Life is a Lemon

by Blueshift

Chapter 5: Chapter 4 - Is Nothing Sacred Anymore? (Is Forever Just Another Word?)

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The skies were grey.

Lucid Light huddled into his threadbare jacket as he made his way through the cold night towards the outskirts of Ponyville. The pegasi had done their job well – the perfectly clear blue sky had been quickly replaced with a ceiling of cloud; even now he could hear the distant rumble of thunder in the distance as far above, the storm was prepared.

His breath turned to fog as he huffed and puffed towards the ramshackle house that was his destination, wondering just why the hottest days seemed to have the most bitterly frostbitten nights. Normally he would be fast asleep by this point, or curled up in bed with a mug of hot cocoa and some amusing journal articles. Tonight was different though. Tonight, he found himself trekking towards Lemon Dreams’ house.

“Hello?” Reaching the door, he began thumping a forehoof onto the door. The house was far away enough from the rest of Ponyville for him not to worry about making a noise, and Lemon Dreams was awake, of that he was sure despite it nearly being midnight. He had spent the rest of the day unable to shake his session with the strange yellow pony from his mind, convinced that there was something else he had forgotten. In the end, it was a chance conversation with Carrot Top while he was heading home from work that afternoon that had put the final piece in place.

After another round of banging, the door opened a crack and a bleary eye peered out. “Go away,” Lemon Dreams called defiantly through the entrance. “Whoever you are, it’s late and I want to be alone!”

“Happy birthday!” Lucid hefted a large box tied hastily with a scrap of ribbon towards the door. “It’s ah, it’s a cake,” he added by way of explanation, tilting it to give Lemon Dreams a better look. “Bumped into your friend Carrot Top who let it slip, I was just passing and thought I’d drop in!”

Lemon Dreams stared at the box for a moment, then back up at Lucid. “I don’t have any friends,” she said softly. “I don’t want any friends. I’ve got everything I want here. It’s not my birthday, now go away.”

She moved to close the door, but one of Lucid’s hooves was pressed in the way. “Well, it’s not yet, but it is in about ten minutes.” His eyes flicked briefly towards the clock tower at the centre of Ponyville, the hands on its illuminated face creeping ever closer to midnight. “You came round to my place today, seems fair I should be able to visit you in return.” He braced his leg against the doorway to prevent it slamming shut on him. “Besides,” he added. “It’s a big cake.”

Fine.” Lemon Dreams relented, slowly creaking open the door to let Lucid in. “You can stay for one slice of cake, but that’s it.” She turned her back on Lucid and moved towards the kitchen to fetch some plates.

Lucid tentatively stepped into the house, wrinkling his nose as the musty odour hit him. It seemed to come primarily from the bags of compost that had been haphazardly stacked against every available surface, all torn open in various stages of emptying, with garden trowels and buckets strewn about. The carpets were covered in muddy hoofprints with no regard to cleanliness, and items seemed to be heaped on every surface. It was much the same as his own office, though lacking his own immutable organised chaos. His attention turned to the cupboard that sat by the door stuffed full of letters, and making surreptitiously sure that Lemon Dreams was still in the kitchen, he risked a peak at one of them.

“Plates,” Lemon Dreams announced helpfully, as she brought in two chipped china plates and placed them on the nearest table after first sweeping the debris which lay atop onto the floor.

Lucid quickly looked up from the letter and smiled innocently. “It’s a lovely uh, place you have here, Lemon Dreams.”

“It’s not.” Lemon Dreams turned to look out of the large rear window, where the lemon trees sat in the garden, still and silent in the night. “My orchard, that’s my home. My real home. It’s just…” she trailed off, a slight quiver to her voice. “I’ve not been able to go out there, not since I saw that horrible thing. What is it?”

Lemon Dreams was so intent at gazing outside that she missed the pitying gaze Lucid shot behind her back. He placed the box on the table and carefully extracted the cake from within. “You’ve not seen the… ‘ghost’ since we last spoke, have you?” he enquired casually.

“You said you didn’t believe in it!” Lemon Dreams swung round, an accusing tremor in her voice.

Lucid calmly cut two slices of cake, and lifted them into the plates. “No, I said there was no such thing as ghosts. The subconscious is a mysterious thing though, and the more you try to repress things, the more they try to break free. That’s why when you see whatever it is; you need to go to it. I’m your psychiatrist, Lemon Dreams, I have a duty of care towards you, and it’s my fault you’re like this.” He slumped back onto a chair with a sigh.

Lemon Dreams cast a nervous glance behind her out the window, before trotting cautiously to the slice of cake on the table. “I like my life,” she whispered. “It’s perfect; I have everything I ever wanted. I’m happy. Or…” she quivered again, “or I would be if that thing left me alone!”

“Mmm.” Lucid nodded along, leaning as far back in his chair as he dared. “You know there’s something wrong, you’ve always known. That’s why you think you’re seeing this so-called ‘ghost’. I never pushed you, that was my problem.” He grimaced, wiping his half-moon spectacles on his jacket as he spoke before perching them back on his nose. “All those years ago, when you first came to me. I was too afraid of upsetting you. I thought that as long as you were happy, as long as you had a world where you were comfortable and in control, that everything would be okay. But it’s not, because these things never last.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Lemon Dreams sullenly replied, dipping her head to take a mouthful of cake and chewing it over slowly. “I’ve had so many good years here with my family.”

“I know you don’t know.” Lucid swung forward on his chair to thump both forehooves onto the table. “You’re not a lemon, Lemon Dreams. You’re a pony. You’re wasting your life and you don’t even realise; you have to do something about it Lemon Dreams, you have to face this head on and stop hiding.”

“Get out.” The response was as curt as it was quick. Lemon Dreams pulled back from the table and pointed an angry hoof in the direction of the door. “I’ll not have this, not here! Get out!”

Lucid made no move to leave, instead shaking his head sadly. “I can’t, you won’t face up to this on your own. It has to be now, you know why.” As he spoke, the clock tower far in the distance began to peal out the stroke of midnight, with long, low rings of its bell. The clouds above thundered in sympathy, and the first spatterings of rain began to fall, drumming hard against the windowpanes. “Happy birthday, Lemon Dreams.”

Lemon Dreams swallowed hard and stepped back as if struck. “No, no, I don’t have a birthday!” she squeaked out breathlessly, whirling around as if expecting someone to leap out at her at any moment. “I’m not a pony like you, I’m a lemon, a happy little lemon living in my happy little orchard with all my friends and fami– ” Her voice trembled off into incoherence, wide eyes staring into the dark orchard outside with a glassy gaze. “She’s here!” she croaked. “M-make her go away!”

“It’s not real.” Lucid stood up, moving closer to Lemon Dreams, being as careful as possible so not to startle her. “It’s all in your head, but that’s not a bad thing. You have to confront it and…” His mouth hung open, the sentence remaining unfinished. In the darkness amongst the tall tree trunks, half shrouded by a curtain of ever-heavier rain, was the form of a small yellow pony with fiery orange hair whose whole body flickered like a spluttering candle. “By… Celestia…”

“It is real!” Lemon Dreams’ previous animosity was quickly forgotten as she pressed herself against Lucid for protection, grabbing hold of his jacket like it was a comfort blanket. “See! I’m not mad! M-make sure the door’s locked, we can’t let it get in!”

Lucid ignored Lemon Dreams’ pawing at his jacket as he stared out into the darkness at the small wispy form that sat outside, the spitting image of the photograph on his desk. The one thing that could reduce Lemon Dreams to a trembling wreck. “No,” he said simply, pulling away from the quaking yellow pony. “No, this changes nothing. You have to go out there, it’s the only way. The only way this will stop.”

“I can’t.” Lemon Dreams turned from the window, crouching low as if being hidden from sight would make the ghost go away. “I want my happy life back, everything was perfect as it was! Make it go away!”

Lucid broke eye contact with the apparition outside, bending down to Lemon Dreams and wiping a stray lock of matted mane from over her eyes. “Deep down, you know you have to do this. Go outside. Face it. I’ll be there with you; you don’t have to be alone.”

Lemon Dreams sniffled, looking up at him with large watery eyes. “You promise?”

“Yes.” Lucid was calm, his manner extruding trust and confidence, something he had developed from years of working with difficult patients. “Together, you and me, Lemon Dreams.”

Slowly, Lemon Dreams got to her shaky legs and the two ponies moved towards the back door, Lemon Dreams making sure not to glance even once in the direction of the window. She looked again at Lucid as he unbolted the door. “Are you sure?”

The door opened. At once a blast of wind howled out and roared into the house, bringing with it a deluge of rain. The thunder overhead rumbled loudly as Lucid stared into the crisp, cold orchard. “Come on,” he nodded. “I’ll be right behind you.”

Lemon Dreams swallowed hard, gathering all her courage as she took a hesitant step into the dark. “I can do it…” she muttered, fixing her gaze on the wet grass beneath her hooves as she forced herself to walk further. “I can do it!”

She turned to ask Lucid a question, but to her horror he wasn’t there. The back door slammed shut, and through the roaring of the wind and rain which pelted down and soaked her mane, she could hear heavy bolts being drawn. “No!” she screamed, racing back towards the door, slipping and sliding desperately in the mud. “No! No! Let me back in!”

From the safety of the house, Lucid secured the final lock. Lemon Dreams had been very thorough in securing her property, but now all her locks and chains and bars were keeping her out. He slid down against the door, back to the wood as he heard the frantic thumping of hooves from outside. “I’m sorry, Lemon Dreams,” he called out. “But I can’t do this for you. You have to do it alone.” The pounding on the door did not abate, and he could hear Lemon Dreams’ cries devolving into a panicked garbling. He closed his eyes as if that would help. It was for the best.

“Please! No! Please!” Lemon Dreams felt the hairs on the back of her neck prick up, wailing as she screwed up her eyes not wanting to even accidently see what may be with her in the darkness. She bolted away from the door in a flurry of limbs, squealing in panic as she did so. Almost instantly she slipped in the wet mud, sprawling out over the ground and was forced to open her eyes again. Her beloved lemon trees stretched above her, branches reaching out like claws. “Help me!” she gibbered, throwing her hooves in front of her face. It was out there, in the darkness. It was waiting for her.

“It was all a fantasy!” Lucid’s voice carried from inside the house as he called out to her. Lemon Dreams clambered to her hooves as she tried to dash away from wherever she imagined the ghost was hiding, with only the frantic panting of her breath for company in the freezing rain.

And Lucid’s voice.

“It was all a lie, Lemon Dreams. You dreamed it for yourself because the truth was too terrible.”

“No, no, no!” Lemon Dreams couldn’t tell if it was tears or the rain that was smearing her vision. From the corner of her eye she saw the flickering spectre, standing in the darkness, and she turned away with a scream, running as fast as she could in an attempt to escape. She threw herself against the door again, but the locks she had installed were too strong, the door too sturdy. She ran, a sodden mess of a pony, attempting to scramble up the stone walls that lined the borders of her orchard. But she had built the walls too high, the imposing stonework gave no grip and she scratched and scuffed her hooves until they bled as she failed to climb.

Lemon Dreams fell wheezing to the muddy floor, the thunder ringing out across the land as a far off bolt of lightning illuminated the orchard for a moment in an electric blue flash. She was crying now, she knew she was crying, the tears rolling down her cheeks and joining the rain as it puddled below her quivering body. Standing in front of her, lit briefly by the lightning was the ghost. It stood still as the rain passed through its spectral form, silent, watching her.

Thunder rang out again, and another blast of lightning lit up the sky. The little ghost made no move to approach, staring at Lemon Dreams from two large eyes. Two large, familiar eyes.

“I… I…” Lemon Dreams wiped away the tears and rain from her face, water splashing across her forehoof as she struggled to speak through her wracking sobs. “I know you!” she finally cried with a sense of dread that seemed to bubble from within her. “I’ve always known you! All my life!”

Lemon Dreams tried to rise, but her legs were too shaky and she fell to the ground again, landing with a splash of mud and water, laying prostrate before the ghost. At once she knew. She knew everything. She had always known everything. She clutched her head in anguish and wept. The cold and the rain faded into a soft fuzz as she slumped in the mud, looking up at the small spectral filly at whose hooves she lay. “I’m sorry!” she wailed as her world finally crumbled. “I’m sorry I killed you!”

Next Chapter: Chapter 5 - It’s All Coming Back To Me Now (Yes, It’s All Coming Back) Estimated time remaining: 23 Minutes
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