I was... well, I guess nowhere would be the most accurate description. I stood on a long stone road that floated on seemingly nothing. There were other islands and mismatched debris of all sizes floating in the aether, but they were too far out to reach. At some points they would drift closer to the path I stood on; their shapes would remind me of things, but before I could decide of what they floated away again. Ahead, at the end of the road, was a floating castle of alternating blue and purple hues. It had two towers on either side of the main keep, each with a large bell in them. The entire castle was walled off and a rusty iron gate blocked the entrance. Behind me, the road stretched on as far as I could see. Unless I wanted to fall into the endless void on either side of the road – assuming that gravity worked normally here, which I wasn't going to test – I only had one real choice: to head for the castle.
A crow began to loudly caw as I got closer. It felt like it was announcing my arrival. In a place like this, I couldn't be sure. As I watched the debris float around me, I worried that the road would suddenly give way from underneath me. After walking for a long time, I finally arrived at the gate. When I looked back I knew that I walked for much longer than I should have. I heard the crow caw again. When I looked, I saw the little noise maker sitting on top the iron gate. It quieted down as I approached.
The bird cocked its head and stared at me. I could swear that it almost seemed it was sizing me up and thinking. “Caw,” it cried out once more, then it flew off to one of the towers. When it took off, the gate started to swing open. To fit its appearance, I had expected to hear a loud creak, but there was only silence. In truth, beyond that crow, there hadn't really been any noise at all. Part of me would have openly welcomed the sound of a creak.
The gate had led into a courtyard filled with beautiful, luminescent flowers and vibrant, green grass. There was a dirt path and at the end of it were a pair of large, ancient wooden doors to the keep. I guessed that was where I needed to go. Along the way, the scent of the flowers fell on me like a miasmic cloud, and they were surprisingly sweet smelling. It was like a mixture of lavender and vanilla. Taking another glance around the courtyard, I spotted what looked like three mounds in the dirt on the far right. The grass was covering them, meaning they had to of been there for a long time – again, assuming this world follows any logical rules – there was single white rose grew from each.
I stopped in front of the doors, took a deep breath, and slowly let it out. There could be anything waiting for me on the other side, and I needed to remain calm and ready. I knocked once, and there was no response. I knocked twice, and got the same result. I considered just turning around and walking away, but somehow I knew I wouldn’t be able to. I pressed my hoof into the door and pushed it open.
Inside, there was a very long hallway lit up by glowing crystals that floated just below the ceiling. At the very end, I could make out another door with two figures standing on either side of it. I'm sure they could see me, but they didn't move.
While seeing other ponies here was interesting and unnerving, what really drew my attention was crude scribblings on the left wall. It looked as though they were drawn by a child with crayons. Any other time, these drawings might have been cute, but here in contrast with everything else, they were really creepy. The two figures stared at me, unmoving. To be honest, they made me nervous. I wanted to put off dealing with them, so I looked at the drawings first. The first scribbling was of a blue alicorn filly. Next to her was a white alicorn that was slightly larger. It seemed that both were very happy, they both had large smiles. The next picture showed the blue filly surrounded by a small group of other children. There was an earth pony and a unicorn to either side of her, and a pegasus flying above her. This one had a writing on it: 'I made friends!'
The next picture looked exactly the same as the former, except that all the ponies were larger now. The blue alicorn looked like a teen, while the other three were fully grown. Then came a picture, where the only difference was that the pegasus was gone, and the smiles weren't as big as they used to be. After that one, it was just the blue alicorn and the unicorn. They weren't smiling anymore. Next was the blue alicorn, with the white one next to her, standing over three mounds of dirt. 'They left me,' was written under it. The next picture was one with a group of ponies playing. The blue alicorn had her back turned to them.
The next one showed ponies playing during the day. Then at night, the blue alicorn walked down a street. There were two other ponies, but they stayed away from her.
The next picture had overgrown, mutated animals. They were made of random parts strewn together. One was was a bundle of tentacles coming from a bunny. There was another that looked kind of like a pony, but it was made out of slime. I could recognize a few of them though, a manticore and a cockatrice. In the following picture, the two alicorns were facing towards Discord. After that, Discord was wrapped around the blue alicorn. 'They never loved you. They only care about her.' Then came Discord colored grey, and a bunch of ponies celebrating around the white alicorn. The blue alicorn was nowhere to be seen.
The following series of pictures were all of ponies crowding around the white alicorn. Occasionally there'd be one with the blue alicorn in the back of the crowd, being ignored. Then, the blue alicorn was alone, under the moon. 'They don't love me. They only love her.'
While all of this was unsettling, the next parts were what made it disturbing. It started with the picture of a green dragon’s eye. It was hard to see what the rest were supposed to be pictures of. It looked like somepony had taken black paint and tried to cover them up by smearing it all over. Was someone attempting to destroy them? I couldn't say for certain. However, I could make out little bits and pieces of the rest. A black alicorn was in a lot of them, so too was the word hate. One full sentence was spared the wrath of the paint: 'They'll never leave me again.' Eventually there was a line where all drawings and paint smears stopped. It was a perfect line where everything just ended.
I took my eyes off the wall and cautiously looked over to the figures. I was closer now. I could make out more details. They were bat-winged ponies wearing night-guard armor just like the ones I had seen pulling Princess Luna's chariot. Something was subtly off about them – just like the rest of this place. They were unnaturally pale, and they weren’t reacting to me being here. In fact, they were still just staring straight ahead. They almost looked like... No, it couldn't be.
I stepped closer to the two figures. They still didn't move at all. From only a few feet away, I waved a hoof at them, trying to catch their attention. Still nothing. Getting even closer, I reached out a hoof and touched one. He was cold, coarse, and stiff. He was dead. Oh Celestia, he was dead. Despite not having the stench of decay on him, there was no denying that he wasn't alive and that rigor mortis had set in long ago.
“She is waiting for you inside.”
“AAAHHH!” I screamed as I doubled back and nearly fell over.
He didn’t react. He must have... deactivated again. I opened the door between them, and walked through, which wasn't an easy task considering the scare I just went through.
The throne room had that same nightmarish feel to it. It was dark I could barely see. The shadows were smeared across the walls like the black paint. The only mildly comforting sight was the princess of the night herself sitting on the throne. Around her were quite a few magical windows to other places, though none of those places looked real. Some were completely surreal. In one, there was a giant rock flirting with a tree. Luna herself had been looking at one that I couldn't see. I wasn’t able to see it from behind. She pushed it to the side and turned her gaze to me.
“Princess, where am I? Is this a nightmare?” I asked, just now getting my nerves to calm down from the earlier eeriness.
“Not quite. In fact, you aren't in your own mind anymore. This is my realm, an extension of my own mind, and a crossroads between dreams.” Her voice was stern, but not harsh. “Twilight?”
I stepped forward. “Princess Luna, do... do you know what happened to me? Is that why you summoned me here?”
“Possibly. Tell me, 'Twilight', what do you believe to have happened to you on that fateful night?”
She knew more than she was telling me, that was obvious. The only way to get that information would be to play along, for now. At least she wasn't trying to trap my mind here in some dungeon... not yet. “It was some kind of transmutation spell that has changed my biology, making my body dependent on blood to keep functioning. It has also had some profound, highly unwanted, effects on my mind: teaching me the basics of hunting, erasing some memories – very important memories, making my nervous tick worse, and probably a lot more that I haven't realized yet.” I tried my best to switch off my emotions and explain this as a scientist reporting their observations. However, my voice did crack and I could feel my throat tighten.
“Missing memories? Your ticks are worse? Hm... Anything else?” She still wasn't showing any strong emotion. Was she purposefully holding back? That had to be it, there was no other reason I could think of. She wasn’t shocked or to be appalled at my transformation.
“Yes, my sense of direction has gotten horrible in places that I should know by heart. Speaking of which, the places that I'm supposed to be familiar with now feel off to me. Like, I don't belong.”
She sighed and shook her head. The look she gave me was a bit sad and full of pity. “That's what you truly believe, isn't it?”
“Um, yes your highness.” This was really it, wasn't it? She had to know something, and I wasn't leaving until I found the truth. I sat down, and continued, “Please, your highness. If you know what that spell was, you have to tell me.” I was practically begging at this point.
“Of course I know what that spell was. I was the one who crafted it, and I'm the one who set it all up.”
The world around me froze in that moment, as my mind tried its best to make sense of this. Luna, princess of the night, was responsible for everything. Why? What possible reason would Luna have to use that kind of magic?
She must have seen my expression, so she added, “Admittedly, I wasn't of sound mind at the time.”
The other shoe dropped. It wasn't Luna, not really. The image of that dragon eye popped up in my mind. It was her... “Nightmare Moon did it?”
“Yes. But please do not try to separate my actions from hers, or hers from mine. She was a monster, but she was me. I'm sure you quite understand what it's like to have another side of yourself that you try to hide from the world. A monster inside you wanting out, and you know that you can't deflect responsibility for its actions. Am I right?”
I lowered my head, staring at the floor. “Yes,” I answered, barely above a whisper.
“Anyways, the answer to what that spell was for is quite simple, but I'm not sure if you're truly ready to hear the answer.”
“You have to tell me!” I yelled out.
“Very well, if you want the truth, you're wrong about what the spell did.”
That was impossible. I kept track of my changes. I kept perfect lists of the symptoms. There's no way I could be wrong about this.
“The reason you can't remembered things is because they aren’t your memories. The reason you felt out of place, is because you've never been to Ponyville before. You didn't even exist until that night. The spell does nothing to change the pony on the receiving end. It creates a new, altered one, in the mold of that pony.”
The gears of my mind didn't just stop, they shattered. There was nothing I could focus on. Everything grew blurry as tears filled my eyes. “No... no!” It wasn't true. I knew who I was. “I have memories. I remember the party Pinkie threw for me when I first came to Ponyville. I remember when Spike hatched. I remember finding and activating that spell in the forest! You can't tell me that those memories are fake! I am Twilight Sparkle.”
She looked away. “They aren't fake, on that, you're right.”
“Ah ha! Then I am Twilight Sparkle.”
“They aren't fake, but they aren't yours. They too were only copies.”
“But... but...” My breath quickened as my mind tried to latch onto something, anything, to prove her wrong. I am Twilight Sparkle! I am Twilight Sparkle... I am... What was I? “I can't just be a copy...” My legs gave way as I crumpled down into the floor. “Princess, I'm begging you. Please tell me that it isn't true.”
“I'm sorry, but I can't. It is the truth, and deep down, I'm sure you know it.”
Everything... everything I believed up until now had been a lie. They weren't my friends. Spike wasn't my assistant. I was just an imposter. I was no one.
I felt her wing across back as her body settle next to my own. “I'm sorry. I wish I could have made this news easier for you.”
“Why... why would you make something like this? What was the point?” She didn't answer right away, her eyes were shut, and she looked to be in deep thought. “Why?”
“...fear.” When she opened her eyes, they had turned green, and her normal, round pupils had been replaced with slits. They were just like the eye drawn on the wall. The floor around us grew darker, and it spread throughout the room. “If I couldn't get them to worship me through love like my sister, I'd get them to worship me through fear. I delved into their nightmares to see what her precious ponies feared the most. Having somepony you know and love turn on you, or worse yet, for them to be somepony completely different than who you thought they were. Of course, I'd let a few of my copies get caught, enough to make everypony aware of them. When a stallion left home, he wouldn't know if he would return to his wife or an imposter. Perhaps the mare he kissed goodbye too was already an imposter. The same would go for anypony's children and parents. They would never be able to trust each other. But, all would go well, as long as they remained loyal to me.”
“But, my sister stopped me before I completed the spell. What dear Twilight found was merely a prototype. It was only supposed to react to the magic of an alicorn, so not I'm sure how she activated it. I suppose her magic really is that strong. Either way, when it turned on, it created you.” Her eyes turned to me, staring a hole through mine. “A flawed copy.”
“I'm a... a... flawed copy?” A new stream of tears flowed out. Not only was I nothing more than a copy, but I was flawed one as well. A broken one, I'm sure.
“That is why you don't have all her memories. Why some traits of Twilight are not present in you, and others are distorted.” On cue, my eye twitched. “And why your coat is a few shades too lite. I must admit though, the fact that they were all still fooled by you is quite impressive. If given more time, I believe that spell could have been flawless.” She gave me a look that just oozed arrogance, like she was barely acknowledging me being here.
“Princess, you're starting to scare me.”
“Hm? Oh.” She shut her eyes tight, and as she did, the encroaching darkness around us halted and reversed. Soon, things looked as they did before, and when she opened her eyes, they had returned to normal. “When I think about those days, while in my realm, things start coming back.” There was silence, neither of us knew what to say.
Finally, something clicked and I realized one question hadn't been answered yet. “If I'm a copy,” I still couldn't bring myself to say for a fact that I was, “then where is she? Where's the real Twilight.”
“That's what I was looking into when you arrived. Twilight is with Zecora. The spell seemed to have knocked her out for a few days, but she's recovering nicely. I could have brought her here too, but –“
“No! I-I can't look at her right now. I just can't.”
“– I figured you might not want me to.”
“So, what happens now? I still need to feed, and I don't want to stay in Ponyville. Actually, I want to be gone before any of them know the truth.”
Luna nods. “I'll teleport you to my room of the palace. And, in truth, you don't need to feed that often, if you get the right blood.” She paused. “I'll let you take some of mine when you need it.”
My eyes went wide. “What? I couldn't possibly –“
“You can and you will. You are my responsibility, and we don't have any other choice.”
“Could you... could you also talk to my frie-I mean the others for me. Just, tell them the truth and, could you ask them not to hate me?”
“And, could I just stay here, alone for a while?”
“Of course.” She left my side, and walked out the door. This was my life now. Not even a real pony, just the monster created by a dark mistake.