What are dreams? Are they random pieces of images, sounds, and sensations that the mind cobbles together into a slideshow? Are they the conscious mind's way of dealing with illogical problems? Or maybe they're the subconscious bringing forth issues that are better left buried in the deepest pit possible.
Whatever the answer is, I envy those able to sleep without the burden of dreams.
"I'll be seeing ya later, Pinkie!" Applejack cried back at me with her usual cheer and warming southern drawl. "You coming to the Apple family bake off tomorrow?"
"Of course you silly," I chirped back through my trademarked Pinkie Pie smile. I leaned heavily against the open door of Sugarcube Corner and pretended to casually inspect my foreleg. "Somepony's got to teach you all how to make proper sugary sweets."
Applejack let out a short barking laugh and started to trot away from the large sweet shop, her bushy blonde tail bobbing in the air after her. "I'll hold you to that. So long, Pinkie!"
"Bye!" I responded and waved a foreleg at the orange farm mare's retreating form.
As soon as Applejack's tail turned and disappeared around a nearby fruit stand, I too backed away and retreated back into my working home. I pivoted around in the Sugarcube Corner's lobby and bucked at the door with my left hind leg, closing it firmly shut behind me and ridding the entry room of the midday sunlight.
"Mr. Cake, Mrs. Cake, I'm back!" I shouted into the sweet shop at large, my high pitched voice echoing through the entire structure. "Do we have any more orders to fill?"
Only silence and my still reverberating voice answered me. The inside of Sugarcube Corner was completely still and barren of all its usual variety of colorful sweets. The ovens were left cold, dark, and unused behind the front counter. The several tables and comfortable stools littering the dining room lay empty, spotlessly cleaned, and organized neatly about the room. The only thing that was left behind of the store's usual hustle and bustle was the faint whiff of sugary cupcakes.
My head quirked to the side and I took a good few steps further into the empty shop. "Hello? Where is everypony?"
Before I could step too much further into the store, something on the front counter caught my eye and I immediately made a beeline for it. A small piece of some paper rested on the counter, folded closed with only the word "Pinkie" scrawled across the outside. I swept it up in my hoof and eagerly folded it open.
"Dear Pinkie," I read aloud as my wide eyes darted across the note in my hoof. "I know this is very last minute, but the Missus and I received an urgent message while you were out with your friends. We took the little ones and headed out immediately. We will return sometime tomorrow. The shop is closed until then, but feel free to cook yourself whatever you want. Have a nice time, Mr. Cake."
Freed with the knowledge that there were no prying eyes in the nearby vicinity, my entire demeanor altered slightly. Almost as soon as I read the last word, my poufy cotton candy mane and tail deflated down into their original flattened state. I felt my eyelids droop heavily over my eyes, obscuring my vision significantly. The barrel of my body sagged a little lower to the ground and my legs bent slightly as though I were about to curl up on the floor right there.
"Well, good, I hope everything turns out alright for them," I muttered to myself as I tried and failed to stifle a huge yawn. I set the letter back down on the counter and shook my head to try and ward off my encroaching lethargy. "This is starting to get more difficult, Pinkie. You're going to need to recharge."
Only slightly eager to heed my own advice, I turned and made my way towards the staircase behind the kitchen. I slumped my way up the stairs and took the first door on the right, a slight chill working its way up my spine. My room, once decorated with a plethora of colorful posters and random toys, sat almost as barren as the kitchen and dining room below. A large wooden chest, containing all of the aforementioned doodads, sat against the wall opposite the door and directly under a drawn shut window. Against the left wall, the glorious pile of pillows, sheets, and large cushions that was my bed laid waiting for me. Although, instead of diving headfirst into the sheets and clamping my eyes shut, I turned and stepped away to the right.
Sitting in the middle of the right half of the room was a tall standing mirror with a large grey tarp covering its entirety. I carefully approached the concealed mirror, and swiped a weary hoof to reveal the reflective surface beneath. In that mirror I saw a single pink earth pony mare that looked like she had endured one too many sleepless nights.
"Thank Celestia," I huffed out through a weary smile and let the curtain fall back down over the mirror.
Satisfied with myself, I turned back around and practically leapt across the room at the mound of fluffy goodness. I dove into the sheets like a professional diver doing her trade and settled myself within the pillows and comforters. Their warmth seeped into every fiber of my being and relaxed muscles that had been tense for far too long.
"Nnngh, wha- Hello?" I grumbled and poked my head out of my personal plush mountain.
My ears and eyes swiveled around the room at large to locate whatever was preventing my peaceful afternoon rest. My bedroom was as nearly empty as it was before, with the only movement coming from the still fluttering curtain around my standing mirror. My ears however, picked up a slight commotion coming from somewhere downstairs.
While yawning heavily, I slid forward from my bed and very clumsily made my way downstairs to investigate. The unmistakable sound of a busy kitchen and full dining area grew stronger in my ears as I descended the stairs into Sugarcube Corner's main area, and took stock of all the commotion.
Ponies of all shapes and sizes mulled about energetically in the dining area, each and every single one of their faces concealed behind their respective baked goods or hidden in shadow. Behind the main counter, Mr. and Mrs. Cake were hard at work toiling away in the kitchen. Mr. Cake was busily fidgeting with something in the oven, with only his dark brown tail visible to the world. Mrs. Cake was closer to the front counter and was applying frosting to a large cake, behind which only her swirling pink mane poked out over the top.
"Wow, this place sure filled up fast," I spoke aloud while quietly wondering if I had somehow lost an entire day underneath my sheets. "Mrs. Cake, when did you get back? I could've sworn that I was only upstairs for a minute or two."
"Oh come now, Pinkie," Mrs. Cake chuckled from behind her mountainous creation, her voice, while outwardly joyous, was laced with a slight grating undertone. "We've always been here. After all, we can't leave, because of you."
"Wha-what?" I stammered and shifted my gaze back over the store around me, a familiar icy dread wrapping its cold hand around my heart.
The energetic cacophony of the dining room abruptly halted and every single pony there looked up from whatever they were doing to stare directly at me. While their bodies varied greatly in size, shape, and color, their eyes were the exact same. Dozens of hate filled eyes bore into me, their wide light blue pools laced with a malice that didn't belong in them. They were my eyes, staring back at me as though from a mirror.
"No," I whispered under my breath and took a shaky step backwards, the frozen grip around my heart flooding my veins with its biting cold. "No, no this isn't real."
"Of course we are, Pinkie," growled a deep masculine voice directly to my right.
I let out a loud yelp and twitched away closer towards the counter to my left. Mr. Cake had simply appeared beside me, my light blue eyes glaring down at me from his head.
"You can't ignore us forever, Pinkie," he snarled and took a step towards me, followed immediately by my own step backwards. "You're nothing but a fake, a copy. Why do you deserve to live when we had to die?"
"No! Leave me alone!" I shrieked and turned away from the group of malevolent ponies.
I fled back to the stairs leading up to my bedroom, but the moment I set a hoof on the bottom stair, my entire world went black. I was falling and flailing about in an empty nothingness. I tried to call out for somepony, anypony to help me, but my voice died in my throat before I could even begin to form the words. Then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped.
A soft oomph managed to escape my maw as my rump impacted heavily with some wooden surface and new light flooded into my vision. I blinked my eyes rapidly and tried to make out the new environment, though some part of me already knew what it was.
I sat on a small wooden stool in the middle of a large round room, the furniture had been pushed back to the walls on all sides. All around me were more little stools like the one I was on, and were laid out in a perfect grid pattern; atop each of those stools however, was a Pinkie Pie. Their manes and tails were done up in my standard cotton candy-esque style. Their coats matched my own down to the last detail, even their cutie marks matched the three balloons on my flank. The only visual difference between us, was that my mane and tail still lay flat against my form, marking me as an outsider among their ranks.
Each of the Pinkie Pies around me focused their attention forward. Dreading what I was about to see, I followed their collective gaze and found one of my friends. At the far end of the room was a small stage rising just a foot off the floor, supporting a large square piece of canvas with a hefty coating of wet purple paint over the front. Twilight Sparkle, the single most powerful unicorn I had ever encountered, stood in front of the canvas and looked down over us all.
Twilight's lips were peeled back in a vicious smile that made my blood all but freeze in my veins. Horrible pointed teeth fit for bloodthirsty predator revealed themselves in her smile. Her horn, pointed and curved backward slightly, was ignited in her usual lavender energy. Her eyes though, were magnitudes more unsettling than the rest of her vicious appearance. They were dark things glaring down at us, judging us. Her shadowed eyes shifted from Pinkie Pie to Pinkie Pie, looking hungrily for the odd one out that she could pounce on and devour.
I let out a soft terrified whimper as Twilight's darkened eyes briefly swept over me, and passed on by. My heart hammered in my chest as I desperately searched for the way out while making as few movements as possible.
"Why did I have to go?" spoke the Pinkie Pie directly to my left, drawing my wandering eyes over to her. "All I did was laugh."
As soon as the last word passed through her lips, a large bolt of energy shot through the air and hit the Pinkie that had spoken. For a brief second, she turned her head to me and gazed at me with an expression of pure terror, then she simply ceased to be. The Pinkie's body disintegrated into a cloud of pink energy and zipped off somewhere behind me.
"You're no different from us," added the Pinkie just to my right, moments before meeting the same fate.
The Pinkie in front of me turned around in her seat to stare angrily at me. "You don't deserve the life you have."
That Pinkie was hit with another one of Twilght's spells, and abruptly exploded into a cloud of energy. The glittering cloud swarmed over and around me, until it too flew off behind me. I followed its path and watched as the cloud flew over to a door just behind all the Pinkies, and seeped through the edges to the outside.
I saw my chance and I took it. I sprang up from my seat and raced for the wooden door in the wall. I pushed and shoved my way past all the different Pinkies, none of them bothering to try and stop me or slow me.
"Get back here!" shouted Twilight from the stage behind me, her pointed horn already drawing a bead on her moving target.
"Leave me alone!" I cried back at the lavender unicorn as I made a mad dash for the exit.
Several bolts of energy shot past me, missing me by mere inches and hitting the other Pinkies around me instead. Within a few seconds, several more clouds of pink energy were flying alongside me towards the wooden door.
I reached the exit and slammed my side into it with all of the strength an earth pony can give, almost ripping it from its hinges as it flung open. Without hesitating for even an instant, I darted through the open doorway and slammed it shut behind me.
I braced myself against and door and dug my hooves into the floor beneath me, anticipating a counter attack from the furious unicorn or the flood of pink earth ponies, but none came. The moment the door clicked shut, the savage roaring of the unicorn died away, giving rise to an unnerving silence.
Satisfied that the door wasn't about to explode open, I slumped to the floor and curled up into a pink ball, my forelegs reaching up to try and cover my face from the rest of the world in the process. My heart kicked into overdrive as the delayed adrenaline reaction hit me like a freight train. My entire body twitched and shook while my heart tried to beat its way from my ribcage.
"P-p-please," I stammered out to the emptiness around me, "I-I'm not a fake. I'm not a copy. I'm P-Pinkie Pie."
My thought process was cut abruptly short as a very faint sound met my ears once again. I lifted my head from my fetal position and searched around my new environment. To my surprise, I found myself back in the bedroom I had left earlier. The bed, cushions, chest and closed off window were all present and unaltered. The sole different from before, was that the covered mirror in the right side of the room seemed to be emanating the subtle noise I picked up on.
Operating under some hidden compulsion, I shuffled up to my feet and approached the mirror. The closer I got to the curtain the louder the noise got. By the time I reached the mirror, I could distinctly hear multiple whispering voices emanating from behind the curtain.
I reached out a trembling foreleg for the swaying curtain. I took a precious moment to steel myself, and then swept the curtain aside.
While I stared wide-eyed into the mirror, several dozen angry Pinkie's stared back. Before I could so much as drop the sheet I was still holding, countless hooves reached out of the mirror at me, their forelegs piercing the mirror like the pool they were originally spawned from. The pink hooves wrapped around me and gripped every part of my body they could reach. I screamed at the top of my voice and tried to wrestle myself away from their grip, but I might as well have been trying to hold back a rockslide.
"Welcome back to the Mirror Pool, Pinkie clone," echoed in the ears right before the reflective surface washed over my muzzle like a cool splash of water.
"NO!" I shrieked at the top of my lungs and thrashed around to sit myself straight up.
My head poked up over the mountain of pillows and covers that was my bed. Confused, I pivoted my head around until I realized that I was back in my bed, partially buried under all of my cushions. My heart was racing against my ribs. My chest was heaving with deep panic-induced breaths. My eyes were immediately drawn to the covered mirror across from my bed.
I quickly thrashed myself free from my confining covers and scrambled over to the mirror as fast as I could. I gripped the sheet in my hooves and ripped it away. The tall mirror reflected back a single Pinkie Pie, mane flattened, fur matted with sweat, but only one Pinkie.
I leaned my head against the mirror, let out a short grateful laugh, and began chanting to myself, "I'm awake. I'm awake. I'm awake."
A loud knocking echoing from somewhere downstairs shook me awake from my chanting. I paused for a brief moment before the knocking resumed, accompanied by a feminine voice muffled by several walls.
"One minute!" I shouted back at the pony knocking on the shop's door. "I'll be right down!"
Refocusing back onto the mirror, I ran my hooves back through my mane and tail, repuffing them back up to their cotton candy styling. My forelegs swept over my matted coat, working out excess sweat and smoothing out the matted fur. Before long, the mirror reflected back the Pinkie Pie her friends knew and loved.
"Here I come!" I cried as I walked past my bedroom door and down the stairs.
I made a beeline straight for the shop's front door, passing by the empty and pristine kitchen along the way, and flung the door open.
My trademarked Pinkie Pie smile spread across my muzzle as I got a good look at who was at my door. "Hello, Twilight!"
The lavender unicorn beamed back at me, trying her best to match my smile. "Hi Pinkie, I wanted to ask your favor for something. Spike has made me aware that my cooking could use a little work, and I thought you'd make for an excellent teacher if you're up for it!"
Both my heart and my right eye twitched ever so slightly as I struggled to shift my thoughts away from my unconscious adventures. "Yeah sure, Twilight! I'm always happy to help you out!"
The unicorn, noticing that something was amiss, tilted her head and examined the pink mare a little closer. "Pinkie, are you alright? Did I just wake you up or something?"
"Of course not, silly," I chirped and stretched my smile just a little wider. "I'm Pinkie Pie, I'm always fine!"