This is just an idea I had after watching the Batman Complex trailers on Youtube, as well as Girl, Interrupted and Black Swan, and ended up being one of those ideas I had to get off my chest somehow. So...
More fireworks erupted, further illuminating their creator. As Trixie embraced her self-manufactured praise, Rainbow Dash, scowling, arose from the audience. Her wings beating quickly in frustration, she darted to Trixie. 'So, Great and Powerful Trixie,' said Rainbow Dash, 'What makes you think you're so awesome anyway?'
Trixie chuckled at the Pegasus before her. 'Why, only the Great and Powerful Trixie...' Twilight held her stomach at the use of that nickname. '...has magic strong enough to vanquish the dreaded Ursa Major!'
Another burst of fireworks, this assortment creating the image of said Ursa Major in the sky. The roaring beast made the Ponyvillians look upwards in awe, Snips and Snails looking especially flabbergasted.
'When all hope was lost, the ponies of Puffington had no one else to turn to, but the Great and Powerful Trixie stepped in...' The illuminated bear was soon joined by a little Trixie. 'And with her awesome magic...' The little Trixie waved its wand. '...vanquished the Ursa Major...' With a spark of light, the little bear exploded, with even its own Trixie looking smug. '...and sent it back to its cave, deep within the Everfree Forest!'
While the other ponies stood silent from the spectacle, Snips and Snails both cried out, 'Suh-weet!' in unison. Hearing this, Twilight's stomach plunged, but she hoped it wasn't from jealousy. She turned towards Trixie, the latter standing in the same pose as the lion statues that lined Princess Celestia's throne.
Snails leapt up to the stage. 'Trixie truly is the most talented, most magical, most awesome unicorn in Ponyville!'
'No,' cried his fatter friend, 'In all of Equestria!'
Twilight still attempted to raise her stomach, but it fell deeper at Spike's protests. 'How do you know?' Using one of her easier, quicker spells, Twilight changed the dragon's mouth into a zipper, reducing his rage-filled objections to frustrated mumbles.
Punctuating her point with another pompous giggle, Trixie replied, 'It's true, my enthusiastic admirers! Trixie is most certainly the best in Ponyville!'
Looking at her friends' displeased expressions, Twilight told herself she should say something, but her mouth remained dry.
'Don't believe the Great and Powerful Trixie?' she continued, smirking all the while, 'Well then, I hereby challenge you Ponyvillians, anything you can do, I can do better!' The crowd remained silent. 'Any takers?' No response. 'Or is Trixie destined to be the greatest equine who ever lived?' The last few words were yelled, not said, and thus they deserved their own burst of fireworks.
After unzipping his mouth, Spike clutched Twilight's legs, simpering in a way that made him sound almost as incoherent as when his mouth was zipped.
Trixie came closer to her audience, and stared at Twilight like a strict teacher would a misbehaving student. 'How about...you?'
Was that a memory, or a fantasy? No, it was a memory of a fantasy, remembering something she once fantasised about. Actually, one could call it a fantasy of a memory, a memory she would have liked to have. Would have.
Stretching her body on her bed, Tara looked around the room. No, she did not just look, she scrutinized. When she looked at the door, she described it in detail in her mind. The handle, the texture of the door, the hinges, the screws in the hinges. Then she pondered on where the door might have come from, and how it was made, created in some factory somewhere. It was a real door. A door that existed.
She had recovered. Cured. She no longer belonged here.
With that in mind, she stretched again, wrapping the cover of the bed around herself. If her time here was limited, she might as well savour it. While knowing she should leave this place if she had any chance of living a normal life, it had become home, in its own way. Certainly better than that childhood prison.
But she was in a mental institution. An asylum. It may not have been the dungeon she had read about in that one story, but it certainly wasn't the place someone like her should be living. It was Clarice who sent her here after all. Fuck her.
As much as Tara liked her solitude, she wished for Spike – the real one – to sit on her lap, and let his fur tickle her skin, digging within to eradicate her worries. Spike the fat tomcat who, when she was young, had climbed up the tree outside her window, and leapt in. Upon landing on Tara's bed, he raised his head up high, and young Tara thought he looked regal then, despite the tangled mess around his body. Clarice would never let Tara have a pet, so Spike became her secret.
Secret. The word once seemed to promise mystical, enlightening things, but now it stung, a warning for her to run. This institution had secrets, Marge had said, secrets that she didn't like hearing but had to know.
Spike was a secret. The secret that lay under Tara's bed, his purring washing away the day's troubles. The secret that Tara would bring table scraps to, gobbling down pieces of meat merrily. The secret that lay beside her as she read quietly to him. 'Would you like to hear a story?' she would say, and Spike always seemed to nod. Then she would get out from under the bed a book, a book she enjoyed, and opened it, reading the text in a whisper. A secret whisper. As she read the story, Spike would look at the book, observe the illustrations and comment from time to time. His reward for the care.
Friends give back to each other, don't they? Spike was her friend. If she couldn't have any friends at school, why not a secret friend?
One carelessly opened door and he was no longer a secret.
'What is this?'
Forced to come downstairs, Tara saw Clarice holding Spike by the scruff of his neck, her other hand also close to his face. Spike did not mew, but wriggled slightly, his eyes bulging wide. In an instant, Clarice's previous name was deemed worthless.
The present Tara remembered Spike being dropped to the ground, yet remaining still. Present Tara remembered falling to the floor herself, the resulting migraine intensifying Clarice's screams. Present Tara remembered what else happened to Spike afterwards.
Present Tara laughed.
Years, over a decade even, after it all happened, Tara finally found a funny side to it. Whether it was Marge's therapy or her own mind, she saw in the memories not the nightmare ogre she once feared, but a whiny brat throwing a temper tantrum.
Perhaps she died. That's right, Clarice died and nobody noticed. She probably had a heart attack or fell down the stairs and nobody knew or nobody cared. Tara laughed again- under her breath, of course.
Clarice. She was afraid of that?
She let that begin the construction of Equestria?
Yes, after that incident, her focus on her studies began to wane. The studies she was forced to take for hours on end seemed to melt away, making way for a reality where Spike was still around, at her side, and she was studying because she wanted to. She had no time for socialising because she was better than those people outside.
That fantasy she had kept in her mind throughout secondary school, throughout high school but not university. Never had a chance to go there. All those years it stayed in her head, growing and stretching slowly, sprouting into a fully formed world. Tara thought up more residents, and slowly expanded the realm's geography and politics. She had wondered through the school halls with that world in her head, the surroundings and the people near her fading away as she did. It was planning for a story she would never write, yet she let it play in her head over and over, it growing stronger each time.
One day she awoke and found herself in Equestria.
Not only did she find herself in a new world, but with a new mind, new memories. No longer did she remember the wrinkled harpy scrutinizing her actions, but now she remembered overcoming evil with her magic, galloping through fields to complete a mission, going on adventures with her friends at her side...
Yes, she had friends. Once she was a loner, but then she discovered that the wonder...the magic of friendship. The ponies that joined her on her many escapades were not just best friends, but the best friends. Rainbow Dash, the energetic go-getter. Rarity, the fashion queen. Applejack, the hardworking farm girl. Fluttershy, the nervous animal lover.
Wait, there was one more, wasn't there?
How could she forget her?
Five friends for Tara...no, Twilight Sparkle. The smartest pony in Equestria, and the one most talented with magic. Once she feverously studied, but now learned to balance her reading with a healthy social life. With Rainbow Dash's races, Applejack's farmwork...
Pinkie Pie's parties.
It was Equestria that sent Tara to this institution, and that had only made her fantasy elongate even further. She spent the next few years not in this sterile white room with its bed and table, but in a magnificent library, teeming with tomes of spells. She never walked through blank, oppressive halls, but rather she trotted under the gleaming light of glass buildings. She ate pony food, played pony foods, and Spike, oh yes, Spike was there too. The same old person he once was, but now more so.
Marge was there too.
Yes, Margaret Sandson, her psychiatrist.
That one day when Twilight Sparkle groggily awoke to find strange appendages on her hooves. Long tentacles and stubby lumps. Just like that incident with the 'Poison Joke', though now, more than her horn had changed. Her limbs had elongated and had become thinner, her face had twisted into something flat, and...
'Where's my horn?' she screamed as she forced her eyes open. No library, no hooves, no Equestria. Her legs, all four of them, now had these creatures attached, writhing and wriggling seemingly under her command. She was clothed, a white garment draped over her torso, leaving her new legs and arms exposed. This place...no books, no shelves full of spells, just four plain white walls surrounding her.
Her brain told her to scream again, but her mouth was unable to do so. Something about this room was familiar to her, so she knew she had to explore, and yet her body restricted itself to the bed. It was that philosophy wasn't it? That when something unbelievable happens, it has to be a dream. She remembered the coming of Nightmare Moon, and how, when she made her glorious appearance, Twilight had briefly wondered if it were a dream.
Then she saw a member of the species she had become. This thing wore white like she did, only she wore a black skirt to go with it. This thing's shape at first sent Twilight backing away, as it resembled a moving tree, but the more she gazed, the more natural this creature seemed.
The thing smiled at her. 'Judging from that scream,' she said, sitting at the foot of the bed, 'you're back in reality again. Hopefully, you'll manage to stay there.'
And stay Tara did. She knew she was in reality, she knew every brick, every window, every floorboard of this institution were physical objects, she was a human and not a pony, and she truly needed, or had needed, help. To further solidify this reality, Tara thought back to Marge and her analyses:
'When you became older,' she had said, 'you realised that you never really had any friends, but when you realised that, you feared it was too late to do anything about it, and you became riled when you attempted to make conversation. Thus you created your own imaginary friends to compensate for this.'
Oh, and what about 'After observing your behaviour and listening to what you've been saying, I think I've figured out that your...' That smile she usually had lessened. '..."friends" are actually different facets of your personality, most of which you have kept repressed. For example, you feel nervous talking to people, so you created Fluttershy, but your intelligence has given you a sense of superiority to them, which you try to use to compensate for said nervousness, leading to Rarity. You said you were forced to work hard as a child?'
'You made a pony for that. Rainbow Dash, I believe, could be an answer to your lack of physical activity, or perhaps even sexual frustration.'
She didn't mention Pinkie Pie though.
'Look, Tara,' Marge had said, sitting on the bed, 'This is the third time you've re-emerged, and I hope you stay here with us. Look, I'll be your friend, and I'll help you make others too. That's what we're here for.'
That's what they were here for.
True, Marge did let Tara mingle with the other inmates for a while, some of which had even lived in Equestria for a short while. Tara even managed to have a short chat with Gilda. Yes, Gilda actually did exist, but, needless to say, she wasn't a gryphon or whatever she was in Equestria.
'Hey, you're that weird pony girl, aren't you?'
Tara had chuckled nervously at that. 'Um, yeah...' Once again, she felt her body shrink, but at least it didn't contort into an equine form. 'B-but I think I'm over it.'
'I've heard that a lot around here.'
Tara pondered for a while on what to respond with, but then began focussing on Gilda's appearance. The same white garment she wore, under a mess of tangled blonde hair. No feathers, no fur, a nose and a mouth instead of a beak. Wait, if she remembers what happened in Equestria...
'Oh...yeah...I guess you have.'
'You weren't with the ponies just then, were you?'
'No,' replied Tara, 'I was just...remembering something.'
As painful as it was, she tried to remember her human childhood through the conversation, though she didn't tell Gilda about it. Gilda did briefly mention her own mother, but Tara chose not to elaborate on those points. After they talked a while, both feeling somewhat enlightened, Gilda let Tara shake her hand. As she did, Tara described how the hand felt in her mind. How cold and smooth it was, the palm, how the fingernails looked chewed up. How it was not a claw.
When Tara had returned to her room that day, a sense of pride danced within her gut. She had actually talked to a physical human being, not a fictional pony, not a figment of her mind. A major step on her path to recovery. Who knows, she thought, fists balled with excitement, maybe she'll be out of here soon. If that Clarice has kicked the bucket, she'll have an independent life, a quiet life. She'll get a nice, quiet job, perhaps at an app...ice cream farm. Or at a library. When she gets out, perhaps she'll even have a party.
That'll show Trixie.
Just a week ago, Tara remembered, Marge told her that she was recovering very well, and that both of them would go on a day out. Tara would be able to see more of the real world, further immersing herself in it, and maybe she would even make some new friends while she was at it. All that she missed out on through her delusions, everything she never got a chance to fully experience, she would indulge in. Marge told her there was a nice coffee shop not too far from where the institution was, and there was another place that apparently sold the best donuts. One day out and Marge will be able to tell everyone else at the institution that Tara is perfectly sane and should be released.
It would be the best day ever.
Tara awoke early that morning, her eyes flashing open in a second. She was never a morning person, yet she felt a strange burst of energy upon her awakening. Despite this energy, she still stretched her legs, observing them as she did so. Her two legs, with ankles, heels, toes.
She was Tara Muschel, a twenty-five year old woman who once aspired to be an author, and was currently living in a mental institution. Her father died sometime when she was seven due to leukaemia, she had lived with Clarice most of her life, and never had a boyfriend. All of that really happened. Clarice, as sickening as she was, actually existed as an actual human being, with a skeleton, organs, and muscles. She wasn't made of...whatever dreams are made of. Clouds, moonbeams, all that ethereal stuff.
Placing a hand to her chest, Tara listened to her heart beat. It was quicker than usual, but it was an actual heart, pumping blood throughout her body to keep her alive. Did she hear a heartbeat when she was a pony? Did it beat fast when approaching that dragon on the hill?
She actually didn't remember much about that incident. It wasn't clear enough. Good.
The sound had Tara scrambling out of her bed onto the floor. She lay on the floor, ready to hear a high-pitched 'Oh, Twilight!', but thankfully, she heard nothing of the sort. The laugh returned briefly, but now Tara noticed it was deeper than it first seemed.
'Yeah, them loonies, eh? Never know what they's gonna do next.'
Oh, those two orderlies. They always came in to restrain her, even when she wasn't doing anything violent. Tara giggled slightly to herself, pondering on how lovely it would be to be rid of them.
''Ere, Bert.' They were outside her room. 'I 'ear old Maggie's takin' out the girl who thinks she's a pony.'
'Really? Maybe she'll take 'er to the glue factory, eh?'
'Or maybe to the track. I wonder if we'll be able to bet on 'er, eh?'
'But still, I've seen the folks here think of themselves as weirder things. Weren't there one bloke who thought 'e was a cactus?'
'Don't be silly, Bert. Wasn't a cactus, was a cowboy. '
'Ah. Never got into westerns.'
What a pair of idiots those two were. Imagine what it would be like to have their thought process. They do have brains after all. What is their home life like? Did they ever mention that they were married? What do they watch on television?
They were just like Trixie. They doubted her. They thought she could never succeed in her reawakening. Well, what do they know?
She still felt the floor under her feet. She still felt the chill her room usually had. She could feel the smooth texture of the wallpaper with her fingers. Yes, her fingers. That's what she used to pick things up, not magic or a unicorn horn. Marge had fingers too, and she was going to use them to open that door and set Tara free.
It took a shorter while than Tara expected, but in came Marge, carrying a pile of clothes. 'So,' said the doctor, handing the clothes to Tara, 'do you think you're ready?'
Something inside Tara's mind found this question laughable, but she chose to respond with a single 'Yes' punctuated with a smile.
Marge left for a while to give Tara some privacy to dress, and she put on the baggy t-shirt and plain jeans as quickly as she could. After dressing, she took a minute to observe her clothes. Bland, nearly colourless, perfect.
All dressed up, Marge re-entered. 'Are you ready to go?'
'Of course,' was Tara's reply, and that was all that was needed to grant her a temporary exit.
'Now stay close to me at all times,' seemed to be the first thing Tara heard before she stepped outside. The walk down the corridor, past the machines and the moaning of certain patients, all of that was a dash, a quick sprint. Did her repressed energy and excitement for today cause her to run down the halls? No, if it did, she would have been tired by the time she reached the door. She may not have been tired, but she still found her body frozen.
Everything had begun to swell.
The sky – that overcast sky with far too many clouds – pulsated and seemed to throb to the beat of Tara's heart. The road, even though Tara could see no end to it, stretched and elongated, promising the drivers a longer journey ahead of them. A van roared by, reminding Tara of a bear...who knows where that road leads...but what is that up in the clouds? She swore she saw two eyes, narrowing at her.
What a big world.
What an adventure.
'Is everything alright, Tara?'
'Great!' Tugging on Marge's arm, Tara began to run to the pavement, wobbling a little as she did so. Upon seeing someone walk towards the bus stop, she forced herself to come to a halt, much to the relief of Marge.
'Don't try and get too excited, okay?' said Marge as they neared the traffic lights. Upon the sign turning green, they crossed, and Tara took a look at the nearby buildings. She saw a small house, a rustic thing sporting a dull brown coat and a chimney adding to the grey sky. Taking a look at it, she briefly imagined its construction, imagining grizzled workers laying down the cement and placing down the bricks. Those bricks being levitated by unicorn horns briefly entered her mind, but she briefly tossed it away.
The two continued their little stroll through the town until they came to a newsagent, which would be indistinguishable from the other brown lumps on the street if not the white sign outside. Both entering, Marge, oddly silent, bought a newspaper, along with a Mars bar, giving both to Tara as they left. The Mars was to help ease any tension, the newspaper was to make reality seem all the more solid.
The front page story was about how a protest on the streets, what happened when the police were brought in, and the amount of injuries and arrests the debacle resulted in. It was due to a new government policy...apple trees. Apple pie. Maybe if they all sat down and ate some apple pie they could have come to an agreement.
Oh, that's not how real life works.
As she walked beside Marge, she took time to glance in the newspaper. The police managed to arrest several drug dealers and users the previous night. They probably didn't need any Elements of Harmony for that. If they didn't need magic, then neither did she. Keep walking, keep reading.
Turning her gaze from the newspaper, Tara saw a certain bright spot among the houses...no, it couldn't be.
Prancing down the streets was the little pony herself, slowing down as soon as she gazed at Tara. On her face was that bright smile that had always lightened Twilight's mood, the same way Spike soothed Tara.
No, she wasn't smiling.
She was scowling.
Just then, Tara felt something on her leg, and turned down to see she had stepped in a puddle. Looking up, she saw Marge raise an eyebrow, and Pinkie Pie nowhere to be found. 'It's a good thing I brought you outside,' said Marge, gesturing Tara to turn around the corner, 'You need to get out more.'
They walked through the town, with its clouds yet to be cleared, the puddles staining the roads, and the emotionless people strolling along. Still, Tara looked about to further let her know that this was reality she was in, and for anything of interest. Occasionally she would take a look in the paper as she walked by. Oh look, some school held a fair for charity. Those kids earned something.
With only a few more steps on the pavement – with Tara once stopping to ponder on how some cracks were made – they arrived at the coffee shop Marge had spoken of. It was no brighter than the usual building found along this road, and yet it stood out, beckoning Tara to come within.
When Tara entered, however, she treaded slowly, as the entire room seemed to be shrouded in shadows. Two men sitting at a table looked like a pair of floating heads above disembodied hands. All it took, however, for Tara to go deeper was a slight push on the back from Marge. As Marge promised she would buy them both a cappuccino, Tara went to find herself a seat.
That one. It had to be that one.
Not too far from where Marge was ordering, and with a nice view of the window. Look, a window. This place isn't all shadows.
'What are you doing in this boring old dump anyway?'
Just when Tara had sat down. When she heard the voice, the chair had suddenly gained a firm grasp of her body, trapping her, forcing her to look at Pinkie Pie.
Another memory of a fantasy of a memory or whatever it was sprung into Tara's brain. It was shortly before she re-emerged in the human world that she imagined Pinkie Pie – she was Pinkie Pie. She sat at a table, surrounded by inanimate objects, all speaking to her. Your friends had abandoned you, they said. You should leave them be, they said. Marge didn't know about Pinkie, so Tara provided her own diagnosis. It was her subconscious trying to bring her back to the real world. Like Pinkie Pie was speaking to imaginary friends, so was Tara, and if a fictional character talking to nothing is crazy, what about a real person doing so?
Yet when she looked at Pinkie sitting there, her expression strangely blank, Tara imagined the skeletal structure holding together this playful equine. Hearing Pinkie breath heavily, Tara thought of the lungs under that pink coat. Beneath that firm mane there must be a brain, working to give her all those wild thoughts.
Figments of the imagination can't have minds, can they? Can something that comes from the brain have a brain?
'Twilight!' Tara remained silent, choosing to turn her attention towards Marge ordering their coffee. 'Hey, Twilight!' Not much of a queue, the coffee shouldn't be long. 'Hellooo, Twilight, have you got hay in your ears?' Silently, Tara turned to Pinkie. 'Why would you leave Ponyville for this boring old dump?' Her eyes enlarged, transforming Pinkie into one of those twee little figurines Marge had in her office. 'Don't you want to be my friend anymore? And what about Rainbow Dash? Applejack?'
Clutching tightly onto the table, Tara knew she shouldn't respond, yet her mouth hung open. Words pounded on her lips, telling her to let them free. Her mouth moved left, her mouth moved right, and Pinkie rested her head on her foreleg in impatience.
Then Marge arrived with the coffee.
Two cups, with little milk containers and sugar satchels. Tara turned her attention towards them, taking a long whiff of her cup. Hot, luscious, ah. Real coffee. As she dumped in the milk, she looked up, and Pinkie Pie was still sitting there, right beside Marge.
'This place is so boring,
And the coffee's sub-par,
I can't even throw a party here,
Because it's so bourgeois!'
Knocking over the chair, Pinkie began a miniature dance, folding her forelegs and letting her hind legs move in several directions. Tara wanted to turn her head to look at Marge, knowing that she wouldn't acknowledge Pinkie's presence, and yet something about Pinkie's dance mesmerised her.
Was it a test? Yes, if Pinkie was her subconscious, then perhaps this is its way of telling her how stupid she was being. All she had to do was, in her mind, tell Pinkie to go away and Equestria would be defeated forever.
She closed her eyes and tried to shut out Pinkie. She thought of real, physical things, all she knew existed: the buildings, her room at the institution, clouds, cupcakes...
Upon opening her eyes, Pinkie was gone.
That sense of pride welled up in her again as she guzzled down her coffee. She took a look at Marge, who had a pleased look on her face. Yes. She had done it. How many of the other patients in that institution could do that? Gilda had been there longer than she had, and she'd likely stay longer still. Imagine how Clarice would feel, if she was still alive.
This coffee shop is far too dark. Maybe some balloons would lighten up.
Was it the sense of accomplishment or the caffeine from the coffee she didn't know, but Tara still sprung up from her chair, knocking it over, and dashing for the door. Though her appendages propelled her, they all began to feel numb. Letting the door's ringing become a tune to accentuate this mood, she ran out onto the streets. Everything seemed much brighter than usual. Even the clouds had parted, the light of the gods beaming down upon Tara as she proclaimed her victory.
The best day ever.
'What happened?' was the first thing Twilight said upon rising, her eyes still closed.
Rubbing her eyes with her hooves, Twilight found herself in her bedroom, her friends beside her. Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, Fluttershy. Wait...
'You feeling okay, sugar?'
'I think so, but...' Twilight rubbed her head, looking about the room. 'It all seems so...'
Rainbow Dash intervened. 'We were collecting some special flowers for Princess Celestia, remember, and you fell near this weird plant thing?'
No, Twilight didn't remember.
'We got the flowers, but then we found you out cold. We asked Zecora about it, and she said the pollen from that plant can knock anypony out, and give them weird dreams or something.' Rainbow shook her head. 'Don't really understand it myself.'
'Di'n't she also say some ponies used it to see other worlds?' interrupted Applejack.
'Yeah,' said Twilight, a hoof on her horn, 'I did have quite a strange dream...hey, where's Pinkie?'
'Oh,' said Applejack, 'She just went off to get some cakes for when you come to...which I guess is now.' A moment of silence followed. 'Something wrong, hun?'
Twlight shook her head, crawling onto the floor. 'No, no. Everything's fine. Say, isn't the gala coming up soon?'
Her body shuddering, Marge looked over the unconscious Tara. Despite her cries, her protests, she couldn't stop Tara running out onto the road and having that accident. Limbs were fractured, and she took a major hit to the head. She saw the irony or the appropriateness of Tara getting damaged in the head, but chose not to dwell on it. There were other things to dwell on.
She tried to ignore the white of the room, which seemed to flash and burn, and the beeping of the monitor, which began to sound like laughter. Instead, she looked closer at Tara's face, beautiful in spite of its marks. It was what lay beyond those marks that made her shudder, a woman with intelligence and potential, reduced to a motionless shell, just another looney.
It seemed like she had recovered. It really did.
She's probably off with the ponies now.