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Nightmare After Nightmare Night · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Fall Back
A puff in her ear and a sharp prod between her wings jabbed Twilight awake. Leaping up, she threw off her blankets, spun in mid-air, and flared her horn, her mind racing—Tirek! Parasprites! Tatzlewurms! Silverfish!

But instead, the not-long-after-dawn light coming through her bedroom window showed her a hovering white envelope, its little paper wings rustling with each flap. Purple letters stretched raggedly across the front of it, and they spelled out her name.

Twilight blinked at it. It continued crunchily flapping. She reached out a hoof, but just before she could touch it, its wings vanished with a poof, dropping the envelope right onto her frog.

After a few more blinks, she dismissed her internal checklist of what to do when awakened by a monster and/or a threat to her books. Activating senses she'd honed during her time in Ponyville, she sifted through the evidence—time; place; size and physical make-up of the envelope; quality and thickness of the ink—and came to one conclusion.

It was a party invitation, but not from Pinkie Pie. Pinkie always preferred delivering her invitations herself, after all.

Relaxing a bit, Twilight drifted back down to settle on her flannel sheets, a light camphor smell still drifting up from them since she'd just unpacked her cold-weather trunk yesterday. A thought sharpened her hornglow; she sliced the top off the envelope and pulled a cream-colored card from inside.

She set the envelope down and looked at the words Come one, come all! printed across the card in that same scraggly writing. And yes, I suppose that means you, too, Twilight Sparkle.

Which pretty much confirmed the suspicion that had started tickling the back of her brain. What was Discord up to now?

Well, if you'll just keep reading, the next line on the card said, it's entirely possible that you might find out.

Fighting off the usual dealing-with-Discord urge to grind her teeth, she shifted her gaze to the third line.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes. The party. And the fourth line said, With the leaves having been run and the Nightmare Night candy now busily rotting hundreds of thousands of molars and festering away in pillow cases and paper sacks sequestered within closets and under beds across the length and breadth of our beloved realm of Equestria, it's time for the greatest of all Autumnal Celebrations—

And here the writing ran out of room at the bottom of the card.

Automatically, she flipped it over. The other side was blank. She turned it back to the first side. It was now blank, too.

A twitch pulled the corner of her left eye, but movement from the envelope lying on her sheets caught her attention. The edge of another card was now poking from the top even though Twilight was certain it had only had the one card inside when she'd opened it.

For a moment, she struggled with the question of whether it was worth her time to look. Yes, Discord had made enormous strides since he'd first burst forth from his stone prison. But he had an annoying tendency to backslide, a sort of "three steps forward and two steps back" ebb and flow to his personality that had Colgate shaking her head every time Twilight went in for her dental check-up: the grinding hadn't caused any serious damage yet, but Twilight knew she had to be careful.

Still, for all his whininess and petulance, Discord was a friend. Even if he did seem bound and determined to knock the 'r' out of that word half the time...

With a curl of magic, she took the second card from the envelope and saw at the top in big, flashing, blocky letters: The Annual Change from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time!

In the center of the card, smaller, non-flashing letters said, The entire population of Ponyville is invited out for a Saturday of fun and frolic, food and festivities, frivolity and, oh, I don't know, fescue, maybe? Brought to you free of charge by that Master of Mirth, Discord! The merriment will increase till two AM Sunday when we will all waggle our collective tongues in Celestia and Luna's general direction, declare that we're the ones who decide what time it is, and turn all our clocks back one hour to enter the boringly but appropriately named state known as Equestrian Standard Time!

Underneath that, the letters the same size but flashing again, were the words, Children! Stay up past your bedtimes! Adults! Eat and drink more than you really ought to! Everypony! Arise in defiance of chronometric oppression!

And at the bottom sprawled one more line of purple ink: The party starts now!

Jaunty calliope music began outside, Twilight's ears twisting and the hair prickling along the base of her mane. A flex of her wings carried her to the double doors of her balcony, and she threw them open to see—

Balloons, streamers, banners, flags: the whole town lay covered in a blanket of colors that reached up to the crisp blue of an early morning in mid-fall. A fluky little breeze rolled past her with aromas of cinnamon and pumpkin, hot chocolate and spiced apples, warm blueberries and preserved peaches, pancakes and butter and maple syrup. Twilight's stomach tried to rumble and tighten at the same time.

Windows were sliding up all over town as she looked down across the rooftops. Ponies peered out, some of them holding cards that looked a lot like the one she'd just finished reading. Their blank expressions changed to smiles almost immediately; heads pulled back in, front doors went swinging, and foals tumbled laughing into the street to begin galloping toward what appeared to be a large rainbow awning covering the town square.

Their parents emerged shortly after, some of them wearing fancier hats than Twilight thought they'd likely be wearing on a regular Saturday, and without another thought, Twilight leaped from her balcony, spread her wings, and joined the crowds heading downtown.

"Aw, yeah!" a familiar raspy voice called, and Rainbow swooped up beside her. "Partying all day and night with Discord!" She did a quick barrel roll. "This is gonna be epic!"

And as much as Twilight didn't want to be a grouch... "Did you actually read what he wrote on the invitation, Rainbow?"

Rainbow snorted. "I saw the words 'party' and 'till two AM.'" She tapped her chest. "That's all some of us need to know."

They reached the square before Twilight could object, and the sight that met her eyes under the awning pretty much froze her in her tracks. Multiple Discords, all of them wearing poofy chef's hats and white aprons, were zipping here and there among tables and counters, steam trays and fry stations. Flipping flapjacks, pouring beverages, setting plates and cups before hungry ponies, the Discords all seemed to be grinning and chatting with the townsfolk streaming in from all sides and settling themselves before the finest breakfast Twilight had seen in quite some time.

A rainbow flashed from Twilight's side directly toward the cider station, but a softer familiar voice stopped her from calling out or following. "Oh, my!" Fluttershy was smiling at the scene before them. "Discord said he had something special planned for today, but I had no idea it was going to be so extravagant!"

Twilight looked back and forth between Fluttershy and the expanding tent, tables springing up like mushrooms as more ponies arrived. "But what—? And why—? And—" She shook her head. "It doesn't make any sense..."

Fluttershy gave one of her little giggles. "That's his specialty."

"But—" Twilight struggled to find the words. "All that talk in the invitation about arising against oppression almost sounded like— I mean, I know he wouldn't, but—" She took a breath, turned to Fluttershy, and whispered, "You don't think he's trying to overthrow Celestia and Luna again, do you?"

That got Fluttershy blinking. "Oh, no," she said. "He wouldn't do that today. He loves the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time. He says it's the only good thing Celestia did while he was 'away.'" She made little air quotes with her hooves when she said that last word.

Wanting to ask what that could possibly mean, Twilight didn't since another familiar voice beside her gave a delicate "Hmmph!" before going on: "I can well believe that he'd approve! These time changes are such a frightful nuisance!"

"Hey, now," came one more familiar voice, and Twilight looked to see Applejack in her regular hat glaring at Rarity in a slouch-brimmed fedora that seemed to glow with every color of the autumn leaves. "If you was up ev'ry morning like some of us, you'd see how powerful dark it is this time of year. After this whole switcheroo, though, the clocks're more in sync with what I'm actually doing when I'm actually doing it. Matter of fact, I wish they'd go back to making the change the weekend before Nightmare Night, but I reckon the princesses get their reasons."

"Hmmph," Rarity said again, but it didn't seem as heartfelt to Twilight as her first one. "Perhaps it's all right for those of you who work out in nature." She shivered slightly. "But I for my part am very nearly useless the first week or so after a time change."

"Wow!" Pinkie popped up beside Applejack, a large cinnamon roll balanced on the end of her nose. "First Discord feeds me breakfast, then Rarity feeds me straight lines!" She flipped the cinnamon roll into the air, reared back on her hind legs, caught the pastry in her teeth, and chomped it down. "How could the day get any better?"

With a whoosh, Rainbow appeared, three mugs of cider crooked in each of her front fetlocks. "One better day," she said passing a mug to Pinkie and a mug to Applejack, "coming right up!"

The three clanked their mugs together and drank. "Well, now." Applejack smacked her lips. "That's a right decent cider."

"Of course it is!" It was a familiar baritone this time, a table springing into place between Twilight and her friends. One of the Discords popped up as well; he snapped his lion claws, and plates of pancakes sprouted around the table, though Twilight couldn't help noticing that two plates settled into the empty space between her and Rarity while she had no plate in front of her at all. "Oh, now, really!" Discord said, frowning at the two empty places. "If I'd known your party wasn't complete, I wouldn't have seated you!"

"Whoa!" Spike's voice called then, and he came flying in, Starlight galloping along behind him. "You mean that invitation was for real?"

"Indeed!" Discord gave Twilight a half-lidded look. "For most of you, at least," he said so softly, she was sure no one but her could hear it. "But—" He flicked his eagle talons, and with a ring like a toaster going off, a plate just as full as the others dropped onto the table in front of her. "Because leaving you out would spoil it for them, you get a pass. Just like—"

A flash outside the tent, and Twilight, completely unsure where to look or what to think, blinked at Celestia and Luna touching down in the sunlight beside city hall, Celestia looking as fresh as the dew, Luna looking a little droopy-eyed.

"Ladies!" The Discord beside her vanished, and one stepped from the air beside the two princesses. "So good of you to stop by! Can I get you a plate?"

Celestia was smiling, something Twilight rarely saw her doing in Discord's presence. "We can't stay, I'm afraid," she announced, her voice carrying. "But I just wanted to thank you, Discord, and say what a wonderful thing this is you're doing."

"Yes." Luna was smiling as well. "Though if you're inviting us, we may come back after moon rise for a bit of supper and—" She cocked her head at him. "I assume you've included a carnival?"

Discord bowed with a flourish, and things reared up past the low Ponyville skyline: the tops of a Ferris wheel, several roller coasters, and something that Twilight thought was a water flume. "Just outside of town," Discord said, straightening up.

He then turned to face the area beneath the spread of the awning. "Everything's free, of course, and if you find any sort of amusement missing, just let one of your hosts know." All the Discords gave simultaneous waves, and the Discord next to the princesses waggled his eyebrows—though Twilight wasn't quite sure how she could pick out that detail since her table was most of the way across the town square from him. "May I suggest the slower rides immediately after breakfast, however?"

Laughter snickered across the tent. "Lunch and dinner," Discord went on, "will be available throughout the midway all day, and we'll open the tent here again at suppertime for those who might like something a bit more formal. We'll have three different displays of fireworks—one at eight PM, one at ten, and one at midnight. The parades will be this evening at seven, nine, eleven, and one AM tomorrow morning, and then of course the main event: the clock changing at two AM." He made a show of wiping his forehead. "So much order! I don't know how I can stand it!"

A larger laugh rolled through the crowd, and Twilight looked quickly around the table. "Will you all excuse me just a minute?"

The only one who didn't seem to have a mouth full of pancake was Spike. "Go ahead, Twilight." He pointed a claw at her plate. "Just don't be surprised if that's empty when you get back."

Her stomach growled, and she gave the whipped cream on top of her short stack a big lick. With a sharp nod in Spike's direction, she cast a teleport spell that zapped her over to where Celestia and Luna were bending their knees and spreading their wings, about to take off for the return trip to Canterlot. "Wait!" she shouted.

"It's all right, Twilight," Celestia said.

"But—!"

"Trust me." Celestia pointed a gentle, reassuring smile at Twilight, and Twilight closed her mouth, not really sure what she'd been about to say anyway.

"Truly." Luna's expression, already a bit sourer than Celestia's, went even further sideways. "Indeed, it might be best were you to accompany us away from here. Today is—"

"About friendship." Even though Celestia had turned to Luna and hadn't raised her voice, her words still felt as sharp as a currycomb against Twilight's hide. "Wouldn't you say, sister?"

Luna squinted at Celestia, but then her eyes opened very wide before closing completely. "It is." She bowed her head slightly toward Twilight. "Forgive me, Twilight. I stand in need of sleep, or I would not have spoken so."

Her mind churning, Twilight abandoned all her questions except one. "But this isn't some trick on Discord's part?"

A softness came into Celestia's face, and Twilight could see that she was looking at the assortment of Discords moving around inside the tent. "This is perhaps the least trickish thing he's ever done," she said quietly after a moment.

Which, Twilight decided, was good enough for her. "Then we'll see you two around suppertime?"

"You will," Celestia said.

"Indeed!" Luna gave one of her big laughs. "I solemnly assure you that we'd not miss this for the world!"

"Thank you." Twilight nodded, turned, and started back to the table where her friends sat.

The rest of the morning whirled by, Twilight maybe having more fun than she'd ever had outside a library. Because it wasn't all roller coasters and slingshots—though she whooped and hollered alongside Rainbow Dash on a few of those, too. The midway had a vast assortment of games including "balance the bottle" and "pop the balloon," a karaoke pavilion, and smaller attractions like a Tilt-a-Whirl that she and Starlight rode at least ten times, laughing uproariously as they shouted their calculations for the exact amounts of centripetal force they were experiencing.

Over a lunch of shredded carrot tacos and fried tomatillos, Fluttershy gave her enthusiastic approval to the petting zoo, Rarity raved about the do-it-yourself facilities at the craft fair, Pinkie said she'd sampled a churro from every cart on the grounds and didn't have a single complaint, and Applejack invited Rainbow to come on over to the rodeo stadium to try her hoof at a few of the events there.

Throughout the day, Twilight crossed paths with Spike and the CMC, groups of students from the school, folks from town and the surrounding countryside, and all of them were smiling or laughing or chomping away on cotton candy or watermelon slices. Musical acts of all different genres appeared on the various stages—Octavia's late afternoon performance of Bastion Box's Suite for Unaccompanied Cello in a little grassy amphitheater at the far end of the midway simply took Twilight's breath away—and she heard ponies talking about how great it was that they could go home, take a nap, then come back for more fun.

As evening began, Twilight hurried to the big tent in the town square and had to give a little skip of joy when she saw not only Celestia and Luna but Cadance and a sleeping Flurry Heart seated at a table by a big rotisserie where Discord was slowly turning a gigantic potato over an open fire.

"Oh, yes," Cadance said after they'd hugged and done their chant and settled into their places. "We got our invitation weeks ago—Shiny's out on the midway right now—but Discord made us promise we wouldn't tell you."

"Surprise!' Discord squeezed his snout with a honk like a bulb horn.

Twilight swallowed and turned to him. "Discord, I owe you an apology."

"You certainly do." He grinned, spreading melted butter over the outside of the giant potato with a paint brush. "But for what, exactly? I want to make sure I check the right boxes on my spreadsheet."

"I just—" She blew out a breath. "I wasn't sure what to make of all your talk about rising up against Celestia and Luna."

"Indeed?" Luna aimed a very toothy smile at him.

Discord raised his hands, the rotisserie continuing to turn. "I never said that. I said we need to rise up against the tyranny of time...or rather, the tyranny of timekeeping." Reaching into a pocket of his cooking apron, he pulled out a big, old-fashioned alarm clock with round metal bells on top. "These two ladies here do an admirable job juggling the sun and the moon, but the regularity of it all doesn't impress some of us." He turned the clock to face her, and Twilight saw that its hands were spinning wildly in the wrong direction. "It's the variability that makes us giggle."

As hard as she tried, Twilight couldn't keep from rolling her eyes. "Of course."

"Well?" Discord tapped the clock; its three hands stopped, and he reached down to put little yellow gloves on the ends. "Why does the time of sunrise change from day to day, hmmm? Why does the moon cycle from full to new to full again?"

"Ummm..." Looking at Celestia and Luna, Twilight wasn't sure if she should answer. But at Celestia's nod, she turned back to Discord. "Without the sun moving north and south from solstice to solstice, we wouldn't have seasons. And without the phases of the moon, there'd be no tides."

Discord nodded, tapped the clock, and its second hand began a regular forward tick-tick-tick. "The flow of time as reflected in the cycles of nature. The lovely conundrum of predictable change, of orderly disorder, if you will." Putting the clock back into his pocket, he waggled his eyebrows. "And nothing shows that more clearly than all of you changing your clocks twice a year. That you choose to acknowledge the primacy of chaos in this fashion makes me all warm and squishy inside." He gave a delicate burp. "Unless that's just my organs liquefying again."

Other ponies had begun wandering into the tent, and Discord bowed. "Excuse me for a moment. All this orderliness takes a bit of concentration." He closed his eyes, and copies of him began peeling off like autumn leaves, hurrying over to welcome the new arrivals.

Twilight leaned toward Celestia and Luna. "So he's just decided to celebrate the end of Daylight Saving Time as National Chaos Day?"

Celestia shrugged. "Any excuse for a holiday."

Luna snorted. "As long as there's cake, my sister will be satisfied." She picked up her fork in her hornglow and shot a glare at the Discord still turning the potato. "While some of us have been looking forward to a succulent potato cutlet since the moment we sat down."

Discord's eyes cracked open, his mouth going sideways. A flash of light brought a large knife to his lion paw, though, and he began cutting slices from the potato.

Shining Armor joined them not long afterwards, Spike flapping excitedly around him, and they ate while full dark settled over Ponyville, the lights from the midway growing brighter and brighter. They finished their suppers just in time for the first parade complete with floats, dancers, and marching bands, all of them made up entirely of Discords. After that, Twilight went for a spin on the log ride with Shiny and Spike, kept an eye on Flurry, burbling happily with some other babies in a ball pit, while Shiny and Cadance slipped away to visit the Tunnel of Love, then she watched the first fireworks show with all her friends atop the grassy hill behind the castle.

Spike was yawning by then with Flurry fast asleep, so Cadance and Shiny wished everypony goodnight and took the two of them inside. Celestia and Luna bowed out, too, Celestia saying that, even with the extra hour of sleep, dawn still rolled around fairly early. Luna promised, though, that she'd be stopping by during the course of her other nightly duties before she vanished in a cloud of black and silver.

Things got steadily more surreal after that, but it was the good sort of surreal, Twilight decided, the sort that can only come from crashing around a packed carnival midway with your very best friends in the whole wide world. The fireworks shows grew sparklier and the parades more raucous, the Discords convincing ponies to join in the marching and dancing and playing instead of just sitting around watching.

And by the time the midnight fireworks show had spurted its last flowery tendril across the star-filled sky and Discord's voice was booming, "It's nearly one AM, everypony! Time for our final parade!" Twilight realized that there wasn't an audience anymore. Everypony who'd managed to stay awake was lining up to be a part of the parade—or rather, part of the massive, three-dimensional conga line, laughing pegasi arching over the rows and ranks of dancing unicorns and earth ponies.

The town clock struck one, the band of Discords struck up a lively tune, and the air around Twilight seemed to shudder. Everything everywhere gave some sort of twitch, and another Twilight Sparkle materialized beside her. And not just another Twilight, she saw immediately: another Dash popped into the sky where Rainbow was hovering, two Applejacks now staring at each other to Twilight's right. In fact, a quick glance around showed her doubles of everypony across the whole open swath of the parade ground.

Twilight's doppelganger held up a hoof, said, "Don't panic," and leaped into the air. "It's all right!" she shouted, and Twilight could feel the magic her other self was using to amplify her voice. "We're all you from an hour in the future! Discord adjusted his clock at two AM, and it sent us all back in time to one AM! It's okay, though, since, in an hour, your Discord will do the same to his clock. That will take you all back in time to become us, and then everything will continue on from there!"

Out of the corner of her eye, Twilight saw one Starlight a yard or so away rapidly explaining something to the other Starlight with glowing diagrams floating around them that Twilight recognized as temporal calculation matrices. The other Starlight's eyes widened, then she turned to Twilight and called, "The math seems to hold up!"

"It's all right!" the airborne Twilight was saying again. "We'll ask folks to go around and check, but as near as we can tell, this only affected those of us who were still awake. The mathemagics of it also seem to indicate that the effect was localized and centered around Discord!" She gave a clenched-jawed glare at the group of Discords—a glare that Twilight recognized very well from the twinge in her own teeth—and suddenly there were only two of him standing there, little halos sprouting around their horns.

"But like I said," the other Twilight went on, "it's all right! We've already done this once, and in an hour, you'll all go back and do it again!" A slightly strained smile jerked across her snout, and a little flaring firework shot from her horn. "So let's party with ourselves till then!"

A halfhearted cheer wobbled up from the parade ground, and Twilight saw the two Dashes circling overhead. One whispered something, the other shouted, "Awesome!" and they both sped off into the night. To her right, the two Fluttershys were peering at each other from behind their bangs; ahead of her, the two Raritys were chatting away and examining the hems of their respective coats; and to her left, the Starlights seemed to be arguing over a section of one matrix concerned with tau particle decay. The crowd parted past the Raritys, and both Pinkie Pies were standing there on their hind legs, kilts around their middles and broadswords in the front hoofs. "There can be only one!" they both shouted, then each tumbled backwards, laughing.

"It's, uhh..." a way-too-familiar voice said above her, and the other Twilight landed, her face blushing a deep purple. "It's a little strange. I know."

Twilight could only nod.

"Okay." The other tucked her wings to her flanks. "So we need to double check Spike and Flurry and Shiny and Cadance just to make sure they don't have doppelgangers in bed with them so you can honestly make that speech I just made when you go back."

Her throat going dry, Twilight activated her teleportation spell and landed in the hallway outside Spike's room just as the other Twilight did. Peeking in, she saw he was alone, then closed the door, shook her head, and cast a scrying spell that told her the right number of ponies were sleeping in the rooms around her. "But why—?" she started, then shook her head. "It's Discord. 'Why' is always the wrong question."

The other Twilight nodded and held up a front hoof. "And no more time travel?"

Twilight brought her hoof up and bumped it against the other's. "Ever," she agreed.

They popped back to the parade ground just as a quartet of Mr. and Mrs. Cakes walked by. They confirmed that neither Pound nor Pumpkin, fast asleep at home, had been affected, but that Maud and Mud Briar, sitting up and babysitting, had been playing bridge with their duplicates when the Cakes had looked in on them.

Flapping over to ask Discord if he had anything to say for himself only resulted in the two draconequi pointing at each other. "It's his fault!" they both said in perfect unison, and this was of course followed by, "My fault? You're the one to blame!" They each then split into several more Discords, and the squabbling rapidly became completely incoherent.

That the sigh she heaved when she turned away so exactly matched the one from the other Twilight made her mane stand on end. But she smoothed it down, swallowed, and asked her doppelganger, "You want an ice cream cone? 'Cause I could really use an ice cream cone."

Identical ponies in pairs or larger groups mixed and mingled as she crossed the midway with her double, but Twilight couldn't think of a single thing to say to herself except, "It's been a long day."

"Twenty-five hours," the other her muttered, and Twilight had to giggle.

They met the two Applejacks at the concession stand finishing up some caramel apples. "I was thinking we oughtta trade hats," one of them said. "Y'know, for a memento of this whole weird thing."

The idea shocked Twilight into silence, but the other Twilight smacked her forehead with a hoof and said, "We talked about this."

"We did." The second Applejack pointed at the first. "She ain't been through it yet."

Shaking herself, Twilight launched into as thorough an explanation of causal loops as she could manage while trying not to dwell on how many of these exact temporal paradoxes were undoubtedly being created all around her. She'd barely gotten through the first quarter of her dissertation, though, when a butter brickle ice cream cone inserted itself into her mouth.

"In short?" the other Twilight said, the glow of her horn, Twilight could now see, holding the ice cream cone in place. "It would be bad."

"See?" The second Applejack smacked the first in the shoulder. "Told ya."

The first Applejack rolled her eyes. "It was just a thought." Shaking her head, she started toward the parade ground. "'Bout ten minutes till two, I reckon, Twilights. Wouldn't wanna make any Tim-Poor-Al whosistses by being late, now, would we?"

The second Applejack shrugged and trotted off after the first, and Twilight took the ice cream cone in her own magic. "Well, then," she said, looking at her other self. "You're the older and wiser me. Any advice?"

The other Twilight gave her own butter brickle a lick and shrugged. "You're going to be me in a few minutes, so not really. Just enjoy your ice cream. Oh, and—" She reached out with a hoof and touched Twilight's chest. "Tag. You're 'it'."

With multiple sighs, Twilight finished the cone and sprang into the air. "All right, everypony!" she called, using the same amplification spell she'd felt her double use earlier. "If we could all make our way back to the parade ground, please? We've got an appointment to meet ourselves in about eight minutes!"

Movement in the air below her said that the other Twilight had joined her, and together, they flew to where the rest of the ponies were all gathering. "One more hour," her doppelganger said. "Then you can get some sleep."

Twilight had to smile at her. "At least I know I make it, right?"

"Careful." The other Twilight shook a hoof, but she was smiling, too. "They may still have to change the name of the town to Paradoxville."

The word conjured up an image in Twilight's sleepy brain, but the other Twilight spoke before she could say anything: "And yes, I know you just thought of what a 'parrot ox' would look like and decided they would be sort of hippogriffy creatures with parrot parts in the front and ox parts in the back." The other her rubbed her eyes. "It's been a long day."

"Twenty-five hours," Twilight replied, then she was swooping away to hover over the crowd. "All right! When we get there, try to reassure yourselves! I'll make the speech, we'll do this hour again from the other side, then this party will be officially over!"

A pair of groans came from the stage where the two Discords stood in baggy red and blue striped shorts, boxing gloves on their hands and feet. "But we were finally going to settle the question of who's the World Heavyweird Champion!" they both said in unison again.

She didn't even try to stop her teeth from grinding. "Get that clock out, Mister! And be ready to change it when the time comes!"

Each Discord rolled one eye, and Twilight took the next several minutes to check that everypony was back and in good spirits. The two Rainbow Dashes looked a bit more mussed than usual behind their big grins, but Twilight refused to let herself anything other than that they'd been racing.

Then Discord was shouting, "Let's count it down, folks!" Twilight zipped over to stand beside herself, and everypony began chanting, "Five! Four! Three! Two! One!"

The other Twilight gave her a wink; the tinniest, tiniest little pair of bells went off on the top of Discord's old alarm clock; he cranked the hour hand back from pointing at the '2' to pointing at the '1'; and the whole world stretched around Twilight like a fun house mirror tipping over.

It all snapped back into place almost immediately, though, and the other Twilight was now staring with her mouth and eyes wide.

Holding up a hoof, Twilight said, "Don't panic," and leaped into the air.

The next hour unfolded just the way it had before, she assumed: she'd been tired enough the first time and hadn't really memorized everything her other self had said. She just said what seemed to be right at the time and hoped nothing too paradoxical happened.

Some things she did remember, though. She made sure to suggest that her younger self check on Spike and everypony in the castle, for instance, and she shut herself up with the butter brickle ice cream cone a quarter of the way through the paradox lecture to the two Applejacks. When two AM came around the second time, she made sure to wink, then the other Discord's clock went off, and half the ponies on the parade ground vanished like smoke from a doused campfire.

Everypony left behind stood frozen for the length of an indrawn breath, then they all seemed to partially deflate, a relieved sort of groan rising up and more than a few ponies falling right over onto the ground.

"All right!" Discord called from the stage. "See everypony again next year!"

And as much as she wanted to whisk herself over there to express her feelings on the subject in no uncertain terms, she instead took another breath, blew it out, and turned to look at her friends converging on where she stood.

Even Pinkie looked exhausted, Applejack barely stifling a yawn when she asked, "Reckon we oughtta reconnoiter? Make sure nothing's here that ain't s'pposed to be or vicey versy?"

Twilight shook her head. "You girls turn in. I'll do a quick fly-over, then count on you to handle anything that comes up tomorrow if I oversleep." She had to grin. "The time change always messes me up for a couple days anyway."

Rarity made a sound that from any other pony Twilight would've called a snort, but it was Rainbow who muttered, "Lightweight..."

By the time Twilight convinced them to actually go home, every other pony had already left. Taking wing, she glided over the the dark and silent carnival rides and wondered why Discord hadn't already made them disappear. A quick glance around didn't show any of him anywhere, and her stomach tightened. She was pretty sure he hadn't planned for the party to end this way. Might he be upset?

Gaining some altitude, she cast her gaze further around the darkened town...and saw a flicker of silver sparks at the top of the hill where they'd all watched the first fireworks show. She adjusted her pinions and drifted over to land beside him, idly tossing and catching a little ball of glitter in his lion paw as he looked down over Ponyville. "Discord?" She took a step toward him. "Is everything all right?"

"Eh." He nodded toward the quiet houses. "It's just that time will catch up with them all, won't it? Even Spike eventually."

Twilight blinked at him, but movement in her peripheral vision made her turn to see Celestia and Luna walking slowly up to join her and Discord on the hilltop, Cadance following with a sleeping Flurry Heart floating in her magic.

Discord was going on: "The world does a great deal more springing forward than it does falling back, but those of us who float above such things, we really need to show the rest of them how much they mean to us. Which is why I proposed this new holiday to fall just after Nightmare Night: to give us all an opportunity to metaphorically spit into the face of time." His voice dropped to a near whisper. "Celestia and Luna didn't much care for the name I suggested, but I still think it has a nice, succinct ring to it." He nodded to the town. "'The Day of the Dead.'"

With the other princesses standing downcast around her, Twilight looked from Discord to Ponyville and back again, her throat too tight to let her speak.
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#1 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny
I really like stories like these, which maintain a comedic, light, SoL tone but touch on more serious themes when they can. I like how you played out Twilight's character flaw of being the most reluctant to accept Discord's reform. It's great that it starts out feeling natural, and eventually the reader starts picking up on it as Twilight feels more guilty about her prejudices.

While the character work here is great, in terms of plot, things actually do kind of slow down in the middle. There's not much that actively drives forward the conflict that gets established at the beginning, aside from a couple of references and hints, like the one the Princesses drop at the beginning of the party. I'll say that I never got bored reading on my first read-through, because you do a great job of stringing together interesting scenarios and interactions. But on my second and third reads, the party did feel like it stretched on for quite a while, compared to the set-up and resolution, which carried most of the character development and plot work. I do get that things have to be kind of meandering-y to maintain that SoL tone, so my complaints may be more indicative of the genre rather than your story.

In the end, this was just fun, and it held me all the way through, which are big wins in my book. I'm honestly not sure how or if you should even address my points about pacing, so I'll be mindful of how I let it affect my voting. Thank you for writing this!
#2 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
I like the idea of the story, and you get points from an SF writer POV for handling the timey-whimey part expertly while commenting of the absurdity of its reality. You handled the characters well.

I have to echo Baciavellian's critique, however. The story feels diluted; the pacing in the middle is off and much of the middle day stuff feels superfluous to me. I also felt the beginning needed tightening. The end felt out of left field, a blind-side if you will, but amazing. That means this reader at least didn't see the necessary foreshadowing of Discord's delightful melancholy.

Really, all these things I'd chock up to not enough time to revise. The story has good bones, just cut cut cut the weeds (maybe a 1000 words?) and backfill the plot elements.

Oh, yeah. Nix fluky for describing the wind. Yes, pegasi make the weather, but it being a fluke doesn't apply here. In "but I reckon the princesses get their reasons", AJ uses get where it ought to be got; wrong grammatically and dialectually at the same time. Maybe you meant understand? If so, this reader had to work hard to guess what you meant and take that on face value. Both typos threw me out of the story completely
#3 ·
·
Again:

A lot of fun, but I'll agree with those above who suggest editing the details and adding more hints in the middle about what's going to happen at the end. Also, Luna says she'll be stopping by during the evening festivites, so maybe have her show up during the big time switch to reassure everypony that this is only happening in Ponyville. And I always like to have characters come to some sort of inner realization when they meet themselves. It just seems like such a good opportunity for self-reflection... :)

Mike
#4 ·
· · >>Rao >>Baal Bunny
I don't... really feel the weight of the message you're trying to convey, author. There's a sliver of profundity in the theme that Discord expresses, but the events of the story, and the dialogue (outside of Discord's own explicit recitation of the story's moral), don't feel like they're propping it up effectively.

Part of it might be pacing; as noted above, this story has a serious problem with summary, with telling. Part of it might just be the tension between the whimsical events and interactions and the more somber message that Discord expresses at the story's end, which, I think, blindsides the reader. I could see this story finishing on a strong, bittersweet note, but I want to see a story that builds to that note.

To be blunt, if you're going to bring in the old Immortality Blues trope, at least justify it through the events of the story.

(You know what might be a good place to do that? Twilight's dialogue with herself. Just saying.)

I realize this puts me at odds with the consensus of my peers again, but yeah... in its current form, I don't feel this story's really doing what you want it do. It made me snicker and laugh; it's got some great character moments, and Discord is impeccably well voiced. But I don't think it signifies what you want it to signify. I'm sorry.
#5 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny
Bottom of the slate for wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

This one is also a bit hard for me in that it also doesn't... really have a consistent thematic or narrative throughline, if that makes sense. The festival happens and we follow it, but there is no real reason. Much like Brush Thoroughly before, there is a distinct lack of strong conflict or stakes; after a certain point, we are just following Twilight around a party and waiting for another shoe to drop. It leaves the middle of the story feeling really limp, which then leaves us going into a fairly somber ending without really understanding why.

I will say that you do do an excellent mood of setting a sort of melancholy mood about the whole affair despite it ostensibly being a celebration. Like, I half-suspected this story from about the midpoint was just going to go with some weird dark angle of this actually all indeed being a plot. Which I think is testament to your mood setting, because there's no real reason to suspect that besides the somewhat melancholy underpinings of the story.

The problem really just is that it doesn't carry through.

"Thank you." Twilight nodded, turned, and started back to the table where her friends sat.


Right there is the spot where I think the story kinda falters, because it really does seem like everything is all resolved (which, really, was just Twilight being suspicious for no real reason) within the next few paragraphs and we're left with what seems to be an exceptionally long conclusion... until it turns out that there was still a big revelation waiting in the wings which I think is weaker for how much it comes out of nowhere.

I think establishing the idea of the mortality woes earlier (either right away at the beginning or as the end of act 1) and letting Twilight go through the whole celebration understanding what this is and trying to help Discord (especially because it is a bit of an odd thing coming from him) and letting her come to wrestle with the same thing would work a lot better in giving the story a solid groundwork and really sells the plight. I also think Day of the Dead just doesn't work as a name. In addition to being really on the nose, the real world affiliation is just too strong for it to work.

All that aside, like I said, you nail the mood super well. The voicing is great (the best Pinkie I've read this round!). A lot of the stuff here is great. The story just needs to have a cleaner throughline and it will really shine.

Beyond that... some minor technical notes. It feels like you go one sentence too long in a few places.

"Hey, now," came one more familiar voice, and Twilight looked to see Applejack in her regular hat glaring at Rarity in a slouch-brimmed fedora that seemed to glow with every color of the autumn leaves. "If you was up ev'ry morning like some of us, you'd see how powerful dark it is this time of year. After this whole switcheroo, though, the clocks're more in sync with what I'm actually doing when I'm actually doing it. Matter of fact, I wish they'd go back to making the change the weekend before Nightmare Night, but I reckon the princesses get their reasons."


Like here is a good example. The second sentence of her second dialogue block kinda hits that "I know what DST is, Applejack! Don't need to tell me". There are a few other places where you do it, so it jumped out at me.

And the word "crunchily" needs to be taken out back and shot.

Thanks for writing!
#6 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
I'm going to concur with the esteemed >>Posh above with the ending being a blindside, but I will dissent in thinking it's a bad thing here. Through all the fluff and festivity, what we're ultimately seeing is Discord having learned to care about the population at large (at least one town, anyway), and going through what appears to be an actually somewhat taxing level of effort to put on one hell of a show, which shows an enormous degree of personal growth for him. I mean he made and kept a schedule, for crying out loud! I think this a natural end-state of his progression from villain, to annoying neutral, to villain relapse, to proper reformation.

I think the essence of what we have here is Discord having grown up, and everything is just building up to that moment on the hill where Twilight realizes it with the rest of us.

Now, my fellows above do note some points where things could be cleaner and more tidy in raw technical work, and those are certainly worth noting. But the core here I absolutely love, and I almost think much or any foreshadowing would stunt the impact of the end unless done in a very clever manner.

Addendum: I thought about it some more waiting in line at In & Out trying not to pee my pants, and upon further review it feels like Discord's secondary goal really is proving himself to Twilight. She's the only one of the princesses who doesn't know the festival is coming (explicitly kept secret from her, no less), and he very intentionally prods her only to immediately turn around and show a kind gesture; not unlike picking at a bad memory to remind someone of the good that came out of it. In light of that, I stand by my notion that foreshadowing the somber end would be dangerous if handled improperly. It's a shock to her and it ought to stay a shock to us, too.
#7 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny
I think this is the most creative Discord story I've ever read, because of how his chaos here is just weird, and revels in how that can be fun. I'm tired of the common trope where Discord's merely trying to annoy everyone (or worse, where it's all an excuse for the author to be "meta" and show off how clever they are)

So even though I respect the concept so much, I wish I enjoyed this more, but it felt kind of exhausting to read. So much is happening and it takes us through the entire day of partying, I felt a little burned out....

but Twilight couldn't think of a single thing to say to herself except, "It's been a long day."

"Twenty-five hours," the other her muttered, and Twilight had to giggle.


In a story like this, I'm reminded of some of the early holiday episodes in MLP and how it uses a character's development story to carry us through all the events. Winter Wrap-Up and Luna Eclipsed are partly about Twilight/Luna learning about the holiday, but also an arc about them trying to fit in with the community.

Maybe that's more rewriting than the author really wants to do, so here's an opposite example: that MLP comics story where Big Mac is trying to find some nails. It's hardly an arc at all, but that simple quest helps anchor the reader's attention when there's so much going on in the background, including a carnival and a parade and a dance party.

I didn't read this in the prelims, so I missed the chance to draw something based on it. Now I wish I did, because there's a lot of fun imagery here. That's the rules, I guess.
#8 · 2
·
>>Bachiavellian
>>scifipony
>>Posh
>>AndrewRogue
>>Rao
>>Haze

Thanks, folks:

And congrats to our other medalists. This is only the second medal I've gotten in a Ponyfic round, the last one being a silver in the second Writeoff I ever entered four years ago this month. So I'm looking forward to my next medal in 2022!

As for the story, I'm thinking the throughline should be Twilight's continued suspicions of Discord, but those suspicions need to change as the story goes along till the end when she has the conversation with herself and decides that she's being too suspicious. The heart of the story needs to be about Twilight's relationship with Discord. That can even lead to a title drop: she realizes when talking with herself that she tends to "fall back" into her old patterns of behavior around him. She needs to accept that he's a different person now and needs to adjust her thinking to reflect this.

That could bring the immortality stuff in earlier, too, by tying her feelings about Discord in with her feelings about being a princess. At the beginning, she feels that she's doing what a princess needs to do when she's suspicious of a known miscreant like Discord--protecting the citizenry and all that...

Or something. Rewrite City, at any rate, and I'm the mayor. And Haze, can I commission you to do a cover image for this when I post it to Fimfiction?

Mike