When you reject your reality...

by Technopony145

1 - The substitute

I have often dreamed. My mind wanders to places unreachable, places where incredible feats are routine every week or so, and where enchantment runs rampant in the streets. Oh, how I long to visit a place like that. To leave this ‘reality’ where a great work of art can be in your mind until the day you die because you couldn’t put it on paper.
…or because your parents said ‘your imagination holds no sway in the real world’.


…why does my mattress tickle?


I opened my eyes groggily, feeling slightly numb in my hands and feet. I wiped my nose and blinked a few times to let my eyes adjust to the harsh sunlight.
My eyes burst open as realization struck; I was currently lying in a grassy field. And the reason I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes was because…I didn’t have any! Instead, my arms and legs were covered in rusty-red fur and ended in hooves. I screamed and jolted upright to a sitting position, frantically patting myself down with my new hooves. They felt like giant toenails on the ends of my arms.
“Alright, alright,” I said to myself, voice trembling with terror, “find out what I am, and stay sane.”
I listed my body parts as I touched them;
Hooves—like giant toenails, as stated previously,
Fur—like body hair, but more colorful,
Tail—seemed to twitch involuntarily when I thought about it,
Dark red hair—an interesting change from plain-old brown, but technically no more facial hair, sadly.
Long snout—also, fairly big flat teeth,
I was already getting a pretty good idea about what I had become, but then my hands hooves found an obstacle when sliding up my forehead. I screwed my eyes up, and just about saw the tip of a red, spiral horn.
I stared at it. Then I let out a creaky little chuckle. And then I started giggling madly as all the pieces fell into place in my head. I had been turned into a unicorn from My Little Pony! Or at least, I assumed it was MLP.

I recognized the formula now; I go to bed thinking about how great it would be to live in a fantasy world, and lo-and-behold I wake up as a candy-colored unicorn in a place famous for its candy-colored horse population. It’s a classic “transformation whilst asleep” plot—made famous by the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series—with an appending “Human in Equestria”, as confirmed by me taking a chance to better inspect my surroundings.
Strangely enough, the field I was in looked a lot like a field from the show with its bright, flat colors. The grass was a rolling slab of green with the odd tuft marked by darker green lines, the clouds were all swirly and puffy without all that tapering clouds usually did, and then I realized it was making me a little bit dizzy. My new, floppy ears twitched towards the sound of running water.
I climbed to my hooves and stood shakily. Though relating my front legs to my arms was as easy as crawling on my hands, my back legs were a different story—possibly because most quadrupeds’ hind legs are designed to bend differently. I made my way towards the sound thusly; put front leg out front, then move corresponding hind leg, wait to re-balance, repeat. It was slow, but I found that trying to go much faster ended with the discovery of individual blades of grass if I looked close enough. In fact one went up my nose.
I finally reached the source of the running water sound which was, unsurprisingly, a river of liquid blue with little silvery lines indicating the flow. The water was surprisingly reflective, allowing me to properly inspect my face; my hair-err, mane looked like a shaggy mess—after a little styling with my hooves I managed to make it look just shaggy—and was a darker red than my coat. I couldn’t really tell what color my eyes were, as the water seemed to become more transparent as I looked closer. It was surreal looking back at this red stallion in the water and knowing it was me. I turned my head to look downstream. In the far distance I saw a mountain with a small structure hanging off the side of it.
“Canterlot,” I thought, and followed the flow of the river as I journeyed onwards. It was on this trek—after the novelty of being a unicorn pony in a cartoon world started to ware-off—I started pondering exactly how I came to be in this situation. True, I had fallen for the “be careful what you wish for” trick, but…how? And why me, specifically? I’m fairly certain I don’t have a mysterious and magical past; I’m just some aspie geek plagued by art block. Could just have been dumb luck, or some form of magical mishap on this end. Either way, I was going to try and find a way home…eventually. It was something to work towards, at least.
I realized I didn’t really have much to go back to, and I kept thinking to myself, “I am in a world where everything is about love and tolerance,” and “I have the capability to do real, actual magic.”

I seemed to be getting better at walking as I went; now I could go at what would probably be referred to as a ‘moderate pace’. The babbling brook I had been following fed into a lake created by a dam a little ways away. Civilization at last! It was probably the dam from the ‘Mare-do-well’ episode. Slightly giddy, I plodded around the edge to a path leading down the hillside. And then, right there in front of me, was Ponyville proper; all fairytale cottages and flower gardens, as seen on TV. I did a once over on my appearance: brush mane out of face, look-over coat fur-
Oh…Houston, we have a problem: I don’t have a cutie mark. Nothing but blank, red fur was on my flank.
…It probably wasn’t that much of a problem though, right? I mean, who would really pay that much attention to somepony’s cutie mark…right? …unless it’s one of those things that’s only noticed when it’s not there…
“Gah! Stupid brain.” I mumbled to myself, shaking my head. “From now on, I’m a regular, Equestrian unicorn pony.”
Taking a deep breath, I managed to get up to a…canter, I think? A good walking pace for a quadruped, in any case. My legs still felt a bit uncomfortable, but I was on a roll, now. Fortunately, there weren’t many ponies around; a few walking between buildings, a few in groups, chatting. It took some effort on my part, but I managed not to get stuck with a goofy grin on my face. I think one or two might’ve done a double-take, but I didn’t really notice. Everything was so dang vivid! A living, breathing cartoon!
I wandered into a small plaza, but then I saw something. I hurriedly flattened myself against the side of a nearby building, peering around the corner.
“Well, Discord?” said a kind, motherly voice, “Are you ready?”
No…it…it couldn’t be…that alabaster coat, an aurora-colored mane that waved in an unseen breeze…That was Princess Celestia, in the flesh. She looked so much more regal when there wasn’t a screen in the way.
“Yes, Princess, I’m ready to use my magic for good, instead of evil.” said a distinctly familiar male voice, sounding defeated as he bowed to the solar princess,
And that…that chaotic mish-mash of animal parts…that was Discord. I saw him mutter something under his breath—I didn’t have to guess what it was—“most of the time…”; a half-hearted attempt to convince himself that no, really he could still totally be the master of chaos and disharmony he once was if he wanted to, but he just didn’t want to. He’d tell himself that every day until…well, I don’t want to say.
“Congratulations on your success, ponies.” Celestia said, “I definitely sense a big change in Discord.”
The main (mane?) six were there, too; Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie pie, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Twilight Sparkle…sans wings.
“This is the end of ‘Keep Calm and Flutter on’!” I thought, “But…I’m a whole season back in time? What!? I…I didn’t know what to think. If I were to run out there, right now, would that derail the entire canon?
But there was something else there, too…something almost invisible, which was probably why nopony seemed to notice it. There was a small, transparent orb hanging in the air, shimmering in the sunlight. It seemed to silently observe the scene before it, and then it vanished.
Suddenly, my vision was obscured by a wall of pink that said “Hi!”

“Gah, Pinkie!” I shouted, jumping back and teetering briefly on two legs. I landed on my back with a thud, and in an instant Pinkie Pie was peering down at me, her head upside-down from my perspective.
“Oopsie,” she said, “I didn’t mean to scare you like that.”
I turned over, then she gave her hoof to help pull me up, and then she asked, bubbly smile never leaving her face, “Are you psychic?”
“U-uh…” I stammered, blinking a couple times, “what? Uh, n-no, I don’t…think so.”
“Oh.” Pinkie’s smile momentarily faltered, and then she asked, “If you’re not psychic, then how’d you guess my name?”
“W-well…you’re-” I paused to regain some fraction of my composure, “you’re very…well, very pink. It’s not that hard to guess.”
Pinkie looked over herself as if to confirm my observation, and made an understanding “Oooh!” noise, brightening up again shortly thereafter. I tried to stifle a giggle, it was too…Pinkie.
“Oh!” she exclaimed suddenly, “Now lemme try and guess your name!”
I started. Although Pinkie was probably the best to run into first—as she wouldn’t so much as bat an eye at weirdness that didn’t exceed her own—I hadn’t thought about a suitable way to hide my humanity; now that would be weirdness that exceeded her own. At least Pinkie could help me pick out a name.
“Umm…Cherry!” she said after a moment’s pondering, “’cause you’re all red and stuff!”
“Uh…” I said, mulling it over in my head. “No…I don’t think so.”
“Umm…hmm…” Pinkie put a hoof to her chin, staring at me intensely. “It’s kinda hard to tell without seeing your cutie mark.”
“Oh crud, oh crud, oh crud.” Panic welled up in me. Pinkie craned her neck to peek at my lack of a cutie mark, but I moved my own head in turn, blocking her view. My mind was broiling with panic like a cauldron, and in the swirling turmoil, sometimes old things bubble up to the surface.
“Clay-!” I blurted out, a hoof darting to my mouth.
“Uh-uh…C-Clay! Yes, Clay…that’s my name…Clay.”
Pinkie looked at me pensively, and then she broke into a big, bright smile as she grabbed the hoof hovering by my face and shook it vigorously. “Nice to meet you, Clay!”
I let out a mental sigh of relief. “Crisis averted.”
“Actually, I think I have a cousin named Clay.”
I tensed again, “Uh…he doesn’t look anything like me, though, right?”
“I wouldn’t know, never met him.” Suddenly, she gasped, “Ohmigosh that reminds me! I gotta throw you a ‘Welcome to Ponyville’ party!”
“Wait, what!?” Panic struck me again. “No-no-no-no-no! I’m not moving here, just…uh…um…pit…stop…?”
“Oh…but you’re going to be staying here a while, right?”
“Well…yeah. Until I can figure out getting home, at least, but…” Pinkie stared at me innocently, while I struggled to find a way of dissuading her. “Pinkie, think about it; things are kinda…all over the place for me right now. I don’t think I can handle being around loads of new ponies.” Pinkie’s smile faltered, and I thought I could see her mane deflate ever-so-slightly. “You can throw me a party later, if you like…when I’ve figured things out more.” I said in the gentlest tone I could muster.
Pinkie made a grumbling noise, looking at me with a somewhat forlorn expression. “…Okay…” she said finally, “But, Ponyville’s a really nice place, I can tell you’ll make a lot of friends here.”
“I don’t doubt it.” I thought. Outwardly I gave her a smile and said, “Thanks, I will. It was nice meeting you.”
I extended my hoof, but instead, Pinkie gave me a big, crushing hug. I got a face-full of her cotton candy-like mane, filling my snout with the scents of candy and other sweets. Pinkie bounced merrily down the street after releasing me, and I leaned on the side of the nearest building for support.
“So that’s what one of Pinkie’s hugs feels like. Now, what am I gonna do?”
Seeing that the plaza had been vacated during my little encounter, I wandered down a random street, feeling a just bit wobbly on my legs.