The sun rose from the horizon, marking the beginning of the new day. I stretched a bit inside the tent and opened it to greet the day.
“Damn… heat and humidity… what a nice morning…” I said to myself. It was one week since the last time I saw another of the research teams. We were scattered to cover more area and we were only connected via radio. I approached the said radio and picked up the mic to make the daily proof of my existence.
“Cartography Camp Number 7, Mr. Barnyard at the radio. Do you copy?” I said in a monotone tone, yawning a bit. In a few minutes came the first response.
“Cartography Camp Number 2, Mr. Edison at the radio. Yes, I copy, and Tor, you are a dick. For the love of God, it’s fucking 6 in the morning…”
“I love you too, Ted. Now it’s your turn to wait the next one. Talk to you at evening. Barnyard out.”
“Hey wait! You son of a…” I trailed to the supply bag and prepared a fast breakfast, based on bread and… fruits. 'Blasted jungle…'
Our cartography team was sent by some of the most important universities, gathering young cartographers from the entire world. It was an expedition to make a reliable map of the high areas of the Amazonia, near the Andes. For me, a European from the southern countries of the continent, it was like a hell filled with sweat and mosquitoes. But it was the chance of a lifetime to make a work of an unknown area of the world.
When I was set, I opened my compass and made some notes on my notebook.
“Today, I’ll begin to make progress through the West. I’ll carry three beacons and I’ll place them according to the plan” I said our loud while writing.
It was pretty advanced stuff. Even while I’m pretty nerdy with machines and computers, this was like working with some alien technology. Beacons were placed in constant intervals by the teams, and then the satellite could make a 3D map of the zone with its sensors. I just hoped that the satellite is safe for use. It would be most unpleasant to be burned alive because some satellite laser malfunction.
I picked my backpack with the basic stuff plus the beacons (Stuff like some clothing in case of too much sweating, some food…) and checked again the compass.
“It’s going to be a long day… again…”
It was tiring, for saying something. Walking slowly through the wet soil, cutting with a machete the plants that were blocking my path. Tiring and boring. The first hours passed without much fuss, maybe seeing an animal or two crawling up in the canopy of the rainforest. I placed the first of the beacons just a bit before midday. I sighed and looked around. Trees and green everywhere. I was cleaning my glasses when I saw a spark between the trees. I put on my glasses and checked my compass. The direction I saw the spark wasn’t in the scheduled route, but I had a hunch about it, so I traded my rest time for chasing sparks between the trees. Odd enough, there was some kind of dirt path so it was a relaxed trial. Relaxed if you count that it was a jungle. I sighed to myself.
“Oh yeah great, I’m so bored that I can’t believe I’m doing…” I was thinking out loud when I saw a stone building in ruins. “…this”
It was very old, the stonework was totally ruined in the higher parts because of the erosion, and it was all covered in the green from the rainforest’s plants. I quickly noted this in my notebook and stepped inside it.
It was some kind of temple, since it had an altar in the middle of it. The style didn’t match any of the civilizations that were known. That fact intrigued me.
“Funny, buildings made with masonry techniques were very uncommon here… this place is giving me the creeps”
I walked to the altar and checked the floor. There was an engraving, a circle with five gemstones in a particular pentagonal formation, with a sixth one in the middle, where the altar was placed.
“Well this is interesting… Never heard of some kind of cult that adore six… rupees? Aw man, this would be funnier if Jesse or Ted were here. They are the Zelda nerds…”
I scratched my head and ruffled my hair a bit. I was a cartographer, not an archaeologist… I pondered the situation a bit and decided to check it up a bit and later place a beacon in the temple. Probably someone back at the lab is going to get mad, but… the discovery was worth it. I placed the beacons near me on the floor, preparing one of them to activate it. I saw again a spark, this time, from the altar. I looked everywhere to check possible reflective objects. Nothing in sight. I sighed and decided to do something dumb just for the sake of randomness. I placed both hands over the altar and put a serious face.
“Lamp Oil… Rope… Bombs… You want it? It’s yours my friend, as long as you have enough rupees” I said, putting an odd voice, imitating Morshu. I laughed my ass off at that.
“Oh god, I’m too bored… I miss my PC” I said. Suddenly the altar began to sink into the floor and an earthquake shook the place. I fell backwards to the floor, considerably hurting my gluteus.
“Now I know that Murphy is fan of Indiana Jones… CURSE YOU, MURPHY!” I yelled, trying to get up and failing miserably. A jolt of energy shook my leg and I looked at the formerly altar. Some kind of energy orb began to appear and to suck dust into it. I began to feel the pulling and sliding to it centimeter by centimeter. I tried to make my way out, but between that orb and the earthquake I just faceplanted several times. I sighed, remembering my life in merely seconds.
“Well life, it was a pleasure to hang with you. I’ll greet death in your name.” I said, knowing my fate. “I’ll miss the cheese”
The pull increased and I felt jolts of pain over all my body. I couldn’t see anything, my vision went to blinding white, and while the pain punished every nervous cell I had in me my ears began to ring painfully.
My legs began to hurt a lot, nearly fading to unconsciousness, but my stubbornness made me resist it, pressing my luck and will until the grim reaper came to finish the job. What came afterwards it can be described as excruciating pain. My very bones began to send loads of pain to my brain. I couldn’t feel my legs anymore, or even my head. I cried loud of the pain, holding my fists in tension. When the pain reached my arms I tried to fight it, clenching my fists as hard as I could but I only managed to create a tingling sensation in my chest.
The pain soon reached my arms and I nearly fainted again. I yelled what I thought it was a battle cry, even when I couldn’t hear or see, but it was worth the effort, since I evaded the unconsciousness again. Then suddenly the pain began to fade slowly. I thought it was the end, and my brain was just giving up. But soon I felt solid floor on one of my sides.
My body was aching, and I tried to move. I was rewarded with pain and I groaned. I was there, lying down like a ragdoll during minutes, maybe even an hour, just feeling the pressure of the floor against my right side, thanks to Madame Gravity.
My vision began to flicker a bit, traces of color appearing in front of my eyes. Also my ears began to operate, just hearing the sound of wind. I could feel too the cold stone floor again, and my hands twitched, trying to move.
“Oooooh… oogh…” I mumbled, slowly regaining control of my body. Oddly enough, my tongue felt oddly long and my head heavier. But I was more concerned about what just happened. After opening my eyes a couple of times I managed to look at the temple. It was darker and the dim light of torches covering the building. ‘Wait, torches?’
With another dose of vitamin P I managed to sit in the place and looked around. It was the same temple but… cleaner and without being half destroyed. I heard footsteps approaching and I closed my eyes again, tired of all the pain. 'I thought we were alone around the areas we were working on…’
Soon enough the footsteps became more clear and unsettling, since I was not hearing feet, but clopping of hooves. They stopped just in front of me, soon before a loud gasp. 'Wait, what the fuck?' I opened my eyes and what I saw with them was unsettling.
There was a pegasus with yellow coat and black-grey mane and tail, with magenta eyes and wearing some kind of shirt and helm like the ones used by explorers during XX century. I was just plain shocked.
“OK… now my jimmies are officially rustled” I said, not believing what I was looking at. The pegasus spoke with a female voice.
“You can talk!” She said, surprised
“Well yeah, of course. It’s you who aren’t supposed to talk, you are a flying horse! And I’m talking to you… I just became insane. The electrical orb just fried my brain…”
“Hey! I’m a pegasus pony, and have you looked at a mirror recently? YOU are a pony too.”
I snorted “What are you talking about? I’m a human, did you see any pony with hands?” I wiggled them at her face, when I noticed my hands were covered in fur. “Wait a second…” I looked at my hands. My left hand was covered by a cream colored coat of fur, while my right hand was in brown fur. I was shocked “What the hell?! What happened to my hands!?” I yelled. She was as surprised as I was.
“I’ve never seen an earth pony with… uh… hands, but I’m sure you’re a pony” She explained. I just became more panicked by seconds.
“No no no no no… This isn’t good…” I felt something moving at my back, and I saw my long, auburn tail. “AH! Holy fuck, I have a tail!” Then I saw my legs. They were bending like the hind legs of a normal horse. Oddly enough my boots were changed too to fit in this new shape. “OH GOD! WHAT HAPPENED TO MY LEGS!?” I yelled, losing the little cool I had. She grabbed me and slapped me, looking serious.
“Hey, snap out of it! You are in the middle of an ancient temple and you just decide to panic? Why are you here in the first place? This is supposed to be a lost and abandoned temple” She said in a serious tone. It worked and my mind settled a bit.
“That’s the point! I am not a pony, not formerly… and I was in a temple exactly like this, but in the middle of the jungle up in the Amazonia” I said, trying to explain myself.
“Don’t you mean Amarezonia?” She asked, but I shook my head.
“No, AMAZONIA, you know, in South America?”
“Brazil? Ecuador?” I asked, worried, and now was her turn to shake her head.
“Sorry, never heard of it…”
I tried to get up, my legs shaking furiously from their new shape. “You know… this defies all forms of science I know, but since it’s the last option it must be the truth…” I took a deep breath “This isn’t Earth, right?”
She tilted her head “We are over the earth…”
“Not the ground, the planet. Planet Earth” I replied
“Eh… you are scaring me right now…”
“What year is it? Please, tell me something!” I said, begging for some information
“It’s the year 1002… Wait, you really don’t know?” She asked, knowing finally that I wasn’t lying.
“Yes! Why would lie? I mean, I’m in a damned temple, looking like some biological experiment and totally lost… I think it’s too elaborated to be something I would come up just for fun, don’t you think?” I said, relieved but annoyed.
“Yeah… that kinda makes sense…” She shook her head “We can search for help later, but first I must recover an artifact. It must be placed over an altar just…” She looked to the floor “Just exactly where you are. Where’s the altar?” She asked.
“I-I don’t know! If this is like the temple where I was, the altar sank into the ground and some kind of energy orb sucked me. After that I just can remember loads and loads of pain. It wasn’t a pleasant experience…” I said, looking to my now furry hands. She nodded and looked around.
“Maybe it was some kind of magic device… something must triggered it” I just snorted at that.
“Magic? Please… Magic doesn’t exist, lady. That’s just a bunch of bullcrap” I said dismissively. She looked at me surprised.
“Okay… now I believe you. Somepony at your age must know at least the basic magical theory, so I can see now that you are really from another place” She spoke as a matter-of-fact. I just snorted again.
“Yeah, whatever you say, lady. But I’m glad to see some civilization and help. You know, I had the opportunity of my life to become recognized among my peers and now I’m just like an alien” I said. She sighed.
“Since there is no altar my travel was pointless so we can leave… and don’t call me “lady”, my name is Daring Doo, and I’m an archeologist. Do you have a name?” She asked, trying to be funny. She managed to do so at least.
“A pleasure Miss Doo, my name is Astor Barnyard, and I’m a geographer.” She chuckled a bit.
“So I see at least you are the ones who had the guts to be at the field. Some of my colleagues that are geographers aren’t so eager to leave their studies” She said, walking to the exit. I nodded and began to walk slowly. She noticed my difficulty to walk and politely slowed down while I was getting it step by step.
“Well yeah. Maybe I’m not a man of sports, but being at the brink of discoveries is always exciting enough to make up my mind” I said, walking like a toddler trying his first steps.
“A colt” She replied with a smile
“Maybe you were another thing Mister Barnyard, but now you look like a pony. Yes, a very strange one but a pony nevertheless, so you should try to speak like us. I figured that 'man' is the same to 'colt' or 'stallion' so you must speak those instead” She explained. I rubbed my chin, thinking.
“You are right there, I suppose… By the way, why do you say 'colt'? I mean, I’m not that young, I recently turned to 22…” I said, a bit offended. She just chuckled at that.
“Really? You look like 16 or so. Not a full grown stallion yet but neither a young colt.” She said. I sighed.
“Oh great, I look like a young punk. Having a career and some field work isn’t going to improve my looks too much, right?” I asked. She shook her head.
“Nope, I’m afraid not. But don’t worry about that. First we must return to Canterlot University. Maybe you are not an ancient altar, but I’m pretty sure that, giving the circumstances, somepony there can help you about your problem. There are a lot of scholars that study ancient magic” She spoke. ‘Magic again… seriously, what the fuck?’ I thought.
Soon enough we emerged from the building and we took a scenic look of the area. I gasped a bit at what I saw.
A green land with sloth hills in the middle stood in front of them, a wall of high mountains breaking the horizon, with a visible city hanging out of the mountains. Daring Doo pointed to the city with her right hoof.
“There’s Canterlot. Lucky for you, I was exploring this ancient temple near one of the first settlements of Equestria. Otherwise, I think you will be…”
“Pretty fucked up, I know… Thanks for helping me at all” I replied, still astonished.
“It’s not a problem, but please don’t use that harsh language, okay? It’s pretty unnecessary”
“Sorry, Miss Doo. It kinda attached to me back at the High School” I looked around, but I didn’t see any roads. “Well, how are going toWHOASHIT!” I yelled. She began to fly and picked me of like if I was a bag of potatoes.
“Hey, what I say about the language? And besides, we’ll be there in no time, so don’t worry” She said, I looked down panicked but not daring to move.
“We are flying at God knows how many meters high and you tell me to not worry!?”
“Well… yes? I’m used to lifting heavy weights and packages. Artifacts aren’t usually light. And you don’t weight too much” She said with a smile.
“Oh gee, you don’t know how much relaxed I am right now knowing that” I said, sarcastically. She frowned a bit.
“Don’t you believe me? I’m carrying you right now…” I shuddered a bit.
“I believe you, but I've never been flying before and it’s scaring the shit out of me… but hey, if you say I’m light weighted that means that I've lost weight and I think that can be… good?” I asked to myself. She sighed and continued to fly to Canterlot.
We talked about ourselves while flying. I discovered that she was like a pony version of Indiana Jones, looking always for ancient stuff and if it was dangerous or it was never explored before, the better. I told her about some field trips in my early years at the University, but they were far from interesting. She was interested though, mostly when I mentioned some of the digital tools we used to do our work. For what she said, they aren’t as advanced as humans back on Earth. That leaved me in a pretty delicate situation.
I knew thanks for lots of Sci-Fi movies and books that if a higher technological society influences other cultures less advanced they can change their history forever. I didn’t want to be some kind of interplanetary criminal, but as species humanity didn’t have that kind of laws… It was a hard fight between my ethics, morals and feelings.
Daring Doo seemed to notice my internal fight.
“Something is bugging you. Mind to share?” She asked in a concerned tone.
“It’s just that… you already know about the tools I talked about. They are pretty advanced, and probably far more than anything here. I just don’t want to mark your society in a bad way. Maybe I can’t build them but the simple idea of it can make somebody… somepony to try to make it…”
“And that’s a bad thing?” She asked “You know, making new inventions it’s always good and if it’s for the sake of ponykind why weren’t you sharing it?” She said with a smile. I frowned a bit.
“I don’t know… it’s like the easy way, you know? Instead of working on it I’ll just be there, blurting out all about those devices…” She nodded, understanding.
“I think I understand. It is up to you, Mister Barnyard, but I think you will do the right thing” She said. I just looked confused.
“Why do you say that?” I asked
“Maybe I just knew you today, but if you are thinking about how to avoid harming a new society means that you are a good pony” She explained, smiling.
“Thanks… I hope so at least” I replied, not so sure of myself.
The city began to grow larger, catching my attention. It was like a fairy tale. A white castle leading the skyline of pristine buildings, it was like a dim light over the grey mountain. I gasped a bit, it was truly impressive. Daring Doo just smiled and flew towards some kind of big tower, probably it was the Canterlot University.
When we landed I faceplanted again, still not used to my new legs. Many ponies in the surrounding were watching us suspiciously, but seemed that Miss Doo was known to bring strange things thanks to her adventures and they, luckily for me, ignored us more or less.
“Oops, sorry there” She said.
“No problem. Not your fault, really. I’m still getting used to these legs. They bend oddly to me” I explained, getting up back in two hooves. She nodded in acknowledgment
“Okay, come inside, we must find Dr. Scroll. He’s the one specialized about magic oddities” She explained while we were walking into the tower. I looked around suspiciously.
The place was filled with mostly unicorns, levitating scrolls, quills and other materials with some kind of telekinesis. The most notable thing about these equines was the wide amount of colors on their coats and manes. ‘Oh jolly, I think I’m going to puke rainbows at this rate’ I thought.
Daring Doo was already talking with an old looking pony while I was slowly approaching them. The old pony ran over the stairs, probably searching for the said Dr. Scroll. Miss Doo waved at me.
“Hey, it seems that your little trip wasn’t unnoticed by the unicorns. Some important ponies already requested being informed if some disoriented pony approached the city, and I think you fit in the description” She explained. I frowned a bit.
“How can they notice something like that? I mean, we were several kilometers away” She was about to say something but I stopped her “Don’t tell me… Magic, isn’t it?” I asked. She just nodded. I sighed at that. “You know, that’s eating my nerves. This is way too odd for me. I hope I can jump back home soon” Now she was the one who frowned.
“Hey, you could at least stay a bit. Not every day somepony met with a pony from other worlds. We can learn a lot about you, and you about us in exchange. Where’s your spirit of adventure?” She asked me. I shrugged
“I think I left it back in home when I was just being electrocuted to death” I said with an emotionless tone.
“You must try to look the good side of this. It’s not that bad…”
“Yeah, whatever. I’m not having a mental breakdown right now thanks for a lot of comics and novels about trans-dimensional travels and that crap. Maybe if I was sure that I can go back home I’ll be more willing to explore this place. But for now I want a ticket aboard the 'Return to Home' Express. No offense” I said, a bit tired. She nodded slowly.
“Yeah, I think that being pulled out of your home must be a pain” She said
“You bet…” I only replied, thinking about the implications of the situation.
The old looking pony ran back again to us with a startled expression.
“Sir, you must come with me. There are some ponies who wants to speak to you” He said. I looked to Daring Doo with a helpless expression. She chuckled.
“They aren’t going to eat you. And I need to check in about the temple. Maybe we’ll see each other another time” She extended her hoof. I took her hoof and shook it as a reflex ‘Wait, what just happened?’ She nodded and saluted in an informal way before leaving me with the old pony.
“We must go sir, please” He asked. I nodded and followed him. It was tortuous the mere act of climbing the stairs, but it was also a good way to learn how to use these legs. Some minutes after we reached a big door. The old pony pointed with his head to the door.
“They are awaiting you inside, sir” He spoke, I nodded
“Thanks” I replied, and entered the room.
It was a plain room, like if it was some kind of classroom for the university. In the middle, two ponies stood looking at me. Both seemed mares by their constitution, but they were far bigger than the other I saw. The smaller has a dark coat color and a wavy, blue mane and tail, with blue eyes. The taller one had an alabaster white coat with a wavy mane too, but hers was in three colors, from light blue to pink and she had violet eyes. Both have wings and horn and by the accessories they were wearing it was kinda obvious that both mares were very important here. I was a bit taken aback by their size, feeling very small. I gulped and walked slowly.
“Uhm… Are you the ones that wanted to speak to me?” I asked, not sure at all about what to expect. They just smiled, unnerving me more.
“Don’t worry, young one and yes, we are. My name is Celestia, and here at my side is Luna, my sister. We are the princesses of Equestria and we wanted to bid welcome to a traveler from a faraway place” She said with a relaxed tone, nodded alongside her sister as a welcoming gesture. I stepped back without thinking.
“I… wow… I've never met with royalty in my world… this is now pretty confusing to me. Sorry if I behave oddly, but right now I feel pretty on the edge. My name is Astor Barnyard, a pleasure to meet you, princesses” I replied. They looked to me interested.
“You see, young one, we sensed when you appeared on our land. You seem to have used a runic portal from ancient times, built for exploring other dimensions and worlds. It’s pretty strange though that you aren’t completely a pony” Luna spoke, inspecting my body with analytical eye.
“What do you mean?” I asked
“These runic portals open rifts over dimensions, and while doing so the traveler falls into a magic sleep, changing his body to fit in the world he’s going to appear. It works at the reversal way too. That’s how my sister and I explored different worlds when we were young.” Luna explained
I folded my arms and frowned.
“Well that explains a lot” I said. They looked confused.
“How so, Mr. Barnyard?” Celestia asked
“Because I didn’t see any portal, just a huge energy orb that pulled me inside of it, with a lot of pain while I was 'traveling' through it.” I said, showing my arms “I didn’t lose consciousness during the process, and I tried to fight back the pain by clenching my fists”
They began to think for a couple of minutes, pondering the situation. Finally, Celestia spoke.
“If what you said it’s the truth, then we have a problem” She said, concerned.
“What?” I was begin to be worried
“The phenomenon you described looks pretty much like the magic didn’t work as expected” Luna said. I looked pretty astonished, but I wasn’t able to speak.
“In simple non-magical terms… The rune portal seems to be… jammed” Celestia said
“Jammed? You are joking, right?” I said, nervous “It’s magic, I mean… How?”
“We don’t know, but I’m afraid that the portal isn’t active anymore. We need to look for an alternate solution to return you to home. Unfortunately, you body has suffered a “magic scar”… an overload of magic that stopped the transformation” Luna said, closing her eyes.
“Well… I am going to die soon, isn’t it?” I said with a gloomy expression. Celestia soon approached me and smiled at me.
“No, you are going to live, and by your magical resonance you are going to have a very long life…” She said, but her tone was a bit sad.
“Then what, Princess? You seem pretty concerned…” I was relieved about not dying soon, but something was still off.
“Your body is immune to any transmogrification spells because of that” Luna said, wearing a sad expression. I just tilted my head.
“Sorry, I’m more a science man… err… pony” I replied, a bit lost.
“What my sister wanted to say is that… you are stuck as you are for the rest of your life. There is nothing we can do about that” Celestia said, now with a sad expression too.
Something snapped inside my brain. Some of my neurons decided to get drunk with a ‘Fuck This Shit’ battle cry, with the result of me falling backwards, landing on the floor with a loud ‘Thud’. My eyes were lifeless, staring at the abyss… my mind just rebooting at the information.
I felt that Princess Celestia was levitating me with her telekinesis. I didn’t notice any movement, too busy inside my own head. I suddenly felt a bed, and by the smell, it was probably some kind of hospital.
The last things I heard before my brain decided to finally shut down the system was “Please doctor, keep a good eye on this colt, and let me know immediately when he awakes”. It was Celestia’s voice. My mind and body gave up finally, after God knows how many hours of permanent tensions and stress, feeling my eyes closing slowly, hoping at the depths of my mind that this was only a dream.
It was unnerving that before drifting to a deep slumber I believed my own brain replying to that thought with a deep and clear ‘NOPE’.