Something huge, with stiff, gliding wings, flew right over their car. Lyra leaned towards the window, trying to see what it was. She was pretty sure that it wasn’t alive, despite the roar it gave as it passed.
“What was that?” she said, still trying to see it through the windows on the other side. The sky was still dark.
“It’s just a plane. You’ll probably be on one like that,” Audrey said. She seemed unfazed by it.
“Right. You said I’d be flying…” Lyra had never seen anything like that. She’d been expecting an airship, or a balloon, or something that at least made sense.
After they’d talked to her dad on the phone, Audrey’s parents had helped her book a flight to Philadelphia to meet him. It would cost just about all of what she’d made from household chores and her concert combined. She had been concerned about paying Nathan for his guitar, but he had told her not to worry about it. It was in the back of the car now, along with a suitcase of her clothes.
About an hour ago, Lyra had been woken up. It was early enough that it still looked and felt like night. As they had driven out to the airport, Lyra had slowly become more alert and realized just how nervous she was feeling.
It wasn’t the actual flying that was making her nervous. It was more of how humans flew. If that "plane" was what they used, she was beginning to have her doubts. It was so loud, and so fast, and so bulky. Humans could accomplish some unbelievable things without magic, but this seemed questionable.
She’d been up in the clouds plenty of times. Cirrus was originally from Cloudsdale, and still worked there in one of the production centers. When Lyra had been very young, her father - well, not her father, just Dewey - had taken her to visit the city.
He’d used a spell that would let unicorns walk on clouds, and they’d taken a balloon from Canterlot to get there. Lyra still remembered how exciting it had been to see a whole new place up in the sky. It was so different from anywhere on the ground. At the time, going to Cloudsdale had been like visiting another world.
Once Lyra was old enough and she’d learned to use magic, Dewey had taught her to use the cloud walking spell on her own. It was an intermediate-level spell, and not very common, but she’d picked it up after some practice. Her parents had been proud.
But of course they would be. A human, learning a difficult spell like that? They must have realized what that meant at the time. No human had ever used magic before. And yet they’d never said anything to her, all throughout her childhood.
Recently, Lyra had felt like she was in Cloudsdale again. That same feeling like being the only unicorn in the middle of a pegasus city, even though here in Des Moines she was just as human as everybody else.
“Just checking. Do you have your boarding pass?” Audrey’s voice snapped Lyra back to the present.
She thought for a moment, trying to remember what that meant. “You mean the ticket? Yeah.” Lyra found it in her bag. It was a sheet of paper that Audrey had printed off her computer. They hadn’t even needed to go to the airport to buy it.
“You’ll be transferring flights in Chicago. Make sure you get to the gate on time, otherwise... I'd rather not consider that. You’ll be alright on your own, won’t you?” Audrey said.
“Of course. I…” Lyra was about to say that she’d lived on her own for years and travelled alone by train plenty of times, but bringing up anything about her past, especially Equestria, wasn’t a good idea. “Don’t worry about me.”
Audrey took a deep breath. “Yeah. You’re probably right,” she said. “Besides, your parents said they’d be waiting there to meet you at the Philadelphia airport.”
Her parents. She’d been thinking so much about the flight that she’d practically forgotten why she was doing this. Maybe that was the real thing making her nervous.
“They will be waiting… They told us that, right?”
“Of course,” Audrey said. “Look… If you’re nervous about meeting them for the first time, I understand. It’s only natural.”
“They aren’t completely sure that I’m theirs. They said I’d have to take a test, or something.”
“Well, a DNA test is really the only way to confirm your identity. It would still be necessary even if you did remember anything.”
Lyra could tell what Audrey meant. She still thought Lyra was crazy, or that she was holding something back. Neither one of them had said a word about Equestria since that one time, but it was still on both of their minds.
“Did you remember to give her our phone number, Audrey?” her mother said from the front seat. “Lyra, you should call us when you get home. Let us know you arrived safely.”
“I guess so,” Lyra said. She turned back to the window, trying to see if any more planes would go overhead. “How far did you say it’d be?”
“You won't be there until this afternoon. It’s, I don’t know… About six hundred, seven hundred miles or so?” Audrey said. “About halfway across the country.”
“You’re serious?” Lyra said. “This afternoon…?”
There was nothing in Equestria six hundred miles from something else. That distance sounded impossible. And to travel that far in less than a day? If humans could manage that, Lyra would be even more impressed than ever.
Still, an airplane would have to be insanely fast to manage that. Lyra was beginning to feel jittery again.
“Just relax,” Audrey told her. “I’ve flown a few times. It’s not that bad.”
“Right…” Lyra tried to force a smile.
The car pulled into a large, dark building. Some other vehicles were parked here. All different colors and shapes. The car swerved through all these tight spaces, up several levels of ramps. Lyra was used to cars at this point, and Mrs. Loren was a more careful driver than Nathan, but it still felt like they were coming close to the others. At least they were on the ground.
Once they had pulled in between two other cars, Audrey swung open the door on her side and got out. Lyra did the same. The lid of the trunk popped open and she removed her guitar and suitcase. It was a small one, cheap – she’d just needed something to keep her few changes of clothes in. The handle extended so that you could drag it behind you with one hand, on wheels. It was easier than carrying luggage on your back, or even keeping it afloat with magic.
“Do you need me to take any of that for you?” Audrey watched her as she pulled the guitar case onto her back, with her smaller bag hanging near her hip and the suitcase at her side.
“You’re staying here, though, aren’t you?” Lyra said.
“We’ll be with you until you get to security. They’ll check your bags before then,” Audrey explained. Lyra stared at her blankly. “It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Really.”
“I’ve just never had to take this many steps to travel before. I’ve taken a train a few times,” Lyra said. They started walking past the lines of silent vehicles. Another car passed them, but only once.
“A train? Where was that?” Mrs. Loren asked.
“It’s…” Lyra noticed Audrey’s expression. “It was a while ago.”
She would have to watch herself. She'd slipped again, right after she'd told herself not to. This was going to be a fresh start with her parents, and she’d simplified her story – she would say she remembered nothing. She would tell them as much as they wanted to hear about Des Moines: living with Audrey’s family, learning guitar, all the times they’d hung out around town. But absolutely nothing about what happened before that. Like Equestria wasn’t even real.
They crossed over a bridge that spanned across the road. Only a few cars drove underneath, shining light ahead of them in the dim morning light. The structure they parked in was several stories tall, and big, but the rest of the airport looked like it would be even bigger. Nothing at all like the simple train platform in Ponyville.
Even the train station in Canterlot seemed big, but it was really nothing compared to this. This airport was a whole lot more complicated – needlessly so, it seemed. All she needed to do was get on one of these planes and go, what was so hard about that?
She let Audrey’s mom talk to most of the humans at the airport. They had to stand in line just to show her ticket to a human at the counter, sitting there at a computer. Then they actually took away her suitcase and guitar. Lyra had almost raised a protest when they took them behind the desk and carried them away.
“They’re just checking your luggage. Just go to baggage claim when you get to Philadelphia and you can pick them back up,” Audrey said.
“They don’t lose things in transit. Usually,” Audrey said. Lyra was about to raise another protest, but she was cut off. “Forget I said that last bit. It’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”
Lyra just didn’t understand why she couldn’t carry everything with her. The guitar technically still wasn’t even hers. She’d had to spend pretty much everything she had on the plane ticket, with just a few dollars left over. She really wanted to pay Nathan for the instrument, since it had done so much for her. Without that concert she wouldn’t have been able to afford fare. Nathan had told her not to worry about the guitar, and that she could pay him back later – but how? Through the mail? She hoped it worked like Equestria’s mail system… and that the carriers were reliable.
After handing off most of her belongings, they continued into the airport. Lyra was astounded at the size of this place. She’d thought the mall was big.
They came to some flights of stairs, but they were moving on their own. Audrey and her mom stepped onto them and just stood there, letting themselves be carried up. Lyra cautiously followed their example. Why exactly this was necessary wasn’t clear – it seemed like they’d reach the next floor quicker if they just walked – but Lyra had enough on her mind as it was.
She’d be home soon. Then she could relax. Focus on studying human behavior then. For now, she just had to get through all of this.
They paused right before Lyra got to security. There was a long line of humans waiting to go through. She watched what they were doing at the front – sending their bags through some sort of machine, walking through gates that occasionally beeped, causing the human to stop and get searched by the workers in blue uniforms. This entire process just got stranger and more complicated as they went on.
“This is as far as we can go,” Mrs. Loren said. “Will you be alright?”
“When you get to Chicago, just go right to the next gate. Don’t get lost. I’m not sure what you’ll do if you miss your next flight,” Audrey said.
Lyra nodded, still sidetracked by the line she was about to enter.
“Please have your photo I.D. ready when you reach the security checkpoint! Thank you,” one of the uniformed humans announced.
“I don’t have an I.D.” Lyra glanced from Audrey and then at her mother. “What do I do?”
“It’s the other line, over there. It shouldn’t be a problem. They’ll… probably search you, though.”
“Um… okay…” Lyra said. She looked at where Audrey had told her to go. The line was much shorter, at least.
“You’d better hurry up. Don’t want to miss your flight,” Audrey said.
“Yeah.” Lyra nodded.
“Remember to call when you get home,” Mrs. Loren added.
“I’ll do that. I think I remember how…”
“You’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it,” Audrey said.
“You’re right… I’ll be there this afternoon, just like you said.”
“And you’re feeling alright about this? Travelling on your own? And… meeting them?”
“Yeah… This is exactly what I was trying to do the whole time. I just need to go back home to my real parents,” Lyra said. “I couldn’t have made it here without your help.”
With one last glance back, she hurried to get into line, and waited there for a while. She watched the humans ahead of her pass through. She couldn’t tell exactly what the purpose of this step was… Her other belongings had been taken, but apparently the luggage you were allowed to take had to be checked first. It was all so pointlessly complicated.
“Step on up, ma’am.” Lyra realized they were talking to her. She was next.
One of the humans started feeling her arms and legs with their hands. Like they were looking for something hidden in her sleeves. Lyra wasn’t hiding anything, so other than the uncomfortable invasion of space she didn’t mind too much.
But she nearly panicked when she glanced over and saw the humans going through her bag. They opened up her lyre’s case, and flipped through her journal filled with observations of human behavior. If they saw that she’d been studying them, they’d ask questions, and Audrey hadn’t reacted very well to the answers…
The search ended, and everything was put back. Lyra had been watching carefully to make sure of that. Apparently whatever the humans had been concerned about finding wasn’t in Lyra’s belongings, and she was free to go. When her bag was given back to her, she quickly put it back over her shoulder and held it close to her hip with one hand. She hurried out of the checkpoint and off to the other side.
Back on her own again.
In a way, it felt like her very first day as a human. All by herself, no friends to help her find her way around.
This area right outside of security had a place called the “Capitol City Marketplace.” Apparently you could buy food here. A few humans were seated and eating breakfast, but Lyra was too nervous to even think about food right now.
Lyra glanced back at the security checkpoint. Those humans in uniform seemed to be looking for something. Not all of the humans were searched quite as thoroughly as she had been, but it was all very meticulous. But, as Lyra watched a few humans pass through, it seemed like they never found whatever it was they were afraid of finding.
A screen overhead – like a flat television, but the words were stationary – seemed to list all of the planes and destinations. Her eyes scanned the list. Atlanta, Austin… Chicago! It was pretty early on the list. Gate C6. Wherever that was.
“Attention, passengers.” It was a female voice, speaking in a calm tone, but the way it had come out of nowhere still made Lyra jump. “Delta Airlines Flight 3849 to Orlando, now boarding at Gate A2.”
The hallway on her right seemed to have C-numbers. C6 would probably be on the end. She started to walk down, looking at all the different humans waiting for their own flights. Considering that it was still about six in the morning, the airport was still filled with humans. Maybe this type of flying was a new experience for her, but humans seemed used to it. Another part of human life that she was getting to participate in. Even if she was still feeling nervous.
There were seating areas spaced intermittently between sections of hallway. Large windows let you see outside, where a few of the airplanes were waiting in the early morning light. She found a room marked C6 at the very end of the line.
She took a seat on one of the cushioned chairs, and leaned back to try to relax. A few other humans were scattered throughout the area. Some of them were reading books, or on what looked like portable computers, but a few of them seemed to be sleeping or resting. It made sense, considering how early it was. They were all different ages – there was one who had grey hair and wrinkles, and then a few that had families of young children. Those young humans seemed especially tired. One of them who was actually awake seemed cranky. Seeing them made Lyra wonder about her own younger sister. What she was like. What were humans like at seven years old? They had different standards of age than ponies… She couldn’t even guess the ages of the children here.
Lyra opened up her bag. Everything seemed to be in order even after they’d searched through it. She found her old journal and took it out. Flipping through the first few pages, she could see her sketches of her dreams, then the writing changed when she started using hands to write. It changed again when she became human. Lyra found a blank page and started listing off the names of cities that she could remember.
Atlanta. Memphis. Those ones were easy to remember. And someplace called “Phoenix.” Princess Celestia had one of those. Lyra wondered if those still lived in the human world – she hadn’t seen many animals, so she wasn’t sure exactly what did or did not exist. If unicorns weren’t even real here, then nothing could be taken for granted.
She sat there for a few minutes, just watching the other humans. They weren’t doing very much. A few more came to sit down in the same waiting area.
Outside, the huge winged vehicles like the one she was about to board were moving along the roads, and in the distance she could see them taking off. They had wings, but they didn’t flap. How did they lift themselves? She didn’t often question the specifics of how human technology worked, but if it was going to carry her hundreds of feet into the air…
“Attention, passengers. United Airlines Flight 6190 to Chicago, now boarding at Gate C6.”
Lyra’s head shot up at the mention of Chicago. All she knew about it is that it was where she was supposed to go. The other humans were moving towards a doorway that seemed to be connected to a plane outside. All she could do was follow their lead as they waited for their tickets to be taken individually and entered the hallway.
The plane was little more than a tube, with rows of seats and a low ceiling. Most of these seats were already filled by other humans. It was kind of like a train, just… smaller, and they’d be flying up into the clouds…
Lyra held her bag close to her side as she moved down the aisle. She couldn’t hold up the line behind her. Her eyes scanned the seats, and she went for the nearest empty one.
“Excuse me…” She stepped over another human, a male, and dropped down into her seat. Her bag was still held close to her chest. She took a deep breath.
“Oh man. You look terrible,” the human next to her said. It was a male, maybe a little bit older than her, with light-colored hair. It was still so hard to judge their ages, but he seemed a little older than Nathan, but not quite as old as her band members. “You’re going to be okay, right? The last thing I need is for you to be throwing up the whole flight.”
“I-I’ll be fine,” she managed to force out.
“You don’t look like it.”
“I’ve just never done this before.”
“First time flying?”
“No… I’ve been up to the clouds plenty of times. Just..." She indicated everything around them with her hands. "Not in one of these.”
“You’re either high or really crazy.”
“I’m not crazy!” she said. Maybe it had been too much of an outburst, because he was looking at her strangely now. She was starting off fresh, no need to make things worse now like she had with Audrey. “It was… a hot air balloon.”
He nodded slowly. “Well, this will be an interesting flight.”
“Really? What’s happening?”
“You, for one thing.”
“Oh. Right.” She tried to smile. “Don’t worry. I’m just a little nervous.” Her eyes went down to his hands, and she remembered her human etiquette. She pried her right hand away from her bag and offered it for a shake. “I’m Lyra Michelakos.” It was the first time she’d ever introduced herself with her full name.
He took her hand slowly. “Paul Chandler, but… Wait, don’t tell me you’re going to Philadelphia too. You’re not related to – “
“Thomas Michelakos? You’ve heard of him?” Her eyes widened.
“He’s my dad.”
He laughed and shook his head in disbelief. “That's... Wow. I’ve actually got a friend who works at a used bookstore. She’s met him a couple times.”
“Really?” Lyra said. “To be honest, I haven’t met him before. I didn’t even know who my parents were until recently. It’s… kind of a long story.”
“I don’t mind. We’ve got a long flight ahead of us, and I happen to be sitting next to someone famous. Or someone with famous parents, but it counts," he said. "For the next few months, I’m going to be telling people about this whenever there’s a lull in conversation. That’s the unspoken rule of meeting famous people on a flight.”
Lyra stared at him, wide-eyed. “I didn’t realize…”
“Yeah, I had a friend who saw Orlando Bloom at an airport once. I was hearing about it constantly for weeks afterwards. You’re not quite that famous, but you’ll do.”
Orlando… where had she heard that before? “Oh yeah! I think I saw a few flights listed going to Orlando.”
“That’s a different Orlando.”
Just like in the airport, a voice came on out of nowhere, but it was male this time. It sounded slightly distorted and crackly. “Attention all passengers, this is your captain speaking. We’d like to thank you for flying United Airways today. We’ll be at an altitude of about 30,000 feet today - ”
“Thirty… thousand… feet…” Lyra said.
“You’re scared of heights? I'm serious, I really don't want to deal with you throwing up.”
“Why do we need to go that high? That’s insane! We were nowhere near that high up when I went to Clouds – I mean… Never mind.” She had to keep herself together. I’m starting fresh. No mention of Cloudsdale or ponies. This human already thinks I’m acting weird.
The flight attendants were giving a demonstration of how to use the safety equipment. Lyra knew that she should probably pay attention, but it wasn’t making her feel much better. They weren’t even moving yet and the first thing they talk about is what to do if they crash? That wasn’t exactly reassuring.
“Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to put that under the seat in front of you.” Lyra realized the attendant was talking to her about the bag she was holding even tighter than before against her chest.
“Wh-what? Oh…” She did as she was told, but instantly searched for something to hold on to. Her fingers closed around the armrests on either side of the seat. For some reason it just felt better if her hands were full right now.
She sat there for a moment, eyes closed, breathing deeply. Paul didn’t seem bothered at all. Then, the same male voice from above their heads: “We’ve been cleared for takeoff.”
Lyra felt the plane move forward underneath her. Her entire body tensed up. She stared down at her lap, trying not to look at the window.
“You’re seriously going to be okay?” Paul asked.
She couldn’t get any words out.
He leaned back in his seat. “This should be fun.”
When she finally managed to lift her head up and glance outside, they were on a long strip of road, slowly moving forward… Then the high-pitched humming sound got louder and they started speeding forward. She was being forced back into the chair. She squeezed the armrests as hard as she could. And then the shaking stopped. Most of it, at least. They were tilting back, moving upwards. It wasn’t so bad...
Her hands shot up to her ears. Something had just happened to them, and it hurt.
“Here.” Paul’s voice sounded far away. He handed something over to her. She opened her eyes just enough to see it was a magazine.
“SkyMall?” Lyra said, reading the cover. “I-I’ve been to a mall before, but why – “
“Maybe it’ll help you get through the flight. Personally, I always look forward to reading it.”
She lowered her hands from her ears, even though that weird sensation was still there. She started looking through the catalog. Human inventions did interest her.
“You can actually buy all of these things? That’s incredible…”
“Um, that’s not exactly what I was talking about,” he said.
“What do you mean? This stuff is fascinating.”
“In a way, you could say that. Honestly, who’s going to spend that much on the world’s largest crossword puzzle? I’ll admit that the Bigfoot garden statue is… ‘interesting,’ but it’s out of my price range.”
A smile came across Lyra’s face as she flipped through the pages of human inventions. “What’s this?” Lyra pointed at one of the photographs. A close-up of a human’s hand with some kind of device strapped to it, connected to each finger. “A 'hand fitness trainer?' How does it work?”
“Nobody knows. Probably not even the people who designed it,” he said. “And it’s yours for just $30. Wow. Though, considering who your dad is, you’re probably able to blow some money on whatever you feel like. You must be loaded.”
“He is a bestselling author. Something of a local celebrity, I guess.”
“I guess I didn’t really think about that… His books are sold everywhere, aren’t they?”
He nodded. “And I see you’ve already forgotten you’re afraid of flying.”
“I told you, I’m not – “ Lyra stopped. The strange thing was, she did feel better after looking at that magazine. She was much less nervous. Though she still couldn't bring herself to look out the window. “Um… thanks.”
“Glad I could help," he said. "Anyways, you mentioned you had a story to tell. I’m still interested in hearing that.”
“Oh yeah. Right…”
She told him just about everything about her weeks with Audrey. Meeting Nathan, learning guitar, playing the concert with Randall, and finally finding out who her family was. It was almost like practicing what she’d be telling her parents once she got home. Paul mostly listened, but offered a few comments.
“I stand corrected. I’m probably going to be bringing this up in conversation for years to come, not just months.”
“What do you mean?” Lyra cocked her head.
“Honestly, I think you’re making most of this up.”
Lyra was speechless. It was like a curse – no matter what she said, nobody ever believed her. “It’s all true, though.”
“What you’ve got is interesting, but I personally would have added in some aliens, maybe a zombie outbreak, or magical – “
“Wait, I never said anything about magic.” She stared at him in shock.
“You should have.” He shrugged. “It’s still a good story, though.”
Maybe it had just been a joke... She tried to tell herself that. “So why were you in Des Moines? You haven’t told me much about yourself,” Lyra said. Anything to get the conversation away from magic.
“I was visiting an old friend who moved away a few years ago.”
“That must have been fun. He’s so far away, but you can fly to visit him?”
“Well, he’s kind of a jerk, but yeah. I guess you’re right. It is nice.”
Flying to Cloudsdale had usually been pretty smooth, but the plane kept on shaking around. And the engines were still pretty loud. She tried not to think of those safety demonstrations they’d given at the beginning of the trip.
Lyra finally worked up the nerve to look out the window. As she’d expected, they were in the clouds… but it was so barren out there. There weren’t any buildings, no structures, just flat expanses of clouds.
“It’s so empty up here…” she muttered.
“What’d you expect?” Paul said. “Besides, wouldn’t it be worse if there was something up here?”
So humans could get up here, sure, but they hadn’t done anything. It figured. They couldn’t fly on their own, so they probably couldn’t walk on the clouds. And over the past few weeks Lyra had gotten the impression that all of their weather happened randomly. She wasn’t sure how they predicted it, but they were accurate some of the time.
“You’re right… I don’t know. It’s my first time being up this high.”
“So you’ve told me. So, what's it like taking a hot air balloon? I've never done that before.”
They were descending.
The flight had lasted a little over an hour. Or so she'd been told, it felt like forever. If she hadn't had someone to distract her, she wasn't sure what she would have done.
Lyra could see the ground slowly coming up closer to them, and a part of her was bracing for the impact… But mostly she was just transfixed by the sight.
The entire ground was covered in buildings. Just a whole sea of gray box-like shapes. Some of them were small, like Audrey’s neighborhood, but there were also some tall towers. It was hard to tell, but this city – Chicago – might be even bigger than Des Moines. And, as far as she could see, hardly any open green spaces. That feeling of being in a completely unfamiliar world was stronger than ever.
She felt the plane shake violently. It must have hit the ground. They were speeding along the road, but she could feel resistance like they were slowing down. Still, it seemed impossible that they could stop in time…
But the other humans were unimpressed. Some of them stretched as they woke up from sleeping. Imagine, taking a nap. Through this.
The captain’s voice came on again, with that weird crackly sound to it. “On behalf of United Airways, I’d like to welcome you all to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Please remain seated until we come to a complete stop, and we hope you had a nice flight.”
Lyra leaned back and let out a sigh. “Finally. I don’t want to do that again.”
“Suck it up. We’ve still got one more flight before we’re home,” Paul said.
“You’re right… Do you think I’ll see you again? In Filly – I mean, Philadelphia?”
He laughed. “You’re already sounding like a native. Maybe we will.”
This airport was even bigger than the one in Des Moines, and much more busy. She was beginning to believe what Paul had told her about Des Moines being a “small city.”
She’d lost track of him as the airplane had cleared out. Maybe she would find him again before they boarded the next plane. Having someone else there had really helped her keep her head clear. Right now there was too much to worry about.
She had some time to kill before the next flight. About two hours, plus however long the flight itself would be. She wandered into one of the stores. The words “Hudson News” were lit up above the entrance, in white cursive letters. It seemed to have a little of everything – snacks, t-shirts, souvenirs, magazines… There were some books on one wall, with the paper covers instead of hard ones.
Her dad’s name instantly jumped out at her. Voice in the Dark, by Thomas Michelakos. His name was slightly larger than the title. The cover art was similar to the others – humans, dressed in armor or cloaks, one of them seated on the back of a pony.
Well, it was closer to those ponies that she’d seen in Iowa instead of anyone she’d known in Equestria. Taller, with the long face and small beady eyes. Still, a human riding on its back… Spike did that with Twilight every so often. A human, though? That was different. Maybe when she’d been a pony, she would have agreed to that if a human had asked.
That was strange to think about.
It didn’t say much about what the story was. All it said was that it was the first book.
It was only a couple dollars, and she was curious to know what exactly he wrote about. Between waiting for the flight and sitting through it, she’d have plenty of time to find out. She took out the little bit of money she had left, counted it, and took it up to the counter to pay.
The second flight went easier than the first, perhaps because she knew what to expect. She'd seen Paul in line as they boarded, but lost him as they'd taken their seats. Instead Lyra was sitting next to an adult human woman who slept, snoring noisily, the entire time. Lyra was getting a bit more comfortable with airplanes, but she wasn't at the point where she could go to sleep yet. She settled in and kept her mind occupied with her dad’s novel instead.
The book started off with a wordy introduction, and then went into a history of… a war.
Like what had happened in Equestria.
But this one hadn’t ended the human race, in this world her father had dreamed up. Obviously it hadn’t, since this took place at the beginning of the story. But why would humans want to read about something like that? War was just about the worst thing humans could do, even if they stopped themselves before going too far and wiping themselves out completely.
She kept reading, though. The tone lightened soon enough, focusing on a few humans living in a small village. Details of it reminded her of Ponyville – the thatched roof houses, the farms on the outskirts of the town, the marketplace they set up every week or so to sell crops and other goods.
But then she came across a mention of magic.
The world of this story was inhabited by humans, but certain ones used magic. Not that they were born with it - apparently in this book magic was just something ordinary humans could learn if they studied enough. And knowing magic created a huge divide between them and the other humans. Magic users lived in a city far away from this little village, all by themselves. Kind of like the divide between the races in Hearth’s Warming Eve. That story had been just as fictional as this novel, though.
Lyra lowered the book and stared out the window. The human world stretched out below her, too tiny to see any details. It was huge and fascinating. Maybe she’d get the chance to explore it someday.
But more importantly… Magic didn’t create any kind of tension between those who had it and those who didn’t. Lyra and Bon-Bon had had their differences, their arguments, but it had never been about magic. It had been about… other issues Lyra had. She inspected her fingers. Though maybe in this book, it caused such problems because every human who could use magic was about as powerful as Twilight, maybe even more. Magic wasn’t that easy or that useful. Everything in this book was so wrong...
Her dad knew nothing about real magic.
The flight lasted long enough for her to get through a good chunk of the book, though it hadn’t been easy. All she could focus on were the inaccuracies, and wondering why any of this would interest humans who lived in a world where you could cross over six hundred miles in a few hours.
Lyra was grateful when the plane touched down in Philadelphia, once again landing on that long road and speeding along until it finally slowed to a stop.
“Thank you for flying with us. The local time here in Philadelphia is 12:53. We hope you enjoyed your flight.”
As soon as the captain’s voice came through the ceiling, she’d been grateful to stand up, stretch her legs, and hopefully never fly like this again.
She followed the sea of humans pouring out of the single exit. They’d probably know where to go. She tried looking for Paul again, but couldn’t find him. Besides, now she was looking for someone else. Someone more important…
The signs hanging above her head directed her towards baggage claim, and that made her remember her suitcase and guitar. Audrey had said that she’d get those back after arriving here.
Lyra followed the arrows through the airport. It was different from Chicago or Des Moines – had she really been to three of these already? But it was equally as huge and crowded.
Her eyes were suddenly drawn to something – her own name. First and last, in thick block letters, on a sheet of white paper.
Being held by a woman she recognized.