• Member Since 15th May, 2018
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mushroompone


enargeia or: the unbearable brightness of being

E

Night Glider, having a difficult time readjusting to her career as a search-and-rescue worker, takes up a position as a fire lookout in Smokey Mountains National Park.

Though she is physically isolated from the rest of ponykind, the voices on her radio ensure she is never truly alone.


Winner of Bicyclette's Crackship Contest!

This fic is heavily inspired by Firewatch, but should be enjoyable to all - those who have played and those who have not.

Chapters (9)
Comments ( 35 )

'Twas a good read

Reminds me very quickly of a game called Firewatch.

11182030
I was about to say, lol. I haven't even played it and I'm like 'isn't this just Firewatch?'

11182037
11182030
It is very heavily inspired by firewatch (though it definitely has a different main plotline), well spotted! I actually intended to put that in the description, but completely forgot to add it when I published - thanks for the reminder!

Each month has such an evocative description that places me right there in the timeline. The explanation of Night Glider's surroundings as well as the mystery really kept me hooked on this fic! Great job!

I was also going to say that I was reminded of Firewatch, too, but I'm glad our main characters got to meet at the end this time :raritywink:

...this isnt a parody of firewatch is it?

11182261
It is heavily inspired by Firewatch, i hope your joking.

Beautiful, just beautiful. It takes a lot of work to translate the visuals from a game like firewatch into writing, but you did it expertly, and you also nailed that constant feeling of being alone, but not being alone. this was a great read, and I definitely wouldn't mind if there was some kind of continuation.

I just gave everything a read, I loved it- a slow flow with a sweet ending.

Wow, this was amazing. I honestly don't know to say. For one thing you've nailed the feeling solitude (and the desire for it). The passage worked really well, to. I also liked the symbolism with the radios, how the one couple never grew beyond being disembodied voices while Night and Sky were eventually able to leave them behind.
But above all, I'm just happy that you didn't end it like Firewatch.

Lovely story!

It's always wild to me that people can do this isolation thing where all they have is a friend somewhere out there that is only able to communicate through one form. Just gives me the willies.

I wonder why the other couple don't hear them (wouldn't radio leaks work both ways?) or why they don't think about talking to the other couple, even if they reject it in the end...

11184295
Fair question! I hope I don't ruin the experience with an explanation haha

My intention was for Night and Sky to be "hearing back in time" - that the frequencies on their radios were leftovers from another time, transmitted to them through the magic of the park. This is why Star Hunter has the exact same transcriptions, why they only seem to get transmissions in specific places, and why Night is able to stand in front of the carving while she hears it being carved over the radio.

In this way, the lovers from the past have established a cycle: those who use the woods to escape their problems become wrapped up in chasing the remnants of their story, and so fail to self-reflect and truly heal. Night and Sky, then, are the first to break the cycle which is why the radios go permanently silent in the end.

I definitely wish I had had more space and time to allow this all to unfold - it was slightly too big a concept to explore thoroughly alongside the necessary romance, and so i don't think I really fully laid everything out the way I'd hoped. But that's what you sign up for when you write for a contest!

I hope you enjoyed the story regardless! Thank you for your comment!

Very good story, I really enjoyed it. I hope you consider a follow up or even a longer and more drawn out version since you mentioned it not being long enough for the overall concept.

This is a delicious little read. There’s a certain irony that i found it now. I’m about to meet my boyfriend for the first time, and the feelings this story stirred are nice. Sometimes sad, sometimes good. It’s well written, I only saw a couple typos and it gripped me beyond the funny similarities to my own situation. A+ read!

11186374
Thank you so much for your comment! It's always lovely to hear someone connected personally with a piece of mine. I wish you and your boyfriend the best of luck!! I hope you have a wonderful time together!

11186430
Haha! I’ll let you know!

11186430
Well, I can safely say that was the best week of my life. And this story did come u p a couple times, he thought it was funny I should find it right before we met up for real.

11194300
That's incredible!! I'm so happy for the both you of - that first time meeting can be so magical. I'm honored that this little fic ended up playing a little part in your story, and I wish you both happiness!

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Haha, thanks. I'll make sure to enjoy him extra hard just for you!

I adore Firewatch, and I adored this.
The passages where Night Glider is alone are full of such beautiful, evocative imagery. I particularly love the intro to AUGUST. Hit me hard right in the end-of-summer-vacation nostalgia.

I also picked up what you were putting down with the griffin and pony couple. Echoes of the past was my guess, so I'm glad to see that I got it right.

I'm also pleased that this story ends more happily than its inspiration. I was afraid we'd be left with a similarly bittersweet, ambiguous conclusion. Instead, we get something hopeful (even if it's set against the backdrop of an old tragedy).

EDIT: Also, I totally forgot who Clear Sky (in canon) until like, right this moment? Which is weird, because she had an entire episode. Yet somehow, I remembered who Night Glider, background pony number whatever, was. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Makes the bit with her backstory hit even harder.

Fantastic play off Firewatch, really fun to read how you played in that space but really made it your own.

This was such a fairy tale and it is amazing to experience it! You definitely captured the mysterious nature of Firewatch and brought it out in your own way.

Very well written, Wordsmith!

Howdy, hi~!

So, first off I think you pulled off the concept fine. That no real concrete explanation is given to the radio waves, I think works well with the story as the focus is on the parallels between the past and current romance unfolding. There were a lot of emotional moments throughout that really hammered in Night and Sky's characterization that I appreciate. Also, I'm really impressed that you pulled off a romance like this where the characters don't even physically meet until the last chapter. Banger chemistry in this one.

Excellent read, thank you~!

Pegasi weren’t meant to get around on hoof. She was sure of that. Must have been a biological thing. You get used to flying, then you can’t get so far on the ground anymore.

Well, tough.

She would go it on hoof.

She would go all summer on hoof.

She couldn’t trust her wings anymore.

oof, this internal voice, the cadence of the narration interspersed with flashbacks. it's already so intriguing and so good!

She slid down a small embankment, dirt and pine needles crumbling down along with her, and broke into a gallop with her newfound momentum. Those tiny airbourne moments between strides, little gasps of weightlessness, were the closest thing to flight she’d dare let herself have.

augh, just love how slowly and steadily these lines drive up my investment in just why Night Glider isn't letting herself fly

The door to the tower was locked. As she lifted the key from its place on her chest and jimmied it into the lock, Night Glider wondered why a firewatch tower would need a lock. When the door opened she decided it was best to let sleeping dogs lie.

ooh, i would wonder too!

...and pages torn from spiral bound notebooks still dribbling their spaghetti edges out the sides of misshapen stacks of potential tinder.

a. love the imagery here, b. interesting that this is how Night Glider immediately thinks of said stack of printouts...

Night didn’t quite know how to answer that. It wasn’t even technically a question. Her hoof hovered near the button as she tried to think of a response.

it would throw me, too!

“It’s fine. I’ll need something to do, right?” Night Glider grumbled. “Might as well clean up some other dude’s mess.”

Clear Sky turned on the radio in time to snort. “Story of my life.”

pfft

A witty reply didn’t come to Night Glider, partly because she wasn’t really the witty type, and partly because she was simply too exhausted to put in any effort at all.

a shipfic without instantaneous exchanges of witty banter? what is this?? (love it)

Though Night’s hooves had managed to punch it into a shape not unlike a coffee filter...

it's a small thing but augh, i always find myself loving the way you describe things. i would never have thought to describe a crumpled piece of paper this way, but it's so evocative!

Night furrowed her brows. She read the thing—notes? Poetry? Love letter?—a few times over before deciding that, whatever it was, it was likely not her business. She tucked it safely between two books at the head of her bed. She would figure out what to do with all this stuff later.

and that makes me wonder if it will become relevant to the story again later!

“Anyway,” Clear Sky agreed. “I just wanted to remind you to keep me charged!”

She laughed. A mom laugh.

haha, adorable! idk, i just love it! it's like she's internalized being embodied in the radio

“And, um…” There was a very long pause. “Whatever it is you’re trying to get away from… well, I hope it gets better.”

oof, an easy guess, apparently!

There is a feeling adjacent to deja vu that, every now and then, creeps up and pounces on you without much warning. Whereas deja vu convinces you that an unfamiliar feeling is not as new as you may think, this feeling is truer to reality; it is a certainty that, despite an experience being new to you, you will have it many, many more times.

ooh, i love this concept

Loud. Imitating trumpets. A morning fanfare which scraped against the topmost ceiling of the radio’s transmission power.

“I had a feeling. Good to see you survived the first night—we lose most of our recruits within twenty-four hours.”

Night only furrowed her brows.

“Kidding,” she added, holding in a snicker.

augh, i already love her

“Just make sure you bring the radio, okay?” Clear Sky reminded her firmly. “And, really, I’m here for any questions you might have. Anything you wanna know about or talk about, I’m your mare.”

love the "I'm your mare", as always! and possible eventual double meaning there???

And then the radio popped and hissed at her hip.

oof! i felt that interruption along with Night Glider.

Night unclipped the radio from her saddlebags and held it near her face. She did her best to control her breathing as she listened intently, ear pricked, eyes squinting. Nothing more than distant mumbling—perhaps two voices?—met her. She couldn't pick out any other words.

i really can't wait to see what this is leading to! agh so enticing


love love love this setup! agh, i am already in love with Cloud Kicker, and just so intrigued at discovering just what her deal is! which i guess makes me very in the skin of Night Glider, fittingly enough as the viewpoint character, haha! but augh, the job of a fire lookout is one of those really fascinating things that i wish i'd learned of when i was younger so that i might have spent my youth dreaming of doing it. there's something just so appealing about the idea of living perched above a sylvan expanse devoid of people as a modern stylite. such a great setting to really delve into a character!

It was… gruff. Yet it didn't quite match Night Glider's as she'd come to know it. Not that she knew it all that well of course—the mare had hardly said twenty words to her.

"—perfect for us."

A stallion?

ooh, the mystery was on both sides! radio interference?

She considered asking Night Glider if she had remembered to bring mane ties along. She was only a few days’ hike away, after all. She could stand to make the trip.

It might be a nice distraction.

aww, Cloud Kicker is exactly how i imagined her!

She still called in with a frequency that was just slightly too high, always eager to offer advice (both helpful and not), anecdotes (both interesting and not), and jokes (both funny and not).

aww, well at least she's helpful, interesting, and funny sometimes!

Night frowned. For a long moment, all she could do was stare at the radio beside her, wondering what in Equestria might possess Clear Sky to transmit this bout of staged laughter to her.

augh, knowing that that might not be Clear Sky at all... so many creepy possibilities!

Clear Sky broke into raucous, barely-controlled laughter, not bothering to turn off her radio. She snorted profusely. Not a match for the giggle Night had thought she’d heard. Of course, Night could hardly focus on disproving her theory with the embarrassed heat rising in her cheeks.

haha, aww, this feels too real! poor Night Glider, oof!

Night placed the radio beside her once again and squinted back down at the next page of notes. This one was similarly unreadable, with only a few words—’love’, ‘always’, ‘protect’, ‘safe’, and so on—actually standing the test of time. Another attempt at an unsent love note, maybe? Hard to tell. Certainly not important.

maybe i've read too many SCPs but augh, anxiety rising

S: Sure I’m sure. It’s just like a fairytale.

i guess since in-story it was a month ago to Night Glider, she doesn't remember. but i, the reader, do! all this was Star Hunter's attempts to decipher the snippets of radio interference, and the pushpins i imagine were these notes pinned up on a corkboard and connected with strings all conspiracy theorist-style

...I remember always having to repeat myself two and three times because he wanted verbatim notes on every little thing."

augh, so excited for this to pay off!

Just chance and time. There was something poetic about that, she thought.

indeed! entropy, and all that

She could see it: Star Hunter scribbling like mad, trying to take down this poetry illicitly overheard in the woods.

yay, she's got it!

“But where do you think it’s coming from?” Sky asked, whispered in the cadence of a sleepover secret.

hehe, love this dialogue tag

“If it’s busted, how did they manage to switch channels right when we did?”

super creepy! i was wondering if it might be a number station of some sort, but this does seem to go against that theory

“It’s purely pragmatic,” Sky continued. “Entirely sensible and completely within our job descriptions to investigate the voices of forgotten lovers on your radio.”

augh, every genre-aware bone in my body is hating this

Night laughed. For the first time in a long time, it felt genuine.

aww!

"There's a joke in there somewhere about the two of us," Sky said. "I'm not going to make one, but do me a solid and imagine I did."

For some reason, Night felt her cheeks flush at that.

auauaugh i love it

"I am," Night insisted. "I'm just not… I dunno, a poet? Is that what you want?"

augh so relatable

“Me too.”

oof! augh, i just love what you did with this chapter! the dialogue between them feels so comfortable and natural, and this conversation just had so many cute little moments that showed Night Glider's growing warmness and comfort with Clear Sky, instead of told. it was the perfect thing to lure the reader into feeling the comfort and warmth the characters must have, before piercing it with a ramping-up of the anxiety-inducing mystery. augh, i love this!

“You don’t have to do that,” Sky said, chuckling lightly and guiltily in equal measure. “I promise to quit being a pest.”

“Yeah, well…” Night nickered softly. “I think you’ve earned the right to pester me.”

Sky stifled a giggle. “You’ll learn to love it.”

augh, i love it!

Despite its familiarity, Night found herself venturing out after sundown more and more often. The coolness of the evening was comforting to Night Glider, not to mention the constant symphony of crickets and cicadas to keep her company.

i mean, her name is Night Glider, after all! hehehe

Night let out a single, sharp laugh. “Right, right,” she said. “I forgot about the required classes on ghost forecasting at weather school. My bad.”

i love how this instantly makes the mystery less an anxiety-inducing unknown and more a harmless thing that they're having fun figuring out

Sky did not reply. Though Night had quite literally not a shred of evidence, she always believed this to be her way of concealing laughter. It brought a secretive smile to her face.

augh, love that they both do this

“I’m a precision flier, particularly at night. I-I just have really good night vision. That’s why I did search-and-rescue—they always need more ponies willing to work the night shift.”

aww, so she is called Night Glider for a reason! these pony names have a habit of always working out somehow

Night shrugged, even though Sky couldn’t see it. Or perhaps because she couldn’t. “I didn’t really have anything better to do with myself at the time,” she said. “I, uh. I lost my mom pretty soon after I got my cutie mark. Sending me to woodland survivalist boarding school was my dad’s easiest option, I think.”

augh, and i imagine this would make Clear Sky think of what Wind Sprint is going through...

"Both my parents were pegasi. I was a bit of a surprise. I think I'm still a bit of a surprise to a lot of ponies, to be honest."

huh, i guess that might explain Wind Sprint!

At last, a laugh. "You picture me as a radio?"

Night huffed softly. "Shut up."

"Am I a cute radio at least?"

auauaugh, i love this! and it brings me back my earlier blathering about Clear Sky being embodied in a radio, perfect

And she was so bright and bubbly. Night had never heard her any less than content, and very often she was outright glowing with joy—even through the radio. So bright colors. The colors of the sky.

augh she sounds so lovely through Night Glider's description

“She’s not a pony?” Sky asked no one in particular.

Night sighed. “That’s what we get for assuming, I guess.”

and this just happened after the conversation about assuming Clear Sky is a unicorn! agh i love it

"A little blue radio. Sorry to catfish you like that."

pfft

"I've never really thought about it before," Sky admitted. "I have, um… a pink coat and a long mane. Also mostly pink."

augh, love how this puts Clear Sky on the other hoof when it comes to not being poetic when describing things

"I have… really nice pasterns." Sky made a small sound, as if admiring the joint above her hoof. "I don't know what I did to deserve them."

this is too relatable

"Oh, and your mane," Sky said. "Done up tall, right? With big waves?"

Night's hoof hesitated.

The woods hummed with crickets.

The spell was broken.

:pinkiewhy:

“They were real, Sky,” Night said, running her hoof over the rough carving one more time. “The voices. They were real.”

ooh!

It was difficult to imagine how they'd found each other. They seemed to be of two worlds in every respect, and yet completely convinced that they belonged together.

aww, it's so fun that these characters in a romance story are writing a romance story within it!

Sky was quiet for a moment. “Ghost rules?”

“Like, life rules!” Night specified. “Science and magic rules! And ponies a lot smarter than me have spent… I dunno, a lot of years figuring all the rules out. I feel like the odds of us managing to break the rules are pretty low.”

i do love how Equestrians both live in a world of literal magic and deities and yet maintain a very modern worldview! it definitely makes their thinking more relatable to us, at the very least!

“Yeah,” Sky said. Almost flippantly. “It’s romantic. But it isn’t love.”

oof!

She would know, Night thought.

She wasn’t sure why she thought that.

also oof

"I don't think we should talk about it," Sky said.

Night's lips pressed together into a thin line as she tried to think of a response.

"We're here to get away," Sky said. "I think talking about it would defeat the purpose."

oof, that's not gonna stay down

The radio static lingered, as if she intended to say more, only to click off and leave Night Glider in silence once again.

The wind whistled in the trees.

The crickets chirped, fast and high.

A feeling of profound isolation, bone-deep loneliness, crept over Night Glider as she drifted into fitful sleep.

augh, this just put that entire mood directly into my head. it's the pony version of seeing the "person is typing" thing at the end of an IM conversation, then nothing.

Sky reached for the radio.

and coming in to the part of the story where the climax should be, augh. a blaze foretold to burn away all but the truth underneath

The arguments, however, seemed to run deeper than that. So few words truly exchanged. Quick, heated back-and-forth which communicated an intimacy gone sour, an ability to complete each other's sentences that was twisted into a method of constantly shouting over one another.

oof, love how this tracks Night Glider and Clear Sky, in a way

Night considered radioing Sky to ask about the weather. She loved to talk about the weather—one of few living ponies for whom that sort of excitement was truly genuine.

But, despite the unfamiliar feeling of the radio bouncing against her hip, Night chose to leave it.

Sky came here to forget. Night was becoming a reminder.

augh, such a reversal from when Clear Sky was holding back on talking to Night Glider for fear of bothering her. love it

An endless chorus of anguished and panicked shouting. Some voices from now, some from an unspecified past.

augh, that sarcastic statement earlier about needing to solve the mystery, lest it cause interference at a critical time...

The quiet lingered a moment longer. Just static hissing in the back of the cave. Then, with a click, the voices of the lovers went quiet for the last time.

Night clutched the radio close to her chest. It was a familiar feeling, now—a strange comfort in the face of the rising heat.

this is a beautiful melancholy i feel in this moment with Night Glider, standing quietly and helplessly, listening and watching

“Well.” The griffon grunted. “There ya go.”

The radio clicked off.

oof. just oof.

A small feeling.

A dark feeling.

A cold, close, isolating feeling.

between this and The Haunting of Carousel Boutique, the ghosts that you write are the only true ones i've ever read

Whether or not she had heard, though, the heaviness lifted from Night’s chest. SHe closed her eyes and felt a wave of calm come over her, relaxing her every joint and muscle, as she fell against the wall of the cave.

“I just wanted you to know,” she muttered. “Just in case.”

augh, mirroring the last confession between the ghost lovers. just so good

“It’s—she just looks so much like her father, and he’s—” she caught herself. “I hate myself for it.”

and augh. i had the sinking feeling it had something to do with that. it must be such a complicated and anguishing set of feelings to have, and it's no wonder she would feel so much guilt and pain and self-hatred over it.

The radio, at last, slipped from her hoof and tumbled to the floor of the cave.

“I don’t hate you at all.”

and of course, you have to leave it on a cliffhanger! augh

as always, i just love your depictions of how wielding magic must feel. and all of it coming together with Clear Sky living up to her own name; there is such poetry in that. and the part about seeing her late husband every time she closes her eyes, augh, i just feel that guilt she was talking about over the moments that she could distract herself from it. lovely stuff

I truly wish I was better at letter-writing (it seems like a neat thing to be good at), but this is probably the hardest thing I've had to do since… maybe childbirth. And, even though I’m trying to write something to my daughter every day, I honestly don’t think I’ve gotten any better at it.

and augh, just that one line about her daughter implying so much about where she is and where she was

With love.

Night held the letter to her chest for a moment. If there was one thing she missed, it was that tiny vibration of the radio as it sat there, almost purring, while Sky talked with her into the night.

The letter did not physically purr in the same way, but Night swore she could feel something when she held it against her heart.

augh, i love it

Her private hopes were interrupted by the flash of a familiar orange arrow—the one she had painted earlier this summer.

It was already starting to fade.

i just love the way this resurfaced again!

"It's kind of a haze, but they managed to drag it all out of me. Wasn't pretty. But I'm doing some physical therapy and… and therapy therapy. Which is new for me."

aww, healing!

It’s hard to describe what it’s like to get to know someone exclusively via radio waves. Their voice is carried in soft, fuzzy lilts, the kind that makes hairs stand on end. Everything between the button presses a complete and total mystery.

augh, i love this directly-speaking-metaphors-to-the-reader technique, it works on me every time

And… she did have nice pasterns.

the perfect way to ground the soaring heights of description preceding it, haha.

The radios lay neglected in the dirt between the mares' hooves as they embraced, silent at last.

and the perfect imagery to end it with.


now this is what a romance story from the beginning should be! the way that the two mares adapted to the nature of their only method of communication, filling in the blanks of the other they could not see, just really struck me on a deep level. because that is what we do with all relationships, isn't it? we only ever get sketches of the other, filtered through the distance between two distinct beings that is not ever truly bridgeable. and we fill in these sketches to match the stories we tell ourselves. here, just more explicitly, with the "liked to imagine"s. further illustrated by the story-within-the-story of a couple who were as close as any two creatures could be, living by themselves isolated away from all other souls, but that did not save them, in the end, from falling short of truly understanding themselves and each other.

and augh, just everything! the pacing of both the story at large and the individual scenes between them, the way that the descriptions in the narration re-inforce the feel of each character, how natural and subtle and real their personalities and the way they meshed felt. i just feel like i have so much to learn about how to write a romance from this fic, and it was a joy to read. thank you so much for it!

Good story. Did remind me of Firewatch :)

I saw this on my feed a few months ago when you first posted it. I put it on my RIL then and finally now when I get around to reading it, I see it’s gone and won first place in the contest you put it in!

At least I can say that I am a fan of your stories before you’ve started winning contests with them!

As always, your writing bring forth a kind of emotional imagery that I envy. Felt like I am reading Stephen King again. (In a good way, honest!) where even the subtle things like a held breath can have a profound emotional weight behind it. Your prose is wonderful, always was, but somehow even more so with every story you put out.

You mention in your author note that you felt like it might have been served to be longer, but I think as is the story has a good pace behind it, and you captured the dynamic between the two especially well for being two characters who had zero interaction in the show, but with backstories that fitted well to one another.

I do have to giggle just a little bit though! Because I think this is the fourth story from you that I’ve read that’s ‘two ponies experience a twilight zone / magical thingy and grow / fall in love during it.’

But that’s okay! I’ll happily read a thousand stories from you until Equestria is filled with magic holes and paired off ponies. You do such a fantastic job of it that I love it every time. Celestia only knows my own stories are just silly excuses to get ponies kissing, so it’s not like am any better.

I will also grant you the greatest honor I can give. You’re the start a new bookshelf! because the deep introspection is a thing I like a lot that I haven’t quite encountered as much as I liked.

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