Somewhere Over the Moon

by Solana

Chapter 2: Nothing to Write Home About

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Nothing to Write Home About

        What a way to close off another year, to think I’d be forced to run back home with my tail between my legs. Things were not supposed to be like this. I grunted and tossed my bag of clothing into the trunk of my ex-roommate’s car. Seven months ago I had abandoned the state where I had grown up, in favor of a new life. I was looking for somewhere to be myself, somewhere I could finally settle down and succeed. I didn’t end up finding any of those things, unfortunately. I bounced around between friends and at one point or another found myself experiencing almost every region in the country.

        Work was hard to find, and even when I did find it, it was as though fate conspired to keep me hapless. I didn’t even want to think about how I lost my last job. That was just... Okay, I can’t blame everything on destiny. I was pretty much asking for it that time. Seriously, what in the seven circles of hell was I thinking?

        “You’re sure you’re going to be alright?” Josh asked as he climbed into his vehicle.

        I climbed into the passenger’s seat beside him and scowled. “Does it really matter?”

        Josh let out a sigh. He shifted the car into gear and slowly exited the parking lot. “Just because I can’t be the one to help you doesn’t mean I don’t care about you. You’re a good person, and I can’t think of anyone who deserves to have a happy life more than you do.”

        “Yeah well, what we deserve doesn’t really matter.” I muttered with an expression dark enough to give thunderheads pause.


        “You’d get more jobs if you weren’t so dramatic.” Josh couldn’t help but glance at me, even while driving. His lips curled into a pained smile. “So, getting back to my earlier quest-”

        “I’m sure I’ll be fine. My family is cruel but I don’t think they'd want me on the streets.”

        The suburbs of Madison Wisconsin were as silent as we were for the rest of the trip. Everyone was still inside. It had been a long winter, and it was as though people refused to believe it was finally spring. Every so often Josh would speak up, as though he were about to start some topic to make things less awkward. A noncommittal grunt was all it took to shut him up.

        We finally reached the express terminal, and after beating the bus driver to death with his own shoes, Ozzy went on to play a great show. Sarcasm aside, this affair was pretty dull and uneventful as well. He pulled my bag out of the car for me and handed it over like a ‘true host’, and insisted he wait with me for the bus.

        “That’s really not going to be necessary, Josh.” I waved him off with an irritated sigh. He was always so clingy around me. I guess he’s one of those people with ‘a calling to serve others’ or some such thing. It made me wonder why he was allowing me to leave at all, but he claimed it was ‘for my own good’, that in order to learn and grow I needed to be somewhere else. Good riddance, as far as I was concerned. The guy was insufferable. What happened next only served to prove my point.

He deftly grabbed my outstretched hand and kissed it. The position forcing him into a slight bow. “Safe travels then, my princess.”

I blushed so hard that I swore my limbs were going numb with blood deprivation. I looked around wildly and noticed a few less than savory folks snickering at me. “Josh!” I yelled all too loudly. “What the hell are you doing?!” I finally regained my senses and yanked my hand back. I was breathing hard, my shoulders rising and falling with the effort.

Josh, that bastard, he just smiled at me and winked. Then he turned around, hopped into his car, and sped off.

“What the hell was that about?!” I growled into the cold evening air. A few individuals who hadn’t been looking at me before had joined their fellows. I flinched, I hadn’t meant for my voice to be that loud, or to carry that far.

I pulled a massive pair of headphones from around my neck and slipped them over my ears before retreating to a safe distance. The gentle sounds of saxophone music and rain calmed my tired nerves, and I struggled to get my heart rate under control.

‘It’s too much.’ I thought bitterly. I should really see a therapist or shrink or something, get on some medicine, because getting myself under control is not getting any easier. I glanced back over at the crowd of people. Some of them were laughing amongst themselves, and although I wasn’t lacking in clarity—I knew that they could be laughing at some ridiculous picture on their smart phones—I was equally certain that what they were laughing at was me.

I frowned and skipped to the next song, hoping it would do a better job of calming me down. Waiting for the bus wasn’t helping my nerves either. The city didn’t even have a proper greyhound terminal, and catching the bus required sitting in an open air transfer point where local buses met. Every minute that passed by my heart beat a little faster. ‘What if the driver had an accident? What if I’m at the wrong transfer point?’  I reached into the pocket of my cheap black jacket and felt around for my tickets before inspecting my pants pockets. A faint wave of relief washed over me when I finally found them, but it was like a drop in the ocean in the long run.


        04:45 PM 04/29 Madison(e) to Chicago

There was quite a bit more information beneath that, but honestly it was all Greek to me. Just a bunch of gate numbers and codes relevant to some employee with a computer. So I was at least there at the appropriate time, but that didn’t do anything to reassure me regarding location. I leaned back against the plastic cage I had placed myself in and rest my eyes. ‘You double checked before leaving. You triple checked. Just calm down.’

        The bus must have pulled up while I was battling my inner demons, because when I opened my eyes it was parked by the curb across the street. With a panicked yelp I rushed over, bag of clothing in tow. I felt pretty self conscious struggling with my bag. Once again I fought to rationalize my actions. I was pretty sure the bus was going to be there for 15 minutes so everyone could have a smoke, but that didn’t stop me from fleeing like it would leave just as I stepped in front of the doors. Then everyone on the bus could laugh at me, just like the people with the phones had.

        I handed my ticket to the bus driver just as he was lighting up a death stick of his own. I fought to keep my breathing under control after the short dash, but it was no use. The composure train had left the station.

He took one look at the ticket and muttered out through pursed lips. “Eric Delano?”

“That’s me.”

He looked up at me. “Got any ID?”

“Oh, yes! Of course!” I dropped my bag and fumbled for my wallet before handing it to him. I flinched at the perceived faux pas of not removing the card myself, but he seemed content to take it all in stride.

“First time riding a bus like this?”

“Uh... Yeah.” I lied through my teeth, as if that would help me save face at this point. First time nervousness will excuse everything, yeah right.

He yanked open the compartment under the bus and gestured to me. “Go ahead and toss it in.” He said while flicking his cigarette clean of ash.

I dutifully grabbed my bag, and after swinging it back and forth a few times for leverage, I released it into the compartment. The driver slammed it with a loud click, and I practically sprinted onto the bus while everyone else enjoyed their break.

With the bus abandoned I made my way to the very back, and wondered why any group would fight to escape that place. It was so peaceful back here. Maybe it was just the principle of the matter? I opened my messenger bag and began shuffling through it like the over sized purse that it was. With a bit of effort I wrestled my laptop free and plugged it into the conveniently provided power outlet. No internet yet, that would have to wait until the driver started the bus. I closed the lid to my laptop and kicked back along the three seats lining the back wall of the bus.

Not much longer after that, people began to re-board the bus. My heart started beating again as I began speculating as to who amongst them would do battle with me over the coveted sleeping roost. Would it be the obvious tweakers behind door number one? Or what about the rock hard ex-con behind door number two? Amusingly enough, they both took seats toward the front of the bus and began discussing, of all things, something involving rape countermeasures. I didn’t even bother to hear the rest of that conversation.

My senses were pried from introspection when a boy about my age prowled down the aisle and towered over me. I sat up, evacuating my position of vulnerability.

“Sorry to disturb you, but I was back here before everyone got off the bus.” He pulled his bag from the overhead to prove his point.

“Oh, sorry about that...” I mumbled, the colour was starting to rise in my cheeks. “I’ll just find somewhere else to sit.”

“No need!” He said as he swung himself down into the chair nearest the aisle, cutting off my escape. He placed his bag on his lap and started digging through it, removing a few pieces of candy and popping them into his mouth merrily. “We can sit together! Share the road!”

Oh joy of joys. Maybe I can ditch him at the next transfer point. Another distant voice rang out in my head. I could always just get up and leave. ‘You don’t need to stay here just because he told you to.’ But something in the way he carried himself just made me want to do exactly as I was told. I opened my laptop and turned myself awkwardly so that he couldn’t see what I was doing.

“So where are you headed?” My companion said in a perfectly friendly and socially reasonable tone.

“San Diego...” I responded as was expected of me. That I could have lied did not even occur to me. I was not a very good liar. “What about you?”

“I’m heading to LA! Guess that means we’ll be traveling together for the next two days!”

‘Dear Odin, I would ask you for help but you’ve clearly saw fit to screw me already. I hope you get god-cancer, the end.’

The bus hummed to life and my precious internet signal was delivered unto me. I recoiled in on myself like the frightened creature I was and set to work ignoring my shiny new friend. We were halfway to Chicago before he spoke to me again.

“You looking at porn or something?”

“. . . No?” I couldn’t even begin to isolate my loathing from my voice. I don’t believe I even tried.

“Let me take a look.” He leaned over the seat and snuck a peek at a conversation I was having with my friend Josh.

A well drawn OC for one of Luna’s Night Guard was the only attention grabbing detail on the screen. Josh prefered the term ‘Thestral’, and didn’t seem to care that Thestrals were pretty soundly the intellectual property of some British fantasy author. I quickly minimized the portion of Skype that displayed profile images and cursed myself silently.

“Do you mind? I’m trying to have a private conversation with one of my friends!” I growled at him and somehow found a way to shift even further away.

There was an awkward silence, but I was grateful that he seemed to understand he had overstepped his bounds. He stared straight ahead for a while before speaking again. “So you’re into My Little Pony then? Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, stuff like that?”

“My friend is, I’m not. Why? Are you a Brony or something?”

“Not really, I have a daughter, and she’s really into it. If I don’t know how to hold a conversation with her about it she gets really upset.”

“That series ended like five years ago. Why would your daughter care about it?”

He shrugged his shoulders and took a candy bar from his bag. “Reruns.”

Josh sent me another message that urgently demanded my attention. I replied with frantic keystrokes.

Wintermute: Can’t talk now, really nosy asshole sitting next to me.

Nightwatch: You should really watch your language princess!

Wintermute: Why the hell do you keep calling me that? Is this some kind of inside joke?

Nightwatch: It’s not really a joke.

Nightwatch: Well, maybe a little.

Nightwatch: In your time staying here I’ve just realized that there is a lot more to you than most give you credit for. You can be a bit... difficult to deal with, but I get the impression that you’re someone worth protecting, and dare I say it, respecting!

Wintermute: Okay. So why the hell aren't I a prince, or better yet, a king?

Nightwatch: A delicate flower like you? Please.

Wintermute: . . .

Wintermute: Your first born is mine. I am going to cut them into pieces and sacrifice each bit to every Eldritch Abomination I can think of, and a few that I can’t.

Nightwatch: See? This is what I am talking about: Delicate. Flower.

Nightwatch: That and my birthday is coming up, I’ve never really cared about that in the past (I mean except the big 21, but come on :3) but I dunno, for some reason I’m feeling really excited!

Wintermute: When’s your birthday again?

Nightwatch: May 1st! The day before yours!

Wintermute: Well, now I feel like a jerk.

Nightwatch: Why is that?

Wintermute: I can’t exactly get you anything this year, and as much as you irritate me sometimes, you’ve done a lot for me and I dunno...

Nightwatch: That’s okay! I’m not getting you anything either!

Nightwatch: Getting me nothing will be my birthday gift to you.

Nightwatch: Didn’t you say you couldn’t talk?

Josh didn’t need to tell me twice. I closed my laptop and tucked it under the seat in front of me. I struggled to get comfortable in vain, and I guess my travel buddy was feeling it too, because he started talking again.

“I’m James, by the way.”


“So why don’t you like the show, out of curiosity?”

I really wasn’t happy with where this conversation was going. my relationship with Friendship is Magic was Fire and Ice. I hated it, I loved it, I loved to hate it. My friends were almost entirely bronies to this day, and they described me as ‘Tsundere for MLP’.

“A lot of the stuff it seems to preach, like the importance of friendship, or the struggle between harmony and chaos, are things that I believed in to begin with. I’ve never really felt at peace with my family, so friends were far more important to me. I never really believed in gods, because they never answered when I talked to them.” I paused and wished desperately for something to drink.

James seemed to have a sense for such things, because he held out a bottle of water and asked with a smile. “Thirsty?”

I stared at the bottle quietly, debating whether or not to accept something from a stranger. Thirst won out and I broke the seal before taking a sip.

“You can keep it, I’ve got more.” He gestured to continue. “You were saying something about gods?”

“Gods are almost always jerks, anyway. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think there’s something out there, something higher than me. I guess if I had to put a name to it, I would call it Harmony.” I took a much larger sip, my mouth was starting to get dry from all the explaining. “So here comes this show that takes all these nebulous feelings I had, and then parades them around with all the seriousness of a children’s show. It even had real gods, the way gods should be. Except they’re not, they’re ‘just princesses’. It was like they served their people, instead of the people just worshipping them. The whole thing felt vaguely insulting, like it was picking at old wounds.” I paused, I had really gotten into this explanation. Where did all this come from? “And the series finale was absolutely disgusting.”

He raised an eyebrow at that. “Really? How so?”

I turn to get a good look at him, for the first time actually paying attention to the little details. He was a bit unkempt. His brown hair was beyond taming, and the whites of his eyes had a slight yellow tinge that sort of grossed me out. I tried to remember what illness would cause that, but was drawing a blank. Jaundice, maybe?

“I don’t really want to talk about it, it was just messed up, especially for a children’s show.”

He hummed thoughtfully and twiddled his thumbs. “Fascinating.”

“Quite.” I muttered with a hint of sarcasm.

We spent the rest of the ride to Chicago locked in another one of our awkward silences. When the driver announced our stop and pulled in, I was understandably in a hurry to get off that bus and far away from him. James, however, took his sweet time getting up and gathering his things. Before moving down the aisle he turned toward me and held out his hand.

“See you on the next bus, my good friend.” His smile was from ear to ear.

I’m not sure what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking, I couldn’t have been thinking. I took his hand in mine and shook it, and smiled right back.

“Yeah, see you then.”

The layover at the Chicago terminal was an hour long, and the sun had long since set when we started boarding. I hesitated while handing my bag to one of the workers and stared up at the sky. Too cloudy to see anything, I reflected that I hadn’t really seen the moon or stars since moving to Wisconsin. Broken English snapped me out of my revery and I handed off my bag before climbing up onto the bus and making for the back. James was not on yet, but I was certain he would be on not long after me. Instead of taking the very back like last time, I say one row ahead, and took an aisle seat. In a show of uncharacteristic assertiveness, I even placed my messenger bag on the window seat. Thus did I broadcast to the world my desire to remain undisturbed.

‘I AM A CREATURE OF SOLITUDE’ That is what my display was code for.

Sure enough, James was in the next group of people to board the bus. He smiled when he saw me, but that expression of joy soured quickly when he saw where I had chosen to sit. He didn’t say anything as he slipped into the very back, and I placed my headphones over my ears in any case. After the bus got started I curled up over the span of my two seats and stared out at the murky Chicago night. It was beautiful in it’s own way, though the pollution being pumped out combined with the street lights to give the air a diseased yellow colour. I immediately  thought of James’s eyes and shuddered before propping my head just under the window.

Falling asleep certainly took a while. The bus was bouncing up and down, and that coupled with my inability to see where we were going from this angle was giving me a mild case of motion sickness. Eventually I started to nod off, the music from my headphones lured me to sleep and drowned out the disrespectful jerks who didn’t seem to think the driver’s requests to remain quiet during nighttime trips applied to them.

Sometimes while in the process of nodding off, I’d stare out through the cracks in the seats to the row behind me, and I’d see James sitting there with his arms crossed. He never took his eyes off the row of chairs in front of him.

I didn’t like his expression, not even a little.

This had to be a dream. It just had to be, because the air was colourful in a way that stretched my imagination and yet seemed all too familiar. Also, my sister was a horse.

I want to cry out to her. To tell her for the umpteenth time not to trust that... that thing beside her. Together they battle something far larger than either of them. The notion of something larger than the forces of harmony and chaos makes me want to quiver in a corner like a little filly, and I am ashamed. I am ashamed because part of me is glad that I am not there. My big sister will take care of this, my big sister always does. Except she doesn’t take care of things. Not this time. The creature smashes her down from the heavens and into the dirt, and her new friend banishes the creature back to the pit below with a snap of his fingers.

Moon and stars, he’s stronger than I remember him. How could he have become so? In a puff of condescending smoke, he is beside my sister. She begs him, pleads for help, but I think in this moment even she knows what is going to happen next. He dances around, all wit and cunning, and with a great flourish of drama kicks my sister down into the molten rock below.

Setting switches with the abrupt subtlety characteristic of dreams, and we are in a castle. My friend... Twilight Sparkle is there. I feel so ridiculous calling this creature my friend, but why? The spirit of chaos arrives, and already he begins filling her head with lies. She trusts him.

It isn’t fair. She is so young, her coronation wasn’t even a decade ago and already she was having it stripped from her. She doesn’t realize what is happening until the curse is long since begun, and then she’s gone. The spirit disappears, and I’m left alone.

I stay there for some time, drowning in the silence, and then his voice starts to drift up through the dream.

“Why are you getting so worked up Lulu? It’s just a cartoon for little girls!”

I woke up with a start, and earned the attention of the people sitting across from me for my trouble. I turned my head and squinted out the window. For once it seemed like I got a decent sleep while on the bus, because the sun was up. We must be pretty close to St. Louis at this point. I took my headphones off and placed them around my neck, and was greeted by a crunching sound from the row behind me. My stomach started to rumble and I couldn’t help but sneak a peek.

James had removed a large green Ziploc from his bag, and it was filled to the brim with cucumber slices with the skins still on them. Just the way that I liked them. He smiled the same way he always smiles. He took another bite of his slice and finished it before making his next move. “You want some?” He held out the bag. “We can always share them. You’d have to come back here though. I don’t really feel like leaning forward with the bag every time you need to grab one.”

        I wrestled with the invitation before reaching a conclusion. I did have some money left, but my reserves were low enough that any dollar I had was very valuable, and worth conserving. I swung myself from my seat using the momentum of the bus to help me along and collapsed into the chair next to him. “Yeah... Yeah I do...”

        He held the bag open for me and I reached inside.

        “Take as many as you’d like!”

        I swallowed at the blank check being offered to me and fought to restrain my hunger impulses, or I was likely to take off with the whole bag. ‘Why must my body be a furnace?!’ Erring on the side of humility I took two. This was not nearly enough to fill me, but god did it make me feel better. Each one had a slight coat of dew-like moisture, and yet had managed to avoid becoming soggy. They were more delicious than any cucumbers I have ever had, and in that moment I probably would have christened them the greatest food stuffs I had ever consumed.

        We danced around the issue of the food for a few minutes, him trying to make idle chatter and me trying to avoid the fact that I desperately wanted more. I’ll never understand other people. How the hell can they just sit there like that with a perfectly decent meal? If they weren’t hungry, why were they eating? If they were hungry, why isn’t it gone yet? After a few more glances at the big bag of cucumbers that he was for the most part ignoring, James smiled upon me once more and said “Do you want the rest of them? I’m not actually very hungry.”

        I snatched the bag with speed and a lack of grace that was borderline rude. James’s face lit up with amusement and he removed a bottle of cola from his bottomless bag of goodies.

        “Guess you really were hungry. How do they taste?”

        “Oh my god they are so amazing...” I managed to blurt out between slices of cucumber.

        This garnered a chuckle, and he leaned over and patted me on the shoulder. “Good. Hey, do you smoke?” He pulled a medium sized object from a charger and presented it to me. It was one of those electronic cigarettes, but in the shape of an ornate pipe.

        I’ve never really experienced peer pressure growing up, I accomplished this by not having peers. Everyone always felt so... beneath me, in grade school. High school had it’s own distractions. So suffice it to say I wasn’t prepared for the feeling of guilt that welled up inside me when I even thought of turning down this guy’s gifts. He had been so polite and generous to me, hadn’t he? Wouldn’t it be rude for me to deny him, after all he had been through to become my friend?

        “I... Don’t.” I finally stammered.

        James smiled. “Suit yourself!” He raised the pipe to his mouth and inhaled deeply, puffs of water vapor streaming from his nostrils. The air was filled with the smells of vanilla, blueberries, and something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was intoxicating just via contact, and I was really starting to regret my decision, but I was never one to reverse my position, at least not this quickly.

        While James continued to inhale from his majestic pipe, I decided I would compensate myself by inhaling what was left of my cucumbers. It didn’t take long, and once I started balling up the bag he reached over and clapped me on the back.

        “You eat like a horse, did you know that?” He laughed like this observation was somehow hilarious. All I could think about was how the uncomfortably friendly individual was touching me again.


 My heart rate was starting to peak by the time the bus pulled into it’s stop, and we were all ordered off the bus so that it might be cleaned and refueled. With the gift of my aisle seat, I took off in a flash, and nearly forgot my messenger bag in the process. The terminal in St. Louis was large enough for me to hide from James for the whole hour we were stuck there.

        I decided that even after the bag of cucumbers, I was still starving. In retrospect they hadn’t been very filling at all. So I wasted some of my money on an incredibly over priced miniature pizza from the building’s food court, and quickly isolated myself to a corner before eating it. I nearly panicked and bolted from my position when I saw James round the corner, but he wasn’t looking for me. He was talking to three other people that looked to be about the same age as us. They were smiling and laughing and apparently having a good time in general. This suited me just fine, keep the bastard distracted while I relax and get some real food in me.

        I finished my snack and made for the line forming to re-board the bus. By the time I got there it was already overflowing, and I was starting to get worried that there wouldn’t be room for everyone. That might not be so bad... actually, the next bus might not have James on it.

        Who was I kidding? If I got bumped to another bus, I had every reason to believe my stalker would be there waiting for me. He’d just have to concede that there wasn’t room for him either. I took the last place in line and began to fidget anxiously. I could see those three people that James had been speaking with before, they were near the front of the line. Every so often one or two would run outside to smoke a cigarette, with the girl holding their place in line. I grit my teeth and tried not to make a big deal about the situation. If they left the line then they should go to the back of the line! What is even the point of having a line otherwise?

        “Hello again!” James called enthusiastically as he walked by me. His hand darted out like he was trying to make me flinch, just like my brothers used to always do.

        What really rendered me shell-shocked is what he had actually ended up doing. He did not slug me, he didn’t even clap me on the shoulder. He reached out for my chest and pinched me. Right through my shirt, where my nipple would be. I shut down immediately, trying to process what exactly was going on. My first thought was: ‘Did that just happen?’ My second thought was: ‘Am I supposed to scream rape yet?’

        In the end I had absolutely no idea what to do. I didn’t think I should tell anyone. It’s not like it was anything serious, they’d probably just laugh at me and tell me to stand up for myself if it bothered me. No, it was clear that the only appropriate tactic was avoidance. I flinched away from him and sealed my lips tightly in a look of disapproval. I didn’t say anything back.

        James smirked and strode confidently toward the front of the line where the other three were situated. “See you on the bus!” He called back with enthusiasm.

        ‘Please let the bus be overbooked. PLEASE let the bus be overbooked.’


The bus wasn’t overbooked. Somehow they had managed to book a person for every seat without overbooking at all. There is no God. I was more certain of that then ever before. To make matters worse, every seat at the front of the bus was taken. James and his motley crew had already set up shop in the back, and that is where the last remaining seat was.

        It was going to be a long ride to Las Vegas.

        Sitting next to James was a very awkward experience. It was like nothing had ever happened at the terminal, and honestly I was starting to wonder if anything had happened.

        The three people he was hanging out with were on their way to Vegas. They seemed nice enough, although they weren’t really in my social caste, not that I belonged to such a thing. There names were Caleb, Chelsie, and... Honestly, I never got the last one’s name. He was an odd kid that everyone seemed to pick on. He seemed to take it in stride though. It was like he had taken so many drugs that he was just permanently happy and oblivious. He wore a hat that was in the likeness of that green platypus character from some old Disney show, and the ear flaps were comically large and reached down to his waist.

        The four of them took turns with James’s pipe, and eventually they even managed to talk me into giving it a try. The flavors were much more intense than I had anticipated, and I choked the first time. The rest of the group smiled and laughed, like they had initiated me into the higher mysteries. I did feel sorta different after the first time, but the cartridge they were using must have had a bit of nicotine in it. Something like that would account for such a thing.

        The ride to Denver was long and cramped, and with everyone so up in each other’s business, I couldn’t speak to any of my friends online. My real friends, I reminded myself. They wouldn’t make me feel uncomfortable like this, so out of my element. But then, maybe it is a good thing to be out of your element every once in awhile?

When we got to Denver we lost a majority of the passengers and acquired a couple dozen more. Everyone was much more spaced out and I used that opportunity to move closer to the front. James didn’t really seem to like this idea much, but I told him I needed to get some sleep, and he accepted that. It was a bit difficult to get any shut eye with those four partying constantly. James had made full use of his never ending bag of treats.

        Things were much quieter and relaxed up front, but unfortunately after switching buses in Denver, we no longer had access to Internet, so once again I was cut off from the outside world. I managed to get some shut eye early on, and when I woke up we were quite a distance from the city. The sun was high enough for it to be early morning, and the bus was surrounded on all sides by green hills. It was a pretty peaceful setting.

        Then we entered a tunnel, and what happened next was like visiting Narnia or something.

The tunnel seemed to go on forever, and a few of the people near me were starting to panic. In the row of seats just in front of me, a little girl stared at the wall as it whizzed past us with a look of spiritual awe, and my expression wasn’t much different once we exited the other side.

The green hills were gone, and were replaced with massive coniferous trees capped with snow. Everything was covered with snow. I was awestruck at the idea that anything could still be blanketed in the white stuff this close to May. It was like I had been transported to another world.

Then I got a good look at the mountains. I had thought I had seen mountains growing up in California, but that didn’t even compare to these. These mountains struck a chord deep in my soul, and soared into the air before being obscured by clouds. A few of them even looked like massive towers with turrets of stone jutting into the sky. I wanted to know why no one had built any monasteries on them, or castles. A castle on top of one of these mountains would be good. Surely we had the technology for such things now.

I shook my head to clear the idea. “Castle on a mountain eh? Very original Eric.” I curled up on the seats and stared up through the window to watch the mountains as they passed.

Apparently my show of wonder didn’t go unnoticed, and the little girl from in front had taken an interest in me, deciding she had stumbled upon a kindred spirit. She would occasionally poke her head over the seat and stare at me when she thought I wasn’t looking, before darting back down when she felt I had seen her.

I must have been feeling pretty silly and energetic after passing by the mountains, because I actually played along. After awhile it turned into a game of who could make the silliest face. In actuality, it was more like me making faces and her mimicking them, but laughing first and letting her win seemed the sporting thing to do.

Her parents weren’t very far away, but they seemed okay with us interacting. Normally parents are terrified of me being near their kids, like I’m some kind of pedophile if I allow myself to be within five feet of their larval offspring. I chalked it up to her being hyper, the trip being long and crowded, and them being exhausted.

Eventually I started fiddling around with my laptop and she hopped into the seat next to me.

“My name is Sarah.” She spoke, her voice revealing the same unease I felt when talking to strangers.

“I’m Eric.” I replied quietly, as though afraid I’d scare her away like a flock of birds.

“Where are you going?” She tilted her head. I got the impression she was worried that I’d get irritated with her for asking so many questions. I tried to consider how Chelsie or Caleb might respond, and suddenly Her fears didn’t seem too unfounded.

“San Diego.”

“Is that where you want to go?”

That follow up caught me completely off-guard. “No... Not really.”

“So then, where do you want to go?”

“I dunno. Home, I guess.”

“Your home isn’t in San Diego?”

I scoffed at the idea. “No, definitely not.”

“So then where is it?”

I closed my laptop and started putting it away. “I guess that’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

She nodded. That answer seemed to finally satisfy her stream of inquiry. That just made things awkward as she sat there trying to come up with a reason for her to be there.

“Where do you want to go?” I attempted to ease the tension.

“It doesn’t really matter where I want to go.” She crossed her arms and sulked at her parents. “It only matters where they want to go.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at the pint-sized display of anger. That seemed to wound her a bit, but I pressed on. “So when you’re an adult, where do you want to go?”

Her little blue eyes lit up and she practically jumped from her seat. “Appleloosa!”

I blinked, it couldn’t be. She must be talking about the horse club or something, this trip was already way too uncanny. “Come again?”

“You know, Appleloosa?” She stared at me like I was mentally handicapped. “It’s in the south?”

It’s a bit late in the day to be crushing a kid’s hopes, so why the hay not. She can visit Appleloosa when she’s all grown up.

“Of course! Right. I knew that, I just thought you were talking about some other town, that’s all.”

The two of us sat there, and the silence was even more awkward than before. She looked like she was about to speak several times. Her mouth would open and close like a fish trying to breath water on land. Finally she slipped off the chair and went back to her seat in the row in front of me. I couldn’t help but feel like some profound failure at dealing with little kids.

We passed into Utah, and the sun started to make it descent toward the horizon. It was amazing how empty this country is. I reflected on how it took riding a bus to really appreciate that truth. I wouldn’t want to live here in a time before cars. Not that I’d ever actually owned one myself.

I curled up on my two seats and started to drift off, and every so often Sarah would peek at me through the cracks in her seats. As long as it wasn’t James, I could stand the invasion of privacy.

A few dreamless hours of sleep later I awoke to a desert landscape and a night sky littered with stars. It was hard to see them through the bus’s light pollution, but they were there. Part of me wanted to order the driver to stop so I could run off into the desert, find a cave somewhere, and sleep next to some roaring fire that I would magic up with my absolutely pathetic survival skills.

Sarah was peeking her head over the top of her seat again, and she yelped when she saw that I was awake.

“I’m not going to gobble you up or anything, if that’s what you’re afraid of.”

She poked her head back over the side with a huge smile on her face, like what I had just said was hilarious and proved everything at the same time.

“Hello again.” She stated with a sense of pride, like she found some ancient treasure and was about to present it to the world.


Her smile was tarnished by an expression of uncertainty, and she glanced around nervously before continuing. “Uhm... I just wanted to say that your sister is still out there. I just know it!”

I tilted my head, part of me wondered if I wasn’t still sleeping, but then I remembered I had an uncanny awareness for such things. “I don’t have a sister.”

Sarah looked mortified by what I had just said. It was like she had been my sister, and I had just openly denounced her. “But you do! You do have a sister! She hasn’t given up on you, so you can’t give up on her!”

I squinted at her, my mouth dropping open in disbelief. “Kid, I think you’ve got me confused for someone else.”

She dropped back down behind her seat, I could only just make out that she had crossed her arms. “Somepony,” she corrected me with a quiet snarl of frustration. “And you’re the one that’s confused... not me...”

I contemplated that odd little exchange for what must have been an hour before drifting back to sleep. I know it’s impossible to sleep without dreaming, so I marked their absence as a consequence of the bus bouncing up and down. It would explain why I never felt rested, and why sleep just felt like a way to skip ahead through time, at least. The dreamless sleep was really starting to mess with my mind, though. I’ve always been pretty good at lucid dreaming, or knowing when I was asleep, but I can’t remember actually getting bent out of shape if I didn’t have them.

When I woke up the sun was still down, and we were pulling into Las Vegas. The bus did a pretty good job of getting to the station while also making sure not to go anywhere near anything interesting. When we arrived, I waited for everyone else to get off first. I didn’t want to deal with people in any capacity right now, and that included dealing with traffic. Sarah reached down over the side of her seat and grabbed my hair with a sharp yank. I yelped in anger before apologizing, and then said my goodbyes. Her parents came over to collect her, apologized, and dragged her off.

Eventually Chelsie and the other two came up and said goodbye as well, they practically dragged the nameless one by the collar of his shirt. I had no idea what they’d gotten up to back there, and I honestly didn’t want to know.

I was confused at first when I didn’t see James get off the bus. It must have been a blessing, maybe he was locked up in the bathroom finishing a beer or something. I grabbed my bag and got off the bus with all due haste.

Waiting in the terminal was a bit exciting. All I could think about was the prospect of being almost done with this terrible ordeal. I saw Sarah one last time as her family headed for the exit. She waved, so I waved back. Chelsie and Kaleb spent a few minutes arguing by the rental lockers, then they took off without a word. Still no sign of James.

The sun was starting to come up by the time we started to board the bus for LA. I didn’t want to risk running into James in the back, so I took the seat immediately behind the busdriver. With the big plastic shell surrounding him I was a bit cramped, but I figured I’d also have the best access to the WiFi. If you went all the way to the back it tended to drop in and out constantly.

My heart stopped when James appeared out of nowhere. He reached forward and pinched me, just like before, and my mind died a second death.

“Hey! Mind if I sit here?”


“S-Sure...” I think I threw up in my mouth a little.

He took a seat and the already cramped quarters became my own special hell. It was almost impossible for me to open my laptop up and make use of it. But I made it work.

Nightwatch: Hey! GUESS WHAT?

Wintermute: Today is your birthday?

Nightwatch: Tonight, specifically!

Wintermute: Okay then.

Wintermute: Look, I can’t really talk, there is some perverted asshole sitting next to me and he keeps trying to pinch my chest.

Wintermute: And also he's a rubbernecker.

Nightwatch: =O

Nightwatch: Has he violated your honor?!

Wintermute: I... What?

Nightwatch: Give me his name and face, and he shall not see another sunrise!

Wintermute: I think this is getting out of hand. Look, I already said I can’t talk. Warning issued. I will talk to you later, Happy Birthday.

Nightwatch: Thanks!

I minimized Skype and opened up a folder of videos saved on my computer. What decently engaging and lengthy show can I watch, that I also have no issues being seen to enjoy in public? I settle for old episodes of the Game of Thrones. Secretly I hoped this would reinstate my manhood and prevent the lecherous bastard sitting next to me from treating me like some schoolyard fill- I mean... schoolgirl. That is definitely what I meant to think. To myself. I am having a conversation with myself aren’t I?

“Oh hey! I just started that season last week! Mind if I watch with you? I’ve got earbuds!” He smiles at me and holds out a dirty white iPod headset. I groan and remove my own, so I can at least avoid putting those filthy things into my ear.

He takes one of the ear buds and places it in his ear, and I do the same with my end. We watch the last couple episodes of the season before things wind down to a close. I close the media player and let out a relieved sigh.

“Welp, show’s over.”

“Ooh! Can we watch something else now?”

“Uh... What do you have in mind?” I have a pretty good feeling I am going to regret asking.

“Ever since you mentioned that MLP Series finale, I’ve been dying to see it! If it’s as awful as you say I’m sure my daughter and I can bond while complaining about it!”

Oh yeah, I definitely regret asking.

“I’m really not in the mood to watch that show right now.”

“Why? Because you’re afraid someone might see?” He grinned viciously, trying to egg me on. “Come on, after all that testosterone we just injected a little estrogen isn’t going to kill you.”

“Really. Not. In the mood.”

James leaned over until he was practically whispering in my ear. “I’ve been pretty patient with you, given you water, given you food, and shared my pipe with you. I’m practically your personal Jesus Christ, and the entire duration of this trip all you have been is distant. You’ve been a spoiled little princess. Not the way you respond to an offering of friendship.” He leaned back and smiled that bright smile. “So let’s just watch the stupid show, alright?”

I meekly complied and started searching for it on Youtube. It didn’t take long, the video was pretty notorious, and I guess it was receiving a lot of hits lately, how coincidental.

The video opened without the usual intro that would inspire me to grit my teeth, instead it was just dramatic music. Discord had arrived in the capital to inform Celestia that something terrible had escaped from the bowels of Tartarus. Bowels is not the sort of word I ever expected to hear from a show for little girls.

Every time Celestia spoke I wanted to look away from the screen. She and her sister had been the only reason I had ever watched this stupid show. Episode one and two got me hooked, and everything that didn’t expand on their relationship was just filler to me.

In light of that, it was very difficult for me to face what was going to happen next. Celestia wanted to assemble the elements of harmony, but now they were scattered so far apart. Things had been simple when Twilight was still a student in Ponyville. Now she was a princess in her own right, Rainbow Dash was a captain of the Wonderbolts, and Rarity had her own shop in downtown Canterlot, a district second in traffic only to the royal quarter. Applejack, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie at least still lived in Ponyville, but it would just take too much time to round up everypony individually.

        Celestia rushed off with Discord to seal this creature back where it belonged. Just a few moments and it was a done deal. With Discord’s help, she wouldn’t even need Luna.

        She wouldn’t even need Luna.

        She wouldn’t even need...

        Then of course the betrayal happened. Celestia was knocked down into the pit below. Discord arrived at Twilight’s room, zapped her to who knows where, and now for the worst part, the final confrontation with Princess...

        Wait, what? Why are the credits rolling?

        I grit my teeth together trying to figure out what the deal was. Was this some poorly conceived troll?

        “Well I don’t know what you’re complaining about! I think that was a great ending!” He clapped me on the shoulder. “It’s pretty daring, you know? A girl’s cartoon that ends with the bad guy winning? Maybe I misjudged that show.”

        I looked around at the related videos, and started digging through the comments. There had to be an answer. “Hold on, that’s not the whole episode, I think that one’s a joke. Let me find another one.”

        I tried a few versions of the episode, and each time it ended the same way. I did notice one thing of note, however. Some of the comments were just as pissed off as I was, and for the same reason! The unusual part being that everyone seemed to be inquiring about a missing scene over ponies that didn’t even seem relevant to the plot. Why the hell would Berry Punch have a final showdown in the series finale? She didn’t even have a voice role in the show.

        “Well, looks like you must have just misremembered something. It’s been five years, right? No biggie.” He sniffed and popped his headphones out of his pocket and plugged them into his ears. He flashed me a condescending smile and added. “Thanks for letting me watch. I know it was a big deal for you.”

        “... Sure, no problem.”

        The short remainder of the trip was awkward, he kept to himself and listened to his music, and I put my laptop away before listening to mine. We pulled into Los Angeles a bit later than expected, and because we were sitting behind the driver we were two of the first off the bus.

        I was beyond ecstatic to be away from him. That creep had been nothing but a nightmare ever since we’d met, delicious cucumbers be damned. If I saw him again I was going to bust the teeth right out of his smile. My heart rate was increasing, and I decided to make way for the bathroom. Maybe splashing some water against my face would calm me down.

        The bathroom was filthy, like most bus terminal bathrooms are, and there was an ethereal ambiance playing over the speakers. The water smelled awful, or at least, maybe the plumbing did? Regardless, the cool water went a long way to calm my nerves, and as added bonus no one was in there with me.

        Blessing became curse when I heard the door swing shut and click into place. My eyes started to go wide even before James rounded the corner, smiling that omnipresent smile.

        “Hey man! Traveling across the country like that was an experience! We should do it again sometime!” He came within arms reach of me.

        ‘Do it Eric. Punch him in the jaw, just do it!’

        I didn’t do anything, he just kept talking. “What’s your facebook?”

        “I don’t... I don’t use facebook?”

        “It’s 2020, and you don’t book face?”

        I slowly shook my head no, my expression was tortured like a child that had just been caught cleaning the toilet with his brother’s tooth brush. By his brother.

        “Well, you should really get my number, Luna.” He sneered at me and reached out with one hand, burying his gnarled fingers through my hair and into my scalp. I yelped in surprise and tried to pull back, but he held fast. “After all, I’ve got yours...”

        His yellow eyes sparkled malevolently and he just held me there, staring into my eyes. “Now little Lulu, I hope this whole experience hasn’t made you... uncomfortable. I’ve invested a lot of energy into making sure you don’t place a single hoof onto my stage. So things better stay that way. Kapeesh?”

        “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, you god-damned nut job! I’m not Luna!”

        “Hmm? Oh, maybe not yet anyway. But you were starting to wake up early. You alicorns are so high maintenance, I honestly can’t stand you.”

        James made a face and delivered in a mocking tone. “It practically took weeks to get little miss Princess Mi Amore Cadenza out of her damn fortress. Why can’t all alicorns be as useless as you?”


I winced. My heart rate started to escalate faster than ever before. tendrils of green and black smoke started to waft from his eyes.

        “Anyyyyyyway. Since you accepted all three of my gifts, I get to do this now!”

You’ll never have the leading role!

But don’t despair, you still have goals!

We shared our food, our drink, our hearth!

Perceive this darkness inside your heart!

        By the time the curse was concluded I was gasping for breath and clutching my chest. The black and green smoke rushed into me through my nose and mouth, and I struggled to stay on my feet and conscious. The last thing I remember saying was “But... it doesn’t even rhyme...”

        James huffed, a trail of dragon like smoke shooting from his mouth. “Oh Luna, don’t even start.


        I came to when a loud angry banging echoed through the bathroom. I looked around wildly, I was alone. The facet I had been using was still spilling out into the sink, and a small folded up piece of paper was sitting on the counter.

        Got your number! Here’s mine: 666-2317 >:)

        I groaned and slipped the note into my pocket before shambling to the door. I opened it expecting security guards, instead I found a man and his son, who was dancing madly the dance of the rainmaker.

        He shook his head angrily and stormed in right through me. “God damn junkie, you’re lucky I didn’t have time to call security.”

        I did feel pretty lucky, because at that moment my bus was boarding, and I raced toward it like someone desperate to escape a nightmare.

        The trip wasn’t even in a Greyhound, it was some offshoot charter brand or something. There was no power and no internet, and the little televisions hanging from the ceiling didn’t work either. I resigned myself to an unpleasant ride, but consoled myself that it would at least be short.

        When I got to San Diego, no one was waiting for me. Which wasn’t surprising, I said in my email that I could get back to the house on my own. A couple of hours on the trolley and a few transfers later, and I had arrived at my childhood home just in time for dinner.

        Or I would have been if anyone was there. I wasn’t sure why the door was locked, I told them I’d be showing up today. With some difficulty I jumped high enough to grab the roof of the parking structure surrounding our condo. I pulled myself up, the small rocks on it’s surface digging into my skin. I walked around to the tiny cell that functioned as our back yard and leapt down into the grass. The sliding glass door was never locked, and getting inside was easy at that point.

        I took the time to shower, shave, brush my teeth, basically remove all the disgusting homeless person that had built up during my trip, and curled up on the couch with a book to read. My mom was the first person home, and her surprise was equally gratifying and insulting.

        “Oh! Hello!” She said through clenched teeth. “You’re here today!”

        I blinked at her and stood up. “Well, yeah. Didn’t you read my email?”

        “Oh sweety, you know I don’t check my email.”

        “I called you in advance and asked if it was okay for me to stay here awhile, when you said yes I told you I’d be sending you an email with more info about when.”

        “Yes... Well.” She stood there stiffly, a condition that only became worse when I tried to abandon my exasperation and hug her.

        “Well. It’s good to see you again.” I said. “Hopefully I won’t be here too long.”

        “Oh... No. Take as long as you need!” My mom flashed me one of her rehearsed smiles.

        I shook my head and went to the kitchen to start working on dinner. My older and younger brother, Robert and John, respectively, came storming in an hour later.

        Somehow they were built in the greek image of perfection, and I was the slight and waifish figure that provoked... well, creepy assholes on public buses to pinch their nipples. At least I was taller than them, but that didn’t stop them from abusing me. Somehow I managed to land the youngest sibling slot despite my seniority.

        “Hey Eric!” Robert clapped me on the back, a social gesture I wish could be banished to the enchanted confines of the moon. “Wasn’t expecting you here today! What are you making for dinner?”


        “Can we get a little elaboration?” John chimed in.


“It’s chicken tortilla soup.” I paused. “Robert, please get off of me.”

        Robert’s eyes went wide and he pried his hand free before waiving it in the air like a daring lion tamer. “As you wish your royal highness!”

        That phrase made me quake like a leaf, and I couldn’t keep it under wraps. For the first time since I could remember, my older brother looked worried about me.

“Hey, are you okay? You didn’t catch anything did you?” Robert grabbed my chin, my family doesn’t really respect the concept of personal space. “You look like shit. Your eyes are sorta yellow.”

I shook him off and began stirring the soup. “I’m fine! Get off of me! I just haven’t really slept in a few days.”

John hated to be outdone by Robert. He grabbed the ladle from my hand and shoved me aside. “Then go get some rest you big idiot, we’ll handle dinner tonight Cinderella.”

        The faint pounding in my head that had persisted ever since that stop in LA came in full force. My hand shot out and wrapped around John’s throat like a wolf’s jaws around a rabbit’s neck. “Don’t. Call me that.” I used my other hand to retrieve the ladle from him. “I started dinner, I’m going to finish dinner. Or is that not alright with you?”

        “Uh... sure man... whatever, right?” John backed away, but Robert wasn’t so easily cowed.

        “You’re sure you’re alright then?” He placed a hand on John’s shoulder and slowly pulled him away to safety.

        ‘Yes. FINALLY some respect, I am older than that prepubescent little idiot, and I deserve to be treated as such!’

I shook my head to clear it of the pounding, and let the ladle sink into the soup.

        “Actually, I’m not really sure.” I stammered and took a step back. “I think I’m going to go lay down or something.”

        “You can use my room.” Robert said, he lead me there like I had no idea where I was going, but thankfully avoided grabbing my hand.

        The room was just like I remembered it, stuffed with bad music posters and pictures of barely naked women. But at least the bed was clean. I curled up on the mattress without much of a fight. I couldn’t stop shaking. Robert held the door open for a second longer and muttered.

        “Get some sleep, alright?”

        He didn’t need to ask me a third time.

It was all my fault, I should have been there! I should have been there!

Where had I been instead? In bed, observing the dreams of adolescents and foals?! The fate of Equestria hung in the balance and Princess Luna was NOWHERE to be seen! That makes what, four times in a row?

I looked around wildly, no... Not in bed, not back home. I was still in the moon. Still in that infernal inferior celestial object as it whirled around the sky at the behest of my big sister.

I hated her. I hated her more than words could express. How could she choose his help over mine? It was her fault! It was her fault all of this had happened to us, happened to Twilight...

        I gnashed my teeth and stomped at the magical walls of my prison with rage-fueled vigor. The stars danced madly overhead. Celestia can move the sun and moon, but she wasn’t very good at manipulating the stars. Even I was barely capable of such.

        But they loved me, at least. Even at my worst they cared for me, and when the stars come right, well...

        For Five Score, Divided by Four...

        Patience is a virtue, I guess.

I woke up in the dead of night, covered in sweat, but with a dry mouth. You can’t explain that, science did it. A cursory glance at the alarm clock informed me that it was now five in the morning, the sun would be rising soon. I considered going back to sleep, but in all honesty I was feeling absolutely disgusting. I needed a shower like never before.

‘No matter how hard you scrub, you’ll never be clean Luna!’ A mirth-filled voice echoed through my mind. I shook my head to clear my thoughts and padded out of the bedroom and into the full bathroom right next to it.

The shower felt really great, and got rid of the sweat nicely, but it didn’t really do much to make me feel cleaner. Stupid mocking head voice. Why do you always know the future?

        I climbed out of the shower and began drying myself off with two of the only things I had left behind. I was surprised they were still there, actually. Two towels, one dark blue and the other black. Considering what I finally noticed next, they were oddly appropriate in colour.

        On either side of my thighs there was a small unevenly shaped blob, pitch black in colour. they were an odd shade of black that should have been impossible, with tattoo ink anyway. I ran my hand along them expecting to feel hair or fur or something, but there was nothing. It was difficult to describe really. Inside each was a small crescent white moon. It only took a second to realize what I was looking at, and when the penny dropped my mouth dropped with it.

“Well, that wasn’t there before...” Next Chapter: Nightmares and Dreamscapes Estimated time remaining: 1 Hour, 24 Minutes

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