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The Twilight Zone · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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The last colors of evening faded from the appropriately crystal-clear skies of the long-lost Crystal Empire as the songs of day birds gave way to the nightlong vigil of the crickets. Night Light turned away from the window of his opulent palatial guest suite in the Crystal Castle, his mouth resting in a contented smile.

A warm voice came from the chamber's luxurious bed. "So? How was it?"

"The sunset?"

"What else have you been looking at for the past half hour?" The voice turned from musical to slightly sultry. "It's almost as you don't have a fiendishly-attractive grandmare in the room with you."

Night Light laughed. "The sunset was gorgeous, thank you, but nothing compared to my wife."

"Good to hear."

The cobalt-colored stallion slipped between the crisp white sheets, found Velvet's warmth with his hooves and pulled in close. Their lips met, and they did not speak for some time.

"You know," he said, eventually, "we are the luckiest ponies. Our son's a prince by marriage. Our daughter, a princess by merit."

"And now, our new grandfoal," said Velvet, "A princess by birth, something Equestria's never seen."

"So, what do you think? Good genes? Good upbringing?"

"Good children," said Velvet, snuggling up. "In their own right. We just helped them along."

"I suppose," said Night Light. He held her for a moment, feeling the rhythm of her heartbeat. "Still, what say we see what other miracles we can help usher into being?"

"Dear," she replied, "I would love nothing better."

Canterlot. Night. The cordoned-off lecture hall was illuminated by candles and fireflies only, by strict order of the Celestia herself. The residual thaumaturgic radiation had been powerful enough to turn a conventional mage-light into a custard pie earlier that afternoon, and the princess had requested that none of her faculty be exposed to any more unnecessary risk.

One element of necessary risk—used for a maximum of fifteen seconds every ten minutes, lest the School for Gifted Unicorns be exposed to yet more madness—was Associate Professor Dawn Strike's arcane thaumometer. With the instrument gripped gingerly between her teeth (no telekinesis, too risky), Dawn Strike used her allotted fifteen seconds to run a quick wave scan on the second of two anomalous potted plants in the room, a San Palomino flowering cactus.

The thaumometer bleeped and blipped, producing another fragment of data for Dawn Strike to throw onto the pile of understanding. She wanted more—Sweet Celestia, did she want more!—but even this brief period of magic use had turned one of the chairs a rather unnerving shade of teal, and she dared go no further until the thaumic currents died down.

Dawn Strike carefully set the instrument on a nearby desk and was in the process of rubbing away a headache with one hoof when the voice of her colleague, Associate Professor Sunshine, rose up from the back of the room.

"Finding anything useful in here?"

Dawn Strike looked up at him. "Not much. None of it good." She gestured at the potted fern. "Little Miss Sparkle's mum's been completely eradicated, but there's still some trace of pony mental activity in the father."

"Not sure which of the two of them to feel sorrier for," said Sunshine, clip-clopping gently down the aisle.

"Feel sorry for the filly," she said. "Can you imagine it? Rubbing out both your parents in a magical accident before you're even Marked? That'll scar you."


"The brother's a Guard brat; he may have to go on extended sabbatical. Only family she's got left and all."

"Tough life," said Sunshine. He glanced back at the plants. "On the other hoof, must be no picnic being a cactus forever."

"We don't know for sure that he's aware and conscious. Nor do we know his perception of time. Entire moons may have passed, as far as he's concerned. He could be dreaming. He could be lucid. He could be in constant excruciating agony. There's nothing we can do to even tell."

Sunshine shook his head. "Poor devil," he said. "It must be a living Tartarus in there."

Night proper came to the Crystal Empire. Night Light drifted to sleep, the love of his life cradled in his hooves, thinking happy thoughts of his beautiful children.

He was smiling.
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#1 · 1
· · >>M1Garand8
Before reading: "This better be a Westworld reference."

After reading: Forgot I was looking for a Westworld reference.

WTF just happened? The first bit was was sweet, excepting a tad bit of lavender unicorn syndrome, what with all the hyphenated adjectives.

But that next bit... WTF? It didn't connect at all, until it did, and then, WTF? I wasn't sure how it ties back to the canon timeline. I wanted to see some imposter parents brought in or something... something to explain (in an even darker way) the canon version we know. But word limits and such I suppose. So yeah, I'll leave this at "WTF?"

And, now that I think about it, I guess that alone makes it enough of a Westworld reference!
#2 · 2
From what I can tell, the entire canon Friendship is Magic is basically the dying dream of Night Light as a potted plant after Twilight's magic surge.
#3 · 2
Well, this has been an unexpected punch in the kidneys. Thank you for it.

There's not much to say here, except that I liked this quite a lot.
#4 · 1
Hello there, first story in this whole thing to genuinely creep me out. To the top you go!
#5 · 1
'and it was all just a dream', huh?

I'm a bit torn on this one. On the one hand, it did what it set out to do, and it's fairly effective. On the other hand, it took some pondering for me to reach the same conclusion M1 did, and that uncertainty detracted from the impact. 'Everything you know is wrong' is a bit of a hard sell. Still, I'm not certain what would work better... if the before part was a little less all-encompassing? If there was some sort of weirdness that tied in between the dream/IRL more obviously? (Something about photosynthesis maybe,) or something like that?

Either way, this was pretty good. I just wish it was a little smoother at the very end.
#6 ·
You got the Twilight Zone thing in one smooth shot. Having potted those same two plants in at least two stories (none here), I can well appreciate the effort. Nice.
#7 · 2
Hmm. I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, it’s certainly a twist worthy of the prompt. On the other hand, the implications about everything we’ve seen feels decidedly unsatisfying. I’m not sure how to rate something both literarily competent and conceptually abhorrent. I’ll have to score based solely on the former.
#8 ·
The vocabulary, then the wording on top of that?
Threw me out the window, before I had even started to read.
Sorry, this sale failed.
#9 · 1
I did enjoy the flowery wording of this one, though think it might have made for better contrast to use it only in the Night Light segments. Then you might use simpler language in the "reality proper," and add to the idea of Night Light being trapped in a dream.

As for the story, it does what it means to and is prompt-appropriate. It did not do much for me on the creepiness level, but hey, still an enjoyable little thing.

#10 ·
Technical: Holy moly, these sentences are loaded with adjectives. Try to keep the number of your descriptive words down, they'll have more impact overall if you only venture into adjective land once in a while.

Content: I... don't really get it. I mean, I get what happened, sort of, but how am I supposed to feel about it? Good, that Night Light (and maybe Velvet?) are having a good time in there? Bad, because they're really a cactus and maybe sort of dying? Clearly, Twilight's magically powerful, so will she still be picked up as Celestia's slightly more traumatized apprentice in the outer world? Does it even matter? I don't know. There's some irony to be had in the researchers' statements, but I can't find any emotional context or clear tonal cues to go with it.

I think this is very close to being good. The framework is all in place, but it needs to take a clear stand somewhere, establish a tone and let the reader know how to feel. Whether that be existential horror or "things were actually okay" sad comfort or something else - anything as long as it's something. As is, I come out thinking "That certainly happened. :|"
#11 · 4
Honestly, I kinda think this story is mis-structured? Sticking the reveal in the middle (and having it eat up so much of the word count) is bizarre. This seems a lot more like it'd be better suited spending about 90% of its word count building up Night Light's happiness and maybe even further highlighting how unusual it is and then cutting that out from under everyone with the reveal.

Also Sunshine's entire last line makes him look like a serious asshole by completely disregarding everything Dawn Strike -literally- just said.

Also thaumometer and honestly that entire beginning of the middle probably pushed me a little too hard into thinking about Unseen University. Will be really shocked if writer is not a Pratchett reader.

Anyhow, this kinda falls under that category of stories I just don't like, which is sad to be sad. Personal preference thing here, but yeah, just not fond of this sort of stuff.
#12 ·
The last colors of evening faded from the appropriately crystal-clear skies of the long-lost Crystal Empire as the songs of day birds gave way to the nightlong vigil of the crickets. Night Light turned away from the window of his opulent palatial guest suite in the Crystal Castle, his mouth resting in a contented smi

Wow. Stodgy.

In general, the text is studded with many adjectives or adverbs, which add little to it (do we have to know the sheets are white, for example?). Crossing out unnecessary adjectives/adverbs not only will allow you to stuff more meat into that ridiculously cramped format, but it will also make your sentences more impactful.

Yeah, I have some difficulties making heads or tails of that one. Is that two different timelines? So princess-dom and stuff only happen in the imagination of two potted cactuses? Sorry, I’m a bit at sea here.
#13 ·
oh no, not one of these things. yeah, the whole show was a hallucination, random synapses firing off in the brain of a vegetable.... literally!
so what? where's the story?

I would've been interested in seeing how this affects the lives of Twilight and Shining. better or worse paths? but instead it's just focused on how he couldn't be happier, while everyone else is sad and pity him. manipulative.
#14 ·
· · >>Skywriter
FYI, this was my first-placed vote. Good job Skywriter! Not sure how I beat you.
#15 ·
Probably by being overall better and not sprinkling fancy-fart words all over everything. That is the general consensus I get.