The Wrong Fillydelphia
by Purple Tinker, illustrated by Cuprohastes
CHAPTER I: In Which Twilight Takes a Trip
"C'mon, Spike, time to wake up," Twilight called. Spike, curled up in his basket, still remained very much asleep, emitting contented snores. It was 5 in the morning, and only Luna's dim moonlight illuminated the sleeping towns and cities of Equestria.
"Spike…," she repeated, a little annoyed. Only the sounds of quiet snoring reached Twilight's ears.
"SPIKE!" The baby dragon half-opened his eyes, sniffed, and looked blearily towards his pony friend for the briefest of moments. "Mmnn… just five more minutes," he mumbled, his eyes already closing again.
Twilight sighed. "That's what you said half an hour ago," she muttered under her breath, groaning in aggravation. She glanced towards the dragon, who was again starting to snore, and focused her magic on his slumbering form. Her horn began to twinkle, as did Spike, who slowly levitated directly upwards, straight out of his bed.
"Wh…whoa, whoa, WHOA!," exclaimed Spike, suddenly very awake, flailing his arms and legs as he was suspended helplessly in midair above his sleeping basket. "Okay, okay, I'm awake! Put me down!"
Twilight carefully lowered Spike back down, directly onto her back. Spike came to rest between two very, very full saddlebags, and settled into a more comfortable position. Seeing Twilight's heavily packed bags, he suddenly remembered why she was waking him up at such an early hour. "Oh… sorry, Twilight, I'd forgotten about that big magic convention in Fillydelphia."
Twilight let off a smaller sigh, then smiled, yawning a bit. "It's okay, Spike. I guess it IS a little early. I just don't want to be late for the opening speech. And we do have a long trip ahead of us."
"Well then," said Spike, yawning in response himself. "What're we waiting for? Let's *yawn* go!" And with that, he fell asleep again, sprawled over Twilight's back, between the two overstuffed saddlebags.
"Oh, Spike," Twilight sighed with a smile, heading out the door with her sleeping assistant in tow.
Her first stop was at Rarity's shop. The other unicorn had expressed interest in accompanying her to Fillydelphia to brush up on her own magical abilities. Secretly, though, Twilight thought that Rarity was mostly looking forward to seeing "the big city" and soaking up the glamour of its famous jewelry stores, clothing shops, and fancy haute couture boutiques. Either way, this was going to be the first time Twilight would have a traveling companion (Spike, of course, excluded), and she was happy for the company.
Gently tapping a hoof on Rarity's front door, Twilight was greeted by a muted, singsongy "One min-uuuuute!~" A moment later, the door opened, revealing a very primped Rarity. Her lustrous white coat was practically shining, and her violet-indigo hair looked even more perfectly coiffed than usual. On each side, she wore a good-sized velvet saddlebag, the two bags perfectly symmetrical. This, of course, was pure Rarity: Everything had to be "just so".
"Oh, good morning, Twilight!," offered the fashionista. "How do I look? I wouldn't want to make a bad impression on Fillydelphia."
Twilight grinned in response. "But Rarity, we're just going to a magic convention. It's going to be a bunch of eggheads. You know… ponies like me."
"Nonsense," retorted Rarity, shaking her head as if to banish the very idea. "Why, I'm sure there will be plenty of eligible young city stallions at that conference." She paused a beat. "O-or maybe not. Truth be told, Twilight, I was also looking forward to… well, you know… experiencing some of the culture of the Fillydelphia fashion scene."
Twilight could not resist a knowing little smirk. ("I knew it," she thought.) "Well, there will be plenty of time for that," she offered, her smirk softening into a smile. "Are you ready to head off?"
Rarity levitated a "TEMPORARILY CLOSED" sign into place on the front door, catching its hanging wire on a well-placed hook. With that, she closed the door to her boutique. "Darling, I am ready, willing, and able," said Rarity, eliciting only the slightest of blushes from her bookish friend. "Well then… here we go!" And they were off.
* * *
"So, as I was saying," continued Rarity, as the two unicorns (and one sleeping baby dragon) walked by a sign reading "FILLYDELPHIA - 1 MILE", "there is this absolutely fabulous boutique just off Celestia Square. It was founded by Hoity Toity himself, and they only stock the most gorgeous, most fabulous styles in all of Equestria. Why, I've heard that if it's more than a season old, they don't even bother trying to sell it; they just throw it a…"
Both unicorns were startled by a sudden cacophony of noise, as well as the sudden mingled scents of fish, cooking oil, and garbage. "…way?" Twilight and Rarity looked up, and gasped in unison.
They were no longer on the road into Fillydelphia. In fact, neither unicorn had ever seen a place quite like their present surroundings at all.
Twilight and Rarity stood upon a narrow city street, lined with drab brick and stone buildings of every colour, shade, and design as far as the eye could see. At regular intervals, the street intersected with other streets, seemingly without end. In the far distance, the unicorns could see great glass and stone buildings, towers to rival even the spires of Canterlot.
In the buildings around them, signs written in multiple languages-- none of which (except one that they read as Standard Equestrian) either unicorn had ever seen before-- advertised noodle restaurants, "bodywork" parlours, pony-pedi salons, and every other imaginable type of shop. Some of the signs were painted onto awnings, and some were constructed out of glowing tubes and dots. The streets were crammed full of ponies, many wearing strange clothing and speaking strange languages that neither unicorn had ever seen before. This wasn't Fillydelphia-- this place was bigger than Fillydelphia.
Rarity, glancing about with eyes as big as saucers, finally broke the unicorns' mutual shocked silence. "Twilight? Could you, perchance, tell me where in Equestria we are?"
Meanwhile, the noise of the strange new streets-- as well as the pungent and unusual combination of odours-- had finally succeeded in rousing Spike from his slumber. "Ahhhh," he yawned. "Wow, what a great nap. So are we in Fillydelphia yet? I can't wait to have a Filly Cheesewich with some rubies on ….." Spike paused, and turned up his nose at a sudden whiff of rotting fruit. "Whew! What's that smell?," the dragon asked, making a sour face and attempting to plug his nostrils.
Twilight glanced from side to side, locating a large green metal box filled with garbage, piles of overripe produce attracting flies into its cockeyed, gaping lid. Two mangy-looking stray cats lingered about the base of the trash bin. "I think it's coming from that," she said. "I'm sorry, Spike, but I think we have bigger problems right now than the smell." Spike sulked, and started absentmindedly munching on a ruby.
"I'm afraid I am inclined to disagree," said Rarity, trying to sound haughty, but ending up sounding disgusted instead. "I think I am going to be sick!"
The annoyed glances of several other ponies finally succeeded in drawing Twilight's attention. She realized that while they had been talking, Rarity and herself had been inadvertently blocking the sidewalk. A growing collection of aggravated ponies had been building up behind them, waiting for the bewildered newcomers to get out out the way.
Twilight flushed. She had never seen such a bustling street at this hour of the day! "Oh, I'm so sorry," the purple unicorn stammered, quickly sidling up to a nondescript brick wall. "Over here, Rarity," Twilight called to her increasingly flustered-looking companion.
The two unicorns ducked into a small alleyway between two of the dingy old buildings. "Oh dear," complained Rarity, who was starting to look as worried as she was disgusted, "the smell is even worse in here! Twilight, what happened? Where is this place? Please tell me that we somehow just… took a wrong turn?"
Twilight stuck her head out of the alley, looking back the way the party had come from. There was absolutely no sign of the road from Ponyville to Fillydelphia; in fact, all that she could see, clear to the horizon, was city block after city block. "I-i don't think that's what happened here. I just wish that I had some idea of what did happen!"
As Twilight was contemplating the sudden disappearance of the path she had been traveling all morning, a low, slurred male voice came from behind her.
Twilight whirled her head to face the source of this greeting, and found herself confronted with a disreputable-looking stallion. His coat was an unattractive shade of yellow-green, and his mane was unkempt and seemingly untrimmed. He had several days of green-brown stubble darkening his misshapen muzzle, and he wore a tattered saddlebag with several bottles of medicinal-looking liquid peeking out. The pony leered at her drunkenly, as the mingled scents of alcohol and stale BO reached her nose. Spike nearly dropped his half-eaten ruby at the sight.
[Figure 1: A strange encounter in an alley]
Rarity, meanwhile, let out a sudden shriek! as the filthy street pony clumsily patted her flank with a dirt-encrusted hoof, his eyes gazing shamelessly over the ivory pony's hindquarters. She spun about and attempted to back out of the alley, terror and disgust written all over her face.
Twilight looked over to Rarity to make sure that she was alright. "Maybe coming back here wasn't the greatest idea," she said to Rarity, who seemed too alarmed to even understand her. "Run!" With that, both unicorns galloped out of the alley and down several short blocks, putting as much distance between themselves and the strange stallion as possible.
After Twilight was certain that the the mysterious leering stallion had not followed them, she slowed to a leisurely trot. Rarity did her best to follow along, but was clearly in a state of great distress. "H-he touched me," she trembled, looking as though at any moment she might be physically ill. "He was so… dirty!"
"I know, Rarity," said Twilight. "I'm sorry… please, let's just try to keep things together. Maybe we should sit down and try to figure this out." She tried to sound as comforting as she could, but it was becoming apparent that even the normally quite level-headed Twilight was in way, way over her head.
Spike, on the other hand, seemed simply intrigued by this strange turn of events. "I've never seen a pony like that guy before. Come to think of it, I've never smelled a pony like that guy before, either."
Twilight turned about and shot an annoyed look at Spike. "Spike, try to show a little discretion here. I think that pony just broke Rarity." They both glanced over towards Rarity, who looked as though she had seen a ghost and was mumbling continuously, mostly repeating the same few things over and over. "The dirt.. and the smell… dirt and the smell… so revolting… brutish… uncouth… dirty! Smelly knave…"
A familiar rumbling assaulted Twilight's stomach. "Alright, I don't care where we are, we all need some food. Let's find the restaurant that's the least…"-- here she glanced towards the near-catatonic Rarity-- "…dirty." Twilight thought to herself that maybe it would do them all a world of good to sit down, have a good meal, and think about what to do next.
The purple filly spotted a promising-looking noodle shop, sandwiched between "Happy Hoof Shoes" and "Super Wing Deli" (which was adorned with a cute illustration of a pegasus pony's wing). It looked relatively well-maintained, and a large neon sign glowed with the inviting message "NOODLES - OPEN 24/7".
Twilight led the shell-shocked Rarity up the short ramp towards the restaurant's door and peered inside. Although the windows were a little grimy-- a far cry from the gleaming clean cities of Equestria-- compared to the surroundings, the interior of the noodle house looked downright pristine. "This one looks pretty good." She magicked the door open, causing a chain of small tingling bells hanging from the hinge to ring.
A waiter pony approached the party, his orange pelt well groomed, his mane trimmed short and neat. "Table for three?" Twilight nodded, and the orange stallion gestured towards a large booth near the back.
The traveling companions seated themselves at the table, and the waiter pony reached into his saddlebags with his muzzle and deftly pulled out three menus, placing them on the table in front of Twilight. He then left the party alone with the menus, and with their thoughts.
CHAPTER II: I Don't Think We're In Equestria Any More
As she contemplated the noodle house's menu, Twilight began to calm down a bit, her cool-thinking rationality overcoming the confusion and fear that she was feeling from finding herself transported to this strange place. Now that she had found herself in this bizarre situation, what would she do about it? Well, the first question was "what to eat?" Wherever she was, Mareslow's hierarchy of needs fiercely demanded obedience, and the mare was hungry.
Twilight gazed over the menu. The selection of drinks was somewhat unusual. Oat-a-Cola? That sounded good; anything with oats was good. Hay smoothies? Naah, she could have those anywhere. In addition to the interesting-sounding cola, there was a small selection of other sodas on the menu, none of which Twilight had ever heard of.
The food menu was likewise unusual to her. After reviewing the options available to her, she settled on something called "vegetable lo mane", which looked pretty good from the menu's description.
Twilight realized that the waiter pony was hovering over the table, awaiting everyone's orders. "Ah, umm, hello," she offered, caught off guard by the waiter's sudden appearance.
"Hello, you ready to order?"
"Uh, yes," the mare said. "I'll have the vegetable lo mane with oats… an Oat-a-Cola… and a side of brown rice."
The waiter repeated back her order. When she confirmed that he had it correct, he moved on to Rarity. "And for you, miss?"
Rarity, curled up in a corner of the booth, was too busy twitching and trembling to even hear her. "Umm… she'll have what I'm having," offered Twilight, quickly adding "I hope."
The waiter nodded. "For you, sir?," he inquired towards Spike, who was beginning to lick his lips at the prospects of a nice big meal, however strange the environment.
"I'll take a double order of the house dumplings, extra spicy, please. And could I get rubies on the side?"
"I'm sorry, what do you want on the side?," responded the waiter quizzically.
"Rubies. You know, the gems!"
The waiter looked at Spike as though he had three heads. "Terribly sorry, we do not serve rubies."
Spike looked disappointed. "Okay. Diamonds, then."
The waiter blinked. "We don't serve gems. Just food. I'm sorry." Confusion was written all over his face.
"Awww," mumbled Spike under his breath. "Okay. Just the dumplings then. And some water."
With everypony's orders taken care of, the waiter scooped up the menus, neatly tucking them into his saddlebag alongside half a dozen more just like them. He then left towards the direction of the kitchen.
Twilight quietly tapped a hoof on the table in thought. "Alright. First things first: Spike, take down an urgent letter to Princess Celestia, please."
"Ready when you are!," Spike offered, pulling out a scroll and a quill. Twilight began to dictate:
"Dear Princess Celestia:
It is with some hesitation that I contact you in this manner. Nonetheless, I fear that this is a matter of the utmost urgency, both for myself as well as, potentially, for all of Equestria. It would appear that some sort of evil enchantment has overtaken Fillydelphia. I am here right now, with Rarity and Spike, but everything and everypony is completely different than the city I know. We cannot seem to come back out the way that we came in, so as far as I can tell, whatever spell took us here is one-way! Please ensure that warning notices are posted just outside the road leading into Fillydelphia, so that nopony else will be trapped in this strange place.
Your faithful student,
"Twilight… Sparkle," repeated Spike, his hand starting to cramp up after writing such a lengthy scroll. "Okay, should I send it?"
Twilight looked over to Rarity, who was cowering in a corner of the booth, shivering uncontrollably and mumbling quietly to herself, "S-so filthy… so much dirt…. the smells… ghastly… simply awful!". Grimacing, Twilight turned back to Spike. "Uhh… better add this:"
"P.S. My Princess, I most humbly ask that you please send help soon. I fear that this place is having a terrible effect on Rarity."
"Okay, now send it," Twilight said, nodding.
"Coming right up!" said Spike with great enthusiasm. Rolling up the unusually lengthy message scroll, he drew a breath and blew upon it, the parchment dissolving into a wisp of magic and disappearing into thin air.
A split second later, the same scroll reappeared, hovering several feet over Spike's head. Falling, it hit him squarely between the ears. "Aah!," the dragon startled, looking about him to figure out what had just landed on him. He picked the scroll up off the ground. "A response, already? That's im…" He cut himself off. "Wait a second… Twilight! This is the same scroll!"
Twilight facehoofed. "Great. Uhh, Spike, sorry to be a pest about this, but could you try sending the scroll again? Maybe something just… went wrong… that time." Despite her tone of annoyance, a look of very real concern was overwhelmingly apparent upon the purple pony's brow. She'd never seen a letter "bounce" like this.
Spike rubbed his head where the scroll had bonked him. "I donno, Twilight, this has never happened to me before. But, sure, I guess. Here goes again!"
Again the minuscule dragon breathed upon the scroll, and again it flickered out of existence in puffs of magical flame. This time, it reappeared just in front of Spike's face, making him recoil slightly. "Same thing… oh, man. Twilight, I think we're in big trouble!"
Twilight sighed. "Spike, I'm afraid I have to agree…" She lapsed into thought, for the moment lost for words. Fortunately, at that very moment, the waiter arrived with a welcome distraction, namely their food.
The three hungry travelers ate their unusual breakfast in stunned silence. It took Rarity a while to calm down enough to touch her meal, but eventually she, too, ate her fill.
When they had finished, Twilight called over the waiter and asked for the check. Said check was covered in the strange symbols that they had seen on the signs outside, but fortunately the total was written in numbers she could understand: "26".
Twilight levitated 30 bits out of her saddlebags into a neat pile on the table, then motioned the waiter over. However, when he saw the pile of coins, he simply wrinkled his brow and said "I'm sorry, we don't take Canternadian money." Then a look of shock overtook him. "Wait. That's not Canternadian money. Is that GOLD? That's worth a fortune! Where are you ponies from anyways?"
Other diners were beginning to stare. Twilight winced. "Just a small town, not far from here. We just … lost our money, is all."
The waiter pony grinned broadly. "It's okay. We'll take the gold instead." Twilight, now aware of the unusually extreme value of gold in this strange place, was not ready to be taken for a foal.
"Look, we really have to get going. Tell you what… you can have one bit… uhh, one gold coin, and we'll just be on our way now." Twilight quickly levitated the other 29 bits into her saddlebag, closed it as tightly as she could, and trotted as fast as diplomatically possible towards the door.
"We'd be happy to accept more gold if you want!," the waiter called after the unicorns, quickly pocketing the sizable bit of gold as the shocked stares of a dozen pairs of eyes followed the clueless strangers all the way out of the noodle shop.
Twilight led the party at a brisk trot along what seemed to be a relatively major thoroughfare, keeping watch on her suddenly much-more-valuable-seeming saddlebags. "Rarity, Spike, we have to sell our bits. For some reason, they're worth a fortune here. As long as we have them on us, I don't think we're safe. Did you see how the other ponies in the restaurant were looking at us?"
Rarity had finally recovered enough composure to respond. Trotting along beside Twilight, she offered, "In our Equestria, jewelry shops usually buy and sell gold items. Perhaps what we need is a jewelry shop!"
Twilight nodded. "Good idea," she agreed. "I think I see one just ahead. Or, at least, I think it's a jewelry shop." She led the party towards a somewhat seedy-looking shop labeled "KING PAWN - JEWELRY/GUNS/ELECTRONICS". Well, at least the word 'Jewelry' made sense.
Entering the shop, Twilight approached the counter. She was struck by the security precautions in place in the small store: There were bars in the windows, and in one corner stood a tough-looking earth pony dressed in a uniform jacket reading 'SECURITY'. What sort of nightmare world had she stumbled into?
"Excuse me, sir," Twilight began, addressing the pawnbroker, a surly-looking red pegasus pony. "Do you buy gold?"
"Yeah, I buy gold," the shopkeeper stallion said. "How much do you have?"
"I think we have around a hundred bits."
"I'm sorry, bits?"
Rarity sighed loudly behind Twilight. Finally having regained her composure, she was not about to let her eggheaded friend get taken advantage of. "Darling, allow me," she asided to Twilight, gently nudging her out of the way and addressing the pawnbroker directly.
"What my rather…confused… friend was trying to say," began Rarity, smiling her best salespony's smile and batting her eyes at the red stallion, "is that we have between us around one hundred ounces of only the purest of gold. We are…"-- she paused to think only briefly-- "collectors of foreign currency, and in our travels through… Canternadia… we came across an estate sale, at which we purchased these lovely foreign coins." While she said this, she leisurely strolled along the full length of the thick plexiglass counter, making quite certain to ensure that the shopkeeper had a good view of her slowly swaying hindquarters. The shopkeeper's wings began to slowly flutter open. His tone considerably softer now, he asked, "Could I see some of the merchandise?"
"Oh, but of course, darling. After all, we are here to conduct an equitable exchange, are we not?" Rarity let off a giggle, winking in the direction of the shopkeeper as she levitated three bits out of her saddlebags and onto the counter. The shopkeeper, for his part, could not contain his grin-- or his wings, which had unfurled to their full wingspan over the course of Rarity's little stroll. "Ah… yes. The merchandise," the shopkeeper stammered, sliding the coins under a well-worn magnifying glass mounted to the top of the counter.
"These are beautiful," the red stallion said, his mouth watering a little. "Not as beautiful as you, of course," he added, grinning a big horsey grin at the white unicorn.
"Oh, my good sir, you flatter me," Rarity cooed, feigning modesty, tilting her head at a coquettish angle. "So, darling, how much do you think you could offer us for each of these lovely coins?"
"Uhh… right. The price… well, uh, to be honest, usually we buy gold for around a hundred bucks an ounce, but, umm…"
Five minutes later, the party walked out of the pawn shop, their saddlebags stuffed full of nearly twelve hundred small silvery coins. Rarity looked back to Twilight and beamed. "One hundred and twenty thousand bucks!," she exclaimed. "Give or take. Darling, I think we're pretty much set for money now."
Twilight seemed to be in shock. "Okay, how exactly did you know how much you could get for those?"
Rarity smiled beatifically and gave a proud sway of her tail. "While I was showing off my charms to the shopkeeper, I took a look at what he was selling gold for. It's simple math, darling!"
Twilight smiled back. "You know, Rarity, I'm really glad I took you along on this trip." She grinned bashfully, adding, "Umm, except for the whole 'getting transported into a strange city where nothing makes sense' part."
Rarity closed her eyes, smiling proudly. "It's quite alright, dearie. I'm certain we'll be back home in no time."
Spike, chewing on a sapphire, piped up from between Twilight's now very heavy saddlebags. "Uh, Twilight? Did you look at these coins yet?"
Twilight frowned. "No, why? Oh no, they aren't fake, are they?"
Spike shook his head. "No, no, no, nothing like that. They're real-- at least, I think they are. They taste pretty terrible, though. But look at what they say on them!"
Twilight turned around and lowered her eyelids at her dragon companion. "Thank you, Spike, I will. But please don't eat all our new money, okay?" (In response, Spike grinned bashfully.)
Levitating one of the coins in front of her eyes, Twilight squinted as she focused on the tiny writing on the silvery disc. The "heads" side of the coin bore the portrait of a distinguished-looking stallion wearing small round glasses. Twilight read out the legend: "UNITED STATES OF AMAREICA - 100 BUCKS." Turning the coin over, spotting another line of text above an intricate engraving of a stallion bucking, she read:
"IN LUNA WE TRUST?!"
To be continued…