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.