Today’s story lingers like the curling mist in a dark forest.
Don’t Open the Door
[Dark][Horror] • 13,654 words
After an expedition into the Everfree Forest ends in disaster, Applejack and Rainbow Dash take refuge in an abandoned cabin until morning.
This is probably a poor decision, but it’s only one night, after all. How bad could it be?
FROM THE CURATORS: “I don’t care much for horror stories,” AugieDog mused. “But this one does so much right, I found myself really impressed.” Present Perfect thought it was “simply one of the best horror stories I’ve ever read,” and Soge agreed “one-hundred percent” that “this is pitch-perfect horror from beginning to end.”
In his nomination, Present Perfect praised the author’s ability to set a scene and draw the reader in. “The atmosphere is lush and offputting, right from the start. The Lost Cities-style description of the abandoned cabin was a great way to set the tone, and throughout the story, new details emerge that keep things creepy.” AugieDog was similarly impressed by how well POV was handled: “the narrowing from omniscient at the start to alternating close 3rd-person between Dash and AJ for the bulk of the piece was absolutely the right approach to take.”
Everyone was surprised by how well this dark horror fit in with Friendship Is Magic. Soge pointed out that excellent character work played a role there, with the author “putting very well-characterized canon characters into a situation which, with some modifications, I could see appearing in the show proper — and given that the show is dead, that would be extra spooky.” Present Perfect lamented that “so many pony horror stories are basically, well, horror stories inflicted upon ponies,” so he was thrilled to find “this story, beyond the profanity and the image of words carved into a table with a knife, fits very well into canon. This is just another strange beast of the Everfree, more terrifying than the show might have explored, but nevertheless not impossible as a creature that exists in the world.”
“A lot of horror stories fall down for me,” AugieDog said, “when it comes to the monster. But here, the author shows us a monster who is big and horrible and devious but maybe not very smart: a monster who is in every way a character in the story. And the description when we actually get to see the monster didn’t disappoint in the slightest.” Though in true horror story fashion, the reader doesn’t get a perfect image; Present Perfect appreciated that “the monster itself is never fully revealed, its identity never given, beyond just enough details to make it terrifying.”
That careful management of information resonated with the other curators as well (“I love the way that the story plays with what is real and what is not,” Soge said, “in a way that you can never feel confident about anything that is going on”) and allowed for a satisfying conclusion (“a perfect cliffhanger,” in Present Perfect’s words) that still let the readers’ mind run wild. “My favorite part,” AugieDog admitted, “is the ambiguous ending. I really appreciate that the author gives a wimp like me enough evidence about the monster’s nature to legitimately conclude that everything turned out all right. I’m sure that, if I wanted to go back and read more closely, I would discover even more evidence that everything did not in fact turn out all right, but when the author gives me an out, I will happily take it.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Grimm discusses caring about what you write, open endings, and darkness in a cartoon for children.