• Published 14th Nov 2016
  • 9,472 Views, 1,491 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.

  • ...

2 – The Girl and Her Reflection

Chapter Two

The Girl and Her Reflection

Being a child was not without its advantages. No one expected Sunset would know what she was supposed to be doing while they were at the hospital, so they gave her very clear instructions. When she was clearly hesitant to follow them, they interpreted that as basic childlike fear, rather than genuine distrust of their intentions. They patiently explained what every tool did, which helped calm her nerves. At least it seemed that everybody genuinely wanted to help her.

Everybody – that was one of their words. It was amazing that both worlds used the same language, but they did have differences. That was another advantage of her age. She wasn’t expected to participate in conversation outside of answering a few questions, so she could focus on listening to them talk to one another. She hadn’t yet heard them say what they called their species, but she was rapidly learning more about them.

That too helped put her mind to rest, if only by giving her something else to focus on. While they came in just as many colors as ponies, they lacked any other obvious differences. Well, they did come in different sizes, but none of them had wings or horns, to be sure. Of course, there was the possibility that something aside from the obvious was being concealed under the clothes that everyone seemed to wear, but nothing too distinct insofar as Sunset could tell. Initially, she thought that she noticed two distinct variations, based on general form differences and prominent growths on the chests of some of them, but soon enough she realized she was just noticing the differences in adult males and females.

It was good she had so much to focus on, because there were certainly plenty of things that caused her to panic. The devices they used were like nothing Sunset had ever seen. The worst one had been something they called an MRI, where she had to lie down in a tube and remain still, while all the while there was a constant pounding noise. It had triggered another wave of anxiety, but afterwards the doctor showed her a picture the machine had made of her brain. Losing herself for a moment in wonderment, she had called it magic. The doctor laughed and said it was only science, and Sunset kept all her other comments to herself.

In between tests, Blue Stripe and Swift Star, the officers who had brought her to the hospital, took pictures of her to conduct a search for her parents. Then they left, taking her saddlebag with them. Sunset had protested but it didn’t do her any good. They said they’d use it to try and identify her in their search, and promised they’d get her home soon. In the end, she had to let it go. It wasn’t like she actually needed any of the things in it, but it would have been comforting to have something of her own.

Meanwhile, the doctors decided there was nothing physically wrong with her, so she moved on to a psych evaluation. She had planned for that. They brought her into a room with a female doctor, then left the two of them to talk.

“Hello, my name’s Diamond Facet,” the doctor said. She motioned towards a chair across from her desk. “Please, take a seat.”

Sunset did as she was instructed, but remained quiet.

“Everything’s going to be okay, I just need to ask you some questions.”

In truth, Sunset was feeling much calmer than she had since arriving through the portal. Her moments of panic were extreme and made her feel like somepony else entirely, but when she was level headed she felt the same as always.

“Now, can you tell me your full name?”

“Sunset Shimmer,” she answered. It would have been better for her if she had never given her name, but she already had an answer if she was asked why she remembered it.

“That’s a nice name. Is that what everyone calls you, or do you have a nickname?”

Sunset blinked a few times and waited a moment, pretending like she had to think of the answer. “Uhm, no. Just Sunset Shimmer.”

Diamond Facet smiled and nodded. “I see. Sunset Shimmer all the time? Not Sunset, or Sunny?”

“Sunset,” she answered quickly. The last thing she wanted was for someone to start calling her ‘Sunny’.

“And who calls you Sunset?”

It was easy enough to see what Diamond Facet was doing; she wanted to see if Sunset could remember friends or family calling her by name, but didn’t want to draw attention to it. “The officers did.”

Diamond Facet glanced at a sheet of paper on her desk. “The officers who brought you into the hospital earlier?” Sunset nodded. “I see. Are they the only ones?”

“I, uhm…” Sunset frowned and looked at the floor. “The lady did.”

“The lady?”

“The lady from the park. She said Sunset is a pretty name.”

“Sunset,” Diamond Facet began, her tone shifting noticeably towards being more serious, “what about before today? Do you remember anyone calling you Sunset before today?”

“Uhm…” Sunset looked around, pretending to be worried. “I… I don’t know.”

“Okay, let’s talk about something else.” Diamond Facet looked over her notes again, although Sunset doubted she needed to. She knew what question was coming next. “Can you tell me how old you are?”

Saying she was seventeen had been worse than giving her name. “I don’t know.”

“Earlier you told the lady in the park that you’re seventeen. Is that true?”

“I… I…” Sunset shook her head. “I don’t know.”

“When my daughter turned seventeen, we threw her a big birthday party. Do you remember your last birthday?”

Another trick to try to get her to remember something. “No.”

“Do you remember where you were when you woke up this morning?”

Sunset hesitated again. It was so easy once she stopped worrying; she just had to make it look like answering was difficult, keep saying she didn’t know, and eventually they’d write it off as amnesia. Easy out to any and all future questions. “I don’t know.”

Time and again, she didn’t know. Her parents? Didn’t know. Her house? Didn’t know. Friends, family, pets, school, everything. She just didn’t know.

It was apparent that they were at a dead end, so Diamond Facet came back to the one question she’d been trying to avoid asking. “How do you know your name is Sunset Shimmer?”

Great, give a little girl an existential crisis. “It said so on my bag.”

“I see.” Diamond Facet made a note, and moved on to a different sort of question. “So you can read then. Can you read this for me?”

She opened a drawer on her desk and pulled a book out, which she set down so Sunset could see it. Sunset read the title out loud. “The Dog and His Reflection.”

“Very good,” Diamond Facet said. “Will you read me the story?”

Sunset hesitated, but not because she was pretending to be nervous. Diamond Facet hadn’t opened the book. Everything Sunset had seen of the creatures suggested they used their hands for everything, but Sunset hadn’t practiced with them at all yet. She nervously reached out for the book, and bumped it to the side.

Sunset blushed at her incompetence, then tried again. She was sure that Diamond Facet had noticed, but the doctor said nothing. The second time around, Sunset was able to get the cover open. The first page simply had the title again, which Sunset read to stall for time. “The Dog and His Reflection.”

Looking up, she saw Diamond Facet nodding patiently. She was going to force Sunset to read it, no matter how long it took. Best to try and get on with it. Sunset reached out again, and used her whole hand to turn the page. “A dog, to whom the butcher had thrown a bone, was hurrying home with his prize as fast as he could go.”

Why the buck did they have to only have one sentence per page? Without looking up at Diamond Facet, Sunset turned the page again, just as awkwardly as she had before. “As he crossed a narrow footbridge, he happened to look down.” Another page, managed only slightly better. “He saw himself reflected in the quiet water, as if in a mirror.” Again, but this time she tried using her fingers. She did poorly. “But the greedy dog thought he saw a real dog carrying a bone much bigger than his own.”

Every page turn worked a little better than the last, and slowly Sunset got used to grabbing the pages with her fingers. “If he had stopped to think he would have known better. But instead of thinking, he dropped his bone and sprang at the dog in the river. He only found himself swimming for dear life to reach the shore. At last he managed to scramble out. As he stood sadly thinking about the good bone he had lost, he realized what a stupid dog he had been.”

She only looked up as she finished by reading the lesson’s moral. “It is very foolish to be greedy.”

“That was very good, Sunset.” Diamond Facet smiled and took the book back, tucking it away again. From the same drawer she pulled out a blank piece of paper. She passed it towards Sunset, along with a pen. “Can you write your name for me?”

Sunset frowned. “Okay.” She placed her hand on the pen, and closed her fingers around it. It was still horizontal when she lifted it from the table, so she turned her hand. She could tell she was holding it all wrong, and tried to remember how Diamond Facet had held it. Unfortunately, she hadn’t been paying close enough attention, and couldn’t seem to get it right.

Still, she did her best. Her writing had been decent in Equestria, even if it wasn’t something she spent much time perfecting. But writing with magic and writing with her hand proved very different, and the result was an ugly squiggle.

“Good job, Sunset,” Diamond Facet obnoxiously said, although it was of course anything but. She made a note, which Sunset could only assume was related to her apparent lack of fine motor skills.

Diamond Facet continued with some more cognitive tests, which Sunset felt far more competent with. She solved some logic problems quickly and easily, eager to prove herself after the failure that had been the writing exercise. She wasn’t sure why she cared, since she had no plans to stick around this world, but it made her feel better.

Next they talked about her feelings, and Sunset did her best to stick to generic answers. She had no idea what the creatures in this world would expect her to feel, especially at her age. The vague answers would hopefully help her diagnosis, anyway.

“I think we got just about all we need,” Diamond Facet said after a while. She made a few final notes, stood up, then walked around to the other side of the desk. She gently placed her hand on Sunset’s shoulder, which Sunset resented enormously. “Come with me, Sunset. Just a little bit longer, and you’ll be somewhere you can relax, and even play with some other kids.”

That sounded more like a threat than reassurance, but Sunset stood up and followed her out of the room. They walked down a few hallways and into a lobby area, where the same two police officers were waiting. Diamond Facet told her to wait with Swift Star for a few minutes while she talked with Blue Stripe. Although Sunset wanted to find out the official diagnosis, it seemed she wasn’t going to get the chance.

“We’ve already started searching for your parents,” Swift Star said, likely to try and cheer her up. “Don’t worry about a thing, we’ll find them in no time.”

The same reassurance was getting a little old, but of course Sunset didn’t say so. She kept her silence, as usual.

It was a little strange. From what she could gather, the police were basically the royal guard of this world, and yet they were vastly different. The Celestial Guard was known for being stoic. If these two were any indication, that wasn’t the case for police officers. He kept glancing at her, and was clearly trying to find the words that would get Sunset to open up. She hated the feeling and resented him for it. She knew his type; he would prefer if she were crying, just so he could understand her emotions. But Sunset was done crying.

The minutes dragged on, but after a while Diamond Facet and Blue Stripe returned. Diamond Facet kneeled down and smiled. “Now, Sunset, these two are going to take you somewhere you can stay while they’re finding your parents. They’ll take good care of you there, and you’ll be back home before you know it.”

Sunset bit back her reply.

Diamond Facet reached for and squeezed Sunset’s hand. “I know it’s scary, but everything will –”

“Can we go?” Sunset asked. She’d been trying to be reasonable, but they kept prattling on and on about the same things. It didn’t really matter anyway; she wasn’t ever going to see these people again.

Unaffected by Sunset’s comment, Diamond Facet just smiled and stood up. Sunset imagined she was probably waving goodbye, but didn’t look back to check.

“An orphanage?”

The officers exchanged uncertain looks. It was the first thing Sunset had said since leaving the hospital.

“It’s just for a little while,” Blue Stripe said. “New Horizons is a nice place. They’ll take good care of you, and there are other kids your age here.”

New Horizons Home for Children was a medium sized building – smaller than either the hospital or the building near the portal had been, but bigger than most houses they passed when going from place to place. It was a two-story building with a boxy design, painted a pale shade of yellow. All in all, it was pretty underwhelming.

They opened the door for her and undid her harness. She got out, but didn’t follow them as they approached the building.

“It’s okay, Sunset,” Blue Stripe said, misreading her refusal to move, “it’ll probably only be for a few days.”

Sunset folded her arms. “Where’s my stuff?”

The officers looked at one another. “We talked about that at the hospital. We need it to find your family. I promise you’ll get everything back just the way it was.”

“No!” Sunset knew it didn’t really matter, that she wasn’t going to need it while she searched for the portal. Anything she brought could easily be replaced when she got back to Equestria. Still, it would be nice to have something from home while everything around her was so strange. “It’s mine, and I want it back. Now.”

“I know you’re frustrated, but it’ll help us out a lot, and –”

“I want my damn bag, and everything in it!” That wiped those stupid ‘calming’ expressions off their faces. “I never even gave you permission to take it in the first place.”

Blue Stripe took a few steps closer and kneeled down. He spoke calmly, but resolutely. “We don’t have it with us. It’s all back at the station where we’ll make good use of it. I know you want it now, but that’s not an option. But how about this: When I get back to the station, I’ll see what we might need for the search. Anything we don’t need I’ll bring right back to you.”

Sunset wanted to protest, wanted to insist he give her back everything, but couldn’t. She didn’t know their laws, but she did know she probably had no legal ground to argue with. Plus when he was right in front of her, his size still made him kind of intimidating. “Today?”

He looked down for a moment and seemed to be weighing his options. “Okay, deal. I’ll bring you whatever I can sometime today.”

Since she couldn’t argue, Sunset just held her scowl in place. “Fine.”

Blue Stripe smiled again and stood up. “Alright, that’s settled. Now let’s go get you introduced.”

With some reluctance, Sunset followed him into the building. The lobby was more inviting than the hospital lobby had been, but wasn’t exactly homey. Sure, there were pictures on the walls depicting kids of all different ages, softer lighting, and in general a much less sterile feel to the room, but it was still arranged like a business lobby, complete with a row of chairs for people to wait and a large desk with a receptionist at it.

Talking with the receptionist was another lady. Even with Sunset’s limited experience, she could tell that the lady was far from young. The cream-colored skin on her face was lined with wrinkles, while her maroon hair was streaked with silver. She smiled warmly and addressed Sunset when she spoke. “Hello there, little one. I’m Rose Petal, what’s your name?”

“Sunset Shimmer,” she answered, growing a little tired of introducing herself.

“Well, Sunset, how about I show you around a bit, since you’ll be staying with us for a few days?”

Sunset looked back to the police officers, who smiled and nodded. It wasn’t like she had anything else to do, and she had to stick around long enough to get her stuff back.

Rose Petal never asked her about her family, or her home, or any of the other questions she was sick of hearing. They walked around the orphanage, which did feel much more like a regular home once they were out of the lobby. Rose showed her all the rooms she suspected Sunset would care to know about – the kitchen, dining room, bathrooms, lounge room, a small library, and an art room.

Along the way they ran into some kids, all of whom seemed to love Rose Petal dearly. A few introduced themselves to Sunset, who couldn’t care less about pointlessly introducing herself to some kids she’d never see again. Rose seemed to misinterpret her apathy as shyness and made introductions in her place, always ensuring the kids that there would be time for them to get to know each other later.

It seemed the only thing left to show her was her bedroom, but instead Rose led her outside. Behind the building was a small garden area, filled with neatly organized rows of different flowers. Rose brought Sunset to a gazebo, where they each took a seat as the sun was setting. It was hard to believe so much of the day had already gone past.

“It’s always so nice out here,” Rose Petal said. “This is my favorite place to relax.”

That didn’t seem particularly interesting to Sunset. But since she was stuck waiting anyway, she figured she might talk about something. “So what do you do here, anyway?”

Rose smiled. “I live here, and work as a caretaker. There’s quite a few of us, more than you’ll probably meet, but I’ll always be around if you need anything.”

That seemed odd; the building wasn’t that large, and couldn’t possibly house more than thirty kids. How could they need so many caretakers that Sunset wouldn’t even meet them all? “What about the others? Don’t they live here, too?”

Rose chuckled. “No, not anymore. When I was younger, all the workers lived with the children here. We always lived as one big family in those days. But homes like this one have changed a lot since then, and now most of the caretakers live in their own houses. A few of us old biddies do still live at the home, however.”

Sunset smirked. “So is ‘home’ supposed to sound better than ‘orphanage’ or something?”

She expected Rose Petal to be thrown off by the question, but she just laughed. “Yes, actually. When I first started living here, it was called the New Horizons Orphanage. Now they tell us we shouldn’t ever use the ‘O’ word.”

“That’s stupid,” Sunset said. “Using a different word doesn’t change what it is.”

“Well, sometimes words can be hurtful. Some of the kids living here might be sensitive to being called orphans, even if the person saying it doesn’t mean anything bad. And, unfortunately, there are some kids who say it to be mean.”

Person. Sunset made a mental note of the word before continuing. “If someone can’t handle some mean words then that’s their problem. They need to toughen up some.”

“Oh, I think most of the kids here have had enough troubles in their lives. Surely we can show them a bit more compassion than that?”

Sunset rolled her eyes. She didn’t really agree, but she could feel a lecture around the corner if she said so. “I guess.”

Apparently content with the answer, Rose Petal moved on. “I do hope you’ll try and make friends with the other kids while you’re here.”

“Maybe.” Sunset shrugged, but she had no intention at all of wasting time with friendship.

“And I also hope you’re not just saying that to make an old lady happy.”

Sunset opened her mouth to reply, but couldn’t think of what to say.

Rose Petal laughed a little at that. “Well, I won’t try and force you. If you don’t want to be friends with any of the others, then nothing I say is going to change that. But I do think some of them will give you a surprise if you’ll just give them a chance.”

Unless that ‘surprise’ amounted to somehow helping her get home, that didn’t interest Sunset. Since she wasn’t going to agree and lying seemed to be out of the question, Sunset just remained silent.

“You are an interesting girl, I can already tell.” Rose Petal stood up, and Sunset followed suit. “Now then, you’ve had a very busy day. How about we get you something to eat?”

Sunset was very hungry. Hungrier than she had realized, now that food had been brought up. But she didn’t know what these creatures – persons, if she assumed correctly – actually ate. “Okay. What, uh…”

Although she couldn’t figure out how to phrase her question without showing her ignorance, Rose figured it out easily enough. “The other kids have all eaten already, but there’s plenty of food left over. Tonight we had chicken, which I can –”

“Chicken!?” Sunset stopped in place and stared wide eyed and open mouthed at Rose Petal. Every muscle in her body tensed up. “Like… like the bird!?”

Rose Petal blinked a few times. “Well, yes. It was –”

“I’m not eating a chicken!”

It seemed Sunset’s horror was cause for some amusement for Rose Petal, but she tried to keep from showing it too much. “Well, it certainly wouldn’t be a whole chicken.”

Sunset couldn’t form a response. By all accounts, Rose Petal seemed like a sweet old lady, and one of the least obnoxious persons Sunset had met. And yet here she was, casually talking about eating chickens.

“I, uh, I’m guessing you don’t eat meat?”

Eat meat? They ate things other than chickens as well? Well, that actually made sense – if they ate one animal, why not more? – but Sunset’s brain was not working well enough to have realized that. All she could do was shake her head.

“You are an interesting girl, indeed. Very well, how about I show you to your room for now, and while you get settled in I’ll make you something else?”

Sunset remained rooted in place.

“I’ll have to see what we have, but how about some kind of soup? I promise you there will be no meat in it.”

Although the last thing Sunset wanted to do was go into a building with a bunch of carnivores, she didn’t have much choice. Wordlessly, she resumed following Rose Petal.

She didn’t pay much attention to anything while they walked to her room. Rose showed her in, said she’d be back soon, and left. For the first time since being discovered, Sunset was alone with her thoughts. There was a bed in the corner which she collapsed onto, face first.

It took a few minutes for her to calm down and think rationally. If they had non-meat food to offer her, they had to be omnivores, not carnivores. Granted, that didn’t exactly make her feel much better. Diamond dogs and griffins were omnivores, but she had never had any interest in meeting either of them before.

Still, thinking about it in that context, she was forced to remember that not all sapient animals were herbivores, and they almost certainly didn’t eat other sapient animals. And perhaps most important of all, even though she was currently part of a species that was omnivorous she could still stick to eating foods she was comfortable with.

Once she calmed down enough, Sunset took in her surroundings. The room was fairly small, which was to be expected; they did have to house as many kids as possible, after all. The bed, which looked like it would be large enough for a single adult, was tucked neatly into a corner, with a simple bedside table next to it. The table had a clock and fake potted plant on it, and two empty drawers. At the foot of the bed was a bookshelf, which held only a few books. There was a window along the third wall, with its red curtains tied open. The final wall, directly across from the bed, had the door leading to a hallway full of other rooms, and next to that was a dresser.

Sunset got up to check the drawers on the dresser, and found they were all empty. As she closed the last one, her eyes focused on the one thing she’d been avoiding. Hanging on the wall above the dresser was a large mirror.

As soon as she looked at it, she couldn’t have looked away. Her eyes locked with the ones in her reflection, and she couldn’t have said how long she stared. The last mirror she’d looked into had shown her as an alicorn. This one also showed her something she was not.

Of course, she’d already figured out what she looked like. She had seen her reflection in windows, and even if she hadn’t she would have pieced together a mental image easily enough. But seeing her own reflection so clearly was unlike that in every way. She reached her hand up, and stopped when she saw the girl in the mirror do the same. That wasn’t right. This thing that could not be her was mimicking her movements flawlessly.

Sunset Shimmer was a pony. She lived in a castle alongside her mentor Princess Celestia. Sunset Shimmer was a unicorn. She was Celestia’s gifted student, and she could bend the world to her will. Sunset Shimmer was staring at nothing more than a scared little girl whose cyan eyes were tinged red from crying. A girl who was lost, and scared, and just wanted to go home. A girl that didn’t know if she still had a home, and didn’t know how to find it again. Look at her. She’s crying again.

It was the middle of the night, but Sunset walked into the library. She had expected it to be empty, but found it wasn’t.

“Hello, Sunset,” Celestia said. She placed a bookmark in the book she was reading and set it aside. “Trouble sleeping?”

Sunset frowned. Why was Celestia of all ponies here? “I guess.”

Celestia didn’t seem to mind her tone. “Perhaps you would like to sit with me?”

She really wanted to be alone, but there wasn’t any way she would say that. She grabbed a book at random and sat next to her mentor.

They read in silence for a while. The book Sunset had grabbed was called The Heavens Above, and told a thrilling story of a stallion trying to save his city from an astronomical catastrophe. But try as she might, Sunset couldn’t focus on the characters.

“So, uh, what are you reading?” she asked eventually.

“By the River,” Celestia answered. “It’s a love story set in a small town.”

Sunset set her own book down and grinned. “You’re kidding.”

Celestia held up the book as proof. “It’s quite good.”

Little by little, the homesickness that Sunset had been trying to ignore faded away. “You like cheesy romance stories?”

“I do,” Celestia said simply. “It’s always nice to see life through somepony else’s eyes.”

Sunset couldn’t help but smile. Celestia was so weird sometimes. “But why not read something less lame while you do it?”

“I think romance is interesting.” Celestia’s smile never faltered, even as Sunset made fun of her book. “I suppose you might be a little too young to be interested in that sort of thing, though.”

Sunset rolled her eyes and waved a hoof. “I’m fifteen. If I was going to be interested in something as silly as romance, I’m pretty sure I already would be.”

“Oh? So what are you interested in then?”

She didn’t know why Celestia would even need to ask. “Magic.”

Celestia chuckled. “Yes, of course. Ever my gifted student. I suppose that must be the reason for the late night reading?”

Sunset frowned and glanced back at her book. It was clear that it wasn’t a textbook. Why hadn’t she chosen more carefully? “Uh, something like that.”

Celestia looked around the library, which was empty aside from them. “The castle is very large. It’s easy to feel lonely here.”

That was nothing new to Sunset. “There’s more ponies here than there were at my parent’s house.”

Celestia seemed to be staring at the moonlight filtering through one of her stained glass windows, and she lacked her usual smile. “I get lonely too, sometimes.”

The apathetic expression Sunset hadn’t realized she was holding fell away. “You… do?”

“I do,” Celestia said sadly. She turned to Sunset and her smile returned. “Although to tell the truth, I feel a lot better having you around.”

Sunset smiled. She knew exactly what Celestia meant.

Author's Note:

I was gonna write my own little children's story to use here, but I wound up just stealing this one from Aesop instead, so if it looks familiar, that’s why :twilightsheepish: