"Okay, sugar, spill," Applejack demanded. She and all of Twilight Sparkle's other friends were gathered in Twilight Sparkle's library tree house. Applejack and Rainbow Dash both had determined looks on their faces, while Rarity and Fluttershy both looked concerned, and Pinkie Pie looked intensely curious.
"W-what do you mean?" Twilight Sparkle said nervously.
"Ever since yer trip to Seaddle you've been actin' all funny-like."
"I-- I don't know what you're talking about."
"You don't eat when anypony is around!" Pinkie Pie pointed out.
Rainbow Dash said, "You never go outside when it's sunny out!"
Rarity added, "In addition to your behavior, you haven't been looking well recently. Your fur is rather pale, and those bags under your eyes look simply dreadful."
Twilight Sparkle gave a fake smile. "You girls are imagining things. I've just been busy with a project, and haven't been getting enough sleep."
"That's all?" Applejack said, sounding like she didn't believe a word of it.
Fluttershy said tentatively, "But what happened to your eyes? Not that there's anything wrong with them like this! Yellow is a pretty color."
Rarity interjected, "Actually, I'd say they're more of a yellow ocher color..."
Rainbow Dash said, "Yeah, yeah, the question is, why did they change?"
Twilight Sparkle answered, "Er... I have a rare magical eye condition?"
Pinkie Pie pulled out a slice of cake and took a few bites of it before pulling out another slice, this one on a plate, and holding it out to Twilight Sparkle. "Say, Twilight Sparkle, would you like a slice of cake? It's really good!" She said the last bit of this with a full mouth as she took another bite.
"Um, thank you, but... Well, you see, that is... I'm full! I just ate before you girls got here."
"Oh, that's too bad," Pinkie Pie said, finishing her own slice. "Anypony else want it?" When everypony declined, she started in on the second slice herself.
Rainbow Dash flew over to the window. "Hey, Twi, you don't mind if I open these curtains, do you? It's kinda dark in here."
"No!" Twilight said, panicking. "I mean, yes! Yes I mind! You see, I have a headache, and the light makes it worse..."
Applejack gave Twilight Sparkle a flat look. "Ah'm only sayin' it one more time. Spill the beans, or we sic' Pinkie Pie on y'all the same way y'all did ta me when ah I didn't want ta talk about my trip ta Canterlot."
Twilight Sparkle's eyes widened, and she gulped. She then sighed and hung her head. "All right, I'll tell you what happened to me in Seaddle. But you have to promise not to tell anypony else. The only ponies I've told are Princess Celestia and Spike, and the Princess told me to tell as few ponies as possible."
Twilight Sparkle's friends all looked at each other for a moment, then nodded.
"We promise not to tell anypony," Applejack said, and the others all added their agreement.
"Alright, so as you know I went to visit family, and to check out this great new book store I heard about. However, while I was there I started hearing rumors of ponies mysteriously vanishing... And of bodies that had been found in back-alleys and other out-of-the-way places that looked like they'd been mauled by a large predator, like a timberwolf or a manticore."
Several of the ponies gasped at this.
"Oh my," Fluttershy said, "What was a big predator doing in the city? It must have felt so lost and alone!" Not quite as an afterthought, she added, "And all those poor ponies..."
Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash exchanged a look, shaking their head at Fluttershy's priorities.
Continuing her story, Twilight Sparkle said, "Well, I just couldn't ignore a mystery like that. So I asked around and found out where and when all the ponies had gone missing. I then did some calculations based on this data and predicted where and when the next attack would be. ...In retrospect I should have gone to the authorities at this point, but instead I decided to go track down whatever it was myself."
Rainbow Dash said, "Hey, I would've done the same."
"Yeah, well, unfortunately, it found me first."
"Oh no!" Pinkie Pie said.
"What was it?" Fluttershy asked.
"Did you kick it's tail?" Rainbow Dash demanded.
Twilight Sparkle said grimly, "It was a pony - a very pale pony with red eyes. He jumped me in a back alley, and bit me on the neck. I still have the scar..." She moved her mane out of the way, and the ponies all gasped to see a patch of sparse white fur surrounded by scarred bare skin in the shape of a pony's mouth. "Even as he held on to me with his mouth he grabbed my head with his hooves; I think he was going to snap my neck, but before he could I used my magic to throw a trash can at him and knock him off of me."
"And then what happened?" Rainbow Dash asked, getting into the story.
"He attacked me again, but I fought him off with my magic and any objects I could find in the alley. Luckily he was an Earth Pony so he didn't have any magic and couldn't fly - but he was super-ponily strong, and faster than anypony I've seen besides Rainbow Dash. If I weren't so skilled at magic I don't think I would have survived. And his speed and strength weren't the only things unnatural about him - when I hit him with sharp objects the cuts didn't bleed..."
"Come on, give us details!" Rainbow Dash said excitedly. "You know, he punched you, you threw a brick at him, that sort of stuff."
Fluttershy said almost too quietly to hear, "Actually, I'd rather you didn't..."
Twilight Sparkle shook her head. "It all happened too fast, I don't really remember all the details. All I can remember is that after a minute or two I was in a lot of pain from bruises and probably some broken bones, and I felt like my blood was on fire, while I'd managed to cut off one of his legs - but he still kept coming..."
Fluttershy "Eep!"ed and looked a little sick, and even Rainbow Dash paled a bit. Applejack and Rarity meanwhile shared a skeptical look - they knew something had happened to Twilight in Seaddle, but this seemed a little far-fetched.
Twilight studied the carpet as she said, "By that point I was so desperate to end the battle that I didn't care what happened to him... So I set him on fire. ...He was surprisingly flammable."
Pinkie Pie spoke up. "Are you sure he wasn't inflammable? Because inflammable doesn't mean it won't burn - I should know, once I accidentally set on fire some inflammable cleaning chemicals and they went BOOM like a firecracker! Oh, did the pony blow up like a firecracker? Huh?"
Twilight Sparkle stared at Pinkie Pie for a moment, then said, "No, he just burned away really fast."
"Oh. Too bad," Pinkie Pie said, sounding disappointed.
Rarity said, "How dreadful."
Rainbow Dash said, "Well, he got what what was coming to him."
Twilight Sparkle looked at her friends sadly. "Maybe... But I didn't have the right to make that decision."
Applejack put aside her skepticism of the more fantastic elements of the story to say, "From what y'all have said, it sounds like he didn't leave you with much choice, sugar. It's a cryin' shame you had to do that, but if only one'a y'all could walk away from that showdown, ah'm glad it was you."
"Thank you, Applejack."
Rarity nodded. "None of us would fault you for your actions - however drastic they might have been they were clearly justified." She frowned. "However, I must say, I'm not sure I see what this story has to do with your recent change in behavior and appearance."
Pinkie Pie scoffed. "Oh, that's easy. The pony that attacked Twilight was a..." She rushed over to a lamp and held her head above it so that the light only hit her face from below, then said in a spooky voice, "zombieee ponyyy!!!" Removing her head from the lamp, she continued, "And since he bit Twilight Sparkle, she's a zombie too now! She looks all gross because she was buried under the ground for days, and she never eats with us because now all she wants to eat is..." She stuck her head over the lamp again and waved her hooves around as she intoned, "BRAIIINNNSSS!!!"
Fluttershy cried out and crouched down on the floor covering her eyes with her hooves.
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes, and Applejack shook her head.
"That's the most ridiculous thing ah've ever heard, Pinkie Pie... And considering how long ah've known you, that's sayin' a lot." Applejack said.
Twilight Sparkle said reluctantly, "I'm no zombie... but Pinkie Pie's not as far off as you think."
"Huh?" Applejack and Rainbow Dash both exclaimed, and Rarity added her own, "What?"
Twilight Sparkle closed her eyes as she thought about what had happened to her. "I killed the other pony just in time - the burning in my veins quickly spread until my entire body hurt, and the pain just kept growing until it was so bad I couldn't think. I have no idea how long it lasted, but it felt like forever. When the pain finally subsided, all my injuries were healed, but I felt so hungry I still couldn't think straight. In fact, I've never felt so hungry before or since. And somehow I knew oats or apples wouldn't do - only one thing could satisfy my hunger."
"Brains?" Pinkie Pie asked.
Pinkie Pie shook her hoof, "Oh, you're a vampire, not a zombie. I was soooo close!"
Rainbow Dash gasped. "You're a vampire now?!"
Twilight Sparkle weakly nodded her head, her expression forlorn.
"Cool!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed.
Rarity raised an eyebrow. "You wouldn't be playing some joke on us, now would you?"
Twilight Sparkle's eyes shot open, and she backed up. "I would never! Do you think I enjoyed telling you all this?"
Applejack spoke up, "Ah want ta believe ya, but y'all have got ta admit yer story's kinda far-fetched."
Pinkie Pie said "More far-fetched than an alicorn Princess being trapped in the moon then coming back to Equestria after a thousand years to make it nighttime forever? Or an ancient chaos god with body parts that don't match returning and brainwashing everypony? Oh, and what about--?"
"Alright, we get your point," Rarity interrupted.
Fluttershy worked up enough courage to ask quietly, "You... you haven't drank anypony's blood, have you..?"
Twilight Sparkle hesitated. "No... Luckily I woke up in the middle of the night and nopony was around - I was so hungry I'm not sure I could have resisted the temptation if there had been anypony around. As it was, I wound up killing and drinking the blood of a whole lot of mice and rats, a few stray cats, and a dog that I'm pretty sure was somepony's pet, seeing as it had a collar..." She looked quite guilty about this.
"Oh, those poor animals... But... But I guess it's better than killing ponies..." Fluttershy said reluctantly.
Twilight Sparkle couldn't meet Fluttershy's eye as she continued. "Since I got back to Ponyville I've been sneaking off to either the Everfree Forest or the Whitetail Woods at night when I'm hungry. I've tried not to kill any of your animal friends, but you know so many animals I can't promise I haven't killed one by accident."
Fluttershy looked away from Twilight Sparkle and said in a disturbed and very quiet voice, "Well... I guess you are a predator now... And even predators need to eat..."
An awkward silence filled the room until Rainbow Dash broke it by asking, "So if you're a vampire now, does that mean you would have turned to dust if I had opened the curtains earlier?"
"What? Oh, no, it wouldn't have hurt me. It turns out that part of the old vampire stories is all wrong."
"Huh? Then why didn't you want me to open the curtains?"
"Well. Like I said, sunlight doesn't hurt me, but... well, it's embarrassing."
Twilight sighed. "I suppose I might as well let you see. Open the curtains, Rainbow Dash."
Rainbow Dash did as she was told, and Twilight Sparkle stepped into the beam of sunlight streaming in the window.
Applejack and Fluttershy gasped.
Pinkie Pie exclaimed, "Ooh, pretty!"
Rarity said in awe, "How gorgeous! If my own look weren't already perfect I might even be jealous of you."
Rainbow Dash on the other hoof fell to the floor and started rolling around laughing. "Twilight Sparkle! Now you really do sparkle!"
Twilight Sparkle began massaging her forehead. "I knew this was going to happen."