• Published 16th Oct 2012
  • 8,025 Views, 304 Comments

Alarm Clock - Meta Four



Ditzy Doo sees things nopony else can see: higher-dimensional spatial anomalies, fae creatures, and eldritch abominations. She solves problems that other ponies don’t even know exist. But now, she may have bitten off more than she can chew.

  • ...
8
 304
 8,025

The Foal-sitter’s Flub (Afternoon Two)

Two minutes! Ditzy thought as she rushed into her kitchen. Only two minutes left in my lunch break! Aloud, she said, “Gotta eat fast and salad’s too slow!” She yanked two banana nut muffins from her breadbox and shoved them into her saddlebag.

Before she could turn to leave, a glint of light from the windowsill caught her eye. The plant in the white pot had flowered overnight. Ditzy’s eyes widened at the golden petals, gleaming in the sun.

Some extra pocket change will be nice, she thought as she plucked the flowers and deposited them in the smallest pocket of her saddlebag.

She then dashed out her front door and took to the skies. She reached the rendezvous point for the afternoon’s cloud-moving team with seconds to spare.

It was a full five minutes before any of the other weather pegasi arrived.


“Welcome to Carousel Boutique, where every garment is chic, unique and magnifique!” Rarity gave her head just enough of a shake to send her mane tumbling over her shoulder. “What are you in the mood for, Derpy?”

It was late afternoon. Ditzy’s weather patrol shift was over; she only had this one stop before heading to Carrot Top’s house.

“Actually, I just—” Ditzy glanced nervously at the various garments and accessories surrounding her. This was, in fact, her first visit to Rarity’s shop, and she was beginning to wonder if this was a mistake. She looked again at the numerous ponnequins modeling the clothes for sale.

Not all the clothes are the same, she thought, but what’s the difference? Why are some of them better than others? There’s too many garments and styles for one pony to deal with!

Ditzy forced her gaze away from the oppressive sea of fabric, towards Rarity, but found no relief there. Rarity had taken Ditzy’s silence as an excuse to begin shoving wares in her face. “A scarf, perhaps? I know you pegasi don’t get cold very easily, but nothing is quite so dashing as a pegasus in a scarf.”

“No, I—”

“How about a hat? I have chapeaus for every occasion, in colors to complement your coat most copacetically.”

“Really, all I need—”

“Flight goggles to protect those lovely eyes of yours? Functional and fashionable!”

I’m not here to buy anything!

The articles Rarity had been levitating all fell to the ground. Ditzy clapped a hoof over her mouth and blushed slightly. She hadn’t meant to shout quite so loud.

“Really?” Rarity’s lower lip stuck forward. She sniffled once before shaking her mane and regaining her composure. “Very well then, why are you here?”

“You do jewelry appraisals, right? Precious metals?”

“Well, that’s more of a side business, but gemstones are a specialty of mine, and precious metals are but a hop and a skip removed, are they not?”

Ditzy poked her snout into her saddlebag and pulled out one of the flowers. Blue light enveloped it as Rarity grasped it in her telekinesis.

“How interesting,” she said, then carried the flower into her back workroom.

“That’s good, right?” Ditzy asked. She followed Rarity into the room and found the unicorn examining the flower with a magnifying lens. The blue glow surrounding the bloom intensified and waned as Rarity cast various spells—spells Ditzy had never seen before. “How much is ‘interesting’ worth?”

“Not as much as it should be, I’m afraid.” Rarity sighed. “This gold is only five, six carat at the most.”

“Oh.”

“On the other hoof! This is solid alloy, rather than plate, and the piece displays exquisitely detailed craftsmanship. ... You wouldn’t happen to know who the artist is, would you? Pity, I would so love to see what they could accomplish with proper materials. In any case, the finished piece is worth more than its mere value as a metal.”

“So...”

“The most I can offer you for it is eight bits, Derpy. And I suspect any jeweler you speak with would offer even less.”

“Well, that’s better than nothing, I guess.” Ditzy reached into her saddlebag to retrieve the other flowers. “I’ve got nine total, so that’s 72 bits?”

“Oh, you have several you want to sell? Well, in that case...” Rarity glanced from side to side before continuing. “You didn’t hear this from me, but you could earn more by selling them yourself at the flea market.”

“What?”

“By cutting out the middlemare and selling directly to the consumer, all the bits from the transaction go into your saddlebags.”

You’ve been to the flea market?

Rarity closed her eyes and turned her snout up. “I can neither confirm nor deny those—” Her eyes snapped open. “Oh, oh! Ideeeeea!” She rushed to the other side of the workroom, sorted through the haphazard stacks of paper over there, and returned to Ditzy bearing a sketch.

“You see this formal gown design?” Rarity said. “I never got around to making it, because it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. But...” She lifted a pencil to the page and sketched. “I believe those gold flowers are just what this gown needs to truly shine! Although...” She tapped the pencil against her chin. “Nine isn’t quite enough.”

Rarity looked up at Ditzy before continuing, “Derpy, you keep those flowers for now and do as you will with them. But, if you can bring me twenty flowers, that would be enough for the gown, and for that I could pay you very handsomely.”


Afternoon Two: The Foal-Sitters Flub


Ditzy raised her hoof to Carrot Top’s front door, then paused. A picture came to her mind, unbidden: the green spatial anomaly on the Town Hall. It was spreading. During her visit to the Mayor’s office, she had seen that the entire pillar was glowing green—as were portions of both adjacent pillars. If that rate holds, she thought, then the entire Hall will be consumed within ...

She shook her head. “I can’t do anything about Town Hall until I have more than a hunch to work off,” she muttered. Until I hear back from Twilight Sparkle. Fretting about it before then won’t do Ponyville any good.

She knocked. A unicorn opened the door. With his slight build, delicate features, and violet mane—and a matching aura radiating from his horn—he was not Equestria’s most masculine stallion. “Honey!” he said, shouting to someone inside the house, “I win! She’s here!”

Ditzy’s quizzical expression prompted him to explain: “Carrot and I had a little bet about how early you’d be, Ditzy. Come in, come in!”

She stepped in, circled once to get a good look at the mostly familiar foyer, then turned back to her host. “Wow, Written Script,” she said, “you’ve got even more inspirational needlepoints and paintings of lighthouses than you did last time I was here!”

“Well, you’ll have to ask Carrot about the lighthouses,” Written Script said, “cause I still don’t see the appeal. But I am rather proud of my new needlepoint hangings. Here, I finished this one the other day, and I think it’s my best yet!”

He indicated, with his horn, the hanging in question. It was an ocean sunset, a windsurfing turtle, and a quote about how friendship has survival value and gives value to survival.

“Niiiiice,” Ditzy said.

“If you ask me,” Carrot Top said as she entered the foyer, “the space whale was your magnum opus, honey. And your career ever since has just been a slow decline.”

“Philistine!” Written Script answered. With an exaggerated sigh, he turned to Ditzy. “You hear that? No true artist is appreciated in his own time.”

“But true artists also go crazy and die young.” Carrot Top gave Written Script a peck on the lips. “And we can’t have that now, can we? Anyway...”

She nudged her husband towards the front door, then turned to Ditzy. “Thanks again for doing this. Well, you know the routine.” She stepped out as well.

“No problem at all. Have a good time at the show!” Ditzy waved to the departing couple before closing the door. She then turned an ear towards a sound coming from upstairs and froze as she recognized it.

“On the way to my art history class,
I saved five ponies,
drowning in a lake!”

Ditzy clambered up the stairs as fast as she could, bumping into the sides of the stairwell twice on the way.

“When I got home, I got a note ...”

She rounded the corner and galloped down the hallway.

“... from a mare we all call the Princess!”

She realized the music was becoming quieter, so she skidded to a halt and turned around.

“She wanted advice,
I told her I can’t help ...”

She found the room that was the source of the music and burst through its doorway. Too late, she realized her forward momentum was much greater than she had intended.

“... I’m busy!
It’s just an average daaaaaaaaay...”

Ditzy planted her hooves on the floor and beat her wings to slow herself. Her skidding slowdown gave her just enough time to recognize the source of the song: That’s no radio, she thought. It’s a record player.

Ditzy came to a halt a dozen feet away from the phonograph and only a few feet shy of the unicorn filly occupying the floor in front of it.

Oh, wow, Ditzy thought.

Dinky Doo, her eyes closed and oblivious to Ditzy’s sudden entrance, continued dancing. She swayed from side to side, she bounced from her rear hooves to her fore hooves and back again, and she twirled her tail. Ditzy, watching, slapped both forehooves over her mouth to hold in her laughter.

Eventually, Dinky was so overcome by the music that she bounced on all four hooves as she sang along:

“Turned on the ra-hey-di-o,
to see what’s on,
but to my surprise,
the lottery was on,
it was— Ooof!

Dinky leaped right into Ditzy’s belly. After landing on her rump, she finally opened her eyes. “Ditzy Doo!” she said as she smiled even wider than before and stood back up. “Come on, dance with me!”

“Haha, I’m all danced-out for the day,” Ditzy replied. “Go on, don’t let me stop you.”

“But your favorite song is playing!” Dinky waved her hoof towards the phonograph.

“Favorite?” Ditzy narrowed her eyes. “Let me guess, was it your mom who told you this was my favorite song?”

Dinky nodded.

“And did she suggest that you play it for me tonight?”

Another nod.

Well played, Carrot Top, well played, Ditzy thought. You win this round.

“Sooooooo ...” Ditzy walked over to the phonograph and picked up the empty LP sleeve at its side. The cover art depicted a sheep wearing a comical snarl on his face and holding a bowling ball. “Did your mom actually hold onto this album since high school, or did she go out and buy it yesterday, just to mess with me?”

“Waaaiit ... this isn’t really your favorite song?” Dinky said, dragging a forehoof across the floor.

“This song and I have a ... complicated relationship. I don’t dislike it, but ...” Ditzy set the LP sleeve down. “Let’s just say I’ve been hearing it too many times this past week.”

“Well, I really like it! And the rest of the album, too, even though all the songs sound the same.”

“And I really liked your dancing.”

At that, Dinky beamed. Then she took notice of the phonograph: the record had reached its end and stopped playing. “Hey,” she said, “you wanna put another record on? Mom won’t let me touch her records with my hooves.”

“Can’t you just do that unicorn thing? Use your telemawhatsis?”

The smile on Dinky’s face abruptly disappeared, and a scowl assumed its place. “Telekinesis.”

“Yeah, can’t you use that?”

“No. Don’t wanna talk about it.”

“Magic lessons not going well?”

“La la la la not talking about it!” Dinky clamped her forehooves over her ears. “La la la la laaaaaaaaaaa!”

That bad, huh? Ditzy thought. She looked at Dinky’s horn and noticed … nothing. There wasn’t even the faintest hint of an aura on the filly’s horn. I think I know what’s going on here. She walked over and placed a hoof on the filly’s shoulder.

“Hey Dinky,” she said, “would it make you feel any better to know that I was one of the last ones in my class to learn how to fly?”

“No.” Dinky continued scowling but removed her hooves from her ears.

“But the weird thing was that all the instructors told me my form was perfect! I was doing everything a pegasus filly is supposed to do, but I just wasn’t catching any air.”

“Why not?”

“My ley lines were misaligned. You’ve learned about pegasus magic in school, right?”

“Yep! It’s how you can fly.”

“That’s right! And because of my messed-up ley lines, all the magic that should have gone into my wings was shooting out my tail instead.” Ditzy wiggled her haunches and flicked her tail. At that, Dinky snickered.

Ditzy removed her hoof from Dinky’s shoulder and used it to scratch the filly’s head between the ears. From this close, she could see the back of Dinky’s head—in particular, she could see a cone of faint, golden light poking out of Dinky’s mane.

“And that’s why I couldn’t fly,” Ditzy said. “Once the teachers figured out what was going on, it was no trouble at all to clear it right up.”

Ditzy continued scratching. Dinky smiled slightly and leaned into the pegasus. Ditzy could see that, as the filly relaxed, the cone of light crept forward on her head.

“First, I had to unlearn the bad magic-channeling habits I had taught myself. Then, I had to let the ley lines re-form properly. You know how I did that?”

“How?”

“By relaxing, and letting the magic take care of itself.”

“Sounds boring.”

“A little. But it worked. A week and a half of magic therapy got me flying where two months of flight training didn’t.”

Dinky closed her eyes as Ditzy continued scratching. The cone of light had passed the top of her head, and continued creeping towards her horn.

Dinky broke the silence. “Hey,” she said, “that thing with the ley lines?”

“Yes?”

“Does that only happen to pegasus ponies? Or can it happen to anypony? Like, an earth pony, maybe.”

Yeeeeees, Ditzy thought. “Maaaaaaaaybe,” Ditzy said. She continued scratching, noting that the light had almost reached Dinky’s horn.

“And it’s not hard to fix?” Dinky sounded very relaxed, as if she were beginning to lose consciousness.

“Easy as pie.”

The cone of light was now directly over Dinky’s horn.

“Hey,” Ditzy said, “would you mind picking up that record sleeve for me?”

“Okay,” Dinky said, sleepily. The light on her horn grew slightly brighter, and the empty record sleeve lifted off the ground, slowly rising a few feet into the air.

“Yesssss,” Ditzy whispered.

“Huh?” Dinky’s eyes snapped open. The light on her horn flickered and disappeared. The record sleeve flew up, struck the ceiling edge-first, and did not come back down.

“Whaaaaaaaa ... how did … ?” Dinky stammered, her gaze bouncing between Ditzy and the record sleeve embedded in the ceiling. “How the ... what?” When Dinky looked at the ceiling, Ditzy couldn’t help but notice that the cone of gold light had returned to the back of the filly’s head.

“Sometimes, you just need to relax and let these things take care of themselves.” Ditzy scratched Dinky’s head one last time, then trotted towards the hall. “Are you hungry? I’m starving. Why don’t you wash up, and we’ll get some dinner.”


Ditzy paused in the hallway, near the top of the stairs. “Dinky,” she called, “is this mirror new?”

“Yeah!” Dinky called from the bathroom. “Mom got it a week ago.”

“Hmmm...” Ditzy leaned forward to inspect the mirror more closely. It was an oval design, taller than wide, and set in a stained mahogany frame. “Did she say anything about this mirror being magic?

“No, she didn’t say anything about getting me a little sister.”

“Little sister? What?”

Dinky poked her head out the bathroom door. “Mom says magic mirrors are where foals come from.”

“What? No. I—I—I mean ... yes! Your mom is very smart and exactly right and you should definitely listen to her. Are you done washing up?”

Dinky disappeared back into the bathroom. Ditzy leaned even closer to the mirror. Her reflection stared back out—well, one eye stared back out, while the other gazed to the upper right—but behind it, Ditzy could see something. It was just a hint of a shadow of a nameless shape of an enigma, but it didn’t correspond to anything in the hallway behind Ditzy.

She extended one hoof to the mirror, and it passed through the surface with only the slightest bit of higher-dimensional finagling.

Great, she thought. Just what this house needs. A second spatial anomaly.

Ditzy extended her other hoof through the mirror, then, inhaling and holding her breath, she pushed her head through.


First, Ditzy noticed the sky. It was a bright midday—even though the sun had just set back in Ponyville. Either this place is a completely different time zone from Ponyville, Ditzy thought, or this portal is temporally and spatially displaced. Assuming I’m still on the same planet. In fact, the more she examined the sky, the more alien it appeared. Although it was a familiar shade of blue, it was dotted by stretched, white splotches —funhouse mirror distortions of Equestrian clouds.

Second, Ditzy’s gaze followed the sky down to the horizon, and she found herself even more confused. The ground below simply ended less than a hundred feet away. The apparent cliff edge—far too smooth to be natural—traced a circle, as far as Ditzy could see. The ground itself was completely white and dotted with white spheres. It looked like snow, yet the air was warm and incredibly humid—distinctly un-wintery. The only break in the white ground was a single wrought-iron lamp, standing to the far right.

Third, Ditzy considered the portal she was leaning through. At last, she found something that didn’t completely bewilder her. This end of the mirror portal was a top-floor window on a four-story, red brick building—an apartment complex, if Ditzy had to guess.

The longer Ditzy examined this scene, however, the more puzzling she found it. The building was closer in size to her first apartment in Manehattan than to her current place in Ponyville. Yet there was no sign that anypony actually lived here. The ground was, as far as Ditzy could see, completely deserted. No movement caught her eye; no sound, not even the wind, caught her ear; no scents came to her nose.

Wait, Ditzy thought, looking again at the horizon, that’s no cliff edge, that’s a—

Something caught Ditzy’s tail and yanked her backwards.


Ditzy landed awkwardly on the hallway floor and sprawled on her belly.

“Rrr ooo okhay?” Dinky asked. Her voice was muffled by Ditzy’s tail, grasped in her teeth, but the concern in her tone was obvious.

“Yeah ...” Ditzy said, “I’m fine.”

Dinky spat Ditzy’s tail out, then rushed forward to throw her forelegs around Ditzy’s neck. “Thank goodness!” Releasing her embrace, Dinky scowled at the mirror. “Come on! Help me find something to smash the magic mirror with!”

“No,” Ditzy said, “that’s not a good idea.”

“But it tried to eat you!”

Ditzy sighed and began massaging her temple with a forehoof. “No, I was investigating it. I stuck my head in that portal, of my own free will.”

“Ooooohhh.” Dinky’s eyes widened. “Isn’t that dangerous?

Ditzy shrugged, then sat up. “A little. But nothing I can’t handle. I have years of experience on my side.”

“Cooooooooool! What kind of experience?”

“Well, for starters there’s ...” Ditzy’s face grew pale as her words trailed off. She dropped her head to the floor and threw her hooves over her eyes, moaning, “Oh bucking solar flares, why am I telling you this?

“Um,” Dinky said, “what?”

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ...”

Without removing her forehooves from her face, Ditzy pushed with her rear legs and propelled herself down the hall. Dinky watched, tilting her head, while Ditzy stopped just shy of the hallway’s end, turned around, and scooted back.

“... rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh Dinky!” Ditzy leaped to her hooves, startling Dinky into falling on her haunches. “I’m letting you know this because you are young, and your mind is still flexible. Ponyville ... no, Equestria is full of ponies whose minds aren’t nearly so flexible. I’ve seen things. And—”

“What kinds of things?”

“Things!” Ditzy flailed her forelegs for emphasis. “And if I started talking willy-nilly about them, ponies would either slap me in a straightjacket, or panic and run riot in the streets. Understood?”

Dinky started to nod, but stopped and shook her head instead. “Not really, no.”

“I’m just saying, it’s very, very important that both of us keep this a secret.”

“Oh! I’m good at keeping secrets!” Dinky closed one eye and planted her forehoof over it, a gesture whose meaning was understood by both: May the pink party pony’s wrath be upon me, should I fail to keep my word.

“Wonderful.”

“I won’t tell anypony, not even mom and dad!”

“What? No no no nononono …”

Dinky cocked her head. “But, you said this is—”

“Not that important!” Ditzy laid down, lowering herself to Dinky’s eye level. “The trust between a filly and her parents is sacred. Sometimes, it can feel like the entire world is out to get you. But if your parents believe in you, then it’ll give you the strength to carry on. But you need to be able to trust Mom and Dad, and they need to be able to trust you.”

Dinky’s eyes were wide. “Wow.”

“So, please, do not lie to your parents for my sake.”

“You want me to tell them?”

“Tell them …” Ditzy gritted her teeth. “... if they ask. But don’t mention it if they don’t bring it up first.”

“Like when one of the other kids in class forgets to do homework, and they hope Miss Cheerilee forgets to collect it?”

“Yeah, it’s like that. But less likely to mess up your report card.” Ditzy turned to look into the mirror. “Now, we just need to deal with this.”

“I’ll get Dad’s hammer!”

“No, breaking it won’t help.” She ran a hoof along the mirror’s edge. “If there’s any way to unmake one of these portals, I don’t know what it is. All I really can do is hide the mirror someplace where nopony can stumble into it by accident.”

“Where?”

Ditzy pulled her hoof from the mirror and ruffled Dinky’s mane with it. “Sorry, Dinky, but I can’t tell you all my secrets just yet. Suffice to say, it’s the safest, secretest, and obscurest spot in the entire continent. I could hide the Crown Jewels there, and it would take at least a million years before the royals sisters found them.

“But,” Ditzy continued as she grasped the mirror’s edges between her hooves and carefully lifted, “if I’m going to hide this mirror away, I’ll need to get a replacement, or your parents will notice it’s gone and start asking questions. Mirrors & Sledgehammers should still be open. Are you up for a quick shopping trip?”

“Sure!”

Balancing the mirror on her outstretched wings, Ditzy carefully descended the stairs. As she reached the foyer, Dinky rushed ahead to open the front door, then paused. “Before we go,” she said, “what did you see on the other side of the mirror?”

“I’m not entirely sure.” Ditzy paused to think. “But it looked like an empty apartment building—under a transparent dome.”


“How about this?” The proprietor of Mirrors & Sledgehammers indicated a mirror with his horn. The mirror had a colorful border, depicting fruit and honey bees.

“Um,” Ditzy answered, “that’s a little too gaudy. I was looking for something—”

“Perhaps this would fit your needs?” he said, indicating a mirror with a thin, matte black border. It was also three times Ditzy’s height. “A big mirror for the big wall in your big house!”

“Listen. Mr. Red Water—”

“Red Rain,” the stallion said. He then half-closed his eyes and leaned in. “But if you’d rather call me Red Water, Miss Doo …”

“Urgh. Red Rain, I’ve made up my mind.” Ditzy pointed her right wing at an oval mirror with a mahogany frame. “I want this one.”

“Are you sure about that? Why not one that better matches your lovely eyes? After all, in your eyes …”

Dinky Doo prodded Ditzy's side, and Ditzy tuned out the rest of Red Rain's spiel. “That brown stallion over there keeps looking at you funny,” the filly said.

Following Dinky’s outstretched hoof, Ditzy looked to a spot on the other side of the showroom, but she didn’t see anypony there. She looked back at Dinky, who frowned and pointed again. Ditzy looked again at the indicated place, and then she saw. Reflected in one of the mirrors, a brown face with icy blue eyes frowned back at Ditzy.

“Oh dear. Dinky, we need to leave now.” Ditzy turned to address Red Rain. “Red Stuff, listen to me.”

“... excellent birds, if I say so myself,” the stallion said. “Wait, what?”

“I’ve made up my mind, Red Matter.” She grabbed the oval mirror and placed it on her back. “I am leaving, now, with this mirror, and this mirror alone, and there is nothing you can say to change my mind. Do you want me to pay for it or not?”


Ditzy relaxed once Carrot Top’s front door was closed and locked behind her. She sighed, then opened her eyes to meet Dinky’s inquisitive stare.

“What happened?” Dinky asked. “Why did we have to leave Mirrors & Sledgehammers so fast?”

“That stallion you saw, who was looking at me funny,” Ditzy said, “that was Dr. Hooves. He’s been treating me very strangely lately. I don’t know what his deal is, but the last thing I want is for you to get mixed up in this, too.”

“So we took the long way from the store to your place to make sure he couldn’t follow us?”

“Right.” Ditzy peeked through the Venetian blinds in the foyer window. “And I didn’t see him at all on the way back here, so I think we’re good.”

“Why don’t you tell the cops?”

“What? The cops?”

“Miss Cheerilee says that if a colt or filly is bothering us, sometimes we just can’t fix the problem ourselves, and we need to get an adult to help. But since you are an adult, you go to the cops when you need help, right?”

“Yes,” Ditzy said, “Miss Cheerilee is certainly smart. But I’m sure I can deal with Dr. Hooves by myself. Without getting the police involved.”

She gestured to the new mirror—100% portal-free—resting where she left it, next to the door. “Think you can hang that up while I get some dinner?”

“Sure!” Dinky grabbed the mirror with her mouth and trotted up the stairs.

As she entered the kitchen, Ditzy considered what to make for dinner. However, upon opening the refrigerator door, she saw an all-too-familiar pink glow, and realized that dinner had been decided for her. This isn’t what I had in mind, she thought, grabbing the illuminated bowl in her teeth, but the tubes have spoken. As expected, the glow faded as soon as the bowl was removed from the fridge.

Dinky trotted into the kitchen. “So, what’s for supper?” she asked. Noticing the bowl in Ditzy’s teeth, she abruptly stopped smiling and wrinkled her nose. “Potato salad? Yuck!”

“Well, it’s not all we’re having,” Ditzy said, setting the offending dish on the counter.

“Good, cause I’m not having any!”

“You’ll need to have some, Dinky. There’s too much for me to finish this all off, and—”

“Don’t care! I won’t try it!”

“What? How do you know you don’t like it if you won’t even try it?”

“I just know and you can’t make me!”

“Dinky, can’t you at least—”

“No!”

“I’m sure if you—”

“No no no no no no!”

Ditzy stamped the floor, launched herself a foot or two into the air, and flapped her wings to hover. Focusing both her eyes on Dinky, she raised her voice to speak over the filly. “Golden Ink! Be quiet and listen to me this instant, or I will tell your parents about this when they get home!”

Ditzy wasn’t sure whether the ultimatum itself or the use of Dinky’s real name had the greater effect on the filly. Regardless, Ditzy couldn’t argue with the results. Dinky fell silent, her ears drooping and her haunches dropping to the floor.

Ditzy sighed, relaxing and allowing her eyes to drift apart before she spoke again. “It’s very important that we eat the potato salad. Just like that business with the mirror was important. And I’ll tell you why it’s important. Imagine you’re taking the train to Canterlot, and—”

“Oh, I am!”

“What?”

“Me and my mom are taking the Friendship Express to Canterlot tomorrow!” Dinky said, perking up. “She’s taking carrots to some vendors, and we’re gonna watch the rodeo while we’re there!”

“That’s great.” Ditzy gestured with her forehooves as she continued. “But, suppose that I also got on another train, bound for Appleloosa. Both our trains leave at the same time, heading opposite directions. You got that?”

Dinky nodded.

“Now...” Ditzy paused, then opened a nearby drawer. After a few seconds of rummaging, she pulled out a red rubber band, and looped it over both her forehooves. “Imagine there’s a big rubber band. One end is on your hoof, and the other end is on my hoof. And as both our trains leave,”—Ditzy moved her hooves apart—“that rubber band is going to streeeetch. Sooner or later, that band won’t be able to stretch any further.” The band on her hooves was stretched to its limit. “If the trains keep moving, what will happen to the band?”

“It’ll break?” the filly said, her wide eyes focused on the rubber band.

Ditzy twisted her hooves around and released one end of the rubber band. It ricocheted off the ground just in front of Dinky’s hooves, and she flinched.

“Right,” Ditzy said. “The band will break, and that won’t be pleasant for either of us. Fortunately, that scenario is imaginary, but it’s an analogy for something that’s very, very real. Instead of two trains, there are two planets: ours, and... I’m not sure what the other planet is called. Instead of two ponies, there are two refrigerators. And instead of a rubber band linking two hooves, there’s a Krasnicker tube linking two dishes of food. I don’t know how it keeps happening, or why it only happens in your parents’ fridge. It just ... does.”

“What’s a Krasnikov tube?”

Mentally berating herself for using theoretical physics terminology in a conversation with a filly, Ditzy answered, “Krasnicker. And they’re like... space rubber bands. Except you can also travel inside them really, really fast.”

“Oooooohhh, like wormholes?”

Ditzy stopped mentally berating herself. “Yeah, like wormholes.”

“So let me get this straight,” Dinky said. “That bowl of potato salad has a rubber band wormhole attached to it, and the other end is on an alien potato salad on another planet. And we need to eat our potato salad, or the wormhole will break and give us a nasty snap.”

“Yeah, that’s the gist of it.” The filly wasn’t quite right, but Ditzy wasn’t in the mood to correct her. Strictly speaking, simply removing the food from the fridge was enough to disconnect it from the Krasnicker tube. Eating the food was merely a matter of not letting a perfectly good meal go to waste.

“So what about that time a few weeks ago,” Dinky said, “when you were whining about how much you wanted four bean salad?”

“I didn’t think that was whining … ”

“Or that time you made Mom use all the eggs in the fridge except for two. And then you broke those two. It wasn’t an accident, it was the wormholes! Right? Or that very first time you had dinner with us—”

“Yep. Pretty smart, kid.” Ditzy smiled, and Dinky beamed right back. “This sort of thing has been happening for a while.”

“Wow,” Dinky said. Then, furrowing her brow, she said, “But what about the other planet?”

“What?”

“When you break the connection on this end, doesn’t that make the rubber band wormhole just snap that other planet extra hard?”

Ditzy opened her mouth to reply in the negative, but the words died somewhere in her throat. Her wings froze, and she landed stiffly. Oh my stars, she thought, I never even considered that. Maybe every time I’ve prevented that catastrophic energy release in Ponyville, I’ve caused it to happen on that other planet. Except...

Ditzy shut her jaw and shook her head. “Well,” she said, “I can’t rule out that possibility, Dinky, but the damage at the other end of the Krasnicker tube can’t be too bad. Otherwise, how does food keep ending up in the fridge on the other end?

“Oh, yeah.” Dinky sighed. “Stupid wormholes. Why couldn’t they have picked mac ’n cheese for us to eat tonight?”

“Tell you what,” Ditzy said. “I’ll fry up some hay bacon to mix into the potato salad. Everything’s better with hay bacon. How does that sound?”

“Pretty good.” Dinky smiled. “While you’re doing that, I’ll go set the table!”

The filly rushed off, and Ditzy poked her head under the counter to grab a skillet. As she placed it on the stove top, three sounds caught her attention: a thump, a clatter, and a sharp “Ouch!” from Dinky.

Rushing to the dining room, she found Dinky leaning against one of the table legs, rubbing her head with a hoof.

“I’m okay!” Dinky said. “Just bumped my head on the table. That’s all.”

Ditzy glanced over the table to see if anything had broken, then froze. In the center, the salt shaker lay on its side, its contents spilled around it.

“Dinky,” she said, fixing her gaze on the filly, “you spilled the salt. Did you toss some over your shoulder afterwards?”

“No,” Dinky said, furrowing her brow. “Mom says luck is fake.”

“And she’s probably right. But tyndalocurrs are definitely real.”

“What.”

“Ravenous monstrosities inhabiting the corners between the universes! They’re attracted to lattices and right angles, so the sound of crystals on a flat surface calls to them across the ether! Their very movement within our dimension, though limited by pony perception, is liable to rend asunder all organic molecules in their wake! Only the crystals they seek can sever their connection to our plane of existence!”

Ditzy paused, her forelegs in the air. Dinky boggled at the pegasus, her mouth wide open.

“What.”

Ditzy sighed. “Nasty beasties with sharp claws and big mandibles. Spilled salt is like a dinner bell to them, but they can only enter our universe someplace where nopony is looking. So you throw some salt over your shoulder. It’ll hit them in the eye and send them back where they came from.”

“That sounds even more fake than luck.”

Ditzy rustled Dinky’s mane with her hoof. “Oh, you’re just learning all kinds of crazy new stuff tonight. Well, that hay bacon isn’t going to fry itself.”


The massive earth pony tipped his police hat as Ditzy passed. “It’s getting late, love,” he said. “I trust you’re on your way home?”

“Yes, sir, Constable Peeler, sir!”

“That’s a good pony.” Peeler continued his usual patrol.

Ditzy counted bits as she continued towards her apartment complex. Carrot Top and Written Script, upon returning from the opera, had paid Ditzy for her services. She had accepted without argument. Counting a bagful of coins while flying was difficult, but there seemed to be enough money to cover the cost of that replacement mirror, with a little left—

“Oh, hi, Ditzy!” Twilight Sparkle’s voice cut through Ditzy’s thoughts, alerting the pegasus to land and avert her eyes before another blinding.

“Hey Twilight,” she said. “What brings you here at this hour?” She looked down at her hooves as she trotted towards her door, and Twilight fell into step beside her.

“Well, I just found the answer to your research question, and I figured you’d like to hear back as soon as possible. I know how annoyed I get when there’s some sort of unanswered question hanging over my head! Anyway, I wrote up a summary of my findings and I just slipped it under your front door a minute ago. I would have put it in your mailbox but, um ... Ditzy, why is your mailbox full of muffins?”

“Well, you know the lore about the Fair Folk, right? I guess I’m just a sucker for tradition.”

“I … can’t say I’m familiar with that particular bit of lore.”

“Really? I thought you, of all ponies, would … Anyway! If you live near one of the Fair Folk’s trails, you’re supposed to leave food for them to eat when they pass by. That’s how you get on their good side. It’s like bribery, only tastier!”

They reached the door.

“That’s certainly ... interesting,” Twilight said.

Ditzy turned and smiled, exaggerating her smile-squint enough to completely shut her eyes. “That’s what ponies keep telling me!”

Opening the door, Ditzy found Twilight’s promised summary on the floor. She stepped in and picked it up. “Twilight,” she said, “this is twenty pages long!”

“I know, and I’m sorry about that,” Twilight said. Ditzy could hear Twilight scraping the floor with a hoof. “But I can have a longer, more thorough report this time tomorrow, if you can wait that long.”

“Um, thanks, but no thanks. I think twenty pages will be plenty.”

Ditzy turned away from Twilight and flipped through the report, skimming its pages by the moonlight from the kitchen window. About half of the pages bore sketches of an ancient temple and its artifacts, but none of these resembled the building Ditzy had in mind.

“Wow,” Ditzy said, turning back around and waving a relevant page towards the brightest point of the purple glow, “that sketch I sent you wasn’t anything like the Tllamapan temple, huh? I sure feel silly now.”

“It’s funny you should mention that,” Twilight said. “I thought your sketch looked familiar, so I also went and looked up religious architecture outside Neighxico. Turns out your sketch almost perfectly matched the old temple of Czernobaa in Hayberia. Strange, isn’t it?”

Ditzy dropped the report. It took every ounce of self-control she possessed to swallow the bowling ball-sized lump in her throat and to respond calmly. “Yeah. That is odd. I wonder how I got those two confused. Well, thank you very much for your help, Twilight Sparkle.”

“No problem, Ditzy! And I’d love to read your story when you’re finished with it, or even help you proofread it, if you’d like.”

“I’ll ... keep that in mind.”

Ditzy reached for the doorknob, but before she could close the door, Twilight extended a hoof to hold it open. “Oh, I just remembered!” she said. “I had a question about the plot of your story.”

“Um, it’s still in the early planning stages, but—”

“You said in the letter that the villainous cultists are trying to summon Xanthorgh The Flayer. I know the Daring Do series does occasionally bend historical facts for the sake of spinning a good yarn, but Xanthorgh just doesn’t make any sense as a malevolent macguffin. All of the surviving legends portray Xanthorgh as a benign spirit. Granted, one with an evil-sounding title, but that was from flaying demons, not ponies!”

“Oh, that.” Ditzy faked a chuckle. “Yeah, ol’ Xanthorgh’s just a placeholder until I can find a legend that better fits the story. Besides, there is such a thing as too much historical accuracy. I’d initially considered using the Scarlet Ceremony and the Eyeless King in my story, but that would have just given all my readers nightmares!”

“True,” Twilight said, “that’s ... um …” Ditzy could not see her face, but from the way Twilight’s words trailed off, Ditzy was almost certain that the unicorn bore an expression of suspicion and dawning comprehension.

Ditzy had said too much.

“Whoa, look at the time!” Ditzy said, her lips stretched into the largest smile she could fake. “I really need to get some sleep now! Tomorrow’s a big day! Goodnight!” She punctuated this by slamming and locking the door.

Ditzy sighed and turned to the mirror—formerly property of Carrot Top and Written Script—resting right where she had left it earlier that evening. As she picked it up, several knocks came from the front door.

“Ditzy, wait!” Twilight called from outside.

The moonlight from the unshuttered windows was enough for Ditzy to navigate her apartment without lighting any lamps. Carrying the mirror, she entered her bedroom and opened the closet. She ignored the continued knocks from the front room and clambered over her boots and cardboard boxes, towards the closet’s back corner. She leaned the mirror against that wall, then shoved a box of Equestrian Geographic back issues in front of it.

“Ditzy!” Twilight called, louder than before. “How do you know about the … those things you just mentioned?”

There, Ditzy thought as she emerged from her closet. The perfect hiding place.

“Those are supposed to be state secrets! Ditzy!”

With a two flicks of her wing, Ditzy switched on her radio and cranked up the volume.

“It’s just an average daaaaaay
and nothing really stands out!
I’m just skating on the same route!”

Midway through depositing the bag of bits in her top bureau drawer, Ditzy paused to boggle at the radio playing the familiar song.

“I’m feeling fiiiiiiiine,
got nothing to complain ’bout!
I’m on my way,
it’s just an average day!”

This, she thought, is certainly something.

Twilight continued calling, but most of her words were drowned out by the music. “Ditz— … how … impor— … report … —lesti—”

“I turned off the radio and went to bed.
After all, tomorrow
is a big day,
and not an average day!”

“Not an average day,” Ditzy repeated. Understatement of the century, she thought. Which means I’ll just have to deal with you later, stupid alarm clock.

Ditzy threw herself onto the bed.

When Twilight finally departed, and her purple light under the front door faded, Ditzy shut off the radio. It was a full hour before sleep found her.

Author's Note:

Mad props to Perpetual Lurker. He was the one who pointed out to me the canon evidence for Dinky being Carrot Top and Written Script’s kid. Without that, Dinky would not have appeared in this story at all—I just don't feel up to the challenge of writing Ditzy as a single mom.

EDIT: I heavily edited this chapter since originally publishing it. The edited version went live on 2 February 2015.

For historical purposes, I've preserved the original version on Gdocs, here.