Every so often, the long, slim train car bounced on the rails. Vinyl sighed and leaned back in her chair, staring out the window. The soft hum of a cello filled the warm air, mixing with the rhythm of the metal wheels running over the bolts in the track. She took in a deep breath, inhaling the scent of rose air freshener. She snorted, then sneezed. Her horn lit up, levitating a napkin off of the table before her and wiping her nose.
At the end of the car, a grey mare, her mane and tail well groomed, was playing her glossy cello. She was propped up on her hind legs, the bow held in her hoof as she played. Vinyl rolled her eyes, and cast them down the rest of the car.
Beds lined one half, and the other half were tables and chairs for lounging. Vinyl, sitting in one of these chairs, turned behind her to see Rarity laid back on her bed, a book levitating before her.
After a moment, she turned back to the frosted window to watch the twilight snowscape pass by, one whitebark tree at a time. She sighed and sank further down into her chair. “I’m b-ored!” she whined.
The music came to a stop, and Octavia huffed. “Vinyl, for the last time, I don’t care.”
“Well I say you should pick up a book. I have another if you’d like,” Rarity said, setting the book down. She floated her saddlebags up from the floor and began rummaging through them.
“Yeah, no, I’m fine,” Vinyl said, waving her hoof. “I just... really hate trains.”
Rarity gasped. “Vinyl, dear, this is a state of the art train privately reserved for nobles!”
“It’s a crayon on wheels.”
Octavia rolled her eyes and began packing her cello away. “The engineers of this marvel found a way to refine magic into fuel. What have you done recently?”
Vinyl sighed and slowly blinked. “Your sister.”
“W-what?!” Octavia stood tall and glared.
Rarity sat up. “Now girls, let’s not get snippy. We’re with each other for a week.” She turned to Vinyl. “But honestly Vinyl, do grow up.”
“Again,” Octavia said, climbing on her bed, “The pay had better be worth it for putting up with her.”
Vinyl sneered. “Well excuse me for having a sense of humor. You’re both boring cardboard cut-outs.”
“So the plan, then, for the fashion show,” Rarity said, cutting Octavia off. “Obviously Vinyl, you’ll be playing at the show, and Octavia, you shall play the party after. Then, Hoity Toity has invited us to his home for dinner. You’re both going to be paid handsomely so long as you can get along.”
“I’d expect so,” Octavia said, holding her nose high. She hopped up onto the bed and laid her head down on the pillows behind her, crossing her forelegs.
“That was oddly rude of you,” Vinyl noted.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said with a snort.
Rarity gave an awkward smile, and Vinyl’s eyebrow shot up. “So Vinyl, Octavia, what did you think of my newest dress line? I modeled it after the weather.”
Vinyl smiled back. “Oh, yeah, it’s cool.”
“It is wearable,” Octavia said, not looking at either of them.
There was silence in the car. Vinyl bit her lip and shrugged, turning back to the window and mumbling to herself. “I’m still bored.”
Suddenly, a door at the end of the cabin was flung open. All three mares looked forward to see a tall tan stallion in greasy overalls. He darted through the car, nodding to them before tossing the next door aside and charging into the next car.
“Oh my,” Rarity said, frowning. “He better not touch my dresses.”
“He didn’t even have the decency to shut the doors,” Octavia said, standing up. She shivered as her hooves touched the cold metal, pushing it closed. “Vinyl, get off your lazy plot and shut that one.”
She muttered a curse as her horn lit up. The door glowed a light pink, then latched shut. “Happy?”
“So long as you’re here, no,” Octavia replied, resting back on the bed.
Vinyl huffed. “You know, I never did figure out why you hate me.”
Octavia only made a face and looked away.
Rarity shrugged to Vinyl, who grinned in return.
The sound of a bell ringing echoed through the cabin. Vinyl and Rarity looked around for the sound, though Octavia only frowned and covered her ears with a pillow, stomping her hooves down on the bed. Bells on the wall were all strung together with a thin wire that was being pulled. They chimed loudly, ominously.
“What’s up with that?” Vinyl shouted.
“I don’t know,” Rarity replied. “I doubt it is good though. Oh dear, my clothes...”
Octavia scowled. “Somepony had better shut that off!”
The train jerked, smashing Vinyl’s face on the table with a thud. She yelped, snapping up and rubbing her nose. “What the buck?”
“I’m not sure, but this is getting completely out of hoof,” Octavia said, pushing herself off the floor.
Rarity watched them. “Indeed. I have half a mind to walk up to the conductor right now and demand an explanation.”
The door behind them opened with a screech, and the tan stallion raced through the car, tossing the forward door open and disappearing again.
Vinyl watched him carefully, then turned to Rarity. “Rarity,” she said, “What type of train did you say this was?”
She blinked. “Well, it’s a new train, running on fuel derived from unicorn magic that is stored in tanks. It’s science or something. You know Vinyl, reading is useful.”
“These bells won’t stop!” Octavia snapped. She leapt from her bed and gripped the wire above her, biting down on it so hard that it snapped. The bells stopped jingling quickly, and she breathed out a sigh. “Finally. Thank Celestia.”
Then she coughed. “Oh my, what is that awful smell?”
Rarity stood and sniffed the air. “That is terrible...”
Vinyl inhaled deeply. A musky smell was filling the air. She writhed and waved it away with her hoof. “It’s not me this time, I swear! By Luna’s moon!”
The vents above were glowing. A pink mist began to flow through them, sparkling like glitter. “What’s going on?” Octavia asked, watching as the cloud rolled in like perfumed fog.
The train jerked again, knocking them all to the carpets below. Vinyl grumbled and pushed herself up, only to be knocked back down by yet another harsh tug. She watched as Octavia and Rarity did the same.
The pink mist continued to flow through the vents. It was spreading, sinking down, and landing on the ponies. Coughs echoed through the car. Vinyl got to her hooves and stumbled down the aisle to Rarity, who was pushing herself up on her bed.
“Hey,” she said with another cough, “is everypony all right?”
“No! I’m being tossed around like a garden salad!” Rarity said. “These ruffians had better get things straight, and soon.”
A sudden screeching bellowed through the cabin, and Octavia gasped. She fumbled with her hooves as she worked her way down to the others. The doors on either side let freezing air in, along with flakes of ice. The pink gas seemed to sink to the bottom and vent through them, though all three of them had breathed so much in that their lungs were aflame.
“Alright, we just...” Vinyl paused to cough. “...need to get into another car.”
“Oh you’re a genius!” Octavia shouted. The train jerked again, roughly tossing them all into the aisle. She slammed her hooves against Vinyl’s back. “Get off me! You smell like rum!”
Vinyl rolled off of her and scowled. “Better than smelling like a stallion!”
“You truly are a twit,” she muttered, pushing herself up with one of the chairs.
Rarity coughed into her hoof as she leaned on a table. “Girls, we have much larger problems than what we smell like!”
Another loud screech rang through the cabin, thrusting them to the front of the car. The wheels were obviously grinding on the rails. The pink mist was quickly being flushed out through the doors, but what replaced it was the thick smell of melting metal.
Vinyl stood again, looking around frantically. “What the buck is this?”
The train jerked again, throwing Octavia forward, she was slung out of the doorway and to the side of the tracks. Both Vinyl and Rarity rushed to the window, just in time to see her rolling in a cloud of snow. The train quickly left her behind.
Vinyl laughed, then was tossed to the ground. “Hey! The train’s doing that enough!”
Rarity rolled her eyes and set her hooves down. The train gave the car a hard tug forward, speeding up. Rarity was slung backwards, flying out the back door. Vinyl gawked as she watched her bounce in the snow before disappearing behind the train.
Now her heart was pounding. She darted up and down the car, breathing rapidly as the situation sank in.
Again the train threw her to the floor as it sped up. She landed with a thud, her face smashing into the carpet. There was another jerk of the car, dragging her cheek down the aisle. She groaned.
When she stood, she swayed and trembled. Her breathing was shallow, and her lungs still burned. As she stumbled down the car, finally deciding to escape into the one ahead, she stumbled and fell.
Her eyelids were heavy, falling, then snapping back open. She put a hoof ahead of her, pressed it firmly on the carpet and pulled with all her might, but she did not budge.
One last jerk of the train threw her into a set of chairs, and then everything was dark.
“Miss?” she heard. The voice echoed in her ears. “Miss, are you alright?”
Her eyes slowly opened, and for a moment, the world was green. Then the pony above her turned away and nodded to somepony. “Miss,” he said, “can you see?”
Vinyl nodded. Yes, she could see, though not clearly. A sharp pain was slicing through her mind, making her wince as light flooded her sight. She groaned, trying to roll to her stomach.
The stallion above her assisted her, and when she tried to stand, he let her lean on him. Once she was up, she shook her head and looked around. Things were foggy still, but she could clearly see that she was in the train car. A pile of shattered chairs lay behind her and her employer was nowhere to be found.
In her place, a green stallion stood next to a pony in a bright white coat. “This,” the stallion said, “is doctor Stable of Trottingham.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” he said with a wan smile. “You may know me from Ponyville. Just transfered.”
Vinyl blinked. “Yeah, uh, sure. Hi.” She looked out the windows to see that they were in a station, surrounded by houses and a forest. “What happened? Where are we?”
“We,” Doctor Stable said, “are in Trottingham. And Mister Mint here can explain what happened. As for me, I must be off. I have other patients to attend to. You are fine, right? No nausea, you remember your name, how you got here, etcetera etcetera?”
Vinyl nodded. “Vinyl Scratch, at your service.” She extended her hoof, and Doctor Stable shook it curtly before bidding her ado.
“Well Miss Scratch,” Mint said, sitting on one of the still-standing chairs. “Before I answer your questions, I’d like you to answer mine. I am the conductor of this fine engine, you see.” The shook hooves. “Now, from the looks of things, you had some company in here. Do you know where they are?”
Vinyl closed her eyes and thought. “Yeah. They’re about twenty miles in the middle of nowhere. Flew right off the train.”
His eyes widened. “W-what? Oh Celestia, this is bad.”
“Yeah, I know,” Vinyl said, sitting on the bed. “Now your turn. What happened?”
He sighed. “We had a magic leak in the tanks. Turns out the tracks shot a rock right through the tanks below, causing a leak. It started spreading through the gears and shut us down. We were lucky to make it here.”
“Right, and when will we be leaving?”
“After we find our missing passengers and fix the tanks. Now I really must go. Feel free to sleep and dine on the train.” With that, he stood and cantered into the next car.
Vinyl sighed and rubbed her head, closing her eyes and relaxing. Everything was quiet in the car for the first time on the trip. None of Rarity rambling on about fashion, and none of Octavia’s awful music choice.
“My taste in music is not ‘awful’.”
Vinyl’s eyes flew open. “Who said that?” She looked around, her eyes flashing left and right. The car was empty.
“I said that you nitwit.”
“Indeed, and I do not ‘rant’ about fashion. I hold reasonable discussions.”
She blinked and shook her head. She was alone, right? “Alright, who’s there?”
“We are,” Octavia said. Well, Octavia’s voice said it. Vinyl tilted her head and patted at her ear, but nothing came out.
“Well where are you?”
“I don’t know,” Octavia said, “but it is empty, and I do not like it. A pony of my status should not be forced into someplace like this. It’s--it’s a void.”
“Oh I don’t know,” Rarity said. “It’s actually rather airy. Quite nice, if you ask me. Could use my designer skills to touch it up, though.”
Octavia humphed. “Agreed. I can’t feel my body. It’s disturbing. I want out.”
“Good,” Octavia said. “While you’re there, see if he has anything for your teeth. Honestly, brush them some time. I taste your pizza from last night.”
“Hey, I forgot my toothbrush. Now shush. Just shush,” she hissed. She stepped across the gap, a blast of icy wind hitting her side. The new car was in better condition than the previous, with the tables still standing and the sheets still on the beds. A few ponies were chatting, ignoring her as she walked through.
“Yes, I think I taste green onions. Honestly Vinyl, onions on a pizza?” Rarity asked. “In fact, I don’t even know how you can eat that stuff.”
“Hey,” Vinyl said, “according to the Lunar Court, it’s a vegetable, so shut up. Now... shut up!”
The ponies around her fell silent, turning to stare at her. She offered them a sheepish smile. “Uh, sorry. Y’know, vegetables... stuff...”
She darted into the next car. This one opened up to the snowy train platform. The doctor stood at the door, talking to the conductor. Vinyl tapped him on the shoulder. “Hey doc.”
He turned around. “Hello. Is everything alright?”
“Yeah,” she said. “So is it normal for people who survive a train crash to hear voices?”
He blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“Just wondering if a concussion can cause voices, is all.” She shrugged and smiled.
“Hmm, no, I don’t think so. Why? Are you hearing them?”
“Yeah, I--” Vinyl stopped and felt her heart skip a beat. What was she doing? She’d be sent straight to Luna’s asylum! “N-no. Nope. No. Never. Um, listen, I gotta go.” She turned and stumbled down the icy ramp.
“You two are going to get me in trouble. How’d you get in here anyway? Get out,” she asked, stepping onto the station.
Snow fell from the sky and ice drifted on the wind as she pushed her way off the platform.
“I haven’t a clue,” Rarity said. “The last thing I remember is being sucked out of the train. I’m just glad I haven’t died.”
Octavia sighed. “I am clueless as well. Even still, I blame you.”
“What? Me? Why me? If I had it my way, you’d still still be in the forest!” Vinyl said, stomping her hoof down. She trotted down a ramp, into the snowy mainstreet. Ponies were crowded around the station talking to the engineers, conductors, and police ponies. Houses and businesses branched off in all directions, with a thick forest surrounding the town.
“Because you have a tendency to get into trouble! Now fix this! I don’t want to be stuck in your head!” she said. Vinyl rolled her eyes and looked to the sky. The moon was high, just cresting into existence as a tiny sliver.
Rarity chimed in. “So Vinyl, where are you--er, we--going?”
“You know, you’re very calm to be stuck in my freaking head!”
“Eh, Twilight... she’s such a dear, but she’s put me in much worse situations. I suppose I’m used to these types of things. And besides, in here, I can’t get filthy. Oh, but I do hope my body landed in clean snow,” Rarity said.
“Yeah, I wonder where your bodies are. How are we going to get you out of me and into them. I’m starting to feel sick,” Vinyl said, frowning.
“Um, hello?” Octavia asked. “Where are we going?”
Vinyl swallowed dryly and trotted through the snow, looking at the houses. Lamplight filled the streets, setting the snow aglow with a light orange sheen. “I have a friend who might be able to help. She knows a lot about stuff like this. She’s... weird. But if we can put up with Octavia, she’ll be a breeze.”
Rarity chuckled. “Indeed. And what is her name?”
Vinyl turned and trotted up to a house. Only one window was alight, though the porch light was on and burning bright. She walked up the snowy path and stopped at the door. The house was very cottage-like, similar to the rest of the quaint town. “We used to work together. I think you know her. Her name’s Trixie. ”