• Published 14th Nov 2016
  • 6,007 Views, 1,152 Comments

Looking Glass - Krickis

When Sunset sees herself as an alicorn in a magical mirror, she goes looking for answers, eventually going through the mirror into another world. Some things are better left alone though, as she finds herself trapped in the other world as a child.

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19 – Of Questions and Answers

Chapter Nineteen

Of Questions and Answers

There was no vibrating anymore. No voice calling her name. There weren’t even nightmares. From the first day Sunset started attending Canterlot High School, everything went quiet.

The silence was bizarre. For the first time in years, Sunset was able to put her whole life back into focus without worrying about triggering hallucinations. It was exactly what she needed, but it was challenging in its own way.

If she accepted that Equestria was real, and she was usually inclined to do so, then it became hard to not get lost in the wasted years. It had been over eight years since she first stepped through the mirror, and in that time, she had done nothing but play make-believe with humans. There was possibly variation in the length of days – or even the flow of time itself – between the two worlds, but there was no denying that the portal had been open several times since Sunset’s first trip through it.

And, of course, there was always the fact that no matter what felt right, Sunset was too intelligent to not realize how ludicrous it all was. The time would come, and the statue would remain solid. It was the only answer that made any sense.

So Sunset worked on both fronts. Every day started with a trip to the statue, just in case time did work differently between the two worlds. And every day, it was nothing but a statue.

From there, Sunset would continue playing make-believe. She kept her grades perfect, she worked with the journalism team, she applied for jobs, and she continued seeing Flash Sentry.

For his part, he was quickly becoming one of the most popular freshmen in school. It wasn’t surprising, really. He was handsome, outgoing, charming without being cocky, he could play guitar, he dressed in the right way, and best of all, he was genuinely oblivious to all of this. It was as if he was made to be the perfect embodiment of all things that a teenager would find cool.

And by extension, that made Sunset cool. Other students began taking note of her. She was the pretty girl who effortlessly aced every class, she held a position that was usually not available to freshman by writing for the school paper, she always said the exact right things at the exact right times, but she stayed in the background enough that other students never felt threatened by her presence. And, of course, she exclusively hung out with Flash Sentry, the guy whom everyone else wanted to be.

And then there was the statue itself. Plenty of people had noticed Sunset’s habit of starting every morning by touching the base of the statue, but no one could figure out why. Sunset certainly wasn’t giving any clues out, so she had a mysterious element to her. It was the kind of quirk that seemed harmless enough to build interest without having the risk of making her seem weird.

“Yup, the statue’s still there,” Flash teased as he caught Sunset at the statue early one morning.

Sunset noticed the small crowd of people looking their way. It hadn’t taken her long to realize that while she never wanted their friendship, the adoration of others was another matter entirely. Sunset’s smile as she answered was almost more for them then for Flash. “Just making sure. It’s an important part of the school’s appearance, you know.”

“Yes, of course.” Flash knew better than to pry further. He leaned against the statue as he changed the subject. “So I was wondering… There’s a really great local band playing this weekend. Did you maybe want to go see them together?”

Sunset hesitated before answering. It was innocent enough. Sunset had never been to a concert before, and Flash did have good taste in music. It sounded like it could actually be fun. But she also wasn’t sure about the idea of seeing him over the weekend. They already saw each other every day at school, they had weekly guitar lessons, and Sunset had even introduced Flash and his dad to Rose Petal. It all served a purpose, since no one could claim she was just making him up, but it was all also overwhelming.

Flash misunderstood her hesitation. “Let’s go to the library. I can show you their website so you can hear what they sound like.”

At least his misunderstanding could work as an excuse to stall for time until she heard the band. “I’ve got to do something else before class starts, maybe you can show me after school?”

“Yeah, of course.” Flash seemed to take her lack of an answer as a ‘yes’. “You’re gonna love them, it’ll be a blast.”

“We’ll see, I guess.” Sunset began walking towards the school, eager to distance herself from the conversation. “But I’ll also have to see if I can even get permission to go to a concert.”

“I’m sure Miss Rose won’t mind.”

Unfortunately, so was Sunset. “Yeah, maybe. Anyway, I should get going if I want to get this taken care of on time!”

“Did you want any compan– Okay, guess not,” Flash muttered to himself as Sunset quickly walked away.

In a twisted way, it was good to have a dilemma with Flash. Sure, she’d be thinking about it all day, but that would hopefully stop her from thinking about other things. Things like whatever was about to happen in this meeting.

If Sunset was wrong about Equestria, then it was easy to see how her delusions could have formed. The first true memory that she could recall was being discovered at Canterlot High School, so it made sense that it worked its way into her psyche. But there were unexplained anomalies. It wasn’t like she couldn’t come up with possibilities, but she couldn’t be certain what was true, and that ate at her.

She could remember the day she was found, but she couldn’t remember it clearly enough. The stress, the overwhelming amount of new experiences, her young age, everything all piled up to leave Sunset with exceptionally vivid fragments of what happened, but with nothing to connect them together. And there was one particular gap that she was never satisfied leaving open.

Sunset knew Celestia. The statue had started her along the path, but Celestia’s voice had been what made everything click into place. And every day, she heard that voice again. It was only ever simple morning announcements to start the day, but no matter what Celestia was saying, that voice resounded through Sunset’s mind.

There were only three possibilities.

The first was that Princess Celestia and Principal Celestia were the same being. That didn’t make sense in a logical way, but if Equestria and Princess Celestia were real, then it was the most scientifically sound. When Sunset crossed through the portal, she was transformed from a pony to a human. It only made sense that the same thing would happen to Celestia. Had she followed Sunset after all? She could have gotten stuck in this world as well, and chose to remain at the school to monitor the portal. While it was disconcerting to imagine that the portal may no longer be working, it would be comforting to speak with Celestia again. To have her unquestionable word that yes, my gifted student, it was all real. You didn’t imagine it.

But Celestia had seen Sunset. On the first day of school, Celestia had looked directly into Sunset’s eyes, if only for a moment. Could she really have forgotten? It had been so long, but Sunset didn’t believe she was that replaceable. So the second possibility was that Princess Celestia and Principal Celestia were entirely separate individuals, in spite of the obvious similarities. The odds of that being a coincidence were minuscule to the point of being entirely negligible, but there was the possibility that the two worlds were completely parallel dimensions. That would explain another thing that had baffled Sunset: Several notable locations carried over. Canterlot was the city Sunset had lived in, and now it was her high school. She had gone to Everfree Middle School and White Tail Elementary, both of which were also places within Equestria. Although it sounded a bit too close to science fiction, it was something Sunset couldn’t rule out.

The third explanation was the worst, as well as the most likely. There was no Equestria. Sunset had adapted the place names of locations she knew into her fantasy, and she had somehow known Celestia in the past. They could even be related, although that was stretching it; the police had conducted a thorough investigation before giving up on finding Sunset’s parents, and she was sure that they would have found out if Sunset had any family willing to claim her in the state. And, of course, Celestia hadn’t recognized Sunset as a long-lost daughter when they saw one another. No, it was more likely that she had met Celestia, but in a much smaller way.

None of those explanations answered every question she had, but figuring out which one was true would be the key to solving the puzzle. But figuring out which was true would require Sunset to finally confront the one thing she had actively been avoiding.

Sunset stood outside of Principal Celestia’s office and tried to steel her nerves. All she did was waste time, however, so eventually she had to ignore the shaking of her hand and knock on the door.

“Come in,” Celestia’s voice called from the other side, sending shivers through Sunset’s body. She ignored those as well, and opened the door.

Sunset froze in place. Even her lungs stopped working as she stood transfixed at the sight of Celestia before her. The rest of the world faded away. It didn’t matter. All there was that was worth paying attention to was the woman that sat across the room.

Principal Celestia did not forget the rest of the world. She was not lost in memories of the girl who stood before her. If she had been, she wouldn’t have smiled so politely. She wouldn’t have casually raised a hand to gesture between Sunset and a chair across from her. She wouldn’t have maintained nothing more than polite pleasantness when she said, “Please, come in. What can I do for you, miss?”

And the world came rushing back. It was too much, and it threatened to overwhelm her. She forced herself to focus on one thing at a time. Step into the room. Close the door. Sit down.

Principal Celestia was waiting expectantly, so Sunset had to speak. Start with an introduction. “My name’s Sunset Shimmer.”

“Sunset Shimmer?” Celestia’s smile grew wider. Did she remember after all? “You’re the student that wrote the article on friendship. I have to say, I was very impressed.”

No, she didn’t. Focus, don’t lose sight of the goal. Thank her for the compliment. “Thank you, ma’am.” Move forward, don’t waste this chance. “There’s something I want to ask you.”

Principal Celestia chuckled. “Ah, I should’ve known. Every year, someone from the paper wants to do an interview. And while I’m always happy to oblige, you should know that it never goes over as well with the student body as you’d expect.”

A misunderstanding. Correct the mistake. “No, it’s not for the paper.”

Sunset took a deep breath and forced herself to look into Principal Celestia’s eyes. The memory of another Celestia’s eyes still burned in her mind, but these ones were simply warm. They were not the same Celestia, that much was apparent. “It’s actually… well, it’s about me.”

Principal Celestia looked puzzled, but patiently waited for more. “Oh?”

Sunset nodded. “Eight years ago, I was found at this school. I was alone and didn’t know where I was. I couldn’t remember anything about my life before then, like where I lived or who my parents were or anything. I…” Sunset closed her eyes. It felt wrong to lie to Celestia, even the wrong Celestia. “I still don’t remember anything from before that day.”

“My goodness.” Celestia reached her hand across the desk, placing it on top of Sunset’s. Sunset opened her eyes and stared at it, unable to think of anything other than how wrong it was. “That sounds awful. Were you ever able to find your way home?”

Sunset shook her head. “Someone did find me eventually, though. But I was so confused that I don’t remember who they were, or even what they looked like. I think it was two people, but I’m not really sure. I was hoping that maybe they worked at the school or something, so that I could get the chance to speak with them again. Have you ever heard about something like that?”

Principal Celestia contemplated the question for a moment. “Hmm… I’m sorry, but I don’t think I have. But I wasn’t at CHS eight years ago, so it’s still possible that it was one of the staff members.”

It hadn’t been Principal Celestia. She wasn’t even at CHS eight years ago. There was no way that Sunset had met her, unless it had happened before the day she was discovered. And at that, she showed no signs of recognizing Sunset by either appearance or name.

“But of course, there are other people who would’ve worked here at that time. Give me a bit to get in touch with anyone who might remember that, then I’ll get back to you with an answer.”

It probably didn’t matter, but Sunset nodded anyway. “Thank you, ma’am.”

Principal Celestia smiled. “Well then, unless there’s something else I can do for you, it’s probably best you get to class. I’ll send a message to you as soon as I know something.”

Sunset nodded again. “Right. Thank you.”

“It’s my pleasure. It certainly isn’t every day that something like this happens.”

Sunset forced a smile. She wasn’t sure where she found the willpower, but she managed all the same. “Well, I hope not. I think one five-year-old found lost and alone is more than enough for any school.”

As she left, Sunset walked through the hallway in a daze. They were not the same Celestia. Sunset had ruled out one possibility, which meant she was that much closer to her answer. And she had also discovered that it was unlikely she had ever met this Celestia before.

Which meant the most likely answer became the possibility that she was in a parallel universe. It was fitting, once she thought about it. She had stepped through a mirror and into a bizarre reflection of the world she had once called home. There were probably other duplicate anomalies, if she allowed herself the chance to look into it.

But even if that answer meant Equestria existed, there was one inescapable problem with it.

Professor Inkwell had been a teacher at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. Ms. Inkwell taught seniors about history at Canterlot High School.

Arpeggio Harmony had been a famous Equestrian composer. Rose used to play an Arpeggio Harmony cassette when she drove Sunset to appointments.

Stout Shield was the Captain of the Celestial Guard. Stout Shield was the head of the police department.

Not everything fit evenly, but there were connections for everything. An internet search for Clover the Clever didn’t reveal a historical figure celebrated for her achievements in both magical research and political revolution, for example. But there was a Clever Clover who had been a philosopher ahead of her time. She was seldom remembered because she was a woman at a time when human society would only accept males in educated fields, and her peers had stolen or defamed all of her accomplishments.

The parallels were endless. Human and pony society often chose to celebrate different individuals, but famous historical names still turned up. It became harder and harder to accept that Sunset was recontextualizing things and people she knew as part of an elaborate world of fantasy that she had created when she was five.

Which left her with just one problem.

It didn’t take long for Principal Celestia to get a message to Sunset. It was the end of the day, and a student aide brought a note to her last class asking that she go to the principal’s office after school. It seemed that Principal Celestia was nothing if not reliable.

Although she had only been interested in finding out if she had known Principal Celestia, Sunset was still curious to meet with the people who had found her. So after Vice Principal Luna gave the afternoon announcements to close the day, she calmly walked back to the principal’s office. There was no hesitation at the door. She was no longer worried about what would be inside.

“Come in,” Principal Celestia said when she knocked, and Sunset obeyed.

There were three people inside. Principal Celestia sat at her desk, seemingly pleased with herself. Sunset didn’t know the other two people by name, but she recognized them immediately. Seeing them in front of her filled in the gap, and she found herself able to recall them finding her across the street from the school.

“Sunset, this is Mr. Cranky Doodle and Mrs. Matilda. They’re both teachers here at CHS, and I believe they’re the people you’re looking for.”

It was clear that both Cranky Doodle and Matilda recognized Sunset as well. “My word,” Matilda said, a slow smile creeping on her face. “It really is you.”

Cranky seemed to be having more trouble moving past pure bewilderment, but he mumbled, “Well, I’ll be…”

It wasn’t often that Sunset was at a loss for words, but she found herself completely unprepared for a situation like this. She fixed a nervous smile and gave a small wave. “Uhm, hi.”

At least Principal Celestia seemed to realize that everyone else was feeling speechless, so she broke the ice herself. “I have to say I was quite amazed when Sunset told me the story this morning. I’d love to hear more about that day.”

Cranky cleared his throat and began the story. “Well, Matilda and I were on our way home when she saw a little girl hiding in a bush.”

“You said we should just leave her alone,” Matilda added.

“I thought she must be playing hide-and-seek.”

“But there were no other kids around. So I convinced him to at least go over and check on her. The poor dear was so frightened and confused.”

Sunset blushed and scratched the back of her head. “I… guess I just knew I wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers. Even if I didn’t know a whole lot else at the time.”

“That’s right, you didn’t remember where you lived,” Matilda said. “I hope the police were able to find your parents?”

Sunset shook her head. “I never remembered anything before that day. The police took me to a hospital to make sure I wasn’t hurt, then I got brought to New Horizons Home for Children. I still live there.”

Matilda held a hand over her mouth. “Oh, you poor thing.”

Sunset smiled. “I’m doing okay, though. And I realize that day could have been a lot worse. That’s why I wanted to find you two. I want to thank you both, I don’t know what would’ve happened if you hadn’t come along when you did.”

“Well, we couldn’t just leave you there,” Cranky said, looking somewhat embarrassed to be put in the spotlight.

They continued to talk about that day, and what Sunset had been up to since then. Principal Celestia made a point of telling Cranky and Matilda about Sunset’s article, which Cranky had to admit he hadn’t read, although he said he would soon.

The meeting remained cordial, if somewhat awkward. But Sunset was able to play it well once she was over the initial shock, and they were both delighted to learn that the confused little girl had grown into a polite young lady. Principal Celestia was clearly proud of both her staff and her Wondercolt, and never missed a chance to point out their virtues.

By the time Sunset was finally able to use her bus as an excuse to leave, she could tell they all loved her. And because she knew teachers talked among themselves, she was sure the adoration that the student body had for her would soon be spread to the teachers. She may not rule the school from the shadows, but it was still an accomplishment. And if Violet got word of how well liked she was becoming, it would be sure to reflect well on her.

Things were going great. There was only one problem.

On the way to the bus, Sunset ran into Flash. But he was more of an inconvenience than anything. “There you are,” he said when he saw her. “I was looking for you. Ready to go?”

Oh, right. It was Wednesday, the day she was supposed to go to Flash’s house for guitar lessons. “Sorry, Flash, but I’m not feeling so great. I’m just gonna head home today.”

Flash frowned, his expression somewhere between disappointment and concern. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I think I just need to get some rest.”

Biting back his disappointment, Flash nodded solemnly. “Alright, well, take it easy.” He looked off to the side and seemed to be embarrassed. “So, uh about that concert… How about I email you the band’s page, then you can check them out? Or, you know… If you don’t want to do that, maybe there’s something else we could do this weekend.”

Sunset cocked her head to the side. “If I don’t wind up going to the concert, just go without me.”

“Yeah, but…” Flash shook his head. “Well, we’ll figure it out when you’re feeling better.”

Sunset was confused by how embarrassed he seemed to be, but she didn’t have time or interest enough to figure out why. “Yeah, alright. I’ll see you later, Flash.”

“Bye, Sunset. Hope you feel better soon.”

Sunset walked away, aware that he was still watching her. She had more important things to worry about, though.

And she did, all the way back to the orphanage. She expected the bus ride would feel like an eternity, but she barely noticed it. Her mind was so preoccupied that time just passed her by. If she had thought about it, she would have preferred the bus to move at a crawl. It would be better than being home, as she knew there was no real relief waiting for her there. Thoughts danced in and out of her mind, but they always came back to the same one.

She didn’t run home from the bus stop. She didn’t rush to her room. She moved steadily and purposefully, but without hurry. There was nothing waiting for her. There would be no answer to her question.

Sunset didn’t speak to anyone when she walked into New Horizons. She kept her head down and walked to her room. She closed the door behind her and took off her backpack, setting it on the ground. Then she stood there, as if waiting for something to happen.

But nothing would, nothing ever did. Nothing real, anyway. Slowly, Sunset walked over to her bed. She moved the mattress, and reached her hand into a hole in the box spring. Inside it, there was a pillowcase, which she removed. It had become largely ignored, and Sunset didn’t plan on putting it back.

She replaced the mattress, taking care to line it up neatly, and sat down on it. One by one, she removed the contents. She pulled out the novel, and examined the cover. An Equestrian classic. She would have to read it again sometime soon. She pulled out the comic book and flipped through the pages. Pictures of ponies in almost every panel. Even in stylized form, they looked natural to her. She would reread that one, too. She pulled out the coin purse and opened it. It was full of copper coins that still shone brightly. She took out one of the bits and examined it, running her hand over the etchings, then put it back.

Then Sunset ran out of ways to keep stalling. Not that it mattered. One way or another, it was going to come down to this, and there would be no answer.

She pulled out the last item from the pillowcase. It was a brown journal with a yellow and red sun on the cover. Sunset had spent years pouring over every page, then she had spent years trying to forget about it. She opened to the first page.

Dearest Sunset Shimmer, my gifted student. I’m sure you’ve been wondering all day what this message would be.

Sunset turned to another page.

Greetings, my gifted student. I think today seems like the perfect chance to test the practical nature of this journal. I would like to invite you to join me in the castle gardens after your classes are over, if your parents will not mind your absence.

Sunset turned to another page.

Dear Sunset Shimmer, although I do agree that you are sufficiently knowledgeable in the subject, I ask that you leave the teaching to Professor Inkwell.

Sunset turned to another page.

Dearest Sunset, thank you for telling me this. I know it may not always seem like it, but your parents do care for you. I am sorry to hear that you have any reason to feel otherwise, but you need never doubt this fact.

Everything suggested that Equestria was real. It was a parallel dimension, connected to but distinct from the world Sunset was now in. But there was still one problem.

“Why didn’t you write to me?”

Good morning, my gifted student. I trust that you’re finding your new room to your liking? With you staying in the castle, I can imagine no end to the ways that you’ll impress me. But first, we must have breakfast. I’m heading to the dining room now, and I hope that you’ll join me there.

“Why didn’t you try to find me?”

Sunset Shimmer, I must say that I’m disappointed. Cadance is a sweet filly, and she could use a friend in her new home. I had hoped that could be you, but I had at least expected you to treat her kindly, if nothing else.

“Why wasn’t I important enough?”

Dear Sunset, I am glad to hear that you’ve apologized to Cadance. I know it hasn’t always been easy for you to become close with your peers, but I do hope that you’ll give her a chance. I think that she isn’t the only one who could benefit from having a friend, you know.

“Why did you forget about me!?”

Happy birthday, Sunset. I hope no one has beaten me in being the first to say it. And even more so, I hope you’ll use the day as a chance to take some time away from your studies. Perhaps you could meet me for tea? It would be nice to have a chance to talk without it being related to your lessons. I hope you know that I always treasure the time we have together.

“Why did you lie to me!?”

Sunset grabbed the book by the pages and threw it, ripping out a handful of its pages as she did.

“Why am I stuck here!? Why do I have to be all alone!? Why don’t you care about me!?”

Sunset stared at the book until her vision blurred, and it gave her no answers. She collapsed on her bed, holding herself tightly as she sobbed. She could no longer form the words, but there could never be an answer anyway.

‘Why don’t you love me?’

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