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Look on Down From the Bridge

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When the news had broken, Vinyl Scratch had cried herself sick, mute sobs wracking her frame. She hadn’t thought she’d be able to move on without Octavia.

But that was last week. She was over it. Octavia was headed to Canterlot and that was that. Vinyl Scratch had come to terms with that fact, had accepted it in all its absolute finality. They were through, the two of them, and it had been clear that Octavia would not be open to trying again, no matter how much Vinyl wanted to be with her.

But that was last week.

Vinyl lay in her bed, not sad, staring at the ceiling. The curtains were drawn, and though she wanted to let the bright spring sunlight into the house, she didn’t have the energy to move. But she’d do it later, when she felt up to it. She supposed she could magic the curtains open—far easier than getting up—but still Vinyl lay in bed, not moving an inch.

She heard Octavia’s cello from the other room, its rich and mellow sound penetrating the lethargic atmosphere that hung over Vinyl’s bedroom. The playing stopped, and Vinyl heard Octavia mutter something before the music began again, the same exquisite melody as before.

Her hooves slowly pulled the covers up and over her head, and Vinyl shivered as she wrapped herself in a cocoon of cotton. She tried to block out the music that she had never really liked, only tolerated because she liked Octavia, but its wonderful sound filled her room, her head, her mind.

She didn’t like the cello. How could she, with its haunting timbre and mellow tones, its stark contrast to her electronic mixes that meshed together almost perfectly…

Vinyl was not crying, she was sure. Something was in her eye, that was all.

Something must have been in her eyes last week, too, when Vinyl had found out that Octavia would be traveling home to Canterlot to be with her family. Something very, very irritating had been in her eyes and it was only by spilling tears had she been able to wash away the intruding particle. Coincidence and nothing more.

But that was last week.

Vinyl became aware that all was silent in the house. The cello had gone quiet and, apart from hoofsteps—Octavia’s, she knew—from another room, there wasn’t a sound. And that was okay; Vinyl’s headache wasn’t getting better anytime soon. It was probably for the best.

She knew Octavia was judging her, judging her for not continuing her daily routine and for not wanting to do anything more than sulk and feel sorry for herself. But what did she know? Octavia wasn’t staying in Ponyville like Vinyl, wasn’t affected by going to Canterlot in the slightest. She wanted to scream right now, but that was all it was—a want. Vinyl simply didn’t have the energy anymore.

There were lots of things she needed to do, once Octavia had left for good. She would need to buy more food, for one, would need to clean the house and pay the bills and focus on her career and not let this bother her for one more second of her life. Vinyl Scratch, disk jockey extraordinaire and electronic music pioneer, needed to do all of these things.

Vinyl Scratch, unicorn and normal pony, wanted to do none of them. She wanted to lie in bed and not think about Octavia or her music or anything a regular pony had to do to be a fully functioning member of Equestrian society. She wanted to sleep, and that was that.

“Vinyl?”

The unicorn snuggled deeper into the sheets. She wasn’t ready to deal with this right now, and wasn’t sure if she’d be ready anytime soon if she was being honest with herself. Vinyl longed to poke her head out and see Octavia, but that was stupid and sounded like too much effort. No, it was better just to lie there and hope whatever this was would pass.

As it turned out, she didn’t have a choice. The sheets were thrown up and off her bed without warning, and a shiver ran through Vinyl Scratch as the cool, stale air hit her exposed body. She shut her eyes and cowered into her pillow, then chanced a look.

Octavia stood over her, charcoal mane resplendent and billowing, ashen coat scoured to a shimmer, and eyes burning their mysterious violet. Vinyl’s heart screamed in confusion as she was torn between feelings of love and repulsion. Her brain kicked into overdrive before failing. Her mouth was like that of a fish, closing and opening, gasping for air, not finding the right words and not wanting to find the right words.

Her eyes darted around the room. Cardboard boxes were stacked in haphazard piles on the floor. Some had tipped over and spilled their contents, magazines or clothes or sheet music. All Octavia’s, but that was okay, they weren’t going anywhere. There was some smell permeating the room, a decidedly unpleasant one. She’d have to take care of that too, at some point.

The earth pony above her smiled. She adjusted her grip on the cello that Vinyl hadn’t even realized Octavia was holding and drew the bow that Vinyl had bought her for her birthday last spring across the strings in a gorgeous chord.

It was like a slap. Vinyl Scratch froze, then allowed herself to relax. This had been a week coming, she supposed, had been something she should have done that day, really. Maybe she would finally come to terms with what had happened. Hadn’t she moped enough over the past week?

Vinyl stared through Octavia, who simply continued to play with fervor. The cellist’s mane and coat shone, where Vinyl’s was unkempt and showed signs of filth tinging the hairs. Strands of two-toned blue stuck out in a wild frizz, more so than usual. Crumbs and stains lined the edges of Vinyl’s lips from when she had gorged herself on sandwiches three days ago. Now her stomach rumbled and ached.

The unicorn reached for her glasses, which lay askew on a rickety bedside table. A look from the mare above Vinyl, silent and patient, gave momentary pause to her action. Then she grabbed them with a hoof and jammed them over her frightened eyes. Octavia shouldn’t, couldn’t, see her like this.

Lavender filled her vision, and finally Vinyl Scratch pulled herself up from her pillow, joints popping and muscles straining with extraordinary effort. The walls were no longer a dull gray, but a soft shade of purple.

It helped.

“Are you all right, love?”

Of course not, Tavi. How could I possibly be all right? Vinyl didn’t say. She didn’t need to: they had understood each other perfectly. On the same wavelength, as it were. But that was last week.

“Have Lyra and Bon Bon been checking on you? I asked them just the other day…”

They had tried. Stars above, they had tried. The interesting thing about friends is that they did everything they could to help a pony, to get them back on their hooves with a new yearning for life that had, perhaps, been absent. Friends wanted friends to succeed and be happy. They cared about each other and loved one another.

Vinyl realized that she was not a friend. Not anymore. She was pathetic and lonely and nothing without the pony caressing the strings before her. She knew it and hated it, but could not bring herself to do anything about it. Who in the world cared about Vinyl Scratch, unicorn and normal pony, anymore? Maybe Lyra, maybe Bon Bon, maybe Princess Twilight or someone else in town... but she didn’t think so, not really. They were just being supportive from a distance because they felt sorry for her.

She didn’t blame Lyra and Bon Bon for not showing up after the third day. It wasn’t their faults. Vinyl was the one who hadn’t answered their increasingly frantic knocks, the one who had hid in the darkest corner she could find that allowed for a sliver of visibility between the thick curtains on the window, the one who met her friends’ questions of concern and worry with pitiful silence, because how could she face them?

She must not have been hiding her feelings well, because the cello suddenly quieted a bit and discomfort made its ugly presence apparent.

“Oh, Vinyl…”

I love you, Vinyl wanted to say, but of course she couldn’t. It wasn’t worth much anymore.

“You know how my family is, Vinyl, how my father is. He needs me home in Canterlot, now more than ever. I think he’s upset that he never visited when he had the chance, but I know that you were not… on the best of terms with him.”

Octavia let out a laugh, a high-pitched wind chime of a thing that hung in the air with grace, but Vinyl knew it wasn’t the laughs of anniversaries or birthdays or even minor events that simply brightened a pony’s day. Octavia adjusted her grip on the cello, bearing it towards a deeper, brooding tone.

“Two ponies were traveling through a wood when they came across a large river with a sturdy bridge spanning the width a long ways up the path. Both had fallen prey to this river once before, when the bridge had not been built and the current was swift.

“One was overcome with fear and couldn’t bear to cross, afraid that the bridge would collapse under her hooves, until a log happened to drift by. She clung to the log with all her might and attempted to swim across the river, but was carried downstream and out of sight. The other simply walked across the bridge.”

Vinyl had heard Octavia tell this story before, thought about it every night before she drifted off into fitful, dreamless bouts of rest.

“The river was faster, yes, but the bridge conquered the river. It is a longer path, but the river is unpredictable. One cannot know how the journey will go until the journey has been completed, but once over, it is over for good. For to be stuck in the past is no better than to be paralyzed by the future.”

Vinyl gazed into Octavia’s eyes, took in her features and her form, took in the cello and the bow Vinyl had bought for Octavia’s birthday, took in the music and the sounds of birds outside, and it hurt, in a good way, a hurt that she needed. Her mind wandered to an image of a peaceful Octavia lying on a bed of lilies wrapped in spruce, surrounded by her family in Canterlot. Perhaps Vinyl would be okay after all.

“Do you trust the river I floated down? Or will you look on down from the bridge above and put the roaring waters of the past behind you?”

Behind her vanishing form, the record of cello music ran off into the groove. Vinyl wept, alone.