Lillian Fogarty held the small, white plastic cup in her hand, smiling at it. Inside the cup swirled a purple fluid, shining like oil, it danced with metallic sparkles and, as she held it close to her eye, what seemed like tiny specks of unearthly light. The cup contained 'potion' - ponification serum, a nanotechnomagical fluid made of human manufactured microscopic machines powered by the unearthly energies of the alien cosmos of Equestria.
It had been one and a quarter years since the initial emergence of Equestria from the pacific ocean and the effort to transform humanity in order to save it from annihilation was well under way. Billions had been already been converted, but this was only a beginning, and not every human agreed with the mutual plan of both the corporate world government and the twin monarchs of the invading cosmos. The Conversion Bureaus were everywhere, on every continent, and gigantic factory complexes had been dedicated to meeting the incessant need for serum.
Today was Lillian's birthday. She was nineteen, and inside the cup was her birthday present to herself; a one-way ticket to the thing she coveted the most in all of two worlds - the life of a pretty mare in the lush, green fairyland that was Equestria. She had done her required fourteen days in the Vancouver Conversion Bureau, and had been called for the coveted morning slot. In almost every Bureau, the morning conversion was considered the best time to be transformed because of the fuss made over the new convert at lunchtime. There would be congratulations, cheers, and of course the grand excitement of 'First Meal As A Pony'; morning conversion essentially meant a sort of birthday party at lunch for the lucky newfoal that was selected for that slot.
Lillian felt very lucky today. Her parents had not found her, she had managed to arrange her conversion exactly on her birthday - the staff had been most accommodating on that matter, especially since she had made arrangements with them months before - and she had even been given the morning slot. This was easily the best birthday ever.
Her mother and father had not wanted her to 'go pony' - they were unconvinced of the necessity of ponification and still held great stock in the resourcefulness of the world government to find a way to halt the expansion of Equestria. They had been adamant that Lillian should not ever approach a Conversion Bureau, and they were dubious about the entire enterprise.
"You have no idea what being one of those... creatures... is even like! They're not human, Lill! If you turn into one of those things you are certainly no daughter of mine!" Lillian's mother slammed her hand down on the table; her lips drew together in a cross between a scowl and a pucker. "You have your whole life ahead of you! You can't just throw it all away to become some... barnyard freak!"
Lillian stormed around the kitchen, her hands waving in frustration "MOOOMM! You just don't UNDERSTAND! What about Amblecanter - you know, Millicent Bourns? Huh? She's been your friend for years, and now she's a UNICORN! She's a freaking unicorn! You don't hate her for that do you? What's wrong with being that? What's wrong with MY being that?"
"I don't even know Milly! She's not my friend. She's never been my friend. We're just acquaintances because we live in the same building. What she does with her life is her business, and has nothing to do with you." Janice Fogarty turned away and began to make coffee. "You're my daughter, you're a human being, and there is no way you are becoming one of those... things."
"Amblecanter used to be your friend! You USED to go shopping with her and go on trips, you just dumped her because she became an Equestrian. You're a bigot, mom! That's what this is about! You're a god damned bigot!"
The slap surprised Lillian. It also surprised her mother too. Especially so because, in the back of her mind, Janice felt there was some truth to her daughter's words. "You may be turning nineteen soon, but that does NOT mean that you have the right to disrespect me in my own house! That's enough of this, Lillian. I'll have no more talk about these Bureaus any more! Is that understood?" Janice gave her daughter her meanest look; she wanted this to end, now.
Lillian nursed her cheek with the back of her hand and glared. "Fine." She held back her tears; she would not give her mother the satisfaction. "Mom." Lillian didn't stomp, or shout or say another word. She simply left. She had plans already in motion. To hell with her bigot of a mother.
Now she sat naked on the stainless steel platform in Clinic 013, holding her birthday present in her hand. The cup smelled of grape.
"Are you OK? Are you having second thoughts, Lillian?" Doctor Treasen gave her a kindly smile, his small mustache lifting at the corners.
"No! Oh, no way, doctor. I was just... thinking. About how I got here and stuff. That's all. Here -" Lillian swallowed the contents quickly, as she had been told. "See? All gone!" She proudly handed the cup to doctor Treasen.
"Lie down, now. The anesthetic hits pretty quickly." Doctor Treasen's PA, Olivia, helped Lillian to lay down on her side. She was feeling the effects very strongly now. "Happy...birthday to....m..." Lillian's eyes closed for the last time as a human and within seconds her skin suddenly turned white as dough as the ponification serum went to work.
During her fourteen days at the Conversion Bureau, Lillian had seen many other applicants called to the conversion room. When they returned as ponies, they were sometimes groggy, sometimes they stumbled, still learning how to use their new legs, often they were excited and filled with smiles. But not one regretted the transformation, and all were happy to talk about what it was like, and some were willing to speak of the dream.
The dream was, as far as anyone could tell, universal to those who went through conversion. Even those who had suffered forcible conversion, say by the actions of the rogue PER - Ponification for Earth's Rebirth - had claimed a time of unconsciousness where they experienced the dream. Not every newfoal would tell their dream; some clutched it tightly to them, either as a treasure or as a burden, but none would state with conviction that they had experienced nothing.
The matter of conversion dreams was a source of endless debate; a conversation made all the more interesting by the fact that all conversion dreams held certain elements in common. There was almost universally the sensation of running as part of a vast herd of equinoid forms. There was a feeling of belonging. But above all was the experience of meeting, in some form or guise or representation, two great beings of power, beings that could only be the monarchs of Equestria, Celestia and Luna.
Lillian had looked forward to this experience the most; it was a matter of great fascination to her. She had spent all of her days at the Bureau wondering what her own conversion dream would be like, and she had become known for relentlessly questioning newfoals about their dream experiences.
Lillian was running, as fast as she could, across a vast green flatness. This was a common situation she had heard described many times by many newfoals, and she was astonished to find herself reflecting on this fact. She knew she was dreaming - and this was astonishing! Conversion dreams were lucid dreams! As she ran, she imagined her body going though changes on that table, somewhere in the 'real' world, elsewhere, not here. Wherever here actually was.
She waited for the expected arrival of countless ghostlike equinoid forms to approach and run beside her, to sweep her into the herd. This also was common in conversion dreams. There, in the distance, as she ran, she saw the herd, approaching. Thousands and thousands of shapes, not solid, but more the ideal, the essence of the equestrian form, running as one, all coming closer and closer to her. Soon she would be accepted, and run with them. Many newfoals described this, and she was thrilled to see it happening for her.
The vast herd came near. The etherial shape of a stallion-like entity regarded her. Suddenly it reared in shock. The herd stumbled and began falling over itself. Lillian found she could not stop running. In an instant the frightened, halting spectral herd was behind her. She looked down at her legs, her four, equine legs and tried to will them to stop, but they would not. She ran faster now, against her will. Her last vision of the herd was that of it bowing down as one, before she ran off what seemed to be a cliff. Lillian fell into some strange space, half glowing sky, half starlit space.
Lillian suddenly felt cold, a chill that touched her very soul, and filled her with a terrible dread. She felt afraid to look up, but the choice was taken from her. Her etherial body rotated in space, as if held by some tremendous force, until she found herself staring into the vast eyes of two shimmering shapes that filled the bowl of the split sky.
The vast forms of princess Celestia and princess Luna, the absolute immortal monarchs, the literal goddesses of Equestria stared down at her, their expressions indecipherable, their eyes riveted upon Lillian. The vast eyes widened, the pupils shrank within them, and Lillian felt the force of their stare reach out and take hold of her.
Lillian felt herself being squeezed, crushed under the implacable glare; she felt her existence being diminished, as if she were the tiny flame of a candle, being snuffed by two vast fingers. Soundlessly, she screamed into the divided void, her own eyes rolling in terror from the dome that was night to the hemisphere that was day.
Suddenly, something in her, something she had never felt and never known, something beyond her understanding or conception rose up from within and violently opposed the crushing force. She wished only to flee, to escape this horror beyond space or time, and in that wish the something within her again took action.
Lillian felt herself dragged away from the monarchs, away from the divided space, and flung down in some direction she could not imagine, away, far away from the grasp of this horrific vision.
The next thing Lillian experienced was her own heartbeat, loud and fast, pounding in her new ears.
She violently opened her eyes, desperate to see, to escape the nightmare, to know that she was fully awake. Her breathing was rapid and gasping; she felt damp with her own terrified sweat.
"...You will follow procedure exactly on this, do you understand!" It was doctor Treasen. Lillian could hear him speaking with an angry, upset tone, his words clipped, his voice barely controlled.
"But doctor, she's only just a little girl, she has no concept of... " That was the Physician's Assistant, Olivia. She also sounded upset, almost pleading.
"Do. You. Understand?" Doctor Treasen's words were not a question, they were a command.
"I.... I understand, sir." Olivia's voice was almost a whimper.
Through this exchange, Lillian had not moved or made a sound. The terror she had experienced in her dream was still with her, and some instinct deep within her told her to play dead, to pretend to be unconscious. With effort she had closed her eyelids, though she could not manage to do so completely; she left just the tiniest of cracks open in her right eye, hoping no one would notice. She needed to see something, to feel aware of her surroundings, even if the only thing within her vision was a blank wall and part of a shelf.
Lying still, barely breathing now, she sensed someone leaning over her. She felt the hot breath of doctor Treasen hover over her head for a moment, then heard him move away.
"If she begins to regain consciousness, inject her with this." Lillian heard the sound of things being moved, passed from one hand to another with a tiny smack. "Do not wait, do not hesitate, do you understand? This is not just because of protocol, this could be a matter of life and death. But don't do it until you are sure; we can't be sure of what will happen. This is a last resort only. If it doesn't work, hit the button and get the hell out. I don't have to tell you why; it's armed."
"I'll make the call. Remember, this is a Code Majeste. This is the real thing. You know the protocol. Do not take any chances. This won't take three minutes, I'll be right back. Just keep watch, and do what you have to do. God dammit. A god damned Code Majeste! God... dammit."
Lillian heard the large metal door of the conversion room open and after a short pause, close.
Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong, and she had no idea what to do about it.