Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Just the two of me -- Ch 1: Home again, home again, jiggi- ...the heck?

[Originally posted at Fimfiction.]
[Short form description used at Fimfiction: When Sunset Shimmer hopped a freight train to Canterlot, a place she left as a child, she didn't expect people to know her name, much less blame her for something she didn't do. Meeting herself didn't make things any less confusing.]
[Bit of background: Everyone in one world has a parallel in the other world.  Sunset Shimmer lives in what is, to her, the other world.  A world that, as far as we know, her parallel is still in.  Somewhere.  This sort of comes from the idea of the native Sunset showing up at the worst possible time to be Sunset Shimmer.]

Sunset slipped out of the boxcar carefully.  It probably wasn't necessary, both the line and the yard had a good reputation.  Word was that they gave precisely zero shits about freight hoppers.  Even so, it never hurt to be careful.

It wasn't hard to slip through the train-yard unnoticed given how light Sunset traveled.  Everything she owned fit into an ordinary backpack with room to spare.  No bulk to move, nothing to slow her down.

As promised, the freight yard hadn't changed much.  No fence, no security to speak of.  Nothing to hinder her on her way back to Canterlot.

There wasn't much to do as she walked but think about the past.

The last time she'd been here she'd been a kid, a nine year old who thought she was an adult.  She'd wanted to prove to the world --and herself-- that she didn't need anything from anyone, so of course she set about doing that by begging someone --anyone-- to take her with them.

Some teenagers had taken her in, probably because they were worried for what might become of her if she kept asking random strangers to take her away with them.

Sunset smiled to herself at how stupid she'd been back then, and thanked the universe for the people she did end up with.  Things could have been unspeakably bad for her if it had been someone else, but she got them.  They'd taken her with them, they'd taught her how to survive on the move, they'd shown her an entire world that had been beyond her reach before then.  Cities and countryside and everything between.

By the time she was fourteen she really was self-sufficient, but didn't care as much about that anymore.  She'd made friends, made family, and liked traveling in the company of others.

Things had happened, though, and she'd been on her own for about a year.

She shook her head, cleared her thoughts and looked around.  She was going to run out of things to think about long before she got to downtown Canterlot.  It barely seemed any closer than when she'd left the train yard.

For some reason she'd decided to come back here.  She didn't know what, if anything, she really expected to find here, but here she was.

Granted Sunset didn't have the clearest memories of what Canterlot had been like, granted people were often nicer to a child than a teen, granted her clothing screamed, “Homeless person!” which was off-putting to a lot of the moneyed classes . . . but the death-glares she kept getting didn't feel like they belonged in the Canterlot she remembered.  They seemed out of place and felt downright disconcerting.

Most of them were coming from kids her age, who, while not necessarily the nicest demographic in history, weren't usually the ones Sunset expected to be angered by her very existence.  That kind of outrage took time and effort to cultivate and was usually the province of people who were old enough to have graduated from student to workforce.

Sunset had long ago learned that nothing got you more calories for your money than fast food.

Ideally you didn't use money at all, but that kind of scavenging was best done after dark and she was hungry now.  She had a five, three ones, and enough change to stick in a sock and use as a pretty devastating defensive weapon.  Thus: burgers.

Some things didn't change no matter where you went.  There was a certain comfort in that, she thought, as she walked into a burger place indistinguishable from restaurants in the same franchise she'd visited more than two thousand miles away.  The comfort went away when the silence that had accompanied all the glares finally broke.

“Go away!” some boy Sunset had never seen before shouted.

Sunset wasn't quite prepared for that and responded with, “What?” more or less without thinking.

“No one wants you here anonymous,” a girl, sitting with the boy, said.

Sunset was confused and asked, “Anonymous?”

“Everyone knows it's you, Sunset,” someone else said.

Sunset spun to face the new voice, it was a mauve girl with teal hair sitting alone in a booth.

“How do you know my name?” Sunset asked.

The girl laughed.  It was not a kind laugh.

“I was wondering about the getup.  Is that outfit supposed to be a disguise?” she asked in the most mocking way possible.

Sunset looked at her clothes.  Yeah, they were an obvious sign of her poverty, but as far as she was concerned there was nothing worth mocking about them, and given they did nothing to hide her features there was no way they'd be mistaken for a disguise.

The girl kept talking, “Trying to go incognito so you can steal more secrets?”

For a moment there was blissful silence and Sunset was back to just being glared at.  She had no idea what was going on, she wondered if she could be losing her sanity, and she had one of those headaches that meant she really did need to ingest some kind of fuel in the near future.  She made a decision.  No matter was happening, no matter what had happened or would happen --even if it turned out she'd been transported directly into The Twilight Zone-- she wasn't going to play along with this shit.

“You seem to be confusing me with someone who knows what the Hell you're talking about,” Sunset said the mauve girl, then she turned back toward the counter and went to get food.

Things were worse after she'd eaten.  More than a few people “accidentally” bumped her with a shoulder as she walked the sidewalks.  Once she came dangerously close to being tripped, and had had to break into a run just to keep her feet under her.  That got jeers, but she was happy to leave the group doing it behind.  She cut off into an alley after that one and decided to stay away from well traveled streets.

She'd known that coming back to Canterlot in the winter was stupid (though she hadn't really expected there to be snow yet) but she'd done it anyway for some silly reason or other.  She didn't even remember what put the damned idea into her head.

Still, it wasn't like she had a way of knowing it would be like this.  No one warned her that Canterlot would be like this.  And she had asked around.  Apparently it was a good thing she'd gotten out of this cesspool as a child.  She couldn't imagine growing up in a place where everyone was so cruel to a total stranger.

A total stranger whose name they somehow knew.

That part was weird.

It didn't change the frustration and outrage she felt at the idea that she'd come to Canterlot, in the snow no less, for this.

“What's a matter, Sunset?”

Sunset was immediately alert.  The voice was cruel; the voice had used her name.  That was not a good sign.  She looked around frantically, trying to figure out where it had come from.

“Not as brave offline?”

She still couldn't figure out where it was coming from, and now it was spewing non-sequiturs.  Could she be-- no.  She'd never heard voices.  She'd never--

“Can't look your victims in the eyes?”

That's when it hit her: the voice was an echo.  She couldn't find it because she she'd been looking to the walls it had been bouncing off of.  There was definitely someone saying these things somewhere, she just had to work out where the echo was coming from.

She ignored the words and just listened for volume.  It took a sentence and a half to tell her the direction she needed to go.  Another two sentences to get there.  It was farther than she had expected because, it turned out, the owner of the voice was yelling.

Angry, angry yelling.

Maybe it wasn't the wisest thing in the world to rush toward a voice that clearly belonged to someone who was belligerent and upset with, if not her, her name, but it was also a possibility of getting answers.  What she found were a group of kids her age.  All she saw were backs.  Whatever was going on, it wasn't directed at her this time, and that might be what was needed to--

“I swear I didn't do it!”

Twilight Zone it was; she knew that voice.  It wasn't the voice she heard when she spoke, but it was what she heard when a recording was played back to her.  It was what she heard in her own echo.  It was her voice, the way it sounded when it was coming from outside her head.

Sunset shook her head.  She was imagining things.  She had to be.

“What would I have to gain!?” the voice that sounded too much like her own cried out, “People finally forgave me; you think I'd--”

“No more lies,” the original yeller shouted then walked away.

Sunset hid herself, to the best of her ability, but kept her eyes on the group.

“If you wanted to restore your bad girl image,” another said, “it worked.”

More left.  Sunset could see a girl on her knees.  She was crying.

One spat in the girl's general direction, whether by luck or intention it missed.  Mercifully.

When they were gone all that remained was the girl on her knees.  Now sobbing.

Sunset didn't care what was going on anymore.  She didn't care about the mystery of people knowing her name, or the voice that sounded like hers but was probably --had to be-- her mind playing tricks on her.  She didn't care about how she'd been treated or the strangeness of it all.  She had something else to care about right now.

She took one last look around.

She and the sobbing girl were alone.

She walked to her.

Knelt down in front of her.

She said, “It's ok.”

The sobbing girl didn't seem to notice, so she said, “It's ok,” again.  No response.  Well, what had she expected?  It obviously wasn't ok.  Why would the girl dignify the lies of a total stranger with a response?

“Ok,” Sunset said.  She sighed.  “It's clearly not ok.”  She closed her eyes and thought.  “But I promise you,” she opened her eyes, “that whatever is going on I'll try to help you.  Maybe we can make it ok.”  The girl hadn't stopped crying, but the sobs were more controlled now.  She was clearly listening to Sunset.  “Ok?” Sunset asked.

Sunset was going to reach out to the girl, but she stopped herself.  You never knew how people felt about being touched.  Still, she wished she could see the girl's face.  Look the girl in her eyes.

The girl got her breathing more under control.  A moment later she spoke, “Who are you?” she asked while lifting her head.

“I'm--” Sunset got a look at the girl's face, “What the fuck!” she shouted as she fell backwards and scrambled until she was stopped by a wall.

The crying girl had her face.

Her exact face.

Not a similar face; not an uncanny resemblance.  Not anything that could possibly make sense.  Her face.  Her eyes.  Her hair.  Her mouth.  Her nose.  Her God-damned ears.  Everything.

The girl dropped her head back down, looked away, then muttered, “Well this is just great.”

* *
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I considered calling the Equestria Girls version of The Twilight Zone "The Sparkle Zone".

This was very definitely in my head while writing, not sure how much it influenced things other than the title.  I'm reasonably sure, though, that "or the strangeness of it all" was somehow a direct mutation of "and the beauty of it all" because when I read it it sounds like that in my head and I feel like it should be preceded by something about the crystal raindrops falling.

Strangely, in spite of it very definitely being in my head, I didn't realize that was what had been in my head until someone pointed that out.


  1. Okay. I read it.

    I can't promise I'll read further - I don't feel I'm in the right state of mind for that, regardless of how much real!Sunset deserves such treatment. Sorry.

    (Hopefully you understand that I'm NOT telling you what your own story is allowed to be about. I feel like now I have to always clarify it every time something fictional upsets me. Sometimes I can deal with upsetting fictional things. Currently I can't.)


    1. One, I totally understand. Thanks for giving it a try and leaving a comment. As much as I want readers I don't want you to read if it's going to bad for you.

      Two, canon-Sunset doesn't deserve such treatment. That's part of why there's so much desire to see the original story overwritten.

      This story is going to be about Human-set helping Canon-set through all of this. (In canon she has to face it all completely alone apart from a magical pen pal.)

    2. Thank you for understanding.


  2. Yeah, this was a bit upsetting to read, though it looks like something that will get more positive later. I do intend to read the next chapter, for what it's worth.


    Sunset had long ago learned that nothing got you more calories for your money than fast food.

    Ideally you didn't use money at all, but that kind of scavenging was best done after dark and she was hungry now. She had a five, three ones, and enough change to stick in a sock and use as a pretty devastating defensive weapon. Thus: burgers.

    This felt off to me. As I understand it, fast food is only most-calories-for-your-money if you insist on your food being served hot (and aren't able to cook it yourself, but that's pretty much a given under the circumstances).

    I went and checked my food-prices spreadsheet, and a five and three ones will get you roughly 17,500 calories of peanut butter. And that's at Wegmans, a place not known for their rock-bottom prices (but they do have excellent peanut butter, which in fact I am eating right now; probably part of what made this salient to me).

    (I'm assuming this is set in America or local equivalent.)

    1. it looks like something that will get more positive later

      That's the plan.


      This felt off to me.

      Yeah, it is off. In my defense, I actually have a good reason for that oversight. I didn't need to think it through because the character wouldn't think it through.

      It's because of the way I conceive of Nativeset Shimmer here. Actually, both of the Sunsets.

      As I'm writing them, both Sunsets have specific ideas about what constitutes food, ideas that they've been able to maintain in large part because they're primarily scavengers.

      Food is something that you can pull out of a dumpster for free in a convenient pizza-shaped form (something featured with different-continuity-Sunset in Stumbling Toward Redemption) and thus "I'm hungry and need calories" doesn't produce thoughts of ingredients so much as meals. Obviously what constitutes an ingredient vs. a meal is very subjective, but something like peanut butter simply wouldn't occur to them.

      The fact that neither one trades money for food as a primary source of sustenance means that the massive pitfalls this could lead to aren't really inconveniencing them that much.

      They have completely reasons for both having the same oversights. Nativeset Shimmer let other people handle food and has been on her own for a relatively short time (one year out of a lifetime.) Canonset Shimmer has never had someone who simultaneously knew her well enough and cared enough to point out what she's overlooking.

      The biggest differences they have on food, though, have nothing to do with any of this.

      Canon-Sunset knows where to find waste-food because she stays in one place and has learned its ins and outs. World-Native-Sunset knows where to find food because she asks people who have been where she's going and trusts their advice.

      World-Native-Sunset is an omnivore; canon Sunset is a pescetarian with vegetarian leanings (lacto-ovo varieties of both) and thus wouldn't get burgers unless her life literally depended on it.

    2. thus "I'm hungry and need calories" doesn't produce thoughts of ingredients so much as meals. Obviously what constitutes an ingredient vs. a meal is very subjective, but something like peanut butter simply wouldn't occur to them.

      Makes sense. Well, I don't grok it, but I have met a lot of people with similar hangups.

      (They and I tend to regard each other with mutual horror-tinged incomprehension. "What do you mean, you routinely spend two days' worth of food money on a single meal?!" "What do you mean, you subsist on, like, $5/day when you're not trying to save money?!")

      (I mean, in a way I'm grateful these people exist, because as a fast-food worker a lot of my paycheque comes from them. But it's...usually best not to talk food budgets with them.)

  3. I have been chewing on "where's the mirrorverse Sunset anyway?" ever since I tracked that plotline. (I have MLP-aged kids.)

    1. My personal head-canon, obviously not at play in this story, is that just as Sunset is a pony who seems to fit better in the human world, Sunset's double was a human who fit better in Equestria.

      It was probably her coming out of the mirror that caused Celestia to introduce canon-Sunset to the mirror in the first place. She came from a bad situation and didn't want to talk about it, Celestia didn't press, and that's why Celestia doesn't know anything about the world on the other side except for the fact that there is one.

      Canon Sunset doesn't know any of this because it wasn't her business. The other Sunset was sent somewhere that she wouldn't be confused with Celestia's personal student and has lived a happy, unremarkable, life since then.

    2. Do note that "Where's the native Sunset?" has been the question on my mind since first encountering the first Equestria Girls movie. (It was established, via Pinkie, that the native Twilight lived nearby but attended a different school in that movie, but native Sunset has never, ever, been mentioned.)

      The question on my mind in the main universe ever since I saw the first episode was, "But what about Moon Dancer?" which eventually did get answered in mid season five. The side question was always, "Did she ever get her present?" and the answer was "Not the impaled teddy bear, but there was more in the gift-wrapped box than that."