Sunday, March 29, 2020

Displacement et alia, Ch1: Well, we have to start somewhere; now, don't we?

[Main Page for this story]
[Originally posted at]

You read the long description[1] ⹁right? ᠎ No, don't answer; I can't actually hear you. ᠎ I noted this in the long description ⹁which you should have read. ᠎ I don't know if you read it, because I can't hear you.

Got it?[2] ᠎ Good. ᠎ So, here's what we're going to do ⹁and by "we" I mean "me", we are going to do this in "Choose Your Own Adventure" style.

IF NO: Go read the damned thing.
IF YES: Continue on this page.

Look[3] at all of the heavy-lifting[4] we just did. ᠎ I don't have to tell you the beginnings of my tale of woe.[5] ᠎ You know that I was dressed as Tsukasaˌ you know it was Anime Boston where I bought the thingˌ you know it was a level 99 staff with a silly[6] name. ᠎ You know I'm in Equestria.

Everybody still on board here?[7] ᠎ Good.[8] ᠎ So, ⹁once upon a time,[9] a human appeared in Equestria. ᠎ Her name was Celestabellebethabelle[10] temporarily Tsukasa (つかさ) ⹁which you should know by now, she was in a body not her own,[11] and she was three feet off the floor of Princess Luna's bedchambers.

Three feet does not ⹁in fact, give one time to spin into a decent position for a landing. ᠎ Thank God[12] for anti-concussion magic, because: damn. ᠎ I mean, I think it's actually more of a combination of three spells[13], but the point? ᠎ The point is: oy motherfucking vey![14]

Anyway, Luna said, "What manner of beast are you?" and in response I sort of groaned out:

"I've read this fanfic."[15] ᠎ Not the best response ever, but ⹁you have to remember, at this point I'd just been yoinked out of my home dimension, stuffed into a different body ⹁which happened to be fictional, and dumped into a ⹁different, fictional world. ᠎ Also, I'd fallen several feet and hit my head on the cold stone floor.

"I assure you," Luna said in her princessly way, "this is quite real. ᠎ I know ⹁more than most, the difference between the real and the imaginary," which ⹁you know, she would say. ᠎ When was the last time someone came out and said, 'Hi, this is totes a work of fiction,' or, 'I am singularly unqualified to tell the false from the real'?

The pain ⹁at this point, was passing. ᠎ I sat up and touched a hand to my head.

"I'm human," I said. ᠎ Also: still in costume.

The hand that touched my head ⹁that being the right one, almost knocked my hat off, but that was as nothing compared to the fact that ⹁while my hat was still on, my wig was not in evidence. ᠎ My hair ⹁however, was doing a really impressive 'Tsukasa wig' impression. ᠎ Like, really, really impressive.

Now, by this point you're probably[16] saying, 'So, you knew you were in a displaced story, right?'

To which I reply, 'Screw you; I just hit my head on the floor and only avoided traumatic brain injury via the intervention of magic.'

Anywho,[17] at this point I was still getting my bearings and wondering whether it was a dream or a hallucination.

Luna ⹁Princess of the Night and founder of the School for Gifted Pegasi, said, "Ah. ᠎ One of the creatures Twilight Sparkle has described."

"Has she indeed?" I asked as I got to my feet. ᠎ While still operating on the hypothesis that this was all in my head, I none the less started to place myself on a timeline. ᠎ Assuming this wasn't one of those stories with non-canonical human encounters[18], that meant Equestria Girls had come and gone.

Luna ⹁being Luna, responded with, "She has indeed."

We were about eye to eye. ᠎ That brought up a potential problem. ᠎ It would only be a problem if this were a darker and grittier ⹁some would say 'stabbier', version of the My Little Pony we all know and ⹁presumably,[19] love. ᠎ The problem (potential only ⹁remember) was simply this: I was standing at full height looking a god-level royal in the eye.

"Should I..." I started. ᠎ Clearly that had gone wonderfully, so much so ⹁in fact, that I decided to try doing the exact same thing again. ᠎ "Should I," I asked, "be bowing?" ᠎ That that worked proved ⹁semi-conclusively, that this was a 'Try, try again,' situation instead of a 'Definition of Insanity' situation.

"That will not be necessary," Luna said.

She's got a nice voice, that one.

"Do you have any idea how I got here?" I asked rather quickly, the pace practically tripping over itself as I moved from one word to the next. ᠎ "Because I have no idea how I got here."

"You appeared to teleport into my bedchambers and fall on the floor," Luna said with a completely straight face ⹁and a level tone to boot.

"I'm--" that was a stammer. ᠎ Not my most eloquent ever. ᠎ I looked around. ᠎ These were ⹁indeed, chambers with a bed in them. ᠎ "I'm in your bedchambers?"

"You are."

Yeah, ⹁so, stabby seemed like it might be on the table even if this weren't all that dark or grit filled.

"I-- I, um... I'm sorry?" I said.[20]

"For what?" Luna asked; "if I may ask."

That, by the way, is precisely the kind of structure for which the question comma was invented. ᠎ The first two words form a question, while "If I may ask" is not a question and would ⹁in fact, generally be punctuated with a comma. ᠎ All and sundry know[21] that one does not follow an 'if I may ask' with a question mark. ᠎ A dash? ᠎ Maybe. ᠎ An ellipsis? ᠎ Sure. ᠎ An ellipse? ᠎ It'd be weird ⹁and you'd need some artistic chops to draw a proper ellipse[22] in a size that fits cleanly into a line of standard text, but it still makes more sense than a question mark.

Now, to business.[23]

First, of course she may ask. ᠎ I somehow magically invaded her bedchambers; she's got all the right in the universe to ask me whatever she wants. ᠎ Second, for invading her her bedchambers ⹁obviously.

"For invading-- for somehow invading the privacy of--"

"It is clear to me that this is not your fault," Luna said. ᠎ After a pause she added, "Or you that you are an impressive actor."

"Oh," I said ⹁finally managing to get back to a casual ⹁instead of afraid of immolation, mindset, "I am not an impressive actor. ᠎ I can't act for sh--" ᠎ Stopping in the middle of a one syllable word is a skill that will serve you well should you ever find yourself magically transported into the bedchambers of a god-princess pony. ᠎ God-pony princess? ᠎ Whatever. ᠎ Have I said that before? ᠎ I think I have, but do not know.

Regardless, ⹁after the awkward pause, I said, "For something that probably shouldn't be uttered in the presence of royalty."

"Merdae,"[24] Luna said.

I gawked.

"αφόδευσι,"[25] Luna said. ᠎ "Merde. ᠎ Scheiße. ᠎ Shit."[26]

By now my mouth was hanging open. ᠎ Not really something I'm proud of, but: damn.[27]

"I have never understood the idea that my sister and I are somehow naive innocent creatures with virgin ears that have never been ⹁and will never be, tainted by the vulgar language of common ponies."

"O," I said slowly ⹁allowing my brain to reboot, before finishing with a quick, "k." ᠎ After a beat of pause I said, "Thing one: I'm not a pony."

"So I have noticed."

"Thing two, there's . . . like . . ." I swear she was amused by my inability to words properly, "decorum or some such."

"In court, yes." Luna said. ᠎ "During official functions, yes. ᠎ In the context of a royal meet and greet,[28] yes." ᠎ A pause. ᠎ "We are not in those places; we are in my bedchambers."

So, I can't actually see my own face. ᠎ Any time that I say something about the appearance of my face ⹁unless there are reflections involved, it's a 'best guess' kind of situation. ᠎ Pretty sure I blushed at that, though.

Here's a disturbing thought ⹁if ever there were one, what if a god-pony thought you found them physically attractive rather than realizing you were simply embarrassed?

"S-sorry about that," I said ⹁stammering back in full force.

Thankfully ⹁though, ⹁spoiler alertˌ I suppose, that thing from two paragraphs up did not ⹁in fact, happen. ᠎ Instead Luna said, "I believe that we have already established that you are not at fault." ᠎ At this, I relaxed somewhat. ᠎ "There is still the question of how you came to be here."

"Yeah," I said, "I'd like an answer to that one myself."

"What is your most recent memory, prior to your arrival?" Luna asked.

"Um . . ." I said in the universal language of 'I'm going to have to think about that.' ᠎ "I was at a convention . . ." ᠎ That sinking feeling[29] set in around nowish, but I wouldn't identify the source for a little bit. ᠎ "Do they have conventions in Equestria?"

"By 'convention' do you mean a gathering of individuals united by a common interest, at which there are speakers, merchants, and . . . I believe the term is, 'swag'?" Luna asked.

"Yeah, pretty much; also cosplayers," I said.

"Then, yes, Equestria has those," Luna said.

"I wasn't really sure what to do, because the panelist I'd hoped to see no longer did panels," I said.

"A tragic fate indeed," Luna said. ᠎ To fully understand ⹁though, you must realize that it was said with the utmost seriousness.

"I'd known that, of course," I said. ᠎ "I guess I mostly went because I'd been trying to get there for so long that it felt like ⹁even without her doing panels, I might as well give it a try now that I actually could go."

Luna nodded.

"I got a few complements on my costume." ᠎ I gestured to what I was wearing. ᠎ The sinking feeling intensified. ᠎ "A few people took pictures of me. ᠎ I wandered around and eventually . . ." ᠎ Down and down we go.

The silence I had lapsed into eventually drew its own response.

"Yes?" Luna said in that encouraging, 'Keep going,' kind of way.

"I went to the dealers room..." ᠎ It wasn't sinking anymore; it was falling. ᠎ The bottom had dropped out. ᠎ " see what was on sale." ᠎ My eyes dropped to the floor. ᠎ There it was: the instrument of my downfall.

I squatted down to pick up the staff. ᠎ I considered all manner of profanity. ᠎ But instead ⹁as I actually took hold of the staff, I said, "I know what happened," in the sort of defeated way you say, 'Everything good about my life has been utterly destroyed.'

The staff was shaped like a question mark or a shepherd's crook. ᠎ And there ⹁perfectly placed, was the red ball ⹁suspended without any visible support, in the gap that made the top a hook instead of a circle. ᠎ When I picked it up, the ball moved with the rest of the staff ⹁as if they were a single connected whole. ᠎ It was what I had wanted; the price was too high.

At this point I was sort of weak in the . . . everything. ᠎ Knees are the part everyone always talks about. ᠎ I used the staff as a third leg ⹁which is what staffs are for[30] when you think about it, and returned to a standing position. ᠎ There was some difficulty in that ⹁due to the aforementioned weakness, but I pulled it off.

Luna simply looked at me expectantly.

I sighed, looked at the floor, looked back up, and spoke, "There's a meta-fictional construct comprising a sub-genre of pseudo-crossover works in which someone dressed as a character from one work," I gestured to my costume, "is dumped into your universe," Luna raised an eyebrow, "or a version thereof."

The eyebrow stayed up.

I sighed. ᠎ Again. ᠎ Then I explained, "Where I come from, your world exists as a popular story ⹁in serial format," I was pretty sure that Equestria didn't have TV, thus: 'serial format story' instead of 'TV series', "as well as several . . ." I'd never really paid attention ⹁beyond the existence of Vinyl Scratch, to the examples where modern technology invaded the pseudo-medieval world of Friendship is Magic; in other words: I had no idea if movies existed in Equestria, "um . . ." yeah: no idea ⹁which meant no idea if I could just say they were movies, ". . . plays depicting Princess Twilight's adventures in the human world, and another play ⹁with significantly higher production values, about a temporarily successful invasion of Equestria and how it was eventually repelled."

"It seems that we are quite popular in your world," Princess Luna said. ᠎ Massive understatement.

"You have no idea," I said. ᠎ Cliché response.

"You seem quite calm for one interacting with what he believed to be a fictional character and world."

"She," I said.

"I apologize," Luna said.

"There's no need," I said; "assuming that the tropes and genre conventions held true, the process tried to make me male."

"That is most unconscionable," Luna said.

"I agree entirely, which is part of why I'm still hoping this is a dream or delusion," I said.

Luna said, "I assure you it is not," which is just what a delusion would say. ᠎ After a beat[31], she added, "Though, I suppose that is what you would expect a dream or delusion to say."

"Pretty much," I said, "but as much as I might hope for things to be otherwise, the feelings of dread and defeat currently warring for dominance inside me are indicative of the fact I think you're correct."

The truth was that I wasn't calm so much as nonplussed[32], and that had left me with a pretty flat affect[33] ⹁which could easily be misconstrued[34] as calm.

Luna nodded.

"I believe I now know enough to proceed," she said. ᠎ Exposition successfully dumped; now we can move on to the plot. ᠎ Woo. ᠎ "Please follow me."

She opened a door with magic, and led me out of the room.

As we walked, she talked.

"There are spells that will help make your present condition more bearable until such time as you can be returned to your own body," she said. ᠎ "For that ⹁and for returning you to your world, the best pony for the job is undoubtedly Princess Twilight Sparkle."

"The human world she visited--" I started.

"I not your own," Luna interrupted ⹁quite rudely. ᠎ "Princess Twilight was quite detailed in her descriptions of that world's history and culture. ᠎ If it embedded our world ⹁and itself, as works of fiction within it, I believe she would have noted that fact."

"Well, she did live in a library on her first visit," I said ⹁assuming ⹁without evidence, that the movie Equestria Girls was an accurate depiction of events in this multiverse.

"She does that," Luna said. ᠎ Luna is ⹁officially, my favorite princess. ᠎ She wasn't originally. ᠎ Before I got dumped into her bedchambers by a contrived and overused plot device, I thought of her mostly as, 'That princess the writers keep forgetting the existence of,'[35] but now. . . now I see her as she truly is: Princess of Non-Neurotic Deadpan Snarking.

Unfortunately, my story does not take place in Canterlot ⹁at least not primarily, so I don't actually spend much time around my now-favorite princess.

"So if you know . ? ." I asked. ᠎ Let it be known that one does not need to actually ask a question in order to ⹁you know, ask a question.

"Of the two foremost experts on portals between worlds," Luna explained, "she is one."

"And the other?"

"Her pen-pal."

Sunset Shimmer. ᠎ I really should have seen that coming.

I said, "Ah," and ⹁just like that, we arrived at our first destination.

Luna knocked upon a doorˌ it openedˌ and there was Princess Celestia.

"What fell creature is that?" Celestia asked with uncommon dread.

"Are you calling me fierceˌ cruelˌ terribleˌ sinisterˌ malevolentˌ particularly destructiveˌ or deadly?"[36] I asked with ⹁what I hope was, complete deadpan. ᠎ "I ask because I'm not entirely clear regarding that point."

"She's simply been waiting to say that again since the first time we saw Tirek," Luna said.

Celestia cocked her head to one side, shrugged her . . . I think they're still called shoulders in a pony. ᠎ Whatever, she shrugged those things, and gave a silly little smile like she was a foal caught with her hoof in the cookie jar.[o]

"Oh," I said. ᠎ "Ok." ᠎ And ⹁truly, it was. ᠎ Who doesn't want to cry out, 'What fell creature is that‽'[o+1]

"I am ⹁however," Celestia said, "genuinely curious as to your nature."

"Well, I was a human ⹁from a world where this world was just a work of fiction," I said, "and I'm still definitely in human form, but I think I might actually be some kind of digital construct ⹁which merely looks human, instead of an actual human right now."

An eyebrow was raised.

There was silence.

Finally I said, "If you're expecting me to properly interpret which of the things I just said you're raising an eyebrow at . . ." ᠎ Insert end of sentence here, should you have it on you. ᠎ (I did not.)

The eyebrow went back down, and Celestia said, "Perhaps you should simply tell me what has transpired."

Did she ever use words like "transpired" in the series? ᠎ I don't remember. ᠎ On the one hand, that is the sort of thing a wise mentor figure would say. ᠎ On the other hand, consider the intended audience and the patronizing assumptions people are wont to make about them.

So I told her.[o+2]

Luna ⹁for her part, was very interested in the prospect of a video game that:
a) Was more advanced than Pong-era console stuff,
b) Did not require magic in order to run, and
c) One could become trapped in.

Should points b) and c) seem contradictory to you, remember that there's a difference between what is sufficient for operating a program and what is included in that program.

Celestia was amused by my claim to be named Celestabellebethabelleˌ my staff was confirmed to be a genuine magically thingamabobˌ[o+3] the mechanism by which I arrived could not be determined ⹁because that would be too easy,[o+4] it was decided that I should probably adopt a pseudonym ⹁like "Tsukasa" or "Mary Sue" or "Oh God, not another one!", if I wanted to maintain my privacy in light of the fact that my biography[o+5] would probably be the easiest thing to transmit to my homeworld ⹁in light of narrative conventions.

Then it was off to Ponyville. ᠎ They did not ⹁in fact, stick the strange creature nopony had ever seen before on a train full of ponies. ᠎ No, the second ⹁and final, destination on Luna's 'I believe I now know enough to proceed' tour of Canterlot castle was to a launching and landing area. ᠎ The ride was via Pegasus chariot ⹁which gave me a wonderful view and did not ⹁in any way, make me afraid of falling to my gruesome death, and I was told that a letter had been sent to Princess Sparklepants[o+6] so that my arrival would not come as a surprise.

With that, this show was officially on the figurative road. ᠎ Because ⹁where we were going flying, one didn't need (literal) roads.

- - - ~ ~ ~ ⁕ ⁕ ⁕ ~ ~ ~ - - -

[1] For those who don't know what this is, a lesson. ᠎ Click the story name, this will take you to the story page. ᠎ When you get there, there are words. ᠎ The words under the tags and above the chapters are the long description.
(Onsite Link)

[2] If you responded to this, may God have mercy on your soul. ᠎ How many times have I already said I can't hear you?[n]

[3] I mean this figuratively, of course.

[4] Ditto.

[5] I mean, ⹁technically, I don't have to tell you anything. ᠎ It's just that I'm stuck in a displaced story; what else am I going to do?

[6] This is the part that you read literally.[n+1] ᠎ The name was "Ludicrous", and if you can't see the pun, I can't really help you.

[7] Don't answer.

[8] This is a rhetorical response; I still can't hear you.

[9] Between Rainbow Rocks and The Cutie Map ⹁seems to be. ᠎ You had better fucking know this; it was in the long description. As for when I left my world, funny story that. It was the last day of Anime Boston 2018. Yes, that does make zero chronological sense. Yes, I do know what day that was.

[10] Still a joke.

[11] Yes, that includes a dick. ᠎ No, we are not going to talk about it. ᠎ If you're really so damned interested in biology, look up what a "perineal raphe" is.

[12] I suppose ⹁technically, that Luna is more of a lowercase "g" god.

[13] The spells in question seem to be:
Stop ⹁inertia be ignored, before you damage yourself further!
Pain, pain, go away!
Grey matter, heal thyself (of the damage inflicted before the first spell took effect)!

[14] I am not now ⹁and have never been, a Yiddish speaker. ᠎ Someone[n+2] once said:
In a figurative way, Yiddish is the wise and humble language of us all, the idiom of frightened and hopeful humanity.
Let words like "Shmuck" and "Shlubbly" roll off your tongue and you'll find that it is a language that begs to be spoken. ᠎ Even some of the cool German words ⹁like "Dreck" and "Kaput", come to English via Yiddish.

I totally had to restrain myself from using "Schlong" in footnote [11], because ⹁while it's a great thing to say, it would have obliterated the serious nature of said footnote via it's informal nature.

[15] Technically what I read was a fanfic pitch. ᠎ Don't me wrong, it was 93.6 percent fanfic ⹁with just twenty words of explanation at the front, but it was by no means a complete work. ᠎ Just an idea as demonstrated via its first scene.

To wit:
The Element of Magic didn't know what to do with Sunset Shimmer so it fell back on an old standby . . .

Sunset Shimmer remembered pain. ᠎ She placed a crown upon her head and it twisted and broke her. ᠎ Then she had lost herself, became a cackling caricature, crossed lines she swore she'd never cross, and finally: more pain. ᠎ The corruption burned away in a rainbow fire that hurt but refused to consume. ᠎ She'd thought the pain would last forever.

Now, though, it was gone. ᠎ Just a memory.

When she blinked the tears from her eyes she saw magnificent desolation. ᠎ A grey on grey landscape so pocked and pitted that it might have been a minefield. ᠎ The sky was black, but that made no sense. ᠎ It wasn't dark; she cast a shadow.

She felt exceptionally light as she picked herself up, it only added to the surreal quality of . . . everything.

Moments after she was on her feet, she heard the sound of galloping. ᠎ It approached impossibly quickly, but when she turned to face it, that thought was banished by something far more dire. ᠎ The source of light --the thing that made her cast a shadow on the grey wasteland-- wasn't the Sun, or Moon, or even the stars.
᠎ It was Equestria. Sunset's home hung in the sky, it was magnificent in the light of the unseen Sun. ᠎ The daylight it reflected shone down upon her . . . and the thing she stood upon.

Any lingering doubt about her location was demolished when Nightmare Moon --a creature from foals' tales-- finally finished her gallop toward Sunset. ᠎ At another time Sunset might have been incredulous or afraid or --more likely-- a bit of both. ᠎ With Equestria hanging in the sky above them, though, Sunset couldn't find it in herself to care.

"What manner of beast are you?" Nightmare Moon asked Sunset.
[16] Still can't hear youˌ and thus I am forced to guess.[n+3]

[17] That's a legit word. ᠎ First known use 1850. ᠎ That's pre-Civil War. ᠎ It's been a word since before the people of the United States ⹁north and south, grudgingly acknowledged ⹁at the cost of the lives of 650ˌ000 to 850ˌ000 men[n+4] and God knows how many non-men, that slavery might ⹁perhaps, be wrong.

All of that being saidˌ that was the "Anyhoo" spelling. ᠎ Can't tell you about the "Anywho" spelling's vintage off the top of my head.

[18] Not the safest assumption ⹁all things considered, but one has to make assumptions if they're to reach conclusions.

Whitehead and Russell started with five assumptions. ᠎ Result? ᠎ It took over three hundred pages[n+5] to get to the point where they could conclude "1 + 1 = 2".

Peano started with nine assumptions. ᠎ Result? ᠎ Takes about three lines to conclude "1 + 1 = 2". ᠎ Which would you prefer? ᠎ And ⹁no, I can't hear your answer. ᠎ More assumptions leads to quicker results. ᠎ And if your assumptions are flawedˌ ⹁sooner or later, you'll hit a contradictionˌ and boom: you've learned something.

[19] I do not ⹁actually, presume this. ᠎ You could be hate-reading. ᠎ You could be a hyper-intelligent shade of the color blue who is interested in this document purely for its anthropological value. ᠎ You could be being forced to read this at gunpoint as part of a psychological torture regime. ᠎ The possibilities abound.

[20] Strictly speaking ⹁and it is often good to speak with strictness, "I'm sorry" is not supposed to be a question. ᠎ There is a form to questions that those two words ⹁one of them a contraction it should be noted, simply lack. ᠎ That having been said, the English language often marks questions not by words or grammar but instead by rising pitch as one approaches the syntactic terminus. ᠎ This allows for a degree of flexibility ⹁which can be put to use by ones such as myself upon discovering oneself to have invaded the bedchambers of a god-princess.

[21] All and sundry know nothing; no knowledge is universal.

[22] A proper ellipse ⹁by the way, is precisely twice as wide as it is tall. ᠎ For those who don't understand words such as "wide" and "tall", the major axis has a scalar magnitude double that of the minor axisˌ and ⹁furthermore, the minor axis is vertical. ᠎ This is the canonical proper ellipseˌ and the fact that I can produce no evidence supporting this claim should not ⹁in any way, be taken to mean it is incorrect or ⹁Heaven forfend, unfounded.

[23] This is not a toast. ᠎ Do not raise you glasses. ᠎ Do not clink.

[24] This is the Latin word for "shit". ᠎ It is in the singular ⹁just one shitˌ not multiple shits, dative. ᠎ The dative is most commonly rendered into English as "to" or "for". ᠎ She literally said, "for shit." ᠎ In Latin.

[25] See previous, but in Ancient Greek.

[26] Frenchˌ Germanˌ and English for "shit" in that order.

[27] I know that I've done the whole "⦑conjunction⦒ ⦑colon⦒ ⦑italic 'damn'⦒" thing already ⹁thank you very much. ᠎ That's the point. ᠎ Princess Potty Mouth's polylingual profanity hit me with the force of a cold stone floor to the head.

[28] I am aware that ponies speak English. Not just because I have seen the show, but also because I was speaking English to a pony who was speaking English back to me. Even so, 'Meet and greet'? Of all of the words and phrases that could be translocated from our world to Equestria, why that one?

[29] The one that has ⹁heretofore, gone unmentioned. ᠎ Still, look at the first word of the title. Consider the story you're reading; consider the significance of conventions in the genre. ᠎ (Not to be confused with genre conventions.) ᠎ You know what sinking feeling I'm talking about. ᠎ You'd have felt it yourself in my place.

[30] That and bopping people ⹁of course. If we want to get technical and exhaustive, the function of a staff is ⹁in fact, threefold: providing a third point of contact with the ground or floor ⹁as though it were an extra leg, bopping people, guiding ruminants ⹁such as goats or sheep.

[31] Since this is the second time I've used the word "beat" in this fashion, I suppose I should define it. ᠎ A beat is a pause that's longer than the full stop at the end of a sentenceˌ but shorter than what you think of when you read the word "pause" or ⹁indeed, the phrase "a short pause".

[32] Definition:
1. (of a person) surprised and confused so much that they are unsure how to react.
[33] Medical jargon definition of "flat" ⹁second meaning:
characterized by general impoverishment in the presence of emotion-evoking stimuli
Medical jargon definition of "affect" ⹁also the second meaning:
a set of observable manifestations of a subjectively experienced emotion
Thus: medical jargon meaning of "flat affect":
characterized by a lack of emotional expressiveness; emotions are experienced but not displayed
Basically, think Maud Pie.

[34] Look this one up your own damned self. ᠎ It's a perfectly ordinary word ⹁neither medical jargon like [33] nor commonly misused like [32], so ⹁honestly, you shouldn't need to look it up. ᠎ If you do, that's your own damn fault.[n+6]

[35] The reason that they say not to end your sentences with propositions is because at one point a bunch of stodgy old men ⹁possibly joined by stodgy old women, wanted English to be like Latin. ᠎ It is legit impossible to end a non-incomplete Latin sentence with a preposition, so they said you weren't allowed to do it in English ⹁where it works just fine.

This is also the reason they tell you not to flagrantly split infinitives. ᠎ Can't do that in Latin. ᠎ Why? ᠎ Because in Latin most infinitives are a single word. ᠎ Can you insert another word into a single word? ᠎ Absa-fucking-lutely.[n+7] ᠎ It's called "tmesis" ⹁which comes from the Ancient Greek "τμῆσις" ⹁which in turn means "a cutting". ᠎ Still, not something you do all the time.

The point here ⹁though, is that even though I could have written, "That princess, the existence of whom the writers keep forgetting," I don't need to. ᠎ End your sentences with prepositions, begin your paragraphs ⹁or even books,[n+8] with conjunctions, fracture the frightful fetters of linguistic prescriptivism! ᠎ Damn the manˌ and down with the grammatical oligarchy!

[36] These are the definitions of "fell". ᠎ If that was not known to you, you probably have no idea what "one fell swoop" means. ᠎ Shakespeare must confuse you greatly. ᠎ I suggest a dictionary and a running gloss. ᠎ (I'm not sure just one of those things would be enough for you; use both.)

[o] I assume; I've never actually seen a foal caught with their hoof in the cookie jar. ᠎ "Which cookie jar?" you may ask ⹁in spite of the fact that I can't hear you. ᠎ The cookie jar.

[o+1] I am fully cognizant of the fact that there are probably a great many people who don't particularly want to. ᠎ I am also aware that I switched punctuation. ᠎ I assure you, it has not escaped my notice. ᠎ Dread is a hard thing to get right. ᠎ Celestia nailed it ⹁don't get me wrong, but for the general public I believe that crying out ⹁to the point an interobang is justified (because a question mark just won't cut it), is probably a better route.

[o+2] If you're expecting me to tell you personal details about my life before my arrival, you are vastly mistaken about the kinds of things I'm willing to divulge. ᠎ Want to know more about me? ᠎ Build a portal to here, so that I might go back there, and ⹁as reward for giving me a way home, I'll have a nice long talk with you ⹁in which we can trade notes about our political leanings and favorite Douglas Adams books.

[o+3] Technical term.

[o+4] Not even being sarcastic. ᠎ It would ⹁quite literally, be too easy. ᠎ Certain things are required for a story to actually function as a story, and if we'd figured everything out then and there, this wouldn't. ᠎ If this didn't function as a story, then I would not be writing it as a story, and you would not be reading it right now. ᠎ The very fact that you are here reading these words in this footnote means that that could not have happened.

The name for this is the "anthropic principle" which states that ⹁since in order for a story to be read it must first be written, any story that is read must necessarily have a arisen from a set of conditions that allowed for the writing of said story. ᠎ Therefore, the fact that you are reading this means that things were not so easy as to prevent a plot from forming ⹁which means that anything that would make the situation that easy is necessarily too easy.

See? ᠎ Like I said: not even being sarcastic.

[o+5] The thing you're reading right now.

[o+6] Any objections that she doesn't wear pants will be ignored because ⹁as repeatedly noted, I can't hear you.

[n] Two sentences in the long descriptionˌ two sentences in the main text of this chapterˌ one sentence from which it can be inferred in the long descriptionˌ and one sentence from which it can be inferred in the footnotes. ᠎ As such, depending on whether you include the long descriptionˌ footnotesˌ and inference, this question has multiple answers.[m]

[n+1] And figuratively ⹁for that matter. ᠎ Read it every damned which way you can.

[n+2] Isaac Bashevis Singer ⹁winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize for Literature, in his Nobel Lecture. ᠎ I cite my sources. ᠎ Saying that in-line would have broken up the flow of things ⹁though.

[n+3] No, I am not. ᠎ Not even close. ᠎ I am in no way forced. ᠎ I say now ⹁to you, "That was just a rhetorical flourish." ᠎ Don't believe me? ᠎ Read the thing in quotation marks; I totally said that.

[n+4] Hacker, J. David -- 2012

[n+5] The words:
From this proposition it will follow, when arithmetical addition has been defined, that 1 + 1 = 2.
appear on page 379 of the first edition of Volume 1 and 362 of the second edition of the same. ᠎ The actual proof has to wait till Volume 2. ᠎ In the first edition of Volume 2, it falls on page 86. ᠎ I have not read any other editions of Volume 2.

[n+6] Yes, I use "damn" ⹁and variations thereof, a lot. ᠎ Deal with it.

[n+7] For those wondering why it's "Absa" instead of "Abso", it's because within the word itself everyone knows the "o" is a schwa, but if you just have the "Abso" one is liable to pronounce that "o" like the one "so", and that's not a schwa. ᠎ Not even close.

[n+8] It worked for Apuleius ⹁didn't it?

[m] Those being twoˌ threeˌ fourˌ and six. ᠎ Five need not apply.

Author's Note:

You want me to make notes?* Ok, let's talk notes. I have things I've wanted to note. Apostrophes get lots of love. Commas ⹁though? They get no love. This is clearly wrong, and I shall topple any government that says otherwise.°
Also, hey, see this ""? That's a question mark. Cooler than the one we have, now isn't it?

Is that not what you wanted?[·]

Well how about this:
.hack//SIGN was an anime that ran from April 4, 2002 to September 25, 2002 and had 28 episodes in total. It explored themes of depression, the isolation and detachment that can come with it, as well as anxiety, abuse, and dysfunction. It's character driven story also addresses escapism and the limits thereof, along with other coping mechanisms.

In the simplest terms and most convenient definitions, it was the story of Tsukasa and his time trapped in a Japanese online game known as "The World" (in English.)
That better? {+} Or did you want some sort of manifesto about why I'm writing about my life stuck in a world with talking ponies with, in a body not my own, where the only humans around[] come in more ⹁and more outlandish, colors than the complete output of the Skittles brand?

Really not sure what to write in an "author's" note that I wouldn't already have put in the footnotes. So I guess this is where we part ways. Tune in next time for "How I got to Ponyville, and what I set on fire once I got there".{}


* After all of those footnotes I generously gave you, you want more?

You can get them forward, backward, upside down, upside down and backwards, and completely vertical with no fore or aft bias. In other words, Apostrophes get a system. With ⦑ ‛ ' ’ ⦒ you effectively have ⦑ ( | ) ⦒, and with that you can do all kinds of things.

Why is there no vertical comma? Where is the comma version of the "typewriter apostrophe"? Why is the reverse comma left out of so many fonts? What the fuckadoodle() people?

Why should I be stuck in Equestria with an incomplete system of typography that lacks even the most basic considerations?

° In the interest of complete honesty: No. No, I will not.

[·] You had better not be answering. I can't hear you.

The original run contained 26, one of which was just a clip show. Two additional episodes were released on DVD.

{+} Please tell me you didn't answer. Or don't. Not like I'll hear you either way.

[] If the next world over can truly be called "around".

{} We're not calling it that. Not even close.

() Totally a legit swear. (That I just made up.)

⁂  ⁂

So, with this, we have chapter one.  There wasn't a plan here.  None whatsoever.  Probably why I started off sending people to the long description.  No idea why I chose to dump the protagonist in Luna's bed chambers.

The numbering of the footnotes was originally supposed to be placeholders that would all be replaced with actual numbers once I knew what those numbers would be.  So we had {[1] [2], [3],...} as the footnotes for the text, {[n], [n+1], [n+2],...} as the footnotes for the footnotes, and then {[M]} as the one footnote for one of those.

I skipped ahead and wrote a little bit of meeting Celestia before the story reached that point, so I didn't know what number the footnotes in that section would have, so I started the {[o], [o+1], [o+2],...} since, you know, "o" comes before "n".

When I let someone read it pre-publication, they liked the placeholder footnotes, so I left them as is.

The human vs. Pony scale here completely ignores all attempts to figure out the size of the ponies.  This is not, it should be noted, intentional.

Tsukasa is somewhat short, attempts to figure out the relative sizes of humans and ponies tend to have the Equestria Girls characters about eye to eye with Celestia, Luna is shorter than Celestia . . . it made sense at that time.

Then I looked at some imaged for reference and realized exactly how much shorter than Celestia Luna actually is.  This would make protagonist a full head shorter than an Equestria Girls girl.  Of course, since traveling between worlds results in a body swap, that's never going to come up anyway.

It's probably for the best, honestly.  The ponies really are little.  Placing protagonist as eye to eye with Luna makes her about as tall as the average pony is when they stand (vertically) on two legs, and has the ponies about waist high when they're standing normally.

I think that works better than the actual apparent scale, which would have the ponies closer to knee height normally, and chest height when they make the effort to be vertical.

That princess the writers keep forgetting the existence of
Let me show you something from the finale.  Not a finale.  The finale.  The the last regular episode --the two part special that ends nine seasons of Friendship is Magic-- with only a distant epilogue to follow.

This is the thing that I wish to show to you:
Rarity: It's the first shift in royal power in over a millennium.
That's from the first half of the two part finale, which means that it's mirror image is the second half of the two part premiere.  In that, Luna (after being banished for a thousand years) returned, was redeemed, and took her place at Celestia's side.  The monarchy became a diarchy.  Royal power was completely altered.  (Princess Cadence, while she retroactively existed, had no real power at that point.)

It's not precisely clear how much time passed between the first episode and the last, but one thing that is clear is that it's nine years or less.  It is possible that in universe time passes at an average of one year per season, it is possible that in universe time passes more slowly, it is not possible that it passes more quickly.

It has been less than a decade, possibly significantly less, since Princess Luna became one of the royals in charge of Equestria again.  As far as the writers are concerned (it's not just Rarity, because no one even considers correcting her; it's the whole damned universe) royal power hasn't shifted in over a thousand years, which happens to be over a hundred decades.

This is, in many ways, the most important episode of the show.  A bad ending can sour everything that came before.  It's the one episode that we know, beyond doubt, got checked and rechecked by people at all levels of production to make sure absolutely nothing was off.  While many episodes may represent the idiosyncrasies of a single writer, this was essentially signed off on by the franchise as a whole.

The kicker?  Luna had a speaking part in the previous scene.  It really puts the whole thing in perspective.  While she does occasionally get to do something in this episode or that, her contributions are considered non-existent by the writing staff themselves and she exists primarily as someone for Celestia to speak to (about Twilight Sparkle.)

There's a degree of fun in writing from a condescending point of view.  I would never tell people that they aren't prepared for Shakespeare if they don't know the definitions of "fell".  I don't know the definitions of "fell".  I had to look them up.  But hopefully snarky displaced first person narrator knows them off the top of her head and she'll look down on you if you don't.

Likewise, it took a lot of damned time to figure out how many assumptions were used in the Principia Mathematica by Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell (not to be confused with Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Issac Newton.)  Hopefully snarky first person narrator knows that, along with the page numbers of various significant passages (across multiple editions) from memory.

I suppose I might as well discuss the Principia now, since I've mentioned it.

In some class, I don't know which, Dr. John Brunette was talking about axioms and assumptions and proofs.  It was probably a class where we used an axiomatic approach to the construction of the real numbers.  I don't know if he mentioned Russell by name, my memory isn't that specific.

What I do remember is that he told us about someone who decided to do things with fewer givens than most people use and decided to prove the rest.  He mentioned how the person took hundreds of pages to prove that one plus one equals two, something most people would accept as a definition.

Later in life, I mentioned something about this and someone I was talking to threw a divide by cheese error because ⟨very short proof⟩.  They did it using a system I had never seen before, and didn't fully understand.  The reason that I'd never seen it, for whatever it may be worth, is that I tend to work with the real numbers, and the Peano axioms are for the natural numbers only.

Now, to be clear, part of the reason that Russel took so long to prove "1 + 1 = 2" is because he wasn't trying to prove it.

He didn't like set theory.  Russel's paradox is something he thought up that demolishes naive set theory.  (Consider the set of all sets that are not members of themselves.  Logic go boom.)  Set theory didn't work.  Russell wanted a version of mathematics built up from solid first principles of logic, not a system that didn't even work properly.

So he set out to create that.  (And he had help, see:Alfred North Whitehead.)

Together they painstakingly built up a foundation of mathematics based in rigorous logic.  Every little thing was proven, no matter how small it might be, while they built toward the point where they could say, "See?  This works."

When Russel announced the paradox with his name, Ernst Zermelo had already discovered the same paradox, but had not published it, two years prior.  Zermelo took a different approach.  He set out to created an axiomatic set theory that lacked such paradoxes.  It wasn't perfect, and was augmented by Abraham Fraenkel.  Zermelo-Frankel set theory, with (ZFC) or without (ZF) the axiom of choice, is the foundation upon which almost all modern mathematical theories are based.

Luna being an avid gamer is a pretty common fandom thing.

"Yes, I do know what day that was." -- April 1st.  Not part of any plan, just happened to be the last day of Anime Boston 2018.

"perineal raphe" -- Look it up if you're interested.  It's a feature of how the human body deals with creating sexual dimorphism.

[15] This was a silly idea I pitched once upon a time.  The whole thing is in the footnote.  The Elements of Harmony do various things.  The first one we learn about is that they banished Luna/Nightmare Moon to the moon for a thousand years.  So at some point them sending Sunset Shimmer to the same place (and time) popped into my head.

"hyper-intelligent shade of the color blue" -- Line from Douglas Adams.

"This is not a toast. ᠎ Do not raise you glasses. ᠎ Do not clink."-- Reference to a line from Douglas Adams.  (Not sure how widespread the terminology of "clinking" is.  It's when you touch glasses together during a toast.)

"If you're expecting me to tell you personal details about my life before my arrival, you are vastly mistaken about the kinds of things I'm willing to divulge."  -- While I could claim that this a deconstruction of the underdeveloped nature of main characters in displaced fics, it's actually a pretty straightforward bit of characterization.

Here's a conversation from the comments at Fimfiction going into a bit more detail:
You could shown that as bits and pieces in each chapter showing their past before displacement.
The main character said, in no uncertain terms, that she wouldn't be revealing her past pre-displacement (because she wasn't comfortable with doing so, though that bit was more implied than outright stated.)
Also, the main character not wanting to talk about it? That's more of an in character thing that she'd rather not tell others inside of the story, but not outside, as in the readers.
If you paid more attention, you might note that main character treats the fourth wall like a one way mirror. She may not be able to see what's going on on our side, but she's well aware that her memoirs will be read.
She's sending this out into the multiverse, she already said she's weirded out by the idea of people who know her reading it, and there's only so much she's willing to share with strangers.

If I seem snippy in that exchange, it's because (owing in part to stuff I didn't quote) it's pretty clear the person didn't actually read anything I wrote in the story (or description) itself.

"anthropic principle" -- Some people look at the laws of the universe, note how if they were just a smidge different we couldn't exist, and then wonder about how perfectly calibrated they seem to be.  Other people point out:
Well, yeah.

The universes that can't support intelligent life don't have any intelligent life in them to look at their physical laws and say, "Dang, these laws seem pretty craptastic when it comes to conditions for intelligent life."

Of course the results are always going to say "This is a universe in which these results could be gathered"; that's a necessary prerequisite for getting the results in the first place.
This is known as the "anthropic principle" of cosmology.

This should not be confused with the "strong anthropic principle" which states that universes are compelled to create sapient life, and therefore must be conducive to life by their very nature.

The oldest Roman novel that survives in its entirety, which is therefore the oldest novel of any kind that survives in its entirety,* is The Metamorphoses of Apuleius which is more commonly known as "The Golden Ass" (Asinus aureus).  It begins with the word "at" which means "but".

If memory serves, it ends with a conjunction as well.

* Given how widespread they are now, it's kind of hard to believe that novels were once a strictly regional thing.  That being said, it happens to be true.

Displacement, semicolons, reverse commas, idioms used in lieu of flavoring particles, and excessive footnotes

[Originally posted at]
[Know how I usually say that things will make sense without prior knowledge of the source material?  Doubt that applies here.  Notes at the end.]

Once upon a time my name was Celestabellebethabelle[1] and I lived on earth[2]. I was ⹁you see, once a human like you,[3] but (as you might imagine) I went to a convention. "Which convention?" I hear you ask.[4] Anime Boston. Knowing me,[5] you'd have thought it was Arisia, but it was Anime Boston. Things never work out quite the way you'd expect.[6]

So, try as I might ⹁with magnetsˌ superconductorsˌ liquid nitrogenˌ and so forth, I could not get the floating ball in my Tsukasa[7] staff to actually ⹁you know, float. Now, I could have just used a wire or ⹁I shudder to think, a metal rod, but that's entirely missing the point.

So I had the rest of my outfit, right? I mean, you know this story even if you've tried not hear it;[8] you know all about how my outfit was awesome. Those green stones inset in the hat? Malachite.[9] Nailed it. Where applicable[10] I used the actual skin of actual animals because suede is awesome my outfit had to perfect, ya know?

Get to the convention ⹁I'm all alone, and Jen A. Blue doesn't do panels anymore so the thing that originally made me decide I had to come to Anime Boston[11] isn't even there anymore. I have no idea what to do. Been trying for years to get here, finally arrive after the thing I was coming for is gone.

So I wonder and I wander and I find a disreputable looking person selling just the sort of thing I want to illicitly buy. By which ⹁of course, I mean that wave master staff with the red ball actually suspended in mid-air. I've waited my whole life for this moment,[12] and it's only going to cost me three human soulsˌ twenty three minutes of my brain being used as a computer processorˌ and . . . I know that humor says I should add a third ludicrous thing, but I'm out of ideas. The staff is ⹁however, named "Ludicrous".[13]

The price (the real one) was decent, I really wanted it, money changed hands, and then . . . you know, right? Call me, "Megan Willams,"[14] because I'm a human in Equestria. I think ⹁but am not sure, I'm in the gap between Rainbow Rocks and The Cutie Map. Go figure.

As mentioned, I know about displaced stories. You really can't not. I haven't read them, but I'm pretty sure I don't like them. Now I'm living one.

So . . . that's what's up with me. Woo.

- - - ~ ~ ~ ⁕ ⁕ ⁕ ~ ~ ~ - - -

[1] Ok: No, it wasn't. Humor is basically the only thing that keeps me sane at this point, though. Let me have this.

[2] The one where humans don't have poly-chromatic skin and hair colors.

[3] Several points to make here. In no particular order:
By this I mean I was once ⦑a human like you⦒ not, "Like you, I was once a human."
This assumes that you are a human; if you are not, then I was once a human unlike you.
Furthermore, what was like you ⹁assuming you are human, about me was our shared humanity. We probably did have other things in common, but I do not know what they are. It should in no way be inferred that I was any more like you than any other human.

[4] Full disclosure: No, I don't. Not even a little. If you are attempting to communicate with me in an auditory kind of way, try harder.

[5] Which you don't. Unless you do. If you do, I'm actually kind of weirded out by the fact you're reading this. Unless reading this will assist you in building a portal from where I was to where I am ⹁thus allowing me to return, please stop in the name of privacy and/or not weirding people out.

[6] Except when they do.

[7] Main character from .hack//Sign. He was getting trapped in an MMO back before it was cool. If it is cool now. Even if it isn't cool now, I suppose it counts as being before it was cool provided that it wasn't being cool before or during his tenure trapped within The World.[15] Is it true that he did it before it was cool? No idea. Cool and I have never been on speaking terms.

[8] This ⹁I know, from experience.

[9] I don't always use rocks as wardrobe accessories, but ⹁when I do, I prefer Cu2(CO3)(OH)2. Stay thirsty my friends.

[10] So . . . not that much, really.

[11] Get my My Little Pony and Fullmetal Alchemist analysis from the same person? Sign me up. But you can't ⹁at least not without a time machine, because: see above. Took too fucking long to get my act together. Another in a long series of regrets.

[12] This isn't even hyperbole; it's just an outright lie.

[13] I'm not even making it up. It's not named that in the series ⹁and I'm a "Series only" kind of girl, but when looking something or other up I learned that it's a level 99 silver staff named "Ludicrous". So, there is that.

[14] She was the human main character of an animated TV series called "My Little Pony". You may have heard of it. She beat such luminaries as Tirek, Grogar, and the Smooze. Let it be known. She beat Tirek in her first appearance, because only suckers wait till the last episode of of season 4.[16] The book "Who Was Megan" is in the Fall of Sunset Shimmer in the dark magic section of Canterlot library, and ⹁in the same story, when Sunset first emerges into the human world, a flyer on the ground says that submissions to the CHS yearbook are to be brought to her or her siblings.[17] Look it up.

[15] You have to remember that this was a Japanese thing, so having it be called "The World" in English is like if we had an online game called "世界" or "せかい" or "sekai". It sounds a little bit less uninspired that way, doesn't it?

[16] I've never seen the G1 series and movies, so take that as you will. Tradition calls for taking salt with it. Also, Twilight Sparkle is not ⹁to my knowledge, a sucker.

[17] Nepotism much?


⁂  ⁂

[top] This is the end, I promised notes.

"Displaced" stories are stories where someone goes to a convention, finds a shifty vendor selling the one thing they need to complete their costume, buys it, and then gets dumped in Equestria as the character they were cosplaying as.  It's like a crossover, but without any of the established character traits, character history, or other such things that might interfere with it from being pure author/reader insert power fantasy.

It's difficult to get an accurate count, but there are very definitely over a thousand such stories.

I don't remember why I decided to try writing one.  I do know that I only made it as far as the long description (what's reproduced on this page) and then left it sitting there as an unpublished story with no actual content (long description doesn't count toward the word count, so by the standard metric it was literally a story with zero words.)

On Tuesday I added an "unpublished view password" which, as the name suggests, lets people view it even though it's unpublished.  The response I got from the person who took a look was pretty positive, so I decided to write an actual first chapter and then inflict the thing upon the world.

~ ~ ~

Celestabellebethabelle is the unicorn from Gravity Falls.  The (definite article) unicorn.  There are other unicorns as well, but Celestabellebethabelle is not those unicorns (collectively or individually.)

Tsukasa is, as noted, the main character from .hack//SignHe and it are described in some detail here.

Jen A. Blue is froborr.

~ ~ ~

The Oxford Comma Wars are entirely because we don't use reverse commas.  I'm probably, for what it's worth, not using them very well here.  (I don't have any more practice using them than the average person, after all.)

Replace commas with parentheses and you'll see the problem.  This isn't an article on commas; I'll stick to just one example.  It'll be an MLP flavored one.  (OC = Original Character; Red and Black Alicorn = edgy power fantasy; king = male monarch.)

First, with no commas:
[...] my OC a red and black alicorn and a king.
We can punctuate this two ways:
[...] my OC) a red and black alicorn) and a king.
[...] my OC) a red and black alicorn and a king.
It can mean three things:
[...] my OC (a red and black alicorn and a king).
[...] my OC (a red and black alicorn) and a king.
[...] my OC) a red and black alicorn) and a king.
The confusion is entirely tied up in the fact that we don't know if the first comma is the opening of an aside or not.  If it is, then whether or not there's a comma before the "and" changes the meaning drastically.  It it isn't, then the Oxford comma may be omitted without loss of meaning (but minor Oxford Comma Skirmishes may still be fought over the aesthetics of such an omission.)

Ideally we'd probably want three commas, opening, closing, and separating items in a list.  So, more or less, the comma versions of these things: (∣).  It's the lack of an opening comma, though, that causes confusion.  An opening comma would, presumably, just be a regular comma in reverse.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The dog was hit by a car, I need help to pay for her medical bills

Really short version:
The estimated total is $7,454.11 to $9,702.30.

The most immediate way to help is by donating money to me on Paypal.  A debit card is linked to my Paypal account, so I can use money in the account instantly.  I already paid $400 the bill that way (and maxed out three credit cards to pay another $4,085.)

One can also donate via a GoFundMe that my sister's . . . ok, I don't think "it's been complicated" is a good description for a relationship.  It suggests that things are no longer complicated and therefore doesn't describe the current relationship in the least except to say "It's not complicated, but I'm not fucking telling you what it actually is!" and this is the fifth?  sixth?  Hell, it could be seventh, time I've been forced to write "'it's been complicated' relationship partner" and I haven't slept decently since Thursday night, which wasn't even that decent, and fuck!  set up.  My sister's that set it up.

The information given fails to convey the relationship the dog has with any human being, living or dead, but the money is eventually going to go towards the dog's bills, so there is that.  This is not on Terin (my sister's that) because, while Terin did the work of setting it up, the information comes directly from my sister in her own words.  (Terin is awesome.  They deserve praise.)

If you can't donate, and I generally assume that no one can, you can spread those links around.  It is my assumption (possibly correct, possibly not) that people who don't know me will trust the GoFundMe more than my page, and therefore signal boosting it will get better results even though, if someone is going to donate, it's better for them to use the one if they can.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Economics Lesson -or- Why the shelves are empty (Non-fiction)

[This isn't even a rough draft, not really, it's something that I typed out in a Discord chat, but it is a something that you might find useful when trying to understand the world in which we live and the state in which it is in.]
[I've edited it a bit, I suppose it probably qualifies as a rough draft at this point.]

Ok, economics lesson time, mostly because I've been seeing people who are Wrong on the Internet™.  Also on mainstream (and fringe) news media, but I'm mostly concerned with the internet. Obligatory xkcd link:

In an ideal system (the thing that is to capitalism as a frictionless vacuum is to high school physics problems), there would be no warehouses, there would be no back in which employees could check for products when the shelf was empty and, honestly, there would be no shelves.  Products would be sold the instant they were created and nothing would ever sit around ever.

In the real world, it doesn't work that way.  Certain things can be produced on demand at the point of sale, but most things will have to wait at some point in their life cycle.  They wait on the shelf for people to buy them, they wait in the back room (or under the counter, or up high, or wherever the company stores excess) for there to be space on the shelf, and they wait in a warehouse somewhere for there to be space in the back room.

All of this costs money.  Obviously any shelf-space occupied by something that isn't selling could be more profitably filled with something that is, but that's nowhere near the chief concern.  Warehouses cost the most.  You have a whole fucking building that doesn't make a cent but has to have utilities, property taxes (where applicable), maintenance, and so forth paid for.  That being said, even having something in the back room instead of on the shelf is losing you money that you would be making in a frictionless vacuum an ideal system.

Also, no matter where it's being stored, paying for something before you can sell it costs money too.  Time is literally money (see: interest rates) and by buying this thing (whatever it happens to be) before it will sell you lose that money and have to pay to store it.

At some point people realized that with the speed of modern communication, with advanced statistical modeling, and with other crap like that, they could reduce that cost.

The result has been decades of efforts to make sure that retailers have enough for normal demand and not a jot more.  Well . . . that's not quite true.  Empty shelves don't make people feel safe and secure and happy about a store, so the ideal towards which businesses have been working is to have exactly enough to keep the shelves filled, and not a bit more.

You can cut out entire warehouses, or at least sell them and replace them with smaller ones, you can reduce the time between paying for an item and selling it, and --in many cases-- you can even do a bit of remodeling to convert some of the back room storage space into additional store space which will increase your profits if you utilize it properly.

The goal, of course, is to have absolutely nothing in reserve, and have all the stuff on the shelves be bought that very day.  That goal has not been reached yet, but impressive strides have been made in that general direction.

Profits have increased, prices haven't really gone down, and everybody's happy (at least everybody who matters.)  Everything is perfect.

But, chris, you say, if there's only enough to meet demand, what will happen if demand increases?

Worry not, that problem was noticed long ago and a wonderful solution was found.  That solution is very simple: ignore the problem and hope it goes away.

I jest.  In fact it's more a "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs" thing.

If people are at home instead of outside (at work, shopping, watching a movie, going to a club, celebrating Saint Patrick's Day, what have you) then there will be a massive spike in demand for everything that they're used to getting elsewhere.  This runs from food they might get at restaurants, to the toilet paper they would use in public (or work) restrooms.  Since you never bothered to have reserve stock, you won't be able to meet that demand.

However, since all of your major competitors have been operating on the same damned model, they won't either.  You're not losing your customers to other companies, so no real harm done.  After all, selling all of your stock (which is what left you with empty shelves) means you're doing way better than usual.  Profits are high.  Everything is good.

What about old fashioned "mom and pop" stores who--

First off, most of them went out of business ages ago.  Second, note how I said "major competitors"?  Well, with all of them, and you, out of the same product, anyone who does keep supplies in reserve is going to find themselves overburdened regardless, and they'll run out soon too.  There might be a brief spike in your customers going to them, but it'll die out pretty soon.  By the time this is over your customers won't even remember that those guys had it in stock for longer than you.

Still, doesn't it . . . I don't know, look bad when I'm out of the stuff I'm supposed to not be out of?

In other circumstances, it kind of would.  See the above thing about empty shelves being a turn off to consumers.  That doesn't apply here, though.  If everyone has empty shelves, then your shelves being empty doesn't reflect badly on you.  You're judged in comparison to your competition, not the Platonic ideal of a compassionate company.

Ok but it's my job to provide this stuff, won't it reflect poorly upon me if I can't?

Not really.  You can just blame the consumers.  "Look at all of these people buying stuff they suddenly need three times as much of; aren't they stupid?  They're the reason we ran out.  Just blame them," you'll say.

But in times of crisis the government advises people to--

No one cares.  No one ever blames a corporation for failing to provide what it promises.  Moreover, you've missed the point.

The point, dear reader, is this:

Everyone knew from the beginning that this would cause stores to run out of essentials the moment something changed.  No one cared.  Why?  Because it works.  You save money constantly by not having to buy excess stock, and whenever the shelves run empty that just means you sold more than you expected.  It's a windfall, not a problem.

After all, if you're the kind of person deciding on whether to make yourself somewhat richer or serve the average consumer in the times of heightened demand that you know will come from time to time, you're never going to run out any of that shit, now are you?

No one you care about suffers.


And that has been today's economic lesson.  The empty shelves we're seeing now (and I was shopping today, I saw entire empty aisles in the best stocked store I visited) aren't a bug or a miscalculation.  They're a predicted and acceptable (to those who made the decision) side effect of optimizing profit by reducing unused stock.


The system is working exactly how it was designed to work.  This was always part of the plan.  The flip-side of saving money by only buying the absolute minimum to fill your shelves has always been and will always be having those shelves empty when you underestimate that minimum because of unforeseen circumstances, which you know will inevitably arise from time to time.

Once upon a time people realized they could save money at the cost of having this happen every so often.  They responded with an enthusiastic, "Worth it!" and they haven't changed their tune yet.  No one with the power to change things is talking about going back to having more stock in reserve.

(Which is why I'm stuck in a house with three people and no toilet paper.)


[In response to someone offering sympathy for the parenthetical:]

It's not pleasant, but I'm actually somewhat more annoyed with myself for forgetting the economics behind the whole thing when it first started happening.  Yeah, it definitely seems weird when all of the toilet paper is getting sold out, but when you remember that the businesses that are sold out have spent literal decades trying not to have any extra, it makes sense that a mild increase in demand (on a global scale) would have that result.

It's really easy to blame people who are, by and large, doing sensible things instead of the ones who are actually responsible, and I did it myself a few days ago.

- -
- - -
- -

The really short version:

All of this --every inventory shortfall, everything (no matter how necessary) that you can't get because the stores are out-- was foreseen.  It was considered an acceptable cost to incur in order to reap the associated benefits (vis-à-vis savings during normal operations), and now that we're in the midst of it that hasn't changed in the least.

It's not a feature, per se, but it's definitely not a bug.  That means no one is going to fix it, because in the eyes of those who set up the system, nothing is broken.

False Accusations and Mistaken Identities, Ch1: Every word you've ever said, every thing you've ever done, and every choice you've ever made has led to this moment

Some notes and stuff:
On Sunday I wrote for five and a half hours straight.  I don't know the last time that happened.  This is the result.

I know that I say one shouldn't need prior knowledge of the source material a lot, but in this case it's especially true.  This is the story of Sunset Shimmer beginning to [start of plot] so you don't need to know anything about her in advance because you're about to read who she is.

That's not to say that prior knowledge wouldn't help.  It could prevent you from thinking things like, "Wait, what statue?" "I thought her name was Cadence, not Cadenza," "Why is this group called the 'Rainbooms'" or (right at the end) "Why does she know the names of these people she hasn't met before?"

It's just that the first three don't actually matter when it comes to understanding the story (nor do any other unexplained names, references, or objects), and the last one is a Chapter Two question, which will be answered therein.  (If it ever gets written.

So, with that said, I hope someone actually reads this, and (if any do) I hope they enjoy it.

~ * ⁂ * ~

Sunset's earliest memories were vague.  Fuzzy as fuck and hard to make out.  The one constant within them was a feeling.  She belonged.  She was loved.  She was part of a family.  Anything beyond that was either lost entirely or corrupted and fragmented to the point of being meaningless.

She had no idea what her parents had looked like.  No sense of what they sounded or smelled like.  No physical sensations; just emotion.  She also didn't have anything tangible to remind her of those days.  Just memories that faded more and more with each passing moon.

Sometimes she thought that she'd imagined it all.  That she'd always been alone, and family was just a pleasing fiction she'd invented to provide some comfort in her otherwise dreary life.  Lie to yourself often enough, and it stops being a lie.  It becomes something else, something stronger.  Just as false as a lie, but without the knowledge of that falsehood.  A delusion that, for you, has all the force of truth.

Other times she avoided thinking about it at all.  The difference between then and now hurt too much.

But when she did think about it, when she did believe it . . . well, there was a time when she would have done anything to get that feeling back.  Lie, cheat, steal?  Of course.  Dark magic?  No problem.  High treason?  Absolutely.  Other treason too, but who cared about that when it stood in the shadow of treason against the immortal ruler who could (and did) make the sun and moon move at her command?

Corrupting a magical artifact vital to the security of her homeland?  Tartarus, she would have corrupted all six, but only one was in position to be easily stolen. Raising an army of innocent schoolchildren so they could be used as literal human shields to keep her from getting swarmed, which happened to be the only tactic to ever defeat said-artifact, long enough to use that artifact to take over Equestria?  That was just her emergency backup plan for if she had hours instead of days with the Element.  Plans A through G were more involved.

All that and so much more.

~ * ⁂ * ~

The moment Celestia adopted Cadence as a long lost niece, Sunset had become obsessed with becoming an alicorn because, if a Pegasus who sprouted a horn merited adoption, then surely a unicorn who sprouted wings would as well.  Then the barrier between student and teacher could fall, and Celestia could be what Sunset had always wanted, but never had the courage to ask, her to be: Sunset's mother.

She devoted every waking moment to the project of sprouting those wings.  If she could have, she'd have devoted even more time to it, but she'd never gotten the hang of lucid dreaming.  When the mirror showed her wings, she thought she'd found the key.  Instead she became the youngest pony to ever be banished from Canterlot Castle.  Everypony else had waited till they were in double digits, Sunset had done it at nine and a half.

Celestia would have provided her with lodging, Sunset had no doubt, but they'd be even further apart.  Sunset would be physically comfortable, but she wouldn't belong.  She wanted to belong.  She wanted, so very hard, to belong.  It had been a split second decision.  The mirror was in the castle, if she let herself be taken out of the castle she might never see it again, and the mirror had shown her wings.

If she went to the other world, got those wings, and came back . . . well then Celestia would have to adopt her, and Sunset could finally belong again.

The mirror had already been near the end of its active phase.  For almost two days she'd considered going through anyway, but concluded that it wasn't worth the risk.  Not until she knew more.  Then her hoof had been forced.  Jump through unprepared, or risk never going at all.

Adrenaline and desperation had been enough to get her through, but that couldn't last forever, and when everything crashed back down her resolve shattered.  It didn't matter.  There was no going back; the portal was closed.

~ * ⁂ * ~

She'd always known that ascension was no small task.  It would take time.  She'd been ready to commit thirty moons to study while she waited for the next active phase.  She had been in it for the long haul.  That did nothing to lessen the fact she was completely unprepared for thirty moons as a human.

Surrounded by strange creatures, in a body not her own, with no one to help her, and no magic to protect her, Sunset Shimmer was terrified and broken.  Many nights she cried herself to sleep.  Whenever possible, she only moved at night, slinking from shadow to shadow on mostly deserted streets.

Slowly, though, she remembered who she was.  She was Sunset Shimmer.  She hadn't always lived in a castle; she'd grown up on the streets.  Princess Celestia had taken Sunset in after seeing her use advanced magic, far beyond what other ponies her age struggled with, to steal bits from a noble's enchanted saddlebag.

Without her magic Sunset had felt helpless, but it didn't take too long to realize that no one else had magic either.  In a world of creatures who ate terrestrial meat, Sunset had felt horrified, but that just meant she could be assured of her moral superiority.  She didn't have shelter?  So what?  No one was taking care of her?  She didn't need anyone to.

And so she turned things around.  She was Sunset Shimmer, she was unstoppable, and the human world would never know what hit it.

~ * ⁂ * ~ 

Begging could work well when one was a cute child and it could work even better when one was with a cute child; Sunset had known this.  Her earliest clear memories were of going out with this or that adult pretending to be their foal in exchange for a cut of the earnings.  Stealing took more work.  Fingers were not magic.  Learning guitar was her version of intensive self-directed physical therapy.  Originally, actually, she'd played ukulele.

It had been surprisingly easy to get someone to teach her.  Busking got you more money than begging, and therefore saying, "Help me feed my daughter who is playing her heart out for you right now," got better returns than, "Help me feed my daughter who is standing there looking cute and destitute."  After all, she was cute and destitute either way.

None of those relationships involved any kind of belonging.  It was business.  They used her to increase their take, Sunset used them to get a take (without risking a run in with Child Protective.)  Homelessness was neither abuse nor neglect, so as long as people thought she had a parent, she was safe.  She had learned that in a public library, which was where she spent most of her non-working daylight hours.

At night . . . well, the humans threw out a lot of food.  Dumpsters beckoned.  Sunset answered the call.

That was life.  That was life for a good long while.  Sunset didn't just survive; she thrived.
It was never meant to be forever, though.  After enough moons had passed, there was a sense of anticipation that grew and grew.  By the 29th moon, she spent most of her days euphoric; she was going home.

Then she got sick.  It was a disgusting thing.  Her memories were of pain, snot, fever dreams, vomit, and waking experiences so disjointed and surreal that they blended with the dreams.  Mostly snot.

The portal was open for three days.  She'd been out of it for five.  It had been all she could do to eat, drink, and move to a different corner of the room when she needed to relieve herself.  She hadn't left the building.  There was no going home.

~ * ⁂ * ~

When the sickness finally broke, she woke up surrounded by the scattered remains of her entire stockpile of food and drink.  It hadn't been enough, not really.  She felt like she was starving, and the dehydration hurt in that way only a distinct lack of water could.  Stacking an undernourishment headache on top of a dehydration headache didn't make thinking the easiest thing in the world, and the lingering effects of the sickness itself didn't help either.

It took her a while to even remember that she should be thinking about the portal.

When she did, she ran outside, looked at the sky, and refused to accept what it told her.  She sprinted to the portal, and pounded on it.  She begged it to open between ragged gasps for air.  The sprint had taken almost all of her energy; it wasn't long before she collapsed to the ground.  She kept on pounding; she kept on begging.

The worst part wasn't even that she'd missed the opening.  The worst part was that she'd missed it by less than an hour.  Two at most.

She reached the point where she didn't have the energy to hit it anymore.  She kept begging.
She said she was sorry.  She begged to come home.  She promised to be a good pony.

Exhaustion must have taken full hold of her at some point because Sunset's memory skipped from begging Princess Celestia to let her come home to being woken by predawn light.  Her hands were bloodied, something she hadn't noticed before.  So was the statue.

She was an eleven year old with no guardian who'd been sleeping in a public place.

She ran.

Her birthday was about a moon and a half away.  All she had wanted for it was to be in Equestria.  Anywhere in Equestria.  Princess Celestia wasn't prone to sticking ponies in dungeons, but Sunset gladly would have occupied one if it meant she could be home.  Magic in the air, horn on her head, an actual snout on her face . . . hooves.  She had just wanted to go home.

~ * ⁂ * ~

Interdimensional portals don't respond to spoken pleas, and even Princess Celestia couldn't hear things said in one world from her place in another.  Sunset had known that.  In times of extreme emotion one does stupid things.

Once she'd put herself back together, once she'd gotten food in her belly and, more importantly, gotten hydrated, she had to face an unalterable fact: she was there.  She was in the human world and that wouldn't change for a good many moons.

She was rapidly aging out of the status of "adorable waif" and moving towards "Unruly kids these days; always up to no good," and that meant she needed to change tack.  She needed to exist as something other than another untouchable poor person to be avoided and ignored.  She needed, in short, to be respectable.

So she still ate out of dumpsters, and she still picked pockets, but she stopped begging and busking because when she made her appearance in polite society one, "Aren't you the filthy girl who plays guitar in the park for spare change?" could ruin everything.

Inventing a life took time, but she was Sunset Shimmer.  She could do anything.  Human paperwork would come to fear her power.

~ * ⁂ * ~

Not a lot of people tried to fraudulently enroll in middle school, so her documentation for that wouldn't be subject to any great scrutiny, but the best times to slip into the school system unnoticed were the switch from elementary school to middle school, which she'd missed, and the switch from middle school to high school, which she wasn't quite ready for.

At those points there would be a sea of new faces, so her sudden appearance in the school system would go largely unnoticed.  The only people who would know were those who needed to know, if such people even existed.  Whether they existed or not depended a great deal on precisely how Sunset ultimately decided to sneak into the system.  Regardless of how she did it, the switch from middle school to high school was definitely an opportunity worth waiting for.

So she took her time.

Even though she'd laid enough of the groundwork to enroll by the time the next school year started, she stayed out and worked on perfecting her human identity.  She also studied at the library a great deal, because she didn't want anyone realizing she hadn't attended grades one through eight.  She worked out the kinks, she perfected her mannerisms, she did many and varied illegal things involving records, identification, and other documentary evidence that a person, legally speaking, existed.

A year after she'd missed the portal, she felt her identity was well and truly ready, but she still had a summer vacation to wait out before she could go through with it.  So she ingratiated herself with local kids her age.  By the time she actually set foot in Canterlot High School, many of them were already looking forward to her company there.

School took up a lot of her time, obviously, but it wasn't nearly as much of a drain on her as she'd initially anticipated.  While she had studied to make up for eight years grades of not being in the system, she learned that the more advanced forms of mathematics had a great deal in common with magical theory, as did several types of science.  It came easily to her.  Also, she'd apparently studied a bit too much in her attempt to catch up.  She'd been aiming for "unremarkable", instead she was quickly switched into advanced classes.

With "unremarkable" off the table, she decided to actually try, and see what she could do.  She excelled.  She also felt something familiar.  It wasn't belonging.  (She'd almost forgotten about belonging.)  It was more than being alone, though.  It was like Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns: However pointless, she was a part of something.

~ * ⁂ * ~

Being part of CSGU had been pointless.  She was the Princess' personal student, the others were nothing.  Any time spent there was time that wasn't spent with the Princess herself.  But no matter how aloof she'd been, it was impossible to miss that time spent there was time spent as part of a larger whole.

Things were different in high school.   She wasn't so full of herself anymore.  Everyone else was there because they hadn't foolishly run away, they hadn't thrown themselves through a stupid mirror, and they hadn't missed their one three day opening in thirty moons.  That didn't mean she had a particularly lofty opinion of them, but her opinion of herself was low enough that she'd mix with the unwashed masses.  She'd spent thirty moons excessively unwashed before deciding to give school a try, after all.

Because she was in advanced classes, Sunset had a fair amount of contact with upperclassmen, which apparently conferred a degree of "coolness" upon her with those in her own grade.  Because Sunset was legitimately terrible at judging human ages and because Canterlot High School was adjoined to a middle school so closely that the vague and amorphous distinction between one and the other was largely ignored, Sunset had a fair amount of contact with younger kids, who thought she was "incredibly awesomely cool" simply because she was willing to speak to them as, more or less, equals.

She became popular without even trying.

She might have found belonging there, if she'd been willing to look.  While she'd almost forgotten what it was like to belong, hearing other students talk about their families made her remember.  She stifled the resentment she felt; it wasn't useful.  She also reached a conclusion that was, at best, shaky and ill informed.  She thought that one had to be home, which, to her, meant Equestria, to belong, and therefore she could never belong in the human world.

It made perfect sense at the time.  Those hazy memories of the time she did belong --when she was loved-- took place in Equestria; failing to return to Equestria had emotionally crushed her; when the other kids talked about time spent with their families, it was usually time spent at home and always time spent in their own world.

So, for all that she was surrounded by people who liked her, she never let herself really connect.  If she would be going back to Equestria, what was the point?  She had friendly acquaintances, but not friends.  The kind of people you could enjoy spending a year with, but wouldn't feel bad about never seeing again after that year ended.

The school provided a good place to crash; it was heated year round and uninhabited at night.  Being so close to the portal was a nice bonus.  So her new routine was born.  During the school day she was a popular and promising student, outside of school hours and during off days she was spending time with classmates (she joined the fencing club), enjoying herself alone, or ironing out the few remaining wrinkles in her human identity, and at night she grabbed food from dumpsters then slept in the school.

She wouldn't be here for that long, but why not enjoy the wait?

That was how it went, and the time flew by.

~ * ⁂ * ~

This time she didn't miss the portal.  She headed straight through ready to face whatever Celestia decided to do to her, come what may.  The first surprise was that the portal had been moved to a more public, and thus more dangerous, place.  It was in the throne room.  Sunset guessed that Celestia hoped to intercept Sunset herself, which made the second surprise larger.

Canterlot Castle was abandoned.

When she ventured out into Canterlot proper, Sunset was able to piece together what had happened.  As foretold long ago, Nightmare Moon returned.  Celestia had the castle evacuated to avoid collateral damage when Nightmare Moon came for her.  The cover story Celestia used was that everyone was being given the night and following morning off as a sort of special treat for the Thousandth Summer Sun Celebration; it didn't look like Celestia had actually told anyone that she knew Nightmare Moon would be coming back.

Given the lack of damage to the castle, Celestia had clearly tossed the fight.  The reason why . . . Sunset had been broken before.  She'd been broken several times, in fact.  The reason why broke Sunset in a new and different way.

Celestia's faithful student had activated the Elements of Harmony in the Everfree then used them to defeat Nightmare Moon and restore Celestia, which had clearly been the plan all along.

When Sunset left Equestria, she was the only personal student Celestia had taken on in living memory.  Sunset was special.  Celestia saw something of value in her.  Sunset wasn't just the street trash everypony saw when they looked at her, she mattered.  Or so Sunset had thought.

Celestia had apparently replaced her so quickly that a mere sixty moons later that replacement was ready for field work.  The replacement was ready to be sent into the field to battle against Eldritch foes.

How much training would it take for a pony to reach that point?  Certainly more than thirty moons worth.  Forty?  Fifty? What if it were sixty?

After banishing Sunset, did Celestia get a replacement the same day, or did she wait a whole week out of respect for the departed?

Sunset fumed.  Her replacement probably got everything Sunset ever wanted.  She probably belonged since she was born and had living loving parents still.  She probably belonged with Celestia, and received the love Sunset had been denied.  Had she ever had to eat out of a dumpster?  Had she ever had to rely on her wits to stay alive?  Had she ever lived through anything Sunset had suffered?

For the first time, Sunset's yearning for belonging was fueled by pure, unadulterated rage.

The Elements of Harmony were in play?  Fine.  She'd use that.  She knew things about the Elements that a faithful student, one who never went behind Celestia's back, would never learn.

She'd become an alicorn, she'd make Celestia acknowledge her as a daughter, she'd banish Cadenza to the farthest reaches, and most of all she'd deal with her replacement.  She would take back everything that should have been hers.  Everything that her replacement had.

She was Sunset Shimmer, she could do anything, and all of Equestria would quake in fear and beg for her forgiveness when she came back.

She slipped back into the castle and back through the portal.  She had thirty moons to plan.

~ * ⁂ * ~

And so she planned.  That, however, wasn't all she did, which was why those thirty moons were the part of her life that Sunset hated most.

Rage and a sense of entitlement only ever really worked if three things were true.  First, you had to actually be entitled to whatever it was you felt you were entitled to.  Second, the rage had to be justifiable.  Third, you had to have enough control to direct that emotion in a way that actually brought you closer to your goal.  For Sunset, none of those things were true.

Everyone around her noticed the change.  The friendly acquaintances started to distance themselves.  Bitterness infused every interaction Sunset had with anyone, and most people didn't consider that a particularly attractive trait for a conversational partner to have.

That was how it started, but it didn't stay that subtle and low key.  There were the times she just went off.  All of that rage had nowhere to go, the portal was closed again, but it had to go somewhere, so when an opportunity presented itself, it would be directed at whichever poor unfortunate soul had created that opportunity.

The popularity (and the attendant power) that had come naturally to Sunset started to slip away.  She wouldn't have that.  She had spent so long among these lesser beings that she'd forgotten who she was.  What she was.  She was above all of these dull creatures.  She was someone who deserved to be a princess of Equestria and have powers the ignorant humans couldn't possibly comprehend.

While Sunset had starved, these people had been throwing perfectly good food in the trash.  While she had shivered in the freezing cold lying on flattened cardboard boxes, not knowing if she would survive to see the next morning, they had been warm in their beds.  When she had to beg or steal to be able to clothe herself, they'd decide that their, higher quality, clothes were out of style, toss them in the back of a closet, and leave them there to do no one any good.

She was better than them, but they had it better than her.  Something was broken.  It was time for change.

Any who dared to think themselves her equal were torn down and made example of.  The students she vented her rage on were so terrified they'd give her anything she asked of them and, in some cases, would stuff themselves in lockers rather than face her when she was in a bad mood.

Those who threatened her power indirectly, and against whom she had no personal grudge, were treated more gently.  She used manipulation to break their friendships and erode their power base, but they never knew her wrath and they never felt terror.

The administration saw none of this.  To them she was a model student.  The object of praise and validation.

One girl couldn't control an entire school, especially not in a way that was deniable, so she got underlings.  She had to pick them carefully, lest they be able to turn her own tactics against her.  Snips and Snails proved perfect.  They had no real ambition beyond being associated with a high status individual, they were eager to please, and she had no fears of them deposing her.

Thirty moons of anger, of hate, of manipulation.  Thirty moons of intimidation.  Thirty moons of bullying.  Thirty moons of becoming the kind of person who deserved to end up in a smoking crater.

Far and away, this was the part of Sunset's life that she hated the most.

It also made her feel downright stupid in retrospect.  You can't force someone to love you; the entire premise was flawed.

~ * ⁂ * ~

Then came Princess Twilight Sparkle, the faithful student whose name Sunset had never bothered to learn, now sporting wings and a crown.The plan was off from the beginning.  The mirror was supposed to be in Canterlot.  That the Element of Magic was with the mirror in the Crystal Empire, which Sunset had thought was still in the midst of its existence failure, was pure luck.  She tripped over the tail of a baby dragon, which Sunset thought was supposed to be in the care of older dragons, and the entire replacement idea went out the window.

Out the window, off a cliff, into a moat, and finally up in smoke.  (The moat was filled with oil, obviously.)

She got the Element of Magic into the right world, but not in her possession.  That's about when Sunset started coughing on the smoke that the replacement plan went up in.  Without the replacement to compare it to, the human Celestia and Luna assumed that the Element was the replacement.  Since said-replacement was the Fall Formal crown, which belonged to the school until handed out, and since it had obviously been stolen once already, they locked it up.

In her wisdom, Princess Twilight Sparkle decided to attempt to win the crown rather than return the actual Fall Formal crown, explain there had been a mix up, and get hers back in that way, which likely would have taken under an hour.

This was the part where clearing the field turned against Sunset.  Running unopposed was nice; running with a single opponent was not.  Instead of being divided between multiple other students, the not-Sunset vote was completely consolidated behind one not-student: Twilight Sparkle.

In point of fact, this was the part where everything turned against Sunset.  If Sunset hadn't torn them apart, it would not have been possible for Twilight to reunite the future-Rainbooms, and without that they wouldn't be in Twilight's debt.  Likewise, if she hadn't ordered Snips and Snails to trash the gym to frame Twilight, Twilight wouldn't have been able to unite the student body by cleaning up the gym.

Sunset laid the groundwork for her own defeat, and kept on building toward that defeat right up until she was hit by a rainbow, which rendered future construction irrelevant.

There isn't a word for the pain Sunset experienced inside that rainbow.  Someone nails you to a cross and leaves you out die of exposure, over a period that can last up to three days, as a form of execution by torture?  There's a word for that pain: excruciating.

To have all your sins remembered, to see them and not be able to turn away --not be able to blink-- to hear them and not be able to drown out the sound.  To experience everything, the sum total of your life, and not be able to make excuses or rationalize or do anything but realize, bone deep, "This is me.  This is who I am," is something for which there is no word.  It's not even supposed to be possible.

But there was something else in there.  Something that ached in an entirely different way.  Sunset could almost see their faces.  Sunset could almost hear their voices.  When it came to the emotion, there was no "almost".  Sunset remembered, in full, what it was like to be loved.  What it was like to belong.  Why she'd started this whole execrable ordeal.  What she was further from than she'd ever been before.

And Sunset saw and felt all of the times that feeling had almost blossomed again, only to be crushed because it hadn't come in the form Sunset had wanted.  All of the times that she could have belonged again that she threw away either because she was so focused on the idea that having wings was the way to get there, or because she was so furious with a pony that, back then, she'd never even met.

And she cried.  She cried in a way that she hadn't in sixty moons, give or take several hours.  She was an eleven year old, almost twelve, who had just missed the portal.  She was a nine year old, who exiled herself to a strange world.  She was the architect of her own suffering, and it hurt.

~ * ⁂ * ~

Then the world changed, and things got better. The portal was closed again.  Another thirty moons.  By the time it was scheduled to reopen again Sunset would have spent more time as a human than a unicorn.  She didn't mind.  Not this time.

She had work to do.  She'd caused a lot of pain and done a lot of damage, and she knew she could never make up for it or fix it, but that was no excuse.  She had to try.

No one liked her.  The Rainbooms, though they weren't called that at first, tolerated her.  She did whatever they told her.  She cheered them on.  She tried to learn the Magic of Friendship.  She tried to help those she'd harmed.  She tried to ignore the fact that, deserved or not, being the most hated person in school hurt.

The results she got were . . . less than ideal.  While everyone was preparing posters for the musical showcase, she offered to help Rainbow Dash's biggest fan and the little sisters of Applejack and Rarity --the three students in the entire school, outside of the Rainbooms themselves, most likely to give her a chance-- she was not given a chance.

Her hopes of having new students get to know not-evil her before they heard about how she used to be were killed off pretty quickly when it turned out they were evil monsters from Equestria's past drawn in by the display of magic she had instigated.  Her attempt at a warning failed; Luna thought she was trying to deflect unwanted attention and escape her past.  Then she sent a message to her Celestia.  Celestia didn't answer.  Twilight did, though, and that went . . . well, it wasn't the worst thing ever.

Utter failure, a chance at success, and getting slapped right back down again was what it took for anyone to ask for Sunset's help.

That changed everything.  For one thing, the Rainbooms started being her actual friends.  She even joined the band.  For another, even though no one forgot what she had done, people finally gave her a second chance.

~ * ⁂ * ~

And that's when Sunset started feeling it again.  Looking back now, she wished she hadn't.  She was a Rainboom.  She was a friend.  She was loved.  She belonged.  She wrote to Twilight, now her magical pen pal, that she felt like she was part of a family again.She had everything she'd ever wanted.

The Monday after she wrote that, her new family disowned her.  Any illusions Sunset had about newfound emotional stability were shattered when all it took to leave her crying on the floor was a few harsh words.

So much for family.

Maybe it was poetic justice.  Sunset had accused a lot of people of things they hadn't done.  Only fair that she be brought down by being framed.

Her only lead evaporated when Trixie proved to be entirely innocent.  All Sunset got out of that was the guilt of having made a false accusation herself.

Twilight said that Sunset had to find her family, and she'd tried.  She tried.  She went to the Rainbooms, a group that didn't include her anymore, and planned to let them know how much she cared about them in hopes that they'd remember how much they, she wanted to believe, cared about her.

She didn't get a word in.

Before she was through the door, Rainbow Dash shouted, "Hey! Get out!"

Applejack followed up with, "Yer not welcome here, Sunset."

Sunset gave up.  She turned around, walked right back out the door, tried to hold her tears in while she stood there in the snow, and finally ran in a random direction when the tears came anyway.

~ * ⁂ * ~

What hurt the most was that, no matter what the others said now, it had been real.  She had, at long last, belonged.  She was loved, for however brief a time.  Now it was over.  And she didn't know if she could endure that.  It had been one thing to be chasing after a half-remembered feeling from her childhood, this was something else entirely.

She'd had it, she'd lived it.  Not in a memory that might not even be accurate; it was so, so recent this time.  It had been, she thought, the new normal.  Instead it was gone.

She couldn't go back to how she'd been before.  She couldn't bear it.  But she didn't know what she could do.  So she ran.

She ran until she couldn't run any more.  Then she walked.  As the cold sank in and her energy drained away, her walking deteriorated.  She'd stumble, or go crooked for a few steps, she even bumped into a "No Parking" sign once.  She didn't care.  She barely noticed.

She kept walking.

Then there was light and motion and noise.  So much.  Too much.  Nothing touched her, but the disorientation dropped her.  The snow was dirty; it stung against her face.  She didn't feel like getting up.

~ * ⁂ * ~

There were sounds (doors maybe?) then voices.

"What the Hell were you thinking, walking--" Sunset didn't do anything to interrupt, she didn't know why the person stopped talking.

The silence was broken when a second voice said, "We didn't hit her, right?  If we hit her, we would have felt it, and I didn't feel it, so we didn't hit her.  Right?"

"We didn't hit her," the first voice said, "but that's entirely because of my driving instead of--"

"Not the time," a third voice said.  Come to think of it, these voices sounded vaguely familiar.

Sunset was pulled off the ground, whoever did it turned her as they lifted, and the end result was almost like she was sitting.

"Are you ok?" the third voice asked. Sunset tried to look at the person talking, but her eyes stung and her vision was clouded by . . . tears?  Snow?  She didn't know which.  All she saw was an indistinct blob.  Sunset was being held by an indistinct blob with a familiar sounding voice.

As for the question . . . Sunset wasn't really prepared to answer that question.  Not that week.  Not that day.   Not that hour.  Certainly not that moment.  Still, she tried.

"I'm alive," she said.

"Well obviously," the second voice said, Sunset looked in their direction, but what she saw was just another blob, "we can see that.  Unless . . ." there was a gasp.  "Are you a zombie‽"

It definitely wasn't Pinkie Pie's voice, but part of Sunset was crying out that she was dealing with Pinkie Pie as a result of that.

"You're the worst," the first voice said.  Sunset didn't bother trying to look.

"No y--" the second voice said.

"Not the time!" the third voice shouted.

There were a couple murmurs of what might have been, "Sorry," from voices one and two.

"Look," the third voice said, "you're obviously not alright, and you shouldn't be out in this weather.  Let us give you a ride home." Sunset didn't argue.

~ * ⁂ * ~

Sunset ended up in the backseat of a car with voice three on her left and voice two on her right.  She closed her eyes and tried to will the world away.  Voice two wasn't having that.  Voice one was on the same page.

"Are you from Canterlot?" voice two asked.

"Of course she is," voice one said from the front seat.  "This is Canterlot."

"Well, we're in Canterlot."

"I just said that!"

"And we're not from Canterlot."

The owner of voice one made an "ugh" sound.  Voice three remained silent.

"So she could be like us," voice two continued.  "Oh!  Are you a second semester transfer to CHS like us?"

"You.  Are.  The.  Worst," voice one said.

"No, you are!" voice two shouted back.

You'll have to excuse them, voice three said from Sunset's memories.  They're idiots.  Suddenly everything clicked.

Sunset opened her eyes, blinked the last water from them, and looked around.  She saw exactly what she expected to see: Adagio Dazzle was on her left, long suffering look on her face, Sonata Dusk was pouting on Sunset's right, and Aria Blaze was driving.

This, Sunset realized, was going to go very, very badly.

~ * ~
~ * ⁂ * ~
~ * ~ * ~ * ~

As noted, this came from writing for five and a half hours straight, which is not a common occurrence.  It also came from another place.

Adagio Dazzle, Aria Blaze, and Sonata Dusk are the villains of the second Equestria Girls movie.  They're originally from Equestria (pony-world) but were banished to the human world a long time ago.  (The reasoning was basically, "The lack of magic in that world will probably neutralize them as a thread, and if it doesn't . . . who cares?  It's not our world.)  The in fandom three of them are collectively known as "The Dazzlings", as that was their band name.

The human and pony worlds are the sort of parallel world pair where individuals from one world have pseudo-identical counterparts in the other.  (Once you adjust for species, which the trip from one world to the other does on its own, and fashion sense, if there's any difference, an individual and their counterpart are virtually indistinguishable.)

Since the Dazzlings are originally from pony-world, if they have counterparts those counterparts would be ordinary humans in the human world.

So, a while back, someone wrote a story in which the human counterparts of the Dazzlings transfer into CHS, the high school in which Equestria Girls is set, and that works out about as well as you'd expect.

Someone I know on Discord said this about that story:
Holy haybiscuits, you guys all need to read this story. It's everything you'd wish from an Anon-a-miss story, but with the Dazzlings and it's just an absolutely amazing read so far.
Anon-a-Miss stories are those based off of (usually theoretically better versions of) The Equestria Girls Holiday Special.  I've got eleventy billion of them.*  The core of the plot is that Sunset Shimmer is framed for leaking embarrassing secrets online (which would have been a huge breach of trust if true) and is denounced and abandoned by her friends.  (Because her friends did this in a public place, and because of Sunset's less than stellar history, she ends up with, more or less, the entire school against her.)

It's pretty easy to see the connection between that and the concept with the human counterparts of the Dazzlings.  Everyone blames Sunset for something she didn't do because she was framed.  Everyone blames human-Dazzlings for something they didn't do because their exact doppelgangers did do it.

Much more recently, someone (unknowingly) suggested crossing those two streams.  Their suggestion was very short, and boiled down to Sunset linking up with the human counterparts of the Dazzlings during Anon-a-Miss.  There wasn't any detail beyond that, but I was thinking about all of the above as soon as I read the description.

After three hours of it marinating in my head, I wrote this.

~ ~ ~

I meant what I said at the start about not needing to know things.  Sunset's feelings are what matter in this chapter, not the details of who and what and where.  That said, if anyone wants to know more . . .

Princess Celestia is the immortal ruler of Equestria and has taken on two personal students that we know of in canon.  The first was Sunset Shimmer, and I've given you an in depth story on that.  The second was Twilight Sparkle, and the entire of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is about that.

Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, who prefers to be called Cadence (technically "Cadance" but that's just a way to keep the search results focused on her instead of cadences, and nothing more, so I spell it with one "a") was a Pegasus who grew a horn after doing impressive stuff and was adopted by Celestia as a niece.

According to a deuterocanonical comic, Sunset Shimmer had a vision of herself with wings (and still having a horn) in the magic mirror that happens to be the pony-side of the portal between worlds.  She became obsessed with it, and things did not go well.  The human side of the portal is one side of a presumably marble pedestal for a horse statue that stands in front of Canterlot High School (their sports teams are named "Wondercolts".)  Under regular conditions it only opens for one three day period every thirty moons.

Given that it's the position of the moon among the stars I've calculated that time using sidereal moons instead of the much more common and traditional synodic month.  (I did the same thing in the only other recent story here.)  It only occurred to me after doing all of that math that I was missing something obvious.  The most reasonable way to combine "When people say 'moons', they mean 'synodic moons'" and "the position with respect to the stars matters" is to have an approximate calculation based on thirty synodic moons and then refine it to an exact date using sidereal moons.

So either 32 sidereal moons (which is less than thirty synodic moons) or 33 sidereal moons (which is more than 30 synodic moons.)  Instead I did 30, so . . . yeah.

I said "under regular conditions" when talking about how the portal opened.  In the second movie Princess Twilight Sparkle built a machine that piggybacked the portal's operations off of a signal linking two magical books.  Anything written in one appeared in the other and Sunset and Princess Celestia used them for communication before their falling out.  With one book in each world, the magic connecting them provided a way to open a portal even when the two worlds weren't in their easily navigated "three days every thirty moons" alignment.

As such, by the time of this story it's possible to travel between worlds at well.

"The Rainbooms" are a band that, at the present tense of this story, includes: Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack.  These five also happen to be Sunset's former friends.  With the exception of certain bits of very meta fandom shorthand, "the Rainbooms" is the most concise way to refer to this group.

Human Celestia and Luna are the principal and vice principal of Canterlot High School respectively.  Pony Celestia and Luna are the rulers of Equestria who move the sun and moon respectively, but when Sunset left Equestria Luna had allowed her resentment to transform her into Nightmare Moon and had been banished to the moon.  In Luna's absence, Celestia controlled both the sun and moon.

The worlds, and emphasis, attributed to Rainbow Dash and Applejack in this come directly from the source material.  In the Holiday Special comic Sunset convinced them to listen to her.  In this . . . well, you read it (presumably.)

That may or may not cover all of the things that make more sense with knowledge of the source material.

~ ~ ~

In Latinthat feeling when you realize that the novels you've been reading are secretly non-fiction memoirsstaying closer to source materialwhen Sunset Shimmer's human counterpart comes to towna sequel to someone else's story, and many, many more that haven't been posted here.)