In her dreams, she was a cat. A white cat, to be specific, with fluffy, luxurious fur, who slept on a bolt of expensive-looking fabric and rarely stooped to do anything else.
As a cat, she slept soundly, purring contentedly all the while. Occasionally something would jolt her awake; whenever that happened, she would rise and stretch, mewing plaintively and making a point of ignoring whatever had disturbed her. Then, she would knead the fabric and doze off yet again.
An elegant white unicorn - an utterly enormous one, from her perspective - loomed over her all the while, wailing about the fur that was being shed upon the cloth and begging Opalescence to "please, please get off of mummy's best silk!" When the unicorn attempted to physically pry her from the bed that Opal had made for herself, she would hiss and swipe with her claws until the unicorn released her, and then she would settle in once more, feeling quite smug.
That dream was the most common one.
But some nights, the dreams were different. For instance, there were some nights where she wasn't napping at all. Instead, she was awake and batting around bits of yarn, or perhaps scratching some nearby furniture to get her claws nice and sharp. Occasionally, rather than the elegant white unicorn being the one to loom over her, she would be greeted by a soft-spoken yellow pegasus in her stead. The pegasus would coo affectionate terms of endearment at her while Opal rubbed against her legs in a bid for further petting. Never once did she feel the need to bite this one; something about those enormous blue-green eyes compelled her not to.
Every so often she would be outside in one of these dreams. In a park of some sort, or on a lawn. It was then that she saw her friends, only she didn't seem them as they actually were. Instead, she saw them as animals, just as she would see herself as a cat. But even so, she recognized each of them instantly, knowing instinctively that the cheerful little dog with the friendly yap was Winona and that the adorable little rabbit with the mean streak was Angel. Opalescence couldn't have said how she knew it, only that it made sense. After all, who could that vapid little alligator have been except for Gummy? Only he had such vacant, staring purple eyes.
But no matter how strange or disturbingly realistic these animal dreams could be, in the end, Opal always woke up.
When she did, she would sigh in relief; for when she inevitably came to, she didn't do so as a cat roused from slumber. She did so as the unicorn she really was, and the face she saw in the mirror each morning was the same face she'd always had. Her eyes never bore the distinctive slit-pupil of a cat, and her fur would never be anything but sleek and well-groomed.
Although the dreams disoriented her with their vividness, Opal never allowed them to bother her for too long. After all, socialites such as herself always had very busy schedules, and she couldn't afford to let herself to get distracted by these animal dreams. As strange as they might be.
"Well, gosh - I've heard some crazy stories in my time, but that really takes the cake, Opal!"
"You don't know the half of it, Winona. I even dreamt that Angel was a bunny. A bunny! Can you believe it? A brute like him as a sweet little bunny rabbit? It's absurd!"
"I gotta say, though, I can kinda see you as a cat," Winona mused, taking a sip of tea. She didn't much care for the fancy, sophisticated snacks and drinks that Opal always ordered for them when they went out to lunch together, but she wasn't one to turn down free food, either. It may have been a little too dainty and elegant for her liking, but that didn't really matter much in the end, now, did it? Food was food, after all. She didn't mind letting Opal put on her prim little airs if it came with a meal.
"But why in Equestria would Gummy be an alligator? That doesn't make any sense! Aren't alligators supposed to be cunning and dangerous?"
"Nothin' 'bout Gummy makes any sense. Why'd he start makin' any in a dream?"
"True, true." Opalescence took another sip of her tea, before quirking a perfect eyebrow and murmuring, "Winona, darling, you must let me do something with your mane sometime. I can't even look at it without cringing."
Winona just chuckled before reaching for another apple tart. "Well, shucks, I hardly think that's necessary. I mean, I don't really got nopony to dress up for, unless you think the cows'd be interested in seein' me all fancied up."
"You don't need to dress up for anypony. Why not just do it for yourself? You could be more than a herder if you wanted to be, you know. Nopony should aspire to run with cows all their lives. That's just cruel."
"I like herdin' cattle. It's what I'm good at." The earth pony answered curtly, frowning slightly for once in her life as she gave Opal a stern look.
It was an old argument of theirs, one that neither of them would ever win. Opalescence decided to be the bigger mare and drop the subject. It was what good friends did, after all, and Opal liked to believe that she was not only a good friend, but an excellent unicorn overall in every way. She was confident in her own beauty and charming personality and didn't require constant reassurance, nor did she feel the need to prove it to anypony who dared question her likeability. She had no time for such doubting skeptics, and always made sure to make them perfectly aware of that fact.
Those who doubted her tended to regret it later. It was simple. She had no time to waste on those who couldn't treat her in the manner in which she was accustomed. Winona was the exception, but only because Winona was quite the gentlemare, despite her poor breeding and regrettable background.
The two of them were seated at their usual table outside of Sugarcube Corner, the local bakery, directly under the awning and out of the path of the sun. It had become a habit at some point; once a week, they would meet for what Opalescence called tea and what Winona called lunch. Whatever it was, it involved sitting down to eat and gossip, much as they were doing right now, and so it was an arrangement that both of them found enjoyable enough; Winona for the food, and Opal for the aforementioned gossip. There was precious little that she loved more than talking about herself.
"An' what'd you say I was, again?" Winona asked after a moment, speaking through a mouthful of apple tart. Opalescence may have preferred the delicacies herself, but she knew how Winona got about apples and always made sure to order something with them in it for her. It was little details like that that made Opal feel certain Winona was quite lucky to be able to call a generous soul such as herself a friend.
"Honestly, Winona! Don't speak with your mouth full! Where were you raised? A barn?" the unicorn chastised in a sudden fit of superiority.
"Oh, stop puttin' on airs. Your no more noble'n I am," her friend retorted with an easy grin to show that she wasn't really angry. "Was I some kinda heifer or somethin' in your dream, since I spend so much time with the cows? That'd make sense."
"You were a dog, actually," Opal sniffed with a haughty toss of her perfectly mane. Unlike her companion, she spent hours grooming herself a day, brushing her mane and tail to perfection and binding them up with her favorite purple ribbons to keep them in place. Purple was the color of royalty, you know. "Always barking and running about and ... licking things."
In her dreams, Winona had indeed been a friendly little pooch. It was odd, though, how closely the pooch had resembled the way Winona looked in real life. Winona the earth pony who sat across from Opalescence now had a coat of deep brown and white, a scattering of freckles across her sweet, smiling face. Her trademark red neckerchief was tied loosely around her neck, just as it had been in the dream. "A dog, huh?" she asked, still grinning. She was constantly smiling, for some reason. "I like that!"
"You would like that, wouldn't you? Dogs are terrible, you know. They're utter beasts. Undignified."
"A dog might be nice to have around the farm."
"You'd be better getting a cat. Cats are elegant and graceful and don't require constant care and attention."
Winona snorted. "Why bother gettin' a pet if I don't actually wanna spend time with it?"
Opal shrugged before twisting her pretty face into a surprisingly menacing scowl. "Let's stop talking about dreams. This is getting boring. Have you seen Tank today?"
"Nah. Been lookin' for him, though. I could use his help with some repairs on the barn that I need somepony big an' strong for."
"Ah, yes, big and strong ... " Opalescence's light green eyes took on a dreamy look, and her mouth curved into a sly smile. "You know, he may be as slow as a slug, but he's still rather magnificent, don't you think?" She asked, practically purring.
"Aw, leave him alone, Opal," Winona scolded, shaking her head with a disappointed sigh. "He's such a sweet guy. You'd just treat him like garbage and break his heart. An' he'll stand by an' take it, too, waitin' for you to like him again. That's just how sweet he is."
Nearly all of the citizens of Ponyville had lived in the same village all their lives, which had made Tank quite the subject of interest when he'd first arrived a few months earlier. He'd come from nowhere, tall and silent and built like a regular tank, which had led to his nickname. It had happened shortly after he'd first arrived, when there had been a rockslide in Ghastly Gorge and an injured falcon had gotten caught in the rubble. He'd climbed into the quarry to save it, when nopony else close by had been anywhere near strong enough to move all of the rock. Nopony knew what his real name was, and he seemed happy enough with what he was now called. It was like a reminder of the day that he'd been able to play hero.
"I know, I know," Opalescence muttered. "I was mostly joking, anyway. All the stallions around here are boring, though! That, or they're utterly unsuitable. I'm getting desperate for somepony new to play with."
"Play with?" Winona asked warily.
Then, as if on cue, a green, almost scaly-looking earth pony with enormous, staring purple eyes suddenly sprung out of nowhere, shooting up beside their table as though he'd been hiding beneath it the whole time. Opal shrieked; Winona yelped, almost tipping back in her chair.
"Gummy! What are you doing?" Opalescence hissed, attempting to smooth down her mane as her heart pounded. For some reason, whenever she was startled, her hair would go completely frazzled and stand straight on end. "Don't pop out of nowhere like that!"
Gummy turned to stare at her, blinking one eye and then the other, face void of any emotion.
"Do you need something?" Opal demanded rather haughtily, attempting to sound as regal as possible.
For a moment, Gummy stood completely still, continuing to stare at her with no expression whatsoever. He then lunged forward, grabbing a tart and shoving it into his mouth before quickly disappearing under the table.
There was a moment of silence where both Winona and Opal stared at him where he sat under the table, absently chewing on the tart that he'd stolen, looking for all the world as though he had no idea what was going on around him.
"Shall we go?" Opalescence finally suggested.
"Honestly, I don't understand how he manages to stay employed," the graceful, dainty white unicorn muttered from beneath her parasol as she strolled along the main road through Ponyville. The day was lovely and fine, with not a hint of cloud in sight, so naturally she needed protection from the harsh natural light of the sun. "He makes me nervous. He looks to be barely sentient most of the time, and then every once in a while he does something so sudden or sharp that you're doubting yourself."
"I like Gummy," Winona replied happily. "He's a nice guy."
"Oh, you think everypony's nice. You want to be everypony's best friend." Opal snapped.
"Nothin' wrong with that," the earth pony replied, a touch defensively. "An' besides, I kinda get the impression from him that he's some kinda secret genius, who's just so smart nopony else can keep up with him. Hey, where're we goin', anyway?"
"We're going to the library," Opal answered with a prim little twirl of her parasol, practically sashaying down the road. "Owloysius has a book on classical etiquette for me that I've been meaning to read, and as my friend, I've given you the honor of escorting me. You should be grateful."
"All right! Sounds fun!"
But really, Winona was a terrible escort, Opalescence realized grimly after a few minutes of walking. She was far too happy-go-lucky, despite her seemingly sensible nature. Every moment, something new caught Winona's attention and she'd go running after it only to suddenly remember her place and come running back. And then, the very next moment, she'd be doing it yet again.
It was lucky for her that Opal was so understanding and magnificent as to forgive her and allow Winona the privilege of continuing to walk alongside her. Perhaps that was what she liked best about the herder; she was appropriately grateful for the attention Opalescence bestowed upon her, lapping up any semblance of affection like ... well, like a puppy.
Just then, Winona was running towards a group of foals who were playing catch, looking for all the world as though she wanted to join them in running after that little red ball they were tossing. Then, just in time, she seemed to remember herself and came skipping back to Opal. It wouldn't have surprised the unicorn at all if she'd started yapping and licking her face, now that she thought about it.
"Why d'you need a book on classical etiquette or whatever anyway, Opal?" Winona suddenly asked, bounding back to Opalescence's side. "Dontcha already know all about stuff like that?"
"There's always more to be learned," Opalescence answered lightly, feeling proud of how modest her response was. "Nopony can ever learn everything, you know, no matter how much studying they do."
"Well, yeah, but why d'you need to learn it at all? You expectin' a dinner invitation to the palace or somethin'?"
"Princess Philomena would be lucky to have the palace graced by my presence," Opal declared. "Surely a pony of such delicacy and refinement as myself belongs there any - ow!"
She was startled by a sharp smack against the back of her head. A tiny white pegasus with a feathery pale mane, so young and innocent looking as to seem almost angelic, suddenly rocketed before her, scowling.
"Angel!" Opal snarled. "What was that for? You little monster, I'll - !"
"Watch it!" Angel snapped back. "Whaddya doing? Just charging on ahead without even looking where you're going? Beat it! This place is off limits!"
"And what right do you think you have to - OW!"
Instead of responding, Angel simply smacked Opal again. "Beat it!" he ordered. "Animal crossing, idiot! Do you want to get in the way of these ducks here? Is that what you want?!"
It was only then that Opalescence or Winona was able to see what he was talking about. Behind him was a crude sign marking an animal crossing, a sign that a family of ducks appeared to be making good use of as the three ponies spoke with one another, waddling across the worn dirt road and towards the pond on the other side.
Tank was seated by the pond, staring happily at the water. When he heard the commotion, he slowly lifted his head up and glanced over at the ponies by the animal crossing. He waved, just as slowly and deliberately as he did everything else. Beaming, Winona waved back eagerly, practically jumping in place until Opal magically yanked her tail and forced her back down.
"Back off!" Angel snapped. "Go find somewhere else to take your little stroll, Miss La-di-da, look at me, I'm so fancy!"
After Opal finally grew tired of being smacked by Angel and decided to simply change directions after all, heading back down the road they came, Winona happily declared, "I like Angel. He's nice!"
"You think everypony's nice! You can't be friends with everypony the world, you know!" Opalescence snapped, her mood fouled by her unfortunate experience with the horrid little demon known as Angel.
"Well, if they're nice to me, I don't see why not ... and he takes care of those animals, too, so he must be good on th' inside, even if he's kinda gruff an' mean the rest o' th' time."
"Philomena knows why he treats those cursed animals of his so well. Oh, wait - didn't you want to talk to Tank about something?"
"Well, yeah, but we're goin' to the library first!" Winona replied, as cheerful as ever.
Silly Winona. How could she be so reasonable and mature half of the time and so ditzy and foolishly sociable the rest? Her special talent may have been herding, but there were times that Opal thought it may as well have been her ability to instantly try to befriend everypony they met. Honestly, Winona could find a reason to love anypony.
It was a good thing she had a friend as worldly as Opalescence to depend on, otherwise the poor dear would've been completely lost in the real world. Yes, Winona was certainly privileged. Anypony who knew Opalescence was privileged, really. It was an honor to even be in her presence.
"No, we're not," Opal generously declared. "I've decided that I'm no longer in the mood. The book wasn't that important, anyway. Let's go find Tank."
The light of the candle flickered, bowing to the slight breeze coming in from the open window.
The brown unicorn had been awake all night studying. The now-sputtering flame had been burning long enough for the candle to have worn down to little more than a nub, the sides decorated with trickles of rapidly-hardening melted wax. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d stayed up so late. Even now, as the exhaustion seeped into the very core of his being, he could feel a sense of easy satisfaction wash over him at the knowledge that he’d just pulled another successful all-nighter. There were times that his friends joked that Owloysius must somehow be nocturnal; nights like this made such a theory infinitely more plausible.
But as satisfied as he was with the work he'd managed to finish, Owloysius couldn't ignore the painful weight of fatigue bearing down upon him any longer. The thought of climbing into bed, his bed, so warm and soft and inviting and sleeping for a week or so seemed incredibly appealing all of a sudden. It was like the allure of slumber was a magnet attempting to physically draw him away from his books and lead him to bed.
But at most, he'd probably only sleep for the day. Chances were that he'd be awake and ready to go come evening time, and then this whole vicious cycle would start all over again.
How long had he been reading? It must be noon, at least, so ... huh. Almost an entire day of non-stop studying. Interesting. Normally somepony would've interrupted him by then.
Feeling industrious, he rose from his desk and adjusted his round spectacles before magically beginning to sweep his tools away, reshelving the many books he'd brought out for reference and rolling up the many scrolls of parchment that he'd filled with his scratchy notes and diagrams. As tired as he was, Owloysius couldn't help but smile.
For the past few months, he'd been utterly absorbed in a new line of study recommended by the princess.
The theory of the multiverse.
There were stars in the sky with enough mass to collapse on themselves, forming black holes. Within these black holes, there was a point called "singularity" where all physical laws ceased to exist.
As a result, scientists couldn't possibly predict what happened within those holes. One theory was that beyond singularity, there existed wormholes that could provide the solution to interstellar travel. Another was that beyond singularity, there was an entirely new set of physical laws.
In a universe defined by the unobservable, who can say what might exist in a part of reality that we cannot see?
The multiverse theory.
The continuous formation of universes through the collapse of giant stars and the formation of black holes, and of the countless potential universes that could exist just beyond reach.
There was no way to predict or hypothesize what kind of universes there were past singularity. Anything was possible.
The only way they could learn was if scientists were somehow able to find a way to open travel between those thousands of dimensions. If they were somehow able to go there themselves and see. And as long as Owloysius continued to have nights as productive as this one had been, he just might be the first pony to do so.
It was a perfectly normal day in Ponyville as six very good friends gathered in the park for their weekly Pony Pet Playdate. Over the hill, Applejack played fetch with her dog Winona. Gathered under the shade of a nearby cluster of trees by a pond, tending to a family of ducks she'd just discovered, was Fluttershy and her reluctant assistant Angel Bunny, and Tank the tortoise was happily buzzing after his mistress as they played tag in the sky.
Twilight Sparkle sat beneath the shade as well, studiously taking notes, the book "The Hidden Reality of Parallel Universes" open before her; it was a new line of study that had been recommended by the princess, and she found it fascinating. Her assistant and pet Owloysius stood perched on her shoulder as though he were reading along.
And Opalescence the cat was fast asleep after a successful morning of attacking her owner and shredding fabric and furniture, dreaming, in a vague and far-off way, about ponies.