Complete and utter darkness. No sensation, no light, no smell. It swirled around endlessly.
And yet, for the void, there was a sound. Distant, but persistent. It repeated, again and again, until at last the noise grew. It became understandable, in faint patches.
“…you said she’d be awake hours ago…getting anxious…Rainbow? Rainbow Dash?”
Rainbow opened her eyes, as a familiar voice commanded her, “Wake up!”
A shocked tingling filled up her chest, as she saw Twilight Sparkle’s face hovering only a few inches from her own. Her mouth dropped open to speak, but no words came. Only a confused, elated squeak eked out. She leaped up from the ground she was laying on, and threw her hooves around her wife; but something felt wrong. Wait, she thought. That wasn’t it. Something felt right. Her joints weren’t creaking when she moved like that. She backed off to examine herself, but the face of the purple unicorn demanded her attention. The shock building up in Dash’s system could only grow as she realized, Twilight didn’t look a day older than the day they met.
“T-Twi, you’re young!” She looked down, and around her own body. “I am too?! What the hay’s going on here?!”
Twilight giggled, putting a hoof up to her lips, before looking over at somepony standing behind the pegasus. “All right, I think she’s gotten her dose of freaking out. Would you like to explain, Princess?”
“I would be happy to, Twilight Sparkle.”
Rainbow Dash spun about on her hooves to see the newcomer, and was greeted by the figure of Princess Luna standing tall over her, grinning as stupidly as a mischievous filly. She looked back at Twilight, and towards the Princess again, before finally feeling something snap in her mind. She fell back on her haunches, and complete confusion settled in. “Okay. I give up understanding. Can somepony PLEASE explain what’s going on before my brain snaps in two?”
“Of course.” Luna told her. “When I brought you here, you were unconscious. Twilight and I were in agreement that we should both be present to welcome you here.”
“Uh… huh. And just where is ‘here’?”
Princess Luna’s grin stretched even wider, cherishing that little tidbit of information that only she was privy to for an instant. “This, my little pony, is the afterlife.”
If Rainbow Dash’s jaw could unhinge it would have impacted the ground right then. Her brain ordered her to back up and re-process that information. “I, wait, what? Th-the afterlife?! That’s impossible, that doesn’t make any sense!”
Luna cleared her throat, catching the other mare’s attention. “Perhaps I should elaborate in full. Do you remember Twilight’s funeral, and that I was in charge of its procession as opposed to my sister? You see, as my dear sister explained to your friends once you had fled, in keeping with my control of night, by custom it is my duty to guide our subjects into the next life. This task is, actually… quite literal. When Twilight lost her life, I guided her spirit here. Just as I guided you—“
“—After the flood…” Rainbow finished for her. Her mind felt a quick rush of memories returning to her. In the confusion, she had forgotten; it was clear in her mind now. That last Sonic Rainboom had killed her, then. It was… odd to think about. She held up a hoof and examined it closely. She certainly seemed alive. But, there was no reason to doubt the word of a Princess, right? Her last moments seemed so distant, there was so little reason to fear or regret them when she was here, unharmed. “I-I still don’t think I get it. This place is… cool, I guess.”
Her eyes examined the landscape. Rolling hills off into the distance, a pleasant place to be sure. Surreal, indigo mountains were on the horizon, with some ethereal yellow glow at the base of one. The grass was… wow. She looked at it closely, and realized she’d never seen such a brilliant shade of green. Each little blade was like an emerald; she had to bend one with a hoof just to make sure it wasn’t an actual gem. “Pretty awesome, actually,” she continued. “but if this is heaven, or whatever, I always thought it’d be, I don’t know, more over-the-top than bright colors. Where’s the supernatural splendor?”
Princess Luna let that grin of hers stretch her face again. “Look up.”
Rainbow Dash obeyed, and beheld a sight that words could not describe. The sky above her shimmered, and waved, as if it were a single flowing piece of fabric, perfectly stitched. A color she’d never even seen before comprised its hue; when she tried to describe it later, the best she could come up with was a greenish purple, yet even that didn’t feel quite right. There was no sun; the sky itself seemed to provide the light of day, and the clouds swirled and formed shapes she wasn’t quite sure were possible.
She looked back, at the indigo mountains on the horizon. When she viewed the sky above them, her thoughts were confirmed: the mountains themselves were not that color. Over there, it was night, and the darker sky changed the shade of its surroundings. That meant the light must have been… “Is that a city over there?”
Princess Luna giggled, and nodded in affirmation. “Very observant, Rainbow Dash. Would you like to see it? I could give you the grand tour, as long as I am here.”
“That sounds awesome!” Dash exclaimed, but caught herself as she thought of her wife. “Unless, er, Twilight would rather do something else?”
The purple mare shook her head and sidled up to her wife, planting a kiss on her cheek. “It sounds wonderful.”
“Marvelous!” Luna shouted, at once taking off for the light in the distance at a quick pace. The other two nearly had to canter just to keep up with her for the first few moments. Thankfully, the Princess slowed down as she began to speak.
“A proper tour as you would know it, my friends, would be rather impractical. What you must understand about the afterlife is, it is here for you, rather than some arbitrary set of physical laws. What you perceive here, in terms of special understanding, can be somewhat… flexible.”
The pair following the Princess looked around as she spoke. They were passing down an old, worn, dirt trail now, and on either side the rolling plains stretched. To their left, they passed a village; it looked so familiar. A Ponyville of another world; but this one was bigger. MUCH bigger.
“Rather than filling up space as more ponies arrive,” Luna explained. “the land itself grows and shifts to accommodate. There are uncountable villages just like that one; ponies live in one or another based on personal preference of company. There’s always room for more; and, you see, there is no barrier to the pursuit of interests. If you’ll look to your right, I think you shall see what I mean.”
Twilight and Rainbow obeyed, and the sight that filed their eyes was almost too vast to take in. For miles and miles stretched nothing but apple trees, and over a hill stood a single massive farmhouse that looked more like a compound. At the base of each tree was a pony, each diligently bucking away as they pursued their life’s passion. Two ponies in particular, one waxen gold and the other red, spotted the passing trio and happily waved before returning to their work.
“Is that Big Macintosh? And Braeburn?” Twilight asked.
“Correct!” Luna replied, giving an unseen smile as she led onwards. “Some ponies, such as the… overwhelming majority of the Apple family, have worked their entire lives, and were so passionate for it, that their greatest desire is to continue doing what they love; sharing apples with others. Incidentally, eating, and other bodily functions are not required here, but still fully viable.” She turned back to the two following her, and gave a proud grin. Although she wasn’t saying it directly, it was very clear to the two that of the sisters, Luna was the prime designer of this place. “All of your mental and physical pleasures may be stimulated here.”
Rainbow raised an eyebrow at that wording, and a fiendish smirk branded her face. “So, when you say every physical pleasure—YOWCH!”
A hoof jabbed into her side, and Twilight gave her a little growl as a warning. All the Princess did was laugh. “There’s no need to be so worried, Twilight. I’ve heard that question a few too many times to react quite so harshly. Suffice to say, better than ever.”
The couple stopped mid-step, mouths agape, and faces flushed like a red delicious apple as the teasing Princess strolled along, innocently. It was as if she’d merely been discussing the weather in her own, twisted view of reality. The pair chanced a glance at each other, and looked away quickly as they blushed further. That could wait.
The two galloped for a moment to catch up with Luna, who apparently had never ceased speaking. “—rather, Tia and I have divided the land into several zones, both daytime and nighttime, rural and urban, to accommodate each pony’s personal preferences. Each easily accessible from the others of course, as fuel, fatigue, and time are no longer factors. As you might observe now, we have just left a daytime rural zone, and are now entering Rainbow Dash’s request—the nighttime urban zone.”
As they came over the hill, once again Twilight and Rainbow Dash had to stop and marvel. Below them was a city, larger than any they had ever seen. Skyscrapers rose thousands of feet into the air; busy pegasi fluttered about between each of them, going about their various activities. In the streets below, uncounted throngs of land-bound ponies trotted up and down the streets; each and every one of them was smiling like it was their birthday. As they admired the scene below, Luna continued to gush on this particular zone.
“This, my friends, is my personal favorite. If you were to dream up any activity or scene, I guarantee you that you would find it here, somewhere; and best of all, the night never ends! It is a constant thrum of excitement; truth be told, if it were not for my duties in Equestria, I would stay here forever.” Dash and Twilight looked over at the Princess, who for a moment looked like the happiest mare in the world. Her expression then hardened as she nodded, still smiling with a big of regal flair, and she turned to the two mares.
“I apologize that I am not able to accompany you to the city proper, friends, but I am needed back in Equestria. I doubt you have noticed the pauses in my speech—it takes some time to adjust here—but it has been two days since we began walking.”
That revelation hit the rejuvenated couple hard, and they realized simultaneously how annoyingly likely it was. With no sun to guide them, and everything running together and chained by Luna’s speech, there was no telling how much time had gone by. They both looked up with cheerful smiles to see the Princess off. But as Luna turned away, Rainbow saw her wife’s expression switch to an urgent, almost scared look. “Luna, wait!” she yelled, holding out a hoof to reach for her. The Princess turned back to face the purple unicorn, her curiosity piqued.
“Yes, Twilight Sparkle? Is there something you need of me?”
“Actually, yeah, there is. You said you were heading back to Equestria, right? Do you… do you think you could deliver something for me?”
Luna looked confused for just a moment, only for a gracious smile to return a second later. “Of course, Twilight; anything for a friend as dear to me as you.”
Rainbow Dash looked over at her spouse, perplexed. “Twi, what’re you planning?”
Twilight beamed as she ushered the two down into the city. “Hurry up, girls! I’ve got one last letter to write!”
“Dear Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and my Number-1 Assistant Spike,
I’m writing to you from a place that I can’t even describe! Rainbow Dash is here with me, and we have a whole world in front of us, the likes of which I’ve never imagined. Every day, we’re meeting new ponies, and re-encountering old friends. As I’m sitting here on a balcony, watching the night’s skyline with Rainbow and Luna, it’s occurred to me that I’ve learned a lesson on friendship here. So, I’m writing to you all, one last time, to share it with you.
I’ve learned that life is a beautiful thing, but it’s short. It’s a tiny, fragile thing that can shatter so easily; and for a minute I wondered, why couldn’t I just skip to this? All the pleasure, none of the pain? But I thought about it, and it hit me. All my life, everything I did, all the wonderful friends I shared it with; I don’t regret a single minute of it. Sure, it got hard sometimes, but that’s what makes us who we are! Hardship makes us strong, and through it we mature, and we form bonds. If it weren’t for the hardships we all endured, none of us would be friends; but in those moments that we hurt, we gained something that lasts a lifetime, and even longer then!
That’s the reason I’m writing this letter, most of all. Rainbow and I know what it’s like to be separated from somepony dear to you. But we want you to know, we’re together, and we’re happy; most of all though, we’re waiting! One day we’ll all be together again, just like the old days, and we’ll have all of eternity to nurture and grow that bond. But that day isn’t here just yet; and in the meantime, we want you to know that you don’t have to spend your time mourning us, or worrying. Just live life to the fullest, and be thankful for every moment you have.
We’ll meet again; Friendship is Forever!
As Applejack read aloud the name of her dear friend, she felt a few tears tumble down her cheeks. As she looked up and around at the other mares gathered in the library, she saw that the sentiment was shared. The friends addressed in the letter all sat in their seats, smiling with pure joy as they tried to stop the happy tears about to flood the room. Even the large purple dragon, covered head to toe in bandages, was stifling tears behind their little circle despite his best efforts to conceal them.
They stayed like that for quite some time, nopony sure of what to say, and fearing a break in the silence. At long last, Fluttershy spoke up.
“Um… what should we do now?”
“Ah think… Ah think somepony needs to go an’ show this to Opal Dart. She hasn’t left her hotel room in days. Rarity, can ya handle it?”
The old fashionista looked at Applejack for a moment, and sighed. She turned to the group’s sole remaining pegasus. “Fluttershy, I’m sorry, but do you think you could handle it? There’s something… very important that I’ve been putting off for a long time. And now I need to do it.”
“Oh, um, of course!” Fluttershy responded, lifting herself from her chair to retrieve the letter. As Pinkie went to help the kind old mare out the door, Applejack watched as Rarity stood, and went to approach the large dragon in the corner of the library.
“S-Spike?” she asked, her voice trembling. The purple lizard lowered his head to look at her.
“Hey, Rarity. What’s up?”
She bit her lip, and pressed onwards. “There’s… there’s been something I’ve been meaning to tell you for a very long time. So long that, well, it might be too late now. But, I’d like to ask regardless; is that all right?”
Even as pathetically injured as he was, Spike managed to look sprightly as his eyes lit up. “Of course, Rarity! Anything for you.”
An immeasurably grateful smile spread on the old pony’s face as she gestured towards the door, despite Spike’s use of a hatch in the ceiling to get in and out. “Thank you, darling. Is it all right if we speak outside for a moment?”
Spike nodded. As Rarity slowly stepped out the front door, the lithe dragon slipped out his own exit. That left Applejack’s only company as Pinkie Pie, who was casually sipping a cup of tea before leaning back into her couch and loudly stating, “I think they’re gonna make a great couple! Don’t you?”
Applejack stared at Pinkie, taken a back for a moment. Her only vocal response was a chuckle as she leaned back into her chair and thought for a moment. No sooner had she done this, though, than she stood and began walking for the door.
“Hey!” Pinkie called after her. “Where ya going?”
“Cemetary.” Applejack called back, opening the door as she prepared to step out. “Ah’ve gotta go and say goodbye.”
“Didn’t you read the letter, silly?!” Pinkie asked. “There’s no point in goodbyes, we’re just gonna be saying hi again pretty much right after it!”
Applejack turned back to Pinkie and shook her head. She smiled as she said, “Pinkie, in my family we’ve got a way of doin’ things. An’ when you’re certain you ain’t gonna be seein’ a pony in a long, long time, you give ‘em a proper goodbye. Ah don’t know about you, but after readin’ that, I don’t plan on meetin’ those two again for quite a few years.”
Pinkie understood perfectly, and gave a jubilant smile and a wave as Applejack stepped out the door. She held out a hoof to feel a raindrop fall on it. This visit would be a wet one.
The old farm pony took the first step of the trip, smiling as she went. Any rain today was just a reminder of how much wetter it could have been, and wasn’t.
“Yeah?” the purple mare asked her wife. The two were walking down one of the busiest streets in the city, and ponies they knew were coming from every which way to greet them.
“Hop on, I’ve got an idea.”
Twilight obeyed, and the second she was on, Rainbow Dash took to the skies. The ponies below took a second to marvel at the rainbow trail, and the couple soared up towards the highest point of the city. Dash felt wonderful as she went top speed, and not even a hint of fatigue came. Twilight felt light as a feather on back, providing no hindrance to the ace flyer as she came up to their destination. The single tallest building in the city, so high up clouds should have been surrounding its peak. Dash lowered herself down to a ledge near the top, and Twilight hopped off.
Both of them sat down, and looked over the edge at their new home. For what must have been miles all around, the lustrous night sky was lit by the gleaming yellow lights of the bustling metropolis. The dull thuds, vague hints of the beats of DJ Pon-3 could be heard coming from some club below. But beyond that was silence; the clamor of the city was gone from this height. The only sounds were the whipping of the wind and the breathing of the two ponies as they took in the horizon.
At the edge of their world, the indigo night sky mixed and lightened with the curious shades of day at the edge of the zone. In every direction was a whole new world to explore. Twilight took in a sharp breath as she felt the onrush of it all. “It’s beautiful!” she whispered.
“Yeah.” Rainbow gently put a hoof on her wife’s shoulder, and drew the two closer. “It really is.”
Twilight giggled and placed a hoof over Rainbow’s. “So, we’ve got a limitless new world to explore, and all the time in the world to do it.” She turned her eyes toward her wife and grinned. “What do you want to see first?”
Rainbow didn’t hesitate for a moment, chuckling and pressing her lips up to Twilight’s, stealing a single, passionate kiss. That sweet taste lingered as she pulled away and replied. “I saw her the moment I got here.”