Featured on 08/31/1014!

by alexmagnet

Chapter 1: Print is Dead

It was a normal day for Twilight when she woke up one morning, stretched out her wings, cracked her back, accidentally punched Spike in the face, and brushed her teeth before heading out. An exceptionally normal day, in fact. She had no idea what was waiting for her when she entered the tiny coffee shop down the road, nor when the barista got her order wrong, again, nor when she finally sat down with her espresso and unfolded the day's newspaper.

Twilight took a long sip from her mug, enjoying the warmth of it filling her. She flipped a page, then took another sip. A spray of milky brown liquid shot out of her mouth as Twilight reached the bottom right of the paper. "Holy crap!"

The entirety of the coffee shop turned to look at her, each in various stages of confusion, annoyance, and mild disgust. The barista shook his head, muttering something about it being called, "hot coffee," for a reason. With a roll of his eyes, he picked up a nearby rag and tossed it to Twilight. "Nice try. I'm not giving you a free one because you were too stupid to let it cool off."

Twilight caught the rag in midair. She cocked her head to the side, coffee still dripping off her face. "What? Oh, no, I just noticed something and it surpr—"

"Don't care," said the stallion, waving his hoof as he turned away. "Just clean yourself up and try not to ruin the furniture anymore."

"Oh, right," said Twilight sheepishly. She quickly wiped up as much of the spilled coffee as she could, taking a moment to rub a stain into the upholstered couch she was sitting next to just to spite him. Floating the rag back to the counter, Twilight returned to her now-soaked newspaper. She had to have imagined it, right? It was too good to be true.

Her eyes scanned the soggy page, sliding down until she reached the bottom again. There it was. Her eyes weren't lying to her like that time she saw Celestia in her soup. Her heart skipped a beat. Excitement built in her stomach as a battle royale of butterflies fought to the death inside her. She placed her hoof below the first line of the article, dragging it across as she read.

On the Importance of Keeping Checklists, by Twilight Sparkle.

Twilight’s breathing hastened. Was this real life? Was she actually seeing this right? Was her article... in the newspaper? She had to make sure, she couldn't have any doubts in her mind. She read more.

Often I have ponies ask me how I stay so organized, it read. Well, the answer is simple, really. I keep checklists. I keep a checklist of my activities for the day. I keep a checklist for my friends and acquaintances. I keep a checklist for the unlikely event that I lose my checklist and have to improvise. I even keep checklists for my checklists. This is important because it ensures that I'll never forget anything important, or overlook any detail. I always remember where I put my house keys, and what to get while grocery shopping, or what to speak about at my Checkoholics Anonymous meeting. The only downside is that sometimes I have so many checklists I forget to check off one of the checks on my checklist meant for making sure I've checked my checks on my checklists! So really, there are no downsides. Keeping a checklist is the most important thing you can do besides—.

It was all there! Every word of it! Twilight’s heart raced and she looked around wildly. She didn't even care that the last few words had been unceremoniously cut off. She had done it. Her article had been printed in the local newspaper! And if there was one thing Twilight was certain of, it's that the Ponyville Gazette was the most widely read newspaper in all of Ponyville. Well, it was the only one in Ponyville, but that meant she was practically famous!

Careful to contain her excitement, Twilight glanced around at the other ponies in the coffee shop. Of the dozen or so patrons, only two of them were reading newspapers, but that was still a good turnover rate. Doing her best to appear discreet, Twilight carefully got up and walked past one of the ponies sitting on a tall stool, her newspaper leaned against the sugar tray.

Twilight whistled a nameless tune as she trotted on by, taking a surreptitious glance at the mare's newspaper. Ha! There it was! Down at the bottom of the page was Twilight’s article, sitting there for everyone to see. It was all Twilight could do to not shout at the top of her lungs, "Yep! That's my article, everyone! I wrote that with my own two hooves!" Instead, she tried for a subtler, more humble approach.

She cleared her throat.

The mare glanced over her shoulder at Twilight, her short-cropped mane framing her sunshine-yellow eyes and her notably less-sunshiny look. Her mouth was a thin line. Twilight looked at her expectantly. The mare raised an eyebrow. "Yeah? Ya need something?"

A smile forming at the corners of her mouth, Twilight merely grinned like an idiot and motioned to the newspaper. She nodded excitedly.

The mare's eyebrow rose yet further. "You want my newspaper?"

Twilight frowned. "No, no, I was just... Um, nevermind." She quickly turned away, her cheeks burning furiously. How could she have been so foolish? Of course she hadn't read Twilight’s article yet. She'd barely sat down five minutes ago. Something as thought provoking and interesting as her article on checklists was something that had to be digested, enjoyed, savored. Twilight decided to come back later.

She never got that chance, however, since as soon as she looked up Twilight noticed a stallion outside reading a copy of the Ponyville Gazette on a nearby park bench. Okay, play it cool, Twilight. It was going to be real smooth. She'd just sidle up next to him and casually drop a mention about having accidentally left her checklist at home and then he'd be sure to recognize her. Twilight headed outside.

With the morning sun still working its way up over the mountains, there was still a pleasant coolness to the air in Ponyville. A coolness that perfectly matched Twilight’s utterly cool demeanor as she approached the stallion. Sauntering up to him like she was walking down the catwalk at Manehattan, Twilight scooched right up beside the stallion, careful to avoid his outstretched wings. "Oh shoot!" she said slow and loud enough to ensure that stallion could hear her, not that that was very hard given she was practically leaning into his ear. "It seems I've mistakenly left my checklist at home. What a terrible accident! Checklists are so very important. Well, I guess I'll go home and grab that before I forget again."

Twilight cast an incredibly conspicuous glance down at the stallion. He slowly turned to face her. Twilight was sure her heart was going to explode out of her chest at the rate it was beating. She sucked in her breath as she saw his face.

His emerald eyes twinkled in the rising sunlight as he said, "Hey, lady. You mind turning it down a notch? I'm trying to read my newspaper here and you're yelling in my ear like the whole neighborhood can't already hear you." He rolled his eyes, shaking the newspaper straight as he turned back to it. "Some ponies... sheesh."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean... nevermind." Twilight hurried away from the park bench, returning to the coffee shop. She swiped her mostly-dry newspaper off the table she'd been sitting at and went back outside. That hadn't gone as well as she had hoped, she had to admit, but she wasn't about to give up yet.

Making a course for Carousel Boutique, Twilight trotted down the street, careful to keep the damp newspaper neatly folded.

Throwing open the door to Rarity’s shop, Twilight strode confidently in, her chest puffed out and her head held high. She held the newspaper out, a big black circle surrounding her article that she'd drawn on with a marker. "Rarity!" she cried. "What’s up? Do you have a minute to talk about—"

"Ch ch ch," said Rarity sharply, waving her scissors in Twilight’s direction. She stood on front of a large mannequin, her eyes narrowed into thin slits. With one hoof carefully positioned over the flank and the other pulling pulling out a length of measuring tape, Rarity used her magic to shush Twilight with a pair of floating scissors. "Quiet, please, Twilight. I need total concentration or I'll muck everything up again like when Sweetie Belle came in here a few hours ago whining about something or other."

Twilight frowned, her face curling into a pout. "But, Rarity, it'll only take a moment. I just wanted to ask if you read my—"

"Twilight, please!" Rarity said a little louder than before and with a more emphatic wave of her scissors. "Just give me a few moments of peace and then you can tell me whatever you want."





Twilight sighed, falling silent.

"Thank you."

With nothing to do besides wait, Twilight tapped her hoof impatiently. She glanced back at the newspaper to make sure her article was still there. It was. It hadn't decided to run off without her yet. Not that it would matter much since Twilight was sure Rarity had her own copy of the paper, maybe she'd even cut Twilight’s article out and framed it. That seemed like something Rarity would do. After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, Rarity finally stepped back from her mannequin.

"There," she said with a sigh. "All finished. Well, for now anyway." She turned to face Twilight. "Now then, what was it you were so desperate to tell me about, Twilight? I'm sure it must be of the utmost importance."

"Oh, definitely," said Twilight. She quickly unfolded the newspaper and held it out for Rarity to see. Practically shoving it in the other mare's face, she said, "I'm sure you already saw, but did you notice anything special about the newspaper this morning? Maybe something down in the lifestyle section? Maybe down near the bottom?"

Pushing the newspaper out of her face, Rarity took a moment to indulge Twilight. Her eyes searched the paper. "Oh! Look, Twilight! They've published your article. How lovely."

Twilight lowered the newspaper. Her ears drooped and her cheeks sagged. "You mean you didn't read it yet?"

Her pupils dilating just a bit, Rarity quickly glanced back at the article. "What do you mean? Of course I... read..." she leaned in as inconspicuously as she could, "your..." a bit further, "...article! Yes, of course. The one about checklists."

"You did?" Twilight tried not to gasp too loudly. Of course Rarity had read it. How could she have not? It was right there on the second to last page of the local newspaper, read and loved by everyone in the town. Doing her best to maintain her composure, Twilight said, "Oh, well, what did you think of it?"

Swallowing the swallow-sized lump in her throat, Rarity smiled awkwardly, the same smile one gives to to lonely busker on a solitary park bench playing trombone loudly and badly. "I thought it was..."


"It was..."


Rarity bit her lip, torturing it like an earth pony slave. Closing her eyes, she said, "I thought it was excellent, Twilight. It's very, err, informative. Useful, I'd dare say. I'm sure that the, um, scores of ponies reading will be very grateful for your contribution to the newspaper. Oh, and look!" she said, quickly changing the subject. "They've published you article right next to my column. We get to be newspaper neighbors." Rarity gave an obviously forced laugh, patting Twilight on the back.

Twilight, however, either through sheer force of will, or selective hearing, didn't notice that Rarity’s laugh seemed off. She only heard one thing. "Wait... you have a column?"

Rarity blinked a few times. "Why, yes, I do. I've had it for years now, Twilight. Since before you ever came to Ponyville."

"How come I've never seen it before?" asked Twilight, her voice soft. "I read the paper everyday."

"Oh, well that's probably because it's in the lifestyle section," said Rarity with a shrug. "Only lonely housewives and effeminate stallions read that far into the paper. I mostly just write it for fun at this point." Almost immediately Rarity clapped a hoof over her mouth. The sheer look of horror in her eyes would've rivaled any heroine in a murder mystery novel. "Um... not that that means ponies won't read your article, of course! In fact, I-I-I-I daresay that you'll start a wave of, er, interest in, uh, checklist keeping! Yes, you'll be at the forefront of a new fad, I'm sure," said Rarity, sounding anything but sure. She gave an awkward grin, trying to hide her throat as she swallowed another lump.

Twilight’s face was unreadable. She simply stared at Rarity, her eyes blank and her head tilted slightly to the left. After a millennia of uncomfortable silence, Twilight said, "Really? Do you think so?" Instantly her ears perked back up and the chilling cold of her lifeless gaze disappeared. "I mean, I don't want to brag, but I knew I had something special when I wrote that." Twilight chuckled, nonchalantly buffing her chest. "Lots of ponies try to keep checklists, but I don't think they understand the intricacies involved in really advanced checklisting."

Rarity cleared her throat. "Oh, um, I'm sure they don't understand like you do. You're quite adept at, er, checking things off lists."

"You know, it's a lot harder than it looks," said Twilight, nodding knowingly. "Ponies just don't appreciate all the hard work that goes into making checklists."

Rarity chuckled like a strangled duckling. "Well, maybe you could teach them. I'd venture to say you've done a, er, fine job of that already."

"I have, haven't I?" said Twilight. She puffed out her chest. "I am pretty awesome, aren't I? You know what?" Twilight looked at Rarity, her eyes filled with determination, or something like it. "I have a great idea. I'm going to write a sequel to my article! Since this first one has been such a success, I'm sure ponies would love to see see a follow up. Oh! I could talk about proper checklist maintenance, and tips for keeping your checklists neat and orderly." Twilight squealed in excitement. "Oh, I can't wait! I'm going to run home right now and start working on it!"

Twilight whirled around, leaping out of the door and leaving Rarity to ponder her life choices. With her newspaper still hovering next to her, Twilight trotted gaily through town, giving an enthusiastic wave to everyone she saw.

"Good morning, Roseluck! Beautiful day, isn't it? Did you see my article in the paper?"

"I... uhh..."

"Oh, hello, Raindrops! How'd you like my checklist article? I bet you're on your way home right now to write one up!"

"No, I'm just hungover."

"Caramel, my good friend! On a scale of one to the-best-thing-ever, how would you rate my article?"

"Can I pass?"

"I see you're reading the newspaper there, Comet Tail. Is this your second or third time reading my article?"

"Your what?"

"Hey there, Holly Dash. You making a checklist there? I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Of course you are!"

"Go away, please..."

Twilight let out a contented sigh as she reached the library. She ignored the wave of eyerolling that followed in her wake and stepped inside. With a giddy little hop, she crossed the threshold, shutting the door behind her. Hurrying to her study, Twilight lit her horn up, grabbing a sheaf of parchment and a fresh quill. She'd barely had time to set the parchment down and dip her quill in the ink before she heard a knock at the door. Twilight cocked her head to the side. She set down her quill quill and went back to the front door.

With a tiny busy of magic, she let in her unexpected guests. "Oh," she said, recognizing them immediately, "it's you girls."

Applejack and Rainbow Dash filed into the library, both wearing cheery smiles on their faces. Once they were inside, Applejack said, "Howdy, Twilight. Rainbow and I decided to take a break from our morning jog and see how ya'll are doing."

Rainbow nodded. "Yup. So, what's up, Twi?"

Her face lighting up like a fireplace on Hearth's Warming Eve, Twilight grinned excitedly. "Oh, quit teasing me," she said, waving her hoof. "You girls came here to congratulate me, didn't you?" She chuckled. "Thank you, but really, I'm trying to stay very humble about the whole thing, and I'm afraid if I get any more praise it'll go to my head."

Casting a glance at Applejack, Rainbow raised her eyebrow. "Uhh... what?"

Shaking her head like a teacher who'd just been asked a stupid question, Twilight said, "There's no need to be coy, Rainbow. The whole town's practically been all over me ever since I left Rarity’s house. I mean, it's not like getting published in the local newspaper makes you a celebrity—maybe a C-lister at best—but I won't deny getting a certain sense of satisfaction from hearing from all my fans."

Matching Rainbow’s expression, Applejack said, "Okay, sugarcube, I don't know if you're delirious from lack of sleep again, or what, but you ain't makin' a lick of sense. What's all this about the newspaper. You talkin' 'bout the Gazette?"

Maintaining her smile, but unable to hold back her look of confusion, Twilight teleported over her newspaper from the coffee shop. "All right, I get it," said Twilight, "you girls aren't going to let me off easy. Okay, well here you go." With a flash of light Twilight removed her article from from the newspaper, using a quill to quickly scribble her signature on the back. "There," she said, handing the clipping to Applejack, "that's for you. Don't let me catch you selling it at an auction or anything. That's special, just for you girls."

Rainbow Dash took the clipping. She quickly scanned the front of it where the article was printed. Looking up, she stared at Twilight. "Wait a minute, Twi. Is this what you're getting all worked up over? Dude... it's just an article about checklists and junk."

Twilight blinked a few times. "Well, yeah, but I wrote it. It's my article."

"Okay..." said Rainbow, dragging the word out for a tortuously long time. "Uh, so what?"

"Hey, now," said Applejack, snatching the clipping back from Rainbow. "Don't be rude." She gave it a quick read then looked back at Twilight. "Well, shucks, sugarcube, that's mighty impressive. Ya'll oughta be proud of yourself."

"Why?" said Rainbow, laughing a bit. "It's just the Gazette. I mean, they publish like a dozen articles a week. Not really a big deal. Ow!" Rainbow lifted her back leg, tensing the muscle where Applejack had just kicked her. "What'd you do that for, AJ?"

"Hush, Rainbow," snapped Applejack, "you know what I did that for." She gave a reassuring laugh. "Aw, she was just kidding, Twilight. Gettin' published in the Gazette is somethin' to be proud of. Not everypony's got the skills or the talent—"

"Or the luck—Gah!"

"—or the ability—" Applejack shot Rainbow a fearsome glare "—to manage that sorta thing." She reached a hoof out and patted Twilight on the back. "Ya'll gotta reason to be proud of yourself."

Twilight cheeks flushed red. "Oh, stop it, AJ. I'm sure you could get an article published too if you tried hard enough." She raised a hoof to her chest, buffing it like she was being trained by an old martial arts master. "I could even give you a couple tips... if you ask nicely."

Applejack chuckled awkwardly. "Uhh, well..."

"She's already published, like, twenty articles on crops and apples and whatever," said Rainbow, rolling her eyes. "They're so boooooooring though. I can't believe you have so many readers, AJ."

Snorting, Applejack shot daggers into Rainbow’s sides. "At least my readers can read, ya simpleton." Applejack shook her head, jabbing a hoof at Rainbow. "This'un over here can only write foal's adventure serials." She laughed, ruffling Rainbow’s mane again. "You shoulda seen the one time she tried to write a Daring Do adventure for adults. Half the words weren't even spelled properly."

"Shut up!" shouted Rainbow, taking a halfhearted swipe at Applejack. "Labyrinth is really hard to get right. There's, like, a random 'y' for some reason, and the whole thing looks like some doofus tripped over the original spelling one day and just left it."

"Whatever you say, Rainbow. Anyway, Twilight, like I was saying." Applejack turned her attention back to Twilight, but she didn't get to continue her thought because Twilight interrupted her.

"Wait, you've both been published before?" said Twilight, glancing back and forth between them. "Even Rainbow Dash ?"

"Hey... come on now."

Applejack shrugged. "Shucks, Twi, I didn't know you didn't know. We've all been published at least once or twice. Heck, I think Pinkie had a comic strip for a few months, and Fluttershy once wrote an advice column. Rarity’s got that ongoing fashion column, and Rainbow and I just publish whenever." When she saw Twilight’s face, Applejack sighed. She took her hat off and approached Twilight. "I'm sorry, sugarcube. I don't mean to spoil your fun, but I just don't want ya'll getting a big head about this."

"Like I said," Rainbow added, standing next to Applejack, "it's not really something to get worked up over. It's not a big deal—Ow! Would you freakin' stop kicking me!? I get it!" Angrily rubbing her now-bruised thigh, Rainbow said, "Look, Twilight. It's cool and all to be proud of yourself, or whatever, but don't go shoving your 'accomplishment' down everypony's throats. Like, just chill out and be happy with what you got, kay?"

Her lower lip trembling, and her ears drooping, Twilight said, "I didn't realize that... that it wasn't that special. I thought... I thought..."

Applejack reached out a hoof and rubbed Twilight’s back. "Hey, come on, sugarcube. Don't look at it like that. We're still proud of you, right, RD?"

Rainbow shrugged. "I mean, I guess... it's still not that big of a—"

Applejack raised her back leg menacingly.

"—I-I mean, yeaaaaaaaah, it's a huge deal. Like, maybe the biggest deal ever."

Applejack rolled her eyes. "All right, don't oversell it, Flim." With a sigh, Applejack took her hoof off Twilight’s back. "Anyway, Twilight, we gotta head back out now, but remember what we said, all right. Well, actually, just remember what I said. Ya'll can just forget Rainbow’s idiocy."


Giving Rainbow’s flank a light tap, Applejack herded her out the door. "Come on, Rainbow. We've still got our jog to finish, and you're crazy if you think I'm lettin' ya'll beat me."

With a buck from her back leg, Applejack kicked the door shut, leaving Twilight alone in the darkened room. She fell to her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks. Twilight threw her hooves out, knocking lamp off a nearby end table. As it shattered, like Twilight’s fragile soul, she cried, "My entire life has been a lie!"

Later that night, when Spike had finally returned from his excursion to the lampshade store, he found Twilight curled up on the couch, swathed in the comforter from her bed, and a single ball of light from her horn illuminating the book opened in front of her. As he got closer, he also noticed the half-empty tub of chocolate ice cream wrapped up with her. With a quiet sigh, Spike approached the lump.

Curling his fist into a ball, he rapped the top of the lump. "Knock knock, Twilight. I'm back."

Twilight turned away from him, dragging the blanket with her. "Leave me! Let me wallow in my own self pity in peace."

"Is that what self pity looks like?" Spike asked, raising an eyebrow. "Ice cream and... what's that?" He tugged the book from Twilight’s grasp, examining the cover. "Ice cream and trashy romance novels?"

"Yes," was Twilight’s simple response.

"Come on, Twilight, quit acting stupid," said Spike as he tried to pull the blanket off Twilight. It was surprisingly resilient, however. "What's the matter this time? Did you just find out that Sampson died?"

Twilight whipped around. "Sampson's dead!?"

Spike's eyes went wide. "Uhh, no, no. I was just using that as a, er, hypothetical example," he said, making a mental note to buy a new goldfish sometime tomorrow.

Twilight sighed, staring down at the mushy ice cream that was still left in the tub. "It's just... I finally got my article published in the Ponyville Gazette, and when I told everyone about it, none of them cared." She sniffed, tears welling up in the corners of her eyes.

"Oh, so that's what this is about," said Spike with a nod. "That probably explains all the newspapers I saw stapled to light poles. Anyway, if that's all it is, then I don't know why you're so upset. I mean, I thought your article was good, so what does it matter what everyone else thinks?"

Twilight wiped a stray tear from her eye. She looked up at Spike, a smile working its way across her lips. "Really, Spike? You really liked it?"

"Sure," said Spike with a reassuring nod. "I especially liked the part about checklists being important. That was both informative and thought provoking."

Twilight tossed the comforter aside, her face now split by a massive smile. "I know, right? That's what I thought too! Oh, I knew my talent wasn't being wasted when when I wrote that."

Spike laughed. "Yeah, it's probably the best article on checklists I've ever see in the paper. I mean, it's the only one I've seen..." he added under his breath.

Throwing away her ice cream, and emerging from her blanket cocoon like a somewhat discolored butterfly, Twilight stood up. "You know what, Spike, you're right! That article was great, and you know what I'm going to do?"

"Um, be happy with that knowledge and move on with your life?" said Spike hopefully.

Twilight laughed, patting Spike on the head. "No, silly. I'm going to take my article somewhere where it'll be appreciated."

Spike raised an eyebrow. "Where's that?"

Smirking down at him, Twilight said, "The national newspaper, Spike. I'm taking this to Equestria Daily!"

Grimacing, Spike said, "I don't know if that's such a good idea, Twilight. I hear they have really long turnaround times."

"Please, Spike, when they see something this good, how will they be able to pass it up? I'm sure they'll publish my article the second it comes across their desk." Twilight stood tall, her chest puffed out, her snout held high, and her eyes pointed straight ahead. "I have the utmost confidence that I'll be accepted, Spike. You can take that to the bank."

Frowning, Spike said, "I doubt they'll accept that as legal tender, but all right."

"Spike!" Twilight stomped her hoof on the ground like she was rallying troops. "Fetch my fancy quill! The one with the colors. I have some submission forms to fill out."

Spike rolled his eyes.

"Spike! It's finally here!" shouted Twilight, bounding back into the house, a thin envelope held aloft. "My reply from Equestria Daily!"

"Huh," said Spike, watching Twilight greedily tear open the letter, "only took seven weeks this time. That's pretty fast for them. What's it say?"

Twilight's face went blank as she read the letter. After a few moments of uncomfortably tight silence, she quietly handed the letter to Spike.

He raised an eyebrow, but took it without saying anything. "All right, let's see here..."

Dear Twilight Sparkle,

We are not interested in publishing your article On the Importance of Checklists at this time.

Do not resubmit in the future.

~Equestria Daily

Looking back up from the letter, Spike blinked a few times. “Twilight? Where’d you go?” He searched the room, then, as if on cue, he noticed a lumpy mass sitting on the couch. Sighing, he crumpled up the letter and tossed it into a nearby trash bin. “Are you wallowing again?”

The lump moved a bit. “Yes.”

“Do you want me to get more ice cream?”

There was a slight shift. “...Yes.”

Spike shook his head, then turned around and headed outside.

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