Chapter 13: Here we go again...
May 7th, Iowa
“Sorry Dash, that was the last photo.” Jack frowns as she turns away from the computer. We had just spent all morning going through pictures of staff members that worked on MLP. We were trying to do the 'say their name out loud to see if they are a pony' trick to try and find Twilight on the show staff or something. No dice.
“Urgh, come on, I thought that was a really good idea too!” I sit back on my haunches and attempt to rub the sides of my temples with my hooves, but all I succeed in doing is softly kicking myself in the side of my head with my hoof.
Mac snickers from a few feet away, “Nice moves putz. Though it’s a pity the 'pictures of show staff' idea failed, I was fond of that approach.”
We’ve been 100% pony for about three days now, but here and there I still think like I have hands. I rub the side of my aching head with a fetlock, “Grr, not my fault ponies lack fine eye-hoof coordination! I like being this mare, but sometimes I miss being human, it's the little things, you know?”
“I hear you sister, I haven't been able to wipe ever since I got these hooves.” Jack chuckles to herself as she opens a new browser window and starts checking something else on Google. The 'universal cuffs' we bought back on our shopping trip were actually pretty useful for typing. Jack is wearing one cuff on each fore hoof and attached a capped pen to each; she can type as fast as anyone with two index fingers.
Fluttershy, who I had forgotten was even in the room, speaks up. “Jack, you don't wipe? What? Remind me not to sit on any of the chairs you use.”
Mac scoffs, “Oh come on Flutters, none of us have hands what do you expect. Now anyway, what's our next plan? We really need to think of a way to find these other ponies.”
Fluttershy mumbles something about how she uses water, but I pay no attention as I stand up and fluff my wings. “Guys, we've been at this all morning. I'm going to go crazy if I stay cooped up inside any longer. I'm going to go out for a little flight and let my mind think things over.”
Jack raises an eyebrow, ”You're going stir crazy from being indoors? Dude, it's been like two hours. Back in college you once played WoW for 72 hours straight. You used to be able to go weeks without going outside.”
I shrug, then make my way to the door, “Well, back then I wasn't a female pegasus pony.”
Jack laughs, “Pray tell, what does being female have to do with anything?”
I stick out my tongue, “Nothing, but I like to bring it up every now and then to help hammer that point home. You know, earlier today on that computer I had to register to use one of those sites. It asked for gender, and I put male down and I didn't catch it for a few seconds. I’m trying to stop thinking like that, I’m really working on getting used to the idea of being a full pegasus mare.”
Jack and Mac exchange looks, Fluttershy speaks up, “Dash, there's nothing wrong with still thinking like a human male sometimes. I mean, you were one for 25 years, you can't just ignore that. Your human life and all those memories and experiences is huge part of you are. Even if you physically went back to being a pony, you can't hide from the fact that for a huge part of your life you were something else.”
I rub my neck, “Yeah, you might have a point Flutters. It's just one more thing for us to all ponder about in time. For now though we really need to focus on finding the rest of our friends.” I pause and tap my chin, “Hmm, can we call them our friends if we forgot everything about them?”
Jack nods her head, “I would think so. And whoever they are, wherever they are, they are almost certainly in need of our help.”
A while ago, in a city far, far away...
Vancouver, British Columbia
“Alright, come on Rachel, you can do this.” I look into the mirror in the bathroom and try to give myself a pep talk. “Just go out there and ask him if he wants to come to your birthday party. It's totally normal, no reason to be nervous.”
I don't know why I am this anxious, I feel like a middle school girl asking a boy out to the dance. Sheesh, I'm 25 now, and it's just a friendly birthday party invite for a co-worker. Sure, that co-worker may be Tom, the richest, most attractive guy in the office, and I may have had a crush on him for a while, but he's still just a co-worker!
I make my way out of the bathroom and walk down to his desk. I try to take a few deep breaths as I wipe my nervous, sweaty hands on my pant legs as I think to myself “Tess would make so much fun of me is she knew I get this nervous. Thankfully she--”
My thoughts are interrupted as I collide with someone, our heads bump and I fall back on my ass. “Oww, son of a...”
“Ah, Rachel! Jeez, I'm really sorry about that. Are you okay?”
I rub my head and look up. Tom was standing over me rubbing his forehead where I ran into him. I bite my tongue, of course he would be the one to apologize, even though I was the one that ran into him. Tom, otherwise known as 'the American' for being the only Yank that worked here, was by far the most polite person I have ever known. And his eyes, oh god, those blue eyes...
“Here, let me help you up.” Tom holds out his hand, and I grab it and pull myself up.
“Thanks Tom, and I'm sorry about bumping into you like that, I was just so focused on getting somewhere and--”
Tom smiles and lifts a palm, “Oh, well then, don't let me keep you. Go on and get back to wherever it was that you were going.”
I blink, and hesitate for a second, then decide to just get this over with, “Ah... well, um, this is awkward. I was actually trying to find you.”
Tom laughs softly, “I see, well, I'm here! What's the message, oh faithful steward of the office?”
I rub the back of my neck and try to ignore the flood of nervousness, “I was just wondering... wouldyouliketocometomybirthdayparty?
He tilts his head “Would I like... what?”
“Would you like to come to my birthday party?” I offer a smile and watch his reaction.
An expression of confusion comes over Tom's face. “What? ...Oh! You have a birthday thing today? Heh, wow, I got really confused there.” Tom says something under his breath about a crazy coincidence.
I look down at my feet, “So, uh, yeah, did you wanna come? I mean, I would understand if you said no, we really don't know each other that well, I just work at the front desk and I... Oh sorry, I'm rambling. So what do you say, do you wanna come?” I look back up at Tom and smile again.
Tom says nothing. Nothing at all, he is just staring straight ahead at me.
I swallow hard, feeling a wave of rejection. Perhaps he was too polite to say no, so he decided to show a silent decline. “Oh... yeah, that's fine. That's fine Tom, I understand.”
I feel tears start to well in my eyes as I slowly turn around and walk back to my desk. Tom doesn't even say bye, and as I get to the end of the hallway I glance back over my shoulder. He was still standing there, just staring straight ahead at where I was standing, though now that I'm gone I guess he was staring at the wall. I watch him for a moment, utterly confused at what he was looking at. Urgh, doesn't matter, his silent rejection was all I really needed to hear from him. So much for this being the best birthday party ever.
I got home, tossing my bag on the floor as I passed my sister reading her notes at the living room desk. “Happy Birthday Tess.”
She doesn't even look up from her notebook, “Mmm, you too Rachel.”
“And me three! Happy Birthday Harry!” The voice comes from the sofa, and I glance over to see Harry give me a lazy wave.
I turn back to my sister, ”How long has he been here?”
“Aww, and what am I, chopped liver?” Harry remains on the couch and feigns disapproval.
I roll my eyes, “Come on Harry, you should be out looking for a job. The party doesn’t start for another few hours or so. I mean, it's nice of you to keep my sister company, but honestly now, you're 25 and unemployed. You should probably be spending your time more wisely than just sitting on our couch. I know Seinfeld was a good show, but Krammer isn't exactly a role model you should be emulating.”
Harry stands up, “Come on, it's my birthday. Hell, it's our birthday. Must you bring up my unemployment every time you see me?”
I sigh, “Yeah, sorry, I guess it's not my place to nag. I just had a bad day that's all.”
Harry frowns, “Aww, that sucks, especially on your birthday too. What happened?”
I wave a hand, “It's nothing.”
My sister flips another page of her notebook and speaks without looking up, “The American turned down the birthday invite didn't he?”
Harry looks at either of us, “The American? Who?”
I ignore Harry for the time being, “Urgh, Tess, I don't blame him really. I should have done it earlier. Who waits until the day of the party to send out an invitation? He's probably just busy too, I mean he's the lead graphic designer on the floor. Guys that talented don't just have all their afternoons empty. I was stupid.”
Tess said nothing, but Harry still wanted his question answered, “So... Rachel has a crush on someone?”
I blush slightly and try to hide it by just rolling my eyes and turning away, “No. It's not like that. He's just a co-worker and I thought having a fourth person here for the party would be fun.”
“Sure thing chica.” Harry pauses, then grins mischievously and starts chanting, “Rachel and the American, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”
I facepalm, “Okay, first off, stop calling him the American, it sounds profoundly stupid in song.”
Harry smirks, ”Well I don't know his name, so I have no choice.”
Tess lets out a slow breath “Then just ask. His name is tftftff”. She ends her sentence with an incoherent sound, then takes a second to clear her throat. “Hmm, sorry about that. His name is Tom.”
Harry and I exchange glances, then both look back at Tess. I speak up, “What... the hell was that? What did you say back there?”
Tess scrunches up her face for a moment, “Some random brain misfire. I was about to say the wrong name, a nonsensical name really, but I caught myself in the middle of the first syllable. Anyway, his name is Tom.”
I want to ask what name she was going to say, but deem it unimportant. I instead excuse myself to go to my room to change out of my work clothes. I might as well get comfy for the birthday dinner. I close my bedroom door and start to strip, taking a moment to once again look over the tattoo that appeared on my thighs earlier today.
I turn sideways and examine it in the light, coming to the same conclusion I had reached this morning when I first saw it. For whatever reason, I had a cutie mark. There really is no denying it, this is a legit cutie mark, not just some tattoo. I mean, it appeared spontaneously and I have no pain or redness on my skin from the sudden arrival of a tattoo this large. And trust me, I know what a cutie mark is, no one in this city knew more about MLP:FiM and the fandom than I did, well except maybe Harry. That guy really did have too much time on his hands.
But I digress. I look back at the cutie mark on my legs. Why do I have this? I can't have a cutie mark. It makes less than no sense! Look, first off that show and everything from it is pure fantasy, secondly I'm not a pony, thirdly I'm way too old to be just getting my cutie mark, and finally, why would I be getting THIS cutie mark? I should have got a cutie mark of a front end office manager or something, not this one. This is just some lame duplicate, there's no way if I got a real cutie mark it would just be a duplicate of someone else’s from the show.
I take a deep breath and rub my temples. I should be ecstatic that I have something the ponies had, I probably love that show more than I love my own parents. But this... something about this didn't sit right. I always had a knack for knowing when something bad was coming, and this... this was bad. I don't know why or how this was going on, but it isn't going to end well.
I turn away from the mirror and dress into my casual wear. While in my closet I grab the wrapped presents that are hiding there, it’s probably time for our birthday present exchange. As I walk past the mirror on my left, I pause once more and stare at that thigh. The mark is well hidden under my jeans, but I know it’s still there. I sigh and rub the spot a few times, maybe it's a birthday present? Maybe Tess gave it to me somehow? Well, I guess I'll find out soon enough.
I put my presents on the kitchen table, “Hey Tess go bring your presents, I think it's about time for our birthday exchange.” I had really been looking forward to this, I loved giving (and getting) presents. Doing both at the same time was pretty much the best moment of my entire year.
Tess checks her watch and then gets up and walks to her room, leaving her notebook on the counter. Out of curiosity, I move to take a gander at the notebook she was reviewing. Seeing what she was studying always amazed me, especially since she started her PhD in theoretical physics. I flip through some pages and furrow my brow. Chemical properties of aromatic rings and dyes? “Hey Tess, I thought you were done with organic chemistry?”
Her voice comes from down the hall, “What? Oh, I am. That's not for school, I just wanted to review some stuff.”
Harry's laughter cuts across our conversation, “Only you would review old school subjects for the fun on it. ”
I giggle, “I agree with Harry here, why would anyone research... organic dyes?” As the words leave my lips I freeze. So that explains it, Tess somehow gave me the cutie mark. She must have researched some super realistic temporary tattoos or something. I am actually pretty relieved, knowing this is just a silly gift/prank makes me feel better about that bad omen I thought I felt. But hold on a second, why did she do it? Is this supposed to be a birthday present? Tess has little to no interest in the pony, why would she spend all this work to make this for me? And actually, hold on, the “present” is already applied to my thighs. So if it's already done, why is she still reading up about dyes? And why did she choose to give me the cutie mark of--
“Rachel...” Tess brings me out of my thoughts. She returned with her presents and was now standing a few feet away, staring at me over the top of her glasses. “What are you thinking about?”
I nervously put her notebook down, “What? Nothing, nothing, I'm just tired.”
A slight smirk forms on my sister's mouth, “No, you were definitely thinking about something. Come on sis, I know the signs. I majored in psychology you know.”
Harry, seemingly oblivious to the tension in the air, takes a bite of a candy bar and tosses a glance at my older sister. “Wait. I thought you majored in Physics.”
“She did.” I answer for Tess. “Physics... AND psychology, AND chemistry.”
I stop and look over at her. She rolls her eyes and finishes for me, “And biology. I told you all this before Harry, I quadruple majored.”
Harry slowly puts the candy bar down on the table and stares at her like she was some sort of alien, ”How the fuck is that even possible? Four majors? And in the hard sciences?”
Now it's my turn to roll my eyes, “Oh please, psychology is hardly a 'hard science'. Bunch of phony gibberish if you ask me.”
“It just worked on you.” Tess says with a laugh.
I wave a hand in her general direction, “Not fair. You have three other majors, a masters in Biochemistry, and you're two thirds of the way through you theoretical physics PhD. You could have learned your crazy behavior reading techniques in any of those classes, I refuse to give psychology any credit.”
Harry taps the chocolate against his chin, leaving a sugary mark on his skin, “Wait... you never told me you had a masters in biochem! Here can you check this formula over for me?” Harry eagerly makes his way over to his backpack and pulls out his tablet.
Tess and I just stare at him. What was Harry doing with a chemical formula? That guy knew as much about science as he knew about keeping a job. I open my mouth, “Harry, what's this about?”
He holds up a hand as his other frantically works his tablet “Just a sec, I found this step by step guide on the Internet for making... something. Can you check to make sure the chemistry is right before I start?”
Harry brings over the tablet and holds it for us to see. I squint, there were a series of organic compounds with all sorts of directions written between each one and some arrows. After less than a second of viewing the formula my sister furrows her brow and brings up her hand. Her fingers flew over the tablet and after a series of lighting fast taps the picture vanished.
Tess clenches her teeth. “Harry, how stupid do you think I am?”
Harry flips the tablet back around, “Oh come on, you deleted it? Dude, I worked really hard to get that!”
Tess holds out her hand and points a finger right at Harry's face. “You don’t think I’d recognize the chemical structure of a drug as notorious as ecstasy? I’m not going to help you make narcotics Harry! I mean seriously, what the hell were you thinking?”
Harry sighs, “Oh come on, this was going to be my big break. You know how much I need money right now.”
Tess turns around and goes back to her desk, “You're better than that Harry. And if you bring this subject up again you're not going to be allowed to step one foot into this apartment.”
Harry lets out a whimper but doesn't protest beyond that. I do sort of feel bad for him, so I decide it might as well be time to hand out the birthday presents.
One short present exchange later and all of us are pretty happy. Harry got presents from both of us, even though he didn't really have the money to buy us anything in return. Tess and I then exchanged a small series of gifts, and now all that is left are our two biggest presents that we always save until the end to exchange.
Tess smiles earnestly as she looks inside the small box I just handed her. Inside was my final, and best gift to her: An authentic Mont Blanc fountain pen, handmade in Germany and complete with gold trim. It set me back well over a hundred dollars but I knew how much my sister loved writing and how much she loved practical gifts.
Harry gives a slow whistle as he sees it. “Damn, that is one shiny pen.”
Tess gives me an approving glance as she still smiles, “It sure is... thanks Rachel.”
I wave a hand, “Nah, you deserve it. Happy 25th.”
She carefully puts it back in the box, then turns around to grab the final wrapped present in the room, “Well, I'm not sure I can top that, but I think you will get just as much use out of your final gift.”
“Oh, is that so? Dare I guess what you got me?” I feel the natural jolt of excitement as a large wrapped box is placed in front of me. I give it a shake, something large and unevenly weighted was inside.
Tess shrugs, “Well, happy 25th. I thought I'd get you something you can use, something to cheer you up.”
Harry leans forward, “Money, I would just give money. That tends to cheer up everyone.”
I roll my eyes and then start to tear the top off the box. Not wanting to spoil the surprise by looking inside, I slowly turn it upside down, dumping the contents on the table ever so slowly. A white bottle of something falls out, then some packing peanuts. I can feel the heavy thing is still in the box, so I keep turning it over and waiting for it to fall out.. A second later a small packing slip comes out, and flutters down to the table. Just as I feel the large item inside start to slide out, I catch a glimpse of the logo on the packing slip. Bad Dragon. Wait, what? The box shifts before I can think and something massive falls out. My mind doesn't even fully process what lands on the table before I feel my cheeks blush.
Harry leans forward, “Is... that... oh my god.”
Tess smiles proudly “Well I saw your internet history and I figured you would enjoy one of these for--”
I raise a hand to cut her off, but I'm blushing so hard my throat can't form words. I drop the box over the object on the table and then cover my face with my hands. “Tess, why... Jesus Christ... how... what made you think this is an appropriate present? To give your sister.. at a birthday party...with guests? A sex toy?? Really?”
Harry laughs, “Oh, don't worry about me. I find this fucking hilarious, your family is awesome.”
Tess shrugs, feigning apology, “Well you were never going to buy one yourself, and I figure with that clop on your internet history you would like it. I even went through those pics and found the stallion you seem to like most so that way I could get the color of--”
“THAT’S ENOUGH, THANK YOU.” I cut her off with a small shriek, well aware that my cheeks were setting the new definition for the color red.
Harry is laughing hysterically and Tess just leans back smiling. I don't know if this is a prank/joke she pulled on me, or if she really is just this socially awkward and doesn’t realize it’s not normal to give sex toys to your sister at a birthday party. Knowing her, it’s probably closer to the latter, but the way she’s smiling makes me think otherwise.
I stuff it back in the box, I would never use this, it’s way too awkward with everyone knowing I have it. Especially combined with the fact that they know... wait a second. I turn to Tess, “What was that you said about my internet history? You snooping on my browsing history now?”
She shrugs, “Well, we do share a computer. And it's not like I started off looking for it. I just wanted to do a Google search for 'calmodulin kinase' to check a scientific article I was reading. After typing just a 'C' in, Google suggested your clop searches. It did make me wonder how often you searched that keyword if all I had to do was enter the letter C for autofill to kick in.”
A fresh wave of blushing spreads across my cheeks and Harry just nods, “Mmm, that's why whenever I search clop I use Incognito mode.”
Tess raises an eyebrow, I turn away in annoyance, “Harry, TMI dude.”
He raises his hands, “Too much information? Really Rachel? After the recent disclosure of your 'favorite color' I'm pretty sure you're the one that crossed that line, or technically maybe Tess is the one to have done it. Either way, you can't pull that TMI card against me.”
I stand up and take a deep breath. “Well, sister, thanks for the various gifts. I will be sure to send this thing back to the company and just pocket the hundred bucks or whatever you paid for it.”
Tess grins with one side of her mouth, “I don’t think they accept returns Rachel. I don't even know why I need to tell you this, I know for a fact you visited that site and already looked at their FAQs...”
Harry burst out laughing, I purse my lips and purposefully drop the boxes I was carrying. “Okay, that's it, I'm done here. I'm deleting my browsing history.”
Harry wipes a tear of laughter from his eye, “I think it's too late for that one Rachel.”
I ignore him and make my way to our computer room, finding it on with the screensaver running. I sit down and open up the browser, then go to options and find the 'delete internet history' button. Actually, wait, before I do this I might as well take a look at what's in there. Maybe I can get revenge on Tess and see if she was looking up some vampire porn or something.
A few clicks later and I start to skim the search history, then immediately stop after reading the very first one on the list: ‘tattoo on thigh'.
I blink. What the hell? I never searched that, was this from Tess? Ah, she must have looked up how to give me the mark. I skim the history of other searches from today, they were all from early this afternoon: 'sudden painless tattoo', 'purple symbol on thigh', ‘tattoo removal’, 'properties of organic dyes'.
The last one certainly rang a bell, this was definitely something Tess was researching. But why would she search tattoo removal? And purple symbol on thigh? My cutie mark isn’t purple. What’s going on here, does Tess have an unexplained mark too?
I close the internet browser and slowly walk back to the kitchen to see Harry and Tess cutting the birthday cake. I drum my fingers on the counter loudly, running things over in my mind for a few moments and thinking about how to phrase this question. Well, fuck it, one way to figure this all out, let's throw caution to the wind.
I clear my throat, then just nonchalantly announce, “So, when were you going to tell me about the cutie mark on your leg?”
Tess freezes, halfway through cutting the cake. She ever so slowly turns, and in her eyes I see something I'm not sure I have ever seen before. Fear? Shock? I stare at her for a few more seconds before the moment is ruined by Harry.
“Come on Rachel, please don't bring it up. I'm not exactly proud of it. How the hell did you find out anyway?” Harry frowns and puts down the plate he was holding.
I don't know who was more surprised, Tess or myself. We both turn our eyes to Harry, who sighs and lowers the side of his pants.
Tess raises a hand to her mouth in surprise and I move closer to get a better look. “Uh, wow Harry, that's really well done. Looks very real...”
He sighs “Yeah, it does. Sorry, I can't recommend the artist or whatever, I don't remember getting it done. I'm not sure if I was high or drunk or whatever. I just noticed I had it earlier today.”
My mind starts running furiously, but in the meantime I just pat Harry on the back. “It's nothing to be ashamed of Harry, it's very well done. It suits you too... I think.”
Harry raises one eyebrow, “Thanks?”
I turn to Tess and smile, “Okay sister, your turn.”
She studies my face for a few seconds, then sighs and reaches down to lower the side of her pants. Harry mutters out an explicative and I lean closer. I admit, I knew that a certain purple cutie mark was going to be there, but actually seeing it in person is still exceptionally bizarre. It looks so real...
“Okay sister, your turn.” I look up to see Tess smirking, “Rachel, you wouldn't care about this if you weren't in the same place. Honestly now, a third grader could read you.”
I roll my eyes but turn to lower the side of my pants, “Maybe I just care because people aren't supposed to get freakan cutie marks in the middle of the day.”
Harry's eyes dart between our thighs as he scratches his head, “So, I'm guessing you girls also have no memories of getting these things? And you weren't high or anything?”
Tess nods an affirmative and gets a better look at my mark, “This is another 'cutie mark' from the show I take it? I was never that familiar with gen four of ponies, I don't know any of them beyond the main characters. Though... your mark is strangely familiar.”
I scoff, “Well you should know it Ms. Twilight Sparkle. This is the mark of your brother.”
Tess rolls her eyes at the name drop. “So… your mark belongs to the brother of the owner of mine?”
She raises an eyebrow, “Brother? Not sister?”
I nod, “Brother.”
Tess rubs the back of her neck, “Dang, I thought we were onto something there with these marks being siblings. Coincidences usually meant something, but if you received the mark that is supposed to go on a guy, well then this all must be random.”
Harry takes another long look at his mark and frowns as something seems to dawn on him. I look back at Tess, “Any idea what this all means?”
Tess yawns, “I did some research but nothing really came up. Well, doesn't matter, I already booked an appointment with a local tattoo shop for tomorrow afternoon. Wherever this came from, it doesn't matter, it will be gone tomorrow.”
I push matter deeper, “Come on Tess, cutie marks shouldn’t just spontaneously appear on our legs. Doesn’t that doesn't bother you?”
Tess shrugs, “It does bother me that I can't figure it out how it happened, but when you break it all down it's just a tattoo. Someone pranked us or something, this is nothing supernatural or magical, it's just ink. So to answer your question, no. I'm not concerned.”
I frown, “Well, I am. I got a really bad feeling about this.”
Before Tess can retort, Harry speaks up, “I agree with Rachel, shit's going to hit the fan soon. I don't think you fully understand this Tess. I mean, if these are actually cutie marks (and I admit that's a big 'if') well then we're in some serious shit.”
Tess raises an eyebrow, ”Alright Harry, let's hear your theory. Let's say these tattoos are actually, hehe, magical pony cutie marks. How could that possibly mean bad things were coming?”
Harry leans against the wall, then points down on the mark on his leg. “The last time we saw someone find themselves with this cutie mark on their leg...” Harry takes a deep breath, “I try to keep them laughing, put a smile upon their face... I have to entertain them, it's there for all to see...”
“It's got to be my destiny, and it's what my cutie mark is telling me.” I finish for Harry, realization setting in on me. Harry has a point, the season three finale shows the consequences getting a cutie mark can have on the owner. Same deal with the Cutie Pox episode now that I think about it. The show seems to tell us that a cutie mark is more than just a sign showing everyone your talent. It actually appears to work in the reverse, the cutie mark itself affects the owner. I look over at Harry, “Well, damn. That's a good point Harry.”
Tess facepalms, “Are you guys serious quoting that show and basing your judgements all on that? You DO realize it's pure fiction right? These 'cutie marks' are nothing more than ink on skin.”
She pulls up her jeans and turns back to cutting the cake. I bite my lip for a moment but follow suit. No sense worrying about these marks now, maybe tomorrow the tattoo guy will shed some light on where these came from.
Harry gives his mark a few more glances before reluctantly raising his jeans as well. The noise of Tess cutting the birthday cake draws his attention and he picks his plate back up “Dibs the corner piece with all the frosting!”
And just like that, we all abandoned talk of cutie marks.
It was almost midnight and I couldn't sleep. Today has really been a strange day, and I think my restlessness is made worse by the bad feeling in the air. Tess isn't really taking this seriously, and Harry only complicates things. What do these cutie marks mean? Why us? Why did we get these specific marks?
Gah, I flip my pillow over in frustration. At this rate I'll be up all night, I need something to distract my mind from these worries. I turn to the side and spot my cellphone on the nightstand. I hesitate for a moment, I know what I go view online that always helps me sleep, but did I really want to look at clop after today's incident with the birthday present from Tess? I bite my lip, well, no harm viewing it now I guess, everyone already knows I look at this stuff.
I go to my usual site and start skimming for new r34 material. The pony community died down quite a lot since the show ended, but some people were still there making new stuff. I flip through some images of old stuff, “Come on, it’s my birthday, show me something new!”
I find a new r34 thread and my eyes freeze as they land on an entry I haven't seen before: “Shining Armor X Rainbow Dash sex scene: duration 2:30”. I ponder the idea for a few moments, it wasn't my favorite ship, but a little M/F pony action was always fun to see if the stallion looked good.
I lower the volume on my phone so as to not wake up my sister (or Harry who is sleeping on the couch), then I start the video. I raise my eyebrows right away, this video is really well animated, this is going to be great! The dialog gets underway and I smirk as I see Shining Armor's cutie mark proudly displayed on his flank. I certainly recognized that mark all too well.
I’m not really caring for Shining here though, I was distracted by Rainbow Dash. I'm not really into girls (or mares for that matter) but wow, this video really made her look nice. The video goes on and things start to happen, but I just can’t take my eyes off that mare.
I pause the video and wipe my eyes. This didn’t make any sense, why am I’m so interested in the mare instead of the stallion? I resume the video and try to focus on Shining, but it’s no use, my mind instantly wanders to thoughts the female. Urgh, I close the video and shut off my phone. Man, what’s with me today, I can’t even enjoy a good round of clop. Maybe I’m still a bit shaken from the fiasco with Tess’s birthday gift.
Oh well, no sense worrying about these things. Tomorrow is a new day and all this craziness will be behind us. I close my eyes and finally slip off to sleep, my mind filling with fantasies of mares.
The pleasant dreams of mares didn’t last. My sleep was tormentous, and my last dream of the night was full of violence and terror. As I awake I shake the remnants of the bad dream from my head and glance at the clock, it was 9:30am of May 2nd. Damn, this is really late for me, I forgot to set my alarm. Well, good thing it's a Saturday. I clamber out of bed and make my way to the bathroom, reaching for the bottle of mouthwash as I get there. I yawn and pour myself a capful of the rinse while thinking about what's on my plate for today. I take a swig of the mouthwash and let my thoughts wonder as I stare at the sink and swish the mouthwash in my mouth.
Swish gargle 'Gotta call the tattoo parlor and set up an appointment.' gargle swish 'Should probably go grocery shopping too.' Swish gargle swish 'Lot of blue in here today'
Wait, blue? I blink and look up at the mirror, feeling my blood turn cold as I did so. My hair was filled with random streaks of blue. Some dark blue, some navy blue, some a bright cyan. But that was just the hair, I was more concerned about my eyes. My eyes color was now a brilliant greenish blue.
“...bwah?” My jaw opens uselessly, and the mouthwash it was holding back pours out and dribbles down my jaw and wets my nightgown. I slowly reach for a towel to wipe my chin, but my eyes remain fixed on my reflection. Being a longtime contact wearer, I blink and felt for the subtle feel of contacts, but there was nothing there.
That can't be right, there has to be something there. I use my hands to hold my eyes open and I lean forward until I'm just an inch away from the mirror. I study my eyes up close, surely I would be able to see a contact lens in there. But no, there was no lens, in fact I could see the individual blue and green pigments in my iris. My eye color changed when I was sleeping. Something is seriously wrong here. I mean, I liked Shining Armor as much as the next girl, but I never agreed to let someone or something changing my eye color. The cutie mark I could sort of ignore, but this? What the hell is this?!
I swallow hard and turn to leave the bathroom, I have to talk to Tess, she will be able to explain what is going on. As I walk down the short hallway to her room I hear our kitchen TV is on. I glance over the loft balcony to look if Tess is down there, but it's just Harry watching Animaniacs. He has a hooded sweatshirt on and is playing with his phone while eating some really sugary cereal. He doesn't look up so I ignore him and focus on the more pressing matters on my mind. Arriving at Tess's door I knock twice and then open the door and walk in. Some people might find it odd that I just walk in on my 25 year old sister, but that's how it's always been for us. We have never really had any privacy between us, and besides, we were both girls, what was I going to see?
My sister was not in the middle of changing though, surprisingly enough she was still asleep. I take a few steps towards her, prepared to wake her up and ask some questions, but that's when I notice her hair. I freeze in place as I see her hair is just as strangely colored as mine, perhaps more so. A hue of bluish purple fills most of her hair, with two faint stripes of pink and purple streaking down the center.
My breath catches in my throat for a moment, before I speak a single word, “Twilight”. I don't know if I meant to announce who the hair reminded me of, or if I meant to say my sisters name to wake her up. In either case, the latter seem to happen.
Tess stirs in her bed and moves and hand to rub her face. “Hmmm?”
The hair was one thing, but there is something much more scary that I want to see. Deep inside I know what's coming, but I want the wait to be over with. “Tess. Open your eyes. Now.”
“Mmm? What is it Rachel?” She slowly opens her eyes to reveal a brilliant, unnatural purple.
“FUCK.” I run my hands through my hair in panic. Something was seriously, seriously wrong here. Well, at least Tess is awake now, and she knows a hell of a lot more about biology than I do. She may have been able to brush off the cutie marks, but I think she might be a little more concerned to learn her eye color seems to have permanently changed.
She leans forward in her bed. “Rachel? What's the matter? ...and wait a second, why is your hair blue?”
I flash a nervous grin “Ha, yeah, about that.” I reach forward and grab her hand, physically pulling her out of her bed.
“Hey! Come on sis, that hurts” I ignore her slight protest and pull her into the bathroom, flicking on the light and placing her in front of the mirror. She blinks, then squints forward and raises a hand “My hair? You died my hair blue too? Well more like dark purple...”
I bite my lip, “That wasn't my doing, but let's forget the hair for a second. EYES.”
Tess's vision shifts and then she takes a sharp breath, then seemingly stops breathing. She leans forward and lifts her hand to open her eye, probably checking for contacts like I just was. After a moment she leans back and studies the reflection of her face for an extended amount of time. Her brow furrows in pure concentration.
I smile, good 'ol Tess. I sometimes poke fun at her for studying too much, but it all pays off in times like this. Behind that expression her brain is probably sorting through thousands of pieces of information per second as it is searching for an answer to this. There is no doubt in my mind, if anyone in Canada will be able to explain any of this, it will be her. She must know exactly how this is possible.
“This is... impossible.” Tess only spoke three words, but those three shattered my entire confidence. Then she spoke a few more, just to ensure the loss of my calm state. “Rachel, I’m not kidding. This is completely, literally, biologically impossible.”
She turns to face me with a look of complete and utter confusion. I grab her shoulders, “Come on nothing is impossible, and since this obviously just happened, that means it's possible right? Eyes can change color... right?”
Tess looks back at the mirror “Well changing color, no even that shouldn't be possible. It really shouldn't be, but I guess it could happen in some really, really crazy situations. However... the color of the iris being bright purple?” Tess leans closer to the mirror again “Rachel, the human iris can't be bright purple. It just can't. IT CAN'T BE PURPLE!!!”
I put my hand on her shoulder to try and calm her down as she starts to hyperventilate. “Whoa, Tess, take a few deep breaths, it will be okay, just calm down.”
She takes a few breaths and settles down before hanging her head in defeat, “Rachel, the human genotype has dozens of different genes that encode melanin: our body’s dye. Melanin can make pigments of brown and yellow, which when combined with Rayleigh scattering of the light through the cornea gives us all the eye colors we see in humans. Browns, blues, greens, even greys, blacks, and yellows are possible. Heck even greyish-purple can be seen in albinos, but bright purple? No. Rachel, humans are literally not capable of making that color of dye. It's not in our genome: This. Is. Impossible.”
I lean back and stare at her for a moment, “So...”
Tess covers her face with both her palms as she thinks. “...I need to get back to my lab. Not my PhD physics one, the old one I used for my Master's program. It was a biochem lab, but we did a lot of genetics work on that floor. If I could get in there and have some privacy, I can run some gene expressions tests on myself...”
“Well, it is Saturday, the lab is probably deserted.” I offer helpfully.
Tess nods slowly, “I was just thinking that. And knowing how useless and slow academic bureaucracy is, they probably haven't taken my name off their security list yet even though I left that lab two years ago. My old student ID should still open the doors...” She pauses and looks me over, staring at my eyes before raising an eyebrow “Oh, your eyes changed too. Well, at least your color is sort of possible, a mix of green and blue. Very improbable, but still technically possible. Still doesn't explain why you're expressed phenotype would change overnight...”
I reach up and grab a strand of hair that I could see. Were my bangs always this long? “Hey Tess, what about the hair color change?”
She shrugs, “I just assume that is dye. Doesn't really concern me, unlike the biologically impossible eye color change...”
I rub my forehead, “Dye? Come on Tess, who would dye our hair overnight?”
We stare at each other for a moment before speaking in unison, “Harry.”
“Well whatever, I'm telling you guys, I didn't screw with our hair, just like I certainly didn't tattoo all of our asses.” Harry went on, rambling about how he doesn't even know the address of any tattoo parlors, but I stopped paying attention as my mind replayed something.
“Harry, what do you mean our hair?” I point at his covered head, “Take off the sweatshirt hood.”
Harry sighs, then slowly reaches up and slides back the hood, “Totally not fair. You guys have blue hair, which is strange but kind of cool. But me? Pink hair? Not even the gayest of gay people have pink hair! What am I supposed to do with this?”
Tess and I study his hair for a second. It wasn't as 'advanced' in color change as my sister's or mine. It was still mostly black, there were just a few isolated pink streaks here and there.
I glance back at his eyes, “Hey Tess, his eyes are still brown.”
Harry raises an eyebrow, “Still? What's that supposed to mean, you're not suggesting...” He glances at the eyes of Tess and myself, “Ah, not sure how I didn't notice that until now. You're telling me you two just woke up like that? With blue and purple eyes?”
I nod while Harry stares at my sister for a few seconds. “Tess, purple eyes are creepy as hell in real life. I’m used to seeing them in anime, but in person they look so... alien.”
Tess sighs, then moves back to learn against the wall and closes her eyes. I bite my lip and look back at Harry, something catching my eye on his head, “Harry, what’s in your hair?”
He glances at me, “You mean other than the garish pink stripes?”
I frown, “No, dude, there’s something moving.” I get closer to Harry and let my eyes lock onto the subtle movement. It looks like a bright red worm or something is crawling from his scalp out towards the tip of his hair. I lean closer still, ignoring Harry's questions as to ‘what did I mean something was moving’. After realizing I’m not going to reply, Harry just shrugs and goes back to his cereal.
I still can't make sense of this moving pink thing so I move my face just inches away from Harry's head. Finally I have a clear view of the thing moving across his hair. It isn't a worm. I swallow nervously and call my sister without taking my eyes off the sight before me. “Twi...”
My sister opens her eyes, but doesn't budge, so I call her louder, “Twi, come over here!!”
She moves over to me and Harry lowers his cereal spoon mid bite, “Wait... what the hell did you just say Rachel?”
I continue to ignore him for the time being and point at the moving color streak in Harry's hair so Tess can see it. Harry starts to turn his head “No, seriously Rachel, you just said--”
He is cut off as Tess grabs his head with both hands. “Hold your head perfectly still Harry. Oh my god...”
Harry remains still for a moment, then speaks up, ”Umm, so seriously now, do you mind telling me what's going on?” I imagine his face was full of fear and confusion at this point, but Tess and I are too transfixed on his hair to pay any attention to his front.
Tess just stares ahead at the spectacle, so I take it upon myself to describe the sight before my eyes for Harry. “Well, don't freak out buddy, but right now we're watching a lock of your hair change color right before our eyes. As in, literally, this streak here is still brown at the tip, but a wave of bright pink started at the root and is now traveling down the hair... and.... there, now the entire strand is pink. Oh fuck, it's happening over here now!” I take a step back in bewilderment as a half dozen other streaks of pink start to form all over his head. “Harry you have locks of hair, locks about 1cm wide, their roots all turn pink and then the pinkness slowly moves down the strands like a rising tide until the entire lock is bright pink."
“Haha, very funny, I'm not even that smart and even I know that's impossible.” Harry says, his voice half full of alarm, half confusion.
Tess nods slowly, “Yes Harry... it is. Pretty much every aspect of this is quite impossible. Hmm, actually...” She nudges me with her elbow, not wanting to look away from the scene before her eyes, “Rachel, get me a pair of scissors.” I immediately obey, knowing that right now, 'what the fuck is going on here' is far beyond my understanding, but if I help Tess maybe she can figure it out.
“Hey! What are you planning over there?” More alarm manifests in Harry's voice and he tries to turn to face us, but Tess is still holding his head still.
I return with a pair of small scissors and dutifully hand them over to Tess, who answers Harry, “Rachel, hold his head still. Harry, please don't move, I'm just snipping one hair strand.”
Tess selects a single strand of hair that is 1/3 pink, 2/3 brown. No, wait, now it is 1/2 pink and 1/2 brown. Tess snips it at the base and explains herself as she does so “I want to preserve one strand mid transition. If I bring this to the biochem lab I might be able to... wait, shit.”
I glance over at her hand to find the reason for the explicative. “Oh, you've gotta be kidding me...” The free strand of hair in her hand which was cut from Harry's head is now 80% pink and still advancing. “Tess, if you cut that strand off his head, how the hell is it still advancing? Isn't that dead?”
Tess bites her lips as the free strand of hair between her fingers becomes 100% pink. “This strand is just dead, dried keratin. There isn't a living cell anywhere on here and it's not connected to the body. It shouldn't be able to change... it shouldn't....”
I let go of Harry's head and he turns to face us, “Well, so yet another impossible thing. I'm sensing a pattern here, I mean--”
“Ahh!” Tess looks at his face and jumps back a few inches in surprise.
I look at Tess, than back at Harry's face and squint. Harry speaks up, “What? Something on my face?”
A shiver goes down my spine as I see it. “Harry... I hope you like blue eyes.”
Harry pauses for a moment, then says nothing as he stands up to go find a mirror. I turn back to the smartest person in the room, “Tess, so, umm, his eyes were normal 30 seconds ago, and we were all alone here in the kitchen. No one else came, no one did anything. They changed entirely on their own accord, just like his hair. Tess... what the hell is going on?”
Harry's voice echoes down the hall, “Oh you've gotta be shitting me! Blue eyes I can deal with but this hair got way too pink! I look totally gay now!”
The two of us ignore him, as per usual, and Tess moves to the living room and starts packing things, “I don't know what's going on, but I'm going to find out. Take off your pants, I need a sample.”
“A sample of...?” I raise an eyebrow, but do as she says and strip down to my panties. Tess returns with an old backpack and produces several small vials that look like small glass film canisters. “Harry, bring me the isopropyl from the medicine cabinet!”
Harry's voice echoes back from the bathroom, “The what?”
My sister facepalms, “The rubbing alcohol!”
Harry returns a few seconds later with the bottle, still running a hand through his new hair. He hands the bottle over, “You know, my hair feels different, not just pink, it's like... softer? Longer?”
I start to worry that my sister is going to attempt surgery on me or something and wanted that rubbing alcohol to sterilize her tools, but Tess just pours the alcohol into her six small glass vials. Then she picks up what looks like a metal toothpick and walks towards me, “I'm just going to take some DNA samples.”
Harry finally notices that I’m sitting half naked on the couch. “Oh hey Rachel, nice panties. You getting ready to try your birthday present out or something?”
Tess laughs and I bite my tongue, “Shut up and turn around Mr. ‘Gay Pink Hair’, one more word about my birthday present and you're gone.”
Harry smiles to himself but says nothing as he turns around to give me some privacy. Tess wastes no time in picking and scraping at one of my cutie marks with her metal tool, then she puts the pick in one of the glass vials and closes it. “I'll want a DNA sample from everything that's changed. I can't sample your eye, so I'll just do the tattoo and the hair...”
Harry is still facing the wall but he corrects her, “Not a tattoo, it’s a cutie mark.”
Tess says nothing and continues to work, adding a snippet of my blue hair to another vial. She then proceeds to repeat both of those steps on herself, adding a lock of her hair and then her cutie mark's DNA to the two other vials. I glance at the last 2 vials, “What are those last two vials for, are you tagging Harry too?”
A momentary look of confusion crosses her face, “Hmm? No I don't need Harry, testing two of us is fine. Oh! I almost forgot, I need controls! Give me a bit of unchanged, normal skin.” I glance at my arm, it looks normal enough, I hold it out and Tess takes a skin sample, and then finishes by repeating the same on herself as well.
“So, now what?” I ask as I put my jeans back on. “Oh, and Harry you can look now.”
Harry turns back around and walks over to the couch, still running a hand through his hair as he gives a glance towards Tess who is packing up all her samples. “I'll be back from the lab in a few hours. You two stay here, call me if anything crazy happens.” She puts her backpack on and grabs her old student ID then makes for the door. “
I raise an eyebrow, “Call you if something crazy happens? Crazy like what? I mean, our eye colors changed and we saw a man's hair turn pink right before our eyes. I think my meter for determining 'crazy' might be a little skewed at the moment.”
Tess pauses in the doorframe, “Hmm, touché. Well, I'll be back in a few hours, wish me luck!”
I wave, “Godspeed, go find some us some answers.”
The door closes and I turn back to Harry who is still running his hands through his hair. I look at it for a moment, noticing an aspect of it that wasn't there just a few minutes ago, “Harry, you're hair is really freaking long. Like seriously, what the hell, yesterday your hair was an inch long right?”
He nods and he twirls a lock of shoulder length pink hair around his finger. “Yep... and now my hair is really, really girly.... I’m not sure if I like where this is heading Rachel. ”
“Relax buddy, gender isn't decided by what your hair looks like.”
He gives me a glance, “The hair is just a side thing dude. I'm not worried about the hair changing my gender, I’m more worried about that something else doing that.”
I raise an eyebrow, “Oh really? Come on Harry, what would do that? I’m pretty sure nothing can--”
He taps his thigh, “It's got to be my destiny, and it's what my cutie mark is telling me! Rachel, the song doesn’t just apply to making parties and balloon animals. It might as well be referring my pink hair or maybe a new gender to match this hair and cutie mark.”
I pause for a second and chuckle, “Not gonna happen Harry. No way a cutie mark can change us that much. I mean, look at the show if you really wanna base your ideas off that. When Rarity had Dash’s cutie mark she didn’t grow wings or get a rainbow mane. Cutie marks--if that’s really what these things are--can’t change people physically.”
“Mmhmm, keep telling yourself that bro, maybe one day you will convince yourself it’s true.” Harry grabs his forward most lock of hair and pulls it out in front of him. It was almost entirely pink and when straightened out it was well over two feet long.
He looks up at me with his new blue eyes and I swallow nervously. Harry is changing by the minute, and I haven’t looked at my own hair for about half an hour. “Urgh, be right back Harry...”
I stand up and walk towards the bathroom to catch my reflection, swearing under my breath as I do so. My hair is positively full of those three shades of blue. Navy blue, deep blue, and then that fluorescent greenish-blue that almost seems to glow in the light.
Harry appears beside me, “If it’s any consolation, I kind of like it. Certainly beats pink if you ask me.” I say nothing and scratch my forehead, wishing that Tess would hurry back from the lab.
After a moment or two of both of us staring at my reflection, Harry takes his hand and lifts the back of my hair, I was about to ask what the hell he was doing when he speaks up, “Uh... it's not just the color or the length Rachel, this hair is getting really long down your neck too.”
I roll my eyes, “What do you mean ‘not just the length but it’s getting long down my neck’? Hair going further down my neck IS length.”
He shakes his head, “Sorry, that’s not what I meant. It’s not just longer, it seems to be growing from more skin.”
I flick his hand away and bring my hand to where his was, then run my fingers down and feel my hairline. What the hell? Harry wasn’t kidding, my hairline itself goes all the way down to my shoulders, I have hair growing out from the entire back of my neck.
Harry stares at my back with worry, “Rachel... on humans isn't the hairline on your neck supposed to end up where your ears are?”
I turn and glare at him “On humans? What kind of question is that?”
Harry sighs and leans back on the wall and crosses his arms, “So I'm going to have to be the jackass that says it huh?”
I stare at him, knowing what was coming. “Really Harry? Horses and ponies? You think we're actually becoming ponies?” I force myself to laugh, though I admit to myself that Harry’s suggestion had crossed my mind.
He throws his hands in the air, “Well, I'm not a scientist, but hey SHINING ARMOR that's a nice MANE you have, really matches your cutie mark and eyes. Oh and why don't you ask your sister, TWILIGHT, if she knows why Pinkie's hair is this brightly colored and long and curly?”
I look back at the reflection of us and bite my lip, Harry did have a point. These changes were anything but random. Everything done so far is making us look more and more like certain ponies, these hair changes are perhaps most alarming of them all, human hair doesn’t grow like this. But no, suggesting that we are actually turning into ponies is just stupid. “Come on Harry, we're dealing with the strange and somewhat impossible, not something out of pure fantasy.”
He shrugs, “Fine, but a hundred dollars says the answer you’re looking for is ponies.”
I facepalm, “You’re wrong Harry.”
He remains adamant, “Okay, so bet me the hundred dollars. You don’t think we’re becoming ponies? Hundred dollars.” Harry holds out his hand, wanting to shake.
I look at his hand, truth be told, I wasn’t that confident that he was wrong. I normally wouldn’t bet on something this unknown, but to help keep my sanity I decide to take the bet. “Fine, hundred dollars we remain human. Sounds like a pretty safe bet to me...”
Harry smiles and he shakes the hand, “I’m telling you bro, the answer to all this is ponies.”
We end the shake and make our way back to the living room, “Well, since we can’t do anything about these changes and constantly thinking about it is going to drive us insane, what do you wanna do to pass the time until my sister returns?”
Harry shrugs again, “Uh... I think the answer is ponies?”
I chuckle slightly at his mimicked response, “Sure, why not. That show always makes the hours fly by, and right now I just want it to be time for Tess to get back here with some answers.”
“Well, assuming she FINDS some answers, this might be beyond her, I mean, this is all pretty surreal.” Harry says as he turns on the TV and grabs the ever familiar Blu Ray collection of all the seasons.
I scoff at his comment, “Oh please, this is Tess we are talking about! She’ll figure it out.” I grab the remote and select the Equestria Games Crystal Empire episode. I'm not entirely sure why, but I really want an episode with Shining Armor in it.
Ponies start to play on the screen and Harry and I say nothing as we enjoy the episode and another one starts playing. I don't know when I dozed off, but I soon started dreaming an ever familiar dream...
“Get my five full centurion forces plus my personal guard! Bring the royal mages as well, this is not a drill people, let's move move move!!” Those were the orders I bellowed across the barracks earlier today when we got the alert that Celestia hadn’t reported back from her trip with Discord. I knew Discord had done something, and it wasn’t just the fact that she was missing, I could feel it in the air that something bad happened.
We marched out to her last location near the volcano. With me were several hundred of our finest guards, all armed to the teeth. We also brought an entire legion of unicorns specifically trained in negating and deflecting Discord’s magic. If we found him, he would have to answer to us. I only wish Luna could have accompanied us, but she was in her sacred slumber and magic law stated she can’t be awoken until nightfall.
Finally we reach the volcanic outcrop where Celestia and Discord planned to fight the beast from Tartarus. There was nothing here though, no monster, no Discord, and no Celestia. I give some commands to the scouts to ensure we aren't missing something, but from the looks of it this place is deserted.
They should be here though, and Celestia would have signaled back to us if they planned to leave. “I got a really bad feeling about this.” No sooner had I thought those words when I felt a jolt of magical panic across me. I freeze in place and note the bad taste forming in my mouth. “No... Twilight?!”
One of my unicorn bodyguards stops and looks at me, “Sir, what is it?”
The pit of horror grows in my stomach as I explain what I felt, “My sister! As you know I have personally put protection spells all around her chambers, but something just shattered all of them! That’s impossible though, they--ARGH!” I pause and clutch my head as pain goes down my horn. I can always tell when something bad is happening to someone I am protecting, but I have never felt it this strongly before. The feeling of dread is cutting me so deep that I knew it could only mean one thing: My sister's life is in danger.
Panic floods me as I look around us and realize our folly. Much of the royal guard had left Canterlot with me, Twilight is practically alone in the castle. I didn’t even think to warn her that trouble might be coming! I stand tall and immediately bark orders, “EVERYPONY PULL BACK!! RETURN TO CANTERLOT AT ONCE!!”
There is some minor confusion but everyone obeys and turns around. I turn to my personal guard, “Twilight is under attack. I’m sorry, but I have to get back there now.”
A decorated pegasus near me salutes, “Sir, I will fly there myself. I will arrive before the bulk of our forces, but I will find and protect Princess Sparkle with my life.”
I shake my head, “Your bravery is commendable, but there’s no need for that flight, I’m going myself. I’ll meet you all there when you arrive.” I start to charge my horn and prepare to teleport back. Teleportation is an exceptionally tricky spell, the number of ponies that can do this could be counted with a single breath. Truth be told, the spell was probably beyond my natural talent, but my sister painstakingly taught me this spell. Under her detailed lessons, I learned every nuance and trick needed to perform it.
One of my personal unicorn guards realizes what I was doing and runs up to me. I temporarily halt my spell as he speaks up, “Sir, please, you can’t go by yourself, you have to wait for some of your guard to arrive! It’s too risky to go there alone!”
I grit my teeth, “Look, we don’t have time for this! It’s going to take us over an hour to get back on hoof. That’s too slow! I need to teleport back now! If something happens to me when I’m saving my sister, well then that’s my problem.”
The unicorn grabs my uniform and beseeches me, “No, that’s just it sir, this is more important than you! Shining, you’re the Captain of the Guard! With Celestia gone and Luna in her sacred slumber, command of the entire Equestrian armed forces falls to you! If Celestia really did fall in battle, this is an act of war! Don’t you get it? We need to get you to safety immediately! We can protect you from Discord and work to find and protect the other bearers of Harmony, but you have to stay with us! The next few hours will be crucial to the entire fate of Equestria! If something were to happen to you, the entire guard will be thrown into disarray, we would have no way to--”
I shove the groveling unicorn off of me and he lands painfully on his side. I swear under my breath, “Damn it, this is my sister we’re talking about! I’m sorry, but I can’t just sit around here and wait while she gets killed!”
Another pegasus cries out, begging me to wait for reinforcements, I ignore him and I feel the magic from my horn start to envelop me. I mutter the incantation of the teleport spell and as I do so I feel a flood of passion. My sister took the time to teach me this spell, and now I can use it to save her.
A spark, a flash, and I find myself in the throne room of Canterlot. Thin smoke fills the air and I don't see any of the ceremonial guard. A few broken helmets and spears are scattered about and I hear diffuse screaming in the distance. Panic floods my veins as I cry out, “Twilight!!!”
I sprint down the halls to her chambers, and as I get closer I can feel something that doesn’t belong. And it's in her room! I can’t sense Twilight anywhere, but I will defeat whatever beast or monster is in her room and save my sister. I’m only a few steps from the room when I hear a totally different mare's voice cut across the air. “Rachel! Ahhhhh, holy shit, holy shit. Oh god, Rachel, I'm freaking out man! Rachel!”
Wait, what the hell? Is that Pinkie? I shake my head and my dream fades...
I run my hand over my face and wipe the sleep from my eyes. Harry yells something and I sit up on the couch, what was I dreaming about? Something tormentous, I don’t remember the dream but I know it was full of violence and terror...
“Rachel, oh Jesus tapdancing Christ, am I tripping right now, please tell me I'm tripping!” Harry is sitting across from me, looking white as a ghost as his hand waves at my face. “Oh god they are still moving! There are changing shape now too!! Ahhh, what the fuuuuuuuuck!”
I look at him, “Harry, seriously, what's happening?”
He says something in response, but it's muffled for some reason. All sound fades as I feel myself go temporarily deaf. A second later my sense of hearing returns, but it’s different. It’s crisper, louder, and clearer than ever.
I clear my throat “Whoa, that felt weird, what the hell just happened?”
Harry just whimpers.
I feel the upper part of my head twitch and flick and Harry’s eyes go wide as he stares at me. My mind connects all the dots and I freeze. “Harry... what happened to my ears?”
He swallows slowly, “Well, let me put it this way. I think I just won a hundred dollars from a bet.”