Mac to the Future

by Maran

Gotta Get Mac in Time

Big Mac didn't ask for much. All he wanted was to finish his senior year without getting magically brainwashed again. A girlfriend would be nice, too, but maybe he would wait and focus on finding the right girl after he graduated.

A familiar voice broke his train of thought as he strolled down the hallway toward his locker.

“Big Mac! There you are! Can ya help me with somethin'?”

He turned to see Granny Smith walking across the tiled floor at a pace that was fast for her age, especially considering she'd been on her feet for six hours that day.

“Eyup,” he answered with a smile.

His grandmother held up her phone. “Lil' Miss Photo Finish says our fall pictures are on her website, but I can't get it to show on this newfangled doohickey!”

“Did ya enter the password?”

“I tried, but I can't get it right!” She shoved her phone into Big Mac's pink hands.

After taking out his own phone, he found the password he'd saved. About fifteen seconds later, he'd entered the password in the login screen on Granny's phone and selected the family portraits. Wordlessly, he handed the phone back to his grandmother.

“Thank you, Big Mac,” she said with a smile. “Aw, I like this one.” Angling the phone so Big Mac could see the image, she added, “Miss Photo Finish did such a good job.”

“Eyup.” The picture showed Big Mac sitting on a log between Applejack and Apple Bloom, with fall foliage of orange and gold in the background. His sisters grinned, while he smiled with closed lips because, in his opinion, he looked cheesy when he showed his teeth. They all wore their new school outfits, with Big Mac in his red hoodie and jeans that had straight legs and even hems. His old jeans were more comfortable, but Granny Smith insisted that he pick out a new pair.

Granny moved her gaze from the phone to Big Mac's face. “You look more like your pa each day.” Smiling wistfully, she reached up and patted his cheek.

Big Mac said nothing. He supposed he did resemble the high school photos of his father, but he remembered Bright Mac being taller and more muscular. It may have been the perspective of an eight year-old that made his pa seem bigger than he actually was, however.

“Hey Big Mac, hey Granny.” Apple Bloom came up behind them to peer over their shoulders. “Lookin' at the pictures?”

“Aren't they precious?” Granny asked rhetorically. “I should pay Photo Finish more.”

“She's a high school student,” Bloom said in a flat tone. “You paid her plenty.” She turned to Big Mac, holding onto one backpack strap while putting her other hand on her hip. “So, Big Mac, I have a question about Ogres and Oubliettes. Do y'all have any wizard players?”

He raised his eyebrow. “Trixie.” Either Apple Bloom had forgotten she'd joined their game nights, or she somehow didn't realize Trixie would choose to be a wizard.

Throwing her head back, Apple Bloom yelled, “Dang it! No point havin' two wizards in the party, is there?”


“Guess I'll be redoin' my character sheet, then.”

“Eyup. You could be a druid,” suggested Big Mac. “They can use spells and turn into animals.”

His sister perked up, her eyes gleaming. “I like the sound of that!”

Disregarding the O and O discussion, Granny Smith pulled at Apple Bloom's backpack. “You need to wear your straps on both shoulders, half pint, else you'll end up with a bad back like Scootaloo.”

Apple Bloom sighed. “Scootaloo's back problems were not caused by carryin' her backpack on one shoulder.”

“Maybe not, but you could still strain your back.” Granny lifted the backpack from Apple Bloom's shoulder, holding the straps apart.

“The other kids' grannies don't fix their backpacks at school,” groused Apple Bloom.

“Big Mac, we need to talk.” Applejack's tone was light on the surface, but with a hard edge underneath. “We need to talk” was never a promising way to begin a conversation.

His expression was carefully neutral as he pivoted in place and saw his middle sister striding toward him. She smiled at him, and her green eyes glinted.

“The Rainbooms need the tour bus on Saturday,” she said, spreading her hands. “We don't mind that you let Dr. Discord borrow it, but we need it back in workin' order in time for our gig.”

Big Mac didn't dare ask how she knew Dr. Discord was redesigning the engine. Maybe she simply knew Dr. Discord better than he thought she did.

“You'll make sure he has it ready for us, won't you?” asked AJ.


“I'll hold you to that.” She gripped his shoulder. “That's this Saturday, ya hear?”


“Good. I'll let the gals know.” Releasing his shoulder, she raised her voice so their grandmother could hear. “Don't wait for me, y'all. Sunset's givin' me a ride home.”
Granny Smith lifted her head, having finished fussing over Apple Bloom. “You want us to wait for you?”

“She said don't wait for her,” said Bloom, rolling her eyes.

Either their grandmother didn't notice the eye roll, or she didn't care. “All right, just come home by nine.”

“I will, Granny.”

As Applejack left in search of her friend, Granny Smith faced her two remaining grandkids. “Well, let's head on out to the jalopy.”

“I gotta get my stuff,” said Big Mac, jerking his thumb in the direction of his locker.

“All right, then, we'll be waitin' for you in the parkin' lot. Come on, Apple Bloom.”

His grandmother and sister headed toward the exit, and Big Mac finished the walk to his locker. As he raised his hand to open it, he noticed that the combination lock was missing. Frowning, he pulled open the door, expecting it to be empty.

Instead, Dr. Discord burst out and crashed into him.

Big Mac was nearly knocked off his feet, but years of carrying heavy livestock helped him catch his balance and push back against Dr. Discord.

His physics teacher straightened and brushed off his sleeves. “Do I know how to make an entrance or what?” He flashed a cheeky grin.

Big Mac merely stared up at him. Aside from Principal Celestia and Coach Iron Will, Dr. John Q. Discord was the only staff member taller than Big Mac. He had gray skin and his eyes had yellow sclera (if Big Mac remembered his anatomy course correctly) and red irises. Combined with his bushy white eyebrows and wispy goatee, they gave him a perpetually insane appearance. His thinning white hair had obviously been smooshed against the locker walls.

“I know what you're thinking: How could someone so tall fit inside this little locker? Well, I'll have you know that I'm extremely flexible! Want to see me put my legs behind my head?”


“You're missing out,” said Dr. Discord with a shrug. “Anyway, have good news – my project is ready for testing!”

Big Mac smiled in relief. “Great! AJ and her friends need the bus this weekend.”

“This weekend . . .” His teacher hesitated, bringing his hand to his chin. “That shouldn't be a problem. After all, time is an unlimited resource, now.” He chortled.

Big Mac arched his eyebrow. Surely Dr. Discord didn't think he discovered the key to immortality, did he? From redesigning a bus engine? That wouldn't make sense, even for Dr. Discord.

“You'll see what I mean.” The teacher spread his hands in a dramatic arc. “It all happens at 1:15 tonight!”

“What happens?”

“Like I said, you'll have to wait and see. I promise it'll be worth your time.” He let out a chuckle. “You'll come to the mall parking lot tonight, won't you, friend?” Dr. Discord clasped his hands together.

Big Mac paused. It was a simple yes or no question, and yet . . . “Why so late?”

“Technically, it's early in the morning,” his teacher replied. “Applejack told me she wakes up that early every morning to sweep the floor before school.”

Big Mac's mouth curved down. That was an exaggeration, which didn't sound like something AJ would say. But it was very much like Dr. Discord to exaggerate when rephrasing a statement from someone else.

“But more to the point,” his teacher continued, “the mall parking lot will be empty at 1:15, providing more than enough driving area for the bus to accelerate. We'll be able to observe it without having to steer around other vehicles.”

“Who's drivin' the bus if we're observin' it?”

“Oh, that's easy. I've got it connected to a radio control. That way I can test the bus with an animal first. Which reminds me – can I borrow your dog?”

Big Mac narrowed his eyes.

“I don't need it for long. An hour at most.” Dr. Discord spread his arms.

Leaning back, Big Mac asked, “And what are you fixin' to do with our family dog that ain't safe for a human?”

“Now, now.” Dr. Discord held up a finger. “I don't want to spoil the dramatic reveal.”

“I can't let you experiment on my dog unless I know more about this project of yours.”

The taller man scanned the hallway from left to right. Students walked by them, barely giving them a second glance.

“Oh, very well.” Leaning toward Big Mac's ear, Dr. Discord whispered, “I want to observe its response to temporal displacement.”

“Temporal displacement . . .” Big Mac repeated quietly, thinking about it. “You mean time travel?” Slowly, Big Mac began to smile and shake his head. “Doc, if you want me to keep helpin' you, you gotta tell me the truth,” he said in a louder voice.

Dr. Discord flailed his arms in disbelief. “That is the truth! Get your lie-detecting sister over here if you don't believe me!”

Big Mac furrowed his brow. “That's not something that either of my sisters do.”

“Really?” His teacher scratched his head. “What was I thinking of, then?”

The only answer was a shrug. Dr. Discord shook his head as if to clear it.

“Well, it's not important anyway,” continued his teacher. “What is important is that I can prove to you that I can . . .” He lowered his voice once more. “Create a temporal displacement. But I can't do that without a test subject! Can't I at least use one of your pigs?”

“What if it dies?” countered Big Mac. “How would I explain that to my family?”

“Don't worry about that! The chances of this experiment resulting in fatality are less than one percent.” Dr. Discord waved his hand.

“Which is non-zero, I take it,” said Big Mac, lowering his eyebrows.

“Yes, but even if the pig doesn't survive, your family isn't going to miss one pig, are they?”

“They will,” Big Mac said firmly.

“Come now, Big Mac!” Dr. Discord's scarlet eyes became round and soulful. “First you don't believe me about displacing the bus in the time stream, and then you won't let me use one of your many pigs for one low-risk experiment! I thought we were friends!”

“We are,” said Big Mac, lowering his arms and spreading his hands. “But friendship shouldn't be one-sided, and it seems like I'm always the one lettin' you borrow things without gettin' anythin' back.”

“What do you mean, 'without giving anything back'?” Dr. Discord wiggled his head from side to side as he quoted Big Mac. “I'm giving you the opportunity to own the world's first time-traveling pig! I'd say that's quite generous of me!”

“Can't you get a test animal from someplace else?”

“Well,” said Dr. Discord, stroking his goatee, “I do know someone – but it's risky.” He straightened up with a smile. “But that makes it more fun! All right, you talked me into it!”

Big Mac wasn't completely sure what he'd talked his teacher into, but it didn't matter as long as Big Mac had talked him out of using one of his pigs.

“You'll still come watch my test drive, won't you?” asked Dr. Discord.

“Eyup.” Big Mac could catch up on sleep some other time.

“Splendid.” His teacher draped his arm over Big Mac's shoulders. “After all, we orphans have to stick together.”

At 1:20 am, Big Mac rolled the family pickup truck into the mall parking lot. He looked around for the bus, but all he saw were street lights shining through the moderate fog that rolled in from the nearby river. So intent was he on staring at the middle of the parking lot that he didn't see the man run in front of his bumper until it was almost too late. He barely glimpsed the light from a reflective vest, and he slammed on the brakes.

“Stop!” Yelled Dr. Discord, holding his hand palm out.

His mind racing from adrenaline, Big Mac rolled down the window. “Are you crazy!?” he shouted, even as he felt angry at himself for not watching the blacktop directly in front of him.

“Yes, but that's beside the point. I want you to park on the edge of the lot.” His teacher pointed.

“You could've been killed!”

Dr. Discord snorted. “Please, you couldn't have been going more than 15 miles per hour. I could've been wounded at worst.”

Big Mac took a deep breath, willing himself to relax.

“Now,” continued his teacher, “I need all the empty driving space I can get, so move along!”

After driving into a parking space on the edge of the lot, Big Mac got out of the truck and walked toward Dr. Discord. As soon as Big Mac reached him, his teacher pointed toward a blue shape in the mist.

“Behold!” shouted Dr. Discord. “The tour bus time machine!”

Big Mac stepped closer to the bus, peering at the details. It had a beautiful, vintage 1940s body with a paint job that looked like precisely what he'd expect if Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash collaborated.

“It looks the same,” said Big Mac.

“Ah, it's the same on the outside. I wouldn't ruin this paint job that your sister and her friends worked so hard on. I'm insane, but I'm not a monster.” Dr. Discord held his hand to his chest. “Besides, if you're going to build a time travel machine, why not do it with glittery decals?”

Big Mac nodded, seeing the logic. Applejack and her friends would be peeved if they got their tour bus back without its scene of rainbows, clouds, and stars.

“I changed only the engine and the dashboard. Come and see!” Dr. Discord bounded up to the bus and pulled open the door. A goat bleated inside.

His teacher gestured toward the goat in the driver's seat. “I had to borrow this test subject without asking permission, but I'll give it back before its owner realizes it's missing.”

“I don't like this,” said Big Mac with a frown. “It's not right.”

“Oh, I'm sorry, would you rather go home and get your pig, or one of your dogs?” Dr. Discord asked sarcastically.

Big Mac didn't bother to tell him that he had only one dog. “Nope,” he answered, glancing away.

“That's what I thought.” Dr. Discord crooked his arms. “Now get out your phone, I need someone to record this while I control the bus.”

After grabbing his phone, Big Mac pressed the camera icon.

“Thank you.” Dr. Discord scritched the top of the goat's head. “My name is Dr. John Q. Discord, and I'm conducting a temporal displacement experiment using this goat and a remodeled 1949 school bus.” His tone was matter-of-fact, as if he were talking about building a tool shed. “I've placed a watch around the goat's neck.” He lifted a cheap digital timepiece that hung from the goat's collar. “It's been synchronized with the time on my phone,” he finished, holding his phone up to the watch. Both displayed the time as 1:23.

Big Mac nodded before glancing at the dashboard. It sported a new lever and some arrow buttons next to an LED screen that showed three lines of letters that seemed random, although the letters A and B showed up more often than the others.

“I'll show you how the controls work in a moment. For now, this goat needs to ride solo!” Dr. Discord patted the goat, and it nibbled on the sleeve of his blazer. He pulled his arm away.

“I knew I shouldn't have worn my work jacket!” The teacher hopped out of the bus, Big Mac following him and closing the door.

“Now!” Dr. Discord picked up a large radio control that had been resting on top of a duffel bag. His red eyes shone as he pressed a button to start the engine. “You're about to see some serious shit!”

After a beat, he stared at Big Mac. “We should probably edit that out.”


“Moving on.” Dr. Discord fiddled with some knobs. “Watch the bus,” he said, nodding toward the vehicle.

Big Mac aimed his phone at the tour bus and viewed it through the screen. The bus began to increase its speed, driving in a circuit around the parking lot. He couldn't get a good visual, but the headlights pierced the fog. Big Mac was amazed that his teacher could make the antique go 70 miles per hour. And still faster it careened, until it began to throw orange sparks from its wheels, and then blue sparks flashed higher, where its body should be. As if this weren't alarming enough, the bus turned and barreled straight for Big Mac and Dr. Discord.

Big Mac had always wondered why deer and other creatures froze in headlights. Yet at that moment he found himself paralyzed with fear. The bus was too close and speeding too quickly to get out of the way in time. Big Mac saw a brilliant blue flash and heard a loud crack like thunder.

And suddenly the bus was gone. There were only two lines of fire on the ground.

Big Mac let out the lungful of air he hadn't realized he'd been holding, and then he breathed in again. “What in Hades just happened?”

Dr. Discord, meanwhile, laughed with glee. “It worked! Ha! The look on your face is priceless!” He pointed at Big Mac. “And you said I was crazy!”

You said you were crazy!” retorted Big Mac.

“True, but you said it first!”

“So . . . So . . .” Big Mac wrestled internally between asking Dr. Discord why he steered the tour bus toward them and whether or not it had actually traveled through time, until he decided that the latter was the bigger issue. “You really built a time machine out of the tour bus?”

“I did!” crowed his teacher. “I displaced the bus – and the goat inside – one minute into the future! Now we just have to wait to catch up to the bus's reentry point. You're still recording, right?”


“Good. You see, the secret to temporal displacement is the Flux Capacitor which moderates the accumulation of – Oh! There's the bus!”

Turning to look behind him, Big Mac watched the tour bus roll about 200 feet away before it decelerated and came to a stop. Dr. Discord jogged toward the vehicle, with Big Mac trotting after him. The bus was coated with a shiny, pale glaze. Dr. Discord put on mismatched gloves before tugging on the door. Big Mac wondered if the steel had become hot from all the sparks. After a few tries, Dr. Discord wrenched open the door, and Big Mac heard the sound of ice cracking. That was when he realized that the bus was not hot, but frozen.

The goat bleated as Dr. Discord climbed inside. “Come on, Big Mac!” His teacher beckoned him. “Let's check on the test subject, shall we?”

Big Mac noticed that his hands were shaking, and he did his best to steady his phone as he stepped in after his teacher. He was glad that he was wearing his new hoodie, because the bus felt like the inside of a meat freezer.

In the driver's seat, the goat sat trembling. Dr. Discord grabbed the watch that hung from the goat's neck and held his phone next to it.

“See, what did I tell you? The goat's watch is exactly one minute behind atomic time, and still ticking!” said the teacher.

Big Mac patted the goat's side, staring into its oval pupils.

“The goat is perfectly fine!” Dr. Discord switched on the bus's heating system. “It probably doesn't even realize anything happened.” He pressed the arrow keys on the dashboard, changing the letters on the top display. “I think this time displacement tour bus is ready for human test subjects now!”

Right now?” Big Mac felt his heart pounding in his chest and his toes grow numb.

Dr. Discord laughed. “Of course! We have all the time in the world!”

Big Mac thought for just a second before he realized what time he wanted to travel to. He wanted to see his parents. Even if he couldn't change the past, at least he'd get to be with them again.

“Could we go back to 2007?” asked Big Mac.

“Why not? Or we could go even farther back, if you'd like. I know when I'd like to go first: November 5, 1993. The day I got the idea for the Flux Capacitor.” He pointed below the displays at the Y formed by tubing and wires. “It's what makes temporal displacement possible!”

Big Mac wanted to ask what exactly a Flux Capacitor was, but his teacher kept talking before there was an opening.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Dr. Discord in a tone usually reserved for reliving one's wedding or the first time holding one's child. “I was in the bathroom, where I get all my best ideas, and I was hanging up a–”

A human-like scream tore out of the goat, interrupting the story. Then the animal tipped sideways off the seat, legs sticking out straight.

Big Mac merely shook his head.

“Don't worry!” Dr. Discord patted the goat's head. “Goats faint at the drop of a hat! Fluttershy told me it's abnormal if they don't faint every hour or so.”


“What do you mean, nope?” His teacher crossed his arms. “Do you presume to know more about goats than Fluttershy does?”

Big Mac's only answer was to crouch down and put his hand on the goat's ribs. It was breathing, but it was ice cold. And something gleamed next to the watch on the goat's collar. It was a tag with a phone number, and above the number were the words: “If found call Iron Will.”

“You took this goat from Coach Iron Will?” asked Big Mac. “He ain't gonna like this.”

“He's not going to find out,” said Dr. Discord, arms akimbo, “because the goat is going to be fine!” Then he tilted his head as the sound of a vehicle drew near.

Dr. Discord and Big Mac peered toward the windows, but the melting ice obstructed half the view.

“That couldn't possibly be him, could it?” asked the teacher. “He couldn't . . .” Then his eyes widened as the vehicle pulled to a stop beside the bus.

Peeking over the taller man's shoulder, Big Mac saw the blue pickup truck with oversized wheels. “That's Mr. Iron Will's truck,” he pointed out, just in case Dr. Discord had forgotten what it looked like.

Dr. Discord pushed him back. “Keep your head down. It's best if he doesn't know you're involved.”

Big Mac wasn't one to hide from danger – at least not since he'd hit his growth spurt at the age of fourteen – but he didn't want to face the consequences of Iron Will finding him near his unconscious goat. So he ducked down below the windows.

“Where is he!?” boomed Coach Iron Will. The muscular man “boomed” every time he spoke. He had two volume settings: off and eardrum-bursting.

“How did you know I borrowed him?” Dr. Discord didn't bother to deny it.

Big Mac heard the truck door open and close, and then heard heavy footsteps on the blacktop. “You didn't exactly hide the fact that you're doing some kind of mad science experiment at the mall, John. Iron Will overheard you ask Fluttershy if you could borrow her rabbit. When Iron Will's kid went missing, he put two and two together. Now hand over the goat or get punched in the throat!”

“Okay, okay! I'm getting him!” Dr. Discord pivoted and crouched down to pick up the goat.

Iron Will gasped as Dr. Discord climbed out of the bus with the limp animal in his arms.

“Chompy! What have you done to him, you bastard?”

There was scuffling, and a fist striking something soft. Dr. Discord let out a strangled gasp.

Big Mac could no longer hide in good conscience. Leaping to his feet, he rushed to the doorway. “Stop!” He held his left hand in front of him, taking stock of the situation. Dr. Discord sat slumped on the ground with his hand on his neck, while Coach Iron Will stood over him. The large man held the goat tucked under his left arm, while his right hand formed a fist.

“Don't hit him!” shouted Big Mac. “We'll take your goat to the animal hospital and he'll be fine.”

Like Dr. Discord, Iron Will had yellowish sclera, but currently they were bloodshot. Veins stuck out in his thick, blue neck. Big Mac didn't know if his words registered in the coach's rage-filled brain.

“Big McIntosh? You're involved in this?”

Sighing, Big Mac answered, “Eyup.”

Iron Will growled and grabbed the radio control from the blacktop where it lay near Dr. Discord. Since the engine had been left idling, it rolled forward with the touch of a button. Big Mac grasped the metal railing next to the door, his eyes wide. Without thinking about it, he shut off his phone screen and started to put it in his pocket – but it slipped out of his hand and skidded across the floor. He swore under his breath.

Dr. Discord coughed and hauled himself up from a slumped sitting position into a crouch.

“Wait!” he wheezed. “Only I know how to operate . . .” His voice broke in a coughing fit.

Iron Will's expression was somewhere between a grin and a grimace as he pushed something on the controller. Then he faded out of view as the bus sped away from him. Big Mac glanced at the dashboard, and then at his phone near the back of the bus. The vehicle wasn't likely to hit anything in the empty parking lot, and it probably wouldn't travel through time. Dr. Discord had said he was the only one who knew how to operate it. These thoughts flew through his mind in a single second. He staggered down the aisle, holding onto the vinyl seats before stooping to pick up his phone. The bus was growing hot, and blue sparks flew across the windows.


He scrambled toward the front of the bus and put his hand on the ice-cold steering wheel as blue light filled the windshield. And then, with a loud crack, daylight assaulted his eyes. Big Mac plunked down into the driver's seat and slammed his foot on the break pedal. He breathed quickly, close to hyperventilating. With effort, he expanded his lungs to accommodate more air. Okay. He was fine. This was fine. The bus hadn't hit anything, and he hadn't fainted, although he couldn't feel his fingers. He stared at his left hand, which was gripping his cell phone with two fingers and a thumb while holding onto the steering wheel with the remaining fingers. Activating the screen, he saw that the time still showed 1:35 am, and there were no signal bars. He checked the available WiFi and found none whatsoever – near the mall.

Dr. Discord had mentioned November 5, 1993 – had he set the time machine to travel to that date? Or had Coach Iron Will accidentally sent him to a random time? The dashboard displays showed no clear answers:


It had to mean something to Dr. Discord, but Big Mac didn't understand it. The windows were partly defrosted at this point, and Big Mac gazed out across the parking lot. Mercifully, there were only a few cars. Judging by the sun's position, it was early in the morning – around 7:30 or 8:00, assuming this was November. Putting the bus in neutral, Big Mac cautiously maneuvered into a parking space. He was afraid to drive it any farther until he learned how to operate it, since he didn't want to risk getting even more lost in time.

Then he slapped his forehead. If he was afraid of getting lost, there was no way Granny Smith and the Rainbooms could drive it without getting lost in time, too. But there wasn't much he could do about that until he got back to the present.

Big Mac took the key out of the ignition and exited the bus, locking the door behind him. Hopefully, no one would break into it before he returned with Dr. Discord. His physics teacher had once told him that he'd lived in Canterlot since he was thirteen years old. Dr. Discord had to be in this town, Big Mac just knew it. He didn't know if Dr. Discord lived in the same house, but it was the only starting point that came to mind. There was nothing for it but to start walking.

He made his way around the mall, past the Kids' Castle toy store that had gone out of business just a few months before he traveled through time, but which was currently shiny and new. Big Mac felt a hint of nostalgia, but not enough to go inside. If he had truly cared about Kids' Castle, he would've shopped there when he'd had the chance instead of ordering his game pieces online. As he continued his trek, he saw other businesses that he hadn't seen in years. There was Binding Books, Radio Shed, and Applewood Video.

Behind and above the movie rental business was a billboard advertising for “Grand's Pears,” which made Big Mac lift his eyebrows. Granny Smith would be pissed if she saw it. She hated pears. The way she told it, half of Sweet Apple Acres used to be a pear farm, and there was a bitter rivalry between Granny Smith and the owner of the pear orchard. Then one day the owner mysteriously sold the pear farm and moved away. The newer owners had attempted to keep the orchard going, but a couple of droughts and a late frost had put the inexperienced farmers out of business, and a few years later they sold the land to Granny, and the pear trees were soon replaced with apple trees.

Big Mac pressed on past the billboard and toward the bank. It was the same in 2018, but the sign out front was different. Lights in a black field confirmed what he'd already suspected to be true:

Nov. 5, 1993
8:14 am
48° F

Then he saw something that made him stop in his tracks.

A phone booth.

Big Mac hadn't seen an actual pay phone since he was small, and even then, the phone was out of order. This phone had a ringtone, a sound he knew because Granny Smith insisted on keeping a landline in case of power outages. Then he saw the coin slot and remembered that the only cash he had was a twenty dollar bill in his pocket. Still, it might be better this way. There was a McDonalds a short walk down the street. He could order some food and get plenty of change back – he figured that twenty dollars was a lot of money back now.

Just in case he forgot later, he flipped through the phone book that hung on a cable under the phone. He found John Q. Discord's number and address and took a photo of it with his phone, so he'd have the information on hand. At least he could still use his phone to take and store pictures, if little else. The address was not the one Big Mac knew, but he was confident that he would be able to find it without too much difficulty. Big Mac slipped his phone into his hoodie pocket and made his way to the Golden Arches.

The young woman behind the counter was familiar. Her blond hair was pulled tightly away from her face, but Big Mac recognized the sneering expression no matter what age.

“Miss Harshwhinny?” he blurted.

His future civics teacher arched her eyebrows. “Do I know you?”

Any answer he gave would raise more questions, so Big Mac pretended he hadn't said anything. “I'd like the Big Mac extra value meal.”

Miss Harshwhinny's lip curled. “We're using our breakfast grills now. We don't switch to our lunch grills until eleven o'clock.”

“Oh. Right.”

Even in his time, it had been a relatively recent change to make both the breakfast and lunch menus available at all hours, and yet Big Mac had taken it for granted.

“In that case,” he continued, “I'll have the Bacon McGriddle meal, please.”

“The what?”

“You know, the sandwich made of pancakes, bacon, and eggs?”

Miss Harshwhinny shook her head. “I've never heard of that. It sounds disgusting.”

Feeling flustered, Big Mac said, “Fine, just give me an Egg McMuffin.” Surely those had to exist.

“Would you like the meal with hash browns and coffee?”

“Eyup.” He nodded.

“All right. That will be four dollars and eight cents. Please.” She took his money and stared at it with her brow wrinkled. “Is this a joke?”

Equally confused, Big Mac answered, “Nope.”

“This isn't real money.” She held it toward his face. “Look at the size of the President's head! And it's pink and yellow! Do you really expect me to believe this is legal tender?”

Big Mac had forgotten that the money had changed designs in the last 25 years. “Uh . . . I guess not.” He slumped.

Miss Harshwhinny managed to look down her nose at Big Mac, despite being a good six inches shorter. “Do you have another form of payment?”


And then a pale yellow hand appeared to Big Mac's right and laid a bill on the counter.

“I've got it covered.”

Big Mac had not heard that voice in a decade, except in brief family videos. Slowly, he turned around and stared at the other teenage boy. Green eyes nearly identical to his own gazed back at him. A classic tan cowboy hat sat atop dark red hair. He wore a baggy, loose-fitting shirt and stone-washed jeans that seemed to be in style this decade.

“You're my – You're Bright Mac!” blurted Big Mac.

He'd wanted to talk to his parents, but ever since he'd gotten stranded, finding Dr. Discord had been his main concern. And now that he was face to face with his father, he didn't know what to say. He wasn't even supposed to exist yet. How could he tell Bright Mac that he was his future son?

A shorter, gray-skinned teen stood next to Bright Mac. He also sported a cowboy hat, and he seemed vaguely familiar to Big Mac, but he couldn't quite place him.

“Bright Mac, you know this dude?” asked the gray kid.

Shaking his head, Bright Mac said, “I don't think we've met. You go to Canterlot High?”

Big Mac's throat felt tight. “Eyup,” he answered in a hoarse voice. “I'm, uh, new.” It was true in the sense that he had started attending the school after his pa did.

His dad grinned. “Funny, I know just one other person who says 'eyup.' You know Pear Butter?”

Presumably this Pear Butter was one of the pear farmers he'd heard Granny Smith talk about, but the name didn't ring a bell.

He shook his head. “Nope.”

Bright Mac shrugged. “Must be a coincidence. What's your name?”

Since he couldn't give his real name when it was so similar to his father's, Big Mac said the first name that came to mind. “McBiggen.”

“Howdy, McBiggen.” Bright Mac shook his hand.

“And you're Burnt Oak, right?” Big Mac asked, nodding at the gray teen. He'd finally realized that the boy resembled the man who sold firewood on the outskirts of town.

Burnt Oak smiled and tipped his hat. “That's me. Looks like your McMuffin's ready, McBiggen.”

“Are you hicks gonna order or what!?” boomed an ear-splitting voice that could belong to none other than Iron Will. Somehow the hulking teen had walked up behind Bright Mac and Burnt Oak, but Big Mac hadn't recognized him until he spoke. Big Mac guessed that he was about 17, with a few scraggly steel blue hairs that formed the beginnings of a goatee on his chin. Although he had yet to reach his adult weight, he still had larger muscles than anyone else in the room.

“Iron Will has been waiting in line all morning!” added Iron Will.

“You just got here two seconds ago,” pointed out Bright Mac.

Folding his arms over his chest, Iron Will replied, “Iron Will's time is extremely valuable.”

“Keep your tank top on, dude. I'll order.” Ignoring Iron Will's protests that he was wearing a muscle shirt rather than a tank top, Burnt Oak turned to Miss Harshwhinny. “Say, miss, you got any good sarsaparilla?”

Miss Harshwhinny narrowed her eyes. “You boys are pulling a prank on me, aren't you? Do you have a camera hidden somewhere?”

Bright Mac placatingly held up his hands. “No, miss, no hidden cameras here.”

“Unless McBiggen's hidin' one in his pocket,” added Burnt Oak.

Big Mac's eyes widened as he realized his phone was exactly that – although the lens was currently facing the fabric of his hoodie.

“Not helpin', Oak,” murmured Bright Mac.

Miss Harshwhinny lowered her eyebrows. “So you three aren't collaborating to prank a long suffering fast food worker?” she asked skeptically.

“Miss, I don’t like playin’ pranks. Besides, we've never even met this guy before.” Bright Mac jabbed his thumb at Big Mac.

“Then why did you pay for his meal?”

Big Mac picked up his bag of food and his cup. “Why did you pay for my meal, Bright Mac?” he echoed the question, staring at his father's freckles, unable to make eye contact. “You don't even know me, not yet.”

His pa's mouth quirked up. “You just looked like you were havin' a rough mornin'. Hope it gets better.”

Big Mac tried to swallow the lump in his throat. “Eyup. Thanks,” he choked out.

It was all too much for Big Mac to deal with – his dead dad buying him breakfast had pushed him toward the brink. It was a simple gesture, yet it meant so much to him that his father cared enough to buy him food from McDonalds, before he even knew him.

Bright Mac's smile faded as concern took over.

“You okay, McBiggen?”

“Eyup. S-see you around.” Sparing one last look at his father's face, Big Mac made a break for the exit.