Everything hurt. That's all Lyra knew. Her back, her hoofs, her head. It felt like somepony had dropped a wagon of bricks on her. She couldn't see anything – her eyes were closed, she decided – but she still felt dizzy. She forced herself to see, and slowly her eyes fluttered open.
She was on her side, in an alleyway. The pavement was damp but there weren’t any puddles she could see. The walls on either side were dark and gray and foreboding. Above them the blue sky was dappled with fluffy white clouds. A faint roar of a bustling metropolis vaguely filled her ears. She'd been to Manehattan and Baltimare before, and wherever this was, it was certainly reminiscent of its seedier parts. Right, she told herself. First thing in order was a self-check. No broken bones or cuts or anything. Still lying on her side, she looked down. She screamed bloody murder.
So many details assaulted her at once; she hardly knew where to begin. Her sea-foam coat was gone, replaced with bare skin. But this skin was darker, and less pink than she was used to seeing. Whenever the mane-icurist cut too much from her coat, the skin underneath was red-pink. This was almost a pale peach.
Lyra's front legs were gone – not gone, no. Relocated, moved closer to her now shorter neck. In place of her hooves were thin appendages with five stubby tendrils at the end – hands! She found they moved readily enough, and could even close upon themselves. They were also quite sensitive to touch, she found. She ran them over her face. Her muzzle was gone. All that remained was a small protrusion where her nose should be, and two tiny holes for nostrils. Absently, one of the appendages found its way in to a nostril, and Lyra jerked back from the sensation. Note to self, she thought. Never do that again.
Lyra moved down to her hips, and found that her hind legs we no longer at a ninety degree angle, but were in line with her body. The newly aligned legs each ended in a foot that looked like somepony had taken the hands from her front legs – arms, she decided – and molded them like clay until they looked funny. The stubby fingers now were just stubs, but the blockier portion looked as though it might support weight.
Finally, Lyra dared to look her body over. Her coat was indeed gone. No trace of green was on her body. Her chest had two bulbous lumps protruding a third of the way down. She knew immediately what they were, but she didn't remember having a foal recently. Her flank, thankfully, still bore her cutie mark, yet now it was etched into her skin.
She looked up and around. She was in an alley of some sort. The pavement was damp but there weren’t any puddles she could see. The walls on either side were dark and gray and foreboding. Above them the blue sky was dappled with fluffy white clouds. A faint roar of a bustling metropolis vaguely filled her ears. But Lyra had visited Manehattan and Baltimare before – this sounded completely different.
Lyra turned around and looked past her immediate location, and saw other beings lying there, just as she had been. One had long, dark purple mane with a pink streak, a headband holding back all but the bangs; her skin looked like a latte with too much milk. One had almost jet-black skin and a short, multi-colored mane. A pink headed one was lying next to Lyra; her skin was not that dissimilar from Lyra’s. On the other side was a pale pony with a purple mane. A thin strawberry-blonde pony – no, that's not right, they're not ponies, she thought – with the lightest complexion of them lay next to another who was considerably more muscular, and her skin looked a lustrous tan, and had a long golden mane. A few feet away lay another two. One, a fair size longer than the rest, had raven hair and graceful, sinewy features. The other one, with a mussed short green mane, was smaller than all the others, but lean and toned, and was the only one with a truly flat chest.
All but the last one, Lyra noted, had cutie marks. That's when it clicked.
Lyra rolled on to her stomach, and pushed herself up on all fours. The position felt unnatural, even though that's how she'd spent her entire life. Her head constantly wanted to fall down; it was an effort to keep it up. She bent her back knees, and put all her weight on the two back legs. Surprisingly, she readily found her balance. She pushed off the ground and shakily stood on two legs.
It was as though she was walking in the clouds. The only time she'd ever been this high was on the stage in Ponyville. Suddenly Lyra snapped back to reality, and went over to the purple-haired thing, the one with three twinkling stars on her flank. She grabbed her with the new appendages – these things we so darn useful! - and shook her gently.
“Twilight...something's happened. I think you need to see this.”
Lyra watched as Twilight absently put a hoof up to stop Lyra from shaking her, and yelped when she saw it wasn’t a hoof.
“Lyra…we have…hands…” Twilight looked up at her with that flat face, her brow wrinkling and a smile worked its way out of her lips. Lyra grabbed one of Twilight’s arms and helped her up. Twilight’s face hardened as she looked around. “We should help the others up.”
One by one, the other ponies came round, each having a similar reaction to their state as Lyra. They found Princess Luna had a large gash on her head, though it wasn’t bleeding too profusely. She noted that of the group, Twilight was the only one that wasn’t aghast about their new bodies…Though now that she had spent some time with these hands, they were really fun. Dexterous and nimble, able to grasp anything they could get around. A faint daydream passed over her, never having to use magic again to levitate something down, never having to carry something in her mouth.
When they woke Luna, she seemed…distant. “Twilight Sparkle? What has happened?” Lyra wondered if maybe that head wound might be worse than it looked, by the Princess’s behavior.
Twilight shook her head. “I’m not sure yet. All I remember is Spike belching fire…and then this Lyra waking me up.” She knelt down by the boy and ran a hand through his hair. Such a tender action, Lyra considered. She must really care about him. “Spike,” Twilight whispered. “Spike, it’s time to wake up now.”
“Why yes Rarity, it is made of diamond and chocolate…”Spike muttered, clearly still dreaming. Lyra, somewhat confused, looked at Rarity. Her pale face blushed, and she suppressed a laugh.
Fluttershy turned to Pinkie Pie. “Oh my. We’re in new bodies, absolutely no idea where we are, and no idea how to get home. Whatever will we do?”
Lyra stepped over to comfort her. She knew Bon-Bon would be just a worried about her as Fluttershy was right now. Lyra and Bon-Bon were almost inseparable, and a nagging thought had been in the back of her mind since she woke up: she hadn’t told Bon-Bon she was running off to jump into a time portal thingamajig, much less get stuck in some alternate dimension where everyone had hands but no hair. Bon-Bon would be a wreck until Lyra got home. That is, if she ever got home.
But she put on a brave face for Fluttershy, wrapping an arm around her waist. “I’m sure Twilight’s working on something, right Twilight?”
Twilight looked away from Spike to say, “Of course. We’ll be home in no time!” but Lyra saw on her face a look she’d seen on Bon-Bon’s face a hundred times. That look Bon-Bon got when Lyra had a harebrained scheme to sit more comfortably, or to do something dangerous, odd, or unnerving. On Twilight, Lyra read it clearly as “I haven’t the slightest clue what’s going on, and it’s freaking me out”.
With everypony standing over him, Twilight tried rousing Spike once again. This time, he woke with a scream louder than any of the mares had made. “AHH! GET AWAY! WHO ARE YOU?!”
Twilight reached out with a hand, put it on his shoulder, and gently held him down. “Spike, calm down. It’s us. Everything’s alright,” she said. Lyra once heard the care in the voice, but also a bit of annoyance, and more than a little condescension. And here I thought I had an interesting relationship with my best friend, Lyra thought.
Twilight stood up, helping Spike to his feet. “Okay girls. We need to figure out what happened. Pinkie, Rarity, you’re on clue duty: Search the area; see if you can find anything that might tell us why we were dropped here. Applejack and Rainbow Dash: you’re on reconnaissance. Fluttershy, help the Princess with that cut.”
Twilight hadn’t given her an assignment, so Lyra just looked around awkwardly for a moment. Twilight started to walk back towards where Lyra had woken her up, intently scanning the alley skyline. Lyra stretched her stride to catch up.
“Oh, uh, Twilight? You didn’t give me anything to do.” She didn’t want to sound ungrateful for being given a pass, if that was Twilight’s intention.
“Oh? Of course. Hmm.” Twilight stopped and thought for a moment. “Well, I was looking for traces of magic residue – do you know how to look for it?”
Looking for magic residue wasn’t the easiest task, Lyra knew. The residue often evaporated in strong sunlight, and dawn would certainly wash it away regardless. But Lyra knew the signs – globs of transparent goo with lucent tendrils, the whole thing no more than a few millimeters across.
“I think I could identify it correctly if I saw it,” Lyra affirmed.
“Right, okay. I’ll keep looking this way, you check down that way. I just hope Pinkie didn’t step on any.”
Lyra turned to look at her assigned direction. Sure enough, a dozen meters ahead, Pinkie Pie and Rarity were headed to the end of the alley.