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The Twilight Zone · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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In The Twilit Place

Celestia groaned, shifting under her sheets, but didn't wake fully. A moment passed, and a tiny hoof poked Celestia's chest.

"Princess Celestia?" The squeaky voice spoke a bit louder.

Celestia's eyes fluttered open and were immediately met by a pair of tiny purple eyes staring back at her from about an inch away. Celestia just barely stopped herself from flinching back, as despite her hazy thoughts she still had the presence of mind to realize that might startle the filly trying to get her attention. Instead, Celestia yawned slightly, reaching out a wing to hug the filly close to her.

"What is it, Twilight Sparkle?" Celestia asked gently.

Twilight didn't respond for a moment. She fidgeted, burying her head in Celestia's chest fur.

"I had that nightmare again." Twilight sniffled. "I was in my room and then I heard a knock but nopony was there and then I tried to find my mom but she was gone and you were gone and Spike was gone and everypony was gone and-"

Celestia brushed Twilight's mane back out of her eyes, meeting the filly's shaky, teary gaze. "I'm right here Twilight. It was only a nightmare." Celestia said softly.

"But it was so scary!" Twilight cried. "I felt so lonely, and I thought everypony just didn't want me anymore!"

Twilight felt Celestia's embrace stiffen for a moment, but when Celestia sat up in bed her eyes were soft and filled with warmth. She gently picked Twilight up in her magical aura, setting the filly on her back and stepping to the floor. She opened the doors to her balcony and stepped out into the dark twilit air, shaking her wings lightly in preparation.

"Hold on," Celestia said calmly, "I'd like to show you something." She felt Twilight hug her neck tightly, and with a small smile, Celestia stepped out into the open air. They fell for only a moment before Celestia's wings flared smoothly outwards, turning their descent into a slow, controlled arc. She beat her wings as gently as she could, using her magic to help her rise into the sky without jostling Twilight on her back. They spiraled up and up, melting into a thick bank of clouds. Celestia heard Twilight giggle as little silvery droplets swirled around them and landed on the filly's muzzle, and she rose even higher. With a final beat of her wings, they broke through the white blanket of clouds.

A tiny gasp sounded just behind her ears, and Celestia couldn't help but grin. She glided across the top of the clouds, wisps of condensation curling out from her wake and off the tips of her wings, and gazed up at the sky.

Full galaxies swirled above the two ponies, stretching across the sky in dancing arrays of color. Countless stars filled the spaces in-between and glittered with blinking colors that Twilight had never even imagined stars could have. The moon shone brilliantly within it all like a luminous dancer in the center stage. The sky didn't seem dark anymore but instead felt alive, breathing and singing and swirling with lights. Celestia glanced behind her to see Twilight leaning up against her neck, the filly's eyes wide and full of stars.

Celestia glided, numb to the passing time as she shared the sky with her student. Eventually she settled down onto a patch of cloud facing east. Her horn glowed with a soft golden light, and another smile pulled at the corners of her lips as she heard Twilight gasp again.

The glow of the sun peaked over the horizon, sending ribbons of red and gold across the sky. The stars and moon remained, shining brilliantly down through the sunrise, the night and day together.

"My little pony," Celestia spoke softly, her eyes glued to the moon, "you'll never be truly alone. When these nightmares haunt you, I want you to remember this sight. These stars will always be there, even if you can't see them sometimes. The sun will always rise to greet you. In your memory this twilight can be the place where you remember all the love that surrounds you, and I promise to chase those nightmares away so they can never hurt you again."

Twilight listened quietly. She hugged Celestia's trembling neck a bit tighter. The sun rose up further, its glow hiding every other light except for one last pale sphere. As Twilight watched, Celestia's magic pulled the moon slowly down the sky and out of sight.
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#1 · 2
· · >>shinygiratinaz
This is a pretty story, but I want to read it again before reviewing it further. I don’t want to leave the author without any comments, so thumbs up, and I will try to turn in more commentary later!
#2 · 1
· · >>shinygiratinaz
This is very pretty. Good job getting right to the meat of the story, excellent description.

I think Celestia's speech at the end needs a little work. I can't help but have a little Filly-Twi voice in my head going "but if Celestia's gone like in the nightmare the sun won't rise to greet her and won't chase the nightmares away and and and..." I see the sentiment and the sense that she's going for, it just came out a little awkward and a little vulnerable to a pedantic filly's objections.

Celestia being wise or supportive is hard to write. You have to get yourself around to being as sure of what she's trying to say as she is. With a little more time and pondering, I think that bit will clean up fine and it will be a nice little short.
#3 · 3
· · >>shinygiratinaz
Heartwarming feel-good story here. It is also well written enough that it was able to overcome my mush-ometer.

If there is any criticism to be had it's that nothing really stood out to me. The story had its cute moments, but I was never driven to "Dawwwww" and I think, though I could be wrong, that that was what you were aiming for.
#4 · 1
I really don't know how to rank this story.

All that was supposed to be cute and heart warming just felt cheesy for me but at the same time, the pace is great, the writing is good and the characters are well-written.

I think I'll come back later to see if there's something that change in my read. Until now, I'll have to pass.
#5 · 1
· · >>shinygiratinaz
This is pretty much pure fluff, but hey, fluff has a place. I quite like it. Jordanis has a point that even as a filly, Twi is enough of a pedant to spot the large hole in Celestia's argument, but that's a quite small weak point in an othrwise nice, sweet little story.
#6 · 1
· · >>shinygiratinaz
After reading other stories and rereading this one, I finally know what to do whit this one.

It will rank high in my list because, as I've said, the writing is really neat but it will be below others which may have bigger flaws but have moved me. This one haven't and thus can't be place at the top (at least in my book).
#7 · 1
· · >>shinygiratinaz
It is really hard to sell me on slice-of-life stories, but this one pulls it off. Not much happens, but there is a theme and a moral, and just enough warm fuzzies to be sweet without being saccharine. Plus, the length restriction doesn't seem to affect the quality of the prose, which is impressive on its own.

The only real issue I find is an advanced stylistic one: overuse of adverbs. Adverbs are not necessarily bad, but too many words ending in "-ly" can weaken the emotional strength of the piece, as they are not terribly evocative. Try to explore a few alternatives for description, and see what you can come up with.
#8 · 2
· · >>shinygiratinaz
Okay, this one gets to be nitpicked. Why? Because I think it's so close to getting it right, and rather than big problems, it's only small flaws that add up, yet are all easy to fix.

1. Half this story is basically an ode to the heavens. By that I mean the potential joy in the story is in the descriptions of the beauty being shown. But the descriptions are all just slightly repetitive. Not to a horrible degree, but...
a) the word "stars" shows up 3 times in the same paragraph.
b) the "-ly" adverbs thing HorseVoice mentioned
c) While there are some great phrases, many other fall flat, mostly due to a flat cadence.

2. PoV
a) The PoV shifts mid paragraph. Specifically, Paragraph 10, "Twlight felt..." then next sentence "She gently picked Twilight up..."
b) The PoV problem reenters later, as other descriptions like "the sky felt alive" but aren't clear on WHO felt that. Due to the overall subject, yes, we assume Twilight, but it's then again mixed with things from Celestia's PoV.

3. Nightmares
a) This is literally the subject that Luna (Nightmare Moon) is AND what Luna (defender of dreams) is all about. I feel this story is really wanting to make that connection between the moon and nightmares, but it doesn't show up like it should. If you could make that connection... show Celestia shy away from the Mare in the Moon when Twilight says something about nightmares, or say something more generic about how "There will always be a princess there to guard your dreams"... really, any kind of foreshadowing would make a much stronger emotional impact.
#9 · 1
· · >>shinygiratinaz
It's cute, but lacking.

Like the climax of this little arc is the moment where they see the heavens and it's kind of understated. Like, this should have been an absolutely mind blowing image that fills us with awe and wonder and... it really doesn't deliver. This is your big whammy. Your awesome moment. The big climactic attack in the final battle, the first passionate kiss, the sick burn that ends argumentation forever. If you want to hang your defining emotional moment on a wondrous image, you need to deliver on that image.

And yeah, I was debating mentioning this since I wasn't sure I was being too sensitive, but you have a -lot- of adverbs.

All told, I dunno. I think the idea is somewhat flawed here. This scene puts me in mind of the respective scenes about stars. Mufasa gives Simba a reason to look up at the stars and feel loved, but Celestia... Celestia more or less leaves them as great big balls of gas burning billions of miles away that, for some reason, should fill her with love. Like, I sorta get the logic, but the connection feels much weaker.
#10 · 1
· · >>shinygiratinaz
Beautifully done. Between the lavish description and Twilight’s unintentional echo of Luna’s greatest grievance, this worked very well indeed. My only question is why Twilight isn’t waking up her mother instead of Celestia, but that doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the piece.
#11 · 1
· · >>shinygiratinaz
Very beautiful and evocative. Except for one writing boo-boo below, very clean, too. Not sure how it fits the prompt, but the prompt encouraged you to write this, so it's okay.

setting the filly on her back
This is a pronoun antecedent fault. You want her to refer back to Princess Celestia, not the filly. How the sentence reads is that Celestia put Twilight Sparkle hooves up (i.e., on her back) somewhere, probably the floor. As you can see from me struggling against the vagary of the wording, the sentence needs to be recast. My best would be "setting the filly in the small of her back," where "small of her back" logically is a place for the filly to be, not a pose for the filly. An alternative would be "mounting the filing on her back" using the equestrian term. Multiple pronouns in a sentence are a danger signal. Sometimes I change the gender of bit players in a scene so I can use he and she. Not possible here, of course.
#12 · 2
· · >>shinygiratinaz
That was pretty.

But I am also enough of a pedantic filly to point out that the way galaxies and stars are depicted is inaccurate, giving me no choice but to rate this story a shameful negative one bajillion/10.
#13 · 4
And it's time for a retrospective!


To start with, thank you all for the comments and critiques! I'll do my best to keep them in mind going forwards. Overall I'm pleasantly surprised that I was able to get as far as I did in my first Writeoff, but I'm also a little disappointed that I allowed myself to make some rather large missteps. Onwards and upwards, I suppose!

For starters, I didn't notice exactly how many -ly adjectives I was using while I was writing, but boy are there a lot. I've never really considered how that can bog down a reading, so thanks to everybody who pointed that out. The prompt relation in my idea was that "the twilight zone" was literally an "area of twilight," and I wanted to make this "area" to be something worth remembering for the characters. The points about the perspective change and pronoun confusion are greatly appreciated too, since I didn't even realize how off those were.

My biggest issue, and I think this was the most damaging of my mistakes, was that I really messed up the tone and meaning of Celestia's speech. The tone seems to have been interpreted as cute and fluffy, which was definitely part of what I wanted, but I had intended the last few paragraphs to slide into melancholy. I had actually wanted Celestia's speech to feel a bit off for Twilight's situation because I wanted the speech to read like it was being spoken not fully as an encouragement to Twilight, but also as a promise for Celestia to right her failures to Luna through Twilight(especially the last line of the speech). I think I didn't emphasize this enough for it to actually be understandable though. My only hints ended up being how Celestia initially reacts to Twilight's description of how she felt in her nightmare, Celestia staring only at the moon while she spoke, and Celestia's trembling at the end. I also initially had Twilight actually start questioning the logic of Celestia's speech, but I cut that out at some point when trimming down. The purpose of the last few lines was originally to have Twilight realize that Celestia seemed upset about something too, and Twilight's hugging Celestia tighter was Twilight's way of trying to comfort Celestia despite the situation being intended as the reverse. I don't know what I was thinking in trimming this part out because I think it would have helped a lot with getting to the meaning I intended.

Overall I think this ended up being a decent story, it just wasn't the story I thought it was in my head. I'll have to work more on what to trim and what not to trim since I think that was a big part of my problem. It seems like it'll be a while before the minific rounds come back again, so hopefully next time I'll have a bit of a better eye for it.