• Member Since 14th Feb, 2012
  • offline last seen Last Friday


Not a changeling.


On an unassuming carnival midway in central Equestria sits the key to your dreams: A machine that lets you, for a short time, live a life in which your greatest regret never occurred.

These are the stories of what happens after those fantasies are over.

Each chapter is a complete, self-contained vignette (though their order of presentation is deliberate).

Reviews and other word-of-mouth:
Highly Recommended by Titanium Dragon! "Each of the four stories is good in their own way."
Featured by Seattle's Angels! "If the introspection or feels aren’t quite up your alley, the comedic punchline just might be, thus this fic has a little something for everyone."
• Also reviewed by PaulAsaran, Present Perfect, City of Doors, and Chris!
• "'The Lotus Eaters' was the story that made me realize horizon wasn't just good, he was really good." —Bad Horse

This is set in the same continuity as my previous story No Regrets. Reading that first will enhance your enjoyment of both stories, but is not required to appreciate this.

After you're done with TLE, here are the author's notes (contain mild spoilers).

Chapters (4)
Comments ( 87 )

Dem short chapters.

Good, good, but needs a bit more explanation.

Was this whole chapter a Doctor who/Groundhog day reference?:rainbowhuh:

1765179Wait, you didn't read the first chapters!

1765257Never mind, are we the first people to read this?


It was the Doctor using the machine and time travel in conjunction to test out variations on a decision he was uncertain of.

1765279 OH HI THERE! :pinkiecrazy:

1765320 But he can't do that! Freaking Paradoxes! Reapers will kill us all!

1765464 Correction: CAN and DID.

I'm sorry, I'm afraid you got that wrong. You see, The Great and Powerful Trixie is, indeed, perfect. The machine is just broken.

1765464 Alright, then.
By the way, what are those big things flying around? They look like bats with mouths on their chest and they look like they have blades on their tails.

You have reduced me to a wreck on the first chapter. It's like the inverse of The Machine Of Death. And I know I'll read more now.

... or not quite the inverse. My heart is screaming now, and the title becomes all too clear.

You know what else they have at amusement parks? Roller coasters. And this is the best one I've ridden in quite a long time. Perhaps ever.

:pinkiehappy::rainbowlaugh:If I was at home, the cat would have jumped five feet into the air when hearing my laughter. Thank you.

OK, this is the chapter that made me love this extension of no regrets, or side story, or whatever this is...
But this chapter!

1765183 Augh, that'll teach me to submit a story and then leave for the day. There were supposed to be author's notes here before readers got to it.

I did my best to give Applejack's story enough context to introduce the premise, but it's still a rough start if you're here without having read No Regrets (which 90% of my readers will have done). The Whooves chapter also gives a lot richer explanation of the machine itself, but as I mention in the author's notes, it was problematic to lead in with that chapter.

Thanks for reading and liking despite the cold start!

Augh, that'll teach me to submit a story and then leave for the day. There were supposed to be author's notes here before readers got to it.

1765179 It's true, man. You're everywhere. I begin to wonder if you have Flim and Flam's machine in your basement so that when too many fics come in at once, you can jump in, say "I regret not reading every single story as it's posted," and go back and fix that. :pinkiehappy:

1765581 Good catch! Do carefully note that each chapter is about life outside the machine -- clearly Trixie's story is truest of all, and when she was grabbed mid-ceremony, the marenappers merely staged a ruse to convince her otherwise. :trollestia:

1765785 Oh, those? The regrets? Just ignore them. You get used to 'em after a while.

1770245 Thanks! It was fun to write, too.

Thank you all for reading and commenting!

1770517 Ummm.... one of them just ate a kid. And a bald guy in a leather jacket is playing with some blue box.

1765228 Kinda. 1765320 got it on the nose. I'm not actually a Who/Whooves fan, but the timeplay here was irresistible. (I will admit, the Doctor's next-to-last line is actually a show quote, but that's all I've stolen from Who.)

1767384 Comment made my morning. :twilightsmile:

Thanks for reading and commenting — and if I haven't mentioned the author's notes yet, there they are!

1770526 Oh, dammit. I told them to stay away from the children. Hang on while I let my younger self know so that he can stop them in advance, and —*

(transmission ends)

Bonus Machine of Death microfic:

The investors crowded around the output tray. The machine's creator had been answering their questions for hours, explaining what he knew of its workings, showing them the proof of previous tests. Now was the moment of truth: Its first test run with strangers.

The first investor stepped up and pressed the button. The printer chattered to life. He picked up the slip. "Car crash," he read. They all exchanged nervous glances. "Just in case," he said, "I think I'm walking home afterward."

"We all were driven here," one pointed out. "Shouldn't we be worried too?"

"Not if he's not in the car," one pointed out.

The second stepped up for his slip, which his trembling fingers dropped. He picked it back up. "Happy," he read. A look flashed across his face, somewhere in between confusion and relief. "What does that even mean?"

The creator shrugged helplessly. "I don't know. But I'd trade you for mine in a second, if it worked that way."

"What's yours?"

"Um. For my own protection, I'd rather not say, if it's all the same to you. My apologies."

"We're talking about several millions worth of investment here. I think we have a right to know."

The creator wrung his hands. "Er. Let's take a hypothetical here. If mine had said, oh, say, 'mugged for the $100,000 he always carries in his pockets', wouldn't you agree it's tempting fate to make that public knowledge? Perhaps we can change the specific circumstances of our death, perhaps we can't … until we figure that out, I'd rather give myself what extra time I can."

"Alright, but we're not muggers," the first investor said. "What would you have to fear from us?"

"I cannot safely answer that question. I hope you understand, but if you don't, I'll seek my funding elsewhere."

"Well," the third investor said, "if he's not telling anyone his fate, neither am I." He pressed the button. The printer chattered for almost half a second before a folded slip dropped into the bin.

He raised an eyebrow, snatched it, backed away, and opened it up, inches from his nose.

His eyes widened.

He crumpled to the floor.

Amid the general panic that followed — as the ambulance was being called and the second investor was attempting CPR — the first snatched the fallen slip and read it aloud.

"Of shock," he said, "immediately upon reading this prediction."

All eyes turned to the creator.

"Well," he said. "This is awkward."

1775692 ... ... On later reflection, I can't believe that I blithely tossed a microfic into comments that's twice the size of the Scootaloo chapter, was written in a single pass in 20 minutes ... and yet it still takes me two months to post 3000 new words. :ajsleepy:

This is by far the best chapter yet. Reminds me of this old thing.

1813348 I am amused. :twilightsmile:

Ohooooo. Ouch.

Site Blogger

>all of my rage

This was excellent.

> Applebloom
(*checks the wiki*) Oh. Huh. Two words. Fixed!

(Don't expect me to use "Cadance" any time soon, though. Not when it's clearly a nickname for Princess Mi Amore Cadenza. Pet peeve.)

> This was excellent.

Eeyup. I was surprised how short this wanted to be, for as much punch as it packed.

2375837 The only problem I can see is that it calls into question the nature of the "regrets" the machine erases. Unless you're implying Scoots somehow made a decision that led to her flightlessness...

Hang on, that just made me think of something. Where the heck was Scootaloo on Tornado Day?

The way it works in my head is that, in order to handle edge cases, the machine doesn't require that you feel any responsibility for the thing you most regret. Its goal is to show you a life with a happier, better you. (What if someone was in a car accident with a drunk driver and got paralyzed, for example? Your biggest regret might very well be getting in your car that day, even though there was nothing you could have done to prevent the event.)

We can go with that explanation and assume an early childhood accident if you want, or extrapolate one step beyond that to say that the machine sees "I regret being born this way" as legitimate.

> Where the heck was Scootaloo on Tornado Day?

Most likely, hiding from the soul-crushing torment of watching every pegasus in Ponyville be praised for doing something she can't. :applecry:

Beautiful...Strange and touching and truly fitting of it's title.

This is really quite clever.

I demand more!

Thank you! I've been drawing a blank for a while on further stories in this format that pack the punch of the published ones, but if I get any ideas I'll come back to it. (You read No Regrets, right? That story is this plus best princesses.)

In the meantime, my current project Hard Reset 2 plays with the same what-if shenanigans in a slightly different context (time loops), and while the beginning of the story leaps straight into the thick of the action, it's going to be settling down into this sort of intense character focus. :twilightsmile:

This is an exceptional first chapter. I'm hooked, in less than a thousand words. Such a simple moment to change, such a little matter in the grand scheme of things, but such a critical moment for Applejack.

And I'm with Applejack; that's quite a mistake to have made, and completely sensible to want to take back.

My first thought when the scene started for the second time was that his regret was going to be using the machine for the first time.

But after a couple more times, I remembered that he has a time machine, which makes the regret-machine perhaps one of the single most valuable things in the universe to him.

Until Celestia showed up, I thought the machine had actually worked as desired, on the basis that while Trixie isn't perfect, she regrets nothing.

This was hilarious, though.

This was hilariously disturbing. You really should submit this as a Machine of Death story for inclusion in the next volume; it's as good as many of the published stories.


I've been drawing a blank for a while on further stories in this format that pack the punch of the published ones, but if I get any ideas I'll come back to it.

There's the potential for a Primer-level mindscrew with either Flim or Flam trying the machine. (Perhaps a flashback to when they invented it, which would be interesting to see regardless.)

I'd love to see Rarity use the machine, and regret not taking a different course of action with Spike. The nice thing about some regrets is that they're still fixable.

Depending on your headcanon for how Derpy/Ditzy got the way she is, and your comments about how the machine worked with Scootaloo, it'd be interesting to see if she regrets her vision or her accident-prone tendencies. Especially if she ends up not actually regretting it after she sees the result. (For instance, maybe Dinky might never have come to be without something that followed directly from those traits she thinks she regrets.)

I'd also suggest asking JMac if he wants to post a guest story featuring Quizzical Greystone. Mind-boggling levels of "oh dear", preceded by mind-boggling levels of mind-boggling.

There's a really obvious thing that Luna regrets doing, which would take about a millenium to live differently; you could let her experience it in compressed time, akin to The Inner Light. And there's a very strong conclusion at the end of it to counteract her regret: if not for the legend of Nightmare Moon, what of Twilight and her friends? If you want something that packs a punch, I don't think it gets much stronger than that.

Thank you for the praise and comments!

> There's a really obvious thing that Luna regrets doing …

Let me stop you there. I regretted not writing that so much that I hopped in the machine myself. Then I used my Hard Reset 2 time-looping skills to legitimately return to the past and post it. Voila! :trollestia:

> You really should submit this as a Machine of Death story for inclusion in the next volume
Are they still accepting submissions? Volume 2 was already published and I don't see anything about Volume 3 on their site …

I loved it! Too bad it's already over. :pinkiesad2:

Thanks! I may update it at some point in the nebulous future if further ideas hit me, but right now my muse is elsewhere.

Not as good as "HIV from improperly sanitized Machine of Death needle." :trollestia:

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