• 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.

  • ...

V. Maiden Voyage

Twilight had forgotten to warn me of how disorienting transdimensional travel could be. Warp lag is well understood today, but back then my body's resistance to the tilt and spin of a different world came as an unpleasant surprise. I needed a few seconds to regain my footing, after which I was able to take in my surroundings. We'd obviously landed in someone's farm. I could make out a chicken coop, a field of vegetables, and even one of those stereotypical big red barns, though this one had the distinction of also containing the farmhouse. The most prominent feature of the property, however, was the massive apple orchard planted on one side. This was definitely their cash crop; if the sheer size of it wasn't evidence enough, the apple-themed decor on the buildings was equally convincing.

"We're here!" Twilight chirped.

"For some value of 'here,'" I grumbled. "What is this place?"

"This is Sweet Apple Acres," she said. "My friend Applejack works here. It's the only farm in Equestria that harvests the magical Zap Apples."

I rolled my eyes. "Neat," I lied. "And how far is this place from where we need to be?"

"Not far at all. See that town back there?" Twilight pointed a hoof at a quaint little village in the distance, full of small wooden cottages with thatched roofs. I was reminded of Trogdor and his penchant for burninating such places. Hey, didn't she say this world has dragons? Burnination could be a real hazard here. "That's Ponyville. That's where my library is."

"Great. Then... we should go that way." I gestured toward the town.

"Hang on. First I'd like to say hi to Applejack and let her know I'm back." "Her." So Applejack is a girl too. Noted. "I just hope she's around here somewh--ah! There she is!" Twilight trotted toward one of the farm sheds, from which another pony was stepping out with a bale of hay balanced on its back. This pony didn't have a horn, but its muscles were a bit more defined than Twilight's. Its coat was orange, its mane yellow (blonde?), and its cutie mark a trio of red apples.

"Is that Applejack?" I asked while trying to keep up with Twilight.

"Yes it is." She then called out to the other pony in a strange language. It was harsh yet fluid, like a creole of Klingon and Shyriiwook.

Applejack said something back in an upbeat tone, then nodded at me and said something more matter-of-factly.

Twilight's lengthy response included the words "Adrian Parker," so I assumed she was introducing me among other things.

Applejack looked at me with suspicion before saying something else to Twilight with a rising tone. As it does in English and many other human languages, this indicated a question, though I didn't know it at the time.

After giving an excited reply, Twilight turned to me. "Do you still have your telephone with you?"

"I do." I pulled it out of my pocket. "Good luck making any calls with it, though."

"But you can still use the -- what did you call them -- apps, right?" she asked. "I just want Applejack to see your electrical devices at work."

"Gotcha." I tapped the icon to start up the classic video game Pac-Man. Applejack and Twilight moved in closer to get a better look at the screen. "So why am I doing this? What have you two been talking about?"

"I told her where I've been and who you are," Twilight said, keeping her eyes on my phone. "She asked about the helmet you're wearing. I explained what it is and how you humans have all kinds of amazing machines to make up for your inability to use magic. And now you're showing her one of those amazing machines."

Applejack's voice was suitably awestruck as she made her next comment.

"She's saying that we have magical screens that light up like this," Twilight translated, "and that we can even use them to play games, but they're in big bulky boxes and the games are nowhere near as fancy."

"She thinks this is impressive?" I asked. "This game is thirty years old! More recent games are advanced enough to make you feel like you're guiding real people through entire virtual worlds."

Twilight started to say something to Applejack.

"Don't -- don't translate that," I interrupted. "I don't want her to think I'm bragging. Because I have no reason to brag. As much as we've accomplished without magic, you ponies must have achieved some incredible things without electronics. The fact that you're the ones who discovered us and not the other way around is proof of that."

Twilight spoke to Applejack again. Her tone was apologetic, though I couldn't tell whether she was apologizing for me or for herself.

Applejack smiled and gave a simple reply.

"She likes your humility," Twilight said. "And as long as you don't cause any trouble, she says you're always welcome here at her farm."

"Great. Does that mean we can go now?" I asked. "Since we can always come back later."

"I suppose so." Twilight said her goodbyes to Applejack. "Come on, Adrian. Put the telephone away so we can start walking."

I was loath to quit in the middle of a game, but if it meant finishing my business in Equestria and going home, I wasn't about to complain. We started down the hill to Ponyville. "So... that was kind of awkward, not being able to speak your language. That spell you used yesterday, the one where you read my mind to learn English: is there any way you can turn that around so I can learn to speak Equestrian or whatever you call it?"

"Equine," she answered. "And yes, but not until we get to my library. I only memorized the spell to learn somepony else's language. Teaching somepony my language requires a different spell. It's similar enough that I could probably cast it without looking at my books, but I'd rather not take any chances. Mental magic is extremely dangerous, especially when it involves permanent alterations. There's a reason we still do most of our learning the slow way."

"Ah." She'd mentioned that early magical research was performed by trial and error; I wondered how many pony brains had been fried in order to perfect these particular spells. "You seem to have survived it well enough. Is there an inherent danger to mental magic, or is it one of those things that's only a problem if you screw it up?"

"The second one," Twilight said. "I wouldn't have even tried it if there was any inherent risk."

"So as long as you're careful, it's perfectly safe. Phew." I wiped my brow. "Just promise me you'll be as protective of my cognitive function as you were of your own."

"Of course." Twilight sounded hurt. "You didn't even have to ask. What kind of pony do you think I am?"

"When brain damage is at stake," I said, "it doesn't matter what kind of pony I think you are. What matters is what kind of pony I know you are. You aren't taking any chances, and neither am I."

It wasn't long before we reached Ponyville proper, and it wasn't long after that that a bright pink pony with a slightly pudgy physique and a perm from the 1980s appeared without warning to greet me. I craned my neck around, trying to figure out how it was able to sneak up on me in an open street. The pony said something cheerfully in Equine.

"You know this one?" I stage-whispered to Twilight.

"This is Pinkie Pie," she replied. "She lives at Sugarcube Corner with Mr. and Mrs. Cake. She likes parties and sweets and parties with sweets." Twilight then said something to Pinkie. As before, I could clearly hear my name among her words.

Pinkie spoke to me again, this time including the words "Adrian Parker."

Twilight said something else to her, and I could detect a hint of frustration in her voice.

Pinkie looked down sadly, then brightened up as the flash of an idea crossed her face. She ran off. "That was weird," I said.

"Yeah, Pinkie Pie is... different. But she's really quite nice once you get to know her. Come on, let's keep going." Twilight and I continued on our way to the library. We didn't get far, however, before Pinkie came running back out, now carrying a folding table and a set of figurines. She set up the table and placed the figurines on it. Twilight asked her a question.

Pinkie responded with a rapid-fire monologue. As she talked she gestured to the figurines, including ones of herself, Twilight Sparkle, and Applejack, and a strangely human-looking figure wearing clothes almost identical to my own.

I stopped Pinkie's speech short. "Wait a minute. You'd never heard of humans before you came to my world, right?" I asked Twilight.

"That's correct," she said.

"Then how does she have this toy of a human? And not just any human, but me!" I found it odd that Twilight would hide the existence of My Little Human dolls in Equestria, even after we revealed our own metafictional secrets.

"I told you," Twilight sighed, "Pinkie Pie is different. She has abilities that magical science can't explain. She may have seen your coming before I first went to your world, and it looks like she prepared for it."

"Hm. So what is she planning to do with all these props?" I asked.

"She says it's her way of communicating with you without words. I don't know how successful it'll be, but you can at least give her a shot at it." Twilight nodded at Pinkie and said something gently to her.

Pinkie grinned eagerly, then started fiddling with the toys. Her first act was to pick up the figurines of Twilight and myself. She slammed them on the table and made a shocked expression. Next, she took the Pinkie figurine and walked her over to those two. She wiggled the toys and made gibberish noises as though they were talking to each other. She then took the Pinkie toy back to "talk" with the other pony figurines. She pushed all the toys to the center of the table and added bits of confetti and streamers. The Pinkie figurine nudged the Twilight and Adrian toys into the mix, and she led the Pinkie and Adrian toys around the crowd, "talking" to each of the other ponies in turn. Finally, she walked the Pinkie and Adrian figurines off together, with all the others following close behind.

Pinkie looked at me for my reaction. I frowned and shook my head. I moved the Pinkie, Twilight, and Adrian figurines off to one side and set up all the others in the middle as she had. I made the Pinkie figurine "talk" to the Adrian toy and gave his response as an angry growl. When the Pinkie toy pushed the Twilight and Adrian figurines into the crowd, the Adrian toy yelped and ran away. Then I had him go back, pull the Twilight figurine out, and "yell" at her. I had the Twilight toy make twinkling noises and snatched the Adrian toy into my hand, off the table. I made a happy squeal to let Pinkie know that this was my desired outcome.

Pinkie motioned for me to give back the Adrian figurine. When I did, she swept away most of the pony toys, leaving only Twilight's and her own. She placed a number of toy pastries on the table: cakes, pies, muffins, et cetera. The Pinkie figurine pushed the pastries toward the Twilight and Adrian figurines. She made eating noises for all three toys, then had them walk off together. She looked back at me with a tentative smile.

I growled and shook my head again. I copied her actions with the figurines, making the Pinkie toy move the baked goods toward the Twilight and Adrian toys. The Adrian figurine let out an irritated groan, then "talked" to the Pinkie and Twilight toys before walking off alone. I had the two pony figurines "eat" the pastries while the Adrian toy gave a relaxed sigh, then I moved him back to "talk" with the Twilight figurine. The Twilight toy twinkled again and I yanked the Adrian toy away. I squeaked with joy at this ending.

Pinkie pouted and took the Adrian figurine back once more. She brought the Pinkie figurine up to him and made questioning noises, then moved to give them some separation. She looked at me with curiosity.

I rubbed my chin briefly, then picked up the Adrian toy and made him pace around for a moment. I walked him over to the Pinkie figurine and had him pat her on the head. I shrugged and made a sound of uncertainty, then walked him away from her. At last I turned the Adrian figurine back toward the Pinkie toy and had him give a grunt of thanks.

Pinkie nodded and said something to Twilight, then scooped up all the figurines and took them and the table away, leaving me alone again with the unicorn.

"She said that... if you ever think of anything you need, she'll be ready to help." Twilight paused. "I'm gonna be honest, I didn't follow you two at all. What happened between you?"

"We reached an understanding," I said. "That's all that matters. So, we were on our way to the library?" We continued on our way and soon arrived at a building shaped like a tree. Whether it had been carved out of a real tree or was just designed to look like one, I didn't know and frankly didn't care. The sign with a picture of a book told me this was a library. Twilight opening the door told me this was her library. "Oh good. We're here. And here-here, not just the general vicinity of here. Do you know where you can find the spell to teach me your language?"

"No, but I do know where I can find somepony who can locate it for me." She said something in Equine to someone I couldn't see. I followed her inside and she magically closed the door. I noticed a small purple and green reptile grabbing a book from one of the upper shelves. It was about two feet tall and bipedal with opposable thumbs.

"What the heck is that thing?" I asked. "Your pet lizard?"

"That's Spike," Twilight said, slightly annoyed. "He's a dragon, and he's my assistant."

"That's a dragon?" I snickered. "I thought they'd be bigger."

"They get bigger," she said. "Much bigger. He's just a baby."

Spike said something to Twilight as he came down from the ladder. He turned around and his eyes bugged out when he saw me. He said something else in a more panicked tone.

Twilight said something to calm him down, then took the book and started flipping through the pages while muttering in Equine. "Got it. 'Speaking Terms, Inverted. For teaching one's native tongue to others. Caution: as with all mind-altering magic,' blah blah blah, 'not responsible for permanent neurological damage,' and so forth. Are you ready?"

"Um... what was that about permanent neurological damage?" I asked.

"Oh, they put these warnings on all the spells. Most of them are self-explanatory. Transformation spells can put limbs and organs in the wrong place. Teleportation spells can get you stuck in solid objects. That sort of thing. As long as you follow the directions, they're nothing to worry about. So," she said, "are you ready?"

I winced. "I... guess?"

Twilight read through the spell a couple times. Her horn started glowing, and I could feel a pressure around my skull. This time it was accompanied by a heaviness in my head, like my brain was made of lead. It was painful and dizzying, so much so that I thought I would black out.

Then I did.