• Published 16th Jun 2015
  • 388 Views, 30 Comments

To Be the Candle - Loganberry



Silver Buck spends his days around mirrors. That's why he hates them.

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Or the Mirror that Reflects It

Pick a pony at random and ask her to describe a broken mirror. A bit to a cent says she’ll talk about its shattered glass, its fractured reflections, the seven years’ bad luck it brings... all the things you’ll have heard a million times before. And indeed, those words would have painted an accurate picture once, back in the storybook days.

Not any more. Not when even cheap mass-produced mirrors get a hefty measure of magical strengthening as a matter of course.

I should know: I’ve tested a whole lot of mirrors in the last few years. It’s what I do.

I don’t even want to think about how many of them I’ve attempted to break in that time, but it’s going to be a pretty large number. As my old boss used to say, it’s a job that involves a whole lot of bucking. I just never thought it would be quite as much as this. It’s ironic, really: most ponies, even today, will go out of their way to avoid breaking a mirror, yet here I am coming at things from the opposite side all day long.

If you’d told me as a foal that I’d be spending my adulthood trying to smash the things, I’d have been utterly ecstatic. I was one of those colts, you see: I was always building enormous towers and fairytale castles with my piles of wooden blocks like my friends, but in my case I was doing it with a rather different ultimate aim: that of seeing them tumble to the floor in a great clattering roar. Way back in second grade, I told my teacher I wanted to work in demolition.

I guess I got something like that wish in the end.

Ponies who knew what I do with my time might think that my life must be solitary and lonely, and they’d be right. My life is a very lonely one; the loneliness tears at me when I wake up each day and I remember who I am and what I must do... and why.

But it’s also true, I guess, that you’re never quite alone with a mirror. Your reflection is always there with you, parallelling your movements, almost but not quite your twin. As I said, you just don’t expect mirror glass to smash nowadays, but there’s always a tiny thought in the back of my mind: would I, should I, do I have the right to, destroy the pony who is more like me than anypony else in the world, just to get what I want?

But that’s what I try to do, bucking at the glass with all the strength I can muster all day and every day, far into the night until exhaustion overtakes me and I can no longer keep my eyes open.

I don’t do it because I like it – although I’ll admit that I do sometimes feel a certain twisted satisfaction in my being a stallion who poured his young adulthood into learning the subtle secrets of mirror construction, yet now using those self-same skills to try to destroy what somepony else herself might have crafted. I suppose it’s what I was always fated to do—my destiny, though you wouldn’t know to look at my simple, rippled cutie mark.

Though I didn’t know it back then, it’s been my destiny ever since a certain colt on the verge of adulthood started to work for Looking Glass all those years ago.

Yes, that Looking Glass, the one you’ve all probably read about – or, more likely, slept through college lectures about. Who do you think it was that told me all that stuff I mentioned a minute ago about the old days in the mirror business? In the twilight of his days, I was his apprentice, the only one he ever took on – well, if you don’t count a couple of temporary assistants for some of the really big jobs like the Hall of Mirrors in Canterlot Castle.

Looking Glass was getting on in years by then, and couldn’t shin up ladders as he once had, so a young, strong filly or colt who wanted to make a few bits to put by for a rainy day or to buy Hearth’s Warming gifts was always welcome to join the team for a little while. But I was something else. I was the colt he chose to hold his secrets close—to take a piece of him with me after he was gone.

And when those seven long years at the hooves of my master were done and I knew – or thought I knew – all there was to know about the mirror business, I went into that same business for myself.

I’ve never really had all that much imagination, so I just used my own name: Silver Buck Mirror Testing Services was a half-decent pun, I suppose, given that the coins really were made of silver in those days. Mind you, I kept the name even when Princess Celestia decreed the shift to bronze coinage a year or two later. “Bronze Buck” sounded like a slightly dodgy Iron Pony competitor, so wasn’t exactly ideal; I decided to stick with the name ponies had already come to know and respect.

As I say, though, most mirrors these days are almost unbreakable without cancelling the enchantment first. Do that and you have... well, just a piece of glass, but one in which you will never again see a reflection. The spell removes all magic from the mirror and requires intense concentration for an extended period. Not many unicorns are powerful enough to do mirror magic, not even Looking Glass. Other than the princesses, I’ve only met a couple in all my long years.

One of those I came to know quite well became a princess later on, while there was another who probably could have done the same, had she followed a truer path. Oddly enough, the tracks of those two ponies’ lives crossed because of mirrors. That story is a remarkable one indeed, but it is not one to be told now.

Perhaps one day I will be able to spend time telling stories for fun once more.

But to return to my own sad tale... there are just a few ponies who like to keep a little collection of antique mirrors around the place for one reason or another. In some cases, they’re valued family heirlooms; in others, they have some sentimental value; in still others, the mirrors’ owners just have a bit of a thing for old and interesting knick-knacks.

Those mirrors are very rare in Equestria now, and with every passing year they become more so. In theory more could be made, but the type of pony who owns these is uninterested in modern materials, and in any case the skills of non-magical strengthening are almost forgotten. Even I only know bits and pieces from the stories Looking Glass occasionally told of his own youth, far back in the days when one princess alone ruled the realm.

It’s more than likely that nopony will ever again make a mirror in the true Old Equestrian style.

And all of that makes my quest more pressing with every passing year, too. I’ve almost forgotten now what it was like to share each day with other ponies, laughing and loving and living together. My only hope of release from my cursed existence, my only hope for a return to a normal life where I can feel the warmth of the sun and the caress of the rain, is to make my way to one of the ever-diminishing number of those ancient mirrors, when the other face is close, and smash it to pieces myself.

I haven’t managed it yet; perhaps I never will. If not, my future will hold nothing but this endless round of searching, searching, searching, yet never finding.

But I shall not cease my work, not ever, not till the day I lay down my tools for the last time and surrender myself to the other unknown: the unknown of the Great Beyond.

So I buck and I buck and I buck for hour after hour after hour. Occasionally I use my forelegs or my head or even my rump for the sake of making some small change to my tedious routine, but for the most part I buck.

It’s not as if there’s anything much else for me to do in the strange world I now inhabit, trapped between what is real and what is not. In an existence filled with mirrors, how can I even be sure that my whole life isn’t some grand illusion?

But if it is an illusion, if the way out I’m looking for doesn’t exist, then is there any longer any reason for me to exist? I cannot let my thoughts turn that way: to venture down that road would bring me closer to the end, and the end is a place that I will not willingly seek out.

So I go on.

I have to believe that one day, however many more mirrors I must find and examine and buck, I will discover the flaw I’m looking for; that from the shards of shattered glass I will be able to find the piece to make myself whole again.

If there’s anypony in this existence who has the power to have survived all these years in a mirrored dimension that, in truth, is nothing but a glinting prison with nowhere to hide from yourself, it is her. A unicorn who truly understands the tyranny of appearance, but who understands also that this tyranny has its rules and that those cannot be bucked. The mirror-world will not willingly give her up – it therefore falls to me to try to take her from it.

One day I will find my Sweetie – and on that day, I will bring her home.

Perhaps that day will be tomorrow.

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Comments ( 30 )

At first this seems like a meandering meditation on not very much... but then that ending hits, and ironically enough, all of the pieces come together. Well done.

6100451

At first this seems like a meandering meditation on not very much

Of course! I'm good at those! But seriously, thank you for giving this a look and I'm glad you found the ending satisfying. This genre is a bit of a leap into the unknown for me, so feedback is even more welcome than it usually is. :twilightsmile:

I really enjoyed this, but I think that I did not really catch the deeper meaning, or that meaning has lost its way somewhere inside my head or became fuzzy, because I'm not sure I completely understand it. Nonetheless, this is still quite beautiful.

Stories with deeper meanings. Stories like these. I liked this. I'm sure if I completely understand it, but I like it.

USS Enterprise NCC 1701

6100786 6102358 It's deliberate that not everything is explained, so that's not necessarily a problem. Depends: if you want to ask about something specific, go ahead. Otherwise, I'm just grateful you liked the story.

6102490 Huh? Where's the Star Trek relevance to this story?

6103488

You wrote a story with a word-length of 1,701 words. Surely, it is deliberate.

6103877 Heh, I didn't even notice that! But no, not deliberate. It was actually 1,698 words before a couple of last-minute changes I made just before submitting. :rainbowwild:

Uhhh... yep. I'm definitely missing something.

Anyway, two quick notes:

the seven years’ bad luck it brings...

Not possessive. Drop the apostrophe.

I was the colt he chose to hold his secrets close; to take a piece of him with me after he was gone.

Semicolon abuse! This should be a dash.

6110658 Sweetie (not necessarily Belle, but...) has got herself trapped in the mirror world. Silver Buck is trying to rescue her. The stuff about mirror enchantment explains why he can't just get a powerful unicorn to magic her out. That's it, really. Nobody would call this a great work, but it was interesting to write.

Thanks for the notes! Those things are always welcome. I'm going to argue with one of them, though!

Not possessive. Drop the apostrophe.

Why? I wouldn't write "...and the year bad luck it brings" if the period were one year. I'd write "...and the year's bad luck it brings". I'd certainly say that. (Okay, I could rephrase to "...and the seven years of bad luck it brings" and avoid the problem altogether. Maybe I'll do that.)

Semicolon abuse! This should be a dash.

No argument here, though. After I've edited it, I'm going to slink away and write that out 100 times. :twilightblush:

6110826 Annoyingly, I even looked that up as it looked odd at a glance.

Having done a much more exhaustive search, it turns out that it does count as possessive.

Objection sustained!

I love this story! It's short, but it definitely hits a point. I'm a sucker for philosophical stuff, so I was already going to favorite it. I didn't expect that ending, though. So awesome...

6111301 Thank you for reading! Glad you enjoyed it. :twilightsmile:

Wow, this was really good! but it was sad at the same time.
It leaves me a feeling of wanting to know more.

6124273 Thank you for reading it! That's the feeling I was hoping you'd be left with -- I deliberately didn't explain everything in terms of background etc. :twilightsmile:

At first it just seemed like the simple ramblings of a pony. But upon reading the ending, everything made sense.
Bravo, good sir.

6135033 Thanks! Glad it all came together for you. :)

Okay, I am really impressed by this! I thought that, whether intentional or otherwise, there were any number of little aspects of this that could be a lot deeper than they first appear. (For example, Silver Buck constantly trying to destroy the mirror and therefore his reflection, as if he doesn't like what he sees and what his life has become - and has to do that to save Sweetie. Or maybe I'm just a nutbar.) I do hope that the Sweetie in question isn't Sweetie Belle, but I do like the way that it doesn't make that clear one way or the other. After all, we know she has magic, which (assuming this was set in the future or near future) could land her in some serious trouble if she'd been testing it out on a mirror.

I did think at first, while reading this, (always to be recommended when writing a little review or comment :raritywink: ) that it was actually Silver Buck who was trapped on the wrong side of the mirror. Hence his comments about feeling trapped and alone. But then there is that twist at the end, when in fact it suggests it isn't him, but Sweetie, who is trapped and he feels equally alone and trapped because he can't get her back and presumably doesn't even know if she's still alive on the other side, or where she could be by now.

I'm guessing that the pony he mentions, who became a princess, is Twilight, but I'm not quite sure who the other one is - the pony that could have become a princess "had she followed a truer path" - unless that was maybe Chrysalis? (Or Big Mac. :derpytongue2: )

All in all, really impressive work! :pinkiehappy:

6232765 You're right, the identity of "Sweetie" is left deliberately vague. It could be Sweetie Belle -- after all, she could have learned about "the tyranny of appearance" from Rarity -- but then again it could be another pony entirely. I wrote this in an almost fairytale way at times, and in fairy tales timelines can be bent and curved in ways that don't quite match a real-world calendar. Which leads me to:

I'm not quite sure who the other one is

Silver Buck is referring to Sunset Shimmer. The comment about how her and Twilight's lives "crossed because of mirrors" is the clue there.

Finally, thank you very much! :pinkiehappy:

6233196 Ahh, yes of course. I should have thought of Sunset Shimmer, but I had only been thinking of characters that had been in the main show episodes. So I'd completely forgotten about her. That makes good sense though. :pinkiegasp:

I hadn't twigged it was Sunset Shimmer, but I too was beginning to think he was stuck on the other side!
I've never watched the film so I guess that didn't help!

6300058

I too was beginning to think he was stuck on the other side!

That bit was deliberate misdirection on my part, so I'm glad it worked! Sunset Shimmer... her character evolves over the two films, so it's tricky to give a one-sentence explanation -- but the "had she followed a truer path" bit refers to the fact that long ago she was Celestia's pupil herself, but she went to the dark side rather than doing a Twilight. And mirrors are important in both films.

Thank you very much for reading! :twilightsmile:

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

The ending baffled me a bit, but I sense there's no deeper meaning than a reason why he is where he is, yes?

6857430 Pretty much. This isn't my usual type of fic, but I thought it would be interesting to experiment a little. Who the narrator's "Sweetie" might be -- beyond a unicorn -- is deliberately left up to the reader. However, there was a faint echo of Lilith from Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad in my mind as being involved somewhere in this particular world. Thanks for reading!

Yes, perhaps he will one day find a mirror that breaks under his hooves.

And perhaps someday he will buck, and meet no resistance. Perhaps there will be a ripple, and a stumble.

Perhaps he will find her.

6893096 Perhaps. Or perhaps he will end up in a high school full of weird bipeds. :rainbowlaugh:

I´m back again^^ This reading was much better, may I ask you where are you from? (Because of your accent ;) )
The story itself was interesting and had something depressing, until he at the end revealed why he had chosen this monotonous life.
I had not expected that^^

7006949 Thanks! I did this reading much more recently than the Kicking Back one, so I've learnt a little more about how to speak in them.

may I ask you where are you from?

I'm from England. To be more precise, about 20 miles away from Birmingham. :twilightsmile:

7007265 Hm, England, okay. It´s a nice accent to listen to :raritywink:

What would you say, did he choose this entire job and his apprenticeship because of Sweeties accident, or had he already been working in that business when it had happened?

7007458 His backstory explains why he can do this. What happened to Sweetie explains why he does it now.

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