4: Dream of the Sandman
"Alright ponies," said Twilight, as she paced in the library.
Spike folded his arms and grunted in protest. "Ehem."
Twilight stopped pacing for a moment and raised a brow. "And dragon…" Upon hearing that, Spike beamed with pride. The unicorn rolled her eyes at how easy it was to appease him. "It has been three days since we made our plan; time to recap! You first Spike, what do your notes say?"
The baby dragon opened a scroll and began to read. "Applejack didn't remember Derpy ever visiting the farm, just passing it. Neither did Big Mac. Apple Bloom said that she was in the orchard a couple of times, but always left in a hurry."
Twilight nodded and looked to Derpy, who recognized that it was her turn to give a report. "My journal said that we visited the Cakes, but I can't remember anything about that. I also read about an owl that I sort of remembered. I know it kept asking me questions."
Spike snickered and rolled his eyes to where Owlowicious was sleeping. "Yeah, he does that."
Twilight giggled at the dragon's remark, and the two of them exchanged looks of a silent understanding.
Derpy noticed the expressions, and wondered what they were thinking about. The two were obviously very close friends, family even. It was so strange to her how it felt to have friends. The feeling was a warm and welcoming sensation that seemed to fill some emotional hole in her heart.
Twilight and her assistant finished their friendly exchange of memories and Spike went back to work shelving books. Twilight watched him scurry off to his duties before turning back to Derpy. "Did you remember where it was?"
Derpy shook her head causing Twilight to frown. "Sorry, I could only remember the owl. If it wasn't in my journal then I would never have known where we were that day."
There was a third pony attending the meeting as well. Pinkie Pie, who had somehow managed to incorporate herself into the quest for Derpy's memory, was just now about to speak. "Hmmm… that makes sense."
All three members of Pinkie's audience stared at her with raised brows, including Spike who was currently at the top of a tall ladder. "It does?" the trio asked in unison.
The Pink Earth-pony nodded her head excitedly. "Well duh! It's kind of obvious. You see…"
[The night before]
Tall walls surrounded Derpy, towering above her not menacingly, but rather in a way that provided her with a sense of curiosity. They were blue, sky blue to be specific. She felt safe for a moment, as if she was where she was supposed to be. Then she heard a voice, not unlike the one she had once believed to be her mother's and a tall shadow appeared on one of the walls. The shadow did not fill her with fear but instead caused the room to feel less empty. But there was still the voice, which seemed to come from nowhere. It sang to her.
"The Sandman's coming in his train of cars
With moonbeam windows and with wheels of stars
So hush you little foals and have no fear
The horse-in-the-sky, he is the engineer"
She wanted to see that face again, that unicorn. She wanted to remember.
Derpy looked up to the sky to see that it was also blue. The paint job was exceptionally well done, there were even clouds painted on the ceiling. But the clouds, there was something off about them. Why were they moving? She looked back down to see the walls again but the sky blue room had vanished and she was now outside.
Twilight also voiced the curious "hmmm" noise. "So what you're saying is that…"
Pinkie Pie leaned back and inhaled a great amount of air. At first it appeared she was having some sort of stroke, but as she inhaled impossibly deeper, it became clear that she was preparing for one of her long monologues. Twilight and Spike braced themselves for the long speech while Derpy stood there with a confused expression on her face, but sat back on her haunches next to the purple unicorn and awaited for Pinkie's explanation.
When she finally spoke; it was so quick and without pausing so while it may have been possible to understand, it would take intensive listening skills to do so. "When Derpy was talking to the Cakes, it was so boring. I mean really, who talks about such unexciting stuff for that long. All they did was talk about the weather and other pointless things like that. I mean even I don't remember what else they were talking about because it was just a bunch of boring babbling! I mean who likes it when you just go on talking about nothing? I sure don't. But when she was talking to Owlowicious it was a whole different story! He was all like 'Who?' and she was all like 'me!' It was just so funny because she kept getting mad, then sad, then confused, and then frustrated! I could barely contain my laughing it was so much fun to watch!"
I bet that pony is a fantastic singer. thought Derpy, For her to make such a speech in a single breath was an amazing feat.
The two ponies remained motionless, lost in thought with star struck expressions. They were so gone from reality in fact that neither of them noticed when the equally dazed Spike fell from the ladder. Almost instantly he recovered and looked up from the ground on which his belly lied flat on. He raised a finger and twirled it as he spoke as if following imaginary stars orbiting his head.
"So what you're saying is…" he started to say, though Pinkie cut him off.
"What I'm saying is that when she was talking to the owl it was different than when she was talking to the Cakes. Instead of all boring it was buzzing with excitement and feelings were being tossed around left and right!"
The statement seemed to spark some interest in the group, because nopony spoke a word in response
Derpy looked around for a few moments, trying to remember where she was, but with little success. It was all so blurry, all so uncertain. There were buildings around her, but none that she recognized. They had walls that seemed to reach so high as to actually touch the sky above. Below these enormous structures she suddenly felt very small. It frightened her.
Derpy looked down, as a child does to hide their face from strangers. But to her surprise she found that there was a puddle directly in front of her. The shallow water worked like a mirror, for she could see all the buildings around her by looking into the reflection. This time things looked different. Instead of being blurry she found the image to be very clear. The buildings were ivory, and some of them even had pillars supporting their structures.
No longer afraid of the buildings around her she looked up to find that she was not standing in the middle of the street, but rather staring into the distance.
The concept in fact made sense. In fact Derpy had actually considered the role that emotions might have played in her memory before. In fact, it seemed to be the only concrete clue that they had accrued in their research. Yet despite this apparent truth, it seemed that it only worked when trying to preserve a memory. That didn't explain her visions or her dreams, though.
That word sparked a whole new blaze of interest in her mind.
Derpy noticed that Twilight had walked away to her podium, muttering to herself all the while. "Hey, Twilight?"
Twilight stopped her quiet mumbling and looked at the pegasus. "Yes Derpy?"
"Remember that book you read to me?"
"The one about the subconscious?"
"Yeah that one."
Derpy put on her thinking face, slightly moving her lips to the left. "What is that again?"
The unicorn perked up. "The subconscious, it's the depths of your mind. You can't control it."
This caused Derpy some discomfort. "Why not?"
"Because it is not the part of the mind you use directly. The subconscious is the rest of your mind, the part that gives you your reactions and dreams." She raised a brow. "Just where are you going with this?"
Derpy looked to Spike, who by now had gotten back to his feet and was picking up the books he had dropped upon falling. Then she turned to Pinkie, who was distracted by some lint that was floating just a few inches from her face. "The Reminder's Inceptive," she said at last, her voice trailing off curiously as if wandering throughout the library in search of some piece of knowledge. "This can't be all that there is to that idea." She looked back to Twilight.
The unicorn was looking at the enormous telescope that resided in the upper floor of the library. "I can't help but to think that you are right about that, Derpy. There isn't enough evidence to blatantly say that emotions are the key to your memory."
"That's what I am thinking about. I think that emotions are only a crutch in not forgetting, but they don't actually help me remember."
On this the two ponies agreed in unison by nodding their heads. Still, neither of them smiled for now they felt as if they knew even less about the situation.
The whole concept of the Reminder's Inceptive was that certain events, figures, or locations could serve as landmarks in time for one's memory. But the question was what exactly made a landmark? Both of the mares recognized that there was indeed a difference between something you remember and something you will never forget; a landmark and a memorable moment were not the same thing.
Derpy had taken over twenty pages of notes the last couple days, and it was well that she did so. There was a great deal of knowledge that needed to be recorded, including every detail read by Twilight.
One key thing that the pegasus had taken note of was a particular piece of information from the book that had been read to her three days prior to the present. It was mentioned that landmarks in memory did not only make it where one instance could be remembered, but they also work together. The more landmarks that were created then the better a pony could remember instances completely unrelated with any one landmark. If Derpy could locate just one of these, then perhaps things would start making more sense.
Upon further inspection of the image in front of her, she found that she was indeed staring into a mirror, but despite the fact she was standing directly in front of it, she could not see her reflection.
She found herself unable to look away from the reflection, as if her gaze was a tangible object that the image before her had a firm grasp on. In her peripheral vision however, she could make out that she was standing in front of a colorful booth that displayed a number of decorative rugs being sold for various prices.
In the mirror was the reflection of a faraway structure, or so it seemed far away. The structure itself was unlike any other she had seen before. It loomed over every other building around it, and bore a sense of grandeur that seemed to radiate the very essence of regality. It must have been truly enormous because it could be seen that there was in fact a great deal of distance between the mirror and the structure itself.
Suddenly she felt the need to see it with her own eyes. She turned around to see the structure, but the image in the mirror disappeared, replaced by a sight of the building from only a fourth of the distance that had been shown in the mirror. Quickly she turned her head back to the mirror, but it was gone, along with the shop that had been behind it. She turned back to see the grand building in front of her.
Derpy closed her eyes for a moment, much like she would when sleeping.
Sleep, she thought, yet another indirect reference to dreams, and her dreams had been so strange lately.
The pegasus opened her eyes to find that Twilight was reading the very book that they had just been speaking of.
She trotted up beside the unicorn, then around the podium on which the book was set and in front of both it and its user. "Twilight," she said quietly.
The mare gave a little hum in response.
"The subconscious, that involves dreams?"
"Yes it does."
There was a moment of silence.
"Then there must be something wrong with my subconscious. I had a dream a couple days ago that I lost my journal and then looked all over the world just to find it had fallen into a shadow that was a portal to another universe."
Twilight looked up, stunned by the abundance of details in her description. "Wait, you remember all of that?"
"So your dreams, do they always stick to your memories?"
"Usually they do. I guess it just depends."
Spike chuckled as he climbed down the ladder for the fifteenth time. "Yeah, I know what you mean. I once had a nightmare that a two headed monster came into the library and ate me. I was too afraid to sleep for a week!"
"Oh oh! Me next! Me next!" shouted pinkie as she hopped in figure-eight's around derpy and Twilight. "One time I dreamed that I was at sugar cube corner, and I was eating so much cake! I mean there had to be like a kabilion of them. I was like 'nom nom nom' and then a swarm of evil veggie monsters rushed in and started stealing all the cake! So I said…"
"Does she always get like this?" whispered Derpy to Twilight.
"Every day." the unicorn replied.
"And then I woke up covered in soda!" finished Pinkie with a wide grin.
Derpy sighed. It must be nice to have so much energy, she thought.
Twilight was flipping through pages in her book again. "Actually that makes sense."
Derpy didn't even take the time to look surprised, for she had come to understand that Twilight understood Pinkie better than she did.
"I read once that when you sleep your brain never stops working. Your eyes move, your heart races, and your thoughts run freely. So I wouldn't be surprised if that is why you remember them, your emotions in your sleep are probably as various as the dreams you have."
"Oh," the pegasus said, "so that's a good thing, right?"
"Maybe," Twilight admitted, "but there is still a complication. You see, your dreams are still something you cannot control, and for this reason they often make little to no sense when you wake up."
Derpy frowned, and Twilight must have noticed her disappointment because she went on to explain that not all was lost. "But there is still an upside to this! Your subconscious works in strange ways. Your dreams may not make total sense, but at many times they involve your memories. But you have to be careful about that because your dreams can create realistic situations that never happened."
Realistic situations that never happened? Derpy wondered. So even if a dream seems real, it may or may not be?
She looked up to an upper story window, then to a balcony. It was there that something else also caught her eye. A strange figure stood on the ledge, staring out into the distance to where the hills and roads extended beyond the boundaries of the city walls. The figure, the beautiful creature, was unlike anypony she had ever seen before.
She seemed royal, but not in a way that was intimidating in the least. Rather, the very sight of her made her feel as if she was safe and in a good place. She wanted to get closer, she wanted to see the pony and meet her for the first time.
There was a splash, and suddenly she was hit by a wave of warm water from a puddle on the ground.
She flinched and looked for the pony who had stepped in the puddle, but she found herself staring at many more faces than she had expected. Upon turning back to the balcony she found that it was gone, along with the pony who had been standing on it.
She looked around frantically to try and find her again, but with no luck. Even if the building was still there it was lost, blocked by the sea of ponies that surrounded her.
Suddenly she felt separated from the security that she had felt, and there in that crowded street she felt more alone than ever.
Twilight stopped flipping through pages and made an egregious "ha" noise. "Here, I found something!" Her eyes scanned over the page while Derpy, Spike, and Pinkie all watched curiously. "Dreams are not truly memories as much as they are gateways. A dream is an alternate reality that has different logic than real life. Anything is possible in a dream, and that is often why anything happens. Like dreams are gateways to an alternate way of thinking that is free from restrictions, flashbacks are an alternate form of memories. A flashback is much like a memory, but less define. They often occur when set off by some sort key word or event. Once again this falls under landmarks."
Unknowingly the other three had been slowly leaning forward until they were on their toes. Pinkie almost fell but Spike caught her by the tail before it could happen.
Twilight closed the book. "Your visions, Derpy, I think I understand them better now. What if your visions are a combination of flashbacks and dreams?"
Suddenly there was a knock at the door and Rainbow Dash, the popular pegasus with the rainbow colored mane and tail, entered along with a few other ponies. "Are you ready Twilight?"
For a moment the unicorn seemed oblivious of what was going on, but then her eyes widened.
"Dear Celestia I forgot!" she turned to Derpy. "Sorry Derpy, I forgot that today is our monthly Daring Do book club meeting."
In a matter of moments Derpy and Pinkie had been rushed out the door.
Wait, Derpy thought, what just happened?
Pinkie went home and Derpy thought that it was time she started towards her own house as well.
The evening air was crisp as the sun pushed through late afternoon. Though the walk was rather uneventful, Derpy's thoughts raced quickly.
She was alone on that road.
Why is it, Derpy wondered, that I always find myself alone.
Almost instantly she felt bad for thinking this. She remembered something that she had been told by Twilight. She had said that she was never alone, that her friends were there for her.
She stopped walking for a moment, and thought for a moment about how often she must have felt alone before the incident at Sugar Cube Corner.
Somehow being in a crowd of unfamiliar ponies made her feel even more afraid than she had felt before. All around her there were faces, but these faces did not seem to belong to anypony. The figures around her seemed to walk almost mechanically, completely oblivious to her or each other.
Nopony around her noticed that she was there. They were all so tall, and it was very frightening.
She did not know where she was or how she had ended up there, but she wanted to leave. In an effort to escape the crowd she started to push her way through the endless wave of strangers who all seemed to be going in the exact same direction.
Not a single pony even noticed her touch as she pushed through. Now she was terrified. She looked up to them and for the first time she realized that she could not even see their faces, it was too dark. It was night? How long had it been so?
The terror was rising in her.
Derpy continued walking, her thoughts still running rampant in her head.
She brought to her memory another thing Twilight had said, that true friends treat each other like family.
Family, the word seemed cold. It was as if the breath that muttered it was made of frost, so heavy as to fall to the ground and shatter like a thin sheet of ice. What family do I have?
She stopped walking, and took a moment to stare at the stars. As she looked up she couldn't help but to wonder if her mother was staring up at the same sky that she was. It confounded her how small the vastness of the sky could make the planet seem on a much bigger scale, compared to how large the world was compared to her.
Her fears were at their peak now. She was panicking as she tried to make herself known.
Why couldn't anyone see her?
Was she invisible?
Nopony noticed her, nopony talked to her; nopony told her to watch where she was going or asked what she was doing.
She was like a ghost.
She opened her mouth to yell but her own voice only echoed in her head, never actually leaving her mouth.
Tears were about to stream down her cheeks when she felt a hoof on her shoulder. She was terrified, even more so than she was without being noticed. She looked around with her eyes, not turning her head. A mare walked by and dropped something, a pocket mirror. In its reflection she saw a stallion, the one whose hoof was on her shoulder. He was different from the rest of the crowd.
She continued walking, once again. She knew she could not let these thoughts get the best of her.
Before she knew it she was walking through the front door of her home. Instincts lead her to duck her head as she walked through, even though she no longer had to worry about accidentally hitting her head on the roof. Her flying was no longer dangerous after all. Plus she was actually walking instead of flying.
Once inside her cozy little one story house, with its single bedroom and one bathroom, she walked over to the fireplace and sat down. She noticed that there was a large amount of ash building up at the bottom, which she could not recall being something that usually happened. But that figured, considering she probably never used the fireplace to begin with.
Carefully, taking extra caution as to be sure not to spill any of the ash on her tan-colored carpet, she used her foreleg to push the ash onto a dustpan. When she was satisfied that most of it had been removed from the fireplace, she carefully picked up the dustpan and carried it over to her garbage can located by the sink.
After all this was done she turned on the faucet and washed off her foreleg, then used the towel hanging on the rack above the sink to dry it off.
"This is cozy," she thought aloud. Her home was small but it was just what she needed. The one bed for her to sleep in with the one bathroom for her to use suited her hygienic needs quite well. Then there was her kitchen with its refrigerator against the far wall, perpendicular to which was her two-compartment cabinet that held her glasses and plates. Adjacent to the cabinet was of course the oven, on top of which was a stove that was constructed with three burners—two small ones and a large one. Next to that, of course, was the sink, which was only a single sink with a faucet with but one handle. Of course that one handle was all that she needed, and she was more or less glad that is was but one handle because it meant less complicating means of use.
Once Derpy had finished washing up she turned around and went back to her fireplace. There was a small stack of five logs next to it. She picked up just one of them and set it in the fireplace. Then she found the small flint rock that she used to start the fire and set it in front of the log. With a small, rectangular piece of metal she struck the stationary flint and sent a number of sparks flying. The sparks hit the wick under the logs, and the oil beneath the wick caught fire. For a few moments that wick burning was the only flame, then after about five minutes the log also caught fire. Five minutes was just the time Derpy needed to go find her journal and a pen. When she returned, she found that the log was burning.
The stallion in the mirror was smiling. She slowly turned her head to see him, standing next to his son.
The father, whose hoof still rested on her shoulder, had a brown coat and brown hair as well. His son also shared these characteristics. While the father's mane was cleaner cut, the colt had messy hair that jetted out all over the place. Beside the Stallion was another, who looked about the same age. He had a warm green coat with a silver tail and mane.
One other thing was distinctive about the three, they all wore watches. The green stallion had a watch around his neck; the other stallion also had a similar watch. The colt, who looked at her so kindly and curiously, had the most peculiar little watch of all, or rather two of them. One was a sun-dial around his wrist, and the other was an hourglass, which of course was practically as useless as the other.
Something that fascinated her was the way that the wick would go out when the log began burning. She had come to understand that it went out not by magic but by a simple law of nature. The larger fire would absorb a much greater amount of oxygen than the much smaller flame of the wick. Because of this, all of the air that had originally been fueling the smaller fire was instead going towards the larger flame, causing the smaller one to get none and ultimately go out.
The fire cackled, and the flame danced, causing uneven but still beautiful light to cast a warming glow around the room.
There, next to the warming fire, she opened her journal, and picked back up where she left off. It had not actually occurred to her before, but it was clear that she was writing in such great detail of each day that her journal would not last more than a single week. In addition to that, she assumed that her pen was no doubt going to be out of ink before she knew it. So, as a quick solution to her problem, she tore out a blank page and wrote on it a little reminder that read "Note to self: need paper and pen."
The pegasus tucked the note away in the pages that where already filled, leaving about a fourth of the page jutting out from the top so that it was plainly visible. Once doing so she flipped back to the page she was on and began writing of the day's events. This time however, she was not writing what had happened, but also what had been learned. There was a ton to write down, and because of this each thing she wrote was not in such good detail. However, her style of writing had improved. It seemed as if Twilight's literary caliber was rubbing off on her.
She was writing for nearly forty minutes, when the flame in the fireplace was already starting to dim.
When she finished she looked up to the light for a few moments, thinking tiredly.
Dreams… what role did they play in her memory?
She went to lay her head down on her forelegs, and in a matter of moments she had dozed off. Less than twenty minutes later, the flame had gone out completely and only a few small pieces of wood were still smoldering.
They all looked at her with a certain sort of understanding, but what-of she could not comprehend. It was something special, something spectacular about them. They all had this essence of importance, but not in a political sort of way. Even the youngest of the three, the colt, seemed to possess the same aura of brotherly greatness that the two stallions possessed that made them seem in some way different from the crowd. It was the exact opposite of every other pony that she had seen on the street. They all appeared mechanical, like apparitions that somehow could not see her. These ponies in front of her where not at all like that. Instead, these ponies seemed to be in the same frame as her, and it almost appeared as if they possessed more color than everything else in the scene.
Suddenly, there was a burst of light, and she looked up to the sky to see the sun rise, and in the center of it raised the regal figure who she had seen before, almost as if she was raising the sun itself.
This time the stallion with the green coat talked, but she didn't understand what he said. The other stallion brought up that she seemed very lost. The green stallion nodded in agreement, and spoke in a voice that seemed to resemble that of a young adult. "Aye, then let her be… one of us today." for a brief moment there it sounded as if the entire spoken phrase was going to stop at the word 'be,' like a movie suddenly lagging in the middle of its showing. Instead however it did not and it continued on. The green stallion was not done speaking. "What say you, eh 'sandman?'
The railroad track tis a moonbeam bright
That leads right up into the starry night
So put on you 'jamas and say your prayers
The sandman is coming tonight....
4 retpahC dnE|End Chapter 4