FimFiction Link - Short ID: 22323/a-fleetng-light-n-the-darkness
Published: Apr '12
'A FLEet|ng LIght |n thE DArknEsS' is an eight thousand and one hundred-word horror oneshot. Ponyville is a ghost town. A team of investigators is dispatched to find out what happened and a journal written by Twilight turns up. The diary details the troubling transformation of the town from its usual bustling self into one filled with paranoia and fear as ponies end up disappearing and some start sensing a supernatural presence nearby.
The fic gave me heavy original-SCP vibes. Its recovered document format is a great strength. Twilight acts as a mostly reliable narrator, but she doesn't know nor wants to give us all the details. Not to mention, an outside force had also vandalized the book before it was recovered. It is also annotated by the investigators who were sent to the town, though their additions are very cut and dry observations that don't allow us to peek into their heads. The horror in this story works quite well. The entity is unknowable, can't be reasoned with and mercilessly decimates (or converts) the population of the town. Light seems to provide temporary respite, but eventually the whispers start driving some ponies mad, who sabotage their own means of protection. This was the case with Fluttershy too, as it becomes abundantly clear quickly that she's not worried about her animals as much as the voice calling for her. The scene in Sweet Apple Acres was also creepy, if a bit too vague and it served a nice calm before the storm.
On the other hand, I feel like the story tries to be a bit too clever for its own good. The invisible ink gimmick was cute, but hiding ultimately inconsequential blurbs and fluff in obtuse word puzzles just feels misguided. I really love when an author takes risks, so I'm not disparaging him for trying, rather my problem is that the puzzles' difficulty is disproportionate for their reward. At least the author seems to agree and have released the solutions separately. The worst thing by far in the story is the investigators: They are incompetent and inconsequential. Twilight gives very clear clues and directions where they could begin their survey ("Shadow Walkers", the tragedy at SAA) and yet they basically just skim over the whole thing and the story doesn't even imply that they seem to be willing to look into these. I'm sure the sequels remedy this, but in isolation, this is very immersion breaking. Also, the ending, while impactful, is a bit soured by the giant "ALL ELSE FAILED" MSPaint drawing. You can practically hear "dun dun dun" in your head while seeing it, which makes an otherwise harrowing scene unintentionally funny.
Overall: 6/10 It's good horror, but the story is ultimately held back by its inane depiction of the investigators and its over-reliance on gimmicks. Still, it's low-burn tension building and unnerving monster makes it a story worth reading. I recommend it.