From Far Beyond
A “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” Fanfiction
Written by Jade Dawn
“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is owned by Hasbro. I own none of the characters except the ones I have created for this story.
Chapter 4: Displacement
Rainbow Dash was a very happy mare right now.
Thanks to some scheduling mishap or something, training sessions for the next Wonderbolts airshow had been pushed back almost a full week from now. On top of that, the weather teams weren't scheduled to create any serious changes in the weather for quite some time now. And all of that meant that she was free to do the one thing she loved more than flying high, performing in air shows, or breaking whatever speed record she felt like breaking.
She flew just a little bit under the cloud-line, searching for a cloud that she could make into a makeshift bed, occasionally casting a glance at the streets of Ponyville far below her out of force of habit.
Finally, she spotted one that looked like it could suit her needs. She alighted on top of it, and carved out a small, shallow pit in the center of the cloud, before sitting down in it, feeling around to make sure it was comfortable enough for her liking.
She took one last glance at her surroundings, and was just about to send herself into the wonderful world of sleep when she saw something that caught her attention. She peeked over the side of the cloud to get a better look.
Far below, the streets of Ponyville were full of their usually crowds of ponies, either shopping or just chatting with neighbors and friends. But what caught Rainbow's attention was a certain maroon-colored, broken-horned unicorn ducking behind corners and slinking through whatever shadows she could find like some kind of ninja. A really, really bad ninja.
It was actually kind of sad.
Rainbow sighed internally. Just because Fizzlepop Berrytwist had decided to take a different direction in life didn't mean that Rainbow exactly liked her. She was still a little edgy around her, even after Twilight had insisted up and down–to both her friends, the princesses, and the ever-annoying nobility–that Fizzlepop's heart was in the right place, and that she was fully trustworthy.
But she couldn't help but feel a little bad for her down there. She could only imagine how it must feel to try to readjust to a friendship-based society after all those years of wandering alone. Especially with a mare of her personality.
And so, swallowing her own reservations, Rainbow Dash hopped off of her cloud (Farewell, mid-morning nap, she thought sadly. We hardly knew ye.), and swooped down behind Fizzlepop, who was just about to bolt from behind the corner of a restaurant to a nearby trashcan.
Fizzlepop spun around and dropped into a fighting stance, her horn sparking.
Rainbow leapt back and raised her hooves defensively. "Whoa whoa whoa! It's just me! Ease up on the fireworks there!"
Slowly, Fizzlepop relaxed, her horn dying down as she returned to a normal stance. "Sorry. Force of habit."
Rainbow shrugged. "It's okay."
They were suddenly aware of the rather large amount of ponies who had stopped what they were doing to stare at the duo. After a moment or so of nervous glances, the crowd awkwardly went back about their business.
Fizzlepop coughed. "You're, um, Rainbow...Dart, right?"
"It's Dash. Rainbow Dash."
"Oh. Yeah, that. Sorry."
There was a moment of silence.
"So..." Rainbow said, trying to get the ball rolling again. "What's up?"
Fizzlepop shuffled her hooves, displaying none of the openness she showed around Twilight. "Not much," she said. "Just, uh, getting a little fresh air...you're not buying it, are you?"
"Not really. Did she kick you outta the castle so you can make friends or something?"
Fizzlepop blinked. "How'd you guess?"
"She used to do the same thing with her first apprentice."
Fizzlepop nodded. "I see..."
"Hey," Rainbow said. "Were you planning on going anyplace in particular?"
Fizzlepop shook her head. "Not really, no."
"Well, uh...do you wanna maybe get a bite to eat or something?"
"I just had breakfast a little while ago."
"Well, maybe we could get a little snack or something. They've got some good stuff down at Sugarcube Corner."
The name alone made Fizzlepop want to gag. But she had told Twilight that she would at least try to socialize with other ponies besides her and Spike, so...
"Alright. Why not?"
"Great! It's not too far. Just down the road. It's on me." Rainbow took to the air and led the way, Fizzlepop following close behind.
"So, what's Twilight been up to these days?" Rainbow asked, trying to make conversation.
"Quite a lot, actually," Fizzlepop replied. "She's been looking into some sort of weird disappearance that happened in Manehattan."
"Oh, yeah. Coco Pommel. I read about that. It's, like, all over the news right now." She started to veer off to grab a newspaper from a nearby stand to make her point, but stopped when she got an eyeful of the new headline. The picture on the front page showed an angry white unicorn with a black goatee, and the text above it read: Neighsay's 2nd Bid for Tempest Shadow Conviction Denied by Royal Sisters; Nobility Furious.
"But..." Rainbow said, nonchalantly steering Fizzlepop away from the stand. "You've probably already read it, so no point in...oh, here we are!"
The building before them looked, for all intents and purposes, like someone had taken a Hearth's Warming gingerbread house, scaled it up massively, and made an entire functional building out of it. Even amongst a bright and friendly looking place like Ponyville, it still struck Fizzlepop as rather over-the-top.
In fact, now that she thought of it, it kind of reminded her of a story she'd once read in her youth about a colt and his sister who had gotten lost in the woods. She couldn't remember all the details, but she did remember that part of it involved a witch who lived in a massive gingerbread house, and used it to lure young ponies in so she could trap, slaughter, and eat them.
Really cheery stuff.
Fortunately for Fizzlepop's senses, the interior of the shop looked a lot more like a conventional bakery, except a little heavy with pink tones. Even the pony behind the counter was pink.
Wait a sec, Fizzlepop thought. Is that...
"HI, FIZZY!!!" The next thing she knew, she found herself staring at a massive void of pink, the center of which held a pair of bright blue eyes.
Fizzlepop did a mental facehoof. Ever since their brief meeting at the Friendship Festival, Fizzlepop had made it a point to avoid any and all contact with Pinkie Pie. It wasn't that she necessarily had anything against her. She was just far too overwhelming for her.
Fizzlepop took a couple of steps back and plastered on the best smile she could muster. "Yeaaaah...Hi...to you too?"
"Hey, Pinks," Rainbow said. "The Cakes aren't around?"
Pinkie shook her head. "Nah. They went out to run some errand. They left me in charge." She shifted her focus back to Fizzlepop. "So! Have you enjoyed living in Ponyville so far?"
"Well, I, uh..."
And then Pinkie was somehow right next to her. "Nah! Who am I kidding? Of course you love it here!"
"Wait a sec, how did you–"
Pinkie suddenly dropped down from directly overhead. "Are you making friends yet? Do you have a best friend? I know who my best friend is! Or are. I actually have more than one! I–"
"Alright, alright, Pinkie," Rainbow said, as Pinkie somehow climbed down from her invisible perch. "We just came in to get a little snack..."
Fizzlepop didn't hear Rainbow give her order. Any time she ran into Pinkie Pie, she always needed a minimum of ten seconds for her mind to try and fail to wrap itself around what she would see from the enigmatic pink mare.
She'd just recovered when said mare was back in front of her. "And you'd like a..."
Fizzlepop blinked. "Oh. Um, I'll, uh...I'll just have what she's having."
"Another blueberry muffin? On it! Be right back!" And with that, Pinkie leapt over the counter and disappeared from Fizzlepop's line of sight.
Good. She needed another moment to recover.
Okay, let's see, Fizzlepop thought as she looked around the place. Over-the-top friendly personality, can move in ways no mortal pony ought to, lives in a giant gingerbread house-like structure...yeah, that actually makes way too much sense.
"What're you doing?" Rainbow asked, taking note of her glancing around.
"Looking for a cauldron." Fizzlepop muttered.
At that moment, Pinkie popped up from somewhere with two paper bags in her mouth.
"Here you go," she said as she gave them to the two. "Have a nice–"
All of a sudden, Pinkie began to shake in a way that Fizzlepop had never seen any pony shake before. She went so fast that all of her features became a massive, pink blur.
And then, as quickly as it had come on, it stopped altogether.
Rainbow flew up beside Pinkie, who was panting like a dog. "Pinkie, are you okay?!"
"Yeah," she replied. "I guess."
Fizzlepop, who had watched the whole scene with a wide eyed expression, not sure if this was just normal for her or if she needed medical attention, finally found her voice. "What in Equestria was that?"
"Pinkie Sense," Rainbow answered.
"It's this thing she has. She can sometimes sense when bad or otherwise big things are gonna happen."
Fizzlepop let this sink in. "So, it's like a clairvoyance thing?"
"I guess," Rainbow replied.
"And that wasn't just normal Pinkie Sense, either," Pinkie Pie said, having apparently recovered. "That was a Doozy! That means something really, really big is going to happen soon!"
"How soon?" Rainbow asked.
"I don't know. I don't usually know until it happens." And then, just like that, she seemed to move on. "Now, where were we? Oh, yeah! The muffins!"
But Fizzlepop wasn't listening. She was just trying to let this all soak in to her already overloaded brain. One of Twilight's friends–who was already quite odd, in her book–allegedly had a some kind of early-warning system, and predicted that something big was about to happen.
A sense of dread began to build up inside her. The last major event Equestria had faced was the Storm King's invasion. So what could possibly be bigger than that?
She couldn't help but wonder if it had something to do with Coco Pommel's disappearance.
Eric wasn't exactly sure what it was that had woken him up. All he knew was that one minute he was enjoying a nice, peaceful sleep, and the next, he had been snapped out of it by the sound of...something.
He sat up in his bed, listening for anything out of the ordinary, and looking all around the room. The clock read 11:45.
At first, he heard nothing. But then, gradually, he began to make it out; a soft, dull humming sound, barely audible, but still easily heard if you listened hard enough.
Eric carefully got out of his bed, straightening his t-shirt a little as he did, and began to tiptoe out into the hallway. He wondered if anybody else had heard it. A quick observation sank this notion. To his left, Benjamin's door was partially ajar, and the sounds of his snoring came in loud and (annoyingly) clear. As Eric passed the door to his parents' room on the right, he took a quick peek in, and froze.
Where his father usually slept, the blankets had been carefully removed, leaving an empty space in the bed. His mother continued to sleep soundly, totally oblivious as of yet.
With a quick mental leap, Eric connected the empty half of the bed with whatever was making that humming.
As Eric moved on down the hall, he glanced toward the door of the basement, which was slightly open. From the darkness of the stairwell, the humming came in loud and clear.
Eric was just about to go downstairs, when he stopped.
Dad had said this was a secret side-project for TechnoCorp. Something that nobody except certain people should know about. Eric shouldn't be going down there. It just wasn't right to spy on people, especially when there was a corporate mega-business involved.
But then again, the way Dad had talked when Dr. Eckhardt had called–and the way he'd been acting recently–made it look like this wasn't something authorized.
No, Eric thought. Dad wouldn't do something illegal or anything. He's too good for that. He was almost disgusted that he would even dream of his Dad doing something like that.
But then again...
Oh, just go downstairs and see what it is already! Eric told himself.
And so, ignoring that still, small voice in his head, Eric went through the door and traversed the steps to the basement.
Across the room, the door to the walled-off area where Jonathan Colby often worked while on the mainland was slightly opened. A strange, swirling glow, came through the cracks, and the humming that had woken Eric in the first place was coming through it.
Eric tiptoed to the door, and, very carefully so as to avoid notice, peeked in.
A very peculiar scene lay before Eric's eyes. He'd never really imagined what his father's "lab" looked like, but the initial layout actually struck him as a little sparse. It was little more than a couple of tables with computers, printers, and a few books, mostly on computer programming.
A kind of tower, about four feet tall, stood near the center of the room. It was black and industrial-looking, with a transparent container mounted on top, within which was a thick, metallic-purple liquid, faintly glowing.
Eric had seen one of these before. It was a cygnium generator. Cygnium was one of TechnoCorp's latest innovations, an artificial substance that, when exposed to even a tiny charge of electricity, could generate a huge amount of power. It had been heralded as a great stride forward in humanity's search for an alternative fuel source, although it still had some problems that needed to be worked out. Namely, the fact that it was notoriously corrosive to anything not designed to contain or handle it properly. As such, it hadn't been officially put on the market yet, and Eric found himself wondering exactly how his father had gotten one into a suburban area.
But it was the device in the center of the room that captivated Eric's attention the most. It was a circular kind of dais about five feet in diameter and half a foot in height, hooked up by a tangle of wires to the cygnium generator. Two jointed rods rose six feet up from either side, each ending in a radar-like dish. And projected from these two rods was a strange, pulsating vortex that vaguely resembled the ripple a stone makes when it falls into water. It had an iridescence to it, like the faint rainbows you see in bubbles. In the center was a small but incredibly bright pinpoint of light, so bright that it hurt Eric's eyes when he looked directly at it. A dull, pulsating hum came from it, and now that he was closer, Eric could hear it loud and clear.
And standing nearby all of this was Jonathan Colby.
He was packing things into a backpack on the floor; a flashlight, granola bars, trail mix, and a few other items. He was wearing hiking boots and a jacket. On a table before him was a map with a set of complicated numerals scrawled over it, a laptop with a wire trailing to the device making the distortion, and a transparent vial containing a strange, orange colored liquid.
Having apparently finished his packing, Jonathan picked up the vial, straightened himself up and cleared his throat. He began talking softly, as though rehearsing a speech. Eric cracked open the door a little more and leaned in to hear.
"...your Highnesses, my name is Dr. Jonathan Colby. I come from a planet called Earth, and I am here to...to inform you of..." He frowned as though a thought had crossed his mind. He put the vial back on the table and checked something on the computer, then the map.
Apparently, he didn't like what he saw, and he shook his head. "No no no," he muttered to himself. "That's gonna put me right in the Everfree..." He leaned over the table and started peering closely at the map. "Gotta find the coordinates for–"
Jonathan yelped in alarm, gripping the table for support and looking around in brief terror before his eyes settled on Eric.
Okay, dumb move, Eric. Really dumb move.
"Eric?" His father croaked. "What..." His manner shifted from shocked to stern. "What are you doing here? And on a school night–"
"Dad..." Eric said, stepping into the room and pointing at the strange device. "What on Earth is that?"
But Jonathan was already beginning to herd him back through the door. "Eric, listen, now is not the time for–"
"Now, wait a minute!" Eric snapped, taking a step back. "Ever since you got back from Midnight Island, you've been acting really weird. You keep looking over your shoulder like somebody's following you. You keep getting weird packages in the mail, and you lock yourself down here all by yourself. Dad, we're worried about you! Mom's worried! Benjamin's worried! I'm worried! Now I come down here and you're making this..." he gestured at the distortion. "...this thing down here in our basement!"
He paused to catch his breath. Jonathan had gone silent and was looking down forlornly. Eric winced. He hadn't intended to yell like that.
"Dad...please," he continued. "Just tell us. What is going on here?"
Jonathan sighed. "I was going to tell you all...eventually. I...I just didn't want–"
A loud, repeated banging noise from outside interrupted him. It took a moment for Eric to realize that it was the sound of somebody knocking on the front door.
Jonathan pushed his way past him and went into the main basement. At the far end was a window that faced out into the front lawn. Jonathan pushed open the curtains slightly, and peered out towards the front of the house.
Suddenly, he leapt back and closed the blinds. His face was a visage of terror. "Oh, good Lord," he whispered. "They found me."
"What?" said Eric. "Whose found–"
"There's no time now," Jonathan said. He took Eric by the hand and led him back upstairs at a frantic pace, and Eric struggled to keep his footing as he followed.
As they stepped out of the stairway and into the living room, Sarah and Benjamin came down the hall, still clad in their pajamas and yawning. The knocking continued in the background.
"Jonathan?" Sarah asked. "What's going on? Who'd be at our house in the middle of the–"
She was cut off as Jonathan grouped her, Eric, and Benjamin together and nudged them toward the back door.
"Sarah, listen closely. I want you to take the kids to the shed in the backyard and stay there, you got that? Stay there. No matter what happens, don't come back in unless I tell you."
"Dad, are we having a break-in?" Benjamin asked nervously.
"Yes. No! I mean...just please go with your mother!" He opened the back door and pushed them outside onto the back porch.
"Jonathan, what's–" But he'd already shut the door.
Sarah took Benjamin's hand. "Come on," she said. "Let's get to the shed."
"Mom?" Benjamin asked. "What's going on? Why's Dad so scared?"
"I don't know, Benjamin, I really don't know." And with that, they stepped out into the backyard, and headed for the shed, Eric following close behind.
They were about twenty feet from the house when Eric stopped in his tracks. A thought had just crossed his mind.
A really, really stupid thought.
Whatever was going down inside was bad enough that he was sending the whole family to a place where they would–at least in theory–be safe. Somebody was coming after Jonathan Colby. Or maybe even the entire Colby family.
And Eric couldn't help but wonder: why? What was that thing that his father had built? Was it a company project? Did he steal it? What was making him so terrified?
And no matter how hard he tried, Eric couldn't shake off his desire to know.
Before he knew it, and much to the dismay of his better judgement, he had turned around and was creeping his way back to the house.
Eric Paul Colby, he told himself. You are an idiot.
Jonathan Colby's heart felt like it was going a million beats per minute. He wiped some sweat of his forehead as he kicked off the hiking boots and shoved them behind a couch in the living room, and hung his coat up on a nearby stand.
Hopefully they won't figure out too much, he thought to himself as he went down the small hallway that led to the front door.
He took a deep breath, braced himself, and opened the front door.
Three men stood just outside. The foremost of them was slightly shorter than the others with dark, close-cropped hair. Behind him was another man who looked like he was in his mid-twenties, and next to him was a man who might have been of Asian descent.
Jonathan knew them all in one way or another. They were all from TechnoCorp. The man at the front was Matthew Larson, from R&D. The other two he only knew vaguely, but he recalled their names were Weyland and Yutani, respectively.
"Hello, Matt," Jonathan said. "What's–"
"Where is it?" Larson responded.
Jonathan blinked. "Where's what?"
Larson glared at him, and took a slight step forward. "Come on, Jonathan, don't play dumb. You know. I know. And most importantly, Eckhardt knows."
Jonathan scanned Larson's companions briefly. Weyland was kind of looking down and shifting uncomfortably. Yutani kept looking over his shoulder at the roadway behind them.
"Look," Jonathan said. "I don't know why you're here, but it's the middle of the night, and I've kind of had a rough day." He began to shut the door. "If it's something we can talk about tomorrow..."
But Larson put his hand on the door and kept it propped open.
"Colby, you know full well what I'm talking about." He said irritably. "The sample. The one you stole from Project Amalthea. Where is it?"
"I would never steal–"
"Colby, listen. Just fork over the stupid thing, and we can all go home. No harm done. But if you keep up the denial act, then one of us is going to do something we'll all regret."
Jonathan bit his lip. "Is that a threat?"
"It might be. It all depends on what happens now, doesn't it?"
Jonathan paused. Then he sighed. "Alright. Come on in." He stepped back and let them into the house.
"Smart move," Larson said as he passed him. Jonathan just narrowed his eyes at him as he closed the door.
"It's in my room. Follow me."
The walk to the bedroom only took a few seconds, but to Jonathan's panicked mind, it felt like hours. When they finally got there, he crossed past his and Sarah's bed, and went to a set of drawers in the far left corner of the room.
He took one last, spiteful look at Larson, then opened the drawer, reached inside...
...and thanked God he'd had his license renewed as he pulled out a pistol from underneath a pile of socks, and aimed it at the trio.
Their eyes went wide, and they leapt back. Larson raised his hands in a defensive gesture.
"You didn't tell us he was going to have a gun!" Yutani said.
"I didn't think he'd–" Larson started to say.
"Shut up." Jonathan said firmly. He waited a moment before continuing, trying his best to stop his hands from shaking.
"Now, look. I don't know what Eckhardt told you, or what he's paying you to come over here, but I will not stand for this." He glared at Larson. "You and your lackeys are going to get out of my house, and leave me and my family alone." He raised the gun up slightly. "Do I make myself clear?"
Larson slowly nodded. "Alright, alright. You win." He relaxed his hands and went to straighten his jacket.
Except he didn't. Instead he reached underneath and grabbed at something. But Jonathan had already jumped over the bed and dove behind it before the first gunshot went off.
Doggone it, he should've figured they'd be armed!
He bolted out of the room and slammed the door shut behind him. Not that he expected it to do any good, but at least it would buy him a few precious seconds.
He ran down the hallway into the living room, and then ducked behind a couch–
–only to find himself staring face to face with an equally surprised and panicked looking Eric.
"Eric?!" He hissed. "What are you doing here?!"
"I'm sorry, Dad, I–" They were both interrupted as a volley of gunshots rang out, and pieces of wood exploded from the walls behind them. Some picture mounted overhead was hit, and glass shards rained down from the broken frame.
Jonathan peeked up slightly, and he saw that the three were standing right underneath the fold-out door to the attic.
He aimed his gun at the latch on the door and fired. The latch burst off, and the door swung down into the hallway, knocking the assailants backwards onto the floor.
As he paused to catch his breath, Jonathan realized that there was no way his original plan could possibly work now. He'd have to do something different.
He looked over to Eric. He hated to go this way with all his heart, but there was no choice now if he ever wanted to stop all this...
Jonathan grabbed Eric's shoulder. Eric stared back with fearful eyes. "Eric, I want you to listen to me. I'm going to stay up here and cover you. I want you to go downstairs and take that vial. The one with the orange fluid. Go through the portal, and don't stop until you get to the nearest town. Don't be afraid of what you see. Just ask for–"
Suddenly, Larson's voice, angry and terrifying, rang out. "Don't just lie there! Get up and help me!"
"Go, Eric! Now!"
To his credit, Eric ran forward with no hesitation. Jonathan watched him bolt across the living room and disappear down the stairs to the basement.
At that moment, the three had finally gotten themselves back up. "Stop him!" Larson cried. But before he could cross to the door, Jonathan fired a couple of shots at him, and he leapt backward.
Jonathan ducked as the other two returned fire. Hopefully, he could buy Eric enough time to get through.
It was all up to him now.
Eric, what have I gotten you into?
The sound of guns rang in Eric's ears as he descended down the steps and ran across the basement. At this point, he was seriously regretting coming back into the house. He should've just done the smart thing and stayed outside.
But he couldn't just abandon his father at this point. If he wasn't so panicked, and the situation less extreme, he might have questioned him, tried to reason why, but there was no time for that anymore.
Eric burst into the lab. The portal was still there, casting its strange light and pulsating hum.
Eric went to the table and picked up the vial. Inside, the orange liquid sloshed around and seemed to glow faintly now that he looked at it closer. Pasted on the side of the vial was a label: PROJECT AMALTHEA – Iteration 045. 08/03/2017. Status: FAILURE. Reserved for Archival Purposes Only. And above that was the black and white logo for TechnoCorp's Research and Development division.
A shout from Larson upstairs pulled Eric out of his observations. He could hear the three intruders rushing their way down the stairs. They would be on him in a moment.
Eric took one last glance at the swirling portal. He took a deep breath, wondered for the umpteenth time what he'd gotten himself into, and stepped through.
He was already gone by the time Larson and his cronies entered the lab.
Larson stared slack-jawed at the portal. "Colby, you son of a..."
"He built his own!" Yutani said. "How'd he get the stuff to build his own?!"
"We can worry about that later," Larson snapped. "Let's just get the kid, get the sample, and beat it before someone calls the cops." He stepped towards the portal.
"Leave him alone!" came Jonathan's voice from upstairs.
"Don't just stand there, go after him!" Larson barked. Weyland and Yutani each took a breath, and rushed through the swirling vortex.
An instant later, Jonathan came barreling through the door of the basement, and looked on in horror as he saw the intruders entering the portal.
"NO!" He fired a wild volley of shots at Larson, who managed to duck behind the cygnium generator. The tank on the top of the generator suddenly burst wide open, and Larson leapt back as the sludge-like material spilled out onto the floor, hissing and beginning to steam as it made contact and began to corrode through it. He heard Colby yell something indistinguishable, and turned and saw the portal beginning to flicker and shrink. Without its power supply, the whole thing would shut down in a few moments
He leapt through it and was gone.
Jonathan rushed forward, praying he could get to it in time before it closed.
But even as he reached the projection platform, the portal shrank, grew dim, and then finally winked out altogether.
Jonathan sank to the floor and put his head in his hands. This was all wrong. It wasn't supposed to go like this. Nobody was supposed to know, let alone get hurt. Especially not his own son. How had things gone so horribly, horribly wrong?
He didn't know how much time had passed before Sarah came back in. He didn't even hear her. He barely registered her presence. He just kind of knew she was there.
"Jonathan...where is our son?"
He looked up at her, staring blankly with tear-filled eyes.
"I'm sorry...I'm sorry..."
Eric had expected to simply step through the portal and emerge at wherever it lead to. It had always looked so easy in the movies he'd seen.
This was nothing like that. The instant he stepped in, he was yanked through, practically off his feet, as though an invisible hand had grabbed him and pulled him inside. The trip lasted a little less than a second, but it was an incredibly chaotic second. All of Eric's senses seemed to go wild at once, and it felt like everything was being pushed far beyond its capacity. There was too much light, too much color, too much noise, too much of some feeling that Eric had no idea how to describe...
And then it was over, and Eric found himself thrust forward, struggling to keep his balance and skidding to a halt. He panted and fought to catch his breath as he took a look at his surroundings.
He was in some kind of forest, he was certain of that much. It was night, and he could see a moon, hauntingly similar to the one every human knows well, shining its white light through the canopy. The tree trunks around him were twisted and gnarled, like something out of a fantasy novel. In the darkness, Eric couldn't tell if they were a species familiar to him, or something alien.
The sounds of shouting from the portal cut his observations short. Eric adjusted his grip on the vial, and took off running again, trying to pick his way carefully over the twisted roots that occasionally jutted up from the forest floor. He looked over his shoulder to see if he was being followed...
...and tripped over a root. He stumbled and landed hard on his side. There was a crunch, and Eric felt a sharp, ripping pain in his arm, and a stinging sensation that didn't help much. He gritted his teeth and strained to not let out a scream. Which, given the sheer amount of pure agony in his arm, was not an easy thing.
Eric turned his arm around to get a good look at the wound. And when he saw it, he almost did let out a scream.
The vial had been crushed under his weight when he fell, and the shattered glass had slashed the entire underside of his arm. There were still a few shards embedded in the wound, which was bleeding the most amount of blood Eric had ever seen at any one time. And to make things worse, whatever was in that vial had been smeared into the wound, the orange liquid mixing with his blood.
But before Eric could begin to worry about what that might mean, he felt something grab him by the back of his shirt, force him onto his feet, and slam him against a nearby tree trunk. The next thing he knew, his line of sight was flooded by flashlights, gun barrels, and Larson's face.
"Where is it?" Larson snarled.
But Eric was in too much fear and pain to form a straight answer. "Wha–what do you–?"
"Is it a family tradition to play dumb or something?" He pushed Eric up against the tree, jamming his gun right under his chin. "That sample! The one your Benedict Arnold of a father forked over to you! Where is it?"
"Uh, Matt?" Yutani said. He was aiming his flashlight at the shattered vial on the ground.
Larson backed away from Eric and bent down over it. "Keep him there," he said to Weyland, who angled his gun at Eric's chest.
Larson scrutinized the remains, then swore under his breath "...must've broken it when he fell." He looked back up at Eric, then narrowed his eyes as he noticed the slash on his arm. He roughly grabbed it and lifted it up to see, ignoring Eric's pained wincing.
"Oh, great..." He said as he released Eric's arm and stepped back. "It got smeared right into the wound. It must've gotten right into the bloodstream."
"What version was it?" Weyland asked.
"I don't know! One of last year's, I think."
"So..." Yutani started. "Does that mean the kid's gonna....you know?"
Larson shook his head. "I don't know. And frankly, I could care less. At least nobody's going to find it."
"Wait," Eric said nervously. "What was that? What's it gonna–"
"Will you shut up, kid?!" Larson snapped.
"Matt?" Weyland asked. "Do you want me to, uh..." he pointed at his gun, and then to Eric. "I mean, it'd be a lot less painful than–"
Larson waved his hand. "Do what you want to, I really don't care."
Eric was about to protest, when, from somewhere off in the distance, came a loud, mournful-sounding howl. The kind of howl a wolf would make.
The others heard it too, and their mannerisms changed in a heart-beat. They all froze in fear and aimed their guns at the surrounding foliage.
"Are those..." Yutani started.
Larson nodded grimly. "Timberwolves."
"Aw, snap..." Weyland said, his voice quivering.
Larson glared at him. "Keep it together."
"No, seriously, they told me about these things. I do not want to meet–"
Suddenly, Yutani began to scream, wildly pointing ahead. In the darkness, Eric couldn't see it quite clearly, but he saw that what had appeared to be a nearby bush was now rising up on four legs. As it rose up, Eric saw a large, wolf-like head come forward, silhouetted in the moonlight. Two green eyes glowed in their sockets, and it opened its maw to reveal a terrifying display of sharp teeth.
Yutani aimed his gun at the wolf-thing's chest and fired rapidly. Splinters burst off in all directions, but it only seemed to annoy the thing. With a deafening roar, it lunged forward, clamped its jaws over Yutani's arms, gun and all, and in one smooth motion, dragged him back into the underbrush.
Weyland lost it completely, turning tail and charging off into the forest with a terrified yell. Larson turned and called after him.
"Weyland! Weyland, get back here, you idiot!"
Eric saw his chance. Clutching his wounded arm, he turned away from the scene and ran off, praying that he would be overlooked in the confusion.
He got about forty feet or so away before the first barrage of bullets sailed over his head. Eric ducked behind a tangle of roots, and peeked over. Larson was aiming his gun at his direction, and Eric lowered himself when he fired another volley.
"Get back here!" He shouted. "I don't care if you're gonna die in a few minutes, I want–"
From somewhere behind him, two gunshots rang out. Then they heard Weyland's scream echoing through the forest. And then nothing more.
Larson turned back, and was about to fire again when a large, dark shape dropped out of the canopy and pinned him to the ground. Eric suddenly realized that one of the wolf-things had been waiting in the tree the whole time.
But Larson wasn't quite finished yet. He struggled under the wolf-thing's weight, punching at its head and shouting and cursing at it.
Then the wolf-thing bit down on his right arm as he tried to let loose with another punch. There was a crunching noise so loud that Eric could hear it from where he was, and then Larson was screaming, the most agony-filled scream Eric had ever heard in his life, while the man's arm dropped limply to the ground.
The wolf-thing bent its head down and grabbed what Eric assumed was Larson's head. It bit down again–
–there was another crunch–
–and Larson's screams cut off abruptly, his remaining intact limbs joining the first in limpness.
Then the wolf-thing stepped away from its kill and looked right at Eric. It was only then that he realized it's eyes lacked pupils or any features of any sort. They were just twin abysses of glowing green light, staring right through him.
Eric turned and ran, faster than even when Larson and the others were chasing him, faster than he ever had in his whole seventeen years of existence. He didn't even know where he was running anymore. He didn't even know where to run in this God-forsaken nightmare of a place. He just ran, ducking under branches and leaping over roots, trying his best to put as much distance between himself and the wolf-things.
In his mind, he could still hear the terrified screams of Larson's companions, and of Larson himself, and the howling of the wolf-things, and the sickening crunch of flesh and bone. He couldn't shake it out of his head, no matter how hard he tried. He felt sick to his stomach, like he was going to throw up.
Except it wasn't just that, he realized, and he began to slow down as the thought hit him. This was more than just mere nausea. It was a churning, heaving feeling in his stomach. And he was hot, too. Not just sweaty from running, but hot, like a fever.
And his arm wasn't just stinging anymore. Now it was burning, like someone had lit it on fire. The pain was spreading now, down his arm and into his shoulder, his torso, his chest...
Eric fell to his knees, the pain ever increasing until every single cell in his body was flooded with agony. Now he began to feel himself...changing. Warping. Like every part of him was shifting in ways that human beings were never intended to go. His muscles seemed to cramp and go taut, like a rope being stretched to the snapping point. His bones felt like they were all being shattered all at once. His eyes felt like they were being grabbed by white hot tongs and stretched in all directions. He began to see stars, practically going blind. Through whatever vision he still had left, he saw the fingers of his hands begin to crumple like cardboard and shrink back into his palms...
And now he really did scream, a scream so loud that it must've been heard through the whole of this alien forest. He didn't even think that the wolf-things might hear him, and come down to devour him. Or maybe they were, and he just couldn't tell it apart from everything else because the pain was everywhere, flooding his body, his mind, everything he was...
When Eric Colby went senseless and blacked out–or maybe he'd died, he honestly didn't know–he couldn't have been more grateful.
In her little apartment above the bakery, Pinkie Pie suddenly bolted upright in her bed. She rattled and vibrated like an alarm clock on steroids. The floor shook like a tectonic plate at world's end. Personal wares fell off tables, and pictures slid off the walls and crashed to the floor. Gummy stared at her in an expressionless, concerned manner.
Mr. and Mrs. Cake, their manes disheveled and bags under their eyes, burst through the apartment door and did a froze at what they saw.
"Pinkie!" Mrs. Cake cried. "Are you alright?! What is it?!"
"IIIIIIIIIIIIIT'S TTTTTTTHHEEEEEEEE DDDDDDDDOOOOOOOOOOOZZZZZZZZZYYYYYY!!!!!" Pinkie managed to squeeze out.
And then she just stopped, as though someone had flicked a switch in the back of her brain. The vibrating ceased entirely. The room stopped shaking. There was a calm, awkward silence.
"Well, that's that, I guess," Pinkie said with a shrug. And with that, she dove back under her covers and got comfortable. "Good night!" She called out before instantaneously falling asleep.
Mr. and Mrs. Cake just stared at each other, thoroughly and utterly confused.