From Tokyo to Equestria

by Caliaponia

Chapter 1: Second Beginning

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Luna could feel their presence again. They were watching, always watching, like a cloud of parasprites hovering on silent wings. Few could sense them as they floated in a haze on the other side of waking, peering through the veil. Most ponies lived in peaceful ignorance of these dreamers; only those few with a strong connection to the ways had any inkling they were even there. Celestia knew, of course, but for all her power, she was a poor second to Luna when it came to walking the dark, quiet paths between worlds.

The dreamers' numbers had grown lately. Luna didn’t know where they came from or why their presence was increasing. Though they gave no indications of hostility or danger, their mystery and elusiveness posed the sort of challenge that she could never resist.

The last play of sunset had left the clouds and Luna's moon was proud overhead. She would not be holding court tonight. Instead, she would walk the ways between once more, attempting to solve the mystery of the watchers yet again.

Entering her chambers, she strode to her workroom and settled herself down on a soft cushion at the center of the rune-inscribed floor. She fell into a light trance and calmed herself, focusing inwards, letting go of thought and sensation; becoming one with the night.

Not of the night, but near it, this was a familiar space tread upon but lightly by the waking world. Kin to a dream, this place lay between, where boundaries were ragged and different worlds bled together. Here one could listen to sunshine, smell time or taste whimsy. By nature it was a formless void of shimmering energy; a shining emptiness aligning itself to the few fragmented thoughts that found their way here, forming a tatterdemalion patchwork. A particularly strong mind could mold the landscape somewhat, and over time a series of journeys or travelers might form a path.

Luna found herself standing on one such way; a fuzzy gossamer path that smelled faintly of cotton candy and ran away into an effervescent mist. Luna appeared as she did in life; dark and regal, and her sure mental grip was reflected in her sharp focus and solid substance.

The dreamers she sought, by contrast, were hazy and indistinct with most having no understanding or sense of identity to give them form. That proved to be the perfect camouflage here, however, against the shifting background of mixed and mingled thoughts. The few times Luna had found them before, she had literally stumbled upon them, jolting them back to their unknown origin in the process. Tonight’s journey would likely be as fruitless as the rest, but she was determined to try nevertheless. As in the waking world, Luna could sense their presence, but their diffuse nature in this land of mimicry made them actually harder to find at short distances. In practice, it was like playing a game of 'hot or cold' with a particularly mischievous Discord. Luna was certain they were near at hand, but there was a big gap between knowing they were here and actually finding one.

As she continued to stand on that path of gossamer and cotton candy, however, a new sensation crept up on her. She felt it first as a gentle tingle in her hooves; the echo of a power she had not felt in millennia. Somepony here has a key, she realized. Has one of the ambassadors returned? She stepped off the path and made her way towards it.

As she walked the sensation strengthened, developing into as a gentle warmth in her horn she could follow easily. Finally, she saw a change in the swirling mist ahead of her. Though as hazy and diffuse as the rest of the landscape, a patch glowed with the unmistakable energy of a key, setting it clearly apart. A key. I’d almost forgotten about them completely. It's a shame I don't recognize the ambassador, but after so long that comes as no surprise.

Luna approached closely now, but the dreamer seemed completely unaware of her as she reached out to it. It jolted in confusion at her touch, but the contact allowed them to communicate.

Who are you? Why are you here? Luna asked.

It didn't answer. If anything, it became more confused. Shifting in agitation, it seemed to be in danger of dispersing, as so many others had. It seems no more composed than the others. This may not be an ambassador at all. She thought. Still, it was her only lead so far, and she would have to act quickly, if she wanted to avoid losing it.

Be calm, Luna whispered gently, attempting to soothe it.

Again, it did not answer directly, but it quieted at her voice, and she could see its shape firm. After a moment, it replied, though in images, not words. The perfect cone of a mountain, white and serene. A bustling city on the water, reaching out with a web of steel and light. Islands on the edge of a vast ocean, curving to greet the rising sun. The image of a world - a marble of blue and green suspended alone in an ink black sky.

We know this place! Luna smiled happily. True, it had changed; she did not know the glowing city. Still, the mountain, the land itself, and most importantly, the inhabitants were unmistakable. The quarreling poets! What did they call themselves again? jinrui, runa, anthropos, ren lei, ubinadamu, yaas'áraar, humanae? So many ways to say the same thing - no wonder they could never understand each other. She thought to herself. In return, she showed the dreamer her own pictures of Equestria, and felt its recognition in response.

What is your goal? Why are you interested in Equestria? Luna asked again.

Luna could see its presence was gradually solidifying, though it was not focused enough for its image to take a proper form. Whatever else it might be, it was clearly not experienced here. Her question gave it pause for a time, but when it replied, it finally did so in more than just feelings and images.

Luna first saw again a picture of its world – still green, but browning at the edges. Birds choked on polluted air, while rivers flowed with unnatural rainbow hues and no fish to be seen. She saw deserts grow while oceans were harvested and dwindling woods became quiet and empty. Greed. Apathy. Conflict. It said. We steadily add mouths to feed on a world already past its limits. Overshoot leads to crash.

Are you in danger? Luna asked, concerned.

Danger? No, not me personally, and not today or tomorrow. It replied. Perhaps not at all. But I know the threat is real. Humanity will doubtless survive, but I fear for our civilization and its achievements. Our basic problems of food, energy and population are being ignored. We prefer wishful thinking to unpleasant truths, buy silver bullets instead of preventative medicine and reward exploitation above stewardship. Our growth is consuming its own underpinnings, but we are wedded to it. Still hazy, the dreamer’s form was starting to shake like a flag in a strong wind. Though I cannot predict the future, I fear the worst. How I wish I could escape to a peaceful harmony.

Luna realized she had made a mistake. She had won its attention, but had gone too far. It lacked the experience to maintain control and was losing its tenuous hold on the dream. Luna could already feel it beginning to pull away into the waking world. Its last statement had given her one last idea, however.

You say you are ready to leave? Luna confirmed.

I am eager to. It replied.

The dreamer held the key, but the key only served as a beacon and an identifier. Luna had helped forge both the lock and the complex, interwoven set of enchantments, physical components and ethereal energies it guarded. This magic gestalt represented the combined efforts of dozens of Equestria's most talented unicorns over a score of years in pursuit of an ambitious goal. Still, considering its power and complexity, in Luna's hooves the gestalt proved surprisingly deft. Before the dreamer could unravel completely, Luna had summoned her power, reached out to the key, and turned the lock.

We welcome you, she thought with a smile.

*beep* *beep* *beep* *beep*

I grumbled as I was abruptly drawn awake by the alarm.

Blindly I reached over to the nightstand to shut off my iPhone, and groaned as I clumsily knocked it to the floor.

Something was off. I opened my eyes.

My ceiling swam into focus, and I gasped. I could see perfectly! Better than I could ever remember, in fact. This wasn't like the time I had fallen asleep with my contacts in. No, the detail was too sharp, and there was too much of it; my whole field of vision was bigger, but I could focus better as well. Not only that, the contrast was stronger, colors were deeper, and everything just seemed more vivid.

It seemed like I lay there for minutes staring at the ceiling in my half-lit room, tracing the lines of the ceiling, taking in the play of light on the curtains, watching the lucky arrow I'd hung from the ceiling slowly pivot in the still morning air.

Okay, I have no idea what’s going on, but lying in bed isn’t going to get me anywhere. I thought. At least, I need to shut up that blasted alarm. I looked over at the nightstand and saw… my… hoof? Hoof. Black hoof. Attached to... not an arm, no, a leg. A foreleg, my foreleg, covered in a coat of dark blue hair.

I lay there in shock for a few moments, mind racing in circles as I tried to take stock. When I crossed my eyes, I saw a muzzle. Still laying under the covers, I tried to catalog the sensations of my body. Huh. Hair, hair everywhere. It still feels like I haven't lost the family jewels, at least. Toes, not so much. Wait, is this a tail?

The bits of evidence were adding up, but I was having trouble accepting the sum. I was a pony? I had discovered MLP over a year ago, and had gradually transitioned from just enjoying the show, to looking at fan art, listening to fan music and reading more than my fair share of fanfics. The idea of turning to a pony was not new; I'd read the conversion bureau, and figured I would have been towards the front of the line. Still I had never had any problems keeping fantasy and reality straight. Was this all some sort of dream?

*beep* *beep* *beep* *beep*

Okay, whatever the heck was going on had not made my alarm any less annoying.

I attempted to roll out of bed and stand up, and succeeded partway. On the plus side, lying on the floor in an uncoordinated heap left my nose just a few inches away from where my iPhone lay at the foot of the night stand, and I reached over to pick it up.

I was promptly reacquainted with my lack of hands. Right, new plan. I considered the problem. Pick it up with my mouth, try to cradle it between my forehooves. It doesn’t seem to be possible to push the home button. Great. Let’s try to push the tiny little button on the top instead... damnit…. now I have to pick it back up again. Finally! Now how in blazes am I supposed to unlock it? ... Oh hell, I think I just violated my warranty and my taste buds at the same time.

Blessed silence at last. I could finally try to think.

At this point I realized I was fully awake and rapidly poking holes in my ‘this is all a dream’ theory. For one thing, I could never think this clearly when dreaming. I could also read the covers of books and tell the time. My gut clenched, and I could feel my breath go ragged as I fought to stay composed. If I’m not dreaming, what the hell is happening? I took a few deep breaths, and tried to relax. Whatever’s going on, I don’t seem to be in immediate danger. Actually, come to think of it, I feel great. Not only can I see well, I’m full of energy, and nothing hurts – even my bum shoulder feels fine. After a bad fall from my bike a couple of years ago, I thought I would never be quite right. It seemed being a pony was not without its advantages.

As my initial panic subsided, I was able to think a bit more calmly. I’m going to have to treat this as real, at least until I find out otherwise. After all, if I’m dreaming, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Suddenly waking up standing in the street in my underwear? Actually, that does sound pretty bad, come to think of it. There doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it, though. I need to know more.

I slowly climbed to my feet, and stood wobbling for a bit; my limbs weren't arranged the way I was used to, and my reflexes were all wrong. The morning air was chill, but the cool temperature didn't bother me. I started to walk unsteadily across my room and around my bed, to where I had a full-length mirror.

As I rounded the corner, I stopped dead in my tracks. I had a horn! I guess it's fairly easy to overlook from the first person perspective, but there it was, sprouting from my forehead. I reached up and tapped it gently with a hoof; it seemed to be solid bone under a thin layer of skin, and the shortest fuzz of hair. It didn't hurt when I touched it. Did this mean I would be able to do magic? I hadn't the foggiest idea where to start. I tried to concentrate on it; now that I knew it was there, I could feel its presence, but I didn't feel anything special about it. I tried willing a book to lift, or my horn to glow. Nothing. Yet another mystery to delve into later, when time allowed. For the moment, I put it aside to continue my self-examination.

In addition to the midnight coat and black hooves I noted earlier, I also sported a mane and tail of the palest blue with a few darker streaks running through them (though not quite as dark as my coat). Coming closer to my reflection, I saw my eyes were bigger, though not as big as in the show, and had dark silver irises.

I still had a pair of plaid boxer shorts more-or-less wrapped around me, and was wearing the same tan socks I wore to bed. The brony artists were right - socks do look kind of neat, even on stallions, though they didn't seem to be very practical. There were a couple things I had to check, though, so the boxers had to go. I shed them after a brief struggle, and turned to look at myself from the side. Well, no cutie mark, but at least I'm not a mare.

I stood there a few moments more, trying to connect the image I saw with my sense of self. I had a surprising level of control over my tail; I wouldn't be swinging lassos with it anytime soon, but I could probably dust a park bench if necessary. My teeth appeared pristine (though now undoubtedly herbivorous), and I had a long, flexible tongue. I also found my ears to be a source of fascination. I always loved how expressive they were in the show. Now that I had a pair of my own, I found them to be surprisingly tricky to work consciously, though they responded perfectly if I didn’t think about it. They were actually quite useful, acting like a pair of directional microphones. I could home in on and track sounds quite precisely, either individually or in stereo. They were a bit worse at picking up ambient noise, however, so I found myself unconsciously sweeping them about. This would take some getting used to. Abruptly, my ears swiveled and locked on, as an unpleasantly familiar sound broke the early morning quiet.

*beep* *beep* *beep* *beep*

I groaned, as my backup alarm sounded.

At least this time I only dropped the phone twice, and swore half as much. The taste had not improved, however.

Normally, I would have been shaving and getting a shower at this point, but normal and I had parted company sometime the night before. I began to consider the scope of my predicament. At least it’s Sunday morning, so I don't have to worry about work quite yet. I need to know more about what is going on, though. This transformation seems to be the real deal, but am I the only one affected?

First things first, I headed to the window. My apartment was on the sixteenth floor of a tower on Odaiba, one of the artificial islands in Tokyo bay. My room looked out west towards the city, so I could look down at the buildings and roads, and I carefully peeked outside. Well, all the people on the sidewalks are still people. They don’t seem to be excited or rushing about in any particular hurry. No sirens or columns of smoke coming up from Tokyo. Everything seems pretty normal, actually.

I went over to my PC and nosed it on. Again, I was frustrated by the unsuitability of my new form for the familiar interface. Even sitting down was a trial. I have no idea how Lyra sits as she does; I managed, but it was not pleasant. Then I got to wrestle my keyboard, with some extra special thoughts for whoever came up with the practice of using special characters in passwords. The mouse was slightly more manageable, and I was able to get to the web without too much difficulty.

The top story was about a spectacular Aurora Borealis from an undetected flare, but other than that all the news articles told the same sad stories as always. Floods were washing away whole cities, while elsewhere farmland was drying up and blowing away from unrelenting drought. Starvation stalked the developing world, while the Middle East armed itself to scrap over the dwindling reserves of oil. Politicians were busy pointing fingers at each other while the media talked about the latest TV shows and movies instead. The health section had plenty on dieting, but nothing about a mysterious outbreak of equine transformations. Science discussed the recent spate of earthquakes in Japan, but there were no nanotechnology breakthroughs or purple ponification goo.

I shifted over to Equestria Daily. Lots of discussion about last night's new episode, a drawfriend, more music than I had time to listen to, but no unusual news items. I'm fairly something like this would make it to the front page in ten seconds flat, so they probably hadn't heard anything. I was briefly tempted to take a picture of myself and send it in, but refrained. Aside from the difficulty involved in working the camera, I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to draw attention to myself just yet.

I walked away from my PC, and lay down atop my bed to ponder. Okay, I have a few more clues, but nothing with enough certainty to make a call. There are just too many unknowns still in play, and any of them could unravel any plan I might make. Am I actually an equestrian pony? If so, does anypony in Equestria know, and will they do anything? Am I the only one? Just not being in the news isn’t a definitive answer. Is this permanent? What I did know was that my life, as it had been, was completely and totally upended.

There’s no way I’ll be able to work tomorrow, my train of thought continued. Hell, I can hardly work a computer, and that’s assuming I’d magically make it to the office or past security. Let’s not forget the co-workers flipping out. “Hey, how’s it going. Oh don’t worry, It's just me, John – I just woke up as a pony, that’s all. It's probably not contagious.” Yeah right. I doubt I could convince anyone of who I was right now, not that I'd blame them. So much for all that college. I had spent a lot of time and effort getting to where I was in life, but it was all out the window now. I’d just exchanged a career in telecommunications for a stint at a sideshow, if I was lucky, and a lab specimen if I wasn’t.

Why me? I thought. Sure I’m a brony, and there aren’t many of us in Tokyo. Since when has that actually mattered as far as actually turning into a pony? And why now? It’s not as if I’ve done anything speci- Wait.

I looked around my room again, my eyes finding my backpack, and I sat bolt upright as I actively considered the previous day. I did find something unusual on that hike...

Yesterday had been beautiful; the weather had finally broken after a series of storms and it was unusually mild for February. I was looking forward to getting out of Tokyo. I grew up on the outskirts of mid-sized city in the Pacific Northwest; we had most of the major amenities, but were also close to the countryside. Being cooped up too tightly in the urban jungle drove me a bit stir-crazy, so I liked to take whatever opportunities I could to escape.

This time, opportunity had led about two hours southwest of Tokyo, near the base of Mt. Fuji. A bit outside my usual stomping grounds, but I had heard that the recent earthquakes had affected the local geothermal activity, and that some of the onsens had significantly improved. I had a simple plan: go hiking and then have a nice soak.

Things started well enough; I rode the train to a town called Fujiyoshida, one of the main staging points for Fuji climbers. It was extremely quiet, but this was to be expected since February was way outside of climbing season. I used one of my favorite exploration strategies – pick a bus at random, and ride it to the last stop. It ended up heading towards the mountain, but not going to any the main trailheads. Actually, the final stop seemed rather temporary; just a wide spot on the road, barely big enough for the bus to turn around. This was necessary, however as further progress was blocked off by a couple vehicle blocks covered with warning signs. By now I was the only passenger, and the driver seemed a bit surprised when I moved to get off.

As the bus sped back down the hill, I looked around a bit. The road curved around the foothills, so that I couldn’t see how far it went. Below, I could see a rolling forest – some call it the sea of trees. Above me, rose Mt. Fuji. The ground here was lightly forested, and steep on either side of the road. The winter wind was cold, but I knew I would be comfortable once I got moving. The road barriers were just large concrete blocks; enough to stop a car, but easy to walk between. I wasn’t exactly sure what they said, but I was pretty sure it was just intended for cars, so I continued on foot.

About 200 meters further I found the reason for the barricade – the roadbed had shifted, and a series of narrow cracks had opened up in the asphalt, reaching across the entire width of the road. Though perhaps dangerous for the weight of a car, a person wouldn't matter. Just beyond the cracks, I could see a set of worn steps climbing the mountain behind an old stone Torii gate. Though the road continued onwards, I was curious about the steps.

The climb was just a few flights, but enough that I was not bothered by the temperature once I reached the top. As at the bottom, there was another stone Torii gate, beyond which was a flat courtyard leading to a small Shinto shrine. The shrine was nestled in the entrance of a narrow valley, and was clearly ancient. The building was well maintained despite its age; the paint looked recent, and the grounds were clean. Around it, the trees grew taller than the scrub on the mountain slope, and I could see the grove continued beyond the shrine. I wondered which was older – the buildings or the trees.

I tossed some coins in the altar and made a brief prayer to whatever spirit resided within. 「Thank you for this nice morning, I would be grateful if it continued to be pleasant.」 Not exactly Shakespeare, but my Japanese is still pretty limited.

There was little to the shrine besides the gates and the main building, but I was curious about the woods behind it. Walking around the side, I saw there were indeed some dirt paths leading back into the trees. That looks like it might do for my hike. I thought. There were a couple of signs, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of them, and continued on.

The air was peaceful and still under the trees while the sparse winter leaves let in most of the sunlight. Twigs and fallen leaves covered the ground, along with a few stones. I followed the trail for a few minutes; it stayed mostly flat, though I noticed the valley was gradually widening.

I heard the sound of water off to the side, and was curious. I don’t recall seeing a stream by the shrine. Does the valley have another exit? I cut across the forest, pushing through the underbrush until I reached the source of the noise. It wasn’t a large stream, and I suspected it hadn’t been there long, from the way it was cutting in to the soil. I decided to follow it upstream. It twisted and turned, still settling in its bed, but it flowed steadily and lead me to the head of the valley. There a jet of water poured forth from a narrow crack in the vertical stone wall. The water fell about three meters onto a flat stone where it flowed across the rock in a thin sheet, before collecting into the stream I first noticed.

Something was out of place in the shallow waters on the stone. Looking closer, I saw a small figurine sitting in the flow. I walked forward and leaned out to pick it up. It was an equine, carved out of a black stone and small enough to fit comfortably in my hand. The mane and tail were of a silver-blue fiber. The style was a bit abstract, with the eyes just a line, and markings carved on the sides and forehead. It stood in a tall, regal pose. I couldn’t tell how old it was, but the craftsmanship was quite good.

I doubted it was supposed to be in the water. If it stayed, it would be washed away, so I picked it up and stowed it in my bag. I’d turn it in on the way out.

I walked a little further to the true head of the valley, but quickly lost my way, and found myself back at the waterfall in short order. Following the stream back down the other way, I passed my original point and saw where the water was pooling in a depression along one of the walls. I wasn’t sure if it had found an underground channel to drain into, or if it would soon overflow and continue on. Regardless, there was nothing I could do about it, so I continued out of the woods and to the shrine. I looked around briefly and called out, but I couldn’t find anyone. I determined to return the figurine on another day.

I walked down to the road and back past the barricades. Not waiting for the bus, I headed back down the road, enjoying the walk. I eventually made it back to town, and the onsen was everything I had hoped it would be. To top it all off, I made it back to Tokyo just in time to catch the livestream of the new episode before going to bed. All in all, it had been an excellent day.

This has to be connected. I thought.

Gingerly, I reached down and lifted my backpack up onto my bed. Hoofing the flap open, I looked in at the figurine. It had changed noticeably from yesterday. The material was still black, but now seemed to be slightly translucent, like obsidian. The form had altered as well; the markings on its side had been replaced by a pair of folded wings, and a horn jutted proudly from its forehead. The silver blue hair seemed the same, at least.

I reached in and picked up the figurine, cradling it in my hooves. Though the room was cold, the figurine felt strangely warm and somehow familiar. Something tugged at the back of my mind, it reminded me of... a dream? Yes, I had dreamed about this, and I remembered that I had not been alone in the dream. We had, not exactly spoken, but communicated. About Equestria. Luna. It had to be.

Things were starting to fit together, though they still didn’t tell me what to do. It seemed that somehow Equestria existed, I was an Equestrian pony, and I was probably the only one on Earth. Unfortunately, there were a couple of other pertinent facts I had no doubts about: I was living near the heart of the world’s largest metropolis, and time was running out on my current situation.

I could see only three basic courses of action; stay, run, or go public.

Staying was tempting. I had access to food, water and information. I wondered. If somepony has turned me into an Equestrian, why am I still on Earth? Something could always have gone wrong – should I expect a rescue party? I doubt my apartment is anything special, but this is where I turned into a pony, after all, so it may have some sort of affinity. Odds are they’d start searching here, if they didn’t have some way to track me directly. If the cavalry doesn’t arrive, however, I’m going to have company sooner rather than later. Then I’d end up having to flee or go public without much say in the matter.

Running had a certain appeal as well. I'd have the most freedom of action to investigate my situation and figure out how to connect with Equestria. Admittedly, hiding out in the forest won’t help me to actually do any sort of investigation, but I’d have as much time as I needed. I’m not exactly a survival expert, but my food now grows everywhere, and I have built-in cold weather clothing. I do run the risk of being found or caught, though, which could really suck. Just running off would cause waves, but I’m an only child, Mom has already passed on and Dad remarried. He’ll be okay, and my friends and co-workers would eventually get over it.

Going public would open up an enormous can of worms that I didn't want to deal with. To be honest, though, it’ll probably happen eventually, whether I like it or not. If I take the initiative, at least I can do it on my terms. The last thing I want to do is disappear into some government research facility, and my best defense would be visibility. They’d have a much harder time pulling something if I sought out a camera crew than if I were to be found by the police at my apartment or tracked down somewhere by animal control. Granted, the explanations would still be awkward as hell, but at least I’d have control over the timing, and be starting out bathed and fed. Unfortunately, though it’d help me avoid being a lab specimen, I still doubt I’d have much in the way of control of my life anymore. And while I’m sure a team of scientists would greatly improve the odds of figuring something out, I wouldn’t be the one calling the shots, and I doubt I’d have any say in how that information was used.

I was at a crossroads, I didn’t like my options, and the clock was ticking.

Next Chapter: Decision Point Estimated time remaining: 28 Minutes
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