From Horror to Delight! Our Hero Has An Argument With A Truck And Wakes Up In Equestria Rather Stoned
I have to admit that when I woke up without being able to see, feel my own body, or move, nothing about my situation surprised me. Upset me, sure. I'd expected to be dead. Not that I particularly wanted to be dead, but if the alternative was total paralysis, well, death was either nothingness or an afterlife. Either one would be better than this.
From somewhere, distantly, I could hear voices. Nothing I recognized, but I wouldn't have expected differently. For a while I tried to listen, attempting to figure out where I was. Shouldn't I be in a hospital? Where was the annoying beeping of monitors, doctors yelling "STAT", the nurses confessing their romantic entanglements at inopportune moments?... I'll admit it, I've never been in a hospital before, so everything I know about them comes from television shows.
I couldn't hear anything like that. Mostly I was hearing nature noises, and voices off in the distance. Wait, was I outside? Maybe I'd been thrown clear of the car. If that was the case... considering that I couldn't see, feel or move, I probably wasn't going to have to put up with this for very long. If I wasn't out where cars could run me over, wild animals were probably going to get me sooner or later.
What a cheerful thought.
Because I really didn't have anything to entertain me in the here and now, and there wasn't exactly anything I could do at the moment, I thought about how I got to this point in my life. Funny how you rethink all your life choices when you end up in a place like this.
Technically, I suppose I shouldn't have been looking at my phone while I was driving at all. But it's not like I'm a religious dude or anything, so how was I supposed to know where the church was without checking my phone for directions? I didn't even want to go, but, well, when you've just been forcefully evicted from your apartment, by cops no less, there aren't a lot of safe places to sleep. I'm a skinny nerd, okay? No way I was going to go to a homeless shelter and get beat up and robbed, or worse, by some drug addict who's built like a linebacker. And I was planning on sleeping in my car, obviously. When you've got a car, and you're homeless, that's just what you do. But the Church of the Harmonious Redeemer supposedly actively encourages homeless people who have cars to park in their parking lot and sleep, as long as they get out in time for the Sunday morning crowd to come in, and it was Thursday so I'd have had a few days before I'd have to worry about it. I was also told they have free breakfast.
So there I was, driving down the highway in the middle of the night, trying to check my phone to see where my exit was, when the phone slipped from my fingers and fell on the floor on the passenger side. And yes, I know I probably should have pulled over, but I didn't think of it, okay? I'm a smart guy, the grades I get when I feel like actually paying attention prove that, but everyone who knows me says I have no common sense, and I can't really argue against that.
I leaned over to the side, taking my eyes off the road for just a moment, so I could grab my phone. And when I sat back up in triumph, having retrieved the device and clutching it in my fingers... I couldn't see the road anymore, because there were two very bright lights shining directly into my face. Also, a really, really, really loud horn blaring.
I didn't even really have time to finish saying "Oh shit" before the truck hit me.
If I was paralyzed and blind, I'd gotten off easy. Or most people would think that, anyway. Personally, as I've pointed out, I'd have preferred being dead.
Then I heard a voice that sounded vaguely familiar, a woman's voice. Not really familiar-familiar, but possibly one of my old foster moms, or social workers, or someone like that come to visit?... Nah, what were the odds of that? None of them ever liked me enough to visit me in the hospital, and besides, pigeons were cooing pretty loudly around me, so I was fairly sure I wasn't actually in a hospital.
I strained to listen; it was the only sense I had left. Words came to me. "escort... princess... dangerous..." and then the vaguely familiar woman, "handle... made sure... safety... ponies..."
I knew that voice now, and now I knew exactly what was happening to me.
There's a story, kids have to read it in school, called "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge", by the most sarcastic, snarky son-of-a-gun to come out of the 19th century. Personal hero of mine, Ambrose Bierce, also wrote "The Devil's Dictionary" which had hilariously satirical definitions of words, but I'm getting off point here. In "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", a man's about to be hung, but the rope breaks miraculously and he gets away. He travels for days, trying to get back to his family. But just as he reaches his home and is about to embrace his wife, there's a blow to the back of his neck and he's dead. Turns out he hallucinated the whole thing in the moment between being dropped and coming to a fatal stop, a dream his brain made up for him to relieve his intense fear of his imminent death.
So obviously, if I was hearing Princess Celestia, sparkly pony princess from the children's cartoon My Little Pony, I was about to die, and I was dreaming this.
To be honest, the thought irritated me. Why would my brain make up a dream where I'm in the world of My Little Pony, except paralyzed and unable to see or feel anything? If I was gonna have a dream, why couldn't it be of me at a wild party where people are doing fun and unpredictable things and everyone loves my jokes and I'm the belle of the ball?
Then she spoke, and I understood. "Hello, Discord."
If I could have spoken, I wouldn't have been able to stop myself from squee'ing like one of the little girls this show is written for. Discord is the entire reason I even know this show exists. He's my second favorite character in anything at all, the first being Q from Star Trek. And the last time he appeared in one of the episodes, he got turned to stone. So, in my dream, I'm Discord, but I'm still in stone because my body's paralyzed in real life? That's not going to be any fun unless I can break out of stone in the dream, I thought. But if I could...? Oh, the fun I could have!
"You and I both know this won't hold you forever," she said. "The bearers of the Elements of Harmony are mortal. If every time the Elements change hooves, it breaks your seal, there's no way we can contain you forever." Well, you got that right. It's my dream, so there's no way I'm going to stick around as a statue any longer than I have to. "And I've foreseen many great dangers besetting Equestria. I need... I don't know if she'll achieve what I need her to be, but she's so close, and I'm so afraid of something stopping her before she becomes what she's destined to be..." She? Who's she, the cat? One of my old foster moms used to say that. Pronouns are not a perfect substitute for nouns, prissy princess. Oh, well, I could guess; she's probably talking about Twilight, who after all is the main character of the show.
"I need your power. You were never truly evil, just... uncaring in how you wielded your chaos." At first I thought, yay, I'm vindicated in my opinion that Discord is not the monster some bronies think he is, and then I realized... it's my dream. Of course it's my version of Discord. Who is a badass, don't get me wrong, and can be quite ruthless and sometimes very cruel if he thinks it's justified, but mostly just wants to have fun and thinks that the entire world is his playground, because it is.
"I think, possibly, you could be persuaded to reform, and use your power for Equestria's benefit rather than detriment." You call chocolate rain detrimental? When I was a kid I'd have killed for chocolate milk to fall out of the sky.
"And I didn't know, before, that you were awake and aware in stone. I thought that when we sealed you, you'd be unconscious, like the victim of a cockatrice stoning. But when you said it was lonely being in stone... I didn't realize it then, when you were taunting me, but the implications came to me later. You're alive in there. You can hear me." No shit, Sherlock. No, wait, I'm sorry, I'm Discord in this dream, right? I can't use language that's inappropriate for a Y7 rating. How about, "well, duh?" Nah, sounds too much like Rainbow Dash. I'll have to think about this.
"You want to get out, and have some freedom... and I want you to reform, and help Equestria. Perhaps we can both get what we want."
Oh wait a minute now, "reform"? Oh, you did not just say that. No way. I'm dreaming about being a villain? I'm gonna be a villain. And anyway, how do you reform chaos? Discord isn't a pony, who's driven to do bad things because of some unspeakable trauma in his life or whatever; he's the Spirit of frickin' Chaos and Disharmony. That's his nature, that's what he is. He's not evil, he's chaos, and he can't not be chaos or he wouldn't be himself.
I immediately decided that I did not particularly like this plan, but I liked the idea of getting out of stone well enough to play along for a bit. Once I was free, what was going to stop me from teleporting the Elements of Harmony to six different places that are separated from each other by oceans, or maybe dimensions? I bet Discord could go to different dimensions if he wanted to.
You might ask, as many bronies have, "why not just kill them?" The obvious answer is that it's a children's cartoon. Y7 rating, remember? I mean, it's my dream, so maybe I could kill them, but the other reason is that I thought it might be out of character. See, Discord went way out of his way to break the ponies' minds, but never threatened them with anything that might even make you think of death. Nightmare Moon pulled some stunts that could theoretically have killed some ponies, and Chrysalis storing ponies in green goop doesn't sound like it's real healthy for them, and Sombra flung around those black crystals without any concern if he speared a pony with them, but Discord made most of his victims enjoy what he'd done to their heads, aside from the Mane 6 (and Berry Punch). He was excited when he showed off his chaos to Twilight. This isn't a guy who wants to kill ponies, this is a guy who wants ponies to like what he does, and when they don't like it, he decides "screw'em if they can't take a joke" and does what he wants anyway. He's not some grimdark monster out of a 90's comic book.
So, why not destroy the Elements? Um, duh. Sorry, still sounds like Rainbow Dash, I gotta figure out how Discord would express that idea. "Oh, really? Did you come up with that yourself? Oh my, I never thought of that idea! Your Ph. D. is in the mail, Dr. Einstein!" Yeah, that sounds better. Anyway, no one who actually paid attention during the first episode should be asking that question. Nightmare Moon did destroy the Elements, right in front of the Mane 6, and they just reconstituted them into better sparkly gems through the Magic of Friendship, bleh. Obviously, destroying the Elements is not a thing you can actually do in this universe, and since I know enough of the canon to know that, I knew it wouldn't work in my dream, either.
But all 6 of them are needed. And if, say, Twilight was spontaneously sent to go visit her brother in the Crystal Empire and Rainbow Dash was sent into a dimension where Daring Do is real, they'd have no hope of stopping me.
I heard male voices, and Princess Celestia directing someone to be careful with me, and a whinny or two, and the sound of cart wheels creaking, and then air rushing past. They were transporting me somewhere. Princess Celestia's Reform School for Wayward Draconequui? A maximum security prison? A little tiny island in the middle of the ocean? Oh, I was so excited to see! Anything would be better than this.
I tried not to think about the fact that the dream would abruptly end without warning the moment I died. I've always believed in living in the moment.
But here I am, going on and on about my wonderful dream where I'm Discord and about to be set free from stone, and I haven't even explained who I am, or why a 20-something nerd with a bad history of making teachers and social workers' lives hell would be watching, let alone enjoying, a cartoon about sparkly pony princesses. (Technically it is not about the princesses, but they're in it. It is about unicorns, though. And pegasi. And even the normal ponies don't actually look much like ponies and come in ridiculous colors.)
So. I'm Eric Reese, and I'm a bad bad boy. I got thrown out of almost every foster home I ever had for playing pranks on my foster siblings and parents. I got thrown out of three schools, too, but public school legally has to let you attend somewhere, so I went to the high school for juvenile delinquents, which was nothing at all like Cromartie High School, much to my sorrow. I like video games, and anime, and science fiction. And when I was a kid, I loved Star Trek.
See, I'm mixed race. We don't know how many races or which ones, because no one has any idea who my father is and my mom didn't answer a lot of questions before ditching me at the hospital. There's black, and probably Native American or Hispanic, who can tell? Maybe Asian, maybe not. Probably some white too; in the United States it's kinda hard to avoid having some of that in your ancestry unless you just got off a boat, or a plane.
I liked the original Star Trek because Spock was mixed race, like me, and didn't really fit in in either his mother or his father's society, and was a dry, sarcastic genius who trolled everyone by pretending he wasn't. And I liked Kirk because he was a trickster. Everyone remembers Kirk as being a suave ladies' man who liked to punch things, but that's like declaring a Rubix Cube is red because that's the only side you looked at. Kirk wanted peace, but he'd kick your backside if he had to. He was smart, and he used every weapon in his arsenal to protect his people and accomplish his mission, including lying, trickery, seduction, speechifying, relying on Spock and McCoy, and did I mention the trickery? I identified a good bit with Kirk when I was little. Spock might have been the mixed race dude but I obviously wasn't Spock.
When you're a foster kid, you watch what the other kids put on TV – you don't have the luxury of your own personal Netflix subscription. And most places I stayed had basic cable, maybe ESPN or CNN or some other boring crap like that, so I watched a lot of stuff from ancient syndicated television. I didn't have a chance to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation until I was around 13 or 14 or so.
Well, I fell in love with Q. Not in a platonic, no-homo way either; I didn't actually know what my sexual orientation even was yet (it turned out eventually that my sexual orientation is "Yes"), but I knew that I would absolutely get down in the sheets with John de Lancie if I had the opportunity. Q was good-looking, he was sarcastic and witty, he was a trickster, and he could do anything. A snap of his fingers, and there would be chaos. Me, I had to play elaborate practical jokes on my foster siblings by hacking their Minecraft server and modding their mobs so pigs could fly. That took me weeks to set up.
Even more than I loved his sarcasm and his superpowers, I loved the fact that Q took a pin to Picard's balloon of pompousness every chance he got. See, I'd never bought that Star Trek was a utopia where humanity has fixed all its problems, and there isn't any money (what is Harry Mudd trying to earn then?), and there's no racism... the way McCoy, who's friends with Spock, treats Spock for being Vulcan makes it clear racism is alive and well in Star Trek, it's just not applied within species. When TNG came along, it tried to claim that no, money really doesn't exist, and look, we're totally not racist anymore, and we have made the universe so safe that we can fly around in a beige office building and bring our kids to work. And then here's Q, saying, "No, you're full of baloney. The universe is terrifying and wonderful, full of things both awesome and awful, horrors and delights, and sometimes they're the same thing. It's not safe. What you don't know can kill you. All your wonderful speeches about how great humanity is don't change the fact that you're small and pathetic and the universe is bigger and stranger than you can possibly imagine." I couldn't believe in the sanitized perfection TNG was trying to sell me, but I could believe in Q's take on the universe.
To make matters even more awesome, I could do a pretty passable John de Lancie impression, and as I got older and my voice changed, I actually got better at it. Aside from some joke YouTube videos me and my friends in college put together, I never got any actual use out of this talent, but it made me happy.
So here I am in college, and one of my friends – by which I don't mean "friend" like they mean in Equestria, someone who genuinely cares about you and will do practically anything for you, but "friend" like they mean on Facebook, someone you know and pay a moderate amount of attention to and sometimes hang out with – tells me that I need to watch this girly kiddie cartoon about magical ponies, and I'm giving him this look, like what part of me looks like the sort of guy who watches girly kiddie cartoons about magical ponies? Then he told me John de Lancie was playing the Spirit of Chaos and it was basically the same character as Q, and I got friction burns from how fast I sat my butt down in front of a TV to watch it.
Turns out My Little Pony is an okay show, the way TNG is an okay show, which is to say, it's entertaining, I like the characters, it's mostly fairly well written for what it is, but good god is the premise annoying. "Friendship is magic! Friendship can do anything! Friendship will solve all your problems!" Yeah, no. What about people like me? The weirdos, the funny-looking and somewhat inappropriate guys who have no real friends? I had people I could hang out with and make stupid YouTube videos with and watch TV, but no one who cared about me, really. And I could see, from my position outside all the social webs among my acquaintances, how there were "friends" who took advantage of everyone they met and "friends" who didn't care, they were just using others and "friends" who would dump you like a hot potato if they thought doing so would get them some nookie. I didn't see any true and deep friendships like on the show, or even like in Star Trek. I don't think those kinds of friendships actually exist in the real world.
Discord mocked all that. He was the Spirit of Chaos and Disharmony. He made heroes act like total jerks to each other and destroyed their friendships (temporarily, anyway.) He threw the sun and moon around like they were beach balls. He turned the world into total chaos. And he did it all with style. Admittedly, he managed to get defeated by failing to notice something really, really obvious, but I could hardly hold that against him considering how often I'd gotten video game characters killed by charging into a situation without paying enough attention. Plus, of course, what I'd just done to myself with the truck.
The rest of the series was... okay, I guess. Kind of fun, but nothing all that entertaining. You want to know the truth, I liked Star Trek better, but My Little Pony was new and the episodes that dropped hadn't already been seen by twenty million people before I got a chance to see them, and I appreciated that. I'd heard a rumor that Discord was coming back in an upcoming episode, and I felt a surprising amount of regret that I wouldn't get to see it. Sure, having a dream while I was dying that I am Discord and I'm in Equestria is pretty cool, except for the dying part, but I'd have liked to see what was really supposed to happen.
The thing about regrets, though, is that they are mostly a giant waste of time. You only get one life to live – and in my case, a severely truncated one – so don't waste time dwelling on what ifs! That's my motto. You made mistakes? Ok, move on and deal with them, don't angst about them. I might be dying, but I intended to make the maximum use of the time I had left with this entertaining dream. Celestia was going to release me, and then oh boy, the fireworks that would ensue.
I could hear some bumps, some wheel squeaking, a whinny or two. And then I heard Celestia. "Good afternoon, Twilight, Spike. And Pinkie, Rainbow and Rarity. Where are Applejack and Fluttershy?"
"They had a beaver crisis to deal with," I heard Twilight Sparkle say. "With all due respect, Princess Celestia... HOW COULD YOU BRING DISCORD HERE?!" Oh, the lungs on that mare. She coughed the way people do when they're embarrassed or something about what they just said. "Your majesty."
Celestia didn't sound at all upset or even slightly fazed by Twilight's mild insubordination. "I'm fully aware that the last time Discord was here, he created serious havoc." Just "serious havoc"? I thought. I think if I was really Discord, I'd be offended by that. I decided that maybe I would pretend I was offended anyway, because pretending to be offended is a great way to troll people, and I'd bet it would work on ponies too. Well, of course it would work, this was my dream.
Rainbow sounded kind of outraged. "If by 'serious havoc' you mean 'turning Ponyville into the chaos capital of the world'..." Okay, I was pleased that someone else found "serious havoc" to be a belittling description of what Discord – I – did, but come on, didn't she get the joke? It was obvious to me when I'd seen the episode that "chaos capital of the world" was a joke, because chaos can't have a capital. It's like the line in Dr. Horrible, "anarchy, that I run." I thought it was hilarious when I heard it.
"...and tricking us all into being the opposite of our true selves..." Rarity complained. I really, really wanted to snicker about that. Oh, poor Rarity, are you missing Tom?
"And making yummy delicious chocolate milk rain all over the place without a single dollop of whipped cream to go with it anywhere in sight! Not a single dollop!" Really, Pinkie? I didn't see you complaining about the lack of whipped cream when I watched the episode.
"Yes, I understand," Celestia said. "But I have use for Discord's magic if it can be reformed to serve good instead of evil. This is why I've brought Discord here, because I believe that you are the ponies who can help him do just that." Ugh, there's that "reform" word again. Seriously, how would you even reform chaos? Could Discord even survive if he didn't run around causing chaos? He's the Spirit of Chaos, not The Dude Who Just Really Likes Chaos A Lot.
"This will never work! This is a disaster! How will we ever control him?! We're doomed!" It took me a moment to realize that it was the little purple lizard who was talking. Come on, Spike, we all know you're there just so that little girls in the audience can feel vicariously superior to dumb little boys like you. I was kind of surprised my dream even felt the need to include him. I generally found Spike pretty forgettable.
"Need I remind you that you are the ponies who turned him back into stone like this in the first place?" Oh, rub it in, Celestia. If you think for a minute I'm gonna let that happen again, you've got another think coming. Wait, except you don't, because you're not real and I'm making you up.
"I suppose we can just use the Elements of Harmony against him again if it gets out of hand," Twilight said, which was hilarious, because they only ever hit me – excuse me, Discord, I'm getting a little too into character here – because I wasn't paying attention while they locked on. I wasn't gonna let that happen again.
"Uh, w-w-we probably need a volunteer to run away from here right away to get them," Spike the Lamesauce Dragon said. "I'll do it!"
"No need, Spike. I have them right here, and I've cast a spell so Discord can't take them and hide them again." Huh. I wondered if that was actually going to work. You'd think that if Celestia could cast a spell that Discord couldn't break, without using the Elements, that she wouldn't have needed the Elements to defeat him in the first place... and I remember how she gloated about how no one could possibly have broken the lock she kept the Elements behind, until she opened the box and they were gone. Nah. I was pretty sure my chaos was going to be able to break that spell, but my dreams like to present me with challenges sometimes, and just because I was lucid dreaming didn't mean I was actually in control. So it probably would take some work. "Now where is Fluttershy? I believe she may know best how to begin reforming Discord."
"Fluttershy? Really?" Rainbow Dash asked... which summed up my feelings perfectly. Fluttershy? Really? The mare who was so terrified of Discord's picture, before she even knew he was animating it, that she practically fainted? The mare who went catatonic and needed to be dragged up a mountain and nearly watch her friends get killed before she could get over herself and help out against a dragon, when she was supposed to be an animal expert? How exactly did Celestia think this was going to work?
"Yes," Celestia said. "Of all of the Elements, I believe Kindness is the one that Discord is most likely to respond to." Well, Honesty wasn't going to impress me, I admitted, and Loyalty was a crock, and the main reason I like Generosity is I like getting free stuff and besides, Rarity is annoying, but come on. Wouldn't Pinkie Pie be a better choice? Or Twilight? I'd been expecting some kind of challenge.
Well, to be fair, Fluttershy had stood up to Discord in the maze and made him use brute force on her, rather than being able to manipulate her. Maybe she had hidden strengths. I hoped so. If this was too much of a cakewalk, I was going to get bored. And if I got bored, I might forget that none of this is real and I was actually waiting to die.
"Okay, I'll go get her and Applejack to speed things up, then," Rainbow Dash said, and I heard a "whoosh."
"Are you sure, Princess?" Twilight asked. "Wouldn't it make more sense that I could do it? Fluttershy's not a unicorn; she'd have no way of restraining Discord if he decided to make mischief on her."
"Twilight, your command of magic is very impressive, and you never cease to amaze me with what you can do... but I doubt you'd have any better chance of restraining Discord without the Elements than I did." A polite way of saying "he's out of your league, kiddo."
"What about me?" Pinkie said. "Maybe Discord just needs to learn how to use his chaos to make other ponies happy! Everypony says I'm chaotic but I'm not a bad guy like he is! I could teach him!"
"Your offer is appreciated, Pinkie," Celestia said. "But no, Discord does know how to use his chaos to make ponies happy. He just doesn't want to do that. I think Fluttershy is the one with the best chance of persuading him that it's a good idea."
"I do understand your reasoning, Your Highness," Rarity said, "but are you absolutely sure Fluttershy will be safe with that ruffian? After all, so often she has difficulty standing up for herself, and Discord is quite selfish and overbearing."
I snickered to myself. In the maze, Rarity had folded like a wet paper napkin when Discord had tried to corrupt her. She'd put up the least fight of any of them. Meanwhile, Fluttershy had forced him to cheat and use brute force. The idea of Rarity of all people – well, ponies – complaining about Fluttershy's lack of spine was delightfully rich.
"I am sure," Celestia said. "Fluttershy is stronger than even you, her friends, give her credit for. I believe she can do it."
At that point, Fluttershy, Applejack and Rainbow Dash all showed up. I always had to wonder about the pacing of that kind of thing. Fluttershy was slow, Applejack was fast, and Rainbow Dash was impossibly fast; how did they all arrive somewhere at the same time?
"Um." That had to be Fluttershy. "Princess Celestia? You wanted to see me?"
"I did indeed," Celestia said warmly. Oh, wow, she was good. I'd had a few teachers and social workers like her. They sound so friendly and loving, you actually want to do what they tell you so they'll be happy with you. Truth is, those ones are just as likely to be manipulative and out for what they can get from you as anyone else, but they're so much better at it than the ones who are more transparent about it. "I've brought Discord here, and I would like you and your friends to release him, because I think that you, Fluttershy, can reform him. Discord is very powerful, and his magic would be a great benefit to Equestria if he would use it for our benefit rather than his own selfish whims. I realize that this is a tall order, but I wouldn't ask if I weren't confident you could get him to use magic obediently of his own free will."
"And... you really think I'll know best how to do that?"
"I do. Now, I must return to Canterlot for Equestria's royal summit. You may release Discord when ready." Equestria's royal summit my granite butt. Why would she decide to hand Discord over right before she had something else vitally important to do? I was pretty sure that her real reason was that she didn't want to face Discord, based on how she kind of fell to pieces dealing with him in his first appearance. Gotta wonder about that. Lots of bronies speculate that maybe they were romantically involved. Others think he was her brother. Most just assume he was that bad of a bad guy. I'm not at all sure I'm a Celesticord shipper, but my personal headcanon doesn't really work with the "supremely bad bad guy" theory, so I think they had some personal connection.
"Okay, ponies," Twilight said. "Guess it's time to get started. Let's just hope this releasing spell works." Ooh, releasing spell coming up! How exciting! I'm getting giddy!
"Or... let's not," Spike said. Jerk. I was definitely turning the next several gems he ate into mushy peas.
"We'd best keep our elements on at all times 'til further notice," Twilight said. Hah! Dear, sweet Twilight, you think I'm gonna stand still for another rainbow blast? I doubted the real Discord would be that much of an idiot after the experience he'd had, and I definitely knew better. Anyway, it was my dream, so I was absolutely not going to get turned to stone again. I wouldn't allow it.
I felt something thrumming in my bones, and then a crawling, warm itch everywhere, like there was soup being poured all over my body and it was full of hot pepper. I wanted to writhe, to squirm, but I couldn't move... and then I could. I flexed muscles and felt a thin layer of solidity break off of me, leaving me free to move. I stretched and groaned, and it came out at first sounding more like a roar. I was a little embarrassed by how animalistic that sounded, and turned it into something that sounded more like a yawn, and then normal human noises like "whoa!" and "oof!"
And that was the moment I realized that, as impossible as it seemed, as ridiculous as it sounded – this wasn't a dream. This wasn't An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge. Every single part of what was happening to me was real.
At this point I'm going to have difficulty properly describing things, because I was hit by so many different sensations at once, but I'll try.
Sight: The moment I opened my eyes, the world seemed brighter than I remembered it, and more colorful. The sunlight seemed more intense, but not in a way that was painful. Normally just opening my eyes into a bright sunlit day after having had them closed, or covered by a layer of stone, would have hurt... let alone a day where everything looked impossibly bright and bizarrely colorful. But it didn't.
The ponies didn't look like I quite expected them to, either. I'd have expected that my imagination would have just replicated the cartoon, or else done some kind of weird 3D processing to produce "like the cartoon but in three dimensions", as usually would happen if I was dreaming about cartoons. Instead what I saw looked a lot more recognizably equine than the anime-like pony waifus I remembered from the TV show. At the same time, they didn't look like horses at all. They were tiny – I guessed maybe three, four feet tall at their heads. My Little Pony was no misnomer. Their heads were much, much larger than you'd expect to see on an actual pony, and much rounder, more like human heads – or like the cartoon – but they did have longer muzzles, not the cute barely-there snoots from the TV show. Their eyes weren't dinner plate size, but they were bigger than an actual horse's eyes (despite being a city boy, I have met actual horses, mostly pulling fruit carts or transporting cops), and centered in their heads rather than being on either side like an actual horse. They were a little bit further apart than human eyes, because there was kind of a big snoot in the way, muzzles being larger than a human nose... but close enough together that it was pretty obvious they had depth perception rather than prey-o-vision. Since on Earth, eyes like that generally mean creatures that hunt, I wondered if the legends that unicorns were carnivores applied here. They had obvious fetlocks, unlike the cartoon horses whose hooves look like an extension of the legs, but their hooves looked, well, a lot more rubbery than actual horse hooves, and wider.
These weren't ponies. These were sapient equoid aliens.
The weirdest thing about this was how non-weird it seemed. I mean, I've read and watched a lot of science fiction, and I always figured that no one would react calmly to meeting aliens. Even if you were prepared for it, even if you'd spent your life watching and reading science fiction, actually meeting the aliens or being transported to the alien world would freak you out. But none of this seemed even as freaky as the time my new foster family wouldn't let me wear shoes in the house. It just seemed like, "Oh, now this is interesting," not "Holy frijoles, this is real and ponies are aliens!" I knew I should find all of this impossibly bizarre, and yet I didn't.
Sounds: Human beings hear in stereo, assuming we have both ears in working order. I was hearing in Dolby Surround 5.1.
It wasn't that I was hearing anything I couldn't have heard as a human. It was the depth to the sound. And the fact that I could hear things that I'd have to have been a lot closer to in order to hear if I'd still been human. And the fact that I could hear through the noise I was personally making. Birds chirping! A squirrel squeaking in a nearby tree! Wind blowing, and the beat of wings in the far distance.
Smell: This was the big one. The smells hitting me were the first thing that convinced me that this was real.
We humans know we have a lousy sense of smell, but we don't really have any idea what that means. How could we? We have nothing to compare it to. When we smell other humans, we're generally either smelling product, or we're smelling nasty BO. I've heard it said that men can smell women, and that they like the smell, but I haven't been close enough to a woman to smell her since I was a little kid and there were social workers and teachers who mistakenly thought that I'd find a hug comforting, and they generally smelled like perfume and hair oil and scented deodorant, and if there was a woman-smell somewhere in the mix I was too young and prepubescent to notice. And we don't smell anything about a person unless we're standing really close or they're really reeking.
I could smell the six mares around me. I could smell things about them – Rarity wearing floral-scented mane product, Fluttershy wearing rather less product and smelling just a little bit like an animal shelter, Twilight smelling like parchment (how did I even know what parchment smelled like?), Rainbow Dash smelling of sweat and ozone, Pinkie Pie smelling like a bakery, and Applejack smelling like, what else, mud and apples. But I could also smell them, their own scents, underneath all that. And none of it was unpleasant. On the other hand, the dragon smell (how did I know I was smelling a dragon?) wasn't particularly pleasant – kind of like charcoal and hot metal and lizard skin (I am pretty sure that in my human life I never actually smelled a lizard) – with a ton of soap on top. Well, at least Dragon Boy keeps himself clean. I smelled squirrels and bunnies and birds and pegasus feathers, which don't smell the same as birds, and grass, and trees, and clouds. How was I smelling clouds? I don't know! I've never smelled a cloud before but I knew that what I was smelling was a cloud.
This must be what it's like to be a dog, I thought. Except that dogs have to shove their noses into things. I had no desire to shove my nose into anything. I could smell all this while I was standing up stretching.
Sensation: And then there was the last part of it, that absolutely clinched that I wasn't making this up or dreaming it.
There were sensations that were weird, but entirely to be expected given what I had become. I could feel fur on my body. I could feel weight on my forehead, where Discord has horns. I could feel wings on my back, and I could feel my long tail. My body was balanced weirdly. All that made sense, if I was in Discord's body.
But there was something else. Like water flowing everywhere and through me. Like air, if I was a fan. A pressure, an energy, something I'd never felt before in my life and can't even really describe in human words. Even as I was stretching my body, enjoying the sensation of being able to move and feel after I'd thought I'd never be able to do those things again, it overwhelmed me, giving me shivers so powerful I felt boneless, my body wiggling like I was a wacky arms-waving inflatable guy trying to sell used cars.
Magic. I knew it was magic. And I knew it would do anything I wanted it to do, if all I did was focus my mind on what I wanted.
What I wanted was to stand there and gawp. And smell everything. And play around with my magic. But if the foster care system and my hard luck life had taught me anything, it was "never show ignorance, never show weakness, never seem to care too much about anything." So I launched myself right into my role.
"Well, it's about time somepony got me out of that prison block," I said to Twilight. I've always been kind of a dramatic guy, but I found that with a body like this, I could ham things up like nobody's business. "What a relief!" I stretched out a paw, rubbing my arm with the other one – and snapped my fingers, concentrating. I felt the energy flow through me and respond.
The squirrel in the tree turned into a big bruiser, looking kinda like the sort of fellow you do not want to share a cell with in prison, complete with tattoo.
All the ponies gasped, on cue. Oh, come on, had they never seen Oz? The Shawshank Redemption? Papillon? Of course they hadn't, they were ponies. This world didn't even have television. "What do you think you're doing?" Twilight asked indignantly.
"Why, stretching, of course," I said innocently. "When you're a creature of chaos, stone bodysuits aren't your typical go-to fashion choice." I ostentatiously stretched some more – and snapped again, focusing my attention on a nearby bunny rabbit, turning it into the dark twin of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. It snarled and hopped away.
See, it was occurring to me that if all of this was real, then I had to be careful. I liked the ponies okay, I didn't want to hurt them – but when you tell me you're going to "reform" my favorite villain, and by the way, chaos is evil? Oh, it's on, sisters, it is on. At the same time, my short period in stone had convinced me that I never ever ever wanted to do that again. So I had to test things. Test myself, and my control over my new powers. Test the ponies and see how far they'd let me go. Plus, since Celestia had made Fluttershy her designated sacrifice to the Reform Discord plan, I was going to mess with her specifically... not just because I was playing Discord, but because I, Eric Reese, have never in my life met a would-be reformer who I couldn't crack and make them run away, declaring that I was incorrigible and hanging their heads in defeat. Messing with animals was a great way to mess with Fluttershy by proxy.
So far Fluttershy hadn't shown much reaction, though. Maybe she knew I was trying to get her goat. (Did she have a goat? I bet she did. Either that or goats are people too in this world.) It was Pinkie who said, angrily, "Make that bunny cute again! Now!"
I chuckled. "Oh, he's adorable the way he is," I said, bending down to scritch the giant bunny's chin. He tried to chomp my finger. Jerk. I stood up and blew a raspberry down at him. "You know what else is adorable? You ponies truly believe that you can reform me, and that you're putting your faith in this one here—" I manifested a giant version of my eyeball on a magnifying glass and leaned over Fluttershy, who shrank away – "to make it happen." I dressed up in my best parody impression of a foster grandma. "Makes me wanna pinch your little horsey cheeks," I said, and did just that.
"How'd you know about that?!" Twilight demanded.
I was kind of irritated. Hadn't I – well, okay, Discord – made it clear in the first episode that he was conscious while he was stone? "It's lonely being in stone," he said, but apparently that didn't sink into Miss Supergenius' giant noggin. "Being turned to stone doesn't keep me from hearing every word Celestia says. Although I admit it makes rolling my eyes a challenge." Time to push the envelope just a little farther than before. I took out my eyes, rolled them, threw them on the ground and had them fall into two golf-course sized holes, which I then transformed into my face as I teleported seamlessly from where I'd been to the ground where my eyes were. All I had to do was keep my mind focused on the gag I was choreographing, and what I wanted to happen, and it just did. This was fantastic!
"Well, unless you want us to turn you back to stone, you'll zap those animals back the way they were, pronto!" Oh, Twilight, so pushy. Do you really think I take your orders? She was reminding me of many of my schoolteachers, and not in a good way.
"Oh, you wouldn't dare turn me back to stone and risk disappointing your precious princess," I said. I was trying to sound sarcastic and mocking, but I feel like a little genuine bitterness snuck out in there. So many teachers and classmates and social workers, trying to demand that I conform to the standards they'd become the willing enforcers of, so that someone higher up than them in the hierarchy that ruled their tiny little lives would give them a cookie.
"Try us, Dip-cord!" Rainbow Dash said. Oh, how original. I guess she couldn't really call me "Dick-cord" with a Y7 rating, though, could she. Or could she? This world was so much more real than a cartoon, I found it hard to believe that it was actually controlled by the employees of a toy sales company constrained by American Standards and Practices for children's television.
"You think you can treat poor defenseless animals like that and get away with it?!" Fluttershy said, in what might have been a shout if she hadn't been Fluttershy, and she zoomed at me and poked me in the snoot with her hoof. "You'd best watch your step, buster, or I'll give you... the Stare!"
Right. The Stare. Which she'd used to overwhelm a dragon and a cockatrice and make them feel guilty about being so mean to ponies. But I was supposed to be mean to ponies. Spirit of Disharmony, after all. Plus, I had an entire lifetime of well-meaning ladies like Fluttershy trying to guilt me into good behavior. I was pretty sure I was immune. Time to test it!
"The Stare?" I said in my best impersonation of sheer terror, hamming it up like anything. "Oh no, please, not that! Anything but your disapproving eyeballs!"
I couldn't keep that up. After "disapproving eyeballs", I cracked myself up and started spinning backward in circles in mid-air, laughing hysterically.
So she Stared at me. Two burning orbs of blue, boring into my brain. I flung out my paws. "Oh no! No no no, stop!" I pretended to choke myself. "No, no! I can't!" Her Stare intensified. "Stop! I can't take it anymore!" I made my eyeballs swirl, like Discord's victims had when he was mind controlling them in the maze, and pretended her mesmerism was taking hold. "I'll... do... whatever... you say! Because..." Couldn't keep that going either. "You are hilarious!" I choked out against gusts of laughter, chortling so hard that if I'd been human I might have peed myself.
"If it turns out we need to use our elements against you, I'm sure we can convince Princess Celestia it was for a good reason!" Twilight said.
She had a point. Celestia had given them the Elements and supposedly enchanted them so I couldn't mess with them – and I hadn't tried yet, so I didn't know if it would work or not. I made a show of thinking about it. "Mmm... I suppose that's correct."
I snapped my fingers twice, turning the squirrel and the rabbit back to normal. And then I snapped the tuft of fur on my tail as if it were fingers. All the beavers I was hearing and smelling back in the woods suddenly became obsessed with a desire to commit selfish mischief.
"Well, it looks like I know where I'll be crashing while I'm being 'reformed'," I said, ostentatiously making air quotes around the word for Twilight's benefit. Then I teleported Fluttershy into my arms and gave her a noogie. "With you, Fluttershy," I said, laughing.
"Oh, dear," Fluttershy said.
Which just made me laugh harder. Seriously? Celestia expected this to "reform" me?
There was no way this was an episode of the TV show. A children's cartoon would never let the villain cakewalk to easy victory like this.
Poor Fluttershy was never gonna know what hit her.