This story is by Maxwell Dyke and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
It wasn’t long after her 14th year that she realized she had made a mistake. The seer had warned her, of course, but seers are always babbling about nonsense; balance, the consequences of choice, good and evil. She found it exhausting.
At the time she had seen the seer as an old woman, covered in the deep wrinkles of unwanted knowledge. Now she herself was old, truly old, so that her bones creaked when she moved and she had to crane her head towards the people she spoke to. She rarely left her home in the small village up in the mountains, and though many people loved her and she loved many people she was all alone.
The old woman closed one leathery eye and focused the other on the wall in front of her. Painted there was a beautiful image of a snow-capped mountain, layers of fog billowing around it’s peak and a small figure climbing the rocky trail that ran up its side. A small tear ran down the side of her cheek, and with long-practiced patience she opened one eye and slowly closed the other so as not to have them shut at the same time.
Around the room were other images, painted along the walls with a rough acrylic texture that made the room feel alive. It was as if you had walked into a thousand people’s dreams. They blended into each other at the edges, small silhouetted characters trapesing along rope bridges from cliffs to skyscrapers, sailing from icy coasts to desert beaches, hiking out of endlessly dark caves into living rooms with couches and cups of coffee on the table. Her house was covered in these paintings, yet she no longer remembered what had driven her to make the first. Maybe it was simply a way to clear her head of the relentless visions. More likely, she thought, an attempt to provide some comfort, a illusion that she wasn’t alone all these years.
It was a moonless night when the girl returned from her adventure visiting the seer and wandered back into her home. Her mother gasped and ran over, simultaneously berating her for disappearing and hugging her tightly. When her mother asked where she had been, she told the truth, causing her mother to back away instinctually. The little girl faced the curious and frightened looks from her family head on, and in that moment she realized her life had changed forever.
The next morning, before the sun rose above the horizon, their curiosity got the better of them. The family members snuck into her room one by one, sheepishly saying good morning to each other until eventually they all circled around her bed and waited with nervous anticipation.
“It’s ok, little one,” her father said. “We are your family and we love you, and we must see what you can do.”
The girl blinked both of her brown eyes shut, and when she opened them, they sparkled like two bowls full of magnificent gems. She flailed her hands out at first, not yet used to the sensation, and her father quickly rushed over and held her in a secure embrace. Once she was calm, they asked and the girl told them what she was experiencing.
She saw, or rather she felt a presence. A whisper of a life, like an outline or silhouette of a person. She wasn’t sure how, but she knew that this moment wasn’t now but in the future. It was part vision and part pure emotion, so strong that it was almost as if she was experiencing it herself. The silhouette wandered through her mind with purpose, and she traveled with it through this predetermined snippet of its life. As she watched, the silhouette raced through her home and into a room with a large shadow of a man, dark and untraceable. The silhouette charged just as the shadow struck something violently downward, and she gasped as they went to the ground in heap.
The little girl blinked again and opened brown eyes to the solemn faces of her family. Later that day she wandered outside into the sunny garden of her family’s, and despite the chirping of the birds and the smell of the cherry blossom tree in the garden, she sat for the first time in her life with a furrowed brow.
Over time she practiced her power, and as the news began to spread the visitors began to appear. Her father charged people a small fee, and he set it aside for her schooling and for her marriage which never came. She saw childhood memories for the old, future moments of courage for those that were afraid, and times of love both past and future for those that needed it. They were not all happy visions, but she grew skilled at telling people only the bits and pieces she knew they wanted to hear, and many people grew to love and respect her.
One day a tall man came by wearing a long dark robe. He had a look in his eye of a deep sadness, but it was sharp and hostile like a lost dog in the street. He paid the girls father and stepped into the room where she sat as all others left, so as to guarantee the vision would be of him.
“Hello,” the young girl said, “I can’t control when or what I see of your life, but if you tell me who you are and why you came to see me it might help me find what you are looking for.”
“My name is Asif, and you cannot help me find what I seek.”
“Welcome Asif, I would like to try and help you if I can.”
“You cannot help me, because what I seek isn’t a truth from the past or guidance for the future. What I seek is the forgiveness of someone who is gone. My daughter, who I will never see again.”
“I’m sorry. You’re right I can’t help you get her back, but I can bring you a memory long forgotten. A glimpse of light to remind you of what was and always will be true in that moment of time.”
“The problem is, child, I do not weep for her death. She is alive, gone from me so that I am now alone. No memory of the past will soothe my worry for her or be untainted by the knowledge that this is how I must live out the rest of my days. And no matter what my future holds from me, I cannot escape the fact of it being my own fault.”
“What did you do that you seek forgiveness so desperately?”
“I took when I thought I was giving. I changed the lives of those I had no right to touch, and I lost everything I ever had. I could survive the loneliness, somehow I would, but its the thoughts of what I have done to others, what I have done to my family, that keeps me up at night.”
“Yet you have paid for my visions, so surely there is something I can do for you?” The girl saw the pain in the man’s eyes and wanted desperately to help him.
“I didn’t pay for a chance to see the future,” the man said, slowly drawing his hands out of his robe, “I paid for a chance to change it. So there is something you can do for me, though it pains me to do it.” The girl noticed the glint of a long and jagged dagger emerging from the folds of his robe. “You can be silenced.”
He struck the dagger down with his long arms at lightning speed, and the girl felt a strange serenity overtake her. Suddenly the girl’s brother rushed in, charging the man with the knife and tackling him to the ground in a heap. The assassin slammed his eyes shut and cried out with pain as the girl’s brother rolled off of him, revealing the dagger protruding from the man’s chest. As he lay slumped in the corner, blood beginning to pool around him, the girl approached. Slowly the man lifted his head and opened his eyes to look at her. She gasped as she looked back into eyes like kaleidoscopes, sparkling with every color she had ever known and more.
The assassin gestured her close and she leaned in so he could whisper a message to her and her alone. A dying man’s words, a man who had only moments before tried to kill her, a man whose last breath, through her, lived a lifetime.