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Great Expectations · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Fluffy's Cuddle Nook of Slight Inconvenience
Starlight awoke to a coughing fit, hard, raking spasms that caused her whole body to jerk like lightning. As she lurched onto her front, jagged stones dug into her chest. Curling into a ball, she pounded her hoof against her ribs until at last, with a trio of long, wheezing gasps, she was able to regain her shaky breath. The last thing she remembered was...

Was laying in the sterile hospital ward of the Hoofington Rest House, staring at the white ceiling while a machine beside her click-clicked, keeping her alive.

She wiped tears from her eyes and waited for them to adjust to the all-consuming blackness. There was a faint glow somewhere she couldn't quite make out. The air was warm and dry. The ground was definitely unstable, marked by small, irregular peaks in the black stone. She assumed it was black, anyway; she still couldn't see much.

Except that she could see herself. And her coat, judging by the hoof she held before her eyes, was no longer a washed-out pink, but the vibrant lilac of her youth. She grabbed a lock of her mane and found it, too, was bright and vivacious once more.

Feeling giddy, she released her mane and tried to catch it in her magic. It worked perfectly, without fits or stutters. Elation bubbled up from her stomach and she started laughing. In moment, she was hopping in a circle, feeling younger, stronger, and more alive than she had in decades.

"A dream, a dream, it was just a dream!" she chanted. "I'm not dead, my whole life was just a terrible nightmare and I can start over! I'm alive, I'm a—"

She was cut off by the soft clearing of a throat and a light voice saying, "I'm sorry, dearie, but no, you're not."

Starlight fell onto her face, hissing as the sharp stones dug into her skin. Flailing, she flopped onto her side, where she caught sight of the one who'd spoken.

He was a pony like none she had ever seen. Bright red all over, he had an angular face, made even more so by the small black goatee and pair of horns. His black mane was slicked back over his head, only a widow's peak visible in front that complemented the pencil mustache. His hooves were visible, and not only black polished to a shine, but split at the front into two points, like a goat's. She could make out his tail, thin and whippy, ending in a flat spade, behind him, and he wore no adornment save for a single gold earring.

Her heart sank. In a small voice, she asked, "Wh... Who are you?"

He smiled affably and placed a hoof to his chest. "My name is Satin Hooves, and you are...? Wait, don't tell me, let me figure it out..." His horns lit with a soft yellow glow and a notepad floated out from behind him. He flipped through it a few times, stopping now and again to squint at her with his tongue sticking out the corner of his mouth. It was forked.

"Starlight Glimmer?" he said at last.

She nodded dumbly.

"Ho-hoo!" He grinned and clopped his hooves together, making a checkmark on the notepad and stowing it back wherever he'd produced it from. "It's so much more fun when I can guess!"

"I really am dead," she whispered, more as a statement than a question. "A-and this isn't the Golden Fields, either..."

Shaking his head, Satin Hooves answered, "No, sweetie, I'm afraid not. You were a very naughty pony in life, so no endless plains of fruit and grain for you." He pursed his lips and tsked at her.

With a sob, she brought her hoof to her mouth. "Oh Celestia! I... I should have expected it. It's only what I deserve, I suppose."

She sniffed, wiping at her eyes. With a shaky breath, she climbed to her hooves, holding her head as high as she could. It was not, she thought, with the haughtiness she would have displayed in life, but with dignity.

"What is to be my punishment? I expect it will be terrible. Rolling a boulder up a hill, only to have it crash down atop me? Torn apart by vultures as my organs regenerate over and over? Maybe buried up to my neck in water, starving, trying to grab at food that moves just out of reach?"

Satin Hooves pressed a hoof to his chest. "My stars, no! You're thinking of Tartarus, sweetheart. That's my older brother's realm."

"This isn't... Tartarus?" Starlight stared at him blankly. "But I thought I was in pony hell." Her eyes widened and she gasped. "Don't tell me I'm in... griffin hell!"

"No, heavens!" Satin Hooves wobbled a bit. "Honey, the things I hear about that place give me nightmares! Yowza, what those griffins haven't thought up to torture the unworthy for eternity!" Shaking himself, he trotted over to Starlight and placed a hoof on her shoulder. "No, sweetheart, you're in Heck. We don't like the H-E-double-hockey-sticks word here."


"Heck!" He smiled at her.

She raised an eyebrow. "So I'm going to be thrown by a giant onto thorny trees?"

"Uh, no."

"Crushed in a huge meat grinder and fed to dogs?"

He stuck his tongue out. "Oh, gross! No!"

"Bound and fed boiling oil?"

"No, no, no!" Satin Hooves pranced in place, eyes squeezed shut. "Gosh! Has anypony ever told you that you are extremely morbid? Honestly, you should see about a therapist!"

Starlight glowered at him and threw her hoof up. "Well, what am I supposed to think? I'm dead, I'm not surrounded by everlasting bliss, so I'm gonna be punished somehow, aren't I?"

"Well, of course, silly goose!" He tittered at her. "After all, you're here because you stole cutie marks from six unwilling ponies, including a Princess of Equestria, and wouldn't give them back! Follow me, and I'll show you to your place!"

Her jaw dropped as he pronked away, a smile and a happy tune on his lips. The snippet she caught sounded like "...go to heaven, ponies go to..."

Frowning, she sauntered after him. This was not the eternal punishment she'd expected.

The environs of Heck were not exactly terrifying.

Rather than pools of lava, the endless expanse of stone — it was brown, not black — was broken up by rivers of extremely warm water, steam rising off the top. Light was provided by something, she couldn't tell what, but once they'd left the entry area, the place really brightened. Everywhere they went were ponies chained to walls, smiling, chatting with one another, even laughing. Sure, they couldn't go anywhere, but they didn't exactly seem, well...


The same could be said for the queue of ponies waiting to be shackled to a series of stocks, where small demonic bat-winged creatures tickled their hooves with feathers. In one area, a large demon beat a drum while ponies sang happy song and rowed flat boats around a pillar.

"Hydroelectric power," Satin Hooves murmured in her ear. "We've been trying really hard over the last few centuries to go green."

Over here was a pony who couldn't quite reach a cookie jar. Over there, a rink where ponies ice skated, surrounded by other ponies nursing blisters on their hooves. At one station, a stallion was simply drinking a glass of milk while a tiny demon whispered in his ear. After a few moments, the stallion choked, his eyes bulging out as milk shot out of his nose. He collapsed on the ground in a fit of coughing and laughter as the demon crossed its arms and waggled its head, a self-satisfied grin on its face.

"Here we are!"

Satin Hooves came to a halt in front of an alcove carved into a rock wall. Above them, a pony was chained to the rock face in such a way that updrafts of warm air would lift him like a kite. Each time, he would shout, "Whoooo!" before bumping down against the rocks with a grunt and a laugh.

"We like to keep the new entries off by themselves for a bit to acclimate," Satin Hooves explained, drawing her attention back. "But you won't be completely alone. Meet your new roommate!"

Starlight peered into the alcove. It was just a little shorter than she was, but looked like it would accommodate a pony sitting on her haunches with room to spare. The walls were rough, just like the floor, but the ambient illumination reached all four corners. She could make out a set of chains emerging from the back wall, and sleeping next to them...

"What is that?"

It was small and fuzzy. Though she couldn't get a clear look from this distance, it seemed to be a cross between a dog and a rodent. It was rotund, about the size of her head, and had large, floppy ears and a long snout with a big black nose. As she watched, it opened round, black eyes that were soft and inviting.

Her eyes began to water. Satin Hooves placed a hoof against her chest as she tried to rush toward the cutesy-wootsiest thing she had ever seen in her entire life.

"I just wanna cuddle it!"

Satin Hooves laughed. "That's what everypony says about Fluffy! He's so very good at what he does, yes he is!" He snapped his hoof somehow and a pair of demons appeared, grasping each of Starlight's forelegs.

"Lester, Delilah, would you please see that Ms. Glimmer is comfortable in her nook?"

Starlight ducked her head, barely able to contain her squealing as the demons nudged her into the alcove next to Fluffy. She bounced on her rump as they wrapped the chains around her legs and chest, loose enough not to constrict, but without any loops large enough to get anything through. Not that she wanted to.

"Now say hello to Fluffy!" one of the demons cried, bringing the little creature over to Starlight.

She arranged herself in a mostly comfortable sitting position and received Fluffy onto her lap. Immediately, she wrapped her forelegs around him and hugged. He was softer than clouds, warm, and made a chirring sound that vibrated through her like a tiny, tiny massage machine. She sighed and began stroking him, finding that he wasn't fuzzy so much as covered in soft, flat scales.

"You are just the most adorable thing I've ever seen! Yes you are! Yes you are!"

"Aww," Satin Hooves head, smiling into the alcove. "Just arrived, and already you've made a new friend. Isn't that just super?"

Starlight lifted her head, her smile fading just a touch. "But I don't get it. Just sitting chained to a rock, cuddling an adorable little... uh..."


"Yes, what you said. How is that a... Ouch!"

Starlight looked down to see that what she thought were flat scales were actually short, blunt spines that were now digging into her pastern. Despite the initial shock — really, she had cried out in surprise more than pain — they weren't all that unpleasant. She stroked across their tips, quickly discovering that there was a right way and a wrong way to pet a hedgepuppy.

"Fluffyyyy," she said, as though chiding a foal, "you are making it very hard to love you!"

Satin Hooves chuckled and nodded. "He's just irresistible, isn't he? I'll leave you two to get better acquainted. Promise I'll be back to check up on you by Donut Saturday!"

Starlight blinked, still carefully stroking the creature in her lap as it went back to sleep. "Donut Saturday?"

"We make the donuts fresh on Friday, then serve them the day after, so they're a little bit stale."

"That... doesn't sound too bad, honestly."

Satin Hooves clapped his hooves together, grinning ear to ear. "Now you're getting the idea! Honestly, you have to reach at least Chrysalis levels before you're a Tartaran candidate, and even she's a borderline case."

"W-wait!" Starlight called out as Satin Hooves began to move off. She paused in her ministrations to Fluffy long enough to ask, "How... how long will I be here? Is this really an eternal punishment?"

"For you...?" Tugging at his beard, Satin Hooves looked skyward. "Well, I'd have to check with my numerologists, but I do believe your sentence is somewhere between 'a bit' and 'a while'. Maybe just a short while? Super-promise I'll find out for you though, okay? Got everything you need?"

Starlight smiled down at Fluffy, who was kicking his hind leg in his sleep. "Yes, I think I do. Thank you for everything."

"Oh, it's my pleasure, sweetie. You two have fun now, ta-ta!" And with that, he sashayed away.

Taking a deep breath, Starlight gazed out across the plains of Heck. The sounds of laughter and idle conversation drifted to her. Every once in a while, there would be a puff of smoke or light from somewhere that she couldn't determine the meaning of.

No, it wasn't the afterlife she had wanted, or even expected. But all things considered, it was okay. Tolerable, even. And who knew? Maybe after a bit to a short while, she'd be running this place.

(This story was inspired in more than just name by #1 in this article: http://www.cracked.com/article_21195_5-myths-you-probably-believe-about-major-religions_p2.html)
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