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In Over Your Head · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Starlight Glimmer Battles Existential Dread at Sunrise
Two weeks after moving into the Friendship Palace, Starlight Glimmer received an invitation for tea with Princess Celestia. She took an early train and spent the entire journey with her eyes closed tight, trying to ignore the nausea raging in her stomach. She didn't say a word to anypony.

She fared no better upon reaching the castle. Princess Celestia radiated brilliance; looking into her eyes was like biting a lightning bolt. Starlight kept her head bowed, and only spoke when she was spoken to.

The two sat on Celestia’s balcony, looking over the vast gardens below. Celestia sipped her tea thoughtfully, perfect face illuminated by the glow of the rising sun. Starlight shivered and shuddered, unable to drag her eyes away from the floor.

“Starlight,” Celestia said, stabbing into a nice stretch of silence. “You seem nervous.”

“What? No!” stammered Starlight. She put on a grin and lifted her teacup exactly two inches off the table. It shook in her magic. “I’m fine. Just perfect, Your Highness.”

“Do you know why I invited you here?” Celestia asked. She paused and looked down at Starlight, but got no response. “Twilight tells me that you’re having some trouble making friends. More specifically: you’re not even trying.”

“I am trying,” Starlight said, scowling. She looked away. “Easy for her to say. Twilight doesn’t have to worry. She never worries about anything—” Starlight threw a hoof to her mouth. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, that was rude, I really didn’t mean it, you have to forgive—”

“Twilight says you haven’t been going outside at all,” Celestia continued. “She says you barely even leave your room. When she tries to talk to you, you don’t answer. Is this true?”

Starlight didn’t answer.

“What’s wrong?” Celestia raised a brow. “Are you worried about what ponies will think of you? What they’ll say?”

“No, that’s not it.” Starlight managed a smile. “Almost no one in Equestria actually knows about anything I did. And even if they were to find out, most of Ponyville would probably forgive me anyway. That’s just who they are.”

“What’s the matter, then?”

“I—I’m scared.” Starlight took a hard swallow. “Scared that I’ll destroy the world again.” She forced herself to look Celestia in the eye. “Think about it. When I traveled back in time, all I did was say a few words, move a few clouds. All I did was stop a stupid race between some foals. And what happened? Millions of ponies died. I nearly destroyed the universe.”

Starlight dropped her head. “I can’t risk that again.”

Celestia frowned. “So you’re avoiding the risk by…?”

“Locking myself in my room, away from everypony,” Starlight said. “Making myself a complete nonfactor in the world. If I live, nothing happens. If I die, nothing happens. I don’t leave a trace.” She sighed. “The only way to beat the Butterfly Effect is to avoid the butterfly altogether.”

“Mhm.” Celestia sipped her tea. “I think you’ve already left quite a trace. And what if by doing nothing, you trigger something?”

Starlight went pale. “Princess, please, don’t say that. Goddess knows I'm barely coping with the existential dread as is.”

“You can’t spend your entire life being scared of the future,” Celestia said. “Imagine if everypony thought like that. Nothing would happen!”

“Nopony would suffer,” Starlight whispered.

“Nopony would live,” said Celestia. She rested a hoof on Starlight’s “The world is what it is, Starlight. Things happen. Ponies laugh, cry. They suffer. They find joy.” She smiled. “You might save yourself some pain by locking yourself away, sure. But you’re going to miss out on so much more.”

Pictures ran through Starlight’s mind: the end of civilization, never-ending wars. She thought of herself, crying in the corner of a damp cave, run out of the prison camp she called a utopia. What part of that was worth living through?

“I’m gonna miss out?” Starlight asked, scowling. “On what?”

Celestia smiled and turned to the horizon. “On all this.”

Starlight glanced towards the east and found herself caught. Blazing blues and reds and oranges leaped across the sky. Birdsong filled the branches below. Sunrise grabbed hold of Starlight’s weary eyes and held them tight with all the force of the universe. And in that perfect stillness, a new feeling entered Starlight’s chest: a fire—a sunrise of her own, burning away the fog.

“Sometimes,” Celestia said, “life is worth it. All of it.”

For the first time that morning, Starlight drank her tea. The fire did not fade.
« Prev   27   Next »
#1 · 1
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
the butterfly effect is a common but useful metaphor for Starlight's position here. she backs it up with her own experiences. therefore...

I'd rather see Celestia retort with her own illustrative metaphor. it would be much more convincing than some vague "life is beautiful" sentiments.
#2 · 2
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
I really hope I like this story, because that is a fantastic title.

A good message and a reasonable explanation for Starlight’s absence in most of this season thus far. The cause of and reasoning behind Starlight’s panic make a lot of sense coming from her, while Celestia’s retort is very well done indeed. In all, a very nice character piece for both characters.
#3 · 2
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
I think maybe the argument could be made a little more persuasive on Celestia's side, but that's splitting hairs.
#4 · 2
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
Very nice:

But I'd like more worry from Starlight at the beginning. I mean, maybe Starlight doesn't get invited to a lotta tea parties, but I'm pretty sure even she would know that they don't usually happen before six o'clock in the morning. And she'll hafta be on the train traveling all night, too, so use that to start your metaphor--Starlight passing from darkness into light and that sorta thing.

#5 · 1
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
It's a nice idea, and well executed, though I always recoil a little when characters bluntly throw around phrases like "existential dread" within their dialogue; it always seems quite heavy-hooved. Still, I enjoyed this one. Thanks for sharing.
#6 ·
· · >>horizon >>CoffeeMinion >>Dubs_Rewatcher
I kind of feel like Celestia here could be replaced by...really, most any pony. Luna, Twilight, Applejack, Zecora - why Sunbutt, in this case? Anchor her presence more strongly, give a reason to choose her over somepony else.
#7 · 1
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
looking into her eyes was like biting a lightning bolt

Nice image.

I'm a little thrown by the setup here: Celestia discovers Starlight having a friendship problem, and instead of letting the literal Princess of Friendship deal with it, she takes matters into her own hooves. Way to trust your faithful student (and fellow monarch), Celly.

But that aside, this has some nice prose and a good moral, even if it seemed blunt about the latter. I like the idea of Starlight dealing with essentially time-travel PTSD. It might be worth considering digging deeper into the "doing nothing is a choice" angle; it feels a little twee that Celestia's able to turn this around with just a pep talk, and the idea that her isolation isn't actually fixing the problem it's designed to fix would really put some teeth behind that. Maybe have Celestia share some anecdotes of her own? She's certainly got enough regrets in her past that it's very likely she's been through the exact same thing, perhaps in the wake of Luna's banishment, and a bonding moment would really elevate this story. (That could also provide the anchoring >>Morning Sun suggests.)

I'm left feeling like this almost works; I just want to see the solution go deeper.

Tier: (high) Almost There
#8 · 1
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
E - Starlight Glimmer Battles Existential Dread at Sunrise - A+ - Nice escalation, good but not great hook. Still, top tier. Wonderful descriptions, smooth flow. I don’t have anything to ding on it other than *right* at the end where Celestia says sometimes life is worth it. I would think this is one statement Celestia would not qualify, particularly when trying to hammer a point into a reluctant Starlight.
#9 · 4
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
Hmm. Competent writing, a decent enough message, and yet... I don't feel any kind of connection here. Starlight talks through her fears; Celestia gives her rebuttal; roll credits.

Author, I wish I had better feedback. If I can think of something more specific to explain why this didn't hook me, I will. I certainly don't see any glaring issues holding it back. Maybe the point >>Morning Sun makes is part of it, though; there's nothing Celestia-ish about Celestia here. If anything, Zecora might make for a much more interesting choice.

Tier: Almost There
#10 · 1
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
I rather like this. The scene itself looks very pretty. Starlight's stresses are well-conveyed and make her very sympathetic, but agreed that Celestia's actual talk is weak and soapbox-y. The point it's trying to make is nice, but it doesn't do a good enough job of making it to resolve things as nicely as they turn out.

Really hope this gets an expanded version.
#11 · 1
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
I like the idea of Starlight not participating all that much, especially with the explanation of how the Butterfly Effect really messed up the timestream last time. It just further solidifies the idea that Starlight, while hateful toward the Mane 6, didn't want any other ponies to share in the pain she was reserving for the gang. That in of itself shows how she actually could be reformed, as there had to be some goodness left in her to do her turnaround. I also liked the idea that Starlight went to Celestia, given how she has never antagonized her in the past with her last 2 shenanigans. It sort of made Celestia feel more impartial, and I think that served the story well.

If there's one problem I have with this, it's that the ending feels kind of forced. The idea that looking at one sunset somehow causes her to revoke her secluded ways felt like a stretch. I guess you could argue it was the combination of Celestia's words and the sunset, but I still think that's a little too much of a contrived coincidence. By all means, end the story with Starlight hopeful, but make it either a little less obvious or a little more creative. Other than that, this was a fine fic.
#12 · 2
Starlight Glimmer Battles Existential Dread at Sunrise

As with many things I write, I came up with the first line of this before thinking about how the plot would go. In the very first outlines, Twilight was the one who went to Celestia. I eventually decided that it would make more sense for Starlight to have this sort of problem.

After submitting, I had the same exact opinion as everyone who read: Starlight's concerns are valid, but Celestia's speech is preachy and weak. Trust me, I know. It was torture watching everyone have to read it. What makes it worse is that I knew the entire time how to fix it. In my original outline, I had Celestia giving her own, real argument! She was gonna bring up what would happen if she were to accept Starlight's philosophy of non-action—she would stop moving the sun, stop bringing the day, and everyone would die.

I've got some ideas for how to fix this up. Thanks to everyone who read: >>Haze >>Trick_Question >>Baal Bunny >>Ceffyl_Dwr >>Morning Sun >>horizon >>georg >>CoffeeMinion >>Exuno >>libertydude >>FanOfMostEverything