What Dreams Are Made Of

by Posh

Chapter 1: The Shape of Things to Come

"Tell me what her dreams are made of?"

Cadance asks me this queerly worded question one afternoon, whilst we are alone with Flurry Heart in the Crystal Castle's nursery. She strokes her daughter's mane tenderly, her face drawn from one lost night after another. Yet her smile is not dulled by her fatigue. It shines – she shines – with the youthful exuberance of a young mare, in love with her young family. I've seen that same look on the face of every newborn mother who has called on me with that question.

...If I make that sound like a common occurrence, it is because I mean to; it happens with surprising regularity. Young mothers will seek me out at the castle, or spot me in Canterlot proper on those rare occasions where I venture into town alone. Despite my best efforts at rehabilitating my image, my bearing is apparently intimidating, so they approach me with unnecessary caution, and against the entreaties of their milquetoast husbands or lovers.

Bold as they are, it usually takes them one or two tries to say what they have come to say. Still, they always do, in the end. Clutching their babes to their barrels, they pluck up their courage, and ask me what dreams fill their colts' and fillies' slumber.

They all want the same answer. They expect the same answer. The truth is, I couldn't tell them what their baby, specifically, dreams of, because I've learned not to investigate the dreams of babies. Mares and stallions dream of wants, needs, lusts and fears. Their dreams are shaped by their experiences in the waking world. Babies, though? They dream of shapes, and of colors, and of sounds. Their minds are blank canvases, unspoiled by the material world; they lack context for anything more complex than what their senses immediately perceive. Babies are uncomplicated. Their dreams are no less so; they've no need for me

Of course, no mother wants to hear that. Every mother want to hear the same thing: that their baby dreams of their mother's smile. So, I tell them that they want to hear, and they leave, pleased by my lie.

My sister's niece is no different. Despite my misgivings upon first meeting her, I've grown fond of this earnest young alicorn. She bears the weight of her crown well, and enjoys the adoration of her subjects. I find such qualities admirable; to an extent, I even envy them. Yet between you and me, she, too, is uncomplicated. Predictable. By no means is this a criticism; I don't imply that she has the wit of an infant. Merely, there is a gulf between us that can never be bridged. For she is Love, as I am the Night, and I understand her better than she could hope to understand me.

So, when she asks me to tell her what her daughter's dreams are made of, I know what she expects of me. It is no different from any of the other innumerable times I have been asked this tired question.

Except, in this instance, my canned response is not a lie.

I've never spoken of this to anypony – not Cadance, not even my sister. But once, on the occasion of her birth, during a rare spell where she remained still long enough to sleep, I slipped inside of Flurry's dreams. It was equal parts boredom and curiosity – a whim I chose to act upon. I wanted to know what the first natural-born alicorn since time immemorial dreamed of. I don't recall what I expected; only that I wished to see something more than the abstract trivialities that fill all infants' dreams.

Indeed, Flurry Heart dreams of more than shapes and colors and sounds.

On that cold morning in the heart of the Empire, Flurry Heart dreamed of the end – of icy winds and decrepit ruins; of an expanse of ash and salt and sand stretching into the horizon, where a six-pointed star and a blazing sun shriveled in the cold, blue light of a sickly crescent moon.

All along that desolate landscape, I glimpsed the bleached bones of Equestria. Sprawling cities and humble townships alike, from all corners of the realm, converged and rotted alongside one another. The skyscrapers of Manehattan sagged against the thatched roofs of Ponyville; the golden spires of Canterlot thrust their tips through the cloudy manses of Las Pegasus. Fort Baltimare's crumbling ramparts encircled skeletal trees that had once been Appleoosa's groves. And like the crude needlework of a mad surgeon, train tracks ran through the castle that my sister and I once called home.

Amid that haphazard scene of horror, a tower cut from crystal caught the dying light and drew my eye. Upon its balcony sat Flurry Heart, strikingly beautiful in marehood's bloom. A pony curled at Flurry's hooves: a sallow bag of brittle pink skin, stretched taut across sharp bones and clad in rusted regalia. Attended by flies, a swarm of flies, it wore an eternal grin of rotten teeth.

Flurry's face was expressionless as she stroked what remained of her mother's mane, gazing across the picked-over carcass of Equestria.

"Auntie Luna?"

Cadance's gentle prompting jars me from my memory. She's still waiting on her answer. I tell her what she wants to hear.

"Why, she dreams of her mother's smile, of course."

Cadance grins. Her teeth are pearly white. A shiver catches me, then, and I fluff my wings for warmth.

I look away from my sister's niece, and toward her offspring. This slumbering miracle who burbles into the saliva-soaked fabric of a cloth snail whilst filling a canvas with dreams of the end. I wonder at her, at whence that vision came. I wonder what else she sees in sleep, what else is sealed away within her mind.

I curse myself for my curiosity, that selfsame drive that made me visit her dreams in the first place.

And, at the same time, I wonder if I'll ever have the courage to look again.

Author's Notes:

Alternate title: "Posh Plays The Ringed City, Rips It Off For A Fanfic."

Special thanks to Dubs Rewatcher and DannyJ for feedback -- the latter, especially, as this idea started life as an extension of his own storytelling canon. Even if it didn't end up that way, I still owe him for the inspiration.

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