Upon Reflection

by Obselescence

First published

When a million other realities are just a magic mirror away, Twilight does have to wonder what makes her own so special.

When a million other realities are just a magic mirror away, Twilight does have to wonder what makes her own so special.

Chapter One

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“And that's the end of chapter two,” said Twilight, smiling as she put the last period down. She looked over the rest of the page, making absolute certain that she'd dotted every i and crossed every t. She was usually quite careful about these things, but one could never be too careful when writing a manuscript for posterity. She blanched slightly at the idea of a history student opening her book someday and finding a typo. History would never forget the fact that once, Princess Twilight Sparkle had made an obvious spelling error.


“Spike,” she said, turning to the little dragon huddled in his basket. “Would you mind proofreading this for me later? I don't think there's anything wrong with it, but a pair of fresh eyes on it couldn't hurt?”

“Hm?” said Spike, looking up from his comic book. “Uh, sure, no problem.” He paused. “Wait, uh, actually, what is it? It's not another science thing is it?”

“No, nothing like that,” said Twilight. “I still need a little more data on the alchemical properties of Pinkie's rock candy as applies to potion brewing. She's got a lot of recipes, so it takes repeat testing to make sure the—”

Spike coughed.

“Right, uh, no, it's not a science thing.” Twilight blushed. She looked again at her manuscript, hoping she'd described things in enough detail. The color of strange window curtains, the shapes of strange doors... She'd tried to get it all down while her escapades were still fresh in her mind. First-hoof accounts of such things would be important someday. It was her job to make sure the history students of the future had more to go on than a stained glass window in Canterlot Castle. “I'm trying to write a chronicle of our adventures in other worlds.”

“Other worlds?” said Spike, absently flipping a page on his comic. “Like, what? Canterlot High?”

“Like Canterlot High,” she nodded. “And all the other mirror worlds.” She glanced at Spike again and narrowed her eyes. “That comic's not enchanted, is it?”

“Not since you asked me that ten minutes ago,” said Spike, his voice dripping dangerously with snark. “Or since you banned me from going to any of the cool comic shops forever.” He held the book open for her: Power Ponies do Community Service, Issue #5. “Does this look too dangerous to you?”

“I told you, the House of Enchanted Comics is dangerous,” said Twilight, trying not to laugh. “We can't take any more chances with them, but we'll find you someplace better soon. Promise.”

“Yeah, I'll bet,” said Spike. He put the comic down and scratched his chin thoughtfully. “Wait, are you writing about when we were the Power Ponies too? You remembered to talk about how I saved everyone at the end, right? And you remembered the sound effects too, right? Those are important!” He jumped up from his basket and punched at the air. “Blam! Pow! Krchaaaw!”

“I will absolutely remember to talk about those when I work on that manuscript next,” said Twilight, straining ever harder to stifle a giggle. For all his posturing, Spike was still a baby dragon, and had a long way to go before he'd grow out of that. “But this one's not about that kind of other world. I'm looking more at alternate universes.”

“Alternate universes?” Spike stopped and cocked his head sideways. “You're losing me here.”

“I mean the worlds that comic book writers didn't have to make up,” said Twilight. “Worlds that are a lot like ours is. They just turned out a little...” She waved her hoof in the air, looking for the right word. “A little differently.”

“You mean a lot differently,” said Spike. “Ponies with hands? Dragons turning into dogs? C'mon. That's just weird.”

“Not every world has to be as strange as Canterlot High was,” said Twilight. “Like the world where all the good ponies were evil and all the evil ponies good. It was a lot like ours is—ponies with hooves and everything. It just wound up being... a little different, I guess.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Spike with a shudder. “That one. Still a lot different, though.” He shrugged. “Can you even imagine Princess Celestia being evil?”

“Well—no, of course not!” snapped Twilight, her cheeks turning red-hot. She stopped to take a few calming breaths—staying rational.“But... I mean, she was Celestia, kind of.” She tapped her hoof thoughtfully on the floor. “Her world isn't that much different than ours. Maybe something made her that way.”

“Yeah,” said Spike. “Like being from an evil universe.” He picked all the scattered comic books up from his basket and stacked them neatly under her bed. “That'd do it.”

“It's not always that simple, Spike,” said Twilight, by reflex. Standard response whenever Spike thought the world really was that simple—but how to explain that? She could practically hear the gears turning in her head. Brain sparking to come up with an answer. No, surely, it wasn't that simple...

Why not?

“It's not like a comic book,” she said, the thoughts forming as she spoke. “Ponies don't just turn evil. Maybe... in that world she'd just decided to do some things differently. A few bad choices—not mistakes, necessarily, I'm not saying Princess Celestia makes mistakes. But, a few bad choices... more and more over time... and then, eventually...

Evil. All from a few wrong moves.

“And maybe there's a world where she decided she likes her eggs scrambled instead of sunny-side up,” said Spike. He paused. “There isn't a world like that, is there?”

“Oh, obviously not. She wouldn't ever—” Twilight stopped too. “Maybe there could be a world like that,” she said. “I mean, we don't actually know how many other worlds there are. There could be thousands, millions...”


“No such thing as bazillions, Spike.”

“Maybe there could be,” said Spike smugly. “Y'know, in another world.”

“In another world...” Twilight repeated. “Maybe.”

There were, for all she knew, a nigh-on infinite number of other worlds, just a step away from each other. Where somepony, somewhere, had made a different choice, and other ponies had made different choices after that, in an endless cascade. And maybe, in some of those worlds, Princess Celestia did like her eggs scrambled, and numbers really did include bazillions.


Spike's belly rumbled. “I'm hungry,” he declared. “And I'm gonna go make some cookies to fix that.” He looked to her. “You want anything?”

“No,” said Twilight, looking to her manuscript. “I'm fine.”

“Not even a little brain food?” said Spike. “I can chop celery and everything now.”

“I'm fine,” she insisted. “I just need to think about something.”

Spike knew her well enough to leave it at that. He gave her his favorite okay-sure-whatever shrug and strolled off to the kitchen, leaving her alone.

Well—alone with her thoughts.

Twilight walked over to her manuscript and looked it over again, trying to recall the details of her time at Canterlot High. How everything there had been different. How everything there had been almost the same.

Her eyes locked onto a single line in particular: Interestingly, in this world, it seemed my friends hardly recognized me. As if we were meeting there for the very firs time...

She frowned and added the extra t onto 'first'. How had she missed that one? Stupid, stupid, stupid. She'd have to ask Spike to look the whole thing over when he was done with his cookies.

The line itself, though—that was interesting too. Where had the Twilight Sparkle of Canterlot High gone? There was a Pinkie Pie, an Applejack, a Fluttershy... but no Twilight Sparkle, save for her. Had the human Twilight never met her friends in that world? Would she ever meet those friends? Or had dominos fallen in just the wrong places?

Perhaps the human Twilight had gone to a different school. Chosen to live somewhere else. Changed her name to Twikle Sparlight and moved to the jungle. Any number of small choices that, in the end, meant she'd never met her friends.

In how many worlds had that happened?

It could have happened in hers, too, now that she thought about it. She took one of her scrapbooks from the shelves—the first of what ended up being many—and flipped through it. There were so many good memories in there, from her slumber party with Applejack and Rarity to the first party Pinkie'd ever thrown her in Ponyville. A tear welled up in her eye as she reached one of her and her friends at Donut Joe's shop, celebrating a mutually disastrous Gala. She brushed it away. Good times, good times.

In hindsight, at least. There had been rough spots, and stumbles. Minor frustrations that'd seemed worse at the time, like Applejack roping a tree into her room. So much could have gone wrong back then. She could have been just a little more offended by Rainbow Dash's arrogance. A little more annoyed by Pinkie's pranks. It was something of a miracle that it had all worked out, even so.

Or was it, really?

An infinite number of Twilight Sparkles decided to walk over to the dressing mirror in the room. An infinite number of Twilight Sparkles decided against it. She counted herself amongst the former. Twilight studied her reflection in the glass, holding a hoof up to it to match the mirror Twilight's. She was decently sure her dressing mirror wasn't a magic one, and that it didn't lead to another world, but she couldn't help but wonder if the Twilight staring back at her was one who'd made a few different choices. Some better, perhaps. Some worse.

The smell of burnt cookies wafted up from the kitchen downstairs, and from the floorboards rose a few muffled yelps from Spike: “Everything's fine, everything's fine!”

Twilight smiled, glad that at least in this world she had a Spike. Some Twilights surely hadn't been so lucky. He, at least, wasn't bothered by this sort of thing. Didn't have to think about the implications of a multiverse. Not as much as he did his cookies, at any rate.

She turned back to the mirror and the mirror Twilight turned back to her. She gave her wings an experimental flap. Her wings, yes. The proof-positive that she'd passed all her tests, learned the true meaning of friendship, and become a princess. It had taken so many trials to get to that point, a lot of hard work, and many a villain vanquished. She thought she'd deserved it at the time. As much as anyone could deserve being a princess. Heck, Princess Celestia had even said it was her destiny.

Destiny... Was it, really?

She went back to her bookshelf and found herself a new book: the trusty dictionary. Twilight flipped through the pages, looking for the one word. “Destiny,” she read, when she'd found it. “The predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events.”

She closed the book and slotted it back on the shelf. Well, that was the right word for it, she supposed. Predetermined. Inevitable. Irresistible. She flapped her wings again, smoothing out a few feathers that'd ruffled out of place. It was her destiny to have them, she supposed. Given an infinite number of Twilight Sparkles and infinite amount of time, at least a few of them would have been so lucky.

A new smell rose from the kitchen this time: not the burnt-sugar odor of before, but the delicious scent of fresh-baked triple-decker nut-crazy vanilla cream cookies. It was a finicky recipe at the best of times, and typically needed a few re-dos, but it seemed this time that Spike had managed it on the second go-around.

“Anything's possible,” Twilight mused to herself, “with enough tries.”

She fell onto her bed and summoned a pair of dice with her magic. A randomization spell, useful for scientific testing. She rolled a few times, vaguely curious about what she'd get.

Three and four. “Failed her magic test,” said Twilight.

Five and two. “Made other friends.”

Snake eyes. “Me.”

She buried her face in her pillow and screamed. It let out a little of the pent-up steam. The implications of a multiverse were just a bit too big to take in all at once, and even calm breathing couldn’t help with that. She couldn't help but envy all the Twilight's who weren't bothered by it. Who'd never taken that track of conversation with Spike. Who'd never gone on an adventure through a magic mirror. Who’d never been faced with proof that their choices didn’t matter and never had.

Maybe those were the lucky ones.

A knock at the door. Spike, probably. “Hey, uh, Twilight? Little help here?”

She looked up from her pillow long enough to open the door with a spell. Spike walked in proudly, carrying a tray of still-warm triple-decker nut-crazy vanilla cream cookies. The smell alone was enough to make her own stomach rumble, but she didn’t feel much like eating.

“Got it right on my second try!” he said, setting the tray down. He wiped a few crumbs from his mouth. “And they’re the best ever. Want one?”

“No thanks,” she said. Or something much like it. She couldn’t entirely tell what she sounded like beyond her pillow’s muffling embrace.

“Uh oh.” The bed rocked a bit as Spike sat down beside her. “What’s this one about?”

“Nothing,” she mrmmbled through her pillow.


She picked herself up off the pillow. “Nothing, okay? I’m fine.”

“You’re going to have to convince me on that one,” said Spike, popping a cookie into his mouth. “What’s up?”

Twilight sighed. There wasn’t any use in fooling Spike, she supposed. “It’s just... I’ve been thinking. About all those other worlds.”

“Yeah?” said Spike, talking with his mouth open and getting crumbs all over the sheets. “What about ‘em?”

She sat up a little straighter and sighed. “All right.”

She cringed a bit at the thought of dropping such a big piece of news on Spike, but, well... maybe he could handle it. He’d been her voice of reason often enough, and a fresh perspective couldn’t hurt, could it?

“I’ve just been thinking that... if there are other worlds out there, an infinite number of them, there’d have to be an infinite number of us too.”

“Sure,” said Spike. “So?”

“And, well, if in every world we made different choices...” she said, sitting a little straighter as she sorted her thoughts out. It was getting easier to think about, now that she was putting those thoughts into words. “It stands to reason that we never really made them. We’re just living in the world where we did.”

Spike sat there and thought about that for a moment. He took another cookie from the tray and chewed it slowly. “So?”

She shrank back a little into her bed and blushed sheepishly. Maybe he just didn’t get it yet. “Well, I mean... if that’s the case, then it’d mean nothing we do or did really matters. We’re not better than the Twilight and Spike in the evil world. We just ended up in a better world than them.”

Spike shrugged. “I dunno, Twilight,” he said. “It seems pretty simple to me. You made those choices, and now you’re good Twilight. Evil Twilight made other choices, and she’s evil Twilight. Seems like everyone got what they chose.”

Twilight shook her head. “No, because, see, the multiverse theory means that there’d have to be a Twilight somewhere who made those choices. It just happened to be—” She shook her head again. “It’s just... It’s not that simple, Spike.”

Spike shrugged again and burped. “Maybe it should be.”

“The world doesn’t work like that, Spike,” she said flatly, falling back into her pillow. “It doesn’t get any simpler because you think it should be, and it doesn’t matter any more because you feel like it ought to. The world just doesn’t work like that. Probably most of them don’t work like that.”

Spike didn’t realize that yet, but he would. Someday. He was still a baby dragon, and had a long way to go before he’d grow out of it.

“Well, all right, then,” said Spike, getting up from the bed. “I’ll, uh, try back later, I guess?”

“You do that.”

A little metallic clang as he picked the tray up and thumps on the floor as he walked back to the door. “Y’know,” he said, “Pinkie sent a card five-something minutes ago. There’s gonna be a picnic down at the meadow and I’m bringing the cookies. You sure you don’t wanna come?”



“Suit yourself,” he said. He turned the light off behind him as he shut the door, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

Briefly, in the dark, Twilight wondered if she’d made the right choice. If she should get up and run after him. Forget the multiverse. Join the picnic. It wasn’t too late. She still could have done it, if she’d wanted to.

She shrugged and buried herself deeper under the covers of her bed. No, she couldn’t have. She’d made the right choice there, and she knew because she’d made it. This Twilight Sparkle was always going to have made it. It was the only choice.

The decision had never really been hers in the first place.

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Twilight shook her head. “No, because, see, the multiverse theory means that there’d have to be a Twilight somewhere who made those choices. It just happened to be—” She shook her head again. “It’s just... It’s not that simple, Spike.”

Spike shrugged again and burped. “Maybe it should be.”

Twilight thought on that for a moment. She thought on it for another moment, then took a cookie from the tray and nibbled on it. It was good. “Yeah,” she said, taking another bite. “Maybe it should be.”

“Pinkie sent a card five-something minutes ago,” said Spike. “There’s gonna be a picnic down at the meadow. I’m bringing the cookies. You wanna come?”

Twilight finished her triple-decker nut-crazy vanilla cream cookie. It was a choice, and somewhere out there, she was sure an infinite number of Twilight Sparkles were making choices just like it. And, in the end, she supposed it didn’t really matter how many of them were saying yes or no. She knew which choice she wanted to make.

She took Spike’s claw in her hoof and got up from the bed. “Of course,” she said. “I’d love to.”