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Wind and Rain · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
El Sueño de la Razón
Staring at the computer screen, I blink, but the picture there doesn't change. I give it a few more blinks just to be sure, then I shift my gaze over to Meredith, sitting on the edge of the bed and tying her shoes. "Mare! This doesn't make any sense!"

"It's the internet," she says, not slowing in her lace knotting. "It's not supposed to make sense."

"But look!" My feathers rustle as I wave a wing. "It's an 'original short story' contest on the Writeoff site this time around, but, like, half the prompt images have My Little Pony characters in them!"

That gets her to look up, a few creases wrinkling her usually immaculate forehead. "Half?"

"Well, OK, three of the eleven." I'm trying to cut down on my exaggerating. Which is to say that Meredith is trying to get me to cut down on my exaggerating...

I'm not exaggerating about the most important part of all this, though, so I jump and flap and poke the screen with a claw. "This one's a parody of Magritte's The Treachery of Images," I explain to her, "but with Derpy instead of the pipe! Which you wouldn't think would fit with the original prompt phrase, 'Wind and Rain,' except that Wikipedia says that another title for the painting is The Wind and the Song! And if you can't trust the internet to give you that sort of info, then who—?"

"Sammy?" She's combing her hair now, short and brown and draping straight down to almost touch her shoulders, so her attention's on the mirror over her dresser. "Are you screeching?"

I am, of course. I'm also hopping up and down on the back of her desk chair, something else she doesn't like and something else I usually avoid because I love Meredith and would do anything for her.

Anything within reason, I mean. But right now, reason seems about as distant as the freaking Outer Hebrides.

Still, I'm not screeching—no, no, not screeching at all!—when I go on. "It's such a great image, funny and clever and well-done and everything! But it's an original fiction round! So how can I possibly write a story based on it, huh? How?"

The arched eyebrow she turns toward me makes me realize not just that I'm screeching and not just that I'm hopping up and down on the back of her chair, but at this point I've started whining as well. So I take a breath, gently undo my claws from the fabric, settle my wings, and hardly even croak when I say, "I simply can't be expected to work under these conditions. That's all."

"Uh-huh." She brushes her sleeves—it's one of her white, billowy blouses with the little ruffles at the wrists that make her look like a pirate and make me pretend I'm a parrot. "Unfortunately, some of us have actual work to do, so I'll see you later."

"What?" I leap into a hover above her desk like a real crow could never do. "You're leaving me here? Alone? All night? With this horrible conundrum?"

The tiniest of smiles pulls at her lips. "Sammy, I go to work five days a week at just about this same time in the evening. Maybe you might've noticed that in the seven months we've been together?"

"No!" I quickly transform myself into a little crow-shaped brooch. "Here! You can pin me to your lapel and take me with you!" Another pop and puff, and I'm nothing but a single black feather. "Or here! You can tuck me into your bra, and I can snuggle against your beautiful, beautiful breasts all night! No one'll notice, and I can—"

"Sammy!" She screeches it, but I don't point out this little factoid when I notice the blush pinking her pale cheeks.

Swirling back to my regular corvine form, I drop to the top of the desk and wish I could blush, too.

"You know," she says after a long, long minute, her voice tight and her eyes clenched, "that there's a time and place for that sort of stuff between us. This isn't it."

"I know, Meredith." I can barely form the words. "I'm sorry, Meredith."

She pulls in a deep breath, then blows it out. "It's a good thing you're just a figment of my imagination." With another breath, she grabs her purse, unlocks the apartment door, steps out into the hall, and closes the door behind herself.




Of course, I'm not a figment of her imagination. Or at least I'm not just a figment of her imagination. After all, could a figment of someone's imagination be typing this story and entering it in the Writeoff?

But I can understand why she thinks I am. I mean, look at it from her point of view: a talking crow that can change into a variety of shapes as long as they're at least somewhat crow-related? I'd think I was a figment of my imagination, too, if I'd swooped down onto my shoulder late one night as I was walking home from my mind-numbing job as hostess at what Meredith tells me is actually a fairly nice little bistro just on the other side of the park from our apartment here.

She didn't scream is the thing that I remember most vividly from that moment; it was like she'd been expecting me. Her hand coming up to stroke one of my wings while she pressed her cheek into the feathers of the other made me feel quite welcome, and when we got back to her apartment, the way she settled into bed and started cuddling me like a teddy bear, well, that sure didn't hurt, either. I've even taken my most humanoid form a few times when she's asked me to, and we've done more than cuddle, but this isn't that kind of story, so forget about any details. Except that she's beautiful and I love her and I never, ever, ever want to be without her like I was, floating and shapeless and unhappy for so many long, forgettable centuries.

I lift my forlorn birdy head at the click-n-latch of the door lock. She'll forgive me for being an idiot. She always does. That doesn't stop me from feeling as torn up and stinky as the stuff regular crows usually eat, though. Carrion, the internet's told me it's called.

Still, 'carry on' is one of my mottos—what a segue!—so I shake myself, hop back to the computer, and sigh at the image of Derpy as the pipe from Magritte's painting. "What was the artist thinking?" I mutter.

On the screen, one of Derpy's eyes swings toward me. "Just a darn mystery, all right," she says.

And yes, OK, maybe it's stupid for a thing like me—whatever that is—to be surprised by a thing like this—whatever this is. But I'm pretty sure I've demonstrated my stupidity well enough in the first thousand words of this little opus. So I stare back at her, my tongue flicking around inside my beak like half a worm for a good second or two before I manage to ask, "Are you talking to me?"

"Yep!" She leaps from the screen, her little gray wings flitting her around my head like a fair-sized moth. "Us figments of the imagination gotta stick together, y'know!"

"But..." It takes me another few seconds to assemble some words. "Can a figment of the imagination have a figment of the imagination?"

"Well, sure!" Settling on the top edge of the monitor, she gives a grin that seems almost bigger than she is. "Who better, right?"

"Ummm," I reply, and while it's not clever, it is heartfelt.

Derpy giggles. "That must be why I'm here: to teach you how to be a better figment!" She leaps from her perch and resumes her fluttering. "You shouldn't be cooped up inside some apartment! You should be out on the town, spreading your wings, making dreams come true for yourself, for your lady friend, and for anyone else who's lucky enough to run across you! Imagination: that's the key word!"

"But—"

"Look at me!" She rears back and spreads her front hooves. "I've got no business being part of an original fiction round! No business at all! And yet? Here I am!" One front hoof curls down to rest on her hip while the other jabs the air between us in time with her next words. "And here you ought to be, too!"

Glancing from side to side just to be sure, I say, "I am here."

"Exactly!" The air whooshes as she swoops past me. "So c'mon! Let's go be here somewhere else!"

I swivel my neck and watch her slam face first into the apartment door with the sort of sound that I imagine a sock full of toothpaste would make: not a squish and not a splash but something distinctly related.

She just bounces back, though, shakes her head, and turns her lop-sided eyes and grin toward me. "The thing is, you've gotta come with me since you're the one imagining me."

Again, parts of me start to stammer. But then a selection of her words from a few seconds ago actually seeps into the mulch I call my brain, finds a little seed there, and sets it to sprouting.

Making dreams come true for my lady friend, she said. Because, yes, I've been doing everything I can think of to make Meredith's life better—or at least more interesting—ever since she summoned me or I appeared or whatever it was that happened. And if a little imaginary Derpy wants to show me more ways to help Meredith?

Then never mind who's imaginary and who isn't. "Let's do this," I say, and I flap toward the door.

Why I can pass through when Derpy couldn't, I don't know. For that matter, I don't know why I'm still aware of the world without Meredith's presence. All I know is: thinking about it's likely a bad idea.

So I don't think about it. I bank right, zoom down the hallway, and dive through the closed window at the end as easily as someone might dive through a waterfall.




"Whoo-hoo!" Derpy crows beside me, and I, being nearly an actual crow, do some cawing of my own. It echoes from the building behind us and goes shooting off into the twilight sky, traffic flowing on Woodward Avenue below, lights just coming on in the park ahead to show humans strolling along the winding little walkways. I angle my wings to slice through the summer evening breeze and do some more cawing just to let the world know that I'm enjoying everything it has to offer.

The tingling from the tips of my pinions to their bases! The exhilaration of the open air! Have I actually not been out of Meredith's apartment in the past seven months?

"See?" Her wings buzzing like a hummingbird's, Derpy somehow manages to get out in front of me and fly backwards. "You need to keep fresh, to keep alert, to keep—"

She vanishes into the canopy of a tree with barely a rustle. I backwing, land on an upper branch, and watch her wriggle back onto her hooves among the leaves. "OK!" she announces. "D'you wanna start with something small, or d'you wanna blow yourself up to the size of City Hall and stomp through the streets demanding couscous?"

"Not that second one!" I say as decisively as I know how.

"Small it is!" When she nods her head, I swear I can hear metal clattering, but her snaggle-eyed gaze seems to catch on something in the park under and around us. "There!" She points off to my left.

I look down through the branches, but all I see in the mix of shadows cast by the last trace of the sun and the still-warming-up walkway lights is grass and leaves. Except—

Something of a not-quite-natural color and shape is lying half buried by a pile of cut branches at the base of the next tree. I lean forward, and the something resolves into a little doll of some sort.

"C'mon!" Derpy calls, and she darts away toward the doll.

Not at all sure what she has in mind, I follow.

When we alight next to it, I see that it's a rag doll not even as big as a human hand, yellow and creased with age but smiling from its round cloth face. "OK," Derpy says more softly than just about anything she's said so far. "Now all you hafta do is find the little girl who belongs to this doll and reunite them." With one tiny hoof, she smoothes down the doll's threadbare yarn hair.

"Uh-huh." Another look around shows me no humans of the proper age nearby. "How do I do that?"

She shrugs, still patting the doll.

This rankles me a bit. And because I'm a natural-born malcontent, I can't leave my next thought unexpressed. "And this is gonna help Meredith somehow?"

This gets Derpy's attention and sets her to blinking at me. "It is? Wow! What a coincidence!"

"No, I mean—" If I'd had fingers and the bridge of a nose, I would've employed one to rub the other. As it is, though, I settle for spreading my wings and flapping a little. "You said you'd teach me how to be a better figment of Meredith's imagination, didn't you?"

"Hmmm..." She taps her chin. "Yep, that sounds like something I'd say, all right." Then she goes back to petting the doll.

I wait for her to continue, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that she's done. So I consider my options.

Storming off in a huff, of course, sits right at the top of the list. But Meredith doesn't like it when I get all grouchy that way...

More than that, though, well, I've got an imaginary pony spirit guide or something now, don't I? And if the internet's to be trusted, spirit guides are supposed to exasperate, are supposed to drive those who pick them up into questioning their assumptions, delving through their psyches, discovering insights into who knows what all, and stuff like that.

So sure, I can't imagine how finding this doll's owner is going to help me help Meredith. But that doesn't mean it won't.

Which pretty much decides it. I jump forward, grab the doll in my talons, and flap up into the darkening sky.




Several hours later, full night has fallen, and I've gone from one end of the park to the other without meeting any weeping children, any distraught parents, anybody who could be missing or searching for this doll. Fortunately, the thing's light and soft and easily gripped, or I'd've dropped it in the lake at least an hour ago.

Derpy's kept with me the whole time, though her calls of cheerful encouragement—"Great going, Sammy!" is a frequent one, followed closely by "Almost there, I'll bet!" and "That's the way!"—have been less encouraging and more frustrating the later it's gotten. I've actually been spending more time perched than flying recently, and I've ended up in a tree on the other side of the park from our apartment building, the doll draped over the branch beside me and Derpy cuddled up to it.

"I dunno, Derpy," I finally say. Looking over at her, I can't tell if she's asleep or not. "Whoever lost that doll's probably not even in the park anymore."

"Can't give up," she mumbles without opening her eyes. "Do it for your lady friend."

"Do what for her?" I've been trying to hold it down, but my growing annoyance has just overtopped its banks. "Fly around like an idiot all night? She'll probably be getting off work soon!" On top of everything else, Meredith's very true comment earlier about me not knowing her schedule even after all these months, I'll admit, has been nettling me just a bit. "And I've done nothing, learned nothing, made exactly no amount of different to anyone or anything!"

She's blinking up at me now. "And why do you think that is?"

"Because I'm nothing!" I shout, waving my wings. "Because I'm just a figment of her imagination, and not even a very good figment at that! I screech when she doesn't want me to screech, claw up the back of her desk chair, spend all my time doing useless things on the internet, and just generally upset her all the freaking time! I'm the worst thing that could've happened to her! The absolute worst!"

My screeches rattle off into the darkness above the lights lining the park's pathways, but Derpy just keeps blinking. "No," she says. "Not that. I meant, why do you think you spent all this time flying around like an idiot?"

Now it's my turn to do some blinking. "Uhh, because you told me to? Because you said I needed to find this stupid doll's stupid owner if I was gonna learn how to better help Meredith?"

"And why's that important?"

"Why?" The air slicing in and out of my nostrils feels sharp as razor blades. "Because she's beautiful and perfect and I love her and she deserves everything to be wonderful in her life even if I can't ever do that for her!" My wings droop from my sides like Spanish moss. "I have to keep trying, though, because she believes in me. And I mean that literally: I mean, I'm a figment of her imagination, right?"

"I don't know." Derpy cocks her head. "Sounds to me more like you're a figment of your own imagination than hers. 'Cause if you were really as awful as you just said, I can't imagine Meredith would keep you around." The corners of her mouth turn up. "Hey! Now I'm imagining stuff, too! It's some kinda epizootic!"

I'm staring at her so hard, I couldn't blink if I wanted to. I'd never let myself even think the question, I guess, never let myself wonder the simple, basic 'why' of it all.

Why does Meredith keep me around?

And the instant that thought starts settling its roots into my cranial mulch, of course, that's when the screaming starts.

"Thieves!" someone high-pitched and creaky is shouting. "Villains! I'll sue you all to oblivion! Just see if I won't!"

It's coming from across Glennis Avenue, from a nice little bistro with tables out front. There's an old lady standing in the doorway, her long black coat trimmed with some sort of silvery fur, and she's shouting at—

She's shouting at Meredith. My eyes go wide and my heart freezes.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Jameson," Meredith is saying, "but Luis didn't find anything at your table when he—"

"That's because you're all thieves!" Folks sitting at the outside tables are looking at the old lady now and wrinkling their brows at Meredith—at my Meredith!

A chubby, balding man wearing a three-piece suit and a concerned expression comes out of the restaurant. "If you could just tell us what you've lost, Mrs. Jameson, we could—"

"I didn't lose anything!" Mrs. Jameson jabs a finger at the man. "Pookums has been with me for seventy years, Mr. Briggs, since before your grandparents opened this establishment! The only way she'd be parted from me is by force, and I'll have your entire staff arrested, searched, and deported if she's not back in my arms within the next three minutes!"

The man smiles a smile that hasn't a gram of humor in it and rushes back inside leaving Meredith alone with the crazy lady and an uneasiness that I can smell over two lanes of traffic and a sidewalk.

It's not just her uneasiness, I realize then. Mrs. Jameson's giving it off, too, like she's really lost something precious, like a child or a friend or a pet or—

"No," I say out loud, turning to Derpy and the doll. "You don't think...?"

"I try not to." Derpy gives a little shrug. "It usually doesn't turn out well."

With a snort, I leap up, grab the doll in my talons, and swoop across the street.

Meredith's voice comes clear to me, and it's like everything slows down except for her, the cars creeping along Glennis Avenue, their grinding and growling muffled and distant, the air thick and cold as ice cream, my swoop becoming a leisurely glide. "I know what it's like, Mrs. Jameson," Meredith is saying, "to have something secret and precious. It's the best feeling in the world sometimes, and sometimes it's the worst, cradling so much sweetness in your arms when no one can see it but you. I can't imagine how terrible it would be if I ever lost mine, though, so please believe me when I say we'll do everything we can to get yours back."

Mrs. Jameson's head turns slowly, a rusty weather vane finally noticing a shift in the wind, and her eyes go wide like she's noticing Meredith for the first time. Meredith gives her a little smile and a little nod—




And the world crashes to full speed and volume, my flight carrying me to the sidewalk a few paces from Meredith and Mrs. Jameson. Not sure what to do—I haven't really thought this out, have I?—I wave my wings to catch Meredith's attention and give as gentle a regular crow croak as I can.

Unadulterated alarm floods Meredith's face. "Sammy?" she asks, her voice cracking.

I croak again, bend down, and take the little doll in my beak.

Mrs. Jameson has turned now, and delight is the only word for what floods her face. "Pookums!" she cries.

With the silent giggling of the universe tickling my brain, I flap my way to Meredith's shoulder, lean forward, and drop Pookums into Mrs. Jameson's outstretched hands. For an instant, I swear I can see the child she must've been at some point in the previous century, then Pookums is swaddled away into the giant handbag hanging from her arm, and her eyes are narrowing in a completely different way than they were earlier. "Young lady," she says, "you know it's illegal to keep a crow as a pet, I assume?"

"Pet?" The word pops from Meredith's mouth like a cough. "Oh, no, ma'am! We're just good friends!"

The smile that creaks across Mrs. Jameson's lips has nuances in it that I'm not sure I want to understand, and then the man in the suit is pushing out the door, his smile even unhappier than before. "Please, Mrs. Jameson," he says, "won't you come into my office so we can—"

"All is well, Mr. Briggs." She's pulling on a pair of white, lacey gloves. "Your young hostess and her friend reminded me that I'd been enjoying an afternoon in the park before wending my way to your enchanting bistro for a bit of sustenance. Pookums at that time evidently decided to take a stroll without informing me, but all has been set right once again." Patting her purse, she nods to Mr. Briggs. "I apologize for my histrionics, and please convey my apology to your excellent staff. I shall be adding an extra twenty percent to my tips for the rest of the year in the hope of making some sort of amends for my actions this evening, and I shall see you all tomorrow night." That same weird smile tugs her mouth when her gaze grazes mine, then she's marching away up the street.

"Meredith?" It's the man's voice behind us; when Meredith turns, I find myself looking up into Mr. Briggs's confused face. "Is that...a crow?"

"He's, umm..." Meredith's shoulder tightens beneath me. "He's one of the flock that lives in the park, sir; I've kind of gotten to know them in the years I've been living here."

For an instant, I'm sure that I've done the stupidest thing ever, that my actions are about to get Meredith fired, that she'll hate me forever and will disperse me back into whatever aether I came swirling out of.

But... "Huh," Mr. Briggs says, and his smile becomes something closer to an actual smile. "Well, give him an acorn or whatever to thank him on your way home tonight. But right now?" He waggles a finger toward Glennis Avenue. "Before someone texts the city's health inspectors?"

"Yes, sir." The scent of Meredith's relief is like fresh water flowing over rocks. "I'll see that he gets home, sir."

Mr. Briggs is already moving away to the patio tables. "Our apologies for the excitement, folks, but, well, that's the spice of city life, isn't it?"

Smiles and chuckles rise from the diners, but my attention is immediately focused on Meredith's finger's stroking my back. "Sammy," she murmurs, "you are an angel." Her stroke becomes a caress. "And you know what I was saying about there being a time and place for that sort of stuff between us? Tonight when I get home will be that time and that place."

The joy bursting through me makes me want to whoop, but I know that'll just make things uncomfortable for everyone. So I touch my head to hers, click quietly deep in my throat, and take off into the night. Derpy comes spinning up beside me as I pass over the tree, and her "Whoo-hoo!" is more than loud enough for the both of us.

And now back here in the apartment, I'm just finishing up my story before submitting it. I take one more look at the pic gallery to make sure Derpy's settled into place again—wouldn't want the artist to get disqualified for the image appearing elsewhere before the event's conclusion—and get ready to run a spell check. Meredith'll be home soon, after all, and I want to have everything finished up before then.

Of course, I still don't understand how all of this happened or why or anything like that. I mean, between me and Derpy and Pookums, how many figments of whose imaginations have I been dealing with all evening?

I can't imagine it'll pay to think too hard about it, though.

So I won't. I'll just swear that this has been a true story and post it. And, hey, it's on the internet, right? So how could it be anything but true?
Pics
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#1 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny
So, this entry is kinda about ponies, but it's really original fiction, but it's based on a pic about ponies submitted to an original fiction round.

I haven't been this confused ever since Quiet Boy and Moon Horse. :P

Overall, the characters here do a great job of coming across as charming and likable. I really do like the first-person narration, and even as a guy who usually turns my nose at meta stuff, I thought most of the self-referencing bits did carry their weight.

If I had to lodge complaints, I did think that the ending might have left things feeling a little over-resolved. Like from a plot perspective, the act of reuniting Pookums with Mrs. Jameson kills about four or five birds with one stone, which kind of stretched my suspension of disbelief.

My more minor complaint would be that the very beginning and the very ending definitely felt like the weakest meta bits to me. I, admittedly, do seem to have a lower tolerance for meta than most, so YMMV.

In the end, this held my attention all the way through and ended up being the kind of thing that pretty much everyone can easily enjoy. So that's definitely a win in my book.

Thanks for submitting!
#2 ·
·
I would've welcomed:

A wider scope at the end, too. Maybe Sammy could see that there's this larger world of mysterious spirit things out there and that he has some sort of regulatory role to play in it. Give me a little "call of destiny" there, and I'll be happy.

Mike
#3 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
Meredith == Mare (as shorthand.)

SUPER meta... not a fan.

Transform into a ... brooch? So full shape-shifter. Not just Changling.

Okay, doubling down on the meta... You either own it or you die by it.

Some nicely poetic bits about Meredith, but... Are we really expected to believe a corvid companion needs to google "carrion"?

Meta again, with the "thing like me" bit. Game-fucking-on!

"...Not a squish and not a splash but something distinctly related." That should be added to the Thog-O-Matic!

WTF? This was very solid until this point. But suddenly I feel the author took off and got drunk. I had to re-read here several times to sync up.

And we're back... fantastic prose, following non-sense... onward!

And "we" know what a human hand is.

...Lots of stuff... Yeah, it won me over.

I'm reading all this is some solid Downton Abbey accents.


"Before someone texts the city's health inspectors?" really throws the sense of time out of wack. Until now, this was "Downton Abbey" or some fantasy world of similar timeline. "Texts" as a verb breaks all that.

"Time and a place..." crow-on-human sex? Okay, I guess...
"Derpy" and the meta compounds again. WTF?


There was some amazing writing in this story. It could literally stand on its own. But the author dragged in this weird meta-narrative framing and Derpy/MLP on either end. Literally considering the artwork ("depressed pegasus" or something) would've played far better, in my opinion. Forcing a My Little Pony context here was a negative.

All that said, I've not (yet) read the other entry in this one-horse-town.
#4 ·
· · >>Super_Trampoline
Thanks, >>Bachiavellian and >>Xepher:

And the one other person who voted this round, if I'm reading the stats right...

This story came about entirely because of Super Trampoline's image. I had the same reaction as Sammy does and had to try writing a non-Pony story about it. I'm stripping out the Pony stuff and making the characters into Ploomy the pegasus from the My Little Mythos cartoon series, doing some different stuff with the ending, and then I'll start submitting it around to the various places I submit stuff. If none of them want it, I'll try FimFiction with the Derpy stuff put back in. So many options!

Mike
#5 ·
·
>>Baal Bunny

Glad to have inspired you with my not paying attention to what type of round it was. I'm just happy I managed to submit something for once!