I’ve always felt like nothing sums up a year quite as well as Nightmare Night.
I didn’t dress up for my first Nightmare Night in Ponyville. That tells you a lot right there. Back in Canterlot most adult ponies didn’t dress up, so I just helped Spike with his costume—a little suit covered in gems—and got ready to take him around town to get candy.
So I was pretty surprised when Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow showed up at my door, all in costume. Or, more precisely, I was surprised when Rarity, Rainbow, and Rainbow showed up at my door.
Pinkie Pie’s costume was Rainbow Dash. And it was good. The only way you would’ve known it wasn’t the real thing is that she didn’t fly. She even did Rainbow’s voice pretty well. Rainbow seemed torn. She was obviously pretty creeped out. But I think her ego was a little pleased that somepony dressed up as her.
Rainbow herself was dressed as a manticore. You could tell she made it herself, but you could tell what it was at least. Rarity called her a ruffian and pretended to kick her in the face and we all had a laugh about it. She kept asking where Fluttershy was, and we didn’t find out until the next day that she didn’t do Nightmare Night.
Technically, Rarity wasn’t there. A unicorn mare with a white coat and a curled purple mane who called herself the Lady Shimmering Star joined us that evening. She wore a mask and cloak covered in feathers and jewels, as though she were attending a masquerade. When I told her I had never gone to a masquerade during my time in Canterlot she seemed disappointed, and kept quiet for the rest of the night. Spike never left her side.
When we met up with Applejack I saw she wasn’t dressed up either, and she was leading Apple Bloom around town. Our groups merged and she walked by my side, smiling at me like she was proud of herself, and it felt almost like we were a pair of mothers guiding our children around town.
((Loosely connected with The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring))
From the moment Applejack had met Twilight Sparkle, she’d known that the young, uptight mare needed some good home cooking and a new set of friendly faces to let her loosen up a little. And that night, the longest in a thousand years, She’d looked into Twilight’s eyes and seen a nervous, budding trust and friendship. And she’d found in Twilight a friend who wouldn’t back down for anything, somepony brave and stubborn enough for Applejack to see past her stupidity and stubborn family ways and finally ask for the help she needed. Applejack had watched with pride and joy as Twilight took to wearing Ponyville like a second skin, took to loving Ponyville like a second family. So when Twilight had told her in no uncertain terms exactly how much Twilight wanted her, she’d known without a doubt that Twilight was telling the truth.
It had taken long nights full of serious talks and loving reassurances from Rarity for Applejack to finally see that she wasn’t intruding on anything her three friends had, to finally agree that she was just as welcome as Twilight had been, months back, and finally relax and open herself to the love they offered. Through those nights, Applejack had seen exactly how kind and honest and thoughtful and heartachingly selfless Rarity was, and she’d remembered those half-thoughts and idle fantasies she’d squashed out once Pinkie had Rarity out, halfway through the winter slump. She saw past the elegance and glamour once more, to the mare she respected, to the mare she admired, to the mare she found beautiful… And when Pinkie’s strong hugs and playful nuzzles turned to lazy caresses and chaste kisses, when Rarity would smile and wink over breakfast, her well-shined hoof teasing Applejack’s beneath the library table, Applejack knew without a doubt that she was loved, that was safe, that she had another home to come home to.
Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie glared at each other, and that felt wrong. Not that Rainbow glaring at Pinkie was all that uncommon – Rainbow Dash did a lot of glaring, especially when she was annoyed, and there weren’t all that many ponies in Ponyville who were as… well, annoying, as Pinkie Pie could be.
She bit her lip and let out a quiet sigh. That had been a terrible thing to think, and she was almost certain that she hadn’t meant it to be as mean as it had sounded – it was just that Pinkie got a little overenthusiastic sometimes, and Rainbow wasn’t quite as patient as she could have been. Not that there was anything wrong with that, of course; it was just her way, and the fact that it was so very different from how Fluttershy liked to handle things didn’t mean it was wrong.
But as common as it was for Rainbow to glare at Pinkie, Fluttershy couldn’t remember ever seeing Pinkie glare at Rainbow. It was a scary thing, seeing her happiest friend’s mouth twisted into a scowl, and it made Fluttershy want to leave the room. To go to bed, and let the two sort out their disagreement on their own. But she couldn’t do that – it wouldn’t be right. And besides, she was a part of this too.
Dashie had once told her that Ponyville was hungry for justice, and maybe that was right – she didn’t really know, since she wasn’t a town and she didn’t really know what towns ate, but if she were a town she was pretty sure she’d want cupcakes except it’d have to be a whole lot of cupcakes because cupcakes were really small and towns were really big even when they were only little towns like Ponyville except baking a lot of cupcake would take a long time so maybe baking one really really big cupcake would be better and it’d be fun too because everybody loved cupcakes and bigger was better and that meant everybody would really really really love a giant cupcake, especially her because she’d be the one eating it.
But she was kind of getting off topic. The point was, apparently Ponyville was hungry for justice. And since she was Mare Do Well now, that meant she kinda was justice, at least according to those comic books Scootaloo’d started drawing and those were really neat! But she had to admit, the idea of being justice in a town that wanted to eat her made her just a teensy bit nervous. Sometimes, as she stalked through the alleys and over the rooftops looking for super sneaky bad ponies doing dastardly deeds, she worried about what would happen if Ponyville got really hungry. Not that she didn’t trust the town – she totally did – but she trusted herself too, and she knew that sometimes when she got really hungry she’d eat a snack a whole bunch of snacks without really thinking about it, and that was okay because she ate candy, but the town ate justice and right now that was her.
On Wednesday, Twilight Sparkle fell asleep in the middle of lecturing Rainbow Dash on the importance of always washing out the sink after finishing up with the dishes. One minute the alicorn was waxing poetic over the pest-deterring values of an immaculate sink, while Dash sat glumly at the kitchen table and pretended to listen, and the next minute she was draped over the counter and completely unconscious. Rainbow leapt from her chair and rushed over to Twilight, shaking her by the shoulder until Twilight blearily opened her eyes and looked up with a sheepish grin.
“Sorry about that,” Twilight croaked, in a strange, reedy voice that reminded Dash more than a bit of Granny Smith. “Didn’t drink my morning cup of coffee, I guess.”
Rainbow Dash nodded, even though she’d seen Twilight have two cups just half an hour ago. “Yeah, I guess not.”
On Friday, which had been declared sacrosanct years ago, their inviolable Date Night, Pinkie Pie insisted on taking Twilight and Dash out to dinner. She made the least money, of the three of them, but they’d learned not to argue with Pinkie on the matter. Nothing made Pinkie happier than making others happy, after all, and that went double for Pinkie’s two beloved fillyfriends.
The place Pinkie proved to be more of a nightclub than a restaurant, and it wasn’t long after they’d finished their desserts that the three of them ended up out on the dance floor. Dash did low swoops above the floor while Pinkie and Twilight danced in that ungainly yet infectiously enthusiastic way of theirs.
But after a few minutes, when Rainbow glanced down at her two best mares, the grin on her face froze like a lake icing over. Twilight’s head lolled against Pinkie Pie’s shoulder, limp as a rag doll, and her deeply wrinkled eyes were shut. Pinkie looked up at Dash with wide blue eyes, eyes that Dash had never seen look quite so dark or quite so terrified.
Gotta stay awake. Gotta keep my eyes open.
Rainbow Dash slapped herself with a hoof. The last thing she needed was to fall asleep and crash. It was bad enough that one of them was missing in these Sun-forsaken woods, but if she broke a wing and lost her way out here as well…
She couldn’t think about that. All Rainbow could do was keep her wings beating, keep one eye on the ground and the other eye on landmarks so she didn’t get lost herself.
Celestia, there just wasn’t an end to these woods. They just went on forever. It wasn’t half so surprising that one of them was lost as that the rest of them weren’t. Endless stretches of green, with twisted rivers and paths that led nowhere. Why would there even be a forest like this? Why did they have to come out here? Why couldn’t they—
Why was she losing altitude? Rainbow Dash grimaced as she strained against the wind, only narrowly avoiding a collision with a gnarled old oak tree.
With a gasp, Rainbow perched on a branch to rest. She leaned against the sturdy wood and looked back the way she had come. Could Pinkie really have strayed this far out? Dash had been out flying through this forest for… Celestia, she couldn’t even remember how long. Days, at least. And she hadn’t spotted any sign of her.
Over the years the citizens of Ponyville had developed a keen sense for trouble and always kept an ear on the ground and a weather eye on the horizon. Quite soon the more sensible ones noticed the unusual absence of Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash in town. They only showed up to do their jobs and disappeared into a shack on the outskirts of Ponyville.
“Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash,” Lyra whispered to Caramel. “They are bad enough apart, but together… I don’t even want to think about it. Bon Bon is just checking our insurance policies and then we’ll hightail it to Canterlot. You should too, if you know what’s good for you.” She didn’t even wait for the stallion to answer and sprinted to her mare friend when she saw her rounding the corner with two big suitcases. Both looked around the station square one last time, then they turned and left town on the next train.
Twilight Sparkle and her friends were usually at the center of the chaos that befell Ponyville more or less periodically so their instincts for trouble had been dulled to near apathy. But as the town emptied more and more, and stories about strange sounds around the old shack by the Everfree rose from rumors to the only thing ponies talked about, Applejack, Fluttershy and Rarity decided to consult with Twilight Sparkle.
This is a critique prompt, so I will be critiquing every story I receive today. Critique is a service we normally offer on request, but today, it’s standard.
The Prompt: The discovery.
The Prompt: The invention.
This is a 30-minute writing prompt. Take as long as you like to think, plan, outline, or perform interpretive dance, but once you start writing your story, your goal is to finish within 30 minutes. Stories will be accepted for 5 hours, until 5 PM Pacific time, 8 PM Eastern, and 1 AM GMT. If you do not have a Tumblr account, email your story to us (no attachments, GDocs links are OK) at thirtyminuteponies at gmail dot com.
Fluttershy opened the door to the library and was greeted by the sudden silence of interrupted conversations and six ponies looking at her.
She reacted accordingly. With an “Eeep” and a step back she tried to leave the treehouse again, but the white unicorn stallion behind her blocked the path.
He gently but firmly pushed Fluttershy into the main room, brushed a hoof through his short cropped dark grey mane before he addressed the other ponies. “Good morning, I’m Angel Bunny,” he said. His voice sounded not unlike Big Mcintosh, in fact he even looked quite like the farmer, except for the different colors and the horn. And the blank flank, the pony had no cutie mark despite looking more than twenty five summers old. “Excuse me for skipping the introductions, but I can see the gang is almost all here. I’ll just assume that you ponies are the other pets? And you woke up just like me this morning? As a pony?”
The assembled ponies nodded and voiced their agreement. Angel noticed that Rarity wore a smug face and that she collected a few coins from Applejack and Rainbow Dash. Next to Rarity sat a white earthpony mare with a light violet mane. Just by the way she looked at him he could tell that this was the annoying cat. “Opalescence. Winona”, he nodded at her and at the pony next to her and tried to keep a neutral face. Next to the cat sat a brown pegasus mare, her unkempt long white hair hanging down over her eyes. To his amazement Winona, no other pet could have been it, seemed on good terms with the cat. They resumed chatting right after he had greeted them. How could anyone like to talk to that stuck-up cat?
Pinkie’s favourite unofficial holiday was two weeks away. Every year, she would have dozens, if not hundreds of pranks ready to spring on the population of Ponyville. Each one ranging from small and simple like a joy buzzer to a hoof, to elaborate and over the top like a booby trap tied to a Rube Goldberg machine designed to throw a cream pie to the face. Out of all of the pranks she had prepared, she would have one designed to play a joke on every citizen in Ponyville with the exception of whoever had decided to collaborate with her.
This year however, nothing was planned. Nothing that Pinkie could think of felt satisfying enough to live up to the spirit of the holiday. She sat in her room in front of a blueprint. Like her mind, it was completely blank.
“What am I going to do?” she asked. “I have to do something. Anything. Come on brain, you’ve never failed me before.” Pinkie picked up a pencil. She hesitated to press it against the paper. The pencil stayed just above the paper for what felt like an eternity. Pinkie sighed and placed it down. “I guess there’s a first time for everything.” Something landed with a dull thud behind her. She turned around and found a cyan pegasus mare with a rainbow mane and tail. The mare had a wide smile on her face as she looked at Pinkie.
“Hey Pinkie,” she greeted. “Sorry I’m late, I had a bit of work to do. What do you need help with?”
“Dashie, I can’t think of anything to do,” Pinkie said. “No matter how hard I try, I can’t think of anything! Nothing comes to mind! Help me!”
Rainbow tilted her head. “What are you talking about?”
“Yeah, I got nothing.”
“Nothing? Nothing at all?”
“Not even one tiny little…”
“Are you absolutely, positively sure, Spike?”
“Well, thank you for trying. I guess I’ll go ask somepony else.”
“Alright then. Good luck.”
Six mares. Fifteen combinations. Infinite possibilities.
Rainbow strutted around in the black flight suit that clung to her lithe body, and Rarity’s eyes followed every twist and turn of the smooth, nearly glistening fabric as Rainbow tested it with every stretch of her limbs.
“Damn, Rarity. This feels awesome.”
Rarity gave Rainbow a kiss and slid a hoof against Rainbow’s chest, feeling her handiwork, before grabbing the zipper.
Rainbow grinned. “What’re you doing?”
Rarity snorted. “Taking it off.”
* * * * * *
Fallen apples litter the orchard, and Applejack stands at Fluttershy’s side instead of walking down the rows of trees picking up every last one, and they watch as an army of rabbits, squirrels, and birds clean the apples hungrily.
“I told you they could do it,” Fluttershy said, smiling as she leaned against Applejack.
Applejack grinned at her. “Wonder what we could do to pass the time instead.”
Fluttershy squirmed and spread her wings as Applejack’s lips met hers.
* * * * * *
Pinkie Pie stares into the room in silence, looking at all of her friends, the party hats, the cake, the confetti, the presents.
“You… you surprised me,” she finally said.
Twilight just smiled even wider as she walked up and gave Pinkie a kiss.
“I told you I was studying Pinkie sense for a reason.”
Okay, so, there’s this really cheerful pink pony, right? Right. And she’s basically the best pony in the entire world, nay, the entire multiverse, because she loves everybody and she wants to make everybody happy and yet she has hidden depths and gloriously angsty backstory, because absolutely nobody wants to grow up on a gray and lifeless rock farm.
I mean, how do you even grow rocks? What do you do with the rocks once they’re grown? There are a lot of unanswered questions here.
So anyway, there are these other ponies, who are the pink pony’s friend, and they are all secretly in love with the pink pony because, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t be in love with her? I’m just saying. Anyway, so they’re all in love with her, but none of them tell her, because they do not want to be the ones to upset the delicate and volatile dynamics of the entire friend group. The pink pony goes on sadly unaware of her five friends’ feelings, never knowing the truth, never knowing the sweet, sweet embrace of another mare.
It is tragic. Completely and utterly tragic. But isn’t love unrealized always a little tragic? Yes. Yes, I think it is.