by Séamus P.
Just what was it? The feeling was very specific, and hard to put into any words that actually did it justice. The closest approximation of an explanation was to say it felt like a deflated and cynical water balloon trying to embark on a surprisingly enthusiastic journey down through all the tight spaces of one's body that are usually reserved for the spinal chord. Noticeable is the fact that all the while through this “journey,” the balloon seemed to be trying to befriend every vertebra along the way. Every vertebra but one, anyway. The third one up from the base of the tail had always been the loneliest of bones, and nothing was about to change that.
Pinkie Pie rarely gets to experience the pleasure of finding a new and unknown aspect of her Pinkie Sense. Clearly these sensations must have been something special. All the most common signs of the Pinkie Sense are ones that she learned the meanings of years ago, during her foalhood. Even now, a new signal can usually be quickly deciphered through careful consideration of how its behavior and feelings relate to those that have come prior. Interpreting the Pinkie Sense has become about as second nature to Pinkie Pie as changing voices is to Bon Bon, one of Pinkie's hundreds of local friends and part time ventriloquist candy maker.
So why is it that this one feeling has remained a mystery for years? Pinkie couldn't even recall when she first experienced it. It has had a history of silently creeping up on her and slowly fading away again for as long as she could remember, although it used to be much less frequent. Almost three years ago, the sensation had suddenly begun to follow her around on and off during all sorts of varied occasions.
Pinkie's quest to find the meaning of her quirky spine had gone on for an admirable length of time, but had to die out eventually. From what she could tell, the perplexing signal's real significance never manifested itself, regardless of any situation she had put herself into to try purposefully triggering it, and her friends didn't seem very keen on helping her find more situations once all she had left were ideas that they insisted were “outlandish,” “insane,” or “wickedly dangerous”. It may sound peculiar, but somehow she just couldn't convince them that it'd be fun to have a picnic on the rim of a volcano. She tried explaining that she was only going to throw just a few boxes of firecrackers in, and nothing more serious than that, but she just couldn't sway them.
And so Pinkie had to eventually admit herself as being out of ideas. It took twenty nine very active months, but she had nothing left that she could try without some kind of help that, after a few crocodile attacks too many, would not knowingly appear for her. Pinkie Pie had since settled down into a mundane routine. At least, Pinkie had settled into what she herself would consider to be a “mundane routine,” which always found a way to include sugar by the sackful, streamers that defy the conservation of energy with their seemingly spontaneous manifestations, and sing-alongs with the latest traveler passing through town. With consideration to how she had always spent every day quite possibly finding a way to transmute sugar into confetti and ribbons, very few ponies noticed the change. Pinkie got used to ignoring the feelings of her sporadically wriggly spine, and finally stopped thinking about it.
Pinkie awoke with a wild jerk as her backbone made a spectacular swirling motion against her will. Wide eyed, she rapidly spun her gaze in every feasible direction she could, trying to see every part of the room at once before slowly calming with the realization that her body's dramatic movement didn't seem to be trying to spell out any form of impending doom. Taking a more casual posture on her bed, Pinkie wondered why this mystery motion not only continued to haunt her, but now returned with what may have been the strongest motion she had ever felt it make.
Bed time was the only time that she couldn't avoid thinking about the strange sensation. Every night, as all other things in Equestria fell silent, the last glimmer of thought to pass through Pinkie's mind before being embraced by sleep had been consistently directed towards the wiggling in her back that would suddenly feel so busy relative to the rest of the quiet world. She couldn't help it. Even during the days that the feeling never seemed to visit her at all, the new perfection found in the night's peace would stick out to her mind as a sudden contrast to the usual tingling she had lived with, and so she would still spend her last moment of thought on the elusive signals that couldn't be interpreted.
Come morning time, Pinkie would ordinarily be back to thinking about the many exciting events to come in the new mundane and routine day, but this time was different. That vibrant push from her Pinkie Sense had been enough to wake her up by itself. She was not about to just continue ignoring it in a time like this.
Pinkie glanced outside and allowed a smile to spread across her face as she saw the splendorous sunrise painting the sky. At least she had been woken at a convenient time and could immediately work to address this new occurrence of her old issue. Pinkie Pie left her room, being quiet in case the Cakes intended to sleep for some small time longer, and left for the Golden Oaks Library, detouring just long enough to snag a breakfast cupcake from the bakery's lower floor. Breakfast cupcakes, naturally, are made out of cereal flakes that have been glued together with frosting and enough orange pulp to let them represent a complete meal. They taste like apples.
The sun continued to climb the sky, casting a crisper blue over the world. Pinkie, meanwhile, had arrived at the library and knocked at the door. The library, contained within a massive hollow tree that was adapted into its present form through a lengthy magical procedure, doubled as the home of Twilight Sparkle, as anybody familiar with Ponyville should already know. In most circumstances, Pinkie had little issue with simply entering through the library's closest unlocked door, window, or unexplained hole. Whatever path struck her as the most convenient would do just fine. Today, though, she would wait at the front door and knock, because she knew it would be difficult getting Twilight to assist her in this same old matter that she, Twilight, had already refused several times before. Plus, Twilight may or may not even be awake yet, which could potentially complicate getting on her good side if Pinkie were to just climb through the bedroom window. Pinkie found it strange how some ponies reacted to that, but she had gotten used to the concept that apparently most of the town doesn't enjoy waking up to see their friends first thing in the morning, staring them square in the eyes from four inches away with an unblinking gaze that is ravenous for some great fun to begin. She had since adapted to only staring at them from eight inches away with a hungry gaze instead of a fully ravenous one. Let nobody say that Pinkie wasn't understanding.
“Oh, hey Pinkie. Whatcha up to?” Spike had answered the door.
“Hiya, Spike!” Pinkie replied. “Is Twilight around? I have something super duper mega important to talk to her about!”
“Uh, yeah, but I'm not sure if she's got time. She's been up all night in the basement working on some project.” With a roll of the eyes, Spike elaborated on the situation. “She wouldn't even tell me what it is because it's 'not ready' for presentation. Maybe you should head on down to do us all the favor of putting her attention on other things. I can't just run the entire library by myself. How do I know if somepony comes in looking for a book while I'm tidying up the kitchen or something?”
Pinkie nodded sagely before cracking open a wide grin. “Don't worry! I'll get her up here lickity split!” Pinkie bounced past Spike and down the stairs to the library's basement, from which she could already hear the popping sounds of unicorn magic bursting in and out of effect.
Twilight was standing in the middle of the room, her hair noticeably messier than usual, but otherwise looking like she usually does. Her attention was honed in on a large bar of nondescript metal sitting on a table in front of her. Ever now and then, following short moments of rest and contemplation, Twilight's horn flared up with a powerful wave of magic that lifted the bar into the air and sent it spinning chaotically in place. Less than five seconds later, the bar would drop back onto the table unceremoniously as the magical field vanished.
As Twilight's face twisted in determination, the metal bar once again began to rise and spin.
The unicorn spun around with a start to locate the source of the sudden noise. Her magic abruptly cut out and the spinning bar launched itself into the floor, embedding half of itself into the solid wood and tossing small, harmless splinters into the air. Twilight looked at the damage and turned to face Pinkie again, this time with a glare on her face.
“Oh... Sorry about that, Twilight...” Pinkie put on a nervous smile. So much for keeping on Twilight's good side. “What was that you were spinning around? It was looking sorta nifty.”
Twilight shook her head and sighed. “It's a magnet. Thankfully, it's not something you can break very easily. The floor on the other hand,” she pulled the magnet out of its hole with telekinesis, “will be needing some work. Honestly, I didn't think that was very easily broken either, seeing how it's absolutely solid hardwood, but at least nothing more sensitive was hit.”
“Ooh! I know exactly what we need to perk things up after an accident!” Pinkie pulled a cupcake from hammerspace and offered it to Twilight. “It's your favorite: vanilla with a pinch of raspberry cream stuffed into the center, not to mention the fresh, creamy frosting!”
Twilight surrendered to Pinkie Pie's infinitely cheery attitude and accepted the cupcake. “I thought you said this was vanilla with raspberry.”
Pinkie nodded enthusiatically.
“...It tastes like apples.”
“Well what else is it going to taste like, silly? Oh, oh, don't answer that! What were you up with the magnety wooshy stuff?”
“Well,” Twilight hovered the magnet over to float between them, “you know that a magnet has two poles on it.”
“It looks like just a bar to me.”
“Pinkie, focus! Every magnet has two invisible poles on it, representing positive and negative force. It's because of these poles that multiple magnets move on their own to repel or attract each other. I want to try to magically isolate and hopefully amplify these two forces that I like to call 'positrons' and 'negatrons'.”
“You mean electrons?” Pinkie smiled helpfully.
“What? How would that name make...” Twilight stopped herself from being distracted by her friend's usual nonsense. “Look, they represent negative force and they're the opposite of positrons. Obviously they should be called negatrons. My thoughts were that if I could magically isolate and amplify these two forces, I could find a way to direct their energy to achieve other tasks on their own. Considering that they represent positivity and negativity, a positronic force would be preferable, but I don't intend to ignore the negative force until I'm sure I don't need it.”
Pinkie looked around the room at the various machines already in Twilight's possession. “Don't you already have all these blinky things that work on their own?” She pointed towards a particularly familiar one. “I remember you used to use that one all the time when you first heard about my Pinkie Sense and when I wanted your help figuring out this really extra wriggly one I could never find on my own.”
Twilight shook her head and spoke with the kind of tone one would use to explain something complicated to a child in overly simple terms. “Those machines pull power from the fluctuation of mana flow. It's a basic concept if you're familiar with the eight theorems of Astral Windclap.”
Pinkie happily replied with no more than a blank stare.
“Really, Pinkie? He's only the most famous 7th century thaumic philosopher to have ever lived.”
Pinkie decided to stretch her diplomatic muscles. She smiled and nodded at whatever Twilight said. Happy friends are the best friends!
Twilight seemed to visibly brighten somewhat. “The point is that these machines literally require attention to operate. Unless somepony, preferably a unicorn, pays attention to them, causing ripples in their ambient mana, they don't work. But a positronic device should be able to fulfill tasks without needing anypony to watch over it.”
Pinkie's eyes widened as revelation dawned upon her. “Can you make friend with them?!”
“Friends?” Pinkie's question had caught her off guard. “Like... a machine that helps you to communicate with other ponies?”
“No, no, silly. I mean friends with the posi-whatnit! I mean, if you can build anything that doesn't have some sort of constant need for machine-like fixing like all those other things of yours that seem to break whenever I visit, couldn't you make one that likes to go off on its own and enjoy things, like cupcakes, or long walks on the beach, or comics about anthropomorphic furniture, or parties, or cupcake parties on the beach, or long walks on anthropoptart furniture?” Pinkie performed the miracle of breathing for one imperceptible moment. “I've had a lot of days where I'll be happily keeping happy friends happier while I go on a happy trip through Ponyville and I think to myself how what would be even happier is if I had more friends to make happy so we'd have MORE happy friends all over the place and everypony could be the happiest they could be because everypony would always be so happy, which is something to feel happy about, especially when new happy friends come along so I can meet them and be happy that they're happy and then they'd still be happy too, and we could have parties all the time because there'd be so many friends and I could tell them that my name is Pinkie Pie and that I'm with them to say that I wanna make them smile and brighten up their day, and then I would be able to tell them whether or not it matters if they're sad or blue, because it DOESN'T, and then-”
Pinkie's tirade fizzled out as she realized that she had been teleported back to the main room of the library at some point. After a moment of confusion, she founds herself being teleported back into the basement, where Twilight was forcing on a smile and looking more tired than she had before.
“I'm sorry, Pinkie,” she explained, “I guess I must have... miscast something.” Twilight continued to hold a smile while her eyes looked ready rebel in a desperate attempt to escape the present circumstances. “But you were asking if I could make... an artificial pony?”
Pinkie Pie opened her mouth, but Twilight continued before she could speak.
“I'm not sure if that's possible, ignoring the fact that I don't see why I would want to do something like that. I mean, I would have to design something to mimic the pony brain, and that sort of task...”
Twilight trailed off as new ideas seemed to come to mind.
“That sort of task... may be the kind of thing that would earn a pony fame among the entire scientific community for studying such groundbreaking new concepts.”
Pinkie felt uncomfortable with Twilight's much quieter tone of voice. “Twilight? Actually, the reason I came over was-”
“Pinkie, my sincerest thanks for your visit, but I'm going to be very busy for a while.” Twilight began to urgently push Pinkie towards the stairs leading back up to the main room.
“Wait, Twilight! I wanted to ask if you'd help me about my shivery Pinkie Sense! It's back!”
“Sorry, but I have some urgent work to get to. Maybe try some thought experiments! That's what I do when I need to relax. Say hi to the others for me!” Twilight suddenly stopped pushing Pinkie and instead teleported her into the main room once more. The unicorn turned back towards the magnet, paused only to rub her slightly irritated feeling eyes, and set to work.
Upstairs, Pinkie's smile faltered as she started towards the front door.
“Leaving, Pinkie?” Spike stepped in from a side room. “Wait, hang on. Where's Twilight?”
Pinkie suddenly remembered what Spike had asked of her. “Whoopsie.”
Pinkie Pie adjusted the clutter of objects arranged on her desk. It took time, but she had managed to successfully relocate the entire navy of tiny pink paper boats close enough to the edges of the wooden surface to make room for a typewriter that had been retrieved from the attic. His Holiness Captain Wiznut II of the seventh royal Equestrian aircraft carrier had tried to protest and made quite a fuss over the situation, but he eventually gave in when Pinkie promised to give his paperclip body larger, better googly-eyes than the ones he had glued on already.
Aside from the paper naval force, Pinkie's desk had been the home of a fantastic mess of small wrapping paper shreds mixed with a cluster of twigs and leaves – scraps left over from a very special gift in the making that was, at the time being, kept locked away in a closet for later retrieval. In a bowl on the other side of the desk, and partially mixed among the twigs, were snacks in the form of sugar-coated sugar cubes that featured an extra layer of sugary caramel on the outside to sweeten them up a little. They tasted like apples. Bitter apples. The contents of the desk were garnished with an assortment of crayons for doodling invitations, pink ribbons for being extra pink, and little mementos from Pinkie's friends that varied in size and style from simple shiny rocks to a collapsible shovel meant for intimidating worms. Finishing the desk's highly practical aesthetic was a large clock overseeing everything from the wall overhead. Its hands had been jammed at one o'clock for years, but there was a marvelous happy face printed across the front of it, so it was able to retain its home in Pinkie's room. Of course, there was now a typewriter suddenly occupying a significant portion of the desk.
After her visit to the library, Pinkie didn't have any new leads regarding her persistent little spinal dance aside from Twilight's hasty recommendation of thought experiments. Since Pinkie had tried almost any alternative options in the past several times already, it seemed that she may as well give this new idea a try, whatever it was supposed to do. It had sounded to her like it might at least be fun. Daydreaming was fun, after all, and that sounded like just about the same thing to her. But for the sake of making it seem more like a real “experiment,” and with consideration to how it was Twilight's suggestion, Pinkie had decided that the only reasonable way to do this was to keep a careful record of whatever grand ideas she thought up. For this reason, she found the old typewriter that had belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Cake before they had decided to move it into indefinite storage. Somehow, the Cakes had decided that they would rather not use that particular machine any longer after Pinkie spilled just the slightest bit of punch down the opening in the top. Pinkie herself couldn't for the life of her see what the problem was. The typewriter began producing vibrantly colored parchment after that instead of the plain and boring white variety. It was an obvious improvement, if anything. The parchment even changed color depending on the weather!
Looking at the three large buttons that the typewriter presented to her, Pinkie briefly wondered how the machine knew just what words she wanted to go on the parchment. If what Twilight had been talking about earlier applied here, it was probably something about watching mana flow or something along those lines. Who could really say, aside from Sparkle herself and whatever old ponies had written the books she has so much love for? Regardless of whatever it was that gave the device its functionality, Pinkie brought down a forehoof to push one of the buttons.
The pink pony froze in place, eyes staring wide ahead at the wall in front of her.
It had gone. The feeling had just gone the moment the button was depressed. Pinkie scrutinized the typewriter with a gaze that overflowed with suspicion. The sensation in her spine was known to come and go at random times, but after the body-lurching shock of the morning, it had been quietly squirming inside of her slowly and steadily all day until the very moment she began using the typewriter. The sudden absence of the signal seemed like a new sensation in itself after enough consecutive hours of subtle and nonstop shifting within her.
Pinkie Pie couldn't be sure if this was a peculiar coincidence, or if she had finally found her first real lead in years for what this stubborn incarnation of the Pinkie Sense was trying to indicate. Could the typewriter have had anything to do with it? What about just any typewriter? Or was it writing? But Pinkie had written things down plenty of times before. She was always making invitations for ponies all around Ponyville to come to her many celebrations, parties, festivals, get-togethers, and bakery bashes. The bakery bashes even took extra writing on the invites to describe the unique dress code that called for dinner jackets made of apple leather. The situation was still too vague to act upon. Pinkie continued with her intention of recording the gist of her thoughts...
Pinkie's room was as vibrantly colored in her imagination as it was in real life, if not more so. Balloons of every color were tied down to the corners of furniture, such as her bed and desk. Bright blue curtains hung in front of the windows. The ceiling was rimmed with a massive molded pattern of teddy bears, covered with a striking pink coloring, while weight was being supported by a few large columns done up to look like massive candy canes. In the middle of the room, a pink earth pony that just so happened to be named for her coloration was standing-- No. Not standing. Pinkie Pie appeared to have fallen to the ground, unable to control herself as her back warped and jerked violently.
Something about the mental image of the situation was stuck. In this imaginary room, Pinkie Pie could not be presented in any way other than suffering from a terrifying loss of control to her rampant involuntary movements. Thankfully, there were no unpleasant sensations to go with this unnerving situation, but if it were to happen to the actual Pinkie Pie, it would surely feel horrid. What could be done? She needed something firm to brace against.
A solution of sorts came to mind, and Pinkie was once again standing tall in the middle of her room. Her torso was restricted within what looked a bit like a kind of metal corset. It was unlike anything she had ever worn before, or anything she had ever heard of anybody wearing before, but it restricted the movement of her back, which was apparently a necessity. To look on the bright side, which Pinkie naturally did, she could still manage to walk without much difficulty, and her new appearance could probably be considered “cool” looking to somebody like, say, her friend Rainbow Dash.
Pinkie Pie frowned at her iron bindings, making a mental note to get them painted pink later. Of more immediate concern, of course, was hunting down the reason she apparently needed iron bindings, but it wasn't clear how she could do that. Pinkie sat in front of her desk, in the same seat where she would be in real life, and looked at her navy as she pondered how she should approach the matter.
“Captain, are you here?” Pinkie asked.
“Ma'am!” The tiny twisted steel shape of His Holiness Captain Wiznut II emerged from a boat and stood at attention.
“I need some advice, Wizzy. I'm trying to think of a situation that can help me find why I'm so wibbly wobbly sometimes, but I don't know if I can even remember what ideas I never tried before to look for it! and now I'm here and could maybe think of anything to find the actual answer, but it's more confusing because I'm also getting wibbier and wibblier now and I have to use this really stiff thing and Rarity would go totally crazy if she saw me looking like this without getting a proper paint job!”
The holy captain stared at her. “Ma'am, if this is all in your head, you could just imagine anything to instantly appear and fix anything, could you not?”
“What?” Pinkie shook her head emphatically. “Oh, no no no no no! That'd be like cheating! This is supposed to be an experiment or something that Twilight said! I gotta make things behave how they always do, like how you give advice instead of candy.” Pinkie seemed to lose focus and become momentarily distracted by the thought of a paperclip that could give out candy.
“Hey! Eyes on me, Miss Pie!”
Pinkie looked back down at the holy captain and smiled.
“Look, ma'am, I don't understand how you think this could make sense, but it sounds like if anypony is going to understand it, it's that Twilight lady that told you to do it, so if you're not gonna listen to me, then go and--”
Pinkie scooped up the captain for a miniature hug. “I knew you could point me the right way, Wizzy! Thanks for the help!” Pinkie dropped him back on his boat and bounced away to return to the library. Wiznut II grumbled something about sugar addiction and lobotomy as he went to take a nap.
In her rush to reach Golden Oaks, Pinkie Pie found herself emerging from a chimney into the library's mane room. She shook off a few flakes of soot and dropped down the nearby stairway into the basement. She quickly spotted Twilight in a chair along the side of the room, reading a book with no apparent markings on the cover to identify it. Twilight raised her head and smiled as she saw Pinkie approaching.
“Good morning, Pinkie. What brings you here?”
Pinkie cocked her head to the side. “Wait a teensy weensy moment. Weren't you busy with that twirly bar thingy trying to make a megatron or something?”
“Oh, Pinkie, of course not. It was electricity.”
Pinkie recalled some of the smaller details of their earlier conversation. When Twilight goes over the descriptions and terminology of her more scientific work, very few ponies could claim to comprehend much beyond the most simple points.
“Twilight, I was the one that mentioned--”
“Well of course 'electricity' doesn't exist, Pinkie.” Twilight rolled her eyes with a little smile. “I told you, it was about positrons and negatrons.”
The conversation was starting to feel a bit more natural as the hiccup about the word “electricity” was passed over. Pinkie blinked a couple times and smiled again as if everything was normal.
“You know, I thought you'd still have been working on the spinny thing, enjoying it swooshing around. It was kinda nifty. It'd look good if you stuck lights on it!”
Twilight held up her unmarked book. “You know reading is what I do. I saw this really good one on a shelf and just had to give it a look.”
That had sounded accurate enough. Probably. No. Hang on.
“Twilight... You're starting to worry me a little bit. You're like one of my bestest friends of the best friends I have in Ponyville, and I have a lot of best friends in Ponyville, so if you're one of the best-best friends, then you gotta be a really really really good friend, and I know my best-best-good friends well. I gotta know my bestest-best-best-really-good friends to make the smile the best of smiles they could ever smile up, after all! And if I know one thing about you, Twilight, which I'm sure I do...” Pinkie stopped as if taking a moment to count something. She resumed speaking within the second. “If I know seventy-three and a half things about you, one of them is that you're like really super into your experiments sometimes and wouldn't just stop one like that, even if it was for a book! Maybe if the book was, like, really amazingly important for your spinny-ness-itude or spinning for charity, but not for just any of the books you always have here in your library to look at in your spare time!” Pinkie took a second to remember her point. “Why are you acting weirdly different, Twilight?”
Twilight slowly set the open book down upon the nearest table, revealing the fact that the pages were blank. She cleared her throat and gave Pinkie a serious stare. “Well, there wouldn't be very much of a point in this exercise if I was still too busy to help you, don't you think? You're here because you're trying to use your mind to imagine a better way of finding the solution to your little mystery. I'm here because you still think that I would be the best pony to help you think of new ways to examine the situation, and you could imagine me here in a state that actually has time to help you. I'm different for the simple reason that you want and need me to be this way.”
This was getting stranger in ways that Pinkie did not appreciate. A surprise was fun and all, and Pinkie could appreciate some silliness, but at least everything she did had always made some decent sense! To herself, at least.
“But that's not true,” Pinkie countered, “I'm not trying to imagine you differently! I wouldn't try to change my friends, that'd just be awful! What kind of friend would I be then?”
Twilight maintained her steady stare at Pinkie Pie, barely reacting to her very loud expressions of confusion. “That's really quite simple. Naturally you wouldn't come here with the intention of changing the people you know, but something else within you is doing it anyway so you don't have to. You could consider it to be your subconscious, another section of your chaotic mind, or maybe even something else entirely that has taken up residence within you. It doesn't really matter what you call it. Clearly there's something inspiring you to have this rather in-depth conversation despite this all being safely tucked away in your head and, well, on the keyboard paper.” Twilight's voice had started to sound off in some nigh-imperceptible way. “Do yourself a favor, Pinkie. Hang on for a while before trying to ask anymore about this. You could be here all day. Instead ask yourself: If you really were with Twilight and able to receive her advice, how would she look at the recent situation that's different from how you would look at it? You're the 'bestest' of friends with her. Have some insight.”
“But--!” Pinkie had intended to continue with exactly the questions that she'd been asked to abstain from, but her mind had quickly zig-zagged into the subject of how Twilight handles tricky situations. She couldn't really help it. It's already difficult for most people to intentionally avoid thinking about a particular topic, and Pinkie's mind had a habit of wandering rapidly. All it took was a moment of consideration about the real Twilight for the scene around her to change.
The “incorrect” Sparkle before began to slump over, her eyes taking on a dull and lifeless appearance. Before Twilight hit the ground, the sound of a party noisemaker cut through Pinkie Pie's ears as if somebody had just deliberated blown it next to her head at full force. Pinkie instinctively cringed away from the loud noise, not seeing anything or anybody that could have cause it. Looking back toward her friend, she saw that Twilight Sparkle was once again sitting upon a chair along the side of the room, seemingly oblivious to Pinkie's presence as she flipped through an unmarked book.
Twilight glanced up from her reading and lit up with joy as she saw the other pony. “Pinkie!” Her voice sounded warm and genuine. “What brings you here? Can I help you with something?”
Pinkie Pie glanced around, as if hoping for some random object in the room to step in and help to shed some real light on the situation and make it all natural again. No such luck. “Well,” she began carefully, “you remember that Pinkie Sense feeling I we could never figure out?”
Twilight nodded her head, waiting for Pinkie to go on.
“So... This morning it came back, which it does a lot, but it came back big-time with a sort of whoosh that threw me up and awake. It didn't do that before...”
Twilight Sparkle's eyes widened. “You mean we have something new to work with?” The shine in her eyes twinkled with anticipation.
“Yeah, but not only that. When I got a typewriter to sorta come here with, the feeling went quiet in one of the fastest jiffies I've felt in a long time. But once I got here, it seemed like I couldn't get away from it. It was so bad I had to get this thing.” She indicated the metal casing around her barrel.
Twilight became serious as she began to participate in what she would obviously make into a scientific process. “Beginning the thought experiment process and accessing a device with which to record the process both seemed to trigger peculiar behavior?”
“This may be something we can finally investigate with an actual degree of certainty that we're on the right track. An easy place to start should be the notion that it reacted with your typewriter.” Twilight's voice lowered conspiratorially. “Pinkie... are you up for the challenge of monotonously pushing buttons for about three straight minutes?”
Pinkie Pie carefully considered the ominous implications of the task. What normal individual would spend such an amount of time in front of a keyboard? What if it's dangerous?
“Okey-dokey-lokey!” She'd been typing for at least twenty minutes in the real world already.
“Excellent! Let's get started!” Twilight's magic materialized a typewriter in front of her. Pinkie recognized it immediately.
“Hey, wait, that belongs to the Cakes!”
Twilight shrugged. “I take it that you've been borrowing it, since it was in your room. Don't worry, it'll go right back in a moment. And it's still you using it anyway.” Twilight gave Pinkie a reassuring smile. “Just begin by pressing a few buttons and we'll see if your Pinkie Sense responds.”
Pinkie plonked down a key with a hoof. Much to the outstanding astonishment of everybody in the room, the typewriter did the unthinkable deed of marking a piece of parchment with a single letter. And nothing else.
Pinkie Pie looked around a short while before shaking her head at Twilight.
“It's not necessarily a bad thing if we don't get a response yet. There are a lot of variables we could potentially test. We could try different typewriters, for starters.”
“Alright,” Pinkie said, going along with whatever instruction this Twilight wanted to put her through, “so where are we getting another typewriter?”
“Here,” a gruff masculine voice cut in, “take mine.” Gummy walked up to the mares and set a gilded typewriter down on the table. He flexed his muscular yet toothless jaw for a moment before turning around to depart, his chiseled legs gleaming with sweat and power in the room's ambient light.
Twilight raised an eyebrow towards Pinkie. Pinkie raised a hoof and tapped at the side of her forehead, giving Twilight a knowing look. Twilight blinked. “I take it you're getting the hang of it, then.”
“Indubitably!” called out Gummy, before leaping up the stairs.
A moment of silence followed.
“I suggest,” began Twilight, “that we carry on. Hit the typewriter.”
The gleaming typewriter had one of its keys promptly depressed.
“Well now that button is feeling rather sad,” said Pinkie. “It didn't do anything either.”
“You can throw it a party later. For now, I'd like us to finish some of these steps.” Twilight used her magic to teleport the two typewriters away, presumably to wherever they came from. A new one appeared in their place. This third typewriter looked far older than either of the previous models. It looked like it probably relied more on an intricate mechanical design than the magic-driven ones.
Twilight introduced the device. “This one happens to belong to me. I received it as a gift during my years at Celestia's school for gifted unicorns, but I haven't had much use for it. Honestly, I prefer some good old quill-on-parchment. The rhythmic scratching of the nib spreading its ink is rather soothing. Anyway, give a key a press or two.”
With a final click, Twilight Sparkle appeared to be satisfied.
“See, I think we can be fairly sure that the typewriters themselves didn't have anything to do with it. What I suspect is that when you started using one previously, the crucial detail had more to do with the act signaling the beginning of your experiment. You did begin to imagine your imaginary surroundings at around that point, did you not?”
Pinkie scratched her head. “Well, sort of. I was definitely going to, but then I was sort of distracted by that woogly feeling going away. I was beginning to picture some things just before that though.”
“Right,” continued Twilight, “I expected as much. And then the next interaction with your Pinkie Sense is when you went into your imagination with full force. What I believe you need to do is test the effects of initiating these kinds of intense thought processes. And seeing how all of this testing is taking place within one already, we may as well begin right here.” Twilight gestured toward her old typewriter.
“So my experiment is to sit here imagining an experiment where I experiment with imagining experimentation with my imagination?”
“In short, yes.”
“Just how do I know when I find something important that will fix this whole thing?”
Twilight walked across the room toward a number of devices that were covered up for storage. “I don't really know, Pinkie. I assume that you should recognize it when you see it, whatever it is. This is all about you and your mind, after all, and who knows your mind better than you? I certainly don't.” Twilight opened a cabinet beside one of the machines and began rummaging through a number of small metal items.
“This is all still my mind though! It was only a second ago that you were acting like you knew more about this thing than I ever would! You're an even closer part of this than I am!”
Twilight levitated a collection of parts out of the cabinet. Gears, axles, and springs began to interlock with each other as metal covers slid over them. More complex components floated themselves into the mix as well, socketing themselves into place the moment spaces appeared for them. “Please, Pinkie, you're still going about this all wrong. How could I suddenly know more about this than you when I'm just Twilight Sparkle? My role has limits. All of ours do. Who here, though, is a direct avatar for the real world?”
Pinkie chose to assume that the words Twilight used that she, Pinkie, didn't understand were ones her mind was spontaneously making up. They could have been funner sounding, like “scherxylonizing” or “thermodynamics,” but she it was fair to say she couldn't quite imagine Twilight casually tossing those particular words into the mix.
“Here!” With a sequence of loud clicks, a final plate of curved metal locked into place on the device that Twilight was now offering to Pinkie Pie. Its shape was that of a short cylinder with the width of a typical hoof. Narrow metal prongs with rounded tips protruded from the cylinder in a spiral that ran down its length. A collection of nine small metal strips, each only a couple of centimeters in length, clung to the device's surface and seemed to be arranged in the shape of the digit “2”. Every separate visible piece of the contraption had a different shade, giving the clear impression that it was cobbled together from the scrap of many different projects that called for different kinds of metal, from now-rusting iron to gleaming silver.
Pinkie took the object from Twilight and twirled it around in her hooves to examine it. The prongs, when touched, felt as if they were rapidly vibrating in place. The small strips forming a “2” also seemed to be immovable.
“That,” explained Twilight, “is a tool that should be helpful in keeping this whole ordeal nice and orderly. It should be familiar to you.”
Pinkie turned it around in her hooves once again to examine it more closely as she slowly shook her head. “I've never seen such a crazy whatchamacallit in my life, other than the other blinky things you've had around the library before, and this can't be the same as one of those because you had to build this one just now and all your old things are covered up down here in case you need them.”
“Well perhaps you'll recognize it sometime. In the meantime though, I'd say it's time to get going.” Twilight Sparkle gestured toward the aged typewriter sitting on the nearby table.
“But you didn't tell me what this doo-dad does! And why do I even need to have it with me anyway? Aren't I just gonna be typing out some more thoughts?”
“Think of it as a reminder or inspiration. It'll ensure you keep it with you as you keep going. And it should be pretty obvious what it does when you get moving. Just look at the number.”
Pinkie gave the object a doubtful look and placed it on the table next to the typewriter. Making sure that there was fresh parchment in place to receive her words, Pinkie Pie stood ready to copy down her thoughts once again.
“Wait, what should I be thinking about exactly?”
Twilight shook her head and gave a small chuckle, as if she were speaking to a naïve foal. “It doesn't actually matter too much exactly what you imagine. Pick anything. Who's fun to hang out with? Whatever it is, I think we should still be just as capable of looking for the signs we want to spot. Or if not, we don't even know what special circumstances the signs need anyway, so it'd just be guesswork anyway. The point is to find whatever strikes you as peculiar and jump at it! Then we can determine if it's been the mysterious cause of your enigmatic Pinkie Sense sign after all.”
Dashie was soaring through the sky, whipping around clouds in tight circles and lunging into dramatic dives. She was at her best as the end of her practice session came into sight: an empty stretch of sky she had planned out as the area in which she would push for all she was worth to achieve an ascending sonic rainboom. Dash pushed herself to go faster and faster, feeling the push of the atmosphere itself being divided by her body. She began to pull up, all the while flapping her wings with all of her might. For this to work, she had to achieve acceleration beyond her present speeds despite the will of gravity and mundane aerodynamics.
Suddenly, a cloud had jumped out in front of her from nowhere. The soft material stretched around Rainbow's face and wrapped around behind her, as if a sheet of latex had just tied itself around her head. Dash's wings lost their powerful, rhythmic strokes and fell into the rapid flapping of panic. Her vision was obscured. Trying to breath sent only a dense stream of water vapor into her lungs.
Rainbow Dash was dropping like a stone when the cloud suddenly burst apart in a flurry of gold confetti. Gasping, Dash frantic looked around herself to find a point of reference with which to reorient herself. Her eyes found the ground and she quickly regained control soon enough to manage a rough but safe landing. She breathed heavily as she starred wearily at the confetti that slowly fell down around her like glittering snow.
“What,” Rainbow Dash gasped, “was THAT?!”
The metal casing around Pinkie Pie's body abruptly snapped into two halves, dividing along the length of her spine and along her stomach. The two chunks of metal hit the ground with a dull crash, and Pinkie's back didn't give the slightest hint of a rebellious twist.
Rainbow turned around to see somebody standing behind her. She snapped into a defensive stance, ready to take off or attack, before realizing that it was Pinkie Pie.
“Hey Dashie! What's up?” Pinkie frowned as she saw just how frazzled Dash looked. “Hey, are you ok? What happened?”
Dash stared at her incredulously. “Was all that your idea of a joke, Pinkie?! Do you realize what almost happened?” Anger built up in her voice as she stomped her hooves on the ground.
“Huh? No, I only just got here! What happened, Dashie?”
Rainbow glared around the area once more, either searching for a culprit or looking out for another sudden cloud attack. They were standing in a grassy field, with occasional trees dotting the area and getting moderately denser towards the border of a nearby forest. No clouds were in sight.
Pinkie glanced around as well. “Say, just where are we right now?”
Dash glared at her once more, albeit with less conviction. “We're just near the Warmwillow Woods. It's an easy 10 minute flight from Ponyville. Now how about you tell me what the heck that stuff you're wearing is and what you're doing here with it?”
Glancing down at herself, Pinkie Pie saw that her torso was once again covered over with bindings. Dark leather bands wrapped around her, with new plate metal visible visible underneath. The straps extended away from her middle and partway down each of her hooves. A series of buckles along her side faintly rattled from the force they were holding at bay.
“I... I don't really know... It just sort of got here. And I wanted to see you, so I kinda showed up. That's about that.”
One of Dash's wings fluttered in place, looking worse for wear to a greater extant than the rest of her, with several large feather pushed outwards in an unnatural angle. Sunshine seemed to glint off of the wing.
“Oh really? Look, Pinkie, cut out whatever you're planning. Seriously, some rogue cloud just tried to drag me right out of the sky. I was this close to breaking something on impact with the ground!” Her gestures suggested that she was indeed very close to breaking something.
Pinkie approached Dash, her eyes kept on the roughed up wing. “Is that what messed up your feathers there? I'm so sorry, Dashie! I thought clouds were supposed to be helpful, not mean or dangerous.”
“Wait, what about my feathers?” Dash flexed her wings, turning her head hurriedly to examine them. “Pinkie, I'm serious, I don't want any of your games right now, ok? My feathers are perfectly fine.” She looked straight at the blatantly displaced feathers before turning back towards Pinkie with a look of impatience.
Pinkie's eyes darted back and forth between Rainbow's face and wing. Rainbow couldn't seriously call those feathers fine, could she? Her wings were her life; she always kept terrific care of them.
Rainbow Dash gave a dismissive snort and began to walk in what Pinkie assumed would be the direction of Ponyville. “Look, I'll catch you later Pinkie. I've got to check with the Local Weather Registry to see about any recently reported cloud abnormalities. I'll figure out who or what is responsible for this.” Upon spreading her wings once more, an object fell from the mess of crumpled feathers, reflecting the sun in a bright glare on the way down. Dash's feathers fell back into their normal positions as the item settled in the grass.
“Wait! Dashie, you dropped something! ...I think!” Pinkie hurried over to the object, wondering whether it was what she expected. She knelt down and lifted up a smaller version of the contraption that Twilight had assembled for her earlier. As she looked at it, the nine small strips of metal clinging to its side rearranged themselves and silently slid together into the shape of the digit “3”.
Dash turned to see what Pinkie had shouted about. Upon setting her sights on the metal device, the turmoil in her eyes seemed to melt away. “Oh, you found it.”
“You were looking for this?” Pinkie looked to her friend, hoping for an explanation but unsure of how the thing could have been recognized when it was only made some number of minutes ago. “Do you know what it does?”
“I...” Rainbow Dash hesitated before promptly ignoring the first question. “Well obviously I know what it does. Do you mean to say you don't? Come on, Pinkie, you're had better jokes than this. I know you're familiar with Meter.”
“'Meter'? Did Twilight make you one of these? I didn't know there was a word for it.”
Rainbow sighed. “You're always going to be the most random pony I know. Look, everypony knows the Meter.”
“Well why don't you tell me what it does then? I couldn't be too hard to describe. Then you can go see your other friends about cooky clouds, and when you're all done with that and nobody is busy, we can finally have some fun! I already have a whole bunch of ideas of what we could do, and I know you'd just love them!”
The pegasus folded her wings back against her sides and tried to satisfy Pinkie's antics so she could go on her way. “If you're so insistent on it, just what do you think a Meter would do? It measures stuff. I mean really, what else could it be?”
“What sort of stuff?”
Rainbow raised a solitary eyebrow and took a step back away from her friend. “Yeah, I really gotta go...”
Pinkie Pie's bright hair began to droop and loose some of its vibrancy. “You act as if I said something wrong! What did I do? I'm starting to get tired of nothing here making any sort of sense. If this is all in my imagination, why would I be the one that doesn't know what's going on? I don't even mean to imagine myself as going around stuck in this crazy getup, but it's here anyway! I asked Twilight what's up, and she went really weird on me too and said some thingy is setting everything up for me instead of me. It's not how thinking works! I don't imagine my friends getting in trouble, Dash. I imagine them getting to be happy and having all kinds of fun! So why hasn't there been any real fun here? I'm looking for anything that seems to be especially wrong, but it's all wrong, isn't it. Shouldn't I have more influence over the stuff in my own head?”
Pinkie stared down in frustration at the metal thing in her hoof that Dash referred to as “Meter”.
“Even this thing. Why is the '2' a '3' now? I'd rather it be a nicer number altogether...”
The metal digit slowly disappeared as its metal components slid away from each other and moved together into a new shape. The side of the device began displaying the number fifteen on its side.
“See? This thing understands! Can everything just please cooperate more like that?”
Rainbow Dash stood before Pinkie Pie, staring with a face that betrayed no emotion.
“You know,” said Dash, “I'd have thought you would have understood Meter better. It's been with you for a long time.” She glanced toward the visible '15'. “Think of that as a favor. It'll humor you for now. In all honesty though, I'd have expected that to be the last thing you would just go around changing.”
“Dash, what causes you to say these things? I know I'm not imagining that sort of idea from you. I still don't even really know what you're talking about. So where does the idea come from then?”
“Oh, look at the time,” Rainbow casually remarked, “I must be going.”
The sounds of a party noisemaker cut through the area. Its sheer volume caused Pinkie to flinch. Rainbow Dash, meanwhile, seemed to momentarily grow the slightest bit paler before suddenly shaking her head and blinking several times. Dash looked around the area quickly before glancing towards Pinkie Pie.
“Oh, hey, nice costume! It'd be a great prop for a prank sometime. Thing is, I'd love to hang out and all, but you caught me at a bad time. I gotta get down to the Local Weather Registry and check some recent reports. I think somepony may have done something unauthorized with the clouds out here. See ya later!”
Before anything further could be said, Rainbow launched into the air and departed.
Pinkie rubbed her eyes and stared at the mess of letter running rampantly around the parchment sticking out of the Cakes' old typewriter. Glancing towards the window, she saw that it had somehow already become nighttime. She sighed and moved her attention instead to the paper navy.
“I have no idea how Twilight does it, Wizzy. This experimenting stuff is making my head spin.”
The room was silent as Pinkie waited for a paperclip to respond.
“You're right. I should just get some sleep. Tomorrow will be much better.” Another period of silence drifted by. “Oh, I'd almost forgotten about that! I wonder if Twilight remembers or not. She did agree to lend a hand on it... Come to think of it, that's supposed to be for tomorrow! You're a lifesaver, Wizzy. I'm going to find you the biggest new eyes that money can buy! I Pinkie Pie swear it.”
With that final promise, and the small ritual that accompanies such a promise, Ponyville's pink party prodigy went to bed for the night. At no point in the night did her spine make the slightest involuntary movement.
Twilight Sparkle marked off four small circles on the floor with a piece of chalk. Though likely unimportant, one never knows when it would turn out to be useful to have kept track of exactly where Pinkie was positioned when she vanished. Perhaps a presentation of sorts could be prepared for when she returns. Twilight decided that she'd leave it to think about later.
The mare next turned to the old typewriter idling on the table. A length of parchment protruded from it containing a detailed account of events from the next layer down. Skimming the paper's contents, Twilight gave a small chuckle at Pinkie's lack of understanding. Adjusting the machine to make sure that it was set to continue printing shortly after where the last words ended, Twilight began to tap away at the keys. While it was entertaining, in a childishly cute way, to watch Pinkie work despite being so clueless, it seemed to Twilight that it was time to lend a hand.
Rainbow Dash was returning to her home for the evening. The Local Weather Registry didn't have much in the way of useful information when she tried to find out where the rogue cloud had come from, but she did learn that a surprising number of reports had been coming in throughout the day about unusual weather patterns. The registry would presumably initiate an official investigation into the matter soon enough, so Dash had decided to file her own grievance letter and leave the matter to be their problem rather than hers.
Rainbow made her routine check of her cloud home's perimeter before setting down. The check, which included scanning the ground-level region beneath her house, was necessary to ensure that some “spider overlord” fellow or another hadn't yet managed to infiltrate her abode. That sort of thing tended to happen now and then. It's completely natural.
Dash approached her bed and bent down to reach under it, retrieving the carefully tucked away Daring Do novel that she had been ritualistically reading every night before sleeping for the past week. The last time she had set it down, her hero was tantalizingly close to the story's exhilarating conclusion. It had now come to be the night that she would finish Daring Do and the Deadly Hollow, the most widely praised book in the series so far. At first, Rainbow had been skeptical over whether any story could top Daring Do and the Kingdom of the Gemstone Head, let alone her personal favorite of Daring Do and the Fellowship of the Empire Striking Back to the Future VII, but she was amazed to find out that Deadly Hollow did indeed seem to live up to, and exceed, every last word of hype that had been built up around it. The story was truly a masterpiece. All that Dash had left to find out was whether or not Daring would escape the mysterious island and save the orphanage before it's too late. She sunk into her bed of clouds to read.
An hour later, the book flew out the nearest window as an angry blue pegasus vowed to never buy into any silly fandom's meaningless hype ever again.
“All that buildup,” she shouted toward nobody in particular, “and it just turns out she was trapped in Purgatory all along!? What kind of sick and twisted author would do such a thing!?”
Given another hour of venting her rage, Rainbow Dash eventually moved on from wild cursing to taking a vow of action.
“I could write a better ending in my sleep,” Dash grumbled to herself. “I'll make the best darned ending the book could have ever hoped for, and I'll rub it right into the faces of that stupid publishing house!”
And so, Rainbow Dash surrendered the last of her potential sleeping time to attacking a wrinkled stack of parchment paper with an old quill.