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


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.”


“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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Jay McKenzie
20:50 Jun 27, 2022

Such a terrifyingly fascinating part of history. And yet, so little has changed in many ways, sadly. Telling this story through dialogue is a very interesting and clever way to do this. Essentially, this is the woman's story - her life, her death - and here it is being told and skewed by men. It makes your point so well. And the voices of the men are so frustratingly righteous, which again, we are seeing at the moment. Well done for foraying into new territory!


09:47 Jul 03, 2022

Thank you Jay :)


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17:33 Jun 27, 2022

Well, it's a good thing there are women around in case any one needs a scapegoat... VERY distinct voices. Easy to read and hear the authenticity in the dialogue. Great line here: "Keziah’s sorcery lead me to sin." Sure, pal. Like it wasn't the consequences for your own actions. We must be in sync on some level, L....I wrote "The Witch Hunter's Grandson" (historical fiction which took FOREVER) about British Parliament's move to STOP burning women for witchcraft. Good for them. Only took until the 18th c....


18:14 Jun 27, 2022

Blimey, Mathew Hopkins doesn’t deserve to be such a source of inspiration. What a coincidence though! (I know the Prospect of Whitby SO well- great little pub!)


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Russell Norman
11:48 Jun 27, 2022

Captivating story, great dialogue. Kept us intrigued as to the verdict until the end. Loved it.


16:07 Jun 27, 2022

Thanks Russell :)


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