ZeroandInfinity

Eight

Aug 10th, 2016
390
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  1. Dr. Money? Is that him? The square-like glasses, those eager-looking eyes, that unmistakable smile…
  2.  
  3. No. Oh dear God no. Oh dear God please no. No. No. NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
  4.  
  5. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!”
  6.  
  7. Screaming as loud as your lungs allow you to, you spring off the chair and dash for the door.
  8.  
  9. “BIG SIS! HELP MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!”
  10.  
  11. Your mind rapidly turning into one of instinctual animal survival, you run right into the doorway, hoping the door would smash open. Instead, you bang your head hard against it. Even though you could have almost passed out from the sudden onslaught of pain, you keep yourself balanced and determined. You had to get out of here. You had to get away from him, no matter the cost.
  12.  
  13. You try your best to grab at the door knob with your hooves, but you quickly realize it’s locked. C’mmon…open dang it! Open! Open! OPEN! You frantically try to twist and turn the knob, but to no avail. No matter how much you try, it won’t open.
  14.  
  15. You can hear who you supposed might be Dr. Money make an audible sigh from behind you. You turn to snag a quick glance at him. He simply shakes his head with his eyes closed. He then opens them and looks straight at you. You can feel him looking through you. He looked so serious. You were terrified. So terrified, that you turn your gaze back to the door and start frantically banging on it in hopes that it would somehow break down.
  16.  
  17. “NURSE REINHOLD! BIG SIS! SOMEONE! ANYONE! PLEASE HELP ME!!!”
  18.  
  19. Suddenly, you stop. An idea shines through your mind. You’re a pony. You can just buck down the door with your hind legs. You turn around and face the other pony behind you and notice that he’s now just curiously observing you. Is he Dr. Money, or does he just sorta look like him and Dr. Wilhelm somehow knows about him. Still, him mentioning Dr. Money’s name is enough to make your heart pound a million miles a second.
  20.  
  21. “I can assure you that’s not going to work.”
  22.  
  23. Terrified of even looking at him for a second longer, you close your eyes and focus all of your body and strength into your hind legs. You gotta do this. You gotta break this door down. You gotta get out of here. You can do this. You’re strong. You’re a pony. You’re Radiance.
  24.  
  25. Closing everything out of your mind, you can feel an overwhelming sense of strength flowing through you. Even though you knew you weren’t strong, you did remember from somewhere that when animals or people were in a life-or-death situation, they could become immensely strong for a short period of time. Just believe in yourself. Think of Big Sis. She’s right here with you.
  26.  
  27. Without warning, you can feel yourself arching forward a little with your butt raising in the air, and…
  28.  
  29. BANG!
  30.  
  31. You heard a loud crack, but you kick again.
  32.  
  33. BANG!
  34.  
  35. More cracking sounds, yet you could tell from the sounds that the door hadn’t fallen yet. C’mmon…just think of Big Sis. Think of how much you love her. Think of how much she loves you. She’s right down the hall in the waiting room. Just kick this freaking door down and run to her and you’ll both be out of here in no time.
  36.  
  37. BANG!
  38.  
  39. You could hear and feel the door starting to crumble. That’s it. Just one more kick. Think of Nullity. Think of Big Sis. Think of her love. Think of the sisterly love you two share. You’re both sisters and you both always will be. You whisper silently in your mind as if you were speaking to Nullity directly.
  40.  
  41. “I love you Big Sis. I’m not gonna let anything ever separate us again. I’ll always be by your side. Always.”
  42.  
  43. And just as suddenly, with a force of strength you never felt you had, you make one final hard kick right into the crumbling door.
  44.  
  45. BANG!
  46.  
  47. You can hear it smash and crumble to the ground. You turn your head away before opening your eyes so that you wouldn’t see his ominous gaze looking down upon you. Eyes opening as you turn your whole body around so that you were facing the doorway, you notice…yuh-you nuh-nuh-notice…
  48.  
  49.  
  50. Whu-Where’s the hallway? Through the doorway, all you see was what appeared to be a white void. Nuh-No. It can’t be. Not again. There was no hallway or anything of any kind. You didn’t see the floor, the walls, or the ceiling; you saw absolutely nothing beyond the doorway. Whu-What the heck is this?
  51.  
  52. As much as you desperately want to flee, you carefully and gently put your hoof out in front of you. You reach for the floor outside the room, and surprisingly, you feel a solid floor. You slowly but steadily begin walking outside the room, eyes on your hooves, until you were completely out of the office.
  53.  
  54. When you look up, your jaw almost drops. There’s…There’s nothing around you. No objects of any kind, no furniture, no light fixtures, no sounds, no anything. It’s just like when Clockwork took you here in that freaky silhouette form. Oh God. You want to scream and feel as though you’re gonna hurl, but you try to stay focused to the best of your ability. You call out for your big sister.
  55.  
  56. “HELLO? NULLITY?!? WHERE ARE YOU? PLEASE HELP ME!”
  57.  
  58. Your voice echoes through the void, but no response of any kind is given, with the exception of the voice coming from the office you left. From behind you, you hear another loud sigh.
  59.  
  60. “Tsk, tsk. So I take it you’re not enjoying Dr. Money’s Virtual Dream Machine?”
  61.  
  62. You can feel chills coursing through you. You turn around and almost want to freak out again. The outside walls of the room you were in were white. They blended in with the white void around you. The only thing visible was the doorway and the contents of the office inside, with the pony who may be responsible for all of this staring straight at you. He was frowning.
  63.  
  64. “This is most unfortunate, but given your personal history and your psychological state, I had a feeling this was bound to happen.”
  65.  
  66. You make no movements, nor do you say anything. You simply stare and listen to him.
  67.  
  68. “Would you be so kind as to come back inside Anon? It would be easier to talk to you in here instead of you being all the way over there.”
  69.  
  70. A-Anon…that…what? Yuh-You’re not A-A-Anon, right? Thu-That’s not your name, right? Yuh-You’re Radiance, right? You can feel your voice shaking, both in terror and in anger for him not addressing you as Radiance.
  71.  
  72. “My…My name is RADIANCE!”
  73.  
  74. He simply shakes his head and sighs yet again.
  75.  
  76. “My sincerest apologies ‘Radiance.’ Please, do not be afraid. I have no intention to harm you. I simply want to have a talk with you.”
  77.  
  78. He motions with a hoof for you to come back in, with his frown slowly turning into a soft smile. What should you do? You could run away from him forever, but you would be trapped in this endless void. Regardless of whether or not you’re seeing things, if you wanted to see Nullity again and get out of here, the only real option would be to back inside. You try to reassure yourself however you can that you’re gonna be alright, but deep down, you were terrified. And yet, you had no other option.
  79.  
  80. Slowly but surely, you walk back into the room. You were noticeably shaking, fearful of what was going to happen to you. Apparently, he could sense your fear and tried to calm you.
  81.  
  82. “There, there. It really is going to be alright Radiance.”
  83.  
  84. He was speaking with a tone of calming reassurance. Even though you had no idea why all of this was happening and despite the fact that things were unfolding the way they were, his tone had somehow, in a weird, messed up way, helped to lower your anxiety just a little.
  85.  
  86. As you re-enter the room, you dart your eyes around the room. It was at least a little comforting to be in a room and see actual objects again. Though as you approach where you were sitting previously, your head turns back to the doorway. It was still a white void. Why though?
  87.  
  88. “Yes, yes. Please have a seat Radiance.”
  89.  
  90. He makes a motion for you to sit, and you reluctantly proceed to do so. Using the magic from his horn, he pulls a chair from the corner of the room and proceeds to situate himself on it. He uses his magic once more to pick up the pen and the clipboard he was writing on previously. You were breathing heavily, curious, though mostly afraid, of what he was going to do.
  91.  
  92. “So Radiance, where would you like to start.”
  93.  
  94. You’re at a loss of words. You have no idea what to say.
  95.  
  96. “Whu-What the heck is going on?”
  97.  
  98. “Well, you came in this morning for an early appointment. Initially, I was scheduled to meet with you towards the end of the week, with Nurse Reinhold making daily checkups with you to see how you’ve been recovering. However, considering what your sister has told my assistant and seeing as how you have been out of it for a while, I felt it was urgent to see you right away.”
  99.  
  100. “What-What did she say?”
  101.  
  102. You see him using the magic from his horn to flip through several pages on his clipboard as he tries to come up with a response. He stops when he finds what it is he was looking for. He scans it for a moment and then looks at you objectively, regurgitating what was written on paper.
  103.  
  104. “According to what Nurse Reinhold has relayed to me from Nullity’s observations, you appear to be experiencing amnesia, be it from forgetting places to forgetting names and faces. Not only that, but you also seem to be having hallucinations of some sort.”
  105.  
  106. You turn your gaze from him and look at the open doorway, noticing that the white void was still there.
  107.  
  108. “Uh…uh…am…am I hallucinating right now?”
  109.  
  110. “Hm?”
  111.  
  112. He looks at you inquisitively, and notices you looking back and forth between him and the doorway.
  113.  
  114. “Oh! No, you are not. I can see the white void outside of this room too.”
  115.  
  116. You try to stammer for a response, but words fail you. How is it that he can see it too? He didn’t launch a spell or anything to teleport you into this void-like world like Clockwork did, but the simple fact that he openly acknowledges the presence of the white void must surely mean you’re not hallucinating, right? At least, assuming this whole conversation with him isn’t a hallucination in and of itself.
  117.  
  118. “I…I don’t understand. How do you see it? How can I be hallucinating if you see it too? Did you teleport us or something?”
  119.  
  120. He looks up in a thoughtful gaze for a moment before responding.
  121.  
  122. “No, I did not. Actually, to be blunt, that is all of your doing.”
  123.  
  124. WHAT?!?
  125.  
  126. “I…I…but…but…I’m not even a unicorn. I can’t do magic! I don’t even know how to do magic!”
  127.  
  128. “Very true. You are right in the sense that you didn’t use some form of spell for that to happen, but your mind, whether you realize it or not, is responsible for that occurring.”
  129.  
  130. “My mind? HOW?!?”
  131.  
  132. “Well, quite simply, your mind is your gateway for interpreting what it is you sense with your senses. I know that might sound strange, but trust me when I say that everything is based purely on your perception of it.”
  133.  
  134. “My perception? What do you mean by that?”
  135.  
  136. “Well, what you perceive occurring can be very different with how I perceive things as they happen. For example, let’s say I believe magic exists and you do not. Now suppose we’re both sitting in front of a live stage performance watching the events transpire. You become lost in what you’re seeing because it is so utterly fascinating to you, yet I pull out a crossword puzzle and work on it to pass the time because I find the show to be rather dull. Let’s say the show lasts for three hours. To you, it may seem that only a half an hour has transpired because you were completely engrossed with whatever happened on stage. To me, it seems like the entire day has passed and was wasted doing something I did not want to do. For both of us, we know that the show only lasted three hours, yet our perception of…”
  137.  
  138. He pauses and smiles at you a little before continuing.
  139.  
  140. “…time, was vastly different. Now, I could argue that I used a type of time spell to create some form of time dilation between us, yet you might say that to be complete hogwash. You might try to retort with some kind of scientific theory or evidence to disprove my argument that magic is real. You might say that according to a certain scientific principle, there was no time dilation resulting from magic, and that it was simply the result of that scientific principle. We can both keep arguing back and forth to try and prove whether or not magic or science is real, but regardless, we both know that the show only lasted for three hours. Yet, we both somehow experienced an effect where time moved a lot faster for you, and a lot slower for me. Regardless of how exactly that may be, either through magic or through science, one thing is certain: it is our perception of time that altered what we experienced. We both know that three hours went by, and we were right next to one another when the events transpired, so we both witnessed the same thing. Yet it is our perception of those events, of that reality, that caused us to experience two entirely separate things. Do you understand what I am trying to get across?”
  141.  
  142. You think for a moment before responding to him. Or rather, you tried to, but what he was saying still didn’t completely make sense. Sure, two people…err ponies can interpret things differently, but even then, he’s openly acknowledged that he too can see the same white void you’re seeing right outside the doorway. Personal interpretation or no, that should be proof enough that the white void is not a hallucination, and that it is being caused by something. But how can you, or rather, your mind be what’s causing that white void to exist? That doesn’t make any sense. But before you say anything, he begins to speak again.
  143.  
  144. “So, as I can probably guess, you must be wondering how it is that I can see the white void you’re seeing too.”
  145.  
  146. Wait a minute. How did he know what you were thinking? You begin looking at him suspiciously.
  147.  
  148. “Because, according to the example I just described, we would normally both be in my office inside an underground hospital, with both Nurse Reinhold and Nullity waiting outside for our meeting to be over. I might perceive it as that way, yet you perceive that we’re really in that white void that Clockwork once brought you to.”
  149.  
  150. WHAT?!?! How the literal fudge does he know about your experience in the white void with Clockwork? You didn’t even talk about that to anyone…not even to Nullity. All she knew is that you had no memory of what happened between visiting Clockwork and being back at home with her, Beezle, and Blueberry.
  151.  
  152. “Yet we can both readily agree and acknowledge that we’re in that white void right now, right?”
  153.  
  154. He chuckles. His chuckling actually starts to induce a small bit of rage in you.
  155.  
  156. “This…This isn’t funny. How did you know what I was thinking? Why on freakin’ Earth is there nothing outside this room besides that white void? I came in here from outside, through the reception, and down a hallway into this room. And now, all of that stuff no longer exists and you’re openly acknowledging that we’re currently in that white void together. Not only that, but how the heck did you know what happened to me because of Clockwork? I told that to no one.”
  157.  
  158. You could feel the anger in your voice rising.
  159.  
  160. “And you’re saying that my mind alone is what transported us into this white void? How? HOW THE HECK CAN MY SO-CALLED MENTAL ‘PERCEPTIONS’ TELEPORT US TO THIS PLACE AND CAUSE YOU TO SEE THE SAME THING I’M SEEING? HOW CAN YOU SEE AND ACKNOWLEDGE THIS WHITE VOID WHEN NO ONE ELSE CAN BUT ME?!?!”
  161.  
  162. You felt your voice becoming a little hoarse from yelling, but you were angry, confused, and most of all, scared. You just wanted all of this to stop. You wanted to live a normal life with your sister and just be happy and enjoy peace without all of this crazy stuff happening. And you wanted to make this doctor you were talking to, whoever he was, be it Dr. Wilhelm or Dr. Money, to make it all stop. But instead of finding a solution to your problems, you notice his smile beginning to brighten a little.
  163.  
  164. “You know, a part of me was actually hoping you wouldn’t break down that door seeing as how you wouldn’t have to see that…emptiness. It might have been easier explaining things to you, but truthfully, I’m starting to doubt it.”
  165.  
  166. What does he mean by that?
  167.  
  168. “Be honest with me ‘Radiance.’ Do you want me to explain how your ‘accident’ and ‘amnesia’ is causing you to see things? Or, would you rather me not sugar-coat everything and just tell you what’s really going on?”
  169.  
  170. His tone was rapidly changing from one that was caring into one that almost felt predatory. Your anxiety was starting to rise again, but before you say anything, he speaks up again.
  171.  
  172. “I mean, I could invent a whole host of lies to make you feel better and to make the world you’re living in seem more real, but truthfully, I don’t think that’s going to work anymore. It would be better to come forward and reveal everything to you.”
  173.  
  174. Making the world seem more real…what?
  175.  
  176. “Seem more real…what the heck are you talking about?”
  177.  
  178. “Well, as I asked previously, I take it you’re not enjoying my Virtual Dream Machine?”
  179.  
  180. You freeze; every hair on your body was standing up. His Virtual Dream Machine… Whatever the heck that was, he did say it was Dr. Money’s. So if he is for sure saying it’s his, then that means he’s for sure gotta be Dr. Money! That realization alone is enough to almost make you want to freak out once more. But what’s a Virtual Dream Machine?
  181.  
  182. “I duh-don’t understand. Whu-What do you muh-mean by that?”
  183.  
  184. “What I mean is, you’re not enjoying being in the virtual world of your creation?”
  185.  
  186. Whu…Whu…What? A…A v-virtual world?
  187.  
  188.  
  189. And just like that, it felt like your whole life shattered right before you
  190.  
  191. “Nuh…nuh…no. T-That can’t be ruh-real. T-That’s impossible.”
  192.  
  193. “I agree. None of this is real. It’s all just a figment of your imagination, your desires, and what you believe in.”
  194.  
  195. You can feel panic setting into you as you try to deny the reality of what he’s just said.
  196.  
  197. “Y-You’re not real. This…This isn’t happening.”
  198.  
  199. “I, too, agree with you. ‘I’ as in Dr. Wilhelm, am not real. Or maybe I am. Truthfully, I’m only real in the context that you perceive me to exist.”
  200.  
  201. He’s sitting there smiling while talking to you, while you simply start to shake and look at him in a zombified trance.
  202.  
  203. “Nuh-Nuh-No. I…I must be seeing things again. T-This’ll all disappear in a moment and everything I’m seeing and hearing will stop. I’m just hallucinating. Y-Yeah, that’s right.”
  204.  
  205. He just continues to grin at your response.
  206.  
  207. “Well technically, you are seeing things. I mean, if you haven’t figured it out already, it must be pretty obvious to you by now who I really am, huh? Why bother continuing to play the role of a unicorn pony trying to act as your primary care physician after everything you have seen? Why not go ahead and change things up a bit so that everything makes a little more sense?”
  208.  
  209. The moment he finishes that sentence, you notice him leaning forward, with the clipboard he was holding with his magic falling to the ground. His magical plasma was starting to radiate intensely around his horn. You were still in a shattered state trying to deny what he was saying, but before you have time to react, the magical plasma around his horn rapidly grows to the size of a soccer ball. Then, in a split fraction of a second…
  210.  
  211. BOOM!
  212.  
  213. …you’re immediately blinded by the bright array of energy resulting from the explosion. You just as quickly cover your face with your hooves and close your eyes to shield yourself, but regardless, the resulting force from the explosion of energy throws you back against the wall.
  214.  
  215. BANG!
  216.  
  217. The collision with the wall knocks the air out of you as you fall to the ground. You’re coughing trying to catch your breath, with one arm covering your muzzle and the other with your eyes. Your vision is a little hazy, but as you slowly oh-open…thu-them…you…yuh-you…nuh-no. No. Nonononononononononononono!
  218.  
  219. Panic setting through you once more, you completely open your eyes to see that the office and everything in it was gone. Whu-Where’d it go? You turn your head to the right and to the left and up and down and see that you are, in fact, completely alone in the white void. You didn’t see the entrance to the office anywhere in the void. There was literally nothing here, except you. You want to scream and you just want to completely lose it, when suddenly, you hear his voice.
  220.  
  221. “So I have a question to ask you.”
  222.  
  223. You turn around to the sound of his voice, only to jump back as far as you possibly could. A human male looked back at you while dressed in a black business suit, with a prominent red tie and a white dress shirt tucked underneath, complemented with brown dress shoes at his feet. You also noticed him sporting a shiny, silver watch of some kind that was secured tightly on his left wrist. His black hair was combed back like before, with his beady brown eyes looking straight into you through his square-like glasses. He wasn’t wearing any doctor’s regalia; as a matter of fact, he looked to be more like a businessman. Yet you knew it was him. He was giving a small smile to you, but it almost looked as though he was still grinning. He simply stood there with his arms folded, watching you…studying you…curious to see what you might do next.
  224.  
  225. Everything in your mind and body was screaming at you to run away from him, but you felt completely paralyzed by everything that was happening. All you could do was stare at him in terror and silently pray that he does nothing to you.
  226.  
  227. “If you feel you’re all alone in this void, then what do you think of me?”
  228.  
  229. “Whu-What?”
  230.  
  231. Though on edge, his question did catch you off guard.
  232.  
  233. “Well, in your opinion, am I a hallucination, or am I real?”
  234.  
  235. The heck kind of question is that? You don’t know how he’s here and how he, as a human and you, as a pony are both in this empty void talking to one another. But he is standing right in front of you. So that means he has to be real, right?
  236.  
  237. “Hrm…judging by what you’re thinking, I’d have to say you think I’m real. Am I correct?”
  238.  
  239. “How…?”
  240.  
  241. “Were you going to ask me how it is that I can read your thoughts?”
  242.  
  243. You’re baffled. Somehow, he knows what you’re thinking and can easily read your thoughts. That makes no sense. Mind-reading might be something that exists in Equestria with a spell, but a human being able to read a pony’s thoughts? That’s impossible. Humans can’t do magic.
  244.  
  245. “Or am I incorrect? I mean, as you’ve surely just wondered, it should be impossible for me to know what you’re thinking. No individual can do that, unless you believe they can.”
  246.  
  247. He chuckles once more.
  248.  
  249. “So tell me verbally, do you think I’m real or do you think I’m not?”
  250.  
  251. “I DON’T KNOW!”
  252.  
  253. You shake your head back and forth closing your eyes. You were confused. Almost nothing was making sense. He said you were in something called a Virtual Dream Machine, right? What exactly does that entail? That nothing’s real and it’s all just one big lie?
  254.  
  255. You stop shaking your head and look back at him. Dr. Money was looking at you now with a bit of seriousness and with no hint of a smile. You actually couldn’t tell if he was serious based on his…uh…neutral-looking expression.
  256.  
  257. Regardless though, he said that your whole life in Equestria wasn’t real. But even then, that claim simply can’t be true. Although you would experience certain moments of seeing things and questioning things, everything felt very real. You could see, touch, taste, feel, and smell everything in your pony body. You’ve been with Nullity, Nurse Reinhold, Beezle, Blueberry, Brielle, Epaulet, and Clockwork. All of them seemed like real ponies with their own minds. How could all of them be fake? How can another pony, or rather, an individual not be real if you’re right by them side-by-side and you’re engaging in conversation with them?
  258.  
  259. In addition to all of this, if none of your previous experiences as Radiance were real, how are you still her as a pony? Because, if none of this was real, you wouldn’t be a pony. Yet you are right now. And somehow, Dr. Money was right here with you as a human. So does that mean he’s real as well? You do remember him before you woke up as Radiance, but you haven’t seen him at all up until now. But how can he even exist as a human? You never came across a human in any of your hallucinations here, aside from that one silhouette in your bathroom, but even then, that thing didn’t exactly seem human. And you were also pretty sure humans didn’t exist in Equestria. Yet he was somehow here. Is he real, or is he not? You just couldn’t tell.
  260.  
  261. “You know, I realize a lot of this must be confusing to you. With everything you’ve been pondering and experiencing, I can only sympathize with you on what must be running through your head. If it brings you any solace, even I am unsure if I’m real.”
  262.  
  263. Wait. What?
  264.  
  265. “Huh? H-How can you even doubt your own existence? Aren’t you real if you know you exist? How can you not be real while being able to simultaneously think for yourself and have a chat with someone? Isn’t that a contradiction to that whole ‘I think, therefore I am’ thing?”
  266.  
  267. “Yes and no.”
  268.  
  269. A small smile starts forming across his face again.
  270.  
  271. “If I am able to hold independent thought for myself without any form of influence, then yes, I would agree with you. I would think I’d be real too. And yet, I have the uncanny ability to read your thoughts without you being able to understand how it is that I am able to do so. I think we’d both agree that can’t be possible, right? So by doing the impossible, does that mean I am not real?”
  272.  
  273. “Uh…”
  274.  
  275. You rub a hoof back and forth against your head as if you were scratching it as you tried to make sense of whatever it is he was saying.
  276.  
  277. “I mean, perhaps what’s giving me the most uncertainty is the guy standing behind you.”
  278.  
  279. He points behind you, and you quickly turn around to see…
  280.  
  281. “OH MY GOD NO!”
  282.  
  283. It felt like your pupils were shrinking into tiny dots when you saw Dr. Money again from behind you.
  284.  
  285. “Does his presence mean that I am fake?”
  286.  
  287. This figure that looked like Dr. Money did not speak as that previous form of dialogue was being spoken. And yet he wore the same exact outfit as the original Dr. Money and stood there with his arms crossed, giving the exact same smile as the other Dr. Money.
  288.  
  289. But just as suddenly, this Dr. Money speaks up.
  290.  
  291. “Actually, I’m the real Dr. Money. I don’t know who he is, but what about that other guy next to you who also looks like me?”
  292.  
  293. He sticks his left arm up and uses his thumb to point to his left, and you turn your head, only to see…
  294.  
  295.  
  296. …a…a-nuh-another Dr. Money clone.
  297.  
  298. “Well, I’m Dr. Money too. Actually, so is that guy over there.”
  299.  
  300. He too points across to your right, and you see a fourth clone.
  301.  
  302. “Don’t believe any of them. I’m the only real Dr. Money.”
  303.  
  304. All four encircled you, standing there with the same voices and the same attires, all smiling at you.
  305.  
  306. “No! No! No! No! NO! NO! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! DON’T HURT ME! PLEASE DON’T HURT ME!”
  307.  
  308. You curl up into a fetal position and bury your head into your hooves, whimpering as you did so.
  309. None of this makes sense. All of this…all of this was just too much.
  310.  
  311. Without a moment’s notice, however, you heard fingers snapping. You jerk your head up in an involuntarily reaction to simply witness Dr. Money observing you. You turn your head to look around you, only to see that the other clones were gone. He was the only Dr. Money standing there now, and was officially the only one besides you who was here.
  312.  
  313. “Isn’t it strange how our perceptions can distort reality? The fact that our perceptions can make us believe in something that does not actually exist, while also fooling us into thinking that something else which is real to not be real, fascinates me to no end. As a matter of fact, there’s one quote I’ve adopted into my life over the years and I feel it is appropriate to share with you. ‘Your beliefs determine your reality.’ After everything that you have experienced, wouldn’t you agree with that assertion?”
  314.  
  315. “Muh…Muh…My beliefs determine what’s real and not real?”
  316.  
  317. “Exactly.”
  318.  
  319. His features brighten as his smile goes from small to full-on grinning.
  320.  
  321. “Take me, for example. When you look at me, what do you see?”
  322.  
  323. “Uh…”
  324.  
  325. “Do you see a doctor? After all, you do know me by the name of Dr. Money. Does having the label “Doctor” in front of my name translate to me being an actual doctor? You did see me dressed up as a doctor when we first met, but now you clearly see me dressed in business professional attire. Do you therefore see me as a wealthy entrepreneur more than as an actual doctor? Does also having ‘Money’ in my name equate to me being a calm and calculated investor? Do you think all I care about is money?”
  326.  
  327. “Whu…I…I duh-don’t understand.”
  328.  
  329. “Look at me closely. Do you ever think I could be a family man? What about a close friend? Do you think I seek to help and save others with what I have been working towards? What if I was actually Machiavellian in nature? What if I was only seeking to become rich at the expense of others? What if I simply used others like pawns and ruined their lives to benefit others, as well as myself? Do you think I have it in me to be a pure sadist? Would you consider me to be a true-born psychopath? What do you think?”
  330.  
  331. Though ever-so slightly, you could tell from the tone of his voice that whatever he’s going to do to you, it was gonna be anything but good.
  332.  
  333. The thought alone begins to make you shake just a little.
  334.  
  335. “I could be any one of those things. I could be all of them. I could likewise be none of them. Maybe I’m only one of them. Or maybe, I simply don’t exist and I’m nothing more than a hallucination brought about by your own mind talking to itself. The point is, it doesn’t matter how I describe or view myself. It doesn’t matter what others think of me or believe about me. All that matters is what you see in me, and what you believe I am. Your perception of me is what will be real to you in your reality.”
  336.  
  337. “Muh-My reality?”
  338.  
  339. “Of course. Your reality is separate from my reality.”
  340.  
  341. “Huh-How? A-Aren’t we here together right nuh-now?”
  342.  
  343. “If that is what you believe to be the case, then yes, we are.”
  344.  
  345. Dr. Money actually raises one of his hands in a fist to cover his mouth as he attempts to cough just a little. He then rests it back into his folded arms and resumes speaking.
  346.  
  347. “When one hears the word ‘reality,’ you would normally assume that they’re referencing the physical world in which they reside in, yes?”
  348.  
  349. You slowly nod you head.
  350.  
  351. “But answer me this: is it possible for any one individual to truly know and understand what is actually happening in that physical reality?”
  352.  
  353. “Uh…Uh…Like…Like what? Seeing and feeling things? Eating and smelling food? Hearing things? Is-Is that what you’re asking me?”
  354.  
  355. “That is exactly what I’m asking. Is it possible for us to perceive our physical reality with our five senses?”
  356.  
  357. “Of…Of course! What we taste, feel, see, smell, and hear…that’s all real, right?”
  358.  
  359. Dr. Money simply shakes his head.
  360.  
  361. “If you believe that to all be true, then you are correct. But what if none of that is true? What if your five senses are fooling you into believing and perceiving something that is not real? What if your senses are distorting your perception of reality altogether?”
  362.  
  363. “Whu-Wait. Luh-Like thu-these hallucinations I keep h-having?”
  364.  
  365. “Why of course. Think about it. You just saw three other individuals who very much looked like me. How can that in any way be possible? You physically saw them and heard them speak with my voice, but how do you not know your eyes and ears were playing tricks on you? What if those other versions of myself were nothing more than reflections I made through mirrors and careful lighting to make them seem real? What if those guys were actors I hired just to mess with you? They could have also symbolized various personalities of your psyche, just like all of the other ponies you’ve met as Radiance.”
  366.  
  367. “Nuh...No. T-That’s not true. Thu-They’re real.”
  368.  
  369. He begins grinning once more as you try to again deny what he’s saying.
  370.  
  371. “Are you absolutely sure?”
  372.  
  373. Suddenly, you feel a sudden burst of rage flow through you.
  374.  
  375. “SHUT UP! I KNOW THEY ARE! I HAVE A BIG SISTER. SHE’S REAL! I’M A MOMMY! I’M RADIANCE! I HAVE FRIENDS! I HAVE PONIES WHO LOVE ME! I DO! EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM IS REAL!”
  376.  
  377. You begin to cough a little from shouting. Through your coughing though, you notice that he’s actually chuckling.
  378.  
  379. “SHUT UP! IT’S TRUE! ALL OF THEM ARE REAL! DO YOU HEAR ME?!? THEY. ARE. ALL. REAL!!!!”
  380.  
  381. “My, my ‘Radiance.’ You really should calm yourself. You’re acting a bit out of character. Isn’t Radiance supposed to be a pony who loves everyone and everything? I must say, you’re acting an awful lot like Anon.”
  382.  
  383. Him mentioning that immediately silences your defensive hostility. Buh-But regardless though, you’re…you’re not Anon, right? You’re Radiance. You were, you are, and you always will be, right? You don’t wanna be mean. You just wanna love. You look down towards the invisible ground and indirectly notice a tear trickling down your muzzle.
  384.  
  385. “Plu-Please…stop. I need them to all be real. Please.”
  386.  
  387. “Then, if that is what you believe, they are real.”
  388.  
  389. “Hu-Huh?”
  390.  
  391. You look up at him and wipe your eyes with your arm before you start pouring buckets.
  392.  
  393. “What I am merely trying to point out is, how does an individual’s brain determine what is real and what is not real? After all, the brain can’t physically sense the physical world as an independent organ. Sure, it has a body attached to it, it has eyes attached to it, and it has a whole host of organs attached to it to help keep it alive. But the brain relies on the body and everything in it to understand and make sense of its environment. Whatever the body senses from its surroundings is relayed back to the brain in the form of what I call neuronal signals. The brain processes these signals and then sends more signals back to the body in order to make decisions and interact in certain ways based on its judgement over what the body’s five senses have relayed to the brain. In other words, we rely on our senses in order to make sense of the world we live in. And wouldn’t you agree that the experiences our senses pick up from the physical reality ultimately shape how we perceive it and thus shape our own reality based off of how our brains interpret those signals?”
  394.  
  395. You simply sniffle in response to him.
  396.  
  397. “Do you remember when I was talking to you about time?”
  398.  
  399. You weakly nod.
  400.  
  401. “Well, as I’ve just explained, it is our physical senses that experience the environment and relay what they’ve just experienced to the brain for it to process them. Now, wouldn’t you also agree that it takes some unit of time, albeit a split fraction of a second or so, for those neuronal signals to be processed by the brain?”
  402.  
  403. “I…I guh-guess so.”
  404.  
  405. “So even if it takes a small measurement of time for the brain to process its environment, we can both readily agree that it is impossible to know what happens in the physical reality as it actually happens, yes? That by the time our mind receives what has just happened, it has already happened, correct? That, in effect, there is no way to truly understand what is real and what is not real aside from what our brain believes and perceives to be true or false from those neuronal signals, right?”
  406.  
  407. “Pluh-Please. Juh-Just s-stop. I just wanna go home.”
  408.  
  409. You give him a pleading look, tears welling in your eyes.
  410.  
  411. “And yet, those signals our brain processes may not always be correct. Just like how other parts of the body can get ill and malfunction, so can our senses. When an event happens, sometimes we might mistake it for something else. Sometimes we may perceive an action and react differently than how others react and perceive it. Sometimes, our senses can give us misleading information to fool our brains into believing in something that most would say just isn’t real, such as having a tail, believing we’re the opposite gender, thinking we’re a pony, believing in magic, thinking we live in a world of dreams or in a world of nightmares, and so on and so forth. It is truly amazing how our brain can process our senses in so many different ways and perceive its environment, as well as perceiving its body, as being something entirely different than what it actually is.”
  412.  
  413. “Stu-Stop…”
  414.  
  415. “Ultimately though, as I’m sure you would readily agree, our perceptions and beliefs arising from whatever our senses relay to the brain are also greatly influenced by the brain’s environment, whether it imagines that environment to be real or fake. Place someone in an abusive environment, and they’re more likely to be mean and abusive to others, possibly even to themselves. They may hate everyone, including the whole world. Place them in a loving environment, however, and they’re more than likely going to develop positive traits and characteristics through self-love. Take two people who are nearly identical to one another and place each one in the opposite environments. Through hatred or through love, they will develop differently and come to their own sets of beliefs and perceptions of the world, because the environments they are living in fuel the beliefs they develop. Strange, isn’t it? That our environments can manipulate our perceptions. Speaking of which…”
  416.  
  417. He grabs the glasses from his face and uses his dress shirt to rub them. He then places them back on his face and folds his arms once more.
  418.  
  419. “Wouldn’t you likewise agree that by being in the void we’re in right now, it’s distorting your perception of reality? Don’t you think that it’s making it harder and harder for you to determine what’s real and what’s not real? Let’s be honest here. Most people would generally perceive a void as empty blackness, yet here you perceive it as white. What’s interesting to me is that in the realm of science, whiteness represents all colors of the visible spectrum and everything else, while blackness is nothingness and the absence of color and light. White light comprises the entire spectrum of visible colors, but without it, there is no light and hence, only blackness remains. Yet, in the realm of art, whiteness is considered to be the absence of color, but if you were to mix all of the colors on a work of art, you would get black. In this case, blackness would be everything and whiteness nothing. Isn’t that crazy? Whiteness and blackness can mean the exact opposites of one another depending on how you view them, just like this void. You’re either in a world of nothingness or in a world of everything depending on how you perceive the reality you’re in right now. Both perceptions are entirely valid and are very much real, even if they’re contradictory to one another. They can both describe this void-like world perfectly, but can lead into entirely different realities. This is because our brains ascribe different meanings to this world in order to determine what reality is and is not. After all, your perception of things is, in effect, what makes up the world you live in, right? I mean, the only thing that truly matters is what you believe in and how you perceive things, because that is what will ultimately be real to you. So, based on all of this, what do you think this white void is? A world of nothingness or a world of everything?”
  420.  
  421. “STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!!!”
  422.  
  423. You’re screaming at the top of your lungs, desperate for this insanity to stop.
  424.  
  425. “I DON’T CARE! I JUST WANNA GO HOME! I JUST WANT MY BIG SISTER! I JUST WANT SNUGGLES! I JUST WANT LOVE AND AFFECTION! THAT’S ALL I’VE EVER WANTED! I DON’T WANT ANY OF THIS! STOP TRYING TO MESS WITH ME! LEAVE ME ALONE! JUST STOP IT!!!”
  426.  
  427. You’re crying your eyes out now. Snot was quickly welling up in your nostrils as you began shaking violently. You needed to be hugged badly. You needed snuggles and warmth and love. You needed to get away from this loony nut job. Through your crying, however, you indirectly notice Dr. Money closing his eyes and shaking his head.
  428.  
  429. “Always wanting love and affection? I’m afraid that’s not entirely true.”
  430.  
  431. He opens his eyes and looks down at his waist as he unbuttons the coat to his suit. You notice that he wasn’t bearing a smile anymore. Instead, he moves his right arm to grab something from a pocket located somewhere inside the left side of his coat. He pulls it out and…you freeze. Oh no. Is that…?
  432.  
  433. “Surely you remember this thing, don’t you?”
  434.  
  435. In his hand, he clutched a gun. Your gun. Your Ruger GP100 six-shot revolver with a blue finish and its long, mean-looking six-inch barrel. Dr. Money was holding it by the grip, waving it casually in the air back and forth.
  436.  
  437. “You were going to use this thing to commit suicide, right?”
  438.  
  439. “I…I…”
  440.  
  441. Words fail you. Its appearance made your skin want to crawl. It was a symbol from your old life, an object from that horrible nightmare. How does he have it?
  442.  
  443. Dr. Money stops waving it in the air and holds it in front of him, with the barrel facing down. He fumbles with it a little and swings out the cylinder. Carefully, he pulls out a bullet with his left hand while using his right hand to keep a steady grip on the gun. He holds it up right in front of both of you. The shiny casing of the bullet and its tan tip immediately captures your gaze.
  444.  
  445. “Didn’t you once say that one bullet would end it all? One bullet through your brain and all of your problems would have been over. You would have no more fears, no more worries, no more cares, no more pain, no more senses…you’d have absolutely nothing. Forever lost in, well, who knows what? The only thing you would accomplish would have been your own death.”
  446.  
  447. You can feel your own heart beating as your mind reflects back to that old nightmare, back to that night you were going to do it before he kidnapped you. You were a completely different person at the time. You used to say a lot of mean things, you joked and messed with others, you experienced bullying and harassment on a daily basis, you had almost no family, you were stacked with crippling debt, you were doing a job you hated, and most of all, you held so much hatred within yourself. You hated that life and you hated yourself.
  448.  
  449. And yet, those feelings have never felt more foreign to you than ever before. Although a pony, you were finally a girl. You lived in a beautiful house with the most affectionate sister you could ever hope to ask for. You were a mommy to one of the sweetest foals you’ve ever met. You had a bunch of friends and support and all the love you could have ever dreamed of. What more could you have asked for?
  450.  
  451. Except…to not have all of those bad memories. To not have that one lake dream. To not have amnesia and hallucinate at random. To not be stuck here talking to this psychopath. But even with these few downsides, you were happy for the most part, right? No way would you even think twice about ending it now. You were in a much better, and far different, state of mind now than you were then. Ignoring the fact that Dr. Money and all of this madness is still scaring the living daylights out of you, you had no desire to kill yourself now.
  452.  
  453. “Even though this was something you ultimately did not want, it was something you did want, albeit for a brief moment in time. The environment you came from and the people you’ve had to interact with changed how you saw the world. You used to think the world you lived in held no purpose or meaning. Through your experiences, you perceived it as being a true nightmare. You viewed others as nasty and cruel. You even came so far as to hating yourself to the point of attempting suicide. But being put in a different body in a different life in a different world filled with love and support has significantly altered how you perceive things and undoubtedly, you view the world in a different, more positive light as a result, correct?”
  454.  
  455. You slowly nod your head with your eyes still fixated on the bullet in his hand.
  456.  
  457. “But even getting an opportunity to live in the world of your dreams still hasn’t proven to be entirely successful.”
  458.  
  459. Dr. Money gently places the bullet back into the cylinder and locks it into place with the frame of the gun. You hear that all-too-familiar click as he does so.
  460.  
  461. What’s he doing? What’s he gonna do? What’s he gonna do next? He then moves the gun upwards and…
  462.  
  463.  
  464. You squeak in terror as he aims it right at you.
  465.  
  466. “Somewhere deep inside of you, that negativity from your past experiences still continues to persist. That darkness. You know what I’m talking about.”
  467.  
  468. “Buh-But, I…I…”
  469.  
  470. He cocks the hammer back and places his index finger on the trigger.
  471.  
  472. “NO! NO PLEASE DON’T! PLEASE!”
  473.  
  474. You curl up into a ball and duck your head into your hooves, praying that he doesn’t…
  475.  
  476. *CLICK*
  477.  
  478. “HUH?!?”
  479.  
  480. You carefully lift your head back up to see…
  481.  
  482. “OH MY GOD!”
  483.  
  484. “Does this look familiar to you?”
  485.  
  486. You jerk back a few inches with your mouth agape, petrified of saying or doing anything. In front of you stood the silhouette of who you presumed was Dr. Money. The entire outline of him was black, save for his white dress shirt tucked underneath his suit. His face was obscured in darkness with the exception of his square-like glasses. His glasses looked down upon you with that same old ominous, glowing whiteness. He was still aiming the gun at you, but the weapon itself hadn’t been engulfed in the blackness. It still retained its same color and appearance.
  487.  
  488. “You’ve seen something similar to this before, haven’t you?”
  489.  
  490. As he talked, glowing whiteness appeared right where his mouth should have been. That whiteness moved as he spoke, but as soon as he finished speaking, it disappeared right off of his face. His whole appearance as a silhouette, as well as the fact that he was still pointing that gun at you, made you feel like you were going to pass out. But instead, your mind races back to the times when you saw a human silhouette hanging in the bathroom and when you were with Clockwork in his silhouette form. What the heck was the significance of those things and why did they exist?
  491.  
  492. “Whu-Why…” is the only response you can muster.
  493.  
  494. He simply stares at you silently and says nothing. Instead, he kneels down, places the gun on the invisible floor, and slides it over to you. The gun spins across and as soon as it bounces against your hooves, it stops. It was pointing straight back at him. What is this?
  495.  
  496. Dr. Money stands back up and once again resumes speaking.
  497.  
  498. “The reason why that gun did not go off and kill you was due to the fact that I carefully placed the cylinder back into the frame of the gun. That bullet I pulled out was the only bullet in it, and it turns out that when I shot at you, the hammer struck an empty chamber. However, I can assure you that when the trigger is pulled again, the bullet will shoot out and hit its intended target. So here’s a little test I’d like to perform with you.”
  499.  
  500. What? No. Is he…?
  501.  
  502. “I would like you to focus on all of your hatred and negativity, including any and all ill feelings you may feel towards me. I want that hatred to fully overcome you when you make this decision. Think of everything wrong I have done to you, especially with the fact that I just tried to shoot you here. Once you have done so, you will have the option to kill me. If you would like to end my life right here, right now, you may do so. This is a decision that is entirely up to you to decide upon.”
  503.  
  504. Kill him? Kill Dr. Money? You’re still trying to process in your head what he just said.
  505.  
  506. You could get rid of this horrible monster for good. You could go back to your life with Nullity. You could prevent him from ever harming anyone else ever again.
  507.  
  508.  
  509. No, you can’t do this. As much as you may not like him and as terrified as you are of him, there’s no way you could ever bring yourself to do such a horrible thing. You’re not a killer. You could never go to that low of a point and kill another living thing, especially a human being.
  510.  
  511.  
  512. But he’s a psychopathic monster who is capable of hurting others. And considering what he’s done to you, who knows what else he might do to others.
  513.  
  514.  
  515. No. You may not like him. Heck, you may even despise him, but you’re no killer. That’s not who you are.
  516.  
  517. “No.”
  518.  
  519. “Hm?”
  520.  
  521. “I SAID NO! I’M NOT GONNA DO THIS! I’m not someone who could ever do something like that. I don’t wanna kill. I don’t wanna hurt. I just want to be with my family and love everything. I don’t wanna do this.”
  522.  
  523. “Hrm…”
  524.  
  525. You notice him shifting his pose a little bit. Considering that most of him was a dark silhouette, it was hard to make out his arms, but it sorta seemed like he was trying to think about something.
  526.  
  527. “Being Radiance really has affected your decision-making and your perception of things, hasn’t it? Viewing yourself as loving and caring and only wanting love, as well as being sensitive to the well-being of others prevents you from becoming engulfed in whatever hatred you used to harbor. The old you wouldn’t have given it a second thought and would have just shot me right on the spot considering everything that I have done to you. Then again, you’re a pony, so you wouldn’t have been able to get a handle on that gun to shoot me even if you wanted to. But regardless, if those thoughts of yours were the best you had in terms of anger and hatred, then maybe we need to try something a little different.”
  528.  
  529. Different? What?
  530.  
  531. “What do you mean by that?”
  532.  
  533. “Wouldn’t you agree that having a loving sister, as well as being around those who legitimately cared about you, influenced your decision-making and your perceptions of others, including the world you lived in? That because of their love and concern over you, you find it more and more difficult to have an overtly negative outlook on the world and instead see the world as perhaps being a better place than what you used to think it was? Do you think…”
  534.  
  535. You notice a glowing white smile spreading across his face. It’s appearance, like the rest of him, kept you more and more on edge.
  536.  
  537. “Do you think I could change all of that completely by placing you right back into a hellish environment?”
  538.  
  539. “Whu-huh?”
  540.  
  541. You start to slowly back up away from him. The way he said that sentence with that glowing white smile was causing every cell, every fiber in your being to scream at you to run away. It’s clear that he’s gonna do something to you. If you were ever going to get away from him, now would be the time to do it. It’s now or never. But where could you even go?
  542.  
  543. “It’s clear to me this darkness you have been experiencing has prevented you from completely living the life of your dreams and has, in effect, prevented my Virtual Dream Machine from operating as efficiently as it might have been able to. Even with the love and support you have acquired living as Radiance, this darkness prevents you from truly living a life of happiness and bliss. So, I would like to perform one more test to see if it is possible to erase this darkness, this trauma, from your mind so that you can go back to living the life of your dreams.”
  544.  
  545. “Whu-What tuh-test?”
  546.  
  547. You notice Dr. Money moving his right arm forward. It seemed as though he was balling his fist, but it was hard to tell from the blackness of his silhouette. His smile was still shining brightly, and eerily, as he continued speaking.
  548.  
  549. “Sometimes, the only way to rid ourselves of our demons is to face them head on. Let’s see if you can confront them and show them the love and support you have gained living as Radiance. Let’s see if you can do all of this on your own and wipe them from your mind. If you ever want to have a shot at true happiness and to truly live the life you’ve always wanted, you must confront your inner demons and move on; otherwise, they will continue to interfere with your life, forever haunting you. So, I ask you, can you show them the same kind of mercy you have shown me?”
  550.  
  551. Almost immediately, you heard fingers snapping. The moment you heard that, a bright flash erupted from Dr. Money’s fist. Like before, you close your eyes and immediately use your arms as a shield for your face. But rather than expecting an explosion to knock you over, you never felt anything hit you. As a matter of fact, you didn’t even hear an explosion. All you heard were fingers snapping and all you saw was a brilliant light engulfing your field of vision. But everything’s quiet now.
  552.  
  553. Cautiously, you slowly open your eyes. You vision was actually a little blurry, but one thing that you did notice were shades of color. Things actually appeared to be a little dark; a strong contrast from being in that empty white void. But as your line of sight starts to sharpen, you become awe-stricken with what you see before yourself.
  554.  
  555. In front of you, you see a glistening sunset across a desert landscape. Hues of yellow, red, orange, and maybe even a hint of violet were painted across the evening sky. Small hills in the horizon, along with cacti and small, scrawny bushes coated the remainder of the landscape. It was all absolutely beautiful. It was just like when you used to go outback to stare at the sky. Remember when you used to do that whenever you had a bad day?
  556.  
  557.  
  558. Wait a minute.
  559.  
  560.  
  561. And then it hits you. You quickly turn around and see it. The backside of the small house you used to live in. The shack of a house you hated living in. It was so small, so dirty, so bland, so isolated, so…depressing. You were facing the back of it and from the looks of things, it still looked like an utter dump in this otherwise scenic landscape. Its appearance was strangely drawing you towards it.
  562.  
  563. Slowly but surely, you stand up and cautiously walk up to the backside of the house. Once you were just a few feet from it, you noticed the back door was missing. There was only an open doorway. That’s strange. Didn’t there used to be a glass screen door on the outside of it, along with a solid wooden door on the inside? Your eyes scan along the frame of the doorway and stranger still, you noticed that there were door hinges along the frame, but no doors. Your gaze shifts from the doorway to the contents inside. Although a little dark, you…you…
  564.  
  565. You gasp. Whu-What happened here? You very carefully walk inside this house, only to notice that the entire house looked as though it had been ransacked. The whole place was littered with garbage. Broken glass, trash, paper, and clothes laid everywhere. The sofa you used to have in front of the back door had been knocked back, with the worn-out cushions laying on the ground ripped open. You also saw the lamp that stood by it lying on the ground; its lampshade smashed with broken glass around it. Even then, you noticed broken glass scattered all around the floor.
  566.  
  567. As cautiously as you can, you try to navigate around the glass past the couch to try to get a better view of the rest of the house. The rest of it, like this part of the house, was all in ruin. If there was any other furniture, it was either destroyed completely, ruined in some manner, or was simply missing. Your front door, as well as the door to your bedroom, were missing just like the back door. You also noticed graffiti here and there on the walls. Some windows were smashed while others remained intact. Anything valuable that you might have once had here was long gone.
  568.  
  569. Overall though, the entire house was a wreck. It looked like it had been ransacked by looters. You’re not entirely sure why someone would do something like this since you used to mostly keep to yourself. Sure, you knew some of the people from your…old…job…
  570.  
  571.  
  572. Wait a minute. Did they come over here and do this? You have been gone for so long and even though you had mostly forgotten about them, you do remember that they didn’t like you. But it didn’t matter at this point. You had moved on from this life. Truthfully, even with the few valuable things you had here, none of it really even mattered. It was still kinda unnerving to be here, but you really didn’t feel all that attached to this place. It felt like this place never even was your home.
  573.  
  574. Your home was with your sister. Your pony sister who loved you oh so very much and who you loved dearly. You both lived in a fairly nice home unlike this one in Vanhoover. You both lived on the outskirts of forestry; you two didn’t live anywhere near a desert. This place you were at now…there’s no way it could have been real. It was something from your nightmare as a human. You’re still a pony, you’re still a girl, and you’re still Radiance. Yet you could tell from your vision and through the sensations of your hooves as you walked along the ground that you were indeed somehow back here. But how? Was Dr. Money playing a trick on you or something?
  575.  
  576. While in the midst of your thoughts, the sounds of a motor outside immediately catch your attention. Its noise startles you. As quickly and carefully as you can without stepping on broken glass, you rush back to hiding behind the overturned couch by the back doorway. The noise from the motor seemed to be coming from the front side of the house.
  577.  
  578. Within the span of a minute or so though, you heard it shutting off. You heard doors opening and within a few seconds, you heard them closing. You also heard voices being exchanged back and forth. You couldn’t quite make out what was being said, but one thing you did realize was that there were several people coming towards the house. As they came closer, it became a little easier to make out their words. You remain absolutely still as you try to focus in on what they were saying.
  579.  
  580. “…the hell are we here for?”
  581.  
  582. “I told you…is gone…we have to…whatever that jackass has lying around.”
  583.  
  584. “This is a waste of time.”
  585.  
  586. Both voices were distinctly male and it sounded as though there were only two of them, until a third voice chimed in.
  587.  
  588. “But guys, hasn’t he been gone for a long time? No one’s seen him. What makes you think others haven’t come by here to steal some of his crap?”
  589.  
  590. “I don’t care. I still want to get back at that asshole, even if it’s just to trash his house. Son of a bitch fucking deserves it for everything he’s done.”
  591.  
  592. “Still would have been more fun going to a bar or something.”
  593.  
  594. “Shut up Grady. I don’t give a fuck what you think. Either help us or go smoke another cigarette. I don’t fucking care.”
  595.  
  596. Wait a minute, Grady? That name…it sounded very familiar. But before you think further, you can hear their footsteps enter through the front door. The footsteps stop as you hear them come into the living room.
  597.  
  598. “Looks like the place was already trashed. I’m with Grady on this. This is a giant waste of time.”
  599.  
  600. “Then why the fuck did you tag along Justin?”
  601.  
  602. “Because I thought we were going somewhere else to hang and not spend the entire evening at this dump.”
  603.  
  604. “But don’t you hate the stupid fucker for everything he’s done?”
  605.  
  606. “Of course I hate him Daniel. I’m pretty sure everyone does. But why the hell should I care about him or anything related to him? He just stopped coming to work and no one’s seen or heard from him since, pure and simple. He’s not worth remembering. There’s no point in dwelling on the past. I’ve got better things to do.”
  607.  
  608. “Whatever. We’re here now and I still want to do something to get back at that fucker.”
  609.  
  610. Daniel, Justin, Grady…you…you remembered them. They were some of your old co-workers you used to really not like. Compared to everyone else there, they bothered you the most. Before you started getting back at them, they always gave you the hardest time at your job. Daniel was their ringleader. He was the shortest of the three, but he was always manipulative and seemed to have a grudge with you ever since you met him. You never knew what his deal was, but for one reason or another, he always gave you the most trouble, harassing you as much as he could without going overboard to the point where his job would be put in jeopardy. When you started getting back at him, you knew he utterly hated it. Although you would prank anonymously, you had a feeling that him being here meant that he knew it was you.
  611.  
  612. As far as Justin and Grady were concerned though, it seemed as though they just hung around him for…well…you weren’t entirely sure why they did. Justin was the classic buff ‘Chad-like’ character you’d see in high school or something. Had a good body, worked out a lot, and seemed to be somewhat well-liked around the office. And yet, he was the serious silent-type. Unless you had some business relating to him, he would mostly just ignore you. However, he would sometimes join Daniel in making your life a living hell. Either through enjoyment, boredom, or a way to pass the time, it seemed like he just messed with you simply because he could.
  613.  
  614. Grady, ironically enough, was the tallest of the three, and was skinny to the bone. You remember he had some kind of eating disorder, but he was more of the type who’d join in on the crowd because everyone was doing it. You can’t remember if he specifically had anything directly against you, but whenever Daniel and sometimes Justin would do something to you, he would take part in it because they and everyone else in the office would laugh at you if something happened to you.
  615.  
  616. Really though, it was Daniel who probably hated you the most and judging by what you could hear from them, it was because of him that they were here. And his presence and the recollection of who they are alone already makes you want to leave. They weren’t good company and you loathed having to ever be around them. Sure, you’re not a human anymore and you’re Radiance, but if they found you, you know they would do something to you just out of spite. You had to get out of here.
  617.  
  618. Fortunately though, you were hiding from them behind the couch and the back doorway was just right across from you. With the couch as your cover, you could just make a quick beeline forward and get the heck out of here without them ever seeing you. But as soon as you finish that thought, you could hear their footsteps once more.
  619.  
  620. You heard broken glass crunch a few times as they walked about. Each crunch made you cringe.
  621.  
  622. “I’m going to go search through his bedroom and see if there’s anything valuable in there. Justin, you stay here and keep guard. If you see anything, holler.”
  623.  
  624. “Pretty sure we’ll be the only ones here, but do whatever. Just hurry it up. I’m bored enough as it is.”
  625.  
  626. There was a pause, but Daniel spoke up once more.
  627.  
  628. “Grady, you go back over there and search around. If you find anything, holler.”
  629.  
  630. You could hear their footsteps resuming as the three shuffled around the house. You were about to make a dash out the back door, until you heard who you assumed were Grady’s footsteps approach to where you were hiding
  631.  
  632. Ack!
  633.  
  634. You quickly move to the side of the couch away from the back door as he walked to where you were previously. He was not more than two or three feet away from you. You wouldn’t even dare turn your head to snag a quick glance at him. You remain as still and as silent as you possibly can.
  635.  
  636. Although you really didn’t like these guys, you weren’t terribly afraid of them. They just had a tendency of irking you like no other. But years of dealing with their taunting and harassment had taken its toll on you. If you wanted to have a scapegoat for all of your problems, you’d love them to be that. Yet now, you were a frail pony. There’s nothing you could even do to them to defend yourself from them except bite them or maybe buck them in surprise. Your best bet on getting out of here though would be to dash through the back door and run. But with Grady in the way here, you were trapped. You’d just have to wait it out. Just whatever you do, don’t…
  637.  
  638.  
  639. Suddenly, you heard what sounded like a flame igniting. You begin to panic, thinking he just started a fire, until you smell nicotine. Relief courses through you once you realize that he was only lighting a cigarette.
  640.  
  641.  
  642. No…No that’s really not good. You try your best to keep yourself from gagging. Because you had hooves and not hands, you couldn’t pinch your muzzle to keep the smoke from invading your nostrils. Although you never had anything personal against people who smoked, you always hated breathing in any form of smoke, especially cigarette smoke. The stuff always smelled toxic and made you dizzy. You never understood why people did it, or how one could get addicted to smoking considering how bad it smelled. It was just icky stuff you didn’t like to breathe in. But within seconds of smelling the nicotine-rich smoke, you struggle in holding your breath.
  643.  
  644. Oh God…this is gonna be torture. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away.
  645.  
  646. “Dang man, that’s one heck of a sunset. Makes ya just wanna stare up at the sky for hours on end.”
  647.  
  648. FUDGE! Of course he’s just gonna freaking stand there and do nothing. Your one way out is blocked by this loon. Fuuuuuuuuuuuudddddddddddddddddgggggggggggggggeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!
  649.  
  650. Without notice, however, you accidentally begin to cough from breathing in the yucky smoke. Realizing what you just did, you immediately cover your mouth with your hooves.
  651.  
  652. “Huh?”
  653.  
  654. Oh no.
  655.  
  656. “What was that?”
  657.  
  658. You could hear his footsteps nearing ever closer towards you. Your heart beating to the point where it felt like it was gonna burst out of your chest, you try your absolute best to remain absolutely still and silent. You briefly close your eyes debating whether or not to make a dash for it. Now or never, now or never, now or…
  659.  
  660. “What the hell?”
  661.  
  662. RUN!
  663.  
  664. You sprint as fast as you possibly can towards the back doorway. Your eyes remain glued on the exit as you try to dash towards it. You didn’t want to see Grady or anyone else. You just wanted to get the heck out of here. And yet, almost immediately, you were stopped dead in your tracks as you felt your tail being pulled hard against the direction you were running. It’s enough to make you yelp and fall onto the ground.
  665.  
  666. “And where do you think you’re going Lil Missy?”
  667.  
  668. You turn your head back around you to see your tail being held in a firm grip by…buh…buh…by…
  669.  
  670. Your eyes widen in shock when all you see is a dark silhouette of a person holding your tail. Like the other silhouettes you had seen previously, the only things visible were the glowing white eyes and the whiteness coming from his mouth. You could see a cigarette sticking out of his mouth, with the smoke faintly floating around its glowing orange tip. As you had remembered, Grady was tall for his height, as was this silhouette.
  671.  
  672. He stood over you, looming overhead like a predator that was about to attack you. His mouth was in the shape of a faint smile. Fear was all you could feel at this point. He briefly turns his head away as he begins to call out to Daniel and Justin.
  673.  
  674. “Hey guys! I found something.”
  675.  
  676. Within seconds, you saw the other two walk into the room you and Grady were in. And just like Grady, both Daniel and Justin where silhouettes too, just with different heights and body sizes. Though since you remembered that Daniel was the shortest one of the other two facing you, you could tell who was who. Daniel was the first to speak up.
  677.  
  678. “What the literal fuck is that?”
  679.  
  680. “Shit man, I dunno. I was just out back here having me a smoke and I hear something cough. Then this little thing comes out of nowhere. I think it’s a pony.”
  681.  
  682. “Pony? Have you ever seen a real fucking pony before? That thing looks like some weird cartoon pony. What the fuck is this thing doing here of all places?”
  683.  
  684. “Hell if I know man.”
  685.  
  686. Your heart was beating so hard that you felt you were almost gonna have a panic attack.
  687.  
  688. “Wait a minute, did you say a cartoon pony?”
  689.  
  690. Justin, the silhouette you hadn’t seen speak before, walks right up to you and kneels down to get a closer look at you.
  691.  
  692. His glowing white eyes amidst the blackness of his silhouette unnerved you perhaps more than anything or anyone else you’ve seen as a silhouette. You couldn’t tell what he was thinking or what he was gonna do. All you knew is that you were quickly becoming more and more terrified every second he looked you over.
  693.  
  694. “What’s this?”
  695.  
  696. He leans his arm forward and grabs the heart-shaped necklace you were wearing. He turns it around and…
  697.  
  698. “Well I’ll be damned. Look at this.”
  699.  
  700. He holds the backside of the necklace up a little so that both Daniel and Grady could see it.
  701.  
  702. “No way.”
  703.  
  704. “Holy shit!”
  705.  
  706. “Whu-What’s it say?”
  707.  
  708. You actually spoke to them. In so doing, you could’ve sworn you saw them jump back a little in surprise.
  709.  
  710. “What the fuck? It can talk?”
  711.  
  712. “Well guys, I think we might have just found out what happened to Anon.”
  713.  
  714. You notice a low whistle coming from Grady.
  715.  
  716. “Dang man. Is that really him?”
  717.  
  718. “I-I don’t get it. Whu-What’s on the necklace?”
  719.  
  720. Justin turns it so that you can see it. Scribbled on the back of it was the name “Anon.”
  721.  
  722. What? There was never any writing on it beforehand. It was just a simple necklace in the shape of a heart. That…That doesn’t make sense.
  723.  
  724. “Buh-But I’m nuh-not Anon. I duh-don’t look anything like him. I’m a puh-pony. I’m Radiance.”
  725.  
  726. “Shut up you fucking freak of nature.”
  727.  
  728. Those words felt like daggers piercing through your heart. They hurt. You weren’t used to being talked to like that. To be in that presence of hatred being directed towards you…it made you feel horrible. Involuntarily, your ears begin to droop. And yet…
  729.  
  730.  
  731. “H-Hey!”
  732.  
  733. You get pulled right off the ground, only to float in midair, with your tail being held firm by Grady’s hand.
  734.  
  735. “Owowowowowowowowowowowow! Stop it! That really hurts! Stop it!”
  736.  
  737. “Hurts? You think that fucking hurts? Wait until you get a fistful of THIS!”
  738.  
  739. Before you have time to look, you suddenly…
  740.  
  741. *SMACK*
  742.  
  743. Your vision temporarily goes black as what feels like a brick slams across the left side of your face. You feel yourself bounce from the force as you simultaneously feel Grady release your tail from his grip. Within a second or so, you feel yourself land on something sharp and yelp in pain.
  744.  
  745. Burning sensations quickly course through your body as your head begins to pound with one of the worst headaches ever imaginable. Vision briefly returning, albeit better in your right eye than your left, you notice blood dripping out of your muzzle onto your furry white coat. You briefly turn your body sideways as you begin to moan in pain. Turning your head and looking down, you see blood and scratches covering your side as you realize that you’ve fallen on broken glass.
  746.  
  747. “THAT’S for all the shit you pulled on me, you fucking piece of shit!”
  748.  
  749. “You know, I stand corrected Daniel. This actually looks like it could be more fun than going to a bar.”
  750.  
  751. “Whu…” is all you manage to say before you feel someone kick you as hard as possible from your other side. You feel your breath being knocked out of you as the resulting kick slams you hard against the wall.
  752.  
  753. You begin wheezing from having the air knocked out of you. As you wheeze and cough however, blood spits out of your mouth and further stains your white fur. You slowly try to lift yourself up, only to feel a searing burning sensation flash through your body. Your muscles were screaming in agony as you tried to move.
  754.  
  755. You, on the other hand, merely cough out a little more blood as your gaze weakly shifts up to face the trio of silhouettes. The one who kicked you, who appeared to be Justin, was grinning at you.
  756.  
  757. “Dang Justin. That sure was an awesome kick. Guess all of that time at the gym really paid off, huh?”
  758.  
  759. Justin briefly turns to look back towards Grady.
  760.  
  761. “Thanks man. Though, to be fair, I usually work out just to stay in shape. Also doesn’t hurt in being able to better impress the ladies. And yet, staying fit can also pretty useful for self-defense…and to beat up faggots like this degenerate piece of garbage.”
  762.  
  763. “Buh…Buh…*cough*…*hack*…I’m nuh-not…”
  764.  
  765. “Shut up you tranny faggot.”
  766.  
  767. Although you were in immense physical pain, Justin’s words were wounding your increasingly fragile state of mind. You start to cry and emit a low whine as pain sears through your entire being.
  768.  
  769. “Hey Justin. Mind if I take a stab in making him shut up?”
  770.  
  771. “Be my guest Grady. But that’s not a he, and that’s most certainly not a she. That’s an it.”
  772.  
  773. You close your eyes and whimper.
  774.  
  775. “I’m…I’m…*cough*…I’m…a…a…muh-mommy. I’m…I’m a guh-girl.”
  776.  
  777. “Shut up you degenerate horsefucker.”
  778.  
  779. Your eyes open as you see Daniel standing over you, holding Grady’s cigarette in his hand.
  780.  
  781. “Hey man, I was gonna do that.”
  782.  
  783. You look up into his eyes as teary-eyed as possible, hopping he would offer you some mercy.
  784.  
  785. “Burn faggot.”
  786.  
  787. You see the cigarette fall onto your tummy.
  788.  
  789. “The only good faggot is a dead one.”
  790.  
  791. You yelp in horror as the smoldering tip of the cigarette starts to ignite the fur surrounding your tummy.
  792.  
  793. “Come on faggot. Burn. I want to watch you die.”
  794.  
  795. You begin screaming as loud as you can. The heat of the small flames on your coat causes you to jump and land on your side. Even though your muscles were screaming in agony and you most likely had broken bones, you try your best in a frantic state to roll over on the ground to snuff out the small fire on your coat. Your screams turn into blood-curling screams as you begin accidentally rolling over the broken glass on the floor.
  796.  
  797. More and more pain permeated throughout your body. You were in a desperate struggle for survival, trying all you could to snuff out the flames, even though you were harming yourself further by doing so. In your desperate attempts, however, you could hear them laughing in hysteria.
  798.  
  799. “Look at it! Look at the faggot burning! Isn’t that beautiful?”
  800.  
  801. “If only more faggots could do the world a favor and just off themselves. It’d make it a heck of a lot easier for people like us.”
  802.  
  803. “But where’s the fun in that? I dunno about you two, but I’m having fun watching horsefucking tranny faggots like this one suffer. It’s more fun to beat the ever-living crap out of them than it is for them to kill themselves.”
  804.  
  805. You didn’t know who was saying what, but by the time that last sentence was spoken, you collapse on your back, wheezing and coughing and moaning in pain. You look down at your tummy and notice that you no longer had any flames on it. Instead, however, you noticed open wounds all across it, with charred fur in several patches and blood trickling down your sides.
  806. You were in so much agonizing pain that you could do no more besides lie back and whimper and cry while staring at the three silhouettes who were enjoying making your life a living hell.
  807.  
  808. “Whu…*hack*…*cough*…*hack*…Whu…Why are yuh-you d-doing this to…to me?”
  809.  
  810. “Isn’t it obvious Anon?”
  811.  
  812. You see Daniel walking up to you.
  813.  
  814. “You’re a piece of garbage that no one likes. All you do is take up air, food, water, and wasted space, further polluting the world with your disgusting degeneracy. I mean, look at yourself.”
  815.  
  816. You see him kneeling down, pointing down towards the lower half of your body.
  817.  
  818. “You’re some dead-beat loser who lives in a dump like this. I don’t know if you’ve ever picked up on it, you stupid dumbass, but no one here in this world likes you, let alone loves you. All you ever do is piss people like us off and waste our time with your fucking retarded pranks. Do you think we go to work to get screwed over by retarded fucktards like you? NO! We go to work so we can get our jobs done well, make raises, and earn a better living. Do you know why you’ll never make it big? All you ever do at work and at home is waste away your time sitting in front of a screen trying to piss others off. It’s no wonder you’re in the shithole you’re in right now. Do you think ANYONE would want to be with a loser such as yourself? Do you think ANYONE would want to date you? Do you think ANYONE would want to get laid by you? Hell, do you think ANYONE would want to even fucking love you? I mean, who the hell would want to go out with a scumbag like you, especially a degenerate horsefucking tranny faggot?”
  819.  
  820. You close your eyes and begin crying hard. His words felt like a million daggers piercing your heart.
  821.  
  822. “Aww…what’s the matter faggot? Did I hurt your precious little feelings? Was I a little too harsh?
  823.  
  824. You feel a sudden slap smack across your face. The slap goes across the side of your face that had been previously punched. More and more pain sears through your body as you begin screaming through your crying.
  825.  
  826. “Jesus fucking Christ…MAN THE FUCK UP!!!”
  827.  
  828. You can’t take it. The combination of physical and mental abuse you were enduring was causing you to lose it. All you can do is scream and cry like a helpless child, desperate for any form of mercy.
  829.  
  830. “Guess you really are a faggot then, huh? Was being a man so hard that you wanted to be a woman? Do you want to be treated like a woman, you tranny faggot?”
  831.  
  832. You felt another slap hit you hard across the opposite side of your face.
  833.  
  834. “STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!!!!”
  835.  
  836. You scream and cough and hack in agony, desperate for them to stop.
  837.  
  838. “What’s wrong slut? I thought you wanted to be a woman. Don’t you also want to be treated like one too? Even if you were a woman, I bet you’d be a filthy whore. A bitch. A pedophile. A pure freak of nature. Oh wait a minute. You already are one. You’re some kind of sick horsefucking tranny faggot.”
  839.  
  840. You weakly open your eyes to see Daniel’s silhouette face just a few inches over your own face. He was leaning over you while the other two stood behind him, both smiling at you. You quickly become silent with tears streaming down your face as they mixed with the blood trickling out of your mouth, further staining your blood-soaked fur.
  841.  
  842. “The best thing you could ever do for yourself and for the world is to follow your fellow faggots and kill yourself, you fucking faggot. Seriously, no one would miss you and I’m pretty sure anyone else who knew you would be glad you’re gone. Come on faggot. Wanna kill yourself? You should. You really should.”
  843.  
  844. Through the corner of your eyes, you notice Justin leaning down for something.
  845.  
  846. “Hey Daniel. I think I found something you might like.”
  847.  
  848. Daniel stands back up off of you as he turns back towards Justin.
  849.  
  850. “What?”
  851.  
  852. “Check it out. It’s a gun.”
  853.  
  854. You see from the distance that it’s your gun; the same gun you tried to kill yourself with and the same gun that Dr. Money used to scare you.
  855.  
  856. “Dang man. Who woulda thought it would have something like that?”
  857.  
  858. “I don’t know Grady. But what I do know is…”
  859.  
  860. You squeak in horror as Daniel turns around and immediately places the muzzle of the gun just a few inches from your face.
  861.  
  862. “…faggots like you should be burning in hell like the scum that you all are.”
  863.  
  864. You cough and wail and beg for Daniel to stop what he was doing.
  865.  
  866. “Nuh-No! PLEASE! I don’t wuh-wanna die. Pluh-Please…”
  867.  
  868. You notice Daniel cocking back the hammer. This…This is it. You’re really gonna die right here like this.
  869.  
  870.  
  871. You start emitting a low-pitched whine once more as you weakly try to put your arms in front of your head as one last form of defense. You knew it wouldn’t help, but terrified of even comprehending death and dying like this, you try and shield yourself from seeing the weapon and close your eyes. No other thoughts ran through your head as you began to quietly accept your oncoming death.
  872.  
  873. “Rot in hell, you piece of degenerate garbage.”
  874.  
  875. This is it. He’s gonna do it. He’s really gonna do it. Trembling, you try to muster one final deep breath and…
  876.  
  877. *BANG*
  878.  
  879. ……
  880. ………
  881. …………
  882.  
  883. You’re…You’re not dead? Buh…But…you’re ears…they’re ringing. You heard the gun go off. But you never felt anything hit you. Lowering your arms, you begin to open your eyes to see…
  884.  
  885. Whu…What? Y-Your fur…it’s…it’s…clean? You look down at yourself and see that your whole body was as clean as having come out of a bath. No dirt, no glass, no blood, no burned fur, no stains of any kind; you saw nothing on you.
  886.  
  887. Slowly but surely, you rise to your hooves and try stretching and bending and moving around a little, only to find that you didn’t suffer from any injuries. Although shell-shocked by what just happened, you can move with ease. There’s no cramps, no burning sensations, no blood, and there’s no…no…
  888.  
  889.  
  890. Looking around you, you see you’re actually no longer at your old house. Instead, you’re in a room you do not recognize. You were in a windowless room with no doors of any kind. White walls encircled you with brown carpet resting beneath you. The only things you saw, for one reason or another, was a flat screen TV hanging against the wall in front of you, as well as a wooden table sitting in front of it. There was also a stool sitting in front of the table and from above, there was a mere lightbulb dangling on a wire attached to the ceiling. It cast a dim glow that illuminated the room around you. The TV itself was on, and yet, all that was displayed on the screen was static. But before you knew it, you heard a voice…an all too familiar voice coming from the TV.
  891.  
  892. “Strange, isn’t it?”
  893.  
  894. “Duh-Dr. Muh-Money?”
  895.  
  896. “How our senses can be fooled and manipulated into believing in things that never even happened in the physical reality, yet can seem so very real in our own personal reality. People, actions, experiences, reactions, sensations…all of it is only as real as we make them out to be.”
  897.  
  898. “Whu-Whu-What?”
  899.  
  900. “Everything you just experienced, being physically assaulted, beaten, berated, harassed, and nearly killed by three individuals you once knew who hated you for who you are…everything you just experienced there, all of that was fake. None of that was real.”
  901.  
  902. “WHAT?!?!”
  903.  
  904. Through the static flickering around on the TV screen, you could see a faint outline of yourself. Your eyes were wide, pupils dilated, heart beating more and more rapidly. A rush of uneasy energy was rapidly beginning to flow through you. You hated the feeling, but you could feel it.
  905.  
  906. Hatred. Pure hatred over what just happened to you. The beating, the derogatory language, the combination of verbal and physical assaults, the fact that they tortured you, that Daniel was really going to kill you, the pure hatred that was dealt to you…that same level of hatred and rage was on the verge of exploding out of you. How…How could none of that have happened?
  907.  
  908. “How…HOW WAS NONE OF THAT GODDAMN SICK SHIT REAL?!?! HOW THE FUCK COULD ALL OF THAT HAVE NEVER HAPPENED?!? I WAS BEATEN, TREATED HORRIBLY, YELLED AT LIKE I WAS GARBAGE, AND I THOUGHT I WAS ABOUT TO DIE! HOW?!? HOW THE LITERAL FUCK WAS ALL OF THAT FAKE?!?!?”
  909.  
  910. There was a small part of you that felt weird cursing for once as a pony, but considering the physical and mental abuse you just endured, you didn’t care. You were furious, absolutely furious, as well as shocked, horrified, and more confused than ever that all of that was fake and that physically, you were now fine despite experiencing all of the injuries that were inflicted upon you.
  911.  
  912. You SAW it all happen. You HEARD it all happen. You FELT it all happen. But now, in just a blink of an eye, it’s as if it was all just your imagination. How can that be though? How can you experience something so horrific that feels so utterly real, only to be told it’s just your mind messing with you? HOW THE FUCK IS THAT POSSIBLE?!?
  913.  
  914. “Would you like to know how all of this is really possible? Would you like to know what’s really going on?”
  915.  
  916. “GOD DAMMIT! HOW IN SAM HELL DO YOU KNOW WHAT I’M THINKING?!?”
  917.  
  918. You actually hear chuckling coming on Dr. Money’s end. His laughing only further fuels your rage.
  919.  
  920. “TELL ME WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON, OR I’LL…”
  921.  
  922. Right then and there, the static on the screen disappears, only to give way to what appeared to be three individuals gagged, bounded, and blindfolded in three steel chairs. They all sat in a metallic room that looked deteriorated with all sorts of stains coating the floor and the walls surrounding them. And although small, you also noticed holes in the ground that were near the three individuals. The sight of them alone stops you from saying another word.
  923.  
  924. It was them. Daniel, Justin, and Grady. Only this time, they weren’t silhouettes. You could see them dressed in what looked like orange prisoner clothing of some sort. All three of them were barefoot, and with their mouths gagged and their eyes blindfolded. The only other additional features you could make out from aside from their body sizes were Grady’s long, wavy brown hair, Justin’s short black hair, and Daniel’s bald head. They just sat there motionless. What is this?
  925.  
  926. “As I am sure you can already tell, the three individuals shown on screen are the same people who you perceived to have been harming you. What you just experienced was nothing more than my Virtual Dream Machine tapping into your subconscious so that it could bring out your worst demons; the same demons that have prevented you from living a happy life here. As I have been analyzing very carefully, each mental demon that you encounter seems to take on the form of a silhouette representative of something that has happened to you in your past. Each demon symbolically represents a form of trauma that has damaged your personal psyche and has hampered your ability to enjoy life. From the conclusions that I can draw, the silhouette hanging in the bathroom represents you trying to let go of your old self as Anon and in trying to begin your new life as Radiance. Yet considering the abuse you dealt with in your younger years, you have been unable to let go and move on. Wanting to live as a female and to be who you feel you should be while growing up in an environment that has greatly condemned such a desire has prevented you from adapting to living as a female, let alone as a female pony known as Radiance. That strongly negative environmental influence, also in the form of Daniel, Justin, and Grady as silhouettes, represents the trauma you feel you have endured from that upbringing; that people will always hate you for trying to be who you feel you are and that everyone would be better off with you dead. Clockwork in silhouette form likewise represents your attempt of suicide and how even attempting such an action has also mentally traumatized you. And seeing me as a silhouette…that, I assume, also represents the underlying hatred and anger nestled deep within you. The sorrow, the rage, the darkness…you’ve never really truly let any of that out, have you?”
  927.  
  928. All you could do was sit there and stare at the screen of the three figures being held captive as you felt your heart beating ripe with emotion.
  929.  
  930. “As long as you hang on to that darkness and never let it out, there is nothing I nor anyone or anything else can do to make you be happy, unless…”
  931.  
  932. Dr. Money briefly pauses his speech before resuming what he was going to say.
  933.  
  934. “…it was done by force. But before resorting to that option, I would like to see if you personally can expel this darkness from yourself and rid yourself of your mental demons, of your past traumas, so that you are able to live your life in peace. Therefore, I have assembled one last test for you. You see the three figures in front of you, yes?”
  935.  
  936. You slowly nod your head as your eyes remain glued to Daniel, Justin, and Grady.
  937.  
  938. “Excellent. Now, if you would be so kind, please hop up onto the stool so that you can see what lies on top of the table.”
  939.  
  940. Without hesitation, almost in a zombified trance, you climb onto the stool and position yourself. In front of you on top of the table, you saw a silver panel with a giant red button on the left and a giant green button on the right. You saw no words on the panel, and the only other thing you noticed was a black wire attached to it that ran to the TV. Your eyes scan the two buttons and your gaze quickly returns to the TV.
  941.  
  942. Suddenly, you hear what sounds like a speaker or a microphone trying to come on in the room shown on the TV.
  943.  
  944. “Ahem. Can you three hear me?”
  945.  
  946. Almost instantaneously, Daniel, Justin, and Grady sit straight up. You can hear them trying to muffle words, but you can’t make them out due to their gags.
  947.  
  948. “I’ll take that as a yes. Good. You’re all awake. Now, as I’m sure you three must be wondering, you’re here as part of an experiment I would like to conduct with a person you all may know of: Anon.”
  949.  
  950. You notice Justin and Grady becoming silent, yet Daniel starts to fumble and move around as much as he can in his chair; what you can only guess is him trying to break free of the binds that held him in place.
  951.  
  952. “I’m sure the three of you share some history with him, and as I am quite sure he can attest to, you weren’t necessarily fond of each other. Now, what exactly you may have done to him, I do not know, but I can assure you that he is here right now watching and listening to what I have to say. As a matter of fact, he is the one in control of this experiment and is the one who will ultimately decide your fate. And Anon?”
  953.  
  954. You simply remain silent and stare at the screen, watching and listening to the events unfolding.
  955.  
  956. “What you are seeing is real-time footage. Although you may choose to believe what you wish to believe, I can assure you that what you are seeing on this TV screen is very real and is not occurring inside the Virtual Dream Machine. Everything else you have been experiencing up to this point, including the room you are in now, is all a virtual generation that has been playing off of your mind. However, the room that Daniel, Justin, and Grady find themselves in is a real room located somewhere in my facility. Actually, to be more precise, the room they are in is a gas chamber.”
  957.  
  958. Upon mention of this, you notice all three of them beginning to struggle in their chairs.
  959.  
  960. “And this is where your test comes in. The red button on your left will cause a mechanism under the floor to release potassium cyanide pellets into a vat of sulfuric acid, which will dissolve and produce hydrogen cyanide gas through the holes in the floor beneath them. Hydrogen cyanide in particular is a very lethal gas that can cause death in under a minute by inhibiting cellular respiration from functioning properly in the body. This in effect prevents the body from absorbing oxygen and can very quickly lead to seizures, apnea, and cardiac arrest. However, there have been cases where the gas does not kill right away, and can leave a person to suffer in excruciating pain for several long, agonizing minutes. Although no one is quite sure what that pain is like, there was one individual who once ingested cyanide as a form of suicide and quickly wrote down what he experienced before he convulsed and died. According to him, it feels like having the inside of your body being lit on fire. Now, I can imagine that’s quite painful, huh?”
  961.  
  962. You notice Daniel, Justin, and Grady now beginning to try to scream through their gagged mouths, wiggling and moving as much as possible to try and escape from where they were, but to no avail.
  963.  
  964. “Should you press that button, the gas will release, and you will get to have the pleasure of hearing and watching them die. You can let out all of your rage, your anger…everything that has gone wrong in your life…you can let it all out on them. After all, they tortured you, beat you, harassed you, wanted you to kill yourself, and they even tried to take your life. Or did they? What you just previously experienced, at least from my perspective, did not happen. All of their actions might have seemed very real and felt really real to you, but all of that was a manifestation of the negative treatment you were dealt with in your whole life as Anon. And to have that darkness from within you be front and center, you now have the ability to expel it from your life for good. But how will you expel it? Will you let them die, or will you press the green button on your right? Pressing that button will spare them, and I can guarantee that I’ll do my best to give them a new life filled with love and happiness in an upcoming experiment that I have planned; one that you might also participate in based on your decision here.”
  965.  
  966. You could hear all of them screaming as loud as they could, desperately wailing muffled pleas.
  967.  
  968. “It’s almost ironic in a way. You having the ability to determine their fates by pressing one of the buttons in front of you. To me, it almost reminds me of being on the Internet while sitting in front of a computer. Say you come across someone who is suicidal on some anonymous message board. You have the option to talk them out of it and comfort them, or you can encourage them and provoke them to end it. Whatever action you take is based purely off of your beliefs and personal code of ethics. Regardless, no one knows what ultimately happens to that individual since that person, yourself, and everyone else are all anonymous. After all, how much of all of that is even real? There’s always the possibility that it’s all fake. Maybe that individual wasn’t suicidal and was just seeking attention. But what if it was all real? There is also the possibility that the individual was very much suicidal but would only do whatever it is you said to them. Just because all of this is happening in cyberspace, does that make it all seem any more or less real to you? Even in cyberspace, reality is simply how you perceive it to be. Either way, there’s no real way of knowing what happens to them, aside from what you perceive to be real and not real, and what you chose to do and say to them at the end of the day.”
  969.  
  970. You yourself start to shake, feeling tears beginning to well up in your eyes as your heart starts to ache with emotions you never felt or thought you had.
  971.  
  972. “And here, no one besides you or me would know what would happen to these guys. Regardless of which decision you make, they’ll never be seen or heard from again, at least not by the people they knew. And no one else will know of the decision you have made. Can you let out all of your darkness and forgive them by giving them the love and support you showed me when I tried to kill you, or will you expel your darkness by ending their lives for what you perceived wrongly happened to you? Perhaps the bigger question to ask, in my opinion, is are you Anon, or are you Radiance?”
  973.  
  974. Just as soon as Dr. Money finishes speaking, you hear a loud screeching noise coming from the speakers, signaling the end of his speech. It, however, does nothing additional to phase you. Your teary gaze is too transfixed on what you are witnessing on the screen in front of you. All you hear now are Daniel, Justin, and Grady frantically screaming and shaking in their chairs. All they can do is scream hopelessly for help. And you…you are the only form of help they can ever hope to receive.
  975.  
  976. But why would you even want to help them? They tried to kill you. They urged you to take your own life. They attacked you mercilessly and even tried to light you on fire. Not only that, they enjoyed hurting you. They took pleasure in your suffering. They. Wanted. You. Dead.
  977.  
  978. So why can’t you feel the same towards them? Just by pushing the big red button in front of you, you could give them their death sentence. You could watch them writhe in agony as they breathed in the noxious gas.
  979.  
  980. Just look at them. Look at how they are desperately trying to break free from their binds. Their screams too…can you imagine not even knowing if or when the hydrogen cyanide gas would be produced? To be in that state of panic…to wonder if the breath you’re taking will be your last breath…for them to be experiencing that fear…why not relish and savor it? You deserve every form of revenge imaginable against them.
  981.  
  982. After all, what kind of sick monster urges others to take their own lives? What kind of deranged lunatic tries to kill another living being for their own pleasure? They deserve to die. If anything, the same form of torture they threw on you should be thrown right back at them.
  983.  
  984. Laugh at them. Mock them. Scare them. Kill them for the sake of revenge. Kill them for the sake of pleasure. Kill them for…for…
  985.  
  986.  
  987. …tries to kill another living being for their own pleasure…what kind of monster…you.
  988.  
  989.  
  990. NO! YOU CAN’T! You can’t push the red button! This isn’t you! You’re not like this! You’re not a monster! You’re not a killer! Don’t you see?
  991.  
  992. You close your teary eyes and bury your head in your hooves.
  993.  
  994. Dr. Money has been playing tricks on you from the very beginning. He wants to see if he can turn you into just as much of a monster as them by subjugating you with your own demons. He even said so himself. If you’ve been in a virtual world all of this time, then what these guys just did to you was all fake! You might not have gotten along with Daniel, Justin, and Grady at work, but they never once urged you to kill yourself. They never even tried to physically harm you. It’s all in your head!
  995.  
  996.  
  997. But if it’s all in your head, then how were you able to experience being physically punched, kicked, lit on fire, slapped, and shot at?
  998.  
  999.  
  1000. Then if all of that was real, how come you’re not injured right now? How were you able to teleport from a doctor’s room to a white void to your old house out in a desert to then be sealed up in the room you’re in right now? Don’t you understand? Dr. Money is playing on your perceptions!
  1001.  
  1002. PERCEPTION!
  1003.  
  1004. Everything is all based on your perception and how you interpret things. That’s the point he has been trying to make all this time! You’re perceiving Daniel, Justin, and Grady to be much worse than they actually are. They’re living beings just like you! Killing them will turn you into just as much of a monster as you perceive them to be!
  1005.  
  1006.  
  1007. You lift your head up and open your eyes. All three of them were desperately and frantically trying to get themselves out of their binds. They were screaming their loudest, wailing and pleading in any desperate way for mercy. They didn’t even look like the inhuman monsters you saw previously. Instead, they looked like sentient cattle who knew they were on the verge of being slaughtered. Their screams didn’t even sound like human screams. They sounded more like shrieks of inhuman terror. They were absolutely terrified of what you were going to do.
  1008.  
  1009. And considering what they have done to you in the past, they very well should be. You can kill them. You can really kill them. You have every right to do so. Daniel, Justin, Grady and everyone like them that you have encountered in the past…they’ve done nothing but help make your life a living hell.
  1010.  
  1011. You may not be able to get revenge on everyone, but at least you can do it to these guys. You can kill them. Just push the red button.
  1012.  
  1013.  
  1014. NO! NO! NO! YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT DO THAT!!! Whatever wrongs they may have enacted upon you prior to what you just experienced here, they never once tried to urge you to kill yourself. Don’t you remember? They never even tried to kill you. If anything, all they did was poke fun at you and called you nicknames. But did they ever call you things like “faggot,” “tranny,” or “horsefucker?”
  1015.  
  1016. NO!
  1017.  
  1018. They never once tried to actually berate you to the point of making you feel like you should die. All they did was tease you for things relating to work and that you weren’t like everyone else there. Everyone gets teased now and again. But does making fun of someone warrant them a death sentence?
  1019.  
  1020. NO!
  1021.  
  1022. You might have come across some really horrible people in the past, but Daniel, Justin, and Grady aren’t those kinds of people. They’re living beings just like you. You can’t do this to them. They deserve to live. Please. Please just press the green button!
  1023.  
  1024.  
  1025. Their screams were beginning to sink in and cloud your thinking. Tears were rapidly starting to flow from your eyes as you watched them scream and writhe in terror. A good part of you really did want to kill them and get back at them for everything they’ve done. And yet, to have the desire to kill, even if you viewed it as some form of righteous revenge for what happened to you, disturbed you greatly.
  1026.  
  1027. Never in your entire life have you ever actually wanted to harm someone to the point where they would die. Even when you were bullied for not being what everyone wanted you to be, you never wanted to actually torture or kill any of them. Instead, you just wanted to get out of that nightmare of a life and start a whole new one.
  1028.  
  1029. You wanted to be someone else. You wanted to bask in love and affection and share that same love and affection back to everyone you knew. You wanted to snuggle and protect those you loved dearly. You wanted to be feminine and cute and sweet and oh so affectionate and cuddly. You wanted to be a mommy and start a family and live a life of peace and happiness.
  1030.  
  1031. And yet your old life…the people you’d interact with…they’d make you feel like a monster. That you were a freak of nature. That you should be ashamed of who you are and be what everyone else wanted you to be: not you.
  1032.  
  1033. And if they didn’t want you to be you and wanted you to be something else, then why not become something terrifying? To have the ability to terrify…to be able to torture…to be able to kill…why not unleash that same form of monstrosity back at the same people who ridiculed you for being a “degenerate horsefucking tranny faggot?” Seems like they enjoy this side of you more. Hatred over love…well…it’s their call.
  1034.  
  1035.  
  1036. You begin sniffling as your eyes dash from the screen down to the two buttons that lay before you. Tears begin dripping on both of the buttons as your mind races back and forth over which one to press. Your eyes become glued to the giant red button, while the sounds of their screams permeate through the room.
  1037.  
  1038. DON’T!!! DON’T PUSH THAT BUTTON! You’re not a monster! You’re not a killer! YOU CAN’T DO THAT!
  1039.  
  1040. Don’t you remember? They never called you a “degenerate horsefucking tranny faggot.” That was just an illusion Dr. Money performed to mess with your perceptions! Do they look like they enjoy being scared into thinking that they’re gonna die? No! No one likes a killer, especially not you. Do you really wanna be one, or do you wanna be Radiance?
  1041.  
  1042. Your teary eyes shift from the red button to the green one.
  1043.  
  1044. Didn’t you want to be someone who shared love and affection with everyone they met? Doesn’t that also mean sharing love and affection to those who may not have them? Look at Daniel. Look at Justin. Look at Grady. Look at them.
  1045.  
  1046. You look up at the screen, now actively crying your eyes out as you saw them suffering in terror. Just like you, it’s also possible that they had some form of rough upbringing. Maybe they weren’t shown enough love and affection growing up. Maybe they needed it just as much as you do. Maybe if they were shown it, they could change into better people. But how can they do that if they’re never shown that kind of love in the first place? Enacting revenge against them will do nothing in changing them and will only make you hurt more on the inside. Even if they did stuff to you to hurt your heart, if you want to be a loving being, you’ve got to still show them love. Two hateful wrongs will never make a loving right. Look down at yourself.
  1047.  
  1048. You proceed to do so, looking at your hooves, your tear-stained white fur, and your fluffy dark brown tail.
  1049.  
  1050. Do you see that? You’re still in a pony body. You’re still a female pony. You’re still Radiance. And is Radiance who you really are? And is Radiance who you want to continue being? You can. You really can be her. You really can be you. You really can love and nurture and care about those you know. It may be hard to do that to those who may not share those same feelings towards you, but doesn’t it feel better to share love and affection as opposed to spreading more and more hatred?
  1051.  
  1052. “STOOOOOOOOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!!!!”
  1053.  
  1054. Between your mind arguing back and forth over what to do, watching and listening to the trio of people in the gas chamber scream and writhe, and reflecting over who you really are, you scream for all of this madness to end. You can’t take this anymore. You just can’t. You raise your right hoof in the air. Without any more thinking, you push your hoof down and…
  1055.  
  1056.  
  1057. …you press the green button.
  1058.  
  1059. Upon doing so, you see the screen instantly go black.
  1060.  
  1061. “THERE! *sniffle* I DID IT! I SPARED THEM. JUST LIKE YOU WANTED. *sniffle* I’M NOT A MONSTER! I’M NOT A KILLER!”
  1062.  
  1063. You begin rapidly sobbing and shaking uncontrollably.
  1064.  
  1065. “Duh-Don’t kill them! I…wuh-I want them to live. I want them to have love. I want them to buh-be happy. Duh-Don’t let them die!”
  1066.  
  1067. You’re wailing and crying like a helpless baby, desperate for any form of nurturing affection.
  1068.  
  1069. “Plu-Please! I don’t wuh-wanna do t-this anymore. I juh-just…wanna…hug someone…anyone. I…I need schnu…schnuggies. I just want wubs. I just wanna be loved. Please. I…just…want…a…huh…hug…”
  1070.  
  1071. You cry and sob for what feels like hours, yet after a few seconds pass, you hear someone speak.
  1072.  
  1073. “Good job Big Sis! I’m so proud of you!”
  1074.  
  1075. Whu-What? The sound of her voice causes you to lose your balance and fall out of the stool you were sitting on. Being the clumsy self you always have been, you fall face first onto the ground. Your vision briefly goes black as you yelp in pain.
  1076.  
  1077. “Big Sis! Are you okay?”
  1078.  
  1079. You can feel yourself being pulled upright as you simultaneously feel someone else’s hooves gently rubbing against your muzzle. You then feel a small flurry of kisses being pecked all across your muzzle. With tears still gently streaming out of you, you open your eyes to see…
  1080.  
  1081.  
  1082. Whu-What? Although you could have sworn you heard Nullity’s voice calling out to you, you saw a pony who looked nothing like her. Instead, you saw a unicorn warmly smiling back at you with the same solid blue eyes you possessed. You were both sitting on your rears and she was still hugging you with her arms, but she gave you a few inches of space so that you could breathe…and look her over.
  1083.  
  1084. Both her coat and her horn were light blue in color, complimented with a white-bluish mane and tail. Her mane was neatly organized at the top of her head, dipping ever-so slightly above her muzzle, while the rest of it past her ears was long and free-flowing. Her tail too was quite long and…fluffy in a sense, like you could wrap yourself up in it like a blanket. It was resting gently on the ground around her hind legs, but it would occasionally flicker up in the air. You saw no cutie mark of any kind on her, but something else was capturing your eyes. It was harder to see them since they appeared to be behind her neck, but you tried tilting your head around her to get a better look at them.
  1085.  
  1086. “What are you looking at Silly Big Sis?”
  1087.  
  1088. “Uh…” is all you managed to say.
  1089.  
  1090. With a slightly better view, you notice a series of long…well…it was hard to describe them, but you saw a series of spines, or quills, that were sapphire blue in color and were protruding out of the back of her neck through her mane.
  1091.  
  1092. They were raised slightly above her mane, but oddly enough, you noticed them shifting ever so slightly. What the heck are those things?
  1093.  
  1094. “Whu-What a-are those?”
  1095.  
  1096. She briefly turns her head to look behind her to see what you were staring at and then looks back at you with a small touch of concern, while still maintaining a loving smile.
  1097.  
  1098. “Don’t you remember Big Sis? Those are my spindles. They’re sensory organs. You know, to help with sensing the environment. Seeing if there’s anything out of the ordinary with electromagnetic fields or with fluctuations in surrounding energies. Don’t you remember? You have them too.”
  1099.  
  1100. “I…whu-what? I do? Buh-But I’m a pegasus…nuh…not a unicorn.”
  1101.  
  1102. “We’re neither of those.”
  1103.  
  1104. “We’re…We’re nuh-not? *sniffle* Buh…But…my nuh-name is Radiance. I’m…I’m a pegasus luh-living in Vanhoover. I’m…I’m…the little sister. Muh-My big sister is Nuh-Nullity.”
  1105.  
  1106. You notice her sigh softly, but she raises a hoof to gently wipe the tears away from your eyes.
  1107.  
  1108. “It’s okay Big Sis. I know you may not remember much, but I know you never truly forgot about me. And I know I could never forget about you too. Just like what you said before you fell in, we would never ever be able to forget about each other.”
  1109.  
  1110. “Before I fell in…?”
  1111.  
  1112.  
  1113. Cold chills suddenly course through you. Everything in you freezes. Is she…Is she the girl? She leans forward to peck a kiss on your muzzle and leans back, still giving you a loving smile. She then gently runs her hoof through your mane before speaking.
  1114.  
  1115. “It’s okay. I know you’ve been through an ordeal and that you’re still trying to remember. It may take a little more time, but I promise…I promise we’ll be reunited soon. There’s still some things you may need to take care of in your world, but you will be able to come home soon. I promise.”
  1116.  
  1117. She quickly snuggles up close to you and hugs you tightly while you try to hug her back too, but you’re frozen by the idea that she may really be that girl. Oddly enough, however, with her hugging you the way that she was, you could see better from behind her what appeared to be an old stone fireplace. It lacked a mantle and looked like it was constructed hundreds of years ago. A few charred branches laid in the center of the fireplace, while a stone chimney ran up the wall. The walls were wooden in appearance, and although you couldn’t quite tell, they looked like something you’d see from a log cabin.
  1118.  
  1119.  
  1120. And then it dawns on you that you were no longer in the sealed room with the TV. You were somewhere else. You were still a little haunted by whoever this girl might be, and yet the atmosphere did feel very inviting and cozy.
  1121.  
  1122. You turn your head to look at the other parts of the room, only to see that…thu-that…everything else was a blur. Everything else in the room was not clearly visible to the point where you could discern any other objects. It was almost like you were looking at a moving body of liquid…something…that was blurring everything else in the room around you. All you could see was her, the fireplace directly across from you, and the wooden wall surrounding the fireplace itself.
  1123.  
  1124. You suddenly hear her take a deep breath and she pulls back from you slightly. You can see tears in her eyes.
  1125.  
  1126. “I know you’re having trouble remembering things, but this is our home. This is where we’d snuggle up together, right in front of the fireplace. We’d snuggle, talk about things, keep each other warm, and bond together right here. This was your favorite place to snuggle and now, it’s my favorite place too.”
  1127.  
  1128. Her tears gently stream down her cheeks as they drip onto your fur.
  1129.  
  1130. “But…I promise Big Sis…I promise to stay by your side always and try my best to protect you from harm. We may be in different worlds right now and we may be far away from each other, but I’ll always be here for you. And…”
  1131.  
  1132. You notice her beginning to sniffle, but she is able to keep her composure.
  1133.  
  1134. “…well…it looks like you have gotten stronger, haven’t you?”
  1135.  
  1136. Getting…stronger…stronger…
  1137.  
  1138.  
  1139. What…does…that…mean?
  1140.  
  1141. “And truth be told, I think I have too. We’re both stronger. Maybe you really were right to go into that lake. No matter what you’ve experienced and continue to experience, nothing can change you to be something you’re not. That no matter what, deep down…even if you don’t quite remember everything, we’ll both always be connected to one another somehow. Even if you’ve forgotten most of yourself, we’ll still always know of the bond we share.”
  1142.  
  1143. She suddenly leans forward to hug you as tight as she possibly can.
  1144.  
  1145. “I’ll do my very best to protect you and guide you home. It’s possible. I can bring you back. It just might take a little more time. You can do this. You can get through this. You have a beautiful heart Big Sis, and just know that I will always, always love you for who you are.”
  1146.  
  1147. You instinctually hug her back as tight as you can, your own tears flowing back out of your eyes and onto her fur. You both rock and cuddle one another for what feels like several minutes until you start to hear her humming. The same exact humming that Nullity would do for you; this girl was humming the same tune back to you. It still sounded somewhat eerie to you, but it felt more inviting and sweet and warm altogether. Your heart was rapidly turning into affectionate mush.
  1148.  
  1149. And yet, you notice something that alarms you. She’s…She’s fading! No!
  1150.  
  1151. “Luh-Lil Sis!”
  1152.  
  1153. She slowly and gradually starts to fade away into what appears to be a bundle of blue energy.
  1154.  
  1155. “LIL SIS! NO! I NEED YOU!”
  1156.  
  1157. You begin whimpering and crying as this blue ball of energy begins to stretch outward like a small wave. It was piercing through the fireplace. But it, you noticed through your teary gaze, was also fading away. The whole room itself, including the parts that were blurry, were gradually fading away, until…uh-until…
  1158.  
  1159. The lake and the surrounding environment came into view. The all-too familiar hills, the grassy landscape, the trees and bushes from behind, and the stream of water that led straight into the lake itself. It was daytime with the sun casting beautiful blue skies. But that wasn’t what caught your attention. It was the fact that you could still hear her humming. And the blue stream of energy that she left behind…you could still see it flowing straight back into the lake. You also noticed a faint breeze flowing with the energy towards the lake. You could feel it gently rustling against your fur.
  1160.  
  1161. Instinctually, almost in a hypnotic trance with tears in your eyes, you walk right up to the edge of the water. You saw her stream of blue energy pouring into the surface of the water, her humming more apparent than ever before. But you saw no reflection in the water, aside from the sun’s brilliant gaze glimmering across its surface.
  1162.  
  1163. “Just…remember…”
  1164.  
  1165. You freeze as you hear her voice once more.
  1166.  
  1167. “You’re…strong. I…will…always be here…for you. Soon…I…promise. I…l…o…v…e…y…o…u.”
  1168.  
  1169. And just as those words were spoken, you see the last of her blue energy pass into the water. As soon as that happens, you’re immediately engulfed in a bright light. You close your teary eyes from the flash as you yell out to her.
  1170.  
  1171. “I LOVE YOU LIL SIS! PLEASE STAY WITH ME! I NEED YOU! I LOVE YOU!”
  1172.  
  1173. As soon as the bright flash of energy vanishes, you open your watery eyes to see…to see…that you were in the white void once more. You were actively crying and sniffling, your heart longing for the one being who perhaps loved you more than anyone else you knew. The one being who actually appeared to be more real than anyone else and who might hold the key to pulling you out of all of this madness. And you just wanted to simply hug and snuggle her for the rest of eternity. That’s all you wanted right now. Just to simply be with her. Instead, however, you hear someone else beginning to speak.
  1174.  
  1175. “Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. In all of my years of research, never have I seen anything like this before.”
  1176.  
  1177. You turn your head slightly and sniffle, slowly coming back to the depressing realization that you were once again back with this madman. You notice him sitting in some kind of big red reading room chair, his legs crossed and his hands interconnected with one another right in front of his mouth. He was still in his business suit uniform, but his silhouette form was gone. He appeared as though he was lost in thought, trying to make sense and understand what just happened.
  1178.  
  1179. Actually, he didn’t look terrifying anymore; rather, he looked like he was some kind of normal human being, but you knew there was still something very wrong with him. But for some strange reason, you were not afraid of him.
  1180.  
  1181. Your heart and mind were still longing for who you believed was the girl at the lake and somehow, you felt stronger and better. You didn’t kill, you didn’t hurt anyone, you didn’t completely break, and you’re still you; you’re still Radiance. Regardless of the tests Dr. Money performed on you to try to turn you into a heartless killer, he was unsuccessful. And because of this, and the fact that you’re still Radiance, you feel like you can stand up to him better. Yet, all you really wanted to do was to be back with that girl and to never see this crazy lunatic again.
  1182.  
  1183. You sniffle once more as you turn to completely face him. When he sees you looking directly at him, he lowers his hands and places his arms across the armrests of the chair. Rather than smiling at you with the usual sinister expression, you notice him actually looking at you with what appeared to be a form of admiration, if not complete curiosity over what just happened. He looked serious, yet intrigued.
  1184.  
  1185. “You, Radiance, have won my complete respect. And in so doing, I feel it is safe to say that you really are Radiance; you are not Anon. Regardless of the illusions I throw at you, the things that I say, and the demons of your mind that I try to bring forth, you are still able to be you. No matter how much darkness and hatred I try to throw at you, you still have the heart of an angel. Although it is unknown if you would still have that kind of heart had I not kidnapped you and thrown you into a virtual world, I’d still like to think you would have such a heart.”
  1186.  
  1187. As odd as it is to have this lunatic try to give you what was perhaps the strangest compliment you have ever received, you still can’t help but feel a little proud of yourself, even though you were still sniffling here and there.
  1188.  
  1189. “And it is with great hope that you have been successful in extinguishing the demons from your mind for good. Still though…”
  1190.  
  1191. You notice him pausing, trying to think about how to word what he was going to say next.
  1192.  
  1193. “It appears that I have been mistaken in assuming those demons were completely responsible in making my Virtual Dream Machine falter.”
  1194.  
  1195. You sniffle for the millionth time and wipe your hoof across your eyes before speaking.
  1196.  
  1197. “Muh-Making your machine ‘falter?’ How can silhouettes do that?”
  1198.  
  1199. You hear him emit a very small sigh.
  1200.  
  1201. “Perhaps it is finally time I told you everything. Although I have told you that your beliefs and perceptions fundamentally determine your reality and although you may choose to believe what you wish, everything that I am about to tell you is very real, at least to me. Considering everything you have been through, I feel you finally deserve to know.”
  1202. Was he actually talking to you like this? It felt very weird to see him talking to you in this state, but you were curious with what he had to say.
  1203.  
  1204. Your tears finally stop flowing from your eyes as you wipe them with a hoof one last time before he speaks further.
  1205.  
  1206. “Please forgive me if I sound strange in talking to you like this, but you are the very first test subject I have ever explained any of my research to. As a matter of fact, you are also the very first test subject who has produced the kind of results that I have seen. I have never once had to explain any of this to them, at least not directly. As a result, I am unsure of where to begin exactly, but perhaps it’s best I started with explaining what the Virtual Dream Machine is.”
  1207.  
  1208. “Whu-What i-is it thu-though? I thought you said I had been living in a virtual world or something and that everything was fake.”
  1209.  
  1210. “Not exactly. While it is true you have been living in a virtual world all this time, it has all been nothing but a byproduct of your mind; or at least, that’s what I would like to think. All of the people you have encountered, or rather ponies, have been nothing more than subconscious generations that have been brought about by your mind. Your mind has been responsible for creating the environments you have found yourself in and aside from my occasional intrusions in trying to ever so slightly manipulate your world, it is you alone that has created this entire story as Radiance.”
  1211.  
  1212. “Muh-Me?”
  1213.  
  1214. He briefly nods his head.
  1215.  
  1216. “That is correct. Although I have tried to indirectly influence your mind a few times so that you would better enjoy being in the world of your creation, I am not responsible for creating everything that you have been seeing save for when you finally met me as Dr. Wilhelm. Everything before that point was all you. And yet…”
  1217.  
  1218. He pauses and thinks for a quick moment.
  1219.  
  1220. “After you pressed the green button to spare those three individuals, your mind somehow hijacked my ability to be able to control the virtual landscape you are in.”
  1221.  
  1222. “Whu-What?”
  1223.  
  1224. “After you pushed that button, I was going to play out something different to you, but instead ‘something’ took over and produced a different result.”
  1225.  
  1226. “Did-Did you see what I saw?”
  1227.  
  1228. “Why of course. I have been able to observe everything you have experienced since you wound up inside of my Virtual Dream Machine. And I have to say, you have one of the most fascinating minds I have been fortunate enough to have been able to study. What is so fascinating to me about you Radiance is that you are nothing like the other test subjects I have encountered.”
  1229.  
  1230. Other test subjects…like…like Beezle?!? The realization that he might have been an actual test subject immediately alarms you.
  1231.  
  1232. “Beezle…WHAT ABOUT BEEZLE?!?”
  1233.  
  1234. Dr. Money gives a brief sigh, followed by a soft smile.
  1235.  
  1236. “You really do have the heart of an angel, don’t you?”
  1237.  
  1238. He gives a small chuckle.
  1239.  
  1240. “Rest assured, he’s not a test subject. He is nothing more than a virtual generation brought about by your mind. In essence, he simply represents your desire for you wanting to have children and for wanting to be a mother. And although he might have seemed real to you, I am afraid to say that he is not. None of the ponies you met are as real as you or I. Then again, I could still be just as fake as any of them, but considering what you have experienced, I’d say it’s safe to say that I’m just as real as you are.”
  1241.  
  1242. You look down at the invisible white ground briefly and run one of your front hooves in a circling motion, saddened by the fact you never really were a mother. You hear Dr. Money sigh once more and you look up, surprised to see him giving you a sympathetic look.
  1243.  
  1244. “Still though, I don’t doubt that you could be a great mother and it is still possible.”
  1245.  
  1246. “Possible? How? How can I ever be a mommy if everyone around me is fake?”
  1247.  
  1248. “Like I have stated previously, reality is simply how we perceive it to be. Just because I said that everyone here is fake besides us, does that make them seem any less real? They all seem like they could have their own minds and be actual individuals. But you are choosing to believe what I say and as a result, they now all appear fake. But change that perception and suddenly, they all seem very real to you. You’re suddenly a real mother again raising what seems like a real child and you both can then spend the rest of your days in peaceful happiness. But with everything you have been through, I realize instantly changing your perceptions to believe that everything else here is real would be a very hard challenge.”
  1249.  
  1250. You notice him shifting in his chair ever so slightly.
  1251.  
  1252. “The fact of the matter is that you know more than any other test subject here.”
  1253.  
  1254. “I know more than any other test subject? What do you mean by that? You just said that I’m the only one in your machine thingy.”
  1255.  
  1256. “While that is very true, that doesn’t mean others can’t be in the same Virtual Dream Machine at the same time.”
  1257.  
  1258. At the same time…
  1259.  
  1260. “Whu…I…I don’t get it.”
  1261.  
  1262. “You, Radiance, have been living in the virtual world of your creation. But so have other people. You’re certainly not the first. Do you remember the pod I had you step into right before you woke up as Radiance?”
  1263.  
  1264. You pause for a moment, and then slowly nod your head as you faintly remember that happening.
  1265.  
  1266. “The pod you stepped into is one of several pods that connect to a central super computer within my laboratory. Each pod, although connected to the same super computer, is separate from one another, thus making it impossible for any one individual to be living in the same virtual world. The pod itself can physically connect to your ‘real’ body and provide it the nutrients it needs in order to stay alive until it eventually ages and succumbs to natural-born illnesses. In turn, the pod makes you unconscious through a form of gas so that you are able to have your conscious and subconscious transplanted into your own virtual world. You are still in your original body, but your conscious and your subconscious are both able to separate from it so that they can experience things much differently than what you are used to normally experiencing, such as being in a new body, living in a brand new world, experiencing a whole new life, and so on and so forth.”
  1267.  
  1268. “Then…Then if that’s the case, how are you here right now?”
  1269.  
  1270. “I am not.”
  1271.  
  1272. “Huh?”
  1273.  
  1274. You begin to look at him suspiciously.
  1275.  
  1276. “Technically, I am, but what you are seeing before you is just a holographic projection of myself. Currently, I am sitting in a chair just like this one, talking to you and observing you through a computer screen. I am not actually in this world with you, but from your point of view, it looks like I am. Your mind, in essence, is currently a part of this computer and thus, anything else that is in the computer can seem very physically real to you since you are also digital. As a result, I can therefore try to influence it or place suggestions into the machine on how to make you happier and to make things seem more realistic. As a matter of fact, I can do this to anyone who is in a pod living in their own virtual worlds.”
  1277.  
  1278. Ears drooping, you look down and emit a small whimper, saddened by what you were hearing. In other words, you were nothing more than a computer program at this point. You’re not even real. You’re nothing. The thought alone almost nearly makes you want to cry again.
  1279.  
  1280. “Again, that’s not necessarily true.”
  1281.  
  1282. You look back up at him pitifully.
  1283.  
  1284. “How…How can you read my mind?”
  1285.  
  1286. “Did you not understand what I just said? By being in a pod and having your mind connected to this super computer, I can learn about every nook and cranny that is in your mind, analyze what you’re thinking, who you are, what your interests are, what you’re afraid of, what makes you happy, what makes you tick, and just about anything else that exists in your mind. Because your mind is currently digital, my super computer can understand how it’s wired and is therefore able to decipher the entirety of an individual.”
  1287.  
  1288. You can’t help but feel even more saddened by his explanation.
  1289.  
  1290. “So what then? Am I dead? Am I now just nothing more than a software program running in a computer?”
  1291.  
  1292. “Again, no. You are connected to my computer, but you are still very much alive. Your old body as Anon still exists and is still connected to this computer. If your body were to die, you would simply cease to exist. Your conscious and subconscious are both still connected to your body as the Virtual Dream Machine needs your physical brain in order to process it and create the virtual world of your dreams. Think of your body as being an external hard drive connected to a computer. Your mind is all of the memory in that hard drive and the main computer can only process your mind, your data, if you are plugged in. But take that hard drive out and suddenly there is no data, no memory, no mind for the main computer to process. If I was to pull you up out of your pod and disconnect you from my super computer, you would wake back up in your old body in my laboratory.”
  1293.  
  1294. You do feel some small form of relief course through you in that you still exist in some sense, but the realization that your only existence as seen by others is really Anon and not Radiance depresses you.
  1295.  
  1296. “So will you ever unhook me from your ‘Virtual Dream Machine’ thing, or are you gonna make me stay in here for the rest of my life living in my own delusions?”
  1297.  
  1298. Dr. Money moves his right hand up by his jaw so as to lean his head for support and begins tapping the fingers on his left hand against the armrest of the chair, thinking about what to say next.
  1299.  
  1300. “This, I’m afraid, is where I am unsure. I obviously cannot allow you to go freely back into the real world as Anon where you can reveal your experiences and tell others the things that I have told you. You have been missing for a very long time and there is no way all of my work can go to waste because of that.”
  1301. “What? Did you say I’ve been gone for a very long time? I’ve only been in here for what, two to three days or something like that, right?”
  1302.  
  1303. He folds his arms into his lap and shakes his head.
  1304.  
  1305. “I am afraid you have been here for nearly a whole year.”
  1306.  
  1307. “A WHOLE YEAR?!?!”
  1308.  
  1309. You could feel your jaw wanting to drop down to your hooves. No…No way. There is absolutely no way you have been here that long.
  1310.  
  1311. “That’s…THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!”
  1312.  
  1313. “I am afraid that is very true. Again, it all boils down to your perception of everything, including time. All of us perceive things in certain ways, and time is no different. Do you recall the first example I used with you when you saw me as Dr. Wilhelm?”
  1314.  
  1315. You nod your head in silence.
  1316.  
  1317. “Well, that scenario can also apply here. It might have seemed like you’ve only been here for two or three days, but from my perception on Earth, nearly a whole year has elapsed since you stepped into one of my pods.”
  1318.  
  1319. “Buh-But HOW THE HECK IS THAT POSSIBLE?!? Sure, you could say that being in a three-hour play might seem to go fast for some and slow for others, but how can anyone perceive a whole year to seem like it was just two or three days?”
  1320.  
  1321. “Well, to be fair, not many people can. Granted, there are some people who may sometimes feel like a whole week has just passed them, but an entire year? I will admit, that is not a common thing. But what you do have to keep in mind is that your mind has been inside my super computer this whole time. How time flows there is vastly different than how time can flow back on Earth, even if you were to perceive yourself as living on a digital Earth.”
  1322.  
  1323. And now, you were getting more and more confused by what he was saying.
  1324.  
  1325. “In layman’s terms, because your mind is currently in a computer, I have the ability to slow down or increase its processing power. Likewise, I can also pause everything and closely analyze all of your thoughts and actions. Or, if I wish, I can put the computer on sleep mode. I can likewise shut it down for a period of time. And even then, I can also speed up the computer to such an extent that you could experience living an entire life as Radiance while only one day on Earth would have actually passed. The pod itself will continue to keep your ‘real’ body alive regardless of how I operate the Virtual Dream machine. As a result, I can continue to keep on altering the speed with which my computer operates, but from your perspective, you never experience or notice any of those changes in time. Isn’t it strange how time can be distorted like that?”
  1326.  
  1327. You notice your heart beginning to beat fast. To…To have the ability to do that to people while they’re inside his machine, everything about that seemed alarmingly dangerous and messed up in more ways than one. Just the thought alone that this one man could do such a thing disturbed you. And as you looked at him even more carefully, you begin to notice him grinning slightly; the same grin that signaled he still possessed malicious intention.
  1328.  
  1329. “Yes, yes. I can understand perfectly the fears running through your mind over the amount of harm that can happen to the test subjects who are in my Virtual Dream Machine. To live an entire life in a short amount of time, to live multiple lives over the course of one actual lifetime…I am aware that has significant potential to inflict serious mental damage to an individual’s psychological state. Though, as I have stated previously, you are the very first individual where I have ever proposed to offer any form of direct explanation. In every other circumstance, the others never learn of these…details. And what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right?”
  1330.  
  1331. He begins to chuckle once more, but you could very easily tell his tone was rapidly becoming dark. Although you knew there was something wrong with Dr. Money ever since you met him, you were becoming more and more unsettled the longer you had to be with him.
  1332.  
  1333. “Thu-Then what happens to them if yuh-you never tell them what’s really going on?”
  1334.  
  1335. “In nearly all other cases, they simply never wake up. They just end up living the rest of their lives living in their own fantasies, losing touch with reality, never really remembering what happened to them. They just simply…accept what they perceive to be undoubtedly real.”
  1336.  
  1337. You could feel chills running up and down your spine. The thought that you might have been stuck living in a world of delusions is enough to make you shudder in disgust.
  1338.  
  1339. “However, in nearly every case, I am able to ensure that they live happy lives and can enjoy the rest of their existence living in the dreams and fantasies they felt they could never achieve in the real world. And for the most part, as long as they’re happy, why question any of it? Because after all, isn’t the whole purpose of life to achieve happiness?”
  1340.  
  1341. “Uh…”
  1342.  
  1343. “Or is there something more we seek aside from being happy? Do we seek to make our marks on the world with some great achievement? Do we seek answers for why things are the way they are? Do we want other things besides happiness? Do we want new lives? Do we want money and power? Do we want revenge? Do we want to suffer? What do we want? What does it all mean? What does life mean? What’s the purpose to life? Is there a purpose? Is life nothing more than what we perceive it to be? What do you think?”
  1344.  
  1345. You try to stammer out a response, but you’re at a loss of what to say.
  1346.  
  1347. “Personally, I believe life to be nothing more than what we make it out to be. Even if we all live in the same plane of existence, the physical world, we all still individually live in our own worlds, even if those worlds are only in our heads. We all perceive the world, life, and ourselves differently, and we all have our own goals and desires. And yet, at least in the physical world here on Earth, not everyone is always able to achieve those goals or desires.”
  1348.  
  1349. He shakes his head and sighs.
  1350.  
  1351. “Unfortunately, even with our own beliefs and perceptions, the environment we find ourselves in can still largely dictate how we view the world and can hamper our ability to ever find true happiness, or to set out what it is we seek to do with our lives. And sadly, though debatable, this seems to be a significant source of suffering for mankind. To not be able to live the life you wish, to grow up in a harsh environment devoid of love, to have your dreams continuously smashed, to live in poverty, to worry about having a home or where your next meal is going to come from, to grow up in a society that restricts you from living your life the way you wish to live, to live through any of those sorts of situations…any of that can undoubtedly bring untold suffering. Sure, not everyone lives through all of those unfortunate circumstances and some are lucky enough to live a life of luxury and pleasure and happiness without experiencing any of that. But for nearly everyone else, these negative experiences can skew our perceptions of the world and they have the potential of transforming our lives into a living hell. And what happens when you live in such a state? You’re more likely to enact that suffering, that darkness, onto others, which can in turn cause them to experience similar things and lash out onto others. But on a global scale? Well…”
  1352.  
  1353. He pauses and frowns while looking at you seriously.
  1354.  
  1355. “Let’s just say it can help in making the world seem evermore bleaker than it actually is. And if you’ve ever experienced any hardships of any kind, how are you able to pull yourself out of them? How are you able to be happy enough to the point where you could have everything you’ve ever possibly wanted? How are you able to discard all of the negativity from your life so that it never interferes with you again and you can forever perceive life to be a wonderful experience worth living? How?”
  1356.  
  1357. You simply stare at him blankly, trying to digest what it is he was saying.
  1358.  
  1359. “Truthfully, I am unsure if anyone can definitively answer these types of questions. The only way I can see it possible to conquer this form of suffering it to determine the root of the cause and in nearly every case, it stems from an individual’s mind, their perceptions of the world, and what they believe in. And after what you have just experienced, I am pretty sure you would agree with me that flawed perceptions can have a very real danger of destroying one’s life if they are not corrected. And again, how do you ‘fix’ someone so that they will always be happy to the point where they never unleash further suffering and negativity unto the world? That, Radiance, is what I have been working towards with my research.”
  1360.  
  1361. “Fixing…people?”
  1362.  
  1363. “Of course. Unless you are one of those few rare individuals who’s never once experienced any form of hardships or negativity, how do you help those who have? Do you personally try to help them improve their current lives, or do you delude them with their own fantasies so that their perceptions change and allow them to appreciate life more? Or, ultimately, do you do a mixture of both? Then again, how can you get an individual to alter their perceptions? How can you even delude them and help them indulge in their own fantasies? How do you change them to be a better person…to be someone else?”
  1364.  
  1365. “Who-Who a-are you?”
  1366.  
  1367. You asking him that question actually catches him off guard and causes him to pause briefly. Yet just as suddenly, he smiles at you just as he resumes speaking.
  1368.  
  1369. “Who am I? That is a bit of a mystery, isn’t it? Although I have stated previously that I am only what you make me out to be, in retrospect, I am someone who seeks to answer all of these questions. I am someone who seeks to bring universal happiness to all. I am someone who…who…wants to change the face of this world.”
  1370.  
  1371. He casts you a sinister gaze, smiling at you with whatever it is he may be capable of doing.
  1372.  
  1373. “Life is strange, isn’t it? Life can be so many things and have so many meanings attached to it, and yet it can mean literally nothing and be nothing more than a cruel, nihilistic joke depending on whichever way you look at it. If I was to ever have a goal, it would be to simply strive towards making a happier, better, and much more…meaningful world, even if such meaning is only held in the eyes of its beholders, even if such meaning is actually nonexistent in the physical world. In short, I simply want to make people happy and for them to be able to live their dreams, their fantasies, even if it means changing them into someone else. If it means destroying who they previously were and turning them into someone else entirely different…to influence them so that they believe fantasies and delusions to be as real as our senses, then that is what I wish to set out to accomplish. Because, if you can satisfy everyone’s needs, wants, and desires, you could theoretically become one of the richest, if not one of the most powerful people in the world. But is money and power what I’m ultimately seeking, or am I seeking something else? Who knows? That’s up to you in terms of what you wish to believe.”
  1374.  
  1375. This…This nut job can’t be serious, can he? How can you even change someone to be someone they’re not? That’s impossible!
  1376.  
  1377. “Buh-But how…how can you even do such a thing?”
  1378.  
  1379. “How?”
  1380.  
  1381. He smiles at you in amusement.
  1382.  
  1383. “I already have been doing it. You’re probably the biggest example of what I have been striving towards with all of my work. You, my dear Radiance, are the key to helping me change the face of this world as we know it.”
  1384.  
  1385. You blink at him in confusion.
  1386.  
  1387. “How?”
  1388.  
  1389. He simply chuckles.
  1390.  
  1391. “Even after everything you have been through, you still don’t completely understand, do you? You’re a prime example of someone who’s grown up in a harsh environment and has been dealt with quite a bit of misfortune over the course of your life. With the experiences you’ve had to endure and the people you’ve had to deal with, you were very pessimistic and cynical of the world around you. You developed hatred within your heart, you despised who you were, you hated being alive, and you wanted to kill yourself. But not anymore. You no longer have any desire to die. You love who you are. You are more comfortable in your own skin. And aside from what I have been revealing to you in terms of the ‘true’ reality of things, I would say that you are for the most part happy. But not completely.”
  1392.  
  1393. Well, considering what you have been through, you doubt if anyone else could ever be completely happy. After all, how can being with a madman inside of a computer make anyone happy?
  1394.  
  1395. “And while I have not been completely successful in making you happy, I have learned a great deal from you. I have been able to further pinpoint flaws within my Virtual Dream Machine and you have given me the ability to learn more and more from my mistakes.”
  1396.  
  1397. “What, you mean kidnapping a stranger and subjecting them to all forms of psychological torture? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s a big mistake if your goal is to make them happy.”
  1398.  
  1399. His smile instantly drops and for the first time, you actually saw him looking at you in anger. You instantly regret saying that to him.
  1400.  
  1401. “Oh believe me. The mistakes I’ve made on you pale in comparison to some of the other mistakes I’ve made on others. Considering that I am trying to undertake something that has never been accomplished before, it’s readily apparent that I’m bound to come across several mistakes here and there through trial and error. The only real mistake I’ve made with you is that I have not been successful in completely making you happy. But what about the others? Do you want to know what’s happened to some of them due to some of my mistakes?”
  1402.  
  1403. You gulp and begin to shake a little in nervousness.
  1404.  
  1405. “Well, quite simply, they’re dead.”
  1406.  
  1407. And it is here that you once again start to feel fear flowing through you.
  1408.  
  1409. “H-How?”
  1410.  
  1411. “How? That’s an excellent question. With some of them, even I am unsure. However, in nearly every one of these unfortunate cases, their deaths were brought about by some form of mental insanity resulting from my experiments. The mind is a very powerful thing and just like how you can coerce it to be happy and peaceful, you can also influence it to go mad and destroy itself. I should personally know. Some of the people I’ve worked with, well…”
  1412.  
  1413. He looks down in his lap briefly as what appears to be a disgusted look forms across his face.
  1414.  
  1415. “…I was given no other option than to make them go mad to the point where they would beg for death. And in my opinion…”
  1416.  
  1417. He instantly looks back up at you with a psychotic smile.
  1418.  
  1419. “When dealing with such ‘people,’ what pleasure is there in simply killing them? After all, you can only do it once. Where’s the fun in that? Isn’t it more fun to destroy their minds and destroy who they are over and over and over to the point where all they want is to die?”
  1420.  
  1421. You could feel the color on your face draining as you realize that you’re face to face with a psychotic killer. Your heart starts to beat erratically to the point where you actually wanted to pass out. Instead, however, Dr. Money’s expression immediately changes back to a soft smile, apparently pleased in having scared you.
  1422.  
  1423. “Granted, from your perspective, it sounds as though I would wish such a horrible fate on everyone. That would be incorrect. Actually, that has only happened to people who…well…let’s just say they weren’t particularly good people in any sense. And ultimately, I do not wish such a thing on people as a whole, especially on the innocent. But for those who truly deserved to die? Oh how I wish I could make them suffer just one more time.”
  1424.  
  1425. You were visibly shaking, sweat trickling down your forehead.
  1426.  
  1427. “I-I’m suh-sorry fuh-for muh-making y-you mad.”
  1428.  
  1429. Truth be told, out of all of your experiences thus far, this was probably the most terrified you have felt up to this point. The fact that someone could say such a thing and have direct control over your life, and to be talking to such an individual face to face…such a realization terrified you like no other.
  1430.  
  1431. “Sorry? Why be sorry? I simply want you to be happy. I simply want to make everyone happy.”
  1432.  
  1433. You see Dr. Money raise his right hand up in the air and snap his fingers.
  1434.  
  1435. In a split fraction of a second, a bright light shines through your eyes and you instantly close them. But when you open them, you’re shocked at what you see. Right in front of you was a giant digital screen that seemed to float midair within the void-like world. And on the screen was Dr. Money himself, sitting on the same red chair you saw him in previously, smiling at you. But that wasn’t what unnerved you.
  1436.  
  1437. You saw several of his workers; the same workers who were in those suits wearing those happy face masks back when you were first kidnapped. They all appeared to be in a room of some kind with a bunch of equipment, but you couldn’t make out the details. Your gaze was too transfixed on them and Dr. Money to care about the minor details of the room. They all stood around Dr. Money, all of them watching you as Dr. Money spoke to you.
  1438.  
  1439. “As a matter of fact, we all want you to be happy. Don’t be scared. Don’t be upset. Just be happy. Just enjoy your life. That’s all we want from you.”
  1440.  
  1441. “Whu-What is all of this? Whu-Why a-are you duh-doing this to-to muh-me?”
  1442.  
  1443. Strangely, through no gesture or word of any kind from Dr. Money, you notice his workers beginning to leave the room. It is not until they are all gone before he resumes speaking.
  1444.  
  1445. “Like I said, the reason you are here is because you are such a critical component to the success of my plans. Who you are, what you’ve been through, and what it is you want…I want to do everything in my power to make all of this work and to genuinely make you happy without any hint of negativity remaining in your mind.”
  1446.  
  1447. “Buh-But…how c-can I do thu-that if you’re-you’re scaring me like this?”
  1448.  
  1449. He smirks at your question, but nevertheless answers.
  1450.  
  1451. “Rest assured, you won’t remember any of this. You might remember certain tidbits here and there from the experiences you’ve endured in the past, but at least in terms of anything negative or dark, you will forget all of that.”
  1452.  
  1453. You involuntarily gulp in terror.
  1454.  
  1455. “A-Are y-you gonna k-kill me?”
  1456.  
  1457. Dr. Money looks at you in sudden surprise.
  1458.  
  1459. “Kill you? Why on Earth would I ever want to kill you? Do you really think I’m a cold-blooded killer and that all I want is to enact psychological torture on people?”
  1460.  
  1461. Well yuh-yeah, you…you are a killer if you enjoyed killing someone. At least, that’s what you wanted to say to him, but you were way too scared at insulting or making him mad. You just simply shake and look at him as if you were begging for mercy.
  1462.  
  1463. “Have you not been listening to what I have been talking about this entire time? I simply want to make everyone happy. All of us here do. None of us truly enjoy suffering and sorrow. If we do, it is simply against those we believe truly deserve death. Do you think we enjoyed stumbling across someone who genuinely wanted to harm others in order to make themselves be happy? No. Such monsters, most of which went mad and became suicidal through our experiments, deserved to die. We truly despised them and had no desire in making them happy through their own convoluted fantasies. They deserved death. All of us here are disgusted by such things.”
  1464.  
  1465. “Uh…” is all you manage to say.
  1466.  
  1467. “As a matter of fact, a lot of my employees were very fascinated with you and had high hopes that you would live a utopian life. They wanted and still want to see you living as Radiance. They do want to see you live as a mare, to live as a mother and to have a family, and to spread love and affection to everyone. Compared to everyone else we’ve experimented on, you’re the first person we’ve encountered to have such pure and noble desires. While others might not have had the same desires as you, a good majority of them simply wanted to experience rather…boring things, such as having infinite money, infinite food, having a bunch of materialistic possessions, wanting to have this or that and so on and so forth. You, on the other hand, were and still are a rare gem because we knew we could fix you into becoming someone better. We knew and we still know we can give you the happy life you’ve always wanted.”
  1468.  
  1469. You still wanted to question him how that could even be possible at this point, but you were still too afraid of saying much of anything.
  1470.  
  1471. “However, most of my employees have lost interest in your story. It is not because of who you are, but the amount of darkness and negativity that existed within you. Even for me, I felt rather horrible for subjugating you with your own mental demons, and for all of us, darkness is not a thing we particularly enjoy. Some of your darkness was even off-putting to a couple of my employees. But regardless, we acknowledge that it is something that must be dealt with if we are to ever fix people and make them be happy. It’s just that most of them, including me, thought that with what you have accomplished in expelling the demons from your past, we all figured you would be happy and back to normal by now. But due to the fact that you now know too much, I personally feel there is no way to make you completely happy unless you forgot everything. If that was able to happen, while simultaneously being able to retain your identity as Radiance, you could be one of the happiest souls in existence. But even then…”
  1472.  
  1473. He pauses and looks carefully at you.
  1474.  
  1475. “There’s something inside of you that has prevented me and the Virtual Dream Machine in successfully erasing your memories. No matter what illusions are presented to you or whatever subconscious suggestions are generated to help you think differently, there is something that continues to interfere. And I think we both know what I am referring to.”
  1476.  
  1477. You suddenly look at him in surprise when you realize that he’s referring to the girl and the lake.
  1478.  
  1479. “Who-Who is she? What is the point of that lake? Why does all of that keep coming back over and over again?”
  1480.  
  1481. “That is something we’ve all been wondering too. Truth be told, none of us here are really sure either. From what my Virtual Dream Machine has been able to analyze off of you, the whole incident involving this girl and this lake appears to stem from a memory. But what is especially bizarre is that it is a memory you never actually experienced living as Anon. From the best conclusions that I can draw, it is simply a memory that has always been with you. Granted, there are ways where false memories can be implanted within an individual, but this memory has existed ever since you were born; at least, that is what my machine has been able to observe. And somehow, this girl, this memory has been able to shatter any attempt of mine into completely changing you. Because of this whole lake incident, you are the first person to realize the world you are in is isn’t necessarily real and that no matter how much I have tried to convince you otherwise, you are able to come to the realization that none of it is real. How this is so, I still do not know. But it still fascinates me. It fascinates all of us. And from your latest experience with her, you appear to be gaining new memories…memories that never seemed to have existed with you living as Anon or as Radiance. If I were to place a hypothetical guess, I would have to say this whole incident was from a past life.”
  1482.  
  1483. “A…A past luh-life?”
  1484.  
  1485. “It is quite possible. At least in mythology, lakes or big bodies of water were considered to be pathways, or portals, into other worlds. And going into that lake, well…I’d have to say that’s the last memory you have of that life before you came into existence as Anon. And considering that incident has been with you for your whole life, I’d have to also say…well…I know I almost sound absurd in proposing this, but with no other means of explanation, I would have to say it’s either something related to a past-life experience, or it’s simply paranormal in nature. A giant part of me wanted to erase this all from your head, but it’s so ingrained into the deepest recesses of your mind that the Virtual Dream Machine greatly drew upon that in forming your world as Radiance. And as I’ve said in comparison to other test subjects, you are just simply way too fascinating to me, even if some of my other employees have lost interest in you. But I promise you, that is only temporary. Once we gather what else it is we need, we can then focus all of our undivided attention in further bettering your life.”
  1486.  
  1487. You’re stunned by what he’s said, but the more you think about it, the more you realize that the girl and the whole lake incident probably was from a past life. It would make some sense. But still, you weren’t entirely sure. Then again, neither is Dr. Money or anyone else. It has always been haunting to you in a way, but somehow with this latest experience with her, you especially can’t help but long for her and be the heck away from this psychopath. Still though, you wanted to know just a little bit more from Dr. Money.
  1488.  
  1489. “Whu-What else do you need?”
  1490.  
  1491. He briefly looks at you inquisitively before answering.
  1492.  
  1493. “As I have said beforehand, you likely will not remember any of this once everything I have planned for you is completed. And even then, I probably wouldn’t be sharing this information if I was speaking to someone else unfamiliar with all of this. But because this will directly involve you, I feel that you probably deserve to know what is going to happen to you, even though you will likely forget all of it.”
  1494.  
  1495. You gulp once more, but keep your composure.
  1496.  
  1497. “As I am sure you have observed in your time living as Radiance, my Virtual Dream Machine is not perfect. As a matter of fact, it is far from perfect. There are flaws within it that can sometimes make the world a test subject finds themselves in seem more fake to them. Though not usually significant, nearly all of my test subjects have played such instances off as their minds just messing with them. I tend to call these experiences ‘glitches.’ These glitches usually tend to appear when something in the subject’s mind resurfaces and distorts the world they live in. These distortions might change the shape of an object, make certain people seem different, or change the narratives of the lives they’re living in. You’ve seen this yourself when you saw the plushies on your bedroom wall change expressions, only to eventually become a shelf full of knick-knacks, or when you saw a letter say something different than what it intended to say, or when you saw an article of clothing change into something completely different with different colors. You remember this happening, yes?”
  1498.  
  1499. You nod your head affirmatively.
  1500.  
  1501. “And likewise, you probably thought your ‘amnesia’ was causing you to see things. In retrospect, something from your mind was causing the Virtual Dream Machine to change certain aspects of your world so that it more closely matched with who you felt you are, and what it is you wanted. Usually, I am able to implant suggestions and change some things around in order to keep on helping the subject in perceiving the world they’re in to seem completely true. And although it can be quite confusing for the person experiencing it, I am almost always able to correct it and let them brush it off as nothing. But with you, these glitches have been much more significant than any other test subject. And a good part of me would like to believe it is because of that lake memory of yours, as well as the mental demons that lurked within you, but I still feel it is mostly due to that whole incident at the lake. No matter how much I try to make the whole story seem more and more believable, it continues to fall apart and it appears more and more fake to you and to me and to everyone else who has been watching you.”
  1502.  
  1503. Dr. Money continues speaking without giving you a chance to respond.
  1504.  
  1505. “You see, a major limitation to my Virtual Dream Machine is that once a world has been established for a test subject, it cannot change on their own accord. Even if they were able to finish a life and start another, or if they were to begin to experience negative situations, we cannot change any of it and pretend as though none of it ever happened. If we were to change their world into something else, it would take away the believability of it all and could seriously harm their mental health. They must live through the world they’re in and adapt to it. What we can do is try to help them through a negative experience and to try to help them forget certain things so that they become more accustomed to the world they find themselves in, but they can still choose to remember if they wish, and this also has the potential of ruining the believability of being in their own worlds. However, we do our best to make sure it never gets to that point. We always try to ensure that where they’re at now is just as believable as not being in the Virtual Dream Machine. You are the only one who has been able to prove us wrong and show us that this machine is not perfect, and that further work needs to be done if we are to ever bring true happiness to mankind.”
  1506.  
  1507. “Buh-But…h-how are you gonna do that?”
  1508.  
  1509. He briefly chuckles and then smiles brightly at you.
  1510.  
  1511. “Why, through you, my lovely Radiance.”
  1512.  
  1513. You can’t help but involuntarily cringe at the way he said that.
  1514.  
  1515. Dr. Money in turn chuckles at your reaction.
  1516.  
  1517. “I’ll be the first to admit that may not make a whole lot of sense right of this moment, but let me explain further. My Virtual Dream Machine is nothing more than a prototype; it is not an end product. I am well aware that it just simply wouldn’t be feasible to produce something like this on a mass scale. Such a feat would be quite expensive and there is no way any one individual would have the power to be able to monitor the lives of everyone as intensely as I have over you and some of the other subjects so as to ensure believability and genuine happiness. However, I certainly know of someone who can help me in taking the next step to making all of this truly happen.”
  1518.  
  1519. “Muh-Me?”
  1520.  
  1521. He stands up from his chair and holds his arms behind his back, smiling brightly, if not eerily at you.
  1522.  
  1523. “While you are certainly the key to helping make all of this work, you are not the person that can actually make it happen. Actually, the person who I am speaking of is the person who sparked my whole curiosity in people who held obsessions to the whole ‘My Little Pony’ fandom. As a matter of fact, we have both shared some history together, but it has been a very long time. And in some strange way, I have him to thank in helping me even get this far with my creations.”
  1524.  
  1525. “Who is he?”
  1526.  
  1527. Dr. Money closes his eyes and gently shakes his head back and forth.
  1528.  
  1529. “I am afraid I cannot say for he is someone who would probably appreciate being able to maintain his anonymity. However, what I can say is that he is someone I knew from my younger years. Although we may have never directly interacted with one another, we both attended the same university and worked for the same employer right after college. Granted, we both worked in different fields but there was one thing our employer did have in mind and that was to…”
  1530.  
  1531. He pauses and chuckles briefly, before continuing.
  1532.  
  1533. “I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of something known as the Technological Singularity, have you?”
  1534.  
  1535. You shake your head and firmly say no.
  1536.  
  1537. “Well, to keep it brief, it is a theory that by some point in the future, man and machine will merge to usher in a whole new age of science and technology.”
  1538.  
  1539. “Whu…”
  1540.  
  1541. “I know it must sound a little ludicrous to someone who has never heard of it, but please bear with me. The central tenant of the theory is that it relies on something known as Moore’s Law, which in layman’s terms states that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every two years, which can further increase the capabilities of technology and its associated growth. However, the theory builds off of this law and further produces something additional, otherwise known as the Law of Accelerating Returns, which further proposes the rate at which technology, especially information technology, grows will increase at an exponential rate and will only further advance as time passes. At some point in the future, the theory proposes that technology will actually merge with mankind in ways that are unknown to most, including myself. However, the theory also proposes that a series of events will occur and will gradually lead up to that merger of man and machine. Whether or not that will happen any time soon or whether it is all complete nonsense is up for debate, but the point that directly concerns you is that currently, my Virtual Dream Machine is the closest I have gotten in achieving anything like what the Technological Singularity proposes. And this merger of man and machine is something that can greatly help me in accomplishing my goals in attempting to bring about universal happiness.”
  1542.  
  1543. “How thu-though?”
  1544.  
  1545. “Well, when I speak of the merger of man and machine, I am really referring to the point at which mankind completely merges with cyberspace through information technology. As I have just mentioned, the computational power of information technology has been growing and will likely continue to grow at amazing speeds. Even in this day and age, almost everyone has access to the Internet and has some form of computer. And the power of computers continues to grow as the hardware, the software, and the processing power all become ever more refined and enhanced to the point where they permeate through our lives on a nearly daily basis. What’s even more amazing to me is that they are becoming smaller and more powerful and more and more attached to us, making cyberspace seem more and more realistic and just as real as the physical world is. Can you imagine? Cyberspace seeming just as real as the physical environment…can you imagine when we’ve gotten to the point where we can no longer distinguish between what is real and what is not? I can.”
  1546.  
  1547. Dr. Money grins at you in excitement as he continues speaking to you.
  1548.  
  1549. “Even today, for example, virtual reality headsets are becoming more and more available at affordable prices where people can completely immerse themselves into cyberspace; playing video games and surfing through the Internet while actually being in cyberspace. It is getting more and more refined to the point where it feels like they really are in cyberspace and are not in the real world. And that kind of technology will only continue to advance until it is actually inside of us.”
  1550. “Inside of us? How can you stick a computer inside of a person?”
  1551.  
  1552. “That is a very good question Radiance. Although certain forms of medical equipment have been transplanted into the body, the closest anyone has gotten to that point with respect to an actual computer is through VR headsets. Truth be told, however, my Virtual Dream Machine is the farthest anyone has truly gotten, but never have I made my creation public. Nor do I ever intend to. As I have said previously, it is not without its flaws and there is just simply no way it could be produced on a mass scale. It is simply a prototype I have been working on over the years that has helped to make virtual submersion into the world of your dreams seem ever more realistic. Still though, I have not quite reached that point yet, as you undoubtedly know.”
  1553.  
  1554. “Yeah…”
  1555.  
  1556. “And as I have also said, the Virtual Dream Machine is something that connects to your body, but it does not actually go inside of you and become a part of you. Your mind is still attached to your original physical body. The machine is not inside of you; you are inside of it.”
  1557.  
  1558. “Then…what point are you trying to get across?”
  1559.  
  1560. “The fact of the matter is that my original employer was seeking to achieve a way in which it could merge information technology with the human body, or rather, the human mind. In some ways, you could have considered it a futurist type of organization. It used to work with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the university both me and my ‘friend’ used to attend, and the same school we were recruited from. As an organization, our employer sought to create a means by which it would be possible to intertwine the mind with information technology so that we could get ever closer to the supposed merger of man and machine. Granted, there were many fields of research in pulling off such an endeavor, but my field specifically was in computer science and engineering, and I was considered to be at the top of this branch of the company. As for my ‘friend,’ he was well-vested in quite a different field, but a field that could significantly advance our employer’s goals with respect to the Technological Singularity. That field, quite simply, was nanotechnology.”
  1561.  
  1562. “Nanotechnology?”
  1563.  
  1564. “Yes. He was, in my view, an absolute genius in that field. Although he had a few close friends and knew of some others who had some experience in nanotechnology, he was the true expert in further advancing that field of science. I absolutely admired him and sought to improve my information technology as quickly and as powerfully as he was able to do so with his nanotechnology until one day…”
  1565.  
  1566. Dr. Money’s smile shifts into a small frown as he looks at you.
  1567.  
  1568. “Until one day he stole that nanotechnology, that company property, to make himself look more youthful and charming in appearance. Such an incident quickly made the headlines and before I knew it, he was fired. What we were doing was very sensitive company information and because of his actions, the media quickly caught on and questioned what our employer was doing, as well as the ethics of our work and what we were setting out to achieve. Long story short, some of what we were doing looked questionable to various governmental agencies and eventually, the company was dissolved for illegal and unethical practices. He went into hiding and due to the public outcry he caused the company, I was soon out of work. I was also called out on what I was doing and unfortunately, I could not find anyone else who wanted to hire me in my field considering what I had done. I was forced to learn a whole new line of work in order to survive, but my interests in what we were doing had never really vanished. I wanted to further learn and advance what our former employer had sought out to do and as a result, the field I began my new line of work in was psychology.”
  1569.  
  1570. Dr. Money pauses briefly with his frown returning to a soft smile.
  1571.  
  1572. “As I have said, there were various fields that my former employer drew upon in researching on how to bring about the Technological Singularity. One of those other fields was in psychology. And while I may not have had the opportunity to work in this field with my former employer, it was something I wanted to learn and master. I soon became engrossed with how the mind operated, how it was formed, how it could be manipulated, how it could be pushed to its limits, how it could malfunction, how it could be destroyed…how it could operate with respect to how a computer operates. And in this new line of work, I began to quietly and carefully observe people. Be it on the job, out in public, or from the comfort of my own home on my computer, I studied immensely how people behaved. But what was surprising to me, especially when I further looked into the psychology of people on the Internet, was just how significant and diverse people could be in the realm of cyberspace. Their beliefs, their attitudes, their woes, their suffering, their wants, and what fundamentally made them who they were…all of that…I learned so much more online than I ever did with any individual in person.”
  1573.  
  1574. His expression goes back to full on grinning as he continues his speech.
  1575.  
  1576. “And there was one thing I was beginning to realize with the diversity of the psychology I was witnessing: it was that people had so many differing views and wants and needs that if they were to ever be happy and live how they truly wanted to live, they would have to each experience living in a world that catered specifically to them. Either that, or have their minds erased and molded into something that was entirely different. Seeing as how the second option would be much harder to perform on a global scale, I figured it would be better to give them the option of being able to live in a world of their creation. To be able to possibly live a whole other life in a brand new body in a completely different world than they were used to…to live in one of their own creation, what impact could that have on them in terms of making them happier? And what would happen in science and technology with respect to the Technological Singularity concerning all of this? I had to know.”
  1577.  
  1578. You do your best to appear that you understood completely what he was saying. But in all honesty, you were becoming lost in his ramblings. Where the heck was this guy going with all of this?
  1579.  
  1580. “And so, I set out to establish my own company. Granted, I did not possess the funds I used to once possess and so I knew it would take time to help build it up. Not only that, I knew I would need to save in order to establish the necessary funds in order to help purchase the equipment that would be necessary in constructing what is now the Virtual Dream Machine. So in the meantime, I focused on my current career in psychology and worked on all of this in secret, at least until I could build the company further and produce more money. But here is where things begin to get particularly interesting.”
  1581.  
  1582. “How so?”
  1583.  
  1584. Dr. Money suddenly looks at you with an irritated gaze and you realize how what you just said might have seemed offensive to him. Being fully aware of his ugly side, you profusely apologize to him. He eventually sighs and continues speaking.
  1585.  
  1586. “Well, if you recall my old ‘friend’ and his specialization in nanotechnology, I never truly forgot about him. As a matter of fact, I tried my best to keep a close eye on him. For the longest time following his termination, however, it was difficult to find much information about him. I had no way of contacting him to inquire more about him and his work, and due to the bad publicity our former employer experienced, I sincerely doubt he wanted to interact with anyone he didn’t closely know. As a result, I had to simply accept the fact that I may never come across someone like him again. But I never did forget about him and I knew if I ever found him again, I would personally ensure he would never drop off of my radar. It was not until a few years ago where he actually resurfaced once more. Of course, this was after my company was swinging in full motion and construction on the Virtual Dream Machine had already begun. Through anonymous sources online, and from a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy, I was able to learn to my astonishment that he was still working with nanotechnology; the same nanotechnology our former employer was utilizing. Only this time, he was working with it in secret. And he managed to accomplish something I nor anyone else could have possibly imagined to really happen: he was able to transform living beings into something else and alter their minds through the same process. To be more precise, he was able to transform people into ponies.”
  1587.  
  1588. Wait. Oh no. Does that mean…?
  1589.  
  1590. Dr. Money locks eyes with you right away as if to acknowledge that you were correct in what that might mean in relation to you. He smiles brightly and ominously at you.
  1591.  
  1592. “Sounds completely crazy, doesn’t it? That nanotechnology could physically change a human being into a pony, and a cartoon pony from a children’s television show I might add. A pony that could also have a horn and be considered a unicorn, or a pegasus that possessed wings and could fly in the air…creatures that do not even exist in the physical world. And what’s even more amazing is that these creatures were sentient. They still maintained the identities of their original minds, even though their physical brains were altered with respect to their bodies. But here’s the even crazier part: this ‘friend’ of mine was able to successfully force them to learn to love what happened to them and to accept their new lives. He was somehow able to alter their minds to the point where they could forget something as simple as their old names and still be able to retain parts of their memories, while also changing other aspects of their psyche and making them love it altogether, even if they didn’t seek such a transformation.”
  1593.  
  1594. Uh oh. Is he…does that…does that mean he seeks to do something similar to you?
  1595.  
  1596. “How…How does a person succeed in playing God like that? How can you do that with nanotechnology alone? At least in today’s modern realm of sciences, nanotechnology is still in its infancy. All it can mostly do is help in the reconstruction of bone marrow and other tissues, creating synthetic organs, and in making various physical objects stronger. But to outright change living matter, especially a human being, into something else completely both in mind and in body…that was and still is beyond my comprehension. Regardless though, I became fascinated and obsessed with this old ‘friend’ of mine and tried everything I could to learn more about him. And what more I learned about him fascinated me to no end. Apparently, the ponies he created were actually domesticated through nanotechnology to become sentient pet ponies. They learned to love being household pets, even if they initially protested to this happening to them. No matter their personal backgrounds or who they were with respect to their own individual psyches, they all eventually accepted it and learned to love every aspect of living as a pet. They would even whole-heartedly obey whoever took care of them without question; they simply did not care because that same nanotechnology altered their minds to such an extent so that they would always experience never-ending love and happiness in their lives. A whole underground network of buying and selling these ‘pet ponies’ was established by this individual and a couple of close friends of his. Although I have never personally purchased one of these pet ponies, I know a couple of my employees have had some experience with him. And although you may choose to believe what you wish to believe, I can assure you that all of this is very real.”
  1597.  
  1598. “Buh-But even if it is all…real, and even if you plan to use me as a guinea pig because I’m a pony, at least digitally, how does all of this relate to you with what you want to accomplish with your whole Technological Singularity theory thingy?”
  1599.  
  1600. “Do you remember when I spoke of the limitations of my Virtual Dream Machine?”
  1601.  
  1602. You nod your head.
  1603.  
  1604. “Do you also remember asking me how we could get a computer inside of a person?”
  1605.  
  1606. You slowly nod your head this time.
  1607.  
  1608. “With respect to the Technological Singularity, the biggest tool that can make the merger of man and machine happen is nanotechnology. In retrospect, such technology is small enough where it can permeate through nearly every orifice of the human body, including very sensitive areas, such as the heart and brain. It can be programmed to eliminate carcinogenic cells and viruses, for example, and further help to improve the functioning of the human body, including the brain itself. Now granted, current medical technology has not gotten quite that far with it, but in theory, nanotechnology could gradually begin replacing certain parts of the body so that it may be possible to breathe without lungs, or to live without a heart and pump blood throughout the body through other means. In effect, nanotechnology could enhance numerous parts of the body and merge with the body itself, including the brain. And if nanotechnology could gradually replace something like the heart and lungs, couldn’t it also gradually replace the biological brain too?”
  1609. “Uh…I…guess?”
  1610.  
  1611. “And if it were able to do that, would our conscious and subconscious still be tied down to our physical bodies or would it become digital?”
  1612.  
  1613. He looks at you with enthusiasm, possibly waiting for a response from you, but you say nothing.
  1614.  
  1615. “Well, if our minds are no longer tied down to our nanorobotic brains, isn’t it logical to assume that they could survive destruction of the body itself? Could our minds be transferred elsewhere into a new body? Could they also likewise transfer to somewhere else in cyberspace, assuming we could integrate information technology with nanotechnology? Would they have the power to live in the physical world if they choose to do so, or in a virtual world purely of their own creation? What about living in the physical world and the virtual world at the same time?”
  1616.  
  1617. “Whu…that…I…I don’t get it.”
  1618.  
  1619. “If our minds are able to survive the destruction of our physical bodies and can separate from them whenever they desired to do so, what would happen from our point of view? Would we have complete control over this enhanced form of nanotechnology? Could we transform from one physical form into another while still living in the same world? Would we be able to switch bodies with others? What if one day we wanted to be one gender and the next day the opposite? What about living as a different species? What about enhancing our looks? What about editing and correcting the way our minds operated so that no matter what, we could always be happy, regardless of the environment we found ourselves in and the people we interacted with? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to change your identity completely so that you could voluntarily choose to adopt new memories and forget old ones, to change your perception of the world on a whim, or to say ‘to hell’ with the physical world and immerse yourself with a world of your own creation? And if you got tired of such a world, why not create another one and a whole new life for yourself? You could forget old memories that might interfere with your new life. In retrospect, you could have the power to erase yourself completely and become absolutely nothing; you could be zero. And then, you could theoretically become anyone and be absolutely anything you wanted to be. You could become everything if you truly wanted to; you could be infinity. You could be both nothing and everything; you could, in hindsight, be zero and infinity! Can you imagine that kind of power?”
  1620.  
  1621. “You’re-You’re…”
  1622.  
  1623. You look at him as seriously as you can, trying to hide any fears of him that you might have.
  1624.  
  1625. “Yes? I’m what?”
  1626.  
  1627. “You’re crazy.”
  1628.  
  1629. Rather than become instantly angry towards you, he actually begins laughing at you as if you told some kind of comical joke.
  1630.  
  1631. “I know, I know. A lot of this does sound quite insane, doesn’t it? I will admit, a lot of this is open speculation and I am not completely sure how exactly things will turn out. And you don’t have to believe any of it. As I have stated time and time again, reality is purely how you perceive it to be and you can either believe me and take all of what I have said to be completely true, or you can disregard what I have said and think of me as some kind of deranged madman. Truthfully, I do not care. What I do care about, however, is you and finding this old ‘friend’ of mine.”
  1632.  
  1633. “Even if you found him and could get him to work for you, what makes you think all of this could work?”
  1634.  
  1635. Dr. Money pauses and sighs for a moment, and then looks at you seriously.
  1636.  
  1637. “Well, to be fair, I will admit that as advanced as his form of nanotechnology is, it can only currently transform humans into these pet pony creatures. I have yet to see him turn them back into humans, or into other creatures, and to achieve any sort of feat that I have been talking about would be quite…challenging. But, it is important to note that his nanotechnology is currently not information technology in the sense that it could connect to the Internet like an actual computer. It does not allow the minds of the ponies to transfer from one pony body to another, or to cyberspace as a whole. As a matter of fact, their minds are still in their pony bodies and cannot leave them. And I also know the entire world doesn’t necessarily have an interest in becoming a pet pony, and in terms of bringing universal happiness that way, I sincerely doubt it would work like that. No doubt, we would have to work on further enhancing his nanotechnology to the point where we could get it to operate the way I would like it to.”
  1638.  
  1639. “And how would you be able to do that?”
  1640.  
  1641. He smiles once more at you.
  1642.  
  1643. “Through you of course.”
  1644.  
  1645. You gulp.
  1646.  
  1647. “Rest assured though, I would only do that to you when I have felt it would be safe to do so and the technology is more up to par with what I want it to be. There is absolutely no way that I can let you die and we all want you to be genuinely happy. What I want to be able to do, if everything goes according to plan, is to integrate the power of my Virtual Dream Machine and all of my information technology that I have used with my test subjects with my ‘friend’s’ nanotechnology. If we could somehow get that to happen, we would be successful in having integrated a fully functioning computer the size of nanobots within an individual’s mind. Unlike my Virtual Dream Machine and its limitations with only being able to create one world centered around your mind, you would, in theory, be able to create as many worlds as you wanted, live any kind of life whenever you wanted, live in the physical world or the virtual world or both, and you could alter your psyche so that no matter what, you would always be happy and believe wherever you are to be completely real. Again, there could be a lot of flaws in the beginning and there is always the risk that something could go wrong. I’ll even be the first to admit that I am nowhere near as experienced as my ‘friend’ is in nanotechnology. But considering that we were both once working towards the same goal and through his help, I am hopeful the integration of both of our technologies will be successful in the end. And to play things safe, I feel it is best to first focus on his nanotechnology as it currently stands and to focus on those test subjects who desire to be a pony in some sense, such as yourself.”
  1648.  
  1649. You gulp once more as he simply smiles and continues talking.
  1650.  
  1651. “I do know it is possible to integrate my technology with his, and while I am unsure right now as to whether or not his nanotechnology would be able to do further transformations besides ponies, I know that he is at least able to do that. And if we could simply integrate my technology with his, then some of what I have just talked about might just be possible with you. Of course, I am also curious to witness and observe directly how both of our technologies would work on people who would desire none of this, and essentially force them to love it all and be happy. You remember Daniel, Justin, and Grady, yes?”
  1652.  
  1653. Your heart begins beating once more as you start to realize where he’s going with this.
  1654.  
  1655. “Well, as I have promised, they did not die and I will personally see to it that they live the happiest lives possible as…”
  1656.  
  1657. He pauses briefly, flashing you what appeared to be a malicious smile.
  1658.  
  1659. “…adorable, cuddly, and oh so cute and fluffy pet ponies.”
  1660.  
  1661. He chuckles sardonically.
  1662.  
  1663. “Mark my words, they WILL be happy when the transformation is all said and done, but as to whether or not they will have completely digital minds while maintaining any scrap of their old identities, or to be able to do any of the things I theorized might be possible is still open to speculation. But being able to take each individual one at a time to study the progress of this new form of nanotechnology will at least make it all the more possible for you to benefit from all of the research I have conducted. And once I am satisfied with where things are at, the same will happen to you. Except you, on the other hand, can choose to live as Radiance on Earth, or choose to live in cyberspace within your own world. Maybe you could leave all of this…madness behind you and just live a cozy, peaceful, and happy life being who you were meant to be. And I do promise you that you will have that freedom. I’ll make sure you won’t be an actual pet in any sense, unless you truly wanted to be one. Regardless, you will ultimately be able to have all of your dreams truly come true. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get to be reunited with that girl from that lake and live the rest of your life with her.”
  1664.  
  1665. “Buh-But…what…what will happen after me? I-I mean…you turn me into a physical pony on Earth, and say I did want to leave all of this, how can I transfer my muh-mind to truly go buh-back home?”
  1666.  
  1667. “What an excellent, yet tough, question to answer. If we are able to purely digitize your mind, while also physically transforming you into a pony with nanotechnology, your mind will not be limited to your pony body. It could function independently of any physical vessel. You could choose to leave it if you so desired. You could go onto elsewhere. Granted, at the same time, we may not have the means for you to be able to transform your pony body into something else just quite yet seeing as how this technology would be in its infancy, but as long as your mind is digital, it can transfer elsewhere…likely to anywhere that has any form of connection to the Internet and cyberspace. You would have complete control over your mind and your perceptions and theoretically, you could forever live in whatever world you pleased doing whatever you wanted to do. You would always be able to be happy. Never again would you have to experience the sorrows you once endured. Anything else that happens after you...well…does it truly matter to you? For as long as you’re happy, what does the rest of it all matter to you? You get what you’ve wanted your whole life: to be you, to be female, to be a mother, to be with whoever that girl might be, and you can live a life of peaceful, happy, prosperity filled with nothing but love. And in turn, I learn a significant amount of what I have been able to accomplish with you and can be all the more closer in changing the face of this Earth and making it possible to bring about universal happiness. Of course, by that point in time, I take it you would be far away from here. And if everything goes smoothly, this new form of nanotechnology will erase anything negative from your mind and likely just about everything I have told you. Once it’s all said and done, it will seem like you have always been living with that girl in your own world as Radiance.”
  1668.  
  1669. You hear a sudden beep coming from Dr. Money’s end. He brings his left arm up to him and examines his watch and then looks back to you.
  1670.  
  1671. “Well, I am afraid it might just be about time for me to go Radiance. There are some ‘things’ I need to go and tend to.”
  1672.  
  1673. “WAIT!”
  1674.  
  1675. He lowers his arm and places it back behind him, smiling at you while he does so.
  1676.  
  1677. “Yes?”
  1678.  
  1679. “In order to make any of this happen, you need to find this guy you keep talking about. I mean, how do you know if you’ll find him?”
  1680.  
  1681. He chuckles briefly and looks at you with a zeal of enthusiastic confidence.
  1682.  
  1683. “Oh trust me. We’ll find him. Like I have said before, once he resurfaced with this whole pet pony nanotechnology, I swore I would never let him off my radar. While I do admit that I do not know of his exact location, I know I’m getting close. This old ‘friend’ of mine, while his reasons for doing what he’s been doing may not make quite as much sense to me, is actually quite smart and can be quite dangerous. He’s been successful in tracking down people of interest to him, kidnapping them, and turning them into one of his beloved pet ponies; he’s even done this to people who have gotten on his bad side. And in so doing, he has been very clever in covering his tracks; at the very least, he’s been mostly clever.”
  1684.  
  1685. Dr. Money raises one of his hands up to readjust the position of his glasses, and then proceeds to place it behind his back.
  1686.  
  1687. “However, he has not covered all of his tracks and through careful observation over the years, we have uncovered the state in which he currently resides in. We even know of the city he may be living in, or rather, the city he may be living near. And I must say, I do miss living in Massachusetts. It is such a beautiful state to live in and it has been a very long time since I’ve been back there. Would be nice to revisit some familiar sites and do some catching up.”
  1688.  
  1689. “What makes you think he’ll even wanna work with you?”
  1690.  
  1691. “Want to work with me? Truthfully, I have a very good feeling that he won’t want to. Ever since the whole incident with our former employer, I know he’s grown weary of having to deal with anyone he does not have to deal with. And, while I may not completely understand why it is he started this whole thing with pet ponies, I would imagine that he is pretty happy with his life. He likely has no desire to further complicate his life. Because, if he has all the love and happiness with his pet pony creatures that he could ever ask for, why on Earth would he want to be bothered to do all of this additional work?”
  1692.  
  1693. “I dunno. You tell me.”
  1694.  
  1695. “Well, I do know the biggest thing he struggles with, even if he may not like to admit it, is money. Ever since he lost his job due to the public outcry he caused, he was left no choice but to go into hiding. And, just like me, who would want to hire anyone who has done what we have both done? In short, he began a business and was able to make money off of this whole underground network of pet ponies. One of his close friends even helped him financially in getting his underground business to take off. But even then, I know he could always use more money. And I could guarantee him all of the money he could ever ask for. But even if he were to refuse such a job offer, well…”
  1696.  
  1697. He briefly closes his eyes as he casts a sinister smile.
  1698.  
  1699. “Although I have you right where I want you, there is absolutely no way I can let him walk away from this. I NEED him!”
  1700.  
  1701. He opens his eyes and looks at you maliciously.
  1702.  
  1703. “And mark my words, if he so happens to turn down my job offer, there will be…ways where I can coerce him into doing what I want him to do.”
  1704.  
  1705. “A-And you duh-don’t think he’ll try to do something to you to break free?”
  1706.  
  1707. Dr. Money chuckles.
  1708.  
  1709. “I am well aware he is capable of doing something to me and I know he can be very dangerous, but I am not afraid of him. Because of what I can use to coerce him into doing what I want him to do…let’s just say if he were to do anything to me, he would deeply regret it.”
  1710.  
  1711. You once again hear Dr. Money’s watch beeping. He sighs once more.
  1712.  
  1713. “Well my dear Radiance, as much as I have enjoyed conversing with you, I’m afraid that this is where we must part. I’m afraid that I’m just about all out of time for now.”
  1714.  
  1715. Panic starts to consume you as you realize that if he leaves, you’ll be left stuck in this white void by yourself.
  1716.  
  1717. “W-WAIT! What about me? What am I supposed to do until you find him?”
  1718.  
  1719. “For the time being, I’m afraid I’ll have to keep you inside of my Virtual Dream Machine, at least until I’m able to make further progress with my plans. Although I am close in finding this old ‘friend’ of mine, it may take a little more time before I can let you out. But I won’t keep you in there too much longer. How about this: why don’t I place you back to when you just met Dr. Wilhelm? I can let things play out normally and you can spend the rest of your day living there. Now, I sincerely doubt I would be able to accomplish everything in a day, but as I have said previously, I can slow down my Virtual Dream Machine to such an extent that by the time a day has passed for you in there, it will finally be time for me to release you and begin the next phase of my experiments. And in the meantime, try to have some fun there. I know that world now likely seems very fake to you, but why not try to have fun and apply some of the things regarding perception I have talked about with you here to there?”
  1720.  
  1721. You sigh and look at him with a frown.
  1722.  
  1723. “I know. I do apologize and I realize that might not make you completely happy, but it’s the best alternative I have for you for right now. It’s better than wallowing in that white void you’re in right now, and it’s certainly better than taking you out of there and keeping you locked up in a cell here for several weeks, if not several months. At least if you are there, it will only feel like a day has passed. And either way, I promise that my plans going forward will happen soon. Once I find him…”
  1724.  
  1725. He pauses and chuckles softly. You see Dr. Money leaning forward for something off-screen. Once he has it, he comes back into view with what appeared to be some kind of black remote control. He aims it right at the center of the screen with his thumb resting on one of the buttons.
  1726.  
  1727. “Soon. I promise. Oh so very soon.”
  1728.  
  1729. He clicks the button and just as he does so, you’re immediately engulfed into a bright light. You close your eyes, but the second you open them, you immediately see that you’re no longer in that white void. Instead you are right back in a doctor’s office sitting on a tan, bed-like chair. And right in front of you was the pony who looked like Dr. Money: Dr. Wilhelm.
  1730.  
  1731. “So, tell me Radiance, how are you doing?”
  1732.  
  1733. “Whu-What?”
  1734.  
  1735. You look at him with an expression of shock over everything that has just happened to you.
  1736.  
  1737. “I said…”
  1738.  
  1739. He looks at you with a touch of sympathetic concern.
  1740.  
  1741. “…how have you been doing as of late?”
  1742.  
  1743. You were right back in your own world; this whole experience with Dr. Money seeming like it never even happened.
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