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And at the End, You Shall Remain Alone · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Behind the Magic Eight Ball
"Applejack! Wait!"

AJ didn't, shoving through the flap of Pinkie's fortune teller tent. Resisting a powerful urge to stomp, she kept her eyes downcast and her hoofsteps steadily moving out into the autumn afternoon sunlight.

The others' voices swirled around her. "The nerve!" Nopony did scorned like Rarity. "I shall complain to the festival's organizers!"

"That would be me." Twilight's sigh was every bit as unmistakable as Rarity's huff. "I'm sorry, Applejack." Feathers draped across AJ's back. "We know you're not like that anymore."

"Maybe..." Fluttershy had a way of using silence that was all her own. "Maybe it was...a joke?"

"Ha!" And Dash of course crashed like cymbals. "That wasn't me laughing! That was a snort!"

"Wait!" The shout, in front of AJ this time, forced her head up and made her blink at Pinkie kneeling on the ground, her turban all askew and the ends of her scarf drooping. "I didn't mean it, Applejack! Honest!"

And as much as AJ wanted to tell her it was fine and they should head over to the food booths for cidar and boiled peanuts, she just couldn't. "Then why'd you say it?" she got out through clenched teeth.

"I didn't! I—!" Pinkie slapped her hooves over her mouth, then she was leaping up, planting the top of her turban against AJ's chest, and shoving. "Back into the tent! We're gonna fix this!"

"Pinkie," Twilight started.

But Pinkie whirled, her muzzle almost slamming into Twilight's. "I whim-whammed when I shoulda zim-zammed is all! Don't go away!" Spinning back, she pushed her head into AJ again, the scrabbling of her hooves doing nothing but digging little trenches in the dirt. "Come...on! Let's...go!"

AJ blinked, then blew out a breath. "Fine." She relaxed and let Pinkie push her backwards into the tent. "But I don't—"

"Shhh!" Springing forward, Pinkie pressed her snout to AJ's ear. "You've gotta understand, Applejack, that it's sometimes really hard being me! So I—" She made little choking noises. "I cheat a little!"

Then Pinkie was tumbling over to the crystal ball table in the middle of the tent. "Promise me you won't say anything!" And before AJ could even open her mouth, Pinkie swung the tabletop open like the hinged door of a cellar.

In the space underneath the table sat a gray mare with a mane the color of stewed prunes, her eyes widening behind little half glasses. "My cousin Mince Pie," Pinkie said, her face going even pinker. "She's one of my writers." Her blush hardened into a glare. "And you'd think by now that she'd know our audience!"

"Pablum!" Mince Pie had a voice like the ponies AJ had met living among the Oranges in Manehattan. "We could bring true depth and angst to these ponies' lives if you'd let me—"

"Depth? Angst?" Pinkie flailed a hoof in AJ's direction. "Applejack has family and friends and trees and pigs and cows and sheep who just plain love her, and you feed me a line telling her she's gonna end up alone? That's not just inaccurate; it's mean!"

Mince Pie sniffed. "Life is tragic."

"I'll say." Pinkie jerked the hoof over her shoulder. "Get back to the party cave. I'll have your severance check later tonight."

The other pony's jaw dropped, then snapped shut. Eyes clenched and nose in the air, she turned and slid into the darkness under the table.

Pinkie was shaking her head. "Edgy is one thing. Clueless is another."

Unsure what to say, AJ went with a wisecrack. "So, my real fortune is: never hire relatives."

"Exactly." Pinkie started back, all the hardness vanishing from her face. "Wait! That doesn't work for you, either! Lemme get wunna the other writers up here, and—!"

"'Sall right." AJ stepped forward and put an arm around Pinkie's withers. "But how 'bout I predict you're taking the afternoon off?"

A grin blossomed over Pinkie's face. "Signs point to 'yes'!" She leaned over the hole. "Folks? You're off the clock! But gag meeting tomorrow morning at six!" Flipping the tabletop back into place, she pulled off her turban and tossed it beside the crystal ball. "Y'know, you're pretty funny. How'd you like to join my staff?"

"Mighty neighborly of you, Pinkie." AJ tapped the side of her snout. "But you outta know by now I work alone."

Pinkie groaned. AJ laughed, lowered her head, pressed it to Pinkie's side, and pushed her out to where the others were waiting.
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#1 ·
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This missed the mark for me, I'm afraid. I'll start with the things I disliked:

To me, this story felt overly-hectic, which is the nature of a story which tries to cram 7+ different characters into a 750-word space. In the beginning you swap back and forth between characters so fast, my eyes were crossed. The rest of the mane six don't seem necessary to me when your story focuses on the interaction between three characters. Their dialogue felt hectic as well, in what seems to be an attempt at quippyness. Not to say that it was all bad, but most of it had me rereading more than I'd like. I also grew uncomfortable reading the dialogue when I continued to encounter breaks and interruptions.

As far as the plot goes...it's fairly underwhelming. I suppose we see a tiny bit of growth out of Pinkie in realizing that faux fortunes frustrate friends. When you reveal that she's been hiding her cousin under the table to feed her the fortunes, my reaction was barely a shrug. The story's resolution left me with an even weaker shrug.

There were certainly a few things I liked. In another context, I think some of the dialogue tags you use to introduce the mane six are pretty great. I also like the idea that, despite how much these friends have grown together, there is still room for improvement, even in the smallest ways. Keep working at it, and I wish you luck!
#2 ·
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Writing crackfics is something I've never really explored, so at times I feel like I'm at a loss for giving advice on them when one doesn't land for me. This is no real exception; while the idea that Pinkie Pie has writers who come up with lines for her because she can't be on point all the time is silly, it just didn't really land for me, and while the punchline was a thing, I didn't even give a sensible chuckle (though I might have mentally smirked just the tiniest bit).
#3 ·
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This one tries to cram so many ideas into the story that it ends up being a chaotic mess of half-baked ideas. While Pinkie is often very chaotic, I don't think that's the way to write her.
#4 ·
· · >>Pascoite
I'll agree:

With everyone above and call this a box of jigsaw puzzle pieces that've been dumped out onto a tabletop. There might be a picture here, but it's gonna take a bit more work before it becomes apparent what it is. I'll suggest focusing on Applejack, on how she might feel or what she might do knowing that she just got this other pony fired. Something, though, to take things on from here...

Mike
#5 ·
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This may just be me, but my first impression was that AJ had run out of the tent, so I was confused at how they'd all managed to catch up to her so quickly. Editing's mostly good, but a couple of slips.

This was really cute. It's not going to leave a lasting impression, and the only surprise it held was the gag about Pinkie's writing staff, but if you'd played AJ's situation seriously, I don't know that it'd be that memorable either? Just because that kind of "living without romance" angle has been done a lot, so it's hard to put a fresh angle on it. The thing is, you do play it seriously, though. If AJ was just telling Pinkie she's wrong, then the attention is more on the comedy side of the story. But she's genuinely hurt by it. That does set up Pinkie's need to resolve the situation better, but it also calls for more of an emotional arc from AJ on it. As it is, she's pretty stone-faced about it. We're kind of informed she's angry at first, then the focus is more on everyone else, then AJ immediately accepts Pinkie's explanation. You made it out to be a major thing, then downplayed it.

I like the idea, though, and as the more slice-of-lifey pieces go, this would rank pretty high for me.
#6 · 1
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My initial thought:

Was to make this very much an interior Applejack story--she gets the prompt as a fortune from Pinkie, outwardly laughs it off and is inwardly very upset about it--but then I started wondering why Pinkie would say such a thing to AJ, and everything derailed from there. Like I said, I still think there's a story in among these various shards, and I hope to have it ready to post on FimFiction before the new year kicks in.

Thanks, folks!
Mike
#7 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
>>Baal Bunny
This reviewer clearly doesn't know what he's talking about.
#8 · 2
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>>Pascoite

Shhh!

Don't spoil the illusion! :)

Mike