Derpy and Karyn entered back into the dorm room, and Derpy turned off her invisibility spell.
“Wow, what a day!” said Karyn.
“Yeah, that really was a lot of fun. What did you call it again? A cardamom? Cardigan?” asked Derpy.
“Carnival. They used to be more involved, but now it’s just rides, games, and food. The games are rigged, the rides are unsafe, and the food is overpriced and greasy. But it’s tradition.”
“Well, then it’s my kind of tradition! Between that pretzel and that funnel cake, I’m surprised I can still fly!”
“Heh, you sure flew well enough to help me knock the milk bottles over,” Karyn said, depositing the oversized teddy bear she had won next to the bed.
“Are you sure that was fair?” asked Derpy.
“Trust me. In the first place, the money I paid to play the game is probably enough to cover their cost for this thing anyway. And in the second, the game can’t be won without an invisible pegasus hovering nearby and knocking the bottle over with her wing. The bottles are too heavy, and they’re positioned so that you can knock over any of them, but never all of them.”
Derpy flopped onto the bed. “Well, I guess it’s all right then. I won’t tell Twilight, though. You know what a stickler she is. Still, the look on the face of the human running it was priceless!”
Karyn dropped her purse on the desk and sat down. “So you had fun?”
“Yeah! There was certainly a different feel from an Equestrian festival, but humans aren’t entirely ignorant of how to have a good time.”
“What was your favorite part?”
“Hmm. . . the iron wheel, I think.”
Karyn was starting to figure out how Derpy’s mind worked, which frightened her a little. “No, Derpy. It’s not a ferrous wheel. It’s a Ferris wheel. Named after the guy who made it. Although, it is made of steel, which is iron-based, so I guess you’re not wrong. But, wait. Your favorite thing at the carnival was the wheel that took us up in the sky? You can go into the sky any time you want!”
“But I can’t take you with me, at least not on Earth. Pegasi are happiest in the air. But Derpy is happiest when she’s with her friend Karyn. Today I got to be both Derpy and a pegasus.”
“Aww. You’re sweet to say that. Maybe someday when I’m feeling insane, I’ll get on your back and we’ll go high enough up where nobody can see us distinctly. We’ll fly over some nice country somewhere, and give you a real nice view of Earth.”
“I’d like that.” Derpy got off the bed and stretched her wings. “OK, I think I’m ready to take off. You be good, now.”
Derpy strapped on her saddlebag as Karyn went back to her desk to plan out the next day. Checking that nothing would fall off, Derpy reached for the world-hopping spell that she kept in the first slot. She stuck her hoof in and turned.
She tried again. Again, she failed to teleport. She kept trying with no results. “What’s wrong with this thing?!” she said.
Karyn turned around. “It’s not working? Why not?”
“I don’t know. It didn’t exactly come with an instruction manual.”
“Are you hitting the contacts? Maybe your hoof swelled from eating too much and it’s not fitting in right.”
“I think I feel them turning, but I can’t be sure. I can’t see and feel at the same time. You want to give it a try?”
“Not really. Every time I’ve gone with you, we’re always in the air. If you’re not under me, I’ll fall to my death.”
“Oh, right. Well, get on and try it.”
Karyn mounted Derpy and took a hold of the spell. By reaching down into it and spreading her fingers as wide as possible, she could feel the three contacts around the rim of the cylinder. When Twilight Sparkle had designed it, her primary concern was to not have it set off accidentally. Making sure it did get used properly wasn’t priority. Still, Karyn was able to stretch her muscles and force the spell’s ring to turn.
The laws of physics stubbornly refused to bend and allow them to cross the dimensional barrier between fact and fiction.
“Hmm. . . I’m definitely feeling it turn,” said Karyn, handing back the spell. “Maybe we’re turning it the wrong way?”
“I thought I’d always turned it clockwise, but I’ll try it anti-clockwise, I guess.” She tried again to activate the spell. “No good. It doesn’t even turn that way. I think it’s broken.”
“Well, let’s not panic just yet. Try one of the other spells, see if that works.”
Derpy pulled out the invisibility spell that she had just removed minutes before, and activated it the same way. “How about it? Can you see me?”
“No, I can’t. So that one still works at least.”
Derpy went back in her bag and removed another spell and twisted her hoof inside it. Water streamed from the other end and soaked Karyn’s carpet. She quickly turned it off and put the spell back.
“That one works fine. They’re all working, except for this one.”
Karyn could see fear start to show in Derpy’s face. “Give it one more try,” she said.
“I don’t see why this one would work when all the others didn’t,” said Derpy, but she put the spell back on her hoof and turned, without effect. She got angry and threw it down on the desk next to the computer. “Karyn, what are we going to do? If this spell doesn’t work, I’m going to be stuck here!”
“That’s not going to happen, Derpy, come on. We’ll make it work,” Karyn said, but Derpy wasn’t paying attention. She had collapsed on the floor and folded her wings.
“I want to go home.”
“I want to go home!”
“Hey, Derpy. Stay focused, come on.”
“Celestia, please let me go home! I want to go home! Somepony help me!” Derpy was crying and screaming. Karyn was not only broken up over her distress, but afraid that someone would knock on the door trying to help. With no other options, she slapped Derpy across the face.
Derpy’s crying subsided down to heaving sobs. “I’m sorry for that,” said Karyn. “But you were hysterical.”
“You thought that was funny?!”
“No, not that kind of hysterical. Emotional. You were losing it.”
“I was. I’m still feeling pretty emotional. Please excuse me, I’m going to go wash my face.”
Derpy plodded into the bathroom, and Karyn could hear her weeping from within. She understood. Derpy would have to get it out of her system before she could think clearly again. The best thing would be for her to stay in there until she was ready.
After ten minutes or so, she trotted back out, taking a deep breath as she did. “OK, I’m feeling a bit better. But still not good. I’m really stuck here, aren’t I?”
A thought hit Karyn. “Not permanently. Everypony in Ponyville is going to know you’re missing. If nothing else, when the mail doesn’t get delivered. Once they notice, I’m sure Twilight won’t sleep until she gets you back. And Lyra, and everypony else. They’ll figure out what went wrong with the spell. Or if they can’t, they’ll make a new one.”
“You’re right! That’s the most likely thing that will happen.” She put on a weak smile. For the first time since she had tried the spell, Derpy’s heart didn’t feel quite so heavy.
“So we’re going to sit tight and wait this out. It’ll be a regular sleepover. You’ll just be a houseguest, or dorm-guest as it were,” said Karyn.
“Maybe it’ll even be fun.”
“Sure it will. I’m going to shower up and we’ll get ready for bed. It’ll be a little cramped, but we’ll figure something out.”
“Don’t worry about me. I can sleep anywhere,” said Derpy.
“Oh, that’s right. Equines can sleep standing up.”
“Huh? I don’t know where you heard that, but ponies sleep in beds. With sheets. I just meant me, personally. I can take the couch.”
The couch Derpy pointed to was more of a loveseat, and the fabric was coarse. Karyn knew she would have a rough time sleeping there, and that she was trying to be brave. She gave Derpy her spare sheets and took her toiletries into the bathroom to wash for the night.
As she tried to unfold the sheets to make the ersatz bed more comfortable, Derpy reflected. She had always known that there was an element of risk to coming to Earth, but it had gone so well so often that she had become complacent. If she were a unicorn, she could at least try to find her way back with her own magic. But now she was dependent on help from her friends. It was an awful feeling of impotence.
And there was no guarantee that they would succeed. Twilight was smart, but what if the universes just drifted too far apart for unicorn magic to work? Or what if some greater god of the multiverse decided to deny her return? There was still reason to worry, if not to panic.
More than anything, she thought of Dinky. Dinky was grown, to be sure, and could take care of herself. But part of Derpy still considered it her duty to be there. She would never stop being Dinky’s mother, even if they never saw her again.
And that sad thought had an opposite effect from the one she expected. Because even if she never got home, at some point, everypony dies. And you never know when it will be. So no, there was not a reason to worry. Because if there was reason to worry about getting stuck on Earth, there was reason to worry about everything that happened everywhere. And she couldn’t worry about everything.
By the time Karyn came out of the shower, Derpy was already peacefully asleep.
When she woke up, Derpy hoped for a moment that it was all a bad dream. But the stiffness of the sofa in her back made the reality of the situation clear. She got up and saw Karyn still asleep. As quietly as she could, Derpy got off the couch and folded the sheets neatly with her mouth.
As she was stacking them, she heard movement behind her. “Good morning, Derpy. How are you holding up?” asked Karyn.
“Not bad. I wish I could brush my mane and tail, to say nothing of my teeth, but I’m definitely over my panic attack.”
“That’s good. I’ve got to go to class this afternoon, from one o’clock until seven-thirty or so. Between now and then, we should work out some arrangements to keep you busy and safe until you’re rescued.”
“And we’ve got to talk about what we’ll do if I’m not.”
“Oh, Derpy, don’t talk that way!”
Derpy smiled. “OK. We’ve got to talk about what we’ll do if rescue takes longer than we anticipate. If they come to get me tomorrow, we don’t have any issues. If they don’t, we do. So we plan for what we have to.”
“I guess. But you know that you’re welcome to stay with me.”
“That’s very nice, but not a good long-term plan. What if you want to have other humans over to visit? No, if nothing happens, we’ll have to look long and hard at where I can go, and maybe let some other humans in on the secret.”
Karyn puffed out her cheeks and exhaled. “Let’s not go rushing into anything just yet. If nothing else, let’s not make a decision on an empty stomach. I’m going to go and get breakfast.”
When Karyn left the room, Derpy went into her bag of spells. She found a food reproduction spell. Human food would sustain her, but she would want some hay and grass to maintain a balanced diet. And for flavor.
After they ate, Karyn suggested that they go to the library to pick out a few books for Derpy to read while she was at her classes. She tried to pick out some lighter works to amuse her rather than something educational. But she made some mental notes of things to read if her stay became long-term.
Soon enough, Derpy was left alone. She read some, she played on Karyn’s computer some. At one point, she napped on Karyn’s bed without taking down the covers. It was boring, not being able to leave the house and not having anything useful to do. She wished she had mail to deliver.
When she looked outside the window, she saw the sun setting. She peeked out to see if anyone was watching, and then craned her neck to see the moon as well. There were no princesses in this world to move them. It was just the momentum of objects in space. That depressed her a little.
She decided to do some research on exactly how the sun and moon rose and set. Maybe she could find some significance to it. She went back to the computer and tried to load the search engine.
After a minute or so, the browser displayed a wall of text saying that the site could not be found. She clicked the “Home” button. The same thing happened. “Great, now even this thing isn’t working,” she said.
She sat there, bored, until Karyn came home.
“Hi, Derpy. How are you holding up?”
“All right, I guess.”
“That’s good,” said Karyn. “I brought dinner. I got Chinese food. I don’t know if you’ll like this, but I do. And I picked you up a chocolate chip muffin for dessert. I figured you needed a pick-me-up.”
Karyn pulled the muffin out of the paper bag and held it out for Derpy. “Yes, I do,” she said, “but I don’t really need to eat it.”
They ate the food Karyn had brought. Derpy thought that the ingredients weren’t particularly fresh, and the sauce tended to overpower them, but she was going to have to get used to Earth food.
“So did you read those books while I was gone?” Karyn asked.
“Some of them. I was actually pretty bored. I think I didn’t do anything but reading, eating, and sleeping today. I definitely want to figure out something more productive to do tomorrow. I’ll go invisible and learn the city streets or something.”
“You could do that. My class is at one o’clock tomorrow,” Karyn said.
“That’ll work. Oh, by the way, something’s wrong with the computer. I can’t get to any web sites.”
“Really, I’ll take a look.”
Karyn shooed Derpy off the chair and took it herself. She typed in an address and the site came right up.
“It’s working for me,” she said.
Derpy hovered nearby and watched as Karyn checked her e-mail and a few of her web bookmarks. She started idly playing with the broken spell.
“Now that’s weird,” she said. “Why would it just stop working and then fix itself without you doing anything?”
“Sometimes things are like that,” Karyn said. “I’ve had other IT people say that it’s because the computer wants to make you look foolish. But sometimes things break or work for no reason.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flash. She was alone in the room.
“It worked!” she said out loud. “But why now and not yesterday?” Then she realized she had answered her own question.
“Thank Celestia!” she said, and for a brief moment, had a totally selfless feeling. She thought of nothing but how panicked Derpy had been when she thought she was stuck on Earth. Karyn thought that she would give anything for her friend to never have to feel that way again.
Karyn imagined what it would be like for Derpy to reappear in Equestria. She would be shocked for a moment by the sensation of falling, but then instinctively spread her wings. She belonged in the sky, not trapped in a room. As soon as she made it home, she would let everypony know that she was back. No, the first thing she would do would be to get in contact with Dinky, probably fly straight to her and give her a hug.
Then Derpy would take the teleport-to-Earth spell and smash it to bits. She would want to be sure never to be tempted to use it again. Having nearly lost everything, there was no way she would risk it again.
Nor was it necessary. Derpy had good friends in Equestria, like Lyra, Twilight, Pinkie, and Zecora.
“And they were once my friends too,” Karyn said. She finished her dinner. She threw away the chocolate chip muffin.
For the rest of the week, Karyn threw herself into her studies. She didn’t want to think about the weekend. It would be the first time in a while that she would have two straight days of being alone. She thought of how she might occupy herself. Catch up on her own reading, give the dorm room a thorough cleaning, maybe watch some videos of My Lit—
When she had thoughts like that, she quickly found something else to do, something to distract her.
There was another issue she kept ducking. When Derpy had vanished, she had left behind her saddlebag full of spells, and Karyn was going to have to figure out what to do with them. She was worried that they could be dangerous in the wrong hands, and she wasn’t sure that all hands weren’t the wrong hands. But at the same time, they could be incredibly useful, and she might want them around to remind herself that magic was real, and that she had once experienced it.
And so it was, that late Saturday night, with nothing else to do, Karyn locked her door and opened the bag. The spells weren’t labeled, and she didn’t want to mess around with any that might be dangerous. She picked up the invisibility spell and made a mental note to toss the Bluetooth. She wouldn’t need it anymore.
To be invisible. How many stories had been written about that? Karyn thought about the possibilities, trying to think if there was any way to help people or become famous or such. Silly daydreams, she thought. If only Derpy were here, she’d say something like, “How can they be daydreams when it’s 11:59 at night?”
She put her hand inside the spell. She didn’t want to be invisible. She wanted to disappear.
From behind her, Karyn heard, “What have we here? A human sorceress, practicing her dark magic?”
She turned around. “Derpy!” She rushed to embrace her friend. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s Sunday,” said Derpy, “and has been ever since a minute ago. Sunday is our day. And I wanted to have it start as soon as possible.”
“But what happened when you went back? How did everypony react?”
“I’ll tell you. I popped back right on top of a cloud, and it took me a while to get my bearings. Another pegasus pony, I didn’t catch who, was flying by and I gather that he wasn’t expecting me to be there. He had to swerve to avoid me and he said something nasty. Then I realized that I was back in Equestria, and I remembered what you said about things just fixing themselves sometimes. I checked in at the post office and they said that a few ponies had asked about me. From the descriptions I figured it was Lyra and Twilight. So I went to see them, but not before I had caught up on deliveries.
“I told them what happened and they said something about intermittent magical disruptions caused by—well, I’m not sure, it was fairly complicated, and probably only a unicorn could understand. But it was basically that something in the air of Equestria blocked off the spell from working. They said that if it happens again, to not worry, just hang tight and keep trying every day, and it will work eventually. Hey, why are you crying?”
“You silly pegasus, I thought I was never going to see you again!”
Derpy crossed her eyes more than usual. “Face it, my little human. You’re stuck with me. And particularly tonight. I didn’t entirely hate sleeping over, so I came prepared to do it again.”
“Oh, Derpy, that’s wonderful! “I’ll make up the couch.”
“You don’t have to. Twilight gave me a bunch of new spells, and one of them is for this.” She took off her new saddlebag, which Karyn saw was the same color as the old one, only shinier. Derpy activated a spell and a cloud started pouring forth from it. She turned it off when the cloud was a bit bigger than the sofa. Then she jumped on the cloud and bounced and rolled as it supported her weight.
“A genuine Cloudsdale cloud, ready for when I need it. And when I don’t, I can just put it out of the way.” She lifted with her hooves and the cloud moved to the ceiling, where it stayed.
“Very nice,” said Karyn. “Just don’t go bouncing on it and causing lightning strikes.”
“I would never do that. Besides, this isn’t a storm cloud. Just a puffy one. Anyway, did you want to go to bed now?”
“I was ready to, until you showed up. Now I’m all hyper from the excitement. I’m ready to hop on your back and fly across the moon!”
“Really?” asked Derpy.
“No, not really. But I do need to go out now. If I leave, will you promise to still be here when I get back?”
“Yes, I promise.”
Karyn ran out the door. Derpy was a little confused. A moment ago, she thought, Karyn was ready for bed, but now she has to go? It must have been because I showed up, but what could she need?
Fifteen minutes later, the door opened and Karyn came back in. “It’s from a convenience store,” she said, “so it won’t be as good as if it were fresh. But you’re going to have it this time, and no excuses.”
In her hands was a chocolate chip muffin.