Sea Swirl’s bedroom was full of surfboards, swimming gear, and various other knick-knacks from her time living by the coast. She glanced at a photograph of herself receiving a trophy for winning a wave-surfing competition in her teenage years, and it made her miss her old self. As she climbed out of bed, her huge, heavy tail dragged the blanket onto the floor. She reflexively focused her magic into her horn to lift it up... only to remind herself that she didn’t have a horn anymore.
She had agreed to meet Sassaflash at the bowling alley today. Her house was right next to the river that weaved through Ponyville, and when she stepped outside, she realised she hadn’t tried swimming yet. Curiously, she dipped a slippery, scaly, pinkish-lilac paw into the river. It still felt cold, but the temperature didn’t bother her nearly as much as it did when she was a pony, and she would do anything to get away from this dry air. She took a deep breath and dived in.
Once she was immersed in the water, she realised that she didn’t need to hold her breath at all; she must’ve had hidden gills. She’d have to research her new form later. She breathed out and gleefully watched the bubbles pop as they rose to the surface. All her worries melted away as she swam as smoothly as a knife through butter and as gracefully as an ice skater. Water was always her element, but now she felt like she had become one with it.
...And then she remembered that she was supposed to go to the bowling alley.
Sea Swirl dragged her body onto land next to a bridge. As she clumsily walked towards the bowling alley, she observed the citizens of Ponyville going about their day. Cherry Berry was still selling cherries in the market, even though Sea Swirl wasn’t sure if anypony could eat them now. A lime green cat who she assumed was Lyra Heartstrings was busking, passionately singing a ballad as she strummed her lyre with her paws. Just a few days after an unexplained catastrophe, life went on.
“You set ‘em up, I knock ‘em down!” exclaimed Sassaflash as she kicked the bowling ball down the alley. Waiting for Sea Swirl to show up was so boring that she'd started bowling without her.
“YES!” she cheered as her ball scored a strike. She went to collect her next ball, when she felt a chill as her hoo- paws touched another pair of paws. They were dark blue, and belonged to a light blue fox-thing she sort-of recognised, who pulled the light blue bowling ball onto the floor and rolled it around like a cat playing with yarn.
“I wonder why these balls have holes in them?” asked the light blue one, and a realisation clicked into place.
“White Lightning!” exclaimed Sassaflash. “Long time no see!” The last time they’d spoken to eachother was at the last Winter Wrap-Up. Had it really been that long?
“Sorry,” White Lightning giggled sheepishly. “I've been busy.” She sat down and scratched behind her ear with her hind leg.
“So have I,” replied Sassaflash.
“I wonder when the Weather Factory will be active again?” asked White Lightning. “It's been awfully dry lately, and I'm starting to miss Cloudsdale.”
Sassaflash's eyes widened. “About that...” She told White Lightning about the gruesome scene she saw on the first day.
White Lightning gasped. "I have a young cousin who lives in Cloudsdale. Do you think she's...?" She started to cry, and her tears instantly froze into tiny ice crystals.
“I... don't know,” was all Sassaflash could say.
“Is there anypony in Ponyville who could... Check...?”
“Probably not,” Sassaflash said bluntly. “At least, not anypony...”
“Yeah,” said Sassaflash, trying to lighten the mood. “Sea Swirl told me that only ponies turned into these weird fox/dog/cat/rabbit-things. Not to mention, most of Cloudsdale isn't... Is still alive.”
“So what are they?”
Just then, Sea Swirl arrived.
“Hi!” exclaimed Sassaflash. “We were just talking about what everypony turned into. Say, have you seen any-ex-pony come down from Cloudsdale?”
“I haven’t,” replied Sea Swirl. “Cloudsdale has moved north over the past few days.”
“Come to think of it, if the ponies of Cloudsdale probably turned into things that could fly, why didn’t we?” asked Sassaflash.
“Maybe it’s based on our colours?” suggested White Lightning.
“Nah, I don’t think so,” replied Sassaflash. “Otherwise, I’d look like you.”
“I thought you were mint green,” replied White Lightning. “Maybe it’s based on our cutie marks, then? Yours was a pair of lightning bolts, and Sea Swirl’s was a pair of dolphins.”
“But your cutie mark had nothing to do with snow,” said Sea Swirl. “I think that-”
“My cutie mark wasn’t just about lightning,” White Lightning interrupted. Sassaflash remembered that it was a dark cloud with a thunderbolt. “It was about weather in general, and that includes snow.”
“Good point, but you didn’t let me finish,” said Sea Swirl through gritted teeth. “I think that it’s random, and Sassaflash and I are lucky that our transformations related to our desires.”
“What makes you think that?” asked White Lightning.
“Remember Rainbow Dash?” asked Sassaflash rhetorically. Sea Swirl frowned at the interruption. “Flying was her favourite thing in the world, and she became a fish-dog-fox-thing.”
White Lightning giggled, and Sea Swirl sighed. “Fish-dog-fox-thing?”
“What! Can you come up with a better name?” asked Sassaflash. She turned to Sea Swirl. “You’re a biologist! Think of one of those fancy scientific names!”
“Let me think...” said Sea Swirl. “Despite her morphological differences, our species all seem to be related, so I would classify them in the same genus. Off the top of my head... I’d call myself Xenovulpes lepidocyon, you X. brontodromeus, and White Lightning X. cryoderma.”
Sassaflash didn’t have a clue what any of that meant. “What?”
“The genus is the first part of the binomial name,” said Sea Swirl. “Xenovulpes means ‘strange fox’. Lepidocyon means ‘scaled dog’, brontodromeus means ‘thunder runner’, and cryoderma means ‘cold skin’.”
“Hey!” complained White Lightning. “I’m not that cold.”
“Thanks,” replied Sassaflash calmly.
“Anyway, I know this sounds like it doesn’t make sense,” said White Lightning, “but I think we’re all the same species.”
“Really?” Sea Swirl asked in disbelief.
“Yeah. The other day, I saw this kit who was overjoyed, like he’d just earned his cutie mark,” said White Lightning. “The sun was shining down, and suddenly, he turned into a purple cat! Since the kits used to be foals, it’s only logical that they’d be able to grow up to be like any of us.”
Sea Swirl frowned in a way that Sassaflash recognised as her "I don't really believe you, but I don't want to be rude, so I'll pretend to think about it" face. “I’ll have to look out for it.”
“Anyway, let’s get back to bowling!” exclaimed Sassaflash. First it was White Lightning’s turn, and she gently rolled the ball forwards, but it curved to the side and only knocked over a few pins at the edge. Then it was Sea Swirl’s turn, and she placed the ball on the floor and swung her tail back and forth, until she precisely whacked it forwards and earned herself a strike.
Finally, it was Sassaflash’s turn. She kicked the ball forwards in the same way she’d done before, but this time it rolled straight into the gutter. It was probably a fluke, so she tried again... and got the same result. What was she doing wrong this time? Enraged, electricity sparked throughout her body, and she prepared to run forwards...
...When a high-pressure jet of water smacked her in the side and knocked her over. “What was that for?” she yelled, and looked over to see that Sea Swirl was the culprit.
“I needed to stop you from getting out of control!” growled Sea Swirl.
“You’re the one who’s out of control!” exclaimed Sassaflash. Her fur stood on end, and she sent out a spray of electrified needles towards Sea Swirl... only this time, it was on purpose. Sea Swirl yelped in pain as she was knocked to the ground. Everypony else in the building gasped.
“CUT IT OUT! BOTH OF YOU!” yelled White Lightning, breathing out a blast of cold air. “Why are you fighting?!”
“I... don’t... know,” panted Sea Swirl weakly. “Maybe... it’s a new... instinct.”
“Sorry,” sighed Sassaflash. “You’re right. If you hadn’t stopped me, I would’ve destroyed the whole bowling alley.”
“And I hate to see friends fight,” sighed White Lightning. “Ever since this transformation plague, ponies have been becoming more and more bitter. Please, promise me that you two won’t destroy Equestria.”
Sea Swirl nodded. “We won’t.”
“And I’ll try my best to fix things!” exclaimed Sassaflash.