Drip. Drip. Drip.
Twilight didn't so much hear the water dripping as read it…as if the sounds only registered to her as words.
She opened her eyes and did not see the hallway of cold metal, dripping water, and creeping darkness. Instead, she heard it. She heard it in creaking metal, in water droplets and in whispering shades beckoning her forward.
Her senses all turned about, she could only follow, feeling as though she were a marionette pulling its own strings: in control, but the movements were artificial and unnatural on her frame that refused to show the confusion or unease she felt.
She came to a split in the hallway, shaped like a v, with a sign on the wall of each. The left said library, the right said paradise.
Both sounded appealing, yet something about this seemed wrong, leaving an odd taste in her mouth.
She turned around and hoped to find a better idea of where she was.
She would have blinked but felt she couldn't. There was another, identical split in the opposite direction. Had it been that short a distance she traveled? Time smelt odd to her now.
Why did time smell? How did it?
Crossing back across the short distance, she saw the two other signs: Eternity and Dream Come True.
They did not register as ludicrous or strange. Those destinations didn't seem strange at all to her.
That bothered her, immensely.
She took a step back and turned.
There was another split to her right now. It shouldn't be there. It was never there before. Yet it was.
Where You Belong and Best Place Ever.
Her puppet was rattling, her terror mounting as some memory mounted in her mind.
She needed to get out.
She needed to get out.
She Needed To Get Out.
Turning, knowingly, she saw another split where the other wall should also be and now was not.
Home? And Back.
Back where? Why did home have a question mark?
She did not have the ability to whimper.
Wrong wrong wrong wong wrong wrong. This was all so very wrong!
Shut it shut it shut it shut it. Even if it was just in her mind, she needed to stop panicking, to be calm.
She lifelessly sat down, not knowing which way to go. Eight directions, all were bad.
She had only one solution.
Find a ninth.
She looked up.
She had no mouth and had to scream.
There were two large and finely crafted oak doors forming a single passage way. They were disturbingly inviting.
They were high up.
They were lowering.
Her eyes widened and she swore her sight cracked.
In the crack of the door, there was a feather; A blue one.
It fell, waving back and forth in the air before falling to rest on her nose.
She sneezed. The feather was gone, but she could taste it now.
That taste was not just a taste.
There was something in her mouth.
Bringing her hoof up, she found something sticking half way out. She pulled and saw it in her hoof.
To those doors above? No, those went right back THERE.
But so did all these other ways. Right?
Nine bad ways. Find a tenth.
She looked down and saw something at her hooves. An image of a door. A painting? A drawing? Either way, it was normal and plain.
Against all logic, she put the key into the two-dimensional key hole.
It slipped in and fit perfectly.
The door flung open.
Below she saw herself, lying in a thin pool of water.
Sleeping, peaceful, breathing.
That was her and what she was now was not herself.
Yet she was here and not there.
She looked up again and wanted to glare.
The doors loomed just above her horn-height.
Go away go away go away GOAWAY!
She looked down and crawled into the image.
It was heavy, hard. Something was pulling at her, trying to keep her back, wanting her to stay.
She did not want to stay.
She fell through and into herself.
Twilight shot up with a desperate gasp for air. She rolled onto her back, not caring for how wet her mane was getting. In fact, she reveled in it. She wanted it, that feeling of being real and here and not going back THERE.
"Took you long enough."
Twilight shot up, staring at the Draconequus with an awed look, as if she had never seen him before in her life. "Dis...Discord?" she asked hesitantly- and sweet Celestia how good did her voice feel on her tongue, in her very throat.
He floated above the liquids, raising an eyebrow at her. "You were expecting somepony else?" he asked sarcastically.
Only to be met with a hug…a desperate, grateful hug to his furry serpentine body.
"Thank you!" she whispered into his fur, "I...I don't understand what's going on, but thank you!"
Discord paused for an instant before returning the hug. "Thank me when you're back home."
"O-okay," Twilight whimpered, sniffling as she released him to observe her new surroundings. It was like a swamp, an unbroken mist over a seemingly infinite reach of water. But there was no stone or foliage breaking the surface. And whatever surface was below her hooves was flat and firm, not at all like mud. "Where...where are we?"
"It's more a matter of How are you," Discord answered mysteriously.
"What do we do?" Twilight asked, rubbing her head. "I...want to go home."
"I can take you home any time now, Twilight," Discord assured neutrally.
"What? Then why-" Twilight asked in shock, turning to stare at his patient expression. "You're not just here for me, are you?" she realized uneasily.
Discord nodded solemnly. "All six of you are out here. I can try and get the others back on my own," Discord explained, clearly waiting for her to figure something out herself.
"Back in that...place, that library. You didn't just take me out of there," Twilight realized with a scowl as he raised an amused brow. "You couldn't. I...I had to want to leave, to ask."
"And so do the rest," Discord added on grimly.
Twilight took a shuddering breath as she looked across the realm of impossibly still water. "What happened to us? Are...are we dead?" she asked, looking to Discord with a scare look.
"Not just yet," Discord said grimly. "You can go now, or help me find the others."
"...Some of them still don't like you a lot," Twilight murmured with a small smile. "They probably wouldn't like you interrupting their own...paradises."
"No, they wouldn't," Discord acknowledged with a shrug. "Why do you think I went after you first?"
Twilight sighed heavily before looking to him with a tired but brave smile. "Lead the way."
Discord smiled with something akin to pride as he flew forward, just slow enough for her to keep up as she trudged through the waters. An overwhelming silence came over them as Twilight searched all horizons for something, anything to act as a land marker. But there was nothing.
"What is this place?" Twilight ultimately asked.
"The Doldrums of the Unborn," Discord answered simply. "This is where the souls of those that were never born, all those that died in the womb come to rest."
"The Unborn?" Twilight repeated with a scowl. She didn't want to believe it, but all logic was meaningless here. "Then that library-"
"Was your playpen," Discord answered with a scowl, flying down for his talons to scrape the surface of the waters.
Twilight gasped as the waters parted, revealing that every inch of the stone floor had the faint impressions of infantile skeletons of any number of creatures. It would have been more horrifying if not for every skull somehow giving the hint of a soft smile. "This place, isn't a prison or trap?"
"No more than any daycare is," Discord answered, the waters pooling around Twilight's hooves once more.
Twilight blinked. "Discord, this water? What-"
"Try not to think about it. You'll only make yourself sad," Discord advised as he came to a halt.
"What's wrong? Did you find one of them?" Twilight asked curiously.
"Two, actually," Discord answered as he tapped his chin. "Twilight, we're not abandoning anypony, but...who do you think we'd have an easier time pulling out of this? Rainbow or Applejack?" he asked idly.
Twilight eyed him strangely. "They're both very stubborn, but-" Twilight froze, biting her lip. "Rainbow. Now, Discord, Rainbow."
"You seem...very alarmed all of a sudden," Discord noted with interest.
"Discord, if I'm right about Applejack's paradise, she might not want to leave even if we prove to her it's not...exactly real," Twilight answered with a grimace.
Discord eyed her before his gaze softened in understanding. "Right. Egomaniac first."
Twilight followed him off to the side, wondering how he could possibly see in all of this fog, before she spied something at the edge of the fog's visibility. It was blue, light blue- "Rainbow!" Twilight declared, racing over to the body. She took the pegasus mare in her arms, her figure limp and unresponsive. She paled before trying to squash the primordial instinct to think she was dead. This wasn't a traditional body though, and if it was, this place worked on a whole new set of rules. "I don't suppose anything I do here will wake her up?" Twilight asked solemnly, glancing back at the draconequus.
"I would have just sent you home if it was that easy," Discord answered with a snort as he floated over, descending to their level. "Ready?"
Twilight didn't answer, holding her loyal friend in her hooves for a moment. "Discord? Why CAN'T you just wake her up?" Twilight asked with interest.
"I could," Discord admitted calmly, glancing out across the waters. "But do you really want me to disturb this place?"
"I...don't know," Twilight answered honestly. "After being in there, I'm not how if it would be a good or bad idea."
"Well, let me simplify this issue: If I force one of you awake, it's going to be very hard to get any of the others that are still stuck in their fake-paradise," Discord explained with a small smirk. "And let's just say this place won't be too happy about that."
Twilight swallowed as she received the message. This place was alive in some capacity, or something else in it was. "How do I help?" Twilight asked curiously.
Discord smiled, placing his hand on her head. "We'll figure that out once we know what we're dealing with. Now, into the depths!" Discord declared, placing his other hand on Rainbow.
Twilight's world turned white before she braced herself for whatever she might find.
End of Chapter
Hello! I know ,this is a rather surprising update. I was myself when I randomly started writing for this again. Not much to say, hope you all enjoyed this long overdue chapter.
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