Her hooves danced across the roads like starlight; she was the loveliest creature he had ever seen. Though the ponies around her seemed to rush, she trotted with a deliberate pace, tossing her candy pink colored mane as her wide, innocent eyes took in everything she saw. I, myself, had sat, observing, from a café table across the street. A dry cherry muffin sat in front of me, half eaten, and my notepad lay discarded and empty nearby.

I had sat for a while, watching the busy on goings of the main square in Manehattan, looking for inspiration. The inhabitants provided amusement, if anything. She had come into my line of vision only a little while earlier, and I made sure she hadn't left it since. It wouldn't seem suspicious, seeing as the square was particularly crowded and my wandering gaze could have been targeted at any one of those ponies, if they had paid attention.

The lightly falling snow and brightly advertised shopping centers signaled the beginning of the Equestrian holiday season. I assumed that's what this mysterious mare was doing in town. For some reason, she didn't seem like a city pony. The way she looked at the tall buildings with such wonder and the way she moved quickly out-of-the-way of traffic on the street. The mare often ducked her head shyly, sometimes squeezing into tight corners to allow others to pass her by. Not at all like the harsh, weathered glares of the longtime residents.

I tapped my pencil on the table, craning out my neck as the pale yellow mare disappeared behind a street corner. As I did so, a waitress reappeared in front of me. Her fine pressed apron and perfectly styled mane didn't mask her country nature, the Appleloosan accent clearly evident.

"Want another coffee, sugar cube?"

My eyes dropped down to the coffee stained cup, the crumbly muffin. With a sigh, I picked up my notepad in my magic aura, floating it in a cloud of pale blue haze beside me. "No, thank you." I replied, pushing a few bits into the center of the table. The mare's eyes lit up when she saw the generous tip. "Hey, thank you kindly! You have a good evening, you hear?" She called out to me as I trotted away, tucking my things into my saddle bag and tossing a hesitant smile over my shoulder. It quickly disappeared as I made my way through the now thinning crowds, avoiding the holiday shoppers, pickpockets, street peddlers, and hurried business folk alike. The main square was a place that I visited often, as it was close to my abode and usually cleared my mind of any writer's block I was having. Usually. This time, on the other hoof, had proved persistent, especially with the sighting of the beautiful yellow pegasus pony.

As I entered my apartment building, I saw one of my neighbors leaving for the night. Upon closer inspection, I identified it as Sterling Spectacle, who had lived in the same building with me for a few years now. Sterling worked in downtown Manehattan, a casting director for many small-scale projects. His silvery coat shone brightly as he trotted towards me, his winning smile displayed proudly. "If it's not my favorite little writer! Have the draft of the next great novel yet?" he teased. The blue gingham scarf slung lazily around his neck caught my eye, and I was distracted for a moment. I suppose I should mention I do this often. A random object will draw my attention, and I focus on it. More than a few times, these objects have become inspiration of a project of mine, so I've learned to pay attention to them. After a moment, I realize Sterling has asked me a question.

"Ah, I'm sorry. What was that?"

"Never mind. Forget it."

I grin sheepishly, watching as my friend rolls his eyes. He must think I'm strange. Most do, anyway. But Sterling was one of few to actually continue to stick around, saying he admired my quirks as part of my writer's personality. Whatever that meant. In any case, I was glad for his company when he was around to offer it. His busy life making contacts among Manehattan's elite was his utmost priority, and after a scandal involving a certain couture model, he was determined to rise back to the top of the social ladder.

He chuckled once more, beginning to trot down the sidewalk towards the bright city lights. "It was nice running into you, Crimson."

I nodded in agreement, moving to the side to allow him to pass. Sterling gave me a nudge as he walked past, glancing over his shoulder to grin at me in amusement as I'm thrown off-balance slightly. As I shook the snow out of my short, burgundy colored mane, Sterling rounded the street corner and disappeared from sight. I entered into my apartment a few moments later, unpacking the contents of my saddle bag and hanging it on the rack by the door.

My abode was small, but perfect for a stallion living on his own. Despite the stereotypes others may have acquired, I worked hard to keep my living space tidy and free of clutter. I didn't like clutter. Or any other kind of unnecessary waste of space. Sparsely decorated, the only form of embellishment to the space was my typewriter and a framed family photo, worn from years of storage. My hooves tapped against the wooden floors, the commotion from the city only a distant echo. It was one of the things I liked so much about this place. When searching for inspiration, the activity and noise were appreciated. But when I was working, I preferred to do so in peace and quiet.

Speaking of working, I needed to get started on this transcript. My publisher was convinced that this next piece would be the thing to shoot me into the public spotlight. "The skill is there, so all we need to do now is make sure the right people see it!" I had my doubts, but assured him I would be paying attention to making it as special as possible.

I crossed the room, sitting at the bench in front of my typewriter. My hooves fluttered across the keys, my mind racing for something, anything, to write about. The face of the pegasus mare from earlier flashed in my memory. Her kind demeanor would make for an interesting character. Somewhat of an angel trapped in the shady despair of the city. A saint caught in the dishonest gloom of this metropolitan wasteland. I found myself typing away without even thinking, hunched over in the dim lighting. As my ideas flowed on the clean white paper, the early winter air chilled and the sun sank below the horizon. Soon my eyelids were drooping heavily and the sharp clicks of the stamps hitting the paper slowed to a near halt. I had exhausted my well of creativity, and it was late. I pull the completed pages into a folder, getting up from the bench and stumbling blearily toward the wash bin.

The cold water hits the edges with a metallic splashing noise, sending chills down my spine. I splashed the water on my face, jolting me awake. I rested my hooves on the sides of the sink, gripping it firmly as water dripped into the drain. It was late now. Soon, the more shady residents of Manehattan would be on the streets, their shenanigans coating the city like a thick layer of dust, only to be swept away by the morning sun and the rest of Manehattan arising from their slumber. I wiped a towel lazily over my face, drying it. Within a few moments, I'm in bed, falling quickly into the dark snare of my dreams, and tonight's is not a surprise.

My mother is sobbing. I try to console her, but not even I can stop the tears. She's sat in her room in silence for days, staring blankly ahead and showing no signs of awaking from the nightmares inside her head. Her mane has become tangled and unkempt, a shadow of her former radiance. Her warm cobalt eyes, ones that used to glow with happiness and light, have changed to have a unfeeling glaze. A color that used to be as beautiful as the midnight sky has transformed into something more akin to the reckless tumult of a storm-ridden ocean, churning and trying to suck everything around them into their depths. I can't understand why he would have left her. He left her and me as well, and now she was trapped in this state that I couldn't wake her from.

It was one thing when she was shut out from the world, but when she was in the angry and bitter state that my mother was in now, it was almost worse. Glass thrown from her hooves was shattering against the walls, some aimed at me, others flying about at targets only my mother could see. I tried to tell myself that the shards of glass hurt more than her words.

I just wish…

I could wake up...

from this…

Nightmare. That's all it was. A nightmare. My chest was heaving and I was breathless, beads of sweat forming on my skin. At the time, it seemed so real. It was unsettling. Despite the time of night, I knew I needed to get out of here. To take a walk, even if it was just for a little while. I grabbed my scarf, trotting quickly to the door. I had an idea of where to go, a place where I would be away from the loud and shady streets of Manehattan.

The park was perfectly illuminated from the lanterns hanging above; their warm glow cast on the cobblestone paths and tucked away benches. Overhanging branches from the tall oaks made a roof with their intertwining branches, insulated with snow and leaves. My breath appeared in clouds of fog, snaking from my nostrils and curling with the air before vanishing from sight. As the harsh memories of my sleep faded away, I could fully enjoy what beautiful scenery Manehattan had left.

I was considering turning back and heading home to try and get more sleep when the sound of a voice caught my attention. The clear, melodic tones reminded me of a lullaby, and for a moment I thought I was dreaming again. I was being drawn in, and soon my hooves were carrying me towards the singing, a single-minded determinedness fueling me. From the distance, I saw the hazy outline of a mare, looking up into a tree. As I drew even closer, I had my breath taken away by what I saw. It was the pegasus mare from earlier. She was standing in front of me, serenading the tree a wordless cradlesong. I was frozen in place, enchanted by the tune. When she finished her tune, it was greeted by the faint sound of tweeting from high up in the branches of the tree. Her icy blue eyes lit up as a small fledgling took flight and fluttered around her. Her smile warmed the chilly night, making everything around it seem more beautiful and fragile.

I needed to talk to her. I needed to see that smile directed towards me. With trembling hoofsteps, I approached her cautiously, like one would an animal that they wanted to admire. In a flash, she had tossed her mane over her shoulder, eyes widening as she saw me. I paused in my step, worried that I had frightened her away.

"I'm sorry, I-I didn't mean to scare you." I told her. The mare remained silent, eyes darting nervously into the shadows as if she feared ambush.

I was now desperate to mend the situation, to assure this kind-hearted pegasus that I didn't intend to harm her. I thought perhaps I should tell her my name. "I'm Crimson Quill. Most ponies just call me Crimson." The corners of my mouth twitched into a smile, tossing my tail in a friendly gesture. But still she kept quiet, now seeming to shrink into the snow covered path. With growing distress, I tried one last effort to make conversation.

"May I ask your name?"

An eternity seemed to pass in the time I waited, holding my breath. I swear I could hear the water freezing in the air, the silence between us overwhelming. Finally, with a quick intake of air, I heard her gentle voice, the words coming out in a dreamy whisper as they passed from her mouth.

"I'm… I'm… Fluttershy."