Stretching Your Legs
You promised yourself that you would do this with dignity befitting an emissary of humanity.
This was it. No mulligans.
Taking a deep breath, you take a final moment to ready yourself and stride out into the morning bustle of Ponyville's market.
"Freedom! Delicious freedom!" you yell dropping to your knees in a soft patch of what must be the greenest grass you've ever seen.
Well, so much for dignity.
"Was that supposed to be your idea of subtlety?" Twilight asks from directly behind you.
Awkwardly scratching at the back of your neck, you peer back at the smirking purple unicorn.
"I got nervous?" Your reply sounds more like a question.
She's trying her best to keep a straight face, but your ridiculous attempt at a puppy dog face quickly puts an end to that.
Rubbing a fore hoof against her temple, Twilight regards you for a moment before ambling to your side. In an ironic change of perspective, you find yourself needing to tilt your head up to meet her exasperated gaze.
"Judging by the crowd, I think now might be a good time to take this show on the road."
Crowd? That couldn't possibly be good.
You turn slowly, like a hinge in dire need of an oiling.
A group of at least ten ponies have gathered around you and Twilight, taking in the spectacle with varying degrees of interest.
Chuckling nervously, you stand while brushing a few stray blades of grass from the knees of your new blue jeans. Credit went where credit was due, and Rarity had done a damn fine job on these bad boys. The same could be said of the shirt she had somehow found time to make. You weren't sure what material she had used, but the ivory white garment felt amazing on your skin. It was a standard short sleeved button up affair, fitted with a row of meticulously crafted gold buttons. Rarity had been especially proud of these, saying that she almost never got the chance to work with the fasteners. It made sense. Trying to work buttons without the benefit of fingers sounded like a maddening practice in futility.
"I think you may be right," you reply, casually edging around your impromptu audience.
"Hey Twilight, what's with the bald monkey?" Bald monkey?
"Did you botch a spell and burn off its hair?" There is a smattering of laughs at this.
"Nice outfit at least. Did you have to dress it too?" Okay, that was just messed up.
Sighing, you stop and rub at the bridge of your noise. "You do realize that I can understand you guys, right?"
"Wow Twilight, you even taught it to speak. That's amazing considering how clueless it looks."
The unicorn in question looked like she wanted to say something in your defense, but lacked the conviction to do so.
That was fine. You took a mental snapshot of the gathered hecklers and filed it away for later use.
"They're usually not like that," Twilight offered helpfully, the sound of laughter beginning to fade into the distance. "What? I'm serious!" You must not have looked very convinced.
"You're real!" a feminine voice exclaims from directly behind you.
"Holy shit!" you yell, spinning on your heel and reflexively throwing your hands up in a terrible approximation of a karate stance.
A mint green unicorn with amber eyes is staring up at you wearing a smile so large it's borderline obscene. Her mane and tail are a color that is almost but not quite teal, and are struck through with streaks of white.
"What do you mean I'm real?" you ask, trying and failing to reign in your racing heart rate.
"Lyra, what are you talking about?" Twilight asks providing you with a name to this new face. "You almost sound like you were expecting him."
"Wait, you mean to tell me that the pony who lives in a library and literally stays up days on end studying has never read any of the ancient myths surrounding humans?"
Twilight considers this for a moment before answering. "Well, I suppose there are a few older texts out there briefly mentioning an ancient hairless ape," she cocks her head at an angle, nose scrunching in concentration, "but those are all books of myth. Bedtime stories for fussy foals."
You feel a headache coming on.
“Okay, wow I'm really having a hard time wrapping my head around the irony here. You're basically saying that every mythical creature from my world is real in yours, and that the entirety of my species has been relegated to the realm of lame campfire stories?" You look to Twilight for confirmation.
"Well," she begins with an awkward laugh, "probably not every mythical creature."
"And I always loved those campfire stories!" Lyra chimes in enthusiastically.
Seriously why were you even surprised anymore?
Kicking at a few rocks, you resume your earlier gait in the general direction of Twilight's house in a huff. Hairless apes? You didn't think your wounded ego could take much more of this.
Lyra is happily trotting alongside you humming tonelessly to herself.
Her eyes keep darting from the path ahead to your hands every few seconds. If she was trying to be stealthy she was failing miserably.
"So Lyra," you begin, a question suddenly springing to mind.
"Hmm? Yes, what is it?" Her lively honey eyes instantly meet your own.
"I'm just curious about your reason for continuing to research humans all these years. I mean, if it weren't for my little accident nothing would have changed. Humans would still be nothing more than fairy tales. What happened to make you think any differently?
She hesitates for a moment before breaking eye contact, nervously pawing at the cobblestone road. You look to Twilight for some hint at the reason for this sudden shift. She looks just as confused as you.
"Doorknobs." Lyra's abrupt answer couldn't have been further from what you were expecting.
"Doorknobs?" you ask.
Sighing, the minty unicorn approaches the two of you, looking around as if to make sure nobody was near enough to hear her next words.
"Look, can you just promise that you won't laugh at me for what I'm about to say?"
This genuinely throws you. "Why would we laugh at you?"
The look she gives you is so crushingly sad it leaves you short of breath.
“Humans were always more than mere fairy tales to me. Ever since I was a filly I’ve been driven by something not even I understand to prove their existence.” She looks to you wistfully, “to prove your existence. I noticed things about everyday objects that the ponies around me couldn’t care less about. Why use silverware and drinking glasses when we lack the anatomy to easily do so? Why was every door in my parents’ house fitted with an infuriatingly round knob? My father’s tool shed was literally filled with perfect examples. How does using a screwdriver with your mouth make sense? Never mind handsaws! Why are they called handsaws if they’re meant to be used with a hoof? It quickly became obvious to me that form doesn’t follow function in Equestria.
Why was that though? Surely there must be historical records detailing the origins of our society’s conventions. I started researching at the local library branch on the weekends and after school. My research on the origins of Equestrian society was nothing but a series of dead ends. Did you know that there are literally hundreds of tomes about cloud density and distribution, but not a single reference to the origin of a hammer? When did ponies first learn to shelter themselves from the elements?"
She pauses, peering into the brilliant blue sky above, breathing deeply of the cool pure morning air. "It's probably obvious where I'm going with this, right?" Her eyes once again catch your own.
Twilight responds before you even have a chance. "You're suggesting that, thousands and thousands of years ago, something happened to the dominant species of our world, and that in their absence we inherited what was left behind."
"I know what it sounds like," Lyra responds stamping her hoof in frustration. Her eyes widen and she covers her mouth realizing how that had sounded. "Look, I'm sorry about that. Over the years I guess I've just sort of gotten used to being mocked for my ideas."
Her hair, buffeted by the gentle breeze, flows across her face momentarily obscuring it from view. She absently brushes it back behind her ear before continuing.
"That's actually why I decided to move away in the first place. Ponies in Canterlot are raised to fit snugly into a mold. My special ability has always been stringed instruments, my namesake in particular." She gestures to the mark emblazoned on her flank. "That wasn't what I wanted to do though. I wanted nothing more than to continue my quest to uncover the truth about our origins; the truth about humans!"
Her voice rises steadily to a crescendo.
"My parents wouldn't accept this. They wouldn't accept this. In their eyes I was destined to be a great musical virtuoso, taking her place amongst the Canterlot Symphony Orchestra elite!" She laughs bitterly. "What a joke. I wanted nothing to do with that lot! There was no passion in their playing! They may as well have been nothing more than puppets in a two bit street theater."
The emotion is heavy in her voice.
"My parents eventually had enough of what they considered to be me ruining my future. They waited up one night and met me at the door as I returned from my studies at the archives. They were done with me. I had one last chance to abandon my dreams and accept an apprenticeship with the orchestra. I refused outright."
She closes her eyes tightly, face drawn and pained. "They threw me out like I was nothing more than trash."
You had heard enough.
Tears begin to well up at the edges of her eyes as you move towards the unicorn. The sound of her quiet weeping reaches your ears and you are struck with a wave of empathy so potent that your heart protests painfully from within your chest.
"Lyra." She startles slightly at your voice as if the world had been momentarily forgotten around her. "Shouldn't you be happy?" Reaching out, you gently cradle her face within your hands. The effect is immediate. "After all," you begin, fingertips tracing circles against her delicate cheek bones, "you've proven that humans are real. Am I real enough for you?"
"Oh my..." she murmurs happily, "Your hands are amazing." Her lips are cutely parted as her previous tension is forgotten with your touch. You move your thumb so that it is played across her pouting bottom lip, tugging at the soft skin.
For a moment, you're afraid she might literally melt.
"Please," she's just short of panting now, "please I can't take much more of this. I can't, can't, can't." Lyra's voice trails off as it fails her.
"Ahem" A smirking Twilight snaps you from your ministrations. "I hate to interrupt this very, touching, moment, but we really need to be going."
Looking down, you can't help but laugh at the annoyed look adorning Lyra's face.
"Sorry about that," you whisper so only she can hear. "Sometimes I let myself get a little carried away." You release her face with one final swirl of your thumbs, rising to your feet.
She smiles sweetly at you. Magic suddenly sparks into life around her horn and a small rectangular card appears from seemingly nowhere, depositing itself neatly in your open palm. Upon inspection, it appears to be a business card. An embossed nautilus shell sits centered while a street address scrolls below it in elegantly written cursive. "Promise that you'll stop by for a visit?"
"Of course. How could I refuse an invitation from a pretty lady?"
Her entire face lights up again. "Great! I can't wait to talk to you about, well, you! Oh, by the way," she trots up to you, eyes shining with mischief, "I think I like when you get carried away!"
Before you can even stammer out a retort, the mare has already turned and trotted away, looking over her shoulder to blow a teasing raspberry.
Twilight walks to your side as you watch Lyra disappear amidst the sea of merchants and customers. "This is going to happen a lot isn't it?" she asks with feigned annoyance.
You chuckle slightly. "I don't know. Remember, I'm kind of new at this whole dimension hopping thing.