• Published 22nd Jan 2016
  • 6,269 Views, 1,035 Comments

Aporia - Oliver

Once upon a time, if the term even applies, two young ladies decided to visit an Equestria, selected seemingly at random. Which would be nothing special, despite their attitudes towards ponies being so different, if one hadn't mentioned sandwiches...

  • ...

PreviousChapters Next
Conversation 6: Rarity

I doubt that the Golden Oak library has ever seen so many ponies reading at once. Certainly not in my lifetime, the librarian we had before Twilight was a young, intense and irritable mare, more concerned with her private magical research, than with teaching ponies to appreciate reading… Quite a lot like Twilight in that, come to think of it. Sometimes, I worry Twilight is going to go for a walk in the Everfree forest alone and disappear, too. What a dreadful story that was.

It is not uncommon for all of us to assemble here, but it was so delightfully unexpected to see everypony actually using the library for its intended purpose, and not as an impromptu crisis management headquarters, that I was actually wondering, if this could, perhaps, become a regular kind of soirée. Even Rainbow Dash was huddled on the windowsill above everypony else, lazily shuffling the pages of a book of her own. Something about flying machines, full of pictures.

Pinkie’s parties are excellent, and I can attest, that the one that we attended just prior was great fun. But at times, some peace and quiet in the company of your friends is just what you need, and the library is just the place. Relative piece and quiet, of course, because Pinkie has been giggling the entire time. Her book was a thick volume, some kind of comedy, and she was leafing through it with unexpected speed, skipping back and forth.

Well, not her book exactly, because Mary gave them to Twilight with the intent they should be available in the library for everypony, but it was plainly obvious, that the selection was tailored to satisfy our personal curiosity in particular. Even Spikey was included – he got a colorful comic book of some sort. He was sitting on a pillow next to Twilight and reading it, mouthing sound effects in excitement.

“…Twilight, do you think humans really eat rhinos?” Pinkie asked suddenly.

“They’re tool-using sapient omnivore mammals,” Twilight replied, without looking up from her book. “So I imagine they could, if they tried. I’m not sure whether they would. So far, looks like anything that talks is definitely off the menu. They think that dolphins have at least some form of speech, and they avoid eating those.”

“Wait, what?” Rainbow Dash piped up from her windowsill. “Fluttershy, are you sure they won’t try to eat your animals?”

Fluttershy looked up at Rainbow. It took her so long to come up with an answer, that the pause was almost awkward. “I asked, actually. They have something called a protein synthesizer… I’m sure my animals will be alright,” she said finally, returning to her own tome. Something about wildlife, with even more pictures than Rainbow’s book.

“Rainbow Dash, you don’t expect every visiting griffon to eat somepony’s pet when they get hungry,” I commented. “And humans appear to be more civilized than some ponies I know. A species that wears clothes all the time clearly has to be,” I added, turning the page. My, how lovely, I’m definitely using this idea. The pictures in this volume are excellent. In fact, the printing arts of humans are shockingly advanced, even the typography is simply beautiful. Beautiful, tightly uniform, and the typefaces are quite a bit smaller than ours, on average. Which is strange, considering that human eyes are clearly quite a bit smaller…

“Eh, you’re just saying that because they got you that fashion ency.. encyclop… whatever,” Rainbow Dash said dismissively. “Somepony wants a new dress,” she grinned.

“But of course they need new dresses, darling,” I grinned back at her, glancing over my glasses. “Have you even looked at Mary’s dress?”

“Nah,” Rainbow Dash tossed back, disinterested.

Philistine, bless her little heart. “Well, I obviously did. And I should say, that while I can’t fault the design, ruffles like these are twenty years out of fashion, she’d be better off hiding it in a closet and waiting a year until it’s back in again. I would insist on making a new outfit for her anyway,” I said, trying to imagine just what it would be like to make clothes for a human. With so much to live up to, this is a challenge. “Bringing this encyclopedia is the most tactful way possible to communicate what she actually needs without us embarrassing each other. Very thoughtful.”

Mary certainly did as much as she possibly could to make that challenge a practical one, as if she knew I would want to do this before we even met. But if I understood her properly, she probably did… Being famous in other worlds might not be much help to my business, but it is definitely a major ego boost.

Applejack flipped another page of her own book – some kind of illustrated treatise on every aspect of farming, from what I saw – with a serious expression. “Rarity, hon, dont’cha think that means she’s wearing the next year’s fashion before anypony else?”

“Uh… I’m not entirely sure it can work like that, Applejack,” I said, blushing a bit. Mostly because I’ve been preoccupied thinking about the new things I can make. Actually, Applejack might have accidentally said something more important than she thought. With all the ideas the humans introduce just by being there, let alone that encyclopedia I’m now reading… This is definitely going to start a wave in the fashion world, it may turn out that Mary’s dress literally is the next year’s fashion. And it’s plain as day that the sacred duty of introducing the human styles to Equestria falls onto me. I don’t even feel excited anymore, frankly. This is as far beyond excitement as it can possibly get.

Applejack flipped another page, “Ah never figured you could confuse somepony with the truth, but here ’tis,” she commented.

“What do you mean, Applejack?” Twilight asked, her nose still in her book.

“They’re not telling us somethin’, I reckon,” Applejack replied, turning another page.

“If you were told you need to describe the entire Equestria in one evening, I doubt you would do better,” Twilight snickered. “I’m not sure I would do better.”

“That goes without sayin’!” Applejack replied, looking away from her book to stare at Twilight. “What ah’ see in this book that I even understand is honest truth, no two ways about it. There’s just too much of it…”

“It’s an encyclopedic work,” I commented. “Just the right way to start a conversation with somepony from a world so different, don’t you think?”

“I’m no foal, I can see that too,” Applejack replied, glaring at me.

Oh, that’s what it is. Applejack is at a loss for words. Sometimes, paying more attention to the finer things in life pays off, and this is definitely one of those. She clearly needs help with that. “Do you mean to say that the books are themselves a message, and not just a medium? That they want to tell us something, but it’s nothing that is written in these books?” I ventured.

“Get us to ask them a question about it, more like, we just don’ know enough to ask, yet,” Applejack replied. “There’s a lot of things we would think offensive in there,” she said, tapping her book with a hoof. “If not us, then somepony else. Breeding animals for food, as an industry, even foreign griffons don’t do that. If they’re out to lie to us, if they want to look better than they are, no sense giving us these books at all. But ah’ feel like they gave us so much truth so that we don’ see the truth that actually matters straight away.” She cringed for some reason.

“So you suspect an ulterior motive,” I said.

“No, not that either,” Applejack shook her head. “More like, they need our help, they’re just afraid to ask for it, or ashamed, I dunno. They might not even realize it themselves, but that’s how it feels ta me.” She sighed. “An’ ah might just be thinking too much into it.”

Rainbow Dash grinned, looking down from her windowsill at Applejack. “So we get to save their world too, huh? That would be totally awesome.”

“They’re actually from two different worlds, in case you missed that,” Twilight said. “Both are human worlds, very similar, but not the same. Mary actually said she was born ‘a hundred years and a fifteen hundred miles away from home,’ figure that one out, it’s like she’s from two very different worlds at once. And don’t forget the library they travel through. Rika says she lives in it, Mary only visits it occasionally.”

Rainbow Dash tried to make sense of it, and apparently failed. “…You know I don’t speak egghead, Twilight.”

The entire world-library story told by the humans made precious little sense to me, too. As far as I could tell from the bits I’ve read and from the things they said at the party, traveling between worlds was not a common thing. The world this book came from has had a long history, lots of different and very varied cultures, and every one of them has contributed distinct modes of dress and items of clothing to the melting pot, if this encyclopedia is to be believed, but none of it suggested that other worlds were known, human or otherwise.

But the characters of a book also think they’re real, don’t they? Actually, if we assume they can think at all, wouldn’t that already imply they’re just as real as we are? It is kind of incredible, but feels so right when you think about it.

Twilight sighed and finally tore herself away from the book to look at Rainbow Dash. “These books are just a tiny window into a gigantic universe full of different human worlds, different pony worlds, and who knows what else, Rainbow. It’s so exciting!”

Oh Twilight, if you learn how to make your eyes sparkle like that on demand, you will be able to charm roomfuls of ponies with a single wink, and then select a special somepony at your leisure, no matter what you’re wearing. I need to convince you to practice, and I need to get you a bigger mirror.

“I don’t think they need us to save anything. I don’t even think they actually want anything beyond seeing something new,” Twilight continued. “Why don’t we just take it at face value? At least for the moment? You know that friendship doesn’t always come easily. I think they know it much better than we do. Looking at human history, it actually comes harder to them.”

“That’s it, Twilight, friendship. That’s what ah wanted t’ say!” Applejack said, jumping up. “Imagine you ended up in one of them human worlds, and they ask, who are ya. And do ya say ‘Ahm a pony’ or do ya say ‘Ahm Twilight Sparkle’?!”, she started explaining, gesturing with her hoof. “And it’s all right and proper that they don’t know what a pony is, so you should tell ‘em, because ye’re one, and they use the word for sumthin’ else, they don’t have any real ponies living there. Bein’ a pony is part of who you are, you can start with that. But when do ya start explaining who Twilight Sparkle is? We’ve been asking them something that don’t really matter! They’ve been telling us things that don’t really matter, either…”

“Look at it this way, Applejack,” Twilight said. “If I were to start explaining that I’m Twilight Sparkle, and what it really means to be Twilight Sparkle, to a human, the only thing I could say, beyond being a pony and a unicorn, would be that I study magic. Everything else would just be nonsense. I can say I’m like or unlike somepony else, I can tell them who my friends are, but I can’t really say who I am. If they don’t know anypony else, they wouldn’t understand much. I’m not my name! You need to reference something that they already know. Even starting with magic would be a problem in a world that doesn’t have magic.”

“That’s tha problem, Twilight, they do know us better than we know them. Names, faces, everythin’, all that ‘presented as story’ nonsense. We sure don’t have any stories about them two,” Applejack said, sitting back down and looking at her book… Then at Rainbow Dash perched up by the window above. “And they knew what kind of a book Rainbow would even look at. Last time ah checked, you couldn’t get her ta read a menu.

I chuckled quietly. I remember when we discovered that. Rainbow Dash is certainly not illiterate, as she had the occasion to demonstrate, but she does get too bored to continue even before the salad page ends.

Rainbow Dash looked away from her encyclopedia. “Hey, it has lots of cool pictures! And these things are all supposed to fly really fast!” she said defensively. Applejack just shot a condescending grin back at her, but didn’t say anything.

“So let’s get this straight, Applejack,” I commented. “You feel that they know us quite well personally, and while they’ve been very forthcoming with answers about humans in general, and all these worlds, we know too little about them in particular, and we don’t even know enough to ask the right questions?”

“Yes, Rarity, that’s exactly it,” Applejack replied. “Guess ahm’ just weirded out by that, is all,” she added with a sigh, and stared into her book again.

Twilight opened her mouth for another long-winded statement, but was interrupted by a burst of Pinkie’s loudest laughter yet. “Ahahahaha, six by nine! SIX BY NINE!”

Everypony looked at Pinkie. Then at each other. “Six by nine?” Twilight asked finally when a pause in the laugher presented itself.

“That’s how you get forty two! Multiply six by nine!” Pinkie said proudly and burst into another fit of laughter rolling on the floor.

“I don’t think that’s right…” mumbled Fluttershy.

“That book is the only fiction book Rika brought, and Mary said it was the book she personally considers one of the best examples of human humor,” Twilight said seriously, after a long, strained pause, most of which Pinkie spent noisily rolling back and forth. “Looks like Pinkie understood it very well…”

“…Ahm not sure if I should be happy about that or worry,” Applejack said.

My sentiment exactly.

“And that’s just the second book in a trilogy of five!” Pinkie burst, and snapped back to reading as if nothing happened.

“Now I can’t tell, whether the fact that she understood it is important, or it’s just Pinkie being Pinkie,” Twilight mumbled, shook her head and stared back into her book.

“Of course me being me is important, silly,” Pinkie said, looking up. “If I wasn’t me, I wouldn’t be any fun! …Or would I?”

“Never mind…” Twilight sighed.

And peace and quiet returned to the library once again.

PreviousChapters Next