There I stood, in the kitchen of Sugarcube Corner, staring at a book titled "Baking: Back to the Basics."
I gathered the necessary ingredients and, when I was certain I had done things correctly so far, began mixing furiously. I continued to mix, making a bit of a mess in the process, when I heard the bell which signaled that someone had opened the front door of Sugarcube Corner.
I stopped what I was doing and raced to the door, either ready to greet one of my friends, or to politely let some unaware pony know that Sugarcube Corner would be closed until the Cakes return from their trip.
What I saw was neither of those things, but rather a very exhausted pair of ponies, whom I immediately recognized as Mr. and Mrs. Cake from the photographs I had seen. With them were two young foals, which Mr. Cake carried in a saddlebag designed specifically for babies.
After setting some of their things on the floor, they looked at me and smiled. "Hello there, Pinkie. We're finally back," said Mr. Cake.
"That's fantastic," I responded with indifference, diluting the words.
They both gave me an odd look, but quickly turned their attention back to unloading everything from the wagon outside. It would take several trips to complete this task, due to the massive amount of luggage they had brought with them.
I attempted to approach them in the midst of all this. They seemed rather preoccupied, and I wasn’t sure where to begin in my explanation. Should I start from the beginning? Should I clear up any potential misconceptions before they arise? These questions came to mind as I stood there like a dimwit and stared while they unpacked their things.
I was extremely hesitant about addressing this subject. I saw Mr. Cake enter through the door carrying an enormous metal cake platter on his back. Moments later, Mrs. Cake returned from upstairs after putting the foals in their crib for a nap. They were both in the room with me, and I saw this as an appropriate moment to talk to them.
“Mr. and Mrs. Cake?” I asked as politely as I could.
They turned their gaze to me simultaneously, and after they got a good glance at me, their expressions shifted from lighthearted to completely and utterly horrified. They both looked like they had just seen a ghost.
Mr. Cake was so overcome with shock that he forgot about balancing the giant cake platter, causing it to crash to the floor with a loud bang. This, in turn, woke up the babies who had just been put to sleep.
Neither the crash nor the wailing of their foals seemed to faze the Cakes. They continued to stare at me blankly, or rather, they stared at the blank patch of fur where my Cutie Mark was supposed to be.
Throughout the Golden Oaks Library, the only noise that could be heard at present was the sound of a book’s pages turning every minute or so.
Twilight Sparkle sat at the wooden desk, staring intently at the text she read. It was titled “The Key to the Mind,” and its description had initially shown a great amount of promise to the young unicorn.
However, that promise quickly waned as the pages went by, until at last she had reached its end. In frustration, she tossed the book to the other side of the room, where it landed with a disruptive thud, joining the other books and discarded notes scattered around the room.
Twilight sighed deeply. Two weeks without any results, she thought to herself. I’m beginning to think Princess Celestia put a bit too much faith in me.
In resignation, she stared out the window, only to be greeted by the approaching night. Once again, the day had gotten away from her.
Dusk, she noted, observing countless golden streaks in the sky. The last stage of twilight, ushering in the nighttime.
She sighed once more. When twilight is over, I suppose I won’t be at my peak performance level of thinking, she decided with mild amusement.
Twilight got up from her cushion and made her way downstairs, where she was met by her loyal companion, Spike.
“Hey there, Twilight. What’re you up to?”
“Just getting a glass of water,” she answered.
“Are you done researching for now?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe for a little bit.”
There was a short silence as Twilight filled a glass to the brim with ice-cold water, and then eagerly drained all of the liquid from the large cup.
When she was finished, Spike gave her a worried look. “When’s the last time you ate or drank anything?”
She wiped the remaining water from her lips, then answered, “I don’t know. Maybe last night.”
Spike’s look of worry turned to one of shock. “Last night? You didn’t have breakfast or lunch?”
“You've been cooped up in that study room for too long, you didn’t eat or sleep, and the rest of you is, well, a mess,” he added, noticing that, in addition to her disheveled mane, her eyes were bloodshot and her fur was matted due to neglect. “You need to take care of yourself.”
“What?” asked Spike, apprehensive of her response to such a serious topic.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” answered Twilight. “I just never thought I’d be getting this kind of lecture from you, Spike.”
Spike smiled as well, though he did not dare stray from the original subject. “Talk to me, Twi. What’s going on?”
Twilight sat down at the kitchen table. “Princess Celestia trusts me to find a cure for Pinkie, and I just don’t know if I can do it. The mind is incredibly complex. The more I learn about it, the more questions arise in turn.”
Spike looked at her curiously.
“Think of it like a never ending knot,” explained Twilight. “You untie it, only to find a new knot underneath. No matter how many times you untie it, you can never manage to get to the center.”
“But why do you want to get to the center so badly?” asked Spike.
“Isn’t it obvious? I want to save Pinkie.”
“I don’t know, Twilight,” Spike rebutted. “Pinkie doesn’t look like she needs much saving. Have you seen her lately?”
“Well... yes, but that’s beyond the point!” Twilight said with increased agitation. “It’s not the same Pinkie, regardless of how well she has adjusted to Ponyville.”
“Why is that?” asked Spike.
“Well, her past memories are non-existent, for one. Plus, the way she acts around others... she’s like an entirely different pony!”
“Is that really a bad thing? Everypony else seems to like her.”
“It’s a bad thing if the Elements of Harmony are useless. No offense to her, but this Pinkie is not the Element of Laughter. She’s still too serious.”
Spike looked down in concession, realizing that Twilight’s words rang true.
“Well... what if you went to see Zecora?” he suggested.
Twilight looked at him quizzically.
“What? That’s where you usually go for things like this.”
Twilight’s eyes widened. “You’re right! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that sooner!”
Twilight got up from the chair and made her way to the door.
“Hold on... you’re going now?” asked Spike.
“Of course,” she answered without hesitation. “Desperate times do call for desperate measures.”
“Well, okay.” He decided not to argue. “But be careful. The Everfree Forest is dangerous at night.”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “I know that, Spike. I’ve only been in there about a thousand times. I’ll be fine.”
She opened the door and, before leaving, looked back with a smile. “When did you decide to take on a role as the protective parent, anyway?”
Spike chuckled sheepishly, but didn’t say anything else. He recognized a rhetorical question when he heard one, especially from Twilight.
The door closed behind her gently so as not to disturb the neighbors who were getting ready to go to sleep.
Spike stood there awkwardly for a moment. Then, he went to the kitchen and began preparing a meal for Twilight's return. It would be a late dinner, but she still needed to eat.
The young night sky was mesmerizing. I could have stared at it for hours, appreciating the warm glow of the moon, or attempting to count the inconceivable number of stars present. I could definitely relate to Princess Luna's love for the night.
Despite this being a relatively good distraction, the events from earlier today clung tightly to the front of my mind.
Even after I had managed to explain things to the Cakes, they still seemed on the verge of panic. Mrs. Cake had insisted on making me one of my favorite milkshakes: "The Chocolate Cotton Candy Strawberry Vanilla Swirl" with extra whipped cream. At first it had looked and sounded repulsive, but after a sip or two I quickly found myself delighted by the flavor.
Despite that pleasant discovery, the weight of the situation greatly outweighed the importance of my dessert preference, and the milkshake was soon at the back of my mind.
The reaction of the Cakes troubled me greatly. They had seemed particularly distressed, and they had acted in a very odd way. Perhaps they simply didn't know how to handle this emotionally. Then again, I could only assume that their behavior was out of the ordinary based on what I've been told about them.
Even now, as I lay in the grass staring up at the night sky, I had the nagging feeling that I was intruding somehow.
A slew of rainbow color passed overhead, and I easily guessed what it was before it came to a halting stop and veered down towards me.
"Hey Rainbow Dash," I greeted, not moving from my current position.
The pegasus made a soft landing on the ground near me. "What're you doing out in the middle of the park this late?" she asked as she approached me.
"Not much, really," I answered. "Just looking at the stars, mostly. They're pretty cool tonight, if you feel like joining me."
"Nah, I'm not much into stargazing. That's more Twilight's thing."
"Suit yourself," I replied, disappointed.
She turned to leave, but stopped. She was clearly hesitant, and eventually she looked back at me and asked, "Something on your mind?"
I sighed. "It's a long story... I doubt you'd be interested."
"Sure I would," she argued, approaching me once more and sitting down on the grass next to me. "Besides, I got time."
"Alright," I said.
I recounted the details of what had happened between me and the Cakes, making sure not to miss anything so that Rainbow Dash would have a concise series of events to go by.
"Okay, so they're worried. So what?" Rainbow Dash asked when I was done. "Isn't that what you expected?"
"Yes, I suppose I did. Still, I can't get over this strange feeling that I'm somehow..." I trailed off.
"Somehow what?" she pressed.
"Yes." I looked down in shame.
"What makes you think you're intruding?" she asked, bewildered.
"I don't know. It's as if I don't really belong here, and my presence is a burden."
Rainbow didn't say anything.
"Look," I continued. "I know all of you want the old Pinkie Pie back. It's completely understandable. You've been friends with her for years, and you've known me for barely two weeks. Plus, she's less of a drag to be around most of the time." I looked down again.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on a second," Rainbow Dash said as she prepared for a retort. "Just because we miss the old Pinkie Pie doesn't mean we want you gone."
"You don't?" I asked, looking up with what must have been the most pitiful expression.
"No way!" she assured me in confidence. "I don't know if you realize this, but everypony loves having you around. We don't think you're a drag at all."
"Really?" I asked in disbelief, my mood beginning to lift.
"Yeah!" she insisted. "Memory or no memory, you're still the Pinkie Pie we know and love. That's why the Cakes are so worried about you. They care, just like the rest of us."
"That's... really great to hear," I said with relief.
We continued to sit there in silence, admiring the beauty of the night sky.
"You're a great friend, Rainbow Dash. You know that?" I said.
No response was necessary. Rainbow merely looked at me, smiled in understanding, and looked back up at the stars, which seemed to shine even brighter than before.
“There has to be another way!” exclaimed Twilight.
“No, and you do not need to shout,” Zecora stated. “For the old Pinkie to return, the new must be pushed out.”
Twilight paced around the inside of the hollowed-out tree, her thoughts jumbled and racing aimlessly to search for an alternative solution.
“How can you be so sure about this?” Twilight asked. “I’ve been looking into this subject for weeks! Are you trying to tell me that the doctor's diagnosis was wrong, and you already know what to do after a brief explanation of things?
"You have misheard!" stated Zecora. "I merely concurred. We cannot deny it is still Pinkie Pie, but perhaps what it's really about is a different life route."
“That doesn’t explain why she thought she was eleven years old at first,” Twilight pointed out.
“This type of magic is untamed and wild, inconsistencies would not be mild.”
Twilight had overlooked that possibility. She looked down, no longer having a valid argument for Zecora. The zebra had a coherent rebuttal for everything, it seemed. Her knowledge of magic was staggering.
“So... what am I supposed to do now?” asked a defeated Twilight.
"The mind is a powerful force. You cannot master it, so instead find the source. If you wish for your old friend to show, then this new one must willingly go."
“Yes, but is there a spell? There has to be some sort of medium!”
"I’m sure there exists a solution for you to broach, but first you should consider rethinking your approach."
"What are you talking about?" asked Twilight.
"To fully understand the complexities of the mind, one would require many a lifetime. Instead, the piece that houses the mind is where your studies should be confined."
Twilight contemplated these words of advice for a moment, and she quickly came to understand what Zecora meant.
“So, you really think the old Pinkie is in there somewhere?” Twilight asked.
Zecora nodded her head in response.
“Alright. I think I know how to figure this out,” said Twilight, now confident that she had a better grasp on things. “Thank you.”
Twilight turned to leave the hut. When she opened the door, Zecora spoke again.
"In doing this you must make haste, for in you all trust is placed. For now they are stuck together like glue, but a pony's mind is not meant to hold two. Eventually the one in charge will endure, and the other will fade away to be sure."
Twilight gulped nervously upon hearing this, but nodded in acknowledgment and closed the door behind her. She quickly made her way back home, thinking about the new Pinkie Pie they had grown so fond of over the course of these last two weeks.
“I’m so sorry...”