Friday, September 22, 2017

The House of Iaso (Super Person Universe)

Existing in the shadow of more famous institutions like the Miskatonic Mental Hospital, the House of Iaso rarely enters the public consciousness.  When it does, usually after some villain or other escaped from it, the impression it leaves is fleeting.

Only those whose lives personally involve the facility, or those with a deep interest in the historical accidents surrounding an obscure psychiatric hospital, are aware that there has been a war going on for the soul of the institution almost since it was founded. At the time the fight for its soul began, it was located in an out of the way corner of England's Massachusetts Bay Colony.  (Now a part of Maine.)

The exact details of Iaso's founding were intentionally obscured because if it had been known at the time that the entire operation was the dream of a woman who had been institutionalized at Bedlam (the Bethlem Royal Hospital, then located just outside of London's walls) it is doubtful the project would have been allowed to continue.

The woman's name was lost, even secret records of the time simply call her "The Founder".  While she appears to have fled to the New World out of fear of being sent back to Bedlam, within a few years of her arrival she set out to create a more humane solution to the problem of mental illness.

She spent three years fruitlessly campaigning to create a hospital for the mentally afflicted based upon compassion and understanding.  In the fourth year she was approached by a small cult, which found her vision inspiring.

The Therapeutae of Asclepius were devotees of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, and his five daughters.

Iaso, the goddess of recuperation from illness, was chosen to be patron of the original ward.  Iaso was chosen over Aceso, goddess of the healing process itself, because healing can be associated with painful, or even violent, acts (such as setting a bone) while recuperation was seen as more evocative of the peaceful methods the founder and the cult envisioned.

When the facility consisted of some small wooded buildings on land that no one had wanted (it is located in a swamp) this vision was followed with varying amounts of success.  The success drew attention, which at first was seen as a good thing.

The heightened visibility of the House of Iaso allowed for greater funding and allowed the House to better attract talented practitioners.  Initially it was believed that the only drawback was the need for increased vigilance in keeping the religion of the original staff a secret.

Two unforeseen problems arose.  First, those who did not wish to deal with violent individuals would pronounce them "lunatics" and ship them to the House of Iaso.  Second, those who contributed to the increased funding often had strong opinions about what should be done with that money.

Thus the unending battle for the soul of the House began.

The ownership and oversight of the House has changed many times, with it currently being a quasi-governmental hospital.  It has never been settled whether the House exists to help people with actual mental illnesses or serve as a dumping ground for those the traditional correctional system finds vexing.  It has never been settled whether the House is a place for gentle healing or cruelly oppressive extreme measures.

The statement "That's how they do things at Miskatonic" has two very different meanings within the House of Iaso.  To some it is an invitation, or even exhortation, to do the same thing within the House.  To others it is a chilling warning that doing or considering the same is morally questionable or even downright evil.

In recent decades the House has had to adapt to accommodate people with various powers.  While its holding areas can't rival those at Miskatonic, they are better equipped than the average detention facility, and certainly better than the average mental hospital.

It is generally (though not exclusively) the case that the dangerous patients are sane people who never should have been sent to a mental hospital, and the ones who actually belong are not dangerous.  This does not mean that the powered population is composed entirely of criminals who were dumped into the House by a prison system that didn't want to deal with such things.

Being one third Virginia Creeper or the partial reincarnation of an angel of death can lead to some difficulties in the mental arena.  The House is well equipped to help such people, though whether they will actually do so depends in large part on the current political climate and whom the governor has appointed to oversee the institution.

It has never been the case that the good elements of the House of Iaso were completely suppressed, meaning that there have always been people getting the kind of care and aid they needed.  It's simply that sometimes this is done with the support of the administration while at others it is done in spite of the administration.

Likewise for people performing unauthorized experiments on the patients.

The original cult has variously been secret, suppressed, ignored, covertly supported, denied, and various other things.  It has never been exterminated or abandoned.  Members of the Therapeutae of Asclepius can be found amoung the staff and patients alike.  During the bad times at-risk patients are sometimes surreptitiously evacuated through areas of the House that have been forgotten by the powers that be in over 300 years of expansion and renovation.

For those that would explore abandoned areas, it isn't difficult to find altars to Asclepius and his five daughters that are still in use.

In good times the cult's ideals control the House and cult members have nothing to do beyond their jobs and devotions to their gods.  Anyone mistreating patients is quickly discovered and dealt with.  (Humanely.)  In bad times the patients are seen as a disposable population for the powers that be to do with as they please, whether that means neglect or active harm, and the cult members use their knowledge of the House to covertly protect the patients from harm inasmuch as they are able to.

Beyond areas abandoned due to falling out of use (or sinking into the swamp) there are multiple secret labs under the facility where patients were used as test subjects.  The most recent known lab dates to the Reagan administration, and its use coincided with the last known involvement of the federal government in the operations of the House of Iaso.

Rumors that the flooded lower levels (which were abandoned and built on top of in order to raise the House of Iaso above the swamp) are home to some sort of human-fish hybrid subspecies are all completely false.  The residents of the lower levels are part muskrat, and muskrats are nothing like fish.

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"Bedlam" comes from a corruption of the "Bethlehem" (however one chooses to spell it) in the name of the Bethlem Royal Hospital (whatever one chooses to call it).  Thus it was called "Bedlam" thus "bedlam" was associated with the kinds of things you'd expect from one of the patients there, thus the world.

I know of this because of commentary attached to a poem.  I read the commentary, I don't think I ever made it through the poem.

It's been around a long time, and (while it's apparently a fine place now) it does not have the nicest history.

The name "Miskatonic" is lifted from Lovecraft.  Why?  Where do you think the name "Arkham" comes from?  The Miskatonic Mental Hospital lives down to the standards set by every wretched depiction of Arkham Asylum.

The idea of the House of Iaso is that it exists in an ever-shifting point between that and a well managed psychiatric hospital.  If things are going well then it's merely really fucking annoying that they keep on getting sent sane supervillains when they're supposed to be helping mentally ill people (regardless of where they fall on the hero-villain-bystander plot.)

If things aren't going well then the House is is being dragged in the direction of evil by people who think it should be another Miskatonic.

Creating it was partially driven by the idea of taking the dark and creepy asylum setting and making it so the people sneaking around and secretly preforming rituals in hidden rooms and crawlspaces and whatnot were the altruistic good guys.

Oh, random note: the founder was never a member of the Therapeutae of Asclepius. She was a religiously unremarkable individual for her time and place of origin, presumably Anglican.  It's just that the Therapeutae of Asclepius were quite taken with her vision and it was their support that allowed it to become a real thing.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Late monthly finances post

It's been a good long while since I did a financial round up, or at least it feels that way.

Last time things seemed kind of apocalyptic, but people came through and helped out and now things are more like . . . half apocalyptic.  So maybe there won't be demon locusts, but the seas will still boil and whatnot.

I have been so god damned out of it of late.  I managed to set up physical therapy for my foot, but since I spent three weeks unable to make a phone call (was it three weeks?  I think it was three weeks) it was much delayed in getting set up and for two weeks running I've managed to miss the actual appointments because my brain didn't start working until too late in the day to actually make it there.

At least with the appointment today I managed to let them know I wouldn't make it.  Last week I tried calling, got sent to the answering service, and just kind of shut down.

What does any of this have to do with finances?

One of the results of being out of it is that I'm not exactly eating food on any kind of predictable schedule.  Twice (or was it three times?  I think twice) I had to give up and order out just so that I could have calorie intake.  I didn't order anything particularly fancy, but it's still as expensive as all fuck.

So money that I was hoping to use to deal with financial trouble instead went toward not starving which is a waste because I have a special fund that can only ever be used for not starving, so I should never spend money not in that fund for that.

So I don't know exactly how it was supposed to add up, but here's where things stand now.  The fallout from the broken ankle will officially be over by the end of November, but between now and then I have a confluence of absolute shit that adds up to $3,130.46.

That includes everything from the broken ankle, quarterly property taxes, trimester house insurance, and the 12 (or was it 18) month grace period on paying for my computer ending.

In theory, and this is highly theoretical, I can drop that down to $2,590.72.

And that assumes that not only will everything go right, but that nothing will go wrong.  As you might imagine, being in a state where I've been having trouble doing basic things like eating has not, in fact, been conducive to getting payments made on time.

And it might actually be closer to $2,770ish even if everything does go right, nothing goes wrong, and theory holds in practice.  So many god damned numbers.  Keeping track of them isn't easy.


* * *

Next month is the really bad month.  Between October 23rd and November 1st I need $1,671.00.  (I really didn't expect that to come out to an even dollar amount, but I did the calculation twice and that's the result.)

Then I need property taxes ($635.40) in the first half of November.  I have completely lost track of when property insurance is ($288ish.)

It's hard to tell if my utter lack of hope for a brighter future is because my brain is fucked up right now, or because the numbers are just that bad.

I mean, looking at the theoretical $2,590.72 figure, that's about half of what it was before, right?  So it is the case that I've come half of the way to not completely screwed in two months and I've got . . . well, not quite two months left to go, but it seems like there might be hope.

On the other hand . . . I've spent a long time waiting for my good fortune to finally end, for all of the seemingly impossible shit that's kept me going to finally wither and and fade, giving way to reality.  I'm still amazed everything didn't come crashing down when my furnace (which is actually a boiler but we call it . . .) broke so completely that it needed to be replaced.

I wonder if the time has finally come for reality to beat me.  Because you know what's not in any of those calculations I did?  Heating oil.

Even if the fallout from breaking my ankle in February coinciding with the fallout from my warranty falling well short of the replacement cost of my computer (I also had to pay for a back up and the external hard drive on which to put the backed up files) a year ago (or 18 months ago, I really don't remember at this point) doesn't break me, I still won't be ready for winter.

Someday I want to share good news with you all.

It is not this day.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Aravis and Aslan after the battle of Anvard (Matter of Aravis: Susan Era)

Ok, so, this is the point where I say that I've done nowhere near enough setup to actually have parts near the ending make sense as a result of how very fragmentary this all has been, so:
  • Aravis dealt with the slave by freeing her, buying her a donkey and some food, and letting her set off to return to her non-Narnian homeland, which she had always wanted to do.
     
  • Aravis was attacked by a regular lion.  Instead of thinking it was a regular lion and having it turn out to be Aslan, they thought it was Aslan and it turned out to be a regular old deadly cat.

    It was a confluence of coincidence and bad judgement.  Right when they officially left Calormen there was this majestic lion that seemed to be waiting for them, silhouetted against the sky with the sun lighting up its mane.  It seemed to be divine, it was just a cat.  Shasta, Hwin, and Aravis all thought that they were being welcomed to by Aslan.

    (Approaching a random lion was the single stupidest thing our main three ever did.)

    That Aravis was the only member of the party harmed was sheer luck, that she wasn't hurt worse was a (presumably secular) miracle.

    Bree was only right that it wasn't Aslan because he was wrong about the nature of Aslan (who he assumed wasn't a lion.)

    While events have forced them to move passed it in general, when it does come up Aravis, Hwin, and Shasta aren't really in a good headspace.  Each one blames themselves for what happened and thinks less than complimentary things about their own intelligence and decision making capacity.

    Bree is so egotistical he's completely protected from such thoughts, plus he's quick to point out that he was right: it wasn't Aslan and approaching lions leads to bad things.  Who cares if some insignificant non-Narnian human got hurt?  He was right and that's what matters. In other words, Bree is acting exactly how you'd expect Lewis-Bree to act in this non-Lewis situation.
     
  • Aravis rode Hwin into battle, because of course she did, and was instrumental in Shasta's not-dying.  (The outcome of the battle itself depended more on the native Achenlanders and the Narnians.)  Thus she and Hwin are at Anvard.
Got all that?

Good.

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Aravis and Aslan walked together around the outskirts of the bloodied ground. The dead were being buried, homes were being repaired, and enemies were being guarded, but there was little to do for a girl who didn't know their funerary rituals, wasn't an artisan, and was a foreigner from the same nation as the enemies. For some reason the strange god had decided to grace her with his presence, but for a long while she found she had nothing to say.

Thus they walked together in silence for a time. Finally Aravis realized she had a question the god might be able to answer.

"Do you know everything?" Aravis asked.

"That depends on what you mean by 'everything'," Aslan said, "it is impressive how many different things that word can mean."

"When I started my journey I had a companion, but we parted ways when her freedom was secured at Azim Balda," Aravis said. "I have hoped since then that she has been safe and successful on her journey, and feared that she might be dead or worse."

"I cannot tell what will become of her," Aslan said, "but at this moment she is well: still free and still traveling toward her homeland. As you must know, she is quite skilled in many crafts. Thus far she has consistently been able to earn enough to fund her continued journey."

"That is good to know," Aravis said. "I thank you."

"I daresay she has fared better than you," Aslan said, "though you are recovering from your injuries well."

Aravis shrugged. "Now I know not to assume that every lion I meet is you."

"I do feel guilty," Aslan said. "At the time I was far to the west mediating a dispute between an Eagle and a Dragon."

"You were at the Tree?" Aravis asked with awe.

"A different Eagle and a different Dragon," Aslan said; "there was no Squirrel in sight."

"Oh."

"I can't help but think it would have been better to let that matter wait," Aslan said, "and instead pay more attention to who was doing what in my name. Then I would have realized your situation and could have spared you much pain."

"I would have accepted the pain a hundredfold to know what happened to my friend," Aravis, "so if you must feel guilt for not saving my friends and I from our own foolishness, know that you have more than made up for it."

"You have helped my people a great deal," Aslan said. "It is not given to me to know what would have happened if your message had not reached Achenland and Narnia, but I very much doubt it would have been been good.

"I shall tell Zardeenah Lady of the Night that you have earned my favor, Aravis descendant of Tash, and ask that she look after your friend on her journey," Aslan said. "Whether Zardeenah will see fit to provide such aid is something only she will know."

"Thank you, Aslan son of the Faraway Emperor," Aravis said.

They returned to silence and continued walking together.

[Index]

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Lewis uses things that seem to be clear Norse references a few times (most obvious being the gold chess pieces in Prince Caspian), and Aravis is knowledgeable about foreign religions, so I figured, "Why not stick in an indirect Ratatoskr reference?"

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with Tash, but Aravis says she's a descendant of Tash, so she gets that title.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What once was me (super universe)

Zinna had finished up in her office and was headed to the door when she noticed someone was in the shop.  She was almost entirely sure she had locked the door, so odds were good that things were bad.  Still, she found it best to not assume the worst at the first possible moment.

"We're closed," she said.  "So while your nocturnal interest is most gratifying, you'll just have to come back and get your flowers during normal business hours like everyone else."

"I'm not here for flowers," the person said.

In general, that was never a good sign, however Zinnia kept an open mind because there was some possibility that this wasn't one of those 'run and scream' situations.

The sound of the voice combined with the better look she got as the stranger moved closer caused Zinnia to give a tentative identification of "young woman" to the stranger in her shop.

"What do you want?" Zinnia asked in as level a tone as she could manage.

"In the dark places where people speak in whispers," the young woman said as she moved closer, "I've heard it said you have a healing touch."

Definitely leaning towards 'run away screaming and pick a new type of flower to use as your name' territory, but the possibility of things not being horrible did exist.

The woman didn't appear to be armed, on the other hand she was wearing an ankle length coat that could, presumably, hide any number of things.

Zinnia stepped back and sideways to put a rack of geraniums partially between her and the woman.  "If you've got a house plant on its last legs I'll see what I can do."

"In the land of whispered voices and hushed tones they say you can do things even after the last legs have come and gone."

"As complimentary as that is," Zinnia said, "nothing good comes from such praise."

"It is said that you can restore life to dead things,  Dead cells, dead tissue, dead organs . . . even dead bodies," the strange woman said.

"Ok," Zinnia said quickly, "I only did that once."  Some part of her mind, hidden way in the back, indicated that she shouldn't have said that and should backtrack immediately.  It was ignored in favor of the less hidden parts.  "It was a mistake.  Admittedly not a catastrophic mistake --it didn't start the zombie apocalypse or anything-- but the kind of mistake I'm not planning on repeating.

"Until we have way more understanding of the nature of souls and how they relate to people, my kind of ability should never be used for resurrection because it simply doesn't work," Zinnia was aware she was rambling by now, but as per usual the knowledge did not grant her the ability to stop.

"Once the soul is gone the individual can't be recovered by simple stealing, instead you create an entirely new life and new people should not be brought into the world in an adult body, with a history no less, and shoved into the cultural deep end of being expected to take care of themselves as self sufficient experienced individuals possessed of common knowledge and common sense.

"I was lucky language was one of the smattering of things retained from from the body's previous inhabitant because I don't even want to think about what it would have been like to try to teach an adult language acquisition," Zinnia finished.

"Well," the strange woman said, "at least I don't have to convince you to admit you indeed possess the power."

"Yeah, sure, whatever," Zinnia said, "but whoever your dead friend is, I can't help.  Sorry for your loss and all, but once someone's dead the soul generally hightails it in a hurry, and if that weren't the case for your dead person there'd likely be magic involved and you'd have gone to someone who could actually pull off resurrection instead of finding me.

"I don't deal with bodies after the soul is gone.  That's the end of it."

"I assure you," the strange woman said, then pulled her coat aside as she spoke her next words, "my soul isn't going anywhere."

What was revealed when the coat no longer obscured the clothing underneath shut down Zinnia's brain for a solid minute and a half.  When it rebooted she blurted out her first thought:

"How are you even conscious if you lost that much blood!?"

"It's just a dirty t-shirt, you--"

"And your jeans!" Zinnia glanced down quickly, initially to appraise the blood soaked garmet in question, but it quickly added a new thing to the list, "And your socks," and another: "and how didn't I notice the blood on your shoes earlier?"

"You're lucky you can't see the wound itself, it never closed.  It just . . . stopped bleeding.  I think I might have run out of blood or something."

Zinnia took a deep breath.  "That's not at all reassuring."

"Look, I've got no worries about shuffling off this mortal coil, but I'd prefer to have my biological processes jump-started before I begin to decompose.

"Ok," Zinnia said, she had basically decided to ignore the details of the situation in favor of having sufficient free brain power to think and speak, "I can see how that would be desirable.

"How are you still alive?"

"I wouldn't exactly call it life," the very fucking strange woman said.

"Ok, how are you still moving, because if this is your gift--"

"It's not; it's more of an inherited curse," the strange woman said.  "I've got powers, don't get me wrong, but they have nothing to do with my singular inability to die."

"What powers?" Zinnia asked, "because I need to know if there's a chance they'll interact with my own."

"I doubt they would," the strange woman said, "I'm an earth elemental.  Nothing healing related."

"And you can't die because?" Zinnia asked.

"Long story," the strange woman said.  "Will you heal me or not?"

"Are you evil?" Zinnia asked.

"If I were, would I tell you?"

"If that's your 'Help me because the world will be better with me still in it' sales pitch, it needs work," Zinnia said.  "How did you get in here?"

"As much as I'd love to say that I used my powers to move the metal of the lock," the strange woman said, "the truth is that I'm not that good.  Dirt and stone is what I control, not much else.  I picked your lock.  Simple as that."

Zinnia sighed.

"Come on," she said, "we're doing this in the back room."


"We agreed," Zinnia said, "as payment for my services you'd tell me what was up with you not dying in spite of the fact that your body was completely kaput."

"I do my best storytelling near loose soil," the strange woman said.

"We're in a flower shop," Zinnia said, "there's soil everywhere."

"Soil with plants or seeds in it," the strange woman said, "I don't want to disturb them."

"How would telling a story . . . wait, no, nevermind."  Zinnia walked to a large open-top elevated wooden container she used for starting plants, "I've transplanted everything that was in here into individual pots and haven't reseeded yet.  Go wild."

"Alright," the strange woman said, and walked to the opposite side of the soil container as Zinnia.  "Once upon a time there was a perfectly ordinary girl."  A handful or two of soil jumped up and formed itself into a vaguely girl-like shape.  It wasn't even close to realism, more like a very basic doll or some such.  "And she had a loving family," more soil illustrated a mother and father, "who lived with her in a nice house" more soil, more visual aid, "where there was absolutely no tragic backstory whatsoever.

"Now, don't get me wrong, this wasn't one of those situations where everything was so perfect that the girl was, intentionally or otherwise, taught that she was better than those who didn't come home to such perfection.  There were problems, but they were all small, perfectly manageable, and generally not the sort of things you'd expect to lead one into a lifetime of cackling villainy.

"Aside from rolling a natural twenty when it came to racial and economic privilege, she really was completely normal," the strange woman said.  Zinnia thought that the icosahedral die shown rolling over the surface of the soil for the figurative rolling of the natural twenty was a nice touch.  "Granted she was an earth elemental and this particular once upon a time was far enough back that people didn't openly admit to the existence of such things, but that's not much of a big deal.

"Anyway, somehow she got it in her head that she was better than everyone else," the 'girl' rose up on a pedestal while many other figures arose around her.  The girl surveyed her domain, not even seeming to notice the other figures whose heads she was looking over.  "This did eventually cause the kind of isolation one expects of villainous origin stories, but only because she drove everyone around her away."

The girl was returned to the top of the soil where she heatedly argued with with a handful of other figures.

"Most she drove away by being the kind of jerk that thinks most people are beneath her, the rest when they realized that she classed them with 'most people'."  The girl stormed off through a newly arisen doorway and slammed the door shut.  "But she wasn't angry.  No, really, not angry at all.  She didn't need any of those lesser beings to help her."

"She traveled the world for a time, went to university and such," an entire miniature campus erupted from the soil, "and eventually reached the logical conclusion that if she was better than literally everybody else, she should obviously be ruling the world." The campus collapsed back into flat soil and then a globe arose with a hand reaching up to grasp it.

"Of course ruling the world was no small task, and she never really made much progress on that front.  She studied the cogs of power and the inner workings of political systems," globe and hand were replaced by a detailed rendition of the US Capitol Building, "like you do, but she also witnessed from the sidelines as supervillains first became a thing.

"A thousand different attempts, and the exact same number of failures," the soil shifted into various shapes, death rays, doomsday machines, and the like, "and with each it became even more clear to her why all others had failed where she would succeed: they rushed things.

"It took Rome," what Zinnia guessed to be a legion of soldiers took form next, " more than eight centuries to take over just 21% of the human population and that involved three distinct forms of government, numerous coups," Zinnia was glad for the lack of detail in the soil 'people' because various deaths were dramatized, "and several bloody civil wars.

"So our little protagonist knew that just trying to take over the world in a single human lifetime was probably doomed to fail.

"And then we have an interlude in our story.

"While living alone, and painfully lonely, our little protagonist was found by an elemental magician," two figures formed, met, and began a silent conversation, "and while elementals and magicians with an elemental focus are very different things, there was and is enough overlap that a sufficiently knowledgeable elemental magician," a soil arrow arose to point at one of the figures, "can teach a lot to an untrained elemental," the first soil arrow collapsed and a new one appeared, " and so began a rewarding mentor-apprentice relationship.

"But things would not be good forever because, while having her power appreciated made our little protagonist feel good for a while, she still wanted to rule the world."  The two figures started to argue.  "Being around magic so much convinced her that immortality was within her reach, and --as is fairly common-- the magician kept an emergency stash of books relating powerful, but dangerous, magic that she hoped she would never have to use.

"As the books were only meant to be touched as a last resort, our protagonist wasn't allowed to read them.  That, she was told, would be dangerous.  She didn't believe that.  She thought her mentor was holding her back.  She flounced."  Again one figure went away, slammed a door, and ended up alone.

"Without the moderating influence of her mentor, and with a way to attain her goals in sight, our little protagonist set out on a quest that ended with her cutting a swath of death and assorted other trauma across three continents," again Zinnia was thankful for the lack of realism in the depiction of the soil figures, because again things got violent.

"She eventually found what she was looking for in an underground cavern.  There was an entire dead city, and in its theater, oddly enough," a standard Roman theater formed from the soil, "was immortality.  It was in the form of a sort of dragon thing," Zinnia definitely agreed that the thing depicted in the soil was a thing that was sort of dragon-like, "that could not be ended.

"Hurt it, kill it, it didn't matter.  The most that anyone could do was incapacitate it.  Well, the most anyone had ever done before.  She incapacitated it," the dragon thing collapsed, but maintained its form and simply lay still above the soil's natural level, and a figure arose above it, "and then did what no one who had faced the beast before had been willing to do.

"She ripped out its soul."  It was difficult to describe what the soil showed Zinnia, but at the end the dragon thing withered to a skeleton and then dissolved leaving the figure triumphant, "and used it as a tool to make her own soul like its had been, just stronger.  It was forever bound to the mortal plain, and theoretically bound to her body."

"With all eternity on her side our little protagonist realized she'd have to prioritize certain goals because, unlike the world itself, not all things would wait around to for her to deal with them at her leisure.

"So the first thing she decided to do was get back at that damned magician who hadn't let her read the super secret books."  All of the soil had collapsed back to flat under the influence of gravity.  Apparently there were no illustrations for this part of the story.  "She didn't realize that in the years she'd been involved in her bloody quest for immortality the magician had taken on a new apprentice.

"This . . . I guess you'd say 'person', I've always called her a 'her' because that's how she looks to me and she accepts all pronouns, but if you want to call her a 'he' or a 'they', that's fine too.  Anyway: story.

"The apprentice had activated a powerful magical artifact in some previous adventure or other, still had it, and was therefore easily able to stop our little protagonist."  Three figures now appeared, one positioned on the ground as if wounded, one standing triumphant, one on the ground but not showing signs of injury, "The defeated, nearly dead, magician made a request of her apprentice: 'Save her soul,' she said."

The standing figure reached toward the the uninjured figure on the ground and a vortex of soil began to form around all three figures, "In a storm of magic the apprentice separated our little protagonist's soul from the undead monstrosity her body had become," the vortex had reached the point where it obscured all the figures, "and doubtless the apprentice thought it would do whatever human souls do.

"It didn't.

"Our little protagonist's plan had succeeded in anchoring her soul to the mortal world, but she'd never expected to be without a body.  A wounded body, a dead body, a skeleton body, a dust or ash body, all these things and more she had contingency plans for, but to have the soul be unbound to any body whatsoever . . . that was outside her plans," the vortex of soil continued to spin.

"The soul was meant to be tied to a body, and without conscious thought it set out to make that happen.  It took years, but eventually," the vortex started becoming less dense, "it somehow gathered enough magic to create a body.  Thus did a naked little girl," the vortex cleared to reveal a small figure, "come into the world in an unusual fashion.

"I don't know how they found her, or how they worked out what she really was --I would have assumed 'clone' myself-- but the magician and her now-graduated former apprentice did find the little girl.

"The former apprentice took her on as a student and became the girl's teacher."  A larger figure appeared behind the small one, and placed a hand on the small one's shoulder.  "I'm going to call the former apprentice 'the teacher' from now on, because it's shorter.

"Our little protagonist's soul may have been laden with memories, but her brain wasn't ready for that much information.  She knew her name, and she had an extensive vocabulary, but she didn't remember what had come before. Even so, bits of her former self seeped through into her new life.

"After screaming at the magician one day for no discernible reason," the small figure shouted at a new figure, while the figure behind her held her back, "our little protagonist asked the teacher why and how she hated someone she barely knew."

The scene shifted, the small figure was sitting cross legged looking up at one of the large figures as it paced and, presumably, spoke, the other large figure was nowhere to be seen."

"The teacher didn't lie, but neither did she really tell the truth.  She took refuge in vagueness, saying only that our little protagonist had an unusual soul and as a result she'd been born with memories.  Memories that were locked away for now, but seemed to influence her emotions nonetheless.

"The teacher said she didn't want to awaken the memories yet because she was afraid they'd be overwhelming at that point." The small figure stood up and and the large figure stopped talking and pacing "And so our little protagonist grew up" the small figure started to grow larger, "never knowing that she was an amnesiac murderer with designs on world domination who attained a bizarre form of immortality via a positively grotesque magical process," the formerly small figure finished growing when it was slightly taller than the large figure.

"Every bit the earth elemental that she'd been in her previous body, but this time trained from a young age, our little protagonist eventually set out to do something with herself," the now-larger figure started walking and the other figure disappeared back into the soil.  "It was also partially because some of those feelings she couldn't explain, ones like the hatred for the magician, kept telling her she was better than everyone else, and she didn't like that.

"She wanted to prove to herself that she was good person.  Now, she might have grown taller than the teacher, but that was just because her growth hit early, she wasn't old enough to become a hero through legal channels because it'd be a good long while before the first sanctioned junior hero team was set up.  That didn't stop her."

The figure stopped walking and was joined by five more.

"For a while everything was good," the six figures did standard crime fighting moves against unseen enemies, "but slowly things began to unravel.  In the fights she kept having thoughts about more brutal means she could use.  Eventually she learned that these were flashbacks both to things she had done and to how she had operated in her previous body.

"Eventually she learned that she was a monster.  And it was around that time she met a different monster, one drawn by the call of the compact earthquake machine that an earth elemental could be.

"You know, it's always us they go after," the soil started illustrating examples, "Want to cause an earthquake?  Earth elemental.  Flood?  Get an earth elemental to break the dam.  Tsunami?  See: earthquake.  Hurricane?  Good luck with that.  Firestorm?  No need for an elemental, just get some hardware.  Volcano?  Earth elemental.  Ash or poison gas?  See: volcano.  The villains always want to use earth elementals.  It's unfair really."

For the first time in what felt like weeks, Zinnia spoke, it was pure deadpan: "Truly earth elementals win the Oppression Olympics."

"I get it, I'll get back to the story," the strange woman said.  "Monster number two," a figure in what Zinnia guessed was meant to be armor arose, "was some dude with low ambitions --he just wanted a single city-- but Grade A manipulation skills.

"He could say the stupidest least convincing things, but somehow when he said them they sounded like the most rigorous logical proofs in the history of human reasoning," Apparently meaningless equations briefly appeared behind the armored figure.  "Plus, he somehow figured out what our little protagonist had done in her previous body.

"Through lies, half truths, blackmail and the like he turned our little protagonist against the rest of her team and was in the process of having her devastate the city --his takeover plan relied heavily on how he had infiltrated local emergency management services-- when her friends finally got through to her.

"He died," the armored figure lost all form and dropped into the rest of the soil.  "She had lost the will to live, but had to undo the disaster she'd been halfway through causing, and her lack of will to live didn't get her excused from that..

"Stopping a disaster like that, once started, is way harder than starting one.  Disasters take the path of least resistance, and if you remove the one you've set up to guide it, it'll just find the new path of least resistance.  You can't just slam on the breaks the same way you applied pressure to bring things to the shattering point, you've got to dissipate all that force in a thousand directions, and you've got to do it fast, otherwise all you've done is take away whatever control you had over the disaster without actually taking away the part that causes it to be a disaster.

"For an elemental to tap that kind of power and survive requires a combination of utter desperation and a will to survive.  Without the first they don't tap the power, without the second they're consumed.

"But, again, earth elementals are set apart.  An air elemental who is consumed is scattered on the winds," a figure rose up and then was blown into a formless  eddying current of soil, "a fire elemental extinguishes when the fuel runs out," a flaming figure rose up and then died down, "a water elemental goes splat," a figure rose up, then lost cohesion and spilled to the ground like the water in a popped balloon, "but an earth elemental becomes their own statue," a figure rose up and stayed perfectly still.

"And so it was with our little protagonist.  She had the desperation, she stopped her disaster, but she lacked the will to live.

"While there was no confirmed case of depetrification, there were rumors that it was possible and so our little protagonist's team hid her away in a safe place in hopes she could be revived one day.

"So it was that she remained on pause underground," the figure sank into the ground without losing its shape on the way.  "The world above," a cityscape rose up, "did not," the cityscape quickly progressed through years worth of construction, demolition, and reconstruction.

"Seventeen years after our little protagonist turned to stone, something happened.  Exactly what is a secret --apparently, attempting to duplicate it would likely have catastrophic consequences.  What isn't a secret is that it led to the first confirmed recovery of a petrified earth elemental."  A figure appeared, was completely still for a bit, and then fell like a rag doll.  "In hopes that the recovery could be duplicated without duplicating the unknown something, it was closely observed using both the best science had to offer and the magic of a demon from the Fractured Plain.

"Some time later the demon was able to use what she observed to recover her own petrified friend albeit with side effects."  This time two figures appeared, only one of them completely still.  The other seemed to give up, and was walking away when the surface soil exploded off of the still figure.  Then it collapsed as the previous still figure had.  "The information generated by that, combined with the scientific observations of the first, was used to recover a third person, this time with fewer side effects."  It was, more or less the same as the first time: a completely still figure suddenly went limp.

"It was nineteen years after our little protagonist turned to stone that she was recovered, with no side effects.  Being frozen in stone was probably as close to true death as she'll ever be able to come, and she still doesn't understand why her team would return a monster like her to this world.

"Still, that's what they did.  They'd all outgrown her, of course, and she didn't let them know that she probably would have told them not to revive her if it had been possible for them to ask.  It would be unnecessary to burden them with such things.

"With the world greatly changed, our little protagonist took to walking it in hopes of finding a place she could fit."  A wall arose and two figures shoved a third against it.  Then a fourth figure showed up and distracted the two while the third ran away.  "That went about as well as you'd guess," one of the two looked to see the victim gone, both got more animated, and the other of the two stabbed the fourth figure.

It . . . wasn't a quick stabbing.

The stabbed figure fell to the ground, the other two dissolved, after a moment the stabbed figure picked itself up, "And it wasn't long after that that our little protagonist came to a flower shop because she'd heard rumors that the owner could restore life to dead things, like our little protagonist's body.

"You know the rest; you wrote it."

Zinnia took a moment to process all of that and finally said, "I don't think you're a monster."

"You don't know me," the not-monster strange woman said.

"That's true, I don't even know your name."

"Patricia."

"Well, Patricia, I still don't think you're a monster," Zinnia said.

"I've killed people, and I felt no guilt while doing it."

"In a past life, if what you told me is true."

"It was me.  What happened to me doesn't map onto reincarnation, it's closer to getting retrograde amnesia for a spell."

"Unless you mean 'fantastic beast', in which case I hate to burst your bubble but it's my duty to inform you that against dragons and unicorns you don't stack up," Zinnia began, "monsters are monsters because they do monstrous things.  Other than breaking into my shop, what horrible things have you done this decade?"

"I haven't had a chance, I was stone."

"Past ten years of your life, the non-stone years."

"Thanks for healing me," Patricia said.  "I've paid you with my story.  Maybe we'll meet again during normal business hours someday."

Zinnia watched as Patricia made her way out of the store's back room.  Zinnia swore a bit then followed Patrica and caught her halfway to the front doors.  "It was nice meeting you, and you should know that the world is full of therapists," she said.

"It's nice that my body isn't decaying," Patricia said back.  She kept walking for two steps, then stopped and faced Zinnia.  "If you should think of something that I can do to pay you back that doesn't involve my mental health or self image, and if I'm around at the time, I'll probably be willing to help if time and ethics allow it."

"I'll remember that," Zinnia said.

"Bye."

"Bye."

And with that Patricia, the strange woman who was almost certainly not a monster, walked out of Zinnia's shop.

*
* *
* * *
* *
*

This was originally going to also contain Patricia visiting her now-aged teacher.  I think it's long enough without that.  Plus, I haven't written that yet.

Desdemona is the the demon of the Fractured Plain who preformed the magical observation of the first confirmed depetrification.  (Named locations in Hell thus far are "the Outland Reach", "the Cursed Dome", and "the Fractured Plain".  "The Shattered Dome" is also in my head --there's more than one dome in Hell after all-- but I'm pretty sure I haven't used it yet.)

Patricia's character comes from two places.  One is that I was planning on having a depetrified character who was out of it for about twenty years who used her earth moving powers as a storytelling aid for ages.

The other place is a story I read in which a telekinetic does storytelling in much the same way, just with branches and leaves instead of soil and stone.  For whatever reason having similar storytelling techniques really connected the characters in my mind, and I decided to steal the basic outline of the telekinetic's origin story.  (Evil person reinforces own soul with undead properties, when soul is separated from body a new body is formed, boom: main character.)

Granted that story was a time travel story set in a twice-alternate alternate universe of My Little Pony, but --like I said-- the characters who storytell with magic-controlled visual aids pulled from the general area really connected to each other in my mind.

I think that's it for notes.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Last Week to vote for me for this year's KP fannie awards

On the seventh of this month voting closes on the Annual Kim Possible Fannie Awards.

To vote you send an email or PM with your votes (you don't need to vote for each category, you do need to limit yourself to at most one vote per category) to [kimmunityfannies (at) yahoo (dot) com] or this account on fanfiction.net, respectively.

The full list of nominees can be found here.

This list was quickly thrown together and just has everything I've been nominated for, not everything I necessarily think I deserve.  (I'm not going to vote for me in category 1, for example.)

It also has the handful of things I have strong opinions on.  Note that I'm split (I haven't voted yet myself) on whether GerbilHunter or HopefulHuskey deserves to win Best Reviewer (24).  Since there can only be one vote per category, I'll have to break the tie in my head, and anyone following my advice will have to come up with their own decision.

If you think my work/me worthy, please vote for it/me
  1. Best KP Style Name
    • Leela P. Poossible – Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  2. Best KP OC
    • Leela P. Possible – Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  3. Best Minor Character
    • Joss Possible – Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  4. Best Villain
  5. Best Songfic
  6. Best AU
    • Life After – Chris the Cynic
  7. Best Cross-over
  8. Best Alternate Pairing
  9. Best KiGo
  10. Best Kim/Ron
  11. Best Comedy
  12. Best Romance
  13. Best Friendship
    • Place and Joss – Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  14. Best Action/Adventure
    • Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  15. Best Drama

  16. Best One-Shot
  17. Best Series Overall
    • Touch Series – AlyssC01
  18. Most Unlikely/Unique Story
    • Life After – ChrisTheCynic
  19. Best Novel-Sized Story
    • Being More Than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  20. Best Short Story
  21. Best Young Author
  22. Best New Author
  23. Best Lines
    • (ChrisTheCynic – From Life After) – As it was he was staying alive mostly by means of having arms. The dogs were big, the dogs were scary, the dogs were fast, but they were incapable of changing direction as quickly as a human being who could reach out, grab onto something, and pivot around it as if they hated their shoulder with a fiery passion and were just begging it to become dislocated.
  24. Best Reviewer
    • GerbilHunter
    • HopefulHuskey
  25. CPNEb Kimmunity Award
    • SharperTheWriter
  26. Kimmunity Achievement Award
  27. Best Story
    • Forgotten Seeds – ChrisTheCynic
  28. Best Writer
    • ChrisTheCynic

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Anyone know of any good Canterbury Tale readings?

So, when I have a long period in which I require background noise, it's not uncommon for me to put on the full concert video of The Last Waltz.  It's four ours and twentyish minutes long, and it's good music.

The break in the middle with poetry reading, however, utterly fails to impress me except for one part.  A guy walks out and with no introduction to his reading whatsoever starts reciting a poem in a Germanic language I originally couldn't place, and it's fucking beautiful.

I know now that the language was Middle English (it sounded really damned familiar), the guy was Michael McClure (he is announced, but it was kind of iffy to me as to exactly what his last name was), and the poem was the introduction to The Canterbury Tales.

For any who are interested, here is the reading:


I finally got around to looking up if McClure ever recorded a larger reading of The Canterbury Tales, and the answer is, unfortunately, no.

So, I was wondering, anyone have a reading they recommend?  It is the case that Chaucer's work isn't fully in verse, but where it is . . . with the proper reader it's not just poetry, it's a form of music.

For my own part, I can't read Middle English for shit.  There's a reason I didn't initially recognize the reading as English.  If I were to try to do a reading it'd be a horrible discordant thing that bashed Chaucer's language into more or less my own modern American English and destroyed its beauty in the process.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A New Path Forward: A day in the aftermath (Equestria Girls)

[If you don't want to jump right in and trust my skill as a writer to make the pertinent information clear, I made a whole post to help with that.]

[Key points being that a) Equestria Girls is the human universe of the My Little Pony multiverse, thus everyone is in human form and is human unless otherwise noted, Luna is a vice principal not an immortal moon goddess, Sunset Shimmer has recently been beaten and has cut ties with her canonical friends, and . . . that should cover everything.  More than what's needed, really.]

[This is a sequel to Dainn's Anon-a-Miss, which Dainn gave blanket permission to do provided credit was given.  It does not, however, treat the epilogue as canonical because that would introduce timing issues.]

* * *
* * * *
* * *

“Breakfast is getting cold, wake up!”

Sunset groaned and rolled until her legs fell off the bed.  Once she was laying belly down and had her feet on the floor, she pushed herself upright, then she stumbled out of the room.

“It was supposed to be one night,” she said as she made her way to the kitchen.  She kept her left hand on the wall for balance and support.  “You let me stay here one night, the guilty are punished the next day, I go home.”

“That was before I saw what you looked like,” Luna said.

Sunset collapsed into the chair across the table from Luna.  “Nothing you can see is even bothering me right now.”

Sunset didn't even look at what was on the plate in front of her, she closed her eyes, planted her elbows on the table, and held her head in her hands.  The world was suffering.

“Ok, so I probably should have guessed that you had a concussion when you told me thirty people beat you up,” Luna said.  “I honestly didn't think of it.”

“When do I start sleeping again?”

Actually Sunset was sleeping a lot.  Several times a night and sometimes a time or two during the day.  The problem was that she wasn't sleeping well or long.

Sunset heard Luna sigh.

“Brain injuries are extremely hard to predict,” Luna said.  “We've had students bounce back in three days--”

“It's been more than three days.”

“--and others took months.”

Sunset gave a flat, “Yay.”

“I haven't done any kind of study of the matter using the student body as test subjects,” Luna said, “but recovery times have definitely gone down, in aggregate, since doctors started recommending 'brain rest'.”

“Brain rest being the thing that means I can't look at anything with screens,” Sunset said.  “Have I mentioned that computers and TV rank highly among the things that make the lack of magic in this world bearable?”

“Several times,” Luna said.  “This is the seventeenth time you've mentioned TV, alone or in combination, and the twenty-third time you've mentioned computers, under the same conditions.”

Sunset opened her eyes.  She was still resting her head in her hands, so her view was straight down at her plate of breakfast.  Fake bacon and eggs.  The bacon-like thing gave her a distraction and she took it.  She might have mentioned computers twenty-three times, but she'd never told Luna about pig farming.

“In Equestria no one would even think of eating pigs.  We use them to till the soil; it's why they're usually found on farms.”

“I'm not sure if anyone does that here,” Luna said, “but I do know that people rent out sheep and goats to be organic lawn mowers.”

“Yeah, caprinae are good at that.  Not just grass either,” Sunset said.  “Take an overgrown field, put a fence around it, drop off some sheep or goats, and pretty soon the brush will be cleared away.  Then you bring in the pigs.  Once they've done their part, you've got land that's ready to farm.”

“You know a lot about farming?”

“No,  I just know a little about a lot.

“Even though I was studying magic, my teacher made sure my general education was very broad,” Sunset said.  She smiled looking back on it.  She finally took her head out of her hands and looked up at Luna.  “I resented her for that.  I was only interested in magic, because I only wanted to become more powerful.  My physical strength was average at best, so magic was the path to power.  Everything else was a distraction.

“Now . . . almost everything I know about my motherland comes from her insisting that I know at least a little bit about everything.”

“Not from living there?”

“Before I met her I knew some of the streets of one city, I knew how people ignored you when you weren't wanted, I knew fear and hunger and loneliness.  After she took me in I knew the inside of one castle.  She tried to get me to make friends, but I didn't think that was even a real thing.”

“You didn't think friendship was real?”

“My whole life had been defined by the strong doing whatever they wanted to the weak.  People who operated in groups were stronger than they had been as individuals.  I thought 'friendship' the name people gave to such alliances when the members didn't want to admit that they were so weak they needed a gang to support them.”

“That's terrible.”

Sunset nodded.  “I was pretty terrible.”

“I wasn't talking about you,” Luna said.  “I was talking about the situation that could lead to a child believing such at thing.”

Sunset shrugged.  She didn't see herself as a victim of her circumstances.  Others had faced the same and not become monsters.  Besides, it was just how things worked.

“It's like that in this world too,” Sunset said.

“It's terrible here too,” Luna said.

There was a silence that Sunset used to finally start eating.

“Do you know why we let new students into the school with no questions asked and no paperwork?”

Sunset shook her head.  She hadn't even known they did that until Twilight showed up and was treated as an ordinary student in spite of obviously not belonging.  If she'd known the school acted that way at the start she could have saved herself a lot of trouble by not forging the necessary documents to enroll officially.

“Free lunches,” Luna said.

That threw Sunset a bit and she just looked at Luna, unsure of what to say.  Plus she was chewing.

“As long as they aren't harming our students,” Luna said, “anyone who is the right age can walk through our doors, stay where it's warm and dry, and get one absolutely free meal every school day.”

Sunset had food in her mouth again, but she also had something to say, so she swallowed in a hurry.  That proved a mistake as it hurt a bit, but at least she could speak.

“That sounds monumentally unwise,” Sunset said.

“The school-board would have our heads if they knew,” Luna said, “but I think the secret's safe with you.”

Sunset was pretty sure Luna wasn't doing it on purpose, and that somehow made the fact Luna just admitted to trusting Sunset with a secret without hesitation feel even better.  There was a twinge of sadness about others who had been quick to think no secret was safe with her, but mostly there was satisfaction that at least someone trusted her.

Of course none of that had to do with the topic of the administration of a school choosing to allow random kids who weren't actually students to come in and roam free.  On that topic Sunset said:

“Even so, how can you be sure it won't explode in your face?”

“We don't know it won't,” Luna said.  “So far, though, the problems we've faced with the student body have been from students who are actually legally enrolled.”

Sunset nodded, “The Dazzlings and I forged the paperwork needed to make our enrollments legit.”

“True,” Luna said, “but I wasn't thinking about magic.”

“For the first three years and change I didn't use magic,” Sunset said.

“I'm not going to lie and pretend you weren't that bad,” Luna said, “and a lot of people would disagree with how Celestia and I feel now, but I think you were worth it.

“I wish we'd been able to do something about you, but you were too good at keeping anything from pointing at you directly.  You only acted in person around people who would never give us your name, and what you did electronically always pointed to someone else.”

“Thank so much for that trip down memory lane.”

“Your deadpan snarking needs work, maybe we can get you in a remedial class,” Luna said.

It made Sunset smile even though she didn't want to reward such a corny line.

“There was, however, going to be a 'but',” Luna said.

“You're a butt!”

Luna laughed.  “I'm sorry we can't watch that movie together right now.”  Luna glanced at something, “And for that matter I can't be here for much longer right now.”

“That why you woke me up today?” Sunset asked.

“I wanted to make sure you ate,” Luna said, “but before I go let me finish that thought.

“We might not have been able to act against you –because for any given thing we usually had about a dozen suspects and we knew that they weren't all guilty– but that didn't mean we couldn't do anything.  We worked to help your victims.  Yes, that includes the ones who could have told us who you were but flat out refused.

“I think you did a lot less lasting harm than you believe.”

“That's mildly comforting,” Sunset said.

“I have to go now, the school-board called an emergency meeting.”

“You're still refusing to deal with the parents?” Sunset asked.

“Celestia and I have office hours.  If someone wants to yell at us about how babysitting duty is too harsh of a punishment for attempted murder, they can wait until we're in the office.”

“Aren't you technically on call--”

“If they care so much then they should be willing to show up on a school day,”  Luna said.  Then she switched to serious mode and said, “Now I really have to go.”

* * *

Sunset's boredom was interrupted by her magical journal glowing and vibrating.  That meant inter-dimensional text messaging.  Inter-dimensional text messaging that included no screens.

Sunset took a look.

I'm going to make the pendants, the message from Twilight said.

That was very good news.  The sirens might have tried to take over the world, they might be unrepentant, and they might be parasites that could only survive on the suffering of others, but they didn't deserve to die a slow painful death via magical starvation.

Sunset hadn't actually promised to get them the magical amulets they'd need to sustain themselves, she'd only said she'd talk to Twilight, but she'd never planned on leaving it at merely trying.  It was a huge weight off of her to know she wouldn't have to think up a way to convince Twilight to help.

Thus, this was very good news.

It took Sunset a while to actually respond –damned concussion– but she finally wrote, That's good, back at Twilight.

You didn't write me anything while I was thinking it over, Twilight wrote.  Are you ok?

I have a concussion, Sunset wrote, it's hard to think sometimes.

Cue freakout in three, two, one . . .

A concussion‽  You said you were just scratched up!

Of course Twilight would write out an interobang.  If Sunset wanted to keep up she'd have to break out the asterism.  That was for later, though.

At the time the symptoms hadn't set in, Sunset wrote.  They operate on a delay for some reason.

That's because Never mind.  You should have told me when you found out, Twilight wrote.

Why?  Sunset asked.  It's not like I got injured again, and I'm healing now.

Because  That's not  I strongly disagree with your decision not to tell me, Twilight wrote, but right now just get some rest.

I will, Sunset wrote.

Good bye for now, Twilight wrote.

Sunset marked the end of the conversation with an asterism.


Sunset didn't open her eyes when she heard the door open, or when she heard it close again.  In fact she pushed herself deeper into the couch.

She did ask, “How was the school-board?” though.

“As expected,” Luna said.  “A few of them are up in arms about how we're handling the situation, but they're not going to act against Celestia and me because they they really don't want to draw attention to the fact that so many of our students were involved in such a serious crime.”

“But this could be a teachable moment,” Sunset said, further burying herself in they couch.  “Never has there been a more perfect reason to make students sit through assemblies about the negative impact of crowd psychology, scapegoating, extrajudicial punishment by an informal groups, escalation of commitment, and the desire for quick action over accurate information.

“You could do a whole series.  Every day a new sensitivity slash 'don't commit murder' assembly.”

“Are you finished?”  Luna asked.

“Maybe,” Sunset said.  “I'm not really sure.”

“Is there some reason you prefer pushing the cushions out of place then lying between them and the rest of the couch to actually lying on top of the couch cushions?” Luna asked.

Sunset wasn't sure, her head seemed to feel better when she actively pressed it against the couch, but that that pushed her into the couch, and pushed the cushions out of place, was a side effect, right?  Or was it part of why her head felt better?

This would require some serious thought.

* * *

Sunset woke up and it was very dark.  She wasn't sleepy.  She was weary.  She was tired.  But she wasn't sleepy.  She wanted to growl at the gods of all things neurological . . . and possibly wage a medium sized war on them.  She could try to rest but not sleep, but that would leave her painfully bored.

She couldn't watch a movie because she'd had her two hours of screen time for the day and, as much as she hated the whole brain rest thing, she had to admit that it worked.  Things did get worse when she used things with screens and better when she stayed away.

She couldn't read a book because the LED lights in the house were too bright and the only other lights were CFLs Luna hadn't gotten around to replacing yet.  Florescent lighting was as bad as screens.

She tried to think of something else to do, but found herself with few options.  If she wanted to heal quickly, and she desperately wanted that because every waking moment involved suffering and the best she could hope for was distraction, not relief, there wasn't much she could do after dusk's twilight faded.

She got out of bed and hoped that Luna was still awake.

* * *

She found Luna just outside the back door, in the snow, looking through a telescope.

“Are you the goddess of the night here too?” Sunset asked.

Luna jolted a bit in response to to Sunset's voice so Sunset said:

“Sorry.”

“There is nothing to be sorry for,” Luna said.  “I'm just not used to having company.”

“Looking at something interesting?”

“The Andromeda Galaxy,” Luna said.  “Despite how far away it is, it would look six times larger than the moon in a world where the sky was actually dark enough to see the whole thing.  As is we can only see the core with the naked eye, and that just looks like a fuzzy star.

“Since the moon isn't out right now, the sky's a bit darker.  Unfortunately there's nowhere you can go that's free from human light pollution.  Not unless you take a boat far enough into the ocean to have the horizon block out light from the continent.”

Sunset thought about that for a bit.

“The light pollution thing doesn't surprise me,” she said; “after all of the time I've spent here, the universe still surprises me.”

Luna was definitely confused when she asked, “What about the universe surprises you?”

“Everything,” Sunset said.  “That it exists.”

And Luna's confusion obviously wasn't cleared up based on the way she repeated, “That it exists?”

Sunset was going to explain, and then realized it wouldn't make sense.  She thought up another way to explain it and got as far as opening her mouth before stopping, deciding that wasn't going to make sense either, and dismissing it with a, “No.”

She ran through a few more possible approaches in her head before reaching the conclusion, “I'm going to have to explain Equestrian cosmology from scratch for anything from there to make sense to you.”

“Ok,” Luna said in a way that Sunset recognized as inviting her to say more.

“This could take a while.”

“I'm not busy,” Luna said.

“Equestria is . . .” Sunset realized she had to stop right there.  “Ok, the planet, if you want to call it that, doesn't have a name.  The ponies of Equestria call the whole world Equestria because the ponies of Equestria think everything is about them.  They use the term 'everypony' to mean 'everyone' or 'everybody' without ever considering that the language is exclusionary to zebras, donkeys, dragons, griffins, changelings . . . and everyone else who isn't a pony.

“But, I was talking about the universe, not social things.

“The nameless world that Equestria is a part of can be represented quite well as the surface of a sphere and you will find globes there, but for our purposes tonight it's actually easier to think of it as flat.”

“A flat surface in spherically curved space?” Luna asked.

“It's significantly more complicated than that,” Sunset said.  “The complications aren't what matter when discussing the goings on in space though.  What matters is that if you shine a light on the outside of a sphere the light can only directly hit half of it at time.” Sunset held out her right hand in a fist.  “If the sun is shining on this part,” she covered the left half of her fist with her left hand, “it necessarily follows that it can't be shining on this part,” she covered the other half of her fist.

“It doesn't work like that on the other side of the mirror.  So it's easier to think of the world as the top of a flat surface, say my palm.” Sunset said while opening her right hand and flipping it to palm up.

"When the sun is above the surface plane,” Sunset used her left hand to illustrate the sun, “it shines on the whole world, or my whole palm as the case may be.” She moved her left hand below her right, “when it's below the plane it shines on none of it –just the back of my hand, which we don't care about at the moment.”

“So your point is that if the sun is up it's up for the whole world and if it's down it's down for the whole world?” Luna asked.

Sunset nodded.  “The sun, the moon, the stars, meteors, whatever,” she said. “The entire world sees the same sky.

“And when I talked about the sun being in different places, that wasn't some sort of metaphor.  The sun and moon do move around the world there,” Sunset said.  “They bring day and night respectively.  Unlike here the moon is never up in the daytime.”  As soon as she said it Sunset realized it wasn't true.  “Well, one time it was.  That was after I left Equestria so I didn't see it for myself but apparently about half of the sky was night, about half of the sky was day, and the thin area between the two 'about half's was twilight.”

“So the day runs on magic,” Luna said, “like half of the other things in that world.”

“Right,” Sunset said.  “Anyway, it's very much not just the sun and moon that revolve around the world.  Everything is centered on the world.

“We have a lot of the same terms, but they don't mean the same things.  Stars are not other suns.  The galaxy isn't a huge thing that makes the world seem tiny in comparison, the word 'universe' is pretty much interchangeable with 'galaxy', and while planet refers both to the world and to the things in the sky that sometimes have moons orbiting them, the two things aren't even close to alike.

“The sun and the moon go around the world for a value of around that doesn't work if you're thinking of the world as a sphere, farther away is a partial shell that contains the stars and planets.  They really are as about as small as they appear in comparison to the sun and moon because they aren't much farther from the world than the sun and the moon themselves.

“The sun and moon there are of equal size and at an equal distance from the world, by the way.”

“That's all very different,” Luna said, “though it doesn't explain why you said the existence of the universe surprises you.”

“There's the world, there's the sun and moon, there's a shell of stars and planets, and that's all there is.  The universe just stops.  That's the galaxy, one world with a shell of stars around it.  That's everything.

“The idea that there could be other suns –other worlds, not tiny ones but ones comparable to the world people live on, around some of them–  and not just one or two but an entire galaxy of them, is mind blowing.  That there's more than one galaxy here, that space seems to go on forever and be filled with stuff, that there could be other people on worlds beyond this one, it's just so . . . amazing.”

“You should have told me you were interested in astronomy,” Luna said.  “I have so much I can show you.”

“Until this fall I wouldn't have cared,” Sunset said.  “It was a distraction.  I didn't have time for wonder, I wanted power.”

“But you care now,” Luna said, clearly doing her best at being encouraging and even succeeding a bit.  “Until you're back on computers we'll want to stick to books, but there are some incredible books out there with photographs that you wouldn't believe.

“Obviously the view through my telescope can't compare to the pictures professionals take, and it's also the case that those photographs are often enhanced by converting infrared or ultraviolet details into colors we can actually see, but I've always felt there was something special about seeing with my own eyes,” Luna said.

There was silence for a few moments.

“Wanna look?” Luna asked.

Sunset was vaguely aware that 'wanna' was the most informal thing she'd ever heard from Luna, but she was more interested in actually seeing a galaxy.

When she looked through the telescope the view was truly amazing.


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More notes:          (which will be long, rambling, and completely unnecessary)

Yes, Canterlot High is canonically a place where a teenager can show up, hobknob with the principal, participate in school activities, and generally have free run of the school (without ever being asked why she's not attending classes) without any documentation whatsoever.  The first Equestria Girls movie (which gave the setting its name) ran on that fact.

The ponies of Equestria routinely use the name of their nation as the name for the whole world.  (In their limited defense, it is their nation that runs existence which is especially unmissable when it comes to managing the day and night cycle.)

The cosmology depicted in the show makes perfect sense for a flat world, so of course they use globes because . . . bwah?

Ponies are shown to be vegetarian but not vegan, hence Sunset being willing to eat eggs but not real bacon.

It's not uncommon in fanfiction to have the sirens' defeat leave them facing starvation.  This is probably because the magical gems that were shattered upon their defeat were originally parts of their bodies (one in embedded in each siren's chest) and specifically the parts they used to feed (they had mouths, but it was stated they fed on negative emotions via the magic gems.)  Being banished to the human world separated the gems from their magic-stripped bodies, but didn't change the fact that they fed on negative emotions.

Dainn took this route in the fic that this follows.

Dainn's fic basically serves as an extended alternate version to the Equestria Girls Holiday Special tie-in comic.

The comic has a crescendo of hate that's reached the level of violence in the halls, and then things are figured out over the course of a couple of minutes, everyone is forgiven, there's an after-school-special style message about how once you've unleashed something online you can't really re-leash the kraken, the end.

Dainn's fic has that two minute solution not happen and picks up from that alteration as the crescendo of hate and violence is allowed to continue unabated until it reaches "angry mob out for blood" levels.  The resolution does not include everything reverting to the mean.

Instead of repaired friendships with the human five, Sunset's left thinking that the only people she can count on in two universes are pony-Twilight (human version has yet visit Canterlot High, but is canonically already on the case) and four humans: Celestia, Luna, and her two former underlings (Snips and Snails) who came through when she needed help on the whole not-dying front.

It's the concept of seeing what happens to the universe going forward when Sunset Shimmer, now basically the main character of the setting, is no longer friends with any of the canonical five that got me writing on this project.

The title refers to the fact that the only sure thing is that the canon path forward is literally impossible at this point.

Given that Equestria Girls is set on more or less earth and Friendship is Magic is set on a world that's nothing like earth, I figure that there should be things where the characters respond with, "Whoa, that is fucking amazing."

Also note that Sunset has only ever seen Equestrian night as done by Princess Celestia, because the actual pony-goddess of the night was banished to the moon at the time.  (She was evil for a while, it's a thing they do.)  So she probably hasn't seen Equestrian night at its finest.

The, "I was only supposed to stay for one night," thing is because that's how long Sunset was supposed to stay with Luna in Dainn's fic and because I don't see Luna or Celestia leaving the severely beaten girl on her own.

Sunset did in fact see a doctor who told her about concussions, symptoms, and how long they last.  But that doctor isn't at the breakfast table for Sunset to complain in the general direction of.

I can probably make more notes.

Not that it matters to this story, but the Equestria Girls Holiday Special, and Dainn's Anon-a-Miss by extension, operate on the premise that all of Sunset's friends would simultaneously fall for the same trick a second time when the first time nearly destroyed them and would have resulted in them becoming mind-controlled cannon fodder in an extra-dimensional war if it hadn't been rectified.

Thus when Sunset is framed for being a jerk they ditch her with incredible haste and vitriol, which leaves one wondering if the friendships were ever real in the first place.  They do it publicly thus falsely outing her as the guilty party, which is what leads to her being bullied.  (At that point she'd only just managed to shake pariah status, so it hit her pretty hard.)

What she's blamed for is being behind "Anon-a-Miss" (where Dainn got the name for his fic), an internet profile that's leaking people's personal information.  At first just odd embarrassing things, but before long its stuff that ruins friendships and fucks up families.

Did I mention that Sunset is a reformed villain, because she was totally the villain of the first movie.

I told you I could make more notes.

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* Basically: "As far as you know your phone wasn't taken from you, so the fact your phone was used to do something that's completely out of character for you means you're utterly fucking guilty and I don't need to listen to a word you say because it's totally impossible that you could be innocent.

"Fuck off; I don't want to hear your voice."