Starlight Glimmer and Sunset Shimmer Are Dead

by Oroboro

Chapter 1: Heads


Sunset launched the coin into the air with a spark of magic from her horn. As it fell she positioned herself and caught it perfectly on the tip of her snout. With her eyes squinted, she could see the embossed gold face of Celestia staring back at her.

“And this is Sugar Cube Corner. It’s probably a bit different than the one you’re familiar with,” Starlight Glimmer said. She gestured towards the vague outline of a building shrouded in the fog that currently blanketed Ponyville.

It was fiendishly difficult to perform, the kind of trick young unicorns could spend idle hours practicing and never master. She spun the coin and caught it perfectly once more. Heads.

Starlight stopped, and Sunset nearly ran into her. “I’m not sure this tour is such a great idea.” Starlight rubbed at the back of her head with a hoof and sighed. “There’s clearly nothing to see in all this fog. I know Princess Twilight wants us to get to know each other and become friends, but I barely know Ponyville myself. Maybe we should just hit up a bar or something.”

Sunset flipped the coin again. Heads. “Hey, Starlight, do you know anything about probability?”

“What?” Starlight gave Sunset an odd look before shaking her head. “I’ve got a decent background in mathematics, though I haven’t made any particular efforts to study probability itself. Why?”

“Do you know what the odds are for a coin flip to land heads or tails?”

Starlight bit her lip. “Is that a trick question? It’s fifty/fifty, right? I suppose there could be some incredibly small deviations based on the shape of the coin, how it’s flipped, and the odd chance of it landing on its side, but any general trend will still round to fifty percent.”

“Good answer.” She flipped the coin. Heads. “Do you know what the odds are of a coin coming up heads a hundred times in a row?”

With a grunt, Starlight scratched a few equations in the dirt, puzzling through the math, but she gave up after a few seconds and shook her head. “I could figure it out, but I suspect you’re not looking for the exact number. Either way, it’s exceedingly small. What’re you getting at?”

How many coin flips had it been now. Seventy? Eighty-five? She was losing count. “Do you ever feel like something’s wrong?”

Starlight laughed bitterly and rolled her eyes. “Do I ever feel like something’s wrong? Come on, Sunset. Look at us. We’re two magical prodigies with similar names who got a taste of power and used it to control and hurt other ponies. And yet we were both forgiven, only to be granted the chance to bask in the tutelage of the ever present and looming shadow of our magnificent Princess Twilight Sparkle. I feel like something is wrong every single day. I can never tell if it’s a dream or a nightmare, but I know someday I’m going to wake up.”

Sunset blinked and cocked her head to the side. The coin slipped off her nose and fell into the dirt. Still heads. “I meant like, right now, our current situation. Not life in general.”

“Oh.” Starlight’s cheeks colored, and she pawed at the ground with a hoof. “Well, I don’t know. Is something wrong? I’ve been focused on this whole tour thing.”

Sunset gestured around them; shadowed buildings in the mist served as the only markers in what would otherwise be a featureless void. “Well, when was the last time you saw another pony?”

“The weather is awful. Everypony’s probably inside.”

“And this coin, it—”

“Come on.” Starlight affected a warm smile and gently tugged on Sunset’s mane with magic. “Let’s go find that bar. I’m sure the mist is just making you gloomy.”

Sunset thought about protesting further, but decided against it and shrugged, falling back into step behind Starlight. She turned her attention once more to the coin. Heads.

A few minutes later they pushed open the door to the bar. Warm air washed over them, carrying with it the heady scent of alcohol and old wood. Their hooves echoed softly through the seemingly empty establishment.

Starlight bit her lip, twisting her head about as she walked around empty chairs at empty tables. “Hello? Is anypony here?”

Sunset shrugged and made her way behind the bar. With a quick splash of green magic she grabbed a pair of bottles and glasses and spread them out on the counter.

“Sunset!” Starlight hissed, her eyes bugging out as she looked frantically about the room. “What are you doing? The bartender is probably just in the little fillies room or something!”

Sunset checked the icebox and found some orange juice, which was perfect, as it allowed her to mix her favorite drink; the Vodka Sunset. “Bartending. If somepony complains, I’ll just apologize and pay them. What do you want to drink?”

“Yeah, but…” Starlight continued to glance back and forth, but she finally let out a sigh, and slumped over the bar. “Whatever. Just give me a hard apple cider.”

It felt good to mix drinks with magic instead of hands. Or do anything with magic, really. She tossed Starlight her requested bottle, then set about carefully mixing her own drink. It came out the most perfect shade of reddish orange. An odd thought occurred to her, and she levitated the coin into the air, holding it at the tip of her horn. Glancing up at the rafters of the building, she gauged the angles for a time, before finally focusing her power and shooting the coin towards the ceiling with a burst of force. It ricocheted, bouncing from rafter to rafter until it plopped straight into her drink as if it were a garnish.


“I don’t think that’s very hygienic,” Starlight mumbled as Sunset downed the whole thing in one gulp.

She twisted the coin around on her tongue, nibbling at it gently with her teeth. It felt normal enough. She was hardly an expert, but for all intents and purposes, it seemed to be a standard equestrian bit. There weren’t any latent enchantments on it either.

“Hey, Starlight, how did we get here?”

“Well, if you mean this bar, through the door. If you mean to our current position in life, a series of increasingly poor decisions. If you mean in general, well, when a mommy pony and a daddy pony love each other very much…”

Sunset snorted. “Why we’re out here taking this dumb tour in the first place.”

Starlight tapped her hoof on the bar, her face creased in a frown, then took a swig of her cider. “To learn about the magic of friendship, one disgraced unicorn to another.”

“Yeah, but…” Something was off. It was hard to place a hoof on it, but her memory seemed as hazy as the fog still visible through the bar windows. She could remember getting everything ready to cross through the portal, having planned to spend some time with Princess Twilight and to get to know Starlight Glimmer. But after that? Well, sending them out to tour Ponyville certainly sounded like something Twilight would suggest...

The door to the bar slammed open and both unicorns jumped.

“I’m so sorry, we didn’t mean to, we were just—Please don’t tell Twilight!” Starlight stammered, prostrating herself on the floor.

Sunset found herself levitating up an empty glass and rubbing at it with a damp cloth. “Welcome. What can I get for you?” she said to the green unicorn who shuffled inside and sat at the bar. It took Sunset a few moments, but she recognized the hairstyle. This must be Lyra’s pony counterpart.

“Whiskey Sour,” Lyra mumbled, not glancing up as she slumped over the bar in a heap of dejected misery.

Starlight’s face softened, and she put a hoof on Lyra’s shoulder. “Hey, are you alright?”

Lyra grunted, but otherwise ignored her.

Sunset mixed up the drink and slid it in front of Lyra. “Best medicine in Ponyville right there.”

“No kidding.” Lyra sipped at the drink and made a face. Then she sighed. “What’s a mare supposed to do when she’s in love, barkeep?”

“Whatever it takes to hold onto it, of course,” Sunset said. She resumed polishing her glass, then collected the bits that Lyra laid out for her. All heads. “Pining over a handsome fellow, eh?”

Starlight blinked, then looked between the two of them. “Handsome fellow?” she mouthed at Sunset.

Lyra shook her head. “‘Tis not a handsome fellow that melts my heart, but the candy of the sweetest Bon Bons. Or as her family would have her known, Sweetie Drops. Our love burns far brighter than the eternal union between sun and moon. But our wicked families have long despised one another, and they work tirelessly to keep us apart and block our hearts at every turn. I know not what is left for me to do.”

“What.” Starlight said flatly.

Sunset pondered the question for a moment, rubbing at her chin with a hoof, then made to snap her fingers, only to find she didn’t have any, so the gesture turned out rather awkward. “Too often the jaded and cynical think little of the brightly burning flame that is young love. You must show them the strength and conviction of your determination. The only thing more absolute than love is death.”

“That’s…” Lyra pursed her lips, scrunching her brow up as she thought through Sunset’s advice. “I hear your words, barkeep, and will take them into consideration. Something drastic may be necessary after all. Thank you.”

With a bow, Lyra got up and left, leaving the two of them alone once more.

Starlight’s jaw hung open. “What in the name of Tartarus was that?”

Sunset shrugged. “I have absolutely no idea. It all just kind of came out.”

“Did you just suggest that she kill herself to make a point?”

“I think so.” Sunset channeled her magic, straining a little as she lifted all of the bottles of booze into the air at once. She walked out from behind the bar and let them orbit around her. “Have you ever read a novel where the protagonist gets helpful advice from some nameless bartender?”

Starlight worked her jaw, trying to find her words before she sighed and shook her head. “I’m not a big reader of fiction, but isn’t that a bit of a cliche?”

“Pretty much. Something so generic has fallen out of favor a bit in modern literature, but it was a pretty common trope in older works.”

“What’s your point?”

“Starlight, the last thing I can remember before we were touring Ponyville was stepping through the portal. Nothing in-between.” She idly opened one of the larger bottles of booze, dropped the coin in and closed it again.

Starlight raised a hoof as if to offer an objection, but faltered. “I… That’s right. We were waiting for you to come through, but you were late, and then Twilight stepped out for a little bit, and I was curious. Just a quick hop to the human world couldn’t hurt anything, right?”


“Sunset, what’s going on?”

Sunset flared her energy and fired every bottle of alcohol in a random direction. an explosion of broken glass and booze showering the room. Not bothering to explain herself, she lit a quick spark, and the room was immediately engulfed in a blazing inferno.

Starlight stood horrified and immobile.

Sunset dragged her out the door with magic and shut it behind them.

“Are you insane?” Starlight finally shouted when she snapped out of her stupor.

“Maybe. Just testing something.”

“What, the flammability of booze? Spoilers—It’s very freaking flammable!”

Sunset rolled her eyes, then pushed the door to the bar back open. There was no fire, and all the booze was back on the shelf. The whole thing was exactly as it had looked when they first came in.

Except for the coin lying on the floor, face up.

“That’s impossible,” Starlight muttered. She rubbed at the bridge of her nose with her hoof. “Wait, you were just using illusion magic, right? Nice trick.”

“Afraid not. I’m decent at illusions, but you felt the heat. I couldn’t do one that good. Something’s wrong, Starlight. Very, very wrong.”

Sunset retrieved her coin. closed the door, then turned around and started walking through the mists.

Starlight hurried to catch up with her. “Okay, I’ll accept your hypothesis. Something is wrong, but what?”

“I don’t know. Everything feels off. The world feels like it’s not responding the way it’s supposed to. And I feel like I don’t matter. Not in the general self-deprecation of living in Princess Twilight’s shadow. Like the bartender in a novel. He doesn’t matter. He gets three lines, to inspire the hero, but he doesn’t have a name, a backstory, thoughts or desires of his own. He’s just a cardboard cutout, a caricature of a real pony. Back in the bar with Lyra, it was like that. Like I was just a prop in somepony else’s story.”

“That’s…” Starlight shook her head. “Come on, Sunset. I know I don’t know you all that well, but I know your story, and you know mine. We’re our own mares. We made our mistakes on our own, for our own reasons. It’s not like we exist just for Twilight to stop us or anything. Everypony is the protagonist of their own story.”

Sunset cracked her neck. “Maybe that’s true most of the time. But whatever’s going on right now…”

Starlight put a hoof on her shoulder. “The last thing we remember is stepping through the portal, right? Perhaps we ended up in some sort of alternate-alternate dimension.”

“Maybe.” Sunset crossed a wooden bridge, then stopped to look over the side into the river flowing below. Her reflection was blurry and indistinct. “I have this odd thought, though, maybe an irrational fear, that it’s something worse than that. That this isn’t real. That we’re not real. Maybe we passed through at the same time, causing the portal to glitch and leave an imprint of us behind. We’re not really Sunset Shimmer and Starlight Glimmer, we’re just the idea of them, fragments of a story drifting through the void.”

Starlight looked afraid for a moment, but as she thought the implications through she just snorted and shook her head. “Come on, Sunset. Really? That’s some really deep freshman level philosophy. Are we all just somepony else's dream? Who cares. Even if it’s true, there’s no way to prove it, and all we can do is act out our parts regardless. It’s pointless navel gazing.”

Sunset laughed. “Maybe you’re right. Say, when you’re dreaming and you achieve lucidity, what do you try to do?”

“Well…” Starlight suddenly turned scarlet, and she coughed. “That's, um, a bit personal.”

“My my,” Sunset said, grinning. “Well, that’s pretty standard, I guess. When you find yourself in a world where you can act with no consequences, things often take a turn for the sexy. I'm certainly not innocent when it comes to that.”

Starlight blinked, then shook her head. “Wow, you have a dirty mind. No, it's not that. In my dreams, when I get a chance… I like to imagine that I'm the hero. That my philosophies weren't misguided and stupid, that they were righteous and just, that I actually helped people, and made their lives better. Not even with the cutie mark thing specifically, just in general.”

“Ah.” Sunset pawed at the ground. The confession hit a little too close to home. Her reflection stared back at her from the water. She half expected it to do that cheesy thing from movies where it turned into her demon half. It didn't.

Silence hung in the air between them. Sunset flipped the coin again. Heads.

Starlight scowled. “You’re really leaving me hanging here, you know.”

Sunset took a deep breath. “I think you’re right. About what you said earlier. Us being the protagonists of our own stories. We are the heroes, Starlight. Even in this twisted place. Even if we’re not real. If the world won’t acknowledge us, then we’ll just have to make sure it listens.”

Starlight stared at her for a long time, until a smile slowly crept across her face. She clapped Sunset on the back. “Yeah. I like the sound of that. You and me, Sunset. This world doesn’t stand a chance.”

“Inconceivable!” Bon Bon shouted, spittle spraying across the grass. “You would dare stand in my way, knowing that my love may hang in the grasp of the reaper? I warn you one last time. Step aside, or face my blade.”

Starlight ran up to Bon Bon’s side, a sword floating in her grasp. She panted, still trying to catch her breath. “My lady, two foes is overmuch even for you. I beg you, take heed of my warning. We can fall back and try another approach!”

Sunset howled with laughter, rolling around on the ground nearby. She made silly faces, stuck her tongue out, contorted herself, and in general tried her very best Pinkie Pie impersonation. She even licked Bon Bon all the way up the side of her face, which ended up being a rather disgusting mistake.

Starlight fumed. Her eyes promised bloody murder, even as she was unable to emote beyond the confines of her assigned role.

“Neigh, I think not, my ever faithful squire. These curs will not beat me this day. But enough talk. Have at you!”

Bon Bon drew the gleaming blade and leapt into the fray.

It apparently marked the end of Starlight’s part. She collapsed into a heap on the ground, sputtering incoherently.

Sunset laughed even harder.

“That’s not fair,” Starlight grumbled. “I wanted to laugh so bad but I just couldn’t.”

“I know, it’s awful, right?” Sunset glanced over to where Bon Bon was engaged in a assuredly riveting fight scene with Octavia and Vinyl Scratch. “This story is kind of dumb.”

“Not my cup of tea, I’ll say that much.” Starlight picked herself up off the ground and dusted herself off. “Looks like it’ll be a bit harder to make our mark than we thought.”

“Well, nothing good is ever easy.”

A cry rang out, and Bon Bon struck down both of her foes in a single flourish. Then she gallopped off to save her marefriend or whatever.

“Say,” Starlight said. She pursed her lips as she watched Bon Bon go. “This story seems like it’s wrapping up. What do you think happens when it ends?”

Sunset aimed with her horn, bounced the coin off of Starlight’s flank, then caught it. Heads. “What happens to anypony in a book when you close it?”

Starlight shuddered.

“For never was a story where all hope is wan, than this of Lyra and her Bon Bon.”

The voice echoed across the mists like a thunderclap. It was felt more than it was heard, and the impact reverberated through everything.

Starlight rubbed at her ear with a hoof. “Guess they didn't make it.”

“Crap.” Sunset strained her neck as she tried to make out their surroundings. The mists seemed to be getting even thicker. They churned and boiled like some living beast, ready to swallow them whole. Sunset stepped closer to Starlight so they were touching. “I think that was the end.”

“The end?” Starlight tilted her head, then scowled. “We didn't even get invited to the final scene? What's the point?”

“Guess we're bit players after all.” Sunset thought she heard something resembling applause, but it was quickly fading away.

“So… this is it then?” Starlight swallowed, her eyes wide. “I'm… not sure I'm ready.”

There was a knot of… something stuck in Sunset’s throat. Regret, maybe? She reached out, cupping Starlight’s hoof on her own. “Is anypony ever ready? Still. As much as this all sucks, I'm glad I didn't have to do it alone. You're a good friend, Starlight Glimmer. I wish we could have gotten to know each other under better circumstances.”

Starlight blinked, her eyes wide and misty. “I… do you really mean that?”

Sunset met her gaze. “One hundred percent.”

The ocean of mist stilled, then began to fade into darkness.

“Guess Twilight was right after all. She usually is. Still, thanks, Sunset. That means a lot.” Starlight smiled, then squeezed a little tighter as the world ended round them.

Darkness engulfed them, but their sensations of each other remained.

Twin horns lit up the darkness, casting an emerald glow over the two ponies on the edge of nothing.

“That was a bit… anticlimactic,” Starlight muttered. “Are we dead?”

“I don't think so. No closure.” Sunset pumped a little more energy into her horn, but her light failed to pierce the darkness. “What, do we just sit here until we starve?”

Lights began to spark in the sky, distant. First one, then two, then countless thousands, a painting of stars in every direction, including down.

Starlight stared. She wavered on her hooves and swallowed. “Are they other unicorns just like us?”

“Might just be stars.” Sunset peered at one of the lights, trying to get a good sense of it. She cautiously reached out with her magic, as if she were to raise or lower the sun. Knowledge filled her, flooding her mind in an instant.

“They're stories,” Sunset breathed. “Guess we can find one that suits us after all.”

“Stories, huh?” Starlight’s eyes sparkled in the strange lighting. She glanced over at Sunset. The coin floated over to Starlight. “Hey, let me see that.”

Starlight flipped the coin into the air and tried to catch it on her nose. She missed, and it tumbled into the darkness below. “Crap. Sorry, never could get that trick right.”

Sunset shrugged. “It's just one bit. Come on, adventure awaits.”

The lights shifted and swirled around them as they walked through the void. They soon found one up close, a great multifaceted crystal. Each image reflected a scene within, a world, a story.

“Wanna try this one?” Starlight asked.

Sunset tilted her head, taking in what she could of the story. There was a prince, and an uncle, and some insanity… looked a bit meta at parts. And then everypony died at the end.

“Nah, we can do better.”

Author's Notes:

This story was originally published in the April 2016 writeoff "Forbidden Knowledge"

Thanks to Kalan for editing, and the good folks at the writeoff for providing valuable feedback o on the first draft.

Cover art by Puff Pink

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