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All the Time in the World · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
A Timey Nightmare
Tea with Fluttershy and Discord had been fun and... unnerving.

Floating cucumber sandwiches, animated tea pots that trumpeted like elephants, Discord's big red eyes. His big red and yellow love-me-please puppy eyes. Maybe I imagined that part because of what I'd done to him. I'd blasted him with bit of Etherius, a dash of Vaperium—and a tad of Crucix.

Yeah, Crucix. Thanks to my anger, I'd wanted him to hurt as I'd hurt. He'd caused chaos amongst the students and I feared he'd hurt somepony.

I'd transformed him into a ghost. Temporarily. In the end, it hadn't helped. It had made Fluttershy's tea party awkward. And between my duties cleaning up the school and counseling every one of the students and some parents—answering their questions about what I had done to Discord, how I'd let it happen, and what I had done to fix it —I didn't get much sleep. Going to bed late. Waking up early. And thinking, thinking, thinking while trying to fall asleep. I began to believe there weren't enough hours in the night and that I might never rest completely again.

I was therefore surprised when I woke refreshed before my alarm spell shook me awake. It felt like I had slept for days, not hours. It felt like I'd have bounce in my hooves all day long and that I might be able to speed read a book from the Twilight's library before breakfast. Energy. Since I'd shot that bolt at Discord, it had felt like I'd never find enough energy ever again. I stared up at the ceiling that I'd painted with green swirling auroras and inhaled deeply. "No time like the present!"

When I threw off the covers, they crackled, like thin ice under-hoof. I looked in time to see my hooves shred the fabric and to see the sheet and comforter shatter. Stiff swatches spun upward with exaggerated slowness, disintegrating, then turning black before dissipating as gray smoke.

I jumped from bed.

The dresser, desk, and the pictures of Trixie and my friends hung on the wall looked untouched. The door to the castle hallway remained closed. The stained glass window looked pristine. Nopony under the bed, either.

I breathed so hard my throat hurt. I might have screamed, too. Bits of ash floated down. My bed didn't have me laying there asleep, so it was no dream.

I couldn't remember dreaming. Had I been sleep-casting spells? I didn't see a glow glancing up, but I looked into the memory mirror Twilight had given me. No aura around my horn. Reddish sleep creases crisscrossed my right cheek. I flipped my matted mane up and over before thinking about what I'd done to the sheets, but my reflex had only put the hair in place.

I blinked. The mirror darkened around the reflection of my face.

I jumped back as the glass started ticking and clicking, as if suddenly heated. With my reflection no longer in the mirror, it stopped immediately.

It remained blackened.

I had no idea what I'd done, but I knew the mare who could help me figure it out. I trotted to the door, simultaneously pushing down on the handle with a hoof and pushing outward with my magic.

The handle shot downward at the floor, dashing out a divot of green shag carpet and a hoof-full of stone below it. That hit the dresser, smashing in the lower rail and hitting the wall behind. A huge scorch burnt up the front of the lower two drawers. At the same time, the door flew off its hinges and struck the door across the hall. Both shattered as my door bashed it in, smashing the shelves of cleaning supplies in the broom closet. Splinters and ash settled to the ground, again with exaggerated slowness.

I ought to have smelled smoke, but the air smelled clear. It smelled sterile, in fact.

I stood there, my jaw almost unhinged, blinking. I found myself breathing hard, trying to process what I'd seen. My forebrain said, "Starlight, you're dreaming." My horse brain cried, "You've done something really really bad, again."

Actually still dreaming made the most sense, but clacking my forehead with a hoof did nothing to wake me. And it hurt. I licked the frog of my hoof and touched my horn. I expected a sizzle and a flash of dissipated magic, but got nothing.

"Talking to Twilight. Good idea."

I marched off down the hall, glancing back at the wreckage. "Hope Spike will forgive me for making him more work."

The echoes of the clatter of my hooves sounded slowed-down and muted, like it was water splashing against the stained glass windows or mud getting stuck in the rafters. "I really don't like this."

Around one corner and down the hall, I found the library.

"At least the door's open." I trotted in, laughing nervously, instantly seeing my friend and mentor. "Twilight, I—"

Framed in the open Prance windows that led to the balcony, I saw the purple pony frozen mid-trot, only her rear left hoof on the floor. A pile of books sat beside the tome opened on her lectern. A ruddy swirl of magic enveloped her horn and a puff of the same colored a book at an angle mid-pull on the second highest shelf she faced.

"A time spell. What else could it be?" I asked as I trotted about the princess. "But we destroyed Starswirl's artifact!" I'd destroyed Equestria almost a dozen times with it. It had been way too dangerous.

"That doesn't mean this isn't my fault." From all sides, Twilight looked frozen in time. "But who else could have done this?"

I stopped at the open window. From that vantage, I looked south over the dark green canopy of Everfree forest and southeast over about half of Ponyville. I saw three pegasi, one green, one orange, and one powder blue. Their wings stood akimbo, mid-flap. Unmoving. Further out, I saw a flock of geese in a V-formation. Frozen.

And I wasn't.

Which explained why my touch, accelerated potentially to infinity, caused such destruction. I looked at Twilight, breathing rapidly—okay, hyperventilating.

"Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. If you did this Starlight, you can undo this. Yeah, sure..." When I remembered that staring at the mirror had burnt it, I rapidly looked down and noticed Twilight's hooves.

"Wait, now there's two hooves on the floor!"

I circled her again, twice; I even sniffed. She sometimes wore rosewater, but I smelled nothing. She was definitely moving, though, but extremely slowly. I could see how this type of slow-time spell could constitute wish fulfillment considering the last two days of insomnia, but still. Something didn't feel right. It wasn't that I wanted to avoid responsibility for doing whatever it was I'd done, either.

I stepped out on the balcony. If Twilight had moved...

The pegasai had all shifted in the sky. The green pegasus, the closest one, had moved the least, but her wings were down instead of up. The furthest, the blue stallion with a white mane, had moved visibly, albeit at a snail's pace, arrowing slowly for the train station. Further yet, the geese had moved and I could almost perceive them flapping.

"Okay. Whatever's happening, it's happening around me. And something tells me that twisting time rates isn't a good thing on top of it."

Perhaps if I just left Ponyville, the problem might go away. That felt like running away, though. In the back of my mind, I heard Twilight lecturing me. You have to find all the data points. You can't know how effective the spell is if you don't have all the data!

I cast Pegasus Simulation and floated over the balcony balustrade. Thank goodness Twilight liked fresh air! I wouldn't have wanted to be responsible for bashing down the castle front doors amongst everything else.

I circled toward the School of Friendship. Gallus and Silverstream flew in a loop, following one another above the waterfalls at the entrance to the school. I watched long enough to see how fast they moved and to gauge how slowed-down they were relative to Twilight.

If anything, I calculated they moved even slower than her, though I was currently further away from them than I'd been when I stood by Twilight in the library. Looking further afield, I saw a dirigible leaving the Canterlot docks, and though it moved slower than normal, if I could see it move... I looked east. In the distance, I saw a green-maned orange pony pulling a wagon of carrots over a hill. Much closer, toward the athletic field, I saw a red-maned tan earth pony colt frozen mid-gallop, a dark-brown buckball suspended in the air pretty much as he was with all four of his legs above the ground.

As I glided closer, I became certain Rainmaker moved the least of anypony.

"O-kay," I said, landing in the field beside the early morning practicing athlete. You could hardly miss the blast scar outward from center of the concentric circles of the buckball field. Sometimes I didn't know my own strength. I'd helped fill it in, of course, but I couldn't make grass grow to cover the smoothed over dirt or replace the five trees I'd knocked down. I'd helped chip those into mulch, but three others looked burnt and sported plenty of broken branches.

And the stupid spell hadn't even kept the draconequus from wreaking havoc in ghostly form. My impromptu spell concoctions had to stop! Acting emotionally was a weakness and almost always the wrong solution.

I looked back at Rainmaker.

As best I could tell, he hadn't moved at all. The well-muscled colt hovered like an Adonis statute suspended by a hidden prop.

I looked down. Where I'd landed, though Pegasus Simulation made me lighter than a feather, I'd left hoof-sized burns in the playing field. Great. I was responsible for yet more destruction.

I had to find the locus of the spell to dispel it.

Which, if it were my banishment spell, meant it had to be at the V where the scar began. I tested the air with my horn, sweeping about, trying to sense ozone and the crackle of magic. Nothing. Maybe I couldn't sense magic with time slowed down. Surrounded by trees and gently rolling hills, a gentle breeze often blew and rustled the foliage. The silent eldritch calm felt muted and joyless. I couldn't even smell the grass.

Or magic ozone. Or rosewater eau de toilette.

Movement in the corner of my eye made me turn to look down the length of the blast scar. Nothing ought to have moved; possibly I imagined it, or wanted to have seen it. I walked into the burnt woods, tuning my horn for any sense of magic as I waved it about.

I passed gouged trees with patches scraped of bark with branches snapped or stripped of leaves. The woods beyond looked singed, but green. Leaves stood agonizingly contorted, frozen mid-rustle in odd folds and twists. Further in, the foliage looked grayer. Not burnt, nor bluish as if shaded, but like a photo left too long in a shop window. Drained of color.

I stopped.

I saw a flicker. I jerked my head left.

Just a plain bramble with purple berries, one of the grayed bushes. It looked inanimate; nevertheless, the fur on my spine raised.

I jerked my head right.

Something unseen watched me. My horse brain screamed backup despite my horn not sensing even lingering magic. How could walking, as if I'd entered the static scene depicted in a photograph, feel so dangerous?

I prepared a spell. Levitation. Blasting stuff had proved problematic, and experience said becoming spooked made it even more problematic. I was becoming spooked, though I clamped down on the feeling. I could toss anything away from me. I concentrated on that.

Nothing moved, even when I peered into the shadows.

"Silly pony," I told myself and walked forward until I stood completely inside the gray area.

This felt really wrong. When I figured out what slowed time, I'd have to figure out how my spell caused—

The fur ticked on my withers. I'd almost touched a leaf on a skeletal branch. I jumped back. It couldn't have touched me, but I got this weird sensation, like when you step out of a hot bath and you feel drained.

Just in one spot.

I squinted at the offending three-lobed grey leaf. My imagination turned it into a claw. I could see the veins and the serrated edge of the leaf—and thought idly that Maud's coltfriend could identify it and might be able to identify the disease graying everything—when I experienced a perceptual shift.

(You can look at a blue sky and see just blue sky—or if you think about it, you can see the floaters zipping around in your eye, little clear dots that buzz in, spiral, and shoot out... an invisible city in motion seen from a hill top.)

I shrieked and jumped back. A transparent segmented snake-like maggot as thick as my leg waved its hook-like mandibles at me. Its bulbous eyes focused on me while a circular maw of needle teeth flexed menacingly. Its mouth was the size of what I'd felt on my withers. I reflexively tossed it away. My magic dashed the plant to flinders, which curved away like a bagful of thrown dust. The flinders hit further plants that popped like the thinnest porcelain hit by a rock.

The maggot-thing landed on a tree trunk and scurried up as if it had legs. And then I saw more of them. Some looked like ants, others like flies. I even saw a mantis-like creature snapping its crab-like claws. I had to blink and concentrate, but with work I could view the entire infestation, and see how it swarmed out toward the green plants. There were hundreds. Each leaf they nibbled rapidly desaturated even as they left no bite marks. I looked at my withers and I saw a gray spot in my lavender coat. My hide ticked and shuddered. The further I looked along the the direction of my spell blast, the denser the swarm.

Had time moved normally, the spread of gray would have amounted to an explosion! I shoved away the crawlers that now attacked me from the ground, and danced back when one dropped from an overhanging branch.

It reminded me of when Fluttershy talked about visiting Discord in his chaotic realm, about the "strange and wonderful" bugs and creatures that lived there. I understood now. I'd punched a hole into something. Like a cracked dam, it leaked dangerously. Was it to Discord's realm?

I had to find the leak.

I reached out with my magic and shoved all the individuals I could find back along the path, clearing my way. They writhed, demonstratively disliking my touch. They scrambled from dregs of the eaten vegetation I'd tossed them upon, but I persisted until I could advance without worry about getting nibbled myself.

I saw the source. The monsters crawled out of a vertical slit about Discord's height floating in the air. I shoved them back through.

That worked as well as bailing water up a waterfall. I needed help.

"Discord," I cried loudly. "I hope you can hear this. I've gotten myself in trouble and I could really use your help."

Nothing.

"Discord?" I turned in a circle, calling his name, shoving away the crawly buggers as I did. "Discord, can you hear me?"

Of course he couldn't. He lived in the normal time stream! Equestria would be overrun before he even heard the first consonant of the first word I'd spoken, his name. I'd caused the rift in the dimensional fabric, so it was me and only me that was tied to it, and—

"Ooo. Did somepony say she got herself in trouble? Yow!" The Draconequus materialized, but a shudder turned him into a mass of s-curves. He was dressed in a white night shirt and a blue stocking nightcap "What's that!?" He pointed and shrieked.

I found myself surrounded by a shivering Discord who coiled about me like a boa constrictor.

He asked, "Have you been playing with time, again, Starlight?"

"No I haven't. Not intentionally. Are these things from your home dimension?"

"They most certainly are not! I do chaotic and fun, not slavering and malignant. Ouch!" Something that looked like spider bit the tip of his tail. I saw it and tossed it away.

"You know you could just snap a claw and fix this, right?"

"Why didn't I think of that?" He snapped a claw. He did it again. "Well, don't that beat all." Between his coils, I saw a circular wave of light radiate out from his chicken claw very slowly, so very slowly that the creatures blithely wiggled aside.

"You know, I appreciate you protecting me with your body and all, but... But it makes it hard to see and use my magic, which does work here."

"Well, excuuuse me!" He uncoiled, but stood looming behind me. "What are you going to do with them?"

"I was hoping you could help with that."

"How about blasting them? Seems a specialty of yours."

"Thank you, Discord."

"You're quite welcome. Blast away. Proceed. When. Ready."

"You're not saying that because of how I treated you?"

"Bygones and all that. No, really. Do something." His claws tightened on my withers as he continued to stand behind me.

Most non-unicorns don't realize that unicorn magic can't directly damage creatures, however you can use it toss stones or to heat a beam of air, and that certainly does cause damage. I aimed across the ground, spraying green magic to scorch everything around us.

The little monsters tumbled away as buffeted by a gale, but when they stopped rolling, they resumed their march. "Not working."

"I can see that."

"Not helping, Discord."

"If I could snap an appendage and make things better I would, but good chaos apparently takes time." He snapped repeatedly, but each time he did a glowing yellow smoke ring of magic rolled out slowly around him and the monsters dodged it.

I said, "Well, we don't have all the time in the world, either."

"I beg to differ. All this is happening in a blink of an eye and you pulled me into it."

After I levitated all the crawlers from the ground around us and dumped them in front of the rift in reality, I swatted at the overhanging branches. They broke into splinters that cascaded in slow motion into the trees around us, causing them to burst and crumble in a chain-reaction that left us safely in the middle of a clearing. It dashed dozens of climbers to the ground, augmenting the ground-crawlers' ranks.

"Everypony from Twilight to Rainmaker in the buckball field behind us is frozen. I don't think I pulled you into this 'time bubble,' anymore than I pulled myself into it."

"Because you caused it."

"Right in one! We were both touched by my spell."

"Someponies more than others, I'd say."

"I'm truly sorry about that, Discord. Without you, we could not have defeated Queen Chrysalis. I'm very sorry about the Klutsy Draconequus joke, too, and what happened a few days ago. I should have used my school councilor hat not my Our Town mayor hat dealing with you. And," I felt my brow furrow. "And both times, the situation... disabled your magic... How strange."

"But your magic works."

"How strange." I repeated.

He swept his tail around us, flinging the crawlers away, having to flick it as one massive mosquito latched on anyway. He said, "It's like when I was a ghost. I could affect things even though you'd made me ethereal."

"But I canceled the spell."

"That didn't put Twilight's artifacts away."

I tried to sense the rift with my horn, but couldn't. It felt like my heart was skipping beats, and I began to sweat. "Nothing. There's no spell to cancel."

"Yeah. I had to clean up the school the conventional way." He snapped a claw and frowned. We watched his magic drift out in a circular wave.

I used mine to grab at either side of the rift to pull it closed, but like the ether and vapor components of my spell, I couldn't grab hold of something so insubstantial, or stop the creepy-crawlers that tumbled on through in a disgusting stream of transparent flesh except by pushing each back the way they came, only to have them crawl back. Anything I touched in our world of our world in "slow-time" fell apart. I lacked tools to affect it.

"No," I said aloud, "It's not a stream. It's like a balloon!"

"Ponies and balloons! I don't get the attraction."

"No, listen. It's hard to push the air back into a balloon."

"Duh!"

"That's what it feels like when I'm pushing the creatures through the rift."

He pointed at glowing vertical slit hovering midair. "And tying the end of the balloon doesn't work?"

"No. It doesn't."

"Ah. I see. So you're saying that you inflated the balloon blasting me into the ethereal dimension."

"I think so."

"It's too bad you can't reach in and pull the balloon completely inside out to solve the problem. But Starlight, dear, the world is not a balloon no matter how much you ponies adore them."

An idea formed. "No, but Twilight goes on about astrophysics and universes, sometimes. She talked about these things called 'branes', short for membranes between universes. Twilight has a mirror she uses to travel to a parallel universe with an alternate Equestria. It's a brane. I bet that's what this is, too, though crude—and much more dangerous. If what I did filled that dimension with reality from our dimension like air in a balloon by pushing with my spell—"

"—reversing with the spell to pull in some of that reality will cause a vacuum?"

"Maybe."

"Well, do vacuum away, Starlight Glimmer." He swept his tail, tossing hundreds of the creatures, but the onslaught had turned it into tsunami.

I pushed and swept them up using levitation, piling the writhing infestation before the rift as I thought about my blast spell. Twilight had insisted I study the spell I'd cast on Discord in order to codify it into her enchantments journal, so I knew it well. Reversing a blast spell, which essentially had a single forward vector as part of the requisite violation-physics math, seemed easy, but...

It kind of meant causing the spell to blast me. "So be it!"

I reared, peddling my hooves as I charged my spell, Ghostfaker, backwards, doing the final calculation and ending spell mnemonic first. Fiery bits of words and numbers swirled frenetic existence and spun at the back of eyes, superimposing themselves upon the world. I cast them forward.

"Wait! Starlight! What are you doing?"

The world went white and the last thing I remembered was a loud, high pitched buzz.

#


I found myself hooves up on what felt like grass. A heavy weight lay on my chest and moved as if it were breathing.

I opened my eyes, saw Discord's torso, and reflexively teleported away.

A red-maned tan student yelled, "Yikes," and jumped aside, barely avoiding galloping over me. Rainmaker's buckball bounced off my withers, skyward. It stung.

I followed it up and saw the sun shining. Trees rustled. Puffy clouds decorated the sky.

In short, a delightfully normal early morning. Gallus and Silverstream streaked over to see what had caused the commotion.

Discord got up and dusted himself off. I looked and found myself coated in gray ash. I levitated it off, compacted it with a glassy crump, and dropped the pumice cube to the ground.

I sighted down the scar in the playing field. A new clearing had appeared where a similar gray ash coated a roughly forty pony-length in diameter area. I squinted, but saw nothing weird nor semi-invisible crawling there.

I sighed loudly.

Considering that time had returned to normal, the infestation would have claimed Equestria entirely had I failed.

"Sooooo," I said to myself as I waved one hoof in front of the other. "I must have succeeded."

I trotted to Discord's side and looked up. Mindful of the audience, I whispered. "Looks like we saved Equestria, again."

"We make a good team. Though, I should point out, somepony I know"—he tapped his chin and gazed skyward—"somepony did cause the problem in the first place."

I felt my ears lower. I looked down, "Again."

"Life is a series of mistakes made right." I heard a loud snap. "Rainbow Dash taught me that, but don't tell her."

I chuckled. I grinned.

He grinned.

When I looked back at the clearing, I saw he'd restored it to a mostly natural woodland area. A row of shrubs looked remarkably—in its green leafy outline—like a draconequus.

"I won't tell her. Promise."
« Prev   5   Next »
#1 · 1
· · >>scifipony >>scifipony
Nice story. I'm not certain why the spell effect slowed time for Glimglam, or why it took a day for the effect to actually occur. It seems convenient that the same thing that causes the invasion also gives Glimmers the time to deal with the invasion, and those two dots didn't get connected for me in a way that made sense. I'd try to lampshade the connection at least.

Discord's voice seems a little off to me in places. He's hard to write (for me, at least).

Starlight's apology paragraph felt a little awkward and telly.
#2 ·
· · >>Trick_Question
>>Trick_Question
Good points. I'll address them in later publication! Lampshade (v) is a new term for me, but informative. Thanks for the critique!
Post by Trick_Question deleted
Post by scifipony deleted
#5 · 1
·
>>Trick_Question
Ah ha. Thanks for the critique. The effect is to slow time closer to the rift and that's how she finds it. Whilst the explanation there in the story, it is too subtle and divorced from the action; I'll have SG note the serendipity of it after her discovery of the invading shadow host. I'll keep the rest of what you said in mind, too.