Narrator: The following day, Lyra had gone to her usual spot in the park to perform for a few hours. Open-air concerts were a regular deal for her, bringing in enough extra income between her other appearances. She could relax when she played here. There was no need for the extra effort she’d put in at a fancy event. Narrator: As she came to the end of her opening song, she put her lyre down for just a minute. A small crowd of ponies had gathered to watch her play. Lyra: Thanks for coming, everybody. Don’t forget the tips! Narrator: Lyra wondered if anybody would ask about the way she was sitting. The regulars wouldn’t. Sometimes a pony from out of town, not used to the sight of her, would stare at her slouching, and perhaps ask what she was doing. Today nobody commented. It was how humans sat, in pictures and in her dreams. Lyra had tried it herself and found it was comfortable. Narrator: Her instrument case had been left open next to the bench, with a hastily written note pinned onto it. It was already filling up with coins. Today she hardly noticed it. She kept on going through the motions of playing, but her mind wandered to other topics. Narrator: Doorknobs, for one thing. The round kind, not the long straight ones. They were on just about every building in Equestria, but a pony couldn’t grip it very well with hooves. Most of them were merely ornamental for that reason, and didn’t really latch the door closed. But a human, with fingers… They’d be able to use them. Narrator: Same with the bowling alley Lyra had walked past this morning to get here. She’d gone bowling with Bon-Bon a few times. All the balls had three holes on them — why? They were about an inch in diameter or so, which, as Lyra was pretty sure, meant that fingers could fit inside. An easy way for humans to hold them. As for ponies, there was no standard way to bowl. Unicorns used magic, other ponies had to get creative. Bowling was a pretty old sport, wasn’t it? Maybe she should look up the history. Narrator: And she’d also noticed the tools they’d been using last Winter Wrap Up. Shovels had handles on the ends, which were easy enough for a pony to hold with their teeth, but then there was the long pole that made it unwieldy to use. Unless that long pole was the part that was supposed to be the handle. Narrator: Lyra watched a pony walk by with her filly. The mother dropped a few bits into the case. Lyra nodded a quick thanks, and kept playing. Narrator: And wasn’t that the most interesting of all? Lyra could practically see an invisible hand moving through the strings of her lyre. In fact, she hadn’t even been aware of it, but that really was how she’d been playing ever since the first time she picked up the instrument all those years ago. She had been told she was good at it. Maybe it was her technique, imitating the hands that had designed this instrument in the first place. Narrator: Her mind kept working even as she went through the rest of her set. The sun was beginning to go down as she packed up her lyre and counted up how much money she’d made today. It was a good haul. With this month’s performances she’d be able to cover her share of the rent and then some. Narrator: As she headed back home, Lyra just couldn’t stop thinking about last night’s dream. It could be her imagination, but everything that she saw seemed to fit together. The more she thought about humans, the more everything made sense. Lyra: Why doesn’t anybody else see it? Narrator: Lyra was… Narrator: In a big city somewhere. The tall buildings would have made her think it was Manehattan, except that she was surrounded by humans. All different kinds, although they were less diverse than ponies — fewer colors, and only one race. There weren’t any horns or wings to be seen. Still, the subtle variations in their facial features were enough to give them all a sense of individuality. Narrator: She had dreams like this occasionally. Except this time was different. Lyra looked down at herself. She stood on two legs. She was dressed just like one of the humans, with a green shirt and a light jacket over it. Pants made out of some rough blue material. And hands. They were sticking out of her long sleeves. She lifted them up, moved her fingers, studying how the joints worked. Lyra: So this was what it’s like to be human. Narrator: Lyra took a step forward, realized she could easily keep her balance even on two legs, and started down the street. She wanted to see everything: the humans, their buildings, their entire city – Bon Bon: Are you awake? Narrator: She was now. She opened her eyes, noticing she was back in bed, with hooves like she’d always had, and Bon-Bon was peeking in the doorway. Bon Bon: Lyra, did you oversleep again? It’s noon. Lyra: groan Narrator: It didn’t matter what time it was, she wanted to go back to sleep. Her bed was feeling unusually comfortable today. Bon Bon: I would have let you sleep in, but I’ve got an interview at Sugarcube Corner soon. I’ll probably be gone for a few hours. You’ve got the house to yourself. Narrator: Lyra nodded slowly, but her thoughts were still on that sensation of being human and how real it had felt. Sure, she saw them often enough when she slept, but that was the first time she’d ever actually been one. She sighed, wishing she’d had more time to see what exactly was going on in that city, how humans lived. Narrator: She heard the front door swing closed — Bon-Bon had just left. What now? Lyra’s thoughts moved to her journal — maybe she should record what little she had from this dream. Or maybe go back to sleep and see if it would come back… No. That wasn’t it. There was something else she could do… Narrator: With a newfound sense of motivation, Lyra jumped out of bed and headed for the study. It had to be in one of her old books. Narrator: The assignment had been very vague — a report on the history of Equestria, with the topic to be chosen by the student. Heartstrings had decided she didn’t want to be just another pony writing about the earth ponies’ traditions of Winter Wrap-Up or the contributions of Star Swirl the Bearded to magical theory. Not even anything about famous musicians, like some of her friends had suggested. Sure, she’d found she had a talent for the lyre, but she would rather play it than read about some old pony who had been famous for it. There were more interesting subjects out there. If she could find them. Narrator: She’d gone to the Canterlot Library to look up topics. Her dad was the head archivist here, so she knew her way around pretty well. Narrator: Heartstrings found herself searching deeper into the depths of the Canterlot library. The building was already huge, and in the rooms back here the dust drifting in the air was enough to make her sneeze. Nopony had been back here in years, it seemed, except maybe herself and her father. That only meant that nopony in her class was going to end up with the same research she did. Narrator:Her eyes scanned the shelves, but she didn’t really know what any of the titles in this section meant. She had chosen one of the old volumes at random and pulled it down with her magic — no longer a difficult task — and opened it to a random page in the middle. Narrator: The illustrations weren’t of anything she recognized, but they were still somehow… appealing? Heartstrings couldn’t explain why, but she was drawn to the way they walked upright, to the crude depictions of faces with small eyes and pointed noses, to their hands. Narrator: It said they were called humans. Narrator: This book, written in an old but still readable style, seemed to suggest that such creatures had actually lived. They had their own nations and rulers, civilizations like the ones that ponies lived in, but no mentions of ponies anywhere. Not even of magic. Narrator: She kept reading. Narrator: Heartstrings had checked the shelves near where this book had come from, and there were a few more books that were also about humans. She’d read a few pages from one, go back to another, come up with a question that might have an answer in one of the other books… Narrator: Heartstrings had spent all of that day in the library until she noticed the light streaming in from the dusty old window fading. Her mind was filled with questions — why had she never heard of such wonderful creatures before? Were there any left? Could she someday travel outside of Canterlot, and find kingdoms ruled and inhabited by humans? Dewey Decimal: Heartstrings? Ah, there you are. It’s getting late. Time to head home. Lyra: Yeah, sure. Can I take this with me? Dewey Decimal: I don’t think so, that’s one of our older… Heartstrings, what were you reading that for? Lyra: I was going to write my history assignment about this! It’s all about these creatures called humans Have you ever heard of them before? Dewey Decimal: Erm, yes. Heartstrings, you do know that humans don’t really exist, right? Lyra: What? Dewey Decimal: Those old books… They’re just myths. Stories that hardly anypony even remembers anymore. Humans were made up long ago. Lyra: But… Dewey Decimal: Maybe you should just find another topic to write about. We’ve got a few books about Star Swirl the Bearded. He was one of the finest unicorns to have ever lived, you know. He discovered hundreds of spells. Lyra: Humans don’t need spells… They do all sorts of things without magic. Dewey Decimal: (confused) I thought you liked using magic. Remember how excited you were? Lyra: I know… It’s not that I don’t like magic, it’s just that… have you seen what humans did? All of these inventions, and cities, and… everything? They were amazing! Dewey Decimal: It’s all legends. Folklore. Nothing else. I’m surprised we even still have these old books around. I thought we were going to clean this wing out a long time ago. Lyra: Why were you going to get rid of them? Lyra: You can’t just throw them out! Dewey Decimal: Er… Those books can hardly be considered relevant anymore, most ponies don’t even talk about humans anymore. Lyra: Can I keep them? Dewey Decimal: That’s not what I was saying… Lyra: Please? Why not? You were just going to throw them out anyway. Dewey Decimal: Well, er… they’re… I… suppose you can. Just promise me you won’t take any of it too seriously. Lyra: Thank you so much! Dewey Decimal: Now we’d better head home before it gets too late .We don’t want your mother to worry. Narrator:Heartstrings nodded and started loading the books into her saddlebags. She planned to read every one front-to-back. No matter what her father seemed to think, these books weren’t made up. The way they talked about humans was too consistent. They described something real, not just a collection of legends, and she was going to find out the truth. Narrator: In the Ponyville Library, later that afternoon, Twilight had just been reviewing a new spell when she heard a knock on her door. She opened it to find a familiar face. Lyra: Hey, Twilight. Mind if I borrow a book? Twilight: Hello, Lyra. Nice to see you. What happened? Are you alright? Lyra: Oh, this? I just had a little accident, that’s all. It’s no problem. Twilight: If you don’t mind, I could take a look at — Lyra: No! I mean… That’s not necessary. It’s really not that big a deal. Narrator: She limped into the main room of the library, looking up at all the hundreds of old books. It was fairly tidy — she’d known the place to be like the aftermath of a hurricane, especially if Twilight was doing some intense research. Most of the time, really. Twilight: So what are you looking for? Lyra: Just wondering if you have any books about humans. The information in my personal collection wasn’t exactly… detailed enough. Twilight: Uh… what are you looking for? I don’t know if I… Lyra: You’ve never heard of them, have you? sigh I’m not surprised. Sometimes I feel like nobody’s ever heard of humans before. Twilight: Nobody…? Lyra: It might be under mythical creatures… That’s where anything on them usually ends up. Not that I think they’re mythical, of course. Based on the evidence, it’s likely that human civilization invented printing and they’re the whole reason you have all these books, to be honest. According to what I’ve found. Twilight: I’ve got… let’s see… An Introduction to Mythical Creatures… Legendary Beasts… The Illustrated Guide to Equestrian Cryptozoology… Lyra: Did you say ‘illustrated’? This would work perfectly! Twilight: That’s… That’s great? Narrator: Lyra was already flipping through the pages, frantically determined to find something. She lifted her bandaged hoof and rubbed it against her other leg uncomfortably. As she went by one page, she stopped, flipped back to it, and her eyes widened. Lyra: Perfect! Twilight: May I ask what exactly you’re studying? Lyra: Oh, right. It’s this. Narrator: Lyra pointed to the drawing, which was some kind of claw or talon without the sharp points. Instead, the five appendages ended in soft, rounded tips. Lyra: These are what a human’s hands look like. This particular drawing is quite detailed — I’ve never seen anything like it. Exactly what I needed. Twilight: And, um… pause Why were you looking for this? Lyra: Just curiosity. Hands are just so much more useful than hooves. Think of how much life would change if we had fingers! Twilight: I suppose it does sound rather… Interesting? Lyra: You bet! Anyway, I should really be getting back home before too late. Bon-Bon’s interview should be over soon. I’ll see you later, Twilight. Right. You don’t mind if I borrow this? Twilight: No, that’s absolutely fine. Go right ahead. Lyra: Thanks! I’ll bring it back later. Any book that mentions humans is pretty rare, you know. Narrator: And just like that, Lyra was out the door and headed back home. Twilight was left to wonder just what exactly she was up to, and what these ‘humans’ had to do with it all.