Twilight Sparkle jumped at the noise. Moments ago she had found herself enveloped in a brilliant white light, which had left her vision a little blurry and her hooves unsteady. She sat down to avoid falling over, giving her head a little shake in an attempt to throw off her disorientation. When she opened her eyes she found herself standing not in her castle’s dining hall but in a small, square room. Gritty, beige tiling ran across the floor beneath her hooves, while green-and-white striped wall paper adorned the distant walls. The reassuring smell of ink hung in the air, calming the mare enough to make a response.
“Where am I, how did I…” Twilight began.
“Your name please, miss,” an oddly familiar voice cut her off from above.
The purple pony looked up to address the speaker, “Sorry, I’m just a little uncertain how I-”
This was as far as Twilight got before her mind was forced to contend with a new source of bewilderment. Standing in front of her behind a raised wooden podium was a young alicorn mare with a lavender coat, an indigo mane, and brilliant purple eyes. Granted, the mane was wrapped into a tight bun and the eyes were behind a pair of reading glasses, but the mare in question was still unmistakably Twilight Sparkle, a prospect which left the normally loquacious Princess of Friendship grasping for words. As she grappled with the impossibility of her current situation, the mare at the podium set down her quill and looked her in the eye.
“Please miss, I’m on a tight schedule. I need a name to put on your form before you can proceed to the next step in the process.”
Language failed Twilight (the one whose brain was quickly being reduced to oatmeal, not the calm, collected one who was now patiently staring at her clipboard) for several seconds before she blurted out, “But… you’re ME! How can you not know my name? Furthermore, why are there two of me, and how did I get here? The last thing I remember is reading through my mail at breakfast before I was… I was….” Twilight paused to catch her breath and perform her signature breathing technique, noticing as she did so that said mail was still clutched in her front-right hoof.
The mare at the podium gave a brief sigh before responding. “You are here because you received the council’s summons requesting your participation in the census. Relevant information can be found enclosed within your summons.”
The other Twilight adjusted her glasses with magic and picked her quill back up. “Now, I am required by law to record the given name of any and all valid participants. I have a quota to reach today, so if you would be so kind as to state your name for the official record?”
Steadied by the words “official record” and urged on by the growing impatience of her twin, she stated the words, “Twilight Sparkle.”
The secretarial Twilight scratched the point of her quill across the page before tearing it off the top of a stack of similar forms. Handing it over to the rather flustered princess, she directed her to an open door behind the podium. Twilight walked through the doorway, then turned to close it with her magic. Right before it closed she heard a muffled “Next!” shouted from behind, followed by a pop and several seconds of silence. Twilight headed for the door at the far end of the hall, listening as another familiar voice began to scream out questions from the room she had just departed.
Opening the door, Twilight entered into a more spacious chamber filled with chairs, lamp stands, and cabinets. The cabinets appeared to contain extra quills and ink; the lamp stands, lamps. It was the contents of the chairs, however, that were of prime interest to the young alicorn. Seated around the room were a dozen or so Twilight Sparkles. Some were filling out forms, others were reading letters, and others still were staring off into space with dumbstruck looks across their muzzles. Feeling a bit lightheaded, it took all that Twilight could muster just to waddle over a few feet and plop down into the nearest vacant chair.
This was turning out to be one of those kind of mornings, she decided.
After a few minutes of waiting, she turned to her left and opened her mouth to ask the mare sitting next to- no, to ask herself if she knew what was going on. Before she could utter more than a syllable however, the doppelganger interrupted her.
“Read the rest of your letter… and please, don’t talk to me right now. I need time to process this.”
Taken aback by her own bluntness, Twilight turned her attention to the envelopes in her hoof. The first was a rather hefty water bill (she took down a mental note to talk to Spike about his 7-hour bubble baths later.) The second was a political advertisement from Mayor Mare, reminding her that voting season was coming up and also decrying the environmental practices of her competitor, Filthy Rich. Finally, she found what she was looking for: a plain white envelope that had been sealed with a wax representation of her cutie mark. She vaguely remembered breaking the seal some minutes ago before finding herself in her current predicament. Removing and unfolding the document inside, the bookish princess began to read:
This is a mandatory summons by the Inter-Universal Council of Sparkle.
You have been called upon to participate in a trans-dimensional census of all possible entities falling under the designation of “Twilight Sparkle.” Upon breaking the seal on this envelope, you will be teleported into pocket dimension 5P-4RKL3. Please follow any and all instructions given by workers during the registration process. After registration is complete you will be returned to your home dimension with a token that can be used to return to this pocket of reality at any time, as well as a complimentary bookmark. We will contact you again if any additional information is required, or if you have been selected for census duty.
We thank you for your cooperation in ensuring the efficiency of this operation.
Grand Secretariat of Equine Resources
Thoughts raced through Twilight’s brain, battling for supremacy. Finally, one emerged victorious and made it into her conscious mind: How could a council of alternate versions of herself have been stupid enough to have the spell activate upon breaking the seal instead of after reading the letter!? She groaned as she read it over a second time, trying to wrap her tired and caffeine-deprived mind around her current circumstance.
So flustered was she that she hardly noticed when another distraught lavender pony wandered into the room and sat down next to her. The new arrival turned her head with a questioning and desperate look, but before she could make as much as a peep Twilight raised a hoof to the mare’s mouth and mumbled, “Please… just read your letter. I can’t even explain this to myself right now, let alone to somepony els- I mean… forget it.”
The identical pony jerked back in surprise, then, with the resigned look of an alicorn princess stuck in a room full of herself, she pulled out a beige envelope of her own and fell into thoughtful silence.