• Published 13th Jun 2013
  • 2,600 Views, 64 Comments

Erase and Rewind - DuncanR

Two ponies, equally but uniquely flawed, must decide if they have enough wits between them to cobble together a stable family. A story about trust, loss, severe neurological disorder, and ice cream.

  • ...


"Mister Erase?"

Erase looked up as the matron of Canterlot's "Little Treasures" orphanage waved at her from across the cramped waiting room. He set a magazine down and adjusted his tie against the collar of his suit. "That's me, ma'am."

She walked over and smiled warmly, taking his hoof. "We're so very happy to see you, mister Erase. It's always such a happy moment! I do hope the paperwork wasn't too troublesome."

"Not at all, ma'am." He nodded to the briefcase strapped to his left saddlebag. "I brought copies with me in case anything was lost in the mail. It happens sometimes."

"Well, aren't you prepared? It's quite all right. We've already received all the necessary documents, well in advance. I know the system is a terrible fright these days... it can be so difficult to get anything done at all."

"It's quite all right, ma'am. I have some experience with due process."

"Generous of you to say so. Of course, we still have one more thing to do... the most important thing of all. Come with me."

Erase froze halfway out of his chair. His throat tightened. "The most...? Is something wrong? I didn't forget to fill anything out, did I? I was very thorough."

"The most important thing of all," she said, "is for the two of you to meet each other for the first time and find out of you're a good match! I'm sure you just can't wait to meet her."

"Right, yes. Of course." He stood up and followed her out of the waiting room and down a nearby hallway. "So there weren't any problems with the paperwork, then?"

"Not that I'm aware of." She smiled back at him. "Oh, I'm ever so sure you'll like her! She's just the sweetest thing, and very well behaved. Quiet, keeps to herself, but still has such a bright sense of humor. She's always helping the other children, too... bless her little heart! How much do you know about her?"

"Not much, actually. The criteria I requested weren't exactly, ah..."

"Oh, I know. Most ponies who visit us have all sorts of conditions and requests... this color hair, or that sort of face... not too tall, not too short... the more demanding you are, the longer it takes to find a match. Some hopeful parents wait years. But all you asked for was a daughter."

"Yes, ma'am. That's correct."

"Any reason, might I ask?"

"Race and appearance don't concern me," he said. "A child is a child. As for a daughter, well... I had a lot of younger brothers. I've had enough of that to last me a lifetime."

"Oh, I believe it. Colts can be so rambunctious!" She came to a door and set her hoof on the latch. "Before we go on... how much do you know about her?"

"Not much," he said. "Female. Earth pony. No cutie mark. I know she has special needs, but not the exact details."

"What? Special...? Oh, my no. Who gave you that idea?"

"It was on the form you sent me." He opened his briefcase, rummaged through the papers, and took out a carbon-copy scroll. "Here, see? This part here was checked."

"Well... hm. I suppose it must have been a mistake. She's not a 'special needs' child at all, mentally or physically. Emotionally, though, she's had a... somewhat troubled past."


"Well, she's... you see... this isn't the first time she's been adopted. It wasn't her fault in the slightest, mind you. Not in the slightest. She had nothing to do with it. She's just had a difficult time of things. Emotionally."

"Ah." He flipped the form over. "You probably filled in the wrong area, then... the basic emotional assessment goes in section three, sub-section seven."

She glanced at the form, then back at him. "It's not a problem, is it?"

"Of course not." He put the form back into his briefcase. "I can talk to the registry about having it corrected, but it's a very trivial problem. Hardly worth worrying about."

"Er... quite." The matron opened the door and stepped inside. "Rewind, Dear? There's somepony here to see you."

Erase peered over her shoulder and saw a young child, sitting on the floor with a small pile of blocks. Female. Earth pony. No cutie mark. She looked up at him and immediately locked eyes.

The matron nodded to her. "Rewind, I'd like you to meet Mister Erase."

"Am I being audited?"

The matron glared at her. "Rewind."

Erase nodded. "Actually, you are. An 'auditing' is an evaluation of a person, process, or enterprise for the purpose of verification. It's commonly used in the context of financial or administrative records, but the adoption process is certainly an official government-regulated procedure with a thorough system of checks and balances to prevent fraud and abuse."

Rewind pursed her lips.

The matron cleared her throat. "Well! I'll leave you to get to know each other a little better. I'll be right down the hall, so give a shout if you need anything at all."

Rewind frowned. "That's it?"

"Do please be polite," the Matron said. She left the room, leaving the door open.

"I can't believe she left me alone in a room with you so soon," Rewind said. "It usually takes a month just to get the paperwork done."

"I've already seen to everything," Erase said. "I submitted the forms and documentation well in advance. It's possible to save a lot of trouble if you send things directly to the registry office instead of going through all the usual channels." He unhooked the briefcase from his harness and set it on the floor between them. "I also brought a full set of copies with me just in case."

"Just in case," she said.

"Yes. Just in case."

"Just in case what?"

"If I knew in advance, it wouldn't be 'just in case'." He opened the briefcase and began arranging papers on the floor. "Medical report. Six reference letters--one from a family member, two from friends, and three from work. Police clearance and criminal background check."

Rewind stared at the last sheet. "Criminal background check?"

"Yes. Criminal background check."

"You work for the government, don't you?"

"Yes, actually. I do a lot of paperwork." He tilted his head. "How did you know?"

"You have three references from work, but only two from friends." She squinted at the criminal background check. "Anything juicy in here?"

"Nothing significant."

"Nothing?" She arched an eyebrow. "Isn't nothing at all even more suspicious than something little?"

He nodded. "In fact, requesting a background check on yourself is itself seen as a slightly suspicious act, and they make a note of it on your record. When you specify that the check is required for adoption purposes, it isn't noted as a negative. The only way to examine your own record without also making it worse is to attempt to adopt a child."

"So how do I know you're not a serial killer or something?"

He shrugged. "You can't. I guess."

She looked up at him.

"It's impossible to prove a negative," Erase said. "More accurately, an inability to disprove does not constitute proof."

"What about the home test?" she said. "Did the matron tell you about that?"

"Yes. The matron has already evaluated my parenting skills and general competency. She wouldn't have introduced us otherwise."

"So you passed?"

"I passed."

"You passed."

"I passed."

"You passed?"

"I passed."

"You passed?"

"I passed."

Rewind pursed her lips. "Quit it."

"Quit what?"

"You have absolutely no sense of humor, do you?"

"I keep it in a jar at work, generally. It's a huge hassle having to check it at the front door every time, so."

She watched his face. Watched his eyes.

"Did they tell you everything about me?"

"They didn't even tell me your name," he said. "That's why I'm here. To talk with you. I wanted to hear it from you."

She glanced at the door, then back at him. "If you adopt me, you'll die."

"Why? Are you a serial killer or something?"

"No. Probably. But I've been in and out of this place eight times so far." She leaned closer and whispered. "They always die, and it's never my fault.

He frowned at her. "Who's fault is it, then?"

She shrugged. "Nopony's fault. It just happens."

"May I assume that's your 'emotional damage' then?"

She rolled her eyes. "Is that what they call it?"

He furrowed his brow. "So you're not emotionally damaged?"

She looked down at the pile of colorful wooden blocks. "You get used to it after awhile. My real mom and dad died when I was just a little baby, so I don't remember them. The first time it happened, I cried a lot. The second time, not so much. It was all downhill from there, I guess. I hardly cry at all anymore."

"If you abandon a foal in the wilderness at night," Erase said, "they cry a lot. But then, if you leave them alone long enough, they get very quiet. It's like they just give up after awhile... stop wasting energy, and stop drawing attention to themselves. It's a defense mechanism."


"I read it," he said. "It's one of the few things I know that I haven't proven to myself empirically. I think it's normal to stop crying after awhile. I think you're normal."

"Thanks for the sentiment, at least." She turned the medical report around and squinted at it. "High cholesterol, allergy to crimped corn, vitamin C deficiency... and severe neurological disorder resulting in dementia, hyperthymesia, schiz... schizo...

"Schizophrenia," Erase said.

She looked up at him, clearly unamused. "Do you take pills for it?"

"Yes," he said. "Vitamin C supplements. Every week."

She set the medical report down. "Severe neurological disorder."


"You're, like, a lunatic. A real lunatic."

"Is that a problem?"

"You just weren't what I was expecting a crazy person to look like."

"What were you expecting?"

"Not this. You look normal. Like... too normal. Abnormally normal." She tilted her head. "How did you make it through the home test? No. How did you make it through the front door?"

"I'm a higher functioning lunatic," he said. "It has a severe impact on my personal life, but it doesn't prevent me from being a productive and self-sufficient citizen. I have a job. I pay bills. I cook food. Productive. Self-sufficient."

She looked at the open door again. Longer, this time.

She shuffled closer to him. "So, you're like... a crazy person? What sort of crazy?"

"It's hard to describe."

"But it won't stop you from being a good dad?"

"The opposite, actually. It makes me an ideal parental guardian. It's also what makes me an ideal employee for the government."

"And you're not afraid to die?"

"Moreso than I was before I came here? Not really."

"Hmm." She rubbed a hoof against her nose. "One last question: why do you want to adopt?"

He stared off into space for a moment. He then shrugged.

"Well at least I won't get too attached to you." She stood up and tugged on his hoof. "Let's go talk to the matron. You can tell me about your crazy brain stuff on the way."

"Thank you, miss. I'll try not to disappoint." He shuffled the papers and reports back into his briefcase and attached it to the side of his saddlebag.

Erase walked down main street, carrying Rewind on his back as they passed through the heart of Canterlot's upper commercial districts. The little filly twisted her head all around to look at the gleaming storefronts and glittering billboards.

"What's with all the rubbernecking?" Erase said. "Don't you live here?"

"I don't get out much. And whenever I'm adopted, they always stick me in a carriage. No time for sightseeing. So, do you flip out or something? Like, yell and scream for no reason?"

"Not because of my disorder," Erase said. "My job, though... sometimes I'm tempted."

"But I thought you said you were good at your job."

"I can deal with my job just fine. Ponies, not so much. Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?"

"I'm fine. Thanks, though." She watched a passing carriage, studded with rubies and gold filigree. "Do you see things that aren't there? Hear voices?"

"No, I don't hallucinate. Not so far, at least."

"Does it hurt?"

"Not physically, no."

"Do you forget stuff? Like, amnesia? Or alzheimers?"

"It's the opposite. I can't forget. Ever."

Her eyebrows shot up. "Like photographic memory?"

"It's called hyperthymesia, or 'highly superior autobiographical memory.' It's sometimes called 'piking.' I can remember absolutely everything that's ever happened to me, perfectly."

"But that's a good thing, isn't it?"

"It's too much of a good thing," he said. "Can we talk about something else, please?"

"I guess. Where do you work?"


"Because you said you were good at your job. I kind of want to know what sort of job would be perfect for a functioning lunatic."

"I work at the palace."

There was a moment of silence. He looked back and realized Rewind was staring at him wide-eyed.

"Not everypony who works at the palace is a functioning lunatic," he said.

She arched an eyebrow. "Does it help?"

"It helps me." He glanced across the street at a fancy sandwich shop. "Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?"

Rewind frowned at him. "Are you sure you remember everything? Because that's the twelfth time you've asked me if I'm hungry. You get the same answer every time."


"And when I say no, you apologize. Why do you keep asking me?"

"Food is usually easy for me. It's a physical sensation instead of just raw, abstract information. It helps me cope, so I'm comfortable with it... I try to plan a lot of my daily routine around regular meals."

Rewind tilted her head. "But you can't tell if I'm feeling hungry."

"Yeah. It's a little frustrating."

She patted his shoulder. "If I do get hungry, I promise to tell you."

They continued in silence, walking through the bustling crowd.

"Hey," Erase said, "would you like a snack? Luxury food?"

"I could snack. What did you have in mind?"

He turned around and pointed across the street at an ice-cream shop with a cheerful, carnival-themed facade. Children were crowding around excitedly, tugging their parents along.

"Ice...?" Rewind shook her head. "Oh, no... no-no-no-no no. Frozen dairy is a terrible idea."

"If you're lactose intolerant, they have non-dairy sorbet. It's like frozen fruit-juice."

She smacked her hoof against the back of his head. "What do you have, a deathwish or something? Out of the eight pairs of foster parents I've lost, three of them were ice-cream related. We were either eating ice cream, we were at an ice-cream place, or we were on our way to an ice-cream place. That's how it always starts, you know: Ooh, ice cream! Yay! Then, the screaming."

Erase looked back at her. "If you don't want any, you can just say so."

"Three! Three out of eight! That's almost, like, a one in three chance of dying."

"It's a thirty-seven point five percent chance. Which is, admittedly, horrific. Except for the fact that the statistical probabilities you're citing are completely unrelated to our current situation."

She smacked the back of his head again. "No arguing. Let's get out of here while we still can."

He rolled his eyes. "I'm not sure what's more disturbing: your tenuous grasp of statistical probability or your misunderstanding of cause and effect. Unless there's a clear and present reason for it, what happened to your previous foster parents has no bearing--none whatsoever--on what will happen to me."

"Three out of eight! Come on!"

"How many of your foster parents were male?"

"Well... half."

"Then I already have a fifty percent chance of dying because I am male." He shook his head. "Actually, it's worse than that: one hundred percent of your previous foster parents have died, so I'm already guaranteed to die as well. The pursuit or achievement of an ice-cream related goal can't possibly make things worse."

She crossed her hooves and pouted. "It might kill you sooner," she said. "Would you rather die in a day, or die in a year?"

He glowered at her.

"Time." Her expression softened. "It has something to do with time, doesn't it? Your crazy brain problem, I mean."

"Come on." He glanced left and right, waited for several carriages to pass, and stepped onto the thoroughfare. "There's nothing to be afraid of. Nothing more statistically probably than being struck by a bolt of lightning."

"Ponies get hit by lightning, you know. It's a thing that happens."

"And it is no more likely to happen to us while eating ice-cream than at any other time."

Rewind looked around the street, eyes darting about. She finally pulled her mane over her eyes and hunkered down.

"There. We've arrived."

She looked up at the ice-cream place directly next to them. She stared at the counter, at the rows of chilled tubs arranged behind the glass. "Huh. So we have."

"So? What would you like? Pick anything."



She arched an eyebrow. "Anything?"




"Quit it."

"Quit what?"

She stared into his eyes, lost in thought. "You really can't remember, can you? You can't remember the same thing more than once."

"I can't forget," he said. "What kind of ice-cream would you like? Pick anything."

She peered at the tubs full of colorful, whorled frost. Her gaze lingered up to the display above the counter, and she scanned the massive list of extravagantly named flavors.

"I waaaant... a quadruple birthday surprise banana split, with rocky-road, pink bubblegum, cherries-jubilee, fudge brownie, peppermint, raspberry cheese Louise, covered with chocolate sauce on one side, strawberry syrup in the middle, and butterscotch on the other side."

"A quadruple birthday surprise banana split?" Erase peered up at the listings. "It serves twelve."

"I'm aware."

"It has fireworks on it. It comes with a complementary clown."

Rewind--still lying crosswise on his back--lifted her nose and crossed her front legs like a distinguished lady. "You said anything."

"No. No, you can't have an entire birthday surprise."

She stuck her bottom lip out. "Why not?"

"You don't need it."

"It's ice-cream," she said. "Nopony 'needs' it at all. It's a treat."

"It's bigger than you are. It'd melt before you could finish eating."

"I'm gonna share it."

"It's not healthy for you."

"It's ice cream. If it's not healthy, why were you offering it to me in the first place?"

"It's not your birthday."

"There are like, twenty kids here. What are the statistics that just one of them is having a birthday today? And remember to take into account this is a shop that sells birthday themed treats."

Erase worked his jaw back and forth. "The statistical probability is... non-trivial."

Rewind continued to watch, patiently.

"It sets a bad precedent," he said. "If I give in to every demand you make, you'll become more and more demanding. It will stunt your psychological maturity as you grow up, and you'll become a bitter, selfish, irresponsible mare who throws a tantrum whenever she doesn't get what she wants. It will completely destroy your ability to lead a normal adult life."

Rewind cleared her tiny throat. "Unless you make it clear that this is a super special occasion that doesn't happen every day. After all, you adopted me: I get to live in a real home and have a real dad. That's even more special than a birthday, and they only happen once a year."

Erase stroked his chin. "...And the quadruple birthday surprise is explicitly designed for birthdays, which gives us a solid benchmark to compare against other significant socio-cultural events."

The mare behind the counter top offered him a little wave. "Excuse me, sir? May I help you?"

He stepped up to the counter. "Yes, miss. I would like a quadruple birthday surprise banana split, with rocky-road, pink bubblegum, cherries-jubilee, fudge brownie, peppermint, raspberry cheese Louise, covered with chocolate sauce on one side, strawberry syrup in the middle and butterscotch on the other side."

Rewind arched both eyebrows. "You weren't kidding about the hyperthymesia, were you?"

"Yes, sir!" said the clerk. "Where would you like it delivered?"

Erase nodded to the nearby patio tables set up on the sidewalk. "Here is fine."

"And who is it for, exactly?"


Rewind looked up at him. "Everypony?"

"You said you were going to share it. Besides, it would be unethical to expect children to accept treats or favors from a complete stranger. If the treats or favors are offered by a nameless, faceless commercial organization instead of a nameless, faceless individual, the burden of social accountability is preserved."

"So it's okay for kids to accept candy from nameless, faceless commercial organizations?"

"Not intrinsically. But they are subjected to more rigorous laws and regulations than nameless faceless individuals."

"Fair enough," she said.

The clerk passed Erase a form which he filled out promptly and efficiently. They sat at a patio table and waited until a mare--dressed in a polka-dotted costume and with her mane tied into long, rainbow colored braids--came out from behind the counter pushing a trolley. There on the trolley, surrounded by stacks of paper plates and aluminum noisemakers, was the grand centerpiece itself: the quadruple birthday surprise banana split. The massive frozen treat resembled a tiny mountain range in all but size: A row of sparklers spritzed and sparked across the uppermost peaks, and it's frontal surface was emblazoned with the words 'Happy Birthday, Everypony!' printed in hard candy icing.

It took some time for the implications of the word 'everypony' to fully settle in. Rewind winced as the children stampeded around the treat, screaming and laughing. The clown cheerfully distributed smaller bowl-fulls amongst the gathering, including some of the grownups. The desert was barely half-eaten by the time the feeding frenzy settled down, and the clown continued to juggle, sing, and dance to the delight of the crowd.

"I can't believe you didn't just say no, 'because I say so'. That's what parents are supposed to say."

He looked at her, alarmed. "Parenting by fallacious argument? Sounds a little fascist, doesn't it?"

"Nevermind." She nodded towards the crowd of smiling colts and fillies, crowding around the trolley while their parents mingled nearby "This is just disgustingly cute, you know. Were you doing this on purpose? Is this a plot to make yourself seem quirky and adorable?"

Erase looked at Rewind. "Aren't you going to have any?"

"Nah. I'm not hungry. What about you?"

"I don't really like ice cream."

A faint smile tugged at her lips. "Yeah."

Rewind rode on Erase's back as he walked through Canterlot's residential district. She held a sparkler in her hoof and watched the tiny white arcs drift through the air randomly.

"It's always a pair," she said, "and always heterosexual. They're always rich and important, too, but that only makes perfect sense... this is Canterlot, after all."

"What about their reasons for adopting?" Erase said. "Any pattern there?"

"Five were for medical reasons. Three were because of barren mares, and two more had a high risk of birth defects or complications."

"What about infertile stallions?"

"Nah. It's usually easier just to go visit a sperm bank or something." She looked up and watched a small squadron of royal pegasus guards fly overhead. "I guess a mare giving birth is more life-changing than whatever it is the stallion does."

"How'd they go?"

"Varies, but it's always accidental. Collapsing bridges, falling cranes, out-of-control carriages... this one time there was a gas leak or something. I just woke up in the hospital the next day."

"So there's no pattern? At all?"

She frowned. "This is so werd... I feel like a rich old lady blabbing on about all her ex-husbands."

"You don't talk about it much?"

"I used to talk to my thearapist about it all the time, but we eventually decided there wasn't much more to be done about it. I already know how to cope with loss and depression. Everypony else either doesn't wanna hear it, or they just want to stare at me like a freakshow." She shuffled her hind legs and turned to look at him. "You're different, though."

Erase nodded back at her. "I live by deduction. If we can figure out a pattern or trend, then we can do something about it. If there is no pattern, then it's all a big coincidence and you can stop worrying about it completely. Either way, it's better than not knowing."

"Patterns and trends, huh?" she said. "Well a lot of them seem to involve ice cream. Carriages, too, but that's kind of a given. Everypony in Canterlot owns a carriage."

"I don't own a carriage. I walk everywhere."

"Really? Is it because of your crazy brain problem?"

"I just like walking. No matter how long it takes, it doesn't bother me. I just start walking and then all of a sudden I'm there."

"What about waiting in long lines?" Rewind said. "Does that bother you?"

"What do you mean by 'long'?"

Rewind shrugged. "I mean long. What else do I mean?"

"Long can mean two things. It can mean a long time or a long distance. If I wait in a line that takes a very long time, or that moves very slowly, I don't even notice it. But if I get into a line that has a large number of ponies, snaking back and forth, I get a little agitated... it seems long to me, even if it isn't."

Rewind turned to look at him, ignoring her sparkler. "You can't tell time, can you?"

"That's correct."

"Do you know what time is?"

He glanced back at her. "Do you?"

"I'm serious."

"So am I. I dare you to try and explain the idea of time without actually using the word time. Or words that denote a unit or passage of time, like 'minute' or 'earlier'."

"Time is... the amount of..." Rewind clenched her teeth and rolled her eyes. "The amount of... stuff... that happens. Between... other stuff."

"So 'time' is the same as 'distance'?"

"No." Her eyes widened. "Wait... maybe it is."

He smiled at her.

"Well, what if somepony tells you the time? What then?"

"What if I told you it was your birthday yesterday, and you got a lot of presents, and you were very happy? Would that be just as good as actually having a birthday?"

She scowled at him. "No. But maybe if you had somepony follow you around and tell you the time, it might make things easier for you."

"It might help a little. But all I know about nine o'clock is that it comes after eight and before ten." He stopped by a street corner, glanced left and right, and crossed the road. "To me, it's just a list of numbers with nothing in between. I'm good with lists."

"What about nine-thirty?"

"Makes no difference. It goes on the list, right between nine and ten."

"But it's half as long as nine. It takes half as long to get there."

He looked back at her. "What kind of 'long' do you mean?"

Rewind stared back at him. She looked back at her sparkler, just as the last few spritzs of light flickered out. "That's messed up."

"Time isn't real anyways," he said. "It's just a sequence of events... a list of things. There's nothing in between those things. Ponies just use time as a way of measuring all the nothing between something."

"But if it weren't for time, everything would happen all at once. How could somepony live like that?"

Erase continued walking, quietly. Rewind bit her lip and watched the back of his head.

"Is that what it feels like? Everything that's ever happened to you... it happens all at once, all jumbled up and out of order?"

"Happened," he said. "It all happened all at once. The older you get, the more stuff you know. The more stuff you know, the smarter you get. But if there's too much stuff, it becomes harder to sort through it all. It makes it harder to use the stuff you really need. Most ponies forget all the stuff they don't need. But I can't forget."

"What about right now? You're doing stuff right now, aren't you?"

He shrugged. "There is no now. By the time we know something, it's already happened. All we have are memories."

"I could help you," she said. "I could follow you around, and tell you what's really happening."

"It wouldn't work."

"Why not? Why?"

He stopped walking and carefully set Rewind on the sidewalk. "We're here."

Rewind looked up at the huge, rectangular apartment building. The whole front wall was made up of balconies and windows arranged in a curious geometric pattern. The sign across the front of the building, build directly over the three sets of double-sided doors, read simply "Lieu Vague" in large, block letters.

"This is your home?"

"My apartment, yes. The government provides it free of charge, as part of my employment contract. They pay for all my living expenses too. It's a lot of paperwork, but I don't mind."

Rewind stared at the row of front doors. Glass and steel. Concrete and stone. She looked at the other nearby buildings, then glanced down each end of the main road. She looked up at the sun, already two-thirds through it's usual path.

She looked up at Erase. "Aren't you going to tell me to hurry up?"

"What's 'hurry'?"

"It's doing stuff faster. Which is doing the same thing, but in less time. And time isn't real. Right. Sorry." She looked down at her hooves. "This is gonna take some getting used to."

"It takes as long as it takes."

"That's dumb," she said. "It's just a way of saying the same thing over again." She lowered her voice, affecting a mature tone. "You gotta grow up before you get older. We'll get there when we get there. Because that's how it is."

"It's called a tautology: a unique individual, an unexpected surprise, a novel invention, past experience, positive improvement--"

She pointed up at him. "How much does a pound of feathers weigh?"

He nodded. "How far is a hundred miles?"

"I don't want to go inside," she said.

"Why not? I have a room set aside for you. Don't you want to see it?"

"I've been adopted eight times before. Three of them died at the ice cream place, or on the way to the ice cream place. All the others died before we even got home."


"So... this is your home." She pointed at the apartment building. "If we cross that street, that's where you're probably gonna die."

They stared at the smoothly paved street in front of them, at a point roughly halfway across.

Rewind looked up at him. "Are you sure you wanna do this?"

"I cross this street every day. Several times, in fact. Nothing bad has ever happened to me on this street."

"Yeah, but this is different. It's me."


Rewind ran in a little circle around him, her tiny hooves clicking against the sidewalk. "But it's your whole entire life we're talking about! Aren't you worried about what would happen if you died in the middle of a street, right there, for no reason at all?"

"That's... not impossible, but it is very unlikely."

She pointed a hoof at him "To you, maybe, but to me it happens every single time. It's a sure thing."

"Crossing the street will only... well, strictly speaking, I'm not sure how long it takes to cross the street. But I do know it's a very trivial activity, and that it's extremely unlikely for anything significant to happen in between."

She stamped a hoof. "But it's not about time! What if crossing the street is the thing that makes it happen? It won't matter how long it takes."

Erase glanced back over his shoulder. "Do you think we should annul the adoption? Take you back to the orphanage?"

"No. I don't want that."

"Then should we go inside and show you to your room?"

"I don't want that either." She pawed at the sidewalk. "Do you think... maybe... we could just stay here?"

Erase's brow furrowed. "Here?"

"Yeah. We could just live right here on the sidewalk from now on. You wouldn't have to die, and I wouldn't have to go back to the orphanage. We could just stand here. Forever."

"It wouldn't work," he said. "I can't comprehend the passage of time, so the idea of 'forever' is meaningless to me."

"That means it wouldn't bother you. You could just stand here forever, and you'd never get bored.."

"I might get hungry or tired," he said. "But even if we could stay here or the rest of our lives, I wouldn't remember it as anything more than a single thing we did together. It would be meaningless."

Rewind's ears drooped. "Oh."

He pointed across the street. "Conversely, if I die while crossing the street with you, it doesn't matter how brief the moment is. I'll remember it just as perfectly as everything else that's ever happened to me."

She looked up at him. Her ears perked up slightly. "Really?"

He stepped sideways, right next to her. "Don't think of it as time. Try think of it as distance."

"Whaddya mean?"

"That's how I cope: I try to think of 'time' as 'distance'. When I walk to work, I try to remember the landmarks." He pointed at the road. "If we cross that road together, and I die halfway across, then it means that I spent the rest of my entire life with you. Which is what I promised to do anyways when I adopted you."

Rewind stared at the edge of the road, just under the lip of the sidewalk.

"So if this is the last thing you ever do... then it'll be your last memory."

"I suppose so."

"And if this is your last memory, it'll seem real to you. We'll be crossing this street, together, forever."

He opened his mouth to speak, but paused to stroke his chin first. "I suppose so. I'm not sure what that would feel like."

Rewind nudged her nose against the side of his knee, then stepped out into the street. "Come on. Maybe things'll go differently if I'm the one bringing you home."

Erase glanced left and right, then followed after her. They reached the middle of the road in--what seemed to him, at least--no time at all.

Comments ( 57 )
Author Interviewer

Adding more chapters? That's unexpected! I'll definitely keep an eye out for them, because I didn't want to dislike this in the writeoff.

Unexpected? Really? I'm perfectly content to end my stories abruptly, in ways that frustrate the reader... but in this case, I really do have a ton more ideas. I swear I'm not just wussing out. :twilightsheepish:

Also. I think you were pretty much right about the "lots of dialogue" comment you made during the judging phase: those scenes serve multiple purposes, but heavy dialogue is heavy dialogue regardless. If I'd had more than 72 hours, I would have gone down a different path.

Ah, well. I'm still very happy with the final results.

DuncanR won the /fic/ write-off. Surprise, surprise.
Not that you didn't deserve it, though.

Author Interviewer

If I'd had more than 72 hours, I'd have done better too. :) But that's half the fun of a writeoff.


Hollleeeeyyyy shit. This...

Is DAMN good. I shall follow and read with great GUSTO!

~Skeeter The Lurker

Well, then. There's a unique premise, and thus far the execution has more than lived up to it! You have my attention; please continue. :twilightsmile:

25 update notices in one day... yow.

You know, sometimes I think the time constraint is what makes it good: a deadline is a marvelous motivator. If I had more time, I'd probably just flounder about randomly, refusing to take risks.

Things will certainly continue... but this is one of those rare cases where I have ideas on where to take it, but don't have a clear ending in mind. Personally, I can't wait to find out how it ends. :twilightsmile:

2721706 Ooh, that's always fun! Then it's as much an adventure writing the story as it is reading it! :pinkiehappy:

I've heard that some writers plan everything out completely, while others discover along the way. I tend to use a mixture of both. I'll have to make a blog post about it sometime.

Either way, though, you're right... it is a ton of fun. :rainbowdetermined2:

2721730 Same here; one of my stories is completely planned out, while on another, I've worked out the broad strokes but have yet to work out the details. A third is little more than a premise and some characters, waiting to see where I take them.
And I'd be interested in seeing that blog post when you write it! :twilightsmile:


I'm... I... OMG I'm speechless! This is so amazing! I think I might have to get up and stomp around a little to get out the shear tension which this has placed on me. You know how curiosity killed the cat? We'll you've just weaponized it! Duncan, you're so damn good! I want my writing to be like yours SO BADLY! But I'm uniquely individual and you're you and awesome. :raritydespair:

Is this condition a real thing? You made it seem so fricken REAL. I wanna go ask Erase questions and know more and... and... argg :twilightangry2: I'm gonna have to go do some Googling after this mini tantrum. You can't possibly have made up anything that out there! (no offense)

Rewind and Erase go so perfectly together! and the mystery of the deaths... Best plot device ever! I can see where the story is going, and I want it to get there so badly! (remember to feed me bite sized pieces.)

They'll eventually come to love each other, Rewind getting over her fear of THE COINCIDENCES and Erase finding someone to share his moment with. I can even envision a sequel! One where, Erase falls in love and Rewind has to help him get over jitters or something.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go cry in a corner. because Awesomeness Overload, why do you ask?

She frowned. "This is so wierd... I feel like a rich old lady blabbing on about all her ex-husbands."

"I wouldn't work."
I believe you mean it

I was referred to this story by NTSTS.
This, is a truly excellent story. I wouldn't mind seeing more chapters and finding out what happens to Rewind and Erase, but I would also be fine with it ending here. There's something about endings that lack the closure that so many people want to see. It used to bother me to no end but I've come to really appreciate it. If used properly I think it makes the story just that much better.
Excellent job, I will definitely be checking out more of your stuff.

>Is this condition a real thing? You made it seem so fricken REAL.
That's a writer's job in a nutshell: to make it seem real. :rainbowdetermined2:

It's a made-up condition, as far as I know, but it's based on a combination of real-world conditions. One thing I regret is that I didn't specify in the story that Erase's condition is not fully understood by Equestrian psychiatry. That's why he doesn't have any treatments for it right now.

>You can't possibly have made up anything that out there! (no offense)
You know what the difference is between fiction and reality?
Fiction has to make sense. :rainbowlaugh:

>They'll eventually come to love each other, Rewind getting over her fear of THE COINCIDENCES and Erase finding someone to share his moment with. I can even envision a sequel! One where, Erase falls in love and Rewind has to help him get over jitters or something.
I'm glad you enjoyed it, but... you did see the Tragedy tag, didn't you? :rainbowhuh:

Good catch. Some days, three proofreadings just isn't enough.

I'm glad you enjoyed it!
>I was referred to this story by NTSTS.
This is wierd and new and kind of exciting: a lot of people seem to be reccomending my stories these days, and readers who like one storyseem to be checking out the rest of my library. Maybe I've just been around long enough to settle in... I'll have to do some research and make a blog post about it.

>There's something about endings that lack the closure that so many people want to see. It used to bother me to no end but I've come to really appreciate it. If used properly I think it makes the story just that much better.
You know, this sort of thing is easier to get away with when you're writing shorter fiction. readers kind of know that a short story can't build up quite as much setting and backstory. Sometimes, you want to frustrate your readers: a cheerful, sappy ending tells the reader that things are complete, and robs them of any desire to ponder what really happened.

You gotta remember to give the reader what they want. Not what they think they want.

>Read Funes the Memorius?
I have now. Thank you for the reccomendation: it was a very good read.

>This is eerily like my own life. I don't check the shower curtain for water to figure out whether I already showered or not. I check the towel. Water on the shower curtain might mean I had just been warming up the water.
My biggest concern for this story was the characters (it always is, actually): I wanted them to seem alien and unusual, but at the same time feasable and sympathetic. A lot of Erase's introductory scene was designed to show us his coping mechanisms, without fully explaining what he's coping with.

It's a little unsettling how easy it was.

Heh. The funny thing is, the premise of the story has nothing to do with senseless loss or mental illness: it's really about two flawed and broken ponies that might just be perfectly suited for each other.

DuncanR, you do realize that it's still marked as incomplete right?

Good lord 'n butter... twenty-one "likes" in a single day? I guess it's the weekend, but even so. Wow.

It might have something to do with the fact that I want to write more chapters someday. :ajsmug:

Well, I still think the story is incredible the way it ends there, leave the reader to think about the possibilities of endings

I love it!
But that tragedy tag..... that tells me that something bad happened after/as they were crossing the street...
That actually makes me sad, and I LOVE Tragedy fics.
You've successfully made me not want a tragedy tag on a story.
Sad face.

"It has fireworks on it. It comes with a complementary clown."

And that's when I hit the Favorite button, officer. It was fully justified favoricide....

Yes, write more. Time is immaterial, these two are just meant for each other.

Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that this story was FEATURED ON EQD! Woo!

A big welcome to any and all visitors, wherever you come from! Please let me know what you think in the comments, good and bad. And if you like it, please check out my other stories too: You won't be disappointed!

This is lovely:

It would be pretty easy to "de-Ponify," too, and send it out to the science-fiction magazines. Very well done. Oh, and--

"I might get hungry or tired," he said. "But even if we could stay here or the rest of our lives,...

Stay here for the rest of our lives, I find myself thinking.


I assume this is what you were going for, but I'm having trouble understanding the fic. Maybe I'm not alone in just not being able to wrap my head around it. But hey, that means you accomplished something. ;)

I'm obviously not allowed to ask "what happened at the end?", but may I instead ask "Were your intentions always to let the readers interpret the ending? Or is there ONE definite ending in your mind that you simply won't share?"

No worries if you refuse to even answer that.

Well, f***.
I've seen a lot of ambiguous endings, but they rarely achieve the impact they were aiming for. This one did.

How do I even...

Everything aside from the its/it's confusion and the occasional derp was downright excellent. Everything. Characterization, events, plot, whatever. The style was crisp and strong, but what really shone were Erase and Rewind, as it should be. I dunno... I feel like I should attempt to be more intelligent with this, so as to differentiate between my appreciation for what is "good" and "very good" - perhaps it would suffice to say that I found this to be very good. Thank you for sharing - major kudos to what you've come up with here.

I'm pretty sure the end results of Rewind's introductory section would count as a tragedy.

"… Besides, it would be unethical to expect children to accept treats or favors from a complete stranger. If the treats or favors are offered by a nameless, faceless commercial organization instead of a nameless, faceless individual, the burden of social accountability is preserved."
"So it's okay for kids to accept candy from nameless, faceless commercial organizations?"
"Not intrinsically. But they are subjected to more rigorous laws and regulations than nameless faceless individuals."

Oh sweet stars I think I just had a critoral wordgasm.

In all seriousness, this is magnificent. Like, recommend-on-user-page magnificent, and for the same reason that My Little Pony itself is: you have taken a world which is a strange reflection of our own — at once familiar and foreign, full of sudden adventure and unexpected friendship, with characters we want to root for — and brought it to life. Rewind's plight is pretty cool — it would be enough to carry a story on its own — but the world in which Erase lives is downright fascinating. That sense of taking a tour of a genuinely alien world is a precious thing.

Looking forward to more from you!



I'mma repeat some of my comments here and wait until more chapters are released for new thoughts. Hope to see them soon!

The ending is very appropriate, because one thing that defines this story is that a lot of things seem to go somewhere and yet you never really see where they end. Threads arcing off into infinity, really. Will she ever see her friend Copper? Do they get home safely? What’s causing Rewind’s tragic life? Does Rewind help Erase cope? Do they build on this spark of affection that grew up between them? Does Erase try to find a mare? What ever DID happen to those TPS reports?
Erase is all right. He strikes me as not too far from a sociopath - I’m almost wondering if you meant to use that instead of schizophrenia. Of course, schizophrenia does not have to be accompanied by hallucinations, and at least some of his symptoms are coherent with the stated diagnoses. I have some familiarity with hyperthymesia cases, and if I were to say any part of this needs to be changed, I would edit this to clarify it as autobiographical memory - usually starting somewhere later in life, at fourteen was the one case I can recall well enough to remember. Honestly, my greatest problem with him is that I don’t really know what he wants out of life. We spend time in his head, but it’s not clear why he wants a daughter or why he does anything for her. All I can imply is that he’s lonely and wants someone to care for. And, you know? That’s pretty admirable. Probably makes it a good thing you didn’t choose sociopathy then, actually.
Rewind is a treasure. Burned one too many times and all calloused over. She’s afraid of one thing: trusting others, because getting attached means seeing them get hurt. Clever and funny, she provides most of the humor and entertainment in the fic. Also strangely immortal. I’d say more about her, but, really, she stands on her own - for all that she sits on somepony’s back for a goodly part of it.

So two things I think really kind of put me off this one:
1) Setting. This feels like Equestria, but I have to wonder if you’ve set this at some point in the future. I’m not sure why you used the setting elements you did, either, since they ultimately had nothing to do with the fic itself.
2) Emotion. Aside from Rewind’s resignation, this fic is about as dry and passionless as Granny Smith’s love life. Now, there is something to be said for being subtle, and, certainly, at the end we got some genuine affection and uncertainty, but your peculiar choice of duotagonist has left me feeling like I just bit into an ice cream sundae, only to find dry concrete underneath. At the least, that means that my family isn’t about to be blown up by a meteor.

So, I finally got around to finishing this.

The character interactions in this are beautiful. There isn't much of a plot, and parts of his condition just seemed ridiculous. I suppose his time difficulties are akin to that moment where you can't remember if you locked your door this morning if you're remembering locking the door yesterday morning, but then wouldn't having a kid he's never known before shake him out of it? He can't be confusing this time walking down the street with other times walking down the street, because every other time he's been walking down the street he didn't have his new daughter beside him.

All of that pales, though, because the dialogue between them is just so sweet, but somehow comes off as natural. A cute, cheeky kid with a troubled past, I should have wanted to smack her, but somehow I wanted to hug them both.

Dam. I feel nothing right now absolutely nothing. As I was reading it I felt confusion, shock, joy, sadness and I even laughed once or twice, but now that I've reached the end I feel empty.

Good work.

I can see why it won first place in the write-off. You have crafted a phenomenal story and you are on a really good path as a writer. You keep improving like this and you will surely fulfill your dream. :twilightsmile:

Now as for the errors I found...

Chapter 2

desert bowls


What did the weather mare saying?


up form his clipboard


Chapter 3

Erase looked up as the matron of Canterlot's "Little Treasures" orphanage waved at her


"Who's fault is it, then?


This is so werd...


I used to talk to my thearapist about it


we could stay here or the rest of our lives


Try think of it as distance.

Try to think

So this was all. It's a reasonable number of errors given the amount of time you had at your disposal.
I am eagerly awaiting for more! :ajsmug:

"The most important thing of all," she said, "is for the two of you to meet each other for the first time and find out of you're a good match!

Should "of you're a good match" be "if you're a good match"? It would make more sense that way.

She leaned closer and whispered. "They always die, and it's never my fault.

You're missing a closing quote mark on this paragraph.

He frowned at her. "Who's fault is it, then?"

"Who's" should be "whose", since replacing it with "who is" or "who has" doesn't make sense in context.

"I used to talk to my thearapist about it all the time, but we eventually decided there wasn't much more to be done about it.

"Thearapist" is traditionally spelled "therapist".

The sign across the front of the building, build directly over the three sets of double-sided doors, read simply "Lieu Vague" in large, block letters.

"Build" should be "built" to match tense with the rest of the sentence.

She looked up at the sun, already two-thirds through it's usual path.

"It's" should be "its", since replacing it with "it is" doesn't make sense in context.

Aaaand finished. Kudos, sir -- this latest chapter really grabbed me. The concepts you're dealing with here are fascinating, and I'm a sucker for analytical discussion of everyday situations. Your characters, while merely adequate on their own, really pop when you put them together. I'll definitely look forward to seeing more of this, if such a thing should occur. Keep up the good work!

Thank you for the story! :twilightsmile:
It is very warm despite tragic circumstances.
I hope it will have happy ending if you decide to continue it.

But... it's not over, riiiiight?

I honestly wish there was more of this. The characters are amazingly well made and the situation is heartwarming. Erase is one of the most interesting lunatics I've ever heard of and Rewind sounds like the perfect companion for him. You have a great way of telling a story and a fantastic sense for characterization.

In the second sentence of this chapter, Erase seems to experience a split-second gender change. Just FYI.

"Well at least I won't get too attached to you."

What a little smartass! :rainbowlaugh:

"There is no now. By the time we know something, it's already happened. All we have are memories."

"If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present."

It's clear by the time one starts reading the second chapter that the issues plaguing these two will cancel each other out when they meet (or that their problems will help the individuals meet each other halfway, making them a functioning pair). At least I hope that's what's going to happen; everyone in the comments seems to think Erase died after the end, but with things established that granted them both closure.

Hey there mate, just thought you should know that this story is incredible.

But is will it ever continue? Or are we to be left in the dark forbidden waists of false hope?

I don't mean to be rude, but I just feel that it's an awful waste to such a great, no, fantastic story.

I have some experience with due process."

That sounds very ... MiB. (PiB? Whatever.)

"You have three references from work, but only two from friends."

After last chapter, I'm surprised he has two friends. Was the mare in the elevator the other one?

"You have absolutely no sense of humor, do you?"

"I keep it in a jar at work, generally. It's a huge hassle having to check it at the front door every time, so."

:rainbowlaugh: Oh, well played, sirrah! Well played indeed.

"I'm a higher functioning lunatic,"

I need to find the opportunity to use that line.

"So it's okay for kids to accept candy from nameless, faceless commercial organizations?"

"Not intrinsically. But they are subjected to more rigorous laws and regulations than nameless faceless individuals."

:rainbowlaugh: I'm dying here. My subordinates are staring at me.

"Lieu Vague"

*snerk* :ajsmug:

This is just such good stuff...

Really good stuff here. I love the characters, even if Rewind seems a little too intellectually mature for her age, I think it works in a story like this. The way you portray Erase's condition is very well done too. It "itches" my brain in just the right ways when trying to properly comprehend it.

The engine of this story is dialogue, so there's no fault in it being comprised primarily of said driving force. Pulp Fiction was 95% talking.


The eponymous characters aren't so much three-dimensional beings as stand-ins for the concepts they represent. They're index cards. This is fine. I believe the character-driven narrative structure has its place, but isn't the encompassing blueprint for every story. Was WW2 compelling because people were in it, or because it was on such a grand scale against such a nefarious foe? Exactly.

In this scenario, the analysis of the now and how the rather static characters fit into it as they are, et al, is the centerpiece. That's great. It's very "Hills Like White Elephants", which is refreshing.

The prose was adequately athletic. Their over-analytical banter got a little grating, but the closing was smooth, and the demure lead-up was artful.

A good read.

I absolutely love this. The concept and the execution are both wonderful!

This is the first time I've read a story on FimFiction and immediately wanted to read it again. Amazing work. I may not remember everything, but I certainly won't be able to forget this story.

I quite liked that. Though the ending left me wanting more. As a side note, listening to 4everfreebrony's Equine dreams and stranger things album while I read this.

If I could have any negative comment regarding this fic, it would be that there's nothing pony about it. It's as if you could take these 3 chapters, substitute a few words, and the story could be set in Seattle or where-ever. Putting this story in Equestria feels like an extraneous maneuver.

Does it matter to me? No. But maybe it mattered to those 2 ppl who downvoted the story, who knows.

Very interesting story.

Complete? :trixieshiftright:

I had it listed as incomplete for the longest time. Ahh, the fine art of waffling! But in the end, I decided this was a self-contained story. Any continuation would end up being a proper sequel: not just another chapter tacked on.

Not, uh... not that that'll ever... y'know. Happen. I mean, of... of course not. Heh! :twilightblush:

I've seen this recommended around a few times, and finally got around to reading it. Really glad I did. This was very engaging throughout, and I loved how the two main characters played off each other.

*Sheds a Single Tear*

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