Rarity Sleeps In

by darf

Chapter 1: Exactly What It Says On the Box

Thought. Verve. Life. Creating something from nothing. Colour, light, division. Concept, form, actualization. Purpose to the empty thread, lead and weave, spiral and split end to narrative, intent, guidance. Croup, shoulders, haunch—perspective, plot, guidance—problems with anatomy. Spectrum, six and infinite, white and prismatic, forever the glow until sleep into sleep into never sleeping. A lone strand caught in a continuous breeze, lapse and vanish to light.

Rarity awoke from the dream she was having with the customary confusion that bordered every passage from sleep to consciousness, or vice versa. The world seemed briefly inscrutable, robbed of all its rules and structure, but as soon as the miasma of awaking presented itself, the reality of existence seemed to fall neatly into place: Rarity was Rarity, and she was at home, safe in her bed, waking to greet another day.

Even still, a sense of out-of-placeness followed Rarity as she stretched, yawned, and threw her cotton sheets and fine white blankets (with vermillion accents) back across her bed. It followed her as she made her way to the bathroom[1], brushed her teeth, cleaned her face, and laid out her make up before stepping into the shower. It followed her under the warm water, tinting every drop as it fell onto Rarity’s coat and mane, quietly but effectively robbing her of the normal soothing sense that washed over her body during her most immensely private time, when she could discard the obligations and worries of the real world and lose herself to a dimension of dancing rivulet streams and their accompanying warmth. The sense of disquiet even followed, bobbling at the back of Rarity’s mind, as she applied her makeup, did her hair, and made her way downstairs, fully prepared for her morning check of the Boutique before she went out to do errands. There was always something new to be taken care of each day, and though she didn’t talk of it often (mostly for fear of monopolizing conversation, or seeming too self-centered), being a pony whose livelihood depended on their ability to create—and, what’s more, to actualize that creativity, and to do it in a flawless, novel, continually innovative and daring and exceptionally aesthetically conscious way—meant that even the thing Rarity loved was a source of stress, and so it was nice to focus herself on mundane, or at the very least simple, tasks, so as to not become trapped in a spiral of self-creative loathing that had consumed her too often in the past, before she understood how to come to terms with the demons that accompanied any soul of purpose and passion in the world.

Rarity’s hoof was on the front door when the sense of off-ness finally overwhelmed her—there was something she was forgetting, and she wasn’t about to leave until she determined what it was. A glance around the room; everything tidied nicely, no stray threads or design papers, no sign that Sweetie Belle had reconstructed a piece of the furniture overnight with hazard consequences lying in wait…

The simplicity of it seemed absurd. Rarity’s mind briefly froze as she replayed yes-terday’s train of thought to herself. Work, friendship, creative agony and the ever-present lack of romantic fulfillment. All that, and an appointment, at 1PM, with Glimmer Rainbright, the gender-conscious (and, often-times, gender-transcendent) fashion designer, enjoying a vacation in Canterlot from her home of Pone Francisco, willing to take time out of her incredibly busy schedule and meet with Rarity (after a brief carriage ride to Ponyville) to discuss fashion, fabric, and possible creative collaboration on a future line, for which Rarity had spent the entire night over her sketchbook, jotting down designs, ideas, and outlines until 3AM in the morning, at which point the light of the sun seemed a bed-time reminder, and Rarity had crawled between her sheets, smiling, content with the knowledge that her creative spirit had cemented her yet another encounter with good fortune, the necessary result of a desire and drive that came together to create the future.

It was 4:13PM. Rarity had overslept by more than three hours.

The sketchbook Rarity had worked on all night was upstairs, on the night-table beside her bed, closed tightly and wound around with the raw, brown string that Rarity used to hold it shut.

Rarity sat down in a nearby rocking chair and stared very hard at the door. The Carousel Boutique was incredibly quiet, so much so that Rarity could hear the beating of her own heart—feel the surge and course of each breath of air as her lungs dragged it in. Rarity’s mind, normally so frantic to scramble for solutions, was silent as well, as though the puncture of the 4:13PM epicenter that Rarity had stumbled upon had rendered it permanently mute.

What could she do? The list of possible actions began to unfold in Rarity’s head, albeit through the molasses of consciousness that disappointment had transformed her brain into.

She could send a letter? But that was impractical, inefficient, and unlikely to succeed. Glitter had contacted Rarity several weeks prior, while still at home in Pone Francisco, and the whole thing had been set up long before any actual vacationing had taken place. Rarity new from first hoof experience when out of town on world-saving adventures with her friends that getting a letter to a pony who was away from home (without significant aid, often-times in the form of magic) was practically impossible. And anyway, what would she say in the letter? Ever so sorry I missed our incredibly important, once in a lifetime appointment. I overslept, you see, simply because I’m unable to portion enough time away in a day to accomplish one of the most basic and conventional necessities of being a pony—I’m so inefficient and inconsiderate and useless that I couldn’t even wake up to the alarms I had set—not one, not two, but three alarms. I’m such an irresponsible pony, I’m certain you won’t want to reschedule—what if I fall asleep during our meeting? What if I fall asleep right before the deadline of our new line’s first showing, and the entire thing falls apart, a disaster, a calamity, a fashion catastrophe of immeasurable and unheard of proportions, no doubt humiliating us both and plunging our respective fashion careers into the darkest depths of the low-culture abyss, so replete with failure and shame we won’t even be able to scrape our names from the mud with the devotion of forty years’ time and effort, scarred irreconcilably by the mistake which I alone was responsible for committing.

With her imagined conversational trajectory as a guideline, Rarity could see there was no point in attempting reconciliation—there was nothing she could say to absolve herself of such a stupid, pointless, idiotic mistake—and, at the same time, there was nothing she could do to rewrite the world in its course to avoid making the mistake in the first place. She had committed a grievous error due a combination of poor judgement, lack of foresight, and capricious circumstance, and now the suffering of its aftermath was hers to bask in.

The Carousel Boutique remained almost sacredly silent, as though a pin dropping might signal the single footstep of a coming deity—as though the approach of an allicorn on hooves and wingbeats might only be a second away, careening from the sky of fate to save Rarity from her misery. But Rarity was alone—alone with her regret, and nothing was coming to free her from it.

Normally, by this point in the day, Rarity would have been up for a while. She would have had breakfast[2], superfluously tidied the Boutique, checked her agenda for the day, her calendar, reminded herself of upcoming orders, and, fully-prepared for whatever the day might have in its collection of possible happenstance, walked out the door to her errands and meeting with Glimmer. She would have accomplished so much in only a few hours—and instead she had slept. She had slept in and was sitting downstairs some time after 4PM, when the day was almost over, wondering what to do to repair the shambled structure that was her itinerary.

There was no recourse; nowhere to go. All the downstairs of the Boutique was taunting her, begging her to open the door and face the sunlight of her shame. Rarity got up from the rocking chair and went back upstairs to her bedroom. The bed sheets and covers lay where she had thrown them, as haphazard as anything, draped across her mattress like a sigil or glyph to commemorate her failure, scar-shaped and disquietingly beautiful. Rarity hesitated at the side of the bed for only a moment before throwing herself into it, her body bouncing off the mattress, her head colliding with her stack of feather-stuffed pillows.

She couldn’t even cry. She was wallowing, that was certain—it was a habit, when things went wrong—but it didn’t seem to make sense to wallow in anything. Disappointment? That was recursive. Rarity was disappointed in herself for doing something disappointing, but tripping the spiral of infinity in this fashion seemed counterproductive. So did wallowing, of course, but it wasn’t necessarily a conscious choice—it was simply a natural act of the body and mind when crushed by something beyond their control.

Tears were normally this type of reaction as well—when the fates conspired against her, when good things happened to bad ponies and vice versa, the tears could be expected to come, an unbottling of sorrows and a collection of grief, a last, aching articulation to attempt to let the universe know why its rules and machinations were so unfair. But this time Rarity couldn’t cry. It wasn’t the universes fault—it was hers.

The tiniest trickle left the corner of Rarity’s eye and dripped onto her pillow.

The worst part—Rarity decided just as she stumbled upon the thought that it must be the worst part, because as instantly as she could form it, its truth became apparent—the worst part was separate from the consequences of the mistake. Those were painful, yes, but Rarity had experienced a lot of pain in her life. She’d experienced loss, tragedy, missed opportunities, been cheated by ponies she thought were her friends, trampled by the whims of the greater world at large, like a speck of dust floating in the swirling vortex of chance and alignment—but all of those things had hurt because they were out of her control. They’d hurt because she’d tried her best, a staunch persistence in a maelstrom, and still been hurt—as though nopony else in the world cared about her for just that one moment, abandoning her to the trap of chaos theory and a deterministic set of natural laws built on atoms and suffering. This time, the pain was stronger because it belonged solely to her—because it was her failing to own and nopony else’s.

Rarity had slept in before—what pony hadn’t?—but never to this extent. She had never crippled her life with sleep, never had it hold her by the throat and refuse to let go, choking out her ambitions and intentions with its intoxicating subconscious—the blur of thought and non-thought that seemed at times so much more vivid yet all-the-while-duller than real life.

She had set three alarms. She had reminded herself three times before she fell asleep, wiggling her left hoof as a memory trick she’d learned when she was a filly but never verified the effectiveness of[3]. She’d dreamt about the meeting for days before it had happened, told everypony she could trust, prepared for the whole thing like it was integral to life moving forward—the same way she prepared for every appointment, every decision and act that mattered. Why she was successful. Why she felt suddenly unsuccessful.

The blankets weren’t even comfortable. The tiny threads of cotton reminded Rarity of thorns, bristles threatening to draw blood from every inch of her pearly coat.

Why? Why this feeling? For something that mattered, but, in the grand scheme of existence, was so possessive, so unrelenting in its importance that Rarity felt more drained than she ever had, a balloon of skin and bones, her cutie mark wilting on her side as though the diamonds were a cheap paint made to melt off in the sun.

Rarity wanted to get up. She wanted to lie in bed forever and dissolve into nothingness. She wanted to throw herself from the bedding and march downstairs, new ideas burning in her mind to be singed to paper. She wanted to crawl back to the shower and drown in its waterfall of relaxation. She wanted to write a library of apologies, to Glimmer Rainbright, to fashion, to the town of ponies she felt like a fraud to, to her friends for her sudden onset of crippling mental agony, to the princesses for their faith in her, to the spirit of generosity that permeated all of magic and Equestria and perhaps the world, for bestowing its gift upon such an irresponsible, worthless, unforgiveable excuse for a pony like her. She wanted to go back in time and wake up. She wanted it to be before 1PM. She wanted a chance to redo something she had never been awake for in the first place.

It was like that—her own body, in its unconsciousness, robbing the future to supplement the present. That was why she hated herself—the treachery that had been subconscious, applied when she was incapable of stopping it, undercut by a root desire that pushed through all of her carefully constructed civilization and obligation like a jab of vicious current from the ocean, snaking through fog and surf to swallow one unsuspecting pony on the shore, to drag them out and under the crystal waves and never have anypony see them again. That was what Rarity felt like, and the only pony to hate for it was herself.

This was the end then, Rarity thought as she wound the cocoon of blankets and self-hatred tighter around her body. Not necessarily in a mortal sense, but certainly in an existential one—once the crack of madness appeared, only the staunchest mind could pull back from it, and Rarity had seen the effects of what this opened void meant to ponies who were too weak to escape it[4]. She wondered if she should start writing up a will—a last testament from the time when she was worth something. Before her business crumbled and lost everything. Before somepony found her, five days later, emaciated and husk-like in her tomb of cotton, expired simply due to her inability to face the world which contained a pony as worthless as herself.

The doorbell rang; sing-song, birds chirping, A-major melody. Rarity opened her eyes and extracted her head from her blankets, peeking into the rest of her bedroom. The doorbell ring had of course come from downstairs, which meant a return to the real world if she wanted to answer it.

The possibilities of future action bounced off each other—sparks glinted. To wallow, or to rise?

The doorbell rang a second time, and Rarity sprang from bed in a single, natural motion, practiced through years of insistence that a proper lady must not keep guests waiting. Within a few seconds, she was at the door, hair bounced slightly to the side, only a single misplaced strand remaining as evidence that she had moments ago been on the precipice of mental suicide.

“Rarity?” a slightly overweight, brown-coated Pegasus pony asked across Rarity’s doorstep. He was wearing a snappy (but fashion-regrettable) blue hat, which bore the symbol of a pigeon on its side, etched in faux-gold, with little lines drawn behind it for speed. His cutie mark was a letter with wings. Rarity wondered sometimes how fulfilling a pony’s life could be when the world had telegraphed it for them.

“Yes, that is moi,” Rarity said.

“Letter for you. From Miss Glimmer Rainshine.” The pony extended his hoof and the letter.

“Oh… why, thank you. Um… I don’t suppose Miss Rainshine happened to mention what the the letter might be about? Or anything about, say… a ‘missed appointment’?”

The pony nodded. Rarity’s heart expunged itself of the last trickle of remaining hope.

“Ah, well then. Thank you very much for your, um, service. Is there anything else I can—“

“Have a good day.” Without another word, the delivery pony turned and walked several steps before spreading his wings and flying away, leaving Rarity with her letter and disappointment on the Carousel Boutique doorstep.

She knew, of course, she had to open the letter. Even if its contents destroyed her—no matter the harshness of the reproach, Rarity knew she deserved it. What happened next was simply a matter of how completely emotional agony tore apart Rarity’s life, and how she might live out the remainder of her years recovering from it. Rarity’s horn glowed as she lifted an ornate, phoenix-shaped letter opener from a nearby table and used it to slit the side of the plain white envelope the letter-pony had delivered. Her hooves shook a bit as she withdrew the letter and unfolded it, bracing herself for the simple collection of letters and words that would shatter her.

Dear Rarity, the letter read. I apologize profusely for my absence this afternoon—I was called back to Pone Francisco before the last leg of my trip to Canterlot, and the local post-system strike means I’ve been unable to find a mail-pony in this town willing to deliver. I had to go with a 3rd-party delivery service; they look a bit shady, but I think they’ll get the job done.

With that out of the way, please understand that my no-show is purely a matter of circumstance—I love your work, and was looking forward to meeting with you to discuss how we might shake up the Equestrian fashion world. When you said you were a fan of my ‘No More Covers’ line in your last lsetter, I of course started thinking of how we could take the concept further. Equestrian society has had far too long a fascination with disguising or concealing the bits of our anatomy that make us truly unique, and I think your flare for accents and detail could really help to emphasize the most beautiful and expressive parts of our models—who you must meet, by the way, as most of them are dying to even be in the same room as you.

Again, I’m terribly sorry I missed our appointment—I hope you weren’t too distraught on my account. I promise, at our meeting proper, I’ll make it up to you by telling you everything I adore about your most recent pieces—the Manehattan show winners you worked so hard on that I absolutely cannot stop thinking about. How in Equestria did you manage to make a lampshade look chic? And here I thought I was talented…

If you’re still interested in meeting, please write back as soon as you can. With all the best, xoxo,

- Glimmer Rainshine.

It took a minute or two for Rarity to read the letter, and then a few more minutes for her to reread it. When she finished the letter for the third time, Rarity pulled over the rocking chair she had sat in earlier and fell backwards into it, closing her eyes and letting her body tip along with the chair’s natural motion.

Though the only sound in the Carousel Boutique was the quiet squeak of the chair as it rocked back and forth, Rarity could feel her breath, silent, as it went through her—the rays of late afternoon sun as it crested the horizon, just beginning to turn to a mix of brilliant pink and gold.

Author's Notes:

[1]: The prior several minutes being the only time of day Rarity allowed herself to be awake without proper makeup, hair-care, clothing, and all other accoutrements of her appearance, which, if she was a lady, needed to be maintained at every visible juncture, and therefore only allowed herself those several minutes of existing in her natural state because they were necessary—though, there was also a kind of nagging insistence about the ritual, as though, if Rarity was to discard it entirely, go right from waking to being her presentable self, or, even worse, if she found some way to stay ‘prepared’ at all times, maybe beseeching Twilight for a ‘night-time readiness’ spell, or inventing her own methodology that involved an entirely new subset of skin foundation creams that soaked in over long durations, makeup that required a special removal tool and therefore could never be smudged or ruined without her explicit permission, and, most importantly, a scent that stayed with her all day, and that refused to transform overnight into the usual mixed bouquet of lilac perfume, chocolate, and mare sweat that Rarity identified as her ‘unprepared scent’ in her head.

[2]: A single egg, no yolk, mixed greens and flowers with a raspberry vinaigrette, and an unbuttered piece of brown toast.

[3]: Until today.

[4]: Twilight Sparkle, as wonderful and as brilliant as she was, had slipped more than a few times into the chasm of self-doubt and depression, and there was of course Jagged Mirror, the pony who lived in the west side of Ponyville and had seemed perfectly nice, albeit a bit jittery, until he’d finally snapped and murdered his wife and two foals, and then been locked up in a mental hospital for the rest of his life, rambling about toxic voices worming their way into his thoughts, and also how everyone around him was a changeling. This was of course a bit of an extreme on the spectrum of ‘psychological disquiet’, but Rarity saw no reason to restrain her imagination now that she had sold herself on the designation.

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