A strange, glowing object sat on a pedestal in the middle of the room. Twilight Sparkle focused her magic on it, and seemed visibly taxed by her efforts.
Fluttershy, Applejack, Rarity and Spike watched with bated breath.
“What if Rainbow Dash doesn’t find her in time?” Fluttershy worried aloud. “What if we lose Pinkie forever?” Tears filled her eyes as the words barely escaped her lips.
Applejack leaned over to place a comforting hoof on her friend’s back. “I reckon we’ve done everything we can, Fluttershy. Ain’t nothin’ good gonna come out of sayin’ things like that.”
“Indeed,” agreed Rarity, “nothing more can be done.”
Fluttershy nodded slowly at the harsh reality of the situation, and fell quiet.
Suddenly, the front door slammed open, everypony’s heads snapping at the sudden interruption as Twilight’s concentration was shattered.
I stood at the entrance to the library, gasping for breath. Sweat coated almost every inch of my body, and my heart raced so fast and violently that I could feel it beating in my head.
Through my desperate struggle for breath, I could just manage to feel the almost non-existent presence of my other self. Not much time remained until she’d be gone forever.
Four of the five ponies whom I’d hoped to see were standing there, wide-eyed and speechless, seemingly unsure of what to say.
Twilight opened her mouth to break the silence, but I held up a hoof before she managed a word.
“I’m so sorry for leaving,” I said, pausing to catch my breath again. “I was just so scared that I didn’t even stop to think about how it might affect all of you.”
Twilight again opened her mouth to say something, but I was eager to speak my mind.
“Maybe if I’d been more considerate of you all, I would’ve understood the decision you were being forced to make. I’m so sorry for putting myself above the real Pinkie.”
Twilight smiled gently. “It’s not your fault. I’m the one to blame for this mess.” She looked down. “I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for trying to manipulate you.”
Twilight looked back up at me. “Maybe if I hadn’t been so intent on my original plan, I would’ve thought of using Eternity’s Tear sooner.”
My ears perked up at her words. “Eternity’s Tear?”
Twilight nodded, and turned to face an object shaped like a perfect teardrop.
“This,” she said, gesturing to the the object, “is an ancient and powerful relic. Years ago, when I was a student at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, the princess showed it to me.
"Eternity’s Tear can serve as an artificial vessel, allowing a consciousness to exist without the support of a living, breathing body."
"So you're suggesting that I be transferred into this... thing?" I asked.
"Simply put, yes. However, this rite can only be performed if you're willing."
I walked up to the cerulean-blue tear, which rested on the pedestal with a faint glow. As I stared into its depths, the thought of living the rest of my days in such a confined space became increasingly daunting to me.
"Looks a bit cramped, doesn't it?" I asked jokingly, hoping to lighten the mood slightly.
"It wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference to you," said Twilight, still serious in tone. "When you become separated from your body, physical needs, desires, and discomfort become obsolete.
"Unfortunately, because of this, you would be unable to communicate with others verbally. Perhaps a telepathic conversation with some unicorns would work, but I can’t be sure."
When the only response she received was silence, she continued. "Not to mention, you would endure far longer than most ponies could ever hope to. It would be like immortality, in a way."
I continued to stare at the smooth surface of the orb. "It sounds more like a prison," I muttered.
"But you would still exist," Twilight responded, almost desperate. "You would still live and think just like any other pony. You would be there to witness the wonders that ponykind will discover in the future. They may even come up with a way for you to have a real body in the future."
"It won’t matter if I'm forgotten in an attic somewhere," I said.
Twilight seemed taken aback. "That would never be allowed to happen. You would be on display in a place where everypony could look at you and know just who and what you are."
"Even so," I began, "what else would I have to witness? The passing of all of you, and everyone else I care about?"
"I... won't try to sugar coat it." Twilight bit her lip. "I know it’s not perfect, but it's the only thing we can do. This is no longer a matter of which friend we might prefer. It’s a matter of Equestria's safety, and I think you understand it just as well as we do at this point."
Just then, I felt a tiny nudge in the back of my mind. "Bye bye," it said, struggling for even those simple words.
Panic began to rise within me as I quickly realized what this meant. Mere seconds remained for me to make my decision.
"Do it," I said without another moment's hesitation. "Do it now."
Twilight looked surprised. "What's with the sudden eagerness?" she asked, clearly unaware of how precious each second was at this moment.
"It's Pinkie!" I said, finally revealing it to them. "She's almost gone. We need to do this now, or it'll be too late.”
As the words reached Twilight's ears, a grave expression made its way across her face, and I couldn't help but assume the worst.
"The tear..." she began. "I was charging it in preparation for the transfer before you arrived."
"And it’s ready, right? Right?" I asked desperately.
"It... still needs about thirty more minutes," she said flatly.
"I... but, what if..." I tried, but nothing came to mind. I was at an utter loss for ideas. Any sort of hope seemed to shatter.
Then, out of nowhere, I did something that even surprised myself.
"Just do it now," I said.
"W-what?" she responded. "Are you suggesting—"
"Yes, I am. You have my consent."
Twilight's mouth was agape, and her eyes widened to full capacity. "Do you have any idea what you're asking me to do?"
"I think so."
"No, I don't think you do!" she shouted. "This is the worst imaginable fate for anyone. If one doesn’t pass away naturally with their body, then they don’t live or die. They’ll just fade away into nothingness, ceasing to exist!"
"You don’t know that for sure," I said. “We don’t really even know what I am. We don’t know exactly what will happen to me.”
"Well it can’t be anything good," said Twilight. "Don't do this to yourself. Let me finish charging the orb. Pinkie is strong. I know she can last just a bit longer."
"No... I won’t take that risk," I said. "She's been holding on for days. We have to do this now."
Twilight looked at me with a pleading gaze as tears filled her eyes. "Why do you want me to do this to you? If something happens, I'll never forgive myself!"
"And if you lose your Pinkie, I’ll never forgive myself.”
Everypony stared at me, completely at a loss for words.
“Look, this isn’t just about Pinkie. I know the elements won't work with her gone. Where does that put everypony else?"
Twilight looked like she was about to object again, but I didn’t give her the chance this time.
"Please don't try to convince me otherwise. I've made my choice, and I'm asking—no, begging—you to respect it. I feel like this is something I need to do. If doing this will bring her back and ensure Equestria’s safety, then... I'll do it in a heartbeat."
A single tear rolled down my cheek as this epiphany rang true for me. At that moment, I realized that my utmost desire in the world was merely for everyone to be happy. I couldn’t explain or understand it.
Regardless, I knew it to be true. For the first time in my life, I knew exactly what I wanted, and I finally had the opportunity to seize it.
Suddenly, I felt a strange, tingling sensation coming from my flank. Turning my head, I saw the unmistakable image of three balloons, two blue and one yellow, ingrained into my fur.
The revelation of one's true purpose in life is an indescribable joy. Sadly, there was no longer a single second to spare, even if it was simply to appreciate my final success in this world.
"We're out of time," I said. "It's now or never."
Twilight merely nodded. She raised a trembling hoof, gesturing to a spot on the floor directly across from her. Without a word of question, I obeyed. The last few steps felt like they took a lot longer than they should have, and the others looked at me in solemn silence as I passed.
It seemed like Applejack and Rarity were trying to put on brave faces, whereas Fluttershy and Spike had looks of utter helplessness. It was heartbreaking to see them like that, so I flashed them a reassuring smile, to which they merely nodded in understanding. I wish I could have taken time to say good-bye to them all, but they knew as well as I did that time was something we no longer possessed.
When I was finally in place, Twilight’s horn lit up as she began the spell, and I became encapsulated in a magical aura.
All of a sudden, the front door flew open. Twilight, who refused to let her concentration waver for even a moment, paid no attention to this disruption.
There, in the front doorway, stood Rainbow Dash. The colors in her mane and tail were especially prominent in the rays of the morning sun, and shone brilliantly.
As she looked around the room, inspecting the faces of each and every one of us, she must have reached some sort of conclusion because before I knew it, she made a beeline for Twilight.
Applejack, quick to respond, leapt into the air and tackled Rainbow mid-flight, pinning her to the ground.
“Argh, let go of me!” shouted Rainbow, fighting desperately to overcome Applejack.
“Ah’m sorry, Dash, but Pinkie made this choice for herself. It’s what she wants,” Applejack insisted, struggling to keep her down.
“Pinkie doesn’t know what she’s doing! You guys probably just lied to her again,” cried Rainbow. “Lemme go!”
After attempting to squirm from Applejack’s iron hold, it eventually became clear that Rainbow Dash would not escape, and she finally relaxed her muscles in defeat.
Then, she looked up at me, eyes gleaming. “Pinkie...” she pleaded.
I was unsure what to say. So many words raced through my mind, but not a single one came to surface. Instead, I merely smiled and raised up my hoof, waving to her as a final farewell.
"No, don't go!" she screamed. "Pinkie!"
Without warning, I felt the darkness close around me.
These memories... so many memories, are flashing before me in my final moments. Even now, I can feel the void beckoning. I am beginning to feel weak. Before long, my very existence will be erased.
What will it feel like to not exist? Will I fall into an endless dream? Will I merely drift around, incapable of even the most simple thoughts? I can’t even begin to imagine what it will entail.
Now that I think about it, ‘weak’ may be the wrong word, because for that to be the case, I would need to have some sort of physical sense left. Perhaps the better word would be ‘weary.’ Yes, that sounds more appropriate. I am... weary.
Where am I? I wonder, where could Twilight’s spell have possibly placed me?
“I think we just switched places,” says a far-off voice.
“Places? What places?” I convey through thought alone. To whom I’m asking this, however, I’ve not a clue.
“It’s me, Pinkie!”
“So... it worked?” I ask.
A wave of relief washes over me. “How... how are things looking out there? How is everyone? How are you?”
“I feel as good as new! After all this time, it feels really weird to have a body again.”
Good. Everything is finally back to normal for them. Now I can go with a clear conscious, knowing I didn’t leave any irreversible damage.
“Um, well...” she trails off.
“The girls... they know you’re not coming back.”
“They’re not taking it well. They were happy to see me again, but then they remembered that you’re gone. Dashie, she...”
“She what?” I prod.
“She’s devastated. We all are. You were our friend.”
This comes as a bit of a surprise to me. I didn’t realize this would upset them that much, but Pinkie’s sadness is almost palpable.
I thought they would be thrilled to have their old friend back. Did I make the wrong choice?
No. I knew there would be consequences, but for everyone’s sake, I knew it had to be done.
“It’ll be alright,” I insist. “Even if things are bad now, you'll all get through this... together. I know it.”
I feel a bit of hesitance. I wonder if she heard me.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am, now that I can throw parties and have fun like before,” she finally says, “but it feels wrong that I have to have that instead of you.”
“They need you more than they need me," I say. "They want you more. No matter how much I didn’t want it to be true, there was no changing it. In the end, this outcome is better for everyone.”
“Not for you,” she says plainly.
“Well, almost everyone.”
After another short moment of silence, she speaks up again. “I’ll never forget you."
"I... hope... not."
"Are you okay?" she asks.
I’m so tired. I want to say something, but... the words just won’t come. I need to thank her for... something, but I can’t remember what it was.
"Are you there? Hello?"
I desperately want to say something.
“Say something! Anything!” she says in desperation.
I just... can’t find the words.
“NO! PLEASE DON’T GO!”
She seems upset. I wish I could apologize. Maybe... this is the end. What a shame.
Oh well... I had fun.
Many hours had gone by since Twilight cast the spell, during which time Spike sent a letter to Princess Celestia informing her of everything that had transpired. Almost immediately upon receiving the letter, the princess took it upon herself to visit them personally.
She now sat at the table with her protégé, blowing on some tea that Spike had shakily prepared for the two of them. Twilight’s loyal assistant had been greatly affected by these events, and immediately retreated to his bed after serving them.
The princess glanced towards the other end of the room where the rest of the ponies sat, and saw that nothing had changed. Everyone's tears had dried except Rainbow’s, who continued to weep freely.
The prideful pegasus had initially attempted to leave, not wanting her friends to see her in such a state. However, Applejack had insisted, "If'n there was ever a good time to cry, it'd be now."
By now, everyone else was less concerned with their grief, and more focused on consoling Rainbow. Celestia had planned to offer her own words of comfort, but quickly decided against it. This mare needed the support of her close friends, not her ruler.
Celestia averted her attention away from the scene towards Twilight, whose gaze had fallen to the floor.
Princess Celestia spoke up. “You may rejoin your friends if you wish. There’s no shame in grieving, and you do not need to keep yourself here for my sake.”
“I know, but... maybe I should give them some time. I don’t think Rainbow Dash is ready to forgive me yet.”
The princess looked at her student with sympathy. “I know this isn’t easy, Twilight.”
The unicorn looked up in surprise. "Huh? Oh... I’m okay."
"I know you much better than that. I can see that you’re troubled by this."
Twilight looked at her mentor with desperate eyes. "How am I supposed to live with myself, knowing I did something so... horrible to somepony?"
"You understand it was the necessary course of action, don't you?"
"Of course I do!" Twilight said defensively. "If there was another option, I never would have considered trying this in the first place."
"And," Celestia began, "she let you perform the spell, didn’t she?"
Twilight nodded. "Yes. I needed her absolute permission to do it."
"Of course. Also, wasn’t it her choice? No manipulative spells of any sort?"
"Of course not!” she said defensively. “I would never!"
"Exactly, which is why I think you have no reason to blame yourself any further."
Twilight looked down at the floor, remaining silent.
“This tragedy has struck quite a blow to us all. Knowing that I could do nothing to save her is incredibly difficult for me, as well.
“But life moves on, and so will we. For now, we must be thankful for what we do have, and keep moving forward. You and your friends have overcome extraordinary challenges in the past, and I have no doubt in my mind that the anguish of today’s events will, with time, fade away.”
After some time, Twilight spoke. “Princess?”
“What was the point to all this?”
“I am... not sure I understand what you’re asking.”
“There has to be a reason! Every time something significant has happened in my life, I’ve always been able to learn something from it.”
Celestia said nothing.
“What are we supposed to learn from this? It was just... needless suffering. The other Pinkie was finally starting to see life in the same way our Pinkie Pie does, and now she’s just... gone.”
“Not everything in life can be summed up in a letter, Twilight,” said Celestia gently. “However, if you care to listen, I can tell you what I would take from this.”
“Very well,” she said, putting down her tea.
“I believe, with all sincerity, that there was some good to be had here today. This other side of Pinkie Pie, created by a magical anomaly, was the epitome of selflessness. Her immense care for everyone led her to put all others above herself, and give up everything she was for our sake. No greater price could have been paid.
“Also, I believe, in my heart of hearts, that the Pinkie Pie we all know would have done the same thing.”
“It’s like that pony was born to love others,” Twilight said as she wiped the tears from her face.
“Indeed. It is her purpose in life.”
Twilight looked at her friends, and immediately noticed Rainbow Dash. After hours of sobbing she had fallen asleep, and lay peacefully in the embrace of her friends.
Twilight smiled at this. Maybe everything will be alright, after all.
It occurred to her that Pinkie Pie was nowhere to be seen. She must have slipped out at some point.
Twilight sighed. It’s hard to imagine what this has been like for her. I hope she’s okay.
Then, she smiled to herself. We’re her friends. I know she’ll come to us when she’s ready.
As she looked around the room, everything suddenly felt... different, as if an enormous weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She felt the smallest bit of hope well up in her heart, and smiled once more.
This is what she would have wanted, Twilight thought to herself. For us to live happy, fulfilling lives.
And that's exactly what we're going to do.