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The Pauper and the Princess
The face that was not my face looked at me, manic energy fleeing from every pore.

"So yes! It works! Hi!"

I was too tired to muster the energy for this. This was impossible in at least five different ways, and I dealt with it by not dealing with it.


My twin-no, my counterpart, started gesticulating wildly.

"Right. Right! Okay, see, the problem is that parallel universe is that by, well, definition, they're parallel."

I felt like I should have reacted more to that statement, but I just kept glowering at her.

"Which means they don't touch. Ever. They just...go in the same direction, forever. Which means dimensional travel is impossible".

She was losing steam, a bit. Good.

"Which is where I come in! By changing the direction of my own entire universe, I was able to make them cross over, once! Something which will never happen again, ever! And thus, I was deposited here, and now we can live together, and be friends, and talk about our hobbies, and-"

I tuned her out, and got a good, hard look at the person who was saying she was me.

Her clothes were dirtier than mine, and not kept as well. Also, a geeky t-shirt does not a stylish garment make. Her hair was a mass of frizz, unlike my own styled locks, and there were deep bags under her eyes. Also, she smelled...bad. Very bad.

I felt a pit form in my stomach. Even though I'd studied economy, not physics (like I presumed she had-well, I don't think they give access to the LHC to just anybody) I had an inkling of what happened. Especially if our childhoods were the same up until a certain point. She was still me, after all.

Time to take the plunge and see if my instincts were right.

"See, this is why boys aren't interested in us."

It was like turning off the robot. Her face crumpled, and she looked at me like I'd told her Santa wasn't real. Or, more likely, as if I'd told that really, she was very sweet, but what happened last night was not an invite to start an entire relationship, and that yes, we could still be friends and that it's not you, it's me.

"I'm guessing you felt lonely...very lonely. And instead of trying to read up on social skills, or sucking it up and going out more often, you concocted this insane scheme to be with a different version of yourself, because obviously your own self would be your very best friend."

A mute nod.

"Except you didn't think that all the bad traits that push away others might also possibly push away me too?" The floor, disappearing under her feet. "Or that everything I hate in the mirror is going to be present in you too, and I'm going to hate it a lot more?"

I sighed and put my face in my hands, trying to ignore a strangled sob.

"It's okay. You're still me. I'll help you. But this is not going to be easy, and it's not going to go how you imagined. The problems you're having won't have an outside fix. You're going to have to work on yourself, and only you can do it. But I'll still help you."

Her bottom lip trembled for a moment, and then I hugged her and stroked her back while she bawled her eyes out.

I felt pity for her. But if I could make it out, then I could teach her how to do so too.

There was still hope.
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#1 ·
“Remove the beam from thine own eyes,” indeed. Well done, Author.
#2 · 1
· · >>Cassius
Needs a bit of editorial clean-up.

Beyond that, while I generally like this one (what can I say, I hate myself too!), I think you chose the wrong viewpoint character. Seeing things from the self-assured, already knowing what she's going to do version of our protagonist isn't that interesting. She's not the one this story is really about. She doesn't have any real stakes here. She's not the one who is trying to change. She is just a stable force.

As presented, this is really Pauper's story, and I think it'd be a much better piece written that way.
#3 ·
>>Monokeras generic point applies here too. However, this story has a better way of dealing with that flaw by tilting the scale the other way. Turns out the advantage is not in the team we expect it to be.

This is a thin-veiled metaphor, like: “If you’re socially inept, bust your ass to get yourself better instead of relying on the others to find a solution for you”. In a way, the “the other universe’s she” can be “this universe’s she” before “this universe’s she” decided to do something about it, leading to the current “this universe’s she”, who is the result of that process. This is to me more about time travel than parallel universes.

The slight problem I see with this is that the lesson is delivered in very curt sentences, which makes it come across as slightly sanctimonious. The “this universe she” sounds self-righteous — bordering assholish – and even if the final one mitigates that impression, it is still very strong.
#4 ·
· · >>Ferd Threstle
So this story was a bit of fresh air in a lot of respects. There's a moral here that has somewhat fallen out of favor in today's blithely positive society that shuns personal improvement and accountability. Although I think perhaps the overall message here was a bit heavy-handed, and the protagonist (the one that holds the perspective) comes across as a bit too quick to be hostile with her alternative self. Part of the the latter problem is the result of how the scene is structure: from the onset, the protagonist is hostile, without the reader being informed as to why she is having this reaction outside a reference to her being tired. If she really is so tired to the point that she can't be bothered at all, there needed to be more attention to this detail. If she is having the hostile reaction in part due the squalid state of her alternative self, that detail should be established before the reader sees the behavior.

I think also the scene is not set up satisfactorily because of the details the protagonist initially hones in on: her appearance, which again makes it seem that she is making a judgment call based on how she looks rather than her demeanor (which is ultimately the more substantial problem for her), and it would have been better to have that established earlier in the dialogue. I'm aware there the line where she talks about all the stuff they will do and how they will move in together, but it frankly is not enough to establish the sentiment the author was going for.

It took me a while to figure out LHC stood for Large Hadron Collider, and I'm still not exactly sure why that detail was included.

>>AndrewRogue makes a good point, which is that perhaps this story would be better served from the perspective of the socially inept scientist version of the protagonist instead of the more well-adjusted although somewhat arrogant protagonist that holds the perspective. Our sympathies are supposed to be with her anyways.

The lines about comparing the situation to a one-night stand are the best the story, and I feel their impact is somewhat dulled by the surrounding prose. Three rapid-fire similes make it seem as if the author was brainstorming ideas when writing the paragraph but couldn't commit to just one.

Exposition a little rough. Needs to be tighter. More attention to details needed. You had space to work, one or two elongated descriptions would have went a long way.

Better than average work. Would come close to topping my hypothetical slate which it currently is not on but probably will be on come finals if it were a just a bit tighter and the scene composition was more straightforward.
#5 · 2
· · >>Cassius >>Ranmilia
"There's a moral here that has somewhat fallen out of favor in today's blithely positive society that shuns personal improvement and accountability."

I see. So spending years of your life becoming a brilliant physicist who does something truly, incredibly amazing doesn't involve any personal improvement or accountability. Good to know!

I think this is maybe another one of Horizon's examples where pieces of the story run completely counter what the author is trying to do. This whole story I found the 'pauper' character to be far more interesting, vibrant, and even happy than the 'princess' character, details about smell aside (because uh... a geeky t-shirt and frizzy hair are not exactly killer character flaws). I think there's an interesting story here, but it's actually the opposite of the one the author seems to be wanting to tell. Because from my perception of the interactions, the Princess is the one who seems kind of miserable and misanthropic; it feels like all the things she's doing to 'improve herself' and 'fit in' aren't making her a particularly fulfilled or satisfied person, they're just pushing her into the box that society expects her to conform to. Even in the little details--I have no doubt economics can be fascinating and fulfilling but without any further context it really feels like the major you pick for utility rather than interest. And 'this is why boys aren't interested in us' sounds like a super misguided way to frame your life around the wrong things.

So this is a story I wish was told from the Pauper's perspective, yes. And I also wish she'd tell the Princess to go fuck off, and instead have an awesome science adventure with people willing to value her for being herself.

(Given the minor points I cite, I am not totally convinced that the author wasn't trying to sneak in the message that the Princess is in the wrong, but if so, I don't think it came through exactly clearly enough. In a writeoff I think clarity is more important than subtlety)
#6 · 1
>>Ferd Threstle

I see. So spending years of your life becoming a brilliant physicist who does something truly, incredibly amazing doesn't involve any personal improvement or accountability. Good to know!

You're putting words in my mouth.

Forgive my irritation, but you seem to be deliberately missing the point by bringing up something that is completely outside the issue. She is a physicist who is miserable and lonely because she fails to take care of herself and puts all her passion into a project to make herself the emotional baggage of another person. Her occupation and accomplishments as a physicist are not the topic of criticism, as I'm sure you're well aware, but her behavior of persistent escapism and refusal to acknowledge her own social shortcomings. Her plot essentially boils down to: "Well if nobody likes me, I'm going to open up a portal to another dimension where I'll meet another me, and that me will like me." As the Princess notes, that is a crazy plot. She is fleeing her fears rather than deal with them. If she wants people to like her, she is going to have to try and improve her social skills and take responsibility for making a positive impression instead of expecting people to accept her carte blanche. As the Princess herself demonstrates by virtue of existing, it is certainly possible for the Pauper to do this if she puts in the effort to .
#7 ·
Eesh, perilous waters here. What to say, what to say. This is a very sociopolitically charged speech disguised as a story. Unfortunately I'm not sure the meat of the piece backs the assertions it's trying to make, either factually or tonally, and so for me it falls flat. Essentially what >>Ferd Threstle said. The piece rests on the assertion that the Pauper has all of these supposed flaws and shortcomings, but they aren't actually shown in the text, just asserted and nodded to, so... ehn.

Romantic histories in real life are often complicated and hard to sum up - but just because they can't easily be shown isn't a license for authors to skip straight to "telling" and using them as purely informed shortcuts for characterization to save space in minis. Just in what I've read of this round, that's been a major issue in this piece, Roy's Diner, Optimism, and arguably also in First Sight and Cheap Easy Portalfare.

No need to get all acrimonious though. Thanks for writing!
#8 ·
The prose here needs a lot of work. And our Princess feels like a supreme jerk.

(no rhyme intended)
#9 ·
On the one hand, I kind've like the tonal shift halfway through. Going from a goofy "me meets me" situation to a crippling realization that you hate yourself is a pretty interesting idea. I also liked the explanation about parallel worlds, if only because it was somewhat convincing technobabble.

That being said, I feel like the situation doesn't entirely sustain the narrative. Realizing your own self-loathing doesn't really work when you already hate yourself at the start of the story. Without any real transition, the story feels rather listless. Also, I think Me-Prime is acting a little too blase about meeting her alternate self. It's almost as if she's met another alternate self, but since the story doesn't imply that, it makes it seem as if she came around to her realization a little too quickly.

5/10, needs more character development and build-up.