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Counterfeit · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
As the last of the immaculately groomed and coiffured models trotted backstage and the runway cleared, the house lights went up, illuminating an audience made up of a wildly stomp-applauding crowd of Canterlot glitterati. Rarity peeked through the curtain. It was all so familiar; the same spectacle, the same crowd, the same sea of faces and manestyles and ostentatious high-fashion flaunting as always.

She took a deep breath, then took one last glance down at herself. Her dress was selected with fine-tuned balance. One had to be fashionable oneself to be taken seriously as a designer, of course, but at the same time, it would be a faux pas to shine as bright as, or Celestia forbid, even outshine, the pieces on show.

But it would be fine. She’d made a safe choice, something leaning a hair more generic and less distinctive than the aesthetic theme of the collection on display. It was something that said it was calculated and calibrated to be the right choice.

Beyond that, it said nothing else.

She wondered why she was wearing it all, really, and just for a brief second, was struck by a bout of second-guessing. She didn’t even like this dress. Why was she wearing something she didn’t like?

Well, too late for that now. She blinked, and stepped forward, pushing through the curtain. Time to do her bit for the eager audience.

She walked her walk down the runway, a walk that was calculated, like the dress, to be showable but not showy, fit for a star but tuned not to overshadow the stars. Step by step, she made sure to have a spring, the hint of eagerness and enthusiasm, but not to cock or jut her hips, not to strike something bold enough to be taken as a pose.

She walked without saying anything.

Then she reached the end of the runway, and stopped. Now was the time for her speak.

“Thank you!” she said through the last of applause while it died down in anticipation of her words. “I am Rarity, the designer of the line being shown today. Thank you, all of you wonderful ponies, for coming out to see the unveiling of my new winter collection. I—”

Rarity froze. The crowd was suddenly still. Everypony seemed to be staring up at her oddly, with barely audible murmurs of confusion rising up slowly from their midst.

In horrible, sinking humiliation, she felt her face flush under her fur, forming pinpricks of heat on her cheeks and forehead.

She couldn’t believe what she’d just said.

This was the unveiling show for her spring collection.

The post-show party was as familiar as the show itself. The drinks, the hors d’oeuvres, the snooty banter, polite laughter, syrupy-sweet compliments from friends, subtle jabs between perennial rivals… it was all so, so inevitable, like playing a record for the thousandth time and knowing how every note in every song goes.

The songs were so familiar, their tracks so trodden, so thoroughly known, that they seemed to say nothing anymore.

“I must say, Miss Rarity, we were all quite surprised at the announcement of your ‘new’ winter lineup in the spring season,” Fancy Pants said, gazing at Rarity with his charmy, smarmy smile over a glass undoubtedly containing some variety of fashionable whiskey cocktail.

“Ahh, yes, well.” Rarity smiled in return, practiced smoothness having replaced any outward indication feeling flustered at her little blunder. “I suppose it was just that I had such a uniquely joyful design experience last season, perhaps some part of me simply wasn’t ready to leave it behind yet. One of those seasons where there’s still more to say. You know.”

“I see.” Fancy Pants nodded. “And if the winter season had so much to say, then what, precisely, is the spring season adding to the undoubtedly scintillating conversation?”

“Well, I, umm.” Rarity twitched an ear. “I believe it’s not always best for an artist to say what her work means,” she finally declared. “Takes away the viewer’s fun of discovering their own sense of what it expresses, don’t you think?”

“Yes, I can see that.” Fancy Pants nodded. “In any case, I would say you’ve done it again, Miss Rarity. Not that there was any doubt you would. Splendid show. Splendid as always.”

“Thank you, Fancy Pants,” Rarity said. “You’re just too kind, as always.”

And so the evening went on, with so many such exchanges, so many ponies saying things, but nothing really being said.

She’d thought a good champagne buzz might help. Help with what, exactly, she wasn’t sure. She just knew that, lately, she was finding these things to be so much more fun – or was it tolerable? – that way. Two and a half flutes in, she’d cut herself off, however; finding herself sipping the third glass without quite remembering having grabbed it from the tray had taken her a bit by surprise. She was, fortunately, still present enough to know she needed to be wary of crossing the all-important but now perilously blurring line between nicely light-headed and visibly tipsy.

So she’d discreetly set that glass aside on the back of the hors d’oeuvres table hours ago, in the midst of the soiree, and there it stayed, silently waiting for the rest of the afternoon as it stretched on into evening. It stood stoic as the crowd thinned, guests excusing themselves by twos and threes and drifting off to whatever else it was they had going on in their glamorous, privileged lives. Early on it had been covered in a velvet-fine coat of condensation that formed as the chilled wine cooled the glass, then slowly turned clear again as the liquid gradually returned to room temperature.

And there it was, still waiting now, in the silent aftermath among the last few random leftover bite-size savory snacks.

Rarity was alone, finally, mercifully, now that the last guests had cleared out, leaving her in the sweet peace of silence at last. She paced around here and there, picking up stray trash and beginning some light cleanup work. Passing by the table, she caught the flash of rich straw-yellow from the half-full champagne flute, and paused in her tracks.

Without much thought, she picked up the flute with her horn and slugged what was left in it.

The champagne was both warm and long since flat, which allowed its palette of distinctively brut, sour, bread notes to loom larger than would have been considered optimal in a fit-to-drink state. But at least, Rarity noted, it was saying something, speaking loud in the flavors that told the tale of how it was made with love and with care to possess the characteristics it put on over-full display now.

A silver bucket on a stand to the side of the table held the bottle it came from, along with the rest of whatever was left in it. It sat in a pool of cold water that had once been ice, and still had a few pieces floating here and there in it.

“Well, waste not, want not, I suppose,” Rarity mumbled, pulling the bottle out of the chilling bucket. She paused, shaking the bottle slightly to get sight of how much was left sloshing around inside. It looked like it was still a good halfway full.

“Hmmm.” She shrugged. “Fuck it.”

A mischievous grin crossed her lips and lit up her eyes. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK!” she gleefully declared to no one, with the joyous unrestraint of a little filly realizing that without any adults around, there was absolutely nothing stopping her from saying ‘the naughty words.’ A flash of a memory came to her, of accidentally overhearing Sweetie Belle doing the same thing one afternoon. How long ago was that, now? How many years? It still made her secretly giggle, however long it had been.

She swigged straight from the bottle, upturning it and taking a long, gulping pull.

It was all so very, very unladylike.

But: “Fuck it,” she declared again.

Still carrying her bottle, post-party cleaning forgotten for the moment, she wandered over toward the display ponyquins silently showing off her spring collection.

She sat down on the floor in front of them, and ruminated on Fancy Pants’ question. What did they say?

Groping for an answer left her at a loss. All she could really recall about creating them was a sense of not having enough time to figure out what they were saying.

But wasn’t that the way, lately?

She scowled unhappily. Every new fashion season rushed by, each faster, each more rote and less thoughtful than the one before, and they all blurred into the same general framework of process now.

No, there was no denying it was all becoming the same. New for the sake of new, but not for the sake of saying anything – climb, climb, climb, creation without relent, because the fashionable high-society ponies who fancied themselves on the bleeding edge of trendsetting demanded it with a thirst that the finest champagne couldn’t quench, and there was no time to pause and breathe, because when she did, that's when she’d feel her stomach start floating with the dread weightless feeling of falling, of sliding down into disposability.

To stand still in fashion was to become obsolete, to feel her all her hard-won progress backslide, and then the cold panic of looking up at everypony she’d once been right beside continuing their own relentless climbs, leaving her behind.

Just thinking about it left her feeling the ghost of a faint panic right here, right now, not even a good few hours out from her season launch.

And some part of her couldn’t bear to think about what came next, how the loop would repeat itself.

She felt like a ghost, only… only the opposite of a ghost, she supposed. The body, still here, but without the spirit, somehow missing a vital spark. She wasn’t sure what the right word was for how she felt, but it certainly didn’t feel good.

There wasn’t much that did make her feel good, at this point.


Maybe one thing.

“Make me levitate, won’t you?” she quietly implored the bottle floating before her in the grip of her horn’s magic.

Wine hangovers were such a spiteful bitch. That was all Rarity could think as she dragged herself out of bed with her head still foggy with the demand for more sleep and her throat dry and scratchy… also, feeling the need to pee with an inordinate ferocity, she noticed quickly.

She was naked. Through the haze, she remembered having had the presence of mind to take off her dress before going to bed. Well, at least there was that. It meant she hadn’t been too drunk. Just the right amount of drunk, if such a thing existed.

Still, she’d slept through the night soundly and woken up refreshed enough in spite of feeling only slightly worse-for-wear, so maybe there was. Hard to argue with results, after all.

After using the bathroom, stretching out a bit, and shaking herself off, she stood in front of her full-length mirror. The creature gazing back at her was such a glorious mess, she couldn’t help but smile. Mane unbrushed and wild, eyelashes long but haphazard, coat frazzled from bed and desperately needing a good brushing… but it was all so…

…so real.

It was raw, it was unkempt, and it was the truth, all of it.

This wasn’t a new feeling. She remembered. The truth was, last night, she’d taken off her dress long before she’d crawled into bed, and she hadn’t taken it off just to go to sleep. She’d taken it off because taking it off felt like shedding a counterfeit veneer, breaking from the pretense of putting up a front that implied there was something to say when there was really nothing. She’d taken it off, right there in the studio in front of the display ponyquins showing her newest line, because she wasn’t one of them and in the liberated looseness of intoxication certainly didn’t care enough about appearances to keep feeling like one.

The dress, as far as she knew, was still laying there, empty on the floor, in front of her other creations.

She liked what she saw in the mirror better. In her nudity, she saw a constant image of the underlying truth, instead of a covering. In that moment, she felt like she could stare at it all day, just basking in how refreshing it was to be struck by seeing something real again.

This made it very hard for her to drag herself downstairs, back to the studio, to begin the day’s work.

Hard, but not impossible. Sadly, the ever-present cold neurotic dread of falling behind ultimately made it rather an inevitability, instead of a challenge.

She never wore clothes when she was designing.

Some designers did. They spoke of how being dressed fashionably at work helped connect them to the wellspring of passion for exploring what clothing could be. It sounded wonderful, it really did. She wished she could relate.

All they did for her was get in the way.

Maybe this was one of those revelations that one didn’t exactly hide (she never put on clothes for the sake of pretense when others saw her working, after all), but might have been scandalous if she’d explicitly pointed it out as a deliberate choice. So she said nothing on the subject, one way or another. That was easiest, really.

Perhaps that was the problem, though. Perhaps saying nothing to maintain an easy, agreeable face was too easy.

Had she really even said anything, for months now? For seasons? How many seasons, how many new collections, had rolled through her sewing machine devoid of real speech?

It didn’t used to be like this, she remembered.

In Ponyville, nakedness was the norm. Nopony usually wore much of anything as a routine. She remembered making their clothes to express something special, at special times, because they fretted about making the day unique and memorable, not because they were just trying to keep up.

She remembered when a mare came to her in anticipation of a special day to have a spectacular dress made for the occasion, and it was like the extra slice of fresh fruit atop the perfect swirl of frosting on one of the fanciest cupcakes to be had from Sugarcube Corner. It was the extra bit that made everything pop. It was such a joy.

It was gone.

These thoughts tormented her as she lay in the dark, trying to sleep after another long day’s work cutting and sewing and sketching and patterning and having nothing to fucking say and now at 2am desperately wishing she could just go to sleep so she could have some time to not think about any of this… until, of course, she had to get up in the morning and go to it all again.

Crying didn’t help, of course, and she knew that, but all the same she couldn’t help it. Being caught in the swirl of all these thoughts drove her to quiet, frustrated tears.

“I want to go home,” Rarity sobbed, softly, barely more than a whisper into her pillow. “I just want to go home.”
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#1 ·
This was the unveiling show for her spring collection.

Coming off of Zero Sum Game, the way these opening paragraphs were framed, with this line in particular, I was primed to think this was Rarity losing her mind. I’m not sure the reality is any kinder.

Rarity may not know what she wants to say anymore, but stars this story does. I’m not putting together the right word, but it expresses immaculately the feeling of burnout that comes from realizing that your career has left you up shit creek and you have no one and nothing to blame for landing there but yourself. There are gems of language and insight to be unearthed all about; Rarity’s emotional journey through the story is conveyed impeccably… To the top of my slate it goes, and there it shall remain.
#2 ·
I like the association of season-themed fashion lines and a feeling of personal stasis. (Who gives a rat's ass about Vivaldi, anyway?) But I am not sure that 'longing for Ponyville' is the right direction to take it, or at least to conclude with. Surely, Rarity's impulse to leave town and pursue a calling was a real feeling, just as her crisis of authenticity is a real feeling; they are at parity, and that is the whole trouble. It figures a bit clumsily in this particular fictional universe, but the designer seeing herself nude in the mirror, caught between these two worlds, is the important image.
#3 ·
You give a fair representation of Rarity's dilemma, where fashion is *change* and she is feeling frozen in place, because how do you change fashion for the *better* as you progress. As writers, we tend to fall into 'class traps' because we are by nature part of the class that will never be invited to VIP events where people who have far more than two commas in their net worth chat about nothing in particular. Rarity's motivations in-canon are always tricky to represent, because she's driven by ego to become the most famous designer ever, loved by the rich, adored by the glitterati, courted by the nobility. It's a bubble that is constantly only one prick from an explosion, or in this case, a mis-step in front of the people (metaphorical) that she most wants to impress. The thing is the process is a cumulative exercise for her to reach her goal: Elation, explosion, misery, rebuilding to new and greater heights. You only hit the first three steps in this story, leaving it on a downer ending, and people as a rule dislike stories in which the dog dies at the end. (with maybe one yellow exception) This is perhaps why Never The Final Word tends to collect such gems (and the occasional pebble from me).

"So I'm an imposter." The hotel light was insufficient for her purposes, but it would have to do. Mussed and disheveled from tossing and turning, Rarity removed a quill from her traveling bag and sat down on the cheap chair to begin drawing. The quill was no ordinary feather, but the flight pinion of an alicorn, her best and most trusted friend in the world. "I have seen things you posers and hypocrites have never even dreamed of," she muttered between clenched teeth. "I have seen dragons fill the sky, surrounding us like thunder and fire. I have seen the home of breezies and seaponies and faced powers beyond description with my friends. I have been to the MOON and back, while most of you were sniveling about trivia." The quill swooped and darted across the page, leaving wonders in its wake as the night wore on unnoticed outside the window, with the stars twinkling to each other as they peered down at the act of creation and seemed to applaud until the dawn.