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 5: Strange New World
The first thing Eric Colby heard when he came to was his ragged, hoarse breath, and the sound of his heart beating inside his chest, muffled and sounding like a far-away drum. The first thing he felt was a light breeze against his face, and the feel of dirt and leaves and hard roots beneath his cheek.
The first thing he thought was, I'm still alive.
Alive. Still alive. He was aching all over the place, and in ways that he didn't think it was possible to ache in before, but at least the horrible, fiery agony he had felt previously was gone. And he was still alive.
And now he remembered the ordeal that he had just experienced; His father's experiment in the basement, the sounds of gunfire, the overwhelming sensation of going through the portal, the wolf-things...
Eric snapped his eyes open, looking frantically around for any sign of those creatures. To his great relief, there were none in sight. Just the same, creepy, dark forest that he had found himself in.
He mentally sighed in relief, and lifted his head up for a better look. But he soon realized something was wrong. He could only lift his neck so far before it was stopped by the back of his shirt collar. And the front of his shirt felt...torn, as though it had somehow shrunk on him. In fact, both his shirt and pajamas now felt far too small for him.
As the panic of constriction began to set in, Eric touched his chest with a hand. It took only a second for him to confirm that his shirt had been torn somehow.
It took only slightly longer for him to realize that he wasn't feeling with his hands anymore.
He glanced down, and stared in horror at what he saw. What used to be his right arm was now a limb covered with short, pale green fur, terminating in a flat, circular end that was lined with a sort of semi-circle of some kind of hard, bone-like substance.
Oh, good Lord...is that a...?
It was a hoof. On what used to be his right arm. He lifted up his left arm, and found it to be a perfect duplicate. He rubbed a hand–or hoof, rather–across his chest, feeling the same kind of soft, almost cat-like, fur all along it and up his neck.
Eric went into a full-on panic, kicking and squirming in an attempt to free himself of his now ill-fitting pants and shirt. The shirt ripped down the front quite easily, and after a moment's more of kicking, he managed to free his legs (which felt oddly bent forward at where his knees ought to have been) from his flannel pajama pants, the latter tearing as he did so.
Now free, Eric dragged himself forward from the shredded fabric on his new front legs, and made an effort to push himself into a standing position. But his legs only seemed to get about an arm's length off the ground before it felt like they couldn't go any farther, and he ended up slipping and falling back onto the ground with a hard thud.
Confused, Eric looked over his shoulder, and to his growing horror saw that his legs were almost identical in shape and length to what his arms and hands had become, save for a forward bend where his knees would have been. Behind that, he saw a drooping, dark mass that looked like some kind of tail.
Four legs...I'm on four legs... Eric thought.
He was now beyond mere panic, or even ordinary horror. Eric Colby was now entering a realm of terror only experienced by an unfortunate few.
What's happened to me?! What am I?!
He gradually became aware of the sound of trickling water nearby. Turning to face the sound, he saw a small brook a few yards away from where he was, leading into a small pond surrounded by trees and other vegetation.
Eric did his best to stand up, and part-walked, part-dragged, part-stumbled his way over to the water. He was almost afraid to look at his reflection and see what his face had morphed into.
Finally he reached the water's edge, and, steeling himself for what he would find, leaned forward over the water.
It was partially distorted by a gentle rippling on the surface, and the night's darkness didn't help much either, but Eric could still see it clearly enough. A rounded, green-furred face with almost ridiculously large, brown-colored eyes stared back at him. The mouth and nostrils rested on a short muzzle that extended a little ways in front of the face. Dark, messy brown hair rested atop the head, and two triangular ears stuck out from behind and above the eyes.
Eric's jaw slowly dropped. The reflection's did the same.
Eric's thoughts came to a screeching halt when a second pair of eyes, small, yellow, and reptilian, snapped open beneath those of the reflection and glared up at him. Eric leapt back in fear with a yelp.
It turned out to be his saving grace. Almost as soon as he did so, the water before him seemed to explode upward, showering him with generously large splashes. A huge, crocodilian head sprang up, and snapped it's massive, tusked jaws on a patch of air where his neck might have been a few seconds before. With nothing in it's clutches, the animal quickly descended back into the waters from whence it came.
But Eric only stuck around for it's initial lunge before he–quite literally–turned tail and bolted off further into the depths of the forest, dodging around tree trunks and over protruding roots and stones, screaming his lungs out all the while.
It was about a minute before he finally skidded to a halt and sat down on his haunches, panting for breath and shaking like a leaf, his throat hoarse.
Please don't follow me, he prayed. Please, please don't, I'm not worth your time, I'm already having a bad enough night...
He finally worked up the courage to look behind him. To his great relief, the crocodile hadn't left the comfort of its pond to pursue him.
Eric breathed a sigh of relief and slumped forwards onto the ground, and for a time just lay there, silently listening to his heartbeat slowing back to its normal pace.
When he had calmed down, he looked down at his newfound hooves and turned his mind back to the cruel new reality before him. He lifted one leg up and examined his hoof, still in disbelief that it belonged to him
But then he realized that at least he had managed to outrun that crocodile, or whatever it was. It seemed ironic, considering how he had staggered and stumbled around before getting that sudden motivation to really move. His legs seemed to be a decent length; apart from the obvious, they didn't feel malformed, or of mismatched sizes. Eric felt reasonably sure that he could get the hang of moving around.
As he looked over his hoof, he noticed something else; his vision had grown suddenly clearer. He'd needed glasses since he was twelve, and his vision was uncomfortably blurry without them. He must have forgotten to put them on when he went down to the basement, but now he appeared to have twenty-twenty vision again.
Eric looked around the labyrinthine, almost jungle-like forest around him, taking a moment to appreciate his restored vision. He couldn't remember the last time he had been able to see normally.
So at least there were some plus-sides to his situation. He could see. He could hear. And perhaps most importantly, he could run if he so needed.
But it's not me, he thought dejectedly. This isn't my body. This isn't what I'm supposed to be. I'm... he found he couldn't get the sentence out even in the privacy of his own thoughts. ...I'm not human anymore.
As soon as he thought that, Eric felt his chest tighten and his eyes beginning to water up. He blinked and shook his head, trying to shake it away.
No. You can't break down now. This isn't the time for that. If you start now, you're never going to be able to stop, and then something will hear you...
But no matter how hard he scolded himself, he couldn't shake the feeling away, and that thought kept echoing through the walls of his mind.
He wasn't human. Not anymore. The Eric Colby who had existed for up to seventeen years earlier was gone.
Not human anymore.
And that begged the question...what was he now?
Eric looked down at the forest floor below, poking and shifting through leaf litter before finding a small, relatively smooth stick on the ground. He bent down and clenched it in his teeth (he made a note to get used to doing that), and, after clearing out some leaves, began to draw a sketch in the dirt of his newfound form. He would stop occasionally, looking himself over to see if he got things right.
When he had finished, he stepped back and looked at his crude drawing. The proportions were far from normal, but only the greatest of fools would have not recognized the basic silhouette instantly; the hooves, the mane, the tail...
He was a horse. A green-furred, wide-eyed, four-and-a-half-foot tall horse.
It seemed incredibly out of place in a time like then, but now a feeling of embarrassment was beginning to creep over Eric. Why did it have to be that, of all things?
Eric lifted a foreleg to do a facepalm (or facehoof, rather), but he stopped when his hoof hit something on his forehead with a dull thud.
Eric froze. Oh, please, no...
Slowly, he began to move his hoof upward along the lower side of the thing. There was no fur at all up there, just something hard that reminded him a little of smoothed wood in texture, with spiraling grooves in it's surface. It felt cylindrical in shape as he felt at it more.
And by the time his hoof reached the small, curved front end, Eric had deduced what it was. And what that made him, by extension.
You have got to be kidding me.
Eric huffed air through his nostrils as he begrudgingly picked the stick back up in his mouth, bent back down to his sketch, and added in the new part.
Eric spat out the stick and took a second look at the drawing.
He had a horn. A cone-shaped, spiral-grooved horn on his forehead, sticking out through his brown mane.
"Great," he muttered. "That–that's just perfect. A million and one creatures in the universe I could have been mutated into, and I get turned into a FRIGGIN' UNICORN!!!"
The sound of his outburst resounded through the forest, echoing until it faded. A small animal, unseen in the darkness, darted through the nearby brush with a frightened squeak. Somewhere off in the distance, a flock of birds took flight from the canopy.
Eric threw his hooves over his mouth, his eyes going wide as he realized that he'd probably let every single predator in this God-forsaken place know where he was. He looked around in frantic terror.
Oh snap oh snap oh snap I didn't mean to yell please don't eat me please don't eat me...
After almost two minutes went by with no signs of ravenous killer wolf-monsters, Eric finally began to calm down a little. But he was still very much on edge.
He had to get out of this place. He had to get out of this nightmarish forest and find somewhere safe...if safe was even a thing here.
As he thought about what to do next, he suddenly remembered his father's words back in the living room, before everything had gone haywire.
Get to the nearest town, he had said. Don't be afraid of what you see. Just ask for...
He hadn't gotten to elaborate on "who". A contact? Was there somebody here who could help him? And where was this town? Was it far? Was Eric even in the right spot?
He was sure of one thing, though; he wasn't going to get any answers if he just sat here feeling sorry for himself.
Eric pushed himself off the ground and stood up. He decided the first thing he would have to manage was walking; his little sprint from the crocodile had been on pure, terrified instinct, but he wanted to be absolutely sure he could maneuver without stumbling over his own legs.
Once he was on his hooves, Eric took a few experimental steps forward, and then took a few steps backward, trying his best to remember every animal documentary he could think of for reference. He did this for about a minute or so before he found a gait that he was both comfortable with and that he felt was proper for a four-legged creature. After that, he practiced turning, sitting, and other various leg-related movements until he felt like he had gotten the hang of it.
When he was finished, he sat down on the ground. Beams of moonlight filtered through gaps in the canopy, illuminating his green-furred body.
He began to think that maybe the coloration wasn't so bad after all. Given that the vegetation here seemed to be similar to what he was used too, he figured that at the very least his fur could provide some half-way decent camouflage. He wasn't too sure about the brown mane and tail, though, and he decided to check to see if the darker colors might give him away.
And it was when he turned to look over his shoulder at his tail that he saw it.
On the upper part of his right hind leg, just a little ways away from the base of his tail, was an orange-colored circle, with four yellow, curved lines, like the blade of a scythe, rising away from the circle, growing smaller as they went out, with four yellow spots in the spaces between. It kind of reminded him of a star or a sun.
Eric stared at it uncomprehendingly.
He reached back with a front hoof and tried to wipe it away.
But it didn't come off. All Eric succeeded in doing was ruffling up the fur on that part of his leg.
It was with a kind of horrified embarrassment that he realized that that peculiar spot was a part of his body.
He checked his other side. It was there too, in the exact same spot.
Oh, perfect, he thought. Just great! So on top of everything else, I've got a big yellow spot on my...my...
For a moment, he struggled to find the right word. He didn't think that the seemingly obvious biological location was exactly the right name. He took a second to think over every nature documentary he'd seen, hoping to remember the term.
Flank, he suddenly realized. It's the flank. Not the...the rear-end, it's the flank. It's a part of the leg.
But that didn't help matters much. He still had that thing on him. Already he'd thought of a bunch of reasons why it was a bad thing.
First of all, it completely threw natural camouflage out the window as a survival option. Any creature with good eyesight would see it and go for it like it were a bullseye. And that was all Eric needed; for one of those wolf-things to eat him from the rear up while he waited for them to bite into something vital or to just bleed to death.
And secondly...it just looked dumb. His entire physical form was simply too ludicrous to be a plausible lifeform; he was a little green unicorn with a yellow sun mark on his flank. Any scientist worth their salt would have laughed at the notion of such a creature existing.
And yet, here he was.
This was just too much. Eric slumped to the ground and buried his face in the dirt, letting out a low, long, exasperated groan.
The sound of a wolf's howl suddenly echoed through the trees, and Eric leapt upright, startled. He frantically scanned the woods for a moment, then let out a small sigh of relief when he realized that the wolf was far away behind him.
Or is it in front of me? he wondered. Didn't I...no, that's behind me, that's where I came from. Good grief, it's like a maze here... He shook his head. No. Just focus on finding your way to this...this town that Dad mentioned.
Eric stood up and took a few deep breaths. You've got this, Eric. You may have been turned into probably the stupidest organism imaginable, but you've got this.
He took a step forward.
And soon enough, he was beginning his long trek through this strange, terrifying new world.
You can do this, Eric. No worries...
Approximately 3 Hours Later...
I'm completely lost, Eric thought miserably.
And it was true. He'd been walking straight ahead for three hours now, and there was no sign of the forest's end, let alone any indications of civilization. In fact, the place seemed to be getting worse the further he went; a light mist had begun to seep it's way through the trees ahead of him; not enough to critically hamper visibility, but it still made Eric uneasy.
And then his stomach had decided to pipe up and remind him of another problem with being stranded in this place: food. He hadn't eaten anything since he and his family had had dinner back home, and he hadn't even realized that he was starting to get hungry until his stomach began growling. So that was yet another problem on his already massive list of problems.
Eric winced as another rumble went off deep within his body. He stopped and sat down.
I've gotta find something...but what am I even supposed to eat now?
He took a look around. At the very least, this part of the forest didn't seem quite as menacing as it had before. There were no other creatures around save for a few fireflies (or something very like that; Eric wasn't sure) flitting about here and there. Eric couldn't help but feel a little comfort in the fact that not every lifeform here was out for blood, and even more in the soft, yellow light that the tiny insects gave off.
He eyed one as it flew close by his head and hovered their for a moment.
He leaned forward, opening his mouth just a fraction...
...and then thought better of it and stopped, dejectedly watching the firefly buzz off into the depths of the forest.
Eric shook his head and grimaced. His stomach may have been growling like crazy, but he wasn't that desperate.
Well, not yet, anyway.
Something went close over Eric's head with a loud whoosh, briefly blowing his newfound mane and fur. A red glow flashed across the ground where he stood, and then vanished. Startled, Eric whipped his head around, and his eyes widened at what he saw.
A large bird unlike any he had ever seen before alighted on the branch of a nearby tree, and stopped to take a look at the human-turned-horse. It was a fiery scarlet in color, with orange feathers interspersed throughout it's wings and trailing tail. It's eyes were twin voids of pure yellow, with no pupils or crisis to be seen. The whole animal gave off a soft, red glow that reminded Eric a little bit of firelight.
Eric stood there gazing at it, almost completely hypnotized by the sight. The bird stared back at him for a time, cocking its head this way and that. Then, having apparently grown bored, it unfurled its wings and took off into the air once more, leaving little dots of orange wake that might have been embers.
Eric continued to stare at it even as he began to walk again, turning his head back as far as he could to watch it while it flew away in the direction he had come from. Eventually, the strange bird faded into an orange glow as it disappeared into the mist, and then vanished entirely.
Still in awe, Eric returned his gaze forward...
...just in time to see the beginning of a cliff about two feet away from him.
Startled, he leapt backward, stumbling over his hooves and landing in a kind of awkward sitting position on the ground. As he caught his breath, he took in the scene before him.
The grassy floor of the forest turned into a rocky cliff that dropped down at a ridiculously steep angle, and disappeared into the mist far below. Eric cautiously peeked over the edge and found he couldn't see the bottom.
Oh, man...I almost went over that, he thought. A shiver went down his spine as he began to imagine what might have happened if he hadn't looked ahead when he did.
But then something caught his eye. Through the mist that masked the other side of the chasm, and behind a few trees that lined the edge of the other side, he could just make out several tall shapes poking out through the fog, looking as if they were made of stone. For just the briefest of instants, the mist swirled away enough for Eric to get a much better view of what it was.
It was a building.
For the first time all night, Eric felt something akin to hope. It was obviously a man-made structure of some sort. Well, perhaps not man-made, seeing how this world was populated by plant-wolf monsters and firebirds, but some sentient life anyway. Maybe he could find help of some sort.
Maybe he'd even find some food.
Eric looked up and down his end of the chasm, searching for any way across. He spotted the beginnings of what looked like a wooden bridge of some sort a little ways off to his right. He got up off the ground and headed towards it.
Eric took a moment to examine the bridge. It was one of those old, rope-and-plank looking things, covered in moss and lichen, but it seemed stable enough. Eric still felt a little uneasy all the same. He took a tentative step onto the first plank. To his relief, it held under his weight, with only a minor creaking as he stepped on it. Now a tad more confident, he began to walk across it to the other side.
But as he drew nearer to the building, his hopes began to fade. Vines and even whole trees grew out of holes in the walls and roof. Windows were nonexistent, leaving gaping, empty frames. Cracks lined the masonry. By the time Eric got to the other side of the bridge and stepped onto grass again, he'd realized that this whole place must have been abandoned for quite some time.
It was also a lot bigger than he expected, and he took a moment to try and take it all in.
The majority of the ceiling of at least the front seemed to have been destroyed, but what was left absolutely loomed over him. Two towers, one on each side of the structure, still stood tall against the night sky, casting ominous shadows on the ground in the moonlight. At the front, proceeded by a wide but short staircase, were two gigantic, wooden doors, adorned with what might have been brass, but now rusted to a dull brown.
It was a castle of some sort. Or the ruins of it anyway, like the ones you'd see in England or Scotland. Eric had never seen any of those in person, but he couldn't help but feel a sense of awe at this one.
Awe, and of course, the ever prevalent fear that had been in him since he'd first gotten here.
As Eric cautiously began to approach the huge structure, he wondered if this was how old Maurice had felt in Beauty and the Beast. He hoped to God that there weren't any sentient appliances and furniture, or a stuck-up-prince-turned-freak-of-biology.
He honestly didn't know which one would scare him more at this point.
Finally reaching those huge doors, he gave them a push with a hoof. They creaked open, and a little bit of dust and leaf litter fell on his head and into his hair, which he promptly shook out.
The room beyond started out as a kind of semi-circle, and then stretched out into a massive space which he assumed had once been the main hall. Tall columns of stone, some broken but all cracked in some way, stretched up to the ceiling. There were passageways lining the sides of the hall, and some had stairs going up to new heights or down to new depths. At the very far end, a double staircase led to a huge balcony, and behind that a tall space that had once held a window. Beside it were two faded and torn banners; one dark blue and bearing a moon symbol, and the other golden with a sun symbol.
But directly in front of Eric was something even stranger. A kind of dais sat in the center of the entrance-way, topped by a sort of pyramid that was in turn capped by a circular platform. And on the platform was a large, globe-like structure, covered in moss and roots. From beneath this globe stretched out long arms which ended in smaller platforms of their own.
Eric circled the odd structure, trying to make sense of it.
Some kind of elaborate candle holder? he wondered. Or maybe a model of their idea of the solar system? He noticed that it seemed like there was a kind of doorway below the structure, as though it could be retracted into the floor if needed.
His thoughts were interrupted when his stomach decided to politely remind him of the hunger that had gone overlooked in his observations.
Eric frowned. Food, or rather the lack thereof, was turning into his number one problem at the moment. He figured that if worst came to worst he could always eat the vines or the moss–he was a horse, or something like one, after all–but he still wanted to wait and see if he couldn't find something like fruits or vegetables. Somewhere.
He looked at the various passageways branching off from the hall, picked one close to him at random, and went through it. There was a short flight of stairs that led into a hallway that seemed to curve around the building the farther he travelled through it. Moonlight filtered in through a row of cracked and dirty windows to his left, the vines hanging across them casting weird shapes on his form as he passed them. Sometimes, he'd see little insects scattering across the floor and walls; centipedes and beetles mostly, but once he saw a spider that had a glowing blue star-like pattern on its abdomen. From outside came strange bird calls, owl-like hoots–and then the unmistakable howl of a wolf.
Eric froze in the middle of the hallway at that. He knew it was probably too far away to notice him, but he still got a shiver down his spine all the same, and struggled to not think to hard about Larson's head getting–
Eric shook his head frantically, trying to get rid of that gory image. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself down, and then continued.
A few minutes later, he noticed that one of the doors off to his right was knocked down. Curious, he peeked inside...
...and he and his growling stomach could almost not believe his eyes.
The room before him was vast, and the majority of the ceiling composed of what had once been a massive skylight. Little canals ran through the room, carrying water. Between these canals were rows and rows of rectangles dug into the ground and filled with dirt.
And growing out of that dirt were vegetables and fruit trees of every kind Eric could imagine. Well, at least they resembled vegetables and fruits that Eric could imagine.
But at that point, he was so hungry that caution was completely forgotten, and he bolted into the room and went for the nearest row of what looked like carrots.
He was actually salivating as he dug one out–and yes, it did look very much like a carrot, orange with a leafy top–and threw it onto the stone floor, blowing on it to get rid of as much dirt as he could.
And then came the moment of truth; he bent down, clasped the thing between his teeth, and chomped down.
The refreshingly familiar taste of carrot flooded his mouth.
That was all he needed. He rammed the thing further into his mouth with his forehooves and wolfed it down before he even realized it. Eric had never been much of a vegetable lover, but now as he spat out the leafy top and finished swallowing the stuff in his mouth, he was honestly just happy that he found anything at all.
He spent the next ten minutes or so going all through the garden room, digging up or picking whatever he felt like–carrots, strawberries, an apple or two–and devouring each with great vigor. He even took a few drinks from the canals, enjoying the cool taste of water going down his throat.
His hunger at last satisfied, Eric collapsed onto the ground and rolled onto his back, staring upwards at the ceiling. He felt himself actually giggling with joy a little, and a big, dopey grin was plastered on that equine face of his. Finding this garden was the only good thing that had happened all night.
The brief happy high faded as he looked up through the skylight. The moon was going down now, but it was still high enough to be visible through the broken skylight.
The arrangement of the craters were different, Eric noticed. The darker spots of the moon he knew–vast plains of lava that had cooled in ancient times–were absent in the celestial body that Eric saw. Even the night sky seemed different; the more he looked at it, the more he noticed that it held an odd, purplish-blue tint to it as opposed to the near black of the night sky he knew.
The possibility of Eric being on a completely different planet was becoming stronger and stronger the more he thought about it. He didn't feel a rush of panic as the thought seeped in; just a kind of resigned melancholy.
A yawn escaped his jaws, and Eric was suddenly aware of how thoroughly exhausted he was. He needed sleep...a lot of it.
Eric found a nice patch of plants that had some kind of berry he didn't recognize, and patted down several leaves into a sort of nest. Then he sat down and curled himself up as best he could.
Having settled himself down, Eric focused his remaining energy on forgetting his woes for the moment and getting some well needed rest.
It's going to be okay, Eric, he told himself. You're going to figure this all out. You're gonna make it, Eric.
It took him less than a moment to realize that he was just lying to himself.