by Justin Stewart
A few candles flickered in the room, casting shadows on the curved wall. A rabbit here, a house there, assorted flowers and even a wine glass. A thousand different shapes wandered the room. They were just pieces of paper suspended from string, mere ornaments guided by a mobile above, but the candlelight made them more. It brought the shapes to life.
It unnerved her.
“Take your time,” said the Whispering Woman. The words were no encouragement. You only came to the Whispering Woman if you were desperate. Desperation didn’t exactly breed patience. The girl wandered between shapes and string, chewing at her lip. None of them called to her. They all seemed random and unconnected, both to one another and her life. She thought about grabbing one at random and being done with the whole, terrible process, but then her future would be decided.
It could be wrong.
“Would you like some tea while you search?” The Whispering Woman stood in the middle of the room, hands clasped. She was the picture of elegance with her straight back, willowy frame, and long neck—things Anna sorely lacked. Even the seer’s smile contained nobility, patient and gentle, if disconcerting. It had to be the lack of eyes. The Whispering Woman’s straw hat shaded the top half of her face, leaving it to imagination and dark thoughts.
Anna stopped in the sea of shapes, fists tightening. She couldn’t continue like this.
“What if I pick wrong?” A laugh answered her, dancing through the room.
“No one has ever chosen incorrectly,” she said simply. Anna looked back at the woman, her stomach churning.
“What if it’s bad?” she asked.
The smile faded. “That has happened,” she admitted. “Good or bad, the future is always uncertain. I cannot change that fact, dear. The only thing I can do is prepare you for it.”
There was comfort in the words. Anna took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She stepped at random, paper fluttering against her skin. If the woman’s words were true, she would find her future, no matter what she did. Left and then right, up and then down, side-to-side. It was a dance and she was being lead.
The girl opened her eyes.
It was a star. Not the typical five-sided kind, but a diamond, the type that twinkled in the sky. It was the sort of star that you made wishes on as a child. Anna was too old for such silliness, superstition and make-believe, but that didn’t stop her—she crossed her fingers and plucked it from the sky.
“Oh,” sighed the Whispering Woman, now standing next to Anna. “It has been ages since I’ve seen that one.” Anna twisted around in surprise, drawing the shape protectively to her chest. She looked to the woman, but the mystic only had eyes for the star.
“What does it mean?” asked Anna apprehensively.
“Good things,” said the seer with a smile.
Justin Stewart is a three-time award winning poet, an avid composer known for his work in El Duce, and the killer of Tras’dek, the Hound-That-Consumes. He also has a bit of a lying problem. The truth might be closer that he’s a struggling writer, trying to eke out a place in the world. His forays into fiction can normally be seen at http://southwrites.blogspot.com while his very short stories can be found on Twitter @southwrites .