"You seem to be drifting, Lyra."
The words continued to echo in Lyra's mind as she slumped against her sofa, slurping down the remains of a week-old bottle of soda. Drifting. That was what Davenport had said to her almost five months ago now when he'd noticed she had been sitting on the same bench in the park every day for the past four weeks. First thing in the morning until late afternoon, she had curled up on her favourite seat and watched the world go by, reliving happier times. Then she would go home, plant her hindquarters in the worn dimple in her favourite sofa, and spend the rest of the evening alone. It wasn't a bad life, by any means.
Idly she prodded her belly. It wobbled back at her. She was letting herself go: she knew it, everypony knew it. Davenport knew it, which is why he'd given her the job of Quill Clerk at his 'Quills and Sofas' store. After that, her life had continued with slightly more purpose: get up, go to work, count quills (even though there weren't that many quills to count in the first place), go home, eat dinner, go to bed, repeat.
She was still drifting.
As she drained the last drops of flat fizz from her bottle, Lyra threw it into the middle of the room where it landed with a crunch on top of the mounds of rubbish that covered the carpet. At some point, Lyra thought, she'd have to have a clear-up. That had always been Bon-Bon's job.
Beside her, the sofa was empty as it had been for the past six months. The "Lodger Needed" sign lay on the sideboard, once more Lyra decided that she could put it up "tomorrow". From underneath the rubbish that sprawled across the carpet there came a worrying rustling, and out of the kitchen wafted an acrid, burning smell.
The kitchen! This was enough to rouse Lyra from her temporary stupor, leaping onto the floor and wading hoof-deep through the litter that covered her sitting room until she was coughing and spluttering in front of the oven, doing her best to wave away the smoke as she extracted the remains of her dinner. She looked down at the blackened charcoal mass that sat in its foil tray and hesitantly prodded it with a fork.
The prongs of the fork broke through the black crust and hit ice crystals.
"Oh come on!" Lyra threw her head back in frustration at the utter failure of her culinary exercise. This had never happened when Bon-Bon lived there. It was only recently that Lyra had begun to realise how much she'd needed Bon-Bon: cooking for her, picking up after her, being there for her. Eating ready-meals from the market alone in the house was no substitute for real company.
With a grumble, Lyra jammed the fork into her 'meal'. "It'll do
" she muttered to herself as her horn sparkled with magic, lifting the red-hot tray into the air to follow along beside her as she trotted back to what could charitably be called her 'sitting room'. It was still light outside; she could eat her dinner, finally write that letter, and then go to bed.
She knew she was kidding herself of course. The letter lay on a table, carefully balanced atop stacks of books, crisp packets, socks and mysterious stains. It had sat there for six months unsullied by the touch of any quill as Lyra stared at it night after night, unsure of what to write.
"Dear Bon-Bon," it began, and then stopped in a sea of blank paper. Every day while counting her quills at work, Lyra imagined what she would write. She would form incredible dialogues in her mind, concise, beautiful, elegant words to the only pony she had ever cared about. Every night, she came back and couldn't think of a single word to say.
Some days she wanted to write a nice, pleasant missive hoping that Bon-Bon was enjoying her new job and new life in Manehatten, and reminding her of what a lovely place Ponyville was and perhaps she should pop by sometimes. Other days she wanted to curse Bon-Bon's name, ask her how she could leave her oldest friend, how she could run off to the big city and abandon poor little Lyra. Most days though, she wanted to pour her heart out, tell Bon-Bon how she really felt, why she didn't build up the courage to tell her before, stop her from moving away. How she loved her.
Of course, then Bon-Bon might actually write back. While the question remained unasked, while the paper remained unmarked, Lyra still had that small glimmer of hope, and so she found herself living in a semi-limbo one identical day to the next.
"Holy hay!" Lyra spat out a particularly burnt unidentifiable chunk from her dinner as she was distracted from her private pity party by the sight of one of the books that lay underneath the letter on the table. It had been there for months, undisturbed, but she had only just noticed the sticker on the side.
Ponyville Public Library.
She looked up at the afternoon sun that hung lazily in the sky outside. The library would still be open. The late fine was going to be huge.
Lyra ducked her head cautiously into the library, the offending book hidden in a saddlebag that was slung across her side. "Twilight?" she called out, moving further into the empty library. "Twilight?"
Hearing no response, she dashed across to the nearest shelf and started to push the book into a suitable looking gap. Unfortunately this was the exact moment when Ponyville's premier librarian trotted into the room.
"Oh, hi Twilight!" Lyra grinned as wide as she could as she attempted to cover up her misdemeanour. "I was just passing the library and I thought I'd take a look at a book when
" she pulled the book out, flicking it open to the front page. "Oh look, this book which I had taken out and then brought back months and months ago before the due date hadn't been stamped as returned! How lucky I just noticed that!" She gave a nervous laugh.
Twilight didn't seem particularly interested, rolling her eyes and turning to a lectern upon which rested an ancient, tattered tome. "Right, right, I see!" she called out, peering at her book through a large magnifying lens.
Lyra looked guiltily at her own book, pushing it back into the space on the shelf before sidling up to Twilight. Whilst glad she had gotten away with the late return, it seemed a bit too easy. Was Twilight just toying with her? "What's that?" she asked, glancing over Twilight's shoulder as she feigned interest. A quick, polite conversation to make sure some nasty trap involving paying a lot of bits wasn't about to be sprung, and she could get back to her house for an early night.
"I'm glad you asked!" Twilight perked up suddenly at the interest taken in her work. "This is a copy of one of the oldest books in the Canterlot library! It's old, really old, thousands of years old! Think about it, such history!
Lyra looked at the yellowed pages attempting to feel some degree of excitement. It looked just like any other old book though, and remarkably similar to some of the things which may have been lurking on her floor. "That's nice," she muttered before frowning at a greyish-purple mark smeared across the pages of the book. "It's got a smudge. Did you do that?"
"No!" Twilight became even more animated, sending a curl of magic to pick up a nearby beaker full of water and placed it next to the book. "This morning, that 'smudge' as you so eloquently put it was a full half a millimetre smaller! Do you see what that means?"
Lyra blinked blankly. "That it got bigger?" she ventured. She wasn't particularly in the mood for a science lecture at the moment.
"Yes!" Twilight started to carefully scrape at the page of the book with a blunt spatula, scooping up minute granules of purple dust. "It's not a stain, it seems to be some sort of lichen or fungus, growing on this page for maybe thousands of years! I've looked in all the reference books and can't identify it! Perhaps they'll name it after me! The 'Twilight Sparkle'!"
Twilight dropped the granules into the beaker, the contents of which almost immediately turned a purple-grey. "That's wonderful Twilight, I'm so happy for you," Lyra deadpanned as Twilight motioned at her to get a closer look at the purple water. An early night had never seemed so enticing. She started to rub the back of her neck nervously, "look Twilight, I know this is all exciting and a new dawn for science, but I've got a lot to do back home and really need to get going
She trailed off. Twilight just continued to stare in fascination at her beaker. "Oh, sure, fine!" she called, not breaking eye contact with the jar for one moment. "Say hi to Bon-Bon for me next time you see her!"
Lyra grimaced as she turned away. "Yeah," she sighed. "I'll get right on that."
Half an hour afterwards, Lyra was finally back and settled into her sofa, gulping down the last of her inedible meal. The short delay had at least helped the inner icy core to melt slightly, though not entirely. The sun still shone brightly in the sky; whilst Lyra would have been happy to go to bed at this time, it did feel a bit of a shame. There was still the ritual of staring at her blank letter to undergo for the day. Picking up her quill in a sparkle of magic, she sighed and focused on the sheet, trying to will the words to write themselves down.
Half-way across Ponyville, Twilight Sparkle frowned at the water in her beaker. It had started to solidify, turning thicker and thicker in gloopy purple strands which seemed to twist and grow and pulse in the glass container. She did the one thing she shouldn't have. She took her quill and poked it.
Half a second later it was the beginning of the end for Equestria.
There was something wrong with Lyra's quill. She let out a small squeak of surprise as it started to drip ink onto the page. "No, no, I'm not ready!" she cried out to the quill, giving it a quick shake and cursing at her bad luck. To her astonishment, the quill itself started to drip, slowly losing its form and colour until it resembled nothing more than a thin streak of purple sludge. Lyra quickly released her magic field in shock and the remains of the quill fell onto the letter in a watery splash, coating the messy contents of the table in an ooze.
" Lyra watched as the ooze started to seep over her belongings, which melted before her eyes into the goo as if it was some deadly acid or lava. It didn't melt through the table though, not straight away. Instead it dripped lazily down the sides in thick dollops, quickly gaining more and more mass with each item it ate. Then as it completely coated the table, the entire structure shuddered and collapsed in a splash as if it had been made of goo the whole time.
Lyra gave a shriek and jumped back as several drops flew in her direction. Stumbling backwards to avoid the touch of the liquid, she almost stepped into another puddle, which had pooled in the heap of rubbish on the floor behind her, separate to the first pool. Swallowing hard, she made for the safety of her sofa, only to see purple splotches appearing rapidly across the cushions, before that too was covered in purple ooze and collapsed with a slosh as if it had never been there. Lyra did the one thing she was good at.
The lazy afternoon air of Ponyville was filled with pandemonium as Lyra bolted outside. Screams were coming from more and more houses as ponies raced about in utter confusion, ooze dribbling out from the doorways of half the homes. Across the street the purple goo finished coating an ornamental pot plant, which vanished into a shower of slime that spread out further. At the same instant, all the other pot plants started to explode into puddles of ooze as well.
"What's going on? What's happening?" Lyra tried to grab the nearest pony, but no-one would stop and talk, they were too busy running and screaming. Soon the entire population of Ponyville was outside or at least Lyra hoped it was, since every house seemed like it was overflowing with ooze, the invasion of the slime increasing at an exponential rate without rhyme or reason.
In the distance, Lyra saw that ponies had started to gather in the park, which was so far free of the infestation. She started to run towards the growing crowd as behind her long globs of slime began to trickle down the windows of Ponyville.
"My sofa exploded! It's a miracle I wasn't sitting on it!"
"What about my store?"
"I was about to write a letter, and my quill just turned to goo!"
Lyra pushed her way through the crowd of babbling voices, at every turn seeing the vaguely familiar faces of her fellow Ponyvillians as they huddled around the park fountain next to whatever possessions they rescued from their houses. On top of the fountain was balanced the Mayor, who was trying and failing to maintain any sense of order.
"Calm down, calm down!" The Mayor called over the angry cries of the citizenry, her eyes constantly flicking to the ooze-stricken Ponyville. "I don't know what this is, but I'm sure Twilight Sparkle will have a solution."
This seemed to please the crowd as all attention suddenly turned to a rather cowed-looking Twilight. She gave a grimace as she turned away from the destruction that was quickly sweeping through Ponyville, slightly shame-faced. "I
I don't know what's happening!" she admitted with a shrug. "I tried every spell I could think of, it seems to be spreading so quickly, I don't know where it's coming from!"
The ooze was quickly flowing from doorways into the empty streets of Ponyville now, bubbling and growing with every inch of the ground covered. A large tendril snaked its way up a lamppost, and with an almighty splash, the entire lamppost turned to purple liquid and crashed into the main body of the ooze. At the same moment, all the lampposts in Ponyville took on the same purple pallid colour as they too fell victim to the scourge.
Lyra realised at that moment what was happening. Twilight was faster though. Twilight was always faster.
"Of course!" Twilight suddenly exclaimed, regaining some of her lost dignity. "T-the first thing it ate was a quill!" Several heads turned to her, quizzical as to how she could have known this. Twilight continued, not realising her slip. "But
but it didn't just eat a quill, it ate all quills! It ate the concept of a quill! Every single quill in Ponyville, turning to slime at once! And then everything the slime touched turned to more slime!"
She pointed at a rather shaken looking Davenport, who was half-hugging a suitcase full of the few belongings he had managed to grab before evacuation. "And where are most quills? At 'Quills and Sofas', so it ate the sofas, and then all sofas turned to ooze! Whatever it is, it keeps growing exponentially, as it consumes more and more
Twilight trailed off. It was absolutely ridiculous and against all laws of nature, but perhaps not against all laws of magic. If the slime really could devour concepts, if absorbing one of something meant it absorbed all of them, then
It didn't take long to work out the implications.
"Drop everything," Twilight suddenly screamed. "Run!"
It was too late. The ooze had seeped through all the houses in Ponyville, absorbing everything in its path. Some ponies had rescued what they could, but there were other items, similar items, still in Ponyville.
To the left of Lyra there was a scream as a pony clutching a small raggedy doll suddenly found the doll exploding with a splash into purple slime, covering their hooves and face in gunk. Lyra tried to move to help but found herself frozen with fear, watching as the ooze started to spread over the helpless pony.
Around her, every pony wearing a saddlebag quickly discovered their saddlebags collapsing into gunge, splattering across their backs as they raced around, trying without success to scrape off the gloop. The park was full of screams and the thunder of hooves as every pony who was currently free of the ooze attempted to escape. In front of Lyra a pink, green-maned pony collapsed. She had been wearing a saddlebag which was now a streak of goo across her back. As Lyra watched, stunned, the pony's back seemed to melt, slowly dribbling into a puddle on the floor, their forehooves trembling as they cried out, trying to pull themselves free.
It was like the pony was being eaten by the world. The sight would have been comical, if the pony hadn't been looking at Lyra with large, trembling eyes as they slowly melted into a mushy-grey slime, hoof outstretched towards Lyra's own.
Lyra took the hoof until it was the only thing left of the poor pony, just dangling out of the puddle before it too was consumed. There was nothing she could do. The screams echoing all around her, Lyra took one final look at the helpless scene, and began to run.
She hadn't even known that pony's name.
Lyra could count about thirty ponies that had managed to escape from Ponyville. Twilight was one of them of course, all of her friends as well. They seemed to be a charmed lot. She couldn't see Davenport anywhere; he had probably gone under quickly when the suitcase he was clutching exploded into purple goo. Lyra shuddered at the thought. Rose wasn't there either, nor Blues or Blossomforth. Hopefully they had escaped in a different direction, but deep down she knew that wasn't true.
She stood shivering atop a nearby hill as below her Ponyville simmered, slowly melting into a purple primordial ooze. The screams had stopped, though they had taken far, far longer to cease than she would have liked. There was a cold, clammy feeling around her heart as she watched the substance slowly seep out across Ponyville, streaking the houses with strands of purple as it continued to cover them.
It was hard to believe that barely an hour ago the worst thing in her life was a late library fine.
Nopony seemed to want to speak at that moment. All eyes were fixed on Ponyville as it swam in slime. The quiet after the screaming had stopped seemed all the more chilling for the lack of noise; even the birds had stopped their song, there was only the briefest whisper of wind as Ponyville continued to dissolve.
And then the surface of the ooze rippled into dozens of concave structures like mouths, and a deep multi-layered baritone pitch started to blare out from within its depths.
"Bow bow bow, bow bow bow."
It was nonsense, the same phrase repeated again and again with a simple melody, the sort of tune a small foal might hum out. "It's singing," Lyra whispered hoarsely as the noise echoed up across the hills and valleys, a terrible victory cry over the fallen Ponyville. "Why's it singing?"
I know what it is." Twilight's face turned pale as the watched the goo as it continued to warble its chorus. "Smooze," she stated, as if giving the substance a name could somehow make it seem more controllable. "I
I don't know much about it, but it's mentioned in some of the old texts. It attacked Equestria thousands of years ago, but they don't say much." She slumped slightly. "And it's eaten the books. All the books. I just hope "
Twilight didn't get to finish her sentence. Below, the Smooze had continued to cover Ponyville in its gunk, thick sloppy purple goo slowly climbing over the buildings until finally one had been completely coated. The moment the building was covered it collapsed into a wave of slime. With terrifying speed the rest of Ponyville followed suit, every abode surrendering into goo which crashed down with an almighty tremor, washing out with the speed and fury of a tidal wave.
Within moments, Ponyville was no more. In its place was a rapidly expanding lake of Smooze which continued to sing its meaningless song as it poured itself across the land.
Twilight was shaking now at the destruction being wrought. "I
I don't know what to do," she breathed. "It's eaten our homes, I only hope the Princess can stop it."
Even as Twilight tempted fate with those words, there were cries of shock, and Lyra followed the direction of the pointed hooves to see Canterlot in the distance. The shining white towers of Canterlot Castle were tinged a terrifying purple, and as the ponies on that lonely hill watched, the entire castle simply collapsed into a puddle, dripping off the mountainside like a melting ice-sculpture.
The sun flared and died. The bright yellow orb flickered until it was a pallid disk hanging in a grey, dim sky. The day had gone, but so had the night leaving only an eerie half-twilight.
" Twilight stumbled slightly and fell onto the ground in despair, gazing across at the mountainside where Canterlot once stood proud, now covered with a purple stain.
There was a thunderous crash from the south, and what looked like torrential rain begun to fall in the distance. Only it wasn't rain, it was purple Smooze, pouring down from the clouds as the remains of the Pegasus city of Cloudsdale sloughed into gloop.
It was in every city, all over Equestria, Lyra realised. When the Smooze had eaten Twilight's quill it had eaten every quill everywhere, not just in Ponyville. The strange creature had continued to grow faster and faster because it was consuming everything. Nowhere could be safe, the world was over before anyone had even realised. Trottingham, Phillydelphia, Manehatten
Bon-Bon was there. Wonderful, beautiful Bon-Bon. Had she known what was happening? Had she died in terrifying fear like the pony whose hoof Lyra had held earlier? Or had the entire metropolis exploded into Smooze in one mercifully short instant?
If Lyra hadn't been crying before, she definitely was now. Her cheeks pricked with hot tears as she tried and failed to comprehend the enormity of what had happened. The other ponies had started to talk, to plan, but she found herself dizzy with emotion. She would never get to talk to Bon-Bon, to bare her heart. The years of painful silence, months of living on her own, they all seemed even more painfully wasted now. It was too late.
"This is all your fault!" Lyra found herself launching forwards at Twilight, hooves punching wildly at the purple pony who tumbled to the ground, more out of surprise at the attack than any physical force on Lyra's behalf. "It's all over and it's all your stupid fault!" She couldn't even see Twilight through the mist of tears that befuddled her vision as she swung her hooves again and again. "I've wasted my life and now it's too late to do anything about it, and it's all your fault!" She was crying, shaking, her words barely coherent.
Almost as soon as she was on Twilight, a multitude of hooves pulled her off and she lay on the ground, pinned down by half a dozen other concerned ponies. "Hey sugarcube, calm down!" Lyra thought she could hear Applejack's voice over the noise of her own hyperventilating, but she couldn't be sure. "It ain't Twilight's fault! Jus' pull yourself together!"
"Yes, it is."
Lyra felt the grip on her slacken as all heads turned towards Twilight in shock. She sat up, wiping the tears from her face as she hugged herself tightly, listening to Twilight.
"It's my fault, all of this." Twilight looked at each of the ponies standing on the hillside in the dim light. "I found it in a book and didn't realise what it was until it was too late and
" She gulped heavily. "I've got an idea. If I can somehow capture a bit of Smooze, I could
reverse it. Make it eat itself up. It would vanish as quickly as it came. There would be nothing left."
Only the constant chanting of the Smooze in the distance broke up the awkward silence that followed.
"Fine!" Applejack was the first to speak, walking over to Twilight side, giving the trembling pony a hug. "Ah know ya'll can fix it Twilight, if nopony else can. An' if we have to start all over then, well so be it."
This was followed by a few nods from the remaining ponies, hesitant at first, but then more forceful. Only Lyra didn't join in. She collapsed back against the grass, staring up at the cold lifeless sky. Nothing seemed important anymore, but then again, when had it last? "I'm going to stay here," she muttered, more to herself than anyone else. "Alone."
Lyra stayed atop the hill as the others followed Twilight down to help against the Smooze in any way they could. The purple ooze now covered the lowlands for as far as the eye could see, a shimmering, mass that continually ate everything in its path as it sprawled through valleys and fields. The hilltop was surrounded by Smooze, which washed against the grass with the consistency of an ocean made of syrup. It didn't seem interested in eating the grass, Lyra noted in a detached manner as she saw the wave move back and forth. Perhaps it only ate things that were pony-made. Perhaps living things were different. Perhaps under the goo that coated the world, all the plants and trees were still there, trapped forever like a fly in amber. Whatever the answer, right now it didn't matter.
She shuddered at the echoing sounds of the Smooze's song which seemed to get louder and louder the more the Smooze grew. It was the only noise she could hear. Perhaps it would be the only noise that there would ever been in Equestria from this moment on.
By the time Twilight and the others had reached the lapping tide of the slowly rising Smooze, the surface had begun to mottle, with large white eyes leering out of the gloop and staring wildly around. At first Lyra had hoped that they were the ponies inside who were somehow breaking free, but she realised the inevitable truth.
It was the eyes of the Smooze. Soon all of Equestria would be Smooze like a vast, endless sea, forever singing to itself, with nothing to use its eyes for but to gaze upon its own terrible form and a dead, lifeless sky.
Lyra settled down on her haunches and did what she did best. She watched the world go by without her.
Twilight was casting some sort of spell in front of the Smooze. The other unicorns were helping her in some way. A small globule of Smooze was caught in a sphere of magic, detaching and floating above the rest. It was a good plan, and might have worked.
The Smooze seemed to realise what was going on. As Twilight stood in perfect concentration while she worked her magic, there was a ripple in the far distance, which grew and grew as it came closer until it became a wave of Smooze, two large eyes perched atop it, the wave gnashing as if a mouth.
"Run!" Lyra heart herself cry out to the ponies gathered with Twilight below. "Run, it's coming!" She started to gallop downhill towards them in a futile gesture, but it was too late. Twilight turned in surprise as the crest of the Smooze-wave broke over her, dragging her into the ocean of Smooze as she cried out for help. The rest followed, swept away in one horrible instant by that mighty purple wave until only Lyra remained, safe atop the hill.
She was alone. Perhaps the last pony in Equestria.
Lyra didn't know how long she sat atop the hill as the Smooze slowly climbed the sides towards her, inch by agonising inch, singing its awful song. It might have been a few hours, it might have been a few days. Alone, time ceased to have any meaning.
She thought of happier times, of growing up in the wonderful town of Ponyville where every day seemed to be an endless summer. She thought of Bon-Bon, and how she had congratulated her friend on her new job in Manehatten and hugged her and let her go without ever telling her how much she really cared, because the answer might just have broken her heart. She thought of how her life had been put on hold for the last six months because of her inability to move on or take a risk. She thought of how the Smooze ate concepts, but how when it absorbed just one pony, it didn't absorb them all. She thought about what it did absorb. She thought of how every pony had been pulled into that ooze screaming.
She thought of how the Smooze looked as it glooped listlessly over the remains of Equestria. Drifting.
Suddenly, she realised what the Smooze was.
Lyra leapt to her hooves, still shaking somewhat and wiping the last of the dried tears from her face. She ran, half skidding down the hillside towards the Smooze as it continued to ooze upwards, stopping just before she fell in.
The sight took her breath away. Hundreds of eyes stared at her from within the purple mass, that seemed to writhe and rock, stretching as far as she could see in all directions. Ill-defined mouths of all shapes and sizes continued to sing their chorus as Lyra watched, the last pony standing in front of the future of Equestria.
"Hello?" Lyra called out across the boundless ocean. The Smooze ignored her, its song persisting unabated. "I
I just want to say, I know what you are!" Lyra swallowed hard, her heart racing. If she was wrong, she was dead. Of course, within hours the Smooze would swallow her up anyway. It was just a matter of time.
As her words echoed across the desolate landscape, the singing stopped. Once more, silence reigned. And then the only voice in all of Equestria was Lyra's.
"You're scared. Of course you're scared!" Lyra looked at each of the pairs of eyes protruding from the goo. "You absorb things, and you took all the ponies. You took them when they were at their most terrified, or when they were trying to destroy you, you absorbed all that! You're scared! You want to live, of course you do!"
The Smooze maintained its silence. The mouths melted into the main mass, the eyes slowly swam towards Lyra until the hillside was surrounded with eyes of all sizes, watching her. It was all they could do.
"You ignored the world. You spread out, you did nothing but consume." She licked her lips, her voice quavering slightly. "Like me. We're the same, you and me. You took our homes, but I didn't have a home, just a house where I sat and ate and slept. I was so scared of breaking my heart that I locked myself away and forgot to live. I had the most wonderful, beautiful friend, and I was so scared of her rejecting me that I never told her, and now it's too late and I've got nothing left to show for it but regret. If you shut yourself away, if you become the only thing in your world, then that's not living. That's existing."
The world was still silent. Lyra stepped forwards, closer to the Smooze, gazing at the purple-grey slime. Only, the more she looked at it, the more she realised that it wasn't purple. It was red and violet and silver and mauve and bronze and a thousand different colours, all churning and swirling, like the results of putting two dozen ingredients in a mixing bowl and stirring hard. "You've got it all in you!" she breathed out. "You've eaten it, but it's all there. Ponyville, Canterlot, everything that there's ever been in the whole world, and it's in you. The world doesn't have to be like this, just an endless ocean of ooze forever existing and never living, it's your choice!"
There was no reply from the Smooze. It didn't understand.
The choice was made. Lyra steeled herself, and before the Smooze could react, leapt into its oozing depths. She sunk quickly, trying not to struggle as she felt her hooves start to melt into the main mass. It was a strange sensation, not painless at all, and at the edge of her mind she could feel something probing curiously at her thoughts. She kept them focused, repeating the same thing again and again as her head went under the ooze. You don't have to just exist. You can live.
The last thing she heard was a voice that seemed to come from everywhere in the universe at once.
Across Equestria the Smooze exploded as the world came back into being. Houses and carts suddenly reared up from its retreating mass, streets became full of pot plants and paving stones and small ornaments again. The sofas and quills were reformed as if they had never been dissolved, and all across Equestria ponies found themselves waking up, blinking at a bright blue sky and wondering what had happened. In an instant, the Smooze had vanished, spitting the world back out as it was.
Nopony knew quite what had happened, although there were plenty of theories. Some thought that Twilight Sparkle's spell had worked, and that the Smooze had consumed itself in a fit of madness, inadvertently wiping itself from having ever existed and so restoring the world. Others believed that after eating all the ponies, the Smooze was so overcome by their love and harmony that it had sacrificed itself to being back a better world. There were even those who maintained that everything was an illusion and that all of ponykind were still floating in the endless sea of Smooze, sharing a hallucination that the day had been saved.
All agreed however, that the Smooze was definitely gone from whatever plane or reality they believed themselves to be on. They were all of course, absolutely wrong.
Lyra awoke with a coughing fit on the hilltop as her lungs struggled with the unfamiliar sensation of air since just the moment before they had been full of Smooze. She thankfully grasped a hoof that was held out to her, and pulled herself up, taking in all at once the bright sun which was once again shining in the sky, and all the cities and towns of Equestria which were back where they should be. Everything was familiar, except...
She blinked in surprise at the pony who had helped her up. The pony smiled back in a sweet if distant manner. She was a small earth pony, completely unremarkable except that she was entirely purple. A purple coat with a light purple curly mane and bright purple eyes. Lyra understood. The pony tilted her head at Lyra curiously.
"I need a name," the purple pony frowned. "I need a name to be a real pony."
Lyra took this in her stride as she took in the sight of the strange monochrome pony. She wasn't quite the same shade of purple all over; her coat was mottled with patches, as if a small foal had quickly splashed a hastily mixed layer of paint over a drawing. "That's easy," she replied, looking at the odd coat and casting her mind back to the first words she'd said when she saw the Smooze on the pages of Twilight's book. "Smudge."
"Smudge is nice, I like Smudge," the pony smiled. "Now what?"
"Now?" Lyra considered. There was only one thing she could possibly do. "I'm going to walk. I'm going to walk to Manehatten and I'm going to find my friend and I'm going to tell her how I feel."
"And if she doesn't feel the same way?" Smudge's voice was sing-song, as if she was slowly getting used to the idea of speech.
"Then I'm just going to have to keep on walking." Lyra smiled warmly. "I think it's time to take a few risks before it really is too late. Do you want to come?"
"Yes." Smudge nodded. "That sounds like a good life."
And so they walked together into an uncertain future.