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On the Verge · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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The Long Fall
I stood on that cliffside, staring down at the autumn leaves. All of those reds and yellows and whatever else seemed to blend together into an ocean of colors. I didn’t really feel like looking at them, but I wanted to look at my companion even less.

“I know I’m supposed to tell you why I’m here, but...” I rubbed the back of my neck with a hoof. “I’m not really sure where to begin. Never was good at this stuff.”

I spread my wings but quickly brought them back to my side. I wasn’t going to run from this now. My companion said nothing; she was nothing if not patient.

“Okay, I think I know where to start.” I took a deep breath. “It all comes back to fall.”

I think the day I stopped liking fall is the day sonic rainbooms stopped being fun. I know, seems crazy, right? Sonic rainbooms are the most totally awesome things ever, how could they stop being fun?

Well, I guess they just got... mundane? Sorry, that’s more of a Twilight word.

It all started one day in Ponyville. It was fall, which was like, my absolute favorite season. I mean, sure, other seasons were cool, but my friends could have those ones. I know AJ likes summer, with its long days for harvesting or whatever, and Fluttershy likes spring—all those animals coming back always made her happy.

Fall is special though. The crisp air feels refreshing during intense flights and the trees, like, light up with all those colors! It's the closest all my friends can get to seeing the sorts of colors sunsets have when you look at them up in the air. I mean, it's not really the same, but it's close enough.

Plus, after fall, Tank has to go away for a whole season, so I've really gotta make my time with him count! That always makes things kinda fun, heh.

Or, well. It did, at least. It's like... the world is just kinda... grey now. Not literally, obviously, I can see all those colors out there! But, it's just...

Sorry, sorry, off-topic. Uh, where was I? Okay, okay, so, it all started one day in Ponyville...

"Rainbow Dash, slow down!"

I chuckled at the desperation in Twilight's voice. "Not a chance, egghead! Shoulda thought twice before challenging me to a race; not even your fancy alicorn magic will help you here!"

She continued to make pleas for me to wait for her, but I tuned her out. It was just me and my wings now.

There are very few things in this world better than flying at high speeds, and one of them is flying at high speeds while leaving someone else in the dust. I mean, I felt kinda bad about it since it was Twilight, but I got her some of those donuts from Canterlot afterward, so whatever.

Anyways, I guess I was working too hard on tuning Twilight out because I was forming that cone of air before a rainboom before I knew it. I had to commit at that point; I wasn't too interested in being the wind's personal slingshot.

So I pushed through and there was that explosion of colors! I whooped and flew around for a bit while my speed faded, not even bothering to consciously look at the ground. As I came back around, I noticed Twilight standing on a cloud, looking at the ground in awe.

I landed next to her and said, "heh, bet you didn't think I was gonna rainboom you, huh?" She didn't respond which was kinda annoying. "Hey, Twilight, c’mon, I'm right here! What's so cool on the… ground…"

A section of the Whitetail Woods were just missing their leaves. I had a sinking feeling in my gut, but I still had to make sure. "Hey, Twilight? What happened to the leaves?"

She turned to me and she gave me that look ponies sometimes give me when they think I'm being dumb. "You did."

Yeah, I was shocked! Who would have thought a rainboom could do that? I thought only running could, and that that was mostly the earth pony magic anyways. But I guess I was wrong.

Ponyville wasn't too happy about that; they love their traditions, after all. It wasn't too bad, though. I only got, like, a bit of the woods, and barely any of it was the race path, so they calmed down after a while.

So I had a couple weeks of extra shifts dealing with weather. Not super fun, but not really a big deal, you know? So I figured I could just put that behind me, let it just be another of those cool things I did to privately remember sometimes.

But word has a way of getting around, especially when you’re a Wonderbolt and an Element of Harmony.

“Hey, Crash! Get over here.”

If I was still wet behind the ears, Spitfire shouting like that would have scared me so badly. By then I knew that was just kinda Spitfire’s thing.

“What’s up?” I tried to look all casual, but she just saw right through it and chuckled.

“C’mon, Dash. We can talk in my office.”

My jaw opened. I totally played it cool though and didn’t freak out and I definitely didn’t stammer, “w-wait, did I mess something up?” She didn’t answer and just walked into her office, so I hurried in after her.

Door shut, I walked up to her desk. She pulled out a newspaper. It was from Manehatten and it had something about my rainboom in Ponyville! Picture and everything, too.

“Woah, how did they get that?”

“Bits, probably. That isn’t really the important part, though.” She pulled out some letters and spread them out on the table. Not fanmail, but professional stuff. I think she wanted me to read them, but I just looked back at her. It’s easier that way. “Other towns want you to do what you did in Ponyville, and the Wonderbolts think it's a great idea.”

“Woah, that sounds awesome!” I tilted my head a little. “But… why do the Wonderbolts care?”

She rolled her eyes. “Think, Dash.” I hate it when ponies act like I’m stupid. It… Anyways. “If you’re going around to these towns, performing a public duty with an impressive aerial maneuver, you can give the Wonderbolts some great publicity!”

And at the time, it sounded like a great deal! I get to go do rainbooms, people praise me, Wonderbolts sell more tickets, everyone wins! And it was awesome for the first couple of years, but eventually it started getting old.

And I went to Spitfire about wanting to stop, but she just said her hooves were tied. Brass wanted me to keep going, said it was too important to stop or something. And maybe if I had pushed more they would’ve eased up at least a little, but it just didn’t feel worth it.

The Wonderbolts have issues. I’d known it for a long time—before I even made the active roster—but it never felt like I should care, you know? I was living my dreams, so who cares if Spitfire is a power-hungry control freak; or that the brass doesn’t actually care about their fliers; or that a culture of recklessness and cruelty was so deeply ingrained that there was no way anything I did could actually make a difference.

So I just bottled it all up, only saying something when it was really bad, and eventually not really saying anything at all. I guess, looking back, I really wasn’t happy there for a while, but the rainboom stuff really drove it home for me.

Maybe I should’ve left the Wonderbolts, but I just couldn’t. Sure, it’d gone from my dream job to a chore, but leaving would mean admitting defeat, and I’m not a failure.

I wonder if any of them will come looking when I don’t show up for our show tonight. Heh, probably not. Just bring in the reserve, worry about Crash later. Hell, they’ll probably think I went out drinking or something and just had a bad hangover; it doesn’t matter that I was never into all that kind of party stuff, that’s always the first assumption with them.

Anyways, around that time I was desperate for something to do that would let me just get away from it all, and that’s when I discovered falling. Not like tripping over a rock falling, flying super high up and falling through the air.

Falling is just… I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s the best thing in the world. Like, yeah, sure, flying super fast is totally awesome, but true freedom? You can only get it when you fall.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a pony who really understands. It’s always, “Oh, that sounds scary,” or “Well, I’m glad you enjoy it, Rainbow Dash.” I try to describe it, the way your heart pounds, the way you have to fight your instincts…

I think you get it, though.

I could feel her looking at me. “Is that enough?” I hoped it was.

But I could tell she still found me wanting; she knew I wasn’t saying everything. All of that stuff sucked, sure, but I really didn’t want to go into… the other stuff. It hurt too much.

I chanced a glance at my companion, and despite her judging gaze, there was such compassion there too! Not even Fluttershy was this kind.


I sniffled. “Okay, okay, I should’ve known I couldn’t fool you. Just… thinking about this stuff hurts, you know?”

One of the best-kept secrets in Equestria is that the Elements of Harmony are barely friends anymore. And that probably sounds like there was some big fight when I say it like that, huh? It probably wouldn't be a secret if it was a fight, though.

Sometimes ponies just drift apart. I knew that. Gilda and I drifted apart. There were some foals I knew back in Cloudsdale that I don’t even remember the names of. I guess I should’ve known just because we were the Elements didn’t mean we were immune.

It happened so gradually I didn’t even notice. I don’t think any of us did. Spa dates getting canceled because something more important came up, or being too busy to make a party and Pinkie doesn’t even go super sad mode, stuff like that. In hindsight, it’s kinda obvious, but in the moment you hardly even notice.

The drift had been building for a long time, but it really picked up speed when Twilight had to move back to Canterlot to take over for Celestia and Luna. She really was the spark.

Yuck, no, that’s really corny. Sorry.

But yeah, it accelerated after that. Apple Bloom went off with the other crusaders to travel Equestria searching for cutie mark problems, leaving Applejack more things to take care of at the farm; Granny Smith started doing bad around that same time too, so that was even more pressure on her. Nearly impossible to get her away from that farm now, and if you go there she gets annoyed because you’re distracting her.

Rarity opened a boutique overseas, and soon she was spending months away from Ponyville. Hard to keep things going with a distance like that; harder when she won’t answer letters.

I think Pinkie Pie saw this coming a long time before anypony else did. She’d been mentally preparing herself to lower us all from Best Friends to friends to protect herself. Must’ve worked, because it’s way more awkward for me than it is for her when we hung out.

Fluttershy was always a little distant from the rest of us, but…

I hadn’t seen her for a while, so I went to see her and... she looked at me as if I was a stranger. Not like she didn’t remember who I was or anything! But that connection we’d shared since foalhood, close as sisters, was just gone. I haven’t seen her since.

Some Element of Loyalty I am, huh? Couldn’t keep everyone together; couldn’t bring them back together, either. And at this point, I’m not really sure if I want to. I’m just… so tired.

I wiped my eyes to get the dust out. "So yeah, that's why I'm standing here, about to do this." I stared at the ground and the trees stretching out below me. I was gonna be looking at the sky really soon, so what was the point of looking now? "I hope you'll forgive me, Sky, and I hope you welcome back your wayward foal."

I chuckled a little. I'd given up on all of those pegasus religions when I was younger because they all just seemed like a waste of time. Now, though? They gave me courage and strength; but most of all, they gave me peace.

I leaped off the cliff and turned my back to the ground. I was a foal of the Sky, and I would look at Her now. She was so beautiful, an endless sea of blue stretching out for miles.

I felt my wings trying to shoot out to slow my descent, to orient me into a glide so I could safely land. I fought those instincts, and I fought the ones trying to close my drying eyes. I wouldn't let the Sky be taken away from me now, not as she was reaching out for me like this.

My heart was pounding and the smiling faces of my friends flashed around me. I couldn't help but laugh. All of my worries and doubts fled from me and the world stopped seeming so grey.

I felt free again.
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#1 · 1
Ouch. Right in the all-too-familiar feels. :fluttershysad:

I saw most of the story coming, including the gist of the ending, but it's not your fault, author. I don't think you should try hiding things more than you are. I'd even appreciate a little more of a hint, to be honest.

Anyhow, the thing that rubs me the wrong way about this story is that Dash recalling the past paints her as a soul entirely without agency, and that's not Rainbow Dash. She has these severe problems in her life, bad enough to lead to the events in the story, and she never tries to fix a single one of them! For one of the problems, all she had to do is speak up, and she couldn't even do that. This simply does not remind me of Dash, and it doesn't explain the biggest question: what happened to her?

It also doesn't remind me of Fluttershy or Pinkie. The characters here are so severely different from the ones I know that it doesn't quite ring true. While that indeed serves the purpose of illustrating how they've drifted apart, it doesn't make it seem realistic that they would have reached this point in the first place. I'm not buying it right now, even though I want to.

I think if you extend this in a way that will make me believe Dash's history of events, I'll be able to feel a lot more from it.
#2 · 1
This does a really good job of handling all of its flashbacks. I mean, I'd normally think that having four flashbacks within a single framing narrative would be a tall order for a barely 2K long story, but you handle the high-level narration very well, and it doesn't come across as distracting. And I do have to note that the religious characterization of the sky was a really inspired detail.

But I think that my personal biggest issue with this story is that the payoff of each flashback don't really seem to feed into each other. Yes, there is the general sense of regret throughout all of them, but the specifics don't quite seem to mesh. We start with what seems to be a lesson about doing-before-thinking, then we get something that's geared more towards Dash struggling with stagnation, and finally we get one about people naturally growing apart. Outside of these all being rather negative life events, they don't really come together to form a cohesive picture of Dash's mental state. Dash comes across as rambling (which, may have been your intention), and it doesn't quite gel together for me by the end of things.

So in the end, it's a little difficult for me to say whether or not this does what it's trying to do. On the one hand, these kinds of emotions are a very complicated subject and should not be treated with simple cause-and-effect descriptors. But on the other hand, when the reasons for something as meaningful as a character's apparent suicide doesn't come across as coherently explored, it's hard to feel like I've gotten complete payoff for my investment.

I hope that kind of makes sense! Thank you for writing!
#3 · 1
The verb tenses:

Gave me all kinds of trouble here, the way they switch from past to present and back again at seemingly random intervals. The thing is, though, you've got the perfect structure here, author, to do that sort of switch legitimately, but you don't take advantage of it.

Let me suggest, then, that Rainbow standing at the top of the cliff should be in present tense and her flashbacks should be in past tense. Right now, both the clifftop stuff and the flashbacks are past tense, but then Dash makes all these interjections in present tense throughout the flashbacks: "It's like... the world is just kinda... grey now. Not literally, obviously, I can see all those colors out there! But, it's just...", for instance, and "I wonder if any of them will come looking when I don’t show up for our show tonight." This tells me that Dash has a present even after she makes her dive at the end of the story, so either she didn't commit suicide successfully or she's in some sort of afterlife. I don't think that's the impression you want to give, though. By making Dash's present be the scenes at the top of the cliff--and that last section especially--you'll emphasize that there isn't anything for her after this.

As for the story itself, all I can suggest is maybe have the rainbooms get more and more difficult for Dash to pull off as she begins feeling more and more isolated with her friends drifting apart. The whole thing about the rainboom in the show, it seems to me, is that Dash can only do it in service to other ponies. And it's nice symbolically if it gets harder for her to produce rainbows as the world seems to grow greyer around her.

A little clean up, though, and this'll be good to go!

#4 · 2
Man, that's... argh. Good work, Author, for real.

I agree with what Bachi says that the flashbacks don't seem to lead into each other; I wouldn't say this is a malignant problem throughout the story, but I would say that all the stuff about the rainbooms doesn't have much to do with the friends drifting apart. It kind of splits the story into two halves that don't mesh. But they both killed me. If that connection was there you'd have a really solid story here.

I have a personal connection to this, too, so I may be biased (in a good way), but that sentence about falling giving you true freedom really struck a chord with me. I completely understand where she's coming from. Cripes, that part was my favourite.

You've done very well with Rainbow Dash's voice, though as Baal "Mike" Bunny mentions the prose could certainly use some tightening in the tense department. That did throw me off a lot, but I'd also like to point out that the coyness of her referring to "her companion" was frustrating. It's an obvious kind of smokescreen that kind of just distracts. I get that the twist is that her companion isn't really a 'companion', but I kept thinking Just tell me who you're talking about whenever she said that c-word. The trick is to not allude that she's with anyone, I feel, but I could be wrong.

But on the whole, I dig this a whole lot. Thanks for it, Author.
#5 · 2
I have little to add about the structure and execution of this piece that hasn't already been said. I suppose I'll mention that the present-day narration might be better suited if told in a third person voice, rather than first, to differentiate them more from the flashbacks.

Suppose you personify the sky, itself, as the narrator? Being spoken to by Dashie?

By far, my biggest criticism of this story is... well, what does it say that hasn't already been said? I read this, and I feel like I've read it a hundred times before. Whatever drama, and irony, Rainbow Dash committing suicide-by-plunging-attack might have held, it's been milked pretty dry by now. And I can respect someone re-treading well-trodden ground, but it helps if you add something new to the journey.

Right now, this story isn't saying anything unique. Surprise your audience, author.
#6 · 2
This is well written, but I just don't like the premise. Of all people, Rainbow Dash seems like the last pony to let herself be pushed into doing something so often it stops being fun, or to let her friends drift apart to the point where it seems like her life is empty.

Doing things you used to love over and over until you're bored with them, and falling out of connection with your old friends, is a common part of growing into middle age. Most people don't commit suicide over it; they have a midlife crisis. Rainbow really seems to me like the kind of pony who would seek something new and different for her life. Thrillseeking by doing the freefall thing would be part of that, but not to the point of killing herself.

I dunno. You didn't convince me of the characterization. I don't know how much of that is actually the fault of the writer vs. me just refusing to believe the premise, though.