The sunrise shone red and gold across a field of debris and rubble, which had until recently been the front lawn of a high school.
"How am I supposed to rebuild the whole front side of this school?" Sunset Shimmer wondered. "I don't even have a stonemason's license. Or a quarry. Or five hundred pounds of mortar..."
"What about replacement windows?" Pinkie Pie popped up behind her to say. "Don't you need really big expensive replacement windows to rebuild the demolished school, or everything you said you'd do to try to partly make up for the terrible stuff you did before, was just a lie?"
Sunset Shimmer groaned. "Not helping, Pinkie! If you're the Element of Laughter and fun parties, how can you be such a downer sometimes?"
Fluttershy said, "I agree! I never want to see another karaoke machine again. Especially not after that embarrassing moment when I was in the shower and suddenly the boys, the boys..."
Sunset gasped. "What did the boys do? Was it something terrible? Did they see you in the shower?!"
Fluttershy said softly, "...they...they could HEAR me. Singing a song. In the shower. It was so scary!"
"Oh, come on!" said Rainbow Dash. "I had such a cool idea for a prank, I HAD to...I mean, I am so sorry and I'll be so sorry forever that I let them hear your gorgeous singing voice when it was an invasion of your privacy like that. So very sorry. Did I mention I'm very sorry?"
"I was so upset, so embarrassed," Fluttershy said, "I felt like I wanted to just die."
"Suicide never helps all that much," Sunset Shimmer remarked.
Principal Celestia had just arrived behind the girls, and said, "I agree. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It's wise of you to understand that, Sunset Shimmer."
"Oh!" Sunset said. "I didn't know you were there. I suppose what you're saying is right, Principal Celestia. But that wasn't what I meant at all."
"It wasn't?" Celestia asked. "So what did you mean?"
"It all started when I was a student at Canterlot in Equestria," Sunset said. "I was a rebel, a bad girl, a..."
Pinkie Pie interrupted, "A calculated attempt by Hasbro to appeal to a new demographic, and to reassure parents afraid that their children might turn out to be dorky goody-goody nerds like Twilight Sparkle? No offense, Twilight."
"No offense taken," said Princess Twilight, who was trapped in the human world because the portal had been smashed into a lot of little pieces, which she and Sunset thought it might take weeks or months to find and put back together. "In the latest episodes of the show set in Equestria, I'm written as so totally neurotic that I can't even stand myself half the time I'm onscreen. It really makes me nostalgic for back when I stood up to everypony, when they all told me I was wrong to predict the return of Nightmare Moon. I was a total badass rebel, preparing to defeat an eldritch force from outer space when everypony said there was no hope of yada yada etcetera."
"Whatever that means," Vice-Principal Luna said.
"Let's get back to Sunset Shimmer," Twilight said. "Tell us about when YOU were a cool rebel in Equestria, Sunset."
"Sure!" Sunset said. "Much like you, Twilight, I wanted to investigate dark powers that maybe nopony was meant to know. So I sneaked a peek at the mirror of Erised."
"Erised?" Twilight said. "But isn't that in a different--"
"SO! The Mirror of Erised!" Sunset insisted. "I wasn't supposed to look at it. Nopony was supposed to be allowed to see it. But after a lot of rebellious bad girl stuff and sneaking around, I got into the Chamber of Forbidden Furniture and I looked right into it!"
"What did you see?" Fluttershy asked. "Was it scary?"
"Was it full of apples?" Applejack asked. "Sorry, I have to mention fruit at least once per full-length episode and multiple times in each movie. It's in my contract."
Sunset said dramatically, "I looked into the Mirror and I saw...myself."
Princess Twilight guffawed. "Well isn't THAT a surprise!"
"I saw myself...but different. I was still a unicorn. But I also had wings. And I was super buff too, like way strong and muscular! But the wings were what really caught my eye at first."
"So," Princess Twilight said, "You saw an alicorn. In the mirror. A mirror that you weren't supposed to look at because it was full of dark, evil magic or something like that I guess. So if you saw yourself as an alicorn THERE, what does that even mean? Might it be better just to forget about it?"
"I wasn't sure at first," Sunset Shimmer said. "All I knew at first was that I wasn't ever supposed to look at the mirror or look at myself in it. But later on, I experimented with divination spells."
"A lot of fillies experiment in magic high school, Sunset. I don't think any worse of you for it."
"Thank you, Twilight. In my divination spells, I saw other signs, other clues. It seemed the Mirror had been telling me something about myself, about my hopes, and about my potential. About a possible future that I might be able to reach someday, when my dreams would come true."
Pinkie gasped. "So someday you might really be really really buff AND all flighty?"
"Like super muscular?" Rainbow Dash asked, "Like chicks with dicks muscular, like when people don't want to have to choose between being one thing and another thing?"
"Yes, Rainbow," Princess Twilight said in a sarcastic tone, "that's EXACTLY what being an alicorn is like."
"I knew it!" Rainbow crowed. "Someday I want to go to Equestria and become a...never mind." She whispered, "(Maybe I'll tell you later.)"
"But AS I WAS SAYING," Sunset interrupted, "I was finding omens and portents that someday I might become a real alicorn. And the Mirror of Erised had helped me connect with that future. And some of the other magic I..experimented with...was also helping to connect me to that future.
"I never told you this, Twilight...but when I was a teenager in magic high school, I was different than I am now."
Twilight seemed to be restraining herself, but did say, "Well, I heard some stories about you, back in magic high school in Equestria. You were kind of notorious back there, being a bad girl and a rebel and so on..."
Pinkie laughed. "Sounds a lot like the Sunset Shimmer we all knew and hated in this world until last night, when Sunset totally reformed of course."
"In this universe," Sunset Shimmer said, "where we are now, where bizarre two-legged creatures live, I took out my anger and hatred and dark feelings on other people."
"Ain't that the truth!" Applejack said, and everyone else nodded.
"But back in Equestria," Sunset said, "I also took out my anger and hatred and dark nasty feelings on myself."
Applejack looked horrified. "Sunset, do you mean that as nasty and evil and downright no-good as you treated everybody here in our world, you treated yourself just as bad?"
"Well gosh," Applejack said, "Ah sure feel sorry for you. Here at Canterlot High, no matter how mean you were, at least we didn't have to spend twenty four hours a day with you. But if you treated yourself as bad as you used to treat everybody else...and you couldn't get away from that ever. Man, Ah sure do feel bad for you."
"Thank you. I REALLY AM trying to reform," Sunset said. "Applejack, I think you've just explained pretty well, how unpleasant it was to be me back when I was a moody self-hating teenager. It's no wonder that I committed suicide."
Everyone looked at Sunset like they were trying to figure out what she had just said. Finally Fluttershy said, "But, Sunset...you're alive. And we're very happy to have you here with us, alive. But it makes your story a bit confusing."
"It was when I was a student in magic high school, at the end of my freshman year," Sunset said. "I was so miserable. The more I made everypony else miserable, the more everypony seemed to hate me...I didn't see any hope. So I filled the bathtub with warm water, and I took a knife, and I ran the blade..."
Twilight interrupted, "We don't need any more details. Impressionable teenagers might be hearing this, and we don't want to give them too many ideas. So leaving out the graphic details, what happened next?"
"My blood was running out into the warm water like--"
"Fewer graphic details!" Twilight said.
"I was surrounded by a glow of light," Sunset said. "A portal to the future seemed to appear. I could see a shimmering, quivering image, like a reflection in a pond, but of my own future self, connected to me by magical energy. And if there's one thing you know about alicorns--"
"Chicks with dicks don't have to choose!" Rainbow said triumphantly.
Sunset said, "TWILIGHT, if there's one thing you know about alicorns and death?"
Twilight said, "Alicorns are practically immortal. Nopony knows if Princesses Celestia and Luna will ever even get old."
Vice-Principal Luna got an odd look on her face, perhaps as if she were suddenly wondering whether her entire universe had conspired with itself to completely short-change her.
"Alicorns are very, very hard to kill," Twlight said.
Sunset nodded. "So when I was dying, and everything was starting to go dark...everything suddenly came back. Unlike a NORMAL teenage unicorn who would have suffered a miserable, painful death, I saw my wounds just close up and heal in a glow of magical energy. It was like I'd never even tried to commit suicide at all."
Principal Celestia looked both serious and surprised, perhaps as if she were remembering a student in her own universe who hadn't been so lucky. "So, Sunset, when you said suicide never does any good..."
Sunset Shimmer said, "This is what I meant. When I was in magic high school, I tried suicide once, then a second time..."
Twilight confirmed, "I heard the stories, back in Equestria. The first time, with a knife. Next she tried to hang herself, three times. After that, she walked into a biker bar with a bucket of pink paint and said Barley Davidson bikes are for sissies..."
Sunset said, "I personally challenged an entire border battalion of Griffonstone griffon soldiers to single combat all at once."
"I never quite understood that one," Twilight murmured.
"I tried to drown myself. Did I ever mention that I can put heavy rocks in my pockets and walk around underwater for hours? Because I can. When I do, I just half-die and magically revive every thirty seconds or so."
"It's very disturbing to watch," Rarity said. "I saw her do it once on a Canterlot High field trip to the Baltimare Aquarium. She also punched a bunch of sharks. And she tied moray eels in knots, and plucked out all of a lionfish's quills."
Fluttershy shuddered. "It was SO not very nice. Not very nice AT ALL."
"I was trying to make them angry," Sunset explained. "And I did make them angry, and they all attacked me. But of course it didn't help. Nothing seems to work. It's no wonder that I was so frustrated, so angry, that when I learned I could totally take it out on a bunch of weird two-legged monsters...
"Sorry. I mean, I took out my anger and frustration on a bunch of innocent other dimensional aliens who didn't deserve it. Does that sound any better? I sure hope it does."
"So," Celestia said," if suicide doesn't help..."
Sunset shrugged. "Whether I'm in this world or in Equestria, it turns out this life is what I've got. So I have to try to make the best of it."
Pinkie Pie's sister, Maud Pie, walked up to the group. "Did Pinkie Pie ever tell you about her Pinkie Sense?"
"What?" Sunset said.
"My Rock Sense called me here. It said you need over a thousand undamaged blocks of high-grade granite and marble to rebuild part of a school." She handed Sunset Shimmer a folded piece of paper. "Here's a map showing where they are. I already cracked all one thousand and fifty-two blocks out of two old abandoned quarries earlier this morning, because when it comes to rocks, I AM just that awesome.
"Also, because mortar, window glass, and window frames are all made by processing minerals, which are basically rocks, I made mortar and windows for you to use."
Sunset smiled. No, that's an understatement. She grinned so widely she seemed to glow. "Thank you, Maud! That is so wonderful of you!"
"I know," Maud said. "Sometimes I can't express my emotions in ways that other people find easy to understand. So today, I want YOU to smile FOR me."
"That's kind of weird," Sunset said, "but it's so sweet too! Thank you so much!"
"You're welcome," Maud said. "I have to go play with Boulder now. I'm afraid he might be jealous that I was playing with a thousand other rocks."
"I understand," Sunset said. "Or maybe I don't understand. Maybe I understand or maybe I don't, but I still think you're pretty great."
As Sunset finished that sentence, she noticed that Maud was already walking away.
"Hmm," Sunset said to herself, "you know what I never tried? Dropping over a thousand high quality building stones of granite and marble on myself all at once." She shook her head. "No, I can't do that to Maud after she went to so much trouble to help me. But maybe sometime AFTER I rebuild the school, I can try dropping a thousand blocks of stone that were already damaged yesterday in a near-apocalyptic disaster, brought on by my temporary evil she-demon form abusing Equestrian magic."
With that thought, Sunset Shimmer started humming happily as she went to work rebuilding the school.