• Published 16th Feb 2012
  • 7,551 Views, 92 Comments

The Finger Trap - PPG Hunter

Ponies on Earth. Humans in Equestria. And one poor schmuck in the middle of it all.

  • ...

II. Introductions

Hearing a human voice on the other end of the line was a small comfort for me. It meant I didn't have to negotiate a maze of menus, trying to find the correct sequence of numbers that would convey my need to have a talking purple unicorn removed from my front yard. Then again, if I were to explain my problem to the receptionist in those exact words, I would be meeting the people with straitjackets a bit sooner than I had anticipated. I had to be more subtle in my approach. "Yeah, hi," I said. "My name's Adrian Parker, and there is a... horse... on my lawn."

"Okay, Mr. Parker," the receptionist said, quickly typing my information into her computer. "And what's the address on that lawn?" I gave her my home address; I'm not giving it to you. "Super. Now, Mr. Parker, is this your horse, or do you know who it belongs to?"

"Uh... no?" The question seemed silly to me. "If I knew whose horse it was, I'd be calling them, not you."

"Not necessarily," she replied. "In some cases, the owner is either unable or unwilling to deal with a disruptive animal, and then we get called in." The explanation made sense, and I felt a twinge of guilt for being so dismissive. "Next question, Mr. Parker: does the horse appear to be injured or sick or even just stressed in any way?"

"No," I said, "it looks pretty healthy and, uh, what's the word... docile. You guys shouldn't have any trouble with it."

"All right, Mr. Parker." A moment of dead air ensued while she typed up my response. "And how big is the horse? How tall at the shoulders, specifically?"

"Uh, geez, I think about... two, maybe two and a half feet?" To be honest, this was a nearly blind guess. The only height I could state comfortably was at the top of its head -- three and a half to four feet -- which, as I would learn later, is not the standard measurement for quadrupeds.

"Hm. Sounds like a miniature or a foal," the receptionist noted. "Well, Mr. Parker, that should be all the information we need for now. We'll have someone out there in fifteen to twenty minutes. Until then, just stay inside. Don't try to confront or provoke the animal. Okay?"

"Yeah, I can do that," I said. "Thanks for helping me out here."

"Not a problem. Is there anything else I can do for you?" she asked.

"No, that should be it." Unless you can put a rush order on those guys getting here while you're at it, I thought.

"Great," she said. "You have a good day then, Mr. Parker."

"Yeah. You too." With that, she hung up. Don't try to confront or provoke the animal, I repeated in my head. But I can still keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't go anywhere, right? I headed back down to the front door and cracked it open. Sure enough, the creature was still there, standing on my doorstep.

"What was that all about?" the unicorn asked.

Dammit. That's what I get for not installing a peephole. Seeing as stealth was no longer an option, I opened the door fully. "Oh, nothing. Just had to make a phone call." I'm talking to it. I'm seriously talking to a horse.

"A... phone... call?" it echoed. "What's that mean?"

I held up my phone to show it to the creature. "Telephone. It's a machine that sends sound over long distances. Lets me talk to anyone in the world, or in this case the local animal control."

"What? Why would you --" A flash of recognition crossed the unicorn's face. "Oh, no, no, no. I'm not an animal. I mean, technically I am, but not the kind of wild animal that needs to be... controlled."

I raised an eyebrow. "Really?" I asked. "Well, as much as I value your opinion, I'd rather leave that determination up to the professionals. What the hell are you, anyway?"

"Ah. Well." The creature straightened its posture and smiled. "I am Twilight Sparkle. I run the library in --"

"That's not what I asked," I interrupted. "What are you? We'll get around to who in good time."

"Oh. Right. Sorry." Twilight grinned sheepishly. "I'm a unicorn pony, one of the three types of ponies that live in Equestria."

I nodded. "Okay, and what's Equestria?"

"If we're going to do this," it asked, frowning, "can I at least come inside? It sounds like there's a lot I need to explain."

I glared at Twilight for a moment. It looked harmless enough, but the receptionist's directions were clear. Besides which, I had no desire to invite a stranger into my house. "Not happening," I said with a shake of my head. "Animal control told me to leave you alone until they can get here. I shouldn't even be talking to you right now."

Twilight rolled its eyes and gave an annoyed groan. "You're honestly going to listen to them and treat me the same way as some... rampaging beast?"

"That would be the plan, yes." I couldn't help but smirk, confident in the knowledge that my house was secure. "So, Equestria: what is that?" I asked cheerily.

Twilight narrowed its eyes at me. As best I could figure, it was in no mood to keep talking if I wasn't going to show it any hospitality. After a few seconds it relented, perhaps in the hope that education would cure my stubbornness toward it. "Fine," it muttered. "Equestria is a nation of ponies like myself, in a world very similar to this one, but in a different... position."

I scratched my head. "So you're from outer space?"

"Mm... yes and no." Twilight tapped a hoof on its chin. "You know how there are three ways you can move around: left and right, up and down, and back and forth?"

"Yeah, sure," I replied. "The three dimensions."

Twilight's eyes lit up. "Dimensions! That's the word. Thank you. Well, some of my books discussed other dimensions, ones we can't see, and how it's possible to move along those dimensions to reach other places -- whole other worlds. And depending on how far you go, they could be almost identical or completely different."

"You mean parallel universes," I said.

"You have a word for them?" it asked. "So you know what I'm talking about?"

"Well, yes, but around here they're..." I wanted to say "something you only see in movies," but it occurred to me that if Twilight hadn't heard of telephones, it might not have heard of motion pictures either. "They're something you only read about in story books. They're not supposed to be real." Granted, certain interpretations of quantum physics do allow for them, but even those theories don't provide any means of travel between universes.

Twilight chuckled. "Yet here I am. If you'd like, I can give you a demonstration and take you with me back to Equestria."

"No thanks. I'll -- I'll take your word for it." What kind of offer is that? I wondered. The whole reason I called animal control is to get you out of my life, and you think I'll let you take me on a road trip? "But how exactly did you manage to get here from... wherever Equestria is?"

"That was the difficult part," it said. "I spent months analyzing teleportation spells to discover a way they could be adapted to those hidden dimensions. After I finally found a way to make the trip, I had to memorize other spells to prepare myself for whatever was on the other side. There was Home Away From Home, for if I landed someplace I couldn't survive. Speaking Terms, to communicate with the locals; that's the spell I used on you. And if I needed to blend in, I had --"

"Hang on a second." I held up a hand to stop Twilight. "Spells?" It had said the word so naturally that it didn't register as unusual at first. "As in magic?"

"Of course. What other kinds of spell are there?" it asked.

"Okay, this is the part where I say you're screwing with me," I said as I crossed my arms, "because magic is not a thing that exists. Not in this universe, anyway. Maybe things are different on your freaky planet."

"That... doesn't make sense," Twilight said skeptically. "If you don't have magic, then how does that 'telephone' of yours work?"

I remembered Arthur C. Clarke's adage about sufficiently advanced technology, but somehow I had always expected that it would only apply to less sophisticated societies, not to one that had developed interdimensional travel. Nonetheless, I had no choice but to roll with it. "Gremlins," I deadpanned.

Twilight shook its head. "What?"

"Sorry, that -- that was a joke. Electricity, actually. It's basically lightning, only instead of shooting huge bolts of it through the sky, we send small amounts of it through intricate networks of metal and silicon." I held up my phone again and started scrolling through the menus in order to show off the capabilities of electronic devices. "We use it to make lights and sounds, to run machinery, and to do complex calculations that used to be impossible."

"And you're telling me that that's not magic?" Twilight asked. "Or at least a kind of magic?"

"It's not," I said. "It's all based on natural scientific principles."

It pouted. "So's my magic."

"Then why call it magic?" I asked with a shrug.

My question appeared to catch Twilight off guard. "I... I don't know," it stammered. "I never really thought about it. I suppose it's because it's been a part of our lives since... long before we could understand how it worked. Thousands of years ago, even the most common magic was shrouded in mystery. Early conjurers like Star Swirl the Bearded had to rely on trial and error to develop new spells rather than any sort of method. Nowadays there's nothing truly mystical about it, but the name has stuck."

"Hm." My mind started rattling off other words the etymology of which could be traced to a pre-scientific mindset. Influenza, lunatic, melancholy, sanguine, quintessential, and the list continued. "Okay, I get that. Still, magic or otherwise, we don't have the ability to teleport across universes."

"And I don't have the ability to call ponies on the other side of the world and talk to them," Twilight responded. "But enough about me. I'm curious to learn more about this world, about you. Who are you? What are you? Where am I?"

"Fair enough. In no particular order," by which I meant the exact order it asked those questions, "you can call me Adrian Parker -- or just Adrian is fine. I'm a human, officially known as Homo sapiens. If you have monkeys on your world, we're very closely related to those. And right now you're in the United States of America, the most powerful nation on Earth, until the Chinese get their act together."

Twilight nodded at my answers. "Okay. Am I right to think that you humans are the dominant race in the United States of America?"

I snickered. "We're the dominant race pretty much everywhere. In fact, we're the only species to have developed any sort of civilization. I take it that's not the case where you come from?"

"Not even close," it said. "In addition to the ponies of Equestria, there are nations of donkeys, zebras, buffalo, dogs, cats, bears, griffons, dragons,..."

"Thank you. I didn't need you to elaborate." Wait, they have griffons and dragons too? Hell, why not? Maybe instead of humans, they have elves and fairies.

"Sorry." Twilight peered closely at me. "By the way, I hope you can forgive me for asking, but are you a male human or a female human?"

I was vaguely insulted by the question, until I realized that I would need to ask Twilight the same thing. "Uh... male. You can usually tell the females by the, uh, pair of mammaries they have up here at the breast. In fact, that's what we call them: 'breasts.' Well, among other things. Anyway, which one are you?"

Now was its turn to be vaguely insulted. "Female, obviously. Not as obviously as I thought, but since I'm not wearing any clothes right now, I figured you'd be able to..."

"The day I start looking at horse genitalia to sate my curiosity is the day I kill myself," I said to it -- to her. Come to think of it, Twilight's voice was fairly feminine by human standards, but I had wanted to avoid making any assumptions about her.

"Pony genitalia," she corrected. "Do you consider those parts ugly? Is that why you've covered your own?"

I pondered her questions for a moment. "Sure, let's go with that." I didn't know how to explain the nudity taboos of Western society, so I wasn't even going to try.

"Fascinating." Twilight leaned over to look past me into my house. "Are you sure I can't come inside so I can see more of your culture and technology? It all sounds so exotic."

I sighed. I still wasn't interested in bringing her inside. On the other hand, if animal control arrived and saw a purple unicorn, they might have assumed I was pulling some kind of prank and kept driving. "All right, fine." I pushed open the screen door for her. "But you poop on anything and I swear I'm taking your head as a prop to scare people in bed."

"I keep telling you," she grumbled as she walked in, "I'm not that kind of animal."

"Relax. It's the same warning I give to all my houseguests." I spent the next several minutes showing Twilight the wonders of modern electronics. She was especially intrigued by the Internet and by my phone's ability to act as an e-book reader.

"If we had the ability to store and transmit information like this," she said while scanning a page from one of my programming manuals, "it would revolutionize Equestria!"

"Understatement of the century right there," I told her. "The Internet only went public about twenty years ago, and already it's turned our world upside down." At last, I heard a knock at my door. "Sit tight for a second. Even if I don't need these guys to wrangle you, I still need someone I can talk to about this whole thing." Finally it was the moment of truth, when I would know whether I was being visited by a creature from another universe or merely by a bout of madness. I braced myself for both possibilities and opened the door.