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Bad Horse

Beneath the microscope, you contain galaxies.


Princess Celestia writes a report to her teacher on what she has learned about mortality.

On EQD Sept. 7, 2012.
Hungarian translation by Shidotoku
Spanish translation by SPANIARD KIWI

Chapters (1)
Comments ( 298 )

The paragraph about the dragon is a summary of The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant by Nick Bostrom. Thanks to Antsan, blackpaws, and GhostOfHeraclitus for scolding me for giving up on this story, and to Pre-reader 63.546 for giving an incredibly detailed review.

Re-reading it now, I see nothing but the awkward parts: The thoughts that meander to the side instead of moving towards the goal, the dubious interpretation of how immortals think, the over-long flashback, the inadequate explanation of Titania's agenda, the odd scene with Luna. I suspect this is one of those stories I'll be embarrassed by ten years from now. But that's future Bad Horse's problem!

I have a completely-different, Twilight-POV story in the "Celestia at Twilight's deathbed" genre in No Regrets.

Why the heck is this a one shot? Please continue this.

Great read. Really makes you feel for Celestia, as immortality is no laughing matter here. Though it's kind of selfish to transfer that gift/curse to Twilight...


What more could be said? I honestly believe adding more to this would destroy it.

Though, of course, it's up to the author in the end... :twilightsmile:

Interesting, i though it will be something other but still very good one shot
In other way its cruel, if Twilight will be immortal she will see same thing like Celestia and i mean outlive your friends and family

Seems like Celestia can't handle losing Twilight and is using logic to convince herself that it isn't completely about her feelings with her suicide note.
There are a few Twilight takes over as a Princess but this interaction and reasoning is the first I could actually see happening in canon.

A fascinating and unique story that, in its own way, asks more questions than it answers. Who are the Princesses really? What are these equations? Who is the Queen? It won't be answered, of course; this story stands best as a one-shot. However, it is a genuinely thought-provoking bit of writing that addresses the immortal's view of death in a way that I haven't seen done before on this site or even elsewhere (in fact, the only attempt I've seen before is Tolkein's attempt to describe the Elves view of human mortality).

A nice bit of work!

Oh hey, it's Bad Horse. Guess I know what I'll be reading next, since this story is assured success. And I just realized I wasn't watching you yet, time to correct that.

Right in the feels :3
Atleast in the way i'm reading it.

Damn. That ending.

At first I was like "Celestia, what the hell are you doing?". And then she explained her reasons and instead I was like "Celestia, why are you so goddamn right all the time?". I probably don't have to tell you this, but she is! She's totally motherfucking right. At best she's only ever going to understand how the world works, and be so very angry when it isn't fair. But Twilight Sparkle... despite what seems obvious, Twilight Sparkle does have faith, or at least a willing suspension of disbelief. She believes in the people who made things how they are. She believes not just in understanding, but in understanding everything, and being satisfied with the answers.

She's going to be a better student than Celestia ever was.

And then she's going to surpass her teacher... at which point there will probably be hell to pay.

But that's another story.

Ah, I've been waiting for this. It's a lovely affecting piece and it fits my sensibilities.

There isn't going to be a sequel, I know[1], but in my mind there is. It involves certain ponies out to find this Queen Titania with an aim to render manifest their displeasure at the state of affairs she brought about. Violence may be involved.

Oh, and I spy that it is in the featured box. Congratulations!

[1] For the best of reasons. It works best as it is -- sad, ambiguous and tense. More words would dilute it.

Alright. Okay.

*composes self*

I am a strong believer that immortality is a curse. Twilight would have to outlive the rest of her very best friends, which means watching them die. I doubt she could have lived with immortality for very long.

(Think about that sentence very carefully.)

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. :twilightsmile:

It's difficult to do a "letters" story well, yet you've done it here. Too often these letter / diary / journal stories are kneejerk kitsch which can barely contain the plotless manipulation they're about to attempt. It's worse when it's an Alternate Universe tale. Instead you've given us something concrete to hold onto while we see the letter unfold, and the hints you drop about background events are paced and placed perfectly - they fill in just enough backstory to keep us tantalized without taking away from the ongoing narrative. Very, very well done!

I liked this one, and I think you hit the right balance in terms of length. It didn't affect me emotionally as much as some of the other commenters here, but that's probably because it's my headcanon that Twilight could become omnipotent given enough time. And now she has all the time.

I find it interesting that Celestia thinks that Twilight would take the situation better than her; Twilight might be better at achieving emotional distance, but she's spent her life as a mortal Equestrian and she's not so cold as to dismiss the problems highlighted. Or maybe that was the plan all along.

The comparison of mortal coping mechanisms to a malevolent (or perhaps just indifferent) dragon was nice. I've heard a more general version involving people being hit on the head with sticks and manufacturing "benefits" of said head-hitting. The mind can be a silly thing.

Also, it's nice to see Celestia angry. Doesn't happen as often as it should.

Simply magnificent

Dammit Bad Horse! Stop writing all the time, you're stealing all the feature spots!

*fav and a thumbs up*

For this, and this alone, will I forgive Hasbro for not writing Celestia and Luna a more indepth backstory and leaving them as a kind of overpowered off screen ponies. It gives people the oportunity to give them the depth and feeling they truly deserve. Authors are permited to plumb the depths of these characters without having to rewrite official canon or step on anyone's preconcieved ideas. There is so much more an author can do with these two that you can't do with any of the main cast. I do understand that the main focus is on Celestia but you can always try for Luna's reaction when she reads Celestia's little note. I think that would make a great premise for the next one shot story. It could go along the lines of Celestia survives the transfer of her powers to Twilight, and how Twilight comes to terms with her not dieing but becoming Celestia's successor. We all know how Luna would react but it'd be interesting to see how Twilight would respond to not only the idea of being immortal but having to witness her beloved teacher succumb to the death that was meant for her. There could be a little of everything in it. Luna dealing with losing her sister to the sands of time, Twilight having to come to grips with eternity, and Celestia with her new, and short, life. With, of course, doing her best to get knocked up.

You have opened the door to something that could become a work of wonder and love or it could become a parasitical leech, sucking away your limited time on this earth. All you have to do is step through the door and find out. In the mean time have a moustachiod spike. :moustache:

Remember when "awesome" actually meant "inspiring awe"? This is truly awesome.

Transfer immortality to Twilight? Hell naw. :rainbowlaugh: You mad, Twilight? :twilightangry2:

My god... That was... Beautiful. I loved the way you wrote this. It added a depth and mystery to the story. Manly tears were shed right in the middle of class. I don't regret it :twilightsmile:

I can see where immortality would be a curse. But it's one I'd take without a second thought.

And I would do my best to enjoy every second of it. Life would be simpler, when you know, no matter how bad things are now, in 50 - 100 years it'll all blow over.

See, the problem isn't that life is so short. It's the fact that death is so much longer.

>>They speak of being reunited with their loved ones in the dragon's belly.>>

And thus vore is explained. :trollestia:

Looking over Celestia's little despairing letter, I must say that, yes, she is certainly not fit for immortality. Far too emotionally affected.

I've never understood the whole 'living only in the now' thing that people have. My plans always stretch 20-30 years into the future, longer now that I've begun to unwravel biological mysteries that promise life extensions lasting centuries or longer. Almost limitless cellular regeneration IS possible! Little known to most, some organisms on Earth are functionally immortal, their cells able to return to a younger state and start over again. One is a simple jellyfish/polyp. Others are bacteria buried deep within the Earth, which may divide only once every few hundred years.

i suppose I'm simply a hyper-pragmatist when it comes to death. I see it mainly as a primitive holdover from mindless ancestors and a disadvantage to be overcome. Compared to sapient creatures, there's absolutely no point in non-sentient life being immortal. They cannot accumulate knowledge or wisdom, most can barely store a tiny fraction of a human's memory, and they have no capacity to change their world in any meaningful scope. Any other member of their species is more or less the same. An immortal spider would sit motionless in the middle of its web for a trillion years, as immobile as a rock, simply waiting for some fly to wander in and activate its genetically coded instincts. Non-intelligent life is the epitomy of purposelessness, for it cannot even begin to fathom a means by which to ecape its limitations. And when the star about which the mindless denizens of a planet goes nova, they are utterly erased from the universe, leaving nothing to note they ever existed in the first place.

Once a complete mind emerges, then it's time to begin shedding the primitive biology of death. I find a great deal of fascination with the mind, and its capacity to leap far beyond its own limits. If we wished to project some anthropic character to the universe, one might say that the universe has given rise to minds to escape its own fate, whether that be heat death, a big rip, or something we haven't even postulated yet (given we know nothing of dark matter and dark energy, other than theory, and that those two forms of matter make up the bulk of the universe, I feel we have a long way to go to considering the universe's mysteries solved). What animal can look to the future and comprehend such things at such incredible time-scales? And yet, we have done so.

I have found more often than not that the 'here-and-now' arguments Celestia poses on how mortals live are incomplete. Mortals often limit themselves, for the simple fact that they fear understanding. It's too big for them. It terrifies them. I have witnessed this many times when I explain these things in detail. They hide in ignorance because the universe makes them feel so insignificant. They lock themselves in a tiny room of their own construction and tell themselves it's all there is. When taken out, they are like my old cockatiel when I let him out of his cage. Fearful, distrustful of the great world they know nothing of. Like the bird, they quickly clamber back behind their bars where they feel secure.

It is true indeed that 'fear is the mind-killer, the little death', for it precedes the great death. And, biologically, it's actually been demonstrated that severe states of fear trigger excitoxicity that kill neurons. It may be that this is one reason people with severe anxiety are very sickly. Their bodies are literally dying from fear. But that's an aside from the more metaphysical aspects of my little diatribe here.

To put it bluntly, I am more than ready for immortality. I have a universe to explore. I have worlds I wish to mold with my own hands, plans that take eons to complete. And living forever would literally give me all the time in the world.

Without heaven, there is no hope. Without a God, there is no purpose. Without an immortal soul, there is no life.

And yet men would rather embrace darkness and oblivion than face the Light.

116/0 and EQD

Putting on RL

1235699 I am an odd one. But then, so are all biologists. I was told at least a little madness was a prerequisite for the job. :pinkiecrazy:

But who can try to grasp the furthest bounds of life, death, time, and space and not go insane? Being ALREADY insane is quite an effective buffer!

I look into the universe and do not curl into a little ball. Instead I smile and think, "My my, what a big playground I have!" :trollestia: (Seriously, we need a Discord emoticon for statements like that! Trollestia just doesn't cover it.)


1235127 Indeed he did!... WE WILL READ ANYTHING!!! ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!

That was beautiful :raritystarry:

I believe strongly that immortality could be a wonderful thing, but that isn't what this story is about. A story that was only a claim that immortality was good or bad would just be propaganda. I chose the topic with the idea of writing propaganda, something to counter the tide of "immortality is a curse" ponyfic, but I wasn't able to. I had to tell a story, about characters, and that meant finding a dramatic situation, then trying to get into their heads and imagine how they would feel about it. They got distracted and didn't stick to the plan. I'm chagrined that so many people read the story as yet more pro-death fiction, but that's okay. This is not a medieval morality play. Or, if it is, it's about the relationship between reason, emotion, and goals, and has no neat conclusion.

1235195 Yes - Celestia is rationalizing. Not that I'm judging her for that. She's also right, if Titania is right; but being right isn't what matters most to her.

1235462 >Instead you've given us something concrete to hold onto while we see the letter unfold,
The scenes about Pinky and Jigsaw? They were originally short summaries. The EqD pre-reader made me expand them, kicking and screaming. It might have been the right thing to do. (This should appear on EqD any time now.) This story was a tricky balance between ideas and emotions. Too little emotion and most people would find it dry; too much emotion and the ideas would be buried. The first draft, finished in June, was just a letter. It was 2000 words, and idea people loved it, and most people (the other 95%) hated it. The second draft was the letter in a longer narrative, about 3000 words. Idea people thought it was a little long, but now 50% of my test readers could finish the story. Now it's 4300 words, and idea people like Antsan find it long, but most people can stand to read it.

1235197 A goal takes the same role as an axiom - calling it *illogical* does not have any meaning at all.
I agree. If you're talking about when Celestia talks about having or not a "logical reason" - I was trying to hint that Celestia was suspecting her real reason was not, at bottom, logical. You can of course have logical reasons given a goal.

I am exceptionally glad that you did not give up on this story. It truly is exceptional.

Also, congratulations on the EQD feature!

1235361 i know this is going to sound stupid but how is that the sweetest line ever

1235762 Well, I wasn't really commenting on that. I didn't see it as a direct 'immortality is a curse' story, more like a commentary on how some cannot mentally handle it. Though I do feel canon Celestia is quite adapted to the mortality of her little ponies.

Most of my comment was based around my idea of the rejection of thinking like a mortal, and an explanation of why most are only willing to think in mortal terms. It doesn't encompass all the concepts involved, but it does for those that relate most directly to this story.

I use a 'fox and grapes' analogy for those fics which are truly 'boo-hoo immortality makes me emo!'. The author in those types of stories is more often than not trying to overcome to overcome a seemingly unreachable desire for immortality by making it sound undesirable. Those fics totally ignore the adaptability of the mind, and the fact that many people are able to live on in spite of losing many family and friends. One has only to think of the Holocaust to truly understand the potency of the human spirit to struggle on in spite of horrendous torment.

And now some trolling, because I have to... Dragon Queen Titania sucks! RAR!! I hate dragons! I shall find a cold iron blade impregnanted with magical super-nova rays and kill the horrid monstrosity! Mammals 4EVAR!! :trollestia:

This was really good! I like how you discussed the Historic Death Meme in a ponyfic, as well as the deconstruction and implications of Celestia's immortality.

I found the parallel to human existence especially compelling. It does seem to be the case that much of life is often lived as a "leaf drifting on a stream".

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Speaking as an "idea person," I can see where you're drawing things out to make it more accessible (the flashback with Pinkie in particular), but I don't think this would've held together if it were just the letter. Without Celestia's interaction with Luna and Twilight, this would be a soliloquy, not a story. That might work to convey your argument, but since you're explicitly trying to do more than that, I'd say the later versions are an improvement.

Nicely done on this one, Bad Horse. I suspect that this has now become my new standard for "Everybody's Old And Dying, Let's Muse For A While On The Nature Of Mortality" oneshots, and goodness knows it's a crowded genre. I'd be nice for Celly if the forecasted power-transference simply stripped her mortality and let her actually live for a while rather than just killing her stone-dead in the Magic Faerie Circle / Lost Horizon style, but as in the case of all regrets: we always have a choice, it's just that sometimes we made it already a long time ago, and it sounds like that's what we're dealing with here.

I really like this story, even though it makes me sad. Very well written, very introspective and very well thought through.

There are good and bad takes on topics; mortality seems to be one that all pony writers come to eventually. This one reminds me, more than any other mortality story I've read, of Asimov's Bicentennial Man for its musings on purpose.

Mmm...not bad. Kind of an odd story. I'm curious why you say "two immortals" though. Are you not counting Cadence for some reason?

I know how she must feel. My OC who is an Ancient from the Stargate Universe who ends up becoming a Nobody from the Kingdom Hearts Universe is immortal and is over 50 million years old and due to being around that long, he has seen friends and family grow old and die while he still lives. Suicide is not an option for he would not die. Celestia and Luna, I feel for you.

... You're serious? This is like a huge cliff hanger. How the heck is Twilight going to react to this? Or this queen character Celestia is writing too. Twilight's dying of old age, and is about to receive a huge gift (or curse I guess, depending on your view of immortality). Heck, this feels like a prologue chapter, and not a complete story.

1235641 A fellow transhumanist (or transponyist?), glad to see representation. /)

1235762 I love the arguments you raised in favor of the counterpoint - mortality DOES breed irresponsibility towards future generations; why try to make the world a better place when you can die fat and happy and pass on your massive debts to whoever will be around after you leave? This is one of the major problems eating away at human civilization right now.

I think most of those medieval morality tales were written under the assumption that a certain human-equivalent-to-Celestia is going to return and rapture all the worthy people and/or bring about the eternal kingdom of whatever before nature calls in the debts.

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