Contest #152 shortlist ⭐️

The Fortune Teller's Daughter

Submitted into Contest #152 in response to: Start your story with a character saying “I can see it now.”... view prompt

45 comments

Historical Fiction Sad Fiction

This story contains sensitive content


*Content Warning- reference to murder*


“I can see it now, how I’ve been misled, as clear as day. It’s true I killed the fortune teller’s daughter, but she made me do it.”


“Is that so?”


“I’m a God fearing man, sir. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I’ve never harmed a person before. Never in my life.”


“Indeed.”


“Mr Hopkins, I beg you- listen to my account and make right the wrongs that have taken place. Only you can save me from the gallows. I don’t deserve to die!”


“I’m here to find out the truth, Thomas. I’ll do it not for the shillings your father’s paid me, but to see that evil is rooted out and destroyed. It’s my moral and professional duty. Perhaps you could start by telling me how it is you came to know the fortune teller and her daughter?”


“The fortune teller goes by the name of Anne Burridge, and her daughter is… was... Keziah. You’ll have passed their cottage coming into town- it’s the ramshackle place with the sinking roof. Anne makes a living from her gift. She can see visions by bringing a trance upon herself and looking into a black stone ball. The ball's a strange object, carved from obsidian, which she came by from an Egyptian pedlar."


“What do you mean…visions?”


“People round here visit Anne before making important decisions about land sales and marriages. She’ll take out the stone ball and tell them what the future holds- you know, whether the decision is a good one or not.”


“Are these not matters to discuss with the Church?”


“Of course they are, Mr Hopkins. It’s just that most people trust Anne because she’ll have helped out when they’ve been sick.”


“Go on.”


“You see, Anne also gathers herbs and roots for when people need cures. Keziah assisted with their preparation.”


“Exactly what type of cures?”


“Anne makes ointments for aches and tinctures for fevers. She helps with other ailments too… for women. They go to her for private matters, and call for her when birthing pains start.”


“This is most interesting. Tell, me, Thomas, were you seeking a cure from Anne and Keziah Burridge?”


“I was, Mr Hopkins, but not for myself. My mother has a boil that won’t heal, and she asked me to go to their cottage and fetch a poultice for it.”


“And that’s how Keziah and you became to be…together?”


“Exactly. I was waiting in their cottage while her mother fetched herbs from the garden. Keziah offered me water, and I took some. She said she was thirsty too, and she came up close to me to drink from a tumbler, so close I could see her throat rippling as she swallowed. Her bare foot was touching my boot.”


“And then?”


“She asked if I wanted my fortune told. I didn’t know she could see visions too, but she told me she was learning to do it. She said to meet me in the woods because the visions would be clearer if we were alone, and to bring a small token in payment.”


“For what reason did you want to know your future, Thomas? A good Christian should trust in God’s plans.”


“I know, sir. I wasn’t really interested in seeing my future. But don’t you see- Keziah had already started practicing her sorcery on me. It was as if I were under a spell and compelled to meet her on the pretext of having my fortune told.”


“Did you tell anyone about your arrangement?”


“I did not. I was ashamed of the feelings she made me have. I had an unbearable craving to see her- I couldn’t think about anything else.”


“And the small token?”


“Keziah’s sorcery lead me to sin. After I brought home the poultice, I went to the chest my mother keeps under her bed, and I untied a pearl from the necklace she hides there for safe keeping. I’ve never stolen so much as a breadcrumb before, let alone something from my own mother, Mr Hopkins. I was not of my own mind, and I weep to think of it.”


“I see your remorse, Thomas, yet it’s a fraction of the pain and suffering you’ll find in Hell, if God judges you unworthy. Tell me about your meeting with Keziah.”


“She was waiting for me in the woods. Her hair was unfastened and tumbling about her like a black cloak. There was a red shawl bundled in her arms, from which she unwrapped her mother’s obsidian ball. I could see then it was an evil thing, full of darkness and sorrow. She laid the shawl out upon the leaves and placed the ball upon it.”


“And what of the pearl?”


“I took it from my pocket and put it on the shawl. Keziah licked her lips and snatched it up to hide it in her dress. When she smiled her teeth were like a row of pearls, just like my mother's necklace, hidden there in her pink mouth, and I couldn’t take my eyes from her. That’s how strong the magic was. She began to gaze from the ball, to me, then back to the ball again, her dark eyes teasing me all the time, and I felt hunger pangs for the taste of her skin."


“Did she tell you of any visions, in the way her mother is reported to do?”


“She said all she could see was my heart, and that it looked every bit as black as obsidian. She told me if I wanted her to look in the stone ball again, I should bring another pearl. And then she threw back her head with laughter. She was laughing at me.”


“What did you do then?”


“I felt a fury burning me up from within, like the devil himself was trying to burst out of my body. I let out a cry and put my hands around her throat. I pulled her face close to mine and the breath that I squeezed out of her was hot and sweet. She fell into me then, and my reflection stared back at me from her empty eyes. I only meant to give her a scare, but it was the magic, sir. I couldn’t stop because she’d called upon the devil with that black stone ball, and he’d have surely taken away my soul if she'd lived.”


“I fear your soul has indeed been in terrible danger. You must make penance for the temptation you’ve succumbed to.”


“But will they hang me, Mr Hopkins? Please make them see it was her fault. She made me do it, by summoning Satan."


“I’ve weighed up what you’ve told me with the utmost attention. It makes my heart heavy to hear of such wickedness, but listen I must, for God’s work must be done.”


“I have all my trust in you to do God’s will.”


“Let it be known, then, that Anne and Keziah Burridge are witches who have made pacts with the devil. By what other means would they be able to divine the future and make magic potions? As Anne is still living, she shall be put on trial, and we will use pricking needles and swimming tests to determine her guilt. The devil will bite down hard on her tongue, but she’ll confess eventually, and then she’ll hang.”


“And what of Keziah, sir?”


“It’s written in the Malleus Maleficarium that witches blight others for their own gain. I've seen it often times before, and many of the witches I've charged have admitted as much- once they're persuaded to talk. Your mother’s boil was without doubt the work of Keziah Burridge, all part of her scheme to bring you to her, spell-struck, with the stolen pearl. It seems you had no choice but to save yourself from her wicked designs with your own bare hands. You've shown some weakness of character, for which you must pray for forgiveness, but you’ve committed no crime. I’ll inform the Magistrates of my decision without delay”


“That’s exactly how it happened, Mr Hopkins! I knew a man of your wisdom and experience would see the truth. My father will be waiting to shake your hand!”


“Thomas, you did indeed kill the fortune teller’s daughter. But you’ve helped purge the world of certain evil, and for that we can all now sleep a little sounder in our beds.”



June 26, 2022 14:52

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45 comments

Robert Gilgoff
18:39 Jul 03, 2022

Makes me wonder how different the world might be if we had more women heads of state. Thanks for story, Robert

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L. Maddison
00:28 Jul 08, 2022

Hi Robert, Yes, that’s certainly an interesting thought. Thanks so much for reading.

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Charlotte Morse
16:48 Jul 02, 2022

Wow! And wow again! And all in dialogue! An amazing piece of work! Being a complete newby I don't feel I have the right yet to give any kind of criticique - but I'm happy to say there's none needed here, I thought your story was excellent.

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L. Maddison
10:01 Jul 03, 2022

Thanks so much Charlotte, I think your fresh eyes make you very well placed to critique :)

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Zack Powell
04:00 Jul 01, 2022

I'm always a little jealous of the people on here who can write dialogue-only stories. It's on my bucket list but hasn't happened yet. When the time comes, I think I'd like to write one like this. Really enjoyed the structure of this story, of course, and it's wild that this is inspired by an actual person in history. The more you know, right? On a technical level, it's impressive how the setting for both of these events (the interrogation and Keziah's murder) is never hazy. We can intuit exactly where we are physically by the context clues...

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L. Maddison
09:59 Jul 03, 2022

Thank you Zack :)

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Zack Powell
14:56 Jul 08, 2022

Congrats on the shortlist, L.! Great story, and well-deserved.

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Claire Lindsey
19:06 Jun 27, 2022

“Sure, let’s blame the woman” - and other tales by very guilty men You’ve got such command over these voices. They’re distinct and easy to follow, which is difficult to do in a dialogue-only story. I love your opening line, though I’m not sure how strict the judges are on the whole “start with this line” thing. And one small tweak, which I might be misreading, so ignore me if I’m off: “Mr Hopkins, I beg you listen to my account and make right the wrongs that have taken place.” Consider a period or maybe an em dash after ‘I beg you’ I...

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L. Maddison
20:41 Jun 27, 2022

Hey Claire, Totally good call about the Mr Hopkins line, thank you! I started off with the fortune teller prompt (obvs) but then it didn’t end up in a parlour, so I squeezed it into a different prompt, hence a bit of prompt confusion 😂 Thank so much for reading and commenting!

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17:43 Jun 26, 2022

This was so well done! The dialogue format made it read so quickly! I love how you wove the historical content in so deftly, it felt so natural to hear from them! You had me captivated from the title all the way to the end. Well done!

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L. Maddison
16:09 Jun 27, 2022

Hello Hannah, many thanks! I’ve not tried historical or dialogue-only before, so appreciate your feedback.

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L. Maddison
14:54 Jun 26, 2022

Mathew Hopkins (c.1620-1647) was the self-titled Witchfinder General, responsible for multiple executions of women charged with witchcraft. Like the women in this story, those he accused faced impossible misogyny and injustice.

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Amanda Lieser
04:36 Jul 16, 2022

Hello! I thought this was an interesting take on a historic moment in time. I especially liked how you chose to make it a conversation story. My favorite detail was the scene about the pearls. That image was so intensely sinister and beautiful at the same time. It felt like something crafter for Hollywood! This story was a well deserved shortlist! CONGRATULATIONS!

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Philip Ebuluofor
11:10 Jul 15, 2022

I think the dialogue is second to none. I almost can watch it happen. Fine work.

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Kevin Broccoli
16:27 Jul 11, 2022

I love that so many people went with a dialogue driven approach, because I feel like you can convey so much with what people say and use subtext to paint the rest. This was a fantastic read.

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L. Maddison
17:34 Jul 12, 2022

Thanks so much Kevin. I agree about the impact of dialogue, it’s something I definitely want to develop.

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Kelsey H
02:56 Jul 09, 2022

It's amazing how having the whole story told in dialogue works so well, I think the old-fashioned way of speaking being more formal and descriptive makes it really flow and feel like a more traditional narrative. The opening sentence is such a great hook and makes you want to keep going to see what he is going to say next, and the back and forward between the two men revealing the story works perfectly to keep it moving and engaging. And of course showing what an awful thing they are doing, setting up this poor girl to be blamed for her own ...

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L. Maddison
17:35 Jul 12, 2022

Hello Kelsey, Thanks so much for reading! And for your thoughtful feedback.

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Jay Mc Kenzie
21:10 Jul 08, 2022

Congrats on the shortlist!

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L. E. Scott
12:55 Jul 06, 2022

This is so twisted. I mean it's a good story and probably how things went down before women had a voice, but it's really dark and twisted. It enrages my sense of justice. Good job. I did notice, I think, one typo but I'm having a hard time finding it again. I think it was at the end of a paragraph.

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L. Maddison
00:32 Jul 08, 2022

Hi L.E., It is twisted, I agree, and exactly as you say is full of injustice. Thank you for reading- and thanks for looking out for the typo! Can’t see one but way to late to change anyway!

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Seán Mc Nicholl
12:34 Jul 05, 2022

Amazing story solely through dialogue! Excellently crafted (excuse the pun) and engaging throughout! And a true representation of what poor women were subjected to at the time, sadly. Well done!

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L. Maddison
05:22 Jul 06, 2022

Thanks so much Sean, glad you enjoyed this story.

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Ralph Aldrich
00:59 Jul 04, 2022

I found this story very enjoyable

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L. Maddison
15:14 Jul 04, 2022

Thanks Ralph, I appreciate your feedback.

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Aeris Walker
16:56 Jul 03, 2022

I was probably half way through this story before it dawned on me that it was entirely dialogue. *applause* Your beginning dropped us right into the moment, where you then pulled us gently, but firmly, through the rest of the story. So well done. I could clearly imagine Thomas crafting his account of his interactions with the girl, becoming increasingly confident and colorful in his descriptions as he begins to feel some sense of Mr. Hopkins sympathizing with him. Not only was your prose eloquent and consistent, you shed a light on a dark...

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L. Maddison
09:04 Jul 08, 2022

Hi Aeris, Many thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, much appreciated! It’s definitely a period of history that invites storytelling.

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Wendy M
15:43 Jul 03, 2022

Phew, I was exhausted after reading this, so much emotion, evil, and hypocrisy. I couldn't stop, I had to keep reading. A very powerful story, I'm impressed. As has been said, doing all that with just dialogue is incredible.

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L. Maddison
09:05 Jul 08, 2022

Hello Wendy, Thanks so much for reading and investing in this story!

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Marty B
05:14 Jul 03, 2022

Oh the description of Keziah was great! Sad that this could be written of an attack last week instead of 400 years ago. my favorite- When she smiled her teeth were like a row of pearls, just like my mother's necklace, hidden there in her pink mouth, and I couldn’t take my eyes from her.

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L. Maddison
10:02 Jul 03, 2022

Hello Marty, Many thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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Riel Rosehill
12:02 Jul 02, 2022

L, when I finished reading I just saw the first line of Zack's comment and had to scroll back up. Dialogue only?! I didn't even notice it was so good, I wasn't missing any setting or anything. Excellent story to highlight the injustice over women who were wiser than the men hiding behind their bibles. Loved reading it.

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L. Maddison
10:00 Jul 03, 2022

Thank you Reil :)

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Riel Rosehill
14:58 Jul 08, 2022

Back to say congrats on the shorlist!! Well deserved :)

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Drew Andrews
23:37 Jun 30, 2022

Well... I was inspired by this work. Check out my new story: DIRECTOR'S CUT.

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L. Maddison
09:59 Jul 03, 2022

Thanks Drew :)

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Michał Przywara
20:59 Jun 27, 2022

Great story! Good characterization, and the action and setting come through strongly in this dialogue. But oof, that "logic and reasoning" is hard to swallow. I'd even say it's unrealistic, except of course it actually happened, and in many ways continues to happen. There's a lot of great, and infuriating, lines in this. This one stood out: "Please make them see it was her fault. She made me do it, by summoning Satan." I can see it at face value, where the frightened murderer might actually believe this, but I can also see it as here's a...

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L. Maddison
09:58 Jul 03, 2022

Thanks Michal, you’re right about the different perspectives. Belief is a very subjective thing especially when under pressure.

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Michał Przywara
21:07 Jul 08, 2022

Congratulations on the shortlist!

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