Spike awoke with a long, luxurious yawn. He scratched at the scales on his back and sleepily shuffled over to the window. He yawned again, taking in the beautiful sunrise. Even at this early hour the sun was strong enough to warm his scales, and he smiled.
Suddenly he remembered his conversation with Twilight the night before. “Hey Twilight, you awake?”
There was no response, so he walked over to her bed, only to find it empty. Her saddlebags were missing as well.
“Huh, she must’ve gotten up already. Twiiiiliiiight!” He called as he descended to the library. He stopped dead in his tracks upon finding the overturned shelf and the pile of books it now rested upon in the middle of the floor. “This pony…” he sighed, walking to the shelf. Spike rubbed his claws together and pushed with all his might, but the shelf was far too heavy for him to even budge. After a few more attempts, he decided this would be a job better suited for future Spike. “How did this not wake me up?”
A thought crossed his mind suddenly. Perhaps Twilight was still at the train station and he could see her off! He felt a little insulted that she didn’t wake him up to say goodbye, but opted to cut her some slack given what he had just slept through. Putting the bookcase matter aside for now, Spike hurried out of the library and headed toward the Ponyville train station.
There was practically nopony on the street this early in the morning, save for a few elderly ponies who regularly rose with the sun and a couple young fillies who were on their way to school. Spike did not consider himself to be a morning dragon, and as such found it difficult to be conversational with the occasional pony who said hello. He simply soldiered on in a half-asleep daze peppered with yawns until he finally reached the train station.
Spike approached the yellow earth pony standing behind the counter. “Hi there. Can you tell me if Twilight Sparkle’s train has left yet?”
The attendant gave him a blank stare.
“Purple unicorn? Straight cut bangs? A little uptight? Stars for a cutie mark? Element of Magic?”
“Ain’t seen nopony like that today, kid.”
“Well… can you at least tell me if the train to Canterlot has left yet?”
“Nope. But we’re gonna have trains runnin’ to Canterlot all morning. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” The attendant closed the blinder on the counter, revealing a sign that read ON BREAK.
Spike facepalmed. “Thanks for the help.” He slumped away, looking around carefully for Twilight. She was nowhere to be found, and nopony he asked had seen a trace of her at the station. Wracking his brain for an explanation, he figured she had made an extra stop before coming, and once again felt insulted that he, her number one assistant, was not clued in to this errand. Spike elected to simply sit and wait for her to show up.
After about two hours of waiting and roasting rocks out of sheer boredom, Spike heard a conductor shout “All aboard the last train for Canterlot! All aboard!”
If Twilight hadn’t shown up yet, this would be her last chance. Certainly someone as organized and punctual as Twilight wouldn’t miss the train completely. Spike ran over to observe the ponies boarding the train. She was not among them.
As the last pony boarded the train and he heard the ponies in the front of the train call for locomotion, Spike grew more confused and exasperated than ever. “Where in Equestria are you, Twilight?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The long, decrepit hoofbridge Twilight and her friends had crossed to reach the Elements of Harmony was still intact as far as she could tell, but she decided to reinforce it with a telekinetic hold as she crossed, just in case. As she cautiously made her way to the other side, she noticed a glow coming from above her. What must have been thousands upon thousands of fireflies floated above her in their lazy swarming circles; each tiny bioluminescent light fading for a moment, only to relight again the next. They flickered above her, and from where Twilight stood, it seemed as though half the stars in the sky were suddenly alive and swirling about in the cosmic dark. She enjoyed a quiet moment of reflection at the sight before remembering how much attention her hoof placement required.
When she at last reached solid ground again, she regained her purposeful composure and pressed onward. As she passed through the twisted, overgrown trees, Twilight almost thought she could hear a voice on the wind, blowing coldly from the direction of the ruins. Her heart raced a bit, and she pushed the idea aside. Nopony in their right mind would be out here, right? She couldn’t help but immediately laugh at the irony of such a thought.
She was very near the old ruins now, and could see the ancient granite stairs, still leading up to the entrance hall. A voice on the wind again, but this time there was something familiar about it. Twilight couldn’t make out what the voice was saying, but it was very repetitive, and female… and rather high pitched…
It couldn’t be.
Twilight broke into a full run, tearing her way up the stairs and into the ruins. The voice continued as Twilight ran, becoming more and more clear as she made her way through the stony halls and around the debris and collapsed columns. She caught a glimpse of the stars and ran out onto a balcony.
“Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting here?!”
Twilight spun around frantically, her heart leaping out of her chest. Now face to face with Pinkie Pie, Twilight’s mind was blank. She was trying to process what was happening and it wasn’t working.
“I… I don’t-“
“I’ll TELL you how long! I’ve been passing the time counting fireflies, and now, thanks to you, I’m a little hoarse!”
Pinkie could only hold an angry glare at Twilight a moment longer before bursting into a smile. “Get it? Little hoarse?! HAHAHAHA!!” Pinkie exploded with laughter, startling Twilight just as much as her initial appearance. “Come on, nothing?” She laughed again and elbowed Twilight’s ribs, which finally seemed to snap the unicorn out of it.
“Pinkie Pie, how did you know I was going to come here?” Twilight demanded.
“Because you asked me to meet you here, duh!”
“I did NOT! I didn’t tell anyone, especially you!”
“Oh, that’s right. You haven’t done any of this yet.”
Pinkie put a hoof up to Twilight’s mouth. “Don’t worry, Twilight, I’ll explain everything.”
Much to Twilight’s surprise, Pinkie actually proceeded to sit down and take a deep breath. Twilight joined her.
“Okay, Twilight, here’s the deal. Equestria… that is, where we are right now… this Equestria isn’t real. Everything we-”
“What do you mean it isn’t real? How could you possibly know something like that?”
“Remember the tree I showed you?”
Twilight nodded solemnly. She figured she would remember that tree as long as she lived.
“That tree is what I call a glitch. See, I found out that there are places in… in this Equestria, that you can-“
“You keep saying ‘this Equestria’, but what does that mean?!”
“I’m getting to that, Ms. Interrupty! There are places in Equestria that are…different, like that tree. Some of them are a lot more different… too different. I don’t use those places. But some of them are okay, like the tree. That one seems stable. Hah, stable!” She giggled with a snort and continued. “Anyway, you can use these places like a box to store toys in, or you can go into them and come out someplace else. It’s actually pretty fun!”
“You mean you… go into these ‘places’, as you call them, and they move you around all over Ponyville?” Twilight could not hide her skepticism, even after everything she’d seen. This was all just too strange, even for Pinkie Pie. “I think I’d like to get to the bottom of this.”
“Are you crazy?! This balcony is too high up, you’d never make it!”
Twilight pressed a hoof to her forehead. “I think I’m getting a headache.”
Pinkie ignored her comment and went on speaking. “I’ve noticed that not everypony can interact with the glitches the way I can, and I’m not really sure why. I saw you go through the tree just like I did, but to Applejack it’s just a regular tree.”
“How could you possibly know that? Did you watch her?”
“Yes. Well… no. Not yet.” Pinkie saw the look on Twilight’s face and frowned. “I’m sorry, Twilight, I know this must all be very confusing.”
“You’ve got that right, but I expected no less from you, Pinkie Pie.”
Once again Pinkie ignored the comment, and a sly smile crossed her face. “Want me to show you how it works?”
Pinkie lurched out and tackled Twilight, tumbling them both over the side of the balcony. Pinkie’s laughter and Twilight’s scream were cut short by a quiet zap as they vanished into thin air. Above the balcony, countless fireflies drifted noiselessly, and the winds blew through the old halls like they had for centuries.