Chapter 2: A New Beginning
“Positioning—checked. Corporal integrity—confirmed.” Twilight Sparkle smiled and shook from enthusiasm. “I finally did it. Everything is precise.” She took a deep breath. “Let there be time.”
Applejack cringed then looked around. “Everypony all right?”
“Oh, Applejack.” Twilight’s pupils dilated. “Worrying about others instead of yourself, like you’ve always done. I really love that about you.” She stood up on her hind legs and embraced her.
The six of her friends looked at one another in disarray.
She looked at them with love and adoration that masked a heavy weight of guilt. She had gotten them killed. No, almost killed, because here they were, standing before her very eyes. She had found a solution.
“Twilight, wait, we may not be out of the danger yet.” Applejack wiggled out of the hug and looked up at the rocky slope above the path they were standing on. Everything was still.
“Everypony panic. The rocks are trying to kill me again! The end is near!” screamed Pinkie Pie as she ran in circles among her friends on the calm hillside clearing under the stable overhang.
Twilight shook her head. “Not an end, Pinkie Pie. It’s a beginning! We’re all together, safe and sound. This is a happy time. It is!”
“Relax, Pinkie. It passed, somehow,” Spike said and looked to Twilight, narrowing his eyelids. “I told you we shouldn’t take this shortcut. What just happened is exactly what I was warning you about.”
Fluttershy stopped biting on her lower lip. “What did just happen, exactly? How come it’s over?”
“Yeah, where did all the rocks go?” Rainbow Dash flew up and looked around. “I swear, there was a boulder here about to crush us all.”
“I know a rock slide when I see one, and I’m sure I saw one. This one was a doozy, tearing off from the cliff—thrhh”—Pinkie Pie imitated the sounds as she shook her raised hoof—“just as we were passing under it and gushing on the hillside toward us with tremendous force—phooh, the rumblings echoing from every direction—bwam-wam, ground shaking—trr-tr, stones flying everywhere—”
“We all saw it, Pinkie.” Applejack raised one eyebrow as she looked at her.
“Oh, goody, because I must have blinked and missed it. Where did it go?”
“I reckon that rocks stopped—in an instant?” Applejack closed her eyes and shook her head. “No, rolling stones don’t just stop. I honestly don’t know what happened.” She shrugged her shoulders.
“Twilight, dear, did you stop the rock slide with your magic?” Rarity asked, raising a hoof and pointing to her horn.
There was no reply.
Everypony looked at Twilight.
She swayed on her legs. With her jerking gaze, she switched from one friend to another. Her smile was almost reaching her ears.
“Twilight?” Applejack tapped her on the shoulder. “Do ya know what happened?”
She bowed down her head, slipped it under Applejack’s neck, and brushed her mane against it. “It’s okay, my friends. You’re all alive!”
Applejack looked down at her with eyelids wide open.
“Twilight!” Spike stepped to her and gently tugged on her mane. “I saw you teleport just before that rock fell where you were.” He pointed to the big rock imbedded in the ground. “The moment you appeared in front of Applejack, all the rumbling ceased. What did you do with the debris?”
She hooked one forehoof over Applejack’s neck and dragged Spike in a hug with the other. “Forget the rocks. We have one another. Our friendship is the only thing that matters.”
“Twilight, what’s wrong? Why are you acting this way?” Fluttershy asked in a soft voice, as though she were afraid of the response.
“There’s no impending boulder here! Why are you assuming something is wrong?” Clenching her teeth together, Twilight put her forelegs on the ground and took a step back. “Nothing is wrong! Everything is certainly fine. Nopony is getting hurt by the boulder here.”
They don’t need to know, whispered her own voice, echoing in her mind. This is a happy moment!
“I love you all!” A tear slid down her cheek. She had saved her friends. She had saved them all!
Fluttershy stepped closer and bowed her head to the same level with Twilight’s. “I can see that something is bothering you. Talk to us. We’re your friends. We’re here for you. You know that.”
Twilight’s tears broke forth, and she sobbed. “I’m sorry I suggested the shortcut. I should have acknowledged that it was dangerous.” She lifted her head with a forced smile plastered on it. “But it’s okay now. Everything is fine. Nopony died!”
“I didn’t mean to upset you like that, Twilight.” Spike reached out with his claw and touched her on the cheek. “I just think you should have at least listened to me before rushing forward, that’s all.”
“Yes, I should have! Your advice has always been grounded. If only I’d listen to you. I should have talked to you more. You know I love you, Spike, don’t you?” I’ve always acted like I took you for granted, but deep inside, you meant the world to me.
He took a step back as if her gaze was pushing on him. His jaw dropped ever lower.
She raised her head. “I love you all. I should have spent more time with each and every one of you!” I’ve missed you all so much!
Applejack leaned her head as she looked at Twilight. “We love ya too, hun’—”
Twilight gasped and smiled. She sat on her flank and clapped with her hooves.
“—but what ain’t you tellin’ us?”
“Nothing is wrong!”
“I didn’t say anythin’ was wrong, but now I know somethin’ is amiss. What’re you hidin’ from us?”
“I—” Twilight looked away from her friends as she sobbed again.
Rarity approached her. “Tell us, dear.” With her dainty hoof, she gently moved Twilight’s head so she could face her. She looked into her eyes. “We need to know.”
“I—didn’t stop the rock slide.” Twilight bit her lower lip.
Pinkie Pie kicked at the rock imbedded in the ground that Spike had pointed to before. The rock didn’t budge; only her tail twitched. “But it has stopped, right?”
“There’s not enough time. I’ve been over it again and again. Nothing I do can stop the boulder above you in time. Not even replicating Shining Armor’s shield spell would work. It takes too long.”
“Sweetie, are you saying we’re still in danger, somehow?” Rarity looked up the cliff and across the clear sky.
“You’re all here. We’re together again. I want to hug each and every one of you!” She embraced Rarity.
Rainbow Dash plunged down. As her hooves connected with the overgrown path, dust scattered in all directions around her. “Enough of your rambling. You need to tell us what happened, and you need to tell us now!”
With a smile on her face, Twilight approached her.
Rainbow Dash half closed her eyelids.
Twilight stood on her hind legs and extended her forelegs toward her.
Putting a hoof on Twilight’s chest, Rainbow Dash leaned her body forward and stopped her approach. “Talk now! Hug later!”
Dropping on all four legs, Twilight sniffled. “Your proximity to the boulder means you’ll be the first one to—” She looked away. “Then, the rest.”
“The first one to what?” Rainbow asked, her voice a little shaky as her confidence faded from the words.
Twilight bowed her head, and whispered, “To die.”
Her friends gathered in a circle around her, silently looking at each other in disbelief.
“Are you saying I’m going to die?” She spread her wings, jerkily looking around.
Twilight clenched her teeth and said nothing. They deserved to know the truth, but it gripped her heart in pain just thinking about it.
“Are you saying that?” Spike put his claw on her neck.
“Yes.” She stomped a foreleg to the ground and raised her head. A smile forced itself on her lips again. “But you don’t have to worry about that. You’re safe from the dreaded boulder here!”
“Where is here, Twilight?” Pinkie Pie waved all around her, then drew her pointing foreleg to her face and observed it.
Twilight turned to her. “Don’t worry about it; it isn’t important. Don’t let anything get in the way of who you are. Enjoy yourself. You’ve always been good at that. I love you, Pinkie Pie!” She hugged her.
“Ugh! I can’t take this anymore.” Rainbow Dash fell on her back, extending her legs and wings outward. “Twilight, let me know when you decide to stop being so confusing.”
“What am I?” Pinkie Pie’s mane flattened slightly.
“Oh, darn it! Now Pinkie’s lost her marbles, also.” Applejack facehoofed.
Pinkie Pie turned to her “Don’t you get it?”
“Get what?” Applejack sighed as she looked at her sideways from within her hoof.
“None of this is real. Even we aren’t real.” Pinkie Pie looked at the ground.
“I feel real,” Fluttershy whispered.
“You’re all really precise! I made sure of it!” Twilight said.
“You—made sure of it? How exactly did you do that?” Rarity asked, her voice laced with a tinge of distaste.
“I didn’t know what else to do.” She looked down at Rainbow Dash, who lay at her side, staring blankly at the sky.
“I wanted to talk to you again…” She stepped over Rainbow’s wing spread out on the ground then carefully moved her other foreleg forward, gently brushing against the feathers with her hoof.
Her wing twitched, but she kept gazing up, ignoring Twilight.
She stepped sideways over the lying pony.
Rainbow Dash’s ears pinned back as she lifted her head from the ground and looked at the silhouette towering above her.
“I wanted to touch you again…” Twilight crouched down and locked her forelegs around Rainbow’s neck.
“What the—” Rainbow Dash jerked and shoved her legs at Twilight’s sides.
“I love you, Rainbow Dash!”
She kicked, but couldn’t get an anchor point on Twilight’s body. “Help! I’m being assaulted!”
Applejack jumped at their side and tackled Twilight off Rainbow Dash. The pegasus immediately took flight.
As Twilight lay on her back, she smiled at Applejack, slowly extending a hoof toward her.
“Talk!” exclaimed Applejack as she slapped the approaching hoof away.
“We’ll have a group hug after you tell us, Twilight, if that is what you want,” said Fluttershy.
Pinkie Pie clenched her teeth together as her entire body twitched.
Twilight looked straight up to the sky. “Oh, no! It’s already happening.”
Everyone looked up.
A black spot in the sky covered the zenith.
“What is that?” Spike held his claw on Twilight’s foreleg.
“I’ll go check it out!” Rainbow Dash flapped her wings and flew up.
“No!” Twilight pulled out of Spike’s hold and rolled onto her hooves. “Get down here now!” Her horn charged and illuminated the surroundings.
Enveloped in a magical field, the pegasus crashed on the ground.
“Rainbow Dash, are you okay?” Twilight stepped over her and looked up to the black spot in the sky. It was bigger than before.
“I’d be better off if you hadn’t slammed me down! What was that all about?” she hissed as she wiggled out from between Twilight’s legs.
“Don’t go up there again. It’s dangerous to you!”
“Twilight,” Applejack raised her voice. “What in courses is that black spot in the sky?”
Pinkie Pie crumbled to the ground. “The end,” she whispered. Her mane and tail were completely flattened, ears floppy.
“I’ll tell you. But I will want that group hug after!” Twilight smiled at Fluttershy, who seemed to be the only one who knew what the right priorities in this situation were.
Rarity sighed. “You’ll get it; just get on with your explaining.”
Twilight approached the big rock imbedded in the ground. “This was my entry point.”
It dissipated as she touched the hard surface with her horn. A glowing blue sphere hovered in its place.
“What in tarnation is that?” Applejack asked.
“It’s a portal to my nether-realm. The place where my magic comes from.”
“I’ve heard about those inner dimensions before,” Rarity said. “Every living creature owns one. Most can’t access it directly, though. Twilight, do you think yours is encroaching on reality somehow? Is it another Tantabus?” She pointed to a black spot that was now spread across a quarter of the sky. The sun was near the edge of it.
“No.” Twilight shook her head.
Pinkie Pie bent her hind legs, laid her forelegs on them, and leaned her head on top.
Twilight looked up. “It is the reality that is corrosive to all the matter I’ve conjured in my empty subspace. Just as magic scatters in reality, so does formed substance dissipate here.
“That’s what’s happening to the edges of my conjuration right now. The abruption will continue to dispel projected matter as long as time-flow difference and a connection between my inner dimension and the real world exists.” She looked at the hovering bright portal in front of her.
“So, we’re not in reality, and we’re all going to die?” Rainbow Dash thumped both her forelegs on the ground. “Is that what you’re saying?”
“We’re not even alive!” mumbled Pinkie Pie from within her forelegs.
“No!” Twilight pointed her leg at her. “You’re wrong! All of you are still alive, both here and there.”
“There?” Spike asked.
“Yes, in reality. You can see yourselves through the portal. Just don’t touch it.”
“What would happen if I did?”
“On contact, It would destabilise your cohesion. It’s very dangerous to you.”
Spike slowly approached the bright translucent orb and focused his eyes on it. He gasped and took a step back, pointing his claw at it. “There is a boulder above us in the world on the other side. It’s standing still, though. They—we all are.”
“The inner time is separate from the one in reality. Since this subspace is bound to me, I’m also connected to its time-flow. I can speed up the time in my inner-space as a whole or slow it down just by willing it. I can even disconnect myself from the fourth dimension and stop time completely. It’s the time-flow difference between subspace and reality that is causing the friction.
“After the conjuring, I initiated the inner-dimensional time to flow. That’s when the corrosion of formed matter started as it rubbed against the static time in reality.”
“Are you saying that you can stop the time whenever you choose to?” Fluttershy asked, raising her eyebrows.
Twilight closed her eyes, and the time in the subspace stopped. Even the soft breeze ceased ruffling her mane. The silence, she was all too familiar with, engulfed her inner world. She raised her eyelids and walked among her motionless friends, positioning herself right-angled to Fluttershy. Willing the time to flow again, she whispered in her ear, “Yes.”
“I love you!” Twilight embraced her.
Fluttershy clenched her teeth and pressed her wings close to her body.
Applejack approached the glowing portal.
Rainbow Dash stomped a hoof at the ground. “No more hugs! Just tell us what’s going on.”
The hole in the sky started eating at the sun. The land was darkening.
“How can we be here if we’re there?” Applejack asked.
“I wasn’t ready to face it all.”
“Twilight, what did you do?” Rarity half closed her eyes as she looked at her.
“I didn’t get a chance to tell you how much I love you.”
“Tell me you didn’t…” Rarity leaned her head to the side.
“I couldn’t even say my goodbyes.”
Rarity gasped as she moved her head back. “You conjured us up, didn’t you? Is there nothing sacred to you?”
“I didn’t conjure you. I copied you. Reaching into reality with my magic stream alone doesn’t affect its time-flow. I can spread my channels to the other side and touch the matter in real world, feeling its essence without affecting it. You see, no effect can be produced without time, and I can’t use the natural time-flow if I’m separated from the whole reality dimension.
“In this subspace, however, I have full control. I can recreate every structure, using conjured building blocks. Every single particle that you consist of is precisely placed in its exact mirroring position. I made sure of it. You’re all exactly the same as in reality, functionality-wise.”
“That’s appalling. Creating us just so you can watch us all get annihilated by the rift.” Rarity pointed to the starless black sky. The only remaining light was coming from the horizon and the light emanating from the portal. “You had no right to do that to us.”
“I’m sorry. I spent so much time looking through that portal, calculating every contingency. The result is always the same. You die, no matter what I do. There just isn’t enough time. I cannot save any of you.” If only there was an extra moment for me to charge my horn. I could do so much. It’d be easy.
“But we are safe here, right? As long as we don’t touch the big black thing up above or this small shiny thingy.” Rainbow Dash flew just above the ground as she pointed to the floating orb. “What would happen if we did, though?”
“Despite consciously being yourself, your physical building blocks are still conjuration based. With no real matter to sustain your form, you would disintegrate on contact with reality. Only I, being from the material world, am immune to its effects.”
“Couldn’t you have stopped the boulder with your magic or teleported us all here when you were still in the real world?” Spike asked.
“There are exactly forty-two different spells I could have used to save you—if I only had the time to cast any of them. Look from below the sphere, Spike.”
He bowed down and looked through the hovering window to reality from the bottom. “There’s a rock on the other side, hovering just above this position.”
“The entry portal stands on the spot of my teleportation from the real world. I was lucky to get myself here in time. Self-transferring is the only spell I can do in an instant, and that was all the time I had.”
“Are you stuck here just as we are, sweetie?” Rarity approached her. “It’s your portal, so touching it wouldn’t end you, but the rock on the other side would.”
“No, that’s not a problem. From my subspace, I can form an exit point to a different location and avoid that rock. This is actually how my teleportation spell works. I don’t transcend space in reality, I traverse the coordinates through this inner dimension.“
“What’s the problem then?” Rarity asked.
“If I leave this place and step into reality, the time will continue to flow. I would witness the ineluctable future moment when all of you die. I’d be the one ordaining it!”
“Is that supposed to happen here or there?” Rainbow Dash pressed her forehooves against her head. “Ugh, this is so confusing!”
“Both, actually. Everything I create here is an anomaly. When I leave, the subspace assumes its natural state, which is nothingness. While in reality, there’s not enough time to save you from the boulder.”
“So, you’ve created another world without the boulder.” Spike leaned his chin on his claw. “You didn’t teleport in front of Applejack as I previously thought. You’ve only completed the first part of teleportation then formed a copy of reality, with us included, in your inner-space.” Spike looked at her and opened his eyelids widely. “That’s a lot of conjuring. How long have you been in this place, Twilight?”
“It must have been over a year for me since I entered my subspace. I had to get every particle right in its place or it wouldn’t be the same. It had to be precise, minus the boulder and the rest of the debris. I’ve worked tirelessly, surviving only on conjured nourishments.
“I want you all to know that I love you very much.” She raised her head and shifted her teary eyes among her friends. “I’m sorry I killed you all.”
The sky was black. Only the light emanating from the portal illuminated the surroundings.
“So, we’re all doomed?” Rainbow Dash tensed her body.
“I can only save myself.”
“But I’m too awesome to die!” exclaimed Rainbow Dash pointing her forelegs at Twilight.
She smiled at her. “I know, right?” She bowed her head. “I’m sorry.”
“Everyone!” Fluttershy raised her voice and blushed right after. “I think we owe Twilight a group hug now!”
Spike leaned both his claws on Twilight’s leg. “It wasn’t your fault! You know that, right?” He looked up to her face.
“You’re wrong. I’ve been over this a million times already. The only reason we took this route is because I insisted on it. It is my fault.”
“I would just like to make it clear that I don’t approve of any of this.” Rarity sighed as she wrapped a foreleg around Twilight’s neck. “You know very well that we would forgive you even if it was your fault. It’s what you did after that I find disturbing. You need to let go, dear. Don’t seal your heart within this void.”
“Can’t you do something, Twilight?” Rainbow Dash wrapped both her forelegs around Twilight’s body and pressed her head close to her. “What if you stopped time, would that make the darkness stop?”
“Um, it would also make us stop,” whispered Fluttershy. “If there was any way to make it all better, don’t you think Twi would have tried it?” She embraced Rainbow Dash with one foreleg and Twilight with the other.
“Stop being sad!” Pinkie Pie stood up on her hind legs and leaned both her forehooves on Twilight’s flank. “You’re the one who gets to live. You need to be happy for our sakes as well!”
“Twilight!” Spike clenched on tighter on her leg.
Applejack stepped to Rarity’s side, sliding a hoof on Twilight’s coat among her friends’ hooves. “So, this is it then?”
“I love you all so much!” Twilight cried out.
There was no reply. There were no friends touching her anymore. She was alone with the portal in the stillness of eternity.
Wiping her teary face with a foreleg, she raised her head. Twilight, it’s time!
She floated in the vacuum some distance away from the entry point.
Her horn charged up. Spiraling fields of magic channels sprung the second portal from the nothingness in front of her.
She floated around it, looking through it into reality. The viewpoint was beyond the turn of the path. It was a safe spot. She couldn’t see her friends from this angle. Their faith was set in stone, but not Twilight’s. She could go on.
You can’t hide from reality forever! She lifted a hoof toward the portal, almost touching it. You can save yourself! There’s no reason not to.
Her body tensed. “Some Princess of Friendship I am…” Teeth clenched together.
She retracted her hoof, bowed her head and fired a blast from her horn.
Magic force shattered the exit portal. Pieces of it dissipated into the oblivion.
She turned and floated back toward the first portal. Her horn shone ever brighter. Eyes glowed white.
Spouting channels connected, forming two magical streams. She extended them in the opposite directions. One through the source of light and the other one into the darkness.
Facing the portal, she focused on the tree in reality jutting from the slope beside her motionless friends.
As her stream of magic touched one of the branches in the shadow of the impending boulder, a leaf started to form in the void behind her.
“I’ll make it last longer this time around!”