2: Fade In, Black Out
"Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight
" spoke a mare. The voice echoed slightly as it was spoken much like a voice tends to reverberate in a small, tiled bathroom in an otherwise empty house. However the tone in which the mare spoke was warm and soft; much like a mother would speak to a child.
Derpy looked around for the source of the voice, but everywhere she looked she found her vision being distorted by a dark haze. Behind the blanket of darkness, shadowy figures were seen scattered and separated into different groups; each one was seemingly oblivious of any other group besides their own.
The mysterious mare's voice continued to chant the nursery rhyme. Derpy found herself feeling somehow separated from the voice that spoke, and also from her own self. It was impossible to comprehend, but it was as if her mind and body where two separate entities. She was standing, but she could not feel the ground beneath her hooves.
The voice continued its chant, and Derpy felt as if she recognized the mare that spoke. The only way she could be sure was to take a shot in the dark.
"Mother?" She called out, her heart begging for a response. "Mother, is that you?" Derpy found that when she spoke her own voice did not have the same echo in the air like the mysterious mare's, but instead merely seemed to dissipate in the haze. In fact she felt as if she was able to literally watch he own words disappear in darkness without a trace, never to be seen again.
The voice she believed to be her own mother's didn't stop when Derpy spoke; it only continued to sing the little rhyme. This voice however seemed all too distant, as if calling from a remote position or even some separate location in time. Were those her memories? Those images, those shadowy figures, were they just silhouettes in time, just echoes of the past?
Once again Derpy heard the mare. This time however the voice did not reverberate as much; that clarity made it easier to understand.
While the mare sang, a particular scene began to materialize before her, as life and color began to cast a new light upon the previously shadow-like figures.
The first thing she saw was a mare, who happened to be the pony that Derpy heard singing. She was a unicorn with a cool-blue coat. Her mane, which was shoulder length, was colored a snowy-white that turned to magenta near the ends of each hair. The mare seemed to stand over her, looking lovingly down towards Derpy with relaxed eyes.
As the song that the mare was singing came to an end, Derpy heard yet another voice. This one however belonged to a stallion. Although he was not in her direct line of sight his reflection could be seen in a mirror behind the blue mare. A warm-green-coated pony with a silver mane and tail. Most of what he said was easy to understand, but there were parts of his speech that were distorted and sank into strange white noises in the air. "He says that nopony
The unicorn slowly looked away from Derpy and locked eyes with the stallion.
He seemed worried. The way he breathed in slightly deeper breaths resembled that of a pony who had just finished speaking in a rather heated argument with another. Obviously he had been doing a great deal of yelling. His tired eyes, which resembled the sort of heaviness one acquires once a large amount of adrenaline starts to wear off, confirmed that theory.
The mare returned a frown. She spoke softly, sounding as if she was trying to hold back tears. "It isn't right."
"I know," replied the stallion, the white noises in the air making some parts harder to understand. "But we
all we can. I know that you
her, and I will
you to the end. I plan on taking this to
They will know what to do."
The mare attempted a smile which she was unable to manage. There were still traces of fear and stress in her expression. "Thank you."
Why was it that they both spoke in trembling voices?
The stallion nodded as if to give her his assurance. "If we
then let her be
" The voice cut off there.
No, no! thought Derpy desperately. It was the first thought that she had voluntarily had while in this state. "Please finish! Let her be what?"
"Derpy," she heard, but the voice was unrecognizable, and the sound of it, it sliced through air like arrows through smoke. Outbreaks of sound began to distort the scene before her and in a matter of moments, and all of a sudden all was gone.
" she heard again, this time more clearly, "Derpy!"
Her eyes rolled back into proper alignment before shooting open. A burst of retina-burning red light met her vision, and by mere instinct she winced. She now could make out the shape and colors of Cheerilee, who had indeed been the pony to call her name moments ago. She was standing beside an elderly mare.
Her eyes looked downward to see that an elderly stallion was waving some sort of burning incense beneath her nostrils even though it was scentless.
"I told you Ma, I knew how to wake her up!" The stallion said with a grin, his oriental accent showing in his speech as his eyes gleamed with pride at the accomplishment.
The elderly mare rolled her eyes sarcastically and leaned in closer to Derpy. Carefully she used her hoof to dab the newly awakened pony's forehead with a damp cloth.
Derpy graciously received the act of kindness and thanked her warmly. If her head hadn't hurt before it definitely hurt now.
Cheerilee spoke next. "Are you okay? You took quite a fall there." She and the elderly mare helped Derpy to her hooves.
Once standing she started to feel a little disoriented and her head began to throb some more.
Meanwhile the stallion had disappeared into the back room of the shop. A few minutes later he reappeared with a brown paper bag, tied shut with a golden ribbon, perched securely on his back. Slowly he made his way back to the other three, being careful not to drop the bag or its contents. He then picked the bag up on his hoof and set it on the countertop by the register before turning to see if Derpy was alright.
With the assistance of Cheerilee, she was able to remain standing, even though she was still a little disoriented.
Derpy looked at Cheerilee, her cheeks blushing a bright red; Cheerilee looked back at her with the warm expression that one can only receive from a school-teacher. It radiated with a certain glow that made it clear that she cared for the pegasus' well-being and it warmed Derpy's heart.
"I must have fainted from exhaustion," she said, still unsure of what had actually happened.
The stallion grunted like he was coughing, though nopony was convinced that he had a cold. "I don't think that was it."
The mare that went by Ma rolled her eyes, as if to silently say 'here we go again.'
The stallion ignored his wife's gesture and continued explaining his thoughts while Derpy listened closely to the elderly pony's words. "This room is filled with positive energy, and besides, there is caffeine in the air from all the tea."
The mare rolled her eyes once more, but this time actually did say "here we go again." Again she was ignored by the stallion, who only raised his voice so he could be more clearly heard.
"I have seen tons of ailments, and only a few of them are as interesting as getting old. On one occasion I met a pony who had come into the shop searching for some wisdom from yours truly." He pretended not to hear his wife scoff at this. "He spake of memories that were flooding to his mind. He said that whenever it happen it was at bad times, usually in front of other ponies, and he always fainted afterwards. So I tell him something important to know. I say to him sometimes there are things you will try to forget but will always remember. Then there are things that you truly need to remember but you always forget."
"He's talking about our anniversary," joked the old mare, and she and their company all laughed.
"Mock me if you must, but when that pony was in the insane asylum there was no joking."
Nopony laughed. In fact the room was now dead silent except for the ticking of an old grandfather clock in the back room. The sound of which reverberated through the building in a ghostly manner.
"That is right. He could not figure out what his visions meant and it caused him to go insane. He over-thought each situation that he thought about. The truth was that even once he remembered what it was that he had forgotten, he always expected more of it to come, and it did. He did not just need to know what he had forgotten, he needed to know why."
There was a moment of silence, each moment building tension as if the old man was telling a ghost story and suddenly stopped when something scary was about to happen.
Finally the old mare broke the silence. "Well I think we have had enough of that for one day. You'd better stop now before you scare away all the customers again."
"What customers? We are an hour past closing time!"
Derpy's eyes widened slightly as she looked to the door. When she had first entered the store it was mid-day, now the sky was vacant of the sun completely, and stars were scattered across the endless plains above. She must have been unconscious for quite some time.
"Don't mind my husband girls; he is a few nicks short of a knack if you know what I mean."
What a silly expression, thought Derpy turning her head back to the elderly mare with a wide grin on her face. She giggled as she thought of the words "nicks" and "knack."
The stallion himself also seemed to find some joy from analogy that used nicks and knacks in such a way. However he said nothing to retort. If he had learned one thing over the years it was that arguing with Ma was like convincing a rock to speak; it couldn't be done and even trying to do it would end with him looking like a fool. So instead of arguing, he turned around and went to retrieve the brown bag he had set on the counter. Once again, he perched it on his back, this time quite precariously.
When he was close enough for her to do so, Ma took the bag from his back before it could fall and gave it to Derpy. "On the house!" she said with a grin. "Compliments of my husband who found the name of the tea written on a slip of paper."
Derpy took the package in her teeth and tossed it onto her back. "Thank you!" she said, loud enough that Cheerilee jumped. The elderly ponies however did not flinch, which made Cheerilee's reaction appear even more comical.
The elderly mare looked out the window. "Are you well enough to walk home?"
Derpy shrugged. "I'm still a bit woozy."
"Well gee Derpy; I could walk you home if you wanted." Cheerilee said with a smile. She was as perky as ever, it seemed.
"You wouldn't mind?" The pegasus asked, shrinking back shyly. She still was not used to being offered favors from other ponies. "I wouldn't want to be a bother."
"Oh it's no bother! I would love to help an old friend!"
Friend? Thought Derpy.
Ma looked at them with a slight smirk. Her eyes were only half open, and her overall expression was that of a pony who had been in such situations before. "That's very friendly of you, Cheerilee. You two, come back soon now."
Cheerilee nodded, smiling as she helped Derpy out the door. "Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Tea!"
"Thank you!" Derpy called back as well.
Then the door shut behind as soon as they turned around. The old mare spent a few moments watching through the window as they slowly trotted away from the shop. Once they had disappeared around a corner she calmly made her way over to the counter. There she slowly took off her apron and hung it on a rack that looked like it was most likely meant for hats. Then she departed to the back room where her husband was.
The old earth pony sat on a fancy-looking cushion made of a royal purple-colored fabric. In front of him was a low wooden table, which supported a number of photographs, the picture frames of which were all uniquely shaped. They were surrounded by a number of candles, which when lit would provide the necessary light to clearly see the photographs.
Six of the many candles were lit around a particular photograph, which the old stallion stared at prolonging. His head was slightly tilted as if to show interest. However the dark rings around his eyes accompanied by the bags and wrinkles created the allusion of emptiness in his expression. His gaze was tired and weary, but not physically so. It was the tired look given by a pony who had lived a long time, seen a lot of things, and was looking for rest. Like a long journey for peace coming to an end, and its travelers looking for the refuge of a sanctuary.
"Ma," he said in his own soft but aged voice.
"Yes, I'm here." She replied with a voice of the same qualities.
"Ma, I fear old age has damaged my memory. Tell me Ma, was that indeed little Derpy Hooves?"
"And her memory?"
"No better than yours. She seemed a little bit different."
The stallion frowned slightly, and there was a long moment of silence.
The mare continued, "What troubles you?" She trotted up behind him and looked over his shoulder. The picture in front of him, the one he seemed to be lost in with his vacant stare, was one of a young unicorn. She had a blue coat, and a snowy white mane, shoulder length, which turned magenta near the ends of each hair.
The stallion's frown started to change to a faint smile. "Well, she was always a little bit different. Even back then."
Ma let loose a little giggle. "Oh what do you know you old fool?"
The stallion shook his head. "I may be old, that is no lie. However a fool I am not. They called me the Wantan Pony, the Great Spring Roll, and Mista' Chopstick; but most of all they called Dr. Noodles. They called me this because I was a great thinker who knew how to use my noodle!"
"And now you eat noodles, so the name still stays. Yes?"
"You can mock me, but you can never change who I am: a retired astronomer who started a family tea business like my father, and I am the second oldest member of the Colab!"
The stallion's voice maintained a sense of importance, which even Ma could not ignore. "You forgot something."
"And what is that, Ma?"
"You're also the only one to win my heart." She hugged her husband and kissed him on his cheek. There the two earth-ponies exchanged looks of love that had lasted through the years. Then Ma broke away and began walking out. "Now come on dear, it's movie night!"
"Sister-hooves of the galloping prance!"
"Bah- I don't want to watch."
"For goddess sakes Ma we have rented the same two movies every week for the last ten years!"
"Bah- have it your way, I'm watching!" The mare pushed the videocassette into the old VHS, and turned the television on to see the opening credits. She listened closely for something that she knew was coming. The winding of a key in a music box that her husband had in the other room; the same music box that he had listened to since they married. When it would stop playing, the old stallion would simply wind the key again and again. It seemed to be the only thing that kept him sane these days.
She listened to the melody as it played so sweetly, and after a minute she began to hum to the tune of it, and then even began singing the words to the actual melody. "Holding you, holding you, it's in you
River flows in you."
When the song hit its last note, she listened closely. Then came the sound of the cogs being twisted as her husband wound the music box up, and she started watching the movie.
Once they had turned the corner, the situation for the two mares was starting to feel awkward. Thankfully, Cheerilee tried to start some conversation.
"You had me worried there, Derpy." Her tone of voice was filled with a noticeable amount of concern for the other's well-being.
The grey pegasus gave the teacher a slight smile, which appeared to be just a little awkward, considering her headache had returned and was causing her some pain. "Sorry about that," she said in a voice that just barely gave away that she was in pain.
Cheerilee giggled. "Oh, it's fine."
There was another long pause.
"Were we friends in the past?"
Cheerilee looked away with her eyes to the upper corner of her vision, making a coy smile in an expression that resembled a pony who was definitely up to something silly.. "You could say that."
Derpy raised a brow.
Cheerilee continued, "In fact, I guess you could say that back then we were quite close!"
The pain in Derpy's head subsided for a moment. Now was her chance to ask the question that had been on her mind recently. "Was I always so, you know
"Derpy?" Cheerilee finished the question for her. Derpy nodded.
For a while Cheerilee said nothing. Rather, she only stared into the distance where vision became limited. The steps that they took forward seemed to match the rhythm of a ticking clock. While this was not the actual pace at which they walked, it felt the same. Each step was prolonged, or at least it seemed so. Every second seemed long, and every step slow.
The suspense was starting to become intense. Derpy was relieved when Cheerilee finally spoke, breaking the silence of the cold night.
"No," she said, "you weren't. I can barely remember a time when you were quite normal. You were still different, but not as
The pegasus sighed, but another question formed in her mind. "What about my memory?"
There was yet another pause, but only a short one. "Your memory when I knew you a long time ago wasn't any better. At least I don't think it was any better. It was different. That's it; your memory back then was different."
Derpy's mind started to race again and before she knew it her headache was back. She stopped walking in front of her house. Subconsciously she had been leading Cheerilee to her home without really realizing it.
She turned around to look at Cheerilee. "Thank you for walking me home." she said warmly.
"Of course! You and I should really catch up some time. I'm always at the schoolhouse so if you ever need to see me you know where to find me."
The two ponies waved hooves, and exchanged a hug before the magenta-colored mare departed from the house.
Well, thought Derpy, I have a friend.
Once settled inside her house Derpy decided that she should make a cup of tea. After all, that stallion had been so very kind to give her a free bag of it.
The pony walked into the kitchen and searched around for a tea pot, which she found and filled with water. She then walked over to her fireplace, lit a few logs, and set the pot on the metal holder above the flames. Then she went back to the kitchen and opened the paper back, which in fact was still on her back, and used her teeth to retrieve some of its contents. Once she had a few tea bags in the grasp of her jaws, she pulled her snout out from the bag and made her way back to the fireplace. Steam was already starting to come from the pot.
After a few minutes more, she began to feel drowsy. She would have dosed off but the pot began to squeal. She took it off of the fire, opened the top, and began mixing the tea with the water. After doing so she used her teeth to pour some of the brew into a small cup, which she carried back to her own room.
Derpy crawled into bed, and slowly started to sip her drink. It was amazing! In fact it was so delicious that she started to take bigger and bigger drinks until the point where she was practically gulping it down.
What is this, she thought, why do I crave it?
Her throat felt scratchy, and she needed more to drink.
Why am I so thirsty?
She ran back to the pot, and poured some more. But it didn't help. She poured another cup, then another, until finally she felt like she was choking on dust.
Why am I so unbearably thirsty?
She couldn't take it anymore. She grabbed the pot and poured the liquid directly down her throat. The steaming hot brew scorched her mouth and caused her eyes to tear up. But she didn't stop. Instead she tilted it more, and poured the entire pot into her open mouth, and it began to overflow. The warm liquid surrounded her body and she was starting to feel drenched. She coughed and choked on the liquid and she came to realize she could not breathe.
I need air!
She stumbled and coughed her way around, stumbling into the bathroom. Suddenly she tripped and she fell into the tub which was filled with lukewarm water. She flailed and kicked to get out, but all attempts failed.
All the oxygen now gone from her lungs she knew she had to escape from this trap and find air. She looked up, and squirmed with all her energy.
Still she had no luck.
She felt the crushing weight of her lungs collapsing in on themselves and she panicked, now pushing against anything she could find. At the last second she pushed her head up out of the water and a burst of light met her eyes. She was on the floor in front of the fireplace, and below her was a puddle of warm water that was mixing itself with the tea bags that had been lying there. The tea-pot was toppled not too far from her.
It was only a dream?
She stood up and ran to the bathroom, to find that the tub was empty, and the bathroom was exactly the way she left it that morning. She turned to the mirror and saw herself, her own eyes were misaligned.
She shook her head, and looked again. Her eyes were normal, correctly aligned.
Derpy turned on the faucet and splashed cool water on her face. What happened?
After an hour and a half of pacing back and forth, muttering to herself, Derpy came to a conclusion. She had dozed off that much was certain. But that nightmare, that awful dream, did it mean something? Why had she dreamed such an awful dream?
There was yet another fear in her heart, the fear that this would all fade from her memory soon enough. That all of what she had learned and seen that day would be nothing but a forgotten whisper of the past. She had to preserve her memories.
Derpy trotted over to her bedside dresser, and found in the bottom drawer a notepad and a pen. Holding the pen in her teeth she wrote about every single detail of the day's events, and not just that day, but also the story that the nurse had told her about the day before. She had but one goal in mind: remember.
When she finished she set the book down on her pillow where she would easily find it upon waking, and laid her head down to rest.
I will remember,she thought, and she drifted off to sleep.
In the silence of her house, she imagined a little melody playing in her head. She didn't recognize it, but it seemed like something she must have grown quite familiar to. "Holding you, holding you, it's in you
River flows in you"
Then the world faded to a blanket of sleep.
Star light, star bright, last star I see tonight
2 retpahC dnE|End Chapter 2
Cover art by verywrony
Storyline Editor: scifiresx13623
Organizational Editor: ExoThermicDistraction25
"Mane" Editor: TheSharp0ne
Touch-up helpers: Alvinsaur, Shamanim, & verywrony
**Continued thanks to my bronies: Grimm, Craggle, Brian, Tex... you guys rock, and you four are always going to be my inspiration.