eerie glow as it slowly trekked across the cobalt-hued sky. Near Ponyville, the light illuminated a lone figure winging somewhat less gracefully than normal above the town. It was very late and she was exhausted, but Rainbow Dash didn't care, she was riding an emotional high and she enjoyed every second of the bliss.
She was returning from an evening in Cloudsdale after watching a Wonderbolt performance. The pegasus had been looking forward to the event ever since she preordered her tickets months ago, even going as far as camping out at the stadium gate the night before just so she'd be the first in line. Her saddlebags bulged with numerous pieces of memorabilia she had purchased in addition to at least two autographed photos of each of the Wonderbolts; understandably, that was what was throwing off her flight pattern. Dash smiled whimsically; she had seen her role models perform, got their autographs, and even managed to talk to Soarin' for a minute. Now she was almost home and would soon be enjoying wonderful sleep in her bed. Nothing could spoil this night.
Except for maybe a blood-curdling shriek that sent shivers down to her bones. She took a moment to swallow her heart back into her chest and quickly glanced around, her exhaustion forgotten as a surge of adrenaline flowed through her veins. Her eyes settled on Sugarcube Corner, specifically the single lit window on the top floor. Dash felt a sudden tightness in her chest. She knew that was Pinkie Pie's bedroom and that the sugar-crazed pony often stayed up late, but something didn't feel right and the feeling implored her to check it out. She paused for a moment, not wanting to end up making a fool of herself in front of her friend by charging in when there wasn't anything wrong. Still, the Cakes were on vacation for the week (Mr. Cake's eye had developed a very nasty twitch after Pinkie's most recent failed experiment with pies and popcorn), so it wouldn't hurt to pop in for a friendly check up. A single flap of her wings sent her gliding to the upstairs window, which she noticed was wide open, not surprising since it was a warm spring night.
"Hey, Pinkie!" she said upon reaching the window and sticking her head in, "I, uh, just got back from the Wonderbolt show in Clou-"
Something was wrong. Most ponies didn't know it, but Pinkie Pie was actually fairly well organized and kept her room, in addition to the bakery, quite clean. So the sight of the mattress on her bed all skewed with the covers and pillow dragged off onto the floor made Dash reconsidered her perceived paranoia from a moment ago.
"Pinkie Pie?" she said tentatively as she eased in through the window. She settled on the floor and stepped around an overturned nightstand, noticing the light was coming from the lamp on the floor, its shade resting a few feet away. She picked the lamp up and flinched when its brightness increased. She berated herself inwardly upon remembering that it was an enchanted lamp that Twilight had given Pinkie on her last birthday. It had its own magical reservoir and didn't require electricity or oil, the bulb lit up and brightened when one simply touched the base; it had given the pink pony hours of entertainment the day she got it. Dash set it upright on the floor and surveyed the rest of the room, which seemed to be in proper order save for Gummy's bed being flipped over. She peeked under the cushion to see a pair of violet eyes looking back at her.
"Hey, any idea what's going on?"
The eyes blinked out of sync.
"Some watchgator you are," she groused.
A loud crash from the floor below made her jump. She gathered herself and cautiously tip-hoofed her way down the stairs; there were more sounds coming from the kitchen. She paused near the bottom of the stairs, light was streaming into the alcove; she hadn't noticed that the kitchen light was on as well when she flew by a couple minutes earlier. Whoever was in the kitchen, they were making quite a racket. It sounded like they were rifling through the silverware drawers and tossing items into what sounded like a plastic bin.
Who are you? Burglars? She asked mentally. If you've done something to Pinkie, I'll...
Do what? She didn't have anything to fight with and she couldn't very well fly a dogfight inside a building. She looked around for something to use, her eyes settling on her saddlebags. She carefully slid them off and lifted them by the strap, hefting its weight.
Yeah, these'll work at least until I can find something else.
She slid along the wall to the corner. A quick peek revealed nothing but the front room and display counter, confirming to her that whoever was there was definitely in the kitchen. She took several deep breaths and steeled herself, prepared for whatever was around the corner. She dashed around the corner, saddlebags at the ready for a confrontation.
She wasn't prepared for what she saw.
In the middle of the kitchen floor stood a large plastic garbage can, several knives were scattered on the floor around the can as well as a couple of empty cabinet drawers. Off to the left was Pinkie Pie, standing on her hind legs and frantically rummaging through an open drawer, she seemed to be muttering something to herself as she hefted a hoof-full of knives and threw them into the can like they were dangerously contaminated. She turned back to the cabinet and opened another drawer, searching for more apparently offending cutlery.
Dash stood in the kitchen doorway, utterly confounded by what she was seeing. She had witnessed Pinkie do odd things before, but this was something unlike anything she had ever seen from her friend. That wasn't what scared her, though. Pinkie's coat was darker than normal, dull and muted, and her mane and tail were almost completely straight, only a little of the usual curliness remained. Dash had seen that change once before, was this another side of it? She set her saddlebags down and carefully walked toward her friend.
Pinkie didn't respond and continued her searching. Dash was close enough now to pick up mutterings. Pinkie's breathing was quick and shallow.
"Can't let it happen&...have to protect friends...won't let them die."
"Pinkie?" she asked a little louder, even more worried now. Pinkie suddenly ducked her head into the drawer and came out with a cleaver in her mouth. Why the hay does a bakery have a cleaver?! "PINKIE!"
The cleaver clattered to the floor as Pinkie screamed and threw herself back against the counter, still on her hind legs. Dash stepped back at the sight of her expression: absolute stark terror. Her eyes were glazed over and her hair clung to her face soaked in sweat. Were those tear stains on her cheeks?
Dash immediately recovered and took a step forward, panicked at seeing her like this. "Pinkie...Pinkie, it's me! Rainbow! Rainbow Dash!"
An eternal moment seemed to pass before Pinkie's eyes cleared and her breathing slowed slightly.
Dash felt a small amount of relief. "Yeah, yeah it's me."
She could have sworn she saw Pinkie's coat brighten as her expression was replaced by one of hope and then of relieved joy.
If Dash wasn't confused before, she certainly was now.
"Well, yeah, of course I'm alive. Why wouldn't I OOF!"
Pinkie tackled the pegasus, sending her down on her haunches and giving her the tightest hug she had ever felt. It took a second for her to realize that the pink earth pony had tears streaming down her face.
"Oh Dashie, you're okay
" She proceeded to break down and weep on Dash's shoulder.
Dash was at a complete loss. She had no idea what was going on, what had just happened, or why Pinkie apparently thought she was dead. But what she did know was that Pinkie needed her right now, and that was more than enough. Not normally the touchy-feely type, she banished her apprehensions and wrapped her forelegs around her sobbing friend, holding her close in a comforting embrace. Pinkie shuddered as she wept even harder, causing Dash to rub her back in a further attempt to comfort her.
It was unknown how long they sat on the floor of the Sugarcube Corner kitchen, but at long last, Pinkie's breathing became deep and regular, punctuated by the occasional sniff. Dash's mane and left shoulder were soaked, but considering the circumstances it wasn't worth noting. She wasn't sure what to do, though; she had never been in any sort of situation similar to this before, mostly because she preferred to avoid them. Was she supposed to stay quiet and just provide a comforting presence? Or maybe she should try getting Pinkie to open up about what happened? She opted for the latter.
"Hey, um, Pinkie?" she spoke as softly as she could, "You ok?"
The pink mare stirred and Dash could feel her nod.
"Yeah, I'm a little better now." She pulled back and faced Dash, placing her hooves on the pegasus' shoulders. "Thanks, for being here, Dashie."
She could see the sincerity in Pinkie's smile and puffy and reddened eyes. She could also see where her fur had become matted down from her tears and sweat. All in all, she looked like a real mess.
"Here," Dash said, smiling softly, "Let me get something to clean you up."
Pinkie nodded and sniffed, settling on her haunches. Dash trotted over to the sink where she found a clean dish rag and wet it under the faucet. She frowned at the mess of knives on the floor as she trotted back. Dash wiped down Pinkie's face, causing her to squirm a little, and she decided to broach the subject of the whole break down.
what happened? I mean, I was flying by and I heard a scream. When I came in, everything's a mess and you're down here doing
I don't know." Pinkie looked away from her, appearing very uncomfortable. Dash backpedaled, "I mean, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but you really scared me there."
Pinkie absently moved her right forehoof in little circles on the floor, watching it for a moment before speaking. "I
I'm sorry for freaking you out, Dashie, I wasn't thinking right." She went silent for another minute, closing her eyes and taking a few deep breaths to focus Dash figured. "It was a nightmare
a horrible nightmare."
A bad dream
seriously? Dash fought the thought and annoyed groan back as Pinkie continued.
it was the worst dream I've ever had. I
" She gritted her teeth and her face scrunched in emotional stress as tears began to stream again. She burst out, "I killed you, Dashie! I killed everypony! I-I cut them up with a knife a-and then
Oh sweet Celestia, Dashie! It was horrible!"
Dash sat stunned at the brief description, equally horrified. A loud sob broke her reverie and she pulled Pinkie into another embrace.
"I t-think I screamed and fell out of bed. -*sob*- I couldn't get the images out of m-my mind -*sniff*- an' I-I ran down here
all I could think about was p-protecting everypony from me
I had to get rid of them," she motioned to the scatted cutlery, "S-so I wouldn't be able to hurt you guys." Dash hugged her tighter as she wept anew. "I'm sorry, Dashie, I'm so sorry."
"You didn't do anything wrong, Pinkie, there's nothing to be sorry for," Dash soothed, "It was just a dream."
"But why did I have it?! -*sob*- W-what if there's a part of me like that's just waiting to come out again like Pinkamena did when you all threw that surprise birthday party for me?"
Dash recalled her encounter with the alter-ego on Pinkie's last birthday. "You're not like that, you'll never-"
"I don't wanna kill anypony!" she wailed hysterically.
Dash grabbed her shoulders and turned her so she was face to face. "Pinkie, look at me
look at me!" she commanded forcefully. Pinkie sniffed and slowly met her eyes. "I've seen Pinkamena; she was angry, she was lonely, she was scared
because you were. Do you remember what I told you after your birthday party?"
She sniffed again. "You
you said you were my friend and you always would be. -*sniff*- A-and I'd never be alone again because you and everypony else would be there for me."
"Yeah, that's right," Dash said, adopting a softer tone, "You'll never have to worry about Pinkamena again because you know we're all here for you
I'm here for you, and because you know that, you choose not to be Pinkamena. Does that make sense?"
I think so. But what does that have to do with
t-the other thing?"
Dash looked her right in the eye, "Do you want to be psychotic and kill everypony?"
Pinkie's eyes went wide, "N-no! Celestia, no, Dashie! I told you that's why I was throwing everything out!"
"There you go, that part will never come out because it's not in you." Dash leaned her forehead against Pinkie's, never breaking eye contact. "You are not psychotic, Pinkie, by reacting the way you did, you proved you're not. You reacted the way you did because you care for all of us and you can't bear seeing anything happening to us, real or imaginary. Alright?"
Pinkie kept eye contact for several long moments. Finally she closed her eyes and her ragged breathing slowed back to normal again. A small relieved smile formed on her lips.
"Okie dokie lokie."
She hugged Dash tightly, which was gratefully returned by the pegasus. After a few minutes, they released each other and Dash leaned back against the refrigerator with a drawn-out sigh.
"Dang, and here I thought I was tired before," she chuckled dryly.
Pinkie giggled it felt good to do that, "You know, Dashie, that stuff you were saying before was really deep and profound-y."
"Was it? Huh
I guess it was. Guess Twilight's been rubbing off on me. Confound that pony."
They shared a short laugh as Pinkie settled down to the floor, tucking her forelegs under herself. They sat in silence for a good long while; Dash noted that most Pinkie's color had returned along with her hair's bounciness. In time, the pegasus let out a huge yawn.
"Sorry, Pinkie," she apologized as she blinked hard to clear her eyes, "I almost dozed off there."
The earth pony smiled up at her, "S'ok, Dashie, I know you did lots of super stuff today and you're really tired." She turned away as her face fell. "I don't think I'll be able to sleep for quite a while," she said under her breath.
Dash frowned sympathetically. She had never seen her so distressed as long as she had known her. It seemed
unnatural, not in an uncharacteristic sort of way, but like the mere thought of it simply should not exist at all. It worried her seeing Pinkie like this; the pink pony almost was never without a smile or bounce in her step, exuding happiness and energy to all around her. And now she was the one in need of cheering up and it was up her to do it. An errant thought entered Dash's mind, You've done enough here, it said, Go on home get some well-deserved sleep. The thought was immediately banished to whatever dark recess it had crawled out of; she was the Element of Loyalty for a reason: she would never leave her friends when they needed her. But what could she do? Cheering ponies up was somewhat of a foreign subject to her and she had basically been playing the whole situation tonight by ear. Although
there was one thing she knew she could do and might work: have fun.
"Hey Pinkie, you got a TV upstairs, right?"
Pinkie looked up with a slightly befuddled expression, "Yeah, but I don't use it much except to watch movies and My Little People."
She shook her head in amusement at her friend's obsession with that little filly's show. "And your popcorn is in that cupboard over there?" she asked with a nod toward a corner cupboard.
Dash leapt to her hooves, declaring, "Impromptu movie night! Go pick out a few movies and I'll make some popcorn for us."
It took half a second for the idea to register, but when it did, Pinkie's face was split by an impossibly huge smile and her eyes sparkled as she too leapt up.
"Ooh! Great idea, Dashie! And I know the bestest movies to watch!"
She vanished in a blur up the stairs and Dash smiled proudly at herself.
Ten minutes later, Dash trotted up the stairs with a large bowl of popcorn grasped in her mouth (how Pinkie managed to carry stuff like this on her head without spilling it was beyond her). She found Pinkie setting the lamp back on her now upright nightstand with a slightly sullen look about her, though nowhere as bad as before.
"Hot th' fofcorn," the pegasus said around the bowl in her mouth.
Pinkie's expression brightened immediately as she giggled and trotted to the couch on the far side of the room. "Okie dokie lokie! I got the movie all set up, so sit your rump down over here and we can start."
Dash got up on the couch and set the bowl between them, taking a second to glance at the empty video case next to the VCR.
"Night at the Opera?" she asked with an air of apprehension.
Pinkie nodded eagerly, "Yup! It's one of the best comedies ever made and it stars the Marx Brothers!"
Pinkie stared at her flatly, "Seriously, Dashie, you need to get out more. The Marx Brothers are, like, required viewing for any comedy aficionado."
Dash rolled her eyes, "Fine, I'll give it a shot."
It wasn't very long before both of them were laughing their heads off. Dash had to admit that the trio had a knack for slapstick and playing off each other to make their jokes even better. Pinkie explained that they had perfected their routines on stage before they started making films. The utter zaniness of the three was more than enough to keep Dash in stitches for the movie's entirety. By the end, she had tears in her eyes.
"Wow, I gotta hand it to you, Pinkie, I haven't laughed that much in a while. Got another movie picked out for us?"
She looked past the now empty popcorn bowl and a warm smile spread across her face. Pinkie lay curled up on her cushion with her nose buried in her tail. Sound asleep. Dash quietly moved the bowl onto the floor and gently kissed her forehead.
"Sweet dreams, Pinkie. Heaven knows you deserve some."
She turned the TV off and curled up back on her side of the couch, snuggling into the corner, her eyes drifting back to her friend. Her color was back to its typical bright pink and her mane and tail had regained their lively bounciness. It looked like she was through the worst of it and would probably feel a whole lot better after some much-needed sleep. However, something told Dash that Pinkie would still need a little help to get through the residual fears and dread brought on by the nightmare. As she let sleep finally overtake her, she wondered how she might be able to help her through the rest of it. The seed of an idea began to take root as she drifted off to sleep, the sky outside the bedroom window just beginning to tinge with the promise of a new day.
Pinkie's eyelids slowly fluttered open, the morning light invading her eyes. She lifted her head and looked around, taking note that she was on her couch rather than her bed. The memories of the night before trickled back into her mind; the nightmare
that horrible, horrible nightmare
and then Dash coming in and comforting her, assuring her that everything was ok and cutting through the haze in her mind to bring her back to her senses. Her eyes alighted on a slip of paper on the cushion in front of her, a note from Dash.
Hope you slept well. Had to go take care of some stuff. Will be back in ten seconds flat.
She smiled. She had slept, hadn't she? After what happened, she didn't think she'd be able to ever sleep again for fear of the nightmare returning. Thankfully, Dash had stayed with her and somehow managed to help her get to sleep. She cast a thankful gaze out her window to Celestia's late morning sun, its rays filling the room with soft warmth.
Wait, late morning?
Surprisingly, as big as her gasp was, she didn't inhale the cushions off the couch.
"Oh no, it's morning! The shop's supposed to be open and baked goods baking already!" she worried as she launched herself over the back of the couch towards the stairs. "Oh, the Cakes will be so disappointed when they find out I was late opening and
*cha-ching!* "Thank you for your purchase and have a splendid day!"
Find Rarity running the cash register
Indeed, Rarity was standing behind the front counter, counting a number of bits and dropping them into the register as a customer left with a bag of muffins. Pinkie stood perplexed at the bottom of the stairway as Rarity finished counting and shut the drawer, noticing the earth pony for the first time.
"Pinkie darling, you're awake, splendid!" she beamed, "I hope you slept well. Now, would you be a dear and ask the girls to send up some more blueberry muffins? The display case has a distinct lack of that variety at the moment."
"'The girls'?" Pinkie repeated to herself and peered around into the kitchen.
She stood in the doorway, for once in her life dumbfounded at what she was seeing. Applejack was by the sink rinsing fruit, Twilight stood at the opposite counter with a cookbook levitating in front of her and a whisk whipping around in a large bowl off to the side, and finally Fluttershy at the table gingerly applying frosting to the tops of a tray of cupcakes. The pegasus noticed her first.
"Oh, good morning, Pinkie Pie."
Surprisingly, her soft voice caught the attention of the other two who smiled their own greetings.
"Morning, Pinkie, did you sleep well?"
It took a moment for Pinkie to find her voice. "Wha
what are you girls doing here?"
"Why helping you with the shop, of course," Rarity intoned behind her.
"Yes, Rainbow Dash told us earlier this morning that you had, um
a rough time last night and needed sleep," Fluttershy explained.
"And she asked if we'd be willing to help run the bakery until you felt better," Twilight added.
"Ain't no way any of us coulda said no to somethin' like that, is there?" Applejack finished with a grin.
Pinkie suddenly felt oddly self-conscious, her gaze falling to the floor as she shifted uncomfortably. "Did
Dashie tell you what happened last night?" She looked back up to find only sympathetic faces looking back at her.
"Just that you had a dreadful nightmare that kept you from sleeping," Rarity said, rubbing her head against Pinkie's.
Applejack shuddered, "Any kind a' nightmare that could do that t' you had to be one heck of a doozy."
Fluttershy's eyes were full of concern, "Are you alright now?"
Pinkie felt tears welling up in her eyes as she looked around at all of her friends
and noticed one was missing.
"Wher-" her voice cracked, "Where's Dashie?"
"Right behind ya," said a strained voice.
They moved aside and let Dash through the door, obviously laboring under the oversized sack on her back. Once in the kitchen, she let it slide to the floor with a grunt and stood panting for a few moments.
"AJ," she wheezed, "Next time, you're going to the store to get the sugar."
did you really ask everypony to come in and help me?" Pinkie asked in wonderment.
"Heh, oh yeah, that," Dash rubbed the back of her neck, her cheeks coloring lightly, "Well, I figured after last night you'd really need the sleep and the bakery couldn't very well be left closed, so ERK!"
Pinkie pulled them all into a huge group hug, joyful tears streaming down her face.
"Thank you. Thank you girls so much! You're the awesomest, bestest best friends anypony could ever ask for!"
"Aw, you're very welcome, Pinkie," Twilight intoned, "What are friends for, anyway?"
The service bell on the counter suddenly rang, snapping them back to reality.
"Whoops, customer!" Rarity said, breaking away from the hug, "Girls, we need blueberry muffins up front post haste!"
"Making them right now, Rarity," Twilight called back as they dispersed, returning to their previous duties. Dash was about to help Fluttershy with the cupcakes when Pinkie pulled her into another embrace.
"You're the greatest, Dashie," she whispered, "I love you."
"Aw come on, Pinkie, you know I like stallions," Dash chuckled.
Pinkie giggled in return, "You silly-willy filly."
The pegasus returned the hug with equal warmth, "Love you too."
Dear Princess Celestia,
How ya doin'? This is Pinkie Pie here well, not actually "here" because that'd mean I'd be in the letter and that'd just be silly. Ooh! I gotta see if I can stuff myself into invitations somehow so ponies could have really real personal invitation! Oops, Twilight's giving me "the look", sorry. Anyway, Twilight said I should write this Friendship Report since it was me who learned an awesome friendship-y thing today! See, I had this really horrible awful nightmare last night that still gives me the willies thinking about it and there was no way I was ever going to go back to sleep for, like, ever. But then Rainbow Dash stopped by and made me feel better enough so that I really could get some sleep! And then this morning, she got all our other friends together so they could help me with baking and cooking and stuff so I wouldn't get behind on sales while the Cakes are gone. She showed me that a really awesome friend will do her besty best bestest to be there for her friends and make sure they're always feeling good and not psychotic or anything crazy like that. Hey, are you and Luna coming to town sometime? I'd love to throw a party for you, and I don't mean like that stuffy one we had the last time you were here though that was kinda fun I want to throw you and Luna a Super Special Awesome Fit For Royatly Pinkie Pie style party! We can have streamers and balloons and games an- Oh, Twilight's giving me "the look" again, I guess that means I have to wrap this up. Oh well, hope you enjoy reading this, Princess, see ya!
- Pinkie Pie
P.S. Dashie was wondering if you could put in a good word for her with the Wonderbolts since you're, like, so awesome and everything.
P.P.S. Scratch that last part, apparently she was just joking and now Twilight's yelling at her. They can be such silly fillies sometimes.