Hey! It looks like you're new here. You might want to check out the introduction.

The Hugs Went Away Again · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
Brushing her teeth, and a hole has already been buried deep in her mind; it’s at the tip of her tongue, but her parents certainly did it. Not burying holes in her mind, but the last thing they did together: a tumbling carriage, a landslide by Mount Amplexus, when the rocks never ended; all they could do was shield her. When they found her, their forehooves were fatally wrapped around her, though now she can’t say what that actually was.

Hooves and wheels hit the road, pull a carriage along through the far-off frontier town, fancily named Oroseira. Sparse and dry, rocks and hidden caves everywhere, but what Ma and Pa said about her famous ancestor was that she hailed from such a place: the ever-pink Element of Laughter, eliciting smiles wherever she went, pulling others in for good times all the time.

“Mama, I wanna make ponies smile just like Pinkie!” Party Piece said to her mother just before the second-to-last time the hoof-wrap was committed in the family.

Though she was only ten at the time, it hit her mother like a pile of bricks, enough to make her cry tears of joy.

In the now, before she leaves, a couple can be seen through a cottage window. Cerulean and Stone’s Throw, Mr. and Mrs. Librarian, were said to have a baby just before Piece woke up. Midwife said that the foal had requested for something strange, instinctual yet foreign. Piece laughed when Midwife Scatter Light relayed it to her; babies don’t talk yet, silly. But they can laugh, and this baby does indeed laugh, tickled by a father over the shaking head of a mother too worried about the state of affairs.

Piece pauses to see what she’s waited for every time she leaves home for another village to liven up with her balloons and confetti, what shall pass between the peaceful lovebirds.

All is forgiven in a nudge, a nuzzle. Straight to a kiss, at the drop of a hat.

After such fresh affection, she’s able to share a parting glance with Mr. Librarian. Through the window, it’s the first time he doesn’t smile at her in years.

The griffon holdout of Galerie, usual haunt/first stop for the party-taker, always arranged by an excited outlier waiting by its pearly gates and its death-defying crags of nests against skyscraping rooftops.

“You’ve come to make with the happy magics?!” screams Gabbie.

Piece unlocks and unravels her wagon by the entrance gate: balloons topped up, streamers and confetti about to blow, and a wire array of pastries that stump the local bakers on how they’ve even fit inside that tiny little cart.

If your determination is unlimited, excuses don’t exist. That it isn’t a weekend nor a holiday nor anyone’s birthday nor death anniversary are prime examples of this. Festivities, decorated with the promise of free food and drink, can soften even the stoniest of griffon hearts; such has been Piece’s tried-and-true strategy.

For a while, it works, and frowns indeed turn upside down on those foreign beaks. And yet, a nail pricks in her mind’s hole, upon the hatching of an egg. There is much shaking of hooves and claws (mostly claws, how pointed they can be), thanking her for keeping some pinkened memory alive on an eaglet’s birth, but she’s naked. Feels naked; warmth’s all gone, but the mother and father nestling the newborn, plucking at the little one’s feathered head, swaddled in no clothes but in something much more natural.

Her heart throbs. Mumbles it to herself or attempts to, but it’s the tip of her tongue, always at the tip. Can’t ever say it. But it’s visualized in her head; she can clearly see them doing it to the young one they’re now calling Gabbie in honor of Party Piece (still keeping up the G tradition, she says to herself with an internal chuckle).

Like lightning, her hooves seize the closest victim, and she’ll shout out everything but the tip of her tongue.

Mud flings over her head, everything fortunately all packed up in her assaulted wagon. The dandy gentlegriffon must’ve not been used to sudden neck handling, but then again, so is the average griffon. Sudden grabs are the stuff of assassins’ legend, of cloak and dagger trickery, not… whatever she was supposed to do, to follow in her parents’ last hoofsteps.

Galerie’s down anyway; next up is a little pony town that’s just a bit bigger. Never mind that high-rise, balcony, and courtyard are foreign words to her neighbors; they are in great abundance here, of uptown opulence squeezed in with the rowdy, low-brow downtown crowd.

Piece has always loved a crowd.

Crank out levers, push several buttons, and say the secret password, and the wagon’s back up like nothing. In the middle of a jostling thoroughfare where carriages plow through like clockwork and alleyways as numerous as the stars, there must be thousands of souls present in her cone of vision alone. There must be some lucky birthday for some lucky birthday colt or filly, surely.

“Hey, you!”

And already, there’s some heckler in the nascent crowd, the party already of the tougher, mustachioed sort. This one in particular is muzzled with five-o-clock shadows and enough tattoos to ink a dragon.

A shaky smile creeps up. Never been shaken down before. “Uh, yeah, mister? Would you like a… a group…? A… wait a minute, a bear?”

“Group? Bear? Oh… by the look of your legs, you want a ~~~, don’t you?’

She blinks. That is the word. If the whole circle of scared citizens clump in on her, stretch their hooves out to her, and crush her without killing her, that’ll be it. Can even see some of the more fearful ones hunkering down, friends and family committing the act before her to protect their beloved.

The tongue of her mind is tied.

“Y-yes! I-I’m here to spread ch-cheer, just like Pinkie! I mean… I c-come here every day?! Don’t you know me?”

“Oh, we know you, but word spreads fast ‘round here.” A baseball bat’s taken out of his rugged bags. “Always thought you were a little… touchy, hm? Guess I know why, now… you are obsessed. Sick in the brain.”

“Wh-what?! N-no… th-that’s not what I am! I… I’m just…”

“Telegrams, girl! The griffons spilled out everything you said.” Bap… bap… bap. The bat bounces on his back, under trigger-happy control. “Mom and Dad got the short end of the stick, didn’t they? I got no psych major, but no wonder you’re so clingy. Heh… nothing too special ‘bout it, honestly… funny, though, that you can’t just say ~~~ today, huh?”

Shakes it off her mind, time to get out, pack up everything. “B-but why’re you targeting me?! I-I’m here to s-spread joy, just like my foremother before me!”

“Yeah, and did it look like Pinkie had daddy issues? History books said she never racked up hospital bills with a ~~~ before.”

Away from the angry mob of sticks, stones, and arrows sharpened to the atomic level, Piece only has the vast plains before her, of abandoned mud huts where antediluvians huddled together from predators, ran away, clutching each other for dear life before paws or claws snatch their spirits.

Death’s door. At least the act wasn’t murder, but being stuck on a hospital bed… at least the other half can still move, so the urban usurper told her. Generous for griffons to provide that crumb of knowledge.

But back to home, trudge back to the beginning of the troubles.

A tiny army cuts off her only way in. Pitchforks, torches, and rudimentary alchemy spells that can’t replicate a tenth of unicorn power. Her Earth pony strength should smash through the equine roadblock. But it’s the thought aimed straight at her that counts.

Lying prostrate, she licks the ground beneath them, facing down their helmets of crude iron and stone. Armed with a litany of pleas and promises she’ll never break—“There’s something wrong! I’m forgetting something! C-can you tell me… wh-what I did?! I know I did it to you… everyone one of you, s-so you could…”

“Galerie has informed us of your offense!” yells the chief guard, obscured by a metal mask. There is only its impassive expression, an artificially blank stare. “Party Piece, we didn’t know you could stoop so low!”

“It was… a-an accident! I… I wanted to know what it feels like again—“

“To seriously injure someone?! You gave the scare of their lives! We c-can’t let you endanger those creatures with… w-with your g-grabs! A-and… they said you were doing it to all of us?! That’s what the records showed! Are you mad?!”

“They’re not grabs, and you know it!”

And the rocky nothing-plains resound with her final declaration.

Vision and sanity clearing up, the masks re-appear on the whole roadblock, a stone wall against her entrance. A skip, hop, or jump wouldn’t do; a phalanx of spears guard against all but pegasi, a rare breed around these parts.

But her savior then arrives.

“Out of the way, out of the way!”

A formidable bunker six hooves under familiar dirt, Mr. Librarian’s trench-like shelter is lit up by only candles and a singular oil lamp, all in a semi-circle on his room-wide desk to facilitate navy-blue forelegs shuffling dictionaries and history scrolls around.

“Everyone’s noticed it, but… it’s mental, Party Piece. Given your history, you’d be the only one to know something’s missing.” His glasses reflect the pink inheritor’s teary eyes back at her “Mental, even spiritual… a curse, even…”

“A… a c-curse?!” Yearning to have and to hold, to hold on tight, never let go—“But Ma… Pa! I still remember… b-but do you remember wh-what they did wh-when the whole village found me?”

“Well, I certainly do,” he says, half-snotty; regret hits him square in the face. “But only because the records say so. Which is strange. I can certainly remember the landslide, seeing your caved-in carriage… s-sorry Party, I…”

I know I’m shoveling up some hard memories. Sorry about your mother and father…

“But that’s the thing, Piece. I can recall everything… everything but… b-but, I swear I know… look, just see for yourself!”

He shoves it up to her face, a scroll. It reeks of old-paper smell from ten years ago (so says the date), and it’s marked with crudely colored illustrations of the subjects in question. Data listed on a table on the timeline of her adoption into Oroseira, foster-cared by everyone, along with an incident report on the cause of her adoption:

Along Sourdough Path, by Mount Amplexus’s cliffs, 500 meters away from its peak, a landslide occurred, killing Party Piece’s biological parents, Chalk Cheese & Calcite Trigon. Party Piece survived, however, thanks to her being encased in a ~~~ by both her parents, preventing much of the debris from crushing the foal.

On the rocky road up to the peak of Mount Amplexus, cobwebs clog up her brain, only to disappear once the word’s out of her mind. Concentration’s only on the path ahead, on the artifact Mr. Librarian pinpointed based on some hidden legend. No name was indicated for it, just that the talisman was rumored to be hiding up there. Some stories claimed it had a mere disruption-type spell; others jotted out how it stood at the junction of a dozen alleged ley lines, so that any disturbance would shift local reality to the point that naked letters she would’ve understood just yesterday may as well be gibberish now.

Whatever it is, t must be destroyed. The almost-riot back at home, the revolting against her surprise choke-holds against the civilians, all done in the name of love, does not change that fact.

Passing by the death of two joys and the birth of another does not change that fact, even as her vision is suddenly watered.

“Come on, it’s just up here! I couldn’t believe they accidentally got this close to the cursed thing…”

Rock-climbing, just another thing her parents praised Pinkie about, or something along those lines. At least Piece is good at it, jumping gracefully from one jutting formation to another, often having to pull her weight with Mr. Librarian in tow, huffing and puffing at the workouts he never got in his prime.

Up one final ledge, and high above a world gone mad, the wind mounting an offensive against their manes and tails, they peer into a pathetically shallow cave.

Fallen from its pedestal by the bones of long-dead guardians from decades or millennia ago, here lies the amethyst-encrusted talisman of her nightmares. Nary a trace of some special magical signature, without the scent of grave robbers or upturned soil or stones, it stands alone, untouched yet not unmoved.

So what, do we break it? It goes unsaid, but Mr. Librarian’s nod reads her mind.

The path to victory, to salvation, is trod. Overstep the bones and their forsaken armor, skulls crumbling into the wind just a meter away from her presence—Just g-go… l-leave before the rocks get to you too! We’ll… we’ll manage…

“Throw, what are you doing?!”

Her ears perk. No one else but Cerulean. Without looking, checking only the vibrations her tired, out-of-shape hooves are creating after daintily jumping from rock to rock, up the nature-born ramp.

She detects another set of hooves.

“Cerulean! Wh-why… why’d you bring Grist Mill?!”

“And leave my baby behind to the riot that our town’s become! Oh… and you, Miss Party Piece! You traitor and a coward!”

A sharp step forward and the talisman’s picked up, to turn around and see the poor soul. She is no monster; her portrait is that of an azure mane parting, the ocean waves leaving for low tide beside a foal’s tearful rivers.

“I can explain!” Piece shouts, holding the artifact high in the air, lungs coughing up for breath, trying to pencil back in the erased. “It’s… I w-want t-to… h-h… what do you do with your foal?! What do parents do with their foals?!”

“Huh?! What is this, preschool?!”

But Grist’s great cry pierces her ears, enough to make his mother wince.

“Honey, please… have you noticed anything odd today?! We… we c-can’t l-love like we used to! None of us can… and it’s because of that talisman!” Eyes bugged out, bloodshot even, indicative of reading nothing but the candle’s light the whole day. “Party Piece, you have to destroy it now! It’s the only way we can figure it out and save everyone!”

“Why, Throw, I oughta’—!”


The fight lasts for an eternal minute. Breaking the metal treasure open, then breaking out into… tried to dust her mind, her soul, from the curse, but the moment her forelegs wrapped around Mr. and Mrs. Librarian, down to nuzzling them both, nuzzling them harder, rubbing their heads against each other, trying to feel against hope, warmth unending—

It hasn’t returned.

She foams, spelling it out. Can’t spell it, almost paralyzing herself, breaking down and falling off a cliff. Still hangs on to a ledge, her hoof stuck, unable to trace the letters out to veiled eyes (her own eyes, veiled too).

The final three seconds are a blur. A shouting match for the ages, of blaming the girl for everything wrong—harassing everyone for her own selfish gain, so goes the prosecutor, but Mr. Librarian…

The deed is done. He commits the act for his beloved.

Party Piece, we’ll be going to your tenth-times-removed cousins in Oroseira! There’s some rocks and mountains and mines… but I’m sure, with Pinkie in your blood, you’ll cheer them up just fine! Cupcakes, muffins, some good music and dancing… and ~~~~! ~~~~ are always good, you know?

How far they’ve fallen off the cliff, she doesn’t know. The clouds are still up above, but their bodies fall beneath rare noonday shadows.

Up the ledge, back on solid stone, her heart shatters.

A foal left behind on cold stone.

A million hushes and pleas to make him stop crying do not work.

Can smell smoke a mile away; to the left, a grand plume of smoke rises from home.

There’s a mane here to caress, and his bulblike eyes only make her coo more at him. Nothing’s going to be alright, but she holds him close, holds him tight even as her mind threatens to break, her nose threatens to bleed, and as her heart skips a beat and dances without a rhythm, burning out in some heavenly ballroom, unable to resolve a new, lesser reality where her parents’ last deed can never be articulated.

She wraps, comforts, embraces the newly born oprhan in a
« Prev   1   Next »
#1 ·
In which the cycle of hugs goes on...? Maybe?

My gripe with it is twofold. One, Party Piece seems to go from 0 to 100 with not much justified explanation/build-up when you mention that the griffon victim is in the hospital and then apparently also paralyzed. It's a way to disrupt Piece's daily routine and change up creatures' opinions of Piece in a jiffy, but it's not a natural one. It feels forced, simply there for the sake of moving Piece forward.

And two, what is the point or moral of Piece's arc? I learn that she's got parental issues and, given that the original Pinkie is admittedly on the touchy and huggy side, Piece would be uniquely affected by the hug-censoring curse... but then what? Is it that she realizes that she's so touchy/huggy and needs to change? But then that doesn't work since everyone in her hometown was fine with it before the curse happens. Or perhaps it's a tragedy in which taking away one of her defining features(?) will upend her? But then, there's not much catharsis for the reader; it's simply Piece and a bunch of other ponies suffering because they can't fully and literally comprehend what a hug is anymore.

On the plus side, though, it is admittedly a way to tackle the prompt in a literal sense. A more casual SCP-esque tale, mayhaps? I realized that this story is pretty much an epigram of sorts, having no mention of the word hug (though embrace is cutting close), so there's certainly an A+ here for the effort and unique idea. And it's a bold effort to get OCs all the way for an MLP contest.

Anyway, it's still a mysterious and surreal way to start off the selection! Thank you for the story.