Today’s story opens the door on some unsettling revelations.
413 Mulberry Lane: A Report (With Annotations by Twilight Sparkle)
[Dark] • 9,377 words
[NOTE: This story contains brief mention of sexual themes.]
A student of Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns stumbles upon a mysterious house in the streets of Canterlot, only to find it abandoned. Once the door has been opened, it can never truly be shut. Once the house has accepted him, he can never escape it.
His only hope lies hidden in the deepest chambers of Canterlot Palace, in this manuscript.
FROM THE CURATORS: Normally, it’s difficult for a love-it-or-hate-it piece to make it through our vetting process, but as we debated 413 Mulberry Lane, it accumulated so many superlatives (and multiple top scores) that there was never any question it was headed for a feature. “This is the most unsettling horror I’ve read in a long time,” Horizon said, while Soge’s praise was equally glowing: “The atmosphere, the pacing, the descriptions, everything is pitch perfect. Three years after first reading it, the sense of wrongness emanating from the house still struck me just from seeing the title.”
Part of that was the methodical way it approached the mysteries of the titular house. “This is a really creepy piece, an excellent example of exploratory horror,” Present Perfect said. “It melds science and magic in the Equestrian setting with otherworldly wrongness to create a haunting sense in the reader.” Chris agreed: “It really shows how to use ‘dry’ writing effectively and with purpose. It’s unsettling without resorting to gore or shocks, though it’s got some good surprises up its sleeves.” And the more we dug into the story, the more it rewarded us. “I love when a work makes me wonder if the errors are intentional, and this really pulls that off,” Soge said. “The water closet on the second floor, the lack of a 9th note, and the inconsistencies about the guards.” Chris noted that as a strength, as well: “There are so many hints of unreliable narrator, both obvious and subtle, going at least three levels deep.”
What it added up to was a piece whose full impact snuck up on you once you immersed yourself in its story. “The house’s siren song is that it’s demonstrably possible to interact with it and walk away unscathed, and since there are so many unanswered mysteries here, you want to dig even further in,” Horizon said. “Then, as soon as you take a step back, the realization hits and a chill runs up your spine. If you’d been there, you’d be one of its victims.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Starsong discusses sunscreen, soundstone creation, and leafy houses.
Give us the standard biography.
I was always a bat pony. None of that vampirism nonsense, no transformations. My favorite food is actually fruit! When I’m not flouncing around while everyone is asleep, I’m probably writing about this or that.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Trial and error. I had some pretty garbage pony names in the first couple years of the fandom (Aurora Flash) and eventually just wanted something evocative of the night. Turns out Starsong is actually a pony from Gen 3, but I don’t mind sharing the name. No relation.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Vinyl Scratch! MLP or not, it’s hard to deny the awesomeness that is “Unicorn DJ.”
What’s your favorite episode?
“Luna Eclipsed.” Since I’m a trotting cliche.
What do you get from the show?
I don’t watch the show anymore. Originally, probably … love, color, and a fresh sense of fun. And cute magical talking horses.
What do you want from life?
Security, happiness, freedom, and to extend those to everyone else.
Why do you write?
Writing is like breathing to me. I don’t feel really alive unless I do it. That doesn’t mean it’s always a joy, but sometimes it’s indescribably fun. It’s always hard work, and I wouldn’t suggest otherwise to anyone.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Write what you love, worry about the rest later. Keep your audience in mind, whoever that happens to be. Be kind to them. If you make promises with what you start to write, don’t let your reader down by the end. Fanfiction is as real as any other writing, and it has the power to affect people on a mental and emotional level. Respect that. I’m still in awe of it.
If you’re having trouble, just start with one word. Then figure out the next one. Don’t focus on the whole project.
Strunk and White are hacks, and responsible for the destruction of countless writers’ voices. There are a million better books out there for learning how to write. Find what resonates with you, and who works. Better yet, read the books you find successful and beautiful and make your own rules from those. Then break them.
Yes, read! Read what you love, and read a bit of what you hate, but whatever you do, read as much as you can. Even if you’re not a writer.
What inspired the creepy imagery in this story?
I’ve always been a fan of psychological horror. Less of Saw or Friday the 13th. Silent Hill (the game, not the movie) and its sense of psychological representation and environment. A few people that read this picked up on my inspiration, Michael Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Either very dumb, or insanely terrifying, depending on the kind of person you are.
When I set out to write this, I wanted to create a horror story that kept within the bounds of the show’s lore and didn’t violate too many things. So no massive violence, no curses, no characters acting wildly different than they appear in the show. Not going to go down in infamy like … certain murderfics.
I also wanted a story made uniquely possible by taking place in Equestria. My attempt was … adequate, I suppose.
What happened to Apple Tart?
Apple Tart? She’s fine. She feels a little embarrassed about spacing out on the job, but she’s not sure why she got kicked off of the project. It didn’t really hurt her career any, though.
Why doesn’t Celestia heed the calls to destroy the house?
Hard to say. Likely she’s afraid that destroying it will destroy her sister. Or perhaps destroying the house will unbind her sister, and there’s no telling what will happen then. Maybe Celestia never actually hears those calls. Maybe it’s mostly harmless, and it’s the closest thing her sister will ever see to happiness. Maybe it’s all an illusion.
I’ve heard a lot of interesting theories from readers. Maybe some of them are true?
It’s not often a fanfic incorporates other media. Can you tell us about the “soundstone” recording in the second part?
I’m honestly not sure what was going through my head at the time. I like multimedia in all arts. It’s one thing to play some music, do some voices, but I really wanted to make the reader/listener feel like they were experiencing the same thing as the characters in the story.
It takes a part of the fiction and just makes it the slightest bit real. Which means that, in a way, you get to listen to the memories of a magical stone from another world. If you can create that moment when your audience ceases to be a listener and becomes, even for a brief moment, a part of the story… that’s the real work.
From a technical perspective, it’s not too difficult to do something on that level. Audacity is free, and royalty-free sounds and tracks are available in abundance. Having a microphone to do your own material is also a bonus.
Does 413 have any significance?
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Same thing I’d always say. Be kind. Like really, actually kind. To your friends. To your enemies. To complete strangers. Sometimes kind doesn’t mean nice, but it definitely doesn’t mean cruel. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it puts you at risk. At the end of the day, you’re the only one you have to answer to. Be the kind of person you can live with. Be proud of yourself if you’re lucky enough.
Now, more than ever, I think people need to work at understanding one another and building bridges. We have more in common than we do differences. We all have to live here together, so let’s make it a good place for everyone. Don’t let anyone disempower you, tell you that you can’t be something, do something, change anything. The only thing that defines our society is what we all agree on, and we can change that at any time.
But trust me on the sunscreen.
You can read 413 Mulberry Lane: A Report (With Annotations by Twilight Sparkle) at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.