Sunset hit water. Her lungs fought back and she held her breath. Her hooves hit submerged sand and Sunset spring boarded off it, shooting to the surface. She broke the water, gasping for air.
She saw blue skies filled with large, idle cumulonimbi. A look around revealed herself in a horseshoe cove within some small island. Trees just beyond the shoreline blanketed the slopes, giving the land a smooth feel. A large wall of bare rock separated the cove into two halves.
Twilight surfaced right beside her and, after taking in the scenery, the two swam toward the shore.
They emerged, dripping wet. The both of them shook themselves dry, inadvertently flicking water onto each other in the process and sharing giggles in the aftermath. The beach sand ebbed under their hooves, especially when Twilight sighed and took a seat.
Sunset, meanwhile, took a moment to crack her neck muscles. She glanced around, tracking seagulls circling through the skies. Their caws echoed in the cape.
"Perfect memory?” Sunset asked at length.
Twilight shook her head, lifting the Talisman from around her neck and setting it in the sand. “I’m trying to figure out exactly what that was about.”
"I mean… it made sense.”
"But why say that? I mean…” Her face went pale and she drew circles in the sand. “We… might have just given him a way out. But it was just that Tirek. He was bad…”
Sunset frowned. “We were toys. So I honestly don’t care.”
Twilight giggled, poking the Talisman. “Well, okay. You’re not wrong there. This is all pretty weird.” She paused, humming thoughtfully. “But then again, you go to school in some reality where everypony is human. That’s ‘weird.’”
Sunset cracked one last muscle and then flopped down in the sand herself, smiling. “Yeah. That’s true. And look at all those other realities.”
Twilight giggled. “They had ship wars, apparently, in that one reality we went to.”
Sunset laughed. “Look at that other reality where we were lovers.”
Twilight’s face grew red and she froze like she had crashed. Tentatively, she averted her gaze.
Sunset grew red in the face as well and dug her hooves into the sand. “I mean, um… we were princesses together.” She started fiddling with her hair.
Twilight wasn’t even facing Sunset at this point. And, thus, Sunset did not see the slight grin on Twilight’s muzzle.
More seagull caws rang through the cove as ocean waves splattered against the shore and the wall of rock nearby. Water particles took to the air, which the wind and scattered to all directions. None that reached either of them, but the occasional large wave swept its way a reasonable distance toward them.
“Still,” Sunset said, levitating the Talisman in front of Twilight’s face, “I’m thinking. A Tirek inside Tartarus got us out. A Tirek outside Tartarus might get us home,” Sunset replied.
Twilight’s muzzle twitched thoughtfully. “Well, maybe. But I’d rather not have to rely on him if we can help it. Hopefully, we’ll come across something else.”
Sunset raised an eyebrow. “And what if that doesn’t get us home?”
Twilight took the Talisman from Sunset’s magic, eyeing it closely. “Well… we’ll see.”
At that, the two set their sights on the ocean far beyond the edges of the cove. The horizon joined the sky to the sea at a neat line. The blues almost coalesced together even.
“To be completely honest, I thought I’d be a little more upset about all this,” Twilight said.
Sunset considered the sky, nodding vacantly. “You know, me too.”
Twilight looked up at the sky, noting the clouds far too dense for anything pony-made. The flora behind them, a mixture of leafy palmettos and reasonably tall oaks, actually weren’t either but resembled them to a decent degree. Even the sand didn’t feel like sand. “I have no idea where we are.”
Sunset nestled herself deeper into the sand, feeling it for herself. “Yeah. We must be really far away from home, in some… infinitely big multiverse. Makes you wonder if we’ll ever make it back.”
Twilight smiled, a twinkle in her eye. “I guess… With you here with me… it isn’t so bad.”
Sunset giggled. “Yeah.”
"I know I shouldn’t really wish this on another pony. But… I don’t think there’s anypony else I’d rather be stuck with through all this.”
At that, the both of them met eyes, locking stares. With each passing moment, their smiles grew wider and wider before they finally looked away, each giggling.
Sunset sighed with content and lay her head in the sand. “Twilight… let’s take a break for a while. I could…”—she yawned—“just sleep here for a while.”
Twilight set the Talisman in the sand and lay her head down as well, glancing out toward the horizon. Her eyes watched the waves creep up the shoreline. “Sure. Maybe… while the TDT rechar—”
“Talisman,” Sunset cut in.
Twilight chuckled, shaking her head. “…Talisman recharges, maybe we should… recharge too. Some rest will do us good.” She yawned as well, letting her eyes shut.
Sunset moaned contently, letting a heaviness close her eyes for her. There, on the beach, amidst the whistles of wind and thuds of crashing waves, they slept.
The sound of laughter jolted Sunset out of a light sleep. She blinked several times, looking over at Twilight. Had Twilight laughed? Sunset frowned, rubbing some moisture out of her eyes, clearing her vision.
The laughter rose up again and only then did Sunset realize it was coming from the other side of the rock wall. She heard the type of laugh that came out loud, the type which carried. The one that came after something especially funny.
And Sunset shuddered. The laughter sounded like her own.
Sunset leaped to her hooves, kicking sand up as she went. Sunset focused some energy into her horn just in time for Twilight to stir, just before Sunset’s world folded together.
Her teleport spit her out on top of the rock, and Sunset glanced around. Now she definitely heard voices. They were a ways off, sure, and still within the treeline from the looks of it. But the voices sounded like her own, plus another.
She listened. They were faint, but the other sounded like Twilight Sparkle.
“What’s going on, Sunset?” Twilight groggily slurred, touching down right beside her. The Talisman hung around her neck.
Sunset kept her eyes peeled for her supposed counterparts. “I just heard some voices. I think they might be this reality’s version of us.”
Twilight blinked, wiping the tired out of her eyes. “You think so?”
Twilight glanced around at the surrounding island. “Huh. I wonder what they’re doing all the way out here?”
Some brush some ways down the beach shifted and then two ponies—the exact two ponies the both of them expected—came into view. Sunset and Twilight watched as their counterparts trotted down toward the shore, exchanging some words that neither of them could make out.
The doppelgangers stopped just short of the water, staring out across the water. Some moments passed by. Twilight and Sunset watched in silence. The waves crashed on the shore. The seagulls that had once circled the skies congregated in silence even further down the beach.
And then, the other Twilight pulled out a purple, circular object, hanging from a string.
Twilight blinked. “What is that?” she whispered, pointing.
The object in their double’s grasp shot a violet and amber beam, which then swirled into an opening in front of them. The aperture shimmered, sitting right at the water’s edge.
Sunset jumped. “Oh! Hayseed! The Talisman! They have the Talisman!”
Twilight went white as a sheet. “No way.”
"Twilight! They… They have it! How—?” She turned to Twilight and then paused.
Twilight, her mouth hanging agape, reached down and stroked the Talisman hanging around her own neck. The design on its lid pulsated, telling of internal energies. It was the real deal.
Their eyes met, then they whipped back around toward their counterparts down the beach now stepping through their own portal. Their own portal, which looked exactly like the ones that Twilight and Sunset had been making themselves.
And then the portal shut tight behind them, leaving no traces that a portal had ever existed in the first place.
And both Sunset and Twilight stared at the spot with globed eyes. A shudder ran down both of their spines, their throats ran dry, and their hearts beat like mad.
And then, finally, a single thought flashed across Sunset’s mind, and with that thought, she truly trembled.
We aren’t the only ones.