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It Could Have Gone Better · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Cutie Mark Guidance Services, Ltd.
From the offices of Dr. Curio, on behalf of Cutie Mark Guidance Services, Ltd., to the client party represented foremost by the pegasus Mrs. Sharp Note:

We regret to inform you that your daughter, Grace Note, has failed to achieve a cutie mark in violin, or indeed in any musical activity whatsoever. We take full responsibility for this unfortunate outcome, to the extent that preventing it was ever truly in our hooves; as has been contractually witnessed by both parties, influencing the development of a cutie mark is a new and as of yet highly uncertain science, despite our best attempts with your daughter. We lament that Equestria shall not, through Grace, see a fit successor to your musical excellence.

In summary:

Pursuant to your wishes that she “not be encouraged to flaunt those feathery monstrosities,” we took every effort to ensure that Grace used her wings as little as possible. From the very first day that she was inducted into our institution, she was let outdoors on an exceedingly infrequent basis, always while under supervision and in wing restraints. When it became clear her passion for weather and open air was highly resistant to our usual methods, we forbade her access altogether to the outdoors, and relocated her to a living quarters without windows.

As is typical procedure, we first treaded softly in our psychological techniques, aiming to establish a friendly rapport with Grace, so that she might—of her own volition—choose to pursue a career in music. However, it appeared Grace already possessed negative associations to music, and to continuing your legacy in particular. It rapidly came to the point that every mention of music would provoke an uncooperative response, with repeated requests that she be allowed to contact her father; obviously, we did not fulfill any such requests (as per our contract), and any staff that appeared sympathetic to her situation were quickly reassigned.

Thus, we resorted to more forceful methods. Among these methods included: a token economy at our canteen that provided her with more flavorful meals (freely available to her, initially) if and only if she adhered to a daily violin regimen; the graphic recitation of “horror stories” concerning injuries sustained by weather pegasi, together with the testimony of paid pegasi actors; the introduction of addictive substances into her food, with subsequent reintroduction dependent on achievement of set musical milestones; and so on.

In the spirit of full disclosure, we admit that there was one salient event that contributed to the unfortunate outcome with your daughter. At the so-called “final critical point of cutie mark acquisition” (an approximately five-week window in which, empirically observed, all foals under our care who had not acquired a cutie mark by this point, did so by the end of this time frame), we had confined your daughter to 24/7 room time without social contact, had removed all personal affects from her possession, and had redecorated her room such that every square inch (wallpaper, bedsheets, toiletries, etc) be reminiscent of her violin studies.

Two weeks into this treatment, our staff discovered one morning that her door was unlocked, and Grace was nowhere on the premises. We immediately sent personnel to locate and retrieve her; within the hour, one of them had discovered her at a ravine nearby, practicing aerial acrobatics with her under-developed wings. She fled into the woods, and although it didn’t take long for us to capture her, we then made the startling discovery: In this brief chase, she had acquired the cutie mark of a swift gust of wind.

(It is unclear at this moment whether a fellow foal or a sympathetic staff member unlocked the door for her escape; rest assured, a thorough investigation is under place, and we shall prosecute the culprit to the full extent of our legal ability. We offer to split restitutions jointly.)

Again, we unreservedly apologize for this series of events; in this new and experimental business, satisfaction can never be 100% guaranteed. In accordance with our contract, we shall reimburse one-half of all expenses incurred by your party in our dealings over the months, and—should you choose to pursue them—we offer you the following discount on the services of our parent firm, Cutie Mark Conversion Services, Inc...
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#1 · 5
If only all brainwashing evil corporations were this cordial...

I like this, specially the universe it hints beyond this letter. That being said, there's still much to like about this story.

What is essentially emotional and psychological abuse is portrayed as mere routine, which goes a long way to show thw way this company works.

All in all, good work.
#2 · 1
I thought this was gonna be a comedy, judging from the title and the out-there premise.

Boy was I wrong...

I like how the abuse is conveyed to us through the words of the company, which makes it sound more like daily routine than anything, which makes it all the more effective.

There's a message here about corporations putting money and meeting quotas above people's (ponies') well-being, but you can ignore the (probable) subtext and still enjoy this for the subtly chilling story it is.

I guess my complaint would be that there was never a moment that made me go "Wow!" and I don't see myself going back to this story. It's too damn depressing.

I'm feeling a pretty solid 8 on this.
#3 · 2

It was kinda dark worldbuilding, but that's really all it was.
#4 · 2
· · >>Moosetasm
So… When is the Map sending the main cast to this facility? The place needs to be fumigated with magic rainbows ASAP.

The quiet horror that comes not from malice but from routine… and that’s pretty much all there is to it. With a promise of more to come. Certainly well put together, though I can’t honestly say I enjoyed it.
#5 · 1
Horse jesus this is some serious child abuse. It reads like gay conversion therapy, only worse. The story is good but the villainy needs to be at the very least lampshaded, because as it is this reads like it's an okay thing, and I can't see this being legal in Equestria.

You need to make it clear in the story that this isn't right.
#6 ·
Here I am again, back for more reviewing! Now let's go kick some literary butt!

This one really just plays one card, but it is an effective card, so I'll sport it that. The writing is excellent and the ironic clash between the content and the tone results in some subtle horror concerning how this company is so desensitized to its own cruelty. While it doesn't throw any major surprises my way, it at least progresses naturally and covers the major beats with flair. I'm going to rank it highly for such impeccable style.

I am, however, gonna have to interpret it as Alternate Universe. It's just so dark that I can't square it at all with the Equestria we know in the show.

My main criticism is that the company's so obviously evil that, halfway through, there's really no creepy ambiguity whatsoever which might give this some additional heft. It just becomes obviously wrong ponies continuing to be obviously wrong. There's no indication of humanity (equinity?) in this company, not even a subtle one, so it closes off any spine-tingling feeling that this could actually happen. Style goes a long way to compensating for this, but it doesn't go all the way, and I'm not surprised it lost a few people, judging from the comments.

Upper tier, for me. Possibly a strong contender, solely because this writer has flair.
#7 · 1
This is a creepy dystopian cutie mark crusaders gone horribly wrong future. Well written, enough to raise my hackles.

The map will send them as soon as is expands to encompass 1984 Orwell drive.
#8 · 2
This is a really, really good example of how to write an epistolary story. I'm usually not a fan of stories written as letters or journals or whatever just because there are a lot of ways to do them wrong. But does story not only does a great job of pacing its tension and keeping the reader engrossed, it also greatly benefits from its format from the fact that it leaves a lot of room for implications. Nice stuff!

If I had to file a complaint, I'd say that the tones and themes here are awfully disconnected from that of the show, and for some reason it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I mentioned in chat that I don't quite feel like it earns its break away the spirit of the show, but I'm honestly not 100% sure why I feel that way. I don't consider myself inherently against grimdark ponyfics, so it's hard for me to judge exactly why my gut-reaction was somewhat negative. Subjective territory--I know--so I'll take it into consideration while scoring.
#9 ·
Genre: Institutionalized Torture

Thoughts: Hoo boy, this is dark stuff. Raises all kinds of questions about who's running this show and how they manage to stay open. So right there I have to hand it to the Author for creating something that sparks curiosity and interest. It also feels pretty complete within the word count, and manages to do the epistolary thing very well. I find myself with little if anything to complain about, criticize, etc.

Well that's a heck of a way to start my finals slate.

Tier: Top Contender