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Fantasy Speculative Urban Fantasy

I believe in miracles simply because one hasn’t happened to me. It’s easy to believe in something that no one is sure exists—there is no evidence to prove it doesn’t, after all. Hope is like that. It’s easy to have hope when the future is unknown, unfolding like the crumpled wings of a newborn bird. It’s like oxygen and clouds and the space between fingertips—something we can’t always see or touch, but know is there. I’ve always believed in the inherent unknowable mysteries of the world. I’m not so naive or egotistical to say that I have a Gift—fortune-telling is like any other skill, it takes practice. It takes hard work. It’s not something that came naturally to me. Rather, it’s something that I learned, something I grew into. One cannot simply wave a magic wand and become a master of Mystical Arts—one must embody it; mind, heart, and soul. I have had to give my all to the Arts, in the hopes of having even a fraction given back to me. The Mystic Arts are all about the give and take: one does not learn it, one becomes it. 

I open my shop at dawn, turning the ancient bronze key into the rusted wooden door. I work above an old bookshop, in an attic filled with its dust and ghosts and memories. Tarot cards, crystal balls, candles, cauldrons, and assorted minerals and crystals are all arranged according to their proper places. Crystal balls cannot be near sunlight or mirrors, or else the reflecting light will catch fire. Cauldrons must be kept in cool, dark places, or else they’ll rust. Crystals, on the other hand, absorb different properties in a room and thus need to be placed in different spots according to which energies you want them to consume. There are many rules to the Mystic Arts, and I both love and hate that about my Craft. The intricacies of the Arts are often lost on those who do not appreciate it in all its varying forms. That’s okay, though. One of the reasons I love the Arts is because it does not care if it is believed by all, only that it is understood by a certain few. 

My first client as a seer was my childhood friend Jade. We were thirteen, obsessed with glittery lipgloss and boys. At one of our weekly sleepovers, Jade, ever the optimist, brought out an Ouija board. We placed our small hands on top of one another, lit my mom’s Mahogany Teakwood Bath and Body Works candle, and started chanting in tongues, which was really just our made-up language, Jadlor (a combination of our names, Jade and Taylor). Suddenly the planchette (the little piece of wood that moves) became active, and both of us swore we weren’t the ones moving it. It moved over the letters W, D, B, R, J, and T, and the numbers 0, and 7. After that, I got too scared and took my hands off the board, blowing out the candle and forcing Jade to keep the lights on when we went to sleep. 

Three months later, Jade and I friend-broke-up at the Winter Dance of 2007, after I saw Jade dancing with Brandon Reed, my crush since Kindergarten. Now, I’m not stupid—I know that it was really Jade who moved the planchette and that it was just her being a backstabbing bitch that made her kiss Brandon, and not the spirits of the underworld. However, it was what happened afterwards that made me believe in something beyond this world. Maybe not magic, or God, but something. After I ran out of the Winter Dance crying, Brandon ran after me, claiming that he only danced with Jade to make me jealous. He asked me to be his girlfriend, and at that moment, I believed in divine retribution when Jade had to watch us date for six whole months, which is equivalent to ten years in middle school. It wasn’t magic, but it felt just as good. 

I didn’t think about the Mystic Arts or fortune-telling for years after that until I took an English elective at Uni called Literature and Mysticism. We studied myths and magic in ancient literature, and one chapter we read was about a Greek Oracle named Cassandra. Cassandra was cursed by the Greek God Apollo to be able to tell the future but to never be believed. How fascinating, I thought, how tragic. After that class, I went out and bought my first tarot deck, and did a reading on my roommate Dana. She asked me what she should major in: graphic design, or architecture? I answered immediately—graphic design. 

“How did you know?” Dana gaped at me, after explaining that graphic design was what she really loved doing, but that her parents didn't approve. I told her the truth. 

“You sounded happiest when you said graphic design,” I replied. And sometimes, it really was that simple. Fortune reading isn’t about magically knowing something everyone else doesn't know. It’s about telling people what they want to hear. 

On campus, word of my so-called “powers” gained traction, and soon I was being visited by all kinds of students. There were the usual Theater and Arts Majors, people who just got high and came to me to admire my different coloured crystals, hoping that “Psychic” was code for weed dealer. But I also got visited by an injured basketball player on a sports scholarship, asking what he should do now. I told him that in order to heal, he needs to take care of himself first. I was referring to the fact that he was attempting to walk on his broken leg, but instead, he took my advice as an incentive to become a physical therapist. It wasn’t what I meant, but it’s what he heard. And that’s the thing about being a Psychic—people take what they want to get out of you, not what you offer them.  

After graduating with an English Degree, I was lost. I’d always had a talent for words, for telling people stories, and that was basically what being a Psychic was. It was just stories. I decided to do an online course for Psychics and Fortune Tellers, which isn’t even the dumbest class I’ve taken at University. We were a small class of twelve (apparently to avoid the dreaded number thirteen, and not because no one else wanted to take the class) taught by Madame Daphne. Madame Daphne was what you’d picture a stereotypical fortune teller to be, dressed in layers of colourful fabrics and wiry arms adorned in golden bangles. Madame Daphne taught us to always trust our instincts, to say the first thought that comes into our minds. She would say in her airy voice that your initial reaction is the most truthful, the closest to our true spirits, before our logical and rational mind intervenes, censoring us. She also taught us that everything means something, that all things are connected, a symbol for something else. After taking that class, I began to see signs and symbols wherever I went. It wasn’t so much my third eye being opened, but rather my own two eyes seeing what was always in front of them. In my mom, I saw a mother worried about her daughter when she’d call me to tell me to come and visit. In my boyfriend, I saw a cheater, in the smell of perfume I never wore, and work hours his sign-spinning job wouldn't have him keep. In myself, I saw something that one else seemed to. I saw someone with power.

When I was twenty-three, I decided to take a risk, and open my own Fortune-Teller Shop. I poured all of my savings into renting out the dusty old attic of a used bookshop in the seedier part of town. I was open from sun-up way past sun-down, and my clients varied from those who are generally open to the Mystic Arts, but also those who scoffed at me and my theatrics, while still handing over their hard-earned cash. I did everything from spirit-summoning to palm-reading, fortune-telling and crystal energy absorbing. My prices didn’t vary based on what the client wanted—rather, I offered my services for $50 an hour. Most of the time, people just wanted someone to listen. I was like a cheap therapist, paid to sit and acknowledge others’ trials and grievances, maybe offer some not-so-sage advice here and there, or burn some sage over them. There were no tricks to my trade, no flashing lights or sound effects. I still dressed the part, mirroring Madame Daphne’s attire, and clothing myself in loose dresses and multiple rings and necklaces. But it wasn’t for me, the dressing up—it was for the clients. To fulfill their idea of what I should look like. I understood then, what Madame Daphne meant when she said everything was connected. My profession was connected with cultural appropriation and gullible customers, and so that was the part I played up. 

My clients were just regular people, not so eccentric or strange, just lonely. Those who wanted someone to listen to them. And the range of problems and predicaments that people had were slim: trouble with romance, with work, with change. I heard the same stories over and over again that I’d make it a game to guess what someone’s problem was the moment they walked in. Lovesick teenage girls and heartbroken men chasing after lost loves were easy, they all had the same longing look in their eyes. Not the longing for love, but the longing for someone to just listen. One time, a fresh-faced high-school student came by, and the minute I laid eyes on him I said,

“Just let her go. She’s not worth it—you’ll meet someone better.” The moment those words left my mouth, the boy stumbled back, eyes wide and face pale.

“Holy shit,” he said, before turning around and bolting out the door. 

People, I’ve found, are easy to read. I once had a young girl come in, asking me to make a potion so that she’d be liked and have lots of friends. My heart broke for her at that moment, but still, I had a job to do.

“I understand that you want a magical solution, but the thing is, there is no secret trick to making friends. You want someone to be there for you, to understand you, but first, you must attempt to understand and be there for others.” The girl didn’t quite like that answer, insisting that I was a fraud. I tried to calm her down.

“You don’t understand!” The girl cried, “Everyone leaves me. My mom, my sister. All my friends have moved on without me. I’m all alone.” I was at a loss for what to do. That’s the thing about people who seek my services—they want an easy answer, a quick solution. But that’s not something I can offer. 

“Take this,” I said finally, handing over a ring set with peridot, the pale green gem reflecting with golden sunshine, “Keep this with you, and follow my advice, and know that you’re not alone.” The girl took the crystal with a smile and left the shop. The thing is, people want something they can see, they can hold—the opposite of what I believe miracles really are. Everyone wants something tangible, to have instant results. That’s why people knock on wood and throw salt over their shoulders. Not because they necessarily believe that something bad will happen, but because it allows them to do something to prevent bad things from happening. 

Education level, so-called intelligence, they do not protect against superstition. Stockbrokers, business executives, and politicians, all came knocking on my door, asking for advice, for answers to outcomes that no one, not even them, could control. It drives people crazy, not knowing. It’s the uncertainty that brings people to my door. That’s where my power comes from—not in knowing the unknown, but in assuring people that they are not alone in their uncertainty. That is why instead of calling myself a fortune-teller or a psychic, I prefer to go by Seer. As in, I am a see-er, I see people for who, not what, they are. And oftentimes, who a person is, is someone who doesn’t want to be alone. 

July 01, 2022 00:33

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2 comments

R W Mack
12:44 Jul 02, 2022

I tend towards nitpicky critiques when I really like a story. I apologize and assure you it's pretty damn good, making it hard to find much to point out. There was a point about midway: "In myself, I saw something that one else seemed to. I saw someone with power." I think you missed a "no" in "that no one else seemed" and it's probably not too late to edit it. Stuff like that in my own uploads drive me bonkers, so I try pointing them out for others in hopes people will keep critiquing each other and we all get to polish the wrinkles. I lo...

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Elliot G
12:41 Jul 02, 2022

Madison, I thought your story was very interesting! I loved the way your character dives into “human nature” by describing common attributes seen through her clients such as expectations, wanting easy solutions, something they can see, etc. Your narrator is very wise! My favourite quote is: “One of the reasons I love the Arts is because it does not care if it is believed by all, only that it is understood by a certain few.” Great job, and keep writing:)

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