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Rot · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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At the Funeral Pyre
It was quite an experience, the first time I encountered death.

It was an opossum, maybe a two days dead. It had been ripped open by scavengers, but not stripped bare yet. I remember there were maggots squirming in its eyes, mouth, and entrails, and flies swarming over every inch it seemed. Of course there was also the smell. That special, horrible, unique smell that reaches into you and mutters that little voice to keep away.

You never see death in the clouds. Up in Cloudsdale or Pegasopolis or even flight camp, there's the sun, the wind, the rain. Things are clean in a way that most other ponies, on the earth, can't understand. The sky is energy. Always alive.

At first, I was confused. None of the grown-ups had ever talked to me about death, and the other foals, well, you know the fantastic stories of youth.

For several minutes I just stared, unable to bring myself to touch it.

I wasn't scared, you see. Not exactly. I'd seen opossums before, talked to them as they scurried through the underbrush. I was worried, I think. Angry, maybe. I didn't understand what had happened to the creature. It was still. Unseeing, unfeeling. Simply not alive. I remember wondering if, somehow, it was playing some kind of game, or maybe it had something to do with the flies and maggots, but then there was that smell, and was sure that something was wrong, even if I couldn't identify what.

Animals don't think of death in the way that we do. When I tried to ask them, most were confused. Those that understood the question called it 'stopped'. Or maybe 'paused'. Which makes a kind of sense. If you don't understand, really understand, what death means, then a dead animal would simply be, well, stopped to you. Not gone, not dead, just stopped.

When I tried to find the body the next day, it had disappeared. It was probably dragged off and eaten by a carnivore, but little filly me had this idea for a time that it had somehow gotten better and wandered off.

It's surprising how few carcasses you find, if you think about it. With so many living beings, so many dying on a given day, it is usually a shock to find a dead raccoon on the ground, or a sparrow, because of how rarely it happens. Part of it is that the world is too big for any pony to understand -- there's just too much space.

The other part is life. Like the maggots or the carnivore, that which is dead is quickly recycled, put back into use for the living world.

There's a certain beauty in that, don't you think? That life just keeps happening. Maybe not pretty to watch or to smell, for us, but that's just our instinct reminding us to avoid becoming sick.

It's true, life doesn't keep happening for the dead, but it happens around and because of the dead. And death reminds us that there is life, because without life there can't be death. I think of that first dead opossum, and I wonder, did it have a mate? Did it have any children? Did its empty burrow provide a hibernation hole for another creature that winter? Did its carcass feed a starving coyote or buzzard? I didn't think any of that for some time, of course, but after learning, growing, and understanding.

That's not to say that death isn't sad. It is. When we care about something, or someone, who stops when we keep going, it's natural to feel that absence. It's natural to feel alone and afraid. Death brings us together -- the living together, to face that fear, that sadness.

Pegasi don't feed dead bodies to the earth, but burn them. No decay, no heavy pause, but active, hungry flame -- clean, like the sky. But their smoke goes into the air, and their ash into the soil and the water. Rain. Loam. Sediment. These are the food for the planet, for the living planet of you me, and the sun and clouds.

We are here, and we are alive. Thank you all for being alive.
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#1 · 4
Genre: Flutterreflection

Thoughts: I came close to committing blasphemy with this story and not adhering to my usual review format. That’s because this isn’t a story in the usual way that we get stories; it’s more like a piece of in-character reflection. Perhaps it’s a journal entry, or a monologue. It isn’t narrative in the usual sense. However, the voicing is strong enough to make interesting reading regardless. It’s perhaps a bit of a simple treatment of death’s place in life, but it has deliberateness in its emotional balance by touching on the contrast between how animals and pegasi understand death.

This is ultimately kind of not a story, but it has a through-line that leaves me feeling like I’ve been on a short but satisfying journey. It’s a bit tricky to rank. But I think it’s a great first story to kick off this contest.

Tier: Strong
#2 · 3
Building off of the title, my take on this is that we have Fluttershy delivering a eulogy, celebrating life in the midst of death.

As Coffee noted, it definitely has an arc to it: going from the dead corpse of an opossum to a fire, contrasting dead and alive, soil and sky. Also an interesting bit of worldbuilding with pegasi burning their dead, used in service of the theme.

The emotional tone overall is muted, only really showing at the end with that last line, which might be to its credit. It lets the reader put what they want into it; and might also connect to Fluttershy's more down-to-earth perspective (literally!) and more experiences with death itself (with all the critters she cares for).

Different, but definitely interesting.
#3 · 2
It may be an innocent way of treating death, even for animals, but I believe it fits the setting quite well. It may just be a little tale told to critters to help them understand. And as was said, the last line is very effective in putting it all in a specific perspective. It turns it from a simple perspective about the cycle of life and death into more of a reassurance. "It won't be so bad even after we die, so don't fret so much."

While imagery of wriggling maggots may border on the grotesque, this is certainly no Baudelaire. It is used in a way to illustrate, not elicit disgust.

Overall: It's up there.
#4 · 1
An interesting and well written piece. It reads like something I'd imagine Fluttershy would write. It's factual but a gentle recertation of how animals and pegasi handle death differently. The most negative thing I might say about it is that there is an error or two in it that frankly even after you read it over could miss. Nothing that is truly criminal though.
#5 · 1
More of a monologue than a story, but that is a hazard of minifics. For what it is, it's very nice. Fluttershy having this attitude towards death is very believable.
#6 · 3
This story hit close to home for me personally, given I was just told about my grandfather's death. Can't say it makes me feel better, but it does at least make me understand some things about death a little bit more.

A strong story.