All Writers Love TuberculosisMonochromatic
You’ll have to forgive me, dear friend, as I start today’s meeting with completely unrelated thoughts on death and stories.
I’ve been thinking about death a lot. Surely you must be thinking, “how could you not? Here of all places,” but in truth, death has always fascinated me, even in life.
I recall a conversation I’d had at the Sapphire once, a month or so after I’d made it my permanent home. I was nineteen at the time, I believe.
To say that first month was hard would be an understatement, and more often than not I’d find myself contritely knocking on Lady—no, Auntie Luna’s door, asking if I could perhaps sleep alongside her in her grandiose bed, like I’d done so many times as a child whenever she’d spent the night at the mansion.
The conversation I mentioned happened one such night at the Sapphire, as I lay nestled under the covers, finishing a dress I’d been working on.
I could hear Auntie Luna in the bathroom, carrying on with her bedtime routine. When she finally emerged from the bathroom, I couldn’t help a giggle.
There she stood, wearing a… well, I’d call it a nightgown, but really it was more a sort of pink flowery frock that you might find at the bottom of a suitcase in the attic. One that used to belong to your Great Grandmother with an antiquated name like Gertrude, or Millicent. It didn’t help, either, that she wore a pair of ridiculously large spectacles that made her eyes look both enormous and tiny all at once.
“What are you laughing at?” She asked, arching an eyebrow.
“Oh, nothing,” I said, turning back to my dress. “Just thinking I ought to tell Little Red Riding Hood that her grandmother’s been found.”
“You do that, child,” she grunted, getting under the covers.
I suppose this is what I appreciated of Lady Luna, then and as a child. She felt… fallible. Silly. Human. Even though she was one of the most intimidating people I’d ever known, she could not care less about keeping up appearances, no matter how many times her unofficial niece teased her about her ugly nightgowns.
Lady Celestia on the other hand… Even in the privacy of her home, even when it’d just been the two of us, I always felt that she was putting up an appearance.
But, I’m getting distracted, aren’t I?
As I was saying, there we were, aunt and niece going about our night, when I suddenly found myself with a strange urge. I brought the tip of the needle to my finger and pricked myself, afterwards admiring the single drop of blood that poured out.
I stared at it, and then, still in this odd little trance, lifted my finger and smeared my clean lips with a different kind of crimson lipstick.
“You are a strange child, Rarity.”
I turned to find my auntie staring straight at me, her book now placed face down on her lap.
“So I’ve been told,” I replied, a slight blush present on my face after having been caught. “Maybe I’m dying, actually.” I coughed with great exaggeration, wiping my mouth with my hand and gasping. “See! I’m coughing up blood! It’s all over!”
She did not seem amused when I theatrically fainted on the bed. I continued, regardless.
“Gosh, Auntie Luna,” I croaked, weakly. “Your last words to me, and they were to tell me I’m strange… However will you live with that…?”
“Let me correct that, then. Rarity, you are an exceptionally strange child, and an even stranger adult.” She then used her magic to flick a tissue my way. “ Now, you’re not a character in a novel, so clean yourself off before you stain my sheets.”
It always starts with someone coughing blood, doesn’t it? Not in real life, obviously not, but in so many stories, that’s how you know. The moment where a beloved character delicately coughs, gingerly wipes their mouth, and the audience gasps at the sight of blood because—my God, they’re dying!
I remember reading a story as a child, about a man who was stabbed in the leg, and I thought he’d be fine until he coughed, blood came out, and—my God, he’s dying!
“That doesn’t make sense,” Twilight told me once, when we’d been discussing the matter one day while swinging at a playground. “The only way you could die from being stabbed in the leg is if you bleed out, like for example you got stabbed in the femoral artery.”
“And that means there’s no reason why you’d spit blood! You got stabbed in the leg! Only a chest wound or an injury near your lungs would make you cough blood.”
“It’s poetic!” I protested. “When I was a child, I got terribly sick and coughed up blood.”
“Did you get stabbed in the leg?”
“Then, that has nothing to do with anything. And, also, you didn’t die!”
“Well, still! I think it’s a fine trope to use. Like I said, blood is poetic. It’s an easy way to get your point across.”
“No, it’s lazy writing. Coughing up blood doesn’t mean that you’re dying.”
It became a game for us after that. A silly game where we started looking for books where characters dying of illness coughed up blood every other chapter. There were surprisingly many, which was wonderful because I delighted in watching Twilight rant about how lazy writers were.
I still thought it was poetic.
Regardless, the newest addition to our, shall we say, bloody collection was the novella To This Day and Always by Ochre Sunrise. Twilight found it a week before she cut me off, and she’d brought it along to her lesson with Sweetie.
“You read so much,” Sweetie noted after the end of the class, flipping curiously through the pages. “What’s it about?”
“A man going to the undiscovered west.”
“Did he get there?”
“I don’t know. The last chapter ended with him coughing up blood while taking a train there.”
Sweetie gasped. “He’s dying!”
“That doesn’t mean he’s dying,” Twilight pointed out, because of course she would. “Maybe he won’t die!”
“Yes, he will,” Sweetie pointed out, lifting her nose in such a way I wish she had glasses so she could push them up. And because I truly believe Sweetie Belle would be fetching with glasses. “Coughing up blood always means you’re dying. Rarity told me so.”
“Rarity is wrong.”
“No, she isn’t! Look!” She flipped to the end of the book. “I’m gonna find out. What’s his name?”
“Sweetie!” Twilight scolded, taking the book back and cradling it as though it were her precious child. “You should never read the end of a book like that!”
“But I wanna know!” Sweetie whined, pouting. “Teeeeeacher!”
“How about this? I’ll finish the book this week, and next time I see you, I’ll tell you if he died or not. Alright?”
“But we won’t have class for two weeks! That’s sooooo long! I’ll be a grandma by then!”
Twilight laughed. “Fine. I’m supposed to see a… err… performance with your sister in a few days. I’ll finish the book by then, and tell her what happened so she can tell you. Alright?”
As it turned out, the man did die. The only signs of his illness were the sporadic bloody coughs, and then the poor sod died a day before reaching the Undiscovered West.
I’m telling you this since someone ought to know considering Sweetie Belle never found out. Not because Twilight didn’t want to tell her, mind you, but because the next time they ran into each other, well…
It’s hard to speak to a heart-broken child yelling that she hates you.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Sweetie Belle is the best character is this story.
Got to agree with platinumSKIES with the ominous feel of these last two chapters. I beg that the next chapters don’t hurt me too bad. The way these chapters have been ending is well done. It hooks me to read the next one right away.
That chapter title made me think of the “cough cough I have a touch of the consumption” line.
Also OMINOUS YET AGAIN.