Dreaming of an Endless Night (Staren)

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Dreaming of an Endless Night (Staren)
Date of Cutscene: 05 September 2014
Synopsis: TRANSMIT - initiate cephalopod signal - RECEIVE - innate cutle-ink frequency -
Cast of Characters: Staren
Tinyplot: Dawning of an Endless Night

Staren stepped out of the forest, to the edge of froggy bottom bog. His nose wrinkles at the smell -- he resolves this by shifting to catboy form and deploying his armor. Ahh. Environmental sealing and fresh air. Much better. Now then:

"Girls?" he called, amplified through the suit's speakers. Honestly. Cutie Mark Crusaders /Hydra Tamers/? What were they /thinking/? In the distance, he can hear other voices calling out across the bog. It's a pretty big search party. Those calls echo without reply, though, aside from the sounds of the swamp. Staren sighs and trudges deeper. There's nothing to really worry about here -- his armor completely shields him from the environmental annoyances, and even if he encounters the hydra, well, he can /fly/. "Girrrr-lllls?"

Just after rounding some trees to check a sort of swamp cul-de-sac, he trips over something and goes down with a splash. As he lifts himself out of the water, he catches a glimps of something slithering through the swamp right next to him. Too big to be a fish, and the wrong texture for a snake... far too small to be a hydra, though. He struggles to pull himself to his feet, the mud thicker and muckier than he thought it was, apparently. "Rrrgh... come on!"

As he scrapes the mud from his clean white armor, he notices how dark the swamp is -- dark grey here instead of brown. It looks like all the color has gone out of the world or something in this part of the swamp. Black water, black trees, all leafless, and a grey, overcast sky above. "Girls? Are you here?"

"Looking for someone?" The voice comes from behind him. He whirls, raising his arm, and sees a pony watching him. Sleek and black, something looks off about her. It's the eyes, he decides. They look too big. And narrow. With tiny irises and pupils. And she has no mane, and unusually long, narrow legs for an Equestrian.

"Y-yeah." He speaks when he realizes he's staring. "Have you seen three little fillies--"

"The children." She replies. "Yes, follow me. I will take you to them." Her accent is strange -- Eastern European maybe? He can't remember what that corresponds to in Equestria. Definately not around here, though. He follows her through the trees, into a swampy forest. The trees here are alive again, but that just means their foliage blocks out more light. If there even is any light.

By the time they reach the village, it seems night time already. Huts in the swamp, with lanterns and torches the only illumination. Ponies walk here and there, but they make no sound, and when he gets close, he can see they all look strange, like his guide, though their colorations are as varied as any. She leads him to a hut, and waves a hoof at the door. He pushes it open.

In the darkness, a small, shivering shape turns her head towards him. "DON'T!" she shouts, alarm and fear in her voice. "GET AWAY! IT'S A TRAYHP!"

Staren turns, following her gaze, and sees all the villagers are turned to face him, staring at him, eyes unblinking. And this is when he finally realizes what else was off about them:

No cutie marks.

"You will stay." His guide says. And then there is a flash of lightning -- his visor briefly tints, keeping him from being blinded, but as the rain begins to fall, he can see the villagers have changed -- nothing but bones and bits of rotting flesh, eye sockets empty but for a malevolent glow. "You will stay with us, and become part of our master!"

A lumpy shape rises out of the swamp. Water and earth rise with it, and even some of the villagers nearby it are drawn in, forming a tentacled, muddy, bony mass. It sprouts pseudopods to each side, and gaps open for a mouth and a glowing eye.

Staren tries to raise his weapons, but finds he can't move.

The being moves closer, with a hissing, shuffling sound. It looms over him. It roars incoherently: HAGH YAHH CHUUUUUUUK

As it roars, its mouth grows until it takes up nearly its whole body -- the thinner body stretches out around the mouth, and the maw towers over Staren, and then drops down around him--

He awakens in bed with a start. Soaked in sweat, heart racing.

A nightmare. Staren hasn't had one of those in a long time. Well, he certainly doesn't feel like closing his eyes /now/. With a sigh, he sits up and swings his feet out over the carpet, and into moccasins for walking around the house. He walks out into the hall and down to the bathroom for a drink of water.

It's dark, of course. And it's late, far too late, and that means some stupid, primitive part of his mind screams that danger is just out of sight.

In his mind's eye, he can see the monsters lurking just out of view. They've always been the same, since he was a small child: Skeletal monstrosities. Not humanoid -- animalistic, but of no particular animal. Reptilian, perhaps. Funny-shaped skulls with holes in odd places. Long, serpentine necks. His mind's eye stops picturing them in detail at that point -- there is only a vague sense of an undead, skeletal predator, hard, animate bone against which his flesh would be powerless.

As always when walking the house late at night, he reminds himself that there is no way such things could be in the house. There are sensors and wards and things! His mind has /always/ imagined them and they've /never/ been there. Shut up, brain, and stop terrorizing yourself.

As always, his brain ignores this and instills him with a sense of dread that danger lurks in the darkness.

Tea. Tea would hit the spot. Sweet tea. He trudges to the kitchen -- MONSTERS IN THE DEN! -- shut /up/, brain -- and opens the fridge. He drinks straight from the bottle because who cares, it's just him and his parents that live here. As he turns to go back to his room, he catches a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye. MONSTERS IN THE LIVING ROOM. Shut UP, brain. Look, we're going to /look/ in the living room, and there will be /no/ monsters, and then will you finally give it a rest?

Staren trudges across the kitchen.

As he nears the archway to the living room, he hears a faint rattle.

He balls his fists and steels himself. /Just your imagination/.

He rounds the corner and--

Nothing. No room, no darkness, NOTHING except for a sensation of pure terror.

He awakens in bed with a start. Soaked in sweat, heart racing.

Staren rolls his eyes. Great, one of THOSE dreams.

With a heavy sigh, he swings his feet out over the bed and sits up--

--And finds himself staring out over the swamp at night. There's a flash of movement and he pulls his legs back onto his bed, which is sitting there in the middle of the swamp.


He hears it behind him. With a dawning sense of terror, he turns, catches a brief glimpse of the mound of muck and bone and tentacles looming on the other side of his bed--

He awakens in bed with a start. Soaked in sweat, heart racing.

In his room this time. He takes deep breaths to calm himself. It's okay. He's awake now. He steps over to the door. Opens it. Looks around. His mind screams that IT IS OUT TO GET HIM. Stupid mind. He gets a drink from the bathroom.

When he turns to walk back out to the hallway, there is nothing, except the terror.

He awakens in bed with a start. Soaked in sweat, heart racing.

The taste of vomit in his mouth, and a pounding headache that, blessedly, quickly fades.

His room again.

Is... is it over?

Maybe... maybe he should go rest in the lab. It's full of bright lights. And science. There, everything is knowable. Everything is defeatable.

He steps out into the hallway.


He turns, and runs to the door to the lab elevator. Opens it, steps in, and, shaking, misses the button. Franticly he jabs at it, but nothing happens. No, no, he has to go, IT'S COMING

The doorway fills with terror--

He awakens in bed with a start. Soaked in sweat, heart racing.

Vomit. Headache. It fades. Shaking, he stands up.


He stumbles over to the door and opens it. Gotta get to the lab. He rushes in, slips, stubs his toe against the wall, sucks air through his teeth in pain... He turns back to


He awakens in bed with a start. Soaked in sweat, heart racing.

Vomit. Headache. It fades.


He leaps out of bed to the door. Something instinctive tells him to go to his parents. He races down the hall, opens the door, looks back to see if it--


He awakens in bed with a start. Soaked in sweat, heart racing.

Vomit. Headache. No time. Leap, run, open door, run, open door--

Safe now.

He stands there, looking at the sleeping forms of his parents in their bed, moonlight shining through the windows, and feels immensely silly. He's twenty-two years old, for crying out loud, and here he is going to his parents in the middle of the night, like a small child.

"Mmmh... Staren?" His mother stirs, looking at him.

"...Bad dream." he says, meekly.

He takes a deep breath. Calm down. It's over.

"...Sorry for waking you." he mumbles. "I'll... just go back to bed now." At last, his heart slows down.

"Staren, honey..."

"Love you mom, goodnigh--"

"Won't you stay,"


"and join your master?"

It's in a cheerful, conversational tone, too. Ice runs through Staren's veins, freezing him in his tracks. He hears rain pounding on the roof. What an odd, unimportant thing to notice.

He turns...

His parents are standing by the bed in their nightclothes. Sunken eyes too wide. No irises or pupils. Gangly limbs.

Lightning flashes. Tentacles sprout, and they crouch as if about to pounce--


He awakens in bed with a start. Soaked in sweat, heart racing.

Vomit. Headache.

What is he going to do?

"What are you going to do?"

Parser stands over him. A humanoid figure of inky blackness. Tall and long-limbed, but... without any definition or detail in the blackness, he's safely at the opposite edge of the uncanny valley.

"Quite a pickle you've gotten yourself into. Do you think it was some forbidden knowledge?"

Staren just stares at him.

"You're thinking, did I read any eldritch books lately? Did I anger a dark wizard? What /caused/ this? What's the /reason/?"

Parser leans closer. "Because there's always a reason, right? Figure it out, and you can control and conquer it. Save the day. Be the hero."

Staren pushes himself out of bed and stands, glaring at Parser. The sky outside his window is red. Red like an LED, not like an evening sky.

"Because you don't want to admit, one day it could all end because of something beyond you. Beyond your control. Beyond your /comprehension/. The ant doesn't see the man with the boot, or the pesticide. And suddenly, all that work gathering food and digging tunnels was for nothing."

Staren grabs his bandana and amulet from atop his dresser.

Parser stands up straight and adopts a friendly, comforting tone. "It's not your /fault/. It's how things were going to end anyway."

Staren teleports.

"You can't escape..." Parser calls, as the world fades to white--

--Staren appears by the warpgate. The sky is only red near the horizon. Above is a black sky, with square stars scattered at random. Over the horizon a massive, tentacled THING looms, with one massive eye turned towards the city of Lazlo.

Staren activates the gate and steps through.

Equestria's sky is dark and overcast. Staren activates his wings and flies to Ponyville at top speed.

The streets are deserted, because it's stupid o'clock at night. Staren thinks he sees a pony move in the shadows. Then another. He doesn't stop to look closely.

He pounds on the door to the library. "Twilight! Twilight!"

She opens the door with her telekinesis. "Staren! It's the middle of the night, what are you--"

He runs forward to hug her, holding her tight.

"Well, since you're here..."

Staren freezes. Something sounds off.

"Won't you stay?"

He pulls his arms away and steps back.

This villager has Twilight's coat color.

Staren turns to run, but bumps into someone in the doorway.

Morg McGee. Harrowed again. Rotting flesh. Blank eyes with no irises or pupils.

"Thinking of running to your other friend? The master's in charge, now. It'll be in charge of everythin', soon." Morg grins.

"See you, Chuck." Parser is standing inside the library. Staren turns to look at him.

And just for good measure...


He awakens in bed with a start. Soaked in sweat, heart racing.

Vomit. Headache. He stands, grabs his bandana and pendant, teleports--

And is hit with bitterly cold winds. Because he's standing in front of the warpgate, outside, in a T-shirt, shorts, and socks, and it's /cold/ outside, and he didn't actually put /on/ his hot-and-cold protection charm.

He sucks in a deep breath. It's cold. He feels very awake now.

He looks up at the starry night sky. Navigation software points out the constellations to him.

He collapses to his knees, and teleports back to his room.

No Parser. No terror.

He lays on his bed and stares up at the ceiling.

And doesn't even notice falling into a dreamless sleep.