Clap your hands

by Cackling Moron

Chapter 1: If you believe

Author's Notes:

The two beats are:

1) Miserable human learning how to stop being so bloody miserable because ponies are adorable and being nice and sincere is actually pretty great.

2) Far-too-casual human engages in rambunctious tomfoolery (optionally baffling Twilight in the process).


As was her right, Twilight was out for a walk, and while out for a walk she passed a particular house.

This would be the house of Charlie, local human. Nice enough chap, if a little difficult to follow at times. Idly, Twilight wondered how he might be getting on when, from around the back of the house, there came an unmistakable crash.

Alarmed, Twilight moved to investigate.

In Charlie’s garden was several things. Plants mostly, a shopping trolley for whatever reason, a hosepipe and also a shed. A fairly large shed, as sheds went, and a shed with the door wide open. Twilight approached.

“Charlie? Are you in there?” She called out. There was another crash from within and she winced. “...are you alright?”

“Hang on!” Came a voice, followed by several smaller, less-violent sounding crashes.

Charlie, dusting off his hands, then emerged blinking into the sunshine, saw Twilight, waved, stopped looking where he was putting his foot, took a tumble, rolled and somehow managed to end up more-or-less on his feet again, albeit a bit dustier and a bit more confused looking than he had been a second before.

He also had to look around to check where Twilight had ended up. Finding her he immediately smiled again and finished strolling over as though nothing had happened.

“Ah! Twilight! Just who I was just thinking about! Just now in fact, heh,” he said.

Not what she’d expected to hear.


“Really really! I’m tinkering, you see? And innovating. And when I tinker and when I innovate I think of you! Well, I concentrate on what I’m doing, but in the moments of reflection I think of you - likely how you could be doing better! Come, come, see, see.”

He beckoned for her to follow and promptly returned to the interior of his shed. Twilight had - in the course of her upbringing - heard one or two lessons on the wisdom of following strange men into strange sheds but knew from experience that Charlie was harmless, at least to anyone other than himself, so felt this was probably a safe exception.

She also entered the shed.

The interior was dim and took a second to adjust to, but once Twilight did adjust she saw that it looked as though a bomb had hit it. Not in the conventional sense, however. It looked as though a bomb had hit it, failed to detonate and had then been dismantled and the bits and pieces of it scattered across the walls and every available surface.

And that after this several other bombs had come along to see what had happened to their friend and had then suffered the same fate. Which is to say the place was a horrific mess even by Twilight’s standards. How Charlie functioned in such an environment was anyone’s guess.

“You’ve been, uh, busy!” Twilight said just to make polite conversation, carefully approaching Charlie who appeared halfway buried in a pile of scrap and straining for something. From within the pile he grunted in agreement and then, a moment later, withdrew, clutching something and looking very pleased with himself.

“Oh yes, very busy. Behold!”

He thrust a box in her direction. A curious box with several protruding rods and wires. From the outside it didn’t really look like anything. Or, rather, it looked like it could be anything. Certainly from the outside Twilight couldn’t make heads or tails of the thing. Mostly it looked unfinished.

“That looks, uh, that looks great, Charlie,” she said, giving a winning and supportive smile. Charlie was smiling too, holding the thing forth in both hands like he was presenting a prize flower and not, you know, some weird thing he’d cobbled together from scrap.

“I call this my ozmium generator,” he said with glowing pride. Twilight, by comparison, glowed with confusion, the smile unable to maintain itself in the face of such an odd statement.

“Does it...generate ozmium? Or use ozmium to generate something else? Neither makes much sense, Charlie. Sorry,” she said, clutching at straws, hoping for answers and feeling a little bad for maybe bursting his bubble.

Twilight needn’t have worried - he continued beaming as though what he’d said wasn’t completely nonsensical.

“You’re quite right! And it is a power source,” he said, giving it a pat. Twilight looked at the device again and saw nothing that bolstered her confidence.

“Uh…” she said, further questions bubbling up inside her. This he saw and so this he headed off at the pass.

“I know what you’re thinking, Twilight, but if you think about it too much it will stop working, so could I be so bold as to ask you stop thinking about it?” He asked, politely.

Twilight wasn’t entirely sure how she was supposed to do this. But he had asked her politely...

“Oh! Um, okay. I’ll try.”

“Thank you kindly.”

She stared at the box a little, trying to work out where the ozmium went in. Or came out. Or how it was involved at all. She didn’t get very far in this.

“Can I look at it?” She asked.

“Only if you promise not to think about what you’re looking at.”

“I’m not sure I can promise that, Charlie.”

“Well then! No looking for you!” He said, hiding the box behind his back. This only lasted about a second though, and the box re-appeared a moment later and was handed over to a thoroughly bemused Twilight. “Ah, I can’t say no to that face!”

A pleasant enough thing to say and pleasanter still to hear, Twilight going just the tiniest touch pink at the very tips of her ears, but not distracted from her desire to give this odd box a thorough going over.

After a brief session of turning it around and over she found what looked to be a hatch and, finding latches on the hatch, opened it up and managed to actually get a look inside.

The inside wasn’t any better than the outside. Nowhere was anything even close to a mechanism she could recognise.

“This is…”

Words failed her.

Charlie wordlessly gestured for her to return the box and, wordlessly, she did and he closed it up and tucked it under one arm.

“Can I let you in on a secret, Twilight?” He said.


He leant in, glanced about, brought up a hand to whisper behind and said:

“I have realised that a key component of the physics here is the belief that something should work as intended. If something looks enough like it should do what its inventor feels it should and if everyone else also shares this belief, it’ll often as not do what you expect it to. Are you familiar with Orks?”

Twilight had leant in as well and also whispered, entirely without realising it:


“Well, then I won’t reference them. Forget I said anything - put them out of your mind! The point is if you act as though something will perform in a certain way, then it usually will. Unless it’s funnier not to, but that’s why it’s best to just assume it so hard it fades into the background.”

He straightened up again, tapping his nose conspiratorially, a gesture largely lost on Twilight who was still attempting to work out whether he was being serious or not. The look on his face suggested that he’d never been more serious in life, or more cheerful.

“Anyway, it’s merely part of a larger mechanism,” he said breezily, wafting his hand. Twilight’s ear flicked.


“Yes! Just the power source. The rest of the machine is inside the house. Come, come!”

And off he went, so suddenly and with such a brisk pace that Twilight was left quite on her own by the time she realised he’d gone. She had to cut a brisk pace to catch up, and by then he was already inside his house. Twilight followed.

They entered through the back door - which had been open - and ended up in his kitchen.

Tidiness-wise the kitchen was far, far superior to the shed. The shed had been a nightmare, this was practically normal. Pretty clean, nothing really out of place, all-in-all quite pleasant. What really stood out though was the huge, hulking thing underneath an all-concealing dust sheet.

For some reason Rainbow Dash was also there, sat at the kitchen table. She looked bored, perking up considerably on seeing Twilight enter.

“Hey Twilight. You get roped into this thing too?” She asked, leaning over to pull out the next chair along, onto which Twilight hopped, nodding thanks.

“Hello Rainbow Dash. And I don’t think so? I hope not…” She asked, wary, looking over to Charlie who was doing something behind the sheet-covered whatever. On hearing this his head poked out from around the side.

“No no, not unless you want to. Rainbow Dash was kind enough to volunteer and one imagines she - being her! - will be more than sufficient,” he said. He then promptly got back to doing whatever it was he was doing.

“I’m kind of afraid to ask what’s being tested,” Twilight asked, quietly.

“Lunch machine,” Rainbow said. As though that would in anyway not require followup.

It did require followup.

“Lunch machine?” Twilight asked and Rainbow just nodded, yawning, leaving all of the important question utterly unanswered. Twilight turned to Charlie once more, him having re-emerged from around the back, now sans-ozmium generator. “Lunch machine?” She asked again.

Charlie just did the nose-tapping thing again and then proceeded to stand there, hands on hips, feet apart. Powerstancing like a motherfucker.

Twilight leaned into Rainbow and whispered:

“I’m kind of worried. Are you kind of worried?”

Rainbow yawned again.


Charlie - who had been standing in his powerstance without moving a muscle - broke out of it so suddenly and clapped so loudly he made Twilight jump. Even Rainbow nearly toppled over backwards, having been resting the chair on two legs. Charlie cared not for this, and instead moved back to the sheet, stooped, and took up a corner.

“This is the reveal, are you two watching?” He asked, like a child about to jump into a swimming pool and making sure their parents were paying attention.

“We’re watching,” Twilight said.

Grinning fiercely Charlie gave the sheet and a firm yank and whipped it away, revealing, well…

“And behold! My lunch machine!”

It was a machine alright, that much was undeniable. The thing was about Charlie’s height and took up most of the rest of his kitchen. Somehow, it seemed bigger now that he’d taken the sheet off than it had before. Which was impossible, clearly, but that was how it seemed.

What he’d had to tear apart to put it together was anyone’s guess, but the most prominent features were a horn, a lever and some sort of dispensing chute underneath which a little trolley had been pushed.

That, and the bright-red colour it had been painted.

“Why is it red?” Twilight asked. Out of all possible questions she might have asked at that moment it just seemed the least risky.

“Because this way it makes lunch faster!” Charlie said.

Red is faster?” Rainbow asked, pointedly.

“For lunch machines, yes. For ponies? No. For ponies it’s blue, obviously,” he said, smooth as anything, smiling a winning smile.

“Right, that’s right. Yeah, that’s right,” Rainbow said, plainly not having expected this answer or its delivery but rolling with it anyway.

“So! Test subject,” Charlie said, meandering over to the table and placing both hands onto it, the better to loom over Rainbow. “What can I get you for lunch?”

“It’s just a test, right? I don’t know. Uh, hayburger and fries, whatever,” Rainbow said, mostly just hungry, uninterested in theatrics. Charlie considered this, nodding to himself in a ‘fair play, well picked’ sort of a way and then meandering right back to his machine.

“Seems a good choice. Alright. Observe. I, the operator, first move to the order-takerer here,” he moved over and indicated the large grammaphone-esque funnel sticking out of the machine. Once he was sure that both mares had seen him indicated this he turned, cleared his throat, and spoke clearly into the funnel:

“A hayburger with chips.”

The machine went ‘bing’ and a green light lit up. Charlie raised a finger.

“Order received! The bing and the light indicate that it has understood and taken my order. With me so far?”

Dumb nods from both Rainbow - who wasn’t really that interested in the technical details and was mostly just hungry - and Twilight - who was just low-key appalled by what she was seeing happen. Charlie continued.

“And having placed the order, thus, the operator moves to here and stands here and pulls this lever, thus.”

The pulling action itself looked like it required some fair amount of effort, Charlie having to basically hang off the thing to get it to go down. It did go down though, with an almighty ratcheting sound, and then the machine started to puff and whirr and buzz and humm and something attached to the side also started spinning, too.

“Ooh, spinning. Good sign, good sign,” Charlie said, stepping back and mopping some sweat from his brow.

“Did you put food into there?” Twilight asked.

Theoretically, were a device to be stocked with sufficient raw materials, you could conceivably rig something up to prepare food, magically or otherwise. That much Twilight could accept.

She’d be surprised - not meaning to do the lad down - if Charlie could manage it, but she could see it being possible in some way. It could happen. It was not beyond the realms of possibility.

“Nope!” Charlie said, cheerfully.

That idea shot down, then.

“Then where is it coming from?” Twilight asked.

“Shh shh shh shh, Twilight, be confident. It’ll work because it’s meant to work. Watch.”

Charlie pointed. THe machine seemed to be reaching a crescendo, all the spinning and whirring and buzzing increasing in speed and pitch until, with another ‘bing’, the meal dropped onto the waiting trolley. It even came on a plate already.

“Lunch!” Charlie said, pumping a fist and leaping over to the wheel the trolley back to the table. Rainbow looked delighted. Twilight looked defeated.

“But...the plate too? Energy…? Mass…? How…” She said, losing the will to continue in the face of the evidence against her and just slumping over the table, mane falling over her face.

Not even this could dull Charlie’s triumph, and he was once again stood in his powerstance.

“I told you, Twilight! I made something to do something and was sufficiently confident that it would, and so it did! Ah! What a world! God I love this place. Now, can I get you anything?” He asked.

Twilight took a second and then straightened up, blowing hair out of her face.

“I’m just - I’m questioning a lot of things right now. About how the universe works. I think I’m having an existential crisis,” she said.

“Nothing worse than a crisis on an empty stomach, hmm?” Charlie said, not-so-subtly twitching a thumb back towards his lunch machine and waggling his eyebrows.

Twilight looked at him, then looked over to Rainbow. The chips - or fries, depending on where you were from - had already all disappeared and the burger was halfway gone, too. Rainbow, cheeks bulging, gave a big ol’ smile.

“Itsh goodsh,” she said.

Followed by a big ol’ swallow.

“...fine. I’ll have what she’s having,” Twilight sighed, waving a hoof in Rainbow’s direction.

Worse things had happened, after all, and she hadn’t had lunch yet.

Charlie grinned and gave her a knowing wink.

“Excellent choice!” He said, gaily wheeling the trolley back into the appropriate position and getting it started on the next meal.

“Hey Charlie, that thing do drinks too?” Rainbow asked over the humming and the whirring. Charlie scoffed.

“Rainbow Dash, please!” He said. “Drinks and food? Be realistic!”

Return to Story Description


Login with